Today I'm finding it very difficult to be nice after my experience this morning. I will restrain myself from saying anything overtly unkind. But, in order to be clear, today I felt relatively unwanted and rejected. I felt like I had nothing in common with the other women I was with. Obviously, sometimes the way a person expresses herself is not meant to be damaging to another or unkind, but when on the receiving end, it can still feel that way regardless of intent.
I'm not going to go into details about the cause of these feelings. Suffice it to say that being around people of similar faith is not supposed to be a punishing experience; an experience that leaves you questioning yourself the rest of the day; asking asking yourself why you would want to continue to punish yourself in that manner. To me, being around other people with whom you have common interests is supposed to help you to feel connected, to help inspire feelings of love and acceptance and appreciation, and most of all it's supposed to be a place where you ... fit in! Here with this group of people, I often feel the opposite. The proverbial square peg with only round holes available.
Regretfully, I struggle to find those positive feelings occasionally at different meetings. Believe me, I'm actively looking and participating. I am a contributing member in each activity in which I participate. But, sometimes I feel tired, weak, and I need to be lifted. When needing to be lifted, it hurts a lot worse when you feel shoved aside, put down, perhaps even stepped on. Maybe some have misunderstand the core of the gospel of Christ, or at least temporarily forgotten it. The ideal is aptly stated in a quote by Dr. Victor L. Brown.
Dr. Brown used to teach at BYU and worked in the Social Sciences and and was the Director of the Counseling Department. He is an astute author I admire. He wrote the following sentiments in the Ensign, an LDS church magazine in July 1978. I'm going to quote him for a few paragraphs. The article is titled Differences.
"Several years ago I learned the importance of difference in our lives. Frequently, a short, middle-aged man passed by on the street near my house. He wore extra-thick glasses, had a withered arm and leg, and carried a sack of newspapers over his shoulder. I casually assumed he was a newspaper dealer, a handicapped person who struggled through each day as best he could. I also assumed that his imprint on the world was negligible.
Later I was invited to offer the dedicatory prayer at a school for vocational training of the physically and mentally handicapped. The evening of the dedication I learned about the greatness of this man, for he was the Scoutmaster of the Scout troop at this vocational school. I sat on the stand and observed his patience, kindness, and leadership with his "boys," some of whom were in their thirties. He was performing Christlike service in ways that I probably could not.
If we are candid with ourselves, most of us admit that difference is often troublesome. We are naturally comfortable with familiar, similar ideas, behavior, and people...
There are ... things that make some members feel different. And we must be careful that we don't let those differences become wedges between us."
It is too easy to judge other people as different and dismiss them which is hurtful in and of itself, and sometimes it is even more damaging to ignore them. There are times that I feel I have been unfairly judged and there are times I have felt ignored. Today was definitely one of those days. Unfortunately, it has been happening more, and more frequently. Maybe I've gotten so adept at pretending everything is swell, that people can't see the strain, or realize that I feel like I've almost reached that breaking point. Who knows?
What I do know is this. It is very difficult to voice my struggles when I need help the most. I often feel as though I am in the middle of a battle to keep my depression at bay, my anxiety and frustrations under control and my head above water while still trying to juggle the needs of 5 kids, some of whom have special needs. It hurts even worse to add another struggle to that already long list ... the struggle to fit in. It hurts because it feels as if the Army, which I'm supposed to be a part of, sees me as the enemy. When I chose to feel this way, even if perhaps their rude rejections are not intended as rude rejections, that is when it is the most difficult to speak out and ask for that helping hand up. That is the hardest thing for me to do.
The other day, I remember it was Sunday, January 4th. It was Ethan's first day as a Sunbeam in our ward. I was worried about passing him off from the nursery where I volunteer into someone else's hands. He is disruptive, unable to sit still, and hard to handle. (Ethan is my challenge and my salvation. If I can just manage not to kill him, and if I'm lucky, teach him a few things along the way, I think I might just be able to return to my Heavenly Father someday. At least, that's my hope.)
However, that particular day I was stretched to my limit. Earlier during the first hour of the meeting, I got up and removed him from the chapel several times due to his inability to sit still and be quiet and his potty training issues. Ethan is unable to modulate the tone of his voice. He cannot talk quietly. Furthermore, he is resisting potty training. Ethan knows what to do, when to do it, but he uses it as a weapon. That day during that first hour, he stood in front of the toilet and wet himself on purpose. And then he said, "I wet myself mommy," with a gleeful smile. Then, right at the end of the meeting, I took him to the bathroom again. He needed to have a bowel movement. I didn't want to take him to class and have him do it in there. So, we worked at it for a while and at that point is when he peed in my face and on my clothes. After he finished spraying me, he laughed hysterically about it repeating out loud what he had just done. I was so mad! I resisted the temptation to harm him, to my credit.
I got him dressed in his spare outfit. Then I took him down the hallway to his class. That is when he started protesting and resisting. I couldn't call my husband. I was on my own. He teaches the 9-11 year old boys and he has 7-9 boys in his class. Whatever the number, it is a large group and they are a handful.
By this time, Ethan had reduced me to tears! So I leaned against the hallway wall squatting, holding him in my arms, trying to coax him to class while silent tears streamed down my face. All the while, people either chatted in the vicinity or passed by me with no comment. I felt invisible with this very visible child in my arms making a racket. How could fellow mothers so blithely ignore my struggle and pain? How can they so quickly rush to the aid of other mothers or friends in need, but ignore my obvious need? I do not understand.
Finally, a friend came up and helped. I thank God for her. It is just confusing. I can't understand why people don't offer assistance. Maybe they are afraid or just don't know what to do. Half the time, I don't know what to do, I just keep doing. But, it is always reassuring to have a kind word, an understanding/sympathetic look, or an offer of assistance. It lets me know that I am noticed and well ... loved. Sometimes, it is the warmth and caring of another person that buoys you up and helps you get through. (I won't mention any names but thanks ... you know who you are! I appreciate your sympathetic ear and kind words of wisdom.)
My prayer is simple. I pray I will continue to be the person to reach out and lift up. I want to make others feel loved and welcome and appreciated. Isn't that a basic human need? And, maybe the times that I have felt the stark lack of it emphasizes the intrinsic importance of it in our daily struggles here on earth. My intention is not to cry out to the blogosphere about how picked on I feel. But, I want to my voice to be heard, for others to know that I live, that I breathe, that I need, just as anyone else does. I pray that I can take a deep breath and keep reaching out in love to those whom I feel have rejected or ignored me. Perhaps if I can do what the Savior said, and forgive them not seven times, but seventy times seven, they will come to see my sincerity and welcome me as an equal. I pray that God will help me soften my heart. Whatever the outcome, I pray that I can grow to be stronger and more loving. That's my prayer.