You’ll have to excuse me during this blog post as it may go on for several installments and I might get weepy. Ya’ll. Today has been one of the best/worst days.
1) I recently weaned myself off of Lexapro after my last meeting with the psychiatrist when he told me that pregnancy tends to naturally protect women from anxiety and that some women can go off of their anxiety meds without too much of a problem. I realize this is not always the case, but as in every other aspect our little babe was obliging and I have not noticed anything amiss except for the inrushing of all those emotions I was supposed to be feeling all this time. I remember this from when I went off of Paxil in college: I felt more myself again and couldn’t believe I’d spent all that time feeling so tired and flat.
2) For some reason this weekend was the one chosen (by God, I presume) as the convergence and revelation of some serious issues and hopes and fears in our lives and so Henry and I have had a few really fulfilling and seriously scary talks and are on the verge of making some big (at least they feel that way to me) decisions.
3) Today I got up not at all rested from a weird night of sleep and hit the ground running with childcare and errands. You would think I’d be taking a break from childcare in my life because soon there will be no going back or giving back as the case may be. But no…I like to pack my life with as many children as possible, apparently. They just never seem to be very far away. The cutest thing that happened was when, earlier in the day, I was reading a book to the three oldest Barton children (6, 4 & 2), who were commenting on my big, squishy belly. I reminded them that I had a baby in there and they proceeded to push even harder and then to poke various other appendages which have grown in evidence of my pregnancy (really…it was cute. Not at all creepy the way it sounds right now. Besides, I’ve always gotten poked and patted on those appendages by little kids. They just like boobs I guess). When I showed them with my hands about how big my baby is right now, “the size of an apple,” all three of them copied what I was doing with their own little hands, “about this big.” You can imagine the difference in sizes and the cuteness that resulted. Then we spent some time talking about how umbilical cords don’t hurt and how my baby probably isn’t crying inside me right now because she isn’t hungry. (No…that doesn’t mean we know the sex yet. Stop that.)
But most of the REST of the day was a melee of crying babies (yep, TWO of them. I had a Zion and Phoebe overlap for a couple of hours wherein I called Henry in hysterics – all THREE of us crying – and begged him to bike over here from work as fast as he could because they were both screaming and even though I was trying to hold them both, neither was being comforted…imagine that.), trips up and down the stairs of our apartment building, feeling like I would throw up from hunger or having to pee and then trying not to start sobbing about every single thing.
I really am sooooo exhausted right now but it’s one of those states of exhaustion where so many things going through my brain that if I don’t try to write some of it down, it’ll keep me awake tonight.
It’s hard to tell where this all started. Here are the highlights:
This spring while I was in a prayer group reading through the book The Journey to Wholeness in Christ by Signa Bodishbaugh I was given a picture of myself (in prayer) in two images. The first was how I saw myself and treated the world – which was as a spider. I had created an elaborate framework of reference for social interactions in almost every situation (actually backed-up by the therapy I did). It really was like a web I’d spun – an attempt at control of social situations in order to manage my anxiety. It was as if I was always sitting on this web just waiting for one of the strings to be plucked. But I really had no mobility or interaction with the outside world. The other image I had was of a small bird, a flock bird. We’ve learned a lot about our finches as we’ve watched them and done research about their breed. Their social order actually stabilizes the more finches you add to your little flock. And if you watch, they are intensely social. They do their own things, but they are constantly attuned to each other. I think the biggest takeaway for me about the image of a bird, though, was the idea of myself being able to fly but acting like I was only a spider isolated in the middle of a vast web. I saw myself as a finch trying to act like a spider on a web that was too flimsy to hold me for much longer. The image of a bird was a promise. One of those Biblical promises, you know…the kind that tells you part of this promise has already been fulfilled.
A lot of what I think about goes back to this image, when I forget that I am actually a bird. And here’s the thing about birds: they don’t watch t.v.. The way spiders do.
I’ll go back to the spider and bird thing, but another highlight was the conversation I had with my dear friend Sarah and her sister Allison who was visiting with her youngest daughter, Rosie, who is 10 months old. Al was telling us about their decision whether to put their oldest, Sarah Margaret (4) into ballet class when she goes to pre-school in the Fall. They want to do it because Sarah Margaret loves ballet – she has painstakingly re-created moves she’s only seen from 4 or 5 one hour live ballets. Al says she wants to cry when she sees the look on Sarah Margaret’s face when she’s “balleting.” I think this must be some of what my mom experienced when she saw my love for our old blue piano way back when and then put me in piano lessons. I was glad that Al’s next words were “but I’m afraid it’ll kill her love of ballet if I do it.” That must be a hard decision for any parent. I’m glad we’re not there yet.
In the mist of this Al was describing the lives of some of the ladies around her with older children and how crazy everyone gets with the activities. She sees parents around her thinking that every child needs to be well-rounded and get the chance to find out what they really like. I see it in this suburb too and it is just another one of those things that makes me sad sometimes that this is where my community is. I made the sort of bogus comment (because have I REALLY thought all that much about this? No. I just knew it would sound so good.) that you can tell there’s a problem when you see parents viewing meal times as a nuisance rather than a time for the family to be together.
Let’s just be honest here and say that I went home later and talked to Henry about how I don’t make dinner for us and we don’t sit down to dinner together and how to change this we would have to be intentional. It’s just way too easy to plop down in front of some sort of screen and zone out. Actually…I think it goes deeper for me than mere ease…
I really admire Al and Charlie for how intentional they have been with the creation of a family. She talked about how she doesn’t want for her girls’ lives to be centered on their activities or accomplishments that they do outside of their home, but on their home, their family, the community that is their family. She described Sarah Margaret’s reaction at visiting some friends who had t.v. and just a different lifestyle as a “lust of the eyes” and that SM took after her, Al, in being such a strong “wanter.” She said she’d had a hard time just getting SM to make eye-contact with her because the t.v. was such a strong pull.
Let me tell you…I HEARD that word. That word reverberated through me. And as much as I admire Al for what she’s doing intentionally, I know that it’s not Al I was hearing. I felt like I knew what it was like to BE Sarah Margaret in this way because it’s the way I’ve always been and the way I am now. It might be apt to stretch my little spider metaphor by saying the word Shelob. I know…dork. It’s okay if you think that. I think it myself. It doesn’t make the story (Tolkien’s story, that is) any less profound. Her words made me step back and see all of that wanting for what it is. The painful conclusion is that a cessation of wanting won’t just happen if nothing else in my life changes. Specifically, if I don’t stop putting things in front of my eyes TO want. Seems pretty simple, right?
So, another highlight was Stephen Gauthier’s sermon on The Good Samaritan on Sunday. You would think that topic might be pretty tapped out for little ol’ eternally Christian me, but Dr. Gauthier makes things new which after you hear what he has to say you might swear you never actually heard that story before. What I remember most was how Jesus’ story – as is usually the case – called his listeners to something beyond what any of us would think is the right and decent thing to do. He said: “anyone might say that it’s a good thing to stop and make sure a homeless person is alright if there is an injury. Most of us would think it was a good and commendable thing to stay with that person until the paramedics arrived and then go about our business because everything would be under control at that point. But what would happen if we actually got in the ambulance with that person and went to the hospital to see it through?” Jesus story makes the lawyer who is questioning him re-examine what it means to follow God. And I thought of Heather’s letter from a few days previous – how Jesus probably is asking us to do more than we want to do for these women (or for whomever He brings to our doorstep). He’s asking us to give up money, sleep, vacation time, relaxing time, resources and talents. That’s what, potentially, makes Christians look completely crazy to the people around them. And it makes me wish I did look crazier. Sort of.
Gauthier didn’t stop there. “God doesn’t ask us to do these things as a favor to Him,” he said. “Think about it like a parent with a child. If you have children you know that when you ask them to help you when they are young, you aren’t asking them because it’s going to benefit you. In fact, quite the opposite. Most of the time, you have to undo what they’ve done and do it over again the right way. No, you ask a child to help you because you are calling him or her into manhood and womanhood. You are calling that child from doing what children do into doing what adults do; teaching them how to become part of the world. This is what God is doing for us. He calls us to give up these things; to go above and beyond the decent thing because He is calling us to our true nature – to what we are meant to be.”
That right there is when I had to start actively trying not to blubber. Like I am right now. I don’t know if it’s pregnancy or the fact that he reminded me SO MUCH of C.S. Lewis right then, but it was another moment when I HEARD him. Then in talking about this all with Henry in the car afterward when he likened what we are doing when we bury ourselves in our screens and our media every day as throwing away the gifts God has given us, it clicked for me.
I hate to even approach the word “addiction” because it has so many Connotations for me as a long-time (survivor) participant of Evangelicalism, but I will say all the things that mean addiction. I knew right then that our internet and our Netflix was keeping us from growing. It is keeping us from being who we are meant to be. The harder my mind tried to hold on to the perceived benefits or necessity of that escape the more I realized I have been more and more unhappy the more I am exposed to the t.v. shows and design blogs and…just…all of it. Don’t be reading this and hear some sort of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” message. Nope. This one was all for me. JENNIFER. YOU ARE RUINING YOUR LIFE WITH TELEVISION. I saw that I had diminished capacity to reach out to people, that I had forgotten how to be in a room without something playing, that I was almost literally frantic without some media to occupy my mind. Afraid…of WHAT is a good question and one that will no doubt be answered.
Anyway…one of the results of our big talks is that we are getting rid of our internet service. I’m sure this will change, but at the moment I feel a huge relief. Since we don’t have a television, this will basically cut us off from any easy media access. I can finally start to figure out what my real priorities are.
The other big thing has to do with job stuff and I will save it for another time because I think this is enough for now. But people-wise I felt more full this weekend than I have in so long. I think it was because I was able to see my time spent on people not as a necessary annoyance but as a gift. My ultimate goal is to be able to look at people and really SEE them the way some of my best friends whom I admire so much can do. Two people I can think of specifically are so naturally gifted and have applied themselves so much in this arena it’s obvious that they get personally “in the way” of interacting with others very rarely and I think they have much more fulfillment in people than I ever have.
Here’s what I just realized I want to leave with tonight; The great, flaming bird to rise from these metaphorical spiderweb ashes (LOL): I’m not afraid of God! I’m not afraid of going back to that prayer life I cultivated for a few months this winter and spring simply because I haven’t done it in awhile – the way I would have been afraid at any other time in my life. After all of the years of guilt and anxiety and this horrible, nagging feeling that I’ve done something wrong and I’m not good enough and that God just wants to yell at me whenever I decide to pray next…I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid because a) I know Him better now [and I WILL be talking about that] and b) He’s kept me close to Him all along. I don’t know how, I just know it’s true.
I pray so hard that if nothing else, I can mirror just a fraction of that kind of acceptance for my own child…who is coming soon…!!!