Paralyzed. I don’t know how else to describe the days I’ve spent this past week after declaring my plans to branch out with my own business. It feels like failure before I’ve even begun! I know exactly what steps I need to take, and I haven’t even leaned in those directions. Every reason I have is an excuse… and they’re all full of fear.
I couldn’t help but appreciate the alliteration when the thought struck me: The more perfection I pursue, the more I procrastinate. Maybe it’s fear of failure. Maybe it’s laziness. “I won’t do it justice, or I don’t have time to do my best,” I reason, so I don’t do it. It isn’t until I lower my unreasonable standards and take a shaky step forward that I finally see progress. It isn’t perfect, but it’s more than what it was before. Then I have to temper my tendency to nit-pick everything as its emerging. “Just close your eyes and take action, Bethany. It won’t be perfect, and you’ll live… And don’t listen to the asses that criticize your progress. You’re living!”
In the past five days I have yelled at both my kids, had a sobbing fight with my husband, reamed one of my best friends for her behavior toward one of her family members, got into one major and several smaller arguments with my manager, nearly took the head off one of my vendors at work, threatened to terminate every vendor working on my portfolio, sent an infuriated email to my school’s financial service office, and came unglued with an undertrained Target employee.
I have words. I’ve locked them away for five years. After months of spewing my raw soul onto paper, I could only wait for time to pass. It was the only thing left to heal me. I’ve only read through some of those words once or twice since then, but each time it was too soon. The pain was still too near. The pages singed my emotions. I’m still waiting for the sting to cool, and I wonder each year if I’ll ever actually forget.
Then I battle the fear of forgetting. What if I need that strength? I was blind before. What if I lose the sight I’ve gained? It’s all I have to show for what I endured.
I battle the fear of ignorance. What people don’t know can hurt them, and it does, every day. Am I supposed to share my words? I have more than enough of them. The material is yellowing on my shelves. But it’s ugly and dark. People don’t want to know. There are many subjects that people bravely come forward to share here in the 21st century, but this isn’t one of them. This one is locked away in secrets and rumors and whispers and scandals. It’s locked away in pride and shame, only fit to be heard by a jury of peers.
I battle the fear of flippant disregard. “That’s intense,” I imagine the response, barely a complete sentence. More than anything I battle the fear of questions. I’m afraid of the doubt of others. I’m afraid of being misunderstood. I’m afraid my heart and motivations and decisions will be scrutinized and criticized. I survived the worst thing that ever happened to me. “But couldn’t you have survived it like this?” might be the question that leads to my ruin.
As a life-long people-pleaser, I’m know no one will be pleased by my story, least of all me. No one will sleep better at night. These stories need a voice, but I’m afraid I don’t have the courage to see it through.
Warning: If you prefer to continue celebrating Easter as you always have, DO NOT READ THIS. I’m serious. This may completely ruin your day, especially if you’re a Christian. Read at your own risk of messing with your current paradigm.
I’ve been a Christian for 25 years. I grew up in the church, but I firmly established my own faith in God at a very young age. I heard a parable this past year that’s completely destroyed the idea of an “Easter Celebration.” I may not be telling it exactly as I originally heard it, but it goes something like this:
Imagine a family at home playing games when suddenly their home is invaded my a sadistic monster. He’s there to kill everyone, but the father somehow convinces the sociopath to leave his family alone. While the family watches, the father is tortured to within an inch of his life. To make it worse, the asshole tapes the whole thing and posts it on the internet. The father eventually recovers, but the video goes viral.
Now imagine this. To remind his family of how he sacrificed himself to save them, the family watches that viral video every year. And every year the father proudly stands by while they all weep and thank him for his benevolent endurance.
Now who’s the asshole?
Ever since I heard this, I’ve been completely horrified at the idea of attending an Easter service or, God forbid, an Easter production where they reenact the crucifixion. Ugh… and then to listen to someone say, “With every head bowed and every eye closed, is there anyone that wants to ask Jesus to come into your life?” My stomach is in knots just thinking of it. I think I’m going to be sick.
It’s the most twisted, manipulative, cruel and unusual way to “honor God” I can think of.
While I’m ruining Easter for you, let’s clarify a few things. The invader is not Satan. He has no power over God. He is not God’s antithesis. He is a created being. He tempted Christ to sin, but that’s all he could do. God does not have an exact opposite. He is perfect Light, and there is no such thing as perfect Dark. Dark does not have qualities that are all its own. It is only the absence of Light.
Sin is the enemy: Any act of free will that violates the will of God… the will of Love. It separates us from God because God is perfect Love and cannot be in the presence of imperfect Love without obliterating it. The only way for God to defeat this enemy was to “become sin” – to exist in a world where sin separated the creation from the Creator and to die as a sinner would… but without ever having sinned.
This is the “Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time” C. S. Lewis illustrated so poetically in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:
…when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.
The Table – the Stone Table in the story – represents the Law: The rules God explained to Moses so He, the Creator, could have relationship with his creation. When Christ died without sin, He defeated death and was resurrected. All that separated us from God was destroyed. No sin can keep Us apart. We are Whole again. We are Reconciled to the Creator.
But the world is fallen. Although sin is defeated, it still exists and all of creation is degraded by it. Until Christ returns to create a New Heaven and a New Earth, the Reconciled will have trouble. “But take heart,” Christ says, “I have overcome the world.”
I simply cannot liken this belief in God to the one of the benevolent asshole. They are so wholly different, that Easter has become a sickening reminder of how sadly we have chosen to show His creation how much He loves them.
So I’m having an Easter egg hunt with the kids today. Because it’s fun. I’m not going to stretch the truth and tell them we have eggs because it’s a symbol of the trinity. The plain and obvious truth is that eggs and rabbits are symbols of fertility, just like Christmas wreaths, and I like those too. I didn’t wake them up at five o’clock in the morning to attend a Sunrise Service, as if we’re worshipers of Ēostre – the goddess of the dawn.
I’m not going to celebrate Easter it by glorifying the crucifixion and telling people they should be grateful for it. Not any more. Easter is a celebration of fertility, not morbidity; it’s a celebration of Life, not Death.
I’m almost hesitant to post this on April Fool’s, but since I loathe practical jokes (when they’re played on me), I’m going to pretend it’s yesterday, which is when I started considering this post.
I had an amazing appointment with my naturopath yesterday. Let’s start off with the fact that he gave me a homeopathic remedy for my allergies that blew my socks off (or my nose out? that’s gross). He gave me the little bottle at the beginning of the appointment. My ears were itching, throat was raspy, and eyes were watering. A dropper-full of that formula and half-way through the appointment, I felt 90% better! He said continued use will make even more effective. Signed up for that!
After talking about the life changes I’ve experienced over the last few months he said he was going to do something he’s only done a handful of times in the last ten years of his practice.
He gave me three gold stars.
It sounds like a ridiculous, juvenile reward, but he was so proud to give them to me! I was just as proud to receive them.
The first star was for the fact that I admitted to needing help. I didn’t accept that clinical depression was simply my lot in life, as it is in my lives of my family members, and I should just get used to the idea. I didn’t throw in the towel and continue to watch myself slide deeper into depression and malnutrition and obesity.
The second star was for recognizing the unforgiveness in my life and not brushing it off as something that didn’t affect me. He said many Christians may see that forgiveness is needed, but they only pay it lip service. “I’m saved. I’ve forgiven. It’s done,” but when they’re in the same room with the person they “forgave” or they hear their voice, their physical reaction gives away their insincerity. Their hearts pound, their eyes narrow, their chests tense. They may have spoken the “magic words,” but their spirit is still starving for forgiveness, and their body is paying the price.
The third gold star was for taking steps to alter the course of my life. Three months ago I had barely enough weepy motivation to get through the day. Today I’m waiting on an acceptance letter to a university to finish my bachelor’s degree, I have a hearing date to gain Legal Guardianship of my goddaughters, I’m on the warpath to make a career move, and I’ve naturally stopped overeating (which, I don’t think I’ve mentioned before).
My heart sings more sincerely. I am transformed. I am mighty.
Three gold stars, justly won.
I woke up at 4:00 this morning with the most wretched pain in the middle of my torso. I was having trouble breathing it hurt so much. I didn’t know if I was having a panic attack, a heart attack, or some crazy bout with indigestion. Lying down made it worse, so I went with indigestion and didn’t call for an ambulance. God it hurt though. I broke out in a cold sweat twice. My neck and back were locked-up in pain. It took effort to calm my breathing and drink some water, but eventually the pain subsided. I emailed work and told them I was calling out for the day though. There was no way was I going to power through the workday with that kind of night behind me. I was afraid to lie down though, so I pulled my nightstand close to the bed and slept slouched over it for a couple hours.
I guess that’s what I get for taking a dose of one of those pain killers I was prescribed after my dental work on Friday. My mouth was throbbing last night, so I took one – ONE – The only one I’ve taken since Friday. I probably would have gone to the ER this morning, except that this has happened before. The last time I took pain killers I nearly blacked-out at work. Spike came and took me to the hospital. We thought I was having some kind of allergic reaction, but it was just dehydration and hyperventilation. My blood pressure is pretty low as a rule, so apparently if I add dehydration and narcotics to that, I’m a bit of a pansy and can’t do things like breathe real well and stand upright. Awesome.
Spike was really sweet this morning though. He stayed up with me and rubbed my back and made sure I was okay. He took the girls to school and let me sleep. He checked in with me periodically throughout the day too. I think it freaks out most husbands to see their wives in pain. Not being able to do anything about it must be debilitating. It’s no picnic for wives either. Staring into the puppy dog eyes of your husband when your body is hurting gives you a terrible heartache on top of it all.
I slept until almost 11:00 after waking up a few times from my arms and legs alternating between falling asleep and being rearranged in my slouched-over position. I stayed fuzzy through most of the day, maybe from the dose of narcotics, maybe from lack of coffee, but I took advantage of the sick day – a free weekday – and got some paperwork filed with the court. We’ll have our Legal Guardianship hearing for the girls in 60 days. Events from this past weekend have made the step necessary. We’ve been talking about it for a long time, but we didn’t want to rock the boat with the girls’ family. But boat-rocking be damned, it’s time. It’ll be two years in July since they came to live with us, and with both their parents living out of state, the girls simply don’t have the legal protection they need from the private custody agreement we have with their mom.
Their dad isn’t going to make it easy though. He’s made that very plain. This morning could have been a panic attack just from the possibility of facing him in court. He can’t win, but he can make our lives hell in the process. My vehement prayer is that he simply won’t show up, that he will fold and walk away like he always has and will leave us all in peace. I hesitate to write any of this because I know everyone has their own idea about legal proceedings and child custody battles and parental rights, and I’m not going to defend our case here. Don’t be surprised if I delete your discouraging remarks. [This is not an equal-opportunity-to-take-a-shot-at-me blog.]
Those who believe in me, please pray for us. It’s going to be a very long 60 days, and it may be longer still. I need my body and my mind and my emotions to hold up under the pressure. I’m finding it hard to have courage. I’m afraid of failing this process. I have no reason to be afraid. Our case is solid, but where children’s lives are at stake, there will always a mother-bear raging fear that will blindly tear anyone apart that dares to threaten them.
“No, no, no, no.”
I feel like complete and utter garbage. I woke up this morning with a terrible taste in my mouth, my stomach was in knots, and all I could think was, “It’s not working. My brain pills have failed and I’m doomed to be depressed forever.”
What a nice way to wake up!
But it was seven o’clock. I don’t wake up at seven o’clock on my own, so something’s got to be working there. I got out of bed, brushed my teeth, took a shower, got dressed, and felt a bit better. Taking care of myself: also something I don’t do on my own without a significant amount of willpower. By the time I poured my coffee I realized what was wrong. People get sick!
Yes, even the most perfectly balanced brain is not immune to all viruses. There are a couple doozies going around my office. Seems like half the staff was out last week, some for more than a couple days. I reached for the Echinacea and Vitamin C and handed out some immune boosters to my family. I still feel awful, but at least it’s not coupled with hopelessness.
What a drama queen.
I haven’t been motivated or inspired to write about much this past week. That might have been the start of my little trip to Doomville. “Why don’t I want to write? Am I still depressed?” I tried to reason that not everyone has inspiration every day, but the nagging feeling that my transformation might be a hoax left me uneasy.
It’s been three weeks. I suffered from undiagnosed, clinical depression my whole life, not knowing I could do anything about it. When I started this journey in December, I resolved to be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and all that good stuff. But the scent of depression is familiar now, and it burns my senses. I just need to remember that physical illness, with its sluggishness and fogginess can masquerade as a setback.
When children lie, parents get stressed out: “Don’t lie, just tell me the truth.” Children lie from fear and stress, just like adults. Children with trauma history lie out of survival. “If I don’t lie to you, then the worst thing that ever happened to me is gonna happen again.” Stress causes disordered thinking. “You are a threat to my survival.” Get your own state level stress in check. “You’re alright and you’re not going anywhere,” and then you walk away for a couple hours. “When you tell Dad a lie, it really hurts me, and I need you to know you can trust me and everything is gonna be okay.” The definition of discipline is to teach, not to punish. You’ll be creating a positive, repetitious experience. The security is in the relationship. – Why Kids Lie and How to End It Now by Bryan Post
I was at work for 11 hours today. When I finally got home I found out our younger goddaughter sat in detention all afternoon. She had all her reading points for the year stripped from her because she was caught cheating, taking tests for other kids and letting them cheat off of her. She’s been in constant trouble for lying this past year, but I didn’t get angry this time. Maybe I was just tired from a long day at work. Maybe I just wasn’t surprised that it happened again. Maybe those supplements are leveling out my brain chemistry, so I’m more level-headed. Or maybe I’ve finally realized that her lying is not a conscious decision meant to hurt me.
The two videos I watched from Bryan Post didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know, but it put all the pieces together. She’s afraid. Afraid of what? This time, I didn’t ask her why she lied. I didn’t ask her to tell the truth. I asked her what she was afraid of.
The kid that asked her to cheat is the second tallest in her class. She’s the second shortest in her class. It’s been awhile since the fourth grade, but I was the shortest then too. I remember feeling intimidated by taller kids. She didn’t say no. She took the reading test for him in the library and let the kids around them cheat off of her.
She’s grounded until she earns her reading points back, so she can get her “Sparthenian Reader” award again this year. Her only free-time activity will be reading. But she gets to have Sundays off. We’ve never given her a day off when she’s been grounded before, but she’s never been grounded for as long as we think it will take her to get her reading points back.
She was afraid we were going to tell her she couldn’t be friends with those kids anymore. I’d like to think we know better than that. “We’re not going to tell you that you can’t be friends with them anymore, but those kids are not your friends.” She understood the difference. Friends don’t ask friends to cheat for them. Friends don’t get their friends in trouble.
She’s never gotten in this much trouble at school before, but somehow I feel like I won today. I changed the way I responded to her lying. I built-up my relationship with her instead of tearing her down with consequences. I gave her hope instead of dread. I gave her tools to deal with bullies instead of grief for not standing up to them.