Saturday, October 24, 2020

Looking at My Defense Mechanisms

 I was talking to my students and I asked them if school was hard.  A good portion of them told me no.  They understood that if they show up every day, they do the work, they ask questions and be attentive, then, they would be able to pass all of their classes.  I asked, "But do you do this?"  I mean, why don't they come to school every day and listen and do the work and ask questions and pass their classes?  Clearly it's not that easy.  I don't know what they are thinking about to stop them from doing what they need to do.  So... we started talking about self-awareness and the lies that we tell ourselves.  I learned a lot.  Some students are understanding that they have coping skills that they have developed in order to survive.  They revert to these coping skills out of fear or anger in order to cope with the stressful situation that is Covid Education.  I get it.  So in looking at their defense mechanisms, I found some of my own.

Before I even begin, I understand that I write as a form of therapy that is healthy and I like it.  This is the primary reason I think I started this blog.  I also think that writing has helped other people understand or at least think about some of the issues that I have faced with.  That being said, in my humble experience, God and my belief in Him has helped heal me more than any other form of therapy out there.  He continues to heal me each day and I pray to have the ability to be healed more. 

I find that I rationalize.  I come up with a story to explain something away so that I can have control.  The story that I make up isn't even slanted positively!!!  I'm scared of the pain of disappointment.  So, I tell myself that I am the problem and work harder to try and fix myself.  I have to remind myself that I am in a broken world and it isn't even about me.  We are all broken people.  Making myself the problem means that I am unnecessarily harder on myself and I tend to overdo things as a way to prove to myself that I can be better.  I am who I am.  I do what I do.  God is in control.  I need to pray more when I don't have the answers and trust that God does have the answers and He cares about me.  If I'm upset about any probable outcome, then I should deal with being upset. 

I intellectualize and then repress.  This is rationalization that deals with something else that you can fix and them pushing those emotions down deep.  These coping strategies are helpful sometimes but you know and I know that they can sabotage you and lead you down very dark paths.  Jesus is the light of the world.  He can keep you healthy.  Maybe He is the only coping strategy I will ever need.  I feel that sometimes our minds are like that one closet that we need to clean out and get rid of stuff.  Sometimes, we put fresh fish in there and think that it will not rot and infect everything else in the closet.  Some things just need to be dealt with.  

I am scared.  I have been scared about everything and I didn't know it.  Well, I had an idea but I didn't understand the extent of this fear.  I have had a lot of trauma and have developed some pretty sophisticated defense mechanisms.  I think you would say that I am allowed a certain amount of grace in dealing with grief and life as a single mom.  I wouldn't allow myself that grace. And now?  Now I need to start cleaning out my closet so that I can go on.  I want change and change will happen but I have to deal with some of the fish that I have put in my closet.  I will read my Guide (The Bible) and talk to my Counselor (God).  And I will wait and trust in God.  Praise the Lord.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Being Healthy

 I haven't been writing as much.  I still have all of my thoughts brimming in my head.  There have been prayers as  I work through some of the psychological, emotional and/or spiritual stuff I have left on the back burner of my psyche.  There is this idea that anybody can do any job.  Well... this is the subconscious idea that I have left hanging out in my mind.  "I can do it."  I tell myself.  It is hard but with Christ, I can do anything.  I have no doubt whatsoever that with Christ I can do anything.  The question is should, should I do anything or should I do everything.  The verse is not, "With Christ I can do everything."  Uh... Not exactly true is it?  Or the everything that I do end up doing is not enough because I am attempting to do it all and make it look easy.  Reese Witherspoon's epic line as Elle Woods (not Miller) is: "What?  Like it's hard?"  Keep in mind I'm paraphrasing.  How am I showing that I am a hot mess in need of Jesus if I take it on myself to do it all?  Am I trying to reflect my good God?  Am I using God to boost my own ego?  Is that even a thing?

I assume I should know what I should do.  I wake up.  Get dressed.  Drive to work.  I teach.  I do my other duties.  I come home and I'm a mom.  I'm a student.  I'm not doing any of it superbly.  Would it be so wrong if I were one of those people who do a good job at some things but need time to do it?  I am not a multi-tasker and I admire people like that.  I have been asking myself, "Elle, what are you good at?"  It has taken a little bit but one thing I am good at is teaching small groups of people.  Another thing I am good at is talking to students (all kinds of students) and getting them to believe that they can pass a course, a semester, a year, a degree.  I find that I like talking to people about what really matters.  I used to think that I was a detail oriented person.  I am but I like to take what I understand about the details to make up a bigger picture.  I like to think in theoreticals.  I like to learn.  See how the language has changed.  What I do well to what I like to do?  I ask students all of the time what they like to do and they can't answer.  I was finding that was not able to answer either.  I have changed.  Who I was, I am no longer.  

I continue to change and I would guess you are changing too.  My prayer is to be moldable.  My prayer is to be of use.  My prayer is to have action as well as patience.  There is more change coming.  I am trying not to be fearful of the changes.  I tend to be fearful but act like I'm not and this is something that I must confront.  Just acknowledging this about me opens up the floodgates of self-awareness.  Isn't there even a term for it?   Reaction formation?  Maybe.  God is great for my mental health.  He takes all that is wrong and makes it right.  Praise the Lord.

Oh!!!  So do you want an update?  I'm praising God.  I'm raising my children.  I'm working and I'm still in school.  If my face or name cross your thoughts, say a little prayer for me.  May God's will be done.  Praise the Lord.

Friday, October 16, 2020


 I am a believer of signs.  I keep on thinking how Jesus said that the only sign to be had would be the sign of Jonah.  But there are reminders of what is to come and that God is with us.  It feels like I live my life with a foot in reality and a foot in some unseen magic kingdom.  Yes, you can think I'm crazy but then I think about Don Quijote who chose to live in his better dreamland than in his reality.  My husband would say that I have a touch of the poet.  This meant that there is something inside of me that flirts with art, the creative process and madness.  I believe I am too firmly rooted in reality to fall prey to insanity but there are days when I stand and feel something more in the place between what I think and what I feel.  On these days, I remember the song, "Rainbow Connection."  I am not the only one, there are the lovers, the dreamers and me.  I am among those.  Maybe this is why my fingers itch to write.  It is a blessing and a curse.

I stand still.  I can feel things changing.  It is so obvious that you should be able to feel it too.  There is a heaviness to this work that I do.  I am changing.  I feel that I have lost my luster and it shows.  It is not gone.  It's just missing.  In a moment, I will start to run around and do what needs to be done.  But I find myself looking for signs.  I find myself listening for the voice of God.  I whisper to Him that I am listening. 

You should know something else.  There is a smell that has been following me.  It is a smoky smell.  It is almost like toast, this scent that seems to follow me.  I understand that I am changing and I am releasing pheromones and different odors from this aging body but it appears to be on me.  It's not unpleasant but I am reminded of burning.  I think of the imagery of burning in the Bible.  God refines gold in the fire.  Maybe these hard times are for me a refining.  I think about how three men were in the fire but the king saw four.  Maybe it means that God is with me.  There was a cloud during the day and fire at night when the Israelites were led out of the desert.    

The other day I was watching a show that was discussing missing political signs and in return, they mentioned some signs that I have had in the past.  I find dimes.  This is a bigger story but yesterday, I found two, one after the other.  I parked and when I opened the door there was a dime on the floor.  I walked to the sidewalk and there was another one.  Yes, it is hard not to believe in signs.  I want to believe that the message is that God is with me, don't be scared.  I think this is true whether there are never any signs so it is a safe bet that it is true. I don't know. All I know is that things are changing and I am waiting and listening for what will be to come.

There are moments that I am fearful of this change.  There are moments that I remember that God is in control and that He has a plan..  So, other than listening and watching and waiting... I am praying.  I am praying that God stays with me and puts my feet on the wrong path.  I pray that I am smart enough to listen.  I'm not always that smart.  In any case, Praise the Lord.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Remembering Nellie

The news came suddenly.  I was in class.  I was teaching class and it felt like someone came and slapped me in the face.  It felt so real that I made an exclamation like someone physically slapped me.  My students looked at me as I told them that one of my favorite cousins died.  

I keep on thinking about how to tell the story.  I guess the best way is to say that she was one of my mother's bridesmaids.  She was there at the very beginning.  I remember going to family gatherings for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Easter, among other things.  We would play games and remember stories.  Her children were in my wedding.  Her husband walked me down the aisle.  I saved my bouquet for her.  She threw my wedding shower in her house the same year just a few weeks after the towers fell.  She threw the baby shower for my first child.  Me and mine always had a place at her table. We were family.

She passed away.  Already I am missing her sweet spirit.  I pray for those who survive her, myself included.  I have a picture where she is hanging on to Santi.  I wonder if he is asking her to make her eggplant parmigiana just one last time for him.  She is reunited with the family that has gone on before us and we who are left upon this earth are left to feel their losses acutely.  

Later on in the day, I went to Esther and she let me cry it out in front of her like she usually does.  I went home and told my kids and I am so happy that they remember and I didn't need to retell anything.  They have a memory of her to hold on to.

Today is the day that she will be remembered.  Please send out love and prayers to my cousins who have lost their mom and Ricky who has lost his other half.  It may be rough today for them.  

Monday, October 5, 2020

Waiting, Passively

 Today, this morning, I found myself with too many words after spending so many days with not enough.  I have to wonder what it is about to day that is making me write when I have been so quiet for so long.  I have begged for words to help me process the myriad of emotions that I have been dealing with.  I find that I am tired today.   Words don't just come to me because I ask them to, they come when they need to and I guess I need to write about my life right about now.

I am a passive person. Some of you that know me dearly are thinking, "Definitely not passive, aggressive."  I am passive in that I have attempted to be aggressive in the past and it has bit me in the heiney so now, I try to let life happen.  There are days that I feel like life is happening at me.  I have tried for years to make decisions based on logic. I have looked at the evidence before me and have made rational conclusions.  However, in this season of my life, I find that I am reverting parts of myself to act and react with emotion.  I am deliberately attempting to choose happiness and I am leaning on God to be content in all of my circumstances.  It is much more difficult that you would think.  

You see... I want to complain. I want to lay in bed and sleep. I would like nothing more than to visit someone far away and be in a room with a stack of books and my glasses reading all day and drinking tea to break up the day.  I would love to bask in the sunlight and gaze out of a window to see vistas and scenes that I currently only dream about.  In my daydream, my children are in the next room, never far from me.  I can hear them playing.  In the evenings we all lay down together watching movies and eating popcorn until we naturally fall asleep.  

I'm awake now.  I am present where I am.  I have been standing as I dream.  I can feel my legs holding me up.  I look at the vibrant red of my short nails as I type.  There is a door a few feet away and the sun holds its promises to me just on the other side of the door.  As I check in with myself, there appears to be something that I am not dealing with. There are truths that I am hiding from myself.  I feel it. I may be scared.  What am I scared of?  I ask myself this like an adult would ask a child.  I have to remind myself to be gentle.  All of the answers to the questions start coming like pigeons with crumbs.  Instead of looking at each bird individually, I turn to the loaf of bread that is feeding them.  I am scared of pain.  I am scared of the pain of disappointment and loss. 

These thoughts have already caused me loss of peace. I recognize my heresy.  I am not trusting in God for my joy and I know that the joy of the Lord is my strength.   Instead, I am scared standing in a barren place.  I have been hearing news.  A friend has suffered a terrible miscarriage.  Another friend spent the weekend with a recovering addict.  They are not sure of her sobriety.  Someone else may be facing jail time.  A former student may be facing homelessness.  I am not enough.  God is enough.  God fills in the parts that are  left raw and insufficient.  I have forgotten and have wandered off like the proverbial sheep gone astray. If only the world were more literal.  I would be able to see the Shepherd coming.  I would lay there and know that He is on His way.  Instead, I am standing in a barren place scared like the sheep that I am.  I am waiting, passively.  Some how, peace has found me.  There is hope in knowing that my Savior is on His way.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

A Sense of Purpose

 Today in church, Andy preached on the importance of listening to the little voices that change our lives.  I'm paraphrasing a little.  Andy is Dr.  Andrew McClurg, one of our elders. He preached from II Kings about Naaman being healed and hearing about who to go to from a little girl.  And I would say that we need to consider our sphere of influence when we look at talking to people about Jesus or the people we model Jesus to.  

Yesterday, I was leaving the store after spending too much.  This man, looked at me and pointed at me.  I didn't recognize him at all.  He said, "I know you... from school."  Could it be that this man was one of my former students?  I looked at him closer.  Let's call him Richie.  I said his name and he looked shocked that I would remember.  He was one of my earlier babies. I did the math and he had to be in his late twenties, early thirties. Back then, he had a fuller face and he wasn't as tall.  I remember his fingers and his hands. They were best described as grubby.  He liked to work on things with his hands.  He lived with his grandmother who raised him.  He was prone to anger issues.  

There was an incident where a police officer had him in handcuffs after a display of aggressive behavior.  He was in the school and I was called in.  I remember asking the policeman to remove the cuffs.  This officer told me that he feared for my safety. I remember looking at Richie and telling this concerned man that my student would not hurt me.  I was left alone with this hurt boy and he listened to me as I talked him through exercises that would calm him.  He would come to me to work on some of those strategies.  I would tell him to stay in school.  I talked to him about a plan to finish school.  

Yesterday, he told me that he would be returning to prison. Janet was with me. I was like, "Oh no!"  He said, "I'm a grown man.  I made my choices but I should have listened to you.  I should have finished school."  I looked at this man and I could see the boy he once was.  I can't tell you the pain I felt.  It feels like I failed him.  I am reminded that I may make a difference in the lives of the children that I work with.  Their lives are in the balance and I am the one to love them with the love of Jesus.  I looked at him and I told him that I would pray for him.  I didn't know what else to say or do.  "I will pray for you, Richie."  These were the last words I said before Janet and I turned to find David. "Prison?" she asked.  I was on the verge of tears, "Pray for him."  I told her. 

I heard someone say, "God, break my heart for what breaks Yours."  I didn't pray this, but I feel it.  Tomorrow I will go into my job and look at my students just a little more differently.  I will look at my children differently.  These are the people that I work with within my sphere.  In turn, I will allow myself to be blessed by people.  Today, I held Beanie.  He's a 1 year old.  He leaned on me and then he laughed.  Have you ever had a happy beautiful toddler lean on you?  For a moment, you are his world.  Such a blessing!!!  Be blessed, Friends.  Be blessed and be a blessing. You won't find your sense of purpose looking in your own heart.  This is coming right from Dr. McClurg.  Thank you, Andy.  Praise the Lord!!!