In Retrospect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mental Pictures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scrapbooks and Glitter Glue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Don’t Be a Prick

What are your thorns, exactly? Your flaws and imperfections. These work-in-progress parts of you are vital. They mark a space once tender, now ready to defend off untoward influence.

Like your soft-petaled hopes and dreams, your prickles are vital. Think of them as boundaries. Where your leafy, nourishing goals are concerned, prickles have their rightful place on you. The next time a thorn grows, don’t remove it. Let it remind you of growth.

Allow it to be part of the whole you, not a scar of a shameful reminder. We all have thorns; it’s how we use them that defines their purpose. Most importantly, don’t be a prick.

There’s more to this cliched adage than you know. Today’s post is a bramble about finding joy in the in-between spaces (e.g., uncertain crossroads). The rose encompasses this sentiment perfectly.

For years, I’ve loved the feel and smell of roses. They’re almost my favorite flower, coming in a close second to other blossoms. My love of roses probably began with my favorite Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast.

I loved the contrast between the monstrosity of the Beast’s rage and his delicate deadly curse. It makes sense he’d be so prickly about protecting such a fragile, powerful symbol of his fate.

These buds symbolize many things globally, beyond a fairy tale curse. Each of their colors represents something unique. I’m a sucker for symbolism.

Anyway, today’s post is about stopping to smell the roses. It’s not just about slowing down and living in the moment. It’s also about how roses can make your life a little easier.

I mentioned to my mom why I like these flowers so much. She’d remarked on my smelling nice. (I don’t typically wear perfume.) I explained to her about the new spray I’d purchased, which included rose essential oil. 

Then I went on to tell her that I’d realized why I enjoyed rose so much. I’ve purchased facial mist, lotion, and body spray in the last several months, all including rose essential oils. I found some homeopathic articles explaining how a rose is a natural mood enhancer (i.e., mild antidepressant, anxiety reliever). As quick as I was to believe this, I also needed some science to make sure I wasn’t self-inducing a placebo effect.

Unearthing the Science

So, I did my research. One particular meta-study by Mohebitabar et al. (2017) compiled and surveyed various similar studies on the physiological and psychological effects of Rosa damascena, a more commonly used rose essential oil. Rose oil reduced depressive symptoms in male and female participants suffering major depressive disorders and taking SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) (Mohebitabar et al., 2017). Patients also saw an uptick in sexual arousal, reduced pain when the rose oil was in analgesic form, and reduced norepinephrine (Mohebitabar et al., 2017).

As helpful as meta-studies are, they’re usually introductory pieces when you have a more targeted goal. So I sought another source that examined alternatives to commonly prescribed treatments for major depressive disorder.

According to Sánchez-Vidaña et al.(2017), up to 30% of first-line antidepressants are ineffective, leading to more people exploring complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), neurolinguistic reprogramming, exercise, mindfulness, meditation, and so on.

Aromatherapy, which uses essential oils, is a form of CAM. This systematic review (Sánchez-Vidaña et al., 2017) targeted those CAM treatments specifically used for depressive disorder relief, unlike Mohebitabar et al. (2017), which compiled all data on rose oil aromatherapy. Sánchez-Vidaña et al. (2017) found participants ranged from age 21-73 and included cancer patients, pregnant women, menopausal women, patients diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety, children with ADD/ADHD, women volunteers, and others.

Sánchez-Vidaña et al. (2017) studied a variety of aromatherapy, not just R. damascena. Inhalation aromatherapy was variably effective where massage aromatherapy proved to be overall more effective (Sánchez-Vidaña et al., 2017; Nazıroğlu et al., 2013).

Water Your Thorns

Now that I’ve gone on about the science and symbolism of roses, let’s talk about their other parts. Everyone fixates on the pretty delicate details, forgetting the different aspects which protect these buds from disease and predators. I’m talking about the ugly parts people snip off to avoid pain. (I hope you see where I’m going with this…)

If you’re stopping to smell the roses, you might as well take in the whole picture. Assuming you understood the essence of smelling roses, there’s another part about flaws I think we can relate to.

This isn’t the first time I’ve addressed imperfection, and it certainly won’t be the last. Looking at just the beauty or utility of roses insults modern and past cultivars alike. The effort it takes to breed roses thorn-free is no small task.

I’m okay with a pricked finger. If a rose has thorns, it typically yields a sweeter scent or bigger blossom. Removing thorns isn’t actually necessary for anything but making the blooms’ beauty more attainable.

If inner beauty’s a rose, let’s make it mystical! Rosebuds don’t open overnight without expert care and lots of patience. They’re temperamental blooms and require lots of attention to grow big and healthy and beautiful.

Thinking about my own prickly nature has me think about pruning myself down for others. I think it’s vital for us to recognize when and how we can prick others. It’s about making the good and beautiful parts of ourselves more accessible, without opening out tender flesh to spiritual pestilence.

Thorns aside, consider the leaves of any rosebush. They sustain the entire plant by absorbing sunlight and converting it into nutrients. They’re not the prettiest part of the plant but are quite vital. The real catch is the prickles.

Most cultivars, gardeners, florists, and consumers remove these for fear of pricking a finger. They don’t consider the necessity of these least desirable parts. The sweeter the rose, the bigger the thorns. Those roses which bloom biggest often have prickles; it’s a natural defense mechanism.

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

The lovely bumble bee floats along, intoxicated by the floral aroma. It remains unharmed by the large thorns. Its welcome presence results in harmonious mutualism. More than friends are summoned by an open bud.

Predators come, lurking along the ground. They gnaw at pretty petals. Instead of a feast, they taste prickly, viny flesh. Injured by the mouthful of prickle or merely dissatisfied, they scurry into the shadows from whence they came.

Not all roses are equipped with self-protection. Some aren’t prickly at all. They’re feasted upon, their blooms consumed before they fully blossom. The same goes for pruned roses.

Stripped of their armor, they now lie open to predators and disease. The same is true for you and me. Prune your thorns, and you leave yourself open to the world (and not in a good way).

Once, I read some quote about watering your thorns. I dismissed it as some odd cliche then, but realized its significance with time. It’s about accepting the gestalt of ourselves.

We’re made incomplete by so many things. A lot of our brokenness comes from things we do to ourselves, including relying on our thorns too much or removing them for the unworthy.

So much of who I am comes from recognizing the need to blossom. Trust me, it’s so much easier to obscure our natural beauty (and I’m talking beyond skin deep). I’ve hurt myself, trusted those who betrayed me, etc.

Stopping to smell the roses is about taking some time to just be. You can’t appreciate growth from pain if you don’t make the damned time. You can’t rush knowledge or healing.

Taking life one page at a time allows us to see things in new light. So much of change and growth is cultivating a garden for our inner beauty to blossom. If we take the time to look for the thorns we might’ve otherwise missed, we save ourselves a little bit of pain.

Tending to these subtle details can bring us to fuller growth. We can bloom bigger and prettier than ever, given the time and right (spiritual) nutrients.

Neglecting these details withers the beauty of our souls (as much as overtending does, too). Before we know it, those things which seemed as insignificant pests become a gardenful of blight.

What Lies Beneath

We’ll tell ourselves the biggest lies to dismiss the blights growing in our souls. We’ll deny once, twice, three times. And we’ll do it until we hit rock bottom.

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

They’ll come up with the most common reasons for why they just can’t do it. These little lies smell like manure, because that’s what they are. A big old pile of bullshit. Do you ever tell yourself any of this crap?

  • Just five more minutes and then I’ll get up.
  • Oh, it’s ok. I’ll do it tomorrow.
  • Don’t worry about it. She’ll get over it.
  • Hey, sorry to cancel on you last minute, but…
  • I’m just a couple minutes late; I’m sure they’ll understand.

In the past, I’ve been willing to burn my time, my reputation, my good will with others, and more to cover up my flaws. I rely on the goodness of others not when I need to, but when I can. And that makes all the difference.

Since then, I’ve learned what my personal brand of BS smells like. Normally, I’d say manure’s a great thing for blooming flowers. But for personal, spiritual, overall growth, honesty is the best fertilizer around.

To hear the truth, accept, believe, and share it, I think you’ve got to rid yourself of your personal smokescreen first.  If you’re closed to the actual truths about yourself, accepting external truth will be more difficult.

I don’t even mean the truths you’ve actively denied or buried with those best, personal lies. For example, I didn’t know my pride and ego were so big last year. So significant, in fact, that I couldn’t see how it affected my choices and kept me stuck.

Conversely, I’ve been well aware of my lack of discipline and my need to develop and maintain better habits. Yet, when opportunities arose, I denied and ignored the chance for growth, pruning and burying truths about myself (i.e., my fear, pride, obstinance).

Obscuring these obvious truths resulted in me holding myself back. My eyes watered and throat choked because of how much I’d burned and how I’d lied and how I’d denied myself into withered blooms. There’s a reason I lost sight of me for a little while.

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

The main point is, I wasn’t listening to the whisper of truth in my heart from God and that had me LOSTThat’s why this whole self-growth and development thing is so important. It’s about sharing my gifts, my heart, my fire with the world. That’s the rosebud blooming in me (and it wasn’t easy to find).

Whether people need  me there or not isn’t the question. The right people stop and smell the roses. The most important thing we can do is share our beauty, inspiring them to stop and try to grow, too.


Thanks again for stopping by and taking a whiff of my brain’s blooming ideas. Whatever you take away from today’s post, I help it brings you closer to cultivating your own peaceful garden (because you certainly deserve it). For updates, follow me on Facebook or sign up for email reminders.


References

Nazıroğlu M, Kozlu S, Yorgancıgil E, Uğuz AC, Karakuş K. Rose oil (from Rosa×damascena mill.) vapor attenuates depression‑induced oxidative toxicity in rat brain. J Nat Med. 2013;67:152.

Mohebitabar, S., Shirazi, M., Bioos, S., Rahimi, R., Malekshahi, F., & Nejatbakhsh, F. (2017). Therapeutic efficacy of rose oil: A comprehensive review of clinical evidence. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine7(3), 206-213.

Sánchez-Vidaña, D. I., Ngai, S. P., He, W., Chow, J. K., Lau, B. W., & Tsang, H. W. (2017). The effectiveness of aromatherapy for depressive symptoms: A systematic review. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM2017, 5869315.

Nurturing Hope

I am not predisposed to subtlety. I live loudly, and that reality inspires and intimidates. I hope that living loud encourages others to do the same.

Overcoming fear is an essential step to nurturing hope. It takes courage to face fear, the same kind of courage required to experience faith and hope.

Since I’m all about spicing up life, embracing the unexpected is my idea of adventure. I’m already pretty memorable, but I’ve struggled with living bravely for several reasons. The biggest reason is a lack of grace, less socially and more so spiritually.

None of us lovely souls is without the potential for grace. I’ve merely denied opportunities to embrace it, letting my fears run rampant. In my disgrace, I felt the need to dampen my personality. The “me” I presented to the world was muted, a wet blanket. I was too disconnected from God, caught up in my fears and doubts.

My spiritual disconnection left me adrift in life’s myriad currents. I needed change, as I felt certain parts of my life stagnating, so I tried to force a future into being. This effort resulted in my poor decision to lessen myself. I couldn’t fit into who I should be, watering myself down.

In this shrinking of myself, I grew apart from God’s plan for me. I found myself tolerating a professional bully. I cared too much for the opinion of those unwilling to change. I let others’ fears and expectations get to me. I turned myself into a victim, inviting criticism, under-appreciation, and ignorance.

The more I watered myself down, the more I resented present people and opportunities. Losing myself meant muting the world’s colors, and I was too afraid to hope again. Instead of giving in to fear, I dared to hope.

Instead of giving in to fear, I dared to hope.

I’ve got a complicated relationship with hope. But honestly, don’t we all? If hope comes easy to you, it’s for one of two reasons.

Either you’re spiritually mature and wise beyond your years, or you’ve never had your hopes dashed so severely you’re afraid to hope again. I mean the kind of put your faith in someone so blindly and intensely, you find even hoping terrifying.

Maybe I’m wrong, and nurturing hope isn’t as hard as I think. But even with the receptivity I’m working on, I find cultivating a space for hope challenging.

Over time, I recognized my weirdness with hope and determined a lot of my fear came from my mind. I overthought, justified, and rationalized myself dizzy. This labyrinthine logic made me feel like I had Mandora’s box for a brain (a nod to the original lady with a crazy box full of dark shit, too).

When I tell people about the melancholic gravity hidden in my mind’s maze, they struggle to see it or believe me. It’s not that this darkness defines me (by no means, I fight any singular dimension defining any person, myself included).

I think people assume my joy comes from some endless faucet of energy and optimism. I’ve never been an optimist in my whole life. I blame my childhood fascination with Greek mythology and its all-too-common tragic endings for my less than sunny outlook.

Of course, this doesn’t mean I’m a pessimist, either. I don’t do idealism in more than a moment, as it often leads to dangerous ideas like daydreams and desirous delusions. And I can’t afford nonsense like that in my heart or head.

My joy doesn’t come from nothing. It comes from the deepest recognition for the gifts of suffering. Last week, I addressed some of my journey with mental health and its subsequent growing pains.

Finding this joy came at a cost, one I’m glad I paid. And I think my past battles with fear, vulnerability, and courage put me in a space to hope the right way.

In lieu of passionate, angsty daydreams, I can feel clearly. I used to think my feelings were the problem, but they’re far from it. When I get nervous about hoping for something or someone, I learn something from it.

Today, I experienced so much hope, despite my heartaches, old and new. I went to Confession (since Easter’s around the corner, I needed a check-in with God). And the number of souls I saw there brings me so much joy.

I’m grateful for the solidarity and the dedication, and I’m hopeful that people care so much about forgiveness and redemption. These are critical to experiencing true hope.

And hope’s a gift bestowed on the faithful. It’s a balm for those with unquiet minds and hearts (mine included). And I felt that today, too.

Hope’s a balm for those with unquiet minds and hearts.

In the past, I hoped for those who used me to step up and make amends, to acknowledge my worth with more than a single night’s pleasure. I’ve hoped for people to solve my problems and take away my pain. But I hoped for the wrong things from the wrong people.

As I’ve matured, I recognized misplaced hope and learned where to place it: not in other people but God. I’ve hoped beyond myself, too, realizing hoping for others is a good and beautiful thing.

Even now, I hope for old friends to discover truths that will bring them closer to joy. I hope for peace in my family and their struggles. I hope my friends find love and peace outside of superficial satisfactions.

Sure, I hope for love. But I also hope to be the best person I’m meant to be for those already in my life. I think that’s the point of nurturing hope. We’re not doing it just for today, but for tomorrow, too.

With the Flow

Making space for hope means flexibility, the kind that stems from honest vulnerability. I’m relatively flexible in that I say I like change but resist it once it’s happening. But I usually experience gratitude somewhere before a full transformation happens.

But going with the flow isn’t in my DNA (it doesn’t come naturally to me, really). I’ve learned to adapt, but I’m pretty feline when it comes to change. If you have a cat, you know what I mean.

Most of the time, I feel like I’m up a creek without a paddle. I tend to fight the currents of life. Most who know me personally would agree that my “element” is not water.

If I did live a life aquatic, I’d most likely be an ocean or a major river like the Nile, maybe a small sea. Either way, I’m not good at going with the flow. Instead, I’m more like a tidal wave or the waters held back by the Panama Canal.

I’m not something that flows calmly. I don’t slowly wear away at mountain ranges until they become Grand Canyons. Nor do I move as a giant mass and melt into great lakes.

I’m not gentle rainfall. I’m more like sleet or hail, a snowstorm if you will. I fall, crystalline and brittle. I might sting your face or bring you mild delight. Or I might dent your car. All of this depends on how hopefully I approach change.

I’m not gentle rainfall. I’m more like sleet or hail, a snowstorm

See, as we’re not entirely water, change takes time. How we approach a time of transition determines just how ready we are for a change. Essentially, throwing a fit about not getting my way with the flow of God’s plan would be like throwing my paddle into the river.

Water ebbs and flows, constantly changing and moving. Humans are only 70% water. I guess we’re only changing that much of the time. Then again, staying still and growing stagnates water as much as a person, and water does freeze.

It might stay chemically H20 but easily changes states from solid to liquid to gas. Although this level of state fluidity is not so simple for humans, metaphorically, it is. The hardest part is being open to a change of state.

Most of us suck at being too open or too closed. We come up with all sorts of excuses or guards to not change. We maintain pretenses and pressure ourselves to be what we should be vs. who we are or could be. We rush growth, or we don’t grow at all.

We never know what twists and turns life will throw at us. They require patience, grace, discipline, and willpower. Heading around life’s bends isn’t something you do alone, either. You only stay where you are when you fight the current.

Going with the flow is in your best interest. It means following God’s plan for your life. Sometimes, you’re merely along for the ride. Maybe you’ll get tossed about in some Category 5 rapids.

Don’t fret over life jostling you about. If you want a permanently smooth ride, I think you’re looking for the River Styx. When it is smooth sailing, lay back and enjoy coasting along. When it’s not, that’s your opportunity to fight for the path you’re supposed to be on. Usually, those grand rapids come from pressure to meet false expectations, throwing you off course.

I could wait hopelessly, gripping my oar and lamenting my lack of control in the situation. That’s not really me, though. As someone who elementally identifies with fire, I won’t sit still for long.

Of course, I don’t want to burn up my metaphorical boat, so I’d probably contain the flames of whatever I’m feeling. That being said, if I’m open to no longer resisting the current flow of God’s plan, then I’m going to have to turn down the heat.

You can throw your oar overboard, lament about your inability to change life’s current, or you can relax and enjoy the ride, or fight the current.

You can throw your oar overboard, lament about your inability to change life’s current, you can relax and enjoy the ride, or you might have to fight the current when monsters try to knock you off course.

It isn’t easy to go with the current when things don’t go your way. Sometimes we misinterpret the water. We take risks that might put us off course or bring us closer to our next resting place.

After the last few weeks, I’ve been struggling to make space in my boat for hope. But have I thrown my oar out yet? Nope. I share about my pain and learned resilience as a lesson and personal reflection. Going with the flow means reveling in the journey as much as the destination.


I hope y’all enjoyed this week’s post! If you missed out on last week’s post about pain and the gifts of suffering, check it out here. If you don’t wanna miss out on stuff like this, sign up for email reminders (since Facebook seems to refuse to notify anyone).

Growing Pains

There’s no such thing as life truly lived without pain. The world wounds us, and we hurt one another. Strangers and loved ones alike, we all share in suffering.

 Different kinds of pain hit you differently. Most pains sit in your chest or your gut, but the way they feel differs. Some pains are heavy, long-lived, fleeting, or come in waves.

 That loss can drain you down into a seemingly abyssal chasm. Betrayal snakes its way through your intestines, hooking itself behind your navel and resting there uneasily.

 Heartaches and various rejections come and go in waves—their pangs of hurt swell in your chest, an unrelenting tide. Just when you feel as if the waves might break, the oncoming tide fills your heart until you’re fit to burst.

 I find bearing the weight of suffering survivable. It’s not pleasant or easy but is livable. I find it a heavy burden, one I struggle to carry at times but must do to avoid falling under its crushing weight.

 Adjusting to suffering’s no small thing. It takes a lot of time, silence, and intent to acquaint yourself with its weight.

 With heartache, as with other sufferings, there’s a different kind of healing. You can’t build levees to hold the flood of hopes, dreams, and ideas you clung to.

 Instead, you have to learn to weather the pain. Whether it’s high tide or monsoon season, it’s a matter of sink or swim. As my mom says, “You can always do nothing. Doing nothing is still doing something.” But doing nothing often means we drown. And I’m done pretending I can’t swim.

 But doing nothing often means we drown. And I’m done pretending I can’t swim.

 Working through pain can strengthen us. We can’t rush healing, or we risk not fully recovering from the hurt. And the kind of suffering determines how much or how long we need to recover.

 My rational mind is impatient. It often rushes past sentiment and steamrolls my heart’s needs. I learned this soldier-on, grin-and-bear-it mentality from my father. Forcing ourselves through suffering isn’t always the solution.

 The mind’s a fickle thing. Even now, I’m inundated with whorls and eddies of possibility, each as one-of-a-kind as fingerprints. Yet, I lament these perceived “opportunities” as undertows of impossibility. Ideas are dangerous, intoxicating things.

Brutal Truth

 I stand by the value of a life fully lived with difficulty, effort, and suffering. And I stand by the belief that most things worth doing are rarely easy. Make sure you don’t confuse ease and simplicity. Sometimes, the simplest things in life are the most difficult.

 I find difficulty arises most often in representations of pain. Adjacent to the effort, suffering (often but not always) indicates growth.

 Over the years, I’ve transformed from an anxious, withdrawn bookworm into something else. I’ve been told I always had no problem expressing my opinions. For the most part, I believe this claim about my childhood self.

 My best friend reflects fearlessness and strength, and courage even in our youth. It’s the first thing that drew me to her, this ability to be herself unapologetically. It was and is a source of inspiration to me. It’s the same innate reason I dared voice my opinions, despite my fears of rejection and judgment.

 I remember holding back my thoughts, feelings, ideas—myself. I was so afraid my truths would hurt others or isolate me in their intensity.

 Once upon a time, I used to fear the truth. As I aged and matured, I recognized the importance of sharing the truth with others. I learned to share truths there, only mine to share, becoming vault and confidant to peers and close friends.

 Holding onto others’ truths bestowed a sense of power and entitlement. Fortunately, I took pleasure in simply knowing. As a result, I never intentionally betrayed another’s trust.

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

 But knowing hidden truths is as dangerous as having ideas. You can learn things you never wanted to about yourself and others. Turning away is difficult, too, as it removes a sense of ownership or belonging.

 And when you’re faced solely with truths of self, it’s the loneliest damned thing. So I came to learn the emptiness of withholding the truth. Yet my fullest appreciation of truth didn’t arrive until college.

 My time in college wasn’t all it could’ve been in part from the mental health roller coaster ride I experienced. I discovered what depression and suicidality do to a person. I discovered the truth’s brutality.

 Accepting I wasn’t okay and needed help hurt. A lot. It also brought on unanticipated relief, the kind only brought in discovering truth. Truth is brutal but is fair.

 So I spent four years fighting an uphill battle. At times, I was alone. At other times, I had a friend or boy who loved me along for the ride.

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

 But they never made it into the driver’s seat. With depression, it’s either you or the monster driving your life. On the best days, you’re doing the steering. On the worst, you crash.

 Learning no one could bear the weight of my illness but me was terrifying and painful. It angered me, too, more than I’d ever been in my life.

 I cursed a God who’d let me be so broken, one who gave me the conscience to know withholding truth was the best way to spare my loved ones’ pain. Part of me is glad I held back because supporting someone through depression is no walk in the park.

 I lost more than one friend and ended a relationship while I was unwell. Knowing I spared my family that hurt brings minor solace. When I recognize how many times we could’ve loved one another, I regret not telling them.

Vale La Pena

 After my anger dissipated, I started to experiencing gratitude. It wasn’t an overnight resolution. As peace gradually trickled in, I had the purest clarity. I saw the truth of my pain and realized its purpose.

 In peace, I found the necessity of my suffering. The greatest gift my journey through depression gave is the utmost appreciation and gratitude for this brief, miraculous life.

 I’ve discovered so much about humanity, my loved ones, my faith, and myself since wandering that lonely road. I can honestly say if I hadn’t walked that path, I’d be a shadow of the woman I am today.

 Bearing this life takes a hideous strength, once accompanied by growing pains. But surviving that pain strengthens and invigorates the soul.

 It makes us the best versions of ourselves, cutting away false security and idle comfort. It brings us closer to something higher than ourselves (if we let it). Pain teaches us things are worth doing because we’re growing—closer to truth and stronger in ways we’d never imagined.

Pain teaches us things are worth doing because we’re growing—closer to truth and stronger in ways we’d never imagined.

 This journey into the unknown has taught me the value of pain. The suffering and struggle are worth it. A friend recently told me, “Vale la pena,” which roughly means “worth the pain or sorrow; it’s worth it.”

 It’s this same experience with pain that reminds me why I opened my heart to the unknown. Beginning to date, even allowing myself the option, was about so much more than “putting myself out there.” It was casting off old habits, beliefs, and comforts—an emergence to a willingly-accepted unknown.

 I walk these crossroads, these paths of uncertainty, knowing I asked for it. I am exactly where I should be, even if I don’t know why or where that is. The things I’m learning and rediscovering alongside the growing pains bring me ever closer to the true path intended for my life.


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Looking for Love

I think about what my name means a lot. Amanda means “lovable” or “worthy of love.” There’s a lot of power in a name, even if we don’t immediately recognize it.

Plenty of people love me. And I firmly believe that I’m a loveable person. Not everyone has the pleasure and privilege to know and feel this about themselves.

But I want to clarify something: Lovability is only synonymous with the worthiness of love. Being worthy of love is on the beholder as much as self-perception. And I don’t always feel I’m worthy of love, despite my lovability.

Yeah, we all struggle with feelings of self-worth. I’m not putting myself on a singular pedestal of doubt and fear. It’s more the existential irony for me.

See, I was supposed to be named after my great-grandma Ada. Out of fear of lifelong teasing, my parents chose Amanda instead. And I’m okay with the name, but it sets me (a word-nerd extraordinaire) up for some weighty introspection.

Like, can I live up to my name? People affirm my lovability all the time, but dating certainly has me wondering this. This journey I started a month ago has put a lens on things I had sorted. I’m reminded of things I’d thought once resolved.

This process of opening my heart to strangers is scary and exciting and new and old. It’s so many things, most of all, overwhelming.

I’m forced to think on parts of myself I’d rather neglect, but it helps put how I see myself in perspective. I recently had a new friend tell me he only wanted to explore friendship further. And that soft rejection hurt more than I realized.

It’s not that I’ve never been friendzoned before, but I think I’d see it coming historically. Whether I’m blind to something I need to improve or learn to stay more open, it was a learning opportunity. Now, I know how cliche that sounds, but it’s the truth.

Old me, unhealthy, mentally unstable me, would’ve seen it as a rejection of me entirely. And I know for sure that’s not the case.

Receiving this new friend’s boundary opened old wounds. I’ve had men use me for my beauty and then friendzone me (that hurts far more than any boundary setting).

I gave myself a break from dating to learn, process, and refocus my energies. I’m even likely to entertain friendship with this new friend (despite my lady friends’ objections about my worth). I think it’s essential to keep good people in your life.

One of the most significant gifts in this new trial of mine is my friends. I leaned on my girlfriends heavily for their insight, but I could also turn to my little brother for his direct, blunt honesty.

Finding Love in Friendship

I am beyond blessed with all of the fiercely fantastic souls in my life. These connections are born out of charity and mutual interest.

We put up with one another’s quirks and flaws out of love. We remind one another of our best traits when we forget just how priceless our souls are.

Charity is not just giving but sacrifice. It comes from the Latin caritas and relates to a love of humanity. It has a more complex connotation, depending on its context.

It takes charity to maintain a friendship in the best and worst of times. Sometimes it’s challenging to remind our friends of how great they are. It might be tiresome to hear them rag on themselves over and over.

When you objectively know that the garbage of self-loathing they spew isn’t true, I don’t have to imagine how much love and patience it takes to weather the storm of their nonsense.

Maybe you’re waiting for a friend to get their life together. They’re dating someone, and the relationship is going nowhere. Or, they’re stuck in a job they could leave, but they choose not to; I’ve been there before.

Telling your friend what to do is not a good idea. Usually, it breeds resentment or provides an opportunity to misplace blame when their poor choices catch up with them. Providing unsolicited aid in a friendship is an excellent way to end said friendship. Sometimes, maintaining charity means having the grace to hold your tongue and let them screw up.

Manifesting the grace to maintain charity requires courage and strength. The best example I can think of is breaking up with someone and still be friends afterward. It takes all kinds of guts to do that.

When you’re in a tighter-knit social circle, there’s no avoiding exes, either. The actual initiation of said breakup takes strength and tact, which mark a real man or woman of character. I respect any individual with the power of the heart to do this.

And, if they manage any level of friendship afterward, kudos to both of them. The charity with breaking up with someone comes from wisdom.

It means knowing yourself enough to end a relationship. It means having the love for another to stop using each other purposelessly. It’s a thankless task for most, but not always. When done right, friendship is possible afterward.

A Ghost of a Christmas Past

I was leaving a holiday party. Although I left well after midnight, the party was still going strong. Even though I’m introverted, I never leave a party unless it’s for a good reason. Those reasons include:

  • wanting alone time with someone, out of concern or romantic interest;
  • already having other plans;
  • getting struck with a bout of social anxiety;
  • overthinking and overdrinking;
  • and being too much in my head or feelings.

Notice how work or being tired didn’t make the list of “good reasons.” If I can, I’ll crash on a friend’s couch. So far in my life, couchsurfing indicates a good night (in the past, it did; that’s not the case anymore).

If I work, a lack of sleep certainly won’t stop me from spending time with friends. As my grandma says, “You can sleep when you’re dead.” My response and latest motto are, “I’m not dead yet.”

I’m not dead yet.

Why I left early: sadly, it was a case of sensitivity. I was seriously beginning to miss my brother (at the time, he was deployed overseas). I inadvertently discovered my exclusion from an event I wished to participate in. Between the saudade, I felt for my brother, my presumed exclusion, sleep deprivation, and my girlfriends’ departure, I was not in a party mood.

Amidst the festivities, a friend of mine noticed my silence. Seeing as I had no cigar or whiskey in hand and was mute during a debate on superheroes’ validity, his concern was valid.

Silence is not something I’m well acquainted with uncomfortable with today. Considering the circumstances, it was uncharacteristic. I acknowledged my friend’s concern.

Due to the number of people present, I was uncomfortable being too candid. I shared something about missing my brother, which seemed to satisfy my friend.

While determining how much more socializing I could tolerate, I found myself momentarily distracted by unknown people. As the night wore on, I realized I needed to take my leave.

Following my friend out the door-a useful social tactic when people might wonder why you’re leaving early-I realized we hadn’t said goodbye.

I called out to him, really feeling the need for acknowledgment, “Are you going to leave without saying goodbye?” Fortunately for my feelings, he made his way back for a proper exit.

I guess he could tell I was still upset and inquired about it. I can’t always determine my face’s expressiveness, but as often as I curse being an open book, I was grateful in this moment.

I finally removed the mask of bravado I’d donned that night, sharing how I often wore it to force myself out of fear. I confessed my omnipresent anxiety, despite my pretense of confidence. I ran out of words, cognizant of my vulnerability.

Part of my motive for this confession was that I knew he’d understand. Despite his calm demeanor, I suspected how anxious he truly was. Based on our friendship so far, it was reasonably apparent he couldn’t sit still at parties.

He always needed something to do, to keep himself occupied and distracted from impending self-doubt and fear of social buffoonery. I often found him tucked away in quieter corners of parties, usually conversing with someone he already knew. I even concluded that smoking was for him what drinking was for me-keeping oneself busy to avoid anxiety.

His response surprised me. He acknowledged the use of masks, admitting they didn’t always matter. “Sometimes people are just bitches,” he said.

He reminded me of my already amazing friends and not to give a shit about others’ judgment. I thanked him for his kindness, then looked at him to gauge how my openness was received. It felt as if he had more to add, as always. Instead, he said, “Let’s keep in touch. We should keep in touch.”

How We Talk to Each Other

Keeping in touch stayed with me past that conversation. After processing my vulnerability, I found myself inspired to share the above story. I wanted others to see how a little courage goes a long way.

My friend’s parting words also made me think of how we all keep in touch nowadays. I pondered modes of communication. How we choose to contact people matters.

Texting is functional, efficient, and convenient when communicating basic needs, time, location, and quick jokes with friends and family. It is not for long conversations, time-sensitive topics, or serious emotional matters.

It’s not for dating. If you are online dating and don’t feel comfortable exchanging numbers for an actual phone conversation, you might not be ready to date. Of course, everyone’s standards of ‘acceptable’ vary, but generally speaking, asking someone on a date over text is juvenile.

On the other hand, there are more beneficial forms of virtual communication. Take families that live far apart for various reasons. Soldiers celebrating holidays overseas can now do this with their families via video chat. Talk about modern miracles! If you’re in any long-distance relationship, it’s vital.

Most of our communication occurs through body language, so face to face is preferable. The next time you find you’re ‘not getting’ a joke or merely misunderstanding, check what you missed.

Was it eye contact? Did you tune out of the conversation? Or was it the mode of communication you chose?

Either way, keeping in touch is necessary for humanity. When we lose touch with ourselves, loved ones, culture, and faith, we lose our humanity.

We can touch others with more than verbal communication. Body language naturally accompanies our dialogue. Intentional eye contact is a powerful tool in every aspect of life. Not all of us are easy to read, unlike me, so eye contact aids in understanding someone’s intent.

With 55% of our communication reliant on facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, postures, and other nonverbal cues, it’s no wonder eyes are the window or door to the soul.

Your pupils dilate in response to excitement, fear, attraction, or arousal. This doesn’t include the color change in eyes also due to an emotional response. Pigments in your iris expand or contract with pupil size change, altering the eye’s color temporarily.

Eyesight aside, there’s also art. I think creativity, in general, keeps us in touch with each other and our Creator. I’ve previously pondered creation before as I likely will in the future. Until then, use your humanity to connect with others. Create something that keeps us in touch with our immortal selves.


Thanks again for sharing in the story of my life as the beautiful wonderful audience member you are. Stories matter only when they’re shared, and I hope mine hit home with you. To make sure you don’t miss a blog post, follow me on Facebook or sign up for email reminders.