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

Of Boldness and Blunders

I’m declaring this the year of being bold, I wrote with only a few hours left of my twenty-fourth birthday. Of being bold and assertive. Of pursuing dreams until God closes the door. I want to build a life that has meaning, and that it will involve doing hard things and being uncomfortable.
Such a declaration was nothing close to an automatic miracle. Waking up the next morning, all I could think about was the fact that I’m near a quarter of a century old, and its way past the point of being time. I’ve wrested with selflessness versus taking charge of my needs and desires for most of my life; I’m not necessarily afraid of rejection itself, but more so the reasoning behind the rejection. It’s almost like I would rather live with the potential outcomes than face reality head on. As I’ve said previously, the possibility of getting what I want is a lot scarier than not doing so. It comes down to having more to lose, and not wanting to subconsciously take responsibility when I might not be at fault.

For a time I associated such a word with class and sophistication, combined with a take-no-prisoners attitude. I envisioned women in colored blazers with heels, flawless eyeliner and jangling jewelry. They’re the Beyoncé’s and the Taylors and the Lady Gaga’s of the world. Bold embodies the women I met when I was sixteen years old, and have looked up to since high school. It’s strange to say that I’ve never sensed that in my own being; I’ve more so identified as the shy one, the unsure one, the one who spends way too much time overthinking and preparing for the worst. I’ve hidden away and longed for more, and regretted it every time.

When I do step up, when I take a risk and go after something, I feel a lot better afterward. More confident. Free. No longer carrying a huge weight on my shoulders. Even if things don’t go way that I’d like them to, at least I can move forward and keep my anxiety levels down. It’s not always easy or comfortable, but it’s what I need to do it order to grow. It might be the writer in me, or it might just be the perfect time to begin tapping into who God made me to be.  

This newly lit fire in my heart is a tough one to explain, and the pieces will come together in their own time.  Based on past experiences, I’m well aware of the fact that I’m capable of taking risks, and making things happen one way or the other. I once stood in front of my entire seventh grade class and read a poem that launched my writing career. I went to both high school and college in completely unfamiliar territory, and wound up meeting a number of people that changed my life for the better. I don’t have to be an expert to understand that I have it in me, and that it’s more so a matter of manifesting that kind of courage on a regular basis.

Assertiveness has many definitions, but it boils down to keeping it simple and using your time wisely. Ask for whatever it is, without embellishment or justification. I’ve never heard anyone mentioned above try to explain themselves or hand out reasons like candy; they do what they do and don’t apologize for bringing up uncomfortable subjects. Bear in mind, it’s not always about the big and monumental that go the distance. God needs people to move mountains, but I can imagine that He has just as much of a need to tackle the small things as well. Never underestimate the power of a single voice, the determination of one, or the impact of what might look tiny, but has a lot of momentum behind it.
It’s what dark horses are made of.
Proclaiming it is one part, and living it out is another. I would rather let people make their own judgements and critiques, because trying to convince anyone to see from your point of view is like running on a hamster wheel. I go with the expectation of learning and evolving and becoming…nothing else. It takes patience and perseverance, but I’m confident that it can become second nature as time progresses. I’m sure I’ll stumble and shrink back into old habits, like waiting until the “right” moment or set of circumstances to take action. I’ll probably overthink and over-analyze until I’ve worn out my slippers, and I hope that my loved ones will hold me accountable for that.
Celebrating a general new year is great, because it’s where we can recognize that we’re all human and we long to make something of ourselves. But there’s something about birthdays that’s just as special; it’s a more intimate and personal way of starting over, of celebrating all that you are and where you’ve been. The choice to be bold is not necessarily about starting over, but a continuation of what has been in the making for close to ten years. I’m just digging a bit deeper, my voice is becoming a bit louder, and my self-image is becoming sharper. When I really think about it, I’ve haven’t accomplished anything without taking a chance, along with asking for and accepting help along the way.

Here’s to the bold ones: the ones that stand up, show up, and shine because they were created to do so. May our actions demonstrate our words, and our lives become testaments of strength and continuous butt-kicking. May we lead by example, making an effort to know and understand as much as we want to be known and understood. And here’s to the loneliness,beauty, determination, frustration, triumph, and all that comes with it.
At last.

When Love Came To Stay


 
 
 
Why is it so hard for you to love yourself?
 
I repeatedly ask myself this question as I look at my reflection in the mirror, which is now covered in “name tags,” or words and phrases that come together to form a definition about who we are. This exercise comes from an e-course that I’ve been involved with called Be You and Love It,allowing me to wrestle with my own identity, but to also experience wholeness in the process. I can honestly say that it has been a lifeline, and am beyond grateful for the woman who created it.
 
Yet the question still remains…why is it so hard?
 
From a general standpoint, self-love seems apathetic, as though you don’t care for anyone else around you. If you speak it outwardly, you’re either labeled as conceited, self-involved, or perhaps even bitchy. In some Christian circles, loving yourself is akin to not fully loving Jesus, or not putting Him above all else. And whether I’m looking at it from a spiritual standpoint or not, it seemed superficial and preachy; as though by following a particular formula, you’d somehow find the answer and instantly feel good. And I can’t stand that kind of sugar-coated thinking.
 
In my own experience, it has been challenging because I was never taught how to accept the way that God made me, to embrace my imperfections as opposed to trying to hide or change them. It’s possible that those who should have been examples didn’t know how to love themselves either, therefore passing it onto me.  And because certain messages where coming from those older than I (most of them were adults and family members), it didn’t occur to me that their views were only one perspective. Even after I became a Christian, that perspective often drowned out God’s Truth.
 
That’s exactly why it has taken me thirteen years to fully understand the concept; wherever I turned, there was always somebody telling me that I was not enough, and I felt like I never would be.
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I suppose I’ve been afraid to love myself because it seemed to indicate that I had to walk alone.
 
“Do what you can for yourself, so that you won’t need it from someone else.”
 
But real love isn’t independent, least of all from God. It’s a partnership, an equal partnership.
 
Self-love is hard work, and to espouse it means to be saturated in the love and Grace of God. That love pours out onto you, and you in turn pour that love into others.
 
If we can love others, why shouldn’t we be able to do the same for ourselves? It doesn’t always have to involve making a list of personal attributes or reasons why we have worth. I’ve realized that love and acceptance isn’t just rooted in identity; it’s about what we do for ourselves as well. We need to do things that make us come alive because being ourselves is how we truly live. It means setting boundaries, because we know that we can only give so much before exhaustion and resentment sets in. It means recognizing that some relationships are for a lifetime, while others are for a season. It’s knowing when to keep fighting and when to surrender. It’s taking responsibility for our own actions and choices, but understanding that we’re not responsible for that of others.
 
 For me, it’s nourishing my inner child that adores Disney movies, laughing at random moments, and going on adventures. If I can’t do that, I withdraw.
 
If love is allowing another person to be human, then we must give our own person that same permission.  Permission to show up, mess up, and not stretch ourselves to where we’re trying too damn hard.
 
To love ourselves is to merely be ourselves.
 
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I did the name tag exercise after I wrote those words in my journal; I needed to be alone, without distraction and without needing to explain what I was doing. I used yellow for the “bad” thoughts/opinions, and orange for the “good” ones. I started sticking the yellow tags on my mirror, an instrumental version of Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are” came on my iPad, followed by Taylor Swift’s “Shake it off.” I don’t usually pay attention to signs or symbolism, but something was happening and it brought tears to my eyes. These words, many of which had been stuck onto me over a decade by peers and others in a state frustration, stared at me like a tiger waiting to pounce.
 
 
 
The orange ones were composed of a much shorter list, and I felt rather indifferent as I wrote them out. It seemed cliché almost, as though I’d heard those words a thousand times before and they no longer meant anything. I knew they were true to some degree, but I’ve always struggled with actually believing them. I can tell the difference between a genuine compliment and being buttered up; it’s why I shudder and bristle when a random guy calls me “beautiful” or “sexy” instead of being flattered. It’s a matter of trust, mostly, as opposed to words themselves. I can trust someone that knows my heart and has seen me at my worst, but definitely not a slime ball who only wants to take me home for the night.
 
But as I looked at them, I kept thinking how none of those names, good or bad, actually define me. Some of them are opinions and some are flat out lies. Others are just reality, and there are even those that have actually become assets over time.
 
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It really is a journey, and one where I continue to grow and evolve, one day at a time. I accept that it is not a singular transformation, and there are days where I’m going to dislike who I see and wish that certain things were different, like the fact that I am deep and sensitive. I’m thankful for those who have been a positive influence, and continue to be as I experience different stages and transitions. I’ve been blessed to know some amazing men and women who exude a confidence and sense of self that I’m almost jealous of. But I’m getting there.
 
 
 

 

Love does not need a thousand reasons or adjectives, but a simple foundation that offers quiet strength. I will keep saying this until I run out of breath: I am a human being and a child of God, and I rest in that. 
 

When Lists Become Prayers






I have never been a huge fan of lists unless they involve groceries. I’m not one to use a variety sticky notes trying to keep track of everything that I need to do or a calendar of events, though perhaps I should. However, there are two kinds of lists that have become sacred to me; ones that I keep tucked away in my journal, and only speak of when asked.

During my last semester of school,  my therapist and I spent several sessions discussing what I wanted, specifically in a romantic relationship. She suggested coming up with at least six non-negotiables, something that I’d never given much thought to up until that point. I’d been told quite often that my expectations were too high, so I usually kept it at “I want a guy who is nice” (high school), and “I want a guy who is nice and will take me out on the weekends” (college). But I wasn’t a child anymore, and if I wanted to find love, it was necessary to not just decide what I wanted, but what I needed as well. It felt refreshing to not only narrow down the important deal breakers, but to proclaim them on paper. Each time I buy a new journal I write them down again on the last few pages, even though by now they’re pretty much stuck in my head. I probably should keep them posted on my bathroom mirror, especially in moments of loneliness where my values can easily take a backseat, or I feel like buying into the “twenty-something free-bird” mentality.

I’ve keep gratitude lists on and off since I was a teenager, but couldn’t stay disciplined enough to do it every day. Sometimes the concept seems like one of those happy-go-lucky fads, a band-aid to put on when desperate to ignore reality. Yet, I’ve picked it back up again recently; instead of waiting until the end of the day and looking back, I record thankfulness as I experience it. I focus on the small, mundane things that don’t seem worth being grateful for, but it helps me to recognize the beauty right in front of me as opposed to looking too far ahead or around me. For anyone who has read Ann Voskamp’s 1,000 Gifts, it’s very similar to her practice. I also took a bit of guiding from Soul Keeping, which my church did a series on about a year ago. 

Translating these practices to a communion with God is a work in progress. When I have my quiet time each morning, I experience the self-pressure to say things a certain way, to make sure that I balance gratitude with what is on my heart. Sometimes I cry when giving thanks, understanding at that moment how much I’ve been blessed with. 

And in terms of praying about relationships, that can be a tough one. I have moments where I almost don’t know what to say, let alone how to say it. I toggle between praying about a person I have yet to meet, and wondering if I’ve already met him but the timing isn’t quite right. More than anything, I don’t pray about it often because I don’t want to become obsessed or stressed over it. I don’t want to use love is a bargaining chip (i.e. Lord if you give me an affection man, I won’t curse like a sailor ever again!)

In my faith journey, I’ve been told that God created us so that He knows our words and thoughts, even before we say them. Realistically, there’s no need to pray out loud if I don’t feel moved to do so. I’m still getting used to the whole pray-like-you’re-talking-to-a-friend formula. 

I think lists are like prayers because they often get to the heart of things, the bare bones of what we want and need. In hindsight, that’s what God wants when we pray to him; no embellishments, no ancient language or ritual. Just what is. 

It seems very silly; almost as silly as saying, “and please let the Bears/Blackhawks/Hawkeyes/Cubs win, AMEN!!” But if that’s how God made me, than why not welcome the cheesiness? Who says sacred can’t be light-hearted and almost humorous?

Writing that stuff down (length aside) is a way of remembering. I want to look back. I want to remember. For the memories, no matter how painful, are the ultimate prayers. 

Photo Credit

Re-Thinking "Getting Hurt"







It seems to have become a rallying cry of a generation, or perhaps just a rallying cry overall. We use it as a rebuttal for a million different situations, but none the more polarizing then when it comes to avoiding deep and meaningful relationships:
“….But I don’t want to get hurt!”

My initial reaction is, “ Well, who actually does?”

 It’s natural to be a little bit cautious, and the world would be a disaster if we weren’t.  Yet the more I hear it, the more it comes across as an excuse as opposed to a valid concern. Do some truly want to avoid unnecessary hurt, or do they want the benefits without taking risk or responsibility?

The fact is, no one on this earth is immune to pain; at some point you’ll either experience it in one (or several) ways:

Going into something and knowing that it’s probably a bad idea, but doing it anyway.

Getting blindsided when things are going really well.

Understanding the risks, and taking things as they come. It might turn out well and it might not, and that’s OK.

The question is, what are you willing to live with?

Yes, boundaries are important, but there is a huge difference between setting boundaries and setting up an obstacle course. It’s baffling as to why some tout having been hurt in the past, yet turn around and hurt others by lying, cheating, or manipulating in order to get what they want. Maybe it’s due to a lack of confidence, not knowing how to communicate, or wanting to be in control of another person.

Then there are those who know they’re in a dysfunctional situation, but are unsure how to get out. Not only was I one of them, but I watched a friend put herself through the wringer for the sake of a complete idiot who wanted to take more than give. It’s often a battle of either trying to prove that you don’t care at all or that their personal well-being is a top priority. You either put up a wall to see how far someone will go, or you will try like hell to break it down.

It’s an exhausting push and pull, and one that unfortunately is considered normal all across the age spectrum.

I get that none of us is perfect; we’re all scared, we’re all lonely, and we don’t want to go through heartbreak.  But we’ve become so terrified that we confuse necessary limits and self-protection with numbing real needs and feelings. There’s no black and white, clear-cut formula, and it could very well depend on the person and kind of relationship you’re in. It’s practically a given to believe that if men did this and women did that, we’d all be a lot better off. In a way that might be true, but we can only control our own choices and actions.
I’ve begun to wonder if it is less about what we do with the possibility of pain, and more about the perspective we have on it. Instead of saying “I’m going to make sure that this doesn’t happen,” we say, “I’m going to have the best experience possible, regardless of the outcome.” This can have a lot of different meanings, which is why it’s difficult to put into practice. One can assume that physical gratification is the best experience, but eventually they’ll get hit with the realization that it’s only prolonging the hurt, not eradicating it. Others might see it as diving headfirst into a new relationship, wanting to just relax and be in the moment.  How do you let yourself be happy with what’s right in front of you, while still acknowledging the possibility that it might not be what you envision to be? Is there such a thing as proceeding with caution without purely waiting for the other shoe to drop?

One day at a time, sweetheart. Breathe and have faith.

Naming and vocalizing fear, especially a specific fear, gives it less power. My best friend once told me that she and her significant other are brutally honest about their fears and insecurities all the time, regardless of how silly it sounds. There’s something to be said for that kind of vulnerability; not just in romantic relationships, but with others as well. We all need people who are willing to speak truth and accountability into our lives, even when we aren’t ready to hear it. I’m now just becoming comfortable with opening up about what I am most afraid of: that I will not be enough in the eyes of my person, and that walk away from what we have without talking to me about it first. It has happened before, each time where I believed I was at fault for causing them to run, though deep down I knew otherwise. Everyone has a choice in terms of how they handle discomfort or frustration, and it’s ultimately their choice in terms of whether or not they’ll act like an adult.

I never want anyone to promise me that they won’t hurt me, and I wouldn’t promise that in turn, even if it was unintentional. Instead, I prefer a mutual promise that we’ll both take responsibility for our choices, regardless of how difficult it is. Say it, own it, and then work through it.

If it does end, the thorn of it all is believing that the pain is only temporary, that you can somehow move on and put yourself back together. I’ve been through enough where I understand that this is possible; granted I might not completely get over it, but I’ll still get through it. And if I surrender the broken pieces, allowing myself time and space for an honest reflection on what happened, I usually do heal from it. And by real healing, I mean without rebounds or hook-ups.

 At my junior high and high school youth groups, we teenagers were often told to “guard our hearts,” and that avoiding dating equaled less heartache. In theory it seems like a good idea, but whenever I’ve tried to follow a full-proof formula for anything, I end up forgetting to trust God in the process. It doesn’t mean preparing myself for negative impact from the get-go, but by trusting my instincts and seeking Him before all else, that it will still be something that I can learn or grow from; it will not be a waste of time or energy.

This is all very much a thought process, one that I’m allowing to evolve and re-shape as time goes on. It’s messy, indefinite, like puzzle pieces still scattered and I have yet to come up with a method of putting them together. I’m still in the midst of walking through a bit of haze, where I just got out of something that has more questions than answers. It’s OK to take a step back, to re-evaluate, and wait until you’re ready.

 And perhaps the first step is simply acknowledging that pain is not a problem to be solved, but an inevitable experience. 

When Tinder Isn’t To Blame

A couple of weeks ago I came across the highly publicized Vanity Fair article, where the author highlights a so-called “dating apocalypse” due to apps like Tinder and the widespread hook-up culture. As a lot of people probably reacted, I was dismayed, even frustrated when I read it. Not because any of the scenarios presented were utterly  shocking, but that few seemed to truly enjoy the whole concept, yet resigned to the fact that we’re stuck and just have to suck it up and smile. I could tell that the glaring problem wasn’t what the author was frequently indicating, but something much more indirect:

Hardly anyone likes it, but it is what it is, and you either make the best of it or risk being alone.

I’m not defending Tinder, nor am I dismissing it. I know several people who’ve found relationships through it and things seem to be going well. Yet out of the number of times I downloaded and used it, I typically deleted it within the span of a couple of months. It did become addicting, and eventually I became tired of waking up to sexually grotesque messages, and feeling pulled into conversations that didn’t reflect my personal character. There’s no doubt that dating is harder than it used to be, but it shouldn’t be to where you’re feeling degraded and cheap every time you try to have a simple conversation.

But it’s not the app that matters, or even rapidly changing technology. What bothers me is how people act like they no longer have free will because different avenues have become available and casual sex has become more prevalent. It seems like reality, but is actually just a mindset for refusing to take ownership of how you allow yourself to be treated.

It would be wonderful if more people were completely honest about what they want, who say what they mean and mean what they say.  But even that wouldn’t solve everything, and it is kind of silly to put your emotional well-being into the hands of someone else.

My question is, where does one person’s responsibility end and another’s begins?

I can’t control others’ actions or line of thinking, I can decide what I stand for and what I don’t. I want to be with a man who looks at me as God-created human being, an equal and a partner. If that’s not case, than sometimes the best way to stick up for myself is to walk away completely.

It’s not enough to just eliminate something and then blindly hope that the pieces will fall together. You have to set standards for yourself, as well as limits and boundaries. More so, it involves discipline, accountability, and commitment.
Taking a Step Back

There’s definitely a sense of magic when it comes to meeting someone new, and it is nice to feel hopeful about the possibilities. But at the end of the day, the most important relationships in my life are that with God and with myself, because they are the ones that I’m always guaranteed to have. It’s so easy to get swept up in the emotion and excitement of getting to know someone, and maybe even falling in love. At the same time, what once felt promising can turn into a vacuum of stress, where I nearly end up questioning everything and blame myself in the process. Recently, I’ve noticed that I become incredibly anxious when I feel like I don’t have some amount of control in certain situations, specifically when it comes to sticking up for myself or having the last word. When I can’t practice emotional, physical, or even spiritual self-care, that’s when I know to stop and reflect on what I’m doing. It might mean being more selective in who I go out with, or it might mean taking a break from dating all together.

It’s perfectly OK to just be single, and in a way where you’re not involved with anyone in any capacity. It’s imperative to make time to breathe, to get to know yourself or to re-discover who you are and what you want for your life. Real love is only healthy if it comes from within, and is poured out slowly and for the right reasons. And as selfish as this sounds, you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself in the process.

Trusting Instincts

I’ve been blessed with strong instincts, but admittedly have not always followed them. I usually know within a couple of conversations (in person or otherwise) if I can envision something deeper or romantic. It’s hard to explain why exactly, but I suppose it relates to knowing myself really well, and being aware of what kind of personalities I mesh with versus what I don’t. More importantly, I know what I want and what I can give, so that’s definitely a tool in spotting red flags, or even just yellow ones.

The challenge is not getting stuck in something that’s unhealthy, and more so because I’m trying to give a guy the benefit of the doubt. I understand that no one is perfect and that everyone messes up; that being said, there is a difference between not being perfect and not making an effort. Doing something once is making a mistake, but repeated actions involve making a choice. And if he gets defensive because I called him out, that’s when I know it isn’t going to work. And sadly, once I realize that things are not going to get better, they usually don’t; it just ends up becoming this ridiculous cycle that results in emotional exhaustion and blocking somebody’s number.

Please, pay attention; pay attention to whether or not you’re being pursued, respected, heard, encouraged, protected, and whether or not your interest is allowing you to do the same for him/her. Even if it’s not serious or romantic, you’re still human and should have an open line of communication. If something feels off, it’s likely that it probably is, and you should get away as soon as possible.
Finding Support

From personal experience, I can say that one of my biggest regrets is not trusting my closest friends enough, telling them what I truly thought and felt. The first couple of weeks of my freshman year of college, I met a guy from a nearby dorm and developed a crush on him very quickly. I never told anyone that I liked him because I didn’t want the attention, and I thought it would be easier for me to deal with it alone if things went downhill. Needless to say that did happen, and I nearly became an emotional wreck because I held everything in, at least until I couldn’t anymore. I knew that he wasn’t good for me, and I didn’t want to hear it from anyone else.

The truth is hard to swallow, but necessary nonetheless. From friends both near and far, to family members and mentors, I’m beyond grateful to those who are willing to be a sounding board and to listen without judgement. I might need advice on how to handle a situation, or sometimes it’s nice to be affirmed that I’m not overly sensitive and that I do have a right to my feelings. 

The right support system is one that will tell you the truth, but will still love and be there for you nonetheless. They give advice when you need it, or affirm that you’re doing the right thing when faced with a difficult decision. They know how to celebrate while being level-headed, and they know how to comfort without complaining about how all men are jerks. They have a healthy attitude toward themselves and others, and recognize when to fight for something and when to move on.
I’m fascinated by how we all relate to one another, how our stories connect, and how we all have the ability to make an impact. We’ve gotten so caught up in the idea of love that we’ve forgotten what it means to be human: to be vulnerable, to show emotion, and to have a passion for something. The struggle is recognizing that no one can complete you, nor can they make all your pain go away.

Life is too precious and fragile to not be surrounded by what truly matters. The beauty of getting older is that I’ve realized that I don’t have the time or energy for “meeting up,” late at night, or being referred to as something other than my name.  I don’t need the stress, the silence, or the wondering. I need someone who motivates me to be better, who pushes me toward God, and is willing to let me love him the way he loves me.

Has dating changed? Sure it has, and it will continue to do so as time goes on. But it’s up to each one of us to determine what it will look like for our own lives, and I know which direction I’m going in.

Caring Less, Caring Differently


The older you get, the less you should care about what other people think.




 I’ve been learning and absorbing this, both in my own experiences and in other reflections from various bloggers and thinkers. There comes a point in every adult life where you realize that you’re no longer living in a bubble; you’re in control of what you do with your time, your energy, and your heart. You’re not necessarily surrounded by all the same people who are always doing the same things, so therefore you’re not saturated in specific culture or way of living. And even if that’s the case, you have the choice of going with what’s easy or embracing the awkwardness.
I know this, but it still takes effort to believe, to practice, and genuinely act on it. For years I’ve lived as an impressionable person, believing that if a chorus of people told me something (especially if they were older and family), then they must be right. It never occurred to me that might be wrong, or they could be neither wrong nor right. It about perspective more than anything, and mine is one that I’m in the process of learning to trust and see as valid and worth talking about.

The less you care, the better you become at dealing with rejection, ignorance, hatred, pain, self-doubt, and so on.

I can agree with this to a point; it’s important to know how to be resilient, to stand up and keep going (even if it means hobbling for a little bit). But I’m not sure that giving the finger to those mentioned above is the answer; people love to rant and complain about how entitled, self-centered, greedy, and narcissistic this current generation is, but forget that we’ve grown up in an era where vulnerability and transparency equals weakness. Our primary education has been through technology and one-sided media outlets, rather than real-life conversation; when you’re exposed to all these different view-points and ideas and so on, of course it gets overwhelming. So you retreat, buying into the lie that if you don’t tell anyone how you really feel, it will all go away on its own.

But it never does; pretending that you’re immune to being real and complex only creates disconnection and resentment. I’ve done my damnedest to convince myself that I’m a lone wolf, but I’m a people person inside and out. And honestly, are any of us really all that better off alone?

Don’t stop caring, but rather, choose to care differently. I’m finding that this is two-fold:
One, you stop living in your head and actually let it out. Sometimes it’s in a journal or sometimes it’s in the presence of another person, but I have to be able to acknowledge the darkness, the not-so-pretty stuff in order to make room for what is good.

 Vulnerability is both terrifying and liberating, but I have to be able to talk about All The Things to at least one person. Silence gives the enemy golden opportunities to fill my mind with BS, leading me to believe that those I care about would be better off if I wasn’t around. But when I speak, scream, lament, however it comes out…God uses people to act as a tender voice, or maybe a bullhorn, to speak truth into my life when I need it most. Then once I’m done heaving word-vomit (or tears), I take a step back and am able to see the situation a bit more clearly, because my head isn’t going in a million different directions.

Two, acknowledge the truth and then do something about it…

We’re all human here, humans who long to be loved and taken care of. We’re all scared of rejection, of failure, and ultimately wasting our lives. It seems like in your twenties you have so much to prove, but what about what you have to offer? What about the gifts you have to share?

It really comes down to this:

People will judge you and criticize you, but the loudest voice is often the one in your head. I have no qualms admitting that I am often my own worst enemy.
The only way to get what you want is to ask for it. It might be through whispered prayers or blunt questions, but ask nonetheless. Looking back on my younger years, I wish I had done more of it.

What’s the point in going out of your way to get people to understand? I’m tired of over-explaining and having to justify my intentions, my desires, and what brings me joy. If I want to go on an adventure or try something new, I will.
In other words, if you’re by yourself and you want to have a drink, go out and do it. You’re not the first person to dine alone, and you’re not the only one who will feel weird about it at first. Friendships can happen in bars, on street corners, and the most unexpected places. Be open to the possibilities.
Worry less about having answers and focus more on being present. I believe in listening and being sensitive to others, but sometimes I get so sick of tap-dancing around certain subjects because they might be uncomfortable. Death, suffering, sickness, pain, and depression are all difficult to cope with, but avoiding them won’t erase the fact that they’re part of life.
Know when to apologize and when to own who you are. I’m sensitive. Quirky. Sensual and child-like. They’re all part of me, but they’re layers that aren’t exactly visible on a daily basis. You can be a social butterfly and still appreciate taking time for yourself. I call it being an antrovert.
They all have to be practiced and preached a thousand times over, always a work in progress.  But that’s the beauty in it, realizing that you don’t necessarily have to decide just once, and can change and evolve is time goes on. 



If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t be able to relate to anybody. But there’s a big difference between caring and putting my livelihood on the backs of someone else’s opinion.

And it’s not a bad thing, being able to show what’s important and what matters, versus what is a waste of time. If someone asked me what’s really attractive and appealing, especially in relationships…I’d say it’s actually giving a damn.

I’m not an acrobat, so I’m not going to act like one. But we’re all better together than we are apart.

Marks and Measures (Of a Woman)

 

 
 
Marks and Measures (Of a Woman)
 
 
What makes a real woman?
She asks
As she curls her hair, her lashes
While trying to stand up-right
*Stares at unpainted nails*
Her closet begs for change
Sentimental remnants long-since hanging by thread
Wear the black heels, they said
Raise your height so that you can actually be seen and heard
Take care of yourself so that others can take you seriously
Walk right, speak firmly but softly, don’t appear foolish
Act the part, and she might believe it
She sees her body as a vessel
Yet unsure of the role it’s meant to play
She’s no Victoria’s Secret Angel
Child-sized with flesh and muscles
Meant to give life and share intimacy
Untouched, but demanded to perform and please
Though not just in media or magazines
Sacred texts take it to the other extreme
Let a man lead without question
A clean home paves the wave to a clean heart
Look up at others, because she doesn’t know any better
She was not raised, but she can be taught!
Sensuality is a light switch
Still a performance, albeit joined by a ring
The images come together as I quiz my reflection
Preferring what’s in my head to what’s in the mirror
Fighting labels the way some have fought for autonomy
I am
Complex
Layered
Worthy of love and connection
A child-like heart molded by my Creator
Eclectic and multi-faceted
Wanting to be wanted, but still valuing independence
Dancing and laughing
Simultaneously wearing a cross around my neck
Shining gold or silver pairs with red lipstick
You cannot measure a woman by the size of her jeans
Or the height of her shoes
Beauty doesn’t necessarily fade
But it changes
We’re all different kinds of colors and flavors
Sweet, spicy, determined, and feisty
Marked not just by what we give
But how we love, embrace, and honor
Let’s honor ourselves as human beings
Speaking in kindness and bravery, with-holding judgement
That’s the real thing


 

photo credit: Time. via photopin (license)

When Morning Breaks: Moving Onward, Looking Up


Weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning.
-Psalm 30:5

I’ve often spoke of the multiple transitions that I’ve been experiencing since finishing college, much of which has been taking place in moments rather than in stages. The last year or so has felt like one incredibly long night, and one that is filled with grief, loss, fear, anger, uncertainty, exhaustion, and occasionally despair. Every so often the darkness threatens to swallow me whole, causing me to wonder if my friends and family would be better off if I just went away for a while and didn’t come back until I got my shit together. In the grand scheme of things, I’m fully aware of how important it is to acknowledge and embrace emotional ups and downs, despite the societal encouragement to go numb all together.

Since every journey is different, you really can’t put a timeline on the healing process. There is such a thing as getting through it, but never quite getting over the pain, the piece of your life or your heart that was buried underneath all the devastation. There is indeed a time for everything, whether it involves mourning or celebration; for me it is not a question of what exactly, but of when.

When is it time?

Time for what, exactly? I don’t want to say “let go” because that seems to imply that you go through a whole range of motions and then act like the whole thing never happened. “Move on” is rather cliche, and is more applicable to relationships; in my case, relationships aren’t necessarily ending, but some of them will look and function differently. When I truly think about it, it comes down to this:


When is it time to stop wallowing and start living?

I’d been angry and depressed for a while, and to such a level where I felt like an animal gone rogue. Having no control over the decisions that were being made, I felt like it was the only way to truly protect myself from what was going on around me, and to make sure that I wasn’t taken advantage of. Lashing out didn’t do a whole lot in regards to motivating the people around me to listen, but neither did holding it all in.

Some have and will call me selfish, and I’m not going to deny it. I came to a point where I was tired of being the rock, the parent, the one that held the fort down while all hell broke loose. I didn’t know how to support one without resenting the other, and I’ve always believed that you have to take care of yourself first before you can take care of anyone else. Isn’t post-grad usually the time when most people establish healthy boundaries in order to find their own footing? I was constantly being told that I needed to focus on my own life, so that’s what I did. I wasn’t always compassionate, nor was I always mature. Now that the smoke has begun to clear, understanding might be a little bit easier to come by.

I’ve learned a lot, much of which I’m not quite ready to share with the world just yet. Though I don’t agree with how certain aspects were handled, I pray that this next chapter gives both of my parents the freedom to find their own sense of happiness and make better, healthier decisions for themselves.

So what now?



I’m re-discovering my identity, one that is fully anchored in faith instead of the events of the last decade or so. I’m learning about truly being comfortable with who I am as a person, to own my perspective instead of questioning it. The beauty of being where I’m at now is that I feel like it’s less about what I have to prove, and more about what I have to give/offer. I shouldn’t have to constantly explain or justify my reasoning, as long as I don’t harm myself or others in the process. I still care, but I’m not putting my lively-hood on the backbone of other opinions.

It comes down to choices, really: you can use happenstance as an excuse to blame other people for your wounds, or you can put on your boots and keep walking. The older you get, the more autonomy you have to go your own way. It’s why I don’t fear getting married or being committed to someone, because I’m aware that history doesn’t have to repeat itself.

If nothing else, I’m afraid of missing out on life because I held back.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy, or that it won’t involve falling down, picking myself back up, and starting over again. It’s going to happen a lot. A lot of my personality has been a defense mechanism in what has gone on, not just with my parents’ situation, but for most of my life. There is a part of me that will always have this feisty, don’t mess-with-me attitude that is more than determined to accomplish what I’ve set out to do. From this point on, I can be stubborn and hard-headed while having a soft heart. I can take things in baby steps while still building something worth holding onto, whether it be creative or relationship-oriented. 

Yes, it’s very possible. 

I still have moments where I feel like I’m going through a bit of an aftershock: like I’m a character in a horror movie who’s standing in a clearing in the woods, waiting for the monster or whatever to come out and attack her again. It will take time to get used to this “new normal” as it’s called, but it will happen eventually.

I have trouble finding adequate words to express how grateful I am to those that rallied around me, who still walk with me to this day. I’m grateful for the validation and reminders that I wasn’t alone, that I had people to confide in and carry me (both literally and figuratively) when I needed it. I’m thankful for those that prayed, listened, loved, and still continue to do so. And…I’m grateful for a kick in the pants every so often. 

I’d like to think of myself as a strong person. Resilient. Determined. Brave. Raw. Nothing can hold me down, and nothing can keep me in.



I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future. 

Let’s move.

Our Stories, Our Selves



I am absolutely fascinated by people, and I wish I had more gumption to ask “What’s your story?” in order to start a conversation. It might be the creative in me, where I’ve realized that it’s part of my job to take notice of things and capture details. It might be the fact that I’m constantly curious about how the world works. Or it might be it might be the extreme sensitivity in me, cultivated by my own experiences and awareness of the kind of culture that we live in. A culture that seems to be losing the ability to be human, to walk on beaten paths that are filled with more questions than answers. Instead we scream, we threaten, and we profess to hate when we’re really just scared.

A couple of months ago I saw a movie called The Age of Adeline, a romantic drama about a woman who is both blessed and cursed with the gift of youth. Not too long afterward I sat down to watch the heavily-discussed Diane Sawyer interview with the person whom we now know as Caitlyn Jenner, simultaneously cheering and tearing up as she bared her soul and revealed her true self. I couldn’t help but pick out a common thread between these two narratives, though one is fictional and the other is not.  By running from what one knows to be true, they think that their lives will (eventually) be easier, that their struggle will somehow fade with the passage of time. Their greatest fear is being found out, the possibilities and fallout almost unthinkable. But it is only when we’re found out that we truly find ourselves, and only by being brutally honest that we set ourselves free.

Yet, sometimes the only truth that seems to glare at me straight in the face is the one where being yourself is pretty damn hard now a days. And not always because you’re still figuring it out, but because those that you’re surrounded by are constantly telling you that you’re wrong, in some capacity. I do remember a part of my life where it was constantly insinuated that I needed to be “fixed.” In the eyes of my peers it was my legs, and in the eyes of the adults it was my personality. There were a lot of mixed messages, leaving me isolated and trying to avoid natural reactions and emotions that were being equated to a bad attitude or not trying hard enough.

I was never taught how to love myself, and it took four years to college to actually grasp what it meant. My group of friends were wonderful, all different from one another, and yet we still made an effort to celebrate each other’s quirks and messiness. On a fluke I came across this post by one of them on Instagram, and to this day it still gets me (in a good way): 


That was when I knew that it wasn’t about trying to change myself; it was about embracing the person that I actually was, and have been for all of my life. She was still there, but had been buried underneath a plethora of what others told her to be, a mold that never really fit.

Which is why though our journeys pale in comparison, seeing Caitlyn stand in her freedom motivates me to boldly stand in mine. Amidst all the media hoopla and debate, there’s a bigger picture to been seen. Between knowing what I’ve been through and witnessing the disgusting backlash on the internet and otherwise, I could never bring myself to go against anyone that looks or feels different, regardless of the reasons why. I get that this kind of stuff makes people uncomfortable and not everyone will agree with it, but is it not enough to just leave it at that? While there is freedom of speech, a freedom is only free until it starts being abused for the sake of being “right.” If you don’t have something meaningful or constructive to add to the conversation, then take step back.

I’m aware of what the Bible says about many of these topics, but there’s so much more than just the verses about judgement, sin, and how to address others. In the last ten years, I’ve realized just how important it is to put my complete trust in Him, rather than try to constantly figure it out myself (Proverbs 3:5-6). There are some aspects of the Trinity, Scripture, and life as a whole that I probably won’t ever understand or comprehend, and that’s OK. If we understood everything or had all the answers, there wouldn’t be a desperate need to have faith.

It comes down to loving God and loving each other as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). It’s knowing that God created each of us in His image, and if we don’t always understand what God is like, than we won’t always understand what people are like. The best thing that I can do for anybody is to remember that whatever they’re dealing with is between them and God, and to affirm that they are loved and heard. That’s not to say that it’s always easy; I’m learning that love means accepting the things you don’t necessarily like about a person, as well as what they’re able to give you and what they can’t. There are battles worth fighting for, and then there are those that aren’t; especially if it leads to such self-hatred where one believes that it’s better to be dead than alive.

I’ve begun to wonder if the best way to show God’s love is to fully embrace the person that He created; both in terms of who we see in the mirror, and who we see standing on the other side. There will always be critics of choices and personality traits, those that look at you through a certain political, religious, or generational lens. If you choose to share your story, you risk being analyzed  and being accused of taking advantage of your situation. To rise above all of that is a challenge, but staying true to oneself is one of many things that get taken for granted.

For those that argue about how we should care about more important things going on in the world, remember that we all have different gifts and callings. Instead of berating each other for feeling strongly about one thing and not something else, let’s encourage one another to use our strengths and gifts to the best of our ability.

Amen.