Friday, April 07, 2006

What a Difference Place Can Make

Again, but this time in an inverted way, I am amazed at what a difference Place can make. I felt like my real, true self at the Quaker Study Center where I lived last month. I felt healthy. Life was in balance. And it felt like my life came into clearer focus.

Now that I’m back, I feel all fuzzed out again. I struggle to regain a happy, centered sense of self. My return has been much more traumatic than I expected it to be.

What accounts for the difference?

More importantly: can I bring my new clarified sense of self into being here at home? How?

The one glimmer of insight I’ve had is that I’ve let myself establish too much of a reputation of competence here. This means that I’ve let others define me according to what they need from me. This is what makes it difficult for me to feel like my full, true self here.

I come back to a sense of busy people hardly noticing my return, except that eventually they glance up, and murmur, “oh there you are. Can you hold this for me?” and thusly do they start to pile their stuff all over me.

I become invisible. I become buried under all these coats and hats and scarves that others drape all over me. The difference I’ve made to the landscape here is the creation of a new bulge crowded with other people’s stuff.

If I propped up an actual coat rack underneath all of this stuff, and slipped away, no one would even notice me gone.

Should I just do that then?


  1. Yes! Do it.

    But obviously, follow your true Teacher.

    But, do it, if it's in defence of your connection to God. That's what I get out of the Martha & Mary story - it's not that we never have to do the washing up, but that God must come first - because God is what keeps our soul alive, and the dishes will get washed at some other point pretty soon.

  2. Thanks Alice!

    Yes, and to use your metaphor to describe further my current state of being: I'm actually quite happy to do the dishes, but wish that we could all be more real to each other even when it is "just" dishes we are washing.

    But your note also reminds me that the core of my problem is my own responsibility to get back in touch with what keeps my soul alive -- to get back in touch with God.

  3. My first inclination was much like Alice's: Yes! Do it.

    I wonder if part of what you experienced at the Quaker Study Center was that you had mirrors of yourself, your true inward self, reflected back to you: did you SEE yourself and feel affirmed in BEING who you are instead of DOING...?

    I think in today's rushed times, we don't even realize that we've lost our psycho-social mirrors, and we wonder why we feel so lost or crazy...

    Being more intentional with private prayer time or other spiritual disciplines can be of help... or at least, they've helped me when I've seemingly forgotten what it's all about.

    Liz, The Good Raised Up

  4. Thank you, Liz! Yes, that's it! I did feel affirmed in BEING instead of DOING.

    Even though what I was doing was appreciated too, it wasn't at the forefront of friendships I was developing. It was a writing project that no one there could yet see; it was one I came with rather than one that anyone there felt that they needed from me. In fact, it was a project that, even before I left, I had initiated myself (rather than someone else thinking I should do this). So even my "doing" sprang from my "being" in a way that is different from much of my doing back at home, which so often comes from what others want from me.

    And of course I do not mean to suggest that what others want from us is always problematic. Sometimes God does speak to us through others. Or sometimes it is just plain kind and compassionate to give unconditionally when someone is in need and we can provide.

    But there are people who are vulnerable to too much responsiveness to others, for perhaps the wrong reasons (e.g., proving self-worth; or keeping one's job; as contrasted with nobler motivations such as doing it from a pure impulse of love).

    In my case, I have developed a strong habit of placing others' requests of me higher in priority than the promptings of my own heart, in large part because of my own confidence problems. I know that if I do what others want, they will appreciate it. But I am doubtful that if I do something no one has called specifically from me, that anyone would value it.

    But the point is not so much the attention and appreciation of others: the point is faithfulness.

    And so I agree with you completely about the importance of prayer and other spiritual disciplines! Thank you!