Closer to Fine

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I was raised by my Baptist Christian grandparents and my open-minded, yet still God-loving gay mom. I was encouraged to research, question, and forge my own spiritual path. Yet here I am as an adult still trying to find that path.

Throughout my life, I have dabbled around with a multitude of spiritual beliefs, but always finding myself falling back into the comfort of Christianity. Save for one religion that always seems to call me back – Judaism. I will not get theological on the whys in this blog. The words would be too numerous to count. But I am a person who always wants to get as close to the truth as possible. I want to dig and uncover and then marvel at the new things I have learned. These nuggets of truth are like jewels.

The trouble is, there is a little bit of truth in everything.

Judaism. In my mind, the older something is, the closer to the original something is, the more truth it possesses. Delving into Jewish scholars’ arguments against Jesus, I have come up for air, panting. Any Christian who thinks Jews rejected Jesus over mere disappointment is hugely mistaken. So I started looking. I have spent the last month exhaustively listening to lectures, reading internet articles, and cross-referencing Greek and Hebrew words. So, so many words. Pouring over Scripture to find God. Where is He? I still don’t know.

And now I sit more confused than ever. Knowing what I do, I’m not sure I can pick a side at all. But I cannot stand to NOT have a side. I need to be rooted somewhere. Surely, God could not have left us down here with no definitive truth to be found….Could He?

Do not tell me to just have faith. Do not tell me to silence the scholar within me. Do not feed me a line about trusting. That kind of religion is nothing but smoke and mirrors to me. God IS real, and I still passionately believe in my being that He did not ask us to check our brains at the door. But oh, my greatest fear is that I will never settle into one walk, that I will always look down every cross street I encounter.

It all makes me want to throw up my hands and take a breather. Once in a while, I stop my maniacal search and whisper, “Are You still here?” and I hear a soft voice inside say, “I Am.”

“There’s more than one answer to these questions
pointing me in crooked line
The less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine.” -Indigo Girls

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The Price of an Open Book

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“My life is an open book.”

Perhaps I’ve gone too long following this creed with little adversity. Perhaps I was in need of a reality check that not everyone will enjoy what’s written.

Firstly, I’ve never felt that hiding who I am is healthy. Frankly, I’ve never been capable of hiding my innermost self. Sometimes my mouth is quicker than my brain, but it is always slower than my heart. Initially, I might not understand someone’s lifestyle or their actions. But usually after a revealing conversation, we find common ground. I pride myself on being open-minded enough to offer compassion to all different kinds of people. Granted, this type of altruism is radically withdrawn and shifted into hostility when people don’t offer the same.

Secondly, I’m pretty good at discerning who to reveal myself to in the first place. This typically eliminates the whole problem of being judged, lectured, or otherwise spurned.  But not always.

The past few months have been difficult for me mentally, emotionally, and physically. Situations have arisen that have been terribly uncomfortable. New stressors have presented themselves – forcefully. It has been a very big adjustment period in my life and I’ve been sort of scrambling to rise up to the task. So I initially sought out support where I thought I should openly find it – in a family member.

Bad idea.

Some people don’t mean to not get it. They intend to help. They think they might be giving you an appropriate or much needed pep talk. I can’t really be mad, can I? It was my choice to be vulnerable and I just didn’t like the response. The intentions were well-placed…..Right? [Randomly remembering that saying, “The pathway to hell is paved with good intentions.”]

Clearly, I like good quotes, so here is an entirely appropriate one: “The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.” -Albert Camus

Then there’s the people that flat out don’t want to get it. They have already picked their side, but you didn’t realize it. Thinking maybe you can glean some new information that will be helpful in solving a problem, or at the very least make your heart known, you put yourself out there. You take a chance. Aided by liquid courage and the giddiness of a potentially new confidant, you close your eyes and leap into vulnerability….and slam face first into the concrete. Kind of like a sucker punch, it stuns you. Then it hurts.

Finally, there are the friends you thought would always be there for you. You reach out, grasping for a hand that has been steady for a decade. Maybe the hand was removed long before you realized but in the moment, in that desperation, you flail around wildly waiting for their familiar fingers to grip yours and pull you up – only to find an empty hand. It’s a lonely place. I keep thinking it’ll change. I keep hoping they’ll come back around. Then I look at their life and realize they probably outgrew the friendship long before I did and then I’m just sad.

My life / You electrify my life / Let’s conspire to ignite / All the souls that would die just to feel alive / I’ll never let you go / If you promise not to fade away

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It’s amazing how a trip can change your perspective so profoundly. How seeing people you have missed can affect you so deeply.

Lately, I have gotten caught up in the unspoken competition of motherhood and family life. Wondering if I am a good enough mother, a good enough wife. Jealous of those around me who have bigger, better, more expensive things. Wishing I could do one stupid Pinterest craft. Facebook is my own private hell some mornings. And after all the “well, la-de-da, look at Mrs. Amazing’s post this morning,” – self-loathing mixed with judgement, I realize I have wasted half my morning in my pajamas and my kids are hungry and they will probably tell their therapist one day that I never really heard them talk and damn it, I am just like my mother on this fucking computer again.

But this trip changed that internal monologue.

Being away from my husband made me realize how much he keeps my life under control and how incredibly blessed I am to have such a solid, stable marriage. I often find myself getting caught up in all the places I perceive myself falling short and I have unfortunately let myself get carried away. Coming back home, road weary, heart both full and heavy at the same time, relaxing into my comfortable routine – opens my eyes to how beautiful that routine is.

Being born in one state and brought up in another, then repeatedly bouncing between the two in my teens, I have often wondered where home is. I always had one foot in each place, never quite belonging, always longing for where I was not.

Feeling like birthday parties are pointless because no one will come anyway, and my baby showers result in disappointment at all the friends who couldn’t make it, I tend to get disgruntled. I wonder what is so flawed about me the people I care about so often disappear. Now I know that I have been overlooking a very important factor.

Most people I know have spent their lives in one place, and most of their people have also remained in that place, whereas mine has been split in two.

I went back “home” – the place I was raised, and realized how much I left behind. So many people who would rearrange their schedules to see me, and buy me dinner, and love on my children. People who have loved me over a decade. I swelled with joy at their hugs and hung onto their smiles. There really is no place like home. And I am lucky enough to have two.

Approval

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A truly strong man does not need the approval of others any more than a lion needs the approval of sheep. -Vernon Howard

I’m leaving to visit my hometown in a few days. The friends I have there have known me for over a decade. They love me for the inner me, with all my sarcasm, bluntness, and screw-ups. They have hung on with me as I have changed mates, political views, and religions. Yet I find myself dreading packing for this trip, because I have so few nice things to wear. I have so few things that fit.

Two months ago, I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy, and robust baby boy. My grand finale, as my obstetrician says.me&jack

My weight has stopped falling off like dripping shower water. It has stagnated like rain in an overturned children’s toy. I am 2 pant sizes larger. The skin on my stomach has not become taunt yet. My cheekbones don’t stick out without me sucking them in. But why should I care? Obviously, they all know I “just had a baby” as my husband points out. Surely, they don’t even care. Probably, they won’t even notice that I weigh as much as I do, due to my genetics thankfully dispersing fat well.

But I notice.

This is just one of the areas of my life that I desperately want the approval of others. I want them to gush over how thin I am after just having a baby. I want them to tell me I look just like I did the last time they saw me 2, 6, 10 years ago. But that’s not all.

I want my daughter to think I am the best grown-up in her life.

I want my husband to think I’m just as captivating as when he fell in love with me.

I want my family to find me charming, witty, and a wonderful storyteller.

I want my friends to admire my worldly knowledge and consult me on everything.

What unfortunately happens is there are days my daughter gets mad at me and tells me grandma does it better, my husband would rather play a video game, my family gets weary of my talkativeness, and my friends think I’m a know-it-all. I let these instances slice into my self-worth. I compare myself to someone who garners more praise, is skinnier, or knows more about topics than I do. Instead of accepting who I am, I dig my heels in. I assert my intellectual superiority. I test people’s devotion. I puff out my chest and act like I am the baddest bitch. If all else fails, I flat out fish for compliments.

I wish I could accept who I am fully, without apology, without excuse. I wish I could convey how sensitive I am without feeling vulnerable. I wish I could reign in my extremes.

Perhaps one day, my own approval will be enough for me. But if there is anything I know, I have to allow myself to. I have to stop casting judgement on myself for the wording I didn’t get right, the obscure songs I like, the way I raise my children. And each decision I make to not deny myself, the closer I am to being the me I like.

Growth Spurt

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It’s not coincidence that I’ve suddenly started thinking seriously about getting a large color tattoo on my forearm, I bought shoes I would’ve previously deemed too daring, and have learned new eye make up techniques. I’ve begun obsessively researching things pertinent to my spirituality.

I’m going through a growth spurt.

I really look forward to these times. They are usually preceded with uncomfortable periods of stretching and changing. This last time was very challenging for my humility. I’m a pretty self confident person, sure of all my well calculated steps. But these last 2 months have caused me to reconsider my views and have made me much more sympathetic to other’s methods. But after this humbling comes growth and rebirth. I’m reclaiming my body after being pregnant for a large portion of the last 5 years and reclaiming my mind.

I can’t wait to see where the journey takes me.

Be somebody

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Being a stay-at-home mom has been my goal my entire life. I have always felt that it is the most important job a person can have. SAHMs shape the lives of little people, ensuring they will be whole, responsible, giving, and not make their teachers regret the profession.

I’ve been a SAHM for 9 months now. I’ve been both fulfilled and unrequited. Some moments are filled with loving children, tired from play, curled around me. Others are filled with my 4 year old yelling for her butt to be wiped while the poop stench wafts from my nearly 2 year old – as my infant screams for his pacifier. I stop and wonder what it is I’m doing that I used to think was so important. There have been good and bad mothers since the beginning of humanity. It all balances out. Unless my children specifically do something that alters human life in a significant way; What, I wonder, have I accomplished?

My Facebook friends list is filled with people more educated, more popular, more in shape, more artistic, more altruistic than me. They are all busy as I sit in my pajamas reinserting a pacifier.

As I close in on who I am, it becomes more glaringly obvious that I do not have a “thing.” I do not possess overwhelming skill, talent, faith, learning, or money.

I’m a mom. Which is, thank God, more than I was before these babies gave me purpose.

The Roaring 20’s

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In a couple of months, I’m going to be 29. I suppose this means I am a “real” grown-up. A real grown-up with a marriage, a mortgage, 3 kids and a minivan. Oy vey! This decade has brought me closer to who I really am, yet I am old enough to realize how little I actually know. I’ve learned the most significant lessons of my life in the last five years. Though there is “nothing new under the sun,” – here are those lessons in my words.

1. My emotions do not always reflect reality. Emotions can be so overwhelming that they feel like the only things that are real. They are the way we perceive our world. The trouble is, we all experience different emotions for different reasons and to varying degrees. When I was first married, I used to get very upset at my husband and tell him, “I feel like you don’t love me anymore!” Ouch. I was so enmeshed in my own dysphoria that I could not see how wounding such a statement was. Or how far from the truth it was. Which brings me to number 2.

2. Talk to a man about the situation, not the emotion. We really do speak different emotional languages. “You said XYZ, which I took to mean _____” works much better than, “I feel like you don’t love me anymore!” This allows my husband to see what I took offense to and quickly reconcile it. Telling him I feel like he doesn’t care a twitch about me really doesn’t give him an out.

3. While in a fight, give the other person an “out.” Referring back to number 2. My typical response when upset is to tell you exactly what you did wrong, including the way you tied your shoes and took a piss this morning. But I have found that in order to “win” a fight, the other party has to feel like they haven’t really lost. Scolding them like a child never accomplishes what I really want, which is remorse for my pain. It can be tricky to get someone to both admit they were wrong and apologize for it without losing their dignity, but it’s worth the mental hula hoops I have to jump through to get it.

4. Just because love fades doesn’t mean it wasn’t there to begin with. People come and people go. Saying goodbye hurts. I’ve had to do it more times than I care to count. I try to remember that the person leaving my life and I did at one point in time genuinely enjoy one another, and that’s valuable.

5. Different friendships serve different roles. Too many times I’ve tried to jam someone into a spot in my heart that I needed to fill when they simply don’t fit there. I’ve tried to hold people accountable to the same standards. None of that works. Friendships must be mutually satisfying endeavors. If my Show Up friend couldn’t be my Give Me Life’s Answers friend, that’s not his/her fault. But if my Show Up person stopped showing up, well then, we have a problem.

6. A marriage requires introspection and self-evaluation. When guys I dated offended me, I could tear out of there in a fury and await their remorseful call. Usually it worked, but if they never called, screw them. You can’t do that in a marriage. You have to take responsibility for your own shit.

7. Do not chase people. Give and take equally. Do not force yourself into other’s lives in hopes they will see how great you are. If they haven’t caught the hint, find someone else who will.

These lessons were little breaths of fresh air when I arrived at them. I look forward to the lessons to come so I know that I’m actually moving forward instead of spinning my wheels.

Read my thoughts!

Obviously, I understand that people do not hear my internal monologue.  Isn’t it easy to forget that, though? I just assume that people completely understand my meaning. It’s very difficult to see yourself as the world sees you. Inside, I’m a pretty benevolent person. Sure, I have my moments where I’m snotty. But mostly, I want to be kind and helpful. I want people’s approval. Don’t we all?

But all my life I’ve had this struggle where people do not get me. The closer you are to me, the more you understand the meaning I’m trying to convey – the message behind the words. I want to believe you hear my words the same way I hear them in my head.  Unfortunately, I have always come across as a foot in mouth, blunt, sometimes careless person. Even maybe a mean person? I don’t know. All I know is I offend people when I’m not even trying. It’s the most frustrating, embarrassing, painful ongoing personality defect I have. That no matter how I change, how I strive to be better….all the work is essentially useless because YOU PEOPLE can’t just read my thoughts!

Just kidding!!!

But you get my point.  God has really been working on me a lot lately. I’ve certainly felt the growing pains. I’ve stayed when I’ve wanted to go.  Breathed deeply when I wanted to scream. Swallowed my pride when I wanted to point out other’s wrongs. I have humbled myself and I have forgiven when it’s really hurt. It is supernatural. I’m telling you, no inch of my worldly flesh wants to do this. In my heart of hearts, though, there is a yearning, a huge pulling desire to be close to my God. And when you want to be close to someone, you want to please them.  You want their approval. So I let Him change me, and He’s doing an excellent job.

A couple nights ago, I asked, “Lord, will you please give me a little break? Just let me catch my breath for a second.”  All this changing has been rough. All this blasted self-improvement is challenging. Of course, He lets me rest. He knows when I need it. And I’m confident that He will also fix My Mouth.

I just want people to get me. I just want them to realize that I mean good.  I don’t hate, I’m not deceptive, I don’t scheme.  The worst thing I might do is talk about you to someone else. Okay, okay, I know that isn’t good. I’m just being truthful here. Remember I said THE WORST.  It breaks my heart when I never meant to slight someone, didn’t even know I did it, and they took offense. I couldn’t correct the problem because I never knew there was one.  I’ve never had an easy time making friends. Certainly no better at keeping them. All I want is for them to stay. All I want is honesty, sincerity, understanding.

I once had a huge internal debate about which was more important in a relationship: Love or Understanding? That’s before I realized they weren’t seperate entities.  But that’s another story.