Saturday, July 20, 2013

Reversing the backwards Golden Rule

I skipped my usual Friday post out of busy-ness and lacking a pressing or compelling topic. Usually I have no trouble in that department.

So, here it is Saturday morning and I have a list a mile long to accomplish before my daughters and I undertake a weeklong jaunt to Philadelphia and the Delaware coast. In my desire to meet everyone's needs, I had mentioned a possible day trip to NYC, then recanted when I recognized that 7 hours of travel time, even on public transportation that frees me from responsibility, was just too much given our tight schedule.

And here I sit, showing up to blog. I feel a responsibility to my twice-weekly mantra. I think my subject lays in the last paragraph ... the part about desiring to meet everyone's needs and trying to cram everything in at some expense, usually my own.

Being a mother with the "helper" enneagram type feeds right into meeting everyone else's needs. I've performed this way for years unaware, craving the likability it brought me. If I did this one more time or managed to squeeze that in, it would endear me to whomever the task was aimed. I suppose that began as a child, a twin competing for parental attention. I became the "good" girl, who could wait, do what she was told and stay out of the way.

Boy, did I set myself up for tough times ahead: performing so I would be liked. Of course, I always could draw the line at integrity, well, except once. In fifth grade, a new girl arrived and she was different: kept to herself, talked to herself and dressed rather shabbily. In myself mode, I would have befriended her. But, for some reason, I bowed to the group mentality – a group where I felt high likability – and, one infamous afternoon on the playground, we followed her around ... all in a long line. Saying nothing. I think we were mocking her, instead of inviting her in. I am still ashamed of my behavior. I felt instant guilt and remorse and never did it again. It spurred me to try to get to know the new girl personally. Several years ago, I encountered her working in a super market. I went out of my way to be friendly and ask how she'd been; making up for that hurtful act.

I can't think of another time since that I've treated another as other. That was a huge lesson for me at a tender age. And it drives me crazy when I see so many arbitrary divisions in society based on superficial characteristics such as appearance, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, intelligence, dress, manners, etc.
Artsy Fartsy kids being themselves

Yesterday, I spent time in the nearby subsidized-housing complex from which Artsy Fartsy* draws most of its participants. This is a pocket of other as far as general society is concerned. Things happen here most of us could not imagine, me included. I hear the kids talk. They latch onto me when I show up, which I do with some regularity. Art, for them, provides an escape and means to express a confusing world. I've also met some very dedicated parents attempting to better themselves and their kids' lives. I can see the hungriness and innocence in these kids. Their deepest desire is mine: to be validated for who they are, not what they can or can't do.

Over the years, I have begun to unwrap my helper persona, leaving  parts of it behind. The parts that diminish me. I believe God is really intervening to help me ... like a few weeks ago when she directed me to lay down on the pew at a Quaker worship other than my own and surrender.

Cathy, you don't need any props (a book, a studio, turtlebox,  art program). Lay down and surrender. Lay it down.

After much consternation, I did. I am still discerning what the IT is. Luckily for me, I have a seasoned, ministry-care committee meeting with me the night after we return from vacation to listen to exactly where Spirit is in all of this. I suspect it's ego and the destructive web of identity it has created for me.

The command to surrender has brought me much peace over the past weeks. Peace in the midst of uncertainty. This week as I plowed through a vital grant application, laboring over the budgeting, I flinched and periodic spates of panic have emerged. What if I don't get the grant? What happens to Artsy Fartsy? Will I get enough to have a salary? If I don't, do I continue to donate my time?

At Monday night's Artsy Fartsy advisory board meeting, one member remarked how at peace I seemed with the unknowing. I was until I had to look at numbers ... as if they have a dulling effect on the joyfulness of this work. The draft of the grant is done while I go away, though I am taking it to mull over, but not too much.

Artsy Fartsy has been a labor of love; ministry God has directed. Not my ego telling me to do something to please others. If it becomes that, I want to be able to lay it down.

• When have I given too much of myself away?
• What does that leave me, exactly?
• How does my persona direct my life?
• What happen when I let God in?
• What has Spirit asked me to surrender?

I learned the
Golden Rule

do unto others
FIRST, then
do unto yourself

because then,
they'll like you.

And you'll
drain yourself.

A better approach,
I've discovered, is
the airplane-oxygen-
mask lesson:

Breathe yourself
first, so then you
can help others.

* Artsy Fartsy is an arts exploration for 4-6th graders in my neighborhood who would not have this opportunity otherwise.

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