I’ve been struggling a lot with myself lately. It’s so easy! I’m such a Gemini that there are almost literally two separate people living inside my head.
At least that’s how it feels sometimes. One of these people is the cheery, friendly, good-hearted me, and the other is this suspicious, bitter, poisonously-angry person that sort of looks like me. Sounds like me too, in fact. A lot.
Since being convinced away from my skepticism, and exploring this whole faith thing, I’ve discovered two things.
1) I’m not sure who I want to be anymore.
2) Holy crap, do I have a lot of baggage!
Let me address these one at a time. Ill start with the second ‘cause it’s easier and less uncomfortable to admit (believe it or not.)
So! Yes! I have baggage! Don’t we all, right? My baggage is very heavily ingrained, reaffirmed by experience after experience, and possibly now a fundamental part of who I am. The shadow permanently engraved on the wall after the nuclear blast, as it were. In any case, this baggage seems like something I can’t get rid of no matter how hard I try. The suspicious, bitter side of me loves to point out that the experiences that created this baggage happened, and the conclusions I drew from those experiences are based on facts. That side also says that making these conclusions a part of who I am may color my decisions and current experiences, yes. . . but it also serves to protect me from repeating those past experiences. In fact, Bitter Me says, a repeat of the pains of my past is inevitable, if history serves to show us anything.
Some of this baggage is small – not really all that heavy – more like a series of circumstances I’ve learned to avoid (such as answering the question “How are you?” with honesty, for example). This stuff is no big deal. If I want to tell someone how I really am, I have friends I can take that shit to, and now I have God (or maybe, more accurately, now I’ve found God), so I don’t need to give that information to just anyone. That’s a small issue.
However, some of my bags are full of bowling balls. As such, they’re hard as hell to move, impossible to lift, and seriously getting in the way of everything I want to do. I don’t know why, but I feel the need to drag all these bowling balls around with me everywhere I go.
Now, you might think, “Put the bags down, dude! You don’t need those bowling balls!” And you’re totes right! I don’t need those bowling balls, except I can’t seem to unclench my fingers from the handle of the bag . . . it’s been a long time, alright? Anyway, putting it down is not as easy as it sounds.
None of this would really matter if what I wanted was to stay the course I’ve been on, comfortably, all these years. This brings me to point 1. (Backwards is fun!) Point 1, being “I don’t know who I want to be anymore”, is very troubling to me. See, when I left church as a young teenager (barely more than a child) I did it because I wasn’t having success making the connection to God that the people around me were making. I’ve mentioned this before.
What I didn’t mention was that the realization that, perhaps, God didn’t want to talk to me, was carried on the shoulders of the fact that I didn’t know who I was. So I did what any self-respecting teenager would do – I went on a binge journey of self-exploration. Like most such journeys, it led me to some really dark corners, but also to some amazingly profound and beautiful realizations. All of this helped to mold me into the person I am today.
If along the way I had to develop a side of myself that was protective of me (often to the point of being mean), I figured that was par for the course. Of course you can’t live in this world and stay soft. Not if you don’t want to be constantly leaking your gross. . . eye. . . water. . . all over everything. Living is kind of like being in a war, and in wars, collateral damage is completely acceptable. Hence, I accepted it.
But these days, things are changing in me. There’s this whole process that’s happening inside of me that is changing who I want to be. But there’s a catch, see. All this baggage I’m carrying has been loaded with the things I’ve needed to get by, for many years. Their contents are directly related to who I am, my opinions, my preferences, and lessons I’ve learned on the way. The person that I’m tentatively starting to want to be (or rather, who the one side of me desperately wants the whole me to become) is in direct opposition to some of the stuff in those bags. Which means, either. . .
A) I can’t be that person I want to be
B) I gotta put the bag down.
The other side of me screams in pain and terrified disbelief at just the thought of that. My protection! My ideals! What will I do without them?
So here I am. One side of me wants desperately to come out of the cocoon I’ve built around myself (mostly by pulling out my own hair and knitting it into this comfy, me-sized bag), and the other side is so mortified of what that will mean for me that it not only refuses to put the bags down, but clings to them like a man dying of starvation might cling to a bag of bread.
What can I do? Well, it’s disgustingly hard, but what I can do is trust God. More than that, I can learn to listen when God speaks to me (directly, or through other people), go where He indicates I should go, and do what He indicates I should do. If, while I’m doing that, I gotta drag around my bag of bowling balls, eventually my arm will get tired enough that I’ll just put them down. Even better, God himself will come by and say, “Brandi, dub tee eff is with the bowling balls? You don’t need those! Let me have them so you can have both your hands back.” When that day comes, not even the other side of me – the part that screams in terror at the idea of being vulnerable – will have anything to say.