Before I could officially start my current job, I had to pass a drug test. I knew I would have to give a urine sample, so the day of the test I chugged a couple glasses of water and headed to the lab, where I assumed I would be in and out in a matter of minutes.
Once I checked in, a technician confiscated my belongings, handed me a little cup, and directed me to a tiny room with just a toilet in it (hardly a bathroom). She said I had to fill it to the line. Not a problem, I thought. But then my nightmare happened: I couldn’t pee.
I sat in there, praying, promising God I’d adopt 20 orphans, give every last dollar to the homeless, and become a missionary to an indigenous people of His choosing if He would just let me pee. I thought about rushing waterfalls. I wished for a faucet to appear. After 5 painfully long minutes, the technician told me I needed to come out.
“I can’t go,” I responded quietly through the door and a nervous chuckle. She wasn’t amused.
When 5 more minutes had passed, she insisted I come out. I panicked. I had failed AT PEEING — something I never even had to be taught how to do. The technicians were visibly annoyed. Total humiliation set in.
“You were supposed to come with a full bladder, ma’am,” one of them told me. “Go to the lobby and drink water until you can go.”
So I went, banished, to the lobby, careful to avoid eye contact with the one guy who was waiting out there. But I could feel his stare. He knew. I filled a plastic cup at the water cooler and sat down in the corner, sipping it, trying to make myself as invisible as possible.
“Ma’am, you need to walk around while you drink that. It gets it moving through your system faster,” the technician said. I don’t know if that’s scientifically accurate, but I know I wanted to die.
the next 20 minutes eternity pacing the lobby, drinking cup after tiny cup of water. Thankfully, no one else was in there during this walk of shame, but the technicians asked me every 2 minutes if I was ready to “try” (like when you ask a 3 year old to use the bathroom before you take him to Target).
“I don’t think so. Almost, though,” I tried to assure them.
I could hear them complaining in a volume just above a whisper about how I was keeping them from closing the lab for lunch. I wanted to die an extra death.
Finally, 8 cups later (approximately 40 ounces), my bladder decided to stop ruining my life. I returned to the weird toilet room and filled that pee cup to the line. It’s really the only moment in my life I can pinpoint when I was overjoyed to see urine.
The past few weeks have felt a lot like that day. Maybe slightly less traumatic, but equally as defeating.
Welp, I failed again.
That didn’t go according to plan.
Do I even have any talents?
I’m not good at anything.
I know, I know. The voices in our heads are good at telling us lies, but sometimes they’re so loud that it’s hard to hear the good stuff.
In my life, I’ve found that I’m pretty OK at a lot of things: writing, graphic design, singing, sewing/crafting, friendships. I’ve generally come to terms with the fact that I’m average, and so are most other people.
But you know those moments when you feel so vulnerable and exposed that you spiral into an existential breakdown like WHAT EVEN IS LIFE? (No? Just me?) Those moments when your confidence is slashed open and starts pouring out, kernel by kernel, until every speck of insecurity is scattered in a pile at your feet and you second-guess your every move? They creep in sometimes, and they crush me.
A few weeks ago my friend John led our group of Young Life leaders in one of those vision/mission/dreaming exercises that forces you to identify the essence of who you are. No pressure, right? Just determining my life’s purpose right now. Nothing to see here, people. Move along.
With four sections examining things like passion, calling, and what I do well, my answers exposed a common thread, and a theme emerged. The point of the exercise was to identify that theme and whittle it down to a single sentence describing my “Bliss” — my zone/sweet spot/forte/wheelhouse.
This is what I ended up with: “I desire to engage in meaningful, purposeful creative processes that foster connection and relationships.”
So, creativity. Connection. Purpose. Sweet!
But somehow since then, instead of feeling free to explore and enjoy my Bliss, I’ve found myself obsessing over the ways that I continuously fall short of achieving it. I’ve managed to turn an introspective exercise into an added layer of anxiety in my life, which is probably the exact opposite of what was supposed to happen.
I beat myself up when a design I created was redone by someone else who did an infinitely better job than I did. I’m not creative.
I freaked out at work because I thought my coworkers didn’t approve of a finished project that I took a lot of pride in. I’m not good at my job.
I obsessed over potential reasons why less people read my previous blog post than any other. Nothing I do is meaningful.
The list is long.
It’s not that I’m bothered by not being the best. Being the best at something would be nice, but it’s unrealistic unless I plan on pouring endless time and resources into climbing some ladder of greatness. I’m bothered when I fail at things I should be good at. When those things go wrong, everything goes to hell. It’s kind of like when you fail at peeing even though you’ve been peeing your entire life. Stupid drug test.
So what’s the answer? I don’t know if there is one, or at least one that is universal in its application. But I DO know that where there are lies, there is also Truth: the good stuff. So when I tell myself I’m a failure, the truth is that I am enough. When I tell myself that I’m not special, the truth is that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. When I tell myself that I don’t have any talents, the truth is that my only real calling is to love Jesus and love others.
There are good days, and there are bad days. Lots of bad days. The best days are when Truth wins, days when I’m reminded that I am loved by a God who numbered and named the stars in the sky and still looks at me — little flailing messy me — and calls me his beloved.
A couple months ago my friend Cori’s 5-year-old nephew was diagnosed with leukemia. She asked me to design a t-shirt for his family, friends, and community supporters to wear, and I did. He loves Legos and Star Wars, so the shirt obviously has a Lego man (wearing glasses like him!) holding lightsabers. It’s a simple illustration that definitely wouldn’t wow any of my creative heroes, but Cori told me that when her nephew saw the design, his face lit up. This precious, brave boy I’ve never met, who’s endured more pain than some of us will know in a lifetime, who’s been poked and prodded and medicated beyond belief, who’s exhausted and confused and fighting — his face lit up.
The moment I heard that news, the lies that have been echoing loudly in my head dulled to a low roar, and Truth rang out at an earsplitting decibel: “What you do is meaningful! Your creativity fosters joy! You are worthy! Job well done!”
And that — that is all the Bliss I need.