Sharing Shapes Reality

Since Lent began, I have felt this almost spiritual urgency to write. To write about life. To write about truth. To share. To write in such a way that would enable understanding. For myself, of myself. And for others.

And yet, I haven’t.

There are a million different reasons why I haven’t. Time. Fear. Guilt over the mixed motivations I have for blogging (for myself? for affirmation? to be heard?)

Its not for lack of material. Oftentimes, I have thoughts come to mind where I say, “oh yes..I could write about that.” And yet. And yet. I do not. I’ve been afraid that my motivations for writing are not pure enough…that the mixed-up-ness of my motivations taints what I have to write. And thus, I hesitate, I wait. I freeze.

Blogging/facebook…all of it…its such an odd thing to me. Motivations are so mixed. I do it for myself- to express myself, to share my story. And yet if I were writing for that alone, I would write in a journal. So then I spiral to guilt– do I really have to share to feel like my thoughts are valid? Is the very act of a blog/a facebook post…frankly…much of communication in general, does it all come down to a selfish and fear-driven desire for affirmation?

But that thought doesn’t settle well with me. Seems too simple. Too shame-induced (that is my mode of operation, of course).

Certainly, I write for affirmation. I write for understanding. But as I’ve been thinking about all of this, I’ve begun to think about how my reality becomes different when I share it. How vastly distinct it feels to have a thought siloed in my brain versus to share a thought. Ultimately, we share our thoughts not simply because we feel we have something worthwhile to say, but rather, because we want to connect. We desire to be known.

Our lives become real when they are shared.

Something happens to our sense of being when what we have thought and felt, be it explicitly or implicitly (sensed within ourselves) is articulated and received- and even more than simply received, understood.

When I share, I share because I am hoping that in sharing, I will be “gotten”…that my experience…that me, myself…would be understood and received as I intended it.

Sometimes when I share out of anger, when I rage and yell…blame and hurt those around me (hurt people hurt people, isn’t that the phrase? Certainly is true in my experience)..I do it because ultimately, I want someone to see the threads of myself that are quickly unraveling and I want them to care enough to catch them and help me sew them back into myself…or rip them out and help me start anew.

Other times, when I share out of joy, when I overflow with glee…when I glow over a sweet LO moment (for instance, her constant singing of “My favorite things”-my favorite verse to hear her sing is “doorbells and sleigh-bells, and schnitzel with noodles” she says schnitzel so hilariously!), I do it because it spills out of  me…it feels natural and right to share–as if the act of sharing such joy is a gift to myself and to others (what…you don’t want to hear about my two year old all the time?! Seriously? : )

But there is something that feels transformative in the act of sharing.  Without me knowing it, I think I often share because it feels right to invite someone into the goodness that exists.

And if I’m really honest with myself, the things I don’t share? The information I control…the things about myself that I don’t let others in on…I don’t share because of shame. Because of fear. Because I, more than anyone else, don’t want to see those parts of me open in the light because I, more than anyone else, don’t want to see them.

Because to share it would be to invite others into the dark places of myself and that voice of shame tells me that if others were to see, my hidden stuff would disgust them (shame again!) and they would leave. That if I acknowledged the extent of my brokeness…if I shared my broken self truly, and not just bits and pieces, my darkness would overwhelm. I don’t want to see those places…why would I want anyone else to as well?

But here’s the thing…ironically, just as those  places of lightness multiply with attention, these places of darkness multiply with inattention. If I don’t invite others in, those pockets of shame…those areas of struggle that I have…the ritualistic actions I take and hope no one will ever really notice because if they did, they would see them as the coping mechanisms they truly are…they don’t get better when I don’t pay attention to them. They get worst. They procreate and proliferate in darkness.They aren’t like a plant…they don’t go away or even die simply because they are not given light. Instead, they are like mold. They thrive in the dark and the damp crevices of ourselves. They grow and grow until in some way, they spill out into our lives, disrupting us in ways that are far more out of our control than our lack of transparency ever intended.

And so it seems, perhaps even more than or at least, just as much as we *need to connect* in areas of light and joy…we also need to intentionally take steps to connect and relate in our struggles, our dark parts– because inevitably, that which we hide, from ourselves and from others, shadows us from others…it blocks our ability to connect– not just with those around us, but ultimately, with ourselves.

In sharing ourselves, truly, we can receive the gift of freedom– freedom from fear of being found out, freedom from shame, freedom from our many layers of self-protection…and find freedom in how we view ourselves and others.

Because it is in the act of sharing that our realities are shaped. About ourselves. About others.

For light to spread through those cracks of ourselves and spill out onto the other.

Rejoice over you with singing.

For a long time, Zephaniah 3:17 has been a verse that I’ve held close to my heart. It came into my life during a time when darkness was being lifted, but clouds were still present…and its message felt like a gift from God, written just for me. Scripture is amazing like that, sometimes. For such an incredible verse, I feel like its not as well known as it needs to be. Here it is:

 

” The Lord your God is with you,

he is mighty to save.

He will take great delight in you,

he will quiet you with his love,

he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

 

When I first read it, I was overwhelmed with the idea that I, Catherine Bridget (at the time!) O’Connor, could cause the God of the Universe to be delighted– so delighted that He would burst into song. I tried to imagine what that was like…and the image I felt like God gave me was one of a father holding his infant daughter in his arms, lifting her up over his head and throwing his head back in joy at simply being with his precious child. In the mental picture, the baby was too young to really be *doing* anything that would cause her father to smile…no funny faces or cute drooling…the father was simply delighted that his daughter existed and that he was with her.

 

That idea…that God could be delighted in me just because I was his was profoundly transformative for me. And its a thought that has tossed about in my head, like the ocean throws around a rock, tumbling it to fit its sea-since that verse first entered my world.

 

At other times, the “quiet you with his love” has been the aspect of the verse that I’ve clung to– to be quieted, calmed, by love, is so beautiful. The idea that God’s love could take my anxious mind and body and quiet it through love…and that love has come in many ways through God’s gift of Sean for me. God knows, literally, how often Sean has held me and helped calm my spirit, when my mind has raced far beyond my own ability to tame it. Other times, it has come directly from God, through practicing His presence and reminding me that only in Him can I live in safety.

 

But this morning, I was drawn to “he will rejoice over you with singing.” I’ve been reading Curt Thompson’s Anatomy of the Soul and despite my having read this chapter quite some time ago, I was drawn to a section of it that uses this very verse to illuminate God’s experience of us.

Curt says,

               Take a few moments in a quiet and comfortable place, free of distraction, and simply imagine, the you can, being in God’s presence while he is feeling delighted to be with you, while he is quieting and rejoicing in your presence. Imagine God singing about you. Until I wrote that sentence, I don’t think I’d ever actually thought of God singing. Is he a baritone, a tenor, a soprano, an alto, or perhaps some blended combination of vocal beauty that is impossible to describe? The point is, he’s performing an opera in your honor because he takes so much pleasure in you.

                Still don’t have the picture? Think of U2 holding a concert just for you. In your honor. But now imagine that instead of Bono, it’s God. Too cool. We often consider how we should feel in God’s presence. But have you ever imagined how he feels in yours? Do you feel Jesus feeling delight, joy, and peace? If not, what do you feel him feeling instead? What do you imagine he looks like? How does he sound? What does he say? What is the tone of his voice? and then, what do you feel yourself feeling as you respond to these initiatives of God? (Anatomy of the Soul, p. 107)

 

The idea that God would sing over me has always felt a little forced…a little distance…and frankly, cheesy. Except that when I thought of it this morning, I remembered a sweet moment that Lily and I shared a few days ago. Lately, she has been really into using her alphabet blocks to create tall towers. She likes to stack one upon the other and is so unbelievably proud of her creations. And she’s getting pretty good! Nine or ten blocks stacked on top of each other! The other day though, she invited me to help her (or rather, as she says, “Help you?”) so I came into her room and we began stacking the tower,  each of us taking turns taking a block and stacking it. She got such a kick out of doing it with me and the time with her felt so precious…very much a “this is why we have kids” moment…I felt overwhelmed with love for her and frankly, as I thought about this moment this morning, I finally had an experience and an image with which to imagine God singing over me…just because he loved me. For I now know that feeling…I could easily have broken into song over my love for this sweet child. Easily. And it wouldn’t even have been weird…it would have felt natural. What a gift from God to experience love like this for my child- so I can now, in turn, understand a little more how God feels about me. That He takes great delight in me…quiets me with his love…and rejoices over me with singing.


 

 

So excited about her tower, she decided to roll with glee.

 

Getting so good at blocks, time to move on to Daddy’s drinks.

perfectionism-the enemy of creativity.

so i rarely post because all too often, my expectations of myself and “thinly slice” are far too ambitious. at least for this stage of this–maybe for any stage of life. knowing me and knowing my ability to set expectations for myself that are very out of reach…probably my hopes for how often i blog and the type of blog i create are…shall we say…a touch on the unattainable side?

this is why i haven’t posted in a while or on a regular basis. because when i anticipate not being able to do something *just so*, i end up putting it off. i say…oh, i’ll wait until tomorrow–i’ll wait until i have something really important to say. something profound. well, the reality is, most of my thoughts are not profound. and most of my reasons for starting this blog are not profound either. i started it to have a place to record some of my thoughts- the mundane and the obvious as well as the humorous (hopefully!) and maybe even the insightful. i started it because i wanted a forum to express myself in this vast sea of technology, most of which is limited (for me, at least) to voyeuristic relationships (thank you, Facebook) and bits and pieces of interesting news and thoughts through others’ blogs and sites.

so the problem with waiting on profundity…especially in the age of young motherhood…is that often profundity never comes. or if it does, there is a diaper to change or a little person in between your legs asking to snuggle (or bang on the keyboard). so waiting turns into doing nothing. and i don’t want to be a person who does nothing…just because what she might try might not be perfect.

so here’s to lower expectations. and kicking perfectionism in the pants. and more posts, be they brief or verbose…random and rambling.

because if i wait for perfection, i’ll wait forever. and better to try and at the very least, create, than not create at all.

i’m beginning to think perfectionism is the death creativity.

true independence.

Lately, the Little One has made a new friend. I knew he would come. It was just a matter of time. Ah yes, and with the passing of the first year mark, in He came. Independence. He has walked through our doors and taken a seat at the table. And yet, this newfound friend is a tricky one. In fact, Independence is not all that independent. Does he enable far more motion, exploration and creativity? Oh yes. Does he allow her engage more directly with the world around her? to take risks and joy with the freedom he brings? For sure.

At fifteen months, her need for me looks very different than what it once was, say, at one month…or five months…or even twelve months. As she’s grown, so has her ability to do things by herself. It is no longer necessary for me to be her sole source of nutrition, motion or otherwise. If she needs to eat, she can consume real food. If she needs to get somewhere or get something, she now can take herself there. And quickly!

And so, enter said friend, Independence. An expected and welcomed friend. But did he truly enter our home by his lonesome, as one would assume Independence would. Nope. Not even close. Oh trust me, he brought a companion.

See example below:

Independence helped (and still helps) LO discover her ever growing list of abilities.

Like climbing up on her ottoman all by herself.

It is a sight to behold. She hurls one leg up so that her foot grazes her chin, about the same height as the ottoman (sidenote: the flexibility of children at this age is freakish). From this point, she curls her toes and latches them onto the center of said ottoman. She then quickly throws her arms up with palms opened and ready (first the right one, with the left following quickly behind) and aggressively grabs the center of the footrest’s brown fabric, gripping with all her might. Her left leg swiftly flings itself up and in one dramatic motion, she flips her body frontward and voila, she is seated squarely atop her ottoman.

Cue enormous smile.

Pride beams out of her seven toothed grin.

Its a joy to witness.

Independence. Hurray!

And yet.

Here comes the catch.

She doesn’t know how to get down.

While she has worked so hard to figure out how to leverage herself atop said ottoman, the sweet child has no idea how to get herself safely down. And therein lies the problem.

While she finds great satisfaction in sitting all by herself,  she does eventually (a few seconds later) want to get down (mostly just to do it all over again).

Its amazing to me that she *knows* enough to *know* she *doesn’t know* how to do it. Sometimes she’ll test the waters—droop her body down a little bit to see if she can just hop off…but very quickly realizes she can’t actually do it yet. And needs help. And asks for it. Within seconds, it seems, of realizing it.

Cue squahining (oh I’m sorry- you don’t have a 15 month old? Then let me explain. Squahining: v. to squawk while simultaneously whining. Usage: LO spends much of her day squahining when she finds herself in situations (i.e. every other minute or so) where she needs a little help.)

Its amazing and a little bit funny (in the Alanis Morisette’s “Isn’t it ironic?” way) to me that her little brain did not figure out these two skills (the ability to ascend and the ability to descend) at the same time. It seems logical that they would come develop hand-in-hand.

But, alas, they did not.

Instead, in addition to her newfound ability to climb much like a monkey, LO has developed a skill that I am even more grateful for- one that will serve her far better than masterful climbing- the ability to ask for help. And to ask for it as soon as she realizes she needs it.

You see, when Independence walked in our door, I was so grateful he brought a friend. He brought Dependence. And while Dependence is certainly no stranger to our home- LO has long been dependent (hello womb-world)- it is only now that she seems more and more able to understand, consciously, her need for help and ask for it.

While LO’s ability to ascend did not come with a matching ability to descend, it has come with a greater ability to express herself. As her physical prowess has expanded, so has her mastery of language.

I am floored, and eternally grateful, for this. As she gains more and more physical prowess, she is also more and more able to recognize, in a conscious and real way, her need for help- and *ask* for it.

And not just *ask* for it. She asks for help *as soon* as she realizes she needs it.

Unhesitatingly. Without shame.

What a gift.

To see Independence as it truly is- inextricably…brazenly…tied to Dependence.

May she carry that skill with her always.

For isn’t it only in unashamedly recognizing our dependence that we can truly embrace and enjoy the *freedom* that comes with our independence?

Running from the present…into the present

In high school, I was the girl who absolutely dreaded- I mean DREADED- being told I had to run for sports. I’ve been active and athletic my whole life. I never had a problem with running, as long as I didn’t know I was doing it. As long as there was a purpose (read: ball) which required a chase, I was game. But, running for running’s sake? Count me out. Except for my ill-fated choice to, along with the most of the other girls on my high school lacrosse team, join the winter track team (what was I THINKING?), simply running was never something I would *choose* to do. But, fast forward a few years, and add in two destroyed twin towers (so close I could smell the stench of the burnt buildings and bodies) a few miles away from my new home, an emergency appendectomy, two childhood homes unexpectedly sold in a matter of weeks, a roommate who kept our dorm room at a “comfortable” 92 degrees because she came from the Carribbean, a broken nose and you find an anxious, actually TERRIFIED 18 year old in her first year of college, and wow, somehow, running became appealing…enticing, even. Like the stereotypical bad boy in a teen rom-com (think, Heath Ledger’s character in “10 Things I Hate about You”-be still my heart! Or even, James Franco in “Freaks and Geeks”- pre-his bizarre academic-soap opera acting-Oscar hosting episodes…), everything that I’d once found repulsive about running- its isolation, sterility, intensity, exhaustion!- now became part of its appeal. With running, things were measurable. Things were contained. Things were focused— things were achievable. What I expected, I could map out and achieve. Unlike my life at the time, when things felt so chaotic, so confusing, so lost, in running, I could escape.

Granted, I didn’t realize I was using running to escape. That’s the cruelty of pain. It hides. It buries. Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, it can mask itself as something good- life-giving even. I mean, being active, exercise, running– it is, truly, good for you. Yet, for me, at that time in my life, running became how my brokenness sought to be made whole. It was an illicit affair-convulted desires, intense need for meaning, even moments of passion hinting at-though certainly not capable of attaining- the satisfaction of a profound love.

And yet, eventually (THANK GOD), running, along with a few other choice methods of escape, betrayed me. Like any false love, it led me further astray. I found myself hurting even more. I found my escape had become my prison. In choosing to run from my life, from the confusion and pain and anxiety and hurt, I actually had been running towards death. So, I had a choice- a choice to face it all, as scary as it was-and trust me, my running from it only made it all the more scary (isn’t it awful how that happens?)- or to keep running, to continue to choose to believe that I could not handle it. Whatever “it” was. Because, you see, what I’ve learned is- our need to escape…our belief we *must* escape– its our fear-our anxiety- predicting our own failure. Fear that we will not be able to handle it– and shame over our failure. Because we believe that if we actually faced it, we wouldn’t be able to handle it. Its shame. Shame that we will fail. Shame that we aren’t strong enough. That we don’t have it in us.

Fast forward about a decade. Running is back in my life-though trust me, its been a rocky relationship at times. There have been points when I’ve had to walk away– times when my needs were too much for running to handle. Times when I’ve sought to abuse it- to use it to escape my present, rather than ground me in the present. But I am grateful. Grateful for what I’ve learned running can’t do for me– perhaps more grateful for that, than any of its other benefits. Grateful I no longer believe I *need* an escape. Grateful I know I am strong enough, through God’s grace, honestly, to face my present. Grateful that running, just like me, has been redeemed. That my runs no longer are a means to escape the present, but truly to remind me how to live in the present. One foot in front of the other, one move at a time. Looking towards the open horizon, concentrating on the ground beneath when I need to. One step…one slice, at a time.

Slice of the day…well, weekend.

So, I had grand plans to write not one, but two, brilliant postings infused with humor and profundity…but, alas, as is often the case these days, my plans fizzled as the days progressed and various interruptions and distractions (such as a little person who refuses to be put down these days) took over. So, I’ll write a mini-post about just that, failed expectations. But don’t worry–this is a common “slice” of my day so if this reads in an unsatisfactory way, that’s because it is just that and there is more on this to come in the future.

So, slice of the day/weekend: Last night, S (aka The Man of the House) and I were super excited for a special night in (though, let’s be honest, staying in isn’t a rarity–nor is it something we resent- a baby is the best reason/excuse for being the homebodies we already were pre-LO) because we were making homemade pizza (Mark Bittmann’s pizza dough and super easy tomato sauce, anyone?) and cozying up on this snowy winter’s night with a movie. The dough was perfect- a little shaggy, a lot squishy– and the homemade sauce was simple and delicious with the perfect blend of tart crushed tomato and sweet onions. We’ve made homemade pizza before and yet, this pizza felt different. We patted and pushed and pulled the resilient dough across our pizza pan to just the thickness we desire. We spread our chunky tomato, onion, basil and paprika sauce across the pie’s oiled (olive) surface and sprinkled shredded mozzarella, chopped spinach and broccoli to just our liking. As we paused to take photographs of our beautiful creation, all of a sudden, the lights flickered and out went our power. And thus, our expectations, just like my expectations of being able to write not one, but two, sublime posts mixed with humor and poignancy over the course of the weekend, had to be readjusted.  As did our palates.

“The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy! ” (Robert Burns, To a Mouse)

(but never fear! the evening ended up being a lovely night of laughter and candlelight, and thanks to The Man of the House’s father, who gifts us with flashlights every Christmas, multiple sources of sufficient light. And, tonight, we are rooting again for our pizza and movie! Be on our sides power gods!)

(pictures of said gorgeous pizza are to come…)