Friday, March 3, 2017

Slow is Okay

Confession time: I struggle with slow. Not the slow of others, but my own innate need to move slowly.  For a long time, I counted my propensity for detail and consideration to be a failing. I would try to pile on more expectations to amp up the energy needed to complete a task, but my internal speedometer wouldn't budge. It kept me at a steady 35-45 mph and if pushed to 50, I would bottom out, burnt and exhausted.

I chastised myself. Why I couldn't push through the pain? Why did fast-paced work and high demands send me into anxiety and emotional lock down? Everyone else was able to pull ahead, buckle down and get the work done, but I crashed. What was wrong with me?

It's taken me 5 years, multiple jobs, miscellaneous counseling sessions and a lot of teary prayers to finally realize I am a single-tasker. I like to hone in on a task, analyze how I can do that thing well and then execute it with great focus and effort. Now, this is not to say I can't have multiple things going at a time. I just need to be confidently capable in achieving the expectations that go along with them.

But with new challenges or ideas, I like to sit with them and really hash out the details, understand the how and why. This probably has a lot to do with my desire to not make a mistake or be seen as a fool. (Thanks, Disgust.) Yet, even so, slow and steady is my natural state of mind. I get overwhelmed easily if there are too many people or a long list of tasks to be completed in a short amount of time. Too many events on my calendar make my breath short and constrained. I need space to breathe, to move and to create. So why did I ever think healing would be an instantaneous thing?

When I say healing, I don't mean physically. Logically, a broken bone or rendered skin needs time and TLC to heal; you can't rush a broken bone. Supplements and medication can help ease the process but the body operates on its own time schedule. Emotional and spiritual pain is harder to justify the slow process.

In my previous post, I discussed how I can get anxious with fear over not doing something right. I'm a recovering perfectionist and approval seeker, but even writing "recovering" makes me want to chastise myself for not being "recovered."

"Get over it and move on," screams Disgust.

"You're too emotional," says an outside critic.

"Just trust in the Lord," soothes another.

I end up with hands over my ears, running away to the dark recesses of my bedroom so I can hide under the covers. (Hello, Sadness. Can I stay here a while?) I'm left hurting, confused and back to asking myself, "What's wrong with me? Why can't I move on like everyone else? Why can't I get passed this fear?"

That's when I hear this whispered, low and soft: "Slow isn't wrong."

My ears perk up and I pop up from under the covers. "What?"

"Slow isn't wrong," the Voice repeats. "It's not bad or behind schedule. It's not a disability or a failing. Slow is okay."

I sink back into the pillows and let those words soothe away the ache of old wounds and drown out those old lies. Slow is okay.

As the old adage goes, "Rome wasn't built in a day," so too, we do not overcome obstacles in a single bound. We face them every day and we make a choice. One step is enough. None is okay, too. Nothing has to be "fixed" instantly, though we often want this to be so. Facing the pain and leaning into heartache or fear isn't something to accomplished in a day. The matters of the heart and soul are not time sensitive nor do they require deadlines. Healing is different for every person and the Great Physician knows the best care.

So remember. You don't have to rush. You don't have to worry. Slow is okay.

Monday, February 27, 2017

You Fool!

The fool, the joker, the slapstick. Throughout history, these are the characters we associate the ridiculous. Their roles are suitable because the role is considered a profession. Today we have comedians who often fill the same roles as their historic counterparts. They are allowed, accepted even, for their excessive use of farce and joviality. Their place is to entertain the court whether that court takes place in Medieval Europe of modern day social media.

Apply that ridiculous insignia to a member of the court, however, and the atmosphere shifts. A declaration of fool as applied to a person's demeanor, belief, profession or status causes the glittering image of courtly affairs to crumble and the person is left publicly shamed.

Disgust may fear vulnerability but her true fear is of that declaration: Fool! To have her voice laughed at and dismissed, to be seen as unintelligent and uninformed, to be called emotional and unhinged is ultimately the proverbial branding of the scarlet letter. She fears external critics, like Anger, who appoint her image or weigh her weakness. Those critics control her aspect and determine what is and isn't "gross." They are, in a sense, the lawmakers of her life; to stray from their established system would be considered treason.

She does not want to be found guilty by those external critics so she works to conform her being into the structure of what is safe and acceptable. Even her appearance conforms to the order. Her glasses denote intelligence. The straight, cropped hair is no-nonsense and without whimsy. Her clothing is overly modest, covering more skin with her turtleneck acting as almost a gag. She is the embodiment of control, aloofness, and intelligence. She abstains from all foolishness. No one would dare call her "Stupid."

Because she must maintain this image of intelligence, she must never make a mistake. This fear is what stalls my writing and freezes my creativity. The fear of vulnerability, in this case, is not necessarily a fear of making a mistake (I recognize we are all human and not perfect). Rather, it's the fear of being declared wrong. Somehow misquoting a fact or misinterpreting an event halts my writing process. I get bogged down in piles of research, ranging from the tiniest details to the overarching scope. The stack of "To-read" material grows until the research is too overwhelming, too daunting to face and the project that wants to be born gets thrown to the back burner, to simmer until the "opportune" time.

The only hope I have to silence the drone of anxiety and panic when I'm faced with that stack of knowledge yet unobtained is a gentle whisper that reminds me that it's okay to thaw the fear slowly.


Friday, February 24, 2017

A Broken Image

I stand to the side, arms still wrapped softly against my torso, staring down at Disgust. She hasn't moved from her huddled position in the armchair. Her head hangs low, resting against her knees, her hair acting as a veil across her face. If she had more room, I'd swear she would rock back and forth, but she doesn't move. Not even to twitch or adjust her position. "That can't be comfortable," I mutter softly.

"Let her feel the discomfort," scoffs Anger, strolling across the carpet. She eyes Disgust with a slight hunger, like a lioness waiting to devour her prey.

"That's not very kind," reprimands Joy, sitting on the couch between Fear and Sadness.

"Kind?" Anger laughs. "Why should we show her any kindness when she props herself on her high pedestal, the grand judge of all?  Kindness..." she trails off, stomping into the kitchen.

"She is kind," a quiet voice says, "in her own way." Sadness lifts her mug as in solute. "She tried to comfort us when Fear was so bad off." She shrugs. "She tried."

I nod, glancing back to Disgust. This was why she didn't want to share with us. Anger with her justified smugness and Sadness, though truly compassionate, is staring at Disgust with pity, lips pouting and eyes water soft. She didn't want to have these eyes on her, assessing and labeling her state. She didn't want to appear weak, but even more so, I realize as I too watch her small form, she didn't want to look like a fool.

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