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Yes, that’s right, two posts in one day. Because it’s just one of those days.

The kind of day where everything feels like too much. The kind of day where our finances are stretched to the max despite our careful planning. The kind of day where the burden of my parents’ lack of financial planning is falling on their children, however indirectly. The kind of day where I so seriously appreciate my husband’s hard work and the income he brings, but the stuff to do around the house is piling up due to my own health issues.

Yesterday was a determined day. The health issues I’ve been having recently (which I’ll be seeing a doctor about tomorrow) are making a lot of things super-difficult, but I was determined to do things anyway so I set up dishes at the kitchen table, with a wash bin, a rinse bin, a dish drainer at the edge, and another bin on the floor to catch the water the drained from the dish drainer. And I’m going to do that again today. Because I will NOT be my parents.

But while I do that, there are other things piling up. More messes that I need to supervise my son in cleaning up. But he doesn’t understand “Mommy doesn’t feel well and can’t move that fast.” He understands Mommy is there to help him clean up his toys and his books, but he doesn’t understand that Mommy can’t chase him around the whole house getting all of them.

But I will not, will not, will not have a house that’s “messy just because of the kids,” or “messy just because I’m sick.” Because that’s what I grew up with. And it’s NOT going to happen to my children. They will not grow up believing everything is their fault. They will grow up knowing responsibility–you took it out, you put it away–but not being told that every general mess is their fault. Nor will they grow up believing that a gross, dirty house is just the way it should be. No. Not my children.

It’s one of those days. One of those days where I just want to cry and eat cookie dough and watch sappy movies. But I’m not going to. Because I am determined to be determined, even when I don’t feel very determined. I owe it to my children. More importantly, I owe it to the adults my children will one day be, and to the spouses they will one day have, and to my grandchildren, not to leave my children with the same emotional scars and baggage, the same sense of everything being their fault, and the same super-high learning curve of how to keep a reasonably clean–not necessarily spotless, but livable and sanitary–house for their families.

I’m writing this letter here because I need to write it somewhere, and cannot send it to the friend I’m writing it to. She once read this blog, and is still one of the very few people who know me and also know I write this blog. I very much doubt she still reads this, but on the off-chance that she does, maybe she’ll see this. Also, I link to an online store in this post. This is not a paid promotion, nor do I receive anything from the site or anyone else if you click the link.

Dear friend,

Yes, I still call you friend. Sister. Outside of my husband and children, you are still one of the most important people who has ever touched my life. And you’ve been on my mind a lot lately. Well, in all fairness, you’re on my mind at least some part of every day. So I make a point of praying for you at least once every day.

I miss you. And I still love you. That’s mostly what I wanted to say in this letter. I may not always understand everything you go through, but I mourn for you, for the pain and hardness you deal with. So much of it sounds so familiar, so much like the things I go through, but I know it’s not the same. I see that in how it affects your life.

I don’t know how you’re doing lately. I don’t have any right to know, I guess. But it does make it a little hard to know how to pray for you. At least God knows.

You know the expression “he’s dead to me”? Or she is, or whatever. Like if someone leaves a strict religious culture or something. In reality, I’ve heard of cultures like that that have actual funeral services, but in the movies it seems like it’s always the father figure just yelling in anger about how the child is “dead” and never speaking to them again. Well, the reality for me is that ever since you told me that I make your life worse, not better, I have felt as though you died. I mourn our friendship as much as I mourned the loss of my grandmother. I see reminders of you every day. I think of you when I’m glancing through Think Geek and spot the tin of Tea, Earl Grey, Hot that I’d always wanted to get you but never had money for. I think of you when I see the mug your mother gave me for graduation, the beautiful friendship box you gave me, all sorts of things. The friendship box is the most precious to me. And when I see these things, my heart wrenches, and I selfishly mourn my loss all over again. But I also pray for you.

The reality is much worse. In reality, if our friendship ended through death, I would have left only the hope of seeing you in heaven. And that’s a beautiful hope, a beautiful reality. But instead, our friendship ended through a . . . a cutting off. I don’t know how else to describe it. All I feel is that one of the most important ties in my life was suddenly and horribly severed. And I live with the knowledge that I could still see you, except that I can’t still see you. And in my selfishness, that hurts enough. But I also live with the fear that something might happen to you, that you might actually die, and I would never have gotten to speak to you again. Other than that brief conversation where I apologized and you apologized and . . . and there’s forgiveness but not complete restoration.

I’ll admit, this fear is a bit more forefront in my mind right now because of the recent suicide of Robin Williams after his battle with depression. But that’s not the only reason. It’s something I fear frequently. And something I write letters to you about sometimes. Maybe one day I’ll send one . . . but I doubt it.

I constantly wonder, knowing how many times you told me that you tend to intentionally push people away even though you don’t want to, how much you were really mad at me and how much you were testing and pushing me. I do know that in my attempt to express my own struggles in our relationship, that I think I misspoke and said things I needed to talk to you about but perhaps at a bad time to try to talk about it. And perhaps not in the most clear way of what I meant, either.

I’d promised you I would do my best to never let you push me away if you tried. But you said the one thing that I couldn’t resolve. You could tell me I’m annoying, and I’d strive not to annoy you. You could tell me you didn’t like me, and I’d strive to be more likable. You could tell me almost anything, and I would try to figure out how to be a better person. Not for everyone, mind you, but for you, almost anything. And you could definitely tell me that you were horrible, that you were no good for me, all sorts of things, and I would say I didn’t care, that we would work through it.

But what you told me is that your life was worse because of me. And I don’t know how to fix that. And if my presence makes your life worse, that’s that. I refuse to make your life worse. Even if I wonder almost every day whether you really meant it or not. I’d rather pray for you from a distance than be near you and risk making your life worse.

I talk to you almost every day too, you know. Argue with you. Not like real fights, but things that I think maybe you wouldn’t understand or agree with. I argue with you in my mind until I determine whether I actually know my own reasoning or whether it’s something I should give up on, or at least research more.

In reality, I should say I argue with the you I knew. It’s been too long, and for nearly the last year of our friendship I felt you slipping away already. I felt like you really didn’t know who I was and I really didn’t know who you were. A big part of that was my own fault too. You once expressed a fear that you would be left out of my life once I was married. I strove so hard to keep you included in my life with my family that I forgot to make sure I was still included in your life too. But the reality, the result, remains: we don’t know each other anymore. Even if our friendship is ever somehow restored, we’ll need to learn one another all over again. Because I know I’ve changed a lot from who you knew, and I’m sure you have too though I don’t know in what ways.

But I do know that you still struggle in darkness. I know you’re still in pain. And I don’t have to know that darkness and pain specifically to pray for you. And I don’t need to know all the specifics to still love you. And I do still love you and pray for you. And that’s what I want you to know.

With love always from your sister in Christ,
[you know who]

Willow tree

So I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed today and came across this picture:

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Don’t you love things like that? So nice and encouraging! In a two-sentence quip, they have told you that you’re fine just the way you are and made you feel better regardless of someone else’s cruelty to you. They’ve made your day better!

Well, maybe. I don’t know, maybe I’m being nit-picky here, but it seems to me like they just gave the entire internet a blanket statement that may not actually apply to, well, everyone on the internet.

For one thing, sometimes people say the right thing, but in the wrong way. For instance, a COH is often still struggling against the chains they were raised with–the chains of guilt over throwing so much as a meat tray or yogurt cup in the trash. The chains of desperately wanting a clean, organized house but never having been taught how to manage things to make it happen. Conversely, a COH can trade the chains they were raised with for new, opposite (but still binding) chains. Chains of refusing to ever keep a single thing that doesn’t serve a 100% distinct and immediate purpose (even if they later discover that maybe they did need that after all). Chains of being so terrified of ever having a house “like their parents’ house” that they clean compulsively, stress out over the slightest thing being out of place, and generally become unbalanced in the opposite direction of their hoarding parent.

So in either circumstance (or a combo platter–paranoid of having a house like their parents’, clean obsessively, wear themselves out, end up not doing enough for several days, and so the cycle goes–yeah, that’d be me), there may be occasion for a friend to speak up in an attempt to help the COH understand this area in which they need growth. And the words the friend chooses may not be exactly what the COH needs–especially if the friend isn’t also a COH. Outside perspective can be good, but can also be frustrating because they don’t really know what you’re dealing with or the building blocks in your life that led to it. BUT that doesn’t mean that nothing the friend says matters. Don’t throw the wheat out with the chaff, as it were. Even if they got frustrated and accused you of things that weren’t even applicable, don’t assume that nothing they said applies.

Of course, there are also circumstances where a friend might say exactly the right things, but the COH feels defensive anyway. Particularly if your whole life has been about trying to pretend there’s nothing wrong with you or your family. It’s easy to feel defensive. It’s also easy to say, “Hey, I’m not going to let someone else’s bitterness change who I am!”

But here’s the thing: maybe who you are needs some changing.

Now, I’m not saying you should change who you are completely, or based on every single thing anyone ever says to you. The very core of your being, the essence of who you are, is something I believe can be disguised but ultimately does not change. But the sum of all the parts of your life, the person who’s too defensive or who’s so guarded they refuse to let anything get to them, the person who takes things too seriously or who uses humor to dismiss serious subjects so they never have to face them, the person who’s ridiculously disorganized or who constantly stresses out about everything–everything–needing to be in its place; whichever person you have become, that is not the person you are at the core of your being.

Everyone is still a work in progress, everyone is still changing, everyone is still growing. And yes, it can feel very frustrating when you are already aware of these things and, in fact, actively working on them, and still people feel the need to make comments–even bitter comments–to you about your faults. But that still doesn’t mean that you should dismiss everything they said as the irrelevant comments of a bitter person.

Because when you refuse to consider it at all, when you refuse to acknowledge your need to change or that there’s still more work to do in areas where you’re trying to change, then that is no longer their bitterness trying to change you.

It’s your own bitterness stunting your growth, keeping you stagnant.

You know what I really love? When a friend is weeding out their clothes and finds a few things that make them thing of me. When that friend brings those things to me and says, “Hey, these made me think of you. I’m not sure if you’ll like them or not, but I was getting rid of them and thought you might want them.” Sometimes it’s a small garbage bag full. Sometimes it’s just one or two things. But I’ve gotten some REALLY nice things that way.

But you know what I really hate? When someone (sometimes a friend, sometimes more of an acquaintance) is going through all their clutter getting rid of things and shows up (sometimes with a call ahead to say, “Do you want to look through a few things?” and sometimes without any advanced warning) and says, “Here, I’m getting rid of these, you can have them or get rid of anything you don’t want, just as long as they’re not in my house anymore.” And leaves 3 giant garbage bags full of clothes. Half of which I couldn’t possibly do any more with than to leave them at the thrift store. Or just throw away. Because sometimes there are things I would be embarrassed to even give to Goodwill.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I really REALLY appreciate when people think of us and want to give us things to help us out. But the thing is, I am not your dump. I really do appreciate that you thought of helping us out, but I’m not an automatic sorter. In fact, I tend to get anxiety when it comes to organizing things–anything, not just clothes–and especially when it comes to then getting rid of those. Lovely side effect of having been yelled at my whole life for getting rid of ANYTHING.

Let me put this into slightly clearer terms. My whole life has involved way too many clothes. Too many things in general, but especially clothes. Many of which I never liked. We were yelled at for having them everywhere, yet we weren’t allowed to get rid of very many. Even when we bagged things up to get rid of, they often just sat there for months and eventually the bags got torn back into (to try to find something, or by cats, or just because so many things had been piled on them that they burst open and spewed their contents). I can hardly remember what the floors of any of our houses looked like, but I distinctly remember clothes. Layers upon layers of clothes. Especially in our bedrooms. Even in the rare instances that our hangers and drawers were full, there were still clothes enough to carpet the whole floor–and thick enough that you had to take a distinct step UP into the room from the hallway.

So at this point in my life, when I’m allowed to get rid of clothes, I’m trying to. I’m trying to downsize. Yet I still feel constantly overrun with clothes, trying to figure out what to get rid of.

But you know what? Despite all of that, being treated as a dumping ground is not the element that irritates me the most. In fact, I still really appreciate people’s attempts to take care of us (however misguided). Know what I REALLY hate? The implications I’ve gotten from some people that I should keep any clothes that fit me, even if I don’t like them, and that it’s rude and ungrateful of me to be particular about style and get rid of clothes I don’t like. Now, this implication has mostly come from a few people who aren’t even those giving me the clothes. They also honestly probably have no idea how many clothes I have or why I need to weed them out. (Not just my own clothes–my children’s clothes too.)

So I can’t really blame them. (Except that they see the clothes I’m wearing and it’s not overly flattering to think that they think I just wear any old clothes no matter what they look like.) But several people who have made such implications are people who knew me my whole life, knew my family and saw all the results of the hoarding. They know how hard it is to get rid of things at all. Some of them have even personally witnessed me paralyzed, trying desperately to figure out how to get rid of something. And yet they seem to think that I should just keep whatever’s given to me.

If you know someone is a COH, or has hoarding tendencies, please don’t treat them like your dumping ground because “they’ll take anything.” That’s enabling. Or worse. And please, PLEASE don’t berate them as ungrateful when they DO get rid of things. When you’ve been told your whole life that you can’t get rid of anything, and you’ve finally gotten to the point of being able to do so relatively guilt-free, having more guilt laid on you for trying to simplify your life doesn’t help anyone. At all.

Common Factors

I’ve been watching a lot of House, MD lately. (Yeah, the show’s finished. Watching it through on Netflix.) And I realized something.

He had a rough childhood. He was abused by a father who wasn’t his biological father. He’s a literal genius, or pretty close. He has a terrible fear of being wrong, which sometimes manifests in saying things as fact when he doesn’t really know and other times manifests in refusing to make a decision because he doesn’t know and doesn’t want to give the wrong answer. He’s wise beyond his years and peers, and yet somehow also stuck in the mind of a middle school boy, or maybe an early high school boy. He loves like crazy, cares and feels more deeply than perhaps many people ever do, but hides his feelings because showing them will make him vulnerable. And he uses physical problems he can’t control as an excuse for avoiding dealing with the much greater emotional pain he doesn’t want to face.

No, I’m not talking about House. I’m talking about my father. There are decided differences between House and my father. For one thing, my father is no where near as crass. For another, all of his medications are taken legitimately and as prescribed by a doctor–he’s not an addict. And for a third, his deep feelings and his fear of being wrong are hidden behind a little arrogance and a lot of extroverted bonhomie, whereas House’s are hidden behind his addiction, rapid-fire insults, and cruel ways of jerking other people around.

Still, the similarities are many and, to be honest, a little frightening. Actually, mostly just amazing in realizing, by observations of the similarities, just how accurately House is written.

I’ve also been studying another character a lot–Foreman. Frankly, Foreman really irritates me. Like, a lot.

Arrogant. Insistence of being different, but really so much the same. Aware of and horrified by the similarities but not sure what to do about it. Also very smart, though maybe not genius level. Also wants to be right, but with maybe a bit less of a fear of being wrong–more a sense that the only way to break with the past is to be able to be right. A sense of being chained to the past no matter what, of never leaving that terrible growing-up place. More connected with humanity, but with a sense of never quite belonging anywhere.

Yeah, that’s Foreman. That’s also me. Honestly, I can’t tell if Foreman drives me nuts more because we’re so similar or because of the ways in which we’re different. (Actually, I think he mostly drives me nuts because he’s so racist even though he’s constantly accusing others of being racist–which, in the way he does it, is often in and of itself racist.) Seriously, though, again, way too many similarities. I never realized how many until I reached an episode where someone said that at least he’d gotten out of the ghetto, and he said, “I’m never out of the ghetto.” It’s amazing how the traumas (yes, I’m using the word “traumas”–I realize there are greater traumas, but just because it’s less traumatic doesn’t mean it’s not a trauma) of growing up in the ghetto, and the traumas of growing up as a COH, are so very similar. Not the same traumas or results of being physically abused or sexually abused. Lots of similarities.

Honestly, I’m not just extrapolating all of this based on fictional characters. It’s based on years of observations, it’s based on my sister’s ex who was always SO much like my father (and is also so much like House) and is also a literal genius (or very close) who was abused as a child. It’s based on conversations with my siblings and realizing just how much at least two of us took away in exactly the same way. It’s based on observations of other people who grew up in bad situations, and it’s also based on people who grew up in really good situations.

I know this. As I’ve been able to face things and deal with them more, that sense of never belonging has dissipated tremendously. As I’ve been able to face things and deal with them, that fear of being wrong has dissipated . . . well, maybe not as much, but a lot. The shame I carry on behalf of my family has also dissipated some, though again, not as much. Having a husband who loves me so much makes a huge difference. Having friends who are there no matter what makes an inexplicable difference. Being able to look at my house and see, not just how much further I need to come (and it’s a lot!) but also how far I’ve already come, makes a huge difference too. Especially when other people notice it.

I do know one thing that many people on House regularly say and I completely disagree with. They say people don’t change. Maybe change doesn’t usually happen all at once, but when I look at who I was a few years ago and who I am now . . . people definitely can change if they put their minds to it and have really good support in it. Definitely.

Things That Are Different

I spend a lot of time in these posts looking at who I used to be, or how I am not yet who I want to be.

In this post, I want to look at who I’m not anymore, and good changes that have taken place in my life. I have a lot of things I’ve worked to change outwardly–learning how to take care of a house, for instance. But there are intangible changes too, changes that are caused by the other changes. These are a few of them.

I am not depressed.

Depression, as a general rule, is not something you can just “get over.” I never had a regular kind of depression, though, but rather, a kind that basically is ever-present under the surface but doesn’t usually interfere with daily life. If left untreated, however, it can flare up and start to act like “regular” depression. And for many years, mine was untreated.

But after finally being treated with counseling and being given tools to use when I start to feel like that, the depression is gone. Oh, I have rough days, still. I have down days. I have days where I sit and berate myself. But I honestly do not have the regular depression there. I was under the impression that it would become under control but not ever actually go away. I don’t know if it’s from hormonal changes from pregnancies and such, or what, but praise God, it’s gone!

I do not constantly feel out of phase with those around me.

I hardly remember times in my life when I didn’t feel like I was just slightly off from everyone around me. Not in an I’m-different-and-that’s-okay sort of way. More in a there’s-some-joke-or-something-and-I’m-missing-it sort of way. I think there’s a way in which a lot of people–especially teenagers–feel like that. Growing up is awkward and it’s easy to feel like everyone else “gets it” and you don’t.

But there’s the way that most people feel–watching their peers and trying to gauge their own reactions to how they think their peers want or expect them to act. And then there’s the way that someone feels when they know that things just aren’t right at home. Simple things, things like walking down the hallway at school or sitting in class listening to a lecture, become burdensome. You are filled with a sense that everyone around you is walking in a parallel reality, that though they can see you and interact with you they are from a world that has entirely different laws governing it. You might as well be walking through a reality where the very laws of physics are different, and your very ability to perceive the reality at all requires seeing it through a haze, though you know the natural citizens of the place see everything with perfect clarity. And though people never (or rarely) let on, you just know that they can all see that you’re from a different place, that everything about you is entirely alien to them.

But I don’t feel like that anymore. Though I have times that I feel like I’m attached to my parents’ house with a chain that can never be broken, overall I feel as though I’ve found my place in this reality.

I do not have to tell everyone everything.

This one is huge for me. I can’t express how big a deal it has always been to me to talk to people. Maybe it was a matter of looking to be loved, not by anyone, but by everyone. To know they all cared. Maybe it was a matter of looking for the right solution, the person I could talk to who would magically make it all disappear. Maybe it was simply that I was so weighed down by everything that I couldn’t figure out how to hold it back and it all spilled over. Honestly, I think it was all that and maybe a little more.

But I don’t need that anymore. I can’t say precisely why. Probably also for several reasons. But regardless of why, the fact is, I don’t have to talk to everyone about all my problems–repeatedly–anymore.

Oh, I still talk to people. I love to talk to people! About all kinds of things. When I have a problem, it definitely still helps me to talk to someone, and sometimes even to a couple of people to get some different points of view. But I certainly don’t have to tell everyone everything.

 

Those are just a few things that have changed. But they’re ones I’ve been noticing a lot lately as I take stock of my life as it is right now, and remember my life as it was 15, 10, even just 5 years ago. Actually, in some case, even just a year or two. And I’m praising God for those changes!

It’s All About Love

No, this isn’t a Valentine’s Day post. Just something I was thinking about on the way home.

I haven’t always known what was right or wrong in my growing up. For a long time I knew something was wrong and tried to keep the “outside world” from finding out what it was. Frankly, though, I didn’t really know what it was myself. I knew some things. But not everything. Then when I started wanting to talk to people about things, I didn’t know what was actually the “wrong” part of things.

 

So I remember times in high school and college when I would talk to people about my life at home, about the things I recognized as somehow being related to something that was wrong, but I just didn’t know precisely what was wrong. I think I often came across as a spoiled brat or as arrogant and entitled. I remember talking to a friend/mentor in college shortly before the end of the semester and saying, “My parents know they have to pick me up at the airport and they didn’t even save aside any money to go out to eat.”

Okay, that sounds spoiled and bratty and entitled. I realize this. Breakdown in communication. I consciously knew other people had a different life but still assumed the problem with this would be evident, as though somehow everything would be understood. But it wasn’t. If I’d been smart enough to break it down further, I would have explained the real issue in these smaller portions:

First, in this case, “go out to eat” didn’t mean, “Go out to a fancy restaurant,” or even, “go out to Applebee’s.” (That’s about as fancy as I get.) More like, “swing by a fast food restaurant.”

Second, the reason doing so was important is because every bit of money I earned at my job went to my tuition (straight there–I never even saw it) and I had absolutely no money to buy food in the airport in the 8 hours or so that I would be traveling. Further, I was getting in about supper time, and the airport was an hour and a half from our house.

Third, there was no guarantee of food at home. As it turned out, my parents brought some “food,” but it was Christmas treats. For someone who’s only eaten airplane pretzels and crackers all day, sugar wasn’t exactly what my stomach needed. And I remember getting back to the house and eating . . . oh, a can of green beans or something simple like that. Because, as I suspected, I couldn’t find a whole meal.

That’s just one example. I can think back over dozens of conversations I’ve had that I absolutely didn’t know what was wrong, or how to express it correctly.

But when it comes down to it, the most wrong thing was never the lack of food. There are tons of families with very little who still have wonderful relationships. Lack of money, and lack of certain necessities as a result, can often be hindrances to relationships. But then, so can too much money and distraction by stuff.

No, what was missing was love. I don’t mean a strong emotional attachment. I know our parents had (and have) a strong emotional attachment to us. But love is more than that. Biblically speaking, love is patient, kind, not arrogant or rude; it does not insist on its own way; not irritable or resentful; does not rejoice in wrong, but rejoices in truth; bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things; and never fails. (I Cor. 13:4-8, summarized)

All I remember hearing from my parents was blame, shouting, reasons that everything was soemone else’s fault. I remember feeling scared, wrong. I remember an overwhelming sense that anyone who managed to figure out a secret or a mystery or whatever else was triumphant, and everyone else was stupid. I remember feeling like I was destined to fail, no matter what. Like it was impossible for me to every do anything right. The drawing I was proud of was met with, “You’re not very good at hands, are you?” I remember being downright shocked when my father expressed pride in me my senior year of college. I didn’t know he was actually proud of me.

So yes, the emotions of love, the attachments, were there. But the agape love, the unconditional love, that the Bible speaks of–the very Bible my parents claim to believe, and the agape (that’s pronounced ah-gah-pay, for those of you not familiar with Greek) love that comes from Christ alone as He changes us, was sadly lacking.

I often think maybe it’s my imagination, maybe because some things weren’t right, I’m exaggerating those things in my memory. Then a sister says, “I just realized I’m having popcorn for supper for the first time since I moved out of Mum and Dad’s house.” And I realize that the food really was lacking. And we kids really did get the blame, or (as mentioned in the link I shared near the beginning of this post) were called “selfish” because we were hungry and wanted a meal, as though it was our responsibility to think of our father first and not the other way around.

Here’s the thing: agape love is a change made through Jesus, but learning to think of others first can be taught. It’s not taught by saying, “Hey! Think of me first!” It’s taught by saying, “Hey, I love you and I’m thinking of you first.” Or, more accurately, by DOING that. Not in an indulgent way–that would lead to spoiled brats. But in a way that clearly shows that the needs of others come first. That is how you love. And that is what I don’t remember experiencing in my home as I grew up.

I Am Not My Parents

Okay, I’m just putting a warning out there right now, right at the start of this post: there is a high chance that this post could sound defensive. And in fact, it is. But not defending myself to other people. It’s defending myself to me.

The better part of a year ago, someone was mad at me for several various things–some of which I honestly don’t even understand still–and to this day I don’t know how much was legitimate and how much was based on other things in her life. But I’ve always been a firm believer that most things people say in anger, even if they’re largely untrue and just said in anger, usually have some basis in truth. Or at least in truth as the speaker perceives things.

This is what she said, or the general idea of it anyway: “Why can’t you see that you already have become your parents?”

This tumbles around in my brain frequently. It terrifies me. And sometimes fear can be a good motivator, but sometimes it can be utterly paralyzing. So for the times when I move from fear of becoming like them into a paralyzing depression that screams at me that I’m already ruined and can’t possibly ever be “good enough,” I am making this list.

Why I am Not My Parents

1. I am actively striving to improve. My mom will tell you that she’s a “terrible housekeeper,” but she doesn’t do much to try to improve in that. She’ll tell you that maybe she yelled more than she should have, but she doesn’t do much to try to improve in that. My dad . . . well, I really can’t think of any imperfections that he’ll willingly admit to, but there might be some that just aren’t coming to mind. At any rate, neither of them actively strive to change. They talk about it, but they don’t do it. Not only did I seek counseling on my own, and seek other ways (support/accountability housekeeping groups, striving to find my own groove to be able to keep up with things regularly, etc.) to improve, but I can actually look back just over the past three years and see marked differences and improvements in my life. I’m learning to throw things away without feeling anxious because it might possibly maybe eventually be useful. I’m learning to keep up with dishes regularly. Am I perfect at them? No. Do I have more improving to do? You better believe it! More importantly, I better believe it! And I do. And I work to improve. Because I am not my parents.

2. I don’t ignore problems until the last second. Okay, I have to admit, this one is DEFINITELY still a work in progress. It’s my natural tendency to. “If I ignore it maybe it will go away.” I don’t like to deal with the hard stuff. But I’m LEARNING to deal with the hard stuff. I’m learning to do things promptly and not ignore them until the last second. I’ve also been in circumstances when I know there have been some times that people have thought I ignored something until the last second when, in fact, I was actively working on the problem (eg. finding a place to live before it was time to move) but because other people weren’t privy to the process they seemed to assume that we hadn’t done anything. I don’t know why. Because I am not my parents.

3. I don’t blame the mess in this house on my child or expect him to just know how to fix it. Does he make messes? Sure. He’s a toddler. What’s more, it’s incredibly difficult to clean anything with a toddler. While you’re cleaning one thing, he’s uncleaning something else. But you know what? I wanted to be a mother. I decided to be a mother. And I hope to have several more little people eventually, making messes and making it difficult for me to clean. That doesn’t mean that I just let the mess grow. (I really hate when I see memes that say something about just not cleaning until the kids are in college. Intended to be funny, but makes me cringe. But that’s another post for another time.) It also doesn’t mean that I yell at my son for the mess and expect him to clean it up. If he was 8 or 10 or 15, it doesn’t mean I yell and expect him to clean it up. Not unless I invest in his life NOW and make sure he knows how to clean. Sure, he’s not even 2. I don’t expect him to do my dishes for me. I don’t expect him to clean things perfectly or without a lot of help and supervision. But he is my son, and it’s my responsibility to invest in his life and make sure he knows how to clean. If he unloads all the books from his shelf, with however much supervision it takes, he puts them back. If he takes his toys out, with however much supervision it takes, he puts them back. And that boy LOVES to sweep. Not very effectively yet, but that’s okay. He’s still learning. And I’m still learning too. I’m learning that I am not my parents.

Well, that’s only three ways right now. Maybe I’ll post more later. But hey, meanwhile, I have a few tools in my arsenal to combat my feelings of uselessness when I’m sitting in a house that I know was clean the day before, but somehow is extremely messy now, and I think maybe I should just give up because I’m somehow forever doomed to be just like my parents. The fact is, I am already not my parents. If I give up, if I refuse to try anymore, then, and only then, will I have become my parents.

Individuals . . . Together

Wow. It’s been a while. Quite a while.

Well, I did warn you all that I would probably post irregularly. Don’t know if this’ll be the beginning of another spurt or if it’ll be a single post before another long silence. Either way, I just have to get this out somewhere “safe” to get it out.

So here’s the thing: I love being with people. I love joking around. I love good-natured teasing.

But I also am very sensitive. And for all that I love people, I’m not very socially adept. Sure, I can walk around a crowded room and say hi to everyone there, compliment people, give smiles and handshakes and hugs, and just generally feed off the energy of everyone. I can also read some people really well, even right from when I meet them, and tell when they’re upset and might need someone.

I just don’t understand people. Not really. I love, as I said, the joking around and good-natured teasing, but I’m all too well aware that there’s often a grain of truth in that and sometimes I can’t tell where jokes stop and truth starts. I’ve had people tell me–in all seriousness and trying to help me, or just to be mean–that I was annoying because of one thing or another. So when people tease me, and especially when they tease me about those very things that I’ve been told I’m annoying about, I don’t always know when they’re just joking and when they’re serious. And I also can’t always tell this when people are teasing each other, and I want to step in and defend the person being teased. I am more sensitive to when someone is being teased and not taking it well, but if I step in and point it out, the person doing the teasing accuses me of being a kill-joy, and often the person being teased doesn’t want to admit to not liking it and . . . it basically just all ends up complicated and uncomfortable.

All my life I’ve just wanted to be loved, and sometimes I struggle to accept that God’s love is enough–but that’s my own battle to fight with (not AGAINST, WITH) God, and not something that other people should have to constantly keep in mind while they’re interacting with me. I realize that. But for all that I love people and want to just have friends, I constantly feel like I’m just annoying people. I’ve always studied other people, people who seem to fit in right, and seen how they joke around with people and how they interact, and tried to emulate that. Tried to take the good-natured teasing as such, tried to joke around and everything. I like joking and laughing. But my sense of humor isn’t the same as other people and I’m very sensitive. Sometimes it’s hard to know when I need to change something and when I need to just be who I am. When it’s a matter of being true to myself and when it’s a matter of needing to improve as a person.

For example: one person points out how much I interrupt people so I work hard to not interrupt. When I do accidentally interrupt someone (I don’t do it on purpose!) I have people tell me to stop talking, I talk so much, I’m so rude, I need to let other people have a turn. But then I see good friends interacting in the same way–interrupting each other, laughing and joking and not caring about the interruptions. And I wonder what it is about me that grates people so wrong.

Or several people say that I’m just constantly correcting people. So I try really hard and I feel like people make a point of correcting me all the time, but I’m not supposed to ever correct anyone. Yet I can never shake that image. Something about how I say things–even when I’m not trying to correct someone, but just adding to what they said–that makes people think that I think they’re wrong. And I can’t even figure out what it is so I CAN fix it.

Or when I’m asking clarifying questions or just sharing why I make a personal choice in my life, it seems like anyone I ever say anything like that to thinks I’m arguing with them. Or when I don’t take someone’s advice and they think I’m just ignoring them, when the fact is, I’m not just going to blindly follow someone’s advice. I like advice from several people and my own research to weigh all together and make an informed decision. But no matter how many people I know who do that, somehow from ME it becomes a slight or like I’m just arguing with and then ignoring someone, when all I intend to do is to ask clarifying questions and then ultimately make my own decision based on ALL the information I’ve gathered.

And the thing is, none of these–NONE of them–are isolated incidents. It’s just something about me that people seem to like when they meet me, but hate upon closer contact. Not everyone, of course. I do have some very good friends (some of whom will probably read this post). But overall, it seems like my social life is more riddled with misunderstandings and times I’ve rubbed people the wrong way, than it is with legitimate good interaction with a good friend.

I am in a group on Facebook with several people who have weird and fun minds like mine. But they don’t share one element with me: a love to analyze. I often get accused of being too logical, but it’s really not about logic, it’s about analyzing. Thinking. Which, contrary to seemingly popular belief, is not ACTUALLY a bad thing. I like thinking about reasons. I like thinking about possibilities. Sometimes that means thinking about logic. Sometimes that means thinking about nonsensical elements.

But when you’re in a group with a bunch of people who like talking nonsense, it’s the logical aspect that usually comes out. Just for the sake of balanced analysis. So, in that group, I have become known as the Vulcan. And one person in particular likes to tease me about being so super-logical. So today he posted a comic and asked if it was me in it.

Image

Fact: I love that. I love her reasoning and logic. I love the thoughts behind it. And really, I don’t mind being teased about being this logical.

What I do mind is this: I pointed out that we’re all individuals and just because something enjoys a joke differently doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy it. To this, one person said that I make her want to crawl back into her hole, and another (the person who posted the picture) said that yes, we’re all individuals, I just happen to be an individual wrong.

Of course, they were both joking. I realize that. But I also realize that a lot of humor has a basis in truth. And at this point, I just don’t know how much was just joking around, or it just sounded like the funniest thing to say, and how much (if any) was based in truth. Do I actually annoy them with my analytical way of appreciating jokes? I can see how it could be annoying, but I don’t actually do it every time. And simultaneously, sometimes I’m annoyed by that person’s constant insistence on joking incessantly and never being willing to make a serious acknowledgement of something. It’s like he’s an actor who refuses to ever break character, until I don’t know if there’s anything under that character or if he really thinks that way. And I almost feel like he would see that as a success, but I think it’s detrimental.

So. Ultimately, we all have different personalities for a reason. Western civilization is so focused on how we’re all individuals, but I think there isn’t enough focus on how the individuality all ultimately works together. We should all be improving as individuals, but we need to recognize that sometimes the “problem” we see in someone else isn’t really a problem, it’s another part of the mosaic of humanity. For instance, the person I was talking about can be a reminder to me that sometimes it’s okay to just laugh at myself (something I happen to not be very good at). I can be a reminder to him that sometimes it’s okay to NOT laugh about something and to take something seriously.

And we can all try to remember that some things aren’t moral imperatives, they are, as my father-in-law likes to say, “Not wrong, just different.”

I don’t know how to interact with people.

This isn’t entirely a new discovery, but it’s something that I’m learning more and more. I’ve always had people whose company I really enjoy and with whom I would like to be friends. I want to be around them. Just to hang out.

But most of the time, they don’t seem to want to be around me. Or they want to help “take care of me,” be there for me when I need something, but they don’t want to just hang out.

Somehow, this has led to a tendency to interact with people on the basis of needing something. I don’t like asking people for things. In fact, I downright hate it. Yet I feel so often like people just don’t want to be around me unless there’s something wrong, something I need, or unless there’s something they need that I can help them with.

I wish I had some major break-through to say on this topic. And this one–I’m not even saying that this has anything to do with my parents, except maybe that I’ve used my issues from growing up as a way of having people talk to me. (I didn’t invent things, mind you. Rehashed some elements more often than I should have, sure, but I didn’t invent them.)

But I don’t. My only break-through is a realization that I seriously have no idea how to interact with people. I want to be there for other people. I want people there for me. But that isn’t all there is, that can’t be all there is. I love laughing with people too, but somehow I end up too intense and even getting together and laughing together starts to feel like a burden, a strain on time. I even like getting together and just doing our own thing in the same room, just to be around each other.

I know that kind of friendship takes a long time to build for most people. But it doesn’t take me a long time to feel that close to others, and it’s so frustrating to me that it takes that long to build that friendship locally.

I do have friends. And a wonderful husband, who is most definitely my best friend on earth. But other than my husband, I don’t have many local friends. Most of them are spread across the country and (in some cases) around the world. I have one amazing close friend, one who mentored me throughout middle school and high school, and has been an amazing friend always. I don’t know how or why she’s put up with me, why I don’t become a major drain on her as well. But she is such an amazing blessing from God and I can never possibly repay all she’s done for me.

But she lives a little over half an hour away and often travels for work, so we can only get together every once in a while.

I have recently developed another friend, one who lives almost as far away as that friend. So far, things are fine, but having recently lost a good friend of many years to my own inability to interact correctly–and I don’t say there wasn’t fault on both sides, but I do know that the most major issues could easily both have been my fault*–I’m terrified of losing this new friend as well. I second-guess everything I say, I don’t know how often to ask to get together, or how often is too often. My intensity and social cluelessness has, in the past, driven people away from ever being a close friend, but I’ve never lost a close friend like that. Drifted away, sure, but never been cut off like that. And I know that, in this most recent case, I lost her as much for the things I did without realizing it, as for the things I didn’t do because I kept second-guessing myself.

And the worst part? I tried asking her how to do things differently, and I’ve tried asking other people how I could do things differently, and they’ve always said basically the same things that make me second-guess myself.

I just don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to be who other people need me to be. And that is all I have to say for today.

 

*The two issues that I know could easily both be my fault: she felt like I was draining her, I felt like she was draining me. I know they can definitely both be my fault because I don’t know how to interact with people. I made her feel drained because I didn’t know how to interact with her. She made me feel drained because I didn’t know how to interact with her. When she’d struggled with something in the past, I didn’t know how to know that those struggles were done. That was my fault for not making her feel like she could just talk to me about these things. This friendship was drifting apart anyway because we just don’t have enough in common anymore. A friendship may start with just a few things in common, but it can’t be maintained with only a few things in common. And since I’m obviously not good for her, I have no problem with letting her go, though I still miss her and it still hurts. But I wish it hadn’t ended with the anger that it ended with. She told me in a very loving way that she felt drained by me. I tried to say in a loving way that I felt drained by her, and was even ready to admit that that could all be my own fault and nothing to do with her, but apparently I didn’t say it right because she got very angry and started telling me things that I’ve done wrong to her, things I never knew had upset her. I’ve hurt her in so many ways and I don’t know how to fix it. It’s been many weeks, but I haven’t yet gotten past this or figured out how to repair things, not to the point of friendship, but just to get past the hurt and anger. I’m yet again in that place of not knowing how to interact–I should be the “bigger person” and go to her, but I have no idea how to, or if I’ll just make things worse.

And that ended up being a whole sub-blog post to the regular one up there, but I don’t feel like I can separate these, and since my ultimate goal isn’t readership anyway, but to just have my own outlet for dealing with things, well, I’ll keep it the way it is.

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