A local pastor’s wife friend came over yesterday morning. It was cold enough that we stayed inside, but early enough that we talked for nearly two hours in the living room while the rest of the house was still asleep. She told me I didn’t have to clean for her, so I didn’t, not too much. I did make sure the bathroom was at least presentable and wiped down. I also cracked a window in the mudroom to air out any heavier or more obvious shoe or cat smell, as the family collection of shoes is the first thing the front door opens right into, and I’m never quite sure who can smell the cats or not.
Later I could see where Ghost had been. I took some of my citrus and basil all-purpose cleaner and wiped up his dried sneeze remnants. I love Ghost, which is why I let him come inside in the first place. I told the kids to put him back outside. It’s been chilly, but not frigid, and it’s good for him to get outside in the fresh air and sun. While cleaning the floor I started thinking about how so often I have felt this sense of my living space being “unclean”. Like, it’s this place no one really wants to come to, that I feel is never quite good enough to invite people into, at least not as much as I would like to.
I saw a post on Instagram that said “Perfectionism is often shame in disguise.” I took a screen shot of it. Perfectionism is something that has come up pretty regularly in counseling. I’ll make a passing comment about the house and then she’ll dig deeper. What am I getting or wanting from a cleaner house? Satisfaction. Evidence that I accomplished something. Something I can point to and say, “See? Here’s what I did.” This came up a little bit yesterday too, to which the probing went deeper. “What about attention?” I had to think about it more. The need for attention is associated with negative images. Needing attention is for the slutty girls with daddy issues. Needing attention is for the vain, the prideful, the ones whose fleshly sins need to be mortified.
“Ah, yes”, she said. “You’re a Christian, which means you think everything is your fault.”
I was seen again in that moment.
“Thank you”, I said. “THANK YOU.”
I have thought through these years, that by the time this season of life is over, I surely will have been purged of every sinful need for praise or admiration. I was doing some reading for my abnormal psychology class and came across a section that stood out to me. It was talking about depressive disorders. This isn’t the time to go into every possible reason or contributing factor with depression, but this particular section spoke on behavioral explanations. There were three things which made up the section (taken from Understanding Abnormal Behavior, 11th edition, Sue, Sue, Sue, Sue, p. 241):
- A person participates in few events or activities that are potentially reinforcing.
- There are few reinforcements available in the environment.
- A person’s behavior and social skills result in limited reinforcement.
This reminded me of my stay-at-home mom days in Hoyleton. This morning I went back and read a post I’d written during Lent. It was slightly amazing to me to see something I’d not remember if I hadn’t written it down: “We haven’t made a single Lenten service this year. It’s too hard to get out with the kids this time of night. I attempted the afternoon service with the three boys. But going during nap time didn’t turn out well and we ended up leaving about a third of the way through. The older two kids go. Their dad comes over before church and gets them. I’m not even sure where we are in Lent. I would guess we’re maybe half way through? I don’t pay attention to the calendar.”
I go on to say, “If there’s one thing I’m learning about mothering, it’s that this is not a life of immediate gratification. This is a life stretched out. A slow and steady walk toward the eternal Prize. I look around and if it weren’t for the fact that I actually remember doing things, you’d never know I did anything today. I guess the kids are alive and sleeping in their beds right now, but that is only by the pure grace of God. But I am in this for the long haul, or for however long God gives me.” I have also been thinking recently, “What if I really do end up dying? Like before I can have my forties decade of art, music, and dance? Before I get to my fifties where I will finally write my books?
(Man makes plans…)
I rarely ever think this, but the other day I felt like I’d be okay if I died. Like if God would take me home earlier than I would personally ask or want for him to, I would be okay. The world would go on spinning. My family, in the Lord’s hands, would also be okay. I’m not looking to die. That’s another thing about this in-person class I’m taking. Every week our teacher wants us to practice asking a classmate, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” She says this is the equivalent of a life-saving skill, a basic question in counseling care that we need to get used to asking. The question sounds too harsh to me, too blunt and direct. I keep wanting to soften the word “killing” with “harming”.
People talk about the need to be seen and heard. There is nothing sinful about this, but is in fact, the way we were made by God to exist and live. This is, ideally, one of the things that makes the person-to-person relationship therapeutic: It gives people a chance to be seen and heard, which gives people a chance to be known. I’ve recently started having the boys write more in their journals again using whatever writing prompt I come up with. The eyes of a child made it all come together. I might be daily being purged and cleansed from sin, but every so often there come along these shining moments that seem to affirm for me that yes, the long-haul was exceedingly worth it.