The End of My Self

*Yes, I’m aware that the word is myself… by I really mean it to be more like my self… with self as the noun, and my as possessive. You also have a self… that’s what I’m writing about today.

I remember sitting with the Johnsons, and one or both of them pointed out that I don’t do a very good job of needing, and, perhaps that’s one of the reasons I gravitate toward singleness. They tried to explain the difference between needing someone to live… and just needing someone. Just because the heart keeps beating once someone is gone and that person lives on… that doesn’t mean the need for that lost person has lessened. I get that… and I think I got it in a very intellectual capacity then. However, I also had an intellectual understanding of my misunderstanding of “need.”

I tucked that thought away and brought it out every so often, never quite feeling that “need” for someone, but always knowing that I was missing something.

I’ve had plenty of opportunities to date. I don’t regret any of the relationships that never happened, because none of those guys were right for me and I wasn’t ready anyways… and, while I used to have the luxury of believing myself to be unattractive and unlovable, God has worked on me and shown me that I no longer have to try at femininity… I’ve actually changed enough that most people don’t even see the softball in me anymore. They think I’m just a nice, sweet girl, and when I try to put together a dodge ball team at work, they say things like, “I’ll only play if you get some athletic people on the team.” I mean, what am I… a delicate flower or something? ;-) I don’t even feel upset that they can’t see division 1 scholarship offers for how well I throw a ball.

But, if we’re real about things, I have to admit that there have been two major obstacles between me and men:

1. I didn’t understand needing a man.

2. I was, and am, terrified of needing a man.

Softball Katie, you see, had never come to the end of herself, really. She could always run one more mile, read one more book, find one more solution to a problem, buy a house or a car for herself, etc… She was just doing her thing and enjoying it.

That changed about 3 years ago, when I started reaching the end of myself/my self.

I can’t say that I needed someone to provide me with food, $, or even emotional support. I was fine. And, in being real about it, I’ve never understood the question: “Are you okay?” because everything is always fine, and I’m always okay. At mile 16, when my calves are cramping and I’m literally struggling to walk, I’m okay. When I’m sobbing alone, I’m okay. I’m not saying I’m splendid, but I have always had a knowledge that it’s going to be what it’s going to be, and the best way to make it through things is to know, with all confidence, that it’s okay.

However, coming to the end of myself felt an awful lot like needing someone.

And it felt like not being okay… even though I knew I was okay.

It was a deep longing… for someone to take care of _________ every now and then. Maybe food, or $, or emotional support… not because I couldn’t provide those things for myself, but more because the pains were heavy… and I just wanted to not be dealing with them independently. I wanted and needed someone to do something that I always do for myself… maybe something as simple as driving when I didn’t want to drive, or microwaving dinner, or putting a hand on my shoulder while I was crying. And I can’t even say that it’s a loneliness, although it is sort of that… it’s honestly that sense of needing that I didn’t understand while the Johnsons were explaining it to me.

During lunch at work a few days ago, everyone was talking about ordering a pizza on our early release day next week, and they asked me if I wanted in. I joked about having a fear of commitment, but I thanked them for asking… and Lawrence laughed and said, “You do have a fear of commitment.”

Everyone looked at me oddly, because it was one of those rare glimpses you get into a person you’ve known for a long time without actually knowing. And I never talk about dating with them. I never talk about anything personal with them, so I think they think I don’t date… or maybe they think I sleep around, but keep it quiet. Lawrence obviously knows me slightly better and thinks my singleness is my fault… this isn’t the first time he’s spoken of my singleness with blame and almost disdain in his voice… like I’m not like everyone else, which means there’s something wrong with me.

But I’ve been trying to learn a lesson in regards to sameness. As we try to push all of our students to be college and career ready, by making them all like one another, I’m frustrated with this factory mentality of quality control, as if people are like Starbucks drinks, and should all come out tasting exactly the same regardless of where and when and how we encounter them. I love buying Starbucks in other countries, but the reason for that is because everything else is and should be different…

In Peru, the kids were so different from American kids. They had a visible and wondrous knowledge that they weren’t the center of anything. The landscapes were different. The air was different… which is why I love traveling. I love that feeling I get when I exit an airport in Mongolia, and see people who look different, speaking a different language. People who eat a lot of goats, and drink fermented horse milk. People who use different bathrooms and love ping pong the way Americans love television.

In the midst of all the differences, Starbucks, however, is exactly the same, which is cool, but only because it’s the only thing that’s the same.

In the states, we decided long ago that different was inherently unequal… and that inequality was evil.

But I think God treats us with inequality… and I think it’s okay.

I could sit around envying all of my friends who found love when they were 20. I could be angry with God for giving them something He didn’t give me… even when they made more obvious and frequent mistakes than I made or when they were immature in this way or that…

But, no matter how many judgment-filled comments my friends have for my choices about love or friendship or whatever… I wasn’t ready. I just wasn’t. And maybe I still am not ready. I’m not ready to run 26.2 miles, but that doesn’t mean I never will be ready or that I’m not working towards it. I have exactly one friend who is working towards 26.2 at the same time I am. And she’s already run it before. Twice. And she may drop out any day. Which is all okay, because she isn’t me, and shouldn’t live her life exactly as I live mine. I’d love to have her there for the run, but I won’t judge her if she does something different.

I’ve been reading a book called THE COOL IMPOSSIBLE, which is about running, and it reaffirms my belief that it’s so important for each person to run her own race, because each of us is inherently different.

“The hardest thing for a person to do is to run as he or she normally does when she knows there’s someone watching,” (Orton 22).

A girl must run at her own pace. She must overcome the obstacles on her path… which may be very different from the obstacles on another person’s path. She must wear the shoes that work best for her. She must listen to music, or sermons, or nothing… depending on what that day and that moment call for. And, while it’s nice to run races with others, it isn’t an insult when we hit a fork in the road and go off in different directions. A great runner can balk a run that should be “easy” and a novice can inexplicably own a really difficult run. Because inequality is built into our experience here on Earth.

It took me a long time to reach the end of myself… probably mostly because I didn’t want to believe there was an end to my self. Unfortunately, that meant that it took me a long time to see the value in having someone next to me… to help me keep going past the end of myself. It took me a long time to see the value in risking heartache. And none of that means that I’m going to find the guy tomorrow, but maybe it means that I’ll be a little slower to throw relationships away before they even get going. Maybe it means I finally want marriage… when I’ve never really wanted it before.

The Things We Do Under the Guise of “Family”

By pure coincidence, I posted a quote about how it’s none of our business what people think of us… on the exact day I discovered that some people were talking about me behind my back.

The experience of it was surprisingly hurtful, even though the person telling me never exactly came out and told me, and even though he was bringing it up because he hoped I’d do something to ease the resentments that were directed at me.

When he brought it up, he basically was telling me, “Why don’t you do_________?” It was the type of question where I knew the motives and the situation immediately, although I suspect he didn’t mean for me to know.

So, I said something like, “I’m sure people are saying ____________ and ___________, but…”

And he nodded.

I think that was the most hurtful part; I knew exactly what was being said about me and who was saying it without even having to think.

In the past year or two, I’ve slowly withdrawn from certain friends. It honestly wasn’t about them all that much. I was struggling with depression, and I believed my depression was linked to pressure I was putting on myself to be what others wanted me to be. I was trying to keep all of my friends from a long-ago church, two recent-past churches… AND build relationships at a new church.

And – no surprise – it wasn’t working.

I was attending an event every night of the week. I was writing a book. I was running races. I was working a ton. I was reading a book every week. I was in a fairly intense Bible study… and I was desperately unhappy.

My solution to that included several things.

1. I talked to Ashly about it.

In many ways, Ashly is the first person I go to for everything. She is the least obtrusive person I know. She is non-judgmental (though she recently revealed to me that she actually thinks judgment is a struggle for her). She is a soft spot to land and wisdom to get me back on my feet. Also, she and I speak the same language in a way that I’ve never experienced with anyone. Yes, God should have been the first stop I made… but He honestly wasn’t. I’m working on it.

2. I gave it to God.

I really struggle to pray. I don’t like talking to God. In fact, I don’t really like talking to anyone about myself and I rarely enjoy talking to anyone about anything. But I talked to him. I had an incredibly emotional night of yelling, and sobbing at Him. And I sort of gave my heart over to keeping my eyes open for His direction in my life.

3. I stopped making myself attend everything.

I selected one particular group of friends that I’d been killing myself not to disappoint… I was trying super hard not to give them up, more because they didn’t want me to give them up than because I didn’t want to do it, and, by telling myself that it was okay to disappoint them, I was able to get my Monday nights back, and I was able to skip parties, regardless of friends’ belief that I’m somehow directly responsible for keeping the band together.

4. I told Steve and Lori.
5. I started doing yoga.
6. I gave myself permission to play D & D.
7. I fought for myself at work.

And it started getting better… so I think I must’ve done something right.

But one of my concerns all along was those Monday night friends. I didn’t want to treat them unfairly. And I had my doubts about whether I’d done the right thing in letting them go just a bit. But I made sure to communicate my intentions to withdraw a bit to at least two or three of them, hoping that’d keep them from seeing it as me just dropping off the face of the Earth, or as commentary on them.

And they started talking about me, just like I thought they might. They resented me for not attending certain events. They resented me for not sharing my thoughts and feelings with them. They resented me for keeping promises that inherently kept them in the dark.

The funny thing, early on with this, was that the first thing they were saying was that I’m flaky/unreliable, which is not at all true. In fact, I’m usually reliable to a fault. I’m likely to text people minute-by-minute updates if I’m going to be more than 5 minutes early or more than 2 minutes late, because I’m incredibly careful not to inconvenience anyone. I often arrive 40 minutes early to things, only to park and walk around for 35 minutes, so I can be sure that I won’t be late, and so that I can feel at ease about the arrival. It also gives me some nice alone time.

More recently, as they were oh-so-very “We’re family,” and, “You know we love you, right?” it occurred to me how incredibly mean they can be sometimes, and, worst of all, under the guise of Christian concern/Christian fellowship and family.

I’m so terribly brokenhearted that “family” spoke about me behind my back while I was sobbing alone on the floor of a strange, seedy hotel. I’m angry that they spoke ill of me while I was sobbing in a car, driving in the dark, without sleep, for nine hours. There are very few things I try more enthusiastically to avoid than driving and crying, and “family” should know that.

Honestly, I wish I had the luxury of not knowing what they think of me… because it’s none of my business.

The Telling Nightmare

I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately, because of stress. I’ve loaded up on the Benadryl. I’ve run myself to exhaustion. I’ve tried wine. I’ve done yoga. You name it, I’ve tried it. And, while the sleeping more is beginning to happen, I’ve been having some pretty telling nightmares, and I thought I’d share one of them with you:

The entire nightmare goes like this… I’m standing at third base (defensively… not as a runner). And there is a faceless person, who just keeps hitting the ball at me. He’s basically got an endless bucket of balls, and he’s drilling me. This isn’t uncommon in the softball world. Coaches will hit 30, 40, 50 balls at players. They’ll hit them super hard, and they’ll leave the athlete something like one or two seconds between each hit. It’s almost exactly long enough to catch the ball, throw it, and reset.

In my dream, though, I have a glove that goes on my right hand. As a “righty,” that’s the opposite of what you want.

At first, I’m doing okay. My throws are not making it to first base, but I’m at least able to catch the ball, throw it, and reset.

However, the faceless coach starts giving me less and less time between hits, and he’s hitting it so freakin’ hard, all I can do is knock the ball down/keep it from getting past me.

I’m not sure there’s a better metaphor out there for the anxiety of feeling ill-equipped… and I thought it was bad when I dreamt that my teeth were falling out. ;-)

Becoming Good

“…the path to becoming a good writer is no more clear than the path to becoming a good person. We get to each place through trial and error, through staying the course yet digressing down crooked trails, through keeping our eyes open while keeping our guts willing, through not just trying but trying intelligently.”

Rachel Simon The Writer’s Survival Guide Ch. 5