The Squeaking Wheel

Lately, famous people are making depression famous; they’re getting the message out: mental health isn’t an age, gender or “class” issue.  It’s an equal-opportunity predator.  A famous one.  So maybe now more people can feel okay about getting help. Here’s the problem: not everyone can admit they need help.  The root of that might be that we don’t trust people—which seems wise.  We won’t risk sharing a burden with a blabbermouth. Not even a burden that’s killing us.

We just don’t want people talking about us.   That’s a little odd, though.  Because we make sure they do.  We post the posed and perfected pics, creating and ‘marketing’ the life most likely to get commented on and ‘liked’.  But I can’t recall any ‘Worst day ever’ collages.  They’d get comments, too, right?  Maybe that’s the real root: Exposing our truth means losing control of the narrative, of what we want people to say.  We’d rather die miserable than mask-free.  Literally.

Years ago, a colleague justified complaining by saying: “It’s the squeaking wheel that gets the oil.”   I’m not big on complaining, but there’s truth here.  Perhaps we stay stuck in mourning, because we don’t squeak; we don’t signal the person who’s got our oil (Isaiah 61:3).  And we miss a chance to get help—and to help someone else who’s struggling; someone who’ll never squeak alone.  So, maybe the famous people have the right idea.  But maybe the most helpful message will come from someone we go to school and church with, someone we talk to everyday.  Someone who can pause the pretense long enough to admit imperfection and struggle, who’ll tell the kind of truth that can set us all free.

The Secret Place

There’s a place we hardly talk about; a private place we don’t advertise, a secret place we navigate alone.  Getting there is easy, too.  It usually starts a little like this: You’ve prayed for and encouraged someone—the 7th or 8th someone—and within days, they’ve received their healing, or breakthrough, that almost-given-up-on thing.  And you’re happy for them.  You really, really are.  But just as you finish praising God and high-5-ing, your hand slowly falling back to your side, it hits you.  You’re here again, in this place.  This quiet, cramped space where it’s just you and that familiar oversized question:  So. Where’s your miracle?  But this time, you’re prepared.  You talk back to it and walk away, because you’re bigger than that now.  You’ve been walking with Jesus too long; you’re too mature to be sucked in by that rusty trap, right?

But it comes back, that question.  Because it’s relentless.  And this time, it’s brought reinforcements.  When is it your turn, huh?  How long are you going to wait?  Who’s praying for YOU, honey?  Relentless, they follow you—to the shower, the wedding, anniversary and going away party—breathing in your ear when no-one’s looking, smiling behind you in the bathroom mirror.  But you keep rebuking them and you keep smiling, because you’re happy for him and her, and them.  You really are.  Plus, you know what you’re supposed to do when someone you love walks away almost by accident with the thing you’ve been praying for—for years.  You’re supposed to smile and pretend like your heart isn’t breaking.  Right?

So you suck it up and stick around to clean up.  And you wish them the best—again—before you go home.  Alone.  Back to the very thing you’ve been praying for so long for God to change.   You close the door; lock it up tight behind you.  And then you put some worship music on, really loud, while you clean your own kitchen.  And the bathroom.  Then you send an email, saying congratulations.  Again.   “Because,”—you whisper, the last song fading as you fall apart in your familiar place,—“I’m over this.”

Right.

Mother’s Day – the Truth

Sometimes, Mother’s Day provokes me.

This year (yesterday), the catalyst was an article about a dad who had to raise his one-month-old daughter alone.  No, her mom didn’t die; she left.  Exited. Of course, the story is more detailed than that.  It always is.  But the given details are mostly about the father’s journey.  So while I’m applauding this dad’s commitment to his daughter, I’m also thinking about that mother.  Why’d she leave?  What was going through her mind?  Did she have everything she needed…to stay?

See, we can shake our righteous heads and tell everyone how motherhood is about Sacrifice.  But we don’t always tell the whole truth.  Motherhood, with all its dimensions, is intricate and beautiful—true.  Also true: It. Is. Hard.  And on the hard days, many of us head-shakers have glanced twice at that exit, too.  The holiest of us have looked from screaming baby to snoring partner, struggling with ungodly thoughts.  The gentlest of us have lost it with toddlers and teens; said and done things we wouldn’t confess to Jesus Himself.  And all of us have crumbled for the want of a break (or something equally dreamy) that we wouldn’t ask for or couldn’t get.  We know, live(d) and remember these things. But we don’t always talk about them.  Why?

Maybe we don’t want to be judged by the impossible standards floating around us. Maybe there isn’t enough truth circulating to generate the platform and permission we need to be honest.  So we don’t say that we’re not perfect, that there are days when our greatest accomplishment is… not leaving.  That unlovely truth might be all the help a struggling mom needs.  That alone should provoke us to be honest, to say: “Girl, I’ve been there but I’m still here.  Keep going.  Let me help you…”   But for some reason, a struggling mother doesn’t always provoke us that way.  Instead of supporting, we judge the ones who are barely holding it together in supermarkets and banks—letting everyone know how we and/or our child “could NEVER…”.

I wish every mom a great Mother’s Day, but this year, I’d like to celebrate moms like that beautifully brave lady I met in the bank with her newborn and toddler.  I see you—the ones who struggle, the ones who stay.  Your story isn’t easy or pretty.  But you’re here. You’ve never thrown a theme party; you’re still figuring out your kid’s hair.  But you stayed.  You’re living and loving them on fumes, but hoping for a break, so you stay.  Honey, we’re here, but we’ve been there.  And we’re telling you it gets better.  On behalf of your kids, thank you and Happy Mother’s Day!  I pray you get everything you need.  To stay.

Whose lane is it?

So today, I was on my way to pick my son up from school, and driving in front of me was an elderly gentleman (because isn’t there always one when you want to be early?).  He caught my attention – not because of his age or the ‘seen-better-days’ state of his car – but because he seemed so mesmerized by everything BUT the road in front of him.  Now, granted, we are one week post-hurricane Irma.  So, though we weren’t hit very hard (thank God), there’s something to see, if you’re interested enough.  And clearly, he was interested.  I was patient with his natural curiosity about that sign and this debris and their yard – until he started veering, past the middle of the road into oncoming traffic.  When he made it back into his lane just in time to avoid an irate driver, I breathed a sigh of relief.  Until he started doing it again.  (At which point, I probably breathed something else, but hey, God’s still working on me.)

I continued to watch this guy, waving to people at the curb, his car waving right along with him.  I barely registered the opportunities to overtake him, thinking: “But why?  Why would you continue to do the same thing that nearly got you creamed just now?”

And then it hit me. This guy really isn’t so different from most of us.  We try to run our race, but sometimes we get distracted by whatever someone else’s storm has exposed.  We take our eyes off our lane and inevitably we drift, losing time – or the race – that way.  But worse, we can drift too far and end up in a place we have no business being.  We could get hurt.  Or creamed.

But we don’t.  And we’re relieved, but it won’t make much difference. Because the truth is, that other lane is just too pretty, too tempting, too juicy to resist.  So we keep playing the odds, daring fate – not because we don’t know better, but because it’s just easier to stick with the destructive behaviour we know than it is to submit to the discipline that’s unfamiliar.

I guess in the end, it just takes less effort to get creamed in someone else’s lane than it does to survive in our own.

 

Mother’s Day?

This year, I find myself thinking about Mother’s Day and the hype surrounding it. Honestly, I think I’m kind of over it.  Maybe it’s a passing phase, but I keep thinking about the things no-one talks about…like how, after the gifts are opened, she’ll be the one to clean up the wrapping paper, the one to tidy up and discard the dead flowers, who laundered, ironed/folded the clothes everyone wore to take her out to eat.

But I’ve mostly been thinking about how Mother’s Day is so focused on the ladies who’ve had children.

I think it’s generally understood that bringing a child into the world doesn’t make someone a mom. I mean, we’ve heard the stories—women who’ve sold their little girls’ bodies to purchase an outfit, accepted money from a school-age daughter’s “boyfriend” to pay a bill, or who’ve just taken off without a backward glance. True, we don’t uphold and laud these examples, but we don’t talk much about them either.

And there’s another group who gets lost in the fray: those women who may not have physically had children, but who deserve just as much hype as those who have. More, in some cases. So, while I wish a great and stress-free Mother’s Day to everyone who has loved and cherished the children she bore…this year, I want to remember the ones who are easy to forget.

So, Happy Mother’s Day to you, the woman who waits (kind of) patiently for the right man, praying over the sound of your biological clock, refusing to settle for just any “sperm donor”. Though it means you often stand alone, you won’t compromise. You get it: the importance of the right support to raise your children. For that, I salute you, lady.

A Happy Mother’s Day to you—the lady who’s lost more babies to miscarriage than she cares to admit, you who have so much love and no baby to give it to. Yet.

Happy Mother’s Day to you, who’ve suffered the unspeakable loss of the child you bore, perhaps the child you raised. Your empty arms make you no less a mother. This year, I celebrate your love—because I know it will live forever.

Happy Mother’s Day to you: the educator, neighbor, babysitter, the lady who cares for and guides other people’s children. Thank you for being the one who watches over them, catching all those little unspoken things—except for that one glance when your back is turned, the one that says they wish yours was the womb that carried them.

And there are so many still unnamed, including the men who’ve stepped up to fill those empty spaces. So Happy Mother’s Day to all of you, but especially to the ones who aren’t smiling this year, the ones who hurt.

As I celebrate you, I pray that your Mother’s Day will be an unforgettable celebration of YOUR love, of the lives you influence, the sacrifices you’ve made, the assured hope that your prayers will soon be answered. Until then, I send you Blessings and my prayers. Know that while you may not get pretty gifts or spa dates or huge bouquets, I am thinking of you, with love.

Random thoughts…

So, I thought I’d share my thoughts while I decide (read: procrastinate about deciding) what to make for dinner.

So, here goes:

A driver’s license doesn’t actually mean you can drive.  It means you know enough to operate a vehicle by yourself.  Some people get lots of practice this way, and eventually get pretty good at it.  Others—not so much.

Bullying is a tricky little creature.   Might be worth a pause before we throw the word around. Singling out and blasting someone on social media for something you think is bullying… well… that sort of makes you a bully, too.

Parenting requires actual thought.  For example, it’s kind of counterproductive to tell kids they should do chores willingly, without being told, because they’re part of the family…etc..etc… and then punish them for an offense with dish-washing.  Maybe it’s just me, but if I should “want” to do it, then it shouldn’t be such an effective punishment.

Facebook is not my friend.    Nothing good can come from throwing so many people’s lives in my face at once.  It’s just more than I’m designed to consume at any given time.  Clearly it’s a recipe for overload, followed by mild depression and serious talks with myself about how okay I am, with my extra 10 pounds (okay 15, but that’s it!), more bad hair days than every other natural-and-perfectly-moisturized chick and all my un-gourmet and un-photogenic dinners.  Speaking of which… I’ve decided we’re having fish.  Boring, un-photographed fish.

Take that, facebook.

#practicemakesperfect     #offyourbuttparenting     #equalopportunitybullying?  #unfriendfacebook

DreamFood

That Dream in your heart won’t survive on its own.  It needs to be nourished, fed on solid food—on the examples of real people who’ve done what you dream of doing.  Your Dream needs the meat of your hope, your put-your-foot-down-won’t-consider-the-alternative-hoping-against-hope that it will come to pass.  It needs the kind of oxygen that’s not available under the bed; the kind it can only get up there on the lamp stand.

That’s where you can share it with the “right” people, who’ll help you feed it, hold you accountable and fan its flames when you’re tired or forgetful.  Don’t worry too much about the “wrong” people—the unreceptive or hostile.  Your Dream is tougher than you might think.  It doesn’t need to be protected from them.

But it may need to be sheltered… from you—from the contamination of your doubts and fears, from the negativity they planted (but you’ve been watering), from that toxic “reality” you’re swallowing just because other people do.

So, maybe more than anything, your Dream needs to feed… you.  You weren’t meant to live without hope, without a desire to live deeper, to be better, to crave more.  There’s always more. So please don’t settle in that barren place and don’t you crumble at the first sign of resistance.

Don’t starve your Dream.  Feed It—if for no other reason than to let It feed you.

Firefly

Sometimes those who surround you don’t understand why you can’t do what they do, go where they go, be who they want you to be.  You’d like to show them, explain it, but – you don’t really understand either.  You just can’t fit and be yourself at the same time.  There’s something burning in you, something that just won’t allow you to conform in peace.

Something that won’t be hidden, no matter how hard you try.

Then, one day, you finally see it: you’ll always be different.  You’ll always stand out, because you’ve been chosen to carry this burning thing.  And, as you accept that it really has no communion with darkness, you also accept that you might get lonely for a minute.  But somehow, you know it’ll be okay.

Because a Light like yours is bound to surround you with the beautiful creatures who seek It.

PRESS RELEASE

IF 2016 KNOCKED YOU DOWN, THERE’S A SECRET YOU SHOULD KNOW.

St. John’s, Antigua, 2nd February, 2017—T. Lerisa Simon knows what it’s like to need hope.  And in Gift of God:  Finding treasure in the darkness (published by Westbow Press), she uses her life’s lessons to help readers find it. The book, officially launched on January 31st at the National Public Library of Antigua, tells the true story of her baby’s fight to survive and her family’s struggle for hope, in spite of disheartening odds.  In candid 1st person, its pages explore love and loss, fear and faith, rebellion and redemption, ultimately sharing a vital secret with those who really need to hear it.

And maybe that’s you.  Perhaps 2016 took more than you were ready to give, and you welcomed January 1st with relief (and sweaty palms).  Then, you probably know that life can bring unexpected challenges. Divorce, family and relationship issues, unexpected illness and loss test our faith while we find our way in the darkness. So if 2016 left you—or someone close to you—confused or discouraged, wondering where God was in those dark places, well, this could be the book you’ve been waiting for.

“I’m about to tell you what I’ve discovered.  My mistakes, my family’s pain, our dark places, all the lessons…are laid out here, so they can help someone else.  And it’s both humbling and reassuring to know that everything we’ve been through is recyclable, that it can be used for someone else’s benefit.

And I think that someone might be you.”  (Gift of God, pg. 151)

Gift of God: Finding treasure in the darkness, by T. Lerisa Simon (178 pages)

Available in paperback, hardcover and e-book formats: Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Westbow Press

T. Lerisa Simon was born and raised on the Caribbean island of Antigua. She is a graduate of the University of the West Indies, and has taught at multiple levels in St. Kitts and in Antigua—where she currently lives with her husband, Reid, and their son Matthew. Writing is her passion, but her greatest delight is to seek God’s guidance and to be led by Him. 

When God moves the goal post

God asks you to do hard things sometimes, doesn’t He?

But there comes a point when you buckle down and wipe the fears away and just do it. Then, if you’re like me, you feel really proud of yourself. Kind of like you’ve arrived, really. Like, “YES! For sure, He’ll give me what I want now that I have accomplished this amazing thing, or accepted this difficult truth.”
But – as you’re eagerly anticipating the download of your miracle – suddenly, out of the blue, you get a message (or three) that there’s something else you need to work on. Something you didn’t even know was wrong with you. Something deep; nestled under layers and years of heavy masks. Something you know won’t be fixed by a prayer of repentance and a teary rendition of  Just As I Am.
And you crumble.
You crumble because it seems so unfair. It seems like you’ve been jumping through hoops forever. And it looks like the reward for all your jumping is that He keeps moving the goal post. So you kick and scream and cry and whine. Maybe for days. And then, in a quiet moment, you consider the alternative:
What if He didn’t deal with the mess – if He didn’t clean you up and let you mature some more? What if you got everything you asked for—and then ruined all of it because you weren’t ready?
Sure, a nice house and a shiny car would be great gifts. But not for everyone. My 11 year old would probably destroy himself now with those gifts. But the exact same gifts would be such ripe blessings for him fifteen years down the road.
You understand this, even if you don’t like it.  So with a deep sigh, you get up and get a hold of yourself, resigned to finally admit that He’s God for a reason.
Then, you wipe the tears away.
Because you need a really good look at that goal post.