Sunday, October 8, 2017

Fear of Abandonment, Continued...

My second-to-last post about Fear of Abandonment was widely read (at least for my stuff), resonating strongly with many of you, and empowering a few.  So, I wanted to check in with you and update you on me.  If you're still standing in it, swimming in it, or sinking in it, I just wanted to let you know that you're not standing, swimming, or sinking alone.  'Cause I am, too.   

It's been a rough couple of weeks.  I could give you a thorough account of the few steps forward and the many steps back, but I want this to be fruitful for us, so I'm fastforwarding.  The latest development for me is a counseling appointment scheduled for next week.  First ever.  I am feeling excited, mad, hopeful, hopeless, and humbled about this.  

Recently, my husband recommended we "table" conversation on this issue.  It didn't feel great at the time, but since then I realized that "tabling" something can be progress.  The verb "table" means "to postpone the consderation of".  When two people are coming from two different places and speaking two different languages about a subject they disagree on, it is nigh impossible to feel like you're accomplishing anything, but insanity. 

In chess, I would call it a stalemate.  No winner.  New game.  If only.  

But, it's not chess.  It's my life and my marriage.  It feels like I'm standing inside the door of my heart and home, with my hand on the doorknob, and tennis shoes on my feet.  Despair is standing on the welcome mat on the other side, peering through the window, waiting to be invited in.  And I want to run.  

Physically, I hate running.  I abhor it.  But, emotionally, I feel like I could run forever. 

I just read "Understanding the Las Vegas Killer", and was intrigued when it said, "He once owned 27 residences in four states...".  And I realized he was a "runner", too.   If I actually ran when I wanted to run, and had money to buy actual places to run to, I shudder to think how disconnected I could be from life in one place and from the people who live there.  Blech.

This is why "tabling" is a good thing.  You can't table something, if you don't come back to discuss it.  It doesn't allow for one-way tickets.  It implies taking more time to work at something that isn't working.  

We love to say "Timing is everything."  If that is true, and I think it is mostly true, in that it is critically important, we need time.  A continuation of time.  Not five minutes, not two weeks, but as much time as it takes to get back to good.  And this is one of the many places my husband is better than I am.  He is good at being a grown-up, and being where he's supposed to be, and doing what he's supposed to do, while I'm listening to a broken record that no one else can hear, and wondering where can I run to?  

So, I think of all of the couples I've met who have been married over fifty years and how many of them say none of their married years could be described as easy.  And I think of one woman, in particular.  She was married to an alchoholic for sixty years.  When I asked her how many of those years she would consider good, she said, "The last ten."  Her husband finally stopped drinking when his grandchildren came on scene.  She and her children learned how to love him in those last ten years, which was a real blessing, because it meant they could miss him when he died.  And they do. 

So, in this case, and in mine, and maybe in yours, it is good that "Nothing stays the same." 

May God and time and change be with us, and may no one sell us a one-way ticket.  Amen.    


      

Sunday, October 1, 2017

A Keyhole

I went on a little excursion with the boys today, to check out a new fishing spot one of them keeps talking about.  The fishing spot is a drainage hole that doesn't drain.  But, that doesn't deter boys.



Or the little girl who looked on while they played.  No one talked to her, and with her bike parked alone on the trail, it seemed like she was quite alone.  After she warmed up, she said she liked walking through the water to the other side, because it seemed more dangerous, and she liked showing she was braver than her friends.

This open need to show her bravery and to feel special confirmed my belief that she probably didn't feel special often enough.

But, the conversation rolled on, with some mention of figure skating, and I was secretly glad she had some interest beyond watching other kids play without her.  And then...

She pulled out her phone and showed it to me.  "This is a video of me figure skating."

And her 9-year-old self was stunning.  Flying around the rink in the spotlight that was hers alone, to the music that was hers alone.  This particular performance was just one in a string of performances over the course of five years!  Goodness me!  I'm not sure how I didn't fall out of my chair, but I suspect gravity was just being nice.

I couldn''t have been happier to have gotten her so wrong, and remember how much I love happy surprises.  Like when I looked at this picture I took a second time, and noticed that it looked like a keyhole.  Which was an awesome surprise, because the only thing I saw when I took the picture was my son.  Kind of like when people take pictures and a ghost or something otherworldly shows up later, without the spine crawl.  And I remember how much I love happy surprises. 





Wednesday, September 27, 2017

What's Real in a World of Illusion

I’m at a Disney World Resort, sitting on a patio on a “boardwalk”, eating lunch by myself in the same place I ate lunch by myself yesterday.  I’m here because I tagged along with my husband and five other women for a work conference.  If you read my post yesterday, you have permission to laugh.  In light of a series of recent conversations, it seems that this was intended to be the backdrop for Heidi’s 2017 Brokenness Retreat.  First, last, and only.  Hopefully.

This seems so ironic, because the last time I was here was 23 years ago.  I arrived with my high school show choir, the day after the accident which claimed my mom’s mobility.  I didn’t want to go, but everyone convinced me it was best.  Disney is known as a magical place.  I know it as a world other than my own, but maybe not quite magical.  Not at first. 

I have to admit, I have felt a surprisingly strong resistance to the “unrealness” of the place I’m staying, The Boardwalk Inn.  The buildings are real, the water is real, and the wood that makes up the “boardwalk” is real.  But, the “boardwalk” goes in a circle around a manmade lagoon, has a lighthouse, and a beach with a concrete beginning and end.


And I think to myself, “Hey.  You’re not tricking me.”  This is an approximation, a fabrication, and a manipulation.  I’m not settling into this fictitiousness.  I have a passion for real (nevermind I believe my fears with no basis in reality, without a second thought).  But, I work to shed pretense, not live in it.  This is not what I’m about.  Not that I can’t relax here, but don’t think I’m buying it for a minute.

And then, beginning with this little lunch spot, real things started to happen. 

Yesterday, it was the guy proposing to his girlfriend thirty feet from where I was sitting, and a couple from the North of England, who are on their fourth generation of making memories here, in a place that is magical for them.  Then, my aunt came to visit, whom I haven’t seen for years, and we connected in ways heretofore unimagined.  



Here, in this place that is made to look like someplace else.

Today, when I came back to my new favorite spot, my waitress greeted me with, “How’s your retreat going?  Unsweet iced tea, again?”  And I felt seen and known, at least a little.  The couple sitting next to me were from Atlantic City, where the real boardwalk is, and they told me the funniest thing.  They prefer this one!  Hahaha!  And the fake “boardwalk” grew a little more real. 




I thank Cathy, my waitress, and my lunch neighbors, Roger and Iva, for making that happen.  I thank 35-year Disney employee, Kennedy from the Bronx, who remembered seeing his first clean street here, for answering that he’s “magical” every time he’s asked, welcoming everyone home, and handing out stickers until the tendons in his wrist beg him to stop.  


And, thank you to my real lunch date, the very real grackle coveting my very real tortilla chips, as the most likely source for his next very real meal.  


Thank you all for being the magic in my Disney experience.


Walt Disney said, “I don’t want the public to see the world they live in while they’re in the park.  I want them to feel they’re in another world.”  I can see that he’s succeeded.  But, I can also see that the magic in my world will always come from the people in it.  


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Fear of Abandonment

I have a fear of abandonment.  I've been writing in this space for five years and you probably don't know this about me.  Family members who have known me for most of, or for the entirety of my life, didn't know until recently, when I invited them in to this secret and shameful place.  I imagine this feels akin to an alcoholic's public admission of being an alcoholic.  It feels liberating.  And yucky.

I've been married a month and a half shy of fifteen years.  This fear, dressed as insecurity, has been an intermittent, spasmodic struggle throughout.  Interestingly, as far as I can tell, it doesn't show up anywhere other than in my marriage, and show up it does.  Always with full force.  It is triggered by occasions when my husband is in mixed company, and I am elsewhere.  In my body, it manifests as an unininvited pit in my stomach that demands my full attention.  In my mind, it travels like suspicion, and in my emotions, it feels like fear and betrayal.  I've tried to whisper reassurances to it, suffocate it with reality, smash it with Scripture, pray it away, ignore it, bore it to death, and nothing works.

It must be confronted.  But, not until I am fully humiliated by telling my husband that I am struggling with this.  Again.  UGH.  There is not a bold enough bold or italicky enough italics or a large enough font to properly convey the feeling behind that little three-letter word.

Through my education, some periodic bursts of internet research, and discussion with friends and family with degrees in personal development, I have learned that this fear stems from forming insecure (as opposed to secure) attachments in my childhood.  Depending on who is writing and reflecting on attachment theory, it seems the nature of these attachments are established as a model for future relationships, some time by the age of six.  (Man, that seems like such a short period of time, to be screwed up forever).

I have a very, very poor memory, so, I cannot consciously recall or point to the reasons this problematic manner of attachment is my very own.  But, I have parents and siblings and the collective experience of our life together.  This history includes my parents' divorce when I was four (while divorce is consistently hailed as a major culprit for insecure attachments) , and a string of possible contributing events and relationships for the next twenty years.

It may become important to more fully understand these reasons, as I move forward in the healing/managing process, but for now, I think it is enough to know that the reasons were a real and sufficient cause for being periodically and devastatingly afraid.

I'm afraid of being rejected or replaced.  I am afraid of playing the fool.  I am afraid of not being enough.  I'm afraid of coming up empty-handed, through some fault of my own.   I would say I'm afraid of being alone, as the word abandonment implies, but I am not afraid of being alone.

And so, I write.  I write to understand myself and I write here, because I believe sharing this with you is my duty.  Maybe you don't have the words.  Maybe you haven't had somebody who will give you fifteen years of grace to look at something you don't understand and will put up with your hiding or lashing out when you are afraid of it.  Or maybe you can't relate to any of this, but you know somebody who can.

God only knows.

May the God whose ways are not our ways, and the peace that surpasses all understanding, be ours.  Amen.




Friday, August 25, 2017

Waiting for a Storm

Waiting for a storm is weird.  Hurricane Harvey is somewhere off the Texas Coast and headed this way.  Some have packed and fled, others are probably still packing, and soon, others will just be fleeing.  This far inland, we're just expecting a rain event, but the town is stirring.  The grocery stores have been depleted and gas stations overwhelmed.  My husband is sitting at his post in the Emergency Operations Center and all of our rescue and response people are prepped and standing by.
And I wait.  I usher my kids outside to play, because it looks like its going to be days before we see the sun again.  My gas tank is full, we have plenty to eat, and coolers in the front yard to catch rain water, in case we need it.  (It turns out, you can drink the stuff and most of the world does).

I put a puzzle on the table, to encourage us to spend time together, instead of separately doing that which pleases us alone.  And I think about Noah.  How weird, wild, lonely, and desperate it must have felt to be him!

It would be like this waiting now, but as the only person with the weather channel.  All of the wood stacked up, and the running around, and people friending him on Facebook like crazy 'cuz they're starting to realize something's up.  I can't remember how long he worked on that ark (and I'm on a roll, so I don't want to take time to look it up), but how many times was he tempted to jump ship? Pun intended.

It takes a lot of faith to brave the crowds to sufficiently stock up for a moderate storm.  How much more to brave the crowds, whom you've known your whole life, and lived near, and maybe even loved, and for them to think you're a raving lunatic?  Sheesh!

It kind of reminds me of this thing called life on this thing called earth preparing for eternity, which we cannot see, but know, or suspect is coming.   Even the best weatherman knows neither the day nor the hour.

God, grant us the grace to use this time well.  Amen.

 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Like Superheroes in Heaven

I meet a lot of amazing people with equally amazing stories, but I rarely cry.  Yesterday, I was only on my second visit of the day and knew it was going to be a tear-jerker, pretty soon after walking through the door.

I want to share this visit with you, not because I cried, but because he said I could, and you should know this man, and the wisdom he embodies.  I suspect, a man rarely seen, and less often appreciated.

A man in his 60s, lying alone in his hospital room, turned his head toward me as I entered.

It was apparent that he was "handicapped", as he called it.  He said he was born prematurely, one leg was bigger than the other, and what happened to all of the light wheelchairs?

Within minutes, I learned that his brother died on November 1, and "50% of me died that day, too". The floodgates opened.  He used to live with his brother and attend the church where he preached, but then he died, and now he lives in a nursing home.  "Nursing homes are freezing."

Ugh.  I hate being cold and I certainly can't imagine living in a place where I could never get warm. Pretty much my definition of hell, actually.  More tears.

He had multiple medical issues going on, recounted the numerous falls out of his wheelchair, including the one when he hit his head on a table leg and everyone thought he was dead.  But, he said he looked up and waved and said, "I'm here."

Saint Teresa of Avila once said something like, "Even if you have a life full of nothing but suffering, when you look back on it from heaven, it will seem like but one night in an inconvenient hotel."  I sure hope she's right.

I knew I was in the presence of a saint in this man's room.  But, the following confirmed it.

The surrounding circumstances were unclear, but once he was a spirit, floating above his body and the grass.  Do you think you were in heaven?  "I know I was.  The colors are much brighter there than they are here!"  (I hear that a lot)  "Did you know that when you're handicapped and you go to heaven, you're re-done all over?  Like a superhero."

No, I didn't know that.  Not for sure.  I mean, not like you.  Can I share your story with people?  I think they'd really like to know that.

"I'm looking forward to my funeral!  Don't be sad.  I'll be with my brother and the Lord will be at his side.  People will be singing and praising the Lord.  I want the same songs my brother had at his funeral (and he listed them).  I want a blanket on my casket that says, "This lamb went to be with the Lord."

Tears were streaming down my face, and a physical therapist walked in.  And this is what it's like to be a chaplain.  In heaven and at a funeral in one moment, interrupted, and moved along in the next.

So, that was it.  I had to leave, so I left.  Sad, but rich, and with a clearer and more convinced picture of heaven and all of the superheroes who live there.






Sunday, August 13, 2017

When the Song is Over

I usually write when I have a thought or series of thoughts that I can't quite shake.  If those thoughts have the potential to make you laugh or think, I gotta do it.  And, to be honest, I haven't stopped thinking about singing the National Anthem three days ago.  If I hadn't made the mistake of asking my friend to video it, I could have smoothed over all of the rough parts in my mind, and just incorrectly and happily remembered that I sang it perfectly.

But, I did ask her, and so I can't.  I've played and re-played the video, wishing I could have started on the right note (the very lowest one that would actually come out of my mouth).  Instead of blankly staring at the Ross Volunteer Company posting the colors, I wish I would of been busy finding the starting note in my head, and more importantly in my vocal cords, to make sure I got it right!  Man!

A few notes in, I realized that I was committed to singing in a key I never practiced in, and would not have wanted to sing in, at any price.  In the end, the high parts were in a falsetto I never use, and cringe-worthy, at best.  To my surprise, the crowd jumped in on the last note with whistles and applause.  I attributed it to their patriotism, forgiving and/or forgetful natures, gratitude it was over, or glad-it-was-you-and-not-me celebration.  I work with a great group of people.  That would be just like them.

Today, in an effort to make myself feel better, and put it behind me for once and for all, I sheepishly googled "worst National Anthems" and was delighted when YouTube responded by offering the Top 10 American National Anthem Performance Fails.  My youngest was within earshot.  He heard the first sample come through my phone speaker and said, "Is that the worst?" to which I answered in the affirmative.  "Are you on there?"  No (Eyes flash from- phone-to-son-back-to-phone).  A few more samples played, and then, "Is that you?" Grrrr...

I should have brought earbuds.

I closed YouTube more grateful than I have ever been for Christina Aguilera, Michael Bolton, and Cuba Gooding, Sr.

Before singing (like for a whole month and every day beforehand), I asked God to bless my singing of the National Anthem, and was really hoping that if He wanted to humble me, it would be in a less public, less observable way than during that 1 minute and 20 seconds.

I guess God knew that was a powerful set of minutes.  Those minutes could deliver some ripe and tasty humble-fruit that could make enough humble pie to serve myself and the nation I was singing for.  Maybe for years.

And this all reminds me of a 12-year-old girl we met last weekend.  She was a guest at the rental house next to ours on the Colorado River.  If she had a volume knob, it was turned to Max.  You couldn't not notice her.  She seemed to run wherever she went and had as much to say as volume to say it with.  She baited her own line, took her fish off the hook and threw them back in the water, like somebody who'd been working on a fishing boat for thirty years.  Her expertise was volunteered when any one of us lacked 100% confidence in any moment.  I think she's the only the person who could take a fishing pole out of my 8-year-old fishing expert's hands to see if he had something on the end of his line, which is exactly what she did.

I was equally intrigued and annoyed by her bouncing back and forth between our dock and theirs, and with her total lack of self-consciousness.  She ushered the relaxation off the dock with her bounding, volume, observations, and opinions.

But, when we got back from the beach one evening, their stuff was all cleared out.  They were gone.

The following morning, I found an old styrofoam cooler by our dock that I hadn't seen before.  I lifted the lid and found this floating inside:

    
And although it looks like a piece of paper, wet from floating in an old styrofoam cooler with shrimp in it, it tastes like humble pie.

We spent the weekend enduring this beautiful, outspoken fisher-girl and she left us with what she had.  And took the time to write a note.  And wished us well.

God doesn't need to put me on a stage in front of 2,000 people to humble me.  He just needs to surround me with people who are better at being people than I am.  And He does.