There is so much I want to try and find words for today to explain some of my thoughts of late on the role of feelings in our lives/my life. I am not an expert or an academic, but I have had to intimately wrestle with my own. My emotional make-up has been described as a piano, full of keys and octaves, with the bass and treble both in play for the richest, fullest expression. My mother used to tell me I was no Chevrolet. This was in the 80s and I think she compared me to a Maserati at the time. I guess they're still around. I had to Google them.
These feelings come from a place of accusation and affirmation. I have once again felt accused, felt that who I am in all its octaves is wrong and flawed, instead of something that is just part of my reality. And then, someone I respect, someone older and wiser shared his surprise with me on reading my recent writing and using the term "mental illness". "What's your mental illness?" he asked. "Anxiety and depression," I responded. "Oh!" he exclaimed. "That's just comes with being a smart and sensitive woman in our culture."
You know what? I am smart. And I am sensitive. I'm not smart about all of it, like systems and details. But I am really smart when it comes to people and ideas. And I am sensitive. I feel things. As I vacuum, I'm praying/worrying over my children. I write for release. I need to cry and laugh and feel impassioned that sometimes comes out in anger. Otherwise, I'm not being Jenny. I believe in decorum, etiquette, and proper time and places, too. But I also need to stop trying to squeeze into the wrong mold.
A Jenny that is not expressive gets depressed. A Jenny that doesn't get to process gets anxious. And some of you might wonder, "Well, then why don't you just express and process? Why do you have to take the pills?" That is a great question, but not the point of my writing today. I would be glad to talk with you offline about the many facets and layers that come with me having to surrender over the last 15 years that I may be on medicine my entire life. I have heard, when we know better, we do better, and the adults in my life, including myself haven't always known how to help me take care of a Maserati nervous system. And so I have to spend a little more time than others in the garage getting serviced. The medicine, counseling, and extra care I need to take care of myself is just part of that. I know I need restoration because you can't treat a Maserati like a Chevrolet.
But my point today is that the older I get the more I can see how hard I've tried to get all the people to like me despite the reality of the way I am made. When I see similar angst in some of my young friends, I long for them to know the freedom that can be theirs. I have struggled for this freedom. Sometimes I have to repeat it to myself over and over, "The love will not run out. The love will not run out. The love will not run out. Not everyone is going to like me. Not everyone is going to like me. Not everyone is going to like me." But I also want you to know something. Everytime it happens, it is heart-wrenching to me. The rejections I have felt over my life are still the places of my deepest pain.
Maybe you can relate to that.
I wrote my last two entries with this dichotomy in mind. I feel cognitive dissonance about a lot of things in my and others' life and faith. My priest/pastor gave me these words to help me describe the way my faith has evolved over the last five years. If I am going to bring all of me and not live a life of duality, (which, by the way, while we're on the subject, isn't Biblical either), I will live with cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the feeling of uncomfortable tension which comes from holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time.
I think, as a Christian, I have always had cognitive dissonance about certain aspects of my faith and the living out of it. But only in the last five years have I began to realize I need to be honest about this reality. A faith without cognitive dissonance, is it really a faith? What can my faith look like if I'm honest that I have conflicting thoughts and uncomfortable tension? And, the more painful question has often become, "How will my faith look to others and will I be able to live with their judgment?" Ah, there's the rub. Sometimes I just can't hold it in. I have to jump in the deep end (Don't Ask, Don't Tell) and sometimes, lamely, try to patch it up later (A Letter to my Conservative Christian Friends). This is just one example.
In the meantime, my heart breaks. I long to be understood, dramatic, and loved, deeply loved by the tangible grace I can never drink enough of, all at the same time.
This is why I need complicated friends (I borrow this from my pastor/priest/friend, too). This is why I lose friends. This is why the loneliness can feel so potentially terrifying, I want to just forget for a while. And it's why it's not as simple for me to just go the churches of my youth. I'm sure complicated people are there, but as a culture, the cognitive dissonance is just not talked about. Wrestle with me, challenge me, don't be afraid of me, but please, please don't judge the intense, the ardent, the impassioned me with your lack of cognitive dissonance. That part of me needs so much more acceptance than I've given it over the years. And I like to think that the Holy Spirit hovers near me as I can feel towards my young friends. "Be free, taste and see that the LORD is good. And YOU are good. In your humanity, your broken places, and your glory, for you are wonderfully made."
Complicated friends, let us love one another, in our cognitive dissonance, for love comes from God. And the world, including myself, aches for it.