Monday, February 23, 2009

The problem with badness

Since I'm off of school this week and Krisalyn as preschool all day today - I have the entire day to myself. It's so weird. Of course I have a long list of errands to run and school assignments to catch up on - but entire day without little kid interruptions. I think there's something wrong with me because most people would enjoy the quiet and uniterruptedness of the day, but it makes me get this uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. It feels sort of like the homesick feeling only worse. I'm wondering what it's all about as I sit here drinking my coffee and staring at this computer screen (which is connected to the functioning half of the laptop I drove over in the church parking lot a few years ago). I don't like being alone. I don't like not being needed by anyone. I don't like the lack of someone else/something else determining the course of my day.

So even though my life looks very different now than it has in the past (i.e. I don't seem to have quite so many balls in the air...I think that's a reference to juggling) I'm still not quite settled into my own skin. I'm still looking outside myself for a sense of pseudo-identity and pseudo-locatedness (one of my new favorite words...and my new habit of placing "pseudo" at the beginning of just about any word). I recently came across an old journal entry where I was clearly at a point of distress. Here's a bit of the entry dated Oct. 5, 2005:

"I'm afraid that if i continue on like this I will hit a wall and quite
literally become mentally insane. I don't know how much longer I can go on with this continual feeling of chaos and distraction. I'm disconnected from everything - a complete detachment from all that is real. Life is spinning; everything is confusing and I can't even think. Nothing makes sense anymore. EVERYTHING IS SPINNING."

I'm not sure what was specifically going on in my life in those despairing moments, but it's obvious that I was at a point of desperation. Though this obscure journal entry reveals just how far I've come, a part of me still knows that place of detachment. Last semester I had an opportunity to briefly speak with one of my professors and I shared with her that there seemed to be a weightiness about her and some of the other professors. It was a weightiness that enabled them to stand in their own bodies to the point in which I repeatedly perceived them to be fully present. I, on the other hand, explained how I often felt light as a feather in my own body being tossed back and forth by the wind. Even as I vocalized this metaphor, my voice became shaky, the tears began to swell and I feared I would psychologically vanish before we were even able to conclude the conversation. We went on to discuss the value of therapy and she commented on my fragility (which she defined as vulnerability) and how few people are able to handle that kind of rawness in others (because they haven't handled it well within themselves either).

I think that is why I have a hard time living fully in my own body. There is a rawness about me that I have learned to protect - to keep it out of complete reach by any other. There are moments that it busts through the barriers I've worked so hard at erecting. I've been especially curious about a specific barrier that I tend to favor - it's the barrier of always being the "bad one". In most of my relationships I am capable of characterizing myself as the "bad one" - the one with the most colorful past, the one with the most difficult marriage, the one with the most family dysfunction or greatest level of pain. This badness is what keeps others out - I keep them out - at least at an arm's distance away. They can know all sorts of things about me...or about my badness...but they can't come in because they're not as bad as me.

I tell myself that if I could find someone who is as bad as me then they could come in. But there's a serious problem with this logic because often I surround myself with people who help me perpetuate this shield of badness. Either I establish our roles in the relationship at the onset, or they are equally as bent on being the good one.

So I have a dilemma. The barriers I've erected keep people out and they keep me in a state of emotional isolation (though admittedly there are glorious moments when these barriers give way...thank God). Emotional isolation leaves me feeling detached from life, from relationship, from ever being fully present. It's like sleep walking a bit - I can go through the motions but I'm not fully awake. I'm living in my head, or in the deep withdrawn emotional crevices of my mind. Maybe that's why I appreciate having a role to fulfill or a task to accomplish - it lures at least a part of me out of the dark cave where my true self has been hiding all my life. I've been able to describe to a few, at least in part, aspects of this dark cave but I've yet to invite someone to join me inside the cave. I think that's what a therapeutic relationship is meant to be - it's a relationship that works towards entering the dark cave together.

It's painfully clear that if I don't do the work of inviting another into the dark cave with me then entering into the cave with others (as a profession as well as an act of discipleship) will be reduced to sheer voyeurism rather than a mutual pursuit of freedom through relationship. I no longer want insight alone - for what is insight if it's not experienced in relationship?


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