Monday, March 24, 2014

feeling the disappointment [living life without expectations]

 As part of a new series I’m starting on expectations, one of the most unexplored places for me is disappointment. Understanding it, exploring it, and “sitting in the emotion” of disappointment and really letting yourself FEEL it.

One of the reasons I see this as being so important, though it can be painful to experience, is that I believe we can learn a great deal about ourselves if we choose to listen to what we are feeling. This is not about wallowing (I’ve been a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of girl my whole life, so ain’t nobody got time for that) but about exploring. Exploring the desires, wants, hurts and needs that are all wrapped up into expectations.

I remember sitting on a couch, facing my counselor, a week after a big breakthrough for me. She was asking the typical follow-up questions, and I was feeling fairly content. The breakthrough powerful and good; I’d finally connected two dots that desperately needed to be connected in my life and I was rejoicing that I had now named something crucial in my life. Not only was a happy about it, but I also knew it would affect me for the rest of my life.

She continued to push and I finally asked her what she was getting at. She said to me, “I think you are moving on too quickly. Have you grieved?”

“Grieved what?”

“The loss.”

That term had been floating around my house that semester… one of my roommates was in the counseling program, so it made sense that I would hear it. But without context, I didn’t know what it really meant.

When an expectation or desire isn’t met, there is, at the very least, disappointment. At the most, there is severe and deep hurt. For years, when I was angry or frustrated and didn’t understand why, once I identified why, it was a huge victory.  In short, I used to think that simply naming something was enough to help me move on.

It isn’t.

With a disappointment, there is a loss. Clearly, that looks different depending on the situation. But a loss is still there. And here is where I come back to my “boot-straps” comment. To grieve something, other than the death of a loved one, always felt self-indulgent and selfish to me. But I know better now. It’s part of the feeling process.

But we don’t live in a culture that honors grieving the loss. We live in a culture that honors “moving on.” It’s so born and bred in us, that when I started Downton Abby this season, I chided Mary in my head once I found out how long it had been since Matthew died and she was STILL wearing black.

I don’t believe in wallowing, but I do believing in feeling deeply. And feeling hurts, especially during a loss. Since I’ve first learned what it means to grieve the loss, I’ve experienced plenty of disappointment. And I’m still learning how to, but I am trying to feel that disappointment fully. It teaches me about myself. What I desire, what I expect. It teaches me about the other person, and in some cases, it’s even helped me confront the one who disappointed me, which has led to deeper friendship and love between us.

Feeling the disappointment seems indulgent. You don’t have to do it – life certainly moves one if you don’t learn how to feel the disappointment. But life is fuller when you do. It’s fuller because you are fuller. Self-examination is hard, but an absolute life necessity as a Christ-follower.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

a new series

I’ve been making a list. A list of all the things I want to explore and write about concerning expectations. So this is going to be my new series.

I haven’t done a writing series in a while, and I’m not that great at it. Because that means I need to be consistently writing. And I write a lot for my job, so to write on my days off is typically the last things I feel like doing.

But this is important. It’s a far too unexplored area of my life, and perhaps of our lives in general. And I’m rarely afraid of a challenge, so I’m going try it. So far, my list includes topics such as shame, detachment, feeling the disappointment, avoiding the heartache… I’m determined to find joy and redemption in this series, even though it doesn't sound like it from this list.

I’m open to ideas. What do you want to read about concerning living our lives with (or without) expectations?

Monday, March 03, 2014

loneliness and the white buffalo

It’s such a real feeling. It comes it waves… not tiny ebbs and flows but in huge, crashing, surfers’ dream kind of Hawaii-sized waves.

What do you do with loneliness when you are introverted?

It’s not the same… being a loner and being lonely. Or being exhausted by people and being lonely.

As I need to recharge by being alone, I am seeing more and more my desperate need for connection to those I love.

Have you ever physically felt heartache? …maybe I’m the only one. But I physically feel it. I feel my chest cave in, and a burn right in the center of my chest. I often end up placing my hand or both hands over that place. My shoulders turn in and my whole body leans forward. My chins hits my chest and I breath deeper, in an attempt to slow the pain.

It hurts.

It hurts because it’s more than just physical pain. It’s soul-wrenching pain.

I was always a sensitive kid, and since I have two much older brothers, my parents really did not know what to do with me (and they have admitted that to me as an adult). So they would say, “You’re being so over-dramatic” or “Will you listen to yourself? That’s ridiculous.” But it wasn’t ridiculous to me. I felt it, and for my tiny little world in that moment, it was all I knew.

There are few things that break my heart more than loneliness. My heart is broken by many things: how sin affects the world, social injustice, the pain of others, really bad coffee…  But because I am selfish, my own loneliness leads to the worst heartbreak.

I am most certainly afraid to own my loneliness. I’d rather just sit at home and ignore it than to actually reach out to feel less lonely. But part of that is in knowing that being with people doesn’t make me feel less lonely.

It’s being without certain kinds of people that make me feel lonely.

Remember this? I will forever mark that day down in my story as the moment when the biggest burden of my life was lifted from my shoulders. The moment I realized that God created me the way I am and it was intentional, and wasn't because of some sin in my life. Because I always believed, because so many others told me that I was so different, that it was my fault I was different.. and it was the result of sin in my life. But to change never felt right, either. So I just went on believing I was wrong. In every sense of the word. [Maybe even a mistake.] To finally know that I wasn't wrong for being who I was, that I was built that way by God... well, something shifted in my heart that day. And since then I have been on a journey to discover what being in relationship with people who don’t understand me really looks like.

But I’ve also learned there is the while buffalo for me. There is the person that understands me. Maybe not fully, but somehow, beyond all reason, they get me. These people are so rare, so few and far between that I hold them deeply close to my heart.

Right now I only have two people in my life like that. Two people that I can say anything to and know that no matter how crazy it sounds to the rest of the world, they will understand what I mean and may even feel that way themselves. And these friends are not friends who have known me my whole life. Sometimes I realize they've come to be that white buffalo after just a few short months. Longevity does not matter, and I realize that makes me outside the norm. Most of the people I know are very close with the people they grew up with. I am not. Years don’t matter to me. It’s getting me that counts.

I have been through seasons in my life without these people. And it was the worst time in my life. I never want to go back to those places, and so these two white buffaloes to me are so precious that I sometimes hold them too tight. Especially if I am not sure if they understand just how much I need them. Or worse, that if they did understand, it wouldn't matter to them. So I can become possessive and resentful…  and my expectations of them grow higher and higher. Then I stop communicating well with them, until somehow, I've ruined that relationship.

I think I will spend all of my life trying to understand this dichotomy of wanting to be known but also knowing I never will be.  I know that I have a deep fear of what people can do to you once they know you. They might leave. They might hurt me profoundly and that will forever alter me.  And I might have to search and search for another white buffalo, perhaps even fully believing that I will never again find one.

This loneliness, this searching, is my heartache. Even though I am surrounded by people who love me, I am not understood by them. That makes it so much harder.