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Day 45: Passions Confused & Confusing

Which is not to say it wouldn’t get confused and confusing, this passion from within.

How does a father’s daughter extraordinaire—by which I mean a woman blessed with multiple father figures—discern what is the fire in her own belly, and that which animates the fire in the bellies of others whose approval matters to her? How does the unique fire that is hers not get shaped, even used, even if without malice?

This is a healing scar for me today, which means its pain and its power go hand in hand. Power: the earliest seeds of my own creative potential broke ground into open air. Pain: a tender shoot arrived in an oxygen-carbon-dioxide mixture that didn’t have enough oxygen for a fully embodied woman. More oxygen than I’d ever had before, to be sure, but never enough for all of me.

At some intuitive level, I knew that and worked with whatever I could. Achievement. An impish, trickster charm. An uncanny capacity to sense connections and creative juxtapositions in scholarship. Caring for and gently becoming visible to the father figures I encountered, some of whom were women, so they might be drawn to me.

I’d learned this from an early age, after all. My family’s gift-giving habits are rooted in intuitive perception and surprise. Gifts were more cherished if you could intuit someone’s desires for such an item without them ever naming it explicitly. What I love about this is that gift-giving can communicate a message of I see you, I love you. There is little I need more in this trip around the Sun than being seen and heard in who I am, independent of any other. Its disempowering difficulty is that no one practices naming what they want or need.

Learning to perceive a parent’s emotional weather, without them being aware of communicating it, also created positive affirmations and a sense of belonging. I got good at this. Of course, the psychological muscles for discerning my own feelings or needs atrophied. This giftedness in me didn’t encourage them discerning their feelings or needs either.

Belonging for me became a game of women’s intuition and provision for others’ emotional needs, mostly unconscious. Not surprising (to me today), I grew lonelier and lonelier inside, completely unaware that I was pimping my own passions, gifts. Completely unaware that I was lonely. How could I be? I was surrounded by faithful people, learning more deeply their wisdom and struggles. Besides, everybody there loved Jesus. What could possibly go wrong? …

I don’t fault myself for any of this misdirected approval-seeking that unknowingly starved me, though I do grieve the fearful loneliness and deepening shame. I’m thankful I was learning to follow my nose, staying in the energetic streams of being seen, so to belong. I was honing gifts and graces that would prepare me to not only survive, but eventually thrive, as a full professor in a freestanding UMC seminary, facing ecclesial schism.

Godde’s arc is way longer than we can ever imagine.

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