Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Upside to Free-Falling

If you don't live next door to me, across the street or on the other side of the bed, chances are you don't hear from me much. I'm one of those people who refused for years to get a cell phone. I finally gave in only to let voicemail do most of the work for me. Most of my best friends and my family are "just a phone call away", which may as well be Venus, for all I'm good at actually reaching out.

Part of my problem is that I'd rather speak in person. I'd rather read a person's face as they are sharing or be able to interpret body language to figure out if something is sarcastic or genuine. I rarely feel emotionally connected to someone through a phone call- maybe it's because my son is chattering in my own background or every other word is cutting out and I'm just tired of saying, "I'm sorry, could you repeat that?" as if I have some inherent inability to comprehend anything said to me.

My other problem is that I have to make the choice to pick up the phone. I have to, in a moment, decide to let someone in on what is going on in my life intentionally. I can either choose to tell or choose to go on with my day. I usually choose the latter. This stood out to me particularly last week when I sent out a letter to my InterVarsity supporters. Many of the people on that list are my family and many more my friends. Had I picked up the phone to share my big news with them before that letter went out? A career decision made? Nah, let them just find out with the rest of the world. It's safer that way, right? No real questions asked, no one needing to know what else besides that is going on in my life.

One of the biggest issues I faced head-on in my sabbatical is something I still have trouble admitting. I'm desperately fearful of intimacy. In my heart of hearts, I do desire it, I do want to need people and be needed by them. At least I think I do. But it almost never plays out that way. Nine times out of ten, when I'm celebrating something or having a horrible day or need to think something through, I do it alone. I'm not even totally sure why. Oh, I'm very happy to call people up and tell them about things after the fact, though. "Yeah, last week was kinda rough, but it's all good. I'm fine. Things are great, God is good. So, how are you?" The message I think I'm probably sending is "Problem solved, I don't need you, but thanks very much for being a part of my life."

OK, closet admittance here. I watch Gray's Anatomy. And I haven't been able to figure out why I watch Gray's Anatomy until just this past week. I spent the last few years watching these episodes and feeling fascinated by the emotional immaturity and, in particular, the way that two of the main characters really push everyone else away. The ways they fear intimacy, the ways they build walls around themselves, the choices they make not to cry or not to feel. I watched this detachedly until last week when a quote really hit me and I realized I wasn't just watching them. I was identifying with them. In an episode when a lot of stuff was going wrong for almost everyone, the main character Meredith said "If there's an upside to free-falling, it's the chance you give your friends to catch you." Oh.

This past year, there has been a lot of free-falling for me. Lots of transitions, loss, fear, anger, new beginnings. Tons of uncertainty. And I've realized in the midst of it how alone I often choose to be. That I still haven't really realized that upside that Meredith was talking about. I glimpse it sometimes, I try to let people in, but I often, ultimately, choose myself. Choose to assume that people are busy, it's the wrong time to call or just choose not to take a risk and let someone possibly love me well. I keep the phone on silent or vibrate and let my voice mail do my screening. And because of this, I deny my friends the chance to catch me.

I'm not sure where to go from here. Not totally sure how to share my life better. Not even totally sure I'm ready to try. So it seems I find myself yet again at a place where it's clear that my life doesn't match up with what God would like for it and I'll have to learn anew how to trust Him in this area.

Maybe the first step is actually picking up the phone when it rings. Maybe.

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