Lots of feels

One of my blogs is about to disappear, and in the interest of saving it I am coping some of my previous posts into this blog. This post was from July 6, 2015.

It is 6:30 in the morning on my day off work, and I am here, awake. I have a lot of feelings inside me and I am sitting here with tears in my throat and in my eyes, longing just to be able to write my feelings down and push them off into the world. Like the words from the Anna Nalick song, “2 a.m. and I’m still awake, writing a song. If I get it all down on paper it’s no longer inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to.” But maybe I just really don’t have the courage. One day I swear I am going to write my novel so I can say all the things I cannot say, turn loose all the feelings inside of me.Half of the feelings I feel are vapors in the wind anyway.

As I sat here at my desk, I watched a cloud outside my window. For a moment it was the stunningly clear face of a pitbull terrier. But in seconds it morphed, first into a kitty, and then on to several indistinct stages on its way to becoming the blank cloudbank that it is at this moment. And that happens so often with problems. You have a dagger in the heart, but then it dissolves and is gone, unless you happened to put it into writing or other communication where it becomes immortalized, or kind of. For me, writing and getting things out is cathartic, but the problem is that when you get things outside yourself sometimes they take up residence in others, and become things totally other, and totally beyond your control at all. Things that are minor can come to define you.The other thing about writing is that often it helps me to figure out just exactly what it is that is hurting. Like right now.

The immediate cause of my distress is that my daughter, who is 18 weeks pregnant, was experiencing anxiety this morning at 4-something. I woke up. Presumably she has gone to sleep and I am still awake. This anxiety, this problem, will probably dissolve when the winds shift. But in me it stirs something far deeper. Whether large or small, my child is suffering, and I am powerless to alleviate the suffering. I can, and do, talk my head off in an attempt to fix things, but honestly sometimes I know that just makes it worse. That’s the other dangerous thing about words. For some reason the same words can mean completely different things to other people. She is anxious, so in an attempt to alleviate the anxiety, I employ the analytical mode, trying to explain why the problem is not quite as bad as it feels, and/or how to avoid problems in the future. This works well for me, but my daughter is in emotional mode, and she absorbs those words completely differently, internalizes them as criticism, which they are not intended to be.Emotions. Sometimes you just have to get control of them.

I remember in the second year after Michaela was kidnapped, I just felt angry, and it finally dawned on me that my anger was nothing more than sorrow that I had turned inside out and thrown outside myself because that was easier than feeling the sorrow. That was a big thing. But the same thing happens with the little things. We feel pierced by that dagger, which would probably dissolve in a minute, an hour, a day, unless we let that sorrow become anger and let it out into the world where it will inevitably cause more hurt. I personally have counted the cost and decided it is not worth it. That means I end up with a lot of feelings that get bottled up inside. Perhaps I need to find another means to transform and express them, through something more positive than getting angry. There are a lot of things that never ever get resolved, because I don’t speak of them. In the end I guess I don’t trust that they would get resolved if I did.

This child, the one whose anxiety woke me in the early hours today, was born five years after Michaela was kidnapped. One of my strong memories is from when she was a little baby, and she was crying. I picked her up and held her and said, “It’s okay. Mommy is here. Mommy will take care of you.” I was reassuring her from my heart with every intention of making everything right, of keeping her safe and protected and not letting anything hurt her. But in that moment I was flooded with the knowledge of the truth, that this was a lie. It was a promise I could not make. I had said the same sort of thing to Michaela, but in the end I had not been able to protect her. She suffered the most brutal fear, grief and pain, and there was not a single goddamned frickin thing I was able to do to prevent that, or to save her from it once she was in its clutches. I completely and totally failed her.

And I have completely and totally failed all my children. It hasn’t been as dramatic as it has been with Michaela. The daggers that have pierced them have been the kind that mostly dissolve in time. But they have all suffered grief and sorrow, and there is not anything I can do about it. I have made midnight trips to the grocery store for chocolate, taken them for manicures, sat and listened, hugged and cried. But the only way I could actually have prevented my children from being hurt was if I had taught them not to love. Jobs, money, those things all can cause stress, but only love can pierce the heart, and it can pierce deep and hard and leave shards that don’t ever completely go away. I know, because I have them myself.

My daughter and her husband, they are happy and excited about the baby they are having. But they have feelings inside them that perhaps they don’t even understand. Do they understand the huge vulnerability they are being drawn into? They are both smart kids, and they are both very self-aware, smart, imaginative and creative, so maybe they do. Or maybe it is just a vague sense of unease. I know that as they have thought about their child, they have been drawn to look back on their own childhoods. In doing so, they have encountered the things that hurt them. They think, they hope, that these things will be different for their child, that their son won’t encounter the cruelty of other kids, for example. But somewhere deep inside, as they consider their own hurts, they may be coming to realize that those things are going to hurt even more if they happen to their child than they did when they happened to them. I looked it up this morning, that quote that I just kind of know. I discovered it has a source, author Elizabeth Stone. It is, “Making the decision to have a child — it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

Well, I guess I am kind of placing my own thing into other people’s minds here. I think it is valid to a point. But really it’s my own point. For me, it is magnified, because it triggers that deep sorrow of not being able to save Michaela from suffering. But the fact is, I can’t save any of my children. I can’t make any of them happy. I can’t protect any of them from hurt. I can just hope that they have the emotional wisdom to live well.

To you, Michaela, I just want to say that am so sorry that I was not able to protect you from harm, that I was not able to save you. Wherever you have been, whatever you have been through, I just hope that you have been able to feel always that love that is beyond life and death, there in your heart, forever.

Don’t be mad!

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I am a very imperfect person, living an imperfect life, in the company of imperfect people. Am I disappointed? Oh yes. I am very disappointed in many things in life, myself above all! So what should I do with that disappointment? Well, at best I should use it as a motivator to change things for the better. Anybody who has been reading my blogs for awhile, however, is aware of this problem I have with wet cement filling my various body parts. In fact, as I was writing about change, I literally felt that cement start creeping down my spine. I am working on this, really. At the least, I should just be aware of things, which means being aware not only of how things are disappointing, but also of how they are glorious. It’s a trite thing to say, but I have so much to be thankful for just by virtue of living in the time and place I do. Not going to list the rest. You get it.

But what is not a helpful reaction to disappointment is anger. 

Here is what I can tell you. I can love you, even when you are disappointing. I can love you, even when I know you find me disappointing (which is actually harder). There is so much more to you, and to me, and to life, than what is wrong. There is so much that is right. It is not work for me to focus on those things. It is easy. What is hard is blocking out anger from other people.

Even that, I can do.

Being angry doesn’t help anything, as you know. Sulking, storming, yelling, none of it helps. It doesn’t perfect the imperfect — quite the opposite.

When in the presence of anger, I can block it out. But it costs my heart dearly, because my heart really needs to learn to open up and not to shut down. My heart has been hurt so much, so badly, so deeply, that its greatest skill has been learning to close in on itself. But in order to heal, in order to get rid of the wet cement and all else that keeps me from moving forward in life, it needs to open. In seeking peace in an angry world, it closes tighter.

Ultimately, it makes me more disappointing.

Life is what it is. Let’s embrace it, and each other. Let’s keep each other warm in the storms, shelter each other from the heat.When we feel cared for in this way, life will be less disappointing.

When we feel loved unconditionally, our hearts can open, and heal.

And then, who knows, we all just might be less disappointing. Even me.

Let me love

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Part of my daily Bible reading is from a schedule that my church follows. This morning I was supposed to read 1 Corinthians 12, but for some reason I got carried away and kept right on going into chapter 13. Now this is a beautiful chapter, for sure, one of the most beautiful in the Bible. You will find it on posters and greeting cards, coffee cups and plaques. It is regularly read at weddings. And as a result, it has become kind of … well, boring. How many times have I come to this chapter in the Bible and thought, oh no, not again. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging symbol … blah blah blah.” Then what did I do, skim over it? Because I read it this morning, and I can’t believe that I have ever laid eyes on these words without them making their place deep in my heart. And yet I know they haven’t, because they don’t seem to have made a dent in my behavior, or my consciousness of my behavior.

(4) Love is patient and kind; does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant (5) or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; (6) it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (7) Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13

I had to confess this morning to committing all the “nots” listed here, frequently and with gusto. The good parts, well, I have some of them as well. Bearing, believing, hoping, enduring, yeah I can do that. But not always without dipping into the pool of resentment, or more to the point, not always without feeling like I should be resentful. The world kind of teaches that these days. Or maybe I am misunderstanding something? Especially as women, we don’t want to be doormats. We want to be strong women!

Well, I think it takes a lot more strength to keep on loving, to keep on giving. It takes a hugely strong character to not be envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, irritable or resentful. Or a gossip.

I believe the greatest relationship killer in the word is defensiveness. I can see it so clearly in others. We love each other. We know we love each other. I know you love me, and you know I love you. So why can’t we look for the love in the words spoken to us? Why on earth would I act as though you are out to attack me all the time? Most of the time, those who love us are not attacking us with their words. We just for some stupid reason choose to filter them through this net of, what, self-hatred? We are defensive, so we feel attacked, so we get angry, and then we actually do attack. Then the other person feels (is) attacked, gets defensive, and attacks back. How can relationships survive this kind of thing? Too often they can’t. These incidents build up like poison in the system if they are allowed to continue. And most of the time, no offense was ever even implied to begin with. It’s amazing how we can create offense out of nothing.

If only we could put the above verses into action in our lives. If we love fully and genuinely, without malice, without envy, boasting, arrogance or resentment (i.e., defensiveness!)…. If we learn to receive love instead of being irritable and looking to use the words of those who love us to justify our irritability….

Some people may be naturally like this. I am not one of them. I don’t think it would even be possible to be like this without a supernatural assist from the Lord. So that is exactly what I am praying for.

Lord, let me love!