Grace is when God gives us what we don't deserve.
Mercy is when He doesn't give us what we do deserve.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I'm not Superwoman

but sometimes I feel like I have to be.

And it sucks.

I have basically lived on my own since just before my 18th birthday.  My parents have always been supportive, but while still 17 I moved to Germany and I haven't lived at home since.  In fact at most times I have been at least a six hour drive if not a 14 hour flight away so while my parents can give me advice on what to do they can not physically help me with anything.  Like most things, this has it's pros and cons.

I can change my car's headlights on my own.  I can assemble my own furniture.  I have developed a great relationship with  my car's mechanic.  I have learned how to take care of most basic repairs or at least have someone I trust I can call.  I have moved myself more times than I want to think about.  I even attached my headboard to my bed frame all on my own.

There is a great feeling of pride and accomplishment that comes with doing these things on my own.  I love knowing that under most circumstances I've got it.  I look at friends whose parents do almost everything for them and I wonder what will happen to them when their parents are no longer around.  What will happen when they have to figure it out on their own?

I know we are never truly alone if we have God in our hearts and our lives.

It's just there are times I wish I didn't have to do it all on my own.  I don't want my guy friends to yell at me for never letting them help.  I don't enjoy having to figure out how I am going to make it all happen or get everything taken care of.  I really didn't appreciate being broken up with because he wanted a girl he could save.

Because it's not that I don't ask... I do ask.  It may not be often anymore, but I do.  And usually when I reach out needing help, I find that there is no one available to give it.

  • I spent an entire Saturday from 7 am - 6pm pulling up Bermuda grass, planting plants and mulching my "yard".  It was hot and exhausting work, but I did it all on my own.  Neighbors walked past, friends knew what I was doing and not one of them was available to help.  For the next few weeks, I received compliments and heard, "I would have helped..." but they weren't available on the day I was doing it.

  • I found a gas grill for my friend M on and promised the lady I would pick it up by noon Saturday.  I sent our mutual friend BB a text message about helping and his response was "When and Where" yet a few hours later he kept trying to switch the day to Sunday.  I ended up calling M and the two of us took care of it.  BB was all upset because he said he would help us and then we didn't let him, but he kept wanting to argue about when to go get it and that was one of the few points that I couldn't alter.  

  • This past week on Thursday I found a lady who was getting rid of 2 TVs, a 200 CD changer, a receiver and the speakers.  I tried contacting anyone I knew who had an SUV to help me because I was really hoping that I wouldn't have to take the car seats out of my car.  Of all the text messages, voice mails and emails I sent out I didn't receive any help.  I ended up taking the car seats out and clearing out my trunk.  When I got to the house I carried it all to my car and got it loaded in.  I did receive one text message back hours later that night after it was all over.  

It's not that I resent having to do it on my own, I just hate the accusation that I don't ever ask for or accept help.  I ask.  I would accept if it was offered.  The problem I have found over the years is that the guys I know like to say they would help but rarely are they actually around to offer until I have taken care of it on my own.  I try really hard not to paint all guys with that brush, but I have also quit asking them for help in most situations because it sucks when it's offered but without any follow through.

I wish I had someone who could help me.  Someone who would be strong when I wasn't.  Someone I could trust to handle things for a while so I could just let go.  I make a million decisions a day for the kids I work with from what to feed them to how to explain God to them.  It would be really nice to come home and lean on someone else's strength for a bit.  When I didn't have to have all the answers, let alone one answer.  There are days I will go from 7:30 (when my bosses leave for work) until 5:30 (when they get home) without talking to anyone over the age of 4.  Then I come home and maybe talk with some friends on the phone or read a book, but I long to just sit on the sofa and have a discussion with an adult.

I really hate the notion of a guy saving a girl because I think it sets up an unhealthy dynamic where resentment will grow.  I don't feel I need a guy to save me from my life because I think my life is pretty great.  I just wish I had someone to share it with.  And as much as I long to have someone I can lean on, I want to be able to support and nurture their spirit as well.  I want to encourage them and cheer them on when they have a bad day or are feeling worn out.  I'm not looking for Superman and I'm not looking to be Superwoman, I just want a man of faith and character who I can partner with on this journey.

And who can help me pick up a bunch of electronic equipment and set it up so I don't have to be frustrated by it ;)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Critical care

"Have you blogged about that?"

"Um, no, why?"

"Because it's important and people need to hear it."

...or something very close to that was the conversation I had with Morgan on Saturday after coffee.

We had been talking about relationships and I was talking about something I feel is very critical to the health of a relationship.  The work that you put into it and the care you take of it and what for me is one of the most critical ways a person can do that.  Where I get hung up in telling others about what I feel is so critical for the health of a relationship, is that I feel I'm not worthy to speak to it.  I feel I have less credibility because I haven't been married and the only relationship where I thought I might be, I was told by the guy's 7 year old that he was marrying someone else (someone he could save). 

I can't speak from experience and say, this has worked for me.  I have no concrete examples.  These are just my opinions and what I feel is critical to my future marital happiness.  Considering I am not now, and haven't been dating anyone in the last 6 months (aside from my dating God project), my future marital happiness is probably a distant reality/concern.

Now, I have been inside many marriages as a nanny and a counselor, so I have seen some really good and some really bad relationships up close and personal.  I also have a few years of study in Psychology, Anthropology & Sociology (a.k.a. Behavioral Sciences) and my B.A. that started these thoughts rolling.  Which, I guess, is all to say that I haven't just pulled them out of thin air... yet I still doubt my ability to offer this advice to anyone other than myself and whomever I end up marrying as something I want to do.  That this is something I feel is necessary to make a part of our relationship for it's health and sustainability.

It's one word that some people find very off putting.


Honestly, I think everyone should be in counseling to some degree, but especially before you get married and then while you are married.

I think there is a great benefit to premarital counseling but I think that there is just as much (if not more) value to counseling post-"I do."  It is just my opinion, but in the first few years I think you should be meeting with your counselor about quarterly just to have someone there to help clear the air and guide the hard conversations.  Merging two lives isn't easy and a lot of times I have seen people brush little stuff aside which isn't all bad, but can also cause all that little stuff to build up until it does become a big problem.  Having a trusted person there to help guide the conversation and help the two people work through things can only make the relationship stronger as far as I am concerned.  After a few years you could probably go in twice a year instead of quarterly because by then your communication skills should be stronger and eventually I think you just go in once a year as a yearly check up type thing to make sure the relationship stays healthy.

If a problem arises anywhere along the life of the relationship you can go in more often as needed but because you have been going all along this increase would feel more natural and would hopefully not be as intimidating as if you had never been and suddenly decided to go as a last ditch effort.  You would have years of built up trust in your counselor and hopefully the tools to help you work through things when they were still relatively minor issues instead of huge overwhelming messes that no one wanted to acknowledge.

I don't understand why so many people view counseling as a bad thing.  To me, and okay I am a little biased considering my background, it is just like going in for your yearly physical.  When you have a baby, you go in lots for "well baby" visits.  The baby grows so much in the first few weeks, months & years that you have to go in often to keep an eye on the development and try to catch possible problems or complications before they are major health complications.  As the child grows, the space between appointments does too until it is just a yearly check up.  To me, a marriage is much like a new life... why wouldn't you do everything possible to protect it and make sure it develops in a healthy way?

So many people wait until it is almost too late to get help.  They let things build up and build up until they are one step away from walking out before they decide to seek help.  At that point they have so little time to effect real change because it is almost too little too late to make a difference.  The last straw is likely to come before any real healing has begun and it is because they waited too long to seek help for what was ailing the relationship.

I don't want that for my future.  I don't want my relationship to die of a preventable problem simply because I refused to get help in time.  I want lost of date nights, plenty of alone time and yearly check ups with a counselor to grow a healthy relationship instead of the common belief that after "I do" it will all just magically happen and fall into place.  I don't want a relationship where I focus on growing the family while my husband focuses on providing the family and we never focus on each other because over time we would grow apart.  I feel that you should put as much effort and care into your relationship as you do into work.  It shouldn't be hard work or a chore, but it will take time and effort and hopefully whomever I am with will want (as much as I do) to put that effort in to growing a really great relationship.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Daddy daughter time

Almost a year ago, I found myself sitting on the patio at my parents’ house.  My dad and I were talking about guys & relationships… it wasn’t the talk I was expecting.  I am not sure what I thought we were going to talk about, but there we were enjoying the 78 degree Texas Christmas Eve as my Dad told me I expected too much of people and wasn’t forgiving enough. 


I wanted to argue that it’s not true.  I tried to point out that dating just isn’t the same in this era of text messages, booty calls and random hooking up (all of which I hate).  I think it’s disrespectful to send out a mass text message and see who responds, booty calls are demeaning and hook ups are emotionally damaging.  I went on to explain to my dad how I never expect more of others than I do of myself. 

He agreed.  (Yippee)

Then he went on to say that I am incredibly compassionate, generous, loving and devoted to those in my life.  BUT, few people get to know all that about me because I’m a lot of work.  He said I needed to be more forgiving in my relationships because people are not perfect.  I tried to convince him that I don’t expect perfection, just common curtsey and respect.  I also said I really hate feeling like the 3 year old I work with behaves better than the adult I am spending my time with after work; I am not into parenting the guy I am dating.  My dad snorted at me and said guys don’t want to feel parented by the women they are involved with but did suggest picking better guys if they were acting like toddlers. 

Gotta love Dad!  (If only it were so easy to find good guys…)

What he told me next took me completely by surprise.  My parents were supposed to get married in November, but two weeks before the wedding my dad went to my mom and asked to call it off.  To say I was shocked by this wouldn’t even do it justice.  I instantly imagined how hurt my mom would have been.  I cannot imagine what all her thoughts were but what came next was another shock.  My dad didn’t call it off because he didn’t want to marry her.  He did.  He just wasn’t sure they should be getting married so soon.  He was only 23 and she was 24, so Dad wasn’t sure they were ready for all the responsibilities of being married.  The most unusual part of all this is that Mom is generally the cautious one and Dad is the wild one.  She lives in the structured world of technology with her organization and spreadsheets while he lives in the creative world as a photographer and believes in the pile system of “organizing” his office.  She is the planner and he is the spur of the moment guy, so that he was the one who threw up the red flag says a lot about where he was at mentally.

I am not sure what happened between November and the beginning of May, but I know they got married and had 3 children.  Their marriage was strong enough to survive my younger brother's death.  Their marriage was strong enough to survive the everyday ups and downs of a relationship.  When I moved to Germany my parents apparently separated briefly (I don’t have many of the details, they didn’t tell me about it my brother did) but they were back together after a month.  It survived the move to Texas, both of my Grandfathers’ deaths and several job changes.  Now, 31 years later they have set a great example for my brother and me, but it might never have been.

I am not sure how I would have reacted if I was my mom.  Not having many of the details of the situation makes it hard to put myself fully in her shoes, but I can look at my past relationships.  I can see where guys I was with walked away and safely say I don’t believe there was much they could have said later that would have convinced me to take them back.  I can see where my Dad was coming from with his advice; looking at the life they have made together I see what a loss it would have been had she not been more forgiving.

Monday night I did something I felt urged to do.  I sent an ex an email thanking him for something he had said to me shortly after we first met and asking for his forgiveness because at the time I didn’t see the value of what he was trying to share with me.  The relationship is long over and I want to get nothing for myself from this email, but I did want to offer him something.  It wanted him to know he was right.  It was important for me to acknowledge that to him and then apologize for discounting his wisdom (even if he never realized I had) because in the years since he said it I have come to appreciate what he said. 

It is likely not what my dad intended to come of his story, but it is a direct result of his words.   Hopefully, my next relationship will also be better for the wisdom my Dad chose to share with me.  Sure, initially I wanted to fight what he was saying and argue against his assessment.  There were lots of tears from both of us.  It hurt to hear my dad say I was hard to get to know and that I needed to be more forgiving of others and expect less.  I honestly feel I am pretty open and give a lot to others.  Plus, I’m still not sure I agree with the lower expectations, but I have certainly tried to offer people more chances.  I’ve also made a point of telling them when they were right (even years later) because I do see it as something that is important.  I know I am not perfect and I am not so prideful that I can’t admit when I’ve made a mistake.