Friday, February 16, 2018

Who is Jesus?

I don't enjoy having time on my hands.  I know I should--I know somehow I should learn to relax, calm down, whatever.

But instead I hate being at home.  I hate housekeeping, and I hate listing "ways in which I was productive today" and feeling like there are never enough.

I have been like this for as long as I can remember.  I wanted to join every club, be in every play, every musical group, speech competitions, work. I was always spinning 5 plates on something imaginary.

So now I have this weird schedule where I work 12 hours one day, and then only a few hours each day the rest of the week.  I earn some money at home, writing, and sometimes singing. And I may be going insane.

"I thought you said this post was about Jesus?" you may be asking yourself.

This week a few things happened. A school shooting happened.  I am a teacher, and my children are students, and when a shooting happens I lose all sense of peace. I am a wreck. I hate my husband. I just donated money to something hoping that would assuage the horrible sense of sadness (I over-empathize with each victim, I feel sick to my stomach, and I blame everyone for any response that doesn't seem genuinely and totally compassionate. I have nightmares, and sometimes I can't sleep for days. 

You may be thinking, at this point, that this will be something about Jesus and tragedy, but it isn't.

It's about my struggle in faith when I hear the inner thoughts of "devout" people. You see, to me the worst thing about social media is knowing what other people think.  I trusted people--they may not even know I read it--7 or 8 words? and now I don't trust them. That happens a lot. One insight into the inner workings of another's mind and I don't like them.  Sometimes I quickly unfriend, I walk away, and I forget.  I start thinking of them by the way they present themselves to me, and not by what they said to a family member or friend. And the relationship remains, mostly, preserved.

But some--once I have seen what they think, I am left with this question, "How can your Jesus look so different from mine? And who is Jesus, who is the cornerstone of my life, if you--you who are devout, who claim to love him, who tell others about him--who is he really? Because he can't be all these conflicting things.  He can't delight in the pain of others, as you seem to think he does, and yet fully experience the pain of his creation, as I think he does. He can't think we should reject immigrants and welcome them. These are not political anymore to me, there are underlying spiritual aspects to this.

And the struggle is here. Because if you compare my Jesus with others in my life--it's not the same God. It's not the same words. It's not the same meanings. It's not the same set of standards we are each living. I don't say a prayer with that person and erase everything I know they seem to believe so adamantly. And if you can make up your Jesus, maybe I'm making up mine.  So there you go. It hurts and it asks me over and over and it keeps me up at night.

And all I want to do is learn who He is.  Because he said you'd disappoint me anyways.  He said, "many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name.But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person."

He knew not to trust us. Please God, help me reconcile how to love and not be disappointed, and remind me I won't get every answer, just a good supply of grace and truth. 

x

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Who I Love, How I Love and the Free Forties

I am 44 today. At first I had this weird fear about it. I remembered in Chinese numerology that 44 is the most unlucky age you will ever be! In Mandarin, the number 4 also means death. So sometimes hotels will skip the 10 floors between 40 and 49, just like Western hotels skip the number 13. It's a real thing, this silly superstition, but I have a long relationship with Chinese culture, so I instantly remembered it when I realized what age I would be.

Actually, if you add up the bad numbers in all the different cultures of the world, you might be hard pressed to find a good number.  Everyone seems to like 3. It's strong, like a triangle. It feels mathematically perfect. But you can't stay in your 30s forever.

So today I'm 44. And I have finally reached an age where I don't love shouting it out.  "38!" I would say proudly.  And now I whisper the years as they go by. I was born the year Nixon resigned.  Freaking Nixon! That sounds old.

What's different about the 40s? As I get older fewer things are black and white.  It's hard to look around yourself, see everyone's different life experiences and go, "ok, I am more right than any of you. I know better than all of you. I have got this." It's easier to look at them and nod your head and say, "there but for the grace of God. . . " I am so lucky not to have one of the million things we judge other people for be something I've done. Accidentally. Or on purpose.  Or. . . even that distinction is a little blurry.

It's a recent realization I've had that for years I listened to someone say that I had to love people only this much. That I had to love in different ways, and only that would be ok. I am not sure I get that now. I have had friendships that were like romances--we talked all night, we brushed each other's hair, we missed each other intently when we were away from each other. And someone challenged me on that.  We were "too close." I mean. . . only romance should be that close, right?  Now I look back and I wish I'd said "screw that" and just loved the way I wanted to.

Sometimes, nieces are best friends. Sometimes grandfathers are like brothers. Sometimes you have a person in your life who might as well be related, why don't you get to call her sister? Sometimes your parents are the bad influence.  These rules are not helpful. For me at least, they have only held me back.

I have put so many rules on myself, due to this, about how much or how little I should love each parent. How close everyone should be with their siblings. I have thought I had to make decisions about choosing one person over another (this is child of an addict stuff, I think). Could I love someone so much that I couldn't stand anyone saying terrible things about them and still love the person saying the terrible things? Yes.  You know why? Because it just isn't wrong to love people. These rules are ridiculous.

See how freeing the 40s can be???!!!!

I can love someone who disagrees with me on something FUNDAMENTAL. I can love someone who has wronged me, and I can love someone who will never love me back, and all of that is fine. AND, this one is good. . . I don't have to apologize for someone I don't love. Even if I'm supposed to love them.  Things can change.  You couldn't stand them in your 20s, and now you're best friends. Or vice versa.  Or both at the same time. Even if everyone says . . . something.  Because everyone has something to say.

So happy birthday to me. I'm forty four and I'm in the freeing forties and today I'm going to love like it's ridiculous. I'm going to send you a card or call because I love you and not because I should, and not because I'm relying on an obligatory thank you. I'm not going to regret that we haven't done this or that because let's be honest, we never had a relationship anyway. It is what it is.

This month, 2 parents of good friends died. This month, a 16 year old who I didn't know, but was part of my extended family, died and left broken hearts everywhere. It's all recent, and it's a reminder that we don't spend a single wasted minute loving, or forgiving, or eating humble pie. Feel bad about something you said? It gnaws at you but you feel like you'd be an idiot to say it.  Just say it. Always wanted to thank someone.  Thank them. Always wished you'd spent more time with someone? Try. It may not work. It's still worth it.

And just for my birthday, could everyone stop being an a**hole on facebook?

Friday, January 12, 2018

My Mama Memory is Long

Babies are cute.  They are round, and they smell good and they have toothless giggles.  I loved breastfeeding, watching them walk, hearing them say silly stuff.

I feel like I'm missing something though.  How come I don't "miss" the babies? My children are getting older.  I love it!  I love seeing how they dress, hearing them talk about things that matter. I love their independence, and honestly, I prefer that they love me, rather than need me.

I wonder all the time, does this make me someone who wasn't meant to be a mom?  After all, I see these "mommy" types post on facebook or say at parties how much they miss the babies.  They remember when their kids were little, and the little hands and hugs. They remember the silliness, and they long for it.

Or am I misunderstanding what "missing" something means?  After all, I used to feel so guilty when in-laws would say they "miss" the children, until I had multiple trips where they didn't really play with the children, or clean up their vomit, or punish them, and I started realizing they "missed" looking at cute things.  They didn't long for the feel of baby hands.  It was more like--they just enjoyed having babies around.  Kids I was raising.  It was fun to see them. It was entertaining.  Once I realized that, it was liberating. Missing and longing.  Those are different.

Sometimes I miss being a single woman in NYC.  I think, "oh man, it would be so great to have nothing on my schedule today but to spend 30 minutes getting ready and then work out all morning and then take the subway to Chinatown or meet my friends." I miss that.  But I don't long for it.  I know that there were issues.  I was lonely a lot.  I wished I were more successful every day. And now, I can fill my day with other happy things.  In this reality, I have a supportive husband, kids who are adorable sometimes, and things to write about.  So . . . longing is not the word.  I just remember something fondly that I naturally evolved out of.

My mama memory is long. And with each memory of babies, I remember praying at 2 1/2 that my daughter would sleep.  I remember floor fits.  I remember having to buckle children in the backseat when it was 20 below, or 115 degrees.  I've done both hundreds of times.  I remember cracked nipples from breastfeeding.  Late night doctors. Just keeping them alive! But mostly, I remember mind-numbing afternoons where the choice was watching baby songs on the tv or playing batman toys, and I just wanted to be myself. Everyone told me I could "set boundaries" and still have my own life and that was really a lie. I wanted a life, I wanted to be a grown up. Each day, as my kids get older, I can set those boundaries, I can ask, and they come closer to understanding what I mean.

My investment in my children is, I believe,  what it should be. Someday it's likely that my daughter will look at me, she'll cry and she'll hurt deeply and she'll tell me that all of her body issues are because of me.  Because try as I might, I know she's going to inherit the most painful thing in my life.  Hopefully less than I have--but at some level, she will.  And my heart will hurt.  But it won't shatter.  Because I'll think, "I'm a really good professor," or "I encouraged someone today" or "I volunteered for people who need me" or a million other things I'm investing in my life to do for others that are not babies. Not even children. And I'll be reminded that I tried hard at parenting, but it was one thing of many.  Right?  It was never all of me.

I miss the past and fear the future about the same I guess.  Neither is exactly as we imagine. And neither deserves to be as important as today.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Acceptance and Regret

I was a miracle
I wasn't in the best years of your life.
I was a source of pride
I wasn't important enough to call for years
I was the past, never the present and
I wasn't a reason to stop

You made magic but
Christmas stopped around 21
I was your Fritz but
I wasn't someone to stand up for
maybe that was the worst
I wasn't a reason to stop

I was across the world, the country but
I wasn't someone you missed
I was fun to have lunch with
I wasn't worth crossing your comfort zone
I was the celebration of the job
I wasn't more than a mistake sometimes
depending on who asked, I guess

I was your favorite kid but
I wasn't worth taking care of
I wasn't special enough to get treatment
while it was still possible.
I wasn't really, was I?

I wasn't a real person to you.
I wasn't deserving of your passion.
I wasn't deserving of the hero of my childhood

I won't be regretful
I won't be resentful
It was what it was
and I won't be the last person you ask for.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Tricky Thing About Talking to God

2014.  When will I stop whining about how bad that year was? I guess, when I finally am able to heal that spiritual hole that got left in me, I'll laugh, I'll tell the story like it was nothing.

That year I prayed so much. Hubby and I prayed for justice, for a way out, for people not to win by lying, for financial help, for the baby we'd just had. Mostly, though, I prayed for patience. I prayed for faith, I prayed for peace.

And the answers were pretty dim. Looking at it now, 3 years later, I see. . . we survived it. We got barely what we needed.  The baby was pretty hearty. The financial help came here and there. We sold the house. We got out of what seemed like an insurmountable situation. God gave us new answers, and a new direction.

That faith I wanted, that peace, that patience.  I begged Him to help me, and instead, it felt like we just fell into the mire.  The justice, that never came. The liars, they still made us pay their legal fees when they lost. And the more those things happened, the more I wondered, "is there really someone, or am I grasping at straws?"

And it didn't help when we moved across the country. We had no church, no spiritual support. We were scraping by, and a new set of things I'd hoped I'd never have to deal with arrived.  Slowly my prayers started to constantly contain "if it's your will" as if I was hedging my bets, giving God a way out if there was no answer, or the answer was the one I'd hoped it wouldn't be.

Tonight I heard someone speak about giving God that way out. It does seem strange to believe in something if you can't ask.  Why ask at all?  If I'm going to talk to Him, it's to tell Him that I still believe He's capable of delivering miracles.  It's Biblical--He can be swayed.  We should ask.  We should keep his commandments, and He will keep His promises.

I'm still shaky. After watching a bunch of people who claim to follow Him figuratively go at each other's throats like animals over politics, culture, and what they believe were causes somehow worth abandoning the fruits of the Spirit like they never mattered anyways, I'm more challenged than I was back then.

My favorite thing to read in the Bible is the woman at the well.  Jesus encounters her. He doesn't insult or accuse, but when she lies, he calls her on it. She knows it's not right. And the second he calls her on it, she goes right to one of those questions we ask "religious"  people. She tries to set him up a little.  He doesn't go for that. Then he says to her he's got LIVING WATER. And as I just heard someone say, you have to imagine what it's like to be thirsty.  It's hell.  It feels awful, you feel empty, you feel like you're gonna die.  And water, it only lasts a minute.  You drink, you're thirsty again.  He says that to her.  He says this is different.  He says His water assures you will never go thirsty. EVER.

But I have to keep coming back, don't I? I have to walk up to that well, even if I'm still pretending and lost in my own shit. I have to hear Him say it again.  That day, she prayed for water, essentially.  She spoke to Jesus himself and she expected a little drink.  And He, thinking so much further, had something so much better to offer. 

The tricky thing about talking to God is you have to listen. He answers, he's always answered me.  I just have to listen.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Time

I am in my third year of grad school.  The year hubby and I said we'd finish. I imagine what's next and I feel peaceful, but looking at the road I want to barf.  I am seeing job postings now, starting last week.  They fill up a little spreadsheet I've created.

My weight is astronomically high. I guess that's what stressing all the time and having no personal time whatsoever do to you.  I am working a job where I'm paid to do everything under the sun. I'm good at that. I'm over involved. I have a problem with that. Now their stresses are my stresses and I forget that I am one month away from my recital and French test, oh and teaching.

I have a lot of rough mornings.  I think my diabetes is starting to present complications. How do I even think of that?

I've really been wanting a drink lately.
I have one year to accomplish the following in order:
Recital
Pass out of French
Pass music Ed 650
Pass independent study
Pass out of German
Pass written comps
Pass Oral comps
Deliver lecture/recital
finish 70 page dissertation

Also apply for jobs, raise two children, teach classes, work part time job.

Can someone tell me that's possible? It doesn't feel possible.

Monday, July 24, 2017

People Pleasing -the Journey

I won't even comment on how long it's been since I blogged.  A year? Sheesh.  I've been busy.

I remember the term "people pleaser" as I was growing up.  It was ascribed to me, and others around me, back then in the 70s and 80s, and I rarely hear it now.  Did it get less popular? Do we still think that? Have I just changed.

I thought of it last night when I noticed my 4 year old son doing something.  He apologizes quickly, and often for things he didn't do.  If I step on a toy, he apologizes.  "Sorry mom."  And it sounds sincere.  Sometimes it's twice, "Sorry, mom, sorry." And sometimes it wasn't his fault.  When I tripped over my own shoe, that I left out, he said, "Sorry, mom, sorry."

My daughter and husband never do this, but my son and I do. And at first I wondered--will he get walked over? I was always worried growing up, from what people said to me, that I'd be taken advantage of.  And there are moments, yes, when I do.

But sometimes, I think his quick apologies are just a reaction of being considerate.  He feels sorry that my foot got hurt, or sorry that the room is a mess, or just generally, what do you say when you feel bad that something went wrong?

And recently I've been working for someone who has a tendency to not want to take blame.  If they ordered the wrong item? It was listed badly in the photo.  If they gave me an impossible task and I made an error, it was my fault.  Every apology is considered--how will people see me if I apologize? Will it weaken my position? Will they think it was all my fault?

With that, I'm starting to think that the whole "people pleasing" is not so bad.  If my son apologizes, it's part of his compassionate makeup.  I can tell already he's the type to charm a room instantly.  My daughter might struggle more--babysitters will speak of his being "sweet" but will note their challenges with her more.  Having a personality which doesn't challenge others is not the be-all-end-all.  I hope like crazy that my daughter challenges people, shakes them up, moves mountains, and gets whatever she needs.  And if my son feels bad when you hurt your foot, even if he wishes he could have helped you, and even if he had nothing to do with it, I hope that stays around too.