Monday, November 17, 2008

word vomit AKA 3 posts condensed into one

Self-compassion. It's the idea of realistically loving oneself. Not just self-esteem which could turn arrogant by only focusing on the good, but being humble enough to recognize one's faults and mistakes and forgive oneself, not punishing oneself, but caring for the self. Not self-indulgence, but self-care. I see so many ways that when I'm stressed or lonely or sad I become self-indulgent, eating ice cream, watching television, drinking lots of coffee, drinking alcohol, staying up late on the internet, many of those deliberate behaviors because, "I deserve this." When really, the most caring thing to do for myself would be to go to bed, eat healthier, exercise, and engage in activities that truly refresh my body and spirit, like prayer, journaling, reading. But often I choose indulgence because my flesh craves it, and these things seem to promise satisfaction, but they are empty and only occupy me for moments, and leave me still wanting. But where is the line between treating myself and enjoying life's simple pleasures and acting self-indulgently? Maybe it's the motivation. If I'm filling my body and mind with something because I think it will help me to escape sadness, stress, or loneliness, then it's probably self-indulgent. If I'm doing something because it's loving and caring toward myself, because it truly feeds my soul and refreshes me, then it's probably self-care. God, grant me discernment. My friend recently said that often how we treat others is how we treat ourselves. I want these two things to be congruent. I don't want to treat myself better than I treat others or to treat others better than I treat myself. I want to forgive others and self, and I want to feed and water and care for others and self.

An agent of change. Or maybe a conduit of change, a vessel through which real and transformation can occur. As a counselor, I want to be this. I'm great at being empathic, at providing a warm, safe place for others to share their pains and thoughts and feelings and feel understood and not judged. This is a great quality about me, and that's the first step. But I want to move from that, I don't want to be indulgent of my clients and those around me either, I want to help move them toward change. Which I don't really effectively know how to do. When I do see change in others, it seems random, and motivated by outside forces. I don't know. And it's frustrating too when so many people, myself included, don't really want change, but just want to feel better. I say that I want to change certain things about myself, my life, and my relationships, but often, the familiar is comfortable. Even if it's stressful and sad and disconnected and unsatisfying, changing it would be icky and messy and maybe this little pit will get a little more warm if I lay here a bit longer, maybe not, but the climb up is strenuous, why don't you make the climb first and throw down a rope and pull me up? I do feel myself growing and changing, but I also feel myself resisting the growth. What am I resisting? What am I avoiding? Responsibility? Accountability? Awareness that yes, I really am a dirty, ugly sinner?

Who reads this blog? When I started this over two years ago, I had this plan to stay anonymous. I'll be crackers and cheese instead of my name, and I'll post cryptic poetry that no one will ever know what events and what people in my life inspired the poems. But the anonymity quickly faded, and my posts became more personal, more real, more genuine. And I made friends through this blog, Martha, Ben, Anton, I'm so glad that this blog brought you into my life. I am thankful for you. And it's allowed me to keep up with old friends, Cara, Britt, and Laura especially. I love you deeply. And there are other friends, and I enjoy you too. But it's still stayed a tight, somewhat exclusive circle. I still don't use my name. I don't have a link on facebook. Until about a month ago, if you're reading this, it's because you have a blog too, and we're somehow connected in that way. Recently, my friend from high school, Emily, started a blog to chronicle her year in Bangladesh, and she started reading my blog. Since then, a couple of other dear, close friends who don't have blogs have discovered my blog and started reading. I never was deliberately hiding this from you, it just seemed so separate, this blog life, different from the life that I share with you. But it's the same in a way, so it seems natural and good and right that you are reading this now and that this blog circle is opening up more.

But I somewhat like having this blog stay somewhat exclusive. It gives me a freedom to write in honest, real ways that I might not if I knew that anybody who knew me on facebook would find this blog. But I do wonder . . . many of my church members, including pastors, have blogs. Occasionally I browse them, and recently found that a couple of neat girls who I really like also have blogs, so I added them to my google reader. But I'm scared to comment on their blogs, to open the floodgates for my brothers and sisters from church to read this blog. Somewhat, I'm afraid of what they may think when they read these words. Which is silly, because with this church family, for the first time I've really embraced openness and honesty and light and rejected darkness and secrecy and fakery (it's a real word, even if google doesn't recognize it). This church knows me more intimately than any church ever has, and I rejoice in that. When someone asks, "How have you been?" I answer completely honestly. If it's been crappy, I tell them that, and if I say, "It's been really good." or "I've been doing well, lately," oh believe me, I mean it, and let's rejoice and celebrate that together. But that kind of intimacy is still kind of frightening, and it's tempting to hide a little now and then or to worry that I'm sharing too much.

But mainly, I'm afraid to expand my blog community to include my church community because I compare myself to their blogselves. So many of their blog posts focus on spiritual topics that it seems like they write about godly things all the time, so they must be thinking about God more than I am. And I write about roach spray and weddings and weird dates and cultural identity and applications and movies and bars and music. Things that seem so worldly, so not-glorifying to God. I'm afraid that if you compare our blogs, I won't look like a good Jesus-follower. I somewhat take pride in being a good Jesus-follower, because if I wasn't, I'd be a bad friend, a bad daughter, a bad sister, a bad girlfriend, not worthy to give advice and counsel, not worthy to be a wife. Gosh, these have got to be lies, but they feel so true sometimes. That's probably my biggest fear, that if you read this blog, my final mask would be torn down, and you would see me as someone who isn't completely devoted to God, at least, not in the way that you seem to be. As I write this, I know this is a lie, that none of us are worthy, all of us stray, but it's easy to think that I stray further than you do, that you are closer to the Father than me, that you love Him more or better. And I know that God is in these writings about weddings and dates and bars and applications, because God is big and complex and I shouldn't limit his involvement in only things that traditionally seem godly.

As I write out these honest fears, I feel close to making the leap to include you, my church, in this blog life of mine. And I feel like I can do that without changing the content of my blog, while still writing what I want to write. So, if I do take that step and you are reading this, know that I love you, you are welcome here, you are welcome into my life.


The Pensive Poet said...

Why are roach spray and weddings and weird dates and cultural identity and applications and movies and bars and music ungodly? They're beautiful and they're spiritual and they're life! If spirituality forces you to mentally live on some contrived, otherworldly realm rather than here, then maybe the most crucial point has been missed. Spirituality is right here. It is in the sweet smell of flowers and the freckles on your cousin's face, political elections and flights to L.A. It is in the moment. Spirituality is being. Being here, now. I think a lot of people write spiritual posts all the time because they are afraid to show themselves as who they really are. Yours is one of my favorite blogs. I'd be really disappointed if you changed it. I'm not saying it's bad to write a religious post if it's what you truly feel. But token religious posts are transparent for what they are--token religious posts. And I'm not convinced they mean anything to anyone except people trying too hard.

P.S. Haha, "word vomit."

Ben said...

Just keep a sense of perspective about the godly blogging thing. I'm a dang missionary, and my last post was a picture of a dachshund puppy in a hot dog bun, for Pete's sake.

I understand what you mean, though. I've been wondering about a lot of what you write about here, the mechanics of personal change, the proper outlook on the self that's shaped by a focus on Jesus - if I figure any of that stuff out, I'll let you know.

I'm glad you didn't stay too anonymous.

Cara said...

Wow, gosh, so much to comment on. Maybe I'll try a little word vomit myself.

Great thoughts on self-compassion. Like Ben, I think about this a lot too. If any of us figure anything out, let the others know? Deal? Humility is different than self-contempt. Gratitude is different than pride.

Sometimes we don't see the change we create. Probably the majority of the time. Keep planting seeds of empathy and love and understanding and insight and wisdom, and there will be fruit. I've seen fruit from the seeds you've planted in my life.

Yeah, and I have no idea what to do about opening up your blog for others. One thing I don't like about blogs (really about myself) is that they're just one more thing to make comparisons about. Don't do it! What is our main end in life? I think you would say to glorify God. The beautiful thing about this is that it will look different for everyone. Maybe those stories of roaches and weddings are glorifying. Or maybe the time you spend in prayer or on the phone with friends or riding your bike and thinking of God is glorifying, and your blog can be a place of community that builds you up. I dunno. No comparisons, though. This has to be about you and your writing and God, not about what others will think.

And vomit over.

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