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Life Lessons from Being Erica

My cousin Lacey suggested a show for me on Hulu called Being Erica. The story is about Erica Strange, a 30-something highly-educated, underemployed, single, frustrated woman who doesn’t know what to do with her life. Sound familiar. Yea, I thought so. No wonder why she thought I’d like it.

Erika is stuck in one dead-end job after another. After getting fired, again, her family subjects her to yet another “pep-talk” that goes no where. It just makes her more frustrated, she knows she’s in a rut. She knows she should be more. She knows her life isn’t working. She even goes as far as jumping out of her bedroom window to get away from their “encouragement.”

However upon her escape she meets a therapist who says he can help her find herself and fix her regrets, “results guaranteed.” Since she has nothing left to try she gives in. But she has no idea what she’s gotten herself into. This isn’t ordinary talk therapy. This “therapist” has the ability to send her back in time. She gets to and has to relive pivitol moments of her life that got her where she is today. Yikes, can you imagine. There are part of my life I do not need to see in 3-D again.

I do love stories about time travel. There is something romantic about it. It also gives a sense of redemption. When you can go back to right what went wrong, gain understanding and clarity, you can recover what you lost and find a new perspective on yourself. For Erica, going back as an adult helps her see what was going on that she couldn’t see with her childish eyes and heart. Sometimes the choices she made the first time around are validated and it gives her more confidence.

I think that was the first thing I learned from her. One of her big regrets in college was whimping out of the intiation to join Literati, a secret society on campus. She was one of the few asked to pledge that year and after a brutal first assignment, requiring her to trash the competition in a verbal assault, she felt uncomfortable and left. She saw it as a failure that prevented her from getting ahead in her life. Erica thought if she could go back and go through with it she’d have more options.

So Erica went back to the day of her invitation to join and got to re-write her history. She was ready to kill in the first and all other rounds of initiation and she did. She made it. She was in. Then she learned that Literati published an unofficial slam paper everyweek and to stay in the group she had to dig up dirt they could publish.

Fixated on future goals she did, on her best friend’s girlfriend, knowing it could destroy her relationships. She became the worst version of herself to fit in with them. So for the second time she decided to quit Literati. Her instincts were right. She wasn’t meant to be a part of that group. It wasn’t going to help her become who she wanted to be.

Quitting twice didn’t radically change her life. She was still stuck but more sure of herself. It gave her confidence that she was true to her values and her beliefs. This also ties into the notion that there is a story God is weaving through our lives. The choices we make contribute to or distract from that story. How in touch with are with this narrative really depends on how in touch we are with God and ourselves.

That seems very philsophical but it really helped me take stock in my life in a different way. I have lots of regrets and wonder what I missed out on because of choices made. But if I could go back and re-do it would I end up making the same decision again? Maybe, maybe not.

But if I look at a string of decisions I’ve made. a picture does emerge about who I am and what I want. Sometimes the picture isn’t pretty, in my 20s it drove me to therapy. In my 30s what emerged was more of my true self, I was becoming more of who I wanted to be. Now the hard part is to stay true to my convictions and to have the courage to take necessary risks out of the new found sense of security.

I’m watching all three seasons of Being Erica, so I see more lessons forthcoming.

Single Sitcoms

In honor of National Singles Week, I will posting daily on some aspect of singlehood, singleness, or singledom that is singlerific or at the very least interesting to me.

Today’s topic for $100 is sitcoms focusing on singleness. I disqualified those that are about single parents, that’s a different genre. I’ve also over looked teen shows. So my single shows focus on people who no longer live with their parents or depend on them for survival. Take a look at this list and see if there are any I’ve missed.

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Relationship Myths and Our True Selves

One of the few things that Joanna and I have ever fought about is Sex and the City.

See she thought Carrie was a dork for getting back together with Mr. Big and I thought she was the dork for thinking that.

Joanna, I have to say that you were right and that I realized that I needed to put that relationship fantasy to death.

See there are life lessons to be learned on televion.

Joanna and I went round and round about Carrie and Big’s relationship. She didn’t think he was the ideal person for Carrie. Her opinion was that he treated her like crap, broke her heart again and again and would never be the man she truly needs.

I thought he was romantic. I was convinced that she was really in love with him and that underneath it all he really loved her to. I was thrilled when, in the end, she chose him. He was definitely a better choice than the Russian.

But after numerous reruns showing the evolution of the relationship I have to say – Joanna was right. Big was a bastard and Carrie should have chosen Aidan. Why would I think that he was the right one for anyone? Why would I think someone so egocentric, emotionally unavailable and destructive was the right person for her. (Yes, I realize this is tv, but bear with me.)

I always wanted a Mr. Big. Someone to sweep into my life with a suave sophistication and apparently treat me like crap. I guess I was hoping that maybe some of his confidence, ambition and direction would rub off on me. At times I even had my very own version of the manipulating, self-centered, narcissistic personality that I interpreted as confidence and harmless cockiness. I didn’t realize that he got stronger from me because I lost myself in him.

I honestly thought I deserved that so I dated accordingly. But why? Why would I think that is what I deserved?

Today the light bulb went off and I figured out why. On Starting Over one of the housemates realizes that her true authentic self is covered with her issues and baggage, BUT that it isn’t altered, damaged, or destroyed. The being she was created to be is still there. It’s not gone. So it had nothing to do with the actual men I chose to date but with how I saw myself. They were who they were, but I wanted more. But before I could attract more I had to be more. I needed to get a new perspective on myself.

I thought I lost the chance to be who I was created to be by all my bad choices or by the things done to me, but its still there, I just have to uncover it.

What amazing freedom that is. The imprint of being made in God’s image with a glorious purpose in this life does not go away regardless of what we do or what happens to us. I thought that was lost forever that I was a broken vase and would forever have a leak no matter how hard I tried. I thought that I was forever changed, but that just isn’t true. I believed the lie that I was Humpty Dumpty and acted accordingly. So many times I settled for less. So many times I let myself be ruled by fear. So many times I beat myself up. So many times I was a doormat because I thought that is what I deserved. It was all a lie.

I think this was one of the major disconnects in my Christian walk. How could I relate to a whole and perfect God when I was so damaged and broken. I knew in my head that he could restore me but I was angry because I thought I’d always have scars. I always wondered who I could have been. But that is wrong thinking. I can still be that person and use my experience to benefit others. I am whole by the grace of God. Wow!

Guilt and Confession with Joan of Arcadia

Thank goodness Joan is back. I was going through serious withdrawl. Since I have an aversion to church where else am I supposed to be challenged theologically? *hee, hee* just kidding dad, ok not totally kidding 😛

The topic of the day is confession.

“It’s not about feeling bad, confession is a sacrament used to celebrate God’s limitless capacity to forgive. He knew we’d feel guilty all the time, so he gave us a way to deal with it.” Lily to Helen about the “sacrament of confession, which is outward sign of inward grace.”

As protestants we don’t put too much emphasis on confession. We like to quietly go before God lest other people find out how broken we really are. As a child I was taugh 1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. But somehow in my head that got tied to conversion, you do that at the beginning of your walk with God. Then the rest of the time you just try to be good and not sin.

I never even thought to share with others where I was struggling. I couldn’t image admitting to another person where I was failing in my walk with God. It was instead a very solitary existance, most of the time I think I shut out God too. Knowing full well that he was all-knowing and ever-present I chose to live in denial.

“Guilt is the spiritual equivalent of physical pain. Like pain, things go horribly wrong when we ignore it. It’s not enough to just confess. It only works when its accompanied by change.” Priest to Helen about not wanting to lose her friend Lily if she and Kevin break up.

I am the queen of guilt. But instead of confessing to receive grace, understanding and mercy I like to keep the pain to myself and spiral down into my own private hell. Why I chose to live with perpetual pain instead of seeking forgiveness and freedom, I have no idea. It seems so simple when I put it like that. But yet in the moment I am so ashamed, or I just don’t think its that big a deal, so why does anyone need to know. Yet deep in my soul I crave to return to innocence. I want to be pure. I want my character to change, I want to be more like God.

Innocence is more than absence of guilt, its about having faith that there’s goodness in the face of cruelty and pain. Someplace you still feel that way. that’s me, and I’ll always be there.” God to Joan about pain.

Life is full of pain, mistakes, failure, rejection along with the beautiful, redemptive, amazing, fun and crazy. You have to experience the highs and lows. yet the joy of that is that we are not alone. Just as we need people to make the highs highers we need people to be with us in the depths of our loneliness, fear, and pain. When we can be open with each other about everything then life is richer and more abundant.

That is so much easier said than done. I still struggle with hiding and wearing a mask that everything is ok. I am so grateful to have friends that know me and can call me out on my crap. That is a gift. But I had to take the risk and let them into who I really am so they could recognize it when they see it.

Confession is good for the soul. It’s not about proving how awful you are. It’s about being on the journey to being whole.