Monday, April 11, 2016

Killing 'Em With Kindness

Details of a Love - "Don't let emotion impact your actions, let empathy influence your feelings."
Have you ever had one of those days where everything everybody does gets under your skin? For most of us women, that seemingly inexplicable lack of emotional self control occurs around a not-so-inexplicable time of the month. Other times, it's for no justifiable reason.

Sometimes I feel like if I have to be undeservingly kind to one more person I'll scream. And then most likely run into the bathroom and cry.

Then there are the days that I see myself so clearly inside, the negativity and I think, “how could I possibly accomplish anything good in this life? Look at me, I mess up all the time. I suck."

A few weeks ago, I was having one of those days. I was doubting myself in a very major way, feeling like I was bad at my job, bad at being a daughter, a sister, a friend, I couldn't decide what to eat for lunch, I was losing at Upwords against my mom on my phone, the bathing suit I ordered for Hawaii didn't fit the way I wanted it to... just really not liking myself at all.

Then a coworker, who I honestly thought didn’t care for me very much, said to me, “I watch the way you treat people, and I wish I could do that… be nice even when they don’t deserve it.”

It really caught me off guard because I see my inner-monologue... that part of me telling people to get out of my face, stop bugging me, "seriously, you can't figure this out on your own?"... I see my frustration, the impatience, the irritation and anger... I don't FEEL kind.   I feel mean. Really mean. And if it were socially acceptable I might even punch someone in the throat.

But, I guess that's not what other people see. And that's good.  They might think I need anger management if they saw what was really going on inside.

I think about that old adage, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

I don’t really agree with that. I think you CAN ALWAYS say something nice.

There's a trick to it, though... it's that other old saying, "Put yourself in their shoes."

If a coworker is short with me, condescending or impolite, I always assume they’re having a bad day. (Some people have way more bad days than others if you know what I mean.) I assume something has gone terribly wrong and they just can’t take it anymore. Instead of getting angry at how I’m being treated, I feel something else… compassion. Instead of wanting to make them pay, or punch them in the throat, or secretly holding an infinite grudge… I start doing something else. I’m extra nice to them. Sometimes, I might even bake them something. Or go out of my way to do something nice for them. (Like not punch them in the throat.)

Slowly, my anger at the situation dissipates and so does theirs. Almost every single time they realize how they were treating me and it either stops or they apologize. I've found that if you don't entertain the negativity, refuse to feed and fuel it, it will die. It's like that jerk of a weed in your garden that is stronger and bigger and more resilient than any other plant out there. You can rip it out all you want, but it keeps growing back... until you kill the roots. Or... don't even let it take root.

I have to stress, though, that this is a choice you have to make. The anger ignites, the offense begins boiling, and you acknowledge it. You can't face something if you can't admit it's there.

I have a little internal conversation with myself, "Okay, so you're angry, you definitely deserve to be, but they probably have something else going on, so let's try to make their day better by letting this go and being nice."

Brené Brown, a researcher and author, whose work I am an avid reader of, says in her book, I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame...
"Compassion is not a virtue - - it is a commitment. It's not something we have or don't have - - it's something we choose to practice."

There have been so many times in my life when I wish people would have been empathetic with me and to my situation. For instance, when I decided to leave my first husband and escape a physically abusive relationship… so many people that professed to be my closest friends judged me. They decided that their small minded convictions outweighed the need for truth and my desperate need of support. If ever there was a time in my life I needed empathy, it was then.  I just needed people to put themselves in my shoes… remove the spiritual and religious taboos I was up against, assume they didn’t know all the details and that just maybe, there was a good reason I was doing what I did, and extend love despite their opinion of the situation… It really disintegrated what little trust I had left in people. It took me almost a decade to be able to trust friends after that. I stopped getting close to people because I didn’t want to be judged. To be completely truthful here, it’s still something I work on.

I love The Message’s translation of Hebrews 13:2-3…
Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you.

Maybe that’s why I make such an effort to extend empathy and mercy to anyone and everyone.  Because I know what it feels like when people don’t. 

The saddest part of it all is that the people that have hurt me the most are “Christians”.  They believe they know what is right and wrong and judge accordingly. 

It’s really unfortunate, because the God I love and serve has taught me to love unconditionally… not just the people that do everything right and are perfect, not just the people that have never hurt me. I love because He does.

I also believe that the mercy I am able to show people is a living example of the mercy God has on me.  

Man, have I screwed up in my life… but, God has blessed me despite all of it.  He has blessed me so hugely that there is no other explanation for it other than God genuinely wanting me to be happy in life. Because I know, I don’t deserve it. Not without his mercy.

Don't let emotion impact your actions, let empathy influence your feelings. 

Get off your high horse, come down to their level, and be nice.

In place of offering your opinion, simply say, "I get it."

People change when you show them compassion. The inner-workings of their spirit begin to unravel when a dose of genuine kindness is injected into their day. Whatever hardness is in their heart, whatever situation is ripping the happiness out of their life, the empathy you show can begin a process of undoing the negativity.

Empathy has no cost to you… you sacrifice absolutely nothing by showing compassion… but what do you gain? I challenge you to try it and see.

I've listed some of my favorite scriptures that prompt kindness, compassion and empathy.
I've put them into an easily printable, categorized sheet so you can take it with you anywhere!  I plan on doing this for all my posts so they can be bound together in a little reference book with different topics.  Let me know what you think!

Details of a Love - Scripture Printable - Killing Them With Kindness

Friday, April 8, 2016

Move. Now.

I've been thinking lately about how my life seems to not have a direction. Well, I've actually been crying about it lately... feeling hopeless, worthless, lost, confused, angry.

Then one morning while driving to work, on my way to do a job that inspires no other description except "blah", I was listening to the Elevation Worship album, "Here As In Heaven", and all of a sudden I remember Details of a Love.

I remembered that God has given me such a passion for writing. I remembered that he has given me such courage to share my story and expose my vulnerability. I remembered that this is the one place where I can actually do something that would give me purpose.

I heard it so clearly while Steven Furtick shouted over the music, "MOVE. NOW."....

You need to write.

Last weekend I had a meltdown in front of my mom. "I'm 34 years old and I have nothing to show for it except a multitude of mistakes."

It's not completely untrue. I do have a menagerie of mistakes following me and the choices I've made in life, but when I look beyond the mistakes, I see so many blessings that kept me in the grace of God while I was being human and screwing up.

I want to share my experiences with you, the insecurity, the domestic violence, the battle with my health, the shame, but also the hope I have, the perseverance, the love I see every day, the blessings.

My life is good.  It's really good.  But, that's because I make it that way.  I perceive it that way.  And mostly, because I give God the reigns.

I hope that you will find comfort knowing you aren't the only one going through crap in life.  That you have people that understand and will support you.  I'm always open to chatting.  And it can never hurt to build your army of prayers, either.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Surrendering to the Free Fall of Change

drawing by me, 2015 sketchbook project
There's always these moments in time when everything changes.  It's terrifying, exciting, overwhelming, exhilarating... and almost always painful.  Sometimes it seems that every possible change that could possibly happen waits until the same exact moment to reach it's precipice... and instead of just stepping onto a new path, you feel like you've just jumped off of a cliff in a free fall, not knowing if or where you'll land, feeling your stomach rise to your heart and your heart rise to your throat... but then... just when you think the fear might kill you, something lifts... you relax a little and realize the feeling of falling isn't so bad.  You embrace the rush of the unknown racing towards you and you just let go of whatever false control you were holding on to.  Instead of falling, you're floating.  Instead of focusing on the possibly catastrophic ending to your fall, you change your perception.  In that exact moment, you connect to the idea that you are completely un-tethered. Instead of seeing that your disconnect from stability will eventually end in a sudden and abrupt meeting with a solid force, you look at that one second... and in that one second, you are simply unattached.  You are free.

But, you have to surrender.

That's where I am now.  Things happen.  I can, perhaps, influence these situations slightly, but not much.  So, I'm doing my part, and otherwise, just enjoying the ride.

This beautiful life we've been given to live, love and experience... it needs a deliberate person to really, fully, venerate it.  No more apathetic living.  No more squandering my moments on thinking "what if" or regretting.

I will be mindful and present... open to pain and joy alike... vulnerable and strong... free, but always moving with a purpose... balanced.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Rotten Apples

I know it's been almost a month since my last post.  I've written several since then, but just didn't feel they were to be shared. 

The past few weeks have been difficult.  Writing here has reopened so many wounds that for so long I pretended had healed.  I'm so very talented at feigning contentment.

In the midst of processing my grief, I've unearthed substantial resentment that has been festering inside me for so long.  Of course, I thought if I ignored it and stopped allowing myself to feel it that it would just vanish.  Unfortunately, that's not how it works. 

You can't just bury a rotten apple in your produce drawer, pretend it isn't there, and not expect it to infect everything else around it. 

And sometimes, by the time you realize the damage that has been done and what needed to be done to prevent it, it's too late.  It can't be undone. 

All of this has led to the most intense spiritual crisis I've ever had in my life (and believe me, I've had a few). 

I know the stipulations of being an acceptable Christian.  And in my opinion, the fact that I allowed this rotten apple to putrefy everything around it means I am not, in fact, a good Christian.

So where does that leave me? 

Are we, as Christians, permitted to be hurt, to feel hurt by others and have difficulty conceding to it and moving on? 

What exactly does forgiveness entail?  In order to forgive, do we have to deliberately subject ourselves to the same detriments over and over again because it is considered selfish to want the hurting to end by turning our backs to it?  Or is forgiveness defined by not resenting anymore, ending the hurting inside you, and moving on in the direction that will prevent it from happening again?

And now, through all of this, will God be by my side even if I, in an effort to do what's right, may not go the direction He actually wants for me?  Will I forever be lost to the favor of God?  Or will He bless me regardless because my intentions are pure?  Will He lift his hand from me as punishment for holding onto the hurt?

I know what the scriptures say.  It is just so hard to believe His mercy is THAT abounding.  And even more so... that I am deserving of it.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Until We Can Hold You In Heaven...

I had written yesterday that I wanted to start a tradition of writing to our baby every year on October 15th. 

Unbeknown to me, Tom had already done so.  He gave this to me last night when I got home from work.  Framed.  I read it and cried.  It took me a while to read it because I couldn't see through the flood of tears welling up in my eyes.  All I could say was, "thank you", and bury my face in his shoulder. 

Finally, after almost 6 years, we're beginning to grieve together, differently, but together.  I am so incredibly grateful.  This will be hanging on the wall next to my vanity in our bedroom.  I'll see it every morning as I begin my days and every evening as I prepare for sleep.

Thank you, honey, for such a beautiful gift.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Rembrance Day

I'm sure that most of you do not know that today is National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day.  In 1988, President Ronald Reagan named October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month saying, "When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan.  When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower.  When parents lose their child, there is no word to describe them." It seems insignificant to people that have never experienced it.  I don't expect anyone to drop what they're doing to recognize this.

I'll tell you what it means to me, though.

It means I'm not alone.  It means I'm not the only person that feels this pain and has a hard time getting past it.  It means I'm not weird or abnormal.  It means that what I'm feeling is okay, it's allowed.  Also, it means today I'm allowed to be sad and I don't have to hide it. This really should be the case every day, but I'm letting myself be free today and feel these things openly. 

I know that the pain of a lost pregnancy isn't as well understood by people who have not endured it.  It isn't tangible.  We never held our baby, never saw it's face, never touched them, but the grieving is just as real.  The reality is that we have lost a child, too.  Nothing changes that.

I think that now, since I'm beginning this grieving process after so long, it's time to start a tradition for every year on October 15th.  I'm not sure what Tom and I will do, but here are some ideas I've seen and come up with myself.
  • Buy something special in memory of our baby
    • Charm Bracelet - add a new charm each year
  • Write a letter or poem for our baby
  • Create a piece of art each year - pouring all of the emotions of the loss into it
  • Dinner out, taking time to talk about how the feelings have changed over the past year
If you've lost an infant, child or pregnancy, I encourage you to start a tradition, too.  These precious little lives should be honored, however short they were. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Self-Deprecation & Finding My Worth

I've spent the better part of the last 6 years vacillating between considering trying for a baby again and not trying again.  There is so much fear.  Fear of losing another baby.  Fear that it might break me completely if we lose it again.  Fear that I will die. 

The fear, though, seems secondary to everything else I've been thinking and feeling.
  • What if I can't conceive because God knows I would be a bad mother?
  • What if I can't conceive because I did something wrong and God is punishing me?
  • What if I take fertility drugs and it ends up killing me like it almost did last time?
  • Maybe I'm just not meant to be a mother.
  • Maybe I'm not good enough.
  • I don't want to do this if it means forcing the hand of God and taking matters into my own hands. (in vitro, fertility drugs, surrogacy, adoption)
  • What if my hormonal/emotional issues will stop me from being a good parent?
  • What if my husband really doesn't want more children and ends up resenting me if we do have one?

I've tied my inability to conceive to who I believe I am as a person. 

I have become the master of self-deprecation.

There are so many days when my mind is overwhelmed with the thought "I am nothing."  It consumes me.  A lot of people say "there's a voice that tells me I'm not worth anything."  For me, it's not some disconnected voice, I know it's me saying it.  The past 6 years have molded this image of worthlessness inside of me.  I never recognized it, though, until my therapist read my blog biography for Eat.Sleep.Make. 

My first assignment was to rewrite it.  I couldn't do it.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't write something that didn't humiliate me in some way.  It was absolutely impossible for me to be proud of myself for any aspect of my life.  As far as I was (and mostly still am) concerned, I had(have) nothing to contribute to the world.  (Even now it's still hard for me to believe that people actually voluntarily read these blog posts.)

It's a terrible thing... living each day in such a haze of deception and depression.  I know what the Bible says.  I know I am intelligent.  I know I am talented.  I know I am beautiful.

But, I don't know that any of that is worth anything if I'm not a mother.  The things I do, the things I know, the things I create will leave no lasting impression on this planet when I am gone.  These things will have no affect on my life after death.  The only thing I can find that kind of meaning in is raising children to be world changers, too.  I'm not destined for greatness as far as business or being an evangelist is concerned.  Being a mother was the greatness I wanted. 

I observe my brothers and their wives with their children.  My nieces and nephews running to their parents when something happens... they're hurt, they're hungry, they're tired, they're scared. They find everything they need in their parents... love, affection, protection, guidance... It is such an amazing and beautiful thing.  To see how all the effort they've planted and fostered has begun growing into tiny adults who can make their own choices and so eagerly learn new things... it's an absolute miracle.  To know that your body contributed to the creation of this amazing being who never ceases to astonish you, it must be incredible.  God chose you for a miracle.

For some reason, though, I have not been chosen for such.

To be honest with you, it's a lot of the reason why I started writing this blog.  If I can't make an impact on this world by raising a child, then I will make an impact by sharing about it.  Exposing the pain, the depression, the surrender, the hope, the battle...

I am aware that right now a lot of these posts are dark and sad, but the only way of expelling the darkness is to expose it.  I have to share this all before moving forward.  I know there is light at the end of the tunnel.  I know I will not be stuck in this rut forever.  I know my God has not forsaken me. 

However, I am human.  I am not completely immune to the things that happen as a result of being part of this world.  So, I'm working through it.  I'm just choosing to do it in front of all of you. 

I know this is helping others because some have reached out to me already, but it is also helping me.  SO MUCH.  It's helping me to be honest with myself.  It's helping to hold me accountable to this healing process I've committed myself to.  It's helping bridge the gap between me and my family because they know what I'm going through now.  Most of all, it's giving me hope because now I see so many others that have been where I am and have come through it successfully and joyfully. 

I know I'll find my worth again.