A punch to the head woke me up.

If you have told someone that something they do makes you uncomfortable, and they keep on doing it, then it is up to you to terminate the relationship.

That may sound harsh.

But it is as if you’ve put up your feelings for a vote. Who wins? Their needs or yours? Ideally, you’d both win. Ideally, everybody would be happy.

But if they feel they need to continue doing something that you have said is distressing or harmful to you, then they have voted. Their needs are more important than yours.

I went to a gathering once and I brought a jewelry project to work on. It is like a security blanket to me. I like having projects because it makes me feel more comfortable. I feel more exposed when I have nothing to work on.

A lady there wasn’t comfortable with me working on a project. I wasn’t right next to her. The project wasn’t loud or big. It wasn’t like I was taking notes. But she felt that in order for her to share her thoughts she needed me to not be doing anything and to look right at her.

She didn’t ask me directly. She mentioned casually, to the air it seemed, that she would rather each person pay full attention and not work on anything. It took me a little bit to understand that she meant me, she was so vague.

So I had a choice. Make her feel comfortable, and me feel uncomfortable, and stop working on my project. Or, pretend I didn’t hear her and keep on working. I’d feel a little comfortable because I’d have my project, but a little less than before she spoke because I would know that I was making someone else feel uncomfortable.

But really, I wasn’t making her feel uncomfortable. That was her choice.

I put my project up. And I developed a small amount of resentment to her, and a little bit to myself. I was upset that I didn’t stand up for myself. I was upset with her that she confronted me at all, and that she did it in such a passive-aggressive kind of way. It was my choice not to tell her how I felt. It was my choice to let her needs be more important than mine.

I had a coworker who thought it was funny to hit me on the back of my head when she walked by. She wouldn’t hit hard – she would often just catch my hair. That is an invasion of my personal space. That is a violation of social rules – we don’t touch each other unless it is mutual.

Now, I hate having people walk behind me anyway, but there is nothing I can do about it at work because of the arrangement of the desks. I don’t have an office. I don’t really even have a desk. I have a space that I usually work at when nobody else is around. It is a little discomforting to work in a place for many years and not really have a “place” to be, but that is for another post.

I first thought she was getting a rise out of it, out of getting in my personal space. So I dealt with her like I dealt with my big brother – pretend that I liked it. I figured that she’d stop because that works with big brothers. Don’t let them get the satisfaction of seeing you upset. Pretend it doesn’t bother you. It didn’t work. I had to tell her to quit, and in telling her I learned something very telling about my boss.

She laughed at me for telling this lady to quit hitting me. I should have seen that as the sign that it is. Hindsight is 20/20 they say. I learned this lesson later – don’t trust her with anything real. She isn’t really human.

I knew a guy in college named Carson who hurt me badly. He and I were sitting in a friend’s dorm room. I was sitting on the bed and he was sitting in a chair facing me. I don’t remember what we were talking about, but at some point in the conversation he reached over and pushed me sideways. My back was against the wall, and being pushed sideways meant that my head caught the part of the doorjamb where the doorknob was. It hurt a lot. I pulled forward, turned around, and saw what had caused the pain in my head. I told Carson to be careful – I’d gotten hurt from his shove. I figured it was an accident.

The second push wasn’t an accident. He took my shoulder, pulled me back to see where the doorjamb was, and then shoved my head sideways into the doorjamb.

Without thinking, I hit him as hard as I could right between the eyes. Every bit of energy and force I had in me was directed into that punch. I’m grateful that I didn’t hit him anywhere where it could have caused actual damage. I could have bloodied his nose, broken his teeth, bruised his eye. I could have killed him if I’d hit the right spot with that much force. It was an instinctive punch, and it did the job.

We stared at each other for what seemed like ten minutes. I’m sure it was only a minute, but time had slowed down. It does that when crazy things happen.

He broke the silence. “Don’t ever do that again.” He glowered at me.

“Don’t ever do that again.” I responded, indignant. He’d hurt me intentionally. There was no reason for it. I’d never done anything to him to deserve that. I’d never done anything to anybody to deserve that.

The first time is free. The first time is an accident. Once you’ve been told that you’ve harmed me, and you do it again, everything is over.

If they hurt you and you don’t tell them, then it is on you. If you tell them and they continue to hurt you, then they have made their choice. It is on you if you stay after that.

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The bread of God.

“Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deut. 8:3b)

There is a Jewish blessing that is said at every meal that has bread. It is called the HaMatzi Blessing. In English it is:

“Blessed art Thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the Earth.”

Now, bread does not come from the Earth. Bread comes from wheat, which comes from the Earth. And it doesn’t just spring forth. It has to be planted by humans. It has to be tended by us. Then it has to be harvested, threshed, and milled. Only then it can be used to make bread.

Yes, we have to be thankful to God that the Earth produces food. We have to be thankful of the amazing process that makes a seed grow into a plant which grows into food. We should never take that for granted. But we also are part of the process. We have to do work too.

The blessing refers to the time when the Jews were wandering in the desert and had nothing to eat. It isn’t really about bread. It is about reminding us that God always provides for our needs. That we should take nothing for granted. That we owe our very existence to God.

We say there are no miracles anymore. We forget that every moment is a miracle. We forget that every beat of our heart is God saying that we are loved and we are needed.

The verse above is what we are familiar with, but it is only part of the verse. Here’s the full verse:

“He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then He gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (HCSB)

There is a Christian twist on this blessing that changes it to “Blessed art Thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe who brings forth the living bread from Heaven.”

This is a reference to Jesus’ words in John 6:35-40:

35 “I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again. 36 But as I told you, you’ve seen Me, and yet you do not believe. 37 Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me: that I should lose none of those He has given Me but should raise them up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Jesus said this after feeding 5,000 people with five barley loaves and two fish, which were a donation. There were twelve baskets of food left over after everyone had been fed. In the Gospel according to Mark, book 8 we learn that Jesus also fed 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. There were seven large baskets of leftover pieces.

That miracle is the same miracle as the manna. God always provides for us. It rarely is in a way that we expect. Even Jesus’ disciples didn’t expect this. He did this miracle twice, and they still didn’t get it. They still didn’t understand that it isn’t about the bread at all.

God is bigger than we can imagine. God is always providing for us. Blessed be God, who provides bread – that the conditions are right for wheat to grow, and that we have the knowledge and skill to create it into something that will nourish us. Blessed be God, who feeds us in surprising ways.

Repress – self-care, and boundaries

At what point do you stop being yourself so that somebody else can feel comfortable? All the time? Half the time? Never?

Is it antisocial to do your own thing? Is a violence against your soul to not?

I’ve suppressed myself a lot throughout my life. I’ve been taught directly and indirectly that everybody else’s needs are always more important than my own. Perhaps some of it is just part of the training that every woman gets. Perhaps part is what I learned out of self defense from being raised in a house with a father who wasn’t emotionally there. We either walked on eggshells or just walked around him. We never really knew who he was going to be from day to day. Perhaps part of it is from having a brother who was the master of manipulation. The only trips he took me on were of the guilt variety.

I remember when I went to college in another town I realized I could be anybody I wanted to be. Nobody knew me. I didn’t have a history. I wasn’t Ian’s kid sister. I wasn’t Joan’s daughter. I wasn’t Pat’s kid. All of them had gone before me in that town and in that high school. They’d either taken classes there or had worked there. I had a sort of hand me down life, a sort of leftover existence, a sort of filtered reality. My life was not my own. People judged me based on what their experiences were with my family.

When I moved to another state I realized I could be anyone I wanted. So I decided to be myself. I stripped away everything that didn’t serve or suit me, and grew a new me from the inside out.

I’m doing that again now. I’ve been recreating myself over the past several years.

I deleted my sister in law as a “friend” on FB in part because she was always disagreeing with me. She often felt that my posts were going to upset her husband, or my husband. She asked me to delete the posts.

She reminds me a lot of how my brother tried to control me. Shame. Family honor. Secrets. Guilt. Don’t air the family business. Keep a stiff upper lip. Hold it in. What will “they” think?

I found myself thinking before many posts – what would she think? Would she censure me? Would she censor me? I took to posting some posts on my blog only, rather than on my FB page. I still got to speak, I just didn’t have to worry about her reading it.

Funny, she never commented on anything that she agreed with. It was always “I disagree” or “I respectfully disagree”, as if saying “respectfully” takes the sting out of the slap.

I can handle constructive criticism. I just can’t handle constant criticism.

So I had a choice. Her or me. Make her happy, or make me happy. I chose me.

It made her go a little spare for a bit.

It was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while. Reminds me of when I deleted my brother. It was a little terrifying and a little bit exhilarating at the same time.

She now thinks I’ve gone mental, that something is wrong with me. She’s a therapist, so she should know, right? I think she’s putting the blame on me because it takes it off her. If she’d asked me privately if there was a problem, and listened to my feelings when I answered, then it would be different. Her reaction just proved to me that my decision was right.

Self-care is a sign of mental health. I will no longer allow abusive people into my life, regardless of who they are. Family members do not get free passes. In fact, I expect better from them.

I chose my husband. I did not choose his family, or who his family chose.