Monday, April 28, 2014

detachment, part 2 [living life without expectations]

As I practice my words here, and work out what I am feeling and experiencing in my life through these words, I'm recognizing the courage of emotionally connecting with myself is different from emotionally connecting with other people.  

For those to whom I feel the most emotionally connected, it’s because I've sat next to them on a couch and listened to them bear their soul. It’s because I've laughed with them, done more than one face palm with them and I've gently shoved them in the arm when they say something bratty. It’s because I've sat across the table from them over coffee or a meal and looked them in the eye as I've shared my own struggles and pains.  These moments, small and sure, fill in the cracks missing from those who do not enter in to my space.

It was already easy to become emotionally withdrawn from the world in order to protect myself. And technology has not only made it even easier, but socially acceptable. With a text message, I can edit if I want. Ignore it if I want. Others do the same to me.  This is how it is now.

There is a measure of this that can be done in person, but you cannot ignore the person who is standing right next to you and asking you a tough question.  You can’t un-see the look on their face, and the emotion in their eyes. But you can turn your phone off when someone texts you a tough question. 

“We expect more from technology and less from each other…. And I believe it's because technology appeals to us most where we are most vulnerable. And we are vulnerable. We're lonely, but we're afraid of intimacy. And so from social networks to sociable robots, we're designing technologies that will give us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.”

This is why we don’t answer some text messages, emails, and facebook messages but still might think we are “good” friends with that person. That is why we feel connected (because we can find out what is going on with them by checking twitter, instagram or facebook) but why we aren't really friends with these people until we've had those real conversations. These real conversations are part of the demands of friendship, and as long as we have the illusion of being connected with a person, we will be lying to ourselves.

Yes. I said it. We are lying to ourselves.

We are afraid to be vulnerable with each other and social media and our phone have become our armor. Our lie.

"People get so used to being short-changed with real conversation and so used to getting by with less that they become almost willing to dispense with people all together." – Sherry Turkle

I am calling for a new kind of relationship, a new kind of friendship.

One where it’s ok that it’s hard. Ok that it’s messy.

One where that feels good. And right. And more importantly, better.

It’s better because it’s real. 

This is what it means to be emotionally connected. A refusal to detach from another and take the courageous steps towards someone who has the capacity to hurt you, but trusting that they will choose not to. And guess what? That is an expectation.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

detachment, part 1 [living life without expectations]

I was standing in the kitchen across from her. She was sitting up on the counter and telling me about her latest group session class. The topic was detachment, and as I listening to her explain who it manifested itself in adult relationships, there was a small flutter in my stomach.

That sounds like me.

She didn’t disagree.

Well… she didn’t say anything, like any good counselor in training would do, even though she wasn’t my seminary counselor. She was my roommate.

I felt the burden settle ever so slightly on my shoulders and went about cooking dinner.

We’re all closed off emotionally, to a point. I understand and believe that. We use it as a defense mechanism after being hurt. We believe it will prevent future pain, which leads us to believe our life will be better overall. We hold people at arm’s length, not trusting them until we are sure… but even then, maybe not fully trusting. This is understandable, but is it wise?

These words are echoing in my mind, you cannot selectively numb emotion. You cannot attempt to numb the bad emotions without that affecting the good ones, too. Is it possible that if we hold people at arm’s length we will ever let our arms down fully? Will at least part of our arms (or maybe hands) always cover our heart?

And if so, are we not living in a relationship that has some measure of detachment? As I felt that burden settle on my shoulders that day, I knew this moment, this realization, would be with me forever. I was emotionally detached.

Disappointment and heartache are experienced when we live our lives with expectations, because we will be let down. So logic dictates that if we stop expecting, there will be no more disappointment and heartache. Sounds ideal.  However, the more I think about expectations, the more I am convinced that they are more than just a noun. They are an emotion. And if they are an emotion, and you try to numb all the bad emotions, expectations will get numbed, too.

You’d be hard pressed to convince me this is a healthy way to live, to make me think this isn’t emotional detachment.

Being emotionally detached is a big risk, whether it seems so or not. It’s risking a full life, one without meaning. One without real love.

 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. – 1 John 4: 17-18

Monday, April 21, 2014

heartache [living life without expectations]

There are few things universal to the human experience. Heartache is one of them. We may feel it differently, process it differently, react differently… but make no mistake, we’ve all experienced heartache.

And the thing about heartache is that no one wants to experience it, and we will do whatever we can to avoid experiencing it again once we’ve been through it before. We will run, deny, avoid, and even tell ourselves and others around us lies, all in some attempt to amputate the process of feeling the real hurt.

Yet there is no topic written or sung about more.

It happens. It just does.  Heartache is one of the many things we want to have control over in life. But we don’t. Still we try to exercise control over it by trying to numb the pain with alcohol, food, sex… anything that will make us feel good, even if just for a little while. And to deal with heartache in this way can lead us to very scary places, places that attempt to detach us from real life and real pain.

I am not proud of this, because I am no longer a teenager. But I cried myself to sleep Saturday night. I did. I felt like a fool and a martyr and drama queen and a baby the whole time. But my heart hurt, and although I hadn’t cried myself to sleep since… I don’t know when, in that particular moment that was how my body chose to express that heartache.  As I seek to write with more courage, I also seek to feel with more courage. Like my last post in this series on expectations, about feeling the disappointment, I was trying to feel my heartache rather than avoid it.

The human heart is fragile not only physiologically, but also when it comes to sin and emotions.  There is a reason God warns us in Proverbs to guard our hearts against sin, and there is a reason the middle of our chest physically feels hurt during heartache. It is the wellspring of life. Our heart is our very center. Because our heart is our very center, to avoid and ignore heartache would be to stunt our emotional growth.

Batter My Heart

Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town to'another due,
Labor to'admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly'I love you, and would be lov'd fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me,'untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you'enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me. 
- John Donne

There is a promise to repair our heartache.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

I wish it was easier. I wish heartache wasn’t part of life and part of expectations. But just like every part of the Fall of man, God has made a way to redeem it. Don’t stop that redemption with your own ways. Allow God to batter your heart and make you new.