Practicing Introversion

It’s 9:30 p.m., and I’m an hour out from the ending of this week’s emotionally demanding “change group.” One of this week’s conclusions included the recognition that I don’t have (don’t take) enough time to introvert. To sit with my thoughts and be, and process, and feel, and think (conclusions optional).

It’s a funny awareness. It’s like a low-level hum that zeros out as white noise, but adds to the busyness (demand) on my senses.

I’ve said many times that I’m not a quality-time person, I’m a quantity-time person.

That is, I don’t know how to simply focus on a person– at least, I don’t think so, because every time I try I get bored, irritated, or annoying. It’s just easier and more sustainable to simply be around someone and do stuff in each others’ vicinity. Converse, say. Or play a game. Or read, or watch a movie. Or eat, or cook, or ignore each other while you sit on the same couch with your shoulders touching and a screen in your lap.

See, I’ve got all sorts of ideas for this. A real-life set of examples.

But none of these let me be absolutely alone, or off-duty.

I was thinking of this on the ride home, thinking it would be bedtime, I’d send the no-longer-littles off and stay up a bit myself (as I did back in the toddler stage) to think by myself and compose a complete idea. This feels like it shouldn’t be so reactionary any more, but it is.

The dog is sleeping under my legs, and it both creates and soothes an achy part in my chest to have her near.

Two-months-from-13-year-old Melody comes out, and my gut falls. I was alone, “Why do you need me an hour after bedtime?” I ask. And I go on. “This is my time to be alone. I don’t get time during the day, you know?” I feel like she’s deciding whether or not to be hurt, and I keep going. “You know how you go off on your own, no matter how much you adore your mama, you spend time alone during the day.”

She nods, and a grin creeps onto her face.

“Well I don’t get that during the day. So I need you to let me have that now, after bedtime. And to try and solve your problems yourself right now– preferably by going to sleep, because it is after bedtime.”

And she accepts my ultimatum with a smile that I intensely need to see, because for all my assertions, I’m really not okay with her feeling alone with her problems. It’s one of my old wounds and something I wish away for everyone. Maybe even one of the shapers of my life-purpose: not to fix everything, or anything. Or anyone– but to be a witness, a resource, an encourager, rather than know anyone sits alone in their pain.

This is the beauty of written words: from blogs to poetry to novels and love notes. When I hold a book, read an article, I am engaging in something magical. I am inside the mind and emotions of another fully aware and generous human being.

When you read these words, or an email someone crafted especially for you, know you are the recipient of a gift of faith. As a writer we may write for ourselves, but we also write for the reader. I have an image of you, the reader, even now as I type this with my feet propped on the coffee table that never holds coffee.

You are an incredibly patient, and probably curious individual. You’ve made it through 600 words of mindful rambling, and you’re still reading now, maybe wondering what profound (or empty) conclusion I will come to, because I’ve just about exhausted your patience.

I don’t have one.

Not really. I’m writing because this Tuesday night group (and the women in it) have challenged me over and over to look at (for) my true self, and what has been missing from my peace and wholeness. Two of those things are writing and stillness. So that’s what I’m making happen tonight.

This was 30-minutes.  Exactly. And the peace of the exercise is its own testimony. Maybe it will say something to someone else, too.

Peace to you.

 

Where is Your Faith?

I grew up with the unspoken assumption that having faith in anything but God is silly. At best.

Getting worse, I sometimes heard words like foolish, idolatry, and maybe once even heresy.

And that made for trouble later on, because one of my biggest growth-steps well into my adult stage of life was learning to trust myself. I have faith in myself, a phrase I never would have had the guts to say in high school or college, maybe not even for orthodoxy reasons.

It just sounds cheesy and I’ve never liked cheesy.

But I went through this book with a neat batch of women in the fall, and one of the things that came up toward the end was the purpose and place of faith.

In the context of the study, the book was reminding us that we are to live this Christian life the same way we came into it: by faith, not by our efforts to prove ourselves worthy.

This I love. This I can get behind, and cheer, and find relief in.

And I have no idea how to define it.

Image courtesy of Michaela Kobyakov via stock.xchng

But it got me thinking of what we put our faith in, and I realized that for me, real flesh-and-blood people make that list.

For example, I trust that my parents love me.

I know that my husband is going to be loyal only to me as long as we both shall live.

I am confident that various friends [Becky, Kit, Jennifer, Sarah, Tori, Paul, David, Josh, Aaron, and more] are examining themselves thoroughly and submitting themselves to the guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit, so that I don’t have to interrogate and squish them through a garlic press before I believe they’re right with God.

I have faith in my parents, my husband, and my friends.

And there is nothing wrong with this.

Like the word love, our language has the single word faith that has evolved various meanings.

I have to have faith in myself if I’m going to trust my own capacity to make meaningful decisions (that’s why this was a personal growth-step for me).

I have to have faith in my husband’s and parents’ love if I am going to talk with them about difficult things and trust that their love for me will endure. Without this I will always be afraid to reveal what’s inside me or seek help with what confuses or hurts me.

I have to have faith in my friends’ ability to grow and individually hear from God, or else I will be forever limited to myself.  I will also be responsible for, or at least carry an undue weight and concern for their spiritual well-being, when their relationship with God is one-on-one and only last because they consistently surrender to his God-ness.

This isn’t about conflict-avoidance or not asking questions or challenging people ever, but it is about basic assumptions and simply being able to trust people.

In all these cases the faith is not based on nothing.

“God demonstrated his great love…”

So have all of these people.

Over the years as I’ve come to know them, I see different levels of maturity, different needs and gifts, and (wonder of wonders) places where our strengths and weaknesses braid together in a beautiful cord that is stronger than the sum of its parts.

And they love me. They value me.

When I have a depression relapse, or find myself in an environment where most people are blind to my value, rehearsing my place in these lives, and the respect they’ve given me, reenforces me to me.

~ ~ ~

I have found one of the most loving, nurturing, gifting thing we can do for each other is to have faith in one another.

Now, none of us want to look like fools. None of us want to discover someone we trusted was able to pull the wool over our eyes. It can shake our faith in all our other relationships, because our ability to recognize a fraud or cruelty is part of what allows us to trust those we trust as much as we do.

Image courtesy of amsphotos via stock.xchng

I don’t give my trust to just anyone. But for the reasons listed above, I need to trust someone, and I am incredibly thankful to have more than one.

In most of my experience this faith doesn’t happen because of a resume, or a creed, or the right number and combination of boxes checked off on some form.

It happens over time.

So this faith thing can highlight a hole in our Christian community: have we cultivated or intentionally created the space for the nearness and openness– the vulnerability and authenticity– of communication and relationship that allows us to build relational faith.

I’m told time is a precious commodity in today’s world.

I can’t imagine this is new to our place in history or unique to me, but I know there’s no other reliable methodology to building this faith.

And you might say that discussing my faith in people gives me a better idea of what faith in God looks like, or could be made of.

Time is a good starting place.

The Gifted Lifetime

Pamela Price at Red, White & Grew asked a hugely welcome question about Giftedness beyond the child-stage:

How do we begin to talk about the gifted lifetime in fruitful ways that benefit a maximum number of people?

She invited comments, but I expected mine would be too long (in full) so I started here.

I have a few bullet points that shape the rest of my thoughts.

  • Have a common definition (so we can unblushingly agree that humanity contains both gifted and non-gifted individuals).
  • Create a safe place where understanding is the primary goal. Competition or one-upmanship needs to find an outlet somewhere else.
  • If the non-gifted want to observe, they must assume good-will (the gifted people in these discussions are working out their own issues, not denigrating people different from themselves).
    • We will get so much farther, faster, if we don’t have to saturate our observations and discoveries with disclaimers.
  • Trust each other: our experiences will be different, and if we expect to police each others’ diagnoses, that leads to insecurity and back to competition.

Stone towerSome adults (without using the word gifted, or acknowledging their own giftedness) say that feeling alone is just part of adolescence, or part of the human condition. Religious/Christian people will have very specific ideas about what’s missing in one’s life.

These two bits (smart– in my experience, gifted— people who acknowledge the ‘off’ while invalidating the accompanying confusion, and religious people who expect their tested formulas to fix things) are the two halves of my own experience.

Between excellent honors-track teachers in high school and talented professors at college, I was surrounded by a very comfortable level of challenge and growth. I was kept busy enough through that era of my life that the discontent buzzing in the back of my mind was kept decently managed.

I’m one of those who can’t not-believe in God (and I think that’s a good thing). All my life I’ve been involved in Church, and done what I can to make it (find it?) challenging. So when I started learning about giftedness (well into adulthood) I was giddy to realize that the small church I currently attended was easily 70% gifted. More if you included the mass of kids.

That explained to me why we were so many on the same “wavelength” in intensity, intellectual demands, high conviction, with a level of educational rigor (sense of personal responsibility) for our children, many of us homeschooling, many of us eschewing the Standard American Diet.

[To this day I’m convinced that the cohesiveness of the group is tied at least in part to the shared giftedness, and the feeling of having found one’s “tribe.” This was especially notable because we varied, sometimes significantly, in our theology– usually a reason to “break fellowship.”]

According to the one book on adult giftedness I’ve read, the level of giftedness in the general population is 10%, so I imagine finding a group where nearly everyone was your kind, well, I will personally attest it is hard to walk away from (and I’m still trying to find my land legs).

The odd thing to me is that when I tried to have this [Yay! Look at us, we’ve found each other!] conversation with various gifted members of the congregation (much more calmly and maturely, I assure you), I was immediately shut down.

I can see, now, some sociological/psychological reasons for their dismissal and denial, but at the time I was deeply confused.

It is in this background that my summary of “conversation-starters” is rooted (with a tiny bit of repetition).

  • Provide a vocabulary. Tie it to everyday living.
    • I think the best way to start this conversation is to include people and give them a context for this “otherness” they’ve felt much of their lives.
  • Let people identify themselves– and believe them.
    • Yes, some will be wannabes, but as long as we manage the competition/one-upping side of things they will either benefit by association, or drop out on their own.
  • Validate– agree that there are good things and commiserate with the disappointing stuff.
    • My first two years investigating this topic I had this imaginary conversation in my head: “So you just figured out you’re gifted, huh?” “Yup.” “Just now? Are you sure you don’t need a second opinion?”
  • Provide models (alternatives to the TV-reinforced stereotypes) of successful gifted-lifetimes.
  • Brainstorm how to become those models
    • My primary motivation for trying to convince my fellow church members about giftedness was that nearly all our children were gifted. I felt we had a unique opportunity as a close-knit, gifted population to raise our children in a way that might inoculate them against the shame or embarrassment we received for our eagerness or “over-achieving.”
      • All of which that continued into adulthood, by the way…
  • Create a culture of mutual creation rather than comparison.
    • I keep harping on this angle, but I think it’s crazy-important: we are all so different from one another (along with having things in common) that if we are going to make progress in any meaningful way it will not be through propping ourselves up via the battered bodies of lesser mortals.

So there you are: Where I think the conversation should start. Where it goes from here I’ll be fascinated to watch.

January 1, 2014

Focus is a matter of deciding what things you’re not going to do.

— John Carmack

Image courtesy of Gerla Brakkee via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Gerla Brakkee via stock.xchng

I am |this| close to making a resolution to not learn anything new this year.

But that would be silly.

I’ve made “not” resolutions before (like NOT buying books). That didn’t really work/happen/exist very long…

And I didn’t feel bad about it, either. HA!

Last night I updated my Writing page, and for the first time actually made a list of what I’m interested in– what I research, pursue and actively learn about. And it wasn’t a mile long!

Though I admit to some deceptively concise labels.

I used to think this complete listing was not possible, since I’ve watched myself latch on to any new idea that enters my line of sight. I’ll chew and taste and explore– and that willingness has sometimes made me feel like and intellectual toddler who needs to be protected from my own curiosity.

That unnamed image actually made me vulnerable to the type of person who was more interested in telling me how to think than strengthening my own ability.

It was my untrained, but still existing, ability to resist this attitude that taught me I wasn’t an intellectual toddler.

Image courtesy of Mihai Tamasila via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Mihai Tamasila via stock.xchng

I was an explorer– an occupation which requires intense levels of maturity, initiative, adaptability and courage, words that, until last year, never entered my mind as ways to describe myself.

Much of my adult life has alternated between delighted and frantic exploring. I see something I don’t know, and rather than just enjoy it’s existence, I need to understand it– to explain it– to participate in it. Sometimes I feel behind and deficient until I am up to speed with usable information about whatever just hit my radar.

[I should qualify this to say not everything-everything is this way. I always love it when an experience completely “misses” that absorption instinct– fly-tying, bell-choir, crochet, singing alto. It allows me to absorb– and release!– that topic in a completely different way.]

Sometimes, if I cannot deliver an extemporaneous lecture on any topic (no qualifications– any topic) that leaves me feeling deficient.

Today I’m declaring that unrealistic.

I have my brief (deep) list, it encompasses more to study than I can ever use up , and it provides quite enough meat and sugar for my life and brain.

I don’t need to keep looking for new things to know.

~ ~ ~

Image courtesy of Richard McCroskey via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Richard McCroskey via stock.xchng

For many years I have been in the pursuit of the “right” system– that magical *something* that will make life “work” where it hasn’t before.

I’m convinced such a system exists– there are so many books about organization and time-management with great (This WORKS!) reviews– but I think now that this system is something as effective as medication for brain-based disorders. That is, about 40% effective at best.

40% is a pretty high number, and nothing to dismiss– That is a LOT of people with improved lives. Unfortunately, if any of those lots-of-people found their peace (or method) without difficulty or pain, their level of understanding and compassion or grace is diminished toward the remaining 60%.

The rest of us must learn to live in ways that schedules and methods may inform, but not master.

In 2013, my future-focused, planning-addicted self began to ask:

What if this life didn’t change? What if this is who I am, what I’ve got, and it’s everyday? Then what? Would I choose this?

I’ve found this way of thinking to be incredibly helpful for me. It actually keeps things from getting too big. As someone who goes meta really quick, it’s about the only thing that’s ever been effective:

One day at a time.

Take food as an example. We all KNOW that we’re not supposed to “diet,” as in change the way we eat, just for a little while, with the plan to return to our old ways.

If we want to be healthier we must find a way (meals, timing) to eat that we are willing to continue forever.

One day at a time.

So this is where I’m beginning the new year:

I write. Every day. Already. I don’t need a resolution to do that.

Sort of like I eat. I don’t have to plan for it to happen.

I do have to have some sort of  plan if I want to reach certain goals, but this plan doesn’t have to look like anybody else’s.

The beauty of a plan, of any plan that’s worked for me, I mean, is how many decisions are already made.

And this loops back in to What you already know.

Decisions that don’t need to be made.

I do have goals, because I know where I want to end up.

But the difference this year is that I’m focusing exclusively on what I already know to do.

I know a whole. heap. of a lot. I have had experiences that worked, and have learned from things that didn’t work.

Image courtesy of Farquois via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Farquois via stock.xchng

For the month of January, I am doing many things (like pressing on with the writing plan I began in October), but counting the days, I am returning to a few food principles that I know work for me.

  1. I’m writing down what I eat– holding myself accountable for the good decisions I know I should make.
  2. Decide that every every meal (or snack!) I eat has to include protein.
  3. I will still eat deserts (while following #2), but only on the weekends.

These are all things I’ve done and sustained before. This is not an “experiment” I hope will work. These are proven strategies I’ve been too [fill-in-the-blank] to stick with.

So here it is: not a new-year-resolution, but a plan to remind myself

I have enough. already.

2013 In Review

Here’s my annual letter, the one I decided not to mail because I prefer readers who volunteer to read the info (blog visitors) rather than “forcing” it on folks. ;)

I would describe 2013 as the most challenging year of my life, but that could be because I’m sitting here looking straight at it for the first time, and I don’t really have the stamina to actively compare it with challenging years that have come before. Continue reading »

Fears Connect Us

Image courtesy of Jesse Therrien via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Jesse Therrien via stock.xchng

I’ve thought sometimes about teaching writing, mainly because it comes easier to me than to most people I know (in contrast to the famous quote).

I am not above or apart from wanting to to be affirmed by my culture, and being a part of a culture that affirms through salary, I’m keen to see my abilities contribute to my income, whether or not I need that money to live.

One of the common writing prompts (believe it or not) is Write what scares you.

This may come as a surprise to non-writers, or not-yet-writers but it is very reasonable advice.

The ultimate goal of writing is shared-consciousness.

Image courtesy of nh313066 via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of nh313066 via stock.xchng

Yes, really: The goal the goal of most print is to make the thoughts of the writer the thoughts of the reader.

Fear is deeply rooted in us, and is a commonality among all healthy (and even most unhealthy) minds.

By writing about what we fear, we invite others to see us, and to be known, even if the reader is someone we will never meet, because there will be that person whose fear matches mine, and maybe they’ve never found the words for it, so it’s remained a shadow.

Or maybe they had the words, but they felt so alone in this place that the words were only a reminder of their isolation and shame.

In this latter case, the writer, whom they’ve never met, shows the reader s/he’s not the only person who is broken in this way, and that crack in the world’s armor might let in a chink of light and offer freedom.

Because, especially as a believer, our goal is to not remain afraid.

Image courtsy of Belovodchenko Anton via stock.xchng

Image courtsy of Belovodchenko Anton via stock.xchng

What am I Afraid of?
The question popped into my head, and an answer jumped to meet it:

I am afraid of loving imperfection.

Among my many contradictions are

a) I am good at loving, and
b) I am good at seeing.

On my good and healthy days, I am glad for this combination, because b without a would probably make me a jerk.

On my weak or confused days I worry that observers will assume a means the absence of b, and since both parts are important to the way I see myself, I wrestle with how I do both, even while I wonder how to care less what any observers may interpret.

In one of my conflicted moments I told my mom, “I know I’m doing the right thing by loving on [name], I don’t know what to say to [those other Christians] who seem to be focusing on that person’s sin.”

Unspoken, perhaps unconscious, in this confession was the fear that my insight, if not my godliness, would be called into question. And my mom’s matter-of-fact rebuttal deflated all my related anxiety:

“If you are rejected for being a friend of sinners, you are in good company.”

Imperfect Company
What a moment’s contemplation showed me was that my fear of loving the imperfect is a fear of being imperfect.

Both my mom and the latest doctor I saw (just this spring, and no, she couldn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. {groan}) scoff at that word, perfect.

Both of them said (verbatim!) “Wouldn’t that be BORING?!”

And both times I was speechless, because I wonder how they can really think that.

NO it wouldn’t be boring! I could finally relax.

Yeah, fine. Analyze the snot out of that last sentence.

I don’t genuinely expect perfection from anyone, even myself (anymore), but I’ve never seen that acceptance of imperfection as a reason to stop striving. Who pushes for less-then perfect?

And that’s where I started to make sense of this fear. (If you didn’t make the jump with me, no worries, just start here:)

My fear of others’ imperfection is my fear of having even more of a gap to fill.

50% x 50% = 25%

Even further from 100%!

Now I see more clearly: I am imagining the work I have left.

By aligning with someone else I take on their weakness, become responsible for it. More is added to the to-do list that I must make happen on my limited strength.

storm

Image courtesy of Mateusz Stachowski via stock.xchng

This is why the imperfect is so frightening: not because I expect more of them (because I know that wouldn’t be fair) but somehow I still expect more of me. 

I know well enough the amount of effort I expend in not-sinking. Add to that somebody else’s something I have to keep afloat, and I cry out It is more than I can bear! How can you ask me to do the impossible?

And sometimes in the storm I hear, You already are.

And sometimes I hear that I’m carrying more than I need to.

God does not depend on human exhaustion

to accomplish his will.

God often gives us strength beyond our natural resources to accomplish his will. If we are out of strength, that could be a sign we’re working on something that isn’t our assignment.

How do I stop being afraid? Maybe by letting go of a burden too big for me to carry.

I must choose a place where my limits are a gift, the means that allow me to rest.

And how do I find that place? Two questions help:

  1. What can I do?
  2. What can I keep on doing?

What I can do is boggling and mind-blowing and amazing.

And what you can do, too.

But that awesomeness is not necessarily sustainable.  What I can do is no longer the primary question, unless it is a special situation with a defined beginning and end.

What is more applicable is Question-2.

It is treating each day as if it’s my forever.

Image courtesy of Janusz Gawron via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Janusz Gawron via stock.xchng

Am I living in such a way, that if nothing ever changed, I would be able to continue? Would I be able to be happy, and have something to share with the people closest to me? The people I love?

We are all imperfect.

We all fear.

And somehow it is through that fear and that imperfection that we are drawn together.

I don’t know if I will ever actually teach writing, but I know I’m learning. And the cool thing to me, is that the more I learn about writing, the better I get at living imperfectly, and being less-afraid.

My Voice

I had a sudden memory this morning.

Four months ago, when I still hoped I might be able to find a place I belonged in my old church, I visited Saturday night mass at the Catholic church down the road.

(That might sound contradictory, but work with me here.)

Image © Patrizio Martorana

Image © Patrizio Martorana

During the years I was depressed and my mind burdened by more than it could carry, I found tremendous relief in attending midweek mass.  The church was 10 minutes down the road (a big deal now that I lived outside of town), and the priest has a heavy, heavy accent.

He grew up in India, investigated “all the faiths” and chose Catholicism. He met Mother Theresa. Doesn’t eat food that isn’t fresh and says that’s why he’s never been sick in the seven years since he came to Alaska.

Very interesting man. Wonderful smile.

We did St. Raphael’s VBS a few years back, and I got to learn the meaning of a parish. The idea of people worshiping together that also live near one another.

After the last day one of our new friends invited us to join them at a local park, and they got to talking about the “new” priest, and how hard is was to understand him sometimes.  I don’t know if I realized at first I was defending him, but I shared that one of my favorite aspects of visiting the church was feeling of foreignness.

That is, I imagined what it must have been like for new believers to try and understand a non-native speaker communicate a comforting but unfamiliar ritual. It all held great significance to me.

I can’t explain the warmth I felt when the other mother said, “Wow. That actually makes me like him more.”

~ ~ ~

Feeling a great deal of turmoil this spring, feeling isolated, I remembered the community and comfort St. Raphael’s had offered in the past, so I slipped into Saturday Evening Mass and soaked.

The second week I attended (the memory that struck me and made me want to tell this story), one of the women Cantors (song leaders) was an older soprano. And she had my voice.

That is, I recognized the way she sang.

There are different qualities and sounds of Soprano. I have my likes and dislikes, and my voice can be in either of those categories depending on the work I want it to do. But she was a mirror.  For the first time, maybe ever, I got to hear what I sounded like, not from a speaker, a recording or in my own head, but eight feet from the instrument itself.

Twice I nearly cried.

Now I know what people mean when they say I can sing.

I am not perfect, but I’m good, especially in the range and type of music suited to the voice. I have a good instrument, and if I’m not thoughtful in the way I use it, I can tear myself down.

And this makes me think so much about the rest of me. My gifts, my inclinations, my duties and delights.

~ ~ ~

I once was in a really foul mood, and verbally attacking myself (speaking the truth, I called it then). God somehow got my attention and gently asked if I would speak to my dear friend Jana that way.

Instantly my mind replayed all the abuse, and my imagination showed me pouring it over this gentle-spirited, loving individual. I sobbed, horrified that I might be capable of such a thing, how I’d never want to hurt someone like that.

It was as if God was asking, How are you different from her? Why treat one of my daughters this way?

I heard my voice in a new way.

And I made a change.

When Words Become Abusive

Image courtesy of Linden Laserna via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Linden Laserna via stock.xchng

I put the words “verbal abuse” in the keyword search engine for my local library, and one of the titles it brought back was a grammar [correction] guide.

That made for a great joke on Facebook, but no one asked why I was researching that topic (in fairness, I research a lot of random stuff as a novelist).

One of my skills is what I call “instant extrapolation,” the power to see A and reach G very quickly. I am very sensitive to attitudes and approaches to life and theology that grow into gross misrepresentations of God and his character.

But you see that word, sensitive?

“Admitting” sensitivity in some environments is tantamount to saying your awareness is not representative and may, therefore, be written off.  “Most people are fine,” the math seems to say. “This is just a random data point. Doesn’t matter.” She doesn’t matter.

Having removed myself from an environment that contained mental and emotional abuse, I am already feeling stronger, but I have continued to wrestle with the language to articulate what I walked away from, and I struggle with the question of grace.

That is, I really don’t expect people to be perfect (I am too aware of my own imperfection), so how do I make the distinction between carelessness, or foolishness, and abuse?

I came across a set of words recently that was a huge help in this process.

A few years back there was a huge on-line exchange between some pretty big names in the Christian world, including The Gospel Coalition, Rachel Held Evens and others.

This post includes the relevant links, but also the illustration of that point that has become so important to me.

Words are my gift, but (as much as I joke about it) reading minds isn’t.

I will do my best to be not-unkind, but I cannot control my own ignorance.  I don’t know what I don’t know, so I assume I will hurt people at times. I wondered if this made me an abuser.

The people who hurt me are still at least acting clueless, so I couldn’t figure out the distinctions.

Then this post. She says many meaningful and relevant things, but summed up my own pain and frustration in these words:

My issue is that a violation has occurred and no one will so much as even own it. My issue is that I am hearing almost the exact same words in the exact same mentality and attitude that were spoken to me when I was personally violated and spiritually abused: “I didn’t mean for it to be offensive, so if you’re offended, you’re wrong.”

It made me think of a (disappointingly common) scenario in my own household.

One child will be waving a stick, or throwing a rock, or swinging a toy around like David’s sling, and it will “impact” a sibling who was equally oblivious to the activity as the perpetrator was of the other child’s presence.

I have witnessed the wounder trying to prevent the hurt child from coming to a parent, and, failing at that, accompany the child to loudly protest innocence, even as tears roll over a rising welt on the wounded child’s cheek.

“I didn’t mean to hurt!” is the unchanging refrain, as if intent will absolve them of the effects of reality.

“The fact is, you did,” I always say. “What you meant doesn’t matter any more. You owe him/her an apology.”

This is the missing piece.

This is how I keep from becoming those I used to fear. I acknowledge hurt. I acknowledge ignorance. I acknowledge there is more than I understand, and that a person is worth my compassion, not my condescension.

Brother, if your sister tells you it hurts, it just hurts. If your sister tells you it wounded her, it just wounded her. And all any of this condescension and evasion of responsibility is doing is showing her that your need to be right is worth attempting to argue her out of her violation.

Jamie Finch from The Fig Tree

Combatting Depression (guest post at Devotional Diva)

For me, combating depression has been about my relationships as much as my biology. Especially my relationship with myself.

I know there are people who make it look like you have to pull away from your real life in order to “find yourself,” and those single-minded individuals can make folks like me suspect. But I honestly believe I’m as healthy as I am right now because of the digging and asking and finding and O-Kay-ing I’ve done about myself.

Read the rest at Devotional Diva.

Mourning Isn’t Over When the Flowers Wilt

 

Image courtesy of q83 via stock.xchng

This is a recording I made of poems about admiration, love and loss, from a variety of poems and poets: To be of Use by Marge Piercy, A Psalm of Life, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, A Dirge Without Music by Edna St. Vincent Millay, Perfection Wasted by John Updike, and an excerpt from Four Poems in One by Anne Porter.

I have completed my First-10 speeches for Toastmasters, and am now working on my first “advanced manual,” Interpretive Reading.

I performed this collection of poems at a new Toastmasters group yesterday. The feedback was mixed, kind compliments, and appreciation of how I compiled the cycle, with questions from other people about the point or purpose of poetry and such a “dark” theme: Remembrance, death and loss.

Jay came with me to the meeting, and returned to the questions when we got home.

My first response was to think, Maybe I’m just morbid.

But that didn’t fit my intent or my emotional state. I dug deeper while he tried to help.

“Is it to share at a funeral or memorial service like [name] asked? What’s the application?”

“Mourning doesn’t end when the service does,” I finally said, coming to my understanding as I spoke it.

“I repeat the poems because it is a way of remembering. The people who hear only death and gloom hear what they have ears for, and that’s okay, that’s not up to me, it’s where they’re at. But there is ever-so-much more and better going on than gloom.

“There is grief, because I still grieve. That doesn’t go away for me or anybody. And it’s comforting, somehow, to go back to what you might expect at a service. It still honors them, and comforts me.”