Bring It Forward

When it comes to relationships and vulnerability, there’s a lot of discussion on how to open up and share our experiences, but rarely how to navigate the sacredness and emotion of being on the receiving end. In my nearly three decades of life, I can’t recall a time when showing empathy in and of itself was the norm. Much of my childhood involved problem solving and attempted fixes, and if there wasn’t a solution, you weren’t supposed to dwell on it. Adulthood has shown me that life is a little more complex than that, and the saving grace is having at least a few people who are willing to sit with and or walk with me in various situations. 

I’ve learned a lot about being that type of person, and I think it’s one of the most important things we can do as friends, partners, and just human beings in general. How we do can be tricky to navigate, but there’s always room to grow.

Hold Space

I always try to look at it as an honor and gift when someone confides in me, or even if they’re just sharing more about their life that scratches below the surface. If they broach the subject, I let them have the floor first and don’t speak until they’ve said what they needed to say. Depending on the circumstances (i.e. talking face to face versus texting), I allow a few moments of quiet so that I can process what was said, allowing the opportunity for a response instead of just a mere reaction. If physical touch is welcome, a hand to their knee or shoulder is a subtle but meaningful way to create connection. I’m an emotional person, and I’d say it’s completely normal to tear up at times during the conversation (without changing direction or becoming hysterical). It’s also understandable to not know what to say (in the moment or at all), but you can never go wrong with “I’m grateful that you’re sharing all of this with me. I may not always understand what you’re going through, but I want to affirm that your experiences and feelings are valid And I’m here for you.”

Ask Questions And Check In

Whether before or after a conversation, questions like “How can I support you?” or “What do you need?” are paramount in showing empathy. In the early days of my recovery journey, I didn’t know what support looked like for me right away, but hearing those words allowed me to feel safe and communicate with that person openly once I figured it out (and had the language to express it). It’s not  just limited to a single conversation, and whether or not they say it, people always need something in the midst of all the heaviness. It might be meals, a hot beverage, or invitations to go for walks. It might be rides to or checking in after important appointments/meetings. Basic encouragement texts like “I’m here” and “I love you” mean the world, even if there’s no response. Empathy is not just about the moment, but the ride.

I go back and forth whether it comes to giving and receiving advice. Most of the time if I’m able to process pain or struggle out loud, I can eventually figure out how to move forward. As I’ve written this, I’ve realized my resistance often comes from the fear that the advice itself will be condescending or oversimplified. Not too long ago, I was talking to a friend about an unhealthy situation I had recently taken myself out of. At the end of our conversation, she asked, “Can I give you something to pump you up?” It was much needed wisdom, but with loving and affirming word choice.

Let It Be (Uncomfortable)

The reality is this: you will not be able to take away a person’s pain. You will not be able to change their situation, their heart, or even their outlook. You cannot force people to treat them well. And a difficult fact of life is that most things are not meant to be fixed; they are meant to be experienced, felt, and learned from. So as heartbreaking and frustrating it might be to hear about what a loved one is going through, keep in mind the importance of not making it about you. Be aware of using the word “negative” (a word I loathe because of how dismissive and projectile it sounds), as well as cliche platitudes. If someone specifically asks you to just be quiet and listen, respect that. And when you’re able to process your own feelings, take the time to ask yourself why you might feel the way you do.

As one who is almost compassionate to a fault, viewing myself as a project for a good portion of life, I struggle with the notion that “some people just can’t.” As set in their ways as some may be, I think it’s a matter of whether or not we want to. 

Yet even if the desire to learn (or unlearn) is there, that doesn’t take away the importance of having boundaries.

That can look like pausing difficult conversations, and then come back when one or both parties is in a better head space. 

Establishing that a child should not have to be a therapist for a parent (or any elder, for that matter). Even when the child becomes an adult themselves.

Refusing to be put in the middle of a conflict between people you care about.

Saying, “I care for you and I want to support you, but this is beyond my expertise. Can I help you find professional help?” 

“I’ve already listened, and you know what you need to do. Unless you make a choice, I’m not willing to talk about this anymore.” 

Most importantly, it’s always possible to do these things while still affirming and communicating love. 

And there is Grace. For when we react and project, or assign shame and blame. Grace for when that person overshares, especially at inappropriate times. For when we lash out, or end up completely isolating ourselves from the world. It’s never too late to try, and then try again. 

We can’t go back to pre-internet times, or life without social media. We can’t pretend that the world isn’t saturated with news and opinions, or pretend that it doesn’t influence how we see it. But we can bring it forward, a new way of relating and connecting with those around us. And while it might be different, who says it can’t be better than the decades before?

Inside

Off like a rocket it went

A brother dodging danger

A brief relief with a birthday and the beach

But when spring began it’s usual bloom

The warning signs began to blare

A virus, novel and like no other

From one corner of the world to the next

//

“Stay inside” reverberated some

While a so-called president twiddled his thumbs

Playing it off like a failed casino bet

Omission of truth, for who’s sake?

Declared a pandemic, despite the questioning and ignoring of common sense

Daily news briefs were almost too much to bear

Anxiety, chest pains, and lack of appetite by day

Depression descended as evening fell

//

“Routine, Productivity, Positivity!”

My body responding differently

I didn’t want comfort as much as I wanted personal connection

To physically feel common threads

My extroverted self a little lost in the hubbub

Afraid of losing the confidence I’d gained in the last year

//

So I stayed inside

Detesting “new normal”

Preferring currently reality

Though the unknowns loomed larger 

Than dormancy

A reprieve through walks and sunshine

Access to the water

Mom started a new chapter

The city came alive again

//

Behind closed doors

The desire to walk through fire

To support those who were struggling

To keep living, keep going

They needed me, and I needed them

Late nights

Deep conversations

Protective, patient, and learning how to hold space

Finding different ways

To carry them however I could

Capped by a reunion

A long time coming

//

And then the second wave

Predictable at one point

But could have been avoided

By collective responsibility and respect

The plea to stay inside again

Saved by the grace of changing colors and important milestones

I relished the tv specials

The snuggling up to read, watch, and just be

Real rest, without fear of missing out

My work in progress for as long as I can remember

//

But the fatigue is real

Body aches with unknown origins

Colder weather?

Lack of usual activity?

A response to stress?

//

Yet the most challenging aspect

Was not the confinement of four walls

But the confinement of thoughts inside my mind

Swirling around like storms

To reach out or give space?

To tell the truth, or pretend I’m ok?

Are you ok? Are we ok?

To ask for what I want/need

Or hold it in for as long as possible

//

Distraction could only do so much

When the healthy distractions weren’t always available

Overthinking, deeply feeling

Jealousy, more questions than answers

My prayers feeling dry and without heart

Sitting in the tension

I’m still learning

//

And as the calendar turns again

Cautiously Optimistic comes to mind

With new leadership

New possibilities

Changing seasons

A new year

//

I dream of music and dancing again

Lots of people

Opportunities for living

Being in nature

Assertive

Growing Confidence

Expression

Thriving

Roaring

Thank An Artist

No one told me to go to business school
But they raised their eyes all the same
Sitting down, telling stories of a far away place
Holding onto ideas like precious gems
//
Writing and playing
Dancing and painting
Picture an uneven life
Without the promise of money or being known
Exposing your soul
Sometimes more than once
Speaking in a tongue only some can understand
//
Art
In all it’s mediums and interpretations
A second voice
An outlet for intense emotion
A puzzle for that which we can only try to grasp
Expression of experience
And desire
//
It teaches you how to feel
To fall in love
To fight for what matters
And find your way back
When you hit the bottom
Talk about it
Weep for it
Celebrating all that life is
The good, bad, and incredibly ugly
//
Chords, colors, words alike
No one is niave to their power and movement
Yet some of us run and rage against it
While others savor the sweetness
//
Like it or not, we need it
So before you tease, or complain, or point fingers
Remember all that is that has moved you
That keeps your sanity
That fosters connection and builds bridges
That saves and sustains
That heals
//
Thank an artist
For what you don’t have the guts to do
For bleeding when they can hide
For giving their time to their heart and mind
Expecting little to nothing in return
//
Except to show and be who they are
Colorful, breathtaking, and always evolving

“Let Go, Let God” (And Other Things I’ve Learned)

A prompt and link-up, originally posted by Addie Zierman; I didn’t have time to join the official  train, but this nevertheless has been poking at me for a while.

 

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Let Go, Let God.

It was out of a Christian romance novel, spoken by the grandmother of a bride leading up to her wedding day. Calming and a lot less cliche than other phrases I’d grown accustomed to, it piqued an interest but I didn’t make much of it. A few years later, as I was still learning the ropes of being a freshman in college, I began to remind myself to “do what you can, and let God take care of the rest.” It seemed powerful enough, giving me peace and reassurance on some physically draining days and even lonelier nights. The words themselves have taken different shapes over the years, but the truth is still the same:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

I will hold you by your right hand, and I will guide you (Isaiah 41:10).

These verses have become pearls that I hold dearly, as I find myself in a position similar to eight years ago: this season of life is wonderful, but it’s also incredibly exhausting. The days (and tasks that come with it) are incredibly long and demanding, summoning a kind of strength that wouldn’t be possible without such promises. There’s a lot of joy in having a more defined purpose (professionally), though my anxiety has skyrocketed because everything involved is rather unpredictable. I have a less active social life because both my body and brain are so tired, where I’m less inclined to plan things and have even skipped out on birthday celebrations because I don’t want my immune system to crash. And while I have never worn busyness like a badge of honor, I have experienced the guilt that comes with saying “no” or “another time.” I have to trust that people will understand that I’m only practicing self-care, and that I shouldn’t spend my energy on those that don’t.

Of course that kind of surrender feels passive at times; oh, our country is in chaos and everybody wants to be savage and aloof, but God will fix it all. We don’t have to take care of the planet because one day He’ll wipe it all out. And there’s no need to believe in modern medicine because faith is always more than enough.

Everybody wants a miracle, but nobody actually wants to be a miracle.

When I show up and do my part, so does He. Wherever I go, He will meet me there (even if it is in the wrong direction). The question is knowing what my part is in whatever I’m being led or called to, and how do I make a difference without compromising my mental health?

For someone who battles anxiousness on a daily basis (and feels like she has to be accountable to everything), there is ultimately comfort in knowing I can only do so much. It’s a relief to be reminded that there are often other people and other factors involved, and one cannot bear the weight of an entire situation or relationship.

There is room for both intention in the future, and contentment in the present season.

And there is room for both comfort and confliction.

When Loss Comes Closer

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And only the good die young…

 My mom and I had gone to see Billy Joel at Wrigley Field that Friday, and that was the song he closed with as we began to make our way toward the exit. We stopped for a little bit to dance and sing along with the rest of the boisterous crowd, but part of me was (and still is) unsettled by the song’s popularity. I had a really funny feeling that drove straight into my soul, and I remembered how I had lost a friend from high school to a drunk driving accident three years ago. But as I would come to find out two mornings later, that wasn’t the only reason why.

I will always remember the day he died, and the day I heard the news. On August 27, 2016 I was in Chicago for an unofficial high school reunion, sipping wine on an apartment balcony that overlooked the city. The next day, I was getting ready for a date when I noticed that I had two missed calls from my mom and brother, and they texted that I call them back immediately.

“There’s been a car accident and it was fatal,” my brother said. I called my mom and she confirmed the little that she knew. I don’t remember the actual feeling of being sucker punched, but all I could do was put my hands over my face and cry.

“Why?” I kept asking over and over to the empty bathroom. I had known Connor and his family from the time I was a baby; they were our neighbors and we had all pretty much grown up together. The accident happened during a rainstorm, and he was only twenty-two years old.

I laid down on my bed and instantly grabbed hold of my favorite blanket, a Hawkeye theme where the edges of the material had been tied together. His mom and sister had made it for me before I went to college, and I held onto it in times homesickness or stress. Even though I was no longer in Iowa, it continues to be a source of comfort, my “blankie,” if you will. I spent the rest of the day battling a splitting headache, probably because it was all too much to process at the time. I wanted to reach out to Kaitlyn, his older sister and one of my best friends. I knew that bullshit clichés and platitudes would be of little comfort, and more than likely more than one person was trying to pile them on.

The days leading up to the funeral were filled with anxiety, part of it relating to being in shock over the tragedy that had taken place. This wasn’t the first time I’d been faced with an unexpected passing in my life, but it was the first time I felt like I was allowed to openly grieve because I knew the person really well. On one hand I was numb, silently going through the motions and merely observing everything that was going on in the situation. But I also wanted to be strong for the others that were in mourning, as Connor was not only my brother’s best friend, but also my best friend’s brother. She has held me up during many difficult times in my life, and now it was my turn to do the same for her.

I arrived later than intended on the day of the service, so the process of saying goodbye while simultaneously offering support felt rushed and all over the place. Certain aspects of that day will remain in my memory forever: the look of anguish on my brother’s face as he helped bear Connor’s casket up and down the church aisle. My mom’s arms around me as we both stood and cried together. The way my legs shook in anticipation of finding the family and silently hugging each of them (and the way they seemed to be comforting me more than the other way around). It was all very much surreal, and I’m not the only one who felt like they were existing between reality and an unfathomable nightmare.

I had hoped and expected something inside of me to break, where the floodgates would be opened and I could get everything out and be done with it. When that didn’t happen, I became frustrated and uneasy, wondering if there was something that I needed to tap into or a switch that I needed to hit in order to find closure. I had heard that one of the ways to process the loss was to have a conversation with the deceased person. Knowing that I’m a much better writer than a conversationalist, I decided to write him a letter.

It was two pages of me reminiscing, grieving, and ultimately thanking him for being such a large part of my life. I had an amazing childhood, where the six of us practically lived in our own little world for at least a decade. At a more private memorial, I relayed stories that our parents hadn’t either known about (or had forgotten about) until then. I then did one final sendoff at sunset, releasing the words into the lake in us kids had grown up on, and would now hold a tender mixture of joy and pain. I began to understand that the grief would come in waves (which it still does) and would often hit me when I least expected it.

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There are no words to aptly describe the pain of losing someone so suddenly, and especially when they have so much life left in them. And it’s been painful to see people that loved him (and he loved just as much, if not more) in so much agony, although that’s not to say I regret bearing witness to it. In a weird and morbid way, I’m thankful that I allowed myself to see and feel everything that I could, even if it hurt like hell. Nobody wants to talk about the fact that death is part of life, although no amount of knowing and preparing will decrease the weight and impact of the loss. It fucking hurts, and it fucking sucks.

I don’t know if Connor’s passing happened for a reason, and I don’t think that everything does happen for a reason. Yet I have learned a lot about compassion, and what it means to show up for people in their darkest hour(s). For the love of all that is good in this world, please stop with the whole “If I can’t take away the pain, then it’s pointless to do anything” way of thinking. There is always something that you can do! Go to the person that’s hurting and let them know that you love them and that you’re there. There is so much love and power in the simple act of merely being there: sitting with them. Holding them. Letting them be sad and mutually sharing in that sadness.Listening. And if you can’t physically be present, you can still send flowers or a card or something. How much time does it really take to type out and send a text message that says, “I’m sorry for your loss”? Pick up the damn phone. Write a letter or an email. Whatever you do, know that the smallest amount of support and tenderness is better than nothing. Show up and show love.

Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but walking with someone through tragedy is NOT about your level of comfort. It’s not about you. I’ve learned how to be extremely vulnerable in those moments where I have no idea, to say, “I love you and I’m also terrified of saying or doing the wrong thing right now.” I understand that’s where a lot of the hesitation and resistance lies, because no one wants to make things worse or end up being the insensitive jackass who meant well but epically failed. There is grace in that, because at least the person is making an effort. Questions are always better than assumptions: “What do you need?” “How can I be there for you?” “Do you want to talk, or do you want to just sit in silence?” Never assume that you know what a grieving person wants or needs, just because you might want or need to do that in a difficult situation. Again, it’s not easy and often requires stepping out of your own box of comfort. But if it makes people feels less alone, then damn it, swallow your pride and do it.

I waited at least a day or so to tell anybody on the outside (unless I absolutely had to). I’ve had this habit of telling people too soon (when bad things happen) because it keeps me from being sucked into a black hole of depression and despair. Contrary to popular belief, it is helpful to have the support of those who didn’t know the deceased, or at least that’s how I feel. There were times where I needed to breathe emotionally. There were times where I desperately wanted the perspective of those who had already been through it, or whose minds weren’t shrouded in the clouds of unspeakable loss. When another friend died three years ago, I ended up turning to alcohol and random strangers for comfort. I didn’t want to numb the pain, but I wanted to feel connected.  And now I would rather be a raw, emotional wreck than go down the path of functioning alcoholism again.

Maybe it is expecting too much, or maybe it’s wanting to know that you and your experiences matter. It’s a lesson in real friendship, about who’s willing to be there and who isn’t. People make mistakes and they mess up, but pure silence does say a lot.

It’s been over one hundred days. One hundred days where I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that he’s no longer here on earth. I miss his smile, his laugh, and the way he made fun of me whenever I got tipsy. The memories still keep popping into my head, though most were from ten or twenty years ago. I post old pictures and am still hoping that somewhere in one of our houses, there is a picture of all of us together, at least one. I still feel a little guilty over moving forward with my life, especially since there are a ton of people who are still living with the pain as if it just happened yesterday. I know he would want me to live my life to the fullest, to love people around me with everything I have, and to not spend my days in darkness. I think about things that I’ve been too scared to mention out loud: weddings, babies, and a plethora of occasions that will never be exactly right without him. I continuously find small ways to honor him, whether it’s occasionally drinking his favorite beer or leaving his name on the wall at Wrigley Field after the Cubs won the World Series. I’ve never been into hunting or fishing, but those things now remind me of him. Country music is more meaningful than it ever has been, especially Eric Church and a variety of songs that now make me happy and sad at the same time. This is all neither good nor bad, but it’s reality. It’s the new normal that we all have to live with.

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It is said that pain changes with time, although I’m fully aware that it will never go away completely. I don’t know how I’ll feel a year from now, or what I’ll have learned from it in the next three or five. I understand that grief is the price we pay for loving people, but a broken heart is also an indication of a life well lived. I’m blessed, fortunate, and honored to have known such a kind soul, and I thank God for all of it.

Life is really is precious. He left a mark on the world, and I hope somehow he knows that.

I miss him. Now and always.

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Reclaiming Courage in a Fearful World

 

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“You’re a hard worker and you’re not afraid to show up to the challenges you have to face,” said the teacher, motioning to boot on my foot that I had to wear after having foot surgery. “That takes courage.”

I was a senior in high school, and that was the first time anyone had affirmed me like that. I’d been used to living life actively looking for caution tape, or reasons not to do things; don’t swim where you can’t touch the bottom because it’s over your head and you’re going to sink. Don’t cross the street alone because you can’t always see the cars coming, nor can they see you. Don’t go out for the track or basketball team because it’s going to be too hard. Don’t…

For from the age of ten up until my early twenties, my brain was a sponge: I absorbed and observed everything, allowing the voices and thoughts around me to become the voices in my head. One voice in particular told me that people would like me if I projected a certain image and acted a certain way. I was an impressionable teenager, but I also carried a grown-ups know best mentality. It would take years to realize that they was speaking from their own insecurities, and sadly, projecting them onto me.

There was a bit of subconscious shift when I decided to go to Iowa, and that continued through my college years. I slowly began to open myself up to the possibilities that came with vulnerability, sharing my story of living with Cerebral Palsy, and what I wanted despite my supposed limitations. I went into therapy a little over a year later because I was tired of being bogged down by depression and anxiety. And after giving myself enough time to process what had happened, I began to speak up regarding my experiences with sexual harassment and assault. Back then I really didn’t believe I was being brave, mostly because I was shaking on the inside. I was scared of not only being rejected, but feeling responsible for that rejection. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. It became a formula of Say this. Do that. Calculate. Overthink. And repeat.

I’ve redefined the word over the years as I’ve gone through different phases and transitions. There has been a lot of debate in the public sphere over such a word, where different groups get pitted against one another and ignorance has come out in full force. I’d like to think that courage is not a singular definition, but a collection:

Courage is not without fear, but putting fear into perspective. If I wasn’t somewhat afraid to do something, than I would always take opportunities for granted.

Courage is being myself, along with speaking up when someone tries to convince me that I’m not enough.

Courage is pursuing something because I want to, rather than justifying whether or not I deserve it.

Courage is an act of surrender; not giving up entirely, but giving the need to have complete control over the outcome. Show up and show them who you are, and the rest will take care of itself.

Yet we forget that we cannot live these practices out loud without the help of others. I love Brene Brown and Glennon Doyle Melton for pioneering the fact that if you’re out there and getting your ass kicked, then you’re doing something right. I love it when people are messy and unafraid to invite others into their mess. It’s much easier to connect and relate to someone who’s willing to admit that they don’t have it all together, and that they can’t do it alone.

Oh, but heartbreak! No one actually wants to get hurt, but what other choice is there? It’s one thing when a certain path has taken you down rabbit hole, or if a person has already shown that they’re not good for you. But when you’re just basing what might or might not happen on what the world says, then of course it’s going to be painful. Yet I’ve found that pain is not a sign of foolishness, but a sign of a well-lived life. I would rather experience pain in the deep end than joy because I stayed in the shallow end.

It’s not easy, but I’ve found that a good starting point is naming whatever is currently making me feel insecure and/or afraid. When I name them, be it in a face-to-face conversation, writing in a journal, or writing a letter that I’ll never send, it gives them a lot less negativity and power. There are times where I hate sharing the details with anybody because I don’t want to take them on a roller-coaster ride, nor do I want numerous differing opinions clouding my thought process. I prefer to have at least one or two people in my corner who will let me get stuff on my chest, and then I usually receive clarity on my own.

It can seem like a fluffy and sugary platitude, one thing to discuss and something else entirely to live out. We’re all human here, and we all have stories that are often times complex and take time to come to terms with. I made the mistake of believing that courage was constant, a quick fix that enabled me to do whatever I set my mind to. And then when it didn’t work, I’d be tempted to close myself off because I felt like a failure.

Courage ebbs and flows. You take a risk, take a stand, and when you get knocked down, you allow yourself to feel the pain. Ultimately, you get back up. Keep dreaming. Keep chasing. Keeping going. And remember, there are many paths to one destination.

Photo Credit

Life Lately: Digging Deep



Life has been busy, and my reasons for not blogging these last couple of weeks don’t necessarily only relate to it being it that time of year again; the remaining weeks before the semester’s end, where everything starts to pile up and suddenly you can’t see beyond the multiple essays and projects that are due by the time winter break rolls around. A lot of it has been for emotional reasons as well; I’m starting to realize that whenever I allow myself to be genuinely honest and vulnerable in any work that I do, I start feeling somewhat depressed, drained, and even angry. I kind of seeing it as being similar to when an actor gets really deep into the character role that they’re playing, and when the cameras are off it can be difficult to separate the fictional world from real life. 

But what I’m writing isn’t fiction, it is real life. My life, and a big part of my personal history. I always imagined that one day I would write my whole story down, but in bits and pieces. I think this is the beginning of it. For now I will write essays, but I can definitely imagine one day writing and sharing a memoir with the world. I just don’t feel that twenty one years is enough of experience to write a full autobiographical book. 

In any case, that has been the main reason that blogging has been sparse for a lot of this month; I have so much to write about and discuss, but it’s all very deep and in combination with the essays, I’m nervous about it spilling out of my brain like a pile of goop.

When I do get those feelings, it’s mostly because I get stuck thinking about the past. I’m currently writing an essay (one that as of right now is at twenty pages) about how going to college and living in Iowa City has provided me a way to heal, mostly through the people that I’ve met, the relationships that I’ve had, and how I’ve grown through all of it. For my other final project, I’m writing about a few monumental experiences that I’ve had in the downtown area, specifically as a woman and a college student. For that particular class we have often discussed the whole virgin/whore binary, and how there is no language to discuss the in-between. I’m basically going to write about what it’s like to be smack dab in the middle. Don’t get me wrong, I have talked about it before, but never in terms of how I’ve honestly felt about it. It will be good and hopefully lift a lot of the shame off of my shoulders, but it’s still daunting.

I’m finding that the hardest part about writing, specifically personal essays, is doing so without hurting anybody. However, it seems that the whole concept of “airing dirty laundry” tends to be simultaneous with malicious intent.  I think as long as you make it clear that you’re not holding some of grudge against them and that you’re taking steps to move forward, the reaction shouldn’t be that negative. In my case, I am not out to purposefully harm anyone, but simply give my perspective on the situation. Above all, I’m learning that you can only do so much when it comes to talking about something in a way that everyone can understand it. I’ve spent years tip-toeing around stuff because I’ve been terrified of the general reaction, but I’m starting to realize that perhaps that is my biggest problem. I focus so much on how to say it that it never actually happens. 

Tell me, dear writers, how do you deal with this sort of thing? How do you let your brain decompress, particularly when you have a deadline to meet? How do you tell the truth without hurting those involved?

In lighter news, I’m changing my career path a little bit; initially I wanted to work for a publishing company and still write on the side, which in a way is still true. But after doing some networking and talking with people who’ve been in the business, I see now that doing something social media related may be the better way to go. There aren’t any solid prospects just yet, but I’m getting there. 

The main thing right now is just to gain experience, which I do have and continue to get. I am both a writer and copy-editor for a new lifestyle and culture magazine, which will mostly likely launch at the start of next semester.

This week will be a busy one, and I’m all too excited to be able to go home and spend some time with my family for Thanksgiving. Granted, I’ll still have work to do, but at least I won’t have meetings and other stuff to deal with. 

Life is busy, but also incredibly wonderful!


photo credit: Ronan_C via photopin cc

When Silence Fails

I thought that after coming back to campus (the first time), I would be OK. It felt that way on the outside, but as the following poem says, deep down my feelings and emotions were like a sleeping monster.  When I went home for Country Thunder, it was like being slapped in the face (figuratively speaking). I did my best to keep quiet, but it made those three weeks a lot worse. 

And that’s why I haven’t really written on here in that time; I was afraid that by trying to discuss it in writing, it would come out wrong and be completely misinterpreted. I actually did try several times, but always wound up deleting it. I remembered that when I’m really sad or even angry, I write poetry as a response. So in the midst of trying to find a counselor or a pastor to talk to, I thought I would share this. I wrote it as a way of expressing how I’ve been dealing with these last two months, and my frustration at not being able to connect with the people around me.




The Life of Grief
Grief comes in many different forms
Morphing and changing with the passage of time
A tidal wave that washes over you, drenching you with tears
Chilled to the bone in shock
Natural, yet paralyzing
If not expressed, it can become a monster
Sitting in the underbelly of the layers of what makes us human
Clawing, tearing, and lashing
I try to keep it at bay for the sake of others
But I’m not one to hide or fake a smile
It’s just not possible
And when it finally breaks free
It can either feel good, or leave wounds
Deeper than when the first tragedy struck
Grief has two lanes
One where there’s a legacy to honor
To give love and spread kindness, as that person did
There’s no traffic and you just keep going
The other is when you can’t ignore the hurt beating against your chest
You can’t deny that something big has changed
While not knowing what the “new normal” is
Figuring out if maybe you’ve hit a detour
Or you’re dealing with a hurting or bruised
If not broken heart
This is not a something that anyone can ease
There is no such thing
As making the hurt and loss completely go away
But even if you don’t know what it’s like
To travel this road
That doesn’t mean your presence has no value
Pain has no comparison
So don’t wipe away their tears
And command them to be strong
This is not about avoiding awkwardness
Let them show what they feel
Connection doesn’t always mean sharing similar experiences
It doesn’t always have to involve words
Ask, don’t assume

If nothing else, embrace them
 And let them know you’re there
Not just in the physical sense
But that you support them
Even if you’ve never been in their shoes

You don’t have to hold their hand
Just walk with them
Respect their feelings and expression
And allow them to heal

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What IS Broken?

I’m taking excerpts of my own thoughts from my personal journal, because I hadn’t originally intended to write this as a blog post. But after reading Elizabeth Esther’s riveting piece  regarding how we teach children about being broken vs. being whole, I couldn’t ignore the urge to write about it for myself.

I’ve been thinking a lot about brokeness, particularly in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict, as well as the drug-related death of Cory Monteith. There is no denying that it exists, but how do we go about living in the face of all of it? One can only run from it or avoid it for so long, but ruminating in it doesn’t seem to help either.

There are two definitions that seem to be spoken of the most: 1.) We all have pain and problems to deal with; No one is exempt from it, regardless of how good you are at putting on a happy face about it.  2.) That we’re sinners, God hates sin, and ultimately we will never be good enough because of that. 

I’m not going to dispute whether or not sin exists, nor will I dispute that not all people are good. There clearly is evil out there, especially after realizing how many horrible events have taken place.  however, I don’t think it is as black and white as some people make it out to be. Over the years, I have come up with my own definition, which can easily be summed up in two words: hitting bottom. The point where you can no longer go on unless you get some kind of help. The point where I so often realize that I need God in my life; not just to get through the tough times, but in everything I do. 

What frequently leaves me asking questions is the way being broken is taught both inside and outside The Church. We all fall short in one way or another; we will never measure up in the sense that we will never come close to being perfect. With that being said, those imperfections should not define a person’s worth. My struggles and flaws should not be the deciding factor in whether or not I’m able to give and receive love. This is true in terms of both to/from God and people. While certain areas and relationships in my life may be faulty, that brokeness is not me. 

And that is why there is Grace; sin may be slapped over our heads or rubbed in our faces, but Grace is meant to be received with open arms. For some reason, I thought of Romans 8, and these verses in particular brought tears to my eyes: 

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of of the life-giving spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death (v. 1-2). 

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today or our worries about tomorrow—not ever the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love (v. 38).

I wish that was talked about more in church. I’m not against discussing sin and the consequences that come with poorly made decisions. But when that is the constant focus, the true message of Jesus seems to get lost in the cacophony of finger-pointing and condemnation. When we spend so much time and energy beating ourselves or each other up for wrongdoing, we leave no room for forgiveness or compassion. Therefore, we can’t live out our ultimate purpose, which is to love. 

I used to walk around telling myself, I’m a broken person and that makes me useless. I believed that I would be stuck in that place of self-deprication, never fully getting out because of all that I had done/been through. I didn’t know how to embrace the healing process, or at least do so in a way where it felt real.

Jesus came to set us free, not to hold us back, which is what we do when we think or talk about the bad things so often. There needs to be a balance; you can teach both sides of the coin, but it is a matter of how you do it. 

Which is why it bothers me when some people say/preach that there is no such thing as self-esteem or depression. When you’re constantly told that you’re first and foremost a bad person , or you don’t deserve love or acceptance, what do you think happens? Worse is when you’re told to “pray the pain away” and everything will be fine. Dealing with that level of pain takes more than just prayer or a one time conversation. These things take time, and for some it can turn out to be a life-long battle. I know that I will always have somewhat of a hard time with feeling “good enough” especially when it comes to personal relationships. But I refuse to allow that fear to keep me from having meaningful ones. 

As far as I’m concerned, self-worth needs no reasoning or justification. If anything, worth should come from being a child of God, or simply for being human. And quite frankly, I think I’m OK with that.

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Other Writing

I wanted to blog about this particular topic on here, but since I’m required to contribute one or more articles per week for my internship, I thought it would be best to post it on there first and then provide a link for others to read. I’ve been thinking a lot about being “good enough” and how validation, particularly from online communities, has become so magnified in our culture. Unfortunately, it’s starting to destroy people who take it too personally, ultimately keeping them from real connection. 

You can find the link to the article here, and if you like what you read, feel free to like College Social Magazine on Facebook!