Tag Archives: fear

They’re finally asleep…

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…and now I can see how amazing this day was.

I thought it was a bad day. In some respects, it was. My temper was short. My mind was occupied, attention elsewhere. I didn’t get a shower or do much of any self-care today. I was primarily concerned with my goals, most of which I didn’t even accomplish.

However, two things became glaringly obvious to me, after all was said & done.

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Why I Nurse in Church (Without a Cover)

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I’ve been working on this essay, off & on, for several weeks. I’m pretty proud of it, although I’m still tweaking it. I think that, despite needing further detail edits, my voice is pretty strong here. I’m satisfied enough to post it.

I realize that someone my read this who could choose to be offended by it, either the subject or my attitude regarding it. However, I feel strongly that breastfeeding in church is a pertinent issue affecting moms today, and that it is relevant to my personal life, to the breastfeeding world at large, and to the strangely oversensitive Christian church & culture, in general. I won’t apologize for these personal beliefs.

So if breastfeeding offends you and you have nothing nice to say about it, please disregard this post and seek your mental nourishment elsewhere.

I’m sad that I even have to say that. :-(

For those who will, enjoy my recent essay. :-)

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Sometimes, a kind smile is all we need…& wet wipes.

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Thank you, to the kind, older woman who took pity on the frantic, overwhelmed, not-entirely-sane mommy kneeling on the floor in a Target bathroom in front of her poop-covered preschooler while wearing her other baby yesterday afternoon.

You heard the panic in my voice, you knew how close I was to losing all my common sense, & then you realized how you could help me. You provided me with four wet wipes from your purse to clean the poop off of my potty-learning preschooler who had an accident during our shopping trip.

I don’t know how I appeared to you in that moment, but I know that, to me, you appeared to be an angel. My thank you was the most sincere, heart-felt, relieved group of words I’d spoken all day. You absolutely saved me in that moment, & you saved my poor daughter, too.

You heard the crushing tones I used while speaking to & around my little girl. You knew I was speaking from a place of fear & humiliation, not of love & understanding. And you helped me.

I wish I knew who you were, so I could thank you properly. But since I don’t, I will simply remember, forever, the simple kindness you showed me & the much-needed aid you provided. (I also will not forget to keep wet wipes in my purse again.)

Thank you, from the depths of my heart, for taking a moment to bring me back to my senses & providing me a moment to ground myself & regroup. And thanks for helping me to remember that my daughter deserves more than a frantic, frustrated mother who cannot control her own tongue in an overwhelming moment. I apologized profusely to her & listened to her tell me how upset it made her. I am shamed by my initial reaction, & I thank God that you were there.

What may seem like the simplest, easiest gesture to you was, in fact, an eye-opening moment for me that I won’t forget.

Thank you.

We all need help at some time or other. Have you ever had a complete stranger help you in a moment of weakness or need? Do you remember a time when you assisted someone unexpectedly? I’d love to hear about it! The kindness of strangers is a beautiful reminder of how much good there still is in humankind.

Dad’s Final Lesson

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With Fathers Day upon us, I’m sure the Interwebs will be filled with daddy accolades, as well they should. Bright, cheery, happy memories & thoughts & plans & poems & wishes. What a wonderful day to have a daddy!

Maybe I should write a blog post like that, but although my dad was a huge fan of fun & silly & happy, I think he’d prefer that I remember him today with the clarity he left me. It’s entirely possible that my father taught me the greatest lesson of my life by dying.

You see, I didn’t know how to forgive. Not only did I not know how, I simply didn’t want to. I enjoyed wrapping myself in blankets of bitterness & self-righteous anger. I cozied up with hatred, keeping judgment & reproach as my bedfellows.

I held on to every injury, real or perceived, & tallied them up in a mental journal which I tucked onto a shelf deep, deep down in a hidden, dark place of my psyche.

There were the major, obvious injuries that most people didn’t know about but me – physical, mental, & sexual abuse and rape. There were the minor offenses, like when my childhood best friend ditched me for someone new. Let’s not forget the petty injustices of being denied things I wanted as a teen, like a later curfew.

I gathered each & every one, & I kept them safe. Kept them close to me. Used them as guides to avoid ever being hurt by someone in that way again. Pulled them out to remind myself of how people are unworthy, why I should never let anyone get too close. Compared entries & told myself, “See? This person did all these things, so you don’t need to love them…to care what they think…to worry about them. They’re nothing. They don’t matter.”

I don’t know when I started doing this, but I recall entries from as early as grade school. I don’t know for certain exactly why I started doing this, but I think it has something to do with the guilt & shame that’s dogged me much of my life. Perhaps as a way to redirect anger from myself. Maybe victim mentality.

We could probably analyze the whys & hows for days…but that’s not why I’m writing this.

My dad had not only made my list, he was a headliner with many entries & his own section in the glossary. There were plenty of things he did to get on the list himself. He’d definitely earned his spot. He was abusive toward both my older brother & me, verbally & physically. Add to that my mother’s contributions to why I should hate him (& then that I shouldn’t hate him…talk about confusing), & his place in my log book was guaranteed.

I have two distinct, early memories of his abuse, & I’m not sure which one happened first. Both occurred before age 5, though. Both involved him beating my brother & screaming insults at him. Both times, he didn’t know I was watching. Both incidents instilled mind-numbing fear in me.

It was only a matter of time before that fear incurred his wrath, and so my childhood became a cycle of fear, avoidance, humiliation, anger, & abuse.

I mentioned sexual abuse, & there was, but not from my father. I’ll not have the man maligned for something he didn’t do.

But he did strike me in anger, resulting in bruises, bloody lips, & one time, a bloody backside when he spanked my bare bottom with a hairbrush. (That burns incredibly badly, by the way.)

If I was still keeping my aforementioned journal, I would keep listing injuries & recounting horror stories of my father. But I’m not. My dad taught me it wasn’t worth it.

After he & my mom finally divorced when I was a teenager, I saw him minimally & talked to him only occasionally. Quite frankly, I was terrified of him. And I was still angry with him. But mostly I was terrified.

I got married but didn’t have him walk me down the aisle. He was only asked to be in one of the photos. The last time I ever saw him was at my little sister’s high school graduation the Spring after my wedding. I feigned a confidence I never had & spouted positive cliches & blow-off phrases to every depressing comment he made. “He’s so negative,” I told my new husband later.

Then I cut my dad out of my life altogether.

For three years, I told my family not to give him my address, phone number, email address, or anything else. I wanted nothing to do with him. I hated him. Here I was, a grown adult with a husband & a career, & I was so incredibly broken…and I blamed him.

The lyrics from an Everclear song (Father of Mine) sum it up painfully well.

I will never be safe / I will never be sane / I will always be weird inside / I will always be lame

I didn’t realize then how little he had to do with it, actually. Or rather, how many other things combined with his abuse to create that broken girl-woman. It was impossible for me to see it, because I was so angry with him. I couldn’t forgive him. I didn’t know how.

Oddly enough, the thing that brought him back into my life was genealogy. I had started researching my ancestry, & my mother could only answer so much about my dad’s side of the family. She encouraged me (again) to call him & ask my questions. My curiosity outweighed my fear (which had had three years to settle down), so finally, I did.

And we kind of, sort of, picked back up again where we’d left off. And suddenly my dad was telling me things that, had I been able to forgive him & stop being angry with him, I could have countered. Like six months after we started calling & emailing each other when he told me that, on the failure of his third marriage, he didn’t believe anyone could ever love him & no one ever would. In the face of his brokenness, it was pretty hard to maintain the anger, & the words hovered on my lips. A part of me wanted to be a little girl with her daddy. But I didn’t tell him. I didn’t tell him that I forgave him. I didn’t tell him that I loved him. I chuckled nervously & said that lots of people cared about him. Not loved…cared. Not me…lots of people.

You & I both know what he was really saying. Or rather, what he was really asking. And we both know I failed.

That was my last conversation with my dad. He died of a brain aneurism a couple days later.

Despite all of the things he did, I also have memories of riding on his shoulders & laughing as a little girl, his hilarious Donald Duck impression that hurt his throat to do but that he did anyway because it made me laugh, the story he used to tell us of when he was a teenager & dove into the public pool from the high dive only to have his swim trunks explode, the way he told me he was proud of my work ethic, the old 45s he’d pull out just so my sister & I could listen to them, the times I overheard him bragging to friends about my awards for music & theater (but never for sports…I don’t know why).

But when it mattered most, I clung to my anger. When I had the opportunity to heal a part of me without even knowing it, I blew it off.

My dad died, & for the very first time, I understood the finality of a truly lost relationship. Something beyond repair. Irrevocable loss.

When I received the phone call about my dad – that he was in a coma & it didn’t look good – the forgiveness was instantaneous. Suddenly the fear I’d always harbored toward my father was overwhelmed by the fear that I wasn’t going to get to correct that heinous mistake from our last conversation. And sure enough, I didn’t get to tell him how much I loved him.

My dad died, & in that moment, I learned what my refusal to forgive actually cost me.

And it haunts me.

No, I don’t romanticize it & think we would have had a perfect relationship or that I would have trusted him completely or have been incredibly secure or whatever else “normal” daddy/daughter relationships look like. But I know I would have had an extra three years of trying to rebuild something that mattered to me.

I tried to cut out people & relationships whom I blamed for my pain…& some of them definitely were responsible…but because I couldn’t forgive, I couldn’t discern which relationships should go & which should stay.

My dad died, & I finally understood how forgiveness wasn’t for him, but it was for me instead.

I’d always thought it cliche, but it’s true. My lack of forgiveness hurt my dad, but it hurt me more. Not only did I cheat myself out of any kind of relationship with my father for three years, then condemn myself to a lifetime of wondering if he knew how much I loved him, but the refusal to forgive him carried over into other relationships, including my marriage. It affected how I viewed men in general while clouding my ability to remember history accurately & making it impossible to see the man who loved me despite his incredible flaws. It prevented me from understanding him, or even trying.

When I think of someone who has hurt me, whether I care deeply about them or not, I see it from a completely different perspective now. As a Christian, I’m commanded to forgive, so obviously there’s that to play into everything. But I also have the understanding of how fleeting life is, how easily breath leaves, & when I see my time here as finite, it serves to shift how I view the offenses of others.

I think of my dad, whom I had always feared & eventually despised. That fear prevented me from seeing how sad & broken he was. I couldn’t have healed him…but I could’ve loved him.

How many people need to be loved?

As a Christian, I’m commanded to love God & to love my neighbor. How can I love them if I can’t forgive them? Quite simply, I can’t.

The Bible says that I can’t love God, whom I can’t see, if I can’t love my brother, whom I can see. I can’t love my brother if I can’t forgive. Simple.

So how does one forgive? Simplest response: choose.

It is your choice. It is my choice. It is a choice.

I might need divine help in the matter, but I must still choose to seek the help I need to forgive someone. I must choose to be free from the chains my unforgiveness wraps around me. Keeping a log book of others’ sins is a choice. It’s all about choice.

No, I’m not going to give some easy formula or quick tips or whatever. I don’t have any. We all have to figure it out, & there are people out there who can help. My first recommended source is the Bible, of course, but I’m sorry to say, I can’t help you.

However, I can encourage you, & so I will. On this Fathers Day, try again. If you’ve tried every day for the past five years, try again today. If you’ve refused to acknowledge the need to forgive at all, try it, just for today. Tomorrow is another day. It has no bearing on today. Today, try again. Today, try for the first time. Today, just try.

Especially if it is a close relative, whether or not you take them back into your life, forgiveness is for you. It will set you free. It will allow you to release the angry, bitter feelings those memories cause you. Those feelings & fears which chain you & keep you from reaching for & enjoying your fullest life.

Try.

So blessings to all of you today who get to spend the day with your dads. Peace to those of you, like me, who are missing that special man, for whatever reason. And to you daddies, may your day be truly wonderful, & may you set the example of grace & forgiveness for your children now, that you may reap the benefits later.

Happy Fathers Day, Daddy. I miss you, & I love you.

Anxiety, My Old Nemesis

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I’ve struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure when it started. There aren’t too many memories of life without it hanging on my shoulder, making me question what I say or fear other peoples’ reactions to me. It’s just something I’ve learned to live with, something I relegate to the attic of my brain.

Today, though, it broke out & came after me, prepared to impart blunt-force trauma to my psyche.

Let me back up.

My newest daughter, NBG (New Baby Girl), was born in January. While my husband’s company policy states that new additions are to be submitted for health insurance within 30 days of birth, we failed to submit the application until 36 days. There’s actually a reason this happened (involving birth certificates & our previous experience with our first daughter), but ultimately, we messed up. We know it. We were prepared to jump through any hoops the company put forth.

We did not expect the company to refuse to cover her for a full year.

The HR department simply told us that she wouldn’t be eligible until next year, sent us some links for state medical coverage, & bid us adieu. I think this is unacceptable, unreasonable even. We were six days late. Let us pay a fee or simply start her coverage from the submission date instead of from birth. Something. Anything. Just work with us a little bit.

My husband went back & forth with HR. No. He spoke to his director. No. He spoke to the director of HR. No. He even called the insurance company, which said they’d be happy to add NBG, but she must be added by his company. So effectively, no.

After all this, my husband wasn’t sure about pushing it any further. Up until this point, there had been nothing I could do. I couldn’t add her initially, I couldn’t beg, plead with, or kosh over the head any of the people refusing my perfect, new little girl medical coverage. So when my husband wasn’t sure about pursuing it further (& months were slipping by), I wrote & sent a letter to his CEO.

I did not go behind my husband’s back. I read & re-read. I agonized over every word, trying to balance between professionalism & outright begging. I read it to my husband to make sure he was comfortable with it. (Quite frankly, I think he just didn’t want to deal with it anymore & was ready to just pay out-of-pocket for the next year.) My background is writing & administrative assistance. I’m fairly confident the letter was acceptable. Then I sent it last week.

Now you’re caught up.

Today, my husband received an email from an HR representative which said she understood his concern regarding NBG’s health insurance. She informed him that a meeting has been scheduled with her & his director for next Monday at the company headquarters, & he needs to make travel arrangements to attend it.

Oh, this is so me.

ANXIETY!!!!

This was not the response I anticipated, and now I’m mentally sifting through everything that happened, questioning everything.

I absolutely loathe conflict.

Even as I’ve gone over everything, even questioning whether or not I made too big a deal out of it, I keep coming back to the conviction that I’m right. Yes, the request was submitted late, but six days does not justify an entire year. So far, every person I’ve spoken to has had the same reaction, but even without that boost, my conviction would remain. It’s simply wrong to refuse to cover a newborn child under an existing family plan just because the policy & procedure says to do it that way. If it’s a law (which I haven’t found it to be yet), then I still think it’s wrong.

So why won’t they just add her or say no again? My husband has been pursued by a headhunter for a while now, & he’s also found some other, better positions available. He’s started updating his resume to submit. He’s the ideal candidate for each job, & chances are high he would be offered at least one position, if not more. We’ll get NBG medical coverage. We’re both feeling a bit sold out by the company.

But of course, even with the possibilities, I’m anxious, nervous, ready to assume the worst.

I’m questioning everything. Was I too pushy? But I don’t see how I could have simply settled for my new daughter to not be insured with the rest of us. Will my husband face repercussions? But they have no legitimate cause to fire him, & he has several solid job options. Did I overstep a boundary? But I’m ready to do whatever I have to do to protect & provide for my children. I am a mom, after all.

Ugh. Anxiety. Worry. Nerves. Call it what you will. It’s exhausting. Draining. It sucks the joy out of every situation because it just nags & gnaws in the peripheral.

The fact is, it’s already done. Whatever is going to happen will happen. The decisions have been made. The course has been set. It’s because I cannot see it that I am anxious. I don’t know how I’m going to respond. I don’t know the outcome.

I have to trust…someone else.

I can’t control this.

The Bible instructs me not to worry, but to trust God for everything I need. This is something with which I’ve always struggled, for as long as I can remember. There has been some serious improvement as my faith has deepened & matured over the years, but there are still times, like now, when it’s as if he sets the struggle before me, allowing me to choose. Do I trust him to make all things right? Or do I stew over something about which I can do nothing?

It’s the powerlessness, you know?

I hate feeling powerless.

But if God is for me, then who can be against me? Seriously. I know of his strength, his wisdom, his power. Now I get to practice what I profess. I get to trust him to take care of us. What other choice do I have? And then I feel terrible that the only convincing argument I can give myself right at this moment is that I have no other choice than to trust him. What a weak Christian it makes me feel!

But that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve been in positions like this before, & so far, every time I’ve finally relegated my perceived power (which is actually just my anxiety) over to him, things have worked out…amazingly well, in fact. So I’m saying it now. An hour from now, it’s quite possible I’ll be struggling with it again. Then hopefully I’ll follow through this convoluted, rambling chain of logic & reach the same conclusion…again.

I’m so glad I serve a patient God.

Thanks for letting me talk this one out.

I Failed Today

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Today, I failed.

Not a gigantic, earth-shaking, end-it-all failure, but still…I failed.

At least, that’s what keeps ringing in my head, & I need to get it off my chest.

My beautiful toddler & I were having some rowdy fun before dinner, & she bit me, HARD, on my chest, after multiple times of being told not to bite. The kind of bite that pinches the smallest amount of skin possible & leaves a painful stinging long afterward. And I reacted by smacking her well-diapered backside.

I’m sure that parents who spank would see this as appropriate, but since we have moved away from spanking (or trying, obviously), it’s been weighing heavily on my mind even so many hours later.

I guess what I find more upsetting than the fact that I swatted her is that I did it so easily. She hurt me, & my immediate reaction was to hurt her back. I’m swamped with guilt.

Even though I immediately apologized to her as she sat on the floor at my feet, holding her bottom, silently staring at me, eyes filled with accusing betrayal, the guilt remains. Even though she willingly wrapped her arms around me after & said that, yes, she forgave me, I am nagged by my sense of failure.

It was too easy to spank her. Why was it so easy???

When the issue of discipline first arose, we spanked. Our parents did it. Everyone else does it (so we thought). Why shouldn’t we?

But then, every time my little girl sensed even the slightest hint of displeasure directed toward her, she would frantically cover her bottom &  plead, with tears in her eyes, “Don’t hurt me!” What??? Why would she think I would hurt her???

Of course, getting hit as punishment hurts. I know this. I was spanked. Then & there, I swore I’d never do anything again to make my daughter fear my anger. I do not want hands that hurt.

But today, I failed. I struck her, even though her diaper covered her, even though my hand barely noted the sting. I hit her. And I’m so ashamed of myself.

It took months after deciding to stop spanking before the little light of my life stopped cowering in fear when she required discipline. Months to rebuild the trust between us. The truth that I will never harm her, even temporarily.

I fear how today may have set us back. I can only hope that my immediate apology & love is enough to negate any damage I’ve done.

For many people, my concern seems silly, I know. But for me, it is paramount. I remember being so young & fearing being struck. I remember hiding innocent, silly things in attempts to avoid spankings that, now as an adult, I realize would never have been given. The young mind doesn’t focus on WHY they’re being spanked, it only focuses on the fact that it is being hurt. The child only knows that they have displeased their beloved parent & is being hit. She only knows that she is sad & crying.

I know. I was spanked. And today, after so many months of controlling myself, I spanked my daughter.

And I’m sad & angry & disappointed in myself.

I failed today…& I’m so sorry.

I promise, I will try harder. I will do better. I will not spank again.