Don’t Be a Prick

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 sweeter the rose, the bigger the thorns. Prune your thorns, and you leave yourself wide open…

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.

Some people find sense in dead, thorny stalks. They’d rather take familiar pain over the hard work and risks of beautiful vulnerability.

The main point is, I wasn’t listening to the whisper of truth in my heart from God and that had me LOSTThat’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.


References

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 phytomedicine7(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 : eCAM2017, 5869315.

Growing Pains

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.

 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.

Brutal Truth

 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.

Knowing hidden truths is as dangerous as having ideas. You can learn things you never wanted to about yourself

 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.

 It’s either you or the monster driving your life.

 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.

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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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!

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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