12.13.2011

closeted

There are days when I crawl into a dark closet, close the door, and doubt the realities of my experience.

When I am there I ask myself if this recently-endowed nickname, Funlaina, is an ironic jab at my pain-in-the-assness. I don't find myself to be a very fun person very often. I am mostly mourning and lamenting underneath my pink fleshy walls, I think that surely everyone can see that.

When I am in that dark place, I wonder if everyone sees me as jerk: willing to confront every issue, arrogant in my abilities to do something about it, and fully incapable of actually seeing the real people who live in this thing I've made an issue. Or I wonder if everyone has found me out: that I am a immature, goofy youth minister posing as a serious graduate student, that I will laugh at fart jokes and I will pretend to know something about Karl Barth if you ask me.

I wonder if my activist-friends have figured out that the only thing I know how to do is print nametags and order food and that I don't know anything about community organizing except that I read a biography about Ella Baker and think she was amazing. I wonder if my roommates will know how deeply insecure I am that I have imposed my student-hood on them, eating the food they make for dinner without cleaning up and asking for rides to school on a weekly basis. I wonder if my friends in other places are sick of never hearing from me and have decided that I don't love them anymore. I wonder if my friends in town feel like I've abandoned them when they need me for an inconsequential paper. I wonder if my family thinks that I am the black sheep that has wandered away from them in pursuit of a ridiculous dream.

I don't go to this place often. It isn't pleasant, but it exists. I can't assume that it is the sort of place that exists underneath everyone's fleshy walls, but I have a sense that it is within some of us. We don't talk about it because it makes us seem weak and fragile and exposes us to the wolves. Nevertheless, when I go there, I have to talk myself out of it: slowly, gingerly, carefully, with tea, long runs, repetitive readings of Psalm 147, and tears. There are always tears.

When I talk to my friends and my colleagues and my family about this place, the initial reaction is something like, "Hush now, little baby, don't say a word." Then on occasion, there is admission of mutuality, that this place is a shared space, a community center where everyone is hoveled into tiny closests, hiding behind the old smelly and abandoned coats.

When someone tells me that they've been there, that they know exactly the smell and the coats and the thoughts that I am talking about, when they nod and breathe deeply and give me a hug, the door of the closet cracks open. Ever so slightly.

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This post was crafted alongside my synchroblogging friends on the topic of "Community." Their words pushed me to share my own. May they do likewise for you.

4 comments:

Cherie said...

Alaina, I don't know all about your friends-I can't keep up with them all, but I know about family and you are an integral part of mine. Do we get aggravated at you because you are always so busy? Sometimes, for a minute, and then I know that that is just a part of the unique person you are and are becoming. Sometimes we don't quite understand, but it doesn't matter because it's Alaina and I couldn't love you more. You are not the black sheep or living in an unrealistic world. You are doing what I never had the courage or awareness to do-to follow what you are passionate about, even if it is scary sometimes. What I do know is about the closet and the tears, for I have spent many,many days in there. It's okay to go in there for a day. You a human being with feelings. I am glad that you know about the closet and especially glad you know how to emerge from it. You are sensitive to others and can see the world through their eyes. It may sometimes be a burden that is difficult to carry, but it a rare gift that draws people to you. I realized long ago that you may be my daughter, but did not belong solely to me. I have to share you with all those who have been touched by you and it is a blessing to be able to do that. Mom

Magic John said...

Yeah, I know that closet all too well. It smells awful in there, and the dust and stale cotton get in your nose and lungs. You really can't spend too long in there or you'll die of asphyxia.

The sad (and liberating) truth is that most people don't hold you to the high-high standards you hold yourself to. We are OK with the Alaina who can't save the world in one swoop. We don't poke holes in you or look for your flaws. Your real friends see you for who you are and sometimes that means seeing you in and coaxing you out of that closet!

nate said...

CS Lewis has a line about friendship being born when one person says to another, "Oh? You too?"

It's very likely that I'm butchering the quotation, but it's good to return to your blog after too much time away and hear the words of this post, for as I've read this I've been saying inwardly, "Oh! Me too."

I call that place "my cave". I like to go there and retreat. It's often fun to be alone and busy with my thoughts and activity. It's often dark. While I enjoy the opportunity to shine light on the dark corners and expose them to the light, I don't often like what I find. Sometimes I don't know how to find way to the entrance. Coming back out to the daylight hurts my eyes.

Caves and closets.

Being who God created us to be, and resting in our identity as beloved sons and daughters, is an identity and a rhythm that easily gets lost. Busyness and community and lots of vocations only makes that fuzzier. On a good day, when I connect to the reality that Jesus went into the cave (closet) for me, to be near me, and so that I wouldn't have to stay there. It helps.

nate said...

CS Lewis has a line about friendship being born when one person says to another, "Oh? You too?"

It's very likely that I'm butchering the quotation, but it's good to return to your blog after too much time away and hear the words of this post, for as I've read this I've been saying inwardly, "Oh! Me too."

I call that place "my cave". I like to go there and retreat. It's often fun to be alone and busy with my thoughts and activity. It's often dark. While I enjoy the opportunity to shine light on the dark corners and expose them to the light, I don't often like what I find. Sometimes I don't know how to find way to the entrance. Coming back out to the daylight hurts my eyes.

Caves and closets.

Being who God created us to be, and resting in our identity as beloved sons and daughters, is an identity and a rhythm that easily gets lost. Busyness and community and lots of vocations only makes that fuzzier. On a good day, when I connect to the reality that Jesus went into the cave (closet) for me, to be near me, and so that I wouldn't have to stay there. It helps.