21 August 2008

Introspection and Critique: Where is your Heart?

It has been said by wiser men than I that there are three paradigms by which an individual is viewed/judged: what he knows about himself that no one else knows, what he knows about himself that everyone else knows, and what everyone else knows about him that he doesn’t know. It was recently pointed out to me that what someone else sees in me as my “true colors” is a very contrary view to what I see in myself, and/or what has been conveyed to me that others see. That concerns me terribly, especially because this person’s opinion matters greatly to me. My daddy says that how anyone views you is exactly how you are, if only to that person. Thus, we must be acutely aware of the opinions of others, so that we may not become what they think we already are.

While I cannot speak to what others see in me that I don’t see in myself, I can speak to some of my intimate knowledge of myself. Perhaps contemplating what I know of myself could help me to see a way to salvage the good opinions of those I wish to know me well. Perhaps, I can un-become what they may think I am. Perhaps not, but it’s a start.

Here is my heart. Here is who I am. This is how I view myself.

I am the daughter of the two people I trust, respect, and love more than anyone else in the world. My parents have formed me, raised me, trained me. They and I are the same person, in some respects. I am a combination of the two of them. One need only know them well to know me. My father has a Type A personality, and my mother has a Type B personality. They are both dedicated, disciplined, well-read, educated individuals of sterling character. I aspire to be more like them as I grow. My dad’s drive and determination, commitment to action, and decisiveness are easily complemented by my mother’s gentleness of spirit, patience, kindness, ease of personality, and maternal nature. While I seek to grow the feminine side of me that longs to be seen as I see my mother, I am a combination of, what I see as, some of the very best of both my parents. I know their weaknesses, because their weaknesses are my own. But I know their strengths, because they have bestowed those on me with all the blessing that any parents could offer.

My parents raised me with godly discipline. They ingrained in me some very basic beliefs about family life, child-rearing, how life works in the real world, and how one operates within a functional family unit. My brother and I lived an idyllic childhood, and I am more and more convinced that I have been blessed so much more than I ever knew by my family and life, to this point, as I meet and interact with others. We always lived on acreage. We always had places to run and play and things to discover. We always had work to do, things to contribute, and a place within the family. We were well-educated at an early age, and we were taught the value of hard work, of self-discipline, and the respect of elders. (I hope and pray that I can instill some of this into my own children, when the day comes.)

I say all this of my childhood, because it provides the foundation on which to build an adulthood. Now, at this moment in my life, I value hard work, discipline, the opinions/input/respect of my elders, my faith (and the reasons behind it), my education (both in school and out), and the lessons I learned through doing chores through four seasons of the year, whether we felt like it or not, whether the weather cooperated or not, because it wasn’t up to me. Others depended on me. I couldn’t just not feed the chickens because I didn’t feel like getting up. I couldn’t forget to water the horses because I didn’t remember. Their lives hinged on my discipline, and when my meager, childly self-discipline wasn’t enough to get my mind on the task at hand and my fanny in gear, my parents’ discipline was. I was a part of a unit. We all had jobs, tasks, chores, responsibilities, and together, everything was accomplished.

As my father’s daughter, I prefer action to inactivity. We work hard. We play hard. We rest hard. We devote all of our energy to what we’re doing. Our unofficial family motto, spurred on by this drive of my dad’s, is “It’s not done until it’s overdone.” I can’t tell you how many family activities we’ve undertaken that were characterized by that motto. I can’t tell you succinctly about the houses that we’ve turned into amazing, beautiful homes, through hard work—team work, not because we had to, but because it’s simply amazing what you can do when you set your mind to something. It’s incredible what beauty, and conversely, what havoc, we can create just because we choose to.

By the same token, one of my dad’s favorite sayings is “if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing wrong.” Even if things don’t work out the way you’d like, even if it turns out to be a fizzle in the end, if it was worth doing in the first place, DO IT! You can’t allow yourself to be paralyzed into inaction, just because you can’t see how things will all turn out in the end. As my mentor likes to say, “You can’t steer a parked car.” You have to move.

I’ve never known boredom in my life. My parents didn’t believe in it when I was growing up, and I don’t believe in it now. Either give me something to do, or get out of my way and I’ll find something. (Napping is something to do, just to clarify. Haha) If you want to drive me absolutely bonkers, put me in a holding pattern with nothing to do. Put me in a hotel room or a plane or some other enclosed space, without a book, without paper, and break my concentration so that I can’t even sleep or think or anything, and I promise you, I WILL go completely, stark-raving mad. (Unless it’s a specific program –preferably entertaining and/or uplifting, television does not count, and television cuts my focus and makes it extremely difficult to do anything, up to and including sleep. Television is an irritant. I don’t own a television for that reason. If I’m not watching it, it needs to be out of my hearing and out of my line of sight so that I can do something else.)

Some of the darkest parts of me, the battles I fight within myself, are very closely linked to some of the things I consider my strengths. My action-mindedness breeds, if I’m not careful, irritation with others who aren’t as focused as I, or even others who are focused on different things. I must be vigilant about that, and since my life currently lends itself to an abundance of activity, I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t think about it. I need to. I need that to be on my radar so that I don’t inadvertently hurt others with something that seems obvious (and obviously right) to me.

My appreciation of discipline breeds an inability to cope with others who aren’t disciplined in the same way I am. I have to realize that few others, in my peer group, were raised the way I was, and I need to learn to judge less harshly the things that I see as short-comings in others. I may be seen (and probably am by some) as overly disciplined, to the point of being harsh, and that is not my wish. I have come to know great joy in discipline, because it makes life so much better, richer, and easier in so many ways. Not everyone has experienced that the way I have, and I can’t expect them to know my perspective.

Living alone, I have become far too self-reliant. I have come to depend on solitude to recharge my batteries. (In psychology this is referred to as introversion—drawing strength from within instead of from without, needing solitude to recharge, no matter how much you love being sociable. Some people—extroverts—need social experiences to recharge.) I have gotten so used to the fact that I have no one else’s schedule to contend with, feelings to consider, or agenda to navigate that sometimes I don’t even see how selfish I’m being, until after the fact. Being single and living alone is a breeding ground for selfishness of thought, behavior, and attitude. I need to make a point of considering others. I need to fight that circumstance-borne illness, because it will kill my relationships if I don’t. I need to make time for solitude so that I can adjust my attitude and thought processes, however I can, and when I need to, and I need to make clear my reasons for seeking that solitude.

I prize communication. Sometimes I prize it too highly. Sometimes it’s ok to shut up. Sometimes it’s ok to let things go. I need to learn to relax more about communication. I need to be less vocal about some things and allow others to be how they choose to be. The danger here for me is that I hurt others with unkindness. I must strive to remember that unasked advice is criticism. My need to communicate is not more important than my need to be kind and loving. I must learn to balance the two.

I think this all boils down to the same thing, and it’s hard to correct this through introspection. I am a selfish person. I don’t always think of others. I think of my thoughts, because they’re the only thoughts I have, and I don’t take the time to try to see the perspectives of others. I judge people against a standard that is clear in my head, but one by which they may not judge themselves or me. What I see as “how life works” based on my experiences, education, training, etc., is not necessarily how others see life or experience it.

So perhaps it’s not so difficult to see why someone else may think my “true colors” are less than I believe my character to be. Perhaps how I have acted has spoken so loudly that others can’t hear a word I’m saying. Perhaps, because they can’t see my motives, my struggles, the desires of my heart I can’t expect them to view me through those things the way I do. No one, outside of my closest confidants, knows the battles I face within myself and how the true desire that screams inside me is to be loving and kind. Perhaps all they see is a terribly selfish, unkind, unloving individual who cannot be better than the worst that she fights within her.

Lord, have mercy on my broken, humbled spirit. Help me to undo the damage I have done in my relationships. Help me with these struggles. Draw my attention to the things in me that don’t bring honor and glory to You. Break me. Change me. Grow me. Protect me from the worst of myself. Prepare me for the things You have for my future. Make this the prayer of my heart and the focus of my spirit, through Your unending (THANK YOU) grace and mercy. In the all-powerful Name of your precious Son I pray, Amen.

Much love,

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