Monday, July 15, 2013

Gossip

gos·sip
 
Noun
Casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.


Very recently I became a victim of gossip. On a day intended for celebration and happiness, I instead spent much of the evening in tears, swinging back and forth between sadness and anger. The short version is:

Someone took something I said out of context - it was misinterpreted as being disrespectful and malicious. Instead of coming to me to express their concerns, this person instead chose to share their misinterpretations/assumptions with someone else, who then shared with someone else, who decided to confront me. The confronter at this point had already bought into the validity of what was gossiped, and shared that she was deeply hurt and offended.

I was shocked and speechless when I learned what had transpired. I am not a mean person. I am caring and trusting to a fault. The very last things I would do are the things I was being accused of. After explaining the details of the situation and assuring my confronter that no disrespect or maliciousness had ever been intended, I went into character-preservation mode. Over the next couple of days I messaged the original gossiper repeatedly - explaining myself, the circumstances, and how wrong she was to have not come to me in the first place. I wanted her to know that she made me cry, and ruined an otherwise perfect day. Basically, I wanted her to know that she was wrong and I was right. I received an initial accusatory response, but nothing else to my my additional pleas for understanding and acknowledgement of her wrong-doing.

I'll be honest - I hate when people don't like me. It's not because I think I am this wonderfully awesome person with whom everyone should be so blessed to have as a part their lives. When someone doesn't like me, I take it very, very personally. I convince myself that there must be something terribly wrong with me, that I must be completely unlikeable to all people on some level, and that I am worthless/useless/pointless - yeah, it's ugly. But in the above situation, I knew that I was not guilty of what I was being accused of. This knowledge became the fuel for my self-righteousness. I was like a dog on a bone, and did not want to let go. The more I received "silence" as a response, the more I wanted to lash back out at my accuser.

Just this morning though, God stopped me in my tracks. What has been dancing around in the back of my mind over the last few days God decided to shine a bright light on, to make sure it was abundantly clear to me. It's short, sweet and simple, yet so hard to accept - God knows my heart. That's all, and that's everything. I have said and done what I can, but at some point (like, now!) I need to stop, and give it to God. Spiritually I know I need to do this, but my pride wants closure. My pride wants ownership and acknowledgement from the accuser of her wrong-doing. As I type, God is showing me that while my initial responses to my accuser were possibly warranted (and confrontation is OK when done in a God-honoring way), at some point my responses became maliciously-motivated. I want(ed) her to feel badly...to feel the sting of hurt feelings. As someone who is trying daily (and failing regularly) to represent Jesus' love, it is clear that what is currently in my heart is not representative of someone trying to live like that.

Fortunately and graciously I am human and God knows it. As life has proven time and again, when left to our own devices, we usually don't wind up in the best places - literally, emotionally, physically, or spiritually. God knows this, which is why He sent His Son to die for us. He wants us to seek Him for everything. To seek Him prayerfully for wisdom and guidance. It is so very clear to me now that I have a few things to do:

1) Give ALL OF THIS to HIM. To let go, and let God.
2) Forgive my accuser. She isn't perfect but none of us is! Just as God has forgiven me the sin of a self-righteous heart, He will also forgive her sins, if and when she brings them to Him.
3) Pray for my accuser. Pray that over time she understands the hurt and collateral damage that can be caused when making the decision to engage in gossip. Pray that she would seek to honor God in her future actions and words.

My last response to my accuser was written with love, and was apologetic for the intensity/harshness of my previous messages. From here, I am giving it to God. I once saw a quote that read, "holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die". Not the prettiest of quotes, but certainly holds a message that each of us can learn from at some point in our lives. And if I allow my heart to fill up with God's love and grace, then there will be no room for the ugly.

At one time or another, perhaps without even realizing it, we have all been a victim of gossip. Whether you've also been a victim and are hurting because of it, or have participated in gossip recently and didn't think about the kind of collateral damage it could cause, I hope you can learn from what I've shared today.

Love and God Bless,

~One Shameless Mama



 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Scars

Earlier this week during my short commute home from work, I tuned into XM radio to listen to some 90s pop music. An old and former-favorite song was playing. If you are anything like me, certain music can take you right back to a specific point in your life - a moment, a conversation, a look in someone's eye, a feeling...even a smell.

The song "Scars" by Papa Roach was a favorite because it spoke to me, it had great meaning. During the late 90s and into the new millenium I did spend a lot of time numbing my pain and my heart with various poisons and bad decisions. It rang true to me for a long time, this sense of helplessness. Hopelessness. I couldn't escape my feelings or my situation. All I could do was drink/drug/sleep my way through it.

In case you're not familiar with the song, here it is:


Scars (by Papa Roach)


I tear my heart open, I sew myself shut
 My weakness is that I care too much
 And my scars remind me that the past is real
 I tear my heart open just to feel

Drunk and I'm feeling down
 And I just wanna be alone
 I'm pissed cause you came around
 Why don't you just go home
 Cause you channel all your pain
 And I can't help you fix yourself
 You're making me insane
 All I can say is

[Chorus:]

 I tear my heart open, I sew myself shut
 My weakness is that I care too much
 And our scars remind us that the past is real
 I tear my heart open just to feel

I tried to help you once
 Against my own advice
 I saw you going down
 But you never realized
 That you're drowning in the water
 So I offered you my hand
 Compassions in my nature
 Tonight is our last stand

[Chorus]

I'm drunk and I'm feeling down
 And I just wanna be alone
 You shouldn't ever come around
 Why don't you just go home?
 Cause you're drowning in the water
 And I tried to grab your hand
 And I left my heart open
 But you didn't understand
 But you didn't understand
 Go fix yourself

I can't help you fix yourself
 But at least I can say I tried
 I'm sorry but I gotta move on with my own life
 I can't help you fix yourself
 But at least I can say I tried
 I'm sorry but I gotta move on with my own life


Over time, I did finally tear my heart open. I had to. Even long after I'd left behind my days of Sparkly Oblivion, I still struggled regularly with the ability to forgive myself. The quotes and Hallmark cards about your past belonging in the rear-view mirror are fine and dandy but in real life, where I live, I needed a whole lot of grace and strength in order to move on.  I was angry at God, angry at myself, but more than those things I was TIRED.  Exhausted, really.  Anger and frustration and self-deprication are so truly exhausting. I wanted to so badly, once and for all, to be done with it. To be done with the life I had been living, and LIVE the life I've been blessed with. I wanted to be able to leave my past exactly where it belonged - in the past. Because even though I knew in my heart of hearts that God had already forgiven me for the sins of my past, I was the one who kept bullying myself and beating myself up over it.

Early last year, tuning into XM radio to my favorite Christian station, I heard a different version of the song "Scars". It didn't sound like Papa Roach though. You know that overwhelming emotional feeling, where there is just that immediate emotional/spiritual/soul-shaking "ah-ha" moment, it sucker- punches you in a good way - in that butterflies-in-the-stomach and oh-my-gosh-I-have-goosebumps-everywhere way? Yeah, this version of the song "Scars" did exactly that to me. This was my "ah-ha" moment. It spoke to me, it rang true to me, and had all the meaning in the world. Because of this song, tearing my heart open was so much more painless and freeing than Papa Roach made it seem. This song released so much pent-up, self-directed anger, hurt, and frustration in my heart - it was like removing a 200lb weight from my chest. I could breathe!

I don't even have to hear this song (although it plays regularly on my iPod), just reading the words or singing/humming it to myself is so comforting...such a blessed reminder of the hope and healing we have in Christ.  I hope you, too, are blessed by this amazing, soul-freeing song:


Scars (by Jonny Diaz)


She holds for dear life to the ends of the sleeves in her hands,
 Covering up lies that she wrote with a razor sharp pen,
 And the sting of the blade is no match for the pain of the loneliness she's going through,
 But we've all been there too.

Praise God we don't have to hide scars
 They just strengthen our wounds, and they soften our hearts.
 They remind us of where we have been, but not who we are
 So praise God, praise God we don't have to hide scars

 You can still see the mark on his hand where there once was a ring
 He watched decades of history dissolve when she wanted to leave
 And the hole that it left there inside of his chest
 Is a canyon a thousand miles deep
 We all know how that feels.

 Praise God we don't have to hide scars
 They just strengthen our wounds, and soften our hearts.
 They remind us of where we have been, but not who we are
 So praise God, praise God we don't have to hide scars

 There once was a King who so burdened with grief
 Walked into death so that we could find peace
 He rose up with scars on his hands and his feet
 By them we are healed, by them we are healed.

So praise God we don't have to hide scars
 Yeah we know his are covering ours
 Praise God we don't have to hide scars
 They just strengthen our wounds and they soften our hearts
 They remind us of who we have been, but not who we are
 So Praise God we don't have to hide scars.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Perspective

Friday, May 10, 2013 marked one year since my mother lost her battle with cancer. She was 57 years old. I wasn't sure how I wanted to spend the day - at work to stay distracted? Home in bed to have a self pity party? I decided that Mom would be most honored by me and my small family taking a break from the daily grind, and spending some quality time together. The weather was beautiful so we decided to head to the zoo.

My daughter is now old enough (22 months) to be truly excited about things like the zoo. I spent a lot of time just watching her take it all in; pointing up to the monkeys, imitating their sounds and waving to them saying, "Hiiiii!!!". That sparkle of excitement in your child's eye is just priceless. In those moments they are just wholly and genuinely excited - so young and untainted by the pain and worry that often comes with life as we get older. I tried hard to mirror that joy, that excitement, letting it drown out the noise of "real life".

After seeing the monkeys and petting some farm animals, we headed to the carousel. I got in line for tickets and found myself in a small group of children who were there on a field trip. I'd say they were in third grade. What caught my attention was a little girl in line with a chaperone. He made a comment having to do with Mother's Day, to which she replied, "I don't have a mother". The chaperone, clearly stuck in an awkward moment of "totally didn't expect that, what do I do/say now??" started fumbling for his words and said, "I'm sorry, I didn't know". "Please don't talk about it anymore, ok?" she pleaded. Saved by the lady behind the glass calling them as next in line, no further words were spoken on the subject.

As I observed that brief and uncomfortable conversation, my immediate reaction was to hold that little girl in my arms and just comfort and cry with her. Having no idea if her mother had died, abandoned or left her, I sensed such unresolved feelings of sadness and anger I wanted so badly to make her feel better. But because in today's day and age touching a child you do not know can be construed as assault or attempted kidnapping, I instead chose to pray for her, that there would be someone in her life to help her precious little heart towards healing.

It wasn't until later that night, laying in bed thinking about the day that I realized there was something to be acknowledged. God had given me a huge blessing. He gave me 33 years with my mother - 33 years to grow up with her, make mistakes, marry the wrong guy and eventually the right one, all the while experiencing her unconditional love. Most importantly, she got to meet, hold and love her very first granddaughter. I had 33 years of life with her!

I was not looking forward to Mother's Day weekend, but was able to find some comfort in the many memories I have of her, and the knowledge that as my daughter gets older, I will have 33 years worth of "Grammy" stories to share with her. She may not remember meeting her, but she will surely grow up knowing her. Friday was a much-needed reminder to me that blessings truly can be found in any situation. We just need to be willing to look at life from a different perspective.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sparkly Oblivion


When the world doesn’t make sense and your heart is heavy…

 When you are blinded by the darkness, aching to see a glimmer of light…

When feelings hurt and good intentions are lost, when pain and unfairness run rampant…

 When tears sting and trembling is fueled by anger…

 Where do you turn?

I used to turn to that perfect lemon drop martini, with just the right combination of ice-cold Grey Goose and fresh-squeezed lemon juice, with a little sugar on the rim…that first sip, savoring the taste, closing my eyes and feeling that first surge of vodka warming my veins…from my head to my ears, down to the tips of my fingers, warming my chest and down to my toes. Vodka, sweet vodka. And don’t forget the weed – those first few hits from my trusty pipe…I could feel my heartbeat increase slightly, as my body started absorbing and processing the 80-proof and TH-yummy-C…slowly clouding those negative feelings, the sadness and despair…and ultimately my level of consciousness. Waving goodbye to the ugly in that rearview mirror called Life, I would find myself submerged in a cloud of Sparkly Oblivion. Of course when I drink, my appetite for food is diminished and dinner and dessert become martinis number 4 and 5. A few more hits from my pipe steady the balance between high and wasted, a place where good times are sure to be had and surely not remembered the next morning.

 Becoming besties with your local bartend is bonus too –a true bar-bestie has only your greatest interests at heart, and will dump out a not-perfect martini for you (even though it’s half gone already) and remake another one for free – which surely has nothing to do with the fact that the more you drink, the bigger your tip is because who has time to do accurate math when one is busy refueling with 80-proof perfection??

Having to ask someone what you did/said the night before can definitely be a comedic experience. Perhaps not the morning after, when heads are throbbing and rooms are spinning and toilets are being hugged, but surely during the next martini marathon! Time may be a truth-teller, but buckets full of vodka are definitely a fast-track to the truth! It’s amazing what truths will roll off of your tongue, which you will in turn learn about yourself later on. It may be cheaper than therapy, but I assure you its longer-term effects are not nearly as beneficial.

Over time…years… the “What the **** happened last night!??!  starts to become a little less comedic, and a little more desperate and pathetic. When one looks forward to not remembering, to letting go and letting vodka and weed take over, one is in need of serious help. I found myself in that place for a while. Knowing that my habit was a sad and pathetic one, but I didn’t know what to do about stopping it. I mean really, what was there to life besides drinking and creating drunken memories? I should add that during these years I was already a Christian. I didn’t wake up one day, accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior and start following the yellow brick road towards biblical perfection. Nope, my ride with God has been and will continue to be a roller coaster. Hence being a self-described “Clumsy Christian”.

Anyone who has been on this path, and who has eventually chosen a better, healthier path, has done so for a variety of reasons. They may have “found God” for the first time. Maybe they were in an accident, or in an almost-accident and decided that was the wake-up call they needed to call it quits. I am so fortunate and eternally blessed that my “reasons” for veering quickly off of that path toward liver-failure were the two lines I saw on our pregnancy test. Hubby and I wanted to get pregnant for a long time, and I never thought it would happen. In fact I so thought it would NOT happen, that I made up a song to sing to my uterus each month when my period, instead of a positive pregnancy test, would show up. The song was to the tune of “Oh Christmas Tree” – and no, I’m not sharing it with you right now…maybe another time, when we know each other better :)

Those two lines were life-changing, in many ways. I found out later on in our pregnancy that Hubby was secretly afraid that I wouldn’t stop drinking if/when we found out that we were pregnant. It broke my heart that he could possibly think I would ever endanger our future child in that way, but it really opened my eyes to how big of a problem I had, if my husband actually thought I could ever put alcohol before my own flesh and blood.

God blessed me very early on in the pregnancy with a disgust for the smell of beer. Once a smell that gave my heart a little pitter-patter, the smell of beer quickly became a cause for involuntary dry-heaving. If hubs even had a sip of beer, there was no kissing allowed whatsoever until his teeth had been brushed and mouth appropriately sanitized by Listerine. Even then, he had to sleep that night facing the other direction, “just in case”.

Fast-forward to now…baby girl is not much of a baby anymore, she’ll be 2 years old in just a few months. Alcohol just does not taste good to me anymore. Seriously, it’s gross. This is all so utterly and truly not like me….not like the “old me”, that I have actually lost friends over this. Literally, just last week I was “dumped” by someone I considered a good friend. I’ve apparently changed too much. While I mourn the loss of a friendship, I certainly do not mourn the loss of Old Me.  I don’t want her back – EVER. She represents a part of my life that I never want to live again.

I am not saying that I am now defined by my child, but I am saying that my life has taken on a completely different meaning, now that I am a Mother. It is important to me to be a good wife, a good mother, a good role-model. Having lost my own mother just last year, it hits me very close to home, the idea of being anyone other than who/what I want my own daughter to become, when she grows up. Becoming a mother has helped me to turn away from the dead-end I was headed towards, and towards what is truly important: my family and God. I am far from perfect, very, very far from it. But life is worth living (and remembering) so much more, now that my heart has embraced what is real: LOVE.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Mommy Shoes

While I was late to start a family (later than most my age), I still had a handful of girlfriends who had also not yet taken the plunge. Over martinis or whatever our beverage of choice was, we would talk about friends we used to have - you know, until they had kids. We couldn't understand why all of a sudden, when a woman had her first child, she dropped off the radar. No more happy hours, no more retail therapy...any hint at socialization automatically included the newest family member, and was limited to very small windows of time, to accommodate lil' ones' schedule.

Ugh - how could she let that happen? Was she ever really a good friend to begin with? Clearly she no longer valued our friendship; I mean, if she did, then she wouldn't have changed. Instead, she got hooked, lined, and sinkered into Mommy-dom, never to be seen or heard from again. We assured each other that when we became moms, we would never become "that" kind of mother! Personally, I could not imagine a time when I would not crave the salty rim of my freshly shaken (not stirred) margaritas. Surely a girl's still gotta have her girl-time, right??

Wrong. Wrong for me, anyways. I had absolutely no way - none whatsoever - of knowing what kind of impact motherhood would have on me. Heck, from the moment the stick I peed on showed 2 lines, the smell of beer nauseated me - how could this be?!? As the days became weeks and months after my little bundle was born, I could not fathom ever being away from her by choice. The idea alone, of going back to work, turned my stomach upside down.

When our littles are still very new, there seems to be a fair amount of understanding from our non-mommy friends, about needing time and space to adjust to the new "mommy" thing. But as time goes on, and the newness fades, non-mommy friends will begin to wonder... hellooooo, are you still there? What happened to you? Don't you want that girl's night out that we always talked about - you know, before the baby came???

For some mamas this is true - some mamas yearn for those pre-mommy days, and can't wait to jump back in the saddle as soon as the opportunity arises - and that's fine, if it works for you. But for this mama, I just can't imagine (other than date-nights with the hubs) ever purposefully wanting to hand off my kid so I can have a breather. It's just not in me. What (or should I say, who) I have found myself more drawn to are other mommy-friends. Because guess what - they do still exist and they do still socialize, but in a more collective, family-centered way. Socializing with other mommy-friends is a fantastic way to enjoy the best of both worlds - moms/parents get to socialize and have grown-up time, while the littles get to play! We are all still "together", but no one is being excluded for the sake of having a get-together.

Do I miss my non-mommy friends? Of course I do. I would never consider them as "used-to-be" friends. But the fact remains that children change your life. I am no longer a single entity; I am a mother, and we are a family. Where I go, they go. It baffles me that I was incapable of getting my head around that fact until I had a child of my own. It just goes to show how much parenthood can change you, and how we really do no good to anyone by judging, until we've walked a mile in a pair of mommy shoes.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The EX-files


My ex-husband (we'll call him "Rich") was a marine, 8 years older than me, and was quite the charmer. Having preyed on my complete lack of self-esteem, over the years he was able to mold me into a thin, snobby, fashionista who alienated all family and friends. Add on layers of paranoia and dire financial straits, and you have a girl who felt hopelessly stuck in a lonely and abusive marriage.

We met when I was in my early twenties, and got married after a couple of years together. We got married by a justice of the peace, in the pouring rain, with just two friends and his young son as our "witnesses". Our wedding night was spent with friends getting high in their garage. Nothing says "'Til death do us part" like a fatty and the munchies!

There were times where I would be suspicious about where he was (traveling for work) and what he was doing on those trips...we maintained separate bank accounts throughout our marriage, so I found myself figuring out his online passwords to try and track his activity based on his debit card transactions. He was very slick and convincing, and had an answer for everything. While I knew in my gut he was lying, I had no solid evidence to the contrary, and found it easier to just believe him than to face what I knew to be true.

I also learned the hard way that questioning his whereabouts would quickly escalate into name-calling and more. The very first time he hit me, it was a hard slap across the face. Never in my life had I been slapped before, not even as a child. It stung, I cried and hit him back. I told him that if he ever did that again I would leave him. That "threat" would repeat itself over the years. He knew I wouldn't leave. His response of course, was that he hadn't hit me nearly as hard as he could have, and to not be such a baby. Around the same time, he also decided that whenever he was unhappy with me, an acceptable pet name for me was "c**t". Yes, the word that makes just about every woman cringe and shudder. I became so numb to that word, it stopped having an effect on me.

Over the course of our marriage I had many outlets for the pain I felt. I drank a lot, smoked a lot, and had a lot of sex. Rich either never suspected, or just didn't care. In retrospect, I desperately wanted a man to love me and care about me, and put me first. Having an affair made my reality so much more bearable. It was how I survived. It was a vicious cycle that left me more lonely than before, and sinking further into the self-depricating hole of alcohol and drugs.

It took 4 years of verbal, emotional and physical abuse for me to build up the courage to leave. I connected with a counselor using my company's Employee Assistance Program (a free service offered by most large companies). In just a few sessions, my counselor was able to help me to see that I did not deserve that kind of treatment. She helped me to see that while difficult, I could and would find a way to leave him. It wasn't without sacrifice of course - I lost many "material" things, and among other things our house was foreclosed on, but it didn't matter. Once she got me to see that I DID deserve better, and that I COULD do it on my own, it was life-changing. Almost 10 years later I can still feel a twinge of that self-empowerment. I was unstoppable!

I told him I was leaving, as I'd done many times before. He had no reason to believe this time was any different, until I started bringing boxes home, and had him served with papers for a separation (required in that state before I could formally file for divorce). All of a sudden he became the most loving, apologetic man I'd ever seen. Fortunately I was still seeing my counselor, who helped me stay confident in my decision. He was manipulative, and he was good. While I wavered a few times and questioned myself along the way, in the end I never looked back. Once he knew I was leaving for good, the "real" Rich came right back, with all kinds of mud-slinging and horrible names, telling me no one would ever want me and he never loved me - and oh by the way all of those times I thought he was cheating, he was.

I changed my phone numbers and blocked his email addresses. I hired a lawyer and only had to see Rich one more time, in court for the divorce hearing. He never looked me in the eye. He had lost. He had lost the power to control me, and without that power, he had nothing.

Without God's grace and unconditional love, I shudder to think where I might be today. I still stand in awe that God has since blessed me with a wonderful, loving and caring husband, and an amazing little girl. I've often wondered why God chose to bless me in these ways, after I'd strayed so far from Him. Rather than questioning His motives, I think I am better served by sharing my story. Being open and vulnerable can be very scary, but with God beside me, I am unstoppable.


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Being Shameless...

For many years I have wanted to start a blog to really share everything about myself. From the depths of shame where I used to dwell, to the brutiful life I am blessed with. We all have so many life experiences, many of which we keep to ourselves due to embarassment, shame, and feeling like no one else in the world has experienced the same thing.

Deciding to become Shameless is a decision I have to make every day...sometimes multiple times per day. When you spend most of your life feeling ashamed, it becomes your safe place, and is therefore a very hard habit to break. Inspired greatly by Glennon Doyle Melton, I have felt led by God to put it all out there with the hope that others might not feel alone.

Letting God shine His light into those cold and lonely corners of darkness will tear down the walls we've built around ourselves and our hearts. Beyond those walls you will see that you are not alone - there are so many others, just waiting for you, in hopes of connecting with someone who "gets it".