A Letter to My Therapist

(Thank you SaferBrand for illustrating growth. I think I’m in the flowering stage, and looking forward to ripening…)

18 years together–long enough to raise me and send me out into the world.

In this time you, my therapist, my hero, have taught me what I can hold onto and what I must release.

Starting in February 2001 with the death of the mother I’d always tried to please, in one session a month you led me through the minefield. You helped me learn to navigate when she had her lawyer send me pre-packed boxes of her possessions with cruel sticky-notes on the backs. I had ruined her chances of relationships with my children. I had made her unable to display the photos of my children. I had I had I had. I Had Disappointed.

Never in her notes, (dated and initialed), did she mention the anger and bitterness she spewed onto my children that last time she saw them. Never did she say she could have done things differently. Never did she mention the crazy note she put in Corinne’s 16th birthday present telling her not to believe what others said about her–two of the three she mentioned having been dead for some years.

Never did she say she was sorry. Never did she thank me for the years I’d continued to try to be in her life after her other two children had left it because they couldn’t handle her altered version of their reality.

And you, my steady, guiding therapist, walked me through that. All the emotions, all the self-hatred, all the raw pain.

You helped me learn to be a mom. My kids were mostly grown, but there was so much for me to learn: how to not take things personally, how to follow my own instincts when responding to the highs and lows of the rollercoaster that was life, both mine and theirs. How to not simply buy into the highest volume reaction in the house but to follow my own heart. I did this often poorly, but something you helped me learn caused my children to be extremely forgiving as I’ve apologized every time I realize the next big thing I got wrong.

In my struggle to hold tightly to my marriage I was teaching my children terrible lessons. That my stubbornness couldn't change the essential skeleton of this decades-long union, and sometimes choosing to call time of death is the most… Click To Tweet

In the teen years of our relationship you helped me see the truth of my marriage–that the bad had far overtaken the good, and I was living the definition of crazy by trying the same things over and over and over again with the same result. That my stubbornness couldn’t change the essential skeleton of this decades-long union. That in this struggle to hold on I was teaching my children terrible lessons. That sometimes choosing to call time of death is the most grownup decision you can make.

You’ve taught me to hold onto myself, always. To hold onto who I am in this world, and that it matters I am IN this world. That my way of loving and supporting and being available is a valid and valuable way, no matter what I’ve been told otherwise. You’ve taught me to pursue the knowing of who I am, to let go and be me, even though those who should have loved me best couldn’t. Even though those who should have known me best didn’t. You’ve shown me that God and I have the closest view of my heart even when others called me Disappointing and a Failure and Unloving and Unsupportive. You’ve helped me see those are not words that define me. You’ve taught me that I can let go of those Lies In My Bones.

You've helped me let go of what I could never really hold onto–making another person happy. And you've taught me to hold onto what I can–the growing of myself. Click To Tweet

I’m a work in progress. An imperfectly perfect me. Over these past 18 years you’ve helped me let go of what I could never really hold onto–making another person happy. And you’ve taught me to hold onto what I can–the growing of myself. I’m headed the right direction now.

To say thank you seems hollow. How can those two words express even a small percentage of the gratitude I have for literally giving me the will to live? For teaching me to appreciate who I am? To open my tightly clenched hand and release the control I never owned? To keep the bitter words of others from piercing my tender heart?

I was drowning and you saved me. I am eternally grateful.

With love,

-julie

Why I’m a Bad Christian

Photo by Tirza van Dijk on Unsplash

I have been asked on many occasions why I don’t write devotionals–I’m a Christian and a writer, right? Usually this is when I’m with a group of Christians who are writers, so I say something like, “It takes me more than 250 words to introduce myself, so I couldn’t possibly write devotionals that short!” There is a smattering of (polite) laughter, and the conversation is over.

What I don’t say but I’m thinking is, “Actually, I’m kind of a lousy Christian.” I feel like people who takes verses from the Bible and tie lovely slices of life to them to bring them alive should be of the more holy variety of Christian. I identify more as the unwholly-holy type. Let me tell you why:

  • I don’t attend church on a regular basis. Honestly, in the last decade I haven’t attended even on an IRregular basis.
  • I have a passion for the well-placed used of the F word–a word I would have killed my children for saying. I would like to blame my long and difficult marriage for bringing on my potty mouth, but …
  • I have no set “quiet time” and no set space for one. I live in one room, people–the whole place is A Place. As for the daily discipline of aforementioned quiet time, let’s just say that discipline has never been my superpower. Plus I forget. I get in bad moods. Sometimes I don’t want to and you can’t make me.
  • As a writer I have actually gotten feedback that my piece wasn’t Jesus-y enough.
  • I want to love and affirm people who believe differently or have completely different lifestyles to me.
  • I can’t remember the street address of verses I like to save my life, and clearly I can’t remember what it’s called when you say the Bible book name and the numbers of the chapter and verse.
  • I forget to set down my troubles and “rest in the loving arms of Jesus.”
  • I whine.
  • I get mad at God.
  • Sometimes I’m in a bad mood for years.
  • I get mad and lose my shit.
  • I say “shit.”
— I whine.– I get mad and lose my shit.– I say "shit." Click To Tweet

BUT:

  • Sometimes I remember to rest in the loving arms of Jesus.
  • I’ve learned to love and respect people who differ from me in their beliefs and lifestyles, that each of us has innate worth as a created being sharing this planet.
  • I’ve realized that I will keep learning who I am and continue becoming who I want to be till my last day on this earth.
  • I’ve learned that being a Good Girl isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
  • I’ve been patient at least twice.
  • I hear God when I shut up.
  • Sometimes I shut up.

It turns out that lots of the boxes I thought I had to tick to be a Good Christian aren’t even strictly taken from the Bible, they’re made up of what we finite humans have used to make sense of an Infinite God.

I’m not saying that any person with a regular prayer time or who can quote sections of the Bible or attends church regularly isn’t sincere–I love lots of people who love Jesus and who do those things. I’m just saying that I’m a struggler. I’m perfectly imperfect. Unwholly-holy, with lots of not so holy bits left over. My head and my heart war. The Lies In My Bones fight with the Truth I know. My life’s journey is made up of a million bad choices–some mine, but some the decisions of others, and I’m left dealing with the consequences.

I'm a struggler. I'm perfectly imperfect. Unwholly holy with lots of not so holy bits left over. Click To Tweet

We are all strugglers on this planet. We all do better at achieving our goals on some days than others. We each have our own internal fights. All the things I don’t do coupled with all the things I DO make up my particular road trip on this Earth, my unique identity. I love the Creator of this globe we’re sharing, and I love His Son. Maybe I don’t think I’m a Good Christian, but I am a pretty good Jesus Follower, and that’s good enough for me.

In fact, that’s perfect.

The Bring Your Own Beverage Conversation:Where have you taken on someone else’s idea of your identity and stopped looking at who you really are? How can you embrace the perfectly imperfect you?

*Be kind to you. The God who created the earth made you.

Shoveling Shite: Lessons Learned From the Litter Box

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I was scooping the poop of five cats from one litter box where I’m helping crittersit, when I had a startling realization:

I would rather scoop the LITERAL shit of five cats than put up with the emotional and verbal shit I dealt with in my rather long Marriage From Heck.

I shall now list some comparisons using a Very Professional bullet point system. *Ahem*

  • Emotional shite such as belittling and constant criticism can leave the recipient with a lowered self-esteem and a whole lot of self-doubt that may take years of therapy to overcome, while
  • Literal shite can be scooped and tossed.
  • Psychological shite such as threatening the loss of financial support if the recipient calls the police for violent behavior against their son can lead to a feeling of powerlessness, underscoring decades of future behavior, while
  • Literal shite can be scooped and tossed.
  • Emotional shite such as repeatedly being told one is incapable of driving/cooking/supporting/speaking/thinking/breathing adequately can lead the recipient toward an eventual acceptance of these lies as truth, while
  • Literal shite can be scooped and tossed.
  • Receiving ongoing psychological abuse such as having one’s childhood fears of making mistakes (where mistakes were deemed inexcusable) or of being abandoned (because parents left the child to fend for themselves during times of great sadness and confusion) used against them can lead to Complex Trauma, the effects of which may last decades and require professional mental health intervention, while
  • Literal shite can be scooped and tossed.
  • Emotional abuse such as being called names, perhaps being called by the very name of the very person the recipient has been most hurt by, who may or may not have been that person’s mother, causes extreme emotional pain and an overwhelming feeling of betrayal since the person calling you the name once pledged to love you as Christ loves the Church and you expect them to want to love you and support you and be on your side and actually give a poop about your feelings and maybe even be sensitive to the fact that your mother was so incredibly and achingly and intentionally hurtful to you that simply calling you by their name is pretty much the same as having acid thrown in your face– while
  • Literal shite can be scooped. Can be tossed. Never to be dealt with again.

Here’s the big takeaway in case I have perhaps been too subtle:

FIVE CATS. LOTS AND LOTS OF POOP. ONE LITTER BOX. STINKY. DISGUSTING. But it can be fixed in five minutes. Scooped. Tossed. Gone.

Being called names, being talked down to, having the creative or funny or endearing or talented or skilled parts of someone be mocked or constantly criticized or subtly undermined, THIS is the poop that kills. It is abuse.

It’s not “everybody goes through rough patches in their marriage,” it’s not “we aren’t in Bible Study to talk negatively about our husbands,” it’s harmful, soul-squashing abuse. Its effects last for years. It can rob the beautiful spark of a mom or a dad, a sister or a brother, a friend, a neighbor.

Do you know somebody being bullied and abused? Read the linked articles. Be there for them. Listen.

Are you being bullied and abused? Read the linked articles. Get help. Get out. Get counseling.

Here are some resources for dealing with the Emotional and Verbal and Psychological kinds of shite:

Here are some resources for dealing with the literal kind of shite, including a boring yet informative You-Tube video: