Thursday, October 23, 2014

I Know Myself Already, Thanks

I've noticed something. 
People who have gone through a tough experience, a major life change, or a difficult challenge tend to respond to queries with some version of this sentence: 
"I sure learned a lot about myself."

Well that's good, isn't it? Self-awareness? Improvement? Greater humility, greater understanding, greater effectiveness? What's not to love?

I'll tell you what's not to love. 

Learning about yourself is a depressing experience. It's like the sponge I was using to clean something very grungy at work yesterday. It looked fine, but when squeezed all kinds of gunk came to the surface. 

Our family is not that far along this new road, and already I've learned things I wish weren't true. Like the fact that I'm a whiny complainer a great deal of the time. Seriously (or maybe you don't need convincing), I can find something wrong with any and every situation. And all these years describing myself as an optimist! Not quite. Is there such thing as a cynical optimist? No? Alright then. 

I also seem to be angry often. If I'm not Angry, I'm Anxious, or Aggravated: a real "type-A" personality. If I was one of the 7 Dwarves my name would be Angst. I'd have bloodshot eyes and a perpetually pensive expression, and wear ripped jeans and 90's plaid shirts. 
(Insert sad-clown laugh track)

I actually used to think I was pretty balanced and cool-headed, with only short spurts of frustration to mar the blissful mindscape. But no. It's the opposite, truth be told. I'm just one long spurt of frustration with isolated patches of calm. It's like seeing the other side of a rug or tapestry and realizing you've had it backwards the whole time. 

Rather than continue to explore these fascinating wonders that unfold with every bright new day, shall we turn our attention to the Why.

You no doubt know the answer already, but humor me and let's hash it out a bit. 

In the thick of new experiences, a person reacts more from the heart. Or the gut, if that suits. We don't have our defences organized yet. The involuntary ways we learn to deal with situations are not programmed in; the "system" is adapting and therefore in a vulnerable state. 

I could describe my feelings as fragile, my mind as unstable, my thoughts as fragmented. The mind jumps from thread to thread and it's harder to follow one strand or focus for any length of time.
Granted, this description isn't exactly new....maybe I'm noticing it more. 

Metacognition. Thinking about thinking. It's what crazy people do

Q. Why am I learning things about myself that I don't like?
A. I'm being squeezed by situations I don't quite understand and can't control.
Safe in our comfort zones, surrounded by the same people, the same routines day after day (generally speaking), we learn how to deal. We have coping mechanisms. We may even have vices or habits that mask our true feelings and keep the ugly down. We convince ourselves that the reflection we have learned to paint and craft is the real us. 
The mirror is showing only what we've allowed. There are big blind spots we've learned to see around. 

Case in point- has anyone ever said something about you that caused instant scoffing because, obviously, they just don't understand you?

"You're cheap."
"Whaaaat? No! I'm simply a good steward of our provisions."
"You're jealous."
"Pphhttt!! Whatever. I just think it's a bit excessive."
"You complain a lot."
"I'm not complaining, I'm stating facts."
"Maybe you need some help."
"Ha! You're so wrong. I enjoy banging my head against this wall. It's kind of fun."
(I can only be serious for so long.)

I suppose I've just admitted to being a bit of a mess. 
Well, I am a mess right now. I'm in the middle of trying to learn new coping mechanisms while desperately not wanting any coping mechanisms. 
I want to be real and honest with myself, but oh I was so much more comfortable before!! I Had It Handled, at least on the outside.
I'm in the middle of learning things about myself while wishing earnestly that I could just be whole, just get it right, for once! Why haven't I grown up? Why are all the answers I had in my twenties not working?

I'm really tired of writing blog posts about ME. Very ready to be done with this personal journaling phase and get on with some Deeper Thoughts about say, someone else's life.

My parents had two plaques that I can still see in my mind's eye and that impacted my life growing up. 

One read, "Please be patient, God isn't finished with me yet." I must have pondered that saying and the picture that went with it a thousand times growing up. Maybe you did too.

The other was a lovely etching on a small mirror quoting a piece of Isaiah 30:15, "in quietness and confidence shall be your strength." 
Oh I read that so many times! Before I had any idea what the long words meant, it brought me peace. 

Well, I think I've still got a long ways to go in "learning about myself". One day, years hence, someone will ask me about this time and I'll say it. "We learned so much about ourselves. It was great. No, actually it sucked."

I'm on the ground running, but I can't make it with all the blind spots. I have to see clearly. If that means dealing with some ugly truths then bring it on. I'm tired of tripping over life because I refuse to open my eyes.

All the changes - moving, trying to sort out jobs, new schools and schedules, second-hand stress from exams, papers, homework, cash flow issues, a body that hurts and just being really really tired - are squeezing and it's not pretty.
Kind of disillusioning, because what do I think I have to offer the world? 
To be honest, before these past few months I had kind of given up on life. At my having any significant role in it. I was hoping to just fade...away...become part of the wallpaper. 
And yet here I am. Uncovering, exposing, learning stuff...ouch.

I'm not that nice of a person. I really want to be...whole. 
I guess the word I'm missing here is grace? Maybe I have been through a lot lately and maybe I need to stop struggling and accept some grace. I suppose I don't have to get it all together by tomorrow. 

Thanks for listening. I wish I was in a cafe with you, hands wrapped around mugs of coffee, and you could give me your napkin because, well, mascara seems to be running down my face. 

Next post, I promise, will be about something else. 


  1. Glenn Bowles, VancouverOctober 25, 2014 at 7:21 PM

    Oh, Pamela, welcome the world of your "mature years"! You have expressed well what it is like to see who you really are and not liking the reflection you are describing. I think that you should praise the Lord for the honesty He has given you to see yourself as you are and the missing of impacts you wanted to have/set for yourself that haven't worked out. This phase of life just reminds us that your parents' first plaque is right and that our sin is far worse, despite Christ's sanctifying work, then we could have imagined. May the Lord keep on showing you these things, and more importantly, showing you how he forgives and changes so that you are not the person you used to be, and that is a good thing.
    May the Lord bless you and encourage you. Thank you for your musings, once again, my friend!

    1. Thanks for the wise words and encouragement!


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