I haven’t forgotten about the #HealHomeschooling initiative (yes, my second post will be out shortly) but meantime I got caught up in some other aspects of life, which has been full of changes recently, some of which I am not ready to blog about yet although I imagine I will in time. There are 5 things I am ready to discuss that are on my mind right now though.
Death and Dysfunctional Family Dynamics
I recently had a death in the family – my uncle had a heart attack, and I’ve since been dealing with a lot of extended family issues surrounding that. A lot of people who seem to find the Quiverfull lifestyle appealing (the sense of purpose, community, and rules on what the “right thing” is) came from dysfunctional home environments, and my Dad was no exception. His youngest brother just died and, as I expected, knowing the dynamic they all have, there has been more mudslinging than mourning going on. I’ve had globs of mud thrown in my direction too. I’ve almost been afraid to open my email, or at least taken a deep breath and steeled myself for an onslaught of nastiness before doing so. Nothing is sacred when they get going. Anyway, it’s been pretty bad the past few days, and when I figured it couldn’t get any worse, that they’d hit rock bottom and were still trying to dig, that there was now seemingly nothing salvageable among these people, something interesting happened. A deadly tornado hit.
My sister lives in Oklahoma, a couple blocks from where the EF5 (i.e. “it doesn’t get any bigger than this”) tornado happened two days ago. She wrapped the baby in a blanket and braved bruising marble-sized hail to shelter in a neighbor’s storm cellar with two of her three children, crying and praying because her husband was on the road and her eldest daughter was in a school without a basement. She sat in that storm cellar for an hour, although it felt like only ten minutes, hearing the tornado ripping and tearing like a freight train barreling through the neighborhood, sounding like it was right above them. She said it was the scariest day of her life. It was two hours before she knew that her husband and daughter were both alive and well. We cried on the phone when the phones started working again, talking about how little kids my niece’s age had died in a nearby school and people who’d taken the highway instead of back roads (like her husband did) had ended up dead as well. Several of her friends lost homes, she is still without water to her house, and is trying to decide what to do with some family photos of strangers that she found while cleaning up the debris in her backyard.
Moving to a New Place (with lots of stairs)
I sat there gratefully listening to her voice, having just moved to a new house myself this past weekend, rubbing my incredibly sore muscles (yay for a large book collection and 3 flights of stairs!) and eying a few boxes left to unpack. I am one of those people who are inclined to stay up immediately unpacking everything in the new place, making it home, not wanting to rest until I have everything put away properly and the pictures hung up. Last night I finally crashed and when I woke up this morning, caught up on sleep, I read a few things that made me think about my story and where it fits, my family, the difficulties of life, and the dangers of both social isolation and the role of love in negative human interaction.
I checked my email yesterday morning and the extended family had stopped their series of hateful email diatribes. Instead they were expressing relief that my sister and her family were alive and well. Suddenly the tone had changed, priorities had been rearranged, and they started apologizing to one another, confessing good memories of the past (with people who the day before they had claimed to despise), and then they discussed feelings, vulnerabilities, health problems, and perhaps most importantly, behaviors they wanted to apologize for. I was both shocked and heartened. This has never happened before.
I don’t know if it will work or if it will devolve into negativity again. After all, there is a lot of long time hurt at play in these interactions, but it is certainly meaningful to me to see the attempts at reconciliation, the desire to hit the reset button, the hope of finding good in others and yourself despite the struggles, serious mistakes, and lapses in judgment that have left the past a lunar landscape of disappointments. I sincerely appreciate the palpable sense of relief inherent in each admitting the bad and their personal role in creating it, accepting one another’s stories. It’s cathartic. Its brave. It’s loving.
Love and Human Hardship
I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately – what it is and what it isn’t and what that means have all been food for thought. I am a bit of a romantic, believe that sometimes love is unconditional and sometimes it isn’t, and I also think true love is forever. If I really love someone I always will love them, no matter what they do. The thing is, true love might not look like what someone else thinks it should or resemble what they need.
Sometimes love is like this poem and sometimes love is like this song. A palpable lack of love is more dangerous to our bodies than a chain smoking habit. A friend recently told me (and I’m inclined to agree) that she thinks that when it comes down to it, the type of love someone gives is a reflection of what type of person they are, what type of worldview and life experiences they have had. Harsh people love harshly. Gentle people love gently. Judgmental people love judgmentally. Dysfunctional people love dysfunctionally.
I think as human beings we tell some pretty odd stories about what love is though, stories that mismatch with the natural variations in what it actually looks like in reality and that are sometimes so different from what I’ve seen it resemble, that, to quote this lady (who wrote an excellent essay on why female soldiers get ignored), it seems rather like saying that llamas are carnivorous creatures who have scales and eat their young.
I have come to realize that even if someone hurts me deeply, does things that look incompatible with love to me, it does not mean that love is not there. Same for if I’m the one doing the hurting. It’s just that human love is not something that when you feel it, suddenly makes you pure and white and unconditional. Love is amazing and powerful and one of the things that make life worthwhile, but it gets mixed in with all of the other complicated things that we are and have to deal with. It becomes inseparable from them, and very often it combines with these things in such a way to be a powerful force that is equally capable of ushering in transcendent experiences or major destruction, sometimes both. It’s complicated and we don’t have the words or the frameworks to fully understand it, so it’s little surprise that sometimes it takes an emergency, a heartache, a betrayal, a loss, a big life change, to reevaluate what role you want someone else’s love to have in your life, and what kind of love (if any) that you yourself are feeling and how you want to outwardly portray it.