Let’s call her Mrs. Jones, just in case she reads this blog.
She colored my life early on. Her role in my universe was to know everyone’s emotions. If Jimmy Smith was going to his first day of kindergarten, Mrs. Jones “knew” exactly how traumatic this was for Mrs. Smith, and she coached us all on how to wisely and skillfully sympathize with Mrs. Smith in her deep pain, if we should happen to see her.
As a matter of fact, Mrs. Smith joyfully dropped Jimmy off at the school steps and raced off to the beauty salon to have a facial, hair cut, perm, nails and a pedicure done – without once hearing the word, “Moooooooommy!”
It did not matter how often Mrs. Jones was wrong about what other people were feeling. And it certainly did not matter how much data you brought to the table about how other people were REALLY feeling. She “knew” that this is what they were feeling inside, and even if Mrs. Smith appeared to be having a blast making herself feel beautiful during four uninterrupted hours without having to be a mommy, Mrs. Jones was absolutely sure that “inside” she was hurting badly over the separation from her little kid. She just wasn’t as in touch with her feelings as the all-knowing Mrs. Jones was.
The really ugly part of it all, was that Mrs. Jones knew every emotion I had, why I had them and how long I had them – even when I didn’t have any of those emotions.
She was the community psycho-analyst and there was the occasional secret discussion about whether she was psycho or would drive us psycho with her unrelenting analysis.
Tragically, when I left Brazil, Mrs. Jones got cloned and has turned up with disgusting regularity through the decades of my variegated walk.
I never found any grace for Mrs. Jones and her despicable clones. They all just rubbed me deeply. I developed a fairly simple process of editing them out of my environment as efficaciously as possible.
As I pondered the discoveries from the last blog on disappointment, I realized that the lack of permission to be on the journey I am actually on, is really one of the deepest, most pervasive sore spots in my life. Mrs. Jones was the arbiter of legitimate emotions and mine weren’t.
I am certifiably weird.
I feel things differently than most people do. My emotions about our presidential election, the Chicago Cubs, Aleppo, BLM, Kaepernick, traffic, poor service at a restaurant, comics or LAC are probably going to be different from your emotions about the same things.
And that creates reaction. Community is broadly about shared values, and I am almost always the odd man out, seeing life from a different perspective than most.
Historically, Mrs. Jones and her ilk have worked hard to make me feel condemned and corrupted for feeling what I feel. In the last ten years, her work has been embraced by the whole PC culture that joyously bludgeons free speech into oblivion in the name of caring – for someone else!
If I were to live tweet the last presidential debate . . . well, let’s not even go there.
So . . . I learned to edit myself. Savagely. What I feel inside, is broadly kept to myself. Because being me, is altogether too often not embraced by the general public. They like the edited version of me, if they like me at all.
During the last two weeks of relentless external activity, I have pondered that a lot. I am hugely in touch with how I feel. I feel deeply about a whole lot of things. But, over the last two weeks, I was my usual outward self, syncing broadly to the people around me. The dual self operated flawlessly. And a lot of people expressed pleasure in the edited self they met.
So what to do?
Being a dual person seems highly inauthentic. Not one of my goals in life.
On the flip side, working in personal ministry requires massive control of emotions. The person on the other end unleashes their claws and projects their anger from a previous person onto me. After a harsh attack rant, I calmly respond with something designed to de-escalate the situation, rather than expressing my actual feelings about the personal assault.
I ponder Christ and the fact that He had exactly the same problem. His mom played Mrs. Jones at least twice. And His disciples simply could not track with His emotions on an ordinary day, much less when highly complex dynamics were going down. So, Jesus did what I did — no wait. Never! Ouch. Freudian slip. Let’s have a redo to this train of thought.
So I do what Jesus did and maintain an edited persona in public, while pouring out my real feelings to Father, in private.
The logic is impeccable, but there was no release from the tension.
As I chewed on it for a few more days (and nights) I realized one variable. When people ask me directly what I think about something or another, it is usually safe for me to respond. My answers are often miles away from where they thought I would be, but are generally received without push back.
Or to put it another way, Mrs. Jones does not ask what I feel. When someone DOES ask about my emotional perspective of a situation, they are not carrying the Mrs. Jones virus.
I was quite surprised by the flood of warm feelings as I landed there. I scrolled back through a lot of good memories of discussions that were deep and bilateral, because occasionally someone really DID want to know how I felt about something, and the fact that I was far from where they were, or where they thought I was, actually produced a scintillating conversation, devoid of wounds.
So I did some math.
Mrs. Jones + clones. One quarter of one percent of my annual exposure to bipeds.
Ministry sessions requiring an impassive presentation. Three quarters of one percent.
Self-absorbed people, busy with life, never wondering what I feel, and never hurting me. 94 percent.
Wonderful human beings, endowed with wisdom and perspicuity who take the time to honestly feel me out and who grant me full permission to feel what I actually do feel, whether they agree or not. Five percent.
Sooooooooooo . . . why does Mrs. Jones exert such ginormous influence over my daily life when she represents such a tiny presence in my life?
Our neuroplasticity is very high in early childhood. My run ins with Mrs. Jones were traumatic and overpowering. My inept soul built some huge neurological pathways to some very unhelpful wrong responses. And her pesky clones re-vaccinated me every once in a while, to keep those pathways well maintained.
The reality is, I have a huge set of tools for dealing with this nonsense. I just hadn’t seen the nonsense that needed to be dealt with.
I can take the tools from the PTSD album and disconnect from the original incident with Mrs. Jones (which I remember with scary clarity after 58 years – which says something about unfinished business right there). Then I can very intentionally build some impressive new pathways to the joy and pleasure centers of my brain, using the tools from that album.
At the end of the day, the odds of my interfacing with someone who is interested in how I really feel are vastly greater than the odds of my meeting Mrs. Jones. And with six months of diligent work, I can bring my pesky brain into alignment with current reality – not childhood.
Inner healing from the spirit of abandonment can only get you up to zero. It takes active growth to develop a huge belief and a reality of inclusive community.
I can get there.
Copyright September 2016 by Arthur Burk
From the Hub, early morning.