All the Feels
We are in shelter in place week seven now. Mind. Blown. For me personally, I am starting to see some fruit come out of this time of forced confinement. I spent a good amount of time tearful and scared the first... month? I do feel settled in now though. That does not mean I do not have days where I am raging against the state of things and just want to go back to "normal." It just means I am experiencing fewer of those days than before. David returns to work on Friday and that will be a blow to my emotional state. I am so grateful for the time we have had. And I am continually impressed by human resilience in the midst of uncertainty.
The other day I participated in my first birthday parade car procession. When it was time to drive to the street in our neighborhood where cars were to line up, I was shocked to see how many were participating. I loaded up Sabina and the dogs in my car, with Bina and myself in party hats. Others had banners and balloons adorning one side of their vehicle. I felt under prepared. Next time! One by one we drove up in front of our neighbor's house to wish the birthday boy a happy birthday. He happily ran to and from the cars collecting presents and delivering goodie bags. As I waited in line I found myself becoming emotional. We have attended this neighbor's son's birthday party the last several years. How I wanted to be able to stand around the kitchen and talk with the other parents while the kids played in the yard. But in this season that is not possible. I mourn that loss, and at the same time am struck by our resilience. Look at all these humans. When we are forced to, we get creative. We find a new way to celebrate, accepting the limitations of social distancing. Celebration does not cease, it evolves. Adapts. And we do it together.
I find myself holding space for the tension of different feelings in this time. While I have some fear about how the near future will look, I find peace in the present moment. I miss our routine and activities. I also have come to embrace this time at home. Sabina and Juniper are all each other have (for little playmates). Being with them 24/7 has been challenging and also heart warming. I sometimes wish I were by myself binging Netflix or reading a book. Other times I am grateful I have them to keep me busy. I have grown accustomed to having David at home with us. When he returns to work on Friday I will miss his presence here. Everything is better when Daddy is around. And he needs to go back into the office so that his company can do the work they do to make money and compensate their employees. We need to pay our bills. All the tension of all the different feelings. Holding space for all of them and in doing so, seeing my own resilience.
A couple friends shared the podcast The Place We Find Ourselves with Adam Young and I have been diving deep into the topics it covers this last week. Trauma. Attachment. Sexuality. My mind has been blown over and over and over. I am recognizing part of why my brain processes things the way it does. Why I think the way I do, why I interact the way I do with other humans. It is the way I am wired because of my experiences. It it not something I did or did not do. There is not something inherently wrong with me from birth. No. Attachment, temperament, experience -- all of these shape us into who we are.
On my walk with the girls this yesterday morning I listened to episode 59. In it was an idea that I have been mulling over for some time now. I have been wrestling with the idea that humans are born evil. I just have a really hard time looking at a newborn and thinking they are inherently evil. Watching my two small humans grow has been so magical. Since we have been sheltering in place, Juniper has started getting from her belly to sitting and back again with ease. She has also been pulling up on things and standing. In the last several weeks she is getting stronger and stronger in her stance. She has this face she makes that is her signature face. Juniper tilts up her chin, squints her eyes, and gets this big cheesy grin on her face, breathing funny in and out of her mouth with her teeth showing. I have called her our family comedian, our pure joy Juniper. As her personality begins to show more, my heart explodes. Watching her scooty-butt around the house and get into EV-ER-Y-THING is exhausting and also so very adorable. I took a video of her getting into my nightstand the other day as I was mending her pants with holes in the rear because: scooty-booty. She carefully picked up each and every item in my drawer. Strew the contents on the floor. Dragged them around and examined them some more. I absolutely love watching tiny humans explore new things. It is pure magic. I see the image of God in their curiosity. Their joy. Their wonder in the mundane.
Juniper and Sabina are so very different. It is incredible. I cannot wait to see how that plays out as they grow older. Sabina can spend hours involved in her imaginative play acting out stories with her "pretend" friends, her stuffed animals, her toys. She is constantly moving and has boundless energy. Big emotions just like her mama. And her will. Also like her mama. Last night I told David I bet she will be a lawyer because she is quite the negotiator. I encourage this. I want to hear her ideas and often we implement them. I want her to know that her ideas are worthy of speaking. That I believe in her and them. That I am not going to demand obedience or force compliance. I do not want a compliant child. I mean sometimes I do, but only because I am worried about what others (especially conservative Christian others) think or I am having an adult temper tantrum about not getting my way. So basically I only want a compliant child when I am in a space of insecurity myself. Back to: I do not want a compliant child. I want my child to be able to stand up and say NO. I want her not to be afraid to advocate for herself and for others who are vulnerable. And my kid is this kid. I love Julie Bogart's Brave Learner cards asserting we are: brave, smart, strong, loving, fun, sassy, powerful, and adventurous. These things are what I want my children to grow up to be. And what they are now.
I got side-tracked there. All that to say. Humans are made in the image of God. Children enter the world innocent and completely dependent upon their caregivers. They are pure magic growing and developing, exploring and learning their world. Could it be that it is adult humans that mold and shape them into perversions of the image of God by modeling and perpetuating dysfunction? By not processing their own trauma history or insecurities, idols of image and control, and therefore passing all of that down? Bear with me. I think we do this by not holding space for big emotions or calling emotions "too much" because we have adult perspective that the child does not have. We shut down the image of God by shutting down our children's reactions and feelings. We give conditional love by showing children that all of them cannot be tolerated or accepted. We teach them to shut down. We shame them into shutting down. Shame shuts us down. Grace awakens.
In episode 59 of The Place We Find Ourselves podcast, Adam Young is speaking with Cathy Loerzel and touches on this very concept. Adult humans see something in their children that they do not have and therefore envy (an aspect of the image of God that is diminished in them) and respond out of their own dysfunction to maintain dysfunction. Instead of righting the dysfunction in themselves, adults shut down the image of God in children to make themselves feel comfortable. God made us with the capacity for a wide range of emotions. Some of which are more socially acceptable than others. There are humans that feel emotion on a deeper level than others. These humans can be labeled "too dramatic" or "too abrasive" or "too much." When we speak this over a child, the child learns that their feelings are not acceptable. This part of them is not acceptable. If they want to remain in the good graces of their caregivers, they must learn to betray themselves. To shut down that expression of the image of God: the ability to feel and express emotion. In our own brokenness, we break our most innocent. And we do it thinking we are doing it for their good.
Adulting is so incredibly hard. I am beginning to learn what it means to hold space for and listen to my inner child. The child that felt too big for her adults. Who learned to be an adult before it was time. Adult me has wrestled hard with resentment, just wanting to be the child instead of feeling like I continually have to be the adult. When I let the child out, I often feel shame and seek to silence her with that shame and reconcile the relationship that entered into conflict because of her. The other day I realized something. I have felt that being the adult means shutting down the child. But that is not what it means. And I am under no obligation to be an adult for someone else. Just as I am working so hard to hear my children and attune to their needs, I am learning to do so for myself. Instead of shutting down my inner child, I am slowly learning to recognize her voice and listen to her. I am learning her limitations. I am beginning to recognize when I have exceeded those limitations and therefore betrayed myself.
My job as an adult is not to shut down the child. My job as an adult is to give the child the words to express what they are feeling. To guide the child as we navigate difficult emotions together. My job as the adult is to light the path, take the child by the hand, and say, "Listen, my darling. I am with you. You are safe here. We will figure this out together. I will never leave you." Just like my Heavenly Father does. And you know what? It is okay if not everyone understands this process of mine. It is okay if I let the child out and it is messy. Relationships that are safe can be repaired. Relationships that are not, won't be. And sometimes a relationship is between those two and it is okay to let it go for a season or to amicably part ways. No right or wrong, just different.
I am starting to view God in a different way than I have viewed him before. During my moments of despair, I sit and imagine where God is in the midst of my mess. I cannot feel him. I cannot see him. But when I sit quietly and ask him where he is, I sense him. He is not condemning me. He is not distant. He is beckoning me to come to him. Come near to him. He gathers me in his arms and holds me and says, "My sweet girl. I know this is so hard. I am here for you. I grieve with you. I will always be here for you. I will never leave you. I am with you in the midst of your pain." My Heavenly Father cries with me when I cry. He does not tell me I am too much. Too dramatic. Too abrasive. Nothing is too anything for him because he is God. My big emotions reflect his image. There is space for them. They are acknowledged for what they are: feelings. Valid feelings. Feelings are not fact or truth, they are an expression of emotion. And they are okay. More than okay, they are welcome. Wanted. Needed.
Today in Michigan it is cloud covered and rainy. I have noticed I struggle more on days like today. Especially during shelter in place. The uncertainty of what the future may hold. What will next fall and winter look like? Will it be worse? How can I stay here? Shelter in place with two tiny humans is not what I signed up for when I became a stay at home mom. I miss my activities with childcare so that I can have a coherent and uninterrupted thought or two during my day. In my daily life, I can grieve loss and also experience joy. I can miss what was and embrace what is.
Being a human is so complex. Which makes sense, doesn't it? We were not made to be one dimensional. We are not robots. We are all unique. Each bearing the image of God. Differently. How can that be? I do not understand. And I do not have to understand everything. In fact the more knowledge I acquire, the more I feel I lack. Yet I keep searching. Keep growing. Keep holding more space for myself. I learn what it means to listen to myself. I learn that it is okay to disagree with others. It is okay if I am not on the same page with everyone. It is okay for me to close a door when it becomes clear that this is not the right path for me. It is okay to adjust and adapt. In fact, I do not want things to stay the same. I want to keep growing. Keep pressing in. Even when it hurts.
And so I hold space for all the feelings. Sit with them. Sit with God. And know that it is okay. That I am completely loved just as I am. As I experience this love, I can extend it to my children. Together we can navigate this uncertain terrain. Experiencing relational rupture and repair because that is human. Expressing all the emotions and holding space for them, because that is also human. All the feels. Allllll the feels.