The Expectation Problem

Caryn: Within the past couple years, I’ve adopted a new mantra of sorts: Keep expectations low. Carla can attest to this—since she now refers to her own birthday as “the day of low expectations,” thanks to jolly old me.

While this may seem like a huge downer of a mantra, I actually adopted it after watching a thing about how the Danes (and I’ve written about this before in a zillion places so forgive me if I’ve written about it here. Of course, I’m way too lazy to go back and look) are the happiest people on earth—thanks to their low expectations about life.

After hearing this, I realized how much time and energy I’ve wasted in my life (and how much disappointment I’ve endured) simply because of my own high expectations. My family life was no exception. I became a mother with all sorts of assumptions built in about the ways it was “supposed to be.”

I blame those “supposed-to-be’s” for nearly every meltdown I’ve had since then (or actually over my whole life). So I was nearly giddy when Revolutionary Cindy left this comment after our last post. She said: “Regarding the myth thing: I used to get depressed every Christmas because it didn’t fulfill my longings for the ‘experience of Christmas.’ I thought kids were the answer; they weren’t. I still was depressed and unfulfilled after Christmas. Finally, one year I stopped and tried to figure out what it was that I was longing for–what I was picturing the perfect Christmas would be. I pictured my whole family (parent, siblings, kids–a happy, laughing crowd) all gathered at the family farm. Playing games before the blazing hearth. Sledding and building snowmen. Hot chocolate and cookies. Wonderful meals shared around a big table. Sparkling tree. You get the idea. Then I busted up laughing. There hasn’t been a farm in my family for generations, and I really, really, really wouldn’t want to spend that long with MY family. My big sisters bossing, my kids tearing the place up… I’d formed the idea from all those sappy holiday specials and Christmas cards. I was depressed because I longed for something that didn’t exist.

“I’ve done that with parenting, too; and with my relationship with church. What I’ve been trying to do since then is, when I feel discouraged or alienated, figure out what it is I’m longing for and decide if it even exists anywhere. In the meantime, I try to come alongside my friends and acquaintances as we all try to figure this out. ”

I couldn’t have said it better myself (which is why I didn’t). But seriously, the Christmas farm thing? Totally me. Seriously. I want that SO bad! And I too carry unreal and probably unattainable images over into my family life (which is why I consider Pottery Barn Kids catalog to be porn and chuck them in the recycling pile before even bringing them into the house). Why do we do this to ourselves?

I read somewhere that this is simply our longing for heaven, for the pre-fallen world, for the way it WAS supposed to be (and WILL be). But is it that easy? Can we just accept that then and move on?

Carla: Having just celebrated my day of low expectations, I am so with you here. But I don’t think it’s a longing for heaven. I think it’s an inability to be content with the lives we have. I mean, I don’t really expect my birthday to stop the action in heaven so all eyes are focused on me, which is exactly what I expect on my birthday here on earth.

Our longings for love, for meaningful relationships, for lives that feel purposeful are, I believe, the essence of what it means to be human. But I don’t believe that wanting those things is a sign of weakness or falleness. I believe it is a sign of the life God calls us to here, now. Yes, our relationships will be imperfect, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate them and seek them out. And yes, we will be disappointed by love and by people and by the way our lives look sometimes, but it’s only because we know it can be better. If our only hope for meaning and connection was to wait for heaven, I think I’d go nuts.

I think the trick is to consider the origins of our expectations–do they come from these real longings for purpose and relationships or from some false image of what that should look like? To me, being loved, being connected to other people, having a sense of purpose in our lives are not unreasonable expectations. But “love” that looks like romantic weekends at the sea and fresh flowers every Monday might be a little unreasonable.

I felt so blessed by the many birthday greetings that showed up on my Facebook page–I matter to those people and that matters to me. But I get in trouble when I start to focus instead on who didn’t call or who didn’t send me a card–that’s me defining connection in an unreasonable way.

And purpose? Well I’m still trying to figure that one out. I used to think I had to change the world. Now I’m trying to be content with making the little places in which I operate a little kinder, a little more compassionate, a little funnier.

Caryn: I didn’t mean to suggest that we should not expect any sort of joy or happiness or dreams come true in this life. That sounds a bit suicidal (though, sadly, I think throughout history and certainly around the globe today there are cultures where heaven is seen as the only place those things might exist).

I meant more our sense of incompleteness, of “this isn’t all it could be.” But I’m SURE that’s why we’re called (am I opening up a can of worms by using this word?) to be content—because nothing will be perfect. So we gotta deal.

That said, I think those moments of connection, of bliss, and wonderful surprise are pictures of heaven (which, by the way, Carla: I’m SURE everything will stop on your b-day in the Sweet Bye and Bye to celebrate you).

But anyway: I really want to hear about some of the Revolutionaries’ disappoinments, about the things in their lives that were “supposed to be” and that haven’t turned out that way. How did you deal?

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32 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Amy Rose Graham on February 7, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    First of all, thank you for writing such an insightful blog! I recently found it thanks to a friend’s recommendation and it has totally spoken to where I am in my life as a new mom. Caryn, when I read the first half of this post, I thought, “Caryn is my twin sister.” I too have been disappointed throughout my life because of the various images I carry around in my head of what Christmas, Birthday, Valentine’s Day, marriage, motherhood…(the list could go on and on)…should look like. They are unrealistic to say the least. I too have desperately tried to lower my expectations to therefore be pleasantly surprised if things turn out better than I expected. Is it a longing for heaven or the world God intended? Perhaps, but it also may just be the influence of society, culture, movies, or T.V. I haven’t quite mastered the art of being content in all things…it is certainly a daily journey…but I continue on that journey to find a balance between my expectations, being realistic, and contentment.

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  2. Posted by Judy D on February 7, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Ah, Caryn. Such a dilemma. It is good to live in hope and expectation. But it is hard to handle those disappointments because rarely do things live up to our hopes and dreams.

    Mine had to do with family outings/fun times. I did a good job planning them and such high hopes for great fun and bonding and MEMORY MAKING! Something ALWAYS happened to make it less than I envisioned, and sometimes real disasters. But I overcame my fears and tried again this Christmas with my married kids and their kids. We spent a day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (we live in Orlando). An though there we little disappointments, it was almost all I had hoped for. Rejoicing.

    The best line I have heard about all this is that “the greener grass was spray painted by the evil one.”

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  3. Posted by Carla on February 7, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    I want to write a whole post about this, but for now, I’ll just say that this whole dashed hopes thing is a huge part of the depression so common in women between 25-45 (1 in 4 women in this age group experience some form of depression). There’s a real grief that comes with our lives not looking like we thought they should or would. So whether we’re disappointed by our Christmases or our vacations or our kids or ourselves, there is grief that we need to acknowledge before we can move on.

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  4. Yes, can we talk about this grief? Because I’m in the middle of a sample chapter for another book idea on grieving your life essentially (or the hopes or expectations or even for the life you used to have!) and I need people to quote. : )

    And Judy: You’ll notice that in four weeks my family is NOT with me. I had wanted to take them to Orlando to do the whole dream Disney vacation. I’m actually grateful finances kept us from this dream because I know right now, my expectations would’ve skyrocketed—along with my stress-level—and it would’ve been more of a nightmare.

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  5. I wrote a bit today about how I hoped to be a mother by now and I feel like a failure because I’m not. That disappointment — not knowing what God has planned for me, feeling like I’m being punished, feeling that longing and loneliness and uncertainty — is tough to wake up to every day. I try to wrap it up and set it aside, work on other things, remind myself that being a successful woman doesn’t mean I have to be a mom. But it’s hard to accept that I don’t have what I want and I might never get it.

    At least I’ve got some great material.

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  6. Posted by Jan on February 8, 2009 at 8:09 am

    In thinking about why I’ve been disappointed , I’ve noticed that not only is it my high expectations, but also my expectation that someone else should be correctly playing their role in making my dreams come true. My husband would “know” (if he really loved me) how to make the day special. Without me having to ask or describe what it is I want (because if I have to ask – that somehow takes the magic out of it). My children should “know” how much work I went to for them.

    I agree that having lower expectations does give me the chance to appreciate what I do have and not mourn what I expected should be. I have also learned to ask for some of what I want/need/hope for, and secondly, that it is okay to help your loved ones love you better. And I’m a much nicer person if I gently clue them in ahead of time, than I am when disappointed by my pile of unrealized expectations.

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  7. Posted by April G. on February 9, 2009 at 8:51 am

    I think this issue of expectation and disappointment is probably bigger for me than I realize. Though, I tend to have a hard time processing through some of those emotions, so I stuff them until they come out later. I remember crying after my wedding as my new husband and I were on our way to the B&B where we would be staying. Even though I was never one of those girls who constantly fantisized about my wedding, the let-down afterward was emotional for me. All of that work and energy, and it was over too fast. I remember looking at my newborn son and wondering why I didn’t recognize him. I had expected he would look familiar, but he didn’t. It took me a few days for that. (I did recognize my daughter though, maybe because she looks so much like her brother.) But, I think the biggest one for me is that I expected I would LOVE staying home with my children, I don’t. I expected I would be a wonderful mother and housekeeper. I would be organized, efficient, and always joyfully serving my family. My children would be well-behaved and obedient. But now I feel like I (we) fall far short of those expectations, and that is hard for me to handle. I agree that a good amount of depression may come from this issue, because I feel like I battle with it myself. I suppose the answer would be to let go of those expectations of myself (I need to read your book, Carla!), but I am still processing it all. Often I am too tired or disconnected to really deal with the root issues of my discontent. Thanks for bringing back up to my attention.

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  8. One of my defining moments occurred about 5 years ago, when my daughter was 8 months old. I remember sitting on the couch in my living room and asking God if this is really all there is. I “had it all”–all that I had been lead to believe there is–a wonderful marriage to a Christian man, a child whom I adored, and the financial means to be home with her. And I was miserable. Looking back now, I see that I was definitely struggling with depression. I had NO woman in my life at the time who was talking to me about the reality of being a mom and being home with my child. And, there was NO woman in my life from the day I became a Christian when I was a junior in college who encouraged me to be open to being used by God in ways outside of my roles as a wife and mom. Everywhere I looked–my church, my friends with babies, Christian books, Bible studies, and the media–there were moms who had it all together, who were thrilled to be taking care of infants all day, and who “considered it pure joy.” I had managed to pretend that “everything was ok” for my whole life. I had no clue how to grieve or how to embrace godly sorrow, and I was still under the impression that I had some control over my life. Becoming a mom was the straw that broke the camel’s back… I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I couldn’t control my child and I couldn’t control my emotions and feelings of failure. I thought I was less of a mom, less of a Christian, and less of a woman because I couldn’t handle it. Thankfully, I received some pastoral counseling from a man who really believes the truths of the gospel. He helped me see my control issues (which we all have in some way), helped me learn how to grieve, helped me embrace longing (He describes longing as that place where joy and sorrow meet.), and helped me learn how to experience rest. I’ve been grieving and trying to rest ever since. 🙂 I’ve also experienced more joy than I did before I knew how to grieve.On this side of it, I’m grateful for my journey and all that God has brought me through. I don’t think it has to be such a lonely, painful process, though. I would love for other women to make it through this with more support and love from the church and their communities. The church has an opportunity here–the gospel really does change everything. I’m hopeful that it can change how we view women and how we view our families. I’m also hopeful that the gospel will work in us so we can better see how we are called to join God in the building of His kingdom. Not just in the building of our families.

    Sorry my posts are so long. It is such a relief to have a forum to express some of this…

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  9. Posted by Robyn on February 10, 2009 at 9:46 am

    Wow, thank you, Charlotte.

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  10. Posted by Robyn on February 10, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Michele, I just want to say that I have been there. We waited so long for God to give us a child. I prayed every day for a child. I was so afraid that I would never be a mother. It was terrifying. I don’t have any words of wisdom, except I certainly don’t think you are being punished. I just want you to know that I know how you feel.

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  11. Posted by Cindy Cronk on February 10, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    I was just talking with a friend in the lunchroom about my 16-year-old daughter. We were talking personality type, and her gymnastics. I see her sometimes limiting herself simply because she can’t see the whole, big picture–she just doesn’t have the life experience. I can see a bigger picture, and try to paint it for her so she can see more options. That lead to the thought, that’s how I am with God. I have this “thing” inside of me–a desire or craving for something. I look around me for what will fill that longing, and then pray that God will give me that thing. I labor in prayer, I agonize, sweat great drops of blood in prayer for that thing. I’m beginning to realize I’m like Angie, looking at the small picture because that’s all I know. I wonder what would happen if more often I’d go to Him and say, this is the longing I have, help me to see Your plan for it.

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  12. Posted by Lori on February 10, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    I love this site and have been meaning to comment for a while, so I’ll finally pipe up here. First of all, I love the manifesto! And I think it’s great you guys have started this thing – how wonderful to have a forum like this.

    For me, the high expectations tie into the cult of the family issue. Because focusing on my family is what I’m “supposed” to be doing, I want to embrace it wholeheartedly and create a magical family life. And so this ideal family life becomes a kind of idol. My responsibilities as a mother blend with my desires for a perfect life, and I get confused about what’s necessity and what’s frivolity. I start to feel a sense of entitlement: I should have a certain kind of life, because that’s supposedly what’s best for the children. Surely Christmases at the farm and a Pottery Barn home will create the security and happy memories all children need, right? Ha! Somehow my twisted, selfish mind can find a way to make it seem so.

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  13. Posted by Stacy B on February 11, 2009 at 12:30 am

    Wow – this is weird. My friend Jen and I are the speakers at a camp in May (for women and girls), and our title is “This isn’t how it’s supposed to be: finding joy and contentment when life isn’t how we expected it to be” or something like that.

    As women who have experienced little “disappointments” that just happen in every day life and big disappointments (she had a daughter pass away at 18 mos. of age and my mother died when I was 29)…we know that life can “suck” (great pastor’s wife term, huh?). But we have also seen our hearts transformed by God’s healing…and we want to testify to that fact!

    And my husband just preached about this on Sunday. God never promises us a grief-less life. In fact, Scripture clearly provides us with the truth that life will disappoint and “suck” at times. However, His promise lies in the truth that He doesn’t leave us alone in this and that He will redeem our pain – if not here on earth then in heaven.

    I agree with Carla’s thoughts that there is a grief that needs to be acknowledged in this..and the part that moves us from bitterness and depression to joy and contentment (not feelings but realities) is God’s healing power within our hearts. He promises to TRADE our hearts of bitterness, grief, and despair (hardened hearts) for hearts of new flesh renewed by His love, forgiveness, and grace. Once we acknowledge to Him that we are bitter about how life is, He can provide us with the joy and contentment that allows us to live as if heaven is here on earth.

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  14. I think it’s crucial to see that we never fully move out of a place of grieving and sorrow–that our goal isn’t to be fully content and joyful at all times. Just yesterday I had to grieve over my sin and ugliness toward my daughter after I yelled at her for not being kind to her little brother. (Ironic, huh?) I’m saddened by my failings in loving her well at all times. My grief leads me to repentance, leads me to speak truth to myself regarding who I am in Christ, leads me to ask her for forgiveness and talk with her about how I need Jesus to enable me to be kind to others just like she needs Jesus to enable her to be kind to others. In this particular situation, I was able to taste the joy that comes with reconciliation, believing the gospel, and being reminded that God has my daughter and me in His hand. Even now as I think about it, I’m saddened by the many times I will fail her over her lifetime. I think that’s an appropriate sadness. I will always live in the tension of sorrow and joy–longing for that which is good while recognizing that evil and sin exists. At times I will feel rest (some use the word contentment) at other times I will feel unrest. I can’t make the rest come, but I sure as heck have learned to recognize it and appreciate it when it’s here. And I remind myself when I’m not at rest that it doesn’t mean I’m “far from God” or in sin. That might be part of it, but I don’t think it’s all of it.

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  15. Posted by Stacy B on February 11, 2009 at 9:25 am

    Charlotte –

    I completely agree with you on this one. I hope that I didn’t misrepresent myself (or my husband) in my post – it was late.

    That is exactly what I was saying…that because we live in a sinful, fallen world, the tension between sorrow and joy is ever present.

    Your post also sparked another thought for me: some of our grief is due to our own choices while other parts of our gried is due to the choices of others or the natural “happenings” that occur in life because of the sinful ‘state’ that we are in. It is one thing to have to deal with the consequences of our own choices (sometimes sinful; sometimes just unfortunate) while it is another to deal with the consequences of others’ choices/actions toward us.

    Oh – I could go on and on!

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  16. Posted by Cindy on February 11, 2009 at 10:27 am

    For me, the grieving won’t quit! I’m constantly aware of my failure to live up to the holiness of God. And I, right now, am dealing with disappointment in the choices of one of my kids. He’s faced severe consequences for poor choices, and continues to make the same poor choices. It’s not want I want for him, or for me! I see his potential, and hope for him to turn the corner and be the success I know he can be, and then I realize that I can’t control his choices. I have to figure out how to handle the stress between trials of this world and the joy of knowing that Christ has overcome this world.

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  17. Posted by not a mom on February 12, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Wow. This post really struck a chord with me, because I’m constantly asking myself this question, except for me it’s not “How did you deal,” but “How DO you?”

    I find a lot of Christian teaching that seems to point straight to heaven. (I call it the “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” sermonizing. And of course that song comes from a time and place where people had nothing but the hope of heaven to cling to. And that’s a very REAL hope.) And yes, the world IS broken. We don’t fully know or understand until heaven. On the other hand, there’s a lot of teaching that’s all about self-help and making everything work, and sometimes life just doesn’t work, despite our best efforts and sincere prayers.

    So what does the middle place look like?

    Surely God didn’t just leave us on the earth to wait for heaven. He wants us to love and laugh and WORSHIP him.

    But those nasty disappointments, which I suspect are sharper in mid-life than perhaps in any other season, are pretty huge.

    For me, it’s being a single woman who really wanted marriage and children. I’m grown-up enough to know that there’s no Prince Charming and that life is hard, married or single. And yet, those pangs are real. How do you deal with a disappointment that it so huge — and partly driven by biology?

    I have a dear friend who is deeply disappointed that she and her husband didn’t make it to the mission field, for a variety of reasons. Another friend who wanted children, but for her and her husband, that dream didn’t happen.

    And then there are the “mythical” ones, too. I so smiled at the mention of “Christmas on a farm.” Because another dear friend dreamed about that for years before realizing: Wait a minute, my years on a farm were darn hard! I don’t really want that anymore.

    Loved the comment about the spray-painted grass!
    ———————————————————–
    And to Michele: You are not being punished. I know that lie. And it’s a lie. It’s a lie that seems a little more powerful in church-land, for some reason, and that is incredibly sad for me.

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  18. Posted by Angie on February 12, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    Expectations… there are some expectations in our lives that we have control of and some we do not. There are the “christams on the farm” expectations that are better realized and made for what they are, unfounded fantsies. But than, there are the real “natural” expectations, like “my daughter will grow up with 2 grandma’s who love her and are crazy about her” and somtimes these expectations are also not met. Things happen, unfortunatly we somtimes have to grieve real, loved people, and on top of the loved one we are grieving, we grieve all of the expectations we had for that loved one in our future (and as parents- in our children’s future). Sometimes I feel like that grieving for the unallowed future is the hardest to get out of. It is lke a deep well, a trap. Anyone have any advise on how to get out? Some days it is easier than others, especially when my daughter misses her Grammy on a daily basis.

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  19. Posted by Angie on February 12, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    OK, so that last sentince doesn’t make sence (does that ever happen to anyone else?) Some days it is easier than others, but the hrder days are the ones when my daughter asks about her Grammy, why shes dead, etc, those are hard days to not get stuck in a deep well of grief and sorrow. I do have hope, and joy in Jesus, unfortunately I still live in this imperfect fallen world.

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  20. Posted by Stacy B on February 13, 2009 at 12:20 am

    Angie –

    I feel as though you and I are living in parallel universes. I read your post and thought, “wow…not alone..” I was 29, and my daughter was 7, when my mom died at the age of 53. We found out that she had cancer in December 2002, and she went to be with the Lord on June 13, 2003. I went to help my dad take care of her for the last 10 days of her life; we thought we had at least 2 more months.

    My daughter begged to go with me; I told her she needed to stay in MN and finish out the school year. I promised her that she would see Grandma again. She didn’t – until Grandma was in a casket…she was SO angry with me. I can still hear her crying, “You PROMISED me,” as she pounded her fists against me.

    I understand how mourning what was is not always as hard as mourning what was to be. My daughter turned 13 a few weeks ago, and I thought about how my mom had rocked her when she was only days old and told her stories about how Grandma would take Beth to Paris when she was 13…and how they would rent a convertible…isn’t it silly that I am crying about this??? But it’s not!

    I don’t understand how or why these things happen – but they do. I don’t understand how or why God brings them to us or allows them to happen or whatever – but they do. And I don’t understand how He heals…but He does.

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  21. at the moment, i am driving myself crazy looking at all the super cool mommy/creative blogs out there that show the norman rockwell kind of life. i think being connected electronically can be really good for me. i was just telling my friend last night that when i’m at home alone all day, i feel like because of email, facebook, etc. i can have silent “conversations” with people, at least get a little adult time that i wouldn’t have been able to get 10 years ago.

    but then i sign up for blogs that have “creative ideas to do with your kids” or “here’s a sweater you can knit for your newborn” or “how to make your own ice skating rink in your backyard” (which that one i don’t get because i live in florida…).

    and i am so drawn in by the artistry, the creativity, but then i find myself really coveting that sort of lifestyle, where the mom sits on the couch, knitting, embroiderying, making her kids costumes for abe lincoln’s birthday celebration…meanwhile i’m working from home, toilets *sometimes* get clean, baby doesn’t get enough attention, older 2 fight constantly. and i think, do these women have rich husbands? do all the cool people really live in portland?

    i need some sort of creative outlet, and looking at some of these blogs has really spurred me to try to find myself beyond who i am as a mother and wife. i had a mini breakdown about 2 years ago because i didn’t know who i was and didn’t have any identity or interests outside what my husband liked to do and what i could provide as a mother. so i’m not criticizing these people.

    but i am afraid that there is not a lot of honesty on some of these blogs. i mean, how do they have time to clean their house? cook meals? and it makes me insanely jealous and afraid that i’m doing something wrong with my own family…

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  22. kristi–give yourself some grace and quit believing the lies that are plaguing you. 🙂 i’ve had the same problems with those “perfect life” blogs. if i start feeling insecure while i’m reading them or start comparing myself to the authors of those blogs, i take a break from them. there are a few (probably some of the same ones you read) that i didn’t look at for six months or so. i rarely look at them now. i have come to a place where i can appreciate the gifts & talents of others while realizing that God didn’t make me like them. i’m so very different. and, they have problems, too. they have fights with their husbands, they yell at their kids (or really want to yell at their kids), they (or others in their lives) are dealing with pain, death, and suffering. they just choose to not talk about it. or are trying to convince themselves that it doesn’t exist. i have to remind myself often that a blog isn’t a full or accurate view into someone’s life.

    blogging has been great for me–it’s been a good creative outlet & it has been good for my brain. i think a lot about all kinds of things & it’s been nice to get some of it out. you should try it. we need more blogs out there that give a more realistic view of others’ lives…

    here is an interesting post someone wrote recently about women and blogging and community. http://www.conversiondiary.com/2008/03/mommyblogging-and-water-well.html

    that post inspired me to jump back in after a year or so of not writing. i like reading her blog–of course I don’t agree with her on everything & we approach a lot of things very differently, but it has been nice to read her thoughts on various issues.

    hang in there. and try taking a break from the blogs that make you insecure and jealous. it helped me…

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  23. hi charlotte, thanks so much for the thoughtful response. i actually do blog, and i think it’s been helpful for me, especially during a long period of time when i needed a place to just get the real feelings out there and feel validated that it was ok to have those feelings. i have written some brutally honest stuff on my blog, and i’m always surprised at how positive the response is.

    but you are right: i probably need to take a break from the blogs that are making me so jealous right now! i’ll have to check out that one you recommend.

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  24. also-it’s kind of fun commenting on blog posts written by non-mommyrevolution types. i’m sure i’ve thrown some people for a loop… i try to be kind when i do it since i think all of us women really are on the same team…

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  25. Posted by Not a mom on February 13, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Does anyone else feel like church culture is a big culprit in not allowing people to grieve? I don’t want to hammer at the church for everything, because our culture — filled with perfect blogs and perfect magazines and celebrity worship — certainly bears a lot of responsibility here.

    Some churches might be better at helping people with grief than others. Mine has an exceptional tradition of pastoral care, so I don’t want to be too sweeping here, but I’ve had this conversation with so many friends that I wonder if there’s something to this.

    And a recent comment sticks with me, from a friend, in a time of deep sorrow: “Why am I not allowed to be sad in church? Why can’t I mourn?”

    “Why do I feel shunned if I admit that my marriage is tanking or my kids are out of control?”

    And if we feel like we have to “fake the joy” in the times of very specific loss, than how about those struggling with more ambiguous grief and loss? The loss of dreams, those struggling with infertility….and now more than ever, with job losses or foreclosures.

    I know this post has wandered quite a bit.

    But I think especially in certain “brands” of church, grief is taboo. As in C’mon, get over it, pull yourself together and just praise the Lord already.

    (And I think of the prophets, and Jeremiah, and the Psalms of lament…..)

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  26. Posted by Angie on February 13, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Thanks Stacy, Luckily we did spend much of the my daughters life with her grammy. We live about 2 miles away from them with Minehaha falls in between, so its an easy walk. I think that makes us miss it more, not only the relationship, but the destination.

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  27. Posted by Not a mom on February 13, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Slightly off-topic, but the link below is worth reading. It’s about “ambiguous loss,” and I think it applies to the idea of expectations, reasonable (marriage, long life with loved ones) or unreasonable (Christmas on the Pottery Barn farm)

    I have really appreciated these comments. There is so much wisdom here.

    http://www.crosswalk.com/singles/11582444/page1/

    Reply

  28. Posted by Robyn on February 17, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Kristi, I love how raw and real you are. I refuse to read the “perfect life” blogs because they are a bunch of crap. What’s the point? Anyway, you inspired me to go ready your blog. Thanks!

    Reply

  29. Posted by Jennifer on February 18, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Hah! Pottery Barn Kids porn. That is hilarious! Someone just told me to throw that catalogue out because it raised my expectations of my nursery to a ridiculous high level and tempted me to go into debt for “the perfect childhood ambiance.” Too true!

    Reply

  30. Posted by Jennifer on February 18, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    To the original question- during the last ten years I- separated myself from my urban tribe and moved in with parents, started a profession, lived as a single though my 20’s in a family obsessed community, began a ministry, made crucial mistakes, surrendered that ministry, dated someone abusive, led and coordinated a children’s ministry for years while hating it, watched my mentor die, got married, found out my husband was “gasp” human and not a super-hero, faced infertility and deep depression.

    I do not list this simplified version of life events because I think they are special or even original. I list them because when I was 22 this is what I would have predicted my life would have encompassed at this point…

    I would have traveled the world meeting with creative and influential people in the modern church (they would have been artsy and trendy too, mind you), my ministries would have flourished and I would have written books about them. I would have walked though life thus far in confidence and unafraid, I would have married a strong and whole and perfect man when I was ready, and children would have come when I deemed it necessary for my happiness. I would have been the hero of my life…. and possibly the hero of those whose lives I touched. They would have called me Queen Midas. Whenever I tried to do the right thing, or managed to do the right thing, immediate rewards would have followed.

    Self- absorbed huh? I NEVER would have seen it that way as a 20 something. I was a dreamer, an idealist. Possibly a socialist too. I was eager to serve and love people. Somewhere, somehow, I got the idea that life worked out the way you wanted it to if you worked at it hard enough. If you prayed for it hard enough. If you did “the right thing”.

    So I have been bitterly disappointed. Life is not the fantastic adventure I thought it was, and I am certainly not the main character. Quite the opposite. The day I found out my husband was flawed, that he was human, that he had audacity to love and betray me at the same time, he got very sick. I served him hand and foot for 3 days. This was one month after I was told I would not have children. I could not have felt less “womanly”. Or less valuable.

    Stripped of expectations and roles I found myself quite bare. Who was I without a successful and fruitful ministry, without a perfect husband, without the possibility of motherhood? I actually felt existence may be impossible without those things. It couldn’t it be possible that myself, with absolutely nothing to give or act upon or offer, was what God wanted all along. I writhed at the thought.

    So one day I asked the question all of us with the luxury to think and not just survive, ask . Is this it?And if it is, is it worth it?

    The trouble with expectations is that I only experienced joy when they are met. When they were not met (and the higher they are the less likely that is) I found that I ran around trying to MAKE them met- there is no joy in that either. For me or my loved ones.

    So… I have made it my mission to rediscover joy (or find it for the first time). That has been hard. Walking in the light when you have grown accustomed to the dark takes time. It gave me a headache.

    God has given me a miracle, a child. I haven’t met her yet, but I am trying so hard to find joy in the discomfort of pregnancy, in all the advice I am getting, in all the pastel pink I am receiving. I am trying to find joy in the possibility of outliving my child, accidents, mental disabilities, failure as a parent.

    Anxiety (also a luxury for us who have time to think rather than to survive) is the biggest joy thief there is! Where am I going with this… I guess what I am getting at is that I am getting to be Ok with not being the hero of my own story, with acknowledging that I even play the villain at times. Or! Worse! Sometimes I am the mediocre character who appears once to serve some lame, inane purpose and is never brought out again.

    Joy! Comes from being completely and fully bare before Christ and being Ok with it. Reveling in it even. Shutting out my own expectations and EVERYONE else’s for me. Being Ok with failure, learning what I gotta learn and moving on. Forgiving. Loving my husband and friends and daughter when they are as flawed and mediocre I am. From being comfortable with being unremarkable to everyone but the Trinity.

    Its kind of cathartic articulating this. Thanks for the opportunity. And sorry for the many grammatical errors I know I committed.

    Reply

  31. Jennifer-This gave me chill bumps. Thank you for sharing… Thanks for pointing us to the Truth.

    Reply

  32. Posted by Bookgirl on February 18, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Jennifer: Thank you. A thousand thank yous.

    I was caught up in the Facebook thread and missed your comment.

    I’m glad I backtracked and caught up on it. Keep posting! Please.

    Reply

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