Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Hey Introverted Mamma

Hey introvert mamma, this post is for you...

I disappear sometimes. Not physically of course. I have too much responsibility for that.  But if you look me in the eyes...there are days you would know that I'm shrinking...my soul is shriveling. It has always happened to me. My mom has told me for as long as I can remember, that I do "too much." It's my pattern. I adopt full and busy patterns of achievement. And I always run out of energy. I'm not afraid to slow down, anxious about boredom, or nervous about silence. Rather, it is just a way that God has made me. That is, driven and introverted.

There is widespread misconception about introverts. Introverts get stereotyped as quiet, snobbish, shy, hard to get to know and most of all, not people-persons. Extroverts, by contrast, are fun, talkative and outward. These stereotypes lead to misunderstandings and mislabeling by others and also by ourselves. Some people assume that introverts truly have less to say and are on some level less interesting than the more outward counterparts...but there it is again, the tendency to see only extroverts as outward. It is this one mis-conception that would cause most people to mis-label me as an extrovert.  In the past year, I have been learning about Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the tendencies that come with the 8 letters that identify different preferences related to personality types of people. There is always a danger of putting people in boxes when using diagnostic type personality profiles.  However, with proper use of something like the MBTI and regular reminders that no personality type is identical to another (even when letters match), these types of indicators can be helpful to understand general personal tendencies and lead to greater self-awareness. It has been a really helpful exercise to raise my own sense of awareness of how I operate in my relationships with others (family, friends, co-workers, the team I lead, my boss). 

One of the most helpful things I have learned is how important it is for introverts to find a way to re-charge. As Jeremie Kubicek puts it, extroverts are solar powered and introverts are battery powered. While extroverts re-charge by being with people (this too has a limit for most), introverts re-charge by plugging in. This means retreating to an internal world which can be sleep, exercise, a great book, a quiet trip to Target (alone)...or pretty much any life-giving (fairly solitary) activity. And here is the kicker, introverts need to do this every single day

One of the books I read this year is called 5 Gears. The topic of the book is how to be present with people while maintaining productivity. One of the bedrock principles of this book is that in order to be both present and productive, I must be charged every day. If I think about my emotional/spiritual/intellectual capacity as a cell-phone battery, I have to plug myself in...every single day, just like I do my phone. The author argues that it would be lunacy to get mad at our cell phone and simply demand more from a dead battery. However, this is exactly what we do with our souls. No matter if you are a stay at home mom or a leave to work mom, there are demands that you do it all. We are under insufferable pressure to give to every person and every task in front of us. Therein lies the temptation to demand more from our battery than it was designed to give. 

When I was single, my under-cover introvert survival tactics worked out well. I lived by myself and was completely in charge of my time. Therefore, when I needed to re-charge, I simply went home to the bliss of restorative quiet. I'm not even sure I was consciously re-charging. It was just the way I had structured my life for as long as I had remembered. When I was dating my husband, I remember one of the legitimate thought processes I had about the goodness and longevity of our relationship was that I enjoyed being with him as much as being by myself. (Hmm, I really like this guy, and I don't ever really want him to go away...romantic right?). 

But mothering has brought about a beastly task for me to navigate as it relates to battery management. With kids, there seems to be no time at all for quiet. No time at all for solitary soul care. No time for re-charge. The survival techniques that allowed me to retreat as a single person or a young married just don't exist in the reality of motherhood. There are always sweet little hands to hold or bottoms to wipe. There are questions to answer and lessons to teach. There are clothes to fold and stories to read. All the spaces that used to exist for me are taken up...with almost all good things. It is hard to see my own soul as one that should be tended. However, I'm looking into the tired eyes of a woman who desperately needs to know that she has permission to refuel. 

I don't have this re-charge/motherhood thing figured out yet. And I still crash sometimes. But I know the issue and I am finally giving myself permission to fight for my own highest good among the priorities of my life. I know that a dead battery and hollow eyes are not a gift I give to anyone. And I'm learning to give myself permission to care for me so I can be a present kind of mamma that I want to be. Maybe someone else needed to read this too. Go ahead introverted mamma, plug-in to a life-giving space, you are worth the investment. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

An Ode to my Mother

Like most major holidays, I get reflective on the meaning of the day. I don't think that I am a particularly celebratory person by nature but holidays help with the habit of celebration. Mother's Day, however, doesn't require much reminding. The more minutes I spend being a mother propel me into thankfulness for the investment of my own mother-friend.

Mom, In the earliest moments of becoming a mother, I know I made you laugh with all of my wonder and amazement at the process of growing a human and in my frantic grasping to gain some mother skills during the first year of being Myles' mom. Here are a few of my thank you's and hopes for my own journey in light of you mom. 

The Sibling at my wedding, 2008
1. I hope I can support like you. You are a quiet kind of support. Not the kind of over the top personality that makes a big to-do. Instead, you are the kind of quiet strength that makes it look like we are the strong ones, when all along it is you who are infusing us with confidence just because you show up. I pray that I will give this same power of presence to M & M as they grow into who God has created them to be. 
Pregnant me...Spring 2012
2. I hope I can "favorite" like you. We always give you a hard time that one of the people in the below picture is your favorite and your reply is always the same...A little bit of a laugh and some definite annoyance..."You are all my favorites in your own way." Even though this sounds like a major "mom" thing to say, it is completely believeable from you. Somehow you make all four of your kids feel like we are worth being proud of and that we contribute importantly and uniquely to the world. Thank you for loving us into that kind of particular and special security. I think your attraction of our differences helps us like ourselves without competing with each other.
Mom and Sisters circa 2011---Sarah's Graduation party
3. I hope I can let-go like you. I remember the great dread that filled my heart when I looked at tiny little Myles knowing that I am only stewarding his child to adult life and then he will leave me. I don't know how a person invests all of themselves with an open heart, only to send that love out into the world to find a different center and a new home. I hope I can do it like you have done it. Your transition to mother-friend was so seamless. And maybe you were just tired because we were a heavy bunch to carry...but I think no. It was your selfless, life-work that you had dedicated to the Lord so long before you had to send us off. Thank you for modeling the let-go so well. It makes our coming back so voluntary. I want that for my littles.
Leah's wedding---September 2011

4. I hope I can celebrate like you. You know each of us and try to make sure that you have all the details just right for the way we best celebrate. You know that Leah loves cherry sours and Terry is all about the sour patch kids. You make sure to get something different for my Christmas sock because candy isn't really my thing. You worry that you will get a detail wrong and not because you are worried about you. You genuinely want us to know that we were considered in every aspect of your plan. How do you do that? I hope I can have that kind of mother-love eventually. Kids deserve to feel the way you still make us feel. 
Prayer time at my wedding

Happy Mothers' Day Mom! Thank you for hanging with all of the high-demands that we put on you. We hope you get as much joy as you have made possible for all of us. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Too Perfect

A little while ago, a friend of mine told me that I seem too perfect. I give off an air of impermeable strength. It's not the first time someone has put this label on me but it is certainly not a tag I would hang on my own. The exchange reminded of a time when a girl walked up to me and informed me that I'm "intimidating." That one comment from an innocent 18 year old haunted me for a while.

The most recent comment by my friend started a new internal dialogue for me. What is the right amount of vulnerability to display? When someone asks how I am and I'm rushed to a meeting, should I stop and let my heart fall out? "Hi! How are you?" is not a true invitation to tell you that I'm struggling.  There does not seem to be a quick way to tell the truth and so often the truth is not as simple as the answer to such a short question. Perhaps the reason we get perfect images of one another is not so much because we are pretending but because we ask perfect oriented questions in places that are designed for passing not pausing.

We live in a filtered image or a let it all hang out kind of world. One extreme tempts us to make our lives look more attractive than they are. The other extreme is one train wreck story to the next in an effort to just keep it real. I'm not sure that we serve ourselves or our relationships well when we live in either extreme. I'm more unsure of hyper-perfection or drama as a good glimpse of an authentic life. 

How can we live lives that are intentional and real in a world that is insta-published and snap-documented? I don't know that the answer is for us to all just stop applying retro filters or to get off social media in order to get real with people. Perhaps a solution among many is to live real life with people... To remind ourselves that people do present their best selves at work and online...and that may be okay. Our real pain and struggle should happen in the context of friendship conversation. We should embrace the expressions of one another's faces in the space of our homes and coffee dates or on a long-run with a treasured friend. We should ask questions that elicit real answers and then wait long enough for the life of it all to hang over the edges. 

PS. Keep on posting your cute kids and your happy couple photos. I love seeing your vacations and smiling dog pictures. I love seeing your best days and I cheer on your good.