Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Visible Woman

There is a lot that I took away from the Women of Faith event I attended on Friday and Saturday.  I am eager to share it and also to record it so I can remember the things that touched my heart.

- Make sure you have monkeys in your cage.

- Don't forget to prune.

- The Shepherd knows where to find me.

- It is well with my soul.

- Emotional release can be physically draining.

Women of Faith is a big gathering of women from a variety of Christian faiths who come together to be renewed and strengthened.  Yes, there is crying.  And lots of laughter.  And there's hugging and eating and bonding and late night talking, too.

The conference itself is set up like a big concert- there is a stage set up in the middle of the space and giant screens at the top of the stage so you feel like you are face to face no matter how far away you are.  There are speakers- not boring stand at a podium and lecture speakers.  These are storytellers.  They share parts of themselves, their life experience, their life stories and how God impacts, saves, lifts, and carries them. 

One woman, Nicole Johnson, is well known for her dramatic presentation.  She is an actress and writes her own monologues for Women of Faith.  This year, she also shared her own personal story. 

One of the monologues she presented is called "The Invisible Woman."  I've shared a YouTube video of it below.

It's a powerful piece that I know many women connect with.  I've heard many of my mom friends talk about feeling invisible, feeling like they lose themselves, feeling like they aren't seen or heard.

I think I have the opposite problem.

As I sat and listened to Nicole's monologue, I felt disconnected from it.  I appreciated it because of the feelings I've heard others express.  But she wasn't telling my story so I didn't feel the words ringing with me in a deep way. 

I feel like I'm the Visible Woman.  And I think this is where a lot of my stress and frustration has been stemming from.

I'm not going to do the "you don't know how stressful it is to be popular!" thing.  I've always hated to hear that.  "You don't know how hard it is to be this pretty, this smart, to have this many friends." 

But at the same time, I'm realizing that it's true.

The more attention you get, the more pressure there is to keep giving what you've become known for. 

When I am living my life authentically for God, it all comes naturally.  I can focus on the things in front of me, I can carry the burdens of others, I can balance work and home and fun and commitments, I can make my kids feel special, my husband feel important, and my friends and family feel appreciated.  I can take on any extra porjects thrown my way at work, I can agree to doing this one special favor for this friend or that, I can be present and available and real with my blogging.

Lately, I've been wishing I could be a little bit more invisible.  I've been wanting to be seen less, heard less.  I've been wanting others to notice me less. 

I've worked hard for years to be good at what I do at work.  And now I'm facing the biggest challenges of my career thus far.  Making it through this season, which doesn't yet seem to have an end in sight, might mean a lot of great things.  But I'm questioning my ability to make it through this season with this workload, these expectations, these requirements. 

I've lived my life to be available to others.  I know that I've suffered greatly in the past and could easily lean on the excuses of my past breaking me, damaging me.  But the truth is that I am completely whole and strong and healthy and because I've known some intense and awful hardships, I know how much I can carry, how deep I can go for my friends.  When someone is facing intense personal struggle, I know I can be there in a unique way.

I expose myself pretty openly on my blog.  I write from my heart, passionately.  I have no clear niche- I just write what I feel.  I don't write with a purpose or intent.  I have no goals or expectations.  And in being open and honest and sometimes raw and deep, I've been honored to be part of being a special and positive impact on the lives of people I've never met. 

At home, I'm often looked to as the decision maker, the planner, the fixer, the one to ask, the one who knows.  Jeff is a partner in our family- don't misunderstand me.  I generally feel like I'm the one filling out all the forms, I'm the one managing the calendar, I'm the one stating what needs to be done and when. 

I'm pretty highly Visible.

When I am living fully and authentically in my faith, those things all balance pretty easily.

Things have gotten thrown out of balance lately and I don't thin kmy response to it has been the right one.

I have turned to God, but I'm now realizing I've done so with my own limitations.

"God, Help me through this added stress at work.  Help me to accept the demands and expectations and requests with grace and strength.  Help me to keep my family a priority.  I know there is a light at the end of this tunnel so please just get me through to the end, help me get to the goal."

See, I decided what the end was for the new job function.  I decided that there needed to be a point where the stress would stop.  I was looking to the future I had decided on.

And once I did that at work, I started doing it in other places, too.  I was asked to help with something and instead of just praying for guidance in how I could best serve Him as I helped others, I focused on what I was asked to do.  I got caught up in the start of first grade and my conversations with God were about my feelings of anxiety and my concerns for Teagan's adjustment, but I never turned that stuff over to Him and never prayed for strength and never decided to just trust Him.

I've been feeling incredibly Visible and Raw and Ragged and Exposed lately. 

Listening to this monologue made me realize that I was longing to feel Invisible.

And that was a red flag.  No one should be feeling like they want to be invisible when so many are wishing someone would just notice them, hear them, see them.  I knew I needed to find balance instead of dreaming of extremes.

I don't have it figured out yet.  But I at least know what I need to work on going forward.  I can't continue to live like I have for the past 4 months.  I just can't. 

I don't necessarily want to change anything with my current circumstances.

I just need to make sure I am focused in the right direction. 



Rebecca said...

I used to feel invisible. Now, I feel very needed and extremely visible.

I wrote something for a creative writing course long ago called "Clear". I think I posted it on my blog...anyway that has to do with how I felt invisible and struggled with knowing that I was somehow important but still not seen.

Alison said...

Interesting thoughts...from your description of the changes in your praying, it sounds like you've been shouldering burdens that you'd normally leave to God. Hmmm...

Ashli Moore said...

First...If this isn't a Pour Your Heart Out post...

Second...You know the "I'm here if you need me" that you gave to me yesterday...right back at you!

Love you Liz. I am praying for clarity for us both.

C. Beth said...

I can relate to this. Lately I've been in a good season of growth but I find myself taking on too much. Not at the level of your stress (since I don't have the stressful job!) but when someone I trust recently told me, "You are a gatherer. You can gather people around you. You just have to make sure you don't do it all," it struck a chord.

I blogged yesterday about how I'm dealing with stress...definitely a change in the way that I pray, and it's been very freeing.

Anne K. said...

Liz, I relate to you. The past few months, I have taken a step back and tried to be LESS visible. Being a pastor, ICAN leader, counselor and homeschool group leader, it's easy for me to overextend myself, to be noticed in too many places, wanted in too many places, recognized in too many places...when I just want a few hours of privacy and quiet to turn inward and meet with God in quiet without external voices, influences and responsibilities. When all the NC midiwfery stuff blew up earlier this year, I was doing news interviews all the time, my phone was ringing off the hook and I no longer had privacy, even in my own home. Media interviewed me at home and knew where I lived!! So yeah, one day in prayer I asked God for God's will in my life and realized it was time to step back. I delegated responsibilities, media engagements, ministry tasks, etc. I started scheduling time just for me to experience solitude and privacy. I needed to recharge and be renewed. All that made me feel so much better and I'm finally reaching the point where I am re-engaging, but doing so with different boundaries. Leadership is stressful. We had classes on how to handle it in seminary and believe me...I've been making use of what we learned. LOL!

Garret said...

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