When I was in about fifth grade, a new girl came to our school. I was asked to help her find her way through those first few days, which I was happy to do.
As a result, she invited me to her house. She had nice parents. But here’s the deal: while I stood in her home, amid all of the kindness extended to me, I had a spiritual crisis: I realized I didn’t really like the girl.
There was nothing wrong with her. But standing in her home, I didn’t like how I felt.
I knew I could and would be kind to her. But did that mean I had to be her best friend?
This dilemma troubled me for years.
Where was I.... AH! This dilemma troubled me for years :)
As a grew and matured, I recognized that some people were born as Fort Knox; they had high, impenetrable walls and a “NO ACCESS” sign on their forehead.
But that certainly was not me. I was born an open field; anyone could come in, no fences.
I truly thought the most glorious part of life: to have one hundred best friends.
After all, I was a Christian. Jesus loved everyone, right?
Well, I tried to do that for several years. And it about killed me.
I’ll tell you two stories in particular.
This became my quest: How could I be kind without being sucked into drama? How could I preserve self while being loving to others?
My husband would tell me to LET THE CRAZY PEOPLE GO. He explained, “Lori, if I eat a meal and it gives me hives, I stop eating the meal.”
For year and years, I would eat the meal and then I’d take Benadryl.
So I sought spiritual direction from my priest at the time, Fr. Jim Billinger and a strong woman from our parish. I (separately) told them my challenge: I wanted to be kind and loving and accepting and all of that…but some people drained every single one of my resources.
They listened. They asked good questions. And they told me the same thing: I didn’t have to be best friends with everyone.
I leaned over and whispered, “What about Him?” as I used my head to point to the Crucifix.
I found it interesting that they basically told me the same thing: being kind did NOT mean that I had to let everyone in. Really? How did that work, exactly?
They told me how they did it. They gave to others fully. They engaged, they listened, but they did not allow access to their inner soul. That inner part was reserved for only certain people.
As they talked and guided me, a mental image began to grow.
I now think of my inner world, my heart, mind and soul, as a gorgeous Victorian House.
There are three important areas:
Let’s explore the best part first:
My inner home is the inner Lori. I have invested much and I have made it into an absolutely beautiful place, with tastefully decorated rooms. The colors are rich and warm. The furniture is incredibly comfortable and inviting.
This is where I get refreshed for the journey. It is where I get inspired. It is where I seek and find God. It is the “me of me.”
My inner home is my sanctuary against all the busy. It is MINE and I preserve it at all costs.
There are currently about eight people that I allow into this inner part of me; I’m smiling right now as I think of them.
These women get me. They know that I have a very strong Sanguine personality, which means I talk without thinking, swear too much and say inappropriate comments just because I think life needs flavor and I am the spice merchant.
They see all of that and somehow, they TELL ME WHO I AM BECOMING. Not who they think I should be, but who I really am, with my strengths, weaknesses and everything in between. They believe in the person that they know I can and want to be. And they cherish her.
One of my things: I love thinking about life and how to improve as a wife and mother. My best friends have that same drive. We are constantly sharing new books, fresh ideas, more invigorating ways of living.
So when we are together, we share (sometimes we delve into the humanity of our people), we love, we respect what’s happening.
They don’t try to rearrange my furniture or change the color of my walls. They bring margaritas. When they leave, my house is even more beautiful, their perfume lingers.
It’s simple, really. Their gift to me is their ability to see and accept. This is so vital: their acceptance of me makes me see and love myself.
It is the essence of How God Loves. When I am with my inner home people, the all-consuming, non-threatening, non-comparing, joyous, majestic love of GOD is felt, seen and experienced.
The next part of my house:
The Big Front Porch.
How I love this porch. There are tons of beautiful flowers all over the place, hanging in baskets as well as in glorious pots. The colors are playful and welcoming. There is a porch swing to be enjoyed as well as thickly padded chairs.
This is where the majority of my life is spent, with those that are just good friends.
I love being here and I love spending time with my front porch people.
They are my friends but I don’t always know their children’s names and ages.
We enjoy each other immensely.
They aren’t crazy. They aren’t intimate. They are just good people and we have great conversations.
I don’t get strained or stressed by some things that they may share because they aren’t my inner home people. I can enjoy without allowing entrance.
The absolutely cool part of life is how the Front Porch Friends sometimes become Inner Home Friends. I’m never sure when that will happen, but it’s gorgeous when it does.
Sometimes it is one conversation, filled with light and grace and beauty. I see them, with all their wondrous hurt and pain and joy; they see me with all of mine. We recognize each other and I say, “Come on in, friend.”
I love that process.
The last area of my Victorian Home:
The gated fence around my yard.
As I stated at the beginning of this post, I used to invite all sorts of people into my house, the toxic ones and the mean ones. And when they left my inner self, their dirty, muddy footprints were everywhere.
My entire emotional house would be wrecked.
I had to spend my precious energy fixing all of the things that they had ruined by their poisonous words.
This hurt not only me but my family, too, because my strength was taken from me. It takes time to build a person back to fabulous and confident.
So now, when I see these lethal people approaching me, a soft warning bell goes off in my head.
I leave my inner house and walk down the front steps; I run down the sidewalk and I open the front gate.
I let myself through the gate then I TURN AND SHUT IT. I stand on the outer sidewalk and wait for them. When they come close, I smile. I am kind.
If they need to talk, I listen.
When our conversation is over, they go on their merry way; I wave and smile.
I turn and go back inside my tranquil home.
The mean, toxic and/or crazy people are no longer given a key to my house.
I am grateful, so very grateful, to my spiritual directors for helping me build my Victorian Home. For years it was hard to figure out how I was to love with my big woman heart and not have the energy sucked out of me.
With this imagery, I am able to make sense of it all. These boundaries give me the freedom to love everyone to a certain degree while preserving the sacred spaces.
One last thing:
I am 51 years old and I have most certainly said things that have put people over their edge. When those people see ME coming, they run to their front gate.
That's okay. In fact, it's kind of awesome. I don’t have to be All Things for All People. We can be kind to all…. But I know mine and they know me. And it’s fabulous.
P.S. If you loved this analogy of The Victorian House, please share it with your “inner home” friends. Tell THEM why you love and trust them!
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