From December 27, 2015, because the message still matters.
Not like when babies spit up and, unaffected by the experience, turn to nurse again. More like when adults eat and drink way too much and, with puffy eyes and drawn grey faces, unload painfully onto their shoes, the curb, the gutter.
I am indulging in this unrequested sharing for three good reasons: 1) I have been practicing the spiritual disciplines of vulnerability and asking for help, 2) When God gives me something to write I am doing what I am told (rather than thinking, Oh I’ll remember that later and write it then), and 3) It might help someone else.
Yesterday morning I had to do a hard reset of my phone to correct a mess of nonfunctionality. I backed up everything first, except, as it turned out, my text messages. Thousands of them. Reminders. Phone numbers. Photos. Early morning theological musings. And, most important, the daily trivial proof that I have friends and am valuable to them. I texted a few of them--the ones I thought might also value those conversations--and told them what had happened. I was looking for sympathetic horror, reconnection, and thousands of messages to be sent again. Of the people I texted, one responded. No one else did.
I felt unmoored, utterly adrift and alone. So I spent the rest of my daughter’s eighth birthday researching how to root my phone and find the deleted files. I fixed breakfast, played pretend, opened presents, went to the movies, made dinner, played Clue, but I wasn’t there, not in my head. Instead I was doubting that I had ever had those friendships, that I had ever been told I was brilliant, worthy, lovable, loved--and that I ever would be again. Never mind that my husband and daughter were right in front of me, as always.
There isn’t much material stuff I hang onto. I am not very sentimental about things, and having too much weighs me down. I have very few pictures, almost no family treasures, and I don’t miss having them. This means I am shocked by loss. Four years ago we moved from California to Tennessee, which meant I gave up home, job, position, daily contact with friends, walkable neighborhoods. For six weeks we lived out of basements and hotels while we waited for the mortgage bankers to get their paperwork done. Finally we settled and the boxes were delivered. One afternoon I opened up a box and discovered that the professional movers had placed a stone bowl on top of my mother’s few remaining crystal goblets. I remember screaming and howling and swearing so loudly that our then-four-year-old daughter ran to get her dad, who came running, prepared for blood, thinking I’d been in an accident and lost a limb. Which of course I had. I sobbed, body shaking, for days, grieving the loss of home, and a few tangible reminders of once-upon-a-time love.
I was talking with some people the other night (can’t quite call them friends again, yet--I have no proof of that today) about Myers-Briggs. I am an eNfP: my guiding input comes through my feelings, and though I extrovert well I need a lot of alone time to process the input.
I was alone a lot as a child so I got a lot of that time, and learned to be both lonely and at peace alone. My mother was an unmedicated depressive, whose own emotional curtain shut when I expressed feelings. I could see it come down over her eyes, could watch her retreat into distracted activity. I was also a reasonably smart kid in a family of legendarily quick minds: bright, but not That bright. I was extremely independent, competent, reliable, so my abilities to care for home and self were important.
I see now how much I craved the experience of knowing I mattered--that what I felt and experienced was important--and that people I loved and needed thought of me when I wasn’t right in front of them.
So yesterday, I was a child again, with no more electronic proof I mattered. And no responses to my pain. Howling inside. Unmoored.
Went to bed early to sleep, to process. This morning I realize how completely co-dependent I have become with my phone, and obsessed with those assurances that I have people out there somewhere who think of me when I’m not in front of them. I can be sitting with my family, or with God, and wonder whether I’ve heard from anyone. Today I see that, see the ancient wounds, and recognize them for what they are: a child’s desperate need to be seen and valued. Like the older brother in the story of the prodigal son, aching to be seen by the father, to be noticed even when things are fine, when his abilities aren’t needed.
Waiting by the phone for affirmation is not healthy, particularly when you miss what’s happening right in front of you. With cell phones we have convinced ourselves we aren’t really waiting by the phone because we aren’t stuck in a room with something wired to the wall. But it’s the same. If I am waiting to hear from someone, unable to fully participate in the reality of the moment, it’s just as adolescent as not being able to go for food because you don’t have an answering machine. Not that I’ve ever done that. Instead, I have to trust that my friends (okay, the word is ready to come out) and best beloved ones are, still, connected to me, that all that exchange wasn’t illusion, that I matter.
And... I have to trust that I am seen, valued, brilliant, beautiful, worthy, because My Father sees me, values me, and will tell me so any time I need to be noticed. Even when my abilities are not needed.
The same is true for you. You are seen. You are beloved. You matter. With or without crystal, with or without texts. Still. Even now. Even you.
I don’t want the text messages anymore. Well, I do, but I know they’re not good for me, and that their absence is teaching me lessons I need to learn, again and again.