Then, in the course of our discussion, I said something to the effect of: "I've lived with so many host families that I just gave up trying to do things my way. I learned to do things their way." I shocked myself when I said that. It's not that I'm angry at my host families - not at all! They've greatly blessed me and I am so thankful for their sacrifices and love for me. It's just that I realized how much I adapt to other's schedules and patterns, whether that be in a foreign household, a college dormitory, or a group house. I give up a great deal of ground to others in order to maintain peace and quiet. I don't even consider it my own ground. I consider it ... theirs. Is that because I have low self esteem? No, I think it's something else. I think it's actually a form of shielding. Shielding from what? From the disruption of peace and quiet.
I habitually give up ground in order to approach roommates on a field of their choosing. I do it by matching my mood to theirs, arranging items in accordance with their preferences, avoiding certain spots at certain times, etc. What would happen if I refused to bend myself in order to please them? I risk stirring up their emotions. That might not seem like much...but for me it's huge. I feel a lot of pain when others are angry. I feel like my stomach is churning itself inside out when others are tearful. I get all worked up and achy just by listening to my roommates vent about minor issues. Unkindness strikes me as if I had not eaten for three days. I think I'm hyper-sensitive. And perhaps I've developed a pattern of passivity in order to protect myself from the hurt that comes from other's strong emotions. I hide in so many layers of submission and compliance that I get lost. The words of the doctor's report came back to me: "She tries not to upset other people and hopes they do the same for her."
This topic has come up before in this post about flexibility and conflict. Now, I'm curious to consider whether this passivity is worthwhile or whether it would be worth it to endure some pain in order to take back some of the high ground. Or, is it good to be sacrificial, but only in an attitude of love for others rather than myself? Hmm, I think there's a lot for me to learn about myself here! Where am I? And what would I want if I could tune the environment to my frequency? How can I maintain my pitch in the presence of others without running for my shell?
Now, familiar book and movie characters can't catch me off guard by snapping at me or hurting my feelings. They just are as they are. They don't change if I reread the book or rewind the video. I spend a lot of time with them and get to know them very well. Once I know them, I can step into their world, melting into their unique culture while at the same time remaining safely comfortable in my/their shoes. I can see through their eyes, cautiously explore their pain, and enjoy their happiness. It seems that with every passing interest, I find someone to latch onto and live through: Magellan, Frodo, Mr. Fleet, Paul Atreides, General Armistead, Pavel Antipov, Yoshida Shoin, Minamoto no Hiromasa, General Pettigrew, Rene Belloq, etc. They are my eyes - a safe vantage point. They are my heart - feeling what is not safe for me to reach out and encounter in the real world. But where am I? Am I a fleeting shadow between lenses, a flickering light off facets - or does this soul have some form of itself? It must. But is it afraid to show itself? Does it know how to express itself? As Rudy Simone wrote on page 65 of Aspergirls: "If our sense of who we are changes with our interest, maybe being a chameleon is our nature. I do believe that we each have core identities which will run throughout our lives, no matter what externals change. Each woman I interviewed for this book had a distinct voice and character and it was easy for me to see that they had strong personalities even if they can't see that themselves all the time." I want to get to know that person - me! - and expend the energies of that person in the service of the Lord with much joy, peace, and art.