Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Big, Cherished Mistake

     Regardless of the holiday, I still had homework to do. So after the kitchen was cleaned and kids were tucked in, I settled in to do some serious reading. Up to this point, my text books for my Pastoral Counseling class had been very timely, not only equipping me, but speaking to me and challenging me on a personal level. My assigned reading for last week was no different, even more so than the others because it was speaking to me specifically about what I was wrestling with on that very day. How could an assignment be so divine? The book is called 9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life by Dr. Henry Cloud. Listen to a few tidbits: "Your heart is an organ designed to have life flowing through it. Your mind is like that as well, as is your soul," (p. 39). And how 'bout this... "One of the worst things you can die with is potential. Die with failures before you die with potential. Potential is something to be realized, not guarded and protected," (41).
     But here is where it was really jumping off the page for me. "Principle 2: Pull the Tooth... Level two is facing things that truly are negative and either fixing them or figuring out that they can't be fixed and letting them go... pull the tooth," (49). The author writes about a business deal with a friend that turned typical: He was owed money, the friend didn't think he owed him money, phone calls were made, phone calls weren't returned, and a good part of a year was spent trying to have this debt repaid, a sizable amount. A wise friend told him, "Write it off and get on down the road. Take the loss and move on. You are expending too much negative energy," (p. 57).
     I do that. I spend way too much negative energy on things that don't deserve my time thinking about them. I was doing that on Thanksgiving Day, but fighting it because my kids didn't need me distracted on such a family oriented day. So I put up a good front, but as soon as they went to bed, more negative energy was being spent.
     I felt God had me read that to remind me that I am not supposed to be anxious about anything! So I was very thankful for my text book that night.
     On Saturday morning, I discovered I had been reading the wrong text book all week. I wasn't supposed to be reading 9 Things, I was supposed to be reading Boundaries in Marriage! So I sat in my study chair, a whole book behind in my reading, but I knew God would see me through my weekend and help me meet my deadline on Sunday in spite of my goof.  God redeemed my mix up and knew what I needed to hear. Talk about learning from your mistakes!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Melancholy Thanksgiving

     When I was a kid, Thanksgiving meant cousins, lots of cousins. We made many trips to Oroville, CA, and Burson, CA, and some years we hosted the dinner at our house in Antioch (did I ever mention the time we actually transported 2 live turkeys tied up in 50 lb Purina Dog Chow bags with their heads sticking out on a 2 hour car ride in our station wagon and one of them busted out and started flapping around all over the back of the car? A traumatizing story for another time). Growing up, there was always lots of family around on the holiday.
     When I got married, Marty and I would rotate going to her family's one year,  and then mine, but driving back from Sacramento, we always managed to swing by my folks' place because it was on the way home. It just wasn't Thanksgiving unless I saw my mom with a dish towel draped over her shoulder as she cooked the turkey or was heating up leftovers, depending on the day.
     Three years ago, one week before Thanksgiving Day, Mom passed away. I knew as I stood by her hospital bed, talking with her for the last time, that I would not be seeing a towel over a shoulder that year. Anticipating that fact was difficult.
     Tomorrow it will be a table set for 5. Just us, the Couch's, no one else. Our house won't be crawling with cousins and aunts and uncles, or even my own siblings, for that matter. They have their own families to tend to. Its not what I was raised on, so, for me, it makes me a little sad because we usually want our kids to have the good experiences we had when we were young. And with that, of course, Mom won't be in the kitchen, but maybe I can get Marty to work a towel on the shoulder for me. It will be me, Marty, the best wife in the world I could have ever hoped for, Julia, who's excelling in her school work (once again) and is a great friend to schoolmates, Ella, who is also at the top of her class and walked 20 laps in her school walk-a-thon (incredible little kindergartner), and Max, who continues to be a source of laughter for us.
     So our house may not be brimming with people tomorrow, but it will be and is rife with thankfulness. After all, it's not aunts and uncles and cousins or even turkey or a towel over the shoulder that make a Thanksgiving complete. All that's needed is 5 Couch's.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Don't Look and It Doesn't Exist

     I've tricked myself into thinking I'm not out of shape. Want to know my secret? I don't look at my gut. I examine my physical appearance  about once a day after getting out of the shower when I look in the mirror with a towel that wraps around and conceals the stomach that I do not care to acknowledge. What only adds to my denial is my stance as I look at my reflection: I'm leaning forward and my chin is slightly extended which obstructs any evidence of a double (or cubed or to the 4th power) chin. That particular mirror tells me I look pretty good.
     I was walking with Max today in a strip mall. I wasn't feeling very good about my appearance and I decided to confirm that feeling by looking at myself in the store window that we were passing. I didn't like what I saw. This glass didn't edit my reflection as nicely as the mirror in my bathroom. I hate that store window. But if I hate that store window, I hate it for telling me the truth. How healthy is that?
     I was brought up in a family that didn't discuss uncomfortable or painful issues. We did not draw attention to that which was on everybody's minds. If we didn't look at it, acknowledge it, or talk about it, maybe it would go away. And if we did that long enough, maybe "it" would never have existed in the first place. So, whatever "it" was, we would just work around it because dealing with the reality of "it" was too unpleasant, hurtful, or shameful.
     Denial is something we develop in childhood. It's a faulty protective mechanism that attempts to keep us safe from a painful truth. It's easier to deny something because the alternative is just too loathsome to think about. Looking at ourselves for who we really are can seem unimaginable. Acknowledging the not so attractive can be  humiliating and bring on the assumed displeasing thoughts of others. But can I just say as someone with my family of origin, acknowledging whatever "it" is is definitely the way to go. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it's humbling. Yes, it may mean tedious work for God knows how long, but health and freedom are so worth it. Plus, wouldn't it be nice to have all that extra living and breathing space in your front room?