It’s been so long since I sat down to pour my heart out to the internets that I’m not sure I even remember how. Bear with me?
There was this children’s book that I got when I was very little. Before The Divorce (BTD) – or possibly during. It all blends in my mind, those six or seven years when when I was the youngest in a family of six. Then there is a stark line etched where my world fell apart and only four of us moved across the country in our sea blue station wagon, and life was forever changed. To be honest, most of that time BTD seems more like a dream or a funny movie I remember from the 70’s than my own memories.
Anyway, the book. It was called “Whose Mouse Are You” and it was drawn in black lines with wild splashes of reds and oranges. I could relate to that book about a mouse who was the youngest in her (his?) family, where everyone is flung apart, leaving the poor sad mouse alone and sad. And then narrator asks the mouse “What are you going to do?” and just like that, she goes and saves her mother from the cat, frees her father from the trap, finds her sister and brings her home. And – Voila! – life is good again. Her mother loves her so, she’s her father’s, “from head to toe”, even her sister loves her too. And miracle of miracles, she has a new baby brother on the way. All she lost is returned, with even more blessings on the way.
I wanted to be that mouse, so bad. I read that book over and over, like an instruction manual. A how-to of fixing broken families. And I tried. Oh how I tried. I cried and begged my dad to come back. I stood in the kitchen while my mom yelled obscenities about my dad, hoping to absorb all her anger, and free her from her prison of pain. My sisters were far from home, (eventually both of them ended up living with my dad) and even though I tried to connect with them on the phone and on school breaks, I couldn’t make them love me. And my brother? Well, he was there with me, but somewhere along the way, I lost him too.
I never got my happy ending. I just grew up. Eventually, in adulthood, I did manage to forge a very close relationship with one sister. So there’s that. But my mother, though mellowed, is still in her own emotional prison. And my father has his new improved life. He loves me, but I’m not my father’s mouse from head to toe. I’m just not.
It turns out, that book is supposed to be a metaphor. But not the one I always thought it was. The back of the book says “A little mouse feeling unloved and therefore hostile toward members of his family mentally places each in a hazardous situation, heroically rescues them, and so restores himself in their affection.”
But here’s what I internalized: A little mouse feeling unloved and abandoned realizes it is her responsibility to put her family back together and as a result finds wholeness and love.
See the difference? See what I did there?
I put it all on me. At six freaking years old. And I’ve been living that way ever since.
I don’t know exactly why I thought of that book today. I was talking with a friend about the struggle I’ve been having the last few years. I want to matter. I want to know that when I die, it will matter that I ever lived. I want my life to mean something. I don’t have to be famous or anything, but I want to know that when I see God, He will smile at me, in approval. He won’t ask me, “Why did you waste all those days I gave you?”
In my head, in my faith, I know that I don’t have to do anything – in fact can’t do anything – to earn God’s love. Jesus loves me, just because He does. This I know, for the Bible tells me so. I know this.
But maybe it’s not God’s love I’m trying to earn. Maybe I’m still trying to fix everyone’s lives; to control all the variables and make everything perfect, so that I will be loved. I did it as a child, and I’m doing it now. With my husband, with my children, and even with my parents too.
I wish I could end this post with a “but this is how I will change and life will be different!” … but I can’t. I just had this epiphany today for heaven’s sake. Give me some time to process! But I think, maybe, it’s a start that I see it, you know? The question is, can I accept a different ending? Can I stop hearing that narrator’s voice asking me “What will you do?” … and instead listen to my Savior say, “Beloved” (Be-Loved)?