Restoration: Hard

Let's just pretend I've had more blog posts than menstrual cycles in 2016, and jump right in.

I've written about what a transformative experience it was for me to learn how messed up I am, to not shy away from that or downplay it. (In my opinion, it's actually one of my best posts ever, even if I refused to capitalize letters back then).  Learning to identify the events from my childhood that hurt me, and to recognize the pain they caused and still cause has been the most eye-opening experience of my life.  

This isn't one of those, "oh my gosh I need to click through to read about what dramatic event Keight's referring to that messed her up" situations. Because SPOILER ALERT: nothing grabby or terrible happened in my childhood.  No one from the Lifetime Network is calling asking for my story rights. 

But you know what? I was a human kid raised by and around other humans, and that alone GUARANTEES that I experienced painful stuff. Stuff that my kid/tween/teen brain didn't know how to deal with in a healthy way, so I just coped or numbed or distracted or [ir]rationalized my way through it. These instincts that we have for when we're confronted with pain are great because they help us survive, to get through the pain and keep living. 

But as you may know, I am interested in more than surviving (cause, you know, like, it's the tagline to the blog, right? WHATEVER, YALL).

And wouldn't it be great if once we survived long enough to grow into our adult brains we just automatically started doing things in a healthy, rational way? I mean now that we have the vocabulary and reasoning enough to understand things a little better, shouldn't we have our junk together?


Because, surprise! While my sweet little kid brain was busy coping around a painful moment, it was also setting up habits and thought patterns and making some bizarre kid-conclusions about the world (hang around with Layla for a day if you wanna experience some hilarious and "WTF" 5 year old logic). And as the ever-popular factoid says: 90% of your personality and thought patterns are fully formed by first grade. It's kind of insane when you imagine your five or six year old self being at the wheel of the decisions and relationships that you are dealing with today.

Because 5 year old Keight? Well, she had an imaginary friend named Tennis. And he was a tiny, hairy, adult man who lived in her throat. I'm not sure I want the same brain that birthed Tennis the Throat-Dweller navigating me through the grown up world of emotions and conflict and life (however, I do want to hang out with that brain's owner, because she sounds like a trippy little riot).

Tennis is in there. And those bareback shortalls are the dope freshness.

Here is a basic example from my life. When I was maybe 6 or 7, I was playing with a kitten at my cousins' house. This was the first kitten I remember ever meeting, and it was a pure wonder. As far as I was concerned, it was a stuffed animal come to life, and I treated it with my signature 6 year old gentleness (re: unintentional and clueless brutality). Well, duh, I grabbed it too hard and the cat scratched the mess out of me. I vividly remember the shock as I pulled my arm back and felt those bright red streaks of fire. I didn't even know something so sharp existed in the explored universe, much less did I expect to encounter it on this tiny fuzzball. 

Immediately in my head a switch was made from "cats are all adorable and sweet and exist to delight me" to "they are all scary and mean and will hurt me." Well, neither of those assumptions was actually true, but my kid brain swapped one for the other without skipping a beat.

When Jesse and I were newly married we found two kittens in the woods at a friend's house. We took them home so they wouldn't die, and I started looking for someone to give them to.  They were so cute, but I didn't get attached and kept saying, "we can't keep them because I HATE cats." Even when I would be cuddling them to bits, I would still assert "but I hate cats."  After a few days I was like, "huh, wait a second, what I am believing to be true and what is actually true aren't lining up." It was this strangely dramatic moment at age 24 to have the epiphany, "OMG I THINK I LIKE CATS!" 

It's not always as easy as "X  happened in my childhood and it was painful, and that is why I am still doing Y today."  It may never be so cut and dry, but that type of cause and effect is happening a ton during childhood as we learn the world and make conclusions about it. And the effects are going to keep playing out until our adult selves step in and change the pattern.

I had filed away "Cats = Bad" in my kid brain, and the case was closed. I wonder how many very lovely, sweet cats I ignored or ran away from through the years based on my faulty thinking.  And it even took my adult brain a few days of discomfort and full exposure therapy--having those little fluffy puffs clamber around all over me--before I even got the message of "WAIT A TICK! I think I DO like these things!"

I couldn't find a pic of me with a cat (for obvious reasons), but here is me in a cabbage patch kids swimsuit and my chumbo baby brother that HAS to be worth something.

It's a silly example, but it's helped me realize how powerful this stuff is, and how totally unhealthy and unfounded patterns can get passed down for generations if we don't intervene with new thinking.

But, if it was that tricky to realize I was operating on an incorrect assumption about freaking kittens because of one physically painful moment from childhood, how much harder and more painful is it to explore this stuff when the pain/lie/thought is about something closer to home, that played out over years in my heart? 

It's a buttload harder. And it feels like digging around with a red-hot poker in an infected sore. One that you had managed to contain to barely a throb when you had it all wrapped up. The vast majority of the time we choose the quiet and constant throb of lingering infection over the intense and temporarily more painful process of cleaning out the junk and truly healing.

I had no emotional investment in the feline race. The pain that one kitten caused me didn't have any attachment to my worth or identity. And yet it still took me 20 years to reevaluate the information and move forward under more correct thinking.

When I start coming up against and exploring events and patterns that tie in with my identity, my self-worth, body image; when it's issues like acceptance, intimacy, shame, fear, rejection, and abuse, my little kid brain tells me to run kicking and screaming away because it hurts and it's hard. To move past this stuff and process it in a healthy manner means letting myself truly feel the weight of what really happened, to look directly at what was lost and grieve it.

Choosing grief when it isn't absolutely required sounds insane. Grief is something we think of as forced upon us by the most dramatic circumstances of life. Circumstances that none of us wish for.  But if you get to a place like I did and you just feel stuck--in a dysfunctional marriage pattern, in unhealthy parenting, in crumbling or shallow relationships, in feeling like you're just passing through life, in your growth with Jesus; unprocessed pain could very well be why. It definitely was for me.

It's hard for me to look at the little girl in these pictures and know that she was the one that got hurt by the world and by people in it. But I would never tell her to suck it up or get over it. I would want her to be comforted and heard and healed. I have to remind myself that Jesus wants that and more for me: even the grouchy, wrinkly, not-as-cute-or-loveable 33 year old version of me today. I'm still her, and she needs someone to fight for her.

Consider this your once-every-5-years reminder from me: You're messed up and have been hurt, and dealing with it could really change your life for the better. But it will be hard and it will hurt. I'm not telling you what to do, but you should totally talk to someone with training about this stuff.

"Ugh, pain? Do I have to?" Yes, tiny Keight. You have to, for the new generation of tinies. Now eat your apple jack necklace and appreciate how exquisite 1988 is.


Home Alone

Judah got off the school bus at the wrong stop yesterday. He ended up bawling. I am thrilled that this happened and so freaking proud of my 6.5 year old.

He was supposed to get off at our church (aka Jesse's workplace) which is on the same route as home and about 2/3 of a mile away. We put a note in his folder to let everyone know about this unusal change, but there was a substitute teacher yesterday who didn't check. 

So he stayed on the bus and got off at our street like he does most Mondays. The bus drops off at the corner, maybe 20 yards from our front door. At the beginning of the year I would wait by the window and then walk out to meet him getting off. Then I started just keeping an eye out the window and stepping outside to greet him and watch him cross the street. That has progressed to complete independence where I just go about my day and he gets off the bus, crosses the street, and lets himself in 100% independently.

ASIDE: I am having a weird feeling right now because it's like "wait is this actually something to be proud of or call 'independence' in this day and age? Is that where we are?" but also simultaneously, "uh, wait, could I get in trouble for this is someone tattled on me?" WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?!

A few weeks back I had a spare key made for Judah on a total whim. We were are the hardware store getting paint and he was being a dreamy little delight. I saw the key blanks and remembered we needed a spare anyway. Then I saw they had Star Wars themed ones! I got Darth Vader for myself and Jesse yet couldn't leave little Yoda behind (even though his design wasn't as cool), so I asked if Judah would like a house key to have just in case I ever forgot to unlock the door for him. He was very excited and when we got home we practiced using the key and secured it to his back pack.

And yes, Tile is very worth it. Jesse and I are serial key misplacers. This has saved fights and money already.

When we were attaching his key we talked about how he'd probably only ever have to use it if we forgot to unlock the door for him, but how if there was an emergency or something crazy happened and Jesse nor I were home, what would he do?

After some truly whacko and concerning options from him (mostly involving punching and potions) I realized it was god that we discussed this. I suggested knocking on a few neighbors' doors to ask for help with calling us or walking all the way to church; and we decided the best first option was to grab his or Layla's iPad and wifi-call mommy or daddy. We then took the time to put pictures in our contact info so that they could both easily select us.

He has had his key for about 2 months, and that was the last time we talked about this stuff.

The first day he had his key with him and got off the bus he got mad at me for opening the door when I happened to see him coming because he had wanted to use the key. So for the rest of the week, Layla and I would lock the door when we heard the bus, stay in the house, and listen to him struggle until he was able to turn the lock and enter victoriously.

So yesterday I was out running errands with Noa and Layla and Jesse was at work. Judah came in and started doing his homework (can we talk about how great that is that with ZERO supervision he did his dang homework!!) and then he noticed things were quiet (when he tells it, he adds, "maybe toooooo quiet").

He went to the front window and saw neither car in the driveway (smart thinking!). That's when he says he first felt afraid, but then "felt powerful in his chest". I told him later how this is called adrenaline and how our bodies are made to power us up with it in scary moments. He liked the thought of Hulk juice in him.

He tried to find his iPad and couldn't, but did find Layla's in their bathroom beside the toilet (that's my girl!). He pulled up FaceTime and called Jesse. As soon as Jesse saw the call from Layla's iPad--which he knew was at home--he knew Judah had ended up there alone.

When Jesse picked up the call and Judah saw his face, the power juice in his chest dissipated, and he started sobbing, finally feeling the scariness of the situation fully now that he was safe from it (man, biology is cool).

After I got out of my class (I'm soon to be certified to lead RYH groups!) They told me what had gone down. I was instantly SO SO SO proud of my boy and felt so confident in the head he has on his shoulders. I was also incredibly grateful that we was able to process and feel and talk about the fear and sadness and power he had felt through it all as well as satisfaction from solving it on his own.

Am I glad he's safe? Yes, but he was probably never in any danger whatsoever.  I am THRILLED however that he took action, used critical thinking, and remembered what we had talked about. That is worth about 100X more to me than him being protected by circumstances this one time.

If you can't tell, we are Free-Range parents. We parent not to protect our kids from the world, but to prepare them for it. We have practiced getting separated in stores and taught them how to find helpers as well as how to spot "tricky people"  versus almost all other strangers who are happy to really help kids. We believe that talking to grown-ups gives them the experience they need to determine when a grown-up is acting shady or suspicious or asking something inappropriate of them.

Abductions and stranger danger have actually decreased over the past decades, but media coverage, social media fear-mongering (including many totally false stories) have blown it up so that even in my head--which I considered pretty level--it can feel like there are boogey men around every corner. THERE AREN'T. All the statistics say that if your child is going to be kidnapped, abused, raped or have violence committed against him or her, the OVERWHELMING odds are that it will happen at the hands of someone you or they trust.

We need to adjust our parenting energies accordingly.

All that helicopter parenting does is drastically limit the amount of time our kids practice thinking and using judgement--these aren't gifts that come with their draft card or college acceptance at 18--these are character values and neural pathways; brain muscles that have to be exercised and built up.

Otherwise we are turning 20 year old babies loose on society and calling them "adults."

There is no measurable proof that helicopter parenting makes a difference in the safety of our kids; I think there is demonstrable (if anecdotal) proof that it makes our kids less capable. Ask any high school teacher who has been in the game for decades what kind of trends they have seen in parental vs. teen responsibility and involvement. 

There was nothing I could have done to stop Judah from forgetting to get off the bus when he did (I mean beyond pinning a note to his shirt or nagging him, but even then kids are championship-level oblivious sometimes), no matter how low the helicopter flies, these are autonomous creatures we're raising and they're going to go off-plan at some point. But if the goal is to eventually have them making their own life/choices/character (living permanently off plan!) then these age-appropriate forays to independence seem vital...even if they are play-acting or controlled (not suggesting you lock the door and leave home today at bus time just to see what happens).

Tonight we are going to talk hypothetical fire scenarios. I will probably let them play with matches as a visual.

Adult in Training.


Hindsight in 2020, but What Now?

Jesse​ had to talk me down last night from a full panic about the presidential race. My disturbed-horror-face wrinkles are becoming as entrenched as the polemic views in the two-party system...HIYO!

I had up until now convinced myself that, yes, we Americans are reality TV-loving dumb-dings on a superficial level (I'm looking at you, me), but that deep down and collectively we have sense and virtue too. 

I am now beginning to doubt this. 

The best Jesse could do for me was to say that he thinks we'll have to just grin and bear it for the next four years and hope it's a wake-up call. (The upside: seeing which candidate will be the first to use the "Hindsight in 2020" campaign slogan. It's so good, right? I thought of this on my own, but someone else already made a bumper sticker for it too!).

But as a passionate reader and admirer of American history (I cry like a big dumb nerd every time one of my Presidential biographies ends with the guy dying...spoiler alert: most do), it's not that easy to just write off this lunacy and resign myself to 4 embarrassing (if not dangerous) years. I am literally brought to bitter tantrum tears when I think about some of today's candidates possibly holding the same office as Washington/Adams/Lincoln/Roosevelt. I am ashamed when I read what the founders entrusted to us and how disappointed they would be about what we've done with it.

Many countries attempted to carve out republics before the U.S. did. There are lots of theories as to why our Great Experiment has worked for so long while others didn't. But one thing that the men who gave their lives to seeing that it would succeed seem to return to is the idea of liberty thriving as a result of a nation that esteems virtue above all, and not the idea that liberty itself could create or even was necessarily a virtue in itself. 

"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our constitution as a whale goes through a net."-John Adams

"To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea."
-James Madison

"It is in the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigour. . .  degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats into the heart of its laws and constitution."
-Thomas Jefferson

"Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters."-Benjamin Franklin

"Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue?"
-George Washington

"Whenever we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary."
-Thomas Paine

They aren't saying, "you need to pick one perfectly virtuous person, and as long as you do that, you'll be okay." Obviously that person doesn't exist. Every president we've had, from the most epic (Washington truly was a mythic leader, but still a slaveowner) to the most jerk/idiot/criminal/nympho (Nixon did good things in China between crimes and Clinton did lots for worldwide peace, the economy and promoted women's rights, between doing other things with lots of women), has had glaring gaps in their own character and would probably admit it. This was never supposed to be a top-down system where we emulate government. The leaders and laws are a product of us, not the other way around.

And it makes sense. We have an entrenched bureaucracy. I have always laughed it off when people say "this is how Hitler got his start" about an American politician because by design, it's very hard for one person to make rapid, sweeping changes in American government. Sure, the gridlock is infuriating a lot of the time, but it's there as a check against the kind of despotism and ass-hattery that would ignore the voice of the majority and lead us quickly into trouble.  

No, these guys who literally wrote the book on what America should/could/would be seem to be saying that we the--"We The People"-- are the engine and we make our own destiny, and that it's on us to make sure it all works by prioritizing the right things. 

This idea had been bastardized by many talking heads and stump speeches and sermons, and it's NOT what these giants of history (nor Jesus) are referring to when they talk about virtue. The idea of America "turning back to the Lord!" to be "great again" is cheap and easy and it's bad politics and theology in my opinion (aka Jesus Lite). Because neither is ever that formulaic.  Neither the constitution nor the bible says, "if you stop doing X, everything will mostly go well for you." And also America simply isn't a Christian nation, by definition nor by practice or composition.

As easy as it is right now to point at a few (or more likely one particularly glaring, orange) examples of leaders without virtue, the true blame...or at least explanation, lies with us. The political party leaders and strategists aren't morons, and they aren't backroom conspirators trying to saddle us with a candidate that more than 50% of us would never, ever vote for. If politicians are the product, we are the market, and the political parties are there to supply that which we demand.

These are our monsters.

So what does a nation that values virtue look like and why do we seem to have strayed from this? 

I don't know. Crap, that was anti-climactic.

I don't even have a well thought out idea. My best theory is kind of morbid and it's that we haven't had a major, nation-consuming war in too long. The people of the Revolutionary, Civil and World wars weren't inherently better than us, yet they are pretty universally revered, admired and called "the greatest generation." What they did all do though is rise to the occasion of drastic circumstances. Human nature is crazy resilient and adaptive, and immense hardship can bring out incredible character (that's historical AND biblical). 

These major wars were big enough to require the efforts and courage and sacrifice of the entire nation to survive, and I think that as a result they were transformative to our large-scale national character and values. So a country that has been sitting on peace (on a macro level, I know many heroic men and women have died in service to our country in wars and conflicts that may be regional or less than nation-consuming), and prosperity for 70 years could very understandably have taken on the character of a spoiled and pampered child. 

I really hope I am wrong. But I get nervous because it feels like we may be close to electing someone as the face and voice of our nation who is extremely contentious, bombastic, arrogant, and conflict-happy. My nightmare is that well-armed, reactionary, antagonistic countries who may be looking for a reason to cripple us would see Presidential vitriol and political/diplomatic incorrectness as reason enough to begin or draw us into a conflict that would cost blood on a large scale.

But again, that is all so very macro: "Our nation needs to esteem virtue more." Ummmmm, okay, George Washington/Keight Dukes...what do you want me to do about it? Yeah for real.  What do I--one chick with one vote in a hidebound conservative state that will undoubtedly vote Republican no matter what--do to count it as "doing my part." Even aside from voting or campaigning or this one election, how do I change anything about our nation's virtue? How do we? Because I really don't want the answer to ever be that I have to send my son to war, ration butter and go to work in a tank factory.

This is really, really hard stuff. It's reductive to just blame Donald or Hillary or Obama or W. and complain, so what else can we do? It's infuriating because it feels like at the highest level things are spiraling and changing rapidly, but at my level, I'm just a flea trying to reroute the Titanic. Everything feels upside down. The few should feel as constrained in their power as the many feel in our freedom. Problems happen when it gets flip-flopped and change can only happen in a few hands, but the masses can't seem to do anything--and it feels like that's where we are.

I am kind of just ready to see this period of America as history, but I don't want to be one who commits evil or let's it happen because I did nothing.

P.S. Full disclosure, if I had my way from here I think I'd like to see Rubio vs. Sanders, and I am not sure who I would then vote for.