Last night I found myself driving, windows rolled down and music blaring, the kind of music that makes your heart hurt with its plaintiveness and longing, and I felt transported back years ago to when we’d drive away from campus, away from the lights and the noise, to the bridge. Our bridge, yours and mine and our friends’. We’d lie there until our hands and feet were numb and talk about everything and nothing, and look at the stars on clear nights, heads propped on the rails, breath floating in the frigid air above our faces. We didn’t know then the baggage we would bring forward with us, as our future selves. I didn’t know then that the frantic desire to escape that would rise in me at unexpected moments would, inexplicably, follow me into the perfect future where I ended up with you. I wouldn’t have believed that possible, because I think that without ever saying it I thought that you, perfect you, the perfect one for me, would solve all my down-deep issues, which is unfair and too weighty a job for anyone to undertake, not to mention a job you were never called to in the first place. I thought I’d be at peace in myself, even when things got hard because of course they’d get hard because that’s life isn’t it, but even when it was hard I’d feel sure of me, because of you and me. But last night I felt like I recognized myself for the first time in awhile, because driving with the windows down in the cold felt a bit like running away, and I always seem to want to do that. I’m learning things about myself, these years as a young mom, things that I don’t necessarily like. Things about my personality that are hard to imagine ever being redeemed, ever being beautiful, though I believe it must be possible. It’s hard for me to engage, hard to be fully present–no, that’s not quite right, it’s hard for me not to completely check out when I don’t feel fully at peace and at one with the way my life is. It always has been hard, but it’s never been quite as much of a problem til now, with three little people depending on me, and with me, at 28, feeling always, simultaneously too unrecognizably old for my age, and too desperately young and immature for my circumstances. So here I am, these short-long years later, somehow both the same old me, and a me I hardly recognize. But for a minute, driving down the darkened street with the windows down and the music playing, I could feel myself again, could imagine myself when I fell for you, so hard, could just imagine the outline of your profile in the seat next to me, hair tucked behind your ears, hands shoved in your pockets and shoulders hunched in that perpetual shrug of yours.
I’ve been slowly digging my way through our accumulated stuff to try and sort through what we use and don’t. Trying to clear up some space in our house to give myself some visual peace. The stuff had piled its way to the forefront of each room and it weighed heavy on my mind and soul, too.
I’m getting rid of it. I’m tired of having the guilt, or at least preoccupation, over being disorganized and messy rob me of my peace of mind. It’s been controlling how I live my days and interact with my children and I’m done letting it have mastery over me.
I’ve been slowly mulling over the thought of taking a social media break. Of trying to clear a way through what I put in front of my eyes, in an effort to give myself some mental peace. All of the news and the articles, the shares and the debates have piled up in my mind and heart til I don’t have a filter for them anymore. They’re clogging up my ability to handle the life I’ve actually been given to handle, because of the heavy load of all the information about all the other lives I wasn’t given to handle.
I’m getting rid of it. Ok, not exactly. I’m not saying I shouldn’t care, or be informed. I’m not saying I shouldn’t pray. I’m just saying, when the weight of the whole world gets so heavy you can’t carry the weight of your own world, maybe it’s time to take a break. The glut of information is controlling how I live my days and interact with my children and I’m tired of letting it have mastery over me.
I only get this life, this specific one I’ve been given. Conviction strengthens, it doesn’t incapacitate. Compassion for the world shouldn’t detract me from living well and loving well those right around me. That’s not happening right now. Something has to change. Inasmuch as it depends on me, I want my home to be haven, I want my mind to be haven, set in a world ever driven to madness and chaos.
I don’t know what all this looks like, the end result of this fighting and clawing and stumbling my way to freedom from clutter, mental and physical. But I know that along the way I’m getting rid of stuff.
And it feels good.
As an unrelated intro, can I just say that at the rate we’re going, I’m fairly certain we will not exit the toddler years with any remaining silverware. I mean, do they EAT it? Absorb it into their tiny bodies? It remains one of the great mysteries of the universe.
Speaking of mysteries of the universe, I lost my keys yesterday. But I was in Fort Wayne, two hours from home, so you know, not a big deal. I was having a nice time visiting with a friend and her baby, when suddenly a hole was ripped in the *BLEEPing* space-time continuum and sucked in my keys. Or that’s how it seems. We had four people looking for those keys for a solid hour. My disgusting pigsty of a van was laid bare before the eyes of two single, childless men (my friend’s brothers-in-law), and my children got increasingly tired from their lack of naps, and therefore increasingly cranky. All the while, we were hanging out in the home of strangers. My husband’s grandmother who lives in Fort Wayne came and rescued us, but not before also poking her head into my nasty van. We proceeded to her house, and continued the parade of my failure as a person and mother, as my kids, other than Mavis, refused to sleep and became so wired that they were only capable of watching episode after episode of Curious George, and emitting various shrill, grating laughs. Being that we were in places where I did not feel exactly comfortable with letting out my emotions, I instead held in all the frustration and embarrassment, simmering inside until 10pm when I lost my shit and unloaded all my pent up emotion on my three year old daughter. So if I felt like a failure before, the spiral was out of control at that point.
I always thought I was comfortable with being an emotional person, but I’m figuring out I’m not. I like expressing emotion on my terms, in settings that feel comfortable and safe to me, and in ways that make logical sense. Because that’s how emotions should work, right? The “T” in my Myers Briggs profile is obviously strong in me, a fact I am only recently realizing.
So, rather than finding an appropriate outlet for my anger, I simmered til I exploded all over an innocent bystander, my sweet first born whom God entrusted to me to protect and grow and point to him. I really, really hate when teachable moments happen in the midst of, or because of, my extreme failure. Before experiencing reality, I envisioned having these kinds of deep conversations when I feel close to her, when I like her, when we’re snuggling peacefully before bed (hahaha), not when the tension of my inner rage is practically making the air crackle.
So I lost my temper. I told her that I was so sorry, I should not have lost my temper like that. She said, “it’s ok, mama.” I talked some more, about how I was feeling and how I didn’t control myself, but I can’t remember what I said because she kept saying “But…it’s ok though.” And all of a sudden, I realized it was more like a question she was asking, even though she was saying it like a statement. Screeching halt. Deep breath. “No, honey. It was not ok for me to act like that. It was not ok. I’m so sorry, will you forgive me?” She did, immediately, of course, because she has so much grace for me. More than I often have for her.
Matthew drove for hours to pick up his truck and come to Fort Wayne to bring us the spare key. I sobbed wildly in his arms for a few minutes, forgetting even to say “thank you” or “I’m so glad you’re here.” We drove home in the middle of the night, arriving with a sigh of relief at 1:30 in the morning. But, while I don’t think this will ever be a funny story to me (“hey remember that time your keys disappeared and you inconvenienced everyone and everything was terrible? That was hilarious!”), I am already thankful that I got the chance to tell Eliza that it is never ok to sin against other people. Even when you’re tired. Even when you’re hormonal. Even when you have lots of excuses. It’s not ok to treat people poorly, or to take out anger on them. And it’s not ok when I do it, either. I’m not applying some double standard to myself. I’ve seen the havoc that double standard can wreak and I pray God I am able to stay far away from it. I am so thankful that I am able to humbly apologize to her and ask her forgiveness, because I know that over time, that will help her feel like she can do the same to others, when she messes up. I’m still trying to remind myself today that my failures don’t mean I’m an unfit mother, I’m trying to stop the downward spiral that follows a bad day. I mean, I am a bad mom sometimes, because I am a bad person sometimes (all the time, really). But those failures are not the measure of me, thanks to the grace of God. I can own my failures boldly in front of my children, admit that my behavior was not ok, at all, and rest in the promise that, in due season I will see the fruit of all this growth, or attempts at growth.
“Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.” -Galatians 6:9
“This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” -1 John 3:19-20
i realized a few weeks ago that i’m an addict.
i’m not addicted to any substances, although given a different life, i probably would be. i just see it in me, that obsessive quality, that insatiable need, that quest for the next high, the desire for the illicit, be it the occasional cigarette or the ice cream after the kids go to bed. the now is never quite enough, i’m addicted to escape. it’s funny, because i don’t look like that, on the outside. i like to do quiet things, sort of–i don’t need lots of adventure or adrenaline rushes. i’m addicted to doing exactly what i want, to overdosing on books and reading them start to finish in one sitting. i’m addicted to performing, to showing off in front of people, although i do it in subtle or socially acceptable ways, my intellect or humor, or my voice, or my writing. i want to be the center of everything. i want everyone to like me the best. it’s kind of ridiculous.
i get really grumpy when i go through withdrawal from the things i’m addicted to. i resent my kids because of the way they inconvenience me and make it hard for me to do what i want. i feel a disconnect from my life because right now it’s all about self discipline and sanctification, two major buzzkills.
and i get it, life right now is really hard. we are plodding through the postpartum period, just starting to emerge on the side of a more predictable rhythm to our days. my two older kids are operating on a deficit when it comes to their need for love and attention, and that deficit communicates itself through anger, lots of it, and acting out, lots of it. i feel helpless and sad and angry in the face of their giant feelings and needs.
but i know this much, and i want people to hear this. this season is hard, but this season did not create these shortcomings in me. all of this was in me, and had to come out one way or another. it is the grace and gentleness of God that my children whom i love dearly (and dislike intensely today) are providing the catalyst that makes this ugliness emerge. it is the grace and gentleness of God that he is giving me this self awareness while also giving me three little humans to model brokenness, repentance, and humility for.
i’m an addict. and it’s serious. and withdrawal is ugly. it’s all uglier than i want to specifically communicate, just trust me on it. but the grace of God is exceedingly greater than the sum of my and my children’s faults. we’re going to be fine, because he won’t let us stay the way we are. i’m so, so glad for that.
A few important postscripts:
while this is a serious and heavy post, and a big personal shortcoming, this realization has not caused me to despair or really feel bad about myself. It is perhaps characteristic of the grace of God that conviction, while providing solemn self awareness, does not lead to despair or condemnation but the hope of the gospel trumps all. This post is more a processing, like “huh…so that’s why I do that!”
also, I’m not saying these aspects of my personality are bad. Like the performing, I write music to share with people and that’s good. It’s just when I abuse it that it becomes a problem.
I just realized I never posted this song. It was an offertory from last summer sometime. I don’t remember much about what prompted me to write it, although the lyrics are pretty straightforward in terms of what I was thinking/feeling. (I think it probably was written around the same time I wrote this blog entry.) I do remember that I wrote in one naptime. I had been panicking about what to write, I was past my “deadline” (which is somewhat flexible but I still felt bad) so I called my mom and had her pray that God would help me write something. The fact that I then sat down and wrote out the entirety of this song in one take, and it ended up being one that I really liked? Well. My mom gets what she prays for, is all I’m saying.
I did do a little editing on this song, which I never used to be able to do. Historically, whatever I write out the first time is what the song ends up being, for better or worse. I have trouble separating myself from what I’ve already written, lyrically and melodically, and so it’s really difficult for me to edit and come up with different drafts of a song. Working at Redeemer, with Nathan (the lead musician) has given me somebody to sort of workshop my songs and I’ve learned a lot about revising. On this particular song, we change the melody a little bit on the verses and chorus to add more continuity, and we also brainstormed words for the chorus, landing on “infatuate” as the word that best fit what I wanted to describe (I had initially used “captivate” but wasn’t pleased with it). As I continue writing, one of the areas I hope to grow in is editing and revising. This song was the end result of one of my first really productive revision sessions, hopefully the first of many to come.
Hope you enjoy it.