Yay! Here comes Susannah Conway and her blog prompts—this time it’s December Reflections—to inspire me to blog again.
Today’s theme is RED.
But this post is about my true-blue colors.
Thank God for Glennon Melton at Momastery. Seriously.
She’s smart and humble and brave and faith-filled and has to medicate her mental illness and take a night off of cooking supper every once in a while.
She is motivated by spreading love and truth wherever she can. She’s authentic and often tired, yet committed to linking arms with people for the good of the world. She travels and meets people in person and listens to their stories and hugs a ton of people. Like anyone who wants a hug gets one, even if they have a cold or are smelly or are delaying her for her flight.
This is what I envision Jesus being willing to do. I admire it. I aspire to it.
Frequently, publicly, Glennon shares the types of things that I have wanted to have the courage to say. And she does things that I’ve wanted to do too…things that will help and make a difference.
I’ve been meaning to blog on this story she posted about her son, a book called Red Crayon and being transgender (see below for the image.)
I think it probably goes without saying,
for those of you who know me and/ or read this blog regularly, but I am not a transgender person.
That’s not what this particular blog post is about, because
that’s not my story.
But I have a lot of empathy for transgendered people, as I have empathy for a lot of other people, even people I’ve never encountered.
I can’t help but do that, by the way.
In my quest to understand and love people, I find myself often imagining in vivid detail what life is like for them, how they feel, what they’ve experienced and done, as well as what they desire and long for and have needed but haven’t received or found.
The whole picture is so naturally connected for me—
personally, around the world, across time and place, spiritually. It can be hard for me to look at an issue from solely one perspective.
I’m empathetic, but I’m also pragmatic. I want to be known for matching my actions to my words. So I’m a romantic, but I’m not a pie-in-the-sky idealist, though there is a need for those people too.
God made me in such a way that I absolutely cannot see an individual as merely a generic element in an easily-categorized group or stereotype. In fact, simplifying people and groups of people to broad statements and assumptions without actually knowing them is equivalent to nails on a chalkboard for me.
I believe deeply and passionately that each person’s story and DNA and daily life is the result of a loving, invisible, highly-personal journey, conceived by an infinite God whose being and character and form and plans FAR exceed our attempt to describe them. And I believe that God created and loves the whole crayon box.
As I’ve already mentioned, I recognize that my way of seeing things is not the ”right” way, nor even the only way. There is a time and a place for drawing broad conclusions and speaking to the masses. There is a time and a place for idealism and calling for what seems impossible.
Each of these is only one perspective, neither inherently any better or worse than mine.
Neither represents my way of being in the world. Neither is my calling. My calling is to empathize, to listen, to hear, to love, to reflect back, to encourage, and sometimes yes, even to challenge, but always within the context of the individual’s invitation for me to do so.
And my gift is to do that while acknowledging, respecting and giving space to his or her unique character and experience and path.
I not only empathize with transgender people, I relate to them.
I am a blue crayon and for a long time I wore a red wrapper
—because I saw that everyone in my family and community wore a red wrapper, and I wanted to belong and be loved—
and I tried, I mean, I really tried, to the point of nearly complete self-rejection, to despise the blue crayon in me, to hide it.
My true blue colors—
my highly-sensitive and empathic, accepting, open-minded, loving-people-right-where-they-at, seeing and feeling the bigger picture in my mind so clearly and compellingly that I couldn’t comfortably and authentically render a theoretical judgment without actually knowing the person and considering his or her circumstances first—
were innate to me, all along.
And I knew that all of this, so natural for me, was not even close to red crayon material.
Nobody even had to tell me, because I watched what people did and how people responded and…I did the math. I was an observant, highly-aware, “dying to please” kid. For me the stakes felt high…either get this right or risk being not good enough.
So, I didn’t color outside the lines. I shrunk down. I became quiet.
I censored my words and held back from sharing my thoughts and beliefs so that people would only be able to SEE the parts of me that I knew would meet their expectations, make them happy, and positively dispose them toward loving and accepting me.
And because I was really good at figuring that out and fitting myself into the right space,
I became a shape shifter in exchange for love and acceptance.
And as time went on, my desperation at trying to fit in where I clearly didn’t—just like a square peg in a round hole—caused me to start to break down inside and out.
Even heavier was the burden I carried regarding my eternal destination: I believed that acting like a red crayon was essential to being loved and accepted by God, in this life and in the hereafter. What more essential motivation, tell me, could there be to shape shift?
The need for constant striving and measuring my words and considering my actions from others’ perspectives wore on me physically, emotionally and spiritually.
In order to keep my blueness from showing, but feeling like a complete fraud in my red wrapper, on many occasions the only solution I could see in front of me was to find some way to disappear completely.
These periods of depression were deep, frequent, and characterized by a self-loathing that made me want to punish myself for not being good at just being who I was “supposed” to be.
I was profoundly lonely and scared. I wanted to stop shape shifting so badly, but I was terrified of what would happen if I did. I believed that I actually might die if I stopped pretending, because I would lose the love and approval of those around me.
To me, that would feel far worse than actual death.
I even tested the waters a few times…
“Don’t you think it’s possible that…”
“Have you ever thought about…”
“Yeah but don’t you think that maybe…”
But the response wasn’t encouraging of this line of thinking or exploring. So I kept seeking out ways to not rock the boat, so that I could be accepted and brought closer, rather than pushed away. This is where I have lived, in the in between place of moving forward and stepping back, while wondering when the road would suddenly reach a dead end.
While I have become more fully and expressively me, more brave and visible over the last 10 years,
I have to acknowledge that there’s lots more work to be done.
I won’t stop digging and acknowledging and owning and exposing until I reach the level of authenticity and freedom that I know is honest enough for me.
It still doesn’t feel safe to be authentic in some pretty significant ways. I’m still far too impacted by the response I get when I speak my truth.
I’m still afraid of being rejected, relegated to some position or status that is inferior, one suited for a person judged not worthy to inhabit the inner circle.
And the most painful aspect of this for me is not being outside of the circle, but how it reinforces what I believe at my core:
If I fully speak my mind or express my emotions or share my opinions, this will not be acceptable. The result is that the love I need will be taken away, because it is conditional love.
So, for now, there are still plenty of words and ideas and inner knowings that get stuck in my heart and throat. They still struggle to be seen and heard and validated by even me.
I found words this week for my current place on the messy “One step forward, three steps back” emotional and spiritual wellness growth chart I’ve got going.
I espouse what I call “Strategic Vulnerability” and “Strategic Authenticity.”
While I push myself to be brave and honest, I even think of myself as very vulnerable and authentic—which in many ways, I am—I am still very afraid. I still gag and blindfold myself, stopping short when it feels like I am getting too close to the edge of where I feel safe.
And I still shape shift.
I’m judicious and strategic about what I share and who I share it with, because I don’t always feel capable of handling the hurt and rejection and conflict and self-doubt that might result, particularly when it comes to those closest to me.
At this stage in my development, my clumsy steps forward are like those of a toddler learning to walk, messy and falling down at times; confident and breezy at others.
So this is my confession.
I’m still a blue crayon wearing a red wrapper, though I think the wrapper is a little smaller, and more of my blue is exposed.
I’m drawing a little more these days and speaking up a little more in areas that feel dangerous. I’m trying to figure out what to do with the red wrapper I grew up with, and how to graciously, yet clearly, deal with the expectations in my life—mine and others’—that tempt me to keep acting as if I’m a red crayon.
And I’m working to free myself from the need to behave in certain ways in order to feel more worthy, accepted and loved by others.
I’m still here, and I’m proud of myself most of the time.
p.s. This new and positive awareness I’ve uncovered is in big part possible because of the loving, insightful and transformative support offered by the Space and Breathwork Sessions I’ve been doing with Susan Shehata. If you want to better understand why you do the things you do, and how you can break free of some of the unhealthy patterns in your life, space, work and relationships, I can’t recommend her highly enough.
Thanks so much, Glennon, for showing up in the world the way that you do!
Glennon Melton, Momastery, Author · Blog http://momastery.com/blog
And this post is also dedicated to my friend Renée Horsman, who is the Facebook kindred spirit I’ve never even had the opportunity to have coffee with, but who speaks my heart and mind so often it’s spooky. She minces no words in all the right places, doing it with love and clarity and common sense. I sure do appreciate you, Renée! p.s. Common sense is NOT common. ( ;