Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wholesome- and that's okay

So it’s been well over a week since the unveiling. When my emotional nude photos debuted the internet. I sweat bullets as, with pounding heart, I typed out the inner workings of my soul. A day later I began thinking about art and beauty. You see, I am one of those bad christians who appreciate (tasteful) nude photos. I see not sin and scandal, but honesty and creation and beauty. After publishing the last post I started wondering if the blunt honesty of my last post could be offensive... I hope not. That wasn’t my intention.

I’m struggling to find a balance. I’m deciding if I believe balance is relevant- or even possible. I’m seeking a healthy perspective. I follow a really neat woman on facebook who is always telling us to be kind to ourselves. To be understanding. She simply says that as we learn to accept ourselves and our struggles, that is what will flow out from us and we’ll more easily be able to accept and understand others. I think I believe that to be true. But then again, maybe I don’t. I am good to myself, for the most part. Sure I ate a slice of hershey pie for breakfast this morning. So I drink more coffee than I ought to... I do usually take pretty good care of myself. I’m just really bad at giving myself a break. Do I deserve a break? Is THAT even relevant?

I see that there is so much that is good and wholesome in my life. I am blessed. My incredible parents have opened their home to me and my family. I get to live in a warm home that is full of love and energy. I get to share burdens with people who are close to me. I have three amazing children. I have a loving husband who knows me so well. I have a car- without car trouble. My husband has a good paying, reliable job- more than that, he has an invaluable skill set. He knows a trade. My boys have a 24 hour stomach bug and that’s the worst kind of illness my family has had to deal with. These are just *some* things that come to mind in a few seconds of pondering what is good in my life.

Then I sit and chat with a beautiful woman who is also struggling.

I think of all the women I know who are aching to bear children. I see their desperation and feel so guilty for never having shared in this pain. I think about the upcoming anniversary of Roe vs. Wade and realize there are women who are aching to be rid of an unwanted pregnancy. The women who are dealing with such a heavy weight of life. I become speechless when, upon seeing a poster about “ Sanctity of Human Life Week ” Gideon asks what the poster says. How can one even begin to explain abortion to a child. I understand anguish of these situations. I see their hopelessness and feel so guilty for never having shared in this pain.

I read a post from Lore that reminds us of the vile reality of human trafficking. I read the soul-wrenching words of a woman who survived and escaped a 5 year imprisonment as a sex slave. I hold my little girl close as sighs and tears are offered as the best prayer I can muster. I see this anguish and I feel so guilty for never having shared in this pain.

I read the words I just typed.

I feel so guilty for ever struggling. With anything. Knowing how blessed I am. Knowing how beautiful and wholesome my life is and has always been. And then I see.

Why I’ve held onto every little hurt.

Why I can’t give myself a break.

Why I haven’t struggled at all.

Why I am struggling so much now.

Because I am blessed.

Because I don’t believe in “fair” or “karma”, I’m just not that good a person- I believe that I have been created. I have been placed in my life. That I have made choices that affect my life, but pretty much have just done my best with what I’ve been given. Which means that even the worst I’ve had to deal with, isn’t that bad.

How can I allow myself to struggle with anything, when there is so much that is wrong in this world? I feel so guilty for having a happy life. 

And all of the sudden, it comes flooding out. When I can’t hold one more thing in. When it gets to be too much and the dam breaks. Every single thing that I’ve suppressed- every single thing that has never been dealt with or even thought about, comes spilling out. All that I’ve ignored, on account of the lie that I’ve told myself, crashes to my feet in a hideous mess. I have lied to myself my whole life. I have believed that in comparison to the burden of humanity, a burden that I believe I must carry, “whatever I have going on, just isn’t worth my energy. Forget Janice, mankind is suffering.”

Doesn’t that sound so noble? Doesn’t that seem right? For the first time ever, I’m beginning to see that it might not be true. I am part of humanity. I am a part of the body of mankind, but just because mankind is suffering from a fatal cancer, doesn’t mean that our fingernails shouldn’t be clipped...

Oh my word. I was planning on just posting some light words and a bunch of photos of what’s been going on in the house lately. I promise, even though my words are heavy and my topics are serious, I am having a wonderful time adjusting to our new life here in the big white farmhouse. My life has been beautifully diverse these days, with fits of tears, and afternoon naps, with nutrient dense chicken stock and delectable hershey pies, with dear old friends and little baby smiles. With the neatness of an army of helping hands and the mess of unpacking. I am happy, I am full. I am blessed and that’s okay.

As we observe national “Sanctity of Life week” and “Human Trafficking Awareness Month” I hope you open your heart to the bigger picture of humanity and get involved with something that is bigger than yourself.

As we reflect on the observation of the life and triumphs of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. may you be encouraged that we can change the world with our own two hands .

And as you may have heard, that it’s also National Popcorn Day and National Hot beverage month, I hope that you will find some time to sit in stillness and reflect on your inward workings. Take an honest look at yourself and figure some things out. I hope you find warmth and peace in this moment.

Monday, January 9, 2012

"There's so much more." Nitty, gritty, honest and some photos

“What do you think?” I asked. She turned to me, and removed her reading glasses, “I like it. It’s really good. Singing ‘Amazing Grace’ to a brood of chickens...” she gave a thoughtful giggle. I wondered if I would age so well. My mother has always been beautiful, but with every fleck of grey and each line’s definition, she gets more and more beautiful. She looked at me, like, really looked at me, and said “It’s good, but there’s so much more. There’s so much deeper.” “Yeah, I know.”

We had just finished dinner and clean up. The kitchen had that warm clean glow that means home. Real home. My house never looked like this. This is real home. We sat in our respective chairs, mom in the wingback beside the wood stove, I in the rocking chair across from her. There’s a lot more there. Yeah, I know.

A few weeks ago I posted this status to my facebook; “operation "Empty The Townhouse" commences today! I feel as though I'm preparing to face many demons. All the disorder and misplaced is left lurking in the dark corners. Deep breaths.” I know it sounds like I was just being dramatic. Maybe I was. Maybe I am, but really, it’s true. Last month, my 2 hands literally touched every single thing that we own. Did you know I’m a bit of a hoarder? I have a hard time letting go of things. I’m sentimental. I place memories and great weight’s of meaning on each and every thing I choose to keep. Which makes getting rid of it a highly emotional experience. Even if the things I keep are tying me emotionally to a past relationship that never meant much to me, it’s so hard to release it. I see more and more of me with every item I pick up. Most of the time, I don’t like what I see. A few weeks ago I started writing about an epiphany I had about the word “abrasive.” I didn’t feel strong enough to finish the thoughts. I shook my head of the ideas, rolled up my sleeves and continued working, because even with the revelation of what is abrasive in my life- what’s being removed and what it’s revealing, was too much. One friend commented “Little steps. One thing at a time” but even that felt like too much. I can’t tell you how many times I threatened to set the house in flames and just walk away from it. I wanted to. Because then, I would never have to go into that room in my heart- my emotional hoard. My stock pile of random, sticky emotional moments. I would never have to deal with my stuff, I would be able to bolt the door to the useless things I hold onto and never. ever. deal with it. Another commented with “It could be cleansing” and it was. Only, not in a cool rain-shower after a hot day kind of way, but in the cold-sweat, detoxing, puking my guts out kind of way.

I’ve had the opportunity to help out a bit with a redecorating project. An old dirty farm house with far too much wall paper is being revamped. Before the paint could go up, the wall paper had to be ripped off. Each layer revealing a different era in the house. Most of the prints were hideous. Some were sort of charming. Some came off easily, others’ literally had to be chipped away. Some of it smelled really bad. “Oh God, this is me.” I can keep it together on the outside. If I forget what’s lying underneath and only deal with what’s on the surface, I’m happy. I can handle it. But something is always hanging over my head like a little thought bubble “don’t look too close, there’s a lot of gross layers under here. Each era reeking of it’s own unique stink. Sporting the trending print of the time.” We’re moving toward our dreams, that’s an amazing thing! But with every progress I find myself becoming more and more ugly. Peeling layer upon layer of crusty old wall paper off, revealing a horrendous, dented, crooked, chipped away wall with a thin layer of “is that paint or something else?”

“How are you?” I was asked multiple times yesterday. “Yeah” was about all I could muster. I think I settled on “delicately balancing between being really, really well- and on the verge of a panic attack.” I’ve had two now. Something I hoped I’d never have to experience. We emptied out the townhouse and it still didn’t feel like we were done. A few days later we heard from the new home owners that they wanted us to come get our compost out of the yard. “That’s what’s left. How on earth are we going to deal with it?” It felt hopeless. We moved everything out, and what was left was smelly, half rotted food scraps. “Oh God, this is me.”

My patience has grown increasingly thin. My responses have become less and less gracious. I’m looking past the exterior of what seemed okay, to an inward mess. It’s hard to see. It’s stressful to deal with. Every ugly thing within me that becomes unearthed is being dealt with. I’ve had to look at each thing we owned and ask “Throw away, give away, donate or keep? If I keep it, where will it take up space? Why do we even have this?” As I do this, I’m faced with similar questions of inward matter. I’m amazed by the things I’ve held onto. I picked up a note, scribbled onto a small piece of paper. From a dear friend. I remember where I was when I read it. I remember exactly the situation that the note referred to. I can remember in intimate detail my feelings as I read it for the first time. The unforgiveness surfaced. The embracement of the situation. The guilt of each circumstance. Tears sprang to my eyes and I remembered feelings of betrayal and aloneness. I never threw away this piece of paper because I didn’t want to throw away the pain of the situation. I wanted to hold onto it, in a sort of self-righteous, preserving. This insignificant wound must be protected, but never. ever. allowed to heal. And that was all under the surface. All connected to one little chicken scratch on a torn piece of line paper that had been sitting in a box for 9 years. Everything has surfaced, right down to our pile of rotting compost. This is going to take more time. What do I do with this...?

I’m thankful for things like; a God who loves me, who looks at me holistically and allows pain in my life. For a husband who chooses to hold me close and massage my shoulders instead of yelling back at me. For frequent oasis’s of contentment and peace in the midst of this move. For friends who love me enough to nod their heads in understanding, even if the words I’m saying aren’t making sense. For a mama who really sees me. For an urging in my soul to sit and write. For that heaviness on my chest that lets me know I’m about to deal with something else. For things like beautiful metaphors in my daily life, that help me see things more clearly. For frequent interruptions as I type, that let me know that this battle is not consuming my life, but rather, fought in small intervals between Cheerios and coffee. Between building blocks and Dinosaur Train. Between time outs and hard boiled eggs. And it lets me know- I’m loved, I’m cherished, I have something to contribute to the world and if I choose to carry on with this journey, the person I come out as, will be stronger than the person I went in as. I’m thankful for things like laughter and roughhousing and sweet moments after dinner.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

This is why (and a lot of extra)

Remember that time I promised to tell you about why we’re living with my parents?

I’m dreading this.

Because of these reasons- because of others’ speculation. Because of the sheer vulnerability. Because of the fact that it’s all so involved with every single part of my life and family. Because I tell painfully detailed stories. Because every time I think about writing this post my stomach sinks like I’ve just slipped over a hill on a roller coaster. I’m reluctant about stopping long enough to think about everything. Because I never get stage fright until I’m off the stage. Because I’m afraid to commit to things. Because I’d rather just know that people are talking and probably getting the story wrong, than to have people know all the intimate details and STILL talk. Because I’ve received genuine condolences for “our situation” as if someone we love has passed away- when, really, we’re quite excited about this adventure. Because I’ve never had such a hard time with life as I do now. Because I’ve never been so thrilled about life as I am now. Because it seems tacky to blog about money. To name a few...

“Let’s start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start...” yeah, maybe if you’re Maria Vontrap... if you’re me- you spend 7 hours deciding where the start actually is, then distract yourself with singing “The circle of life...” and totally forget you were about to “start something” at all and then you end up washing dishes instead. (can you tell I’m stalling?)

Do you remember when I wrote this? Did you wonder what I meant by that or do you know us well enough to know exactly what I was talking about? If you are the latter, your mind would have drifted to a green meadow and a tiny house, to a barn and a few small farm animals grazing on the green. You would have seen a lot of children and a great big vegetable garden. You might have seen several families working, playing and living together on this sunny little plot. You would have seen us. In your minds eye you would have seen the sweat stains and suntanned brows, the bare feet and laugh lines and the perfectly beautiful mess of a self sustaining farm bent on raising pastured animals and children. That’s what I meant.

We’re very idealistic people. Mark refuses to work for the man- been there, done that. He’s set on learning a trade, mostly for our children’s sake. I’m determined to be a stay at home mom- attachment parenting is the route we’ve chosen and I am committed to being available for my children whenever they need me. We live free of credit cards and back up plans- blame it on our inner hippies, I suppose. We won’t do WIC, food stamps or any other governmental aid (with the exception of health insurance...) Really, at this point, I don’t think anyone needs me to spell it out. We’re used to being penniless. Back to that dream I spoke of... we hope to accomplish our goals without ever needing to take a considerable loan. Now how would we do that when it’s only by miraculous circumstances that we’re even able to make ends meet? Yeah. Thanks to the book “Surviving Off- Off Grid” (terrible name for a book and the guy is halfway crazy, so I don’t actually recommend it) we took a good, hard look at our life and decided to make a change. What’s the point of dreaming if you’re never going to work toward it, right? So the gears were set in motion. I figured we would spend the winter tweaking the townhouse (which we rented from my brother) prepping to put it on the market and depending on how soon it was snatched up, we’d be ready to move by the end of spring. But then people started talking, as they always do, and some friends heard of the plan, and (a long story later) we had about 8 weeks to prep the house, pack the house, find a place to live, and move there. While attachment parenting 3 young children. During the busiest season of the year, which also happened to include an out of town family wedding. If it doesn’t sound like much, just compare it to this- most normal days, I can’t even find time to brush my teeth and get dressed before noon. Now go back and read my to-do list. Hectic.

We were having a really hard time finding a cheaper place for us to live in the area. Because that’s really the whole point for us, not to make more money, but to just not have to spend so much. We eventually decided we had 2 options; to move away to somewhere we could afford to live plus have enough left to save for our “someday home” or move in with my parents. Once we all got over the initial shock of even considering such a crazy idea, it really ended up being a no brainer. This is a good fit, if anyone can pull it off, it would be us.

During the whole crazy packing/moving/childrearing/freaking-christmas-party-every-single-day-nonsense, we had some extra stress going on, because the man that Mark was working for kept telling Mark that he had a lot of work lined up for them, but actually, didn’t. It took us about 3 weeks to figure it out, which is when Mark called the old framing crew he used to work with and found out they really needed some extra hands around the worksite. It’s amazing to me that after the move was planned we embarked on the most financially strained 8 weeks of our lives. it’s even more amazing to me that we’re cohabiting with some truly amazing people who love us dearly and we’re able to save a considerable amount of money. Did I mention Mark is now working full time for that framing crew, earning more than he has ever earned before?

Did I mention I was dreading writing this? Silly me. All the anxiety I was feeling was from keeping this story in, not about letting it out! Life is exciting. When you step out on a limb, you risk falling. But safe is boring. Cheers to the adventure.

I’m feeling thankful for things like taking a long shower by myself without worrying about what my kids are doing unattended. Things like a large capacity washing machine and a dad who tries to buy food that his picky daughter might approve of. Things like someone to take a coffee break with in the middle of the day. Sneaking downstairs because I can’t sleep and finding someone to sit and talk with. Things like, time with friends- reconnecting. Singing "Amazing Grace" to a brood of chickens. Wintery walks through crunchy fields and hanging damp mittens by a wood stove. Things like singing "Ring of fire" while building a railway and being told "we're just trying to find Batman's mom!" as an excuse for dumping the toy box we just filled. All the things from my past that make me smile, and all the hope for the future. Thankful for words from the Bible that tell me things like “I'll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen...”