I stepped out into the cold January air, the first real 5 degree-wind blowing-makes your face hurt winter day of the year. It was Martin Luther king day. The kids were off school and we’d gone to visit my parents for the day. I took Soldier Boy, The Ax, Princess and Our New Baby. Poobah and Tree stayed behind to work on the house. It was a nice day, admiring the newly remodeled kitchen my mother finally had after dreaming of it for forty years and getting to meet my sister’s new boyfriend, the chef. I caught them up on all the goings on at our house and my mother shared the latest from the various relatives. We talked politics a bit (Go Bernie! was the consensus). My mom offered me a nice crockpot too big for her empty nest and a Keurig the wrong color for her new kitchen, both of which I excitedly accepted. She told me to go through the old board games because they were throwing out whatever I didn’t want. I scored some Gumby Colorforms (remember those?), VCR Clue II, and Go For It, my favorite 1980s board game centered on accumulating red convertibles, hot tubs, and ski chalets: the good life, eighties style.
Our afternoon was wrapping up. The kids were getting cranky and it was time for us to go. So I gathered up an armful of the dusty board games and headed out to my car. And as I stepped out of my parents newly remade kitchen onto the familiar patio, the bitter cold air hit my face and suddenly I was in Erie.
Erie. January 2008. Class just let out and we’re walking to his apartment through the snow. The crunchy kind with a thin layer of ice on top that your foot catches on for a moment before sinking in. They say the Inuits have a hundred different words for snow, don’t they? (I don’t know if it’s true but it’s what they say anyway) I could not normally tell you much about what kind of snow there was on any particular day of my life years ago. I am not an Inuit of old, surviving in the Arctic north. Snow is not something of great importance to me. But those days, those memories, are not normal memories. They are not stored in the circuitry of my brain as normal memories are. And I am not now remembering that day. I am reliving it. I am there.
We are walking to his apartment to study and eat lunch. And maybe when we’re done he’ll rape me too. My stomach is in a knot. My chest is aching. My limbs are heavy and slightly numb. Not from the cold but from The Ordeal. My head is there but not there. How do you force yourself to walk to a violent sadist’s apartment? You will it. It is survival, moral spiritual survival. Protecting the young. You must. And so you do. Your will tells your legs to move and they do. They feel heavy and numb like they don’t belong to you but rather someone else. Because they must. For surely you would never go with this man so seemingly cooperative. Surely this isn’t happening. But it is.
I am afraid of what he will do when we get there. I am more afraid of the plans he has for his other victims, that I won’t find a way to stop him. He makes my whole being nauseous. Not just my stomach but my muscles and my head and my skin. My myocytes and epithelial cells. My heart and my spirit. Helpless. I am helpless with him. If I cannot stop what he has planned then I’m hopeless too. Powerless. Utterly alone in the universe. That is how it is in his apartment. Just me and him. Only one soul in the room. Mine. And he is trying to take it from me. His apartment has become the whole universe. At once a vast expanse and a vacuum. Just me and him. Nothing else, no one else.
I make him lunch and he talks about nutrition and he talks his madness all over me, coating me in its sticky thick tack. Cortisol is coursing through me. My pulse is quick. I am hypervigilent. I must be able to detect any changes to his mood so I can prepare for what’s next. The worst thing is to be caught off guard. Defenseless. I must cut the apples just so, but I must pay attention to the nuance of his speech: the tone of his voice, the rate, the cadence, the choice of words. His body language too. The way he carries himself, the tone of his muscles, the subtle change of expression on his face. He is a sociopath so he rarely shows anger. It is not so simple as that.
The irony of this is that he has brainwashed me into believing he can read me so easily, that he is always watching me and can tell when I’m lying and what I’m really thinking. He tells me he has researched it all thoroughly, how to tell if someone is lying. The direction their eyes move when answering questions, the rate their heart beats, the tone of their muscles. (But he really was terrible at it. I fooled him. He went down. He lost his life as he knew it. Why? Because he wasn’t hypervigilent. Why? Because he wasn’t afraid. He was arrogant. My fear saved me really. And allowed me to stop him. It saved my life and my soul.)
It pressed this moment into my memory too. This moment I am reliving now eight years later. In an instant. Yes all of this comes and passes in just a few seconds. And then just as suddenly I am back in 2016 packing up my car, hurrying to get back to Our New Baby before he starts fussing in his car seat.
I’m free of my prison. I have been PTSD free for a year now. I have my moments. I have my hours. But I am no longer trapped inside. I am free and I can now appreciate the fear for what it did for me then. It saved my soul. It stopped a sadist. And now I am free to live the good life, 2016 style.
This week is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X, El Hajj Malik El Shabbaz. I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X when I was 21 and it changed my life. Changed it enough that I named my second born after him. Malcolm X was Godly and brilliant and brave. But the thing I’ve always been most inspired by in him was how much he changed and grew in his life. Why am I writing about this on Valentine’s Day? Because I wanted to write a Valentine for my husband.
He was born in the summer of ’69, a couple weeks after man walked on the moon and a couple weeks before Woodstock. He made his first film at age ten. He was an entrepeneur from the start doing everything from delivering papers, mowing lawns, to selling Grit magazine. He grew up and went away to a small town three hours away in Western Pennsylvania for college. My hometown. I was in elementary school then (I was born in 1979, the year of the collapse of the industrial economy in America. Not quite as cool). He went into computers and had a good job but he left behind the security of it to go to film school, to pursue his calling. He came home and made two independent films and got married and had a son. He found God and set about following Him. When God called him to open a cafe, he did. Crazy as people told him it was. And then he got this email from this girl who’d seen his picture on the interwebs and he decided to write her back. It turned out she’d been raped by a madman in med school and she had two kids who were dealing with mental health challenges of their own. On the day they got married she was $400,000 in debt and had failed to match into a residency and might never be able to make a decent living. He married her anyway. He’s not afraid to take risks. He follows God into the fray.
In the years since then, he has found himself facing the sacrifices of residency and the hell of PTSD. He has driven roughly 35,000 miles going back and forth between residency and our son back home. He has devoted himself to our hooligans. He has been a major factor in the amazing transformation of our son Malcolm. He has washed and scrubbed and shoveled and fixed and cooked and shopped and juiced. Wiped butts and cleaned up vomit and blood. Endured temper tantrums, meltdowns, wiped tears, kissed boo boos. He has listened to my frustrations and guarded the bedroom door from invading children when I needed to sleep.
More than that, he has gotten down in the mud, crawled on his belly, down in the trenches. He has done the real work of marriage, the emotional work. He has faced down his demons and mine. And that is the bravest, hardest, most loving thing there is. He has come with me as I travelled into the heart of my PTSD and faced my spiritual crisis. Been there through the anger and the bitterness and neediness and depression and the one-step-forward-two-steps-back-is-this-ever-going-to-end. He has come to be as outraged as I am about rape. Sometimes I think he’s moreso. When the petition we signed to stop the Bill Cosby performance at Heinz Hall worked, he was more excited than I was.
Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, said, “I have long since come to believe that people never mean half of what they say, and that it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions.” You can keep your long stemmed roses and diamonds. I have real love.
I love you, Poobah. I’m so proud to be your best friend. Forever.
I found this idea on Pinterest for keeping a jar where you write down happy/funny things that happen throughout the year and put them in this jar. I believe it advised a big jar (with the assumption being you’ll have lots of good things happening I suppose). You open the jar up at the end of the year and read over all the little happy moments you otherwise might have forgotten. The woman who’d pinned it had written it was a “super cute idea !!!!” and that she was definitely going to try it.
I pitched the idea to Poobah and he liked it (although he didn’t call it super cute or exclaim). So I took the large clear plastic teddy bear shaped animal cracker jar and dumped the animal crackers out into a bag (they’ve been sitting uneaten in the jar for 3 months so why not keep them uneaten in a different container a little longer) and wrote 2015 on the bear’s tummy with a Sharpy.
As I did so, I thought, why only write down the happy times? Why not the bad times too? It was January first and I was heading to work soon. I wasn’t very cheery.
But it wasn’t just working on a holiday that made me think that. I’d been bogged down in PTSD and working crazy hours and stress and financial problems and family discord. Bogged down for a while.
I felt like there wouldn’t be much to put in the jar.
I said goodbye to my husband and kids and headed to the hospital. Holidays can be slow because people put off going to the hospital on a holiday if they can, but it’s been a particularly busy year for hospital medicine because of all the influenza. I expected I’d be fairly busy and hoped it wouldn’t be any worse than that. I hoped no patients crashed. I hoped for some time to think.
Earlier in the day, Poobah and the kids and I had gathered in the living room around our old school fake Christmas tree (the kind that really do look fake and aren’t “pre-lit” and don’t have green concentrated pine scent aroma sticks discretely hung on a strategically chosen back branch) to continue a tradition my sister Nicci and I had started when I was still in high school. Every New Years we make predictions for the upcoming year and then the following year we read over them and see who got the most right. We also talk about things that happened over the past year that were unexpected.
We’d each made three predictions but I wanted some time before I went and started the admissions to write down a few more and think about the year ahead.
I started writing and this is what came out:
I need to move forward. But these next 6 months are going to be exhausting. I’m not sure what to do. I wish it were a simpler tale. I wish I could figure it out.
Where did it begin? Before I was born? If it did, then what?
We all seek to be an individual with self-esteem
There are those who stand in the way
And so we assert to be ourselves in maladaptive ways
Because of the innate drive towards maturity
Malcolm has something special in him. Malcolm could change the world.
He said he wants to be an astronaut so he can change the world.
Mies has this amazingly unique combination of traits.
Maybe I am too.
And with those four little words, I got my groove back. I didn’t just get my groove back from before Jeremy Noyes traumatized me seven years ago or before my medical school rubbed salt in the spiritual wound and made it stick. I mean I got my groove back from Way back.
It’s a process, of course, but it is set in motion. It is inevitable. The rate limiting step of the reaction has been overcome and the chemical cascade is in full swing.
I’ve spent most of my precious little free time since then wading through shame and heartache, cleaning out every dark corner of the past 35 years. It’s amazing all the things I’ve been ashamed of over the years. It’s amazing how ashamed I still felt now, decades later, simply writing out the words different people have said to me. I’ve done that sort of thing before, sitting and trying to process bad memories. But the difference this time is that I finally believed that I didn’t deserve any of it. I finally believed I’m extraordinary and so deserving of love and safety and joy, it’s ridiculous.
The words lost their power over me. Those people lost their power over me.
There are things I’ve done in my life I’m ashamed of and I sat with those too. Some of them I reminded myself I had no control over (feeling ashamed I “let” myself be raped, for instance), some I decided are just inevitable mistakes of youth, and some I had to forgive myself for. I regret very little as a general rule, but the things I’ve done that have hurt people, really hurt them, I do regret, and I had to forgive myself and let go of the shame.
Another inevitable piece of it is that I am losing the extra weight I have clung to for many years. It’s time to let it go and so I am. I feel hungry but it doesn’t distress me because it’s what’s supposed to be.
I’ve recovered from political amnesia and am reading feminists and progressives and anarachists again. I’m engaging with people about things that matter. I’m throwing a hundred evolving ideas out to my husband on everything our future holds after we graduate this June.
It’s not that I’m becoming a whole new person. It’s that I’m returning to being myself. I’m doing what we are all made to do: becoming more myself and finding what it is I am supposed to be doing to make the world a better place.
I look at my two year old daughter and see she’s there. She’s got her groove on. She knows what she thinks and wants and feels and she lets you know it. She’s engaged with everything and everyone she comes in contact with. She’s alive. She’s in the flow.
I want to do everything I can to keep her there as much as possible. I want to help all my kids find their flow. And anyone else I can. Because that’s what life is. But I see now, it’s not selfish to enjoy having my own groove on. Quite the opposite. Flow begets flow.
And so, the other day, I took a little green slip of paper next to the empty animal cracker jar and I wrote the first memory of 2015: January 1st Ima got her groove back. (our kids call me Ima. I’ll tell you about it some time)
This is for my husband now: My name is Elizabeth Spaar and 2015 is the year I got my groove back
I came home from working a 24 hour shift and thought, I should relax and watch something funny before I head for my nap. I have a tendency not to follow through on such intentions very well. I tend to wind up watching a documentary about something heavy instead. My therapist Dr. O said my main hobby in life seems to be thinking and that has its benefits and its drawbacks. One of the drawbacks being my insomnia largely caused by my unending pondering. So I knew logically that I really should put on something lighthearted to unwind and then go take my nap, but logic rarely dictates what we do in this world and I am no exception.
In my defense, I did go to the Search area of Netflix and begin to type in “Sex and the City.” I can’t be blamed for Netflix suggesting I might enjoy the TED talks on the topic of sex and love.
The first talk was “eh.” It was about parenting taboos I didn’t exactly find earth shaking. Maybe because I entered parenting via the special needs route. I was doing calculus when the parents giving the talk were still learning to count. Not to say their talk didn’t have value. Sesame Street has a lot of value, for instance. But I digress….
The second talk was different. It was by Brene’ Brown, a PhD in social work, and it was titled “The Power of Vulnerability.” She talked about the most basic human need being connection. She said it was the meaning of life. She talked about the thing that keeps us from it too: shame.
She described shame as the fear of being disconnected. Our fear that if people really knew us, they would reject us.
She said something else too: the less you talk about shame, the more you have.
She said the key to happiness in life was vulnerability. Being willing to sit with uncertainty, taking risks worth taking.
She said that the difference between people who feel loved and connected in this life and those who don’t is whether or not you feel worthy of being loved and connected.
She said we numb vulnerability with food and buying stuff and drinking and medication but when we do, we also numb joy and happiness and make ourselves more and more miserable.
She said more in 15 minutes that is worthwhile than I learned in four years of medical school. My husband says I’m exagerating a bit when I say that. I’m prone to exageration, so I guess I’ll rephrase: what she said launched an epiphany for me that will make me a better doctor and a better person.
You see, PTSD is about disconnection and not being able to be vulnerable and numbing and shame. And shame. I’ve been trying to figure a way out of the disconnection and numbing and avoiding vulnerability piece. It didn’t occur to me that the key could be shame. And it didn’t occur to me there might be a simple mathematical solution:
Talk about the shame –> less shame
I always thought it was the other way around. Maybe that’s why therapy hasn’t done a lot for me over the years. Maybe.
So I’m on a mission to talk about my shame. Every last bit of it. Everyone has it except for psychopaths, so there’s no shame in admitting you feel ashamed.
I had a grrl band when I was in college called Dum(b). Don’t ask about the parentheses. I named the band Dumb because we were a grrl band giving voice to women’s and girls voices (dumb used to mean mute in addition to meaning stupid FYI). I used to be an oral historian trying to give voice to marginalized people (thank you Howard Zinn, God rest his soul). But it’s time to look at myself now.
I need to talk about the things I’ve kept silent so long. The things I have tried to stuff down with food, to forget in the rush of infatuation, have tried to bury under a pile of things bought with credit cards. The things that have kept me from being fully present, that have made me afraid to be vulnerable.
These things that keep you from being alive. The opposite of life.
When I look at my children it is so easy to see that they are extraordinary just as they are. So easy to know in my bones they don’t deserve to feel shame. What I have come to realize is that I need to feel that way about myself.
I have spent the past seven years surviving. Surviving for them, because I had to. But survival isn’t life. It’s a holding pattern. I need to live and not just for them. I need to be fully alive again for me too. Because I deserve to be alive and joyful and self-confident and full of plans and hope and possibility.
Possibilty. It’s been so long since life seemed to hold real possibility.
I went to sleep for a few hours last night during a lull in admissions for the first time in so long. I prayed and thanked God for what the Holy Spirit has revealed to me through a TED talk. And then I stopped thinking and went to sleep. Because I deserve it.
I watched the first two episodes of a British show recently called “The Bletchley Circle”. It’s about four women who were code breakers for British intelligence during world war two who have now blended into civilian life seven years later. One is a stay-at-home mom, another a housewife, another a waitress, the last a librarian. They reunite when they realize they can stop a serial killer with their code breaking skills. They realize, too, that a piece of them has been suffocating all those years. Their minds, their hearts, their spirits, trapped in an ordinary life they weren’t meant for.
They pursue the killer. When the police aren’t very helpful, they take it upon themselves to go undercover. They visit the gruesome crime scenes before calling the police with the location of the body. They set a trap with one of their own as the bait. In the end, they get their man in a dramatic scene where he gets blown away by one of the ladies as he’s about to kill another one.
So, I like it a lot right up until the last ten seconds. I mean, what’s not to like: feisty, intelligent women banding together and protecting their sisters in a man’s world. Well written scenes subtly addressing the alienation of women in modern society and the problem that has no name. Recognition of how common rape and domestic violence are. Entertaining yet socially relevant. I could relate to them too. They knew trauma. They knew aloneness. They had seen the evil of the world, survived it. It made me feel a little less alone. More optimistic maybe. But then came the ending.
The main character is walking home after nearly being killed by a serial killer who rapes his victims after they’re dead. She went willingly to his house because he said if she didn’t, he would kill her children. If she came, he said, he would spare them. She did what we do for our children. She walked into trauma to save them from the evil. And after she nearly died and was saved and the police came in and she processed it all as well as she could with her three friends who’d gone through it with her, who’d saved her, she went home to her husband and kids. She opens the gate of the little picket fence that surorunds her house. She looks in the window at her husband playing with her kids. She’s going to tell him what happened. She’s going to tell him all of it. He doesn’t even know she was a code breaker during the war. He thinks she was a clerical worker. She’s going to tell him now. About the war, about what she and her friends have really been doing when he thinks they’re off gossiping, about the evil she’s seen and known. More than that, she’s going to tell him about the rush of it all. About how powerful she is. She’s stopped a killer. She’s saved countless women. She’s saved her children. She helped defeat the Nazis.
But then she pauses. She looks at them playing happily, blissfully ignorant of it all. She remembers what one of the other women told her. She can’t tell him, she said. She looks at them and she changes her mind. She does what good little trauma survivors do. She swallows it down and hides it away. It’s not enough to have saved so many lives, she must protect them from the knowledge of evil too. To keep them safe in body and mind and spirit.
That’s when they lost me. That’s when my heart sunk and I felt cheated. And I felt pissed.
I wrote in an earlier entry about sin eaters. About swallowing the evil down and keeping it away from the rest of the world. About how I didn’t want to tell anyone about the evil I’ve known because they couldn’t possibly understand. I wanted to be a good little trauma surivor and hold it inside but I can’t. I wanted to be like those war veterans who refuse to tell their families what happened, who maybe don’t even tell them they fought in the war at all. To be like the woman in London who pretened to be a clerical worker turned stay-at-home mom instead of telling her husband who she really was, a warrior. The pain of trauma, the thrill of saving lives.
I haven’t protected my husband from the evil. I have told him all of it in detail. He came to the perpetrator’s trial and saw the graphic pictures of the brutality and perversion. I have told him what he did and how it felt and how it has haunted me. I have been honest about my existential crisis that has started in recent weeks, seven years after the events that changed my life. That changed his. He didn’t even know me then. He was finding Jesus and doing missionary work and writing scripts and raising his beautiful son. It may be harder for him to hear the unholy thoughts I have had lately than the details of the violation.
But I have been brutally honest about those doubts and thoughts and feelings, about the rage I feel for God right now. About my daydreams of violent revenge on my perpetrator which have resurfaced. About how exhausted I am to be seven years out and feeling like I’m back where I started. This is PTSD, I tell him. Why can’t you just get over it, he asks. Why can’t it be over? This is PTSD, I tell him. It will get better, but it will keep coming back. I could go twenty years and be pretty good and then it could come back all over again. And living with that knowdlege in and of itself is cruel enough. We are married for life and so the PTSD is a life sentence for him too.
It is not right to want to violent revenge, he tells me. God calls us to forgive, he reminds me. I said I’d forgiven the perpetrator. I had prayed for him. I had seen him as a poor banished child of Eve. Like a good girl. But I am not a good girl now because I have come to realize I spent all these years being a good girl because I thought maybe if I was good enough, bad things wouldn’t happen to me. I’ve blamed myself all these years because it gave me a sense of control. I realized, really realized, a few weeks ago that it wasn’t my fault. He alone chose to do the things he did. I had no choice. I could not have been so good he wouldn’t have done what he did. I cannot be so good I am safe. And so, I am not going to concentrate my being into being good. I am going to feel the anger I need to feel, I am going to doubt the goodness and power of God as is inevitable with trauma, I am not going to hide from the reality we live in a patriarchy maintained through brutality of body, mind, spirit.
I bring this to him because he’s my husband. I bring it to him first. But I’m not planning to stop there. This is a series of events set in motion in that cold February of 2008. Set in motion by him. I used to think I had such a choice in how I responded to what he did. I used to think I chose to go back to his apartment over and over again because I had made the choice to save my children and to save that little girl. The only choice I had was my body and mind versus my soul. Something would be lost. There was no good choice. I have no good choice now either. Keep it all inside and go on living the nice external life we’ve built up for ourselves or speak the truth and risk losing that external life. Body or soul. Ignore my fellow survivors, the little girls suffering out there, move on and tell myself finding health and happiness is the best revenge. Or be honest.
He’s my husband and my fate is his. His is mine. And God with us. The three of us. And so the three of us have PTSD. The three of us had the good choices taken from us seven years ago on that cold winter day in that motel room in Appalachia.
I will tell my children what happened one day when they are older. It happened to them too. A piece of their mother stolen never to return. A warrior born. I will tell them of the evil in the world and of the not good choices it leaves us. I will tell them I chose my soul over my body and mind. I will tell them he took something from them too. I will tell them the no good choice between body and mind and your soul is at the very core of this fallen world. Because I cannot protect them from the truth of this world but only do my best to prepare them for it. You see, what those good little trauma survivors in the movies don’t know is that you cannot be a good enough girl to keep bad things from happening.
Stop being good and be the warrior you are.
My husband recently informed me my nine year old son no longer believes in Santa. My ten year old with autism still believes. He told me he wants an English policeman costume for Christmas. When I told him that might hard for me to find, he said, don’t worry because Santa can make anything. He said Santa would make it because he doesn’t really believe in elves anymore. I said, so just Santa? He said, well Mrs. Clause too. Obviously. It would be lonely at that cold North Pole without someone to come home to.
My husband and my ex-husband as well don’t really agree with the Santa thing. You shouldn’t lie to your kids, they say. How could they ever trust you once they find out the truth. You lied, you lied! All those years, all those lies! I’ve gotta admit, when they say that my first thought is just, WTF? Are you serious? Then I calm down and formulate a more helpful defense. It’s a little moment of magic we give them for a few years. It’s what childhood is supposed to be. They have the rest of their lives to come to terms with reality. Give them a little piece of magic before the, lets be honest, rather brutal process of growing up begins. They will come across so many lies in their lives told for unkind ends. If we can tell a few to make the brief flash of true childhood a little more magical, I say, do it. I say, it’s not fair for us to impose the world as we see it on them.
There is a truth to Santa. He may not be a man, but he’s the personification of all we feel and hope for them. He is what childhood is. And I hope that’s what we want for them.
I’ve come to realize that protecting childhood is more important to me than almost anything in this world. I don’t mean spoiling kids, I don’t mean coddling them. I mean keeping them safe, giving them room to be themselves, fostering their confidence. When they are young, giving them a time of sweet oblivion from the way of the world. As they get older, leading them into the world as gently and meaningfully as we can. Cradling the fragility of what is true about that childhood innocence intact into the fallen world so they can thrive despite it all and hopefully do some good along the way.
As important as all of this is to me, there is an accompanying … frustration. Yes, we’ll say frustration. We’ll be diplomatic. A frustration with adults who derail this in the less obvious ways. Obviously, there are those who deny kids safety, whether it be sexual, physical, emotional, spiritual. There are those who are not strong enough to let them be themselves. Those who allow their own wounds to keep them from letting them know how wonderfully made they truly are. And frustration is not the word I use for these adults. They are what’s wrong with this world. They are original sin.
The ones I am frustrated with are not the wounded, the evil, the weak. They’re the ones who never really became adults themselves. The ones who do not know the evil this world holds, the suffering, the injustice, the unfairness. Does that sound mean? Bitter? Pessimistic? If so, you may be one of these adults yourself. Before you get all defensive, let’s look at the facts:
1 in 4 girls will be sexually molested in some way
1 in 3 women will be sexually victimized in some way in her life
1 in 4 women will be raped in her lifetime (rape being specifically vaginal or anal penetration)
1 in 6 boys will be sexually molested in some way
That’s in the U.S.
22,000 children die from poverty a day worldwide
28% of children in developing countries are underweight or growth stunted
So, yes, the obliviously priveleged adults of this world frustrate me. They’re safe and warm in their cocoons and the children of the world are outside left on their own. They ignore the safety so many children are denied. They cannot prepare any of the children to make that transition from the innocence of early childhood to the world of trouble and sin we live in. They need to get their asses out here and get to work.
There is a lot of work to do.
I am, above all, a mama lion. For my children and for all the others. Children need milk and play, to learn to fend. They also need a mama willing to rip out the intestines of those who threaten.
Man up, people. Be the mamas they need.
I watched a movie tonight called Remembrance about a woman who was in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II and was saved by a man whom she loved. The movie takes place 30 years later. She’s living in New York City, married with a daughter. She had thought he had died but then she goes to the dry cleaner to pick up linens for a dinner party and hears his voice on a television being interviewed about the camps.
She goes home and is trying to make phone calls to try to find him all throughout this dinner party. Her husband wants to know what’s wrong and she says she won’t say and he says, it’s not just your problem, it’s ours. No, she says, this time it is just mine.
She eventually tracks him down and goes to see him in Poland with her husband’s blessing. The movie ends with her getting off the bus in his hometown in Poland and his gaze and hers meeting.
I have become so… disappointed with most romantic movies they make because I think they really do us all a disservice when it comes to living out marriage. They fill our heads with a lot of awful ideas. They tend to end right as the relationship is starting. The whole focus is on finding THE ONE. If you’d just find THE ONE, you’d live your happily ever after. Big romantic gestures and winning the person over and finally raealizing why you always wind up with the wrong person and now you’ve learned and found THE ONE.
Remembrance is based on a true story (read about it here) that doesn’t have a very happy ever after to it. There’s a big romantic gesture at the start but then some really bad timiing and a disappointing ending. But ya know what? I kinda like that about it.
As I was watching the movie, I found myself really relating to the main character and her current husband and how this was affecting their marriage. I felt for the guy. How do you compete with a guy who saved your wife from the Nazis?? He saved her and disappeared and they never had to deal with bills and kids and whose fault it was that the minivan’s inspection was overdue and you got a ticket and…. How can you compete with that? In a romantic sense, you can’t. It’s like expecting a mother of three whose been to hell and back and eaten her way through it to compete with a man’s idealized vision of what she ought to look like. It’s a shallow, immature vision of love.
Love is a feeling, yes, but while it may first come into being by virtue of romantic notions, it certainly is not sustained that way and it certainly does not grow that way. Real love comes when we let go of what we thought it would look like. Maybe you wanted a girl with a small waist and a big booty and demure manner but instead you find yourself with an apple who curses like a sailor sometimes. Maybe you wanted a guy who’d be so emotionally intelligent he’d put Jesus himself to shame and would always say the right thing but instead you’re lying in bed at night next to a well intentioned guy who requires an awful lot of psychoeducation and tends to speak before he thinks.
Grand romantic gestures and charm and poetry and perfect beautiful bodies are nice and all, but it’s the sprinkles of this life not the ice cream. It’s not even the fudge or the whipped cream. Don’t get me wrong, I love sprinkles, but who wants to eat a bowl full of sprinkles? Love is mostly vanilla ice cream with the occasional sprinkle on top. The sprinkles are a wonderful treat, but it’s the ice cream that fills your belly.
I had a really really rough week recently that involved a really really awful 36 hour long day. I came home at the end of it and my husband surprised me with flowers and a card. He’d gotten three of our kids to sign it (including Princess) and the older two had written in things like “thank you for working hard for us.” I appreciated the flowers, I did, but it was the card that got me.
Our culture markets these ideals to us, these expectations. Of what our soul mate will look like, and act like, and do, and say. It’s only when we let go of these caricatures that we truly find love. And finding it is only the beginning.