Missing Peace, Chapter 13, Extension

Keri looked like a bleary water color painting through my tears. Long blond hair, hung like a pale sheet to her shoulders.

I never noticed how plump her cheeks are, I mused. I don’t want to look like that! How on earth am I supposed to trust a fat therapist?

I wedged my hands between my bony buns and the seat cushion. The woven material left checkered marks on my palms. My fingers felt wooden, like fine branches on a winter tree, brittle and dead. Keri’s office was always 71 degrees, but I was so cold. My dietician, Cheryl, said that I was because I had no fat for insulation, I just needed to fill out a little.

Despite the chill, my belly burned with anxiety. Heat crept up my throat and dried my tongue. I dreaded these conference calls with my parents. It was terrible trying to decipher the inflection in their voices. Dad always sounded put-out or resigned. Was Mom on the edge of tears? Perhaps they’d rather be doing anything else. I was such an imposition.

Jenny and my folks left three weeks earlier at the conclusion of our Truth in Love week. Nothing had changed. Within hours of their departure, I believed again that they didn’t want or need me.

Safely out my sight, buckled into stiff airplane seats, surely they had commiserated. “Well, I’m glad that’s over,” I had imagined my dad saying.

“She still looks too thin. I don’t know if she’ll be ready to come home in a few more weeks,” Mom replied.

I never thought this day would come; slightly more than a week away from my original discharge date. But what if I couldn’t go home?

Keri and I stared at each other across her desk. She had that aggravating, steady, therapist-gaze of a person fully zipped up internally, leaking no emotion, giving away no sentiments. Keri had the perfect poker face. I knew she cared about me, she had said so. But I was just one of her five patients, part of her job.

“Barry and Janis, are you there?” Keri spoke into the speakerphone on her desk.

My parents’ voices crackled across the miles from Oklahoma to Arizona. “We’re here,

Keri.” Dad was always brief and to-the-point during conference calls.

I took a deep breath to quell my earlier sobs and suck back my tears. The taste of an abominable lunch, chicken nuggets, canned peaches and celery, clung to my taste buds. Lard seemed to be oozing through my pores; I watched my thighs flatten wide and fat against the seat.

“One less-healthy meal every now and then won’t hurt you.” Shani had tried to assure the eight girls at her table. “I promise.” Then dug into her lunch with pleasure. Like tortured prisoners, we followed suit.

“Abby, are you there?” Mom’s voice was slightly warmer than Dad’s.

Oh how I wished she would come rescue me. I wanted to bury my chin in her shoulder and inhale her mom-scent, a mixture of Amber Romance from Victoria’s Secret and the fading fragrance of Scruples’ coconut conditioner.

“MmmHmm.”

Keri’s office smelled antiseptic, belying the homey decor. I grabbed her neon pink Kush ball and twisted my fingers through the sticky, slimy tentacles. Adult voices echoed in an alien language around me. Insurance, doctors’ notes, insignificant issues to my teenage mind. I picked the legs off of the Kush ball and wound them around my fingers watching my fingertips turn blue.

“Abby was unable to gain the suggested three pounds since our conversation just over a week ago.” Keri’s announcement of my failure brought me back to reality. “Because of her slow weight gain, her treatment team is suggesting an extension of her stay here at Remuda Ranch.”

Silence.

In my mind, Mom stepped out of the bedroom with the cordless phone so that she could see my dad tethered to the landline in the kitchen. He rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders, palms up in resignation. Mom blinked on a tear, tilting her chin up to keep the waterworks dammed behind her eyelids.

“Abby?”

Bile surged in my throat. As much as I wouldn’t have minded being rid of lunch, I couldn’t throw up. Then, they would accuse me of being bulimic and I’d never leave The Ranch.

“Whatever,” I managed. “It doesn’t matter what I want. You guys are calling all the shots anyway and what I think doesn’t really matter.”

The tension of suppressed sobs pushed tiny hiccups through my lips. I couldn’t hold it back much longer.

 

Shopping Pains

I can’t make up my mind.

If I don’t hurry, they’ll leave me behind!

Red stockings? Green?

Cinnamon or Vanilla bean?

 

I can’t make up my mind,

If I don’t soon, they’ll leave me behind.

Should I buy Dad great coffee,

Mom – flavored tea?

 

I can’t make up my mind,

If I don’t soon, they’ll leave me behind.

Does Mom want new gloves,

Can a tie show my love?

 

I can’t make up my mind,

If I don’t soon, they’ll leave me behind.

Does my sister wear tall,

Does Pete still play ball?

 

I can’t make up my mind!

If I don’t soon, they’ll leave me behind.

The mall is closing, Dad’s jingling the keys.

Oh if everyone was just easy to please!

Father’s Bible

Life lies dormant.

Salvation writhes between closed pages.

Aged, old of fathers’ past,

“Obsolete,” accuse the ignorant.

 

Red words bleed between the lines,

Of promises aged, old

Sworn by a Father of no beginning.

 

Thick, shimmery leaves

Opposite loosed, leather binding.

Tattered from a history of love.

 

A name worn from its face

Declares value to treasuring fingers.

Aged, old, now gone.

 

Slipped form limbs and belligerence

To a world promised

Sworn by a Father of no genesis.

Composed for Gooseberry Garden weekly poetry challenge.

Image borrowed from: http://ourjourneywestward.com/tag/nature-journals/

Time Warp

I used to think it was just my husband.  Then, I thought it was only me.  Now, I’m convinced it’s nearly everyone.  It’s a talent really: we not so much cross timezones when we travel – we time warp.

Recently, while I was home in Kansas visiting my family, my alter-personality, “Sister” emerged.  I didn’t have my own schedule or set of friends in Kansas, so I clung to Rachelle’s shirt tales.  I had so much fun going to see the play, “The Little Mermaid” with her.  We lost ourselves in the characters of a crime show called, Without a Trace.  We painted our toe nails, ate frozen yogurt, walked her dog, and drank exorbitant amounts of coffee.

“Daughter” also appeared.  I voluntarily washed the dishes and helped with laundry.  Like a cat getting its back scratched I thrilled to my father’s compliments or gratitude.  I put my head in my mother’s lap and let her play with my hair.  For two weeks I wasn’t concerned with groceries, laundry, litter pans, dirty floors or mowed lawns.  When I did chores, it was simply because I wanted to help and it hardly felt like work.

Then, POOF, suddenly I came home.  I mean to my real home, in Virginia, where the adult Abby lives.  Wake up!  The lawn desperately needed to be mowed, the litter pan was lending its fragrance to the entire house, the dishes I had left drying on the counter were still there.  Suddenly I remembered that I need to fix the rusts spots on my car’s trunk, Patrick’s car needs new tires and I had a meeting at the church the very next day.

The stark contrast between these two or three me’s, easily makes one pine for the good ol’ days.  We admire, wistfully, the carelessness of a child.  The truth is: we don’t have to lose it.  I’m no expert, in fact, I rarely get it right, but I firmly believe that we adults have no more reason to worry than a child.  After all, doesn’t God say He is our Father?  I am relieved to still be His child.

I recently visited another blog called, Not Bob.  He wrote this poem that I find mesmerizing and I think it fits here as well.  I hope you enjoy:

I think the world is a pin cushion

There’s a space between everyday matters
that makes someone feel every day matters,
a breath or sigh in the darkness. We surround
our time with excuses and distractions, bind
those we love with commitments when we should be
splashing around in dark puddles while the rain
covers us in nothing more than what it is.

– Robert Lee Brewer, author of Not Bob

“Ten Things Jesus Never Said”

A few days ago (OK, July 20) I was listening to Janet Parshal on Moody Radio. She was speaking to Will Davis, author of Ten Things Jesus Never Said, And Why You Should Stop Believing Them. 

That’s a lot of links, but I strongly, strongly encourage you to check out each one of them.  There is no way I will do any of the individuals or books or sites justice in my brief discussion of them here.

When you look at your kid and you really want to get your point across, what do you say?  When I want to make my dog pee on the floor, sit on his tail and give the “puppy-dog” eyes, I say, “I’m so disappointed in you.” I remember my dad telling me that.  I remember that knowing I let him down hurt so much more keenly than any spanking.  That was a feeling like nothing could ever be right again.

I’ve known Jesus for 24 years.  If you had asked me a month ago if I believed any lies about Him I would have staunchly said, “No.” I believe some lies about myself, yes.  And I know that there are some lies swirling around my human relationships that pack themselves like baggage and weigh down my joy.  But lies about Jesus, about my Heavenly Father?

I have not yet read Will’s book but as I listened to his interview with Janet I stopped mid-row.  (I often listen to Janet’s show while I’m working out downstairs.)

Most of us, whether we realize it or not, cast our Heavenly Father in the mental mold of our earthly fathers.  If our dads were kind and generous, then usually we see God that way.  Victims of abuse often have difficulty seeing how much God loves them and understanding that He is intrinsically good.  So, it follows that I might fear disappointing God.

Quick flashback on my behavior: I spend exorbitant amounts of prayer in groveling. What begins as confession spirals into miserable swine-like groveling in the mire of my own pity. And then, there’s the idea I fought for 15 years – that God must be so tired of me after my many failed attempts to recover from anorexia.  I actually have an image of God in my mind, throwing His hands up and rolling His eyes.  “One more time, Abby.  You know better than this.  I’m so disappointed in you.”

Instantly, I wonder, why try anymore?  Sooner or later, I will reach the end of His grace.  Right?

Mr. Davis disagrees.  He says God has never, NOT ONCE, been disappointed in me.  “You can’t disappoint God because He knows everything.  Think about it: At the very core of disappointment is a failure to meet expectations. But if someone knows everything, how can you disappoint him?”

What a thought!  God never expected me to do differently than I am doing right now.  No, He doesn’t have extremely low expectations of me, or a middle-grade opinion of my average-ness.  He has a perfect view of me.  He sees me as righteous as Jesus Christ!

Will Davis holds Peter out as an example.  If ever there was a time when Christ might have thrown His hands up in disgust, it would have been when the man He had loved and walked with for three years suddenly cowered beneath the scrutiny of a servant girl and said, “I don’t know the man.” (Luke 22:54-62)

But Jesus saw it coming and loved Peter (and all of us sinners) all the way through the cross and to the beach on the other side.  There He proved to Peter that he was indeed chosen to advance His kingdom.  He reaffirmed Peter’s love for Him and told Peter that he would have another chance to sacrifice everything for Jesus. (John 21:15-19)

Will Davis covers nine other lies about Jesus’ words that many of us have simply absorbed without knowing it.  I challenge you to read this book and revel in the joy of knowing and believing the truth that Jesus spoke.

Hanging up the Asics

I am writing this before and posting it after my in-laws visit us.  Mike and Julie are arriving on Saturday evening!  I really am excited, I just wish Patrick had more time off to hang out with us.  But here’s where the honesty/truth thing comes in:

My in-laws are both incredible athletes.  In fact, they have earned themselves a reputation that precedes them at every running event they attend.  Mike can still run a 5K in less than 17 minutes!!  Julie’s endurance is uncanny as she has made numerous double crossings of the Grand Canyon among other things.

I used to be a distance runner.  I did a couple marathons and trained aggressively, averaging over 50 miles a week.  My health plummeted.  The more I ran, like a crack addict, the more I had to run.  In my sick little mind it gave me a way to identify with the Kelly’s.  Pride would wriggle up my neck, perch on my shoulder and urge me on, “Tell them how much you run!  Run that race with them.  Make sure you tell Mike about your last 10K time.”

In other addictions, like alcoholism, abstinence is required.  I can’t be abstinent from food.  It wouldn’t be healthy to completely abstain from exercise.  But, I am under the conviction and am persuaded that abstinence for me is to quit talking about, thinking about, allowing my life to revolve around food and exercise.  So, that topic of conversation, that element of identification is out.

The problem is, Mike and Julie still think I run.  The fact is, this morning I went for a run and I had to walk part of it.  Here’s the confession and it’s hard: I am not a distance runner.  I am not winning any races.

True familial honesty demands that I tell Mike and Julie this.  I need to tell them that I am not strong enough to talk about food and exercise without entertaining the old demons of addiction.

Also, honesty with myself and an honest effort at recovery means that I must change the subject and talk to them about things other than fitness.

Right?

Keeping $$ Honest

So wow, it’s Thursday already.  My in-laws arrive on Saturday!  They are staying until the next Friday so they will be here for Patrick’s change of command, his birthday and Memorial Day.  How did we fit so much excitement into 3 days?  It will be like a week-long double date.

Patrick and I are really, really fortunate – both our sets of parents have longterm marriages; both couples have been married for more than a quarter century.  I won’t be any more specific than that because I’ll get in trouble if I make them sound old (:

We’ve learned a lot from our parents.  We’ve integrated much of who they are as individuals and as couples into our personalities and relationship.  Usually, that’s good.  But it’s best to never tell your spouse, “You are just like your dad (or mom)!”

I read an article in Redbook recently called, “New money rules for couples.”  It is a well-known fact that financial problems are one of the primary causes of marital distress.  This article proposed three different ways of managing money in marriage: 1) the couple has a joint bank account but each one has their own separate account as well 2) completely joint bank accounts with full disclosure about all expenses 3) the couple keeps everything separate.

WHAT DO YOU DO?  According to this article, 41% of the women interviewed fall into category 1.  Followed by 38% who have completely joint accounts, and finally 21% keep everything separate.

My husband and I do what both sets of our parents have done – we share everything and tell each other about all expenses.  Patrick is the bread-winner.  His job as an Army officer more than comfortably provides for both of us.  (Thanks, Babe!)  In fact, I have had numerous part and full-time jobs since we got married but they are always fun jobs, doing exactly what I want to do at the time, regardless of compensation.

I think this started in part because he deployed two months after we got married.  Instantly, there was so much to do having bought a new home in a new state with a new identity for me (military spouse as opposed to single civilian).  I learned to budget, invest, pay our taxes, maintain a home and two cars and participate in the Army lifestyle.  I established pin numbers and security codes.  Ever since then, because he may leave again for any length of time at any time, I have continued to manage our finances.

(That part is a little backward from the way we grew up.  Our parents were very conventional with the husband managing the checkbook. So, we did develop our own style!)

Patrick and I have tried a million ways of tracking our expenses, budgeting, saving, etc.  How do you do it?

You’re not good enough

It’s not usually a lie that you would expect to inherit.  And I”ll wager you’ve never told your daughter that she just isn’t pretty enough to be a princess.  You would NEVER tell her that she just isn’t smart enough to go to college.

I warn you, not to get me started about how close to perfect my parents were.  My dad can solve ANY math equation you can throw at him from the back seat of the car on a long, boring drive (barring you don’t make up the numbers!)

My mom has limitless empathy and will travel for hours just to help you bury your kitten, even when you’re “grown up” and in college.  She won’t leave until she has glued you back together.

But so often in my life I have (OK, I still do) believed that I am not good enough.  In fact, that’s a mantra that marches through the back of my mind all the time.

Didn’t try hard enough, not smart enough for grad school, not patient enough to help with Vacation Bible School, not artsy enough to paint, not pretty enough, not godly enough, and on and on and on…

I believe I caught this ailment from my parents.  You know, “Children believe what they see, not what they hear.”  Little things, I remember my mom saying, “I’m not talented enough to sing in church.”  “I wonder if I’m smart enough to home school my kids?”  “I’m not naturally pretty enough to go without makeup.” Then she would sincerely hug me, back then her chin was on top of my head, “But you are perfect!”

Daddy was more subtle, but he had his self-depricating mantras too.  Little behaviors that I see in myself, I can often trace back to being Daddy’s little girl.

What did your parents unintentionally teach you?