Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The Untangle

It's the worst time to write. Biscuits and rosemary potatoes brown in the oven. In the living room, my son and I have lined up our plastic war figures for marble battle. Soon he'll finish with his front, and he will call, "Time for war, Mom!"

However, in these few minutes/seconds, I feel the need to express briefly the content of two very similar conversations: one today, one yesterday at the same coffee shop with two younger women.

The theme: the need for affirmation from others. The need to extract ourselves from its weight so that we can live unencumbered, apart from approval needs. For me, this has been a huge, long, and often painful process. I don't have it right yet; however, for once, in these last 2 or 3 months, I feel and see a difference in my reactions, in my ability to move out in independence. Thank goodness. Bridget Jones, move over (although I love your pathetic, human traits too!).

This last year and a half have been a refining process for me. I found myself in situations at work and in ministry which helped me confront and battle codependent characteristics. The need for approval. The desire to not be rejected. A need to be valued. An unhealthy dependence on someone else's reaction. I had those traits before, but these situations pushed it again to the forefront.

Ideally, of course, I love and value my reciprocal relationships. Of course, I see complements as highly favorable. However, I've come to realize that these are gifts that exceed the norm and are not to be demanded, and, often, not to be expected. Especially not because 1) I can do it or 2) because I need it to continue or 3) to control someone else. I value those people who can do relationships well. However, the benefit of a gift is not the same thing as a necessary requisite to my functioning. Wow, big stuff. Major.

Might I be going somewhere now? Perhaps I'll be able to handle difficult situations better if I can stay focused on what I've learned. Time will tell. Yet, at least I have some awareness and hope.

These two young women were struggling in a tangle of unmet need. I could see it on their faces. I heard it in their voices. A couple of trusted friends of mine have seen me across a similar table. It's hard to untangle yourself from others. For once, however, I felt seasoned enough, and strong enough, to assist them through the humility of my own failures. I'm appreciative that we can learn on the way.

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