Friday, February 22, 2013

The Anti-Way

I have a little decorating sign that my sister, Barb, gave me a few years ago which reads:

                                      Mirror, mirror on the wall
                                               I am my mother after all.

Yes, I know--it's very funny--and many of you may have experienced this when you look in the mirror.  It can be a beautiful thing, to see the ways you are just like the woman who raised you.  Even though your life-paths are different, there are so many things that will end up the same on this walk through time.  For years after Barb and I each married, our husbands would refer refer to our Mom as "The Mother Goddess"--always in good humor, I'm sure!  This was due to the fact that every time one of them would ask us why we did a certain task the way we were doing it (folding clothes, putting away groceries, organizing a kitchen, etc.), we would reply that this was the way our Mom had done it, so it must be the best way.  When you see your relationship with your mother through the eyes of your spouse, it can be very illuminating.  There are many ways my mother and I are like one another, but none are as interesting to me as the way we "mark" our territory and the ways we organize our households.

My awareness of women's tendency to be territorial about their homes came when I was about 15 or 16 years old.  I was taking Home Economics in High School and we had learned about the proper order in which to wash the dishes (glasses, silverware, plates/bowls, serving dishes, then pots and pans).  I am an oldest child, and with that comes a natural tendency to like rules and patterns and order, so discovering that there was a RIGHT way to wash dishes was fascinating to me.  I was so excited that I wanted to share my revelation with my Mom--which I did--while we were doing the dishes one evening.  My Mom had a slightly different way of doing dishes and I pointed this out to her, the way only a 16 year old can.  The dishwater may have been hot, but the air in the kitchen became decidedly chilly.  She quietly (quiet is so much more impressive than yelling) pointed out to me that she had been doing dishes for about 20 years longer than I had, and she was pretty sure she knew what she was doing.  

I was stunned.  And a little hurt.  I was sure she would find this news as interesting as I did.  Apparently, my RIGHT way was not her RIGHT way.

Several years later, after my sister and I had each married, my Mom came across a "Cathy" cartoon depicting Cathy and her mother clashing over the details of preparing a Holiday dinner.  When Cathy asks why they can't do things her way, her mother points out that what Cathy is doing is not The Way, it is The Anti-Way.  We have all laughed over this joke many times, because the best comedy always points out shared truth.

At some point, we separate our territory from our mother's and, while we remain heavily influenced by what she taught us about how to manage a home, we find our own ways to do things and we develop the rules for our own domestic domain.  It's often a subtle experience that occurs over months and years as we develop a household routine.  Because of that gradual process, we may expect that the entire household has internalized the "rules" and "right way to do things" in the way that we have.

In my home, everyone knows not to stack the dishwasher.  One of my children has referred to this chore as "Tetris for Grown-ups", and they are right--I derive no end of pleasure from seeing just how much I can fit in there!  I know just how to place every type of dish we own in order to maximize the use of the space.  But, Heaven forbid that I open it up to find someone else has started loading it!  Immediately I notice that everything has been put in the wrong place, and the compulsion to rearrange the dishes is irresistible.  I'm embarrassed to think of the many times I have done this right after my husband or one of my children has just helped me out in this way--sometimes right in front of them!  What a source of discouragement that must have been!

Over the years, my family and I have found our groove on this issue.  I never rearrange the dishes in front of anyone; I thank them for helping to tidy up the kitchen.  These days, I load the dishwasher and my daughter unloads it (a chore that I loathe) and all is peaceful on the dishwasher front.  My husband and sons help out occasionally, but--as Katie and I have often remarked on--they can't remember where anything goes to put it away correctly.

As I look back, I wish I had made different choices in how I handled some chores in my home when my children were little.  I wish I would have empowered them more in some areas.  Not everything was as messed up as the dishwasher situation, and my kids are amazingly self-sufficient today (at ages 19,21, and 24).  They can launder their own clothes, make their own meals, and generally take care of themselves.

I know my daughter will set up her own home in the next few years, and I really look forward to seeing her create her own nest and establish her own way of doing things.

Of course, there's a good chance some choices she makes may be The Anti-Way.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Learning to Dance

I wish I could dance.  Really dance; like the professionals you see in ballroom dancing competitions.  I love going to weddings, and I think that if I knew how to dance, you wouldn't be able to keep me off the dance floor at the reception!  Instead, I sit watching the fluid symmetry of motion displayed by those who really know what they are doing and I tell myself that I AM going to learn to do that someday.  I'm not hopeless--I can fake my way through a slow song and I can do the Electric Slide--but, I long to really dance.

Maybe you were taught to dance when you were a child, but I was raised in a home where that was frowned on as inappropriate behavior; thus my ignorance of this art form.  I don't know the footwork or the way to hold my arms or how to let someone lead or any of the essential aspects of dancing.  However, that doesn't mean I can't learn.

I was also raised in a home where a healthy marital relationship, a Biblical example of  what Paul describes in Colossians and Ephesians, was not really visible.  My parents' marriage was dysfunctional and ended in divorce when I was 14 years old.  I didn't really learn good communication skills or "how to let someone lead" like I might have from observing a successful marriage.  When I was a young teen, I was afraid marriage.  I wasn't afraid of relationships; I enjoyed dating and had a couple of serious boyfriends.  However, I was truly afraid of marriage.  To be honest, I was afraid of failing at marriage.  Shortly after my parents split, I had read a statistic somewhere about children of divorce and how much more likely they were to be divorced themselves.  I had convinced myself that, in the arena of marriage, I was pretty much doomed to failure.  It's a good thing I kept reading, because a couple of years later I read an article on this same subject and this time what I read gave me hope.  According to the author, some new research indicated that children raised by divorced parents could reduce their risk of going down the same road by educating themselves about relationships and by learning appropriate communication skills.  It was like a light at the end of a dark tunnel for me!  Of course, the tunnel was long and the light was just a small flicker, but I had some hope.  I took every class on Marriage and Family, Communication, and Biblical relationships that my high school and college offered.  I absorbed every nugget of advice I could find.  I was determined to learn how to be successful in relationships and improve my odds.

The summer I fell in love with my husband was the summer my panic and fear returned.  I knew I loved him, but I held him at arms length because I was afraid to love someone that much and lose them.  He came from this wonderful family that was intact and loving and everything I ever wanted.  As I witnessed the incredibly respectful and tender relationship his parents shared, I saw what I wanted most in life. As I panicked, I realized that I loved him so much that I didn't want to inflict my relational baggage on him.  I told him every horrible mistake I had ever made.  I warned him about the risk of loving me.  I tried my best to protect him from my worst fears.

That was the beginning of learning this dance called marriage.  It began long before I proposed to him (yes, I did--but that's another story) and before we said "I do".  It began when he looked me in the eyes and told me I was perfect for him and my past was just that--my past.  He listened to all the reasons he should run away and then he held me close and told me he wasn't going anywhere.  I followed his lead then, and it was the best choice I have ever made! 

I should have known how good my husband would be at this dance.  He was raised in the home of master dancers and watched every step they took.  He saw the tender way his father treated his mother; he observed the respect and admiration his mother had for his father.  He learned the steps to this dance called marriage by observing the masters and doing what they had done.  I wish I could say I that I have never stepped on his toes or tried to lead, but I would be lying.  When I did, the dance just wasn't a smooth or beautiful, and I would realize that he knew what he was doing.  Twenty-eight years later, we know the steps and the twirls and even the dips and it's an even more incredible experience that I imagined when I watched from the outside.

In the next decade, we will probably watch all three of our children get married.  We will go to the reception and celebrate the love that each of them have found.  And, I promise, you won't be able to keep me off of that dance floor.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Whatever You Do. . . .

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."  Colossians 3:23

This is one of this week's memory texts for the Online Bible Study group I am participating in.  As soon as I read it, I knew how I wanted to keep this present in my thoughts and actions for the week--I would tape a copy of it up over my desk at work!  That would be the perfect way to remind myself that my work is not about me and my expectations, but about my patients and their expectations; it's about being Jesus in their lives. 

Perhaps this would be a good time to explain that I am a nurse in the OB/Gyn field.  I work in a busy physician's practice with seven Doctors, five Nurse-Midwives, a Nurse Practitioner, and a Physician's Asst.  There are about 10 other nurses, 15 lab personnel, and 30 or so business office staff.  Other than five of the Doctors and one guy in the business office, it is a LARGE group of women.   We know each others husbands, boyfriends, kids, and parents--and, of course, we know each others problems.  We have cried at funerals together, shopped together, wrapped Christmas gifts together, and we eat together every day.  It's a pretty cool experience, to be honest, and I wouldn't trade my "sisters" for anything.  It's a high pressure job, though!  You might think that OB nursing is all smiles and babies and hugs and flowers--and some days it is.  On other days, it's the saddest job on the planet.  Menopause is not much fun.  Some patients don't appreciate our advice.  How do you tell someone that they have cancer?  Not every pregnancy has a happy ending. 

Now, where was I. . . .

I printed the text and took it to work on Monday, but I forgot to put it up until nearly the end of the day.  I read it over as I closed the cabinet over my desk and smiled.  "This is going to be so inspirational tomorrow!", I thought, "I'm gonna get in here and throw myself into this list of phone calls to make and plow through every one of them!" 

I left the office with a smile on my face and a sense of satisfaction and anticipation of all that God and I would get done the next day.

I walked in Tuesday morning and read my text. Yep--that sense of excitement was still there--for about five minutes.  The Assistant Head Nurse walked up and said the words no nurse wants to hear, "Meghan is not coming in today, she's out with a sick child.  Your Doctor is on-call, so you will have to cover OB Call (her job) today."  GREAT!  OB CALL!!  Truthfully, this is my least favorite part of my job.  OB Call consists of fielding all of the phone calls from our OB patients about anything they have a question about or a problem with.  This can range from "I can't stop throwing up!" to "Why does my back hurt?" and the dreaded "I haven't felt my baby move all day." 

As I contemplated what my day might hold, and how I wouldn't be getting any of the stuff done that I had planned on working on, all the anticipation and excitement about "working for the Lord" just drained right out of me.  My smile turned upside down and a big old grumpy heart starting forming.  I turned to Susan, who was at the desk, and started venting my irritation at the whole frustrating situation and even pointed to the scripture above my desk!  She smiled at me and pointed out the obvious--that I had presented the old Devil with a challenge, and he didn't plan on letting me experience victory in this situation.  He was trying to trigger my "bossy gene" and it was up to me to put the situation back in God's hands.  Thanks goodness Susan was there!  My attitude did an about-face as I prayed hard over the situation.  My day was just as expected; full of stress, no lunch and so many phone calls, but it was also filled with the blessing of hearing patients tell me how much they appreciated my advice or my reassurance. When I read that text again at the end of the day, it had a clearer meaning for me.  It's not about me, it's about Him.

The work I had planned on doing didn't get done Tuesday, but the work God had planned for me did.