For the longest time, I saw myself as a lost cause when it came to living the right way, the way I thought I should. And it’s fair to say that some may see how I live as lost. But the lost little girl in the woods isn’t lost at all. Instead, she’s on a path known only to her and her maker. See, she’s lost sight of that path before because she listened to others.
Some pushed her onto a path in a misguided, albeit well-intentioned, way, thinking their path was the one and only way to travel. Others obscured the path entirely. The little girl chose to chat with these proverbial wolves for curiosity and the mere thrill of dancing with danger.
But what’s a cause if not an intangible thing of its own, often lost in the woods by those very people who pursue it, fight for it, die for it? I think losing a cause isn’t the worst thing ever to happen; if that internal struggle is for something personal, something grander than we previously dreamed, it was always worth it. Enough with the fairytale metaphors, right?
Sure, I might be the little girl in the woods. And I’ve certainly been incapable of seeing the forest for the trees before me, yet still, I wandered. And that’s the thing; persistence is in my blood. It’s a family thing brought up from the resilience and obstinance of generations past and modeled by their children (my parents). I grew up thinking that fighting for a cause, no matter how small, was the best and only way. The never-back-down mindset was, and still is, something I firmly believe in.
As I’ve “matured,” I’ve come to grasp how exhausting fighting for lost causes can be. If you’re so caught up in the fight, you might not even recognize you’ve already lost it. Or, at the very least, you’ve lost sight of what you’re even trying for. Although exerting all of that energy, demonstrating resilience and perseverance are admirable, they’re not the end. Life itself is a grind, a slow burn, something we’ve got to learn to take our time with.
I’ve already written about stopping in the garden of life, smelling roses, and nurturing what we’ve got. I’ve touched on embracing change and accepting what’s beyond our control. But haven’t touched on is making peace with our lost causes, grieving failures and mistakes, and, most importantly, how to move on from them. That’s what I’m addressing today because it’s one of the most important things we have to do as we grow up. Adulting successfully means finding ways to cope with regrets and our losses when we make tough decisions.
If you have the faith to live by your choices (regrets and all), then you’re doing something right. I’m not talking about bravado, but authentic courage born of sincere vulnerability. The kind you can’t fake until you make it. The kind you have to bust your ass for, swallow your pride, and face the wibbly-wobbly butterflies in your gut.
Back in August, I mentioned what keeps life together. The glitter and glue in the cracks and crevices of ourselves are made of a thousand little things. These little things are moments, deep breaths (in and out), tears of joy and laughter, and every sideways glance of frustration, disappointment, and surprise.
It’s funny to me how we most often wish peaceful rest for the dead alone. Somewhere, we acknowledge that life isn’t about resting or settling into the same old things. But who’s to say we don’t deserve a working peace, the kind that demands patient intention every day?
I suppose some of us understand daily grind and hustle when fighting inner demons like addiction, suicidality, and the heaviest of depressions. But not every part of life is momentous. And, as I champion for significance in the smaller things, I can’t help overlook my struggle to make peace with past mistakes and current vexations.
Lately, I’ve been talking a lot about family. With the myriad holidays on the horizon, certain expectations and disappointments are inevitable. But not every get-together and catch-up need to be a whole affair. Instead, little gestures like helping someone move into a new house or even a quick phone call on a birthday mean the world. It’s about taking that time out of our seemingly important daily for those little things that make all the difference.
For the longest time, I buried my head in the sand with “important” things. Although I love my friends, I love my family, and not taking the time to see them catch them up and include my life is just an excuse. I’m blessed to have a family who loves and cares as much as mine. And I’ve been such a child for not enjoying their gifts.
The same can be said for other parts of my life, too. For so long, I built up all these ideas in my head of what’s important (going off of many supposedly important paths). The problem with ideas is that they’re not real. And banking all your effort, energy, and intention on ideas leave you stuck.
Whether it’s working too much, partying too much, isolating too much, these are all excuses. The buffer between who we are and who we can be. They’re the bumpers in bowling lanes, the training wheels on bicycles, etc.
I look at the number of published blogs versus the drafts I have awaiting edit, proof, and release: 15 to 82. That’s a high ratio of incomplete, inactive potential. I wonder what catalyst(s) will cause me to consider these works “ready” for the world.
Last week’s therapy session was about flow states and feeling productive. It so often feels like I’m making no progress at all. So much of my life has been in what seemed like stop and start, up and down, slow and fast. I’d be crazy active, productive, healthy, et cetera for months at a time, and then I’d fall off. It would derail with an excuse or life event that often came out of nowhere.
One of the things I went to therapy for was intention. My faith and my God call me to live every moment with purpose. And I do truly mean every moment. Yeah, that’s exhausting, demanding, and impossible on my own. But if I want to participate in life fully, that’s how it is. It doesn’t make sense to live any other way to me.
Back to therapy: that intentionality, that more than modern mindfulness, means paying attention to where I am in the here and now, anchored to every day, instead of getting caught up in idealist fantasies. That might be scary for some; it’s certainly intimidating, despite my willing embrace.
I compared this path of intention and progress to that of two snakes. One travels clearly and quickly across desert dunes. The other winds its way down, around, and across underbrush on a forested floor. Picture the ease with which the desert snake travels and the forest snake’s natural obstacles. I explained how the desert snake reached its singular focus with ease. The forest snake had to twist and turn, calculating each move, therefore moving slower, even with its natural agility.
Now, I may be a Slytherin, but I am by no means a serpent. Taking these metaphoric articulations as reality revealed something to me. The more challenging path means moving slower but also more intentionally. And if we travel the path of the forest snake in our own lives, taking the time to think before we move, to consider each new obstacle as a potential opportunity, we get the chance to live so much more. The clear and easy path is not the road to travel, any more than doing things the easy way.
My therapist put it another way: slow is fast; fast is slow. Each articulation of the snake’s spine naturally seamlessly glides into the next. On the outside, it appears simple. But underneath, there are hundreds of tiny bones working in unison with muscle and sinew. This is what is it to move through this life, balancing these parts in a harmony of intention, which often requires far more effort than it appears.
It’s been ages, but life moves on for all of us. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my ramblings. I write for you as much as for myself. If I’ve learned anything, the way I think helps people sometimes. Hopefully, this holds true for you.
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Everywhere I turn, there’s some idea of who I am, how I’m supposed to be living my life, what I should be doing. It’s not the world shouting at me, but a constant whisper of what if. This question is a dangerous, often misleading one.
It can inspire and motivate, sure. I feel like we’re overwhelmed with an illusion of limitless potential. It’s equally uplifting and overwhelming. The crushing weight of expectation contrasts with hope’s natural buoyancy.
I don’t know how to balance these feelings, and most people my age don’t either. It seems that as we age (based on my older friends), the gravity of expectation does one of two things: either it grounds youthful fantasy in a healthier reality, or it drags you deep down into resentment and despair.
Of course, we’re all fighting the ups and downs of life. Whatever plateaus we experience never last long (and if they do, they often result from complacency). Whatever we do, the contentment never lasts long.
But it’s not a fear of change that consumes me anymore. I’ve made relative peace with the unknown. What worries me now is the intoxicating notion of hustle and grind. I’m worried about getting caught up in the idea of the thing versus its reality.
If you’re on social media (at all), you’ll see dream worlds and lives aplenty. Destinations and lifestyles beyond wildest imagining tempt with seemingly endless possibilities. I’m learning that this emphasis on destination neglects the dedication, drive, and discipline required to transform dreams into reality.
As a conflicted idealist and a practiced realist, I understand the joys and dangers of dreaming. My biggest challenge as a creative creature resides in the conversion, transformation, and construction of the path to my big ideas. There’s a reason it took me a year even to begin my novel.
And there’s a reason (two years into the journey) that I’m nowhere near complete. Most of the time, this doesn’t irk me. But most of the time, I don’t have the space, desire, or energy to dwell on my creative goals. Too often, I’m overwhelmed by my daily responsibilities and commitments.
Giving in to that unrelenting desire to create means becoming a slave to my passions. It’s a realm of success best occupied by intentional hedonists and tortured artists (not that those are mutually exclusive). Emotions aren’t a negative thing, nor an enemy to intellect and reason, as some believe.
But there’s a delicate, precise balance to appreciating and indulging one’s passions—without becoming the wild untamed. You can’t capture and leash your passions lest the reins drag you along. Conversely, you’ll find it next to impossible to keep up with wild horses, wolves, a flock of birds running through your mind.
Instead, cultivate the patience needed to capture that one shot of a snow leopard. Even if it means sitting still for hours in the freezing snow, build the discipline that kind of opportunity demands. Life passes you by if you don’t work to hold onto it. If you’ve seen The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, you’ll appreciate this attendance to wild abandon, I mean.
Of course, Walter’s denied his passions for years instead of chasing them around the world like the photographer in the movie. Too many people, myself included, feel as if they can spend their realities chasing dreams. But without putting in the hard work to get there, you’ll find yourself running out of steam.
But how do we avoid these meteoric moments? Finding out what it takes to defy gravity for more than a few seconds doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process and a long one at that.
As a kid, I kind of resented those motivational posters, especially this one. I think what irked me the most was the feeling of settling when you landed among the stars.
As an adult, I get that this poster’s trying to push for excellence while still leaving room for error and failure. I even embrace the lessons we can learn from failure, anticipated or not. What I detest about this statement is:
Aiming for the heavens isn’t settling at all.
Stars aren’t any old, average thing.
If you miss the moon, appreciate the view from the stars. And then move on. Don’t get comfortable!
Keep on trying for your money goal, learning from your mistakes.
If you didn’t make it alone, get help. I don’t know of any single-manned mission to space.
For heaven’s sake, you’re aiming skywards, so coming down is only natural.
You and your goal weren’t average from the start, so why act as if they were? This is what I mean when I say defying gravity. You’re allowed to aim high. I encourage it.
For those closest to me, you know I expect and demand you to push yourself. (Hell, a friend’s mom called me Demanda behind my back even in high school.) I this from selfish benevolence. I wish to surround myself with people who aspire higher. Being around people who aim for success means I’ll push myself more. That’s the selfish aspect.
Suppose I’m benefiting from excellent souls around me, our collective willpower functions as an accountability and safety net. We elevate each other, bearing one another aloft. When I expect people to aim high, it’s done in solidarity with a low tolerance for quitting.
Of course, standards for excellence vary by ability, person, and circumstance–something high school Demanda didn’t understand. If no one ever expects the most of you, how will you know where you’re destined to land?
You're a shining star,
no matter who you are.
Shining bright to see
what you could truly be.
Earth, Wind, and Fire
But it’s not about shining bright to stand out. And it’s not about being the best you you can be because the world tells you that’s who to be. Stop buying into the false dreamscapes perpetuated on social media.
These golden moments sell you something that requires actual effort. The idealized slideshows online spark a desperate wanderlust, often based on escapist desires. It’s not a true wanderlust but that of those disillusioned by their daily lives.
It’s not that social media’s the problem any more than the people sharing their accomplished dreams. It’s that we don’t think about the endless consumption of daydreams. Feeding ourselves nothing but illusion makes working, trying, and living that much harder.
It makes us question the reality of lunar landings, making us comfortable with complacency. But this life’s too rich to slide through it, simply hoping for more. You must find what fuels your fire before you burn out.
Disengagement and Disruption
As Dr. Albert Ellis so eloquently put it, “Stop shoulding on yourself.” What does this mean? All of those times you thought, I should do this, or be like this, orfeel like this were moments where you shat upon yourself. You came from a place of vulnerability and filled it with fear and self-doubt. You were too caught up in your identity and lost sight of how to defy gravity.
This is what Brené Brown calls disengagement, which she roughly defines as the gap between culture or “who we are” and strategy or “the game plan.” The only way to close this gap and believe in your ability to fly sky high is to “Align values with action.”
Now, I’m not necessarily one to let my identity define how I act. Identity is impactful in a group setting. For example, I am a Catholic. In a room of non-Catholics, my identity makes me stand out. In a roomful of Catholics, I blend. Identity etymologically means “the quality of being the same.” Mathematically it means, “a transformation that leaves an object unchanged.”
In essence, your culture—often a voluntary group identity—doesn’t change despite any transformations you undergo. I’m not sure how well this translates to people. I feel like there’s a litany of arguments to be had about the definition of identity, but I will say this: Feelings transform all the time, so how you feel about yourself today doesn’t define who you are tomorrow.
We can’t give people what we don’t have. Who we are matters immeasurably more than what we know or who we want to be.
I’m not entirely in agreement with this quote, but I will say that what we know about ourselves certainly affects what we believe we can do. If you don’t think yourself capable of defying gravity, you never will be. Even believing in your potential for big goals means knowing yourself enough to know that you can grow.
Remember how I said that reaching for the sky wasn’t an average goal? Expect to fall, a little or a lot. This depends on you and your self-awareness. If your game plan is to write a book by 2019, and you know you have poor time management, it makes sense to work on time management skills.
Building new habits and changing our scripts about who we are (i.e., Millennials, American, etc.) takes work. It’s not easy, and you have to be in for some discomfort. If you’re rescripting yourself, you’re disruptively engaging with a new narrative. That means things are changing, including your story about yourself. Stories die when static, as does life. So keep it moving and reach for those stars.
Don’t be afraid to fail, rather expect to do so. I’m talking about planning for the best with the worst in mind. Sure, we can’t predict the future, but we can be open to the uncertainties it brings into our lives. And if we’re not aiming for meteoric goals, we might make it to the moon.
Lunar landings are possible, but they remain a dream if you never take that first leap. Risking your comfort and complacency with a willing embrace of the unknown takes great daring. I hope you’re not okay with staying in the plateaus and lulls of life. I hope you dare to live your brief existence as bright as you can. I hope you dare to defy all the things that will weigh you down. Dare to dream, but even more, dare to make dreams real.
Thanks again for following my stories. As always, I hope they help you (or someone else in your life). I’ll keep trying to share the lessons I learn from life as best I can.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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-sabi. Wabi-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 kintsugi. Wabi 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 wabi–sabi 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m so glad you found your way to my blog! I hope you continue to wander back here each week (since I post more or less every Wednesday). Sign up for email reminders or follow me on Facebook, so you don’t miss out on future posts like this one!
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. 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.
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!)
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.
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.
I know it’s been a couple of weeks, so I’m super grateful you stayed with me. Your patience is much appreciated, as well as the time it takes you to read my thoughts. If you’re new here and want more 🔥 content lighting up your life, sign up for email reminders. Or, you can follow my page on Facebook.
What are your thorns, exactly? Your flaws and imperfections. These work-in-progress parts of you are vital. They mark a space once tender, now ready to defend off untoward influence.
Like your soft-petaled hopes and dreams, your prickles are vital. Think of them as boundaries. Where your leafy, nourishing goals are concerned, prickles have their rightful place on you. The next time a thorn grows, don’t remove it. Let it remind you of growth.
Allow it to be part of the whole you, not a scar of a shameful reminder. We all have thorns; it’s how we use them that defines their purpose. Most importantly, don’t be a prick.
There’s more to this cliched adage than you know. Today’s post is a bramble about finding joy in the in-between spaces (e.g., uncertain crossroads). The rose encompasses this sentiment perfectly.
For years, I’ve loved the feel and smell of roses. They’re almost my favorite flower, coming in a close second to other blossoms. My love of roses probably began with my favorite Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast.
I loved the contrast between the monstrosity of the Beast’s rage and his delicate deadly curse. It makes sense he’d be so prickly about protecting such a fragile, powerful symbol of his fate.
These buds symbolize many things globally, beyond a fairy tale curse. Each of their colors represents something unique. I’m a sucker for symbolism.
Anyway, today’s post is about stopping to smell the roses. It’s not just about slowing down and living in the moment. It’s also about how roses can make your life a little easier.
I mentioned to my mom why I like these flowers so much. She’d remarked on my smelling nice. (I don’t typically wear perfume.) I explained to her about the new spray I’d purchased, which included rose essential oil.
Then I went on to tell her that I’d realized why I enjoyed rose so much. I’ve purchased facial mist, lotion, and body spray in the last several months, all including rose essential oils. I found some homeopathic articles explaining how a rose is a natural mood enhancer (i.e., mild antidepressant, anxiety reliever). As quick as I was to believe this, I also needed some science to make sure I wasn’t self-inducing a placebo effect.
Unearthing the Science
So, I did my research. One particular meta-study by Mohebitabar et al. (2017) compiled and surveyed various similar studies on the physiological and psychological effects of Rosa damascena, a more commonly used rose essential oil. Rose oil reduced depressive symptoms in male and female participants suffering major depressive disorders and taking SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) (Mohebitabar et al., 2017). Patients also saw an uptick in sexual arousal, reduced pain when the rose oil was in analgesic form, and reduced norepinephrine (Mohebitabar et al., 2017).
As helpful as meta-studies are, they’re usually introductory pieces when you have a more targeted goal. So I sought another source that examined alternatives to commonly prescribed treatments for major depressive disorder.
According to Sánchez-Vidaña et al.(2017), up to 30% of first-line antidepressants are ineffective, leading to more people exploring complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), neurolinguistic reprogramming, exercise, mindfulness, meditation, and so on.
Aromatherapy, which uses essential oils, is a form of CAM. This systematic review (Sánchez-Vidaña et al., 2017) targeted those CAM treatments specifically used for depressive disorder relief, unlike Mohebitabar et al. (2017), which compiled all data on rose oil aromatherapy. Sánchez-Vidaña et al. (2017) found participants ranged from age 21-73 and included cancer patients, pregnant women, menopausal women, patients diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety, children with ADD/ADHD, women volunteers, and others.
Sánchez-Vidaña et al. (2017) studied a variety of aromatherapy, not just R. damascena. Inhalation aromatherapy was variably effective where massage aromatherapy proved to be overall more effective (Sánchez-Vidaña et al., 2017; Nazıroğlu et al., 2013).
Water Your Thorns
Now that I’ve gone on about the science and symbolism of roses, let’s talk about their other parts. Everyone fixates on the pretty delicate details, forgetting the different aspects which protect these buds from disease and predators. I’m talking about the ugly parts people snip off to avoid pain. (I hope you see where I’m going with this…)
If you’re stopping to smell the roses, you might as well take in the whole picture. Assuming you understood the essence of smelling roses, there’s another part about flaws I think we can relate to.
This isn’t the first time I’ve addressed imperfection, and it certainly won’t be the last. Looking at just the beauty or utility of roses insults modern and past cultivars alike. The effort it takes to breed roses thorn-free is no small task.
I’m okay with a pricked finger. If a rose has thorns, it typically yields a sweeter scent or bigger blossom. Removing thorns isn’t actually necessary for anything but making the blooms’ beauty more attainable.
If inner beauty’s a rose, let’s make it mystical! Rosebuds don’t open overnight without expert care and lots of patience. They’re temperamental blooms and require lots of attention to grow big and healthy and beautiful.
Thinking about my own prickly nature has me think about pruning myself down for others. I think it’s vital for us to recognize when and how we can prick others. It’s about making the good and beautiful parts of ourselves more accessible, without opening out tender flesh to spiritual pestilence.
Thorns aside, consider the leaves of any rosebush. They sustain the entire plant by absorbing sunlight and converting it into nutrients. They’re not the prettiest part of the plant but are quite vital. The real catch is the prickles.
Most cultivars, gardeners, florists, and consumers remove these for fear of pricking a finger. They don’t consider the necessity of these least desirable parts. The sweeter the rose, the bigger the thorns. Those roses which bloom biggest often have prickles; it’s a natural defense mechanism.
The lovely bumble bee floats along, intoxicated by the floral aroma. It remains unharmed by the large thorns. Its welcome presence results in harmonious mutualism. More than friends are summoned by an open bud.
Predators come, lurking along the ground. They gnaw at pretty petals. Instead of a feast, they taste prickly, viny flesh. Injured by the mouthful of prickle or merely dissatisfied, they scurry into the shadows from whence they came.
Not all roses are equipped with self-protection. Some aren’t prickly at all. They’re feasted upon, their blooms consumed before they fully blossom. The same goes for pruned roses.
Stripped of their armor, they now lie open to predators and disease. The same is true for you and me. Prune your thorns, and you leave yourself open to the world (and not in a good way).
Once, I read some quote about watering your thorns. I dismissed it as some odd cliche then, but realized its significance with time. It’s about accepting the gestalt of ourselves.
We’re made incomplete by so many things. A lot of our brokenness comes from things we do to ourselves, including relying on our thorns too much or removing them for the unworthy.
So much of who I am comes from recognizing the need to blossom. Trust me, it’s so much easier to obscure our natural beauty (and I’m talking beyond skin deep). I’ve hurt myself, trusted those who betrayed me, etc.
Stopping to smell the roses is about taking some time to just be. You can’t appreciate growth from pain if you don’t make the damned time. You can’t rush knowledge or healing.
Taking life one page at a time allows us to see things in new light. So much of change and growth is cultivating a garden for our inner beauty to blossom. If we take the time to look for the thorns we might’ve otherwise missed, we save ourselves a little bit of pain.
Tending to these subtle details can bring us to fuller growth. We can bloom bigger and prettier than ever, given the time and right (spiritual) nutrients.
Neglecting these details withers the beauty of our souls (as much as overtending does, too). Before we know it, those things which seemed as insignificant pests become a gardenful of blight.
What Lies Beneath
We’ll tell ourselves the biggest lies to dismiss the blights growing in our souls. We’ll deny once, twice, three times. And we’ll do it until we hit rock bottom.
Some of us hit that bedrock and find our footing. Some people find sense in dead, thorny stalks. They’d rather take familiar pain over the hard work and risks of beautiful vulnerability.
They’ll come up with the most common reasons for why they just can’t do it. These little lies smell like manure, because that’s what they are. A big old pile of bullshit. Do you ever tell yourself any of this crap?
Just five more minutes and then I’ll get up.
Oh, it’s ok. I’ll do it tomorrow.
Don’t worry about it. She’ll get over it.
Hey, sorry to cancel on you last minute, but…
I’m just a couple minutes late; I’m sure they’ll understand.
In the past, I’ve been willing to burn my time, my reputation, my good will with others, and more to cover up my flaws. I rely on the goodness of others not when I need to, but when I can. And that makes all the difference.
Since then, I’ve learned what my personal brand of BS smells like. Normally, I’d say manure’s a great thing for blooming flowers. But for personal, spiritual, overall growth, honesty is the best fertilizer around.
To hear the truth, accept, believe, and share it, I think you’ve got to rid yourself of your personal smokescreen first. If you’re closed to the actual truths about yourself, accepting external truth will be more difficult.
I don’t even mean the truths you’ve actively denied or buried with those best, personal lies. For example, I didn’t know my pride and ego were so big last year. So significant, in fact, that I couldn’t see how it affected my choices and kept me stuck.
Conversely, I’ve been well aware of my lack of discipline and my need to develop and maintain better habits. Yet, when opportunities arose, I denied and ignored the chance for growth, pruning and burying truths about myself (i.e., my fear, pride, obstinance).
Obscuring these obvious truths resulted in me holding myself back. My eyes watered and throat choked because of how much I’d burned and how I’d lied and how I’d denied myself into withered blooms. There’s a reason I lost sight of me for a little while.
The main point is, I wasn’t listening to the whisper of truth in my heart from God and that had me LOST. That’s why this whole self-growth and development thing is so important. It’s about sharing my gifts, my heart, my fire with the world. That’s the rosebud blooming in me (and it wasn’t easy to find).
Whether people need me there or not isn’t the question. The right people stop and smell the roses. The most important thing we can do is share our beauty, inspiring them to stop and try to grow, too.
Thanks again for stopping by and taking a whiff of my brain’s blooming ideas. Whatever you take away from today’s post, I help it brings you closer to cultivating your own peaceful garden (because you certainly deserve it). For updates, follow me on Facebook or sign up for email reminders.
Nazıroğlu M, Kozlu S, Yorgancıgil E, Uğuz AC, Karakuş K. Rose oil (from Rosa×damascena mill.) vapor attenuates depression‑induced oxidative toxicity in rat brain. J Nat Med. 2013;67:152.
Mohebitabar, S., Shirazi, M., Bioos, S., Rahimi, R., Malekshahi, F., & Nejatbakhsh, F. (2017). Therapeutic efficacy of rose oil: A comprehensive review of clinical evidence. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine, 7(3), 206-213.
Sánchez-Vidaña, D. I., Ngai, S. P., He, W., Chow, J. K., Lau, B. W., & Tsang, H. W. (2017). The effectiveness of aromatherapy for depressive symptoms: A systematic review. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2017, 5869315.
There’s no such thing as life truly lived without pain. The world wounds us, and we hurt one another. Strangers and loved ones alike, we all share in suffering.
Different kinds of pain hit you differently. Most pains sit in your chest or your gut, but the way they feel differs. Some pains are heavy, long-lived, fleeting, or come in waves.
That loss can drain you down into a seemingly abyssal chasm. Betrayal snakes its way through your intestines, hooking itself behind your navel and resting there uneasily.
Heartaches and various rejections come and go in waves—their pangs of hurt swell in your chest, an unrelenting tide. Just when you feel as if the waves might break, the oncoming tide fills your heart until you’re fit to burst.
I find bearing the weight of suffering survivable. It’s not pleasant or easy but is livable. I find it a heavy burden, one I struggle to carry at times but must do to avoid falling under its crushing weight.
Adjusting to suffering’s no small thing. It takes a lot of time, silence, and intent to acquaint yourself with its weight.
With heartache, as with other sufferings, there’s a different kind of healing. You can’t build levees to hold the flood of hopes, dreams, and ideas you clung to.
Instead, you have to learn to weather the pain. Whether it’s high tide or monsoon season, it’s a matter of sink or swim. As my mom says, “You can always do nothing. Doing nothing is still doing something.” But doing nothing often means we drown. And I’m done pretending I can’t swim.
Working through pain can strengthen us. We can’t rush healing, or we risk not fully recovering from the hurt. And the kind of suffering determines how much or how long we need to recover.
My rational mind is impatient. It often rushes past sentiment and steamrolls my heart’s needs. I learned this soldier-on, grin-and-bear-it mentality from my father. Forcing ourselves through suffering isn’t always the solution.
The mind’s a fickle thing. Even now, I’m inundated with whorls and eddies of possibility, each as one-of-a-kind as fingerprints. Yet, I lament these perceived “opportunities” as undertows of impossibility. Ideas are dangerous, intoxicating things.
I stand by the value of a life fully lived with difficulty, effort, and suffering. And I stand by the belief that most things worth doing are rarely easy. Make sure you don’t confuse ease and simplicity. Sometimes, the simplest things in life are the most difficult.
I find difficulty arises most often in representations of pain. Adjacent to the effort, suffering (often but not always) indicates growth.
Over the years, I’ve transformed from an anxious, withdrawn bookworm into something else. I’ve been told I always had no problem expressing my opinions. For the most part, I believe this claim about my childhood self.
My best friend reflects fearlessness and strength, and courage even in our youth. It’s the first thing that drew me to her, this ability to be herself unapologetically. It was and is a source of inspiration to me. It’s the same innate reason I dared voice my opinions, despite my fears of rejection and judgment.
I remember holding back my thoughts, feelings, ideas—myself. I was so afraid my truths would hurt others or isolate me in their intensity.
Once upon a time, I used to fear the truth. As I aged and matured, I recognized the importance of sharing the truth with others. I learned to share truths there, only mine to share, becoming vault and confidant to peers and close friends.
Holding onto others’ truths bestowed a sense of power and entitlement. Fortunately, I took pleasure in simply knowing. As a result, I never intentionally betrayed another’s trust.
But knowing hidden truths is as dangerous as having ideas. You can learn things you never wanted to about yourself and others. Turning away is difficult, too, as it removes a sense of ownership or belonging.
And when you’re faced solely with truths of self, it’s the loneliest damned thing. So I came to learn the emptiness of withholding the truth. Yet my fullest appreciation of truth didn’t arrive until college.
My time in college wasn’t all it could’ve been in part from the mental health roller coaster ride I experienced. I discovered what depression and suicidality do to a person. I discovered the truth’s brutality.
Accepting I wasn’t okay and needed help hurt. A lot. It also brought on unanticipated relief, the kind only brought in discovering truth. Truth is brutal but is fair.
So I spent four years fighting an uphill battle. At times, I was alone. At other times, I had a friend or boy who loved me along for the ride.
But they never made it into the driver’s seat. With depression, it’s either you or the monster driving your life. On the best days, you’re doing the steering. On the worst, you crash.
Learning no one could bear the weight of my illness but me was terrifying and painful. It angered me, too, more than I’d ever been in my life.
I cursed a God who’d let me be so broken, one who gave me the conscience to know withholding truth was the best way to spare my loved ones’ pain. Part of me is glad I held back because supporting someone through depression is no walk in the park.
I lost more than one friend and ended a relationship while I was unwell. Knowing I spared my family that hurt brings minor solace. When I recognize how many times we could’ve loved one another, I regret not telling them.
Vale La Pena
After my anger dissipated, I started to experiencing gratitude. It wasn’t an overnight resolution. As peace gradually trickled in, I had the purest clarity. I saw the truth of my pain and realized its purpose.
In peace, I found the necessity of my suffering. The greatest gift my journey through depression gave is the utmost appreciation and gratitude for this brief, miraculous life.
I’ve discovered so much about humanity, my loved ones, my faith, and myself since wandering that lonely road. I can honestly say if I hadn’t walked that path, I’d be a shadow of the woman I am today.
Bearing this life takes a hideous strength, once accompanied by growing pains. But surviving that pain strengthens and invigorates the soul.
It makes us the best versions of ourselves, cutting away false security and idle comfort. It brings us closer to something higher than ourselves (if we let it). Pain teaches us things are worth doing because we’re growing—closer to truth and stronger in ways we’d never imagined.
This journey into the unknown has taught me the value of pain. The suffering and struggle are worth it. A friend recently told me, “Vale la pena,” which roughly means “worth the pain or sorrow; it’s worth it.”
It’s this same experience with pain that reminds me why I opened my heart to the unknown. Beginning to date, even allowing myself the option, was about so much more than “putting myself out there.” It was casting off old habits, beliefs, and comforts—an emergence to a willingly-accepted unknown.
I walk these crossroads, these paths of uncertainty, knowing I asked for it. I am exactly where I should be, even if I don’t know why or where that is. The things I’m learning and rediscovering alongside the growing pains bring me ever closer to the true path intended for my life.
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Years ago, I wrote a poem titled “Bone China” about the frailty of assumption. I often experience people assuming things about me from a first impression, as do most of us.
How accurate are others’ first impressions of you? Usually, people find their assumptions of me lacking. It’s not the ignorance I enjoy, but the space between ignorance and learning the truth.
I’m a bit of a social chameleon. I learned this skill as an introvert’s survival tactic. It’s recently been useful in hostile work environs, too.
Blending in with scenery seems ideal when the notion of mere conversation stresses you out. Self-camouflage makes you appear less threatening to those individuals fearful of your firm will and more potent opinions. If you find yourself blending in out of fear of standing out, that’s another problem entirely.
Although I’ve recently learned the value of shutting up and putting up, as well as the benefit of intentional silence, concern for how you “should” be, is not a valid reason to silence yourself.
The immature need to fit in is a severe problem in this day and age. So many of us let fear hold us back. We stress the fabric of our realities by trying to match assumptions of how we should be.
The problem with blending in too much is you make yourself disappear. Worse still, you might forget yourself. Consider where you already are and how those in your life work with or against you.
For example, my strong opinions are only a problem when disconnected from logic and compassion. When I forget, I have honest friends who remind me to forgive and forget. I’ve also found a productive way to channel my passionate spirit in written words.
It’s not exactly how I want things to be, but I’m no longer straining myself to fit into an assumed version of my life, nor am I forcing myself or others into unnatural change. It’s amusing how our assumptions of reality overlook the impermanence of most situations.
The more we assume the world’s out to get us, blame external sources for our problems or indulge our self-centeredness, the more we pull on the ties that bind. These ties are those things that, when pieced together, form the pattern for our lives.
The struggle to meet persistent assumptions pulls at the woven threads of your reality. The dimensions of your world involve various threads: relationships, goals, values, basic needs, and so on. Each dimension may contain multiple threads, making it stronger and more integral to your life.
Others may be less plentiful but vital, decreasing the overall strain these threads can bear. These dimensions may fray if pulled on too often (i.e., you expect too much from a loved one).
The beauty of a broken thread is that it can be retied. It can be rewoven into the fabric of your reality. Another important thing: it can’t be erased.
The knot of the broken thread will always be there as a reminder. You can’t cut yourself off from certain parts of your life without consequences. It’s an important thing, not trying to forget something on purpose.
Fitting in too much strips the dye from threads. It slowly tugs at frayed edges and worries over previously tied knots. Fitting in for the sake of fitting in will unravel the pattern God made for you.
Tying knots, adding new threads, and maintaining the fabric of your life are transformative experiences. Secure your loose ends by living out the divine, grand design you’re a part of.
Leaving the Nest: A Story About Growing Up
Two years ago, I did the first adult thing I’ve done in a while: I signed my lease for my place.
In undergrad, I lived on campus all four years. Free room and board are some of the financial incentives for working as a community advisor.
When I graduated college, I moved back home with my parents. I needed to figure out where I was headed next and had no money to do this with.
If I were a butterfly, I’d still be in my cocoon as liquid mush. I’d be an undeveloped liquefied version of myself. Instead, I’m more like a bird. Sometimes.
My parents have spoiled me for the entirety of my life. They’ve bailed me out when they shouldn’t have and have been there for me when they certainly didn’t need to be.
It’s been mainly out of love and the desire for me to have what they believe I deserve. Most of our parents think this way, in some fashion. It’s how they act that’s critical.
Some parents don’t want us to leave their nests. They smother us with constant hovering and need to overprotect us from life’s harsh realities. We’re flightless birds in a downy world when not given a chance to fall.
My parents aren’t overly concerned, so I’ve been able to make my fair share of mistakes. They’ve provided more than their fair share of support and patience, which I’ll probably never fully repay. That doesn’t mean I won’t try, thus my transformation.
As to why I’m a butterfly (for this story) and not a bird: This latest transition was much less severe than a bird’s first flight.
Although the personal importance merits this same level of natural drama, I prefer the mariposa metaphor instead. My muse, also my roommate, signed the lease with me today. She mentioned these creatures’ migratory patterns; thus, their mental pertinence over previously flocked to avian analogies.
She mentioned the movements of monarch butterflies and their unchanged journeys, even after millennia. Their flight paths must be genetically encoded to remember key details, such as fallen mountains from ages past.
They merely divert westwards around where the landform used to be, despite its current nonexistence. This way, I like to think of myself, following those independent fliers’ patterns before me, pioneering a path predetermined, yet-still-changing.
I could go another way with this, of course. I could talk about the problems of never changing course and the inherent boredom which accentuates this in-the-box thinking. When it’s programming over prerogative, you need another comparison.
Birds might be a better fit, then. I’m still sticking with the butterflies because of their beautiful struggle. I’ll take blobby, amorphous me who’s still herself–forming and yet to emerge–before a flightless tragedy with clipped possibilities.
Today, two years later, I continue to regally champion my inner growth like a true monarch. The progress I’ve made on my migration has led to season after season of transformation. And I’m (more or less) getting used to being a blob in a chrysalis and then a winged creature the next.
Finding Strength in Vulnerability
Even though I’m on some metamorphic journey, there’s not predestined or genetically coded flight path for me (or anyone).
You can’t predict the sharp twists and turns of life, so you gotta keep yourself open to anything and everything. Growing into something strong means taking risks.
Most of my struggles come from within my head and heart. I’m blessed and cursed in that it makes people think I’m stronger than I feel. I often struggle to balance this assumed strength with my weaknesses.
I’ve called weaknesses demons, shadows, and other poetic obscurities. These are just metaphors for depression, shame, anxiety, and other mental health problems.
Open yourself up to the fact that you’re a flawed human being. Those flaws don’t necessarily define you, but they limit you if you’re closed to the truth of their existence. This openness is key to strengthening ourselves from within.
Strengthening my heart is essential for who I am. I took a hiatus after burning myself out last year. I was at a point where I called into question my innate gifts and vocation.
I’ve always had empathy and compassion within but wondering if my heart was strong enough to bear counsel was a sign. It was a sign I needed to work out the pains in my soul.
I’ve learned to be open. Do something that makes you want to get up every day. I find making things is the best way for me to connect with
Make something that helps you feel life’s energy. Creation is one of the most human and divine things you can do. Useyour past as the canvas, plot twist, drumbeat, punchline of your next creation.
Uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure are critical for vulnerability. I’ve reflected spiritually on my need to embrace uncertainty and how much fear of uncertainty has limited me. Cursing the future and the unknown is only a waste of time and energy.
Your energy is better spent on greater risks for even greater rewards, knowing that the risks you take will bring you the unexpected. Wearing your heart upon your sleeve (i.e., emotional exposure) is one of the greatest risks you can take a few people will ever appreciate it to its fullest.
Some will gratefully embrace your love and return it in kind, but you’ll never meet them if you don’t expose yourself emotionally.
Openness isn’t roadkill for vultures. It’s not open season for gossip-mongers. Openness isn’t an excuse to dump your baggage onto others and overwhelm them. Openness shouldn’t be used as a smokescreen.
You get to pick and choose what you are and aren’t open about. I’m not advocating oversharing; don’t do that. Some things need time to bloom in your heart before you put them on display.
You can’t choose only to be open about the things you feel comfortable sharing. If you expect people to trust your sincerity and authenticity, you’ve got to be genuine with them. Don’t share only what’s easy, but what is meaningful.
Pour out your heart to a trustworthy friend. Be humble and ask for help. Otherwise, you might find the net only becomes more tangled the more you struggle.
What Does It Mean to Be Brave?
So often, people assume bravery and courage mean the same thing. And they don’t. Synonymous doesn’t translate to exact likeness but similarity.
The same applies to bravery and courage. I think one is more about action, while the other is more about feeling. I believe acts of bravery are sourced from the movements of courage within the heart.
I love to look at the etymological denotations of words and see how they’ve changed in interpretation and application over time.
Take bravery, which comes from the Latin barbarus, and translates to foreign or strange. Yet, bravery is defined as “courageous behavior or character” in a modern context.
When you read barbarus, the next word that comes to mind is barbarian, which historically has been the label of the ‘other’ or ‘uncivilized peoples’ or ‘invaders.’
(Maybe that’s why people like Braveheart so much. The crazy, uncivilized, barbaric Scotsman who saves the day, despite the incredible odds he faces. He has a brave heart, full of courage.)
Now, courage translates from the Latin cor or “heart.” This complicated organ has whole novels inspired by it.
I think the feelings within William Wallace’s heart accurately represent the modern definitions of courage as “the ability to do something that frightens one” and “strength in the face of pain or grief.”
If you can stare yourself in the face, despite the gnawing ache at your core, that’s bravery. The question is: can you face your pain or grief and muster the strength to overcome it?
I can’t say I’ve always felt like a brave person. I’ve felt like I’m chasing who I’m supposed to be for much of my life. I wasn’t courageous at heart and thus didn’t act bravely. I was no Merida or William Wallace.
I was the nervous, anxious little bookworm who read about others’ adventures. I don’t remember being outspoken, as much as bossy, critical, and controlling.
I’ll tell you what: Bravery doesn’t have time for control freaks. In my experience as a former perfectionist, feeling the need to control everything just means you’re afraid of everything you can’t control.
A Personal Resolution: An Anecdote on Maturity
Reality check: that’s life. On my thirteenth birthday, I resolved to act my age. I wanted to feel like a kid. I was sick of being told I was so mature for my age.
Maturity in middle school meant you weren’t cool or made friends with people who acted your age. Thank God for the great friends I had who had no problem with my seriousness.
After I made this personal resolution, life was much more enjoyable. I felt less and less like I was chasing who I was supposed to be. No longer was I chasing a mystical idea of how I should be, but letting God and my soul show me the way.
There are those who say fate is something beyond our command. That destiny is not our own, but I know better. Our fate lives within us; you only have to be brave enough to see it.
As another brave Scot so aptly puts it, our fate lives within us. I finally began to feel, believe, and know this concept in high school and college.
My teenage friends saw me as this bold, bubbly, spontaneous girl who could light up a room effortlessly. I still was afraid all the time: of being alone, of embarrassing myself, of being myself, of doing the ‘right’ thing, of fitting in.
Adolescence is all about succumbing or overcoming your fears. And I did a little bit of both.
I began to understand the taste of feet somewhere in my freshman year when I told a boy I didn’t like. Now, that might be impressive enough as a fourteen-year-old, but there’s more.
I waited until the end of the school day when everyone was at their lockers in the freshman hall. I walked up to this boy, as he sat amongst his friends, and declared loudly, stupidly, shamelessly, and fearlessly, “I don’t like you,____.”
Mind you, I exclaimed this amidst his friends and within earshot of the several others. I’ve always had a voice that carries and did my voice ring out in the busy freshman hall that day.
Some might call this bravery, although I call it stupidity. But that’s okay. Growing pains are as much metaphorical as literal, and I’ve since learned not to be this publically ‘courageous’ with such juvenile matters.
Now, I can say I feel like a brave person. Anecdotal example aside, I’ve overcome much more since then. There are far too many examples in the years since this story.
I know now that one of the hardest things to do, especially as an adult, is to face yourself. That includes facing your mistakes, flaws, and so forth. That means sucking it up, buttercup, and persevering.
I feel brave because, in my heart of hearts, at my core, I feel courageous. The love of my people empowers me. The knowledge of my inherent worth lifts me.
I am alight with Christ’s light. I am free to send my demons back to hell from whence they came.
I’ve always known myself to be quite sensitive. I get in my feelings and my head-usually thinking about my feelings.
I enjoy introspection to some extent, as it provides wisdom and clarity when I forget myself. I found myself forgetting who I was, what I was worth, what I was capable of, and who I could be an awful lot during the last year.
And then I spent 60 days reminding myself that I deserve love. I wrote myself 40 love letters during some of the toughest times I’ve had since college. I might share those letters someday if I ever feel so inclined.
(I’ll eventually open them up when I need them most. Who knows when that’ll be?)
In the course of reminding myself how I deserve love, I got in touch with my feelings again. As an admittedly reactive person, losing touch with my emotions is synonymous with losing touch with myself.
That’s never any good for anyone, especially as my feelings are my way of connecting with the world. I wear my heart upon my sleeve, but I can’t do so when it’s obscured by fear and doubt. Disconnecting from feeling means disconnecting from people, specifically my intuition.
Think of a scholar without books, an orator without an audience; a dancer without music; a writer without a pen. My emotionality (i.e., empathy, intuition) is inherent to my being. I’d rather lose my mind or my sight before I lost the ability to feel.
I’ve lived in periods of numbness and isolation. I’ve even walled myself off from my heart when I was afraid of feeling too much.
Walling off my heart occurred in moments when the darkness and demons crowded in. They put the world in grayscale. They take my appetite. The air hangs, dead and empty. Sounds merely distract from the buzzing numbness within.
I’m doing what I can to not let this raw power of emotionality burn through me. As I’ve said before, empathy is my cross to bear.
Giving too much is my saving grace and what kills me, too. I’ve learned not to let as much get to me. I’ve had many strong, wise friends teach me how to dampen the outside noise to survive.
The hardest part is embracing this major part of me, with all its good and bad aspects. But I have the strength of heart (i.e., courage) to brave the demons which feast on my open heart. I have the power to soldier on.
I have the wisdom and humility to ask for help when I need it. I know this: I’m figuring it out, just as much as the next person. I will stumble, and fall, and get back up. I’m a lot to handle, and I have a whole lot of love to give.
I hope this week’s post helps you in some way. Thank you so much for following my blog and reading my stories. If you’re not already signed up, you’re missing out. You can find me on Facebook or get notifications via email.
How many times in your life have you felt on the cusp of greatness? Your whole person vibrating with possibility and potential energy, you seek a path to channel it. But how do you pick the right path? And what’s your motivation for choosing it?
If your goal to ‘work on you’ is only about yourself, why bother? Why let this finite world set the boundaries for any path you take when so many of the lost souls in it are limited by temporary, selfish definitions of success, purpose, and happiness?
All that potential is wasted if you focus on meanings by the minute, the YOLO, do-what-you-want-when-you-want consequences be damned mentality. We’re made for this world and the next, and only living for the moment means you never live that moment.
Manifesting your destiny like some entitled old-world empire wastes that potential energy. It’s limited to your fair-weather feelings and fleeting interests. And, it’s already been done before by everyone else.
Being like everyone else is overrated, not for originality’s sake, but for taking every second as a gift. This world is too big and too small to waste the potential of a single human soul. So what’re you doing to make the most of every moment you’ve got?
Sometimes, I see the world as one extensive library full of all our stories. The stories we tell ourselves and each other about how things are and were and could be. I imagine past and future moments of people’s lives based on the tropes and traits and things characteristic to their souls.
And most of the time, I get these things right. I trust in my gut, my graces, and my gifts to get it right. The problem is that not all stories are told yet. There are those we’re all living out each minute and day, but they don’t often match the ideas we have.
I think back to the unreliable narrator and how much trust we put in storytellers and authors, and others to tell the truth. But that’s the thing with being unreliable; you can’t expect it to work out the way you planned. I often find myself narrating how my life is, compared to a parallel fiction in my mind. And I’ve finally realized that I can’t tell my own story and star in it as the protagonist.
Sure, I’m living out my story actively, but that doesn’t mean I’m the one to tell it. It’s not that I expect someone else to tell it better than me, but I wouldn’t trust myself to tell my own story more than anyone else.
Instead, I try to live a brand new page every day—all parts of the same story, but with blank space to start over or continue. I trust in the God who made the paper I write my life but and the blood I spill on every page when I genuinely love and live the way He intended.
The French term for a bookworm is buveur d’encre which means drinker of ink. I once equated ink to my lifeblood, and for numerous reasons, find this ever more true. So if I’m an ink drinker, and my blood is ink, and each day is a new page to write, each person being a story or a book of stories starts to make a lot more sense.
Think even on the Christian concept of Christ being the incarnation of the Living Word. This isn’t an empty metaphor, but a reference to the grand author of us all-God.
So drinking in the ink of others’ lives (not like a vampire, thanks very much) is a bit like participating in the greatest story ever told-that of humanity and our struggle to find our place in this world. We try so hard to define our lives with singular moments and fleeting feeling, but we’re so shortsighted.
I started reading “On the Shortness of Life” by Seneca, a Stoic philosopher. One particular phrase stood out to me,
Learning how to live takes a whole life, and, which may surprise you more, it takes a whole life to learn how to die.
And the wisdom of a man who came before Christ and the concept of eternal salvation struck me. This thing we do, trying to live, isn’t about us at all. It’s about each other.
It’s about us being parts of each others’ lives and being the best damned people we can be-not for ourselves, but for those we live alongside. Living only for ourselves isn’t living at all, but mere existing.
Part of my need to live one page at a time is because of the thousand little moments we can so easily overlook. I’ve started visualizing ten moments of each day when I’m in bed. It’s to help prevent ruminating, while also inspiring gratitude for those tiny bits that comprise our every day.
Time for a Plot Twist
Recently, I started dating again for the first time in three years. That may not seem like a big deal, but for someone who dated from age 16 to 23, it’s a big gap. I’m not saying I never caught feelings or had thoughts about men in that time, but I didn’t do anything about them.
For those of you know me at all, not taking initiative seems counterintuitive. And for the most part, you’re right. But when it comes to dating, I figured out that almost every man needs to take that first step on his won.
When a woman leads the way from the beginning, the man always expects her to. This was my experience, at least. And I wanted to date the right way for me, which involved letting men set the pace.
So I have, and when I realized my present community offered limited options and I started to feel “socially claustrophobic” as a friend put it, I was open to change. I’ve been open to change conceptually for some time, but opening my heart is a whole other thing.
In opening myself up to the dating world again, I took a risk. But I did so out of a need to feel things I’d put up on a proverbial shelf in my self. And those same things were collecting dust-that of neglect and forgetting.
Some friends and I all signed up for a dating app together a couple weeks ago now. And in those two weeks, a lot has happened. We’ve all got different paths to take on this crazy journey, because each of us wants and needs different things.
One of my friends is trying, even though she doesn’t want to at all. Another is excited but nervous because she’s afraid of finding something real. Another is “bored” or hesitant to really give things a shot out of some kind of fear of isolation or rejection.
And I’m over here, the one who was like, “Guys, let’s do this dumb crazy thing. It could be funny or awesome or we could all end up happy. We said this was gonna be the year, so let’s actually put ourselves out there.” And now, part of me regrets being so gung ho.
At the same time, I’m ecstatic. I’m truly hopeful for the possibilities of putting myself out there again. Knowing I’m doing things the right way makes me feel closer to normal than I have in a long time.
When life’s events wound you, self-inflicted or not, it’s hard to believe in the small things like butterflies in your stomach and the goodness of a simple conversation. My scars may have healed, but they’ll always be part of my story.
The more pages I turn in this story of mine, the more ink I put between me and my past. It’s not a running away, but an artful forgetting of those things that once deeply wounded me. I used to fear hoping, but for the first time in a long time, I don’t.
Dating is not some magic cure-all, though. God made me an anxious soul, and dating puts a lens on me in a way close friendship doesn’t. It’s exciting sharing myself with new people legitimately interested in me, but it’s also daunting.
I’m not worried about being weird or awkward (I’m the queen of that). It’s letting someone else (esp. a man) set the pace, when so many men have let me down before. But it’s also the faith in God putting the right man in my path for something I’ve been afraid to hope for in some time.
Hoping demands faith. My faith in myself, my God, and humanity has wavered in the past. But now, I finally stand on terra firma, ready to be lead on new adventures each day.
There’s no rush on getting to know someone. There’s joy in this journey, even with its trials and tribulations. The journey makes whatever destination worthwhile. And sometimes, that destination is life-changing, too.
Overcoming my anxieties about vulnerability means surrender. I’m a willful, brash soul so offering this up is not easy. But I’m a firm believer that most easy things in life aren’t worth doing, so I’m going to try my best to learn from this next arc of my story. I’m ready to embrace whatever plot twists God throws at me, no matter how scary they seem.
As always, thanks so much for reading! I hope sharing my stories leaves you with a five-course meal of thought. Follow me on Facebook or sign up for email notices so you don’t miss my next post!
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.
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.
Maybeone 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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