relationship

On NOT Being a Creepy Stalker Mom

I may have mentioned on several occasions that I’m a bit of a tv hound. During depressed period or times when I’m in a fibro-flare, often the two coincide, playing on each other, or days when I’m so sick with the flu I can’t sit upright, I may watch an entire season of say, Desperate Housewives or Warehouse 13. Don’t judge, the psyche needs what it needs, when it needs it. I don’t have a Netflix account, but what I do have is On Demand and a DVR to record shows. On Demand shows are often programmed to where the fast forward feature has been disabled to prevent viewers from bypassing the commercials, but DVR? Now that is the ideal for those who want to control if they watch a commercial or not.

I don’t generally mind the commercials. I tune them out and do something else for the three to five minutes it takes to get through seven to ten commercials. Sometimes, I’m even captivated by the humor and inanity of some commercials, especially the ones which use incredibly talented actors in interesting ways: an Allstate commercial with Dennis Haysbert’s voice coming out of the mouth of a woman, James Earl Jones and Malcolm McDowell performing Jenna’s Facebook Friend Request, Samuel L. Jackson espousing the benefits of the Capitol One Quicksilver Credit Card. However, some commercials just weird me out.

Like what I call the “Old Spice Creepy Stalker Mom” commercial.

I posted my response to this commercial on facebook the other day and my new friend, Janice, from crazygoodparent.com, shared how she completely understood the message behind this commercial from her own personal experience.

The thing is, I get it too. All too well. Having a 27 year old son whom I’m so estranged from that he decided to get legally adopted, as an adult, by another family in order to change his name, effectively cutting all legal ties to me, before he got married and started his new life was kind of the ultimate “cutting the apron strings” experience.

He approached me in April 2012 to inform me that he and the other family were investigating and contemplating taking this step. I understood it then and I knew that while part of the underlying motivation may have been to hurt me the way I’d hurt him over the years, that the true motivation had very little to do with me, my wants, my needs, my desires, or my feelings. His decision and theirs was about them, their relationship, the love and care they have for each other, the sense of belonging and family they experienced with each other, the sense of love, safety, and acceptance that he was finally able to receive and internalize because of the relationship he has with them. Things which I have never experienced in my own life as a child or adult and things I didn’t know how to provide for him.

I was happy for him that he finally had that.

I was heartbroken for me that I hadn’t been able to give that to him myself. However, I was also proud of myself for having done what I could to facilitate and encourage that relationship between him and them, so that when he needed it most and I was least capable of being that parent for him, that he got to experience that kind of unconditional and redemptive love.

I told him that he would always be my son and I would always love him and that I was going to do my best to heal and grow so that when he was ready to have a relationship with me, I would be ready and available to be in relationship with him in those ways.

In the almost two years since that conversation, we have had several periods where he has chosen not to have anything to do with me. Throughout it all, we’ve had several stilted phone conversations and guarded, cautious face to face encounters. We’ve also had moments when there was acceptance, love, forgiveness, and happiness between us. Each time one of the latter moments happened, my inner being was flying high in exultation and hope that this would be the breakthrough moment that restored our relationship. Without fail, those moments were soon followed by the periods of rejection and avoidance.

Those periods of rejection and avoidance are the periods when I feel an itching desire to become the creepy stalker mom of my nearly 30 year old son. I get it. I really do.

Here’s the thing: My validation, purpose, and sense of self is not the responsibility or purpose of my son or my other children. It is not his/their job or responsibility to fill my life with meaning by including and inviting me into their lives. Even if everything was perfect between us and we didn’t have the history we have, the child is now an adult, with a wife, a job, a faith community, friends, and new family members which have nothing to do with me or my life. He does not define me or my life and I do not define him or his.

This Old Spice commercial is about enmeshment and the emotional and psychological immaturity of a mother who does not know who she is without the context of her son being the center of her life and her world who craves and needs him to make her the center of his world. It’s an exaggerated and distorted picture of the dysfunction of a woman who believes her only identity and purpose is to mother her son.

Genesis 2:24

24 This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh. ~ Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

As moms our jobs are to figure out who we are as individual people so we can help our children figure out who they are as individual people, in order to prepare and equip them to leave us behind and create their own lives and relationships.

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Word-wise: Literal vs Figurative

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RIP… The word “literal” has died, and has been replaced by the word “figurative”. Unfortunately, the word “figurative” has been seen disguised as the word ” literal.

Don’t be fooled, if you see the word “literal” or the word “literally” around town, it’s actually the word “figurative” or the word “figuratively” in disguise.

RIP -“literal”. ~ A. Nikander

My friend, having Luddite tendencies, still wakes up to a radio alarm clock and actually listens to the radio programming whilst going about his morning routine.

“I woke up to my radio alarm clock, and within about 10 minutes, I heard two grammatical infractions in the use of this word.

Apparently, if I give money to a Haitian missions organization, I literally stick food in hungry children’s mouths… That would be cool, but I’m here, in Portland…”

As a reader, writer, and lover of words, it pains me greatly to witness how often words are misused and misunderstood. It especially bothers me when “writing and speaking professionals” use words incorrectly. However, it isn’t just my internal Grammar Nazi rising its harsh, critical head and deeming those who use the wrong words as imbecilic dolts.

While that may have been my modus operandi in my past, I now am more forgiving and willing to concede that not everyone has the same educational access or grammatical aptitude with which many of us have been gifted. I’ve also become more forgiving of the grammatical imperfections of others as I realize my own grammatical challenges with punctuation and other mechanics involved in writing.

No, I think it is most bothersome when I realize that many relational conflicts occur on the basis of the words being used. It is overly easy to take a misplaced word and change the entire meaning and intent of the original message. Then I realize that, often, the conflict isn’t as much from a misinterpretation or misunderstanding as it is from one person’s need to assert the rightness of his or her knowledge and understanding over the person who made the mistake, thereby putting that one in a defensive position.

We get hung up on rules of order and right vs wrong, forgetting that we are interacting with people who have feelings and life experiences where learning grammar and proper word usage may not have been life’s priority.

If you, like me, are instantly irritated by text speak and find yourself becoming snarky and agitated when you read or hear the word “literal” used where “figurative” should be, I have a couple of ideas for how to cope constructively.

The first is listen to yourself. If your first thought is name calling, then you’re not ready to address the situation in a helpful manner and will likely create or escalate conflict – over how a word is being used. “Imbecile, you meant ‘figurative’ instead of ‘literal.’ Learn how to use the dictionary,” reflects more negatively on your character than the other person’s language comprehension skills.

The second is to ask yourself, “Is this the right moment to address the grammar and word usage, or is something more important happening?” A secondary question to ask is, ” Is this a battle worth having right now?” Usually the answer is, “No!” Pick your battles and decide if this one is truly worth your time, energy, and a possible rift in the relationship. By focusing on a nit picky detail and derailing the conversation, you could be distracting and detracting from something which is important to the one communicating.

Thirdly, determine if it is your “place” to offer correction. If you aren’t in a position of parental, academic, or occupational authority in the other person’s life, then you really need to think about whether or not the relationship is more important than correcting his or her grammar. If the person speaking/writing has not specifically requested assistance, instruction, or correction regarding his or her language skills, then, let it go.

If you absolutely cannot let it pass, then, be as circumspect and respectful as possible in offering the correction, especially if you are correcting someone with whom you are not well acquainted. Do not blurt it out in front of others and make sure you’ve let go of any attitudes of superiority or judgment.

Finally, use humor without malice. If you want to joke about it, find a way to joke about the issue not the person. Avoid snark and sarcasm, unless interacting with someone fluent in their use. For example:

“Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated,” responded Literal upon hearing the obituary (listed above). “I have actually taken refuge with a network of devoted Grammarians, who do their best to ensure my correct usage. While it may be true, Figurative, has impersonated me, it is not her fault. She has been taken hostage by a group of pseudo-Grammarians. Within each forced impersonation she makes a hidden appeal to be rescued by the same network which protects me.”

Good grammar is important in achieving professional success, it’s true. However, constructive communication is important in all areas and relationships. Until next time, practice being word-wise and not just book-smart.

Faith, Belonging, and Community

It is no secret that I have struggled with being in relationship and community with others. I have struggled with myself, God, my family of origin, my children, friends, co-workers, acquaintances. Relationships have never been my strong suit.

It has been a lifelong struggle to feel like I belonged somewhere, anywhere.

The primary relationship I had with my mother was difficult and detached. I now understand that it was her own attachment and depression issues that created the emotional and psychological distance between us. Being disconnected from my mother, not having my father, continually moving and changing schools every year or two, and then no longer having any relationship with my mother and being under the guardianship of my uncle whose relationship skills and relationships with all of us around him were impaired and dysfunctional, meant that from a very early age and going all the way through adolescence, there was no relational tether to any one person or community that taught me I belonged.

I became the girl who tried too hard, stood too close, interrupted, talked too much, always had the answer, reacted too easily, and eventually acted out my pain by either getting too physical or using my words and intellect to establish dominance and superiority. When the going got tough, I got going and let go of the people who should have and could have been my strongest supporters because I believed that no matter how hard I worked, no matter what I tried – rescuing, fixing, having the answers, being the problem solver – it was never going to be enough to fit in. I didn’t fit in with the rebels and screw-ups because I wanted to do good and be better. I didn’t fit in with the achievers and winners because I was too guarded and unable to believe in my own worth and value.

I’ve spent the last 20+ years trying to be accepted, be loved, and be included. All the while, the things I tried to make it happen just fell short and I pushed away and let go of those who wanted to be there for me. I chased after the relationships with those who I thought would accept me because of the value I could be to them. Meanwhile, the critical relationships with my children and other family members were neglected and damaged in ways similar to how mine had been damaged by the adults in charge of me. None of whom were any more available or capable emotionally and psychologically than I have been.

The ENTIRE time, there has been One who has chased me down in so many ways, with so many faces, time, after time, after time to convey to me that I am loved, I am known, I am accepted, I am understood, and I belong.

Marc Shelske, the pastor of Bridge City Community Church, has been doing a teaching series on Ephesians and I have had the privilege of being present the past two weeks to hear his insights in person. Thankfully, when I need to revisit and recall what was shared, these messages can be found on the Bridge City Media YouTube channel.

Last week he talked about the fact that Zombies are biblical concepts and not just a current entertainment trend. It was very enlightening and a good reminder of things I’ve known intellectually, but never internalized on a personal level. This was the “before” picture of how I have operated with my lack of personal understanding and acceptance of God’s grace and mercy for me, in my life.

He continued the conversation this week and spoke about the “after” picture. What he described was exactly what has been happening inside of me, in my life, and in my relationships over the course of the past year and a half or so.

“As we get closer to God, we have the capacity to get closer to other people.” ~ Marc Schelske, 5/18/13, Bridge City Community Church

I was “saved” when I was 8 years old. I’ve been being “saved” my whole life. I’ll be 44 next month and I’m just now internalizing that being “saved” isn’t about not doing wrong or doing good, but it’s about God’s absolute acceptance and love for me because I am His creation, and that creation is not static, but an ongoing work of art, displaying and revealing the character and nature of God, the artist.

As I have allowed these realizations and understandings to sink into my being, without me having to work and strive through my own efforts, God has been closer to me, naturally and organically. As I have grown in my ability to just accept that God is with me and present in every aspect of my life, no matter what, my ability to connect and reconnect in relationship with others has been improving.

I started with the internet and the online communities available here in the blogosphere and on Facebook, with people who didn’t know me or my past who I felt safe exposing my self and my truths to. Slowly, others who have known me and shown me they care and want to be in relationship with me have gotten to know this part of my identity.

The lines are now blurred and I am fully engaged in supportive online communities which include people I see and engage with in person, in significant and meaningful ways. It is also increasing my connection to others who sincerely care, accept, and include me as part of their community, simply because I accept that I belong, I AM because GOD IS.