Sunday, July 22, 2012

From Selfish to Giving Tree Stump then back again... Somewhere in the middle

When I was younger... MUCH younger :-) I was selfish.

Not mean, bratty selfish. Ok, maybe there was a touch of that but mostly just young selfish. Selfish like I had a lot of time. Selfish like I had a lot of margin. Selfish like I thought about my needs and had time to meet them.... A LOT.

Then I had a baby, then we moved, then my husband went to a demanding MBA school program, then my baby had surgery, then we moved again, then we adopted, ran a not for profit for awhile ON THE SIDE, adopted again... Adopted AGAIN...

And this last year I realized that along the way I had almost completely lost myself. It happened slowly like a frog being boiled alive.

I didn't mean for it to happen. I didn't feel like I had a choice. I didn't know another way to be enough so I just gave up pieces of myself to give to others until there was almost nothing left. For about a year I just felt.....trapped. Trapped, trapped, trapped, trapped, miserable.

I guess I saw it as a zero sum game. There is only so much of me. I have to make sure my husband and children and family and closest friends and responsibilities get enough so I will just have to give up my stuff.

I wanted to love sacrificially and I guess I was. No I was... I just didn't realize the cost or alternative.

There were things I stopped doing that I NEEDED to stop doing. I learned to say no kindly and liberally and OFTEN which has been AWWWWWWESOME and so very freeing.

There were many things I gave up that were truly necessary and right for a season.

I think my failing came in not knowing myself enough to know what NOT to give up. I wasn't just giving up my stuff. I started giving away parts of who I am at a fundamental level. I started giving up things that feed my soul...

I gave up blogging

I gave up intense study

I gave up going to conferences

I gave up eating well

I gave up exercising

I gave up painting my nails

I gave up shaving both halves of my legs

I gave up having personal goals about ME

Some of these things may seem trivial. Some may seem obvious. I think what I realized was this.... These are some things that are inherent to who I am. There are things that are not just things.

When I cut these things out of my life I quickly started to shrivel. Well, physically I quickly started to expand. Let's keep it real people. Spiritually I started to wither away.

I was taking the gifts God had gifted me with and sticking them on a shelf to gather dust in favor of the urgent.

I truly believed I was doing what was right. I couldn't have been more wrong.

I am learning better now.

This is not a zero sum game. There is not "only so much of me." I am not a pile of lumber to be distributed equally among those I care about.

I am a tree. Or I am meant to be. Not a tree to be used up to uselessness. (if you are confused now please see my previous giving tree post)

NO!!! I am meant to be like a tree planted by the water that bears fruit in due season.

I am meant to love sacrificially in the ways God calls me to love but not to abandon the gifts He has given me.

I struggled with this. Struggled to see what I'd abandoned. Struggled with fierce guilt, believing myself to be a selfish shrew. Struggled with believing it could be different.

There is still a strain... But I think I'm on my way.

As I have begun to embrace prioritizing the things that are fundamental to my well being I have found myself feeling inspired, energized, happy and on my way to healthy.

To my delighted surprise I have had MORE to offer my husband and children.

Sure I was giving them everything I was before but how much does a stump have to offer?

Hugs, Angel


Reba said...

Love this. I read The Giving Tree to my students most years but I admit, I find myself wondering what kind of message I am sending them. Because you are right. We don't need to be a stump. We need to be bearing fruit. The Bible is quite clear about that. Just have to find that balance...

kate templeton said...

Thank you for your post, and honesty. I was encouraged by all you said. I have found myself feeling like a stump recently. It's hard to find a balance between serving and taking time for myself. Thanks for sharing!