Vulnerability

I screw up. You screw up.

Change starts with one person at a time. Steve Harvey did a fantastic job of owning his mistake and apologizing recently at the Miss Universe pageant. He even made millions of people laugh when he showed he can laugh at himself.  And his wife did a great job of showing her unconditional support. If the ripple effect takes control, then before you know it, we can all live in a better world where we support each other instead of killing each other emotionally.

steve

On Christmas he posted this pic with the caption “Merry Easter y’all”  on his facebook and twitter. Class act!

Steve Harvey screws up. I screw up. You screw up. Everyone screws up. The screw up doesn’t matter as much as if we are able to identify it, apologize, and better ourselves.

The following is my Christmas story this year.

Here’s a screw up of mine at FedEx a few weeks back.

school of ex

You see, the clerk didn’t have the best customer service skills, and I reacted harshly when she told me I was forced to pay $5 for a shipping box because the one I brought didn’t have the FedEx logo on it. I was trying to ship back a textbook I had rented, and there was no way I was paying $5 for a box when mine would work perfectly fine. I insolently told her how I felt: I would go to UPS because I wasn’t paying $5 for a box!  Then I stormed out.

I drove home to print the shipping label as I realized after-the-initial-trip that with the preprinted label the textbook company would foot for the shipping cost. As I drove home with full intentions of taking my business to UPS I evaluated my impatience and realized what I needed to do to make it right. Maybe because I was so abrupt I didn’t allow her to explain correctly? Maybe it would actually cost $5 for the box and the shipping? I printed the label and stopped at Chickfila and bought a $5 giftcard.

When I got back to FedEx the original clerk was busy with another customer. Another employee came to help. I showed him the box and the label. He explained that FedEx could ship my shoebox, but it couldn’t guarantee its safe arrival. It did indeed cost $5 to buy the box and have it packaged by them for total assurance. I explained I didn’t want to spend $5 on a box and we evaluated my other options. I decided to go home and get a box other than a shoebox. But, yes, the first clerk had been wrong about the FedEx logo necessity. Maybe if I would have let her properly explain I would have saved myself a trip. Or maybe not because she seemed to be learning this for the first time as I did.

Before I left I went up to the original clerk and apologized explaining, “I was rude to you, I’m sorry. I got this for you, so you will know of my remorse for acting impolitely.” She said, “It was fine.” I continued, “It wasn’t fine. I jumped to conclusions and was aggressive and these are things I am trying to work on personally, so I thought if I bought you lunch it would help me remember how I should act next time.” She took the giftcard and thanked me. All three Fedex employees were staring at me in disbelief.

I went home for the right kind of box, and returned to FedEx towing along for the third time my 37 pound one-year-old who was now ready for a nap. I grabbed a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups at home for the second customer service rep. that was truly helpful, and thanked him profusely for his patience and competance as I handed him the candy and the correctly packaged book with the shipping label. While he handed me back my tracking information I realized that it had taken me all morning, but I ended up not spending a dime at FedEx.

Unless, of course, you count the gallon of gas, the $5 giftcard, and the bag of Reese’s Cups.

Lesson learned. I laughed at myself the remainder of the day, and when my husband got home from work and I told him of my whole morning spent going back and forth to FedEx he laughed too.

The thing is this….we’ve learned a lot in therapy. He gets what I was trying to do. Be a better person. He  knows that I’ve learned that I am aggressive. I’ve learned that I am abrupt, and that those behaviors are keeping me from having the relationships I want with others. I am actively trying to change my bad behaviors.  It’s hard to do. Old dogs like old bones, not new tricks.

However, we both understand, also, that no one is perfect. All we can hope for is improvement. All we can give is effort. We should be patient with ourselves and others. When we openly work on our stuff (like I did at FedEx) other people might be inspired to openly work on theirs. They may not work on their stuff because “working on stuff” has never been demonstrated. They may have never “worked  on their stuff” because everyone around them is either in denial of their own stuff or critical and not allowing room for work.

So, even though I have a great desire for altruistic behavior all of the time, my actions fall short. Often. I am no saint. But, I still can be someone else’s inspiration when I say I’m sorry. I screwed up. And so can you.

And change is a beautiful message to ponder this Christmas season.

What screw up are you ready and willing to fix?

For the athletes on the bench

abigail one

My dearest Benchwarmer,

I hope you know how truly proud you should be of yourself.
We are extremely proud of you.
You have given your team all of your effort this year.
It has required a lot out of you.
Even though you received very little in return (as far as playing time is concerned)
you never quit fighting, and practicing, and learning.
You have had an amazing attitude.
Much better than any of us, that’s for sure.
Your parents whined about everything.
The two games every game day about killed us, and we weren’t even dressed out.
You only got to play on junior varsity,
but still had to commit an enermous amount of time to varsity, too.
And you did it gladly.
You have stayed positive.
Every day. Every second. Every grueling minute of game day.
This year’s goal was that you could hopefully improve.
And improve you did.
And miraculously, you were also our teacher while doing it.
Because in athleticism and life the improvement is what matters most.
Not the score, or the other players, or any glory.
Your glory came every time you knew you were better than yesterday.
Your victory came in the form of perfected humility
while just being there to give the starters someone to play against.
Day after day.
Week after week.
You have been there to cheer on your teammates.
You have been genuinely happy for them and proud of them.
You have gone above and beyond to follow the directions of your coach.
And honestly, all of those things are what the test of life is really about.
I wish that as your parents we could have given you more.
I wish we could have afforded all the fancy gear and coaching
that all the other girls on your team have had.
But, the way in which you outshine them in your heart makes me almost
glad that we weren’t able to give you more.
Because you, with no advantages at all, with just pure love of the game
and committed effort over ten years, made your dream of making varsity come true.
It doesn’t matter that you may never get to play in a game.
It doesn’t matter to me if your team takes that state title tomorrow.
What matters to me is that you are the best that you can be.
What matters to me is that you are happy and healthy.
What matters to me is that you are my most amazing kid.
If we leave the game tomorrow with victorious smiles,
or we (your dad and I) leave with just small ones that the season is finally over,
what you need to know is that YOU always make us smile.
YOU are the best thing that has ever happened to us.
And you are also an amazing athlete with incredible character.
Stand tall and proud, my child.
You make us so proud.

Love,
Your biggest fans

Life is always worthwhile when you cry or smile.

image

When I die the most important thing I would want to say to my family is “I love you and I’ll see you on the other side.” If I was allowed more than one sentence I would probably elaborate on my wishes for them to live good authentic lives.

I would tell them how I hope for their happiness, and I would tell them I would regret not being able to be there for them physically in their times of sadness. I would want them to know that if I can negotiate something with God, I will and I will always be right by their sides watching over them until we are reunited.

The song “Smile” from Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 movie Modern Times is one of my favorite songs. (Did you know the lyrics were added later based from themes and scenes from the original film?) This song brings back a lot of good memories for me. LG gave me some Happy by Clinique perfume for one of our first Christmases together. It came with a CD full of happy songs. We used to lay in bed together listening to the CD. When “Smile” came on it always seemed so appropriate. Those were really happy times, some of my favorite from my entire life.

However while re-listening to this song recently I discovered how the message of smiling when you are in pain is just kind of screwed up. I thought about Michael Jackson and Judy Garland (both have beautiful renditions of this song – go ahead – hit their links) and how their lives came to tragic ends way too soon. I thought about how they both may have lacked the emotional intelligence and/or support they needed. Maybe nobody ever told them it was o.k. to cry? I wish I could have helped them somehow and see them die in happiness, not out of their desperate attempts to escape.

Crying is an important part of life. Without times of sadness we wouldn’t know how much to treasure the times of happiness. We don’t have to run away from sadness. In fact I’ve found trying to run from it makes things much worse. Sometimes we just need to take time to process our emotions. We need permission to cry in our pain. Everyone should have someone in their lives that will just hold them while they cry.

I’m thinking about the pains I’ve experienced in life. They have been my very best tutors. Not all my days have been spent smiling while laying in my bed with my husband. In fact, I would say that I’ve probably had a close equal amount of time laying in my bed alone crying over life’s sadness. (If you read my blog regularly, you know this. I often use this as a place to process a lot of my emotions.)

So, in short, what I am trying to say is. It’s o.k. to cry. In fact it’s as necessary as smiling is for your emotional health. So do both. When you are in the middle of either happy or sad, most of all, know that your life is worthwhile.

I changed the words of the song to reflect the healthier message.
I am not voice-trained so feel free to skip the video, I made it for my family. I love you guys.

 

7 things I learned in marriage counseling.

Eighteen years we’ve been married. Time has dragged on forever on a lot of days, but just as many have flown by as fast as the family-pack is devoured by our hungry children on Taco Tuesdays. It’s been the best of times. It’s been the worst of times. As a wife, I gave myself an A+ for over a decade….I was oblivious to my own short-comings and blamed my man for most all things wrong in our family. When things started getting more complicated we started marriage counseling and my perfect oblivion was brought to a screeching stop. Those darn psychologists always have a magical way of making people see the truth. And my magical mirror is harsh!! It took the best of professionals (and multiple ones, at that) to help me see the many ways that I had failed and continue to fail in my marriage, but I’m the better for it.

stuck

I read a poignant article  the other day entitled “What Your Husband Really Wants” and it had my mind racing in and out of the many ways I’ve learned to give my husband what he wants. And just like kindergarten, everything I need to know I learned in marriage counseling.

Number 1 – He wants to be your hero. My husband wasn’t able to be my hero because my fierce independence and “I can do it myself” attitude never allowed him to be. Much of the time I would be running around the house like a tornado on its way to Oz all upset that once again he was sitting on the couch while I so desperately needed a break. How could he be so oblivious? Unbeknownst to me he was sitting on the couch because after many years of trial and error the genius of a man knew it was the safest place. He thought he was being my hero by getting out of my way when I really needed a hero to switch me places and take some of the responsibility off my spiraling shoulders. Well, in marriage counseling I’ve learned the hard way that if the queen wants a knight in shining armor, she has to let him be the king. If every time he tried to help, I bit his face off for something then he figured I would be happier if he was out of the way.

2 – He wants to be your lover. I feel like this is the area where I probably struggle the most. I don’t want to get into too much detail as I have to remember that this very post may be accessed by future employers and/or my mother-in-law. Let’s just say that it takes two to tango. I have learned that I am equally as bad at receiving as I am at giving undivided attention. Sure I can go through the motions and I have A LOT (ha!), but if my heart isn’t there then it is just as damaging to my husband as leaving him exiled on the couch. At one point our therapist gave us a “touching” exercise. We were to take 30 minutes each where the other would just touch us all over. We weren’t allowed to talk; we had to be naked. It totally wigged me out. It took this exercise for me to get in touch with a lot of real hang-ups I have….seventeen years later. My poor poor lover was constantly being rejected. This area is a real battle for me. I have learned that sex isn’t meant to be just physical but is best and healthiest when it’s emotional. It takes vulnerability to create true intimacy.

3- He wants to be your best friend. This is an area that has been our marriage’s saving grace. Since the very beginning my husband has been my best friend: I love being with him, I tell him everything, and he is the first person I call when I have good or bad news.  I also know that he considers me to be his best friend, but as is true with all of my friendships, I have a lot of room for improvement. I am a horrible listener which makes connection very one-sided. My impatience is not helpful to either side of the friendship and my quickness to problem-solve and rescue instead of just supporting is hugely problematic. Here, it boils down to trust…I can be a much better friend when I trust myself to be a good friend and I trust my best friend to take care of himself.

4 – He wants to understand you. For a lot of women this is a problem because they aren’t willing to share their deep desires. Like me, they also aren’t forthright with what they need. I, in my great need to be understood, over-share everything with a hidden agenda of control. I’ve been let-down (by my own hypersensitivity and others negligence) in my life so much that I feel like I have to now control everyone around me so they won’t hurt me. “I love daisies, but they can’t be orange. For my birthday, here is my list…make sure #2 is just the right size. No, we can’t go there to eat, you know I hate Indian food.” Trust me, we could do this all day. I guess what I have learned the most here is that being truly understood trumps any manipulated derivative that he could offer. I’ve had to let go of control and accept what others have to offer. What is more important: that he gets me the right kind of flowers or that he knows I’m having a crappy day? That I get what I want for my birthday or that he loves me enough to buy me a present? That we go where I want for dinner or that he wants to be with me on a date?

5 – He wants to protect you. It would be interesting to hear my husband’s opinion on this one, but I think he would probably correlate this to what I’ve already said about letting him being my hero. If I am all suited up in body armor of my own making and I think I can wield a sword better than he can then what is there for him to protect? I don’t need to be weak to be protected, but I do need to be humble enough to let him stand next to me on the enemy line. At the very least I need to not stand across from him with my gun pointed in his direction. That’s figurative not literal, in case you are wondering about how necessary marriage counseling is for us. A healthy relationship requires an “it’s me and you against the world” mentality.

6 – He wants to make you happy. There are two things I’ve learned about happiness. 1- No one else can make me happy. 2 – I can’t make anyone else happy. People can however work together with others for mutual happiness. The fact that my man goes to marriage counseling with me is the best way that he has shown me how important my happiness is to him. I have learned how to be happy without him. He has learned how to be happy without me. Therefore WE have learned how to be happy with each other.  My happiness increases as his happiness does and visa-versa. This makes me very happy.

7 – He wants to be himself. This is perhaps the trickiest of the seven. What should we do as human beings with inherent flaws especially when we are in a marriage? Is it really fair for my husband to be himself if being himself hurts me in some way? Is it fair for me to be overly critical (which I am) because that is just the way that I am?  Yes, we want to be ourselves, but, yes, we should also try to improve – especially for our spouse. I remember well the day we met with my psychiatrist who was discussing the behaviors associated with my bipolar disease and the management of such behaviors. LG asked, “How do I know the difference between Alice being bipolar and Alice just being Alice? I married her because I love some of these things about her – even if they are bipolar.” That, my friends was the most romantic thing I had ever heard. I think back on it often. He loves me for me, even if me is kind of screwed up. I try to give him the same benefit of the doubt although I think he is better at this than I am. I have found that I am always the best at letting him be himself when I put his needs above my own and he has learned that I am better at overlooking his weaknesses when he lets me know his awareness of them and how he is working at fixing them.

So, there you have it: my cliff’s note version of three years of marriage counseling. Yes, it has taken me three years to work my way up from a big fat F to a pretty solid C, if I do say so myself. I can honestly say that my marriage is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to me. It’s the worst because that mirror it forces me to look in is so very harsh! It’s the best because when I look in the mirror and start to cry at all the flaws that I see in myself, my man has always been there to love me through it. It’s my honor and privilege (when I succeed at it) to do the same for him.

Why? Because the amazing man that is my husband LeGrand makes me happy. He is my protector. He gets me. He is my best friend. He’s my lover. He’s my hero.

I feel a song coming on:

I belong with you. You belong with me. You’re my sweetheart. I love you LG.

I won’t ever matter.

me & C

I’ve been having a rough week. I am feeling things extremely deep. I can’t make it stop. So many things keep penetrating my heart and are pushing me over the edge toward a blinding dark. I am not depressed – thank you wellbutrin. I am just in a bubble of over-emotion that I can’t escape. I will escape eventually, but I’ve learned to just ride it out. Try to stay calm. Don’t over-burden others by dumping on them (unless they read my blog of course.) They don’t understand anyways.

I don’t know why God gave me this excess of emotion. I dare say it makes me a more compassionate person, but I don’t always appreciate it. I especially don’t appreciate the passion that comes along with my package…the opinions I cannot keep contained, no matter how hard I try. I don’t like suffering via proxy. I don’t like feeling a deep emptiness because of a child lost as if he is my own, when he wasn’t. I don’t want to feel the extreme frustration accompanying a whole lot of friends dealing with medical nightmares. I don’t even know how this sympathetic state always happens to me. I don’t know how I can lose sleep for other people, but it happens all of the time. I cry into my pillow because the pains of this harsh world get to be way too much and I can’t figure out how to hide away. An alternative solution would be to find a superhero costume maker that could repel such empathy from entering my heart and mind – too bad none exist – It would make my life so much easier. But, life wasn’t meant to be easy. We each have our own cross to carry. My cross just seems to consist of everyone else’s on some days. It hurts me so much. I have physical pain and emotional burden because of others’ pains. I feel it for those I love most, but I also feel it for complete strangers.

Now that I sound like a complete lunatic, I will get on with the intended post. I’ve been following Our Scared Sacred from one of my favorite bloggers over at Momastery. The intention of the series was to get people to think about their biggest fears and to make the courageous decision to show up WITH the fear instead of waiting for it to subside.  So, I took a really crazy scary journey of thought this morning and delved into my overly excessive emotional well. I sifted through all the other peoples’ pains to find my own. I had to explore the deepest darkest part, but I think I came up with an honest answer: I am afraid I will never matter.

I am afraid that when I die, no one will show up at my funeral. I am afraid that I won’t be remembered. I am afraid that my beautiful amazing daughters would be a million times better off with another mother, ANY other mother. I am afraid that my middle-child syndrome is not a syndrome at all, but that I really am invisible to everyone around me. I am afraid my husband will replace me like he does his cell phone every couple years: upgrade to the latest and greatest, only to leave the old one discarded with it’s broken screen, slow processor, and crowded memory stick. I am convinced that no-one sees anything in me worth honoring or admiring. I am afraid that no-one on this earth will care when I am gone. No-one will even mourn.  In fact, I am sure everyone will be relieved that my obnoxiousness is no more cumbersome to them. Good riddance. I am afraid not only that I will never matter in the future but that I have also never mattered in the past, and that I don’t really matter in the present.

I guess this very real fear explains my love for blogging. Here is where I go to leave my stamp, my DNA, my thought. I throw out my opinions,  my emotions, myself and leave it with a hope and prayer that, perhaps if I am very lucky, someday someone will stumble upon it and decide that I matter. They will be touched by one sentence or one word and be changed and then in that moment between my words and them I will have succeeded at conquering my fear: I will have made myself matter.

It’s a daily struggle for me to believe I matter. Perhaps I try to make myself matter by mourning with others. Perhaps I make myself matter by over-feeling. Perhaps I just wish that someone would really care for me, so I try to overcompensate by caring too much for everyone but myself.

Someday I will  believe that I matter.

Someday.

Here is where I find my spark of mattering. I write and hope that the spark will ignite to its full potential before I die. I want to believe that if not a single soul shows up at my bedside when I take my last breath, I will die knowing that I mattered.

And perhaps the only reason I will have mattered is because you mattered to me.

Maybe others matter to me so very much because the more I care for them, the more I can believe that they actually care for me.

Feeling naked at church.

My friend Jenna shared this great post this morning where a fellow Christian voiced his frustration with a big problem in the Christian realm. I like to call the problem, “let’s all talk about how awesome we are.” It can be rather annoying when the majority of people at church don’t admit out loud that they have weakness. Perhaps it’s actually more damaging than annoying. Check out this article about shame. And, yes, we are creating a society of shame if we aren’t willing to talk about weakness.

I hate to admit it but I belong to a church body that flourishes at shame –  they don’t mean harm, they just don’t know any better. I don’t solely blame my church. Like so evident in The Scarlett Letter I think that religion and shame just naturally go together. It’s not that anyone is purposefully teaching everyone to shame each other or that the people are bad or hateful or judgmental. It’s just that they don’t know how to be vulnerable.  It’s a lot easier to look down on other people for their problems then admitting our own.

I’ve been through hard trials in my life where I have just wished that I could find better support from my church body. That support is so hard to get when “perfect” people were all I had to choose from. I can’t tell you how many times I have said to myself, “What does that person possibly know about this… I can’t talk to them about it, they’ll avoid me like the plague.” Let’s face it, if we can’t get support at church, doesn’t that make church kind of pointless?

chapel

So, wouldn’t God want us to help each other? Wouldn’t he want everyone to feel like church is the best most loving place? That leaves only one question: how do we change a culture of shame?

We change it one vulnerable person at a time. I was that person this past Sunday. I had to speak in church. I believe what I said was inspired, but it was also extremely vulnerable. I told the people at church (whom I hardly know since I just moved here) about how I was going to write the prophet a letter and tell him to take my mission call to Utah and shove it. I told them about my struggle with weight. And *gasp* I told them about how I almost got divorced.  I also told them how God helped me through all of those scenarios and more.

I wish more then anything that other people could do the same. I wish that those with same-gender attraction, alcoholism, porn addiction, and victims of sex abuse could use church as a safe place too, but honestly the things I talked about seemed shocking enough for now. That saddens me. There is so much suffering of which we are all unaware. How can we support each other?

Do you know what happened after I stripped down at the pulpit? Besides the fact that I wanted to throw up when I got done. Instead of running out of there and curling up in a ball in bed at home and hoping that I could somehow find the courage to go back some day, I pushed myself on to Sunday School.  Guess what happened on my way? No less then twenty people came to me and told me what a beautiful job I did and that we need a lot more talks like that at church.

When we got home, my husband said the same thing happened to him. In fact, these were his exact words, “Alice, I had triple the amount of people tell me that you gave a wonderful talk, then I did when I spoke two weeks ago. It’s funny. The whole time you were talking I was just so worried about how you might embarrass me, what you might reveal….I couldn’t even feel the spirit of what you were saying….and then when all these people told me how they were touched and how they could relate, I realized something about myself. I am way too guarded.” (O.k. he didn’t use a run-on sentence) I gave him a kiss, told him I loved his talk, thanked him, and replied, “Don’t feel bad, it’s just the power of vulnerability.”

We all need vulnerability. Especially at church. How else will we understand that we aren’t the only ones who feel like we suck half the time? How else will we find the courage to keep trying? Yes, we could find those things solely with God, but it makes the journey a lot less lonely and a lot more hopeful when we can share the ups and downs with other mortal beings.

Less shame. More vulnerability. You can even keep your clothes on.

Being the Change Sucks Sometimes

be the changeIMG_5055 So I have this friend. Well, I guess I should say that I HAD this friend as she has told me that we are no longer friends. This friend is the best friend I’ve ever had. She’s a great person. A really great person. She is kind, thoughtful, gentle, hard-working, loving, beautiful in and out, smart, a total clean freak/germaphobe, a great mom, selfless, and easy to get along with. She is extremely spiritually-minded and a great example of faith and Christianity in action. She has been there for me countless times in my life when no one else was.

She also has flaws. I won’t tell you what they all are as it isn’t necessary to the story, but I am intimate with her flaws. “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” is one of her favorite quotes. The ironic thing is that she is sometimes very closed off to change. As long as I’ve known her (which is a long time) she resists change, especially in herself. For a long time I thought she didn’t need to change. I thought she was perfect and that I was the one with problems, but I’ve come to my senses and realized that I was bamboozled into believing this lie.

She needs to change. I need to change. Everyone needs to change.

The hard part about change is that when you do it, it effects other people. That is why marriage counseling is so totally awesome. It helps people change together! Changing together is miraculous.  I have seen the most significant changes over the years but none are more important then those that my husband and I have made together.

They need friend counseling. They really do. I am embarking upon the second round of no-contact with this friend in the past ten years. It’s because we don’t know how to change together. It seems we can only change apart from one another. I don’t like it, but it is the reality of our friendship.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this friendship and how to handle it. It seems I am ill-equipped. This friend is very closed off. She doesn’t like to talk about her problems. She doesn’t like to admit her weaknesses. Sometimes I wonder if she is even aware of them.

On the other hand, I am a very self-aware person. I love to talk about myself. Talking is one of the greatest ways that I learn, second only to writing. I will share anything and everything with pretty much anyone. I struggle to contain private information.

You can see how this creates a problem in our friendship. It pretty much goes like this:

me: “I am so sick of my husband.”
her: “My husband is so fantastic.”

me: “I have been so depressed.”
her: “Let me help you with your depression.”

me: “I am so sick of being poor.”
her: “We just bought a house for $50,000 less than it is worth.”

me: “How are your kids doing?”
her: “They are perfect little angels.” (As they tear each other’s eyes out in the background.)

me: “You are going to be so house poor with that huge house.”
her: “Oh but it’s so worth it.”

her: “I am so glad you guys are happy.”
me: “We are happy.”
her: Whatever she needs to say to make sure I know she is happier.

I just couldn’t take it any more. I couldn’t play the game. I knew from past experience that she doesn’t like to be called out. I also know that when I tried to change and quit complaining/over-sharing we ended up with nothing to talk about. You can see if you have two “hers” in the same conversation it won’t get very far. I didn’t know what else to do to fix it for myself. I would be miserable every time I hung up the phone. I quit taking her calls. I quit calling her. We live in different states now but if we still lived in the same state I would have avoided her physically also.

After several months she messaged me and asked me what was up. I replied,

I have avoided you and it really isn’t cool of me but I’ve been felt it necessary for my own well-being. In one simple sentence of explanation: “It’s not you, it’s me.” I’ve missed talking to you too but the peace of mind I’ve gained has outweighed the benefits of broken companionship. I haven’t been able to pinpoint my issues exactly and I haven’t wanted to hurt you so I’ve just avoided it. Not very mature of me but it is what it is. I can’t even give you a complete explanation as, like I said, I haven’t figured it out myself. The best I can give you are two things. 1 –  I feel like we have had an unequal friendship. I have shared with you too much and you’ve shared too little. 2 – I have issues with comparison/competitiveness and for some reason you put those into high gear for me and it was causing me a lot of heartache. It has been easier for me to tackle this part of me that I detest by just avoiding you. I didn’t and don’t know how to address this with you and truthfully it’s made me a lot happier to not talk to you as much. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had but our relationship is somewhat toxic for me emotionally (not because of you because of me). I feel like we lack honesty and the kind of intimacy I want from my friends and I don’t think you  will be comfortable with the change it would take to make our close friendship healthy for  me. I love you______. You are like a sister to me. I’ve missed you and I’ve prayed for you. I am the first to admit that I suck at relationships. I wish I was better at it, but being so far away and because they don’t make friend therapists I think this way is better for now.

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I wasn’t trying to say goodbye, but I did give her the out. I was really saying I need more from you, and if you can’t give it then it’s probably better this way.

I didn’t hear back from her. I then got a message on Facebook from a total stranger telling me that I was an evil person who treated this friend so badly. How dare I hurt her when she has never done anything to hurt me?

I promptly told this extremely codependent random person to mind her own business and immediately texted this friend to let her know I had been reprimanded by so and so (later she told me it was her sister-in-law) and that I was sorry if I hurt her with my reply.

This friend in true to form fashion immediately gave me a lengthy explanation about how she wasn’t really gossiping about me (because she’s perfect, right?) and then informed me that we would probably just be better off without each other. I told her that whatever she wanted as fine. That was it. End of story.

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So for the past couple of weeks I have been pondering on this end of friendship. I can’t help but feel like I am in high-school again. It feels so wrong. I feel like I should try and fix it.

I’ve decided that I did the right thing. I can’t change this friend. I can only change myself. I could try to keep living in her facade but it was just harming me and ultimately it was probably harming her too.

I needed more and she just couldn’t give it. She probably needs something from me that I just can’t give: like acceptance of her unreality for starters.

She’s a good person. I’m a good person. We just aren’t really good for each other and that’s o.k.

I’m moving forward. I believe I’ve been much clearer in stating my needs to her than she has with me. If she ever thinks that she can be what I need, she will know where to find me. I would love to be what she needs if she can start living in reality.

The one thing that I really wish I would have said to her and didn’t though is this reply to her telling me that she can’t just sit around being vulnerable and waiting for me to call her. I wish I would have told her this. Vulnerability is not your strong suit. You haven’t been the least bit vulnerable. Ever. If you ever want to be vulnerable, you know where to find me. I’m right here with my heart always hanging out for all to see.

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I have had to really examine myself if what I am experiencing with this friend is jealousy. It is easy to become jealous when one person is always talking about how wonderful her life is and the other is a total realist. I don’t think that it’s jealousy. It’s just that I feel like I’ve finally grown past being the friend who is the one being helped. A friendship takes two people who are willing to admit that they need help. Maybe she never needs help. Maybe she is perfect? Or not because perfect people only exist in their own world. It is just really psychologically and emotionally trying for a person like me who throws all her flaws out to the world to be real with people who don’t seem to understand.

Authenticity

My really cool and really successful social media marketing friend Jeremy Floyd authenticjust got a new job. I was struck while reading his bio at the new job’s website by this line:

Experience has taught Mr. Floyd the importance of the core values of honesty and following through as well as being genuine and authentic in everything that he does.

I found it a little ironic that my favorite social media guru makes authenticity a priority. Not that I don’t believe it’s true because Jeremy is an honest guy, but because I personally believe the prominence of social media is causing a problem of authenticity in our society.  According to a recent news story citing Utah moms with greater depression, authenticity among a well-blogged society is a  real problem.

I struggle with authenticity. It is something I am trying to overcome with this blog. I want to be an honest voice to motherhood. It’s not all marshmellows and lemondrops. In fact at times it’s marshmellows all smashed into your carpet and lemondrops all over your walls. I think a lot of moms feel like they need to put on a show to feel accepted when really we all just need to be real and support one another in the hard moments.

I applaud Utah’s mom of the year having the courage to talk about when she  lost her temper. Authentic is beautiful and way more intriguing than the fake alternative.

Authenticity requires vulnerability and we all need to get better at it. In fact we need to get better at it so we can teach our children to love themselves. Authenticity has to come from a place of love and self acceptance and it requires an environment of love and support. When one person chooses to be an authentic voice then others will feel the safety to follow.

In the spirit of authenticity I will share some of my vulnerable moments in the past week:

  • On Monday at marriage counseling the therapist starting telling me that I needed to get in the middle of the house cleaning spectrum, especially with  my kids. Instead of letting them do whatever and then forcing them to clean.  I hated the whole session and found myself super duper defensive. How dare the lady who changes out her whole families’ towels every two days tell me how to NOT control my kids? Yes, I’m judgmental like that.
  • When Abigail got home from her 4 day long Pioneer Trek yesterday and told me she didn’t have a single spiritual or emotional experience, I had to stop myself from crying because it’s all my fault that the girl has no feelings, and then I immediately deemed it my husband’s fault and the genes from his non-emotional family. Self-protection.
  • While running on the trail last night I asked two women running the opposite direction to tell me their pace. I thought they looked like they didn’t run too slow and didn’t run too fast either. I was hoping they were around my pace so that I could pat myself on the back. Their mile pace was 30 seconds faster than mine. I was happy. Comparison is a problem for me.
  • My husband rarely talks to me about anything fragile or emotional. It gives me anxiety that he is unhappy with me.
  • I cleaned my showers yesterday. Remember that vlog when my sister visited in May? Yeah, that was the last time I cleaned the showers. Every time I do it, I tell myself not to wait as long, but every time it’s an awful task so I put it off as long as possible. Oh excuse me, it was at the end of April. The shame!
  • I felt really really really sad that there were at least 5 anorexic women at the pool on Wednesday. They broke my heart. And then I saw some extremely overweight women and felt sad for them too. I pondered how the skinny ladies in bikinis and the large ladies in their old-fashioned “cover the whole body” suits are both dealing with emotional issues of the same complexity. For a small instant I was proud to be somewhere in the middle of the spectrum and then my baby fat belly roll slipped out from over the top of my bathing suit bottom and I thought I am not so much in the middle as I would like. According to the BMI I am still considered obese. Then, I was mortified for even having the train of thought; I got angry that we are all just victims of an objectifying society and thought of my friends (including myself) who struggle with their weight (losing and gaining) and vowed to never look at a woman in a bathing suit again….I will only be watching their eyes because that is where the true beauty lies and I want to see the beauty instead of the flesh armor of pain.
  • I so wish that I have more than 26 followers on this blog, but all my followers are not my real-life friends and that makes me happy and I have to constantly fight the battle with myself that I am never going to be a famous blogger or author. Indeed I will be very very blessed to actually ever get my dream novel written someday much less published.
  • In the spirit of authenticity I think I am pretty entertaining and that everyone should want to be my friend, but also in the spirit of authenticity I can see why people are afraid of me, I don’t ever pull a punch and I don’t know how to NOT say things that are considered tactless. I really really really want to be a better listener and learn to control my mouth.

I challenge anyone who is reading this to blog, facebook, twitter, instagram something that teaches authenticity to others through your own vulnerability. Tag this post if you want, but just know I will secretly be hoping you all do it because then I will know someone is actually reading this. Just keeping it real. And now I am going to give myself the same very repetitive pep-talk that I need to LET GO of being validated and just be happy with my own authenticity.

Monopoly on Self-Protection

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Well, I am back in therapy. This time it is marriage counseling (for the second time.) I know, I know, I should add this fine fact to my resume – expertise on the couch – wow, that sounds kinda dirty.

It’s interesting to me that when one is in therapy they just learn the same lessons about themself over and over. Like my husband explained, “it’s like peeling layers of an onion.” And I would add, each layer just seems to make your eyes sting a little bit more.

One little tidbit about me is that I self-protect.  For whatever reason I have abandonment issues, and I cling to very destructive tendencies as if they were a cobra and my only chance at a meal when I am starving. I may get to eat, but more than likely I am just going to get bit. The bite may not kill me, but it’s keeping me from eating.

I am still trying to process (you know you have a good counselor when they make your mind reel) what I learned from my last session on Friday, but several of my self-protection methods are: keeping high standards so that others won’t meet them and will inevitably let me down (making me right), staying a step ahead of everyone so they can’t touch me, and maintaining walls the size of China’s so that no one can hurt me. The degree to which these things are causing me pain is yet to be determined as my awareness is in infancy, but I certainly recognize that they are keeping me from the emotional  intimacy I desire. I think our therapist read this article before our session. Good stuff.

So I am trying to work on allowing imperfections (in me and others), staying present, and being vulnerable. I suck at all three. I believe if I can let some of these unproductive and self destructive tendencies go I will learn to be happier in life but specifically in my life at home. Sometimes it can be overwhelming.

Yesterday while playing monopoly as a family I got a glimmer of hope. It happened towards the end of the game (after being reprimanded several times for being on my phone – someone took it away, wandering off to cook dinner and dessert – missing many rent payments on my properties, and generally just being a crappy game player who doesn’t know how to live in the present.

As the players got more and more desperate for money, they got increasingly grateful any time they received some cash. I thought of the similarities between the game and my bankrupt soul.

As I was able to force myself to be present during the game, the little moments I have been missing all these years were HUGE to my soul: all the girls training Caroline to tell everyone to “pay up”, Sophia lamenting because she only passed go three times the whole game, Bella being super-focused on her desired property negotiations, and me landing on boardwalk the turn right after I forced Abigail to sell her hotel.

The hope lied in the fact that I have only one way to go: up and out. Even if I have to sell all my properties to do it, it’ll be worth the sacrifice to get closer to those that I love. But maybe perhaps there is a merciful God and He’ll help me to win the game without selling a single property. When I get to the end, He’ll say, “See, you just needed to trust me.”