Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My "dirty little secret"

So, today is the day.  I am sucking up all my city driving fears and heading into Portland to meet up with my friend, Helen, who is in the city for a week from Connecticut for a work-related training.

Okay, so that seems pretty normal, right?  Meeting up with a friend who's in my neck of the woods.  Lah-di-dah.

But here's the catch...  I met Helen online.  This is the first time I am meeting her face to face.

And Helen isn't the only online friend I have.  I have about 30 or 40 of them.  And only one other of them - Monica - have I ever gotten together with face-to-face.

Me with Monica the first time we met face-to-face, March 2012

But for some reason, I feel like I need to hide that part of my life.  I feel like it makes me some gigantic geek or something to have this whole bunch of "friends" that I don't actually "know."  I don't feel like I am a giant geek, but I feel like others probably perceive me that way when I share about my "online mommy friends."  So I keep that part of my life, that part of my friendships, largely hidden.

But why should they be?  There is something very deep and very real that I have with those women.  We "met" on a pregnancy forum when we were all pregnant with our now-5 year olds.    We now have nearly 6 years of almost-daily communication.  (And, actually, I have some that I "met" in a parenting group shortly after my now-9 year old was born, too.)  I communicate with them more frequently, and more candidly, than I do most people in my face-to-face life.

Sure, we've discussed poopy diapers and sleepless nights plenty, but what I have with those ladies is deeper, and stronger, and greater than that.  They are some of my closest friends.  We've been through trials and hardships together, and celebrated successes and triumphs together.  We've helped each other through deaths of loved ones (including a sudden death of a spouse), divorces, depression, and financial hardships.  We've celebrated each other's births, career successes, weight loss, and personal triumphs.  We've been shoulders to cry on, and best friends to laugh with.

When one of them was going through severe depression, we sent a care package to her to cheer her up.  When one needed money to help with lawyer fees, we pooled our resources and helped out.  And when I was going through a financial hardship, I posted about how difficult things were, only to have one of them send me the hugest box of clothes for my girls that I'd ever seen.  (The postage alone cost nearly $40!)  We literally put our money where our mouths are.  We aren't just friends, we're friends who take care of each other.  If one is struggling, the rest come along and help out.  Its just who we are and how we operate.  My "online" friends have some of the biggest hearts.

Yet, I still feel like if I talk about these friends, I won't be taken seriously.  So I usually don't.

I realize I don't owe anyone an explanation about my friends; about how I know them and what they mean to me.  But I feel like I owe it to them to treat them with the same pride and value I would treat any other friend.  Especially because they have been more to me than a lot of other people.  On some of my worst days, they have been my rock.

So, now my "dirty little secret" is out.  I have online friends.  There.  I said it.

And I love them dearly.  They are some of my favorite people.  Yes, how we met may be unorthodox.  It may even make me a major geek.  But they're still my friends in every sense of the word, so why should I even care how others perceive me or them or the friendship we have?

So I am done hiding them.  They are who they are, and how I "know" them is how I know them.  If people want to have a problem with that, that's their deal.  If people want to judge who we are and the very real friendship we have with one another, then its only because they can't grasp the depth of what we have.  But I assure you, it is real.  My friends are real people who are really awesome!

So.....  Karen, Ally, Julia, Andrea, Kim, Sarah C., Sarah S., Sara D., Charity, Mandi, Stacey, Bree, Tammy, Erin, Michelle, Julie, Taryn, Jen, Helen, Lori, Brit, Caroline, Monica, Teresa, Donna, Katie, Amanda M., Amanda T., Rachel, Jaime U., Jaime D., Jaime J. (yep, there are 3 Jaimes!), Christine, Betsy, Danielle, Lisa, Leah, and Allison.....this one's for you!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Love is... Love isn't...

I have already touched on this topic a bit in my earlier posts, "Mr. Hyde Sits In That Pew" and "...Or For Worse.  In Sickness...," but I feel the need to address it again, and in more depth.

There seems to be a prevalent, and ever-growing, issue among the men of my generation.  Men seem to believe it is okay to treat their wives like dirt.  They think it is okay to threaten them, to hurt them, to use words as weapons against them, to make them feel small and worthless, to try and take their power and sense of worth away....

What is this?

Its hypermasculinity.  Its manipulation.  Its a power trip.

Its abuse.

It is not love.

The things I hear some women that are near and dear to my heart tell me that their spouses/partners say and do to them is heart breaking.  It makes me want to knock some sense into these men.  Today, I heard more stories from more women, and so I felt the need to get my thoughts on this topic out, because it seems like too few people give this issue a voice.  Nobody is speaking up, and I believe that allows it to keep happening.  We turn a blind eye, we ignore the problem, we don't know what to say or how to say it, and the very topic makes us squirm.  So we remain silent.  And our silence says it is okay.

But its not.

Now, that isn't to say that there aren't men who get it right.  I know a lot of men who treat their women well.  I know a lot of men who love and respect their wives and treat them with the care and concern they deserve.  And I am lucky enough to be married to a pretty darn awesome guy.  He's not perfect by any means, but he's a good guy.

But even one man who doesn't treat his woman well, is one man too many.

Sure, even the best men get angry sometimes and say things they regret.  We women do it, too.  We're all still human.  We're all still married to people who bug us.  Its human nature, its marriage.  But there are lines you just do not cross.  Ever.

If you ever threaten bodily harm, whether you ever actually follow through or not, whether its meant in jest or not, you have crossed a line.

If you tell your spouse they're worthless, you've crossed a line.

If you deny your spouse their dream, you've crossed a line.

If you send threatening texts, you've crossed a line.

If you call them a terrible parent, you've crossed a line.

If you tell your spouse they'd be better off dead -- whether by your hand, their own, or an outside circumstance -- you've crossed a line.

....And the list could go on and on.

What I don't understand, though, is this.  This is a person you, at one time, stood before God and others with and pledged a promise to.  You promised to love, honor, and cherish them.  You promised to treat them with your utmost love and respect.  For life.

And now, here you are, a few years down the road, screaming in her face that she's a worthless piece of garbage?!

What changed?  When did you start believing that?  And what, when, and how did you decide you should verbalize and/or act on that?!  Where did that promise go?  Where did that love go?

And don't you dare say its her fault!  You, sir, are responsible for your own actions!  If you are being ruthless, that's nobody's fault but your own, and you should be ashamed of yourself!

To quote 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

"Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

Patience.  Kindness.  Humility.  Honor.  Forgiveness.  Honesty.  Protection.  Trust.  Hope.  Perseverance.  Those are the things love is made of.

Short tempers.  Ruthlessness.  Pride.  Rigidity.  Unforgiveness.  Dishonesty.  Disregard for others.  Suspicion.  Despair.  Hopelessness.  Force.  Control.  Those are borne out of hatred.

If you love someone, then you treat them with respect.  You treat them with honor, and kindness, and protection.  If you truly love someone, you don't treat them badly.  You consider their feelings, you esteem their worth, you value their intelligent input, and you consider them a worthwhile human being and treat them as such.

You can't treat the woman you claim to love with actions of hatred.  If you truly love her, then act like it.  If you hate her, then set her free, and spare her, and your children, the fear, pain, and heartache of living under the same roof as an unpredictable, tryrannical dictator.

And while we're on the topic of being a father...  You can't claim to be a good dad and treat the mother of your child(ren) like dirt.  Whether married or divorced, it doesn't matter.  You are setting an example for your kids.  If you treat the mother of your son(s) like garbage, how do you expect him to grow up and treat his wife?  And if you treat the mother of your daughter(s) like garbage, then what type of man do you expect her to marry one day?  If you want a positive outcome for your own kid(s), then you have to model what its supposed to look like with your own actions.  Because if you are an abusive man, and your sons end up being abusive men and/or your daughters end up in abusive relationships, then you are primarily to blame for that.  So no, you cannot call yourself a good father while modeling hateful, abusive behavior to your kids.

Men, seriously, you need to do better.  Your women deserve better.  Not because we're perfect, but because you promised us at the altar that you'd be a man we could always count on and feel safe with.  And because you promised to treat us with love, not hate.  And you need to do better by your kids.  Otherwise, the cycle will continue.  And it can't continue.  It needs to stop.  Right now.  With our generation.

So after reading this, if you need to change your ways, change them.  If you need to apologize to your wife, do it.  Suck up your pride and do it.  And then, do better.  Speak better.  Speak kinder.  If you need to set a better example for your kids, then start right now.  If you need counseling or anger management, put your selfish, foolish pride aside and go.  Don't keep putting it off.  Go.  If you value your wife, your kids, and your marriage, then do it.  Do whatever you have to do to be a better man.

And this can go for the wives, too.  If you need to change your tune, too, then do it.  Marriage is a two-way street.  Its not all on them to make all the changes necessary to make it work.  We have to be willing to do the hard work and make the hard changes, too.

And to those of you men who get it right -- to those of you who treat your wives with the love, respect, honor, and care you promised them -- my hat's off to you.  You guys seriously rock!  Keep on doing what you're doing!