For this particular excerise I was asked to write about myself as if I was a character in a book. Rather than say “I am sixty-two”, it was “She is sixty-two” and then go on to describe myself. It wasn’t about being creative and describing the me I would like to be. It was me as I am. I was supposed to allocate an hour to this task. It was not that I would run out of things to write about, but I had other things on the to-do list so I didn't write do the whole time.
I coped with all the physical stuff. “She wears glasses, but there’s no lens in the left side as she is waiting for a cataract operation for the right eye.” I mentioned the poor hearing and her not wearing her hearing aids as she ought to. I wrote about her diminishing height. She never quite made it to five feet, but now seems to be nowhere near.
I was supposed to include something about my character. If you really want to know yourself, just try writing yourself as a character in a book. Things slip in under the radar. They are the things that you don’t normally acknowledge. It’s not like the secret life of Walter Mitty. It’s just stuff.
“She’s lonely” I wrote. “She’s not particularly friendly. It may be that she thinks if people come too close and looked into her heart, they would see nothing because she is empty at her core.”
Where did that come from? It’s not a new thought. It just slipped under the radar. I’m not unfriendly by any means but I don’t make friends easily and I place too much of the work of maintaining that friendship on other person’s shoulders. I am hard work.
The “empty at her core” is an echo from a conversation I had with a church pastor many years ago. I was a recent importee from a strict church that did not pursue the gifts of the Spirit. The church I moved into was charismatic by nature. Much of the strictness was still in place. I hadn’t melted sufficiently to be at home.
I wasn’t unfriendly at the time, but I was locked-up-shy. Stick me on a stage with an audience and a party piece and I was pure extrovert and exhibitionist. Throw me into a room of school children and I could busk my way through just about any topic. Crowds did not faze me. Close conversations were a different order al together.
Normal conversations just didn’t happen. My brother once described me as “disturbingly quiet”. I don’t know why I was so quiet. On my first day at school some boy pinged an elastic band at me and it hit my glasses. Maybe at such a fragile age I learned that the world was a hostile place, so I kept a distance.
The church pastor suggested the worry stemmed from worrying that if people didn’t like me when they got to know me I had nowhere to go after that. I feared rejection. It was a self-protection strategy but one that did not fit into God’s Kingdom. It took me a long time to dismantle my shyness. Maybe it’s not dismantled at all and I just live with it and push it to the side.
“…she thinks if people come too close and look into her heart, they will see nothing because she is empty at her core.” You know when you are reading something that touches deeply – the tears flow.
“It’s not true,” God was swift to interrupt the writing exercise. “There is no empty core, not from where I’m looking. I see a reservoir of truth, knowledge and experience. I see a well-trodden path towards it. There has been a sharing of heart, time and time again and it never runs dry.”
I am glad that I have a God who interrupts, who will not allow me to hold in my heart something that is so not true.
("The Sound of Paper" by Julia Cameron)