Sunday, November 08, 2009

Gossip Girl

Did you know today is National End Gossip Day?

I can’t say I’ve ever been all that hurt by gossip. When you’re a 300 pound teenager, you’re already aware of how people perceive you. There aren’t a whole lot of surprises.

And while I can’t say many good things about my middle school bullies, they were boys and therefore didn’t gossip about me as much as shout things to my face.

I wish I could say I have never gossiped about anyone. But it’s not the truth.

I love to talk, and I hate secrets. So sharing “secrets” was always fun for me. I don’t recall ever trying to gossip maliciously, to hurt someone. But I have to admit there were times I gossiped to fit in.

I remember sharing a cabin with several girls at Camp Northland one year. There was this one girl, Sherrie, who had frizzy hair and weighed even more than I did (highly unusual). She had only brought two outfits to camp and hadn’t really started caring about hygiene or taking daily showers like the rest of us.

In spite of all the Christian messages during chapel, we made fun of Sherrie behind her back. We mocked her hair by making air spirals and holding our noses when we *thought* she wasn’t looking. We didn’t make fun of her weight, I’m guessing, since the other girls thought I might be offended.

Sherrie was no dummy. She picked up on her status as a pariah pretty quickly. She tried to fit in, but since mocking her was the only thing the rest of us had in common, it didn’t work so well.

We thought we had been discreet until the morning Sherrie came running out of our counselor’s room with tears streaking down her face. She raced toward the door and went down the hill to the lake.

The counselor came out and sat us all down. It turned out she had been more than aware of our unkindness. She had been praying and hoping God would change our hearts, but Sherrie had come to her demanding to go home. We got a stern lecture and grounded to our cabin for the rest of the day.

I was embarrassed at having been caught and more than a little ashamed of myself. When Sherrie came back to the cabin, we all apologized to her. I doubt she thought we were sincere.

I learned a big lesson that summer. It could have easily been me who was labeled as the outcast. There were only a few strands of frizzy hair and a couple months of maturity separating Sherrie and I.

Since the “Sherrie Incident,” I tried to be more conscious of gossip. Or, should I say, my tendency to enjoy - to indulge in - gossip.

To me, gossip was (is) like a rich, chocolaty dessert. Plus, it helped me to connect to people (as a gossip, I know, but semantics, semantics).

As a writer, I soak up stories like a sponge and spin off my own web of words. Sometimes what I write teeters perilously close to gossip. I depend on my honest friends to call me if it ever dips into that pot.

And they do. Sometimes. And I get defensive. As one does.

I say all this to congratulate myself on what I haven’t yet said.

I love to write, and I especially love this blog. I pound on this keyboard, pouring my heart and soul into writing about my life. I’ve blogged about many topics, and I’m sure there are many more to explore.

There aren’t many topics off limits in my blog. Politics. Sports. Flip-flops. You know, the basics.

I had gotten so used to being able to blog about anything that when something came up, I automatically started a blog post in my head.

So, you can imagine how hard – very, very, very hard – it was when things came up that I couldn’t, in good conscience, blog in depth about. I tried to use only the most generic terms about the bankruptcy, losing the house, losing our car, having to move the same month I had the baby, etc. I tried to use gentle terms in talking about my husband, who is as human as the next person.

I hated having to couch everything in politeness. I wanted to be real. Not necessarily nice.

The day we moved was one of the worst days of my life. The whole week was terrible. I was exhausted, and we didn’t have nearly enough help. Due to a miscommunication, it was a small crew (who are extremely grateful to) who helped us move, and most everyone had to leave early. Essentially, without Mom and Gary, we would still not be moved in.

My husband spiraled into a deep depression (he would tell you this himself). It was horrendous.

I have been praying for God to change my husband’s heart since the great Marriage Trial of ’06. I knew my marriage would most likely be a lifelong trial. I had been honest with my pastor in saying I didn’t know if I could stay married to Brett. I felt like I was wasting my life with someone who chose to live in a dark hole of negativity and ungratefulness.

I knew leaving was the easy way out. Staying was the hardest choice I’ve ever had to make. Every fiber of my being was trying to convince me to leave. To just take Sam and leave. Start over. Start fresh. Walk away.


Except the Bible is pretty clear about it.

Frankly, at that point I didn’t care so much about the Bible. The Bible didn’t have to live with my husband.

Pastor did some pretty frantic counseling with me over the phone as I sat at my mother’s dining room table, sobbing like a child. I could tell Mom’s heart was breaking, too. She didn’t know what to do either.

After praying with Pastor and listening to his advice, I decided to take Sam and go home.

Brett had been awaiting my decision and met me at the door. He wrapped me in his arms and thanked me for coming home. I was skeptical of his promises to change. Although, he’d never tried before, so what did I know?

(I should stop at this point and say that Brett has never, ever been physically or verbally abusive. He has never been intentionally hurtful to me. He is a faithful husband who loves me. Our issues resolved around his spiritual condition, constant depression, and choice to live pessimistically. )

The moment I came home, I sensed something had happened, but I didn’t know exactly what.

Over the next few weeks, it became obvious God was working in Brett’s heart. His attitude began to change.

He started talking to me about joyful things. He wanted to spend time reading the Bible and praying. He wanted to go to church and fellowship with friends.

At first, I thought maybe it was an act. Just something to convince me to stay.

But Brett is a horrible faker. So, now, after two months, I have something to say –

The man I married is back! How I had missed him!

We were talking about it the other night, and he said how God had to take away all of his “things” in order to get his attention. He lost his house, his car, his hobby, and his employment. Finally, he realized God was making a point.

It is strange to suddenly be back with the man who was my best friend in college. To be able to joke and talk and work together happily without that ever-present string of tension that had been tightly wound around our hearts.

We bond over taking care of Sam. We sit on the bed and marvel at his ten tiny toes and slightly upturned nose that represent God’s blessing in a time of great trial. We realize how we have been given a second chance.

A chance to be in love again. A chance to be redeemed again.

I was a basket case the first month after Sam was born. No one told me how incredibly hard it was going to be.

My friend Alice confided to me that it is the unspoken code to withhold the knowledge of that first horrible month from prospective parents. “It’s just not nice,” she explained.

As I sat on my bed crying, holding a screaming baby, my husband sat down next to me on the bed. I stared at him blankly. Brett is not a talker, so it surprised me when he said, “You know, you’re not alone in this. We’re a team.”

Sure, it sounds generic now, but man, was it what I needed to hear. I latched onto it like a mantra and hung tightly to it. The “team” concept helped me feel not so alone and got me through the rest of that despicable month.

It was hard not to share these trials when I was going through them. I wanted so much to empty my heart onto these pages! But I knew I would be violating the marriage code in a big way.

So now, instead of gossip, I can share this in gratefulness.

I know there will still be trying times. People don’t change overnight. We all backslide at some point. But God can and does bring us back up to where we’re supposed to be.

The way I grew up, people don’t talk about their marriage issues. I think this hinders us so very much. It was the women who came alongside me and shared their marriage trials who helped me get through this.

And of course, God who graciously answered my prayer and changed my husband’s heart.

If there’s such a thing as good gossip, I’m passing this on!


sturgillcrew said...

That's the BEST good gossip I've heard! :) This is such an answer to my prayers, Ann-Marie!! I'm so excited for you guys and will continue to pray for you and Brett (and Sam too)!! Go Team Soderstrom!!

Sun-Kissed Scholars said...

Woo-hooo for you!!! As I always, I love your post. I love the lesson. I love your "transparency" (and love the blog post you wrote about that, too.)
Yes, there's an unspoken code about marriage. But this can be good and bad. As was the case with Brett, the more you dwell on negativity, the more it eats you up and consumes you. Sooo, while sharing can be helpful when times are trying, it can also be a breeding ground, you know? You definitely have to pick the *right* person to talk to; someone who will share their own struggles and talk you through it, not the girlfriend who tells you how pathetically horrible her own husband is, and then proceeds to "male-bash." Sounds like you have a good friend.

Enjoy the second honeymoon! ;-)

Jennittia said...

You will not regret the choice!!!! Please take the advise of one raising five children who are victims of their parents' divorces... it hurts them far worse than we can ever imagine.

Yes, praise God for second chances...and third, and fourth...! If you ever need to talk, I am here (well, yes, I am a thousand miles away, but you know!!!)

psturg said...

I'm thrilled to read this. Linda told me about this yesterday as she was reading it, so I read it this morning. I am as well looking forward to seeing you two and Sam soon.

We miss you guys.

The Beard Bunch said...

As (most) always, I love your post, but more importantly, I rejoice with you. God is so good! I am reminded of two things that I constantly have to remind myself: First, when Wesley was five, he asked me one of the most poignant questions I have ever been asked: "Why is it so hard to do the right thing?" You did the right thing, Ann-marie. God does not promise it to be easy, but He does promise to bless obedience. Also, I am slowly learning that things (and people) turn out much better when I just turn it over to God. I mean I always knew this fact, but I am now really seeing it in action, as you are! God moves in people much better than we do. He is not as quick as I want at times, but his speaking produces longer lasting and more sincere results.

I wish I was close. I could just hug you right now. Consider yourself hugged :)

Alice said...

This is great news. Thanks for sharing! That first six weeks or so is hard enough without all the "extras" you went through. Sometimes I think God has those orange construction cones and plastic tape around my life at all times. I'm so thankful He is in the rebuilding business.

Akanksha said...

Thanks for sharing ! It is one of awesome TV Show I ever seen..Great Comedy. Every scene is entertaining. I love watching this Tv SHow..
Gossip Girl 2007