Pain passes…

Dear Daughter,

A few minutes ago, I swung my legs up from the floor onto the couch (which is the cozy spot where I write these letters). When I made that move, I thought about how difficult it would have been to do that just three months ago, when I was recovering from my c-section surgery. At that time, moving at all was painful, let alone anything requiring ab muscles. Raising my feet from the ground to the couch or bed was a slow process that involved a lot of cringing, wincing and even some tears. I remember thinking at that time that it would never get better, that the pain would never go away.

But it did.

This got me thinking about pain, both physical and emotional. When you’re hurting, it permeates your entire sense of being. You can’t think about anything else because the pain is so intense it’s crippling. What once seemed like an effortless, involuntary task can now feel like the most difficult thing in the world. Relief seems like light years away. You begin to wonder if this is your new reality, if you’re going to have to hurt for the rest of your life.

I think about the times I’ve been dumped by a boy, which is arguably one of the most painful experiences one can go through. They call it a “broken” heart for a reason. During those breakups, I couldn’t eat or sleep or write my name without thinking about the rejection. I would wake up and hope that it was just a bad dream. But it wasn’t. It was real. So I had to live another day dealing with this weight of grief.

Wounds do heal, though, slowly but surely. They start to scab, to toughen, so that after awhile they’re not so tender anymore. After every breakup, I made it through each day a little better than the last, and before long, the good moments outweighed the bad. I didn’t forget about the pain completely. I’m still always aware of what caused it so that I can try to keep it from happening again. But even though the memory is still there, the heartache is long gone.

Daughter, both your body and your heart will be hurt many times throughout your life. When you’re going through that pain, remember that it WILL get better. The pain WILL fade away and before long you’ll be swinging your legs up onto the couch like it’s the easiest thing in the world. You will survive this, and you’ll be a better, stronger person because of it.

Love,
Mom

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Why the grass is not always greener

Dear Daughter,

You may occasionally hear an adult say, “The grass is greener on the other side.” That adult likely is not talking about the actual color of their actual grass. This is an expression reflecting a perception that someone else’s life, or another path of life you might take, is better than your own life, than the current path you’re on. Usually that perception is false, but sometimes it’s not. Today I’m going to attempt to write about this complex mentality.

By nature, we humans tend to covet other humans. We want what they have, whether it’s material possessions, success or relationships. In fact, just yesterday I heard on the radio that 21 percent of women say they would rather have one of their friends’ husbands than their own. (Yet another negative view of marriage that irks me to no end.) For some reason, when looking at our own lives we are dissatisfied, so we think everyone else has it better. But we don’t realize that everyone else is just as dissatisfied with their life!

It’s not just about coveting other people, though. “The grass is greener” concept applies to the decisions you make, too. People will quit a job and get a new one, thinking that the new one will make them richer and happier. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. A couple might get divorced, thinking that single life, or life away from that person, is preferable to life with that person. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.

And when it isn’t—when the reality sets in that the grass is not as green as the person had hoped—disappointment, heartache and regret could be the end result.

Don’t get me wrong, there will be many times in life when you’ll have to decide to take a new path, and hopefully that path will lead to good things. But don’t be so quick to get out of your current situation that you glorify the alternative. Avoid believing that the new path is your savior, your ticket to lifelong happiness. Because nothing and no one is perfect. The grass on the other side might look lush and green but could be rotting at the roots. The new job might pay more money but could require more of your time. Your friend’s husband might be better looking than yours, but he has annoying habits too.

When you do have those moments when you wonder what life is like on the other side—and you will have many, I assure you—step back and think about how great you already have it now. Try to wade past the undesirable stuff and focus instead on the things you like best about your job or spouse or wardrobe. And give grace to the people and things in your life. Know that they’re not perfect and never will be… and be grateful for that! After all, it’s the imperfections in this world that make the little nuggets of goodness that much more precious.

Love,
Mom

Why girls who read are awesome

Daughter, if you want to know why I always encourage you to read, this blog post by The Monica Bird says it all…

“Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.”

Read the rest of the post here. And then go read a book.

Why I don’t want to marry Bruno Mars

Dear Daughter,

It’s been a while since I’ve picked on a pop star and/or pop song, and it’s just so much fun to do, so here’s my latest rant…

Bruno Mars has a new song out called “Marry You.” When I first heard it, I loved it because it has an old-school feel, like 60s music, and I absolutely love music from that era. But, like Katy Perry’s Friday song, the catchy sound distracts from the appalling lyrics. When I finally listened to the words of “Marry You,” I was so disappointed.

The song in general appears sweet because he’s basically begging this girl to marry him. But if you really listen, a few themes come across that are simply maddening:

1) Who are you, again? It appears that he doesn’t know this girl very well. “Is it the look in your eyes or is it this dancing juice?” (Dancing juice is alcohol.) So he’s basically saying, “I don’t know if it’s because you’re hot or I’m drunk but hey, let’s get married!” How romantic. I sure wish my husband proposed to me that way. Throughout the song it seems he wants to marry her just for the fun of it, not because he’s actually in love with her. In fact, the song has little to do with the girl at all; he’s mainly just trying to convince her to join him in his little prank.

2) Something borrowed, something… dumb? The point above is blatantly reinforced by the lyric, “We’re looking for something dumb to do.” So now marriage is dumb. Why couldn’t he have said “fun” instead of “dumb”? I wouldn’t have had a problem with that. If you’re looking for something dumb to do, Bruno, go teepee someone’s house. Marriage does not and should not fall into that same category.

3) All hail king alcohol. I already mentioned the “dancing juice,” which I’ll admit is kind of a cute, old-school way of describing alcohol. But the eloquence stops there. Because a few verses later he says, “Who cares if we’re trashed…” Nice. And then he says something about how they’ll take shots of Patron (a very strong liquor) to help ease them into the decision. What should be a lifelong commitment, something that should be entered into with clarity of mind, is here being degraded by alcohol, and lots of it.

4) The morning after. I think I would tolerate the song better if it weren’t for the following lyrics: “If we wake up and you wanna break up, that’s cool/ No, I won’t blame you/ It was fun girl.” Those words encourage the common belief that it’s no big deal to end a marriage, and they reinstate the fact that his desire to marry this girl is for the spontaneous experience, not because of love.

The song just saddens me because it is a reflection of our culture’s jaded view of marriage. It’s saying that marriage—one of the biggest decisions you could ever make and one of the most character-building things you’ll ever do—is as easy to walk into and out of as a convenience store. The song totally waters down any respect one might have for the institution of marriage. I’m sure Bruno Mars just wanted a fun, upbeat song that he knew would be a hit, but he’s promoting a dangerous perception of marriage, a perception that’s already pretty screwed up. We didn’t need this song to make it worse.

I told you, I’m sensitive about this all-too-popular view of marriage and I hope you will be too. I also hope that, if a guy were to someday write a song about why he wants to marry you, it’ll be filled with reasons why he can’t live without you. And it won’t include the words “dumb” or “trashed.”

Love,
Mom

When to stop dwelling on your problems

Dear Daughter,

There’s a great country song by Rodney Atkins that says, “If you’re going through hell, keep on going, don’t slow down. If you’re scared, don’t show it. You might get out before the devil even knows you’re there.”

I think this is some of the best advice I’ve ever heard.

Basically he’s saying, when you’re in the midst of a trial, don’t wallow in misery. Don’t let yourself get caught up in it; instead just stay strong and forge through. In another part of the song he says, “Keep on moving, face that fire, walk right through it.”

You will go through many trials in life, Daughter. It’s inevitable. I hope and pray that your trials will be minor, but they might not be. Major or minor, however, you have a choice on how to handle them. You can either let them consume you or let them refine you. I advise the latter.

That’s not to say that you can’t go through a grieving process. Rodney Atkins isn’t telling us to deny our problems but rather to face them and then do something about them. If someone you love dies, for example, it’s both natural and necessary for you to take some time to grieve, to be sad and angry and whatever other emotion comes upon you. But after a while, you do need to get on with your life. You’ll never stop missing that person, but you’re doing yourself a huge disservice if you don’t learn to live without him or her.

My example pales in comparison to death, but one time I went through a devastating breakup. The jerk I was with for months (which isn’t very long but felt like it to me) just up and left me, without a word. It broke my heart into pieces and I couldn’t go a minute without thinking about it. My poor sister was the recipient of many tear-filled phone calls, when I would go on and on about how horrible I felt and how awful he was and how… how could he do such a thing to me?? Finally, your aunt being the wise, straight-shooter she is, said, “You need to forget about him. What he did was wrong, yes, but that’s just further clarification that he’s not right for you. He’s the wrong guy, Julie. You know that now. So forget about him.”

Her words shocked me at first. Up until then she had been just a patient listener. But she’d had enough. And she wanted me to have enough too. I’d had my time to be sad. Now was the time to move on. And so I did.

When you do healthily progress from such an experience, you become a little bit stronger. You sport a thicker skin that will better handle the next hardship. The next time around, you know that you’ll survive because you’ve lived through it before. You’ll know that good days will come again, and they’ll come even sooner when you choose to stand tall and keep moving forward.

Love,
Mom

The right kind of man

To this quote, I say “Hear hear” and ” Thank you” and “Amen!”:

“We need to teach our daughters to distinguish between a man who flatters her, and a man who compliments her …. a man who spends money on her, and a man who invests in her …. a man who views her as property, and a man who views her properly …. a man who lusts after her, and a man who loves her …. a man who believes he is God’s gift to women, and a man who remembers a woman was God’s gift to man.”  -Unknown

How to recover from the worst kind of breakup

Dear Daughter,

The other night, while watching my new favorite show Parenthood, I started bawling. I always cry a little while watching that show, but this particular episode really got to me because in it, 18-year-old Haddie is dumped by her 20-year-old boyfriend Alex. He breaks up with her simply because he fell out of love with her. He isn’t a jerk about it at all; in fact, it’s clear to see that it breaks his heart to hurt her. He just doesn’t have feelings for her anymore. What was once there simply is not anymore.

I think the reason this hit me so hard is because… well, for one, I’m pregnant, but that’s besides the point. It was devastating to me because I was watching it from the perspective of both Haddie and also her mother, who is pained by her daughter’s heartache.

Daughter, I’m gonna give it to you straight: this kind of breakup is the worst kind there is. When a boy dumps you, you almost want it to be the result of something you’ve done wrong, so you know exactly what happened that made him want to leave. But when he tells you he no longer is attracted to you, it’s so hard not to feel badly about yourself. You’ll ask yourself questions over and over again: “Does he think I’m ugly now? Did I annoy him? Is there someone else?” And there’s no real closure, because you can’t pinpoint the exact moment that everything went south. But it did and the man you cared about is gone.

Now I’m depressed.

But there actually is a bright side to this. Because what happens after the breakup can be one of the most uplifting, character-building opportunities you’ll ever experience. This is when the people who love you—who will always love you no matter what—come to your side to support you and help you realize that you are wonderful, just not meant for this particular man. It’s when you look back at the things you could have done differently, the result of which will benefit future relationships. It’s when you come to a point where you can choose to keep wallowing and wondering, or you can get back on your feet and move on. You will survive this, after all. It will get better every day, and someday, believe it or not, you’ll stop thinking about it altogether.

I’ve had a few of these painful breakups in my past, and I know I’m a much stronger woman because of them. I can handle rejection better because I’ve lived through it and survived it. Plus, now that I have a man who couldn’t be more perfect for me, I’m so grateful that it didn’t end up working out with those guys. I’m grateful that they helped pave the way to a loving, fruitful marriage, to a man who loves me without fail.

It pains me to think that you might someday experience a breakup like the one Haddie did. But I know you will bounce back from it and will be stronger because of it. And any time you need to hear a reason why you are worthy to be loved… well… I’ll give you a million and one.

Love,
Mom

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