Hurricanes and Stuff

Me and my laptop and phone calls and hurricanes and stuff…

Here I sit, alone in a quiet house.  (I know, how did THAT happen???)  My youngest is at a birthday party and my oldest is at youth group.  I’ve done everything I can do for work today to prepare an assisted living for the coming hurricane.  Yeah, sure, why not a hurricane?  Just another layer in the pile of losses and challenges this year has brought our way.

Some moments, I feel like Lieutenant Dan in the movie Forrest Gump, climbing up to the lookout of the boat and shouting to the storm, or to God, “Bring it on!!”  I could probably do with a good scream out in the middle of a whipping wind and driving rain.  (If any of ya’ll hear me tomorrow night during the hurricane, just keep on about your business.)  For real, this year has been no joke for any of us.  For me, just like everyone, it’s been one wild challenge after the next.  

Sitting here in the quiet, this passage of scripture becomes very real to me.  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James 1:1-3

Trials of many kinds… I’m pretty sure those verses were written with the year 2020 in mind.  No matter how I dread the fact, these words just hold true.  The testing develops perseverance.  I used to have a “weak stomach.”  I once fainted during a simple blood test.  Then I became a mom.  After giving birth, a small needle stick no longer seemed so daunting.  Once I faced and survived major pain, the smaller, annoying pains just didn’t phase me like they once had.  Except teeth.  I still can’t deal with teeth.  Thank God my kids are past that stage!  But I digress…

Ya’ll, let’s not lose heart.  We are developing perseverance.  We can look forward to maturity and completeness, and the peace of the knowledge that even when we seem to lack everything, we are actually not lacking anything.  We can have joy, even when the world is in chaos and life is a mess. This isn’t Pollyanna talking.  It’s just a girl with a lump in her throat and tears in her eyes, but a stubborn belief that these words are real and these promises are true.  If not now, when?  If I don’t develop more maturity this way, then how?  I’m giving myself plenty of grace, plenty of rest, icing down the emotional “muscles” that are getting overworked during these perseverance sessions, and reminding myself that growth isn’t comfortable but it’s worth it.  This problem will make me better at surviving the next problem without losing my sparkle.  Not. Lacking. Anything.

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A Good Start

On the way to Florida to pick up my big kids, I did my traditional Cracker Barrel book on CD rental. I love those things!! Hoping for some “mind candy” but not seeing anything I was thrilled about, I went for the most interesting (to me) title they had: Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth.

Geneen was on Oprah and everything, so I’m probably way behind the times knowing nothing about this book. I really enjoyed listening to it and came away with tons to think about. (Warning: this isn’t a Christian book, though it mentions God in the title. The author is not a believer in Jesus and there are a few f-bombs and everything. I found plenty of good things to glean from it, but there was plenty to filter out as well. Don’t try it if you are uncomfortable with cursing or with reading non-Christian self-help. If you try it and it offends you, don’t say I didn’t tell ya!)

One of the things this book made me ponder: It’s OK to take care of myself. Common ways I fill my longing for “something more” like overeating for one, are really ways I abuse myself. Stuffing down a whole sleeve of my signature comfort food, DoubleStuf Oreos, leaves me feeling guilty and yucky, not to mention getting me closer to the Type 2 Diabetes that runs in my family. Isn’t it odd that some of the things we run to for “comfort” or to “get my mind off the pain” are really causing us more pain? What’s up with that?

Why didn’t it ever occur to me to eat food as a way to TAKE CARE OF MYSELF, not as a drug to numb pain or as a distraction from my problems? What does it really say about me when I’m doing whatever I do to avoid pain, be it eating junk or zoning out on TV, or you fill in the blank, not realizing that said pain avoidance activity is dragging me down more and more? Why don’t I just think to myself, “Ok, Rebecca, you are in pain right now. But instead of eating (or whatever) to distract yourself from pain, let’s just deal with the pain. A little at a time if you have to. But deal with it so it can eventually subside. Save eating (or whatever) as a way to nourish yourself, to love yourself. Don’t let your pain steal other good activities away from you by allowing them to become out of control.”

If I’m eating to nourish myself, that makes a HUGE difference in food choices, both in the type of food I choose and the amount I allow myself to eat. For example, why make myself uncomfortable by overeating? Why do that? If I’m nourishing myself, then I won’t want to stuff so much in that I feel sick or guilty.

I’ve already promised not to make this a weight loss blog, and I won’t. I’m simply using the food thing because I recognize that eating is something I do to cope with pain. However, I think this idea applies to most other unhealthy coping mechanisms. The bottom line is, by using an unhealthy coping mechanism, I’m refusing to take care of myself. Selfishly. Weird, but true.

I’ve got plenty of theories as to WHY I don’t think about taking care of myself: Southern girls are taught to take care of everyone else. It’s a mother’s instinct to give the best of herself to her children. That good ole’ Sunday School acronym, Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last. Admitting my need for self care is admitting weakness. (that would be pride) I don’t have time. I have a guilt complex. Everyone else seems to be able to keep on giving and never run out, so what’s wrong with me? Blah, blah, blah... I could go on and on. But dwelling on all of the above doesn’t get me any closer to healthy habits. Really, no matter the WHY behind my self-neglect, it’s time to just DO IT. Time to just start taking care of God’s daughter. REAL care, not fake, half-hearted distraction techniques.

What does that look like? How about taking TIME to read… the Bible, my favorite books, Garden and Gun magazine, whatever. Feeding myself healthy things, when I’m hungry, and refusing to abuse myself by overeating. Letting go of work when I leave the place, and letting myself be thrown into the moment with my family. A retreat alone, just me and God. A retreat with my best friend. Plenty of hydration. Exercise. Good sleep. Doctors appointments. Letting myself be the creative person God made me to be, and therefore a much more enjoyable wife and mother. Getting RID of unrealistic expectations. I think those things are a good start!!

P.S. For any fellow food junkies, I loved Geneen Roth’s eating guidelines. You can find them here.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

Round Two

OK, I’m back.  Squirt some water in my mouth and hand me a towel while I tell ya something else I’m learning “in the ring”…

Anticipating pain is often worse than the actual pain.

When my kids have to get immunizations, I never tell them ahead of time.  I refuse, for one, to listen to all the whining and worrying and constant attempts to get out of the shot.  I feel just as guilty about them having to get it as they do apprehensive about getting it.  As an expert on shots (I took three each day, in the belly, for ten months while bringing my youngest son into the world) I can tell you that the anticipation of the actual shot is worse than the shot itself.  I just can’t have my kids going through a whole day knowing that in a few hours, there will be a needle stick.  Might as well stab them with a sword.  They’ll go through the same pain once they’ve agonized about the impending shot all day.  I remember as a kid what fear there was in the possible shot at the doc’s office.

But now I’m grown and I’ve given myself three painful injections in the stomach every day for a ten month period of time.  Where once I swooned at the alcohol smell and the sight of a needle, now shots are nothing to me.

Emotionally, however?  Different story.  Instead of dealing with pain, I run.  I wring my hands, furrow my brow, eat chocolate, go out with the girls, hide, ANYTHING but face it and deal with it.  I’m convinced that many, many people are eating, drinking, or internet surfing themselves sick, simply trying to avoid pain.  Eating is one of my choice methods.  I’ve even been known to pick the occasional fight with a certain gorgeous husband of mine rather than deal with my anticipated pain.

But guess what’s going on while I’m running scared, wondering how I’ll EVER live if I face the pain of adultery, of rejection, or betrayal or failure?  I’M STILL FEELING THAT PAIN, only worse because I prolong it with anticipation.  It’s still there in the pit of my stomach, waiting to hijack my emotions at the next vulnerable moment.  Waiting for that last straw so it can come exploding out like lava from a volcano. It’s not as though I’m actually escaping pain with my avoidance methods.  So why run?  Why not just brace myself and face it?

I’m not saying dealing with major trauma is simply a matter of gritting your teeth and facing up to the pain.  I know that things are much more complicated than that.  I know that some pains ARE too much to be faced all in one sitting.  I’m only making the point here that running isn’t any good either.  I’m saying that the pain is already there, and if I haven’t died from the anticipation of feeling it, I probably won’t die from the actual feeling either.  Especially since what I imagine is often worse than what actually is.

Plus, DEALING with pain actually gives me some element of control over it.  Running only makes me a fugitive and allows the pain, or my need to avoid pain, to control my life, and I end up more screwed up than I ever intended.  I may not be able to conquer it all at once, but facing up to it… simply deciding to stop running… means I’m back in the driver’s seat.

I like the driver’s seat. (Imagine my slow grin)

Now, buckle up for round three.


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Alright, so I’ve told you, dear readers, that I’m fighting some monsters from whom I’ve been running. I’ve decided to share with you some things I’m learning. Picture us, ringside, me in my bright pink boxing attire (I’m thin and gorgeous with biceps for this dream. I’m not sweating but merely glistening.) I’ll just be sharing with you some lessons I’m learning in the fight.

Round One: The hurtful actions of another say NOTHING about me.

My first marriage involved repeated incidents of infidelity. I left that marriage with the idea that my first husband’s cheating habits were a big ol’ billboard to the world. They said “Rebecca is UGLY! She’s inadequate! She’s undesirable and gross!!” A few miles down the road, another billboard boasted,”Rebecca is a FOOL! She has NO CLUE.” Then another saying, “Rebecca is stupid and fat and definitely NOT SEXY.” I’ve carried this idea into my new marriage, living in total fear that my new husband will see the billboards and change his mind once he knows these things about me. I’ve let it affect my confidence and my ability to love.

Guess what?? There are NO SUCH BILLBOARDS. My first husband’s cheating habits say this: My first husband cheated.

That’s it.

There is not one piece of information about ME contained therein.

Sure it’s part of my story, part of my darkest moments, and I can’t change what happened, but as far as making a statement about ME… it doesn’t.

Ick… I shudder to think how I’ve worn it like a badge. I’ve identified with it and allowed myself to believe that the cheating MUST have happened because I’m deformed in some way. Not true.

I hope you are rolling your eyes right now, thinking, “DUUUUH! How could it have taken you this long to figure this out???” But if you aren’t rolling your eyes, then…Please. Please don’t get stuck in the tar baby I’ve been fighting with all these years. If someone has hurt you, if you’ve been abused, if you’ve been betrayed… please don’t let those hurtful actions define YOU. Sure it might make you FEEL rejected, unloved, miserable and worthless. But that doesn’t mean you ARE rejected, unloved, miserable and worthless.

Really the only actions that can define me are my own. The only ones that say anything about ME are the ones I carry out. OK, so maybe I’ve been a wimp about it sometimes. Maybe I’ve hidden from my pain. Maybe I’ve had a lot of bravado but haven’t really dealt with things as bravely as some might have. I’ve tried to trust God, and I’ve questioned Him, too. I’ve made rash decisions in painful moments. I’ve checked out of life rather than face my pain head-on. I’ll take these statements any day over the billboards quoted above.

Man, I bet the road of life is full of some amazing scenery now that those ol’ lyin’ billboards are out of the way.

OK, there’s the bell! Time for round TWO!

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So I hurt my back last week.   How I wish I had a heroic story to tell of a brave and wonderful way I got this injury.  But no.

I was brushing my teeth.  Yes, brushing my teeth, and when I bent to spit out the bubbles created by our particular brand of toothpaste, something in my back twisted and jerked, rendering me helpless in the “bent over to spit” pose.

After 24 hours, I still couldn’t straighten.  I was sort of functioning in an “S” shape.  S for SUPERWOMAN, right?  I NEEDED to be superwoman to stand that kind of pain.  I’m talking pain of childbirthing proportions, only childbirth had an END in sight!!  So I ended up at the chiropractor’s office in a desperate attempt to reduce the pain.

My chiropractor has this wonderful thing… it’s a bed/table type thing that you lie down on and it uses jets of hot water to massage your back.  It’s lovely.  But it gets better!  This amazing miracle table is located in a small room with minty aqua walls.  So the doctor gets me all set up on the table and then leaves the room, closing the door behind him.  I was lying there ALL ALONE.  Stuck for the duration of the treatment, there was no way to hurry or try to cut a corner to get it done faster.  There was no one standing outside the door yelling “MAMA!!”  There was nothing to do but lie there and think.  So I thought.

I thought how nice it was to be alone in the quiet for a few moments.  I thought how insane to be enjoying a back injury because it gave me a few quiet moments alone. I thought if not for that pain, I’d be running around in my usual craziness, spinning plates like I always do.   I thought of the guilt I felt for spending money on this doctor visit, but I had no choice since I couldn’t even pick up the baby or do most any of my usual daily tasks.  I thought how thick-headed I must be to have not learned by now that those who are counting on me would be much better off with a calmer, healthier me.  I thought how all my hustling and bustling really isn’t blessing me or my family.

So this weekend, we played in the rain.  We went to bed early.  We had friends over for a simple but yummy dinner WITH dessert.  I let the kids stay up late.  I took a nap when the baby napped.  I wrote my husband a love letter and took him on a date.  With Sunday services canceled due to tropical storm weather, and Labor Day falling on this weekend also, I had a day off from both my jobs. I went for coffee with a friend and talked over some ideas I’ve been having.  We spent time with family and the house was filled with laughing crazy cousins playing together.

I slowed it down and guess what?  TWO stressful situations at work resolved themselves, housework still got done, kids still got bathed, fed and dressed, and life still went on, only I truly LIVED it.  Imagine that!

Sometimes when life gets me stressed and harried, when I’m moving too fast to really even live, that’s when the IMpractical becomes the most practical thing of all.  I had NO TIME to be lying on a chiropractor’s table, but there I was anyway, and it was right where I needed to be.

So I brushed my teeth, bent over to spit, and stood back up (several days later) a little smarter.  I’ll still see ya on the highway, but more often, I hope, in the slow lane.




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