It’s that time again! In the past we’ve challenged ourselves to grow and/or take steps toward moving closer to our vocation. These challenges have come in all different forms! Being active with online dating, getting more involved in young adult ministry/parish life, and working on bettering my prayer life have been [my] personal challenges. What is one thing you want to challenge yourself to do that might help you along your path towards God’s will… or maybe just help you become more open to God’s will? Share what your plan is and why, [and] then in 2 weeks we’ll write on how this challenge went!
Yesterday, I laid out my current ideas about how romantic relationships should be like dancing. I’m not the first person to come up with that one. I struggled a lot to get across what I wanted to say without (a) getting too caught up in the metaphor and (b) laying out my whole romantic history for the entire Internet to see. Yet I am confident that it’s a manageable framework and that it actually expresses how I feel.
I ended that reflection with a hint about my plans for the NAS challenge. I want to be a lead who is actively seeking a follow, or, in non-dance terms, I want to be more obvious about my desire to be married. My friend Dan C. rightfully pointed out that I ought to be doing something about my singleness, and I replied that I have changed my tactics, so to speak. I don’t want to talk about all of them here (again, privacy), but I do have one particular challenge to take on publicly.
I’m going to be making more and better eye contact. We NAS ladies have a closed Facebook group where we share articles about singleness, ask for advice in our specific struggles, and encourage one another. Recently, one of us posted a link to an article from Verily about making eye contact. One of our NAS regulars is blind, so it was interesting to discuss how we sighted NAS girls can use eye contact to our advantage and how she can apply the principles behind eye contact to her life.
That article and subsequent discussion also got me thinking about my past romantic relationships and the role oral communication has played in them. I’m a writer at heart. I used to be awful at expressing myself out loud. All my teacher training (and, you know, being a grown-up) helped work that out of me, but the early credit goes to my ex-boyfriends. I never quite understood the lyric about a “five-hour phone conversation” (from Train’s “Drops of Jupiter”) until I actually had one. I never needed to figure out how to actually speak things I was only feeling until I had to. Those boys couldn’t read my mind. (Side note: I wasn’t going to Confession at the time. That will also teach you how to put words to difficult realities.) In building those relationships, I had to learn to speak.
I also learned (from those relationships and from lector training) how critical eye contact really is. Think about it: when you’re speaking to a large group of people, do you feel connected to every single person? I don’t. I do intentionally make tiny connections, though. Fake eye contact is one of my pet peeves. It’s easier to demonstrate than to describe, but it’s that lightning-fast glance to the left and right and immediately back down to the page. I see lectors do it all the time. (I prefer to watch rather than to read along.) When I was training lectors, I specifically asked them not to make fake eye contact. It’s much harder to find a pair of actual eyes in the congregation, look into them, and proclaim the Word of God with passion, urgency, and meaning, but it’s much better than pretending. The best things always take work.
Last week, I knew this challenge was coming up, and I knew mine would be making eye contact. I have an odd habit of pulling back from social interactions to examine the interaction itself—having meta-conversations, if you will. I did that in my head while I was at the Austin CNM SXSW meetup on Saturday and on Monday at Spirit & Truth. In doing so, I realized that I don’t make eye contact very often, and when I do, it gets so intense that I intentionally break it because I’m scared.
My goal in making eye contact is to conquer that fear. When I took dance lessons in the fall, the organizer suggested looking at your partner’s nose or earlobe if looking into his or her eyes felt too intimate. That was great advice for dancing with strangers. I plan to apply it to talking to strangers and everyone else. For people I know, I’m going to look them in the eye. I practiced at Bible study last night, and although I am so nervous about doing it in regular situations for the next two weeks, I’m going to give it the old college try.
I’ll report back soon. Wish me grace and blessings! (Luck is for pagans.)