Saturday, June 17, 2006

Admitting A Flaw

Over the years people have thought my husband a monster and have congratulated me on sticking it out. I laugh now, and tell the sometimes disbelieving folk that it isn't me that deserves the praise, but Steve. It took me a long time to realize that the monster was me. My self-righteous, hyper-critical, super-sensitive, self-pitying ways have been very hard to live with. My fear of everything that became twisted into a fear of STEVE hurt him. People, including counselors who should have been able to see the truth, believed that my fear was reality based. They believed that if there was fear, then the trigger for that fear must be vile. And I believed it too. I spent entirely too much time listening to Oprah and Phil Donahue, and not enough listening to God. Oh I wanted to listen to God, but I felt like he was silent. But when I began pleading with him to speak, to yell if need be, he began making himself clear to me.

I'm not proud of this. There are people who will forever believe Steve to be abusive. There are probably court documents which list him as so. I cannot fix that. What I will say is that I did not get better on my own. I am better by the grace, mercy and work of God. I am better because there are people who invested their lives in mine. I am forever grateful.

I don't know why I'm writing this tonight, but I just read a blog by a man who is admitting his flaws and his struggles with sin, and I found it lifted my spirits. It made me feel less alone. It made me feel a sense of community and fellowship with someone who does not want to fake it anymore! Praise God.

In my blog, I write a lot of things, sometimes a log of my daily events, but more often things I am thinking about. Some are upbeat, some are down. I will try always to be real. Some stuff though I don't write because it involves others who might be hurt or worried if they read my thoughts. Sometimes I am only a part of the story, and feel an obligation to the others to keep it quiet. Sometimes the hurt is too deep, too immediate. Some of the struggles over dealing with my dad's health issues, for instance. I write about it, but there are things I can't say. There are hurts and fears that I cannot put words to. I'm sure it's the same with you. But as much as possible I try to tell the unvarnished truth and not to protect myself, only others. I guess I don't feel the need for a whole lot of self-protection anymore.

Would I want there to be a picture of me doing something disgusting like picking my nose? Not a chance. Do I want you to see my horrifyingly messy room? No way. But even when I triumph, I don't want it to be a skewed picture, making it look like I have overcome. When we don't reveal our flaws as well as our triumphs, I think we are only protecting ourselves and hurting others who look at us and say, "I couldn't do that. I'm too messed up." What I want to show is a messed up person in the hands of a gracious and compassionate God. Glory to God. About 15 years ago or so I was a mental and emotional basket case. I couldn't form a coherent sentence. I was very nearly admitted into the crazy ward at the local hospital. I received hate mail telling me I should lose my children because I was so disfunctional I couldn't maintain even a resemblence of a decent sanitary home. I was doing everything I knew how to do, but I spent so much energy trying to hide how crazy I was that I didn't have the energy to seek out help, and delayed my cure. I lived a life without hope. If I had only known it was possible for ME to get well, perhaps I would have expended some of the energy I had to seek help. Because I thought I was hopeless, I tried to look normal. I hope that someone, anyone out there who feels hopeless can gain hope. If I can recover, you can recover. You can live with a sense of joy and hope! Seek God. Beg. Plead. Cry out to him. Ask him to provide the help you need and the wisdom to see the help when it arrives. Ask him to reveal the source of your problems. I will help in any way I can. Bless you!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Nekkid in a Chicken Suit - part 2

Part 2

Think of all the things that don't "fit" in life. Is it your job? Is it your home? Is it your wardrobe? Your hair? Your friends? Your church? Your ministry?

For me, at least lately, it is a combination of things. It is not my work, but that I need to find a way to do this that is ME, and takes into account who I am, rather than trying to fit a mold made for someone else, by someone else. Being yourself is a key to being comfortable in the suit. Perhaps for you it is a chicken suit you are born to wear. For me, much as I love having fun, I feel ridiculously exposed trying to play this role in the way someone else would have me to play it.

Anyone who knows me knows that the whole made-up, power suit, perfectly selected gold button earrings, acrylic nails, high heeled pumps package is not me. I can do it when the occasion calls for it, but that occasion better be brief and suitably upscale, because I can't maintain that for long. The women who are up an hour and a half before they have to leave in the morning and spend an hour of that applying their makeup and skin care routine and fussing with their hair, well, they're great and nice to look at, but I am incapable of that kind of attention to appearance.

As far as I'm concerned, you should be clean, combed, clothes ironed, nails clean (possibly polished), and your shoes should have the scuffs polished out. Your best ornament is a smile. And for me, while I am leaning more and more away from the whole this-is-Colorado-so-I-should-wear-jeans-everyday attitude, I'm more of a Coldwater Creek dress-up, than designer suits, hose and 3-inch heels. That being said, I could probably use a little more polish, but how do I walk that fine line between polishing up and feeling uncomfortable and out of place--nekkid in the chicken suit.

Other parts of this don't fit. I am not naturally outgoing. I'm not shy, but I don't have a natural gift of conversing with strangers. I am working on that, because I believe that I can become more comfortable and do a better job getting to know people, but it will take time.

I am also still learning to accept the physical limitations that I have. Denial doesn't make it better, although that has been my coping strategy for a long time. Pretend it's not there and move ahead. I am determined that none of these physical problems will rob me of the ability to enjoy life. What I must accept is that if I want to do things like go on a whitewater rafting trip, I cannot lose sleep in the days preceeding it, nor can I do much physical labor in the days leading up to the event. I must also allow for extra time recovering afterward. Sometimes it isn't necessary, but most times it is. There's a trade-off. Another trade-off is that I cannot keep my house as clean as I would like it to be. It is a lot of work to keep a house sparkling, and if I keep it up (this is in theory, you understand, and not something that I have ever accomplished) I am drained of all energy to work or do anything fun. My philosophy is that you have to have fun! I don't mean fun before other things, but you must find ways to enjoy your life daily. You must celebrate life.

I also believe that you cannot let opportunities pass you by. Not the opportunity to do good, nor to smell the flowers, nor to hear the wind whisper in the treas, not to dance with your Uncle, or to climb a mountain, or to rappel down 130 foot cliff. Seize the opportunity to travel, to visit a friend in the hospital, to pick a bundle of fresh herbs for a friend, to dangle your feet in a mountain stream, to watch the parade, to be IN the parade. Laugh. Sing. Draw. Paint. Read. Do stand-up comedy, sing with the band, have your friends over for ice cream.

Maybe this is the key. These are some of my strengths--enjoying the moment, celebrating the day. These are the things that will draw people to me. I don't want to just be someone's realtor (unless they turn out to be a real jerk). I want to make friends. I want to help people and to be a part of their lives. What I can do is see the possibilities. The possibility of something better, something more. I can see a house or a property the way it could be without that ugly wallpaper, or with a fresh coat of paint, with those awful bushes cut down, or with fresh tile.
I can see the possibilities in people.

Not to make too swift a turn, but perhaps this is what I enjoy about the A&E show "Dog: The Bounty Hunter". This is a guy who is completely himself. He's rough around the edges, dresses in his own unique style, and chases the bad guys with a passion. Then he looks at these men and women with compassion and tells them they have hope and how to change their lives and backs it up with help and support. This is not wimpy compassion, false compassion that says "I love you, let me help you live free", and avoid justice, but compassion that says you can do this, you can make it through your court visits, serve your time and use it to become the person you should be--to your children, to your wife, to your mother. He sees the possibilities, and never seems to think anyone is too far gone for help and compassion. He relies on God for strength, courage, hope and help and turns others to the same source. I admire how this man lives his walk.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Prairie Home Companion - the movie

Wen't to see this movie with a friend from church tonight. We went to the Kimball's Twin Peak, an old Theater downtown. The Peak, as it is sometimes known, is a small venue with two theaters, a small wine and coffee bar and a small snack bar. The playbill usually includes arty films, foreign language films or controversial movies.

If you have never listened to the Prairie Home Companion on public radio, I recommend it. It is witty, old-fashioned, gently paced, and always makes me feel that I have stepped into a gentler time. Listening to the PHC, you are reminded of small communities where people know each other, take care of each other and are accepting of each other's eccentricities. You will be surprised to find that the Lutheran Church still has old-fashioned potluck suppers, you will hear radio commercials for products that you are never sure are real or if they are part of the schtick. Is the show really sponsored by Blue Ribbon Baking Powder?

Until seeing the movie I was unaware just how much of Garrison Keilor is in the show. Not only is he the very slow talking announcer slash story-teller, but he also sings, and sings well.

For those who need an explosion every half an hour, this is not your kind of movie, but I guess my affection for the radio show is shared, because the list of those appearing in the film is long: Woody Harrelson, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Tommy Lee Jones, Lindsay Lohan, John C. Reilly, Kevin Kline, Virginia Madsen, and more that I'm forgetting at the moment. This is not the kind of movie that is likely to garner Oscar buzz, break box office records or revive a failing career (not that many listed would be counted in that category). It must simply be the kind of project people want to be involved in.

Something of the tranquil unhurried pace of life is available to you once a week, together with Nordick traditions, Lutheran tales, old songs, banjo, and cowboy guitar, all at the tuner of your radio.

Well, to all of you out there, I wish you leisurly walks with family, the sense of humor to see the faults and foibles of your friends, family and yourself and laugh. May the sound of banjos put a smile on your face, and may you find deep satisfaction in the life you live.

May I suggest that you find a movie showing at Kimball's Twin Peak, take your best guy or gal, have a glass of wine or coffee in the bar, and relax and enjoy. Plan to go there early. If you walk west from the theater, past Josh and John's Ice Cream, you will find a walkway to your left leading between two buildings, most incongruously. I didn't come early enough for this, but wish I had! There you will find the Little Bangkok Thai restaurant. Ask for their recommendations. They have a soup there that is an event. They will know what I mean. Enjoy.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Nekkid in a Chicken Suit

This may be the title of my friend's book about living through an unwanted divorce, should she ever write it. I think she should.

I would pick up the book just for the title, I'm certain of it. We have joked that we need to take jobs as the people who wear chicken suits to advertise local restaurants and bbq wing shops along busy thoroughfares just to support ourselves until real estate pays off. As we were talking once again today about what our next step was, I told her I had signed us up. She said she was ready, but she might have to be naked inside the suit. "Naked in a Chicken Suit". The phrase just set all my neurons firing at the same time. Pictures, thoughts, phrases, humor, all rushed unbidden to my mind.

It's a great metaphor for winding up doing something you never thought you would ever do, and feeling exposed and unseen at the same time. No one aspires to being a fast food mascot, unless they are 8. But this is just what she has done. Oh, not the chicken suit--yet--but she was thrust into the role of divorcee and single mom. It is the suit that doesn't fit. It is the job she never aspired too, but found herself one day holding a piece of paper that declared that she was no longer a wife, and that her husband was hers no longer, that her dreams had been hijacked.

She finds herself, vulnerable and unprepared for a life that requires none of the skills that she acquired as a stay at home mom. She is required to make a living, and is expected to leave her precious children in the care of others, has been ejected from her large beautiful American dream home and the lifestyle they had provided for their children. That life is gone, but no one has explained what the new normal will be. So she has made the best decisions she could based on the knowledge she had and the court ordered support and division of marital assets only to find that a court order means nothing unless the man will abide by that order. And she has learned that an attorney can do a half-butt job and demand full payment for it, and can refuse to complete his duties to enforce the court ordered division of assets. I wish I knew his name as I would tell all of you to avoid him.

There is no justice for her or for her children. He is required to make no amends for ripping their family apart for the arms of another woman. His church makes no inquiry into his character and he winds up in a place of leadership, where his every word is listened to and believed, where he can hint at or make outright claims against HER character. It is foul.

In some ways I understand the chicken suit. I so often feel the weight of expectations for me to be a person I am not, and feel that I am chafing in a suit not of my own design. When I sing it fits. There are parts that are a struggle (I have a hard time constantly learning new lyrics and working without a cheat sheet), but overall, it fits. Wandering fits. Teaching fits. Routine doesn't fit.

I am finding that the older I get the MORE difficulty I am having with the ADD. Shouldn't it be less? Focus and concentration on routine tasks is difficult. I should be getting more comfortable in my own skin, rather than less so, as I've been in this skin for 42 (gulp) years. In some ways I am, but I am finding more and more that the expectations I have had for myself are utterly foreign to the way I am wired. The expectations my society has for me don't fit, the expectations of my family don't fit. Maybe it is me that doesn't fit.

But I believe that I am the handiwork of a divine Creator, who knew what I would be, and who gave me the skills and talents, personality and drive I would need to be exactly who he wanted me to be. This doesn't mean excusing myself for my sins, but it does mean that I should not expect myself to be a size 6, to run at 72 rpms, to be a 1 gb processor. Astronauts made it to the moon with less computer power than is available in my son's handheld calculator, so these design restraints or characteristics should not limit how high I can fly.

I have wondered if I was somehow meant for a small life. I've never really thought so, though that is what I have lived 'til now. Small is not bad. Lillies of the valley are small, but beautiful and fragrant. A mustard tree grows from the smallest of seeds. It is not that size matters as much as it is like my cherry tree. It has been living in my front yard for over 6 years now and has only grown an inch or two in height. It should be 4-5 foot by now, but something has stunted its growth. The locations seems sound, but perhaps it should be moved. Perhaps it needs fertilizer or more consistent water, particularly in the winter.

I feel like that cherry tree, as if I was meant for heights I have yet to reach. I feel as if the life I live is smaller than it was imprinted in me to be. But what am I to do about that? Perhaps, like my cherry tree, there is nothing I can do. Perhaps it is a matter of time and difficult circumstances that must be borne before the conditions are right to suddenly reach for the heights. I do believe though that God has his timing, and when he considers the time right, he will turn on the growth spurt, he will bring me to the heights he has predetermined for me, and he will see the fruit multiplied. It seems arrogant to say that, but please note that I do not say I will be the largest cherry tree and the most fruitful, but that I will reach the height HE has pre-determined for me. Perhaps that will be 5 ft. Perhaps 10 ft. Perhaps 15 or 20. That is up to him. Only God knows the height and the harvest he expects. And he will bring it to pass. I can rest in that. And I can reach for the water. The Water of the Word. The life-giving flood that flows from Emmanual's veins. The Word of Life.