I can’t believe I’m here. The last few years have been a series of drastic changes in my circumstances, sense of home and security, relationships, life goals, overall path, and even in my personality. There were so many times when I didn’t know what I was doing or where I would end up. There were quite a few times when I didn’t know where I was going to live or who I would have around me. I’ve had to adjust to new normals over and over again to the point where I don’t really have a strong sense of “normal” anymore, and it doesn’t bother me. I’ve moved and adjusted so many times that my sense of “home” is something that I’ve learned to carry with me and manifest outwardly wherever I am. I’ve taken so many scary leaps of faith, learning to feel the fear and just keep moving forward, trusting that the Lord would get me through. And you know what? He did. He always did. It has been even more solidified to me that God will use many different unexpected means to take care of me. I’ve learned to let go of so many things that I held so tightly. I’ve learned to take each new challenge as it comes, looking to the future, but focusing on today. I’ve learned that just because I’ve been a painfully shy introvert for the majority of my life, doesn’t mean I can’t learn to love being in a crowd and talking to strangers. I’ve learned that I (and any introvert), in fact, can be part extrovert and that labels are really only useful if they are removable and changeable. I’ve learned what an amazing ability humans have to adapt and adjust to the unfamiliar. I’ve learned that every setback is a blessing, no matter how painful it is (and perhaps the more painful ones carry weightier blessings). Even in loss, there is always gain.
It’s so strange and wonderful to look back to who and where I was just a few years ago in comparison to who and where I am now. I was scared of so much, I felt the need to spend countless hours alone, I had no real goals for my life and often felt a sense of panic, crisis, and even doom. But one scary step in a difficult and uncomfortable direction led to another. And another. And another. Until I no longer recognized where I was and the fear of the next step was greatly diminished. Now, while I won’t pretend to be fearless, I have much less fear and anxiety in my life and much more peace. Now, I enjoy and do need some alone time, but my love of being around others is equal to my love of seclusion and I often even find myself being energized by others. In the past year, I’ve strengthened old friendships and made so many new ones that I never knew I had the capacity to gain. I made goals to go back to school, earn my bachelors degree and my TESOL Certificate, and this past year, I’ve reached both of those goals and am on my way to reaching my next one. Even as I am never quite sure what the future will bring, I am no longer in crisis and I have a sense that everything will go exactly as it should. That old sense of doom is nowhere to be found. I never expected any of this and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I won’t pretend for a moment that any of this is my doing. I could not have come all this way without the Lord’s intervention and the wonderful people He has placed in my life. I am so thankful for all of it and I can’t wait to see what is to come.
Human beings are so beautiful. They are so complex and interesting. They are ever-changing yet constant. They are all the same yet all unique. We are all connected while also being separate. We feel the same things but we feel them differently and often for different reasons.
I have struggled most of my life with a fear of other people. This is in part (a big part) because of my own pride – my own “shyness” which is really a manifestation of my desire to be liked and even loved by everyone. I think I missed out on getting to know many people because of this fear. This small form of social anxiety often kept me from even simple things like going to the store or making important phone calls.
I’m not sure exactly when or quite how it happened, but I eventually started to realize that other people are AMAZING and I miss out on so much by being so focused on myself. God did a work in me, reminding me that all of us are of inherent value because we are disigned as mirrors of His image. That is the bottom line and that is what drove me to desire more to reach out to others than to be liked by others. The funny thing is, learning to stop caring so much about whether everyone likes me (though I will not pretend for a second that I have totally conqured this) and to just really enjoy people and find ways to connect on deeper levels has brought me more wonderful friends than I ever thought possible or even thought I had the social and emotional capacity for. Sure, there are times when I leave myself vulnerable for someone in an attempt to connect and am shot down, but after meeting and connecting with so many wonderful people, it’s definitely worth it.
Part of being made in God’s image means that we are all complex beings. Certainly not as complex as God, but complex enough that even knowing someone for a lifetime is not enough to know them fully. Though I am a very introspective person, there are times when I feel that I hardly even know myself. My personality is always changing, my taste changes, my desires and my dreams change – sometimes faster than I can keep up with in my ever-swirling mind. I think about how complex my own mind is and I wonder at how complex the minds of others must be too. This is why I think people are wonderful. There is always so much to discover about a person and it is so special when a person allows you to do so. What a privilege it is for another person to let you behind the gates.
I haven’t felt like this in a while and I’m so happy, I’m on the verge of tears. I feel inspired, I feel enthralled with the beauty of language, of music, of storytelling and memories, of human creativity and the reflections we are of the One who created us whether we believe in Him or not.
I am captivated by the sounds and the air, the soft light coming through my window.
I feel at ease again after weeks of inner struggle, sleep deprivation, and disproportionate amounts of stress.
Life can be hard but God is good and beauty is everywhere and I know that everything will be just fine.
Lord, you are so tender.
You see my heart as I sin against you. You see my filth, my defiance, you feel the whips and the shards of glass, the thorns crushed into your skull, the nails piercing through your hands and your feet, the agony as you struggle for breath, the cold darkness of isolation. Lord, you bear it all even as I doubt your love for me. Even as I blame you for my sin.
And you never change your mind.
You watch as I run from you and you chase after me, calling my name in the sweetest tone. And you never stop chasing me, no matter how far I run. No matter what choices I make, you keep loving me, you keep chasing me, you wait for my return, my surrender.
And when I finally turn back, you fold me into your arms and kiss my brow and not a harsh word is on your lips.
Lord, you are so kind. You are love. You are grace and mercy.
I’ll never deserve you, but I’ll always have you.
Anxiety wakes me up when I’m just falling asleep even though I’m completely exhausted. It sends pains all over my neck and arms and legs and head. It makes my hands tingle and my feet go numb. It tries to convince me that I’m dying, that I’m having a heart attack, that I’m having an aneurysm. It tells me that I can’t breathe even though I’m taking long, deep breaths. It convinces me that I’m totally alone and that I’ll never get through this. It tells me that I’m not normal and that I am pathetic and that I should be able to just go to sleep like everyone else but I can’t. It tells me that if I do fall asleep, I’ll either be tormented by awful dreams or never wake up.
I want to be well. I must conquer this. I will conquer this.
I’ve come to a point in my life where I am not as creative nor am I as in tune with my own thoughts and feelings as I used to be. This has greatly increased my anxiety and depression as well as made it painfully difficult at times to deal with everyday situations. Writing has been, for most of my life, the main outlet for my thoughts and emotions. I have often said that I don’t know what I really think or feel about something until I’ve written about it. Since I’ve had more and more to occupy my time and have opened my journal less and less, I feel like I have lost something, I feel like I am barely holding together even though many things in my life are going well. Even when I sit down and try to write, try to unblock those rivers, my mind is cloudy and I can’t really focus; I can’t really get much more than a few drops out. I’ve realized (I’ve known all along, really) that one of the main things holding me back is the fact that I am always doing, even when I’m just relaxing. I’m always doing school work or running errands or reading something or watching videos or listening to podcasts or making plans or organizing or researching or spending time with people, etcetera. None of these things are bad, it’s just that there is something very important that I’ve stopped doing: nothing. I’ve stopped staring out of the window and letting my mind wander. I’ve stopped moving my pen aimlessly, drawing unidentifiable shapes as I explore my own thoughts and memories. I’ve stopped sitting down to write about nothing in particular, just to get it out. I’ve stopped laying on the floor and praying about anything and everything that comes to mind. These are the things that used to keep me sane. These are the things that helped me to reflect and to understand what was really going on in my head. These are the things that kept my creative juices flowing and my fictional characters breathing and my head on relatively straight. I somehow adopted the idea that it would be a waste of time to do such things, that if I was going to just sit and relax, I might as well be watching, reading, or listening to something, or I should be going somewhere. I forgot that I have to stop to really think – even if I’m afraid of what I might discover. Many, if not all, great writers and thinkers take time to do nothing, to just stare, to just think. Great minds understand the importance of spending quality time alone with themselves. I think many of us focus so much on the importance of community and of spending time with others and the importance of productivity that we forget that it is equally important to spend time in our own minds, even if only for a few minutes in our busy schedules.
PS – I have been trying to write about this for a while now, but have had trouble writing it just the way I want it. Then I saw this video talking about pretty much the same thing and figured I should just get it out, no matter how much I disapprove of the way I wrote it. Anyway, I thought I’d also share said video. Though the writer of it is not of my worldview, I agree with most of what is expressed there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lz-qrVUecE
You would have turned 60 today and I would have been trying to convince you that you’re not old. You would have loved the rain today. You’d wear your big coat and your pretty teal scarf. We’d go to Marie Calendar’s for dinner and we’d both order the soup and salad bar and perhaps some hot tea. We’d eat at least two of those little white bowls of potato cheese soup after finishing our mountains of lettuce and vegetables. We’d have chocolate cake that I’d make from boxed cake mix and it would be decorated poorly, but you’d love it anyway.
I’m not sure where I’d be if you were still here. I’m not sure who I’d be. You shaped and changed me in life and I changed when you died.
I’m not sure how different things would be and I don’t think I should dwell on it. What I do know is that you are still loved, still missed, still remembered. I’ll never get over you.
Happy birthday, Mom. I hope it’s a good one.