June’s post is brought to you by the word permission. I read something today that really resonated with me and seems to be a common thread woven through my thoughts this month: I don’t know how to give myself permission to be in process. I’m honestly tired of whining about this, but I haven’t yet reached the tipping point, I guess.
What I forget is that I have permission to be whatever I am at this point in time. My brain seems to only function in checklists and when I fall short, I feel less than. Today is a good day, and yesterday was too, but tomorrow might not be and that’s okay. To feel better, I must check these boxes. And when forces outside my control try to inch their way into the picture in my head, instead of being flexible and readjusting, I only tighten the reins and say NO. You will not affect this. Which is like, great in theory, but not so great in execution. I need to give myself permission to not have to check all of the boxes all of the time.
I think I’m not good at surrendering. I’m an endlessly stubborn, quiet fighter. People who know me well know that this is true and those who don’t would never suspect it. I spent a lot of my life not knowing how I measured up and honestly it gave me a lot of freedom to grow up without being told who to be, which I am endlessly thankful for. But sometimes it backfires a little bit because with too much freedom to be anything comes the challenge of gathering all of those things up into one collective unit and figuring out who I actually am. Because sometimes who I’m becoming falls so short of who I thought I would be.
Sometimes I think that because I might be afraid of who I’m becoming, I’m also afraid to show up. It’s easier to retreat. We’re all shaped by sadness. Each little thing has chiseled away a fragment and worn us down into a beautiful freeform shape, like those canyons in the belly of the earth. I’ve figured out that I’m afraid of life somehow being different from how I imagined it. That’s why I’m so disappointed when the outcome doesn’t line up, or when people don’t follow through on what I thought they would do or how they would be. So then I just shut the doors for winter, I sandbag the entry points, and I prepare for the worst. Because if I prepare for the worst, then nothing will ever take me by surprise. Except that this kind of living is only half living. Actually, it’s worse than half living. It makes you shriveled and unkind, where you look more like baby Voldemort than a human being.
In a similar train of thought, I also recently read a blog post by someone I follow on Instagram that tore me apart. She talked about how a lighthearted conversation between her and her closest family members resulted in the airing of dirty laundry and the recounting of past hurts among them all. And it left her feeling shot through the heart because what she realized was that she had been the catalyst for a few things going south, a few bruises, and a few broken hearts, all without knowing it. And that honestly terrified me. In all of my pursuance of checking boxes and juggling of time and responsibilities and relationships, what if I have done the same? I know I have, and that kills me. I never gave myself permission to think that I could ever be the one to do the wounding.
I feel like maybe under the disguise of perfectionism and people-pleasing and Type A obedience, I’ve been running around my whole life with my arms outstretched, silently saying, “Are you okay? Did I hurt you in any way? Don’t let me hurt you, don’t let me do anything that might alter your perception of me, because your perception is my perception too and if I don’t know what I am, then I must be nothing worth anything.” It’s what makes me a good chameleon. I can be friends with anybody because I ever so slightly alter myself to be what they need.
I am afraid of unknowingly hurting people because it bursts the bubble that I’ve so carefully crafted. I felt like I was a lot better at this when I was younger. But now I’ve had to go through some crap and learn what the world tastes like and the fighter has taken over. She grew a backbone in college and it’s a little bit stronger than it probably should be at times. I know this, because I see it wound the people around me when I feel just the opposite. I’ve seen it and experienced it and been blindsided by it and it doesn’t feel like a nice thing.
The craziest part about all of this is that I somehow expected myself to be superhuman. Part of not being God is that we don’t have the capability to keep it all together all the time, to never hurt anyone, or to never be hurt. I expect myself to be perfect, and when I’m not, I beat myself up and refuse to accept all manner of grace or goodness extended to me because I have not proven myself worthy of it. Radical love does not make any sense.
I could get up and sing a song or give a speech to a room full of people I don’t know, but put me in a room full of people who love me and I can’t do anything. I can be known by strangers because they have no stock in me, but I can’t be known by the people closest to me because they might not get the return on their investment that they thought they would. Just knowing that people care about my well being and my outcome suddenly feels like too big of a burden.
I’m not scared of people running away from me because of what I might have done to them. That makes logical sense. But what if I’m the one running because I don’t understand why they love me like they do? It’s why I have a hard time understanding God’s thoughts toward me. I can easily understand why He can love and forgive and extend grace to others, but it’s me that’s the big giant question mark in the middle of the universe.
What it all boils down to is that I’m afraid of turning every good thing in my life into something I can’t raise from the dead. So I have these moments where I just word vomit onto the page, writing to try and make sense of everything. I’m afraid that maybe something I do or say will cause someone I love to never return to the point at which we learn how to propel ourselves into the best. Maybe I’ve already done so.
Maybe it’s that I’m not ready to close the book on the chameleon girl I once was. Because she didn’t feel the things I feel now and can we go back to that? I’ve never been good at handling change or turning the page because I think deep down in my heart I don’t believe that good things were written in my destiny. Deep down, it feels like the good I’ve experienced so far is the only good I’ve been allotted, so I can’t let that slip away because all that’s ahead of me is the opposite of good. And that sounds so melodramatic because compared to a vast majority of the world, my life couldn’t be more ideal. So then I feel guilty.
Good things are relative, just as much as struggle is relative to the person experiencing it. Oh yes, I can believe and hope with all my heart that good things will happen to other people. I’ve seen it happen time and time again. I’m yelling these prayers from my megaphone and offering up any support I can while I’m hiding in the steel cage I’ve created for myself. But the thing that wounds me the most is knowing that I’M the one sabotaging me. I can show up for other people, but heaven forbid I show up for myself. I have not proven that I can follow through, so it’s better to just not try at all. In the words of Hayley Williams, “No, I don’t need no help, I can sabotage me by myself.”
I need to start giving myself permission to be a human being. Words are sort of my therapy and this is just a little taste of raw things. Writing my thoughts down helps me process things that are tangled and messy and shaded in gray. If I’m being truly honest, I actually am happy to be in process. Nothing gives me more anxiety than to be stuck. I’m just learning how to make sense of it all.
I know there’s a good reason why all of the sermons and podcasts I’ve been listening to, books I’ve been reading, and all of the conversations I’ve been a part of lately have revolved around certain concepts like: saying sorry, resolving conflict, speaking up, turning the other cheek, radical grace-giving, loving difficult people, and so on. Doesn’t loving people with your whole heart mean that you scoop it all up and it all becomes yours too? Everything, and I mean everything. Everything love equates in my head to a Bob Goff kind of love. But even everything love comes with disclaimers. And my brand of disclaimer looks like the lack of permission to accept grace for myself.
Reality is difficult to handle sometimes and I will always be flawed and I’m coming to grips with that. Francis Chan says,“We need to stop believing everything that we think.” I can become a better me here, but I’ll never be my best until eternity. Becoming as much like Jesus as I can here in this place is my calling and my livelihood, but it will fall so short compared to the person I’ll be able to be with my Savior, free from the fetters that chain me to the dirt. But when I get there, I don’t want my best to say “Morgan’s Best”, I want it to say, “His Best”. He gave me permission to rest in His grace and I want to spend my life learning how to do that.