Sometimes it's all just a little too much. Like this week. After launching my new business, Epiphany:Visio, and its web store, spending the weekend with family to celebrate Easter out of town, then waking up to a call letting me know my 99-year-old grandma passed away it was ... a lot. I got the message Monday around 9:30am, just an hour before an eagerly awaited yoga-date with a friend. Then, I went from yoga-date to coffee-date with another friend who's moving out of the state this weekend. I was grateful and conflicted not having the time to process all that had happened in such a short amount of time. It feels like a blessing in disguise. But what happened next surprised me.
My body shut down.
Not more than a couple hours after getting home from my coffee-date and I could feel it slowing down -- like when a runner hits "the wall," except I wasn't running anywhere, but internally I was in overdrive. It started with a sore throat unlike I've ever had, followed by waking up the next morning with a fever, and complete exhaustion. It's like the emotions buried so deep in my conscience needed to escape, but my conscience was no longer functioning properly enough to process them, and my body started flowing physical symptoms like lava out of a volcano just to manage.
I wasn't crying, but my body was grieving. My sinuses stopped, along with some other internal systems, and I sat on the couch watching a couple of seasons (yes, multiple) of a TV show I'd wanted to catch up on over the next three days. The significance of the three-days, given the nearness of Easter, hadn't occurred to me until just now. Yet, even as I sat there barely able to make myself soup I could feel my anxiety rising about the emails piling up and the posts I wanted to make, but physically I just couldn't function. My body said no and I was nearly helpless to fight back.
Around day two I started realizing what was happening to me. Due to some other circumstances in my family a decision was made to not offer a funeral service for my grandma, which I found out the day she passed. As I shared this with a friend, she verbalized what I hadn't yet been able to: in a way my grieving process had been taken from me. And although I couldn't at the time sit with and process that loss, or the passing of my grandma, or recovering from the business of the week prior, my body had to at some level. And so it made me sit still. Very, very still. And I'm all about stillness and silence and solitude, but when my cognitive abilities are taken from me, and I can't even be mentally productive, it feels very uncomfortably different.
Thankfully sometime during my three day reboot Jesus reminded me of the Ignatian discipline of indifference. Not lack of a preference, but the invitation surrender to the unalterable circumstances of my health and open to Jesus in the middle of it all. As I did I found grace. Grace to rest. Grace to let go. Grace to embrace my weakness in my circumstances. It wasn't because I spent the entire time reading spiritual classics or Scripture, but because I responded and offered my weakness to Jesus to and asked Him to meet me there, the place I was currently stuck: on the couch, in front of the TV, with nothing left to give. And He did, because He is good. And for that I am so grateful.
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A few weeks ago my spiritual director said he thought it sounded like I viewed myself as a child. I wasn't very happy with him. What he said hit a very tender spot.
As an emotionally parentified child I have been a very good girl for a very long time. Responsibility is my middle name (okay, not really--it's Lee), but my fear of being bad has led me to a life of hyper-vigilance following the rules. My tendencies even show up on my StrengthsFinder 2.0 test, with responsibility being in my top three strengths.
And then I went to seminary.
As my professors spoke truth and love, grace and knowledge, they at times asked me not to do my homework. At first I couldn't obey. Then I realized I wasn't obeying. So I decided to obey and not do my homework. Sure, an oversimplification of what actually occurred, but for the first time in my life I felt freedom to be utterly and truly honest. I was having a difficult time praying, so I wrote a paper about the difficulty, not a manufactured response on how good God was all the time. I was honest. And it led me to experience God's goodness, however ironic that sounds. When God didn't punish me for not enjoying prayer, or not praying enough, I felt seen and loved and cherished--and I tended to find myself wanting to pray. For the first time in my life I wasn't a good girl, and I knew I was loved deeply in the middle of it.
This process of growing up emotionally hasn't been easy. At first I thought I'd get to enjoy the childhood I lost, but that hasn't been the case. However, Jesus is inviting me to mourn the loss -- it's not fun, but it's deeply good. Mourning the loss of my childhood for me means letting go of not getting to live life simply, forgiving those who emotionally used me, and admitting what happened to me was wrong and there are unfortunate consequences for me today.
What I'm beginning to see now (with the help of my spiritual director) more fully is how wrong my child-view of adulthood was. Even in my parentification I wasn't acting as a true adult. I was acting as the version of an adult presented to me. I'm learning now what it means to live as an adult, deeply loved by Jesus. So far it means:
I invite you to share...
How do you feel about being perceived as bad, or good?
What has keeping that mask on ("bad/good" person) cost you?