Monday, September 30, 2013

I'm Angry at Myself Too

So I'm angry at God... but I am also angry at myself.

I know better than to wallow. To sit in the pain or to play the victim. I know how to keep going. To put away the feelings and move on with life.

I know better. And so I am angry at all the time I have wasted being sad, lonely, angry, etc.

I know what works to get me out of the funk I am in but lately, okay being totally honest about a year or so, I have not wanted to do the things that work. I have wanted to wallow. I have wanted to watch Gilmore Girls for hours on end. To play on Twitter and get sucked into the world of Candy Crushing. To read and reread favorite novels. To avoid the work I know I am to do.

Except do I know better?

Those things that work for me... they may pull me out of the funk but is that really what's best?

See, the things I do, the going through the motions focused on the task at hand, and the conversations I avoid, chatting about the logistics and the safe things, they move me along. They get me refocused and back to productivity and living a life I see as valuable and good. They get me back to living and doing.

But is there value in the being... the being sad, being hurt, being angry.

I get angry with myself when I let my feelings get the best of me, when I lean into them and let them wash over me. It seems a waste of time, a fool's errand, unbelieving. But maybe that is where I need to be.

I am sure I need to do it better. No one person ever needs to see as many episodes of Real Housewives as I have seen this year. But maybe the wallowing needs to happen.

Because the truth is when I wallow I am actually being honest about what I am feeling.

I can't hide my pain when I wallow. The people around me notice. And ask about it.

So maybe there is value in letting the emotions wash over you.

Or maybe not. Maybe it is just an excuse for me to spend another hour or two or three trying to complete the next level of Candy Crush.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Am Angry at God but He Seems to Be Okay with Loving Me Through It

I was sitting outside church this last Sunday, ready to give up and drive away. Tears rising up but knowing that the last thing I wanted was to walk inside and have people, strangers and new acquaintances knowing I had been crying.

I am angry at God, still. I am hurt.

Most of the time I can move around that feeling with Him. I can still do my Bible study homework and talk to my kids about God and His love for them. I can pray for my friends and even myself. I am good at doing the business of life with God while avoiding the real deep feelings I have. But not always.

This move, taking me away from those that know me well and love me better, that help me be my best self and encouraged me to be even better. To write, to love, to share life. God could have made life in California work. But he didn't. He led us here. And while this is an amazing place. I have to start over and I am tired of that.

Each time we move things are taken away from me. Not just people, but my history, my reputation. Each time I have to start over. I have to sign up for Bible study, not teach it. I have to join a new small group, one that does not know my heart for God. How do you share honestly your anger and pain in a new Bible study small group when they do not know that my faith is deep and wide? And so I turn here.

I am hurt. I am angry.

I thought God was doing something with my writing, with my teaching, with leading women to experience God's love and grace. I thought I had found my purpose in Oregon when I first started teaching Bible study in Oregon years ago, when Little One was a huge belly bump. I loved it. But then we moved to California. And I know all the good reasons we did so. I know it was the right move, but I lost my role.

And so I turned to writing my thoughts instead. I started this blog. My first blog post Out of Control was posted on October 15, 2008. I didn't think much of it at the time. Just an outlet to get my thoughts out of my head and maybe encourage a few of those women I was once blessed to teach. But over the last five years, I have seen other bloggers' audiences grow from 3 to 10 to 75 to hundreds. And I hoped. Maybe this would be my thing, my way of adding value to the world. But instead this stays a small place for my friends to keep up with what's on my mind. And while I know there is value in that, I wonder, often, if maybe it is time to give up on this work. To let my thoughts go back to being held in private. To stop thinking of this as work and to just stop trying to pursue the dream of maybe...

When we returned to Oregon I got to teach again. Oh and how amazing that was. I loved opening myself up to God and seeing what He had for me to share. I loved knowing that my stories might be helping someone else see God in a new way. But we moved again. And again. And I am wondering how this transient life will ever lead to my dreams.

I am 40 years old and starting over.

And I am tired of it. I am absolutely worn out by the newness this time.

And I hate that right now my entire life is being defined by my role as wife and mother. I'm not proud of this but it is true.

I love my family. But I want to be me too.

And so I sat outside of church this last Sunday, on the verge of tears. Tired of being new and scared that I may never make real connections here. I was angry at God. Rage filled. Overwhelmed by a desire to walk away. To quit and be done with following Him where ever He leads.

But I walked inside anyway. Because that is what you do when your kids are in Sunday School and it is time to go to big church together as a family.

Somedays faith is about going through the motions. Because it is in being in the motions, being in the building, that God can work His magic. That a conversation can happen that reminds you that He's got this and that you are where you are meant to be. That things will be okay.

Not that everything is all better. But this Sunday, God gave me a win for that day.

Do you need a win today?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Wisconsin... What I've Learned So Far

It has been two and a half months since we arrived in the great state of Wisconsin and here's what I have learned so far...

* In Wisconsin those speed limit signs seem to indicate the actual top speed you should be driving and not just the suggested minimum as was the case in California. Not that everyone drives under the speed limit but they definitely take the word limit more seriously here.

* They also take the Great Lakes seriously. Middle Man had a test within the first week of school. He had to know the names of the continents, the great lakes, and the oceans. Notice the order - knowing the great lakes comes before learning the oceans. I'm thankful for the HOMES acronym (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior) and my son's quick memorization skills.

* Don't tell anyone from Wisconsin this but I am not a fan of plain cheese curds, which they will proudly tell you is the cheese the squeaks when you eat it. But I do love me some fried cheese curds. I also think ice cream is superior to custard but Culver's makes the best local chain store hamburger we have ever had. Better than In-n-out and Burgerville. I think it's the butter. I didn't say it is the healthiest but definitely the yummiest burger.

* Rural living takes some planning, as in don't forget to make a list and check it twice when going to the grocery store or Target or pretty much anywhere else since you have to actually drive into town for those. It's really not that far at all but for someone who used to have three grocery stores within a half mile and at least as many coffee shops, having to drive into town has proven to be a bit of a deterrent for me. My Starbucks consumption has gone way down (might want to sell your stock) and when I ran out of Lancome mascara I decided to just go with something from Target rather than drive to the mall which quite a bit farther. My boys also got to experience the joy of having pizza delivered for the first time last night because it was worth it to not have to drive and get it. One thing that has gotten closer is the ice rink which is only five minutes away now. Joy upon JOY!

* Thunder storms are no joking matter. They happen regularly and can cause quite a bit of ruckus when they want. Last weekend we lost power for a few hours after a particularly bad storm. Between Little One's anxiety and my not liking to lose power to the water well pump, I think a generator is in our future.

* There is no AT&T cell service in parts of the state. I met up for a girl's weekend with a friend from Iowa at a halfway point between the two of us. While Mineral Point is quaint and full of artistic and historic charm it has neither a good sports bar nor cell coverage for me. Thankfully my friend had Sprint which apparently loves real rural life (not the pretend thing we do outside of Milwaukee) and had plenty of cell towers to keep us from being completely out of reach. Not that I needed to be reached since my husband had the kids at the grandparents in Michigan. Three adults can certainly take care of three kids without needing to text or call Mom.

* This is one beautiful state. Green and lush. Cornfields and water towers. Roads cut through limestone walls and wonderful architecture. History laid up next to every day now. And as the leaves just start to hint at changing colors, I am looking forward to experiencing all the seasons this year.

This West Coast girl is still caught off guard at times by differences between the Midwest and the West Coast but I am feeling more at home each day.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Turning 40

I turned 40 this summer. It was a bigger deal than I expected. Not the actual birthday. We had just moved to Wisconsin so there was no big party and the birthday weekend away with my husband turned into a family getaway when our babysitting plans fell through. I'm not complaining because it really was a nice birthday full of reminders of how blessed my life has been and how loved I am, something I often forget.

All I'm saying is that the actual turning 40 was a rather quiet affair. But the being 40, now that one is hitting me harder than I expected. Mostly because my body is proving how old it is and more importantly how poorly I have taken care of it in the last decade or two. But I am also remembering how old 40 seemed when I was 20 and even 30 and know that I am now old. Or at least old enough to no longer be considered young.

Yeah, I know 40 is the new 30 and 60 the new 40 but that's just because we have access to better medical care, hair coloring and denial.

I'm not saying it's all downhill from here because there are some great things about aging.

I really am more comfortable in my skin and less concerned with how others view me. I can be my own person now without feeling a need to explain or defend or even worse - prove I'm right.

My kids are old enough now to all go to school, to make their own lunches, tie their own shoes, go to timeout when sent and leave me alone when I am going to the bathroom. They can sit quietly in a waiting room and I don't have to lug around a huge bag of snacks and diapers and entertainment devices. The boys are old enough to carry their own heavy bags and to even roll my carry on through the airport for me.

I have had enough bad things happen to myself and those around me to have gained a little perspective. I guess I could use those experiences to become scared of everything, and I definitely have a healthy respect for the hard things that could happen, but mostly those experiences have taught me to keep walking forward, to remember all the times that God has taken care of me even in ways I did not appreciate at the time, to know that it is a season.

The main thing I have discovered though as I have hit middle aged is that I want to err on the side of grace in all things.

Life is more grey than I could ever understand in my teens and 20s, something I discovered in my 30s. Truth with a capital T is hard enough to define for myself much less for someone else. Stories have layers and sides to their telling. I know so much less with certainty these days but I hold tightly to that which I do know to be true for me.

So while I know less, I love more.

More because I don't have to be right. I don't have to make others conform to my understanding of the rules of life. Grace allows me to see the grey - to know that God is at work in this world apart from me having to understand it.

More because I have comfortable enough and even bored enough with my own life to be genuinely interested in those around me. I am free to love my friends just as they are, to learn from them, and to see life differently through their eyes.

More because I have chosen to be okay with the unknown, with the not knowing it all, with grace. I have found comfort in the disequilibrium caused by not knowing. There is something calming about letting go of control, a false sense of it really, and going with the flow.

And more because I am more able to live in the moment. As you face down the second half of your life, you really do want to enjoy the here and now because the finish line is coming more clearly into view. Hopefully still a very distant, distant sight way, way, way far away but I can still catch a glimpse of it.

I'm not writing all this to say that turning 40 was some profound experience. It really wasn't.

I'm just saying that as you get older I think you get to choose whether you want to get stuck in your ways, becoming the old man yelling on the kids to stay off your grass, or you can recognize the big wide world for what it is - more than we can ever truly understand - and choose grace.

I choose grace. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Night Owl in a Land of Morning People

I have no idea how it happened but I am a night owl living amongst morning people.

This is one of the problems of not living together before you get married. There is no way to tell that you are accidentally marrying a morning person. I'm not sure he would claim to be a morning person but his willingness to get up early enough to not rush in the morning, his ability to actually make it out the door for a 6:30 am flight, his inability to sleep past 9:00 on a Saturday morning, and his ability to fall asleep before 10:30pm most nights all point to the fact that he is in reality a morning person. I mean he's not one of those crazy people that gets up at 5:00am to read and have some quiet time before everyone else is up (I'm looking at you Jen), but comparatively he is a morning person.

And this morning person passed on his morning person genes to our kids. I have tried and tried to break them of their 6:30 waking. I have kept them up later hoping they would sleep in only to have them still wake up early but be tired and all of us grumpy the next day. I have tried blackout curtains and making a rule that they cannot get out of bed before 7:00am only to be awakened by them playing mini sticks in their room.

I thought I had finally done it, finally won the battle for later mornings after our trip to Oregon last month. We arrived late the first day and stayed up late more nights than was healthy to celebrate summer fun. The kids body quickly switching from Central to Pacific Time. We arrived back in Wisconsin well after midnight. I was worried for that first morning. I told them they could not come out until 8:30am. But then miracle of miracles, they all slept in. The oldest until 9:30am and the youngest until 11:00am.

I worried it was a one time deal but the next morning they slept late again. Not crazy, night owl late but after 8.

My husband claimed I had broken them. He worried about school starting the next week. And then he took them to Michigan for Labor Day weekend. He took them to Eastern Daylight Savings time.

And when they returned they woke up early... way, way too early.

This morning they were playing and arguing an hour before my alarm even needed to wake me. They woke up full of energy, ready to play and be loud and full of life.

I had a good thing there for a couple of days.

And then my husband ruined it.

And the thing that really gets me about all this, the thing that bothers me most about being a night owl in a house of morning people, is the we're superior attitude they have. The we have the right to be loud in the morning, the judgmental look I get when I open my book in bed at 10:30 at night, the sigh that escapes my husband when I start a conversation just as he wants to go to bed. And it's not just at home. Restaurants and stores and even Starbucks close their doors to me just when I am ready to go.

This world is not made for night owls.

At least my house isn't.

Nor my new home town.

And don't think I haven't tried to change. I've made myself go to bed earlier. I've gotten up earlier. I've tried it all.

But I am a night owl. It is who God made me to be.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Writing Begets Writing?

So after posting on Wednesday, my mind started swirling with words. Not just ideas but actual words.

It reminded me of how when we have struggled financially it felt like there was no end in sight but then once we paid off our debts and got our footing again, random checks would start to show up. One year it was back pay from the school I had taught at the year before that had finally negotiated a new teacher contract. I hadn't known we had been working without a contract but I did enjoy the retroactive pay raise. Another year it was an unexpected bonus. This year, as we are settling into life in Wisconsin, my husband is actually getting some profits from his company in California. We always worry when things are tight and then are reminded once again of that old adage that money begets money. It doesn't seem fair but it is what it is.

Maybe like money, writing begets writing.

I wrote. I put my butt in the chair as Anne Lamott teaches and wrote words down. And then more words showed up.

Blog posts pile up in my mind. Though more ideas will be dumped because I don't really have the desire to be confrontational though I have so many thoughts on the current debates I see on Facebook and Twitter. I'll save those for face to face conversations. I do still have some stories to tell. And I found again that sitting down, opening the file, and typing often causes the words to show up.

Also, my characters started talking in my head again. Not in a weird, schizophrenic, I hear voices way but more in a I am creating, I am caring about them and their story again. Mind you this may not be good for my husband since the two are fighting right now. But at least they are talking. Also, when I really do get going, I lose track of all those things that need to happen, like milk buying and laundry and that pesky dinner thing that I hate so much.

I still have a lot of questions... fear... obstacles ahead of me.

But at least I am writing through them.

One blog post at a time.

One scene at a time.

What is keeping you from moving forward in your dream?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Maybe Writing Isn't For Me

I'm supposed to be writing today. My kids are back in school so I am supposed to be back to work writing. Except I don't feel like a writer any more.

I thought about going back to teaching instead of writing. Not necessarily because I want to teach, though I did love it at the time, but because it seemed easier than working at this writing/trying to get published thing. Turns out the state of Wisconsin takes their teacher licensing even more seriously than their proof of residency requirements which don't even get me started on my two trips to the DMV to prove that I am who I say I am and that I live here. All that to say my fall back plan may be even more work than writing...

So back to plan A.

I actually have some ideas. Book ideas. Essay ideas (ok really just blog posts).

I am starting to think about the book I have written and how I can improve it. I am thinking of new characters and new ideas.

But writing...

Not so much.

Heck, I am only writing this all down now so that I can be done for the day and go back to reading and lurking on Twitter guilt free. And to avoid the grocery store which I was planning on doing to avoid writing.

Turns out I will do anything to avoid the grocery store. Which gets back to part of why I need to get better at being a real, hopefully professional, writer. I hate to cook and eating out gets expensive and hard to justify if all I did today was watch Gilmore Girls and play Candy Crush.

I don't know why it is so hard to write. Except I do.

It is hard work. Sometimes the ideas flow really quickly. Sometimes stream of consciousness writing works. But sometimes, often, the words don't come. At least the good words, the well written, descriptive turns of phrases hide from me. I know they are out there. I read good books all the time. But I can't find the words. Or I don't like the words I have found.

Or even worse, I love the words, I love the story, but the agent rejects it. My writing has proven to not be good enough.

Can I make it better? Probably. Can I keep working at this thing and somehow find my voice and find the craft? I dream I can.

But to do that I have to walk through the muck of rejection and disappointment and sitting down and having no words. I have to open up my Scrivener file and start somewhere and work slowly through the words, 80,000 words I have written, and edit and rewrite and reimagine and ponder word choice and content and voice.

I have to face the rejection and the knowing in my head that I am not good enough and work to become better.

Perseverance is not my strength. Not yet anyway.

But what choice to I have.

The state of Wisconsin wants me to pass a history test and take classes if I want to teach here. And then I would have to wake up earlier than I like, put on real clothes, and go to a job every single day. I love history. I love teenagers. But honestly, writing seems easier than that.

I am hopeful that is not because I am lazy but because I actually fell in love with writing.

And the life of a writer (with a husband who pays the bills).