The incredible thing about our mid-pregnancy move is that we're now in a place where making time to see all our loved ones is tricky (particularly if we need a little family down time, and also to have clean socks). This wonderful problem has been compounded: we're making new friends!
In a couple of cases, I've had mommy crushes for a long time before reaching out. I think, "she'll never want to hang out with me! She's too sweet!" I finally traded numbers this morning with a mommy that I've liked for months. Will we become friends? Who knows?
I am loving, and warm, and sometimes generous, but I am really not sweet. For the love of Pete, trust me on this.
Equal quantities of shared traits are not what makes a sturdy friendship. As evidence of this: a remarkable number of very sweet, careful people already love me, and have for a long time. They freak me out a little, honestly, but there they are.
Love in friendship is as big (bigger?) a mystery than romantic love.
Belated Happy Galentine's Day.
PS: Pregnancy and the little biscuit's (LB) first year felt VERY personal to me. A friend observed with surprise that I didn't let people know when I was in labor or that LB was here until after we all got home-- but I'm completely sympatico with the cats who hide under the porch until the kittens are all cleaned off and ready to explore a little.
I'm convinced that it's generally new versions of the same old crap that bite me in the butt, rather than new stuff.
When my sweet friends found out I was pregnant, many of them said, "you're going to be such a cute pregnant lady!" And since I think pretty much all pregnant ladies are cute, I agreed.
Because I totally forgot about my fucking boobs. Which are outpacing my tiny belly at a horrific rate*, and succeeding (once again) in making me dumpy instead of darling. Now, 6 months in, when no one can tell I'm expecting unless they're told (well, and Dave, who's lovely, but doesn't count), I realize that the same body stuff that stank 20 years ago pretty much still stinks.
I feel 13 again (because I'm still the middle schooler being told she looked like a whore for wearing a shirt unbuttoned over a tank top). Or 19 (because I'm still the college girl whose boobs were the only thing anyone suggested as a reason a man would be interested in her). Or any of the other ages where my body was fair game for public discourse, and assumptions were made about who I was based on my shape. (I do not feel at all like 21 or 30, where I figured out how to turn lemons into lemonade. Melons into some sort of daiquiri, I guess.) I feel conspicuous, not in the warm, maternal, hoped-for way, but in the "these are all anyone sees of me... AGAIN" way. I had a lovely two weeks in the first trimester where I thought, "I don't have to hide these-- they're pregnancy boobs! It's finally acceptable!" But that was 3 cup sizes ago.
I wanted to look like a mom, and instead I look like more of a caricature than I did to start with. I wanted to embody something joyful; instead I look even more like the same old ugly jokes and jibes. Same old stuff. New version.
I know in my head that the trick is to shut out the voices around me (and the echoes of old voices that I let bounce around), and try to hear the voice of the One who designed me. My heart just wants to sit on the floor and wail, though. I need prayers beyond my own to get my head and heart on the same page.
*This is, incidently, not the time for the "miracle of life, and accepting your changing body" speech. I love watching the baby move every night when I go to bed. The kicks are sometimes uncomfortable, but I'm always happy to think that wiggling means the little cheeseburger is doing OK. This is not about that. That is not helpful.
Jackson Katz (in a very good, but somewhat long TED talk) addresses the responsibility of those in power to prevent abuse. He's talking about men, but makes the point that women in power have the same obligation. Keeping people safe and preventing abuse isn't a sensitivity issue: it's a leadership issue. It's the responsibility of people in power. It's about courage and integrity.
Over the last couple of years, I've become uncomfortably aware of how often Christian communities call people to gentleness and softness, while rejecting courage and toughness as things that might also be from God. Love your neighbor, love your enemy-- yes. But don't surrender your power to them. Don't equip tyrants to destroy that which is sacred. In many Christian circles, I've found that "power" is a dirty word. I think it's only dirty when we let it run amok, when we turn our backs on its misuse and hope it will go away.
This week, I'm praying for the clarity to use my own power well, and to honor it as a gift, a blessing, a calling.
Have there been Christians in your life who have used power in holy ways? Have there been times that you've longed for someone to step up with courage and integrity?
A gorgeous friend (maybe my oldest friendship) sent me Shauna Neiquist's Bread and Wine (remember how much I loved Bittersweet?). I keep crying when I read about Neiquist's weekly dinners with her small church group in Michigan, and her monthly supper club in Chicago. Growing up as a military brat, there was a built-in cultural net, and family-of-choice (or of necessity) was common and strong. I remember holiday dinners with Marines in Frankfurt (still West Germany then), and the hostess whose hospitality formed the foundation of my idea of ministry. 12-Step groups entered my life in middle school, and family-of-choice was part of that system, too. I've lost count of the number of caring adults who nurtured me there, but some of them I treasure as those who (through the preventive medicine of compassion and truth-telling) surely saved my life. Where I live now, people's social lives often center (sometimes nearly exclusively) around their extended families. For a lot of reasons, that's not an option for my household. We have friends here, but we don't have a group of friends. Rather than a net, we have a number of separate ropes. (In fact, we have ropes all over the country, which is marvelous... but it's not a net.) Living here, both being Not From Here (and worse: not being from anywhere, which is next to impossible for many to imagine), and not being part of a family feels precarious. It can be lonely, but I can work around that-- lunch with one friend, coffee with another. What's trickier is that when there's Big Stuff, being held by totally separate threads doesn't seem to work as well as when they're interlaced. As Dave and I think about where we might be next, I'm wondering how you all experience family-of-choice vs. family-by-blood in your particular geographic region. It feels like the emphasis on family-by-blood is especially strong here, but I want a reality check. Do you have a group of local friends who support each other well? A workout group? An especially close Bible study? Anybody willing to tell me about their experience?
I'm heading off on a teeny road trip today, an act which almost always Restoreth My Soul. Feeling free is a wordless prayer to me, and alone on the highway is where God most often encourages me, and reminds me of who I am. I'm hopeful that will be true this week, but even if it's not, I'm grateful for the opportunity to remember where God has been with me on other trips.
Is there a particular place where you feel particularly known and loved by God? Will you be there soon?