Hiding in Plain Sight

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During my teaching days, I found it difficult not to get annoyed when that boy in my class was literally spinning around on his knees on the carpet while everyone else sat quietly and listened to the lesson.  Or when he was still doing his puzzle, even though I had called him to line up four times.  He didn't know why he was acting that way.  I didn't really know why, either.  But I did know that his parents had split up recently, and that he was coping with that the only way his little four-year-old brain knew how.  He didn't talk about it, but in his own way, he was screaming that he needed to be heard and understood.

As I dealt with that kid's situation, I started thinking about the people around me and how many of them might not be spinning on their knees during story time but still spinning out of control, helpless to stop life's unrelenting circumstances. I wonder how many of them are concealing deep sadness or anger, aching to tell their stories but petrified by the fear that there is no one who will truly "get it."

I've known people to commit suicide before, and typical comments after such instances are, "I just never realized he was that unhappy" or, "She always seemed okay." 

People have ways of "hiding in plain sight."

 It's easy to think, "I would tell someone if I was that miserable," but would you?  Would I? 

The darkest, most ugly parts of ourselves are the ones that we tuck away, cover up, and bury so deeply that no one else can find them. 

I'd like to think that I'm honest a majority of the time, but there are still pieces of me that I'm reluctant to share with anyone, even with those who love me the most. 

When it comes down to it, I'm afraid that no one will hear me, or that those who do might judge or laugh.  My biggest fear is that no one will care.

While the tendency to hide is undoubtedly part of the human condition, I also wonder how many unheard stories would get told if there were more people who practiced the lost art of just listening.  I'm generally more encouraged by a friend's silence than by a multitude of words which amount to little more than platitudes, quick fixes, or cliches.

I guess I'm writing this because I'm daily realizing that everyone is fighting a hard battle. 

I often have a short fuse with people.  To my own sweet girls, I sometimes want to yell, "Seriously, stop acting like that.  You're driving me crazy."  When talking with the friend who is making destructive decisions because her boyfriend just broke up with her, I have to resist the urge to shake her and say, "You're being a complete fool.  Just stop."

A person's situation is never as easy as "just stop."  There is always so much more under the surface than people are willing to or feel comfortable with sharing.

So I'm challenging you today, but mostly I'm challenging myself, to have some grace with those around you.  Smile a little more than you think is necessary.  Say less.  Listen more.  Remember the times when someone has shown you kindness.  Mostly, consider everything about a person before jumping to a hasty conclusion.  The outward signs of a perfect life do not always reflect the inward state of being.

The Gifts of an Introvert

Several weeks ago, my friend, Jill, was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer.  She's fit, she's 36, and she has three little kids.  Cancer is no respecter of persons, which is one of the many reasons why I hate it so much.

Shortly after her diagnosis, one of our mutual friends set up a time for women who know Jill to come and pray for her.  Nichole's living room was full.

Jill and her family moved to Norman less than two years ago, and it seems like she already knows more people here than I do after a decade.  

She's bubbly and outgoing, the kind of person who makes you feel at ease with being yourself, and she can probably have a better conversation with a wall than I can with an actual human.

Hence, the ladies who gathered on her behalf were from a variety of Jill's many walks of life, including her running group, church, kids' school, neighbors, and random acquaintances.

Jill and one of the aforementioned random acquaintances, Laura, met at the public library one day...the first week that Jill moved to Norman...because Jill and Laura are both the kind of people who meet people. You've probably figured out by now that I am not.  If you were to Google the definition of "introvert", you would likely find my head shot next to the word.

Sometimes, I get down on myself because I am not a Jill Perry or a Laura Piersall.  I love people, but I am awkward and slow to get to know them. Some of you reading this may have been to a church where there is a "meet and greet", usually before the sermon begins.  I hate that part of the service.  During the "meet and greet" at our church, Jill is inevitably hugging someone and flashing her huge, inviting smile at a complete stranger.  I'm in the bathroom, or refilling my coffee...or hiding behind the stage curtains.

I've learned to come out of my shell somewhat, and I'm fairly adept (now) at having one-on-one conversations with people who I've recently met, but these skills still do not come naturally for me. It often feels like our society was created for extroverts, so after forcing myself out of my comfort zone for even a few hours, I am ready for a nap. It is easy to convince myself that the way I was constructed is inferior to the way others were.

I know in my mind that I am "fearfully and wonderfully made", but there's this voice that sometimes tries to tell me that I'm not as fearfully and wonderfully made as people with personalities like Jill's.

If you were a body part, which one would you choose to be?

The heart?  Eyes?  Mouth?  Brain?  Hands?  Those are all great choices, and obviously very important.  I bet I can tell you which body part didn't come to mind.  The bladder.  Right?  Nobody picks that guy.  But guess what.  

You would die without your bladder.

Also, have you ever met anyone with two hearts, two brains, or an extra set of eyes?  No, you haven't, because that would be excessive and impossible.

I need to learn to be okay with exactly the gifts that I have.

They're not inferior or unimportant.  Most likely, I won't make friends with you the first time I see you at the public library.  But I might after another time or two, and then I'll be your friend forever.  If you climb up in my dental chair in a few years, I'll ask you about yourself and listen to your answers.  (I really like listening.)  I am not the life of the party, but I can sure organize a good one.  And if you come to our house for dinner, my husband will carry the conversation, but I'll cook my mom's amazing spaghetti recipe, play with your kids, and make you feel welcome.

Perhaps the world does not need another Jill or Laura, as wonderful as they are.  The world definitely does not need Jill or Laura impostors.  Maybe today is a really good day to just be Mary Rachel, in all of my introverted glory, and to trust that the genuine version of myself is far better than a pretend version of my friends.