And So We Rise

It has been over a month since the election, and I refrained from writing (let alone posting), because I wasn’t sure how to express my feelings. In some respects, that’s still true, which makes it challenging to have conversations on the subject. Since I’m a much better writer than a talker, I thought I would let these words be a symbol of my thoughts.

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And So We Rise

 

After months of anticipation

And anxiety

It came down to one day

I cast my ballot and prayed

All through the counting hours as results rolled in

The outcome looked dark

The unknowns were swirling

Like my head after two glasses of wine

I cried at midnight

Physically sick

Like millions of others

Lamenting and asking why

 

The air had changed

From hopeful to questionable

It seemed like a free for all

Divided and pitted against one another

Us vs. them

And so I grieved

 

Politics is like a foreign language

One I only know bits and pieces of

I rarely speak it for a concern of looking silly

But now I know that consequences of not learning

At least to the extent that I should

It’s hard to understand

But not impossible

 

Reality TV is not real life

And real life looks grim on the surface

But let this not be a reason to hide

Or a reason to run

Let this be a wake up

Call to action

To be moved by compassion

To not rely on one person alone to represent us

Or fight for us

But to look in the mirror

And be the change we so desperately need

And so we should act

 

This chapter will not be an easy one

It might get worse before it gets better

But we cannot allow fear and cynicism dictate the direction

We as individuals and collectively

Want to go in

We might fall

And hit the bottom

Time and time again

But we keep going

Speaking

Writing

Teaching

Advocating

Together

And so we rise

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When You Don’t Know What to Call It (Call it Good)

 

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It was like doing a cannonball into the deep end of a pool; last spring I attended a singles mixer for the first time in months, not really expecting to meet anyone special, but still curious nonetheless. One in particular did end up catching my attention, and after introducing ourselves, we were inseparable for the rest of the evening. We left the place early due to the crowd and the noise, opting for exploring the surrounding neighborhood while getting to know each other. At the time I was typically wary of being alone with a man who I’d only just met, yet his personality didn’t set off any alarms; he was a sweet nerd who hadn’t dated much and had a thing for cars, guitars, and skinny jeans. We swapped numbers and kissed several times before I let him drive me back to the train station, simultaneously asking myself what just happened and wanting to do a happy dance.

The following Thursday was one of arcade games, watching playoff hockey, and being incredibly vulnerable with one another. We came from different backgrounds, and I was grateful for his compassion and understanding, despite not always knowing how to respond. The physical connection was just as strong, and he was affectionate in a way that I absolutely adored. I appreciated not having to hold back, that we didn’t have to hide that we liked each other. It was fun to sneak around places while trying not to get caught, something that I hadn’t even dared to do while in high school or college. And by the time we parted ways after midnight, it was like we were officially a couple.

Our relationship moved quickly, but I felt safe and natural being with him. I didn’t see any reason to wait for the “right” moment to enjoy what was between us, having over-calculated previous dating situations in the past and ultimately ending up frustrated and stressed out. Certain topics came up sooner rather than later, but it was good to be honest about where we were both coming from and what we wanted in that respect. There was no pressure or force, nor was there a need to rush anything. He definitely brought out a side in me that I knew I had, but had tried (and failed) to conceal for years; it was almost like he flipped a switch, but I was relieved instead of freaked out.

The ending was just as unexpected as the beginning; I went out of town to see my brother graduate from The Air Force Academy in Colorado, and hadn’t heard from the guy in several days. I knew something was off because we normally kept in contact regularly, though I tried to hold it together in front of my family. I woke up one morning and got a text from him saying that it was over, for reasons that I believe we could have discussed and worked through. I responded as if I accepted his decision, but on the other side of the screen I was devastated. I cried just about every day of that whole week, confused and wanting an explanation. I worked up the nerve to call him when I got home, and sadly he hung up on me when he recognized my voice. He didn’t want to be with me and that’s all the closure I would get for some time.

It took a while for the sadness to truly dissipate, because not only was I upset over what no longer was, but what would also never be. We had all talked about the things that we wanted to do together, and I’d hoped to introduce him to my best friends and family at some point. I should have been angry at him, but I took the usual route of blaming myself; it’s what I’ve done when I have no idea what’s going on, and am trying to fill the question marks for the sake of not driving myself crazy.

It’s as much speculation now as it was back then (as far as what exactly happened and why). I’m aware of the possibilities; that he could have been using me, met someone else, or freaked out and ran the other direction. Ultimately I choose to trust my instincts and believe that his interest was genuine, and that he meant what he said about me. I have compassion for him, knowing what he has struggled with and how it shaped him. Men have pain and fears and complexities just as women do, and those deserve to be acknowledged and honored. It does not excuse disrespect or taking the easy way out, but we’re all human here and each person should be viewed as such.

I don’t regret investing in him or spending time with him, nor do I regret the way we were with each other. If anything, I wish I hadn’t confided in so many people about what was going on, both before and afterward. I over think relationships enough as it is, and a multitude of opinions and theories became paralyzing. It was wishful thinking to be vulnerable and not expect a reaction, especially since most of my close circle didn’t know him. By now I should be able to let cynicism and unnecessary advice go in one ear and out the other, but that’s challenging, given that I second guess myself a lot. I’ve learned to be much more protective about what I share, and selective with whom I share it with. Everyone means well, but not all end up being helpful.

So what do you say when something might or might not have been love, but it was no less real and meaningful? It was more than just an experience, not “right” but not necessarily wrong either. It was beautiful and amazing and I’m grateful that I met him. Initially I was scared that I wouldn’t have something like that again, but as time has passed I’ve seen how each individual relationship is unique, and it’s unfair to make comparisons or box yourself in. It really comes down to whether or not you feel like you can be yourself with someone, and whether or not he/she motivates you to be a better person. That takes time, patience, and grace. Don’t panic if you don’t figure all that out within the first two dates.

It was brutal at first, but I let it be and kept going. Eventually I met new people and put my energy into those who were present, as opposed to those who were not. I occasionally wonder where he’s at now, and various places and songs will momentarily bring back memories. Writing (and reliving) this was somewhat painful, bringing deep-seeded fears to the surface again. I’m still trying to come up with a confident way to explain to a man, please don’t leave without telling me. Please, whatever you do, don’t just disappear.

I hate the way that he left, but I don’t hate him. And despite not knowing, I’m glad for all of it. He woke me up, and in turn, I stayed away from my shell and trusted what was to come. Heartbreak is an excruciating bitch, but it’s also the price for love. When you’re willing to love someone despite the risk of heartbreak, it’s not a sign of naiveté or bad decisions; it’s a sign of a life well-lived.

That in itself is worth celebrating.

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Why I Re-defined “Letting Go”

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You need to stop worrying so much.

You need to let this go.

You need to move on.

It’s something that I’m told often, but on the outside don’t seem to be very good at. I always thought it implied forgetting that it ever happened and never talking about it again, at least not in the presence of the subject of conversation, or others involved.

But what if there’s a different way? What if we’ve been actually been going about it all wrong?

Somewhere between Christmas and New Years last year, I helped mediate a difficult but necessary conversation with my immediate family. Thoughts and feelings were boiling over, people were lashing out, and hard things needed to be said. I went back to my grandparents emotionally drained, no longer lividly angry, but unsure how to feel about what had taken place both that weekend and over the last several years.

“You don’t have to decide anything now,” my grandfather said to me after I explained what had transpired. “Feelings are feelings, and they change all the time.” I’d heard this before, but it was clear and gentle coming from him. For the first time in a long while, somebody else’s advice actually made sense. Almost a year later that thought process is still taking shape:

It’s not forgetting the situation entirely, but putting it into perspective.

It’s not never talking about it with people, but changing the way we talk about it.

And instead of forcing the pieces together in order to understand, let the pieces come together on their own.

It is possible to grieve, process, and ultimately feel while still moving forward. But we do so without wrecking our brains over the “why” of everything. Why doesn’t this person want me/accept me/love me? Why did this happen, and in this way? Why won’t anyone tell me what the [blank] is going on? And on and on it goes, as the stress levels rise and sleepless nights turn into haggard mornings, until one day we don’t recognize ourselves anymore.

It’s human nature to want answers, especially when something is unexpected and painful. I once spent many years chasing (and longing for) answers, apologies, and at one point I wanted to inflict the exact same hurt that someone had inflicted on me. I wanted relief, and as much as I hate admitting it, sometimes I wanted to be the one to have the last word. None of it ever came to be, and in the long run I don’t think I would have been satisfied. I wanted those that hurt me to be the ones to heal me, and most of the time it never goes both ways.

Maybe it’s easy to say now because I’ve become comfortable with not knowing, at least at this moment. Maybe I’ve been through enough where I’m confident that no matter how gut-punching the past is, and how terrifying the future is, I will always get through it. It might be by the skin of my own teeth, but I do.

I don’t want to ever completely ignore what once was, because I would be denying how it shaped me as a person, and what I’ve learned from all of it. I don’t want to forget how to accept people for who they are, how to have compassion and show compassion. I don’t want to forget what it feels like to be mistreated, so I don’t treat others the same way. Ultimately I want to remember how far I’ve come, so that I can be a light for someone else who’s walking a similar path.

Despite what’s argued otherwise, I do believe that it’s possible to tell a story purely for the sake of providing context, rather than throwing a pity party. Acknowledging where a problem began is not the same thing as holding a grudge or calling out a person’s faults. And reflecting on an experience does not necessarily mean you’re stuck in the past. If I didn’t reflect or think about things, I wouldn’t be a writer.

Rather than “let it go,” I choose to let it be. I still feel and have my opinions, but I ultimately choose to keep going in order to keep living. Sometimes appropriate boundaries are necessary if I’m trying to move forward from toxic relationships or periods in my life. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, but it definitely helps. Counseling is a beautiful resource, and I will never stop advocating for it. Feeding does more than fixing ever will. And slowly but surely, good things start to happen: you feel lighter, stronger, and more self-aware. But it’s always one day at time, one foot in front of the other.

I came to better understand all of it when I ran into an old love at the end of this past summer. It was after a mutual friend’s funeral, and I’d actually had a dream/premonition a night or so prior that we would see each other again. He hugged me and exclaimed that it had been a long time, never mentioning that it had been three years without any sort of contact. We caught up on life and I got to meet his little girl, a mixture of sweet and awkward and feeling seventeen again. For a few brief moments I wanted him to take me aside and hold me the way that he used to, but I think that was just the grief talking. Life had just been turned on its head a week prior, and I was completely overwhelmed to the point where I couldn’t think straight.

I debated on reaching out to him on Facebook afterward to thank him for taking care of me all of those years ago. In the end I had decided against it because I didn’t see the point in disrupting the boundaries that I’d set or the progress I’d made. I’d come to terms with the ending of our relationship long beforehand, but seeing him was definitely a positive bookend and confirmation. He had served a meaningful purpose, and I was content with that.

It truly is different for situation. Additionally, it’s extremely important to note that mourning the end of a physical life is extremely different than mourning a season, phase, or relationship. You might experience triggers, dreams, and moments every so often, which may or may not mean anything. In some respect, certain events and times in your life will always have some impact, and that’s okay. What matters is how you choose to use it for good, and whether you allow it to drag you down or build you up.

There is life again. There is love again. There is beginning again and re-purposing the pain. See it, choose it, and pursue it. One day at a time.

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The Waterfall

The coffee was absolutely delicious.

The all-inclusive resort was a perk.

I’m not sure I would do the zip-line again, but I’m glad I tried it once.

Yet out of everything I experienced on my inaugural trip to Costa Rica, the highlight of them all was a little-known local spot that my family and I decided to spontaneously visit a day beforehand. We packed a cooler, hired a driver, and set out to cross a long-time item off my bucket list: standing under a waterfall.

We had to hike a bit in order to get there, but having done my fair share in Colorado and Arizona, I wasn’t all that concerned. As we got closer, I could hear the sounds of the water and began to giggle like I used to when I was a little girl (side-note: this is how you know when I’m really happy). I had to force myself to walk slowly so that I wouldn’t trip and fall over anything, which was a challenge as the anticipation kept building. Once we made it all the way down, I couldn’t believe my eyes:

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Swimming out to the surrounding rocky area was a little bit tricky; I wore my gym shoes so as not to risk cutting my bare feet, and apparently was so excited that I forgot to take my glasses off at first (I did go back and put them away, but initially I wanted to make sure that I was able to literally see it all). I put my arm muscles to good use throughout, and eventually clawed my way up and around, standing close enough to be under this sight to behold, but far enough away from the edge so as not to lose my balance.

There aren’t words to truly describe what I was feeling in that moment, but grateful would be a good start. I know that not everyone gets to do something like this, and certainly not everyone who deals with physical challenges like I do on a regular basis. I was thankful for legs that can move and eyes that can see. I was thankful for the risk we took in asking a stranger to get us there (and back). I kept saying, “thank you” over and over again, sometimes in my head and sometimes out loud.

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I’m not sure if I jumped off of anything or just slid back in off the rocks (probably the latter, because I’m not a jumping bean like my sister and didn’t trust what was at the bottom). We swam around for a bit, and at one point I tried to duck under the fall and so that I would be directly behind it. The current was incredibly strong and aimed to pull me in several directions, where I became panicky and momentarily thought I would get sucked under. It was somewhat scary because my body was getting tired, and I’m not exactly skilled at treading water. I eventually found my footing and stopped to rest in the shallow end.

Before we left to head back to the resort, I stopped and said a quiet prayer in front of this amazing creation. I had dreamed of doing something like this since I was a child, and knew that I would always remember it. If not what it looked like, than definitely the freedom and wonder and awe that I felt in the midst of it. I’ve never been a travel fiend, but this made me want to explore more. It also dawned on me that a lot of my bucket lists aspirations have to do with water. In my lifetime, I would like to experience the following:

Swimming with dolphins (technically I’ve already done that, but I would like to do it in a place where I’m not with a boatload of people and have a little bit more time to enjoy being around one of my favorite animals).

 

Slow dance more often; I haven’t slow danced since my senior prom, but I don’t have to be at an event or party. It only takes two people, am I right?

 

Be kissed in front of Cinderella’s Castle at the Magic Kingdom.

 

Witness sea turtles hatching, or just look at sea turtles. Turtles in general are adorable!

 

Have one of my essays be accepted for publication.

 

Sit on a rooftop and watch the sun rise in Chicago.

 

Meet the Blackhawks, or at least catch up a game up real close.

*I’ll keep adding as I think of things. This is just a shortened version.

I’m a dreamer. I’m a romantic. And I don’t mind it at all.

The Year Of…

 

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Every December since freshman year of college, I’ve been partaking in a blogging/writing journey called Project Reverb. Though format and methods have changed over the years, the concept of reflecting and manifesting still remains the same. It has become one of my favorite things during this month, and I hope you’ll join me on the journey.

It was the first time in a long time that I wasn’t angry, that my soul wasn’t being saturated by pain and frustration over things I could not control. It was the year that I lost a job, met some pretty amazing people, watched my brother graduate college (from the Air Force Academy, no less), crossed off a long-time bucket list item, experienced a painful tragedy, witnessed history on multiple occasions, and never stopped learning in the process. Much was welcomed with open arms, while every so often I had to grit my teeth and press on in what felt like a tangled up mess. It was eye-opening, liberating, life-changing, and unexpected in every way. I normally can’t predict what the future holds (and most of the time I don’t even try), but I’m serious when I say that I did not see any of it coming.

At first I would have called it a cluster, a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Sometimes it feels like a breakaway from old patterns and habits, giving me a sense of comfort in my skin and with my history. A lot of it is ultimately indescribable because I’m still processing and taking it all in. Seeds were planted, steps were taken, and something tells me that this is only the beginning.

I’m not one for picking a singular word until my birthday, but if nothing else I’d like it to be a continuation of positive change and growth. So often I’ve looked at the upcoming New Year as a time to start over, to put all my mistakes behind me and try again; and while there’s nothing wrong with that as a whole, I want to make sure that I also focus on celebrating where I’m and what I’ve accomplished. I’ve come a long way over the last year, and while there’s still room for improvement, I don’t want to get caught up in the hoopla of trying too hard.

Maybe I want to just be: Be content. Be grateful. Be aware. Be me. Yet, I also want to never go without being hungry for new adventures and experiences.

 

It is well, and so am I.

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If You’re Lonely, Read This.

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Why am I lonely?

. I’m no stranger to this feeling, having experienced it for a number of years and still do as I approach my mid-twenties. It’s incredibly human, but unfortunately it’s seen as something to be avoided rather than embraced.

As a child I was pretty comfortable with being by myself. While other kids played tag or wall-ball on the playground, I preferred to simply watch and observe. I wasn’t purposefully trying to be anti-social, but not everyone saw it that way. By the time I hit puberty, solitude no longer felt like a safe haven, but a depressing black hole where that was tough to get out of. I had it in my head that if my social calendar wasn’t booked on the weekends or during the summer, there had to be something wrong with me. Being alone made me question if I was lovable, or if anyone cared if I was around. I had no idea that I just might be an introvert, or that it was possible for my personality to evolve.

Unfortunately, living in a dorm and then an apartment didn’t make it go away, despite being surrounded by my peers and the ability to be physically independent. There was a lot of self-imposed pressure in terms of what I “should have” been doing, and I would get frustrated when it seemed like I was the only one not having the typical college experience. I was tired of watching rather than living, which is why I went out nearly every weekend once I was legally able to. Not only was I making up for lost time, but excessive drinking and dancing was an easy way to connect with people, even if they were strangers. It was a typical phase, so I won’t say that I regret it, but I wish I’d had a better understanding of what I really needed back then.

I’ve been out of that bubble for nearly three years, and the differences in lifestyle and culture have forced me to face several fears and discomforts. I realized that it’s perfectly all right to stay in with a bottle of wine and watch Netflix. Its fine to get sick of being in a crowded bar after an hour or two, or to go home before midnight. And it’s definitely possible to feel alone in groups and in specific relationships, especially if one feels misunderstood. But it’s not just about acknowledging reality, but also realizing that many others (more than we probably know) share in that reality too.

We’re lonely, because the world is lonely.

Communities, countries, and beyond are starving for some real, genuine, and heaven forbid, human connection and interaction.

We’re lonely because we don’t know how to be human anymore.

It’s true that social media is part of that, and that is plays a huge role in mental health. But it goes a lot deeper than just internet fasting or taking breaks or doing our damndest to avoid checking our phones every five minutes. We’re still glorifying busyness and productivity and acting as though anyone who isn’t like us is out to hurt us. We’re plastering smiles on our faces while shielding our tears. And we’re supposedly doing it all without any help.

It makes me sad, and I’m done with that kind of living. I’ve been done for a while

Life becomes an unrecognizable mess when we constantly keep ourselves bottled up, and I’ve experienced this on both sides of the fence. I know of the pain seeing someone hiding in plain sight, desperately wishing that they would quit avoid tough questions and be willing to do the hard things. I also know the pain of hiding, the fears of being found out, and the desperation that manifests itself in physical symptoms like chest tightness and an overactive gag reflex. And part of that relates to wanting to tell the fucking truth.  It doesn’t have to be a no-holds barred confessional; start with acknowledging the truth to yourself, using statements like I am…I feel…I struggle…I want…I need. It’s a form of self-care, and one that keeps resentment from building up in the long run.

When I feel confident enough in the truths I’ve realized about myself (and my life), I then discuss them what are often referred to as Safe People. These are the ones who completely accept my past and present, and walk alongside me so that I can create a bright future. They know when to give me advice and when to just listen. Their focus is being present, and opposed to fixing and rectifying.

What I am now just gathering the courage to do is learning how to interact with those who might not be the safest emotionally; they might not realize it, but they have a tendency to invalidate my feelings and experiences, invoking shame instead of empathy. I don’t engage for the sake of understanding or support, but because it teaches me how to be myself, regardless of the situation. It helps me not to depend on a reaction, because realistically I have nothing to lose. The boundaries are still there, but I’m cowering or hiding anymore.

I accept being a work in progress, that I’ll never quite get “there” and know everything. I’ve gotten to the point where I stifle every time someone mentions that I should “work” on myself, because I imagine retreating into a shell again and doing so out of fear rather than the desire to rest. I understand taking a step back and resting every so often, but does that have to include disengaging with the world around me? Whenever I took that route, it had less to do with being healthy and more so with trying to be perfect.

Real healing comes from help, and help comes from wanting to heal. When I was in college, I wouldn’t have started the journey without the encouragement and support and my best friends. I wouldn’t have been willing to face some hard truths (and grown from them) had I not been called out by those that knew me best. I would not have the motivation to become a better person without positive and real examples to look up to, and for opportunities to learn from others and learn with them. Three years later, I can still recall when a beautiful soul looked me in the face and said, “Let yourself be loved, right where you’re at, and exactly as you are.”

It takes a lot of time and a lot of patience. Post-grad communities can be murky and confusing because no one is in the exact same place or season anymore, and none of them will be like the ones you had in college, high school, or even childhood.  You might have to take the lead for a little while in terms of making plans and actually making an effort and that gets a little frustrating. In those moments, remember that many are living under the assumption that this is the way the world is and that there’s little anyone can do about it. If you have the courage to get up and get out there, you’re already doing a lot better than you think you are.

Somewhere, there is at least one person who wants the same things that you do.

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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.

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Music Monday

I love playlists, and every so often I like to put together something that showcases the songs that I’m currently jamming to, or they reflect the current season in my life.

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H.O.L.Y.-Florida-Georgia Line

 

Hallelujah-Pentatonix

 

Blue Ain’t Your Color-Keith Urban

 

Stop Drop+Roll-Dan+Shay

Can’t Stop The Feeling-Justin Timberlake

Road Less Traveled-Lauren Alaina

 

Have a great week!!

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Ask, See, Know.

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In an age

Where we’re all connected by screens and devices

Yet vulnerability and real connection seem like foreign languages

Feigning indifference, going along with what’s culturally acceptable

But aching on the inside for something real

Real relationships, and real people

 

How does one live differently

When they often feel like the only one

Who wants to try?

Believing that it’s not about trends or what’s “normal”

But staying true to themselves and what they need

 

Ask

Who are you?

Where do you come from?

What makes you tick?

When do you feel most alive?

What makes you feel cared about?

Genuine questions

Even when responses aren’t immediate

Are a good beginning

 

See

The person before you

A perfectly flawed individual

All messy and human

It’s brutal and beautiful

Their experiences can be colorful

Difficult to understand

But they’re no less valid

Their stories

They’re part of who they are

And part of the reason you’ve you met

 

Know

We want to know people and be known by them

Past the surface-type bullshit

And down to the deepest levels

We want to love without hiding or pretending

Nakedness without awkward pauses or discomfort

It just is

Natural

No holds barred

Acceptance

 

Be brave enough to ask

Open your eyes and see

Know that someone wants what you want

That despite obstacles, it is possible

But you have to choose

Communicate

Strive

It is not without challenges

That require patience and compassion

But it’s worth it

 

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Please, Don’t Stop Writing

 

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From the time I was thirteen, writing has always been my primary way of expressing, processing, grieving, and even healing. I recently came across an article with the phrase “stop writing” in the title, and that was enough to pique my interest. To my surprise, by the time I had finished reading I was flat out angry; what I thought would be an insightful journey of living in the tension between public and private creativity seemed like pure admonishment of those who don’t have the same convictions. I respect the original author’s point of view, and agree that it’s important to be aware of not just what we share, but also the motivation behind it. However, those two things are only a small piece of an incredibly complex puzzle.

Though I’m not as familiar with Elizabeth Gilbert’s work, I’ve adored Glennon Doyle Melton since reading, Carry On, Warrior a couple of years ago. At the time I was a fresh college graduate experiencing two transitions at once, and her words were like a warm blanket, a reassurance that you can still love God and yourself while not putting either in a box. In a culture that glorifies individualism and rebuffs vulnerability, it’s easy to see why she and others would be accused of oversharing and disclosing too much. It brings about the question of why people reveal so much after so many years, or what they hope to accomplish by doing so.

We now live in an era where people are tired of hiding. They’re tired of sitting in the darkness of shame, and are hungering for a life where they can love the God that made them, while also loving how He made them. The pain of living a lie has become much greater than the risk of judgement and rejection, especially in churches and faith communities alike. It seems like judgement itself has become twofold: there’s criticizing a person for their choices in themselves and questioning why those choices were made. And then there’s complete recoil, where some make blanket statements in order to try to push that truth back into a place where they can’t see it.

Which makes me wonder if certain audiences are genuinely concerned about proper discernment, or if they’re more so uncomfortable with people rising above conservative, and perhaps legalistic ideals in order to pursue their own unique relationship with God?

Is this truly a matter of the writer’s heart, or is this more about the reader?

One of those most beautiful (and possibly frustrating) aspects of writing is that the process is different for everyone, and it will ebb and flow over time. Just because someone posts a blog or a Facebook status about getting divorced does not mean that the decision was made the night before. Choosing to share in the “during” does not make a story any less valid or valuable. Choosing to wait and spend time reflecting does not make a story any less real.

The real tragedy is when anyone stops writing all together strictly to please as opposed to setting themselves free. Instead of assuming that they’re feeding a machine, is it possible that they do what they do in order to feed their souls?

We don’t know what’s happening unless we’re the person holding the pen or God Himself; let’s recognize that He knows that person’s heart (Psalm 139), and that He might be doing things that we on the outside don’t understand. What He may be leading you to do might not be the same for others. And even if it is the “wrong time,” let us trust that something beautiful will come out of it, and that transformation and growth are still possible. It is true that some things should be between them and God, but that also includes their choice in how they process their own personal journey.

It comes down to this: If it’s not your story to tell, you do not get to dictate how it’s told. If you don’t like it, then don’t look at it.

To those that rise up and choose to speak despite the criticism or backlash, I’m grateful for you. I love you and I need you, despite what others say. To those that have paused or taken a step back for whatever reason, your choice is no less honorable. You can write, you can listen, and you can do both at the same time. As long as you honor God and honor who you are, the rest will take care of itself.

If writing is what saves you, and bringing it to light is what heals you, then please don’t ever stop.

 

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