Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The End of the Innocence

I remember very distinctly the evening when I lost my innocence. No, I don’t mean that kind of innocence. I mean the innocence of youth. The innocence of a life led freely without consequences.

I was visiting a good friend of mine during the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college. I looked up to her and, quite frankly, would have traded my life for hers in a nanosecond. She was a cheerleader in high school, was popular, had a boyfriend, and smart. She was confident and strong. I felt that in many ways she was everything that I was not.

M had just gotten home from the hospital after having an abdominal surgery a few days before. Her mother had agreed to let me take her to a movie that afternoon. We went to see Ghost. We both enjoyed the movie, but the demons kind of freaked M out. I then took her out for ice cream. That was a mini-mistake. Her mother had expected us right back after the movie was over. She was a strict woman to say the least. After our tongue lashing, we spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the hood of my car talking.

It was a pleasantly warm that day and as the sun started to set, the breeze picked up and was so refreshing. The sky was so beautiful. I can honestly say it is the only sky I can remember in my head with the exception of two others: the sky over Cape Canaveral when Challenger blew up and the sky on the morning of 9/11/01. I’m in no way comparing my loss of innocence to those tragedies. I just find it interesting that such major events are connected in my heart by the sky.

Looking back, M was trying to figure out whether or not to tell me the entire story behind her surgery the entire afternoon. I was just rambling on about nothing in my usual manner while she was more contemplative than usual. Finally, when our time was running short, she told me her story. She would not have known about the rather large ovarian cyst that she just had removed had the nurses at the clinic not been required to take an ultrasound to ensure that a pregnancy isn’t too advanced before performing an abortion.

Abortion? That word hit my ears like a bolt of lightening. M had an abortion? M, the same friend I considered to be the rhythm method guru (we’d had many discussions about how that worked and what I would have needed to do if my relationship with K had reached that point). M had it all together. How did this happen? Abortions wasn't supposed to happen to people like her. She is such a disciplined person. She’s a stickler for details and so thorough. That’s something that would have happened to me had I been lucky enough to be sexually active in the first place. As the sun finally set, I physically felt myself age. Life was no longer just some fun game. Just hearing that story from such a close friend opened my eyes to the divide there was between my youth and adulthood. I couldn’t jump back over and adulthood wasn’t all that I hoped it would be.

Through the conversation, M and I cried together a lot. I was thankful in my heart that she didn’t tell me about what happened until after it was over. I didn’t know how I would have responded if she had asked me to go with her. From a purely religious standpoint, I wasn’t raised as someone who would ever step foot inside an abortion clinic. Wouldn’t that make me just like the men who brought the adulterer to Jesus with rocks in their hands waiting to stone her? What good is having principles when there is no love behind them? I hope that I would have been a supportive friend who would have been there to hold her hand if only she asked me. After all, this wasn’t about me at all. It was about M, and her very painful decision.

Today, I am glad that I was that supportive friend to her that night on the hood of my car. I’m glad that I never told her how held her due date, January 30, in my heart. I’m glad that I’ll never tell her that I have been thinking all day about how that child would be on pins and needles at the DMV today. As I get older, I realize that I’m not so much keeping a vigil for the child who never was as I am for the child I would never be again. Adult life is complicated and you can’t go back. I hope I can convince my daughters to cherish every beautiful blue sky and every glorious sunset before the responsibilities and consequences of life knock on their doorstep. Innocence is something to treasure, not something to throw away. But how can a child ever know that until it is too late?

Friday, January 26, 2007

The "Weight" of Guilt

During my quick trip to Grand Rapids a couple of weekends ago I had the most wonderful opportunity to spend some time with Trista. I love her children. Abby and Ethan made me feel so special while I was there. Still, having time for just the two of us to talk face to face was priceless. We discussed the things that have been concerning each of us. During the conversation, Trista gave me something priceless: she affirmed my need to attend a church other than the Catholic Church for the time being. It’s just not healthy for me right now. While she grew up focusing on the love of Christ, I apparently only caught on the rules and regulations to which I just can’t meet. How can two people grow up going to the same church, having mostly the same religion teachers and have two opposite views of their faith? Your family is just as – if not more – important in forming such things as the institution itself.

I attended a local United Methodist Church on Sunday. The topic of the sermon was losing the “weight of guilt.” If that’s not a sign from God that I should be there, I don’t know what would be. It was a good service and to top it all off, Danny watched the girls that morning so I was able to concentrate fully. What I found the most interesting was how universal the causes of unnecessary guilt (condemnation) really are. Does everyone’s mother know how to stick it to them? Apparently it’s not just a mother/daughter thing. Where do these issues of perfectionism come from? The song/prayer at the end of the sermon was really nice. It didn’t get rid of my issues, but I am on the right path. That feels good.

One of Danny’s co-workers, A, attends this same church with her family. We talked for a few minutes after the service and that was really nice. She invited me to her Sunday school class this Sunday. I look forward to seeing how that goes. I’m hoping that it will feel like a good fit to me, too.

On a somewhat related topic, I’ve recommitted to my weight loss program on Tuesday. I went through all of the Weight Watchers Tools for Living and wrote down my thoughts and feelings. I’ve been drinking a quart of water a day and have been following the Quick Start guidelines somewhat loosely. Hopefully seeing some quick results will boost my motivation. A co-worker and I started doing a Leslie Sansone 10 minute walking burst once a day (we got the routine from a magazine). We hope to work up to three times a day, but we’re not pushing our bodies or ourselves. We don’t want to do ourselves in by attempting to do everything at once. I think that we’re being smart.

I’m already seeing some results. Today I had an extremely stressful morning. I didn’t drink my water right away like I had the days before, I had a fair amount of M&Ms from a co-worker’s candy machine, and although I chose a Panini with portabella mushrooms (not a fatty meat), it was still pretty darn fatty. About a half hour after I ate, my body gave me a gentle, yet noticeable message that what I ate had too much fat. My tummy is certainly getting used to healthier eating pretty quickly. Now, if I had been dieting before and ate only those M&Ms, the whole day would be considered shot to hell – if not the rest of the week or month for that matter. After the gentle reminder from my stomach, I reminded myself of what I really wanted. I filled up my water jug and started getting in my daily requirement. Just because I hadn’t started as soon as I got into work doesn’t mean that it was too late for that. And, as much as I didn’t feel like doing our 10 minute walking burst, I did it. That was a good thing, too. It was much, much easier today than the two days before. I’m making progress there, too. I’ve conquered my first meeting with my “all or nothing” enemy and I’m noticed some really nice progress. Tonight I’m going to get a turkey sub at Subway and start all over again tomorrow. What I’ve gained inside is worth so much more than what those M&Ms and Panini might have cost me in calories.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Begin the Begin

This first post of The Jennifer Tree is lovingly dedicated to my good blogger girlfriend, DD. She has been a source of support for a while now and helped me come up with this blog's title. As soon as she lets me know her favorite type of candy bar, it will be in the mail. Thanks, DD!

After careful thought and consideration, I have named my new blog: The Jennifer Tree. It's a combination of me, Our Shady Tree (my family), and the most influential album of my life. To me, this name signifies the joy that I already have in my life, the peace and happiness I've been fighting for and the hope that someday this will all make sense.

As it did from the very beginning, The Joshua Tree calms me, soothes my sorrows and fears, and makes me happy to be a part of the human race. Whether or not I'm kin to a monkey I'll let others debate. Knowing that what I experience when I listen to this album affirms my faith in God. No other creature has the gift of transending reality through art. It speaks to me in ways I cannot put into words. I will be forever greatful for the gifts of melody of The Edge's guitar and Bono's voice and lyrics.

Our Shady Tree was intended as a way to keep my scattered loved ones in touch with my children. What it became was a voice for the struggles I have encountered. Both of those ideas are important. I just feel the need to keep them separate. Just as I am more than a wife and mother, my family is much greater than my depression and anxiety. Who I am and what I feel will always be connected to my family and vice versa. Separating them here allows me to focus on one or the other and gives my readers a much clearer idea of what they might find. We'll see what happens. When you stop experimenting with life, you've put one foot in the grave (or urn for all of you cremating types).