Saturday, October 19, 2013

On insecurity…

When will I ever believe I am safe?  What will be enough for me to believe I am ok?  Can my husband ever love me enough?  Can we ever have enough money for me to think I’m fine?  Will my friends ever care enough? What will be enough?  This house?  This car? This person?

I use to work for Nielsen at Kellogg.  Basically, that meant that every day I was surrounded by upper-middle class people who made more than enough money.  However, every day I heard people competing for something.  One day I was invited to a work event at a country club.  At the work event, everything was fully catered and there was an open bar.  In addition to all that I could eat or drink, there was a speed boat ride around a private lake.  I felt like a princess.  Interestingly, as the ten of us drove around the lake all I heard was “I wish my house was like that!” and “Well, we have a membership here” and “We just bought a speed boat.”  I felt super crappy.  I never wanted to live in a huge house.  I never wanted a speed boat.  Then, I felt pity for my co-workers.  Why would you be dumb enough to believe that your security could be found in material things?

As with most judgments, reality quickly slapped me in the face.  This week, God security checked me as hard as possible.  I deserved every security check I got.

Within the last six weeks, my husband and I literally were blessed enough to receive everything we could dream of.  Six weeks ago we – on a total whim – we decided to look at one house.  At the time, we weren't even looking at houses.  So at 11am on a Saturday morning we looked at a house.  By Wednesday we were pre-approved for a mortgage.  By Friday we had a signed offer.  God took care of us buying a house in the swiftest way imaginable.  It was a miracle.  Thank you God.

This week my husband was blessed with a different position at work.  He was trying to enjoy the role he had, but he was unhappy.  Thankfully, he got a new boss who saw he was suffering.  In a matter of days my husband’s boss moved him to a new position that my husband is going to love.  There was no change in pay.  There was no change in benefits.  A swift move.

Then, Thursday of this week – I totally blew it.

I went to start my car and the check engine light came on.  I should have stayed calm.  I should have thought to myself “God has taken care of us our entire lives – this will be ok.”  I should have reminded myself “God has given us swift kindness with a house and a job – this will be taken care of.”  I didn't do either of those things.  Instead, I totally freak out.  I yelled at my husband.  I blamed him for the car.  I cried and sobbed about how terrible everything was.  Then, I reluctantly drove the car to the mechanic and waited for terrible news.  After a brief wait the mechanic called me and said “Oh, it was nothing.  Your car is totally fine.  You won’t even have to pay for us to look at it.” 

Then, this morning – I totally blew it AGAIN.

My husband and I were sick of car troubles.  So, again, on a whim, we decided to get a different car.  We could no longer afford to pay for my car repairs.  In one day – my husband did all of the work.  He looked up dozens of cars.  He got us pre-approved for a car loan.  He found the perfect car and set up a test drive.  The car drove perfectly.  A friend looked it over and said it was great.  However – we went to get the check from the bank…. And we couldn't.  I should have stayed calm.  I should have been kind.  Instead… I DID IT AGAIN.  I verbally threw up all over my husband.

I feel so dumb.  Why am I dumb enough to believe that I will find my security in all of these material things?  We have a house.  Our cars are safe.  My husband is the most amazing person I know.  Still, again and again, in moments where I have every chance to realize that I am secure – I lose all control and freak out.
These experiences just make me ask “What is enough?”

I think one great flaw in our society is the belief that someone or something will make you secure.  My old co-workers tried to do it with boats and houses.  I think a lot of people in our society believe that once they acquire a certain number of things then everything will be okay.  We also try to do that with people.  We tell ourselves that if we have the perfect spouse or perfect friends we will suddenly be okay.  I think great spouses and good friends are vital to happiness.  However, believing you will find security in another person is false.  When you lose everything… what happens?  When it all shifts… where will your security be?

I use to read the Old Testament and get ticked at the Israelites.  I would think to myself “Really? You guys saw a sea get split in half!  God lead you out of slavery!  You have seen it rain bread! Why are you not trusting God?  IDIOTS!”  As I get older, I see how many similarities I bear to the Israelites.

This last week God gave me every chance to see that everything will be ok.  Then, in times of stress – I blew it.  I forgot everything I have learned about trust and staying calm.  I freaked out.  I lost my temper.

Thankfully, I have an incredibly forgiving husband.  When I apologized for my mistakes he promptly said “I forgive you.”  That is the glory of God.  Our security lies in the fact that we are forgiven.  When we have failed, which we all do all the time, we are forgiven.  When we lose our tempers, we are forgiven.  When we forget that we have been taken care of, we are forgiven. 

Now, that doesn't mean we get to fly off the handle and be jerkfaces and then just play the “Forgive Me!” card (I, obviously, need to work on controlling my tempter and my tongue .  What it does mean, is that we have the beautiful opportunity to see that in every moment – there can be redemption.  It means that real security lies in trusting God.  It means that when we our terrified and scared and angry, we can turn to God.  It means that in those moments where we have failed, we can turn back and say “I have failed.  Help me heal.”  And God will answer like my husband did and He will say “I forgive you.”

Saturday, August 31, 2013

On the greatest sin…

Today, someone I know and love told me they had committed what they felt like was a terrible sin.  My heart cried for that person.  I write this post – for that dear, wonderful person.

We all have crap.  Everyone has sins, everyone has burdens, everyone has made mistakes.  I mess up ALL THE TIME.  What separates us is not the fact that we have sinned, but the fact that some of us deny the sin.

One of my undergraduate sociology professors once told the story about an abortion clinic.  When a new abortion clinic opened in Wisconsin (soon after Roe vs. Wade), protestors soon started to stand outside the clinic.  One protestor was a middle aged woman – let’s call her Kim - that had a 14-year-old daughter.  Kim would stand outside the clinic and yell profanities at the women and workers who entered and exited the clinic.  The woman who ran the clinic – let’s call her Maggie – came into work one day to find Kim sitting in the lobby with her 14-year-old daughter.  Curious about why she was in the lobby instead of protesting outside, Maggie asked Kim why she was at the clinic.  Kim said “Well, my daughter is only 14.  She is too young to have a child.”

Some days I dream of slapping people like Kim in the face. Who are those people?  They are the people that stand outside of where everyone is at, and just yell and scream.  They are the people that pass judgment upon everyone else, and never turn inward to try to improve themselves.  They are the first people to ask for forgiveness, and the last people to grant it.  They are the people that will yell at women who have abortions, and then be the first in line when their teenage daughter gets pregnant.  What holds me back from slapping people like Kim is an honest confession. The confession is, if we are being truthful to ourselves, we realize that we are all like Kim at one point or another. 

For some reason, we like to dream that perfection is attainable.  For example, whenever I hear people talk about Moses they usually discuss how he was a great leader that helped to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land.  Interestingly, when people talk about Moses they tend to leave out a few key things.  Like…. the fact that Moses killed a guy.  Oh, and the fact that after he killed a guy he ran away.  Oh, yes, and the fact that when God asked Moses to confront Pharaoh, Moses was pretty much like “Nope!” 

When I was in my earlier twenties, I got to counsel women who had abortions.  I got to ask them about the experience, ask if they were okay, and ask how they were feeling.  The most common thing I heard was “I never thought I would have an abortion.”

If we remove the “abortion” part of the sentence, I think we have a common experience.  There are many times in my life where I can say “I never thought I would….”  For example, I never thought I would be divorced by age 25.  However, at a very young age I found myself on the inside of a very difficult experience.  I felt unloved.  I felt judged.  I felt like a sinner.  I felt like the world – and God – were so disappointed in me. 

When we are young, we are blank slates.  We are perfect, unblemished, and clean.  We look around at everyone else and tell ourselves “I will never do this” and “No, that will never be me.”  Despite our best efforts, sometimes, we mess up.  We do something we never thought we would do.   We thought we might always be perfect.

Moses was imperfect.  Despite his imperfections, God loves him and called him to greatness.  Despite killing a man, which is a really crappy thing to do, God planned for Moses to do something incredible. 

There will be days and times when we find that we have erred terribly.  On those days, the only thing we can do is ask for forgiveness.  Ask for forgiveness from God.  Ask for forgiveness from anyone we have wronged.  Ask for forgiveness for ourselves.

Then, we must make right what we have wronged.  We must recognize where we screwed up, and try not to screw that up any more.

Next, we must move on.  We cannot go back to the way things are, because things have changed.  All we can do is move forward.

The greatest sin is not murder, or divorce, or abortion.  The greatest sin is pride.  The greatest sin is the day where we stand outside yelling, and never try to come in.  The greatest sin is where we turn to our neighbor in a time of need and say “You are terrible and I am better than you” instead of saying “I too have sinned, but we are loved by God – and we are forgiven.”

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

On my birthday…

Growing up, one thing my parents did EXCEPTIONALLY well at… was birthdays.  My dad loves giving people gifts, and my mother loves giving people attention.  That combination led to some of the best birthdays and birthday parties the world has ever known.

For my fifth birthday, we did a pizza fest at Rocky Rococco’s – and it was awesome.  For my seventh birthday, we went to Chucky Cheese – and it was amazing.  For my tenth birthday, we went to the YMCA.  For at least four of my birthdays, my parents threw me a surprise birthday party.  My childhood friend Mandy (she is still my friend today) likes to joke that my parents threw me a surprise birthday party just about every single year.

Then, something terrible happened.  I started dating my ex-husband around age twenty, and he did not believe in birthdays.  If I listed the top five worst days of my life, they would easily be:  3) my 23rd birthday, 2) my 22nd birthday and 1) my 21st birthday.  By the time I got to my 24th birthday, I gave up on celebrating my birthday altogether.  I stopped wishing for cakes.  I stopped hoping for presents.  I stopped wishing for breakfast in bed, flowers, attention, or anything else. 

Not long after my 25th birthday – I got divorced.  You would think that I ran around and painted the town red after years of crappy birthdays.  Instead, I told no one it was my birthday and spent the entire day alone. I did the same thing for my 26th birthday.  

Several months after my 26th birthday, I started dating my husband Del.  For my 27th birthday, Del asked what I wanted, and I told him I did not want anything.  He refused to do what I wanted.  Instead, even though he had very little money, he got me ice cream cupcakes and wine.  He then proceeded to shower me with love and attention.

He asked me what I wanted for my 28th birthday, and I told him I wanted nothing.  Then a few minutes later I told him one or two things I wanted.  He asked if I told anyone it was my birthday, and I told him “No” and that “I don’t want anyone to know.” 

The altogether sad reality is that years of abuse takes longer to break then you think it will.  When I married Del, I thought the cycle was broken and a shower of new love and light would rain down upon me.  Instead, I am finding that the cycle is gradually cracking.

Today, I told two co-workers that I love dearly that it was by birthday tomorrow.  Tomorrow I will be 28.  I wasn’t going to tell anyone.  However, someone at work brought in the exact same ice cream cupcakes Del got me for birthday last year.  If that wasn’t a sign from God to share what is supposed to be a day of joy, I don’t know what it.

I write this blog as my (passive aggressive?) way of telling people that it is my birthday.  I probably can’t tell you in person, because I will most likely start crying.  I don’t want gifts, because I haven’t really coped enough with the past to accept gifts very well.

Tomorrow is my birthday.  I am not old, but it is the first birthday that I feel older.  College sports players are all younger than me.  Super Bowl winners are younger than me.  I have seen some birthdays come and go.  As much as I can be, I am ready for this birthday.

Bring it on God.  Bring it on world.  Bring it on family and friends.  I don’t know what I want, other than to say, “Hey, it is my birthday tomorrow.”

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

On losing my independence...

When I was in eighth grade, my history teacher once told the entire class “Stephanie, the day you are married I am going to come to your wedding and when the preacher asks who objects I am going to say ‘I object!  I object!  No one should ever ever marry this woman.  She is impossible to deal with.”

The first time I had a boyfriend, I can remember discussing the news with a girl in choir.  The girl was shocked that I was dating someone and I remember her saying “What?  You have a boyfriend?  But you are so independent.”

Once at dinner my mother and two brothers took a vote on who would be the last to get married.  Everyone unanimously voted that I would be the last to get married because “Stephanie is the most independent.  She just doesn't need anyone.”

My entire life is spattered with little stories about being telling me I was independent.  Although some of the stories were funny or sweet, a few pointed to the dangers of always acting alone.  We are a country that praises ourselves on being independent.  We are told to free ourselves from being oppressed.  Heck, we even give the entire nation a day off from work to celebrate being free from control.  As I have learned along the way, being independence is not without its flaws.

I was decorating for a sorority dance in college with a sweet friend named Cassi.  Cassi had this idea to decorate the room, and being the independent leader I am…. I quickly told her the idea was dumb.  However “I let her” decorate the room how she wanted, telling her every step of the way that I thought her idea was dumb.  When we were finished decorating it was quite easily the best decorating I have been a part of.  Cassi’s idea was amazing, and I was wrong.  I was twenty one years old the first time I realized that my ideas were not always the best.

When I was about twenty five I taught a college class where we had to do a week-end camping trip.  As part of the trip, an upper classmate led my class of fifteen young adults for the entire week-end.  This was the first time in my life where I could have led, but was told not to.  Instead of leading, I laid back and watched Claire (the older student) take the lead.  By Saturday I was totally relaxed.  By Sunday morning I realized that Claire did a better job leading then I would have – or perhaps ever could.  I was twenty five the first time I realized that I don’t have to lead everything, and that some people do a better job leading then I could.

This morning my husband and I were getting ready for work.  Everything was going fine until he turned on the shower, and thereby increased the odds of humidity ruining my perfectly coiffed.  I lost it.  I walked away and started lecturing him on humidity and what it does to female hair.  I started doing my hair in another room and completely stopped talking to him.  Rather than getting mad at me for being totally irrational, my husband said to me “I love you.  How can I help you?”  I started crying.  Then he added “If you are having a problem I want to help.  Your problems are my problems.”  I started crying again.

I was twenty seven years old before I realized that I am no longer independent.  I have my own thoughts and friends and activities.  However, for the rest of my life, nothing I do will ever exist in a vacuum.  When I was single I could get ready however I wanted and no one would care.  When I was a dumb sorority girl I could blather on about how a room should be decorated (as if it actually mattered).  When I was in eighth grade I could argue with teachers about anything I wanted, and it didn't matter.  But I am married now.  I am forever tied to this other amazing person.

My husband and I are reading a marriage book together.  The book equates the beginning of marriage to a masquerade ball.  When you are first dating and married you have a mask on and everything looks lovely.  As time passes, eventually the mask comes off and you fully see the person you have been dancing with.  When you are single you can hide your flaws.  Your flaws never come out because you can dance all day then go home at night.  When you are married, every flaw that you were able to hide is suddenly slammed full force into your spouse.  You can no longer hide the things you tucked away, because the person you are with can see them quite easily.

It is true that my independence gene has driven me to many successes.  I got a Master’s degree fairly young, I got to be president and vice president of stuff in college, and I got to lead some amazing things.  If I was listening closely I might have seen the dangers of my fierce independence.  I might have seen how in forces people away, insults people and makes some people feel little.  If I was listening closely I might have seen how it forces you to never ask for help, to lay in corners alone, and feel like no one is there to support you.

My eighth grade teacher never made it to my wedding, but my husband saw glimmers of my fierce independence before we got married.  Thankfully, while God gave me the gift of independence, he gave my husband the gift of collaboration.  While I could lead fifty people up a mountain, my husband would be the one holding them all together – cradling them as they struggle.

So here we sit... one cranky little independent girl and one sweet helpful boy.  We have danced our way to this struggle, and now we have no choice but to tackle it head on.  I have no clue what will happen next or where this will go…. But I am okay with my husband leading me.  I am okay with my husband helping me.  I am no longer the most independent girl you will ever meet, because I found someone I really truly need.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

On the merry-go-round breaking down…

It finally happened.  After weeks of trying to do everything, this machine that is my body gave up.  The merry-go-round has broken down.  Now, I feel like it is impossible to do just about anything.

For some strange reason I told myself I had to do everything.  Everything had to be cleaned and washed.  All of the work had to be finished.  Everyone needed to be talked to or helped.  Everyone needed to rest – except me of course.

I got physically ill.  Sick from weeks of running without sleep and food.  I ran until the edges of my body gave up.  My emotions erupted like a ticked off volcano.  They exploded on my husband and anyone close to me.

Thankfully, God gave us bodies that work like miracles. Thankfully, I married an exceptionally kind man. 

Three weeks ago my husband told me I needed more sleep and rest.  I did not listen.

Two weeks ago he told me not to get up at 4:50am to workout.  I did not listen.

Last week he told me to just watch tv and be still.  I did not listen.

Today – he took off of work and drove me to the doctor.

I called my mothers.  My mother told me that I needed rest.  I told her I did not understand why I was tired.  When I was in grad school I worked harder and longer and under more stress.  My mother told me, “You are older now.  You can no longer do what you use to be able to do.”  Truth.

I called my mother-in-law.  She told me that there are times where we can do more than we think we can, but there are also times where we do more than we should.  Truth.

What do I do now?

I had told my body three weeks ago that I was giving up on relaxing.  My husband is great at relaxing.  I felt guilty for feeling like I should be working all the time.  So I told my husband and myself that I was giving up trying to rest.  I thought I just wasn’t meant to relax.  Unfortunately, my body never got the memo about not relaxing.  It did, however, get my husband’s memo that I needed to relax.  So now, because I have no other choice, I relax.

The human body is a miraculous amazing thing.  Last week I slid into third base during a softball game and skinned my leg.  It hurt.  To add to the pain, the umpire did not know that in softball the tie goes to the runner.  Had I been wearing pants instead of shorts, I would not have this wound.  If I had never slid, the wound would not exist.  The thing is, I wanted to slide.  I wanted to give everything.  I wanted to push myself.  I am glad I did it.  But next time, I am going to wear pants.  Next time, I am going to tell myself that I can play hard, but playing for DeWitt Township is unlikely to lead to a career in the pros.

Today, the wound is almost healed.  On Wednesday morning I woke up and thought I would die if I did not rest.  One day later, the wound is healing.  I should have rested sooner.  I should have slept longer.  If had rested I would not be sick. If I had listened to my husband I would not be feeling this.  But I wanted to play.  I wanted to push myself and see what I could do.  I cannot say I am glad I did it.  I can say that I learned.  Next time, I pray I will listen to my husband.  Next time, I will sleep if I can.  If life were as short as a softball game I could push to the brink and most likely be okay.  But life isn’t a softball game.  There are not seven innings – there are over seventy years.  I want to do a lot, but I can’t do everything.  If I am going to make it, I can’t slide at every close call.

Pray that I breathe.  Pray I take breaks.  Pray that I listen.  Pray that I rest.  Pray the wound heals.  Pray that the merry-go-round can spin again.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

On "Adult" internet videos...

I use to shrug off the idea that American’s had a porn problem.  But I am a data driven person.  And today I saw some data that totally changed my mind.  American has a porn problem.   
Let me elaborate.

I was looking data today at work from a company that compiles data on who looks at what websites.

I am new to the data, so I was clicking through report trends by industry.  I saw I could look at a report on “XXX Adult” websites.  So I did a basic report on the number of people that look at “XXX Adult” websites. 

There are about 235 million US adults that used the internet in February 2013.

Of those 235 million – 91.8 million (give or take) – or about 40% of the US looked at an XXX adult site.
That means four in ten US adults looked at porn in February.
Next question, how much porn?
Of the 91.8 million folks that looked at porn, they spent roughly 86,000,000 minutes looking at porn in February.
How much time is that really? (Bri of Leah or Jamieson – check my math if you are reading this - I was in go mode when I wrote this)
86,000,000 minutes is about 1,433,333 hours (86,000,000/60)
86,000,000 minutes is about 59,722 days. (1,433,333/24)
86,000,000 minutes is about 163 years. (59,722/365)
So – in one month – the population spends the equivalent of 163 years looking at porn.
How much is that in terms of man power?
Well, the French Revolution was 10 years .  So – the time the US spends on porn is the equivalent of 16 French Revolutions.
And the Industrial Revolution was between about 1760 and 1830 – so about 70 years.  So the time the US spends on porn is the equivalent of about 2 ¼ Industrial Revolutions.
That is a lot of friggin time.
This doesn't even include porn DVDs.
I didn’t even both to look at Facebook, but I am sure that is even more of a time spend. 

I understand averages, and that time spent will vary.

As a sociologist, I understand that porn does have societal benefits.  It can reduce certain sexual crimes... and it can meet sexual desires that are not met in relationships thereby preventing divorce, etc etc etc.  I was in gender/sex studies - I am not oblivious to rhetoric on both sides.

However, you cannot deny that 163 years is a lot of time.  And you cannot deny that people can likely be doing better things with their time.
All of this begs the question, which we must ask… what else could we have been doing with that time?
Talking to our families?
Building something?
Creating something?
Helping someone?..........

Think about it.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

On forgiveness...

On Forgiveness…

Task one: housekeeping.  I am going to be honest here – I started this blog for self-affirmation.  I started when I was in a transitional period in my life, and I needed something to make me feel good.  Almost a year later, I am at a different place and the blog has morphed into something else.  Our church talks a lot about doing things to glorify God – and not yourself.  I feel as if this blog has morped into that.  I am not saying “Listen to me because I have all of the answers from God” because I DO NOT.  I am not saying “I know how to do everything – follow me!” because in the context of an entire life I know very little.  What I am trying to say, is that lately I feel called/forced to write about topics that do not really benefit me.  I feel a different urge to write about topics that can help other people.  I feel like what I am supposed to write about is topics where I have struggled and/or failed, and the lesson I learned.

Task two: blog.

This is about to get real personal.  If you don’t like heavy topics click to something else (click here for happy kittens).  It will also end on a positive note.  So – heavy then positive.

Perhaps the greatest failure in my first marriage (I’m divorced and now remarried) is that I was not very forgiving.  My ex-husband would fail me in some way, and I would not forgive him.  This led to anger and resentment – and obviously – a marriage that did not work.  In my defense, the marriage needed to end (more on that some other day).

Ok – deeper story.

When I was about six years old, I was molested by my babysitters.  The babysitters were about twelve and ten.  Eventually, my parents found out.  The police were involved.  The court system was involved.  Lots of counseling was involved.  Our entire family was hurt.

For years I was embarrassed by the event.  I felt like it was my fault.  I felt sad.  I also felt a lot of anger towards the babysitters.  When I was sixteen years-old I was sitting in a counselor’s office telling her about the event.  The counselor said to me “I would bet anything that those girls were being molested in their own home – probably by their mother or father.”

That day, I began to forgive the people that had molested me.  There are lots of terrible things in this world.  Being molested by your babysitters is a terrible thing.  However, I can imagine very few things that are worse than being molested by your parents.  That day, I saw that the people that hurt me did so because they had been hurt too.  That day, I realized that the people that hurt the most people……… are usually the ones that have been hurt the most by others.   

Forgiving others does not mean that we condone their behavior or continue to endure it.  It means that we choose to let go of the pain a certain behavior has had on our lives.

When I scroll through Facebook or when I talk to people I know, I hear from lots of people that have been hurt.  I know they have been hurt, because they write about being angry and post pictures about how they will never trust anyone.  I know they are feeling pain because they tell me they are bitter and angry.  I listen to this pain, and I literally cry.  I cry because I imagine that the pain they are feeling is crushing their lives.
For years, I held onto the painful things my ex-husband did to me.  Lately, I have started to forgive and let that go.  I let it go, because if I do not it will kill me.  It will turn me into someone who is angry and bitter.  It will kill my new marriage.

The Bible tells us that we are to treat others as we want to be treated.  If I never err or fail, than I never need to forgive.  However, I am human and I mess up A LOT.  If I am ever going to have any type of enduring relationship I will need to be forgiving, so that the other person can (hopefully) forgive me when I fail (which I will).

The Bible also tells us that we do not forgive others – we will not be forgiven by God.  I am not saying “Forgive others or you don’t get the ticket to heaven,” because I don’t think that is what that passage is saying.  I am saying that if you do not forgive others you will never have an understanding of Grace, and what it is like to be forgiven.  And if you never know Grace… well… then what is the point?

I cannot make someone else forgive what another person has done to them.  But I can promise you that if you do not practice the act of forgiveness, it kills you from the inside out.  When we hold onto pain, it crushes us.  When we choose to feel pain instead of forgive, it kills us from the inside out.

For me, forgiveness also takes time.  When I was sixteen, I started forgiving the people that molested me.  But to this day, I continue to say to myself “God, I forgive them.  God, help me forgive them.”  But a lot of the pain has passed, and now I wish the girls and their family well.  I hope they are happy.  I hope they find love and peace.

I have started to forgive my ex-husband.  He hurt me terribly.  But if I want to move on in my life, I have to let go.  So I pray “God, help me be forgiving.  Help me let go of this pain.”  The pain has started to pass.  I wish my ex-husband well.  I hope he is happy.

And I pray, God – let me see where I am holding onto pain.  Let me see where I have not been forgiving.  Help me to let go of the things that bind me – so I can move forward.  So I can live. 

It takes time.  It takes patience.  It takes LOTS of effort.  But, for me, it has been worth it.  There are still days I struggle with what happened to me when I was a child.  There are movies I can never watch and news stories that shut me down.  There are days I cannot stop crying, and days where my husband cannot touch me.  But if I can forgive people the hurt me so deeply – I can forgive anything…………. and you can too.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

On coping with this depression...A guest post...

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I cope with depression.  I told my husband that I really did not want to write the post, because it felt incredibly personal.  However, I wrote it because it seems selfish not to share something that might help other people.  I then told my husband that if one person might be helped by sharing (gosh, that sounds cliche, but whatever) that the whole post would be worth it.  After I wrote, I got a few responses from people.  I cried as I read the words people sent to me about what they were dealing with.  

What brings me to this post, is that one of my dear friends requested to share her experience dealing with depression.  Bri and I met in grad school and have stayed in touch as we have celebrated getting jobs, getting married, buying houses....  We have also called each when we need help - like when I called a few weeks ago after a slight panic attack (thanks again for talking me through it).  So here are the wonderful words of a dear friend.  Honestly, she does not share very personal details like this to strangers very frequently.  So the fact that she was willing to share so much of herself means a lot to me.  I hope it is helpful.

On coping with this depression: A guest post from Bri...

After reading Steph’s great post on how she copes with depression I wanted to share some of my own ways of coping. She was nice enough to allow me to post that here on her blog (thanks, Steph).

I was around 2nd or 3rd grade when I started to realize I saw the world differently than others. By middle school I was diagnosed with depression. That was over 15 year ago and while I continue to struggle I also continue to survive. Despite years of self-harm, sever depression, endless anxiety attacks, and suicide attempts I am still alive. Here are some my coping strategies.

I Write

I began writing when I was about 12 after my therapist encouraged me to keep a diary. Though I never stuck with keeping a diary I did learn to write when I am overwhelmed. No matter where I write- on a napkin, on a post-it, in an unsent email, in a Goggle Doc-  it gives me a chance to get out of my head and sort through my thoughts and feelings. When something is bothering me my mind clouds and whirls with information. Writing gives me a chance to piece out each of my thoughts so I can see them and piece the parts I need together. I often find that writing in itself is enough. Sometimes, it gives me a sense of validation for my feelings. Sometimes, it provides answers. Sometimes, it just gives me a few moments to cry and let it all out. Sometimes, I use it to communicate by sharing my writing with others. No matter what the outcome writing has become one of my greatest coping tools.

I Try to Know Myself

When it comes to keeping relationships, despite my depression, I find knowing myself and my depression are key. I know that if I don’t get sleep I cry, if I don’t eat I yell, and if I don’t go out I withdraw.  Because I know getting out of bed is one of my biggest struggles when I’m depressed I schedule things in the morning that make me get out of bed.  I have also  learned to recognize when my emotions may not match the situation (at least from others perspective). I don’t ever attempt to change my emotions but I do recognize it. That way if someone comments on it I don’t get offended because I already know. I recognize when I am depressed and need people around or to be out. Even if a big part of me is saying “don’t get out of bed” I know that I HAVE to get out of bed. I know that if I want to live, if I want to smile, I need to try to keep moving.  It all starts with knowing me and recognizing my own needs.

I Express My Needs

Since I “know myself” I also know my triggers and let others in on them so they can help me avoid them. So, when I yell my friends they normally pass me a cracker rather than engage in an argument with me (thus avoiding loads of useless drama). My husband has almost literally dragged me out of bed because he knows that I only get worse when I stay there. At the time I was not happy with it but he knew, because I told him, that it wasn’t good for me. He cooks me dinner and make sure I eat because I have told him how important that is to prevent me from picking stupid fights. Remember, those around you are not mind readers but they probably do want the best for you. So, if you can tell them what you need you could all be better off.

I Remember My Support Network (Even If I Don’t Use It)

A support network is something that Steph mentioned but to me it is very different since I don’t really utilize my support network, other than my husband. But I do remind myself that there are people who love, care, and root for me. When I was 16 I lost a close friend to suicide and as I watched those around him grieve I realized that everyone has people on their side who love and care about their continued well being, even me. I focus on those I love the most and remind myself that they need me in their lives just because I’m me. Sometimes it may be advantageous to ask your support network for help but remember you don’t have to, just remember they are there.

I Found a Hobby

Oh, hobbies. I remember when I was young being told over and over to find a hobby and it always fell on deaf ears. I never understood why a hobby would help. Now that I have one, I get it. A hobby can keep you active and engaged as well as help you feel productive. I was lucky to find a physical hobby. Steph didn’t mention it in her coping blog but she is an avid exerciser. She said to me once “now that I exercise if I go a day without it I just feel blah. You know what I mean?” Yes, yes, Steph, I know what you mean. When you are physically active  your body naturally produces “happy chemicals” (endorphins). It takes awhile but eventually you crave the activity because of those endorphins. Most of us don’t really notice the significance of physical activity until we do it for a while and stop. But whether or not you notice it, it’s still happening, and it has saved my life.

I Recognize When I Need Help

Sometimes shit is just too much. As Steph mentioned, none of us have it all figured out. When I find I’m really stuck, I get help. Steph talked about how hard that can be. It can also be expensive but I’ve decided my happiness is worth a lot more than a new pair of jeans. It can also be hard to find the right person that you can openly talk to. When I first started therapy and was about 12 and I went to at least 5 different therapists before I found someone that I would go back to. In the end that person helped save me so it was worth the trouble.

I Took Anti-Depressants

Drugs are not for everyone but I feel the need to touch on the topic since they did play a role in my coping. I was on antidepressants for 10 years. I fully believe that they are a big piece in me making it through what I hope to be the hardest times in my life. I lived through my parents’ divorce, death of people close to me, moving away from family, getting bullied, losing friends, lots of heartbreaks, and so much more (you know, like, being a teenager). All of that was hard but I know it would have been harder and possible unbearable without medication. Again, this in not for everyone, but if you are to the end of the line it may be worth talking to your doctor. Just like finding a good therapist this can also be a challenge. My medication and dosage was changed so many times I couldn’t keep track. But eventually I found something that worked and it helped me get to a better place with myself.

Coping with depression is different for everyone. Like Steph, I am not an expert or medical professional. Everything above is based on my experience alone. I hope that sharing my coping strategies will help someone with their own personal struggles. 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

On losing my religion...

One of my best friends once told me that I am the person she calls when she wants to know whether she is being rational. Whenever I take a personality test, I am fifty/fifty on most traits – except one.  I have an incredibly judging personality.  That does not mean I am evil and judgmental.  It means that when a decision needs to be made I look at the pattern of facts and make a rational decision. 

For the last five years of my life I have worked in a research-oriented role.  In my life, I have interviewed over 100 people, conducted over 100 surveys to approximately 10,000 people, and pulled Nielsen (look it up) panel data for the largest cereal producer in the world.  I have then used data from those experiences to help people make decisions.  I have helped companies decide what worker policies to implement, and I have helped a University decide whether to start a degree program.

On the other side of that – I am also a Christian.  Because I am Christian, it means that I believe in God and that God sent his only son to die so that my sins could be redeemed.

We live in a highly rational world.  I know this because – in every job I have ever had I am usually the most rational person in the room.  I seldom make purely emotional decisions.  So the fact that I have such a tremendous faith in God seems strange to many people.

The thing is, and I don’t know how else to say this, I think the idea that people put so much faith is science is completely idiotic.  Sorry to break hearts here, but science and the scientific process are incredibly flawed.  Of course, in a business setting I find the rational thought process better than the “I feel this way” process.  The thing is, I have never worked for a company that did not have data that was somehow flawed.  And I have never worked for a company that has not asked me to lie about my data.  And I have never worked for a company where I have handed someone honest data – only to find it was not used – or it was manipulated.

The scientific process – this rational thing – this thing that people think is SOOOO awesome is – in all of my experience – quite flawed.  This also exists in academia.  I have seen grad students and professors lie about their research in hopes of getting published so they could get jobs or higher positions.  This scientific process will always be flawed because it is run by humans, and human beings are always flawed.

Max Weber is one of my favorite philosophers.  Quite a few decades ago he wrote a lovely piece called “Science as a Vocation.”  The main point of this work was to discuss the ups and downs in life as an academic.  However, in that piece he also discusses two important concepts: rationalism and mysticism.

In society (and I won’t get into the whys –because that is a dissertation) we have come to value rationalizing everything.  By that, I mean we apply the scientific thought process to everything, and thereby try to break down everything in order to understand everything.  We no longer have to wonder “Why is the sky blue?” because science has broken that down.  We no longer have to ask “What causes cancer?” because we have answers to that.

The thing is, once you break down everything you are left with…. Nothing.  For years of my life I was only rational.  I broke down everything.  If you gave me a problem or question I could break it down to its core.  Trust me – I can break it down.  The tragedy of rationalism, is that once you break everything down and are left with nothing, that is what you feel.  You feel nothing inside.  You feel empty. 

That emptiness, is where Weber enters in the concept of mysticism.  Weber argues that the only thing capable of filling the emptiness left by rationalism is the mysticism of religion.  Where the scientific thought process breaks down and leaves empty, the mystery of religion fills up and attempts to make whole.

The thing that I get angry about, that I rarely hear people mention, is that rationalism or the scientific thought process came around long after religion.  This means that Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity have been rocking around the block long before humans dreamed of this thing called science.  To me, the development of science does not invalidate religion – nor does the longer history of these religions invalidate the beauty of science (I mean – I am a scientist by training).  However, these things must be understood within their development.

The hardest thing I hear from people is the scientific method applied to a religion.  “Well, I just can’t believe in God because I can’t know.” 

Well – guess what silly pants – I am in science all day – and if you knew how flawed it was you would not believe in that either.  Further, you are applying a new age thing (well, newer in comparison to most religions) to something mystical that was never meant to be broken down.  If you continue to break down what was meant to be mystical you will never get an answer. 

That is where I find my faith.  My God exists at end of a scientific process that cannot be explained.  My God exists in a world where I see how flawed everything is, but how hard we all try.  My God lives and breathes at the end of a rope called the scientific process.  A rope which people tie to a religion, because they do not understand history, and process, and what happens when you lose everything. 

For years I was an atheist.  By atheist, I mean I hated all religion.  I hated Christ, Christians, God, Buddha, and anyone who had a faith.  I had put all of my faith into other things.  But then – one day – I lost everything.  Everything I had put all of my faith into was gone.  I lost friends, felt like I’d lost family, felt like I’d lost everything.  Everything I had was gone.  Everything was broken down.  And when it all broke down, all that was left was God.  God was and will always be the one thing I can never explain.  As hard as people want to try, they will never be able to explain God either – and that is the entire point.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

On how I cope with this depression...

Sooo…. Here’s the thing....

I do not enjoy or like talking about the depression I have experienced in my life, or that fact that I have tried to kill myself.  Depression and suicide are not simple and easy topics for me to discuss openly, and I still worry about being judged. Also, I usually do not put up blog posts within days of each other.  However, something happened recently.  The same sort of thing happened that caused me to write my first post on depression.

A few days ago, a sweet person I know (pseudo) named Damon had a meal with my husband and I. During that meal we discussed our struggles with depression.  Damon discussed his recent bout with seasonal depression.  My husband (who gave me the okay to write about this) discussed being the first person in his family to openly talk about having and dealing with depression.  I discussed having depression for about fourteen years, and the coping techniques I have learned along the way.

I told my husband I wanted to re-post the entry I had written.  He responded with, “You should write a new one.”  I am writing a new one.  I am not writing it because I particularly want to.  I am writing a new post because for some strange reason God has spared my life.  The love of God has overcome what should have been my death.  To not be thankful for the re-gift of my life and to choose not to share my experience would be selfish. 

My first post on depression was in October of last year.  In my first post I mentioned a few things I do to deal with my depression.  I mentioned that I: 1) admit that I have a problem, 2) accept help and 3) understand that I cannot do this alone.   

After the conversation with Damon, I wanted to write about other things that I have done throughout my journey with depression*.  Writing this now is hard for me, but whatever... okay.... just go......

First, I have made it through the darkness and come out alive.  The darkest day of my life was the day where I honestly believed that death and nothingness would be better than living.  The weeks that followed my suicide attempt totally sucked.  I was eighteen, scared, alone and terribly sad.  That was almost ten years ago.  I made it.  I overcame my darkest day, and I know throughout the depths of my soul that I can always keep going.  That is how we get through life – the only way – we just keep going.

Second, our society can kind of suck at finding fast help for people with depression – but good help is out there if you look.  A few months ago (before we were married) my husband was looking for a mental health counselor.  He was not suicidal, but just needed help.  We had to call the insurance company once to get a list of covered counselors.  When that list of six didn’t answer, didn’t call back or had no appointments – we had to call the insurance company back to get a second list of people to call.  After we got through the second list a nice guy answered and said he could help.  I would say this experience was an anomaly, but I have been around the depression block and a lag time in finding care seems to be standard.  The good news is, every time I have sought out help – I have found it.  I have never reached out for help and had my hand slapped.  Help is there.  If you need it, you can find it.

Third, it is okay and necessary to reach out to ask for help, but you cannot expect that the person that reaches back can make decisions for your life.  I once saw a counselor when I was feeling suicidal.  Half-way though our session the counselor stopped me mid-sentence to say “You can do this.  You have the power not to hurt yourself.  No one else can do this for you.  Only you.”  Until someone said those words to me, I had never thought them.  I never realized that I did not have to be a victim, I have power over myself and my thinking, and I have the power to make good decisions for myself.

Forth, it is so important to have a good support network.  I wrote about this one before – but it has been my saving grace.  I believe that we experience God through other people, and when I have been down and dumpy – people have been there to help.  Finding a good support network has taken me some time and effort.  Case in point… I use to be (emphasis on use to be) friends with a married couple, where the husband was an aspiring counselor who had never experienced mental illness a day in his life.  Now, I am not saying you need to experience an illness to have sympathy for a person.  But I was talking to the couple about my experience with mental illness and the husband proceeded to dump words and phrases on me that were ignorant, alienating, and altogether just plain shitty.  From that experience, I learned to create a good support network.  I learned the value in picking good friends.  I also learned the value in getting rid of not-so-good friends.

Fifth, it is important to do things for yourself.  After a first counseling session, I once had a counselor say to me, “And what are you doing to feed your soul?”  I was so dumbfounded by the question that I became offended.  That following week I couldn’t get the question out of my head, and I quickly realized… I was doing nothing to feed my soul.  I was doing nothing for myself.  So I made a list of stuff I wanted to do, and I started doing it.  I started baking, I started going to church, I started taking walks, I started a little blog.  Doing things for myself has helped me find value in the person God created me to be.  I don’t need to be better than anyone else, because there are tons of people that are better than me at everything.  I don’t need to be perfect, because that is impossible.  All I need to do is be myself, and feed the gifts God has given to me.

Sixth, I accept the fact that I do not have it all figured out.  I don’t know everything.  I never will know everything.  I have issues that come up all the time.  When they come up, I just go through it and figure it out.  I also accept the fact that change happens in a zigzag.  Every time I have wanted to change a habit, I start off great – then fall back – then get a bit better – then fall back – then do more – then fall back.   Making big changes in my life has rarely happened over night, and sometimes I do okay – then fail.  And whatever, that is okay.  I just keep moving.

Seventh - last - perfectly ... it must be said that.... you are loved.  You are loved beyond measure, despite what any person has ever told you.  Despite your faults, your sins, your past or your pain - God loves you.  God will always love you.  There is nothing you can ever do that will destroy that.  The love of God is stronger than anything we can ever imagine or dream.

·    * This post is about I did and what I have done to cope with my depression.  I am not a counselor or therapist.  I do not have formal training on depression.  If you have depression or a mental illness, I recommend seeing a trained professional first.  I hope that if you need help with depression, you use my words as a voice of someone who has found coping techniques to deal with a tough issue.  Do not use my words as your exclusive medical advice.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

On gaining weight...

When I started writing this blog, my intent was to write about things I had noticed were wrong in my life – that I hoped to make right.  My intent was to be honest about struggles I dealt with, and never represent myself as someone who does not have any issues (trust me, I have issues – just like everyone else).  My intent was to forward with the fact that when I have problems I have to find ways to address them - one day at a time.

Each year, when the New Year rings in, millions of people flock to gyms across the country in order to lose weight.  They join Weight Watchers buy Slim Quick.  However, when my New Year rang in I was moving in the opposite direction of weight loss.

The day after we celebrated the New Year, my husband sat me down and had a serious conversation with me about my weight.  He said that he loved me, but that he was worried about how thin I was getting.  He said that he loved to hold me, but that he did not like feeling my rib cage when he hugged me.  I might have just shrugged off his comments, but a few months prior one of my best friends had sat me down and had a similar conversation.  She said she loved me, but that she was worried about me.  She said she didn't like seeing my rib cage through my clothing.

Throughout high school and college I always thought that I was overweight.  At my largest, I was a size 16 and weighed about 190.  According to the BMI chart I was “obese.”  However, I never thought I needed to lose weight until I started dating a guy I will refer to as “jerkface.”

Jerkface and I started dating in college.  After we were dating about a year he told me that I was too fat, and that I needed to lose twenty pounds in order for him to keep dating me.  If I was dating a guy like that now, I would most likely kick him in his man parts, and tell him to stick where the sun don't shine.  Unfortunately, I was so desperate for affirmation that I started to lose weight.

Over the next few years I went from 190 pounds… to 140 pounds.  On a positive note, in addition to losing weight, I also dropped the jerkface.  While the jerkface was gone, the fear of not being loved had stayed.  Sadly, I hadn't really realized how embedded that fear was until my husband sat me down and asked me to gain weight.

I am writing this today because I bought pants for the first time in over a year.  That last time I bought pants they were a size 4, and I was ecstatic about my tiny frame.  Today, I fit perfectly into a size 8.  I don’t know how much weight I've gained, because I haven’t weighed myself in three months.  What is really sad to me, is that my brain is having a mini crisis about being a larger size.  My brain is telling me to go work out, to not eat so much, and that I need to slim down.  As I am freaking out, my husband’s request echoes through my brain.  As I am freaking out, I start crying when I have the thought that my nieces and sisters would grow up ignorantly believing they have to be thin in order for people to like them.

I would never say that I had an eating disorder, but maybe I just don't know what this is called???  I never fully stopped eating food, nor did I binge and purge.  I like food too much to never eat.  I lost weight because I became OBSESSED with working out and tracking my food intake.  If I went over 1600 calories a day I would freak out, and do a second intense workout.

Somehow, magically, I managed to gain weight.  How did I do it?  How did I gain  weight?  In order to gain weight, I had to do four things.  First, I had to start eating more food.  Instead of eating 1600 calories a day, I started eating closer to 1800 or 2000.  I stopped going hungry in between meals.  I started having healthy snacks.  Second, I had to stop working out so much.  Instead of doing daily doubles or seven days a week, I cut down to six (which I know is still a lot – but I have to start somewhere).  Third, I had to trust that the person I married would love me despite the size pants I was wearing (and trust me when I say that very few husbands mind it when their wives gain some cushion up top and in the back… especially mine).  My husband has been nothing but supportive, and tells me I am beautiful at least once a day.  Forth, I had to learn to appreciate the body that I have.  To me – the forth part is still incredibly difficult.  But I figure that if I couldn't love my body when I was a size 4 (which is by ALL definitions thin), then I will never love my body until I choose to start doing so.

I spent the last four years of my life believing that I had to be thin in order for people to love me.  That – was wrong.  I spent the last four years of my life slowly killing my body by not eating enough and by working out too much.  That – was wrong.

I have loving friends who accept me as I am.  I have a wonderful husband who is kind and supportive.  And fortunately, I have the chance to make this right.  One day at a time.