Saturday, October 27, 2012

What I Really Wanted All Along: Day 17 of 31 Days of Falling by Faith

"Those who live in sin hardly understand the horror of sin. The one peculiar and terrifying thing about sin is that the more experience you have with it, the less you know about it. You become so identified with it that you know neither the depths to which you have sunk nor the heights from which you have fallen."
—Fulton J. Sheen, Seven Words of Jesus and Mary
"We can only hold people's attention in a speech by revealing our inmost self. Usually I do this, but sometimes I get sort of afraid suddenly and withhold something for fear that it might be used against me or that the audience might not respond.... It is painful but very beautiful to give one's whole self to a group."
—Ronda De Sola Chervin
I've passed the middle of my commitment to blog for 31 days in a row. It has been a roller coaster so far. A few days I have had lots of time to write and rewrite and come up with something that feels complete to me—not complete like a biography of a dead person, but complete in the way of a short story or an episode of a TV drama, with unanswered questions or hints of things to come. More often I have squeezed out something in the final hour of the day and pressed the publish button with some degree of fear and trembling. Some days I have known all day what I needed to write about. Other days it has been a struggle to choose among many options, or to focus on even one.

There has always been a tension, even a tug of war, between writing about "personal" things and writing about "issues." Ultimately I desire and hope to illustrate what I have learned about how they are intertwined, at least in my own life.

It has taken me a lifetime to grow the courage to open my mouth about or sign my name to an opinion about any controversial issue. If you had or have known me as a child or teen in school, as a college student, or as a fellow employee, you know, or would know, that I tend to be silent in groups and have preferred to avoid disagreement and conflict. I am much more comfortable behind the scenes than in the spotlight. That's why, in high school, I was on the stage crew for the drama club rather than one of the actors (even though I am actually, I realize now, quite skilled at playing a role and pretending to be someone other than myself). That's why I was administrative assistant in an elementary school for four years rather than a teacher. That's why I have worked as a copy and production editor for 25 years rather than (until recently) publishing my own writing. I was afraid of being ridiculed, afraid of being wrong, and afraid of disappointing.

I'm still afraid of disappointing people (I know I do and will), but my fears of being ridiculed and of being wrong have shrunk greatly over the past few years. It's not that I think I'll never, or even rarely, be wrong; of course I will. But knowing how wrong I was for so many years about things that caused so much harm to myself and to others makes me feel certain about the difference between right and wrong on a lot of issues. My certainty comes not from trusting myself but from trusting the truth itself, and the Source of truth. I am no longer afraid of being ridiculed for this trust, because I have been and it has hurt a lot less than the guilt and sorrow I have felt for the harm I did by believing the misunderstandings, distortions, and lies I embraced for so long.

"Sometimes we 'sin' not by saying evil but by overly enjoying when others make fun of our enemies" (Ronda Chervin). I am very disturbed when people or groups on both sides of the divide speak about, or to, those on the other side without compassion and respect. (I'm sure I have done this myself, I hope and pray not to do it again, and I ask to be forgiven for when I have done it and thoughtlessly do it again.) Because I used to see some things so differently than I do now, and because I know and understand (and constantly seek to understand better) how and why I took that path for such a distance, I have great empathy for those who remain in that mode that I now see as a kind of brainwashing and hostage situation. I am reminded of an episode (season 1, episode 9) of the TV show Flashpoint in which a negotiator succeeds in persuading a teenaged girl who was kidnapped and held hostage for eight years that what her abductor had told her about the world outside were lies. The first time I watched it, I knew it was an analogy for what had happened to me, and to many others. I also felt, and still feel, deeply grateful to those (especially one person) who, like hostage negotiator Jules, convinced me to trust that I no longer needed to hold a gun, so to speak, on those who were trying to free me from my captivity.

I remember another mind-opening moment, a conversation with a friend seven or eight years ago. I told him all the reasons that my observations of my parents' traditional marriage had made me feel that I didn't want to become my mother, or even a mother at all, and definitely not in a marriage to a man anything like my father. At the same time, I sought, and still hope for, a relationship such as I now see in the traditional marriages and families of many friends with traditional beliefs about marriage, and I am heartbroken not to have experienced, and be experiencing, what they have. My friend's observation of and challenge to me was that just because the example of my role models had not painted an attractive picture didn't mean that the concept itself was wrong. That's when I started to realize what I'd lost, and that what I'd given up is what I'd really wanted all along.

More later—I have to prepare for a hurricane.


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