I didn’t set out to revamp Happily Ticked Off as a blog about trusting God, trusting signs, and asking the right questions. But as I say in almost every post, life began for me this very week when I started asking a profound but simple question:
Instead of asking, “Why is this happening to me?” I began to start asking “What is this trying to teach me?”
In asking this question my very self started to unravel. Because in seeing the truth behind the crazy events of the past 60 days I saw that God wasn’t sending me heartache and change to make me uncomfortable. He was making me uncomfortable to shake me awake. And here’s what I realized:
- I am controlling
- I play the victim so I don’t have to have accountability
- Deep down — despite all my outside achievements — I don’t feel worthy in my own life
I hate to put all this on record for everyone to see. After all, on the outside I’m a six foot, fairly attractive fifty year old.
I’ve got a good job, I write on the side, I have a nice husband and two kids that, so far, have not over-sexed, over-drugged or stolen beer from our local A.M./P.M..
But the truth is, I have parented, friended, daughter-ed and wife-d from a place of brokenness. I have not trusted God, as much as I say I do, that who I am — as Andrea — is enough.
In not trusting God, I’ve attempted to manage people, places and things around me (outside issues) to fill the hole on the inside (inside issues.)
I thought that in giving up alcohol five years ago I had surrendered my will power, and while I had let go of much of my control, I hadn’t given up all of it. How do I know? Because the people around me are miserable. This morning was no exception.
My Wake Up Call
I woke up late today. I was able to meditate with my husband and do a quick spiritual reading with him, but I was rushing to get my morning pages done. And yes, I did do them, but the whole time I had an agenda going. “How will I get the blog post in, school work done and get a few things cleaned up before the cleaning service comes over?”
#1: I realize how lucky I am to have a cleaning crew come twice a month. It’s a luxury I have only recently been able to enjoy. The problem, of course, is not that my house was such a mess before. (It was.) The problem was that I was not trusting God that I could get my blog done (my purpose) and let the cleaning crew deal with the little tidbits I’d rather them not see. (The overflowing trash/the excess Halloween decorations/the fur on the couch which can only point to the furry member of the family who is really in charge round these parts.)
Exhibit #1’s theme? Fear of judgement (What does this point to? “I’m Not Enough”)
I rushed through my shower, threw the dishes in the dishwasher and made my way to the garage to start a load of laundry. In my head I was thinking, “Why aren’t the kids doing these dishes?”… “Why didn’t I print the household contract and stick it on the fridge like I said I would?”… “God, I’m setting the worst example!”
Looking out the kitchen window didn’t help my mood. “Could there be more dog crap in the yard?”
Exhibit #2 — Negative thinking, Overthinking & Too Hard on Myself (What does this point to? “I’m Not Enough.”)
On the way back from the garage I looked through the window and noticed my sweet older daughter was still in bed. She is supposed to be up daily at 8.
The conversation basically went like this:
External Me: “Hey, you’re not awake!”
Internal/Sane Me: “Walk away, Andrea. You’re cranky. This won’t go well.”
External/Insane Me: “I guess that means no electronics for 3 days.”
Her: (Groggy) “What do you mean? I’m awake! I’m just checking my texts like you asked me to.”
Internal/Sane Me: “She’s really trying. It’s been a hard season. Love over judgment is always best.”
External/Insane Me: “You’re pissing your life away!”
Her: “Wow. Ouch. That hurts, Mom.”
Internal/Sane Me: “She’s right. That kind of really sucked. Why would you say that?”
External/Sane Me: “Save it for your therapist.”
Then I walked away. Furious.
Exhibit #3: I’m unhappy with my own progress so instead of coming to my child with love, I come with anger, insinuating that she is not enough. (Where does this come from? Oh, right… “I’M NOT ENOUGH.”)
I felt like crap for obvious reasons and went to talk to her 30 minutes later. Her head was low. She hadn’t moved from bed. After a few back and forths, she basically told me, “Mom, sometimes my self-esteem is low because I can’t do anything right. I feel like you’re going to get mad. And it just doesn’t feel good.”
Oh, God. That felt like a knife in my heart. This precious child is someone I adore more than life itself. We used to be so close. But based on some things going on in her life, we just aren’t right now. And while I don’t take 100% responsibility for her emotions (I’m not that powerful) I knew, in my gut, I had done some damage. And, well, that didn’t feel good.
I asked for a hug on the way out. Her response? “No.” And who can blame her?
I went upstairs and did what I’ve done every day this week. I called my sponsor, and thank God I did, because what she said forever changed the trajectory of my thinking.
Violet: “Instead of seeing this as a moment of despair, Andrea, why don’t you use it as an opportunity to forgive yourself?” she asked.
“I don’t know if I can,” I said. By now I was really freaking out, because in addition to cleaners coming by in 20 minutes I had to teach class. (Negative Thinking Self: “You fucked up your kids. Why bother anymore?”)
Exhibit #4 — Regret and remorse instead of self-forgiveness (What does this point to? “I’m not worthy.”)
My sponsor gently reminded me that I’m asking the wrong questions. “Who is in charge?” she said.
Me: (half-heartedly) “God.”
Her: “Is it possible that God is using this opportunity for you to finally wake up and see that you are parenting through a lense of fear and control instead of love?”
Me: (Big sigh) “Yes.”
Her: “And does God make mistakes?”
Her: “Then you get to start over. You get to remember, once more, that you are worthy. That you get to love yourself for being human.”
Me: “What if my daughter doesn’t forgive me?” I asked.
Her: “Whether she forgives you or not is none of your business. She has her own God, and you aren’t it.”
She went on to say, “The issue is not that your child sleeps in. The issue is that you are ‘Outcome based’ and when it doesn’t go your way, you get angry. What if you didn’t approach either of your kids unless you were free of expectations and could approach them with love?”
“But what about consequences?” I balked.
“Consequences are fine if they are done from a place of love. Unfortunately, your child sees you giving them from a place of anger and shame. And that never feels good. And it’s not allowing God to operate when you’re in control.”
Who We Are, Not What We Do, Is God’s Agenda. Do You Believe That?
That last statement hit me like a ton of bricks. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I had been playing God in both my children’s lives — but not the loving God of my understanding today. I was playing out some BC Old Testament God who was quick to anger and smiting.
Yes, I did a lot of wonderful things for them when they were growing up, but I also felt extremely guilty for things I couldn’t provide for them. In the end, they didn’t need the stuff.
What my kids wanted growing up… what they still need as teens… is for me to show up as an example of a balanced, loving woman who knows who she is in God’s eyes. That is it.
I thanked my sponsor, got off the phone, and headed downstairs. In the three minutes I had before class I found my daughter and read her a text I’d written her. It basically went like this:
Hey, Mickey. I want you to know that I’m sorry for this morning. I was mad at myself and I took it out on you. And while I’ve made mistakes over and over in my past, I am realizing now that this came from a place of unworthiness on my part. I don’t expect you to forgive me — and I’ll likely still make mistakes- but the mom I want to be is loving, kind and understanding. I know you’re going through a lot, and I want to be a safe place for you. I love you.
She looked me, and- although I was willing to surrender the outcome to God no matter what her response was — she said, “Mom, I love you. You are very special to me. I don’t always love what you do, but I love you. So much.”
And then she hugged me.
And inside, despite feeling like once again I crapped on the person I love most in the world, I felt a feeling of hope.
My soul acknowledged, for the first time, that I didn’t have to earn God’s love. Just being me was enough.
From that place of love, I will start a new journey with my beautiful daughter — one with less criticism and expectation.
And so, friends, I leave you with the two questions I will be asking myself as I continue down this parenting road and don’t know how to respond to a situation:
- Am I angry and controlling? (That’s self-will… I will walk away)
- Am I coming from a place of love and compassion? (That’s God’s will… I will stay and connect.)
I am going to finish up this post by saying that sometimes life is super brutal. But if we’re willing to ask the right questions, we can transform everything and begin to shift. For me, today, I am grateful that God added some spiritual dynamite to my soul.
I was blasted with the truth — truth that I don’t always believe — that I am worthy.
I love my kids more than life.
God loves me more than life.
And when I remember how very worthy I am — since God made me — I can drop any unrealistic expectations I have for my kids and parent them from a place of love, joy and radical compassion.
You, too, my friends, are so very worthy.
I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor. Come back Monday — Friday where I’ll post about spirituality, writing and sobriety. And sometimes tacos. Because Tacos make everything better. Always.
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