That Even My Edges Are Loved

So, the new John Legend song, All of Me, just destroys me. I haven’t yet broken down sobbing while listening to it, but mostly, I think it’s because I’m afraid that if I start, I won’t be able to stop.

My favorite part is the chorus with the lyrics (full lyrics here):

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections

When I told Hapa Papa that I loved this song, he incredulously asked, “So, you’re telling me you love my farts? I’m pretty sure you do NOT.” I wanted to deck him. I guess he thinks he’s proved himself right on the impossibility of loving all of him. Well, I never said I loved the song because I loved all of him. Hmph. 

I love this song because I so desperately want it to be true for me. That all of me is loved and lovable – even my edges (and I certainly have many of those).

One of the side effects of having Daddy Issues is that for so long, I thought there was something wrong with me that made my father leave. I thought that if I just behaved a certain way, was more loving, sweet, and “Daddy’s Little Girl” that maybe just once, he would choose us. Every time he came home, I knew I was crazy to hope that he would change. Yet each time he left, I felt abandoned all over again.

The other day, I was reading the blog of someone I used to know through church and I just wanted to weep for her. She’s five years younger than I am and her entries reminded me of who I used to be – so broken and jagged, unable to believe I was loved and desperately wanting to be.

I recall the despair I used to feel constantly. That no one would and could and should love me because I was a horribly broken and shattered person. Who would want to hitch their wagon to that type of baggage? Even when I was loved, I couldn’t receive it. I didn’t believe it. I thought it was all a lie. I would do everything in my power to make myself as unlovable as possible, lashing out at the people who cared and loved me the most. Then, when I pushed people to their breaking point and they would inevitably leave, I would point to that example as proof of my unlovableness. That those people who “loved” me were made out to be liars.

I used to be somewhat dramatic.

Even now, after years of therapy and mostly healed relationships, every now and then, slivers of doubt and self-hatred slip into my thoughts. It used to happen when Hapa Papa would point out something horrible about my character and I would downward spiral into bouts of intense self-loathing combined with wanting to push Hapa Papa as far away from me as possible. But instead of wallowing in the despair as I used to, I now try to nip the unhelpful thoughts in the bud as quickly as possible.

A lot of it was me being unwilling to look at my own selfishness and sinfulness. When I finally chose to look at myself with as little self-condemnation as possible, I could see how Hapa Papa wasn’t attacking me or telling me that he didn’t love me. He was trying to love me by being honest with me in as kind of a way as possible. And truthfully, I am an incredibly selfish person (more so than most people), so the fact that Hapa Papa rarely pointed out my faults just meant that he is, as my brother said, The Most Patient Man in the World.

I can now say that I am in a mostly healthy place and can take Hapa Papa’s concerns about my character as him asking me to change because I hurt him with my selfishness vs. him asking me to change because I am irreparably broken and no one will ever love me and if they do, they are utter fools and completely deluded and once they find out what I really am, they will leave me.

I’m not even sure how the change in me happened except that I had to fake it until I made it. I have always hated that advice. It seems so insincere. But truthfully, that is what happened. I had to fake believing that I was lovable and loved and acted as if I believed that it was true until I actually believed it. At some point, I CHOSE to act AS IF what I desperately hoped to be true (that someone could actually love me), WAS true. And eventually, it was so.

This is just my really long-winded way of saying that I love this John Legend song because it reminds me of what I ultimately long for deep inside my cold, dark heart. That I am loved and lovable – edges and all. I suppose it took this many words for me to finally figure out the why and to articulate the sentiment.

IMG_0020

Proof Hapa Papa loves me (or did).

It is also my roundabout way of saying that this is how I feel Hapa Papa loves me. Perhaps he is not quite as romantic as John Legend, but Hapa Papa acts as if he loves all of me (even if he says he doesn’t love my horrible, selfish parts). Every now and then, I ask him if he still loves me, and he hems and haws, but I know he’s doing that just to tease me. (At least, I am choosing to think that.)

So even though Hapa Papa calls this an “idealistic, fake song,” it still makes me think of him. After all, I have his love for me caught on film. (Even if it was seven years ago – it’s still proof!)

Geez. When did this post devolve into a long mash note? Enough of that. Here’s the YouTube video of John Legend and his real wife, Chrissy Teigen. Beautiful people in a beautiful video.

Not Ready to Make Nice

Every so often, I wonder to myself, “Why am I still not talking to my father?” After all, my parents are divorced, he is free to do whatever he wants. Shouldn’t I give him another chance? Shouldn’t I give him an opportunity to start over? I mean, if all children of divorced parents didn’t speak to their dads or moms because of adultery or bad behavior, there would be a lot of estranged families.

Perhaps there are.

My uncle and his family came to visit us this Christmas. This is the first time they have visited (other than for my brother’s wedding) in approximately twenty-five to thirty years. My uncle had refused to attend my wedding because my father was in attendance. My father was not invited to my brother’s wedding.

At any rate, I feel as if all my uncle and aunt could talk about was my father. Perhaps they simply have no one else to talk to about it. Or rather, no one else can quite understand their situation. It’s like a survivor’s club. But I couldn’t help but feel as if just by talking about him nonstop, giving an unending relational post-mortem, that we were still allowing my father to hold so much power over us. I suppose it is somewhat better than not talking at all about my father and the havoc he has caused. I often forget that my immediate family was not the only family torn apart by my father. He also tore apart his original family, with his brother, mother, and father.

There is a power in us never saying anything about my father. There is also a power in us ONLY talking about my father. Quite frankly, I was incredibly sick of the subject.

I understand. My father has now made it one of his primary goals to make my uncle’s life miserable. He has moved to the community where my uncle lives and has started to intrude in my uncle’s social and religious circles. My uncle is afraid and unwilling to do anything. He is just waiting for the other shoe to drop. I don’t know why or what exactly the problem is – but I have ever been the aggressor. Also, I know barely anything about the situation. Perhaps my father really does want a public fight – and the only way to neutralize him is to ignore him and pretend he doesn’t exist.

I don’t know. I have always butt heads with my father. We are very much alike in temper and temperament. Of course, I am much better looking.

I confronted him on all the small things (except the only thing that really mattered – his lying, cheating ways). My mother and brother rarely confronted him. They just let him bluster on, unwilling (and perhaps, the smarter for it) to engage in an argument just to be right or be heard. I still haven’t decided which strategy was better.

I want to start a new conversation.

I want my children to go through life completely ignorant through first hand experience (not necessarily ignorant in general) what it is like to have an absent, unreliable, and selfish parent. I want my children to have nothing to do with violence perpetrated against them or their mother. I want my children to know peace, stability, love, and freedom.

I spent so much of my life afraid and hiding. Hiding my true feelings and thoughts about my father, my mother, my occupation, my studies, my everything. Because my family was built upon lie after lie to protect our dark secrets.

Such a fucking waste of time.

It was like covering up a cancer or a gangrenous limb. How can we get well if we pretend there is no illness?

Ultimately, that’s what it comes back down to. If my father were no longer a plague or a cancer, I’d consider allowing him into my and my children’s lives. He is still my father. But since he still is bent on revenge and only looking out for himself, it is my job – my duty – as a parent to shield my children. I am like Gandalf fighting the Balrog.

Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

It seems a tad overdramatic and silly now that it is in gif form. But the sentiment remains the same.

Also, I am allowed some gallows humor, right? If anything, at least my crappy father has given me so much potential blogging and parenting material! Thanks, crappy dad!

I now have a blueprint for what NOT to do as a parent. I can now screw my children up in an altogether new and different fashion. Babies, consider yourself warned.

Nagging an Inattentive God

According to this Huffington Post article, nagging is one of the top reasons people divorce. (Incidentally, I’m obsessed with the HuffPo Divorce section. I find that sometimes, you don’t know what works until you see what’s broken.) I can tell you absolutely that if nagging is the main reason, I’m screwed because goodness knows I would never try to change my behavior. Everyone knows that Hapa Papa is the reasonable one in the relationship.

The main reason I nag Hapa Papa (other than, apparently, my being female – sexism alert!) is because I don’t feel heard. Hapa Papa has a bad habit of rarely acknowledging things I say to him. Of course, he claims that my heavy onslaught of orders/mandates/”conversation” makes it near impossible to acknowledge them all. I just say he’s a quitter.

So, I keep nagging Hapa Papa until he acknowledges me in some way (usually with annoyance). And then I nag him until he actually does what I want. (Two separate actions.)

Hapa Papa is not the only one in the family to bear the brunt of my constant nagging. So are my children. I constantly harp on Cookie Monster and Gamera to sit down properly in their chairs, (Cookie Monster falls out of his chair AT LEAST once a day. Like, seriously? No learning from experience, that child.) eat their food, pick up after themselves, put away their toys, hurry up, etc. The other day, Cookie Monster told me to stop talking and go away because he couldn’t stand hearing me tell him to sit down in his chair anymore. Then, he promptly fell out of his chair. Again. (I felt smug and vindicated; I am a small and petty person.)

Lately, I made the connection that my kids whine in due part because I nag. (Ok, I didn’t make the connection on my own. It was spelled out in this Parents article. More on this article in a future post.) My kids whine because they are afraid that they aren’t heard or acknowledged. So, they keep asking for the same thing over and over again, with greater and greater urgency. I really hate that they are learning my bad habits. I am hoping that if I stop nagging, they will stop whining. I think I made it fifteen minutes.

Anyhow, the other night, I was praying for my kids and I found myself repeating the same plea to God over and over again. “Please keep my children safe. Keep my children safe. Keep my kids safe. Watch over them and keep them safe from harm.” Sometimes, I varied it up and said the same thing but in different words. Or in a different order. And then I stopped.

Did I think that God didn’t hear me the first time? Or that God might have missed part of what I was saying? Or that God was stupid and required me to explain things repeatedly and slowly, as if God were a foreigner who couldn’t understand English?

When I thought about it, God doesn’t really need me to pray for Him to know what I want or need. And certainly not on repeat. Presumably, being omniscient and all, that’s stuff God would already know. After all, prayer is for the supplicant, to get to the root of their heart’s desire. So what did that mean when I kept praying the same thing over and over again, as if I were stuck in a loop?

And then it hit me. Some part of me thinks God isn’t listening. Or that if God is listening, that He doesn’t care. Therefore, the only way to get and maintain God’s attention is to whine and plead and cajole and just wear Him down until He’s like, “STFU! Here’s the stupid thing you wanted. Now, please STOP with the praying!”

If I were God, I’d have punched me in the throat. I’d be totally offended. And super annoyed. (I suppose who’s to say that God is not offended or annoyed? *slowly looks up and backs away*)

So I decided I’m going to try a new thing. I am only going to pray ONCE for something per prayer time. It’s really hard. It’s as if I am trying to fill up the airtime with God so that I don’t have to hear anything He has to say to me about my life or my desires.

It is hard to trust that God takes me seriously and wants me to have good things. It is hard to remember that God is the original Prodigal Father. That my love and desires for my children pale in comparison to how God feels about me. I find it incredulous.

Then, I find that the only prayer available to me is a short but apt one: “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 ESV)

Pattern Interuption

Prior to dating Hapa Papa, all my relationships were full of drama. When things were good, they were AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL and FATE and when they were bad, they were HORRIBLE and ALL IS LOST and ANGST ANGST ANGST. So exhausting.

Part of it was I was in my late teens and early twenties and my pre-frontal cortex wasn’t finished developing. (Yes, yes… that’s it! Blame it on the pre-frontal cortex!) Part of it was me learning how to navigate my own needs, wants, and desires as well as healing from the ways my parents (in particular, my father’s abandonment) broke me. Also, I was crazy. And emotionally unstable. So, there was that working for me.

Since I was always playing out the drama that unfolded only in my head, I was constantly pushing my boyfriends away, expecting them to chase after me and beg me to stay. That was how I confirmed I was valuable and loved. I was the damsel in distress needing the hero to run after and save me me from myself. Needless to say, it was tiring for everyone and eventually, the “passion” as I thought it was (vs the incredibly passive aggressive co-dependency that it truly was) burned out.

Well, when Hapa Papa and I started dating, I would pull that crap on him and he would have none of it. More to the point, he was completely oblivious. I was so confused. One night, I was so pissed at him, I slammed the door to our apartment and left. We lived in a sketchy neighborhood so I fully expected him to come running after me, begging me to come back and stay and to be safe. Nope. The man had the nerve to fall asleep almost immediately.

I stormed back in after about fifteen minutes and roughly shook Hapa Papa awake, demanding him to explain himself. He looked up at me, blinking sleepily and said, “I assumed you left because you didn’t want to be around me. So I let you be by yourself. I just figured if you wanted to be with me, you’d come back. Was I wrong? I’m not really sure. Is that the way relationships are supposed to work?”

I was floored. I think I stood there, mouth agape, opening and closing like a fish. My brain stuttered to a stop.

“Well?” Hapa Papa asked. “Was I supposed to chase after you? Is that what you want? Should I do that from now on? Because that seems really stupid to me. If you wanted me to be with you, why would you leave?”

*sigh* I hate it when he’s right. I thought about it for a bit, my brain frantically churning through all these scenarios about what I wanted and what would be the best response and I gave up. I told him that he should continue what he was doing. If I stormed out, he was absolutely not to chase me.

Turns out, that was one of the best decisions I ever made. With that pattern of victim/hero disrupted, we were able to proceed on healthier grounds. Of course, there were still times I still bolted because I was pissed off beyond all reason, but I did so knowing that Hapa Papa was not going to be chasing after me. I tested him a few times, but he never did. After awhile, it just got lonely and stupid so I stopped.

Now, of course, we still fight every now and then, but I can honestly say that I have never had a healthier relationship. It also helps that Hapa Papa is what my brother calls The Most Patient Man in the World. Thank the Good Lord for that!

Plus, Hapa Papa is so quick to apologize and admit when he is wrong that just by doing so, it immediately diffuses most volatile situations and stops me from going to DefCon 1. Even I am now able to look past my immense pride and sense of “Look Out for Number One” (a lesson I inscribed onto my heart once I watched my father walk all over my mother for the majority of my life) and have come to apologize as quickly as possible. He has been good for my soul.

All because that one night, Hapa Papa let me walk out that door. I am utterly grateful.

The Power of Unfriending

When I first joined Facebook, I fully admit I tried to get as many friends as possible. I liberally friended people – even if they were people I didn’t know but somehow, were included on a mass Gmail mailing list once upon a time. In fact, there are a few of my friends on Facebook that I don’t actually remembering meeting in college but because they post so much and we know so many of the same people, I consider them my friends. Then, there are the many people I friended because we went to high school or middle school or even elementary school together. I friended everyone.

However, after the novelty of Facebook wore off and I started having children, I began to regret having so many people as friends. The more I thought of it, the more I realized that just because I recognized their names from school didn’t mean I knew these people. They were mostly strangers and could be crazy serial killers. So I started unfriending people or putting them in “acquaintance” categories.

The problem is that Facebook makes it really hard to unfriend a lot of people at the same time. Any time you unfriend someone, Facebook reloads all your friends but in a different order than before. It becomes really frustrating. (I realize that the mobile app for Facebook makes it easier, but I didn’t know that until recently.)

So, what I decided to do sounds really mean, but is very useful. Every day, Facebook tells me which people have birthdays that day. On their birthday, I take a good look at these people and decide one of several things:

1) Keep as a friend/status quo

2) Unfriend

3) Move to “Acquaintance” category

It seems mean because I’m making this judgment on their birthday. Whatever. I’m assuming they will be so inundated with happy birthday wishes that if I do happen to unfriend them, they won’t even notice. If I move them to “Acquaintance,” they won’t really notice either (since Facebook thankfully doesn’t inform them of this) and will likely just think I stopped posting as much in general. (Most of my posts are “Friend only except Acquaintances.”)

At first, I was really leery of this policy. After all, doesn’t everyone want MORE friends? But once I started doing that, I realized there was immense freedom in unfriending. Having all these people on my friend list that I either didn’t actually know or interact with was a lot like all the junk I shove in my closets or under my bed. Stuff I kept because I thought, “One day, I may need this/they may become a good friend.” Well, I rarely touch the stuff I think I need – and it is unlikely that I will deepen my friendships with people I knew briefly in high school.

Turns out, I kept a lot of people on as Facebook friends because I liked the idea of knowing what happens to people without the hassle of actually maintaining a real relationship. However, if I didn’t really know these people AND they weren’t posting on a regular basis, what benefit did I derive from having them as a friend in the first place? In addition, I would worry that too many people would know what was going on in my life or see too many pictures of my kids. (Ironic since I totally blog about way more private things but whatever.) The worry was gone if they were no longer my friend!

Furthermore, I realized that in actuality, it was the fear of missing out that was driving me to have so many friends. Missing out on pictures, updates, and gossip. In fact, this was just like my addiction to celebrity gossip except these people were not famous! They did not touch my life in any way, shape, or form! Why did I care what happened to them except on a cursory level? The truth is, I don’t care. So if I don’t care, why am I their “friend”?

It seems like such a silly thing, this “friend/unfriend” business on Facebook. But I see it more and more as becoming my more authentic self. I don’t want a massive number of “friends” online. It’s not a virtual popularity contest. What I really want are real, interactive, and meaningful relationships.

Whether it manifests in the online equivalent of “office cooler talk” about TV shows/current events or deeper conversations about articles and issues, I look forward to my daily “chats” with my Facebook friends. What I want is a community of people who are interesting to me and interested in me. Unfriending people who do not contribute to the life that I want is simply good housekeeping.