Personalizing

One of the books I read a while back, that really hit home with me and I felt the need to recently re-visit was “My Parents’ Keeper: Adult Children of the Emotionally Disturbed (Paperback)”.  I bought it shortly before I started this blog back in 2006…   and before that point, I never heard of an ACMIP (Adult Child of a Mentally Ill Parent).

Up until that point, I hadn’t really taken the time to look Read the rest of this entry »

Processing Guilt (a cross-post)

I recently made a post on this blog called “Forgive me, so I can forgive myself“.   Right after I wrote that, I was blog surfing the subject and came across a blog by John Shore called “Suddenly Christian”. His writing style is hilarious, and refreshingly non-judegmental from a Christian point of view.  (who knew?)  The post I stumbled into there is called, “An Honest Question: Atheists, How Do You Process Your Guilt?” . Great read if you’re interested (albeit VERY long).  I sort of caught on to the tail end of it and threw in my answer.  I hardly ever re-post my comments – but, I wanted to share here, what I wrote there, since it’s so relevant to so much other crap going I’ve been talking about lately.  (And, so I don’t feel the need to have to write anything else interesting today. =)
This was my post to that thread:

by samanthamj – September 24, 2007

Wow… this is a great thread! And I haven’t even read it all yet. Still, I felt compelled to scroll on down to the bottom and add my 2 cents. =)I have been on a bit of a guilt trip most of my life… and have even been recognizing that fact and asking a lot of questions myself about it these days. I was JUST posting on guilt, and similiar questions actually earlier today. Then I stumbled into here from the tags. (Cool site, btw.=)

So, how do *I* process my guilt?? Truthfully? Pretty poorly.  🙂 
I don’t think I do handle guilt or deal with it very well at all. I tend to prefer to let it gnaw at me in the middle of the night when I’m trying to sleep. And, I can feel guilty over just about anything… even things that aren’t my fault. So, I am just soaking up all the ideas on this thread on ways to better process it. (Except for the idea to “apologize and be humble”. As if?!  That will never work!)
(jussssst kidding! I apologize all the time! I’m sorry I’m sorry!).

Now, the thing is, I’m probably what you’d call “agnostic”… but, I use to be Christian.  I don’t think I processed my guilt well either way. Even when I believed whole-heartedly in God, and confessed and prayed away… there just seemed to be too much guilt for even God to deal with. I picture him rolling his eyes every time he saw me kneeling down.

So, really, I don’t know that I ever really felt truly forgiven or “guilt-free”.  Somehow, I don’t think I’m alone here. I gotta think there are many Christians that want to believe they are forgiven, but have a hard time really really believing that. I think, there are many good Christians that still question whether they will make it into heaven, even.

Then again, maybe it’s just me. I guess I’ll go have a glass of wine (that’s always a good way to start dealing with it), and hit the sack!

=)
~smj

Forgive me Father, so I can forgive myself…

(Do we NEED to believe in God in order to forgive ourselves?  I hope not…  but, maybe we do? Or at least, maybe MANY of us do???)

Christ and the AdultressSo, I mentioned that I had been going back and forth with a friend about religion, etc… 

One of the many links/articles she sent me was a link to this article called “The Adulteress: A Stone’s Throw from Grace” (found here:              http://www.christianitytoday.com/tcw/2007/julaug/4.58.html?start=2)

Now, she sent this, because she was trying to explain how she is NOT judging gay people, or ANYONE… and, how GOD doesn’t want to condemn people to hell… how Jesus Saves, etc.   As in the story, Jesus didn’t condemn the adulteress but says the old “let he who has not sin cast the first stone”.  Now… of course I’ve heard this story, and this message a million times.  Well, I finally read the article she sent me anyway…  and, one part, towards the end, struck me.  I felt a light bulb “ah-HA moment”. 

It was this part:

“We hear you, Lord. What a relief to know that because of your grace, we can leave behind the past, as this woman did, and walk in a whole new direction.”

Now, like I said, this message is nothing new.  What clicked was how it pertained to judging, and guilt… and “forgiveness”. 

What suddenly became really clear to me, is that many people feel awful guilty about some past mistakes.  People beat themselves  up over things  – for years.  People want to change…   desperately sometimes.  They might not want to “be” that person that made those mistakes.   They try to say, “that wasn’t even really me”….  “I wasn’t myself then”.   They don’t want to accept it WAS themselves that did whatever it was they feel guilty about.  But,  no matter they try, they can’t shake it.  They can’t accept that the “good person” they want to be,  would make the “bad” mistakes they’ve made. 

I think, finding “God”, and believing that he could love them… in spite of their sins… allows people to love themselves again.  Forgiveness, gives back respect…. allows us to start over for real… and believe we can to do it… that we are worthy of it.  Just like the adulteress in that story.  After all, if GOD could forgive her and love her… of course we can forgive her, or ourselves too, right? 

I don’t know why this is all so interesting to me all of  a sudden.  I’ve heard countless stories from folks with very checkered pasts, who become born again… starting their lives over… the new and improved versions of themselves.  They can go from the biggest axe-murderer low-life – to being a preacher – just like that – because they found God, and he forgave them.  It actually was a pet peeve of mine when I was a teen.  Heck, my teen leader was one of them (and he was pretty creepy).  I didn’t think I should listen to him when a month ago he was a big drug addict and loser, just because now he’d “found God”. 

I’ve also realized for years that religion helped people cope… period.  With whatever.  And, maybe they needed it, for whatever reasons. In my mom’s case, because of her illness and to deal with how she grew up.  Or to deal with loss… grief.  I’ve even envied others at times because I couldn’t seem to get any comfort myself from religion with all my skeptical views.   So, the “needing” religion isn’t a new idea to me either.

But, I am getting a different side of this now…  I’m having trouble explaining what I mean, though.  I‘m not even sure it’s the forgiving ourselves aspect that I’m finding so interesting here.  Surely, this is not a new concept either?  But,  I’m seeing it with a new twist.  Maybe people need religion in order to live with themselves?   Maybe, it really does  “save”  us, but not from hell… but, from our own guilt?

Maybe sometimes, we just can’t accept mistakes we’ve made.   Maybe we can’t except the fact that we are HUMAN and WILL make mistakes?  We create our own prison…  Trapped in our own personal hell…  And, then, maybe we need God, or the idea of God, to be able to forgive ourselves and find the strength to free ourselves of guilt so we can move on.  ?

Is it so bad to admit that we are just human?  Can we not admit when we make a mistake… and say, “yeah, I fucked up. Bad!”, and just try to learn from it?  I don’t mean shrug it off, and not care.  I’m all for owning up and accepting responsibility.  But, can’t we do that and try to understand how it happened?  Try not to let it happen again? and, try to move on?  Of course we all make mistakes.  Do we need to have a God to forgive us and love us, in order to love ourselves??  Maybe some of us doMaybe all of us do

Which leads me to my bigger light-bulb feeling. 

Do I need this???
Is that part of my problem? 
That I can’t forgive myself for whatever terrible things I’ve done?  Including things that were not even my fault??  And, I don’t have enough faith to believe in a God that can forgive me either?  

 Would *I*, or any of us,  even have felt THAT kind of guilt if we didn’t have religion and God shoved down our throats in the first place???  

I don’t know… 

Talk about vicious circles…

This is not really coming out right and I’m having trouble explaining my “ah-HA moment”.  Sorry if I’m rambling incoherently.  😉  

I am going to have to mull this one over a bit…

~smj

God will provide…

My mom’s been saying “the Lord will provide” forever, but especially ever since she up and sold our house… and decided to become a missionary.  She had the house, all paid for, in the divorce settlement between her and Dad years ago.  The house we all grew up in… and, he gave her without a fight.  She promptly decided to sell it and everything in it…  because God told her to. 

My brother’s and I asked her several times, what would happen if the missionary thing didn’t work out?  Where will she stay when she comes home?  “The Lord will provide” she’d said. 

In a way, I give her credit.  Whether or not she heard the Lord’s advice – it took guts for her to do that.  And, I think it was a life long dream.  And, she did it.  She up and moved to China.  Who would have thunk it?? 

I know she was just running away from a bad situation.  She felt like her whole life here had crumbled apart.  Her marriage had finally fell apart, along with her belief that someday God would turn her atheist husband into a Christian husband for her.  In addition, she had finally crossed the line with her “stories”, and her own children and family (along with doctors and police) had all told her that basically, she was crazy, and needed to get “help”.    So, it was either admit she needed help… or turn into a missionary.  Hmmmmm…???  China, here she comes! 

Still, took guts… and a passport… and all kind so other stuff.  And, she did it.  Off she went.  She spent a few years in China… only returning for a week or two here and there.  She lost touch with all her grandchildren – but, became a little hero with her church friends.  I emailed her regularly and handled her finances here.  I think, we actually get along better via email. 

She made me upset when she insisted on flying home immediately when my father passed away.  She hated him all my life.  She accused him of terrible things.  She acted like he was the devil himself.  I did not want her at his funeral.  Nobody did.  I was shocked when she said she’d take the first flight home.  I tried to tell her nicely, and then not so nicely, that she shouldn’t come.  She didn’t listen.  She said, she wanted to be there “for me”.  But, I think she wanted to be there because she knew we didn’t want her there.  Whenever she feels “rejected”, she is even more pushy. 

In the year before my dad died, I had mentioned to her via email that he was dying.  I didn’t go  into it much, because they didn’t get along – but, thought she should at least know what was happening… what *I* was dealing with, if nothing else.  She told me in one email that she didn’t believe it… he was faking.  I told her that I was the one taking care of him, dealing with all the doctors and hospice care, that I KNEW he wasn’t “faking”.  She then responded that “if she was God, he would have been dead a long time ago”.  ??  LoLetinf!   Very Christian of her, don’t cha think?  But, then, when he actually passed away – she couldn’t understand why I didn’t want her to be there. 

Truth be told, I never really turned to my Mom for comfort much.  She always annoyed me.  I remember when I was a kid and sick with the flu or anything, and I’d be getting sick in the bathroom… she would come in… and put her hand on my back… and pray in tongues for me as I was getting sick.  It always made me feel sicker.  I was always trying to nicely shrug her off of me.  I didn’t want her there.  This was how I felt when Dad died…   ten fold…

But, she came.  And I did my best to be polite, but unavailable to her for the most part, as I had told her upfront I would be. 

A few weeks after that, she came home for a few months… stayed between my brother’s house, my house, and a friend of hers.   I felt like I had to let her stay with us too…. but, it wasn’t easy.  She takes over when she’s around.  Expects to be waited on… take over the TV and sofa… and, thinks someone should give her full access to their vehicle. 

Shortly after that she got out of the missionary group in China – and moved back to the area for good.  She hinted at staying with us.  Luckily, my oldest brother told her she could stay with him… but,he lives out about 1.5 hrs away, and she didn’t want to be that far from her church, etc.  So, she opted to get her own apartment.  Fine.  She got one RIGHT around the corner from where I grew up.. and where I live now.  Fine.  We helped her move in… helped her with everything.  She said, it was too expensive.. .she wouldn’t be able to stay there long… but, “God will provide”. 

Now, she has hit the point where her lease is up – she says she can’t afford it there anymore.. .and she needs to find a less expensive place.  Again, “God will provide”… but, every time she says it, I get the feeling she thinks God has the same last name as my husband and I!  She started off hinting around BIG time that she wants to live with me… and now is just basically asking by saying we could “go in on” a bigger house together.  ?!?!?  Is she nuts???  (duh! stupid question, I know.)

Doesn’t she remember how it was when she lived her briefly before??  Way back when, she lived with me for a few months BEFORE her and my Dad’s divorce went final  – and it was Hell! I can’t help it.  She drives me crazy.  Even DH, who normally would tell me, “now, honey… she is your mother… be nice”… even HE was hitting his boiling point when she stayed here.  He suddenly was following me out the door every time I had to leave saying, “wait!  I’m coming too!” – because he didn’t want to be left there.  I wound up having to write her a letter, telling her that she NEEDED to wrap things up with the divorce and leave because she was affecting every aspect of my life, my marriage, my job, in a negative way.  Can’t she re-read that note?? Maybe I can find a copy… LOL. 

I mean, she KNOWS I love her… she also KNOWS we do not have the closest relationship.  I don’t know why she thinks this would work.  No way.  I think that just because my Dad lived with me for 15 years, she things she should be able to.  It’s the old “rejection” thing again, and she wants her fair share” of my life.  It ain’t gonna happen.

If anything, the fact that my Dad lived with us is a deterrent.  It was hard enough living with him, and he and I actually were very close and got along great.  My marriage barely lived thru that – and he did his best to not overstep boundaries when he was here.  My marriage could not withstand my mother living with us.  Thank God I still have my brother offering up his home.  He has a big house… his kids are grown… and he can handle her better than I can anyway.  She will have to go there.. or find a cheaper apartment. 

God will provide.  Ha!  In other words, “I have no idea what I am going to do, and shouldn’t be responsible for myself.  Everyone else take care of me now”.  She should have never sold the damn house.

~smj