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I’m Not Sorry

I have recently noticed something about myself. Every so often I go on these self-awareness kicks, trying to figure out who I am and why I do the things I do. And there is something I have caught myself doing quite frequently over the last few weeks: apologizing.

I must say “I’m sorry,” dozens of times a day. Often for things that are not my fault. Or, for just being who I am. And I’m tired of it.

I discovered this with the help of my friend Lynne, who also is a Recovering Apologetic. For most of our lives, we have apologized to the people around us for the most ridiculous things imaginable. We just had a conversation about it. I’ve apologized for standing in the aisle at the grocery store, for making people wait for anything for more than five seconds, for liking chick flicks and the color pink, for being passionate about stories, for basically being a girl, and in particular being me.

In fact, I had previously considered apologizing for the somewhat schizophrenic nature of my last two posts. But I’m not going to. Because they were honest, and true to what I was feeling at the moment I wrote them.

I know I’m not the only one who does this. Why are we so apologetic? Why are we afraid of making people uncomfortable? I worry over inconveniencing anyone at all. And why? Aren’t we all inconvenienced at some point? And don’t we all learn that it’s just part of life, and deal with it?

There is something to be said for honesty, even the brutal kind. I mean, I’m of the persuasion that all things should be in moderation, so I don’t think you can walk around being brutally honest all the time. There are times when tact is called for, and we should be considerate of people’s feelings. We should pick our battles. By the same token, sometimes you gotta speak up, and let yourself be heard.

There are a lot of things I’ve gotten from reading Eldredge, and one is the idea that we ought to be fully who God made us to be. We were made in His image, and we have a bestowed glory that reflects our Maker. But most of us, myself included, walk around shrouded. We’re afraid to let people see us as we truly are. We’re afraid of the consequences of letting people feel the full weight of who we are.

For women, this often means worrying that our feelings and emotions are too much for others to handle. We bottle it up, not wanting to make anyone uncomfortable with what we truly feel. You know what I mean. We do the whole “Oh, no, it’s okay. I’m fine. Really,” thing. We don’t want to be a burden to anyone.

The problem is, sometimes that means we miss out on calling forth the best in others. The bible says that iron sharpens iron, and we sharpen each other. We do that best when we are being honest with each other and not hiding. And not apologizing for being who God created us to be. He made us each to fill different roles, use different gifts, and be different parts of the body. And we need to stop apologizing for being the part He made us to be.

There are, of course, times when it is necessary to say “Sorry.” And sometimes that’s when it’s hardest for me to say! It’s much easier to apologize for things that aren’t my fault than things that are! But you can hold me accountable: from here on out, I only want to apologize for things that genuinely ought to be apologized for. I will no longer say I’m sorry for being who I am. If I can help it.


On the Other Hand...

Maybe I'm wrong.

If I let my cynicism take over, there are days like today. When I think, who need this?

Maybe I'm stupid. Maybe Love Stinks.

Seriously, what am I doing, here? What am I waiting for?

Sometimes, it's really easy to get frustrated. I look at my life, and I don't see the things happening that I want to be happening. And yes, I know it's all in God's timing.

But some days I want to give it all up, lock my heart away. It's frustrating to care about someone who does not feel the same way. And it doesn't get easier. This just doesn't seem to be something I can fix or make better on my own. I don't know.

I've been working on a story for a few years now, and the main character, Anna, is in love with a guy for about seven years, the duration of the book. Obviously, I'm not going to tell you what happens, but the point is, I didn't give it a second thought when I put her through that. I just assumed she could handle that kind of emotional torment and anguish. Probably because I assumed I could. And so for years, she tries to reconcile the fact that she cares deeply for a guy who for the most part is unable to love her back.

Is it just me, or is that depressing?

Anna is brave, I'll give her that. I'm not sure I would really be able to do the same in her place. I'd like to think I could...but then there are days like today. When I wonder why I would do that to myself. Wouldn't it make more sense to spare my heart, if I could?

God has given us all sorts of counsel and direction in his written Word; thank God, we have it written down in black and white. ... The more that wisdom enters our hearts, the more we will be able to trust our hearts in difficult situations. Notice that wisdom is not cramming our head with principles. It is developing a discerning heart. What made Solomon such a sharp guy was his wise and discerning heart (1 Kings 3:9).
We don’t seek wisdom because it’s a good idea; we seek wisdom because we’re dead if we don’t.
Wisdom is crucial. But wisdom is not enough. Wisdom is essential . . . and insufficient. ...
It was dangerous advice, indeed, to send the young maiden before her king unbidden, and even worse to send a boy against a trained mercenary. And frankly, it looked like perfect madness for Jesus to give himself up to the authorities, let himself get killed....The Bible is full of such counterintuitive direction from God. (John Eldredge, Waking the Dead, pp 99-100.)

I'm trying to figure out what God wants from me in this situation. It always seems like, at the end of the day, His words to me are, "Don't give up." Don't close off your heart. Don't become a cynic. Don't feel stupid for loving. Well, today, Love does feel stupid. And quite frankly, I'm not even sure if Love is the right word for anything that I"m feeling. What do I know about Love, after all? What do I know about relationships? What do I know about truly caring about someone other than myself?

Nothing. So, apparently, I've got a lot to learn.


A(n Unfinished) Love Song

I’ve never been great at writing songs. I’ve tried my hand at it a few times. Some of my worst were attempts at writing songs about love. Or at least, my limited experience of it.

There are millions of songs about love. Have you noticed that? Songs about good love, bad love, crazy love, desperate love, obsessive love, and—my personal favorite—unrequited love.

The point of writing a song about love, I presume, is to capture an emotion in a few simple lyrics that will resonate with listeners everywhere. And in these millions of songs, there are a lot of bad philosophies. A lot of bad advice. A lot of bad attitudes.

Now, granted, I don’t know a whole lot about love. I do know it’s more than butterflies. It’s more than chemistry. It’s more than how someone makes you feel. It’s more than looking into someone’s eyes and getting chills.

And yet, those things are a part of romantic love. I just think that at the end of the day, if all I’m looking for is a thrill, well…what happens when the thrill is gone? Or I feel it for someone new?

So it’s gotta be something deeper and longer lasting. I admit, I haven’t quite figured this all out. I don’t mean to be a scientist about this, trying to define and dissect something so complex. It’s just, at this point in my life, I wonder: will I know Love when it finds me? Or will I be too busy looking for what I think Love is to recognize it?

I have few theories about Love. One is that it has to be fearless. Another is that it has to be selfless. And wouldn’t you know it, those are two of the hardest things for me to be. Thankfully, God is working on me!! And thankfully, I have relinquished my standards of perfection. So, I know I’m going to mess up, but that’s okay. I think it’s one of those things that you have to practice in order to get better. And I spent so much of my life holding back out of fear.

I’m still scared. And confused. I think I always assumed that by this point in my life, I would have figured this kind of stuff out. And I’m surprised at how baffled I still am over guy/girl relations. Of course, part of my problem is that I overthink everything. But it just seems to come more naturally and easily to some people, and I can’t figure that out.

Love is a mystery to me…how two people can come together, and decide to share their lives with each other. The give and take. The letting down of barriers and being Real. It’s all so foreign to me.

In fact, the only part of Love I’m familiar with is the pining away part. THAT I know very well. I know how to love from afar. (If such a thing is even possible.) I know what it’s like to feel the crush-rush of emotions—euphoria, and disappointment.

And I worry: what if all my years of watching chick flicks have warped me? It’s only in recent years that it has occurred to me that the guys in chick flicks don’t exist in reality. For the most part. I’m not saying guys can’t be romantic. I’m saying, those guys always seem to say the right thing. They don’t give up very easily. And besides all that, the whole courtship is condensed into a couple of hours. Movies leave out all the moments when nothing exciting or romantic happened. You don’t get to see all the nights the girl stayed up till 3 in the morning, trying to figure things out. You don’t see her obsessing for hours, begging her best friends to help her make sense of everything. You don’t see her make mistake after mistake and beat herself up for it afterward, wondering if she screwed things up for good this time.

And you know what? I don’t think I’m meant to figure this out by myself. I don’t think it’s possible. We’re not meant to navigate life alone, anyway. But Love—well, that’s the ultimate cooperative experience. I love to hear people’s theories and experiences with love—the good and the bad. I think we should share them with each other to help us all make sense out of it.

Which is why, in the end, I keep watching movies and listening to songs about love. Even when they get it wrong. I’ve gotten it wrong before, too. Many times. Sometimes I’m tempted to give up…because love is hard sometimes. It hurts. But even I know that anything worth having in life requires work. Including Love.

So this is my unfinished song about Love…and I’m sending it out into the world.


The Pursuit of Perfection

So the other night I was up late, working from home. I had the TV on, and somehow I got watching this show on VH1 (which I never watch, honestly, but I had gotten sucked into an I love the 90’s marathon…). It was called Scott Baio is 45 and Single. I don’t know what got into me. I normally loathe Reality TV, especially ones featuring celebrities.

Let me just be clear—my interest in the show had nothing to do with Scott Baio. I’m a little too young to have been a fan. (Although technically, that didn’t really stop me from my whole MacGyver phase…but I digress.) What intrigued me was that as it turns out, S. B. is on a self quest. He hired a “life coach,” and is trying to determine if he can get married to the woman he loves…or not.

Like the rest of us, S. B. wrestles with commitment issues. Unlike the rest of us, he’s had his pick of pretty much any and everyone over the past 30 years or so. He’s been with one gorgeous girl after another, and notice: he’s not happy. He’s not satisfied. One of his exes described it to him this way: “You’re always looking for the next best thing.”

—And that was what kept me watching. There was this repeated, underlying theme about the pursuit of perfection. I can just imagine all these frustrated girls feeling not good enough because he moved on to the next model/playmate/actress.

It’s funny, because my friend Lynne and I had a conversation just the other day about this same kind of thing. Her mom was trying to get her to meet this guy in his late 30’s who is still single; and Lynne said, “What’s wrong with him, Mom?” And then she added, to me, “I can say that, because pretty soon, people will start saying the same thing about me: ‘What’s wrong with Lynne? Why is she still single?’”

I CERTAINLY am not implying that there in fact IS something wrong with a person who is single (any more than there is something “right” about a person who is married…no matter what our culture says). But if you were to ask me, I could readily recite a list of my flaws. Are they the reason I’m still single? I don’t know. But I do wonder sometimes if my perfectionistic tendencies hinder me.

In a way, I’m on my own self quest; and I think I often get caught up in the pursuit of perfection. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do your best, I suppose, as long as you don’t take it too far. Just tonight I was talking with friends about the little voice in my head—you know, the one who voices a steady commentary on all the things I do wrong. Everything I mess up, every little flaw or failure, every time I fall short of perfection (which is ALL the time)—I hear about it. And it’s hard to get that voice to shut up, am I right?

And I think sometimes I let that little voice dictate areas of my life. That Inner Critic begins to point out not only my own flaws, but everyone else’s. I think I generally have more grace toward other people, but it can be hard when I’m noticing all of someone’s shortcomings.

The worst, I think, is when considering dating prospects. I can be so picky! And I’m not really that fussy of a person. I don’t think. I mean, there are definite things I don’t like. I remember I took that free eHarmony profile test (don’t rag, I never joined!) and there was this one section where it asked you to check off ten “Must Haves” and ten “Can’t Stands.” It seemed like the “Can’t Stands were harder to limit. Why is that?

Because then a guy comes along into my life who I technically shouldn’t like—someone who isn’t the right age…or isn’t, say, Scottish…and who has too much facial hair. Or doesn’t play the guitar. Or isn’t a mushy, hopeless romantic. And I mentally cross him off the list. Or do I? Sometimes those standards just seem to be excuses—things to hide behind. Sometimes it comes down to something that isn’t definable. And in that moment, maybe Perfection is not only irrelevant, but undesirable. If I were to somehow meet my “perfect,” ideal guy, would he be as good for me as I imagine? In Reality, isn’t everyone going to be an adjustment? Don’t all relationships take work? Like I said earlier, I’m not exactly a picnic myself.

I don’t know if this is Age talking; because when I was younger, I seemed to care much more about my Standards than I do now. Maybe it’s Experience; maybe it’s Realism (or Cynicism). But I seem to be giving up the pursuit of perfection. Truthfully, nothing in this life will ever be as good as it could be. Wow. That sounds depressing. I just mean, I should stop being so hard on myself, and everyone else, because we’re all on our way to perfection. We’re just not there yet.

And that's not such a horrible thing, after all.