I still love you…

Tough love is comparatively easy to talk about…when it’s in the abstract…or when it applies to someone else’s family.

But when it’s your own, it’s one of the hardest things to do.

I wrote my last post with some hope and optimism that we were finally on the right road. But late that afternoon we had what I hoped was just a misstep/blip on the road–but which (the next day) turned into a U-turn.

As parents and grandparents we want so badly to shield our children…to protect them…to make everything turn out right. That’s not always possible.

Some children seem very willing to learn things based on the experiences of others. They may have to stumble occasionally, but they’re relatively minor falls that can be made better with a kiss and a hug.

Others seem hardwired to have to hit bottom before they learn…to experience life the hard way before the message gets through. While I love all my children and grandchildren, these are the ones my heart aches for. Sometimes the hitting bottom ends up being fatal–and their death leaves a hole in your heart that can never be filled. It can heal…but there is still a hole.

So when you see another one heading the same direction, your heart aches…and you hope and pray that they will “get it” before it is fatal.

Sometimes in order to help, you have to force yourself to say “no” when your heart is screaming at you to say “yes.” But it’s precisely because you love them so much that you are willing to do the hard work of saying “no”–and hoping that one day they will understand.

So…to my precious grandchild–I still love you…there is nothing you can do that will keep me from loving you. I am holding you in the light of my love and God’s love, sending you all the strength I can…and praying that before it is too late you will learn how to make wise choices and become the awesome person you can be.

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Small steps

Sometimes I think that the only things worth celebrating are the big things…really big. You know what I mean–the ones that are worthy of newspaper stories or being entered into our family histories. But I’m beginning to understand that when we focus only on those big steps, we’re missing out on something important.

We don’t any of us get to make those big steps without having first made a lot of small steps. And it’s those small steps that we need to celebrate because they’re the things that put us on the road we really want to travel.

I have a dearly loved member of my family who has had some very difficult times in life–and who has made some choices that have not always been good. For quite a while, every time the phone has rung and I’ve heard a specific voice, my stomach churned because I wondered what had gone wrong this time.

When we were out of town last week, I asked for a promise…that while we were gone, the only phone calls we would receive would be positive ones. The phone didn’t ring, so I was hopeful that would be a positive sign. When we got back and did some catching up, there was both sort of bad and definitely good news. The bad news was that the child had wanted to make some poor choices…but the good news was that they hadn’t! And another piece of good news was that the child was willing to tell me rather than waiting for me to hear it second- or third-hand.

So…we have another challenge going…for there to be another week of only good phone calls.

Yesterday I got another phone call. In a very excited voice I was told that the child now has a learner’s permit…only missed one question and missed that one only because of second-guessing. After telling me all that, the child realized that this was definitely a good phone call…and it was one I could definitely congratulate them on.

I know there will undoubtedly be other missteps in the process of growing up and maturing…but the fact remains: we’ve had some positive small steps in the direction everyone wants to go. And that’s something to value.

It’s not all our doing by any stretch of the imagination. We’ve had significant people helping–both in professional capacities and as mentors. And that’s something to value as well.

So…let’s value the small steps!

You need to be content with small steps. That’s all life is. Small steps that you take every day so when you look back down the road it all adds up and you know you covered some distance. – Katie Kacvinsky

It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward – old Chinese proverb

I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble. – Helen Keller

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. – Lao Tzu

One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time. – John Wanamaker

Betwixt and between

I want things to be settled–you know, a place for everything and everything in its place (even though my house doesn’t always look like that!). But that doesn’t seem to be how life works.

We’re in the process of moving from one place to another, and I feel really caught betwixt and between. We don’t have to be out of our current house at any specific time, and we’ve been working on doing some remodeling in the kitchen of the house we’re moving into. I’m glad we’ve got the time to do the remodeling, but I also sometimes kind of wish that we had a deadline when we had to be out of our current place. That might push us a little more to get things organized and packed.

We decided we wanted to try to move in a more organized fashion, and we’re sort of doing that. We’ve moved some of our fragile stuff–boxed it, moved it (and the furniture it goes in), unpacked and put it back on the shelves, and brought the boxes back for more packing. But now we’re at a point where we need to just make a big push to get things moved…and trying to find a really good date to do that is proving to be challenging, since we have a lot of activities and commitments scheduled this next month.

I’ve begun to wonder if that’s a lot like life.

How often do I get caught betwixt and between because I don’t have to be finished doing something at a specific time…and so it just kind of muddles along, while I’m also feeling anxious about being involved in the new thing?

And how often is my spiritual journey like that as well?

I want to move forward…but in order to do that, I’m going to have to make real commitments to leave the past…to not just wait for something to happen. Not easy–but I think it has to be easier than muddling along in the betwixt and between.

Being transformed

I’m not a huge TV watcher. There are three or four shows I like to watch on a regular basis and I watch the news…that’s about it. Normally the TV goes off after the news unless it’s time for one of my favorite shows.

But tonight I left it on because ET was advertising a story about Bruce Jenner. Now I’ll admit I have mixed feelings about Bruce. However, I also feel at least a bit of a connection with him because he was married to my cousin at the time he won his Olympic medal. I haven’t seen him in years–don’t know if he even remembers me–and I think he’s made some unwise decisions through the years, but that doesn’t change my concern over how he’s being treated currently.

The story was about the possibility of him being transgender and transitioning to a female. I don’t know if that’s happening or not. But that possibility is not a joking matter. Bruce doesn’t deserve being the butt of jokes–not for that.

It takes incredible courage for someone to acknowledge that they are transgender–maybe even more than coming out as gay or lesbian, although I don’t know that for sure. But being transgender is so misunderstood. It’s difficult to get your mind wrapped around it…but it’s very real.

I can’t imagine living for years in a body that doesn’t match your internal self-awareness…to look at yourself in a mirror and see the boy or man looking back at you instead of the woman you feel you are. It’s incredibly devastating. You don’t know how to cope with the disconnect–you become angry and filled with hate toward yourself…and many turn to drugs or alcohol to try to ease the pain.

Even when you acknowledge the truth and decide to transition, the process isn’t easy. It may be easier the younger you are–but there’s still a lot to go through. And you are so vulnerable…wondering if people are bullying you because you are transgender…uncertain about how to take statements made at (or about) you…dealing with the medical issues involving the hormones that are part of the transformation…learning to cope with the psychological issues…

For family and friends who are the support base, it’s a challenge as well. You gulp when the phone rings–wondering what issue has come up this time. You wish you could carry your loved one’s pain for them–but you can’t. All you can do is walk with them…hug them…reassure them…sometimes challenge them.

A few days ago I was thinking about the challenges that face those who are transgender…and what might happen if they don’t get the support they need…if they are thrown out of their families or made the constant butt of jokes and bullying.

Stevenson had it right, you know,
with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Two souls struggling in one body–
each fighting for dominance.|
When inside and outside don’t match…
when “what is”
fights with “what should be”…
when the soul is fragmented
instead of one whole…
then Jekyll and Hyde walk again.

Whatever Bruce is going through…whenever any of our children or friends are struggling with issues of gender identity or sexual orientation…I pray that we will find ways of support them so that Jekyll and Hyde don’t need to walk again–but can become a whole person.

Free to be…

“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.”
― Jim Morrison

I remember forty years ago when Marlo Thomas and friends released a record–and then a book–titled Free to Be…You and Me.” I was an adult by then and didn’t have children of an age to listen, but the title resonated with me then. It still does today.

I wonder how many of us feel like we are free to be…. Or have we done what Jim Morrison talks about? trading in reality for a role…giving up our ability to feel what we truly feel and putting on the mask that we think we have to wear to be acceptable.

I think almost all of us wear masks–most of the time if not always. We’re afraid.

Afraid of what others might think of us.

Afraid of not being what we think we should be.

Afraid of discovering who we really are.

But when we live in that kind of fear–when we continually wear masks–we end up losing ourselves.

Sometimes we’re lucky. It doesn’t always feel lucky, but sometimes something happens that forces the masks off. We may do it ourselves, or it may happen because someone else pulls it off. If we’re really lucky, we don’t face too much trauma getting through the process of finding out who/what’s behind the mask.

But it doesn’t happen that way too often. And I think that’s why we cling to the masks.

If we’re going to truly be “free to be…”, though, we have to go through the trauma. We have to let go of the things we hide behind…the expectations we (and others) put on us. We can’t be real while we’re wearing masks.

In so many ways, we’re like the velveteen rabbit (from the children’s book of the same name). We desperately long to “become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.” It would be nice if we could just wave a wand and have it happen. That’s not how it works, though.

Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you. Sometimes it hurts, but when you are Real you don’t mind being hurt. It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. Once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand. Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.

The One who made us wants us to be real. We were originally made that way–but we became afraid and so put the masks on that hid our Real-ness. It doesn’t have to stay that way. We become Real when we are loved–and there is always One who loves us.

When we get desperate enough…or maybe when we decide to trust enough..to remove our masks, to become Real to each other, amazing things will happen! We become free to be what and who we were created to be. And once we are Real…it lasts for always.