The original plan here was to work through some old memories. It's a technique Rick and I learned in counseling (you could call it 'pre-marital counseling', or you could call it, 'two people who both came from abusive households want to get married and think they're going to need a lot of counseling on both sides of the wedding, so let's start now!') - "reparenting." Going back into a memory as a third-party observer, who can talk to the kid-you about what just happened.
For example, I'm in the den, having just brought home another testament to my dismal efforts at school. She's furious with me and on the tail-end of a tirade, spits out, "You know what, Dawn? If you don't do your best, you won't like the life you make for yourself." Storms upstairs. I believed this for over ten years. Reparenting, I'm now an adult, someone that fifteen-year-old Dawn would respect and listen to. And I can go into that memory, and talk to her, and tell her that her mom is scared for her, and that's why she's angry. And that even as a baby, I was always the happy one. I don't need to be scared. Yes, doing my best is important, but things are going to happen in life that are God's control, not mine, and I need to understand that they didn't just happen because I didn't do my best. More than that, I can like my life - I can be happy and thankful for what God has given me, every day. It's not a bad thing to do so - it's a GOOD thing, and God wants me to have a thankful heart, not a scared one.
Reparenting. Good stuff.
So, I was going to use this to work through some of the pieces. There are a lot of them. Also as a place to collect some of the pieces - my friend Denker ended up having to rebuild my psyche when I shattered around sixteen, and we realized then that it was irresponsible to have one person hold all the pieces. That's when I started giving more of myself to each friend. More recently, I've realized it's also not okay to have someone else be responsible for putting me back together - even several someones. (Four years ago, I was going into a psychological meat-grinder, that my sister Stormie knew might leave very little left of me. She promised to sing me back to myself when I had forgotten the words. This is wonderful of her to do if she can, but I need her to not think she's the only hope.)
Well, this week there's been something of a crisis of faith. Actually, this month. Maybe the last two months. And what's actually been going on has been a slow build over YEARS, realizing that I'm depending on a scaffolding rather than the Rock. It's just in the last two months, with Rick overseas, taking on a lot of adult challenges, and spending more time by myself than I ever have (and that takes some doing - I'm usually a pretty independent person), I've realized that for all that I ridicule "prosperity gospel," I've completely bought into it.
I have the concept that if I follow Christ, doing things His way will make me successful at work. Will make me devastatingly attractive to my husband. Will give me a good reputation, make people admire me, I will be the kind of person that no longer fails at anything, if I just follow Christ.
Rick's aunt J had a chat with me last night, and asked me what I would do if I knew that following Christ would get me fired. I have one of those jobs where, if I get fired, it's a black mark on my record for life. I also know that it's entirely possible for this to happen - I don't work for a Christ-following organization. It's one that's honorable and even somewhat prestigious by the world's standards - people admire me for this job. And I know there are times when I've done things in line with how my work wants them done, that isn't in line with how Christ would do them.
J is so gentle, and patient to talk the hard things through. Her husband, Doc, is my husband's closest friend, and he's the one who goes hard-hitting for what needs to be pushed out, like pus from a wound. J's been there for every conversation I've had with Doc, and she sees what I hadn't - I've raised my reputation to a higher pedestal than Christ.
Everything I want to do at work, in fitness, in caring for the house, and almost everything in my marriage - they're all things I want to do to make people like me, approve of me. I have not been considering God's approval a priority at all. There are several areas where I was kind of hoping that I could have both - that it would just work out that if I made people happy, then God would be happy with me, too.
Stormie is one of a very short list of people who realize how tremendously selfish, self-absorbed, I am. The actions and words that cause most people think I'm so nice, kind, and sweet, come from the motivation that I really really want their approval - I feel validated as a person when people like me, and I feel like a failure when they're disappointed in me. So I do things that I think will make people like me.
J has been patient with me since last summer or more about the concept of finding my identity in Christ. It's a phrase I've heard dozens of times, but not understood. Part of it, I'm starting to see, is finding my VALUE in Christ - because right now, I find it in other people's opinions - so much so that I will lash out in nasty passive-aggressive ways when I think I've earned someone's good opinion and they don't give it to me.
I'm planning to take a week off - I can't swing it this week or next, but soon - and go up into the mountains with my Bible, and ask God what HE thinks of me. Read it cover-to-cover if I can, take notes on that question. I feel so shallow now - and the odd thing is, I know a time when there was so much more depth to my spirit, my motivations - I didn't have the kind of job, prospects, or living situation that I do now. I was single, didn't dress in a feminine fashion, paid almost no attention to developing my abs or any other muscle group, and I had no idea where to go with my life. I thought I was at a dead end on that one, actually.
I now have a steady paycheck, and a sweet little house to work on. I have a wonderful husband, several options for where I could go with work, know how to train my body, manage my depression, flirt or not flirt with confidence, stand my ground against someone who would push me down. While I'm not batting 100% in any of these, I actually do have just about everything the world says I need. And I'm shallow, manipulating, self-absorbed, and my foundation is flimsy at best.
I really can't serve both. I thought I could. I'm desperately grateful that He showed me this before it was too late, but now...I only know a little bit of what to do. It's like learning to walk again.
I expect there will be notes from this process here, possibly mixed in with pieces that shaped everything. I don't have any solid answers, just what I've learned, and am learning.
I am a believer in many things, conclusions I have come to over the course of my own life. I believe and do not believe in things based on my experiences, my logical reasoning skills, and my human nature. I believe in love. I do not believe in eternal damnation nor in eternal reward. I believe there is no heaven nor hell nor life after death. I believe you have one life to live, and only one, so you damn well better live it to the fullest, and you damn well better live it with love. I believe that when you die, you are gone, but hopefully, your memory lives on in others whose lives you've touched. I believe you should strive to be kind and good and do what you feel is right for you because you know and you feel that it is right, not because a collection of writings from thousands of years ago tells you it is right (or writings for last Tuesday, for that matter). I believe you ought not do things you feel are wrong because you feel they are wrong. But if you do do things you feel are wrong, that's okay too. Everyone makes mistakes and moves on, hopefully wiser for them. I certainly do not believe that you or I will be damned to burn if you disobey the previously mentioned writings, or beliefs of others who have come before you.
I do not believe that humans were put on here on earth for a special purpose, or that each person was created specially to fulfill a specific purpose. I do believe that since we're here, we ought to make the most of it. I believe we ought to love ourselves and love one another. I firmly believe that you ought to tell those that you love that you love them, and more then that, you should daily show them. I believe if you have extra and someone else lacks, you should share. I believe in smiling at strangers and being there for your friends. I believe you shouldn't harm others. I believe an eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind.
I believe in evidence- in science, in logic, and in facts. I believe in reasoning and rationalizing. I believe in thinking for yourself. I believe in drawing your own conclusions. I believe in questioning.
Everyone holds their own beliefs, and I do not seek to change what you believe. I only hope that you regularly challenge your beliefs. I hope that you question what you are told. I believe that no answer should be left unquestioned. I challenge you to question your faith. To ask yourself why it is that you believe whatever it is that you believe. I believe that blind faith is ignorance. Only a well examined faith is a faith worth having. I believe that you are doing yourself a disservice if you fail to question what you have always been told. It is my hope for you that you believe what you do through lengthy thought and discussion, both with those who share similar beliefs to your own, and those who hold entirely different beliefs.
For a guy my age (59), I'm in pretty good shape--not that I'm some kind of Adonis, Lord knows, but in terms of the number of things many this age suffer from that I do not: I don't have heart disease, I've never been ill over a week in my life, I've never smoked or used alcohol, my blood chemistry is within specs, my hearing is excellent, and I only need glasses for reading. Blood pressure is sometimes on the higher side, but nothing in the dangerous range, I'm not overweight, and all my other organs seems to work pretty well even though they are all out of warranty. I still eat much of the same junk food I did as a kid (Skittles and Butterfingers, too) and except for having a lot of fillings, I'd have to say it has not done me much detectable damage. I can still run up and down stairs two at a time like I did when I was 20, can jump over fences, crawl through tight spaces in attics and under houses, carry extension ladders (as I often do with my work) and walk quite a bit without getting winded. So knock on wood, I guess.
My wife, on the other hand (same age), has had her challenges in recent years. Not too bad, but...she's down to one kidney (recurring stones required removal of one), gall bladder is gone (stones again), she's on BP & LDL meds and fish oil, has to be very careful about food that contains oxalates because they can damage kidneys (and a LOT of foods have oxalates), one knee is pretty weak, other aches and pains bother her, and she is overweight (by her own admission). It is my belief that genes are a large part of it, but I'm no doctor. I don't know. She is in worse shape than I, by far. We both know it and joke about it. Unless I'm hit by a bus, we both have assumed that I'll be the one attending her wake one day, not the other way around.
Anyhow, for the last year or so, she has had a cough that was never a problem before. Side effects of some of her meds included coughing (rarely), so we figured that was why. But an x-ray said something else might be afoot. A "spot" on her lung was seen. Really? She has never smoked, either, so what's a spot on her lung from? Went in for a CT scan--with contrast dye--for a more definitive assessment. The results? We'd have to make an appointment with a pulmonary surgeon for a consult.
Gulp. A consult? With a what? Pulmonary surgeon? That sounds serious. What are we talking here? A game changing conversation? The appointment is set. What might we hear? The mind reels. What are the possible outcomes?
If, God forbid, it is a cancerous tumor (hardly unusual for someone her age and not out of the realm of possibilities) and she has to undergo the routine treatments of chemo and radiation, she'll never be in any shape to keep her job, and in this economy we need her income to keep the house. If her job is sacrificed to her health, I could imagine us having to sell the house to prevent foreclosure and moving to a cheaper area of the country where one income could sustain us (my work goes with me). But that is a problem because her own elderly mother is a few miles away in a retirement home, and she depends on my wife to look after her, make her doctor appointments, drive her here and there, and frankly keep her alive. If we had to move away to stay afloat, what to do about her Mom? Send her to live with siblings out of state? Her mother is 90; she's not moving at this age, and they aren't set up to take her. Good grief.
So the appointment day arrives. As we sit in the waiting area of the doctor's office, she looks at a magazine article about the life of celebrities and other rich people and reads me select passages for my amusement; I have my head turned away to watch the TV monitor in the corner. It's tuned to CNN. Afghanistan, Climate Gate, White House party crashers. We're both thinking (but not saying out loud), Is this the last few moments of normal? Are we about to hear news in the next few minutes that is going to completely and totally change forever what we've known for 28 years of married life? Is next week going to be all about stopping the course of living we've been accustomed to with work, church, friends, Facebook, what to fix for dinner, getting the oil changed, renovating a bathroom, griping about Obama, and asking our college-age son when he's signing up for next semester's classes? And instead, looking into selling the house, arranging some other setup for her Mom, joining the millions of unfortunate cancer sufferers who have endured treatment and nausea, and never remembering what life was like before this consult tore it all apart?
We're finally called. Blood pressure taken, height and weight noted. Please follow me; have a seat in here; the doctor will be in to see you in a moment. Waiting again. Light conversation. Knock on the door; he comes in. Short Vietnamese man, very personable, hellos all around. He signs into the computer. My wife hands him a prepared list of her medical history, current meds and dosages. He is very impressed with her thoroughness and very grateful for the information to add to her chart.
So, you're here about this cough. Tell me about it. He asks some more questions. Do you smoke? No. Ever lived near water? Uh, no. Do you have pets? Uh, no again. (Why this line of questioning, I'm thinking?) Do you have any down pillows or down coats? Any other things in the house made from animal product? Uh, yeah. Several more unexpected inquiries that seem to be heading away from the ominous conclusion we were both secretly dreading. When my wife mentions her use of Flonase nasal spray and how it seems to relieve the cough substantially, he is inclined to change his assessment to something even less significant than what he had in mind originally.
He pulls up and shows us both a picture of the recent CT scan and points out, to two people who couldn't have interpreted it, what it shows and doesn't show. There is no "spot" on your lungs, he says. X-rays only look front to back and cannot always detect when something is inside, in front of, or behind, an organ. What the scan showed, he says, was a probable lymph node that was slightly enlarged, but not to any alarming degree. Have it scanned again in three months; we'll see what it looks like then. Nothing to be concerned about now. In the meantime, get rid of your down mattress topper and any down coats in the house. It is probable you are sensitive to, and have picked up contaminants from, those kinds of products. Many people are subject to coughs from what down and other animal products gives off.
Who knew? But we leave, appointments in hand. And thanking God Almighty that her Mom doesn't have to know anything about this, and we can carry on with "normal" next week. It could have been something altogether different.
We had breakfast at IHOP this morning. It tasted good.
We are still living in a world of setbacks and miscommunications. I don't know when it is that we will actually move into our new apartment. There is still a heaping lot to do. My husband is doing his best, but he is only one man and has only one other person to help him. I am confident that he will be able to get it all done, but I am just not sure of the timetable. Hoping and praying that we are in our new digs by the beginning of January, though. I know there is still drywall, tar paper, plumbing, tile, and so much more to be done...but I have faith in him and our God who sent us. Every time I read something or hear a word it seems to be for us, to renew our faith and keep us bolstered in the hope that we have been given by God to see this through.
earlier today, I evoked; "May there be a surprise in my mailbox today"...
Industry Charity Faith Hope
Irony and Affirmation not lost on me
I knew that a gift/blessing was gonna be there today, for I have Faith. The real surprise was an additional check paying me for work that I did over a month ago arrived as well. Now, I've already been paid for that job by the real estate broker who contracted me, however it was that payment that was extorted by my previous roommate(she's the person who processed my invoice for the job) for she put her name on the check and then gave me what she thought I deserved('nuff said). Now I have the opportunity to set the example and make all that right..by giving back to the broker what she had originally paid out of her pocket to me and re-establishing my good name against the LIBEL now being spread by "other parties involved". I called the client and told them(left message) what the plan was to ensue.
I cannot help but notice that all this transpires between Lammas and the Corn Moon Esbat also known as the Dispute Moon..irony not lost on me at all