Standing up in the ocean.

 

WHAT do you suppose happens when on a hot day in Roatan you struggle to manage the ocean, to change its properties, to avoid yielding to the water’s warm, salty invitation to relax in its arms, to be the only one on this earth allowed to remain upright and still snorkel? It says, Oh no, honey, that’s not how it works! Just accept my invitation…give in, loosen up, enjoy.

Sure, I may have perjured myself when I checked YES next to Can Swim on the entry form to the beach in Honduras. I mean, academically speaking I do know HOW to swim. I know where the arms go, what the feet should be doing, and that bit where you turn your head from side to side and remember to breathe only during the above-water segment. But when I’m actually IN water?? All sense of calm and, well, sense take a hike and I start trying to manage the ocean.

I believe my feeling about oceans and lakes and the deep end of a swimming pool is what people like to call a Phobia. As if my fear is irrational! There IS something just waiting to SUCK-ME-TO-THE-BOTTOM-FOREVER-YOU-KNOW-I’M-RIGHT-GAAAAAHHHHH!

Okay. Perhaps a tad irrational.

I’m a struggler. I’m a long time try-er. I have believed that if I flex and tense my muscles and muster enough of my own effort I can manage anything–even change the minds and individual properties of people or situations. Shove myself into being Healed and Triumphant Over the Troubles of My Life on my terms and in my time. All simply by my own striving.

Finally at 63 I’m learning to relax, to give in bit by bit to this process called Life. To tell the Lie that says I have enough power to manage the ocean that it has permission to take a long walk off a short dock. I’m learning to let go of the belief that I alone will be allowed to stand in the depths of the ocean and keep my head above water.

Fortunately I had a kind and loving friend with me at that gorgeous beach. She understands the whole relaxing-into-the-arms-of-the ocean thing, and yet she also understands my overwhelming-desire-to-remain-upright in the water. She helped me understand my snorkel gear, guided me to find the calm breathing I know but couldn’t locate. She helped me relax and float and breathe and see fish and sea creatures–but in water close enough to the shore that I could stand when I needed to. She let me hold her hand, for crying out loud, and never once mocked me for my fears. (Thank you, Susy!)

She helped me access the abilities that lay dormant within me to settle into the water and accept its invitation to rest in its salty arms while still breathing air. It was amazing! And a huge step forward in conquering my fear, demonstrated by my daughter Cori’s response to my telling her what I’d done with the exclamation of “You SNORKELED? In WATER??”

My experience was much the same as Life altogether: learning to accept, learning to move forward, relaxing my own stubborn will. Step by step I’m learning to give in to the reality of things–to know I can’t change the ocean, to see the sea for what it is. I couldn’t enjoy Roatan’s clear waters and schools of fish dashing about until I made peace with the actual character of the water. Once I did that I could embrace the truth that the beauty beneath was revealed only when I stopped striving to remain vertical.

The bring your own beverage conversation: Is there some belief you’ve held onto that’s kept you from moving forward in your life? One of mine has been that I have enough power to change people and situations I have no actual control over. Do you like me try to manage oceans? If not, what’s one of yours?  What truth do you need to start seeing and accepting in order to unstick? Think of friends or family who are willing to help you take baby steps into positive change, and if you don’t have some, GET SOME!

AND BE KIND TO YOURSELF THIS WEEK.

#lessstrivingmoreacceptance

 

Unseen and Unheard

LATELY I’ve been on, let’s just call it an Unintentional Hiatus.

I’ve been plagued by a couple of things: Fibromyalgia has not been my friend the past few months, and the Lie that loves me the most has been in residence–even though unwelcome.

To address the first one, I’ve been in what is called a relapse of my Fibro for several months now. When your Flare decides to overstay its welcome its name becomes Relapse. The pain and fatigue have been hanging all over my body and brain, rendering me both whiney AND bitchy. If I could take a vacation from myself I would.

And now, the second, the Boogeyman, the Lie That Loved Me, Casino Lie-ale, Live and Let Lie…. I wanted to make this blog as a safe place for others who deal with their own Lies. To maybe feel they aren’t alone and realize we all struggle. But my most deeply etched Lie, that my voice doesn’t matter, has been a pretty constant companion lately, rendering me mute.

When I was a child I felt it was better NOT to have a voice, NOT to draw attention. Because, say the wrong thing and dire consequences would follow. I watched this over and over with my parents and older siblings, and with some serious mother vs father action. Better I should play in my room, go to the park, or hide in my closet. Unseen and Unheard was safest.

In my post-childhood years I have done a lot of shoot-myself-in-the-foot things like dumb myself down to let other people feel smarter, let other people tell me how I should think, believe that everybody else’s voice was more important than mine, that my voice/my thoughts/my beliefs were inconsequential.

And yet, I have loved to express myself in writing since I was small. I’ve known that the God who created me gave me my own particular voice, often sappy, often snarky, and a unique view of the life I’ve lived. How can I know that Truth, and yet believe the ever-present like-flies-at-a-picnic, like-dirt-on-my-car, like-failed-deodorant Lie that WHAT COULD I POSSIBLY BE THINKING THAT I HAVE ANYTHING WORTH SAYING??!?

Whew.

I think what I’ve just described is what’s referred to as Cognitive Dissonance. By definition, that means the mental stress and discomfort experienced by someone who has two completely opposing beliefs. I believe I have something worth saying, yet I believe just as strongly that I have nothing worth saying. Well no WONDER I’m tired!

And this is the power of the Lies In Our Bones.

So even if I end up only talking to myself I need to keep writing. To defy that Lie. To put myself out there though flawed and tired and possibly repetitive and maybe even boring some days. To put myself out there when I feel ugly and stupid and needy and simultaneously whiney and bitchy. I mean, don’t we all feel something of the sort sometimes?

Yes–even though I know God loves me without condition (even some of my friends and family do, more’s the wonder) my bones are still in the process of healing from the deeply carved Lies of past early experience. I’m a struggler. If you’re a struggler too, please join me.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF AND DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE.

The good about giving up. 

I want to be one of those patient and dedicated slow-pour coffee types, I really do.

I admire anyone who can take  precious extra minutes waiting for their fine, fresh brew. I even bought one of those tiny one cup pour-over cone shaped thingies since I drink alone in the mornings. And I tried, I did. I attempted a bleary-eyed dribbling of the hot water kettle into the cone of grounds–for about 5 seconds before I said “oh poop” and poured enough water to fill the cone and drip into my large mug. Morning is not my friend, and Slow applies to me in the hours before 10 a.m. but it dare not apply to my coffee. (And I use a paper filter to make it easy to clean up! Sacrilege, right?)

My friend Susy (author of the marvelous blog Animalia) and I laughed over this the other day. Her son is one of those who is gifted in Slow-Pouredness. I on the other hand know exactly how many times I can fill the paper cone of grounds with fast-pour kettle water for each mug I own. Oddly, I am okay with this. I accept there are many things that I will never be gifted in.

I will never be: naturally thin, naturally tidy, naturally energetic. I will never naturally feel my age. BUT I will always: laugh–often at embarrassingly inappropriate times–and believe the best in others, and love my family and friends ferociously.

The Lies in my bones have often told me I should Fail In Nothing. The Lies in my bones have said that who I am will Never be Enough. Oddly and unexpectedly, I am slowly learning that I quite like the imperfect and complicated person I am. That I can choose to grow or choose to be stagnant (by the way, I choose Grow. It’s more interesting.)

So what if I’m never thin? What if I can never be a successful slow-pourer, or even be desirous of becoming one? We all have our strengths and weaknesses, the things we feel passionate about and the things that we strive to succeed at that don’t really matter.

Today I will: celebrate what makes me unique–my passion for words, love of laughter, and ferocious love of those God has brought into my life for good and growth. I will celebrate the crazy and colorful (and possibly untidy) collage of books and dishes and art that surrounds me in my space and makes me smile.

The BringYourOwnBeverage conversation: What success are you striving for that honestly doesn’t make that big a difference in your life and you could quit wasting that time? What will you celebrate about yourself today/this week/this month that the world may look at as Less Than? What might happen if you saw your reflection and smiled instead of judged?

Till next time!

The F Word: Frailty

 

I’m just coming through another one of the times that tries my soul: a Fibromyalgia flare. If you’re not familiar with Fibromyalgia, it’s a chronic pain and fatigue condition allegedly caused by an overactive/oversensitive Central Nervous System. It can be managed to some extent on a daily basis, but the owner of the aforementioned Frailty doesn’t know from day to day whether it will be a good day or a bad day, a normal pain and fatigue day or an F word day (er, of course I meant Frailty there…..)

A few weeks ago I hit the perfect storm for a flare–the decision to have my 14 1/2 year old dog euthanized, the 5th anniversary of my sister’s death, among other things. Even weather changes seem to contribute. A bad day turned into bad weeks. It seemed like sleeping and trying to ease the extreme pain of this unwelcome flare were the only goals I could work toward. I had no extra brain cells to use.

I hate this scenario, one that I revisit on an unexpected basis, though it feels more like it drops in on me like a surprise guest–“Here I am! Hope you don’t mind if I drop in unexpectedly to stay awhile and change every plan you’ve made for what is as yet an undetermined amount of time!”

It’s brutal.

And how I tend to treat myself during this state of Frailty is brutal too. I tell myself I’m useless. I tell myself it’s my fault, I must not be doing something right or this wouldn’t happen to my brain and body. I get angry. I get sad. I feel sorry for myself, and then I get angry at myself for feeling sorry for myself, and that makes me sad. It’s a real party of one.

This particular flare was so bad that the friend I rent from told me she actually came in to see if I was still breathing. (And here my imagination goes a little TV Fabulous and sees her leaning across my curled body with a tiny makeup mirror to see if I have breath to fog it or is it necessary to call 911, at which point she looks around at the shoes, books, and electronic devices tumbled by my bed that the paramedics would need to navigate and decides it’s better to just close the door and let nature take its course.)

Frailty. It’s a big bad word to me that begins to define my worth and take me to a dark place of Not Good Enough and Worthless and Too Weak. And–dare I say it–UNPRODUCTIVE. (GASP!!)

Once I realize the party is headed for StinkTown, one thing I do is to allow the words of self-flagellation to fly at me but simply glance off. To recognize that while this Frailty may derail me for a time it won’t shut down the railway altogether–I have a temporary Out Of Service sticker on my forehead, but in time it will lose its sticky and the train of my body and brain will begin to run again.

A couple of things I like to do for myself in these times: I’m a fan of visualizing. Whatever makes sense to you will be the best, but for me I actually visualize myself with big pieces of crumpled paper being blown at me like I’m in a storm, and on those papers  are the negative words and phrases written in large, dark print. They hit me but then continue on in the wind past me. They don’t stick. I also love to listen to affirmations. My favorite at the moment is from Belleruth Naparstek, “Healing Trauma.” Her CDs usually have an intro, a guided imagery segment, and then an affirmations segment. The affirmations in her voice are deeply soothing to my mean-spirited brain, and help me treat myself more gently.

IMPORTANT: all this takes practice. When you try to change your thinking be gentle with yourself–it won’t change at once.

The BringYourOwnBeverageConversation: What do you see as your frailties? What frailties cause you to belittle yourself? I saw as I wrote this post just how big of a deal being Nonproductive is for me, and how little grace I give myself when I need it.

Hope to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

 

Sisters

January 18th, Cary Grant’s birthday. Also my sister’s birthday, and I’m much more sad about her not being around to celebrate. 

She didn’t make movies, she didn’t have a cute accent. She didn’t feel the need to marry several times in search of happiness, my brother-in-law adored her. 

The best bit though, accent or no accent, was that she was my big sister. She protected me in my childhood as best she could from the craziness we grew up in. She gave me compliments in a household better known for tearing us down. And maybe it’s silly, but I can still remember the time I had my hair on the enormous juice-can size rollers we used back then and she said “You even look pretty in those! You could be a model or in a commercial!” My heart glowed with her words, and that feeling comes back whenever I remember. 

She was the biggest recipient of the craziness in that house, physical, emotional, sexual. I’m thankful our parents were apathetic by the time I came along–mostly I only had to deal with utter emotional neglect. 

I know only part of the lies my childhood etched into my bones, and I can only imagine what lies were etched into my sister’s. But throughout her life she loved me and supported me and laughed with me as we pulled the ridiculous from our lives, humor making many aspects of the darkness and divisiveness of our family more bearable. We accepted the differences in our outlooks and beliefs because being two girls who survived those early years and still loved each other was more important. 

To my big sister Patti, gone now for nearly 5 years, Cary may have made my heart flutter, but your love and laughter and kindnesses to me FILLED my heart. Thank you for that. I miss you every day. 

Conversations

I was sitting across from my mother at her kitchen table.

“B-but Mom,” I said quietly and quizzically, “you know what it was like to live there, we’ve talked about this…” I faded off.

We were talking about when my sister, brother and I were growing up in Portland and she was still married to our father. It seemed that again her version of the facts of that life had been altered in her mind.

“Mom, remember when we talked about how dad had touched me in a way he shouldn’t have? You know that. You know how much you guys fought? How crazy it was there?”

Somehow she could tell bitter stories of how awful our father’s behavior had been if it showed how badly she had been treated, but when it reflected badly on her as a mother who hadn’t protected us? Suddenly her words became wounded and sad and she would say “how could you say those things?”

Our dad had done much more to my sister from a young age, things my sister had tried to tell our mom for years. As an adult my sister confronted our mother about not protecting her, and suddenly Mom acted like it was all news to her.

I don’t bring this up to vilify my parents, though they surely could have made many better choices. I’m bringing it up for two reasons: the effect on relationship when we tell ourselves Lies about the facts staring us in the face, and the effect on a child’s psyche when they aren’t believed or protected.

What happened to any potential my sister and I had to have a healthy relationship with our mother who couldn’t face the truth of the facts of our childhood? Needing those Lies to uphold her view of herself as a parent meant there could never be any “Mistakes were made and I’m sorry for the pain you dealt with” conversations. Any opportunity for repairing the relationship was cut off before it could start.

As the mother of 4 grown children I’ve become more aware of how imperfectly I parented, how many needs I missed, how many times I was too wrapped up in my own misery to see that of my children. It happens. It’s the human factor. But being unwilling to admit it will only get in the way of relationship–we need to be willing to say “I didn’t realize” and “I’m sorry,” to keep dealings with each other clean.

And when a child isn’t heard, believed, or protected, apparently we can grow up to believe there is no safety in the world, and that we don’t have value, because if we did, wouldn’t we have been worth protecting? The great thing–it’s never too late to learn what are Lies and replace them with Truth.

What will I do for myself this week? I think I’ll remind myself as often as needed (plentiful still at 63) that there’s nobody else just like me, and simply because I’m on the planet I have worth.

The BringYourOwnBeverage conversation: For starters, my beverages of the day have been hot tea and hot chocolate. Sense the theme? I’M COLD! At this time of year with Christmas and New Year’s and the matching set of Samsonite luggage most of us generally bring into the season, what are you struggling with? What message of truth and kindness can you shower on yourself?

 

Acceptance and the gift of THERE-ness

I leaned over the hospital bed and whispered “Please be okay–I’m running out of fathers” and kissed my father-in-law on the forehead. He was going in for a biopsy of a spot on his lung, and I was afraid.

My own father had died, my step-father had died, but in all honesty my father-in-law would be the hardest personal loss. He had always loved me and accepted me, right from the beginning of my relationship with his son. I could feel his appreciation of me shine out of his pores, and it was an amazing feeling.

When I had a miscarriage he sat with me after I got home from the emergency room. Just sat. Stayed in the same space with me as I cried quiet tears he pretended not to notice. But I could feel his love. I don’t know how to explain it, but his there-ness spoke loudly to my aching heart.

Mostly in my life I’d had people who were too busy with their own problems to just be with me, too critical to see the person I thought I was, and I had believed those people’s lack of there-ness was somehow my own fault. If only I were more this, less that, thinner, then I’d be lovable. THEN I’d be deserving of someone’s time and attention. But here he was, this father-in-law of mine, not making my pain about him, not judging my reactions, not telling me how to be over it, not doing anything but making me feel loved and Visible by the sweet gift of his presence.

He’s been gone for years now, nearly 2 decades, but I can still feel that love-without-condition for me and see the warmth in his face and the twinkle in his eye when I think of him.

I’m still struggling to get to that same place with myself, where I can remember and acknowledge the person I am–the one with flaws and frailties and a good heart–without letting the harshness of others bring me down. But I know how important an honest assessment of myself is since it’s the receptacle of balance.

Today I feel like I need to turn this post around from its usual position of “what will I do for myself.” Today, especially after the venom of this year’s presidential election, I want us to look at it this way:

What will I do for the people in my life today?  Today and every day, I will extend the there-ness I crave to anyone who is hurting. I will choose to live by the passions of my own heart and mind to accept and love people of all sizes/shapes/ethnicities/lifestyles/beliefs. The same God who made me made them.

The BringYourOwnBeverage Conversation: Have you craved the accepting presence of someone? Who gave you that gift of themselves? Who can you give it to today?

Guest post! NEEDY, that dreaded word

I’m so fortunate to have a REAL LIVE AUTHOR write a guest post for me this week! (Although it would be pretty awesome if I got a real DEAD author to come back and do one, right??) My coffee and pie friend, Jeanette Hanscome, is author of the book Suddenly Single Moms among others.

Here’s my pie errr–author friend, Jeanette,

jhanscome_headshot1
Jeanette and I have a thing for getting 2 kinds of pie and sharing them, even though I always say I’m on a diet…

and the book cover for Suddenly Single Moms.

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How can a person not love 52 messages of hope, grace, and promise?
 
I love this cover since it coordinates with several of my coffee mugs making it possible for me to not only have coffee while reading, but look good while doing so.

File Oct 26, 9 35 13 AM.jpeg
Hmm…I think I must like this color…
And now, ON TO THE IMPORTANT BIT!!

 

Guest post by Jeanette Hanscome

Needy, that Dreaded Word

After my husband left, I feared the labels I would earn almost as intensely as I feared court orders.

I dreaded the first time I would have to check Divorced on a form. (I’m still trying to figure out why my marital status matters when getting my teeth cleaned.)

I resented that low-income applied to me and my kids.

I absolutely did not want to become an emotionally needy friend.

You read that correctly—at the lowest point of my life being seen as needy felt like the worst possible fate.

Even worse than too sensitive.

There was just something about that word. Needy.  

I’d never heard it applied to me or anyone else in a positive way.

“One thing I love about you is that you’re so needy and fun to be around.”

It was more like, “I know you’re in a needy place right now, but I don’t have time to talk.”

“Stephanie seems like a nice lady, but she strikes me a rather … needy.”

I tried very hard to ration my public displays of emotion, and cried in front of carefully-selected friends on a rotating basis so none of them would feel burdened by my load of grief.

When people at church said, “You seem to be doing so well,” relief flooded my soul. If they raved that I radiated with joy and reflected God’s grace that was even better. Radiating joy and grace meant I wasn’t becoming needy.

Then something horrifying happened. I moved, came out of survival mode, joined a new church, and started (cue slasher film scream) feeling. I remember the day it hit me that I was in danger of being described as, “in a very needy place right now.” Some new friends and I were talking after Bible study and I no longer had it in me to radiate joy. I wanted to tug on one of those kind women’s sleeves and whimper, “I don’t think I’m doing so well anymore.” But I kept smiling and talking because I didn’t want to be that girl. The one who got weepy when it wasn’t even prayer request time. The one who took people up on “Call me if you ever need to talk.” I would wrap my arms around a hurting woman like me in an instant, but I wasn’t ready to be her. Not when I was still trying to find my place in a new church. I was totally blowing my reputation as a reflection of God’s grace!

God did a beautiful thing a couple of weeks later. He sent a friend who gave me permission to be needy but refused to let me label myself as if processes pain was a sign of weakness.

I will never stop being grateful for friends like her, because here’s the thing: I was needy. Extremely. My husband had left me and our two sons. I’d lost my marriage, my home, my credit (we had to file bankruptcy), and my sense of value. When we moved I’d left my church home behind, ministries, 14 ½ years’ worth of relationships, every friend that I felt safe to fall apart with, and my oldest son who decided to stay back where his job was. I was needy for love. Needy for hugs. Needy for friends. Needy to belong. Needy to share my story. Needy to be known for something other than my story.

Pain puts us in a very needy place.

When a friend is hurting because of a loss, I expect that she will be a little bit needy for a while. I hope that she will know she can come to me for the things I ached for when my life had been reduced to what I could fit into my parents’ garage, one bedroom, and a dinky storage unit that I would eventually have to clear out. If I say, “Call me anytime,” I mean it and hope she will take me up on it.

One of most refreshing things I’ve heard in the past year is, “We’re all a little needy.”

I also like, “We’re all messed up.”

I wish I’d known this sooner.

Obviously, I don’t want to stay needy. I don’t want to become clingy. I don’t want to run to people so quickly and often that I wear them out and miss out of the comfort of Jesus’ presence. I don’t want to be so focused on sad circumstances that I can’t see other people, live in the present, or enjoy life. But why suffer in silence when we don’t have to?

“But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay.” Psalm 40:17

No matter which version of the Bible I read, I can’t find a verse where God tells David to suck it up and be a better reflection of His grace and joy.

He created us to need Him and to need one another.

So, at least for today, I’m letting go of my fear of being seen as needy. Because we all are whether we admit it or not.

 

What will I do for myself today? If I am feeling needy I will admit it. I will cry out to God and ask Him to send what I’m aching for, whether it’s time with Him or time with a friend. If I know I need to be with people, I will reach out to someone—a kind, sensitive person who will be sweet and supportive. I won’t even waste my data coverage on the “I can see that you are in a very needy place right now but I don’t have time to talk” “friends.”

The BringYourOwnBeverage Conversation: When have you felt chastised for being needy? How did that impact your ability to reach out when you truly needed support? How has God taught you that it’s okay to be a little bit needy sometimes?

 

Thank you so much for your post, Jeanette! We’ve had many conversations over pie about neediness, and I love your clarity and humor on the topic. 🙂

Jeanette can be found at JeanetteHanscome.com