Buying Yourself Isn’t Satisfying

Struggling a little tonight, as I sometimes do, with the wanting. I went over to Etsy to browse, just because it’s fun to view the creative minds of those who do because they want to. They had a whole “graduation” section prepared, and I clicked over there just to see. I didn’t anticipate how it would make me feel, make me want. Not want the objects. Oh, some of them were clever and fun and thoughtful and touching, but I don’t need any of them.

No, what I wanted was someone to give them to me. The same sort of pull I feel sometimes on Valentine’s Day. I don’t really need the flowers, but I wish someone wanted to give them to me.

I don’t really want someone to come to my choir concerts or watch me be inducted into my graduate program. . .but I want someone who wants to.  I want someone who is so interested in my life that they really wouldn’t miss it because they really don’t want to because I’m there.

I squash those thoughts. Squash, squash, squash. ‘Who doesn’t want a little worship, a little pedestal?’ I tell myself. Vanity, vanity. But the squashing doesn’t really work, because as much as there might be some truth behind that, it really is a hunger for the relationship that would bear that kind of fruit. It isn’t about graduation, and it isn’t about recognition, and it isn’t even really about me. It’s about the wanting to share life with someone in a meaningful way for a long time. These are little symptoms of the deeper longing, and quashing the symptoms does nothing to resolve the underlying problem.

I don’t know that it’s a problem we have the power to solve for ourselves.

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Who, you?

We were talking about eating disorders today, and I think one of the most insidious things is that it’s not always obvious until it’s “too late.” Some people are just naturally skinnier. Some people do just eat less. It’s not like a big huge red flashing light goes off over a woman’s head saying “EVERYBODY!! I MISSED MY PERIOD BECAUSE I’M NOT EATING ENOUGH!!!!” By the time it is that glaringly obvious, the person has been struggling for a long time–often years–deeply entrenched in their difficulties. Like anything, the sooner it is caught and appropriately addressed, the easier it is to successfully turn away from it. Once they’re emaciated waifs, it will be obvious there’s a problem–and even harder to help them find their way back to three square meals.

But I think that part of the problem is not recognizing there is a problem–not just because it means people won’t be able to get the help and support they need, but also because it’s a habit of callousness–something that just happens to “other people.” No one makes it a goal to “get anorexia” and most people who do fall into that pit remain in denial for quite sometime. “Awareness” is such a cheesy, over-used word nowadays. People are “raising awareness” for everything–so much so that no one pays attention anymore. I asked a classmate why she was wearing an Alzheimer’s awareness shirt, and she honestly couldn’t remember who it was who originally inspired her to do the Memory Walk. I can–deep in my gut, always, I see the word Alzheimer’s and I see my grandfather. People may be more aware now that “Alzheimer’s” exists, and that it’s a “bad thing” that “needs  a cure!”–but do they really understand?

And everyone knows about anorexia. It’s like, not eating and stuff, for girls that, like, worry about the way they look and stuff, and then they crazy girls starve themselves. . .right? And then I tell people, “Your sister was getting caught in this too. I had to explain to her what was going on. She didn’t realize.” And they look at me so surprised, so quizzically. “Huh,” they say. “Huh; I guess I never really paid attention.”

Do you think it’s a “someone else” problem? Only something crazy girls get? I’m telling you, by the time it’s obvious, so much damage has already been done. Girls who don’t care about fashion. Girls who don’t stare at themselves in the mirror. Girls you’d think would “know better”–because it isn’t even about knowing. Girls who seem to be dedicated to healthy lifestyles.  Girls who seem so polite and sensible.

You’re aware of “anorexia,” but are you aware of the girls who have it? The women? You can do all the walks and all the events, but do you know who you’re wearing that shirt for? It isn’t the “what” you need to be aware of. . .it’s the who.

All You Need is Love

That was a song we had to sing in choir this semester. (I think we did a lousy job at it, by the way, but that’s another story.) I was thinking about things this morning in a half be-fogged, am I awake or asleep kind of state. There are a lot of things I’ve been reading that have been helpful, but ultimately unsatisfying. Emily Freeman wrote some books I really like, a lot about courage and God putting inside of you these yearnings and limitations. I read Ann Voskamp’s 1,000 blessing, and her blog is mostly more of the same. I tried to read “Desiring God” by John Piper, but he liked too much to hear himself speak, and even though he had some really good things to say, I couldn’t make it all the way through. There’s a big simplicity-less-is-more movement going around.

They all have some good and interesting things to say for the moment, but none of them have ever radically changed my life. At the end of a couple weeks, I feel more like I’m holding onto a “one quick trick!” then I am something that really changes my outlook. I don’t think the authors mean them that way, and I’m sure they were very real epiphanies and experiences of growth on their behalf. But God didn’t tell people they had to keep a numbered list of His blessings in order to be His followers, and many of His people don’t have paper or even know how two write, you know? So as helpful as that exercise may be, it’s not like it’s the “key” to figuring out how to follow or serve God.

As I was complaining aloud about these “one-quick-fixes” I also asked the rhetorical question of, “I mean, it’s not like You talked about any one, simple thing!”

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.

Der. Yeah. But I meant, besides that.

It doesn’t really answer my in-the-now questions (do I just take any apartment, because a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, or do I hold out for something that will really make me happy?), but it did kind of clarify for me why I had been finding so many things to be ultimately unsatisfactory. It reminded me again of my own given understanding of “the meaning of life” was: Expressing the love of God, while it is still called Today.

That doesn’t always give me direction, but it is usually helpful for giving me perspective. I still don’t know what to do about an apartment. . .but I realize that as much as it seems to really matter–it doesn’t. Where you lived for 6 weeks really doesn’t matter. The attitude you give while searching is actually more likely to matter, because it’s people you’re dealing with. The thanks given to the people who turn you away. The warmth you show to the people that you would rather not stay with, but might have to anyway. It’s funny to think that the bubbly pleasantries I do without thinking mean more than the the agonies I endure over All of the Things, but I think it’s true.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Being responsible isn’t as important as being loving.

Being joyful isn’t at important as being loving.

Being right isn’t as important as being loving.

Having things figured out and being on time isn’t as important as loving.

Having the right amount of stuff or exercising three times a week doesn’t rate, either.

Some could argue that some of those things flow from loving, and maybe there is some truth to that, some of the time. But the point is, you have to go to the source. Being responsible doesn’t making you loving, even if loving can make you responsible.

People, I am still stressed and frazzled. I still just want to know where I’m going to live, please and thank you. But on top of that all, I don’t need the extra stress of trying to figure out what “following God” looks like, or what shape that “should” be taking, or what I really “should” be making time for. Following God looks like loving the way He loved; it takes a different shape in everyone, but I should still be making time for it.

I don’t have to “get this right” as much as I need to “get” His love and the grace to share it.

It’s liberating, my friends. Not because love always feels good; sometimes it’s terribly brutally difficult. But because it means you can take your gaze off the inward. What should I. . . what will I. . .I want. . .I wish. . .I can’t. It doesn’t matter. It is, but it doesn’t matter. I still want. I still wish. In the grand scheme of life, it doesn’t matter. And it does matter every single last time I showed love today, no matter how small or fleeting.

And I feel like I’m speaking truth that I don’t fully understand myself, yet I feel like I have to speak it anyway, even just in an attempt to grasp it myself.

You might want a very lot of things. But all you need is love.

Frogs.

When they say God’s gonna be with you through all those dark valleys, they neglect to tell you He doesn’t bring a flashlight. He has night vision, so He doesn’t need one. And you don’t get to see where you’re going. . .you just get to stumble around in the dark WHILE holding His hand, and asking every three minutes if He’s sure He knows where He’s going? And how long till we get there? And this is taking too long, and my feet hurt, and why are we doing things again?

I’m pretty sure He mostly just hums a tune to Himself and ignores the whining.

Truth: Life Is Messy

“Self-help” abounds. It drives me nuts.

Not because I don’t think that we should take responsibility for ourselves, but because almost all of the purported self-help is far too sloppy to be helpful. Cute articles with catchy titles, and slick lists of x-numbers of “easy” ways/steps to win the world–it’s kind of infuriating.

Because its like telling some how to change light switch plates, or paint or room or–for the very daring and committed!!–patch a hole in the dry wall–when what really needs to be done is to tear everything down to complete rubble and re-evaluate what a house and a home really is. There are very few people who actually want to tackle head on the big scary questions of “what life is about”. About life and death. About that fact that our past shapes our present and our present shapes our future.

Everyone has these questions. I don’t care how adorable her clothes are and how perfect her nails and how cute her hair cut–part of being human is wondering why we’re human and what that means. Some of us stuff those questions down deeper than others, try to smoother them harder than others, and some of us recognize that they’re there but try to fix the problem with Spackle and paint. But very few people want to lean over the edge and count how many lions are in the den. It makes those of us who are counting wonder if we’re all alone and why no one else is talking about the lions–but no one really escapes the reality that they’re there.

Fix-it lists and articles are all avoiding the fact that life is just to messy to be contained in dietary advice and “green” methods of housecleaning. It can’t be fixed with a one size fits all, and it certainly isn’t easy, no matter how you want to abuse that word. If it were easy, we’d all be doing it by now, not still wistfully reading about it and wondering why we can’t get our act together. Self-help instruction also implies that it’s our fault–that anyone can and should “take control” of their own life. Like if we just consciously decide what success is, and set our energies on it, well, duh: we’ll get what we want.

Realities are much more unordered. We don’t really know what we want, but we pick something so as to not seem directionless. Later, we decide we didn’t really want that, or perhaps changed our mind–or something changes that totally devastates our world view and what we thought was important. Or we think we want something, but the more we pursue it, the more meaningless it becomes. And in the meantime, the cat barfed over your favorite shoes, the car repair bill was six times more expensive than you thought it would be, and your mom was just diagnosed with cancer. Go zen that. Perky ponytails and green “de-tox” drinks aren’t going to save you now, or give you any direction. The bills still have to paid, the barf still stinks, and you can’t save your mom. Yay, control over the direction of your life.

Some people say, “no, no! It’s about you and your response, not the physical realities!” And I’m like, “Mind, meet body. Body, meet mind.” They are together, intertwined, and cannot be divorced from each other. No one is going to feel blissful watching their loved ones suffer. No one is going to be happy realizing they are out of money and out of options. And if there are fortifications that can be made to ameliorate these sufferings, it’s not five easy steps and someone else’s mantra. It’s not going to be avoiding the hard questions by studying laundry detergent recipes and giving up donuts.

It’s just that. . .we all want the hard questions answered, and no one can do it for us. There is no self-help article that can slog through the trenches for you. No one out there who can take a long look inside of you except yourself. When the narrator yells, “PLOT TWIST!” and all you can think is, “well, crap, now what?” nobody gets to answer that question except you. That’s both the beauty and the curse of being alive, and the chintzy self-help degrades both halves of that–the true torment and the equally true privilege, drowning in societal fads and an unrelenting whisper that if you just wanted it badly enough, tried hard enough, you could be a different person.

Look away, look away, look away. . .