Connecting

Be the Rainbow

After recognizing my lonely state a few weeks back I decided I needed to be proactive about connecting with others. I realized I have a tendency to isolate and expect others to befriend me instead of reaching out to them. This may sound untrue to those who don’t me well because I believe “extroverted” would be on the Top 10 words people would use to describe me. Really I am extroverted, but only those who take the time to see past my surface and know me well, know that I tend to shut off the world, sometimes when I need it most.

Every human needs a place where they can honestly assess themselves. This blog is where I am choosing to be honest. I hope you don’t mind. { Time for some lyrics – I hope you don’t mind, I wrote down in words…how wonderful life is when you’re in the world.} Thanks for reading, if you are. Wow, there is power to putting words out there just for yourself. I pretty much don’t think anyone is reading this and I love it that it’s o.k. [I love that I got happy enough with myself to disable comments.]

So, back to working out the loneliness. I reached out. In the past couple of weeks, I did a bunch of out-reach. First, I went over and helped a friend move. I kind of forced myself on her. She didn’t seem to mind. I also continue to take the children of a friend on bed-rest on a weekly adventure to the park and library. Then I went over and helped another friend move. She also didn’t seem to mind. I got really brave and requested from the ladies from church that come on assignment to visit me once a month that we go to lunch. They seemed happy to oblige. I kept looking for ways to reach out and offered to bring another friend’s children home from swim lessons. I was already there and she lives right around the corner so it was nothing really. Another silly little thing: I answered my phone when a friend from high school called and found out that we will be having a great reunion dinner coming up very soon. I can’t wait. (I would normally just ignore something like that. – Should I admit that?) Last, I sent some giftcards via facebook to some family members who weren’t expecting it. Just for fun. Just to get outside myself.

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Guess what happened? I got immediate and tangible payoffs. Do you want to hear them? Well, you don’t really have a choice because I am telling you…isn’t that the point of this here blog?

I had fun with the first friend moving. She made me laugh. She also helped me to understand that it’s o.k. to not have a spotless house all the time when you are raising a large family. In fact when her kids came over the other day and our house was less than pristine, I was totally able to relax about it. That’s huge.

I had the privilege of being with my friend’s kids the day that their baby brother was born at 28 weeks –  he wasn’t supposed to come that early. I got to see their faces as they saw his first picture posted on facebook. What could possibly be of more value than that?

I got to have a powerful moving experience at the other friend’s moving day about the roles of women and men. I will share more about that in it’s own post in the near future.

I had a great lunch out with two fabulous ladies that are fast becoming some of my greatest friends. I only have one friend that I do lunch with since moving back to Utah, so to add two more feels pretty darn good. Lunch with the ladies is a great source of joy.

My sweet friend for whom I took kids home gave me a gift-card to my favorite restaurant. It was so unnecessary and undeserved but it made me feel loved and it helped me recognize how well this friend knows me and how wonderful it is to have a friend like her.

And last but certainly not least, I got dubbed as the coolest aunt ever for sending a gift-card through facebook. I even got my own post. Kylie is my newest niece (gained my marriage) and she is a gem! Check out the pic.

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The moral of the story: Maya Angelou may have not always been an angel, but she sure knows what she is talking about when it comes to being a rainbow. It is pretty awesome being a rainbow!

Cat and Dog on Relationships

Recently Updated3A friend just posted a cute video of her pets and I had one of those moments of recognition. I borrowed stole some still-shots from the video for visuals. First, her mean kitty came up to the new kitty’s cage to hiss at her. Then the sweet sweet dog came and chased the mean cat away and hovered over the kitty to let her know she was safe.

While watching I was like, “Crap, I’m the mean cat.” I want so badly to be the hovering loving protective dog, but if I am honest with myself, I guess I should be honest with you too….I might reach nice dog status 30% of the time. The other 70% I am definitely in the cat-scratch-your-eyes-out mode.

I’m just cranky. People threaten me.

As I watched the mean kitty all defensive and aggressive, the principle that the therapist has been trying to teach me came to my mind’s forefront:

I have to rid myself of the fear of abandonment if I am ever going to have fulfilling close relationships.

In plain terms – I can’t be scared of other people because if I am I will use aggression, control, and other ineffective defense mechanisms to save myself from being hurt. Acting in such ways just causes me hurt because it pushes people away and that is what I was afraid of in the first place.

Funny sidestory – I am just remembering my kids showing a video from their ipod of Caroline crying the other day. One of my kids said matter-of-factly, “Caroline has abandonment issues.” Their 9 year old playmate was like, Wha? What is abandonment issues?” Yes, this is the stuff we talk about at our house.

Back to the dog and the cat. Remember my recent post about feeling lonely. I’m learning how vital relationships are to living a happy fulfilling life. We all need to connect. Joy is found in connection. I believe  progress will be easy if I can let go of the fear.

To gain greater connection with others I will be working on seeing others as harmless little kittens that need my love and affection, not as threats to my stability and way of life. All the pet owners in the world have room for another pet….even the cranky cats.

“Yesterday I was a dog.
Today I’m a dog.
Tomorrow I’ll probably still be a dog.
Sigh!
There’s so little hope for advancement.” ~Charles M. Schulz

Don’t listen to him…there’s always hope for advancement.

Lessons from the trail: grandpas

be my friend

Watching these grandpas walk together on the trail forced me to take inventory the other day. Am I a good friend? Do I have friends I can count on?

I have so much room for improvement.

I get lonely often. I have been trying to cultivate my relationship with God to a deeper level and feel successful. My relationship with my husband is better than ever (thank you marriage counselor.) I’ve also been spending a lot of time with my kids – can’t get away from them – blasted summer. However, I still get lonely.

At the same time, I like being alone. I don’t feel lonely when I am alone. Weird, eh? It leaves me wondering what my loneliness is trying to tell me because some of my happiest times are when I am alone. I guess when I am alone I am closest to God so that explains that. So what is this loneliness and why do I often feel it when I am surrounded by people?

As I run and bike the trail, I see all kinds of people engaged in all kinds of activity. Lately, though, I’ve been paying the greatest attention to the people who walk with a companion.

They always seem engaged in a beautiful thing with and without conversation. When there are just two people they always seem to genuinely be enjoying one another’s company. The picture above depicts one of these scenarios I found most touching.

I just read an article from the LA times that linked loneliness to premature death. I loved this line.

Anyone familiar with Henry David Thoreau knows that isolation does not necessarily lead to loneliness, while the story of Marilyn Monroe shows that a strong social life can still leave you lonely.

I think for me personally, I experience loneliness because at 39, I still struggle with emotional maturity. At least that is what the therapist said. Ha ha. I want to learn how to be closer to people. I want an old man to walk with on my path….o.k. maybe an old woman as I have an old man in my husband already. I’ve been on the prowl for a friendship that will be more deep and fulfilling, but so far it has been a challenge for me to find. Living in a society where putting on airs seems mandatory makes it almost impossible. There seems to be so much competition to be the best in everything nowadays instead of an atmosphere of  “hey, you’re screwed up, I’m screwed up, you want to be friends?”

At the same time, I over-share and over-communicate, and maybe seek out too much emotional support and encouragement. I air my dirty laundry in hope of acceptance and am often left disappointed. I also struggle with comparison so it’s hard for me to befriend people who are out to prove themselves better than me.

I find myself pulling away from people who are surface friends. I can’t handle being surrounded by perfect people. I need real. Part of me worries that maybe I am expecting too much from others and not focusing on myself enough, but I think that is just paranoia talking. I think what is really happening is that for the first time in my life I am getting in touch with the real me: the good, the bad, the ugly. I am learning to love myself and accept myself. Like a person who trains with friends for a marathon: when the person is running consistently 2 minutes faster per mile, it’s time to find new running partners. For me, as I seek out emotional wellness, it means that surface friendships are no longer enough. The other people are two minutes behind and I can’t stop my personal best to wait for them. It hurts. It’s a painful change, and maybe even sometimes a lonely place, but eventually I think I will find them and I will be all the better for it.

I am left pondering is true friendship able to be maintained despite emotional wellness?  I guess the real question is “should it be”?

I am going to open comments on this post only. I would love to hear kind feedback on how to create and maintain quality friendships.

Birdwatching with Bella

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Photo Jan 28, 2 47 03 PM

One way I struggle as a mother is connecting with my children. Bella is particularly challenging for me as she is  my little clone. She tends to be very long-winded and extremely needy in that auditory department. Like me, she is an over-sharer.

It is especially challenging for an over-sharer mom who also happens to be a crappy listener to connect with her child who over-shares and doesn’t listen. You can see how that doesn’t work. “Mom, listen to me.” “No Bella, you listen to me!” We go round and round in circles, neither listening and neither caring about what they other has to say.

I would dare say this problem with Bella is my most challenging as a mom, but then 50 more problems that are currently going unnoticed will abruptly come to my attention. So, let’s just say this is one of my hardest challenges.

But,people, I am here to happily report that I  made a breakthrough this past week. It was so huge that I called my husband at work and explained it through my tears of joy and gratitude. Maybe my “inloveathome” experiment will actually work after all, a little teeny change at a time?

So, what happened? Let me explain by oversharing. Bear with me.

One of our family traditions is taking a walk around the neighborhood after Sunday dinners. The past two weeks, we happened by our neighbor Sue’s house right as she was settling in to watch the hummingbirds feed for the night. The whole family stopped to chat but both times as the rest of the family went on home, Bella and I settled in to join Sue on her porch. I was delighted to see that Bella loved Sue’s bird sanctuary as much as me. Bella didn’t know it, but I have spent many moments alone in the past with Sue on her porch watching the birds. Bella seemed to fit right in with Sue and I, watching intently, enjoying the quiet, and discussing hummingbirds. We discovered that we all had many questions that needed to be answered about the hummingbirds. Sue suggested we look up the hummingbird mating flight patterns online. Unbeknownst to Sue, with one small sentence, she was an answer to my many many prayers.

The next day, as I arrived home after a long day of errands, Bella approached me while I was folding laundry. She had two papers covered with her own handwriting front and back. She informed me that she had been doing some research about hummingbirds all morning. As Bella proceeded to share what she had written I found that I was completely enthralled. I didn’t want to miss a word of what she had to share. It was as great of interest to me as it was to her and I was able to easily listen as she shared. She was providing a service to me by answering the questions I had voiced the day before. In the moment I felt a great love and appreciation for my Bella in a way I had never experienced before. I loved her for a part of her that has always made me batty. She was over-sharing in a way that I respected. Like me and her dad, Bella showed a great propensity for research. Like me and her dad, Bella showed her love for teaching. I was dumbfounded: what a little miracle she is! And to think that I had never taken the time to notice before? I was ashamed. As soon as Bella left the laundry room, I said a prayer thanking God for making this moment happen. It changed me. It made me into a better mother.

Here is a video of Sue and I enjoying a bluejay on her porch over a year ago.  I treasure this small video file for reasons only known to Sue and I. I don’t want to air Sue’s laundry to the internet, but she has experienced two extreme challenges in just a year’s time. At one point I remember writing her a letter while at church: through heavy heavy tears I told her I looked forward to many more excursions on her porch, even though I was 90% sure it was never going to happen. God is good. Miracles abound. I am so grateful for Sue and the time I have spent with her in her piece of heaven called her front-porch. Without Sue I don’t know if I would have ever had this major breakthrough with one of my hardest parenting challenges.

Live each day like it’s your last.

love people

My grandma died of Alzheimer’s. My mom has memory issues. I won’t be surprised if she’s got it too. When I give myself time to think about it (which I try not to make too often) I am totally convinced that this too will be my lot in life.  I am 39 years old and have struggled with my memory for at least a decade already. It’s scary when I sit down to the computer and can’t remember the name of a website that I frequent every day or when I have to turn around in the car 5 times in the same trip because I keep turning in the wrong direction. I can’t remember people’s names, movies I just watched, and conversations that have taken place. It’s terrifying.

Last weekend my parents were in town. For some reason (I can only figure it was her attempt to connect with me) my mom pointed out my grey hair. I hadn’t had time to color the roots and at 39 years old it’s a source of embarrassment for me. I have told my mom many many times that I don’t like her pointing it out, yet every time I see her she does. I immediately got defensive. It’s part of growing up with a critical mother. I was immediately irritated and forcefully said, “Mom, why do you do this every time I see you? You always point out my grey hair when I’ve told you I don’t like it.” She stammered through her response, “I think it’s great. You are going to have the beautiful white hair like your Grandma and Aunt Shirley.” I do hope for their beautiful hair but not for at least 20 more years. My mom walked off obviously shaken. I felt awful. I went over to her, gave her a hug, and said, “Mom, I’m sorry, I know you just forget.” With tears in her eyes, she said, “I’m sorry Alice, I do forget.”

Yesterday I had a thought. It was short-lived but was extremely powerful. What if God wants me to spend more time at home because my memory will be completely gone in the next ten years? I know that is being paranoid but I had just read about a son who lost his mother to early onset in her 50’s and sometimes I am an hypochondriac. Although I pushed the thought out of my mind as quickly as it came its affect lingered. What if I only had today as my last day with my kids? What if this was my last week? My last year? What would I change? A lot. Too much changing needs to take place, but I was able to view this little faith experiment called being “in love at home” with a new perspective as a gift to me and my family. Instead of being bitter, I got down on my knees and said thanks to my God and asked Him to make the changes faster. I pleaded, “Help me make the most of my time, and connect with my family.” It’s still a challenge. It’s not like it just gets simple when we are dealing with every day life, but my heart had a tiny change and I am grateful for it.

I learned last year that it’s a lot easier to be kind to the ones around us after a family member has died, but I am more determined to be kind and loving when it’s not as easy like when someone hurts my feelings for the 15th time.

Yesterday

I struggled yesterday. It was kind of the opposite of the Beatles song where “all my troubles seem so far away”. I was hating life. I just didn’t want to be here at home. I didn’t want to be at the mercy of my family for another day. I could blame it on my anti-depressant still kicking back in or my lack of sleep, but what it really boils down to is that I was lacking the light. I had burned it out with my negativity and selfishness. I didn’t start my day out with the family or with my God in study and prayer, but stayed in bed letting LG take care of getting the girls out the door. Then when Caroline insisted on my attention just a half an hour later my resentment began and just seemed to grow throughout the day.

I put a little ditty out on facebook asking friends for advice on how they are happy at home: I got all kinds of advice, none of which was anything new that I don’t know already.  When my first attempt for help on facebook didn’t work, I called a good friend and begged to know the trick to being happy. Surprisingly she said she had no idea. I was so validated by both my friend on the phone and another honest friend on facebook who told me she struggles too. I realized that I didn’t need advice, but validation and support. The validation I had received from two of my many friends (interesting how so many dished out advice instead of encouragement) was wonderful, but I knew what I really needed was the same from my higher power. I needed to chase out the darkness with light.

iron At about 3 o’clock while watching Abigail nap on the couch, I had this overwhelming want for the same. Even though I knew I wasn’t really tired, I just wanted to escape.

I thought of all the friends’ earlier advice about taking time for myself and knew that although that advice was good, it wasn’t a long-term solution to finding peace and joy being home.

I went to my room and got down on my knees. I prayed to God, “I’m really struggling today God, show me the better way.”

I can’t explain it, but I got up from that prayer with an increased desire to serve my family. I decided I would iron LG’s work shirts. Because I quit my job we don’t have enough money this week for dry cleaning. Ironing is my most detested household chores. LG needed work shirts for training this week and I could be a help to him or ignore it and make him do it himself. I was shocked at how the ironing didn’t seem to be so dreadful. With each of the five shirts I felt an increased sense of happiness and love. I was choosing this for myself and God was there to do his magic. My resentment disintegrated with every puff of steam.

While ironing I pondered on the verse, “Come unto me all ye who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” I wasn’t angry that I couldn’t afford to dry clean, but I was noticeably supported and enabled.

Wow. I didn’t know it could be that easy.

I then decided to serve my kids. I normally would try to avoid Caroline by doing the soccer carpool while leaving her home with her other two sisters. Instead I took her with me and we played at the park while waiting for the after-soccer commute. She was noticeably more delightful. (Caroline can be super high maintenance) She happily played and even let me sit and read for a bit.

I smiled while watching her interact with another boy on the playground saying, “Hey kid, come and get me.” As she adventured around the cement curbing, it took me back to when I was a kid and would do the same. From where I sat, I turned around to see Abigail out at the front in her soccer drills, and I swelled with pride. I marveled, “So this is what they call joy in my posterity.”  Thanks be to God.

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As the evening came to a close I was actually excited to spend an hour on folding the basket-full of socks that have been ignored for about a month. I turned on a movie which touched my heart and vowed to fold socks weekly and take some TV time for myself – it was actually a break. As I walked back to my room for bed I checked in on each of the girls. As I saw them sleeping comfortably I felt a full measure of joy at just the thought that they are all mine. By the time I got to my room, I felt compelled to my knees to thank God for my beautiful blessings. I haven’t felt like that in a long time, and I certainly don’t feel like that enough when it comes to my kids.

Yesterday, God made all the difference in my life. He literally took me from a dark place where I didn’t want to be to the place where “all my troubles seemed so far away”.