I finally got around to reading Don Miller’s latest book today. (That move there, the one where I say “Don” instead of “Donald?” That’s me feeling cool cause I know people who know him.) I like reading his books because I tend to agree with him, though not necessarily in a literal way. I guess I appreciate the way he thinks about things – his thought processes are similar to mine, so reading his books makes me feel like I have a kindred spirit out there. I think a lot of other people feel the same way, which is probably a huge factor in his success as a writer.
This particular book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, is mostly about living into the story of life, your own and the universe-wide story God is writing. He talks a lot about creating memorable moments, which I feel I’ve embraced pretty well in my life, and also about letting go of fear, at which I’m just plain lousy.
I’ve always struggled with the fear of not being liked. When I was younger, I resolved this fear by becoming everyone’s favorite doormat. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve made peace with the idea that some people just aren’t going to like me. Turns out it isn’t really that big a deal after all, this not being universally likable. Except…
Every once in a while I’ll meet someone and know right away that I really, really want them to like me. I want to be liked by a potential employer, a boyfriend’s mom, that fascinating and unattainable guy, or that really cool girl who probably wouldn’t have talked to me in high school. Suddenly, then, I’m twelve again… hopelessly self aware, totally stuck in my own head, hypercritical of my every move, and I sabotage the heck out of myself.
Here’s how my rebellious mind and body relay my heart’s desire to be liked by someone who intimidates me:
1) Maintain safe physical distance. As in, never, ever touch the person if you can avoid it. Stand farther away than any normal human would. Try not to make eye contact.
2) Try not to look too desperate. This is usually achieved by chatting up everyone else in the room, and relying heavily on tool number 3.
3) Remain as sarcastic as possible. Tell jokes. Act cynical, cause that’s funny. Never mind that you’re the least cynical human on the planet. That’s just weird.
4) Tell, don’t show. As in “I’m going to tell you I’m clever, because I’m basically unable to be clever in your presence. You might not believe me, but it’s worth a shot.”
5)If you can’t think of something witty to say, clam up and act bored. God forbid you should have a real conversation and reveal that you’re actually kinda likable sometimes.
You can imagine how well this works for me. Remarkably, sometimes people I really want to like me will like me in spite of all that. Sometimes, there’s just one conversation where I suddenly relax and connect and act normal and it’s all sunshine and roses. But how much easier would life be if I were able to just kill that stupid fear, to trust that a God who created me with love wouldn’t set me up for rejection I can’t handle? Don Miller says the great stories always go to people who don’t give in to fear. I’m sure he’s on to something there.
2010, the year of magical happenings. Maybe also the year I finally get over myself. Here’s hoping.