October 7, 2011

Spend Yourself {Day 7} :: The bankrupting

When life becomes all about accomplishments and other people's opinions and things acquired ... it can become full fast. Full of committees and plaques and certificates and words; full of applause and appeals and aesthetics; full of keepsakes to bag up and save in the attic for sentiment's sake.

The trouble is this: it's all so unpredictable. And it just doesn't last. Because people waver and opinions waffle; standards change and expectations shift. There's always more to do and not enough time to do it well. There is always a new crowd to please, new folks to keep up with, a new normal to achieve.

How do you ever know where you stand?

I didn't know it back then, but I was all filled up and tired out: my mind and my body on overdrive. Keeping up with kind words and high praise and approving glances. And I liked hearing my name at gatherings and over the intercom at school. I liked living big. At some point though, all of my internal drive became determined by external things. People. Praise. Position. Panic ...

And I got a little lost and a lot burned out. I felt like a little person all mixed up at dusk-- with night coming and unfamiliar surroundings playing tricks on my ears and my eyes alike. I got frozen afraid and everything in my vicinity started to go a little gray. Only everyone else kept moving.

I had this genuine faith butting up against genuine, practical problems: stress and the future and boys and to drink or not to drink beer. They were complicating my big Christian living. When physics baffled me and art history exhausted me, school stopped being easy and fun. And my confidence dropped with my GPA. 

I sat a little lower in my chair.

When that boy who was my friend became a crush, I stopped keeping him at a safe distance. And this good girl fell hard for the bad boy. Really fell. And I was all consumed and conflicted and we fought in the hall and we fought in his truck and teachers looked on all concerned.

And when my running pal stepped into her long-overdue spotlight, she hurdled her way to state champion. And I crossed that line, not in first place, and the wind left my sail and I didn't know how to run anymore. I walked a little slower in the halls. I stayed up late at night with art history and a fear of losing my options for top college. I really just stared at my books. I couldn't get out of bed in the mornings and I drove that tiny blue car as fast as it would go but I couldn't beat that bell.

It all took a big dive when they walked around that day with the candles, picking each student out of class for induction into the National Honor Society.  They just kept knocking on that AP English door and they never picked me. They ate cake and took oaths about honor and ... society. They did it without me and they said I had too many tardies.  I knew it was more than that.

But that rejection sealed all my fears about not being good enough and having no.room.at.all to mess up. And the principal called me a "sinking overachiever" and I saw looks of approval turn to looks of disappointment.

I was hurt. Then I was angry. Then I was embarrassed.

And after all that time in the forefront I just wanted to disappear. So I did what this sinking, overachieving, once-good girl could do. I stepped off the scene both literally and figuratively; the pounds dropped fast and I determined to be good at one thing ... pretending not to care too much.

I graduated with still-barely-there honors. Once at college, I became a back-row sitter and a mid-week drinker. I had all these old and real desires to GO and DO in the future and a fear that I would never pull it off. I wandered in and out of church, campus ministries. I watched the christian community form and the friendships meld.  I already knew what it felt like to profess faith and fall. Not again, not this time. So I stayed on the fringe and I stayed a mystery and I watched Creflo Dollar preach on Sundays from my apartment t.v.
Have I mentioned yet that I was tired?

Friends, this is tricky to write and I am feeling a little naked these days. Why put it all out there? Don't get lost in the downward spiral. The story doesn't stop here and Jesus is always bigger. Thanks for walking this road today: this is not my catharsis. But it is part of the story ... and I didn't learn how to spend this life until I spent it in all the wrong places. Peace to you. And thanks for sticking around. 

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