November 21, 2013

Receiving What God Has Given Me

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INFJ. That means I'm strong but weak. Passionate yet private. Creative yet very sensitive. Altruistic yet often burned out. And I commonly feel like an outsider. Maybe that's because only 1% of the population actually has the ability to understand me. In other words, only 1% of the population are considered to be INFJs. Some of the greatest writers were INFJs like me.

And then there's my greatest weakness. I am without a doubt a crazy perfectionist.

That reminds me. Here's something funny: My perfectionist nature means I aim to perfect just about anything (and typically use lists to ensure that it happens). My perfectionism has led me to read a book on perfectionism so I can better myself, rid myself of my own perfectionism, and perhaps come out perfect on the other side.

To "relax" and leave myself alone just doesn't come naturally to me.

Throughout my reading, I've learned about some of the harsh motives, mindsets, and tendencies that may result in perfectionism. My worst motive to date? Seeking the approval of people.

When Pleasing You Is Killing Me, a workbook that's intended to help me recognize and break unhealthy relationship patterns, develop new attitudes and behaviors, stand up for myself and serve others, and create balance so I can better manage my life.

When anger turns inward. Little did I know that anger (past and present) may be a key to understanding people pleasing. And little did I know that anger can take the form of frustration, annoyance, and resentment. Frustrated? Yes. Annoyed at times? Yes. Resentful? Yes. Angry? Never.

Perhaps I have pent-up anger because of this need that I have to spend more time alone. But what if me not getting enough along time isn't the source of my pent-up anger?
    Do I have unresolved anger? Which begs the question, does any of that anger revolve around dad...and if not...why was I never angry at dad?
      I don't have the answers to these questions, but at least I've recognized a piece of what I've been missing. Unresolved anger, no matter the origin, has made me resentful and irritable in addition to some other not-so-nice things. Unresolved anger has been my barrier to thankfulness.

      I read the following in the Jesus Calling daily devotional this morning: "Remember that all good things - your possessions, your family and friends, your health and abilities, your time - are gifts from Me." A couple sentences later, I also read: "Ask My Spirit to increase your awareness of resentful feelings."

      Since I rarely, if ever, display the signs of anger, I've always considered myself to be someone who does not struggle with anger. My typical response has been something like this: Anger is bad. Anger makes me a bad person. Anger is undesired. Never show signs of anger. But by choosing to never show anger, I am not necessarily ridding myself of that anger. In reality, anger may need to be expressed, whether it's due to some smaller need not being met or some substantial childhood deprivation. After releasing built-up emotion, there is much to be received.

      What happens when I'm not thankful for the good things I have? I don't acknowledge that they've been received!

      Abilities and time stick out to me. I haven't been acknowledging what's been given to me. In other words, I've become stagnant and stingy, not jumping at chances for adventure and incredible opportunity.

      Present day, practical example: Applying for the MFA program at Hamline. Writing. God has given me great ability. Time. I'm still alive aren't I? So why am I sitting around?

      If I take a step back and consider my past, anger, healing, and ungratefulness, the big picture is bigger than I imagined it to be. God is bringing to the surface and resolving some musty, old emotions. In doing so, He is freeing me up to receive.

      In growing, in receiving what's already been given to me, I gain a great deal. I gain a great adventure. I gain what I've been wanting to go after all along.

      "Obviously, I'm not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ's servant" (Galatians 1:10).
      November 04, 2013

      To Rescue A Robin

      by , in
      I write these things as if I were her. I write as if I were that confused child, that child who would hardly recognize "adult" me. I write to express what never was expressed as a child. As a woman, yes I'm doing okay. But sometimes I find that I need to say what I never got to say.

      Here is a piece that I've written that sheds light on a past-related piece of me. I believe that God didn't intend this for me, but He allowed it to happen. This is a result of an unfortunate childhood. And God will ultimately use it for good. 

      To Rescue A Robin

      Fire. That’s what his chest reminds me of.
      Capable of hate. Capable of love?

      Reddish and orange and seemingly warm.
      What power is enclosed in his red little form.

      The area around his heart part is inviting.
      And his songs of affirmation are more than exciting.

      Welcoming and alluring, his chest begs me to lie next to him.
      Be close to his heart and all the love that's within.

      But ice has just as much power to scald.
      I feel that burn when a call isn't called.

      Wait, I feel no heat all nestled up next to him.
      I feel no heat, not even at the sight of him.

      So I long to extract every vice from within.
      Use my warmth to insulate and to warm him.

      But when I come near, he flies away.
      He flies away and never stays.

      Yet he brings much hope.
      When I am in pain, he helps me to cope.

      He understands when it’s time to sing.
      He delivers a glorious song every spring.

      I don’t fear his lovely singing.
      The calls, the tunes, and all the ringing.

      Perhaps a new time has finally come!
      But oh how I fear the song left unsung.

      Each one higher in pitch, three short calls he willingly makes.
      The world and the forest he violently wakes.

      Sometimes he neglects the pauses; he sings endless, glorious waves.
      Our sounds echo; our chests are empty caves.

      If I close my eyes and let his sounds take me,
      I succumb to the dream where heaven awaits me.

      His sounds have wired me to perceive light before me,
      even if shadows are all I can see.

      This morning. Out the window. I hear his voice.
      So I jump out of bed as if I have no other choice.

      I dress quickly. Close my book.
      Not pausing to consider how unsightly I must look.

      I step outside. Allow myself to breathe.
      That’s when I see him, perched among the leaves.

      Parked on a branch continuing to call to me.
      He knew his sounds would somehow summon me.

      Parked on a branch continuing to call to me.
      A woman he continuously calls me to be.

      Sometimes he hops, rather than flies,
      but when he flies, I can see freedom in his eyes.

      He sees me, all of me.
      A woman he calls and begs me to be.

      He takes from me; he always receives.
      And there's no need to question just how much he believes.

      That I am the prettiest girl in the whole wide world.
      That I am his princess, all snuggled up and curled.

      Next to him. I dance.
      He takes off. I watch.

      He is the cause. And I am an effect. He sings. I sing. He swoons,
      sending my heart over the moon.

      No! He spirals and heads straight for the glass.
      He spirals and twirls and lands in the grass.

      No. There's no way I can stop it.
      I’ve only enough awareness to stand by and watch it.

      The thud is piercing and painful in my ears.
      All limp and numb, the embodiment of my fears.

      I look down to the ground and see that brown belly facing up.
      I fold my hands and quickly make a cup.

      What on earth has he done?
      And where is the light? Where is the sun?

      I squat down, not stopping to consider the cracks in my knees.
      I jump up when I see motion; I see that he still breathes.

      I reach for him. I reach out to him, to hear him, to help him.
      Why is the light becoming so dim?

      His beak pierces my hand. A drop of blood falls to the ground.
      Now I know I'm too close. Now he makes not a sound.

      So I reach. I swoop.
      I nurture. I regroup.

      I keep quiet of the things that I've seen.
      I never frown, never slouch. On him I always lean.

      For all that I fear is the song left unsung.
      I no longer fear all the harm that’s been done.

      I stroke him, coax him.
      I sing when he doesn’t seem to listen.

      I smile. I invite him.
      I do all that I can to help him to sing again.

      And when he does, he flies away.
      And I can rest easy for one more day.

      When I look up to the sky, I see him. I see sin.
      He’s perched on the highest branch as if I never saved him.

      There’s so much that I’ve gained, but it’s everything that I’ve lost.
      I wonder if I would've kept quiet if I truly knew the cost?

      I've tried to rescue a robin. I've tried to save a father.
      If I knew he'd never love me, would I have even bothered?

      But that was then. This is now.
      I know I must release him. Some days I'm just not sure how.

      But it looks like I don't have to, for he has flown away.
      Has nothing to sing; he has nothing to say.

      He's gone. He's left. He's never coming back.
      And I'm left here with these memories to forever unpack.

      © Kara Rodriguez
      November 01, 2013


      by , in
      My finger moves up and down the center of my love's chest. My eyes follow the traces.
      I see all my torn up places. And so I distract myself. I excuse myself from connecting to his eyes.

      But my heart isn’t absent of the desire to gaze into them. Rather, it's fear that prevents me from actually seeing him.

      Eventually I succumb. I do all that I can to rid myself of the feeling of numb.
      I allow the magnetic pull to draw my forehead closer to his.

      I lift my lids.

      I wince as I would at the sight of the sun because his eyes remind me of what can't be undone.


      His eyes are so familiar. When we finally lock, I see more than I’d hoped for.
      Like my own and my father’s, his eyes I adore.

      They are dark and brown and soft yet serious. For a moment, they are my father's distant eyes proclaiming mounds of endless lies.

      And they mirror back to me.

      These windows tell me who I am. They scream to me where I’ve been.

      His eyes.

      Like a fake form of nostalgia, I somehow long for a better time. I long for the love that was never there. A better time of the past that never existed. I've wanted love,
      but it seems that somehow I've missed it.

      When I finally come to, his eyes help me to realize. I now understand what’s never before been understood. Perhaps what was numb can someday be undone.

      Never have I believed the words, "I love you." So I sigh and I cry. I cry and I sigh.

      I do my best to cup my hands around what cannot be seen. I attempt to hold onto this newly acknowledged dream.

      Tears well up.

      "You really love me?" I say.

      "Yes!" He assures me. "I loved you then. And I still love you today."

      It's funny what our pasts can do to us. This happened. And on that day I believed him.
      Other days I'm not so lucky.

      Some effects of sexual abuse are obvious. Like the loss of security and the perceived loss of beauty. And fear and pain and numbing are all expected. But other consequences aren't and even when they are, they often go undetected.

      Why have a failed to believe that I am loved?

      Love is gift that cannot be earned. And conditional love isn't really love at all.

      The idea that I cannot earn a husband's love is so very foreign to me. Through soul-searching, researching, and counseling, I know I've developed some sort of complex that revolves around elements of perfectionism and people pleasing. Over the years, love has become a prize, a hopeless and wicked need.

      "Over time, patterns develop in our relationships where we subconsciously feed on one another as we make our decisions or as we allow relationships to unfold. You're not openly thinking about it, but quietly the need to feel connected or approved can cause you to take on a reactor's approach to life. You do what you do in order to impress or gain the approval of someone who has taken on a significant role to you in that moment," says the author of When Pleasing You Is Killing Me.

      A keeper.

      Someone who conceals the family caveat, someone who cradles someone's catch. She is someone who lies for the sake of love. She safeguards a secret. Oh how she’s a keeper, for how safely she guards it.

      She’s a keeper to the one she saves by safeguarding his secret. She is rather precious. Yet when she releases that secret, she is no longer a keeper. In that moment, she instead becomes a seeker. She searches for another to save. She'll do anything for love even if it leads her to her grave.  

      I was his keeper until he needed me no longer. I bore a certain burden that seemingly saved him...

      ...seemingly saved me. Mommy loves daddy. And daddy loves mommy. This was everything that I ever dreamed. But of course, everything was much different than it had seemed.

      Was it his fault or mine...for I elected me as keeper. I was not chosen. I volunteered. Accepted, admired, adored.

      I willingly sought to serve as my father’s keeper all for the sole reason of wanting to be kept. And when those things didn't come, oh how I wept.

      He was supposed to die last night. I learned this and much more from the echoes of that trembling phone. No air. No light. Yet somehow he lives.

      “Ma’am, his lungs collapsed. No one expected him to…make it. He’s breathing but barely,” said the woman on the phone who should've been me.

      I said nothing. But my silence spoke for me.

      “Ma’am, you don’t have much time.” Click. An eerie hum. And that was it.

      Of course I’ve no time. I’ve never had much. I’ve always known this: Each of his breaths strip away the seconds. I’m reminded of the nature of time and how it’s always working against me.

      This notion of a deathbed sends screams of only one shot. I’ve only one more, a single opportunity to create a new snapshot. I will try. I will save. I will…wake up. And I do. Twas all but a dream.

      Perhaps a symbol of the things to come. Perhaps a pointing to my former "failure" that cannot be undone. In telling his secret, I opted not to be his keeper.

      I would no longer feed the façade of a lie so much deeper than a shy little girl who hoped to appease her peeper.

      I was not shy. No, no. I was someone’s loyal keeper.

      Drinking, sinking, straining to breath, yet alcohol’s not my real drug, my ecstasy. My self-proposed prescription contains perfection, performance, and putting others above me.

      Only not for their good. I do these things with the hope of being set free. Never to give, only to take. Acceptance, approval, and no longer need to fake it.

      Like a military child, I’m used to a commander. Only difference is my drill sergeant is me.

      And so I've finally realized that this isn’t about OCD lists left un-ticked. It’s about the constant striving to be someone’s—anyone’s—keeper. It’s about wanting to be fixed, needing to be picked.

      Organizing outside because I can’t seem to rearrange inside. Wanting to be kept. Needing to have love. Wanting to be swept...

      © Kara Rodriguez