Saturday, March 8, 2008

Rebel without a Clean House

I grew up as the youngest of three sisters - my oldest sister is eight years older than me, and my other sister is seven years older. That's quite a difference, and according to Kevin Leman, author of the 'birth order' books, it's enough of a difference for me to have traits of being an oldest child. Let me pause here to say that reading one of Dr. Leman's books is what got me really thinking about how my birth order has affected me. And I think he has a lot of good things to say. But I'm not convinced that just because someone is an oldest child she has to say, "I'm the oldest, so I guess I'm stuck with traits A, B, and C for the rest of my life." A book or a personality test can give me insight into why I am the way I am, but I don't need to let it dictate who I am.

Anyway... Growing up as the youngest by so much meant that I had four adults in my life. Four people weighing in on what I did, when I did it, and how I did it. Four people having an opinion about me. In addition to this environment, I am a naturally compliant person - a peacemaker, a people pleaser, or whatever you want to call it. One compliant girl + four adults telling her what to do = someone who comes to believe that she doesn't really have control over the situation. And someone who craves rules and boundaries, because when I know what the rules are I can figure out the right way to do it and no one can question the result. No one can scold me or insinuate that I did it wrong. There are so many other things to delve into here, but I won't because this post is going to be long enough already.

As I have come to realize these things and how they affect me as an adult, I've made some very surprising discoveries. One discovery is a quiet rebellion that has occured under the surface (and I mean waaaaaay under the surface) over and over and over again.

I'm in the bathroom and I notice that the trash can is 3/4 full. I think, "I should empty the trash."

Previous waaaaay-under-the-surface thought process:
  1. There is a certain standard for my house, and I need to strive to keep it at that standard. If I don't, I'm not following the rules, acheiving the goal, etc.
  2. Emptying the trash is something I need to do if I'm going to live up to that standard.
  3. But I don't want to empty out the trash!! I don't feel like emptying the trash!! I'm an adult and NO ONE CAN MAKE ME EMPTY OUT THIS TRASH CAN. I'm the boss of my time now, and I say that I don't want to do this. Besides, it's not all the way full so I can put off doing this. And no one can say boo about it because it's MY house.

Holy cow! How bizarre is that? And the sad thing is, this was the start of a very destructive cycle. I would rebel against the voice in my head telling me to take out the trash, but I would still feel the pressure of achieving and living up to the proper standard, so I would put the task on this huge to-do list in my head which was insanely long. Every time I put off doing something it would go onto this list and when I thought about the list I felt a host of negative feelings. Guilt, because I wasn't keeping up with the standard. Frustration, because I felt overwhelmed by the amount of things I had to do. Shame, because I thought it meant I was lazy. I would think, "Why can't I do this simple thing? If I would learn to do the simple things they wouldn't build up and become insanely complicated things." I felt that it was all my fault, and every time I looked at my house all I could see were the things I needed to do, and they reminded me that I was failing. And that really makes you excited to do housework, doesn't it???

Does this make me sound like a nut case? (Do these jeans make my butt look fat?) LOL

The good news is that the simple act of realizing this negative thought process and understanding where it comes from, and having some conversations with God and asking him to reveal his truth and help me break free of this thought process, has had a HUGE impact on me.

Scenario (revisited):
I'm in the bathroom and I notice that the trash can is 3/4 full. I think, "I should empty the trash."

New process:
  1. Empty the trash. And while I'm at it, take the bag into the bedrooms and empty that trash too.
  2. Tie up trash bag and put it on the porch to be taken out at the next opportunity.
  3. Think about how different life is now that I don't have a bunch of pent up rebellion. Ponder this while putting potatoes in the oven to bake and while straightening the kitchen.
  4. Sit down to blog about it.

Amazing! Isn't God good?

I want to close by saying that in addition to some crazy negative effects, my experience growing up as the youngest gave me some incredibly positive traits and experiences. I have been (and still am) blessed to have such a wonderful family and I don't want anything that I write here to be misconstrued as an acusation of "Look what you did to me people!!" ;-) No matter what kind of family a person grows up in, I think the enemy will always find a way to twist things, and as adults it's natural that we have to come to terms with some of this stuff.

Now I need to go take the baked potatoes out of the oven...

1 comment:

Monica said...

Hi, Erin...
I just found your blog and am reading it from the beginning in chronological order.

I think I personally have had that first conversation about the trash MANY, MANY times. Very interesting insights. I have a few ideas of my own regarding where that rebellion took its root in my own life. Perhaps that's a conversation that needs to happen at another time in another place. =)