Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Fragile! It must be Italian."

I've thought lately about how my new city and my new marriage have underlined for me how easily my heart is bruised, how delicate I really am.

Since I began thinking of such things, I have realized that I prefer to be exquisite instead of delicate. Feeling and sensitive, but not soft and not fragile and therefore safe from many bumps and bruises. In turn, this leads to independent and capable but also a bit guarded. In college, I honestly-but-secretly thought that my dream career may be that of a First Lady. Order and resilience, grace and poise, not ALL of the responsibility but plenty enough. And only delicate (read: messy) fragility when you're away from the people.

I practiced this without knowing it, I suppose. I began to carefully guard my hopes so that I would not unnecessarily expect things that may not come. I'm not sure that you can draw clear lines between hope and expectation, and so, to avoid the gray area, I slowly and unconsciously closed those borders. Hoping wasn't forbidden, but neither was the gate left open for substantial hopes to move freely and be visible in me. I didn't NEED to have all of the beautiful things and the ever-present friendships and a sweet, devoted man in my life, so I didn't think on these things. But they trickled into my life before I really understood how to place them.

Vulnerability like this is HARD.

I remember being on retreat with the Sisters of Life and hearing a holy Jesuit priest describe his reflex to draw in, armor up, and close off when hurt or disappointed or disillusioned.  The priest met a developmentally delayed man in his community who loved and loved and loved and did not lock himself in when he was let down. The priest saw a statue of Jesus exposing His Sacred Heart despite taunts and defilement and loneliness and injustice. The priest decided those two were similar - the simple man and His Jesus. And he wanted the strength to be like them.

I want that strength as well. But I also want a list. "How to be appropriately open." Very "HowStuffWorks.com," very Wikihow, check the box and ah one-two-three... 

But there is no list. 

It's complicated even more because I can't just:
1.  Go far far away from the people
2. Learn vulnerability
3. Perfect vulnerability
4. Cue the red velvet curtains to be drawn (also cue the horns) and 

It feels safe when everything goes the way I expect! It's fun to be me when all the right boxes are checked! But and however...not every day goes as expected, not every person treats me like I wish to be treated. Marriage and moving have forced me to give up more control than I ever have knowingly surrendered EVER. Stepping out before I'm really ready, when the curtains are still closed and the scene isn't perfectly cast in sepia-toned light is painful. I mourn the loss of the unfulfilled ta-DAAAA! moment. Tears and everything.

And still. Even in the midst of new friendships in a new city and budgets that leave no room for Anthro sales and miles between myself and my parents and disagreements and resolutions and communication and Confession and mercy...even with all that...it's worth it. 

When I see my reflection in the proverbial mirror that my husband holds up for me, I think "Tala. Really. You don't want to be disappointed in everything and most everyone. Bitter doesn't work for you. Open it up a little, sister, and see what happens when you take the stage without a script." I have to consider the benefits inherent in the risk that I take when I make myself vulnerable. It is the most substantial challenge that I have ever willingly entered into. It's pure grace that I don't have to (and actually can't) go it alone. Each day of loving and trying and working and crying (also the name of my next hit on the country charts) has begun to turn my fears of transparency and unfulfilled hopes and "I'm a mess I'm not comfortable here" into an ounce of understanding of real strength and real love.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Think happy thoughts.

In a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy class at Vandy, I listened to the professors speak about how the thoughts in your mind and the feelings in your body changing your behaviors - sometimes in helpful ways, and other times in unhelpful ways.

I immediately flashed back to my childhood, when Hannah or I would sneak down the stairs from the third floor to the basement where Mom and Dad were talking or watching television, to tell them that we "just couldn't sleep." (Only one girl went at a time. We had an unspoken understanding that if both sisters were downstairs in pj's at the same time, Mom and Dad would know that something was up, and nobody would be able to enjoy any of it.) Sometimes it was true - the neighbor boys were playing basketball on the school playground and the metal nets clanged, or we were worried about something. Usually it was because we heard the tv show through the floors and were too curious to miss out. Or we smelled popcorn.

Whatever the reason for tiptoeing down the stairs, Mom and Dad never crumbled. They listened to the story of the night, responded appropriately, and as were were shooed upstairs, one or the other said, "Well, go lie in your bed and think happy thoughts."

What in the heck kind of good did that do for us?  No questions were answered. We didn't even get a snack. But that was the final word. NOBODY tried to argue the happy thoughts solution. We took it as a sentence, sighed deeply, and went back to bed.