I’m not very good at being Presbyterian. I'm probably more like a pseudo-Presbyterian, because the truth is that I'm doing this whole Lent thing and I have no idea what I'm actually doing. I should probably know some more background information on it. I’m going through the process of finding a new church here and I think I’ve found a winner, but my thought process is, “I like it there, people are nice, I think I can grow here, hymns are the ish, and I like communion.” Those are probably not the point of being Presbyterian. This is extra embarrassing because I was a Religion major. (Don’t tell any of the other Religion majors or Presbyterians about all this, please.)
Anyway, all this to say, it’s time for Lent! Or, it’s Lenten season. (See? I can talk the talk.) I didn’t even know it was time for Lent until I was chillin’ in my apartment the night before and saw someone post something really intentional and profound and lovely about it, and so of course I’m like “Oh, crap. Totally forgot,” and tried to come up with something to give up real quick so as to maintain my I know things about church street cred. Coffee was my first thought, because I’m for sure addicted to it, AND it just so happens my Keurig has just recently officially bitten the dust, AND I found out last week that I have a stomach ulcer and can’t drink it anyway. That feels like a cop-out. And that’s because it is, for me. And so I decided, instead, to give up something that’s actually been eating away at my soul recently, and that’s insecurity. And “giving up insecurity” sounds vague and like something on a Dove chocolate wrapper, so I knew that I’d need some structure. And probably prayer. Because this has everything to do with me being, for some reason, unable to believe true things that God says about me. So this is totally a Lent-worthy thing. If I really want to get rid of insecurity, I’ve got to actually run through my life with a fine-tooth comb and find all the places it’s nestled and figure out how it got there and how to get rid of it. Which is overwhelming, because when I started doing that, I found it in a lot of places. And then immediately wanted to go eat a lot of Dove chocolate.
LUCKILY, right about then, one of my favorite people on the planet texted me needing some advice with a struggle she’s been having. And by having, I mean, “has spent years going through the ringer with.” Hell and back. Multiple times. All that.
We all know that talking about struggles is my favorite thing. So I was all in. But don’t we all have a thing like that? You know, the thing that you think you’ve dealt with, and you keep telling yourself and everyone else that you’ve worked through, and it really doesn’t bother you anymore, EXCEPT ACTUALLY IT DOES, and it’s in the back of your head all the time, and creeps up to the dang front of your head sometimes, but you feel like you can’t say anything because you are SURE that the world is tired of hearing you whine about it?
Yeah, that one. For example, mine is the whole fear of dying alone deal. And see, even right now there’s a voice in my head like, “Come on, Amanda, this is one thing that you actually do need to shut about.”
Thank you for sharing that, Voice.
Anyway. It’s what I like to call a latent fear. Or a sleeping terror. I like to think of it as what having a toddler has been described to be as being like. It was screaming at me at one point, but I’ve managed to calm it down and set it down for a nap, I’ve put a nice blanket over it, and have turned on a nice lullaby piano rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and it just looks so nice and innocent, BUT THEN it wakes up and we’re back to screaming. (I am holding out hope that getting babies to go to sleep is not actually that bad. Humor me.)
I keep thinking I’ve dealt with my fear of being single forever. Every time I get a nice pep talk from someone about how I’m pretty and cook really well, so that’s ridiculous, it’s like the toddler is calming down and going to sleep. And so I have a bit of rest with it. And then I get a save-the-date in the mail and BAM, it’s awake again. Don’t get me wrong, I love save-the-dates and weddings, and I am really good at wedding receptions, and I even love love. I am not a “down with love, rolling my eyes, everyone is getting married but me” cynical person. I’m not, at my core. I’m not. But all this does freak me out, and I had to put a sticky note on the fridge that says, “Hey, you’re not going to die alone,” and that Voice in my head chimes in with a nice update: “Just wanted to remind you that you’ve never gotten past a first date with anyone and have yet to hold down what anyone would call a successful relationship and everyone says all these great things about you, but you’re alone, so what’s up with that, blah blah blah, alone alone alone. In case you forgot.”
Thank you for sharing THAT, Voice.
I’m sort of sick of that Voice. I’m sick of listening to it. And so I’ll go to BodyJam and do free weights to angry music or have a pep talk or someone will tell me that none of that stuff is worth listening to and I’ll feel better, but that isn’t actually dealing with the problem, is it? It’s like putting the toddler down for a nap when the toddler might actually be sick. There may be something wrong that we need to deal with instead of just putting a blanket over it and telling it to be quiet.
And that’s what I told my friend. I asked her to dig underneath her struggle and tell me what emotion was driving it, and she said things like shame and fear and other peoples’ expectations. Telling her, “well just stop listening to those,” is a) SO NOT MY STYLE, and b) not actually going to do anything lasting. “You’re fine, just stop being afraid,” is a pacifier and a band-aid, but I don’t really think it’s a solution. And if I believe that, I’d have to call myself a bad friend for telling her that.
Instead, the conversation went like this:
“Well. Let’s just sit with this and stare it in the face and see what it has to tell us. And let’s flood your mind with things that are true about you. And write them big on the wall and stare at them until you can believe them with out cringing.”
“Can you stare at your things without cringing?”
“Not at everything. But I know that the things that make me cringe are usually the things that I need to do the hard work of learning how to believe them and figuring out what’s stopping me from doing that.”
And we’re working on that, together, as a dynamic freakin’ duo. We’re working on identifying the things that are true about us – and I have a lovely system for that that I’ll write about in part 2 of this series.
The thing that I need to believe the most about myself to kill off my own insecurity, and get that Voice in my head to stop sounding so correct, is, essentially that I am enough. And that’s what I wrote on my wall. I need to believe that my story is as marvelous and life-changing as everybody says it is, and that it does not make me too much or not enough, and somehow disqualified from finding a relationship with someone who loves and supports and is in awe of every ounce of my story. All of that being untrue is my deepest fear. And the Voice in my head says that it would be safer to believe, instead that it’ll never happen, that I’ll never get there, that I’m not worth it. The Voice in my head says that me getting up in front of hundreds of people to talk about my messy insides and mental health stigma and how much I want to change the world isn't actually changing the world and is going to be too much for any guy to take on in a relationship. And I KNOW that those are not true things. But it takes me a minute to believe that they're not true. I want to attack that instead of pretending like it's no big deal. There’s something that absolutely makes me cringe when I stare at the words, “You are enough.” Which tells me that I absolutely need to dig underneath that and figure out where that insecurity came from and steal my life back from it. Which will probably feel a lot like surgery without anesthesia or like walking into a room naked, and it would probably be a lot easier to just pretend like I’m fine and pretend like I believe it. It would probably be easier to keep putting a band-aid on it. So I think that I’m actually also giving up band-aids for Lent. And by Lent, I mean forever.
And I’ll say to everyone what I said to myself and what I said to my friend: “You can keep the band-aid on if you want to, but I think what you actually want is to steal your life back.”
So yes. Lent. Operation: Steal Your Life Back. Whatever you to call it. And I don’t want it to be a 40-days thing; I want it to be an every-day-from-now-on-and-if-you-backslide-that’s-fine-and-keep-going-because-let’s-have-some-GRACE-for-ourselves thing. Let's actually steal our lives back. Let's actually start believing good and true things about ourselves. It's a journey; it's not a switch to flip. It's a destination and it's hard to get there, but isn't it time? It really is time. More later on how friend and I are getting there, and there is plenty of room on this bandwagon. Really, it's more like a party bus. So hop on, won't you?