Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Lie I Tell Myself No More

Something I've struggled with all my life is the issue of abandonment.  And there is a recurring scenario wherein people leave me.

It started with being given up for adoption.  First my birth-mother gave me away, then I was removed from my foster family after two months.  On a conscious level, I believe bio-mom made a reasonable decision.  And I was taken from the foster family to go to my permanent family.  But experts believe that babies internalize these events, and the evidence is the quiet baby.  I'm told that everyone would comment on what a quiet baby I was.  But they think babies in this scenario are quiet because they don't want to make waves.  On some level, they're thinking that if they just stay quiet, maybe they won't be sent away again.

Next there was my best friend in Junior High.  He dumped me.  We were the best of friends, always doing stuff together.  But one day, after hanging at his house just the day before, he told me he didn't want to be friends anymore.  No explanation.

This sent me reeling into depression.  And it wouldn't be the last time.  Some are more explicable than others. I had a close friend in high school who just stopped hanging out, but I know it was more about her issues.  But still, it contributed to the repeating pattern.

More recently, just in the past few years, I've had several very close friends just stop returning my calls.  They just phased me out of their lives.  Not mere acquaintances - people I'd had deep conversations with and laughed with and cried with - people I was confident that I would be friends with for the rest of my life.

So it's understandable if in my darkest moments, it seems like everyone abandons me.  That's the lie that I start to believe.  But you know what?  It's not true.  OK, yes, there is a sizable history there.  But it's not everyone.  I have a family that loves me.  We're not always that close, but we make it work.  I have a couple of friends, the best of friends, that I've had in my life for over 20 years.  And when I have a birthday or a game night, lots of people show up.

So that's a lie that I'm not going to buy into anymore.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Desire To Shame

I was at Office Depot today.  While in line, the woman in front of me took a corkboard bulletin board out of her cart and set it on the ground a few feet away.  Apparently she didn't want it.  Thirty seconds later, a guy walking into the line tripped over it.  What I wanted to do was pick up the item and carry it to the counter and say to the clerk (in earshot of the woman), "Hi!  I'm not buying this.  This lady here left it on the floor over there, instead of putting back or just giving it to one of you.  Then that gentleman tripped over it.  I'm pointing this out in the hope that in the future she'll display the tiniest amount of consideration for others."

I didn't say that.  After I left the store, I wrestled with whether it would have been worth it or not.  The thing is, we're not an honor/shame based society.  Most likely she would feel no shame.  To her, I'd just be the jerk who made her feel bad.

In general, it seems counter-productive to shame people.  I think people choose to change themselves (if at all) when they are in a place of security, not when they're feeling bad about themselves.  But surely some sense of shame or the desire to avoid feeling shame is healthy?

In reading about Confucius, it sounds like the society he was trying to change was a lot like ours.  A sense of individuality had been awakened, and individuals were more and more just doing what they wanted for themselves, instead of favoring the family or community.  In the Bible you read about times when each person does what is right in their own eyes - again sounding like where we're at today.  And not too long ago, you had to be plugged into a community just to get by, and therefore had to go along with the societal norms so as not to be excluded.  But this has been replaced by, 'Don't judge me!'

Shame and honor no longer keep people in check.  Folks decide what is right and wrong for themselves, without considering a higher power.  And people are free to cut themselves off from the community around them.  It's a shame.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Hustle & Bustle

With all of the holiday hustle and bustle, it's easy to forget what Christmas is about.  Yes, Jesus - but what does that mean in practical terms?

Having trouble thinking of good presents?  Maybe think through what that person's love language is.  If it's words of affirmation, a well-thought-out note that they can treasure may be perfect.  If it's quality time, make a plan to spend time with just them.

Take a minute to think through the people you know.  Do they all have somewhere to be on Christmas morning?  Are they able to get presents for their kids?  Can they afford to see Star Wars in 3D?  Just take a minute and really see the people in your life and think about what you can do for them.  And if you're one of those left-out people - reach out.  Ask someone if you can come along and be a part.  Remember that most people get wrapped up in their own stuff, but but when you ask to be included, they realize they want to include you.

Make cookies and give them away.  It's good for the soul.

That person that annoys you?  Talk to them anyway.  They need someone to talk to.  And does it really cost you that much?

And let's take the time to look each other in the eye and really see each other.  Hug warmly and hold on just a second longer than you planned to.

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Eyes Have It

This is a follow-up to my last post.  I'd realized that with many people, I had developed the habit of not looking them in the eyes.  Since then, I've been reminding myself to do just that.  The results have been quite affirming.

It's been great to look service people in the eyes.  Like waitresses or bank tellers.  It may sound silly, but I feel a bit more connected to the world.  I think that, especially with women, there's been a self-esteem issue where I wouldn't want them to think I was being forward or thought they were attractive.  But so what if they do?  I'm not being pervy or accosting them!  I'm just looking them in the eyes.  And you know what I've found?  They look back.  And it's nice.  And they seem a little more human.  You can't do it with everyone.  And it's not like each one is going to be my new best friend.  But when they look up and say, 'Thanks for coming' and I look them in the eyes and respond with, 'Have a nice day', for that half-second we are part of a community.  And those moments accumulate and add up to something.

With acquaintances or friends that I'm not as close to, it's also been good.  The thing is, when we avert our eyes, we may be thinking about our own self-worth, but it sends a message to the other person that they're not worth your time.  There's a woman I run into from time to time who is much worse than me.  Her eyes are almost always on the floor and when I say hello she rarely even responds.  She talks to some people, but she usually doesn't even acknowledge that I'm in the room.  I've wondered why this woman has so much contempt for me that she practically deletes me from existence.  But at Thankgiving, after I spent a reasonable amount of time looking in the direction of her eyes when she was talking, twice she looked up and spoke directly to me.  Wow!  So nice to be acknowledged.  I mean, I know her habits likely spring from her own introversion and have nothing to do with me.  But it just feels good to have someone look at you and see you.

There are a couple of women at church that I've made more of an effort to look in the eyes.  And it's nothing romantic, but looking a beautiful woman in the eyes - damn!  Give me a minute of that each day and I think I could fly!

Even with closer friends, I'm making more of an effort to look not at their cheeks or forehead or somewhere in the vicinity of their head, but at their eyes.  My eyes to their eyes, connecting, feeling a little more intimate.

The past several years I've struggled with depression more during the holidays.  But I'm not depressed so far.  And I think it's because I'm connecting to people by looking  them in the eyes.  And the more I do it, the more my confidence is growing.  Plus I have the distinct impression that by doing this little thing, I'm spreading connection and warmth everywhere I go.