Wednesday, February 23, 2022

My Personal Rule of Life - Relationships

Good afternoon, my friends! I was hoping to post this yesterday but ended up not feeling well and spent most of the day on the couch. But I awoke today feeling much better, thankfully, and want to continue my posts on my personal Rule of Life. Today I'm going to be discussing, RELATIONSHIPS, and if you're wondering why I didn't follow through with another image displaying the word in scrabble tiles, well, it's because "relationships" is too long to fit on the tile rack. I toyed with just making a display on the table and laying the letters out, but really the most important thing, for me anyway, is getting the post written. So, I chose cross-stitch thread because, much like the antique cheese container that holds most of my collection, relationships, for me, are kind of a beautiful mess. So let me explain.

RELATIONSHIPS . . . are hard for me. As I'm sure they are for many people. At the core is a basic lack of trust, which I have carried with me since childhood. As I said in a previous post, I don't want to go into a lot of specific detail because ultimately what the enemy meant to destroy me is resulting in my spiritual growth, though it has taken most of my life to reach this point. But I do think I want to elaborate vaguely on the subject, just to help you, as the reader, to understand my starting place and why this is such a struggle for me. In the end, hurting people, hurt people, and I come from a long line of hurts, most that pre-date me for generations. 

On one side of my family, the standard measure for coping was to just brush everything under the rug and pretend it didn't happen. It's actually still the standard, in fact. Though some things have come to light, the level of secrecy that exists in our family is substantial. There are some things that are known to only a few of us and honestly wouldn't benefit for others to know, I suppose. But on the other hand, there are members of my family who were deeply hurt, and to act as though it never happened feels wrong. They deserve to be heard, perhaps more than those from who the secrets are being kept need to be guarded.  Of course so much depends, too, on how the information was handled. If the objective is just to spew bitterness, that's not productive for anyone, and forgiveness needs to take place, as well.  I'm sure I don't even know everything, and I can tell you for sure that I never got all the answers to my questions and probably never will. But at some point, right or wrong, I just decided that I wasn't going to let what I didn't know about the past to rob me of happiness in the here and now. Since I can't control how others have chosen to handle matters, all I can do is decide to what extent I intend to allow it to affect my life. It's one of the reasons I moved away a little over twenty years ago, which at the time felt like running, and maybe on some level, it was. But the Lord has redeemed my story, and looking back I now realize, I was rescued. I know now that I would have never come to this place, where the light has broken in and healing has begun if I had stayed.

In sharp contrast, on the other side of my family, there were no secrets. I knew things about my grandfather from an early age that I should not have known, at least not as young as I was. If anyone had an opinion of you all you had to do was step into the bathroom for that to be made known to everyone. Sometimes you weren't even afforded that luxury. I had an aunt who would stay away for several years without coming to family gatherings, and then one year she'd show up only to stay away for several more. Eventually, she stopped coming altogether. I was old enough by then to begin to understand why. Nothing was kept from me, I knew why they disapproved, because they told me, along with anyone else who would listen. I understood her even better when I eventually became their target, and I stopped coming around, too.

Every family has problems, and I'm not trying to paint mine as worse than any other. I'm sure my story wouldn't even begin to compare, and naturally, there are many details I'm leaving out. But all this to say that when as a child trust is broken, when the very people you depend on for love and acceptance fail you, and when your boundaries are violated, trust. . . . is hard.

The walls went up at an early age for me. I learned quickly how to be who others wanted me to be in the moment in order to be accepted. In that process, somewhere along the way, I lost myself and it has taken a lifetime to find that girl again.  So while I am at peace with myself and have come fully into knowing who I am at a very deep, authentic level, because it's taken me so long to recover, I guard myself and my heart fervently. To be honest, on some level I've probably never fully given myself completely to anyone, and that is the struggle. Because the greatest gift is to be fully known and fully loved. For many years, since I didn't know myself, no one else truly knew me, either. They only knew who I was with them, and I became so good at it that I doubt anyone knew the better. Of course, there was a core element of my personality that remained the same, the girl I was when I was alone in my room. But on a superficial level, because that was the depth of most of my relationships, about things that didn't really matter, I varied to suit the person and the situation.

The Lord's redemption continues in my life to this day. While I am admittedly still working on allowing myself to be fully known and fully loved, it is happening, albeit, ever so slowly. All this self-preservation, of course, has also meant that by not allowing myself to be fully known and loved, I likewise have not fully known or loved anyone else. That all began to change when I gave birth to my youngest daughter. God used her to finally teach me about unconditional love and giving yourself fully to another person. I had her later in life when I was in a better place emotionally and spiritually. I know it sounds awful because it is. I love all of my children, and I ache for what I wasn't able to give them, but they sadly came at a time when I was afraid to love anyone. I didn't know how to love. It wasn't for a lack of want, but because I was completely imprisoned by fear. Broken relationships are a part of the history in my father's family, and the sins of the fathers have come full circle into my own life and the lives of my children. Thankfully much of that ended with me after my youngest daughter was born, but sadly, too late for my other children. 

Well, wow, that's probably as raw and honest as I've ever been in this space, but somehow it feels right. I hurt, naturally, for all that has been lost because I was so afraid to love and be loved. But to live in regret doesn't change anything. The only things I have control over and can change are in the here and now and going forward, and therein is my rule;

NURTURING MY RELATIONSHIPS DAILY

- I nurture my relationship with God and with myself first, and daily. Because without Him and the ability to come before His throne and lay my fears down daily (usually several times a day, I will just continue to live captive by them.

- I pray for all of my children, especially those from whom I am estranged, daily.  I failed them, plain and simple. But I know that God loves them more than I ever could have then or do now, and I trust them to Him. I cannot make up for the past, and I do not know what the future holds, so I trust the one who redeems and holds eternity and our future in His hands.

- I touch base with my husband and my children, daily. My oldest daughter lives in Texas and most days it's just a text, and admittedly there are days when we both get busy and miss a day, but we're fairly consistent. I know some of you may be thinking, "Well, duh". First I should explain that my husband is away right now and will be for another 10-12 weeks, and while I currently live with my youngest daughter, she leads a very busy life, so yes, I have to be intentional. I will admit, however, that I have grown so content in being alone that I do often have to remind myself to "reach out and touch someone" as the old commercial jingle used to say.

NURTURING MY RELATIONSHIPS WEEKLY

- Eat at least 1, preferably 2 meals together at the table. 
Other than during the holidays, this hasn't happened since my husband left, and while I miss it, I'm really ok with it. Only because my Kate is going on 23, young, beautiful and busy. It's just not a priority for her at this time in her life and since it's just the two of us, most nights I eat at the coffee table and watch an old sitcom. BUT, once my husband is back, I want this to become the norm rather than the exception. In fact, I also want to institute . . .

- Sunday Nights By Candlelight - my daughter, Kelly, told me that her husband's family did this when he was growing up and I do love the idea of it. But, his family were the ones who named it and they did it on Sundays. I, most likely, will observe it on Friday night as we enter into Shabbat, which I'm re-instituting during Lent. Either that or our sabbath and weekend will be bookended by two dinners by candlelight, which sounds rather lovely, actually.

- Friday Fun Nights - We did this in our family for years, and now that I'm reinstituting Shabbat again, I want to get back to it. Now, as I said, right now that's just me, but I am perfectly capable of having fun all of my own. It's easy to set aside a special movie, or another activity and keep it for Friday night, so that's my plan.

NURTURING MY RELATIONSHIPS MONTHLY

So what about friends, you might be asking? Well, that one is harder. It's not that I don't have friends, I have many, several of which date all the way back to elementary school. But 90% of them live in Texas and our relationships are lived out primarily on FB. I do have local friends, but I will also admit that I am not a very good friend, and again, it boils down to trust. I've only begun the journey of trust with my family over the past 20 years and in my relationship with my husband for the past 2-3 years. (I told you this has been a life-long journey!). Since I believe that focusing on how I relate to my family was the priority, the thought of extending that to friendships is harder, but it is my desire. The friends I have now I should be more grateful for, for they have loved me, and for reasons that I can't explain, desired to be with me in spite of my rather detached and distant lifestyle. If that's not being loved for who you are, I don't know what is. So, my goal moving forward is to spend time with one friend once a month, which is also going to require that I make some new friends, as my two closest friends who live locally have or are about to move out of state. How dare they make this more complicated than it already is! :)

NURTURING MY RELATIONSHIPS QUARTERLY/ANNUALLY

- Family Zoom Calls - Our extended family does Zoom calls during the holidays, but I'd like to expand on that and do them more often, maybe once a quarter or at least twice a year. Our signal where we are living now is AWFUL though, so maybe once Bill is back and we move into a new place.

- Remembering Birthdays / Anniversaries - I'm actually pretty good at this, but right now that consists of a text and posting on FB. I'd like to get a little more personal. :)

- Food Between Friends - It has been my desire for some time now to host a dinner once a quarter, set a theme, and invite a few friends over. I still love this idea, so I am going to put it on the back burner until after Bill and I get settled again.

- Annual Get Away
Even though it will be just me and my husband living together once he is back, maybe getting away doesn't seem like that big of a deal. But it can't just all be about the daily grind, right? I do still like to travel, and as long as I'm able to (I haven't tested that since my health scare back in 2021), I'd like to.

So, once again, there you have it, my rule for relationships. As I said, this is as raw and real as I think I've ever been, but the only way out of our bondage is through it, and if in sharing my struggles with trust and relationships even one person is given hope, then I'm ok with being a little more revealing. 

I have two more topics to cover, Rest, which I LOVE, and Work and Money, and my hope is to cover those tomorrow and Friday. I hope some of you are enjoying these posts, and if you are that you will continue with me.


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