Saturday, January 21, 2017

Exploring that inner Self

Read. Bake. Run. Write. Draw.

These are the ways I reset, unfold stiff places, work out knots and just generally process through the things life throws my way.  So why on earth do I spend so little time doing them, or even worse, avoid them?

The past two years have been a process of deconstructing this outer self I had created over the first six years of my time here in Nicaragua. The idealistic, hopeful, silk skinned advocate that came bouncing off the plane  in 2008 has seen and heard worlds of hurt and suffering that threatened to swallow her whole. Experienced the sharp cut of betrayal and bewildering sense of being lost when your character is smeared and on display for all to critique. Endured splits and divisions and loss within all her community circles: friends, family, work, church. Became whatever it took to be whatever the person in front of her needed, only to find she no longer felt known or understood as herself. Slowly, day by day, without even fully understanding what she was doing, the scaffolding teetered up and around her inner self as she constructed shields around those vulnerable places and locked up anything not able to handle a good knock or two; like a mother collecting all her glass figurines, precious memories and delicate porcelain decorations before her newborn ever becomes mobile. And she shuts them away for years, because honestly, what business do those tiny, superfluous creations have in a house with a small one? That, of course, is common sense when speaking of something material, but that logic does not transfer to the intangible, the inner soft spots that often shine the very best of us but are also the most vulnerable. When you shut those up, away so that they may not be broken or damaged, you also shut out your best connection to the people you love the most. And suddenly you find yourself hard, barren, sterile - disconnected.

That´s where I found myself at the beginning of 2015, hidden away behind sinewy layers of protection, emotions truncated and feelings stuffed, connections completely severed or hanging on by a thread.

Through a lot of walking, talking, praying, reading, listening and talking some more, through music and laughter and intentional tiny steps, I broke that structure down, one defense mechanism at a time. I felt the Architect guide me through each step, gently persisting when I wanted to leave a panel up (it´s really not that bad, see? It´s actually kind of nice??) and now I´m here, uncovered and mostly unafraid, but it feels a bit like when you get a cast off. You don´t recognize this limp, pale limb protruding from your body; you don´t quite have control of it´s motor function and it feels a bit disconcerting how different it is. It may recover completely, maybe even  become stronger than before...but the scar that runs along the ridge will never go away. A daily reminder of what was broken and what it took to become whole again.

And just like when I spiral snapped my left hand bone all those years ago, how gingerly I used it for months after it was fully healed, how I still, even now, am careful to not grab or sustain anything with just my middle finger...I find myself doing the same thing with my newly restored self. To read, to run, to bake, to write, or to draw...they mean connecting this self with something new, to let emotions be experienced and to create something out of nothing. Reading and baking are fairly low risk, running can be as long as I don´t think about it too much...but writing and drawing? Those feel...too open, too vulnerable.

While I was home this Christmas, I saw echoes of my art all around old portfolios, a portrait I had done for a friend calling to me from her child´s dresser, essays and articles I had written so passionately years before...when an old friend asked me if I still did as much art as I did back then, I wanted to cry...because I had forgotten how integral that was to who I had been. I wondered if she was still in here somewhere, or if she´d been lost in the process of the last several years.

This growing, becoming that we do as´s an incredibly raw and alive experience. Somewhere along the way I believed I had “arrived”, become who “Sarah” is and that this was who I would be forever and ever. How shortsighted that is! The Word tells me that He who began a good work will bring it to would that ever indicate that I would stay the same? I realize now that so much of my shutting up and shutting down was for fear of losing myself or getting hurt/damaged. But now I realize that these experiences are universal, and we become more beautiful/stronger for it. We were promised trouble and suffering in this world, but we were also promised that He would be with us; the Author and perfecter of my faith, my Maker, is with me...and able to turn whatever comes my way into a tool in the hands of a master Artist, shaping me into a fuller, truer self.

So instead of ignoring those things that beckon, the blooming of an idea, the whisper of a design, I´ll take a step out into this shaky place, trusting that just as my hand grew stronger and got restored through deliberate use, so my soul will round out those withered places by creating.

“Be brave, and do not pray for the hard thing to go away, but pray for a bravery that is bigger than the hard thing.” - The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp.