Once upon a time (about 16 years ago), there was an awkward high school-aged girl with really long, frizzy hair and curly 90s bangs who wore overalls and had braces and acne. She didn't know how to wear makeup or do her hair or how to put an outfit together that didn't look like something that rolled out of the pages of a soiled 1990 Rural King catalog. All her friends had Jennifer Anniston haircuts and highlights and knew how to wear makeup and put outfits together, and they got "asked out" by boys. This girl, after one particularly hurtful evening, decided that if she couldn't be pretty, at least she could be interesting. --Which isn't a totally bad way to think, unless you have a really stinky attitude about it; which this girl did. And this girl was me.
My friends Amber and Maddy and I were talking yesterday evening, and we discussed the different places we are in life and our attitudes towards those places. Maddy's in high school and beginning to think about college and what she wants to pursue. Amber is Maddy's mom who is married to Maddy's dad, and teaching at the high school. I'm married and working from home (which is lovely!). We were talking about "if we knew then what we knew now" and how we can hold resentments.
The story of the girl in the first paragraph came up, and I said, "if she only knew then what she knows now, she wouldn't have been so resentful." But then when we started talking about resentments we have now, I started to realize how I may not have really pulled those resentments up by their roots years ago. And this morning, I did some thinking and praying and journaling. And may I just say: ouch.
I've noticed lately that I've been quite a bit more focused on "I gotta do, do, do. Accomplish stuff. Set goals. Meet goals. Don't be lazy." And that's okay I guess, but it's not okay when it's coming from a place that isn't healthy. What I realized is: I've lately been struggling with my self-worth being wrapped up in what I do or produce. And even though it's not exactly the same thing as not being pretty when all my friends are, it has now changed to (and I'm going to just be blunt here) all my friends are having babies and I'm not. And it's looking more and more like that's unlikely to change in the future. (There, I said it. Moving on.) So what do my thoughts turn to now? "If I can't have children, at least I can try to produce something really special and really beautiful." --Which isn't a bad way to think, unless you have a really stinky attitude about it; which this girl has kind of let develop.
What happened in high school with that whole idea? Well, when I made "if I can't be pretty, at least I can be interesting" my mantra (combined with the spice of a nasty attitude), I slowly began to think that all pretty people were boring, which isn't true at all. And I didn't think this on purpose; it just sort of slowly crept in and took a seat. So now, with my self-worth being wrapped up in accomplishing whatever, I'm seeing this same resentment slowly creeping into the crowd of my thoughts and dusting off that old chair before it sits down and gets comfortable. And this time, it isn't about pretty people being boring. It's little whispers that children and babies aren't worth the time like some accomplishments are.
I know. It's horrible. And it's shameful. And I'm embarrassed to admit that I've had those kinds of thoughts and this kind of attitude has crept in without me calling in security.
Something that I think happens with unmet hopes is that after a while, if we don't give them to God, they go bad. When I felt hopeful about being pretty, I loved pretty people. After these hopes went unmet for a long time, I started not wanting to be around pretty people. "Pretty people are boring," I'd grumble. When I felt hopeful about having children, I loved babies. Now, I'm catching myself not wanting to be around babies. "Babies are too much work with no immediate payoff. Plus, they're loud and annoying." Posts from women on social media who complain about their children, the endless stories of no time for one's self / having a meltdown in the bathroom while tiny hands are banging on the door, and the inevitable baby having a tantrum in the store a few aisles over just bolster and reinforce that wall that I've built up that protects me from ever feeling hopeful and then being disappointed ever again. And that same wall also doubles as protection from true contentment, joy, and celebration for others.
Love means having to accept the possibility of hurt and vulnerability. Love without that isn't love at all. If I say no to vulnerability and the possibility of being hurt, I am saying no to love.
This is where unmet hopes need to be turned over to God and repeatedly given at the foot of the cross. Over and over and over again. As many times as it takes, every day. I've realized that personal ultimatums like the ones I made for myself are like sending an RSVP to resentment. Even if they are well-intentioned and start out from a healthy place, that mindset still denotes discontentment and lack, and an attitude of, "well if I can't have this then I'll just take that, thank you very much." But then what if the ultimatum fails? Then I'm left emptier than I was when I started out. What those ultimatums do is put the focus on what I want and what I think I deserve instead of saying, "Thy Will be done," and "be it unto me as it pleases God."
Did things turn out okay after high school? Yes. Better than I could have possibly imagined it.
Will things turn out okay in the future? Yes. Better than I could have possibly imagined it. Because life, when surrendered to the Lord (even when the worst happens), is still better than I could have possibly imagined it. So I'll be working on that.
*Disclaimer* I don't want to sound like a jerk, but please don't comment about the effectiveness of infertility treatments or the many stories about trying for years and then finally having a baby. This is not about that. I'm really okay if that doesn't happen. This is about surrendering to the Lord even when things are not or may not turn out as we had originally planned or hoped, and trading in resentment for contentment and true joy. Thanks, y'all. :)