Sort of a declaration of independence

I haven’t written in a while, because I’ve been scared and intimidated about what I have to say. I’ve written this post in my head for days and I’m still not quite sure where it’s going. But I’ll try to jump in and see where it takes me.

I feel like I’ve been false. It started out with me feeling false about how I’ve been in this new blogging community, and through some thoughts and conversations has come to mean so much more than that. I guess I’ll start with the big picture.

I’ve always known what I should do. ‘Shoulds’ were important to me, even as a child. I learned who I should be at church, who I should be at home, who I should be when my grandparents were around. Eventually, I learned who I should be at school, who I should be around kids my own age so that I could have friends and not be the kid everyone laughs at. I learned what my duties were in each place. I learned that doing my duty, performing these shoulds, came before the things I wanted to do. So I did my homework before I played outside. I learned about popular music so I could join in conversations at school. I was the fastest in my year at looking up Bible verses because it made the Sunday School teachers like me.

I even learned to pick up on the shoulds that weren’t spoken, the ones the people sometimes don’t even know they carry. I learned to read between the lines, to see what was there and conform with it even though no one asked me to. I learned to look at people’s actions, at what they valued and praised and what they didn’t, at how they acted towards different people and behaviors. I learned who and what I needed to be to succeed in different situations and, above everything else, to make them like me.

I didn’t always conform to the shoulds. My mom could tell you–I didn’t always do what I should have done. I didn’t always pick up on the things that she was wishing I would do but didn’t ask. In fact, sometimes I did the opposite. Sometimes I knew she thought I shouldn’t cry in the middle of the grocery store and I did it anyway. Sometimes I wanted to play and then do my homework. Sometimes I cried over the math problems even though I knew that I should just be patient and try them yet again.

But I almost always knew what shoulds were present, and felt terribly guilty when I didn’t or couldn’t live up to them. I learned to look at what people wanted, at what they expected, and gauge how I was doing and where I was going from that. If I did what I should, I was good. If I didn’t, then I was bad and there was no excuse for me. If I couldn’t, then there was something wrong and I should be able to.

I think that at least part of this all comes from me receiving some very divergent feedback about who I was at a pretty early age. My parents approved, but my friends didn’t. I thought I was ok, but my parents thought otherwise. I was good. I was bad. I was good. I was good. I was bad. It didn’t make sense to me, and so I learned not to trust myself to evaluate correctly, and I looked outside of myself for standards by which to judge where I was at and how I was doing. And I learned to be really, really good at it.

As an adult, this all makes sense. No one is going to find approval all the time. But as a little kid, it was confusing, even bewildering, and I had to find a way out.

All of this means that I almost never bring my whole self to the table. I just don’t. I judge which parts of me are wanted, put on the person I’m supposed to be today, and become that. I don’t lie–all of the different parts that I bring are really there, whether through nature or nurture. But I don’t usually present all of them at once.

This whole blogging thing is a good example of that. I saw a blogging community that I wanted to be a part of and I determined who I should be to fit in there. I apologize for not bringing more of me here–I’m not sure that I’ve wronged you, but I’ve definitely wronged myself. When I came to this community, I included things like being deep, being encouraging, being excited, being mature. It’s not that I’m not these things, but I’m certainly not like that all the time.

I do think and feel deeply, but I can be as shallow as anybody. I like God and spiritual formation and growing my heart, but I also like Arrested Development, the Beastie Boys, and following the whole Britney saga.

I can be encouraging, but it’s so hard for me to do it through words. I’m so much more the girl who wants to look into your eyes, maybe touch you and let you know that I’m there, and not say anything at all. I want to journey with you, wherever you are, but I might not have much to say along the way.

I love to be excited as much as the next person, but the truth is that I’m at a pretty slow, pretty blah point in my life. I’d love to travel, to be growing fast, but I’m not. And sometimes I’m jealous of the people who are, or I wonder if something’s wrong with me.

I can be very mature, but I’m also pretty silly, and sometimes child-like. I still want to pick up all the rolly-pollies that I see, and I love kites and kittens.

I feel like I’m not saying this very well at all. I don’t expect all of me to come out on my blog. But I’ve been cultivating an image that isn’t whole. I’ve been afraid to post about my favorite songs, or to write about how the wrestling match between the man dressed in a giant mole costume and the guy in the jetpack that’s in the last season of Arrested Development is simply some of the best TV, ever. I’ve been afraid that all y’all would leave, that you’d wonder how this crazy girl who totally doesn’t fit got in in the first place. I’ve been afraid of not fitting, once again.

I’ve not fit in a lot of places. There’s so much of me that I wonder how I ever could. Sometimes, I wonder that about anybody–with all that we are, is there ever a place for us.

It’s not that I’ve never fit, mind you, but that the instances are few enough and far enough between that my stance toward the world is that I won’t, not that I will.

There are so many things I like: photography, growing, writing, painting, reading, spiritual formation, science fiction, doing spiritual direction, praying, singing, listening to a wide variety of music, learning languages, doing academic research, listening, coffee, tea, chocolate, integrating and helping people integrate, lavender, Gocco, travel, Greece, Scotland, new paper, new pens, fountain pens, growing things, babies, turtles, some dogs, cats I’m not allergic to (or who aren’t determined to torture me with the fact that I’m allergic), DaVinci, Alias, Battlestar Galactica, flowers, trees, memory foam, sewing, crocheting, the ocean, the mountains, silence, feather boas, musicals, loud concerts, and that’s just the beginning (and in no particular order). It all fits in me, but I’ve learned that it doesn’t all fit in many other corners of the world.

I guess what I’m saying to those of you I blog with is just what you know already: what you see here isn’t all of me. But I want to stop pretending that it is. If I read your words and don’t have something to say, I’m don’t want to feel pressure come up with something just because I’m there and I want you to like me. If I just want to be with you in it, I want to tell you that I’m there, not come up with something that borders on profound because I feel like I should. When I want to blog about random things, I want to do it and not be afraid.

I want these things, but I’m not sure how to go about it. I think this blog is a good place (at least as good as any) for me to practice bringing more of me, to stop hiding half my cards under the table and start pushing all in a little more often (I also like poker). I don’t think it will come easily. I learned to put parts of myself away for a reason, and convincing myself to let go, to just give it a try and see what happens, isn’t going to be easy. But if I can do it here, with y’all, I think I can do it other places, too.

I also want to honor the process, and the little girl who saw what she thought she needed to become and did a damn good job of becoming that. She was hiding, but she was also hurting, and she found her own way around the pain. If I just decide that I’m changing, here and now, I thrust her away again. Instead, I want to allow her to find healing and come out that way.

I feel really silly for being in this place, like it’s something I should have gotten over long ago. I’m ashamed, because the cues I pick up from the world around me say that I should be beyond this place. And there I go again. So I’m here, and I’m trying. And if you sense me being false, please let me know.

I wish I didn’t feel like I needed to add this caveat, but I do so I’m going to anyway. I’m afraid that you’re all going to feel bad for me, to feel like you should tell me that I have a place and a bloggy home here, that you want whatever comes out of this one little heart. And if you feel moved to do so, I’m not trying to stop you. But I want you to know I’m writing this because I want to tell you where I’m at, not so we can all have a “Poor Sarah” party and I can garner some sympathy (if we’re going to have a party, for goodness’ sakes, let’s have it for a better reason than that!). I do know the truth. I know that God made me good and that this is a safe group. Knowing, however, does not always mean KNOWING. It’s in there, bonking around someplace. And it will come out. But this is where I am today, and where I’ve been for the last few.

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18 Comments

Filed under Becoming

18 responses to “Sort of a declaration of independence

  1. In a way, you are right where you belong. This community is about honesty, even if it’s not always the good news kind. And I’m glad you’re here talking.

    As for wanting to be silent, do you remember the little thing we came up with after Charity was long silent and wrote that post about being at the window? We started saying to one another, “Just tapping” or “Here at the window.” Stuff like that. It could be a way to say “I’m here” without trying to be profound or dig for just-something.

    Glad to hear from you over on Seedlings, btw. It was a good welcome home.

  2. First of all, I’m a late-bloomer, but I love Arrested Development. We gave up TV for Lent, which meant taking a break, but my husband and I have been watching AD on DVD. Love it. Can’t wait to see the movie coming soon. So post all you want about whatever you want.
    Second of all, it seems to me that some of this relates to that whole idea of branding a blog. There’s a big push to address one thing on your blog, like pet chihuahuas or gardening or book reviews. There’s some merit to that. For example, as I look at putting together a ministry blog, I’ll be talking to the team about what makes it distinct.
    But there are blogs that are for community. My personal one is part of community. In that sense, my brand is simply me. Which means that sometimes I have talk about books, or movies, or spiritual formation, or ministry, or frustrations, or music, or art, or digging in the dirt (I mean that shallowly and literally, not some spiritual sense), or my niece. I’m just me. Sometimes when I make comments on other’s blogs they’re tongue-in-cheek or smart alleck or thoughtful or just “I’m here.” I’m here and there–part of this community, but no, I like that one over there too, so is it okay if I’m not exclusive? Is it okay if I don’t follow every blog that’s in that community because I want to follow the blog in this other community and who has the time to read every blog in the world?
    What am I saying? I’m saying that I don’t know how to spell “alleck” and that here I am and here you are and be your glorious self.
    Whoever that is.

  3. Di

    lifting a wine glass to you imagining we’re playing a game of texas hold ’em and listening to billy joel’s “just the way you are”

    my favorite verse…

    I don’t want clever conversation
    I never want to work that hard
    I just want someone that I can talk to
    I want you just the way you are.

    nuff said.

  4. Sarah, I already mentioned this to you but I was excited by what I read and didn’t feel sorry for you at all! Christianne has already pointed out that she can relate and so can I. (See, we’re all going to be supportive and say you have a nice safe bloggy home here 🙂 )

    But I, for one, would like to know the real you to the extent that that’s possible. i don’t quite trust people who are all good. Besides, they make me feel bad and look bad…

    So, not that you need permission, but feel free to be as real about who you are, at least whenever you comment on my blog. And if you’re just tapping, at least I’ll know what you mean.

    Lorna created a scrapping page of her 100 favourite things. I learnt so much about her from it and your list above gave me a more real picture of who you are too.

    Take care

  5. sarah,
    like l.l., i will echo honesty is what makes this community work … whether it’s about being silly, about arrested development, or posting youtube videos of alanis morissette. ;o)

    one of the things about blogging is that you can really choose which pieces of yourself to reveal. you can stare at someone’s post & attempt to come up with a response that is witty &/or profound, you can try really hard to fit in or to try & to make it look like you have it all together.

    i think what makes this place work is that we’re all learning how to put ourselves out there that kicks those “shoulds” to the curb one damn “should” at a time in a way that says, i don’t want you to love my “shoulds”, i want you to love me: flawed, irritated, tired, blissed, deep, silly, or silent.

    i don’t know what all your shoulds are, nor do i know all my own. if i’ve learned anything about this space & the people in it, it’s that it’s okay to spew or be silent. it’s okay to be fuming. the people around me {you included} have met me in those places where i’ve hestitated, thinking “i shouldn’t feel this way, i shouldn’t be saying this!!”

    i hope you’ll let us show you how we’ll do the same for you. you fit because you’re real, because you’re uniquely you … even if that is still blooming & unfolding {as we all are, fellow bloomers & unfolders ourselves}.

    love you, girl.

  6. Hey to all of you–thanks so much for your comments here…they’ve meant so much over the last day, even though I haven’t responded here. I think I need some time with all of this, with what you’ve given me here, before I can say anything besides “thank you, thank you, thank you”…but maybe that’s all that needs to be said.

    Oh, and I took Christianne’s comment down at her request…not because I thought she said anything evil or inappropriate or anything else.

    Oh! I do have one specific comment–there’s an AD movie??!!? Where do I sign up?

  7. I have to tell you that this is my favorite thing you have written. I love reading about the ordinary, humanness of people. It’s funny, because I have been away from blogging recently and I came back today and wrote a post called “I hate my blog.” I know that I put pressure on myself to be available and engaged when sometimes I don’t have much to offer. Or sometimes I read a post and it is thought provoking or moving but I don’t have eloquent words to offer. It can feel overwhelming. I’m not sure if this is part of your experience, but anyway, the idea of the “shoulds” is the same. Also, it can be hard to give an accurate picture of our entire selves. Or maybe I should just speak for myself, but I know that sometimes I just can’t seem to express all the little nuances of my personality that I would like to express (probably because I am not a writer), and I feel two dimensional or fake—even though I’m being completely honest. Regardless of whether we share the same particular blog experience, I think it’s great that you brought this into the open. I also enjoyed reading your list of likes.

  8. thanks sarah. and amen.

  9. Tammy

    Sarah
    you go girl, let er’ rip we can take it. I think every single thing you said here, we can all relate to in one form or the other.
    We are all trying to learn one another. We are kinda testing the waters to find out if this blogtown can handle our true selves. We want to know if we are safe.
    We are all like a huge batter of a very weird cake mix. One person is the eggs, one person is the flour, another sugar (i must be sugar since it is my drug of choice) so on and so forth. We can’t have one without the other because we all compliment one another. Love that is BECOMING real is what binds this cake together. Love is something we learn, it is not always an instant emotion that we feel.
    This is a rabbit trail but this post moved me to think. I think in Romans Paul writes let your love be without hypocrisy. I talked to Christianne about this one day on the phone. At one time or another i have told everyone of you that i love you. What i mean by that statement is, I am learning over time that there is something beautiful inside each of you, that is the person i love.

    Emotional love can be an instant feeling. A love that is learned says i love you with a much deeper force. To say i love you enough to lay my life down for you is something that only time and trust can produce.
    One of my favorite scriptures in the bible is Heb.
    5:8 Paul writes about Christ though He was a Son he LEARNED obedience through the things that He suffered. You could say He learned to love through suffering.
    It is when we suffer with one another in our weaknesses that we learn to love one another. That was sorta off the path of your blog but it is something that popped in my head from reading your blog. Oops been a blog hog. Sorry girl. I went with that thought before i lost it.

  10. i SO get this, sarah! i have felt the same way. after blogging a while, your blog sometimes becomes ‘thematic’ and you feel pressure to follow that theme, even when you want to stray. i know that’s a small part of all you are saying here…. but i think just as in real life relationships, you don’t present everything at once…. it comes in layers.

    so glad you are delaring your independence! 🙂

  11. Laura, you words are so sweet to my ears…’just tapping’ is about what I can manage sometimes…

    Heather, it’s cool to hear where you’re coming from. And you’ve got some good things to think about in there. In the end, I think my blog is about me, too. Oh…and I just watched AD for the first time over the last month!

    Di, you’re the best…wine…poker (is that how the women play it these days…because the guys always have beer 😉 ). Yeah…just want someone to talk to, who will be themselves and let me be me…cool

    Christianne, I read your comment before I deleted it and I loved it. Won’t say much more here, but it was awesome.

    Dean, I like the idea of that as a verbal scrapbook of some of the things I like the most. And thanks for your excitement–it’s encouraging to me right now…that thought that, just maybe, I’m on the right path even when i can’t see it too clearly.

    Kirsten, I’m certainly going to try to let y’all meet me where I really am. It can be hard to find, sometimes…under all the shoulds and the musts and the maybes…but I’m starting to figure it out. And that Alanis video was deep, I’m telling you. Deep.

    Chloe, I think that the needing to process something before I can speak is definitely part of what I experience…the “Crap, I want this person to know that I read this and that it meant a lot to me and that I care for them there, but I have no idea how to say that, right now, in a way that honors the heart they just put out here.” I feel like I should be able to do that, and I’m learning that I can’t.

    Terri, 😉

    Tammy, can i be the chocolate chips? Maybe the cocoa powder? Talk about drugs of choice… And I enjoyed your thoughts, though there’s more there than I can process right now. I think love is definitely a “becoming” sort of thing, though. It’s like falling in love, actually. You know, you fall head over heels, but you wonder where it’s gone after a couple of months? And then you have to choose–do I still want to honor this person and raise them up and help them become what God wants them to be, or is that not right. We’ve all had that connection…and it’s like we’re moving into the choice part–not that it’s hard, but it’s a choice, it’s BECOMING.

    Blue, it’s so nice to know that I’m heard, that I’m not crazy, that all this is real. And I like your comment about it being like real life relationships, because that’s so true.

  12. Sarah…I’ve read your post a few days ago…and still thinking what I want to say…or how to say it…and just now realise i don’t have to….i can just say it like it is…being true….to myself and you…
    I’ll have to link this post to one I’m pondering over…cause I feel the same. I hide the parts I don’t like that much…and will just talk about the good stuff…the love…the happiness….and some sadness…but the good sadness….i need to be open and honest with myself.

    thank you Sweet You…for helping me taking the first step…i’m pondering…xx

  13. Linni, I feel so loved by your words…and like God is present, working and moving between us even though I’ve only met you through the internet. I know what you mean about “the good sadness”…sharing the sad parts that somehow look good and not the others. And your words about being honest with yourself first…so true. You’re welcome, and I’ll be with you in this place.

  14. Hey. Stumbled over here from Mary’s “so you wanna be published” blog. 🙂 I don’t really know you, but I will say this honest post is the best thing I’ve read on your blog. I love it. Not as much as I love Arrested Development! Keep writing, girl. Don’t worry about what anyone says or thinks. Do it for yourself. Only you can be you and that is what makes your writing shine.

  15. Thanks, Tanya. Is it possible to love anything as much as AD? And I plan to keep writing. At this point, it’s part of the path I’ve chosen, no matter what.

  16. Jen

    Sarah,
    I just started reading your blog, and I love this post. I too sometimes feel concerned about the potential for hypocrisy in blogsville. Having been burned in community deeply in the past (and more than once), I am still keeping it at arms length, even though I want it. I am working on lowering my very deeply ingrained defensese, but maybe blog world isn’t the best place for me to work on that(?).

    Perhaps the biggest obstacle for me is not revealing my bad parts (although that is certainly a challenge). Rather, it’s not being able to trust that people will respond honestly with both affirmative and “negative” feedback. I need people to affirm and love me, but I also need them to reflect back the whole truth about me, both the good and the bad, without leaving behind the love and acceptance. And this is what I don’t always see in blog comments.

    In order to heal our good-bad splits, we need, in response to our honest self-revealings, loving acceptance coupled with reflective honesty . In my experience, most people only have the courage for reflecting back acceptance or praise. But I don’t want to run around blindly in a hob-leg pattern of mutual affirmation.

    In addition to sharing encouraging thoughts, do we have the courage to disagree with one another or tell one another when we don’t like or are bothered by something someone says. Can we do this without loosing the love and acceptance? Is an online forum capable of facilitating such full-orbed relationships? Maybe we need to save this kind of truth for interaction in the flesh where hugs are readily available. I don’t know.

    Thanks for listening.

  17. Hi Jen–wow…I’m impressed by how much thought you’ve put into this …it sounds like something you’ve been puzzling through for a while. I’m struck by your question at the end about online communication vs communication with flesh and hugs, and I don’t know the answer. I’m wondering if it has to do with who you are and where your community is…then again, I tend to be less skeptical about online communication than others sometimes are. I wonder if it has more to do with our personalities and experiences and all of that.

    I’m also struck by your holistic view of love–the honesty with the acceptance. I think that CAN be harder online…not necessarily, though. Knowing when and where to offer that is like learning a dance, and the dance can be much easier to see in “real life.” My experience says it CAN be learned OL, but it takes time and forgiveness and mistakes, and can be less intuitive than in face-to-face community.

    Dunno if there’s anything there you haven’t thought of before, but those are my musings.

  18. Jen

    Sarah,
    Thanks. I like your dancing analogy a lot. It is difficult to do that dance well whether in person or online. Right now, I’m two left feet.

    And probably my skepticism is also a defense mechanism that I’ll eventually need to let go of.

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