Monday, December 17, 2018

So I Have This Tattoo (a post about regrets)

I would like to blame my sisters-in-law for the weird, lopsided, kind of scary sun that permanently resides on my very-low back.  I would like to say that it's because they all got tattoos that year, and said, "You should get one too, Joy!"  I would also like to say that is my husband's fault because he said, "You should get a sun!"  I’d had an idea for what I wanted, but it involved Bengali writing, and everyone made me think the tattoo artist would get it wrong and I’d have some Sanskrit obscenity permanently imprinted on my skin.

But the truth is, I can't blame anyone but myself.  I was the one who drove downtown with my sister-in-law, the one who picked out the design and signed the waiver, who paid (ugh) the money and sat through the completely voluntary pain of it.  At any of those junctures, I could have put a stop to it, but I didn't.  Not even when I saw the artist who would be putting that ink under my skin, and I was pretty sure he was stoned.  He wore his sunglasses almost the entire time, but during the brief period he removed them, his eyes were completely bloodshot.  And anyway, how else do I explain how the sun isn't exactly a circle but kind of a sideways oval?

I had picked its location because I wanted a place that wouldn't stretch out if I had another baby (my wisest decision in regards to my tattoo because I've had three babies since then), or sag, and would typically be covered by my clothing in case I was in the company of people who might frown on such things (yet here I am now, talking about it in the internet. Oh, the irony.).  But then a friend called it a tramp stamp, a term I hadn't even thought of, but it makes me blush furiously every time I think about it because that wasn’t what I’d intended, and my kids like to tell random people that Mommy has a tattoo on her butt.  It’s my very-low back, guys!!!

Apparently you have to think of everything when you're going to do something permanent like a tattoo.  Who’d of thunk.

There are definitely worse things I could have done.  It's not that big .  And I have scars on my body — chicken pox scars everywhere, acne scars on my face, a giant scar that curves up the side of my leg from falling on a hike — that I didn't choose and yet will be with me forever.  On the one hand, I can laugh (a lot, honestly) about my tattoo.  But do I regret it?  Kind of.  Okay, yes, for sure.

I try to make decisions that will lead to a life that is free of regrets.  Sometimes I spend so much time considering decisions, I live my life with such intention, you'd think it would be impossible to make a poor decision.

And yet I do. Again and again and again...

I've found myself regretting many things.  A few years ago, when we still lived in Hawaii and Annalee was a new baby, we made a trip to California, and I honestly regretted most of it.  We saw our family (good), and made it a point to view some colleges (necessary, especially since Jayna ended up at one of them).  But we had Disneyland passes that were about to expire, and we built the entire trip around that — which backfired because those two days were unseasonably hot and unexpectedly crowded.  We had fun, but there were so many friends I didn't get to see, including an older friend who was battling cancer, and I wondered if I would ever get to see her again, this side of heaven.  I stewed about it for months, honestly, wrestling with my regret, and I still kick myself about it every now and then. 

Of course, there’s a lot more than that.  I regret silly things like poor fashion choices I made (so many of them).  I wish I hadn't cut my hair super short when I was nine years old because people thought I was a boy.  I wish I could take back a million things I've said, and countless times when I lost my temper.  I wish I'd known sooner what makes my face break out because that would have been a whole lot less painful, not to mention what it looked like and that it left those unsightly scars, and everyone was always offering advice, most of which only made me feel worse about it.  I regret the ways I've let my focus be shifted from God, my husband and children, sometimes, because I will never get back that wasted, narcissistic time.  

I'm not done yet... But I think you get the idea.  It seems that there are times in my life when I can admit my regrets and move on, but there are other times when these regrets clump together into an awful, ugly monster and shadow my life, making me feel incapable of making good decisions as I dwell in the past with wishes of how to go back and make it all better. I mean, basically just picture Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite.  

As we come to the end of another year, all the things I did wrong this year are coming to keep me awake at 3 am.  As I've been thinking about this, some thoughts have occurred to me.  I'm writing them down as reference to myself for future battles with the Regret Monster, but I’m sharing them with you as well, just in case you can relate.

1.  Regrets aren't all bad.  We say, "No regrets!"  We pin inspiring quotes about living a life free of regret — but to never regret anything, at least the way I see it, means to shut down our conscience, to disavow our mistakes.  That's not necessarily a good thing.  If we don't dare label things as "mistakes", we are more apt to repeat them.  Acknowledging them is key to growing.

2.  That being said, dwelling on regrets won't make them better.  Living in Regretville doesn't fix anything.  Instead of replaying the scene ad nauseum where I said the totally wrong thing or lost my temper, I need to say, "Here's what I did wrong, so next time I will..."  I do plan to get my tattoo fixed someday (because it's fixable).  And most of my other mistakes also give me a chance to repeat them and this time, hopefully, do better. 

3.  Sometimes, regrets point is to apologies we need to make.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the only thing that hurts worse than some of the bad things that have happened to me is that those who did them never apologized. I don’t want to be like that. When I’m regretting a choice I made or or words I said and I feel like I was wrong, I take the time and energy to apologize — if it’s at all possible.   

4.  It's important to distinguish between a true, regrettable mistake and a lack of perspective.  Tell me I'm not the only one who gets crazy hard on myself?  I want to be perfect and beautiful, and hilarious and kind and likable 110% of the time... And if I'm not?  If I realize I'm just a goofy dork with crazy hair and imperfect skin, and a smile that shows too many teeth (a dentist once actually told me that)?  ...I start to regret things.  Almost everything.  And that just gets exhausting.  Seriously, try regretting your smile and trying to change it.  It's almost impossible.  Just because my home doesn't look like a Pinterest-worthy mini-palace, I shouldn't beat myself up about having friends over.  I should still be able love and accept myself the way I am. Because ultimately, I should be grateful.  I have a wonderful home with plenty of clothes and good nutritious food on hand, as well as friends who love me generously in spite of my flawed skin, smile, hair and personality, and the best family in the world.

5.  Along these lines, when facing regrets, I need to believe truth, not lies.  I need to believe I'm not defined by my mistakes, that I can change things, and that I'm not doomed to repeat failure again and again.  Ann Voskamp writes in The Broken Way, “You are the most loved not when you’re pretending to have it all together; you are actually the most loved when you feel broken and are falling apart... when we’re rejected and abandoned and feel beyond wanting, Jesus cups our face: ‘Come close, beloved.’”  I am still loved in spite of what I’ve done wrong.  And if something really needs to not happen again, then with the help of God’s amazing grace, I can do that.  I have done that.  And the broken, imperfect things about me are places for His strength to be shown and His light to shine through.


I’d love to hear your thoughts about regrets.  What are some things you regret?  What have you learned?

Thursday, December 13, 2018

WRWE: Coziness edition!

Wow, once again it’s been way too long since I posted, but so much has been happening.  Fall has moved out and winter is earnestly here.  We got our third snowfall so far yesterday, and it was the most we’ve had.  The ground is icy and cold, but our home is cozy.  

There are some posts I really want to get done by the end of the year, and to my amazement that’s under three weeks away! So I’d better get a move on it.  And of course, because it’s been so long since I did one, it seems like a good time to do a Watching, Reading, Wearing, Eating post! So here goes:

Watching:  I’ve watched a few things since my last edition of WRWE.  Our family tradition (at least for those of us old enough for it) is to watch Planes, Trains, and Automobiles on Thanksgiving.  It’s so good and hilarious!  This past weekend we watched Adrift.  It fell a little flat for me, honestly.  The scenery was beautiful and that it was a true story is amazing, but there was nothing really surprising or new about it.  

What I did love was that in October, we did a little Alfred Hitchcock movie fest.  Some of his films are definitely better than others (hello, The Birds, I’m talking to you — did you forget an ending? Hmmm?), but my favorite by far was Rear Window.  I keep thinking didn’t I watch this before?  I remember scenes from it, but oh my goodness, the movie is about as close to perfection as one can be.  The dialogue was entertaining, the imagery excellent and Grace Kelly + James Stewart were amazing. 

This month my family has our Christmas movie fest, which is one of my favorite things about the season!  We watch classics such as It’s a Wonderful Life, Home Alone (which is actually probably my least favorite), and Buddy the Elf (of course!), plus A Christmas Story and National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.  An aside: Skyler told me yesterday that almost no one in her English class had seen Christmas Vacation, and I was shocked!  Please tell me you’ve seen it?!  We also include Die Hard for Matt, and About a Boy — which is totally a Christmas movie.  Obviously, not all members of the family watch all of these, but it’s so much fun.  We end with The Polar Express on Christmas Eve and usually watch or re-watch A Christmas Story on Christmas Day.

Reading: I didn’t read as much as I did earlier in the year, at least for myself, but I did read a couple good books.  One I read aloud to the kids was Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat.  It was funny and interesting, and they loved it. I read Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss.  I’d seen this on a few bloggers’ lists, and then my neighbor told me she had it.  It definitely gave me a lot to think about in regards to things like purpose, pride, and my faith.  Have you read it?  

I also read Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins.  This offered fascinating insights to several famous artists and creators from Michelangelo to Jim Henson.  It gave me lots to think about, and I highly recommend it to everyone, whether or not your consider yourself an artist.

Wearing: I’m participating in Dressember this year!  

For the entire month of December, I’m wearing a dress and posting on my social media accounts to raise awareness about human trafficking.  Every day I’ve been sharing facts and figures about modern slavery, and I have a fundraising page for Dressember, which does grants to organizations such as International Justice Mission and A21, plus many others.  I’ve wanted to do this for a few years, but honestly (ridiculously) thought it was too hard for me to do.  It really isn’t!  And even if it was, what is my discomfort in comparison to an atrocity such as human trafficking?  I have my cozy layers that I talked about in this post, and I’ve been learning lots that I plan to share in a post in January.  In the meantime, I’d love if you’d pop over to my campaign page on Dressember and consider giving a small donation to this cause!

Eating:  Every Thanksgiving, we have certain standard desserts, like Dutch Apple Pie — my husband’s favorite — and also from his side of the family, banana pudding.  Plus we have pumpkin and pecan pies for sure.  But ever since my two oldest got to where they like baking, we’ve had a “wild card” pie.  This year, Skyler found buttermilk pie on Pinterest, and the comment about it said something like, “You haven’t lived until you’ve tried this pie.”  Well!  How could she not make a pie with a promise like that?

We had friends over for our feast, and they included a nine-year-old boy.  After trying it, we asked what he thought, and he said, “Well, it’s not my favorite, but at least I’ve lived now!”  That cracked us all up!  The rest of us, however, really enjoyed it.  The boy’s dad then told us about something he used to have growing up called chess pie, which he described as being similar to pecan pie, except without the pecans.  It sounds intriguing, for sure.  We’ve decided that our Christmas feasting absolutely needs to have a reappearance of the buttermilk pie, and maybe the chess pie too.  A penny for your thoughts?

Okay, this edition of Watching, Reading, Wearing, Eating has a bonus section because music is one of my favorite aspects of this season....

Listening! Music is such a huge part of my life, so I especially love listening to Christmas music.  Skyler likes the vintage sounds of Frank Sinatra, Elvis, and Michael BublĂ©.  I love my Jars of Clay, Sufjan Stevens, Leigh Nash/ Sixpence None the Richer.  The littlest ones like TobyMac and Owl City.  There are some songs I didn’t know I loved until I heard certain artists do them, like Brandon Heath singing “In the Bleak Midwinter” — I actually can’t stand the Sarah Maclachlan version.  I know, I shouldn’t say that out loud because here come the trolls, but it depressed me! And it shouldn’t be depressing at all! Heath’s is so good, with the music actually doing the lyrics their justice.  But before you think I just hate Sarah Maclachlan, that’s completely not true.  Her rendition of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is my favorite, and there are many who have covered it! But 

Anyway, here’s a very short list of songs we love.

Christmas This Year — TobyMac and Leigh Nash

Light of Christmas — Owl City and TobyMac

Mary’s Boy Child — Jamie Grace and TobyMac

Here With Us — Joy Williams (one of my absolutely favorite Christmas songs!)

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas — Sarah Maclachlan

Sleep, Jesus, Sleep — Sovereign Grace

In the Bleak Midwinter — Brandon Heath (and only him!)

Feliz Navidad — Michael BublĂ©

Love Came Down at Christmas 

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Peace is Here — Jars of Clay

Riu Riu Chiu

Angels We Have Heard on High

Some Children See Him — Sixpence None the Richer

Joy to the World

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Sister Winter

Only at Christmas — Sufjan Stevens 

Okay, I’m going to leave it there because I could spend the rest of the day just talking about Christmas music!  Every year I find new favorites, so I’d love to hear from you, as always but especially this month!  What are you watching, reading, wearing, eating and listening to?