Longing For Grace

For those of you who know me in Real Life, you know that I freak the fuck out and go from 0 to 60 in a eye blink. One second, my MIL is asking Gamera if she has a boyfriend (FFS, she is three years old) and the next thing I know, Gamera will be a stripper who needs men for attention and will be a strung-out junkie with a pimp.

Totally within the realm of plausibility, folks. Totally.

It is possible, perhaps, that my reaction was not in keeping with reality. That my MIL’s one off-hand comment will not forever alter the course of Gamera’s life. But that’s the way my brain works, people. I never said it was pretty.

I blame this all on a sermon I heard once (I think, anyway) about how all the choices we make in life can either keep us on the path of righteousness or diverge and take us away from that same path. Minor bad choices are actually slippery slopes. Like how an acute angle in geometry starts off at a minor angle, with the lines minutely apart, but if we go further out in time, at some point, the lines will be infinitely apart. I am plagued by the idea our choices in life are like these two lines, and if we make the wrong choice, no matter how small in degree, at some point further in time, the distance between the Path of Righteousness and the Path of Ruin will be infinite and they will NEVER MEET AGAIN. One misstep and you will NEVER get back to the Way, the Truth, the Life.

Imagine Time = r, Theta = minor misstep, and s = the space between diverging life paths.

Imagine Time = r, Theta = minor misstep, and s = the space between diverging life paths.

After all, the way of the Lord is narrow. And Hard. And difficult. And the way to Hell is broad and easy.

But what a terrifying way to live. What a stifling and constraining and graceless way to live.

I feel like this is my life. Graceless. Constant self-condemnation and judging. And fear. OMG, THE FEAR.

But the truth is, life is not an immutable straight line. There are infinite chances and opportunities. Infinite opportunities for “course correction.” And who is to say that there is only ONE correct way to live? I mean, just given the evidence based on 7 billion lives on this planet, and the 7 billion unique-ish situations these people find themselves in, I know that is not true.

Stated in a positive way, the idea that there is only ONE way to live, that it is the One Path to Rule Them All, is FALSE. A horrible, pernicious lie. (A lie that I hear often in churches, but let’s face it, comes in any and all directions. Just take your pick: organic, liberal, conservative, you name it, it’s got it.)

True love drives out fear. And if I truly believed that God offered perfect love, the kind of love that drives out fear and offers freedom, why do I buy into this pack of lies? (And it is a worthless pack of lies; a twist of the Truth to pervert and poison and obfuscate who God is.)

I long for freedom. I long for grace. I long to live a life as if it were okay to fail and to fail spectacularly.

I long for my kids to experience true freedom.

My heart breaks that even though Cookie Monster is so small and so young, (too small and too young, to be honest), he is already hampered by fear. He is already so afraid to fail. To look foolish. To be rejected.

I see it in the way he doesn’t want to try new things at preschool (mostly physical activities). I see it in the way he hovers on the edge of groups, the desire and yearning to join in on whatever activity the group is doing so painfully etched on his face, but him being too afraid to ask to play with the kids because they may say, “No.” I see it when he refuses to ask me for something he wants and instead makes a negative statement like, “I can’t play Halo” so that he has already rejected himself before I can dash his hopes.

I see it in the way Gamera will lie just to get my approval. And the way she cries and clings to me when she thinks that I disapprove of her.

It breaks my cold, dark heart.

I am devastated.

If only I could live my life the way I live my writing.

When I was in high school, I used to resent having to write first and second and final drafts. I found it the height of stupidity and a fucking waste of my time. I would literally have to “fake” a rough draft so that my final drafts looked sufficiently different and altered from the original. I mean, what was the point of writing a first draft? My first drafts were perfect. I would edit as I wrote so there really was no need to go back and change things. I mean, isn’t that what computers were for?

Then, in my twenties, I decided to write a book and that is where my perfect first drafts became my downfall. I would write a section and then edit. And then edit some more. And then edit some more. Then read my perfect words. Then edit some more. Which is great and all, to have a perfect set of 1,000 words, but 1,000 words does not a book make. Most books have about 65,000 words (a little more than your typical NaNoWriMo at 50,000 words), but either way, I was 64,000 words short.

So, I read about writing (because when writing, nothing is more useful and productive than reading about writing) and all the blogs and books I’ve read since then universally agree: you have to write. Just write. It doesn’t matter if it’s good, bad, utter shite. Nothing is harder than a blank page. You can’t do anything with it. Just write. Accept as a truism: You will write crap. A lot of crap. It doesn’t matter; that’s what editing is for. But you can’t edit what you don’t have, so you have to write.

That’s the beauty of writing: once you have stuff written down, you can delete it, you can write more stuff that is good/bad/meh, you can move entire paragraphs, you can do whatever you want when editing. Whole worlds are created and obliterated during editing. And then you can edit some more. But at some point, you will have to stop and move on. At some point, your writing will be good enough (or, sadly, as good as it will ever be).

Move on.

Accept that there may never be the perfect sentence. Just a bunch of good enough sentences.

And that, I find, is my perfect analogy for life. (If only I could buy into this theory in practice – and not just believe it only of my writing.)

You are never done until it’s done. (Even then, who is to say that is a permanent state of being – well, I suppose, for the sake of this argument, you are done in this plane of life.) There are few permanent mistakes (the laws of physics not withstanding) from which we cannot recover.

Most of life is a rough draft. We can edit and delete, but ultimately, we move on. We accept grace and forgiveness and try our best and we move on until we Move On.

So this morning, I wish you grace upon grace upon grace. Grace enough for parenting fails, for work fails, for life fails. Grace enough to cover a lifetime of sins, real and imagined.

Massive Parenting Fail

A lot of parenting is a big crap shoot. You may have a situation (say, your kid being a real PITA when it comes to eating) and you want to find a solution. So, you look to your friends or the interwebz or books (remember those?). However, every now and then, you have a situation where it doesn’t really bother you, but you feel as if it should.

I will call this phenomenon, Creating More Problems for Yourself™, also known as, You Are a Fucking Idiot™, or You Stupid Masochist™.

As many of you know, Cookie Monster can be difficult when it comes to eating. He’s not the world’s pickiest eater, but he’s picky enough that it annoys me and bothers me and often, he goes to bed hungry because he just didn’t like what was for dinner. I’ve battled it out many a time with him, and it always leaves me wiped out, annoyed, and sad. Sad because I turn into a screaming monster and end up roughly shoving Cookie Monster into time out, or locking him in the garage (with the lights on), or locking him in his room for a few minutes. This leads to weeping hysterics from Cookie Monster (can’t imagine why) and escalating tantrums and simultaneous Limp Toddler (so I feel as if I’m going to wrench his arms out) and Will Not Move But Can Really Kick and Slam His Head Into Something Toddler.

However, we’ve been making some headway, and usually, I stop caring and tell him if he doesn’t eat by the time we go upstairs to take a bath, then he’s just going to be hungry until breakfast. For his meals in general, I don’t care if he takes a few bites, goes play, runs around, and then comes back for a few more bites, and then disappears again. It annoys me slightly because I know it’s a bad habit, and it makes it hard to go out to eat, but ultimately, I don’t care.

Well, one of my friends came over the other day and her four year old daughter kept saying that my kids weren’t sitting down to eat properly and running around during meal times. My friend wasn’t trying to make me feel bad or anything – she was just pointing out that they were very strict with their kids about meal times. No loud talking and no running off during meals. Totally reasonable. My friend was just trying to explain why her kid was making these observations. No judging.

Anyhow, I got it in my head that my kids should sit still and eat their food all in one sitting without taking breaks. I randomly decided to begin enforcing this yesterday morning – with no warning to my kids. Needless to say, it did not go over well. At 7:40am in the morning, I was already screaming at Cookie Monster, throwing him in the garage, bringing him upstairs to his room while he was screaming and weeping his brains out. All he kept crying was, “I want to play!!” I finally collapsed on the floor to the kids’ room and almost started sobbing. I left Cookie Monster there and went downstairs and ignored my children for awhile to calm down.

Then, I had an epiphany.

What the fuck was I doing? I don’t even care about whether or not Cookie Monster sits at the table quietly for the whole duration of his meal. If he doesn’t finish his food by the time we have to leave (or whatever other reason), then he’ll be hungry. I don’t want to scream and yell at my sweet boy. And certainly not first thing in the morning. Why was I trying so hard (and failing so miserably) to enforce something that I didn’t care about in a way that didn’t fit my personality at all? It was like putting on the wrong skin – that’s how I felt during the whole heated exchange. That I was not myself – and it was horrible.

So, I said, “Fuck it.” As a result, very little screaming for the rest of the day and yes, Cookie Monster went hungry for dinner because he didn’t want what I made and I was fine with that. So was he. He wasn’t going to die and I wouldn’t feel like a shit. Win/Win.

I know I’ve posted about this before, but it’s good to remind myself YET AGAIN. I do not want to be responsible for dimming the lights in my children’s eyes (especially Cookie Monster since he’s the oldest and I’m the hardest on him). I want them to know only love and kindness from their mommy, however imperfect I am. I want to be worthy of their love and adoration.

Cookie Monster can be an annoying PITA (ie: a preschooler) but then there are the times when he races out of the door after school, throwing his arms around me saying, “You’re here!” or when he ran to me last night and declared, “You’re my best friend!” (I don’t even think he knows what that means, but it means a lot to me.) There are the moments when we’re laying in bed and he cups my face in his hands and his big eyes glow full of love and enthusiasm and he just laughs and laughs and laughs. Or when we’re saying our prayers and he is just so grateful for everything when he recounts his day.

I have to hold on to the truth that I love my boy even when things are chaotic and I’m exhausted and cranky and feeling as if kicking a puppy would make me feel better. Sometimes, it’s just really hard to remember in the heat of the moment.

*sigh* When I tell Hapa Papa this and he’s also tired and cranky, sometimes, he’ll tell me that it’s my own fault because I wanted so many children and that it will only be harder with four kids. I have to restrain myself from punching him in the throat. But other times, Hapa Papa is sympathetic and understanding and gives a lot of grace.

That’s also what I have to remember: no matter how much I screw up and I yell, “Jesus!” in half expletive and half prayer, that I am given a soothing balm of grace that covers my many sins to my children. I have to trust and hope and choose to believe that God’s grace is sufficient – and that my children will grow up fine despite my many failings.

Weird. Somehow my post went from my massive parenting fail to a post ending on God’s grace. I suppose it is aptly fitting. Amen to that.