Sunday, October 23, 2005

Fire and Fury

Those bloggin' cats over at Mama Says Om have another theme this week: fire. I'm sure many might think of heat, love, and earthy things when they read the word fire. However, this week I was set on fire again by someone...not literally, but emotionally. So, that's what I will share today.

I have held off in blogging about this because I really needed to think about how I felt about the whole scene that unfolded on Friday. And, honestly, I hesitate to post this because it will also make me look as I felt that day--like a really awful mother.

About a month ago, I blogged about mistakenly forgetting that my son and I rode our bikes to the school and getting a tearful call from him. I vowed to never let this happen again. Well, sadly, I broke that vow unintentionally and I'm still dealing with anger at myself over it all. In truth, I am simply overscheduled and burned out and am very forgetful these days. But, there is no excuse for standing at a bus stop anxiously awaiting your son's arrival, when he's sitting at a school waiting on you in tears...again. So, please don't think this post is an effort to gloss over my absent-minded mistake.

Those who do not know me personally, may start to wonder about me. But, let me say here that I have NEVER lost my children in a store, shuttled my children off to sitters all the time, or been neglectful of them at all. The fact is, I didn't forget about my son. I forgot where to get my son. (In some ways, this is actually so much more pathetic, I realize.) Now, to the fire that burneth in my heart...

As I was standing at the bus stop, it dawned on me that I'd forgotten we rode bikes. I turned and fell into a dead sprint for my car, toddler bouncing on my hip as I ran. My neighbor (known to long-time readers as the arch-enemy) saw this, and turned and laughed, yelling out that I must have forgotten my son. I acknowledged yes and kept going. It didn't bother me really. I mean, I'm sure the sight of me flying down the sidewalk with my daughter and then burning out of my driveway to go get him was indeed quite funny.

I have blogged about this woman before. However, what I had not mentioned in awhile was that I was taking steps to forgive. After a lot of prayer and some interaction with her, I decided to try and get on more friendly terms. I would never trust her again, but it wasn't right to hold such anger towards her. Our kids are friends, our husbands are friends, and so I needed to try harder. Or, so I thought...

And, so we were in a pretty good place for us...after her back-stabbing rampage a few years ago that left me feeling jaded at the world. Basically, this woman decided to smear my then 4-year-old son's name around our neighborhood for no other reason than to be mean or because of her own insecurities/jealousies. For example, one day at a playgroup he brought her a picture that said, "I love you" on it. (He adored her completely.) Hours later, after we'd left this playgroup, she bad-mouthed my son to all present, making up lies and saying awful things about him. I know this because those who were there are my friends and they all called and told me. This sort of thing continued on for about six months straight.

So, I cut her off totally. The only way I could see to get her to stop, was to prevent her from having any clue of anything about us or what we were doing in our lives. Now, this is really out of the ordinary for me. I am not someone who has intense relationships like this. I typically get along with everyone. I don't hate many people, nor do I have a ton of enemies. But, after she repeatedly tried to hurt my son, I saw nothing but fire when she was near. The slightest comment from her would set me off into negativity. Of course, I never let her SEE that she got to me in that way, but she actually did.

Back to the bus story... so, I race to the school to try and catch my son before he gets on the bus. I show up to the teacher who tells me she'd just put him on the bus. (I can only imagine what she thinks of me now, having done this twice. She has no kids. I could just feel the judgment in her voice when she said, "Well, THERE you are!")

So, I jump back in the car and race back to the bus stop, hoping to get there before the bus. I didn't. And what I saw really sent my anger into a burning rage. There was my son, standing at the bus stop crying hysterically. And NO ONE was comforting him. Other friends and acquaintances either stood back and looked puzzled or ignored him completely. And, what of the archenemy, who knew all along what was going on? Well, she was standing on the other side of the street laughing about it. I slammed on my brakes and jumped out of the car and just held him, us both in tears.

We got back in the car, went to get his bike at the school, and came home. That's when I got a voicemail that really made some things very clear to me. Her raspy voice was chuckling as she spoke. She told me she couldn't help but find what had happened so funny. She was sure I was out buying my son something special to make up for it. Oh, she didn't think he looked that upset at the bus but she was sure he gave me an earful." And she laughed again. Didn't look THAT upset? He cried so hard he almost threw up!

God works in mysterious ways. I truly feel like this year has been a lesson in friendships for me. And the lesson I learned this week is that I should forgive someone for hurting me, but that doesn't always mean they will magically become a decent human being with that forgiveness. Some people are just mean-hearted. I will never understand that. I had never said or done anything ugly to this woman before she was so horrible to me. I considered her a close friend. Even after she did it, I never bad-mouthed her to anyone but my husband and my closest friend. And, if this woman's kids were to be stranded next week at the bus stop, I would take them by the hand and tell them their mom will be right there and not to worry. Even with all she has done to us, I would do that for her children. Because they are kids and this is a scary world really.

Now, this lesson is an important one for me for another reason. I know now that there is someone who lives right next to me who would rather stand by and laugh at any misfortunes that might fall upon me or my family, than help me out. And, even though she smiles sweetly at my son, she is still the wolf in sheep's clothing waiting to pounce on him.

But, another interesting thing came to me as I realized all of this in my inferno of anger. The past few months, I have really struggled against depression with this whole diabetes diagnosis. So many days I have showed up at the bus stop and look ragged, hair thrown into a ponytail and no makeup, an old t-shirt and shorts. I have shown visible signs of my struggling. Anyone who knew me at all could tell that. And, yet, not one of my neighbors has shown any concern or kindness. Instead, they look the other way. For probably the first time in my life, I have felt completely invisible--like no one would even notice if I wasn't there. And, now I know that, quite literally, that is true. I suppose all those days they were hoping I would just go away and maybe come back in something more trendy and acceptable by their standards. I no longer fit their mold. They don't care enough to ask if I'm OK, even though I have done the same for them many times.

However, even with these two negative realizations, this is not all bad. Because, while I have learned that I cannot count on the neighbors around me to help me out when I am in need, God has blessed me with several true friends, who have come out of dark corners and lifted me up like angels when I did need it. One is the best friend who calls me and listens to me cry on days like last Friday. Another example is a new friend who I found out was secretly checking out diabetes cookbooks from the library to make a decadent-diabetically-safe treat for me at our scrapbooking retreat next weekend. And I could not forget the Margarita Mamas who show such sincere empathy in their eyes as they ask how my struggles with the new diet and medication are going. And, of course, you dear blogging friends who give me such wisdom and kindness when I falter.

Yes, I firmly believe that God was trying to tell me something important this past week. Something that would protect me before my son or I got hurt so badly once again. So that I would know that my son was not safe with this person with whom I was starting to open back up. But, he also has been reminding me all along that there are good people amidst the wolves. I just have to find them. And, I must never let the heat of my anger smolder so much that I can't see these angels flying about trying to lift me up from the flames.

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