Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pollyanna I'm Not

{Cupcake and toddling cousin helping one another out on a Thanksgiving hike.}

The best way to get your eyes off yourself is to put them on someone else. That's the sort of Pollyanna-esque stuff my mom used to tell me regularly. As a moody and narcissistic teenager, I was hardly appreciative.

I am well-intentioned at kindness but have come to the painful conclusion that I'm short on follow-through. It does not come naturally for me to just pick up the phone and find out how you're doing. I want to be that person but the older I get, the less I enjoy talking on the phone. Apparently, I've become a word-hoarder.

Come dinnertime, one of my kids is likely to ask me a question, only to be met with a blank stare. I think to myself, It's 5:00 and I've simply run out of words. As Emily said in one of my favorite posts of hers, The pressures of motherhood smoked the introvert right out of me. I wanted to shout hallelujah, relieved to know I wasn't the only former social butterfly who longed to retreat back into the chrysalis.

I'm not a complete Scrooge. Sometimes I do call, take over a meal, write a note, or send an e-mail. I care about people, just not enough to care about myself less. I am stingy with my time and energy and while I wear many hats, Mother Theresa's is not one of them.

Is it painful to admit the ugly truth about myself? Terribly. But it's also freeing. And if you know anything about 12-steps, admitting you have a problem is the first.

I've long wondered how my heart can beat as that of a humanitarian but my actions fall startlingly short. I cry when I watch the news, I want to go on every relief trip I hear about, I long for a time when I can volunteer for great causes. I rationalize that this season of my life doesn't allow for grand acts of service...but it feels like an excuse.

Over the summer I began praying a simple prayer that God would use me in the lives of others. I know my first line of charity is my family but I longed for more. Be careful what you pray. Sometimes our prayers may be answered long after we quit praying them.

I won't go into any specifics. Even if I did, you wouldn't be impressed. I haven't adopted a child or saved a village or halted abuse. There have simply been moments here and there when I've stepped out of my comfort zone to do something seemingly inconsequential and God has seen fit to bless it. My default setting is still to not pick up the phone or initiate, to let someone else fill a need that I don't have the energy or confidence to fill.

But I finally get what my mom was talking about all those years ago. Most days I'm tired and overwhelmed by the day-to-day, prone to be depressive and insular, protective of the wee bit of "me" time I'm allowed. Yes, I care for children all day long yet my own selfishness continuously taints my service even to them. Thankfully, in the rare moments that these eyes shift to the needs and concerns of those beyond my walls, the personal mountain of worries seems negligible. Perspective returns. I am blessed.

So mom, you were right. I'm just a little slow to learn.


  1. What a great post... I can totally relate.

  2. Amazing! After all these years, I must still speak and internalize that old message myself. In the midst of feeling a bit (actually, a lot)of let-down after such a great family-together time (and knowing that this isn't the year for the same at Christmas), I knew what I needed (and didn't want) . . . and God provided the opportunity. I have found myself walking in the "lift" of seizing that opportunity earlier this week. I fear that the "compassion-deficiency" you write of so beautifully and honestly is, alas, inherited.

    Love you forever,

  3. I am the same way. I have so many things I want to do but my actions so seldom follow through. Praying for change-- for my heart and yours. :)

  4.'ve such a way with words.
    Power to ya over at my blog...

  5. Scooper,
    Your writing always move me. I teared up especially at your mother's comment. You are so blessed to have a woman who is interested in nurturing you.
    I am sorry to say that I am too self-centered. Having my home as my primary mission field has blinded me to the needs of others.
    Thank you *so* much for this gentle reminder.
    You are loved.

  6. I just found your blog from Emily's (looking at the comments of her most recent post, which was very timely). I am excited to take a look around. This post is so me!

  7. I could have written this post - honestly! You did such a good job of describing my feelings, you helped me see myself more clearly. Thank you!

  8. Thank you sooo much for writing this!!!! I have been following your blog for a while and I know God gave you a gift to write! You are amazing!!!! When I was reading this --I kept thinking she read my mind! I know that sounds crazy, but I can so identify with this post!

    We have three children and I am pregnant with our miracle baby #4!

    Love love love this post and your gift to write! Thank you for sharing!

  9. Beautifully said. And I think you speak for a lot of us. Thank you for diagnosing the problem. You're right.

    And I'm so glad to know that you prayed about this and that God is blessing your efforts. You've inspired me.


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