On Pulling Weeds and Planting Seeds (My Life as a Metaphor)

Image
My husband planting our garden in 2011 (the same time I was working on photography techniques for the journalism class I taught). Of the family, he’s always been the gardener. But this year I seem to be coming around.

I like writing to my roots, or the metaphor I’ve chosen to guide my blog, because it suggests a narrative that deepens as I go. It means that I don’t have to start with all the deep stuff first, but that I can move more gently to the sources of pain, and the sources of me.

Who says I have to go deep, you may ask? Well, definitely not pop culture or social media, which is oh so surface level.

It’s me (“It is I,” for my fellow English majors) who has chosen to go deep, because I write to heal myself and to help others. I choose to work gradually to my roots of pain and self-protection, because that’s how healing has to happen, and after healing, recovery. Recovery of our dreams, goals, and our true identities. We must take gradual steps.

As we do, we can unmask lies we’ve had about ourselves to finally embrace who we are meant to be. And that’s the point of the blog.

But before I chose Writing to my Roots, I planned to call this endeavor The Before Thirty Project, because that’s how it started. Originally this “project” included two goals in the last months before I turned thirty. Little did I know that these goals would expand as my writing took me deeper, little by little, to my roots—both pleasant and painful. Today I finish a series of three posts on a topic that I used to shun like the unwanted appendage I imagined it to be. Then, back to other topics I’m more comfortable with. I promise.

Image

When I first vaguely conceived of my project at age twenty-five, I had two goals in mind: earning my master’s degree and publishing a book. It was probably my incessant talking about these grandiose goals, in fact, that had my high school students so frequently asking, “Are you ever going to have kids?”

The junior and senior girls would look at me in disbelief when I shrugged, “Probably not.”

For some of them, having kids was the goal of life.

But when they said things like this, I was the one fighting back disbelief.

Really girls? I thought. What was so glamorous and good about having babies?

Of course, being in a high school environment where numerous girls got pregnant each year, it was easy to disparage their dreamy looks and words. Terrible! We teachers said. Teenage girls getting pregnant! What a waste! What unnecessary hardship!

For a teenage mom, of course, it is an unnecessary hardship. To this day I would never advocate teen girls—or any female who is not married—getting pregnant.

But once a girl finishes high school…once she gets married…

Until recently, I still couldn’t advocate it. Not for myself. And honestly, not for anyone else. As my twenty-something girlfriends got pregnant one by one, it felt as if they were betraying me, one by one. How selfish, I know.

Because I couldn’t have this happiness (rather, couldn’t understand it as happiness), they shouldn’t either. Really, I would be doing us all a favor to save us from the inevitable heartache that must come with kids.

For seven years I told myself I didn’t want kids. Too much risk. Too much time that could be better spent elsewhere. Why risk such a hefty investment when you didn’t know what you were going to get? Never mind potential birth defects. What about angry children who decided to write you off because you screwed up their lives?

Today I can look back at sentiments like these more objectively. They don’t seem normal, or rational, or healthy, like I once stubbornly insisted they were. (My husband would just give me that same look I got from my girl students: You’re messed up.)

Image

Maybe it was a problem with the kind of kid I had become over the years. Bitter. Angry. Sad. Detached.

I was not bringing any particular blessings to my parents’ lives. I had moved so far away from them that it was not strange to go almost a year between visits. At various points, I had barricaded myself from contact. Didn’t want a lot of contact, because contact hurt. It just all hurt so much—family visits, photo albums, phantom memories—that why would I ever want to perpetuate it?

Through writing and other miracles, God has taken me to a place where I’ve realized none of my self-protections can keep me safe or healthy. More than indicating a kind of logic, all my excuses, denials, and exercises in becoming numb indicate a sad existence. The guardedness (to the degree that I’ve had it) is not laudable; it’s lamentable. Would that we women could be smart about our choices—with healthy boundaries that keep us from getting pregnant when we shouldn’t (right, Kim Kardashian?)—but that allow us to be open to any possibility, should God suggest it to us.

Image

After eight years of marriage, He has suggested it. And now I’m open. At this point, a baby could definitely be part of the “before thirty project,” if God wants it to be. That is to say, I’ve removed the barriers. I can conceive of getting pregnant. It’s up to God if I really will conceive. But if not, I’m okay with that, too. My being open to the possibility is the real growth—more meaningful than a baby bump could ever be.

Whew. Now that I’ve made some real progress with this root, I’m putting it to rest for awhile. (I’ll let you know if anything develops.)

Image

 

Advertisements

Really, Kim? It ‘Couldn’t Be Planned for?’ A Challenge to Kim Kardashian to Take Responsibility

Image

You can view this photo here.

I’ve been trying this morning to figure out why Kim Kardashian would make the brainless remark I heard from her today on NBC: Regarding her unexpected pregnancy with Kanye West during her pending divorce with another man, she said: “It couldn’t be planned for.”

Notice her use of the passive voice to avoid placing herself in the subject position—or the position where she must logically be the one planning things. The only reason I can come up  with for her saying this is that her sense of shame is equal to her sense of responsibility: absolutely none.

And the only reason I am giving her space on my blog is to speak out against the insidious, (I think Satanic) lies she is clearly living by:

1)    The lie that she doesn’t have to take responsibility for her actions.

2)    The lie that her actions don’t matter to others.

From a Christian perspective (but mostly just that of a logical human being), I’d like to correct her erroneous beliefs by asking:

  • In response to #1: Before getting pregnant, was she aware of the biological implications of having sex? Nuff said.
  • In response to #2: Has she ever been affected by her own parents’ decisions?

Note on #2: I’ve resisted getting too cozy with the Kardashian family, so I don’t know much about her background. I seem to have heard, however, that it is only because of family connections that she is even famous (what does she do, anyway?)

But I digress. I don’t really want to talk about Kim Kardashian; I’m actually using her to speak to a societal problem at large, and finally, to talk about myself.

What Happens When Parents Don’t Plan (or Satan Screws Things Up)

I’m sure it’s only because I have personally seen the damage of irresponsible parental planning (or lack thereof) like Kim’s that I care so much about this topic—that I was positively incensed to hear such flippancy about the parental role.

I’m sure it’s for the same reason that, in a class discussion with my seniors while I was still teaching, I was similarly incensed. That day, a “free” discussion day, we were talking about sex, and one of the boys, when asked why he had it (it was a very open class), simply said, “Because it feels good.”

Oh really? I asked him, proceeding to launch into a tirade that went something like this:

Have you thought about the long-term implications of “feeling good”? Have you thought that “feeling good” could result in a baby? And what about that baby? Will he be glad his dad enjoyed some “good sex” when he gets old enough to wonder why mom and dad don’t love each other, why they aren’t together?  When he is old enough to wonder who he is, if not a child that was planned for by a mommy and daddy that cared enough to provide a solid foundation for his well-being and self-understanding?

In class that day I didn’t reveal the roots underlying this outburst, but I will allude to some of them here.

Though I know that my parents made a much better effort to plan than it seems Kim has done, well, Satan intervened and screwed things up (that’s how all bad roots start).

Family life was good until age fourteen, when it all fell apart. And then came the displacement that grows out of broken homes. Then came the emptiness that sprouts from seeing your parents weren’t meant to be together—and that I was a product of a failed relationship (did that make my existence a failure?). Then, there was the anger that results from realizing that someone didn’t care enough to plan for me, to think about what I would need, not just as an infant, but as a child, a teenager, and a young adult.

And these bad roots sprang up even from a Christian home where the parents never planned for divorce. Heaven help those homes (and hearts) where it is no secret that the parents were never even trying to build a home, or a family.

What Is the Takeaway?

So, after all that, where is the nugget of hope that you should expect from a Christian blogger like me? Where is the hope for a society ravaged by divorce, broken families, and brokenness? Where is the hope when bad things can happen that we didn’t plan for?

I’ll be answering all of those questions over time. However, for today, I would just offer two lessons sparked by Kim Kardashian (oddly enough):

1)    Know what you can plan for, and take responsibility for it. Do you know that sex produces babies? Okay then. Did Kim know it? Uh oh…there’s the loophole.

Lot’s of people knowingly plan for babies out of wedlock, or at least are not bothered by the thought of it. That’s because, I suppose, in Kim’s world (our world?), this is normal—we have been so brainwashed by Hollywood as to feel no sense of obligation to the family unit and its societal implications—instead, we tend to put ourselves first. Which brings up my second lesson of the day, this one from Scripture:

2)    By beholding we become changed. I think this verse immediately sprang to mind today because, as I watched Kim speak, and speak none too intelligently, I felt a fascinated outrage (you know, that kind when you just can’t look away?) that these are the types of celebrities our young people are beholding on a regular basis.

These are the poster people whom “reputable” stations like NBC are only too happy to beam to the world, disguising the poster people’s brainlessness, brokenness, and immorality by makeup, glamour, and glitz. Newscasters who seem responsible are trained to treat yet another illegitimate baby, and with it, a home-wrecking legal battle, as fun, lighthearted news. She, the newscaster, smiles and nods as Kim bats her eyelashes and explains that, in light of her fertility issues, this pregnancy was just a “happy surprise.” (Conversely, neither Kim nor the newscaster makes any mention of the devastation to follow as the child grows up out of these unfavorable beginnings). The clip ends with the newscaster plugging Kim’s new show and wishing her well. Kim is praised for her infidelity, immorality, and promiscuity. America applauds.

By beholding, we are becoming changed.

Readers, what do you think? Have I got it right? And are you frightened, too, by our society’s our children’s, fascination with role models like Kim Kardashian? Do we actually buy it, or am I just a wounded, overgrown child overreacting? Will Kim’s kid someday be able to laugh and dismiss an absent dad (or mom) and his sense of rootlessness when Kim, flashing her winning smile, explains, “Honey, it just couldn’t be planned for”? [Will the kid also ask, What do you mean by ‘it,’ anyway?]