Monday, August 11, 2014

Now, I'm going to be awkward for a few minutes.

There are like 2 seconds of awkwardness, but I promise the thoughts apply to life in general. There have been situations, afflictions, pains, etc that I kept to myself for the longest time. I imagine you may be/have been the same. We do not like to show our weaknesses. I do not want to display my need, my desire, my insufficiency. But! I am needy. I desire. I am not sufficient. Confessing this and sharing my shortcomings, my grouchy moods, my complete failings, and my struggles has really opened up conversations and communication with others in such a way that seems to lead to freedom. You can see the other person sigh. They feel known. They are not alone. Someone else on this green earth has been there, done that and has lived and moved on. It is the most encouraging to me now to be able to share my troubles with others (maybe 70% of the time. I still hold on tightly to 30%, give or take 50% of my pains, struggles, issues, etc.) because they seem so relieved and encouraged in such a mysterious way that this kind of sharing can provide. In the same way, my sharing leads to freedom. It is a mutually beneficial exchange.

I have been able to connect recently with a couple of single women, who have an urge to have sex. But really, our hormones are telling us to. It's how we are made. Particularly when women's bodies sense it is a safe environment to be pregnant (e.g. they aren't being chased by animals or scavenging for food, their stress is lowered, the weather is optimal), hormones surge telling us we should have babies, which obviously means we should be having sex. I think men's probably stays at a more consistent level because their bodies tell them to populate a planet, and well, infant and child mortality was high so it's nature's numbers game. In any case, one woman was a bit ashamed. I told her some of the above and other matter-of-fact information. When she heard that she is supposed to desire and want sex because it is good and a gift but also her body is just doing what it is supposed to be doing, she seemed so relieved and validated. I was able to relate to both women my experience of life as a "slightly older" (oh. my. gosh. I am old enough that sharing life is sometimes from the perspective of my years of experience. And these are adult women, even!) single woman.

We talked a lot about the whole not having sex thing, but this post is really about shared experience in times of struggle, failure, distress, worry, etc. and not shying away from tricky topics. We all have had experiences that were difficult and obviously we typically wish we were not dealing with our issue. But the time you deal with whatever-it-is really does provide an opportunity to build character, through patience and perseverance. Sometimes it softens our hearts or increases our gratitude when we have passed to the other side of the issue. And sometimes our experiences give us the ability to comfort and encourage another in her struggles and desires. Now I try to share openly and willingly when it seems helpful and appropriate so that another may be encouraged and feel comforted and supported. May we never lose such sight of having been somewhere that our lives become irrelevant and detached from others.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. --2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Flimsy love

Today I thought a bit about my relationships, especially as I have felt so flimsy this year. School has taken up a lot of time, and I constantly have to remind myself that my fear of missing out reasonable. I am actually missing out on a lot of the activities I used to engage in and have not seen people as often as I used to. But I also remind myself of where my priorities must lie right now, and the magnitude of this program, wanting to do well, long-term goals, and how much I am paying. My priority in life has always been people though. It seems weird and selfish to intentionally structure my time now so that I can spend many hours reading and writing for professional pursuits. In seeking life-balance when enrolling in the program, I had a list of activities I would not give up and people I would carve out chunks of time for. Though other activities are good and right, I had to let go of some, which I phrased as giving others opportunities to learn, grow, serve, develop, etc. It starts to sound downright altruistic in those terms.

What is the purpose of friendship though and how can I be a good friend through the chaos? Though completely relevant thinking now, I imagine a chaotic life will not end upon graduation. I literally cannot keep up with all of the people I love and admire. This is hard for me to let go. I started unsubscribing to blogs and people on Twitter I just cannot devote anymore brain and time space for (and I probably need to do more of that). I have hardly sent any handwritten notes or cards this year. Calls to friends have been infrequent. Details and happenings of close friends' and family members' lives go unknown, but not uncared for. My attention is lacking, but my affection remains. This is the biggest and baddest conundrum I (and most with my, or similar, personality types) feel.

Oddly enough, technology has been a saving grace. I'm on the computer all of the time anyway and do not like my mailbox to pile up. Quick emails are easy for speedy typers. Texts have become good ways to chat with several friends in other states or even to recount big (and insignificant) events and happenings to one of my favorite people since our schedules have not been as conducive to calls and get-togethers. Lunches and dinners have been easy ways to schedule to see people during an activity we already need to partake in.

Yet, serving and loving and caring about others in real, felt ways feels so distant. I want to love others with provocative impetuosity, wild and free. These days though, my love looks like autocorrected blurbs to phones and penciling people into my calendar, only to ask for rainchecks. They've given such grace though, and I am beginning to give myself some of the same.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Being Known

You know that thing we all have in us...that insatiable desire to be known? It drives our actions and thoughts. We move throughout the day with it calling out for knowers.

The fear of never being known masks as insecurity, loneliness, depression, bullying. Oddly enough, the fear of being known can wear the same masks. I have seen such a work's progress in me as I am noticing being more open and vulnerable. Is this the confidence of my 30s as some magazine articles would lead me to believe? Or is it the constant refinement of the Holy Spirit and an answer to prayer?

Last week I attended Northeastern for a class and connected with several from my cohort, particularly one woman. We're the same kind of people, you know?

We bonded on the second day when she asked, "Is that dress from Lands' End...because I definitely have it in several colors and patterns?" Yep. I said that even though it was cotton, I'd felt spoiled with all the other dresses I have become accustomed to since they have pockets. Oh my, what a conversation about pockets in dresses. We're the same kind of people.

I turned away from a vending machine that wouldn't give me some cold caffeine lateish at night. Then, I watched her get rejected too. So she walked with me to another machine in another building and paid for my drink since my dollar was rejected again. A small but appreciated service to me. It's the little things that matter.

Like asking someone on a first date, I asked her the next day to get dinner (Maggie--note my social aggression!). We had such a great time. As she let her guard down too, she shared that she has three guilty pleasure tv shows, including Honey Boo Boo. As she sought to nervously hide her delighted shame, I could see her wanting to be known. I immediately dished about the crazy guilty pleasure tv shows I watch when dogsitting, which typically includes shows like Flava Flav, Hoarders, Sister Wives, medical documentaries like the one with the man with the giant scrotum or people who eat non-digestible objects. I watch a lot of other weird shows, and I hardly ever admit it. Because...judgment and vulnerability. 

If X is exposed about me, what will others say, think, do? But avoiding that doesn't really help my relationships, it helps me continue practicing not being vulnerable. It helps me continue to be guarded and distant. Over the last years, and especially months, I have been practicing authenticity and intentional vulnerability. 

And it feels...awesome. Even better relationships are building, a sense of community, and I am acknowledging when I need help and need to depend on others. The last is the most difficult for me, but wow, I have seen growth in my words and thoughts. I think much of this growth comes from knowing my Knower. The closer I have become to my Knower, the closer I have been able to allow myself to know and be known by others.   

This is what we all desire. This is what I desire for you. And I hope that I can encourage and help others in that journey.