Toeing an invisible line


On Toeing the line between private and public.

A friend asked me why I sometimes say I long to be anonymous. She thought that did not go with being a writer, publishing personal poetry, having a website and an author page. I have no answer for that. I do know I am slowly getting better at managing to have privacy and yet being public. Part of it is my way of telling my story especially in a conversation.

I have always tended to be a legend in my own time, telling tales, sad, glad, funny, ridiculous, tragic, comic about my own life. I often accompany these tales with grand gestures.

But I also struggle with being who God whispered me to be. Opposites dwell within me. I am totally comfortable speaking to large crowds. Have done that. Would do so again if God should so call me to do so for His glory. To be honest, I enjoy public speaking.

Yet, I crave being kind of anonymous. Social gatherings give me anxiety. When I was a child, I would silently repeat that I would enjoy the birthday party, dance, whatever once I got there. My own too soon, too young marriage at not yet 19 caused such anxiety at my wedding reception that my stomach ran amok, causing my father to frown mightily. All those guests seated waiting for lunch to be served, while I quaked and thought about how to escape all those smiling folks.

I love long talks one on one or even one on a few. I crave quality time with people I love and like, not brief, quick, shallow conversations. I have had to learn small talk like a foreign language.

I like to travel but am not as keen on arriving. All that hugging and greeting reminds me of how much I have missed the loved ones I have traveled many miles to see. And I dread the farewell time. I’d rather just sneak out when no-one is looking. Not very polite that.

I stare out car windows as we drive and think odd thoughts. I might start by smiling at grazing cattle, then think about the many times I wrote features about raising cattle, getting to know the farm families who chose that as a life style. Farming is a life style. No clock to punch, no time to head home. Farming is about seasons, about planting, cultivating, harvesting. Cattle ranching is about making sure cattle are fed, fattened, and then head off to someone’s dinner plate. So I look at grazing cattle and go off on mental journeys.

Once someone asked me what I was thinking as I gazed at a field of ripening wheat. I waxed poetic, sharing the way wind rippled the wheat, the play of light and shadow, the bread or other food that would one day grace family meals, all begun in the wheat field we had already passed. The questioner wondered how I lived with a brain that went such strange places over a field of ripening wheat. I decided it might be wiser to henceforth respond to questions about my thoughts by saying, “Not much, what are you thinking about?”

So how am I doing with jumping side to side of an invisible line between introversion and privacy on one side and sociability, visibility, and public image on the other side? Well, today I am. And I pray I will be tomorrow as well. It has taken me a long time to feel that it is okay to be a person with conflicting emotions, with things that rub against one another inside me. I know I am more than a bit strange but I enjoy streaks of strangeness in people. More importantly I know I am who God whispered me to be. I pray I become more of that and less of the nervous nelly, the one who spooks too easily, the one who is not always comfortable being who God made me to be. He is after all the perfect potter and I am the clay.

You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? Isaiah 29:16

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” (Romans 9:20)

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© 2014 Patricia Keough-Wilson