As kids, so many of us were told we could do anything, be anything. We could be anyone we wanted to be, as long as we dreamed, willed, and worked enough. The problem with thinking you can have anything is falling into the trap of wanting and believing you can have everything.
Why settle for less when you think you deserve anything in the world? That mindset sows the seeds for entitlement and dangerous ideas like wish fulfillment, the law of attraction, and manifesting your destiny.
Last I checked, you can’t just will something into existence unless you’ve got the power of a god. No amount of wishing, wanting, or dreaming makes this happen. Conversely, some of us think we can work ourselves into having everything we could ever want, too.
I (mostly) hate to break it to you, but that’s not true, either. Half the time, those of us slaving away sacrifice the wrong things. Or, we refuse to sacrifice the things needed for the everything we believe we deserve.
Sacrificing for your dreams is a good thing, if you’re doing it for the right reasons. Losing sleep, shedding blood, sweat, and tears—these things build empires and transform dreams into reality. If you don’t stop to think about the cost, you risk being the fool rushing in.
There’s a reason the tortoise wins instead of the hare. It’s not that neither of them worked or put in the effort, but the tortoise made sacrifices the hare wasn’t willing to make. But the world tells us we can get ahead by living like the hare.
Getting ahead isn’t just about the destination; it’s about the journey on the way, too. If you take time to stop and smell the roses, you’re less likely to miss out on life. You can appreciate your sacrifices earlier and celebrate the small wins, too.
Those small wins are often underestimated. But even the greatest of the greats knows when to stop, take a deep breath, and enjoy the view (even if it’s not at the top quite yet). The key to getting the big wins is reminding yourself why your sacrifices matter.
Believe it or not, passion, motivation, and discipline run out. These are renewable resources, but what it takes to maintain them is beyond sheer willpower. We’re not hardwired to go and go and go without stopping.
We’re made for connection and if we don’t keep in touch with our loved ones, we’re likely to lose sight of our dreams and goals. We are more than our purpose. We’re immortal souls full of life and endless possibility.
It’s this same inherent infinity the world confuses with deserving anything and everything. So much of this life is spent untangling near-truth from actuality. And the best falsehoods are closest to the truth, those lies we tell ourselves most easily.
Making the time to see the truth is essential to reaching the top. Flying to Everest’s summit isn’t the same as putting in the months of hard work to get there. Having the discipline to reach the loftiest goals doesn’t happen overnight.
It takes time to build good habits and to keep ourselves motivated along the way. Part of that motivation comes from a healthy relationship with hope. If you’re having a hard time experiencing the faith needed to hope, you’re likely suffering from low motivation, too.
The best motivation comes from within ourselves. Extrinsic motivation is fleeting and often prey to others’ motives. When we introspect, it forces us to face truths we might otherwise avoid.
Internal reflection protects us from moving too fast or slow towards our goals. It forces us to question our purpose and the why of ourselves behind that purpose. It also guides us towards making the right sacrifices and forgoing that comfy afternoon nap (a la Aesop’s hare).
But when we don’t introspect, we look outside our souls (i.e., outside God) for inspiration. External motivators emphasize that in-the-moment, YOLO garbage. They’re limited to finite, material, short-lived satisfactions.
Material wealth doesn’t matter for our souls. You can’t hoard life’s intangibles (e.g., spiritual gifts) either. I guess that means it’s something to be shared.
Initially, I’d consider the divine inheritance God made for us all. He not only created heaven and earth for us but filled us with the ability to love and create. Our endless chances for redemption, give us the gift of eternal life.
This merely begins the gifts bestowed on us that we don’t have to earn. These include:
God’s unconditional, perpetual love;
His patience and forgiveness of our repeated mistakes;
His constant presence, so we’re never alone;
and His choice to offer up His only son (which technically counts as offering up himself, as God and Christ are one and the same).
Also, His choice to become flesh and walk among us.
I guess these are a few perks of having an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent being on your side. Keep in mind, these are aspects of spiritual wealth we don’t even work for. Remember, we’re also all granted the immortal parts of ourselves, our souls.
These parts of us have their own intrinsic value called dignity. Dignity is defined and discussed in-depth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), with particularly helpful cross-references. I’ve hyperlinked these texts to the Holy See for those of you who wish to research further.
These sections label seven articles of dignity: defining what it is, how we should express it, and why we have it. The ultimate goal of your dignity is that of fully devoted, lived, and expressed charity (i.e., God’s love).
“The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God (article 1); it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude (article 2). It is essential to a human being freely to direct himself to this fulfillment (article 3). By his deliberate actions (article 4), the human person does, or does not, conform to the good promised by God and attested by moral conscience (article 5). Human beings make their own contribution to their interior growth; they make their whole sentient and spiritual lives into means of this growth (article 6). With the help of grace they grow in virtue (article 7), avoid sin, and if they sin they entrust themselves as did the prodigal son to the mercy of our Father in heaven (article 8). In this way they attain to the perfection of charity”
Unearned wealth aside, let’s discuss the aspects of spiritual wealth we must continually work toward. Dignity calls us to actively work on ourselves. Your soul must live, love, and create to its fullest expression. You’re not really living life to the fullest if you only do so for yourself. Your soul power (i.e. dignity) is the accumulation and dispersal of spiritual wealth.
If I’m being honest with myself, I’ve often attempted to hoard my spiritual wealth. My selfishness derives itself from a place of fear and mistrust.
Thinking about my past behavior, I posed a query to my friend, “Why are dragons always bad? Why can’t they be helpful, instead of monstrously selfish?”
She told me, “Dragons symbolize greed. They represent an obsessive need, of that same eternal hunger and thirst we all crave. Instead of seeking love, their desires are corrupted, thus their hoarding of material wealth. Tolkien’s dragons are an allegorical tool for this corruption of common desires (e.g. a need to feel loved or fulfilled).”
So I proposed becoming a dragon of friendship. I feel that the best-version-of-myself is present when I try to embody friendship as best I can. I want to get to a point where I’m willing to offer up my spiritual wealth by laying my life down for another without even thinking about it.
True friendship is all about giving and living servant-hearted. Why not amass an incorporeal amount of spiritual wealth to give it all away? Mostly, because you can’t. Also, you should be giving it away all the time, so you only ever have small amounts.
If you could be an antithetical dragon of friendship, fire would spark impassioned blaze and warmth during despair and doubt. Talons would ward off foul gremlins of fear. Wings would carry friends to new adventures and belief in the not-so-impossible.
You wouldn’t be a beast slain by St. George but advance alongside him into battle, a fellow champion against wickedness. Make yourself into a creature of legend so that the real monsters are afraid to come out.
Thanks yet again for reading my thoughts on the inner workings of our storied lives. If you want to stay tuned for more content, sign up for email reminders!
What are your thorns, exactly? Your flaws and imperfections. These work-in-progress parts of you are vital. They mark a space once tender, now ready to defend off untoward influence.
Like your soft-petaled hopes and dreams, your prickles are vital. Think of them as boundaries. Where your leafy, nourishing goals are concerned, prickles have their rightful place on you. The next time a thorn grows, don’t remove it. Let it remind you of growth.
Allow it to be part of the whole you, not a scar of a shameful reminder. We all have thorns; it’s how we use them that defines their purpose. Most importantly, don’t be a prick.
There’s more to this cliched adage than you know. Today’s post is a bramble about finding joy in the in-between spaces (e.g., uncertain crossroads). The rose encompasses this sentiment perfectly.
For years, I’ve loved the feel and smell of roses. They’re almost my favorite flower, coming in a close second to other blossoms. My love of roses probably began with my favorite Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast.
I loved the contrast between the monstrosity of the Beast’s rage and his delicate deadly curse. It makes sense he’d be so prickly about protecting such a fragile, powerful symbol of his fate.
These buds symbolize many things globally, beyond a fairy tale curse. Each of their colors represents something unique. I’m a sucker for symbolism.
Anyway, today’s post is about stopping to smell the roses. It’s not just about slowing down and living in the moment. It’s also about how roses can make your life a little easier.
I mentioned to my mom why I like these flowers so much. She’d remarked on my smelling nice. (I don’t typically wear perfume.) I explained to her about the new spray I’d purchased, which included rose essential oil.
Then I went on to tell her that I’d realized why I enjoyed rose so much. I’ve purchased facial mist, lotion, and body spray in the last several months, all including rose essential oils. I found some homeopathic articles explaining how a rose is a natural mood enhancer (i.e., mild antidepressant, anxiety reliever). As quick as I was to believe this, I also needed some science to make sure I wasn’t self-inducing a placebo effect.
Unearthing the Science
So, I did my research. One particular meta-study by Mohebitabar et al. (2017) compiled and surveyed various similar studies on the physiological and psychological effects of Rosa damascena, a more commonly used rose essential oil. Rose oil reduced depressive symptoms in male and female participants suffering major depressive disorders and taking SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) (Mohebitabar et al., 2017). Patients also saw an uptick in sexual arousal, reduced pain when the rose oil was in analgesic form, and reduced norepinephrine (Mohebitabar et al., 2017).
As helpful as meta-studies are, they’re usually introductory pieces when you have a more targeted goal. So I sought another source that examined alternatives to commonly prescribed treatments for major depressive disorder.
According to Sánchez-Vidaña et al.(2017), up to 30% of first-line antidepressants are ineffective, leading to more people exploring complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), neurolinguistic reprogramming, exercise, mindfulness, meditation, and so on.
Aromatherapy, which uses essential oils, is a form of CAM. This systematic review (Sánchez-Vidaña et al., 2017) targeted those CAM treatments specifically used for depressive disorder relief, unlike Mohebitabar et al. (2017), which compiled all data on rose oil aromatherapy. Sánchez-Vidaña et al. (2017) found participants ranged from age 21-73 and included cancer patients, pregnant women, menopausal women, patients diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety, children with ADD/ADHD, women volunteers, and others.
Sánchez-Vidaña et al. (2017) studied a variety of aromatherapy, not just R. damascena. Inhalation aromatherapy was variably effective where massage aromatherapy proved to be overall more effective (Sánchez-Vidaña et al., 2017; Nazıroğlu et al., 2013).
Water Your Thorns
Now that I’ve gone on about the science and symbolism of roses, let’s talk about their other parts. Everyone fixates on the pretty delicate details, forgetting the different aspects which protect these buds from disease and predators. I’m talking about the ugly parts people snip off to avoid pain. (I hope you see where I’m going with this…)
If you’re stopping to smell the roses, you might as well take in the whole picture. Assuming you understood the essence of smelling roses, there’s another part about flaws I think we can relate to.
This isn’t the first time I’ve addressed imperfection, and it certainly won’t be the last. Looking at just the beauty or utility of roses insults modern and past cultivars alike. The effort it takes to breed roses thorn-free is no small task.
I’m okay with a pricked finger. If a rose has thorns, it typically yields a sweeter scent or bigger blossom. Removing thorns isn’t actually necessary for anything but making the blooms’ beauty more attainable.
If inner beauty’s a rose, let’s make it mystical! Rosebuds don’t open overnight without expert care and lots of patience. They’re temperamental blooms and require lots of attention to grow big and healthy and beautiful.
Thinking about my own prickly nature has me think about pruning myself down for others. I think it’s vital for us to recognize when and how we can prick others. It’s about making the good and beautiful parts of ourselves more accessible, without opening out tender flesh to spiritual pestilence.
Thorns aside, consider the leaves of any rosebush. They sustain the entire plant by absorbing sunlight and converting it into nutrients. They’re not the prettiest part of the plant but are quite vital. The real catch is the prickles.
Most cultivars, gardeners, florists, and consumers remove these for fear of pricking a finger. They don’t consider the necessity of these least desirable parts. The sweeter the rose, the bigger the thorns. Those roses which bloom biggest often have prickles; it’s a natural defense mechanism.
The lovely bumble bee floats along, intoxicated by the floral aroma. It remains unharmed by the large thorns. Its welcome presence results in harmonious mutualism. More than friends are summoned by an open bud.
Predators come, lurking along the ground. They gnaw at pretty petals. Instead of a feast, they taste prickly, viny flesh. Injured by the mouthful of prickle or merely dissatisfied, they scurry into the shadows from whence they came.
Not all roses are equipped with self-protection. Some aren’t prickly at all. They’re feasted upon, their blooms consumed before they fully blossom. The same goes for pruned roses.
Stripped of their armor, they now lie open to predators and disease. The same is true for you and me. Prune your thorns, and you leave yourself open to the world (and not in a good way).
Once, I read some quote about watering your thorns. I dismissed it as some odd cliche then, but realized its significance with time. It’s about accepting the gestalt of ourselves.
We’re made incomplete by so many things. A lot of our brokenness comes from things we do to ourselves, including relying on our thorns too much or removing them for the unworthy.
So much of who I am comes from recognizing the need to blossom. Trust me, it’s so much easier to obscure our natural beauty (and I’m talking beyond skin deep). I’ve hurt myself, trusted those who betrayed me, etc.
Stopping to smell the roses is about taking some time to just be. You can’t appreciate growth from pain if you don’t make the damned time. You can’t rush knowledge or healing.
Taking life one page at a time allows us to see things in new light. So much of change and growth is cultivating a garden for our inner beauty to blossom. If we take the time to look for the thorns we might’ve otherwise missed, we save ourselves a little bit of pain.
Tending to these subtle details can bring us to fuller growth. We can bloom bigger and prettier than ever, given the time and right (spiritual) nutrients.
Neglecting these details withers the beauty of our souls (as much as overtending does, too). Before we know it, those things which seemed as insignificant pests become a gardenful of blight.
What Lies Beneath
We’ll tell ourselves the biggest lies to dismiss the blights growing in our souls. We’ll deny once, twice, three times. And we’ll do it until we hit rock bottom.
Some of us hit that bedrock and find our footing. Some people find sense in dead, thorny stalks. They’d rather take familiar pain over the hard work and risks of beautiful vulnerability.
They’ll come up with the most common reasons for why they just can’t do it. These little lies smell like manure, because that’s what they are. A big old pile of bullshit. Do you ever tell yourself any of this crap?
Just five more minutes and then I’ll get up.
Oh, it’s ok. I’ll do it tomorrow.
Don’t worry about it. She’ll get over it.
Hey, sorry to cancel on you last minute, but…
I’m just a couple minutes late; I’m sure they’ll understand.
In the past, I’ve been willing to burn my time, my reputation, my good will with others, and more to cover up my flaws. I rely on the goodness of others not when I need to, but when I can. And that makes all the difference.
Since then, I’ve learned what my personal brand of BS smells like. Normally, I’d say manure’s a great thing for blooming flowers. But for personal, spiritual, overall growth, honesty is the best fertilizer around.
To hear the truth, accept, believe, and share it, I think you’ve got to rid yourself of your personal smokescreen first. If you’re closed to the actual truths about yourself, accepting external truth will be more difficult.
I don’t even mean the truths you’ve actively denied or buried with those best, personal lies. For example, I didn’t know my pride and ego were so big last year. So significant, in fact, that I couldn’t see how it affected my choices and kept me stuck.
Conversely, I’ve been well aware of my lack of discipline and my need to develop and maintain better habits. Yet, when opportunities arose, I denied and ignored the chance for growth, pruning and burying truths about myself (i.e., my fear, pride, obstinance).
Obscuring these obvious truths resulted in me holding myself back. My eyes watered and throat choked because of how much I’d burned and how I’d lied and how I’d denied myself into withered blooms. There’s a reason I lost sight of me for a little while.
The main point is, I wasn’t listening to the whisper of truth in my heart from God and that had me LOST. That’s why this whole self-growth and development thing is so important. It’s about sharing my gifts, my heart, my fire with the world. That’s the rosebud blooming in me (and it wasn’t easy to find).
Whether people need me there or not isn’t the question. The right people stop and smell the roses. The most important thing we can do is share our beauty, inspiring them to stop and try to grow, too.
Thanks again for stopping by and taking a whiff of my brain’s blooming ideas. Whatever you take away from today’s post, I help it brings you closer to cultivating your own peaceful garden (because you certainly deserve it). For updates, follow me on Facebook or sign up for email reminders.
Nazıroğlu M, Kozlu S, Yorgancıgil E, Uğuz AC, Karakuş K. Rose oil (from Rosa×damascena mill.) vapor attenuates depression‑induced oxidative toxicity in rat brain. J Nat Med. 2013;67:152.
Mohebitabar, S., Shirazi, M., Bioos, S., Rahimi, R., Malekshahi, F., & Nejatbakhsh, F. (2017). Therapeutic efficacy of rose oil: A comprehensive review of clinical evidence. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine, 7(3), 206-213.
Sánchez-Vidaña, D. I., Ngai, S. P., He, W., Chow, J. K., Lau, B. W., & Tsang, H. W. (2017). The effectiveness of aromatherapy for depressive symptoms: A systematic review. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2017, 5869315.
I am not predisposed to subtlety. I live loudly, and that reality inspires and intimidates. I hope that living loud encourages others to do the same.
Overcoming fear is an essential step to nurturing hope. It takes courage to face fear, the same kind of courage required to experience faith and hope.
Since I’m all about spicing up life, embracing the unexpected is my idea of adventure. I’m already pretty memorable, but I’ve struggled with living bravely for several reasons. The biggest reason is a lack of grace, less socially and more so spiritually.
None of us lovely souls is without the potential for grace. I’ve merely denied opportunities to embrace it, letting my fears run rampant. In my disgrace, I felt the need to dampen my personality. The “me” I presented to the world was muted, a wet blanket. I was too disconnected from God, caught up in my fears and doubts.
My spiritual disconnection left me adrift in life’s myriad currents. I needed change, as I felt certain parts of my life stagnating, so I tried to force a future into being. This effort resulted in my poor decision to lessen myself. I couldn’t fit into who I should be, watering myself down.
In this shrinking of myself, I grew apart from God’s plan for me. I found myself tolerating a professional bully. I cared too much for the opinion of those unwilling to change. I let others’ fears and expectations get to me. I turned myself into a victim, inviting criticism, under-appreciation, and ignorance.
The more I watered myself down, the more I resented present people and opportunities. Losing myself meant muting the world’s colors, and I was too afraid to hope again. Instead of giving in to fear, I dared to hope.
I’ve got a complicated relationship with hope. But honestly, don’t we all? If hope comes easy to you, it’s for one of two reasons.
Either you’re spiritually mature and wise beyond your years, or you’ve never had your hopes dashed so severely you’re afraid to hope again. I mean the kind of put your faith in someone so blindly and intensely, you find even hoping terrifying.
Maybe I’m wrong, and nurturing hope isn’t as hard as I think. But even with the receptivity I’m working on, I find cultivating a space for hope challenging.
Over time, I recognized my weirdness with hope and determined a lot of my fear came from my mind. I overthought, justified, and rationalized myself dizzy. This labyrinthine logic made me feel like I had Mandora’s box for a brain (a nod to the original lady with a crazy box full of dark shit, too).
When I tell people about the melancholic gravity hidden in my mind’s maze, they struggle to see it or believe me. It’s not that this darkness defines me (by no means, I fight any singular dimension defining any person, myself included).
I think people assume my joy comes from some endless faucet of energy and optimism. I’ve never been an optimist in my whole life. I blame my childhood fascination with Greek mythology and its all-too-common tragic endings for my less than sunny outlook.
Of course, this doesn’t mean I’m a pessimist, either. I don’t do idealism in more than a moment, as it often leads to dangerous ideas like daydreams and desirous delusions. And I can’t afford nonsense like that in my heart or head.
My joy doesn’t come from nothing. It comes from the deepest recognition for the gifts of suffering. Last week, I addressed some of my journey with mental health and its subsequent growing pains.
Finding this joy came at a cost, one I’m glad I paid. And I think my past battles with fear, vulnerability, and courage put me in a space to hope the right way.
In lieu of passionate, angsty daydreams, I can feel clearly. I used to think my feelings were the problem, but they’re far from it. When I get nervous about hoping for something or someone, I learn something from it.
Today, I experienced so much hope, despite my heartaches, old and new. I went to Confession (since Easter’s around the corner, I needed a check-in with God). And the number of souls I saw there brings me so much joy.
I’m grateful for the solidarity and the dedication, and I’m hopeful that people care so much about forgiveness and redemption. These are critical to experiencing true hope.
And hope’s a gift bestowed on the faithful. It’s a balm for those with unquiet minds and hearts (mine included). And I felt that today, too.
In the past, I hoped for those who used me to step up and make amends, to acknowledge my worth with more than a single night’s pleasure. I’ve hoped for people to solve my problems and take away my pain. But I hoped for the wrong things from the wrong people.
As I’ve matured, I recognized misplaced hope and learned where to place it: not in other people but God. I’ve hoped beyond myself, too, realizing hoping for others is a good and beautiful thing.
Even now, I hope for old friends to discover truths that will bring them closer to joy. I hope for peace in my family and their struggles. I hope my friends find love and peace outside of superficial satisfactions.
Sure, I hope for love. But I also hope to be the best person I’m meant to be for those already in my life. I think that’s the point of nurturing hope. We’re not doing it just for today, but for tomorrow, too.
With the Flow
Making space for hope means flexibility, the kind that stems from honest vulnerability. I’m relatively flexible in that I say I like change but resist it once it’s happening. But I usually experience gratitude somewhere before a full transformation happens.
But going with the flow isn’t in my DNA (it doesn’t come naturally to me, really). I’ve learned to adapt, but I’m pretty feline when it comes to change. If you have a cat, you know what I mean.
Most of the time, I feel like I’m up a creek without a paddle. I tend to fight the currents of life. Most who know me personally would agree that my “element” is not water.
If I did live a life aquatic, I’d most likely be an ocean or a major river like the Nile, maybe a small sea. Either way, I’m not good at going with the flow. Instead, I’m more like a tidal wave or the waters held back by the Panama Canal.
I’m not something that flows calmly. I don’t slowly wear away at mountain ranges until they become Grand Canyons. Nor do I move as a giant mass and melt into great lakes.
I’m not gentle rainfall. I’m more like sleet or hail, a snowstorm if you will. I fall, crystalline and brittle. I might sting your face or bring you mild delight. Or I might dent your car. All of this depends on how hopefully I approach change.
See, as we’re not entirely water, change takes time. How we approach a time of transition determines just how ready we are for a change. Essentially, throwing a fit about not getting my way with the flow of God’s plan would be like throwing my paddle into the river.
Water ebbs and flows, constantly changing and moving. Humans are only 70% water. I guess we’re only changing that much of the time. Then again, staying still and growing stagnates water as much as a person, and water does freeze.
It might stay chemically H20 but easily changes states from solid to liquid to gas. Although this level of state fluidity is not so simple for humans, metaphorically, it is. The hardest part is being open to a change of state.
Most of us suck at being too open or too closed. We come up with all sorts of excuses or guards to not change. We maintain pretenses and pressure ourselves to be what we shouldbe vs. who we are or could be. We rush growth, or we don’t grow at all.
We never know what twists and turns life will throw at us. They require patience, grace, discipline, and willpower. Heading around life’s bends isn’t something you do alone, either. You only stay where you are when you fight the current.
Going with the flow is in your best interest. It means following God’s plan for your life. Sometimes, you’re merely along for the ride. Maybe you’ll get tossed about in some Category 5 rapids.
Don’t fret over life jostling you about. If you want a permanently smooth ride, I think you’re looking for the River Styx. When it is smooth sailing, lay back and enjoy coasting along. When it’s not, that’s your opportunity to fight for the path you’re supposed to be on. Usually, those grand rapids come from pressure to meet false expectations, throwing you off course.
I could wait hopelessly, gripping my oar and lamenting my lack of control in the situation. That’s not really me, though. As someone who elementally identifies with fire, I won’t sit still for long.
Of course, I don’t want to burn up my metaphorical boat, so I’d probably contain the flames of whatever I’m feeling. That being said, if I’m open to no longer resisting the current flow of God’s plan, then I’m going to have to turn down the heat.
You can throw your oar overboard, lament about your inability to change life’s current, you can relax and enjoy the ride, or you might have to fight the current when monsters try to knock you off course.
It isn’t easy to go with the current when things don’t go your way. Sometimes we misinterpret the water. We take risks that might put us off course or bring us closer to our next resting place.
After the last few weeks, I’ve been struggling to make space in my boat for hope. But have I thrown my oar out yet? Nope. I share about my pain and learned resilience as a lesson and personal reflection. Going with the flow means reveling in the journey as much as the destination.
I hope y’all enjoyed this week’s post! If you missed out on last week’s post about pain and the gifts of suffering, check it out here. If you don’t wanna miss out on stuff like this, sign up for email reminders (since Facebook seems to refuse to notify anyone).
There’s no such thing as life truly lived without pain. The world wounds us, and we hurt one another. Strangers and loved ones alike, we all share in suffering.
Different kinds of pain hit you differently. Most pains sit in your chest or your gut, but the way they feel differs. Some pains are heavy, long-lived, fleeting, or come in waves.
That loss can drain you down into a seemingly abyssal chasm. Betrayal snakes its way through your intestines, hooking itself behind your navel and resting there uneasily.
Heartaches and various rejections come and go in waves—their pangs of hurt swell in your chest, an unrelenting tide. Just when you feel as if the waves might break, the oncoming tide fills your heart until you’re fit to burst.
I find bearing the weight of suffering survivable. It’s not pleasant or easy but is livable. I find it a heavy burden, one I struggle to carry at times but must do to avoid falling under its crushing weight.
Adjusting to suffering’s no small thing. It takes a lot of time, silence, and intent to acquaint yourself with its weight.
With heartache, as with other sufferings, there’s a different kind of healing. You can’t build levees to hold the flood of hopes, dreams, and ideas you clung to.
Instead, you have to learn to weather the pain. Whether it’s high tide or monsoon season, it’s a matter of sink or swim. As my mom says, “You can always do nothing. Doing nothing is still doing something.” But doing nothing often means we drown. And I’m done pretending I can’t swim.
Working through pain can strengthen us. We can’t rush healing, or we risk not fully recovering from the hurt. And the kind of suffering determines how much or how long we need to recover.
My rational mind is impatient. It often rushes past sentiment and steamrolls my heart’s needs. I learned this soldier-on, grin-and-bear-it mentality from my father. Forcing ourselves through suffering isn’t always the solution.
The mind’s a fickle thing. Even now, I’m inundated with whorls and eddies of possibility, each as one-of-a-kind as fingerprints. Yet, I lament these perceived “opportunities” as undertows of impossibility. Ideas are dangerous, intoxicating things.
I stand by the value of a life fully lived with difficulty, effort, and suffering. And I stand by the belief that most things worth doing are rarely easy. Make sure you don’t confuse ease and simplicity. Sometimes, the simplest things in life are the most difficult.
I find difficulty arises most often in representations of pain. Adjacent to the effort, suffering (often but not always) indicates growth.
Over the years, I’ve transformed from an anxious, withdrawn bookworm into something else. I’ve been told I always had no problem expressing my opinions. For the most part, I believe this claim about my childhood self.
My best friend reflects fearlessness and strength, and courage even in our youth. It’s the first thing that drew me to her, this ability to be herself unapologetically. It was and is a source of inspiration to me. It’s the same innate reason I dared voice my opinions, despite my fears of rejection and judgment.
I remember holding back my thoughts, feelings, ideas—myself. I was so afraid my truths would hurt others or isolate me in their intensity.
Once upon a time, I used to fear the truth. As I aged and matured, I recognized the importance of sharing the truth with others. I learned to share truths there, only mine to share, becoming vault and confidant to peers and close friends.
Holding onto others’ truths bestowed a sense of power and entitlement. Fortunately, I took pleasure in simply knowing. As a result, I never intentionally betrayed another’s trust.
But knowing hidden truths is as dangerous as having ideas. You can learn things you never wanted to about yourself and others. Turning away is difficult, too, as it removes a sense of ownership or belonging.
And when you’re faced solely with truths of self, it’s the loneliest damned thing. So I came to learn the emptiness of withholding the truth. Yet my fullest appreciation of truth didn’t arrive until college.
My time in college wasn’t all it could’ve been in part from the mental health roller coaster ride I experienced. I discovered what depression and suicidality do to a person. I discovered the truth’s brutality.
Accepting I wasn’t okay and needed help hurt. A lot. It also brought on unanticipated relief, the kind only brought in discovering truth. Truth is brutal but is fair.
So I spent four years fighting an uphill battle. At times, I was alone. At other times, I had a friend or boy who loved me along for the ride.
But they never made it into the driver’s seat. With depression, it’s either you or the monster driving your life. On the best days, you’re doing the steering. On the worst, you crash.
Learning no one could bear the weight of my illness but me was terrifying and painful. It angered me, too, more than I’d ever been in my life.
I cursed a God who’d let me be so broken, one who gave me the conscience to know withholding truth was the best way to spare my loved ones’ pain. Part of me is glad I held back because supporting someone through depression is no walk in the park.
I lost more than one friend and ended a relationship while I was unwell. Knowing I spared my family that hurt brings minor solace. When I recognize how many times we could’ve loved one another, I regret not telling them.
Vale La Pena
After my anger dissipated, I started to experiencing gratitude. It wasn’t an overnight resolution. As peace gradually trickled in, I had the purest clarity. I saw the truth of my pain and realized its purpose.
In peace, I found the necessity of my suffering. The greatest gift my journey through depression gave is the utmost appreciation and gratitude for this brief, miraculous life.
I’ve discovered so much about humanity, my loved ones, my faith, and myself since wandering that lonely road. I can honestly say if I hadn’t walked that path, I’d be a shadow of the woman I am today.
Bearing this life takes a hideous strength, once accompanied by growing pains. But surviving that pain strengthens and invigorates the soul.
It makes us the best versions of ourselves, cutting away false security and idle comfort. It brings us closer to something higher than ourselves (if we let it). Pain teaches us things are worth doing because we’re growing—closer to truth and stronger in ways we’d never imagined.
This journey into the unknown has taught me the value of pain. The suffering and struggle are worth it. A friend recently told me, “Vale la pena,” which roughly means “worth the pain or sorrow; it’s worth it.”
It’s this same experience with pain that reminds me why I opened my heart to the unknown. Beginning to date, even allowing myself the option, was about so much more than “putting myself out there.” It was casting off old habits, beliefs, and comforts—an emergence to a willingly-accepted unknown.
I walk these crossroads, these paths of uncertainty, knowing I asked for it. I am exactly where I should be, even if I don’t know why or where that is. The things I’m learning and rediscovering alongside the growing pains bring me ever closer to the true path intended for my life.
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One of my biggest pet peeves is willful ignorance. People close themselves off to the truth, especially when it contradicts their preconceived perceptions. It’s a terrible habit we’ve all normalized to lull ourselves into false security. I’m no exception to this rule.
I deny the truth for security or self-protection too often. I don’t typically consider myself a close-minded person, but I’m the worst when it comes to my head and heart. Closing myself to the truth seems like a good idea sometimes.
Anyone who knows me personally wouldn’t argue my intensity, passion, or expressiveness. Rarer are those who recognize my tendency for deep introspection. My propensity for self-reflection often conflicts (and eventually resolves) and opposition between my head and heart.
Most often, my heart’s dragging its heels as my head leads the way. Occasionally, my heart grabs the reins and sends me on reckless adventures. When I’m feeling brave yet afraid, I’m usually open to my heart’s yearnings.
But other times, I guard my heart (and not necessarily in the best way). I overprotect myself, deny my feelings, and ignore God. And that’s no bueno.
I’ve been blogging a lot recently about vulnerability, courage, and bravery. But today, I wanted to address a special kind of strength I struggle with most. I wanted to talk about the power that lies in acceptance.
This conflict confuses the heck out of me, leaving me with one big question: WHY. And I have done so much to try and answer this question in my life. A lot of what I’ve done hasn’t helped but has hurt me (and others).
Responding to Uncertainty
Lately, dating has me all kinds of shook up. My endless internal conflict is only magnified as I fight the intoxication of my ideas. When I dream about “missed opportunities,” I miss the life in front of me.
Past me couldn’t stop this dangerous pastime of thought. I’d spiral out of control, wending my way through a labyrinth of pain and false hope. And it was a path I used to walk alone.
I fought acceptance at every turn, isolating myself. This pushed me further and further into a downward spiral. It made the truth stranger than fiction (and thus, easier to dismiss).
Healthier, stable me finally understands chronic vs. event-based mental health issues. And it’s made me a better human being. But knowing I’m an anxious mess makes me proactive.
Knowing proactivity is a good thing, I usually take action. The issue lies with taking the initiative when you need to sit back and listen. Taking a less traveled road to acceptance is still taking action.
I waver one minute from anxious to peaceful to hopeful resolution. The next minute, I’m hurting over fear, questions of self-worth, then struggling with acceptance. Sometimes, I’m in a rage and exhausted and want it all to stop.
My feelings about uncertainty put me out. When I’m only certain of my uncertainty, I itch for action. But not looking before you leap can land you in shark-infested waters.
I suck at waiting. And the path towards graceful, peaceful acceptance is an uphill battle. I get tired of climbing that muddy, uneven slope.
The upturned earth trips me, chips away at my resolve. Each step gets harder the closer I get to the top. I persevere, knowing that view is so worth it.
What slows that climb isn’t the earth I trod. It’s the weight I bear. It’s a weigh unborn by the likes of Atlas or Sisyphus. It’s a weight all women carry.
We, as women, were made for receptivity. We receive the phenomenal weight of life, no matter how we try to deny it. Our literal capacity for bearing life defines so much about our inherent strength.
To be a woman is to receive the weight of so much expectation. How we bear that weight and what we do with that strength is what defines us as individuals. It’s what makes or breaks a phenomenal woman.
In a world where femininity is thwarted by a culture prone to cancel the truth, the weight we bear increases evermore. It’s a two-way street, too. The more we have to accept, the more support we need from our male counterparts. Eventually, it’s too much to bear for anyone.
One of the truths of feminine genius is the crossroads of acceptance, vulnerability, courage, and strength. We don’t roll a boulder uphill until it hits the top. That’s the punishment of a purposeless man.
Those of us women who try to follow the same Sisyphean path are bound to the same fate-never reaching a proverbial top. And those of us who bear the world on our backs will bow and eventually break (just like any man).
And this is not our calling. We’re called to a grander ponderance, one of mobility and progress. We may never literally bear life (not all of us are privileged with this gift).
I spoke with a couple of girlfriends last weekend about our calling to receptivity. And I boldly claim, “I can’t befriend someone who’s not open to life’s possibilities.”
And I stand by this claim. If you’re not courageously vulnerable to life’s uncertainty or can’t accept you won’t always understand or have clarity, then you’ll never fully live. The beauty of acceptance is its simplicity.
Earlier this week, our morning formation struck a particularly relevant chord. I hated how true it was. The relevance was providential, as the apostolic letter came out last December. Here’s what hit home the most,
…Set aside all anger and disappointment…and embrace the way things are, even when they do not turn out as we wish. Not with mere resignation but with hope and courage. In this way, we become open to a deeper meaning.
There’s nothing overly original about these words, but their context shed new light on uncertainty. My ongoing and historic struggle for clarity and forced resolution revealed something. The desperate pursuit of truth distorts the objective truth.
Despair, often fueled by fear and faithlessness, reveals weakness and doubt. If you chase down answers, you blind yourself to other possibilities. One of the joys in faith is a revelation of something already before you in essence; it’s a mere perspective shift.
Understanding the toll desperation takes creates a space for hope and patience in your heart. This space is vital, especially for pondering tough stuff like suffering, trauma, and old hurts. The only way out is through. Otherwise, you get stuck rolling a boulder up a hill for a proverbial eternity.
At the Crossroads
I find myself in a place of uncertainty pretty often. But I know that being amid possibility and potential is a rare place to be. That up-in-the-air feeling permeates my very fiber, thrilling me to the core.
The thrill invigorates me, pulling taut the muscles of my patience and preparation. The courage needed to open myself to this thrill comes from hope, not strength. The thing that takes the most strength is acceptance.
Bearing a weight, considering a burden, being a woman necessitates ponderance. Ponderance means weight, importance, a thing of consequence. It’s the intention behind acceptance that requires strength.
When you take desperate action, you ignore the weight of a thing. And avoiding ponderance leaves you clawing for a “why” you might never get. That’s a dangerous thing in any part of life, especially with love.
Opening my heart to dating to another kind of crossroads brings memory lane into view. Some things come back I’d tucked away or artfully forgotten. And working through those things without regretful dwelling is hard.
I used to think love was a waiting game, something I needed to bide my time for until it came along. But I was so very wrong. Love is no waiting game, but vulnerably living, brave yet afraid.
Suppose you’re not full of self-doubt. I applaud your superhuman ability to forgive yourself and accept yourself as who you are.
Usually, it’s a particular person (or series of similar persons) we allow to hold back our growth. Much of our time is spent resenting exes or never moving on, maybe trying to win them back.
Meanwhile, said exes are moving on and growing up. They’ve chosen to let the past be in the past. It’s not necessarily apathy as much as having outgrown past relationships. Ideally, this doesn’t mean cutting all ties, but that is now all too often the case.
Until a few weeks ago, I’d chosen not todate. What began as yearlong abstinence from dating eventually became three years.
After two relationships ended back to back, I needed some me-time. As a wise friend put it, “Concentrate on you, girl. In a correct, positive, nourishing sense. Not the silly, modern selfish sense.” And that’s precisely what I’ve been doing.
Three years ago, my mom and I spoke about the difficulty of growing up. As she accurately put it, “You’ve been in a holding pattern ever since you got out of college and came home.” There was no disagreeing with her then.
Now, I have space and desire to grow. When I graduated from college, I was so set on forcing the things I wanted to happen. Instead of preparing myself for what I wanted, I “waited” with impatience and resignation.
Impatience reflects reactivity; patience reflects proactivity. One comes with clear, targeted goals, the other with muddled feelings of frustration and resentment. It requires more strength to accept where you are instead of forcing change.
I speak of strength, for I am a willful woman. Too often have I attempted to force fate’s hand. It began in my eighteenth year, before one of my more significant life changes.
I was in a two-year relationship, and all I could think of was its end. I feared what parting ways meant or what a burden another year of long-distance dating would be without any declared intent. I was selfish and afraid, so I forced change.
This began a series of forced changes, some in the ending of relationships or trying to initiate them. I’ve learned since then that turning the wrong way down a one-way street puts you in a world of hurt. At best, you’re in for an awkward turnaround. At worst, you get wrecked.
During the paths of growth I wandered while single, I set some new rules for myself. Considering my past willfulness and frustration in the realms of romance, these rules are necessary for many parts of my life, especially dating.
Let the Chase Happen, But Don’t Wait
Men are supposed to take the lead for a reason. It’s only natural for men to be the ones to seek a woman’s attention. Every other mating species on this planet has some ritual. The males prance, dance, engineer, or coerce (yikes) to seduce a mate. Of course, their mating is a 9.5/10 about genetic propagation.
So why are men any different? Despite cultural adjustments or gender revolutions, men are still proposing marriage, and women still have to say yes. What’s the difference between a man asking a woman out on a date?
So much of modern dating involves inorganic interaction. The removal of that face-to-face pressure also removes any impetus for men to be truly masculine.
The responsibility for initiation becomes a question when it’s not supposed to be. If you match, swipe, select, et cetera on someone, who’s supposed to message first?
Some dating sites and apps are engineered to give women the first choice. As much as I’ve appreciated this in the past, it’s entirely uncharted territory. Too often, forward women have a higher agenda than men lacking initiative or in need of organic encouragement (i.e., higher stakes with other men around, potential friends serving as a wingman).
That’s why I’m not dating like I used to. I’m letting men do their thing, as they’re supposed to. Despite any mutual feelings I may share with some, it’s not on me to have the cajones and initiate. Too long have I been the one deciding how things should be, and it’s exhausting.
This is my whole new world. It’s going to take some getting used to, certainly. Impatience has been my holding pattern for so long. I’ve finally realized that patience requires clarity of purpose, firm intent, and cultivated willpower. I’ll get there eventually, and when I do, it’ll be life-changing.
Thanks for bearing with me as you read about my journey through love, dating, and life in general. I hope my stories help you in some small way. If you’re a big fan of my stuff, sign up for email reminders or follow me on Facebook to get notified about my latest posts.
I think about what my name means a lot. Amanda means “lovable” or “worthy of love.” There’s a lot of power in a name, even if we don’t immediately recognize it.
Plenty of people love me. And I firmly believe that I’m a loveable person. Not everyone has the pleasure and privilege to know and feel this about themselves.
But I want to clarify something: Lovability is only synonymous with the worthiness of love. Being worthy of love is on the beholder as much as self-perception. And I don’t always feel I’m worthy of love, despite my lovability.
Yeah, we all struggle with feelings of self-worth. I’m not putting myself on a singular pedestal of doubt and fear. It’s more the existential irony for me.
See, I was supposed to be named after my great-grandma Ada. Out of fear of lifelong teasing, my parents chose Amanda instead. And I’m okay with the name, but it sets me (a word-nerd extraordinaire) up for some weighty introspection.
Like, can I live up to my name? People affirm my lovability all the time, but dating certainly has me wondering this. This journey I started a month ago has put a lens on things I had sorted. I’m reminded of things I’d thought once resolved.
This process of opening my heart to strangers is scary and exciting and new and old. It’s so many things, most of all, overwhelming.
I’m forced to think on parts of myself I’d rather neglect, but it helps put how I see myself in perspective. I recently had a new friend tell me he only wanted to explore friendship further. And that soft rejection hurt more than I realized.
It’s not that I’ve never been friendzoned before, but I think I’d see it coming historically. Whether I’m blind to something I need to improve or learn to stay more open, it was a learning opportunity. Now, I know how cliche that sounds, but it’s the truth.
Old me, unhealthy, mentally unstable me, would’ve seen it as a rejection of me entirely. And I know for sure that’s not the case.
Receiving this new friend’s boundary opened old wounds. I’ve had men use me for my beauty and then friendzone me (that hurts far more than any boundary setting).
I gave myself a break from dating to learn, process, and refocus my energies. I’m even likely to entertain friendship with this new friend (despite my lady friends’ objections about my worth). I think it’s essential to keep good people in your life.
One of the most significant gifts in this new trial of mine is my friends. I leaned on my girlfriends heavily for their insight, but I could also turn to my little brother for his direct, blunt honesty.
Finding Love in Friendship
I am beyond blessed with all of the fiercely fantastic souls in my life. These connections are born out of charity and mutual interest.
We put up with one another’s quirks and flaws out of love. We remind one another of our best traits when we forget just how priceless our souls are.
Charity is not just giving but sacrifice. It comes from the Latin caritas and relates to a love of humanity. It has a more complex connotation, depending on its context.
It takes charity to maintain a friendship in the best and worst of times. Sometimes it’s challenging to remind our friends of how great they are. It might be tiresome to hear them rag on themselves over and over.
When you objectively know that the garbage of self-loathing they spew isn’t true, I don’t have to imagine how much love and patience it takes to weather the storm of their nonsense.
Maybe you’re waiting for a friend to get their life together. They’re dating someone, and the relationship is going nowhere. Or, they’re stuck in a job they could leave, but they choose not to; I’ve been there before.
Telling your friend what to do is not a good idea. Usually, it breeds resentment or provides an opportunity to misplace blame when their poor choices catch up with them. Providing unsolicited aid in a friendship is an excellent way to end said friendship. Sometimes, maintaining charity means having the grace to hold your tongue and let them screw up.
Manifesting the grace to maintain charity requires courage and strength. The best example I can think of is breaking up with someone and still be friends afterward. It takes all kinds of guts to do that.
When you’re in a tighter-knit social circle, there’s no avoiding exes, either. The actual initiation of said breakup takes strength and tact, which mark a real man or woman of character. I respect any individual with the power of the heart to do this.
And, if they manage any level of friendship afterward, kudos to both of them. The charity with breaking up with someone comes from wisdom.
It means knowing yourself enough to end a relationship. It means having the love for another to stop using each other purposelessly. It’s a thankless task for most, but not always. When done right, friendship is possible afterward.
A Ghost of a Christmas Past
I was leaving a holiday party. Although I left well after midnight, the party was still going strong. Even though I’m introverted, I never leave a party unless it’s for a good reason. Those reasons include:
wanting alone time with someone, out of concern or romantic interest;
already having other plans;
getting struck with a bout of social anxiety;
overthinking and overdrinking;
and being too much in my head or feelings.
Notice how work or being tired didn’t make the list of “good reasons.” If I can, I’ll crash on a friend’s couch. So far in my life, couchsurfing indicates a good night (in the past, it did; that’s not the case anymore).
If I work, a lack of sleep certainly won’t stop me from spending time with friends. As my grandma says, “You can sleep when you’re dead.” My response and latest motto are, “I’m not dead yet.”
Why I left early: sadly, it was a case of sensitivity. I was seriously beginning to miss my brother (at the time, he was deployed overseas). I inadvertently discovered my exclusion from an event I wished to participate in. Between the saudade, I felt for my brother, my presumed exclusion, sleep deprivation, and my girlfriends’ departure, I was not in a party mood.
Amidst the festivities, a friend of mine noticed my silence. Seeing as I had no cigar or whiskey in hand and was mute during a debate on superheroes’ validity, his concern was valid.
Silence is not something I’m well acquainted with uncomfortable with today. Considering the circumstances, it was uncharacteristic. I acknowledged my friend’s concern.
Due to the number of people present, I was uncomfortable being too candid. I shared something about missing my brother, which seemed to satisfy my friend.
While determining how much more socializing I could tolerate, I found myself momentarily distracted by unknown people. As the night wore on, I realized I needed to take my leave.
Following my friend out the door-a useful social tactic when people might wonder why you’re leaving early-I realized we hadn’t said goodbye.
I called out to him, really feeling the need for acknowledgment, “Are you going to leave without saying goodbye?” Fortunately for my feelings, he made his way back for a proper exit.
I guess he could tell I was still upset and inquired about it. I can’t always determine my face’s expressiveness, but as often as I curse being an open book, I was grateful in this moment.
I finally removed the mask of bravado I’d donned that night, sharing how I often wore it to force myself out of fear. I confessed my omnipresent anxiety, despite my pretense of confidence. I ran out of words, cognizant of my vulnerability.
Part of my motive for this confession was that I knew he’d understand. Despite his calm demeanor, I suspected how anxious he truly was. Based on our friendship so far, it was reasonably apparent he couldn’t sit still at parties.
He always needed something to do, to keep himself occupied and distracted from impending self-doubt and fear of social buffoonery. I often found him tucked away in quieter corners of parties, usually conversing with someone he already knew. I even concluded that smoking was for him what drinking was for me-keeping oneself busy to avoid anxiety.
His response surprised me. He acknowledged the use of masks, admitting they didn’t always matter. “Sometimes people are just bitches,” he said.
He reminded me of my already amazing friends and not to give a shit about others’ judgment. I thanked him for his kindness, then looked at him to gauge how my openness was received. It felt as if he had more to add, as always. Instead, he said, “Let’s keep in touch. We should keep in touch.”
How We Talk to Each Other
Keeping in touch stayed with me past that conversation. After processing my vulnerability, I found myself inspired to share the above story. I wanted others to see how a little courage goes a long way.
My friend’s parting words also made me think of how we all keep in touch nowadays. I pondered modes of communication. How we choose to contact people matters.
Texting is functional, efficient, and convenient when communicating basic needs, time, location, and quick jokes with friends and family. It is not for long conversations, time-sensitive topics, or serious emotional matters.
It’s not for dating. If you are online dating and don’t feel comfortable exchanging numbers for an actual phone conversation, you might not be ready to date. Of course, everyone’s standards of ‘acceptable’ vary, but generally speaking, asking someone on a date over text is juvenile.
On the other hand, there are more beneficial forms of virtual communication. Take families that live far apart for various reasons. Soldiers celebrating holidays overseas can now do this with their families via video chat. Talk about modern miracles! If you’re in any long-distance relationship, it’s vital.
Most of our communication occurs through body language, so face to face is preferable. The next time you find you’re ‘not getting’ a joke or merely misunderstanding, check what you missed.
Was it eye contact? Did you tune out of the conversation? Or was it the mode of communication you chose?
Either way, keeping in touch is necessary for humanity. When we lose touch with ourselves, loved ones, culture, and faith, we lose our humanity.
We can touch others with more than verbal communication. Body language naturally accompanies our dialogue. Intentional eye contact is a powerful tool in every aspect of life. Not all of us are easy to read, unlike me, so eye contact aids in understanding someone’s intent.
With 55% of our communication reliant on facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, postures, and other nonverbal cues, it’s no wonder eyes are the window or door to the soul.
Your pupils dilate in response to excitement, fear, attraction, or arousal. This doesn’t include the color change in eyes also due to an emotional response. Pigments in your iris expand or contract with pupil size change, altering the eye’s color temporarily.
Eyesight aside, there’s also art. I think creativity, in general, keeps us in touch with each other and our Creator. I’ve previously pondered creation before as I likely will in the future. Until then, use your humanity to connect with others. Create something that keeps us in touch with our immortal selves.
Thanks again for sharing in the story of my life as the beautiful wonderful audience member you are. Stories matter only when they’re shared, and I hope mine hit home with you. To make sure you don’t miss a blog post, follow me on Facebook or sign up for email reminders.
Years ago, I wrote a poem titled “Bone China” about the frailty of assumption. I often experience people assuming things about me from a first impression, as do most of us.
How accurate are others’ first impressions of you? Usually, people find their assumptions of me lacking. It’s not the ignorance I enjoy, but the space between ignorance and learning the truth.
I’m a bit of a social chameleon. I learned this skill as an introvert’s survival tactic. It’s recently been useful in hostile work environs, too.
Blending in with scenery seems ideal when the notion of mere conversation stresses you out. Self-camouflage makes you appear less threatening to those individuals fearful of your firm will and more potent opinions. If you find yourself blending in out of fear of standing out, that’s another problem entirely.
Although I’ve recently learned the value of shutting up and putting up, as well as the benefit of intentional silence, concern for how you “should” be, is not a valid reason to silence yourself.
The immature need to fit in is a severe problem in this day and age. So many of us let fear hold us back. We stress the fabric of our realities by trying to match assumptions of how we should be.
The problem with blending in too much is you make yourself disappear. Worse still, you might forget yourself. Consider where you already are and how those in your life work with or against you.
For example, my strong opinions are only a problem when disconnected from logic and compassion. When I forget, I have honest friends who remind me to forgive and forget. I’ve also found a productive way to channel my passionate spirit in written words.
It’s not exactly how I want things to be, but I’m no longer straining myself to fit into an assumed version of my life, nor am I forcing myself or others into unnatural change. It’s amusing how our assumptions of reality overlook the impermanence of most situations.
The more we assume the world’s out to get us, blame external sources for our problems or indulge our self-centeredness, the more we pull on the ties that bind. These ties are those things that, when pieced together, form the pattern for our lives.
The struggle to meet persistent assumptions pulls at the woven threads of your reality. The dimensions of your world involve various threads: relationships, goals, values, basic needs, and so on. Each dimension may contain multiple threads, making it stronger and more integral to your life.
Others may be less plentiful but vital, decreasing the overall strain these threads can bear. These dimensions may fray if pulled on too often (i.e., you expect too much from a loved one).
The beauty of a broken thread is that it can be retied. It can be rewoven into the fabric of your reality. Another important thing: it can’t be erased.
The knot of the broken thread will always be there as a reminder. You can’t cut yourself off from certain parts of your life without consequences. It’s an important thing, not trying to forget something on purpose.
Fitting in too much strips the dye from threads. It slowly tugs at frayed edges and worries over previously tied knots. Fitting in for the sake of fitting in will unravel the pattern God made for you.
Tying knots, adding new threads, and maintaining the fabric of your life are transformative experiences. Secure your loose ends by living out the divine, grand design you’re a part of.
Leaving the Nest: A Story About Growing Up
Two years ago, I did the first adult thing I’ve done in a while: I signed my lease for my place.
In undergrad, I lived on campus all four years. Free room and board are some of the financial incentives for working as a community advisor.
When I graduated college, I moved back home with my parents. I needed to figure out where I was headed next and had no money to do this with.
If I were a butterfly, I’d still be in my cocoon as liquid mush. I’d be an undeveloped liquefied version of myself. Instead, I’m more like a bird. Sometimes.
My parents have spoiled me for the entirety of my life. They’ve bailed me out when they shouldn’t have and have been there for me when they certainly didn’t need to be.
It’s been mainly out of love and the desire for me to have what they believe I deserve. Most of our parents think this way, in some fashion. It’s how they act that’s critical.
Some parents don’t want us to leave their nests. They smother us with constant hovering and need to overprotect us from life’s harsh realities. We’re flightless birds in a downy world when not given a chance to fall.
My parents aren’t overly concerned, so I’ve been able to make my fair share of mistakes. They’ve provided more than their fair share of support and patience, which I’ll probably never fully repay. That doesn’t mean I won’t try, thus my transformation.
As to why I’m a butterfly (for this story) and not a bird: This latest transition was much less severe than a bird’s first flight.
Although the personal importance merits this same level of natural drama, I prefer the mariposa metaphor instead. My muse, also my roommate, signed the lease with me today. She mentioned these creatures’ migratory patterns; thus, their mental pertinence over previously flocked to avian analogies.
She mentioned the movements of monarch butterflies and their unchanged journeys, even after millennia. Their flight paths must be genetically encoded to remember key details, such as fallen mountains from ages past.
They merely divert westwards around where the landform used to be, despite its current nonexistence. This way, I like to think of myself, following those independent fliers’ patterns before me, pioneering a path predetermined, yet-still-changing.
I could go another way with this, of course. I could talk about the problems of never changing course and the inherent boredom which accentuates this in-the-box thinking. When it’s programming over prerogative, you need another comparison.
Birds might be a better fit, then. I’m still sticking with the butterflies because of their beautiful struggle. I’ll take blobby, amorphous me who’s still herself–forming and yet to emerge–before a flightless tragedy with clipped possibilities.
Today, two years later, I continue to regally champion my inner growth like a true monarch. The progress I’ve made on my migration has led to season after season of transformation. And I’m (more or less) getting used to being a blob in a chrysalis and then a winged creature the next.
Finding Strength in Vulnerability
Even though I’m on some metamorphic journey, there’s not predestined or genetically coded flight path for me (or anyone).
You can’t predict the sharp twists and turns of life, so you gotta keep yourself open to anything and everything. Growing into something strong means taking risks.
Most of my struggles come from within my head and heart. I’m blessed and cursed in that it makes people think I’m stronger than I feel. I often struggle to balance this assumed strength with my weaknesses.
I’ve called weaknesses demons, shadows, and other poetic obscurities. These are just metaphors for depression, shame, anxiety, and other mental health problems.
Open yourself up to the fact that you’re a flawed human being. Those flaws don’t necessarily define you, but they limit you if you’re closed to the truth of their existence. This openness is key to strengthening ourselves from within.
Strengthening my heart is essential for who I am. I took a hiatus after burning myself out last year. I was at a point where I called into question my innate gifts and vocation.
I’ve always had empathy and compassion within but wondering if my heart was strong enough to bear counsel was a sign. It was a sign I needed to work out the pains in my soul.
I’ve learned to be open. Do something that makes you want to get up every day. I find making things is the best way for me to connect with
Make something that helps you feel life’s energy. Creation is one of the most human and divine things you can do. Useyour past as the canvas, plot twist, drumbeat, punchline of your next creation.
Uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure are critical for vulnerability. I’ve reflected spiritually on my need to embrace uncertainty and how much fear of uncertainty has limited me. Cursing the future and the unknown is only a waste of time and energy.
Your energy is better spent on greater risks for even greater rewards, knowing that the risks you take will bring you the unexpected. Wearing your heart upon your sleeve (i.e., emotional exposure) is one of the greatest risks you can take a few people will ever appreciate it to its fullest.
Some will gratefully embrace your love and return it in kind, but you’ll never meet them if you don’t expose yourself emotionally.
Openness isn’t roadkill for vultures. It’s not open season for gossip-mongers. Openness isn’t an excuse to dump your baggage onto others and overwhelm them. Openness shouldn’t be used as a smokescreen.
You get to pick and choose what you are and aren’t open about. I’m not advocating oversharing; don’t do that. Some things need time to bloom in your heart before you put them on display.
You can’t choose only to be open about the things you feel comfortable sharing. If you expect people to trust your sincerity and authenticity, you’ve got to be genuine with them. Don’t share only what’s easy, but what is meaningful.
Pour out your heart to a trustworthy friend. Be humble and ask for help. Otherwise, you might find the net only becomes more tangled the more you struggle.
What Does It Mean to Be Brave?
So often, people assume bravery and courage mean the same thing. And they don’t. Synonymous doesn’t translate to exact likeness but similarity.
The same applies to bravery and courage. I think one is more about action, while the other is more about feeling. I believe acts of bravery are sourced from the movements of courage within the heart.
I love to look at the etymological denotations of words and see how they’ve changed in interpretation and application over time.
Take bravery, which comes from the Latin barbarus, and translates to foreign or strange. Yet, bravery is defined as “courageous behavior or character” in a modern context.
When you read barbarus, the next word that comes to mind is barbarian, which historically has been the label of the ‘other’ or ‘uncivilized peoples’ or ‘invaders.’
(Maybe that’s why people like Braveheart so much. The crazy, uncivilized, barbaric Scotsman who saves the day, despite the incredible odds he faces. He has a brave heart, full of courage.)
Now, courage translates from the Latin cor or “heart.” This complicated organ has whole novels inspired by it.
I think the feelings within William Wallace’s heart accurately represent the modern definitions of courage as “the ability to do something that frightens one” and “strength in the face of pain or grief.”
If you can stare yourself in the face, despite the gnawing ache at your core, that’s bravery. The question is: can you face your pain or grief and muster the strength to overcome it?
I can’t say I’ve always felt like a brave person. I’ve felt like I’m chasing who I’m supposed to be for much of my life. I wasn’t courageous at heart and thus didn’t act bravely. I was no Merida or William Wallace.
I was the nervous, anxious little bookworm who read about others’ adventures. I don’t remember being outspoken, as much as bossy, critical, and controlling.
I’ll tell you what: Bravery doesn’t have time for control freaks. In my experience as a former perfectionist, feeling the need to control everything just means you’re afraid of everything you can’t control.
A Personal Resolution: An Anecdote on Maturity
Reality check: that’s life. On my thirteenth birthday, I resolved to act my age. I wanted to feel like a kid. I was sick of being told I was so mature for my age.
Maturity in middle school meant you weren’t cool or made friends with people who acted your age. Thank God for the great friends I had who had no problem with my seriousness.
After I made this personal resolution, life was much more enjoyable. I felt less and less like I was chasing who I was supposed to be. No longer was I chasing a mystical idea of how I should be, but letting God and my soul show me the way.
There are those who say fate is something beyond our command. That destiny is not our own, but I know better. Our fate lives within us; you only have to be brave enough to see it.
As another brave Scot so aptly puts it, our fate lives within us. I finally began to feel, believe, and know this concept in high school and college.
My teenage friends saw me as this bold, bubbly, spontaneous girl who could light up a room effortlessly. I still was afraid all the time: of being alone, of embarrassing myself, of being myself, of doing the ‘right’ thing, of fitting in.
Adolescence is all about succumbing or overcoming your fears. And I did a little bit of both.
I began to understand the taste of feet somewhere in my freshman year when I told a boy I didn’t like. Now, that might be impressive enough as a fourteen-year-old, but there’s more.
I waited until the end of the school day when everyone was at their lockers in the freshman hall. I walked up to this boy, as he sat amongst his friends, and declared loudly, stupidly, shamelessly, and fearlessly, “I don’t like you,____.”
Mind you, I exclaimed this amidst his friends and within earshot of the several others. I’ve always had a voice that carries and did my voice ring out in the busy freshman hall that day.
Some might call this bravery, although I call it stupidity. But that’s okay. Growing pains are as much metaphorical as literal, and I’ve since learned not to be this publically ‘courageous’ with such juvenile matters.
Now, I can say I feel like a brave person. Anecdotal example aside, I’ve overcome much more since then. There are far too many examples in the years since this story.
I know now that one of the hardest things to do, especially as an adult, is to face yourself. That includes facing your mistakes, flaws, and so forth. That means sucking it up, buttercup, and persevering.
I feel brave because, in my heart of hearts, at my core, I feel courageous. The love of my people empowers me. The knowledge of my inherent worth lifts me.
I am alight with Christ’s light. I am free to send my demons back to hell from whence they came.
I’ve always known myself to be quite sensitive. I get in my feelings and my head-usually thinking about my feelings.
I enjoy introspection to some extent, as it provides wisdom and clarity when I forget myself. I found myself forgetting who I was, what I was worth, what I was capable of, and who I could be an awful lot during the last year.
And then I spent 60 days reminding myself that I deserve love. I wrote myself 40 love letters during some of the toughest times I’ve had since college. I might share those letters someday if I ever feel so inclined.
(I’ll eventually open them up when I need them most. Who knows when that’ll be?)
In the course of reminding myself how I deserve love, I got in touch with my feelings again. As an admittedly reactive person, losing touch with my emotions is synonymous with losing touch with myself.
That’s never any good for anyone, especially as my feelings are my way of connecting with the world. I wear my heart upon my sleeve, but I can’t do so when it’s obscured by fear and doubt. Disconnecting from feeling means disconnecting from people, specifically my intuition.
Think of a scholar without books, an orator without an audience; a dancer without music; a writer without a pen. My emotionality (i.e., empathy, intuition) is inherent to my being. I’d rather lose my mind or my sight before I lost the ability to feel.
I’ve lived in periods of numbness and isolation. I’ve even walled myself off from my heart when I was afraid of feeling too much.
Walling off my heart occurred in moments when the darkness and demons crowded in. They put the world in grayscale. They take my appetite. The air hangs, dead and empty. Sounds merely distract from the buzzing numbness within.
I’m doing what I can to not let this raw power of emotionality burn through me. As I’ve said before, empathy is my cross to bear.
Giving too much is my saving grace and what kills me, too. I’ve learned not to let as much get to me. I’ve had many strong, wise friends teach me how to dampen the outside noise to survive.
The hardest part is embracing this major part of me, with all its good and bad aspects. But I have the strength of heart (i.e., courage) to brave the demons which feast on my open heart. I have the power to soldier on.
I have the wisdom and humility to ask for help when I need it. I know this: I’m figuring it out, just as much as the next person. I will stumble, and fall, and get back up. I’m a lot to handle, and I have a whole lot of love to give.
I hope this week’s post helps you in some way. Thank you so much for following my blog and reading my stories. If you’re not already signed up, you’re missing out. You can find me on Facebook or get notifications via email.
How many times in your life have you felt on the cusp of greatness? Your whole person vibrating with possibility and potential energy, you seek a path to channel it. But how do you pick the right path? And what’s your motivation for choosing it?
If your goal to ‘work on you’ is only about yourself, why bother? Why let this finite world set the boundaries for any path you take when so many of the lost souls in it are limited by temporary, selfish definitions of success, purpose, and happiness?
All that potential is wasted if you focus on meanings by the minute, the YOLO, do-what-you-want-when-you-want consequences be damned mentality. We’re made for this world and the next, and only living for the moment means you never live that moment.
Manifesting your destiny like some entitled old-world empire wastes that potential energy. It’s limited to your fair-weather feelings and fleeting interests. And, it’s already been done before by everyone else.
Being like everyone else is overrated, not for originality’s sake, but for taking every second as a gift. This world is too big and too small to waste the potential of a single human soul. So what’re you doing to make the most of every moment you’ve got?
Sometimes, I see the world as one extensive library full of all our stories. The stories we tell ourselves and each other about how things are and were and could be. I imagine past and future moments of people’s lives based on the tropes and traits and things characteristic to their souls.
And most of the time, I get these things right. I trust in my gut, my graces, and my gifts to get it right. The problem is that not all stories are told yet. There are those we’re all living out each minute and day, but they don’t often match the ideas we have.
I think back to the unreliable narrator and how much trust we put in storytellers and authors, and others to tell the truth. But that’s the thing with being unreliable; you can’t expect it to work out the way you planned. I often find myself narrating how my life is, compared to a parallel fiction in my mind. And I’ve finally realized that I can’t tell my own story and star in it as the protagonist.
Sure, I’m living out my story actively, but that doesn’t mean I’m the one to tell it. It’s not that I expect someone else to tell it better than me, but I wouldn’t trust myself to tell my own story more than anyone else.
Instead, I try to live a brand new page every day—all parts of the same story, but with blank space to start over or continue. I trust in the God who made the paper I write my life but and the blood I spill on every page when I genuinely love and live the way He intended.
The French term for a bookworm is buveur d’encre which means drinker of ink. I once equated ink to my lifeblood, and for numerous reasons, find this ever more true. So if I’m an ink drinker, and my blood is ink, and each day is a new page to write, each person being a story or a book of stories starts to make a lot more sense.
Think even on the Christian concept of Christ being the incarnation of the Living Word. This isn’t an empty metaphor, but a reference to the grand author of us all-God.
So drinking in the ink of others’ lives (not like a vampire, thanks very much) is a bit like participating in the greatest story ever told-that of humanity and our struggle to find our place in this world. We try so hard to define our lives with singular moments and fleeting feeling, but we’re so shortsighted.
I started reading “On the Shortness of Life” by Seneca, a Stoic philosopher. One particular phrase stood out to me,
Learning how to live takes a whole life, and, which may surprise you more, it takes a whole life to learn how to die.
And the wisdom of a man who came before Christ and the concept of eternal salvation struck me. This thing we do, trying to live, isn’t about us at all. It’s about each other.
It’s about us being parts of each others’ lives and being the best damned people we can be-not for ourselves, but for those we live alongside. Living only for ourselves isn’t living at all, but mere existing.
Part of my need to live one page at a time is because of the thousand little moments we can so easily overlook. I’ve started visualizing ten moments of each day when I’m in bed. It’s to help prevent ruminating, while also inspiring gratitude for those tiny bits that comprise our every day.
Time for a Plot Twist
Recently, I started dating again for the first time in three years. That may not seem like a big deal, but for someone who dated from age 16 to 23, it’s a big gap. I’m not saying I never caught feelings or had thoughts about men in that time, but I didn’t do anything about them.
For those of you know me at all, not taking initiative seems counterintuitive. And for the most part, you’re right. But when it comes to dating, I figured out that almost every man needs to take that first step on his won.
When a woman leads the way from the beginning, the man always expects her to. This was my experience, at least. And I wanted to date the right way for me, which involved letting men set the pace.
So I have, and when I realized my present community offered limited options and I started to feel “socially claustrophobic” as a friend put it, I was open to change. I’ve been open to change conceptually for some time, but opening my heart is a whole other thing.
In opening myself up to the dating world again, I took a risk. But I did so out of a need to feel things I’d put up on a proverbial shelf in my self. And those same things were collecting dust-that of neglect and forgetting.
Some friends and I all signed up for a dating app together a couple weeks ago now. And in those two weeks, a lot has happened. We’ve all got different paths to take on this crazy journey, because each of us wants and needs different things.
One of my friends is trying, even though she doesn’t want to at all. Another is excited but nervous because she’s afraid of finding something real. Another is “bored” or hesitant to really give things a shot out of some kind of fear of isolation or rejection.
And I’m over here, the one who was like, “Guys, let’s do this dumb crazy thing. It could be funny or awesome or we could all end up happy. We said this was gonna be the year, so let’s actually put ourselves out there.” And now, part of me regrets being so gung ho.
At the same time, I’m ecstatic. I’m truly hopeful for the possibilities of putting myself out there again. Knowing I’m doing things the right way makes me feel closer to normal than I have in a long time.
When life’s events wound you, self-inflicted or not, it’s hard to believe in the small things like butterflies in your stomach and the goodness of a simple conversation. My scars may have healed, but they’ll always be part of my story.
The more pages I turn in this story of mine, the more ink I put between me and my past. It’s not a running away, but an artful forgetting of those things that once deeply wounded me. I used to fear hoping, but for the first time in a long time, I don’t.
Dating is not some magic cure-all, though. God made me an anxious soul, and dating puts a lens on me in a way close friendship doesn’t. It’s exciting sharing myself with new people legitimately interested in me, but it’s also daunting.
I’m not worried about being weird or awkward (I’m the queen of that). It’s letting someone else (esp. a man) set the pace, when so many men have let me down before. But it’s also the faith in God putting the right man in my path for something I’ve been afraid to hope for in some time.
Hoping demands faith. My faith in myself, my God, and humanity has wavered in the past. But now, I finally stand on terra firma, ready to be lead on new adventures each day.
There’s no rush on getting to know someone. There’s joy in this journey, even with its trials and tribulations. The journey makes whatever destination worthwhile. And sometimes, that destination is life-changing, too.
Overcoming my anxieties about vulnerability means surrender. I’m a willful, brash soul so offering this up is not easy. But I’m a firm believer that most easy things in life aren’t worth doing, so I’m going to try my best to learn from this next arc of my story. I’m ready to embrace whatever plot twists God throws at me, no matter how scary they seem.
As always, thanks so much for reading! I hope sharing my stories leaves you with a five-course meal of thought. Follow me on Facebook or sign up for email notices so you don’t miss my next post!
It’s hard to remember, no matter our stage of life. We often forget things vital to us but create routines and habits to train ourselves to remember. Think of the stereotypical couple: it’s some important anniversary date, and someone’s forgotten.
You likely assumed it was one person or the other in the couple. Most people would think it was the man, but your own experience of being forgotten paints a personal portrait. I find myself forgotten, or at least feeling that way, the older I get.
It’s funny, because of the people I know who love me. Whether they show it or say it, or better still, do both, I know I’m loved. So why do I not feel important to people who love me? I’m left wondering if it’s a question of ego and pride.
After a couple of days’ reflection and introspection, I’d say it’s all about ego. Me feeling neglected or abandoned is a projection of my issues. And if I ever needed a reminder, the last few days’ events have genuinely shown the kindness and generosity of my community.
The Importance of Forgetting (And Being Forgotten)
I think one of the best and worst things we do is forgetting. It depends on why we forget; the why defines the artfulness. I want to start with forgetting myself, first of all.
I like forgetting myself sometimes. I think it’s why I like drinking and why I like to spend time with people who make me forget myself. Sometimes, it’s new people with new stories. Novelty is an excellent way for one to forget one’s self. I need to not remember who I am sometimes. It’s not that I don’t love myself, but getting out of my labyrinthine mind is best for everyone.
There’s too much going on inside my cluttered head for me not to need to forget. Sometimes, it’s my only break from regular internal disorders and anxious disarray.
There’s an art to forgetting because it’s not just about ourselves. It’s about everyone in our lives, too. If we can misplace old sins, hurts, and regrets, we’re seemingly reborn. And there’s something remarkable and priceless about that.
I think we need to misplace our faults and failings on occasion. Permanent forgetting (i.e., amnesia) isn’t an ideal pursuit. If we use forgetting as an escape, it’s a mockery of the art’s form. The art of the thing lies in the space of one breath to the next. It’s an effortless, seamless, organic thing-a thing when forced is no longer artful.
And forgiveness is something we all need and deserve to become our better selves-and to become higher versions of who we already are.
There’s a grace to forgetting, too. Perfect recollection may offer its gifts, but it would also come with many curses. We all naturally tend to forget precise detail. This makes it easier to forgive ourselves and others. And forgiveness is something we all need and deserve to become our better selves-and to become higher versions of who we already are.
But sometimes, the best part of forgetting is remembering. When you recall something long forgotten, you might retrieve some golden nugget of nostalgia. You may recall a first experience or sensation that fills you with warmth and delight.
You might recall hurts, too. Sometimes, this recollection may be entirely unbidden, and you think you’re better off forgetting.
Instead of rejecting unwanted regrets, guilts, and shame-reflect. I don’t mean to use past mistakes as a tool of masochistic machination. Rather, use them for introspection. Many people avoid looking inward. It’s certainly daunting, and if you malinger, it leads to feeling pretty miserable and melancholy.
Conversely, if we choose to work through our hurts as we recall them, they sting less in the future. The scars get smaller and are only stories on the bodies of our lives.
This is the true art of forgetting, not mere avoidance or nostalgic escapism. It’s the give and take of remembering-when we need it and when we want it.
We all have a word that pops into our heads when we see the f-word. When I wrote this over a year ago, I wasn’t thinking of a swear. Although I swear like a sailor, I wasn’t thinking of a curse but of the future.
I also think of being fine, having faith, and fear. People swear they’re fine. They swear by and on their faith. And they swear when they feel fear or frustration. It’s funny what swearing and the f-word have in common.
Etymologically, swear used to mean “take an oath.” Oaths accompany an understanding of the future. Swears exist to protect legacies and loved ones or to fulfill last wishes. So when I swore to myself and God, it was for all these things.
Less informed by fear and more by ignorance, I changed. My perspective on “settling for fine” and the future shifted. Now, I swear on and for greater things. See just how far I’ve come from time in the story I’ve included below.
One Friday night during my freshman year of college, I was with a gaggle of would-be friends wandering the empty streets of Lubbock.
It was sometime in the fall because it was cold. I remember because of these terrible boots I wore not made for walking. They had these weird foldover pirate flaps at the top with built-in wedge heels.
Imagine walking in see-your-breath weather with ridiculous things flapping around your legs. Frigid toes and heels rubbed raw by inadequate support. I wasn’t just wandering unsupported on cobblestone streets, but in destinations towards health and happiness.
It was one of my first memorable journeys into apathy, one I soon wouldn’t be free of. I had lots of fun with mental health the following year. And entertaining my apathy seemed like a good idea at the time. I figured not caring was better than hoping and getting hurt.
My big mistake was assuming that daydreams and self-centered wishes were on par with hope. And what I didn’t realize was the way those meaningless moments would all blur together into one greyscale spiral of indifference.
My first avoidance of dealing with fear (the real f-word) was this indulgence. I dubbed this particular day, Fuck It Friday. At the time, it was in the YOLO spirit. I can’t remember if the same night I championed for apathy was one more night spent just trying to feel alive.
Maybe it was the same night we snap-walked arm in arm across the lobby of a residence hall, as the street boys from West Side Story. Or perhaps it was another night of wandering in the frigid cold with “friends” I barely knew. At this point, it’s pointless.
I would say, “The end.” But there’s no one clear ending to this particular story. My journey through numbness, hopelessness, fear, and apathy was only beginning. I came out the other side (eventually) with a swear to live for today and tomorrow.
Now, I know not to place faith in fleeting feelings. I felt like I was embracing some spontaneity and an idea of freedom. But I was wrong. I was the kind of wrong you are when you’re not yourself.
I was the kind of wrong that made it seem like indulging indifference was a good thing. Thank God I’m not afraid of the future anymore.
By no means am I insinuating that I’m fearless. No. What I am is aware of my fears and flaws in different ways. The future is no longer a gaping maw of uncertainty but a realm of possibility.
The Way of the Future
I used to fear the future. I used to have faith in the future. I pinned all my hopes and dreams on the future. I lamented my ignorance of the future. I pretended to be ready for the future. I made plans based on the future. I wished I could predict the future.
I dreamed of what fantastic things or people I might encounter in the future. I stared into the weeks, months, and years of the future, instead of tomorrow or even later in the same day. My idea of the future blinded me. I used to curse the future. I treated it as a living, breathing thing, the future.
My eyes were closed to the gift of the present. I was invested in the unpredictable, ever-shifting future. I didn’t put stock in myself or my God, so how could I ever cash in on the moment?
I never pursued loan sharks but cashed in deals with my inner demons.The exchange rate wasn’t too bad, and I had quite a high percentage of interest from,which these demons benefited.
Of course, I didn’t know what the actual cost would be. Like most young adults, I invested my hope in the wrong thing. I ended up paying emotional and spiritual dues with interest.
When I desired to overcome my fear of the future, I settled with feeling fine. The ‘F’ word used to be the future, and all I believed or felt about it. Now, my new ‘F’ word is ‘fine.’ To which I say, “Fuck that!” Who settles for average when they have all of today before them?
Fine is on par with average or boring. It’s equivalent to settling for less or treating the mundane as ideal. There’s nothing wrong with the ordinary, mind you, but it shouldn’t be a goal. Normalcy isn’t admirable. (At least settling for the same-old safe thing is just an excuse for not trying to grow.)
Most of the time, people don’t associate ordinary with fine. Most of the time, people say they’re fine when they’re anything but. And this kind of willful ignorance or denial of whatever you’re feeling or experiencing is detestable at best.
“Fitting in” is for those uncomfortable with themselves. It might be ideal for a spare few whose lives are challenging and whose definition of “fine” is surviving. Fitting in is for townhomes and cookie tins. Fitting your life into these four small letters is something we should swear at and against.
They feel unworthy. They’re ignorant of the present opportunities in their lives. Or they don’t have sufficient motivation. Any of these reasons aren’t good enough. If your life isn’t where you want it to be because you’re starting over, start small. Baby steps and living day-by-day are a good thing sometimes, especially if it’s all you can do.
I say forget being fine unless your life isn’t already average. If you’ve lived a life full of fear or faithlessness, then you are the exception. Most people settle for less than they can have or deserve. Even those in terrifying exceptions make it through with a faith in something greater than themselves.
For some, all they do is spend their entire lives trying to move from the bottom to “fine.” I think of those with chronic conditions of the body and soul, those whose every day is a battle. These should never be excuses, but reasons to seek out normalcy.
The beauty of average is its subjectivity, much like perfection. Yes, there are objective measurements of ordinary, but people aren’t objects.
Find your “fine” and flip it on its head. Turn your every day into a new starting point. Make extraordinary your average. If you fear swearing to yourself to have faith in a world and a God you just haven’t felt yet, I dare you to.
Don’t let your inner demons determine how you live. Don’t let fear define or limit who you can be for yourself and the world. Even if you’re afraid of failing, don’t forget it takes aiming for success to even fail at all.
Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.
Stay tuned for more of my personal thoughts, reflections, and anecdotes. For now, expect them weekly on Wednesdays. Sign up for email reminders below so you don’t miss out.