Juggling Lives

Night Juggler

The difficulty with juggling is keeping the balls in the air.

But keeping inanimate objects airborne is not nearly as intractable as when it feels as if one is playing with other people’s lives.

Our family’s life is spread over three continents. There is almost always a ball dropping. From inconsequential mistakes (like forgetting to book a return flight) to deeper hurts and misunderstandings; moments where negative emotions and a loss of identity cut deep; where unavoidable choices are inadvertently wounding; the pain of feeling excluded by both the ‘home’ culture and by the ‘adopted’ culture; endless losses and family gatherings missed… each of these quietly taken to heart in different ways by our different personalities.

The hardest part of this Third Culture family’s story is being unable to safeguard and protect our children from the harsh reality of complicated lives. Living in the tension is not easy. For years I felt like the stabiliser ribbon holding the family’s kite steady, but these days I understand that I can never offer enough security, protection, love or encouragement to bind the wounds.

And so I watch our beloved offspring strive, unravel and overcompensate.

I am constantly undone.

But God…

2014 Kite - At Last 2008

Night Juggler Image Source:
Flickr – Creative Commons Some rights reserved by garryknight

Rachel’s Holiday and Self-Deception

I don’t often choose to write about a book…but I recently finished reading “Rachel’s Holiday” which I loved.
It is an easy read but gave me plenty to think about. I read it at a time when I had been mulling on a concept Richard Rohr calls “compulsive blindness” and how ‘a lack of self-perception means we often act at cross-purposes to our best interest’.

6. 2014 Rachel's Holiday

The story starts with Rachel’s life in New York where she is caught up in sex, drugs and “rock ‘n’ roll”.  She has a wonderful boyfriend, Luke, but one night of too many pills, a mistaken suicide attempt and a hospital visit mean Rachel finds herself being taken back to Ireland by her parents and being put in rehab. It is not the relaxing detoxification, “holiday” that Rachel was expecting. The main story weaves her experiences in rehab (Cloisters) with her life in New York, particularly her relationship with Luke and how drugs destroyed it.

Rachel’s character is unlikeable but endearing and I found that Marian Keyes’ sensitive style allowed what could have been a depressing book to be both thought provoking and “laugh-out-loud” hilarious; a wonderful combination.

The reason the book has stayed with me, however, is the clever way that Keyes conveys Rachel’s self-deception by telling the story through Rachel’s eyes. By doing this, the reader is also misguided into not initially realising quite how bad of an addict Rachel actually is.

All this has had me thinking that in some way we are all “conditioned, programmed, wounded, addicted, habituated” by our unique life stories and that when we don’t recognise the truth about our lives, thoughts and feelings, we became part of the problem. If we do not take ownership and responsibility for our way of thinking or how “our grid” distorts reality for us, then our mind perverts reality and we become addicted to ourselves and justify our reactions. We locate ourselves inside our little world or what David Foster Wallace called “our skull sized kingdom” and we quickly take on a sense of identity and power by believing our own self-serving illusions. When one lives a lie one invariably begins to feel distant from others, and worse yet, oneself (this clearly happened with Rachel).

Any idealised persona does not choose to see evil in itself, so it always disguises it as good. The self-deceived self invariably presents its own selfishness as something like prudence, common sense, justice, or “I am doing this for your good,” when it is actually manifesting fear, control, manipulation, or even vengeance
Adapted from “Falling Upward” by Richard Rohr

The moral of the story is perhaps if one wants deep meaningful relationships, one must be real with others but most of all with oneself. As Rachel started seeing herself for what she was and her self-consructed world as self-serving, she also began a new relationship with herself. In the same way, as we learn to trust and bring our own “shadow-selves” into the light we are likely to grow and flourish and more likely to experience real relationships and love as we never have before.

 

Ask the Question

While out walking in the early part of the morning, the light still soft, and the air without any oppressive humidity my girl reminds me we all want to be known by asking the question: “What happens if you don’t ask the question, will she know you care?

Defensively, I reply that she knows.
But it has me wondering.
5. 2014 Ask the Question - AccraIs there something wrong with me that I often don’t think to ask the question lying in the space between us?
Maybe she knew; but what about the others who don’t know, who struggle to feel heard? What about people I do not ask because I don’t want to embarrass them?
Or worse yet …I don’t ask because I feel I already know their story, having jumped to some limited two dimensional conclusion in my head?

Loneliness and the fear of being an “outsider” is one of humankind’s deepest fears and  a condition of the Fall. When I don’t reach out or neglect to ask, do I convey a disinterest that contributes to the lie that they are not worth knowing?
I say I value the people I encounter on my journey and their struggles and successes, I care about their choices and yet, if I do not reach out and communicate that with them then I am not sure I am conveying my love and interest.

Intersecting lives are a gift, puzzle pieces in our Father’s master plan….
A place of to know comfort and to experience Hope.
We all long to be known.
I long to be known.

I think she was right, I should take the risk more often and ask the questions!

 

Life-Giving Friendship

Why did you do all this for me?‘ he asked.
I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.’
You have been my friend,‘ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.”
E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

4. 2014 Life-Giving Friendship - Spiders Web Blackrock

None of us can make it through this life alone
Needing someone isn’t shameful

I am celebrating this today

Resisting, hiding, fighting myself
My friends saw me, they knew my need
They carried me
They knew me better than I knew myself
As trusted companions they chose for me
Their presence allowed me to catch a fresh vision
Of my personal history still being written
In simple, understated ways and with transforming words,
My friends reminded me that I am not alone on the journey

With a lump rising in my throat, my heart is truly in thankful

Kindred spirits walk this journey with me
Life-giving women
Who understand and encourage me
They have joined me in my story
Outsiders have become family
Offering hope

Needing and emptiness has become good
Creating a space for God to enter and love me through others

4. 2014 Life-Giving Friendship -Heather's Birthday  Feet

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow”.
William Shakespeare

50 Years Loved

3. 2014 50 Years Loved - March 6th - 50th Napkin Ring 1

I believe that deep down most peoples’ worst fear is that we will live ordinary lives that have no significance.

Or perhaps it is just mine…

Nonetheless, I have come to realise that continually asking myself the question “what am I to with the rest of my life”? is a problem.

By relentlessly asking this of myself I essentially I become more self-focused – as I try harder to do things that make me ‘acceptable’ in the eyes of myself, God, my family and friends. I am sure there is more I need to do in order to have value and be considered significant in the world, in my community and in my family. I have fallen prey to the lie that God is expecting something more from me or with-holding something from me until I live up to a standard, give of myself enough, behave or perform in a certain way. Perhaps that is why this prayer of Robert Farrar Capon’s resounds with me and makes me smile:
Lord, please restore to us the comfort of merit and demerit. Show us that there is at least something we can do. Tell us that at the end of the day there will at least be one redeeming card of our very own. Lord, if it is not too much to ask, send us to bed with a few shreds of self-respect upon which we can congratulate ourselves. But whatever you do, do not preach grace. Give us something to do, anything; but spare us the indignity of this indiscriminate acceptance.”

Intellectually I believe in God’s unwavering acceptance but I have realised that this ever present question, as well as my daily actions, thought patterns and concerns mean that in my heart I don’t believe I am accepted and lovable unless I am doing something.

As I approach my 50th birthday I am asking that “as I received Christ, so may I now walk in Him” (My paraphrase – Colossians 2:6). I am asking to walk one step at a time in faith – not needing to figure out for myself what my future holds but trusting that His all-sufficient grace will lead me forward at the appropriate time. This is the Gospel I need to preach to myself daily as I embrace this time of space and rest is a gift.

Never confuse your perception of yourself with the mystery that you really are accepted
Brennan Manning

3. 50 Years Loved  1 Leopard Creek Deck