The Power of “Me, Too”

Two weekends ago, I had to call my girlfriend from Six Flags to pray for and with me.  Because we’ve had our own disjointed, shorthand, can-talk-over-each-other language since seventh grade, she is the only friend I can still call without feeling like I am disrupting someone’s busy weekend, even though I *was* disrupting her as she set up for her daughter’s birthday party.

As soon as I heard her voice, I started crying, still holding Olive, first trying to find half a bench to sit on, then pacing so that I can have some privacy away from the benched Funnel Cakers.  I was holding her awkwardly, trying to keep her out of the sun while the sun kept following us.

After wasting our time yelling at each other and NOT hearing each other, Kevin had taken the boys to a different section of the park.  I felt abandoned but looking back, it allowed me to catch my breath and stop raging in front of the kids.

I was grateful that Olive was too young to later say, “Remember that time Mommy was crying at Six Flags?”

I continued to my friend:

“…on top of all that, I am now spiraling, feeling like WTF is wrong with me, looking around this dang park with today’s perfect SoCal-like weather and everyone taking selfies, Funnel Caking and heeheehee, able to enjoy themselves.

I feel like a f*cking failure ‘cuz I couldn’t put our fight on pause like a mature ass adult and parent but girl, I just felt so unheard and still do.  No matter how many times I tried, I could NOT just ‘snap out it,’ take a deep breath and re-emerge as Mom who is able to Funnel Cake and Batman ride right now!”

My friend and I talked over each other, which is what we do.  I told her that rehashing it won’t get us anywhere so let’s just pray.  But before she prayed, she shared with me, “STOP!  Stop it.  LOOK, I been there!  And it is OK that you couldn’t collect yourself to take your kids to the rides as a family.  It’s not fair to put such a time pressure on yourself for being OK.  It’s OK to show your kids that Mommy had to go collect herself and yes, even at Six Flags.  And if you think you the only one melting down, trust me.  Some of these families you comparing yourself to?  They already had their meltdowns on the way in or will have them later as they leave.”

She also shared just how “been there” she been, which helped spare me from beating myself up even more.  All while speed-talking before her girl’s birthday party.

Of course, as a friend, she couldn’t just co-sign on all my bad habits.  She did acknowledge that I can work on some thangs, but she let me know that I was not the only mom who had failed.  In this age where phone calls are obsolete, I’m so glad I was able to reach her.

Also, this past week, I’ve been chatting online with some dear mom friends and the power and beauty of that chat was all in the “Me, too.”

Sometimes, a “Me, too” is more life-giving than any, “I’ll pray for you” or “Have you ever considered…?” or “At least you…”  (Actually, no one enjoys an “At least you…” ever).

And I don’t know why my self-talk can be so damn mean.  “Snap out of it” is the worst message, something I would never tell anyone else after being told that when I suffered from clinical depression decades ago.

I don’t know about others but I am my own harshest critic and I would like to work on that.  If I don’t check myself and remind myself aloud, like Stuart Smalley on SNL, my negative self-talk can be downright fatal.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“How come other moms don’t experience such a range of emotions?  Why are you so extra?!”

“How come I’m not more like Kevin?  He can handle so much more.”

“How is that other mom so damn calm?  Does she ever yell?!”

And in the darkest moments, “What if my kids are better off without me?”

I’ve constantly asked myself, even on this blog, why I am prone to confessions while some are never prone to any self-deprecation.

I think I’ve always been drawn to the power of “Me, too,” to help others (and myself) know that we are ALL broken.

Sometimes, I hear church folk talkin’ about how we are all broken but for the life of me, I can’t imagine this person in front of me ever breaking down.  So when someone shares their weakness, it is downright life-giving.

This is why I can relate to addicts and recovery programs, though I have not been an addict myself – the opportunity and ability to share low moments with each other, to remind each other regularly that we all struggle.

And to be clear, “Me, too” is not to be mistaken for having a pity party where we bring each other down and stay there, or excuse bad habits together but to remind each other that we can be imperfect, that there is always more grace.

We can fail in big and small ways, but as long as breathe air in and out of our different-shaped nose holes, we can seek redemption for moments and narratives we want to shed.  And one thing is for sure:  we will mess up again, and His mercies abound.

Lamentations 3:21-23 “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

 

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Reaccommodatin’

Substitute my brother’s white Mitsubishi Eclipse from decades ago for our silver Honda Odyssey minivan.  And my 20-something self with my bigger 40 year-old self with pregnant belly protruding onto the steering wheel and basically, we have the same scenario.

When I was younger, I would blow off steam by driving in the familiar San Fernando Valley streets with music blasting.  I hadn’t realized that driving alone to de-stress was still an option for me until this past weekend.  Lemme back up.

Spring Break was upon us and this year, it went on for seven full weekdays.  So counting the weekends, it was for 12 days straight.  Kevin took one day off for our trip to local Bear Mountain.  I noticed during the break that my boys have grown much bigger in stature and presence.  I could not physically control them like I could when they were morsels I could lift in and out of their double stroller.

The most stressful moments of Spring Break were when we had to get somewhere by a certain time.

Like on Good Friday, the tail end of that first week of break.  The boys entertain each other so well these days that I am practically a third wheel to their inside jokes, songs, and secrets.  Until they fight.  Right when we had to go get the car to get to our parking-challenged church for Good Friday service, Fight Club was at it again.

Perhaps because this was the end of a fun but long week, I started seeing red.  I wanted to swat them.  We somehow made it to church and I noticed that en route to church, they had fallen asleep.  They must have woken up earlier that morning and that was why they were more rambunctious than usual.  But I didn’t care.

I needed to tap out.  I counted the minutes ’til Kevin could meet me in the church parking lot when he could tend to the sleeping angels and I could take just Me Myself and I (and obedient, compliant, quiet Belly Baby) into the sanctuary.  I hoped Kevin knew from my terrible mood to not try to find me once we were in the sanctuary.  BECAUSE I NEEDED ME SOME SANCTUAAAAARY!

I sat in the balcony, my favorite section.  I couldn’t even sing or pray.  I just kept fanning myself, just feeling beyond drained from the week of quality time with my boys.  I was at a -10 in self-care.  I didn’t know how to get them to listen to me, these growing, galloping horse boys in our apartment.  In some ways, this stage was much more taxing than a baby with no visible neck, just sitting there, with all of its delicious rolls and sausage arms to objectify and nibble on.

As I was fanning myself, Kevin texted me, “We are downstairs,” right after I saw them walking in.  Because I was so tapped out, my first instinct was to hide!  (Family – if you ever read this, I LOVE YOU.  But I am also human and I need to tap out and recharge).  My beautiful Denzel-smiling Micah located me right away and looked up at me in the balcony.  He beamed like he and his Fight Club partner hadn’t just put me through the wringer.  I smiled back but didn’t budge when he gestured for me to come down to their level.

I gazed down below at a family of six, sitting together, the youngest nuzzling into Dad’s neck.  Father, Lord, help me, I just can’t right now.

I was able to savor my solitude throughout the beautifully planned special Good Friday service.  I wanted to clap back with an exclamation of, “Glory Hallelu!” when Pastor Rich Villodas pointed out in his sermon that Jesus did not say, “You are a good good Father!” when He was being crucified on the cross.  Instead, even Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”  And we can take comfort in that because it gives us permission to be human and voice our anguish to God.

And man, I felt VERY human on Good Friday.  I couldn’t get over how hard of a time I was having just taking care of myself, Belly Baby, and Wrestlemania Kims.  As I was headed to different, interactive centers set up throughout our church for focused meditation and reflection, a couple people kindly informed me, “I saw your kids in the Elephant Room!” as a way of greeting me.  Usually, I would beam at any mention of my kids but this time I thought to myself, “Good, they there with they Daddy and Mama here in the Upper Stage Room, still ketchin’ her breath.”  I did peek in without being seen and was relieved to see that they were enjoying a jellybean Jesus activity instead of absorbing my Tapped Out Toxins.

I was still emotional even after we were able to enjoy an Easter Egg Hunt at twilight with our friends.  I told Kevin, “Hey, I know I am repeating myself but I am so tapped out.  I cannot repeat another day of Fight Club.  It sounds extreme but I cannot take care of anyone tomorrow.  Please.”

Kevin heard me but still said, “OK, but remember, tomorrow I have to check out open houses and all you would have to do is take the boys to soccer.”

Tread lightly, brother.  “All you would have to do?”

I got salty because that sounded tame for any other day but I was tapped out.  And taking the boys to soccer meant walking them over, taking them back home, feeding them, keeping them from fighting, and little details you don’t quite think about.  Suddenly, I had a lightbulb moment.

“Hey, *I’MMA* go to open houses and you will take them to soccer.  And I will return laaaaaaaate.”

That is how I found myself on the highway, blasting my radio and driving like a free bird.  I always thought I hated driving but I had to check myself and qualify that:  I hate driving in our congested neighborhood with my precious treasures in the backseat, demanding The Weekend and Ariana Grande at the same time, but driving ALONE AND UNENCUMBERED with full control of the radio on a highway to a land of parking spots galore!?

I NEEDED TO DRIVE ALONE BY MYSELF ON THAT SATURDAY!  Sure, I came back and reported to Kevin that one house was very close to a Taco Bell/Pizza Hut and that was cool so now he needs to go re-visit houses for me, but that Saturday of Solitary Driving saved me.

Added bonus:  Kevin reported back to me that his staying home with the boys was just what he needed to rest!

We reaccommodated our roles and were much better for it.  I drove home, loaded with gyros and Greek chicken soup that night and was able to miss my boys again.  Recharged for Resurrection Sunday.

Now we lookin’ for more ways to reaccommodate our roles after I experienced some cramping and contractions that we first chalked up to a rare Taco Bell consumption.

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When you feelin’ like this, REACCOMMODATE (but not like United)!

Vision of Hope

We recently heard a sermon that asked us to ask ourselves what good came out of a dark time, that if it weren’t for that struggle or storm, we would not have been able to receive the good or learned that lesson.

A few years ago, Kevin and I were fighting one night.  Nothing new during that era.  Lotta fighting after the kids would go to bed.  Our church tries to equip us with marriage tools so that we don’t fight dirty but when I would get upset, the last thing I would think about were them tools.

Not that I forgot about them but I would scream, “F*CK those tools!  How am I gonna talk like a robot and speak in the MF ‘I’ when I can tell that I am NOT being heard!?!  And just so you know, we ain’t getting away with sh*t just cuz the kids are ‘sleep.  They can absorb this toxicity even in their dreams.  We hurting them but we keep doing this.  I hate us.”

Kevin would try to fix things by resorting to logic, coming up with solutions and that would, of course, enrage me even more.  Looking back, I think I just wanted him to say, “I hear you.  You are hurt.  I really hear you.”  (He may have even said that but oof, my fury burns hot.)

One particular night, we escalated ’til our throats were hoarse and he had to take a walk.  While walking, he prayed, “I just can’t do this.  It’s too hard.  It’s not getting better, Lord.”

He came home and seemed different.

He told me, “It makes absolutely no sense and you’re gonna laugh at me or get furious when I tell you this.  While I was praying outside, God gave me a vision of you sitting in a hospital room with a newborn baby _________ in your arms, smiling.  I saw the number 39 and the letters ___ and ___ and I sensed that God was telling me something, that it will get better and this vision of a new baby, even though there is just no way.”

“Lemme ask you something.  Did I have a husband in that vision and if so, who was he?!  Cuz right now, it SHO don’t seem like it’s gonna be you.  We oil and water.  That vision be MEAN and maybe something your mind spat out because you Christian and you don’t want to divorce?  And how do people divorce anyways, especially in NYC?  Pay for TWO homes!?”

Months later and years later:  “Dang it, why you gotta tell me about that vision!?  I am praying for peace about no more baby but that vision of yours keeps nagging at me!  What if it’s supposed to play out and we blocking it?”

Kevin logically explained, “So maybe it wasn’t a vision-VISION but something God just gave me to encourage me in that moment because I just wanted to give up.  Yeah, maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”

Fast forward to my 40th birthday, when I got official word from peeing on my pregnancy test at my gym (more privacy than in our apartment), I did the calculation and realized that just like in Kevin’s vision with the prominent #39 that caught his eye, I had conceived our child during my last few weeks of being 39.

The dark years of fighting dirty and repeatedly hurting each other gifted us with not only Kevin’s vivid vision of hope but ways to fight better.  No counselor, church, book, or friend could have gotten through to me about how I must stop fighting dirty;  I had to experience the cost of fighting dirty and how it truly got me nowhere.

Without those dark years, I would have prematurely tried to fanagle one more baby because time was ticking, without learning how to communicate better.  Had I been blessed with child a couple years ago, all three kids would have been so young, my hormones barely regulated and our marriage may have fallen apart.

I’m extra grateful with my hands to the heavens and hopeful as the June due date draws near, but I’m also being realistic about tiredness, lack of margins, and being much more worn out nearly five years after our last newborn.  Prayers for us, please – to break the old cycle and create new cycles of hope and clear communication even with a new human to care for.

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my first two babies in 2013 – sorry for fighting loudly when you went to bed

 

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older and hopefully wiser mama in 2017, though I wrote “1st tri” instead of “3rd tri” and didn’t notice that the “c” in “coconut” had gotten wiped out and baby labeled as an “oconut”

 

Holidays and Emotional Fireworks

When I struggle emotionally, I’m prone to feel like a freak, utterly unrelatable, like no one else suffers from my particular malady, be it anger explosions or self-loathing or battling envy.

And man, what is up with the holidays and emotion overload?  I swear I start off excited to enjoy a special holiday with my family but many times, I sabotage my own happiness.

On Friday night before Fourth of July Monday, we set off for K’s mom’s house in CT.  During the tornado watch.  But we didn’t just set off as easily as that prior sentence sounds.  I only worked on Monday so that I can be with the kids the rest of the week after M’s school let out Tuesday at noon .  We kept active and social with playground runs, a trip to MoMA, and playdates, but by Friday, I was feeling agitated.  Spent.

When K got home that night, I was already in a mood.  I was taking the boys’ not listening too personally.  Also, unbeknownst to me, I was nervous about our CT weekend, an emotional minefield.  We hadn’t seen his brother’s family in too long so I became nervous and also subconsciously flashbacked to how unsafe I had felt with these in-laws in the past (though we are now pleasant with each other the few times we meet up, thank you Lawd).

During a jog around the neighborhood after K got home to relieve me, the damn sabotage cycle commenced.

My thought balloon formed as I jogged: “Why can’t I just stay home?  That way, I don’t have to feel nervous and not be all self-conscious about how to do my face while on this other planet called Greenwich.  It doesn’t have to be terrible like when K and I had a huge fight on a previous holiday and they actually left without me.  Why can’t I calmly just state that I am sorry to cancel but I will be taking three days for myself, without it turning into drama?”

But I knew I was wrong.  I had agreed to this CT weekend weeks ago and part of our recurring fight cycle is that for holidays, emotions overwhelm me and I want to bone out, when most of the time, word is bond for me and I do NOT flake.

I have open wounds about living across the country from my own family and friends for almost every holiday, previous holiday sabotaging and fight cycles, childhood wounds and all sorts of lovely shit.

Only in hindsight, as in NOW, as I write this four days later, I realize that I wanted K to connect and engage me after my tough day with the kids.  Instead, because he does not get as emotionally overwhelmed when taking care of them (he advises that I learn to tune them out sometimes), he does not fully know how to connect with me when I am pissy about a bad afternoon with them.  Pissy because I feel like I failed, pissy because I feel like I’m not the more patient version of myself from just a few years ago.

And he also wants to give me space to breathe.  I want that too but I also want him to come alongside me and help me untangle my feelings.

So when I said I may stay back, I think I wanted him to affirm me.  I wanted him to say, “You can gift yourself with some Me Time next week, I assure you, but this holiday weekend, I beg of you, to please join us because *we are not the same without you.*  We need you.  You bring a fun spirit to our family and make everything more magical.  I know you are feeling nervous about CT and I understand, but I will not abandon you or leave you to otherwise fend for yourself if you feelin’ unsafe…”  (BECAUSE YES, DON’T ALL MEN SPEAK JUST LIKE OPRAH?)

To K’s credit, he did try to cobble together a version of this statement but he also got frustrated when we started squabbling and said what I could not take at the time:  “Don’t worry, we will be JUST FINE without you.  No problem.  You will just regret not coming because you love to be out in nature and you will miss out on your kids.”

I was hurt so I lashed out, “FINE?!  NO PROB?!  MISS OUT ON NATURE?!  Oh, don’t worry about me!  I can get with some nature all by my damn self while you guys are just fine without me in CT!  AND I AM SO FUN.  I BRING THE FUN TO THIS FAMILY.”  (See?  When I don’t get affirmed, I start affirming myself but also insulting K, who is pretty damn fun.)

So many times, my emotional response is to skip Sadness and land on Anger.  Sadness feels like it could crack me wide open.  Sadness feels like I have no power.  Anger deceives me into thinking I have power in the explosive fireworks I unleash.

After much delay, we got on the road late at night.  Not all was well but at least I was able to get in the car this time.   I felt like a failure for keeping the boys waiting as we fought, and now that M is bigger, he even started imploring me to join them on the CT trip and laying out reasons why I should go.  It hurt my heart to hear him try to persuade me.

Going forward, I need to be able to VULNERABLY take a risk and say, “K, I am feeling all kinds of things re CT especially after a tough afternoon with the boys.  Can you please remind me of why I should go and also why I am needed in this family, though you seem to be able to handle it all without me?”

But OMG, who can speak like that?!  I think I am a very raw and vulnerable person but to ask exactly for what you need emotionally!?  It feels like I am giving him ALL THE ANSWERS on the Scantron test so all the correct “answers” are cheating.

To be continued…I hope?  Maybe.  (Because I gotta write about Saturday, too).

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bonding with Daddy’s friend’s family

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I’m so glad I went.

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Look what washed up in Madison, CT!

P.S.  In this age of social media, I need to remind those who are struggling during the holidays to know that the perfect red-white-and-blue photos are only part of the story.  Beautiful memories WERE created but there are demons to slay to get to the Kodak moments.  At least with me and my family.

 

 

5.5 on 5.25

This is a time capsule letter for my firstborn, my GloWorm, our MLK,

I meant to write you a proper letter for your 5th birthday but now, you are already about to turn five-and-a-half on 5.25.

Today is your first day back at Kindergarden after missing three days last week, including your step-up ceremony.  You were hospitalized for asthma for two nights and two-and-a-half days after the doctor could not get your oxygen levels up, even though she had given you three back-to-back-to-back doses of albuterol and steroids.

When we heard that you had to go to the ER, we all reacted differently.

Daddy became even calmer.  He said he had to.

I started crying as Daddy pressed the elevator button with you in his arms, after he had packed a few things.  “My podoh-ahl [grape pulp], the last time you had to be in the hospital was when you were born.  I want you home and healthy!”

Ellis was still his funny self, asking for second dinner and for Mommy to play hide and seek because Mommy was so preoccupied.  I snapped at him that I need some quiet and that I was sad.  But at night, when he realized that you and Daddy weren’t going to be home, he said, “I’m going to punch the doctors in the face for taking my bruddah away.”

Micah, when you and Daddy weren’t here, even for just that first night when Daddy slept over at the hospital with you, the apartment just felt wrong!

I felt like my heart was outside my body, sleeping over at the Children’s Hospital, wheezing and struggling to breathe.

I even missed your whining, which usually drives me mad.  Actually, I didn’t miss your whining but I wished you were healthy ENOUGH to whine, in theory (where I could not hear you).

I wanted to crawl into your lungs and make them come correct, damnit.

On Friday morning, I called your dad to tell him that you most likely would not be discharged until the afternoon, so no use coming by in the early morning before heading out to the office.

Your dad said, “No, I just need to come by and see our whole family together.”

Your recent hospital stay reminded me of just how much we love you and how this family needs each member.  It also made me realize that on a universal level, one is beloved just by being born.  Not into a perfect family by any means, but by virtue of being born, you are beloved by someone or some ones.

Also made me think we need to recruit more family members but I digress.

I also remembered the times you left me breathless (oof, no pun intended), just by being you.

Like when we recently went on a spring break getaway to the Berkshires, Daddy and I were sitting in the hot tub with you guys, but beating ourselves up for forgetting to bring swim floaties.

“How we gonna forget swim floaties on a hotel-swim vacation?  Where is our head?”

Micah:  “How about we just thank God that we are here?”  (Word.  Schooled by our young son.)

Or when we went to hike to a waterfall on that same vacation, you and I were able to have the most special time, walking among the logs and dead leaves, and you said, “Mommy, you know when I just don’t listen to you?  That’s my bad.  I will do better.  I know it’s not easy.”

Or when we went away just to the nearby suburb of Plainview for Mother’s Day and we said we won’t have bedtimes and we were going to eat lots of chips even after dinner.  You grew very serious and said, “This is a big night, guys.”

Or when you were lying on top of me on a bench at the Museum of Natural History in LA and I said, “Oh, I wish I had my sunglasses!” and you said, “I’ll be your sunglasses,” as you covered my eyes with your still-small face.

That was my favorite moment of our most recent trip to LA because I know that soon you will be too grown to agree to lie down on top of me like a blanket so that I can cuddle you and caress your face and tell you how you is kind and you is beautiful and you is beloved.

I even addressed that with you again, during our special hike to the waterfall, about how our relationship will change as you grow older and you answered in your usual thoughtful and literal manner.

“Mommy, when I turn into a man and you keep wanting to hug me, and you said I won’t want to hug you as much, I will at least stand there so that you can hug me.  And of course, I will visit you – my kids have to play with you!”

Thank you for getting better and breathing better today.

Thank you for joining our family and being exactly who you are, even though you prefer your Daddy these days.  And now is not the time to blow up your spot by including other less precious moments when we are butting heads down Queens Blvd.

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I love how you instinctively grabbed my wrist so that I won’t slide down.

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growing up before my eyes – hiking in North Adams, MA

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you said you didn’t know how much you actually missed ellis until he was able to visit you once you got transferred from the intermediary ICU to the regular ward

E’s Notable Quotables

I’ve been taking a break from blogging for various reasons but I’m back for this drive-by post just so I can preserve precious moments.

I mean to write them all down in my journal but it seems like I am more willing to type it out if in blog form.

Both my boys crack me up daily.

Here are a couple notable quotables from the mouth of my nearly three-and-a-half year old Ellis:

Before hitting up the playground after school, the boys scootered as I chased after them to the Japanese market in our ‘hood so that we can pick up a few onigiri (rice balls in the shape of triangles, covered with dried seaweed).

When I noticed that only the spicy ones were still available that late afternoon, I announced to the boys that the non-spicy onigiri were all gone.

E’s round eyes got even bigger as his tulip mouth pursed seriously, and he exclaimed, “Call the police!”

Another:

Ellis started a bad habit only this week, of trying to stay up past their bedtime.  We did not want to give in so we started resorting to dirty tactics when we saw him trying to sneak out of their shared room right before our eyes.

“Hey, Daddy!  Let’s get ready to watch monsters on the TV.  In the DARK like a movie theater!” (me trying to prey on his current fears)

Ellis:  I know you guys are trying to trick me.  That is NOT nice.

One more:

On the way home from church, I was explaining to Micah:

“Being smart is so relative.  Some people are blessed to be smart in one way, while other people are smart in another way.  You should never feel bad because someone else, like a classmate, seems smarter than you, because you probably smarter than them in another way.

Also, you should never show off about your smarts, either, because in life, you will always meet people who are smarter than you.”

Ellis, from the carseat next to Big Brother’s:  “Like me.”

And that’s all for today.  I hope to stay awake for Grey’s Anatomy and ease on into weekend mode early on this Thursday night.

 

Freed People Free People

1,199,377,832 : number of Internet searches for pornography since January 1, 2015.

With that unfathomable figure on the black screen behind him, one of our church leaders shared his very personal addiction to pornography and how he was delivered from it in 1995.

I didn’t take any notes as I hung on to every word.  The sermon is not on our church’s website yet as he delivered this sermon only yesterday.  I will share it once it is up.

This was one of the most powerful sermons I have ever heard because of its very personal and raw nature.  I saw people wiping their tears as he shared his private pain.

Redd also mentioned how he came to decide to share this testimony with such a large audience.  He realized that sharing his story can bless others:  Freed People Free People.

This was particularly encouraging to me, the born Public Confesser.  Many times I wish I weren’t wired this way.  I feel like a damn fool.  Why do I always want to share?  I ain’t getting paid.

Why do I have such a compulsion to share my innards instead of keeping my status updates casual:  “Tried the new watermelon flavor blaster gum today.  YUM!”

As I sat there, watching Redd take a huge risk by sharing his secrets, I, too, wiped away a few tears that had slipped out.  I, one who has never even watched porn, connected with what he was saying.

I understand about bondage and what Apostle Paul talks about in Romans 7:15:  I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

Redd also clarified that his sermon isn’t only addressing addiction to porn but to ANYTHING that makes us feel imprisoned.

Anger, overeating, eating disorders, drugs, shame, sex, fear, unforgiveness, blame, and so much more.  And in 2015, I’m sure there is a whole host of new addictions like addiction to our smartphones and social media so that we aren’t left alone with our own thoughts.

Redd asked the congregation to whisper in our own seats:  “I WANT TO BE SET FREE FROM ________.”

I want to be set free from ANGER.

It may be getting worse, not better, as I age.  I know that beneath the anger lies hurt but I seem to skip right over the Hurt to rush to the release of Anger.  This release is false as I don’t feel any better even after unleashing.

I am well aware of my triggers.  For one, it’s when I see others enjoying what I lack.  I know in my HEAD, that we all have different blessings but in my FEELS, I don’t see why I can’t have what others have.

*This is risky to share because I also have experienced folks enjoying being the object of my envy because it makes them feel better about themselves but that’s another topic altogether.*

I saw a woman in the locker room at a Korean spa on Saturday, the first day my MiL came over this calendar year so that Kevin and I could have a belated anniversary day to ourselves.  A whole entire day – Glory!

This woman walked in with her infant, her mom, and her MiL (or aunt).  She, herself, never tended to the baby as the doting grammas cooed over him and handled everything he needed – the undressing, the diapers, you name it.  The young mom just followed their lead and changed into her own spa uniform AT HER LEISURE.

Her leisure made my body hot.  Yes, I realize that you come to a spa to relax but how dare she relax with an infant?  THAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE IMPOSSIBLE.

I judged her for being lazy and spoiled(!) just because she was richly blessed with a day at the spa with generations above and below.

Then I checked myself and said, “Hold up, ajumma, why are you hating on that woman you’ve never met?  What is going on in there?”

I realized it was because I haven’t fully grieved being on our own these last five years as parents.  Sure, I talk about it A LOT, but I don’t think I really know what to do with the sadness I hold about my kids seeing my parents once a year.  How Kevin and I, for the most part, raise them up on our own.  When a couple church friends expressed interest in watching our kids, I actually cried because I felt SO LOVED and supported.

I have to clarify that we have great friends I’ve made since M was an infant, and we do regular playdates, but I’m talking specifically about the Family Village, which we lack.

And believe me, in my head, I know that things could be worse – at least both sets of grandparents are alive and well, at least Kevin’s mom was able to come over on Saturday. (I also struggle with GUILT for feeling my feelings!)

I also know that I am a very energetic and competent mama perhaps because it’s either Kevin or me tending to their every need, but when I see a mom of young children hardly lifting a finger because she knows that her Village will run over to her child walking dangerously in front of another child on the swings, something is triggered.

I want to learn to say, “I feel sad that my parents live so damn far away and can’t get to know my morsels as much as I’d like,” rather than, “Fuck these lazy spoiled princess mamas who don’t know how to do jack shit on their own.”

I want to be set free from my default emotion of ANGER.

I want to be set free from the guilt I feel for some of my feelings.

I want to be set free from blaming my husband when our lives aren’t quite what I pictured.

I want to be set free from criticizing.

I want to be set free from self-hatred.

Redd reminded us that FREED PEOPLE FREE PEOPLE.  What do you want to be set free from?  Let’s help each other.  Here is the passage we studied together yesterday – Isaiah 61:

Exaltation of the Afflicted:

The Year of the Lord’s Favor

61 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations.
Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
    foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord,
    you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
    and in their riches you will boast.

Instead of your shame
    you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
    you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
    and everlasting joy will be yours.

“For I, the Lord, love justice;
    I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
    and make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be known among the nations
    and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
    that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”

10 I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
    and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
    and praise spring up before all nations.