The Power of Not Pretending

This morning I found myself thinking about how there is a weird tension between who I want to be and who I actually am. I want to be a strong, confident woman who knows what she wants and goes after it. Someone who fights her battles single-handedly and shows no sign of weakness. Someone who is respected for her strength. 

When I sit back and analyse a bit, I’m not sure that’s really who I am. 

I love to read adventure stories and romances, and usually, the female lead is strong, sassy, bold. She soars through the story with gracefulness and wit. And sometimes I think about the story and think, what would I do if I was in that situation? If this was my story? And half the time, I have to admit that I would never be in this story because a lot of these stories have to do with poor decisions, hasty or angry actions that didn’t have a lot of forethought. I am a think-first person. I am slow to speak and I like all my decisions to be well-thought out. Not very sexy, but it has saved me a lot of heartache and headache. 

These heroines always stand up for themselves. I usually freeze up in the moment. And it isn’t till I walk away from a situation that my brain sorts out, Hey, they did not do what they promised they were going to do, or what I needed them to do. Now I’m going to have to go back and insist on things being done differently. Case in point: I have been trying to retrieve medical records for my foster child and after four different phone calls, finally spoke to a doctor who said, No, you need to do this and this and this first or we’re not going to give that to you. And later, I told my husband about the conversation and he said, It’s your right to have the medical records. They can’t do that to you, just demand that they give you the medical records. And it was a light bulb moment, of Well Duh, why didn’t I just stand my ground?? But I didn’t because there was a doctor talking to me and saying No and I felt obligated to jump through the hoops they were setting up for me. Understandable, but not heroic. 

I am not who I wish I was. 

But maybe that’s not a bad thing. 

I think about that verse from 1 Corinthians 13:11:

 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 

Maybe part of growing up, maturing, is realizing that these role models, tropes, caricatures of womanhood that our culture feeds us are not all that they’re cracked up to be. 

Perfection. Any movie, magazine, or heroic book, tells us that women have to be perfect. And that translates to looking beautiful at all times, never bending under pressure, never settling for less, never being mediocre in anything. Social media tells us that our houses should always be clean, our children well-dressed, and the food we prepare should be organic and represent all the food groups. We should gently parent our children with grace and humor. We should keep our bodies in perfect shape and make sure we are still trying to be attractive for our spouses. And while we are at it, we should also be civic minded, fight for the underdog, and volunteer in the community whenever possible. 

When I sat down to write this it was with a feeling of never being enough. But as I think through all this I think that I have discovered one Superhero quality in myself that is worth being happy about. It’s the power of Not Pretending. 

I’m not going to pretend that I’m perfect. I can accept that I’m not as bold and strong as I wish I was. I acknowledge that my parenting is flawed. I can admit that sometimes I’m a great wife, and sometimes I’m really not. I know that I’ve got some good points, and I’ve got some bad ones and I have to fight daily to keep myself from just dwelling on my bad points. But there is a lot of freedom in just being who you are. And realizing that God has made you this way, for a purpose. And maybe just relaxing into that. Releasing the tension that says, I should be more, I should be better, and instead saying this is who I am, God loves me, and it is good. 

When You Least Expect It

I stopped writing for a little bit. I have pondered just stopping completely. Just walk away. Reasons? I don’t have anything positive to say. No sense in dragging people down with my negativity. I have a lot of stress in my life that is tied into other people and their stories, and I have no freedom to share their stories and so I can’t talk about and explore all the reasons their stories are stressing me out. And probably the most honest, I feel myself in a deep dark place of depression and why would I want to share that with the world? 

Depression is a weird thing. I can stand back and be analytical. Yeah, the times that I get depressed are when I am emotionally stretched too thin. Too much on my plate. I’m overwhelmed. But then, there have been plenty of times that I have been in that position and not fallen into deep depression. So what’s the difference? How do I stop it from descending on me? I’ve tried hard to practice Self-care. I’ve tried very hard to keep my load at a bearable weight. I’ve tried very hard to be proactive about keeping depression at bay. And then there is a “Last Straw” moment and I feel myself sliding down into a pit. 

Today I sat in my chair in my room, opened the curtains so the sun would shine straight in my face. I sat there with my eyes closed and thought about Hope. 

Hope is such an elusive thing. I don’t know how to summon it up when I am at my lowest. But somehow, it has a way of wafting past my face when I am least expecting it. Today, as my eyes saw bright spots against my eyelids and the light warmed me up, I felt a stirring of hope. I realized that all my thoughts about God and his love for me and my inability to accept that on some fundamental level, all of that angst was not something I had to solve today. Today I could just focus on being thankful and praising God and that was enough for now. 

I decided to cancel my membership with the personal trainer app I’ve been using the past year. Not because they weren’t awesome and super helpful to me, but because I realized I needed to move forward with something different to fit where I am now, a year later. And instead of failure, it felt hopeful to start looking for something new.

Today I have decided that all the other myriad problems that are weighing me down can get fixed another day. Or never at all. Just deal with the problems that are right in front of me at this very moment. Cliche. But still true. Story of my life, trying to remember that and walk in it. 

Hope showed up with some sunshine today. I don’t know why. But I’ll take it. I don’t know how long it will last, but I’ll take what I can get. And on the days when hope doesn’t show up, I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other. Seek out the light. Trust that it will show up when I least expect it.  

Motherhood Brings out the Worst in Me

It’s been a day.  

I was in the middle of a confrontation with a melting-down child. I was seconds from physically removing said child and taking them to a quiet location where they could get calm without an audience…and then another child decided to come and stand right between us and start playing her recorder as loud as she could. And for a moment I felt frozen in time as I watched sheer ridiculousness unfold before my eyes. Several choice comments jumped in my mind and I may have muttered some of them at a slightly audible level. 

A couple hours later I asked the kids to clean their zones. The child of Recorder Fame pitched a fit and caterwauled the entire time she was cleaning. She sounded like a dying cat…I just might have mentioned that to her. 

Another, younger child, escaped the house without doing their cleaning. I chased them down, and when they responded that their zone WAS clean, I proceeded to point out, in sarcastic detail, the ten things that they had failed to clean. 

Earlier in the day, the kindergartner would not do his reading. So, I made him get in the car with me when I went to pick up kids from public school, and he had to sit there for the thirty minutes wait and read his book out loud so I could hear him. And I might have done a this-is-your-own-fault, when he complained about being bored. 

This morning, I had this random thought…I know God loves me, but does he Like me? 

At the end of days like today, I kind of feel like a not-so-nice person. I’ve yelled, been sarcastic, made a lot of kids unhappy with my expectations of them. I am not currently the hero of the hour. I am about to sit down to supper where I will be the bad guy who makes everyone eat vegetables. And then, I’m going to make kids do homework. And I’m not going to let them watch tv tonight. And then, they will all have to go to bed at bedtime…and brush their teeth. I will, in fact, win no popularity points tonight as I parent my brood. Though they still will all want me to hug and kiss them goodnight.

Being a mom sometimes just feels like it’s me at my worst. 

The mean me. 

The strict me. 

It’s hard to feel like a lovable, nice, person when you’ve just physically carried a screaming seven year old up the stairs to their room because they need to be in a quiet place to calm down. It’s hard to feel like a nice person when you’re dishing out the table chores after the meal and no one wants to be the one who has to sweep the floor, but you assign it anyway, cause you don’t want to sweep either. 

Maybe being a mom is so hard because it really brings out the worst in us. Our kids strip away all our pretensions of being sweet and patient, and instead show the real us. Someone who has some temper problems. Someone whose patience has real limitations. Someone who makes mistakes often. Someone who struggles to put others first. 

As I think about this, maybe God especially likes me in the role of mother. It keeps me honest and humble. No fake Esther pretending to be pure and holy. Instead it’s me: dirty, weary, spending half the day asking for forgiveness as I try again to be patient. Try again to see things from the child’s point of view and not just my own. Try again to not be cutting with my words. Try again to have grace. 

Me at my worst, is actually just me at my most real. And being real is what God wants from us. So, I guess I’m actually in a pretty good place.