September 21, 2007

Growing From the Edges

Posted in personal, reflection, stories at 8:34 pm by jimazing

broken-jim.jpgIn my last post, The San Francisco Trip , I wrote…

We had a great time and a few adventures ; some planned and some not so planned. I am learning that the unplanned adventures are where growth occurs… or not. These are the places where it is possible to get un-stuck.

This is about the unplanned adventure…

The Adventure

The night of the Alcatraz tour, Jeanie and I drove into San Francisco in the car while Justin and Erin came from Berkely on the BART (subway). We parked in a garage and they walked from the BART to Pier 33 where the Alcatraz tour meets. The tour was awesome and afterwards, we had dinner. We offered to drive Erin and Justin to the station because it would save them a mile long walk and also because it was getting close to the last BART run for the night. When we arrived at our garage, the doors were locked and the garage was closed for the night! We couldn’t believe it. In a big city like San Francisco, the garages close? We were without a car.

My feelings were running strong right then. I felt very tired; I was ready to stop walking and go to bed. I felt foolish for having parked in a garage that closed while we were out. I felt confused because I was tired and forced to make a decision that I had never been faced with before. I didn’t know what to do. We quickly discussed what to do next and came to the decision that we were all going on the BART to Berkeley for the night. We quickly realized that we no longer had the luxery of a drive to the BART, we had to walk… FAST to get there AND buy tickets for Jeanie and me before the last train.

We walked and walked and walked some more. Finally arrived at the station and there was a line to get tickets! ARGH! While I waited in line, Erin tried to buy them on the other side of the gates, but that didn’t work. I finally got to the ticket machine and called Justin over to me. I said, “Tell me what to do.” I didn’t have the luxury of time to figure out what to buy or how to tell the machine. He told me which buttons to push and everything was going just fine until the machine rejected my ATM card. I froze momentarily then decided to use the credit card. It was then that I realized that I wasn’t using the card I thought I was. I thought I was using my debit card, but it was a credit card. I said, “Oh, I used the wrong card,” as I put the right one in and typed my PIN. While I was doing that, Jeanie asked me, “Which card did you use?” I’m afraid, my response was not what I wished it had been. In the moment I snapped at her, I don’t remember the words, but the message I sent very strongly was, “It doesn’t matter which card I used, just leave me alone and let me do this!”

I got the tickets and we hurried down the escalator. Just as we stepped off the escalator, the train came to a stop in front of us. It was literally that close of a call. Had we missed the train, I am not sure what we would have done next. I am grateful that we didn’t have to make that decision. After we settled in for the ride, I apologized for snapping at her, but it was clearly not the right time to resolve the issue. We were both just too tired to think clearly. It was a very quiet ride to Berkeley.

When we got to their apartment, Erin was so wonderful. She got on the computer and printed out the instructions for us to ride the BART back the next morning and what bus to catch to avoid the long walk on the other side too. It was just what we needed and I was too sleepy to understand it the night before. We got back, got the car, complained to the garage attendent (who was sorry for us, but charged us the overnight fee regardless). We drove back to the hotel and begged for a little extra time to check out, which they were very gracious to allow us. (Thank you, Holiday Inn Express in Redwood City). Lastly, we checked out of the hotel and drove back to Berkeley to really visit with the newlyweds.

What I Learned

I was not happy with my behavior that night. I was feeling emotions very strongly for good reason and I couldn’t seem to control myself. The next day I was better able to articulate what I learned. On the way to the hotel, I asked Jeanie if I could tell her what I learned about myself. She listened as I shared my heart. I shared with her how I have a tendency (maybe even a need) to focus on a single thing at a time. When I am concentrating on a task, nothing else matters. If someone interrupts me when I am focused, I feel irritable because the thing I am focused on is all that matters to me. That ability to focus is a strength, but if I am not careful, I can run roughshod over people I care about all for the sake of a task. I feel like I want to be left alone and yet, I recognize my need for community.

Mostly what I took away from this experience is a feeling that I am in a bubble with a very thick skin. I try to keep my heart and emotions well within this skin where I have control over them. I imagine others living in similar bubbles. When we move close together, our skins rub agains one another and wear thin. It feels like the emotion escapes as I begin to lose control. It is in the connections, the places where the bubbles touch and rub agains one another that we have the ability to understand ourselves better and to grow. When I feel, and I know I am feeling, I can examine the emotion and ask what belief or desire is causing me to feel that emotion. In this way, I learn what my heart of hearts truly believes and what I really desire from my core being. Let me try to explain…

My friend, Curt used to say, “We say what we think, but we live what we believe.” I think that is true. The heart-belief I am talking about is from the core of our being rather than an intellectual belief that we talk about. It is the belief that is so much a part of us that it controls our behavior. shakerchair.jpgIt is the difference between saying, “I believe that chair will hold me up,” (intellectual belief) and sitting in the chair (heart belief).

What will happen on an emotional level if I sit in the chair and it works just like I expected it to? Nothing. What happens if the chair breaks beneath me as I sit on it? I will feel strongly. I may feel angry or embarrassed. Whatever the emotion, it is easy at that point to blame the chair, but the feelings don’t come from the chair. They come from my core belief that chairs are supposed to hold people when they sit on them.

My friend, John has taught me that if I can stop myself (while I am feeling strongly) and ask, “What am I feeling?” Then I can follow it with the next question, “What do I believe or desire that causes that feeling?” The belief may be true or not. The desire is probably good on some level although it may be expressed in an unhealthy way.

The cool thing is what I can learn from my emotions. When I feel, I can learn what my own desires and beliefs are! I can know myself better and as I know better who I am, I know better who God made me to be.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. –Psalm 139:23-24

The night of the adventure this is what I learned that I believed and desired…

  • I felt irritated because I believed I was the cause of our stressful situation — A false belief. I didn’t cause the situation.
  • I had a desire to fix the ticket problem and get to the train — A good desire.
  • I felt frustrated because I believed I should be able to answer Jeanie’s question and finish buying the ticket too — A good desire, but based on a false belief. I was unable to do that. I need to know my limitations.
  • I felt frustrated and pressured because of a fear that we were going to miss the train — A very likely possibility that fortunately did not come to pass.

I am thankful that I have a sweetheart who loves me in spite of myself and who is willing to listen to me and truly hear my heart. I am also thankful for a God who pursues me as if He really loves me. What a concept!

1 Comment »

  1. Diane said,

    I’m not sure many of us would think deeply about our inappropriate response(s) in a situation like this. Would be nice, and is certainly something all of us should work on. My hat is off to you! I’ve enjoyed reading some of your family newsletter and am eager to read all of it! Best wishes and love to all of you,
    A. Diane

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