Letting Go of Extra Responsibilities

I’ve always been quick to volunteer.  

Often the “yes” flies out of my lips before my brain has engaged.

That lands me in all kinds of trouble.

But I’m trying to learn to bite my tongue until I can take stock of just how taking on another responsibility may push me over the edge.

I’m walking on a razor thin rim around the pit of despair-especially this time of year and it doesn’t take much for me to fall in.

depair

I know that other people think, “Well it’s been nearly five years!”  And I understand that to them, it seems like plenty of time to get my act together, to figure out how to live with child loss, to grow strong enough to shoulder whatever burden they think I have left and just get on with life.

But what they don’t understand is that this journey requires constant adjustments, has unending and new challenges and truly is uphill all the way. 

There’s no coasting-it’s ALL hard.  

walking-up-a-hill

Think for a minute how overwhelmed you are with all the activity, demands for baked goods, invitations, shopping, cooking, visiting, managing family responsibilities, hectic schedules and every thing else that the holidays entail.

Now multiply that times one hundred or a thousand. 

That’s what it feels like for me and other wounded hearts trying to juggle ongoing pain and the holidays.

I want to participate.  I want to be the old me that could say “yes” to every request.  But I’m not that person anymore.

I will do what I can do.  

I will say “no” to what I can’t do.  

And I won’t feel guilty for preserving my energy and my sanity.  

When coping with difficult disappointment or stress, it’s wise to let go of what you really, truly don’t need. Give some of your responsibilities, if you can, to someone else. Delegate what someone else can do. Say ‘no’ to new assignments or projects that aren’t absolutely necessary, and again, don’t feel bad about it. Don’t only accept help, ask for it — and be specific.

After all, when the storm has passed and you’re feeling stronger, you’ll be able to pick up those responsibilities again.

~Steven Earp, Storms of Life

Forgiveness and Healthy Boundaries

I do not believe that in offering genuine forgiveness I am required to again submit myself to another person’s hurtful or sinful behavior.  

I do believe that forgiveness releases that person from past offenses against me but it does not release them to continue to wound my heart.

And I will stand up any time, anywhere and defend my. right to create healthy boundaries between my heart and someone who has proven, time and again, that they intend to do just that.

daring to set boundaries brene brown

What does this look like in real life?

It means that I can call, write or tell someone that I truly forgive them for whatever pain they have caused me in the past.  That frees MY heart.  

But if that person refuses to change his or her behavior, I am not obligated to allow them close enough to hurt me again.

It is NOT proof of an unforgiving heart to set up healthy boundaries.

It is wisdom.

So I don’t have to invite them to every event.  I don’t have to allow them to corner me at gatherings where we both may attend.  I don’t have to tell them all the news in my life or include them in my circle of closest comrades.

I can be polite.  I will refuse to spread malicious gossip about them and not continue to talk about the old wounds for which I’ve forgiven them.

When my heart tries to resurrect the forgiven offenses, I will remind it that those are no longer relevant.  I will not let bitterness overtake me.

There’s a compelling and beautiful anecdote about Corrie Ten Boom and forgiveness: 

After WW II, Corrie traveled Europe speaking on the grace of God found even in Ravensbruck, the concentration camp where she was imprisoned and in which her sister died.

After one such talk, a German man came up to her and mentioned that he had been a guard at that camp.  Corrie recognized him though he, of course, did not recognize her.

He thanked her for what she shared and put out his hand to shake hers.  At that moment, she knew what she SHOULD do, but she did not want to do it.  She did not want to touch this man’s hand and offer forgiveness for what many felt was utterly unforgivable.

But God convicted her heart and in obedience she extended her hand.  She speaks of how she felt the Lord’s love and forgiveness wash over her and flow through her when she acted in obedience.

She never saw him again. 

But for many of us, we continue to see and rub shoulders with the ones who have wounded us. 

And if Corrie had again been forced into a concentration camp, she would not have been wrong to go kicking and screaming. 

Forgiving that German guard did not excuse what he had done nor did it mean that if he was intent on repeating it that she (or anyone else) had to simply go along.

You do not have to allow another person to use you as a punching bag.  You do not have to subject your heart to verbal or emotional abuse.  You do not have to prove the sincerity of your forgiveness by enabling continued bad behavior.

forgiveness is not forgetting

That’s neither wise nor helpful.

Boundaries are OK.

They are necessary.

And they do not mean you haven’t forgiven someone. 

Repost: Healthy Boundaries in Grief

As a people-pleasing first born who hates conflict, giving in has always been  easy for me. It’s only later that I wish I hadn’t.  

So for most of my life, setting personal boundaries has been challenging.

But in the aftermath of child loss, healthy boundaries are no longer optionalthey are necessary for survival.  

So what are healthy boundaries?

Read the rest here:  Healthy Boundaries in Grief

Not Anti-Social. Just Selectively Social.

Grief changes lots of things.  

I am simply not able to spend energy on frivolous and marginally meaningful social activities anymore. 

I’m sure that hurts some folks feelings and I am truly sorry.

But I can’t help it.  

Truth is, we all have a limited amount of energy to spend on life’s commitments, celebrations and unexpected circumstances.  It’s just that most of us aren’t forced to admit it very often.  Before Dominic ran ahead to heaven, I could “rob Peter to pay Paul” as my daddy used to say.  A few days of not enough sleep, a few days of rushing here and there, a few days of biting my tongue and smiling when I wanted to cry were bearable.

I could survive a week or two and then take a day or two to recover.  Good as new.

I don’t have that luxury anymore.  

Now I operate every. single. day. on a razor thin edge of just enough energy to get by and not enough energy to get out of the bed.

So I am selective about social commitments because I know the energy just isn’t there.

I’m not withdrawing, I’m drawing boundaries.

I promise you are still important to me but I may have to check up online instead of in person.

I want to know about every special and exciting thing going on in your life-I want to celebrate with you!-even if it’s from a distance.  

Please don’t scratch me off your list just because I don’t always say “yes” anymore.

I will keep showing up when I can and send a card or gift when I can’t.

I care.  

I promise.  

I’m doing the best I can.

 

Ain’t Got Time (Or Energy!) For That

I wouldn’t describe myself as an optimist. 

It’s not really that I always see the glass half-full, it’s just that somewhere, early in life, I learned to be thankful I had a glass.

half-full

So when faced with a challenge or problem or even devastating circumstances, my first thought is, “What resources do I have available to address this?”

I used to be able to take Negative Nellies in stride. 

I could brush off their comments like gnats in the summer. 

Annoying, but ultimately powerless to do me harm. 

And I used to spend a lot of time cheerleading for others-trying hard to help them see that whatever situation THEY were in was not as hopeless as they thought.

I tried to encourage friends, family and even acquaintances to use their own deep resources to tackle a problem.  

But somehow, in this Valley, surrounded by high mountains and with an unlit path winding long before me, negative talk, action and attitudes are on my nerves.

Instead of merely being an annoyance, it feels like these folks have tapped into whatever strength I have left and are draining it through a straw.

If I stick around too long, they will drain me dry.

So I turn and run when I can.  

Call it cowardice.  

I call it self-preservation.

paco face (2)
“Don’t try to win over the haters, you are not a jackass whisperer.” ~ Brene Brown

 

What is Forgiveness?

I’ve been thinking long and hard about forgiveness lately.  

What is it, exactly?

If I forgive then must I also forget?  If I forgive then must I also allow unfettered access into my life?  If I forgive then do I have to pretend the wounds inflicted by the offense don’t still hurt?

Here’s what I have so far: 

  • Forgiveness means letting go of the feelings surrounding the offense.  It means no longer expecting an apology, restitution, repentance, restoration.  It means trusting that whatever work needs to take place in the heart and life of the one who has injured me will have to be done in and through them by the power of God, not by me holding their feet to the fire.
  • Forgiveness means extricating my own heart from the bonds of expectation regarding the other person.  We start fresh.  Clean slate.  I lay down my hopes for how that person should/will/might treat me.  It’s a way of liberating myself regardless of whether they choose to remain in bondage to bad habits, a bad temper or unfruitful relationships.
  • Forgiveness means I have stopped looking to the other person for healing.  I must tend my own wounds, work my own field of feelings, deal with my own shortcomings, poor choices and habitual sins.  I can no longer use another person’s action or inaction as an excuse for my own delayed healing.
  • Forgiveness means that I can and should erect appropriate boundaries.  Every relationship is not a mission field.  I am not required to lay down my life to enable another person’s bad behavior.  If the person I forgive chooses not to change hurtful behavior, then I do not have to give them access to my heart and life.  I can be kind, receptive and compassionate but I do not have to hug them close just to make it easier for them to hurt me again.
  • Forgiveness means that I don’t use my injury at the hands of that person to malign his or her reputation.  If I have released that person from obligation to me through forgiveness, then I must choose to lay down the offense and not mention it to others.  (This, to me, is a good test of whether or not I’ve forgiven someone.)
  • Forgiveness is an act of my will regardless of the other person’s response to my choice.  Love, kindness and forgiveness are in essence the proffered hand.  If the person to whom it is extended slaps it away, then it’s on them.  I may be ready for a sea change, but the other person may still be resisting

forgiveness is not forgetting

Some people are easy to forgive!  

They recognize how their actions or words have wounded my heart and they ask for forgiveness. 

Others are much harder!

They either choose to ignore or are unable to see that they have hurt me.  

But I am called to forgive regardless because I have been forgiven.

forgiveness is difficult because it involves death and grief brene brown

 

 

No More “Quiet Mouse” For Me

Believe me, I’ve imposed my share of“Quiet Mouse” on my own kids through the years.

Raising four close-in-age siblings, sometimes that was the only way to make the last five miles home without losing my mind.

But the premise of the game is really this:  I’m bigger, I’m stronger, I’m in control and you are not-so shut up.

Even if you have something important to say.  

Even if you feel like you will burst wide open if you have to hold it in.

No excuses allowed.  Just. Be. Quiet.

quiet_as_a_mouse (2)
Peace at all costs.

I’ve been a quiet mouse for most of my life when it comes to standing up for myself.

Now, advocating for my children or for someone unable to fend for themselves-that’s another story.  But somewhere in my formative years I embraced the message that the most important thing in the world was to keep the peace.

Even if you have something important to say.

Even if you feel like you will burst wide open if you have to hold it in.

No excuses allowed.  Just. Be. Quiet.

But all this emotional turmoil I’ve been feeling since Dominic left us has uncovered layer after layer of brokenness, pain and untold stories.  His death lifted the lid on the vault that had been sealed for decades.

Emotions are flying out like genies.

genie-lamp

And I’ve come to understand that peace at all costs-when the costs are borne by a single individual in a relationship-is not peace. 

It’s slavery.

I also realize that not every friendship and family tie is a mission field on which I must spill my life’s blood to prove my love for Jesus.

Sometimes laying down simply enables bad behavior and encourages bullying and disrespect.  

angry-man-pointing-finger

I want to walk in love.  Always. 

But love does not mean I must allow other people to walk all over me.  

I don’t plan to. 

No more “Quiet Mouse” for me.

not-required-set-yourself-on-fire-life-daily-quotes-sayings-pictures