Gran's Apple Butter Blog

February 7, 2012

Going Home, Excerpt: On The Inside (8VII)

Chapter 8 ~ On The Inside

Of course, Gran’s home was close to spotless – she didn’t keep any dust bunnies around. Gran was the only person I knew who vacuumed every day of the week except Sundays, then walked around picking up specks of link no one else could see. She had grandma eyes. You know – ones that can spot a dirty fingernail a mile away. That comes in handy with dust bunnies.

Gran was smart enough to see her own weakness. She knew keeping her house so clean qualified as a rather large Glaring Error in her quest to step away from perfectionitis. She never encouraged me to sweep my house every day, and I think she was secretly proud that her daughter rebelled against this practice.

In spite of that personal weak spot, or perhaps because of it, Gran had a theory about immaculate houses. She felt pretty sure it simply wasn’t possible to keep a squeaky clean house in this ol’ world and be truly happy and healthy inside it. She’d come to realize that her extreme cleanliness, rather than being a straight shot on up to godliness, was actually more of a cover-up for things she couldn’t hide or hadn’t been ready to change – things she’d had to come to terms with.

True, her house was beautiful – it looked lovely. She was always ready for company, but that made it challenging to spend time indoors. Maybe that’s why we sat on the porch so much. You didn’t want to walk away from your book or plate or knitting or whatever else you might be doing – when you came back, it’d be gone.

After some digging Gran began to see what that house represented to her, and why she was keeping it so carefully, hoping to distract others – especially herself – from what was going on inside. For a long time, she’d thought that if she could keep the outside surfaces spotless, that might make the inside spotless too. Then one day she was reading about the pots of the Pharisees, how they were pretty on the outside in a way that only covered up the darkness within, [i] and it hit her that this sounded a lot like her own home.

It must have hit pretty hard, ‘cause for years to come, Gran’s house was never the same. It looked like a construction zone, and no frilly dust cover was big enough to hide that. She went to work on that house in a very different way, and the end result was a sight to behold, inside and out, the parts you could see and the ones you could only feel. A lot changed. Some of the changes were hard to live through, but she said it was totally worth it, and she only wished she’d started the whole process sooner.

She learned something from all this that she tried hard to teach me. Sometimes we look at others and compare our lives to theirs. We get to feeling sorry for ourselves, complaining that life is so hard, and why this and why that and “it’s not fair.” We look at our neighbor’s big house and perfect family and get a little green twinge inside, thinking, why can’t my life be like that? When this happens, Gran said, it would serve us well to remember her story, or even Tina and Stan’s – the homeless rich girl and the bridge-dwelling king.

Not being one to learn by example, I later found out for myself how right Gran was. The way things appear on the outside may be very different from how they are on the inside, and only those on the inside know what’s really going on. Sometimes the prettiest appearances are just facades, set on display for the world to see. We paint our own walls and don’t even realize we’re doing it.

It takes time – sometimes a long time – to ever see this. At least it did for me. In the process I learned not to look at others and wish my feet were in their shoes. I began to look with my heart as well as my eyes, which made all the difference in the world.

One thing about it, I’ve learned to look past a little dust in my house – the brick-and-mortar one, anyway. Who has time for it? Let’s keep things neat, and relatively clean, but hey – that dust is gonna be back in two or three days, tops. And I’m pretty sure I have more important things to do on the inside of these walls. Those few little dust bunnies lying around, they’ll be ok. I’ll take care of them before they get out of hand.

But for now, I’ll just give ‘em names and make sure they don’t go hungry, and we’ll be pals for a while. And I’m pretty good with that.

[i]Mark 7:1-23, KJV


© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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April 26, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Voices (5/VII)

Filed under: Books,Emotions,Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Gran,Inner Child,Packing,Planning,Preparing,Self-sabotage,Voices — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 10:35 am

Chapter 5 ~ Voices
from Going Home, by Mary Batson

This is also the stage in our journey when we integrate all those voices in our heads that drag us first one way and then the other. Gran said this can be such a big job it almost counts as a whole trip in itself.

Our lives will show us if we need to dig for these voices, Gran said. Maybe we do things we don’t understand, that contradict other things we want to do, or maybe we feel empty inside, like we can’t connect with anything or anyone around us. Maybe we get close to reaching our dream, then at the last minute we pull our punch and walk away. 

If we could hear those voices outright, we could tell them they’re wrong. But until we figure out which voices our subconscious is listening to, where they’re coming from and what they’re saying, we’ll get closer and closer home, Gran said, almost there, and then they’ll yank the rug out from under our feet. It’s called self-sabotage, and we do it all the time, at least until we get those voices figured out.

I didn’t think I had any voices in my head, but Gran said everyone does. They get stuck in there as we grow up, listening to everyone around us talk about how things should be, how we should be, how life should be. They come from our families, our teachers, our friends, headlines at the grocery story, late night TV, and even people we don’t like very much.

Blowing through our minds on whatever wind happens to be prevailing, these voices don’t all agree. One says Go to work, another says Stay home, one says Be a star, the other says Stay small. It’s a wonder we don’t go crazy listening to all that. Generally, we think we’re balancing them quite well, if we’ve even aware of them at all. We’ve listened to these words for so long we start to think we said them – that’s the tricky part.

We work hard to meet the goals of Mr. Over-Achiever (Do more! Do it better! Do it now!), then right as we get to the door of success, something trips us up, and we topple over into the Slough of Despond, never knowing why.[i]  Gran said that’s because we didn’t notice the second voice, Mr. You’ll-Never-Make-it, who snuck in with Mr. Who-Do-You-Think-You-Are and tipped over the ladder we were climbing.

Some of these voices tell us things we needed to hear at one time, Gran said. Some carry beliefs we no longer hold. Others weren’t even meant for us – we just overheard ‘em and invited ‘em in. And some of the voices that were meant for us weren’t necessarily meant for our highest good, or maybe the person behind that voice didn’t really understand what he was saying.

One voice Gran discovered came from her parents. Well-intentioned but wrong, they were teaching her that her body was something to hide, to cover, to control. Gran didn’t remember this as a grown-up, but her inner child sure did. She was still crying about it years later until Gran unlocked that door, rocked her tears away, then took her dancing to celebrate.

Just like our memories, we can’t let go of these voices until we identify them, Gran said – each and every one of ‘em. She’d found three-hundred-and-seventy-two at last count, including some that totally surprised her, and a few that were pretty shocked when she showed up.

Each time we find a new voice, we get to choose whether it rides in the front seat where we can hear it, or in the back, where we can’t, ‘cause you can be sure it’s going to tag along. If we’re smart, we’ll put the helpful ones up front and let the others know they’re on permanent hiatus. They can talk all they want, but we’re not listening.

We can also decide how much room in our suitcase each voice gets. We want to be discriminating, Gran said, ‘cause that suitcase can get awfully heavy when we’re packing for that many people. And if that wind keeps blowing, just roll down the window and let it on through.

[i] One of the traps in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010. All rights reserved.
NOW AVAILABLE: Going Home, The E-Book & Going Home: The Tour LIVE – 2 CD set – Mikey and Gran’s story put to music!

April 13, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Patches (5/VI)

Chapter 5 ~ Patches
from Going Home, by Mary Batson

Remembering our early years was a bigger loose end than she’d realized at first, Gran said. Then she’d remembered those words about becoming like a child to enter the kingdom, and it all made sense. [i]

We want to take our inner child with us on this journey, so we can see through those eyes and love with that heart. At the same time, we also need to parent that child in healthy ways, to meet our emotional needs and make ourselves feel safe, and to encourage ourselves to have fun just because we want to. [ii]

Of course, we also need to be able to say no when our inner child wants a few too many popsicles or decides the road makes a good playground. Sometimes we may even have to give ourselves a time out, Gran said, but before we do that, we need to figure out where these urges are coming from, which ones are fine and dandy and should be honored, and which ones are just a little too ego-based for our own good.

Some of us have maintained this inner connection, and some of us have lost it. Gran’s inner child wasn’t even on speaking terms with her for a long time – wouldn’t look her in the face, that little girl was so angry. She was mad ‘cause Gran was giving all her attention to everyone and everything else in her life – and keeping none of it for herself. Little Gran was determined to make those feelings known in one way or the other – stepping in at all the wrong times and the worst ways, trying to get that grown-up’s attention.

You know kids, Gran said, they’ll do just about anything to get attention when they need it, even hurting themselves in the process. Until we give them that attention, these children within will try to fill this hole with all kinds of things, from big screen TVs and thirty pairs of princess slippers to unhealthy relationships and even unhealthier habits. We try to patch our holes this way, but it only holds so long, ‘cause this isn’t what we really need. Sooner or later that patch will fall off, and we’ll start trying to fill that hole again.

Eventually it may occur to us to look inside, and when we do, we’ll find the perfect patch kit waiting there. Gran thought that’s one thing our imagination was for, to help us fill those holes. We can get really creative with this – there’s no end to all our options.

Gran’s favorite way to make a patch was to go outside to walk in the trees, listen to the birds, and talk to the flowers. Sometimes I’d walk with her, just for fun. She’d talk to a little flower, then she’d stop for a minute with the strangest look on her face – almost like she was listening – like the flower was talking back. I’ll never forget that look.

One of our favorite ways to make a patch together used our ears: We’d listen to music and we’d dance around and sing as loud as we could, whether we knew the words or not. No matter how big that ol’ hole was, before long we’d have a perfect patch glued on, guaranteed-for-life. Of course, if that hole came with a sniffle, sometimes Gran would have me drink some fresh lemon juice or eat a raw onion. But most times plenty of fresh air, sunshine, and good music would work wonders.

For the biggest holes, Gran suggested I try some Serious Breathing, the long, slow, deep kind. This sounded like napping to me, but even that can be pretty good when you need it. Gran practiced her breathing every day, just a few minutes at a time. More than that interfered with her gardening. She’d light a candle to help clear out the cobwebs, and then she’d just breathe and breathe and breathe. She did admit there was a possibility she was napping here and there, though, ‘cause sometimes she’d wake up with beautiful pictures of home in her head.  

Gran’s friend Marnie said that knitting did this for her, while Uncle Bob used tennis shoes and a long straight road. Gran said anything that let you sink down into yourself in some way would work, just like when she and I would fall into a song and be the music.

To me this sounded a lot like prayer, and that was good, ‘cause I had a lot of practice with prayer. I even had a little book with all my favorite ones. Gran said that little book and the times we sang together and talked to flowers was the best cure for a tummy ache and a very good way to tempt your inner child out of the corner she’s had her nose stuck in for so long. And so far, Gran’s usually been right.

[i] Matthew 18:3-4, KJV
[ii] Think about it: When was the last time someone told you to “Go have fun”?

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010. All rights reserved.
NOW AVAILABLE: Going Home, The E-Book & Going Home: The Tour LIVE – 2 CD set – Mikey and Gran’s story put to music!

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