Sunday, January 28, 2007

Beating Several Dead Horses

So most of the stuff from the last post was duked out on Mumblety Peg. Although, I really had intended to make my post here before the whole lateness issue was brought up over there. I was just excited to learn something about myself and to think that maybe it could be the beginning to solving my problem. I say it all the time- I have been flailing around wildly since I graduated from college. I cannot pull myself together and figure out who I am supposed to be or what I am supposed to do. Obviously, I am a mom. But there is so much freedom and how that looks. A little too much freedom for someone like me. Because I do like to go with the flow. And there is no flow. I am supposed to make the flow. I am not good at making the flow. I freak out having to enter into the flow at an expected time and place. Does this make sense? It is weird, I know. But thank heaven for Pretty Funny for a Girl readers! You people are nice. You people know that I don't want to hear discouraging, unmerciful things; no one wants that. The Mumblety Peggers are different. But fortunately for me, they don't come around here; or if they do, they remain nice, quiet lurkers. So y'all didn't say anything even if you were thinking I should just figure out how to make plans and keep them and be places on time. Thanks for not saying that. I already know that. I am already trying really hard to do that. I am merely saying it is hard for me and that I think that is just part of my personality type. Our world is set up so as not to accommodate that personality type much, not like college where everything except class time is flexible. Thus the problem only really starting until after college was over. But I am realizing that that problem does not make me inherently flawed, despite what early goers say. They like to criticize and make the problem be other things, jump to conclusions about what that means about me that is simply not true. I am a late person; it is a problem, but it does not mean that I am a whole bunch of other things. It just means I am disorganized with time. My long lost friend Lindsey said a lot of things that indicated she can relate to this somewhat. She is great. But I could not say that on Mumblety Peg because I had resigned from the conversation. So I am saying it here. I guess I just said so, but I will say it again, Lindsey is great. She used to babysit Amabel for free so I could go to counseling. She was always doing something nice. I do not think she reads my blog, but if you know her and you see her, tell her hello from me and her cats hello from Amabel.

Here's another thing I thought of about the whole flailing around wildly part of my life- Isn't that all of your life, Abby? Why yes, it is.- My whole life I have been looking for credibility. I mean, haven't we all? We want to be good at something. We want to be acknowledged or appreciated or whatever. We just do. We want to be unique and interesting. Or I do anyway. And the thing I always heard was how smart I was, not from other kids because kids could care less if you are smart, but from my parents and teachers. I was a kid, so I also could care less about being smart. I wanted to be good at sports or super pretty or peppy or funny or interesting. Instead, I just had this way of somehow sleeping through class, (yes, literally sleeping) and still making decent grades. I took this very much for granted. And the sad thing is, now that school is over, I am actually not very educated because I was sleeping instead of learning. I mean, I made some decent grades, but I can't remember a thing. And so as we have said, school is over and the whole being smart thing, the only thing I ever got any credit for, is off the table. Because really, as an adult, can you even tell who is smart? Unless they are just really condescending about it, you can't. Or I don't think you can. Not really. So here I am, maybe smart, maybe just lucky for getting by somehow for all those years, and my credibility is on the line. I don't have a career to prove my credibility; it's just me out there trying to be an individual. It's a total upheaval of how life was for twenty something years!!!

I got into the whole smocking and sewing thing, and it was very nice to get a little credit for that. It's not so very uncommon down South, but it was just nice to be part of a group that I admired who I could kind of hold my own with. (Just to prove I did learn something, that sentence should read "with whom I could kind of hold my own" but it doesn't sound nearly so conversational). Then I got up to St. Louis and started being kind of criticized for it. I know, that's another thing I've got to move past; it was mostly strangers and people I don't know anymore anyway. Anyway, then I just started flailing more wildly. Really. People who did not know me before reading this blog know the most frustrated, crazy version of me. I think I have been more and more, from graduating to getting married to having kids to moving to St. Louis to moving again in St. Louis to moving again in St. Louis, unsure of who I am and certainly unhappy with who I am. Sad, isn't it? Well, and of course you have to take into account the whole me being dramatic thing, but yeah, that's sort of how it's been.

And I know, I know, we are supposed to know who we are in Christ. I know. That is really a dead horse for me. People are always telling me that like it will solve all of my problems. It solves a lot of problems, a lot of really big important problems, and I am very grateful for that. But I am talking about, in spite of being redeemed and being a child of God, there has to be something He wants me to do, something that is unique to me and my life and situation. I'm not talking about something that will make me worthy of His grace or of additional favor or that amounts to any kind of righteousness so let's not start getting into that argument; I'm just talking about what my life is supposed to look like. And it seems like people have either really narrow cookie cutter ideas of that, or generous live and let live sort of ideas about that. And you may never hear me say this again, but thank goodness for St. Louis because I have done a pendulum swing from having a horribly narrow view of this to having a much more generous idea. And now my problem is finding myself in all that freedom.

But what am I talking about? What cookie cutter ideas? I just used to have a really wrong attitude about a lot of things. I thought we all had to do the same thing and be the same way to be right, to be responsible. I just had all these crazy absolutes that didn't take individuals into account. Things like public school being wrong. Or being a stay at home mom being the only option. Or spanking being the only form of discipline. Or a certain sweet and subdued manner being the only acceptable personality both for myself and for my children. Even if some of these things are based on good ideas, they are not written explicitly in Scripture and it is unmerciful to myself and to others to insist on them. I'm so over that. Not that I don't still believe some of those things for myself, I just have a more open mind about them. Or really, God has shown me that I need to have a more open mind, a more merciful and generous attitude about things. Those words aren't quite right though- merciful and generous implies that I am extending grace to people but that they are not doing what they ought. I don't mean that. I mean that God has not told us just one specific way to educate our children- there was no public or private or Christian or classical or home school conundrum back then. And as much as it sounds sort of liberal and relativistic to say, there's not just one answer to these sorts of questions. I am sad that I used to think there was and that I used to push that agenda on myself and others.

It's like I don't want to be free. Freedom involves choice which means we have to do the hard work of knowing what is best. We have to pray and study and wait. Ugh. Wait? No thanks! I like my little ready made cookie cutter ideas that I can start pining away for right away. But I don't really like the cookie cutter idea at all. The cookie cutter idea was another thing I built around myself that has freaked me out and had me doing back flips. Once again, I have been freaking out trying to get just so in the flow. But on the other hand, I have no idea what to do when the flow is sort of up to me, when God says, "raise these kids to love me," and that's about it. Sure, we have other guidelines, but it's a lot of hard work trying to really figure out what to do with your freedom. I don't want to be fenced in, it makes me sad and just constantly feel like a failure. But the good news is that God didn't put up a lot of those fences, I did. He loves me and doesn't think of me as a failure at all. I am right where He wants me to be. But what's my job, my responsibility, my direction? Where am I going? The fences were nice in showing me what (I thought) I had to do.

Les Newsom says (I think he is actually quoting someone else, but he's the one who always said it to me), "Love God and do what you want," meaning that we should seek God, be actively trying to obey and serve him, but that because God hasn't given us more specifics, we can sort of do what we want after that. Steve Malone always called it "freedom within the fence" but that is a little confusing when I was referring to fences as bad things a minute ago. Anyway, as long as we're not running from God or disobeying him, there is really a lot of things we can do. The question I have for myself now is what do I want to do?

I don't know. I am starting small. I want to smock and sew whether people think it is (or my kids look) weird and old fashioned and froufrou or not. I want to read because if I really am smart then it will help me stay sharp, and if I'm not, it will help me be smarter. But also, because books are good and enjoyable. I have been reading a lot of books that I want to write about soon. I want to write. I love to write. I really like having a blog and keeping in the practice of writing. Thanks for giving me an audience to whom I can write (how's that for grammar?!) I want to bake bread. I want to bake lots of things, but bread is a frontier for me, maybe not the last one but a frontier that I want to pioneer anyway. I made my first loaf Tuesday. It was delightfully delicious if I do say so myself- cinnamon swirl raisin bread! Mmmmm. And I want to know God better, to learn more about who He is and what He's like and what He has to do with me. That is all I can think of right now, but that is pretty good for me. Usually it is what should I do either to be more likable or responsible or whatever. I will never be everything though, the hostess thing, among many other things, reminded me of that. So I am thinking I will just be who I want to be until God shows me something more or something else.

I think I say things like this a lot. I am not expecting to be a completely together non-flailing person from now on. But it helps to put it out there, even to hear your feedback if you like. I am ever working through these things, ever pressing on toward what it is I am to do. And I hope I might do a little less flailing and worrying and a little more enjoying the flow, at least for a little while.


sara said...

AHHHHH!!!!! I just lost my whole lengthy comment. Oh Well. Just wanted to say that I get what you're saying. I am learning, slowly, that God wants me to be "me," and that he might actually have more in store for me than just being someone's mom or Brian's wife. I have all of these desires and interests that I have been pushing down because they don't gel with who I think I should be right now--and because I am a little fearful to pursue something else). Someone has really been questioning me about that lately, and I am starting to think that if God made me to like art and design and fashion and big cities or whatever, there may be a reason. I don't just have to ignore these things because I happen to have been blessed with 3 kids and a husband.

I wish I could say that my interests were sewing and baking and reading--they sure do sound more worthwhile, but I guess God just makes us each different to display different aspects of himself. Maybe?? Anyway, all to say, I am right there with you. (And I think it's pretty great that you are such a gifted seamstress--I wish I had half of your patience).

Matt said...

Hey Abby,

Just wanted to say that I am here, lurking and being (well until this point) quiet. I haven't said anything anywhere intended to be mean and discouraging, including here. Quite the opposite. My remarks where intended to help, and if they miss the target, then I guess that is my fault.

Ali and I love you guys very much and wish nothing but the best, and I am sorry if you don't believe that.

-Matt and Ali (but she is folding clothes)

Anonymous said...

Man..... I am so with you. While I was reading your post it was as if I was reading my mind, in a sense? It's interesting.... Is this where a lot of moms are or is this just in common with those of us who grew up where we did.... I am struggling with the same idea of purpose or identity. And it sounds so selfish to say that as I am blessed with a Godly and loving husband and 2 glorious children. But, it's true. And I have reserved myself to do exactly as you said- read the Word and be in prayer. But, it's so easy to just slip into the chaos of daily life and lose myself again! AHHH! Just reading this makes me miss you. You are so encouraging with your refreshing honesty and frankness....... The quote you said you weren't sure who stated was from Jack Miller and I love that one too......... Prayers and understanding definitely coming your way!!


rhb said...

Sounds like you are on a the right track! Seek God and enjoy life- that is good. All of those desires in yor heart are from Him and He will use them for His glory as you seek Him!

abby said...

thanks for the feedback everyone. although it is a weird thing to be wrestling through, it is a comfort to me that I am not the only one. Courtney, i love Jack Miller! thanks for telling me he is to be credited for that quote. his son's book and his wife's are among my very favorites. and i know scotty smith, another favorite, credits him as a spiritual father of sorts. he would've been a cool person to know.

sara, i think your gifts are really cool. i guess it is important to appreciate our own, but i can't help but envy your fashion sense and artistic flare. sometime i want to hear what you mean about big cities. there is part of me that thinks i would love a big big city like new york and part of me that wopuld love to move back to auburn or oxford. i think it is that i love community and big big cities become so big that they break back down into their own little communities. what i do not care much for is the big, impersonal, drive everywhere, it takes thirty minutes to get anywhere, i live in my car cities!

maybe all that driving is why i am laughing a little bit, a couple of days after this at the "do what you want" part. as if we had time to do what we want. just that i make time to write is indicative that i do have some time, but i wonder if that is why it is so puzzling, we don't really have a whole lot of time to work with. i almost wrote a post like "a day in the life of.." to explain what i mean, but i know we could all write that post. then again, it would be pretty hilarious reading, so maybe i'll write it anyway.

matt, what i meant about the mumblety peggers is probably summed up in that they are men. men don't always have the gentlest ways of saying things and that can be hurtful. they think it is funny to be rough and "asinine" but girls like me don't always think the strong language and sarcasm is helpful. however by the time it was all over, i went from really mad to actually laughing out loud over that post. and there is still part of me that thinks that men just can't all the way understand, especially the men who post there because they don't have kids or just have one, because they leave the kids every day and don't have the daily burden of things like hairbows and shoe laces and wiping bottoms and dirty mouths and sticky fingers etc. all of that has to be taken into account to get out the door and part of it is not just the physical doing, but the mentally keeping track that puts me behind. i don't want to start the conversation up again, just something i can say to you because we do, of course, know that y'all love us, but I didn't want 18 people giving me the solution to a problem they never have and probably never will experience. no hard feelings though. i figured you might be a lurker here sometimes, you have mentioned checking in before. i hope i didn't say anything offensive.

lauren said...

"But what am I talking about? What cookie cutter ideas?"

Thank you for that whole paragraph Abby. That is exactly what God is teaching me right now. I think I swung my pendulum the other way being in Birmingham and now God is showing me my judgments on others are not from His word, but from the social setting I've been in for the last 7 years.

abby said...

lauren, i have a million more too. you know i hesitate to say anything negative about my southern roots, but we really do have a lot of that there that, you're exactly right, is not from His word. I had other rigid views about anti-depressant and other kinds of mental health drugs, some social government issues, and even REALLY narrow things like how to spend money etc. I am not blaming the South for all of that, and I know you aren't either, but I think there is a more free to be you and me atmosphere in some other cultures, even sub-american cultures.

the good, the bad & the ugly said...

I think using our gifts is so incredible important. Don't ask me exactly how that plays out with women in the midst of laundry, diapering, nursing, carpool, etc. But I am determined to have time for the things I am passionate about, not so much for myself, but because I am convinced that I am the way I am because God wants to use me for His glory. So even if there is only a fraction of my time that is allotted for painting, dancing, decorating, women's's still some time. And it's a priority.

Anonymous said...

(from Lindsey Adair) Hey Abby!! Thanks for the shout-out. :-) I am pretty new to the blogging scene--this is actually my 2nd post (and you know what my first one was!) I actually found out about your blog via my friend Camille (who may be mad now that I just outed her as a lurker! :-) She found your blog through mumblety peg (which her husband Aaron found via Matt--isn't the merry go round fun? You'd think I'd just find out from Matt first hand...) Anyway, she found it to be very refreshing and encouraging to a new mom such as herself and told me about it and then I realized it was you!! :-) So I actually have checked it a few times since then and have been meaning to say "hi!" Thanks for our Christmas card--I can't believe how everyone has grown! Gorgeous children! Tell Amabel hi from the cats. Anyway, I love your blog. You are a really good writer! It makes me miss you though! I hope someday we can hang out again! :-)

Abby said...

so great to hear from you lindsey. you and camille are welcome to lurk and/or comment whenever you like :)

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