The Truth Telling Friend

It had been a long, hard few weeks. I hadn’t really admitted to myself how difficult life had become and how trapped I was feeling. It happened so slowly that I didn’t recognize the signs and the shifts. The walls of my world were contracting and cracking, preparing to bury me under their weight. All while I was busy shoring up the walls of those around me. Completely oblivious to what was happening to my own house. Admittedly, I had small glimpses of the impending destruction, but I managed to successfully minimize my own distress. “I’m just tired. I’m fighting this nasty cold,” I told myself over and over again. Denial is great; for a while.

Thankfully, I have a friend that isn’t afraid to tell me the truth. Even when it’s not what I want to hear. Even when I try to deflect and change the subject. Even when I deny her observations. My friend knows me well enough and loves me enough to push through my resistance and offer me the whole, honest truth. In the most loving and supportive way possible she gave me permission to stop and acknowledge that all was not right in my world. Permission to admit I was running myself into the ground. Validation that I deserve more for myself than what I’d been allotting. She saw behind the face I put on for the world & recognized the truth of my present reality.

When I finally allowed her words to penetrate the wall I had built around my denial, I was overwhelmed with the strangest emotion. Not fear, not anger, not sadness, but relief. Relief that someone saw. Relief that what I feared was selfishness was something else entirely – a desperate need for rest. Actually, not only rest, but a reevaluation of my current trajectory & a course correction.

Along with the truth, came an offer of her unmitigated support. And an assignment, that just happened to be the same one I had given her a few months ago. Funny how our words can come back to haunt us. Or in this case, remind us of the importance of not just having a truth telling friend, but being one as well.

 

My Tribe

One of my greatest blessings in life is the myriad of diverse people that are in my social sphere. From all walks of life, backgrounds, belief systems, etc. I am surrounded by diversity and appreciate what each individual brings to my life.

But I must be honest, I have a few people in my life that I’m closer to. Some of them are connected to each other, and others are not. This core group of individuals make up the center from which most of my other relationships sprout. Some are cherished, long held friendships, some are newer, but no less important friendships. Some are people I’m in regular contact with, while others I may only talk to once in a long while, but they are always there. Supporting me, challenging me, championing me, holding me to account, laughing with me & sometimes narrowly avoiding jail with me. In short they make up My Tribe.

In this series, as sporadic as I know it will be, of posts, I would like to introduce you to the members of My Tribe. The beauty of the big bag of Skittles that is my social circle is that we move between many of the different roles I will describe. I am truly, immeasurably blessed and I hope this will be a little window into why. Hopefully it will help you to appreciate your own Tribe. And if you find yourself without one, I pray it will encourage you to find your own people. The ones you can be your authentic, warts & all, self with.

Proud To Be A Disappointment

This past week has seen a lot of turmoil in our nation. In case you’ve been living under a rock, we had an election in November. And a lot of people are upset that their candidate lost. So convinced are they that the President that was sworn in on Friday is going to turn back the clock on all kinds of rights, particularly that of women, that there were protests. While I could go on ad nauseum about whether those views are founded or not, it would do nothing but make me feel justified and make lots of people angry. So I’ll stay away from that.

Watching all the coverage of the multiple women’s marches around the world I found myself evaluating where I stand in the eyes of many of the feminists that were marching for my “rights.” And I was reminded that in the eyes of many, I am a disappointment. I am a college educated, stay at home mother. I am also pro-life as I believe that life begins at conception and that once that life has started, it possesses all the same rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as any other citizen of the United States.

These two things alone deem me a disappointment according to many, many feminists. This strikes me as particularly disingenuous. I thought that these women were fighting for my right to choose. I know that’s what the majority of their founding mothers did. However, when I choose to do something outside the realm of what they find “acceptable” my voice no longer counts. I am characterized as having been oppressed by the “internalized misogyny” that society has foisted upon me. As my husband can attest, I’m not very good at being told what to do, so I find this characterization particularly laughable.

Well, I’m here to say that I’m proud to be a disappointment. I am proud that I care for my family. I’m proud of the two children I’ve shepherded nearly to adulthood. I’m proud of my husband and my hard work prior to having children that allows me to stay home now. I’m proud of my husband’s continued hard work, and of our willingness to make sacrifices to allow me to continue to be at home. I’m under no misconception that my ability to stay home is available, or even desirable, to all women. It is indeed a blessing, but one that I should not be made to feel less for.

One of the criticisms of my choice in life that I find particularly ridiculous is the idea that because I do not work outside of the home I am not a “productive” member of society. I guess raising independent, thoughtful, and successful kids isn’t considered productive. Nor is caring for the children of others thereby allowing them to pursue their own dreams/careers. I am proud of my friends with careers. I applaud them for making the choice that is best for their family and themselves. I am blessed that I am surrounded by women that not only support, but value my choice. However, the world at large seems to feel quite differently; they brand me a disappointment.

Let me provide just a couple of examples of what I’m talking about. I have been at several business functions with my husband. On more than one occasion I have been engaged in very thoughtful, topical discussions about any manner of subject and have found that one short answer often stops an otherwise pleasant interaction dead in its tracks. “What do you do?” My answer to that question, that I am a stay at home mom, is often the death knell of the conversation. It’s almost as if everything we had discussed earlier, is no longer valid. As if I went from being an educated, well read, easy to talk to person to being someone they no longer want to converse with. After all, I’m just a mom. What could I possibly contribute? I find my self again to be a disappointment.

Another example, that truly infuriates, me has to do with my daughter. I have a daughter that is currently pursuing a Bachelors Degree. She has worked diligently and will graduate two years ahead of schedule. That is an incredible accomplishment. Who knows what she will decide to do with her life in the end. Whatever it is, she will have my support. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same way. I was in conversation with someone about my daughter and her plans. As we were discussing how she may choose to live her life in the future, I mentioned in passing that she may decide to follow in my footsteps and stay home with her children. After the initial shock had worn off I was faced with this response. “But she’s so smart & can do anything she wants to do. Why would she waste her intelligence and education like that?” Before you misunderstand, this was not said with any malice or derision intended, but it made it fairly clear exactly what they thought of the choice I had made. After all, I graduated from college with honors in three years. I considered several career options, including medical school, and decided that I wanted to choose a different path. Apparently in their eyes, and in the eyes of many feminists if internet blogs are to believed, I too have wasted my intelligence and education. So now, we are both disappointments.

Now, I know that the shoe is often on the other foot. I have seen enough of the blogosphere & social media to recognize that many working mothers face criticism and are made to feel like disappointments. Just as it infuriates me to be considered less of an independent woman because I do not work outside the home, it infuriates me that my friends and loved ones that choose to work are judged as being less committed to their children. That is ludicrous. We are each individuals, with different needs. And honestly, we need each other. I have cared for the children of others. Their parents have cared for and helped me as well. It should be a symbiotic, not adversarial, relationship.

I could go on for days with similar examples, but I think I’ve made my point.

I am proud to be a disappointment.

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