Monday, October 27, 2014

The Rant

Oh, the internal rant I have just engaged in.

My husband is getting ready for work, and my kids are all still sleeping, so the rant has remained internal for the better part of 5 minutes, until the coffee seeped into my foggy morning brain and I remembered something.

I have a blog.

My genius husband set it up for me so that  I could rant to it instead of him!

Ding. Light bulb.

Warning: the rant is about to commence.

I was watching a show, and one of the characters was asked "What is your biggest regret?"

And you know the response? "Nothing. Regret is pointless. I don't regret one thing in my life."

That seems, at first, like a healthy way of thinking.

And its also a lie. And also stupid beyond belief.

EVERYONE regrets something.

Don't even pretend that you don't. That's the dumbest load of crap I've ever heard. It's Hollywood's way of saying "Don't feel bad about anything. Just live how you want, and then move on. Embrace your mistakes, and don't live a life of regret."

How lame. And cliche. And totally wrong. And no, in case you're wondering, I don't care that, perhaps, the writer of this particular show was attempting to send a different message; a message about not living a life wishing to change the past. If that was what the writer was hoping to convey, then they should have SAID that. No. The writer was sending a clear message about right, and wrong, and how there isn't really any such thing. As long as we don't FEEL regret. The feeling itself is what is actually wrong. Instead of wishing we could change something about our past, let's just all accept everything we've ever done and everyone else has ever done as part of life...and keep on doing whatever we want, and regretting nothing, and if we all do it that way then no one will ever have to wonder if anything is right or wrong. Life just IS. Make whatever choice you want. Just DON'T regret it. And definitely don't apologize, because that implies the regret that we are now saying is the ONLY thing wrong with choices made in life.

And so, with the expressions of my face, I ranted at the TV. (And that is not an easy thing to do, let me tell you. It involved every single facial muscle I have, and they are all pretty tired now.) (and my fingers will be joining my tired face muscles by the time I finish this post, because they are typing rather aggressively.)

Are you kidding me? You're saying that you never once said something that hurt someone that you wish you could take back?

Even if you choose not to regret your '80's hairstyle and clothing choices, or indulging in too much food or wine or...whatever else, you should at least have the decency to feel bad about hurting some one's feelings.

Gosh. What a crock.

And I turned the channel.

Because the only thing worse than having a child wake up too early and interrupt my solitary TV-and-coffee time, is having that time ruined by lame lines on shows.

OF COURSE we all regret things.

I sincerely regret many of my hair style choices.

I will always regret stirrup pants.

And tube socks.

And certain shades of nail polish and eye shadow.

And riding certain rides at the fair.

And I will forever regret multiple movie choices. (Seriously, "Scream" and "I Know What You Did Last Summer" ? Ugh. I can never get those hours of my life back.) And because of my feelings of regret with regard to many movies I have seen, I am a much more selective movie viewer now. "Is it scary? Or stupid? Because if so, no thanks."

And now I will write something that could potentially cause someone else to have full-facial muscle rant. (I guess that is the risk that all writers take. I wonder if they ever regret it?) (insert snarly-eye-rolling-face here)

Regret is something to be embraced.

It is a tool that helps us learn. And change. And grow.

The night before my sister, Joy, left on what was to be her final trip overseas, my family planned one last 'out-to-eat' bash. I had a newborn baby, and three other little kids, and my husband was out of town on business, so I opted not to go. I knew I would see her the next morning before she left for the airport. So I stayed home that night. And now there is a family picture taken at that restaurant of everyone but me, and it's the last picture that will ever be taken on this earth with her in it.

And I will always, always regret that. It makes my heart ache every time I think about it.

But you know what? I make different choices now, because of the regret I feel with regard to that choice. Now, I make more of an effort to spend time with people, even if it puts me out, or adds stress to my day and life.

I never, ever hang up the phone with one of my family members without telling them I love them, because I am always aware of how many more times I WISH I had said it to Joy. And while I can't say it to her any more times on this earth, I can allow my sadness about that to change the way I speak to people now.  I choose to say kind words rather than hurtful ones, and I choose to apologize for the hurtful things I DO say, because I regret those words and the pain they caused, and wouldn't it be just awful to say something hurtful, and then never get the chance to try and make it right? That's a regret I don't want any more of. And so my remorseful feelings, with regard to the past, change my future.

When I get angry with my kids and raise my voice, I always regret it. And I apologize. And you know what? This isn't a bad thing to teach our kids. I want my children to see that I screw up, and I know it, and I wish I hadn't done it, and I'll try not to do it again, and I am remorseful about the damage caused by my actions and words.

I would much rather them regret mistakes and learn from them than go through life as if there is nothing WRONG except the feeling of condemnation they heap on themselves for choices they made.

Don't misunderstand. I don't want my children, or myself, to live their lives under the burden of their past mistakes.

I want them, and myself, to live with the awareness of mistakes, and consequences, and let that SHAPE   future steps and choices.

And now my rant has run out of steam (or at least my fingers and facial muscles have).

Monday, October 20, 2014

Self-perfection

"If I had a nose like Alice Bell...oh I shouldn't say that. I was comparing it to my own nose, and that is uncharitable. Someone complimented me on my nose once, and I"m afraid I've thought about it far too much." (Anne of Green Gables)

No, no one has ever complimented ME on my nose. (Obviously. I have a Bausum nose, and that is enough to exclude it from compliment-worthiness.) 

But compliments, in general, that have been thought about far too much...yeah, that rings a bell.

A friend once told me I had nice armpits. Promise. It was the weirdest compliment I've ever received. I never before knew that armpits were something that could gain admiration. But now that I know...now I check my armpits for un-admirable sights before I leave the house. This particular compliment is one of my favorites, because it still makes me giggle, and then check for pit-falls (see what I did there?) I've clearly "thought about it far too much."

Another favorite compliment of mine: Someone once told me that I am a very self-aware person. (I always thought of it as self-deprecating, but self-aware sounds cooler somehow.) I take that to mean that I am AWARE of my flaws. And I am. Promise.

For example, I totally know that I am loud.

I know that I have a brain-to-mouth filter with a serious mechanical malfunction.

I am aware of the fact that I am sarcastic.

And crabby before coffee.

And a terrible, terrible dancer.

And not very compassionate by nature.

Or merciful.

Or sweet.

Or able to easily conceal my true feelings on a subject. (because of the malfunctioning filter, so technically NOT my fault.)

I know that kids think I'm mean. I am never intentionally mean, but I am frank, and cut-to-the-chase, and kids think that's mean. I am aware of that.

I am aware that I am a polarizing personality. I have people in my life who really love me, and people in my life who really don't like me much. Even if they never say so...I am aware.

You would think all this self-awareness would be accompanied by self-acceptance...

You would think.

But even though I know the things that are less-than-likable about me, (and I am even the first person to point them out most of the time, just in case anyone was wondering if I KNEW a particular disgraceful tidbit about what makes me...me...) Even still...

Just like the compliments seep in, and are thought about far too much, so too are the opposite-of-compliment comments.

Those are even harder not to dwell on.

And, in all objectivity, I can, (because I am self aware, duh) see the point being made, and accept my flaws as a person, and concede that I screw up with regularity, and even understand that the opposite-of-compliment points are only going to help me in the long run.

And still I find myself reeling.

Which makes no sense.

Because I'm already aware of the fact that I'm difficult to like, and hard to understand. And while I am accepted by some, I am held-at-arms-length by others, and because I am a forthright person who embraces total openness (and I'm pretty sure that's a flaw, not an asset) I inadvertently open myself up to opposite-of-complimentary comments. 

I deserve it, my husband points out frankly. If only I could fix the mechanically malfunctioning filter! I would be less likely to reference something someone might judge me for, or dislike me because of, or find appalling.

But...

Then I would be less KNOWN.

Hmm. More accepted. But less known.

How can those be my only options?

And the reeling has led to some pretty intense emotions, let me tell you. And some serious self-recrimination. And some grueling self-evaluation. And self-awareness has been replaced by self-judgement.

Because if SO MANY people have more things to dislike about me than like...clearly it can't be ALL them that are mistaken.

And I promise, honest to goodness, that I am not fishing for more compliments here. (Unless you want to tell me I have nice earlobes or something.)

I'm actually arriving at the point, and am just taking a round-about detour before coming to it, because another flaw of mine is being long winded. 

One of the people in my life who has decided to love me despite the afore-mentioned laundry list of flaws, told me something this week, and its the thing that has helped the most in settling the reeling self-awareness-turned-self-browbeating.

"Remember who you are." (oh man, I cannot resist the urge to pause for a "Name that movie" trivia...it's from The Lion King. Did you get it right? My kids all did, btw.)

"Remember WHOSE you are."
"Remember what He says about you."

Those words are pinging around inside me with all the others. And they are having a calming effect on my reeling emotions.

Because what HE says about me...its the longest list of the most unbelievable compliments. He says I'm lovely, and worthy, and sacred, and wonderful, and treasured, and fought for, and worth dying for, and redeemed, and grafted in to the Royal Family of Heaven, and protected, and...

It's enough. 

It really is.

The other stuff is all still true. I'm a mess. I'm a screw-up. I'm unmerciful and I lack compassion.

But you know what?

I am more merciful and compassionate than I was 15 years ago.

And I am actively working on the mechanical malfunctioning of my brain-to-mouth filter.

The One to whom I belong is still working on me.
And He's working out His perfect will IN me.

And while I am acutely aware of my imperfections and flaws, I am also glowingly accepting of the fact that He still wants me to bear His name, and carry His heart, despite all the additional junk I carry with me.

And He's whittling away at that junk, and someday, when I'm very old and wrinkled and totally aware of the fact that I am very old and wrinkled...someday He will finish His work in me. And I will meet Him face to face.

Until then, I'm a mess in progress. And I'm aware of it. Tell me, if you want to, that something in my life needs work. I am in total agreement with you. LOTS of stuff in my life needs work.

And...He says I'm perfect to be His child.

"He forever made perfect those who are being made holy." Hebrews 10:14