February 11, 2011

Ignoring the Wind

This blog post has been brewing in my mind for a long time. What's been stopping me from writing it is knowing that I'm going to come across as a lot of negative things: bitter, angry, selfish, resentful, arrogant, childish, etc.

Basically, I'm not going to sound very likeable at all, and I want people to like me. I want people to like me so badly, in fact, that THAT is a large factor in why I struggle and have been feeling sorry for myself lately.

Ever since I started trying to follow God's path for my life again, I have struggled with the performance area of my life. At first, the main struggle was just the WHY of it. WHY was I auditioning for show after show? WHY was I performing? And, selfishly, WHY was I not getting the accolades I thought I deserved? I had to admit to myself that I was doing a lot of my theatrical work for MY OWN glory and not for the glory of He who gave me the talents I have.

So, I took a break. I went several months without auditioning for anything, and I spent a lot of quality time with some friends and more importantly, with my husband. Then some shows came up that I was really interested in, and I started auditioning again. I prayed that whatever the outcome of those auditions, they would be God's doing and I would see the silver linings when and if I wasn't cast. I got a small string of rejections, but each was a success in one way or another and I was feeling good about just getting back out there and creating and being artistic, even if it was only for a few minutes during an audition side/monologue. Then I was finally cast in a beautiful show, which opens next week (see my theatre blog for more info), and the timing of said show allowed me to audition for and be cast in a production for which my husband will be music directing. Perfect! Everything worked out just as it should have to benefit me and my family the most, and I'm thrilled.

Okay...so I feel like I am finally getting some control over the choosing of shows and the balance of my deeply rooted artistic desires and the absolute need to prioritize and put my God, my husband and family before anything else. It's not easy and I am still working on it, but I feel confident in that. Great. But here's what else I've noticed on this break from theatre...

(Also, for the record? Here's where I start to whine. Just sayin'.)

(I'm also going to make some generalizations of theatre people. It doesn't mean YOU, necessarily, so don't get all hurt unless you have reason to.)

I've noticed that my social calendar and my phone got awfully...quiet. Not being in a show, not reviewing shows anymore, and not necessarily having the funds or even the DESIRE to go see 3-4 shows a month anymore has completely taken me out of the "scene." And being in that "scene" for so long is where I got most of my false notions of friendships and the thought that I was actually a part of a circle.

Out of sight, out of mind -- that's how I felt. And how I am still struggling with feeling. I stopped hearing from people, so I tried reaching out. Yes, I used social media, which some would say isn't really trying....but who doesn't? I tried wall posts, messages, texts, tweets...and responses just dwindled or never came at all. I DO recognize that the problem with my job sitting at a desk all day and being constantly able to be online creates the incessant need, at least in me, to have interaction. I know.

Then one day I noticed that I had well over 500 "friends" on Facebook. So, I decided it was time for a purge. I went in with a hard and fast rule: if I hadn't had, IN THE VERY LEAST, Facebook interaction with a person, much less a real-life (read: in person or phone call) interaction with someone since The Producers: deleted. This eliminated over 80 people from my friends list. That was pretty amazing to me. It showed me just how many people I kept around just to keep tabs on or "network" with or make sure they had access to all that I was doing. Silly, right?

I also decided to do what I call a "Michael test." My husband will sometimes test out people just to prove a point...I usually hate it when he does it b/c he'll do it to ME...like waiting me out when I promise I'll do the dishes or fold the laundry...and then I don't, and he just looks at me with raised eyebrows that SCREAM "I told you so." Normally I laugh at it because he's such a good-natured pain in the butt that I can't be annoyed with him. But MY test was just to stop reaching out...and see if people came and sought me out. I was right, in a way....I still really heard nothing from people I wanted to hear from.

But being right didn't help how left out and lonely I still felt. The people I missed....I still missed. I started getting stupid and paranoid and wondering if they were all just getting together without me and leaving me out on purpose. I saw pictures of get-togethers and parties I never heard about and I got my feelings hurt. So then I do the very grown up and adult thing of putting out some really whiny and emo stuff, especially on Twitter. I'm sure that made me REAL attractive and just made them miss me SO much (ahem....that was sarcasm, in case you couldn't tell).

Yes, I feel like a teenager again. I'm wondering who my real friends are and who just spent time with me because it was convenient...because I was always around at a rehearsal or a cast party or a theatre-related event. And even WORSE than that? I started resenting people...big time. I have lately found myself being completely unable to be happy for certain people and their successes. I recently found out about some people getting this or that or singing at another weekly event that I just can't seem to get on the bill for and I nearly cried. I actually felt that horrible, petulant, temper-tantrum-throwing 5-year-old in me have a FIT and struggle to break through the almost 30-year-old exterior. And NOW I'm just in a place where I am flailing and feeling lonely and thinking I've just ruined everything with anyone.

Man, I wonder why I have any friends at all now that I'm putting this down in writing....

When I'm not feeling sorry for myself I tell myself, and truly believe, that this is another one of God's ways of drawing me back to His arms. That I can't seek approval from others, that that scene I miss so very much sometimes was just a breeding ground for sin and temptation for me and a place for me to just worry about being liked instead of being ME and trying to set a good example for myself and others.

So...why hasn't that been giving me more peace? Well I can't help but think that a HUGE part of it is the fact that I've been completely disregarding my devotional emails every morning. I make sure I don't delete them with all the spam emails I get daily, but I don't stop and read them anymore. I've been told all my life about how staying in the Word will keep me on track, and I know it's true, but I am just so selfish and lazy and BAD about being committed to reading it every day. Even when it's emailed to me with handy links to the scriptures...I find a way to stop doing it. (the preceding has been written in #frustrationfont)

Well, today I finally opened up a devotional email, and with a bad attitude at that. I saw that we were still in Isaiah, and I heaved the biggest sigh known to MAN and just started reading. And this is what I read:

Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you,
And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you
For the Lord is a God of justice;
How blessed are all those who long for Him. (Isaiah 30:18)

God desires to love us intimately, rescue us from bondage, and change our hearts to be more like His. He longs to do this for us—just like He did for the people of Judah—even in the midst of rebellious attitudes and actions.

As I prepared to write this, I was stuck in a difficult season. It was like Matthew 14 where Jesus tells Peter to walk towards Him on the water. Peter does just fine until he notices the wind. That’s when he begins to sink.

When I take my eyes off of Jesus, I begin to sink in a sea of negative thoughts. I allow myself to fall into a vicious cycle of performance-based thinking, trying to do everything right to achieve my own glory and approval from others. I can go on this way for awhile until my “performance” begins to falter. While a “good” performance feels like “life,” a bad performance has me drowning in the sea of self-condemnation. Sounds terrible, I know. That’s why I need Jesus!

Um....yeah. WHY am I always so surprised when God puts exactly what I need right in front of my face??

If you pray...please pray for me. Pray that I will continue to keep my eyes on Jesus and stop wallowing in these horrible, negative, self-condemning thoughts...the "wind" that caused Peter to start sinking. Pray that I will stop caring SO much about the approval of others and worry MUCH more about the approval of my Savior.

Also...I'm trying. Please be patient with me and don't write me off completely as a terrible person or a bitch. I'm just still struggling with the transition of priorities in my life and maintaining a balance and fighting off the Enemy's attempts to make me hateful and selfish and needy. I want to be needy...but I want to need Jesus and His approval. I want to seek Him first, and know that, when I do, "all these things will be added also."