Wednesday, October 11, 2006

on semipermeable membranes

It is 8:27 and I’ve just gotten off the phone. Again. I resume my place on the couch and the cat resumes his, nibbling on my elbow in his attempt to solicit affection. It is not working—affection is definitely not the response it evokes in me at this moment. In between the two first paragraphs I’ve already written and disposed of, my daughter has come out of her room not once but twice, complaining, tonight, of a hangnail. “My finger hurts…” she whimpers in a voice just loud enough to know she’s talking but not loud enough to hear her—her ploy to be beckoned to the edge of the staircase. I send her to her father, who is already upstairs, though I know it is me she really wants. But right now, to be quite honest, I don’t want to be wanted.

Tonight, I want to be left alone. I don’t want to be touched tonight—I don’t want to be climbed on, nibbled, elbowed, fondled, tickled, kicked, head-butted, or stepped on. I don’t want to be talked to tonight—I don’t want to hear about the neighbor’s cousin’s dog’s puppies or the problem you had with your bosses boss and the brilliant way you handled it or the trouble with the doojie-hoojie that hangs down under the thingamajig on the car and how it will affect the amount of rainfall in China. Tonight, I don’t want to be nice. I don’t want to smile and nod. I don’t want to pretend I’m interested. Tonight, I want to put my oxygen mask on and take a deep breath so that I can do it all again tomorrow for everyone else. Tonight, I want to be left alone.

I chose these things—indeed, I continue to choose them. I chose to be a wife, a mother, a cat-owner, a friend. I chose to be a counselor, a leader, a teacher, a mentor. These are things I invited into my life—consciously, willingly, freely. But having chosen them, does this mean I must choose them all at every moment? It does not, but you cannot tell me this—the compulsion to be all things to all people forms “yes” on my lips even while my insides scream “NO!”

“Mo-mmy… Mooo-mmmmmy…” I hear faintly from within my daughter’s room, having threatened her not to open the door again. Door. There is a good “boundary” word. Door. Gate. Window. Fence. Wall. Door. I have closed the door tonight. But it doesn’t stay closed…

In this world of “boundary” talk, I am a semipermeable membrane—allowing all that fits through the unclosable doors to pass through my sham of a barrier and enter my day-to-day living. In my spreading thin I have become too easily diffused—matter spreads, rationalization spreads, real need spreads—my membrane becomes thinner yet. Pressure is exerted from the outside and I allow passage once again. This is not always a bad thing. Not always.

But then there are nights like tonight—nights that have followed days that have followed weeks of meeting other people’s needs and neglecting my own. Our pastor once said that if you feel like you don’t have time for any more friends, you need more of Jesus in your life. This from a man you have to make an appointment three weeks out to talk to. Not that I don’t understand his point—I truly do. But perhaps if I were a man and my children were grown and I had an assistant who managed all my contact with the outer world, I could be as cavalier about the issue.

The truth is, I do need more of Jesus. I need him to fill me up so that when I pour myself out yet again there is reserve left for me to survive upon. I need him to teach me to love when I don’t feel loving, to forgive when I don’t feel forgiving, to listen when I don’t feel like listening. But I also need him to show me when to serve and when to withdraw into the solitude of the wilderness, to show me how to find and take those quiet times alone with the Father, to show me how to rest in the Lord and wait upon him. I need the Heavenly Flight Attendant to remind me that my mask goes on first.

So, if you call my house and get the machine—I may or may not be there. I am trying to learn, slowly, that it is okay to not answer the phone, to not go back up to my daughter’s room for the fourth time, to not have to meet every need presented to me. “The need is not the call,” another pastor used to remind me. Tonight, I listen to the call—and it is not the telephone. Tonight, I allow myself to meet my own needs.


Angela said...

take care of yourself, b/c no one else will.
good for you for taking a night off.
also, once again good writng
good night

Julie Morrison said...

I love this post. So honest, so true! I can relate to it more often than I care to admit. Especially the days everyone comes home in "a mood".
Also, may I add, your blog looks great. You switched to beta, yes?
Your writing continues to be inspiring to me.Blessings.