Tuesday, June 23, 2015

This...

I haven't written much lately because my usually traveling husband has been spending an unusual amount of time home. That has been an incredible blessing and a great way to start the summer. It also means that instead of writing to process all my overthinking I lay it on him. He has an amazing ability to take all the complex craziness in and make it seem okay. And since he is an incredible judge of character, the fact that he loves me and believes in me have helped me overcome many obstacles.

Recently I read a novel about a family that suffered a horrific tragedy akin to the tragedy(ies) my own family of origin endured. It was bizarre to read this story while remembering how my family members absorbed the pain ... watching how it ripped this fictional family apart while considering the path of destruction it carved through our lives.

My younger kids ask about my dead brothers a lot because they never met them. I think they're a bit like me in that when I love someone I want to know every single thing about them. Recently, in talking with Peyton, I likened my brother Chris to the sun. Of course this was just my perspective and certainly everyone in my family would tell a different story, but to me, he was the center and the rest of us orbited around him. When he died, everyone kind of spun out of control in different ways. When my next brother died, those wounds that had scabbed and scarred but never actually healed were ripped back open.

When my dad died, the one common thread holding us together--our affection for him--was severed.

In a prophetic moment a few weeks before he died, Chloe said, "Mommy, I'm afraid if Papa dies everything will fall apart." By everything, she meant my family of origin. And in many ways, it did. I don't have the kind of close relationships with my siblings I hope my kids will have one day.

I look at my siblings now, and I think they're good people. They're great parents and friends. They contribute to the world in positive ways. The few times a year we see each other, we're mostly able to enjoy each other's company. Considering our history, that's pretty good. Sometimes, when I look at other familial relationships I feel sad for what we don't have. But our common ground is a burial ground of secrets and pain. But in many ways I think we've all created the lives we wanted, and I don't know about them, but I no longer care to look back. Families of origin though...they always remind you where you came from, who you were, what you shared.

My dad wasn't really part of the fa├žade; he was pretty real. We talked about everything. He was at times the worst person I knew and at others the best. A lot like me. He was black, white and a million shades of grey, but I understood him because we were the same. Learning to understand my dad, loving, forgiving and accepting him flaws and all helped me to do the same with myself.

And now when I look at my family ... my husband and kids and friends I realize they are the family I always wanted. People I can trust and rely on. People who love and accept me unconditionally. People who remind me of everything that is good and pure and loveable about me instead of pulling me back to dark places I'd rather forget.

Not too long ago a very dear friend said to me that she thought we had a perfect life. We did a good job of faking it. And in many ways we still do. But, I have a hard time with fakeness, superficiality, small talk. It was always hard for me to smile and nod and pretend things were great if they weren't. On Father's day, Brad saw through my attempts to be cheerful and asked what was bothering me. I didn't want to ruin his day, so I simply said, "It's father's day and my dad is dead and I don't want to talk about it."

That frankness is hard for some people, but I can't be responsible for other people's stuff anymore. I'm way more comfortable with someone divulging their deepest darkest secrets than a conversation about the weather. I mean I can make small talk because I am enough of a pleaser, a good little girl, that I want people always to be comfortable, but I'd really prefer not to. This has always been one of my biggest struggles with my mom. My mom's chief forms of communication are jokes and gossip. She doesn't want to talk about feelings, and I don't want to tell her anything that is happening in my life because she just turns it into gossip.

It's a super weird dynamic. I've pulled myself back enough from the madness now that I can see how it plays out. I can see how she plays my siblings and me against one another. I had to see that in order to deal with the underlying causes that drove me to binge eat. When I was little, my mom controlled every single aspect of my life. What I wore, what I watched on tv, the activities I participated in, who I played with ... she even pulled me out of elementary school and home-schooled me so as to exercise complete control. My sister rebelled against my mom by not eating. I think probably the same way my mom rebelled against her own mother. However, I took the opposite route.

I would sneak bags of cookies and chips up to my room and eat under the covers. Then, when she would go to bed, I would watch forbidden tv shows. And sometimes, I would steal my grandmother's cigarettes and smoke them behind the garage when I was swinging on my tire swing. Once she caught me and said, "You didn't put that [the cigarette] in your mouth did you?" I told her no and she was able to stay comfortably in denial.

One reason I feel compelled to talk about everything is that my whole life was filled with secrets. It was a show--not one my mom approved of--and we were the cast. Pretend everything is okay. Lie about the bruise on your face. We don't really know how Chris died--it was an overdose. Blame Brian's suicide on his "demons"--the demons actually lived in our house. But no one ever told the truth about what the fuck was actually going on.

Once, my mom, gossiping about someone else said, "I feel so sorry for her. I don't think she had very many happy holidays when she was growing up." I asked her, "Were you ever at one of our holidays? Where someone nearly always got beat, cussed out or stormed out in a rage?" The windows of our glass house are jagged shards.

So, I decided to look at all this stuff again, slog through it, and try to be done with it once and for all. I can't change anything that happened and honestly, I wouldn't. It all brought me to where I am surrounded by people I love and who truly love and accept me. People who dislike me are dealing with something in themselves, and though I offer them compassion I no longer feel driven to gain their affection. Sometimes that desire still wells up inside me, but I feel it and move on. It's not a bad thing to want people to like you, but sacrificing who you are to gain acceptance isn't healthy. That statement seems so commonsensical, but it's taken me a good part of my life to truly believe that my worth isn't contingent on anyone's approval.

I'm not going to "share" this because it's too real for Facebook. But I felt compelled to write it whether it was just for me or if it would help someone else. I listened to a great message last week by Steven Furtick, and in it he said that two of the most powerful words we can say to another person are, "Me too." So, if you've lost someone you love, me too. If you've felt not good enough, me too. If you have felt undeserving of love and grace, me too. Thought you were broken or flawed? me too. Strived for acceptance? Me too. Made bad choices? Me too. Wondered if your family would be better off without you? me too. Drank too much? me too. Sworn at your kids? ME TOO. Done things you're ashamed of? Me too. Questioned your sanity, your worth, your goodness, your purpose, the reason you're here? Me too. Keep going. You're worthy. You're deserving. You're good. You're loved more than you'll ever imagine. If you're breathing you're here for a reason, and you have a purpose. Me too.



Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Jealousy, Envy and Expectations. Oh. My.

A few nights ago, fueled by the company of some cool women and cold beer, I got to participate in an interesting discussion. As can happen, when a group of like-minded moms get to sit around and discuss their feelings without 42,000 interruptions, we went pretty deep.

We talked about how jealousy, envy and expectations seem overwhelmingly to be the thieves that steal our joy. Sometimes jealousy and envy are used interchangeably, but they are opposite sides of the same destructive coin. I honestly have spent a lot of time studying the differences to keep them straight in my head.

Jealousy is the uncomfortable feeling that someone wants what we "have." The knot in your stomach when a woman gets too friendly with your man. The heat that rushes to your cheeks when a new employee seems to be hustling for your job. Your husband's snide remarks when a man likes too many of your pictures. All generated from the same place: You can't have what's mine. OH. Hell. No.

Envy, on the other hand, is our desire to have what someone else has. It's the sinking in your stomach when dropping your baby off at daycare and you see another mom walking her baby in a stroller. The tightening of your jaw when you have to say no to a vacation all your friends will enjoy but you can't afford it. It's the sideward glance at the skinny woman eating a ginormous piece of cheesecake. Envy comes from: Why can't I have that? Hmph.

And expectations. I used to be the QUEEN of expectations. If I had a nickel for every time I was let down because someone didn't live up to what I wanted from them, I'd take a fabulous vacation. And beyond that, I'd love to have a dollar for each time Brad didn't make the "grand gesture" I had conjured up in my head. Brad never knew what the grand gesture was nor has he ever been a grand gesture kind of guy so it wasn't fair, realistic, good for our relationship or my mental health for that matter to continuously--usually subconsciously--expect him to do something that was only in my mind.

Although I did learn that he wants very much to make me happy, and when I tell him what I want, most of the time he does it. Also, now that he knows how much I love grand gestures, he occasionally makes them. Huh. Expectations met.

When you take all that into consideration, it's pretty clear how these things can quickly and efficiently snuff out your joy. So what do you do?

...

You didn't think I knew ... did you? Have you ever read this blog? I don't know anything. I just overthink and ruminate and share my musings in the hopes that one of you will message me and say, "Hey, here is what you need to do." Sometimes, that happens too because some of you are SUPER smart, and I love you and appreciate your sharing of knowledge. And I adore every single one of you who simply says, "Me too, sister."

In the meantime, here's my game plan. I do not feel much jealousy anymore as I am secure in my relationships--and myself. I was a hellcat for sure, but at this point in my life, I like and accept myself, and shockingly, when you are happy and satisfied with yourself, you don't feel crazy possessive about your man or relationships or anything else. Because you no longer feel secretly unworthy or undeserving of what you have*, you no longer worry that someone else is going to swipe it from you.

This carries over to the envy side of the coin as well. Being okay with myself keeps me from wanting what others have. There have been times in my life when I felt things turned out better for other people, whereas a metaphorical dark cloud seemed planted over me. I realize now that despite some misfortune, our life continues to turn out pretty fantastically. And like the meme says: Happiness isn't having what you want; it's wanting what you have. I wouldn't want anything other than what we have.

I'm still working on the expectations part. I'm way better with most of my people, but every once in awhile, I let myself expect something from someone outside my circle, often with hurtful results. But I learn or relearn a painful lesson. That's a really cool thing about life: We keep getting chances to make different choices, learn new lessons and get it right--or at least right for us. How about you? How do you manage expectations? Do you harbor any secret jealousy or envy? Are you the object of someone else's--you know that's about them, not you; right?

I hope that wherever you are and whatever you feel today, you can stop for a moment and remind yourself that you are loved, accepted, worthy and deserving just exactly as you are.

xoxo

*My sister in law posted this article and Ted Talk earlier re: feeling like an imposter. It's freaking awesome if you have a moment. Technically the Ted Talk is 15 minutes, but it's worth every minute.