Twenty-Nine

It was not quite a typical “quarantine birthday” as I was determined to avoid that, despite knowing that it would be different this year due to Covid. I experienced eating in an outdoor igloo for the first time, and my best friend and I made our own fun out of playing We’re Not Really Strangers and doing a photoshoot (with a bit of bubbly involved). The day itself initially felt weird, waking up to the last year of my twenties and doing my best to fight off the anxiety that  comes with trying to have reasonable expectations. 

My birthday has always meant a lot to me, and up until recently have been uncomfortable with sharing why. Living with a chronic condition, I’ve often gone along to get along for the sake of not being an inconvenience (at best) and not wanting to to bear the frustration of those around me (at worst). That’s only the tip of the iceberg, but it boils down to a birthday being the one day out of the year where I could vocalize what I wanted and how I wanted it. It’s a common attitude there’s some extra emphasis when you have this self-imposed standard to be the easy child. The selfless person. The compassionate one. Whether or not I have been, or if others would see it that way, is another story. 

It might have been the pandemic itself, or it might have been the gradual unfolding of 2020. Regardless, the desire to advocate for myself has been steadily growing and getting louder. I’ve alluded to it in previous writings, but learning and putting it into practice truly is a process. Carrying weight that isn’t mine, and taking responsibility when I don’t have to is a trauma response. Deconstructing and choosing differently involves a lot of grace, perseverance, and trying and trying again.

Self-advocacy is a huge step, especially when you’ve spent most of your life asking for assistance of some kind. The need to be helped and the need to be heard can coexist, and should never be transactional. I’ve known this in theory, but overthinking has often gotten the best of me.  One of the biggest challenges of this pandemic is having to sit with my feelings, wading through what requires deeper reflection, and what requires letting go of. It’s hard when I’m hurting or frustrated and can’t just go be with people, or seek out adventure on a whim due to the virus.

It’s exhausting to constantly ruminate on what to say, when to say it, and how. And the more I hold back, the more agitated I get. Of course there are times when my opinion isn’t required, and I’m aware of navigating circumstances when I’m overcome with insecurity versus confidence. There should always be a balance of considering viewpoints and feelings with pursuing self-care and things that give you joy. 

It’s not about getting what I want every time, but putting something out in the open so that I’m not saturated by anxiety and resentment down the road. Even if a situation pans out differently than I’d like, at least I did my part to the best of my ability. Growing in relationships, whether with people or with God, require getting out of your head and into your heart. A wise friend once told me that rejection is better than inaction, and I haven’t forgotten that since. 

There have been various small victories thus far: admitting what works and hasn’t worked when it comes to redecorating my room. Not hesitating to follow up on tentative plans if we’re still trying to figure out details. Being adamant about taking a ride-share to a dinner date because I wanted to feel more independent. Saying “because I want to” without a detailed explanation. As I publish this, I’m about to make the kind of phone call that typically has me crawling in my skin, but I’m not going to get anywhere if I don’t take initiative.

And it’s the small victories that I hope and pray will add up to breakthroughs, both personally and professionally. I’m cautiously optimistic, after having seen how everything can change and priorities can shift so quickly. But the work is still important, and necessary,

Here’s to speaking up, speaking truth, and progressing forward!

Twenty-Eight

It was a combination of trying new things within familiar surroundings. The night started out with Mexican food and margaritas (albeit I was trying not to brood given that I  cracked my phone screen after tripping on the sidewalk while walking to the restaurant) and then making our way to a go-to spot that had been decked out in everything Valentines. We karaoke’d the heck out of Shania Twain, drank tequila, and then capped the night off with dancing and belting my heart out to the Backstreet Boys.

Apart from dinner, I don’t think I sat down once.

But once the celebrations end (and I’ve semi-recovered), that’s when the real work begins.

Twenty-seven was not the easiest year; I lost a job and then a relationship within the span of a few months, finding comfort in the freedom to sleep in and wear sweats all day if I wanted to. Depression came at me like the black cloud that it is, and there were days where I had to fight to not allow the grief of my circumstances to consume me. It wasn’t just about what happened specifically, but the fact that it seemed to happen over and over. I resented the lack of control, but simultaneously that’s where I also found clarity.

The sun came out again, and that’s where I genuinely rediscovered my adventurous side. I learned about that consequences that follow when you hold back from asking for what you really want, and the doors that can open when you live like you having nothing to lose. I actually enjoy going to events and outings by myself, because it allows me to focus on being a blessing to people around me, rather then resting in a buffer of being surrounded by who or what I already know.

I couldn’t settle on a singular word as I prayed over my twenty-eighth year. I initially started out with “shine” and the desire to do so in a way that wasn’t always about being gritty or a badass. Just me, cultivating my talents and sharing my gifts without justifying over-explaining. I’ve experienced a lot of self-doubt, especially over the last several years as I build both a life and career for myself: Am I qualified to do this? Do I even have a right to talk about a particular topic when I [probably] have more privilege than others?

And that’s when “breakthrough” popped up; the desire to experience a turning point both personally and professionally, and not give into the urge to hide all the time.

But waiting for that perfect moment to start being who you are isn’t realistic. Momentum is great, but it cannot be the only thing that carries you. There has to be faith, and there has to be discipline. It seems backwards, but breakthrough actually happens when you  use your gifts, exercise your strengths, and pursue your dreams in the midst of outside opinions trying to diminish your glow.

I’ve shied away asking questions, being an advocate, and ultimately elevating my voice because I’m terrified of having my spirit broken in the process. I’ve seen people light a flame, only to burn out time and time again. My biggest concern is having enough emotional energy not only to speak, but to equally engage and listen. I’m grateful to have a platform, and I’m giving myself grace in the midst of learning how to set boundaries, and pausing to respond instead of react. Dealing with the heaviness that comes with push-back is never easy, but no one makes an impact just by sitting on the sidelines.

It doesn’t always have to be loud, large, or fierce. And what you’re capable of doing matters.

Here’s to twenty-eight!

Intentions and Direction

I’ve never been one to make concrete “resolutions” per se, a wistful, yet gargantuan to-do list that seems easy to dream up, but difficult to keep. Over the past several years I’ve discovered the concept of setting intentions, which relies on the balance of discipline and grace rather than depending on the happy-go-lucky feeling of a New Year carrying one through the next twelve months. It doesn’t have to involve a timeline, and can evolve and reshape itself in whatever way helps you to grow. 

 

Start Small

I initially started out with a no-holds-barred journal entry of all that envisioned for the coming year. After splitting it all up into categories (Mental Health, Physical Health, Spirituality, and Creativity) I noticed that a lot of the changes I wanted to make involved regular habits. I thrive when I have a routine, and developing a solid rhythm  makes goal-setting both manageable and realistic. These habits include waking up early (6 a.m. during the week and 9 a.m. weekends), daily exercise and stretching, taking vitamins and medication, and making time to both read and write. While starting early doesn’t always guarantee productivity, it’s better to at least try than risk having to play catch up and foregoing basic needs (i.e. eating breakfast). I’ve learned multiple times over that an evening routine is just as important as what I do in the morning. 

 

Write It Down

And not only in the first few pages of a brand new journal. Set reminders in your phone. Put sticky notes in places where can you actually see them. Buy a planner (a first for me since college!)  Make your to-do list based on what will push you forward, rather than something to just cross off. But nothing will ever be accomplished if all you do is let something live inside your head. When I see it, it’s more like that I’ll follow through with it. 

 

Find Accountability

There is usually at least one person who is thinking along the same lines as you, whether they aim to be more disciplined in a certain area or you need a buddy to help take the scariness out of trying something new. Good therapists can help you get to the heart of why you’re putting something off (Writing essays are often terrifying; not so much due to the topic, but because of the possible heavy feelings/emotions that can and do follow). Ultimately, a healthy network, community, etc helps me to see the things that I often can’t see in myself, and reminds me to keep going when I simply don’t want to. 

 

I don’t remember where exactly, but a short time ago I came across a post that portrayed intentions, resolutions, and so on as a false sense of trying to have control over all aspects of our lives. I scoffed in response, but it stuck with me to an extent, reminding me of how busyness is often displayed as a badge of honor. Don’t forget to leave room for the unexpected, the magic that happens when you’re not planning things down to a science (especially if they involve deep conversations and laughter). If it seems like you’re doing something for the sake of pleasing others more than honoring yourself, it’s perfectly okay to pause and take a step back. And if you change your mind? There’s absolutely no shame in that either. What matters is that you walk with presence, in purpose, and to stay open to all possibilities. 

 

Here’s to a new year, and a new decade; Happy 2020!

The Weight of Heartbreak

“Hey Alyx, do you have a few minutes?”

“Sure, is everything OK…?”

We entered the conference room normally reserved for meetings. I saw a box of tissues and a water bottle, which brought on heart palpitations, an immediate sign that everything was not okay. 

“We’re so sorry to have to do this…” “We didn’t plan this, but after [previous manager] left…” “This has nothing to do with who you are as a person or an employee…”

All the curse words. I was being let go. 

The HR manager, bless her, was doing everything she possibly could to comfort me during the circumstances, but it couldn’t stop the questions and confusion. I had been on a trial period and no one had said anything about my employment status or work habits once it ended. A number of people had told me to not be the one to broach the subject, and to assume that I was safe. 

But a lot of things had happened that were out of my control, and there was nothing I could do but to accept the decision gracefully. I actually worked through the end of the week, trying to finish up the tasks that I’d started, but more so taking time to thank my coworkers for making that particular experience what it was. The culture was a big part of the reason why I appreciated both the role and the firm, and if there was one thing that I could find peace in, it was that I never took a day there for granted. 

Yet I hated the fact that it was over, and I dreaded the possibility of having yet again disappointed my family. I spent a few days processing the news before sharing it with my parents, choosing to focus on taking care of myself both physically and emotionally. Any sudden/unexpected change is a huge trigger for me to sink into a depression, nearly to the point where I don’t care what happens or how it affects my health. Eat. Shower. Wear something besides sweats. 

It was still a lot to wrap my head around, and a polar vortex gave me an excuse to hunker down and grieve. It was pointed out to me that maybe I was getting too comfortable, and that I might have been creatively stunted had I stayed there by choice. There’s a lot I could say about having the privilege to do what you love, but that’s for another time. It would ultimately be a while before I could go past the office building without getting salty all over again. The organization had been right for me, but I hadn’t been right for them. 

A couple of weeks later, shortly before Valentine’s Day, I met Ben.

 Not his real name, but the combination of the two celebrities he closely resembles. 

I’ll admit that we moved quickly, bonding over similar family backgrounds, personalities, and hockey. Within a month we were acting like a couple, albeit we never talked about dating exclusively or establishing a formal relationship. It was the first time where I felt like I didn’t have to be a guy’s mother or a therapist; he was physically attractive (while respecting the physical boundaries I set), had a good head on his shoulders, and insisted on paying for everything where money was involved. As we continued to spend time together, I could picture us meeting each other’s families, and allowed myself to explore the possibility of being together long-term. 

March turned into April, the first week marking his birthday. We hadn’t talked in a few days, which made me uneasy, but I tried to act like it wasn’t a big deal when anyone asked why. 

Happy Birthday! I’m grateful for you. He never responded to that text, or answered his phone when I tried to call him. It was silence from that point on.

And that’s never a good sign.

I knew from previous conversations that his uncle had been struggling with health-related issues and was in and out of the hospital. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but part of me knew what took me a week to acknowledge: he didn’t want to be with me, and would rather disappear out of nowhere than tell me himself. 

Aside from the fact that it happened, the toughest part about being ghosted (in any situation) is fighting the urge to take full responsibility.  Figuratively speaking, I had to sit on my hands in order to keep myself from overanalyzing our final conversations or searching his social profiles for answers. The initial shock turned to anger, then the desire to close myself off emotionally from men of a certain age. I wrote Ben a  letter (the kind that’s better off burned), opting to read it out loud to my therapist as opposed to hitting “send.” It was as comforting as comforting could be without explanation, and the process of moving on turned out to be far better than I could imagine. 

Though I didn’t want to admit it in the moment, there were things about him that gave me pause. Things, I figured, that would eventually sort themselves out or come up naturally in conversation. It definitely didn’t help that we stopped getting to know each other after the third or fourth date; we talked, but neither one of us asked questions or tried to learn about the other person. It’s hard to do when you spend the majority of an evening cuddling and/or watching TV, and you don’t want to ruin the moment because by bringing up a tough subject. There’s nothing wrong with low key date nights in, and it takes time to learn how to be vulnerable with each other. But when you’re doing that all the time to the point where it stalls any progression, what then?

I’m not sure if there’s anything I could have done differently, or that deeper conversations would have led to a different outcome. After being removed from the relationship for some time, I realized that I liked the stability of our relationship more than I liked him, and I probably would have clung to that, far longer than necessary. 

But I still cared, and  it still hurt, and as I write this I still have fears and potential what-if’s that I’m trying to address. 

I need a man who has a good head on his shoulders, where we can grow both independently and together. 

A man who can empathize and show compassion, and at least recognize that family dynamics are often complicated, and that I’m doing the best I can to navigate it.

A man who prioritizes working on himself, and doesn’t depend on me to fix or make him whole.

It has me thinking a lot about expectations. I’ve been told quite a bit that I can’t expect people to cater to my feelings, but when ending a relationship (and how one goes about it), I get the sense that there’s a slight difference.

Breaking up well (i.e. communicating honestly and gently that either you don’t see things going anywhere or you’re not ready/on the same page) has to do with being a decent human being. It’s respecting the other person, despite your feelings and/or reality not being the same as theirs. And it’s about taking responsibility, rather than putting the entire weight of the relationship on the other.

It would be wrong for me to expect a guy to promise not to leave me (especially when rings and vows are not involved). But expecting honest communication seems pretty basic.

And if the guy disappears, I should not expect an apology. I should not expect that which hurts me is going to heal me. I should not expect my future partner to do all of the healing work for me, or to make him feel responsible for a situation that he had nothing to do with. I should not expect “closure” in the form of chasing after an explanation that I realistically don’t need, because if a guy doesn’t want me that’s all I need to know.

As heavy as it has been, I don’t carry any bitterness what happened or how it played out. I know that God gives and takes away, and despite my lack of understanding, I know that He is still good. I’ve had a lot of opportunities in this particular season of my life, and I’ve learned how to genuinely enjoy being single while still being open to a romantic relationship. I still have moments [of wishing the circumstances were different] but at the end of the day, all I can do is keep going and trust that what’s meant for me will be just that.

And I refuse to let my hurt define my worth.

When You Get Nervous

It was a Sunday summer evening
Been a few since I wore the dress
I could hear a loud noise beating as I rested my head
I asked if all was okay
As he kissed my hair so softly
Told me I was a sight of beauty
And that’s what made his heart go so fast

Flattered, but lost for words
Knowing my thoughts were similar
But wanting to feel protected, rather than a carry a savior complex

The road from seed to flower can be complicated
Zigging, zagging, and maybe riding off the rails
And God only knows what the other side entails.

But here, in this moment, I know it’s not easy

Your past, and present fears speaking loudly

When you’re nervous, think of strength
Your arms that will hold
Another body, and that same heart

When you’re scared, think of risk
Risk lies in our deepest dreams and desires
Given to us by One that is Higher
Success, security, and the fiercest of love.

Love’s worthiness is not determined by reciprocation or rejection
But the willingness to live a noteworthy life.

When you look at me, all nerves and racing hearts and fears
I hope you’ll remember the love that is already in you
The love that carried you here
And may that guide you to seek me and pursue me
Knowing that what is given, can also be taken away
To be present, pursue, and serve with purpose
Bold, brave, and beautiful
This moment
And every day

The Summer Of…

The sun was shining, the air was warming up again, and I was eager to get out. Not to say that I wasn’t doing that already, but I wanted to experience what many in the city called hashtag Summertime Chi (or at least the parts of it that were for pure joy and not only for the sake of looking good on Instagram). Boats, rooftop parties, and white claws aren’t bad in and of themselves, but I didn’t want to be in a bubble. 

And out of the bubble I got. 

Networking Events. Open Mics (one which I performed at). Comedy Shows. Outdoor Movies. Concerts. And I had no shame in just going to a bar or restaurant completely by myself, so if I wasn’t meeting friends, I had no problem making them. My favorite occasion was when I was waiting for a seat to open up at a well-known football spot, and got to talking with both a Green Bay Packers fan, as well as another who was rooting for the Minnesota Vikings. It turns out that not only did they attend the same University and were part of the same fraternity (albeit different generations), but the older one knew the younger one’s Dad from when they had attended college together. 

You’re a ray of sunshine in a dark basement! One of the oddest compliments I’ve ever received, yet incredibly sweet and genuine. I was grateful that I went against my initial urge to leave and go home, as what usually happens when the anxious part of me starts wondering if the people around me think I’m weird. 

But it got me thinking about the beauty of organic, face-to-face human interaction. That was a repeating theme of the conversation taking place that day. People are incredibly afraid to approach and get to know one another, due to feeling like anyone who does must have an agenda. We hem and haw over how to merely say hello or introduce ourselves without coming across as awkward, or heaven forbid, creepy, thinking that we have some control over the outcome by doing/saying the right things at the right time.

Having been in unsafe situations (particularly with men), I wouldn’t say that I’m naive to what can and does happen when engaging with strangers. Not everyone has the best of intentions, and I cannot overemphasize how important it is to pay attention and trust your instincts. I’m fortunate to have cultivated a strong intuition, and that additionally allows me to read social cues and respond accordingly. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your own company in public, and it’s perfectly okay to do things simply because you want to. 

After regaling one of my earlier adventures involving a meet-cute at the train station,  I was asked if I was “out of my mind.” I get defensive when anyone questions my extroversion and romanticism with the guise of not wanting me to be disappointed or hurt, especially if they’re aware of just how stuck in my shell I was during high school and college. One of my biggest regrets is over analyzing most situations, to the point where I felt like I couldn’t fully connect or be seen for who I was. Thankfully there was grace and understanding in terms of those relationships, but I wish I hadn’t carried all that weight around. It wasn’t my responsibility then, and it certainly isn’t now. 

So yes, I’m out of my head, and that’s a good thing. I have to live my life on a different level than most people, and the reality is that sometimes even’t my closest friends and family can’t understand it.

I’m still learning, but here’s what I know right now:

Rejection and disappointment hurt, but they are not the end of the world. 

Love your present more than you hate your past. 

Focus on the experience, not the outcome.

When Your Squad Scatters

It was the summer of 2014, and by late July I was saying goodbye to life at the University of Iowa. I was terrified of the unknown, and it was honestly one of the hardest things I had to do at the time. Not only had I found my independence, but for the first time in my entire life, I felt like I had made some of the best friends that I’ve ever had. I hated leaving them, and what’s more, I didn’t like the idea of starting all over again. But life would go on whether I liked or not, and I could either figure out how to move forward or allow myself to be paralyzed by a number of fears that I have when it comes to relationships (both platonic and romantic).

Nearly five years later, I’m finding that there isn’t exactly a full-proof way to make new friends and keep existing friendships going. But it does take a lot of intention, patience, and loosening my grip on the ideals that have been ingrained in me since childhood.

 Be Open and Be Grateful

The fact that anything can happen post-grad is both overwhelming, yet full of so much opportunity. Many people end up in new corners of the world, or they go back to their hometowns in order to regroup and save money. Some are lucky enough to reconnect with friends from high school or even further back, but most likely are not going to be surrounded by peers within a particular age bracket. It’s completely normal to meet and spend time with those who are younger, older, and completely across the board as far as seasons and backgrounds go. Whether you join a church, a meetup, or stumble across a Facebook event, it’s about showing up and being consistent. It might be just a season, or it might be the beginning of something incredible.

Unfortunately, time doesn’t always keep us in the same place (especially in your twenties). Life can feel like a revolving door of people coming in and out, creating a lot of anxiety and wondering if it’s realistic to allow ourselves to relax and get comfortable. The best thing I’ve learned is to not take seasons or people for granted: be present when you’re around them, and put your phone away unless you really need it. Ask questions and make an effort to genuinely listen. Take pictures, even if they’re not worthy of posting. It’s not going to protect you from the pain if and when that time does come to an end, but it helps when you know you made the most of it.

Create New Traditions

This is a lot easier said than done, especially when you live in different states and have bills to pay. But we should always make room in our lives for things we want to do, as opposed to merely what’s necessary for survival. Whether you meet up one day a year for a football game at your alma matter, or pick a weekend to celebrate a birthday or two, put it on the calendar and go. It doesn’t even have to huge or expensive; it might just involve meeting up with someone on a weekly basis for coffee, or catching up over the phone. But adulthood does not wait for those who merely wait for the weekend before making commitments.

Give Some Grace

I cringe whenever I see a passive aggressive quote involving communication and keeping score. People already have so much to keep up with, along with trying to manage their physical and emotional health in the process. I’m learning that equal give and take, while ideal, is not exactly black and white (especially when mental illness is involved). We need to stop being so harsh each other and declaring that someone is cut off just because they haven’t texted or called in a while, although I’m aware that it’s a slightly different story in regards to dating and romance. I love to encourage and lift people up, and I’d rather have them know that I’m thinking of them, rather than hold a grudge over a lack of response. We might only talk every so often, but that doesn’t mean we love and care for each other any less.

It’s not always personal, and we need to stop vilifying others when we’re the ones who refuse to accept them as they are.

Enjoy Your Own Company

The majority of us have been conditioned to be social and eager to be in groups at all times. Much of my college experience involved having a variety of friends with all kinds of interests, and the dreaded fear of missing out had me constantly on the go in one way or another. I had it in my head that physically being by myself meant that something was wrong with me, and other than drinking my coffee in the morning, I was always uncomfortable with the concept.

Whether you’re brand new, or your friends or all in different places, you will confront that head on, and it’s ultimately up to you to deal with it. I’ve learned to be perfectly okay with a Friday or Saturday night filled with Netflix and my favorite food. I love going on walks for an hour or two at a time. And I definitely wouldn’t grow and evolve if didn’t carve out time to pray, journal, and read. I haven’t quite worked up the courage to go to restaurants or concerts by myself yet, and the former I’ve only done before or after an interview and I know I need food.

Love and Let Go

This has always been the hardest part for me. I’ve naturally grown apart from friends over the years due to distance, different interests, or just being in different seasons. But it’s another story all together when I haven’t been able to see it coming, and the only way to cope with that kind of change is to blame myself. A couple of years ago, I noticed that one of my really close friends had stopped responding to me checking in with her, and eventually she told me that she needed space. It was like a gut-punch, because we had never experienced any conflict up until that point, and she had always been kind-hearted and inclusive in the times we spent together during undergrad. I was on the tail-end of a very dark season, where from November of 2016 to March of 2017, I was the lowest I had ever been with my eating disorder, and was also trying to deal with a relationship where I was in way over my head. I had never felt so insecure and impulsive, and unfortunately I projected that onto other people that I cared about.

But sometimes life just happens, and there are things that we’ll never understand. When I love, I love deeply, and sometimes that gets mixed up with holding onto seasons or relationships too tightly. I’m not going to get overly angry or curse someone out merely for being honest about what they can and can’t handle. I don’t have the energy to be visibly pissed off, even if I have the right to. I believe in setting boundaries, but I do not believe in building walls. I often ask God to take care of such people in the ways that I cannot, and trust that He will do the rest.

Perhaps it’s unrealistic to have everyone be in your life, or at least certain aspects of it. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t hold them in your heart. Some will go in, and some will go out; but the ones who are meant to be there will always be standing in the doorway.

Friendship is a kaleidoscope of the ever-changing, one that can either bring out the best in us, or the worst. I often wonder if Facebook and Instagram didn’t exist, would we be really all that concerned about the size of our circles? The answer is both a riddle and a masterpiece, a wrestling match between how we think our lives should go and reality.

When you miss someone, send them love and give thanks. When you’re searching for someone, always try your best to be that kind of someone to others. It’s not a competition, or even a race. Life is always abundant, and what you have now is there for a reason. Savor it. Learn from it. And keep going.

Coffee and Tea

Beans

Such bitter beans

I tasted at a tender age

When sleep stopped coming easily

And make-up nor heels

Didn’t make me feel grown up

One for waking, another a jolt of energy

With more cream than brew

A bittersweet blend

Of deliciousness and sophistication

Carrying me through

Early mornings, long lectures

A welcome reprieve from a boozy headache

Designated mugs for different days

 

Leaves

Scented but seemingly tasteless

Reserved for sickness

In the cabinet my mother kept

A sore throat in winter snow

Or icing in a pitcher on a sunny day

Ease and wellness, not productivity

 

Rising before the sun

A train to city for work

Anxiety: Can I? Should I? Would I? Would they?

And wondering what the day would hold

A knotted stomach

Could only be untied by sipping chamomile flowers

And perfectly hot water

Mint, plantation or refresh

Sometimes chai

Rarely green

Never black

Cozy comfort

Sip by sip

Reading or watching

No headaches

Just warmth

 

This or that? So it goes

Either one extreme or another

As if choosing somehow locks you in

A requirement of narrow-minded opinion

Perhaps an element of priveledge

But not life itself

 

For such ebbs and flows

Light follows darkness

Feelings come and go

Twist me into what I’m not

And I’ll just reshape again

Discomfort only fazes the ignorant

The ones who can’t reflect

Or face their own shortcomings

 

Each day is different

Good and bad

A sight to behold

But not always necessary to decide on

Selectiveness doesn’t apply to everything

Especially stories

Especially if anyone wants to tell the truth

Twenty-Seven

“Most people try to forget their birthdays, but you revel in it!”

I wasn’t sure if this was sarcasm or a compliment, but I couldn’t deny that I was trying to put some effort into making my twenty-seventh birthday worth celebrating. In previous years I’d struggled with expectations and feeling loved on this particular day, and it’s taken a lot of learning how to be vocal about what I want while also being present and appreciating things for what they are. I was filled with awe and gratitude over what happens when I allow whatever it is to unfold and not get caught up with the anxiety of the prison that often is my own head.

Twenty-six was unexpected, and a lot happened to where I still reflect and wonder how I got here. There were career ups and downs, most of which I didn’t see coming. Some of my dating experiences were amazing, but some were also disrespectful and even violated my personal boundaries. When it was good I was on top of the world, but when there was pain my first instinct was to close myself off and allow bitterness to seep in. I’d like to think that I’m a resilient person, but there were a number of times where all I could think about was, “I don’t want to go through this again.” I’d even get angry when a blessing that came after a long season of waiting seemed to be taken away faster than I could blink.

Life changes, and Life happens. You can hustle and pursue and try like hell to be perfect, but there will always be circumstances out of your control. I’m still learning, but I’d say the best resistance toward unforeseen storms is to be present and not take any of what you have in this moment for granted. It’s the balm that softens the loss of a job, the change in a relationship, or being rejected for whatever reason. And you have to allow yourself to feel and process before you can even think about there being a reason for it.

It’s been a constant back and forth between connection/closeness and feeling threatened, as though I’m in some kind of danger. I don’t like the extremes, and I want a kind of balance that allows me to interact with the world while still being aware of it. I believe in being both soft and kind-hearted, while being strong and not allowing what might just be temporary to break me.

Soft and Strong.

To not let the size of an opportunity make me feel small and insignificant.

To heal and cope with what I’ve buried in the back of my mind over time.

To not let the harshness of the world turn me into a shell of who I truly am.

Amen, and here’s to another life-changing year!

Twenty-Six

tattoos-health-peace

I recently had another birthday, a rather low-key affair filled with wine and cupcakes and weighted blankets. For a long time, February 1 was a day of anxiety and trying desperately to keep my expectations low. It was hard to not keep track of who remembered to call/text, or worry about a possible blizzard putting a damper on dinner or weekend party plans. Getting worked up over either of those things would ultimately suck the joy out of the real, most meaningful part of celebrating.

I’m here and I’m alive.

A few people have asked me if I feel old(er), and I can’t say that’s the case. I feel lighter, less focused on my age and more on my personal well-being. At twenty-five, I was in the grips of an eating disorder that I had yet to come to terms with, along with constant anxiety regarding my professional and personal life. I’ve gotten a lot better at putting my mental and physical health first, focusing less on perfection and more on presence.

Whenever I’ve picked a word for the year, I went with something flashy and appealing. It would motivate me at first, but then the expectations would become heavy, which resulted in a lot of discouragement. As 2018 began, I knew I needed to go back to the not-so-fluffy, the not-quite feel-good, and perhaps a little cliched basics.

I needed to learn how to trust. Genuinely and whole-heartedly.

Trust God.

Trust myself.

Trust the process.

In some respects I’ve appeared too trusting, depending on the situation. But it was less about trust and more about ignorance. There have been numerous times where I’ve made a choice and my entire being is practically screaming at me that it’s not a good idea. I would lose sleep and then wake up feeling sick to my stomach.

The quest for perfectionsim and reassurance makes trusting anyone or anything an uphill battle. ‘Hold on loosely’ would render a sense of passivity and helplessness. I could either be in control or be a doormat, and as the years went by I grew tired of being the latter.

But you can only cling to certain things for so long before your hands start to blister and bleed. Infections set in. Eventually, you have to choose between either living or dying.

Trust. Vulnerability. Resilience. Those are all muscles, and the only way you make them stronger is to exercise.

As much as I’ve questioned Evangelical Christianity over the years, my faith in God alone is truly the only consistent thing I have. Relationships will take different shapes. Careers take different directions. And physical beauty changes.

I’ve taken a lot of time to get to know myself, to acknowledge and not sugar coat what’s healthy and what isn’t. Intuition is a powerful voice, and I will not allow anyone to silence it.

And some answers are not meant to be found right away, if at all. Sometimes “I don’t know” is the only thing that makes sense. You have to let the map unfold before you can fully trace the path.

This is still fairly new to me, and I’m not sure how to end this post. I pray that those closest to me will keep me accountable, reminding me that what is already here is what is meant to be experienced.

Here’s to twenty-six.

Amen.

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