Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Elusive Comfy Chair of Community

I swear to you I was built with some sort of vigilant reset button.

Or maybe it was installed without my knowledge at some point in my early adult life. I have no clue, but it’s definitely there. An internal ticking, ticking, ticking that signals a hard shift in location or situation or people and all that goes along with it.

I lived the vast majority of my adolescent life in one small town in rural Arkansas. My parents built our house before I was two. I started kindergarten with most of the same people I walked the high school graduation stage with. (Technically it was a graduation gym floor, but whatever.) My friends had always been my friends as far as I knew, so I never developed any get-to-know-you skills, because I didn’t really need them. The folks I knew and loved had always known and loved me (except for the ones who decidedly did NOT, and probably for good reason), so I never recognized the need for “building” community. My community came prepackaged with my life, already built, installation included, no work on my part really.

But ever since I cut the hometown strings and got married mid-college, the dial has been set to reboot life in a major way every five to seven years. Like unwanted clockwork. The husband and I certainly didn’t plan it that way. Coincidentally, I have found during my adult life that it takes this INFJ / hyper-4 on the Enneagram approximately five to seven years to really feel at home with a new batch of folks, to lower the gates and let them in, to feel part of a people group rather than just an add-on.

Five to seven years every time. It’s not intentional, and it’s a little ridiculous, I know, but I’ve found it just can’t be forced for some reason no matter how hard I try.  So, if you’re doing the math, you’ll see that, mathematically speaking, that sucks. The routine has held that just when I finally manage to settle into the comfy chair of community, that chair is up-ended and I’m left on the floor scrambling to pick up my toys and head to the next living room to start all over. Awkwardly. Hesitantly. More cynical and exhausted with each reset.

This is truly self-indulgent here, I know. Sorry about that. I mean, some unique individuals thrive on constantly engaging new people and moving around a bunch. I do not understand those individuals. At all.

I’m not sure if it’s the introvert-iness or my increasingly cynical attitude or just that I’m getting older and more tired and frankly more worn out on humans in general. That can’t be healthy. And there’s lots of unhealthiness to go around, y’all. I find myself unjustifiably angry with and jealous of people who make pals quickly or people who enjoy lots of encouraging time in like-minded creative communities or folks who get to stay in one place long enough to make “framily” with those around them, those who have a tribe. I hate that I’m so slow, often too slow, to settle right in and enjoy the short spaces I’m given. Especially because, no matter where our crew has been called through the years, there are always really nice God-aligned people waiting there who are willing to reach out and try.

But seriously, it’s just so tiring.

Because it means recounting again and again to every new person all – the – things:  what my passions are, what I “do” (I never quite know how to explain that), my kids’ names and grades and interests, my past wounds (yeah, those are super fun to relive again and again), my hopes, my quirks, my dreams, my stupid need to feel like someone worth knowing. Over and over and over, because that’s how grown-ups make friends when they reset every half-decade. The beauty of solid, long-term community is that you can step off the stage and just BE. That would be so sweet. It would also be so much easier if I could just hand new acquaintances a thumb drive with my pertinent life info and say, “Just check it out when you have time, and let me know if you’re interested.” Break the wrist – walk away.

Pilgrims are travelers, and I would say I have often felt a bit like a pilgrim much of my adult life, but I don’t know if it’s in the way Scripture means. Probably not quite, but I am definitely getting a little tired of tent-dwelling. No, I’m really tired of it. And yet I know it will probably happen again. I’m old enough now that I sometimes get stuck in the distance, bracing for the next upending. Maybe it’s just easier to never sit in the comfy chair at all. Perhaps a lightly padded stool or the saggy ottoman in the corner or maybe I’ll just keep standing, wound tight and waiting for the tick, tick, tick and turn.

Lord, I’m a mess, but You know that.

I pray for settling in whatever God puts before me, the stay or the go. We don’t all get to stay all the time. So, I'll just write it out. All the things that are overly dramatic and confusing. And so very unresolved -- Life experiences often don’t end on the ONE.

But what I do believe and know for certain is that God is sovereign and always, always good.

And on that note, here’s a poem, which started as a song that never quite came together, about the whole messy mess.

Thanks for indulging me.

Roots and Release

Every half dozen years or so
I notice myself intuitively starting to withdraw
From commitments
From relationships
From even righteous routines
A heart-level rudimentary release of sorts

For some heaven ordained reason, that’s just been the cycle of 
My adult life so far
A change in geography
A change in occupation
A change in the frail, fabled fabric of me
I try to take note when that wind blows, to attempt to stop it short but

Some sort of hard-wired, subconscious siren chimes and 
The reinvention automatically begins
A hard left
A hard lot
A hard to pill to choke down
When life already has you by the throat

I’ve decided it must be a defense mechanism
Maybe not

But believe me when I say I hate it so much --
This transitory, surface living—
Because what I most fiercely want
Is to be finally caught
All tangled tightly in some
Thoroughly intertwined
Earth-into-Eternity kind of permanent

And those roots, in the interest of a great love, will refuse to release