The idea of love

When my marriage was ending  my husband told me that he had only been in love with the “idea” of me.  And he went so far to tell me that I was only in love with the “idea” of him.  That really hurt me to the core – both statments.  But I have come to finally accept the truth in that.  Doesn’t love or faith of any kind start out with the “idea” of it?

Is there anything wrong with that?  It all starts with an idea and a feeling.  Short of knowing the future, everything in life is a risk;  Loving someone, deciding to have a relationship, accepting a job, deciding on a certain school for your child, choosing which way to drive to work on a certain day, believing in God.

Big things and small things…they all involve risk.  The risk of trusting that things will go the way you “hope” they will go.  Does it discount the validity of the initial feelings though?  I mean, hindsight is everything.  In a recent blog I said I probably shouldn’t have married my 2nd husband in the first place, but on further thinking about it, I think that is a lie and a cop out.  I bought into the “idea” theory that he planted in my head.

But the real truth is that I did love him.  Very much.  Over this past year I have somehow separated myself so much from the pain and truth of that, that it does seem easier or logical to say it was all just a mistake based on some idea.  But isn’t that life?  A series of trials and errors based on ideas?  If we dismissed everything up to just an idea, nothing would be true and we could explain everything away when it went wrong. 

I don’t buy it.  I believe in love.  I am not afraid to say that I loved very much.  The confusing thing is that when love ends or doesn’t look the way you think it should…sometimes it makes you think it was NEVER there in the first place.  But that is a lie.  It was and is still there.  You just may have to look with a different perspective.  Saying it never existed is a cop out.  It is the easy way.  That way you can walk away justified.  There is something wrong with that. 

I’m sorry for my earlier post – Lessons from the Darby.  I think I was wrong.  It makes me sad too.  How easily we can be confused or accept things just to make it seem ok.  Unless there is some kind of abuse, walking away and ending a marriage is not just OK.  Especially when there are kids involved.  A lot of times in life we have to accept it, because it takes two.  I pleaded for my marriage.  I fought for it.  I even wanted him back knowing he had an affair.  I still believed that love could prevail.  But he had already given up and waved the magic “idea” wand.

He told me it was too late and that I should have fought that hard for the marriage along time ago.  But love is never too late…hearts are just too hard.  Love is always love. 

The problem is that my expression of love at that place in time did not look like the kind of love that he wanted.  He had already moved on to a new, younger, “idea”.  I was just an old, conquered, idea…and easily dismissed somehow.  My love looked desperate, broken, and sometimes even angry.  I was fighting for my marriage…I was fighting to keep my family together…and yes…I was angry.  But I can assure you, it was out of love. 

When Jesus knocked over those tables in the temple…He did it out of love.  He was mad!  He was fighting for the honor of His Father’s house.  It wasn’t just an “idea”.  It was out of love for God, and for the people that were making the wrong choices and justifying it.  I am not comparing myself to Jesus, here, by the way.  I am just saying that sometimes emotions come out in different ways.  Sometimes even love is angry.   

I think a lot of marraiges could be repaired.  I really do.  I am sorry it sounded like I so easily dismissed something I still feel so strongly about.  I had to let go of my husband.  He was imperfect and I could easily say I should have never married him.  Maybe that is even true, but the fact is that I did.  I refuse to just chalk it up to a “mistake”.  And…the last time I checked, I am far from perfect.  The mistake was giving up. 

I eventually had to let go because it was literally killing me.  If you knew me a year and a half ago, you would know that I had to make a decision to stop loving someone that no longer loved me because it was so devastating to keep trying to love and being rejected over and over.  I literally felt like I had a gaping hole in my heart.  I started starving myself because that pain would slightly mask the physical pain in my heart.  I can totally understand how some people can actually die of a broken heart.  I could have been one of those.

But I am a mom.  I didn’t have that option.  I had to let go of my love, which was much more than just an idea.    

So…not sure why I am posting this today.  It is just heavy on my heart.  Sorry again if you read that previous blog and read my cop out.  Everything starts out as an idea.  Nothing would exist without it.  But just because it ends, doesn’t mean it never was.

The Glass Menagerie

This has nothing to do with the classic book that I was supposed to have read in my AP English class but somehow remember very little about.  I just like the title and so I tip my hat to you, Tennessee (Thomas) Williams for a really cool named book that I am sure is very good to be a classic.  But my story is a little different tonight.

I love watching the process of glass blowing.  It’s just one of those things for me…it is therapeutic, interesting, beautiful and surprising.  It never seems to get old to me because each creation is basically unique.  The process is a lot like life. 

They start with a glob of pure hot liquid glass…untainted.  It is then rolled in some kind of color, but many times you can’t tell what that real color looks like in the beginning.  The glass blower then puts it back in the fire to get it hot again because it starts cooling dramatically the moment it is taken away from the source of heat, called the “Glory Hole”. 

Then the worker can start molding it, blowing air into it, shaping it.  The worker moves swiftly and repeats this process over and over – working it over and putting it back in the fire, then working and shaping it a bit more, then back into the fire.  And through the entire process, the creator’s eyes are fixed on the creation…at that moment, nothing else exists for the artist.

In and out of the fire, being molded, worked on, refined, shaped, colored.  Just when some kind of form seems to start taking shape, it gets thrown back into the fire.  In the fire, the glass softens again, it’s strength fades, it becomes pliable again to be further transformed…all the while cooling off rapidly the moment it is taken away from the Glory Hole, the source of heat.

During the process, the end goal is usually unrecognizable by the people watching.  Only the glass blower really knows what they are trying to acheive.  Usually it is at those last, final moments that the observer gets that A-HA factor and can see what the creator was even trying to do.  Also at that time the true color is finally visible.  It is quite amazing.  I doubt that even the creation itself is scarcely aware of what it is becoming and soon will be.  Probably just hoping, yearning, and striving to be something more than a glob at the end of a stick. 

There are so many types of glass blowing.  I don’t know the names, but there is the abstract, animals, flowers, and even some useful things like bird feeders, bowls and vases.  The possibilities are as endless as the creator’s imagination.  They are are beautiful in their own right and all made for different purposes. 

But not all of them make it to the final product.  Some are lost during the process.  Sometimes it is defect a of some kind, or the object cools too quickly,  accidents may occur…lots of reason the creation may not get to be the full potential of what was meant to be.  And sometimes the object gets completed, but when it is being taken to cooling kiln, somehow it just shatters.  It lasts long enough to be transformed into the beautiful thing it was meant to be, but then just like that…it’s gone. 

But others go on to live out the purpose they were meant to acheive…and wow…how awesome it can be.

I am sure you are getting the parallels by now.  If you know me at all, then you know I am allegory girl.  I’m just a glob of glass being worked over pretty hard these days.  I am sore, tired, and largely unaware of what it is that I am really supposed to become.  I can only hope, dream and pray that I will be more than just a glob at the end of a stick, or shattered to pieces in the process of my transformation. 

I have to have faith that the creator has his eyes on me during this process…that he knows the purpose that he is wanting to acheive while I am in and out of the fire, being shaped, colored, molded.  I have to hope that I will survive to be the thing that I am supposed to be.  Oh…I am very tired right now and would love to know those plans.

The Room of Hope

I had the pleasure of receiving another sermon from the car today. Again, I’m reminded of how much there is to learn from a seven year old. If you have children and you’re a Christian, than you know why the Bible says you should have “child-like” faith. My daughter believes in God and Jesus.

I’m pretty sure she still believes in Santa, and the tooth fairy too. I have to be honest that I struggled with the whole Santa thing, because I didn’t like the idea of lying to my child only to set her up for disappointment later. But then I remembered how, despite my own hard childhood, there was one very magical Christmas. I had to remember what it was like to be a kid again and to believe…even if it was short lived. And I wanted that same magic for her in her life too. I mean all you have to do is watch the Polar Express…come on!

I guess the bigger issue is that I am afraid that when she finds out there is no Santa, Easter Bunny or tooth fairy that she might actually question if God exists too and if I lied to her about anything else. But I am probably making things way too complicated in my grown up mind, like many other things. Like pure and simple faith. I just had a conversation with my 7 year old to prove it.

My big girl has started reading the Bible on the short drive to school. It just happened one day because her Bible was still in the car from church. I have really enjoyed listening to her read and then give me the synopsis of what she learned from it…instead of me suggesting what it might be about. Because hearing the perspective from a child is way better than my own limited interpretations.

The lesson to day was about a diseased man that came to Jesus and said, “You have the power to heal me if you want.” Jesus answered that He did want to heal him and laid a hand on him and did it. I asked her what she got out of that lesson. She said, “I learned that we should try to heal and help everyone that we meet.” Well…good try…definitely interesting, but I would have to help clarify this one a little bit.

We talked a bit about how the point may be more on Jesus doing the healing, rather than us. We talked about how Jesus still has the power to heal even today. Then we started talking about a little boy in our church struggling with cancer and chemo. Many, many people are praying for this boy and his family, including us. We are praying and hoping that Jesus will do for this little boy what he did for that man in the story. But then I had to talk about how sometimes the answer is no.

Even in the story the man said, “You have the power to heal me, IF YOU WANT.” This man was hopeful, but realistic…just like me. The possibility of the answer being no for this little boy, is a completely devastating thought for many of us praying for him. I paused a bit because explaining this concept to a kid is hard. Explaining how even though Jesus loves this boy and his family, He may still say no…for reasons beyond what we can understand.

Then she opens up her little mouth and lets the big child like faith come out. She said, “Maybe it’s because He already has a room prepared for him up there!” And she added that she would be really sad for his family, but happy for him.  And then she was done. It was just like common sense to her.

OH! Wow. Might it be that simple? Really? Yes, it just might be. God only knows. It is a better answer and way of saying what I was trying to say than I could have ever come up with. It makes a lot of sense if you believe what the scriptures say about Him going ahead to prepare rooms for us. Of course, because I am a grown up, I wonder what kind of room? Is it really a room? Or is it all just a figure of speech? I mean, this house must be too big to comprehend. It is mind boggling…like faith can be sometimes.

I know a lot of you out there reading this don’t believe and may even think I am brainwashing my own child. But, we all make choices in life of what to believe and not to believe. And believing just happens to be the right choice for us. I don’t force what I believe on others, but I do like to share some of these little moments. Don’t judge me and I won’t judge you.

We had to say good bye to three family members in the past two years. My Grandma and Aunt Dell were particularly hard ones. But at night in her prayers, sometimes she still mentions them and others that have passed on that we have said good bye to. Is there anything wrong with hope? Is it a lie? The idea of the hope that these individuals’ souls live on and that we might one day actually get to see them again…is that so terrible?

The alternative is just a dead end…literally. There are so many concepts in the Bible and other faiths that require a large amount of faith – or ignorance, depending on which camp you set your tent on. Maybe I am blissfully ignorant and still have just enough child like faith in me to believe. But even then, sometimes my grown up, logic and scientific brain plays tricks on me.

My faith sometimes does one of those M.C. Escher drawings to me…is it what I think it really is, or is it something completely different? Or – do you remember when those 3D pictures were really popular…where you would stare really hard at the picture until your eyes relaxed enough you could actually see the 3D features? You’d stare for awhile, not seeing it…then suddenly there it was! It was such a magical feeling of “A-HA!” When you finally see it.

I have talked before about how I felt I HAD to believe in something bigger than myself to even get me through some of the harder times I have gone through. I needed it, basically to survive. Now, I want it. I’m not always the best example of what you may think I should be. I may not always behave like I am supposed to. I’m just human and full of flaws.

I guess the bottom line is that I believe…even though I may have moments of doubt because I am older, wiser (yes – this is open for debate), more realistic, disillusioned and logical than my 7 year old. I hope and pray very hard that the little boy we know is healed completely and gets to be one of those miracles. I pray this with all I that I am.

I also prayed that my marriage would be restored and we could be a great success story. But sometimes, the answer is just simply no. Moving forward I hope I can continue to see the positives that look like negatives to us. I hope I can hold on to just enough child like faith to understand that sometimes a “no” to us may actually just be a “yes” in some other dimension or for some other reason unknown to us at the time. And I also hope that I can think a lot more about that room that He just might be preparing for me someday. That is a very hopeful thought.

Lessons From the Darby

So, I finally got to go kayaking this year. It was a solo trip – which apparently some people think is awesome and admirable and some think is plain stupid and a bit weird. Last year I had such a relaxing and wonderful little trip, I had been looking forward all year to getting out on the Darby to reconnect again.  Little did I know, this year’s trip was going to be a little different.  Just goes to show – you can’t recreate the same experience twice.

Last year I really needed that relaxing kind of therapeutic trip. I would have been fine with that again, but it just wasn’t in the cards this time. I had some really peaceful quiet moments, but the overall experience was something far from therapeutic. But I got some great revelations or parallels to blog about.

It all started off on the wrong foot, or should I say the wrong seat. I am a bit of a novice as far as kayaking goes. I love it but am a bit clueless – like I didn’t know there were different shapes, sizes and kinds. The random kayak I picked this time must have been for a much larger person. I didn’t notice until I got it out in the water that the kayak itself was so wide and big and the seat was way down and back and I had no idea how to adjust it – or if that was even possible. So, right off the bat the rowing was tougher and more awkward than it should have been…foreshadowing the kind of trip I was about to have.

But, I thought oh well…I’ll just make the best of it and I’ll get a good work out along the way. I had no idea just how great of a work out lie ahead of me. The really nice thing was that it was an absolutely bright, blue sky, clear, crisp, late, summer day…perfect weather. Add to the perfect conditions – there were not many people on the water. I nearly had the whole waterway to myself…very peaceful indeed.

Soon, though, I started realizing how low the water was. The enjoyable ride last year with a few little rapids to navigate through had become a series of patches that I will term as the Butt Scoot’n Boogie – where the kayak would just bottom out and I would have to try to scoot and dig my way through, or last resort, get out and drag the thing to the deeper water again (portage, I guess they call this?). Let’s just say that after awhile this little dance lost its novelty.

I brought some binoculars and I was all set for some wildlife viewing. So I broke them out and spotted some sun bathing turtle beauties on some fallen trees. Most of them blooped into the water as I got closer, but a few brave souls held their ground. Just as one turtle and I were making some real eye contact, I was abruptly interrupted by my kayak bottoming out and getting snagged in a downed tree near the edge of the river bed. As I was busy turtle goggling through the tiny viewing spot of my binoculars, I had become unaware of where I was floating off to.

It reminded me of how I have sometimes narrowed my focus in life only to find myself a bit out of place. There have been times in my life where parenting was my very narrow focus – which is a good thing, a necessary thing sometimes. But I have been guilty of allowing it to limit my perspective now and then. I threw myself so into being a mom that I became one of those “super moms”. Not that I was super…but it was my total focus. I think there is a book about it called Smotherhood.

At those times, my vision was so narrowed that I neglected being a wife, a daughter, my hobbies, interests, friendships, career and all kinds of other things. I would get an abrupt interruption to indicate that I had floated off course a bit. Like a little mini break down where I just had to have some time to myself. A little “me time” that is so hard for super moms to claim. Now when I see moms in that super mom chapter, I almost cringe. It’s OK and healthy to take a few hours just to yourself…really. If you have the opportunity – grab it and don’t feel guilty. It is good for you AND your family.

Sometimes men have on binoculars too. My ex-husband’s binoculars were so focused on work, that he tuned everything else out of the scene. The combination of a couple with different narrow points of view can be pretty devastating. In our case we fell right off the cliff of no return.

OK. So if that wasn’t a big enough lesson on just a 2 hour trip, I got one more, bigger, harder experience to blog about. I missed my pull out. I ignorantly and blissfully just kept paddling right past the place they were supposed to pick up me, and my huge, uncomfortable, canoe-like kayak.

Darby stated getting more and more difficult.  This was becoming a love/hate relationship.  I sensed something was wrong, but I kept going.  The last resort was when I approached a downed tree blocking the entire waterway. I made the call (thank God for cell phones) and found out I had overshot my goal by about half a mile! This may not sound like much…but kayaking upstream any distance is not fun…half a mile is ridiculous – especially paddling upstream at the rapid parts on top of being nearly exhausted from too much Butt Scoot’n Boogying and having to do this with the largest kayak known to man. This trip had lost its charm…big time.

I started living an episode of “survivor man” (or woman in my case), in very mild terms of course, but at the time – it felt pretty hard core. I panicked a bit…I’ll admit now. I was angry at myself, tired, and not in the mood to retrace my route. Oh, how I wanted some help! It made me think again about life. How sometimes we pay the consequences for poor choices in life. Whether it’s out of naivety, distraction, or stubbornness – maybe it is even because we have our binoculars on and are not looking at the whole picture – whatever the reason, there are consequences.

We miss our mark. We miss a chance. We over look what should be obvious. And then we find ourselves in a situation that seems like more than we can handle. The thought of having to go “back” to the place we should be, to correctly address the situation, is sometimes a very hard thing to do. It means you may have to go back and revisit the mistakes of the past. It may even mean looking like a complete fool once you get there. It requires a lot of hard work and humility. It requires you to admit you messed up.

I can think of a few places in life where I missed the signs and didn’t pull my kayak out of the river in time. I shouldn’t have married my second husband in the first place. I rushed in like I was shooting some class 5 rapids or something. There were red flags and even a few people pointing the other direction, but I apparently tuned that out. I had my binoculars on him because I loved him and I just didn’t see the warning signs until I was too far down the river.

On my kayak trip – the very minute I put the boat in the water and noticed it wasn’t a good fit for me, I should have gone back and taken the time to find the right one. Instead, I ignored some of the obvious areas of discomfort and made excuses and just tried to make the best of it. I was just so excited, the day was so perfect…I just chose to overlook some things I shouldn’t have. So it made the entire trip not as enjoyable if I had just taken the time to listen to my gut.

I should have done the same thing in my second marriage. I should have taken more time to make sure it was a good fit before I just jumped in and paddled off.  I let myself get so caught up in the moment and the idea of us.  Just like the kayak trip, I was focused on trying to recreate the magic of the past.  However, just like there was beauty to be seen down the river past the point where I should have pulled out (like the Blue Herron I startled); there is also beauty along the way of life, even when we go down a wrong path. I have one more beautiful daughter that I couldn’t imagine life without. My girls are still my center focus, but I would like to think I am looking at a bigger picture now in general than ever before, God help me!

I still do believe that the marriage could have been repaired. I think we could have gone back to the start, addressed a lot of things that needed to be said. But that takes two. When you’re in a kayak built for two and your rowing partner jumps off and into someone else’s kayak…well…what can you do? Like everything else…you deal with the consequences, cry and get it all out, and then try to find the positive in it. You also make a lot of mental notes to ensure you don’t do THAT again.

Hindsight…what clarity there is in it. Navigating the waters of my life downstream from here, I can at least know that I have some experience to build upon to help me steer and look for the signs that I should see. There is hope, even for gluttons like me who apparently have to learn lessons the hard way…several times. But I have two precious girls on board my kayak of life now. I have to make better decisions.

There is something to be said for gut feelings. Looking back, I knew the moment I had gone too far, but I kept going…justifying it, thinking the pull out area would have been more obvious. When I finally got back and the van was waiting for me, I found out that the sign had been removed for some reason. So I wasn’t blind, just ignorant.  I should have armed myself with more information before getting on the river. If I had known that the I-71 Bridge was the finish line, I would have known to not keep going past it. 

It wasn’t the Darby’s fault or anyone elses…not even the lady that watched me go right past my mark and said nothing.  No one can live your life for you and that means no one else should pay for your mess ups.  And even though I can point out some blatant areas when my exhusband chose to bail instead of do the right thing…in the end blaming others is not really constructive either.  It just is what it is.  If you are going to survive any mistake,  you have to do something. If you sit there in bitterness and anger and do nothing but complain and grumble, eventually you are going to just wither away and die.   

You can bet the next time I jump on the Darby I will have checked the water levels, and have a clear understanding of what my destination is. I will also take the time to pick a kayak that is best suited for me. I will apply this same philosophy to my future relationships too.  And most importantly – no rushing.  The best part of the trip is taking your time to see all the beauty along the way.

A Little White Secret

Q: When does a little secret actually become a lie? A: When you start modifying your life because of it.

This is a hard subject to tackle. It’s hard to hear about it. It’s awkward to talk about. But it’s important. I am beyond the open pain and agony of reliving it. I am no longer in the victim role. But it has taken years…over 20 years in fact. And I feel like talking about it because I know I am not alone. The fact is that if you are a woman reading this post, 1 out of every 4 of you has experienced it.

The four letter word that took me almost 20 years to say out loud is…rape. It is such a very, very ugly word. Even now, I feel like using a pot holder or a pair of tongs to dangle it out away from my line of vision. I am going to talk about this tonight because for some reason it is on my heart. Maybe because I made the mistake of watching grown up TV for once in a long time a few nights ago and I caught an episode of a show called The Secret Lives of Women and it hit home pretty hard. The episode was all about this. And I am very thankful to say that as I watched, I didn’t have flash backs and didn’t feel sorry for myself. I realized that I really am no longer a victim held captive or defined by this event.

The show was informative, helpful, and shed a lot of light into some of the poorer decisions I have made in my life. It made sense of some of the self destructive times in my life where I think I was literally trying to slowly kill myself or at least wishing to die…because I felt dead inside anyway.

At least a good 10 years if not more of my life was spent in this dark, destructive phase. I felt disengaged in my own life…unconnected…and like I was just watching my own life happen in some out of body-like experience. I didn’t feel like I was living it. I felt completely out of control of my circumstances, fate, path, and future. I felt very much like a pin ball…just being bounced around to where ever I got tossed or spanked around to (This may have been elevated for me because of growing up with a mentally unstable mother).

I don’t feel the need to get into the details of my experience. That is not the point here. But I can say it was brutal, devastating – like all other horrible rapes happening even now as you read this (about 2 a minute). And I will say I was between 13 and 15 somewhere between my freshman and sophomore year of HS. I think this is important. As a mom, an aunt, a friend of my friends girls…I want to be very aware because most do happen between 13 and 30. However, I think being overly afraid of anything or living in constant fear is not a good thing either. This is not a scare tactic – or a call for panic. It’s just me blogging out my guts.

So, I lived alone with my little secret. Soon, I found my secret needed to be fed. It needed some attention and some sympathy. But I couldn’t find the words or time or way to tell anyone about it, so my secret became angry…and my secret starting feeding off of me. It had already consumed any innocence that had remained at that age the very moment that it happened, so it started eating what was left of me…my self esteem, self worth, my dreams, my hopes, and my relationships.

My secret wanted me all to itself. My secret lied to me. It told me that it was all my fault and that I deserved what had happened. And since I was no longer the virgin that I had still wanted to be my secret helped me seek out people who would treat me like I felt I deserved to be treated, which led to more incidents and abuse, which made my secret get even bigger. Soon my secret was bigger than me. It almost claimed me.

But I am still here. And I am blogging this because I don’t have any more secrets. My secret was revealed during the court hearing at my first divorce. My husband wrote in a long, detailed affidavit, all about my secret that I had decided to tell him about…an affidavit that my own father read. This is how my dad found out about my secret. Right there in the county office. I had finally trusted someone enough to tell someone about my secret and it was used against me. It was used as an excuse to abandon me. It was thrown under the all encompassing “irreconcilable differences”.

But I know it wasn’t the rape itself. It was all the anger, depression, separation, sexual inhibitions, confusion, physical and emotional distance that the rape had caused because it was left unaddressed. I had let it become a full blown infection in my life because I never treated it.

Then I made another critical mistake. Just as I was trying to recover from my “big reveal” and from the heartache of my current divorce, I entered into another relationship. I thought it was safe because I had known this person for 20 plus years. I thought maybe this was the person I was supposed to have been with all the time, because he was the one person that I had made a real connection with in HS during those terrible years. I allowed myself to be rescued. I believed that this person had always loved me and sought after me all these years. I welcomed the attention I craved but didn’t feel.

And instead of taking the time and years needed to just find me, address my secret and treat it with the attention it deserved, I rushed into another marriage. My secret pulled the blindfold over my eyes and took me hostage again for another 5 years. If you have read some previous blogs or the about me page you know that I am now single again. I am a common statistic in so many ways. But I refuse to be a quiet one now, so help me God.

I am not letting either of my exes off the hook so easily to say that I am the sole cause for either divorce – especially in the second case. I admit, however, that I brought in unaddressed issues into both marriages. I also believe fully that things could have been worked through and I could have still remained married. It just would have taken the right person to do that with. But here is the key…I had to be ready to admit it, WANT to move beyond it and be ready to move from the victim to the victor role. The affidavit was the trigger that brought my secret into the light. My second divorce was the catalyst that has caused that massive shift in my thinking.

The wake-up call for me was actually during the 2nd separation. I was finally ready to put on my gloves and box my secret to the ground. The problem is that I was married to a man that never really loved me in the first place. He loved himself and idea of rescuing his high school dream girl. While I was trying to put my gloves on, he had already moved on to rescue a new damsel. Yea…he brought in some unresolved issues too.

Oh…it is an ugly, ugly story folks. I can see myself losing my entire reader base right here. But if I can raise some awareness to anyone else or say some of the ugly things out loud that so many women still keep hidden…then it is worth it to me. I’m putting the smack down on the secret and I am doing it for the best reason…for me and my girls. Not for a man.

Here goes my old and faithful mantra – don’t isolate yourself – but be careful. Don’t keep your secret all to yourself only to let it eat you to pieces, bit by bit, year by year until there is nothing left but a hollow, shriveled, bitter shell of a woman. I know some of those. It is heartbreaking and devastating to them and their entire families.

Playing the martyr and victim is really not as admirable as you think it is. If you could see an accurate reflection of yourself in the mirror you would see selfishness, pride, fear, anger, depression and a whole lot of lies and confusion. However, you would also see a very valuable, worthy, wonderful person that so many people love beyond anything you could ever possibly imagine. You would see someone capable of such vulnerable strength and unbelievable accomplishments. But you don’t see those things because you don’t love yourself…you don’t even like yourself. And the truth is you will be a prisoner held captive by those lies until you are ready to face that real, ugly, and beautiful truth. And the worst part is that until you do you cannot fully love anyone else either…not even your own children.

But there is hope. I am proof of that. I have started addressing my secret head on for some time now. I am also proof that an infection as bad as I had let mine become will probably show symptoms of its existence for the rest of my life in some fashion or another. I definitely have the scars to prove it. But the most important first thing is this…in order to break out of prison, you have to first realize you are held captive (paraphrasing a famous quote here that I can’t seem to find). No one else can do that for you. Breaking out of a prison of any kind requires a lot of risk, effort and usually pain. For me the risk of breaking out finally outweighed the reality of just sitting there in my cell, watching life pass by, and knowing I would eventually die in my little tiny cell, probably all alone.

I can’t end it here on this downer. I’m not going to pretend like my life is all roses and beauty now. I’m not even saying that I am in some great place of achievement and accomplishment in life according to the world’s standards. But in my own heart and mind, I am free. I am not defined by an event or a label. And this thinking has spilled over into other areas of my life. In the end, freedom is more valuable than any material possession.

But here is a warning. I did actually make attempts to address my problem in my first marriage and even a bit here and there before. I went to some counseling to try to sort some things out. And the scary thing is that I THOUGHT I had made progress and overcame it because I took the time to talk about it. That IS helpful. But for me anyway – part of the reason I even went to a counselor was to just seek out some kind of attention or sympathy. I needed to hear how pitiful the whole thing was. In some ways the counseling fed into my very comfortable victim role. These sessions usually lasted about 4-5 visits and then voila – I got my sympathy fix and I would go a few more years until it caught up with me again and I needed more sympathy. I never stuck around long enough to let them dive deeper to get to that healing place.

Simply saying you were raped out loud doesn’t fix it. It’s about as effective as putting a band aid on a broken bone.  You have a little something to show for it, but it can cause more damage than good (such as your dad reading the news in an affidavit).  You have to want to stop being a victim. I cannot express how life changing that revelation has been to me. You have to want to start living your life and not be afraid to be real – even if that is sometimes painful.

You have to recognize what happened, but then be willing to cast it off of who you are because you no longer should be defined by it. You are no longer a victim of rape…you are not even a “survivor” of rape. You are a capable, awesome, strong woman who happened to be raped at some point in your past. If you were an ex-convict…would you want to always think of yourself as that? Hi, I’m Matilda…I am an ex-convict. NO! Yea for you – you got out of prison, you are free…but you are still defining yourself by your past chains. WHY? I am not saying to deny it, or hide or pretend it didn’t happen. Claim the victory and then move on to embrace who you are now to become! Can I get an Amen, sisters? Wow…that was quite the grandstanding monologue.

I can’t explain it, but friends I have known for years say they can see some kind of difference in me. I have better relationships with my friends and some family than I have ever had before (not perfect…but real and authentic and healthy). I have some control over my future – or at least I feel like I am making conscious and better decisions in life that will affect my future, rather than just letting my life take me where it happens to go and blaming everyone or anything else if I end up in a place I don’t like. I feel like my eyes are open. I may not always like what I see, but at least I can handle situations better than when my eyes were shut. And I’ll end with this…I no longer want sympathy for what happened. I want to bring attention to the situation and to the hope of recovery – not bring attention to me or the details of what happened.

There is so much more that could be said, but this is already twice as long as my normal ranting. I hope if anyone is out there struggling with this or knows someone – that it helps to know and hear you’re not alone and that there is more than a handicapped life of captivity and sympathy for you and your little white secret.

Diffusing the Bomb

I just had a great coffee/lunch with an old girlfriend of mine.  It was great to reconnect after a long time of superficial, “Hi, how are you, I’m fine. Great.  Gotta go the kids are screaming” conversations.  I have missed her.  It was also comforting to see that like me, other moms have dishes in the sink and toys strewn across the living room (just now and then).  And despite how unorganized she was complaining that she felt she had become…I was silently gaining all kinds of time saving organizing ideas.   

I posted previously that “Help” is a very hard word to say.  But even that, I think, comes second to this next big one.  “I’m sorry”.  My friend, like me, has a very direct and blunt personality.  We are not afraid to say just about anything that comes to mind.  This can cause trouble.  We can be misinterpreted and sometimes justly blamed for saying something offensive – usually unintended.  I’m actually known for this…lucky me!  I am not going to win any awards for social etiquette anytime soon.  Most times these things can be cleared up and laughed at, but sometimes not.  Well, my friend recently had a revelation that is very wise, humbling and inspiring to me.  Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate our communication methods and be a little more careful or choosy with our words.

The short of it is this – she said some potentially offensive things about a friend to a mutual friend, thinking that the woman she was talking to was on the same page – because this woman had also said some equally negative things about this same woman.  My friend thought she was on “safe and mutual” grounds to say how she really felt about this other woman and her parenting style/decisions.  She found out the hard way that she was not…and when it all blew up, she had some “Splainin’ to do”. 

I am SO proud and inspired by what my friend said next and how she handled it.  Instead of being defensive and making excuses for herself or claim that she had been misinterpreted or slandered, and instead of being very angry at the woman she had confided in and selling her down the river too, she chose to step back, evaluate her own words and behavior, claim it and say she was sorry.  Not only did she say she was sorry, but she went even further to investigate the root cause for her behavior…why was she being so negative anyway?

What she discovered was a hidden sadness and feeling of rejection that she had been festering for years towards the woman that she was taking issue with and starting to outwardly show negativity towards.  She figured out that she felt abandoned by this other woman because this other woman had increasingly become too busy, overwhelmed with working and raising children that she slowly started leaving my friend out of her life.  A common tragedy of working, busy moms…friendships take the toll as they are thrown on the back burner and eventually grow cold.

My friend was hurt.  Even though she recognized that this other woman was just extremely busy and that she didn’t “intend” for it to happen…it was still rejection.  The message my friend was getting is that “you are just not enough of a priority to me to fight for our friendship right now”.  Over time this message turns into bitterness, misconceptions and all kinds of negative selfish thoughts. 

I know.  I have been there.  In fact, ironically, somewhere in the middle of this discussion we were having I remembered that she and I had had very similar situation just years ago.  We almost gave up our friendship altogether – and here only a few years later – I had somehow completely forgotten that.  WOW!  She is one of my best friends and we almost ended it for a misinterpretation.  When we took the time to say we were SORRY, and to see the other person’s side of the situation – it changed everything.  But it had taken years for us to do that.  We wasted years of potential friendship years and experiences.

It makes me think about marriages too.  How many marriages could have been saved if people could just wait it out, and get to that root cause analysis, and see the other person’s side of things?   I have talked to a few veteran couples who have made it through this kind of stuff and they all say the same thing, “OMG, I am SO glad we hung in there.  Things are not perfect, but we respect and love each other so much more now”.    

My friend is making amends and diffusing a bomb.  I thought, hmm…I wonder if I have some bombs to diffuse myself.  And the answer is a big 10-4, heck yes!  I have some people I need to address with my own personal shortcomings, admit that I have been harboring some feelings of rejection and hurt that has turned into a strained, negative relationship.  I can easily say I am just treating them the way they are treating me or explain it away and justify my ill attitude or poorly chosen words.  But where does the buck stop then?  Someone has to stand up and play the grown up at some point or all is lost.

I know exactly the three people I need to find the time and way to say I am sorry.  And these are just the ones that I am aware of.  I need to say I have felt hurt and rejected and I have selfishly been acting like a child because of it.  I need to put my big girl pants on and do the very thing I have been preaching to my own 7 year old – say you are sorry, look at their side of things and forgive them for what they have done…then get over it.  Get out of the mud.  I wrote a song a few years back and the chorus says “Cry it all out, then it’s time to move on, don’t let yourself stay in the mud for too long…”  We even say to each other sometimes – we need to get out of the mud and move on. 

My friend has inspired me to get out of the mud and address some of my own time bombs that I have been letting just tick away.  Admittedly, she still has an adjustment period, but seeing her so relaxed and at peace with her position reminded me of how right it is in saying I’m sorry, instead of letting it fester.  And I’m reminded about how “I’m sorry” is as much for the person that needs to say it, as it is for the person that needs to hear it.  Forgiving has the same freeing effect…and I am hoping very much that my 3 people know and remember that too. 

But they may want to forgive or apologize.  And I have to live with that fact and be ok if they don’t.  Because this is no longer about them or us…it is about me.  I have to start with me.  Thanks friend (you know who you are).  You are very inspiring and beautiful.  Now, dagonit…I have to go diffuse my own bomb.

The Waiting Place

I took my oldest daughter to a nature conservatory about a week ago.  It was a great experience.  We went there actually to see the Dale Chihuly glass artwork that was displayed all within the gardens and fountains…very cool stuff.  She wore her dress of many colors (see previous blog – dress of many colors), and got all kinds of compliments.  She looked like she actually WAS a piece of artwork and fit right into the whole scheme of dramatic color mixed with nature which equals a whole lot of beautiful. 

Then we got to the butterfly exhibit and we got to watch some of the newly hatching butterflies. If you have ever seen this, you know that it can take 30 minutes to 2 hours for them to get their wings fully unfolded and dried…which seems like years to an expectant little girl.

She observed that they looked like they needed help and felt sorry for them.  She wanted very desperately to help them crack out of the cocoon and spread their wings.  It opened the discussion to this lesson about waiting.  I got to tell her that if she did try to help the butterfly out of the cocoon, it would actually kill it (Go ahead…insert a wicked witch laugh here).  But she is getting old enough for a bit of truth and science.  It would be the same as trying to open a flower bud yourself – you would tear it to pieces and destroy the natural process.  And the truth is that during that struggle the butterfly is gaining strength and building necessary muscles required for flight eventually. 

I tend to think about my girls as the butterflies in my life.  I just don’t feel quite that beautiful, young and innocent.  Lately, I feel more like a serotinous cone (see about me).  A cone that lies beneath the surface for months, sometimes many years until a fire comes along and the heat opens the cone to release the seeds.  But the same lesson applies here as with butterflies and flowers…you have to wait it out.  Forcing or prying it open will only destroy it and the thing will never become the full potential of what it was meant to be. 

Of course, because I am allegory girl (what do you think – I see Halloween costume potential there)…I couldn’t let it rest at just that.  In case you haven’t noticed I am a nature nut and I see SO many parallels in nature to our own lives.  So I started thinking about this process of waiting.  I have so many hopes and expectations for my girls and myself that I sometimes forget that I have to wait and let the natural processes do their thing. 

I am not one of those parents that want to rush my daughters’ childhood or can’t wait for the next stage.  But I am guilty of getting annoyed during the process of waiting sometimes.  I mean, seriously…my 7 year old can’t find her shoes on a regular basis.  At those moments I am very guilty of wanting to force some maturity on her – especially when we are running late.  I could punish her or find them myself – both tactics of which I have tried, but it still doesn’t work. 

She is still just 7 and very distracted, scatterbrained and self involved.  She seems completely unaware that leaving her shoes wherever (middle of the kitchen floor, outside, in the bathroom) may cause problems down the road.  I can’t force her to be responsible and I can’t keep doing everything for her – I may be doing more damage or holding her back.  Sometimes I have to let her work it out…even if we are late because of it (I feel the need to interject and tattle on myself here to mention that I misplaced my keys just recently and found them in a very silly spot.  See?  Still a work in progress here).        

So, how does this apply to me?  How about when I am in the place that Dr. Seuss talks about in Oh the places you’ll Go, when he refers to “the most dreaded places of them all…the waiting place.  Waiting for the phone to ring, or the sky to snow, for a lucky break or the wind to blow…waiting, just waiting”.  And wondering why you are in that place…and for how long?  Isn’t there more to life than this?  (I highly recommend this book if you do not have it in your library.  It is for the young AND old.  Seuss is a genius, I tell you). 

I find myself feeling very insignificant during these discouraging times.  Not that I think I am ALL THAT, but there have been times when I felt SO overlooked and underappreciated that I didn’t think anyone would even notice if I just wasn’t around anymore.  But I am so thankful I hung in there because validation did come – just maybe not in MY timing…and though it may be different than what I imagined, it is usually always better than I even hoped for. 

As I get older I am realizing that I was just “in the process” during those waiting times.  If I would have gotten all the things I wanted when I wanted it, it would have been disastrous.  I wouldn’t have been ready.  I was building my strength, knowledge and ability the whole time it looked like I was just sitting there struggling.  And behold, just when I have arrived at one of those great fleeting victorious moments – I have to enjoy it because before I know it, I am right back in the waiting place again for some unknown time. 

If you are in a waiting place, my hope for you is that you don’t tear yourself to pieces trying to force yourself to a place that you “think” you should be.  We all have to spend time in the waiting place.  I have suffered the consequences of forcing myself to a place I thought I should be and believe me…it’s never pretty.  Even the darkest of hours don’t seem so hopelessly doomed if you just wait it out.  Have you ever been in a strange place at night – maybe camping or something and eveything looks so foreign and scary, but the dawn arrives and that same place that was so dark and barren before is actually a really beautiful place? 

Believe me, I have the pleasure of speaking from experience (see previous blog post The Crazy truth) – I have seen some really dark times and I know some folks who have seen some even worse times.   But when you get to the other side – to the light side of the struggle, even the ugliest of labels can be turned into beauty if you let them.  It is all in your attitude.  You can let your struggles tear you down and leave you bitter, or you can use them to help someone else in something similar.  If you think in those terms, it makes those validation times even sweeter – cause neither last forever. 

So to you stay at home moms or dads, or unemployed, or to those of you working in a seemingly dead end job, or maybe in financial or marital trouble, to those far away from everyone they love, to those caring for a very sick family member day after day, to the single parents, to anyone wondering if there is more than this…Keep up your quiet struggle, building your strength and character behind the scenes while everyone else is watching that one butterfly that is actually ready to take flight.  And find a way to be happy for that other butterfly knowing that you will eventually have your moment too.

Help is a four letter word

I hate to ask for help.  Sometimes I think I would rather gnaw my own arm off than have to ask for it.  Why?!  Why is it SO hard?  Is it pride?  For me it mostly is.  I find myself sounding a lot like my own frustrating 2 year old, “I self, I self”.  Sometimes I want nothing more than to just help her, but she has an independent streak that makes it hard to help her most of the time.  I know she is learning – so many times I let her do things herself.  But sometimes I just want to shout out, “Just let me help you – please!”  And I wonder if I make anyone else feel like that?

I think back to a time when my 7 year old was learning to tie her shoes.  She sat there for a good 5 minutes complaining and getting angry, but she refused to ask for help.  I said, “If you want some help, all you have to do is ask.  I’m right here and willing to help”.  It took her about 2 more minutes until finally, in tears, she asked/begged for help. 

I go over to help undo the massive knots she has made of her laces but every time I started making some progress on undoing what she did, she would quickly stick her hands in there and pull the knots tight again.  I finally had to say, “Look.  You asked for help, and that’s great, but now you need to step back and LET me help”. 

Yes…I keep feeling these little taps on my shoulder as I am raising my own children and trying to bestow all kinds of wisdom on them only to realize I am still trying to learn these same darn lessons!  Not only do I find it incredibly hard to ask for help, but when I finally do I am sometimes in such a fluster that it comes out more like a pleading, begging mess.  And then sometimes when help comes, I still stand in the way of it out of guilt. 

I need to get myself out of the way!  Geesh!  I can see it plainly with others or my own daughters, but I am so blind when it comes to my own needs.  I am at a place in life where I just need help sometimes.  Being a single mom with custody of the girls 90% of the time or more leaves me sometimes completely frazzled and exhausted.  I’m very thankful and probably couldn’t function any other way – I love having my girls as much as I do and can’t think of any other lifestyle. 

But it sometimes runs my patience and kindness bank account into the overdrawn area.  But my pride sometimes keeps me from asking for help because sometimes I foolishly feel like I should be able to pull it all off with some kind of Mary Poppins charm and grace.  Being a single mom is hard.  There are not nights off or taking turns.  When the dog runs away in the middle of nap time or at night – there is no one around to watch the kids so I can go find the naughty canine.  When I have had a day of overstimulated crying or whining or attitudes…I don’t get to just take a walk around the block with no children.  Accumulatively it can get to me.  Luckily, these times are not the norm and I don’t live in that state of mind.  But these are just little moments of insight that a lot of people may not think about unless they have been there. 

But it’s not just single moms.  This is the reality for single dads too.  And also wives of traveling husbands, working late and over time husbands or whose husbands are abroad for months at a time.    

Besides just pride, sometimes it is hard to ask for help because the help you are seeking doesn’t exactly look or sound like what you had hoped.  In my failing marriage I remember asking for help was usually met with a lot of complaining, grumbling, and sometimes caused more work or damage than if I would have just done it myself.  I know and respect that everyone has their own way of doing things – and it is healthy to accept those differences.  It is the complaining and the backlash of indebtedness that I don’t do real well with.  I HATE to feel like I owe someone something. 

So, maybe that’s what it is – indebtedness…but is that pride too, just wearing a different mask? How do you know when help is just help, or when it is offered as an opportunity to hold it over your head to make you feel like a prisoner later?  And have I ever been guilty of doing that to someone else?

Oh who knows.  I am not the answer girl here.  I am just the blogging it all out girl.  I get the luxury of just saying it out loud but not having any expert answers.  Just gut feelings and my observations of what has worked and what has not worked so well.  And just from the exasperation I get when my girls won’t let me help them now and then – I am guessing that is how my folks and friends feel when they offer an honest to goodness unconditional question, “Do you need some help?” and I pretend like I don’t when I desperately do. 

And then when I do accept, I am also thinking they would probably appreciate me to just get out of the way and let me help instead of watch over their shoulder or reluctantly leave the house, when the girls are more than happy, content and safe.  Guilt and pride…these two brothers work so effectively together.  They are great for killing friendships, creating self doubt, feelings of failure, bitterness, confusion and all kinds of other ugliness. 

I learn so much from being a mom.  I am really trying to learn to ask for help, and then just let it happen – and then to get myself out of the way.  I am making some progress…I really am.  But, like with any character flaw, it is something I will have to always be aware of and try to handle tactfully…after all, help IS a four letter word.

Silly instructions

Don’t know about you, but I just needed a good laugh.  I was eating some snacks earlier and for some reason I thought about the very helpful and detailed instructions I read on a bag of peanuts years ago on a flight to somewhere – yes when peanuts were still allowed on planes.  It read, “Open bag, eat nuts”.  I thought it was hilarious.  It made my day (it’s the simple things in life) but it made me think that someone out there has as warped of a sense of humor as I do…unless of course they were serious – and in that case?  It’s still hilarious.

So I found on line some other stupid instructions and here are some of the funnier ones I found.  You have probably seen or heard some of these, but some were new to me so I put all my favorites together and added some of my own commentary.  I know that sometimes these instructions are put on the items because of legal issues…or because perhaps someone really did some of these ridiculous things.  As Homer Simpson would proudly say, “Because of me, now there’s a sign”.  But I have to believe that some of these are just plain silly and the manufacturers are possibly showing their sense of humor…maybe?  I can only hope. 

On Sears hair dryer:
Do not use while sleeping.   But it saves so much time when I do that!

On a bag of Fritos:
You could be a winner! No purchase necessary. Details inside.   Great – I have always wanted to give shoplifting a try (no, not really).  I’d love to just start opening up bag after bag and show the clerk the instructions…see? I’m just doing what I was told to do.

On a bar of Dial soap:
Directions: Use like regular soap.  Is Dial irregular soap? Or super hero soap or something?

On packaging for a Rowenta iron:
Do not iron clothes on body.    Really? Even in the winter when I get really really cold?

On Boot’s Children’s Cough Medicine:
Do not drive a car or operate machinery after taking this medication.    Just as I suspected…we could save millions on the rising costs of insurance if we would just keep those 5 year olds off the roads!

On most brands of Christmas lights:
For indoor or outdoor use only.  As opposed to outer space or underwater or some other dimension or something?

On a Japanese food processor:
Not to be used for the other use. See…this is one that opens the door to all kinds of things that I wouldn’t have even dreamed of before…now that they say I shouldn’t, I’m tempted to try it for the other use…hmmmm…but what IS the OTHER use?  I give up…what is it? 

On a ketchup bottle:
Instructions: Put on food.    Yes…and THEN what?  And WHOSE food?  I need some specifics here!  Actually I need to enforce this one better with my two year old who would prefer to just eat the ketchup directly out of the bottle or lick it off her fingers if I would let her.

On a mattress:
Do not attempt to swallow.     But I was having a dream I was sleeping on a huge marshmallow…can you blame me?

On a child’s Superman costume:
Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly.    Buzz kills!  But I think this one might be valid and was actually put on there because of my brother. 

In a microwave oven manual:
Do not use for drying pets.    Shew…thank goodness my animals are too big…I didn’t know about this!

On a bottle of laundry detergent:
Remove clothing before distributing in washing machine.    I’m confused – are they saying I shouldn’t get into the washer, or are they suggesting I should do the laundry naked?  And what exactly am I supposed to be distributing in the washing machine?

In a kettle instruction manual:
The appliance is switched on by setting the ‘ON/OFF’ button to the ‘ON’ position.   Yea…but do they tell you how to turn the thing off again?  Please don’t leave me hanging like this!

In a hotel bedroom:
Please do not turn on TV except when in use.    What?  I don’t even know what to say to this one, but my head hurts.

On a blowtorch:
Not used for drying hair.    But nothing else sets my hair products quite like it.  I believe this was probably an 80’s thing…blow torches and aqua net is the only thing that makes sense when I come to think of it for that metal hair bands signature look.

On a bottle of hair dye:
Do not use as Ice Cream topping.   But it is quite fine and tasty for pancakes and waffles though.

On a box of fireworks:
Do not put in mouth.    Just ears and noses.

On a toaster:
Do not use underwater.     Thanks so much for the tip!  I’m guessing it’s because the bread would get really soggy and defeat the whole purpose of toasting it, right?  I mean, what other reason could there be?

On a Swedish chain saw:
Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands or genitals.     Really? As if hands weren’t ridiculous enough…did we really have to go THERE?  Move over Lorraina Bobbit…apparently there are some Swedish dudes and chicks that have some REAL issues. 

On a toilet cleaning brush:
Do not use orally.    Because it IS so tempting and easy to mistake as a toothbrush…I mean, I know I have accidentally made this mistake…a few times now. I mean, I am a woman of efficiency here. How many times have you finished cleaning the toilet and thought…hey…I could just kill two birds with one stone here, ya know?

In a dishwasher manual:
Do not allow children to play in dishwasher.    Darn…I had just scheduled my next toddler play group meeting in mine after they had so much fun in the washing machine last time…and I just found that the washing machine is not safe either…oh where, oh where will we play now?! And while we are at it…they are specific about children not being allowed in there…but what about ex mother in laws?

On a TV remote:
Not Dishwasher safe.    What? I just found out from a previous note that no toddlers are allowed in dishwashers, and NOW I can’t put my remote in the dishwasher either?  Man! Next they are going to tell me that I’m going to have to stop letting my cats pee in there too!

 Have you ever had a situation where you didn’t have the idea of doing something really stupid until someone planted the idea in your head by telling you NOT to do it?  I remember a time when I was really little, but old enough to remember this…and obviously too old to be using a pacifier.  I was doing some kind of craft that required scissors.  I had my pacifier there too.  Mom says, “Now, Lee Ann, don’t cut your pacifier”.  I remember thinking, hmm…now THAT sounds like an interesting idea.  And I eventually did cut it because I couldn’t resist experimenting what would happen, how it would feel to cut through it – all because she had given me the suggestion.  The thought had never even crossed my mind until she said not to do it. 

Yes, we have all probably been guilty of not helping our own cause by trying to help, but not really helping.  Some of these instructions are just plain silly or conjure up more questions than answers.  Sometimes we try to say something so clearly that it makes it completely ridiculous or even more vague…Like perhaps me…right now.

I’ll quit while I’m ahead, or behind or whatever ridiculous path I have led you down this time.  Thanks for reading and if nothing else, I hope you at least got a couple good chuckles out of those silly instructions like I did.

True Colors

I named my oldest daughter Autumn because it is my favorite season of all.  And it was better than calling her Buckeye Football.  She already has to compete with Michigan game day weekend for her birthday, poor soul.  I also love the great crisp smell in the air, campfires, pumpkin patches, apple picking, fall festivals, corn mazes (not to be confused with maize mazes), and crunchy leaves.  Yes, I have a problem…I can’t resist stepping on crunchy leaves and now both my daughters go out of their way on walks in search of the “ultimate” crunchy leaf.  This is apparently going to be a generational addiction.  But the best part of Autumn, the season, is the performance of the trees… the few weeks of colorful bliss.  

Did you know that the rainbow of colors you see in autumn leaves are their actual and true colors?  Chlorophyll, which is green, acts like a mask all spring and summer as it works overtime taking advantage of the long days doing photosynthesis and magically using light to create energy and sugar that keeps the tree alive.  As the days get shorter the chlorophyll eventually retires and when it does the green mask fades away to reveal the yellow, orange or brown color that was there all the time.  What about red?

Red is different.  It happens under certain conditions and depending on the weather, reds may be more prevalent some years than others.  Without getting too technical, reds occur as a protection in certain trees, like maples, to help a tree retain as many nutrients as possible before the leaf actually falls off.  SO THERE…now you have some semi-technical background for the real story I want to tell. 

This whole idea of true colors being revealed during a particular season is very intriguing to me.  Aren’t we all like that to a certain extent?  We have different seasons in life where we hide ourselves or put on masks until we finally have to give in to reveal the real us.  We have different reasons for our masks.  Self consciousness, Self doubt, trying to fit in, trying to be what we THINK we are supposed to be.  But at some point, the real colors come out.

Sometimes what is revealed is really beautiful, like a maple with an array of reds, oranges, and greens all mixed together (which is a personal favorite of mine).  Sometimes we shine like the golden birch, poplar and hickories (a close second favorite).  And sometimes the real color revealed is kind of a depressing uneventful brown, like the poor, strong, mighty oaks.  They are usually a brown color about as inspiring as a cardboard box.

With trees, you can pretty much guess what they will look like come a change of season.  But with people – man, have I been both pleasantly and sorely surprised.  I don’t think I could have predicted that my ex-husband would have been such a lousy shade of brown when his true colors came out.  His mask was such a great shade of green and I fell for it.  I could have also been a victim of my own filters and chose to see what I wanted to see…and in reality it was probably a bit of both.  It is always very sad and sometimes scary to see that someone’s true colors are a lot darker than you had thought.   But the truth is we can all flash some dark colors now and then…I know I’m guilty.  

But isn’t it simply amazing when someone you have known for awhile just all of a sudden lets down their guard and shines?  Maybe it is a certain event or just a particular place in life that causes it. I think about my grandma who was turning into the most beautiful maple I had ever known just before she passed away.  I had the joy of spending some great times with her the year before she passed just listening to her life story – the unabridged version of no holding back.  Though I had always admired her and even lived next door to her for some years, she was more real than ever before those last years.  She became rich reds and oranges mixed with deep greens and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have found some shade under her branches of wisdom while I could. 

And then there are friends who you have known for awhile but then suddenly during a coffee or lunch date for whatever reason – a moment happens when you see their beautiful true colors come shining out.  They let you in a little closer.  Maybe they become more vulnerable or they surprise you with something you just never knew about their past, or maybe they just let you know how much you mean to them.

I also see it in my 2 year old when she dances on stage at some children’s concert.  She is beebopping around, showing off her signature moves, smiling and glowing the whole time.  She has that whole “dance like nobody’s watching” thing down.  She is my golden yellow poplar for sure.  But I have noticed my 7 year old starting to put on her mask of self awareness lately, and sadly, she has pretty much stopped dancing in public.  It makes it even more endearing on those rare occasions when she lets loose and rips off the mask.   

Half the battle is finding out who you are.  The other half is figuring out how to be brave enough to be that person that you found.  I can’t remember who said it and I’m paraphrasing here, but the quote goes something like this: You do no one any favors by hiding yourself away and being afraid to be the strong person that you were created to be.  Ahh….let’s flash back to the 80’s when an infinitely wise red headed fire ball said it best with a song…”I see your true colors shining through.  I see your true colors, and that’s why I love you.  So don’t be afraid, to let them show.  True colors…true colors…they are beautiful – like a rainbow”.

Autumn ‘s middle name is Riley.  It is Irish and means “valiant or brave”.  My hope for her is that she becomes a brave woman not afraid to be her colorful self and we talk about it sometimes.  At this 7 year old stage she believes she is a fairy and her current magical power is fittingly…to paint the leaves at night.  So while we are all sleeping at night she apparently is awake, flying all around painting the leaves their true colors.  Now that takes some guts right there.  No wonder she is so hard to wake up for school in the morning. 

The bottom line is that we need to let ALL our colors shine.  Not just the happy ones.  We can’t be one happy yellow color all the time.  That would just be downright annoying and fake – and detrimental.  I want to see all the true colors of the people I love – their rainbows – and even their blues.  That’s what makes me love them even more.  Be brave, be real, be your true colors!