In the Myers-Briggs typology, I am an INTJ. And I am really an INTJ. With the exception of the “T – F” continuum, I am way out on the edges of the scale – sometimes clinging by my fingernails to keep from falling off. Now, if you know nothing about the Myers-Briggs self-assessment scale, this will mean nothing to you (and you are free to ignore it). If you are familiar with it, it will tell you a lot about the way I prefer to approach life. And my preferences are clear as a bell.
What has always fascinated me is that my preferences and my behavior are often miles apart. Although I am (hands down) an extreme Introvert, in the sense that my energy comes from inward focus, silence, and solitude, for the better part of 30 years (from my mid-20s through my late-50s), I functioned in my vocation as an Extrovert. It is worth observing that this was, perhaps, not the most stress-free way to spend three decades. And I have known for most of that long time that I was functioning in a manner that under-utilized my strengths and forced me to use emotional and psychological muscles that were not designed to handle the task.
I could even say that out loud. I discussed it (frequently) with two counselors and three spiritual directors across the years. I wrestled with it on retreat. I wrote about it. I preached about it. I have more journal entries devoted to this issue than any dozen people might be expected to have. The last eighteen months have framed a growing internal crisis as I asked (repeatedly) what was wrong with me that I couldn’t just drive through the emotional pain and struggle to the “other side” – wherever that was and however the landscape looked.
Samhain – which is difficult for many of us because it asks us to stop distracting ourselves with activities and pay attention – has been nothing less than a rear guard action to maintain the familiar (and excruciatingly painful) status quo.
I don’t know what happened or why, but somewhere between yesterday and today, something shifted. Something really small on the cosmic scale of things. Something minuscule. Somewhere around the level of my mitochondria, I finally felt the quiet willingness to give up a way of being that is simply not sustainable because it is not the life I have been created to live. And I was brought back over 35 years to the day I told my godmother that I was going to answer my call to ministry. She looked at me very seriously for a long time, and then she said, “I want you to remember something. You need to remember this. You, Andrea, very specifically need to remember this – because it is a wound in you. You will have the blessing of caring for many wounded sparrows, but you must remember that not every wounded sparrow is yours.” I listened. I even heard. But our wounds are always with us, sometimes places of great strength where the scar tissue has formed, but always there, always susceptible to pressure.
Somewhere between yesterday and today, something shifted that (G-d willing) will let me quietly release the wounded sparrows that are requiring so much care, care that I am simply not capable of giving. Only one or two of those are actually people, most of them are tasks or organizations or expectations; they are needs or challenges or burdens that must be left for someone else, someone with the strength and skill to carry them. Because in some cases, I suspect I am actually doing more harm than good in trying to be someone I am not. I know I am doing more harm than good to myself.
And myself is the only one of me there is – so I had better be about the unique vocation that is mine and that will be left undone unless I live it.
You may not have a wound that looks like mine (even superficially) – or you may have learned this lesson many years ago. (I am not always, as I have just confessed, the world’s quickest study), but if you sense that there is even a tiny place in your where you are not living who you are fully and completely and joyfully, perhaps you would like to share these words I offer in gratitude to the Holy One who keeps inviting each of us to step into our rightful place in the dance of creation.
Slippery wet with birthwaters
you hauled me, dripping,
out of exuberant chaos
into the vortex of time.
You marked the lintels of my heart
with the lifeblood of new creation
and the deathblood of slaughtered idolatry.
You poised me on sword edge
in the heartbeat between before and after
where there is no thing
but pure light.
Bless you for blessing me.
Text © 2015, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2014, 2011 Immram Chara, LLC
NOTE: The photo of the baby bird was taken by my husband on our first day in Southsea, England. The photo of the arches is from Canterbury Cathedral. It is available through my Etsy Shop as both a card and a print.