Life in Piecemeal

It should come as no surprise to long time readers that I am an extreme personality. There are no half-ways in my world. There is either all or nothing. Feast or famine. All in or all out.

Perfection or Abject Failure.

It shows up in all aspects of my life and makes it difficult for me to ever feel as if I am living the life that I want.

I either bang out 3-4 posts in one marathon writing binge or radio silence for weeks at a time.

I disappear down the rabbit hole of blazing through thick, doorstopper type books or I accrue $12 in library fines because I haven’t gotten to the stack of unread library books by the bed.

I either have fits of Angry Cleaning wherein I scream at the kids and throw a bunch of their toys into the donate pile, or all their toys are strewn all over the floor and we live in the filth of our own making.

The kids either only subsist on chicken nuggets, pizza, and snacks while they wander back and forth from the kitchen table, or they only eat food I make quickly and in silence.

We either homeschool hardcore all day or the kids are left to Lord of the Flies themselves and figure shit out on their own.

I am either not mad or HULK SMASH WHY YOU NOT DO WHAT I SAY WHEN I SAY IT?!?

It is a hard life with no room for softness. And children (and I, I guess) need some softness. Something with which to cushion the hardness of life that can grind us into a fine powder if we allow it.

Plus, a life bouncing in between extremes is confusing for the kids and they never get the stability children crave and need. They never feel safe.

And truthfully, life is lived in the in-between.

I need to embrace what my friend, Not Another DB MBA calls The 差不多(cha bu4 duo) Lifestyle. (Cha bu4 duo means “almost” or “close enough.”)

It is possible to write a post at a time or even a few paragraphs at a time. Harder, but possible.

 

 

It is possible to read a book a few chapters at a time versus reading 1000+ pages in one sitting. Annoying, but possible.

It is possible to go back to a time when we all put away what we take out, and the house can resemble some state of happy equilibrium of “lived in-ness.”

It is possible for me to cook 95% of the time and then eat nuggets or pizza occasionally as pinch-hitting meals when I don’t have time or energy.

It is possible to homeschool a little bit every day and just let the rest go.

And it is possible for me not to be angry all the time (this one is super hard and I will be addressing this in a later post).

All these things are possible, I just have to suck it up and get used to living my life in piecemeal.

A life of spurts.

I also have to remember that just because I mess up once or twice (or a lot), that it doesn’t mean I just throw in the towel and swing to the other extreme.

That life allows for hiccups.

And so, I live a life in the constantly interrupted trenches of parenting small children.

Slowly, but surely, I am getting more okay with writing partial posts, sneaking in reading a chapter here and there, paying bills and sorting mail immediately, watching parts of shows, folding and putting away just a few items of clothing at a time, and washing a few dishes at a time.

It is hard, but chips away slowly at the giant mountain of THINGS I NEED TO DO. Of course, the mountain gets constantly added to, but I am satisfied with a sense of treading water with the occasional leisurely swim versus feeling as if I am constantly drowning.

Ok, that was an egregiously mixed metaphor but in the spirit of The 差不多(cha bu4 duo) Lifestyle, I am just going to point it out but not fix it.

My Love is an Act of Will

LoveIn case you missed my performance back in May, here is a video of my reading for Listen to Your Mother SFI’ve included the transcript of my piece after. Also, please do check out the entire line up for Listen to Your Mother SF 2016. They are hilarious and moving and fantastic women with wonderful stories. You will not regret!

“Mama,” said Gamera. “I love Daddy more-er. He’s the funnest.”

Twice a day, my 4 year old daughter, will inform me without fail that she loves my husband more than she loves me.

She has her reasons.

He was her first word. He’s way more fun. He plays with her (especially that awful Cooties game that I would rather stab my eyes out than play). He takes her to McDonald’s and indoor play spaces and to the park.

He calls her “Sweetness” and “Baby Girl” and cuddles with her at night and throws her onto his shoulders and plays Tickle Monster until she collapses into giggles on our bed.

He is the funnest.

And most of all – he rarely yells at her.

For the first eighteen months of my oldest son’s life, I never yelled or raised my voice in anger. I used to be so proud of myself.

Gamera never got to meet that person. She was six months in my belly and had another three months to go. By the time she showed up, I was tired and overwhelmed and had made yelling a way of life.

It was slow at first. A slow ramping up of fury until it broke over my small children in a consistent wave of screaming and yelling.

And later, at two and a half, she would defend herself and her older brother, holding her ground. “You don’t know what you talking about it!” she would stomp, face red with scowling, arms crossed in indignation. “Mama, you’re NOT kind!”

So I totally get why she loves my husband more-er. Who wouldn’t?

Before I had children, I thought love would be effortless, flowing through me as water from snow melt.

Who would have ever predicted it would be like squeezing blood from a stone?

Who knew love could be so hard – especially when it sent the dark corners of my heart into stark relief?

Of course, I knew that love was not always easy. I had plenty of experience of that in my romantic relationships. And I knew from growing up with an abusive father that love for our children could look much different than what I wanted for my own kids.

But I had thought – I had hoped – that I would be better. I would be different. I wouldn’t let my father win.

But I was broken still and my inner beast, the echo of my father – his script, his cadence, his very words – spilled hot and rushed through my trembling lips and clenched fists.

Of course, she loves her Baba more-er.

I accept that she may never know or understand that my loving her is an act of will.

Not because she is not lovable. She is. All my children are.

But I hope and pray that they will never understand firsthand how I clawed my way up from my despair, buried under decades of lies, denial, and self-protection.

That I love her when I ensure that the cycle of abuse will end with me and not be passed onto them.

I love her when in November 2014, I decided enough was enough and asked for help.

I love her when I choose to do the hard mental and emotional work when I go see my therapist every Friday and plonk down $150.

I love her when after a year and a half of weekly counseling, I have finally turned a corner and now rarely yell.

I love her when I get enough sleep.

I love her when I pay attention to what my body is telling me – and when I listen to my body.

I love her when I drop my armor of anger and apathy and allow myself to feel and process pain, fear, and anger.

I love her when I look at the hard truths of my growing up, my coping mechanisms, and their consequences.

I love her when I choose to walk away from her instead of scream.

I love her when I humble myself to apologize and ask her for forgiveness.

I love her when I let her feel what she feels and say what she thinks – even if it’s messy and dramatic and overblown and infuriates me to no end.

I love her when I model how to pursue healing.

I love her when I tell her that even if she loves Baba more-er than me, or is angry at me, or even hates me, that I will love her. That she can never lose my love.

I love her even though she loves her Baba more-er than me.

It doesn’t matter.

Because every day, my love for her is a hard won act of will. And that is enough.

Goldilocks Syndrome, Church, and Lazy Thinking

So, my mother got mad at me the other day. She accused me of purposely adding Kung Fu for the kids on Sundays so that I could have an excuse for her not to take them to church with her. She’s wrong. I don’t want her to take the kids to church because I think her church is crazy.

To clarify: I don’t think ALL churches are crazy and I don’t think all churches are bad. I don’t even think that her church is bad. In fact, I consider myself Christian – just not currently attending church. And if I thought her church were less weird, then I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with my mother taking the kids.

Here’s the thing. I know I am having a hard time finding churches because none of them meet my ridiculously long list of things that I want these churches to have. I know I’m looking for a Unicorn church and quite frankly, I used to feel really guilty about not taking my kids to church. But since I’ve started to cut out guilt, I’ve decided that right now, church is NOT a priority to me.

I don’t usually feel bad about my new state of actively not taking my kids to church (versus passively just not getting around to it). However, the other day while we were driving, Cookie Monster asked, “Why does Ah-Ma really like imaginary things?”

I paused. “Do you mean things like Jesus?”

“Yeah!”

I nearly died laughing (or I would have if I allowed myself to laugh out loud).

Alternatively, Gamera likes to insist that Jesus is a watermelon. It’s even funnier when she insists in Chinese.

Another contributing factor to me not attending church is that when I do attend church, it usually pisses me off. It’s either the message that pisses me off or the fellow attendees. Obviously, this says a lot about my own character. However, it is also indicative of my fellow attendees.

Now that I think about it, it’s not usually the church services that annoy me so much as the small groups, Bible Studies, or book studies.

I find that I usually cannot have any sort of religious conversation with people I do not have a personal relationship with. The only reason I can have conversations with people who I am actually friends with is because I can remember they are human – and if they say something I disagree with, I can usually recall how to be a kind person. But if it is a stranger or an acquaintance, I have far less compunction and I’m afraid my inner asshole shows a little too often. And who wants to be that person?

But the reason why I have a hard time having these conversations (and I have had this problem since childhood) is because most of the conversations are superficial and cliché; rife with lazy thinking and shitty theology. Nothing pains me more.

A few years ago, I ranted about Sunday School and how woefully inadequate it is in preparing our children for the hard questions we ask of God and the Bible and of Jesus. I would posit that this is also my gripe with grown ups.

Am I snob? Am I asking too much of people?

Look, I know that just because someone believes something doesn’t mean that’s how they apply their theology. And I get that I can be a dick and treat people with contempt because I find their thinking derivative.

But truthfully, I’m so tired. I’m so tired of the church being silent and irrelevant on things that matter to me. Yeah, yeah. My eternal soul matters. But my life here and now matters, too.

You know what I want?

I want to see churches have hard conversations about race and sex and money and suffering. I want to see churches have honest repentance for their complicity in racism and misogyny and abuse. I want to see churches be real and take responsibility for the ways they have contributed to the status quo.

I know that there are some voices in the desert, calling out to the rest of the US church for repentance. But mostly, they are slapped down and silenced.

So my solution is to not have much to do with the church in my day to day life. As a result, my children think Jesus is imaginary. Clearly, my method is working out just great.