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Accepting What Is

“When people show/tell you who they are, always believe them the first time.”  – Maya Angelou

I heard that today on a tivo’d Oprah about women whose husbands were living a secret life. I rewound and listened to it several times, it’s really is a simple truth and yet so hard to follow.

I think in our relationships we often project onto others what we wish they were, only see what we want to or create these expectations of them. Not all expectations are bad. Some of these are needs we have of them and these needs might be legitimate. However, we have to see and accept people for who they are, the truth, not what we need them to be, no matter how noble or right it is.

Yet, what if they lie, cheat, deceit, disappoint, manipulate and hurt? You have to accept that too? Maya Angelou’s point is if they lie they are a liar, if they cheat they are a cheater, etc. If they are doing those things then that is what they are. My dad says that “people do what is in their heart to do.” Our hearts are good and bad.

I believe that. We all have defects in our character, we all fall prey to our own shadow sides. Yet, we all have good points that drive us to do the right thing. Yet whenever the shadow side takes over the main point of difference between the two is remorse and a desire to change. I think.

If they are not sorry, not wanting true change and are not taking accountability for what they did or are doing then that is who they are. We don’t have to like it. We do have to accept the reality of the situation and not continue to project our fantasy of the situation or person.

The fantasy might be warmer and fuzzier but its not the truth. We also have to admit to ourselves what we are getting from them or the situation. With the women on Oprah it was an opulent lifestyle, children or the illusion of a perfect marriage. They overlooked key signs because they didn’t want to see the truth. We have to be brutally honest with ourselves first, and then make our decisions accordingly.

The truth of who we are is realized when we realize the truth. Who are we? Do we take responsibility for our actions? Do we play the victim? Do we stay unwilling to address the truth?

We have to take ownership of our own situation. When discover that someone isn’t healthy, isn’t honest, isn’t trustworthy, it is up to us to draw appropriate boundaries around them.

I’m here to say that is hard to do because of our expectations of the relationship. As you probably guessed I am in the middle of learning this lesson. I am trying to wrap my brain around the reality of who someone is. I was under the notion of one idea and it is proving not to be true.

I’ve stayed hoping things would be different. I stay projecting my expectations. I stay lying in the middle of the road wondering why I keep getting run over. I know they care about me, but they are incapable/unwilling to change the behavior I find so hurtful.

When I boil it down to these terms it somehow removes the emotion in a way that helps me see truth and make decisions. It moves me from victim to a place of power because I am not waiting for them to change unnecessarily. I am not giving them an ultimatum to change. Instead I am giving them the freedom to be themselves and then making my own conclusions and decisions.

This sucks. I wish it could be different. But I have to make the decision to be healthy. It is so much easier to stay in the familiar dysfunction tethered in co-dependency. Healthy change takes courage and consistency.

Desires of the Heart

A conversation I had with my Uncle Sean a few weeks ago has been stuck in my head. We were talking about dreams, goals and prayer which lead to a discussion of God’s will and what that really means.

I know that God’s will isn’t a yellow brick road that you magically find, skip along and end up meeting the wizard. I believe that God’s will is found in the small, seemingly inconsequential decisions that reveal our true character and faith. This is where the daily struggle is found. This is why we can’t wait til the big decision to invite God into the equation, by then it’s too late.

With this definition of God’s will, the verse “God will give us the desires of our heart” has a whole new meaning. We read the whole verse to see that our dreams come true when we delight in him.

But Uncle Sean took it a step further when he said we place the emphasis on the wrong part of that verse. God will GIVE US the desires of our heart. It doesn’t mean we create those dreams it means that he gives the dreams to us when we delight in him. It isn’t about us at all. They aren’t technically our dreams, they are his that he places in our heart when we’re in tune with him.

Ewwww! That throws a monkey wrench into my prayers. See I have been pestering God for months about where I should live. What should I do with my life. Will I ever get married? Are kids in my future at all? He cares about these things because he cares about me, but that isn’t the point.

My life thus far has been consumed with the wrong things. In part, my restlessness has been because I was praying for the wrong things. My old pastor always said that God cares about our character not our career.

Today, during the sermon, our pastor was talking about how God doesn’t play second fiddle  to our flesh (desires, ambitions, and sins). Ouch! God’s will for us isn’t about careers, job, marriage but who he is shaping us to be. The story he is telling through our lives is about emptying us of our junk, maturing us, and building relationships as He uses us to help others on their journey.

So, I am smack in the middle of God’s will when I’m uncomfortable, stretched and beyond myself. A.k.a living in Ohio, navigating the wake of my parent’s divorce and struggling to finally put my childhood to rest. Yea fun. But necessary. This isn’t just a detour, but is a major part of what God is doing in me. I need to face these things. I need to grow in ways that only these situations will allow. God fully intended for me to traverse this path to get where he wants to take me.

So its not about rules, self-righteousness, playing church, appearances, approval from others,  or any host of other things that fall outside of the realm of what God is trying to do in and through us.  But God can’t take us to where he wants us to go unless we submit everything to him. That’s the kicker. Stay with me.

We have to surrender our dreams, goals, and ambitions. It is part of the refining process he wants to do in our lives. He needs to mature us. God wants us to be whole. He doesn’t want us to be stuck in the past with our hurts, destructive patterns, fears, and wrong ideas. The sermon today was about God’s maturing process. How he moves us forward. The fruits of the spirit are evidence of a mature heart. They aren’t something we are given at salvation. They are something we are continually working on as we grow in Christ, grow in love, grow in maturity.

So rather than pray about where to live, what job to take in order to get where God wants me to go I need to pray about what I need to learn, where I can grow and what he’s trying to show me. Through these things my course in life will be revealed. That almost sounded like a fortune.

But it gives new focus to my prayers. It also returns my focus to my relationship with God instead of trying to make him a genie. I think that is what God cares about more than how much I miss California. He misses me. What a concept. God loves me so much he wants to spend time with me. He longs for me. He desires my attention. God wants me. Sitting with that notion is humbling, comforting, and peaceful.

Yet I know God is willing to let the tough times come. He will put me in the wilderness. He will lead me through the fire. He will do what it takes to help me put my flesh to death so that more and more of Christ shines through me. We have to die to ourselves. We have to live in the freedom of our salvation. But that doesn’t mean we get what we think we want. It means we’re willing to let all of that go and embrace the journey God has us on that includes the wilderness, the dry times, the times when he seems silent. There is a point to all of it, it really isn’t about torturing us. It’s about us pursing him and those things that are important to him.

Lots to digest. It feels like I’ve heard these things all my life yet separately not together. They were disjointed thoughts that have been crystallizing over the past few weeks (years apparently here was a message I heard nearly two years ago about this same thing, kind of). Maybe he’s tired of my prayers. Or maybe this is my answer to those prayers. Not sure. Haven’t gotten that far.

But at the end of the day I’ve learned its more important than ever to live in the moment. Be grateful for what is and not wish it away. I need to suck the joy and pain out of every circumstance because there is a point to it that makes me more of who God wants me to be. I am becoming. I am in process. I am in progress.

This doesn’t mean I stop dreaming or setting goals it just means that as I get closer to God my dreams might change or they’ll become clearer and doors for them to come true will open. Because our pastor also reminded us that it is as we growth that God can open new options. As we mature we can move beyond the childish things that used to occupy our time, namely ourselves.

See God’s Word and psychology do line up. Emotional maturity is characterized by the ability to be other-centered and belief in something bigger than ourselves. All truth is God’s truth regardless of where it comes from because he is the author of it. But that is another post 🙂

Ok this is a lot to process. These are the things rambling around in my brain. Welcome to the chaos and insanity.

Refusing to hold his tail up and other signs of growth

My poor mom has been housebound for two weeks. She is on zero-weight bearing from her foot surgery and with our lovely icy weather its just safer to stay indoors. Yesterday she devoted the afternoon to watching “The Dog Whisperer.” The story that stood out was about the runt of the liter that had no self-esteem.

The dog was very skittish, timid and fearful of people and most situations. Caesar came and said the way to make it feel better was to hold its tail up. It is a signal to the dog to be proud, be confident and to own its territory. This is why in dog shows they will hold the tail up while they are being judged. With this simple act they assume a difference stance and exude self-esteem. It’s amazing what we as human use to build our self-esteem. For some its job, cars, money, relationships or we seek constant reassurance and acts from others.

I’ve been having serious doubt about the guy I’ve been talking to lately. I knew immediately that he wasn’t ready for a relationship. There are lots of ex-wife issues, kid problems and job stuff abounding. He has a lot going on in his life. He doesn’t have the time or space for anything beyond friends. He doubts himself, what he has to offer and what he wants out of life right now. I recognized it and I made peace with it. In the past I would have chased after him, hung in there until the bitter end and convinced myself it was going to be different in the end. I thought we could just be friends, I really hoped for that. Everyone needs a friend.

But after a huge discussion today we decided to part ways. I realized that I was still reassuring him a lot. I got tired of explaining what I meant cause he took everything the wrong way. In essence I got tired of holding his tail up. I realized that even as his friend it was unhealthy for me. While I had completely detached from the notion of any sort of relationship he really isn’t even ready to be friends, which is ok. His reality is just really different from mine. No big deal.

So its over. No hard feelings. No lingering phone calls. No more text messages. It’s just done and I’m relieved.

Then last night as I was pondering the day I realized how huge that was for me. I wasn’t considering it my duty to fix him or make him a project. I simply decided to give him the room he needs to deal with his stuff without me. It’s ok to say no, I can’t help you. While hard to do it saves a lot of heartache.

Then I realized I used to be just like him. I was so insecure. When in a relationships I needed constant validation that everything was ok. I was so afraid of rocking the boat that the boat never went anywhere. God really has been working in my life and I didn’t even notice until just now. How about that. I am no longer the insecure girl that hides behind sarcasm to keep people at arms distance. Wow! That is amazing. I know what I have to offer in a relationship. I don’t have to constantly feel like the lucky one and that they putting up with me and I need to be eternally grateful for their presence bestowed upon me.

WHI-HOO! That is growth sister.

Single Dating

Any discussion about singles must include dating. I’m going to avoid the typical conversation including such things as kissing dating goodbye, the purity line and other boundaries that are important to talk about but not today.

Instead let’s talk about dating as an activity. What we go through to obtain a date, enjoy a date and endure while dating. This reveals that by in large we are an optomistic people. In our 30s I say we lose the naivete that says every date could be the one but gosh darn it we keep throwing ourselves out there. We want to believe that we will find love. So we endure a lot – the good, the bad and the ridiculous.

Let’s face it, dating is absurd. You are spending quality time with a virtual stranger. This is time you could be spending with friends, cleaning, or organizing your sock drawer. Yet again and again we do it over and over. Not always for the right motives. Not always thinking its going to last forever.

Erika and I used to give alternative names to the guys I was going out with. We knew they weren’t going to last beyond a few dates so what’s the point of learning their real names. We had boat boy (cause he had a boat), elevator boy (we met in an elevator) and GH (for reasons that shall go untold). Sometimes the things that happen on dates are too ridiculous to be believed and you have to laugh, other dating occurrences are just painful and you have to keep them to yourself. Bottom line dating is mostly about the stories you get to tell your friends afterwards.

I once went on a date with someone I knew from work. He was 45 minutes late and his first comment was, “I hope you’re not hungry cause I stopped at the drive-thru on my way over.” He stopped to eat, what the heck, he asked me out. I’d hung out with this guy before and had no idea why he turned into a creep. We ended up at Dave and Busters, he got so engrossed in the video games he had no idea I was there. I actually left him while he was playing. I got tired of trying to talk to him. We were chilly to each other at work after that. He told his friends I was the one who changed.

All dates aren’t bad. I had a fabulous one in Phoenix, AZ. I met a guy at a trade show and we flew to AZ to hang out for the day. It was the best date I’ve ever had. We rode bikes, talked for hours, visited an old western town and ate Chinese food. I felt like I was finally getting to date like in the movies. All we needed was to set our day to music and it would have been a montage.

One avenue that has proved to be quite interesting and requiring its own set of rules is online dating. I am going to publicly confess that I have done it. I have experimented with e-harmony and match.com. Now I have to say e-harmony lured me in by the free personality profile. I am a sucker for self awareness. Few like to admit that they have partaken in this activity. For some reason there is still an faint smell of loserness associated with online dating. It doesn’t matter that most everyone does. It doesn’t matter than Neil Clark Warren is trying to base it on science and compatibility. It doesn’t even really matter that some people meet their future spouses there.

Online dating is a crap shoot. You may shun gambling in Vegas but every time you go online to find a date you are rolling the dice. Online you are often seeing one dimension of the person, the image they want to project. We’re talking higher deception that the typical honeymoon of dating usually allows for. I mean it’s normal to put your best foot and face forward in the beginning of a relationship, but online we can become the person we always wanted to be. This is our philosophical self instead of our real self.

I met someone from eharmony who told me that he was 24 (I was 26 at the time), a grad student at Cal State Northridge and lived with roommates. In reality he was 19, just started college and lived with his mommy.

UGH! As we get older it is harder and harder to meet people, so online dating is tempting. I have another friend that views it as a database of men. She fills out her criteria and presto chango someone who could be her soul mate pops up for the taking. So there you go.

Dating, it’s an animal. Sometimes I wonder if we should go back to arranged marriages, then we could at least blame our parents if it doesn’t work out. Why do we torture ourselves like this?

For the off chance it’s going to be amazing. You know those times. When you meet someone and time flies. They like the same things we like, want the same things we do, are capable of a great conversation, have a good sense of humor, and on top of that there is chemistry, which means they might like you back. LOL that’s the killer. That is the miracle of dating that makes us keep trying.

Predictors of Marital Success and Failure

A large portion of my class today was spent on techniques for marital therapy. We got sidetracked in a discussion about predictors of marital success and failure. Seems most things you think will save your marriage won’t and things you think will sink your marriage aren’t a predictor at all. Go figure.

This is all based on the research of John Gottman, one of the leading marriage researchers in the world. Visit his site and take the relationship quiz, to see how well you’re doing.

Anyway, onto the supposed predictors:

Marital Success Predictors

1. Resolving Problems – does not predict anything, couples who fail in marriage never resolve 69% of problems. Couples who succeed in their marriage never resolve 69% of problems.

2. Avoiding Conflict – does not predict success, in fact its a predictor of failure.

3. Giving value to one another’s advice – HIGH PREDICTOR, especially from the man. Women respond especially high to this as an important component to the success of the relationship.

4. Equality in Marriage- HIGH PREDICTOR in our culture.

5. Having enough money – does not predict success, even poor people can have a happy relationship

6. Making the relationship a priority – HIGH PREDICTOR – DUH!

7. Having good friends as a couple – does not predict. So you don’t have to have couple dates. Those can be as awful as dating in the first place.

8. Good sex life – does not predict – sorry guys, even people who have great sex still get divorced.

9. Being good friends with each other – HIGH PREDICTOR – funny you have to actually like your spouse for the marriage to work

10. Having children – does not predict, so having a child does not save your marriage, don’t try it.

11. Being in love – does not predict, love is only the beginning and should be a verb not a feeling. Love is a decision you have to make everyday. A good marriage is based on commitment.

12. Being able to disagree – HIGH PREDICTOR – means both people are present and involved, conflict builds intimacy. Go with it, work it out, it will make you feel closer and that you are building something together. Be worried if you don’t have any conflict or disagreements.

Supposed Marital Unhappiness/Failure Predictors

1. Arguing – does not predict failure, everyone can be The Bickersons on occasion.

2. Criticizing – HIGH PREDICTOR of failure, especially for men, they are especially sensitive and need to feel supported.

3. Ignoring Problems – HIGH PREDICTOR – sounds right, you cannot be passive about your marriage. It is something you have to fight for everyday!

4. Sacrificing Yourself for your partner! – HIGH PREDICTOR – you need to maintain a healthy sense of self and make sure you stay differentiated. If you’re catering to them you are probably getting boring and predictable. This is not to be confused with compromise – totally different.

5. Harshness on the part of the wife – see #2 – men are more sensitive than we thought

6. Contemptuousness  – HIGH PREDICTOR, this is the final step in the breakdown of communication.

7. Differences in Sexual Desire – does not predict, again, sorry guys, this is empirical scientific research

8. Lack of talking (introvert) – does not predict, not the same as lack of communication.

9 Depression in one or both partners – HIGH PREDICTOR, get help! Everything is shutting down for one partner, the relationship cannot grow in this state.

10. Physical exhaustion – does not predict – take a nap, stop being so damn grouchy

11. Job Stress – does not predict – be supportive

12. One person makes all the decision – HIGH PREDICTOR – it takes two to make a good marriage, see #4.

13. Passage of time – does not predict. Just because you have been together for a while, it doesn’t mean you’re connecting or immune to problems and/or divorce.

14. Emotional or verbal withdrawal (stonewalling, shut down) – HIGH PREDICTOR. Men are the ones most culpable of this. They get emotionally flooded and can’t take it and since women can do the laundry, balance the checkbook and tell their spouse why they suck we stay connected a lot of the time. It’s a gift 🙂

Very interesting.