Monday, March 22, 2010

Grace

For most of my life I've viewed myself as a guilty person. I learned early to judge myself harshly and to hold myself to ridiculous standards of excellence and then beat myself up for not being or doing or achieving. And then I just started to view myself as someone who couldn't. I just learned to give up when things got challenging. I dropped out of school. I dropped out of business opportunities. I quit jobs. I gave up on eating properly. I gave up on looking good. This quality of quitting and not caring became part of the fabric of my personal brand. I'm just someone who doesn't wear makeup or blow dry her hair. I'm just someone who wears jeans and T-shirts all the time. I'm just someone who's really laid back and doesn't care about appearance.

Here's the truth. I didn't want to try because I didn't want to fail. I didn't want to "put myself out there" and have people not like it or criticize or make fun. I've been so terrified of failure and of difficulty that I've wasted the last 10+ years doing nothing. I had various jobs and such, but I was never doing anything really challenging to push myself into the life I wanted. Part of it had to do with the old Christian church mentality of guilt. I so wanted to be done with the idea that we are guilty and that we somehow are not worthy people. I have been angry about this idea for a VERY long time. I think it's just wrong. But I've continued to actually feel this guilt and to fight against any internal or external pressure put on me. You think I should finish grad school...FUCK YOU. I quit. You think I should eat healthier...FUCK YOU. I quit. I will not be controlled. I will not be made to do anything or try hard or feel guilty. I'm my own lazy ass person and I'm okay with that. I just don't want to do it.

And, most likely, if I hadn't met Marco, I'd be living in squalor in some horrible apartment with some horrible job and probably a severe drinking problem and maybe weigh about 400 lbs. It's not that he solved anything. But he just challenged me. And pushed me (sometimes too hard and meanly). He questioned why I quit things. He never understood why I doubted myself. He just does things. His whole damn family just goes out and does things and isn't afraid. Sometimes they fail, but, mostly, they succeed. And Marco just exists in this state of confidence and lack of self-doubt. Well, the other night when I asked him if he ever doubts himself he said, "When I start something I doubt sometimes." Then he added, "But then I just decide to do it. And I don't doubt anymore." He's not kidding. He's not bragging. He just sees life as a bunch of things he gets to do.

I've admired these qualities, but mostly I've just judged myself for not being like that. And then along came Motherhood. And this I actually thought I'd be good at and thought would come easy. Well, as you know, it is not easy. It is so extremely difficult. But the difference between Motherhood and every other challenge...I can't quit. Every day, all day these three little people need me to care for them. Their development and care and health is dependent on ME. I have to feed them and clothe them and not let them live in squalor. And I have to provide learning and parenting and love. And there are no breaks. They always need me. And even if I am tired and in pain and sick and grumpy and constipated and unshowered and overwhelmed and want to crawl back into bed...I can't quit. I can't stop caring for them. There is just too much at stake for me to quit on these people. And I love them and want only the best for them, so I have to be the best for them, cause I'm who they've got.

Well, I reached a point a few weeks ago, after months of snow and being trapped and pain and dieting and exercising and not sleeping and never stopping and going and going and needing and needing and never getting anything done. I was home with all three, and I was unshowered and still in pajamas. Maya was being really difficult, and the babies were restless and wanting to be held. And I just broke. I sat and cried and cried. I fed them and changed them and hugged them, but I still cried. And suddenly, this verse a friend of mine had shared with me came to mind.

"My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness."

And it suddenly hit me.

I am not enough.

Through my tears and my brokenness I allowed myself to lean back and trust that while I am not enough, someone bigger than me is with me and will help me take care of these people.

But I didn't feel guilty. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I had worked as hard as I could work and done and pushed and been everything I could be, and it was just not enough. I had nothing left to give.

And peace came pouring in.

And liberation.

The following week I decided to go to this women's retreat to hear my cousin speak. I knew she was speaking about the book of Ruth from the Bible, but I just hadn't given it much thought. I knew the title of her book was called, "Loss, Love and Legacy", and I was drawn to it. But still, I hadn't given it much thought. And then, straight off, they started singing those praise songs (I always loved a good praise song) about love and resting in God. Ugh. I almost started crying right away. And then Kelly spoke about Ruth losing everything and working so hard and having nothing left and throwing herself at the mercy and grace of Boaz. She wasn't guilty. She'd done everything she could. She wasn't flawed or dirty. She worked hard and took care of her mother-in-law and tried to be everything. But she was not enough. There was just no way for her to be enough, and she had to go and throw herself at the feet of Boaz and say, "help me, please."

And, I knew it wasn't a coincidence. I knew, after all these years of not knowing, that this Great Spirit, Higher Power, God or Universal Being was not just powerful in the abstract but was powerful in the personal. I was reached out to and touched with love when I had nothing left.

What a relief. I desperately wanted to take off the burden of carrying the world on my shoulders and put that on someone else, someone much stronger. And rather than feeling like I was guilty and deserved punishment and needed mercy, I felt like I was as full in myself as I could be and still wasn't strong enough and I was given grace.

So, here I am now, leaning back as much as I can, into that grace and greater strength. It's nice to know I can never be enough, no matter how hard I try. It's so freeing to think that it doesn't matter if I fail as long as I give it my best shot. As my mother-in-law described, sometimes I just feel like a leaf floating down from a tree with no idea where I'll land or what is next. It's nice to know that the wind is coming from someone with some idea why. I still don't like being in limbo and floating, and I don't like struggling each day. But it's just a little easier now. Maybe a lot easier. And I feel so much less afraid.

I've begun to stop questioning myself and doubting. I am just going and doing things. Because, sitting on my ass being angry has really not gotten me anywhere. There's just no point in worrying anymore and doubting. This morning, when I was tired and when I would have normally used that to get out of everything I didn't want to do, I put on my sneakers and biked Maya to school. And as I was going along looking at the hills, I had this internal dialogue. "That's going to be hard. I don't want to do it." And the other voice, the inner spirit or the outer spirit or whoever it is said,

"Just peddle, and you might find you move forward."

4 comments:

Karen said...

Heather, this was really excellent! I love gritty, icky, messy honesty a heck of a lot better than intensely pretty fakeness. Frankly, I'm 40 now and I don't have time for silly little shenanigans of false togetherness. Being real is a wonderful and rare gift you give to people. It makes you super approachable. Good stuff.

sonja said...

Wow heather, i love it. beautiful writing from those deep oceans of your soul... really connects with and moves people. you are so good at putting those emotions into words and connecting with people.

love you as always. proud of you being a mommy of 3... and have absolutely no clue how you manage! I am VERY impressed! i always think that each of us is given our divine job in life... you were specially chosen for this one! loads of love! xoxoxox

(and wish i could come over and do some laundry and clean house, but you would probably just throw books or something at me ;) haha!

gates family said...

loved this post heather. there is nothing like being a mom to drive us back to God. this week has been a nightmare and i feel as though i am failing as a mom. HE is the only thing that is getting me through. sometimes my prayers are as simple as, "help me. i cant do this on my own." love you heath.

Anonymous said...

Heather, you have many gifts, and your gritty honesty (to borrow from others who wrote comments) keeps it current, relevant and believable. I'll keep coming back to read your blog - it's very powerful stuff. Thanks for sharing! Steph Smith

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