Somewheres

It might surprise some people to know that I’m a keeper of secrets. Many secrets, in fact. After all, I’m a blogger: by vocation, an over-sharer, a navel-gazer, an over-thinker with access to a medium. And yet there are vast swaths of my life that never make it to the public eye.

And the parts that do show up here or in a book or even on Instagram often only show up after I’ve wrestled the power away from them and I’m ready for my narrative to emerge for Everywhere. I heard Nadia Bolz-Weber call it “writing out of a scar, instead of a wound.”

***

But we all need somewhere to say the private things, the vulnerable things, the scary and true things, the victories and the defeats. “I need to say it somewhere,” we say. We’re wired for it, we’re wired for community and relationship, for connection.

So then the temptation is to say it Everywhere or to say it Nowhere.

Instead, I’m learning to say these things to my Somewheres.

***

I wonder if it isn’t easier to be honest on social media because we have curated our brand. Every one does it: by their likes, their groups, their filtered photos. We project an image of ourselves out into the world and then we want to interact with the world from within the boundaries of that image. It’s neater, tidier.

Because it’s the people who have access to the un-curated version of ourselves who might tell a different story.

My tinies might tell a very different story about me as a mother than what I’ve put online. My friends would be able to tell you that the whole picture of who I am doesn’t show up online, that in some ways I’m both better than that and so much worse than the public Sarah. Aren’t we all?

As Walt Whitman wrote, “do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

I need somewhere to be large and contradictory. Don’t we all?

***

A while ago, I wasn’t doing so good. I was struggling for a few different reasons. It was tempting to stay utterly silent and keep on until it resolved or until I got over it, as is my usual method.

I’m an INFJ (if you’re into that whole Meyers-Briggs thing) and in times of conflict or difficulty, we withdraw – big time. We go deeply inward and don’t emerge until we’ve settled whatever has been ailing us, until we have developed a nice story with a bow on the top. This is the great frustration of the ones who love me, I hear. I withdraw, I shut down, I retreat in times of conflict both external and internal.

So this is my learned spiritual discipline: I talk to my Somewheres.

I say discipline because that is what it takes for me to reach out during conflict. It takes intentional discipline to be honest while I’m still in the midst of the unfinished struggle. I had to say the words out loud: here are my contradictions. I don’t always do it well.

Ironically, I can be even more reluctant to share my victories than I am to share my imperfections. I have a lively horror of #humblebrag. And yet sometimes cool things happen, amazing things even, and I have found I need somewhere to unapologetically brag, too.

***

The Somewheres are my cure for the Everywhere and the Nowhere. Neither extreme is good for our souls. We can’t say everything to Everyone. It’s foolish and damaging to expose ourselves to every single person with an opinion, to let just anyone’s criticism or direction come to rest heavily on our stories.

And we can’t keep our contradictions, our multitude, all in either, we will be crushed eventually. I think our souls require some release: for wisdom, for perspective, for laughter, for tears, for even the holy act of hearing “I see you and I’m listening.” We need to receive from one another, receive the gifts that God has placed before us in our right-now lives. Paul wrote of this in Galatians 6:2 when he encouraged us to “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” We need each other. People get a bit squirrelly when they refuse to lay down their masks. No one should be above getting their mail read.

***

“I need to say it somewhere. And you’re my Somewhere,” I said to my friends.

And so we embraced the word, this idea of being each other’s Somewhere. We are the Somewheres. Whether it was for an unapologetic brag or a tearful admission or a “here’s the whole story behind this thing” or a disappointment or frustration in every corner of our lives. Somewhere to say that that The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was amazing and your heart is broken and you can’t get your baby to sleep and you wonder if you’re wasting your life and your marriage isn’t doing so good and you feel alive for the first time and you are tired and you heard a terrible joke and you found a new paint colour for your bedroom and your teenager is giving you attitude.

I have found, too, that good Somewheres listen and see, but they also push back and challenge. As the writer of Hebrews said, we “stir up one another to love and good works.” (10:24) We will become truly human when we are truly communal, we’re made in the image of God, a communal Trinity God. Some part of our soul starves in isolation and in anonymous crowds. The best relationships are reciprocal, an intentional but un-choreographed give-and-take.

***

I believe we can be authentic in our lives. I do. I hope I am authentic, I hope my life is seamless, transparent even. I long to be the same person online as I am off-line, in church as I am in my neighbourhood, at work as I am in my family. I believe we can speak our truth and own our truth and unapologetically write it, share it, speak it, live it. I think it’s best to live as if there is no such thing as a secret, sure. And I believe that while we’re doing that, going through our lives unarmed and with our hearts broken and our hands open, that we still need – perhaps even more – a Somewhere, a safe refuge, a place to work out what is working in us. We can’t be everything to everyone, so why should everyone receive everything that we are?

***

Here are a few things you need to become Somewheres: An ability to welcome the contradictions in each other. Ferocious trust. Secret keeping. A shared sense of humour. A fierce belief in the inherent goodness and holiness of each other. An equal amount of butt-kicking and hair-petting. Bravery. Silliness. A common core. The capacity to laugh through tears. A bullshit detector. An aversion to the phrase, “I’m fine.” Unconditional welcome. Time, so much time. Openness to being challenged. A lot of small and inconsequential talk to lay the foundation for the big scary talks. Loyalty like blood. Showing up at the right time. Light for the darkness. And then there is the part you can’t predict or plan or program: magic. There needs to be a bit of that Holy Spirit drawing together, a sense of purpose and destiny, an answered prayer, a shared language all your own discovered at last.

image via lightstock

 

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  • Brett FISH Anderson

    Really enjoyed this Sarah, thank you and agree so much. Definitely something similar to what i would have written although probably not as well or flowingly. i would possibly have used the phrase “my safe people” as my Somewheres and i too [although on a much smaller scale] have a bit of a public persona in many ways and share quite deeply on a number of things as i like to be honest and open and real and feel like some of the deeper stuff coming out often helps other people with theirs… but still there is so much that is not for general public consumption and i am super privileged to have an incredible group of Somewheres people who are my safe people, sometimes different people for different things, but those who i know will hold my brokenness and judgemental nature and messy ridiculousness well and continue to fiercely love me…

    Keep on
    love brett fish

  • Susie

    Really challenging Sarah, thank you for your faithfulness in writing the stuff we need to hear and not just the stuff we want to.

  • Jules

    I feel like you are speaking exactly to my heart and soul, articulating publicly what I feel inside! This is so refreshing as I’ve gone through a difficult time and yet can speak what I need and others don’t receive well how I shut down! I feel like I just need to hand this post to all my loved ones – thank you for your vulnerability and authenticity.

  • This post blows my mind. You put words on something I’ve felt, experienced and hungered for. So challenging, thank you. And I totally resonate as an INFJ myself…so easy to keep it all inside…but we all need someones for one somewheres.

  • Jenivere

    I’ve been wrestling with these questions so much… As I think we all do regularly in this world of the internets and all the social medias. This was in equal measure ‘permission’ and a solid ‘butt kicking’. Thanks for doing the work of wrestling this out for us!

    Also, thankful that God knows… And that I can pray for you as a friend in the ‘everywhere’ realm… Not needing to know all the intimate details… And God will fill in the rest.

  • Finding this balance is something I struggle with. (Also, INFJ high five.)

  • Jory Micah

    Love this Sarah! I too heard Nadia say to share from your scars, not your wounds and have been doing that ever since in public. But in private, it is very hard for me to share wounds with others because the only people I trust with my wounds are normally overly concerned with my wounds (like my mom..haha). It is hard to find people who care about our struggles, but also know that we may need space and grace to work it out in our own timing.

    • Very true, Jory! Sometimes out of love people want us to just “hurry up” with the healing, eh? 🙂

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  • Such a spot-on post, Sarah! Thanks for reiterating Nadia’s idea of writing out of a scar, not a wound. We’ve got to minister/share/live from a place of healing, not of hurt. Psalm 84 talks about those of us on the way to Zion passing through the Valley of Baca (weeping) and how we turn it into a spring of refreshment to comfort those coming behind us. I believe as we lean into the Lord and draw comfort from Him – either directly or through the Somewheres He puts around us – we’re able to be transparent and authentic and shine His light all the more brightly. Love that you’re determined to do this!

    • Thanks, Jebraun. I think the scar-wound thing is most helpful for me when talking about the “Everywhere” thing, for sure. Everywhere doesn’t get the wound, only the Somewheres get the wound.

  • jillrosalie

    Love this! Your last paragraph would be a good definition of what is required of a discipler too, I think! Oh, and I want to add, I know when we met in real life it was only for about 20 hour, but of all the ones I met at that visit, you were exactly what I expected! So I’d say you’re doing well on the seamless thing!

    • That is so great to hear, Jill – thank you! xo

  • So true, Sarah. I am an INFP, but one of my Somewheres is an INFJ and she is quite good at hearing me, and affirming, and pushing back.

  • Allison Cloud

    thank you for this. my husband and I are church planters, pastors and leaders in our community so I struggle with the somewheres. i’m not as familiar with Myers-Briggs as I am with the enneagram… I’m curious to know what you are if you are aware. I am a one, and I identify with a lot of what you’ve written here. thank you again Sarah.

    • Interesting, Allison! I’m a four and identify a lot with Sarah’s writing, too. She says in her “about me” that she is a nine. http://sarahbessey.com/meet-sarah/ Your wing? I love nines, they make me feel so peaceful.

      • Allison Cloud

        hi jessica! i have a 9 wing i think, but my mom is a 2 so i feel like i have a lot of 2 wing tendencies as well! i identify with 4s a lot too since this is my direction of disintegration, although i don’t really care for that term. i can see it when it happens but i also think a lot of the lovely things about 4s show up in me as well. i guess we all reflect parts and pieces of each number at times. i love studying the enneagram… it’s kind of a hobby of mine!

    • I’m a nine, actually. I’m still learning the Enneagram stuff – my friend, Leigh Kramer is an Enneagram coach and she’s teaching me a lot about it.

      • Allison Cloud

        oh i’m so glad you have someone to work with on the enneagram. it is so holistic, and more than any other “test” or “profile” i feel like it has been the most personally and spiritually transforming for me.

        my sister is a 9! and i think i have a 9-wing… blessings to you today sarah.

        • Hazel Moon

          I must be a two (a helper) as I always want to fix things.)

  • I love this. I am feeling quiet right now, for a number of reasons. It is a scary thing for a blogger to feel quiet and need to retreat – I just wanted to say that I see that in you, and see the pressures associated with it. This is such a great way of distilling that conflict – everywhere, nowhere, vs somewhere. Whenever I am stressed, I find I go ‘binary’ – it’s black or white, everything or nothing, everywhere or nowhere. Thanks for reminding me of the sane way through. It’s made me think about who my somewheres are. I think they are probably my writing friends, and maybe a precious one or two friends locally. I wish I could see them more. As an extrovert I have discovered that I cannot write unless I am writing alongside friends (usually in Google Hangout meetings). So if i don’t see people, I go really quiet and shut down. I’m walking this line at the moment. It’s hard. Thanks, friend – you nailed it again.

    • Also – the scars vs wounds thing – YES. and I wonder if that is part of my reluctance at the moment. When you’re in the middle, it’s harder to write.

    • Writing friends are so immeasurably valuable, I agree! It’s a particular brand of crazy and you need a friend who gets it. xo

      • Just a fantastic response, Tanya, to a phenomenal post by you, Sarah Bessey. I’m ENFP — I think those NF’s are the key to my periods of withdrawal for sure. I’m like a rubber band at times. As I continue to figure out my at-times messy mind, I’m learning to let it ebb and flow so I don’t snap or wilt into a rubbery, blubbery pile 🙂 You really rocked this one; thank you.

  • Such a great post – sharing with my “somewheres”! Also, so agree with the challenge of “writing out of a scar and not a wound.”

    • I’ve never forgotten that phrase since Nadia shared it at a conference!

  • Angela Burns Doell

    Thank you. Oh, this is me, now. In a profoundly silent Nowhere season, stewing in all the feelings, wondering if I’ll ever surface. And of course I’ve believed it’s just me over here, unable to spit out the words and move along! Thank you for writing this one – I’ve read and reread and bookmarked it. I’m grateful for your words and your kindred INFJ self, grateful for my couple of Somebodies. x

    • I kind of worried no one would “get it” – how it’s so impossible to actually say out loud that you’re not doing well in the season when it’s happening! So glad to know I’m not alone and so thankful for YOU, Angela. xo

  • Nisha Varghese

    i’m just like you I withdraw in times of trouble. We all need somewheres

  • Chelle

    I love this. I too am an INFJ and I 100% GET THIS. Thank you for your wonderful words.

  • Upstream Fish

    Tears this morning, reading this. This ISTJ has “withdraw” as her middle name. I’m wrestling with some heavy, ugly things right now – things that I can’t even tell my Somewheres, and it’s the most isolating feeling I’ve ever had. So, I’ve tucked myself away, and don’t go out into public without my mask very firmly in place. For now, my journal is serving as my Somewhere – but that’s basically just talking to myself, isn’t it? (Like I don’t get enough of that conversation going on inside my head 24/7!) Thanks for these words – I don’t feel quite so alone now.

  • Kylee Jo

    Absolutely in love with this! It’s so simple of a concept yet so important. The idea of being totally transparent with the people you are close to, and still being honest but guarding your heart a little more in the public is a weird fine line. My college experience has been that taught me a lot about the benefits and necessity of having a community of believers to be totally real with even when I desperately wish I could walk life alone and hide my mistakes and imperfections. Although I am an ESFP (so I want to share everything with everyone apparently) in those tough moments there is nothing like having a Somewhere to listen and challenge me. This was beautifully written!

  • Marja

    Thank you so much. This reminded me again that I am living in the Nowhere too much. Partly character (Yes, INFJ as well), partly upbringing. I forwarded this to my husband, so he can read it when he is back. Think he would recognise al lot ;).

    Thank you again, also for all your other posts. I am really grateful I found your blog. Reading and knowing that I am not alone, that there are others too, all over the world.

    Love from the Netherlands 🙂

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  • Maria Parsley

    Woooooo!!!! Sarah! This is amazing. What’s the equivent of standing up and waving a hanky on the Internet? You have put words to what goes on in my head but can’t explain, if that makes sense. Thank you, so good! -Maria Parsley

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  • Kim@onerebelheart

    Oh yes. Having moved to a different state last year I am finding it challenging to find my “somewheres” nearby. I do have some that live in other areas of the country and we talk on the phone a lot, but it helps to have local friends to be safe places too. And being an introvert doesn’t help at all.

  • LOVE THIS… “the parts that do show up here or in a book or even on Instagram often
    only show up after I’ve wrestled the power away from them and I’m ready
    for my narrative to emerge for Everywhere. I heard Nadia Bolz-Weber call
    it “writing out of a scar, instead of a wound.””

    This put into words so well how I feel about my own blogging, and why I’m always a bit puzzled when people say, “oh you make yourself so vulnerable!!” I know I share way more online than most people would feel comfortable doing, but I also know that I almost never post out of “today’s” raw emotion or put my open wounds out there for public consumption. There’s always some distance. That distance might come in the form of only a day or two, but that day or two usually makes all the distance in terms of finding equilibrium and being able to look forward.

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