May 26, 2010

confessions of a talkaholic

Yesterday I applied for 11 jobs. ELEVEN. That's one more than 10. (And a lot more than zero which is the more important statistic.) That also means I wrote 11 cover letters. And I will tell you a secret, I love writing, but I hate cover letters. I mean, you're trying to convince a person to take more than 6 seconds to consider you, much less to hire you for a job, which I feel is a very pressureful task. Perhaps I should keep it simple. It could go like this:

Dear Hiring Manager:
Big hearts,

Shoot. I should have thought of this before.

If only I could put my real skills on my resume. I mean, all my counseling experience, fine. My volunteering, yeah, ok. Masters degree? Ehh. There isn't really a section to put things like "really good at decoupage" or "makes a mean grilled cheese" or "kick-a social skills" or "once made a giant cupcake in the shape of a cat" - but I can deal with those not being on there. But what I am really good at, where I really shine, is in the art of impersonation. Which my mom says is because I listen to sounds instead of words. (read: she thinks I don't listen to her. which clearly I do because I remember that she said that. ha.) Doing voices? I'm awesome. Telling stories? Yes. Fabulous. But unless you're looking for a job doing voices for animated films (which I will tell you I wholeheartedly wish I was) those things are not terribly handy.

You see, at a very young age, it became apparent that I was an attention fiend. I wanted to slow dance with the spotlight I loved it so much. Upon approaching the playground in my new neighborhood as a wee one, I am quoted as saying, "Look at all these kids! They are going to be so happy to meet me!" There is a video of my brother's birthday wherein I am trying (and failing) to get someone's attention. When traditional means failed me, clearly the only option was to pull up my dress to show off my fancy undies. I was 17. (Just kidding, that would be weird. I was only like 5. Which isn't weird.)

Now, I like to think I have come a long way and am not quite the attention jezabel I once was (family - please refrain from commenting). I have found reasonable ways to channel my need to be heard, because a 25 year old screaming LOOK AT ME! LISTEN TO ME! is an unhappy combination of trainwreck and hot mess. And it hasn't been socially acceptable for me to lift up my dress for about 20 years now, so that option is out. But just because we grow up doesn't necessarily mean we change. We just find more socially acceptable (read: sneaky) ways to get our needs met (read: get what we want). We find grown up words to say little kid things. Are you starting to see how this works?

I think the reason I have these particular talents has a great deal to do with the fact that I realized that I like words (read: I like to talk). A lot. And the only way I was going to get people to listen to me as much as I wanted them to was if I got really good at it (talking, that is). Not to mention, due to higher-than-normal levels of teen angst, in my high school years I had to stifle all of my natural instincts in order to blend in. (Now, apparently, I'm frantically making up for lost time.) I don't know why I think thats so funny, but I do. At the root of my present love for writing, a good story, and a superb impersonation is nothing more than my childhood search for fame paired with a reaction to my high school need to not rock boats. That's funny to me.

Makes me wonder about people who are good at stuff... what playground moment is at the root of their success?

For those of you who don't know me as well as others, I like hyperbole. (read: I like to be dramatic.) Please don't read this and think, "wow, she thinks really highly of herself," or "wow, every time I am talking to her she is probably just waiting for the next time its her turn to talk." False. I like laughing as much as I like making people laugh, and I like hearing as much as I like being heard.

So there. That will teach you to make assumptions about people. Shame on you.
Yes, I know I just made the assumption that you were judging me, but that's different.

To sum it up:
I like to talk. In order to get people to listen to me, I had to make it interesting. So here we are.
(aaaaaaaaand I think I just found my new blog tagline.)

May 24, 2010

experience: that most brutal of teachers

[I kind of think I write the same stuff over & over again. I think it's easily explained by the fact that I don't learn lessons easily so they have to get taught to me over & over until I figure it out. Maybe you're the same way. If you're not, well, hang in there. I'll get it eventually. Probably.]

One of my friends at The Well was telling me yesterday that he missed a chance to see his kids. We've talked a lot about them in the past and I have sat with him many times as he weeps because he misses them. He's never angry about it, and when he does cry he does it gracefully - but his heart hurts, and it hurts mine to see. So when he told me he missed that chance, I was surprised. And since I feel like he trusts me (at least a little), I asked him why.

There wasn't really a reason. What it comes down to, I think, is that he got caught up in shame. My friend is homeless, and he didn't want his kids to see him because he didn't feel good/clean/successful enough. Instead of answering my question, he half-joked, embarrassed, "I've just got to get myself together."

I hate that.

What I want is for him to see what I see, which is, among other things, a genuinely kind and compassionate person. A dad who wants what is best for his children. A man who is worthy of grace & love & mercy. A friend. And the fact that he doesn't have a job or a home or a haircut is kind of inconsequential when it comes to who he is. Of course, hate it or not, I know exactly how he feels. It's exactly the kind of crap I think all the time.

I can't help but wonder how many chances we miss because we don't have ourselves together just yet. 
I wonder how many times we let shame convince us that we're not worthy of what our hearts desire.
I wonder how many of our tears are shed because we didn't show up, and we could have.
I wonder how often we become something we're not simply because we've forgotten who we are.

I told my friend that next time, I hoped he would show up anyway.
He promised he'd try. So I guess I'd better try too. It's only fair.

May 18, 2010

the gift of 'me too'

What I'm about to tell you is nothing novel. Its not new or exciting or earth-shattering, but I think it is true. And I think it is beautiful. If that's as far as I ever get (if I even get that far), I'm fine with that.

C.S. Lewis puts it this way:
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, "What! You too? I thought I was the only one!"
Only recently have I begun to grasp the power of the words "me too." Some of my greatest relationships even at this very moment I can legitimately trace back to those two words. I remember more clearly than most things the day or night when we sat for hours, walked in the park, stayed up too late, drank coffee, ate lunch - when we discovered the me-too. There is typically a moment when I'm sitting with the other person and I realize I have a decision to make. I feel a slight twinge and I think, Am I really going to share that? Right now? With this person? I take a tiny moment and do a quick vulnerability risk assessment (the findings of which, thankfully, I tend to ignore). My stomach is doing flip-flops before I have even decided for sure if I am going to let the words leave my mouth. Am I going to talk, or throw up? I'm honestly not sure. 

It's an "I struggle..." or an "I've lost..." or an "I'm afraid..." 
It is vulnerable, tender, intimate.
And it's real, above all, which is perhaps the very scariest part.

Wrapped up in the spoils of our shame I think we start to feel like we are the only ones with pain and brokenness and ugly parts. For a very long time, I had pain that I literally, no exaggeration, thought no one could or would ever understand. I was alone there... until one day I wasn't. Until I did a vulnerability override and said what I most dreaded saying. And finally, at long last, I was met with someone else who felt like me. Another human being sits with me, hears me, sees me, and responds with a timid and maybe even somewhat reluctant, "me too." It was beautiful.

It's still beautiful. Because when it happens, I can almost literally hear shame breaking. Loneliness shatters like the glass I knocked off my nightstand the other morning when I reached for the alarm clock in a panic. You can feel your heart change in a similar manner to that of the Grinch's, which I have a very vivid visual for thanks to Dr. Seuss. Relief fills your body and your shoulders un-tense and your face breaks into a smile whether you want it to or not and maybe you even get a little emotional in your eyeballs. It is a great gift, and one that not just anyone can give you. Which makes it all the more special.

I am deeply thankful for the me too and for the comfort & liberation that comes with it. I hope sincerely and with great fervor that you are given the same gift that I have been given. I hope when your tummy starts to flip and words spill out of your mouth that someone looks at you, looks at your ugliest parts, your deepest hurts, and says:

Me too.
You are not alone anymore.
I hope you can hear shame break and loneliness shatter.
And I hope you get a big fat glimpse of Jesus in all of it.