Unearthing Me

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I am an oldest child.

Most people may know that produces a certain personality - you know, the Type A, Do the Right Thing Make Everybody Else Do The Right Thing personality. Especially if you're an oldest child in a large family and gain the right to a lot of responsibility. The thing a lot of people don't know is that all oldest children don't internally match the stereotypical OC personality. (And yes, I know that "Oldest Child" personality can be "Obsessive/Compulsive" too).

So me, I've spent a lot of my life trying to please people. And feeling guilty if I can't please people. Or if I choose not to. My parents never actually asked it of me. I'm a responsible oldest child. I took it on myself. If there were people in the room who needed me to be friendly, I was friendly. If I needed to get good grades, I did. Well, I never really had to work for those, they just happened. (Sorry if that offends some of my readers - I know I take it for granted.)

I organized cleaning crews of my seven younger siblings while my parents went out on dates. I organized cleaning crews of the kids I babysat while their parents went out on dates. I knew how to give the right answers and be a perfectly spiritual person, right down to the well-timed uncomfortable confession that I'd done wrong thing.

Most of my life, I've related to God from that OC perspective, trying to make things as easy as possible for Him - doing His work, making my heart right, having the "right" responses to things that happened in my life, loving people the way I thought He wanted me to, confessing when I knew it was expected, mostly hoping He wouldn't get mad at me.

A couple of months ago, I said to Pete that I don't know who I am. I know who I'm supposed to be (whether by my definition or by someone else's), but I don't know who I am. At least, a couple of months ago, I didn't know so much as I know now.

Would you believe that I am intensely shy? My family thought I was an extrovert when I was growing up. I hate people. I mean, not people personally - just people generally. I don't like crowds. Or neighbors. My dearest relationships are the relationships I have with people one-on-one. I talk because I'm nervous when I'm with other people - or because I am the one who can take the initiative when other people aren't talking.

I have survival habits that are scary. I think that if the whole world was falling apart, I would be perfectly happy if I am left undisturbed in my own little room with everything I need to distract myself. I can be pretty self-centered. When I'm in survival mode, I'm good at being nice, but not so good at noticing others unless they deliberately insert themselves into my world.

I love music. I didn't go to college to major in music because I thought that if it became work, I would lose it. But all that singing in the choir and playing for church I did when I was growing up? That was not because I wanted to be around people, it was because I could sing and play. There is something that happens inside me when I play the piano, something that is freed in me when I sing.

I actually like puns and intelligent humor. I grew up rolling my eyes at it - and then married a guy that I can top occasionally.

I can't pick a favorite color. If I had to try, I would say it was light. Light in the morning, light at the sunset, light that splashes everything with sparkle and life and color no matter what time of year or day it is. I'm afraid of the dark.

I love the mountains better than the sea. They make me ache. The sea makes me wonder, but it lets me breathe. The mountains take my breath away and steal the tears from a place in my heart reserved for pain and for beauty.

The God I knew when I was growing up was a kind, rather predictable God. I could ask Him to make me want all of Him because it was what I was supposed to do. The God that I know now wants me, and not just me doing the right thing. He's big. He's a consuming fire. He's a Person that I *have* to notice, a Person that I can't miss.

I honestly don't know if the last few months have been the death of me or a coming alive. Every day, it seems I learn more about the person that I am - both good things and bad things. I feel as though He is revealing me, drawing back the shell of who Kelly wanted to be, telling me that He loves the Kelly He made, the Kelly I am. The Kelly who is His.

You know how in a relationship with someone who has hurt you, you kinda want to hold back, even once you know that they didn't intend to hurt you? You're still friends with that person. You know they love you. But it doesn't feel as safe as it used to before you were hurt. I kinda feel that way about God right now. I'm hesitant to tell Him about the things I'm discovering about myself. I don't want to expose that whole person of me to Him (okay, okay - like I could hide it anyway???). I don't really want to blow apart with passion or pain again, like happened the last time I went there, when He was the only one I could trust.

I don't want Him to be my portion.

And as I write that, I realize why.

Because I'm afraid I could lose Him. Afraid that He'll let me down. Again. Because He's God and He has His own agenda. I can't dictate to Him how I think my world should be run.

I have a daughter who gets mad at me for putting her in her own bed. Or not giving her what she wants. Or generally not facilitating her perfect life. As a parent, I have limitations, and I have to set them for her so she won't get hurt. She doesn't get it. She practices her fits about it in the mirror. She implements them on the floor.

But I can't just let her run down the driveway into the street. Or stick her finger in the outlet. Or let her sleep in my bed when her presence is draining me of my own sleep. So she screams and fusses and tries again and is not allowed, and she wakes up disappointed and frustrated sometimes. She likes Uncle Kate better.

Not quite sure where this is going, but she just woke up, which means my blog time is done for the day.

What about you? Do you know who you are? Is God your portion? Do you want Him to be? Have you ever not wanted Him to be? Did He give you anything that helped your perspective on Him?


Becky said...

You don't know me...but I have been a reader of your blog for awhile now.

Today I post, tears in my eyes, as I read and completely related to your post. You see, I too am one of those oldest children. The people pleaser. The one who would have done anything to make others happy.

I sat here, reading your entry, shaking my head at all of it. It sounds like me. Right down to how I feel about God. I understand the feeling of being afraid of being let down....I feel it myself.

Anyway, I'm not really sure what my point is, other than to say thank you for saying what I couldn't. God bless you.

dancebythelight said...

I can relate in some ways. As the oldest child I'm all about being in control, being the best, and not letting anyone down!

Experiencing the break-up of my family took away my ability to control. Suddenly everything was out of control! I knew I couldn't fix it. I had to learn tp trust those I care about to God's care, and that's really been the hardest thing.

You see, I do trust God when it comes to me. He IS my portion. His word is my life! I feel that so incredibly. But it's hard for me to trust the care of others to him. My mom, my siblings. But I'm learning. I'm learning how important prayer is. That's what I need to be "doing" for them. I need to believe that God can be there portion too. This test of faith has truly strengthened me. There is nothing I know more then that He works all things together for my good even when I can't see how. I KNOW it. And I'm not talking intellectually only. I know it in my bones.

I've learned through all of this that I'll be okay no matter what happens in this life. If I lose my babies or my husband, somehow God will hold me. Loosing my family like I have has really made me think about this. I want God to be my all in all. I want no substitute. I want to give Him glory in the pain.

Another thing I've learned is that being stoic isn't really what God's called us to. Going back to the whole oldest child thing, I was always stoic. I didn't want to need people. But the truth is I do. And weakness. It's what makes us stronger in the end. So I've learned that I can encourage others who are going through family issues like me. That I shouldn't hide them, but reach out to others and we can share what we're learning.

I love that Sara Groves line:
"I did not come here to offer you clichÈ's / I will not pretend to know of all your pain / Just when you cannot, then I will hold out faith, for you"

I've learned we have to hold out faith for each other.

Leeann said...

Part of my answer: http://incorrigibleoptimist.blogspot.com/2008/10/another-song.html

The other part coming via email. I love you.

Katrina said...

Yes, yes, yes! Amazing post. I, too, am an oldest child, and a people pleaser, and you described my struggles to know and trust God so well. Keep writing--your experiences resonate with so many people. Thanks for sharing.

the Joneses said...

I am not an oldest child, but was one of two children at home for several years, so I have the people-pleaser and Do Things Right tendencies. (As for saving the world and fixing things... fifth-borns just shrug and assume somebody else will do it.)

While going through spiritual difficulties this past year, I met with my pastor. His parting advice wasn't to pray more or get my heart right before God, but to find out Who I Am as the first step toward finding out how God sees and loves me.

It was excellent advice. Not in a self-centered way -- "Oh, wow, I am so fascinated by me! No wonder God likes me!" It's helped me understand who God created me to be. So instead of "getting my heart right" (I love your description of making things easy for God), I can stop and say, "Actually, I don't actually agree with You that I should do this. How about we work on that first?"

Daphne is now in my lap, so I don't know how well I've articulated this. Great post.

-- SJ

Jessica said...

This is somewhat off your original topic, but your last few paragraphs caught my attention. Isn't it amazing how God shows us a reflection of ourselves sometimes through other people around us, especially our kids? I have many times been frustrated with Lucy (or even Jeremy) about something, and then one day looked at myself and realized that I was doing the exact same thing in a different way. It sort of brings it home how God must feel about us sometimes (minus the impatience).

More on topic -- I am the type of person who hates to have conflict in their relationships and wants to fix everything right away. When I feel like life is miserable, I have a habit of trying to figure out what my problem is and patch it up with God. But lately, I've found myself saying more and more, "I don't know WHAT my problem is, nor do I know how to fix it." For me, just admitting that to God is the crucial step. He may not give me the answer right away, but at least I know He knows, and He'll be working on me to get it resolved.

Amber said...

Wow. Kelly, I marvel at your posts so often. ...For two reasons:

One; you on paper is so different from the you I thought I saw when we met in person. I have a wrong habit of making sweeping assertions when I see new folks, and I did it again with you. I liked the one Kelly, but I find myself loving the Kelly I see here.

Two; YOU on paper is amazing, because it's so hard to get a person on paper. How do you capture your thoughts so well?

I don't think I can offer any "advice" concerning what you've talked about here, because I seem to come at life from a different direction. God has always seemed real and close to me. My problems seem to come from my view of myself, not my view of Him. ...But I know that if I got the right view of Him, my "self" problems would be solved.

...But maybe we're not so different. I don't know.

You always get me thinking, Kelly.

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