I am SUCH a nice person!

“Mom, that man is talking to us,” my ten year-old daughter said. It was one of several times in the space of a couple of days that she had pointed out that someone was talking to us, pointed it out because we weren’t responding, pointed it out because we were acting like we didn’t see.

I saw.

“I know, honey,” I said. I was flustered. We were  in the process of squeezing luggage and people into a Lyft driver’s car to head to the airport so we could fly home to our small town, the town my youngest daughter has lived in her whole life, the town where we never see people living on the street, asking for money. The man had wedged himself between us and the car as we moved around, grabbing suitcases and trying to work out where and how everything and everyone would fit. “Can you give me some money so I can eat?” he asked. He was stumbling and bleary-eyed and barely coherent.

“Mom, that man is talking to us.”

“I know honey, but… he is very high right now.”

I’ve been thinking about that response. Other than the fact that it was true, I have no idea why I said it. What did the man being high have to do with anything? Did it make him less hungry? One could argue that he would just take any money that we would have given him and applied it toward his next high, and maybe that would have been true, maybe not.

“He’s very high right now,” I said, as though that explained something, as though it gave me an excuse not to really see him, not to respond to him in some way, not to treat him as the beloved child of God that I believe that he is. That’s what gnaws at my soul. I believe that Jesus loves this man, just like he loves everyone else we saw during our two days in the big city who asked us for money.

Every time I walk by someone on the street asking for money, my soul hurts–whether I actually give them money or not. It bothers me, seeing these broken, hurting people and not doing more.  I can volunteer at a soup kitchen, or hand out blankets and pack care packages, etc… and I have done all of these things, although not on a regular basis and I could certainly do much more.  What I’ve realized about human nature  myself, though, is that I tend to end up feeling righteous because I care–even when I don’t act on it. Louis C.K. does a fabulous bit on this. He’s talking about how he flies first class and sees soldiers who always fly coach, and how many times he has thought that he should give up his seat to one of the soldiers.  It’s worth a watch:

I love Louis C.K. He so often gets to the very heart of what is both ugly and beautiful about being human.

I don’t want to walk by people and pretend that I don’t see them or hear them. I don’t want my little daughter to see me do this. And I don’t want to just enjoy thinking I’m a nice person because I feel bad about it. How do we handle these things, though? It isn’t easy. What do you do?

 

 

 

 

 

This is not a post about Mother’s Day

This year I found myself really hating Mother’s Day. Many people have written beautifully about the pain they feel on Mother’s Day, for many and various reasons: infertility, child loss, painful relationships with their own mothers, estrangements from older children… the list goes on. I am so ridiculously lucky that none of those situations apply to me. And yet… as Mother’s Day approached, I found myself stewing over how much I hate it, my heart growing heavier and heavier with dread. This is not the first time I have felt this way on Mother’s Day, but, for whatever reason, it seemed worse this year.

I looked for places to place the blame. Mother’s Day is a stupid holiday, I thought. It just makes everyone feel bad. It’s nothing but commercialism. It’s just pressure on husbands and kids to buy stupid stuff for the wife/mother who really just wants someone to clean the house, cook the food, and take care of the kids while she has a day off. Those things are (mainly) true, but that wasn’t really it.

I tried to place the blame on my husband. Gift-giving is not his love language, let’s just say, and I knew he would wait until afternoon on Mother’s Day to take the kids out shopping for my flowers and chocolate–which he did, and which IS totally lame. My husband is wonderful, but he could definitely step up his game a bit when it comes to days like Mother’s Day, my birthday, and Christmas. Still, in the end, I knew that that wasn’t it.

Here’s what it was.

My first marriage was emotionally abusive. It took me many years to figure that out. It’s still, even now, so hard to explain. But my first ever Mother’s Day as a mother is a good example. It was 22 years ago and my first child was about 6 weeks old. She was healthy and amazing and being a mother was hard but also wonderful and I loved it.

My first husband did could do special days really well. When I was depressed about spending my first Christmas in Sweden, away from my family, he–who grew up in Iran and therefore had no Christmas tradition of his own–went out and bought a Christmas tree for me, carrying it home on the city bus. He bought a box of decorations for the tree and cajoled me out of my funk and into making Christmas cookies. For many special birthdays (my 25th, my 30th) he planned whole days full of surprises for me, from breakfast in bed to exciting activities and special dinners with friends.

It wasn’t always like this, mind you. There was the year when he put exactly two identical boxes under the Christmas tree, which, as it turned out, each held a pair of long underwear. One for me, and one, believe it or not, for him. So there was that…

And then there was my first Mother’s Day. Did I mention that it was my first one as a mom? How exciting and special that felt for me? So, knowing this, my ex chose not to acknowledge the day in any way. If I thought he had forgotten or hadn’t known that it was Mother’s Day, there were several people with whom we interacted that day who mentioned to us both that it was Mother’s Day, so I knew he knew, and still he didn’t acknowledge it. By the end of the day, I was done. Sad, angry… confused, mostly. Why would he do that? Why would he refuse to acknowledge my first Mother’s Day as a mother with so much as a “Happy Mother’s Day”? When I finally broke down and told him how bad it made me feel, he said that it had indeed been an intentional lack of acknowledgment on his part. I’m sure he had some stupid, quasi-psychological explanation for this, but whatever it was, I remember this: it was intentionally done to hurt me and throw me off balance.

A couple of days later, my ex brought home a flowering plant for our balcony. It was not a Mother’s Day present, he said… just a present. It was beautiful and it bloomed all summer and I acted grateful and pretended that everything was fine, but what that beautiful flowering plant really did was serve as a painful reminder to me all summer long that I could never expect anything, never count on anything, that I could certainly never count on being allowed to think that I was worth anything special.

Sometimes emotional abuse is that subtle. It might be hard to understand this example as abuse without knowing the context of the rest of the relationship; I get that.  Don’t get me wrong, the abuse was often not even a little bit subtle, but sometimes it was, which, in a strange way, made it almost more insidious.

Who would have guessed that, of all the horrible things my abusive ex did and said to me in the years we spent together, it would be this relatively small and seemingly insignificant thing that was wreaking havoc on my heart and soul all these years later? This  year I felt, as I said, an increasing sense of dread as the day approached, and what I can only describe as profound sadness that seemed to sit like a weight in my bones as Mother’s Day dawned.

The good news is that the day got better. I was able to pinpoint the source of my sadness and that, along with love and hugs and reassurance from my husband and kids that I am special and important to them, was all I needed to reorient me in my present and make me feel OK again.

Which is all to say, if you have been emotionally abused, those old hurts might sometimes reverberate in your heart and soul for a very long time. You can think you’re so far past it all that it will never hurt again… and then it does. For me what helped was acknowledging that what happened to me, how I was treated all those years ago, was not OK. It was just one example of a whole lot of things that were not OK, but none of it was OK. And then I reminded myself–and my family reminded me–that the person my ex-husband tried to make me think I was, the unworthy, unlovable one, is NOT who I am. It never was.

If you are dealing with emotional abuse or have dealt with it in the past and it is still hurting today, you can reach out. Reach out to the people who you know love you and tell them that you need to be reminded of your worth. You can reach out to me. But reach out. Let people remind you that YOU are valuable and worthy. Because THAT is what is true.

Just the truth, ma’am

When I was a little, I used to sometimes watch Dragnet. I was much too young to be watching it, but it was the 70’s and parents were far less interested in worrying about what their kids watched on TV than they are today… which has nothing to do with this post at all, except that what came to mind when I sat down to write was Joe Friday’s iconic line, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Only I’m much less concerned with facts at the moment; I’m just trying to stick to what is honest, which, I believe, is as close as we can get to the truth.

What I’ve realized is that, if I’m going to try to write a good blog, I will never write. Or, rather, I’ll write a post once or twice a year. And even then, it probably won’t be very good. The thing is, I know what good writing is. So I know when my own writing falls short. And therefore… I don’t write.

But I believe that there is value in writing, because writing helps us search our souls, to figure out what we believe, to connect with ourselves and with the greater Truth, which, I believe, is God. So I’ve decided to write. Every day. Knowing that it won’t be good writing, but what it will be is honest. Because I need a place to be honest. Honestly searching, honestly seeking, honestly hurting and loving, joyful and sad, hopeful and impatient, and mostly just fumbling about… honestly just a messy human but also beloved by God.

I spent most of the first half of  my life (so far) trying to make people think I was perfect, because I thought that was what I had to be. Now I know what freedom there is in being imperfect. Now I no longer think that being perfect is important, or even valuable… because it’s not possible. There is just being honest, and the freedom that comes with that: the freedom to love ourselves and to let ourselves be loved.

I hope that by being my messy, honest self, I can inspire someone else to be messy and honest, and in that to be more able to be loving and to be loved.

Thanks for stopping by. You matter.