In Retrospect

For the past few weeks, I’ve found myself slipping into the past. It’s not that the present isn’t worth my attention, but that the past offers too many distractions.

I call it slipping because it’s an involuntary tendency to look back. I’ve got nothing against retrospection and nostalgia. What I don’t enjoy is fixating on past mistakes, pains, regrets, et cetera.

Looking back can be a delightful intoxication. We can live in nostalgia and ignore present happenings. But the past only offers so much delight before distorted truths reveal themselves.

Regrets emerge. Hindsight hits like a sack of bricks, and the past loses its rosy hue. But if you can’t move forward, all you’ll ever do is look back.

And I’m tired of living in the past. I’m done with letting past mistakes, regrets, and decisions haunt my present. I don’t want to be alive ten years from today, still feeling like I haven’t made space for change and uncertainty.

There’s an unrest that never dissipates if you don’t expect uncertainty. You could call it existential angst. I call it ignoring opportunities to live fully.

Peaceful clarity settles upon me when I think of all the opportunities life still has in store. I don’t have to imagine closing myself off to these possibilities, either.

I also realize that I’ve been “silent” on here the last few weeks, too. Part of that’s been sheer exhaustion and lack of focus. Other parts of concern some work I’ve chosen to take on for personal growth and healing.

Trying to date again after three years of singlehood opened some old doors, ones I thought I’d closed. Old wounds and memories resurfaced, and it’s been a shock. Sometimes, we can fool ourselves into being whole by simply trying.

My determination and obstinance often result in accidental resilience. It’s a positive consequence of the fake-it-til-you-make-it mentality. This willfulness is as much inherited as it is learned.

But the problem with slipping is that you lose traction. It’s hard to be present and live in the moment when you find yourself falling behind into your history. And looking forward is just as difficult, too, when the past clings to you.

But the trappings of history only serve us so much in modernity. Some worship the past, believing its repetitive tendencies are predictors for the future. But that’s just another tricky little trap.

The past reveals truths, yes. After unveiling those truths, it’s vital to take action lest we doom ourselves to repeating past mistakes. But there’s value in learning from the past and applying it to today so that you can build a better tomorrow.

There’s value in learning from the past and applying it to today so that you can build a better tomorrow.

It hit me earlier this week, after so many relationships and romantic entanglements, why things haven’t worked out and why  I am where I am today.

Yes, I have (and had) my part to play in their end. Most of my past relationships ended because I had clarity or maturity or whatever foresight was needed to end things. A lot of my past relationships were good, if not entirely whole.

I can regret and grieve the trappings of my former self, but eventually, I have to move on. There’s a tipping point when accountability slips into guilting or obsessing over regrets and mistakes.

Once you realize where you are and how you got there, you have to move on. Taking that step forward seems like the simplest thing, but it can easily be the most challenging thing to do. If you overthink or put too much into tomorrow, you set yourself up for failure, too.

It’s so funny how we build things up in our minds, sandcastles of imagination. Each grain comprises dreams, desires, and wishes–nothing as solid as silica or carbon. No, this wishy-washy projection and ideation of hoping and wanting is naught but sand and smoke.

Mental Pictures

I ‘ve always been a creative person, so visualizing things comes naturally to me. Whether I’m slipping into my past or dreaming about my future, images appear on a reel of personal cinema. The stills and found footage of my life come together, forming strange montages.

I don’t know much about the development of film photography. I do know there are many chemicals involved which, ironically, are dangerous to one’s vision. If spilled in the eye, agents used in clarifying images can blind you, leaving your vision permanently underdeveloped.

Mental pictures require development of their own. The common adage of life flashing before your eyes evokes the flashbulbs of vintage paparazzi. If our lives are all one cinematic metaphor, we’re as much audience as the director, producer, writer, superstar. How we cast ourselves, presently and in hindsight, depends upon the roles we agree to adopt, the angles we capture moments in, and the effects of post-production.

Truthfully, our lives aren’t sequentially recorded like film. We jumble up moments with preferred filters on reality. Whether we flatter ourselves with denial or falsehood, our mental pictures are often unreliable. 

Time offers so many more moments than a mere snapshot can offer. No matter how much we record, there’s too much to capture.

It’s not as much a matter of curatorial or narrative authority but more so the sensory triggers we connect to certain scenes. Unlike cinema, we aren’t mere spectators. In the movies of our lives, inaction is still a choice.

Potential passiveness leaves us subject to the sounds, smells, and physical sensations around us. An especially stiff-backed chair may heighten your anxiety or unease. Someone’s stale cigarette breath may linger, triggering a craving for old habits or inducing nausea. A certain melody revives yet more moments captured in the mind’s eye.

My mental pictures burn rather keenly in my mind’s eye. I blame this in part on my eidetic memory. The other portion of blame I’ll assign to my observational skill and general emotionality.

I’m wary of validating my mental snapshots. Too much attention or light exposure on undeveloped films permanently distorts the true picture. I can choose to attach significance to moments that mean nothing to another individual.

This resounds beyond memory, often altering my present perceptions. It’s helpful in some regards. Prior snapshots show others’ growth and the general reality of their character.

This being said, how we see others in the past often distorts how people are present. The problem with stills is their very essence. They only capture moments, some of which may only appear once in a lifetime.

People can read too much into a moment, assuming it applies to a person’s entirety.

These images still have something to offer, but they can distort reality. People can read too much into a moment, assuming it applies to a person’s entirety. We all make this mistake, taking things at face value and basing things on first impressions.

I’m no exception to this, either, but I find myself consistently frustrated by others’ stilted impressions of me. I’m not sure if there’s any way to remedy this except to see people in various settings. Over time, people piece together a whole picture of your character, but it takes longer than we expect.

These virtual collages still only represent our perspective and perception of a person. We can blind ourselves with projections, daydreams, hopes, and other fantasies. Of course, there’s the honesty of the other person to consider, too.

Assuming there’s no denial or omission of truth, we often never see the entirety of a person right away. Time offers so many more moments than a mere snapshot can offer. No matter how much we record, there’s too much to capture.

Scrapbooks and Glitter Glue

Because of life’s unceasing nature, we often hold onto the past out of nostalgia. Many people use photo albums and scrapbooks as history made material. We hold onto the past for many reasons, sometimes to mark our progress and growth.

A friend once told me, “Never change, Amanda.”

I replied with a hearty laugh, “That’s all life is, though. If I’m not changing, then I’m not living.”

Piecing together our present means understanding those composite parts of our past. Each snapshot, ticket stub, pressed flower, song or poem all make up moments and memories. But we’re more than these memories; there’s the messy stuff in between that makes up who we are.

Focus on the truths of yourself. Remember that today’s feelings fade and don’t ultimately define you. If the pieces of your plan fall apart, you can always put them back together. Get creative with the glue. Make it pretty. Make something new.

This is the pretty, sparkly mess that holds your life together. If you’re a six-year-old, this might be all you need to piece together the parts of your life. As an adult, this probably isn’t the case.

In Japanese and Buddhist tradition, the philosophy of kintsugi is all about piecing things together after they’ve fallen apart. Take a cracked piece of pottery and fill said cracks with molten gold. When it cools, you’ll have something like this:

But we’re more than these memories; there’s the messy stuff in between that makes up who we are.

Kintsugi doesn’t exclusively apply to pottery. The philosophy derives from a myriad of words. Mono no aware, or “the pathos of things,” reflects on the impermanence of existence.

It encompasses the knowledge and acceptance and longing for the brevity of life’s many aspects. Whether it be broken pottery or the first birth of your first child, these are but fleeting moments in time. Kintsugi embodies this by saving and changing what cannot be as it was once.

Mono no aware is similar to the Buddhist teaching of wabi-sabiWabi-sabi includes the three marks of existence, impermanence, suffering, and absence of self-nature.

These all connect to a detachment from worldly concerns, which is necessary for achieving enlightenment. This pieced-together word comes with further layers which tie it more closely to kintsugiWabi connotes understated elegance, often including the unique aspects of “flaws” of handmade work. Sabi reflects the natural wearing and tearing of time on things, such as gold-mended pottery or an elderly human’s wrinkles.

The understanding and reverence of life’s impermanence is not strictly Eastern. Kintsugi, mono no aware, and wabisabi are all connected to Western elements found in classical literature. Take the Latin phrase memento mori, which means, “Remember that you must die.”

Better still, the phrase lacrimae rerum taken from Virgil’s Aeneid. It translates to “tears of things,” but even this varies with context. See the different interpretations below:

  • “The world is a world of tears, and the burdens of mortality touch the heart.” Robert Fagles
  • “They weep here / For how the world goes, and our life that passes/ Touches their hearts.” Robert Fitzgerald
  • “These men know the pathos of life, and mortal things touch their hearts.” Kenneth Clark
  • “There are tears at the heart of things.” Seamus Heaney

However we choose to mark time’s passing, I think it’s clear that staying in the past is detrimental. It’s unwise to assume things about our todays and tomorrows using only history to inform us, too. Paying attention to these details is only one of many moving parts.

In retrospect, I can say that the stills and odds and ends of my life comprise a rich montage of good and bad. I’ve got my share of pain, loss, and regret. But I’ve also got so much peace, joy, and fulfillment.

Anchoring myself to today is still something I’m working on. Slipping into the past isn’t always bad, and I often learn a lot about where I am today when a memory surfaces. I think it’s most important to learn how to live in the moment so you can truly thrive.


Thanks so much for reading my blog! It means the world that you’ve taken a few precious moments out of your busy day to consider my perspective. For more thought-provoking content, check out my other posts or sign up for email reminders.

Getting Lost

I ‘ve always had a horrible sense of direction. Growing up, I’d get lost in department and grocery stores after hiding in boxes and display racks. My mom would always find me (usually because of my red hair).

Over time, my navigational abilities have barely improved. I know the cardinal directions, but I couldn’t tell you which way’s which unless the sun’s up. As much as I wish I could chart my path my starlight, I’m equally useless.

When I first learned to drive, both of my parents tried to help me navigate. My mom’s a longtime teacher, so it came easier to her. She’s also far more patient and understanding of my navigational challenges than my dad’s ever been.

I recall one particular afternoon where he showed me three parallel streets in our neighborhood on a map, roads I was on daily often more than once, too. And he asked me to recall one or two major intersecting streets between those parallel to one another. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t visualize the map nor remember the roads.

He tried to be patient with me to his credit, but I’ve since come to learn that spatial awareness is just not one of my gifts. I can read a map and use a GPS, but unless I have a strong sense of physical memory of an area, it just won’t stick. Some people can get lost in a parking lot, and I’m one of them.

Take that first step, accept the chance of getting lost, wander into the labyrinthine unknowns of life.

We all get lost in life, though, and it’s not always about physically getting lost. Just a few days ago, I posted about stepping stones and journeys. And I’ve mentioned the value in taking our time and the importance of slowing down to appreciate the small things.

When we hit crossroads in life, we’re given the option to decide with a multiplicity of unforeseen consequences. These can be good or bad things, but we can rarely see their nature until after choosing a path. This inherent unknown drives many to fear, doubt, and ruin.

Indulging in existential angst only gets us so far, though. We can meditate, introspect, and seek arbitrary counsel, but these are only pacifiers to action. It’s essential to take that first step, to accept the chance of getting lost, to wander into the labyrinthine unknowns of life.

Accepting my navigational impairment isn’t just about getting lost in parking lots. It’s about the ruts I’ve put myself in, the times in life I seem capable of only left-hand turns, the proverbial roundabouts of not learning from mistakes.

Ruts and Roundabouts

I didn’t experience my first real rut in life until college. Most of my childhood and adolescence was full of dynamic growth. And I was blessed that most of what I learned about myself and the world were good things.

But when I hit college, I hit rut after rut. I could blame it on Lubbock’s flat, dry, arid terrain and a general lack of rainfall. Or I could be honest and less metaphoric—I was stuck deep in a mess of my own making, and I couldn’t quite get out.

My parents raised me with a great work ethic: work first, play later. This made sure responsibilities were taken care of, but you still had time to enjoy yourself. And even with hard workers like my parents, there’s value in taking breaks.

Heading to college gave me an illusion of freedom and a dangerous lack of accountability. My parents paid my tuition, but I didn’t pay anything as long as I didn’t fail a course. I had minimal loans for housing and food.

In high school, I skipped class less than three times (not including a pointless mandatory assembly or two). I’ve always been a goody-two-shoes, with a rebellious streak I never paid any heed. But when life hit me over the head with its uncertainties, I gave into that temptation to rebel.

Wandering down the path of “do what you want, when you want” was so fun. I had no one to tell me to stop or slow down as I made my way down myriad self-destructive paths. And before I realized how far I’d gone, I couldn’t pull myself out.

I had no one to tell me to stop or slow down…I was caught up in childish notions of love and white knights, thinking any one of the foolish boys I met could save me from myself.

It was a slow and easy journey. I didn’t have anything pushing me along in college except the pressures I placed upon myself. I had the option to graduate in three years but chose to stay a fourth and gain a second degree.

And I finally felt wanted by the world. I had good friends in high school, but we all grew apart pretty quickly. My long-term (and only) relationship of nearly two years ended right before college, leaving me with a chasm in my chest. And I filled that emptiness however I could.

I know my ruts could’ve been more dangerous or destructive. I blame my nuclear family’s resilience and my sense of self-preservation for not doing worse to myself than I did. But I still offered up pieces of my tender heart and fragile soul in exchange for what I thought was freedom.

Trapped in my patterns of hurt and hate, I couldn’t break out of the loop. (If you ever get to LBK, you’ll find there’s only one loop worth mentioning.) I was caught up in childish notions of love and white knights, thinking any one of the foolish boys I met could save me from myself.

There was no way of knowing just how wrong I was. Fairy tales and damsels in distress fit into neatly packaged narratives, but not real life. No one can save you from yourself, especially if you’re determined to destroy everything that makes you who you are.

Bouncing my heart from one boy to another every couple of months wasn’t good for me. I kept going round and round, making the same mistake over and over, wearing myself into a rut. And it took countless mistakes to break me out of that loop.

Flipping a Bitch

When you spend your time running around, you wear yourself out. It’s part of the reason people settle into the ruts they create. You can’t spell routine without R-U-T after all.

And we all settle into dangerous or comfortable patterns. They’re familiar, things we understand which evoke an illusion of control over our lives. But eventually, you hit a point where you’re tired of circling back on yourself, and you want to try something new.

Getting lost means lots of turning around and circling back on yourself. In Texas, we’ve got lots of roadways and space for turning around. We use U-turns at almost every underpass (or at least that’s what it feels like).

I didn’t know that these are pretty popular in my home state, but not so much for other areas. Considering how often I miss turns, turnarounds like these are always something I’ve appreciated. When I got older, I learned a fun phrase for U-turns called “flipping a bitch.”

Often, I’m stressed when I get lost because I have somewhere to be at a specific time. Other times, I don’t mind the warm sun coming in through my windshield as I casually course correct. There’s something so nice about happening across a new cute house, a coffee shop to investigate or the simple pleasure of a good meander.

But when you’re ready to turn your life around, you do have to flip a bitch. It’s not always pleasant, and you’ll likely find resistance along the way. But getting out of ruts and roundabouts might mean circling back, too.

You can’t spell routine without R-U-T after all.

When I finally accepted I was in a rut, I got mad. I mean, furious. Now I know that anger was part of the fight response inherent to anxiety. At the time, I remember being mad at so many people.

I pushed away friends I felt couldn’t change or weren’t willing to adapt to the future. I found myself focusing solely on fewer friends who’d made the time and effort to be there (and consequently were trying to change, despite whatever obstacles presented themselves). And I was happier and better off for it.

I’m not close with many friends from college, but I have a friend group I’d practically die for today. I don’t know many people in their late 20’s who can claim as such. Getting to where I am today took lots of flipped bitches.

Destinations and Journeys

All this talk of getting lost and turning around, has ne thinking about why we journey through life. I’ve had the destination vs. journey debate a few times in my life, finding merit in both. I think we value one or the other based on where we are in life.

I prefer the journey to the destination. When anxious, I fixate on the destination, but I always enjoy myself more when I take time to appreciate the journey.

I won’t argue: both are equally important. Debating over which is more important reminds me of a debate I had over the importance of breakfast. My friend argued for its importance in starting the day and needing to be healthy, but not elaborate. He went as far as to claim as not even liking breakfast.

Take the story of each journey one page at a time…

As an avid fan of all things breakfast, I disagreed. The principles of breakfast depend on taking the intentional time to create a little bit of delicious motivation in the morning to start your day. Of course, you can’t sit down daily for a decadent brunch, but that doesn’t mean even the healthiest diet can’t be enjoyable.

The same idea applies to destinations and journeys. Take the story of each journey one page at a time, and you’ll cherish the destination that much more. And getting lost on the way is as much an obstacle to the destination as it is as part of the journey.

I can assert that my getting lost, frustrating as it may be, is an essential part of my past. I wouldn’t give up my screwups and flipped bitches for anything. For every rut I’ve turned back from, I’ve had time to reflect on my mistakes and change. I’ve discovered opportunities to grow I might’ve otherwise missed.

Right now, I’m struggling to break out of yet another rut before I go roundabout, making the same mistake again. I know I’m going to be lost again as long as I’m alive. And as much as I fear not knowing my place, I’m excited.

Embracing uncertainty makes the destination worth all the work it took to get there. Every journey is enriched by a willingness to wander into the unknown. And every roundabout gives us a chance to look back before we build up the momentum to break the cycle and escape the rut.


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Cultivation

Once upon a time, I had a conversation with a friend. We spoke of past hurts and creating spaces to grow and experience wholeness. He even enlightened me to the reality that men should make this for women (if they love them).

It’s called locus amoenus (low-cuss a-moy-nhus). This Latin phrase translates to a “pleasant place,” according to the illustrious Google translator’s detection. It seems to be a phrase fraught with historical and social implications (one I don’t feel like exploring here).

This friend is a theologian of sorts, enamored with Renaissance notions of chivalry, polished to a beautiful pre-Industrial sheen. He’s as labyrinthine in logic as me, so I can’t claim to understand all his motives. I do know his reasoning for sharing this phrase with me.

As we sat on a back porch, sipping whisky and sharing sentiments, I had a moment of recognition. It was the first time I realized a man could love you incompletely the futility of utility (a.k.a., use). This moment was the start of something pivotal in my personal growth.

I needed to learn this truth from a friend not in love with me. I could hear the truth of what he said without distractions of personal motive. This rational epiphany gave me the moral objectivity needed for healthy introspection.

Before that conversation, I’d never considered what a man is supposed to do, why he’s called to it, and how I deserved it. We’ve all got self-esteem issues, sure, but when people you trust use you up, it changes how you see the world (and your place in it) forever. And for a long time, I didn’t feel like I deserved a pleasant place.

Insecurities aside, I realized I was more than worthy (we all are) of something secure and pleasant. It’s not a question of worth but a recognition of our inherent dignity. And too many of us aren’t raised to see that in one another anymore.

My parents raised me to see this in others. I could chalk it up to moral fiber, faith, their upbringing, or a million other little reasons. I know this: my father created a pleasant place for my mother when the world told him he owed her no obligation. And he strives to provide this space for her through every day of their union.

Mind you, I didn’t always recognize my father’s role in creating a space for my mother in his heart, but if a man loves a woman, he does this. I’d never describe my father as a gardener. Despite his deep appreciation for the natural world, he’s a hunter above all else.

But the same reverence he holds for God’s greenery he shows for the garden of my mother’s heart. And, damn, if that doesn’t move me to tears. I’m so blessed to have this model of love in my life. Make no mistake, I recognize it as the unicorn who rests in a garden.

Taming a wild heart is no mere task.

Taming a wild heart is no mere task. It often scars the man who tries, and it’s nothing to be taken lightly. This taming is even more challenging when the world disillusions both unicorn and gardener.

Over time, I’ve come to see these scars in my father. I saw those in my mother sooner—as we talk matters of heart and spirit more often. Seeing this legendary romance in those who reared me gives a good frame of reference for choosing the right man for me.

Garden of the Heart

Before I venture further into the man’s role of creating a space, I must write of the woman’s role, rite, and privilege, too. There’s a reason we refer to nature, and the earth is the feminine. Mother Earth, Gaia, and other cultural signifiers reflect femininity’s relationship with creation and life.

I’m a believer in the garden of the heart. It’s a fertile crescent, an Eden of potential for love and courage. But of the many metaphors for growth and discovery, there are just as many for corruption and decay.

When we think of the heart’s chambers as garden boxes to till and tend, think of everything from soil to leaves to vines to branches to sunlight to weeds to rot and to new growth. There are all sorts of lovely biblical implication to insert here, so there’s nothing particularly original to add.

I could mention our role as branches of the vine. I could also refer to the parable of mustard seeds or the weeds which grow up among the wheat. I could refer to the fruits of the Holy Spirit, too.

There’s so much rich imagery about harvest and growth and the price of neglect in the Bible. I really do love it, but my modern takeaway isn’t some primordial ode to the divine feminine, nor is it partial only to my Catholic upbringing. I’m talking about something innate to every womanly body.

We try to subvert or reinterpret natural truth, and it’s often to our detriment as a species. The kind of misconceptions we carry about our bodies is due to a myriad of maladies. Most often, it starts with a disorder untraceable beyond the subatomic—it’s of soul stuff.

So much of today’s world pretends to protect when it poisons from within, a wolf among sheep, weeds among the wheat. I mentioned earlier how I experienced incomplete love from the men who used me. I’m not blameless here. I want to state that I returned the incomplete love I offered.

Most of the time, I didn’t see the love as incomplete, but hindsight reveals much. What I chose to do in my past relationships didn’t feel like use. We were happy and enjoyed what we shared, no matter how small and incomplete it was.

We were happy and enjoyed what we shared, no matter how small and incomplete it was.

The world tells us, guides and molds us into believing that we should settle for less. And when we have the truest good in our lives, less really is more. But most of the time, we supplement what we settle for because it falls short of the truest good.

We’re so incredibly gifted at lying to ourselves, at deluding ourselves into believing in an illusion of abundance. But the truest, most beautiful things are unicorns in gardens. They’re the cliched flower sprouting out of concrete. These things are often buried amongst the weeds, rarely standing out as the legendary things they are.

I’ve written before about taking time to look for these things. I’ve written of building the mindset, skills, and virtue to see and hear these things. I’ve written of appreciating everything for the golden moment it may be, and still I cannot see.

Still, I remain blind and ignorant to so much of what I try to see. It’s one of many reasons I find the notion of revisiting the past so healthy (assuming it’s not for self-blame or idealistic malingering).

I find my retrospections a consistent form of enlightenment, largely when they’re fertilized by sources outside my garden. For instance, pressed flowers may be the memories we choose to keep. The beauty isn’t the same as it once was; the life essence dried up.

But there’s still a beauty present, albeit a different one. The lingering scent of what once was intoxicates, all the same, a nostalgic perfume. And the blooms pulled from our garden hearts depend on how well we tend them.

Despite what modernity shouts at the tops of its lungs, there is strength in silence and patience. As a strong-willed woman, I struggle with this. Many of my peers fight this, too, seeing it as timidity, sexism, denial of agency, and worse.

But if we’re too busy yelling for attention, who’s ear do we draw? I don’t want to scream my throat raw to capture anyone’s attention. I may be loud, but it’s from my love of life (and a natural ability to project).

The garden of the heart must not harden into fallow ground, despite what fear and doubt and delusion demand. More than ever, we women must embrace our virtue. We must create a place of calm within to weather the maddening world outside.

If we neglect our gifts, our strengths, we neglect those we dream of one day loving. I say this for myself as much as any women who read this. This simple truth shouldn’t be controversial, yet some would deem it as such.

The truth is hard to accept, even once recognized. Acceptance means actions of sacrifice, change, and vulnerability. It means no more hiding in the quiet, cozy comforts of naivete and immaturity.

When we carve out a space for visitors to our garden hearts, we can dazzle them with once-in-a-lifetime beauty. But we must take the time to cultivate our gardens into things of beauty. If we wall them off, denying sunshine’s truth, they’ll wither and fade. And if we let anyone wander through, we risk more than we know.

Guarding the heart might seem like a wise solution, but alas, it’s not. If anything, we risk our hearts becoming overgrown, untended spaces for wild terrors to rest. A heart overgrown with wildflowers seems romantic (and in some circumstances, it is!)

A heart overgrown with wildflowers seems romantic, but everything that grows in the wild isn’t as beautiful as it seems…

But everything that grows in the wild isn’t as beautiful as it seems. Some wild flora and fauna choke out native plants. If foreign flora finds its way into your untended heart, you may find yourself overwhelmed.

There’s a reason gardens are hallmarks of civilization. Many cultures develop unique methods to tend their gardens, from the Arabic tendency for symmetry and balance to the Japanese emphasis on union and harmony to the Irish transition of utility to ecologic form.

Our hearts have their own ways of blooming, requiring different levels of care. Different things nurture different types of flora, some requiring more or less attention. Each of us blooms in our own season, and it’s important to recognize our inherent perennial natures.

Some parts of our garden hearts may rarely bloom. There are some flowers that only bloom once annually, or every few years, or even once a century. Some things bloom only once, fading into the dust of the past.

Stepping Stones

Walking through a garden requires some kind of path. It may appear as a simple dirt walkway, as concrete steps, or ornate mosaics handmade with care. These paths can guide us to new destinations or secret places off the beaten path. Where we wander is determined by many things, particularly the stones laid before us by our choices and experiences.

In dating, some people feel as if they’re stepping stones to the next person or experience. I find that people who feel this way lack perspective or suffered use from their dating partner. The best “stepping stones” don’t care what paths they’re part of; they’re too busy enjoying the journey.

I find wandering down unknown paths is intimidating, but it’s exhilarating, too. You can let yourself drink in the new air, the fresh sights and sounds, and smell some damn roses, too.

I can’t recall any time I ever knew at the moment that I was someone else’s stepping stone. I only recognize the roles I played in hindsight (and the same goes for those who lead me further down my path, too). I don’t begrudge those I helped along any more than I hope I am not resented for others’ parts to play in my growth.

That’s the thing about a garden; it never stays the same. No blossoms come back exactly as their original. Stones weather over time, with every passing season. We can choose which stones we follow, and even those put in our path on occasion. But we can’t stop the passing of time and how these stones wear.

Stepping stones aren’t just symbolic of use. They reflect the imprint of others’ on our lives. They’re the weight of regret, as much as the grounding stones and for hope. The largest stepping stones actually become cornerstones, foundations of our core selves.

Stones laid down can be removed from a path, but there will still be the impression of what was once there. We can’t erase others’ effects on our lives, regardless of a desire to ignore the past. Instead, we can choose what paths to follow, even choosing which stones make up which paths.


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Looking for Love

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.”

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.

Brave Yet Afraid

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. 

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.

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. Use your past as the canvas, plot twist, drumbeat, punchline of your next creation.

Use your 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 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.

Merida, Brave

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.

Facing Yourself

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. 

I carry it, stumbling uphill towards the ultimate sacrifice–laying down my life for others. 

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.

One Page at a Time

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?

This world is too big and too small to waste the potential of a single human soul.

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.

Seneca

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.

…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!

The Art of Forgetting

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.


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The F-Word

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.

An Anecdote

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.

If I granted twenty silvery pieces of faith, patience, or love, I’d receive a small slice of feeling happy or fine.

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.

Stephen King

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.

Reignition

I started this blog (the first time round) back in August of 2018. I was coming off a long year and needed an outlet. At the time, I had a lot of stress and pain and general stuff to get out of. Writing helps me do that, and I boldly decided to venture where I never had before.

In place of journaling like I had (which I still maintained daily during this blog’s initial iteration), I felt like voicing my thoughts in a shareable space might benefit some. At the time, I realized my struggles more universal than initially thought. I chose to start this blog to challenge my writing skills and end my self-indulgent wallowing.

See below the original post (with just a few additional comments and ideas added. Most of this has somehow stayed relevant.

I boldly decided to venture where I never had before.

This was something I’d said I’d get to months ago, and now I finally am. There’s been lots of growth in my life, but I had to kind of burn down some things and start over. I realized that there was a lot of spiritual debris I needed to send up in smoke signals so God would know I needed some help. Sure, I could’ve just asked for it, but that would be the easy thing, right?

Metaphorical smoke signals aside, I’d rather talk in code than directly address the issues I had with myself. Looking back, I see the new kindling and the ashes of things I managed to burn. These ashes fueled a minor “phoenix” moment in which I discovered a need to reconnect with myself.

Funnily enough, a lot of this recognition started during Lent with a book called Until Today by Iyanla Vanzant. Each month of this devotional centers on a different spiritual growth aspect; I began in March with awareness. This was all way too perfectly timed to not be divine design (or providential), as I’ve come to realize since then.

At that point, I was no longer aware of several things wrong in my life. A few of these things are:

  • I was doing way too much. Not doing this anymore.
  • I was giving less effort in every aspect of my life (work, school, friendship, dating, family) Definitely stopped doing this. Made more time for God and myself.
  • I was not listening to God’s will. (Still stubbornly fighting Him every chance I get.)
  • I was not making the needed time for God. (Definitely working on this.)
  • I was stuck in a holding pattern and stagnating fast. NOPE. Not anymore.

All of these are things I can see with blinding clarity now. (This still holds true.) But that’s hindsight and heavenly light for ya; they really brighten up existential dark spots.

I won’t be cataloging every spark of growth or speck of my ashy past here today, but I’m sure it will come forth in future posts. Nor will all of my posts be so ‘fiery’ in language. I really wanted to get this out today, so my friends, family, and fellow online human beings get a sense of where I’m taking my life.

Maybe one day, this will be the stuff of some best-selling author. (Still, a dream yet to be made real, but closer than two years ago). We’ve all gotta start from the bottom of the ashy heap before our dreams rise in wispy, spiritual smoke signals.


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