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Posts Tagged ‘sadness’

In the past decade, bullying has become a hot topic. Maybe our interest started with Columbine. Before that tragedy, kids being bullied were good for a humorous scene in a sit-com. Suddenly, meanness had consequences. Even as awareness has grown, it took a rash of suicides and high-profile cases to compel schools, parents and child advocates to take bullying seriously. A couple of days ago I was browsing news online and found this story:

http://tinyurl.com/3sbd89u

Now even after death, they can hire a lawyer and get to you. On the internet. Great.

I was bullied as a child, throughout my school career. It started early, but as I hit puberty early and my weight went up, I became a common target. I remember being called names. Always the last picked for teams. One particularly memorable day in the sixth grade someone took my street clothes from my locker during PE and stuffed them down a dirty toilet. I had to wear my gym shorts the rest of the day, and carry my filthy clothing home on the bus in a garbage bag. The only physical damage I recall suffering was landing on my head while doing a high jump when a classmate pulled the mat out from under me. I knocked myself unconscious and went into convulsions, then stopped breathing. After the PE teacher gave me mouth to mouth, I was told to “walk it off” and sent to check in with the nurse, who sent me back to class.

Fast-forward a couple of years, and I spent the summer after 9th grade working out and dieting myself down to a healthier weight. I was still never a waif-like teenager, I could squeeze into a size 10 on a good day, but for the most part I wasn’t a constant target. A couple of scrawled “fat cow” notes on my locker senior year, and I was in college and free.

That’s not to say that I was never culpable. I spent the tenth grade at a small school overseas–there were fewer than 20 of us in my class. That year a new boy came; he was strange, awkward. I’ll call him “Rock”–just gawky and at that strange growth stage where all his joints were twice the size of his skinny limbs. The boys in class were horrible to Rock. They called him names, excluded him, and I did nothing. I never stood up for him, never went out of my way to intervene. I just remember feeling relief that it wasn’t me. I was terrified that if I so much as said boo, they would turn and I’d be back on the bottom of the totem pole. I wasn’t that high anyhow. One day one of the popular guys brought rotten eggs to school, and somehow managed to get them all in Rock’s locker. I still remember seeing him, standing in the hall with tears streaming down his face, red with rage and shame. Only then did the most popular girl in our class turn to her boyfriend who had managed the egging and say “enough”. Rock was never accepted, but the viciousness stopped for the most part. No thanks to me.

Now as an adult, when I see someone being victimized, I step in. As a youth volunteer in church, and later a youth director, I tried to create a bullying free environment. I can’t say that my efforts always worked. Often other adults were oblivious. One little boy in particular was twelve, geeky and brilliant. The snarky comments, dirty looks… it was all so familiar to me. His parents were pastors, so he had to come to group. I brought it up in a planning meeting with the youth director and other volunteers. None of them had noticed a thing. One actually said something to the effect of, “I think they are pretty nice to him, he’s so weird, you know.”

There are people out there who have built so many walls around themselves that all they can do is lash out in an attempt to make themselves feel better, more, superior. Email harassment, snide comments made behind someone’s back, gossip and cruelty… this isn’t just about middle school, high school, college, not just about gay kids or weird kids or fat kids or smart kids… it’s about all of us. I would like to believe that no one I care about was ever a bully, but that’s unlikely. Many of us were bullied. Many of us saw it happen to others and did nothing. And every time I read another story about another beautiful child destroyed, I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach.

I would like to make a plea for kindness. For choice of gentle words. As the mother of an overweight child with Aspergers, I fear every time I send him out the door that he’ll experience what I did. This weekend, deep in my fit of melancholy, I found myself for the first time looking up on Facebook the names of the kids who had picked on me as a child. They didn’t look any different from any other 40somethings. Not sure what that means. But I know for a fact that it was the verbal and online bullying I experienced at my last job that led to my breakdown. I’m still wounded. So Christians, please act like it. And the rest of you, please keep us true to what we preach.

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It has not escaped my attention that my recent transition from seeming emotional stability to my new status as a wreck is happening at the age of 40.  It seems almost too classic to be coincidental, right?  Midlife crisis, meet RevMommy.  She’s ripe for the picking.

So I find myself faced with both the opportunity to do something new, go into uncharted water–a good thing.  And a bout of severe depression that often prevents me from doing anything at all beyond rolling over and going back to sleep–this is not so good.  Part of me wants to face the second half of life with enthusiasm and excitement.  I like to think this is the real me.  Another part of me is feeling at sea because for the first time in my life, I’m not defined by my job.  This is my scared part.  Really, really scared.

We live in a culture in which we are defined by what we do for a living.  When you meet someone for the first time, most people ask “What do you do?”  They don’t mean knitting, or collecting comics, they want to know where you work.  Flash has faced this disability for many years as a Stay-At-Home-Dad.  Only in the last few years has SAHD even become a thing, one that you can admit to. (An aside about Flash:   He’s an awesome dad, as shown by the way he spent his afternoon coaxing our terrified and resistant son into having his blood drawn.   Flash not only spent 45 minutes trying to calm a hysterical child with Asperger’s, but even had them draw his own blood just to show it was safe.  He so rocks.)   I love to shake up personal introductions by asking questions like “What is your favorite book?” or “Where did you grow up?”, if not “What is your first memory of being in a kitchen?”  That’s a great one.

In my case, I’ve been in a pastoral role my entire adult life.  I went to seminary right out of college at the age of 21, worked as a youth director, was a missionary, and was ordained and in a church at 25.  I remember one elderly lady in the first church I served asking my age, then replying, “Honey, I’ve got shoes older than you.”  So while I may not have grown up in the church, I have certainly become the woman I am in the church.   Being a pastor never stops.  People I don’t know often want to tell me how horrible religion is, or contrariwise they suddenly stop saying fuck and act as if I’m going to slap them with a ruler.  Or they just close down and move out of the conversation.  On the other hand, there are the folks that jump right in to theology, or the story of their personal crisis, or ask me to pray.  Once the words, “I’m a pastor” are out of my mouth, I become a stand-in for their entire personal relationship with God, however bad or good that has been.  And after a while, I started to see myself that way as well.  Who I was was what I did. 

Tonight I met with an old friend (old, in the sense that now she’s an adult woman in her late 20s and I remember her at age 13 in church youth group) to talk about my exploring the possibility of my becoming a doula.  A doula, if you are not a parent or became a parent before they became popular, is a childbirth attendant.  A woman who professionally supports the woman in labor, as opposed to a midwife whose focus is on the baby.  

We met in a totally cool coffeehouse, so cool that it is definitely not near where I live.  Funky couches, art, nothing matching or blah–we sat on a bright green Victorian style couch.  The customers were all young, hip, and busily working on their laptops.   I want to live there.

Anyhow, my friend is not only a doula, she’s currently expecting her first baby.  I’m a total childbirth geek, I loved being pregnant and being in labor, and using a doula was a big part of that.  I have oodles of experience in hospitals, and it would be nice to be there to celebrate the beginning of life rather than my usual role.  Don’t get all excited, I’m honestly just trying it on for size.   I don’t really know which way God is calling me right now, but it feels odd to even think about taking off my virtual “I’m A Pastor–Tell Me Your Problems” button.  In a way it could be so refreshing.

So the “Rev” part of “RevMommy” has suddenly become nebulous.  However, as Mothers’ Day reminded me, the “Mommy” part is still right on target.  If I define myself by anything, it is being a Mom.  One thing I know I want is to continue to have the family oriented and centered lifestyle that we do.  I want to spend as much time as possible, do as much as possible, with my children before they move up and out.  I’m not satisfied with a couple of hours a day of interaction with my biological offspring.  I want to be part of raising them.  Not a helicopter mom, hovering overhead; not a Tiger mom, demanding perfection: I want to be a cheetah mom, protecting them when they are helpless, teaching them to hunt by my side as they grow, then letting them go knowing I gave them myself 100%.   Hence homeschooling.  Scheduling my work life so that I can do as much as I can during their sleeping hours.  Spending my free time playing board games and going on family field trips and watching family movies.  Living a child-centered life in a culture that really rejects that sort of thinking.  Being a mom is my rock right now.  

Belated happy Mothers’ Day to all you moms out there.   It really is the best part of my life.  And while I’m still trying to decide what I want to do when I grow up, for now I’m happy just being a mom.

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This is it. That moment before an impending move when it seems like the chaos will overwhelm us. We are drowning in a sea of boxes. Flash brings them home every week from the comic store.

The problem is, we have too much stuff. Mostly books. Games. Graphic novels. Video games and toys. And books. There is not a room in our home which is not abloom with literature.

However, we can only store so much. So most of the books, most of the shelves, are going. Everyone will get Kindles (mine is already two years old) and we will join the digital age. Now, don’t get me wrong, we’ll still have books. Hundreds of books. Enough books to educate a slew of children and ourselves. But fewer. Far fewer.

For now, the boxes loom in the hallway reminding us that time is counting down each day. We now have less than two months to go, and our new life must be ready for her first voyage. It sounds like a lot, but feels overwhelmingly immediate. I start to question my madness…

This morning this was the view from our house. The sun was coming over the mountains in the East, and I knew I would miss some parts of this place, this life. We’ve been in So Cal for 20 years. My entire adult life. Feeling melancholy tonight.

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