Saturday, November 27, 2010

Girl, Interrupted


In my teen years I remember confronting my family about the issue of interrupting.  To be more specific, I confronted them about their tendency to interrupt me, almost everytime I opened my mouth.  In the car, at the dinner table, playing games, watching television; as long as we were in a group I couldn't get a word in edgewise. 

My stories would go something like this:

"Oh! That reminds me."  Everyone looks at me, as they should look at someone who is adding to the conversation.  "Today at school, I was at my locker and Myranda came up to me--"

Brother:  "Hey mom, did you know that frogs are amphibians?"

Mom:  "I did know that.  Hold on, your sister was talking."

Me:  "Okay, I'll make this quick....anyway, Myranda walked--"

Brother 2: "We learned about amphibians in Kindergarten.  You are just now learning about amphibians?"

Brother 1: "No.  Just more about them....we learned about them years ago."

This usually went on endlessly.  I would try focusing my story on a person in particular, making eye contact with a member of my family and finishing the story.  That member would usually get pulled into another conversation or would get up from wherever we were sitting to multi-task...

Member of my family:  "uh huh....I'm listening.  Keep talking."

So I would.  I would follow people around the house and try to tell a story.  It was very overstimulating.

Back to the confrontation.  I remember sitting at the bar area in the kitchen.  My mom was sitting near me, my dad was going back and forth from the kitchen to the living room.  There were probably 4 of 5 brothers in the dining room....a lot was going on.  I had been sharing a story or a comment or something with everyone during a conversation and people were dispersing or starting up new conversations and I felt my chest tighten.  I blurted out, "Do you people realize that I can't finish one thing I say?  You are rude! I'm adding to YOUR conversation.  You interrupt me everytime I talk--and I don't even talk that much!  I'm like the quietest girl on the planet!"


Then, laughter.  My brothers: "Ha ha ha!  Whatever! We do not!"  My parents: "What?  No, we are trying to listen to all of we really interrupt/ignore you?"

I learned growing up that if I wanted to say something I had to make it quick and to the point. Wasn't it Pavlov who eventually trained a dog to salivate just by hearing a bell ring?  Well, I'm that dog.  I learned to be quiet when in group settings.  My bosses love my presentation method- quick and to the point; my dates think I'm lame because I don't do well with small talk.  I blame my family (and I say this half-heartedly--at this point, they truly did not realize how much they interrupted me).  I am this way with even my best friends, extended family, etc.  You know this, if you've ever had me over for dinner.  I don't say much, not because I haven't anything to say, but because I fear being tuned out.

After I explained my family member's behavior to them, they started noticing over the course of a week or so that it was true.  Then, it became a fun game for them. They would watch and wait for my mouth to open and the quickly, they would say something as loud as they could over me.  It was funny for about 1 minute and then I usually just went to my room to listen to music.

The positive result of the confrontation was that I could, when interupption was occuring, put my hand up and say, "Please.  Just listen; you are interrupting me again."  I would finish my story and then we would all move on.  Sometimes, I would preface a statement or story by saying, "okay, this is important.  Just don't talk until I finish.  I will make it quick."

On Thursday, my eldest brother and his wife had my parents and brothers over for a more intimare Thanksgiving celebration.  We had already had one with extended family members.  It's been nearly 10 years since we all lived at home together and probably 12 years since the confrontation.  My conversations with my immediate family have been one on one or in smaller groups since then since we all live far apart.

The topic of conversation suddenly sparked a really funny story about something that happened at work, so I waited my turn and then started telling it.  About 1/4 of the way through, my nephew started running around the table, being cute.  Then, one brother started talking across the table to another.  My sister-in-law got up from the table and went to the kitchen.  There was noise and commotion everywhere and me trying very calmly to talk over it....and then.....I just stopped.  I just quit talking and went back to eating and no one noticed.  About 5 minutes later, my brother Roger said, "Hey, weren't you telling a story?"

"Yeah.  But no one was listening."

Roger: "Finish it, it sounded funny..."

I perked up, "Okay!  Well, anyway, my boss was walking out and he said--"

Brother 2:  "You told me this story on the phone..."

"I know I told YOU....but I didn't tell them and it's funny, right?"

"Yeah it was funny.  Go ahead."

And by then, I was so freakishly exhausted from trying to converse with my family that I decided not to finish my story.  I would just eat pie.

The moral of the story is:  Just eat pie.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Let the Waters Rise

After a grueling day of relief efforts in Honduras a few months ago, we all loaded into vehicles to head back from Danli to Zamorano for the night.  As we were leaving it began to rain.  There were probably 12 or so of us riding in the bed of the truck.  The 30 minute trip back to Zamorano was cold, wet and a little painful from rain drops pelting us as the truck sped along the highway.  The pro to the situation was that the downpour was washing all of the mud and sweat from the day off of us as well as providing us with a fun memory. 

Before we actually got out of the Danli city limits, we sat in traffic for a while.  The rain was refreshing and it was nice to laugh and talk with everyone.  At this point I had been in Honduras for probably 10 days and experienced things that should have made me nervous, but didn't.  I had not experienced any real feelings of fear.  I remember looking to my right, away from my friends in the truck and noticing that flood waters that had receded the night before were rising in the river.  I had a sick feeling in my gut that all the people we had helped that day would be in a worse situation the next day if the rain didn't stop. 

Then, fear struck.  My friend and travel companion from the U.S., Andrew was looking in the same direction as me, but his gaze was on the water inching higher and higher on the truck tires and I realized that not only were the people of Danli in danger, we were too.  Fear.  I scoped out my surroundings with an outward calmness, listening to my friends laughing and talking excitedly in Spanish, oblivious to the approaching danger.  I panicked on the inside and thought:  if we are washed away what would be able to grab onto?  I saw a stop sign, an uprooted tree.....would I be able to grab any of my companions before they were washed away?

All of these realizations, thoughts and emotions happened in probably a minute or less.  I looked at Andrew hoping he would shoot a reassuring look at me and I could calm down.  He didn't.  He looked concerned, not panicked, but "concerned" was all I needed for the anxiety to start.  Quickly, I put my head down and breathed slowly and prayed.  All I could whisper was, "God please help us. Keep these kids safe.  Let them get home.  Keep them in the truck and the truck on the road."

It did not stop raining but traffic started moving.  Water had filled a street perpendicular to the one we were on and was flowing swiftly around us and yet I was filled with this immense peace.  It was the kind of peace where I knew we would be fine, whether we were delivered from the circumstances or washed away.  I thought, "if it's my time to go, there's no place I'd rather die than here."  Sounds strange, especially now, but it was a spectacular knowledge that, no matter what, I was in God's hands.

I had a bad day at work today and have had insomnia for going on two weeks now.  The bad days and insomnia are creating a viscious cycle since one can't really improve without the other improving.....I've been keeping up a positive attitude and trying to start each day fresh but end up with heart palpitations by the end of the day. 

Today, driving home from work I felt a little like things were closing in and that the weight of the world was rising up on me just like the water had been rising up on the truck in Honduras....the brink of danger.  I took a deep breath while sitting idle waiting for the light to turn green and when I exhaled started humming a song I've heard on the radio about a hundred times.  The same line, over and over and over again:

"Let the waters rise, if you want them to....Let the waters rise, if you want them to...."

What's the next line?  I twirled my hair around my finger, a new stress habit I recently picked up. 

"I will follow you." 

"Let the waters rise, if you want them to.  I will follow You, I will follow You."

God, please help me.  Protect my heart.

I experienced that same extreme peace that I felt in Honduras when I felt we were in imminent danger.  Whether or not I'm delivered from this I will follow Him. 

How awesome is it that God gives us physical and spiritual parallels to help us understand our circumstances?  If I had not gone through that experience in Honduras I'm not sure Iwould have been as willing to hand my recent struggle over to him.