I am not a hoarder. In fact, it’s common knowledge in my house that if something hasn’t proven itself useful in the last 20 minutes, I’m likely to throw it out. Even the dogs get up and move around regularly. They get it.
You would never know that I’m not a hoarder if you saw my inbox. Hundreds of emails. Really? Am I really going to need that email from my boss from September asking me if she can come down and hide in my classroom because the children are driving her crazy? (I should mention that my classroom is absolutely perfect in every way. It’s painted a lovely, quiet color, it’s in the basement and it’s right next to the Home Ec room so we get to sample things like pumpkin pie on a regular basis). Anyway, I digress. I can’t delete emails. I have every email that my sweet hubby has ever sent me when was traveling. And these aren’t letters declaring his love for me, or telling me how much he misses me. These are emails saying things like “Hey. The dog threw up in your shoe this morning before I left for the airport and I forgot to clean it up.” That’s it. And yet I keep every single one of them, like Simon and Schuster is going to call some day and ask to publish them.
I’ve created files in my inbox, to keep track of the really important emails. They are all empty. The thought of having to wade through all of that and sort them out gives me a raging headache. And yet I’m afraid to just hit the “delete” button. It’s kind of like that tag that comes on your mattress that says “Not to be removed EVER or we’ll have you dragged out and shot in the town square.” Or something like that. Every mattress in my house still has that tag, because someone, somewhere is watching, and as soon as I cut it off it’s all over.
Clearly I need an intervention. I need someone to come sift through my emails and decide what is important to keep and what isn’t. Don’t even ask me, because obviously I cannot make these important decisions. Just sort and delete to your heart’s content while I sit over here and drink coffee.
Don’t mess with the mattress tags. No sense getting all crazy now.
I’m a retreater. For instance, right now, I am supposed to be at a gathering for my department. I am, instead, at home listening to it rain. And retreating. Some people, when life gets tough, rush headlong into the fray. I can’t do that. Even on my best days, the thought of rushing into the middle of things is enough to bring on a migraine. On days like today, when the stress is piled in the corners and sitting on the stairs and knocking on the front door, being with people would send me into a catatonic state. It’s not that I don’t like people. I do. What I can’t handle is just…being there. Making small talk. While my mind is running elsewhere.
I saw a quote today that said something like “Everyone needs someone that they can say anything to without the fear of rejection. BE that person.” It’s true. And being that person doesn’t mean that someone has to speak. Just listening, without judgment, is OK too. I have a hard time with this. I know that I have people in my life that would be that person. What I can’t bring myself to do is talk. It’s so much easier to just stay here, inside my own head, where no one can hear my thoughts.
I live in a culture where, if you mention to someone that you’re worried or stressed, their immediate comeback is “Why would you be worried? You have Jesus. People who have Jesus cannot be worried.” End of conversation. I wish that were true. Maybe it is for you. But for me, it’s just one more reason to feel guilty about myself, about my faith (or the perceived lack thereof) and about my inability to just “let go and let God.” And the last thing in the world I need is guilt.
All of this to say that if you know a retreater–someone who just has to be alone–don’t criticize them. Don’t beg them to join you because “they need to get out and stop moping around.” And for goodness sake, please don’t get angry with them because they aren’t dealing with life the way that you think they should. Because believe me…they are doing the best that they can. And it’s taking every single ounce of emotional and physical energy that they can muster to just keep holding on.
“Courage isn’t having the strength to go on – it is going on when you don’t have strength.” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte