Wednesday, July 27, 2016

On Breakdowns and Being Soft

Yesterday, I had a breakdown.  Today, I want to quit.  I think it's safe to say the two are related.
Okay, so some background. I'm not a terribly emotional person. Or at least, I don't display a lot of emotion, but I've always felt it. As a child, I felt everything so personally and completely that the whole world hurt, especially when I was bullied. As a teenager, my world was falling apart and I had to divorce myself from the real hurt. Unfortunately, I took that opportunity to immerse myself in drama and created all kinds of other problems from it. Thankfully, my memories are spotty from that time. As an adult in my early- and mid-20s, I continued to be hurt and to protect myself, I stopped, as best I could, showing my emotions. I process all kinds of pain, sadness, even happiness internally and/or with a very select few people around whom I feel comfortable.

Now, having said all that, I've been making concentrated efforts over the last few years to be more transparent and real because I see that that is healthy. I may not be entirely comfortable around crying people, but I don't judge or think of them any less respectfully because of their emotional outworkings. That's just stupid, no? Well, I've been trying to offer the same grace to myself.

A few more pertinent details:
  1. I've been considering adoption as a single woman for several years, but recently decided to move seriously in that direction. It's still several years (and a cross country move) off, but I'm proceeding confidently toward that goal and educating myself in all the areas I can think in the meantime.
  2. I've decided that I'd like to adopt a child somewhere between the ages of 3 and 10, likely a son, and I realized yesterday that he is probably already alive and experiencing the hurt and/or loss that must come before an adoption. (I'm cognisant of the fact that all adoption is a second best because it always stems from a broken situation and grief.) This is and remains especially devastating to me and has me a bit fragile.
  3. Each year, I choose an area of focus for my personal growth. This year, I'm purposing to care less about what other people might think of my Christian walk, since I know it is good and right for me at this place. There's truth in many sources, so this doesn't mean I discount their words, but assessment of my spiritual life is really only welcomed from trusted friends and mentors.
Okay, so yesterday, I was spending time in celebration with a friend who recently passed a test and another acquaintance from our group was there as well. This acquaintance is notably pretty intense – even in public gatherings I've shied away from getting close to her because outbursts that are perfectly normal to her are totally overwhelming for an introvert like me.

I was late to the party because I'd been sharing my recent adoption decisions with a close friend on the phone, which my local friends saw. When I came in, I explained that I was in a deep conversation and my acquaintance asked what about. Because this is good news, I shared and was met with positive feedback at first. Perhaps rightfully or at least honestly so, the conversation turned to find out where my source of energy would come from during the hardest times, since gumption and chutzpah can only take you so far. I felt that I explained well that every good thing in me comes from God, but that the change in thought processes will be internal as it's a logical process.

Can I just stop for a second here? I would like to note, for any record that is paying attention, that being a good communicator is great, but creates WORLDS of frustration when someone just doesn't get what you're saying. If 99% of the world's population can understand me, I'm clearly doing okay. Perhaps the other 1% isn't listening.

Speaking of not listening, my good explanation apparently wasn't good enough. I contend that this is probably because she wasn't listening. I'm sure she would differ. Potato, po-tah-to, either way, it wasn't happening. On top of that, said acquaintance is extremely talkative and continued to aggressively point out that I needed a “source”. So when I tried several ways to assert that I had answered the question, I got frustrated and started to cry. Then I got embarrassed that I was crying. Then the talker kept going around in circles and talking about how she wasn't sure where my relationship with God was and how if I believe in Him, He can be that source. It felt a lot like proselytizing and judging my current relationship with God. It's probably not fair to be upset that someone would try to proselytize, but that requires an assumption that the person that you're speaking to doesn't already rely on, believe in, trust, etc. God. I do. In a way I can't describe, I do. So out went my “blow off anyone who judges your faith” theory and in came a flood of frustrated, angry, sad, and fragile tears. Then came more embarrassment for crying.

I tried to compose myself in the bathroom and came back, hoping that all would be dropped, but alas, I was disappointed. It started again, tears started again, and eventually, I decided it's best to cut bait and hot footed it out of there. I suspect that #CelebrationsWithLaura will not be at the top of anyone's trending hashtag list in the near future.

Public Service Announcement: When someone cries, it's time to either sit quietly and wait for them to share or to change the subject entirely. Other acceptable actions may include making a cup of tea, hugs, or providing tissues. This may be the first lesson in the worldwide sensitivity training program that I think I need to start.

Other Side Note: I want to clarify something here, even if only for myself. I know that this woman wasn't intending to be hurtful. She was communicating as she knows how, which may happen to be in an insensitive way, but she wasn't aiming to damage and destroy. Her words were pointier than my soft heart was ready for and her failure to hear what I was trying to say could probably be blamed on us both. While I do intend to avoid her for the foreseeable future and beyond (if I can help it), it's not because I'm not's because I'm embarrassed.
Okay, so that's a really long background story, but I think it informs my next few thoughts.

First, this is such a reinforcement of the good, kind, loving, and supportive people in my life. Those who know me best are entirely behind me and willing to help me however they can. I'm so incredibly blessed with those people in my life and need to learn to prioritize them in both thought and action in my life. (Cue happy tears here.)

Second, maybe this is the natural selection of friendships here in CA. Maybe I need to go through painful incidents, where I'm misunderstood and feeling badgered, to learn which friends here are in that category. Until now, I've been a “Yes” girl, accepting virtually every invitation and scrap of appreciation as I try to excavate a place for myself in my church and in this new community. Perhaps a bit more selection and care is a good thing. I can, again, practice being the kind of adult and parent I want to be to my future child in the attention and affection and friendships I accept and seek.

Last (or at least last for now), I need to learn how to be soft better. I know how to be hard; I'm good at it. I need to learn to be soft and pliable and gentle but still strong. I need to develop surface tension to protect from attacks and help to keep shape, but to still be willing to be affected and changed.

All reflections aside, I think there's only one viable conclusion to come to: I need to find a new church. Ha, just kidding (sort of). It does make me want to quit, though. While significantly less dramatic and sensitive, I did have a similar thing happen at small group a few months ago where someone thought I was insinuating that one could work their way to heaven. This never even entered into the realm of possibility for me, so it was an unthinkable conclusion and I was quite put off that they would think I said that and insult my intelligence in that way. I felt like quitting then, too. I apparently only like to be around the people who understand me innately and/or actually listen when I speak. That's a sarcastic, somewhat blame-shifting defense mechanism at it's finest, right there, but there's a lot of truth in jokes.

I'm not going to quit. (I think.) But I want to. And I can't spend too much time honoring that feeling like I've been trying to do with my other emotions, because I know it's a lie and an over-reaction, but I do want to recognize this pattern.

Today, I need grace to forgive as I've been forgiven, even when no harm was intended, and grace to extend to myself for feeling things I can't fully process and explain, for being “weak” and breakable, and for allowing others to see it.
Last thing, promise: While I confided in a few close friends and am processing in writing about the gigantic hot mess, I don't really want to rehash this with either of the girls that was there. I felt attacked and misunderstood by my acquaintance and completely undefended by my closer friend. I went through two similar (enough) situations in my mid-20s with very close friends and tried to explain how things felt, and both situations ended in the dissolution of those friendships. That was probably right for those things and times, but my Pavolovian response is to just shut up this time if I want a different outcome.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


There isn't much that I have learned
Through all my foolish years
Except that life keeps runnin' in cycles
First there's laughter, then those tears

 -Frank Sinatra "Cycles" 
When I was in 2nd grade, in Mrs. Duerksen's class, we did a project called, “In 12 Years...”. In it, my class full of 7- and 8-year-olds projected what our lives would look like in 12 years in sentences and pictures. All of our submissions were immortalized in a laminated sheet for us to take home. Our aspirations were varied: pharmacists, dino-scientists, gutter repairers, and much more. Apparently, when I was 7, I decided that I would be “marriad” and a movie star by the time I was 19. This is funny on a lot of levels, most notably because I can't ever remember a time I actually wanted to be a movie star, but also because 19 is just so young! Clearly, my perspective on adulthood was a lot different when I was 7. In actuality, when I was 19, I worked as an office manager for a landscaping company very near my hometown, volunteered with teenagers from my church, moved into my first apartment on my own, and ended up working 3 jobs just trying to make ends meet. It may not have been my best year in retrospect.

I found myself thinking about this project last night when I realized how cyclical adulthood really is. For the last 5 or 6 years, I have been very much the same person, with similar joys, struggles, fears, and aspirations and not a lot of change. While my home, job, and community have changed in that time, I am, at my core, essentially the same. As a person who believes that progress is important in life, that leaves me feeling like something of a failure. I have to constantly focus on the “soft” changes in my life, the growth in my inner being, to feel validated. It's especially hard for me when my friends' lives continue to change in leaps and bounds – career advancement, major moves, marriages, children, major purchases and investments.

The cycle I find myself restarting now is about remembering to hold things loosely. Part of being a (perpetually?) single woman is learning to be good on your own. It's something that delights my introvert's heart – to be able to enjoy my own company and sometimes even prefer it to being with others, to be independent and strong – but in recent weeks and months I've developed some relationships that are comfortable and casual, that make time spent with these friends sweet and low-key. I can call in my sweaty gym clothes at 8pm on a weeknight and just hang out and chat for an hour or two with no plan or expectations. It's soothing to have people in your life who accept you for who you are without any agenda.

Progress, though, impedes comfort. I think it might be its sole job, actually. And I'm reminded that the only things you can hold tightly are those that are intrinsic to your person. Everything else is at risk, fleeting and subject to change.

I should probably have mastered this practice by now. Losing Blaine so early in life has made me acutely aware of my own fallibility, of my body's ability to betray, and of the unfathomably unreliable nature of human life. We're born, we live, and we die – and that living part can be cut terribly short. This experience breeds fierce appreciation for those things that I love, whether I act on it appropriately or not.

Now, I just have to move from understanding of unexpected change to accepting and letting go. I will be okay – there's no question of that – but I want to be great. I want to feel only happiness and never loss when joy comes into the life of my friends, and that comes as a result of a selflessness I fear I may never have. But I can try.

And you know the plans that you have for me
And you can't plan the end and not plan the means
And so I suppose I just need some peace
Just to get me to sleep

-Caedmon's Call "Table for Two"