Friday, February 20, 2015

Really Real Love

On December 1st of 2001, I wrote this poem in a journal entry.  I was on my way over to my now husband, then almost ex-boyfriend’s place.  He was forcing me to meet his brother and sister.  I didn’t want to.  It never occurred to him that “meeting the family” might be scary to me or that it might be too soon in our relationship for that…

Tonight I will change.
I will pretend with a
and the clothes and
the hair—
pretend that there’s
than what’s really there.
I will dress the part
And play the role
I will act like it’s mine—
Whose heart that he stole.
so stunning is that performance
I may even convince myself
that I am that woman everyone else sees
Beautiful and strong as
She stands—
The woman he doesn’t really want
And who I can’t be—
The woman who looks at him,
Holding his hand—
The woman who I wish I could be?
The woman that
I am.

We broke up the next day…  For no real reason other than I wanted to live in the mountains/woods, and he loved the city and wanted to live there.  I thought we were doomed!  I could never live in New York City.  Yes, that would be a thorn in our side later, but in the scheme of things, it seems silly in retrospect.

Then, just after we met up again in Los Angeles, where he was living at the time, and we realized we were still in love, on November 26th of 2003—almost exactly 2 years later, I wrote this:

“I realized/remembered tonight that I really am a ‘shapeshifter.’ I change myself a lot to be what other people want me to be.  I fool them into loving me by becoming what they want and what I’m really afraid of is that he will see that I’m really not the woman he thinks I am because I don’t really know what I am because all that I am is what everyone else wants me to be and I’m afraid of what we will find out if he gets that close to me to know me and see the real me.”

The thing that scared me about Jeff was not that he wanted to live in the city.  It was not that he was too different from me or that we wanted different things… It was that he was willing to love me unconditionally.  He was willing to know me just as I was.  He was willing to hear my story and accept the truth.  And he wanted the REAL version, not some made-up one that I turned into whenever he was around.  And that just didn’t seem right.  It seemed like all of the other guys had their agendas (like I did); they wanted a certain kind of girl… It was my specialty for awhile, study what they wanted, be that for a little while.  When the pressure to pretend became too much, I would bail.  “Sorry.  I know you think I’m your dream girl.  Just kidding!  I’m totally not that girl.  Oops.  No really.  I’m sorry.  I do feel bad.  I just don’t know any other way.  See you later… or not.”  Jeff didn’t have an  agenda.  Just, “Hey.  I like you.  I’m looking for a wife.  Wanna tell me everything about the real you?” 

I never asked him to love me.  As a matter of fact, I threw every reason at him not to love me, but he just loved me anyway.  

It was like he had a direct line to God and he had been asking for God to send him someone, a perfect match, a beautiful, quiet, meek, good Christian woman to be his soul mate.

So, God looked down at this scared, lonely, messed-up, looking-for-approval-from-any-man, wounded, broken up, brazen, bold, shape-shifting puzzle piece of a heathen called me, pointed and said, “That’s her.”

And Jeff said, “Uh, her?  Are you sure, God?”

And God said, “I AM God, aren’t I?”

And Jeff said, “Okay.  I’m in.  She’s the one.  I’ll love her forever no matter what she does or who she believes she is.  I will believe she is who YOU say she is.”

And so he did.

And I told him not to. Because I didn’t believe he could love me like I am.

But he did anyway.

I'm really glad he did, because if he hadn't, I never would've really known how to know and love the real him.

I think that’s how God loves us.  Like He looks down and says, “You.  I love you.  Lonely, broken, scared, messed-up you.”

And we say, “Me?  You must be pointing to someone else.  You must be mistaken.  I am not nearly enough for You to love me.”

And He says, “I AM God, aren’t I?”

And after we protest and tell Him how we aren’t good enough, eventually, we say, “Okay.  I’m in.  If you're willing to know and love the real me, I'm willing to know and love the real You."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sorry, Fun Mommy, You Had to Die.

So a while back, I killed Fun Mommy.  You know, "Fun Mommy,"  the one who says, "We are going to do this awesome thing!  It's going to be so much fun, and the kids are going to think they have the coolest mom ever!  Let's go sledding, hiking, boating, to an amusement park, to the aquarium..."

This happened about a year ago on one of those amazingly gorgeous mornings when you wake up to freshly fallen snow, and as the sun comes up it shines through the snowy trees and it just seems magical. Nostalgic Fun Mommy remembers sledding on days like this as a really huge super cool thing and decides that there is enough time to go sledding before afternoon kindergarten starts.

So we look everywhere for matching mittens, 3 pairs of snow pants, boots that fit, scarves, hats… And as this is happening, my frustration level is like one of those applause meter arrows that starts out pointing to “low,” and with every lost mitten, it moves closer and closer to Holy Crap, she’s gonna blow.  So I’ve managed to get one dressed in a full snowsuit, and I’m attempting to get the second one dressed, and you know the drill, right?  “Mooommmy, I’m hot, and I have to go to the bathroom.”  “DAAANNY!  Stop stepping on my mitten!” “ Mommy, Nolan won’t do what I’m saying!” “Danny, You’re being mean!” Meanwhile, the baby is running away every time I attempt to put an article of clothing on him, so he has snowpants and one boot on, and I’m chasing him around the house… I look up at the clock to discover that it is, 11am.  And we are just finally getting out the door.  We get in the garage to get the sled, and Danny, sweet, precious child that he is, says, “Mooommmy, do we HAVE to go sledding?”  And the arrow has gone off the chart.  Fun Mommy blows up.

Ugh!  Do we HAVE to go sledding?!  Yes we have to go sledding!  Did you not just witness how difficult it was to get all of that crap on to get out the door?!  YES WE HAVE TO GO SLEDDING!  IT’S GOING TO BE AMAZING!!!  AND YOU ARE GOING TO LOVE IT AND HAVE FUN WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT!  NOW GET.IN.THE.SLED. 

So, the baby falls in the snow; he’s crying.  I just yelled at Danny; he’s crying.  And kicking the snow.  And pouting.  And not cooperating with anything I’m trying to do.  Nolan is just standing there, waiting to get yelled at or go sledding or… who knows what.

We have 25 minutes to sled and make the 10 minute walk to school.  I do my best to shove the arrow back towards low, put on my fake “Fun Mommy” face, so I attempt to drag them towards the park, but I am not nearly as strong as I think I am, and I can only manage dragging the baby in the sled who is screaming his head off because those crappy mittens are already covered in ice and probably making his hands colder than if he had no mittens.  So, we make it to the park, and I push them down the hill, not recognizing that there’s a cement drainage pipe at the bottom that I can’t see because it’s covered in snow… So they fall off of that and land with a bang on their tailbones.

“Mommy!  Why did you push us down that hill?!  That really hurt!  I hate sledding.  Why are you making us do this?!”

Yep.  You’re right.  We’re done.  Let’s just go to school.  I am never trying to be Fun Mommy again.   Fun Mommy is dead.  You will never see her again.  You will now only have mommy that does what needs to be done.  Daddy can do all of the fun stuff.  I can't take the whining and protesting that they don't even want to do anything fun anyway, then I  ruin anything that I ever try to do that’s remotely “fun.”  I yell and scream and everyone always ends up crying every time I try to do anything fun.  There.Will.Be.No.More.Fun Mommy.

Why did I have to kill Fun Mommy?  Expectations.

When I try to be "Fun Mommy," I expect the kids to stop being kids.  And I expect them to stop being themselves.  And I expect everyone to enjoy whatever activity I have chosen for them because it is a kid-friendly activity because it has to be.  And I expect my temper to disappear because we are doing something fun that the whole family will enjoy!

When I killed Fun Mommy, I really just killed those completely unrealistic expectations... or at least tried to kill them... They're remarkably persistent.

So, now I try to remember that the kids are still kids.  And kids are whiny, needy, and annoying.  I love them, but let's be real.  I expect Danny to fight leaving the house... because he ALWAYS fights leaving the house unless we are going across the country to Grandma's or to a friend's house.  It's just how Danny is.  He likes to be at home, and if he has to leave home, he will fight it.  If Nolan can't do something, he will cry.  He just will.  And Kevin will run away.  And then run away again.  He will think I am done with his coat, diaper, shoes, anything if I stop touching him for a half a second to pick up the diaper or wipes or... and run away.

I teach my children that while hiking might not be their favorite thing to do, Mommy needs to do it in nearly the same way she needs to bathe.  If she doesn't, you will not want to be around her.  And when you love someone, you open-mindedly tolerate your not-so-favorite activity because you love that person.

And I give myself grace when I lose it at my children.  Yes, it may take me an hour and a half's worth of deep breaths, but afterwards, I remind myself that everyone loses it.  Everyone makes mistakes, and then I apologize to whoever I screamed at.

And then my 7 year-old surprises me with his wisdom by saying, "Mommy, I think you should pray about your yelling.  Maybe that would help."  And I do, and it does.

It's funny.  Fun Mommy may be gone, but Regular Mommy can have more fun now without all of these expectations.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sidelines Are Where It's At.

I got an email from Donald Miller yesterday.  Not like a real email from him, like one that said something along the lines of, "I have a new book coming out tomorrow, order it now and I'll give you free stuff."  It would be super cool to get a real email from him since he's one of my biggest writing heroes, and I want to be like him when I grow up, but that's not the point.  The point is that because I've read every book he's published, I feel like I know him.  I feel like he's my friend.

It IS a weird friendship to be sure.  More like a strange one-sided pen-pal relationship where he keeps writing, and I think, "Yeah!  Me too, Don.  I never thought about it like that, Don."

And now he has a new book out called, Scary Close.  I haven't read it yet because it just came out today, and I, of course, am not his ACTUAL friend, so he did not give me an advanced copy.  (Come on, Don!  We go way back!)  But from what I gather, it's about intimacy and belonging: things he's been chasing after and running away from since his first book.  He's been telling stories of yearning to belong, yearning to be close, yearning for a family.  He's been telling MY story.

It feels like this book is big for him, like he has finally figured out so many things he struggled with for so long.  It feels like... he has arrived.

It is as though he has been running this crazy more-intense-than-an-iron-man race where he has invited me to come watch.  Sometimes he's crying in the first aide tent nursing his wounds, other times he's pushing to the front of the pack with a smile on his face.  Regardless, I show up on these different legs of his journey to stand and wave and clap and allow my eyes to fill with tears as my "friend" crosses the finish line, as he runs all sweaty into the arms of his-- I'm sure very patient and lovely wife while God smiles and says, "Atta boy, Don!"

And while it feels very much like an ending, I know this is just where one race is ending and another is beginning for him, but in every one of his books, I feel like one of many many people standing on the sidelines cheering and wooohooing him towards that next step.

And I want to be like that for every important person in my life.  I want to be the person that always shows up, over and over and over again, in the rain or desert heat... who by just standing there says, "What you're doing is really hard but really worth it, and I believe in you.  I love you whether you're the first to finish or the last and no matter whether you're crying and hyperventilating on the side of the road or smiling out in front of all the other runners, I'll be here.  I'll show up for you."

I want to be that for my kids, my husband, my friends.

But most of the time, I'm more like the obnoxious fan flailing and shouting, "Go faster! Turn here, you moron!  Why on earth would you do that?!"

This is not great parenting or friendshipping or wifing.

These people in my life are running a REALLY hard race, and the race itself has enough hardships and pitfalls and obstacles without having to listen to someone who claims to be supportive tell them how to run a race they only think they know something about... Because I.DON'T.KNOW. their race.  I might know some of it, but I don't REALLY know.

At the same time, I am running my very own race too.  I am pushing hard and crying in the first aide tent, nursing blisters and aching joints-- but when I look over on the sidelines and see my kids, my husband, my friends, my family clapping and woohooing, their eyes welling up with tears of pride at how far I've come, I can push forward.  I can sleep less and power through the stormy days.

But if I'm only running my own race and I'm never on the sidelines, I miss out on something just as cool as accomplishing my own dreams.  When I'm a fan/coach/support staff, I show up.  I watch.  I cheer.  And I let people I care about run their own races.  And as much as I would LOVE to run those races for them, to not watch the tears and the blisters, I must let them run their own races.

My kids, my husband, my friends, they all have their own race to run.  I have my own race to run.  I must both allow them to run their own race... and allow myself to run my own race.  I can't give up on my race or take their race from them.  We will sometimes merge paths and run together, and sometimes I'll pause my race to cheer on my husband or friends or kids.  And sometimes they'll pause their race to cheer me on.

I've been wasting a lot of time being a selfish racer and a bitter washed-up has-been fan lately.  It's time to lace up my shoes and run with my people, but it's also time to recognize the opportunities on the sidelines.  Because supporting someone when they accomplish their dream is just as amazing as surprising yourself by actually accomplishing your own.

Keep running, friends.  Keep on running.