Am I a bad person?

Sometimes late at night when life is stressful it’s hard to shut off all the running dialogue in my head. When it’s been a particularly hard day, it’s the highly critical voices that keep jabbering long after the rational and kind voices have fallen asleep. I lay there in bed thinking, perseverating, contemplating but it’s fairly useless a process because no matter how much I turn it over in my head, no matter how I try to counter the criticisms I hold over myself, no matter how bright the future is apt to seem the next morning I cannot shut it off.

I recently had a rough interaction with someone I’ve known for a long time. We were friends, I suppose, depending on how one defines that. For myself, I consider someone a friend based upon the conversation we have, the deep moments (online or offline) we share, how well we respond to one another in vulnerable times. Some friends are those people I call when I have to get the voices to be quiet. Some friends I won’t burden with my blatant insecurities. It all depends on how safe I feel in that friendship. This friendship was, I thought, filled with fairly deep moments and a great deal of vulnerability. We are divergent opposites in nearly every way but we’d been able to find our common ground over the last 10 or so years and that’s encouraging. Unfortunately, the rough interaction ended our friendship and though my instinct, generally, is to pursue and repair relationships, in this case that’s not possible. This friend has no interest in being in relationship with me any longer.

It leaves me hanging, then, suspended and questioning. I envy people who can move on after friendship break ups. I lay awake at night and wonder where I went wrong, perseverate about things I said and did, regret this, regret that, justify this, justify that. In the end I am laying awake and wondering, “What if all the worse things someone believes about me are actually true? Am I a bad person?”

Now, before you rush to tell me I’m not a bad person, it’s important that I tell you that this questioning isn’t about tearing myself down and wallowing in guilt, or at least I don’t want it to be. I realized the other night as I considered all of the relationships I’ve had to walk away from, that I can count them on one hand and that’s saying something. Instead of patting myself on the back about that though, I do think it’s important to take seriously the gripes that those people have issued about me and about my character. Am I controlling? Am I divisive? Am I insincere? I ponder those questions because I sincerely want to avoid being those things. I don’t want to dig in my heels and just feel better about myself. I want to be better than I am.

I don’t take these criticisms into me. I don’t let them take up residence in me but I do listen to them, like I listen to the Jehovah’s Witness who comes to my door and catches me at home. I listen and try to understand. I listen and nod my head. I listen and question with people with whom it’s safe to question but I listen. I have to ask the hard questions. As much as I thrive on affirmation I know it’s important to engage the criticism, I know it’s wise to listen and hear and then answer in the best possible way. In the end I can only respond with love and sometimes the loving thing is to walk away from that relationship. It doesn’t mean that the gripes weren’t rooted in some truth and it also doesn’t mean that I’m a bad person.

The reality is that relationships are always messy. They are a mishmash of personality and injury and history and vulnerability. I am not going to friends with everyone and probably it’s not terribly healthy to try to be friends with everyone anyway. But I can ask myself the hard questions in the wake of the “rough” times and if I’m doing it right, I can silence the insomniac voices in the night by responding with love, for myself and for those lost friendships.

What about you, dear reader? Have you ever had a friendship end suddenly? What did you do with the feelings that were left on the table?

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morning reflections…

“It’s amazing how we will never really see ourselves the way another person sees us,” Riley pondered as we drove one morning. We’d been to a portfolio review for a school she’d wanted to attend. One of the assignments was to do a self-portrait. As I drilled her on what the teachers asked and what the teachers said and how she responded in each situation she told me that they really liked her self-portrait. I imagine this is what ignited the thought about seeing ourselves.

Since then, I’ve been considering this. Riley went on to talk about this idea that always see ourselves through a lens, good or bad, that we can never be objective when we look in the mirror or see a picture of ourselves. “Even on video” she explained, “we see ourselves through the lens of knowing what we were thinking just then. We know why we said something a certain way or why we moved a certain way. We know how we felt.”

I wonder if perhaps this is why it is so hard for so many of us to really embrace the person we are. We know so much about ourselves and yet we know so little. Do we know what draws other people to embrace us? Do we value that too? Do we know, honestly, what the person on the outside sees and should it matter?

I really like that daughter of mine.

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Falling in love with me

My, that was a provocative title, wasn’t it? It could have been moreso but then it would not have actually fit the post itself and that’s just no good.

Words of affirmation take me far. I already know that about me. I have this remarkable ability to take it in, digest it well and let the nutrients which lie therein sink into my pores just well enough to nourish the soul and then I have this other remarkable ability to inject poison into the same vein right after.

I wonder what that is…a feeble attempt at humility? A return to an old recorded message that tells me that there is no line between being confident and being egotistical? A misread verse which proclaims that I need to make sure I do not think too highly of myself? I dunno. I just realize here in the midst of my midlife crisis that external soul food only satisfies for a short time and then I’m left with the me I see every day in the mirror.

Remember that feeling of falling in love? Maybe you are fortunate enough to be there right now with someone. The fluttery feeling in the pit of your stomach. The lightheadedness that comes when they speak something rare and beautiful. The anticipation of seeing them somewhere. The agony of waiting for whatever is next. Remember that? I want that. I want that with me, though. I’m not sure I’ve ever fallen in love with me. I’m not sure that is sanctioned but I feel certain that there must be a place for it.

I believe that all things have this connectedness. What we feel in the body we feel in the spirit. What we experience in the spirit shows in our body. I just think this is true. This feeling of falling in love, perhaps science would tell us that it’s just a biological mechanism that gets us to procreate and not kill our partners straight after but since I believe in a benevolent and magnificent Creator God I must differ there.

I think this falling in love feeling has more to it and I think it fits not JUST with life partners but also with our selves and in turn with our magnificent Creator God. I just think that must be true.

I admit, there are holes in my theory. I’m not a scientist or a theologian or even as big a brained person as many of my friends but there are things I know without knowing…understand without understanding…and this is one of them.

I’m not sure where all of this leads but today I am left with the word, “discovery.” It’s a place to begin this process of falling in love and perhaps a good place to end this post today. Each time we discover something about another person or in this case, ourselves, something which pulls us in…which feeds us…which tethers us tenderly then we start the process of falling in love. So, that is the thought I’ll leave you with today. Take a moment to see what you can discover. I’ll do the same.