Betty Duffy

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

What's Holding Me Back: distorted self image



A funny thing happened after my post, “I never miss a party or a fight.” Several people approached me to acknowledge how I’d hurt them and to accept the flimsy apology offered in my blog. Not one of them was the person I was referring to in that post—which leads me to believe that I am way more abrasive than I have been willing to admit. The evidence is there: People in isolated incidents, at separate events are hurt after a rub with me. I am the common denominator.

So apparently, all of my wishing and hoping that others won’t take me seriously—that they’ll let the barbed wire of my personality roll off their skin just hasn’t worked. Funny about that: people have feelings.

Tantrum: But I want to score funnies at other people’s expense!

I fancy myself the Shirley MacLaine character in Steel Magnolias—she’s awful, but you love her. Or Scarlett O’Hara, a selfish wretch, but you still want to be her. In real life, however, this behavior makes me an abrasive old coot that no one wants to be around.

I don’t struggle for self-awareness. I know my faults. For instance, why am I always late?

I could say that I am a woman swimming upstream, with five kids hanging off my back. And I do have those moments when all of us are piled in the car dressed and buckled when it becomes clear that someone pooped their pants. So I take the two-year-old in for a change and he has the nerve to fight with me—as though I would take up arms for the right to change his poop diaper.

I’ll play that frazzled mom card when it’s time for a meeting, or even getting the kids to school in the morning (7am?). But the reality is, I am late because I am the woman who values my free time more than yours. Say I need to meet a girlfriend for lunch—I’m up and ready to blow this joint before first dawn.

I know my faults.

What’s my root sin: pride, vanity, or sensuality? Flip a coin, roll the dice—whatever the outcome is, you’ll be right. I’m the artful dodger—the person who’s always dodging the bullet, trying to get by with the least amount of effort and sacrifice. Don’t look at me or you might see through me. It’s so obvious and so much the same as it was ten years ago, thirty years ago. I’m the woman who never gets the message I truly need because I’m so fixated on believing I already have it. I’m so content with my sameness, my averageness because it requires so little of me and I have already proven myself capable of that.

Pedge made a beautiful point in her recent post “Conversion....” It’s not my jeans, or my music or my magazines that will keep me out of Heaven. Though I read recently that St Theresa of Avila once had a similar preoccupation with Romance Novels—that they might be the one thing that puts her under a staircase in hell. Supposedly she toiled away as a mediocre nun until she was 38 years old and realized that these THINGS, were not obstacles to Heaven—they were distractions.

If I can keep myself preoccupied with my Mom jeans and my bad music, then I’ll never have to do the really dirty work of treating other people with charity. If I can keep fretting over my crazy life with kids and how I never seem to get out the door on time, then I won’t ever stop to ask Jesus what he wants of me. What can I do for him (that might require some sacrifice that I don’t want to make)?

Because I’m sure looking in from the outside, I have about as much of a chance at becoming holy as I have of becoming Angelina Jolie, that perhaps this is all some sort of exercise in Catholic guilt. The bottom line is that in spite of it all—I love Jesus and I believe that he loves me. I didn’t ask to be born a sinner. I inherited it. I blame my first parents. But if I love Jesus, I have something to offer him every single minute of the day; my weakness, my selfishness, my sin, and my struggle against it.

(Transform me, Lord. Grant me the miracle of constant change, constant transformation, constant hurt, constant discomfort—so I’m not the old lady who at the end of my life says, “I could have been great. I was meant to be something spectacular—but no one ever handed it to me. Everything, all the circumstances of my life got in the way.” )

5 comments:

John said...

...just don't let yourself get too boring in your pursuit of holiness.

Also, to help quell your want for greatness, you should watch this special that Kate and I caught the other day: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/episode/journey-to-the-edge-of-the-universe-3023/Overview#tab-Overview

Reflecting on the profound vastness, variety and perfection of God's creation will help you put worldly human greatness into perspective. It is all so incredibly fleeting and small.

jenx67 said...

Betty,
You give me the courage to speak the truth. I heard one time that Scripture was the breathed by God and thus in reading the Bible we breathe in God. If the word became flesh, then my feeling that Christ is the very breath I take is not just poetry, but reality.

My first thought when I read this post was that I missed something in the post to which you refer. I'm kind of annoyed by the idea of people approaching you to "accept the apology." Do worry about putting yourself out there? You do it with tremendous style and intelligence.

90 percent of what I think and write never sees the light of day, which makes me miss my anonymous days on the Open Diary.

Betty Duffy said...

Being boring is a big fear of mine. What if I become a church lady? Maybe I already am. I should get a perm to go with my holiness.

I guess that "to accept my apology" was sort of a turn of phrase that I liked. More accurate to say that I apologized.

As far as putting myself out there goes, my family is pretty used to me sharing too much, however, I really hope that if you are all out there cringing on my behalf, that one of you will have the decency to tell me I've made a fool of myself again.

And Jen, you are so right about the poetry of faith. I'm often stuck by the beauty that is hidden in Christianity, just waiting to be discovered by those who attempt to live it.

Betty Duffy said...

I should add: This self portrait was done by ME! in 1995.

And it's for sale.

I think I'll call it "Spoon Me"

jenx67 said...

You're an artist! Geez. That is a great visual commentary. I can't draw a stick figure. I jsut assumed it was something swiped from someplace - my favorite way to get stuff. That title is just hysterical.