Tag Archives: introverts

Getting What You Really Want this Christmas

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best….

– Philippians 1:9-10a

What if I promised this short message would absolutely deliver what you really want this Christmas?

Do you know what you really want?

IMG_4721We all have to ask. Because so often we don’t know until we get quiet and can listen to our deeper hearts.

And doing that absolutely requires closing our eyes to all that’s constantly drawing our attention away.

But once you’ve blocked out the myriad distractions, then you can reopen your eyes and see better what you really want.

This is the only way to ensure you get what you really want. Honestly, I know this, but I still forget it all the time.

Charlotte comes home from a class Christmas party. She shows me the gingerbread house she made and tells me the kindergartener brother of her friend wouldn’t stop teasing and play-attacking the girls the entire time. And Charlotte’s anxiety over being picked out to receive “fake” kicks and punches in the face has kept her from doing much decorating. Somehow, being harassed and chased with makeshift weapons sort of does that to her.

I, of course, immediately want to call the parents and demand an explanation for this cretinous spawn of hell who’s obviously going completely neglected as the youngest of 3–and of course, this is also the family who’s in the midst of adopting 3 more from some African country they heard about through their church. I want to tell them what I frequently want to tell parents adopting more kids: When you show us you can handle the ones you have, your village will vote on whether you can have more. Until then, we have a responsibility to society to oppose your negligence and stop the carnage.

DSC_0132I’m kidding, but it can almost feel that bad. I don’t dislike these parents or not see how hard their life is or what motivates them to endure the chaos and even embrace it. They’re saints. But for me, it’s a matter of survival to escape their mayhem and live to decorate another day. I’m just one whose battery wears out faster than most.

Of course, the message in church today (second Sunday of Advent) was all about this need to escape. Or was it just how I heard it? But instead of the usual conviction for being me (probably 89% of the time), this time the message felt affirming. Don’t you love when that happens? Pastor Jim spoke on “Heading Toward Christmas by Another Way,” preparing, and making room in our hearts by doing what John the Baptist said and did–namely, getting away from people to eliminate distractions. And he equated this letting go, this getting away from all else as “making room” for Christ, i.e. getting right for him, i.e. repenting.

I know–I thought repenting was kind of an “I’m all wrong” kind of thing. But this kind, in the context of silence, recharging in the desert like the prophet, it finally made sense:

Repentance is not about admitting you’re all wrong. Repentance is all about admitting your need to let go, to make a space, to make room for God.

DSC_0045And this is true for innies and extras and fighters and peacekeepers–it’s only in that freedom from familiarity of outside influences that we human beings can get truly unburdened.

I love this idea, I thought. Maybe I’m not so deficient after all!

I suppose I can get so used to feeling weak, as I heard someone call it, “constantly feeling like a broken extrovert.” But what if I’m actually uniquely gifted with an internal desire to not only get away frequently, but to be only influenced, recharged and changed by God. Alone?

DSC_0044This was a radically different view of repentance for me. It’s still about getting right with God and denouncing the things that are opposed to him. But if we really know what our hearts want, we feel some of this desire. That longing for such a solitary unifying experience with God is endemic to the human heart, these hearts made to love their Maker, who long to wake up and feel his radiant smile of pride shining down on them, who long to please him and finally get free of all that holds them back from full union.

This desire for such full repentance is the oppositional way that may actually be a deeper desire all his followers share.

To be changed, reformed by that singular relationship alone. To be further up and further in… To be free, in the end, of all other relationships–people, places, things, ideas and all other encumbrances–and belong to him only…

Isn’t this the only way we might love more fully? And how love might “abound in more and more knowledge and depth of insight?”

DSC_0045So what if it’s only from this place of purity that we might once again come back, open our eyes, and see how to return to the crowded, needy world with that real love and fire to share? Filled by that primary relationship, we’d be made something new, changed and truly reformed.

Isn’t that what you want above all this Christmas–the peace and reassurance of knowing that love, knowing we’re always safe, held and known in it? Isn’t it what we all want deep down?

And what if we can only get there if we’re willing to head a different direction than the comfort we’re commonly told we need to ensure?

What if getting what we really want this Christmas is a different way than the usual direction we take to prepare for our perfect celebration?

What if the way to that perfect gift is only by letting go of all else to make room in our hearts for him?

Repent. Make room. And receive your greatest gift this Christmas.

Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, make his paths straight!'”

Matthew 3:1-3

For the higher purpose, this season and throughout the coming year,

Mick

The Former Life I Once Loved

“The exaggerated dopamine sensitivity of the introvert leads one to believe that when in public, introverts, regardless of its validity, often feel to be the center of (unwanted) attention hence rarely craving attention. Extroverts, on the other hand, seem to never get enough attention. So on the flip side it seems as though the introvert is in a sense very external and the extrovert is in a sense very internal – the introvert constantly feels too much ‘outerness’ while the extrovert doesn’t feel enough ‘outerness’.”
Criss Jami, Killosophy

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about getting older, it’s that when it comes to experiencing what’s truly important in life, there are some major disadvantages to being an introverted adult.

Most frighteningly of all, I’m losing my sensitivity to life. It’s definitely not abnormal, but the tenderness and openness that used to define me–I feel I desperately need it for my writing, and I believe, for my spiritual development.

So how can I return to the child I once was?

How do I return to innocence?

IMG_5469This Memorial Day I need to remember this former land in me that’s in danger of being lost. For the freedom bought for me, undeserved, I feel I owe it to them–to my grandfathers–to fight for that freedom to receive life so freely once again.

Yet returning to who that boy was brings back so many mysteries. Even my own self, I don’t yet understand….

***

There once was a boy who lived in a secret world so powerfully present but no one else could see it. He heard a sort of music there, made invisible friends and was dazzled by their slow-motion swirls, dancing their incredible colors and blending with the tinkling bells and xylophones like a calliope at a merry-go-round.

One day he realized the real world created this inner one by its smells, stimulating and strange, noxious and complex. Literally thousands and each so different, he never forgot one and each could remind him of any time and place in his life thereafter.  And the images and unnatural things only he knew.

Inviting or forbidding, life was what his nose told him it was.

IMG_5472So intense, but also so intriguing. He often longed for escape, but it was impossible, he knew. No one explained or helped him understand why it was like this, and as he grew, so many piercing memories, even the good ones, became too much to bear.

Too intense, his senses often overwhelming his sense. Continually forced to receive all he didn’t want in him. Until he learned a trick to keep them out.

Stay closed off.

Now no longer they’d come and he’d be affected. He could refuse to receive them and learn to manage life from a distance, behind glass.

He remembered one night around nine-years-old he’d developed a fever and the heat in his body and brain went from bad to worse. He watched animal-shaped puffy balls bounce and stretch and become fused with his image of orange demons in the hellish heat, expanding and overtaking everything around it.

IMG_5447In the pitch dark, he didn’t know if he’d died but he figured not since he still hurt. And the sounds, colors and smells grew stronger but he’d grown much smaller and out of reach of anyone’s touch. He’d become so afraid, it was a place beyond natural fear, beyond natural pain, where black and bleak become a comfort, a malicious lullaby.

From then on, by night, the memories became stronger, more insistent–the images louder, the smells more overpowering, sharp warnings and sour terrors. But still it was never spoken of. The silent war raged inside him.

In the constant bombardment, he’d learned his survival technique. Resisting and closing out much of the world, he limited his experience, straight-arming the sense-saturated real world that was too much, too loud, too full.

Unable to receive it all, he learned to fight and get by with little. Unusual and new sensory experiences still continued, of course. But this defensive posture would eventually isolate him from his life.

***

When we realize we’ve been shut out of the life we long for, how do we become receptive to it again?

Who are the best models who receive life well? Children?

To hold out my arms again, return to receiving life as a child before going numb, before erecting these strong barriers…

DSC_0015I need a perspective adjustment.

There’s a trick I learned to overcome stage fright — maybe it can work here. The idea was to see the inner life as a flowing river. And you’re the solid rock of the riverbed. The water moves and flows over but you’re stable. Any thoughts or anxieties are temporary. You feel them but the water carries them away and you can remain unchanged.

You don’t have to let powerful influences overwhelm you.

You can just enjoy the water.

Certainly that’s easier said than done. But as an adult, aren’t we more capable of exerting control over our interior lives now? Can we practice this? Surely this is an advantage to being older.

And maybe with time, this new perspective of being safe and letting life come, the new experiences won’t cause such fear. Even the “bad” that happens could somehow be necessary for life….

If you’ve felt disconnected or overwhelmed by life, I hope you’ll take time to relax, enjoy the freedom won for us and receive life as it comes today. Be the stable bed and let the river flow.

Maybe this is how you’ll return to the life you once loved.

“Highly sensitive people are too often perceived as weaklings or damaged goods. To feel intensely is not a symptom of weakness, it is the trademark of the truly alive and compassionate. It is not the empath who is broken, it is society that has become dysfunctional and emotionally disabled. There is no shame in expressing your authentic feelings. Those who are at times described as being a ‘hot mess’ or having ‘too many issues’ are the very fabric of what keeps the dream alive for a more caring, humane world. Never be ashamed to let your tears shine a light in this world.”
Anthon St. Maarten

Mick