It’s been 29 years and one day since I decided to grace the planet with my presence. Okay, it wasn’t exactly my decision… but here I am… and what does the world have to show for it? What have I accomplished in these 29 years?
I’ve learned to walk. Learned to talk (I’m really good at that). I’ve even learned how to talk with my hands… and not just gestures, either. I can feed and dress myself and I can even ride a bike.
Seriously, though, since my 23rd, I’ve tried to sit down on each birthday and take stock of where I’ve been, where I’m at, and where I want to go. Usually it’s been pretty shallow stuff. The kind of thing you would write on a goals sheet in a college class they make you take your freshman year: get married (check). Start a family (check check check check). Learn another language (check). Travel abroad (check)… Usually it’s been an opportunity to look around and see how blessed I am… externally. This year is a bit different because the blessings I’m counting this year aren’t tangible and probably no one but those closest to me even see them.
First a bit of a rant…
If you’re reading this, chances are you know me at least in the virtual world. You probably know that my husband is a preacher and you probably picked up on the fact that we’re very much in love after nearly 11 years. Nevertheless, I’m not always crazy about being married to a preacher. Not because of anything to do with him, but because of the expectations that get put on me because of who he is, or rather, because of what he does.
Frequently, when someone from our congregation introduces me to someone else, they’ll say something like “This is Erynn. She’s our Preacherswife” (no, that’s not a typo. All one word… capitalized… as though it were a title or a position). I hate it because of the expectations, the stereotypes, the images that come with it. Sometimes when I meet people on my own, I avoid the topic of what my husband does. It’s not because I’m ashamed of what Jeremy does. I’m proud of his choice and even more proud of who he is and what he’s overcome to do the work he does. The problem is the change that people take on when they hear Jeremy is a minister. The lady who had a sailor’s mouth two seconds ago is now telling me all about how she teaches Sunday school and never ever misses a service. Or worse… someone with a real problem who was opening up to me and who I might have been able to help suddenly clams up because they think I’ll judge them for being short of perfect. The biggest problem I have with the whole idea of the Preacherswife is internal though.
Against my better judgment, I bought into this Preacherswife notion and because of it, I lost me. I decided that I needed to fit into that mold and that anything else wasn’t okay… might even be sinful. The Preacherswife is proper, an excellent chef and baker, dresses well, wears her full-face of makeup even to the gym and has perfectly coiffed hair 24/7. She listens to quiet jazz, hosts tea parties, and does cross stitch while she sits in her favorite chair singing hymns. She merrily pops out of bed at 5:30 sharp every morning, and has a perfect spread of a meal on the table at 5:00 every night. Her house is always company-ready, her children are always in perfectly pressed outfits. In short, she is perfect… … … but I am not.
I’m not proper; I’m loud and a touch crazy. I’m sarcastic and I like to think I’m witty too. I do happen to be pretty handy in the kitchen, but no one will accuse me of dressing well. I dress in clothes I like or just happen to have. The concept of an “outfit” is a bit beyond me. If I bother with makeup at all, it’s the bare minimum of eye makeup and lip gloss; that’s just the way I like it these days. And perfectly coiffed hair hasn’t seen my head since my wedding. My hair is generally either a mess or in a pony tail. Quiet jazz will never be my thing. I like jazz, but I like it raucous with Louis Armstrong blowin’ those cheeks out, Wynton Marsalis wailin’ away all fast-paced and frenetic. I want my tunes loud, heavy on the beat, a strong attitude, and a good message… but a bit of nonsense in the lyrics is just fine too. I love a good slow, sappy romantic song and I crank the french horn solos every time I hear them. If I hosted a tea party, it would be more for a laugh and an excuse to make those cream cheese mints than anything. We would dress up in hats and lacy white gloves and use our best British accents. I would definitely sit in my favorite chair, knitting and belting out my favorite hymns… actually, that sounds like a really lovely afternoon. So the Preacherswife and I have that much in common, but that’s just about it. She may pop up at 5:30AM, but the only time I see 5:30 in the morning is if a kid is up or I haven’t made it to bed yet. A perfect spread of a meal isn’t beyond my skill set, but by 5:00 is… and so is the “every night” bit. My meals more closely resemble tricks than recipes. They’re healthy and they’re usually yummy but perfect they are not. It’s an eclectic mix of foreign with classically American. They’re one dish meals with as much stuff jammed into one pan as possible and chances are really good the pan will still be there empty and dirty come morning. My house company-ready? Hah! Only with hours and hours of cleaning. And about those kids… if their outfit doesn’t smell and isn’t visibly dirty, that’s good enough for me. Out the door they go.
Feeling the need to jam my square peg into that Preacherswife mold is how I lost me and spun myself into depression. You can see that there’s a lot of square corners where hers are round. We’re nearly polar opposites. I know women who are like her and I like them very much. They are really admirable women… but they’re not me.
And finally, what I’ve accomplished this year…
I’ve spent this year (two years, really) picking up the pieces of myself that I lost and fitting them back together. I’ve spent it trying to undo the effects of buying into the Preacherswife. I’ve spent it learning that it’s okay to not be the Preacherswife and accepting that I am not. It’s not an easy project and it’s not much fun either… but the results are.
I’ve learned that I have to take myself where I’m at and move on from there. When you’re lost, the first thing you have to do is figure out where in the world you are and then you have to accept it. You can’t stand in the middle of the desert and deny that’s where you’re at. If you pretend you’re in Michigan when you’re really in Arizona, you’re going to stay lost. Only when you know where you’re at and accept it can you get where you’re wanting to go.
So I’ve spent the last year or so being honest with myself about where I’m at. Admitting I have a selfish streak that’s a mile wide in places. Recognizing that I am downright lazy sometimes… maybe most of the time. Seeing that I can be a very successful manipulator. And those things aren’t pretty when you see them in the mirror, but you have to accept them. I have to accept them… or I can’t move on to change them. The trick is not forgetting the good things. It’s remembering that my selfish streak is just a streak and that my generous side is pretty big. It’s not being afraid to accept a compliment because yes, I do earn them from time to time. The key is having sober judgment (Romans 12:3). More than anything, though, the key is handing those flaws over to God and asking Him to help me change them. It’s not a surgical procedure where I can just cut these things, these traits and habits out… it’s a process of rehabilitation. It’s hard and it’s work and it requires time.
This post is getting really long and I want to wrap it up, but it wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t acknowledge the help I’ve received in growing and learning. The obvious first bit of gratitude goes to God. All strength, all good things come from Him. Without His support and without the scriptures, none of this change would be taking place. Jeremy is the other obvious person. His unfailing, unflagging love and devotion to me is amazing and often undeserved. After that, the order gets fuzzy. My best friend (besides Jeremy) has been my support more times than I can count. She has educated me, heard me out, told me when I’m wrong and has loved me even though she sees me clearly. Alex, another friend, dug up from the past, bonds of friendship and sisterhood renewed again, has been utterly indispensible to me. My sister Hanna has been my sounding board, my shoulder, my sanity check and my entertainer. My eternal and inexpressible gratitude goes to Master Cruz and Miss Sheila for sharing their time and passion and for doing it with the discipline and understanding concern for others that is so very evident. I wouldn’t be where I’m at if not for what I’ve learned in Tae Kwon Do.
Really, I could be here all night long listing out who has helped me and how, but it’s time for bed. Pure and simple.