Deliver Us From Me-Ville

Deliver Us From Me-Ville

Every few years or so (sometimes every five), I make myself do it. Shop for new clothes.

Within minutes of reaching the mall, it is woefully obvious that I have not kept up with the task of clothing myself, putting shoes on my feet. I feel dizzy. Overstimulated. Confused. Even depressed. How will I ever find the few things I need, in the midst of plenty?

I come with simple lists. Brown sandals I could wear with a skirt. A skirt I could wear with a brown linen blouse. A white top and maybe a black one. White and black go with everything— even the skirt I am just now looking for.

Every ten years or so, I go over the top. I buy jewelry as well.

This week and last week, I made my trek to the malls. I found some things I will keep. I found some things I have already taken back and others that still need to be returned. I found, too, that shopping makes me think of a book I was recently given...

In Deliver Us From Me-Ville, author David Zimmerman says this: "Society doesn't consider high self-esteem merely healthy; it considers it noble. If you don't see yourself as important, yo, you're seen as upsetting the natural order." (p.30)

I felt this keenly when I picked up a pair of $500 sandals (and quickly put them down again!); how important would I be if I bothered to adorn my less-than-noble feet with shoes of such noble price? It felt almost laughable, yet not. The salesman had all the right words to say, to try to convince me that this was the natural order of things and that I should accept my place in this order.

At the jewelry and accessories store, it was more of the same. When the saleswoman asked if the necklace, earrings and bracelet were a gift, I said, "Well, not really. They're for me." She responded, without missing a beat, "That's even better. You're the most important person."

I felt something within me twist when I heard these words. "No, I'm not, really," I replied. She would have none of that. "Yes you are! You deserve this."

Should I walk out of the store? I thought briefly of leaving my purchase at the counter, but remembered it could be years before I would come back to such a place.

It took me two days to clothe myself, put shoes on my feet. It will take me a few more days to return some of the things I now realize I don't need. I hope it takes less than a few years to shake off the "me-messages" that are yet trying to crawl into my heart.

Oh, Lord, deliver us from me-ville.

Deliver Us From Me-Ville photo, by L.L. Barkat.


Butterfly Mama's Oh Me

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Anonymous Dagny said...

In some cases I think we do need to put ourselves first, take care our our needs, our bodies and our minds before we are able to take care of others. However, in a consumerist market, the me-ville can lead to depression, debt and other problems that stem from our valuing ourselves according to what we own instead of who we are.

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11:15 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Good points to consider. I always feel that weird "twisting" when people trying to sell stuff throw the "put yourself first" line at me. And then, sometimes, every so often, I horrify myself by using the same tactic at my own job.

I would like to think it's because I'm thinking the way Dagny is (put the air-mask in the plane over your own nose and mouth before assisting others), but I don't think that's usually it.

12:27 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

Sacred Pathways, Gary Thomas.

The Ascetic. (Craving simplicity)

Your blog entries today have nailed 2 of my 3 "pathways". I just can't wait to see if you're going to get me on the next one too. :)

7:30 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Dagny... I agree. We must take care of ourselves. I'm not sure that means being first. Maybe we can work in parallel, so to speak, caring for both ourselves and others?

Jenn... indeed. I almost left the store right away; it felt so weird to have someone say those kinds of things to me. I realize that my life, simple as it is, must be more countercultural than I thought.

Erin... funny girl. Which would be the third? Are you (were you) on your way to Love Notes? Craving simplicity. I don't know that I'd qualify as an Ascetic; I love the richness of color, the texture of food and material things. But I definitely don't like to feel that they are a leash around my neck. Tell me about the book. Is it written in beautiful language? (That's one of my criteria these days for spending on new books that I can't find at the library... and I already looked... this one is not at the library. )

9:42 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

Sacred Pathways is not a book I'd classify as "beautiful writing." It's not technical writing, but it is not lyrical either. I think that anyone who is introspective and contemplative probably already has a handle on the avenues that draw them to deep worship and spirit song. You know yourself... I doubt you'd be surprised by what you discovered reading the book. (But I did find it kind of cool to see an author tackle such a non-tangible thing as spiritual temperaments and to name them. There is something about naming a thing that helps one become more comfortable with it and understand it better. The book was a nice peek into the perspectives of the rest of the Body of Christ who are not bent in the same ways I am bent. To gain some understanding and give each other a little elbow room.)

"Ascetic" in my mind, does not exclude color, beauty, flavor, texture. Because I adore all of those too.
The way I see asceticism playing out in my psyche is that I am easily overstimulated and overwhelmed with too much "stuff." Like your description here of the mall. I usually come away from mall shopping empty-handed but completely wiped out.

In the spiritual life of an ascetic, I'd say they are the type of person who wants to make the Main Thing the main thing without a lot of flim-flam. We crave simple beauty and spirituality, not over the top beauty (on top of beauty on top of beauty)- which to be honest, has the reverse effect of confusing things so much so that no beauty is observable- it becomes gobbeldy gook.
If you were to ask me if I'm interested in becoming a monk, at times I'd say YES. If only for the opportunity to focus my full attention on those beautiful and worthy textures, sights, sounds, smells and tastes that best draw me into worship.
I find that crowds of people and lots of activity (on all sensory fronts) is distracting. I need everything else to fade to the background.

As for my third "pathway"... you touch on it frequently in each of your blogs. I imagine you are more "in that way" than I am.

Dying to know what it is now, aren't you? ;)

2:39 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Erin... you tease. :)

And I love your explanation of a true Ascetic. I think I could go for that.

4:52 PM  
Blogger David A. Zimmerman said...

I told your story to somebody at the signing last night. You should check out Wall-E when you have a chance; good gentle commentary on the trajectory of a culture that sees the self as the center. There's a sense in which the Bible presumes self-care--"love your neighbor as yourself" presumes a love of self, right?--but self-absorption is a hindrance to authentic discipleship.

I think Sacred Pathways is a good onramp for a megachurch culture into a conversation on spiritual temperaments. That's the context in which I first heard of the book, and it had immediate impact on the church culture.

Thanks for featuring the book!

1:05 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

I also would have felt that feeling in my stomach...something telling me, 'if she's trying to sell it that bad, I must not need it'. But I do believe that it is ok and important to do things for yourself sometimes. You have done a much better job on spacing out your shopping trips than I have! I admire your responsibility!

4:02 PM  
Blogger Butterfly Mama said...

Bravo - well said.

I've linked to you.

Thanks for sharing!

2:15 AM  
Blogger Joelle said...

I've just completed my once-in-a-blue-moon clothes shopping that I so despise. Goodwill, but I still leave feeling guilty and icky. Always sure I've spent too much, not stuck to the "needs only" list. Craving balance.... Think I should read the book.

5:21 PM  
Blogger Lynet said...

Well, self-esteem is important, but it shouldn't rest on how much your shoes cost! The equation of possessions with self-worth must be at least as damaging as the relentless pushing of self-centredness.

2:45 AM  
Blogger Andrea said...

That is a very interesting post.
I just finished reading the book "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. One thing that struck her after living a life of submission in Islam in North African countries is that when she moved to the "West"(Netherlands,actually)--how struck she was at people living their lives revolved around "themselves". She had never known that in the Islamic culture she was raised in. And that was not a good thing.
Many times the "me thing" can get out of hand, but I just think, as in all things, balance, and learning to have a healthy relationship while living in "Me-ville". Make sense?

9:09 AM  

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