Who I am vs. who I think I should be

Imagine a large wall painted with a picture of two rooms.  I am standing next to it looking down its surface as though it were one side of a long corridor.  The room closest to me looks like Picasso’s Guernica minus the animals.  That represents my life with my mom, dad and sister.  The further one is dark and slightly out of focus as though viewed through a foggy, distorted window pane.  Vague shadows emerge and melt back into the murky gloom.  That represents life with my granny, grandpa, dad and sister.  I am plastered to those two scenes face forward and spread eagle with my torso, left arm and leg glued to the Picasso and my right arm and leg glued to the darkness.  When I try to pull away my body resembles a sling shot and the adhesive stretches with me like gum stuck to the bottom of a shoe.  It is impossible to remove myself.

I carried this image with me when I drove to my friend’s house for prayer.  As we fell into discussion I also shared with her my quandary over blue vs. orange, yellow and green.  Our Lord gave her an interpretation consisting of sharp contrast between darkness and life; my family of origin was the darkness and the bright flowered wallpaper in my teenage closet was the life for which I always yearned.  Her discernment rang in my spirit like a bell.  My young life was so frightening and hopeless that I had created an image of what I perceived would be a place of happiness, a place radically different from my current existence…and I hid it in the closet of my soul.  There I could be everything my parents weren’t: outgoing, fun loving, popular (preferably famous), rich, entertaining, energetic, productive and care free.  Pursuing and accomplishing that representation of perfection became my life’s goal.  The alternative threatened to envelop me like a yawning black hole in outer space.  I had to try to escape. 

There was and is one problem.  My genetics.  Susan Cain, in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, cites studies by Jerome Kagan from which he concluded that approximately 50% of our makeup is based on heredity (nature) and 50% of it is based on our experience (nurture).  This information confirmed what I already suspected; I was running from who I was created to be.  I am wired to be a strong introvert: a person who thrives on quiet and going deep with a few people, a homebody who can sometimes be intensely thoughtful and serious but still enjoys life and has quirky sense of humor, someone who likes working carefully to produce quality results and therefore may never be prolific in achievements.  The list of similarities to my parents goes on.

I continue to find myself drawn to a life of “bright colors”.  Within the past few months I have brought home two different quilt sets each printed with red, orange and yellow flowers.  When I spread them out on our bed, my husband and I were overwhelmed by their vibrant busy pattern.   After the second purchase, I asked myself why?  Why did I repeat the same mistake?  The colorful closet of my past converged with the lively bedspreads of my present and an “aha” moment came.   Part of me is still trying to be that for which I had longed.  Yet when the fantasy world of my youth jarringly collides with present reality, I am startled by the realization I am not comfortable with the old imagined persona.  Trying to put it on feels like attempting to squeeze into clothes that are too small or pound the proverbial square peg into a round hole.  Pleasantly surprised, I realize I am beginning to feel comfortable in my own skin.

And God is rejoicing because of it.  I am His work of art.  “Oh yes, You shaped me first inside, then out; You formed me in my mother’s womb.  I thank You, High God – You’re breathtaking!  Body and soul, I am marvelously made!  I worship in adoration – what a creation!  You know me inside and out, You know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.”  (Psalm 139:13-15, The Message)  Also, through two interesting books on introversion, The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D and the one I mentioned earlier, I am learning to appreciate the many positive aspects of the temperament I have been given.  Yet doubt still niggles; a nagging fear still pierces my heart.  Somehow I remain clinging to that family wall and stuck in my teenage blue bedroom.  

I yield to my God for His power and ability; He will help me separate and turn away so I can further embrace the life He intends for me.

A dream

Little did I know how quickly the future would come. 

In my last post, I stated positively that I knew there would be more battles to be fought and changes to be made, but no matter what the future held my God would work it for my good….so onward and upward, I declared, into whatever God had for me!  The day after I did my first edit of that post, a new fight began, following only a week of R & R.  Sigh.  But, I have given God permission to do what is necessary to shape me into wholeness, so who am I to complain?  (Even though I did…)

I had a dream.  I was in a house; its outside was exactly like the second home we lived in after my mother returned from her final stint in the mental institution.  Unlike the exterior, the inside was very dissimilar in its physical appearance, although what was there represented well the chaos of our family patterns.  The right side of the interior was like a vertical maze of floors and walls placed at haphazard heights and positions; there was no back wall, so light shone through from back to front.  The left side had no walls, floors or ceilings, as if a bomb had exploded or a natural disaster had swept through and left emptiness in its wake.  The house’s rear section seemed to be completely open to the back yard, but closer examination revealed a clear plastic casing stretching all the way to the back fence, similar to a tall rectangular green house.  Inside this structure there were hanging ropes which were used as zip lines by aliens who were rapidly sliding into the house to attack and annihilate.  My energy and time were given to counter attacks, vaporizing, demolishing and casting out those beings which were bent on destroying me and ending my freedom.  I was in my element, enjoying the fight; periodically I was joined by friends when the battle became too complex and reinforcements were needed.  Like characters in Hidden Dragon Crouching Tiger we leaped, swooped, soared, and fought with deep satisfaction and focused strength.

I was a different person outside that environment, as shown by the second half of this dream.  In it, a new neighbor came to our backyard with a battalion of her friends to “help” plant flowers.  She was over bearing, controlling, very effusive and looked remarkably like Kim Kardashian.  (Since I barely know who she is and couldn’t even remember her name, I really don’t know how her image came to be part of this story…dreams are strange entities.)  Her idea of “help” was to do things her way without any consideration for others’ thoughts and desires.  I immediately abandoned my station inside and dashed to intervene.  She was deeply offended by my objections and began to stalk off in a huff, indignantly proclaiming she thought we had an agreement to help each other with our outdoor work.  (Of course, assisting in her yard also meant doing things only as she wished.)  Following and attempting to smooth her ruffled feathers, I entreated her to try to understand that we just had a break down in communication about what it meant to “help each other”.  Somewhat mollified, she and her friends left.

I watched as she crossed the street to her home, and I realized I should have been firm about who I was and what I wanted when we first met.  Doing so would have avoided that conflict and the turmoil tumbling about inside me.  Truthfully, I wouldn’t have wanted such a friend, yet my behavior exhibited the opposite.

Upon waking the next morning, I asked myself and God what the dream meant.  Some questions which ran through my mind were:  Can I perceive truth inside the house but not outside?  Can I exercise discernment for my family of origin but not for myself?  Am I still trapped within my old family structure and have difficulty functioning outside their mode of operation?  Do I lose my ability to discern and be myself outside of their sphere of influence?           

As the day progressed, clarity came with an answer somewhat different from what my enquiries implied but pertained to elements within each.  I have learned confidence and discernment when warring against the forces of evil emanating from within my family of origin, yet I lack those same attributes when life takes me away from that venue.  Allowing myself to be snowballed and steamrolled by external forces, people, and cultures, I don’t express my internal personality or stand firm in who I am or what I believe.  (This is somewhat relative and depends on the situations in which I find myself.)  Thus, I conform in subtle ways and allow myself to be carried along by the culture or personality dominating the moment.  (Not so much compromising standard moral truths, but compromising my very essence.)

Reflection has verified this truth.  Throughout the years, there are many times when I have jeopardized my integrity.  These vary from blatant lies when I was much younger (the words seemed to be powered by forces beyond my control) to more recent, less obvious, but still internally damaging, denials of who I am created to be.

I’m sure there are numerous reasons for this behavior, such as old patterns engrained in my psyche, the human drive for self preservation and everyone’s desire to be accepted and loved.  Most likely my introversion has also played a part in this equation.  But, no matter what the cause, I do not want to continue to relate to the outside world in such a subservient way.  And, I know my God longs for me to be whole, complete and strong, so I may live in the truth of who I am no matter what the circumstance.  That is why He gave me this dream…to show the reason for and to open the door to the next leg of my healing journey.