The Lasagna Conspiracy

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The world of church continues to be a blissfully confusing place for me.  There is a thing that church folk do (calling each other folk is a whole other thing they do) that is thoughtful, kind and often times delicious.  They make for food for people.  And not just when someone dies.  Church people make food for death, birth, illness, unemployment, separation and so on.  If there is sadness or hurt, a lasagna can’t be far behind.

This is one of the things my church community does really well.  A message goes out on social media and folks sign-up for a meal and deliver it to the person or family on the appointed day.  It’s a beautiful thing.  Food may actually be our community’s love language.    We spend a lot of time together gathering around tables of food prepared by many hands.  Wonder where we got that idea?

Over the last few months, going out in the world was difficult for me – something this people loving extrovert has never experienced before.  Three weeks ago, my counselor suggested I dip my toe in the water and get together with a friend for tea – NOT at my  house.

I chose a friend from church who is more than a church friend.  As I drove her house on a sunny Tuesday morning, my nerves and queasy stomach were close to getting the best of me.  My friend’s smiling face and easy manner greeted me at the door and I was able to breathe again.  After apologizing for not having any baked goods to serve, my friend placed a pot of tea, two cups and a giant chocolate bar on a tray and led the way to her cozy basement.

For the next hour, she listened as I explained why I had disappeared from the world, how I was feeling now and where life was headed.  She was gracious, thoughtful and wise.  She was exactly what I needed.  After another hour of chatting and getting caught up, I was feeling so loved and encouraged.  My gratitude cup was overflowing.  So I was totally shocked when my friend apologized for not bringing my family a meal over the last few weeks.

There had been no call for food from our church community nor would I have wanted there to be, and yet my friend felt bad that she had not dropped a warm meal on my doorstep.  My jaw dropped.  The last two hours we had spent together meant more than a lifetime supply of lasagna.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not poo-pooing lasagna or those who make lasagna.  I’m a huge fan of anything made with noodles and cheese.  I’m just saying if cooking for others as a way of expressing love is not your thing then that’s cool.  There are so many ways to love people.  If it’s lasagna, great!  If it’s homemade pie, God bless you.  If it’s a cupcake from a local bakery, well done.  If it’s a cup of tea, a chocolate bar and long easy chat, you are speaking my language.  

It’s a beautiful thing working together as a community to support and encourage others. But there is no one right way to do it.  We need to embrace all expressions of love – be it food, a text, a hug, a cup of tea or a chat.  

Slippery Devil

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Patience you are a slippery devil.  At times I have a firm grasp on you.  But sometimes when you starts to wiggle and squirm, I lose my grip and you slip right through my fingers.

This holiday season has been strange.  I worked myself into a lather about a routine mammogram which triggered my anxiety.  My eldest daughter is wrestling with her anxiety as she transitions from school to vacation mode.  A good friend finds holiday gatherings very difficult and negotiates them as best she can.  My Facebook feed confirms that this time of year is damn hard for a lot of people for a whole bunch of different reasons.

I know this.  You know this.  Even Facebook knows this.  And yet we lose patience with ourselves and each other.  Patience slips right through our fingers and transforms into unsolicited advice, hurtful comments, neglect and isolation.

I don’t need your judgement.  I’m already doing a brilliant job of beating myself up.  For example, some of the questions that ran through my head last week included:

“Why can’t I get a grip?”
“What is wrong with me?”
“None of these thoughts are logical.”
“I just need to stop thinking these negative thoughts.”

And yet the thoughts just kept on coming at a relentless pace until I lost patience with myself and booked an appointment with my doctor to review my test results and talk about some coping strategies.

Three days after Christmas as my daughter’s gifts lay unwrapped but not played with or read under the tree, I don’t need you to ask:

“Doesn’t she appreciate her gifts?”
“Why is she so stubborn and rude?”
“What’s wrong exactly?”

Nothing is wrong.  But yes, something is different.  I don’t know why transitions are so hard for my eldest.  What I do know is that she will get there.  She will open her microscope and examine all the slides.  She will read each graphic novel cover to cover several times.  She just needs to process everything at her own pace.  And I need to walk patiently beside her as she does this.  How amazing it would be if others could come alongside her as well.

Same for me.  I’d love some company on this journey.  I can’t explain why I got so worried about a routine medical test.  If there was an off switch to my anxiety I would have pulled it but that’s not how it works.  It’s a big ugly monster that grows bigger with each new thought.  And FYI, attempting to explain my anxiety makes me more anxious because I already know how nuts I sound.  

So instead of trying to solve my problems, my daughter’s or that random person on Facebook, why not ask, “How can I support you right now?”  NOT “What can I do for you?” There is nothing you can do.  But you can be.  Be with us.

After asking, “How can I support you right now?” pour yourself a tall, cool glass of patience.  And hang on tight – don’t let that slippery devil slide from your grasp.  It’s so difficult to watch someone struggle with mental illness but just imagine walking in their shoes. 

 

 

About My Breasts

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I’ve written about struggling with depression and embracing menopause so it only makes sense that I now rant about my breasts.  I was going to say boobs instead of breasts but I didn’t want to offend so I’m sticking with breasts.  

I am angry with my breasts.  Or maybe my age.  Or maybe my anxiety.  Quite possibly all three but probably just the latter.  

I have spent the last week getting all worked up about a routine mammogram.  Given that I’m adopted and have no family history, I have been getting my breasts flattened and compressed by a giant machine for the past ten years.  And every single time I get irrationally, inconsolably panicked that they will find a lump, it will be cancer and I will die.  

And I’m angry.  Not because I might die.  We all might die a thousand different deaths everyday.  No, I’m angry because there are people dealing with diagnosed illnesses who are coping better than me.  I’m angry because I get consumed with fear and anxiety every time I have some kind of medical test.  It happens every year with my PAP test (sorry male readers just Google what you need to), mammograms and it will likely happen with my impending colonoscopy.

Really, I just want to get a grip.  I want to look at all these invasive, icky tests as proactive, preventative check ups and not imagine the very worst EVERY SINGLE TIME.  And I know I’m not alone.  Most of the women I freak-out texted today could totally sympathize with my paranoid, over the top thoughts.  Maybe some kind of PAP-mammogram-colonoscopy-freak-out-while- you-await-results support group is necessary.  You know “PMCFOWYAR” for short.  

This feels like one of those things we as women all experience but rarely say out loud.  And we always feel less alone when we say things out loud.  Granted this is coming from an over-sharer but there is strength in numbers and strength from being known – fears and all.  “PMCFOWYAR” here we come!

The other kicker for me is that I dig Jesus so I should trust that God has got this –  boobs and all!  Breasts!  Sorry, I meant breasts.  The fact that I cannot hand over this fear and anxiety to God makes me more angry and frustrated with myself.  Combine this with lack of sleep + illogical thoughts = total mess.

So I have decided to externally process all this here.  And I’m chatting with God about all sorts of things including my breasts.  I confess my brokenness.  And my inability to go it alone.  I need God.  I need girlfriends to vent to and pray with.  I need to acknowledge the worst but dwell in the best.  I need to breathe.  I need a glass of wine.

Today a good friend suggested that as I wait for my mammogram results that I focus on the the awaited and anticipated birth of Jesus.   I’m still wrapping my head around this idea.  It seems weird associating my anxiety with the birth of our Saviour but I’ll give it a shot after all she’s a pastor’s wife so I figure she knows a thing or two.  

So I wait.  And I will try to wait well.  

 

Dear Diary

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I was going to read this diary entry at a local event but sadly that event was cancelled so I’m going to share it here because THE DRAMA!  Names and dates have been changed cause it’s my blog and I can do what I want.  Oh, except the name of my car.

March 19/99

Fred and I broke up in November.  I’m happy to say that I don’t remember the exact date he told me, “It just isn’t working anymore.”  At least that’s something.  I won’t know the exact date to throw myself a pity party next year to celebrate getting dumped.  I’m not sure why I’m writing in this journal again.  

March 20/99

Two thoughts today.

  1. I love my car.  I can trust and rely on my car.  Freezing cold, sleet, snow – no matter what the conditions, my car is faithful and reliable.  Therefore, my car is female.  I’ve named my car Myrtle.  I cry in Myrtle a lot.  She doesn’t mind.  She keeps all my secrets.
  2. I drive a lot now that I am single.  To work, the movies, the gym, the store, to friends – like everywhere.  I miss a having a boy to drive me sometimes.  I’m not sure if I miss my stupid, lying, cheating boy or just a boy.

March 21/99

I should write a novel.  I never thought I had enough life experience before now.  But surely with my first failed long term relationship under my belt I could write a bestseller.  Or an angry one woman play.  Or maybe I’ll just write down every ridiculous thought I have in this stupid journal in an effort to hang on to my last threads of sanity.

March 22/99

Are we there yet?

March 23/99

I’m thinking too much.  Replaying our entire relationship over and over in my head.  I look much thinner and prettier in the replay.  But Fred is bald and has a nasty eye twitch.  I hope he goes bald – like really bald.  Maybe in some freak chemical accident or something.  He deserves bald.

I should get my hair cut.  That might be nice.  Imagine if everyone in the world was bald.

March 24/99

It’s Friday night and I’m in bed at 10:45pm.  I hate this stupid journal.

March 28/99

I had a terrible day at work.  Charlotte gave me a hug but it was one of those bend at the waist hugs where there is barely any body contact.  Fred was good hugger.  Right height.  Right squishiness.  I miss him.  Ugh.  For how long will I miss him?

April 2/99

Here it is: I don’t trust people anymore.  Fred slept with someone else.  He broke the trust that existed between us.  He could have broken a lot of things and I would have been fine.  But not trust.  Why can’t people just break up with each other before someone cheats.  Why?  I hope he gets some kind of sexually transmitted disease that causes his penis to fall off.   

April 6/99

I’m feeling strong today.

April 8/99

Worse day ever.

April 14/99

A friend told me that the grocery store is a great place to meet men.  Ridiculous.  The grocery store is a great place to meet Haagen Daaz ice cream and sour cream and onion chips.  

April 15/99

It’s Saturday night and I’m in bed at 11:30pm.  If I were the other half of a couple and had spent the night drinking wine, eating pizza and watching a chick flick this would have been an adorable date night.  But as a single person this seems really lame.  

April 16/95

It is odd to become strangers with someone you love deeply.

April 20/99

I miss Fred.  I hate this.  I hate that I still feel sad and cry over this man.  This man who has not yet lost all his hair in a chemical accident.  Dammit.

April 28/99

Maybe Fred and I will get back together.  Because let’s face it, I’m all that and a bag of chips.  Seriously, who wouldn’t want me?  Or is this just something pathetic, broken hearted girls tell themselves after a bottle of wine and a box of Joe Louis.

November 9/16

Fred and I are happily married…to other people and are the best of Facebook friends.

Lessons in Compassion

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Near the end of last night’s Yatzee free-for-all, my ten-year-old started to cry when she realized she was going down in blaze of glory.  As she dried her tears, my eight-year-old gave her big sister a sideways glance and quietly picked up her dice.  She then proceed to throw the game (allowing the eldest to win) by super slowly rolling her dice and paying no attention to the result.  

I watched in awe as this unfolded.  And it got me thinking about compassion.  My youngest wears her heart on her sleeve.  She sees someone suffering and acts immediately.  This is often noticed and applauded.  My eldest quietly observes and thinks.  She sees suffering and absorbs it.  This is often dismissed as uncaring and callous.

Is one kind of compassion better than another?  

One daughter learns that a friend was bullied at school and seeks them out on the playground to comfort them.  She then gives this friend daily hugs for the next week.  The other daughter learns about this same friend being bullied and wants to understand why anti-bully days and classroom discussions have not prevented bullying at their school.  She then discreetly watches the bullied friend throughout the week to make sure that she is OK.

Is one kind of compassion better than another?

We visit the SPCA. One child wants to adopt all the animals. The other child questions why there are so many animals at the shelter.  We sponsor a child in Zimbabwe.  One child want to send cards and gifts.  The other child asks why children in other countries need sponsors and why some people are poor and others have so much.

Is one kind of compassion better than another?

I’m much like my youngest daughter.  I see someone hurting and I want to help.  Sometimes this help comes in the form of a hug.  Sometimes it’s a long chat over a cup of tea.  Sometimes it’s the delivery of a homemade baked treat.  My compassion is swift and immediately tangible.  

My eldest daughter also feels deeply but her response is more subtle and abstract.  Her compassion leads to questioning, investigating and challenging the way in which things are done to see if there is a better way.  Her ten-year-old self hasn’t yet made the leap to acting on all this yet but I sense it is not far off.

My sweet, I’m sorry for not recognizing and celebrating your compassion just because it looks different than mine.  I will do better.  I will champion you as you champion others. Take on the world my quiet, thoughtful child and make it a better place.

Is one kind of compassion better than another?  I think not.  Everyday I watch two very different young girls demonstrate compassion in their own unique ways.  We need those who are willing to wrap their arms around those who are hurt by injustice.  And we need those who are willing to take on the systems that create injustice.  You go girls.

 

An Empathy Yarn

 

1

You pull your empathy from the drawer,
And tug it over your head like an ill fitting sweater.
A sweater you knit for just such an occasion.
But the wool is itchy and distressing.
You move perversely.

I loathe your sweater.
And in turn I loathe you.
You make a mockery of my heart.
I ask for clemency.
You are impervious to my demands.

One day I will boil your sweater in scalding water.
And when you next pull it from the drawer,
It will strangle your vain attempts at compassion.
You cannot become something you are not.
A fool at play and nothing more.

But this is not a game.
Empathy is not a sweater to wear at your whim.
No!  Empathy is the yarn itself.
Yarn wound so tightly around the heart,
It constricts with each new affliction.

The yarn entwines itself through the body.
Strangling all logical thought from the brain.
Rupturing the circulatory system,
Spewing emotion from every artery.
An erratic puppet on a string.

Empathy is woven into the very fibre of my being.
It pulls tighter and tighter until I can no longer bear it.
And now as I unravel you with my words,
The yarn grips my lungs.
With every breath I struggle to accept your deficiency.