Being Known

“Shame caused me to hide…the more we hide, the harder it is to be known. And we have to be known to connect” -Donald Miller, Scary Close

I wanted to expand upon my last post. Not the relationship part…that will come soon enough in a more lighthearted manner. No, I wanted to expand upon feeling fully understood. Feeling known.

I’ve been a huge fan of Donald Miller for almost ten years. I first fell in love with his writing voice during my freshman year of college. Some of my fondest memories that first semester are of sitting in the laundry room of my dorm, reading Blue Like Jazz and listening to Iron & Wine’s “The Shepherd’s Dog”. I realize that doesn’t sound like a particularly thrilling time, especially for an eighteen-year-old who was experiencing freedom for the first time, but I credit those moments as the ones when I started to fully think for myself.

I’m not a fan of most “religious” writers. I don’t like the voice of someone who is obviously trying to convert their readers to their worldview. It’s pushy and desperate and doesn’t feel genuine. If I’m going to be approached with an entire worldview, I want it to come from someone who fully accepts their faults, acknowledges that they don’t have all the answers, but are trying to be their best. I like being able to read words by someone who lives through their flaws.

Scary Close came out in early 2015. I had been struggling with finding my voice and felt like I had lost the ability to connect with anyone on any kind of level. I was feeling lost and unable to trust. Miller’s book was all about relationships and feeling intimacy. This didn’t always necessarily mean romantic intimacy, but just connecting and being known by others.

Through a series of events, I had lost that. In my writing project, I had written myself into a character that “left destruction in her wake and in a way was proud of herself for being able to attract people enough to destroy their idea of love” because I saw myself in that life. I saw myself unable to be known by people because I had lost my ability to trust. I know that some of that mistrust should have been consciously aimed at myself instead of others, but that year was a mess of epic proportions, and I avoided self-blame at all costs.

Somewhere along the way last year, I hit the wall. I learned that I had been avoiding any of the blame for my actions. Perhaps blame isn’t the correct word, but I was tying all of my mistakes and faults to the people who had hurt me. I wasn’t willing to accept that the bad experiences had actually shaped anything about me. There was a moment close to the middle of last year that I had a breakdown in front of others. I was being pummeled with questions about my divorce from a guy I barely knew, and by the end of the night, I was in the passenger seat of a friend’s car unable to breathe or speak. I texted that friend the next morning, apologizing for the inconvenience my panic attack had caused, and his response was so simple and so true: “There’s no need to apologize. It was a true human experience”

That was the first time in a very long time I realized that I shouldn’t be apologizing for the permanent marks my experiences had left on me. Being in the midst of painful moments is as much a part of being human as any joyful moments are, perhaps even more so. All of us experience hardships, and acting like those things don’t exist chips away at our humanity. In my quest to become fully exposed and at peace with every piece of me, I’ve made it a point to not hide my experiences. If the people around me know what I’ve been through, what both pains and soothes me, they are shown my true self. If they choose to spend time with that true self after being made aware of all my flaws, my ability to trust in them grows. This is the way a healthy relationship develops.

Black Rock Lake Park, Texas - April 2015
Bluebonnets at Black Rock Lake Park, Texas – April 2015

A Break

I’ve found myself reaching a point of wanting to give up writing on a blog because I’ve started to compare my writing to that of others again. My words aren’t fancy or detailed, I border on being too frank and honest, and I feel like I’m pathetically whiney most of the time. I’m overly critical. I know this. I battle this on a regular basis. I’ve been racking my brain for a way to change this, to get back to a point of really liking what I’m writing and being proud of it.

I think this all stems from a bigger issue. It comes from a place of being too self-conscious, of not being able to really be aware my talents and gifts, of viewing myself as unlovable. Three months ago, I wrote about being the type of person that hides herself away, that makes it difficult for people to connect with beyond a surface level. It’s not that I don’t connect with others- I just don’t think others will be able to handle the trouble and pain I drag along with me in the most self-inflicted forms of baggage that I avoid letting anyone in to help me work through it.

I think this move will be good for me in more than one way. Even though my financial stress will be higher, not living with my parents anymore will be a giant relief. Out of all the things I’ve attempted in the past several years, trying to maintain a civil relationship with them has (shamefully) been the most difficult. There are enough issues there to fill up several books alone, but we do so much better when there is distance between us. What I’m most looking forward to, however, is really focusing on myself.

I realize this is terribly cliche, horribly overdone, and disgustingly cheesy, but I’ve been contemplating a complete separation from the idea of dating or relationships. A quick backstory: I didn’t have a boyfriend until I was 17. I didn’t even have many dates to dances…in fact, I got asked to exactly one dance before I entered the dating world. None of that is bad, but the fact that I was so disappointed, so heartbroken- that I placed so much value on the opposite gender’s lack of interest in me- that is the part I don’t like. When I finally had a guy in my life that was interested in me, I didn’t really stop to think about if he was the type of person I really wanted to be with. I just went with it. I settled into the mediocracy of it all.

From that day in August of 2006 until last November, I hadn’t gone longer than a few months without some sort of love interest in my life. Most of them weren’t worth the effort. We didn’t click or even really appreciate each other, we just kept each other from being lonely. That’s a huge stretch of my life of simply avoiding loneliness…eight years. Arguably some of the most important years in life for figuring out who you are and what you want from life. In that time, I can say with certainty that I was only with one person who even slightly understood the underlying thoughts driving my actions, who was able to get through the surface, get to know the real person underneath, and actually be supportive of that person.

I’ve had crushes since last November. I’ve been so interested in this one person that it’s torn me up inside. I’ve gotten my hopes up, those same hopes obliterated, and my emotions all tangled up that I haven’t been able to decipher up from down and good from bad. The most irritating part? I’ve taken all the blame. I’ve just viewed it all as something I’ve been doing wrong, that I’m not good enough. It’s a terrible way to think. Really, there is no blame to be placed. There is no wrong person in this situation. It’s just that there are feelings that aren’t reciprocated and nothing will change that.

I think accepting that fact is a good first step in beginning to appreciate myself. In stopping the blame and degrading attitude I have toward myself. It’s so self-destructive. If healing is going to continue, if I’m going to finally be able to be proud of who I am and what I’m doing with my life, the self-destructive behavior has to take a permanent vacation. I’m not giving myself a specific time frame for this break from the idea of relationships and dating, but I am making a very specific declaration for myself to end all ideas of being with another person until I can fully be content and joyful with who I am, what I’m doing, and where I’m going in life.

Alaska - August 2014
Alaska – August 2014

listening to: Bon Iver, Hozier