Monday, March 31, 2014

To Hell In A Handbasket

I keep hearing that the world is getting worse, morally speaking. That with each generation we are become more and more degenerate. That we are losing our moral compass and our country, our works are delving deeper into relative truth and amoral living.

I think this is a sign that I am getting old - that the people I am listening to and talking with are becoming a bit nostalgic. I get that to some, the world seems darker and scarier than when they were young. I think that comes with aging. A negative view of the following generation, seems to sprout up right alongside the grey hairs and wrinkles.

I wonder when I hear this trope if the people saying it paid any attention in their history classes.

I taught history once upon a time so when I am told that life was better when we had segregation laws and lynchings, when children were pulled out of school and sent to work in factories, when I as a woman was considered property, when everyone knew politicians were philanderers and priests who molested children were moved around by the powers that be, I wonder how was that better?

And that is just in the last one hundred years. I taught European history and we could talk for days about the pre-Reformation church selling indulgences to guarantee entry into heaven all while burning "heretics" at the stake. Or the scientists that challenged God by claiming the earth was round or the sun, not the earth was the center of the universe. Or human beings being kidnapped from their homes and put on ships heading toward the new world and a life of slavery.

It is beyond naive to say that the world was a better place in the time of Leave it to Beaver. Sure maybe for some it seemed more idyllic. For people that look like me, the pale white me, life may have been sweeter and more rose colored. But there were cheaters and liars and crooks and abusers and the morally destitute back then too, along with a system of injustice that held too many down and left the power in the hands of too few.

Maybe it wasn't talked about and maybe television shows still had two beds in the parents room but that doesn't mean it was a more moral time. Just ask those who walked in the marches and sat at the lunch counters. Ask the women who stayed with abusive husbands because they had no way out. Ask those living in other parts of the world, parts of the world that were being used as pawns in a ideological war that they had no interest in.

I think that while many more may be comfortable with the legalization of marijuana and the use of contraception now does not mean that we are morally bankrupt. I think it may be more a statement of a generation that wants to be honest at all costs. A generation that is tired of the lies and the shame and the manipulation of a righteous culture. A generation that does not hide any longer but lives in the open.  A generation that seeks truth instead of niceties.

While I might be willing to trade places with my counterpart from 50 years ago, so many would not.

So let's stop telling the lie that life was better, more moral, even more Christ like back when.

Seriously, can a generation that fought the Vietnam War, or dodged the draft and protested those soldiers that did, a generation that lived on processed cheese and latch keys, a generation that did cocaine socially and then threw their keys in a bowl, a generation that allowed the government to take on such incredible amounts of debt instead of paying more in taxes, a generation that refused to let their precious white children go to school with the poor dark kids across town, a generation that used God as a token really say that this new generation is more morally bankrupt?

Morality does change over time if you use specific behaviors as a standard. But being honest, being kind, loving others, caring for the poor, protecting the innocent, standing up to injustice, showing mercy and grace, these are what really measures a societies moral fiber.

We need to stop looking at a list of dos and don'ts and start looking at the hearts of people.

Let's stop the rhetoric and start telling the stories that make us better people.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Love Or Respect?

Anniversaries are a good time to think about the past, the stories that got you to where you are today. We celebrated our wedding anniversary recently. I don't write about marriage often. It is part of a deal I made with my rather private husband many, many years ago, that I wouldn't use our stories in a talk or on the blog while we were still in the midst of whatever growing opportunity we might be facing. Once we are on the other side of the challenge, and if someone could benefit from what we have learned, then he is okay with me sharing with the world. But this blog is often what is on my mind in the moment and by the time we are on the other side of this or that fight, I don't really think about writing about because it is processed in private with him.

I have to admit that it is actually a good rule.

But it does mean that I don't really write about marriage because this blog is where I process what I am learning, struggling with, or just thinking about at that moment.

With our recent anniversary though I have been thinking about marriage, mine in particular, but also marriage as a whole. And I'm not the only one. I keep reading blog posts and seeing church's posting about upcoming marriage seminars. It seems that the world cannot discuss gender roles without making a declaration about what marriage should be.

What I have been hearing a lot lately is that men need respect from their wives and women need love from their husbands.

And all I can think is how are these separate? How can one love their spouse if they do not respect them and how can you love someone if you don't respect them?

I am beginning to wonder if part of our marriage problems are because we are separating these two words and then gender assigning them? And not just these words, but many others as well. He's visual, she's emotional. He's a provider, she needs protection. She has 10,000 words, he needs downtime. he needs physical connection, she emotional. He... She...

Whatever happened to us.

I thought that was the point. Two becoming one.

We need respect.

We need to be heard.

We need to be protected.

We need to provide and give to others.

We need patience and mercy.

We need love.

One of the ways I know my husband loves me is because he respects me. He respects my ideas, my feelings, my work. I know what I bring to the table has value to him because he treats my contributions, whatever they are, with respect. Because he loves me, he respects my dreams, my plans, my purpose.

After 17 years of marriage, I am ever more thankful that I married the man I did.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I Need To Think Before I Say Yes

I accidentally agreed to be held accountable for my writing this week. Accidentally as in, I was sitting with another woman at church next week chatting and I mentioned that I haven't been disciplined about  writing. More accurately, I haven't even sat at my desk in my office and attempted to write. Not consistently anyway. So she challenged me to take the walk down the hallway into my office and sit down to work at least three times during the week and she would check in with me next Sunday. I accepted because at the time, it seemed like a good idea.

Now on Wednesday, after two days of coffees, errands, procrastination and anything but coming down the hall, I am running out of days. 

There is a part of me, a big part, that hates to fail. Hates to agree to something and not follow through. 

And so I sit here and I write. 

A blog post about how I am just doing this to get credit for having done it. (I learned this technique from my son who has been known to write about not knowing what to write for a school assignment.)

The truth is there was a time when I was disciplined about my writing. When I dropped the kids off at school, made a cup of coffee, and then put my butt in the chair (thanks Anne Lamott) and wrote. Or at least attempted to write. 

I finished a whole novel that way. I wrote consistently on my blog that way. Butt in chair.

But now I have trouble just getting into my office and it is a beautiful office. 

I have trouble wanting to write because honestly I don't see a point any more. There was a time when I was still dreaming of my blog being read by more and more people. Friends loving something I wrote and sharing it with a friend. Someone on Twitter being touched by something and retweeting a post and gaining more follows. I have watched many writers' careers grow over the last few years, going from a simple at home blogger, to being internet famous, to having a book contract, to being in real life known.  I still had hope that people would want to read my words, would want to hear me speak, would want to buy my book. 

I lost that hope along the way. Too many discouraging rejections mixed with losing my in real life support system and a lack of viralness to my work has made me question the value of my work. 

And then yesterday I heard myself ask a friend, "If you died just as you finished your degree, would it still be worth having done it?" 

If I died just after hitting publish, would these words have value? Would they be worth the time I spent writing them? 

It's an interesting question. One I have been skirting the edges of for the last couple of weeks. What is the value in my writing? 

The thing I, I feel compelled to write. I feel my most authentic self when I think of myself as a writer. I feel most alive when I am working. I also feel my most vulnerable, my most flawed, my most unworthy when I try to be a writer. 

Rejection hurts. So stop submitting. 

But then why write? 

Why do anything that may result in failure? 

But if we don't risk we don't live. We just exist. 

I've been existing this year. 

But I want to live. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Breaking My Heart

"I just want him to fit in with the rest of the class," she said.

She broke my heart. 

Not because he didn't fit in. That wasn't new information for me. I have been his mother a long time. I was at the park and the story times when he was content to do his own thing. I watched him not being understood by his play group friends. I was in the meetings about speech and wondering if he was on the spectrum (he is not). I have watched my kid "not fit in" with the rest of the group. 

No, what broke my heart was the belief that he needed to fit in, that I had to remind this very caring teacher, that my son needs to be himself. He needs to be his brilliant, creative, quirky self. He needs to be kind and respectful of his teacher, his peers, and their learning environment. But he does not need to change who he is to fit in. 

I know she meant well. But all I saw was a classroom environment that prioritized group over self. A teacher that has possibly been sending my precious boy messages of needing to be like everyone else, needing to conform, to "fit in" with her words to him, her body language, and what she says to the whole class.

And that breaks my heart. 

My son is a wonderful boy. He is loving and caring. He just doesn't show it in the way you would expect. He is not effusive, he was never cuddly. He honestly is not very rewarding if you are looking for him to give you kudos and love to fill you up. 

If your relationship with him is about you, you will be disappointed. If it is about getting him to toe the line, fit in, be like everyone else, you will be aggravated. 

But if you, like so many people have, let him be who he is. If you are observant, engaging him where he is. If you move slowly and don't make any quick movements. If you smile and say hi but don't get your feelings hurt when he doesn't reciprocate. If you take the time to get to know him first before making demands of him…

Oh you will be rewarded. 

He will smile. He will give you a shy wave. He will sit next to you on the bench. He will lean into your body on the couch. He will say the words, "I love you." You will know him. 

My son does not need to fit in. Neither does any other child. 

The world is a big place and it needs all our kids to be who they are, to bring their talents and passions to the table, to fill the unique role they were designed to fill. 

So when the teacher said, "I just want him to fit in with the rest of the class," my reply was simple.

I want him to be him.