06/18/2018: Adolescence

It’s mid-June in the suffocating heat of a typical Florida evening. Mosquitos are swarming in my periphery as I sit cross-legged on a white spray-painted metal chair. Its 1950’s floral design is typical of my mother’s decorating style – beautiful, but just uncomfortable enough so you aren’t tempted to sit still for too long. Always temporary. The arms dig into my thighs, but I don’t move them.

Chloe is tending to our mother’s lush but quickly browning garden; watering the plants she cannot take care of while stuck in the bulky cast that has snaked itself halfway up her calf, tangled around her like a wild vine on an otherwise pristine home. Watching her wheel herself around, frustrated at her personal freedom having been stripped from her, reminds me of a caged animal. And an almost-trainwreck; that single breath of a moment when things aren’t the worst they can be, adrenaline and sadness running through you because there’s nothing you can do except watch and wait. Except, instead of an oncoming train, it’s an oncoming surgery and a piece of metal stuck in her foot. You can’t really feel empathy until you see someone you love look like their world has come to a halt and try to adapt in spite of it.

Meanwhile, my brother-in-law is in the side yard running after the puppy he and my sister share. Their black-and-white dog is small, lanky, and he reminds me of an awkward teenager when he walks, but he’s charming. His short snout makes him sound like a pig when he breathes, and he loves to be cradled like a child. I often jokingly call him my nephew, maybe partly because I’d like to have a kid around that isn’t entirely dependent on me for survival just yet. But mostly just because I like his company. It’s harder for any of us to act anything but happy around him, and that’s become more of a rarity lately.

Chase’s laugh is carried toward me with a warm seabreeze that feels like home, and I feel at ease for the first time in a while. Not like my typical quasi-adult self who’s trying to politely fit in and find some place to hide out until a better opportunity makes me move in another direction, but like I’m six years old again. I look at the clear blue open sky and suddenly I’m riding my bike – a light blue Schwinn with a wicker basket and flowers stuck on the side. I’m trying to keep up with my brother and his bright red speed bike as my neighbor yells to me, “He went that way!” Thanking him, my tires skid on the smooth asphalt as I make a sharp left turn. Alex is in the distance and the only thing I can think about is making it to the end of the street before he turns around. Trying to play catch-up.

I am not six anymore. I have jury duty tomorrow and I often think about things like marriage and apartments and the names of the children I plan on having. I worry about money and how in the world I can make a career out of the things I have been passionate about since I was actually six. I am not six, but I can pretend to be for a few more minutes.

 

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I want your irrationality

More than whispered promises

More than a few words at the end of a sentence

But I know heartache is worse than a little disappointment

 

So maybe that’s why I’m quietly fuming

And why I’ll simultaneously miss you in ways you can’t really understand

Because I can’t really explain them

 

I want declarations

Never asked for and never forced

Never just a secondary character in our own book

But to believe that I am your person, who makes you feel everything

 

Stop me in my tracks

Love me like you mean it

Like I am exciting to you

 

I want more

I’m asking because I’m still holding back

I’m asking because I know you love my company

But you think I want unreasonable things

 

I won’t just be a good decision

An easy path to an easy future

Well-fitting in all the right ways but devoid of long-term passion

 

I have your tomorrow

Your everyday is a constant

Your hand always there to hold when I reach out

But something in my chest remains empty

 

I want more

But you don’t know what that means

And you don’t think anything went missing 

 

More Like You

I see You in everything

So I know I am not alone

I know that You will call me home

 

Can You show me a better way

To live my life

All for Your grace

 

I want to take hold of You now

To just find out

How to be a better person

How to make You proud

 

You say that You are with me

And there’s no end to

Unfailing love everlasting

 

Passion and persistence

I wish I could do it for You too

 

So I will give You praise

I will give you all

Of my heart still beating

My everyday

 

I have heard You in the distance

The distance is in me

 

When we’re close I can feel You

When I’m far I need You

 

You are in everything

 

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.

 

Unforeseen

I held every part of you,

Sure that no detail would go unnoticed,

But I guess I had already memorized you in pieces along the way.

 

Hills and valleys composed of unforeseen tomorrows.  

 

I never wanted this part:

Hitched breathing and lost in the routine of someone new settling into every miniscule crack of my everyday;

I never wanted to be uncertain and resigned.

 

Something real being exchanged for replayed happy moments,

Over and over until days finally stop blending together in blissful harmony.

 

Waking up used to be easier than sleeping,

But now sleeping is a welcomed security blanket,

Like the tee shirt you promised to leave behind.

 

Tomorrow is uncertain because tomorrow does not hold many promises,

And I stopped loving uncertainty when I didn’t have to.

 

Coming home means two different things when home is not me,

 

I know that that probably won’t last forever,

But what if mere friendship becomes our long-lasting crutch?

 

Holding back and holding on to one another because it’s reasonable;

But I won’t always live drained by unfeeling logic.

 

You’ll miss me when the anticipation dies down,

When there is nothing left to take your mind to new places,

When I am the only exciting interruption left.

 

Until then I’m holding hands with distractions,

Toying with ideas of the future,

Replacing days with you with days with me.

 

Reminded that I love being alone,

But being alone with you never felt as lonely as I do,

So please let me fall back into you soon.

 


Alone With Me – Vance Joy

Redefining Strength

Brash and fervorous;

Fictitious;

A muse for who lives inside her head;

Can I will her to come out;

To scream for me instead;

 

To be candid and raw;

Unapologetic;

Fear only known;

When it’s just foreign enough to be exciting;

 

Anger and strife and unkempt words;

Harsh and held so high;

Gorgeous without grace;

Marching through fire in solitude;

Born throwing fists before a simple compliment;

Inhuman, unfeeling, and always on top;

 

No one wants to paint a quiet leader;

But waves are not made with words;

No matter the amount of venom pouring from her tongue;

 

Woman and feminine;

Feminine and kind;

Kind and forgiving;

Forgiving and strong;

Strength does not scream the loudest;

Nor does it always have to whisper;

 

Passion manifested in every form;

She can lead;

Useful as she was made;

 

Vexation and recklessness are synonymous in nature;

There is more to strength than masculinity and aggravation;

Hone the skills you were given;

 

Boldness is not always loudness;

 

Standing firm in her beliefs;

Speaking with love;

Leading with intelligence.

 

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)