//walking on water

Confession: I was scared to publish my last post. Even as I wrote it, I wondered if I’d be able to actually put it on my blog. What if people thought I was betraying them somehow? What if, ironically, everyone suddenly thought I was dishonest? My two closest friends mentioned in the last post discussed it with me after it was finished.

Lauren told me that she didn’t feel there’s as big of a discrepancy between myself/my personal as I feel there is. She says she still sees that in me, but rather it’s the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and I go much farther down than what most people see. That was comforting, but then she added something that clarified most of my struggle in a single point: I act like an extrovert online when I am, in fact, deeply introverted. Therefore, it’s natural that people will treat me like an extrovert, even when they mentally know I’m not. The wall I mentioned in the last post is not, in fact, as big as I thought it was – if indeed it exists at all. What I perceived as a wall might just very well be one part of a whole.

Arielle told me she does see the discrepancies in myself/my persona, but she agreed they’re mainly discrepancies caused by acting like an extrovert, and by going along with extroverted behavior even when I’m tired or don’t feel like it – for the sake of public image.

And I don’t know about you, but I’m getting real tired of image here, folks.

The good thing is, I’m not as off-base as I thought I was. I can read everyone but myself, but that’s what friends and family are for, right? The last post – and this one – are the result of weeks, if not months, of prayer, questioning, and wondering what on earth I’m doing and if I’m doing anything right at all. In addition to her remarks about public image, Arielle ‘took me aside’ and reminded me of something. She reminded me that last year, I was stripped back down to the foundation of myself, and that everything I felt I knew and trusted was gone. I began to question and doubt things I had always been certain of, and I’m still doing it. To be honest, I don’t know if I’ll ever stop doing it. I’d like to think that one day I’ll be completely healed and filled with trust and certainty again – but that isn’t the point.

For a while now account of Peter walking on water has been cropping up when I least expect it. A week ago I told Arielle that I must be supposed to learn something from it, but I couldn’t tell what it was.

Tonight as I spoke with her, she suddenly said, “Love, I think I’ve found your walking on water connection.” She continued, “Peter ASKED if he could walk on the water. HE WANTED TO DO IT.  He wanted to step out in faith.  And when he did, he walked as long as he kept his eyes forward, on Jesus.  Once he looked down, at the water below him, when he stopped to think about how impossible the feat was, that’s when he started to sink. You’ve been feeling pressured to be this persona, to be someone who isn’t really you, but now that you know and can accept that it IS a facet of you, but it’s just ONE facet, you’re ready to move forward.  And correct me if I’m wrong, but you’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out if you really do understand it now and whether this move forward BEING YOURSELF is actually the right path or not. It’s your water,” she finished. “You know a fuller life awaits you, you know that there is a place of BALANCE. That even if it takes you months or years, you’ll eventually taste it. You’re ready to walk on water.”

Walking on water doesn’t look the same for everyone. For me, it looks like taking a deep breath and attempting to find myself – right where I left it. It may mean going silent for a day. It may mean ignoring messages from people I care about because I can’t deal with them at the moment. It may mean allowing myself to be tired when I’m tired. It may mean reminding people that I’m not an extrovert, and I need silence. Or it may mean a full day where I speak with everyone and hold a dozen conversations at once, although I doubt those days will be often.

The over-arching thing this semi-hiatus has taught me is that I like it. I like how much quieter it is, and how much less pressure it places on me. So will I just live life semi-hiatus? I don’t think so. I’ll take life one day at a time, and if one day needs to be semi-hiatus, I’ll take it. (Sundays are already total hiatus, and I highly recommend that to anyone feeling particularly stressed or in need of a break. I don’t go on Facebook, I don’t respond to emails, I don’t do anything pressurizing.)

So that’s what putting one foot on the sea looks like for me, right now. It looks like one day at a time. And most days, I think, that’s all it really is for any of us. One foot in front of the other, and always toward the one with outstretched hands.

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//thoughts on balance + honesty

I realized, soon into my semi-hiatus, that I wasn’t taking a break from the internet so much as my internet persona. The experiment has shed light on several areas of personal interest to me, but one of the most prevalent things the semi-hiatus has shown me is how little people actually know me. Even those I have known for years have shown, as I stepped away from my perceived ‘image,’ that they know a vague idea of me but do not actually, in fact, know who I am.

And this is largely nobody’s fault but mine, if indeed it is a ‘fault.’ I’ve been blogging since I was thirteen – through some of my most formative years, and while I wouldn’t trade that for anything, the experience has given me a kind of ‘split personality,’ a division between myself and my internet alter-ego. As I grew older, I developed a sense of responsibility toward maintaining my persona, and respecting the boundary between my real self and my perceived self. This is a tricky thing, as I earnestly try to be as genuine as possible in both areas. It’s asking a paradox of myself, and this paradox places a wall between myself and most other people.

For the most part, this is okay with me. I’m not the kind of person who can handle more than a few extremely close friends (read: two). Even those I count as my good friends know very little about me. Occasionally people express interest in becoming close with me, and my automatic response is ‘Sure!’ but I’ve discovered that’s not actually what I want. It leads to spreading myself far too thin, and I simply can’t maintain that level of personal intimacy with many people.

People make statements about knowing me well, and each time I feel a slight pang of guilt, because I’ve allowed them to think it’s true. It doesn’t happen intentionally. I never wake up with the thought, ‘Today I’m going to think they really know who I am while actually keeping myself from them.’ It simply happens, because I have created a persona outside of myself. I enjoy having this persona for on very simple reason: I often receive messages from people telling me how encouraging or uplifting that persona is to them. It helps people. I help people, or I brighten their day, or I give them something to think about. It’s what I do. But it is not always who I am.

My persona enjoys attention and is always up for a conversation with anyone. My persona is pretty pictures or dolled-up selfies, sketches or funny anecdotes from the day. People assume I’m extroverted, a social butterfly.

Me? I hate being the center of attention. I’ve been going through a little-to-no makeup phase during my semi-hiatus, which means selfies are much less forthcoming. My life is not all funny anecdotes – and while I laugh often, I also cry often. I have a huge sense of humor, but wrapped inside that sense of humor is a grave and serious person that many people don’t see, because I don’t let many people see it. I’m intensely introverted and spend more time reading history or behavioral psychology than I do reading fiction.

This separation of my two selves is something I’ve given much thought to over the past month, and I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing. The line, however, tends to grow so blurred occasionally that I’m not sure where I stop and my persona begins, and during my ‘time away’ I’m slowly re-building that line so I can take care of them both without the stress of confusion and self-identity theft. I’m re-learning not to let my persona rob me of myself, and I’m realizing I need to do this at least once a year, possibly twice. Extracting one from the other has proven borderline excruciating and has kept me up nights, attempting to untangle the knots I’ve accidentally created.

Can I be genuine without showing all of myself? I think so. Can I upkeep a persona that is me, but only part of me? I think so. And I’m okay with that – in fact, should I ever achieve a fluid balance between the two, I will be extremely happy. But for now, I will continue to strive for honesty and balance, and I would like you to know that I care about you. Me. Myself. I care about you, but I cannot be all of myself with you.

So here’s to balance, honesty, and a continual reach for the two.

//a reply

I opened my inbox and saw your email sitting there. I’ll be honest and say the sight of your name makes me need to take a deep breath and brace myself, but I opened it. You’d read my blog post. You knew ‘Her’ was you. And again, you said you were sorry. I’m not willing to respond to you directly – I may never be, but I want you to know.

I want you to know I’ve forgiven you. I don’t hate you, I never did. I feared you, yes, but never hated. I don’t harbor harsh feelings toward you, only the painful, raw ones. Unhealed.

I want you to know – I believe people change. When you say you have, I’m willing to believe it, but I’m not willing to share my life with you in any way.

I want you to be happy. I want you to embrace new friendships and find a true forever friend, someone who isn’t me. Someone better, someone with an open heart and all the grace and love and wisdom you deserve.

And lastly, I want to thank you, with complete sincerity. Thank you for that last email. It gave me a sense of peace I haven’t felt in over a year. You took the time to write me words that gave my soul a sigh of relief. I want you to have that, and I hope this letter helps wrap things up. People are such strong, fragile things. We can heal from fatal wounds, but a single word can make us fall apart. I’m still putting myself back together, into a different shape. A better one.

I hope you are, too.

//the art of confident friendships

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I’ve been trying to write this post for over a week, but every time I open it up, dormant emotions kick up and I opt out, writing something a little less painful, something that doesn’t hit me quite so hard. Friendship is a tricky, frequently painful subject to personally discuss. I can talk about friendly acquaintances, I can write fictional friendships until the sun goes down, and I can enjoy being a friend and having friends – but personally, it remains a somewhat knotted, complicated thing. There are times I wonder if I even know what friendship really means. I was best friends with someone through most of my teen years, and it was the toughest thing I ever went through. What started out as a mutual fire for God and love for storytelling bent out of proportion over the years and became a relationship in which I felt trapped and confused. I couldn’t tell up from down. Breaking it off was messy, painful, and could probably have been handled better – it wasn’t even all the other person’s fault. It takes two to make a mess like that.

But it left me with the realization I no longer knew the first thing about friendship. I developed trust issues and mortifying insecurities when I wasn’t looking, and I was left holding the broken pieces of what I thought was friendship and wondering, how do these even fit anymore? What am I supposed to do with them?

Most of my acquaintances most likely think I’m the opposite of these problems. I have many friends and friendly acquaintances. I talk to strangers and approach people with a smile, I send cards and letters and go out of my way to let them know I care, and yet.

And yet.

Some days are fine, and other days I can barely talk to my closest, dearest friends without crippling doubt. Just saying ‘Good morning!’ raises a dozen questions. If I’m the first one to say ‘good morning,’ does that make me sound clingy? Do I come across needy? What if they don’t want to talk to me today? What if they’re afraid to say ‘Hey, I’m busy and don’t have the time, can we talk tomorrow?’

It’s funny, how laid-back I am when it comes to others, and how uptight I am when it comes to me. It’s hard to offend me or hurt my feelings (unless you know which buttons to push). I laugh things off and I mean it when I say, no, don’t worry, that didn’t bother me.

Loyalty is hugely important to me. I cling to stories with strong themes of loyalty and friendship, close bonds where two people lift each other up and keep each other on track. I’m beyond blessed to say I have several of these friendships – enduring, deep relationships where we sharpen, encourage, uplift, and tease each other and I hope these friendships last forever.

And yet, even saying ‘forever,’ makes me wonder about that word. I was digging through the letters and notes I’ve saved over the years (there’s a trunk of them) and I ran across a package of letters from ‘her.’ (Not saying her name may sound dramatic, but hearing it actually gives me that lovely brand of PTSD, so I don’t.) Before I threw them away, I glanced over the content, and saw one word repeated over and over: forever.

I thought that word meant something, that it held weight – at least I did back then. The older I get, the more I realize that not all relationships are the same. Not all relationships are meant to be ‘forever friendships.’ Not everyone is with you to the end of the line. Sometimes people pass through your life to either teach you a lesson, or be taught. But who doesn’t want a forever friendship? I think I have forever friendships. I think I have several, in fact; but lingering doubt gives me second thoughts and makes me question everything.

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Last week, I was discussing David and Jonathan with my old-same (a friendship I truly believe is forever) and she brought up something Jonathan, the Prince of Israel, said to David. “When you are come into your own as the rightful king of the land and I stand beside you.”

Jonathan didn’t say, “By the way, David, um, when you’re King, we’ll still be friends, right?” He assumed with all rightful confidence that when David was crowned, he would choose Jonathan to stand beside him. Was Jonathan overstepping? I don’t think he was. Their friendship was a kind we don’t often see – they fought together, they saved each other’s lives, they swore oaths promising nothing would tear their friendship apart.

It was an unlikely pairing – the Prince of a nation, and a shepherd-turned-warrior, and yet we never see them question it. It was never a problem for them.

I grew up listening to Jamie Lee Curtis narrate Little Women (on cassette tape, no less) and one of the lines that stayed with me was this:

“The big house did prove a Palace Beautiful, though it took some time for all to get in, and Beth found it very hard to pass the lions. Old Mr. Laurence was the biggest one…the other lion was the fact that they were poor and Laurie rich; for this made them shy of accepting favors which they could not return. But, after a while they found that he considered them the benefactors, and could not do enough to show how grateful he was…”

We’ve been conditioned by society to believe we can only be friends with someone of equal standing. Someone of the same age, the same skin color, the same income. David and Jonathan were anything but societal equals. The idea that friendship exists only between physical similarities like money or position is an old song, but an incorrect one.

Friendship – true friendship – looks beyond money, skin, and social standing. Those things don’t matter, because the soul matters. The person matters. This is something I know with my head and willingly embrace when it comes to my interaction with others, but I’m still learning it myself. I’m learning that I don’t need to have tons of money to go out with a friend. I’m learning that I don’t have to second-guess every little thing I say, or backtrack and say, ‘I’m so sorry.’ Slowly but very, very surely, I’m learning the art of confident friendships, of David and Jonathan friendships.

And I want to say, a few nights ago, I cried. I cried because in one evening, I spoke with Arielle and Lauren – my old-same and my girl-bro, my closest friends in the universe – and I could not fathom the enormity of this blessing. Of the full-hearted grace my God gave me when he handed me these two women who are friends of the truest kind. Friends who delve deep and uplift and encourage and cry and laugh and soothe and slap the back of my head when I need it (we all do, now and then). They are what friends should be, and they are teaching me how to be the same. We’re teaching each other – which is, coincidentally, what friends are supposed to do.

“Lamb says somewhere that if, of three friends (A, B, and C), A should die, then B loses not only A, but A’s part in C, while C loses not only A, but A’s part in B. In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets.” — C. S. Lewis

 

 

//mascara application

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I’ve never liked asking for things. It makes me uncomfortable. Even as a child, I can remember really wanting something, but then placing more practical concerns in front of it – it’s money mom and dad don’t need to spend, I don’t actually NEED it, I can try to make it myself. I was doing my makeup the other morning and I realized I was going to need a new mascara tube, and I thought can I afford this if I’m still going out with a friend on Saturday and taking my sister to the movies on Sunday and—

And then I realized, all I had to do was add it to the shopping list. Mom would have no problem buying one for me. I knew this, but instead I thought, “Well, if I just combine that last tube with this one, I can stretch it out and….”

A verse from the New Testament came to mind as I finished applying mascara. It was Hebrews 4:16. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

What on earth, I thought, does that have to do with mascara?

And then I realized, my reluctance to ask for things also showed itself in spiritual areas, not just physical ones. I’m all right with asking for things – for understanding, wisdom, patience. But I’m horrible at asking for God to take things from me. “God, please take this ache from me. Please take this guilt, this regret, this frustration, this anger.” Somewhere in the back of my subconscious, I’m thinking, God definitely has enough on His plate without me adding more junk to it.

But that isn’t what He wants. He asks for these things. In exchange for endless mercy, grace, and love, he wants all these issues, all these spiritual diseases and injuries. But I’m not good at asking Him to take them. I’m not good at asking for relief. For some reason, I felt I would be ‘putting God out’ if I piled more things on Him, but that’s so backwards, so opposite of everything He says.

He wants our questions so He can give us answers. He wants our tears so He can give us joy. He needs us to give these things to Him so He can exchange them for something so much better. And here I was, viewing myself as an imposition without even realizing it.

There is no such thing as an imposition to God. He wants all of you, and He always will.

(Maybe next week I’ll ponder my eyeliner.)