I started re-reading Donald Miller's book Scary Close last week. One of his chapters talks about being too careful, and how a life that is lived too carefully lived isn't really lived at all. It is spent trying to acheive what we think we are supposed to do, say, and be. It's all about following invisible rules and playing a role that doesn't suit you. In other words, it means you are being fake, Poser!
There is nothing more careful than insurance.
Except maybe accounting? The insurance rules and regulations I've memorized over the past four years are kind of sickening. I've spent day after day looking at people's applications (life, condensed) as a bunch of if/then statements. A typical conversation in my head goes like this: "If there is a grandchild listed on the application, then I need to make sure that the biological parent is also on the application. If the biological parent is on the application, then I need to make sure he or she is 1. Single and 2. Under 26 years old. If both of these requirements are met, then I can enroll the family." What?
I've noticed a change in my writing since I started working with all these rules. I fought it off for awhile, but i couldn't keep it away forever. I read an email I had written to my coworker Kayla a year ago, and I smiled. My email about work stuff actually made me happy, because there was life in it. I expressed myself through the email, even though it was just an answer to a question about an application.
My writing has since become dull. I feel like I have gotten too careful about things. I feel like I am being watched, and each minute I take for a break (even though they are legally allowed) is being calculated and measured, and somehow used against me.
I understand that a big part of running a business requires cuts, and sometimes really big ones. But there is a spirit of fear over the place I work that has caused an uneasy quiet to settle into the atmosphere. I feel like I am breaking a rule when I laugh above a whisper. And I like to break rules like that. So I feel rebellious when I laugh. And maybe I am being rebellious, like "Take that, Fear! You stupid, lazy, bloated lie! HA HA." The daily fight is exhausting.
I met with a Christian counselor a few times last winter. She was helpful, and she noticed immediately that I needed some major help in the assertiveness category. Only she said it in a nice, counselor way, like would it be okay with you if we worked on some assertiveness training? And after I said yes, she said "okay" in that safe way with long pauses before and after it. Okay.
After going through about three sessions, I felt empowered. You mean I don't have to do something just because someone else wants me to? I can say no?
Yes, I already "know" these things, but no, I do not act them out. I'm typically so passive if someone I love, fear, like or dislike would ask me to put shards of glass in my eye, I'd do it. Not because I thought it was a good idea, but because they asked me to do it. So it helps me to be reminded every once in awhile, i.e. every five seconds, that I can say no. No. "Non," if I were in France.
I also started meeting with a mentor at work last winter. Reaching out to both the counselor and the mentor were an act of assertiveness for me, by the way. Just asking them to be involved in my life was a huge deal for me. I prayed about it, agonized over it, couldn't believe it when they both seemed to like me and really want to see me succeed. I have grown way too accustomed to the Fargo way of expecting rejection at every turn. Around every corner, there it is again. Run!
My work mentor gave me a book called Strengthsfinder 2.0, and it's basically a personality assessment. Only instead of focusing on all of the negative parts of who you are, it focuses on what you're good at. So like for me, I've been told since the time I was old enough to understand that I am an introvert and that's bad because I'm quiet and that's bad and I keep to myself and that's bad even though maybe I'm good at writing but that is still hermit-like so that's bad. My takeaway from all that? I'm bad. Thank you, modern psychology. You really know how to treat depression. Jerk.
The result of my Strengthsfinder online assessment was that my strength is harmony. That is actually a strength. It blew my mind. I was actually angry for about a week and I thought the book must be demonic. That can't be right, I thought. I have a strength? And it is something that I feel like I've been put down for my whole life? It almost like what the devil intended to use to harm me, the Lord intended for good. I think I've read that somewhere, ha ha.
After I went through my angry week of wondering whether or not to burn the book and say a prayer of cleansing over myself, I kind of like exploded in joy. I was happy again for the first time in about six months. Like deeply happy. Like so happy someone at work told me to my face that she didn't know what happened to me, but she liked the new me a whole lot better.
The truth was, it wasn't a new me, it was just me again. I was starting to believe the truth of who I am instead of the lie of who I'm not.
That's just a small snippet of the past six months or so. I am still not assertive yet. Maybe I can create a new term and start calling myself passive-assertive. I'm on my way, but not there quite yet so please don't reject me because I am still easily broken. Except now I don't break as easily, and it doesn't take me so long to forgive and move on. So there.
And in all this, God was speaking to me about letting go and moving on. I applied for a new job. I've been trying to add "no" to my vocabulary. I try to make eye contact when I talk to coworkers. I've started shutting my laptop so that I pay attention in meetings and don't hide behind the screen.
Don't hide behind the screen. (Captain Obvious:"That was pretty profound, because it serves as a metaphor, and means so much more than what I just wrote.") So on that note, I will close.