Friday, May 25, 2012

On suffering

You know when you're experiencing something really painful, really difficult, really challenging, really heartbreaking, someone always says, "Well, it could be worse." They say, "At least it's not cancer" or "at least you look good" or "at least it's only temporary." And you agree. You accept that you don't have too much to be upset about, you accept that you have been deeply blessed, or that you had least have it pretty good. You never wish that it was worse just so you would have a reason to complain.

But I do.

See, like most women, I hide a lot. For clarification: I hide things, thoughts, feelings, from the world. I keep them to myself. I do not ask for help. I do not express my pain. Lately, I haven't even written these hurts down in my "regular" journal.

Now, I'm also unlike most women, in that I'm not afraid to ask for help. I say what I need, I am very specific, and if someone tries to tell me that what I need is not correct, I usually ignore them. I may not be old and wise but I know most of my own needs and I do not appreciate well-meaning older people telling me otherwise. This is not because I'm stubborn, because I am controlling, because I am whiny, because I am pushy. (Although I possess all of those qualities to some degree.) This is because I have learned the value of both independence, and dependence. I have spent years depending on only myself (internally), and as a married woman I have learned to force myself to depend on someone else--not for everything, but in the right times and places. I have learned to submit to someone else doing what's best for me. I have learned to just say what it is that will help me the most, instead of hoping that someone will telepathically see what it is I need and magically fulfill it.

This has been a process. Don't hate the process. There is nothing wrong with just saying what you need.

The problem is when people actually try to fill that need with something else. I want to give examples, but I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, so I will make something up. Here. I'll tell you a story.

We see a girl in college, and she wants to go home for the weekend to surprise her mom for her birthday. She just doesn't have enough money for the train ticket. She is paying her own way through college for the most part, and will end up paying back her own student loans, so the $50 round-trip train fare is just not in her budget. The girl calls her aunt (her mother's older sister) and tells her the plan, and asks if she can help her with the train ticket. The aunt gently says that she cannot afford the ticket either, something about living on a limited income. The girl sits at school all weekend feeling sad. She mails her mom a handmade card, and calls her on the day of her birthday, wishing the whole time she could be at home. A few days later she receives flowers at her school's post office--they are from her Aunt. The flowers are inexpensive carnations. The card reads: "Sorry I couldn't help, dear. I have been thinking of you and your mom all weekend. Hope these make you smile!" The girl wonders why her aunt could not have offered to send the flowers to her mom, and say they were from her. The girl wonders how she could afford to have flowers delivered, an expense of at least $30, which could have covered more than half her train ticket. She doesn't ask her aunt, so as not to offend her, and writes a simple card thanking her for the flowers, just to be polite.

It feels like that. What I get in response to my needs, it feels like that every time. It feels like someone sees my need, listens to what I say, and then they spend time and energy giving me something I don't even want, let alone need! They replace what I need with some nicety, some Sunday-school answer, some sugary advice, some platitude, some proverb, some meaningless favor. It feels like this every. single. time.

So let me explain why I wish it was worse. Why would I ever wish something more painful upon myself, why would I want more hurt and struggle?

Because people see it. For the girl in college, wanting to go home for her mom's birthday wasn't a big enough need. Nobody thought it was that important. It was sweet, but not important. If her mother was dying, it would be a different story. If the girl needed to get home for a relative's wedding or getting her braces off or updating her driver's license, it would be a different story. Someone would fill the need.

In this same way, my needs are also unseen, and unimportant. I need to move into a new apartment? "That's easy, look at this website." I'm sick and don't know what's wrong? "Go to a doctor, they'll help!" I'm having a bad day, and would really like some encouraging words from a friend? "Here, -insert overused Bible verse looked up on some Bible site-. Smiley face."

My needs are not important enough for anything that requires effort. I can handle it myself, as long as you keep giving me advice.

At least that's what you think. That's what you see. That's what happens on the never-ending merry-go-round of Facebook. I express a feeling, I get tawdry advice in return. I express some happiness, I get questions and cynicism. I express a deep need, and I get more advice and more cynicism and nothing useful.

Although, the problem really isn't in other people. Not all of them. I know the people I have befriended on Facebook. Most of them are loving and kind, patient and gracious, and generous--to the right person, with the right need. I have struggled with health issues all year and there are only a few responses. 1. "You should see a doctor!" Because, you know, I've never been to one. I had no idea that seeing a doctor could help with sickness. Thanks for telling me, if you hadn't said that I would just sit here feeling so confused! The other response: "Maybe you're pregnant!" Let me tell you, here, on the big scary internet, that NO. I am not. It's actually unlikely that I will EVER be pregnant. I have put that in God's hands, but you have no idea how much it hurts me every time someone asks that just because I am feeling sick.

And that is just one struggle. That is one reality that has been sitting with me since I was 17 years old and every time it's mentioned (unless I bring it up myself) it's like someone jabbing you in the ribs and saying, "Nyah, nyah, you'll never get the thing you want! Remember that? Remember how much it hurts? Neener neener!"

I feel like if people knew just a third of what actually happened in the last year they would stop giving me useless advice. If people could see my heart, and how tired it is, after everything that I've been through just in the last few months even, they would probably nag me a little less about responsibility and maturity. THE WORLD sets the standard for success, the standard for health, the standard for maturity and responsibility. But GOD sets the standard for the health of my spirit, the standard for the passion in my heart, the standard for how much I trust Him. God sets the real standards. The ones that matter.

So maybe the next time I request prayer about something, just tell me you're praying. That's what I need. When we're sitting down together, face-to-face, you can tell me a funny story about how my needs relate to yours. Or tell me something like not believing in prayer. Don't mess with me, don't tell me stories. Just pray. Or don't.

And maybe the next time I say how exhausted I am, how high my fever is, you'll tell me to feel better instead of playing a guessing game of "What's wrong with Katie?" or recommending some treatment (or telling me to go see a doctor), or asking if I'm pregnant. When you are in the room with me, with my body THEN you can tell me what you think is wrong.

Maybe the next time I am hurting, and express that hurt, you'll remember that this is the surface. There is deep pain beneath it. Maybe you'll remember that whatever I say on Facebook is just a tiny piece of reality, that whatever I say I need, it doesn't even express half of what I really need.

And if you can't meet the need, don't replace it with something else--other than prayer. If you can't buy the train ticket, don't send me flowers.

PS. No, I'm not going to actually tell you (the internet) what's going on. That would hurt. A lot. And would cause more drama than anything else. The end.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The simplest explanation is the best

 Patient is as patient does:
an ideology that could speak volumes,
but patience as we know it
is often silent.
And according to the critics
it is normal for women,
a gender scorned by
those on both sides of the wall.
This comes naturally to me,
naturally I am a woman,
and due to the nature
of my feminine charms
I wait.
I am unswaying, unmoving,
I sit and I stay and
I wait.
But I will not be
unspeaking, unscreaming,
I can be patient.
I can do patient.
I cannot be silent.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Pull in to the station

Some thoughts on my final finals week.

I never have to do this again. I could start by saying I've never done this before. I've never had a stress-reliever (husband) waiting at home at the end of each final. I've never experienced a finals week in which I was not also scrambling to find people to take care of half my belongings for the summer, and simultaneously packing everything into two suitcases and that ENORMOUS green backpack. I am not stressing about making sure I finish all my finals in time for the flight home. I am not measuring out meal swipes, or pawning them off to those who have used all theirs up. I am not spending my evenings at Late Night Waybright (or Midnight Melton, aw). I don't have a suite duty, which usually includes something stupid like wiping down windowsills three times over or washing walls. I am studying with no one. I am not having movie marathons with studying friends.

It's different, and it's nice. I like coming home to Joey, who brings me tea and soda from Panera and makes me coffee and buys ice cream to soothe my nerves. He holds me when I'm freaking out (which I haven't done yet, but it's still possible.) I get to study by myself, and when I stay up all night writing or pouring over facts I get to keep a couple lights on, I can go to the kitchen and make myself something to drink or munch on, and he won't wake up. It's a nice change from previous years. Things are changing all the time, and I'm adapting fairly well.

And next Tuesday May term starts. And then... who knows? The landlady hasn't made a decision yet, which is disconcerting, because whoever that silly seminary student is that she is also considering should know that he can easily get a roommate and live somewhere else, for even cheaper. Problem is, she is elderly, and when you're that old you just get to do what you want. And we're not going to be pushy.

I don't like waiting for something so obscure. It was hard enough just waiting until Monday to find out her decision. Now she still hasn't made one, and we won't know when her decision is made. I like to know how long I have to wait until I have to start waiting for something else. Yep.

It's like we're in a train station, and we're waiting for a very specific train. No one will tell us when the train is arriving, but they do know that when the train arrives, there's a chance we won't be able to get on. So it feels like we might as well go wait for another train that actually has a time of arrival. Or, we could find Platform 9 3/4 and head to Hogwarts. That sounds like a more exciting trip, anyhow.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

And the livin' is easy

I realized, possibly just a few days ago, that my summer will potentially be very quiet, mostly uneventful, and peaceful. It seems the "nothingness" I am so desperate for may actually be within reach--and in the most perfect way. Basically, the way this happened, is that Joey got a summer job, and we might get a small apartment in the middle of the woods. The rent is cheap (unbelievably cheap) and the elderly landlady seems very sweet. We'll find out on Monday if she wants us to move in or not.

 The other half of this "potential nothing-filled summer" comes from Joey's second job. It was already expected that he would get the car most of the summer for work, since he'll be a trainer soon with more expectations and responsibilities etc. etc. etc. In a fit of panic and bewilderment, (because of suddenly being told we had to move out, not having money for the rent because we paid for me to take my content area test in June, needing to see a doctor badly, more etc.) Joey applied for several jobs in the area and got one at Target. He came home from Panera early on April 27th, and told me he had a Target interview at 3pm. I went out for coffee with a friend and he called me at 4:45 to tell me he had another job!

So now he has two jobs. Which means more money. Which also means two places to drive to, more gas, and that's just for one person. It also means that any plans I had about getting a summer job for myself are out of the picture, because this car is already over ten years old and driving it nonstop all day for three months in the Chicago summer just sounds like a bad idea. AND we would never see each other, which we already did for the first 2 years of our relationship. (except then we were in different states. oy.) And the rent is cheap enough that, with Joey's two jobs and the raise once he becomes a trainer this month, we won't even need the extra income. Just extra sleep for him.

With all that said, I have concluded that I won't be getting a job. It wouldn't make any sense. AND I DON'T REALLY WANT ONE. Did I type that out loud?

I'm really looking forward to living.... well, somewhere else. I sincerely hope that the sweet landlady considers us as good renters and calls us tomorrow (yes, it's already Sunday, by George) and tells us she'll be happy for us to move in later in June. It's in the middle of a beautiful nature preserve, which we get to help take care of in exchange for crazy-low rent. I cannot wait to just sit among the trees all day, writing and drawing and just being. I also believe (and this is the first time I am admitting this to anyone but my own hopeful heart) that with the low rent we may actually be able to fly home--before my parents move out to North Carolina. Oh yeah. That's happening too. My hope is that we can fly home and help them drive back. It's a complicated idea. We'll see how it goes.

Basically I'm just in the midst of one large crisis or transition after another and I feel like after we move it might actually stop. I might get to just be.