Sunday, April 17, 2011

Just Plain Angry

I have a bone to pick with certain "ladies." I am not at all pleased. They have robbed my sweet little boy of precious innocence. It was bound to happen eventually, but I am not resigned to accept it without speaking my mind.
At recess one day, a boy on the playground told my son about a funny website address he should check out. The address name was catchy, so my little guy remembered it. For a whole year it sat buried in the recesses of his mind, untouched, until one day it reared its ugly head. It was on a day, in a tiny and terrible moment, when I stepped outside, briefly leaving my son inside and alone with my iPad.
He didn't have permission to get on it, and I hadn't set up the password protection, so two strikes against us. He should have been obedient. I should have been more vigilant. Lessons learned.
Within five minutes after I stepped outside, my boy came to find me on the driveway. He was ashen, his eyes had the "deer in the headlights" look, and I thought he was about to throw up. He looked at me blankly, then his lips quivered, and he started to cry. He stammered out the words, "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry. I didn't know."
Some people dismiss the idea of parents' intuition or spiritual guidance, but it is as real as sight, touch, or any other sense. Instantly I knew everything - exactly what had happened to my son, what he had done, and why he was in such despair.
And was I ever mad.
Not at my son, but at the people who had found pleasure in doing something that would make a young child quake. I was furious that they had unveiled to the world - to my son - things that any respectable person would shun and keep private. What has happened to common decency? Why have boundaries been shattered? Do these people consider for a moment the ramifications of their actions? Do they think of a young child in Idaho who will cry at their pictures, run for help, have disturbing thoughts cross his mind, be unable to focus? When they see a sweet little boy on the street are they thinking about how to destroy his peace? How to hurt him? And not just my son or any other child, but what about the families they ruin, the husbands they destroy, the lives they infect? I know, I know - for the people who go searching out such websites, there is definitely accountability. And although in such cases both parties are at fault, neither's fault is mitigated by the other's participation - they are both 100% at fault. But not my son. The damage done to him was undeserved. And I hold those ladies accountable.
So I stood on the driveway, frozen in time as I held my son and prayed for guidance. He begged me to get the pictures out of his mind. He begged me to forgive him. He begged me to help him feel clean, to find peace.
How? How could I wipe clean the filth they'd shown him?
I couldn't. I don't know that those smutty images will ever go away completely. They'll pop into his mind at the worst times for the rest of his life. Our minds sometimes do that to us, even if we don't want it.
But I could direct him to the one source that he could find comfort, and I could teach him to deal with the disgusting pictures that were haunting him.
When we are exposed, intentionally or not, to things that hurt our spirits, we need to turn to him who can heal us. And my son was hurting. Christ, the Great Physician, can bind up those wounds. He can take us away from the hurt of our own evil acts through repentance, but he can also remove the hurt of other's evil acts through his healing power.
I told my wounded boy that I truly believed he could find peace through praying and by reading the scriptures. Trusting me, he went to his room and prayed. Teaching a child the way to pray is one thing, but turning it over to him to do it on his own is another. Worrying, I watched him walk away, wondering how things would go, praying for the best, but I didn't follow him. I could not offer him more, so I entrusted him to the Lord.
About twenty minutes later, he came and found me, all signs of distress replaced by a smile and light in his eyes. He was at peace as he showed me something he'd found in his scriptures:
"And now, my son, I trust that I shall have great joy in you, because of your steadiness and your faithfulness unto God: for as you have commenced in your youth to look to the Lord your God, even so I hope that you will continue in keeping his commandments; for blessed is he that endureth to the end." (Alma 38:2).
It had spoken to him and he had found strength. I sent a little prayer of thanks heavenward. It was a great teaching moment as we compared and contrasted the despair he had felt in front of wickedness to the true happiness he felt when he aligned his life with goodness.

I wish that had been the end of his problems, but it wasn't. Later that evening, he again lost his smile, lost his peace, lost his innocence as the pictures returned to plague his mind. We took the kids out to eat that night, hoping it would lighten the mood. He's the kind of kid that enjoys food.
But he wouldn't touch his plate. I felt sick to my stomach as I watched my little guy stare miserably at his food, knowing of the turmoil in his head and heart. He was physically ill.
Over-reaction? No, not at all. He is sensitive, though, and had not known such evil existed. Sensitive, yes, but also strong. Strong enough to run from the evil that others might find enticing, strong enough to ask for help, strong enough to realize there is no peace down that road.

I tried giving him suggestions, coping strategies, love, help, distractions. Eventually he went to sleep that night, but he didn't sleep well. Thankfully, the next few days were fine. He was able to find other things to occupy his mind. But about a week later, after we'd put all the kids to bed, he walked into my room where I reading. His eyes were focused on the floor. When he did look up at me, it was with a pleading look for help. The pictures were back in his mind. He didn't even say a word, but nodded when I asked if that was what bothered him.
Again, I held him close, praying for help. Jeff walked in and I knew that I could do nothing but point my child in the right direction. I turned him over to Jeff, requesting a Father's Blessing for our boy.
The blessing brought great comfort and help to our son. He went quietly back to bed and slept soundly. He has not had been disturbed since, but neither has he forgotten. (When he saw me writing this post, he knew instantly what it was, and helped me find the scripture that had helped him.) But he has been strengthened to where the images mean nothing to him - he dumps them out of his mind as one would dump out trash.
That's what it is. Pornography is trash. Filth. Smut. It is full of debilitating and addicting garbage that we cannot let infect us. For those who struggle with it, it can be overcome with the Lord's help. People can be healed, whether they have an addiction problem or are hurt from a loved-one who struggles with it. It may mean having to turn for help over and over again for as long as needed - like my son who kept coming back for help instead of caving beneath the burden.
I have dear friends whose spouses (husbands, in these cases) would not give up the sick and dangerous thrill. The marriages ended in divorce because the addict chose a virtual, vile world instead of the real, wholesome life that had been their marriage. The children cry for the father, the wife for the husband, the mother for the son...
On the other hand, I also have dear friends whose husbands also tripped up (sometimes pretty seriously) yet sought forgiveness, gave up the vice, and were made whole again. Now they are people who, like my son, see the images as revolting deviances of something that should be pure, private, respected. They see women not as objects to be used, abused, possessed, but as real human beings, and as real people - someone's daughter, a sister, a friend, perhaps someone's mother - with a soul and mind so much more precious and important than the body they inhabit. If only the women could see themselves that way, too...

So yes, it made me mad. As mad as I've ever been. How dare they mess with my family, my pure little son, our sheltered, peaceful life? But it also made me thankful for the guidance and help from the Savior. My son was robbed a part of his childhood and will never regain that. What he does have now is the too-early strength of a righteous man, and too-soon sombre realization that all is not well in this world. And while my son found out there is gloom in the presence of evil, he also found there is joy in goodness. Perhaps he - perhaps all of us -can help our world family - our sisters, our brothers - want to behave. There is indeed peace in righteous doing.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Best Birthday Gift I'll Never Ask For Again. Probably. Maybe. We'll see.

When Jeff asked me what I would do if I had all the time to myself I wanted, I thought it was a hypothetical question. So, hypothetically, what would I do?
Run, of course. I've often wondered how long I could run if I had the time.
Guess what Jeff gave me for my birthday? Yep, all the time I wanted for a run as long as I wanted. He even took the day off of work so he could take care of the girls while I went for a run on my birthday. Wow. Thanks, Jeff. The run was awesome, but the best thing was how loved I felt.
The Birthday Run:
The night before, I set out my gear. I have gels, vaseline, camelback, iphone (complete with a new book to listen to on the run) and iphone arm case, jacket, gloves, tights, shirts, socks, shoes, jacket, hat, jogger's mace, Shot Bloks, Cliff bar, Ibuprofen, Hammer supplements, toilet paper, headphones, and a tentative route mapped out. I am ready.
Monday morning, 5:30 - up, fueled, hydrated, dressed, packed. I'm moving slowly. Do I really want to do this? Sure. Why not.
6:20 am - The run begins. And immediately plans change. I make it to the end of my driveway before deciding to run my route backwards. This means I'm beginning my run with a good couple of miles uphill, into headwinds. Fine. No big deal. I'm still fresh and the morning is young.
7:00 am - I decide to take a completely different route than the mapped one, for the time being, anyway. Of course.
8:00 am - I've wound my way around Rexburg and am finally heading out of town, away from traffic. The book I'm listening to is a mystery called, "The Language of Bees." I'm learning about bees. And Sherlock Holmes. And the book's heroine - his wife.
9:00 am - I'm back on my planned route, having taken the long way to get there. But I miss a turn-off so I have to back track a bit. I'm running slowly and steadily, enjoying the countryside, enjoying the time to myself, enjoying the book, loving the feeling of running and not even realizing I'm moving - it is effortless. For now.
10:00 am - I'm taking my supplements every hour to stave off fatigue, but I'm beginning to feel spent anyway. I take another gel, slowly so as not to cause stomach pain. I keep the gel in my hand and squeeze a bit at a time under my tongue, wait for it to dissolve, then get up the courage to take some more, repeating the process until it is all gone. Nasty stuff, those gels. Hammer is the least nasty, though. Still, they're all way too sweet (which is why I put it under my tongue, to avoid tasting it as much as possible).
10:10 am - I'm at the bottom of Summer's Hill, a long, fairly steep never-ending three-mile hill. Three miles of just up up up. To my right is the road that heads back to Rexburg. It's a tiny bit hilly, but not much. What should I do? I've been running for hours and hours. Can my body handle Summer's Hill, or should I opt for the Moody Road, looping up to the Sugar City Cemetery and heading home as quickly as possible?
Silly me. I take Summer's Hill, which is bad enough on its own, but I am now not only running uphill after 22 miles and too many hours on my feet, I am also running uphill into a 20 mph headwind.
I'm not so sure you can call this "running." I think "crawling" is a more accurate description. But I'm doing it and I make it. Then at the top of Summer's Hill, I run out of water.
10:45 - I'm running home. I am tired. I have no water. I am dehydrated. I have a phone and I consider calling Jeff, but I'm so close - I want to finish this. I'm on the dry farms, only occasionally passed by a farmer in his truck. I don't feel isolated because I know my husband can track me. I try to focus on the book, but the words are not making sense. Then I do the unthinkable - I stop.
It's just for a moment, but I know I can't stay still. I know my muscles will seize up. I tell myself I won't get home any faster if I walk. I have to remind my mind what my goal is and why I need to keep going. There's a lot of self-talk going on right now. I try to listen to the tiny, rational voice telling me what I need to hear instead of the screaming siren in my body yelling at me to give up. I stumble forward until I can control my legs again. I make myself run. I make my feet move, make my body tip forward so gravity can help me in this controlled fall we call running. I get going again, setting little goals: just three more telephone poles, just to the next field, just to the crest of the hill, just to the potato cellar, just to the next road...
11:30 - my GPS tells me I've gone 28+ miles. I'm in my neighborhood. I can either run around the block to make it to an even 30, or I can finish by just turning down the hill to my house and end at 29 miles. I'm so thirsty. I'm so tired. I decide to just stop in at home for a quick drink then run another mile to make it 30. But as I turn down to my house and look at my yard, the sight before me makes a sob catch in my throat. My eyes want to cry but there is no spare water in me. I kind of laugh and kind of whimper out loud because look - there is my husband and there are my daughters, waiting for me on the lawn, yelling out, "Go, Mommy, go! Go, Mommy, go!" I don't care one bit that I'm losing that last full mile, I'm going to stop for my family and relegate this run to where it belongs - second place, like Jeff's gift today of putting me first and letting work come second.
11:40 am - I get my hugs, I get my water, but I know I can't stay put, not because I'm being compulsive but because I don't want my legs to seize up. I head back out of the house to finish my run, this time with two little girls by my side. They're running faster than me. I love it. We make a little loop, ending with my birthday run being just over 29 miles. Not 30. But close enough and good enough.

And the best part of the run? The end. Definitely. Talk about feeling loved. Jeff and the girls were tracking my progress on the computer by following my phone. They saw when I slowed, when I walked, when I stopped. They saw my decision to come home instead of rounding the block. They were ready and waiting for me. The 29.55 miles was a great birthday present, but the best gift was the love of the person who gave it to me. And the little girls who cheered me in. And the sweet sons who were proud of their mom at the end of the day.
(For the record, I did walk some more afterwards, so I suppose I can say 30, but in my mind the running part was 29.55. I ran 31 miles in September, but that was the end of race season, this is just the beginning, and I'm not in nearly the shape I was in then!)

After a shower and a hefty (but safe) dose of Ibuprofen, Jeff and the girls took me out to lunch. Then while Jeff and Oliver cooked my birthday dinner, the girls and I played in the pool. Sam came home from later from school, and then we were finally all together. I got to eat a delicious dinner (Cajun red beans & rice), and scrumptious Coldstone ice cream cake before opening presents, including jewelry made by my children just for me! They'd spent a lot of time the day before carefully threading beads and stones onto a necklace, bracelet, and earrings. As they said, I looked like the "Ultimate Tikki Mom" with the jewelry on. :)
I was spoiled with new running clothes, a great new cookbook from my favorite restaurant in Salt Lake (The Roof) (thank you Mum, Dad & Don!), more Hammer supplements (I love 'em!), lotion, bread, other gifts, and lots of birthday wishes. And of course, don't forget my unlimited running time! Although, as great as the run was, I don't know if I'll ask for that gift again...yeah, it was brutal. But also beautiful.