me?

Many people know that I fill most of the hours of my day in front of various computers.  As a web guy, I spend a lot of time designing, coding, testing, and (once every scattered guilty moment) browsing.  During much of that time, I am subconsciously aware that this path chose me.  While I can say that I actively sought out my current position, the path that led to it was one architected of primarily passive approaches to life.

I’ve often rationalized that my passivity is born out of a “laid-back” attitude.  Even better, it  is from such an abundance of blessings that the universe routinely had thrown at me that I simply chose a card from my hand and played it.

As every good card player knows, though, there are only so many aces that you can pull.  After that, it’s all about the bluff.

I’ve written about this before.  The notion that I had been relying on a passive existence was first introduced to me by a wonderful therapist in my Asheville days.  It was a milestone moment for me.  I will (quite literally) always cite that day as a moment when my life drastically shifted direction.  There was (and perhaps still is) plenty of ground to recover.

One of the struggles continues to revolve around a sense of security in my self : self-confidence, if I’m honest.  Whether it’s volunteering to sing harmonies in a band (something I’ve been doing practically my entire life) or recovering from the disappointment of being rejected for a new position, my “self” suffers a disproportionately large  and long-lasting blow.

Oddly, it’s neither a matter of a fear of failure nor a fear of embarrassment.

I used to think it was a timidness – a “Who me? Put myself out there and do that? I couldn’t do that?”  but I’m no longer convinced that this goes far enough in describing the situation.

Instead, it feels like I have a need to be pursued.  For some strange reason, I seem to ask people to prove to me that I’m at all important to them.  I don’t know where this comes from.

More importantly, this approach doesn’t seem to make that much sense in my adult life.  I wonder if this comes from my background in church communities where you often had to beg and/or plead with people to get them to volunteer.  Now, of course, this seems dysfunctional.  In a thriving community, people readily, willingly, and confidently step up to fill the needs.  In this scenario, you aren’t defined by a functionality that you can provide but by the leadership that you’re able to show – by the personality that you bring to the table.

My communal past (not just my church community past) more resembles the story line in which my friend only calls when a computer needs fixing.  I get frustrated with these “functional friendships” (as I call them) and yet and I give in and fix the computer.  Without fail.  Every time.

It’s not because I’m being pursued – but it provides the illusion of pursuit.  Instead, what is really happening is that my skills are being pursued, my knowledge, some small, compartmentalized component of myself.  Here, my self is the vehicle that delivers the technical knowledge; my personality and being are simply along for the ride.

Now, as I begin to emerge from my cocoon of self-doubt, I’m learning that pursuit requires reciprocation: I’m only going to take so many steps towards you; if you don’t take a step or two in my direction, I’m assuming that you’re not ready, you want nothing to do with me, or you think I’m a creep.

Therefore, consider this an apology.

(To most of you,) I don’t think you’re creeps – and I want to learn more about you, enjoy dinner with you, and help you fix your computer.  It’s just that I’m so used to living my life in such a way that I waited for people and things to come to me that I’m not used to having to step forward myself in return.  It’s the classic, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

And so, to quote, Stuart Smalley:

I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!

But, does any of that really matter?

11 comments

  1. I totally know where you’re coming from.

    I recognized a while back that my natural tendency is to allow relationships to coast, so to speak. I take what comes to me, but I don’t always reach out to push them along myself. I’ve been working on that for some time, and though I feel like I’ve been doing alright keeping in contact with friends from away through emails and the like, I rarely think to go for coffee with people, or actually connect with those who are near me.

    The absurdity of it all came to a head a few months back: while I had been in Nepal I managed to keep in contact with some friends from St. John’s, but then let things peter out as soon as I returned to the same city as them.

    Perhaps in the coming weeks I’ll make a point to throw extra effort into cultivating those local relationships.

    As always, thanks for the post Des!
    ~Kenmore

    1. Kenmore….. in my situation, I’ve started to come to terms with not having the tools to pursue. It seems to be directly related to the unengaged, passiveness that I’m very aware of. But I’m also learning that these skills aren’t always (perhaps, rarely) God-gifted and so I’m learning and trying and hoping for the best.

      I also know that, far and way, the most rewarding relationships in my life are the ones that I have been in active pursuit of. They are few right now, but they are strong and valuable. And I see the same trajectory in other relationships.

      If I’m honest…. a lot of it is my church history. I’m not quite ready to “expose” that here (not that it’s scandalous) but being involved in a different community for a few years now has allowed me to look back and see the good and the bad from that part of my past.

      And, if I were on the rock, I’d definitely take you out to ask learn about you and drink coffee.

  2. I gotta be honest Des, this one hit a nerve with me tonight. Not sure how much sleep I’m gonna get … but I’m grateful you posted this one none the less. Seriously.

    1. Mark…. sorry to keep you awake 🙂

      I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my relationships, how many of them tend towards superficiaity, etc. It’s good on many levels because of the healing that it brings.

      On the other hand, I’ve had to deal with it – and that gets painful, or fatiguing at the least.

  3. Expertly put. I feel this most of every day as a support guy. Which is, I think, why my other, creative outlets are so important to me. It’s too easy to turn into a robot and must continue to prove to myself that I’m a “real boy.”
    Also, I totally relate to the passivity. My default setting is that no one is interested, so I should keep this brief. And that’s how I handle nearly every conversation. Even though I’m hardly satisfied with the result. I am also trying to change this. This cannot be the Truth, and so it must die.
    Thanks for the post and throwing it to facebook, where I found it.

    1. “This cannot be the Truth and so it must die”

      .
      I love it.

      What you mentioned about conversations – how you approach them…. I often say that I “can’t” make small talk. This is BS. I CAN make small talk – I can make all kinds of talk. I remember having a conversation with a friend recently and being absolutely amazed at how she was able to keep finding things to say about various things she’s been involved in recently. It wasn’t at all a brag session, or anything like that. But, I feel like I’d never be able to do that….

      Maybe I’m doing things that I’m not passionate about and so I’d rather not talk about that stuff…. kind of like not talking about work after hours.

      Maybe I need need to find my passion.

      Maybe I need to stop saying maybe…

  4. Des,

    I appreciate your thoughtful approach to life. I think I have often found myself on auto-pilot as well. I have sort of the opposite problem at times. I am so passionate about my life, that all I talk about is my life. I need to listen more. I miss our chats, but part of that was because you were a good listener. I am sorry if I have not given you opportunities to tell me your story.

    As far as your thoughts on community, I am all ears. One of my current passions is to help develop healthy Christian community wherever God places me. Your insights would be helpful and appreciated.

    If you are ever up this way, the Tim’s is always on…

    1. Thanks Mike. It’s becoming more thoughtful recently.

      Don’t worry – you’re forgiven 🙂 Up until recently (much like Ted in the comment above) I wouldn’t have thought anyone was even interested in hearing my story so I didn’t exactly put it out there. Now, I’m beginning to realize that my story, like everyone’s, is unique and at the same time completely interconnected. There are things I’ve dealt with that I thought were far more rare than they’ve turned out being.

      In terms of community, that’s definitely something that I’m realizing I’m passionate about. I’ve found an absolutely incredible community here in Charlotte that I love. Maybe we can arrange a Google+ hangout sometime (still haven’t tried that, yet :).

      That’s actually not a bad idea…..

      Long story short, everything is filtered through the lens of relationship and intimacy. I love it – we should definitely chat.

  5. Des,
    I remember when I first met you at the “Poverty” bloc that Scott and Kenneth were hosting. I was still fairly new to our community and didn’t know many people. I remember specifically appreciating how you engaged me with questions about what I did and my background. You ARE good at making small talk – I sure felt that you were interested.

    I often wonder what things would seem to “fall into place” if I would get out there and pursue people and sparks of passion more than I do now. I have struggled with the reality that even in christian communities we seem to remain so shallow with the majority of those in our communities. I appreciate what you said because even though I am willing to put myself out there is some limited areas, for the most part I hold back.

    I know you like to read and I am re-reading a book called “Total Church” right now. It is heavy on the idea of what it means to be a Gospel centered community. It’s written by a couple of guys who started some communities in the U.K. and Australia

  6. **sorry – didn’t finish….

    under the name of The Crowded House. You should check out their sites and the book.

    Thanks for your thought provoking words!

  7. Jon….

    Thanks for the kind words. I do remember that bloc and I remember having several conversations with my wife leading up to those get togethers….

    “What should I say?”

    “I’m no good at this.”

    Around that time was probably when I was first starting to come to a lot of the realizations that I talk about here on this blog and that I often will spill my guts about to just about anyone 🙂 I’m definitely (usually 🙂 interested in what people have to say – about their lives.

    Generally, though, I feel that I’ve got nothing to come back with – I’ve got nothing of interest to share….

    Now, I’m learning that that’s not necessarily true as well. I’ve certainly got a lot to write so I should be able to find something of value to say. But that’s why I’ve been “holding back” to this point – I really don’t feel like I’ve got anything of substance to share.

    Thanks for the recommendation for the book as well. I’ll definitely check it out.

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