The Illusion of Intellectual Scarcity

I consider one of my greatest gifts to be my intuition, specifically within the context of human interaction. I got my degree in psychology, with the idea that one day I would go to graduate school to become a therapist. I finished college at 21 years old and felt like I needed more life experience before I could offer a client lasting help in therapy. All these years later, it's still on my radar, though I have a lot of care-taking tendencies to continue to let go of if I'm ever going to pursue excellence in therapy (no other way to pursue such a tender calling, in my opinion). And I may not end up becoming a therapist at all. I see this process as part of my journey in becoming whoever I'm meant to be no matter which activities that does or doesn't lead me to. 
Sometimes I find myself intimidated by my more intellectual friends. For some funny reason, I have several friends in my sphere who have been trained in the art of debate. While I'm certainly honing my ability to have intense conversation with the honest intent to learn, rather than to correct, sometimes I find myself logically outmatched. Occasionally, my intimidation keeps me from writing. There are so many well thought-out pieces being written every day, shared online and submitted to my psyche for further rumination. What makes me think that my more emotional/relational perspective can really add to a cultural conversation? I'm not one to research statistics and frankly, I'm not all that interested in being intellectually compelling. 
My niche is more in perceived rightness than in provable logic. I live my life based on my beliefs, which are being filtered more and more through my intuition as I learn to give it more value and space. While I admire my friends whose belief filters are based on logic, I'm learning to validate the mystery and wonder of living by instinct. (Perhaps their instinct is to find truth through knowledge so this is just the other side of the same coin). One of the challenges to validating my feelings-based worldview is that I grew up in an authoritarian culture. My dad is a military man, extremely logical, a total perfectionist and a conservative evangelical. I'm the youngest of seven and female. These factors put me in a framework of seeing the world as pretty damn black and white. Plus, I'm a people-pleaser...gah! Instinct gets undervalued when there is always one right answer and the authority figure already has it. I don't mean this as a criticism of my dad personally or even of the intellectual worldview (to be fair, there are many variations on a intellectual worldview, including a total rejection of black and white thinking) but just as a means of highlighting the effort it has taken for me to say that living in my heart and mind, which is very feelings-based, is perfectly valid. 
Along with my authoritarian family culture, there was my church culture to contend with. I could discuss at length the very elevated value evangelical culture places on the Bible, in which my church of Christ upbringing upped the ante considerably. In this culture, all instinct that goes against a literal reading of the Bible must be cast out, of the devil and will lead to your eventual demise. There is an actual teaching that your heart is not to be trusted. I'm learning to sit in the places where a literal biblical interpretation and my compassionate, emotional self diverge and ask questions. No longer "why, God, why?" but more "is there another way to see this?" 
As you can imagine, this gets messy quickly, leaving room for more questions than answers. But I'm learning to see the beauty in my intellectual mess because I'm being faithful to the heart that God has given me. The heart that sides with people over behavioral purity. I remind myself that Jesus was a bit of an enigma. He broke an awful lot of centuries-old rules and made a lot of people mad. Oftentimes, Christians use that as an excuse to fight things like gay marriage, almost like offending people means we're doing the right thing. I say, perhaps we're doing the right thing if we're offending the religious sect that has all their theological ducks in a row and doesn't see the very living, breathing, beautiful person right in front of them. The person who was made in the image of God. The person who has inherent value. The person who deserves every opportunity. The person who is equally important regardless of race, gender, social status, education or sexual orientation. The person who isn't broken or perfect, just human, which is all we ever need to be.
I guess what I want to say today is that there is enough room at the table for conversation for all of us feelers too. That perhaps the union of emotional intelligence and logic makes for a better learning experience for us all. And I am trying not to be afraid to speak my heart when sometimes all the voices I hear are speaking their mind.  

Righteous Indignation or Hatred?

I'm wrestling with something. I've always struggled to sit in my anger. I feel like I have to apologize when I'm angry. In some ways, I think this is because I'm a woman. Our culture seems to value male anger as authoritative and female anger as bitching. So I tend to repress my anger, partly because it's difficult for me to advocate for myself (see: caretaking issues) and anger tends to draw negative attention. It also does not appear "nice" which I think our evangelical culture pushes on women a lot in the name of "service". 
I say these things because I am angry about something. There have been Facebook threads again this week highlighting the intensely bigoted statements of a well-known evangelical pastor, Mark Driscoll. The statements are old (10-15 years) and they are highly offensive. You may think that because they are old, he should not be held accountable for his words. But his theology is very present both in his old statements as well as in his current ministry. He's genuinely anti-women. He sees us as lesser, weak, temptresses in need of being lorded over by men. He preaches these ideas in the name of God. He's also incredibly mean about it. Feel free to read up on him. He's unapologetic. 
I responded to a thread recently where a friend of mine posted this article, stating that he should not be in church leadership. As people were agreeing with her, I posted a pretty angry, name-calling agreement venting my frustration with people who follow this guy. It's more my theological grievances coming out again and it's further exacerbated by my own sexist church baggage and my long history with taking on causes (again, caretaking issues). 
A man responded by saying that we were only fighting hatred with hatred and that this was sad. I felt him shaming my anger and I almost agreed with him. I have a long-standing conditioning that says when questioned about my feelings, they're probably too intense or even completely misplaced. But then I really sat in why I was angry. I was angry at the bullying that theology like Mark Driscolls fuels in church culture. I'm angry at the way this theology makes people feel about themselves, about their inherent value (or lack thereof) and most importantly to me, about how God sees them. This theology perpetuates exactly what I'm fighting: that who we are inherently is not enough, that because I'm a woman with a voice or because my friend is gay and loves God or because my husband is a tender, loving father, we are warped, wrong, less, invalid. And not just according to some extremist in Seattle but according to the God who made us! 
I'm going to let you in on a secret, the conclusion I've come to in my anger. I believe my desire to advocate for the bullied, to come alongside the marginalized, to find my voice, to listen to the stories of others, is not in fact, hatred but obedience to the voice of God within me. He tells me to be brave, to speak out, to listen. I know my theology is under construction. As a perfectionist, I want an "end date" to that process, but as an earnest seeker of truth, I hope I remain under construction til the day I die. But even if I don't have a lot figured out, I've figured out that anger can be holy. 
I know God doesn't need me to defend him. I know that even my fellow comrades in condemnation (according to Driscoll) don't need me to be their voice. But that outcry comes from within me. And I will not be silent. 

Balance? Ha! I laugh in the face of balance.

Balance is completely out the question for a perfectionist. It's all or nothing all the time. It's not a very practical way to live and frankly, it's really scary and difficult to navigate the world sometimes. I am often hoping to find a middle ground; in my thinking, habits, relationships. I'm so thankful to have a therapist who helps me sit in the tension of this challenge. It's so much easier to stay extreme or run away.
One of the things I'm working on in my life these days is fun. I know this sounds silly, but my second pregnancy and subsequent post-partum season required my world to be very small. I had problems with my joints in pregnancy, to the point that doing one errand would put me in bed the rest of the day. Before I got pregnant, I was running 3 miles a few times a week and feeling energized by it. 2 weeks after conception, I couldn't walk down the stairs. Needless to say, I didn't do much for those 9 months! It was a challenging season of life, for sure, but I learned the invaluable lesson (of which I had intended to pursue for some time) of doing less. On purpose. 
Friday night. We party hard.
After Penny was born last summer, we were hit with a major bout of post-partum depression. Each day was just about staying afloat. As we're coming out of that fog as a family, I'm really working to prioritize my individual needs. It's surprisingly difficult. There is always a reason to put myself last. Before it sounds like I'm either a saint or a martyr, this would be the point where it becomes painfully obvious that I have caretaking issues. Turns out, there's a series of behaviors called caretaking, where your choices in relationships cater to the thoughts, feelings, and perceived needs of the other person, sometimes to the detriment of your own needs. I've got this. I apply it in all relationships but especially with my immediate family, which is typical with any psychological issue. It doesn't help that the evangelical world praises such behavior as “having a servant's heart.” I remember being told that our priorities should be “God first. Others second. Self third.” While that might help someone else be altruistic, it encourages a compassionate perfectionist to have unhealthy boundaries and priorities. There's some sort of middle ground between being completely self-absorbed and having no gauge on your own needs and interests. Frighteningly enough, left unchecked, caretaking can lead to massive resentment. I believe resentment is one of the biggest threats to healthy, loving relationships and needs to be taken seriously. This makes having fun surprisingly important and difficult for me to pursue. 
Getting ready for adventure.
So, I'm working on figuring out what I like to do, what gives me energy and life. Some of these things I never lost touch with. These include reading, public speaking, having one-on-one conversations with friends, and spending time with children. That one's easy since I have my own now. Things I'm rediscovering include: writing (what,what), home design, being outside, exercise, listening to live music, painting and crafting.
As part of my pursuit of fun, I found a groupon for kayaking. I immediately texted my friend Danna to see if she'd go with me. As expected, she was totally up for it, so I bought it and we reserved our day. Well, Penny is teething. BAD.
I ended up at urgent care with her the day before to confirm nothing else was going on before the big 3 day weekend. She was deemed okay, though the doc thought she might have a virus as well. She was really unhappy Friday night and I am her favorite person thus far in her little life. Tim is definitely the next best thing but he also had a commitment in the middle of my kayaking reservation. We had already arranged for a sitter (who,encouragingly, has not been made to brush my teeth yet). As a mother, it's very difficult to leave your child in another person's care when you're pretty sure it's not fair to either of them. I didn't sleep well Friday night. I knew how much I needed to be on that water. I also could not reschedule it based on the company's policy. This had been on the calendar for at least a month. And maybe being on the river for 3 hours seems like it shouldn't be that hard to arrange. Sometimes it's not. And sometimes it feels like the hardest thing in the world.
Well, I woke up to a happier baby. Not her best, but a far cry from the night before. Her fever was way down and she wasn't as insanely cranky. Tim and I agreed that I could
reasonably go play (as a caretaker, I'm working on not needing his permission, but it is really helpful for me when I have it. It's hard for me to enjoy something if it is causing tension in my relationship.)
Hoping my arms will work.
So, I SPENT 3 HOURS IN A KAYAK! As I climbed into my kayak alongside Danna's, who had never been by the way, I have a deja vu from college. I spent my sophomore year at Pepperdine in Heidelberg, Germany. We traveled independently every weekend. One weekend, I went to Interlaken, Switzerland for a girls weekend. If you've never been, plan a trip. NOW. No, I'm not kidding. It's heaven on earth. Seriously gorgeous. We ended up finding a group of boys from our house having a guys trip at the same hostel. While the ladies planned a day of hiking, I was intrigued to find out the boys were planning on riding mopeds. I thought, huh, that sounds like fun. Granted, I don't know how to ride a bike. I know. It's actually super embarrassing for me to admit that. But, it's pertinent to the story. Not sure why I thought I could ride a moped by myself with a bunch of experienced boys on icy mountain roads in Switzerland. But I did. Needless to say, I crashed in the parking lot with the owner scowling at me.
Proof that we are exceedingly cool.
Good thing I had a helmet on because I definitely hit a tree. The owner of the bikes was an asshole, but that's beside the point. Perhaps being the child of two entrepreneurs makes me think if I will it in my mind, it will be so? My consolation prize was that I spent the day on the back of the most experienced boys bike and it was amazing! Mainly because I was forced, for my own safety, to hold onto his INSANELY NICE abs all day while taking in the view. Ah, that was a good day.
Back to kayaking. I climb in thinking, is this going to be another Alps experience? Is it possible that I killed myself working through psychological and logistical issues just to get here and capsize repeatedly? Or, if I'm really slow, will this “tour” not complete its route? Turns out, it was not an Alps experience. Danna and I killed it.
So happy!
There was a super slow person on the tour and he had to trade kayaks with the bad ass female instructor (who had a baby 6 months ago, natch) just to keep up. And though I'm sore today, I feel amazing! I love being outside! I love having coffee date-type conversation on the water. I love that I got home and Tim and I took the kids to the park. I love that my babysitter had a princess tea party with Macy while I was gone.
Best sitter ever.
Perhaps living a life of balance is an impossible goal, especially if we're talking about achieving that every day. But once in awhile, you get a day that is EXACTLY what you need. Maybe life isn't about feeling bad about all the days that don't measure up to impossible standards. Time to call that a wash, I say. We never “arrive”, which is a major bummer for us perfectionists. And frankly, I bet we'll keep trying.
Feeling a bit better
But, every so often, you will get a glimpse of what's possible with hard work, risk and a lot of luck.  

It's about to get real...

I have many lighthearted type of anecdotes to share on here at some point, but I tend to run deep so hang on tight. It's gonna get real today, people. I want to go on the record as a married person who has gone through 2 seasons in her life now where she has fantasized about being single. Yes, I'm a nice person with a great husband (whom I love dearly) and 2 precious children who bring me great joy almost every day, which is pretty amazing, really. But occasionally I think back to my globe-trotting single days and think yeah, I'd like to go back to that time when things were simple. I was a viable, virginal girl (because let's face it, Christian woman find singleness more intimidating when they're no longer virgins, regardless of the reason) and the world was my oyster. I hesitate to speak frankly on the idea of singleness fantasies because I've never heard a married person say these truths and what if (eek!) I'm the only person out there who sometimes wants to think for 1 instead of 4?!?! A few years of wandering in Europe sound pretty good sometimes. I sleep well on trains and somehow avoided the Taken scenario the whole year I lived in Germany at 19. The fact that my many amazing single friends aren't currently wandering in Europe and aren't any happier than I am is entirely beside the point. 
There are many reasons for said fantasy. I, for one, am a runner. I hate to admit it because it feels like I'm shaming myself, but perhaps this is the fate of a perfectionist. Relationships aren't all good or all bad. And I hate that! Growing up in an evangelical household (which included our home, church, and school) life was painted as a series of good decisions and bad decisions. Your future mate would be a "godly" guy - knight in shining armor stuff, and there was one RIGHT person who was specifically designed by God for me. And in the meantime, marry Jesus! He's a pretty great husband, right? Though, I think we all know, JC never married. I have literally participated in 2 fake wedding ceremonies to Jesus in my life. Spring this on a silly kid and at best, it might plant a seed of loving God in their heart or at least stop them from having premarital sex. Do this to a serious perfectionist and she'll end up breaking up with her incredibly safe, chaste boyfriend out of commitment to her new husband. (I broke up with that wonderful boy 3 TIMES, poor guy). 
Needless to say, these attempts at teaching us that TRUE LOVE WAITS also taught us that true love is perfect, pure, and safe. Perhaps that's true about agape type Jesus marriages. But relationships between two people who are honest and who have had crazy shit happen in their life together get messy. The beautiful thing I'm coming to terms with is that IT SHOULD. Messy is real. True love isn't pure (meaning without fault, blame, mess, mistakes, fantasies of no one talking to you before 9am, resentment, grief, and heartache). Perhaps we're still in the process of figuring out what true love looks like.  
I think my perfectionist mind thinks relationships are either pure (childhood standard) or a trap (stay no matter what). This is the curse of being a black and white thinker. It's one or the other. It's good or bad. It's wonderful or it's awful. Turns out, it's both and. It's good and it's bad. Because even I, perfectionist who wants to save everyone, who's been on a pedestal her whole life (we'll get to that later:) am both and. Wonderful and mean. Loving and resentful. Honest and self-serving. Committed and restless. I don't think this means something terrible about me, my life, or my marriage. I think this means I'm human.