My 24-year-old Self

“What would I tell my 24-year-old self?” That is the question I found close to the end of my “Entrusted” online bible study with Beth Moore. She said she’d tell herself nothing, not because she wouldn’t listen anyway (which was my thought) but because the journey was worth not knowing. Does the journey make the destination that much sweeter?

Would I be the 44-year-old person I am today if I had not lived and learned through the 24-year-old self I was? I don’t think so. I think if I hadn’t lived the way I did, learned from it, changed through it, and moved on, I would be an entirely different person now. I like who I am now. The only thing I would wish for myself is that it hadn’t taken so long, that I hadn’t hurt so many people through the process.

My journals stopped in late 1992, the year I turned 20. I have pictures from that time but they start to be less and less frequent until 1998. Six years. From the year my Mom moved to another state and I was left here, living with a boyfriend until the year I met my husband, and my friends helped me move to my own place. Wow. Such a dark time. I vaguely remembered it until I paged through some pictures and wrote down the events on a time line.

I had met someone, whose name will not be mentioned. He is the only person I actually got rid of any pictures of. I have had loads of boyfriends and they are still friends. I have pictures of them in my albums. I still talk to most of them on Facebook. There is one (maybe two) that I really hurt back then and they have disappeared, but this one had such an ugly effect on my life during those years that I still don’t want to be reminded of it. He took up four years of my life. For four years I must have been one of the most miserable people on earth. I sometimes wonder if anyone around me really knew what was happening. I know a couple did and tried to help, but we were all so young and wrapped up in our own dramas, there was little anyone could do if I wasn’t willing to help myself. I can’t relive those times and write about it, even now, but I wanted to give you the feeling of it in the context of those times as I think of what I would tell my 24-year-old self.

“You are worth so much more than this. Here’s a book about Jesus, a journal, $200 to get started on a journey, and my phone number if you want to talk. You are not trapped or held by anything but your own mind.”

Two things changed my life in 1998. The first was getting the job I had dreamed of for six years. I had a decent income and new friends. The second was that I saw my future husband from the back of a pickup truck at that job. He was standing outside the lunch room, we locked eyes when we saw each other again, just like in the movies. It had been six years since we had seen each other and I had disappeared without a trace. Something began to happen at that moment. That’s when I began to have confidence in myself as a human being.

It didn’t happen all at once. It took years to recover. Only now do I see how far I’ve come. And then that question, “What would you tell your 24-year-old self?” I think I agree with Beth Moore. I wouldn’t tell her a thing. I’d just love her right where she was, knowing she would survive and what she’d become.

Driven to Distraction

Daily writing takes focus. I’m easily distracted by the things going on around me and I find myself pulled in several directions each day. If I set a time to sit and write in the morning before the housework gets done, I find myself thinking about all the things that need to be done next. If I set a time to it in the afternoon, after the house work is done, I find that I’m too tired to think or I find myself sitting down just before I need to get up and get dinner ready. I can’t just write in ten-minute sprints, no better than I can read a novel in ten-minute sprints. And I really want to write daily, not once or twice a week.

I find myself distracted by my newsfeeds. Looking thru social media, reading friends’ posts, watching funny videos, playing a game, they are all fun things to do and I do them…maybe…a little too often. They occupy my mind and if I’m bored, sometimes that’s the best thing I can do. I only have a few minutes before I have to be doing something else or there are too many distractions (people talking, etc.) to read or write. But when I spend too much time doing this, the next time I sit down to write, I find myself just staring into space with nothing coming to mind.

I need quiet to generate ideas, to think. Doing the dishes, cleaning the house, folding laundry, without music or podcasts playing, my mind wanders in and out of memories and ideas. I suddenly have to sit down and get a few sentences out to remind me where I went. Later, when I have an hour to sit quietly and focus, I reread and retell. I can put in a few better words, expand on it. Reread. Rewrite. Then have my boys read it for errors or run it through Grammarly if they aren’t available.

I’m struggling with time management. Who doesn’t? I have housework, grocery shopping, and sewing projects to get to. And I do still have kids to care for, even though they look like adults. Teens are a strange thing, a cross between grown-up independence and childish needs. I want to be there for them if they need me and it can mess up my well-planned schedule. They are like the baby birds I see around the house. They look like adults but they still follow mom around screaming for food. Eventually, they’ll fly off for good and I’ll rarely see them. I’m trying to savor this time. And then there are weekends when my husband isn’t working like he does on weekdays. Does he want to do something with the family or work on his projects? Sometimes I feel like I’m in a giant game of Tetris! It’s an interesting position. The good part is that I know it will all change again soon and I’ll have a new set of obstacles. I just keep rearranging the plan and seeing what works this week. Speaking of the plan, I’m off to look at next weeks agenda!

 

“The Question of God”

20170729_152400The whole title of this book is what drove me to order it! “The Question of God – C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life” by Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr.

Wow! What a read. I like to keep track in my reading journal how long I read each time I sit down with a book. Even though this book is only 244 pages long, it took me over ten hours to read it. I stopped a lot to think and write my thoughts down more often in this book than most books I read. There was just so much resonating in my heart!

Two big takeaways for me this time. Freud strikes me as a “sad, sad little man” unable to see outside of his own self. I just cannot imagine what it was like for him and I wouldn’t wish that worldview on anyone. I know. Probably not the kindest thing to say or the most insightful, but it’s the feeling I had throughout the book. Every time I read how Freud wrote about and viewed life and human nature I cringed at the sheer sadness of it. How could someone so intelligent have such a limited view of the world?

“Freud explained that when the child grows up ‘he knows, to be sure, that he is in possession of greater strength, but his insight into the perils of life has also grown greater, and he rightly concludes that fundamentally he still remains just as helpless and unprotected as he was in childhood, that faced by the world he is still a child.”” It’s just so sad to think that his relationship with his earthly parents so wounded him that he grew into an adult, took the analogy of God as Father, put them together and then tried to convince everyone around him that they should be feeling the same way. The whole book goes on through Freud’s life in this way. He seems angry and resentful that he was ever born, that the world did not appreciate his genius, and that everyone and every thing was out to hurt him. I felt sorry for him.

The other thing was that I really love C.S. Lewis and need to read more of his books first hand. I’ve read several, but there are so many that I haven’t read in their entirety. The first one of his books that I will read next is “A Grief Observed.” Another book I need to add to my list is G.K. Chesterton’s “Everlasting Man”.

One more thing before I go. I have pages of notes that mean little to me as soon as the day after I finish a book. I think I need to start taking my time and writing better notes. I may not always have the book to refer back to and even if I have the book, I frequently read a note I don’t understand, look back at the page I was referring to, and still don’t understand what I was thinking. That’s not good!

The Difference

From “The Question of God” by Dr. Nicholi, Jr., Chapter 8 – Pain

“Lewis warns we must not confuse God’s goodness or love with our concept of kindness. He writes, ‘Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness…There is kindness in love: but love and kindness are not coterminous, and when kindness is separated from the other elements of love, it involves a certain fundamental indifference to its object and even something like contempt of it.’ Lewis points out that ‘love, in its own nature, demands the perfecting of the beloved; that the mere ‘kindness’ which tolerates anything except suffering in its object is, in that respect, at the opposite pole from Love.’h our concept of kindness. He writes, ‘Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness…There is kindness in love: but love and kindness are not coterminous, and when kindness is separated from the other elements of love, it involves a certain fundamental indifference to its object and even something like contempt of it.’ Lewis points out that ‘love, in its own nature, demands the perfecting of the beloved; that the mere ‘kindness’ which tolerates anything except suffering in its object is, in that respect, at the opposite pole from Love.’

Kindness, when one thinks about it, may sometimes interfere with love: for example, our kindness may keep us from sending a child to the dentist to spare her pain, while our love, our wanting the best for that child, will insist that she confronts the pain no to prevent more later.”

First of all, I had to look up the word “coterminous”. I’ve never seen it before! “Being the same.” is the meaning, which is what I thought it might mean. Love and kindness are not the same things. They can be part of one another and should be, but they aren’t individually interchangeable.

Several things came to mind when I read this. First was to continue the analogy in light of how “radical unschooling” or “peaceful parenting” works. Out of our love for the child, we would insist that they confront the pain of going to the dentist because we know it needs to be done but we’d be there to ease the pain as much as we could and to be the support and comfort the child needs to be brave and get through. We’d have already been establishing a strong, loving relationship before this, or it wouldn’t work. Through this experience they’d learn a valuable lesson, that bad things can happen but there will always be someone there looking out for them, loving, sympathizing, and supporting them. They are not alone. Someone understands. It’s much like we hope our relationship with the Lord is.

Which brings me to my second point. We should be able to look to God as our child looks to us for real love, not just kindness. Screaming at God that he is mean and won’t give you what you want in this life, is much like a child screaming that they can’t have the peanut butter that they are deathly allergic to. God protects us and guides us and, because He loves us, He cannot hurt us. It does feel unkind at times because, like the small child, we can’t see the bigger picture and we haven’t learned to trust that we may be uncomfortable at the moment but He has our best interests at heart.

I have to add one small thing here. We need to be lovingly kind to our children for them to trust us when things seem bad. Most of our answers should be yes and most of our time should be spent supporting them and not dismissing their pain and suffering as unimportant, especially when they are younger and have so little tolerance for anything other than their own feelings. The older they get and the more support they’ve felt, the easier it gets for them to look outside themselves and be sympathetic to others. I don’t mean give a child everything they want. I mean help them to satisfy their needs and sympathize when they really can’t have what they want. This is how we build strong adults.

The term “tough love” is my next thought. I’ve never really been happy with the term. To me “love” is not “tough”. The words just don’t go together. Hearing the difference between love and kindness confirmed that feeling. What some people refer to as “tough love” is what they believe they are doing when they feel they have to do something someone may not like but is for the best. It isn’t tough love someone needs, it’s kind love, strong love. The kind of love that only works when a relationship of trust has been built over a long period of time. To use the same analogy, you can’t forcibly take a child to the dentist, kicking and screaming, dismiss their fears with “This is for your own good.” or “It won’t hurt. Stop being such a baby.” That is tough love. “I love you but I’m going to hurt you and I’m not going to sympathize.”, gets no one anywhere. A better version would be to ease their fears as much as possible, understand and sympathize with their pain, being kind to them before and after, reminding them that you are there to keep them safe even if it hurts, all the while being strong and fearless for them while being confident that everything will be ok. That is what builds relationships, strong love and kindness together.

And how would I relate this to my current life? The pregnancy clinic I volunteer at came to mind the instant I read this part of the book. Real love and not just kindness is what we hope to offer these men and women that come in for pregnancy, birth, and parenting classes. Unloving kindness is what we would be giving them if we just opened the door and offered free things to keep them going, diapers, baby food, and other supplies. What we do offer is love. We offer the loving counseling of experienced mother’s, not perfect ones that think they know what’s best but good ones that know we’ve all been in the clutches of stress while raising our children and know that what all mom’s need most is a kind, listening ear. We offer prayer, guidance, and support. We offer a word of warning and our experience. Sometimes, like the child that is afraid of the pain a dentist might cause, they don’t appreciate our love. They push it away in fear and anger. They don’t trust us. The relationship isn’t strong enough. Hopefully, we can continue to express love and understanding at these times and show them that we are ultimately here for them and want to help them be the best parent they can be. We also hope to be an example of God’s love, so that when they look at us they see the relationship we have with Jesus and want that for themselves. We hope they look to us and see us pointing to Him.

I’ve digressed a bit, so I might as well go the whole way! I just thought of another interesting analogy. An adoptive family. One couple adopts a child. They build a relationship with that child and the child feels loved and safe, happier than they’ve ever been. The couple decides to expand their family and brings a new child into the home to eventually adopt. The new child is wary of the adults. Adults haven’t proven very trustworthy in the past. But the new child does see the first child as an equal and grows close to them. That first child pulls the new one closer to the adults she calls her parents because she has experienced real love there. The new child looks to the first adopted and the first adopted points to the parents. A new bond begins to form. More humans are saved.

Let’s Be Social!

My note to remember to write about this was “Why am I afraid of posting sometimes?” I think you probably know why and you’ve probably had the same feeling. “Will I be attacked for posting this?” is what runs through my mind every time I find something interesting or when I write what I’m thinking about and what to share it, even this post! The internet and its offspring “social media” can be a dangerous family to be a part of but, generally, its positive aspects far outweigh the negatives.

Sometimes when I get online and read an article and the ensuing comments, I wonder if the whole world has lost its collective mind. It’s as if I’ve gone to a party on another planet where the host is from Mars and all the guests are from different cultures and speak different languages. If I found myself in this actual situation I would try to figure out the social rules and do my very best to get along with everyone in peace. No matter how hard I try, every time I think I’m politely opening the door for someone or offering them a piece of cake, I find that in their culture that is a horrible insult and they react violently, thinking I am just the utter end of rudeness. Reading what I just wrote, I think I’ve been watching too much Star Trek.

In reality, this is how I feel many times a week when I enter the internet in search of information or inspiration. I’m desperately trying to figure out the rules here but I’m confronted with anger and outrage at almost every turn. I even fall victim to it! “Why did my friend not ‘like’ my post? Don’t they see how important this is to me? Don’t they care? Obviously, I’m all alone in my thinking and everyone else out there is just ignorant and obnoxiously focused on themselves!” In reality, no one saw it for a number of reasons. One friend is on a vacation. Why would she be scrolling through Facebook to see what I’ve posted? One family member doesn’t really look all that close at social media. One co-worker is busy raising their own young children, focused on the reality of their home, not what I’m so concerned about posting. It’s like going to a party and being angry that the host is in the kitchen serving food instead of sitting with you over a cup of coffee. It’s not the time or place.

But here I am again, wondering about “the rules”. When I think I’ve got them all figured out, I say something to that effect and four people challenge my assumptions and offer their own set. Remember the “Dear Miss Manners” type, newspaper columns? I think the internet needs one of those but it needs to be a panel of young adults and older “tech savvy” types than can discuss and explain why it’s ok that someone comments with a picture of a movie or tells someone when they are clearly out of line and should probably dial back the aggressiveness. I’d read that every day, especially if it were quippy and fun.

My personal opinion is that the whole internet needs to lighten up a bit and maybe think about what they type in comments and who they are talking to. We all need to remember that at the other end of the line sits a human being with feelings just like you. You wouldn’t walk into the grocery store and make personal remarks about the person in front of you at the check stand. You wouldn’t come to a party by invitation and get loud and personal about the hosts choice of what to serve for dinner. You wouldn’t stand at your child’s school or at church and berate the speaker for not having the same feelings about a subject. Maybe we shouldn’t be doing that online either. Maybe we should try to be a little gentler and more polite. Everyone has those people that say and do as they please out loud and in front of everyone in their life, but offline, face to face, we just ignore that person. We don’t pile insult on insult, I think because we’re afraid of getting punched. But for some reason, when we are online, we feel safe in our home behind our device and take the opportunity to tell people how we really feel. To hell with manners! But does it get anyone anywhere on or offline? I don’t think so. It only serves to hurt people more, cause more dissension, and the injured party now has a written record of the wrongs done to him to go over and over again.

“Can’t we all just get along?” Can’t we ignore people that irk us or refrain from commenting on articles and posts we find so wrong? I think we can and we will eventually find new social rules for social media, but it will take a LOT of time and use. Our children will be better at it than we are and our grandchildren will be geniuses at it. In the mean time, I’m reminded of the honorable Bill & Ted: Go forth and “Be excellent to each other!”

Working on Myself – Impatience

How often did any philosopher, writer, or scientist that I’ve studied from the distant past (you know, pre-internet) get a chance to put their ideas or work out into the public and get feedback almost immediately? Probably none. Most great writers and thinkers probably spent a lot more time than I do quietly reading and writing, maybe talking to a few friends or family members over dinner or coffee, or just thinking alone on the porch or in front of the fire. Then they wrote in their journals, read their old journal entries, and re-wrote old ideas with more information they had gathered.

I’m sitting here angry because anything I write on the spur of the moment and post online gets very few “likes” or “views”. When I reflect, I can see what I’m doing. I realize I’m being impatient. And I’m letting social media distract me from really thinking, feeling, reading, and processing. I’m moving on to the next thing too quickly and not going back over what I’ve already written. I need to slow down. Find time to think. Stop giving myself tasks to do and things to occupy my curiosity and just be quiet. Listen, read, write, repeat. Maybe some day my ideas will get out there, maybe not. But maybe I’ll just be a better person to the people that I interact with every day.

Something I heard in my bible study recently, let your relationships develop in a community. That’s paraphrased, but this is what I’m taking from it. She was talking about finding a biblical mentor, like Paul was for Timothy. If you’re in a community of women working for Christ, you’ll find one. You just need to be patient and listen. It’s the same outside Christian work, if there is any such thing really, work outside your faith. How will I find people that I can talk to, listen to, learn from, and bounce ideas off of? By being in the world doing things. I can be kind, gentle, and a good listener. I can ask questions and write down ideas. I can offer my point of view in quiet ways. And I can write. And what I write I can also read and re-write.

I need to work toward making myself a better person, a better communicator. Like my bible study says, “You can’t give love, if you don’t have any.” and “And you have to know Jesus to share Him.” I need to know myself, too. I need to educate myself more completely before I can educate others. I can’t just jump up with every thought and insist everyone think I’m brilliant.

Learn Nothing Day – 2017

My goal for the next thirty days is to write every day for an hour AND post it. So, if you think these posts come a tad random, that is the reason why. They are! I’ll keep them all tagged “dailies” for future reference.

Today is “Learn Nothing Day”, an event created by Sandra Dodd in an effort to show people that it is not possible to learn nothing on any given day. It does not matter if you are in school or out, in front of the TV, hiking in the woods, or quietly meditating on a beach. It doesn’t matter if you are new Mom rocking a newborn in front a fireplace or a old Dad mowing the lawn on a sunny day. Even if you are all alone in the world, you will learn something every day. It’s unavoidable! No one succeeds on “Learn Nothing Day.” We are all losers no matter how hard we try.

In honor of that day, I’ll fill you in on what I’ve already learned today and it’s only 9:15 A.M.! I’ll go backwards from the latest to the earliest pieces of the day.

I just learned that all black and green teas are “anti-inflammatory”. No, they don’t calm down arguments, or maybe they do. Can you argue over a cup of tea? But they can reduce the inflammation in your body that cause all kinds of disease. I’m glad I’m a fan of iced tea with my lunch and a hot cup of hot oolong in the afternoon.

About an hour before that, when I logged onto Facebook to see what my friends were up to (it’s currently raining and I just know all my fellow desert dwellers will be reveling in it), I was reminded that it WAS “Learn Nothing Day” and posted to remind everyone to celebrate. I also posted a link for those that may have no idea what I’m talking about. This one http://learnnothingday.blogspot.com/

So now THEY have already learned something in reading my post! Ha ha! Share the love!

During my “Christian Basics” online class, I read this question, “Will unbelievers have a second chance to believe in Jesus after He returns?” This has always been a tough one. The answer in their book is no, but maybe. There is no specific reference to whether or not they will, there is only conjecture and inference. My personal belief is yes and I really can’t know. When I was a very new believer I couldn’t accept that God would condemn all those in the world who had never heard of Jesus. What about all those who have died before Jesus came to save the world, those who have lived isolated and never heard of Him, those who have felt lied to and betrayed by humans in this world and never found anyone they could trust that would lead them to the truth? I think at Judgment Day, something will happen, something just and good, something we cannot understand now and will in the future. I will trust that God has a plan and that all is never lost for the innocent.

In my bible study by Beth Moore, called “Entrusted”, I learned something marvelous. “The church of the present – comprised of every Christian on planet Earth – has a rock-solid foundation but it doesn’t have walls.” Many would disagree with this statement but I’d say that this is the way the church, the body of Christ, should be. Hold on to that for a moment. “The body” is porous, it lets in and out impurities and nutrition, it is not isolated. It lets in and keeps what it needs to live and grow. It gets rid of that which it does not. So we should be as the body of Christ. We stand on a firm foundation of the love of God, but we do not hide ourselves away, isolated and stagnant. We breathe in the world around us, let it in, and let it wash over us. We keep that which we need, new members, love, understanding, patience, etc. And we let go of the ugly and profane. It’s a beautiful picture. The more I study the bible from other people’s perspectives, the more I find that it fits so beautifully in this life.

My Great Books of the Western World reading list put me to Lavoisier’s Chemistry this month…ugg…science. I’m so not a fan of chemistry and mathematics. I wasn’t looking forward to this. I think I’ve posted about that before. But this is pretty awesome. I won’t get into all the details just yet since I’m saving it for when I finish and review it, but let’s just say the writing is clear and easy to read and doesn’t leave you bogged down in too many details. Today I learned that people used to know about acids but not where they came from, just what they do. He developed a way of purposely creating them, which he explains in this book, and renaming them according to the element they came from. Sulfurous and sulfuric acid come from sulfur. -ous means less saturated with oxygen, smelly and more stable. -ic means saturated with oxygen, stronger, solid, and odorless. And that muriatic acid still holds that name because they didn’t know where it came from. I’m not sure if they know now or what. I guess I’d have to google it but I’m not learning anything today!

My day started with a cup of coffee and “The Question of God” by Dr. Nicholi, Jr. This is a very good book if you’re interested. From a Christian or Atheist point of view, it compares Freud’s view of the world to C.S. Lewis’. Both were influential in their time, both came from religious families and became atheist. Freud never returned to God and Lewis did. It’s fascinating to hear them compared, both what they wrote and how they actually lived. I was reading the chapter on sex this morning and found this nugget. “Lewis goes beyond Freud to argue that people who control their sexual impulses understand their sexuality more than people who fail at controlling them. ‘Virtue – even attempted virtue – brings light; indulgence brings fog.’” Freud argued that we need to not hide sexuality, we should embrace it. I’d tend to agree. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to control ourselves. As with any passion, it’s good for some things, not so good if over-indulged. Lewis once told a story about a society that sold tickets for “strip tease” sort of act where a person came out with a covered plate and slowly lifted the lid to reveal a piece of bacon. The crowd would go wild with excitement and people would hurt each other to get to it and keep it from others. I think we’d all agree that something had gone horribly wrong with their feelings about food. The same goes for sex. Something has gone terribly wrong today. I’m not sure what the fix is really. I’d rather not go back to Victorian era values of women and sex, but this view of “anything goes” does not seem to be creating a healthier and happier society either.

That brings be to the start of my day. It’s nearly ten o’clock now and I wonder what else I’ll have to try not to learn by the end of the day!