Thursday, December 11, 2014

Give a little Grace

I have been reading lately about healing and focusing on deep hurts that cause angry, defensive reactions. Because, I'm really ashamed to admit, I have a bad temper and sometimes have really disproportionate angry reactions to silly things.

For example, I burned my finger on a glue gun while making a banner. I curbed my initial reaction to scream obscenities. However, inside me this huge angry reaction was brewing that had to go somewhere. I picked up the end of the kitchen table and let it slam down. When the table slammed down, the anger released, but the plate that was holding the glue gun broke, and my tiny girlfriend started to cry.

Cue the guilt and shame tape that goes like this, "You're an asshole. You can't control your temper. You don't deserve to have these sweet little kids; you're a lunatic. Way to go. You're just like your dad."

And in about 25 seconds, I had gone from pain to rage to feeling about an inch tall.

I apologized to Lily and explained to her that I had reacted inappropriately to pain with anger, and I was sorry for scaring (and probably scarring) her. We talked about some times that our reactions didn't exactly match our feelings or the particular situation and then finished making our craft without further incident.

For the rest of the night, shame gripped me pretty tightly. I had to delve into my reaction and the motivation behind it. Once I did that and realized that my reaction was something that had been ingrained in me from childhood--when you get upset about something let your rage out on an inanimate object--I was able to deal with it and remind myself that having a bad reaction didn't make me a bad person.

Guilt and shame always go together for me--the dynamic duo of damnation--so I was enlightened to read Brene Brown's definition in The Gifts of Imperfection. She explains that guilt says "You did something bad," and shame says, "You are bad." I still think they're a terrifying team, but now I see them more clearly.

Brown goes on to say that we can steal the power away from this team if we talk about the stuff that makes us feel this way and bring it to light. Just make sure that you share with someone you really trust.

She gives a list of people you don't want to choose, such as:
  • Anyone who makes you feel worse about yourself. They will look at you with shock and judgment and say things like, "Oh...my."
  • One-uppers. You know them. They respond to everything with, "Oh that's nothing, let me tell you about the time..."
  • Those with low self-esteem who will use this as an opportunity to feel superior--think, drowning victims who push others down to get themselves to the surface. "Oh, I never have inappropriate reactions in front of my kids, but that's just me."
  • Condescending jerks. Pretty much the same as above with a heightened air of superiority.
***Please note that sometimes jerks look and sound and act like friends until you share something like this with them***

So, my week has been a lot of, "Yikes, where did that come from? Why does it bother me when people do a.b.c.d?" and more. This isn't a huge change. I'm always analyzing and overthinking and trying to do better, but sometimes it's not in the actual moment. I'm steadily trying to live the Four Agreements, but it's a lot of trial and error.

I spent many years feeling broken and damaged because of things that happened to me, but I am realizing in this decade* that labeling myself is not only unnecessary but it is also unkind. Yes, bad things happened to me, but really great things have happened too. By reconciling that I can simultaneously grieve loss and embrace blessings, by realizing that my past doesn't define me, and by reminding myself that every moment is an opportunity to embrace and extend grace, I've cleared my path from lots of tangled roots that tripped me up.

A few weeks ago the super-wise 20-year-old guru I'm blessed to call my daughter said that she felt fortunate that her dad and I hadn't really f#$%ed her up. We keep it really real. She said she always felt loved and free to express herself. This was such an impactful statement, as I have questioned everything I did as a mother for 20 years. In fact, the only thing I knew for sure was that I loved these little people God let me hold for awhile more than I had ever known was possible.

I'm pretty convinced some days that I'm messing Peyton and Lily up in some significant way. The nasty shrew in my head tells me all the time that I am worthless and have no business raising these amazing kids. I question myself all the time. And then I shhhhhhh them, breathe and keep going. I'm not sharing this because I need reassurance, but because someone else might feel the same. Do you? Let me encourage you: If you worry this much about what kind of person or wife or parent you are, I'm pretty confident that you are already amazing.

Give yourself some grace. And give the people who make different choices grace too. Namaste.

*The jury is still out on 40 because the emotional and spiritual rewards seem to come at the expense of some crazy things like thinning hair and brain fog and achy joints.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Just Don't be a Jerk

It's the most wonderful time of the year. We are fresh off a month of giving thanks and the kids and I are headed for our annual pilgrimage to Camp Mowana to Make Room for Jesus. So, I'm gonna need to get this off my chest real quick.

I'm going to blame my sister-in-law--who posted this article and got me all stirred up--for my angst. It's been simmering for a long time ready to boil over though ... so ... I have to let it out. And by the way, that list doesn't mention the standard mom uniform: Uggs, Miss Me jeans, NorthFace and designer purse. Come on now; is that just Cortland?

What people wear isn't my business or concern though. And lots of my friends wear that uniform. I love you girls; you're fabulous!

Here's what bothers me: drop off and pick up. This might be a universal issue, as certainly entitlement and lack of empathy are symptoms of the global selfishness epidemic, but I can only address the Lakeview schools.

Recently, I have adopted the mindset of talking to my problems rather than about them, and it is in that spirit that I have compiled a list of tips re: drop-off and pick up protocol. Since there is no suggestion box, here you go:

1. The speed limit in front of the school is 20. Even when you're running late. If your kid is tardy, it isn't the end of the world. By the way, it's still 20 when you pull out of the parking lot. You don't get to run someone else's kid over just because yours is safely in the building, which leads me to #2.

2. Slow down in the parking lot. There are people everywhere. If you run someone over, that will be far worse than being late for work. Everyone has bad mornings sometimes, but reckless disregard for other people is unacceptable. Slow down. Pay attention. If you are going to just idle there by the entrance while your big kid walks in, at least look before you pull away. Lots of people are actually walking their little kids to the door. Don't run them over, you jerk.

3. Park in a parking spot. Just one. 40 other people also need to park to pick up their children so be mindful. Driving a giant SUV does not give you the right to park wherever you want. Park in an actual space--they are indicated by lines. You and your children are not handicapped and do not deserve special privileges. Thank God for your healthy working legs and then use them to walk to your car. Jerk.

4. That line of people? They're all waiting to pick their kids up too. So don't walk past them all and then yank on the door handle. It's not gonna open, bro. Did you think we were all just standing here because we like the cold? That's right; go to the back of the line. Yes, we are all laughing at you. Jerk.

5. When the door opens and you push through to make sure your kid is the first one into class, remember that there are 20+ little kids coming right behind yours. Don't let the door slam in their faces. That's terrible. And guess what: Their parents think that they're the most important kid in the world too. Also, if someone holds the door for you? Thank them and then hold the door for the next person. Don't just leave that guy standing there holding the door for everyone. That's not cool. He was trying to be nice. He has to go to work too. Next time he might let it slam on your kid. All because you were a jerk!

6. We're all busily heading somewhere, but it literally takes 35 seconds for the buses to exit the parking lot. I timed it. Just be patient. Trust me: They will be out of the parking lot before you can tweet about how annoyed you are or how the jerk in front of you held up people exiting the parking lot to let the stupid buses go. I let the buses out. I see you flipping me off. It's okay. I like your purse. Even if you think I'm a jerk.

7. Finally, let me reiterate: If someone is looking at their phone, it is probably because they don't want to talk to anyone. It's not rocket science. Leave them alone. Surely there is another dad somewhere...

Some days I leave the school feeling very sad for humanity, wondering if anyone is capable of empathy and compassion anymore. Fortunately, I quickly realize that for every person who lets the door slam on someone else's kid, there are 5 who hold the door. For every person who parks where there isn't a space, there are 5 who walk farther in the rain rather than inconvenience others. For every person who nearly runs you over to get out 3 seconds quicker, there are 2 or 3 who wave you on ahead of them.

It's kind of like life, right? There are people who are just out for themselves, but there are others (hopefully more) who are concerned with humanity as a whole. I can't change anyone, but I can be kind and thoughtful, and I can raise people who hold doors, say thank you, park in parking spots and think about others and not just themselves. I can try not to be a jerk or raise jerks.

Thanks for listening, friends. I feel way better.