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February 18, 2007

Year Of The Pig, Indeed!


Happy year of the pig! My year! Oink oink! Faith and I went to The Great Indoors a few weeks ago and saw this barbecue grill. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or grimace. I laughed. Ribs, anyone?

Oh, and that picture has nothing to do with the rest of this column. Just so you know.

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This morning I went to the Agape Center in Culver City. It might sound familiar from the recent few episodes of Oprah featuring Dr. Michael Beckwith.

I had heard of Agape before, someone mentioned it to me once when I first moved out to California over ten years ago now. I wanted to check it out but I was still fresh from the country and terrified of driving the Los Angeles freeways and I had no idea where anything in this city was. Back then I didn't have Yahoo Maps and googling and all that. So I just let it go and figured one day I'd make it out that way.

Then about a year ago I was corresponding with Carla, a Stitch 'n Bitch member I'd recently met, and we somehow got on the subject of being hermits, being people who often stay home, and she happened to mention the Agape Center. It must have lodged in my brain and stuck because when I saw her at SnB on Thursday, I kind of invited myself along for Sunday services. "Hi Carla! Whatcha knitting? Can I come to church with you on Sunday?" Heh.

She and her husband met me there this morning at 6:50 a.m. (!!!) and the place was PACKED. Ah, such is the power of one Oprah Winfrey. I looked around and saw every size, shape, color and age. It reminded me how many people are looking, just looking for something, a path, a road to walk, some steps to make things feel clear and safe, meaning, something bigger than themselves, a way.

Dr. Beckwith was every bit as on-fire in person as I had hoped, and he gave an inspiring and rousing talk and it was good for me, I haven't been to any kind of church service in years. Mostly I was curious and wanted to see Agape for myself (a reporter's curiosity never really dies, it just changes jobs.)

He said a million great and inspiring things, but one of them hit me like I hadn't expected. The more I sat there and repeated the words in my head over and over, the more I felt like someone had pointed out a truth so simple and clear, but I hadn't seen it until just then:

"When you change and grow, you have to let go of some things... one of the things you have to let go of is the motivation you've been moving forward with all these years, the motivation to make people like you."

The motivation of making people like you. Pleasing others. Being a nice girl. "Laurie was such a nice girl." "Laurie did well in school." "Laurie got married and they lived happily ever after." How can I please you? How can I be more pleasing, please?

It had been my whole life.

My divorce and the end of that life, the one I'd always seen for myself, showed me very clearly that I couldn't count on the love of another person to make me happy. He might leave. In fact, everyone might leave. I might end up being a people-dis-pleaser. How had that happened? How had I displeased him? Them? Everyone?

And it wasn't just men who might not love me forever, might not find me pleasing all the time. My parents wouldn't live forever to love me and lift me up, my friendships might change, nothing felt secure and when it dawned on me back then, I was mad. I WAS REALLY REALLY MAD. I wanted something to hold onto, something to prop me up, make me whole, my Jerry Maguire-ism had been in full force for thirty-three years and I needed someone to complete me DAMMIT.

I don't know if it was the merlot in the coffee cup or the cheetos or the months of alone, always alone, but finally in my haze and fog and awkwardness I realized I was always right there. I woke up each morning in my own bed with me, ate breakfast with myself, brushed my teeth, sang songs to my cat, told funny stories even when no one was listening. At first I had been humiliated and ashamed that people could see how flawed I was, couldn't keep a husband, drank too much when I was sad, smoked because I didn't know what else to do all night, couldn't sleep, gained weight, house full of felines and sadness and broken things. But eventually it was kind of liberating. The secret was out. Yes, people! I am imperfect! I am flawed! My marriage failed! I have a CrackerAss McCracker accent! I'm scared! I sometimes break a whole lot of stuff ... all at once! (Like they didn't know it already?)

I knew I was imperfect. Now my carefully constructed little life had fallen apart and everyone knew I was imperfect, too. It was all I had to work with. It was a starting point, even though I couldn't see it back then.

Thank God I kept this diary. It's all right there in words. And my divorce was the best thing that ever happened to me. I almost cannot believe I am typing that sentence! But I am. My divorce was the best thing that ever happened to me. It caused me to look long at hard at myself, my life, my fears, always my fears, and also at what I might have, be, become, and want. For me. To please me. I am happier each day than I could have predicted. I feel free. I still worry sometimes if people will like me, approve, get me... but it isn't my only driving purpose anymore. I guess I know that I have to be right with me for others to be right with me.

And maybe it's just something I will always work at. Always reminding myself not to take personal assessments from people I wouldn't take driving directions from.

Always asking myself, "Is this really important? Is it true? Will I just shrivel up and die is someone hates my guts? Hates my hair? Thinks I'm a dork? Sees me fall down?"

I know these sound like simple things to some folks, but some of us women were built with the people-pleaser gene. It takes some time to conquer a thing like that.

And yesterday I spent all day at my little house, with my cats, cleaning and singing along to Michael Jackson (Because I'm bad, I'm bad, you know it) and I grilled out just for me and the furballs (mahi mahi, a feline favorite) and took a long walk and then a forever-long shower that steamed up the whole house and it was a perfect day, and I knew it, and that is the difference between back then and right now.

Posted by laurie at February 18, 2007 9:17 AM