childhood, comfort, death, dying, healing, home, hope, living and growing, moving on, peace, school, Uncategorized

Stepping Back to Move Forward

About a year ago, I received an invite to an Elementary school class reunion.  Seems harmless enough, right?   But for me it churned up a whole host of feelings I had thought I had buried.   Here was my problem.   I had HATED elementary school.   With the exception of Kindergarten and 6th grade, the years in between had felt like hell to me.   I had very few positive memories related to school and none of the good memories included my classmates.  Saying no to that invite would be easy.

But it nagged at me.   The fact that the emotions from 40 years ago were as strong as ever was a shock and a disappointment.   I thought I had moved on.   Middle school was ok and high school was excellent.   Since then, I had created a very happy life with many good friends, a great marriage and wonderful children.   How could something that was long over, still matter so much?

Elementary school didn’t start off horribly.   Kindergarten was a blast.   First grade was ok.  But a series of events happened in the summer after first grade that set in motion, changes I couldn’t control as a seven year old.

In the summer before 2nd grade my paternal grandparents both died.   Within 8 weeks of each other.   This had a devastating effect on me.   At the age when most kids are grappling with death and what it means, I was given a double whammy.   I became convinced that both my parents were also going to die.   For some reason, I firmly believed that I was the only one who could stop them from dying.   I believed a monster would come to the house and that if I wasn’t home, the monster would take my parents.     I couldn’t convey any of these fears to the adults in my life.   I could only take action.   Often I would start to walk to school and then run back home in a panic.   The crossing guard would come to my house and march me back onto the path towards school.   I became more resistant.   Soon, my mother had to walk me to school.   I had been walking myself since I was 5 years old so this was quite a set back – for her and for me.   And with my peers, it was the beginning of social suicide.

Eventually it got to the point where my mother had to not only walk me to school but stay in the class with me.   If she tried to leave, I would start to sob and cling to her.   Eventually the 2nd grade teacher took a stand and told my mother that she must leave and that she would take care of things.   Her sternness worked.   I gave in and stayed and my mother left.   But those bouts of crying in front of my classmates had done permanent damage.  I was labeled a cry baby.   I was ostracized and the regular brunt of jokes and teasing – for the next five years.  Not by everyone.  A few were kind.   Many were neutral – in that they didn’t participate in the teasing but they didn’t speak up either.   I don’t blame them.  Social hierarchy is a formidable thing to overcome when you are young.

In third grade, one popular girl who was still playing with me, told me something devastating.   One day she just said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t be seen playing with you anymore.”   Wow.   Sadly, even as a child, I understood.  I was seen as the weak link.   A handful of loud, but popular kids had made it clear, it was not cool to be my friend.   The elementary school years became a lonely, unhappy time.

It wasn’t until I was in my late teens that I was able to express to my mother, why I hadn’t wanted to go to school in 2nd grade.   By then, I was in a much bigger school, with a wide variety of kids and the opportunity to be fully myself.   I was no longer lonely, no longer a cry baby and I certainly didn’t need or want the friendships that I was so desperate for in elementary school.  Life moved on and I was grateful for it doing so.

And then that reunion invite appeared.

And although I initially denied what I must do, eventually I knew I needed to go.   I needed to forgive them.   To release both myself and them from our old roles.   It was a dual invite.   The past was inviting me to remember and God was inviting me to walk back into those memories with Him at my side.  He knew the hurt I had carried, even if I denied it.  He knew that for me to move forward in this area, that I would need to step back.  God reminded me that if I had changed, that it was very likely, that they had too.   I knew if I had met any of them, today -without knowing them from the past, that I would probably like them.   And they would probably like me.

I did go.   Granted I needed a glass of wine, as soon as I stepped in the door, to help me not appear as tense as I felt.   It was awkward.   I knew I could ask my husband to go with me.   That he would bridge things for me and make me feel stronger.   But I went alone.   Because I needed to put my past to rest.   The much older me had the strength and the words the seven year old me didn’t have.

Here it is almost a year later.   And as I now have some of these early classmates as friends on Facebook, I am reminded.   They too, aren’t who they were when they were little.   I wish my elementary school experience had been different.   But I am no longer angry or hurt about it.   It taught me that it is very important to be able to express yourself.   I have learned that the underdog needs a friend.    And I acknowledge that many of us are unkind to others at some point in our lives.   Perhaps the greatest lesson learned is that building yourself up, at someone else’s expense comes at a great cost to both parties.

And now, I want to be connected to them.   We are the same age and of the same time period.   We remember things that others haven’t experienced.   This matters.  I’m actually looking forward to the next reunion; to discovering more of who these people from my past have grown into.   The next reunion won’t have the same cloud over it for me, I now welcome the chance  to step back and move forward.  🙂

 

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All of Me

The first time I heard John Legends song, “All of Me”, something stirred inside of me. The stirring became an obsession as I began playing the song over and over again. The words were getting at something I was feeling but hadn’t yet been able to express. (If you aren’t familiar with the song, both a link to hear it and the lyrics are listed at the end of this blog)

I’ve been married 26 years. Happily. But this song exposed something that I hadn’t realized. I had been holding back in my relationship with my husband. And it was the “all of me” line in the lyrics that showed me this. I started to realize that I wasn’t really giving my all. I was giving my ‘most’.

I started to look more closely at my thinking and here is what I discovered…..

What I determined was unlovable about me, became something I had long ago decided my husband must also see as unlovable. It occurred to me that maybe I would lose that assumption and see what happened.

I was also struck by the line, ‘love your curves and all your edges.”. I know my husband very well. And he has some edges. I think up to this point, I had viewed marriage as making allowances for each other’s edges. But what if I actually started to love his edges? What if I saw his edges as a vital part of who he was?

And as I consider my marriage, I realize that with him, even when I lose, I win. Maybe things in my life don’t always go as I plan, disappointments come, frustrations pop up….but at the end of the day I am married to this amazing man. Even when I lose, I win.

Offering someone all of yourself requires great risk. Even having been married for a long time, there continues to be a part of me that wants to avoid risk. But sometimes not taking a risk is the biggest risk of all.

Now and then, I marvel that 32 years after we first met, I am as intrigued and attracted to my husband as I was on our first date. He is my worst distraction. Nobody’s opinion matters more than his. He is crazy and I am out of my mind. We know this. We embrace it. It’s what makes us laugh.

So what happened when I stopped deciding for him what was unlovable about me? He’s more relaxed. I don’t know that he ever hated those things. But my determination that he must, stood between us. When I took a risk and offered them to him (by letting go of my preconceived ideas) I gave him a gift in the form of trust. Without knowing what my motives were, he accepted the gift and my risk was rewarded.

What happened when I moved beyond just accepting his edges and began to love them? The change is in me. My ‘edgy’ responses towards his edges have softened. I want to love all of him. Not just the easily lovable parts. What good is it if all I can offer him is just a slightly stronger version of what the rest of the world offers him? In trying to see this differently, I have discovered that his ‘perfect imperfections’ are precisely what makes him HIM. And I love him. I don’t love a perfect idealized version of who he is or who he could be. I love him. His imperfections are perfect imperfections. They have always been what makes him uniquely him. My perspective has changed.

He is my end and my beginning. I love that the lyrics are written in that order. He isn’t my beginning and my end. He is my end and my beginning. The best part of my story starts with him and it will end with him. Every day together, is a new beginning.

Someday, one of us will be gone before the other. And if I am the one that goes last, I don’t want to live with any regret. I don’t want to think then of things I could have done differently. And if I were to go first, I want the assurance that I gave him everything I could, while I could. So every now and then I play this song. It’s a reminder to give it my all.

http://youtu.be/Mk7-GRWq7wA

“All of Me” by John Legend

What would I do without your smart mouth?
Drawing me in, and you kicking me out
You’ve got my head spinning, no kidding, I can’t pin you down
What’s going on in that beautiful mind
I’m on your magical mystery ride
And I’m so dizzy, don’t know what hit me, but I’ll be alright

My head’s under water
But I’m breathing fine
You’re crazy and I’m out of my mind

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
‘Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, ohoh

How many times do I have to tell you
Even when you’re crying you’re beautiful too
The world is beating you down, I’m around through every mood
You’re my downfall, you’re my muse
My worst distraction, my rhythm and blues
I can’t stop singing, it’s ringing, in my head for you

My head’s under water
But I’m breathing fine
You’re crazy and I’m out of my mind

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
‘Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, ohoh

Give me all of you
Cards on the table, we’re both showing hearts
Risking it all, though it’s hard

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
‘Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you

I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, ohoh

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Dad and Me

I had a revelation of sorts last week.

It happened while I was driving in my car. My brother made some cd’s right after my dad died. A collection of songs that my dad loved and ones that reminded us of him. Over a year later I’m still listening to them. But then I also have other songs I listen to. Songs that reflect my processing of his aging, dying and death.

So, there I was driving, my music was playing and I was thinking of my dad and I realized something had shifted in my thinking.

Before he died, I worried about how I would survive without him.

After he died, I discovered survival is not only possible, it’s the only viable option.

But I missed him. The loss of his physical presence was overwhelming. Some days it would be crushing and on other days it was and is, merely a dull ache.

Until last week. When I realized that through his death, I gained something I didn’t anticipate. When he was alive he was often on my mind. His influence was steady in my life. But there were moments, and stretches of time where I went about my life not thinking, consciously, too much about him.

Until he died.

As I passed the one year mark, I realized he is with me now in a way he wasn’t when he was alive. I feel him with me. Not in some sort of ghostly way. But somehow I feel like he has become a part of me, a part of my skin and my bones, my heart and my mind.

And I realize, that’s a gain.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’d take him back, in his old physical form in a flash. Without hesitation, I’d give up this new feeling for a more tangible one I can wrap my arms around.

But that’s not an option. The realization of what I’ve gained, despite the loss, is a gift. It’s one I think I don’t fully appreciate yet because it’s new. I was use to my old relationship with my dad. It was comfortable and safe and known.

This new relationship is more really, a relationship with myself. All that he has instilled in me, now seeks to be given life. He is not here to protect me, to save the day, to provide for me. I must do it without him. But he didn’t leave me empty handed. He left both my hands and my heart full.

I feel compelled to act where he once would have. I am still completely me, but now, I am also more.
And since the only choice I have in this matter, is how I respond to this gift, I choose to embrace it.

Even if the return of the embrace is only felt in my heart.

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