Thursday, June 1, 2017

Saddling the Moose

About a year and a half ago, my youngest was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It’s not your garden variety OCD: no hand-washing, door-checking, thing-counting. In fact, because a year of therapy has had little effect on her symptoms, she just went in for some more extensive testing to confirm that the diagnosis is accurate. But all the mental health professionals she’s worked with seem to feel that’s a good name for what she’s experiencing, and it rings true to her.

It’s been a very interesting eighteen months learning how my daughter’s brain works. Essentially, the best we’ve figured out is, she is unable to make small decisions. Big decisions are not so much of a problem – where to go to college, what to major in . . . she’s confident on that.

But what to wear this morning . . . what to eat for breakfast . . . whether to eat breakfast . . . how much to eat for breakfast . . . how long to watch TV . . . whether to check the notifications on her phone . . . whether to answer that text . . . when to answer that text . . . how long to exercise . . . it’s 9am and I’m home all day today and there are fifty things I could do and ultimately need to do sometime (shower, school, walk dog, pray, sleep, laundry, clean, exercise, etc. etc.) so which of those fifty do I choose to do right at this moment . . . those decisions stymie her.

In the past, she dealt with this by setting up systems for herself. And frankly, she probably learned that behavior from me because that’s how I approach my daily tasks. But the systems became more and more complicated, and more and more rigid, and ultimately more and more illogical to the point where she is afraid to go that direction again for fear of enslaving herself once more with her own self-built structures.

So now, her go-to solution is to do what certain people tell her to do. But that, obviously, has its drawbacks. For one thing, anything I tell her to do now becomes a compulsion itself. I told her once to finish her biology worksheets, and in the next 36 hours (before I realized it), she completed two months’ worth of biology. The poor thing feels like she’s living out the “Ella Enchanted” story sometimes.

At the heart of this, it seems now, is the need for her to figure out how to narrow down choices and choose. It doesn’t sound difficult, does it? Do what you need to do first; then do what you want to do. But how do you know what you really need to do versus what you just think you need to do, or what someone else is trying to convince you that you need to do? And how do you know what you want to do?

That one made me do a double-take. She has relied on systems for her decision-making for so long that she does not even know what she wants. And when she does know what she wants, she can’t determine if she should feel free to do what she wants or if she should do the things she feels like she should do – because she’s not always sure if that is actually something she should do or just something she thinks she should do.

You see why our heads are spinning.

I’ve always said that our biggest faults are usually the flip sides of our greatest strengths. I think that principle applies here. She has been able to accomplish tremendous things in the past that we now  realize were the result of this “disorder”. There’s an amazing strength of will underlying all this that I’d love to see her harness.

In one therapy session, her counselor gave her a bunch of small figurines and asked her to create a picture that represented her OCD. She put herself on one side of a bridge with a giant moose standing in the middle of the bridge, preventing her from crossing. I told her that my hope for her is not just that she get the moose out of the way, but that she saddle that moose and make it carry her across.

We just need someone to show her how to become master of the moose.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Battle Fatigue From the Start

Trump was elected two weeks ago. I've been pretty quiet since then. The loud cacophony of voices filling the last two weeks rendered my tired voice pretty useless, I felt. I'm weary of the whole thing. In fact, I'm probably going to take a December fast from social media. (The fact that I'm not sure I can even do that shows me that I desperately need to do it.)

But before I go, I'll say a few words -- to those who voted with me. Whether you voted with enthusiasm or, like I did, with heartache.

The temptation may be to breathe a sigh of relief. "Now the nation is safe from those dastardly liberals wanting to impose their socialist, atheistic agenda on us. We're good. The battle's over."

Not a chance, cupcake. The battle is just starting.

We should take no pride in this victory. We put a man in office who has a very good chance of shaming his position and shaming the country.

"But . . but Hillary . . . but . . . " Oh, hush. She's out of the picture. Now we have to deal with the abominable mess that we created when we decided to play games with the political process during the Republican primaries. He's there, he's got potential for MANY problems, and we're the ones who have to stop them.

First, acknowledge the fear that marginalized groups feel in this country. Yes, it feels to us like it's over-the-top (like the black boy my pastor encountered the day before the election who had been told that if Trump were elected, all the black men would get put in jail -- ??!?!!?). But honestly, it's no more over-the-top than the rhetoric we would have heard about the country turning into Cuba if Clinton had won.

The man has said and done some atrocious things. Don't defend or belittle them. Don't give them cause to think he represents us in that. Acknowledge the atrocity of it, and stand firm that freedom still reigns in this country because the people make it so, no matter who is the president. The people angry enough to put him in office will be angry enough to get him out if that's what it takes. Nobody needs to fear for their civil liberties on our watch.

Second, don't get all joyful about Obamacare being repealed and such. Obamacare happened because Republicans ignored the healthcare crisis for so long that the people were willing to try something radical, just so something -- SOMETHING -- was getting done. (Kind of like the exasperation that swept Trump into the White House, really.)

Repealing Obamacare will not solve anything. We've got to come up with something better. And it really has to be BETTER -- not just different. Don't get on the anything-but-Obamacare bandwagon. Make this a debate that actually leads to something good for our country.

Third, don't act like the man is a Christian and is going to protect our religious freedom. Maybe he is; maybe he isn't. God knows his heart; we only see his behavior. I see nothing in his behavior yet to give evidence of his submission to God -- much the opposite. That said, I don't think we can safely expect him to keep any promises he made during his campaign. We have to stay on our toes.

Yeah, yeah . . . he's seemed a bit more subdued and presidential the last two weeks. He also took to Twitter to make some idiotic, rash comments about the Hamilton cast's manners. Whether or not you agreed with him, the man just needed to shut up. He has bigger fish to fry. (Seriously, somebody just take his Twitter account away!! And take some of his billions and buy him some thicker skin.)

The rancor and division in this country are getting to me. I wish it wasn't. I wish I could have faith and move on. But I'm tired.

You know what I want? I want both sides to sit down and be quiet for a while. I want both sides to admit that those who disagree with them are not necessarily evil incarnate. I want people to start looking for what we can agree on and working toward that. Compromise. Peace.

I also want to weigh what I did when I got married. I have no optimism for either prospect. Just pass me the caramel popcorn and turn off my Facebook account.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Effectively Shutting Me Up

About a week ago, I was at a church meeting and a speaker made a political joke. I started to feel myself tensing up . . . but everyone just chuckled good-heartedly. Then he made a comment about the fact that among his friends at the church, he is the resident Democrat and kind of gets playfully teased about that. (Honestly, that surprised me a bit -- I'd gotten the impression that Republicans were the minority at my church, but maybe I was mistaken.)

I thought about that for quite a while. I was trying to remember the last time I heard politics discussed light-heartedly. The last time I was in a group of people who I knew disagreed with me politically and felt comfortable making my views known. The last time I didn't feel that people who disagreed with me politically were judging my character because of my political beliefs.

It's been a long time.

It was at least before the Obama administration . . . before San Antonio and Iowa, in our family's
story. It was probably sometime in New Jersey, because I went to church with many liberal friends there, and while I don't remember many political discussions with them, I also don't remember being afraid to say what I thought or any of us judging the other for what we thought.

When did this animosity start? And why?

Well, looking at my personal experience, I suspect a big part of it is that, by chance, I haven't had a lot of liberal friends that I see face-to-face since I left New Jersey. They're all on Facebook. So any political discussion that involves disagreement is happening in online statuses and comments.

More than that, I think I can pinpoint the chronological beginning of this tension, at least my personal experience of it: Obamacare.

I remember so well the hurtful reactions I got from FB friends when I questioned the wisdom of Obamacare online. They didn't question my opinions; they questioned my character. Not all of them, but many of them. I was told that I obviously hated poor people, that I was a spoiled rich girl . . . and those were some of the milder remarks. It hurt -- seriously. Don't these people know me better than that? Is this really what they think of me? Behind all of their smiles and surface-level compliments? They REALLY believe I disagree with this because I'm hateful . . . because I'm selfish . . . because I'm stupid . . . because I'm racist . . . really???

These same friends (these are the really passionate ones) over time are increasingly posting a lot of negative things about conservatives in general: things that, again, slam the character of anyone who could possibly disagree with them . . . which includes me. They are also the first to jump on anything remotely political that I personally post and argue against me, and they get personal.

Again -- not all of them, but many of them. And I have ugly conservative friends who do the same thing to their political opponents, for the record.

Most of my friends (liberal AND conservative) simply don't bring such topics up anymore. I suspect they probably feel like me: they're afraid to have their character brought into question publicly for what they say. It's like a don't-ask-don't-tell environment. My daughter told me the other day that she just doesn't want to know ANYONE's political leanings -- it affects what she thinks of them and what they think of her. The result of all this is that the reasonable people stay silent, and the only political discussion that happens is the ugly, hateful, divisive stuff.

That's so sad. How did we get this way?

I blame Facebook. If we're going to have passionate discussions about important issues that we have strong disagreement about, those should probably happen face-to-face. Where you can hear the tone of their voice and react to the pain in their eyes. Where you are kind of forced to take the time to at least make small talk about other things, things that you have in common, things that show some interest in and concern about the other person.

This election has been emotional for me. I take my vote seriously, and I'm quite distressed at my choice here and what it's going to mean for my children's future. I really would have liked to have talked about this decision in this blog; in the past, I've used this as a place to hash things out and get feedback from a variety of respondents.

But I've been afraid to. The very fact that I didn't see the choice as obvious would be seen as a sign of my stupidity and ungodliness (yes, really) to many friends on BOTH sides of the aisle. I don't have it in me right now to defend myself against that. So, I just shut up.

The ugliness in our country right now has led me to pray mightily for my children -- among other things, I pray that they will not only know right from wrong, but will have the courage to stand up for right when the national mood is against them. It occurs to me that I'm not modeling that courage right now.

So, for those of you who don't know, I'm a conservative. And here's a link to an old post I wrote explaining why. And for the record, I don't know what I'm going to do when I get in the voting booth this week.

I have only a few days to decide. And maybe I'll find the courage to blog about it. I just hope the people who claim to be my friends will believe in me enough not to question my integrity based on my vote. Getting kind of tired of that . . . getting ready to hit the unfriend button.

Friday, October 21, 2016

What I Won't Take For Granted

Thankfulness is a spiritual discipline, and it's one I have a hard time cultivating in times like these when my sleep issues are at their worst. What's more, I've found that the term "thankful" has become too trite to be useful for me. Particularly in Christian circles, it seems (and for everyone once the month of November hits), we talk so much about being thankful that it almost becomes nothing more that a rote recitation.

I am reminding myself lately that there are things in my life that I must not take for granted -- things I have right now that I have not always had and will not always have, and I MUST make a point of appreciating their presence while I have them. Here are a few:

Hot Showers: Hubby and I are still entertaining the idea of living out of the country during retirement. And we learned during our week in Panama a few years ago that very few homes there have hot water for showers. Let me tell you, people: cold showers are such a miserable experience for me that I might rather just let myself stink. The vast majority of the time I take a shower anymore, I let myself feel the wonderful hot water on my body and take a minute to stand there and just flat out enjoy the feeling. A time may come when I will long for this, so I don't want to take it for granted now.

Breathing: When I get a cold, nine times out of ten, it settles in my chest, and I end up coughing for weeks -- many miserable, exhausting weeks. I avoid sick people like the plague because a cold just isn't a minor deal for me. I have caught myself many times, while lying in bed in the morning getting ready to get up, taking big, deep breaths and just loving the feeling of air flowing through my lungs smoothly. I know that at any time, I could be exposed to germs that will temporarily disrupt that. I make a point now to appreciate the times when I can breathe.

Being Able to See Enough to Read: My mother had macular degeneration. My eye doctor reminded me the other day that I should probably take some eye health supplements to head off the possibility of having similar problems. Macular degeneration manifests itself in blurry vision right at the center of where you focus, which means it makes it difficult and eventually impossible to read. I am a serious reader. Reading is integral to my life right now: I read books, magazines, student papers, scripts, online articles, emails, my own plethora of to-do lists . . . not being able to read would alter my life profoundly. I like my life. I want to be able to read. And since there's a chance I won't be able to someday, I treasure every day that I can now.

Being Able to Think Straight; My father had Alzeimer's disease. Since there seems to be a genetic component to that, I have always known that there was a possibility of my developing the disease as well. The older I get and the more my father's siblings become similarly debilitated, the more I think about that possible future for me. Someday, I may not be able to remember things or understand what people say to me or keep my own thoughts straight. I want to appreciate the ability to think while I have it.

My Daughters' Presence: This is a biggie. I have a twenty-year-old and a sixteen-year-old. The oldest could very well have chosen to go away to college but didn't. The youngest may very well make that choice in a couple years. I have never enjoyed my daughters more than I enjoy them right now: they are intelligent, caring, thoughtful, FUN young ladies, and wonder of wonders, they seem to enjoy spending time with hubby and me. I know I am blessed. I know someday they will have families and careers, and Mom and Dad will move down the priority list . . . which will be as it should be. So I welcome every moment I can have with them now and treasure up these times in my heart.

Someday, these blessings may be gone. And because I serve a loving and gracious God, I know when that time comes, there will be other blessings to appreciate. But I refuse to get to that day and realize I didn't appreciate what I had while I had it. No matter how crazy my days get . . . no matter how grouchy I am from sleep deprivation . . . no matter how discouraged I am about the direction of our nation . . . I must never, ever take God's gifts for granted.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Needing Deep Water

In looking for a passage to use in class next week as an example of good writing, I pulled out my Susan Wise Bauer book The Well-Educated Mind and flipped around a bit. And I found this beauty. She's been discussing the various channels where you might gather information about, say, a recent bombing on the West Bank. Then she says:

"But in order to be enlightened about the suicide bomber on the West Bank, you must read seriously: history, theology, politics, propaganda, editorials. The ideas that impel suicide bombers cannot be gleaned from websites or interactive media. The causes of such desperate actions cannot be made clear to you through a picture and a moving headline while you eat your toast. These things must be expressed with precise and evocative words, assembled into complex, difficult sentences. To be enlightened – to be wise – you must wrestle with these sentences. Technology can do a great deal to make information gathering easier, but it can do little to simplify the gathering of wisdom. Information washed over us like a sea, and recedes without leaving its traces behind. Wrestling with truth, as the story of Jacob warns us, is a time-consuming process that marks us forever." 

Oh, so true. Wisdom takes time . . . requires wrestling . . . needs depth to swim in. I'm all too aware of how shallow my life gets too often.

This shallowness has been a theme popping up a lot lately. Amy, the BSF teaching leader, noted last week that, when you forget your identity, life becomes all about completing tasks rather than fulfilling your purpose.


My life lately has been about completing tasks. I've always been a big fan of to-do lists, but they have been my lifeline for a few weeks now. The more busy I am, the more dependent I am on those lists. For a while there, I had a handful of them lying around, cross-referenced with each other. It was the only way I could possibly relax -- otherwise, I was afraid I would forget something important and I'd be thinking about it constantly.

Completing tasks. Gathering information. Shallowness.

I've been feeling a lack in my life. And I'm realizing now that it may be a lack of depth. Busy-ness forces me to skim the surface of so many things just to get by. I heat up a frozen lasagna for the family dinner because taking the time and effort to actually pull out genuine ingredients and assemble them into a home-cooked dish seems like a waste of energy. I quickly throw together a checklist for my daughter's school week because actually sitting down and discussing what she's learning with her feels like a luxury I can't afford right now. I slap a quick grade on my students' papers because figuring out the whys and hows of the errors they are making takes too much time at the moment.

But the quick fixes are shallow. I miss the purpose. I forget my identity. I lose the chance for wisdom.

I need depth. My legs are cramping for room to stretch, stretch, stretch, and still not touch the bottom of the pool. I want to stop dog-paddling in desperation and swim with big, wide strokes, feeling the bigness of the water around me and realize I'm still being held up.

I keep thinking now that the play is done . . . now while I have a week off of school . . . once I get caught up on my sleep . . . I can get the multitude of little things done and then have margin again to dive deep. But maybe that's not going to happen. Maybe I need to force myself into the deep waters anyway, despite the complicated, cross-referenced to-do list lying on the kitchen table. Because maybe the workout my limbs get in the deep waters is what strengthens them to get through the shallow waters, too.

Monday, September 26, 2016

What I Learned

I just finished a six-week stint directing a play at Crystal Sea Drama Company. This is a youth theater company, so it's supposed to be an educational experience for the young people involved. However, I find that it's just as much an educational experience for me.

What I Learned Directing This Play:

1. How limited my theater knowledge and experience is. I've done lots of drama . . . not as much actual theater. I can put people on a stage with a script and get a good performance out of them. Everything else that theater involves, I'm pretty clueless about.

My costumer asked me what period the costumes should be. Period? I dunno. It's the Clue game characters . . . they're in a castle . . .

My set designer asked what kind of castle. I dunno. German? Siekfurst is a German name . . . sure, it's German. I don't have a clue what a German castle looks like. What kind of kitchen table in the kitchen? I have no idea -- what can you give me?

He also asked if I wanted to keep the round proscenium platforms or take them out. I don't know -- what do you want to do? I'm not used to dictating what my stage looks like; I'm used to being given a stage and having to work with what I have.

My stage manager asked to use my script with the cues written in it. Cues? Umm . . . how exactly would you like those cues written? (She ended up writing cues in her own script.)

I think I should take the tech class at CSDC.

2. How little attention I pay to detail. Did I like the earrings Fillie was wearing in Act 2? Was she wearing earrings in Act 2?

Do I want the rafters painted to match the trim? Uh . . . rafters? Oh, those. Sure. Maybe. I can't even picture that in my head.

I work with people here who are the type who would notice that this suitcase is a completely different style than all the other suitcases and cringe at that through the whole show -- where I'm happy that we found a purple suitcase at all. I'm grateful to have people who pay attention to those things because I know there are audience members that pay attention to those things, and I just don't see any of it.

3. How little control I have over anything. Actually, this was not news to me -- I'm reminded of this every time I direct a play. I'm convinced this is why God has me doing this.

I have NO control over who auditions for my play. (And I didn't have enough people audition, but God brought us the people we needed.)

I have NO control over how hard my actors and crew work. (But my people worked very hard for me this time around -- even got their lines memorized in a week and two days.)

I have NO control over the health of my actors and crew, or their well-being and safety outside of my rehearsal time with them -- and sometimes not much DURING my rehearsal time with them. (And this was my first play where those things really became issues.)

I have NO control, once the symbolic curtain rises on opening night, over what ends up happening on that stage. There's a point where it's all out of my hands.

4. I love these kids. I can't tell you what a great group of actors and techies I had for this play. I enjoyed them thoroughly. They put on a great show. They reminded me why I do this . . . and made me want to do it again.

Sometime. After I get the house cleaned and get caught up on my sleep.

Friday, July 29, 2016

War? What War?

Yeah, maybe there's something wrong with me.

When Obama officially became the Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, I remember thinking that, although I didn't want him to be president because I disagreed with him on so many things, it was a pretty cool thing that a black man was on a major party ticket. And on the day of his inauguration, I got a bit choked up at the meaning of the historical moment. A black president!

Last night was historical, too. Historical in a way that directly affected me more, since I'm a woman. But I wasn't fazed. Maybe if Hillary is inaugurated, I'll get emotional about it at that point, but I kind of doubt it. And I don't think it's a factor of disagreeing with her politics. Because again, I disagreed just as much with Obama's. I just can't get excited about a female presidential candidate. Seriously -- it means nothing.

I don't quite understand myself. "Women's rights" just isn't an issue that resonates with me. I don't at all feel like a victim in any kind of war on women.

It's not that I don't think women should get paid equally. It's not that I don't have a problem with cultures that treat women as property. I get that there are all sorts of injustices happening to women around the globe, and something should be done about them.

But . . . I don't know. I can't get myself riled up or excited about it.

Maybe it's because I don't think it ever once occurred to me in my life that I couldn't be president if I wanted to just because I'm a woman. I don't think there has ever been anything that I wanted to do that I haven't been able to do because I'm a woman (other than, you know, lift heavy objects . . . and that's not really because I'm a woman: that's because I'm a wimpy woman).

Maybe it's because my mother was never a big women's rights person. I don't remember her ever discussing it at all. She was a very contented homemaker and probably never felt held back by her gender either. But I'm also quite sure she was one of the ones encouraging me there was nothing I couldn't do in my life. As if gender just wasn't an issue -- not that it was an issue we now had victory over.

Maybe it's because, while I have experienced (not personally) blatant racism in my life, I have not experienced or even witnessed blatant misogyny. But I have certainly heard females cry "misogyny" when I thought the charge was quite unwarranted. (Of course, I've heard unwarranted cries of racism as well, I guess. I think it's sometimes easier to believe there's injustice in the way you've been treated than to believe that you yourself were somehow at fault or inadequate.)

I don't know. I don't get myself. I felt no swell of pride or relief or joy at the idea of a woman heading a major party ticket last night. I heard no glass ceiling shatter. I never saw a ceiling. I don't think I was looking up there -- I was busy looking elsewhere, I guess. Maybe someone will say I'm not ambitious enough. I think I just figure that God builds my house; he designs the layout, determines the number of bedrooms, and sets the heights of my ceilings. And He builds our houses to individual specs, based on the work He has for each of us. My ceiling is where it needs to be to do the work He has for me to do.

Too simplistic? Too lethargic? Maybe. But there's something to be said for contentment.

So while I'm wondering about myself today, I have to say that I'm not that bothered by my reaction -- or lack of reaction. I'm mostly concerned what I might be communicating to my daughters. Should I be worried that my lethargy on the matter is a negative quality that they will pick up from me and that will be a detriment to them for the rest of their lives? Am I hurting them in some way by not instilling them with a pride in their gender and in how far their gender has come in our society and a determination to move their gender further?

I don't think so. I think they have a pretty healthy view of gender. It matters where it matters, and it doesn't where it doesn't.

And in politics, we don't think it matters.