Category Archives: Thoughts

Be brave. Be kind. Be true. Be you.

My baby sister graduated from high school a week ago. I’ve been thinking all this past week about the words I wrote to her in her graduation card. Because sometimes, in spite of myself, I think I have a few moments of real brilliance. (And that might have been one of those times?) But more so, because I need to hear those words myself. I want to take my own advice, and live in the truth of those words as well.

I found a card at Trader Joes (for a dollar, woo!) that was all kinds of perfect:
 

Words to live by

 

What was written inside went something like this:

Be Brave. Because the world is a scary place, both beautiful and terrifying, inspiring and heart-breaking. Remember, courage is not found in the absence of fear, but rather in the midst of it. Face life head-on. Join hands with others around you and take steps forward even when you are afraid. World-changing things happen when people refuse to capitulate to fear and the inertia it so often brings. Be brave.

Be Kind. The world is full of broken and hurting people. You can show kindness regardless of whether someone deserves it, and in doing so, can model grace as well. People will be unkind, mean, even cruel. Return love for hate; show love through your kindness. Be the hands, the feet, the life-giving words of Jesus to those you come into contact with. Be kind.

Be True. You may find yourself pulled in a myriad of different directions. There will be voices clambering for your time, for your beliefs, for your energy and passions. Explore, learn, discover, question, but through it all, stay true to your convictions. Listen for that still, small voice inside you that tells you what is right and true, and follow it, regardless of what anyone else may say. Be true.

Be You. Because who you are is a wonderful thing, little sister. You are a gift, wholly unique. Who you are is fearfully and wonderfully made. And while I hope you never stop learning and growing as a person, I hope even more that you can wholeheartedly believe and live in the truth that who you are, just as you are, is enough. Be you.

I love you so very, very much, Nina. I am unbelievably proud to be your sister. Happy Graduation.

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The merits of a set of good eyebrows

The timing of my 2014 Revolutions post left me with only a few days to really reflect on a physical characteristic this month. But never fear, I fully intend to embrace my “Personal/Emotional” Revolution for the month of January regardless. So here goes. One of the physical attributes of my body that I have hated/put down/been ashamed of in the past is…my eyebrows.

I know, that seems like such a weird place to start. But when I was a (rather hairy) adolescent, I was deeply embarrassed about the caterpillar-esqe eyebrows I was genetically gifted. It didn’t take me long to try to do something about this debacle (i.e. get my hands on a set of good tweezers, and go to town). I didn’t know what I was doing, but tried my best to observe and copy what I saw around me or in magazines, and just sort of went for it.

Now here’s the funny thing (at least to me). In my adult life, I have gotten more compliments about my eyebrows than maybe any other physical attribute! Which never ceases to crack me up, mostly because I find it a weird thing to notice and compliment someone on. But I am seriously complimented on them ALL. THE. TIME. I’ve even had an aesthetician ask me if I would tell people that *she* did my eyebrows when they asked! :) But in probably 15+ years, I’ve only ever done them myself.

And so here is where I re-focus my gaze. I have really great eyebrows! And while my success in achieving such a status may have been rather accidental on my part (at least initially), no one other than me can take credit for it. I think that’s pretty cool. I’m damn proud of my good eyebrows, and that’s a rather novel feeling for me.

If you’re wondering how on earth I am possibly going to find a way to connect this physical attribute to serving or blessing others…I was too! (Ha.) But then I started thinking about something else I have learned over the past several years: how to take a compliment. It is too easy for us (for me) to brush off a compliment, or to counter it with a negative remark. We don’t want to seem prideful, we disagree, we hem and haw. But what are we really usually doing in those moments? We are essentially discrediting the sincerity or the opinions of others. When I return a compliment with a genuine “Thank you” and a smile, I do honor to the person who gave the compliment. I give their opinion merit. And I think that’s pretty important too.

And so, this month, I recognize the beauty of my eyebrows. (The right one of which, as I typed that, was raised in a quizzical and somewhat comical manner). And I send a sincere thank you to anyone who has ever noticed them or taken the time to compliment me on them. I really do appreciate it! :)

Revolutions, baby.

When I miss “my people”

I haven’t been sleeping. Ok, that’s not quite accurate. Once I finally get to sleep, I’ve been sleeping fine. It’s the getting there that seems to be the problem.

It’s not unusual for me. I internalize stress, anxiety, sadness, and a plethora of other uncomfortable emotions in ways that often affect me physically. So I wasn’t surprised, when, after I told her about it, my mom asked me why I wasn’t sleeping. I didn’t have a ready answer for her then; I honestly wasn’t sure.

I was more surprised later realizing what the “why” actually is this time around.

I’m lonely. Incredibly, desperately lonely. So much so that I wasn’t admitting it to myself, as if subconsciously I knew that acknowledging the fact might pull me under.

I returned a week ago from 11 glorious days spent with my beloved family. And I miss them so much it’s a tangible hurt sometimes. I know my deep affection for my family is not necessarily “normal” these days, but I’m don’t care one bit. I am incredibly grateful for them and blessed to have them in my life. Whether it’s the cool thing to do or not, my family means the world to me. They are my lifeline.

But they’re not here. Not in Phoenix. They’re in Edwall, Rancho Cucamonga, Medical Lake, Spokane, Palo Alto, San Ramone, Bellingham.

And neither are my (non-biological) people. The friends who have become as family to me? In Seattle, Boulder, Wenatchee, Silverdale, Japan.

Try as I may, true community has been difficult for me to find in Phoenix. Some friends, yes. People I enjoy hanging out with, absolutely. But “my people”? The people that I am comfortable sharing all of my messiness and junk and quirky humor with? The people who get me and know me and love me unconditionally? The people I can ask favors and help from, who let me know that I am needed, who offer themselves without being asked?

I can’t will those kind of relationships into being. And I just can’t quite seem to find them here.

I had anticipated some of this before I made the choice to move back here. I knew I would be giving up the close proximity to my family. I knew it would be difficult at times. I don’t regret that decision, not really. I believe this is where I’m supposed to be right now. Not forever, hopefully, but for now.

It’s just that I don’t know what to do on nights like these.

I don’t want to lie here, unable to fall asleep, but aware of how alone I feel. Because in the silence and the darkness, the weight of loneliness can make it hard to breathe. Instead, I’ve been frantically filling my spare moments with cleaning and organizing and books and movies, waiting until my body takes the choice of staying awake away from my brain, until utter exhaustion takes over.

My sleep issues tend to be cyclical, which on the plus side means this inability to fall asleep probably won’t last indefinitely. And who knows? Maybe one of “my people” is just waiting to be discovered, in a stranger or an already friend.

But for tonight I’m lonely. I’m alone. And I still can’t sleep.

Where I Allow Myself to be Messy

After I started writing again, my mom called to tell me she was worried about me. And I get it, I really do. I don’t have the privilege of seeing her day in and day out anymore. We talk a few times a week, but it’s easier to hide on the phone, when I don’t have to look her in the eyes and honestly answer the question, “How are you?” (though I promise I do try to be honest).

Most of my writing comes out of tension, though. I have a lot of good days. Taken as a whole, I have a whole collection of good moments, interactions, situations, and exchanges since I have moved back to Phoenix. It’s just that I have never much been motivated to write about the good. The great? Perhaps, although those moments seem to be few and farther between. But it is the tension, the questions, the need to figure out what I know (or don’t know) that spurs me to write.

Strangely enough, for me, this blog is almost the antithesis of some of my other social media presence. Facebook becomes a snapshot of the beautiful moments, the profound thoughts, the comedic gold. It tends to be where I present the best sides of myself, if only the good moments bordering on the mundane. Here on my blog, though, is where I show the less-than-best sides of myself. Here I capture the moments I need to wrestle, the things I don’t have figured out, the words that spill out of me when I can no longer hold them in. It’s messy here. It’s not very pretty.

I have struggled with that side of writing most of my life. On my blog in the past, I regularly felt the need to tidy things up, to come to some sort of conclusion or resolution. To some extent, I still actively fight against that compulsion. But largely, I just don’t have the energy anymore. That is not to say I have no answers, or no resolution; rather that I grew unbelievably weary of trying to force them to be there in places where they hadn’t organically occurred (yet). Let’s be honest, pretending is exhausting. In beginning to write again, I simply don’t have it in me to force those areas to be neat and tidy.

I think both sides are important. I actually think Facebook is helpful in reminding me to rejoice in the small happinesses, that everything doesn’t have to be so serious. This space is helping me work through the other side of the coin; where I allow myself to be unkept, untidy, unanswered.

If you follow my blog, thank you. I hope this space, these words, are helpful to you. Thanks for joining me in this process. Thanks for being a part of my process.

When I don’t know what I’m writing about

I’m hesitant to write on nights like this one. Usually I feel urged by something–heard, read, seen, thought, proposed, etc. I might not know exactly where I’m going, but I have some vague sense of what is pushing me there. The writing process is what helps me to figure out.

The writing process is what helps me figure it out. 

Ok, yeah. I guess that’s why I’m writing tonight. Because I can feel the compulsion welling up inside of me, even if I really don’t know why. There’s nothing I really know I need to work out. Just this desperate feeling that writing will make me better, make me feel a little less desperate to crawl out of my own skin.

//

Is it weird to say that I’m worried about myself? Either way, I suppose that I am. I’ve got some classic signs of deepening depression, and I’m worried. I suppose that I am self-aware enough to know is something good; but knowing doesn’t mean I can seem to avoid or counteract them entirely.

Also, I’m really good at pretending. I should be, I spent most of my life perfecting the damn art.

Maybe that’s why I’m compelled to write. I need people to know it’s a struggle. And I don’t seem to be very good at telling them face-to-face.

It’s hard unlearning to pretend.

//

It might sound equally as weird to say I am also hopeful. The beauty of being human is that we are constantly changing. I’m not the same person I was the last time I battled depression. I’ve learned a lot about myself and I grew up a lot too. My circumstances are different, my faith is different, my head space is different.

And this is perhaps the first time I can remember where I’m actively taking steps to be healthy, even while knowing I’m probably on a downswing.

Writing is a part of that. Even when I finish, and I’m still not really sure what the heck I was writing about.

On Hurting Right Now

I read a fantastic piece on NPR the other day, highlighting one of my favorite online cartoonists, Allie Brosh, of Hyperbole and a Half fame. Allie’s book by the same name was just released a few days ago, and I can’t wait to pick up a copy of it. The author of the NPR article was highlighting one of the unique elements Allie brings to her cartoons/writing, the fact that she refused to wait until everything was “better” before writing about her experiences with depression.

Linda Holmes writes,

In the conversations surrounding her book, Brosh has made it clear that she is not looking at depression in the rearview mirror in some sort of ‘let me tell you about this thing that happened to me once’ kind of way. She’s in it, and she lives with it, and sometimes it’s better, and sometimes it’s worse. It means you don’t see her for a while, because she’s a real person and it’s a real thing.

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That’s one of the scariest parts about writing again. I’m trying to write in the midst of all of it.

I believe anytime we write our stories, when we share them with the world, it’s brave. But we usually wait until the story is finished to tell it. A whole other level of courage is required to tell your story while it is unfolding, not to wait until some resolution has happened or until the redemptive elements have been revealed. Because…what if the resolution never happens? What if the situation is never redeemed?

What does that say about our story? What does that say about us?
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“We’re more accustomed as readers to the memoir model, where depression — or addiction, or even ordinary anxiety — appears as a monster from the past, one against which you still have to bolt the door every day, but one that’s not there right now, not interfering with your writing about it, not writing about it with you.”

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The vulnerability to write honestly in the midst of right now, that’s some serious stuff. But how important, too; desperately important, I think. Because for all of us out here who are not in the after yet, who are slugging through the right now one day or one hour at a time, we need to know that we are not alone.
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“It’s very sterile and very misleading to hear about battles only from people who either have already won or at least have already experienced the stability of intermediate victories. It presents a false sense of how hard those battles are. It understates the perilous sense of being in the middle of them. It understates how scary they are.”

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And scary they are. It seems like just about everything scares me right now, even the little things, the things that seem almost so insignificant it is foolish to be scared by them.
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“If you want to know how hard it is, she’s telling you that’s how hard it is. Not was, is. And as uncomfortable as that might be, it’s a perspective worth offering.”

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It’s hard, friends. This was and IS hard for me. It’s not hard all the time, not every day or every moment; there is so much good to be found in and around me.

But hard it remains. Hard to function sometimes (little things and big things alike). Hard to be brave and to put myself out there. Hard to find a way to pull the words out from inside myself. Hard to be honest that my faith wasn’t enough and that I’m still trying to figure out what I believe anymore.

If it’s hard for you too, if it’s scary and overwhelming and just too much sometimes…please know that you are not alone.

(And maybe, just maybe, it’s just a little less scary when we walk through it together).

Rinse and Repeat

I often listen to the same song on repeat. Enough times in a row that I’m glad I usually drive in my car alone and that I own a pair of headphones. One of my little quirks, I guess.

I mentioned this in an off-hand comment to a guy I was getting to know a while back. He asked me, “Why? Why do you listen the same song on repeat many times?” No one had ever asked me before. I only partially knew the answer then. I probably only slightly know the answer more now.

My dad is a musician, as was his mother before him, and music was an integral part of my life since before I can even remember. My family sang together, played music together, listened together. It’s part of my heritage.

Much more than that though, I find that music has the ability to work its inside my soul and become a part of me. Sometimes that process takes time. Meeting a new song is like meeting a new friend or the beginning of a relationship. I need time spent in its company to get to know it intimately, to understand why we are connected and what we have to offer each other.

Sometimes a melody or some lyrics will speak to me so deeply that I just have to keep listening, to soak it in until I feel replete (or complete?). It becomes a part of me. Or maybe it was a part of me that I just discovered, a piece I didn’t even know was missing.

I listen to songs over and over, because it’s someone else singing the words inside my heart. It’s lyrics weaving mysteries to capture my imagination. It’s melodies expressing emotions that make words superfluous.

It could also be my OCD tendencies coming out.

Why I stopped writing and how I started again

I stopped writing around the time I thought I might lose my faith altogether. There was too much going on inside me all at once. I had too many questions, and too many hurts, and I honestly couldn’t deal with it. So I just…didn’t.

I was completely overwhelmed.

It probably looked I was lost. I did wander a lot, at least metaphysically speaking. But you know that saying, “Not all who wander are lost”? I’ve lived that. I don’t think I was lost, not really, just wandering.

I held the good and the bad and everything else I had thought I once believed out at arms length. I was terrified to touch almost any of it, for fear I would take back on a burden I didn’t know if I could live with anymore. But slowly, I’ve begun to let go of the toxic. To pick up a few things I know I can unequivocally embrace. And to engage in the painfully slow and laborious process of examining the rest in detail.

Somewhere along the way, I learned how to process internally a little better. I’ve found other ways (than writing, myself) for the words inside me to take form. I listened and read, and listened and read, and found there were others who were able to express some of the very thoughts and feelings I couldn’t give word to. They became little bits of my voice when I felt so very voiceless. And through this process, I began to feel less alone. I found camaraderie and community in some of the most unexpected places. I didn’t feel like such a heretic or an outcast for the questions I had. Knowing I wasn’t alone gave me added courage to start battling to find my own words again.

I’m not sure what the impetus was, really. Maybe now I’ve just reached the point in this process where writing (especially writing in a public context) doesn’t feel quite so scary anymore? Or at least where it just feels like a “right” and necessary step.

But also, this summer I was (for the most part) happy and content. This fall I can feel depression lurking around the corner. Finding the gumption to write seems like it might help keep depression at bay, at least a little longer.

So I fight for the words to come out.