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Raising Adults

12 Jul

It’s Saturday, I’m single, and my son came home from camp today. A week ago, I had to carry him down the stairs, and his father had to push him toward the car, and the Scoutmaster had to pry him away from his dad’s arms at the camp entrance. Aside from the day we told the kids we were getting a divorce, camp send off is the hardest thing I’ve had to do as a parent.

I’ve spent the better part of this past week questioning whether I’d done the right thing. Thank goodness for all my guy friends who’ve assured me that, yes, he’s going to be better off having gone to camp, in spite of his resistance. He will thank me one day, they said. And God bless the Scoutmaster who sent email and photo updates of the boys every day. It was my lifeline.

Through his Sunday morning tears, my son told me the reason he was so upset was that he didn’t have any say in the decision; we decided for him. I told him we’ve been making decisions for him for 11 years, because he’s been a little boy. And now that he’s getting older, we will have to let him start making some of his own decisions. After he got back from camp, of course.

I’m looking forward to that about as much as I look forward to the end of summer break.

It’s gotten me thinking about why I sent him to camp in the first place – to foster his independence and help him find the confidence and community he needs to sustain him as he makes the journey toward adulthood. As hard as it has been to deliberately remove my son from his comfort zone, what got me through my self doubt was continually reminding myself that I’m not supposed to be raising a child. I’m raising an adult.

Based on the current outcome, I’m really good at raising children. I have three really well-behaved kids who sit still in restaurants (even without the aid of electronics), listen attentively on guided tours of historical places, are quiet in church, go to bed when I ask, and do their homework without much prompting. They are “free range kids” who have their run of the house and can be trusted (mostly) not to eat all the junk food if I sleep late in the morning. Occasionally they make their own beds and clean their own rooms, although the little one hasn’t caught on to this yet. They work out most of their sibling conflicts without much parental brokering. I’ve followed my mother’s method of childrearing – let kids be kids within boundaries which keep them safe, keep them on a predictable schedule and a regular routine, and use encouragement and scolding in equal parts. It has worked.

However, I know very little about raising adults. I am not convinced that I am one myself, and I’m not so sure I want to be one.

It’s Saturday, and I’m still a child on the inside. I want to go to camp. I want to pick blackberries. I want to play at the river. I want someone else to do the cooking. When I really was a child, I thought being an adult meant being able to do what I wanted, when I wanted. Turns out, that’s not what it is at all. Being an adult means having to wake up when I’d rather sleep, go to work when I’d rather play, cook and clean when I’d rather be out on my bike.

It’s Saturday, and being an adult doesn’t mean I get to make all the decisions for myself. Not really. It’s Saturday, and my kids make my decisions, whether or not they realize it. My clients and employers make my decisions. My mortgage company and utilities companies and banking institutions make my decisions.

My only real choice is my attitude. Will I decide to have an attitude of resignation, or an attitude of rebellion? Neither one suits me. How about an attitude of denial? That one works for a while, until it doesn’t. The bills and the laundry and the dishes pile up, demanding attention. The children whine more, and I wine more. Or crush candies.

It’s Saturday, and I choose an attitude of acceptance. And as my son opened the car door to face his mom again, he had a smile on his face. He was beaming, actually. He apparently chose an attitude of acceptance, too.

It’s Saturday, and he’s not going to be thrilled to learn that adulthood doesn’t mean doing whatever he wants. But, he’s off playing with his friends now. I’ll let that lesson wait until Sunday.

Single (Dads) On Sunday

16 Jun

It’s Sunday, I’m single, and it’s Father’s Day.

Being single, one of the things I miss the most about family life is seeing my kids with their dad. My son, who turned eleven yesterday, was born on the Saturday before Father’s Day, and I recall that Sunday in the hospital vividly. Less than 24 hours postpartum, I was a mess -physically exhausted and emotionally shell-shocked. He was calm, he counted wet and poopy diapers, he cuddled that baby boy who spent no time in the hospital nursery thanks to his loving respect for my maternal wishes. Once I’d recovered, I swooped in with confidence and became “mom” – the only one who could feed, clothe, change, or calm. But for that one day, Father’s Day 2003, he was the competent one.

Like most men I know, including my own dad, my kids’ father was and is a deeply emotional man who didn’t always know how to express those deep emotions. It spilled out in fits of silliness. Occasionally there were moments of tenderness in a touch or a look. There was awkward affection, and repressed anger. Being young and female, I thought there was something wrong with all of that. But once our son, and later our first daughter, came into the family, they opened up the tap on his emotions. A father playing with his children demonstrates an intimacy he can’t always achieve with his spouse, no matter how much he may genuinely love her.

When I see a man loving his child in his own way, I see his true nature. Even when he struggles with losing his cool or being able to connect, the fact that he tries is beautiful. It is a privilege to witness.

I’ve got a lot of dads in my life. Some have been like fathers to me, guiding me, chiding me, cheering me. Others have been partners in love, partners in friendship, and partners in single parenthood as they’ve shared their experiences, and have walked with me through mine.

I truly believe that God did not intend for anyone to do parenting on their own. It takes a father. Not just as a loving role model for the kids, but as a nurturer of their mom. I will always believe that marriage is the ideal environment for this kind of nurturing. But being single on Sunday, I don’t have the ideal, so I sure am glad God has brought so many beautiful and diverse dads into my life. You all are amazing and humbling, and you make me a better mom just by allowing me to witness your being the best dad you can be.

It’s Sunday and I’m a single mom, loving all the single and married daddies who love their babies. Who make the sacrifices. Who make the best of a less than ideal hand. Who show me what love looks like.

Stepdads On Saturday

7 Jun

“I wonder if we’ll ever have a stepdad.” This sentence occasionally escapes my 8 year old daughter’s lips, and it takes my breath away every time.

The first time she said it, I thought she was worried that there would be a stepdad one day, but after a conversation with her, I learned that she was kind of hoping there would be. I’m not sure which is worse.

I mentioned it to a single father friend whose kids are about ten years older than mine. He said they used to ask him the same question a lot when they were little (swapping genders, that is). He suggested that the question may be her way of saying she misses having a dad at home, or missing having two parents living together. Her way of coming to acceptance about a less than perfect family situation.

There is a stepmom. She is awesome. She knits them beautiful stuff (I can’t remember the last time I handmade anything). She makes them clean up after themselves on the weekends they stay with she and their dad (it’s all I can do to get them to put candy wrappers in the trash can and laundry in the hamper). Mostly, she and their dad are doing a pretty good job of modeling what a healthy married couple looks like, and for that I am grateful. That was and still is one of my biggest regrets in dissolving my union with their father.

Ironically, my daughter’s “stepdad” comments are now my opportunity to model healthy marriage decision making. Every time the topic surfaces (this week it was in the car on the way to the baseball game) I get the chance to tell the kids that the decision to get married is a very serious one, and that even though I may have some very nice male friends, it takes more than just “niceness” or even love to make a partnership that is supposed to be forever.

This week I had the chance to take the conversation a little further. “God brings lots of interesting people into our lives,” I said. “As you get older and you want to have a boyfriend or girlfriend, you’ll learn about this, too. You’ll learn what you like and don’t like about lots of different types of people, and sometimes you’ll like someone a lot as a friend, but you wouldn’t want to share a house with them. Or you might like them more than they like you and your feelings might get hurt,” I continued. My inner child was listening to the monologue, too; I wish someone had said these words to me. Not that I would have heard them.

“Here’s what I’ve learned. When God brings someone special into your life, and you start to have those feelings, there are three important things to do. First, be honest with each other. Always. Second, don’t ever change yourself to please the other person, or ask them to change for you. Finally, keep God in the middle. Pray for knowledge about what kind of relationship God wants you to have, and God will let you know.”

I wish I could say I came up with that on my own, but I didn’t. It was the advice my own “spiritual mama” gave me recently. It’s what she and her beloved did when they found themselves falling in love, and apparently it worked. They are now married, but I’m sure if God wanted their relationship to be just a stop along the journey, they would have handled that scenario with just as much grace and witness to God’s guidance.

I know some divorced people who do not allow their kids any view of their romantic lives. For good reason. Why have a revolving door into their home and their hearts? When I first ventured into post-marriage dating, I kept my romantic life completely secret. I was very skeptical when their dad wanted to introduce them to the woman who (unbeknownst to any of us at the time) would become their stepmother. After all, what if this was just a rebound? What if they got confused?

He had a different attitude. For him, keeping a relationship secret would be the worst thing he could do. If someone was special to him, he wanted to share that with the kids and share them with the person he loved. I’m glad I didn’t stand in the way of that, even if it did require me to suspend my judgement and my insecurity, and trust that whatever the outcome, my kids would be okay.

I may not be able to model a healthy marriage to my kids, but I can model healthy dating. I want to teach them there is nothing shameful about having romantic feelings for someone. I want them to know their “single mom” is also a woman who believes men are generally good. I want to demonstrate that friendship is the best foundation for “something more.” I want them to see it’s okay to feel excited about someone’s attention, and I also want them to see having a “significant other” doesn’t have to mean you “have” to get married to each other or the relationship was a failure. The only failure is in not learning from each other. I want them to know it’s normal to feel sad when special relationships come to an end, and I want to show them that goodbye can be just as healthy as a lifelong commitment if it’s done with love and grace.

It’s Saturday, and I’m a single momma. This is not the path I would have chosen for myself 15 years ago when I started dating my children’s father. But it’s the path I’m on, and I’m going to make the most of every lesson I get. For me. And for them.

Surprised On Saturday

15 Feb

It’s Saturday, I’m single, and love is not what I expected.

I was spending time with my “valentine” last evening – a single dad who has proven to be a wonderful shepherd into the world of divorce, parenting, healing – and this Alan Jackson song came on the radio. We paused in our conversation as he turned up the radio, because he likes the song so much.

It’s called “Remember When,” and this song encapsulates what I once upon a time expected of love. My friend likes the nostalgia and good old fashioned “country” sound of it, but listening to it makes me feel sad.

I expected everything in this song. I expected that “my first” would also be my “last and only.” I expected that when life threw curves and we broke each other’s hearts, we’d learn to trust each other again. I expected co-creating new life would bring us closer together. I expected that on any given day, if you’d asked me, I would say I would do it all again. And unfortunately, none of that was my reality.

My reality was that on our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple, I boycotted the holiday without telling my spouse. Which is kind of a metaphor for the rest of our marriage, when I think about it. My reality was working through my anger and resentment until there was only love left, which meant loving him enough to stop wasting his time with my unrealistic expectations, and letting go of the fantasy.

Yesterday, he posted a picture on his Facebook page from his recent remarriage. He and “Wife 2.0″ as I affectionately refer to her were kissing in front of crossed Star Wars lightsabers. I love Star Wars, but there’s no way I’d have had a Star Wars themed wedding. Whatever regrets or sadness I may have about my divorce, when I look at that picture, I know in my heart that I did the right thing, freeing him to find his match. I was SO not “the one.” Love was having the courage to admit that and hurt him in the short term so that he could be free to find happiness in the long term. Love is not at all what I expected.

“Sometimes we forget the difference between symbols and substance when Valentine’s Day rolls around,” according to these wise words from the 12-step book Believing In Myself. “Romantic tokens are flattering and fun–but tokens aren’t love itself. Many of the valentine tokens being given today are inspired by a sense of obligation–because old Hubert or Billy or Sam knows what’s good for him! Some are even given to reduce guilt or to show off. Love itself costs a lot more than long-stemmed roses or even diamonds.

“Real love is measured out in steadiness, commitment, and unselfishness over the long haul. It has to do with willingness and forgiveness and just plain fortitude. It means being consistently mindful of someone else’s welfare. If we are engaged in such relationships, we are fortunate indeed, whether or not we have someone on hand today to tell us how wonderful we are. It’s love itself that’s wonderful, not the tokens.”

That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? It’s Saturday, I’m single, and I’m living that kind of love. It may not look like a marriage that withstood the test of time. But it’s in failing at marriage that I found the ability to love unselfishly, consistently reminded of another’s welfare.

I’m still sad, but I’m also glad for all the life I’ve had, when I remember when.

Hope & Help

19 Jan

It’s Saturday and I’m saddened and inspired. A week ago my community was shaken by a horrible tragedy. A well-known and well-loved mom of three was struck and killed by a drunk driver while she was jogging. In the days that have followed, my friends and neighbors have grieved her passing and celebrated her love of life by wearing blue and running in her honor this weekend.

There’s an excellent reflection on it here: http://www.alifeofgratitude.com/4/post/2014/01/meg-menzies.html

There has been a lot of talk this week about drunk driving. To a lesser degree, there has been talk of road safety, not only for those behind the wheel, but also those who share the road on foot or on a bike.

There has been very little talk about the deadly disease that may have been behind Meg’s death. Yes. The disease.

The driver was drunk at 8 in the morning. I think it’s pretty safe to say that someone who is that intoxicated that early in the morning has a drinking problem.

I hesitate to use that word “alcoholic.” I don’t know if he is or he isn’t. I struggle with that word because it conjures up images of a ragged street person, not a well-respected medical doctor who seems to be functioning well in society. And then there’s this idea of alcoholism being a disease, as if his lack of control somehow excuses him of the consequences of his behavior. It doesn’t, nor should it.

Most of us are aware that alcoholism is a recognized disease, but we probably don’t understand exactly what that means, even if we know people whom we think could be alcoholic. I’ve come to learn that it’s a disease that affects not only the problem drinker, but also everyone with whom that person comes in contact. Whether the drinker is a spouse, a child, a parent, a sibling, an employer, an employee, a friend, a neighbor, a complete stranger behind the wheel of a car in the oncoming lane of traffic, there is someone else who cares about that person and who also must live (or die) not only with the consequences of the alcoholic’s behavior, but with the fear that relationship generates.

In a special way, I think of that drunk driver’s own children. Did they worry about how much their dad drank? Did they even know? Did they make excuses for him thinking it was the kind and merciful thing to do? Are they carrying around guilt and shame for their dad’s actions? Do they feel somehow responsible for his behavior? Is their rage turned inward, or outward? Do they believe there is no one else in the world who could ever understand or give them unconditional love and compassion as they, too, grieve this tragedy?

I think of the people who love alcoholics in their own lives, who hear this story in the news and think, “That could have been my son, mom, sister, boyfriend …” The ones who feel a sick mixture of gratitude and relief and fear that today, it wasn’t my loved one, but it could have been. The ones who would be crushed if anyone found out.

I think of the countless children of children of alcoholics, who’ve grown up with non-drinking parents who suffered the consequences of growing up in an alcoholic home. Do you know what happens to the children of an alcoholic who don’t get help with living in that kind of hell? Sometimes they become rigid and controlling, or develop “socially acceptable” addictions to work, exercise, food, shopping, video games, romantic relationships, porn, anger, or self-pity.

They may not be distracted drivers, but they most certainly are distracted parents, distracted spouses, distracted employees. The children of these children of alcoholics often pick up the drink to cope, and the cycle continues. Or, maybe they don’t pick up the drink, but they scratch their head and wonder what’s wrong with themselves, especially since they had two functional parents, material needs met. Grandchildren of alcoholics may not even know there was a drinking problem in the family, because families of alcoholics often practice such rigid secret keeping.

Alcoholism is a family disease. It affects everyone who comes in contact with the problem drinker, in big and small ways. And with as many problem drinkers as there are out there, if you love one of them and are sick with worry about them or consumed with anger at them, I promise you this – YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

You are not alone. There are many people who have experienced the feelings of responsibility, guilt, shame, anger, fear, depression, anxiety, and hopelessness that you may be carrying. Perhaps you’ve done everything in your power to fight this disease and its effects. I know you haven’t won, because it is impossible. You didn’t cause it. You can’t control it, and you can’t cure it. You’re not that powerful, and trying to be will only kill you early or rob you of the joy of living.

However, we can contribute to the disease by our attitudes and actions. We can enable. We can give the drinker an “excuse” to drink when we argue with or belittle him. We can delay the natural consequences of her actions when we lie to her boss and say she’s sick with a stomach virus.

We can contribute to our own disease by throwing ourselves into our work, our volunteering, our romantic relationships, our candy crush games, our political action groups, our hobbies, our depression, our anxiety … Yes, “our” disease. We are just as sick as the alcoholics. We lash out unexpectedly at our children. We run around the house insanely searching for bottles to dump out, as if that will stop anything. We become compulsive about helping others, sometimes to our own detriment. We get so overwhelmed with living that we stop paying our bills or sleep until noon. And we get behind the wheel tired and distracted and most definitely impaired. And we haven’t put a single foreign substance into our bodies. We act like alcoholics, stone cold sober.

We can’t do anything to stop the alcoholic if she doesn’t want to stop. We cannot save him from his disease. But we can save ourselves from ours.

There is help and hope for families who’ve been affected by this disease. For Meg’s family. It can be found at Al-Anon.

Al-Anon is a program of recovery from the affects of drinking on the family and loved ones of an alcoholic. It is an anonymous fellowship of people who understand as perhaps no one else can. If anything I’ve written has sounded uncomfortably familiar to you, then you could undoubtedly benefit from learning more. There’s a wealth of information at the Al-Anon website:

http://www.al-anon.alateen.org

Feelings On Saturday

11 Jan

It’s Saturday, and I have feelings.

There’s a prevailing wisdom about feelings – that we shouldn’t act on them. After all, feelings aren’t facts.

That may be true. They may not be facts, but they are real.

My feelings are beautiful and strong and entertaining. They excite and stimulate and inspire me. My feelings often take me outside my comfort zone and break me out of routine. Other times, my feelings are a routine, a habit that I barely stop to question. My feelings disappoint me, regularly. Occasionally, they disgust me. My feelings scare me.

But don’t ever say my feelings are just an illusion. Don’t try to soothe me that way – by telling me those scary, disgusting, disappointing, habitual, exciting, stimulating, inspiring, entertaining, powerful, BEAUTIFUL feelings aren’t real. I told myself that lie for far too long, and when someone tries to “make me feel better” by dismissing my feelings, I feel angry. Especially when the person doing the dismissing is me.

My feelings are my responsibility; not a problem to be fixed, but a reality to be accepted. How many times have my own children expressed their feelings, only to have their mother try to make those feelings go away? As uncomfortable as I am with my own feelings, I’m doubly so with theirs.

I’m sure the people in my life sometimes feel that way about my feelings, too, so I don’t hold it against them for wanting to make me feel better. It’s because they care, and also because my feelings make them feel uncomfortable. I’m ok with that. Your feelings are your responsibility, and I won’t change mine to make you ok with yours.

There was a time when I believed the conventional wisdom. Don’t act on your feelings; they aren’t real. I could tell you where that got me, but if you are reading this you probably already know. The day that I finally acknowledged my feelings and let them have a seat at the table when the committee in my head convened, my life changed. For the better.

I challenge the conventional wisdom. My feelings are real and they deserve to have a role in determining our shared destiny. Relegated to the darkest closets of my mind, my feelings wreaked havoc on my life when they occasionally escaped. I was terrified of them, even the pleasant feelings. But when I gave them a place at the table, when I listened to what they had to say and what they had to contribute, I was amazed.

The Feelings, it turns out, were very closely acquainted with Honesty. Without Feelings on the committee, Honesty was there but didn’t really participate except when called upon by the chairman of the board, and only then with great reluctance and timidity. The Feelings brought Honesty out of her shell. Now Honesty is one of the first committee members to speak.

The Feelings, it turns out, were not big fans of Action. When first invited to the table, Feelings kept pretty quiet, afraid that speaking up might cause Action to do what Action does. The chairman of the board had to remind Action that we need to hear everyone’s voice before making decisions. Only then did the Feelings speak up. It turns out, Feelings rarely wanted action; they just wanted to be heard.

That woke up another half-asleep participant on the committee – Compassion. When feelings spoke, Compassion listened. Thinking and Discernment did their best to interrupt before Feelings had their say, but Compassion stepped in. Caution, too, was reluctant to give Feelings the floor, but when she saw that nothing bad happened, Caution regularly consulted Feelings before going to Action for results. In fact, with Feelings at the table, Caution became much less afraid of Action, who had been dominating the committee along with Thinking and Discernment.

With the help of the committee in my head and the wisdom of friends who’ve “been there done that,” I’ve come to repeal and replace the conventional wisdom into which so many of us have bought. “Don’t act on your feelings” has been changed to, “Don’t react to your feelings.” That means my feelings get to exist, get to be heard, get to be acknowledged – even the unpleasant ones. Instead of reacting, I respond to my feelings. I reflect on them. I take them to heart. I consult them whenever I have an important decision to make, and if they speak up loudly, I stop whatever I’m doing and listen. They are my early warning system when I’m going off course as often as they used to be the rudder that steered me off course.

It’s Saturday, and my feelings are mine. What I do with them will shape my destiny.

Not So Private On Saturday

4 Jan

It’s Saturday and I’m not the most private person I’ve ever known.

(Family and close friends are now smiling and thinking, that’s the understatement of the year. Well, the year is still young!)

It probably seems like I share a lot about myself publicly. And I suppose I do. I always have. It started when I was a little kindergartener in Catholic school and I told the other kids that I had invisible kittens.

Telling peers that you have invisible kittens is an excellent litmus test for friendship; it quickly weeds out the ones who have no imagination, and it immediately brings to light who is going to pick on you for the rest of your school career, so there are no surprises later on down the line. You get to be yourself from day one, and by the time you get to those awkward tween years, everyone is already used to you being a little weird, and you’re used to yourself being a little different.

That was all well and good until I switched to public school with people who were unaccustomed to my childlike authenticity, and I spent the better part of the next decade trying to recapture my former state of being comfortable in my own weird skin, while at the same time trying to have the skin of a chameleon so I could just become invisible and be left alone.

I still sometimes struggle with wanting to pursue these contradictory paths. I haven’t written as much this year as I had in the previous three, because it was difficult to share what I had not yet accepted about myself.

What I have shared, though, is what I do accept, even if I don’t really like it – for much the same reason I will tell you about my invisible kittens. See, I didn’t have any pets, and I really wanted them. So I cared for kittens in my mind, and they were real to me. They had names and personalities and I loved them, and when I outgrew them for invisible dinosaurs, and then invisible unicorns and horses, and then finally started to ride real horses, I grieved for my outgrown kittens and dinosaurs and unicorn named Lantern Light, and invisible horses named Strawberry and Creampuff.

Today when I put myself out there, it’s much the same. I’m writing about the person I long to be, and I’m also writing about the person I’m outgrowing and grieving. I know not everyone is going to “get” that. Not everyone is going to believe in a spiritual path, any more than kindergarteners will believe in invisible kittens. The few who do, however, are going to love me no matter what changes I go through or how awkward I am as I reveal myself.

And that’s all we really need. Just a small handful of people who will love us and our invisible best friends. One or two is more than enough. When you share your crazy, it saves you from wasting time trying to impress the people who won’t accept you anyway. May as well fly the freak flag proudly. Maybe someone else with invisible kittens or horses is looking for someone just like you who will understand and will take tentative steps into reality if you can go together.

Listening on Saturday

28 Dec

It’s Saturday, I’m single, and I finally listened to my mama.

(I am also on good enough terms with my mama that she faithfully reads my blog and will see me publicly state that she was right.)

Yesterday morning I had a bit of a post-holiday meltdown while talking to her. It was my typical pity party, and she said the typical things. Suggested that I over-analyze. Reminded me about the power of gratitude. Told me to keep it simple and that less is more when faced with having to say something difficult. Trust in God’s timing.

Nothing I hadn’t heard before.

Except this time, I listened.

I listened, not so much to her words, but to her experience. I listened, not only to her, but to my own heart, my own gut, my own feelings, my own experience.

And then I talked to myself like I would talk to my own child, or a good friend; with kindness, compassion, mercy, and encouragement. “You know what is best for you, and when the time is right, you will take responsibility for yourself and go wherever God leads you. And you will be ok.”

And guess what? It’s Saturday, I’m single, and I’m ok. I’m going to clean my house and celebrate with a steak dinner. And I’m going to put my mom at the top of my gratitude list. And her patience. Because she’s been telling me this stuff for about 20 years now.

Grieving On Saturday

22 Dec

It’s Saturday and I’m grieving. From the looks of my Facebook feed, I’m not the only one. There’s enough dying going on in our lives right now that I’m tempted to think there’s something more going on here.

I lost a beautiful friend this week. She was not a blood relation, but her wisdom is what I would love to have received from my own grandmothers if I’d been able to have that kind of relationship with them. She gave me, and all of us who knew her, exactly what we needed to hear. A mutual friend put it this way – she was a channel of God’s love. When I grow up I want to be like her. She lived a full life and was spared the pain of a slow decline, by God’s grace. But even so, she is gone from us too soon.

Don’t you just cringe when some well-meaning person says, “It was God’s will,” when someone dies? Like that’s going to comfort anyone. Stuff like that makes me angry. It makes me angry at the person who says it, and it makes me angry at whatever heartless God would will death, whether it be after a full, rich life, or whether it come to a young father of two little girls, or whether it be a starving child in a third world country. It makes me angry because I know it is the lie of lies.

God’s will is not death, and it never was. God’s will is life. It is always life.

So it’s Saturday, and I’m thinking about life. I’m thinking about how my friend Marjorie is just as alive today as she was last Saturday, even though her physical body no longer houses her. I can feel her looking at me with love and tenderness, along with my two blood grandmothers.

It’s Saturday and I’m thinking about the creation story in Genesis; that when God created life, He called it “good.” He didn’t call it “perfect.” Maybe this whole grieving process is about grieving the idea of earthly perfection so I can accept the good of it. I think that’s what Marjorie would have encouraged me to do.

It’s Saturday and I’m thinking about my friends who are grieving their own losses this holiday season. I don’t want to be that awful person who says, “It must have been God’s will.” Instead, I want to be that person who reminds us all that no matter how dark things can be, the God I believe in has the power to make use of every dark experience to bring light into others’ lives. God doesn’t will pain, suffering, or death, but God doesn’t waste it, either.

It’s now Sunday morning and I’m comforted by the fact that pain, especially the pain of loss, deepens my capacity for compassion. For a very long time, I did my best to avoid feelings of sadness, anger, loss, and grief. But by stifling and avoiding those feelings I was also stifling and avoiding joy, forgiveness, appreciation, and acceptance. I was miserable to be around, even if the only person around me was me. Today when my heart stretches beyond capacity with the ache of loss, I realize that the emptiness I feel means I have that much more capacity to be filled.

Many years ago I heard something at a graveside service that has stuck with me because of how powerful the image was. The minister quoted Psalm 23, a common one at funerals. Then he talked about being on a two lane highway with an oncoming tractor trailer truck in the other lane. That truck doesn’t hit him, but it sure comes close. Close enough to block him from view from anyone on the other side of the road. He is hit not by the truck, but by the shadow of the truck.

Death is like that, he said. It is but a shadow. When loved ones are struck by the shadow of death, and death, like the truck, blocks our loved ones from sight, they are not gone. They are safely moving on to their destination.

I hope that image helps someone the way it helps me. And if it just makes you angry, like some other “god’s will” platitude, I sincerely apologize.

Sexless on Saturday

12 May

It’s Saturday, I’m single. For real this time.

I say “for real” because I’ve done a little dating on and off for the past year, and that distraction in my life has precluded me from being truly single. After taking a good, hard look at my relationship history and my current wants and needs, I made the decision to quit the dating business for now and just learn to love myself.

It shouldn’t be so hard. I’ve always been an independent kind of girl. I don’t like to be smothered or tied down or trapped by a relationship. I don’t mind traveling by myself and have always enjoyed solitary activities like horseback riding, photography, crafting, reading, gardening. There are only two aspects of being truly single that I really don’t like – mowing the lawn, and not having physical intimacy.

I realize I have choices. I could pay someone to mow my lawn, and when my budget allows, that is definitely something I’ll consider doing. Can’t really use the same solution for my other problem, though, can I?

I’m just grateful that I can admit I have that need at all. Some people can’t, and (ironically) I couldn’t while I was married. I’ve finally accepted that wanting sexual contact doesn’t make me a slut – it makes me human. On the flip side, not wanting sex unless it’s with someone who wants all of me and only me forever doesn’t make me a prude, either. It means I love myself enough not to settle for less than what I know is best for me.

I’m not saying that to judge those who have “casual sex.” It’s just that I have no idea how that works. I can’t even kiss a man I like without it forming a powerful attachment that scares the living daylights out of me and hurts when it ends, even when I’m the one ending it. The only way I’ve “successfully” managed to have a physical relationship outside of the context of an exclusive, committed relationship is to turn my emotions off or to lie to myself and say that I don’t really want anything serious. Neither of those choices is healthy for me. I want more, and I want my partner to want more, too.

So it’s Saturday, I’m single, and I’m missing sex. I know lack of physical intimacy never killed anyone, and I hope the time invested in myself will pay off in the future. I’m blessed to have several female friends who’ve gone through divorce and solid singlehood only to find the love of their lives when they were finally ready for it. I find it very difficult to trust God with this area of my life, but I do trust their example. They tell me it will be worth the wait. I hope so.

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