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The Grey Matters


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A Brutal Truth (Life Lessons From My Mom)

When I was in middle school I remember crying because of mean girls. They were so mean… starting at a young age. I feel for any girl who’s been left out of a club, who isn’t included in a game, who finds herself bossed around because she feels, from the depths of her soul, that silence maybe is the answer to all of this aggression. I can still remember that pain, and this helps me relate to my step kids and their very real feelings (more on that in a bit here).

So, there I was, crying. My mom was comforting me as she always did.

And let me tell you something about my mom. She ALWAYS TELLS THE TRUTH. It’s something I love and something that, at least a few times, I wished she wasn’t so good at. Like the time I put the wrong liquid in my contact case and when I put my contacts in my eyes, it felt like my eyes were being chemically burned. They turned red, I took out my contacts, and showed up to church (she worked at the church and was there already) with my sisters, in tears, wearing my glasses and when I found her I asked desperately, “Mom!! Am I going to go blind??!”

What she said was this: “Well, I really don’t know sweetie.” 

I was devastated. I wanted her say this: “Of course not. No way. You’re totally fine!”

But she didn’t know what I’d used, she didn’t know what was going to happen, and she wasn’t about to lie to me just to comfort me. And luckily, the burning went away and my eyes were totally okay.

So anyway, back to the comforting moment. My heart was hurting and I was calming down after needing to get those tears out and I asked my mom, “When you grow up, do mean girls stop being mean?!” 

Here was another golden opportunity for her to reassure me that life would be rainbows and butterflies and that these trials were only for those three horrible years some people refer to as middle school.

What she said was this: “No, honey. Sometimes the mean girls just get worse. But there’s some good news here. The nice people usually get nicer. AND you won’t be stuck in the hallway with them. You’ll have a lot more freedom in that way, and so, those mean girls won’t be as present in your life.”

Oh man, I was just crushed. I thought adults were supposed to have their act together. I thought they cut the shit and started being good people… brains develop ALL the way… they’ve been through their own trials… and the women… surely by now, every woman is a feminist and just wants to support all women, all the time…. right?

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Welp, turns out my mom told me the very brutal truth again. (thanks mom!)

Which brings me to #6 in my 20 Things Every Woman Should Ask Herself series.

6. What can I let go of?

And I’ll start my answer to this question by telling another little story, and this time, I’m the grown up.

It’s kind of cool, because now that I have three step kids, I get to solve problems, give advice, learn from them all the time, and just have some unique issues in general that always lead to a good conversation. I love it.

So kids, their emotions are 100% real. I know this, but I think sometimes a reminder is good, too. For instance:

Somewhat recently one of the kids was very upset because another kid was reporting information about them that that the accused knew was false.  This happened right at the dinner table. The accused got very loud and very upset, saying something along the lines of, “That is NOT true! He/She is LYING! I did NOT do that!” (Obviously, I don’t want to give away who was doing what ;) )  I chose to take the moment to teach a lesson. I said very calmly, “Okay then. So, you know you didn’t do it, right?” And he/she nodded. “Well, that’s all that matters.” Then I pointed at my own heart. “As long as you know the truth in here, what he/she is saying about you doesn’t matter. You shouldn’t let it upset you. Does that make sense? You’re your own unique person and you know your truth.” The lesson was well taken, but I’ve given the same schpeal a few times now.

HO, HO, HO. The joke’s on me, though. And recently I had to sit down and remind myself of the very advice I had given my step kids.

My mom was right — those mean girls are way less present in my life. Almost 99% of the time, my life is just plain awesome in that regard. I have amazing friends who support me, listen to me, laugh with me and smile with me. Things have gotten much better since middle school. Thank God. However, she was also right when she said that the mean girls would only get worse. There are some people out there with cold hearts, who can’t really look inside and like what they see… who maybe don’t know their own truth.

And I had to let go of things that I let get under my skin. I had to sit down at the table and give myself the same pep talk. “Melinda, you know your own heart. You know that your silence is stronger than negative words. You know your actions have been pure, strong, and that God is always with you. You know this. Don’t let the one single voice saying the exact opposite of everyone else ring in your head. You know your truth.”

It was a good reminder of just how real those kids’ emotions are. When they feel they are being wrongly accused, they feel the injustice and they have the instinct to right it.

As an adult, not only are people possibly even more hurtful, but ALSO!!!!!!! the instinct to defend yourself, right the wrong and shout it out to the world is still there, but we can’t do it. We have to sit on our hands and bite our tongues and take calming breaths and remember that actions can only be done — they can never be undone.

I had to let go of negativity and resentment. And then I had to call one of my best girlfriends (after calling my mom, of course) and laugh about the whole entire ridiculous situation and remember that the “hallway” is a lot bigger, and though we can’t rid our lives of evil or hurt, we can continue knowing our hearts.

At the end of the day, I have dignity, and that’s much better than a loud word.

However, the next time this happens at dinner, I might be a little less quick to preach and a little more ready to hear the hurt.

Love,

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Lou (who is learning more about her heart with each and every trying moment)

 

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Love Yourself, Love Lou

Here I am, almost one month later, finally writing again. Folks, it’s been an amazing time.

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October rang in as one of my new favorite months. Fall seems to be lasting forever and not only did I get to go “home” with my family to New Mexico, I got to return home with them and continue to live my amazing, blessed life with my husband and community.

And I’m more ready than ever to answer #5 in my 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself series.

5. Do I love myself exactly as I am right now?

The short answer is YES. The long answer is why, how, and the road to getting here. But it’s not toooo long, I promise.

First, I thought upon answering this question: Wow, I really have come along way when it comes to the idea of love. On my first date, when I entered back into “the dating world” after my divorce, I pretty much told the guy, “Don’t ever say you love me. That word means nothing. I’m not looking for love. So, let’s just agree to never go there. Okay great. Thanks for the awesome time tonight!”

When I met my husband, he and I had a somewhat similar and bleak outlook on the word and idea, too. Together, believing we didn’t have to worry about loving each other because it didn’t exist, we formed what I would call the greatest friendship of my life…. later to realize that our love had nothing to do with rose-colored-glasses or honeymoon-phases or falling-deeply-in-love-with-my-soulmate-at-first-sight.

That was the kind of superficial “love” we were both wary of. And we were nowhere near “dating” or thinking we’d end up together when Israel told me he realized he loved me. He loved me in a way that I could and already did reciprocate… a love of truly knowing the worst in someone, the scars inside of them, and not even knowing if there’s hope for the future. Broken, honest love, and a love that took time to grow.

Eventually my heart grew (kind of like the Grinch) and wrapped around not only my husband, but his three kids as well. And to this day, I don’t think the words “I love you” mean very much without some major actions to back it up.

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I once said, “I’d rather NEVER hear those words again, as long as someone showed me they loved me.” Now, I’m basking in the absolute unreal blessing of getting both, but my ideals remain.

Now, this DOES relate to feminism and the love I have for myself. Here’s how:

It took seeing myself in the worst way possible, opening up to myself and being honest with who I was, accepting that there was darkness in my heart, and realizing that I might never experience an illusion of a “honeymoon phase” ever again…… IN ORDER FOR ME TO LOVE MYSELF. 

In order to survive, I had to remember that God loves me, too. I had to remember that if I don’t love myself as I am right now, then I won’t ever love myself. Because I’ll never be any closer to perfect. How can I expect others to respect me or LOVE me if I don’t first have that for myself? The only “person” we can expect to love us otherwise is God.

Now, does this mean that I look in the mirror every morning and take a real good look and say, “I love you, self.” No way.

It means that I do my best to treat myself well. I expect myself to be better and better. I don’t let myself off the hook and blame downfalls on others. I treat others the way I want to be treated and I forgive myself when I fall short. I respect my body and try to see value in all human life.

I could say the exact same thing about the way I try to love my husband, or the way he loves me. We make each other better by being honest, urging one another further in life and love as we challenge, listen, respect and okay, occasionally get angry with one another. I know that when he takes time to wash my car, or makes my favorite breakfast before I get out of bed, or plays with the kids outside, or absentmindedly holds my hand, or drives off early in the  morning to get to work… that he might as well be SHOUTING: I LOVE YOU!!!!

And so, this love for myself grew when I was by myself, but it truly matured and grew in a much richer environment once I was committed to someone in life and learned from him. Because wow, does my husband know how to love.

I read once about those couples who, rather than trying to “get back at each other” all the time, “tried to outdo each other in kindness” all the time. I tell ya, that is hard, too. I feel I am constantly falling short. If I were to compare on a chart the list of things Israel has done for me and the things I have done for him… let’s just say, he’s winning. But luckily, another way I see love given to me is that the comparison list is out the window. And the things I do try to do are appreciated and I know I can always get better ;)

So there you have it. I hope that no matter where life has taken you up to this point, that you can truly say you love yourself. Remember, this isn’t the unrealistic love that the world has taught us. It’s a real love full of scraps and bruises and the kind that doesn’t give up. It’s the kind that perhaps makes your heart slow down rather than speed up.

Oh, AND SPEAKING OF LOVE. Have I mentioned I love the desert? I finally had the opportunity to travel there with my family… and I’m pretty sure they love it, too. It was fun to see my home state through the eyes of a child.

We all love: Traveling on an airplane (for the first time!) You can really see the joy in all our faces here. But hey, this was just the shuttle. albq3

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We all love being on top of a giant mountain. albq1

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We all love balloons.

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AND MOST OF ALL….. our family kind of digs sunsets. You could say we love them.

Love,

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Lou (who is really good at loving imperfectly)

(and traveling with three kids, turns out)