How Much is Too Much?

I often add kids into my stories, and I guess it’s because in spite of the fact that mine are all grown now, there are still issues. I use these issues all the time in relationships in my books. I weave in situations that we’ve gone through before that they may not even remember, but have left a mark on me.

It’s not true, that rumor floating around that empty nesting is a real thing. They never leave home, not really. Not that I mind, quite the contrary, I love having them around. Except when those pesky issues pop up and remind me how human we are, how prone to hurt and offense; how weak and insensitive we can be when expressing ourselves to those that really matter.

My two daughters and their babies

It’s so easy, isn’t it, to enjoy those fleeting partnerships we run across in life, be it peer groups or social clubs or Bible studies or church attendees or professional colleagues. We can chat and talk about surface things, smile and laugh, and enjoy ourselves, then leave. Poof. Light, airy, effortless, most of the time. We pretend that we are really close with these people; have deep relationships with them, but we don’t. Deep applies to the family relationships that grow and change over years, decades, lifetimes. These relationships take gut level honesty, a crap-ton of prayer, an ability to forgive, a desire to stop resentment in its tracks, and take a stand. To know, intimately, that the relationship will change and grow, and this is messy and often results in a breach if not managed in love and kindness.

But what I want to know is…how much is too much?

When is it time to stop offering sage wisdom and parental advice?

When is it time to stop offering love and counsel as only a parent can?

Is it ever time to stop wanting to protect? To help a grown kid avoid a pothole so big and so wide that it could have ripple effects over his or her entire life?

Me with two of my kids and my husband at my book launch party in February!
My son and his kids

I’m struggling with these questions right now. My parents were the hands-off variety. Not much meaningful interaction whatsoever… but they were great in the arena of financial support, and their marriage lasted (which is wonderful) but as far as relationship…including much- needed instruction about things like right and wrong….pretty much non-existent. I heard over and over, “you’ll figure it out.” Um, no. I didn’t. Until I’d gone through so many emotionally muddy situations that I finally joined a group that helped me understand my weirdness. My interesting reactions to situations. My crazy fear that something awful was going to happen. These kinds of filters mess us up on many levels.

So, due to this background, I suppose; I’m willing to risk rejection from my grown children in order for them to have information that is an option to choices they make that I feel could be damaging. I’m very big on prevention. But, I’ve found, over time, that this is intrusive and counter-productive to our relationship. I think the cut-off is about 35 for instruction and direction. After that, it appears a parent is just being judgmental. Selfish. Prideful. Many other adjectives that have been batted around that I won’t mention. (Parents of grown-ups, do I see you nodding your heads out there? Thought so.)

So how much is too much?

When is it ever time to stop caring, stop investing, stop growing in relationship, stop doing life together? There are often differences of opinions and lifestyles and politics, ad infinitum. When one or both parties stop listening and start accusing, it’s often a slide into a place from which there is no turning back. Lines are drawn. Teeth are bared. Stubbornness drives a stake in the sand. This is when deep…gets hard. This is when decisions must be made…our own way? Or love? Being right? Or learning from each other’s differences and personality quirks and moving on?

So how much is too little?

How much is too little caring, too little loving, too little mentoring? How much is too little relating to each other, too little kindness, too little gentleness, too little believing the best of each other? Is there a beautiful middle ground where offenses and insults and resentments can be thrown off? Where healing and reconciliation take the place of stubborness and pride?

I think there is.

I’m not sure where, but it’s there somewhere. I’m determined to find it.

Got Inspiration?

So, today, the Level Best Authors promotion group I’m a part of had their first joint post on a host blog. The question we all answered was ‘where do you get your inspiration and idea for the story?’ The short answer is, all over the place!

99.9% of the time, my inspiration comes from someone who has related an experience so engaging and intriguing that it has to have a place somewhere in my book. Or in the case of my latest book, a conversation with a stranger led to the entire story! Read about it here. We are so often afraid of approaching others, or taking deep dives in conversation with people we don’t know very well, aren’t we? Perhaps even more so now that the masking has occurred. I’m hoping hugs and deep-seated conversations will resume once we return to an unmasked society, but in the meantime it’s a bit harder to ferret out inspiration as an author, because gatherings have become distanced. Both physically and emotionally.

People are so interesting, and have so many stories. And in the current climate in America, I would assume there’s a lot of loneliness and longing for connection. Even though it feels alien and awkward, I appreciate the technology that allows us to stay in touch or have events and meetings in spite of the distancing required in person. I now have roughly three ZOOM events or calls a week, and more on the horizon. I’m pretty comfortable with the technology now, but I’m wondering if this is a precursor of what our society as a whole is embracing in the future? It is a scary prospect to me.

Give me a good, lively conversation with someone new and I’ll leave with four or five ideas for characters or stories or scenes. But sadly, our deep conversations are muted at present, and we must slog through this ‘new normal’ with resolve and hope. Americans are not ones to live their lives behind masks, and I trust that, like most viruses, this one will recede and we can tiptoe back to those interesting conversations and friendly smiles. In person.

To read our joint posts about idea inspiration for authors on ‘The Wickeds’ blog, click here.

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Pre-order my latest book, The Deadening, here. Available on Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop, B&N.com

Olivia Callahan’s quiet, orderly life is shattered when she regains consciousness in a hospital and discovers she is paralyzed and cannot remember a thing. The fragmented voices she hears around her help her piece together that an apparent assault landed her in the hospital, but nobody knows who attacked her, or why. After a chilling struggle to survive, she awakens from a coma unable to remember what happened to her or anything at all, except she has been told she is an entirely different person. Or is she?
         Now, in spite of a brain injury that has rewired her personality, Olivia is on a mission to reclaim her life. As clarity surfaces and she starts to understand who she was, she is shocked. Had she really been that person? And if so, does she want her old life back?

Messes and Milestones

2019 was a mess.

I’ve read and re-read my journal entries for the year, amazed at the messes, encouraged by the forward motion in spite of. Last year’s blog post around this time reflected my broken, angry heart. This year, I’m resting in the knowledge that my frail attempts at fixing things is laughable at best and God is patiently waiting for me to take my hands off situations and let Him work.

I’ve made a habit of prayerfully considering an attribute to shoot for, a word to measure my personal and spiritual growth each year. 2019’s word was ‘hope’.

Boy, did I ever need it. My weak and selfish humanity did not have the strength to trot the addict in my life off to another couple of rehabs; nor did it have the strength to list fear imageand sell a house, then pack and arrange a huge move. It didn’t have the strength to nurse-maid a husband’s recovery from shoulder surgery, nor did it have the wisdom to help a daughter navigate through a tragic miscarriage, another scary pregnancy and a brain injury when her baby was born. It didn’t particularly enjoy the heart-wrenching disappointment of losing a publishing contract after two years of fighting for one because the publisher decided to close its doors, or the dark discouragement that followed.

It was not a year I wanted to showcase on Facebook, where life seems grand all the time. In truth, we all struggle with individual battles and hole up in our “emotionally unavailable” closets from time to time.

 

thunderstorm-6.jpgGod never promises us a life without messes. He did however, promise to be with us through them, and use them to help us grow in grace, perseverance, patience, gentleness and kindness if we seek Him with a mind to ask for help. As I’ve looked back over the years, my life is messy but it is also full of fabulous milestones. Milestones that I couldn’t have accomplished in my own strength. As I whined about the messes and asked him for help, God gave me His strength for my weakness, His mercy for my harshness, His perseverance for my longing to give up, His forgiveness for others who had offended me when I had no idea how to forgive.

I am so thrilled to report that in spite of my attempts to ‘fix’ things in 2019, the addict in my life is out of rehab, on the road to real recovery. Though nervous about it, my husband and I moved into a new home that has turned out to be a bigger blessing than we could’ve ever imagined, my daughter’s baby miraculously recovered and at this point is happy, healthy and perfect, and my husband’s shoulder is healing nicely. These are big ‘wins’ for sure, but the milestones (actions or events marking significant changes or stages in development) they represent are even bigger. Milestones of increased faith, which means less hand-wringing and more trust. Milestones of less self-effort and paying more attention to  God’s signpostsspring-3.jpg along the way. Milestones of less anxiety and hopelessness. More reliance on the truth of God’s awesome promises and less reliance on voices shouting at us to be more, buy more, do more. 2019 was a year of big messes, but fortunately, the bigger the mess, the bigger the milestone. He promises to uses everything (even the failures) for good in our lives, and I believe it.

This year my word is ‘authentic’. A meaning of this word I like is “not false or copied genuine; real. Representing one’s true nature or beliefs; true to oneself.” I want to avoid the exhausting task of trying to be the person that everyone else needs or wants me to be. My goal for 2020 is to care more what God requires of me than about what people expect of me.

Should be quite messy.

I sense a bunch more milestones coming up!