Ah! Today is a great day! It is always a good sign when I stumble across life-affirming quotes. I never quite know where I will be led moment-to-moment, who I will meet or how things will turn out… but I keep an open-minded optimism alive in my heart that the right people and resources will inevitably come my way.
So let me share some of the quotes that are speaking to me today:
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” Ronald Dahl
“It is right that you should begin again every day. There is no better way to complete the spiritual life than to be ever beginning it over again.” St. Francis de Sales
“If a man does his best, what else is there?” General George S. Patton
Do you want to know the best part about these collected quotes? As I am helping my mother pack up her house in order to move, I have come across all of the journals I have written and stored throughout my life — beginning in Kindergarten. Instead of never touching them again, as I just finished the last page of my moleskine on my birthday last week and am thus currently journal-less, I have decided to continue writing in the empty pages that remain.
So I found this beautiful journal of quotes I began when I was twelve and have just kept adding to it. It’s a lot of fun, like a collaboration with not-yet-teen Karen; a beautiful dance of intuition and affirmation.
What beloved quotes that you enjoy need to be added to this journal?
My husband means the world to me. He is my rock, my protector, my counsel, my confidant. He works tirelessly and selflessly to the very best of his abilities to be a man of action and to live the Gospel. That is where this post needs to begin. I care so much for his wellbeing — and my children’s! — that I would go to the ends of the earth to find the best ways of living and eating that benefit him.
That being said, I obviously want my husband to live a long, happy and healthy life. Sometimes it feels like we don’t share this goal! I think the majority of wives reading this know that if we left our men up to their own devices their diets, routines and sleeping habits would be less-than-ideal… you know, the very things that keep our bodies and minds functioning well. Somehow our men understand that race cars need maintenance and special race fuel, and yet their bodies will be just fine if neglected. That is where we come in.
As wives and mothers, we are the gatekeepers of our homes. It is our first job and duty to perform this function well. We wear many hats to make this happen: timekeeper, secretary, teacher, cook, chauffeur, doctor, nurse, masseuse, personal stylist, maid, seamstress, nutritionist, mama bear (because some situations require claws), entertainer, etc. I mean really, the list can go on and on. But the fruits of our labor are unlike any other profession. The rewards are literally other worldly. You are the caretakers of precious, unique souls. It is worth getting your hands on any tool, resource, book, video, etc. that can help you fulfill this vocation to the best of your ability.
When I began oiling it didn’t take me long to realize that these little amber bottles were full of the real deal — the stuff pharmaceutical companies and perfumieries try to replicate in laboratories and market as life changing, when really it’s just a cheap replication of the original. I like to learn at a rapid rate. Input, input, input! I was devouring books about the chemistry of oils, the best ways to use them, why they work and how to make them work better for my family. They are so versatile that the possibilities seem endless. I still have so much more to learn.
Much like my husband, who enjoys the depth of automotive culture and engineering information, wouldn’t try to teach me about the nitty-gritty of his hobbies, it would have been foolish of me to try to “educate” him about mine. The greatest thing about our relationship is that we let each other thrive in our respective strong points, and help each other in our weak areas.
My husband has always trusted me and my intuition, as well as my research, when it comes to our health, wellness, and lifestyle. What a huge honor! But also a huge responsibility. This means I set the standard and he follows suit. I better know what I’m doing!
The more I researched the more it felt right in my heart to shuck the status quo and actively pursue wellness. And I really had to combat self-doubt, fears, and other people’s skepticism! You gotta do what’s right for YOUR family, not what other people want you to do!
That being said, we have a marriage infused with mutual respect. My husband never doubted or mocked me. He eats what I cook (okay, he was pretty mad that one time I only made sautéed cabbage with capers for dinner) without complaint. He drinks what I put in front of him, and takes the capsules I give to him without worry. What a beautiful, (mostly) harmonious, symbiotic relationship of trust.
How did I begin? How can you, too, assist your husband in wellness?
• I used everything first. And I used them on my baby second. If hubby could see the benefits I was getting from the products, he’s more apt to be game to use them on himself even if it is just to placate me. Plus the allure of Lady Sclareol, Joy, Vetiver, Orange and some of the other hyper-feminine oils that I was wearing most definitely helped. Yes, really. 😏😏
• I didn’t bother him with the nitty gritty. Just like he doesn’t put me on his garage body roller thingy (come to find out they’re called ‘creepers’) and force me to learn about transistors and sprockets (I don’t even know how to give a proper example), I don’t involve him in the ordering, and I don’t make the products stressful or complicated.
• We own a farm. My husband does all of the hard labor, and there is a lot of it, under the grueling sun with Oklahoma allergies assaulting his poor sinuses the whole time. What’s the first way I got oils on him? I began massaging him at the end of the day with a drop of PanAway in a puddle of OrthoSport massage oil. Boy howdy, did that make a difference on both his aching muscles AND in our marriage.
• I bought him his own bottle of Bergamot. I had smelled Shutran and didn’t like it much. But when a friend told me about her husband, who sounded very similar to my own, who heralded Bergamot as his can’t-do-without oil, I immediately ordered one. I think the consideration was special to him. He could claim it as his own, decide when and where to apply it, and not have me mommying or nagging him. Aaaaand he smells delicious.
• I dispense the products for him. I have a tiny little 2oz. jar that I fill up with NingXia Red and just set in front of him while he’s in a meeting or preparing for his day. Sometimes if I know he hasn’t slept, and he’s pushing himself too hard I’ll give him another 2oz. midday. Thirty minutes before a meal I give him a Digest & Cleanse. I have intentions behind all of it. I know which products to give him and why. This is a main reason why he trusts me to do so; I don’t go about this all willy nilly!
• I respect his dignity and free will. If he tells me he didn’t like burping up DiGize all day because I gave it to him in a capsule, I listen to him and figure out a different way to get it on and/or in his body. If he doesn’t like the smell of Dream Catcher, I’ll apply it to his feet instead of his neck (and then enjoy listening to him snore in the deepest of sleeps, hallelujah).
• I actively pursued “ditching & switching” everything gross in our household. The “medicine” cabinet was purged. The weird bright blue dish soap (and lots of other soaps — including our once-beloved Mrss Meyer’s hand soap, lotions and house cleaners) were donated. I made it my priority to have a chemical-free, safe home. Now when he washes dishes (or his hands) with the Thieves soaps, not only is he safe and clean, but he is absorbing the EOs from the soaps through his skin. Boom. #allthebergamot
• I apply the oils to him lovingly and confidently. There is zero skepticism or sniggering when I anoint his forehead with Idaho Blue Spruce, or when we work on emotional release alarm points, or during Raindrop Therapy. I strive to maintain a respectful, calm and assured environment. God and I know the benefits he’s receiving. That’s good enough for me.
• Consistency. I don’t waiver. When I know something works, I keep using it. And if there are specific body systems that need work, I do some research, formulate a plan, order what I need (because Essential Rewards gets me 25% back anything I spend) and do the damn thing.
So that’s that. We are now both enjoying an oily wellness lifestyle. No, he hasn’t completely replaced his morning coffee with NingXia Nitro and he doesn’t reach for my oil box like he does his tool box. And that’s okay, because that’s who he is! That’s why I am his wife, his compliment. I let him be him, but I still guide the direction of our family’s wellness because it is that important. We only get one body and one life. This isn’t something to ignore mindlessnessly and hope it works out. And Lord knows we weren’t made to settle for poor health — if your body is crying out via symptoms like headaches, low energy, less than ideal moods, rashes, indigestion, etc. it is time for a tune up (NOT a prescription)!!
Remember how I mentioned Bergamot? I had no idea how powerful the emotional and mental properties of this oil would be. It did have powerful effects on my husband — to the point that if he was in an off mood I would catch myself saying “did you wear your Bergamot today?” to which sometimes he would admit he forgot to put it on. So if you too have an overworked, meticulous, type-A loved once in your life, know that Bergamot helps with anxiety, agitation, stress and depression. Just saying.
(( Be honest. Do these OOC brackets look familiar to you? ))
][ Or maybe these, if you had a sort of stylish flair, like me? ][
Do the words sparring, flaxen-colored hair and clan roster ring any bells? No? Then you were never in an online roleplaying community. Good for you. For the rest of you reading who know what I’m talking about, this is for you. This is my coming out post.
Somewhere today, between trying on borrowed wench costumes to wear to the Renaissance Fair this weekend in celebration of my sister-in-law’s birthday, and listening to a podcast about “glow kids”, as coined by Nicholas Kardaras, to describe those of us who have been held in the grips of screen addiction at young ages, my inner child was brought out of all her shame. My secret, forgotten love affair with Interview With A Vampire was also re-ignited. But that’s beside the point. The shame reveal is the meaty stuff (slight pun intended).
In the mid to late nineties, AOL had the convenient marketing habit of ritually sending out CD-ROMs of installation software in the mail so that you, too, could get online. I had been given a computer in my playroom at the ripe age of nine, and already knew how to set up an account for free, giving me wide access to the entire internet. As an outsider in real life forums like school and neighborhood cliques, what appealed to me were the chatrooms that I stumbled upon. The A/S/L chatrooms with their mindless chatter never appealed to me. I traded a few pictures with some weird people, but this wasn’t intriguing or fun. But then I found my niche: a bunch of wordy, artistic introverts who also had an interest in the dark sides of fantasy. I still haven’t quite explored why this interest stuck with me… it’s most definitely worth giving some thought to. But we’ll save the psychoanalysis for another post.
I really don’t remember anything about roleplaying culture as a whole. I don’t remember stumbling into wizards and dragons world and deciding that wasn’t for me. I assume that nine-year-old me found the first chatroom, read the scripts, caught on and stayed for awhile until she mustered up the courage to join in. And the people of the chatroom were more than happy to accept me as one of them (albeit they had no idea of my real age). Our particular dark fantasy involved vampires. Who knew they’d be so popular over ten years later!
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, these are writing games. Basically you would write out the descriptions and actions of your character and the people around you would respond in similar fashion. The writing within the group that I chose was actually pretty amazing. You had to have a high level of descriptive vocabulary, type fast, and stay sharp or you were easily picked on. The setting was mostly of a medieval to renaissance time, and a common entrance would look something like this:
:: Lacey VePiras crept in the silence of the night, pausing behind shadow-crested tree trunks as her nimble, naked feet touched the cold earth. Ivory skin glowing in the moonlight, her raven-colored hair cascaded down upon her shoulders in flawless ringlet fashion, framing her piercing green eyes. They flickered brightly as she spotted the inn, aglow with candlelit and camaraderie. Wrapping her cloak closer to her bodice, she moved quickly until she reached the door, pushing against the great weight of the oak until she found her way inside. ::
The better your entrance, the better the game. The reactions were priceless, exciting, and completely unscripted. You never knew what would happen but it felt as thrilling, I would assume, as the actual life experience.
I ended up joining the VePiras clan, my would-be group of friends for the next two years. I might be exaggerating, as time seems to stretch out longer when you’re so young. It might have only been a handful of months. But those friendships were the least judgmental, freeing, fun and exhilarating relationships I had ever had. Even the drama seemed more real and enticing than any of the ridiculous squabbles of my every day.
If you haven’t figured it out already, this pastime was fraught with problems that now, as a parent, I am appalled about. Immorality, perversion, occultism and escapism, plus the whole “dark arts” thing. And remember, I said NINE YEARS OLD. I was exposed to many words, relationships and paradigms no child should ever witness let alone adopt as acceptable.
And before you start judging my parents, you must know that all of this was happening unbeknownst to my family.
I was left largely to my own devices, and for much of my childhood that worked. I spent a lot of alone time riding on my bike, going horseback riding lessons, playing with Barbies in my upstairs playroom, jumping on my trampoline, reading and creating fantastical scenarios in our formal dining room in which I was prince, princess, villain and servant all rolled into one. I enjoyed weeks at summer camp and loved being outside. However, my family was rapidly devolving into crisis by the time I was eight or nine. My dad had moved away to find work in Texas. My sister, who is nine years my senior, was headed off to college. My mother was an executive for a big corporation and traveled a lot. Eventually it came out that my dad was cheating on my mom (ironically with a woman he met online), and I was privy to every awful detail of the affair. My parents then proceeded with a divorce, one awkward trip to Texas was made, and in 2001 I saw my dad for the last time until my wedding day. I had no extended family, no friends, and a handful of babysitters who never stayed more than a year. I just kind of rolled with the punches, completely unaware of just how much internal damage was being done.
Amidst all of this, I broke my arm in a trampoline accident. Unable to keep up with horseback riding, my mother sold my beloved thoroughbred horse Eli, who I competed and won ribbons with at horse shows. I had outgrown Barbies, so my playroom was outfitted with an orange iMac, a Nintendo 64 and a GIANT big screen TV.I eventually moved my mattress into my playroom and stayed up all hours of the night watching Howard Stern and Wild On E! Then I was introduced to AOL, and the limitless screen name accounts I could create, and it was game on. Pandora’s Box had been opened.
The fateful night my mom learned of my obsessive little secret, horrified doesn’t even begin to describe her reaction. It was in the early hours of the morning. I don’t know what prompted her to get up and check on me, but there she found me entranced in front of the glow of my computer, clickety-clacking away. She silently stood over my shoulder and read every word. By this time I had gotten myself into some very, very inappropriate interactions and the worst “game” I was acting out was unfolding in front of her eyes.
By the next morning the internet was cancelled. My entire world, the only friends I had ever known, completely gone. I had been cut off.
It’s hard to describe here in writing how I reacted without seeming exaggeratory. Having also, later in my teenage years, been through addiction rehabilitation for drugs, it is no misreport to say that little eleven-year-old me went through a very physical, mental and emotional withdrawal process. I vividly remember being curled up in a ball on my playroom floor, my body aching and twitching as I sobbed. The worst part about this is that no one knew how much this meant to me. And I had no one to try to explain that to anyway.
In sixth grade, now nearing 12 years old, I tried to take the game into real life. I had a few friends at my public middle school who were freaks like me, into fantasy with little supervision. I mean, I was the girl in class who, during free time, would read the dictionary… and I was pretty proud about that. I created a clan roster for us — we had warriors, spies, healers… I don’t quite remember what else, but in hindsight it really meant nothing. It was all a make-believe game, but with truly dangerous undertones. I named the group Vitae Holocaust which, to me, had a literal translation of life-blood massacre. Remember, in my online gaming community we were vampires, so blood and death were major themes. The group was quickly renamed Vitae Hatred due to the unintentional antisemitic rhetoric. We were eleven-year-old misguided weirdos, not racist bigots.
This wasn’t all bad. I made real-life friends and we wrote our own language (“changa, meh sup” meant “charmed, I’m sure”). But those friends then introduced me to other real-life oddities like the ouija board, and Rocky Horror Picture Show. By the end of sixth grade I was completely into the culture of both Metallica and the Warped Tour. By seventh grade I was engaged in terrible self-destructive habits. By the end of eighth grade I was completely submersed in the local hardcore and metal music scenes, engaging in debauchery. And by the end of freshman year I had a stacked-high record of psychiatric stints including two therapeutic boarding schools and a bootcamp-wilderness program. Talk about gateway to landslide.
If your jaw hasn’t completely dropped off your face yet, or if your disgust with me has neared its maximum capacity, there is a reason I am confessing all of this. Okay, maybe part of it is pure catharsis. This is my blog after all. I guess, until today, I just thought I was all alone with my dark, shameful secret; or that maybe no one would believe me if I ever told them; or that even if they believed me they could never grasp the gravity of what the RPG games and community meant to me… they wouldn’t understand that there was good speckled amongst all the bad. Those online friends developed my creativity, taught me how to write, how to type, and embrace my imagination. Just like when you’re immersed in a good fiction book, you can learn a lot by reading harrowing fight scenes, or timeless, tragic love stories from a renowned author. Stephenie Meyer and E. L. James are talentless compared to the people I was writing alongside.
But today, when a friend posted this podcast in our local Catholic women’s forum, suddenly I felt a little less lonely and a little less embarrassed. I haven’t read “Glow Kids” yet, but as my husband and I still have yet to let our one-year-old even interact with any screen, it sounds right up my alley. Because of my past I am all too familiar with the pitfalls of technology, and I refuse to let my children be victims to the immoral garbage that many people now accept as “just the way it is”. My parents had the excuse of ignorance. They truly didn’t know what a threat the internet posed when they set that orange iMac in my playroom. But my generation, now parents themselves, should know better and remain vigilant against the evils of this modern age. It is not a time to shrug our shoulders and say “Welp, you know, he’s of that age” when our 11-year-olds stumble across pornography by typing some harmless phrase into Google.
What appealed to me was the explanation behind why I was drawn to that screen, that imaginary world, and those people. There was not only a social science explanation — the obvious route of escapism, want for control, acceptance, etc. — but a neuroscientific explanation in the the glow of those screens have a dopaminergic effect, meaning they release the chemicals in our brain that make us feel good. Kardaras makes the argument that some children (and adults) are more susceptible to this specific addiction than others, especially those who, like me, have difficult realities to face in their homes and would do anything to pretend it didn’t exist. Except now instead of acknowledging the danger that these screens present, parents readily give their children these devices as if they not only do no harm, but actually relay some kind of benefit.
It’s not just online script roleplaying that he’s talking about, by the way. We’re talking about most video games or interactive entertainment. World of Warcraft. Sims. FarmVille. Candy Crush.
While some families still find it perfectly acceptable that everyone gathered around the dinner table is interacting with their own personal, portable screens instead of discussing the day’s events, or that husbands and wives are glued to their screens in bed instead of building up intimacy, some of us see the implications of the implications. Technology like this will not bring us closer together. It is a wedge. I personally believe it is tantamount to parents giving their children drugs, while drugging themselves… but, hey, farmers felt that way initially about books.
And then there’s this book, on the other side, to remind us that there can be a silver lining. My high school English teacher gave us this to read back in 2006. He, too, however was an avid nerd (I say that with the highest degree of respect — this was and is still one of the more beloved, impactful teachers I have had) and probably was looking for something to validate his own world view. Aren’t we all?
Anyway, all of this to say, yes I know parts of this tale are horrific. And I’m still working out the kinks — lucky you, you get the rawest part of my thinking process in this blog, hearing breaking news straight from the junction of awareness and memory in my brain (common sense and privacy is somewhere up ahead on that road). But, nevertheless, it is a critical part of my life that I can no longer deny. To pretend it didn’t exist, or to deny that fantasy and online communities appeal to me, is to repress a creative, nerdy part of my heart that helps form my unique drumbeat. I also had a Xanga. And a LiveJournal. And a Deviant Art page. Online communities have dappled my life and oftentimes enriched it.
True, maybe this is because I wasn’t participating fully in the beauty that real life lived offers. And I didn’t have enriching real-life relationships that took front and center. However, now that I can see the good in both, tempering whichever passions become too great while avoiding the inherent immoral parts… I am SO, SO excited to partake in the Renaissance Fair this weekend (okay, and watch Interview With A Vampire)! Yes, I have a costume and yes it has a bodice. Judge on, common people! :: Skips off with a flip of her festive, glittery golden feather boa trailing off of her neck. ::
Have you ever been stopped in your tracks while realizing that your actions do not convey the values you profess? It’s a very unsettling feeling. For me, I try my hardest to refute the accusation because I simply cannot (will not) acknowledge that my character is flawed. This is such a destructive pattern. If the results you have been consistently getting throughout life — strife, arguments, superficiality, rejection, stress, etc. — are not in line with your desires — peace, happiness, wisdom. profound friendship, respect, etc. — it is time to take an honest look at what your role in these situations might be.
I was stopped dead in my tracks last night during a conversation with my husband. Once again we had found ourselves in a similar pattern, neither of us fully getting what we needed and becoming overwhelmingly frustrated about it. Literally, the conversation came to a screeching halt as I closed my eyes and prayed. I prayed for words, for clarity of thought, for a way out. And then I went to go lay our son down, giving us both a break from the intensity of the conversation and some time to reflect.
What we both desire, I daresay the goal of any profound relationship, especially marriage, is a safe respite from the world; a person to whom you can turn, during utter exasperation from the world’s chaos, to find truth, relief and peace. I needed to be able to acknowledge and reflect upon whatever I was doing — and this is the important part: whatever I am doing, not whatever he is doing — to perpetuate unwanted results.
My son was still being wide-awake, so as I waited for him to simmer down, I pulled random a book off of my bookshelf:
My favorite passage from this book is when Pope Francis expounds upon each line from the lyrical passage about love by Saint Paul about love — 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. This Bible passage is God’s exact directions on how to love well. And the fruit of loving well is what we all long for: happiness, fulfillment, peace, joy. But loving well isn’t innate. In fact, our human nature often leads us to self-centeredness, the opposite of true love! His words came in perfect timing as my heart was ready to receive them — and I would highly, HIGHLY recommend that you read Paragraphs 90-119 from Amoris Laetitia for yourself. You can read it here for free.
Here was my biggest take away, the thing that brought me running into my husband’s arms with deep contrition:
THAT is love. Letting my husband — and anyone else — be exactly who they are, especially when it’s the least convenient for me. Even though we are all flawed, and it’s particularly easy to want to fix the (particularly irritating) flaws of those around us, the relationship and the dignity of the person you are dealing with must always, always come first. If they don’t feel truly loved or respected by you it is an asinine assumption that they will take any advice you have to offer them anyway, which is a waste of both your and their time and energy. That was my fatal flaw while trying to tell me husband what I needed (me, me, me).
You can gently teach people what you want from them, or how you wanted to be treated by them, by modeling it. You’ve probably heard “actions speak louder than words”, or “talk is cheap”, or “preach the Gospel at all times; if necessary, use words.” I had heard these things but never actually applied them to my life. I would constantly, stupidly, fall in the same trap of using assertive language peppered with suggestions or even admonishments. And every time I would leave these conversations with a bad taste in my mouth, like the person I spoke to didn’t enjoy our conversation or like I had won a Pyrrhic victory. It didn’t feel like the happy labor of planting seeds. Because I wasn’t. What I was doing was trying to steal their free will and force them into what I thought was right for them, which ultimately assaults not only their intelligence but their dignity. The better path, I have found, is one of meekness.
The thing is, we can all agree with and profess these sort of niceties spoken by Mother Teresa and St. Francis of Assisi when we’re not in the heat of the moment. But these very things were meant to be applied precisely when it’s the hardest to apply them… when everything in you wants to lash out, or shut down, or hide, or scream. Everything about those (most natural) reactions is about you and what you think you need. It is not others-focused, or on the consequences of how those actions will make the person on the receiving end feel. And ultimately, all of those reactions are destructive. Creation, and all that is good, comes from the Creator. The Creator, by His very nature, does not destroy. If you are participating in destruction, you cannot simulateously be participating in His goodness. Even if you think you’re doing it for a noble reason.
And let us not forget: the timetable upon which people grow and change is not ours to control. We are not the convictor. Only God can restore the blind to sight. It is pure ego to think that through argument and persuasion we can forcibly pry someone’s heart and mind open. What foolishness. And yet I have fallen into this trap so many times. What might actually lead them there is the love you can give to them that they may not yet have experienced. You know they know hatred, condescension, criticism, etc. You have the golden opportunity to show them harmony, empathy, and hope. Wow!
I am not saying to grin and bear every offense from every person. We are also called to prudence and discernment; are have the right to defend our own dignity. You, by your inherent nature, not by any merit or status or beauty or anything worldly, have profound value. You are worthy of honor and respect. So when someone has crossed that line — like in my last post where I was dealing with someone who laughed derisively at me, or used profanity, and spoke accusations and untruths into my heart — that is a time to step away from that conversation and probably away from that relationship, at least until safe boundaries are established and/or respected. But in the case of a person that earnestly attempts to consistently love you well, is not doing harm but just not living up to what you expect of them… that is a time for selfless abandon. That is a time for true love.
It is not the easy road, my friends. Many tears are shed as God refines all of the ugliness that is within me. But I’d rather suffer with Him, trusting in this transformative process, than stay the way I am, getting the same results that leave me perpetually unhappy. Truly, His peace is other worldly. His way IS the way. If you ask for guidance, He will guide you. And without His guidance you will stay lost.
You might be asking, what about all the times you selflessly laid yourself out there just to be trodden upon? The time you apologized and it got you no where? The humiliation you experienced when you exposed your vulnerabilities just to betrayed or hurt or mocked? I give you these words of consolation:
You live for an audience of One. If you strive to live and love the best that you possibly can to please God, you cannot fail. Your successes might not look like the world’s traditional definition of success… they might be subtle victories of the heart. Those are the victories that come with a trophy of true happiness and sustaining peace.
No one did it perfectly except God-made-man himself, therefore do not to despair when you fail! But do make honest reparations where reparations are due. When I was gently reminded about true love and patience in that book last night, I knew immediately that I had wronged my husband (and a few other people! Oh the shame!), and knew immediately that I had to — tail between my legs — make it right. It was in the power of my husband’s will to reject me. He could have said he didn’t forgive me. That would’ve hurt me to the core! But you cannot control the reactions of others. You can only listen to your conscience (mine is in the process of being formed, so if you, neither, got that as a child, come join the bandwagon!) and do what’s right, even when it hurts or it’s unfair and even when it’s scary or lonely.
For any of you secularists, the Christian verbiage I use might make you roll your eyes, but there really isn’t another way to talk about it without sounding hokey, so just bear with me. The great part about relying upon Jesus is that I know any hurt or injustice I am feeling, He has suffered through first. He was a real, living person. Not a fairy tale. Not a fiction character. A historical figure who suffered deep injustices, persecution, selflessness and rejection. He was murdered by the very people He wanted to be most loved by, the people He most wanted to teach and lead to happiness. I can apologize to someone, even in the face of potential rejection or derision, because He was rejected first. The Truth supports me. I did what I could do, and let the other person have their own free will, with which they can do irreparable harm to my heart. But I do it fearlessly because they cannot kill the supernatural love that I have within me. It will be painful, but I will survive it and most likely be all the better for it. He knows how to sit with me during these trials because he knows them better than anyone. His presence is true consolation. No human on earth could offer me the same comfort.
Lastly, I will leave you with a fantastic quote by one of my most favorite thinkers of all time, G.K. Chesterton. I rely on these amazing people of antiquity who have fought the good battle because they too whisper “you’re not alone. You can do this. You’re right, it’s not easy. But it’s also not wrong.”:
I am a novice at many things. Lest I have lead anyone to believe that I know exactly what I’m doing, I should make it clear that I am attempting this whole “life” thing as if seeing through new eyes. It takes courage, humility, resilience and resolve. Sometimes I do things poorly and I learn from my mistakes. But the important thing is that I keep going and keep close to God along the way.
In fact, I can’t help but relate to my one year old son as he is learning to walk. Once he got the mechanics down, it was more about faith, confidence, and getting up after falling down than learning perfect technique. That is how I, too, feel while learning the art of tact, self-control and handling emotions.
Yesterday was a difficult day. It didn’t start out that way, but after a perturbing phone call it became difficult.
When you’ve taken medication for 10+ years, you forget how powerful emotions can be, and the effects they can have on your physiology. You have to re-learn how to negotiate the troubled waters without running away from them. What happened was apparently so upsetting to me that (without my permission, I might add) my flight or flight response kicked in. After being hung up on, I broke out in a cold sweat, my breath was shallow, and I felt sick. These are symptoms of a deeper issue, in a response to fear. I knew I needed to get my body back to homeostasis and peace.
When you’re going through a panic attack — I didn’t even realize that’s what it was at first — you have little control over how the physical symptoms manifest. No one wants to allow it to happen. It’s uncomfortable. It’s scary. It’s maybe even embarrassing. An earlier version of me would’ve done anything to escape feeling this way, from numbing the physical discomfort to compartmentalizing, avoiding or repressing the emotions and thoughts that were causing the physical symptoms. But yesterday I faced it head on. And it is understandably the road less traveled, as it took me the better half of my day.
Plus it was simply exhausting. As I was able to control my mind, slowing my heart rate and my breathing, the emotional and mental fallout began. And I still had responsibilities to tend to — remember, I own two businesses and am the mother of a one year old! — so moping around and licking my wounds just wasn’t a possibility. Although I did miss my exit while driving because I was so lost in thought.
I read in a parenting book recently that asking ‘why’ tends to further complicate things for a child when they are experiencing strong emotions because on top of dealing with the emotions, they are now being asked to pinpoint the cause of them — which can be really hard to figure out! I found that to be true. The more I racked my brain for answers, the more I felt confused, unsure of myself and lost.
I wanted to document in this post what I ended up doing to cope with the situation. I didn’t just want to “feel better”. I truly wanted to suss out right from wrong and feel firmly convicted about the decisions I made, and how I could handle these situations going forward. This is also about being a person worthy of imitation: how will I teach my son to interact with less-than-savory people, or how to know when to humbly acknowledge that he is in the wrong or when he should be unshakingly firm in his convictions? By living it. By figuring it out.
I discussed the situation with three or four people I know and trust– whose logic isn’t faulty, whose faith is firm, who are reasonable and who know me well. I knew I could rely on their advice (and as a sanguine temperament, talking these things out gives me a huge amount of relief. This is also one of the best ways for me to form my thoughts).
I cried. I experienced the emotions. And it was hard, and they hurt. But reality is what it is. Shying away from them won’t change the reality.
I consulted my dictionary and a few books to help me better articulate what I was experiencing. I needed to know what exactly triggered this reaction — derision, profanity, inconsideration, disrespect, etc. — to know how to protect myself from it in the future. I love my Merrium-Webster dictionary app because it lets me favorite words (which is fun to look back through in hindsight to see what I was working through as I learned and grew along the journey).
Prayer. So much prayer. Prayer for humility, prayer for guidance, prayer for clarity. Intercessory prayer from my favorite saints. Intercessory prayer from friends, family and even a local Catholic Women’s Facebook group! I had to give an application to a friend who stopped by the store. She was on a phone all but mouthed “Is everything okay?” When I said “Just pray for me!” she put down her phone, wrapped her arms around me and reminded me that when we are in the darkest valleys, we are only visiting. As she prayed I cried and was so grateful for her love. What courage, what selflessness!
G.K. Chesterton once said “”The human brain is a machine for coming to conclusions; if it cannot come to conclusions it is rusty.” I must need some WD40 in my noggin because the self-questioning was the most grueling part. What was my responsibility? What was theirs? What is judgement versus knowing by inference? What does forgiveness look like? What do boundaries look like? How do I move forward from here? Exhausting. There is a time to solve problems, but then there is a time to acknowledge that you just don’t have the required tools or resources to understand the complexities of life at the moment. And that’s okay. Learning to submit and sit comfortably amidst the unknown is a new lesson for me. I don’t need to know everything. It was revelatory.
Oils. A friend of mine and I just happened to cross paths yesterday so I was able to use some of her Feeling Kit oils — Forgiveness, Present Time, Release, Inner Child. Afterward my brain kind of felt funny. All of the questions stopped and I felt wholly submerged in the emotional turmoil but removed from it instead of being controlled by it. Still wasn’t the most comfortable state that I’d prefer to be in.
Adoration. I had my husband accompany me to adoration at St. John’s Chapel of Peace. More crying.
I went to a friend’s graduation party and just set it all aside. It was marvelous. This was an Oklahoma-style BBQ gathering where everyone brings a lawn chair and slurps watermelon juice down their shirts. I played t-ball with my son and husband. We all danced. These are people who aren’t contrived, controlled by vanity or pomp. They don’t seek out controversy and they aren’t out to prove anything. It was just freeing and beautiful. Wholly refreshing.
Good sleep. My husband so lovingly put (more) oils on me and rubbed the tenseness out of my muscles. I woke up without the burdensome rain cloud of yesterday and enjoyed a fantastic local parade where I danced on a float with my son while wearing a rose dress. My soul was jubilant!
Give the offenders to God, shake the dust and carry on. Squash any remaining negative sentiments with prayer.
Without a firm foothold of knowing who I am, I could believe anything someone might suggest about me. I actually got out a yellow notepad and wrote all of the accusations down, just to make sure if any of it was true that I could look at my vices at face value and work on them. But ultimately there is a loving way to communicate with someone you care about. There is a modicum of respect and tact that convey love. And there is nothing wrong for standing up for your values and setting boundaries for what you will and will not tolerate. Sometimes people will resent those constraints, but that’s not ultimately your problem.
Most people don’t like to be disliked or misunderstood, and therefore we crumble under the pressure of our bullies… which, afterward, makes us feel ashamed for our cowardice and lack of integrity. I am done with that. Sometimes you need to take a stand… to fearlessly and unshakingly seize your voice of authority while defending what is right and decrying what is wrong. What you hold as valuable is worth not only respect, which the people who care about you will give you, but protection.
Unity is indeed beautiful, but not when it’s a foolish, pyrrhic act of ingenuity.