In part one of this discussion on losing my voice, I talked of being too exhausted to continue to communicate. The second part of losing my voice whilst I was in Germany had to do with perception and permission. There were two (greatly generalised) types of ex-pats in my community in German. There were the ex-pats who complained constantly about the German-way of doing things. These folks had followed husbands to jobs, but were not necessarily happy about it. And they complained. About everything. At every opportunity. To anyone who would listen. Then there was the other type. The ones who were embarrassed by type one and so who tried to only point out the positives. In general, unless in the privacy of your own home with your own family, this group did not complain. They were the eternal "Pollyana's" of the ex-pat world.
Since one of my least favourite groups of people are who we dub "The Ugly American" in our home, you can be assured that I landed in group two. [The Ugly American is that person, American or not but most likely American, who spends all there time saying "in my home country we did it this way" and refusing to embrace anything about the culture they are visiting.] I did truly enjoy much of our life in Germany, so it was not a stretch to focus on the positives. Also, I tend to think if we focus on positives, the negatives are much less looming.
But to never feel able to express the negativity was draining. Recently another blogger wrote about an entirely different subject, "I did not have the freedom to tell the truth and I no longer had the energy to pretend." That sums up much of my time in Germany. I did not have the freedom to express how hard it was. DH was not having a great time at work and already felt guilty of having moved us yet again in the 3 years and I did not want to add pressure to him. I knew in my head the first year in a new place is the most difficult and wanted to give it it's best chance. And, we were convinced then, and I am still convinced, that God had a purpose for us in that place. Therefore I didn't want to speak against where God had place me. But it was hard. Very hard. And to not have an outlet made it even harder.
Another group-two friend, after she moved away from Germany, commented that she had not realised that she had basically held her breath and held her neck tense for two years until she was back home and could communicate without being afraid of saying it wrong. Two years of holding your breath and biting back your true feelings is a long time.
But we do this all the time. We spend years in church fellowships where we are afraid to show that we are hurting or doubting or in need. We hold our breath and draw in the pain, paint that religious smile on our face and off we go to speak platitudes that are empty. Why? Because we don't have the freedom to be ourselves. Because we are afraid that if we express doubts we will look like "The Ugly Christian" who needs it to be our way or no way. Or we will not look like a Christian at all. We convince ourselves that God can't handle it if we are real (and we know our friends can't handle our "realness" because they all have it all together).
Where does this lead us? To being worn out and "not having the energy to pretend." Which leads us to drop out of those religious circles that could be life-bringing because they might see that we are cracked and bruised and needy. We stop communicating with the very ones who could bring us healing. And we stop communicating the healing others' need. We need to be able to lay down these masks of "having it together" and be real enough to give voice to our needs and to our ability to help those in need.
I am convinced, maybe even convicted, that we need to build I to our bible studies and our religious circles of friends the ability to be real. I am not advocating for a group one-everything-is-horrible reality, but a reality that is free to say I am having a tough time. I want a freedom to share the hard stuff that God leads me through as well as the easy things. I want to be someone that can handle hearing a friend say "life is tough" and not judge or try to solve it for them. I want to be a Christian community that enhances communication, not stifles it. In some ways that is easier to build online than in face-to-face life. But I want it in both places. So this may be a recurring theme that you see here. As I try to regain my voice, I will advocate for you to have your voice as well. Let us speak in honesty, in reality and of course in love as we share our lives.
Thanks for listening to this rambling heart.