Eventually being a daddy

There was a great article on Huffington Post titled “What little girls wish their daddies knew” that made me tear up. First for joy, at the wonder of eventually being a daddy myself, hopefully to a littler girl (and a little boy, but this article didn’t address that ;). But I also teared up from feelings of loss and sadness. I understand and have felt many of these sentiments myself, but I am also sad at the broken world we live in – I myself will be a broken father and cause many of these hurts to my own child.

2. Ask how I am feeling and listen to my answer, I need to know you value me before I can understand my true value.

3. I learn how I should be treated by how you treat my mom, whether you are married to her or not.

4. If you are angry with me, I feel it even if I don’t understand it, so talk to me.

5. Every time you show grace to me or someone else, I learn to trust God a little more.

6. I need to experience your nurturing physical strength, so I learn to trust the physicality of men.

7. Please don’t talk about sex like a teenage boy, or I think it’s something dirty.

8. When your tone is gentle, I understand what you are saying much better.

9. How you talk about female bodies when you’re “just joking” is what I believe about my own.

10. How you handle my heart, is how I will allow it to be handled by others.

11. If you encourage me to find what brings joy, I will always seek it.

12. If you teach me what safe feels like when I’m with you, I will know better how to guard myself from men who are not.

13. Teach me a love of art, science, and nature, and I will learn that intellect matters more than dress size.

14. Let me say exactly what I want even if it’s wrong or silly, because I need to know having a strong voice is acceptable to you.

15. When I get older, if you seem afraid of my changing body, I will believe something is wrong with it.

16. If you understand contentment for yourself, so will I.

17. When I ask you to let go, please remain available; I will always come back and need you if you do.

18. If you demonstrate tenderness, I learn to embrace my own vulnerability rather than fear it.

19. When you let me help fix the car and paint the house, I will believe I can do anything a boy can do.

20. When you protect my femininity, I learn everything about me is worthy of protecting.

21. How you treat our dog when you think I’m not watching tells me more about you than does just about anything else.

22. Don’t let money be everything, or I learn not to respect it or you.

23. Hug, hold, and kiss me in all the ways a daddy does that are right and good and pure. I need it so much to understand healthy touch.

24. Please don’t lie, because I believe what you say.

25. Don’t avoid hard conversations, because it makes me believe I’m not worth fighting for.

It’s pretty simple, really. Little girls just love their daddies. They each think their daddy hung the moon. Once in a while when you look at your little gal twirling in her frilly skirt, remember she’ll be grown one day. What do you want her to know about men, life, herself, love? What you do and say now matters for a lifetime. Daddies, never underestimate the impact of your words or deeds on your daughters, no matter their age.

marriage for losers

In these marriages, losing becomes a way of life, a competition to see who can listen to, care for, serve, forgive, and accept the other the most. The marriage becomes a competition to see who can change in ways that are most healing to the other, to see who can give of themselves in ways that most increase the dignity and strength of the other. These marriages form people who can be small and humble and merciful and loving and peaceful.

In marriage, losing is letting go of the need to fix everything for your partner, listening to their darkest parts with a heartache rather than a solution. It’s being even more present in the painful moments than in the good times. It’s finding ways to be humble and open, even when everything in you says you’re right and they are wrong. It’s doing what is good for your spouse, even when big things need to be sacrificed, like a job, or a relationship, or an ego. It is forgiveness, quickly and voluntarily. It is eliminating anything from your life, even the things you love, if they are keeping you from attending, caring, and serving. It is seeking peace by accepting the healthy but crazy-making things about your partner because, you remember, those were the things you fell in love with in the first place. It is knowing that your spouse will never fully understand you, will never truly love you unconditionally — because they are a broken creature, too — and loving them to the end anyway.

– “Marriage is for Losers” on Huffington Post

This article is an interesting mix of ideals and harsh reality-checks. Everything about being a “loser” in marriage sounds good, except of course that it is an impossible ideal to live up to. But none the less, I do feel that it is a good reminder of what to strive for. Always try to be humble (I like the bit about “even when everything in you says you’re right and they’re wrong”). And the healthy expectation that both of us will never fully understand each other, never truly love each other unconditionally.

I feel like such a pessimist to say those things. It makes me sad. But it is also refreshing. Don’t expect the impossible from the other person (sometimes you’ll get it, sometimes you won’t). But strive for it for yourself. Does that make sense? I don’t know… sometimes though, I think it is good not to set myself up to be hurt/disappointed/frustrated by expecting to be loved unconditionally. At other times, I think it IS good to expect and strive for being loved the way we need it. After all, no one can read my mind, so I need to say something, right?

It’s all about balance. Be humble yourself. But don’t be a push-over. Speak up. Help each other to love one another better.

still nibbling

i’m still nibbling on this cookie… still going to counseling and dealing with the same issues.

i wrote that last post about “know thyself” way back in September last year, long before starting counseling in December. now 7 months into counseling (though, i skipped 1 month in the middle due to schedule conflicts) i don’t feel like i’ve grown a whole lot. i feel like i have the same awareness of my issues, just more practice repeating the words used to describe them. but i’m still self-critical, i still have boundary issues with saying “yes” to please others, i still find my value in what i can produce, i still can’t resolve conflict well.

before this gets too depressing, i should say that i do know that the process of maturing and having learning experiences is a long road. i can’t expect to undo 28 years of internalized learned behaviors and perspectives in just half a year.

i used to say that learning to me was like pattern matching: a situation would come up, i’d repeat a negative pattern, and i’d try to learn from it to recognize when that situation comes up again to prevent the negative pattern. but i’m not a robot (thankfully). instead i have had to learn to receive grace for myself along the way, as i repeat the same problematic behaviors. and somehow come up with the motivation to keep trying to grow, keep moving.

i have realized that i am loved, even while i am in the process, not because of some promise of who i might become.

know thyself

“We cannot be ourselves unless we know ourselves… We cannot begin to know ourselves until we can see the real reasons why we do the things we do, and we cannot be ourselves until our actions correspond to our intentions, and our intentions are appropriate to our own situation.”

– Thomas Merton
from No Man is an Island

A new segment of the journey of self-discovery begins soon. I’ve identified several areas of my life that are inconsistent with how I want to be, that are unhealthy or at least an obstacle to further growth, and that I need help dealing with. So, despite having hesitations and wrong motivations for a while, I shall see a counselor.

I used to feel a strong stigma against going to counseling. It seemed that if I could just have honest conversations with friends to get feedback, and just reflect/think about my life, I could solve any problems that I encountered. It seemed ridiculous to have to pay a stranger to do what I thought any friend could do. And lastly, it seemed counter-productive to have parts of my life that I could talk about with a counselor but couldn’t talk about with a friend. But now I realize that these are discouraging thoughts based on false assumptions. The truth is that I end up ignoring my needs, short-changing myself and hindering my own growth and development. I need the guidance, tools and perspective of a professional with the knowledge, skills and experience to help me with my issues.

So what exactly are my issues? These are some thoughts, but not necessarily in order, and not necessarily all things that I am currently feeling or experiencing. Just things that I have noticed about myself at various points, in different circumstances, with different people.

  1. underlying feelings of fear, insecurity, self-hatred
    • afraid of the consequences of being wrong
    • afraid of hurting people I love
    • not handling responsibilities well because i feel heavily burdened to do it well
    • assuming the worst of myself, blaming myself
  2. unawareness of my own needs/wants/opinions
    • numbness to strong emotions (positive and negative)
    • indecisiveness about everything
      • inconsequential things aren’t “worth” having an opinion about
      • significant things are too overwhelming to decide on
  3. difficulty expressing myself genuinely for reasons 1. and 2. above
  4. unable to resolve conflict
    • yielding (people-pleasing) and avoiding, instead of communicating and compromising (win-win)
    • stuck in the negative, unable to move on, “walking on egg shells”

The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the Gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The Gospel is—we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared to believe, and at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.

Relevant Magazine, “You Never Marry the Right Person”

Lessons to learn

The below are some good thoughts to keep in mind, taken from a 2012 commencement speech posted on WSJ.

5. Help stop the Little League arms race. Kids’ sports are becoming ridiculously structured and competitive. What happened to playing baseball because it’s fun? We are systematically creating races out of things that ought to be a journey. We know that success isn’t about simply running faster than everyone else in some predetermined direction.

7. Your parents don’t want what is best for you. They want what is good for you, which isn’t always the same thing. There is a natural instinct to protect our children from risk and discomfort, and therefore to urge safe choices. Theodore Roosevelt—soldier, explorer, president—once remarked, “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”

8. Don’t model your life after a circus animal. Performing animals do tricks because their trainers throw them peanuts or small fish for doing so. You should aspire to do better. You will be a friend, a parent, a coach, an employee—and so on. But only in your job will you be explicitly evaluated and rewarded for your performance. Don’t let your life decisions be distorted by the fact that your boss is the only one tossing you peanuts. If you leave a work task undone in order to meet a friend for dinner, then you are “shirking” your work. But it’s also true that if you cancel dinner to finish your work, then you are shirking your friendship. That’s just not how we usually think of it.

9. It’s all borrowed time. You shouldn’t take anything for granted, not even tomorrow. I offer you the “hit by a bus” rule. Would I regret spending my life this way if I were to get hit by a bus next week or next year? And the important corollary: Does this path lead to a life I will be happy with and proud of in 10 or 20 years if I don’t get hit by a bus.

Some thoughts to add to this, from the perspective of an introverted people-pleaser:

The last bit about “shirking your friendships” is a big one to keep in mind. I do have to prioritize and commit to investing in friendships. But, I also really do need to learn boundaries and when to say “no” – both to work and to friends. It is so easy for me to let myself be taken advantage of… And I tell myself it is “just how I express love, through serving others.” I wonder though, if it is received or appreciated that way. If I’m just letting anyone request anything of me, i could se that others will take me and my act of service for granted. Instead, it would be healthier for me to serve more intentionally those people whom I choose to love. And hopefully those people would then feel loved, rather than feel “serviced.”

being a teacher

Teaching isn’t just “making it fun” for the kids. Teaching isn’t just academic content.

 

Teaching is understanding how the human brain processes information and preparing lessons with this understanding in mind.

 

Teaching is simultaneously instilling in a child the belief that she can accomplish anything she wants while admonishing her for producing shoddy work.

 

Teaching is understanding both the psychology and the physiology behind the changes the adolescent mind goes through.

 

Teaching is convincing a defiant teenager that the work he sees no value in does serve a greater purpose in preparing him for the rest of his life.

 

Teaching is offering a sympathetic ear while maintaining a stern voice.

 

Teaching is being both a role model and a mentor to someone who may have neither at home, and may not be looking for either.

The above quote from an article titled “the hardest job everyone thinks they can do” on musingsonlifeandlove.com.

Yep. I get it. Teaching is an immeasurably difficult challenge. The crazy part is, we could all really benefit from being better teachers, or rather having a better understanding of all the things teachers have to know and do to “teach.”

In my job, it sure would help to do “knowledge transfer” better, or inspire others to document their work better, or train users to be smarter and safer on the internet, etc etc.

In my personal life, it sure would help my relationships to better communicate, break down what I’m feeling and thinking into expressible sentences, be a better role model, keeping the bigger picture in mind, and of course “keeping it fun” too!

In my family, it sure would help me to better appreciate my parents to think about how they taught me and the struggles they went through. And I often feel ill-equipped for the “big brother” role, not having the right words or being there for my sisters when they need me.

And most frighteningly, if I’m ever a father, it sure would help me to be a better parent for all the above reasons as I raise my kid(s)!

seek his face

“We are called to be contemplatives in the heart of the world — by seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, everywhere, all the time…”

– Mother Teresa

I need to get free of myself – my tunnel vision, my stuckness, my biases, my boxed-in perceptions, my dependency on sarcasm, my work-a-holism, my dependence on catch phrases like “I’m a workaholic” and insisting on seeing myself like that…

I’ve started to see how I am learning to be free. With eyes open and taking the time to reflect, I can slowly start to see. In everything, everyone, everywhere, every time… God is. Trust in his consistency. Be confident of his presence. mercy. love.

Here are a few excerpts from the book “Blessing your Spirit” – through these I’ve started to grow more confident of God’s Spirit in me, and His presence with me:

I bless you with receiving truth from the life of Gideon, who did not know that God looked upon him with favor. Gideon saw himself so poorly that he was hiding. He had no idea that God knew he existed, but God saw him as the mighty warrior He had designed before the foundation of the world to deliver Israel from the hand of the Midianites. I bless you with joy in a touch from God to seal in your heart and your spirit that you have favor in His eyes, AND that He will communicate His purposes for you that cannot be defeated.
from the chapter “Day 8 Joy of the Lord”

 

The word “trust” is very significant in the Old Testament. It is not an act of your will, where you choose to risk something, but it is a profound emotional confidence in which you are completely expecting things to be right. It is like the trust that you felt in the womb as you listened to your mother’s heart beat. You heard the thumping on a regular basis, your body vibrated with a rushing sound of blood as her heart pumped. You trusted in your mother’s heart, for it continued to beat minute after minute, day after day, and you had complete emotional confidence in it. That is what your Father wants you to experience with Him. He wants you to experience so much of His faithfulness that you are emotionally at peace in Him. There is a time and a place for risking on God as an act of faith, even when your emotions don’t agree, but it is a far greater, a more wonderful special gift, for you to trust and be truly at peace with what your Father is going to do and what He has called you to do.
<snip>
I bless you with seeing where your Father has protected you. I bless you with perfect peace because you trust in your Father’s protection of you. I bless you with firsthand knowledge of your Father’s infinite creativity in rescuing you from harm. … I bless you with growing experiences of His protecting your spirit, your soul, your body, and the call upon your life. I bless you with seeing so much of His protection that you will trust Him as implicitly as you trusted your mother’s heartbeat. I bless you with having a mind that is set on Christ, who offers this peace.
from the chapter “Day 7 Trust”

I have begun to see God’s love for me. Through friendships, through community… through relationship.

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