It's a topic that's been on my mind for a week now, and today when I told one of my sons I was going to address it, he asked me why. I tried to explain what was brewing in my head, but he wisely pointed out that if my purpose was to change some hearts, it probably wasn't going to happen. Because some people are bent on being critical no matter what you do - and those people don't want to change. They can't see reason, which is probably the reason they are so negative in the first place.
So in my brain I erased this post and tried to forget about it.
But here I sit at the computer, and the words and thoughts are still lingering in a small corner of my mind, and usually the only way I sort through things completely is to write it all down.
So here I go...and if I don't end up hitting publish, at least I got it off my chest in my draft folder :)
On our trip to California last week I spent a lot of time checking email, etc. on the road...we drove eight hours each day, and I was trying to get my mind off my jumping legs (blame it on the genes- my mom and grandma suffered from restless leg syndrome and graciously passed this curse onto me).
Towards the end of the first leg (ugh!) of the trip I checked my site meter for Lily's blog. It's a little gadget I have that keeps track of visitors, page views, etc. and it's just a cool way to find out who is visiting your blog and where they came from. I don't check it often, but I was bored...so I saw maybe ten hits (out of two thousand...) from an online site named GOMI - an acronym for get off my internet. (*side note - this is just like me. Ignore the two thousand and tune into the ten.) The link the visitors were coming from had key words that made me curious- it was the name of one of my blogging friends, and it had the word "snark" in it. I wondered why in the world people would be coming from that site, and why my blog was linked with the word "snark" and this particular blogger. So I followed the links back.
What I found were over 200 comments from women snarking on this particular blogger- disecting everything from her daughter's first-day-of-school outfit to her "fan girls" on instagram. They discussed all their feelings about her without restraint, and some predicted all kinds of ugliness for her future. I should have stopped when I understood the tone of this discussion...this wasn't a place of constructive criticism or even just "recreational gossip". It was hurtful, sometimes slanderous, and really just a lot of wasted dialogue. But my (stupid) curiosity got the best of me, and I kept reading- and found my name and my blog mixed into this "small snark".
I felt my cheeks burning as I read some comments directed at the size of our family, what church my husband pastors- someone had looked up my husband's name and posted a link to our fellowship of churches...someone else took portions of my birth story and copied them and commented that it was remarkably similar to this other blogger. (We had babies the same week and neither one of us knew our daughters would have Down syndrome. I'm willing to bet there are quite a few birth stories that sound similar to ours out there, and I promise I didn't plan Lily's birth and my reaction to reflect someone else's experience. Especially when mine happened before hers.) There were other negative comments, and I recognized one of the women as someone who left a comment here a few weeks ago completely misinterpreting a humorous post I wrote. I stopped reading and left a comment myself (another mistake) sort of defending myself and our family and saying I was sorry I had followed my site meter over.
The next morning I went back to delete my comment - I had slept well at the hotel that night and woke up feeling foolish to have even engaged in that forum. I couldn't find a way to delete my comment, but I did read a few of the responses to mine- one that stood out was simply "get over yourself."
And thus the title of my post.
I've come to a conclusion since reading those words - get over yourself.
She was right.
Maybe it wasn't the nicest choice of words, but that commenter said something that I needed to hear.
Because I really do need to stop focusing on myself. I really do.
I'm just being honest- that handful of comments on some random website had me wanting to quit blogging for a few hours. And as silly as it sounds, it made me want to quit doing anything that "puts our family out there" that would invite criticism. Including ministry, etc.
Because that is how completely over-the-top I respond to criticism, and it has always been the way I respond to negativity. Since I was a little girl I have always had a very, very hard time receiving correction, even when it comes in the most carefully worded conversation. I'm a perfectionist, and as such, I see any words that hold a threat of imperfection as a complete discrediting of anything good in my life.
I have a hard time - a very hard time - seeing the silver linings in life.
I've known this for a long time- prolonged thinking patterns like this can cause really ugly things...anxiety, depression, anger, guilt...and it can make for an unhappy marriage, and an unhappy mama, and an unhappy life. That all-or-nothing mentality is something I have had to daily surrender to God, and I have had to specifically ask Him to help me overcome it. It bleeds over into so many areas in life, and it can ruin a perfectly good day...many perfectly good days...until all I see are the dark clouds hanging above my life instead of the sun shining through in the midst of everything.
I really do believe that having Lily helped me so much- whether God intended that to happen or it just did, the truth is I have changed so much since her birth. It's hard to uphold an image of "the perfect mama" when you're struggling so hard to overcome grief. It's hard for someone who loves to have everything in order reconcile her expectations with a child who has extreme limitations, no matter how much I fight against those. Lily is who she is, and I cannot get past her extra chromosome no matter how hard I try. I can give her every single tool I discover to help her in life, but I will never ever make her "normal" - and I say that using the world's standard of normal.
And maybe some of the grieving we do as parents of children with special needs has to do with our own expectations, and our own feelings of limitation. Maybe some of it is that we just need to get over ourselves. I'm not saying there isn't a very real place for grief for the child we thought we were going to have... and the hurt we feel because we just don't want our children to struggle. And when that "magical extra chromosome" comes with a host of medical complications, of course there is cause for fear or stress or disappointment. Nobody hopes for that for their child.
But as far as the other part of grief- the part of me that maybe didn't want to be associated with special needs, didn't want to be "one of those moms", the part that just likes to go quietly unnoticed in life without ever having to deal with people staring or making rude comments or even the part that doesn't like for anyone to think anything negative about me or my family - that's the part that needs to get over herself.
And when I come back to the feeling of wanting to quit - that reaction to a handful of negative comments about me and my blog - what I'm faced with is why am I doing this anyway ? If it's about me, and how everybody perceives me and my family, then I should quit. We are busy enough, we put ourselves out there all the time just being in the ministry, and in all humility and honesty- I'm not that great at blogging anyway :) I'm too politically incorrect, too much into Jesus, too much of an amateur at writing, photography, etc...I'm just a mom.
But I'm also just foolish enough to put myself out there believing that God can use "just a mom" to help change the world. However pessimistic I tend to be, I have just enough of the-glass-is-always-full spirit in me to believe that you don't have to be perfect at this to accomplish something.
After all, Lily's readers have raised over $125,000 to help save orphans with Down syndrome. That's a pretty big deal to me.
Maybe some of you are like me, not high fliers, just moms trying to do the best they can with their families, and squeezing in some time to do something outside their typical sphere of influence. Or maybe like me you have a small blog but a big desire to advocate for Down syndrome or other special needs. Maybe you don't have a blog, but you read and donate and pray and take time to invest yourself in a cause greater than yourself. Maybe you too struggle with trying to "get over yourself" but a lot of times you find yourself just getting in the way.
Last week I had the privilege of meeting one of the orphans I helped fundraise for. I've watched a lot of orphans come home via the internet since I started blogging, but this was the first opportunity I've had to meet one in person. We dropped Mackenzie off at her friend Ashley's house on our return trip from California two Fridays ago, and I got to hold little Kamdyn for a few minutes before we got back on the road.
She was the sweetest little angel, and the whole time I was holding her I kept thinking how ridiculous it was that I let a few little "snarks" affect me the way I did. Really? In the big scheme of things, do I really care that much about what people think about me, that I would let it influence my whole outlook on life? On blogging, on my children, on our family size, on the ministry, on Down syndrome advocacy ? How foolish.
And when I came home to read sweet Jessie's email about the birth of her beautiful little girl Emma, I was so filled with shame. There are people really, truly going through tragedy in life- suffering that is unspeakable, and undoable without the grace of God. And I'm going to sit around feeling sorry for myself because of some negative comments about my blog.
Get over myself indeed.
And I wish I could say that little incident on our trip was the only time I have wanted to quit everything in the face of negativity. But as I said above, this has been a constant battle for me...getting over myself. Those comments weren't the first time I've read or heard rude remarks about myself or our family, and I'm sure they won't be the last. God help me to have the heart of a child, and the hide of a rhinoceros throughout life, and to recognize self pity and stop it in its tracks. God help me to get over myself. There are bigger issues in life than what other people think about me.
So there you have it. My thoughts spilling out onto the keyboard in a jumbled mess, but I do feel better now that they're here. And maybe I won't change any hearts out there, but the heart that needed to change sure feels better right now.
GOMI cats if you're reading this- thank you. Point taken, lesson learned.
|laura, lily, and kamdyn |
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about these things.