Some things really just don’t matter

I touched down in Florida last Monday morning, after a very full week in Jamaica. After spending over an hour getting through customs, I settled into a chair near gate E3 to wait the next several hours for my connector flight back to DC. I was actually really glad to have a few hours’ layover. I needed time to myself to process everything, and what better place to be alone than in an airport in another state? Even more perfect, my phone battery had died, so I couldn’t make or receive calls or catch up on a week’s worth of text messages.

I did have my laptop, though, and I could check my email—and announce at least to family and roommates that I had touched down safely in the US. So with a sigh, I opened up the computer and powered it on, prepared to weed through a week’s worth of emails. But when it came time to sign in to my Gmail account, I found myself suddenly overcome with this wave of panic.

Literally, panic. I actually had to close my eyes and focus on breathing. In and out. “This isn’t even your work email, silly,” I scolded myself. True enough. But the idea of confronting pages of unread emails after a week of freedom made my hands go slightly numb.

Because that’s what it was: among other things (and I’m still piecing it all together, and will try to come up with a good post about the trip itself very soon), my week in Jamaica was a week of freedom. Freedom from all the details, the social requirements, the expectations, the obligations that have been coming on strong and weighing me down over the past several months.

The trip gave me some fresh perspective on a lot of things, too—including my relationships and my sense of myself and my own worth. I’ve been getting caught up in the shallow part of friendship: keeping a high social profile, attending far too many parties, and comparing myself to all my friends (and inevitably finding I don’t measure up). In the process, I have no time for the part of friendship that matters (at least to me): quality one-on-one time with the people I love best. The result? Feeling lonely and depressed and guilty…and unloved.

There’s no freedom in that. I’ve been getting so caught up in the rush and the whirl of things that I’ve lost my perspective and allowed myself to forget some basic facts: for instance, that the friends who matter most aren’t going to “forget” me if I fail to show up to every party in the greater DC area; that my more shallow social connections by their very nature come and go, and always have, and there’s no sense in getting bent out of shape about it. Better to enjoy the company of others as long as I have it, but don’t get all tied up in knots trying to figure out how to maintain every connection I’ve ever formed, no matter how slight.

In an odd paradox, the more I fall into the trap of worrying about being loved, the less lovable I become. I blush to my toes when I think of all the bitter jabs I’ve taken at people in my periodic bouts of jealousy over the past few months; my biting sarcasm that gets only more biting when I’m feeling ignored or set aside; my sullen silences or evenings spent in my room alone because “no one cares if I’m there or not anyway…”; and on and on. Pardon the public examination of conscience, dear reader, but there it is. I needed to get pulled out of the fast lane for a little while to take a good hard look at things, and (quite unexpectedly) that has proven to be one of the greatest benefits of my trip. Leaving the country for a little while and spending time with the truly poor was a pretty sharp reminder that there is, in fact, a big old world out there full of much more important issues than who’s going to which party on Saturday night, or who’s friends with whom, or which guy likes which girl, or whether or not everyone you know likes your other friends better than they like you.

Of course I know all this in my head, but I can forget it in practice and in my emotions. So I’m back to say, thank God for some time away…for lots of time in prayer…and for a fresh perspective on all the blessings I’ve been given in my life, in particular my relationships with so many amazing people. Thanks for all your prayers!

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A (brief) hiatus

Friends, family, readers old and new: don’t be alarmed to see no posts from me over the next week and a half. I’m heading out of the country (see earlier ranting post: I’m headed to Jamaica. And will tell all about that trip once it’s happened and I actually have something worthwhile to say.)

Meanwhile, please pray for me and my traveling companions. We’re going to be working with Jamaica’s poor, which is bound to be a beautiful…and challenging…experience. Count on my prayers for each of you, and MANY thanks to those who have already offered prayers, encouragement, monetary support, fist bumps, etc. You’re all the best. Seriously.

Much love. God bless you all.

Did you get the memo?

I love when my life starts to feel like the movie Office Space.

Consider this rather bizarre exchange from this morning, as I struggled to figure out where to put my weekly production meeting, since our usual space had been taken over by a  bunch of journalists. Granted, I had been warned–verbally–of the conflict two weeks ago, at which time I requested a reminder in writing so I could change my schedule accordingly. Said written reminder never happened. So I moved the ten employees who have to take part in the meeting to another conference room, one that is never used for conferences, but that currently houses my intern. Our meeting was interrupted at the outset by a blustering administrative assistant.

Administrative Assistant: Did you reserve this room for your weekly meeting?

Me: No, but the space that we have on constant reserve for our weekly meeting is currently being used by someone else…and I was not sent a follow-up email about that schedule change.

AA: Well you can’t meet here. This space is being used by your intern as an office right now, you can’t have a meeting in here.

Me (to my intern, who technically should be part of the meeting anyway): Are we bothering you?

Intern: Not in any way, actually.

Me (to AA): We’ll be done in 10 minutes. Technically she should be part of this anyway.

AA: You need to reserve this space before you can have a meeting here.

Let me reiterate: this all-important space is used by absolutely no one in the office except my intern. But regardless of logic, bureaucracy rules. I went ahead and held my meeting in the forbidden space, because–well–we had to have it.

And approximately seven minutes later I received an email memo from the office manager, which read:

“This is just a friendly reminder that all conference rooms and the library need to be reserved before use. Thank you for your cooperation.”

Sometimes the complete idiocy of “systems” just floors me.

Hello, it’s [Miss] Nasty

I have been, of late, the worst version of myself. I can chalk it up to stress, a new home, a very far-away family, new job responsibilities, hormones, summer heat, metro delays, lack of exercise, the alignment of the stars, something I ate, but it all boils down to one thing: I haven’t been much fun to be around. And I haven’t been writing much (certainly not anything of substance) precisely because I haven’t wanted to see this particular version of me blinking back at me from the page once I finish. Who is this whiny, grouchy, weepy, prickly child, and why is she subjecting the unsuspecting internet browsers of the world to her self-pitying rants?

But as I apologized and tried to explain myself and my poor attitude for the umpteenth time to my roommates after a particularly embarrassing episode (involving an extremely petulant me, wardrobe issues, and country line dancing) on Saturday night, I realized a couple things. First, that while I may not be the most delightful party companion these days, the people around me are not having to deal with all of my ire–only the parts of it I can’t tamp down before they ooze out into view. So maybe apologizing all the time only makes things more awkward. And second, the people who love me don’t necessarily expect me to be my best self all the time. Maybe in demanding that level of social perfection of myself, I’m only doing myself and my friends a disservice.

Yes, I want to be that constantly cheerful, talkative, interested, adventurous girl that everyone wants at every party, but let’s face it: I’m not (even at the best of times, I’m not). And especially not right now, for whatever reason(s). So instead of demanding that and then losing my temper because I’m not living up to my own lofty and unrealistic expectations, maybe I could just get over it and accept…the whiny, grouchy, weepy, prickly child. A child I’m embarrassed to take out in public, but who remains, for all her moodiness, a beloved child of God and, somehow, even a beloved child of a few fabulous people–people who have proven themselves willing and somehow able to take her both at her best and at her very, very worst.

Besides, isn’t perfectionism itself an imperfection? It’s okay to appear small sometimes. It’s okay, in fact maybe it’s very good, to allow other people to see that you’re even kind of a mess sometimes. (Who do I think I’m fooling even when I’m my very best self, anyway?) Let’s be humble, for goodness’ sake.

So I’ll continue to take me away from parties early for my snack and my nap, and I will probably, I’m very sorry to say, continue to be whiny and petulant and to make sudden angry outbursts over stupid things like slow computers, left-side-of-the-escalator-standers, my missing hair straightener, how much I hate all my clothes, the heat, my busy schedule, the fact that Nobody Ever Calls Me, I can’t figure out what to write on this blog, I’m about 100 pages behind on my reading for book club on Thursday, I have so much freaking work to do, I need a bathing suit before I leave for Jamaica on Monday and the only ones left in stores are hideous…

(And what do you mean you didn’t know I was going to Jamaica on Monday? Haven’t I told this story like a million times? Why doesn’t anybody ever listen when I talk?)

 

 

Shudder

A tip for future life that may help you live a little longer:

Always check for spiders before bringing large pieces of furniture and/or decor into the house after a month-long stint in the garage.

Always.