I’ve spooned many dark nights with sadness. I’ve arm-wrestled with anger. I’ve sobbed on the bathroom floor with disappointment. I’ve had one too many drinks with resentment. I’ve hand-cuffed myself to shame. Apathy and I have stared outside my kitchen window. I’ve shared a tarnished best friend’s necklace with inadequacy. Fear has driven me home many nights.
Uncomfortable. Miserable. Trudging. Falling. Bargaining. Despising. All-consuming. Short-lived. Neverending.
I will allow you a brief cameo in my life. On my stage. In my thoughts. Then, I will close the curtain on you.
I recognize you. I’ve met you. I know exactly who you are. And what you are. You’re necessary. Yet, you’re one dimensional.
But I am not.
Goodbye for now. The unknown. My temporary struggles. I have made long term plans with peace. Joy is on my speed dial. My soul patiently holds her hand out for me. Grace knows the code to my garage door. Self-compassion opens her arms wide to hold my truths. Because I have love and mercy overflowing, I will not run dry in the midst of pain, uncertainty and my struggles. My discomfort and questions and lack of answers will not consume me. My faith will steady me.
I will be watching the setting sun before me admiring the gorgeous colors of the sky as they change every day. I will hear the giggling boy beside me. I will push on his left-sided dimple and I will point to mine. I always will be healing. I will never stop growing. As long as I am living. I will stumble. I will fall. And I will get back up again.
Struggles and strengths. They will lead me through this complicated world filled with hope.
God has never left me. He hears my sighs, my laughter and my tears. Jesus feels my pain. And He willingly fills my love tank. The Holy Spirit revives me, recharges me, inspires me. Time after time again.
I am overcoming.
I’m trying, God.
But you’re going to need to help me out tonight. Right now.
This is a really long shift.
How am I doing?
I feel like I’m flailing. Tumbling. Or failing. Maybe all three.
Where do I need to improve? It seems like everywhere.
I prayed as I loaded the dirty dishes. Tears dripped down my face. Below freezing temps give me the never ending chills. The winter funk. I thought about stepping outside to see if my tears would freeze. They’re probably too salty. Maybe the bitter air would numb my overfeeling heart. And solidify my tears. A cool crying experiment of sorts. My dog would probably come lick my face repeatedly and ruin my weird backyard science lab.
Why do the smallest things ignite the fastest growing fires?
I need a winter hummingbird, God. Please. Send one.
Spilled hot chocolate. Rejection. Dishes everywhere. Insecurities fall onto the floor. I sop them up with a small stained dishcloth. Back and forth I walk to the sink to wring out the mess.
I hear the dragging sound of a nine year old boy’s house shoes behind me. He doesn’t pick up his feet, much like his mother.
“Mom? Sorry your day was stressful.”
Oh, he noticed. Perhaps he sees my smeared eye makeup. Or did I remove my heavy daytime armor revealing my worn-out nighttime emotions and feelings underneath?
My sensitive-souled boy hugs me. I rest my head on his. A few tears slowly sneak out. I don’t let go. Not yet.
“I love you the morst, Mom.”
I know in my thirty eight year old heart. It’s not possible.
“I love you the morst, buddy.”
My winter hummingbird stares me in the eyes. Hanging in my kitchen window. Sheltered from the snow. A reminder of my Grandma’s love. Given to me by a dear friend who sees, hears and listens with her heart.
I am trying. And some days my trying is better than others. You know this, God.
Thank you for moving me. Past my fears, insecurities, failures and doubts for tonight. Thank you for helping me notice the fluttering boy that entered the room.
I trust that God sees me. He grabs the paddles and resuscitates me with endless love and ever-present hope. Fills me with a warm peace. He surrounds me with tiny moments that reveal the love tucked away, sometimes under the snow. He hears my cries, the silent and the loud ones, in between the running water and the dishes clanging. He holds a place for my busy thoughts, slithering worries, constant questions and my hopes that get trapped, forgotten or lost in my heart-mind translation. He gently transforms my defeated thoughts.
Please send me a winter hummingbird.
I asked for one. And I had the honor of saying “goodnight” to three.
Oh, my beating heart. Thank you for those hummingbird boys of mine. They love with an energy and passion and joy that leaves me humbled. Inspired.
I’m trying, God.
I will keep trying.
I reached into the right pocket of my jeans, the pocket that I thought I had placed two wadded up bills in. I borrowed some cash from my husband for parking. It turned out that I didn’t need it. I looked down. I accidentally had pulled out the twenty dollar bill. I knew that it was a lot of money. A grueling hour of work. An hour exposed to hard stuff or even laughter. An hour of time spent away from my family.
The homeless man told me five different stories in two short minutes. He couldn’t get into the shelter. It was full. He needed to get to St. Louis. Somebody stole his bag. He needed a blanket. He was hungry.
I handed him the twenty dollar bill. Not because I believed his stories. Not because I thought he would go buy a decent amount of food with it. But because I stood there looking at him and I felt sorry for him. For his lies or for his truths. For what I could see and for all that I couldn’t. He asked me what my name was. I told him. I asked him his. He thanked me. I thanked him.
I regret not giving him one of my new non-business cards.
I really don’t like flinging myself into uncomfortable situations. With new faces, often the kind with a lot of make-up on. Perhaps trying to elbow in and impress people or be somebody that maybe they are. Or maybe they are not. I hate pretending to be somebody that I am not. I’m just no good at it. I’m better at saying inappropriate things at the least appropriate time.
So, as I entered the room by myself, I asked the bartender for a beer. Yep, just in the bottle. That way you don’t have to wash a glass on my accord. Next, I walked over and put some food on my plate. As I awkwardly held my drink in my large hands, I almost dropped my beer and my plate. An employee watching the appetizer table walked up and asked me if he could hold it, I said, “Yes. Thank you.” I proceeded to tell him about the jar of spaghetti sauce that I had dropped and broke in Target a couple of weeks ago. I thought I didn’t need a basket. Or a cart. See, I learned from my mistake. He and I began talking about how hard it is to keep milk in the house. I learned all about this strange non-powdered, unevaporated milk that has a long shelf life and “really tastes just like milk.”
I thought I should explore the place. I walked outside and looked at the Kansas City skyline. With my beer and my tiny sandwich. And my cookie.
I reassured myself that even if I gave the homeless man an hour of work in the form of a twenty dollar bill and let somebody help me while learning about this new milk that I could call my evening a success. Honestly, I had wanted to park my car downtown, put a few quarters in the parking meter and sit there while I finished reading my book. But I didn’t. I just couldn’t.
I walked inside. Running late. As I am always. I went to the event with nobody there that I truly knew. I purposely put myself in an uncomfortable position. Was it a successful night? Who knows. But I did it. I won a door prize, most likely for being so late that my name was on the top. Little did that door prize know that it positively reinforced my future tardiness.
I decided I just can’t give out non-business cards about my blog, unless they maybe have a fortune on them or something else helpful. Maybe a measurement converter like how many ounces are in a cup. That seems dumb. Maybe a useless fact like, “did you know that you can find out the sex of a guinea pig by pushing on its belly?” Beware, a tiny penis may pop out though. And no, I just heard. I haven’t tried it. I should probably research some other useless facts.
Speaking of business cards, one time I was at a concert and a woman complimented me on something, I think my really high heeled shoes. She then proceeded to hand me her business card and tell me about some skincare line or something that she was selling. Keep in mind, I didn’t know her. Apparently, upon meeting me, my face bothered her enough to want to change it. With some products. It was probably my freckles. Which I happen to purposely not cover up. Sadly, she abruptly had to leave after she jammed her foot in my door because Rick Springfield had taken off his shirt and she wanted to go try and touch his sweaty middle-aged body. Even though she had done it before at another concert and her husband had been mad about it. Really. This is a true story. This is actually a true story of how not to give someone your business card.
I don’t know that giving my non-business card to a homeless man would have been any better. He probably wouldn’t be able to access my blog. My card would have probably ended up littering the downtown sidewalk, but I’m sure, like me, he has had something burn somewhere before. Perhaps in his mind, in his heart or in his pants. Maybe the food or alcohol he went to purchase would burn his throat and help him remember and feel alive, like he mattered. Like he was important. I know it may have been more wise to have given him food or a blanket or something besides cash, but I didn’t have anything else except my jacket that would have been too small for him. And I really do like that jacket.
Later on, when I got home, I found the dollar bill in my other jean pocket. The left side, the one I didn’t reach into. Maybe the homeless man needed that twenty dollar bill more than me. Actually, my husband since he loaned it to me. Or maybe he just needed someone to look him in the eye and talk with him for a few minutes. Just like I did that night.
I semi-fled. Or retreated. Up the staircase. I plopped myself down with my back against the door. I stared out the window at a gigantic swaying tree. I took a few deep breaths. And I noticed my tiny closet window is the same shape as a stop sign. So, I stopped my overthinking. I stalled. Nobody was coming so I just didn’t move.
After I spent some time praying and looking out the window in my closet, I concluded that ultimately, I have to give somebody permission to hurt me. With their words or thoughts. I give them access to my brush pile. And if the conditions are right, they light me up and ignite a fire that has the potential to grow. And grow. Inside of my head. Trickling down to my heart. You see, it’s me, most of the time that gathers the fuel for the fire. I make a pile and stack it up. Nice and neat. The little insecure thoughts, the fallen twigs and sticks. The bigger, and much heavier branches also get thrown into my brush pile. They’re my doubts and fears. The fake truths. The lies I tell myself. My worries. All of the unknowns. In hindsight, it’s quite unfair to blame anybody but myself when my fire gets lit. Because I supplied the fuel. That was all on me. How could a person that loves me and that I love, too, know how big my brush pile had grown? If I didn’t tell them.
It’s not their fault.
Because it doesn’t matter how well you know a person or even how much you love them, it can be a tricky business knowing someone’s exact thoughts or fragile state at an exact moment in time. Or knowing their exact emotional or literal response to one of your thoughts. Ahhhh. Mind reading. If you could have any super power, would you choose the ability to fly or read someone’s thoughts? Could you help a loved one or even a complete stranger feel less insecure, perhaps more important if you knew exactly what she was thinking at a specific moment? Would we treat each other more gently and compassionately if we could slip past their outer appearance and sneak into their head to understand what they actually were thinking? What if we could know exactly how they felt? For better or worse.
I realize that I should have never been gathering sticks, stacking up all these bits of fuel. But I do. Like most people. And it’s extremely hard to let them go sometimes. We can oftentimes dodge or escape other people’s opinions or thoughts, but sometimes we are not as skilled in escaping our own negative thoughts.
We need help. With ourselves and each other. We all need the grace of God acting as the hose or the fire extinguisher, and we all need the type of person willing to stand there next to the flames helping us out. Or else we may continue to gather fuel, purposely or unintentionally causing our brush pile to grow. And grow. We may even go looking to pick a fight with someone with a torch who we know will happily light our fire. And not in the “C’mon baby, Light my Fire” Doors kind of way. In the self-defeating, humiliating sort of way.
It didn’t take a blow torch for me today. Just a few matches. My brush pile burned down. Which helped me learn that I need to stop gathering sticks, branches, etc. I need to be more kind and forgiving to myself. Maybe you do too.
I disappoint myself. At least once a day. Usually multiple times. Some days, there are far too many instances to keep track. I won’t get something done that I really, really needed or wanted to get done. Like yesterday, I needed to mail a package. I loaded it in my car. And drove it around all day, but didn’t mail it. Or later, I had to go to the bathroom really bad. I told myself I was just going to use the bathroom in Barnes and Noble and NOT buy any books for myself. So, I read a chapter of a book of short stories on my way to the bathroom. I liked it. But I set the book down. I didn’t dare touch the cover to my face to feel the book. Whew. It was a close call. I came out of the bathroom and began reading a few children’s books. One in particular made me laugh out loud. Come on. If books had feelings, which I’m certain they do, how could I set that one back down? How insulting. So, I tricked myself into buying that book “for my kids” and nieces. (“The Day the Crayons Came Home”) It wasn’t for me, right??
I make a promise to myself then I break that promise. Constantly. I say one thing and then do another. I know I disappoint people around me too. Which is not surprising because people disappoint me too sometimes. When you hold people to a certain level, and they don’t even know it, they will fall short. Most times, people may not even know they’re disappointing you. That whole communication piece is crucial although sometimes it’s easier to not tell someone they’re disappointing you because what if you tell them? And they don’t care or they get defensive and they keep on disappointing you. When it keeps happening, time and time again, it hurts. People can be downright disappointing.
If you venture outside, you may notice that nature rarely disappoints. The Kansas sunsets are typically mesmerizing. They show up evening after evening. If I take a hike or ride throughout the beautiful forests filled with a million different colors of leaves, I feel inspired and recharged. They never hurt my feelings. When I look up at the moon playing hide and seek behind the smoky thick clouds, I’m enchanted. A late night trickster with the best intentions. Truly the only game it plays is to move in and out from behind the clouds. What about a gorgeous, perfectly unique itty-bitty snowflake hitching a ride up the hill on my scarf? Beautiful and delicate. I would never expect that snowflake to fold my laundry or take the time to read my blog.
And one of my all-time favorites is the ocean. The ocean is constant, beautiful and it never ceases. I don’t expect the ocean to take the trash out. Or pay my bills. Or quench my thirst. I would not be disappointed if I ran out past the shore line, jumped into the waves, fell down and gulped a big mouth full of ocean water to discover that it tasted salty. Oh, so salty. Because it’s supposed to be salty. I can expect that. I’ve experienced accidental gulps full many times. I’ve gagged, coughed it back up and spit it out. But I didn’t hold a grudge against the ocean. No way.
Several years ago, we took our three year olds and one year old boys to the ocean and they played in the sand. Then, the waves invited them in. The boys jumped, fell and quickly ran out of the water disgusted, practically foaming at the mouth and crying because of the unexpected and overpowering taste of the salt water. Whoops. It didn’t taste like bath water or pool water or even lake water. It was painfully different. They had to learn to prepare for salt water every time they fell in with their mouths open. When they rubbed their eyes, it hurt too. They learned that they needed to close their mouths and eyes because the ocean does not change. Not even for overexcited little boys who would play in its waters all day long.
People can change though. I believe it. It’s hard. Uncomfortable. Awkward. Humbling. If they’re open and willing to listen to the hard stuff. If they want to grow, if they want to hear someone else’s perspective, opinions, or counsel. If they want to be accountable. I don’t think people like to be a disappointment. I would rather you tell me that you’re pissed at me and you want to punch me in my face than to tell me that I’ve disappointed you. I will take most words but those, not those, please.
I have found an enormous amount of freedom and peace in knowing that there are people who readily love me despite the fact that I disappoint them. I find an even greater peace in knowing that God’s love is like the ocean. Never a disappointment. Beautiful, enormous, persistent. I am so very small, in comparison, but I am loved nonetheless in a gigantic non-stop kind of way. No matter how I may disappoint other human beings, dogs, guinea pigs, etc. God readily accepts and loves me. Always. Every day.
Frustrating, tardy, scatterbrained, confused, stubborn, messy disappointing little speck of sand me. Not only does God love me, God humbles me and believes in me. And this motivates me and helps me and challenges me to be better.
I’m sorry if I’ve disappointed you. You can tell me sometime. I’m willing to listen and grow. And change and do better, if possible. I’m also willing to admit that I will most likely disappoint you again. Unfortunately, it’s a prerequisite for being in a relationship with me.