The Christmas Gift

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This year I thought I was on track for Christmas.  It’s been almost three years since R. left and we’ve achieved an amicable relationship.  He is settling into his new marriage and I was getting on with my life. After two years of procedures and surgeries I am pain free and able to enjoy so much more. And yet,…

During the divorcing phase you always seem to be scrambling for papers, and waiting and waiting, and applying for documents, balancing statements and wondering how to do more with less than half of what you had.  I felt like Indiana Jones running from the huge round stone that would crush me.  At times I thought it might even be a relief, but one day it stops. Sort of,…  The divorce is final and you grope around for ways to make the little broken bits fit and yet you don’t quite have the interest.  You know if you sit too long you will never move again so occasionally in spastic fits you snatch at something so you can feel like what you are doing is actually living. Eventually it becomes steadier,…more or less.

For me the circuit breaker became travel.  No I didn’t win the lottery but I had accumulated air miles and I am all about the art of making every dollar work hard. Eventually colour seeped back into my world.  It was a different world but I was learning its customs. In time I started to become a native and realized I needed to take other new comers by the hand and show them around.  I saw that God had another land for us to inhabit.  Not familiar but home, …in a way.

When I came back from a trip with my mom this November the first thing I heard was that my son was OK and my ex had lost his job.  My stomach clenched.  Our support, medical and insurance would be gone in a few months.  I fell back into that pit.  Everything spun.  Fear ripped through my new strength and shoved me on my haunches.  My bones were so new and fragile, my soul was spun sugar and I waited for everything to snap.  And then,…

There was no time to focus. I had handcrafting sales to prepare for, birthdays to celebrate, Christmas to decorate for and a journey to Bethlehem that only I could take. My heart needed to be called home.  I laughed I prepared, I baked, I cleaned, and I even entertained with a minimum of anxiety and internal  hysteria. We all set the bar differently,…

Tonight I took my son aside and tried to map out sharing arrangements for Christmas. Where would we be?  Who would get the choice parts of the holidays? When would we travel? What parties did he want to be at?  What were the youth events?  How were we going to manage the expectations?  What did he want for Christmas? Could he makes lists for everyone?

In the midst of all that there was the unspoken anxiety about losing the house, the income and my medication. Chemo. isn’t cheap.

My son came and put an arm around me. “Mom what I want is a stress free Christmas.  You and I have such a good life together.  Promise me you will have fun. That is what I want. I want us to enjoy the holidays and not worry about the calendar.  You’ve done enough. You are enough.  You are Christmas to me”.  My son had just given me his list.  He was asking for peace on Earth and goodwill towards all men, whatever comes our way.

He was asking for joy to the world. He wants a silent night, a holy night. He is saying come all you faithful. He is telling me not to be afraid because there are glad tidings of good news.

I really needed good news. I realized I really hadn’t stopped running in over three years.   Here I was asking for him to tell me what the perfect Christmas gift would be and instead he showed me and placed it in my lap.

No matter whether your Christmas is red and green,or blue or bathed in heavenly light I pray that you find a gift in your own trip to Bethlehem. with love, D.

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Steve Grissom and Me and Christmas Time

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For anyone who doesn’t know who Steve Grissom is, he is the founder and president of Divorce Care.  He also narrates the video series.  Steve may not realize it but he and I talked all through the series. We have been through all the emotions I can think of. There were times when I was about to really react and he’d disappear and another speaker would intercept my responses and turn my attention to the next step.  At times I’ve wanted to mess up his perfect hair and justify my viewpoint or say amen or sorrow for his experiences.

A week ago we finished our Divorce Care classes and we were told there would be one more on Surviving the Holidays.  I wasn’t too worried as I would have my son with me at my mom’s and then I’d do the trade off on boxing day.  I settled in to see what Steve would say. It started as I expected with a review of potential problems and being prepared. Check. Steve and I were doing fine. We explored ways to prepare for celebrating the holidays. Check.  Then things got into misty-eyed territory for me.

He talked about keeping traditions and how that didn’t necessarily work.  I thought about making the yearly gingerbread house. Each year he (my son not Steve) did that with his dad. I had the pictures of them every year.  After R. left  I’d offered to do that with him but he wouldn’t even consider it. Aah. The traditions had lost their joy.  We would need to create our own new traditions.  O.K. That was something pro-active I could do.  A girlfriend of mine was way ahead on that one. Her daughter suggested they drive into the mountains until they found snow. They’d go and find a tree to decorate and open their gifts under the tree. After a rousing snowball fight they’d head home.  How great is that?  Yes I was ready for the challenge.

Then you threw me a curveball Steve.  You talked about custody arrangements and a shared Christmas. Your next words froze my heart. You said it wasn’t a good idea. What???  You and I just worked through the lesson of Reconciliation. It was even suggested that I call him every six months and see if he’d come home. Seriously?  Steve, what are you saying?  Then one of the ladies said that we should ask ourselves if we had pure motives in wanting a family Christmas for the kids.  The implication was that if we were hoping the occasion would rekindle a longing for home then it wasn’t pure.  Now I was starting to steam.  What could be a purer motive?  Wanting to give a child a mended home and to forgive is at the top of my sainthood chart.  Steve and I had hit a rough patch.  I was upset because though I knew my ex wouldn’t come home I really wanted to keep my son’s life as normal and happy as possible.  I was trying so hard to be gentle and peaceful so that my ex would feel comfortable visiting.  That’s when one of the wingmen came in to back up Steve before he and I had words.

It was explained that for the child to be put in that situation could give them false hope. It could be very disappointing and put them back in that  first place of hurt and loss.  I was silent.  I didn’t want my son to go through the pain again.  That was the worst part of being left, seeing the sorrow on his face when dad disappeared.  I had honestly wanted to give him the life I thought he deserved.  It was another loss to realize I had to let both of us live in the reality of the divorce in order for him to heal.  It was another piece of grieving I hadn’t expected, but I was not going to hurt my son to try and preserve the past.  I realized that Steve was opening my eyes to something I couldn’t see.

For you that have taken Divorce Care but haven’t seen the video Survivng the Holidays it is worth it.  If you haven’t taken Divorce Care it is worth the internal conversation with Steve.

I still want to mess his hair up but I’d more likely shake his hand. On behalf of myself and my son thanks for caring Steve and thanks for the chats. D.

P.S. This blog entry was never meant to be interpreted as being endorsed by Steve Grissom or his hair.

Unguarded Moments

(photo used with permission from “Remember to Play Events)

This weekend was a very rare event for me.  I found myself utterly alone.  My son and the dog went with my ex. for an overnight. I had a busy Saturday planned with a women’s Christmas brunch, cookie baking, gift wrapping and packing for the holidays.  What ended up happening was an all night battle with kidney stones and no sleep irrespective of what pain killers I threw at them.  By morning there was no fatigue or pain relief and I was in no shape to go anywhere and eat, craft, or chat.  Again I felt so betrayed by my body.  I think I may have even been a little resentful towards God.  “Didn’t you want me to get more involved with the ladies at the church?  I was willing to go out and socialize and expand my social network. Could you not pulverize a few minerals and let me get on with my life?”.  I was a step up from depressed because I could feel something, unfortunately it was not positive.

I was completely at a loss but I did notice one thing. Silence.  There were no voices, no footsteps, no TV, no computers humming, and not even any spinning thoughts. I was free to choose a topic to think about or nothing at all.  For a while I lay there in that rare state of clarity and almost held my breath as if it was a deer that might startle if I moved too quickly. Without meaning to I started to process some of the feelings I had about Christmas. Yesterday I talked about the legacy we leave our children but it didn’t mean that sorrow isn’t something that we need to deal with, it just meant that we shouldn’t unduly burden our children with our sorrows. I realized that I had to face what I needed to mourn before I could fully celebrate.  I hadn’t done it before because I needed to be strong, on patrol and holding things together while I was on duty.  I hadn’t been ready.  Suddenly it was there.

It was like packing away certain ornaments that would not be hung again. The three of us would never share those family moments by the fireplace for stockings, hot chocolate, or a special Christmas breakfast. I needed to stop looking at items in the store and thinking, “Oh he’d love that.”  We would no longer have gingerbread house building competitions. My son won’t do it anymore without dad.  Tears started to flow. I had the freedom, in this silence and aloneness, to grieve.  I grieved the future Christmases that would never be and the sharing of times of worship and praise at church to celebrate the center of our faith.  There would be future services but never all together. Never as a family. I grieved for what was gone and for what would never be.  I let the pain wash over me and didn’t try to stop it.  Eventually it began to recede. I was exhausted and flat but some of the pit that I’d carried in my stomach was gone.  It was almost two years since he’d left and I was finally at a place where I could believe that the light at the end of the tunnel was not attached to a train.

The silence had been a gift of sorts.  I can go back to seeing the beauty in the season as it is intermingled with the sadness. All the different filaments are woven into a tapestry made beautiful by the contrasts.  I am grateful for the unguarded moments so that I can carry on.  Wishing you all a season of unexpected blessings, D.

The Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything

The title for this post is not actually a delusional rambling.  I save those for close friends, family and politicians who come to my door soliciting votes. It is a chapter within The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a sci. fi./humour book by Douglas Adams. In it a group of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings demand to learn the Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything from the supercomputer, Deep Thought specially built for this purpose. It takes Deep Thought 7½ million years to compute and check the answer, which turns out to be 42 The Ultimate Question itself is unknown.  I read this years ago and thought it was rather brilliant.  In the past couple of years I realized it has huge theological significance.  Now don’t run away yet.  I promise I will bring this back to something that makes sense. Honest.

When I got married I knew it would be forever.  I married a man who would never leave.  I would have put money on it. I would have ended up broke. Thanks for not taking that bet.

Afterwards I tried to make sense of what had happened.  Why didn’t God fix it? Why didn’t he tell me how to fix it?  Why didn’t he fix us? What purpose did he have in this? Why didn’t it work?   I don’t need to keep on going. If you’ve gone through divorce or trauma you have your own list of hurts and confusions.  It was easy to feel that others were looking at me as defective and the unspoken “if you’d had real faith this wouldn’t have happened.”

Thankfully Mr. Adams came to the rescue and he did it in the form of the book of Ruth. (No really.  Please hang on. It will make sense in a minute.)

Naomi marries a man named Elimelech. They have two sons whose names mean puny and pining.  Really.  Who gives their kids names like this? Famine has hit Judah so we may have a hint as to how desparate things were. Imagine how you would be praying, begging God for help.  Save us. Save our boys. They decide to move to Moab, away from friends, family and their faith community. You would be praying that God would protect you there. Eventually the boys marry foreign women outside of the faith. How that must have burned and shamed Naomi, but it got worse. Her husband dies and then both boys die.  Naomi knows that God has abandoned her.  She hears that things are better in Judah and so plans to return home to survive. She sends the girls home. There would be no love for these foreign women back home.  One goes but one refuses to leave Naomi.  Naomi is a broken woman. She says she has nothing to offer, no future sons and she says she sees no future husband for herself. “It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has gone out against me!”  How could she think anything else?  She knew that that is how others would judge her life. She was not favoured by God and now she would be a burden to her family until the day she died.

Imagine being her, crying out to God as to why he hated her so much.  What was her sin?  What was her purpose?  In reality the answer is 42.  We know from reading the book of Ruth (and if you haven’t, take my word for it, and then check it out yourself) that the purpose of her life was to bring Ruth into the line of David and ultimately Jesus. Come again?

There is no way that Naomi would have ever understood the purpose of her life.  She had no ability to get that answer and if she got it to understand it.  The meaning of her life could not be puzzled out.

I believe we treat God like a glorious Rubik’s cube that if we line things up right, we can figure out. He is the Holy Wild and we do not have the capacity to understand his thoughts and workings.  Does it make it easier? Yes and no.  It reminds me that it isn’t always about causal connections.  I still have to deal with pain and confusion but I can step away from the thinking that says things like “pain is God megaphone” and trying to fit everything into my frame of reference. Sometimes the answers for what happens in our lives is 42. I am so sad that Naomi died thinking she wasn’t loved.  I am grateful to Mr. Adams for a great life lesson.  Reflection is good but endless navel gazing is a lousy view. Sometimes the answers are not where or what we would think.  The meaning of life is way beyond us and I’m O.K. with that.

Take care, D.

Fresh

The other night a great thing happened.  I was dropping my son off at a youth event.  It was complete mayhem, in other words, business as usual. I was talking to some of the other moms when a  woman I hadn’t seen in a while asked how I was doing.  I fix her with a huge smile and said I was doing really great.  It was amazing to realize that I meant it.  I tried to come up with reasons why but there really wasn’t anything in particular.  It was like this fresh wind hitting my spirit.

I didn’t think too much about it until I realized that again today I was feeling good.  I can’t tell you how grateful I am not to feel like a scrambled mess if even for one day.  One of the things I really hated about the mess of divorce was living in active grief.  I felt stuck in a Salvadore Dali painting and I didn’t know when I would find my normal.  I lacked control over my feelings. One day I was up for anything and other days I was too broken to figure out my banking, or clean up or find my way out of the paralysis.  I’d make plans in good faith and then cancel because I just couldn’t bear it.  I really resented being so stuck.  It was like bracing for aftershocks and not feeling secure enough to move back into my own home. I wanted to get on with my life, do the clean up work, but the urge was to lie down and drift.

During the last years of my marriage I channeled the loneliness in sculpting and creating.  I had textures and colours and form to challenge me and help me communicate.  When I was told I no longer had a marriage I found that all my head could produce was static.  I couldn’t organize my feelings or thoughts and since art is communication I couldn’t produce.  That was another loss that really jarred me.  Not knowing when or if it would end was profoundly frightening.

For at least a year I’ve had my work table set up with all my tools and supplies and nothing has been touched. I haven’t made any rugs, or baskets or jewellry or sculptures.                                I put everything away and decided I must not be an artist anymore. I felt blank.

One night I got an image in my head that I couldn’t get rid of.  I wasn’t sure what to do with it so I started to paint.  I’d never really painted before and all of sudden there were ideas and excitement and I had something to say.  It felt so good.  The colours became vibrant and I felt the little shoots of new growth, humour and light start again.  Other things started unfolding.  I started going through my phone book and touching base with people I hadn’t seen in a while but valued.

This last weekend I even went on a Women’s retreat with a girlfriend whose church I’d never been to.  I stepped out and put myself in a new situation.  As I drove up to the camp I tried not to think about what I was doing so that I wouldn’t alert my inner hermit.  It was a mix of feelings but the thing was I did it. I decided to try and get out of my situation and live.

Yesterday I phoned a travel agency to check out a promotion and found I’ve booked a ticket to celebrate New Years in Istanbul. Let the adventure begin.

I realized there is no path back. The house got demolished in the earthquake and it is time to build anew. I may have to deal with the rubble but I don’t have to live there.  I am taking steps to go on to fresh challenges and joys.

“Courage doesn’t always roar, sometimes it is a quiet voice at the end of the day, saying,… I will try again tomorrow.”  Mary Anne Radmacher

Wishing you all new fresh steps. D.

What did you just call me? (part two)

Yesterday I was talking about the difficulty I had with the concept of Divorce Care in terms of my own situation.  Today I want to talk about something I learned a couple of weeks ago.

We were in session six called “What Does the Owner’s Manual Say?”.  The idea was to explore what he bible says about divorce.  I was pretty sure I knew where this was going.  Once again we would watch a video and then we were told the pastor was going to come a say a few words.  I was doing my best to keep my inside voice inside.  I agreed with the scriptures but it was kind of like preaching to the choir.  I got it, but then we got to Matthew5:32.  “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adultress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.”  Say what?  I’m a what?  He walks and I’m a whore? I refused to accept this as God’s truth.

I listened to the entire video and heard them soft shoe around the subject stressing whether you were the guilty party or not and that maybe it didn’t really matter if you tried not to divorce etc. I could also remarry if it was a devoted Christian man.  No.  They didn’t have verses backing that up.  I know pop psychology when I hear it and I was simmering.  Now really I’m not a hot tempered person.  I make baskets, rugs, and bake apples crisps.  I’m actually quite calm but being labelled as an adultress was not something I could let

stand or excuse away.  What was the scripture really saying and was I going to be seen as tainted as long as I was in the church?

The other thing the verse said was that if anyone married me they would be an adulterer.  Let me understand this.  I can only remarry a devoted Christian man but if he does this then he is an adulterer. I do not know of any sincere Christian man who’d sign up for that title.  Talk about your double whammy.

By the end of the video the pastor started to talk. Before he got two paragraphs in I couldn’t stay silent.  I said I couldn’t get past this verse and told him I didn’t know how to read it as I did not believe God would label me with a sin I didn’t commit.  What was the truth? Was I condemned to stay single?  If so tell me straight out. Whether I liked the answer or not I needed the truth.  I didn’t want my ears tickled.  I wanted to know what God was really saying.

You have never seen a more uncomfortable looking person in your life. Then he spoke and everything changed. Tomorrow I’ll post what he said.

What are your ideas on this verse?

Baggage

“Good afternoon madame.  Are you checking in?  Yes?  Any baggage?  Oh my.  You are taking all of this with you?  I’ll get the manager”.

We all have baggage. Some of us have backpacks and others need sherpas to move their steamer trunks and wardrobes.

One of the biggest challenges of being divorced is learning how to tell people who you are. I know I still get stuck on that one.  I’m always fascinated by how people choose to  introduce themselves.  In one online arts group I belong to we ask newcomers to introduce themselves to the group.  I was stunned by one lady’s opening.

“Hello, I joined this group over a year ago (I think), and have been silent ever since.I have chronic major resistant depression, as well as an auto-immune disorder, for which I a now taking narcotics.”   Really?  This is what you want us to know about you? What we say first is how we define the most important part of our being. It is what we want to be known for.  This woman let us know right from the beginning that her struggles were her focus. She didn’t once mention her interest in our craft, her interest in any art form or even if she had children or pets. We didn’t even know her name before her baggage was dropped at our feet.

I never met the woman or know her name. I am sorry she has such problems but nothing in her intro. drew me to her.  She’d fallen into the trap of our generation, of identifying herself, not by her astrological sign, but by her self-help group. We are a generation that identifies itself by its damage. The problem with taking your identity from your damage is that you can’t afford to heal. If you do you lose what makes you special.

I also struggle with a serious auto-immune problem but I need people to know me for my faith, my friendships, my humour, my volunteer work, my artwork, travels, my love of reading, etc.  I want to be known for my passions and strengths.  I may be divorced but I am not my divorce.  It isn’t about being better than anyone else. Many of you have stories that are so horrible that you are victims in the truest sense of the word.  It is about being self aware of how we are presenting ourselves and the tone we are setting for future relationships. It’s about deciding on our own marketing and deciding what we want to define us.

Recently I was making up new business cards since I’d closed my website and wanted to direct traffic to my Flickr site.  I wanted to pick a background for my card that conveys a sense of who I am as an artist. I searched through the free templates looking for swirls and colours that resonated with me. I wanted it to say “me” before people even read the print.  On the card I only had two lines to tell people what sort of artist I am and why I should be their go to girl.

I realized that the new me also needed some repackaging. What would I say if I only had two lines to let people know who I am?

.   Even the people you have known for years may not know how to approach the new you and need direction.  It was really upsetting to me in the beginning when people I’d known seemed to shy away. I realized that I had to be the one to redefine myself for them so they’d know what to do.  They needed direction from me.

As people who’ve gone through a terrible transition we need to actively decide how we want to be seen. Do we present our strengths and interests or our victimization? What do we have to offer others?  Usually baggage, especially after a hectic trip, contains a lot of smelly things.  No one is interested.  When we get back from travelling the kids are usually hoping for gifts or souvenirs.  “What did you bring us?”  Our baggage is a mix of all of this. I would say that in going forward we need to unpack in private, and decide what others would enjoy seeing from our travels.  It is up to us to decide how we want to introduce the new us.

What would your two lines be?

D.

My reality as a teenaged boy and other science fiction

The truth is that I’m not a rainbows and kittens kind of girl.  I enjoy science fiction, sculpting, abstract painting, comic books and a good burger.  A great night is a vintage godzilla film marathon, popcorn and an ice cold Pepsi.My ex once said that I was just a teenaged boy in disguise which in hindsight I think disturbed him. As my ex mother in law would say, “You have odd tastes for a woman”.

I was never a tomboy, just creative with a Far Side sense of humour.  I was a medical social worker and science fiction was infinitely more interesting or exciting than any movie of the week and it was a great escape from the intensity of my work.  It asked all the “What if?” questions and everything was in technicolour.  In truth the monsters were usually extensions of the human condition and a lot of the stories were morality tales but with the greatest make up and special effects.  In the hollywood movies it was usually clear who were the bad guys and the good guys and I could suspend disbelief and just enjoy myself.  In the books you were provoked with moral and intellectual dilemmas that challenged you to new perspectives and sumptuous feats of imagination, and they were just plain cool.

I hadn’t always been involved in art but once I got engaged I found that I was home alone a lot (what’s wrong with this picture?) as he was in an intense school program that lasted until the end of our first year of marriage.  I’d never been a good art student as most of that had to do with perfectly replicating drawings of horses.  That is how I remember it.  Very neat and tidy girls would draw replicas of horses with their perfectly sharpened pencils and got As.  Mine looked like disgruntled weasels with gland problems.  Needless to say I did not win any scholarships. I hung out with friends, attended youth group and watched too much TV. My parents were so proud but I digress.

During the time alone I started having dreams with amazing colours and textures and patinas and I wanted desparately to try and reproduce them. When I experimented crafting in 3D I came alive.

I began to explore my need to create.  I found that with a husband that traveled constantly the need to communicate became more pressing. I could express emotions with colours, shapes and forms and lose myself in learning.  In all of this I was learning who I was, what I liked and how I interpreted my world.  Unfortunately it wasn’t what my ex wanted.  I wanted him to be proud of me, of the shows or occasional article in the news but he was still a singularity apart.  I tried to change myself.  I packed up all the supplies and focused on making a clean home a show home, the meals upgraded from healthy to trendy, be the best mom possible and my spare time spent at the gym.  None of it brought him closer and now I was the one feeling lost.  I didn’t know how to fix things, what to be to be wanted besides at night time.

When he finally left I cried convulsively for two months unable to focus, terrified of the future and knowing that if only I wasn’t me maybe I could have been loved.  If only I could have sketched lovely fricking horses and could have watched daytime TV and pretend that the hosts weren’t muppets from hell, and if I could golf and drink white wine, if only,…. If only I wasn’t me.

When I finally stopped crying I pulled out the clay.  I began with little pieces. Then I left all my supplies out.  With a shock I realized I could do that.  In time I found that I didn’t have to stay up late creating to avoid my life. I could create when I wanted because my space was my own and I could sleep when it was good for me because I was free.  The person I’d become, the real me didn’t have to apologize for what I wasn’t. I love weird, quirky things, indie music, late night discussions about faith, politics, flying carpets, eternity, travel and love.  I can do that now.  My reality is wide open and I can explore.
Divorce can seem like a complete rejection of who and what you are but you have the choice to embrace your inner teenaged boy, your foodie, your world explorer, activist or humorist.  I realize that by rejecting who I was I could never be who I was meant to be. I’ve spent most of my life saying I believe that God loves me.  I believed that I knew who I was and liked that person but when my partner threatened to reject me I was willing to toss me out too.

Being divorced means re-evaluating who you are as a singlette. I pray you all find your reality and appreciate your own voice.

D.Isaiah 61:7

Stinking Weasel, Self Esteem and Other Popular Myths

O.K. I feel a rant coming on.  I swear it isn’t my fault.  Yesterday I was stuck waiting in a doctor’s office and was subjected to a canned bad remix of Sinatra’s “My Way”. The lyrics at the best of times set my teeth on edge  but this should have been banned under the Geneva convention. Besides being made to feel like I was trapped in an elevator I  just can’t get on board with the whole premise. The dramatic message of the song is that the highest value is to be true to yourself and to do things your way, but there’s a problem.  What if someone in their heart of hearts, at the core of their being is a stinking weasel?   Why is being true to that a good thing?  I’m thinking that who we are should not always be the marker by which we set the bar. Be honest, for some of the people you’ve met that bar would be subterranean, yet we accept the concept of “to thine own self be true” without critical reflection.

Since my divorce (that word still gives me the shivers) I have been given a fair bit of self love advice.  I admit that I have the occasional committment issues with self love as I know myself too well but all in all there is an abiding fondness.  What worries me is that the goal of these “love yourself” books and talks seem to border on stalkerish behaviour.  I think that knowing yourself and finding the things you enjoy about yourself is good. You spend a lot of time with you and having a nice working relationship is helpful.  Being infatuated with your every thought or action, putting yourself on a pedestal that says that everything you do, say or think is magnificent, is delusional.

Self esteem is a thorny issue.  You need to believe in your own decisions, opinions, tastes and values.  You need to know who you are and find your voice.  The problem is the wholesale acceptance of everything you are without any critical assessment. Have you really reached your end goal?  Really?  There is no tweaking to be done? I’ve yet to meet the person who couldn’t use a little emotional nip or tuck.

I’m an artist and there is a brilliant story teller Ira Glass.  In a little video series he talks about the gap between your taste and your output. http://youtu.be/BI23U7U2aUY (If this link doesn’t work go to YouTube and look up Ira Glass on Storytelling, part 3 or 4).

Part of his point is to know your goals, produce work, acknowledge the gap and keep on producing until you’ve narrowed the gap. He also says that it wil take a long time to get from here to there.  It’s the same with personal, emotional and spiritual growth.

I think this applies to self esteem.  Loving yourself doesn’t mean that you are the finished product and ready for worship. I really hate the whole attitude of, “Well this is me and if that isn’t good enough for you then watch my dust as I leave because I’m perfect the way God made me.”  If I was truly the way God made me that would be great but I’ve done some alterations of my own and maybe some self assessment isn’t unwarranted.  I go to church because I need to. We need people to love us as we are but that doesn’t mean that some of our behaviours and attitudes don’t need adjustment.

A couple of days ago in a post called “Walls” I quoted from Isaiah 58: 11,12. It talked about God guiding and restoring and rebuilding in our lives. It is a wonderful thing to soak in. What I didn’t include were verses 9 and 10. There were conditions on these blessings. They called for personal corrections. It talked about what you needed to do and stop doing.

” If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”

Hhm. No making others pay for our pain. No yelling, blaming or bitter talk.  Be useful and helpful. Look to the needs of others. Don’t you love that phrase, “then your light will rise in the darkness”?  How can you not want that?  Here is the blue print and it has nothing to do with making yourself the center. The opposite behaviour is the way out.

In the name of self esteem it doesn’t mean that we are the gold standard of all we could or ever should be.  What if we have our own stinking weaselisms (that word is probably going to give my spell checker a nervous breakdown)?  Maybe I’m just talking to myself but especially in the church we have to be able to be transparent withourselves. I will never understand why anyone who has been forgiven could ever twist it to the point where they think that they are the example to be followed.  So many of the disagreements in the church come down to the fact that we want others to worship and serve and pray as we do in order for the other person to be correct.

One of my favorite quotes is that real evangelism is one beggar showing another beggar where to find bread.  I have no defence. If you look to find fault in me you won’t have to try too hard. We were saved by perfection. We are not perfection, and that’s O.K..

I’m also always leery of people who proclaim that they have bad self-esteem. I’ve always found it to be an excuse for really bad behaviour towards others.  What it often means is they are upset that they aren’t treated as the lead dog of the pack and they resent it. In fact they have the opposite of bad self esteem. Their insecurities have to do with how they think they ought to be treated.  Real low self esteem people rarely say a word.  They don’t believe they have anything to say worth hearing.  Those people break my heart.  Telling them they need great self esteem is useless as they don’t see what is beautiful in themselves as they are fixated on their flaws.

Either way we fixate on what is broken or pretend that we are beyond being challenged. Neither brings healing or wholeness.

May I suggest a middle ground?  What if we could see the pretty, shiny things inside, enjoy them and set goals for the other stuff?  No hand wringing, no stomping out with an attitude, just a pinch of humility, a little light humored acceptance with a dose of reality? The “self” is a modern mythological god that is notoriously unreliable.  Appreciate it as a work in progress get rid of the pressure of being a small “g” god.  Make Isaiah 58:9, 10 a personal goal.

Now if I could just get that muzak out of my head!   (The above cartoon is the cover of an “Agnes” book by Tony Cochran)

Squaring Off

I can’t tell you how good it felt when I first read this quote.  I finally felt vindicated in being what I truly am.  I am a circle person.  I admit it.  I have tried for years to be a square person but it was all a lie.  Contemporary lines in furniture and kitchen design just left me cold.  I was always drawn to round shapes.  If I had my choice my front door would be round like one the ones from the Hobbit’s little homes under the hill in the shire.  Wouldn’t that be cheery?

I’d been toying with the idea of getting a backsplash for my kitchen and saw endless walls of square and rectangular, in style tiles. These were proper tiles. These were the type that “helped with resale”. I was uninspired and the truth was that my heart would beat faster when I would see the rogue board of round smooth beach pebble tiles or a great rounded mosaic with swirling patterns. “Yes!” my psyche screamed (my psyche is rather dramatic so I don’t let it out in polite company) that this was me and circles were my people.  I wanted these but they just were not wise. No. Future buyers would look at them as odd.  I knew this because almost every person that has ever been on House Hunters has walked into the kitchens and said, “My style is granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances. It’s my thing.”.  How could the same thing be everyone’s thing?  They’ve been told it is “The” thing so it is their thing, thus square tiles were the “right” tiles. As you can see, even writing about them has provoked the overuse of quotation marks.

I knew my circle tastes needed to be limited to hoop earrings and cookies (both of which make me happy).

One of the freedoms of being on my own again (and don’t I feel guilty for admitting to finding something enjoyable) is to assert my own tastes in my own home.  The funny part was that though I had the freedom to do this I didn’t feel the personal freedom to do it without approval, and yes this is as weak as it sounds.  It really confounded me.  If I thought of it in terms of the Einstein quote, I wanted to swim but felt guilty I wasn’t working on my tree climbing skills.  I realized that it wasn’t that I wasn’t allowed to change things but I’d stopped trusting my own judgement to make good decisions.  I was shocked at my self doubt.  I was a circle girl in a square world and needed to figure out how to make peace with that without someone giving me approval.  I realized that by making circle decisions for my home I wasn’t redecorating but making a step into singleness and letting my home reflect me rather than us.

The dark side of this was that the pained little voice inside me said it was another reminder that no one cared what I did. Thinking that thought made me mad.  Did I really believe that my life didn’t have value just by itself?  How many women have said they don’t bother to cook anymore as it was just for themselves? Why?  Aren’t they worth a good meal?  Don’t they deserve circles?  Our marriages got broken but it didn’t mean that we as women are broken and have no value.  I realized that I was acting like I died instead of  my marriage. I realized that I had to trust that who I am is enough and whole as is.  It was time to believe that my life has purpose and value and to live like I believed it even if I didn’t know how God would shape it.

It was time to accept myself as a swimmer rather than judge myself as a climber.   It was and is time for circles.

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