Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Ten Years Later

Forgive me the introspective posts, but I read an article on NPR today about how much we change in 10 years and yet we still have a hard time imagining that we will change in the future. Here is a link.

I can't help but think about change in light of the fact that we'll being going to a conference this weekend where we may see the author Brian McLaren, who Robb met back in the summer. During their conversation  Brian inquired about me, which really helped to repaint my old feelings of wanting to punch him in the face at one time not so long ago....but I digress. He said that he meets a lot of guys whose theology and practice have changed. They are reading books, meeting other thinkers and sharing ideas and thereby develop in their beliefs, but their wives are often left out of these conversations. In the worst situations, a woman finds herself caught between her pastor husband who has moved into a new arena of thinking that is scary for her, and a pastor-daddy who hasn't moved at all.  I feel for those women. Because the only way out of that situation is to sit down and do some reading, thinking and owning of your own theology. But it takes time. There is no substitute for time. Not in learning. Not in grief. Not in making changes. Time is transformative.

Ten years ago....I was 28 years old.  (I had to stop and take that in for a moment. Twenty freaking eight. TWENTY 8. Dang.)

The year was 2003 and I was the mother of a 3 and 1 year old. We had just purchased our first house (THAT house).

I was deeply depressed. Whether postpartum or seasonal affective disorder, I don't know, but I have trouble bringing those days to the front of my memory. I had to go find a picture in a scrapbook because there were no digital pictures, no iphones, no blog, no facebook, just an old PC that Dr. Carter gave me as a gift for helping him move out of his office when he retired.  He was still living on earth and we were still emailing on a regular basis. I took pictures of the kids with a film camera and there are very few shots of me, mostly blurry images that I asked Robb to take to prove my existence.

I spent an afternoon looking at those pictures and while my clothes and hair made me cringe (seriously, girl, couldn't you do SOMETHING with that hair?) it was the snapshot of that girl's mind that most surprises me.

I had no friends my own age that I spent time with. I had no friends that were not connected to the church.  I had no unchurched, non-Christian, non-fundamentalist friends, nor friends of any other Protestant denomination.  I had zero interactions with the LGBT community. I had zero interactions with atheists, pagans, hippies, agnostics, Jehovah's Witness, Mormons,  Jews or Muslims.  I voted straight-ticket Republican and struggled to understand how a democrat could also be a Christian. It was inconceivable in my mind.  I had a firm grasp of Christian contemporary music at the time, but no idea what was popular on the secular radio stations.  I played the piano from the hymnal and praise chorus book if I was needed on a Sunday evening service. I primarily read Christian non-fiction books about theology or devotionals by Kay Arthur.  I felt guilty for not being more faithful to the inductive Bible study method. I don't recall seeing movies, but I think we saw one or two a year if it was something we really liked. Drinking alcohol was prohibited by our church constitution and membership agreement.

I spent every single night watching hours of television. I thought play dates were something made up for tv show families and I stayed home with my kids all the time except for church and when we went to get groceries and go shopping as a family. I weaned my son cold-turkey at 8 months because he bit me. I had never heard of attachment theory. I expected my kids to sleep in their own beds from about 6 weeks on (with varying success rates) I rarely went out alone. Sometimes we went to the public library.  I had no goals for the future other than getting Robb into a doctoral program and doing whatever it took to get him into the upper leadership of the church's denominational fellowship.  I could only envision myself as a housewife and couldn't imagine having a job or working outside our home.  My only concern was our home and making it pretty. I did all the regular cooking, cleaning, and laundry and would have been mortified if Robb was to do any of this kind of work since it was my duty. I couldn't imagine life beyond Calvin's baby-hood, but I expected to have two more kids after him. Adoption was something we had talked about in the past, but we were sure it was expensive and we were not thinking much about our future.

I was afraid to drive on highways and went out of my way to stay on back roads due to a near-accident I had while I was pregnant with Mattie. I was afraid of Robb dying. I was afraid of conflict. I was afraid of being alone. I was afraid of criticism. I was afraid of life.

I thought family members would always be there and I took them for granted. My grandparents were both living and so was my brother in law. 

I had no concept of recycling or the environment and sincerely believed that if God made the world that humans couldn't mess it up enough to hurt it much.  The extent of my knowledge of Africa was that they were poor and hungry. I had no idea of the extent of the epidemic of AIDS or of any ways that could be helped.  I knew that Compassion International was an agency that Michael W. Smith helped. I knew nothing about the foster care system in America or of the way it worked.

We ate whatever we could afford from the local grocery store, and I pretty much bought whatever was cheapest. We though eating at McDonalds was a treat and Sunday nights often found us eating a Super-sized meal, in bed, while watching tv.

I knew that Dr. Cater believed that someday people would buy everything from the internet, right down to their shoes, but I wasn't sure I believed him.  If I could have, I would have bought everything from the mall, but as it was, I shopped at Walmart.  I believed that if it came from the mall it was better than handmade. We were in debt up to our eyeballs with no plan to get out.

As I think on these things, I am genuinely astounded by the extent and profundity of the changes.  I changed at the core of my values and beliefs. I am also amazed by how much more alive I am. How I "own" my life now....back then I was living someone else's life by someone else's standards. I was waiting for someone to give me permission to make choices.  Much of what I did do was out of false bravado and trying to blend in.  My lack of understanding myself led ironically to being self-conscious and awkward, not free to serve and love others.  I am also surprised at how the changes were brought about by such small things... like joining the Public Library book club.  Having a conversation with a lady at my garage sale.  Going for a walk and finding an estate auction. One thing that led to another.

I really can't imagine what I will be like ten years from now. Aside from the extra 10 pounds each decade though, I feel really optimistic about the future.  I know that there will be times of pain, but there will also be growth. And hopefully, better haircuts.


gerbmom@gmail.com said...

I can relate to ALL of that!

Keri P said...

i loved you then and I love you now! Your journey is courageous and inspiring :-)

Kendal said...

I'm so glad I met you post-transformation. Your veneer would have intimidated me. I would have thought you had it made, knew all the answers, were a 1000% better Christian than me. And instead of looking up to you, or wanting to be like you...the nicest way I can put this is that I would not have done either of those things. I like the real you. So here's to you: bing bong ding dong tinkletinkletinkle BONK! (I will be so disappointed if my impression fails...)

noworries said...

Vanessa, the 10 years ago you, is all too familiar from my churching and schooling, but it is wonderful that you found freedom in your Christianity. That was what a pastor from our old church said to me once, " you have found freedom in your faith; you are fortunate." I remember feeling complimented and saddened that it was such a novel and rare thing for this pastor to say. Like Virginia Slims says, "you've come a long way, baby."

Sandy said...

Nice post. Definitely gave me some thoughts to roll around in my brain for a week (or decade) or two.

Happy next 10!

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