Tag Archives: facing brokenness

No Wonder

So last week I was suspecting that there was a lie under my fear of not being heard. (Yes, I was a middle child! One of two in the middle of six.)

I didn’t have to look very hard. I knew I had an issue with ridicule. I had felt stupid, “dumb” because my older brother used to laugh at me and tease me, but I didn’t realize that part of it came from having permissive parents. My mother didn’t want to parent the way she was parented. And my Dad’s parents were very permissive to him. He was the proverbial favorite; it was his template. Insecurity ran in our veins. Good old family system’s stuff.

What God showed me was that I felt “not good enough” my whole life, because of my brother’s teasing, my parents not countering it, and not saying “no” enough to me. I’m told the other kids got “no” more, but I would talk them out of it. Just as my daughter did with me! Mom said I was like an only child, and she didn’t know anything about family systems. Yet that profile fits me best.

What I remember is that I had to get someone to listen and agree. My life and happiness depended on it. My mom almost never agreed (I thought) and that was probably good. Dad would always say yes, or “Go ask your mother.”

I always thought I became disillusioned with life at 12, but this trip through, it looked more like 8 or 9. That’s when I began praying for wisdom. I didn’t want to make the mistakes everyone else made, and I was very impressed with the story of King Solomon. It’s also when I was baptized.

I went to a large parochial elementary school and in the fifth grade a new girl came. She had social skills down pat in a healthy, un-self-conscious way, and I had none. Everyone loved her, especially the boys, and so did I. We were friends, but she was always my rival. Though she probably wasn’t conscious of it. She was just her.

I always competed with her. There were a few brainiacs in our class, and I didn’t even try to keep up with them, but her– yes. I made good grades, thought I was smart, but was terrified that everyone would find out I wasn’t.

In high-school we took an I.Q. test and I was deflated. I was smack in the center of average. Thank God, she got exactly the same score! I remember her saying, “Oh, Arla, let’s not tell anyone what we got,” and I readily agreed. I consoled myself that it was because I was a slow reader.

We went to the same college, and I got so conditioned, that if she was going out for something, I wouldn’t even try, because I knew she would win. I loved her, and yet held her at arms length, and was sad she was closer to other friends. I was terrified of closeness, more terrified of commitment.

I didn’t marry until 28, and then someone who had been married before, and when he had an affair two years later, and we divorced five after that, I knew I was not a good-enough wife. I was also a mother by then, and knew I wasn’t a good enough mother either. I was terrified of being a mom too.

I went back to graduate school because I had always wanted to be a therapist, and I needed to… I know that because God opened the way. That was good for me. I got better grades there than in college. But one test came back with -13 on it, and I thought I was going to die, until I discovered it was the highest grade in the class.

I got married again to a widower, and that confirmed that I wasn’t a good enough wife or mother. (The first 10 years we lived with a holy ghost, (no caps.– and not literally– his sainted late wife). Plus before we got married I’d already failed with his son (he felt abandoned by me when R and I broke up for a month–most likely unresolved grief), and later with his daughter who was three when her adoptive mother died.

Ten years later my husband had a stroke that saved our marriage, and that same year I learned that God loves to heal our lies–false beliefs that seem true to us.

When mom died four years ago yesterday, I faced the belief that I wasn’t a good enough daughter. So I’ve had many healings on not being good enough. But today I discovered that underneath all that not-good-enough was a whole cluster of beliefs around, “What if they find out how dumb I am! How stupid I am! How much I don’t know!”

The fear of being discovered! That is the basis for shame!

No wonder! That explains a lot: why I felt like a child in an adult body for two decades of adult life. Why I made the choices I did. Why I still keep coming up with new not-good-enough endings. Why I am in awe and yet fear of very bright, accomplished people. Why I sabotage my success.

Brene Brown has researched shame and says it completely unravels self-worth. It makes us want to hide. And is the essence of “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m not ready…”

No wonder hurtful words can take me out. They aren’t as powerful as they used to be, though. I’ve been practicing taking in God’s love–making it real. It’s amazing, and real. Sitting with Him, you can actually feel the unconditional regard. I recommend it. It’s very healing.

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The Importance of Your Perspective

My thoughts turned to my ex-son-in-law while I was sitting with God this morning, and I found myself grieving again. In over ten years I grew to love him even if his parenting and attitudes drove me crazy. I remembered some of the work we’d done, some of the opportunities he’d had, his love of me, and cried. It’s so sad, he lost so much by not choosing to face himself.

My daughter told of their last encounter that left her shaken–over an air compressor that she wanted (she got her dad’s mechanical ability and loves to fix things but has to have the strength of the compressor). He threw a tantrum and tried to control her with fear and guilt as always, and she was second-guessing herself in guilt. She’s always too soft on him–in my opinion. (It’s a God-thing that she could leave.)

But from his comments I could tell that he is back to blaming everyone else, in typical narcissist style, hiding from his brokenness. He’s obviously heard, “You’ve sacrificed so much to keep your kids in their home,” and he replays it regularly. I’m not diminishing what he did for a year and a half–it was big and commendable to give her 2/3 thirds of his check so she could scrape to stay in their house. It was important to keep the kids’ lives as stable and normal as possible, the youngest was a year and a half when they separated. And the earlier a child is disrupted, the harder it is on them. Most people don’t know that. 

But it sounds like he has made a new “persona” or public mask out of being the one who has sacrificed so much–the good guy–the hero–the one who was left–the martyr.

That is so sad to me. He is even further away from facing himself, the wreckage he caused by not being willing to face his faults and grow. She had done most of the emotional heavy-lifting, and he wanted her to do it all–which she couldn’t. You can’t do someone else’s work. She was so into making things perfect, I’m sure she would have if she could have. And he got angrier and angrier at not being him. She hid it as long as she could. Until she saw how it was affecting their three little boys. And she began to see she would die young if she stayed.

Sad, sad, sad. Mostly for him. He’s the one who loses the most.

There’s a saying in my field, “Nothing changes until it becomes real,” which just means that unless you face your part, your faults, your dark side, you won’t grow, your relationships won’t get better.

There is no one on this planet that isn’t broken, that doesn’t have faults. We are all mistake makers here, ALL of us. And to pretend that we aren’t, is just fooling ourselves and maybe our children (hopefully only for a time). Everyone around us knows our craziness long before we do.  The smartest thing we can do for ourselves and those who love us is take off our masks, look in the mirror, and get honest. It’s painful, but so worth it, and a lot less pain for a lot of people in the long run.

God will help if you ask–He’s into honesty. I’ve always wondered why Jesus’ disciples started the good news about God with telling people they were sinners, which just means we are broken, separated from God, and can’t fix ourselves. I thought that would raise defenses; maybe it was a short-cut for honest, open hearts. If your defenses are so developed that you think you’re good, you don’t need God. You’re perfect–and hopeless.

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