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Posts Tagged ‘people-pleasing’

Heaven and the music industry* have twisted themselves together in my brambled mind. I mean the heaven I used to believe in, and the music industry I used to dream about, and the way they both still affect me on a gut level I’ve not paused to think about before.

Something about being chosen, about higher-ups moving in mysterious ways, about knowing the right people, being in the right place at the right time.

And clashing with that, having a voice and a soul that feel too large for my timid self, that come tearing out sideways if I try to box them up – but not having enough of the mysterious something – the look, the drive, the belief, the secret decoder – to make it with the gatekeepers.

Something about scarcity, about me and scads of people I know or have heard, who keep making music and living big soulful lives because what else can they do? – and the airwaves being just too crowded, the need for the higher-ups to choose only some, the ones who work the hardest, clamor the loudest, get born into the right family at the right time.

And how I don’t feel like I really want to be chosen in a system like that, and how I feel more alive outside the contrived paradise, where kids and old people and loud people and shy people and generally awkward people and anyone else below the industry standard are making their music and living their lives, sans audience, sans halo.

No mansion for me, and no platinum record. I’ll just be out on the front steps of heaven, singing my guts out** with the rest of the unchosen.

 

*Whatever heaven may be, this ain’t it; and “the music industry” is hardly such an easily-generalized monolith, and there are many highly successful musicians making music I love and doing good authentic work. This post is about opting out of elitist mentalities, wherever they crop up, and not letting fear of being unchosen keep us from being who we really are, making music whether anyone listens or not, searching our souls despite the disapproval of the gatekeepers of faith or tradition or clout in any form.

**“You’ve been singing your guts out / Is that not enough to do?” – I love this phrase from a Luka Bloom song, whose lyrics also seem relevant to this post: http://www.lukabloom.com/lyrics/riverside_album/the-one/

 

Extra credit – these songs:

 

 

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Thinking more about the contents of my last post  and the thoughtful comments that were made on it, I remembered this poem I had written a few years ago, a little meditation on my tussles with Stories A and B in my own life:

In the springtime of your life

When people make pronouncements

About the heights to which you’ll rise

Someone has a prophecy

Someone says you’re chosen

Don’t tuck it away for later

No, hold that sign up high

Wave that banner with all you’ve got

And go, girl, go

Because a well-preserved ticket

Is useless after the show

And no one cares to hear

About your might-have-beens.

(On the other hand,

An awakening 34-year-old

Is a powerhouse of presence.)

As I mentioned in conversation with Jodi’s comment on the previous post, I think that when I recognize my Story B, it won’t feel like I am “settling” for second-best, although it may look exactly like that to an outside observer.

In my case, I started chasing Story A as a twenty-something singer/songwriter recording my first album in a professional studio in a skyscraper in downtown Minneapolis, financed by two benefactors who saw big things in my future.

Looking back on that over ten years later when I wrote this poem, I mused about how I didn’t work hard enough to actualize Story A. But you can see the seeds of Story B beginning to sprout in the last sentence.

And far from feeling like I’m settling, I feel more deeply alive.

I’ve still not fully elaborated my Story B to my satisfaction, but I feel like I am getting closer. Letting go of other people’s storylines for me, and picking up the threads that are actually there, the real living story of me that can actually be woven into something true and substantial. It may not be big and flashy, but it will be utterly valuable.

So there you go, a little case study for you, my own working out this life-story thing. To paraphrase Stephen Colbert, “I am a Story B (and so can you!)”

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Here’s a poem I wrote last year, about my multilayered identity of recovering good girl, wife, mother, and aspiring artist.

Matryoshka Doll

When they drop by the house
I am in my apron in the kitchen.
In their eyes I see a glimmer of worship
At sighting a domestic angel.
My young son is building superstructures in the living room
And I am baking bread
So I am a stay-at-home mom
(Apparently).

Once, remarking on my unpainted face,
Someone asked for counsel
About wifely submission.

They find me writing at the coffee shop
And praise my husband for giving me time off
From what (apparently) is my real work.

A little girl within
Believes them
Craves their favor.

A woman deeper still
Knows more
Feels lonely feisty misunderstood
Amused
Angry stuck sad useless.

At her heart is a human
Being
Living
Gestating
Faith hope love.

The heart of her heart
Throbs with the secret
And the strength
Of labor
The grip of death
That releases life
And, once more,
She breathes.

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These days I am losing my faith. The faith of my past, that is. I’m not sure how it will grow from here, and I’m doing my best to live in the tension and uncertainty of asking questions I’ve pushed away at other times in my life. Questions like, was Jesus’ crucifixion necessary to redeem humanity, or was it more of an inevitability for someone who loved so fully and stood so faithfully with the marginalized in the face of corrupt power, both religious and political? Did God really require an innocent sacrifice to compensate for the sins of the world? I seek to emulate a savior who is the prince of peace. Why would the God with whom that savior is one be thirsty for innocent blood (taking alone the teaching that Jesus is God’s son, differentiated from God the father?) Is there really ‘power in the blood’ of Jesus, and if so, does that power come from his blood crucified, or is it the living, healing, incarnate and resurrected Christ alone that was only ever necessary for the salvation of the world? (I understand resurrection could not happen without death, but my question is, did that death have to be an execution, a bloody sacrifice to appease a wrathful God?)

That’s a significant question for a lifelong evangelical, ever-so-familiar with the simple drawing of a stick man, a chasm, and God at the other side, with a cross bridging the man and God. There is much more I am pondering about this question, and I am hungry to ask other questions too – to research the canonization of scripture, the formation of the doctrines considered fundamental to my faith tradition – not to disprove, but to understand.

It’s clear to me that I couldn’t have faced these questions honestly or bravely earlier in my life. I would not have been able to live in the tension of uncertainty. For the years that these questions have been forming in me, I have often chosen to remain willfully ignorant, believing that my only other choice was to make a clean break and declare myself an atheist or agnostic. It’s complicated and difficult to face doubts and questions, to speak honestly about them, and at the same time to remain in community with other believers with whom I really do want to commune. It’s tempting and would be easier, in the short run, to be the extremist I often have been – to throw it all out, even the stuff I love and believe, rather than pursue the path of growth my inner life is demanding in all its twists and turns and switchbacks.

There is so much of my faith tradition that I do love and believe. At the core of these half-understood, inconsistent doctrines and dogma is something alive, a power and a love and grace that has undeniably pursued me, carried me, drawn me to itself. I have always called that presence God, understanding God to be three persons – a Father, a Son and a Holy Spirit. But my hungry mind is dissatisfied these days with leaving it at that when it has not meaningfully wrestled with the larger questions of who God is, who Jesus is, how these doctrines and ideas we call orthodox have been decided.

Some of us are dancers, some dreamers, some thinkers, most of us are unique combinations of these and more. The thinker in me wants to build a faith she can sink her teeth into.

The people-pleasing pastor’s kid in me, however, shrinks from all this. She sees the agnostic shortcut as much less messy – “just cut the cord and be done with it!” she begs. “What will people think if I ask these questions out loud and expect to still be accepted as a fellow believer? Escape, escape!”

It’s my mounting suspicion, however, that most of us – at least, those of us with significant ‘thinker’ sides – have doubts we are afraid to voice; and that the fear of what others will say or do in response to our doubts keeps us paralyzed, going through religious motions or else walking away from it all. I’ve decided to be more transparent with my own doubts and questions, and to hold fast to my faith that God and God’s people have arms wide enough for every seeker, every believer, every doubter, every messy mix of believer and doubter.

When I started this blog, I titled it “The More I Learn the More I Wonder,” with the intention of hashing out some of these doubts and questions, musings and wonderings I have, and hoping others will interact, challenge, agree or disagree, move the conversation along. I’ve done that a bit, and I hope to keep working at it – not just in cyberspace but in every space of my life.

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I’m a pastor’s kid, AND . . . (I learned about the power of ‘and’ from my friend Cindy, who recently said labels too often keep us stuck. She said, for example, that although she is often impatient, she likes to say it like this – “I am impatient, AND I am learning to wait”).

So, I’m a pastor’s kid, AND I am learning to live boldly in spite of people’s opinions of me.

I was born to a Bible college student, and my younger brother was born to a seminarian. Our mother was a Bible college student’s wife, and then a seminarian’s wife, AND . . . although she wasn’t much encouraged to imagine the other side of the AND.

Officially I became a pastor’s kid (PK) when I was four and we moved to a tiny town in Rhode Island where my father became the pastor of a proportionally tiny church just about as old as America, with real steeple bells that the big boys got to ring every Sunday morning.

Two memories of our time at that church stand out to me. One morning, sitting in the front row with my mother and brother and a friend, I entertained myself and my friend during my father’s sermon by copying his gestures (with a bit of extra animation). Another Sunday, as my mother stood and sang in the choir, my three-year-old brother, terrified by a spider crawling on the pew beside him, ran to her and jumped in her arms.

After each of those services, I and my brother were respectively reprimanded for our antics. It may not have been spoken, but somehow we got the message that everyone was watching us, that we must behave well and not reflect poorly on our family.

It’s a lesson I learned early and well. Pastors’ kids, as people have over-generalized, are either angels or demons. I, proving the generalization, was a good girl in every way imaginable. Stepping into any new place when I was a child, my first concern was what the rules were, to make sure I kept them. As I grew into adolescence, so did the good girl. She was smart but quiet, pretty but safe in her always-modest dresses, passionate but only daring to hint at those passions through her handy talents of singing and writing.

Over the years my father went on his own journey of self-discovery and admitted that pastoring was something his mother had pushed on him more than he had desired. For a while I was a Bible college professor’s kid, at other times a salesman’s kid, a freelance writer’s kid, an unemployed man’s kid.

This past year I once again became a pastor’s kid, now with kids of my own. I’ve moved a long way from the good girl of my youth, not to rebel daughter, but to more confident, willingly weak, hungry, less-afraid, question-asking human. Very human. Repenting of the “we-they” “saved-lost” country club mentality from which I have operated most of my life growing up a pastor’s kid in church. The suitable-for-framing theology of my youth now looks to me just about as quaint and useless as my senior pictures.

This pastor’s kid wears shorts, drinks alcohol, plays rock music, goes to movies, and often votes Democrat. She also leads worship music in local churches, and regularly prays and reads her Bible. And she’s learned that abstaining from or exercising any of these things is a poor indicator of anyone’s faith.

The pastor whose kid I am has also changed. Now, when we meet on a Sunday evening after a morning when he was preaching and I was lounging in the back yard with my family and a cup of coffee, we smile and hug and talk about the past week, and the thought of what people might be thinking is as far away and irrelevant as the choir robe my mother wore that Sunday in Rhode Island.

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