A Lot of Faith, part 1 (we’ve been given a lot)

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“Our faith increases when we’re in enough pain, we learn enough, or we’re given enough.” Bishop Chuck Murphy (paraphrased from 20 years ago)

Our lot, the one we closed on today, overlooks a creek, as well as houses, inns, and a church on the oldest part of Pawleys Island (Pawleys for short). We can take a boat from our neighborhood to secluded islands and walk to one of the island’s finest restaurants. The strip of prime property, the one we can see from where we’re building, is in between the marsh and the ocean. Our view is a little sand and a lot of wetland.

There is affluence mixed with old, original architecture that islanders call “shabby.” Sometimes structures get upgraded and sometimes not. No one seems to mind because it’s a given the property is valuable.

Making the island our home has been a hope of my husband’s and mine for more than 20 years. We set up an appointment that many years ago to look at a house for sale in Pawleys. The following day, the owners took it off the market. We did the same with our dream. We figured it was a sign about whether we deserved to live in Pawleys or not.

We didn’t.

Since then, we haven’t thought much about moving unless we’re down that way and riding around. When that happens, one of us mentions the imaginary line in the road, that place that when we drive beyond it, we get quiet and take a deep breath. Past that line, life feels more relaxed and free. Plus, our grandkids are closer, so life is more fun in that direction.

IMG_7953 Not a geographic cure, for sure. Nowhere could fix us. We’ve had to do the hard work right here at home, most of which I’ve blogged about. Even though we know Pawleys isn’t our be all and end all, for us the place is special. It’s symbolic of something we can’t even name yet.

So, when my husband John convinced me a couple of years ago to sign up for a membership at one of the island’s highlights, Brookgreen Gardens, our decision rekindled a longing we’d dismissed – we longed to live in Pawleys.

The same thing happened when I stumbled onto a photo on Facebook of a stunning church on the island that we joined this year – we longed to live in Pawleys.

And then again recently when we made an offer before selling our house and on a lot that wasn’t for sale (a story for another blog post) – a lot with a dock, a view, and a breeze – we longed to live in Pawleys.

We rethought deserving it. Feeling undeserving is a habit, though I don’t think a holy one. Nor a faithful one.

I’m still not convinced I’m worthy. In fact, I’m overwhelmed by the bigness of our decision and overwhelmed by God’s graciousness to let us have it. Overwhelmed by His faithfulness to bring good from a “loss of faith” season. Overwhelmed John and I made it this far and intact, much less together in a place we’ve longed to live.

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But mostly, I’m …

Overwhelmed by gratitude. I’m very grateful. Tears streaming down my face grateful. On my knees grateful. “Why us?”grateful.

Grateful for restored faith.

Grateful.

How much faith does it take to hang onto a dream? To make it happen? A mustard seed or less – I do believe I had less.

What dream are you waiting for? I hope you won’t give up. Ask often and expect a lot.

In This Together,
Kim

Photo #1 is of our view of the creek from the lot.
Photo #2 is our lot.

Get Out of the Car

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“Get out from your house, from your cave, from your car. Get out from the place you feel safe, from the place that you are. Get out and go running, go funning, go wild. Get out from your head, get growing, dear child.” Unknown

Last week, I vlogged about our minister getting a nudge from God when he asked what to do next with his life. He “heard” go to a football game, get to know people, and talk about relationships, especially the one with God. It sounded simple enough until he pulled into the stadium parking lot and drove around and around instead of going in. That’s when he heard another message, “Get out of the car.”

The very next day, I blogged about my urge when I’m in pain … to get in my car and drive to California. A friend drove the point home in just a few words when he commented on the post, “Procrastination thrives on pain.” He’s right. It sure does, which means if we plan to do anything except drive in circles or drive to California, we have to get out of the car.

So, what does getting out look like?

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Ever since I wrote a post, “Letting Go … what it looks like,” in response to a friend asking about that topic, I’ve thought how helpful it’d be to do the same with every plan of action. Getting out of the car looks different for each of us, but we typically find common ground that either keeps us in the car or gets us out.

Getting out of the car looks like …

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First, I acknowledge I’m in the driver’s seat. I’m responsible, so I think about the next easiest step I can take. I think “incremental.” I ask what one thing I can do today and I do it. I don’t add it to tomorrow’s list like I’m tempted to do. I don’t do five other things before the one thing. I don’t exhaust myself by procrastinating. Okay, sometimes I do, but this is even more reason to do the next right thing. Distractions are how we tire and frustrate ourselves. If I’m overwhelmed, I ask, “What feels manageable right this second?”

Second, I stop stalling and start doing. I stop talking about getting out of the car and telling others to get out of their cars. I stop reading books about it and watching one more webinar unless it helps with momentum. Wynn Godbold, a friend, speaker, and John Maxwell team member, said, “You don’t need another course. You need to write your book.”

I pay attention to nudges (and shoves) from friends and mentors like Wynn. The simplest first step out of the car can be the hardest, as well as the most significant.

Third, I review my goals every morning like recommended by virtual mentor Michael Hyatt. Before a week was up, I found myself thinking, I remember my goals, so I can move on. However, remembering isn’t the point. Motivation is. Each time I read my goals, I’m more determined to accomplish them. I don’t know why it works, but it does.

Fourth, I mark off one personal goal and one professional goal daily before I check social media. Not really, but it’s a goal toward my goals. The good news is I’m doing it more days than not, which means my Fitbit is working hard and so am I.

Fifth, I rein in reacting. I’ve given little attention to how often I put my goals to one side until noticing I put my blog aside in April and for no good reason. I wasn’t helping anyone, only worrying about them. The same happens when I try to avoid being judged, steer clear of making mistakes, and dodge negative attention – I’m not helping anyone and it’s bothersome to scrap my goals. And notice I said “try to avoid” because, unlike goals, judgment, mistakes, and negative attention have lives of their own and happen anyway. Goals only happen when I risk those things and get out of the car.

Until I wrote down these tips, I’ve been hit-and-miss at following them. From now on, though, I’ll practice intentionally since I know what to look for. Are there one or two that may help you get out of the car?

In This Together,
Kim

Pain Turns Us Into Runners

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“When life is stressful, do something to lift your spirits. Go for a drive. Go two or three thousand miles away. Maybe change your name.” Unknown

“There’s a big difference between running toward something and running away from something,” was my daughter’s take on our family’s tendency to shut down, escape, ignore, diminish, hide, or numb out when faced with uncomfortable emotions.

We’re inclined to run away from what we don’t want to face instead of running toward it and healing. After all, didn’t God create us to always be comfortable and happy? If you notice how I’ve lived until now, you’d be convinced I’m convinced that’s exactly God’s plan.

Instead, here’s the truth from Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, “God is more interested in your character than your comfort. God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy.”

Running away is how I handle my uncomfortable emotions when I feel overwhelmed, misunderstood, or when I think I’m too emotional, although I’m not sure why I quantify my feelings with words like “too.” Because of quantifying, though, I can’t count the number of times I’ve said, “I’d like to pack my bags and drive to California.”

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I live on the opposite coast, so I’m talking about running like Forrest Gump.

It’s mostly a joke, except for the time I packed my bags and drove six hours to our mountain house a couple of weeks before Christmas. I couldn’t stay here to hear one more carol, one more “Merry Christmas,” or one more happy couple out to eat. While away and shopping, a salesclerk asked if I was ready for Sunday. I looked confused. He said, “It’s Christmas.”

Pain turns us into runners, even from cherished moments we’ve looked forward to.

I felt deceived when I drove away only to run head-on into the things I planned to run away from – fear and shame and silence. At some level, I knew this before I left. I wanted to face them, but I didn’t think I could.

A couple of years ago, I stumbled onto Amanda Blackburn’s story. She was a young minister’s wife murdered by intruders in her and her husband’s suburbia home outside of Indianapolis. I’ve followed Davey’s blog about Amanda, their son who was in his crib during the attack, and the baby she was carrying.

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Davey based one of his posts, “Run Toward the Roar,” on church founder and pastor Levi Lusko’s Through the Eyes of a Lion. Levi wrote the book after his five-year-old daughter died in his arms. In Davey’s blog post, he tells about facing his emotions and running toward, instead of away from, his hardest fear to face – going back to his and Amanda’s house and laying in the spot where he found her dying. He wanted to stop running from remembering her.

Pain turns us into runners, even from memories of favorite people.

Davey’s post was embedded in another blog I’ve followed since reading it on a Facebook friend’s page. The blog “Bittersweet” is about Jenna Saadati, a gifted fourteen-year-old who wrote stories, played in the school band, and trained for track in the same town where my grown children used to live. That was, until Jenna took her own life in 2013 as a result of bullying.

Pain turns us into runners, even from the family who cares about us and the life we’ve cared about.

Beth, Jenna’s English teacher mom, blogs about her daughter’s death and her life. In Beth’s post, “The 4-Word Motto I’m Choosing To Follow,” she referred to Davey’s blog post about running toward the roar. She wrote with faith that four years after Jenna’s death, she’ll tend their garden for the first time without Jenna, and she’ll hopefully sow Hope. She tells about the “roars” she’s run toward to restore her own life since losing Jenna. #gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit

As much as I want to run in the opposite direction from everything that hurts (like these three stories about loss), running away is how I ended up scarily depressed. My story’s not filled with their kind of pain, but like a friend said when she straightened out my comparison, “Pain is pain.”

If we have any chance of not being consumed by it, running toward it is necessary.

The same as Davey asked at the end of his post, “What roar do you need to run toward today?” #feeltoheal #faceourpain #stoprunningaway #runtowardtheroar

In This Together,
Kim

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My friend Jenny sells shirts with this saying on them, “Run towards your battles.” Jenny’s design is based on 1 Samuel 17 about young David defeating the giant Goliath. You can order one by clicking From the Stand Store. (The link is not working, so, for now, if you’d like a shirt, please let me know and I’ll forward Jenny Abbott’s contact info.)

I Don’t Like You

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“Habits change into character.” Ovid

I hate not liking people, but like my friend Betty said, “Some people are impossible to like because they don’t like themselves. The best you can do is love them, pray for them, and stay away from them.”

Nevertheless, I’ve felt guilty for detaching from unlikable friends, guilty for saying no to their invitations. I remembered my days of being unlikable. I hated being shunned and turned down. Instead of staying away from friends, I wanted to scream at them, “Change,” but I’m pretty sure they’d simply yell back, “Are you free Tuesday evening?”

“To change your life, change your habits.” Unknown

My unlikable friends seem oblivious, and even though Betty assured me the opposite is true, I’ve questioned if I’m the problem. Why do I struggle to find things I like about them? Why am I not eager to get together when they are? Why do I avoid them? Betty said, “They are unlikable and they’re unwilling to change. If anyone changes, they want it to be you, but they’re the ones who need to.”

The guilt resurfaced when a friend opposed a quote I posted online. Written by author and counselor Lucille Zimmerman, it’s a self-care tip that says, “Surround yourself with morally beautiful people. We become like those we hang around.”

My friend who disagreed implied I should hang out with all people, not just the morally beautiful. I defended myself, but then deleted it. I swapped trying to convince her I was okay in exchange for figuring it out for myself. I wanted a resolution to why I felt ashamed posting a quote that says it’s okay to hang out with people I like.

In fact, it’s not just okay. It’s a wise choice that is life-changing and character-building, so what’s up with the guilt?

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Shame Said …

Who are you to pick and choose among friends?

How will this make your unlikable friends feel?

What sets you apart from them anyway?

I wondered what did set me apart. I’ve known there was a difference, at least I hoped so, but I’ve never identified it. It seemed that until I figured it out, I’d be stuck with unlikable friends or guilt or both.

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God Spoke Too

I got my answer in an email I’ve been saving since 2014. In it, I’d sent myself a link to an article. I found it last night while cleaning out my inbox.

In the story “Toxic People Don’t Make Exceptions,” Brianna Wiest distinguishes between friends who are flawed and messy and friends who are difficult to be around.

Brianna says being unlikable (she calls them toxic) is a habit. Most of us admit to sometimes being offensive, but not daily and we’re remorseful afterwards. Unlikable people, however, are regularly offensive and without regret. It’s a habit they hardly notice. And like Ovid’s quote, the habit turns into their character.

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If you’ve grappled like me with setting boundaries and letting go of unlikable friends, I hope Brianna’s article helps you also. None of us are 100 percent likable, but we can practice making it a habit and stay away from those who do the opposite. Our character depends on it, and so does having healthy relationships.

#selfcaringin2017 #whilelovingthepeopleinit

In This Together,
Kim

2017, A Great Year

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“Faith don’t come in a bushel basket, Missy. It come one step at a time. Decide to trust Him for one little thing today, and before you know it, you find out He’s so trustworthy you be putting your whole life in His hands.” Lynn Austin, Candle in the Darkness

The day before our son received a cancer diagnosis in late February, he wrote a rare post on Facebook, “New job, new city, and bringing a new life into our family … 2017 is shaping up to be a great year!”

He’d texted me earlier that month to say the year was off to a great start because Clemson University, his alma mater, brought home the 2016 National Championship.

At the end of last year, I overheard him telling his dad about 2017 being great since he and his wife had several promising things in the works.

My stomach tightened each time I heard “great,” and not because I didn’t think 2017 held a lot of possibility, but because sometimes we don’t perceive great in the same way God perceives it.

Almost a decade later, I still remember my “great” year that brought me to my knees. I wrote about it here, “The year was 2008 …

Great typically requires footwork, and a lot of it. It means change and not always the kind we want. Coming into greatness often means walking through trials and feeling emotions we hadn’t factored in when we did our planning.

Great means being in relationship with God, in relationship with others, and living our purpose.

I had doubts about whether our family had worked out matters of the heart enough to usher in greatness. Like in Romans 2:29, the verse says “heart matters” are the heart of the matter for God. Since I didn’t think we’d gotten that far yet, I questioned what it’d take to make it happen.

What would “great” cost us?

I was bothered enough to mention my son’s text in February’s blog post, “It’s Always Something.” Even though I trusted what I wrote, I still felt uneasy about the messiness I mentioned, “My son’s right, 2017 will be great even with its messy moments because it is always something, and sometimes it’s something beautiful.”

For one minute, I wished I had not prayed long and hard for us, asking for realness and restoration and godly relationships minus the things that sometimes come alongside like devastation and humiliation. I’ve held my breath while we have skirted those last two.

Just before our son’s biopsy confirmed stage 1 cancer, not the result we hoped for, he and his wife, who is pregnant with their first child, had a baby scare. Thankfully those test results turned out well.

Less than a week after my husband John and I returned home following our son’s surgery, John’s 87-year-old dad took a fall, hit his head on a brick stair, and was rushed into surgery. Doctors did all they could over the next fourteen days, but last week we said goodbye to Pop Pop. He died the day before Easter.

In light of reassuring calls and messages, friendship, and signs that life was happening as intended, my stomach calmed down and so did my spirit.

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I didn’t have to wonder anymore. I was witnessing the price of greatness.

While John listened to his dad’s surgeon talk to the family in the Neuro-ICU waiting room, he leaned close and whispered, “Is this what great looks like?”

I believe it is, and we notice it most during times like these.

Great is recognizing our dependence on God.

Great is cherishing others’ demonstration of God’s love.

Great is acknowledging God’s goodness when we have to let go of things we want to control and keep.

Finally, great is learning the lessons God teaches by way of suffering, grief, and letting go because He calls us to the emotional journey before He allows us to take the action journey.

In other words, He prepares us for the great things (great according to Him) that He’s put in front of us to do.

How great is your year? It’s not so much about our surroundings as it is about coming around to Him.

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks, Pixabay, for photos of the Great Wall of China and the historic Great Cross in St. Augustine, Florida.

Letting Go … what it looks like

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“Let go or be dragged.” Zen Proverb

In my last blog post, “Arguing and Bargaining with God … again,” I wrote about fighting with God about our son’s diagnosis and surgery versus doing what God asked, which was to let go.

A friend commented on my post, “I think I struggle most with the practical. I don’t know what ‘letting go’ looks like whereas I know what doing something, bargaining, worrying, etc. look like.”

I wondered if the reason I wrangled with letting go was the same as hers – I don’t know what letting go looks like. Busyness, bargaining, and worry had taken on lives of their own, but not letting go … even though I was genuine about wanting to do it.

Busying myself looked like starting laundry at noon, finishing at 4, and having little recollection of what I had done for four hours. I did, however, recollect a lot of pacing and very little writing because I wouldn’t sit still.

Bargaining looked like eating Reese’s Cups while telling myself, “No more chocolate.” I figured until God stepped up and gave me what I wanted, I’d binge on sugar instead of doing what he asked.

Worrying looked like scrolling Facebook for three hours to distract myself and, just to worry myself more, clicking on sites that updated unsettling news.

After this list, I have to admit I wanted “letting go” to look like a magic wand. In reality, though, it didn’t look like anything. I hadn’t practiced it enough to be able to picture it, not for stuff as emotional as this anyway.

As timing would have it, I had a month between our son’s diagnosis and his surgery, which meant I had to figure out how to handle 30 days of my life while not knowing how his life was going to turn out. Even though there’s always uncertainty, things like health scares heighten our senses.

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When my friend mentioned not knowing what letting go looked like, I knew I needed to find out and practice it. Here are the intentional actions I came up with that to me looked like letting go

  • I sat still. I wrote, read books, and talked to God.
  • I exercised and cleaned, in place of obsessing and talking non-stop, to release nervous energy that in turn helped release a little bit of the thing I wanted to let go. My husband knows I “rage clean” and to stay out of the way while I’m vacuuming like my life depends on it. Sometimes it does.
  • I asked myself, “If I take fear out of the equation, what would I do?” I journaled about what I’d let go of if I subtracted fear and what I’d put in its place if I wasn’t so afraid.
  • I lived my life. I looked around to see if there were things I put off because I was focusing on someone else. I tend to justify, “Of course I can’t focus on my own life. Who wouldn’t be distracted during a time like this?” Living my life – writing a blog post, taking a daytrip, and signing up for a watercolor class – is the solution.
  • I intentionally put space between the thing I was trying to let go of and me. I pictured our son’s surgery and its outcome with God. I stopped talking about it. Stopped trying to figure it out. Stopped making phone calls and lists about it. Stopped researching it. Instead of acting frantic, I took walks and baths.

My description of letting go sounds near perfect, doesn’t it? Be glad you weren’t here for the fall out. There were tears and ugly words and phone calls anyway and too much talking even though I said I stopped. I tore out the page from my journal and shredded it. I jumped up every five minutes even though I called it sitting still.

Although I have a ways to go, I’m happy to have a “face” for letting go. Writing down what I practiced helps put action to the adage. I hope it helps you too.

In This Together,
Kim

P.S. To everyone praying for our son and the rest of our family, there aren’t enough grateful words to express how we feel right now. He’s come through surgery and he and his wife are staying overnight at the hospital. We’re headed to their home tomorrow. Thank you! xoxox

Arguing and Bargaining with God … again

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“When you argue against Him, you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all: it is like cutting off the branch you are sitting on.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Two weeks ago, I heard the word “cancer.” I wouldn’t be anymore wound up about it than if I had set out to find a cure singlehandedly. The diagnosis is not mine, but belongs to someone I care about a lot.

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Ever since then, I’ve woken up more tired than I go to bed, and I go to bed exhausted. I ache all over. I’m either irritable or on the verge of tears. So, when I heard from God, “Let go,” I gave him a list of things I expected to happen first. You know, before I let go, you do X, Y, and Z.

This round with God brought to mind my final year of teaching, and I have to tell you, I didn’t handle quitting well, which doesn’t look good for letting go …

Except there was a happy ending.

Near the end of my career, teaching felt suffocating. I’d feel sick on Sunday nights and shake on Monday mornings when I’d try to put the key in the doorknob to unlock my classroom. I dreaded every faculty meeting and felt overwhelmed by every extra duty. I knew my resignation was overdue, but I wouldn’t quit.

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“Give me another job and I’ll quit teaching,” I prayed every single night.

“Quit teaching and I’ll give you another job,” said God every single time I prayed.

When I say I heard from God, I didn’t audibly hear His voice although I guess that could happen. I’m not hallucinating. I’m not making up this stuff. He talks to me (and to you) in all sorts of ways like through people and quotes and movies and an emotion, to name a few.

I didn’t hear God’s voice, but the night I sat in a spiritual meeting and heard a woman share about fighting with God and bargaining over quitting her job, I knew she was talking to me and I believed it was a message from Him. She argued with God for a year before she did it His way.

While I was convinced her lesson was mine too, instead of following what God suggested, which was to quit, I waited just like the woman waited. I didn’t quit my job for an entire year even though I was miserable and wanted to bolt.

A couple of months after I finally left teaching, God did what He promised. He presented me with an extraordinary opportunity – a position I hadn’t applied for and at a place to which I’d never turned in an application. Plus, the job fit me to a T with work in the field instead of being stuck in one place and a flexible schedule. I supervised interns who were practice teaching. Other than writing, supervising for the university has been my longest running and most fulfilling labor of love.

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So, when I heard “let go,” which sounds akin to “quit,” I researched the diagnosis and bargained with God for the kind of healing I wanted to happen.

I made a list of things I needed to discuss with my loved one, the patient, and argued with God about why He wasn’t making communication easier.

I spent hours overthinking and analyzing and trying to be a fortune teller. At least, I think that’s what I was bargaining for since I seem to think God should let me in on the future.

How’s that for letting go? I tell you, I’m not good at this stuff.

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A friend (who has no idea what’s happening here) sent a quote that is now written on a card and sitting on my desk. She wrote, “Stop chasing the healing. Much happens in the fallow moment.”

I’m not sure, but I think it means “let go.” I needed it to mean let go.

Later in the evening, I heard from God, “Read September 25th.” The page is from an inspirational book I haven’t opened in a year. Here’s its essence:

Today’s reminder: Is there an area of my life that I treat as though it were too important to turn over to God? Are my efforts to control it making my life better and more manageable? Are they doing any good at all? I can hold on to my will until the situation becomes so painful that I am forced to submit, or I can put my energy where it can do me some good right now, and surrender to God’s care.

“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.” Martin Luther

The anonymous writer who wrote this excerpt is telling my story, and God’s trying to help me rewrite it. And me? I’m still bargaining. I’m arguing with God about whether I should let go now or wait until my demands are met, or, the more likely scenario, until I have to give up to tiredness.

The problem with arguing and bargaining is the only one held hostage by not quitting and by not letting go is me.

What about you? What’s too important to turn over? Dear Jesus, help us quit. Help us let go. It turns out easier and best when we do.

In This Together,
Kim

Hurting Ourselves For Others (living their expectations instead of our lives)

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“It wasn’t until I began to love myself that I was willing to let others down.” Lucille Zimmerman

When my cowgirl friend told me a story about Bob, I related to her horse like we were old buddies. Bob’s trainer said, “You have to be careful pushing him because he’s a pleaser. He’ll hurt himself for you.”

Unfortunately, people don’t think much about this when it comes to each other, so we push.

Like the church worker who “pushed” – she knew I taught school and had two young children at home, but still asked if I’d help with the youth program. When I turned her down because I was burnt out by late afternoon, she said, “If everyone felt like you, we wouldn’t have a youth program.”

“If everyone felt like me, we shouldn’t have one,” I said. My atypical response even surprised me. 

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Self-care like this, even though the church-worker never did “get it,” would have helped when my family balked at my idea to eat out on Thanksgiving. They pushed for the same meal at Thanksgiving and Christmas, which took days of preparation. I felt overwhelmed locking myself into traditions I didn’t want to keep. Sometimes I’d have to throw out food from the first holiday so I’d have a dish to put the same food in for the second holiday. I wondered if I could get by at Christmas on Thanksgiving’s leftovers.

It would have been a relief to know about self-care when my husband, John, pushed to buy a fishing boat, two jet skis, a Triumph TR6, and two motorcycles. I wanted him to be happy whether I was or not. Spending money on big toys caused a lot of tension I didn’t talk about.

I wish I’d known about self-care when I kept teaching even though the stress of the job contributed to my anxiety and high blood pressure. Plus, I didn’t enjoy a lot of what went along with teaching like scrutiny, endless meetings, and duties outside the classroom. John didn’t mean to push, but he did, when he sat silent while I talked about quitting every August before school restarted. His silence, instead of a discussion about changing careers, made me think I had to go back again and again and again.

When I talked over self-care with a friend whose personality tends to be more like my husband’s than mine, she admitted she wishes she’d encouraged her husband to change jobs sooner.

However, like John, she’s not the caretaker in the family; her husband is. Instead of offering support, she ignored how miserable he was at work for fear he’d quit and put an end to the family’s substantial income. They could live on a lesser budget, but she didn’t want to. It wasn’t because she didn’t care about him, although I’ve thought this of my family and friends when they’ve pushed their agendas that hurt. She pushed because she liked staying home with their babies and being able to spend what she wanted. Her husband’s now working a different job and happier, and they are fine financially.

I admire my friend for piping up about the topic of someone else’s self-care because it’s rare for the person who wants what they want to stop the one who is providing it.

The person in the most pain typically is the one who has to change, but it’s hard because we’re also the ones most caught up in the “push.” We want others to have what they want, and they want that too. We end up pressuring ourselves and so do they. We have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable when others don’t like how we change.

I learned about self-care because of a health scare and depression, because one of my kids urged me to figure it out, and because a doctor warned me if I didn’t pay attention to my physical and emotional health, I wouldn’t be around to see my son and daughter graduate from high school.

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Not overnight, but gradually I’ve pushed myself to change, making strides toward self-care …

The Thanksgiving after I suggested eating out, we did. I made reservations for whoever wanted to join me because I wasn’t cooking. It’s been an annual tradition ever since to try a different restaurant unless our grown children volunteer to make the meal.

I encouraged John to sell everything on wheels in the garage and driveway except his truck and to swap it all for something we both liked riding, a golf cart.

Almost two decades ago, I quit my teaching job a week before school started. I tried to talk Larry, a fellow teacher, into doing the same. He and I talked for an hour about self-care while I sorted through teaching supplies to leave behind for the teacher taking my place. Larry had been offered a job as full-time music minister at a church, but convinced himself he had to teach two more years until his son graduated. He had a heart attack a couple of months later (during a faculty meeting) and died. Sadly, he was the one who didn’t see his child graduate. His death had a big impact on my continued self-care.

Change isn’t easy. Our caring people – parents, spouses, children, friends, bosses – care most about us staying the same because that’s most convenient for them. In the psychology books, this is called homeostasis, which is the tendency to keep things as they are.

Homeostasis is promoted by negative feedback loops like pulling back from something because it hurts.

Change, on the other hand, is promoted by positive feedback loops like noticing exercise makes you feel better so you walk more often. Both loops are necessary.

(The info about homeostasis is from an article by Alison Bonds Shapiro M.B.A., and I’ve shared the link below if you’d like to read more. Also below is a story I heard during one of my counseling classes about homeostasis, and its power to trap us into hurting ourselves for others.)

It’s important to recognize, however, that homeostasis, a necessary state of maintaining sameness, is easier than creative change, a necessary state of constantly transforming.

In other words, it’s a push and pull that keeps life balanced and beautiful. However, few people advocate change when they can’t yet see the beauty. They’re thinking about the change and how it may negatively impact them like giving up the household’s second income.

So, our pain (that may be contributed to by someone else wanting us to stay the same) ends up being ours to fix.

We can let others know what’s going on with us. If they support us, this is a plus. Support makes it easier to implement the change to eliminate our pain. However, when the people we wish were our support group turn away or sit silent because they know our change is going to cost them something too, we have to change anyway. A lot of times, our lives depend on it.

Is there something you need to change because it’s causing you pain? Is there someone who doesn’t want you to change? I hope you’ll care for yourself enough to change anyway.

#selfcaringin2017 #gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit

In This Together,
Kim

“Getting Out of the Way: The Balance Between Homeostasis and Growth” by Alison Bonds Shapiro M.B.A.

Here’s an extreme example of how we hurt ourselves for others, told by one of my professors during a lesson on homeostasis.

A young girl (of a mother who needed to be needed) became confined to a wheelchair almost overnight. She was taken to dozens of doctors, but not one of them came up with a diagnosis. Nothing was wrong, yet nothing gave them any hope she’d walk again. Not physical therapy. Not medication. Not experimental interventions. She stayed in a wheelchair for years until her mother died, and then miraculously got up and walked. She agreed to counseling and being part of a study that verified what doctors suspected – she’d become disabled because she recognized and took responsibility for how desperately her mom needed someone to care for.

Shame Can Kill You (or make you wish you were dead)

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“Shame is worse than death.” Unknown

My uncle’s sexual abuse didn’t impact my life as much as Mom ignoring it, and there was one particular Sunday afternoon that left unshakable shame.

The family was all together and playing croquet in the backyard when my uncle slapped my behind. I started screaming and wouldn’t stop. Mom grabbed my arm and walked me inside and up the stairs out of earshot. When she asked why the outburst, all I could say through crying was, “He hurt me.”

I begged her not to make me pull down my pants, but she did anyway because she wanted to see if he’d left a mark. He hadn’t because my fit wasn’t about how hard he popped me, but about the abuse. I knew better than to explain because it was too painful for Mom to listen to. She and my uncle had been through it also, and worse, with their dad. Her ultimatum – return to the backyard and apologize to my uncle or stay in my room. I wish I’d chosen the second. At least I would have felt a little powerful.

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Because shame left me afraid to share how I felt and afraid of others’ punishment, I’ve felt shaky living through an election year that’s been similar to living with my family of origin.

I’ve snuck around Facebook trying to determine if my vote was okay

… just like I used to sit outside my parents’ bedroom door and eavesdrop on their conversations, trying to figure out if our family was okay.

I’ve kept my candidate’s name to myself even when others loudly announced voting for the opposite person, and attacked anyone who disagreed

… just like listening to my family judge people until I’d feel so uncomfortable I’d ask, “Aren’t we doing those same things?”

I offered up common ground the evening a friend brought up politics, “You know, neither candidate is an ideal choice for the presidency.” She said, “Really? I’m not so sure about that,” letting me know she believed her candidate was ideal

… just like sitting across the table from my dad and brother during one of their arrogant rants.

Out of nowhere (except maybe the election results), a friend stopped liking and commenting on my Facebook posts including grandparent ones, a commonality we’ve shared and “liked” for a couple of years now. On his page, instead of sharing his precious granddaughter, he’s posting offensive political posts, one after another. I’ve fluctuated between sad and maddened since, like Mom, he’s favoring retribution over relationships. I don’t understand, which I’ve said repeatedly this past 365 days.

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This election’s taught me more about dealing with shame than dealing with politics. I’ve had to choose between these …

Be silent and feel ashamed.

Speak out and be shamed.

This time around, I did choose the second and I do feel more powerful.

And …

 I’m choosing well in relationships too because I’m no longer 13, the age I was on the stairs with Mom, and there’s no longer anyone with power to shame me (or you). Committing to these may help both of us.

  • No longer giving into the uncertainty of self-doubt.
  • No longer standing by for hurt caused by judgment.
  • No longer heeding voices of the unreasonable and the arrogant.
  • No longer reacting to another’s punishment.
  • No longer letting shame silence us.

So …

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I’m proposing what my friend and fellow writer put forth. Jacqui said, “I have been working to ‘stay out in the open’ in the recent year or so, despite the palpable repercussions.”

No matter our own self-doubt and others’ judgment, arrogance, and punishment, it’s self-caring, and maybe even self-saving, to stay out in the open and not allow politics or anything else to shame us. As always, it’s easier to step into the open when we are …

In This Together,
Kim

 

 

I Can Throw A Tantrum Too (a long political post my daughter said I had to write if we want to sell our house)

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“If you don’t do politics, politics will do you.” Unknown

Although I’ve objected to adding additional political rhetoric to the pile, I also don’t want to die. I sound theatrical, I know, but almost dying is intense, painful, and terrifying. I came too close when I shut up and shut down a few years ago. I’m not going back there. #selfcaringin2017

While I admire friends who seem not to notice the turmoil while posting puppies and pansies, I don’t want to imitate other friends who post flowers I suspect have root rot. I’m sensitive, so I can almost feel through the screen their misery of having to keep up a pleasant image and people pleasing while pretty much hating half their friends. I especially don’t want the latter. I’d rather pile on the rhetoric.

So, I took some time and decided how to throw my own tantrum, convincing myself it’s okay since Jesus turned over tables in the temple. If He can get angry, so can I. As well, I tried making my tantrums as harmless as possible, not attacking individuals, and meaningful. I want to make a difference, not just a bunch of noise. My daughter heard a missionary say the opposite of cynicism is not what we’d think, which is being positive.

The opposite of cynicism is taking action.

I contacted Nordstrom’s to remove my name from their email list, to let them know to keep their reward points, and to count on me to participate in the “grab your wallet” campaign at their competitors’ stores since the movement swings both ways. I sent a second email with a link to an article about Target’s faltering sales the company blames on online shopping. I, on the other hand, credit Target’s decline to getting involved unnecessarily in politics.

I left three messages on Belk’s Facebook page telling them they’d made a mistake joining the political movement, cancelled my Belk credit card, and searched for stores that carry lines like Clinique and department stores that steer clear of offending shoppers who’d prefer not to hear about their politics. I didn’t like that I got snippy with the fellow who cancelled my card, but he kept on (a little) reasoning why I should stay signed up. I overly thanked him at the end to make up for it.

I continue to limit my trips to Target, down from my usual three to four a week to a couple of times a month. I spend a quarter of what I used to in their stores, and not because they’re attentive to transgender people, but because they’re not attentive to conservative customers as well. Target had their chance to be sensitive without being offensive. The company had an opportunity to set an example, to offer a solution as simple as adding unisex restrooms to their stores that don’t already have them. My cousin recently took a corporate job with Wal-Mart, so I’m considering ditching Target altogether.

I left a message thanking Steinmart for staying out of politics, which shows respect for us all.

For me, this isn’t about a brand of clothing I’ve never tried on or where the clothes were manufactured. My issue is with respect and showing it for the silent majority that voted in a drastically different administration for the next four to eight years. At least half of our country either agreed enough with policies to vote Republican, opposed the opponent enough to throw up a roadblock, or felt disregarded, scared, or angry enough to allow into the White House what some see as a bizarre choice. However it came about, I, for one, breathed a sigh of relief for the first time in at least four years – I’d been given back the right to be conservative. The next day, though, I got scared again because of raging and riots. I wondered for a second, “Can I change my vote, please? You know, so they’ll be nice again.”

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I’m not naïve about tantrums. I’ve wanted to throw my own, but, like I said, I’m conservative, so I’ve kept how I felt under wraps. I, and others too, pandered to loose beliefs so we wouldn’t be called judgmental, racist, and uncaring. However, when you blatantly fly in the face of what I believe strongly enough and ignore me long enough, I’ll either get so afraid, so angry, or both, that I’ll finally throw my own version of a tantrum … quietly.

On my blog.

At the polls.

At the register.

It dazes crowds when quiet people start grunting and groaning. It’s like, “Where’s that noise coming from?” And then it’s, “Wait a minute. You have no right because you’re supposed to be quiet.” Finally it’s, “I’ll shame you back into being quiet.”

This explains, in part, why November’s election results were shocking. Half the country busied themselves either with complacency, talking up one person and talking down another, or shaming the group that planned to vote differently while the other half waited our turn to speak up … at the polls. Not that we weren’t bashing too, but we just couldn’t gain enough momentum to be heard until there was a hush over the country when the unexpected candidate won. A hush, and then a hedonistic uprising that looks destructive instead of purposeful. I hate being divided like this. I’ve read friends’ posts, some of the same ones posting pansies, who say let’s not talk about our country this way, but I can’t deny it and die.

I had a friend say, “I like you, we get along well, and I think you’re smart, so it’s hard to believe how you vote.” We no longer get together, and it’s not because of how either of us votes. Her arrogance is loud, and it permeates everything. It flies in the face of everything I believe in and everything I like. I’m not wholly humble, but I want to be more that way. I also want to sit across from someone who agrees that neither one of us has the right answers, but we know how we feel, so we talk about that.

Since my emotions are all over the place, I’ve taken drastic-for-me actions and cancelled a credit card, left messages with businesses that have stepped into the political arena, and written about it here because that’s what I do to heal and move on. I’ve put aside wanting to rise above talking about politics. I’m talking about it.

That way, I’m less scared and now maybe we’ll sell our house. I’ve convinced my grown kids that if you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing, you stay stuck. We’re showing the house tomorrow, which is why I’m posting back-to-back blog posts. I think this is what I’m supposed to be writing, and so does my daughter, so maybe we’ll get an offer. #unstuck #lecturedbymychild

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It’s unfortunate retailers like Belk (ranked the number one department store where conservatives shop), that claimed to be listening to customers, can’t discern that they’re only hearing the screamers. This is unfortunate everywhere. I’d like people to understand that not everyone who has an opinion is talking about it. The election proved that.

Too, it’s trending these days to be liberal and loose. I’ve had short jaunts in it myself. The candidate I said I believed in, spoke up because of, and spent hours campaigning for landed in federal prison even though he was a dynamic force while running for office in the 70’s. Then there was Jimmy Carter in 1977, and Obama, who I didn’t vote for, but I believed once he was in office would ease tension and set an optimistic example. I talked him up for a little while until I felt let down.

Again, it’s about how I feel, and emotions can kill us when we won’t talk, or think we can’t. #selfcaringin2017

I care about blogging through this political mess until I get to the creative place I want to be, and I hope it’s helping some of you to get there too. Feel free to share here constructively about how you feel unless, of course, you want to tell me you feel nauseous. A reader did that to be disdainful, and it’s really not cool. Also, feeling nauseous is not an emotion. #keepitkind #gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit #inthistogether

In This Together,
Kim

Love the pix, Pixabay.com. And thanks to my daughter for the most interesting couple of days. I appreciate your wisdom, guidance, and friendship.