I have a bad habit. I never thought of it as one until this week, but there it was staring me in the face, across multiple settings. I suppose I have always done it, as a child, I was the youngest of five siblings. I thought everyone knew everything, except me. I learned to be a good listener so I could “be in the know.” However, I have a personality that values privacy; I learned to isolate, so that not everyone would be “in the know” about me.
Somewhere along the way, the social butterfly who only isolated for self-protection when needed, became all about self-protection. I have tried to tear down the walls over the past five years, but realized that they are ever-present over the past few weeks.
I know that I tend to keep areas of my life separate, when I lived in a small town it was necessary just to be able to refresh and to maintain confidentiality. I have tried to overcome that desire over the past few years since moving back home, inviting parts of my life to over lap. I still tend to back off when I do that, in part because I want others to connect with the bigger cause, not just follow me; but other reasons are harder to explain.
When I learned about the Enneagram, I was so excited to hear that it is just part of my personality and not some deeper seeded thing I have not yet discovered. The truth is, I am generally the same person regardless of where I am, so I am can’t really define the need to keep things separate.
Despite knowing this about myself, I still tend to think that I am an open book. There is not a part of my life I won’t talk about, if it is relative or someone asks a question. I can openly talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of my life. I realized, most people don’t ask questions.
The first came in a conversation with someone from church. I have been attending church with them for almost a decade. I taught the person’s children in children’s church class, for several years. The person caught me before church, and mentioned not knowing I was married. Now, my husband doesn’t go to church with me, so I understand a little. He has been to several services and other church activities over the years and I have always wore my wedding ring. The conversation that followed was encouraging as the person heard the testimony of our journey in marriage, which was something that the person had been praying for in extended family.
The second happened in an innocent conversation with my coworkers. Part of me feels honored about what followed, the other part made me was a little hurt at how little my coworkers know about me. It started with a Facebook post that said something along the lines of “Those who know me best would say I love____”. The answers that followed quickly for each coworker were a chorus of voices along the lines of certain animals, certain foods, hobbies, etc. When it came to me there was a pause and then “The Lord.” Absolutely true. He is first and foremost in my life.
The insecure thought immediately popped in my head “I would hope to say the same thing about the majority of my coworkers who are also professed believers.” which I did say. After they finished and thought a little more one mentioned volunteering and my grandchildren as alternatives. I suppose in thinking about it, I don’t talk about myself much.
The last was more of a personal observation than someone else making me aware. I have been feeling pretty terrible for about the past month and a half but have continued to go on with life as normal. Initially, I blamed my symptoms on refinishing my table, then moving and getting settled in our new home. As I continued to feel bad, I isolated myself, very few people knew how bad I was really feeling or the extent of my symptoms.
I don’t generally talk about not feeling well, because I believe in speaking faith. Too often, people respond with general comments of concern that are not in faith but instead plant seeds of worry. When directly asked, I answered and I was encouraged to go to my primary doctor immediately.
Proving my point, three different people who became aware of my symptoms were diagnosing me with major problems. I finally went to the doctor, and have some significant vitamin deficiencies but otherwise all other testing was within normal limits and the images didn’t cause the doctor concern. Having to take off work, I needed coworkers to cover me while I stepped out for my appointment and then follow-up imaging, my coworkers were shocked at how bad I had been feeling or for how long it had been occurring.
I thought that I have been insulating myself, I didn’t realize I was really still isolating myself. It is hard to be known when old patterns of behavior keep you from connecting. Habits that are created over a lifetime often feel like they are changing even when little really is. I am not sure that I am ready to break the habit completely, although I will try a little more to connect when I would usually just back off.