Monday, April 24, 2017

Being Myself

I have this little game I play. I collect loose change that I find on countertops, dressers, in pants pockets, on the floor when it fell out of said pockets. When I reach $2.41, I take a little trip to Starbucks and purchase my favorite food item there: dark chocolate graham crackers. The milk chocolate version will do in a pinch, but I've been known to walk away without purchasing any, rather than settle.

A few weeks ago, I realized that I was having difficulty allowing myself this purchase. As I sat with this for the day, I came to the conclusion that the struggle was deeper than whether I should indulge myself this small purchase. I was having trouble justifying ANY purchases. The thought of buying groceries paralyzed me, but knowing I needed to assess my wardrobe (since spring began here WAY WAY WAY too early) in order to make some needed additions was debilitating.

This was not a new recognition for me. For as long as I can remember, I've made an effort not to be a burden to anyone. I don't know if I was influenced by the frugal, conservative culture of the Midwest or if I overheard a conversation that created a misperception about the amount of money my family had (we were solidly middle class and I never had a financial crisis of any kind). Whatever the reason, I internalized very early that it was bad to have needs or desires. So I tried very hard not to ask for things.

I'm not good at being good to myself. What other women have no problem doing--buying a new outfit, getting a mani pedi, going out for lunch, or picking up the latest book by their favorite author--I have never been able to do without justifying it first. As a result, it has just become easier not to, rather than to go through the analysis.

In the end, I usually don't think I'm worth what it costs.

I want to backpedal from that last sentence and explain that I don't struggle with self-esteem issues. I think my words betray something else, though. Lately, I am more aware that I am not as self-confident as I used to be. I'm more fragile than I'd like to admit. Those who are fragile are burdens.

When this has surfaced before, I've denied it was even a struggle, spinning it instead as a badge of honor even as I secretly judged as frivolous those who could spend freely. Other times, though, I wished I could be as carefree, mindless.

I don't know how to get to the root of my issue. It seems so multi-faceted, so complicated. When I've talked about it with friends, they tell me I'm overthinking it and that the solution is to begin practicing a new way of thinking by spending. My husband has told me that all of the earnings from my most recent freelance project are available for me to spend however I want. The very thought strikes fear in my heart. I have bought things before and had buyer's remorse. I'm afraid of making more mistakes, even though undoing them is as simple as returning the purchases. I don't know what I'm even looking for, since I don't have a good sense of style or what would be good foundational pieces to have in my closet. Ack! Deliver me!

That day when I didn't think I could, I bought the graham crackers. They were a quiet declaration of war--my way of saying NO to the lies I've believed, even though I couldn't name them all in the moment. I am going to get to the bottom of this dysfunction, and I am going to be free.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How to Associate

A few weeks ago, I began volunteering with a local food pantry. I wanted to put myself in a place where I could rub shoulders with people who live in my town that I wouldn't normally run into or have occasion to meet.

Two weeks ago, one of the other volunteers wondered aloud how the pantry's upcoming relocation to another part of town would impact those who live in the tent city.

Excuse me? There's a tent city in my town?

When I asked where it was, she casually mentioned that a group of people live in the woods behind the Walmart on Marketplace Blvd, just a mile from the pantry.

My town does not have a homeless shelter. From what I can gather from some online research, efforts to bring one to the city have been the work of a coalition of churches, not the county.

They have not, as yet, been successful.

Now that I know about these people, I can't pretend I don't know they're there. When it rained buckets in the wee hours of the morning earlier this week, I thought about them. As night fell yesterday and I knew the temperature would drop to 25 degrees for the first time since January, I thought of them.

My problem? I don't know how to engage them or help them. I don't want to throw money or a meal or a blanket at them in order to ease my discomfort.

As I wrestle with this, it is Lent. I didn't grow up giving up something or having ashes placed on my head to remind me of my humanity. I decided that I would participate this year. Today, part of The Lent Project experience involved reading Scripture and listening to a song.

From Romans 12:16:
Live in harmony with one another. 
Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. 
Never be wise in your own sight.

And from Humble by Audrey Assad, Jesus' example was on display.:
Not too proud to dwell with us, to live in us, to die for us

God didn't pretend not to know about the situation humanity was in. He began making a plan--as soon as our circumstances separated us from Him--to come for us, to dwell with us, to associate with us. To die for us. 

God's inviting me to follow His example. Can I set aside my discomfort, my desire to have all the details worked out ahead of time, and just seek a way to enter into their world?  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hidden or Hiding?

Original book
I saw Hidden Figures this past weekend and sat enthralled by the adversities and achievements of Dorothy Vaughn, Katherine Johnson, and Mary Jackson, three African American women who, among many others like them, contributed to NASA's space program in the early 60s. As I marveled at their perseverance during a period of well-documented social injustices, several thoughts crossed my mind:

Too bad it took 50 years for their stories to be told to acclaim and accolades.

Too bad it took years working in a system with incredibly smart people before they could be seen as intellectual equals.

Too bad people are still referring to people by the color of their skin or by their ethnicity instead of seeing them for their character.

It's easy to believe, from what I read, that our country seems to be repeating history even as we celebrate its heroines. Saturday I read about four young men in Rocky Mount, NC, and wondered again what I am supposed to do about what continues to happen in my country.

I thought about what I should do, how I could get involved, for most of 2016. I have been influenced by thought leaders I read online, yet I wonder if I am responding emotionally or intellectually to what I can no longer pretend I don't see.

Do I want to align myself with those thought leaders or walk with those who are hidden? It's hard to know.

Having just admitted that, I want to exonerate myself from the guilt of inaction I feel by sharing with you the different opportunities that are presenting themselves and those that I'm investigating. Still, my privilege feels like a shield I'm hiding behind because I know getting involved will get messy. I don't like messes.

Just because I don't like mess doesn't mean our country isn't one, and doing nothing won't change anything. I am going to do something this year. There are people like Dorothy, Katherine, and Mary worth knowing, and I don't want to hear about their lives 50 years from now through some story on the silver screen.