I'm a mentally ill person raising another mentally ill person. With chickens.

Posts tagged ‘Faith’

Bah, Humbug!

Christmas mug

When I was a kid I loved Christmas. Not just because of presents, although they were awesome, but because it really was a magical time. When you grow up in the church you get lots of time to anticipate Christmas while practicing for the Christmas Eve program at school, and doing Advent calendars, and finally moving into the New Testament in religion class. When your parents work for your church and a Lutheran college you get even more anticipation with extra services and Christmas concerts and recitals and your dad practicing Christmas hymns on the piano (and Christmas hymns are just Christmas carols so it’s kind of like having your own piano bar accompanist for the holidays).  Lutherans are similar to Catholics in some ways, but not when it comes to singing, we LOVE to sing, and Christmas services are a great time to be a kid in a Lutheran church, so many awesome songs: Joy to the World, Angels we Have Heard on High, Oh Come, All Ye Faithful, and if you’re lucky, Go! Tell it on the Mountain. And of course there were cookies and homemade candy. My mom baked, my mom’s piano students baked for her, people at church baked for dad, even some of his students gave him baked goods. The wealth of sweets at Christmas was truly amazing. But Christmas Eve was the best. The program was always in the evening at our church, and there were fancy Christmas dresses (My mom made the most amazing Gunne Sax dress by hand one year: I’ll never forget it, it had big leg of mutton sleeves, and a ribbon and lace edged neckline with a row of tiny buttons with loops down the front–making that dress was the first time I heard my mom swear, but it was fantastic.) and hair-dos, and my brother even had to wear a tie. The  programs themselves  all kind of run together: (except one where I had a big coughing fit up front and had to leave in front of everyone, childhood strep reared its ugly head again) there were carols and Luke chapter 2 and Mary and Joseph. And on our way out one of the church elders would give each kid a white paper bag full of candy and an orange.   My brother and sister and I would wait for our dad to be done playing the postlude and packing up his organ shoes while our mom took the other car home;  we’d take a drive around to look at Christmas lights on the way home. When we got to our house we’d walk in to our family room where the tree was and it would be lit and the presents would be there,  like Santa had actually been there while we were at church. It took us years to figure out that it had been first my grandparents, and then my mom, who put the presents under the tree while we “looked at lights”. And even after we knew, and had moved several times, we would drop my mom off after church, drive around for a while, and come home to presents under the tree. It’s just one of our traditions.

Then I met my husband, and Christmas with his family is a WHOLE other deal. It involves piles and piles of presents and even more alcohol.  The first few years all the booze made things pretty funny; then I started to notice the bickering and veiled insults that went with it.  As years went on and life brought tragedies the insults became less veiled and the bickering got meaner. There’s still a lot of presents though. There are so many presents that one year my  husband’s cousin accidentally threw out the leather gloves I got her with the trash because she didn’t see them (and then complained to my husband’s grandmother that I didn’t get her anything).  My husband’s mom wraps stuff and then doesn’t remember what it is or who it’s for. She also wraps things for herself. There’s no real thoughtfulness to the gifts themselves, I don’t think, because my husband has gotten the same sweatshirt two years in a row (two identical sweatshirts, two separate Christmases) as well as a pile of other shirts that he will never wear. I’ve received a lotion from my mother in law that I had given her the previous year, and one that my husband’s grandmother had given her previously. My kids receive all kinds of things that don’t remotely interest them or that are completely not age appropriate. They are always yelled at for not saying “thank you” enough,  and so am I, but I think we’re just stunned by some of the craziness of it all.

A few years ago, after driving on glare ice for a large part of the trip to the Twin Cities, we said no more. We were going to spend Christmas in our own home, so our kids could have their own tree and not be dragged all over during their break. And we made that happen for a couple of years. And then we got the “but  I might  not be here next year” speech from my husband’s grandmother, so we agreed to go in for Christmas Eve 2012, even though I had had stomach surgery three weeks prior and Alex came down with the stomach flu two days before were supposed to leave. We should have stayed home, because the night we checked into the hotel my daughter threw up ALL OVER. And the next day I cooked for everyone anyway, a prime rib that I couldn’t even swallow yet because my stomach was still healing. (Only my husband’s step dad thought this was odd, and he helped me in the kitchen all day.)  Right before they started in on presents I realized I did NOT feel good and had my husband take me back to the hotel.  That was the start of my near death experience. My  surgery (a Nissen Fundoplication) makes it so NOTHING goes up your esophagus: great for getting rid of acid reflux, bad if you get the stomach flu from your kids. So I went from being in a little pain to being absolutely convinced I was going to die. and I was out of anti-nausea drugs. All I wanted was to get some Zofran so I would stop wanting to hurl and not being able to, and stop feeling so much pain. But did we go to the ER or urgent care? NO. My husband took his grandmother tile shopping at Home Depot because that was super urgent. Then he visited his dad who was feeling neglected. By the time I went to the ER when we got home 3 days later they were like “what took you so long?” but all of the sutures held and there was no bleeding. So I was miserable but lucky.

But I’m done.  I will not be talked in to any more Christmases that I don’t want to participate in. If it’s just me and the dogs and the chickens I’m cool with that. At least that’s genuine.

My tree

Advertisements

I want the fairytale

I think between my dad and John Hughes my idea of men has always been completely off.  I had unrealistic expectations, you know? I expected there to be respect and chivalry and friendship and grand romantic gestures (Hello! Jake Ryan at the end of Sixteen Candles!) and that just is not what life handed me.

A little background on me, maybe? I have a Master’s of Science degree in Counseling and a Bachelor of Arts in English Education, both from the University that is across the street from me. But I don’t consider that the REAL place I went to college. It’s where I finished after I married for the second time and had a baby, but I started at Concordia University, Chicago and when I say “when I was in college” that’s where I’m talking about.  That’s where I had all the usual college experiences: first keg party, first time getting drunk, first hang-over, first sex, first and only marijuana use. I found out later that most people did those things in high school, but I went to a religious boarding school so that’s not how I rolled. I had some not so usual college experiences there too. I was engaged to not one, but TWO different guys, and then eloped with a third.  ( You could say I was after an MRS degree.)  I was raped in college, which unfortunately isn’t all that unusual, but IS unexpected at a Lutheran college. Actually the first man I was engaged to, and the one I eloped with, both turned violent, so that’s not something you expect from a man raised in the church and attending a church college either. It’s interesting, or maybe ironic, that my parents felt very safe sending me from my small hometown to school in Chicago because it was a Lutheran school. Ultimately campus was probably one of the least safe places in the city for me, but that’s not really the school’s fault. I made some pretty poor choices in who I spent time with. I was suffering from the delusion that every bad boy had a heart of gold underneath it all (curse you John Bender!). I was really naïve about boys and their motives, and like my parents,  I trusted people because they went to church.

I should clarify that I did date in high school, it wasn’t an all girls school or anything. But I dated the same guy from my Sophomore year until my Senior year.  He used to say “expectation is the greatest predictor” and I would have to say that I got did get VERY realistic ideas about relationships–or my future relationships anyway– from him: He taught me how to put up with shit most of the time because once in a while something good might happen.  I think at first he thought I was someone whom he could enlighten with his wisdom and occasionally make out with more than he thought of me as a girlfriend.  Our relationship was odd.  Honestly, there were a lot of times he wasn’t very nice to me. BUT, once in a while, out of the blue, he’d get the perfect birthday present, or look absolutely stunned when I came down the stairs for prom, or show up to surprise me, or send the cutest anniversary poem.  And when we were apart during the summers he wrote me a letter EVERY SINGLE DAY. Every one.  They weren’t mushy, “I miss you” letters, just this-is-what-I-did-today letters, but they were funny and thoughtful and the best part of my day all summer long.   He had some hang-ups, though. For example: when I visited him at his college he had his own room and the opportunity to have sex presented itself; I was MORE than willing (three years is a LONG time!) and he absolutely refused.  He made me feel like there was something wrong with me for wanting to sleep with him (even though our many, MANY make-out sessions rarely left him “unsatisfied”).  I don’t really know why I thought being considered less worthy and less intelligent was ok. I suspect because I was always waiting for that flash of “good stuff” that was hiding underneath, and because I thought back then that every relation ship would ultimately be like the fairytale I imagined my parents had.  I blame my dad and John Hughes.

220px-JohnHughes

More advice for younger me

So I’ve decided to continue the theme of giving advice to my past/younger self.  She was really not working with all the information she should have had and should The Doctor show up with his TARDIS (9 or 10 please–sorry Matt Smith, you’re just not my type) I’d like to be prepared to pass on some of my hard-won wisdom and maybe help her avoid some of the worst experiences, or maybe just help her HAVE some experiences.

Younger Julie:

You should travel.  I know you are a weird eater sometimes, but get over it and see the world.  Your parents will make this difficult because they see the possibility of death and dismemberment everywhere.  Travel anyway.  Because life without seeing the world is its own kind of slow death and they have warned you about every danger except the one right in front of you.

Don’t be so trusting.  Not everyone is nice.  Most people aren’t.  That’s the danger your parents didn’t warn you about and it is a lot scarier than the possibility of a car crash.  I don’t know if they thought being surrounded by Lutherans/Christians would keep you safe but it didn’t.  It won’t.  Bad people like to hide at church, it gives them a sense of power.  Trust your gut.

You are adopted and that comes with identity issues.  You grew up in a town of 2000 so no one talked about any of that, but it’s perfectly normal and it should have been addressed.  You are allowed to have questions.  You are SUPPOSED to have questions.  Telling you nothing is NOT protecting you as much as everyone thinks it is, because you are different from your parents and your sister (and your brother, who is even more different than you are and who also should have been told more).  It is not a crime to be an extrovert.  And it is not a bad thing to be prettier than your sister.  You can’t help it and you shouldn’t have to feel bad about it.  And you will if you don’t accept the fact that being adopted does matter.  Try not to be too angry; it was a different generation and your parents were following the wisdom of the day.

You love fashion: clothes and hair and make-up and jewelery.  You have style and you are not appreciated in your town or by your family.  Try not to let it get to you.  And more importantly try to find a way to make a living with that love.  Maybe you aren’t great at sewing (although try harder at this, you’ll thank yourself later) and you aren’t great at drawing–it doesn’t matter.  There are a million jobs in fashion that you haven’t heard of yet and you shouldn’t give up.  And loving clothes doesn’t make you shallow or vain.  I know what you’ve been told and you need to just ignore it.  You’re allowed to love what you love and not be judged by anyone.  Trust me when I say stifling yourself will have consequences later in life.

You are easily swayed by others.  Knock it off.  There is nothing to gained by being a people pleaser.  If you stay on this path you will stop liking people altogether.  You won’t believe this, because you think all people are fascinating and have an interesting story to tell and you love meeting people.  If you want to keep that sense of wonder, stop trying to make everyone happy and worry about making yourself happy.  The only way to love others is to love yourself.  You’ve been called vain and selfish a lot of times, so you’ll find that hard to believe, but you’re going to have to trust me on this one.

It is OK to be alone.  You must learn to do things by  yourself.  You do not need a best friend or a boy friend to go everywhere with you and do everything with you.  You are a perfectly capable person all on your own.  This fear of being alone is going to come back and bite you later (husband and kids way before your ready) if you’re not careful.  Get out there and enjoy your own company.  You’re fun!

Love,

Your 40 year old self