April 24, 2018
This is the third post in the six-part series, I Can't Get No Satisfaction.
The week after we came home from being in Maine for the weekend, skiing through the woods, enlivened by snow, fresh air and exercise, staying in a small cabin surrounded by mountains (my dream home) I had to recognize and acknowledge (again), and make emotional space for particular tensions that exist in my life.
First, there is the tension we experience as outdoors-loving people living in the city. The ache and the need for wild, natural, beautiful places. This ache is part of what drives our road trips, skiing, backpacking, hiking, etc.
Then there is the tension we experience, within our marriage, at a deeper, more foundational level, which is the tension between adventures and risk-taking endeavors and security and stability.
A small measure of maturity and wisdom gained from forty years of living (and a mid-life crisis), together with honest reflection on twenty years of marriage (looking for the connection between life events and personal and marital well-being) has helped us identify a core divergence in our personalities.
Damien uses adventure, risk, and physical challenge/discomfort to elevate his sense of well-being; these things charge his emotional battery. Whereas, I need a bedrock sense of security, as my well-being, to jump-start my desire for adventure, the unknown, and increase my tolerance for physical challenge/discomfort.
The very things that make Damien feel alive, feel like a threat to my existence, without the prerequisite security.
There's a convergence in our activities and interests, but we approach those things from completely different motivations.
That is a real tension in my life.
At one time I thought I had a split personality this way, am I a homebody or am I adventurous? I'm both, but these aren't equal, like "flip a coin and see which Renee you'll get". Adventure only arises in me after feeling grounded in home. And if the "home" part feels too shaky, too uncertain, adventurous me ceases to exist. I crawl into a shell to protect myself, to make a home, to find security.
Security is the real thing here, a sense of security in community and place, and a sense of security in financial stability.
Moving to the city, staying put in one apartment, and establishing our family and our kids in a community was a huge boost to my sense of overall well-being.
But perhaps more importantly, or equally important, Damien pursuing an employment path with an increased and more steady income greatly affects my sense of security. Every time we make strides to stabilize our income, which this winter included me becoming gainfully employed, there is a corresponding increase in my sense of well-being.
I need to own this part of my story and myself. I feel my best self, my confident self, my most at-ease self with security in general and financial stability, in particular.
I feel shame about my need for financial stability. I feel less spiritual because other people seem to trust God way more than I can muster. I don't feel cut out for the entrepreneurial ethos of the modern age, especially among my internet peers. I look at my middle class, North American, white privilege life and think I'm deeply flawed to crave/need this much security.
How is everyone else surviving?
During my crash and lowest points after the AT I felt like a bad partner for Damien because he wants a fun-loving, adventuring wife and I'm stuck in bean counter mode, ringing my hands about how it's going to work out.
My husband asked me (kindly) "what happened to the fun-loving, confident woman I married?" Turns out there's an equation for that.
sense of security => emotional well-being => fun-loving, laughing, "I'll try that", confident Renee.
How people define personal security differs and I'm still defining and discovering my own sweet spot. It's unique to me and our marriage, but it's also common because security is a core need for humans.
We've spent the last 3 1/2 years diving into that security piece of the equation, because the other variables, and my happiness and well-being, follow from that one piece.
I regularly battle internal voices of accusation, "if you were a more trusting Christian this wouldn't matter so much to you", "you haven't even experienced true hardship, imagine if you were a refugee, what then?" Those voices accuse and taunt me but I'm learning I don't have to answer them. At least not straight on.
My response to these voices and questions of who I am and why I am the way I am is not condemnation, but curiosity; a commitment to explore my needs, take charge of my own life and live in ways that make me feel good about being alive, and to dig deeper into spiritual wisdom and grounding. All while cultivating a deep compassion for myself and for others as human being with needs that we are always trying to meet.
We all need/crave something(s). The line between need and crave can be blurry. I think it's a spectrum and how we experience that desire, as a need or more of a desperate craving, might be an indicator of our emotional and spiritual health. I don't want to live on the craving, grasping, striving end of the spectrum. And yet if needs aren't met that's what it feels like; that I'm grasping and striving.
You can subscribe to comments on this article using this form.
If you have already commented on this article, you do not need to do this, as you were automatically subscribed.