Tag Archives: 12 Steps

Shrinks, Insanity, and Calling in my Markers

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lucy doctor is in peanutsI’ve been seeing a counselor.  She’s a 12-step girl, so she speaks my language and she is all about keeping it real.  She doesn’t let me gloss over or avoid the uncomfortable stuff.  I feel exhausted every time I leave her office.  I also feel a little more substantial, like I’m beginning to live the life He means for me to live.  His path is a bit scary for me because it’s not what I’m used to.  What I’m used to is messed up in a lot of ways, so I’m mostly ready to leave it behind, but some of the broken parts of me prefer what they’re used to.  The unknown, even when it’s healthier, is scary.  Dysfunction is comfortable.  That’s why so many of us live in it for years.  That is also the reason others often attempt to sabotage people who try to leave the dysfunction and live a healthier life.  When people shine a light on the ugliness that has been our life, we feel cornered if we aren’t ready to take an honest look and make some changes.

I have some Bible verses that I have carried with me and they’ve helped me through some incredibly difficult moments in life.  I also have this:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome…”

These are the words that have made me move, re-examine, confess, change.  – and it hasn’t been a one-time deal, either.  These words have been my anchor on a few momentous occasions on my journey through life.

My newest epiphany is that I am allowed to not be perfect and accept, even expect, the grace that others should extend me just as I extend grace to them.  I don’t really think I’m perfect at all, but I have a tendency to try to be perfect and then beat myself up HUGE when I’m inevitably imperfect, as everyone is.  I’m trying to find that place where I can do my best in that moment and then walk away without having to do the best I ever have without anything wrong for some not-so-good reasons, like that’s where I get my sense of worth from, or because I’ll be punished if I don’t give my all and then some, or because I’m terrified that someone will see me as anything less than the hardest worker, best mom, best wife or best teacher…  It’s exhausting, y’all!

I’m going to try to find a better place to be in these areas.  I have no doubt this will be an ugly and hysterically funny journey for me.  I will probably go too far the other way, or, at times, justify not changing much, but saying I have, and I’m sure I’ll make a bunch of other mistakes along the way – all of which will drive my family absolutely crazy, I’m sure.  Some of them are already not so thrilled with the new, “improved” version of me that is emerging.  That’s okay because I haven’t been terribly thrilled with them at times, but I never quit on them, so I’m calling in my markers.  I’m worth fighting for and I’m worth extending grace to.

All of us are.  That’s why He sacrificed His son’s life for us.  He loves us unconditionally and chose to die for our sins so that we could have everlasting life, right?  And in the meantime, I’m tired of being less than He means for me to be because my life has beat me up a bit and my dysfunction keeps bringing me pain.  I want to be free while I’m here and I want to set that example for my children and grandchildren.  I want to truly live.  I know that sounds cliché, but it’s the stuff.  It scares the bejeebies out of me and excites me all at the same time.  I think that’s why He gave me moxie.  I have to find it, dust it off and learn to allow it to be a part of me again.  I want to embrace the parts of me that I have been made to feel ashamed of since I was very young.  In doing that, I hope to help others to remember who He made them to be and embrace all of themselves, because He does – completely.

Here’s to FREEDOM and change.

Here’s to Choice and Moxie.

Here’s to Persevering.

Here’s to Love…

Forgiving that little brat…

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I find that whenever I write about my childhood or almost anytime before I was a “grownup,” I have a tendency to apologize for who I used to be, almost as if I was her just yesterday.  I still feel HUGE shame for the person I was pre-adulthood. I didn’t torture small (or large) animals as a child or anything, but I was outspoken, pushy and downright mean to some of the girls who were bullies back in the day.  I was a kid…

I read this really neat thing on a dear friend’s (who I have known since my days of shame) facebook wall:

 

Forgive Yourself

Now, while I think this is a bit of an oversimplification because I’m a 12-Step girl and I believe in making amends and all of that, my first thought when I read this was, “AMEN!!” … and then I realized the person who judges me most by my past is me.

Even while I type this I am imagining old school friends, family members, and others from my past reading this and I have this overwhelming urge to explain why I was so awful or to justify the many bratty things I did.  I want to say, “I’m so sorry for the way I acted!  Please forgive me and know I’m not that girl anymore!  I’m a good person now.”  I was a child…

I’m not that girl anymore, nor have I been for a very long time.  She was not as terrible as I was led to believe she was.  She was NOT evil.  She was very sweet at times.  She wanted to be accepted for who she was.  She wanted to be loved unconditionally and feel like she was even likeable at times.  She wanted to be really good at something – anything! – And have her family, especially her mother, notice it and be proud of her.  She defended the underdogs always.  She was scared and insecure ALL of the time, even though she was a phenomenol actress and appeared to be overly confident to other children.  She loved to argue with people because she was pretty good at that… but an argumentative girl is not something people notice in a good way, nor is it something to be proud of, apparently…

I left the town I grew up in a long time ago.  Part of the reason I did that was to leave it all behind.  I wanted a fresh start.  I wanted to be a new person and I couldn’t really get a clean slate there.  In the decades since then it has been a rare new friend of mine who doesn’t hear about what an awful person I was back then.  I guess I thought if I confessed it enough, it was a kind of repentance.  I wanted my present friends to know who I used to be.  I wanted to be upfront and transparent.  I wanted them to have an out… 

I wish I could tell you I was protecting them, but I think it was me I was protecting.  No one wants to be friends with girls who are bossy and argumentative.  Right?

When I write it all down, I realize how silly this all is because it was SO long ago and I’m not that girl anymore… Well, I am outspoken if it’s something that I feel really passionate about…  Maybe I am that girl.  I’m just grown up, my edges have rounded out, my heart has been broken and softened, I REALLY love people, some of them even love me back, and I’ve found a few things that I’m REALLY good at.  He loves me unconditionally and that’s enough. 

I think of friends who have been through so much more as children – sexual abuse, loss of parents or other loved ones,  divorce  – and I feel like a drama queen.  This is how I’ve stayed in this rut for so many years.  I minimize my pain.  I think a lot of us do that when we become adults.  We file our childhood pain under “Get Over It” and move ahead… only not really.  It’s there.  It always shows up even if we don’t recognize it.  It’s there and leaving, burying, pretending, none of those things heal it.  Pulling it out, really looking at it with blatant honesty, forgiving the necessary parties, and then putting it to rest forever or until we’re ready to deal with a little more of it – that’s the way to heal it.

And, still, I haven’t forgiven myself.  I’m not sure how to do that, not even sure how to begin.  I just know it’s looming in the background and affecting my present relationships.  I know that I still feel genuine embarrassment at the little girl I was (sometimes).  I know that this may all sound very silly to someone who is not me, and that’s okay.   If one of my friends came to me and told me that s/he was struggling with forgiving the person s/he was 30-40 years ago or more, I would tell my friend to let go of that and embrace their present self.  I would reassure him/her that no person in her right mind would still be holding a grudge against a child this many years later for things that children do.  Right?

Right?

 

 

 

 

 

Friendship, Motherhood, Girl Struggles…

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grace

I’ve been avoiding writing on my blog because I’m feeling a little like once I get started, I might just vomit my junk all over the place, and, really, who wants to be on the receiving end of that?! 

So, I’m apologizing in advance for any emotional puking I may do. 

I have had mostly unhealthy friendships for most of my adult life.  I used to want to save people.  Truth be told, I still want to save people, to love them unconditionally, make sure they feel included, valued, important.  The only difference is that now I know how unhealthy that can be.  I have an almost neurotic fear of anyone feeling left out.  I also can’t stand for anyone to feel unloved.  I am, by nature, a “fixer” and it looked pretty noble and sacrificial from the outside for most of my life.  But, as happens with most illusions, the truth begins to rear its ugly head eventually.  About 5 years ago, when my life was falling apart, a wonderful counselor, who is now an even more wonderful friend, helped me uncover my other motives for my choices in friends and how I behaved in close relationships (my husband, my children, my family of origin, etc.) in general.  It all began with the profound question, “So, how’s that working for you?” 

I realized that I felt left out much of the time growing up.  I’m the only girl in my family of origin with four brothers, so being left out on some level is kind of a given.  My mom and I were not close while I was growing up. The public schools that I attended, like most institutions, did not lend themselves to inclusion of all.  It is heartbreaking to me to see how unaccepting children and teenagers can be.  Even as an adult, I am usually the “odd girl out” when we have a get-together with my family of origin. 

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why I want everyone to feel part of things or why I have a deep need for people to feel loved without condition.  Nor does it take a brain surgeon to realize that I long for people to return the favor so that I can feel part of things and truly loved.  The crazy part of all of this is that it took confirmation from some of the people closest to me that I was not loved unconditionally by them, not really even worth fighting for, for me to see who I am truly, deeply, madly loved by and who thinks I am worth fighting for no matter what. 

He thinks I am worth it.  He loves me and all of my junk and He knows all of my junk more intimately than ANYONE else ever could!  That may sound cliche’ to some of you, but the realization of this truth wrapped its lovely arms around me and enveloped me in a blanket of peace, grace and joy such as I had NEVER known before.  It saved my life.  It has changed my relationships with others in many ways.  I feel more free to love others with grace.  I don’t feel like I have to “save” people like I used to because I trust Him to love them SO much more than I could ever imagine.  I understand that until people are ready to take the steps toward healing, no other person can “fix” them or love them out of it.  But I can love them – no matter the path they choose.

I wish I could say that now I only have completely Christ-centered healthy friendships with other women, but it just ain’t so…  I still find myself longing to be loved unconditionally, to be part of the group, to be wanted…  I am struggling daily with knowing how to be in a healthy friendship – with give and take, seasons of unbalance that are just part of life, but grace abounds and love flows abundantly, where both people give each other the benefit of the doubt and trust each other because they’ve earned each other’s trust through their journey together. 

I wish I could tell you that when a friendship blows up in my face I just tell myself that He loves me completely and that is enough – and I wish I could tell you that I come to this conclusion immediately after the pain of betrayal and loss set in.  I can tell you that I always come back to this truth, but it’s usually after spending a lot of time feeling indignant, hurt, sad, angry, etc.   Pity parties do occur, I’m ashamed to admit.  I can also say that this truth still wraps its lovely arms around me and saves me so much quicker than it used to.  Knowing that we are all worth loving with all of our “junk” helps me to understand that someone else’s inability to reciprocate friendship is probably more about them than it is about me.  My shortcomings are not a reflection of someone else’s worth, but simply my junk getting in the way.  This isn’t an excuse.  I have to bring my junk out into the light so that it can be worked through, dealt with and deflated so that it doesn’t have the power to hurt anyone anymore.

The part of this process that I struggle the most with is what 12 Step people call step 3:  “Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.”  I am aware of the problem, aware that He is God and He knows best, but I’m always unsure of what my part is after that.  This is probably my biggest struggle as a mom, and I think my kids are more frustrated with me than I am.

I was one of those moms who rocked all of my babies to sleep, made homemade baby food and my own healthy wipes.  I never missed a game or an event that our children participated in.  I was the PTA president, homeroom mom, and had HUGE weekly pool parties for 30-40 of my children’s friends and family members each summer.  My children had haircuts ever 4-6 weeks, dressed to the nines, and (most) always minded their manners.  In 2003 I became aware of the lunacy I was living one night when I was reading my daughter’s report card which complimented me on what beautiful outfits she wore to school!  I realized that I once took great pride in this and now I was full of conviction about the example I was showing my children and I began to question the why of it all.

Several things happened in the next couple of years; we began to homeschool, we changed churches, and eventually we moved across the country.  We began to value stuff less, sometimes too less, I would think as my ragamuffins would walk into church barefoot many Sunday mornings.  I would also feel thankful that we had changed churches, as this would not have been accepted at our former place of worship.  All of this made our family closer in many ways, and I am thankful for that, however, I was still overly mothering our children.  I would tell myself, in a very smug inner voice, that I was a wonderful mom, willing to sacrifice for my children unlike so many other moms who behaved so selfishly.  I knew that one day my children would arise and call me blessed because I had made them and their father my whole life.  I had loved them all unconditionally and created wonderful memories for them, so they would always love me.

ICK!

So, when we moved to Texas and everything fell apart, I found myself sitting in a chair in one of the offices at our church.  I was lamenting how unfair it was that I would have this horrible thing happen to me when I had been such an amazing mother and wife.  I had sacrificed EVERYTHING for my family!  The next question changed my life…

Counselor:  “Why did you do that?”

Me:  “Because I’m the mom.  I’m the wife.  That’s what good moms and wives do.  They’re my life.”

Counselor:  “But why did you do that?  Who asked you to?  What were you hoping for?”

Me (indignant):  “Well, no one asked me to.  I didn’t want anything.  I just wanted to… I don’t know…”

Counselor:  “What did you sacrifice?”

Me:  “Myself.”

Counselor:  “What do you mean?”

Me:  “I gave up my dreams.  I lost me because I was so busy supporting, encouraging, and saving all of them.”

Counselor (patiently):  “Did someone ask you to do that?  Did they expect it?”

Me:  “Yes… No…  I don’t know.  It’s just what you’re supposed to do, isn’t it?”

Counselor (kindly):  “What dreams did you give up?  Why did you do that?”

Me (feeling defensive):  “I don’t remember.  I feel like you’re attacking me for being a good mom and wife.”

Counselor:  “I want you to really think about why you gave up everything for everyone around you when no one asked you to.  I want you to think about what you expected to get out of that – not in a selfish way, it’s just that whenever human beings do something there are always expectations, some unselfish and some not.  Try to figure out what kept you on that path.”

I went home that day feeling really beat up!  I had been respected for the kind of mom I was to our 5 children.  Our marriage was idealistic on the outside.  It wasn’t easy for me to be honest with myself about the why after convincing my “self” for two decades that I was a model wife and mother for no other reason than I loved my family immensely and this is what God called on me to be.  This was a big part of the reason I lived the way I did, but it was not the only reason.  He revealed to me that as long as I was putting myself behind everyone else’s dreams and struggles, I didn’t have to put myself out there and risk falling on my face pursuing my own dreams – or more importantly, becoming who He wanted me to become.  I also believed on some unconscious level that if I loved my husband and children unconditionally and completely that they would always love me the same way.  I guess I thought I was taking out “love insurance,” guaranteeing I would never have to feel that I wasn’t worth loving again. 

I’ve done a bunch of work since then.  It hasn’t all been pretty.  Honestly, most of it has been ugly and uncomfortable.  I’ve pulled back from being SO involved in my kids’ lives and tried to trust Him to take care of them and to allow them to stumble at times.  Most of the time my kids feel abandoned by me.  They feel like I went from being all over every aspect of their lives to not really caring what happens to them.  I’m just not very good at finding that healthy place, yet.  I think that it’s natural for them to want things to be as they were, but I know that is not what He wants from us.  I know it’s not what is best for them.  I just wish I could find that healthy, balanced place where my kids feel loved and they know that I really believe in them and where I am involved just enough.  I’m working on it.  I cling to 1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  I know it sounds like a cop-out, but really it’s just me being thankful that He knows my heart.  He knows I’m trying to be in His will and His grace and love coupled with my love will cover my sins in being a mama and in my other relationships.

He’s freed me from a lot of the superficial things that used to enslave me.  I don’t believe all of my children have to fit into a “Tricia-shaped” box that says they must earn a 3.5 or higher gpa, and then attend college immediately after where they will meet the perfect partner during their last two years at university, get married upon graduation, have big money jobs and live happily ever after.  I trust each of them to find their way.  Each of our children is a truly amazing human being with more talent than I could ever muster.  None of them fits into the ugly box that our society deems “good” and I am thankful that they are all finding their way in this world with no need for any shape box.  I wish I knew if and how to help them during this part of their lives.  I’m kind of like a drug addict.  If I start to get involved, I’m afraid I won’t be able to quit and I’ll just want more and more…  So, I pray a lot and I continue to be thankful for 1Peter 4:8, because I’m still feeling around in the dark and His love and grace are the only reason I’m still standing.

What’s Your Thing?…

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breaking free

We were all at church this past Sunday, my Honey, our babies and the youngest baby’s girl and the messages have all been focused on the 12 Steps this month.  This week we had gotten to Steps 4 and 5.  Years ago, I attended a recovery group at our church in Michigan and since then I’ve realized it is an essential part of growing for EVERYONE, not just those people, because we are ALL those people.  When I first started going to the meetings back then I remember feeling like I didn’t really belong because I was not as screwed up as most of the other people at the meetings.  I’m not an alcoholic, or a child molester. I’m not a recovering drug addict or a cleptomaniac. My life seemed pretty Holly, Molly, Polly to me back then. I kept attending because I trusted friends that encouraged me to go.  When we moved, I was surprised to find that the churches we attended in Texas weren’t really familiar with the program outside of AA.  It was something I wanted to continue when I came here seven years ago.   It was a lot of HARD work that I led to great peace, but over the years I’ve become complacent and gotten pretty good at remaining anonymous.  So, I’m full of mixed emotions now that I have no excuses because my church is all in about this ministry, and now I am completely aware that I am just as screwed up as everyone else.

After church we went to this yummy, cheap Mexican restaurant with our three youngest, plus Aaron’s significant other. Just as an aside, the whole meal for 6 of us cost $35.00 and was delish!  We started talking about church and asking each other what we thought our “thing” was – and reminding each other that if you think you don’t have a “thing,” then denial is probably your “thing.”  (I’m sure Aaron’s girlfriend was thrilled about this discussion!) A couple of people asked to have “thing” redefined.  “It’s what holds you back, what gets in the way of you being who God means for you to be,” someone said.  If you can’t think of what yours is, you are supposed to ask those closest to you, because they definitely will have an answer for you. We’re helpful like that, aren’t we?!  I reverted to several years ago and tried to think of a “REALLY BAD” thing (UGH!).  Of course, when I couldn’t think of one, my daughter said, “Mom, you KNOW what your thing is,” and then gave me “that” look.

Several seconds passed while I racked my brain. (Is that how you spell r-a-c-k?…)
OH, yeah…  I shut my kids down, in the name of “respect me because I’m your mom” and treat them with no respect when I feel threatened or insecure… Now I remember…

and I remember the other thing that was said at church was that step 4 was the most difficult –  because you have to honestly face your junk and you have to do it continually.  I’m confessing right here and now that because I have previously admitted that I do that to my children, I had kind of put it away.  I wish it was because I’m over it and I won’t ever do it again, but I’m pretty sure it was because I just don’t want to look at it anymore and I want to think I’m all better… Yeah, no… I need to work on being so defensive.

The next step is making amends.  I’ve admitted this to my children.  I’ve even apologized to some degree…  I mean when I do this it is because one of my children is being a disrespectful brat and I’ve had enough…  Doesn’t that make it a little bit okay for me to raise my voice and shut him/her down?…

No?…

Hmmmm, I’ve got some work to do, more submitting to Him, more confessing to them and sincere apologizing.
Okay…

Now I know why these two steps are so difficult and SO necessary. I also realize that it’s important for me to follow through with these steps continually throughout my life if I want my children to be all that He means for them to be. I want to be an example to my children and to my grandbabies. I want them to respect me because I’m transparent, and after God’s heart.
I wish we could just line up the “junk” and work on it for a couple of weeks and then be completely clean! Wouldn’t that be the BOMB?! Wrap it all up in a nice box with a pretty bow and move on to Eden…

My pre-step, Step 0, as it were, is to find a 12 Step small group to be a part of. Right now that feels as huge as steps 4 and 5 combined. I know that this is an answer to prayer on a couple of levels, so I’m going to try to shed my complacent skin (another one of my “things”) and follow His lead. He knows what I need more than I do and I really want to be in His will. I’m pretty okay with answered prayers for the most part, too…