Tag: there’s a lesson here somewhere

if I were southern, I’d say: It ain’t about you

It is so easy to think “it” is about us.

– when we’ve been left out
– when we’ve been overlooked
– when we’ve been avoided
– when we’ve been forgotten
– when we’ve been replaced

Look at those words, even. Most of them imply intent. They imply someone or some ones purposely excluded us, decided we were not good enough, swerved to avoid us, or decided we were not important.

And it is easy, so easy, to think that is what has happened. Because when we are suffering – be it from physical sickness or emotional desolation, be it from loneliness, confusion, or lack of provision, be it from insecurity or heartache – it seems to us that everyone knows how badly we feel, and they just don’t understand or care.

Many of us also assume that because we occasionally post our bidness on a social networking site or tell it to some people who know some of other people, everyone knows. And on the flip side, we think because someone only posts happy, upbeat, attractive updates, photos, Tweets, that they are obviously living a prosperous and joyful existence… with no problems.

Seriously. “We” need to get a grip.

Most of the time, and I do speak to myself here as well as some serious drama queens out there, it isn’t about us. People don’t know. They don’t know about your skills, talents, wants, needs, shortages, gaps, abilities, or dreams. They don’t know, most likely, because you haven’t told them.. and part of the reason is because so many of us spend time speaking in ambiguity on the Internets and so little time making efforts to deepen relationships.

(Buffy always boils it down better than I do…)

Buffy, EarshotOh, let me give you a real life example. Our neighbor. I don’t know her… don’t know her name. Don’t know if she has kids, good or bad health, potions brewing in her kitchen, a plot to kill our puppy, etc. I know nothing about her, other than she Never Ever says “hi” or makes eye contact, and she enjoys leaving notes for us, our kids, and our guests rather than making an attempt to talk to us. Her notes have typically come at a “bad time,” like on Christmas Eve or when we’re having a birthday party, or when I have 20 minutes to grab dinner for everyone before we have to leave the house again and she’s decided that our dog’s ability to bark is “inconsiderate and unbearable.”

My instinct is to take her scrawled-on-paper-towels-or-sticky-notes less-than-neighborly messages personally. But I won’t. Because I know it’s not *my* dog keeping her up all night, and I know that the 12 inches of exposed mud on her parkway accidentally left by my guest is an accident, not a crime. And I know that she is probably much more miserable about something else than she is about where on the public street my daughter parks her car on a single random night.

She very well might think that all these little incidents mean that our family is personally conspiring against her. Not so much. Because the only time I think of her is when she ignores me in the front yard or leaves me a snotty note.

So am I a better neighbor than she is?
(well, of course not, though maybe more polite. I’m working on it…)

I know a lot of people give something up for this Lenten season. This year, I am giving up ASSUMPTIONS. I am giving up thinking anyone has it better than I do. I am giving up focusing on the crap. And I am giving up waiting for help or friendship instead of just asking for it.

God has given me a new friendship in this past year that is so unlike any other I have had. If you are my friend, you know I am all jump-up-and-down, share the little moments, arms-and-refrigerator-always-open, welcoming, loyal, and enthusiastic. But I am also sosososo insecure, in a “I had no friends for most of 4th grade and the 5th graders always made fun of my clothes” kind of way, so when I get a less-than-warm vibe (doesn’t have to be chilly, just less than warm) or even a lack of returned effort, my mind immediately goes, “She’s just not that into you.” Even though we have honestly shared our insecurities, at length, through tears, several times. Even though every single time I get this way with her, we are always able to talk through it and arrive at a good place. Even though I know, quite frankly, that I am being stupid.

Sometimes we take comfort in self-pity because it is more comfortable that awareness. Self pity means we don’t have to be aware of anyone’s feelings but our own. And where does that get us?

Rod and I have a little sound-bite from a show we gave up on before it was over. I adored Luka & Abby on ER, and I was so sad the first time they broke up (I have no idea how it all went for them in the longrun). Anyway, Luka’s words to Abby during that argument were so blunt and mean that they made us laugh, and when we need a moment of levity during self-pity, they are revived:

Luka: you're not that pretty...

~
I know in these modern times we are encouraged to know ourselves, and I am all for that. But let’s not be so bogged down in awareness of our own selves that we assume everyone else is in touch with us, too. If you need a friend, be a friend. And if that doesn’t work, grab someone’s arm, look her in the eye, and say, “Hey! I need a friend!” And if that doesn’t work… a) Keep trying for awhile (‘toxic’ friendships are another topic entirely) and b) Find someone who is capable of giving you the care you need right then. I know not every friend is going to fit into my “Come curl up on my couch and watch Friends with me” comfort spot, but I have plenty who do – and plenty of available space for the text-friends, restaurant-friends, office-friends, church-hallway-friends, etc., etc.

When we look beyond ourselves, there are a whole lot of good people to behold.

say, say, say

So many of them float around these days…

10 Things Not To Say To A…New Mom, Working Mom, Mom of Multiples, Mom of Child with Special Needs, Stay-At-Home Mom, Homeschooling Mom, Mom of Many Children, Mom of Only Child, Single Mom, Mom Wearing a Surgical Mask, Mom Singing Milli Vanilli in The Grocery Line…

You get what I am saying?

I know many of these categories (and especially a few I have not listed), are sensitive areas. Fact is, unless we have walked in certain shoes, we have no idea what another mom is going through. Does that make it wrong to reach out in an attempt to connect?

Not many of my 20-something friends knew how to relate to me when I was a 26 year old, infertile stepmom of teenagers. And not many of my friends related to my experiences with a household of 2 teens, 2 in diapers, business owner, and frequent travel, on a bus. And hardly any of my friends can keep up with the schooling decisions I make and re-make or my seemingly-constantly-changing jobs or projects.

So sometimes, a well-meaning acquaintance, fellow mom, even close friend, might say something that rubs me the wrong way, annoys me, offends, makes me feel stupid, makes me feel inadequate, makes me feel indignant, or makes me cry. It happens.

I could nit-pick. (Hmm. And I could write a list of Things Not To Say To A Mom Whose Home Has Been Infested With Lice and She is FREAKING Out About It, but that’s another blog). I could say, “You know, since you don’t know anything about blended families, maybe you don’t have the wisdom to make an observation about our custody arrangements” or “Why yes, as a work-at-home mom, I do sometimes need a babysitter because whether I take a call in an office building or my dining room, the person on the other end can’t hear when my two toddlers are shouting the lyrics to ‘Elmo’s World.'” And quite honestly, I could have stared daggers through the years through people who made some sort of comment about my bonus daughter, 13 years older than Randa, being their mommy. But you know…

My concern comes in here: How many of these lists needs to be written, read, applauded, and shared, before we just… stop… saying… anything?

sssshIn a quest to be sensitive, I will only draw from my own experience. Probably the hardest thing I’ve had to walk through as a ‘mom-type-person’ is infertility. My journey was relatively short compared to others, and it inevitably had my fairy tale outcome. But in the mean time… there were 2.5 years of longing, of negative tests, of humiliating procedures, of bad news from a specialist, of 20+ women I knew getting pregnant (some multiple times in that period), and lots and lots and LOTS of unsolicited, well-meaning pep talks.

A random internet search brought me to this list of 10 things not to say to “your infertile friend.” At casual glance, at least 7 of those things were said to me multiple times, some even by my parents or my husband, who I know would not have hurt me for the world. Also, at the time I was walking through infertility, I was finishing my degree and student teaching, so I constantly heard, “It will happen when you are done with school,” as if that had anything to do with my adhesions, hormonal imbalances, and non-functioning ovary. And because I was an involved stepmom, I also heard “At least you have J & P,” as if their lives were my consolation prize. (PS: Their mom was absolutely awesome to me during this time and was one of the few people who usually did know what to say :)

I had people give me baby blankets and scripture verses. I had adoption agency referrals. I had several friends tell me only with fear and trembling that they were preggers with their 2nd or 3rd (those were the worst. It sucks to think your friends think you won’t be happy for them!) If I were going to make a top ten list, I suppose those things would be on it. But honestly… who the heck needs it?

Would I rather my friends and family ignore my pain? NO.
Would I rather those who cared about me not care about my feelings or try to console me? NO.
Did some of those difficult comments eventually help me grow stronger, consider other points of view, or even just get over myself for a few minutes? Did some of them even turn out to be, gasp, true? ABSOLUTELY!

I know that sometimes, well-meaning conversationalists end up saying all the wrong things. I am raising my hand here, folks. I was born to connect with everyone I meet, and so there are countless times I have said something and immediately wished that toothpaste could, in fact, be put back in the tube. I also subscribe to that Steel Magnolia theory that no one cries alone in my presence, so it is my tendency to want to comfort another person, whether she is dealing with a scary diagnosis for her child or a big career-and-childcare decision. I am also a Wordy Girl, but mostly as a writer, and that sometimes means that what I’ve concocted to say sounds way more sensible and helpful in my head than it does Out There.

So if I encounter a woman walking through Walmart, on a Myrtle Beach Saturday (tourists’ arrival. Steer clear!), with 5 kids holding the cart and 2 in it, and she isn’t screaming or shoving unpaid-for Goldfish in their mouths or possibility holding a wiffle bat in a threatening position, and I say, “I don’t know how you do it!,” I’m of course trying to say, “You rock, mama!” I certainly don’t mean to be saying The Wrong Thing.

Because really, what is the right thing? It is to be silent? I mean, even after going through infertility, I am usually at a loss for something helpful to say to someone else going through it. Is it better I ignore it? If it is, then forget this whole thing, because if the new cultural paradigm is to avoid eye contact and any hope of encouraging others, I’m just going to have to be a bigger weirdo than I thought I was. I want to connect, and as I grow older, my accrued wisdom is helping me know how to choose words, and on occasion, to swallow the words and just be there. That one is harder to figure out, because if not done well, it comes off like cold, uncaring nothing.

I know that there are moms in situations in which truly craptastic comments have been made to or around them by strangers. There are always rude, small-minded people to go around, and chances are, they are not going to be reading parenting articles on their best day. I suppose my hope is that when another mom, especially in a friendly tone, comments on our children or our circumstances with any modicum of sympathy or kindness, can’t we just accept it and move on?

I mean, if I had a dollar for every person who calls my KK a tomboy, or remarks that my girls are opposites – one girly, one not, I’d be buying both our dinners… in Greece (an eating fantasy). My daughters cannot be captured in a snapshot of what they happen to be wearing to church or the store or out to dinner. But at least if someone notices Randa’s princess dress or KK’s Buzz Lightyear shirt, they are paying attention to their fellow human beings. At least they are making human contact. Even if they say the wrong thing, at least they are reaching out.

Maybe some of this is pronounced for me because, even after almost 2 years, I often still feel like The New Girl. It is hard to make new friends as an adult in a smallish town, filled with people who have lived here forever and have all the friends they need or others who have just moved in from someplace else and are also unsure of how to do it. Sometimes I have found myself reaching out with no one to reach back (Currently, kids’ birthday parties are my 30-something equivalent of Prom Night With No Date). If I did not happen to have little children, I know it would be a lot harder. Kids are a common ground, a way to connect; that’s why so many of us know the parents of our kids’ friends as “Emmie’s mom” or “Aiden’s dad.”

The conclusion here, or the point that maybe I should have had you skip to at the beginning: Stop with the lists. Carry on the conversation. Presumptions and assumptions can be insensitive and rude, but someone not knowing you is not a crime, and someone trying to know you should be seen as a gift. Because, at least I believe with all my heart, as moms we are in this together, and I would rather be surrounded by caring voices than cold silence any day.

it doesn’t take much

I had a good conversation with a friend today… one of those friends with whom I don’t really get to talk much, but when I do, in a For Real Conversation, there are always profound take-aways. Sometimes it takes us a while to get there (sometimes, it is literally months before the things this friend says to me make sense), but inevitably, the arrival comes.

Today, he referenced a conversation we had last summer. At the time, I accepted it, I mulled it over, and I thought, somewhat begrudgingly, that he was about 65% accurate in his assessment of some things in my life.

Today, I would say he was about 95% right.

What changed? Me. Not what I am made of, but my perspective. Because honestly? When someone you love and respect tells you something not-so-attractive about yourself, it needs to be swallowed in segments. Otherwise, you might just vomit.

So the thing was (ouch. Ouch) that I ‘live in Fantasyland.’ O U C H. And having pondered this on and off for about 8 months, I’m going to say: I don’t always see it. I don’t try to be that way. But, all in all, I get it.

Here is a perfect example. Kaity had a playdate today, one of her first since we moved here. Y’all, we were High Royalty of Playdates back in “The Day” (also known as: When We Lived in Illinois). We had them for hours. We made messes, 3-course meals, long drives, whatever. We loved them.

And then we moved and I started working and blah, blah, blah. We had a few bona fide playdates, but none on a recurring basis. Now that KK is home with me for at least a season, there has been a lack of playtime or any time with other kids. So yesterday, when another mommy at the bus stop  asked us to go to the park today, I was all, “YES!”

(And honestly, KK was all, “I don’t waaaaaaaant to go.” And my whole morning was crazy, and I was thinking, “If I had their phone number, I’d so be cancelling.” And when it was time to leave, I facetiously called, “C’mon Kaity, we need to go get you socialized,” (the S-word of all homeschoolers). But I digress…)

IMG_0622

Our meeting at the park, first quiet, quickly morphed into an elaborate play-pretend-on-the-jungle-gym game. And then turned into the 2 girls coming back to our house, running outside, then settling in with Cheetohs and The Muppets Movie. And my immediate, immediate mental picture turned into one of summertime, a summer filled with bikes piled in our driveway, Popsicles dripping everywhere, kids being called in for dinner and let back out afterwards, the smell of mosquito spray, the sound of swings and squeals and the sight of hop-scotch and jump ropes.

Gee Kelly, your daughter’s 90 minute playdate turned into a highlight reel from the summer of 1983?

Why, yes. Yes it did. It doesn’t take much to get my mind going and going. And while I do believe there will be a version of That Summer for my kids in 2013, I accept that part of that… is a fantasy. I accept that my mind, because I love reading and writing and watching stories so much, and because sometimes my imagination is just a little more fun and exciting than reality, and just because it is the way God made me, does exist, in part, in fantasyland.

But… I don’t think that is all bad, (or, offensive!) as long as I remember to strike a balance between the things I can make closer to ideal and the things I cannot change… (I hear there is serenity in that…) and listen to/learn from what God is saying to me in all of those.

Thanks for the reminder, friend…

words of wisdom

Things are going on.

My pace is slower and my focus sharpened.

My gray hairs are not being urgently covered with a trip to the salon or the miracle-in-a-box aisle. They mingle ok, I suppose, with the salt from more trips than usual to the beach. (For the record: Rod thinks I should embrace them permanently. I’m not convinced yet… I’m just not feeling urgent about them).

I wear flip-flops and T-shirts about every day, and don’t care.

I like lettuce… without dressing. (salt and pepper, please).

I am eating fewer preservatives and dairy products and walking more (step by step) and feeling a lot more energy.

I like staying home at night doing projects with my kids, cooking, writing, listening to music, watching TV with my husband.

I stopped looking for things to do, and things are finding me. Just today, my neighbor knocked and asked us if we wanted to walk the dogs on the beach. Um, YAH. We had a wonderful 2 hour walk just before the storm-and-cold front rolled in, capped off by Sonic happy hour. Praise the Lord for impromptu friends!

I am considering my dreams and what the point of them might be. Are they to make me feel approval and applause, to make already comfortable people feel more comfortable, or to actually help a person or a situation in need?

My vision as of late is very, very abstract, but my heartbeats hold distinct words. Servant-hood. Unconventional. Out of the box. Brave. Together. Obedient. Helpful. Healthy. Patient.

let it be

The messages – the words of wisdom – on which I have meditated come from a variety of sources. Experiencing God is telling me that while I wait on God’s next assignment, I just keep doing what I’m doing. 7 – and Jen Hatmaker’s blog – is telling me to embrace the simplistic life-view I’ve already been honing for a few years: less stuff, fewer things: serve more, embrace neighbors and nature and a true sabbath rest. The Buffy musical (it’s a metaphor, people) is telling me not to simply go through the motions, but to let a fire burn in me. My friend Sue Duffield, a writer/singer/comedian/fellow hippie, is telling me, “The world won’t get much better if we just let it be [nanananananana].” The Bible is telling me to strive to have a character, behavior that allows others to see God in me.

And while it all swirls in my head and stirs my soul, The Beatles tell me a little something, too:

Let it be, let it be. Yeah, there will be an answer… let it be.

marginal?

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. – 1 John 3:1

I have been feeling “blah” since last weekend.

And by “blah,” I mean lonely, alone, ignored, friendless, clueless, etc. (and exhausted, which is probably the cause for most of it).

Is it still the “living in a new place” thing? I don’t know. It shocks me when I see how many Myrtle Beach area Facebook friends I have. Surely, it’s not that. All 100ish of those friends are friends and not just people who are friendly because of a specific purpose or commonality before they vanish from everyday life.

Is it that my friends in Illinois have moved on, have new activities and inside jokes and people to fill up their days? Surely not. It is to be expected. And surely the distance hasn’t magnified our differences and made my friendship less worthy of maintaining.  I don’t in any way want them to daily pine for my presence in their kitchens or on their church pew or across from them at El Cortez.

Is it that so many people I used to consider friends were clearly just “business acquaintances? Of course not. Nobody pretended to like me because I promoted a concert or published a magazine or had a service to trade that may or may not catapult them 2.5 inches toward some sense of abstract something-or-other. Totally not. I expected it, so it doesn’t hurt at all.

Is it that my husband, who during the course of our almost-10 year marriage has almost always been home for dinner, and who from August 2009 until this past May was with us all the time, is traveling almost every week, to the point that some days I don’t even remember where he is? No. I am Woman. Hear me roar. Watch me do it by myself.

Yeah. Right.

~

Yesterday, I sat in a Christmas show with KK at one of the area theatres. My friend from high school, unbeknownst to me, was in it. KK and Randa’s old preschool was there on a field trip. The bathroom had signs about a show coming there in the spring that was going to be coming to “one of our theatres” at several different points. It was rainy and cold. I was ticked over some work stuff. And all of these things meshed together for me to feel in the pits. And one word flashed through my head: Marginalized. I’ve been marginalized.

I have never liked the connotation of that word when it applies to people. It makes me think of refugees or genocide survivors, people who have seen hell on earth and been forgotten, or people who were singled out for something they couldn’t control – gender, race, economic status, starvation and homelessness – and told that they were less than everybody else. It is not a pretty word. And I hate that it popped into my white America, middle class, wife-and-mother brain.

But it’s how I feel… pushed to the sideline, not in the center of anything, without a place to belong.

And being a believer in Christ, and a product of a bumber-sticker/FB meme generation, the immediate response to this is: But you are always in the center of God’s vision.And I know this. It’s just that God does not sleep next to me at night, or want to meet up at the mall/beach/McD’s with the kids on a random weekday afternoon, or make eye contact with me over the fact that we both have 6 year-olds in ballet.

Mini-rant: for crying out loud, Community, what does it cost you to look someone in the eye and maybe even smile?!

He keeps whispering to me, and just like I am refusing to wear “a winter coat in South Carolina” even though it’s 44 degrees, I refuse to listen. He shows me how much my little girls want and need my attention. He shows me how much my older kids – who have also been uprooted from their friends and are trying to navigate a new social climate – enjoy hanging out and doing things together. It’s like He is saying, “Look, Ms. Social Butterfly, your full and frolicking circle of friends in Illinois is great, still in tact even. And you do have people here to share your holidays and hug your kids and have your back. But your everyday stuff? I have given you 5 – now 6 – people to share that with. Suck. It. Up. Be grateful for what you have. Lean on Me in those lonely nights… (or maybe go to bed early. Or mop the dirty floor!) You are not marginal. You are, however, also not in high school. You don’t need a constant stream of people to keep you company. And you need to be the matriarch of your family, whether you are 35 or 55….doesn’t matter.

I repent for feeling alone in a crowded room. I am ashamed for the buried-deep-inside notion that people’s lack of friendship is about me. And I will try my hardest to remember that as a child – and follower – of God, I am not supposed to focus on the feeling or seeking of comfort. That is not what this life is about.I have waved the flag of a quiet Christmas, and it is time for me to embrace it.

I come back to the lyrics of a favorite (newer) Christmas classic and marvel at how God somehow knew our hearts before we were ever born~

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You’ve been promised, we’ve been waiting

Welcome Holy Child. –
Chris Rice.