Difficult People

Welcome to my stream of consciousness. Today’s writings are inspired by a lesson learned. I am generally forthcoming with my feelings. If you asked me a year ago, I would have told you that I am consistently forthcoming—- (but as it turns out, I’m an exaggerator!). As an Enneagram 8, I pride myself on being honest and able to confront situations. I’m contemplating just how true that is.

Enter Person A.

Recently, I buried some experiences with Person A, slapped a smiley face on like a bandaid to a wounded soul and carried on, hoping that with enough time, the individual could reflect back on this kindness, mirror this positivity, and I could avoid all their destructive ways. I’m here to tell you, that message never got through. Raise your hand if you have heard me say, “Hope is delayed disappointment.” Oof. That phrase stings every time it’s applicable.

When Person A used their same bad vibes and it resulted in another person getting hurt, I stepped in. I called it out and asked for this person to apologize and do better.

I’m proud that I wasn’t a bystander to someone else’s pain at the hand of a bully. However, darn-nab-it. Had I had the courage to speak up for myself in the same way that I found strength to intervene on someone else’s behalf- three things might have happened:

  1. I could have had a record of having addressed the problem- so when it persisted, it might have been dealt with more intently
  2. Person A could have had an opportunity to sort out the reasons why they are spewing their bad energies everywhere. My fake smile and pleasantries were essentially a lie. Things are not good here. I was inauthentic. My inauthenticity allowed this person to continue on with their maltreatment of me— and then others. I murdered the darn feedback loop.
  3. Could this have prevented another person having all this drama? I won’t know.

It hurts my ego that I wasn’t enough to change Person A’s behavior by showing up as an example. It’s also probably pretty naive to think that addressing the problem behaviors directly would have changed it– or them. Maybe I would have still had to slap the smile on to keep things pleasant anyways.

Dear Person A- I feel like collateral damage to your unhealed heart, your stress, and your bad coping strategies. I see your struggle and I also do not wish to continue being influenced by your drama. I cannot control it, did not cause it, and cannot cure it. So what is the way forward for me?

Turn the other cheek?

Be snarky back?

Avoid you at all costs?

Be polite?

I’ve been asking people how they deal with their Person A’s. Especially for those narsisistic-types, this is very tricky business. I realize they have been playing this game and refining their destruction for much longer than I’ve been trying to maneuver away from it.

And here I am, spending more energy because of Person A. DRATS! (I would use stronger language but my mother would text me and kindly advise I change it. This one is for you, mom).

—- And also, as I sit here, I’m realizing, this must be Person S or T or U by now. These difficult types show up everywhere. I’ve got to learn a new way forward. One that doesn’t just take it, one that doesn’t spend a lot of time talking/thinking/typing about it. Compartmentalize and move on, confront and control. . . ? What to do, what to do! The trauma of unresolved conflict and maliciousness is heavy on the soul.

Readers- your advice and stories are welcome. And as it turns out, there is no lesson learned here. Just more questions of how exactly do we deal?

Honesty

I am sitting here trying to process my 34th year after experiencing a great deal of difficulty sleeping tonight. The truth is that I am a huge verbal processor- all of my friends will tell you this. I have to get out all the feelings/words/experiences externally so that I can hear myself say them or read myself write them in order to make sense of it all.

As I was thinking of how to sufficiently write out my 34th year for me to review and reflect, I recognized that one of my greatest challenges at the moment is that I cannot be as honest as I once was. My professional life puts me at the front lines of people’s trauma- experiences that I am bound to keep, for a very large part, internally due to privacy laws. Their pain and sadness and desperation bounces off the insides of my soul and I feel people’s challenges intimately. I am going to find ways to have corners of my life that are not touched by external difficulties- by setting up better boundaries around my time and emotions. I wrote this and then came back to say that you do not get to section off corners of your heart with red roped partitions and keep out pain. The very nature of pain is that it is not well-controlled. So I will have to propose some counter measures to heal it instead. Writing has always been a help.

Personally, I used to be an open book around family life, spirituality, the inner workings of my soul in a way that felt really authentic publically. I still crave that transparency, but as I age, my story is too interconnected with the lives of others to be so free. I read authors who boldly tell stories with freedom, and I miss my ability to speak so easily. But I have so much to say left unspoken.

Maybe I’ll find an open mike night and crush the atmosphere with intensity. I need an artistic release of the experiences of this year, a way to hold 34 in a way that accurately summarizes the victories and the tragedies in the same sentence. I’ve always wanted life to be less messy. I’ve always wanted the answer to the question, “What did we learn here?” but more and more, I’m learning (and coming to accept) that the lessons are grey, the decisions are written in sand, the wind changes direction and the things you knew are no longer as clear. People and relationships and the world are very layered. The antagonist has admirable qualities and the hero struggles with crippling personal failings- it is all so inescapable.

Perhaps the most beautiful and difficult things I have learned this year have been the things I thought I knew about myself- my limits, my boundaries, my abilities that have been challenged. When you believe yourself to be a particular level of resiliency or strength and you find that you crack short of where you imagined yourself to push through, it makes you pause to re-evaluate if you ever knew yourself at all–and what other preconceived, untested premises I hold about myself. At the same time, without encountering adversity, how can I grow?

I had a surprising moment a few weeks ago. In order to reset a password, I had to select 4 personal questions out of 10 to cue myself a response and prove my identity to login to some entirely unimportant website. The personal tragedy came when I could only answer 1 of 10 questions confidently- I did not know my favorite city, restaurant, band, color, or other seemingly insignificant details that maybe people do and should know about themselves. I wonder casually, is this what the midlife crises feels like? Those details about our lives, are they really what define us? I think how important children’s favorite colors are to them- and wonder what happened to mine- What does it mean about me that I do not know these answers?

Writing in stream of consciousness here, I used to wonder if being monogamous marriage would be monotonous. I have discovered that I am constantly evolving and growing and changing alongside my spouse, and we can barely keep up with the pace of fresh ideas and new perspectives for ourselves, let alone one another. It has been a life long unfolding, so maybe I should care less about those questions. What things really remain the same?

The hard part of about being human is that I have demonstrated remarkable judgment, resiliency, wisdom and talent in ways that I do not know how to adequately recognize myself for- things that will never be on a resume, a birthday card or an obituary, but I have also had to stare at myself in a mirror for priorities and attitudes that I judge harshly in others and had no idea I possessed. That tension is the story of every human being, but I am awakening to it in myself a little bit more and dealing with that reality.

To summarize my year:

I am not perfect. . . even less perfect than I thought.

I am in control of very little . . . even less than what I imagined.

I am entirely inescapably interconnected to others,

and this makes me feel very vulnerable. I am more uncomfortable with vulnerability than I ever believed I was. I am more uncomfortable being out of control than I knew I was. I have a heightened awareness of how much humans possess undesirable qualities have devastating impact. I always knew about others propensity towards cruelty- but this year underlined it. And also, this year, I learned more intimately that my unique imperfections also contribute to the pile- as desperately as I would like to believe or act otherwise. I’m processing that. I do not like it. I know it is necessary for me to know to grow.

Wayfaring Stranger

Its been a long time since I have sat quietly with my own thoughts. If this is an intentional avoidance or circumstantial lack of opportunity, I could not say. Today is the last day of having a child at home- a standard feature that hallmarked the last decade of my life. So tomorrow, child #4 starts preschool. I will drop him off and have six hours of possibilities without the constraints and blessings of little people tugging on my sleeve or inviting me to gawk over a shiny stone found in the parking lot.

What I am “supposed” to do with this time or how I feel is unexplored territory. In fact, I am in such an unknown space, that I feel disconcerted, making me wonder if I really know who I even am. I got a glance at my kindergartener this week and was awestruck by the growth that had occurred without my careful observance and diligent tracking. It was the same realisation when I was pregnant with her- if I didn’t know if she was the size of a kumquat or a pomegranate, she would develop all the same, and being a good mother wasn’t tied to my vigilance in this regard.

I see myself as this child who has grown and changed over the course of time, but because it happened without my constant meta-analysis narrating my lived experiences, it has taken me aback. Mysteriously, I changed right before my own eyes. Typically in big phases of growth, I am pursuing self-help with an idea of who I am trying to become- giving myself the perception of control and direction. The experiences I have had over the past six months have profoundly changed me, only I cannot verbalise exactly how.

The way finder in me craves to know which steps I took that led me to this chapter and verse. The artist in me wants to live wholeheartedly as the story is written. The worrier in me wants to know what comes next, and the connector in me wonders, Am I alone here? If I cannot articulate on paper who I am, I used to believe I would need to be found. But in this moment, if I no longer fit inside the constraints of my own labels and stale (?) ideologies and rigid boundaries, am I actually now more fully alive? I suppose I’ll find out.

No Use Crying Over Shattered Oatmeal

Christmas Eve, my kids were starrrrrrrvvvvvviiiiing and couldn’t possibly wait for the extended family brunch we were hosting in 45 minutes.

Hangry kids make terrible party throwers, so I relented and suggested oatmeal for second breakfast. My 9 year old Scarlett ripped open the package, dusting the floor with oats that looked like snowflakes.

She “cleaned” the mess up herself and poured in another package. Silently, I congratulated myself for not losing my temper and for fostering her independence. I also thought about all those smart moms who kick their kids OUT of the kitchen.

I hear a Smash, BANG. Ding- followed by lots of crying. Scarlett grabbed the oatmeal out of the microwave and put the literal meaning back in drop it like it’s hot.

Shattered glass mixed with steaming hot porridge is spread all over the kitchen floor with the remnants of the dry oats from trial #1. Scarlett’s hangry is unleashed, and she is demanding to make another bowl. The baby finds it fun to walk in, spreading oats to the living room, and 30 people will be in my house in a half hour.

<<<<Deep breaths.>>>>

My sensible six year old places his hot porridge in the freezer for rapid cool-down. As he retrieves it, his bowl comes tumbling out, crashing, and spreading oatmeal all inside the freezer door and on the floor. SERIOUSLY?! His reaction is, “MAKE ME ANOTHER ONE NOW!”

I sweep and scrub the floor hastily. I tell James to put the kids in the car and to come back in thirty. Drive anywhere. I can’t cope with more oatmeal explosions or child outbursts. I’ve lost it at them. How can they spill this much in so little time? Is this a joke?

It was a new twist on the old classic- Goldilocks and the Three Bowls.

Fortunately, I forgot to tell a guest we changed the time of the party. So thankfully, she arrived just as the oatmeal fiasco was relatively under control. She graciously helped me make everything sparkle and shine while my husband drove around in circles until the baby fell asleep, arriving just in time to a prepped house ready for Christmas. The kids hugged me and we all apologised.

And then during the party, a gallon of OJ spilled down the back of the fridge- and it was totally my fault.

Pshhhh . . .

Here’s the moral of the story. The things I get frustrated about in my kids (messy, clumsy, impatient, hangry) are the exact same things that I do.

So many times when I’m shouting at my kids to stop yelling at each other or snapping at them for gross attitudes or sending them to their rooms for eating too much candy– these reflect the very same things I struggle with myself.

I feel the Holy Spirit whisper, inviting me to examine my own heart and transgressions during these moments. Parenting is so beautifully refining, and I’m confident God designed it that way. We are all capable of spilling oatmeal or orange juice, and there is no use crying over (or screaming at your kids over) shattered oatmeal.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:1-5 NIV
Prologue

For real, peaches and cream oatmeal looks a lot like vomit. Frozen puke oatmeal is still plastered inside my freezer door, and I don’t know when I will find time to scrape it off. #momlife

This Christmas, I Believe

If this blog were a living thing, it would be covered in dust and crammed in that junk drawer with all the expired coupons and spare keys. And I can’t guarantee it won’t go back in there for another 12 months after this post. Its been a season of rest, contemplation, and renewal for me. That sounds super fancy, but truthfully, I still don’t pee with the door shut so the house doesn’t burn down, so don’t be jelly.  

School is out for the holidays. I was so excited to spend time with my children.  Not unsurprisingly, the thrill wore off before the garage door opened. I have threatened to send the kids’ presents to an orphanage. And more than once, I was tempted to send the kids there too. 

This Sunday morning, the kids launched mutiny against James and me. My four kids- including the cute little cereal throwing baby, don’t really deserve anything under the tree this year. The baby also shakes his head constantly and runs the opposite direction- which can be forgiven until his diaper is half on, half off, or when he is shaking his head “no” that he wasn’t the one who poured the quart of paint all over the floor- when he clearly and unfortunately did. The kindergardener cut up cash and let the three year old take the rap for him. The third grader has a 2018 version of a Valley Girl going on (this is all my fault), and her little sister is becoming her copycat. Everywhere I turn, someone is complaining it isn’t fair or they are bored or blah blah blah. Please mamas tell me I’m not alone. Or actually, tell me I am, that is far better news for the world.

I was quite glad we don’t really play up the naughty/nice list- because, I mean, where do you even buy coal? Then something struck me- humans play up this Santa thing for Christmas. But actually the divine Christmas story is all about an amazing gift of forgiveness that we don’t deserve at all. God isn’t the one sitting on some royal throne weighting everyone’s sins and passing judgment, that’s the mythical Santa.

So the story goes- the God of heaven came down to earth in the most humble of beginnings to show us grace and redemption, something we totally don’t deserve because he knew we were super lost, up a creek and in a pickle without him.

When I’m really honest, I don’t deserve the tree, let alone the gifts under it.  How beautiful, how mysterious is it that this strange virgin birth with a star and angels and shepherds and kings  changed civilisation for thousands of years? What is it about this story that makes it so transformative, indestructible, and believable?

Santa and Jesus both have in common the promise of gifts for those who believe.  Even if you think the Jesus thing is totally silly, wouldn’t you want it to be true?  Our family wishes you the gift of faith and forgiveness this year. Grace and peace to you whether you are near to us or far away.  

Happy Christmas!

PS. What a beautiful imagery of getting gifts instead of coal because of forgiveness. 

Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

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