Trying (to Find Peace)

I’ve been tired for a while.

The past year has felt like saying “I’m trying” on repeat. And that’s exactly what I have been doing – still trying to curb my rising stress levels, still trying to go wherever God leads me, still trying to make progress in my life, still trying to improve myself so I can be better for those around me, still trying to find a healthy balance between being constantly focused on what lies ahead and living for what is right now.

Still, I’m trying.

One of my biggest fears, for example, is the potential need for my dream of being an author to be altered. The older I get, the more that seems to become a reality. When I was younger I’d sit quietly at lunch listening intently to other kids tell stories and prattle on about their daily adventures, and later while they ran around on the playground getting their energy out, I was alone regaining mine – writing down their stories and making them my own – playing fantasy games like they did, just a bit more quietly. Writing has always felt both like home and an adventure, and in more recent years, it makes me feel close to God. It’s the one thing that I don’t feel the need to be the very best at, because it just feels good to do it; but in doing so, I also improve. So, with this intense passion for writing I have developed from the moment I could string sentences together comes an intense dread for compromise. For settling. For giving it up because life may one day get too much in the way. Yes I will always be a writer, but I may not get the opportunity to write in the way I always hoped I could, and that saddens me. Even though I’m aware God has a plan regardless of what happens (as long as I keep putting in the necessary effort and listening to His guidance) what will be will be and I will make it through, the idea still keeps me awake some nights. I’m human; I falter, but I’m improving. I’m trying.

There’s so much to stress out about; to make me want to hide from the world and hope it stops nagging me. But I have a Music Appreciation test tomorrow and pages of notes still yet to take, I have a job to go to in the morning, a book to finish writing at some point, and laundry to fold. So much laundry. The world isn’t going to ever stop nagging me to do a thousand things at once and pulling me in every possible direction. It won’t stop giving you or I reasons to feel inadequate or scared or stressed or, more likely, some annoying combination of all of those and more. The world will throw problems at you left and right. Some bigger than others, of course, but it’s the daily stressors that sneak up on you – building up until you feel like you’re going to burst. (Luke 21:34)

But God’s just looking at you, probably stroking his beard, tapping his foot, whistling as He waits; wondering when you’ll finally realize you’re going to be fine. He’s got this. Even if you have no idea what’s going on, thank goodness He always does. (John 14:27)

Believe me, I have to remind myself of this about ten times a day and I still have my moments where I question it entirely. A million questions starting with “…but,” pop in my head daily, and yet I’m still okay. I’ve made it this far and every situation I didn’t think I would get through, I did. “Just calm down and stop overthinking” is a phrase I use mentally about everyday. The only way that phrase has any weight, the only way it ever works, is when I combine it with prayer – when I direct it to God. Life just seems easier to handle when I pray everyday, and that’s no coincidence. The only time I truly feel at ease is when I prayer journal, which I’ve been getting back to doing at least once a day. You can’t expect anything from God if you don’t ask, you can’t expect answers if you don’t listen, and you can’t expect change if you can’t handle honesty. “Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” (Max Lucado)

So my point is that life is stressful and uncertain and there is a lot to worry about, but you don’t have to let that hinder you. You don’t have to be held back by fear of the unknown, because God knows what lies ahead. Talk to Him about it and then build some true faith. What will happen will happen and you can choose to make the best of it by talking to God and being open to what He has to say.

I’m going to wrap this up with a story about a woman I visited in a nursing home today, because she inspired this entire post:

One of my closest friends and I decided we wanted to start scrapbooking, which she ended up mentioning to her grandmother. A week later, we were on our way to visit her so she could lend us some of her supplies. I tagged along, unsure of what to expect and wondering why someone I’ve never met would be kind enough to lend me things that are precious to her. But we get there and I’m greeted by an older woman with a kind smile and upbeat attitude, and I instantly feel at ease around her. She giddily shows us around the building while leading us to the small apartment-style room she and her husband share. When she opens her door, it isn’t the size of the space that I notice right away, but the fact that she made it feel warm and inviting. I didn’t notice the hospital curtain until the end of my visit, because all I initially saw was an inviting couch, photos of family members on most of the walls, and an overflowing crafting table. She talked endlessly about family and friends, but what struck me the most was the fact that she was open about her hesitation with living there. She did not want to move to this place. She’d given up her car, her home, and her friends to live in an assisted living home in which she can’t even cook for herself and her husband. It took her a long time to adjust to the environment. Though she hadn’t pointed it out herself, it was obvious that she was in the best shape, both physically and mentally, out of probably anyone else in the facility. She didn’t feel like she belonged there. She was depressed for a while, and still goes through some “weepy days” as she put it, but she said all this with a smile because she was learning to make the best of it. She put her crafting abilities to use and holds weekly card-making classes, she charges a couple dollars for her pre-made cards (as she pulled out a hundred cards she had made to show us what she can do), and she is lobbying to hold a craft fair so all the ladies in this community can have the opportunity to sell what they make as well. Her crafting classes have gone so well that she has gone from using her own supplies to the staff saying “buy what you need and we will reimburse you.” She proudly told us, “I found my niche,” and she went on to tell us that she believes she was put there to be a caretaker of sorts. To be a ray of sunshine to these people. She took her less-than-ideal situation, made it a God opportunity, and through it she found an overwhelming sense of peace.

She gave me hope that I hadn’t realized I needed until today.

She ended our visit with a piece of advice: “I’ve seen the top of a mountain, and the while the mountain itself is just rock and ice, the view is amazing – like nothing you’ve ever seen before. But it is in the valleys that the wildflowers and grass grow. Both are equally important.” (James 1:2-4)

 

 

 

 

 

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I Went For A Run (And Learned Some Things)

I went for a run today.

Okay, so it was more of a brisk walk with a few spurts of jogging…but I did it!

Before I get into my reasons for spontaneously going on a three mile (sort of) jog-ish thing, you’ll need some backstory. Last week I went running with a friend (who is actually a runner, so she has also been acting as my motivator for getting back into shape) and after talking about it for ages, she finally convinced me to go with her. What ended up being a disastrous turn of events also turned out to be a huge push for me in the right direction.

We got lost as we distracted ourselves with talking, assuming the trail would eventually loop back around to where we parked (surprise, it didn’t). All in all we ended up walking/jogging a total of ten miles. My left foot is still not very happy about that excursion, but the rest of me is thankful because I forgot how much I actually enjoy exercising. I forgot how much my body is capable of if I’m having a good time – that I’m not as weak as I always think I am. I forgot that I love to run and let my anxieties melt away. I forgot that I don’t really equate running with working out, because I only ever “worked out” to look better and never actually enjoyed it, but running feels like an escape from reality.

I wanted to go again, alone this time, and though I needed a week’s break after those ten miles for the sake of letting my foot heal, I found myself back on the familiar mulch track she and I started on seven days prior.

I’ve been pretty transparent on here about my past struggles with body image and one thing that held me back from exercising for the past year is how I have abused my body in the past. I spent a lot of time not eating and in that time I was exercising relentlessly – hours upon hours upon hours of trying to tone and shrink the body I taught myself to hate. Since then I have had an aversion to anything involving exercise because I’m afraid of becoming obsessed again or doing it for the wrong reasons. Which is a silly thought because it’s been a year since I’ve seriously struggled with it and while I know some fears may never fully go away, I also know better than to believe something so miniscule could ever be more powerful than the strength God taught me to find within myself.

Today I woke up knowing that I needed to be alone, just God and I. I needed to reevaluate some things within myself and allow for time in which I could reassess a few lessons I have let fall to the wayside. So I escaped to the familiar quiet park where I could reflect, and while I planned on simply sitting on a bench and reading my Bible or praying, I felt God tell me to run instead; to let go and feel free for a little while because I’ve been in a constant state of stress. So here are some things that I learned.

  1. It’s not always about being the best or the fastest. Sure, strive to be the best you can, but also keep a rational mind. I felt God while I was running; I felt Him in the sound of the sea breeze moving gently through the trees above me and the distant murmur of children on a playground. I felt close to Him because it was just He and I in that moment; the world still existed, yes, but it was more beautiful than I’ve seen it in a long time because I saw it all as God’s. It was very meditative, but it wouldn’t have been if I was solely focused on “go faster,” “push harder,” and so on. It’s more about the journey than the destination, or however the expression goes.
  2. Take detours when you can. I found a path off to the side that I knew wouldn’t lead me in the direction I had intended to go, but it was beautiful. I’m all for being focused on your goals and whatnot, but sometimes a distraction is necessary. Sometimes a distraction is put in your place to give you some perspective – a chance to reflect, breathe, and take a moment to be introspective. I ended up enjoying myself the most on my ten minute detour. There was an expanse of grass with benches to sit on, trees towering over me for optimal shade, a place off to the side where someone had a bonfire the night prior, and there were birds everywhere – from huge turkey vultures lurking in the corner to a baby bluejay hopping in the grass. It was serene and a little magical, like it was hidden away just for me to discover right then, and I found myself really smiling for the first time since I had started running. That’s where I felt God the most, but I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it if I had been so focused on staying on the path that I didn’t allow myself to explore at all.
  3. Don’t eat Skittles before you exercise. This may not seem like a real lesson, but I’m just telling you that you should make better decisions than me because I was fully aware that I should have eaten something healthy, but as I sat in my car for twenty minutes psyching myself up to actually run I realized I had been tearing through a bag of Skittles in my purse. It was like someone else took over my actions in that moment and I didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late…and by that I mean I was really hungry, I only had skittles readily available, but I honestly probably wouldn’t have chose anything else even if I had had the option. Baby steps. I’m getting healthy in baby steps. But still, don’t do something that dumb. Jesus would be smart enough to eat a salad or something, but I chose Skittles and very much regretted it. Just FYI.
  4. Speaking of sitting in my car for twenty minutes psyching myself up, that’s a thing I did. And that’s possibly the biggest lesson learned today (or, actually, more of a reminder since God and I have been over it a few times at this point): stop allowing fear to keep you from doing what you should. Stop allowing yourself to be your own worst enemy. Stop allowing unimportant things to hold you back. I was anxious about people watching me run because I don’t do it often and I don’t always go into new situations feeling super confident, but there’s a reason God spent all of last year making sure I was alone learning independence in spite of useless fears. Today He reminded me that I allowed fear back into my life and it’s time to let go of it, so I did. And I ran. 

God is in every part of life, not just in church or the Bible, and He can teach you a lesson in sometimes the strangest, most unexpected ways. Today was one of those strange, unexpected lesson days and I’m grateful to have a God that calls me out when I need to readjust my thought process and actions.

 

Change

Last summer I spent an evening in Savannah, Georgia. My mom and I embarked on our yearly trip to meet some family members in Tennessee, and what was supposed to just be a fun rest stop amidst a 14 hour drive turned into a sort of turning point for me.

After a bad breakup and several attempts to find love (or more like comfort, in hindsight) in all the wrong places, prior to this day I hadn’t thought about how much I needed a new outlook . My mom has always been the person who understands me better than anyone else could dream of, and a week of me and her on the road did more good for me than I realized at the time.

To most people, this photo looks like nothing more than a semi-blurry picture of a girl in a restaurant. But I see a hundred problems hiding under the surface: a girl who has lost her sense of direction in life, who is beyond frustrated, mentally counting the calories in the meal she just ordered, and wondering how much longer she can stand to be alive.

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I was obsessed with appearances. I had to be the skinniest, prettiest person I could turn myself into. I had to be fit, working out for hours upon hours everyday until I felt sick. I learned to love the feeling of an empty stomach. I still do, though now I wish I didn’t. I  piled on makeup to the best of my ability and wore outfits that I thought made me look smaller. I had to fix everything, but found new problems with myself everyday. I took selfies and posted them on Instagram to prove to others and myself that I had confidence.

There is nothing wrong with taking care of oneself, or wanting to look nice and be healthy, but I took it to an extreme. I loved when my extended family commented on how great I suddenly looked. I loved that boys suddenly paid attention to me and girls wanted to be my friend. I loved that I had a secret, that I could reinvent myself by choosing who I spent my time with, that I could pretend to fit in with people other than my immediate family for a change.

But those things did not equate to happiness. I did not find salvation in any of them. All I felt was a constant ache for more, but I didn’t get anything more until I proved that, while I may not necessarily deserve it, I could work hard for better things. I could have the best intentions, be positive, and be genuine as often as possible.

I needed God, and acted (even believed at times) that He and I were perfectly okay with each other, but I found that I couldn’t simultaneously be abusing/lying to myself and be in a healthy relationship with Him. Praying means next to nothing if I turn around and act irrational the next minute, whether that be in the way I treat my body or the poor decisions I make to feel less empty.

Relying on frivolous things like appearances, other people’s validation, and success to bring you joy will only result in feeling worse off in the end. I was never more broken than I was at that time, but it was in the brokenness that I was able to make a change.

I didn’t figure everything out on that trip. I didn’t suddenly turn into a new person or have a great relationship with God in a day. Even now, our relationship falters. I’m human and while it’s not an excuse, it is a fact that I’m not going to be perfect. However, it was a turning point.

Throughout that single week, I made decisions that I truly believed would better my life. And sanity, if we’re honest. I had incredible conversations about salvation, thought a lot about what God wanted me to do and how He wanted me to treat myself, and it was because of those decisions that I finally was able to move forward with my life.

I have never been able to say that I am happy. Even in the best moments, I didn’t feel a constant sense of joy. But even on my darker days, I have hope now. I wouldn’t have that if I hadn’t made difficult, but responsible decisions back then. I had to face reality instead of complaining about it, and as soon as I did, my entire outlook on myself and my existence changed. I changed. I grew.

Everyone Is A Bit Of A Mess

I am broken.

So completely, unabashedly broken. Well at least the “unabashedly” part is a work in progress.

There is no definitive line between having it together and falling apart. Daily life is not set in black in white; even if it’s not always a rainbow of colors, it’s at least hundreds of variations of grey. Depends on the day.

Lately, I’ve been having some grey days. There are ups and downs, because among the “downs” I choose to let myself have some “ups,” which is an important lesson I wish I had learned a long time ago. But in the grey days I have learned to look closer at the reality of other people’s lives.

I am not the only person facing demons. Far from it, in fact.

Sure that seems obvious when actually saying it aloud or putting pen to paper, but it’s so easy to get caught up in your own head and not realize that your problems, while they have merit, are not exclusive. I would be wasting my time trying to compare my life to other’s because I can see their lives in easy black and white moments – I’m not feeling everything they feel or seeing every detail exactly like they can. To put it more eloquently, Steven Furtick says “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

Even with the people I am closest to, with whom I get a glimpse of most of their good and bad moments, I could still easily point to all the ways in which they have their life more figured out than I do.

Me? I feel like a mess 24/7. I’ve never not felt like a mess. I’m a terrible communicator when it comes to my emotions (and I have a lot of them), I procrastinate out of fear, I push some people away and let in some that I shouldn’t, I think too much about self-improvement to the point of not actually doing anything to improve, I don’t pray enough. I’m going to stop there. You get the point.

Your immediate reaction, if you’re anything like me, may be “Yeah, but…”

But nothing. I am a mess in some ways, but not in others. It’s just not always easy to look past the ways in which you are a mess because those qualities tend to be more prevalent and problem-causing. The people in my life that I admire for their abilities to handle things all the time have their own faults and shortcomings that I’m not paying attention to because I’m too busy thinking about how much better than me they are.

A better use of time is, if you notice a quality you like in someone, point it out to them and learn from what they do. You can’t always mimic what other people do because you still have to be your own person and focus on the gifts that God gave you, but maybe there’s some sort of lesson in there for you as well.

Otherwise, calm down. Get it together. You’re fine. Everything is fine.

That’s pretty much my mantra when I’m freaking out about anything ever. But seriously, calm down and do something productive. Even if it’s not perfect, move in some sort of positive direction because sitting back and watching other people live their lives “better” than you is only going to bring you down and get you nowhere. My mom says something to the effect of, “If you’re not moving forward, you can only go backwards.” There is no safe middle ground.

Everyone else does not have it all together and you aren’t 100% a mess. Most of us are somewhere in the middle; our shortcomings are just way more apparent than other people’s. However that’s also no excuse to sit back and say “I’m doing fine.” It means that you may not be exactly where you should be, but you can work on that. In doing so, you can also remain positive and remember that no two people are doing or have done this ‘life’ thing the exact same way.

We’re all trying to figure it out.

 

Insecurities, Trials, and John 13:7

Thank God for a God that actually cares about our well-being.

“Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.'” (John 13:7)

As we live in a culture obsessed with bodies – equally our own and each other’s – there will likely be many times in which it’ll become difficult to keep our opinions about ourselves in perspective.

Is it sometimes shallow? Maybe. Is it a challenge regardless? Absolutely. I, as does everyone else, struggle with insecurities about my personality and capabilities but that’s another topic for another day. Right now we’re focusing on the stuff that shouldn’t matter nearly as much, but does anyway: outward appearance.

After having relatively short hair for well over a year and being semi-overweight, I decided that I wanted neither of those things for myself ever again. I was convinced that if I was stick-skinny with hair that hit my waist, I would be considered “pretty.” My long thick hair acted as a shield to hide behind as well, so that was an added bonus.

When I achieved both the long hair and stick-skinny body, big shocker, I was still insecure. Sure I felt better about my appearance in some ways, but my attention just shifted from one set of insecurities to another.

On top of that, once I reached my goal it wasn’t enough. I needed more. It seemed counteractive to stop after all the time and effort I had put in, so I didn’t. I worked out for hours upon hours, kept a journal in which I made sure every bite throughout my day was accounted for, ate so little I got used to feeling dizzy and loved that I never felt hungry anymore. I made secret Pinterest boards of tiny girls with long hair as inspiration to keep pushing myself. I took notice of the sudden increase in positive attention I was receiving.

I haven’t touched my calorie-counting notebook in months. I still have it at hand, I know exactly where it is, but I haven’t touched it. I’ll get rid of it in due time when I know I won’t be tempted to simply start a new one.

The reason I’m mentioning some details of my problems with food is not to garner attention or sympathy of any kind. Dear Lord, this is not about me saying “Hey feel sorry for me even though I did this to myself!” I debated whether or not it was a good idea to share any personal information at all, but in the end I decided that it serves a purpose. I’ve learned a lot from it and while I’m only skirting over the details here, the lesson in the end is what’s worth sharing.

As Joyce Meyer says, “I may not be where I want to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.”

I’m at a point where I have gained weight because I’m actually eating consistently. Though sometimes I still tell people I have eaten when I haven’t. I’m finding myself comparing my body to the women on Instagram who have unnaturally contorted their bodies, no matter what size, to appear curvy in all the right places. With my slouchy posture and my bodies natural tendency to send all my fat to my belly and face, I often feel quite literally like the grossest person to walk the earth. But man, I can eat and actually enjoy it most of the time. I don’t panic anymore because I don’t have the time or energy to work out for 5 or more hours everyday. I don’t panic when I don’t get to work out at all, though granted I probably should move around more than I do now. I can think about things that actually matter and leave the house without looking “perfect” and be okay with it.

God did this thing to me that I absolutely hated, and I’m still not loving, but I am beyond grateful for. He took away all my crutches at once. He made me feel uglier and more insecure than I have ever felt.

I decided my hair wasn’t good enough anymore. That it desperately needed blonde highlights. So after my failed attempt and a 5 hour hair appointment in which they turned my long curls into an actual rat’s nest that I couldn’t run my fingers through, I had to cut my hair insanely short. And it was a bad cut. Really. Bad. Hair: gone.

I felt like God was pushing me to quit the job that kept me working out consistently (for reasons beyond just that). Also I was at home more often due to taking a break from school, which meant quicker access to food and more people to keep me accountable for how much I ate. Weight: gained.

As an added bonus, my acne came back and it hit me even harder than it did when I was 15. Face: irritated and scarred.

When this all happened, I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to leave the house, I didn’t want people to see me, I didn’t want people to think I was okay with looking the way I did even though there was nothing I could do about it right away (and I didn’t even look bad, nor was it a big deal at all, but obviously my head was not in the rational thinking zone at the time). There was a lot of crying, some anger on my part, but thank God it happened because I learned firsthand about the difference between taking care of oneself and being obsessive.

I’ve never been satisfied with the way I look. I’ve had multiple drastic style changes, hair changes, makeup changes, weight changes, anything you can think of. I like to try new things because it’s fun, but mostly I do it because once I get an idea in my head I somehow convince myself that I need to do it or I won’t be complete. Which, obviously, is completely illogical. However, the insecure part of my brain convinces itself that that one change is what will make me feel better. Again, illogical, because it never works.

But God broke me of that mentality. Not only did he take away the things that made me feel “pretty” and comfortable so that I would be forced to appreciate the person He made me to be and stop freaking out about every insignificant and minor detail, but He also put people into my life who unknowingly helped a lot.

He gave me a close friend who supports me, talks about the way I look and dress positively, but would 100% kindly tell me the truth if prompted. She often greets me with an enthusiastic “You look so cute,” and looks for positives in the things I am insecure about.

He also gave me a boyfriend who doesn’t cater to my every whim. He loves me, he is kind, he does things for me, he compliments me often. He also recognizes that while he can encourage me, that’s all he can do. So many women look to their significant others to save them. To worship the ground they walk on and baby them every time they get a little bit down on themselves or knocked down by every little problem, but that only perpetuates an emotionally dependent attitude. I’m grateful that I was given a relationship in which we can support, love, comfort, and talk to each other about anything as a team, but at the end of the day we know we can’t change the negative things in one another. He can’t make me be less insecure and I don’t expect him to because that’s my problem I have to face. And in hindsight, I wouldn’t want a boyfriend who showers me with compliments solely to make me feel better because I know that every time he calls me beautiful, every time he hugs me tighter when I’m about to leave, every time he does anything romantic or kind or loving he wholeheartedly means it. Romanticism for the sake of romanticism has no real heart and I’m grateful that God gave me somebody who won’t coddle me.

So yeah, I’m not going to lie and turn this into some huge redemption story. I’m still insecure. Everyone is insecure to some degree. Confidence is just faking it until it doesn’t bother you anymore, but with God I was able to really put things into perspective and see how little the problems I have with myself matter. I still have moments throughout the day when I look in the mirror and I’m not happy with what’s looking back at me. I still have moments when I fail. I still have moments when I let my emotions get the best of me.

But they are moments. They will come and they will pass and we are given the strength to choose how we will respond to them and we can be forgiven when we mess up. I can choose to sit around and mope all day about the way I look, or I can get up and do something else or even go (healthily and within reason) do something about it.

God taking away what made me comfortable was what pushed me to realize how ridiculously caught up in myself I was, but I could have easily chosen to ignore it and feel sorry for myself instead. We are not made to be complacent bystanders, and God often puts us into situations and expects us to turn it into something positive and useful. Whether it is bettering ourselves or being able to relate to and help others with similar situations (or, more likely, both of those things simultaneously), there are no coincidences if you choose to look beyond only your feelings.

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)

Semi-Introverted Dilemma

At nine a.m. yesterday I woke to my mother peering anxiously in my doorway. I checked my phone: she had called me seconds prior. Considering I’ve slept through fire alarms and almost break-ins, I imagined she began walking up the stairs as she hit the call button, knowing that the gentle buzz of my phone under my pillow wouldn’t have much of an effect on this eternally heavy sleeper, try as she might. She made her way toward my curtains as I let out a disgruntled mumble of indecipherable words. Pulling them tightly together, she alerted me with gentle haste that there were men climbing their way to my windows to work on them. I didn’t know what “working on my windows” specifically entailed, but as I recognized the clatter of an extending ladder and gravelly voices yelling back and forth, I wrenched myself out of the comfort of my bed. I’d wanted to sleep in. I shouldn’t have stayed up so late, but I’ve been thinking that particular string of words for most of my life.

Today, the clatter and yelling escalated with the addition of what I’m assuming is some sort of very obnoxious drilling. I haven’t paid enough attention to think about it, just gotten through this time with my headphones on at near-full volume. My curtains are still closed now, giving my room a constant early morning vibe.

I love the warm rush of sunlight greeting my cool skin every morning. I love the way my room is transformed into a place full of life the moment the sun filters in. Like it’s ready for the day to begin, excited to start something. Anything. I love that both the daily grey sky and chilly air have finally given way to familiar warm breezes and the need for sunglasses until the sun goes to sleep.

But when the sun finally came out of hiding, I unintentionally dove into it. I don’t often  like keeping my curtains closed, that sad hermit-feeling of being closed off to the rest of civilization. I don’t like staying in one place for too long, the walls of my bedroom seeming to shrink by the second. I don’t like living in my own head for too long either, but that’s a little harder to get away from.

It’s frustrating being an introvert who can’t stand to be alone for too long. And being alone for two days, shut off from the world, has been a challenge I’m adjusting to.

I used to avoid social gatherings like the plague, but I’ve since taught myself how to turn on my outgoing switch when I need it. There was a time when I was addicted to that sort of thing: the way I could adapt to any social event. It was a game only I knew I was playing. My newfound party trick was actually talking to people instead of hiding in the corner or not going at all, and it wore me out like you wouldn’t believe. I was constantly drained, running on fumes 99% of the time, but I was tired of the version of myself who read books alone in her room or stared emptily at the walls. I spent my whole life being that person. The discovery that I could transform into whoever I wanted was a challenge I had never been brave enough to explore until, suddenly, I let go and just did it.

I was in a constant state of busyness, filling my schedule with friends and jobs and bible studies and any new thing I could possibly try. Every minute of every day was accounted for. That in and of itself isn’t exactly a bad thing, but I realized my intentions were wrong when I found myself in a situation with one particular unplanned evening all to myself. Somehow the night had gone unnoticed, left completely blank on my calendar. I sat in the breakroom at work that morning texting friend after friend after friend, fingers frantically asking for anybody to spend time with me. The panic of going back to who I had always been built up with every rejection and I didn’t know what to do with the sinking fear residing in the pit of my stomach. It was foreign to me, a deafening pounding in my ears that yearned for someone else to quiet down because I was tired of doing it myself.

Looking back I think I was afraid of getting addicted to being alone again. I wasn’t ready for the excitement of new people, new activities, new experiences to die down yet because if I spent too much time alone I thought I might have permanently retreated back into my turtle-shell state of living. I don’t like being closed off to the rest of the world, but it’s an easy trap to fall into.

That’s when I learned about the difference between wanting to be alone and hiding. Wanting to be alone and being lonely. Wanting to be alone and using my introvertedness as an excuse.

I’ve been realizing lately that when you put yourself in an unhealthy situation, sometimes God lets you live in it for a while to make you realize the importance of it. To remember it for longer than to get out of just one single situation. He also has a tendency to take away the things that you use as a crutch. Friendships and busyness quickly became a crutch for me so it came to a screeching halt out of nowhere, something beyond my control, and I was forced to reflect on myself.

So now I’m here, quite some time later and thankfully past that weird phase of life, but the confusing push and pull of whether or not to socialize still hangs over me from time to time.

I could have gone out last night with a group of new people I don’t know very well. Maybe after a day of going crazy from working at home all day, it would have been good for me. It wouldn’t have been a waste of time; I could have gotten something out of the experience. But lately I’ve realized that it isn’t just people (generally speaking) I like to spend time with; it’s certain people. It’s those who don’t so easily make me feel drained. The ones who I can spend hours upon hours with and still feel happy and full of life. That’s not to say I should only ever do that simply because it’s what I like, but I simultaneously feel like I get a lot more out of being in the presence of someone I am comfortable with and I feel like I have more to give in return.

I will likely never be the kind of person who helps people, who talks about God, who does anything very useful in the type of changing environment that requires talking to a lot of different people. I have an appreciation for the people who can connect with others in that way, but I know I thrive with deep personal one-on-one connections and that’s what I am seeking to make the most of. I will try new things, I will put myself in other environments, but I won’t try to be somebody I can’t be because that would be a waste of who God made me to be.

Life is a balancing act. Socialize, but make time for yourself so you have enough to give back when you are around people. Go where you are comfortable because you can thrive there, but don’t close yourself off to new possibilities.

This is starting to sound like a motivational speech, as many of my rants tend to do. My point is that sometimes God puts you in uncomfortable situations to teach you an important lesson, but we are living in a generation that tells you you have to constantly do things that scare you. Yes that’s true to a certain extent because trying new things and making connections and other things of the like can often lead to figuring out who you are, what you are good at, etc., but you don’t have to live every second of your life moving so quickly that you don’t take time to reflect on any of it.

Doing what scares you doesn’t mean wasting time in places you don’t think you belong. It doesn’t mean you have to do things you don’t take much of an interest in or that won’t add something to either your or someone else’s lives. Unless you believe there is a legitimate purpose for doing said things, “living life to the fullest” does not look exactly the same for any two people. Simply go where you believe you are lead to go. 

I Swear, This Isn’t Actually About Hair

“It’s just hair,” she whispers to herself on repeat. “It’s just hair,” her voice shakes with every falling strand onto her bathroom floor, dusting past her shoulders, dull scissors in one hand and the other white-knuckled grasping the counter. She’s trying to maintain her composure. She is healthy, she has people who love her, she does not need to cry over something as trivial as the length of her hair. The people she loves will still love her the same, she can still do good for the world, she can still be kind and fun and God-loving and she can still be exactly the same person she was ten minutes ago, just without a waterfall of curls that cascade down her back and over her face. She should not care so much about something so small, but there are annoying, pressing thoughts tangling around her rational mind. What else will she have to hide behind? What else will make her pretty? What else will be her security blanket?


That was dramatic.

Anyway.

You never know what you have until it’s gone, right? Someone please go back in time and tell that to me before I had to become the girl cutting off her own hair in her bathroom at midnight.

Long story short, I tried to dye my hair blonde temporarily. It didn’t work out, I went to a salon to have it fixed and the guy completely fried my hair. I mean fried. Dead. A tangled mess on top of my head that I couldn’t run my fingers through without the risk of never getting them back out. There was no coming back from the rat’s nest that my once Rapunzel-esque hair resembled, so I cut it off.

The hair I’d spent over a year growing out; the hair I swore I would never cut short again (actually begged everyone I know to yell at me if I ever even considered it); the hair that had always been my security blanket and the reason I was incredibly insecure circa 2015 because, for some reason, I decided to chop it all off for no good reason whatsoever: gone. Again. Except this time it’s worse because the hair that I have left doesn’t curl the way it used to and it has the texture of something resembling hay because, like I said, it’s completely fried.

Do I sound annoyed? Upset? Like maybe that little dramatic introduction maybe wasn’t dramatized at all and I actually did have (at least) one meltdown over something as trivial as my hair? Yeah, let’s move on.

I felt like my femininity was taken away the second I looked in the mirror to see the damage that had been done. Scratch that, I feel like my femininity has been taken away. I’m feeling it right now, hardcore. In a culture that glorifies being youthful and “sexy” all the time, I simultaneously feel like I’ve unknowingly joined both the Golden Girl’s and Boy Meets World casts with this short curlyish ‘fro thing on top of my head.

And that’s not to say that short hair isn’t pretty. It just isn’t me. It really isn’t me.

Who am I without my long hair that everyone used to rave about? Was my attractiveness ever about me at all, or did my long curls give me some sort of “pretty girl” illusion? I’m not going to lie and tell you that I’m happier now that I have this semi-curly/very fried bowl cut, but I am working on at least calling it a blessing in disguise. I swear, I’m trying. Hear me out.  

I placed far too much of my worth in my appearance; I wanted to be conventionally attractive so I ate less, worked out more, and kept my hair long. It worked. I received more positive attention, my friends started referring to me as “hot” (which, of course, I laughed at even though secretly it made me feel really good considering my previous nicknames tended to revolve around the word “chubby”), and my family would always comment on how great I looked. I was skinny and strong and had long curly locks, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. I’d also be lying if I said I don’t miss it.

But while compliments and feeling good about myself were all nice and wonderful, my purpose is greater than fitting into an image of being someone simply pretty. I never wanted to be somebody with no substance beyond my outward self. I never had a lot of respect for women/men who only focus on their outward appearance (though attention to your outward appearance is great as long as it’s not an unhealthy obsession), but that is the way our culture unfortunately is and like so many of us, I bought into it. I bought into it so much that I let something like a mistake involving my hair make me stay home more often and put on a baseball cap right as I crawled out of bed today because I didn’t even want to have to look at it myself.

Hence, me walking into a beauty supply store this evening to look for hair extensions only to walk out after seeing the price for said hair extensions and crying in the car the whole way home. Most problems generally have at least some sort of solution, even if it isn’t ideal, but this does not. All I can do is wait God-knows-how-long for it to grow out. It’s a good thing I like hats.

So it’s more than a haircut. It should be freedom from my own rigid ideas of beauty and femininity; it should be joy in the fact that I was forced to look inward and figure out what really matters and realize why it is that I care so much. However, disappointingly enough, it’s feeling a lot less philosophical in practice.

Although there were a couple times when I thought, “I look like Eleven from Stranger Things,” and that made me feel a little better for a while, what’s really been going through my mind most of the time is generally something along the lines of “I look ridiculous,” “My hair was my one redeeming quality,” “My boyfriend is coming back from winter break in 18 days and I don’t know how to magically get more hair by then because I don’t want anyone, let alone him, to see me like this,” and “My days of being impulsive when it comes to my appearance are over.” (That last one is actually a positive. It’s about time I learned my lesson.)

Did you want inspirational B.S. or honesty? Because if I’m being totally unabashedly honest, I feel like garbage and it’s constantly on my mind and I wish my brain would shut up about this hair thing already, but it’s still bugging me.

However, and here is where I (finally) get to the point of this whole post, I will at some point let the lesson of this situation sink in. Sometimes you need time. I don’t know if that’s always the right thing to do, but if it helps you to not dwell on things in the long run, take a little time to wallow. Not too much; just enough to let the lesson resonate when you are ready for it. Make the best of any situation of course and don’t sweat the small stuff, but at the end of the day nothing is as black and white as it seems. Emotions are a thing and sometimes you need to feel them in order to let a lesson really hit you.

To an outsider, I probably seem like a silly girl with nothing better to do than to think about her hair. Which is fair. You, Mr. Outsider, sound like you have not experienced self loathing. Go you; that’s great. However to me, I see my sense of comfort in myself being taken away and I’m figuring out how to not let it feel so dramatic.

I swear, I’m overall a pretty calm person, just not about this one thing. We all have something that sets us off, and this is my thing. You’re welcome for that useless knowledge about my life. 

Here’s what I know I should (and swear I will) inevitably learn:

  • Don’t be impulsive. That whole “patience is a virtue” concept is actually really important. Also, do your research. (“Whoever is patient has great understanding…” Proverbs 14:29)
  • Your worth cannot be placed in trivial things like hair or makeup or perfecting your body. You can enjoy these things, but they are not what make you who you are. You are you for a reason and you were made by God as you are, so chill out. Take a breather. You’re fine. There are more important things going on. (“Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.” Proverbs 31:30)
  • You can’t let other people dictate how you feel.
    1. This means: stop comparing. Yes the woman in the aisle next to you at the grocery store is pretty and yes she has beautiful hair or she has perfect skin or a not-crooked smile, but she isn’t you. She will never have all the qualities that make up who you are. Jealousy isn’t healthy. Or necessary. (“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works…” Psalm 139:14)
    2. This also means: stop being so afraid of what other people are going to think of you. There are few times when this should be a genuine concern, like if you are not being a good influence on others or if you’re actively being a harmful representer of God. But when you run into that one guy you liked in middle school that didn’t like you back while you’re wearing sweatpants and no makeup, or when your too-blunt friend says that you need to lose a few pounds…brush those things off. Why would you let anyone else’s opinions (or assumed opinions) change your own? Why would you allow anyone to make you believe that you aren’t good enough? Especially when the same creator of the universe, the creator of your favorite flowers and every single beautiful thing on the earth, of all the people who care about you, also created you. (“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.” 2 Corinthians 3:5)
  • Move on, roll with the punches, learn your lesson, and get over yourself. (Too harsh? Whoops.) It’s not as big of a deal as you’re making it seem. You don’t need to take yourself so seriously. Life is full of goodness and joy and it’s not worth being upset long-term because that kind of attitude does nothing but cause yourself and those around you harm. (May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13)

So, hopefully, I’ve made my point and this doesn’t come across as me crying to my blogging friends about my dumb hair woes. It’s not about me; it’s about self-awareness and realizing what really matters and, at the end of the day, the things we worry about usually aren’t worth worrying about. “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill,” as they say (no I don’t know who “they” are; please don’t ask me). At the end of the day, there are things greater than you going on in the world and whether it’s getting upset over someone cutting you off in traffic or worrying about failing a test or, God forbid, you have to cut off all your hair, feel whatever it is you need to feel for a minute and move on. Learn from it, take whatever you are supposed to take from it, talk to God about it, whatever you need to do, but don’t dwell on things that don’t really matter in the long run.