The Art of Mirriam Neal


I promised myself I’d read more non-fiction in 2k15, and I’ve kept that promise to myself (although my fiction-reading has suffered, I’ve made up for it by watching TV shows while I draw). Because of that, I’ve read some of the most amazing, life-changing books I’ve ever had the opportunity of picking up – one of those books being Found by Micha Boyett. The book is so good that I gave Mom my library copy, and I pretty much didn’t get it back – which, it turns out, is fine, because she ordered a copy for us to keep.  I’m on the last chapter now, and while so many things have really dropped the metaphorical scales from my eyes, there was just one moment in particular that whispered, That’s you.

‘Sometime in the midst of all those foggy days, my spiritual director sends me an e-mail. I’d apologized to her for failing to hold to some commitment. I’d cited my exhaustion, my struggle to adjust to all the changes. Her e-mail says: “Micha, please try to remember not to be so ferocious with yourself.” …Ferocious. A dinosaur word. When we’re ferocious with ourselves we’re more likely to be ferocious with the tenderest ones around us, roaring and stomping and demanding our own way…’

I realized, then, that I am a dinosaur – and not a small one. I’m more like that genetically engineered fire-breathing hybrid from the new Jurassic Park movie (who else is excited about that!?). I also realized that I’ve been going about trying to fix things all wrong. I’ve compartmentalized – seen the way I treat myself and the way I treat others as two different things when, in reality, the way I treat myself should mirror the way I treat others. If I’m constantly berating myself, pushing myself to deadlines I can’t keep, beating myself with a mental stick because I forget to turn in an article on time, or fretting about the fact I haven’t posted something here in a week, or that my current art commission isn’t going as well as I hoped – then I’m not only wearing myself down, I’m being completely self-centered.

And one thing a self-centered woman cannot do is give her time and attention to other people. It’s impossible. You can’t face two directions at once – I can either look inward and spend my time wallowing in my closet of custom-designed hair shirts, or I can look outward. Love covers a multitude of sins – selfish love does not. ‘Self-love’ does not; but treating ourselves gently enables us to treat others the same way.

If I consider myself the highest standard and I spend all my time failing to reach that (frankly impossible) height, then of course I’ll see everyone else as failing, too. They can’t jump over the bar I’ve set for them.

This isn’t about ‘self-esteem’, this is about priorities. You know that little acronym you learned in Sunday School – JOY? Jesus. Others. You. While I personally think that loving Jesus and loving Others are one and the same, ‘you’ still comes last. When I learn to ease the grip I have on myself and focus on what’s more important, pieces tend to fall into place. I just need to remember to let it go.

(Yes, I did that on purpose. You will now have ‘Let It Go’ stuck in your head for the remainder of the day. You are so very welcome.)

9 thoughts on “learning”

  1. Huh. I never thought that focusing on one getting stuff done for others was very self-centering. It makes sense, but I guess it would depend on what that thing was.

    I mean, an art commission is something someone is paying you to do. It’s a job. It’s work. You want to provide the best thing you can for your client. I wouldn’t see that as self-centered. Did I understand that correctly? If not, could you just explain that a bit more to me please?

    1. I’m not saying you shouldn’t focus on things that need done (heavens, we all need to do that!) but if you’re constantly setting yourself up to an unachievable standard or ripping into yourself because you aren’t perfect, you’ll end up doing the same thing to others.

      1. So, follow up question: how high should standards be? Because I know a bunch of people (myself included) who struggle with finding the balance between “I don’t care” and “I must be perfect.” 😛

          1. I think maybe it’s about our focus… I think perfectionism (and I DO speak from experience!) is much more about how we want to look to others than how we want to be with God. I believe when we get our focus on God and not on us, as we move through our daily life we will be able to move in His time and His love…

  2. you learn, you share, you love us by doing that. Thank you for sharing what you have had on your mind. Blessing, as usual. Love ya!

  3. *long sigh* This post is so good. Thank you for that reminder. ^_^ “You can’t face two directions at once,” indeed.

    It was a huge discovery when I found out that self-consciousness and pride are practically the same things; and that humility isn’t some weak, spineless trait. It’s being focused on something (SomeONE) outside of yourself.

    Tied to that, I’m realizing more and more that my value is not tied to my performance. You’d think I’d know that already, but I guess it’s one of those things you can “know” without really knowing. (If that makes sense.)

    But yes–this post was a breath of fresh air and a reminder of things that are easy to forget. 🙂

  4. Wow, Mirri. I don’t know how you do it but you always say the exact thing I need to hear. Your words constantly uplift me and challenge me to be better.

    Also, I want you to know I’m praying for you and your family. I can very much relate to some of the stuff you said you’re going through. Life was especially difficult for me a couple years ago. Sometimes it feels like more and more junk piles atop of you and there’s never any hope of dragging out. But I promise you, things get better. They may get worse before they do, and there will always be those days where it’s hard to remember any time that was good, but there is always light in the darkness and it WILL get better. God has a beautiful, beautiful plan for you and He’s going to see you through it all. But if you ever need to talk with someone who is surrounded by close friends who are marrying and having babies but sees no such future in sight for herself, or knows how hard it is being a perfectionist, or understands how frustrating it can be never being satisfied with anything she does, you know how to contact me. Because, trust me, I get it. Boy do I get it.

    Love you, girl! <3

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