Self. pity

 

We’ve now moved to a short-term rental following our house fire a few weeks ago, with a bit of geographical stability and a space to make our own for the next couple of months. I am now connected to the internet without having to buy endless cups of tea, the kids are back at school, my work is back on track, and we’re all set.  But with this has come an unexpected challenge.

Here it is. For a month or so, a handful of people have known about our situation and helped out in various, beautiful ways.We’ve got on with moving, moving again, keeping our temper (mostly) with the insurance process and all the rest.  At the start of a new school year, with families drifting back from their holidays, other people are asking me what happened. And each time I talk about it, and significantly, each time I sense their sympathy and watch them imagining themselves in our shoes, moisture appears at the corners of my eyes. And everything I then say, and they respond with, adds to my sadness.

When they say ‘oh, you’re so brave, you’re taking it so well,’ I want to lie down and howl. And yet a strange thing happens to my tongue. It stops wanting to say positive things about all the exceptional kindness we’ve been shown, and instead  it describes and lists the loss, the shock, the frustration, all that junk.

I first noticed this when seeing a potential rental house a couple of weeks back. I mentioned it to the agent and her hand flew up to her mouth. If she’d not been holding a clipboard she might have hugged me. A couple of our kids were wandering through the house and she said ‘oh, and your poor kids, oh love, how are you coping?’ Well I was coping pretty well at that point to be honest but I poured out a little bit of self pity and felt a bit less capable after that.

This has begun to snowball into extended conversations with various friends and school parents, all with a heavy emphasis on how terrible it’s all been for everyone. Yes it has been difficult, but in the grand scheme of things it’s all manageable. I know how much God has blessed us in the midst of this, and yet it is so easy to not say that, so much easier to harp on the negatives, which is what the world expects and which pays us off in the sympathy of strangers.

What God is teaching me in this is the wisdom of guarding my tongue. I need to watch what I say because at the end of one of these conversations I feel drained and disappointed, flat and ashamed. Because in failing to mention the kindnesses, the generosity, the hospitality and the support God has given us, I am discounting His work in our lives and our situation, and I’m failing to give him the credit for the fact I can still smile and laugh and make jokes and trust that whatever lies ahead he’s already there and he knows what we need. It’s like realising that worship is not to make God feel good but to make us feel good.

It’s a bit like teaching your children to do something that’s good for them. They think you’re just nagging them because that’s what you live for as a parent. That’s also true, of course ;), but usually it’s for their benefit. Like brushing their teeth. Or practising an instrument.

I have to practise not using my tongue in a careless way so that my words really line up with reality, so there’s no tension between what I need to say and what others may be expecting to hear. For my own sense of well-being and consistency. And to give God the credit that is due.

 

 

 

 

 

 

17 years at N/A.

This may just be it, you know. My turning point. The bit in my personal movie where I suffer a blow that motivates me to face down my personal demons. One of those is a tendency to wallow in perceived failure. It encourages me to hide my pain from others, and then lashes me with it when I’m alone. So let me speak the truth and shame the devil, however small and slight this event may appear in the grand scheme of things.

Last Saturday night my husband showed me a notification from a networking site inviting him to congratulate me on ‘17 years at N/A’. I laughed with him and a friend at the time but inside I was curling up, mortified. I realised I had never completed my profile properly, planning to return to it ‘later’, that magical time beyond the horizon. And now the whole world, okay, the handful of contacts in my network, know I have been at N/A for the last 17 years, whatever that means. It got to me because for most of those years I have been in that other place beyond the so-called real world, known as full-time parenting, where strange creatures live in lands strewn with all manner of quests, trials and adventures. Some parents, like me, are fully immersed in this other world and emerge only occasionally to engage with this dimension (which I’ll call working-world, for the sake of simplicity if not accuracy, for work is abundant in that other world too). As my children grow more independent, I am beginning to travel between dimensions more often, but this computer-generated reminder that there was no category for me in working-world made me feel like someone had pulled my skirt up in the playground and then run away.

I heard the usual song from my internal bully about being a failure and having no trophies to show the good folks of working-world with the addition of a new verse about this now being public and how embarrassing and everyone’s laughing at me now… (think Morrissey). I cried along to that later, thinking of my amazing accomplished peers and how poorly I compared. I hadn’t heard the song of failure for a while, though like anything you learn well enough, you never forget the words. It felt like coming home, because this is where I lived for years even before having children. Before I was even old enough to have a chance to try, let alone fail at anything. That thought alone sat me up in the dark.

In the movies this would be the moment of searing revelation just before the montage showing repetitions of sweaty workouts or study or physio or pirouettes as the main character transforms from zero to hero. This song of negativity took me backwards. It reminded me of the past. It didn’t relate to my life now. This was an epiphany because I realised I’ve already been doing this sweaty working out/study/physio thing – though no pirouettes, if I’m honest – in the strange land I mentioned earlier, learning all manner of resilience, resourcefulness and stamina as I facilitate childhood in glorious technicolour and four times over. Who knows what use I’ll put it to, or what I’ll end up doing in working-world, but I know that with God’s help I’m more than equal to it.

For I know the plans I have for you, Says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29 v 11

Time for a new song. And a profile update. 😉