Switching off the MeCam

I needed to take a new picture the other day using my webcam. It took me a while to figure out why my face was always in shadow. I must have taken about eight photos before I realised I was looking at myself, not at the tiny lens in the top of the screen. Not at the camera.

And I thought, oh. Is that what I’ve been doing all this time.

It’s very hard to do anything much if you’re constantly observing yourself. Checking your own progress. Re-playing conversations, assessing your performance. Looking in the mirror of other people’s responses. It’s also exhausting. No wonder I’m tired all the time. And so self-conscious. Why sometimes I talk as if speech was about to be banned, and at other times I can find nothing to say. My harshest critic has always been me. My biggest bully (and I’ve had a few) has been my own dear self, reminding me always of my failures and never of my successes.

So at the beginning of my 4Xth year I’ve decided to switch off the me-cam. I don’t need constant reassurance that I’m on the right track. I can trust God’s word and God’s methods to set me straight when I need it. I’ve decided to actually trust myself and my gifts this year. Possibly for whole days at a time. I aim to resist refuelling at the pit stops of self-pity, fear and sadness. I am going to check my progress, if I must, against what God says about me. I am going to surround myself with people who encourage, words that inspire and images that delight me. (No cat pictures though).

Jesus got a little exasperated with his disciples from time to time. On one such occasion, he had healed a boy his followers had not been able to cure. They asked him why they couldn’t do it. He said

Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

Matthew 17 v 20

I have no idea what this will look like, and that’s the point. I have speculated far too much about how things will look, or how I will look, and what others will think about it. Time to stop. So I’m switching that off. Now.

17 years at N/A.

This may just be it, you know. My turning point. The bit in my personal movie where I suffer a blow that motivates me to face down my personal demons. One of those is a tendency to wallow in perceived failure. It encourages me to hide my pain from others, and then lashes me with it when I’m alone. So let me speak the truth and shame the devil, however small and slight this event may appear in the grand scheme of things.

Last Saturday night my husband showed me a notification from a networking site inviting him to congratulate me on ‘17 years at N/A’. I laughed with him and a friend at the time but inside I was curling up, mortified. I realised I had never completed my profile properly, planning to return to it ‘later’, that magical time beyond the horizon. And now the whole world, okay, the handful of contacts in my network, know I have been at N/A for the last 17 years, whatever that means. It got to me because for most of those years I have been in that other place beyond the so-called real world, known as full-time parenting, where strange creatures live in lands strewn with all manner of quests, trials and adventures. Some parents, like me, are fully immersed in this other world and emerge only occasionally to engage with this dimension (which I’ll call working-world, for the sake of simplicity if not accuracy, for work is abundant in that other world too). As my children grow more independent, I am beginning to travel between dimensions more often, but this computer-generated reminder that there was no category for me in working-world made me feel like someone had pulled my skirt up in the playground and then run away.

I heard the usual song from my internal bully about being a failure and having no trophies to show the good folks of working-world with the addition of a new verse about this now being public and how embarrassing and everyone’s laughing at me now… (think Morrissey). I cried along to that later, thinking of my amazing accomplished peers and how poorly I compared. I hadn’t heard the song of failure for a while, though like anything you learn well enough, you never forget the words. It felt like coming home, because this is where I lived for years even before having children. Before I was even old enough to have a chance to try, let alone fail at anything. That thought alone sat me up in the dark.

In the movies this would be the moment of searing revelation just before the montage showing repetitions of sweaty workouts or study or physio or pirouettes as the main character transforms from zero to hero. This song of negativity took me backwards. It reminded me of the past. It didn’t relate to my life now. This was an epiphany because I realised I’ve already been doing this sweaty working out/study/physio thing – though no pirouettes, if I’m honest – in the strange land I mentioned earlier, learning all manner of resilience, resourcefulness and stamina as I facilitate childhood in glorious technicolour and four times over. Who knows what use I’ll put it to, or what I’ll end up doing in working-world, but I know that with God’s help I’m more than equal to it.

For I know the plans I have for you, Says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29 v 11

Time for a new song. And a profile update. 😉