Monday, August 18, 2014

On being social when you feel ANTIsocial...

Sometimes I absolutely hate that I was born an introvert.

But that fact is I was and now I have to live with it.

To some of you, it might not sound like a bad thing.  In fact, I'm pretty sure no one other than other extreme introverts will get this post at all.

This past weekend was on of those weekends where I just wanted to shrink into myself and disappear.
You know how when you're a kid and you close your eyes and think that since you can't see them, they can't see you? You're invisible?

Sometimes I really wish that worked.  
In fact, I tried it in Walmart on Saturday.  

It didn't work, by the way.

I had to go shopping for some things we were in dire need of, as well as the ingredients for a freezer meal workshop I have tonight.  I was literally praying the entire time I was out that I wouldn't run into anyone I knew.  There were so many people!

It sounds strange to some of you, right? 
I mean, I know it sounds strange as it comes out of my mouth.

I can't begin to explain it, honestly. I just know that sometimes being around more than one other person {and sometimes, even then} is literally excruciatingly painful. 

And then there's that pesky fear of not being accepted or needing to be someone I'm not. In my life, I have been misunderstood too many times to count.  I've been written off as a snob {or worse}, antisocial, rude, stuck up, unfriendly and so on.

This is absolutely, totally, 100% accurate for me!

We didn't go to church on Sunday and it was my fault.

I had trouble getting out of bed on Sunday morning and when I did, I felt physically ill.  My head hurt, my throat was a little scratchy, and I was absolutely CONVINCED that I could not go to church and/or be around people.

I really felt like I might collapse if I made myself do it.

So instead, I went back to bed, pulled the covers up and slept until almost noon.
I spent the entire day in my pajamas, never showered, and didn't even cook.

I did do some housework and made myself and my family meals but they were all pulled together from leftovers and items in the fridge. I convinced the hubby to go and pick up dinner from the mexican restaurant a few miles away.

The closest I got to leaving the house was watering plants on the front porch and stepping into the garage to talk to my husband.

And it didn't bother me at all.

By Sunday night, I felt recharged and less like hiding.  I felt rested.  I felt whole again.  I felt equipped - that's a funny word, but it's accurate - to DO life again.

Please don't worry about me.
I'm not depressed and I didn't post this to elicit sympathy or get people to check in on me.
I'm not going to be a crazy cat lady someday {I dislike cats; pretty strongly, in fact.  No offense to cat people}.

Honestly, I thought I was just a weirdo for so long and really didn't realize that other people like me existed. 

Recently, I've seen lots of stuff on Pinterest and Facebook about personalities.  Little blurbs like this one...

And it's funny I guess, but "social media" has actually made me feel better about my own social fears and inadequacies.  

And, yes, I've taken all those Facebook quizzes: "Are you really an introvert?" "What's your true personality type," and dozens of others.
I've read articles like "How to be friends with an introvert," "How to fit into a world of extroverts when you're not one {or something like that}."

And today, I found whole Pinterest boards devoted to Introverts.  Some of the pins made me laugh out loud while some evoked a "say what?"  But the truth is, there are lots of introverts in the world and we don't ALL have the same qualities  or phobias.

It makes me feel more "normal" to know there are others who have the same feelings and need for alone time.  

It also plays into my compassionate nature.  I think my "introvert" personality makes me more perceptive about other introverts and more sensitive to their feelings.

Maybe not.  

But I do believe God makes us all different for a reason.  He gives us all gifts and it's our job to discover them and use them for good.

So I suppose I don't always HATE being an introvert after all.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Compassion and grace...

It's been an emotional week.

In the BIG world there was Nascar tragedy and the death of Robin Williams; while here in my little world I've been living in the midst of kids and recovering from vacation and trying to parent with grace rather than out of fear or disappointment.

Just when I think I have a handle on this parenting thing, God shows me I'm wrong.  I wonder if I disappointed my parents as much as my kids have disappointed me lately? And worse, I wonder if I disappoint my Heavenly Father as much?

It's been a crazy week.  Last Sunday morning before church, we heard about the accident involving Tony Stewart and Kevin Ward.
I'm not a Nascar fan, but I just felt terrible.  I knew that regardless of the specifics, assigning blame or not, Tony Stewart would never be the same.

I can't say I've been in his shoes exactly, but I know someone who had a similar experience.  Probably more than one "someone," actually.
And if God gave me anything in the gift department, one of them was definitely compassion: the ability to put myself in someone else's situation and imagine how it would feel.

As a child, it was how I could make myself cry on demand.  I would just think of the last bad thing I had heard about, put myself in the shoes of the person it happened to and let the tears come on their own.  It's kind of funny, but isn't that what a lot of actors wish they could do? Cry on demand? I did actually want to be a stage actress at one point.  I'm straying...

By the time we left church last Sunday, the whole Tony Stewart and Kevin Ward debate was so out of control! I have my opinion, and I contemplated writing about it several times this past week, but I'm going to keep my opinion to myself.
What I can say is this, my compassionate nature makes me feel for both families affected by that accident and my prayers have included them many times in the last 6 days.

On Monday, when I saw the news on Facebook that Robin Williams had died of an apparent suicide, I was immediately beside myself with grief and shock.

I didn't know him personally.  I never met him or shook his hand.  As far as I know, I was never within a thousand mile radius of Robin Williams.
Yet, Monday evening, the tremendous sadness I felt was akin to that of losing a close friend or family member.  I felt like I knew him.

But I didn't.  
Not only did I not know him, I had no idea that he'd been living with depression and bi-polar disorder.  I would never have guessed his clowning and comedy might have been a cover-up for his own intense sadness. It really made me wonder who of the people I DO know maybe aren't alright? Do I have friends or family members who cover their sadness or grief with joking and wise cracks? 

I've done it before. Sometimes reality just feels too painful.  Sometimes I just want to be someone else - anyone else - but myself.  I don't feel that way today and, thank God, I haven't felt that way in a long time, but I do know how it feels to feel that way.  
And in all my compassionate moments and empathetic instincts, I don't think I have ever confided those feelings to anyone or helped someone through similar feelings.

As I thought deeply about this during the week, I came to the conclusion that it's just another sad fact of our society: we are selfish.  I am selfish.

Even in my desire to help others and to be compassionate, merciful, and grace-giving to others, sometimes I can't see past myself and my own issues long enough to realize someone else is hurting.  And that stinks, because I don't want to be that way. I don't want to miss something important.

I watched a movie tonight.  It wasn't especially good, really, but the underlying message was.  We spend so much time trying to find the perfect spouse - relationship - child - school - job - life - version of ourselves, that we miss out on so much.  We miss out on the here and now.  We miss out on what we already have. The what's-going-on-around-us instead of the past we want to bury and the future that we so fear.

And I don't want to be like that! Do you? 
Do you want to look back, or worse yet, have your kids look back on your life, and remember that you were never present? Never here and able to enjoy just being and breathing and loving?

One of the examples of this that comes to mind for me is pictures.  I have kids {and some other relatives} that LOVE to take pictures.  I mean, really, it's unnatural how much they love to take pictures of people. 
Pictures of me.  
In my pjs.  
With no makeup on and messy hair.

And when it's happening it's easy to get upset and wonder what in the world are they thinking??!! 
But then I realize, do I want my kids to grow up and look at old pictures and see that Mom isn't in any of them? Because she deleted them all? Because she thought they were unflattering?

Of course not! My kids just see their Mom.  They don't differentiate between done-up Mom and just-woke-up Mom.  I'm just Mom.
And they want and need pictures of "just Mom."

This is all a bunch of emotional rambling, I know.  But if one good thing came out of the hardship of this week, it's that I want to focus more on the NOW and less on the THEN.  I don't want to miss out. I don't want to miss the signs if a friend or family member is hurting.  I don't want to miss time with my kids because I'm too stressed over the next "big" thing.
I want to live.  I want to love.  I want to laugh.  And I want to help others do the same. With compassion and grace.

The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. Psalm 145:8

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Enough is enough...

I don't pray enough
I'm not patient enough
I don't work hard enough
I'm not talented enough
I'm not kind enough (sometimes)
I'm not pretty enough
I don't smile enough
I'm not skinny enough
I'm not outgoing & friendly enough...

The list could go on and on, but it has to stop.  I have to start telling myself (and believing) that despite my faults, I am enough.
How else can I effectively parent my children?  
How can I show them how to be the person God made them to be in this fallen and faulty world that we live in? A world where nothing is ever enough? 

My head knows He created me with Divine design - that He doesn't make mistakes. My head knows there is purpose in every mistake I've ever made and every lesson I've had to learn. 
But as I often have in the past, I feel a disconnect between my heart & my head.

I want to KNOW it with every fiber of my being. To feel it spread throughout & permeate every thought and every far corner of my mind. Because THAT would help me live it and model it better to others, including my children. 

I don't want to be conceited. Bragging is not my thing. I do want the ability to maintain my outlook no matter the situation. When I'm criticized; when I don't "measure up" by someone else's standards; when I'm tempted to parent in anger or in response to embarrassment rather than with grace & love.

We live in a society that compares EVERYTHING and EVERYONE relentlessly.  It’s a world where “likes” and “shares” mean way too much! Already I can see how it affects my daughter who is only 10, and it greatly pains me!
I want her (and her brother) to know that life isn’t always fair and it isn’t always easy.  That sometimes things will happen that make it easy to be hard on ourselves. That things will happen that will be embarrassing and seem like the end of the world – but it’s not.  That things will happen that seem like things you can’t recover from – but you can.

That you can LIVE LOVED without looking down on others, but in way that makes them feel more special too.

I struggle for that balance still... know that I am a loved and treasured child of God, perfect in spite of all my imperfections.
 That's what I want my kids to know, now & in the future.

{Perhaps you've seen this story before, but I wanted to share even so.}

Recently, I overheard a mother and daughter in their last moments together at the airport as the daughter's departure had been announced. Standing near the security gate, they hugged and the mother said:
"I love you and I wish you enough."
The daughter replied, "Mom, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Mom." They kissed and the daughter left.
The mother walked over to the window where I sat. Standing there, I could see she wanted and needed to cry.
I tried not to intrude on her privacy but she welcomed me in by asking, "Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?" "Yes, I have," I replied. "Forgive me for asking but why is this a forever good-bye?"
"I am old and she lives so far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is the next trip back will be for my funeral," she said.
When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, "I wish you enough." May I ask what that means?"
She began to smile. "That's a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone." She paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail and she smiled even more.
"When we said 'I wish you enough' we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them". Then turning toward me, she shared the following, reciting it from memory,
"I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye."
She then began to cry and walked away.
They say it takes a minute to find a special person. An hour to appreciate them. A day to love them. And an entire life to forget them.
- Author Unknown

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

On finding Grace in disappointment...

I remember Mama’s red eyes well.  She’d been crying and I could feel the hurt and disappointment in the air.

One of my brothers had been caught with something in his room.  Obviously something he wasn’t supposed to have, but I didn’t yet know what.

Through overheard conversations and the events to come, I eventually learned that he’d taken something from the grocery store without paying for it.

Mama made him take back those empty wrappers from the candy bars he’d eaten and talk to the manager at the store.

I have always thought my Mom made good parenting decisions. Ok, well, maybe not as a child, but as an adult, I have appreciated the lessons I learned from her.
It’s funny how you always think, “when I become a Mom, I’m gonna do this like Mom did, but not that.” {Sorry, Mom!}

Now that I’m a parent, it’s not uncommon to find myself wondering what Mom would do in certain situations.  Unfortunately, it’s not always convenient to call her and ask and, many times, the decision or discipline has to be made on the spot.

So when I realized earlier this week that one of my kids was a thief, I immediately thought back to what Mom did all those years ago.
Last Friday, I had to go clothing and shoe shopping for the trip I left for today.  The kids were relatively well behaved, but of course, always ask for things: “Mommy, can I get this? Mommy, can we get that? Mommy, what’s this? Can I have one?”

I get tired of answering those questions and, quite honestly, I get tired of saying “no.”  Checkout stands are the worst! This is where they put the little trinkets and “add-ons” that they KNOW children especially will want.

It was one of these tiny trinkets (the kind that cost .99¢) that ended up in my washing machine basin on Monday night.
As soon as I saw it, I knew what it was and where it came from.  I knew I didn’t buy it and I knew one of my children took it.
As it turns out, another toy went through the wash too.
On Tuesday morning, both kids were sitting on the couch and I told them to stay there: I wanted to talk to them.  I went the to the laundry room to retrieve the toy and the stolen item and came back with one in each hand.

As I held the toy out, I asked, “Who does this belong to?” Sweetpea was quick to respond – “that’s mine!” So I gave it to her and reminded her to check her pockets before adding clothes to the laundry pile.
Then I opened my hand to reveal the stolen trinket and asked who it belonged to.
My son, 6, immediately said, “oh, that’s that thing from that store and Sweetpea stole it!”
I have to confess; I thought HE was the one who took it!

After all, he was the one who asked for it the most in the store. So I thought for sure, he was saying that to deflect that fact that he was the culprit.
I waited patiently for someone to confess.
I watched their faces and tried to read what they were thinking.
Buddy was already crying and insisting it wasn’t him. I didn’t know if I could believe him or not.

And to my surprise and dismay, Sweetpea confessed it was she who took it.
She claimed she didn’t take it off the counter. Rather, that she found it on the floor and put it in her pocket.

I asked her if it was hers.  I asked if she paid for it.  I asked who it belonged to and then I asked what we should do with it.
Luckily for her, she replied that we should take it back {that was my plan anyway}.

Regardless of where she found it, or how small it was, I know she heard me tell Buddy to put it (the same trinket) back.  And, as her Dad said, she wouldn’t have been so upset about it, if she hadn’t already known it was wrong.

The whole process was quite possibly more painful for me than for her.  In her case, the manager she spoke with was very lenient and thanked her for “doing the right thing and bringing it back.” I made sure she knew that it could’ve gone much differently.
While I  could have chosen NOT to go through with taking it back, I learned a long time ago not to let MY embarrassment affect my parenting decisions.  If I do that, I’m not making the best choice for my children.  In the long run, I want them to learn a lesson and grow up to be responsible citizens, not  do them a disservice to protect my own ego.

I want them to know the line between wrong and right isn’t blurred – it’s definite.

For me, as a Mom, I find the line between discipline and grace much harder to discern.