What is a reputation? If it’s good, you must work long and hard to maintain it, but if it’s bad, you can’t seem to shake it. Are people looking for the worst in us? And if that’s so, why? Do we feel better about ourselves and our junk if we can find fault in others? Do we want to save ourselves from being disappointed later when we find out that person with the good rep is actually human and has sin in his/her life? Do we just find it impossible to believe that anyone could be “good?”
What is your reputation? Good?… Bad?… Something in between? Does it depend on the crowd? Do you wish you could change it or is it something you have worked very hard to attain and you are proud of?
Women like to think that things are evolved enough that we can be strong, opinionated and confident and we will be respected in the same way most men are. I have found this to be mostly untrue in my relationships.
When I was a young girl I was always encouraged by my father to speak up, to believe in myself – he used to tell me he thought I had moxie. I would just soar when he told me that. When I looked up the definintion of moxie, it said something like, “force of character, confidence, determination, or nerve,” and I thought I was good, in some way. I remember feeling like I wasn’t just a big-mouthed, embarrassment of a daughter. I felt like my father really liked me and saw me and my mother just wished she had gotten a different model.
Of course, now that I’m a mom and I’ve had a child or two with “moxie,” I understand that my mother was trying to temper my big mouth and soften my edges a bit. Growing up as an only daughter with my personality was not easy on my mom or this little brash girl. I think that because my immature self believed that she was ashamed of me and wanted me to be like almost every other docile young lady we encountered, I fought even harder to be who I believed I was meant to be.
My dad was my hero. He defended and protected me so much when I was a child, that my brothers resented me terribly. I was such an spoiled little girl and I played it for all it was worth. This is the part of my reputation that I have a hard time shaking with some people…
When I was around 13 years old, I went to a slumber party at one of my friend’s houses. We ate, watched some t.v., giggled a lot, and then later when we were all in our pajamas and nestled in our sleeping bags, the young hostess began telling us that the reason her father wasn’t home was because he had moved out after her sister had accused him of molesting her. Soon, almost every girl at the sleepover shared a similar story that they had either heard from others or knew of within their extended families. My entire world was shaken. I knew some of the people in these stories. I just couldn’t wrap my head around family members doing such things. I don’t think I slept a wink that night. Getting home the following morning was the most important thing on my mind when the sun came up.
My mom was appalled. I don’t think she really knew how to handle it. She asked me to stop talking about it and told me that I wouldn’t be allowed to go over to that friend’s house anymore. When I saw my dad later that afternoon, I was disturbed. I remember withdrawing from him and I remember him pulling away in turn. I wanted him to assure me that fathers didn’t do such things. I wasn’t sure if my mother had told him about what had happened and I didn’t feel like I could bring it up again. Over the next several months my relationship with him became more and more distant. I don’t believe our relationship ever recovered after that. So, there I was a teenage girl whose brothers disliked her, whose mother didn’t know how to deal with her and whose father seemed lost to her suddenly. All I seemed to have left was myself and my humbled moxie…
I found out when I was in my early 40’s that my dad had never forgiven me for treating him the way I had. He told me that he felt I had ruined our relationship forever. It took me a while to work through all of that in my heart. It must have been difficult to have the adoration of your only daughter and then feel as if she suspected you of something so horrible with no personal evidence. Of course, I didn’t suspect him of anything, I was just a very young girl whose world had been terribly shaken and needed the reassurance that this wasn’t going to happen to me.
My reputation with my family of origin hasn’t changed much. I think they still think I’m a self-centered brat. It’s ironic how when you know people see you negatively and have probably described you that way to others, you seem to stumble all over yourself trying to prove you haven’t been that person since you grew up. The result is usually that you seem like a bit of an imbecile and convince no one of anything good.
The thing is, if this was an acquaintance or something, it would be easier to change or walk away, but since it is your family of origin, you are forced to deal with it whenever you spend time with them during holidays, weddings, funerals. Spending time together is something you look forward to, but there is still this inward battle going on. Even if you have a career where you are very respected and friends who know and like your updated self, even if you are nothing like that self-centered child (most of the time) in your adult, “I have several children, a spouse and many things I care for immensely (including them),” life, somehow you are reduced to being squeezed into that old uncomfortable skin, trying to get them to see you for who you really are now instead of the child you were decades ago.
Do you apologize for that old you that you were decades ago? Do you simply chalk it up to childhood? How many years need to pass before we are able to let it go? Do we just grin and bear it, being thankful for the slight improvement each year – otherwise known as the “sweep it under the rug” approach? Obviously, I don’t know what the universal answer is. I do know that we want to be seen. We want to be heard without judgement and with love. I’ve seen the damage sweeping things under the rug can do and it ain’t my drug of choice!
How to get from point A to point Z is the messy part that I don’t claim to know how to navigate.
I’ve decided to do the best I can with my own family. I try to keep the lines of communication open and speak unconditional love to all of them – again, this is not doormat love, but it is not an easy road to travel. I stumble around in the dark a bunch and I mess up more than I care to face, but love covers a multitude and grace is there for the asking, so I hang on to these promises and I punt with all of the sincerity I can muster…
And I wait…
Have you ever had someone share their story with you and you are just blown away?! I’ve had people tell me a piece of their history and I can’t even believe that s/he is still standing. I’ve been overwhelmed lately by the stories of broken relationships others have shared with me. I am always struck by the different reactions and choices people make when dealing with this. I know that every situation is unique and comes with it’s own (usually very complicated) baggage/history, so I don’t mean that I’m surprised when every person I meet hasn’t made the same choices. I’m moved by the people who are “in” no matter what and by the people who have chosen to draw their line firmly in the sand.
How do we find that healthy, “in His will” path? I know plenty of folks who believe that in family relationships you should always extend grace – which can mean being an emotional and/or physical punching bag to another family member with no consequences to “slugger” at all. Sometimes s/he isn’t even aware of the pain s/he is causing because the family dance is such that no one ever confronts “slugger.” I know this can be considered unconditional love and very Christ-like. I’ve known people who have ended some of their closest family relationships because they lost all hope for any change and felt a part of their lives or others in their lives were being destroyed by continuing. I’ve known families where everyone is in everyone else’s business ALL of the time. I’ve known families where there is almost no relationship between anyone or where the family has been split into two camps.
Unfortunately, I know of very few families that get along beautifully – enjoy each other’s company, talk about things openly, and always want the best for each other. Lots of families look that way from the outside, but not so many are once they are truly known. I have a friend whom I have known for years and she has that kind of family. They have family vacations every few years and everyone does all they can to make it. They have dealt with some big issues, such as drug abuse, infidelity, cancer, like most of us. They work through it with honesty, accountability and grace. My friend has shared with me how difficult this has been at times and I am always drawn to her stories. She has shared with me when she has overstepped, when she’s had to step back and take some time, and when she has determined to be all in even when she didn’t want to be. She has shared with me how frustrating it is when others simply won’t believe her about her wonderful childhood. How sad is that?…
I want this for my family. Well, really, who doesn’t? I used to think there was a magic recipe for happy families – a “One Size Fits All” – and if I could just find it, then life would be a breeze! I tried to be as Christ-like as I could and I was confident that everyone else would see my sincerity and my life story would be wrapped in a pretty bow. I forgot how much I mess up and overlooked the part about freewill of others. Honestly, I was a bit peeved when everyone didn’t just fall into line and help me keep the fairytale alive…
I still get my feelings hurt when I believe I’ve gotten a bad wrap. I go back over all of the reasons that the other person shouldn’t see me that way and make a list of the loving things I’ve done in my relationship with that person. Sometimes I’m wrongly accused, sometimes I don’t even begin to know what the heck I’ve done and sometimes I have offended, plain and simple – NO excuses. One of my favorite and least favorite things in my life is making things right when I’ve screwed up. Gosh, that moment when you realize what you’ve done to someone else and that you have to make amends just sucks! Especially if it’s someone you don’t have a close or completely trusting relationship with… I always try to go to Him and ask Him to humble me (after I throw a little self-righteous tantrum or two and try to justify why I shouldn’t have to humiliate myself in front of HIM/HER!). That is one of the moments I am absolutely sure He is real and loves me. The work He does in me is a complete 180! He changes my heart and compels me to go to the person I’ve offended. I wish it always went well when I did. It doesn’t… But I always know when I’m completely where I need to be based on my reaction. If I hear the other person’s heart without thinking first of my own pride, then I’ve done what I was supposed to do and I can be at peace with the idea of this taking longer than I had hoped to heal or accepting that it may never be worked out and wrapped in that pretty little bow. Of course, this takes time. In the midst of emotion, I usually need time to sort it all out.
I’ve had terribly unhealthy relationships that I stayed in for years for a variety of reasons. I’ve had wonderful relationships that I’ve messed up because I didn’t believe I deserved that kind of love and loyalty. I have relationships that are all over the spectrum at this point in my life. I’ve walked away from some toxic relationships after doing everything I could do to make things better. I’ve worried that I’m not showing my children unconditional love when I’ve made this choice because sometimes, in the midst of emotion, I forget that unconditional love doesn’t mean being a doormat. Walking away doesn’t mean I don’t want the best for them and it does not mean that I don’t love that person deeply.
I think what has stayed with me most as people share their stories with me is how much some people pour of themselves into others. I am often mourning what others have lost and how heavy their burdens are. I am moved greatly by the ability of people to endure. So many of us carry such heartbreak around with us and sometimes life just doesn’t have a path for resolution anytime soon. For me, the acceptance of this has brought me BIG peace. It doesn’t mean I’ve given up on anything except the idea of things always working out like they used to on my favorite weekly shows when I was a child in 30 – 60 minutes. I’m learning to follow His lead in my relationships – not a “one size fits all” recipe, but a “size for everyone” recipe. It’s not always easy to swallow, but it sure is better for me.
Ah, Michigan! We’ve been here for just 2 days. It’s amazing how much a person can fit into such a short period when that’s all one has to work with. It makes me wonder why I usually accomplish SO little in my regular day-to-day life. Of course, not having to go to work definitely frees up a little time…
I met my niece yesterday. Perfection… It still amazes me how deeply you can love someone you just met – someone who can’t talk or even hold up her own head for more than a minute. I completely adore her. She is such a beautiful blend of my brother and his gorgeous wife. She is so well-loved and that just makes my heart sing. So many things in this world are highly valued, but this: family/love/relationship, it’s the THING. It’s what we yearn for above all else, even when we don’t know what it is we are missing.
So, I’m thankful that they let me hold her and spend time with their family. I’m thankful for friends that have given us a place to stay and make us feel so at home. I’m thankful for a big brother that makes time for us.
I also found out the morning that we left for Michigan that my aunt passed away. She was the aunt I was always closest to while growing up. We named our Hannah Elizabeth after her. I really love her. She gave me a picture when I was a girl of her Sweet Adelines singing group. All of the women had on these gorgeous blue dresses with feathery things in their hair. My aunt was breathtakingly beautiful. I remember feeling so special when she gave me that picture. I always knew she loved me. She was a gift to me growing up. Some of life’s junk in recent years caused us to lose touch until a few months ago. When I saw her I was a bit terrified that she would reject me. But true to form, she loved me. She hugged me and we told each other how much we love each other and then we spent the evening holding hands and being happy in the moment. Another gift from her and Him. I’m not sure if I can convey in written word how thankful I am for that time with her.
I want to be an aunt who communicates love to her nieces and nephews without condition. It’s harder now that I’m far away. Family dynamics get in the way sometimes. So, I pray, I love, I hope.
Michigan is always SO complicated for me. Never just a simple visit. So much baggage, history, emotion… The irony is that it isn’t really Michigan, it’s family/love/relationships – the THING that I long for.
Sunday morning… The wind is blowing, the sun is shining and we’re getting ready to get ready to go to church… My Honey and I have a heart-to-heart and I decide that what I really want more than anything for my birthday is for our family to gather at our home, eat, laugh and experience love – real love, the comfortable, joyful, teasing, reminiscing, comforting, supporting kind that is the rare and precious gift I have received from my Father in the form of my Honey, our kids – biological and in-love…
Our Banana-girl immediately tells me that she will do whatever I want. She and I make a list of what we need for a great yummy brunch. She rallies her dad and they go to the store. When I call our oldest, he is obviously tired and has to work later today, but he responds in just moments and tells me that they will be over in an hour. I am blessed beyond measure that he and my daughter-in-love make time for me at the last minute on a Sunday morning.
Once everyone is here, the rhythm of my family begins. Scott and Caleb are cooking at the stove, Bailey is baking cinnamon rolls, setting everything out on plates or anything else that needs to be done, Hannah is making Belgian waffles after she finishes cutting up all of the fresh veggies for the eggs, my Honey is washing dishes and doing general clean-up, while Aaron and his friend are eating Bailey’s cinnamon rolls fresh from the oven. I am wandering around, putting the occasional pepper grinder away or warming up the maple syrup… Mostly I’m just reveling in this moment and setting up my Pandora station – Great Outdoors Instrumental – because I know that today my children will put up with it for my birthday…
Does it get much better?… Honestly, if I found out that I only had a day to live, this is how I would want to spend it. I wish I could bottle this.
We talk about why I stopped going to Ponderosa and other “trough” restaurants twenty years ago because of Silence of the Lambs, how queasy Aaron also gets because of gory movies, and when Scott and my Honey met for the first time. We laugh and commiserate while we reminisce about pieces of our family history that would probably seem ridiculous to others. And I sit and cherish every moment because showing up is enough. I feel loved, accepted. My cup runneth over…
Peace… I remember when I first came to begin to know God. The difference I most felt in my life was this peace that I had never experienced before. I waited for it to end for quite awhile. It didn’t… I still had junk happen in my life that caused stress, but I also had this peace that was new and constant. It was incredible to me. It still is.
When I’m with my husband, our children and their loves, I am brought back to this. They center me and help me remember how blessed I am. Joy. Not always happiness, but always joy.
Now, I’m not trying to sound like that Christmas letter that makes out like my family is picture perfect – My kids are all youth group leaders, on the dean’s list, my husband received several promotions and raises this year and I am PTA President while remodeling our entire subdivision… (yes, you probably received one of those from me several years ago, but it will NEVER happen again).
We get mad at each other occasionally. We tease a little too much sometimes. We let others do more of the work and enjoy the bounty in spite of our laziness once in awhile. Sarcasm is a special talent in our home…
Grace. Love. Peace. Joy.
Today I am blessed with these things in abundance and I am in my 40’s…
Each year on New Year’s Day we take our family out to a movie and then we go out for Chinese food. This tradition began when our oldest two were just 3 years old. We either had them on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day opposite years and we wanted to make the latter something special for them when they were with us. In 2014 almost everything is open on NYD, but 25 years ago, the only restaurants that were open (besides fast food) were Chinese restaurants and it is my Honey’s favorite kind of food, so there you have it! As our family grew, it became increasingly difficult to find a movie that everyone would enjoy. There is a 7 year gap between the first two and the next one. We have 4 boys and one girl, who all have VERY different personalities. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Narnia movies have always been no-brainers for us and I was SO happy when a new one of those made my life easier. Although, the year Frodo’s eyes bugged out satanically when he saw the ring, I wasn’t so sure I had chosen a good movie for Aaron and Hannah who climbed on top of our heads in fear after Jordan and Scott whispered urgent warnings to us that that part was coming up – which we didn’t hear until it was too late. It still kills me that Caleb just sat through it with a smirk on his face!
This year we went to see “Saving Mr. Banks.” It was a tough choice. There wasn’t a clear-cut winner while I was taking votes and doing the research. I think we all love Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, but I was afraid it might be a bit girly for all of our men… My Honey watched and enjoyed a preview and it fit into our time slot, so “Saving Mr. Banks” was the 2014 NYD Winner!!!
Kind of exhausting… and charming… and fascinating to see how she had worked through her past by creating this lovely child’s tale. I’m sure it wasn’t a completely accurate picture of P.L. Travers. I’ve read several accounts about her life that show she had an adopted son who was a twin and who recently died of alcoholism. She was also confused sexually, having hetero- and homosexual relationships that were mostly unhealthy. Gosh! I wish that her life would’ve been like the movie in that she worked through her “junk” with her parents, and returned to England with a new lease on life.
I want that for her because I want that for me. I want it for the other people in my life who are striving like me to move on with their lives in peace even though some days just weigh you down with such grief. I love my heavenly Father and I know He loves me and most days I have such peace about that and it is enough. Some (rare) days I hit this wall that says, “They’ve never really loved you and you aren’t worth the fight,” and that knocks me off of my everything for just a while. I used to fight these days and believed that it meant I was right back where I used to be, living in the lie. When it happens now, I just allow myself the grief. I sit in it and move through it with Him and it’s okay. The lie is still the lie… and so is the truth.
I’m working to make a different story for my children. I’m still human and a product of my family of origin – the good and the bad. I make mistakes – too often. I work to remain humble in my relationships with my Honey and my children. Our family code is “Grace” and we strive to live by it. Defining it is not easy. We’ve come to believe it doesn’t mean that you are a doormat and can’t have healthy boundaries, but it does mean unconditional love and acceptance. It means we have to be very authentic with each other and that’s just uncomfortable sometimes. Occasionally, in my attempt to be authentic, I overstep my loved ones’ boundaries. Now and then, when my children make a critical observation about me, I want to shut them down and tell them to treat me with respect because I am their mother – but geez, who’s going to respect that kind of reaction? I’m still working on getting better at that one. It doesn’t fit into my perfect martyr mother picture of myself that I would like everyone to embrace… We try SO hard not to sweep our junk under the rug because we’ve experienced very painfully how that blows up in everyone’s face, that sometimes we over talk stuff that just needs to be put to bed and left alone. It isn’t easy, being transparent and choosing unconditional love. I’m sure our children will write blogs one day about how we messed them up… Well, truth be told, I’m hoping they won’t. That’s why I’ve chosen this road…
I’m going to be 50 in just 3 days.
Seriously… When the heck did THAT happen?! I can tell I’m starting to experience a bit of a mid-life crisis. I’m a bit unsatisfied with my life and how little it feels like I’ve accomplished. I can’t really discuss this with my Honey or our kiddos because they all feel this need to make me feel better about what I’ve done with my life and that is the LAST thing I want to hear right now. It feels like they’re patronizing me… in love, to be sure, but still, I don’t want to be made to feel better. I want to be heard. Acknowledged… I realize I have hidden behind some very legitimate looking excuses during much of my adult life in order to avoid falling on my face in a smelly pile of failure and now, I just keep thinking, “So, Tricia, how’s that working for you?”
Do you ever feel like you have all that you need and/or want – You know, that “My cup runneth over” feeling? When all of us are together – my Honey, our kids, the grandbaby – and everyone is getting along, there is this deep satisfaction and joy I feel overcome by. It just washes over me and I do everything in my power to just savor every moment because I know it will end. Someone will get angry, someone will let someone down or misunderstand someone or… Life is so busy that it’s hard to catch those moments, to make time for them is a constant struggle. Keeping the house reasonably clean, paying the bills, being a dedicated teacher, changing the cars’ oil, doing laundry, etc. – those things take most of the minutes from my day.
Then there are these other moments, usually in the early morning, when I wake up trying not to think/worry about all of the stuff mentioned above, and I start remembering that longing feeling to do something meaningful with my life. Not something that will make me famous or anything like that. I mean like REALLY being in His will and doing what He has planned for me. I want to know what that is because I am so sure that I have veered off the path SO far during the past 5 or 6 years that I feel overwhelmed by how long it may take me just to get back to “Point A.”
I know that I have helped raise 5 truly amazing people. I know that I am a very good teacher and I have touched many lives over the years. My husband would tell you that I am a wife beyond his dreams. All of that matters more than I can put into words. But there’s more. I know that there is because He put this longing in my being and I feel as if I will burst if I don’t start living in His will. This isn’t a feeling that suddenly appeared on the “approaching 50 horizon.” It’s been stirring in my soul for such a very, long time. I hid from it for decades trying to be a picture perfect Christian wife, mother (step and biological), daughter (in-love and biological), and friend. It’s a great way to look good and gain accolades, but He knows the truth, even when we’ve buried it SOOOOO deep that we believe the lie we are living in. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in being the Stepford family that when the ugly truth finally explodes all over the front yard and is headlined for the public, it takes a while to get back on our feet – heck, it takes a long time to roll over and even consider whether or not we even WANT to get back on our feet. No One can tell you that you will be thankful for the ugly truth being exposed
But, the truth is, I am thankful and would not go back to being Mrs. Stepford for all of the tea in China. I’m also lost in a way that is easy to live in much of the time. After having all of my junk exposed and feeling forsaken by God, I found myself utterly lost. I don’t trust myself completely, yet. I’m struggling to find Him again because the old way doesn’t fit me anymore and there’s so much to keep me busy that complacency is an easy friend. And, honestly, it’s been years… and I’m almost 50…