The One Where I Continue To Struggle
“Much of life…turns out to be a quest to find ourselves and discover our place in the world. Each and every one of us lives in search of a convincing story that explains to us who we are; an overarching narrative that supplies us with a sense of worth and direction; a sense of purpose that wakes us up…Without a compelling overarching story — a sense of who we are and of where we fit — we are lost. It’s a bit like being shipwrecked, alone, on a desert island; at best we will survive, but we will never thrive.” Steve Chalke
I know I’ve said it before, but I often feel lost at this stage in my life. I used to be the cocksure teenager who was overly confident in all of my beliefs and opinions, sure that they were all absolute truth. Now I feel as though I have become a questioning, fragile thing who’s not sure that absolute truth even exists.
There are parts of this that are good, I know. I am more open-minded, more compassionate, and more willing to listen than I ever was before. But that feeling of being lost, of being unsure which way is right or left, is so disconcerting. The in-between is so hard. It requires humility and silence. I’m quieter these days, which I’m not sure I love, but I so rarely feel qualified to speak up. I have so much to learn from others.
The hardest thing of all that I’m learning in this in-between space is that I must learn to embrace who I am. Much of our culture holds up certain ideals, and often my faith holds up another. I’m learning that not only are neither right 100% of the time (even that feels dangerous to declare), but I almost always fall somewhere in the middle, and that too leaves me feeling lost.
For instance, our culture holds esteem in high regard, as something to strive for. My faith often tells me that humility and sitting at the end of the table is the virtue. I want my boss to understand that I am good at my job, that I deserve to be paid well and am an asset to his company. Both as a woman and as a woman of faith, it’s sometimes difficult to reconcile this with the vision of meekness often portrayed as the goal. Neither is a good hard-and-fast rule. Things are not so black and white.
Have I mentioned that the gray area is hard?
Frustrating. Humbling. Lonely. Confusing. Vulnerable. Infuriatingly hard.
It’s become my constant struggle. I am continually learning that I have to stop apologizing for the things that are just plain old me, warts and all. It doesn’t mean I can’t work to change them, that I don’t recognize they’re not always convenient or desirable. But no one is always desirable, right?
And so. I’m often late. I can be judgemental. I have a hard time with small-talk, but sometimes don’t know what to say in the hard-talk either. I laugh too extravagantly (with throw-my-head-back flair). I use baby talk with my dog. I need to vent but don’t deal well with negativity. Small tasks often stress me out. I over-plan. I set standards for my life that set me up for failure. These things are hard to live with, I know. But it’s also just me, and I must learn to live with them and be very very gracious with them.
The one thing I took away from my few sessions with a counselor was the reminder to be gentle with myself. And so, in the gray area, in the in-between, in the difficulty of it all, I am learning. To love myself, to love others, and maybe someday to have some answers again.