I Am The Face Campaign

 

Every single day in the US, 2,000 women lose a baby to pregnancy/infant loss. That’s 700,000 a year, a quarter of every female in this country. So why does no one talk about it?

I AM THE FACE is Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope‘s annual pregnancy/infant loss awareness campaign. Through it, we are “putting a face” on miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss. We are sharing our faces, and declaring to the world, “I am not ashamed to talk about my baby.”

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23 Times Bitten…

Have you ever watched the cartoon “Home Movies?”  If you haven’t, I encourage it.   The show revolves around a highly imaginative third-grader named Brendon Small who directs and stars in movies that he produces in his basement with his two best friends, Jason and Melissa.  The show is full of witty banter between the kids as they make movies, which end up being parodies of popular films and specific genres, and send ups of conventions within modern culture for the cartoon’s audience.  These children are also surrounded by highly ineffectual adults:  a lazy, booze-hound soccer coach; a milque-toast, “trying to do right thing” teacher; and a cast of divorced parents with neurotic tendencies.  In their interactions with the adults, the children usually end up sounding a lot smarter and more mature to intended comic effect.

In one particular episode, Brendon is chosen to direct the school musical “Bye-Bye Greasy.”  After Brendon casts himself into a starring role, the school bully decides that it should be his part.  While the bully is strong-arming Brendon in a scene, the teacher, Mr. Lynch, approaches the two and ends up in giving a “stern” warning for the bully, “You are two strikes away from violation of my 23 strikes and you’re out policy!”

While it’s funny, I have to wonder how many times I’ve given twenty-second chances in the name of being nice or fair to people who clearly haven’t shown any regard for me, and just how ineffectual such exercises have been.

Having been brought up as a Christian, I’ve had the phrase, “Turn the other cheek” ingrained in my psyche.  So giving people the benefit of the doubt and untold chances always seemed like the right thing to do.   However, if we are to honor God, shouldn’t we also honor ourselves?  If someone is consistently treating us badly, should we not protect our hearts and not let them drain our energy?   The two major challenges in my life – dealing with childlessness not by choice and living life as a stepmom- have brought this dilemma to the forefront of my life.   I’m grieving, and I need to be a little nicer to myself and give myself to space to heal.  In the past year, I’ve really had to work at establishing boundaries for myself, but it has not been easy.

Typically, the hardest of all is trying to limit ties to people who time and again have shown that they are not at all interested in two-way relationships (and are therefore probably people who I would not deliberately seek out as friends), but a shared person keeps the spheres of our lives entwined.  These are people with whom I have tried on several occasions to maintain good relationships only to either be rebuffed or used.

Even examining what should have been “final straw” moments – trying to reach out only to be ignored or walked away from or continually doing favors for someone, then being told I was out of line in asking when I needed something.   It is clear these really were not relationships.   Relationships require the capacity for give and take and empathy.  If someone does not display either on a consistent basis, it is a red flag that they more than likely are a toxic person.  I’m learning to take a definitive “arm’s-length” approach to such people in my life.

It’s sad, I wished these relationships could be different for the sake of the mutual people in our lives, but these people have clearly shown it’s their way or the highway and they are not interested in truly “seeing” me as anything more to a means to an end, neither are the basis for a healthy relationship.  Therefore, they must be kept at a safe minimum distance.

The funny thing is that when you start acting vigilant about your boundaries, you tend to over compensate.  We recently had an issue with fleas at work.  I was getting bitten and experiencing severe allergic reactions to the bites.   To be on the safe side, I went to the doctor and as we were discussing the situation, she told me that these situations were troubling because even long after the situation was resolved, I’d more than likely feel like every itch was due to a flea bite.   I think that when I am talking to new people, it’s the extremely similar in that I wonder if I can trust my instincts.  I catch myself questioning everything they say and analyzing every behavior that seems selfish or controlling.   Is it a flea bite or just an itch?

So to keep it simple, I studied a few resources on toxic people and relationships, and even delved into some abnormal psychology resources.    Here are a few key markers that I’ve learned to look for:

  • Do they stand by their word?
  • Do they take action or just give lip service?
  • Do they take time to make it about others, and not just about themselves?
  • Are they willing to step back and let others take the spotlight?
  • Are they willing to admit mistakes?

If the answers to these are “yes”, then chances are it’s just and itch.  A word caution:  if you are a” 23 times bitten, 24 times shy” person like me, take it slow.

Sometimes toxic people will court others in an attempt to recruit them.  So a person may shower with complements, gifts, or favors in order the get you on their side, so  it takes time for a toxic person to show their hand.  When they do, you’ll notice subtle changes in the relationship:  veiled or overt put downs, lack of reciprocity, or a feeling like you are being manipulated.  Toxic people have a way of projecting their worst behaviors and fears onto others and are not above employing “crazy making” behaviors to turn the tables and make their victims question their perception of the situation, their innate goodness, and even their own sanity.

This best rule of thumb in dealing with a toxic person is to avoid them at all costs, but if you must be in relationship with them, know your limits and set your boundaries up front.  Do NOT feel bad about saying “no.”   Toxic people know that guilt is their best weapon and will use it to manipulate others. Once you realize that, and drop any feelings of guilt about your boundaries, you render them powerless over you.  In fact, you may find that the toxic person will simply begin to ignore you.  While this may be upsetting or even sad,  realize you are better off in the long run.

Keep yourselves strong and respect yourself!

Love and blessings to everyone!

Thankful Thursday: So Totally Not About the Cat Edition

Hello!  Just  a quick “drive by” for Thankful Thursday.  This one will not be about the cat, but thanks to all of you who have shown your concern.  He’s doing much, much better!

Today I am thankful for my best friend.  Although we far away from each other (she lives in God’s Waiting Room West and I live in God’s Waiting Room East), we manage to stay close.  We’ve been friends since I was in the second grade. 

I’m no sure how we figured this out, but one day we realized that we had a previous connection before we actually met.  Her family rented a house from one of my dad’s friends.  My dad, who is an electrician, was asked to perform some work in the house while her family was out for the day.  For some reason, I went with him that day and ended up playing with her toys (I remember that she had a really cool Barbie townhouse).  We both think that it’s pretty amazing that before I even met her, she shared her toys with me!  It’s like we were destined to be friends.  We’ve shared a lot of things since!

Last year we were luckly enough to have two girls weekends together after a four-year dry spell of not seeing each other, and we vowed to make a yearly thing.  So we’re busy trying to make this year’s weekend happen.

I’m very thankful that she and I have the kind of relationship that can pick up right were we left off and we never feel as if we missed a day with each other.

Love and blessings.   More posts to come soon!Image

The Pursuit Happiness

 Finally a new post that isn’t Thankful Thursday.  This is a bit of a depature from my regular posts, so I’ll hope you bear with me here.

Seeing that we recently celebrated Independence Day here in United States, many of my Facebook friends have and are posting patriotic pictures, quotes, and sentiments this week. One in particular posted this excerpt from The Declaration of Independence

 “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

 It is a phrase I’ve heard over and over again in my lifetime, but there was something about that last bit – the pursuit of Happiness part – that did not quite sit well with me. 

 We live in a time that seems to celebrate the self-centered and the over-pampered, a time where “it’s all about me” is so commonplace and accepted, and where people seem to chase down everything and anything in an endless search for validation in the name of chasing happiness that I cannot imagine that this is what our forefathers had in mind.  As I puttered around the house on my odd middle of week day off, I pondered a few questions.  What follows are the thoughts I had throughout the day.

 Is Happiness a Right?

 The men who crafted this document were quite smart in their word choice.  “Pursuit of Happiness” implies that everyone is entitled to go after it, but it does not imply that we are always going to obtain it.  The pursuit is our right, not the happiness. 

 Pursuit requires effort.  It is active. It requires deliberate action. In today’s culture of entitlement, it is an important distinction to make.  Especially since most pursuits are not always successful on the first try.  Pursuits can be ongoing.  They may even require sacrifice. 

 What unsettles me is the extent to which many people take that right of pursuit. Just because you have the right to pursue what makes you happy, does it entitle you to do so at the expense of others?  If we are entitled to life, liberty and the “pursuit,” then it stands to reason that everyone else is too. Your right to pursue happiness is not more important than the lives, liberties, and the pursuits of others.

  So in essence, we are entitled to our pursuits as long as they do not infringe on the rights of others.  It’s a package deal.  There is a level of responsibility involved.

 Is Happiness Captured or Chosen?

 While “pursuit” should be defined further, it also bothers me in this context.  It implies that happiness is external thing to be found in something or someone else:  something to be captured and therefore controlled.  Given it is external it can also be taken away, which sets us up to accept happiness as fleeting, fickle, and finite.   

 What we think will make us happy doesn’t always do so, but advertisers spend millions each year to convince us otherwise. The next promise is always around the corner until the desired “thing” loses its luster.  Then we are left feeling empty, which drives us to try to fill the void.  It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle.

 I also feel rather unsettled by the idea happiness being predicated on external objects or people.  If my happiness is solely based on someone else, it puts a lot of pressure on that person and limits their freedom, not to mention instills fear in me if that person needs latitude in the relationship. 

 Considering all that I have lost, a spouse and pregnancies, I don’t think I could have survived if I purely based my happiness on any of them.

Rather, what if happiness is intrinsic?  Much like Dorothy in “Wizard of Oz”, is the power to be happy something we’ve had inside of us all along?

 Consider Victor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, who devoted his life to studying and understanding  “meaning” in life.   In his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” he shares this observation:

  “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances – to choose one’s own way.”

 Doesn’t make more sense to view happiness as a choice? 

 Is Happiness the Right Word Choice?

 If we accept the premise that the capacity for happiness is inside of us, what where our forefathers referring to in the Declaration of Independence?  Because pursing “happiness” as we understand it today seems like a nebulous thing. 

 Whenever I talk to Hubs about what he wants for Skid. He always says that he wants Skid to be “happy.”  This never sits well with me because it is hazy to define at best. How do you get to happy? It certainly cannot be accomplished by chasing down the child’s every whim or giving them everything they say want. 

This certainly does not instill character or a sense of accomplishment.  Who defines happy in this scenario?  What does it look like?  How is it measured?

 I’ve always felt that raising capable and well-balanced children versus coddled, satiated children is better in the long run.  The former requires that the parent accept that some amount of unhappiness is bound to be experienced by the child in order for him or her to build a strong personal foundation from which to grow.

 When I was a child I could not have envisioned the losses and challenges my life had in store for me.  Neither could my parents. Yet the foundation they laid down for me has helped me weather major losses and ongoing challenges.  To give me that foundation required quite a few decisions may have temporarily denied me happiness, but allowed me to develop the coping skills necessary to deal with disappointment, setbacks, loss, and pain.

So I’m convinced that happiness, as least in terms of having one’s desires fulfilled, is not the best word choice here.  So what are other words that better fit?   I think of the many times after graduating college I heard people say, “Follow your bliss” or “Find your passion.”   Again, both are alternate ways to say “pursing happiness.”  But I cannot shake the feeling that we need delve deeper and draw the line between “happy” as a temporary state of euphoria and “happy” as an overall state of “well-being.”  From here we can build a foundation.

 I’m drawn to the idea that there needs to be a balance – a bridge between our internal need for validation and a sense of relating to that which is external to us. The happiness we pursue is maybe best exchanged with the word “purpose.”  The word purpose denotes that we will have an impact on the world around us and a reason for being that lies beyond ourselves.  We exist for more than just our needs – we are here to serve something beyond ourselves.  It’s a very inspiring and humbling thought.

 What Does Pursuit of Happiness Mean to Me?

Considering all these things of course led me down the rabbit hole of discovering what this all means to me.  As I write this, I have a very heavy heart because I thought my purpose was motherhood.  I truly believed that it would make me happy and fulfilled.  But now that I know that I cannot have children of my own, so I must now reconsider that belief.  Life has called me in another direction.  It is at once exhilarating and intimidating.

What Does It Mean to You?

I would not be truly American if I were not to invite you to engage in discourse on the subject.  What does “Pursuit of Happiness” mean to you?  Are you actvely pursuing your bliss?  Are you seeking opportunities to fufill your purpose?  Have you discovered your purpose?  Or is life just happening?   Please share your thoughts on this subject.

Thankful Thursday: Lower Numbers, Small Blessings Edition

Good morning!

This will be a quick entry this morning becuase I will hopefully have a regular post up here today too, as I’ve been deliquent in my posting as of late.

Today I am thankful for answered prayers on the Fuzzbucket front.  After receiving frightenly high gloucose numbers (in the 400s) on Monday from the vet, increased intervention has gotten him into low numbers.  Today’s reading: 153.

If this keeps off, we may be able to get him off the insulin.  We’ll know in two weeks. 

So thankful that we’re back on track!

Also, I received some much needed inspiration yesterday and will be posting the results of it soon.

Feeling  extra grateful today!

Love and blessings to everyone!