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

Step Back, Don’t React

It is possible not to react to every single thing someone says or does.  It is possible to scroll past social media posts that get under your skin and not look back.  It is possible to ignore a snarky comment or an unhelpful piece of advice from someone who ACTS like they know what you’re going through but really has. no. idea.  

Now if you are new on this journey, you will read these first few lines and think, “Is this woman crazy????” 

I felt EXACTLY the same way in the first months and even through the first couple years in this Valley.

But, I will tell you this:  the sooner you can embrace the habit of practicing the pause, the sooner you will begin to feel like you have some control in your world again.

And isn’t that one of the things we crave after the tsunami of child loss sweeps over our lives-order, control, a sense of purpose and direction?

It’s hard. 

Really, really hard not to react against every arrow shot into my wounded heart.  Even when I know it was an accident and the offense is collateral damage, it still hurts.

But I’ve found that if I just take a single, deep breath I can put a bit of distance between the oomph of the impact and my reaction.  And there is actually power in choosing to ignore offense.

Because then I am in control, not the person lobbing the arrows. 

just-breathe

So what do I do in the split-second it takes to draw in that preparatory breath?  I consider the source.  I think (quickly) about my ongoing relationship with this person, what’s happening in THEIR life and why they might have said or done what they said or did.

Is it ignorance?  Is it sloppy choice of words?  Is it due to stress in his life?  Is she just worn out and not thinking?

And I decide:  is reacting to THIS particular exchange worth damaging the relationship?

Is it worth the negative emotional energy that I will have to expend?

Is it something I can overlook and move past?

Most of the time the answer is, “yes”.  I CAN let it go.  It’s not that big of a deal.  It is not a fair representation of our relationship and it is certainly not worth ruining a friendship.

I’m not just doing THEM  a favor.  I’m doing ME a favor.

choose to respond

I’m not “letting them off the hook”.  I may actually revisit the issue later on, when emotions aren’t running high. 

But I have learned that I only have so much emotional energy to expend in this Valley.  So much of it is already absorbed in carrying the missing and sorrow and reining in my own outrageous feelings that I just don’t need to waste the rest on trivial things.

So I don’t (most of the time). 

Practicing the pause helps me do that. 

It gives me control. 

There is far too little of that this side of child loss.

So I will take what I can get. 

boundaries control react

“Get Out of Christmas Free” Card

I remember playing Monopoly as a kid and how much I treasured that “Get Out of Jail Free” card when I was lucky enough to draw it from the pile.

Because it meant that even if I landed in jail, I didn’t have to stay there. 

As I walk this Valley of the Shadow of Death, I often wish there were cards like that for all sorts of seasons, places and situations.  I can’t help them coming around, but I would love to be able to skip right over and move to the next thing.

Christmas feels like that this year. 

Christmas is hard for all kinds of hearts for all kind of reasons.  And unlike most other holidays that are only a DAY, the Christmas season drags on for weeks which makes it even harder.

Now, you know I’ve posted here about why I still put up a Christmas tree-because the lights remind me there is a limit to the darkness.

But, that said, I want to offer a “Get Out of Christmas Free” card to other hurting hearts who just can’t manage even a lighted tree this time of year.

Shake off the guilt.  Wash off the worry.  Step free of others’ expectations.

There is no biblical imperative to celebrate the birth of Christ.  None.

And there is certainly no biblical imperative to dress up the celebration with all the cultural trappings we’ve added over centuries.

Furthermore, if you get right down to it, there is strong evidence that Jesus wasn’t born anywhere near December 25th.

So if your heart cannot bear the thought of one more holly, jolly song, one more hap-hap-happy get together, one more frenzied rush to the store for a forgotten present or pantry item-just choose to sit this one out.

It is possible to go through the month of December without caving in to consumerism or being guilted into celebrating when your heart’s not in it.

Close the blinds.  Let the telephone go to voicemail.  Fast from social media and turn off the TV.  

The days will pass with or without your permission and January promises a fresh start. 

It’s OK.  I promise.

its ok to not feel like celebrating christmas

 

Boundaries: I’m Not a Punching Bag

Last week I wrote a post titled They Don’t Know What They Don’t Know and made the case that often folks say insensitive things but truly don’t mean harm.  Many are walking in the dark and step on our toes because they can’t see.

But there are some people who make it a habit to be insensitive.

They are the ones who delight in speaking their mind regardless of how it hurts another heart.  They pride themselves on “telling it like it is” and justify the fallout as a necessary consequence of “opening the eyes” of people they consider “blind to the truth”.

And while I believe that it is my duty as a Christ follower to forgive these folks when they hurt my feelings, I do not believe that I am required to continue to offer my heart to them to be tossed to the ground and trampled.

boundary yellow line

I do not have to welcome them with open arms and invite their untimely and unkind comments.  

I do not have to engage with them on social media-I can unfollow, unfriend or simply ignore their posts.  I can delete inappropriate comments made on my own posts and untag myself when they try to draw my attention to an article or meme that they think “helps” when it only wounds me.

If the person is a family member, I can choose to be polite when we meet at gatherings but I do not have to sit next to them at the table.  I can excuse myself early from birthday parties, Sunday dinners or holiday meals.  I can simply refuse an invitation and stay home instead.

If the person is someone tightly woven into the fabric of my friendships, I can do the same thing-choosing not to be alone with them so I’m not an easy target for their “helpful” monologues.

If the person is a casual acquaintance then I can choose not to engage them at all. It’s OK to scoot around the next aisle in the grocery store so that I’m not caught like a deer in headlights when they see me and exclaim, “How ARE you???”

In other words, it is perfectly acceptable to have boundaries around my heart so I can survive this journey.

It is healthy.

It is necessary.

I’m not required to be someone else’s punching bag.

punching bag