I gotta say….the mid-thirties are a good place to live. I’ve slowly noticed the absence of the self-doubt and comparisons with other peoples’ lives that plagued me in my 20’s. If asked at the time, I wouldn’t have owned up to struggling with such demons, but now in their absence (well, mostly) I see that they were indeed there.
I think my insecurity most surfaced in explaining and justifying. The explanations and justifications always have an unstated, unspoken message, don’t they?
I work part-time because_____. (Please don’t judge me for not staying home full time.)
My children sleep in a crib because __________. (Please don’t judge me that I don’t let my baby sleep in my bed.)
We send our kids to public school because _________. (Please don’t think I don’t love Jesus because I don’t homeschool. Please don’t assume that I don’t participate in the education of my children.)
We homeschool because ___________. (Please don’t assume I think other schooling choices are inferior.)
Yes, we are foster parents. My kids are gaining value from the experience because _______. (Please don’t insinuate I’m neglecting my birth children.)
We choose to vaccinate our children because _________. (Please don’t assume I haven’t considered the options.)
Ugh. I can hear myself having those conversations with so many people over the past decade. Half of them must have been thinking “Why the heck are you telling me this, you crazy lady? I just asked where your kids went to school….”
I know now that the “Why the heck are you telling me this….??” question is answerable. Why did I do all that explaining? Well. We all crash into those people that say hurtful, judgmental things. Depending on the source, those hurtful words can leave a pretty big impact. I do not like conflict. I do not like to be disliked. I do not like to feel like people are making unfair assumptions about me or my family. So my explaining every decision in my life was an attempt at protecting myself from those assumptions. And it was probably all futile anyway. Did I really think I could explain our choices enough to ensure that no one would ever think they were the wrong choices? That’s crazy. But I think that was at the heart of all my talk, talk, talking.
I’m learning to be more succinct in my answers; and the best part of that, is that it leaves me more time to really listen to someone else’s story. I’m approaching age 37 next month. Here’s to justifying less and listening more in my 37th year!