Maybe it was NEVER about ME.

Soon I will travel to my hometown to attend my 20 year reunion. To say that I am nervous is an understatement.  When I attended my 10 year I found that some of us had changed, others had not.  To say that I have grown in maturity since then is also an understatement.  To that end, I have been surprised to find some classmates reach out to me via Facebook.  It has shocked me to discover how many have watched my posts and commented on the smiles they get out of the antics of my  boys, or that I make them think because of something I have said.

I am amazed.  I choke back tears, I am filled with fear–terrified to see many of these people, terrified to expose myself to some who made such an impact.

I remember the beginning of the treatment.  We had a classmate join our class from a different class, he was instantly popular because of his athletic ability.  He also had a bit of a temper and tended to blow his top in anger.  The upper echelon  challenged him to not lose his temper for one week.  If he did, he would have to hug 1 of 3 of us on the lower rung.  True to form, he lost it and by the week end, he chose to hug me for 2 minutes.  I remember the embrace, the laughter from the crowd.  I was humiliated.

I remember hitting junior high school.  No one has a good junior high memories.  Every one of us hits that awkward stage and I was no different.  I recall wearing a tighter red sweater, proud that the color and form looked ok.  A late bloomer, I had no other thought on my radar until the guys in the lunchroom laughed at me and called me “pointy.”  I was sheltered enough to have no idea as to what they were referring…that is until a classmate pulled me aside and told me what the big deal was.  I wanted to die right there.  I wished more times than I could count that the floor would open up and swallow me whole.  I cursed that it never happened.

I remember being good friends with one of the popular girls and someone teaching me how to “peg” my jeans so I would be acceptable to sit at the “popular” table.  The friendship waned as her popularity grew and my stock plummeted.  Oddly enough she and I stayed at least cordial friends throughout the rest of school.  I have thought of her often.

I hated crushes and I had one on the most popular guy in school.  Needless to say, most of us in our class and beyond did as well.  Little did anyone realize that we were actually really good friends and talked quite candidly.  To my knowledge he never talked smack about me, not once.  I have silently thanked him many many times for that quiet support.  It was no secret that most of the girls had enormous crushes on him….enter the stupid notes to me asking if I would go out with so and so.  Beyond excited, a bit of a romantic, and sooooo naive, I took the bait-responding back by checking the necessary box.  How stupid could I be?  Yet, stupid I was.  To my classmates’ horror, he saved me a dance at every stinking school insanity called school dances.  He never refused, all I had to do was walk over, I was thrilled to have his friendship–I still am and it was a well-kept secret.

Junior high was amazing for humiliation and 8th grade brought a new level of rude behavior.  I stopped going to school functions because I caught the look on one of my classmate’s faces when I danced with his little brother.  The horror on his face was unmistakable.  I felt guilty, I knew he would talk to his brother immediately after that “stunt”. and he did.  His brother never spoke to me again.  Likewise, I caught the finger-pointing when I danced with an upperclassman as a 7th grader, a mutual friend who had been on an Olympics of the Mind team.  We had kicked butt as a team, I was smart, creative, and an overall nice person…..that never mattered.   Somehow it does now?

I have at times looked back at our senior paper…Senior Wills and Prophecies….I was devastated by wishes that were sent my way.  I went home and sobbed down at the lake by myself.  Wishes of a car so that no one would have to give me a ride and be seen with me. No one knew that I was not allowed to have a license and felt so small with how I had to travel.  No one ever knew how much courage it took me to even approach someone for a ride.  I regretted it, I still do.  Some wished me a new neck so I would not have to hurt the one i had by turning it to watch and talk with someone else.  Of course, it was “our boy”, and while his classmates did a fine job of pointing it out, he took it in stride and complimented me when I had done well in debate the prior weekend.  I was so grateful for those moments, I don’t think he ever knew that.  I also think that being good at my extra curricular events was my saving grace.  I was at the bottom of the pit, but I was not unnoticed because I worked my butt off to be good at what I did.  Some wished I would get a life, or to take my own.  They knew how much I hated where I was, yet the dramatic tendency for the over the top behavior wearied most people….me included.  I heard myself, saw what I was portraying, and I hated it.  I hated that I let them get the better of me, I loathed who I allowed myself to become.  I wanted the heavens above to whisk me off to nether lands.  I prayed for it more times than I can count and I hated that feeling and who it made me.

So, we come to the upcoming event.  I walk forward with trepidation, hoping that we all have grown up a bit more.  I have to walk in believing that we are not same people, that I am not the same person.  Maybe, just maybe all the crap and rumors and finger-pointing, snide comments, and snubs were necessary for us to mature.  Even as I type this, I have to look away and swipe at tears, praying that THIS time it will be different.  That THIS time around what I thought was the ugly duckling will have transformed into the graceful swan.  Each year at the start of school I looked hopefully into the mirror waiting to see if it had happened.  I felt like Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles when she hoped to wake up on her 16th bday changed for the better.  In the end, she got the hot guy.

I am no longer dorky me with an over dramatic tendency and the incessant need to impress.  I am praying for the courage to walk bravely forth, and “put your past behind you” as Lion King would tell me.  I also pray that if others are reading this….they can take heart for themselves and know that it is possible to live through moments of hell, real, imagined, inflicted, and self imposed.  It is possible to climb that mountain of humiliation and check pride at the door and stand on top of that mountain and look down at what was accomplished.  Hell, I even did a clinical not so long ago with a classmate ( another popular one) who was a doctor on of the floors I worked.  We worked well and had a healthy respect for one another.  I am thankful for that moment too.  Maybe at the end of the day, it was never about me…maybe, just maybe.

With fingers crossed, I remain,

me

 

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In ReVUE.

What can I say…I did not watch the ball drop at midnight, I imbibed no alcohol, I did not situate myself amidst major crowds, I am…boring.

I played Words with FRIENDS, beat my mother for the 6th straight game, wrestled with both my boys, and cuddled my pug till  fell asleep at 10 pm.  I was at work at a gas station bright and early, listening to large groups of men complain about their lives, wives, town, and occupation.  FUN  Then another group comes in, spending their whopping 75 cents while discussing their upcoming colonoscopies and the prep they must endure to undergo such procedures.  I wanted to scream at them that I have done at least 6 of them in my life in the last 10 years, but I opted to keep quiet this time and simply observe.

I watched this morning as the Facebook posts reiterated the plans people have for the upcoming year.  I have made no plans, no definite ones anyway.  I have things I would like to see happen, but I find if I make the plans, they have a tendency not to come true and then I am left feeling guilty about my lack of initiative.  I have hope for the first time, I think the first time I can remember.

It has been a whirlwind of a 2012.  I can honestly say that I have learned more this year than in years past.  So, what did I learn?

Well, graduating from Seminary does not mean that one has an instant pass around the Monopoly board.  There are many hoops to jump, some man-made, some that require time and contemplation.  At the end of 4 years, I have read more, analyzed my psyche’, written more papers, and questioned myself more than I have in any other year.   What I thought I would be doing, where I thought I would be going, I am not.  Fortunately, the ride is taking me some amazing places, so I ought not complain.  Although the planner in me would like a bit more control…

Family is not what I thought it was either.  I am not sure what my definition is, but suffice it to say that what I thought and the reality are 2 different animals.  I have people to whom I am related that I have not had contact with in decades.  There are immediate family members with whom I have not talked with or interacted since 1993.  I find that sad, but am coming to a different conclusion.  I also have other family members that I can go months without speaking to them, I hear about what they are doing, but there is no conversation.  I find that sad too.  However, I think I may be growing up a bit.  The other day I said aloud that I was done trying to put myself on someone else’s radar.  It hit me that the only one who suffers when I try to do that is me.  If I am not on the radar to begin with, their life is unaffected and unruffled in relation to my existence one way or another.  If I try to place myself in a position where I may be noticed, whether with affirmative or negative responses, the only one who gets hurt is me.  They still remain unaffected and I am left holding the empty bag of my expectations.  That was a rather painful realization to come to this week.  That means there will be a response…I will withhold my connections with those people and wait for their cue.  Am I a horrible person?  No.  We just do not see life in the same manner and I am sick to death of trying to make myself fit every stinking mold out there so that someone else feels comfortable with me.  To quote Popeye “I am what I am.”

Family looks different…there are people who have traveled hours to see me preach, they did not have to do that.  I have people at the station where I sub who have asked me to officiate their weddings.  I have 2 scheduled for 2013 already.  Preacher ME!  I have brothers and sisters who have no blood relation to me, but who chose to have more to do with me than my family.   That is by their choice, not my force.  They have shown me time and again what community looks like.  WE are willing to climb in the muck with one another and get dirty…and love each other through it.

My boys are the 2 most precious and best things I have ever done.  Sometimes I struggle with how I am doing as a mom, priorily learned methods of parenting sneak into my head, but I work like a dog to make sure they are loved.  Not a day goes by that I do not tell them at least a million times that they are loved.  I hope it is enough to cover them when I fail to live up to all they think I am.  It is amazing to see how they are coming into their own and becoming the people they are meant to be.  It is also humbling to see some of my personality visited on them…that mother’s curse is certainly alive and well in these two.

Health is something that has plagued me the last 38 years and it looks like I may have a handle on it…FINALLY!  From my past biological parents, I had suffered a lot of internal damage which causes much inflammation and scarring.  To make a long story short, there was not a day that I did not double over with stomach pains, cramping, and a host of other issues.  I have had every colonoscopy in the book, eaten radioactive eggs, done more barium drinks than I can count, and had most of my insides that are not major organs removed.  All that is left are those that HAVE to be there and my appendix.  I entered into a drug study as a guinea pig and it looks like the drug is actual drug and not placebo.  You have no clue the relief I feel not having a stomach ache every single day.  I told a good friend the other day that I was ready to give up, I was ready to give in and let it overtake me.  I will write more about that later.  From the physical sense, I felt trapped in a body that would not let me do what I wanted, did not give me the energy that I needed, and I wanted nothing more than to crawl into my blankets and lose myself.  I still have a ways to go to heal all the damage that has been done, and a good share will never be healed, but I feel better than I have in years and actually look forward to next year at this time.

Understanding people alludes me, but I am learning.  I am more apt to listen and watch than I am to respond.  I am choosing more carefully what I respond to and in what manner.  As a candidate for Ordained Ministry in the United Methodist Church, I hold to the concept of Social Justice with all that I am.  I am watching closely what I see and discerning what I hear and what my response should be.  There will be times of action, of contemplation, of learning, and of surrender.  I hope that I am wise enough to know the difference and to heed the counsel of those I trust.  More times than not, my impassioned heart and mouth can get the better of me, I need to temper that with quiet confidence and allow that to lead.  As I age, I am less tolerant of intolerance and find those who intend to hurt simply because they can not worth my time or energy.  I am coming into a more working knowledge of what ADVOCATE means.

2012 has taken me for a ride…catapulted me to depths of understanding and confusion that I did not think possible.  There has been loss, joy, frustration, forgiveness, understanding, and resignation.  I am more hopeful for this year…I am gonna try and just BE for a while and see how that goes.

SHALOM

cahl

 

 

After a Year

I usually think lists are a cop-out means of communication.  A year after I have started this blog, a few items have come to mind.

1)  Kids seem to take the front seat in almost all communications.  Goofier kids stories the better.

2)  I struggle trying to decide if being authentic is really where it’s at, or if I am safer playing more poker with my thoughts –hence the reason I have not written much lately.

3)  Who reads this anyway and what impact am I making…as a writer, of course I want to believe my words are read, but to what end?  Do the things I have to say matter to anyone out there?  Not sure, so I wrestle.

4)  Sometimes I am hit by the bug and simply must write…there is no stopping- no mandate which could eliminate the desire.  Then again, sometimes, it seems the most arduous task to even come up with a cogent thought.

5)  I find I do work things out in my head as I write, and the more I read, the better I write.  Those are good items.

6)  People are weird and fascinating creatures.

7)  I really have no idea what my goal or purpose is on this blog post.

8)  Maybe admitting that is ok.

9)  Eating cheetos while typing never a good option.

10)  Drinking Chai Tea and eating chocolate…always a good option.

11) Really, does anyone read this?

12)  What would they like me to write about?

38’s Special

I was Here

Well, here it is.  According to my birth certificate I was born at 6:42 am on Sept 6,1974.  For a longtime, self-proclaimed NON morning person, that is quite a shock to the system….interestingly enough, my youngest son was born at 6:43 am on april 14.  Coincidence?  I think…..

I have spent the last nine years claiming 29 and I have done it well.  My inner circle joked with me this year about whether or not I would have the courage to DO IT….Would I turn 30?  NO!  I won’t.  Wait for it….I plan to claim 38.

Now, on a good day, with FANTASTIC lighting, great hair, and impeccable make-up I can easily pass for late 20’s…. lately however those good days lend themselves closer to 30ish and according to FACEBOOK, I pass for 35…we all know how truthful that is!

As I gaze into the mirror, trying not to adopt a critical eye…the telltale signs are there.  The laugh lines are deeper, the wrinkles on my forehead a bit more pronounced, the gray that will not relinquish its hold….they are all there.

So why embrace this?  Well, that is a super good question.  I think back to what i wanted at 30….I was supposed to have my career in place, on my way to owning a home, a couple of kids running in the yard OH BLAH DEE OH BLAH DAH!

Uh, sure.  At 35, I started sweating the lack of the “dream”  At 38, I OWN NOTHING!  I have a couple of cars with over 150,000 miles on it, no mortgage, no owned home, boat, timeshare, motorcycle… I do possess almost 90,000 of federal loan debt, so I guess I can say the government owns me…that’s something, right?

WAIT WAIT WAIT.  I do have a Bachelor’s degree, A Master’s of Divinity, 2 full units toward clinical chaplaincy.  I have 2 amazing amazing and wonderful children, who are smart, caring, and articulate…they’re cute too!  Not that i am biased.  ,I am not in jail, do not deal drugs, and am a contributing member of society…I am the director of communications and marketing for a growing and impactful non-profit, and I work with people on all levels of civic, faith-based, and city involvement.  These people are some of the closest things to angels in flesh that I have encountered…the staff that I work with is above par and what’s more, they put up with the pain in the butt that I am–lovingly.

At the end of the day, as I embrace 38 I understand that I am a lucky woman and I have earned these 38 years.  I have earned what I have learned and the woman I have become as a result.  I have seen much and endured much, that much is true.

Ok, so what have I learned?  Can I write to book now?  Seriously.  I have experienced female friendships which are more valuable to me than anything I could ever anticipate.  I have women who have poured their lives into mine at various age levels and I am a better me because of them.  There is such comfort to sitting with a good gal pal (or facebooking, chatting, iming, googling, or whatever you want to call it) and laugh, cry, talk, shop, drink good wine, eat chocolate, and laugh some more.  I love love love my girls, what’s cool is that they know who they are.  Some are soul sisters, creative companions, writing legends, or just plain lovely.  I don’t need to tell them every day how much they mean to me, they know….but I am not afraid to tell them I love them.

I am not afraid to embrace my sons, let them see me cry or to be human around them.  They know that their mama is real and I make mistakes and when I do, I beg their forgiveness.  The result?  My boys and I are TIGHT TIGHT TIGHT.  I know them and I am a better woman because of their impact on my life.  The road is not always easy, and sometimes I am at a loss as to what to do next….I pray constantly that I do not mess them up completely.  Love does heal a multitude of wounds and I love them with everything that I am…and unashamed to claim it.

I have not traveled an easy path and the skeletons in my closet are anything but pretty.  The incredible knowledge is that I have survived, not only that, I BEAT THE ODDS.  Those who read this and really know who I am, know that I speak gut honest truth.  Every card in the deck was stacked against my favor and somehow…somehow the Creator and I overcame.  It is daunting to think about sometimes, and scares the crap out of me most of the time.  I do not know why I would be chosen to beat the odds, but we did it.  Creator willing, we’ll keep at it.

I dream really big dreams and I am beginning to face the fact that I may just be able to accomplish them…on my own.  I lived in the shadow of some amazing family members for most of my life.  That is what they are to me now, shadows.  The longer I keep chasing their legacy I have none to  call my own.  Their legacy is theirs and not mine to claim.  While a couple of massively talented people ended up in the same family, it does not have to eat me alive.  This is something with which I will wrestle my whole life…identity.  Maybe that’s ok.  I am an artist of words, and advocate for people, a lover of people and animals (except snakes and spiders), a change artist who desires to make a positive impact and leave this world a better place for my children and my grandchildren.  I am a storyteller and a compassionate teacher and chaplain.

The latest I have learned as a result of grappling with authority.  Sometimes there is a fight in which to engage and a time to open my mouth and stand up for people and values in which I believe.  There are moments when the gloves come off and in grace, love, and wisdom, I do declare that I will not stand for what I see happening.  I believe that if I disagree with something but have done nothing to remedy or impact the situation, I have no right or authority to speak in opposition to it.  If I choose not to vote, I have no right to criticize.  If I have not taught I have no right to judge those who ask to be dully compensated for the education they provide my children.  As I age, I understand that I have more experience and less to lose….and I can be more comfortable in saying “to hell with this.”  pardon my potty mouth.  People of all ages, stages, and places deserve HUMANE and GRACE-FILLED treatment.  I am here to do my part to the best of my ability, and I will fail and sometimes I will win.

So, there it is…I promised myself I would stay under 1200 words…I have done so.  My day has been long and I bid my 37th year and 29 a fond farewell.

Shalom,

cahl.

Aside

Pride, it Goeth.

<a href="http://http://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/x7gab9
Pilate And Christ Jesus Christ Superstar by roniyy“>

I feel compelled to scribe more on this topic of pride and identity, especially since it may not be just me that struggles.  One of my favorite artists is U2.  The moment I hear the word pride, I instantly go to the song, inspired by the life and work of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I always smile ruefully to myself as the lyrics play in my head and I again commit to be part of making a difference in my generation.  It always serves as a moment of inspiration for me, then the smack-down of the real world sets in and I realize what an attempt that would be.  Still, there is always that flicker of a bigger flame that is fanned.  Much as I would love to shove down the passionate change advocate, she rears her ugly head and demands that I reexamine the chance to set the world on fire.

I have to admit having to examine my motives for fanning that passionate flame.  I have to ask myself if I   be part of change because there is a desperate need to see real and positive change happen, or because I have a need to be elevated?  That is a tough question, one I am convinced the great social and political change artists wrestled.  I hope they struggled, I hope they did and do as much as I feel called to tussle.

It is not an easy question.  I explored it when I first became a teacher.  Did I want to teach for the glory of standing up in front of a classroom and speaking to a new generation?  What were the real reasons that I wanted it?  The fact is, the more I did it, the more in love with “my kids” I fell.  There are many that I have as Facebook contacts, many that have emailed upon marriage, or a new baby, or when life has gotten away from them.  I consider that a holy honor.  There was always that nagging idea of my motivation at the back of my head.  If I were not teaching, what else would I do?  Without that title, who and what was I?

Fast-forward that same notion to 2012.  I entertained the idea of a lead pastor in a congregation and realized about a year and a half ago that was not my intention.  I can do the administrative work, but I would rather not.  Every stinking inventory test that I took confirmed that.  I had a battle of sorts as to what that meant as an MDIV grad if I were not in charge of a congregation…any congregation, including the big ones.  Now as I work on a non-profit and in the mix of all the nitty-gritty work it entails, I find that the question comes into focus again. 

I am forced to ask myself why I am involved, why I feel so passionate in telling the stories of those affected.  Is it the energy of starting something new?   Is it the impact and potential difference that doing the work and telling the stories provides?  What happens if it blows up and nothing happens?  Am I still ok? 

Henri Nouwen, writer and philosopher, invites me to consider a couple of understandings.  Our society relegates us to find our validation in what we own, what we do, what others say about us, and what we believe about ourselves.  Every conflict that I can think of falls into one of those 4 categories.  Either I am at odds with what I am, people say that I am, what I have/or don’t have, or what I do/don’t do.  Most of the conflict I encounter entail ones where I am at conflict with myself.    When I hear other people comment on appreciating me for who I am, I want to scream.

That is correct, I can acknowledge that there are many people in my life that I love like family–to whom I am not related, who would walk through fire for me, simply because I am me.  The concept of that makes me want to tear my hair out.  WHY??? What have I done to warrant such a connection? If that means that I have done nothing to warrant it, that also means that I can do nothing to keep it.  I think that scares me most of all.  As humans, we are conditioned to expect the worst from other people–to expect that given the opportunity, they would destroy us in a heartbeat in order to get ahead.   I spoke to a relative the other day who told me about how someone had gone off at them for no apparent reason.  This person mentioned that it would be ok and necessary to totally cut off people who intentionally hurt another.  I thought that that made sense, but at the same time was so sad.  I know there are many times when I have either intentionally or unintentionally hurt someone else.  I also know how bad it makes me feel to know that I did so–regardless of the reason. 

I also know what it feels like to be cut out of someone’s life.  There is no more hollow feeling than to know that a person that once regarded you as either a friend, colleague, or family member no longer believes you worthy of their acknowledgment.  That is the main reason that I cannot stand apathy.  At least when we hate someone/something, we care enough to hate it.  Apathy is a void of caring–it feels so hollow, so empty, so alone.    I would rather someone hate my guts than to refuse to believe that I do not exist.    I have felt that, experienced the painful void of connection.  It stinks in a place that I cannot describe.  It is what makes it almost impossible for me to believe that someone would care about me simply for who I am, not what I do.  I cannot wrap my mind around this concept.

It is also the same reason that I struggle with the idea that Abba Creator would care about me unconditionally and without reserve.  I must have done something to earn it, therefore, I must keep doing in order to make it last.   I know the last statement from a  faith standpoint is wrong, yet my experience shows me different.  If, then, my reasoning and faith are in conflict, one must rise to the forefront of being more right or acceptable.  (sorry, debate training in full gear here)  If my faith is more acceptable, then my reasoning has flaw.  If that is the case, then what I have based my understanding of acceptance as is also flawed.  What do I do with that?  How do I respond?  How do I let go of personal pride long enough to embrace a more faithful understanding of acceptance?  Do I have the courage to do that? 

Someone challenged me to embrace the idea of accepting other people’s care for no other reason then that they care.  This idea scares me to the core.  I am terrified that if I do not perform or meet their standard of my existence, then I will lose their care, and ultimately, their love.  I know intimately the feeling of losing that, and am terrified to risk the gamble again.  You may call out my hypocrisy here as I type this and know full well that I would never hold my children to this standard.  That I tell them each day that no matter what they do, they are dearly loved.  That they are beautifully and wonderfully made.  They know this to their core.  I want to scream from the mountains that of all the ideas that fill them each day, they KNOW this!!!! YES!  Today, that hard work is established.    Even if they become mass murderers (which they won’t), they know that they are loved without expectation, without reserve.

So, what of my pride that will not allow me to breathe in the love from others not related to me?  What of this pride that requires that I push ahead and never let up?  My mother told me something yesterday that hurt the second that I read it.  She mentioned that I have always pushed and pushed and pushed to do it right and perfect and to have it happen NOW–and that I never change.   It was the last statement that hurt so deeply.  It felt like I had been disregarded and written off because I struggle so.  That is my struggle, and not one that she can fix for me.  I am not sure what I would have liked her to say instead, I just know how raw a chord that struck with me.

Again, I refer back to JC Superstar and this silent king that exuded such grace, such compassion.  I want to emulate that.  I want that more than I have wanted anything in the world.  I believe it is the hallmark of some of the heroes of social and faith change that I look to for inspiration.    ” An amazing thing, this silent King.”

I need to sit with that, I need to ponder what that means and what application that has for our world in 2012 as well as in my personal life.  If it was the extreme and rare concept then, it is even more baffling today.  How do I embrace that, and how do I model that for my generation and for those following?  This is a burden I feel intensely, and the flame of passion will not subside.  I pray for the courage to boldly love in compassion and mercy, and to accept it wholly.

Shalom,

cahl.

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