Forgotten

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I have a fear of being forgotten by those I love. It has happened before and I never quite understood how (although, I have a lot of life to live yet, maybe I’ll experience “the how” at some point). When I was forgotten by those I loved it wasn’t intentional, but it still didn’t feel good.

The first time I was forgotten was when I was about 8 years old. My mom had a lot on her mind and I know she loves me, but when I watched her drive off, leaving me at the front of the grocery store with our entire cart of groceries, I started to rethink the impact of my presence. I never doubted for a moment that my mom would return for me and sure enough, five minutes later, my mom returned. Her kisses, hugs, and apologies after the fact reassured me I was loved, but I often wondered how she forgot someone she loved so much, even for five minutes.

The second time was when I was in 6th grade. I was the new kid, but I usually made friends pretty quickly. One of my new best friends was having a birthday party and I was a little shocked that I had not been invited. I was too scared to approach her because I didn’t want to force myself into a place I was not wanted. I doubted my place as a friend and my ability to read social cues: maybe I just thought we were friends. The birthday party came and went and was the talk of the whole 6th grade. I felt forgotten, I was the only person who wasn’t invited. My friend approached me the Monday after her party; she was heartbroken: “Why didn’t you come to my party? I thought we were friends.” It was then that I informed her I was never invited. Once again her apologies and hugs reassured me that she did in fact love me as a friend, however I once again was left to question how I could be forgotten.

I started to blame myself for being forgotten. Maybe I was too bland, like Ann.

Maybe I was too quiet or average. I just blended in with my surroundings like a Milford man. I tried to be more outgoing, but it’s hard to force yourself to do something that isn’t you. Looking back I see the reality of the situation, we are human, sometimes we forget, it really had nothing to do with me. But back then, I couldn’t help but think it was my fault. I lived my life trying to ensure that I would never be forgotten again. When friendships ended I blamed myself and spent way too much mental and emotional energy figuring out how I could have prevented the split.

My default mode became “the forgotten girl”. I never again wanted to experience the pain of being forgotten, even by someone I just met. I would preface a second introduction with “You probably don’t remember me, my name is…” in order to prevent someone from admitting they forgot me. 

If I saw someone from my past I would never approach them to say hello, unless I knew for sure they would remember me. And by “knew for sure” I mean we hung out after school, had sleepovers, and/or were related.

So now I am an adult. I thought I was past the forgotten thing. I laugh at the stories of being forgotten at the store and I joke about being the friend who wasn’t invited to the party. But this past week I realized I never actually worked through this fear when another friend revealed her pregnancy to me.

Some days it feels like everyone and their cousin is pregnant. Everyone but me. Some of my friends are on number two and number three. Some of my friends have been trying less than three months. Some of my friends have had trouble and are now pregnant. I am happy for them, but I just don’t get it. Why not me? Part of me fears that God forgot about me. Did He forget that I want kids too? (Of course, now I have had to go on birth control for my health issues. Part of me feels like I shouldn’t be upset, because I made a choice to take the pills. But it doesn’t change the fact that this feels so unfair. Other people don’t have to experience any of this.)

I had a dream last night that everyone was pregnant except me. All of my closest friends. All of the people I trusted with my feelings about infertility were now pregnant. I kept trying to get away, but I couldn’t. The talk was all about babies and pregnancy and I couldn’t escape. I began to cry. And then my friends scolded me for being a sissy about the situation. They told me I needed to suck it up.

I know my friends would never say that, but clearly I fear they will. I still have friends that are struggling with infertility and as much as I want them to get pregnant, I fear it. I fear they will all get pregnant and once again I will be forgotten. I will forever be the “aunt” who buys wonderful presents for the kids, but never gets to experience the joy, love, and cuddles. I will be the friend “who doesn’t understand parent life” and is excluded from play dates and birthday parties. I will be loved by them, but no longer worthy of time and talk with their new busy schedules.

I do realize this is a lie. But it feels so real. Please pray for me as I begin fighting these lies with truth. 

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The Cat with the Bulging Eye

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A couple months ago I noticed a cat across the street from my house. I’m not exactly sure what has changed in me, but lately I have been loving cats. It doesn’t make sense to me, I’ve always hated cats. I’ve only ever loved one cat my whole life and it was my best friends grumpy old cat that had a smooshed face and matted fur (he wouldn’t let anyone brush him or touch him, except me). That cat reminded me of a senile old man who just wanted company and a hug, but would never admit it to anyone. But other than that cat, I hated cats. So, I took myself by surprise when I suddenly said, “Oh, hi kitty! You should come over here to see me.” Why the heck did I just say that, I hate cats. Not only that, but I just talked out loud to a cat across the street. I’m inside, it can’t hear me! Plus it’s a cat.

But the cat heard me. I’m dead serious, either that or it’s psychic or something. Oh, I bet it’s that freaky 6th sense thing that animals have. Anyway, it walked over to my driveway.

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And as it walked up my driveway I continued to talk to it, “that’s a good girl, come say hi.” The cat walked up front path.

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I continued my creepy cat talk until it stood right outside my door.

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I stared at it for several minutes from the safety of my home, but then I made the decision to go out there and pet it. All I wanted was the feel of soft fur and that cute little purring noise. What the hell is wrong with me? I hate cats! I hate pets! I decided not to fight my new desire for pet cuddles, a lot about me has changed over the past year, I guess this is just another thing. So I went outside and I pet that cat for a good five minutes until it got bored and walked off. I have secretly wanted that cat to come back every day since then. It has not.

Then, yesterday I noticed a different cat across the street from my house. This cat was black with 3 white socks. Once again, I started the crazy lady cat talk. This cat wasn’t as responsive to my sweet talk, so I walked outside and tried to lure it into petting range with clicks and tuts. It was a slow process, and just as I was about to give up, because I was freezing my buns off, the cat started to creep towards me. As it slowly moved closer and closer I noticed something red on his face. Is it blood? Does he have a leaf stuck on his face? What is that? Then when the cat was about 8 feet from me it stopped and sat down. It was at that moment that I realized the red thing on his face was his eye ball bulging out from his skull.

(This is not the cat, but I wanted you to understand what I was looking it. The eyeball on the left most closely resembles the sight.)

I’m sorry I had to expose you to that. It was a very sad sight, even for me, a recently reformed cat hater. I wanted to run away and never look back, and definitely never look back into that cat’s giant, bulging, mess of an eye, but I couldn’t. It disgusted me and captivated me at the same time. It was clear the cat could no longer see out of that eye. When he looked at me, it was only out of his good eye. The good eye gleamed that cool greenish yellow color when the sun hit it just right, but not the bulge eye. The bulge eye was a mess of tissue and blood.

No, I did not pet the cat. Part of me wishes I could have, but if I’m completely honest, I did not want to somehow contract bulging eye syndrome from the cat. I don’t regret my decision, I don’t even feel shame. Old Liz would have guilted myself into touching the cat because of the “shoulds” I had placed on my life. “I should give love without reservation”, “I should love all things”, “The cat can’t help it, so I should treat this cat like any other cat”, and “I should not be repulsed by this cat”. These expectations I have placed on myself are not bad expectations, but they are expectations that I could not live up to at that moment. You see, old me would have pet the cat out of guilt and pride and then afterwards I would have felt shame over my feelings of repulsion. I then would spend two weeks googling bulging eye syndrome to reassure myself that I would not contract this disease and yet, the whole time I would slowly begin to resent the cat for putting me at risk. My pride would tell me I’m a good person for touching the cat despite my fear, and I would then proceed to tell people of my cat story, pretending to love that cat as if it did not have a disgusting, possibly contagious, bulging eye. In fact, I might even only mention that bulging eye as an “afterthought” just to prove that I passed no judgment on the cat because of its giant, oozing, bloody, red eye.

That was old Liz. Liz before recovery. Liz before I accepted Liz for who she is and where she is at. I know what you are thinking, “New Liz is kind of a hardened, judgmental, brat, who only loves things that are beautiful.” False. Although I did not touch the bulge eye cat, I did not hate him. I talked to him for a while. I squatted 8 feet from him and told him how sorry I was. But I knew my limitations, I knew my boundaries. I knew what I could handle at that moment and what I could not. I did not shame myself into doing something that would later cause me to resent the cat. Days after the incident I still feel genuine sorrow and love for that poor bulge eyed cat. I accepted my imperfection and I accepted myself exactly where I was at and as a result I felt at peace about my decision.

There was a moment where I put myself into the cat’s situation. Would I want to be rejected over something I could not control? No. Would I need love, even with my imperfect face and bulging eye? Yes. But here is the thing, at some point or another we all feel rejection, and a lot of times it is over something we cannot control. I often thought that if people just accepted me the way I was, then I would be at peace. But I never once considered that maybe I should stop rejecting myself first. Old Liz, would have forced herself to touch the cat to prove to herself that she could love how she was supposed to. But the very act of trying to prove to myself that I was not judging the cat would actually be an act of rejection to myself. In a way I would be telling myself that I did not accept the feelings I had because I was not good enough the way I was, imperfect. This behavior did not bring me any peace, and in fact it exhausted me to be around me.

But here is the cool thing, we all have a figurative bulging eye and no matter how disgusting it is, there is one person who will loves us just the way we are, he will sit down and cuddle us close to his face without fear of contracting our sickness. You have probably heard me talk about him before, it’s Jesus. You see, I don’t have to lie to myself about where I am at, because Jesus accepts me just as I am. Sure, I want to be a better person, and right now God is helping me with my boundaries and finding peace by being true to myself exactly where I am at. That doesn’t make me a failure. That doesn’t make me mean. That doesn’t make me a cat hater, or hardened, or a jerk. It just means I accept that I am a human, I am not perfect, I am not God, I have limitations, and I am still loved unconditionally. Thank you Jesus!

Oh and bulging eye cat, if you are out there and able to hear this with your 6th sense thing, I wouldn’t be opposed to another visit from you. I did some research, you probably have glaucoma and it’s not contagious.

The Life and Death of Toby

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Toby is dead. It’s not the end of the world, it’s not even tragic, it’s just a little sad. Toby was my car. The car I learned to drive in, the car I shared with my three brothers, and the car that was gifted to me as a college graduation present. It seems silly to get so attached to an inanimate object, but I confess, I am silly and I am attached. But Toby (Tobias Pontiac) was old, and like an old person who loses the ability to hold in flatulence, Toby was emitting toxic gases in the form of wispy looking smoke from his air vents (among other issues). My love for him could not change the fact that he was a danger to those around him and the money needed to fix him would be better used as a down payment on a “new” used car. So Dean and I began our search for a new vehicle and surprisingly, found a suitable transportation vessel within two weeks of beginning our search.

I was excited about the prospect of a “new” car, but part of me was sad to lose Toby. I know he isn’t alive, I know he doesn’t have feelings, and maybe it was a mistake to name him because it makes him seem alive, but it’s too late to change all of that. The fact is, I will miss my car. But why exactly?

As I cleaned out all of my belongings from Toby’s bowels (yes, sticking your hand under those seats is, what I imagine, would be like sticking your hand into the bowels of an old dog, one which usually results in a handful of hair, pennies, and some unidentifiable object circa 2002) I couldn’t help but wonder “why is this so difficult?” My rational brain reminded me that Toby doesn’t work like he once did. I’ve been pouring more money into him than he is worth. In the past year he has broken down so many times that I swear my father-in-law, the man who graciously fixes Toby’s malfunctions, was about to drive him off a cliff just so he could be rid of the stupid car. At that very moment I shoved my hand into the driver’s side visor and pulled out an old teacher ID from 2001, just a year after Toby’s birth.photo id

It was Toby’s first owner, and although I have never met the lady, I felt connected to her. It was then that I realized I was letting go of the physical object that connected me to so many people and memories.

I was in Toby’s passenger seat when I saw my first “mooning” at the ripe age of 16. My older brother was driving, and while at a two way stop, one of his friends darted out from the car behind us and stuck his bare butt right on the glass of my window. My startled and horrified reaction must have given these boys the impression that I found their butts amusing, because they continued to moon us almost every day for the remainder of the semester.

The day I met my future sister-in-law is forever engrained in my brain, because it was that day that my crush, now husband, Dean shoved me jokingly into Toby’s trunk as I put my backpack inside. He then asked me if I could give his little sister a ride home.

It was Toby’s brakes that cut out as I drove home from my older brother’s wedding rehearsal. My youngest brother and I screamed at the top of our lungs as we trundled through a sparsely wooded, grassy area at 20 mph (it seemed so much faster at the time) before reaching the safety of a gravel parking lot, where I then remembered my emergency brake. After realizing we were alive and fine, we both looked at each other and yelled “That was awesome!” in perfect unison.

It was Toby that I accidently set on fire, when I spilled oil inside the hood while he was still hot. It was in the parking lot of Safeway, and it was terribly embarrassing.

Poor Toby was the brunt of so many youth group pranks. He has been filled with balloons, filled and covered with toilet paper, completely covered in whipped cream and marshmallows, and smeared with mud after a crud war. photo IMG_4855 IMG_6931IMG_6930

Toby has been stolen and parked in the most remote corner of the church parking lot, to facilitate a very cold and wet walk in the rain for me. He has had many phrases written on him in window paint before he trucked a carload of teens to conferences, retreats, and more.

It was with Toby that I had my first car accident- I backed into a parked undercover cop car. It was with Toby that I was rear-ended by the grumpiest and saddest of old men, Len. And it was next to Toby that Len and I prayed together (not exactly sure how that happened, but it did).

It was in the safety of Toby’s steel frame that I heard my call to Africa. It was Toby’s speakers that I blared and sang along to when I was diagnosed with anxiety/depression, and it was in Toby that I sobbed the countless times I found out I wasn’t pregnant.

I was driving Toby when I parallel parked in the city for the first time.

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Yes, I took a picture, I was so proud. And the not- so-proud moment when I was in high school and drunkenly backed Toby into a pine tree and blamed it on my younger brother. Sorry Tom!

I was with Toby when he turned 200,000 miles! Except I couldn’t take a picture until he reached 200,011 (aren’t you proud of my refusal to take pictures while driving?).

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I could go on and on about Toby stories, but the point is this, it’s not so much about Toby being a dearly loved car as it is about him being a physical object that represents my growth as a person. I overcame fears in his presence. I allowed my crazy, silly, singing, self to come out inside his doors. I experienced shame and heartbreak, joy and victory. So whether it is silly or not, I will miss my car, but I am excited for a new chapter of growth and exploration.

Meet Lulu.

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I know, I know, I named her. I thought about not naming her so I don’t get too attached, but as I was considering this over my morning coffee, I realized that name or no name I get attached to inanimate objects. Take my coffee mugs for example, I have favorites, but I don’t always drink out of my favorite mugs because I feel bad for the other mugs –the rejects deserve a chance too. Lulu is not a reject though, she is great, and although I will miss Toby, I think Lulu and I will make a great team.