I love my job, and I'm getting pretty darn good at it, but teaching leaves me with a pretty serious vulnerability hangover. every. day. "Vulnerability hangover" is a term coined by Brene Brown (no surprise there) for the feeling after you've just shared something deeply meaningful. That feeling that you've just vomited out your soul and need to mop it up quickly before anyone sees. But to teach well is to do that every day. Hence the vulnerability hangover. every. day. I'm not sure what the term is for too many consecutive vulnerability hangovers, but I think I hit that wall a few days ago.
The problem with a vulnerability hangover is that it makes the shame gremlins (another great term from Brene) louder. You know all those crazy voices in your head that drag up every awful thought about your sin and inadequacy? Imagine them shouting at your with megaphones right in your ears. That's been my battle for the last few weeks. Times a million bazillion, as Quinn would say. Brene's suggested cure? 1 - recognizing shame (check). 2 - reality-check the message (check). 3 - Reach out (crap). 4 - speak the shame (no thank you). Seriously, couldn't she come up with something easier than that? Like, a pill or something?
The transition back to school is always difficult, which surprises me because I love the routine, the work, and the people. But I think this year I'm finally figuring out that the feeling of wanting to throw up that arrives about two weeks before school starts is the secret anticipation of these shame gremlins. Because there is nothing I can do to make them go away. Even when they're quiet, I can feel them out there waiting for just the right moment to latch on like a rabid dog and tear me to shreds. The irony is that my instinctive response to those shame gremlins is to disengage, which is the very opposite of what the research says I need to do. I hate research. Actually, I don't. I love it, but only when it proves me right. That's why I teach physics.
So I almost didn't go to church this morning. Heck, I almost didn't get out of bed this morning. Because I'm just so hung over from the vulnerability, and the one person to whom I could easily reach out and speak the shame with complete trust is dead. And well that just really sucks.
I've been reading Joshua 24 and digging into some material for a women's retreat I'm developing with a friend. And then I read it again. and again. and maybe some more. I don't think I'm done yet. Here's the short version:
Joshua: God did these awesome things, now serve him with all your heart.
Israelites: Yeah, sure will serve the Lord.
Joshua: No you won't. And God will bring disaster on you if you forsake him.
Israelites: Yes we will. No really.
Joshua: Well, then you are witnesses against yourself.
Israelites: okay. (seriously? did they really just agree to that? I'd be slinking out the back door about this time)
Joshua: (vs 24) "throw away the foreign Gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel."
Israelites: (vs 25) "We will serve the Lord our God and obey him."Is it just me or did the Israelites totally miss something in what Joshua just said. He says yield our heart and they say sure we'll obey him. But those seem like two entirely different things in my book. I even checked a bunch of translations, and they all come across with the same contrast.
I'm not entirely certain, but it seems to me that it is one thing to do what God says and an entirely different matter to yield your heart to the Lord. I can do what God says while hiding all my crazy, but I can't yield without letting it all out. Yet that phrase keeps coming back to me. Yielding. Right now it feels a lot like throwing myself off the crazy cliff with a pair of homemade wings glued together with wax. And that sun is awfully close.
But that's what the spirit keeps whispering to me. Yield. No promises that I'll get less crazy, that things will get easier, or that I'll even manage to get out of bed tomorrow. Just shut up, press into the shame, and yield.
In case you're wondering, that's not the answer I wanted.