Sunday, May 31, 2015

I Want It All

I started this post 2 months ago, but it felt disingenuous to not post it now.  Keep that in mind when you read the tenses here.

I want it all.  Or nothing.  This isn't a new theme in my life, since I was a young girl I was an "all in" kind of person.  I want to jump out of airplanes.  I want to passionately love God and my children and what I do for a living.  I want to run through fire or electricity or long distances when I'm too old to possibly do something for the first time.  Screw that, I'm never going to be too old to live passionately in the direction of my choosing.  You may remember about 6 months ago I decided I was quitting dating.  I had given up on love or at least I had given up on intentionally trying to find it.  As with most things for me this is a journey and I have reached a place of tenuous peace now.  I don't feel like I have any more answers.  I don't necessarily have more hope but I have learned a few more things.  I cannot live dispassionately in that direction of my life.  It is far better for me not to have romance than it is to tolerate mediocrity.  

I have not been in a relationship, prior to now, where I didn't often go to bed at night wondering how the other person felt about me.  I have shed tears, I have been nauseous, I have lost sleep, all while still in a relationship.  I decided that it was a terrible way to live my life.  I was convinced that I had a good life.  I enjoy my children, I enjoy writing, I enjoy my gym time and school.   There is absolutely no need to give space to something that kept me up at night worrying.  Doubt is a cancer, it will eat away all of the happiness from your life.  It will steal things it has no business owning.

After all, how can I live passionately in all of the other directions of my life and partner with someone who didn't live passionately in the direction of me?  Of course that would make me worry, of course that would keep me up at night, of course I would be confused.  Because that person did not live from the same center as I did.  And that was not something I could understand.  I simply don't get people who are lazy in love or any aspect of life that they profess to care about.  People who just expect the other person to know how they feel about them, what the hell is that?  I don't do that with my friends, my children, or my family.  I don't live from a laissez faire perspective.  I don't understand those who do.  Some people will object saying things like: that's just the way men are.  Men tell you once and expect you to just know it.  But no, I have enough male friends to know they also know what it's like to go to bed filled with doubts about where they stand with their partners.  I just couldn't do it anymore.  

So I quit.  I have dated very minimally since last September.  My online dating profiles have either been inactive or ignored almost categorically.  If I found my interest piqued I didn't let it consume me in the hunt/hope that I would finally find the one.  I let things happen and when I did decide to give someone a date I found myself relatively calm (read here: completely detached) about what the outcome would be.  No free falling, no feeling like I was constantly hanging on the edge of a cliff, hoping, wondering, praying that love would finally find me.  Mostly because I didn't believe I would find it but also because I don't believe you can actively create a romantic relationship in your life.  There's nothing you can do to make that happen.  

A friend and I had a conversation not long ago; he believes in the Law of Attraction.  He was wondering if I believed that you could set goals in the romance area of your life.  "After all", he said, "we set goals for our physical life, for our careers or schooling or parenting, why can't we set goals romantically?"  Which led to a discussion about free will.  I hold the position that even if we meet someone that we could be happy with forever (that word still gives me heart palpitations), that we love and care for and who loves us back, they are a free person with their own motivations.  They could choose for a variety of reasons (usually not fully known to us) to not embrace that love/us and move on.  

I believed, two months ago when I wrote this and still now even though my life has dramatically changed in this area, that there was nothing I could do to create this for myself.  I didn't necessarily want God to get all up and involved in my love life, frankly, that thought freaked me out.  But I also didn't believe rapid-fire dating was going to lead me to love, nor was intentionally going out and meeting new people with my friends or even church hopping as some have suggested to me (******eye roll******).  I believed all that would aid me in the area of romance was a spiritual openness: open hands and heart toward future possibilities without the need to be in charge of those possibilities.  That meant putting down the checklists, ignoring my preconceived ideas about who would be right for me and what he would look like and then, perhaps the most important part: getting on with living my life!  I told myself: just live life Shannon, do your thing and if he wants to show up and God (yes I let God in this far) wants him to show up he will.  But certainly don't stress about it.  That's just another thing to keep you up at night.  

I was trying to choose to believe love would find me.  Mostly while busying myself with school, kids and training.  But the ache for it, that had stilled and it was replaced with faith, a faith that I was not in charge.  And that was a huge relief.

I knew that I didn't have to settle anymore.  No, I knew more than that, I knew settling would be detrimental to my life happiness.  I was okay with my life solo.  I had a good one.  Of course it would be enriched by the presence of another person.  But only if that person got me, valued me, lived as passionately in the direction of me as I did in life and toward them.  I finally knew that it was okay to want the whole thing, butterflies and rainbows, electricity and the silent knowing.  I knew it was okay to abhor small talk and to insist on being able to flirt with that person, because it was okay to need what I needed in love and in life.  Because a person who can't banter, will bore me.  Why did I think it wasn't okay to own that? 
I wasn't sure I would find someone who would get me on a soul level.  I wasn't sure my out of the box theology would find itself being understood by another soul, but I wasn't going to allow someone in my heart who I had to section off parts of me from to protect from criticism.  I had done that before and it sucked.  I refuse to do it again.  I am enough, just as I am.  I don't want to be tamed.  I will not be silenced.  What's the point of editing myself?  

I want to be known like this, fears and all.

Maybe when I wrote this two months ago I didn't believe this would happen for me.  I'm quite sure I didn't.  Maybe when I wrote this, cynical Shannon was still in full effect.  Maybe if I'm transparent and honest I still believe love will leave, fade or disappear.  I perhaps still feel unworthy of happiness.  But I know that settling is never worth it.  Being known completely is always worth it.  And I could never have created what I am experiencing now.  

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Month of May

The last week or two in May, the ones right before my birthday are hard every year.  My mom and dad are cranky, and distant.  My older sister withdraws further.  I practice a level of introversion on reserved for the acutely painful parts of life.   I pretty much decide most of humanity is useless and not worth my time.  All right before I'm supposed to flip a switch and celebrate, yay!  I'm older, lets have cake and presents and party.  Except I don't want to, the older I get the less I want to.  Some people dread their birthdays because it means they're aging, some because it's so close to Christmas that no one wants to celebrate or has any financial resources with which to do so.  I dread my birthday because it's a constant, yearly reminder of my missing sister.

I want to do fun things.  Months in advance this year I started talking with friends about planning something.  I was full of ideas, let's go to a concert or the beach, or dancing or have a game night.  We have to do something, I'm going to be 35!  Oh my god, 35, it's a big freaking deal.  I'm officially old.  I can't do nothing, I'll be even more depressed.  But the days passed and the birthday looms like a reminder, you're old, you don't want to celebrate and you miss your sister.  This year is particularly difficult.

Eowyn is five.  The age my sister was when she died 24 years ago.  I can't see Blair in Eowyn.  I want to; I wish I could but Eowyn's hair is too dark and straight and her body style is too different.  Her streak of sass, they share that.

Every day with my daughter now feels like a betrayal.  Every day feels like a sorrow, a question.  A gift that I pay for.  Why God, couldn't you have given my parents the gift of more time?  They are longing for what might have been.

I feel as though I missed the gift of a sister who was my best friend.  I feel as though I missed the late night teenage pillow talks about boys.  I missed out on the wars over clothing.  I missed out on what it would have been like to watch her have babies; seeing her belly grow.  Having her be there for all of that for me.

Of course, of course, maybe we would have hated each other.  Or lived 1000 miles apart or our lives could've take different paths, but it feels like the taste of a promise and then it was snatched from my hands, no, my heart.

Isn't that what death always does?

It shows us what we could have and takes it before we're ready.  I remember very little from Blair's years on this planet.  I can't conjure her laugh in my brain anymore.  I could for a while and then lost it along the way.  I can still see her expression of happiness and  I remember the feeling of two sisters falling asleep holding hands.  But even what I did have with her has largely vanished from my memory with the passage of time.  Even my brain betrays me in this.

There are no platitudes regarding the goodness of God that will comfort.  There is no gift in trite pity-filled phrases about sovereignty or the need for Blair to be with God.  Those just sew seeds of bitterness.  Time doesn't actually heal.  The great falsity.  It changes the tenor of the emotions, it does not heal them, they don't cease, they alter slightly.

The only thing to do now is to allow myself to feel.  To honor the place of pain, while enjoying the memories.  To flip through photo albums and consider how Blair resembles this cousin or sibling.  To honor my parents who's pain could not possibly end, which I shudder to grasp in its intensity.  To behold the mystery of my 5 year old before me with a holy, awesome wonder; that I would be given such a gift; while chasing away thoughts of losing her.

God's goodness is untarnished by the tragedies of life.  But there is no mandate that we must refuse to acknowledge the pain of tragedy in order to honor God's attributes.  We must try to find our home in the paradox; God is good, life is hard and full of pain.

I miss her.  I long for what might have been.  I am awed by my own daughter's life on this earth.  I must feel it all.  I will feel it all.  To silence pieces of my heart in order to have peace would be the greatest betrayal of all.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

My Most Important Sermon

Last night I got the triple-threat, full-court-press from my children.  It started relatively simple enough, with a question from my oldest, Rowan, on our way home at 8 pm from the 413th baseball game of the season.  We're in the McDonald's drive through lane and he says:

"Mom I have a question for you that you might know the answer to"

The jig should have been up right then, because he asks science based questions all the time and I say I don't know buddy, I'm in seminary, I'm not a scientist.

Then the assault of theological, religious, Jesus, death questions began.  Because once Rowan opened the door the other two bounded right through it.

"What is God made of?"

"Why didn't God just kill Satan if he knew he was evil?"

"If you're good and you believe in Jesus you go to heaven when you die right?"

"If you're not you go to hell?" says Rowan

"No, no, no, you just stay in the grave." says Harvey

Which then started a whole debate between the two boys about the existence of hell, or whether we just cease to exist after we die if we don't believe in Jesus or if there really is hell and eternal torture for those who deny God.

Take note Rob Bell and Francis Chan, my boys are 8 and 9 and they can give you a run for your money.

"What is sin?"

"What is Grace, mom?"

"Can we just ask forgiveness for all our sins before we do them?"

"What if we are trying not sin and we do something bad and we say we're sorry, does God still forgive us?"

"But what if that keeps happening and we keep trying but we don't want to but we keep messing up?" (welcome to life children)

"What is God made of?  Rocks? Clouds? Air?"

"Did God make the earth?"

"What happened to Saul after Jesus' blinded him?"

"Where was God before the earth was made?

"But whhhhhhy didn't he just kill Satan, I don't understand."

"I bet God hates Satan.  If I could go back I'd take a gun and shoot him." (obviously that was Harvey)

As I sat there honoring their questions as they all talked over each other.  Doing my best to answer them.  I underlined two things to them.  God doesn't have grandchildren, I can't make you right with him.  This is your path to walk and he's so happy to have you this curious about him.  And two: you only have to do one thing on this planet, love, God, and others.  If you do that from a sincere heart, you'll be fine.

The conversation waned but I have no doubt it will return because my curious little minds still believe Mommy knows things, I have a few more years before I'm an idiot in their eyes. As I put them into bed I found myself analyzing my parenting, my life, my words.  I wondered, if I'm even close to the life I'm encouraging them to lead?  I felt hopelessly inadequate for a millisecond because I realized, it doesn't much matter how I answer any of these questions for them.  I could get them all right, I could actually be theologically accurate before God and that's almost irrelevant if my life is not in harmony with the principles I am teaching them.

These are the most important people for me to spiritually form.  I have a strong bias in helping them before anyone else on their spiritual journey.  But I can preach sermons at them all I want and they will be absolutely meaningless if I am not living the life I speak of in front of them.  My children don't need my words, although they comfort them.   They don't need me to quote chapter verse references for the answers to all their questions.  They need me to live the priorities I speak of out day after day after tireless baseball filled day.  They need my grace in the morning when they're late and space-cadet-like.  They need my affirmation at the end of a trying day when they've gotten into trouble at school that they aren't fundamentally flawed and yes people have bad days.  They need my peaceful, understanding, graceful responses to their own moral failures.  That is the sermon I must preach for them.  That is the one I must live.  That is the only one I can never do perfectly, hence the feelings of inadequacy.  But God chose me for them and I'm going to release my desire for a perfect performance and settle for a sincere, centered, intentionally lived life, just like the one I'm encouraging them to live.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

It's Mother's Day??

Today's that day right?  The one where people are supposed to bring me coffee in bed and flowers and pay homage to the sacrifice known as motherhood.  I don't have the coffee or the flowers but I honestly don't care, my kids made some cute sappy shit at their schools and I'll probably treasure it forever and frame it and it will make me cry and hug them more and be all reflective and annoying about the things I'm f-ing up and the little I get right.  And oh my God time is flying so fast.  But Rowan couldn't pour a cup of coffee without creating a mess I'd later have to clean up and I put cream and sugar in it and that's just too much to expect of my 9 year old, so I'll be glad to get my own.

So why do I feel so sad.  As I'm trolling the land of Facebook, seeing all these beautiful tributes to mothers, I feel something akin to grief.  It's illogical.  My mom is here, we have a good relationship, I love how involved she is in my children's lives.  Two of my three grandmothers are still living and hey I even remembered cards for them this year and made time to see one of them last evening.  So where is the grief coming from?  What is nagging at my spirit that's making me sit and say: this holiday, I'm not so sure about it.

It could be the commercialism.  It could be that there's this pressure that surrounds holidays like Mother's Day that I hate.   I have felt it for my mom and in the future when my children are old enough they will feel it for me.  The need to get everything RIGHT for her or for me.  The need to somehow make up for this unrepayable sacrifice.  It just breeds inadequacy, am I right?  How do we ever make up for the sleepless nights, and for what we did to our mother's bodies, or for the worry.  Oh my god, the worry!  How do we repay them for that?  For us just being a straight up punk as a teenager.  Or for the college loans they took out so we could have a better future.  How do we ever repay for the early mornings and late nights our mothers spent baking some treat for our class or making sure we weren't the only kid without a present for a teacher?

You can't repay that with a spa treatment, with a greeting card.  We could send our mothers on an all expenses paid trip for a month and we wouldn't begin to touch it.  And I guess I'm sad because dammit, I don't want that pressure for my children.  I'm not making this sacrifice with my life so they can repay me.  I am not making it because I want "credit" on the other side of this.  Whenever the hell the other side begins.  Would it be cool if when they're 30 they all told me I was right about everything at some point?  Well sure.  But when they grow up and move away (because littles,  I will insist you leave me) I want them to be doing more important things in their lives than having some societally imposed guilt about whether or not I know they appreciated it all.

The thing about being a mom, that heartbeat that pounds out just slightly differently for us, is that we're not doing it for you, children.  We're not doing it for the fame or the glory, or the credit.  We're doing it because YOU are the gift.  It was the longing inside of us to experience you that got you to this earth to begin with.  Your voice, the grace and gift of your PRESENCE, the fact that we get to stand on the sidelines and watch you grow, that is all gift, my littles.  I don't need you to go to the store and buy me flowers.  Yes, they are beautiful and I love them.  But I could never treasure those flowers nearly as much as the memory of seeing you hit your first home run in baseball, or watching you learn how to write your name, or you figuring out that you love guacamole.  Those things they are more than enough gift for me.  My heart aches for all the children out there struggling to figure out how to make it up to mom.  There's no need babies.  Not for me anyway.

My heart also hurts today for the friends, the women I know and whom I have never met, who have longed to be a mother.  Somehow this holiday just seems so colossally self-focused and insensitive, it's all about me!  Look at me, I'm a mom and some how that makes me better?  Not even close, my friends, not even close.  I'm not more of a woman because I grew some short people inside of me.  You are as unique and worthy of celebration as any of us.  It makes me bristle and want to sit with my sisters and hold them and say I'm so sorry.  I can't know your pain today, but I'm willing to hear it.  I'd gladly forgo the mother's day bunch someone thinks I deserve to help feel like you are not less of a woman because no one here calls you mom.  What a colossal bunch of crap.

As I sit here feeling, all. the. feelings.  I hope that more than a few of us can look beyond ourselves today and sit and listen to another.  Much love friends.  Go hug someone.  I could use a few extra myself.