Friday, November 12, 2010

Unfamiliar Territory

I thought of something intriguing today . . .

So far I've spent all of my adulthood trying to slay a few different dragons, different but related:
1. Stomping out a bad self-esteem and nurturing a good one up from the musty basement.
2. Telling fears to go screw themselves and find new boundaries for my comfort zoning map
3. Figuring out how to make the seven year old and the seventy year old in me fuse into one cohesive person.
4. Be happy.

Basically numbers 2-4 stem from issue number 1 -- the mischievous, little . . . no, exasperatingly huge thorn in my side.  Each of these dragons has, at one time or another (and occasionally all at once), kicked my ass.  Obviously they have been somewhat dominant, hence the "all of my adulthood" part.  And unfortunately, my name being drawn out of the Goblet of Fire was not the reason behind it all.  Unfortunately, the blame is on me.  
Little by little I have been chipping away at my Berlin Wall of issues, slowly seeing some daylight and breathing in some fresh, unfiltered air from the other side.  Each glimpse, each breath has been both encouraging and depressing.  Each has given me hope that the lousiness is only temporary and that "this too shall pass."  But if it were only that simple.  Nothing is.  (Or maybe it is.  Perhaps my underlying issue is turning everything into a paradox.)  While some hope seeps into my pores, there is always that bit of sadness that fleets out -- sadness that the journey is not yet through and that so much time has been wasted in allowing the issues to manhandle me.

I realized something today . . .
I realized that right now, more than any other time in my life, I feel the most "together" that I have ever felt.  Right now I feel like nearly all the pieces of my life are coming together and functioning properly, like they were always meant to do.  

Then I had another realization . . . 
I realized that that is kind of scary.  Scary, you ask?  Why?  Well, I'm not quite sure why just yet.  But there was definitely an intrinsic and cautionary, "Hold on just a minute" that emerged just after the revelation of "togetherness." 

Maybe the caution comes from the fact that for nearly 20 years I have harangued my worth into a docile ball of fright hiding in the corner.  I have become so accustomed to, become so familiar with, grown so attached to my deficiencies and inferiorities that to part with them, no matter how negative, is terrifying.  They're what I know.  They're part of who I am, though an ugly and cancerous part they may be.  A world without them, though better in the long run, is at first, a bit alarmingly foreign.  

It's sad how we can so easily get used to the pain we hold in our lives.  If we deal with it long enough we may not even notice that it's still there.  And getting rid of it is not as easy as it maybe should be.  Once the door has opened and we begin to usher it out into the cold a new pain comes knocking and asking to stay in the guest bedroom.  But this pain is temporary . . . I suppose you could call it growing pains (it's not just a show about the Seavers!).  Eventually, once the newness has worn off, the pain eases, and a new normal has been formed.

My new normal is in transition.  I'm working on fashioning it into not only what I've always wanted to have, but what I was always meant to have.  I often have to remind myself that I, that none of us, were meant to live in pain, or in fear, or in apathy.  Those are just things we get used to because, well, sometimes we have to.  Sometimes we do it to survive.  We all do the best that we can -- trying to find that slice of happiness amidst a lot of bad, bad things.  Sometimes though, I wonder if, instead of just a slice, we are all meant to have the whole, damn pie!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Today . . .

My age says I should no longer hold lengthy conversations
about the greatest moments in The Muppets repertoire,
consort with Smurfs,
or linger over trinkets in a bargain bin 
marked with Mr. Men and Little Miss.  

My age implies thoughts should angle 
toward savings bonds, health insurance, 
mortgages, property value.

My age insists the time to feel care-free and fresh 
is past -- now is time
for my childlike soul to run on fumes until
it just gives out, pulls over, and waits to hitch another ride, 
eventually the first part of the trip 
disappearing in the distance of a rear-view mirror.

Today I am 30.  
And what once made me a tad anxious, 
now makes me proud.  

Three decades under the belt, a fourth
just beginning.  The first three were practice anyway . . . 
the fourth offers a chance to take what was good 
and polish it up for the next run.  
The chance to take what was bad, hold it close and nurture
out the pain 
and failure --
hold it closer,
until a soft wash of peace gives it wings
it no longer needs me.

Today I will not hate myself for the things I should not have done,
the things I have yet to do.  
Today I will love myself 
for all that I am, all that I have been, and all 
that I have the opportunity to become.  

Every other day is a day of
But today I will quietly celebrate myself 
with silent songs of praise and subtle 
adulations, keeping the embers
of my childlike soul burning,
with no fears of childishness.

Today I will focus on the creation God has always meant for me 
to be and love.  Today I will see the promise
that exists beyond my own "knowingness."  
Today will be a day for remembering
all that I have, not all that I lack.   A day for recalling
the fullness, not the emptiness.  

Today will be a day of thankfulness . . . . 
a day to see God's graces, 
no matter how small.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Thirty Something or Other . . .

In less than a month now I will be hitting a bit of a milestone.  I will be turning 30.  I will have officially expanded my journey into four different decades.  I'm not completely sure how I feel about this.  It's a mixed bag -- part sadness, part eagerness, and part reluctance.  When I first started thinking about the upcoming September 30 (it's my golden birthday this year, by the way) I began to feel anxious.  30?!  But what have I done in 30 years?  What have I accomplished?  Aren't I still just a kid?  Shouldn't I have a house, and kids, and a career?  In your 20's it's common and perhaps even expected that you haven't done or do not have those things yet.  20's are all about transforming yourself into your adult skin, finding who you are outside of childhood, school, and parents.  30's are . . . well, aren't they . . . well, aren't you supposed to be who you are meant to be by then -- settled, stable, done with figuring things out?  At least that's what it feels like.  Maybe that's because when I was 10 I thought that a 30 year old was someone who had it all together.  They were an adult.  And well, now that I'm almost there, I realize just how very silly that was.  Now that I'm almost there, I realize that I still feel like that 10 year old in many ways.  I guess I'm trying to figure out whether or not that is a bad thing.

Turning 30 has made me think that those childhood and shifting-into-an-adult years are officially over -- that it somehow distances me from those parts of myself that I still feel and hold onto so strongly.  This thought has given me moments of mild anxiety in the past year.  I know, it's stupid.  A number doesn't actually mean anything.  Just another boring statistic to give to your doctor or the cranky, unapproachable woman at the DMV.  But are other people going to look at me differently when I'm 30?  Are they going to expect more from me beCAUSE I'm 30?  Does being 30 give me an automatic to-do list that must be fulfilled ASAP?  I sure hope not, because I'm afraid that I'm going to fail miserably.  Well, at least it wouldn't be the first thing I've failed miserably at.

Most women my age, at least around here, already have at least one kid by now.  Don't get me wrong, I've chosen to not have kids yet, my husband being in full agreement.  Neither of us have been ready.  I've heard some women say that they want to be done giving birth by the time they are 30.  My response has always been, "I'm not ready to start giving birth until I'm 30."  

Even though it's my choice, and really, I don't regret it, I am starting to now feel that pressure that is spoken of.  I have started to worry about being "old" parents or our children missing out on time with their grandparents.  The latter is the one thing that makes me begin to want to start sooner rather than later.  But I know that I can't use that as our sole reason to conceive sooner than what we are ready for.  It would be a mistake to do it for any other reason than that we are both ready for the drastic life-change, knowing that the joys will outweigh the hardships.  Until then, I think it's going to be just us.  

A lot of people my age also have a house by now.  We're still in an apartment, and we love it here.  It's roomy enough for the two of us, quite private as apartments go, and in a nice location.  But of course we'd both rather have our own home, if we could afford it.  I think we both have daydreams now and then as we drive through the "nicer" neighborhoods, drooling over the sprawling homes with lush and spacious lawns.  Seems as though you're not a complete adult nor a complete American until you own a home or, more accurately, reside in a home that is owned by a bank. 

The final major missing factor in turning 30 is a lack of a career.  Oh sure, I know maybe most people don't have an official career by the time they enter their 30's, or even 40's, or even retire before they get one.  Most people just have a job, something to pay the bills.  But all the years I was growing up, all through college, I always expected myself to have a career, and at least be well on my way to one by the time I was finishing out my 20's.  Since I've known what career I wanted (writing) since I was 9 years old, I guess I just assumed that I'd get there.  Hmm, newsflash!  I'm not.  And, in fact, I'm in between regular jobs right now as well, other than doing freelance work.  It can tend to make me feel like a complete failure.  

The closest I've come to achieving this goal is ghostwriting an e-book within the last year for someone, which was at least a paid-for job.  But I can't say that this is an actual career as of yet.  Maybe with a second paid-for writing job I'll feel like I've started something tangible.  At least within the last couple months I've finally started working on a book of my own, a work of fiction.  At least I started this before I turned 30!  Hey, I've got to give myself a gold star when I can, no matter how small the accomplishment.

Hmm, well I'm not sure what conclusions I have come to through the course of writing this little blog post . . . perhaps that no, I'm not exactly where I'd like to be at 29 years and 11 months, or where other people think I should be.  Perhaps I'm exactly where I'm meant to be.  And perhaps it doesn't really matter.  I'm turning 30 . . . so what?  I didn't feel any different when I turned 16, or 18, or 21.  Just another year, and I'm still me.  I'm still a 7 year old coupled with a 70 year old, only now it is inside an almost 30 year old body.  I still love fart jokes and coloring in my Garfield coloring book when I've had a stressful day.  I still love the smell of Play-doh.  I still love imagining that I am a Gelfling in "The Dark Crystal."  

The thing that I am most looking forward to about getting older is that little by little I will shed my silly, juvenile inhibitions and become more and more my true self, unafraid of what everyone else is seeing and thinking.  That is a beautiful thought, and one that makes me not fret about getting wrinkles, saggy body parts, and an increasingly strong urge to talk about my physical ailments.  If my 20's were a decade of transformation -- working through the confusion of being a child-adult and trying to find my voice, my way, myself; then maybe my 30's will be a decade of overcoming -- feeling peaceful with who I am, where I'm at, and where I'm going.  Maybe they will be a time of saying, "Screw you!!" to all of the worries, anxieties, and fears that I have allowed to dominate me in my 20's.  Hmm, that could feel really good!  Even though I have a sneaking suspicion that my 30's are going to come with their own challenges; I also think that it will defeat some old ones that have held me down for far too long.  And that doesn't sound like such a bad thing.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What Dreams May Mend

Almost two months ago I had a dream that was both familiar and unusual.  Since my Grandpa Clyde (my mom's dad) passed away in November of 1998 I have occasionally dreamed of him.  In my dreams reality most always spills over.  In my dreams I realize that my grandpa is deceased yet somehow I am able to see him, hear him, touch him.  Most often I embrace him and begin weeping, for the joy of experiencing him one last time, for the pain of knowing that it cannot last.  These dreams are a comfort for me . . . sure, a bit painful as well, but mostly comforting.  These dreams seem so real to me at the time that I wake up feeling as though I have gotten another brief moment with my grandpa.
The dream two months ago was much the same; I saw him, knew that he had passed, laced my arms around him, and wept.  He looked at me and smiled, in that calm, gentle way he always did.  I said a few things to him but he never said a word, only made a few noises in reaction to my words.  One of those reactions was a deep and soft chuckle, which I could feel in the way his upper body shook up and down with amusement.  It was as if he knew I couldn't possibly comprehend how all of this worked -- how I could be in his presence at that moment.  And my innocence amused him the way a parent is entertained by a child thinking the sky is blue because God painted it with a crayon.  

In that moment when he chuckled I felt something that I have never before experienced while dreaming.  In that moment it all felt truly real, not just a dream that seemed real.  It was almost as if I had been visited by my grandfather -- that his spirit had come to me in that dream.  He never spoke a word to me, and I am still left wondering why.  I suppose I didn't need words . . . his tender looks and touch were enough to fulfill the longing I had to feel close to him.  Perhaps he knew that words would have only muddled up the experiencing of him in that moment -- that I would have heeded more attention to them and deciphering their meaning, rather than soaking in the moment -- the way it felt and what it did for my soul.  And if you know me, then you probably know that words are my life; writing is my bread and butter (or even more specifically for me, my breadstick and garlic butter).  But there are times when words simply will not do -- when they become obstructions instead of vehicles.  There are times when words cannot speak to your soul the way a silent touch can . . . the way it wraps around you like a childhood blanket on a crisp Autumn day.

As quickly as the moment came, it went.  And I awoke slightly shaken, but in a good sort of way.  It was a very spiritual experience -- something that transcends reality, reason, and logic.  I couldn't tell you what exactly is the truth behind it all, whether my grandpa's spirit truly visited me or if it was a creation of my own mind in an attempt to comfort myself.  Either way, I don't really think it matters.  All that matters is that it made me feel loved.

A little over a week after having this dream my family, husband, and I traveled to Minnesota to visit my grandma (my mom's mother).  I had not been able to go there in eight years, so my excitement was rather boundless.  Shortly after saying our hellos and giving hugs I grabbed some of my luggage and began slugging up the stairs to the second floor where my husband and I would be sleeping.  By the third or fourth step I began to feel a weight, more than just the luggage I was carrying.  With each step I felt more and more heavy.  No one else was on the second floor, nor had anyone else entered it before me.  I was alone, but I did not feel alone.  I felt a presence that began to overwhelm me.  I ascended the stairs, walked over to the dresser, and stood for a moment just staring in the direction of the bed and closet.  I began feeling so overwhelmed that my chest heaved and my eyes began to blur with a few tears.  I stared toward the closet door instinctively, for some reason, and continued to feel a strong presence.  For a moment I was so overcome with that sensation that I honestly thought that my grandpa was going to physically appear to me.

He did not.  The moment passed, my breathing slowly went back to normal, and I collected myself so that I could finish unloading the van.  A little while later that evening I thought again about when I had first ventured upstairs.  I thought about the compulsion I had to look at the closet door, and realized something that I had long forgotten.  I realized that that very closet housed my grandpa's World War II and American Legion uniforms.  They hung gracefully in the closet with only a few other random items.  I went upstairs, opened the closet, and gently ran my fingers across the seams of his jackets, wondering if part of his spirit, his energy had been collected there, and I had been lucky enough to experience a little bit of its release.  

I have written before about my relationships with my grandparents, and that I have had a void since childhood because of the lack of relationship.  I have always loved them deeply and know that they have loved me.  But because of living so far away it was difficult to build a close tie with them.  I often wondered how interested they were in me -- unsure of just how much they cared.  In a roundabout way, I almost feel  as though these experiences were a gift to me in that sense -- that they were giving me things that I had needed from my grandparents since I was a child.

A couple nights before we left Minnesota we were all gathered in the family room before bed.  As Grandma was getting ready to head off to Slumberland my mom stopped her and told her that there was something that she should know.  My brother, Jeff, proceeded to relay a story of experiencing Grandpa's presence earlier that week, and I then told her of mine.  As we continued talking about it all I saw my grandma's face flush and her eyes dampen.  Jeff and I both stood up to embrace her.  And we all just . . . cried.  It sounds cliche and corny, but for me, it was beautiful.  Even more than that, it was healing.  It gave me a deeper bond with my grandma than I have ever known.  I felt tied to her with a permanence, a weighty, sturdy rope, rather than a frail and invisible string.  I saw in my grandma's face that night a tenderness and love that she has always probably had.  But I saw it that night because of Grandpa.  And maybe, just maybe that was the reason behind it all.  Maybe Grandpa Clyde still sees things that need tending to.  After all, that was his nature: to selflessly work and give of himself to his family and church.  In 1998 he died, work boots on, helping to build a new section of his church.  Something tells me . . . his work boots are still on.

Monday, July 19, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different

I've decided that life should be more nonsensical . . . like a Monty Python sketch.  It should be full of giant cartoon feet descending from the heavens and awkward men wearing shorts and suspenders, shouting informative quips with a stunningly Hitler-esque mustache.  And most importantly, it should be full of people randomly yelling out, "SPAM!"  

Life's hard . . . and stressful . . . and tiring . . . and . . . well, I'm sure you know all too well how to finish this sentence.  Fill in the blanks with your specific frustrations. :)  We've all got problems.  And quite frankly, some of us ARE problems.  So why not freshen things up with a nonchalant stroll through the park, with the silliest walk you can think of.  There is a Ministry for that sort of thing, you know?
Just this weekend I could tell that my creative juices were beginning to overflow from neglect because I was seeing all sorts of strange creatures in the shapes and shadows of the clouds.  I had a little internal squeal of delight when I realized that I do indeed still see things in clouds.  For awhile there, for a long while I stopped seeing things.  And I thought that my childhood imagination was gone forever.  I felt mildly panicked when I discovered this, and it made me more sad than I can tell you.  I thought that it was just one of those things that you couldn't hold onto forever, and once you lost it, it was gone for good.  

So this weekend, when the trolls and vikings fleshed out once more in the open sky I felt whole again, as if my six-year old self just filled in the empty spaces that had been long-left slumbering.  It was a nice eureka riding in a Chevy Cavalier. 

It would be nice to have that sort of feeling each day --to feel at ease and know that no matter what, everything is going to be okay.  I know it's impossible, but my wish exists even so.  I may not have yet lived a terrible many years and may not have gone through a fraction of the experiences that are to come.  But I have felt that crushing stampede of adulthood -- that overwhelming sense of "how will I ever . . . how can I . . . why must I . . ."  

It happens to everyone.  To some it happens quite young.  And others it manages to be held at bay for a little while longer.  But sooner or later everyone gets smacked over the head with a pass into adulthood.  And unfortunately that pass does not come with an instruction manual.  
I know that a nonsensical way of life is not always possible to uphold in all situations.  I suppose we wouldn't want to instigate a fun-filled round of fish-slapping during a job interview . . . unless of course the position up for grabs is for an experienced Fish Slapper.  In which case, go nuts!  

We may not be able to show the world our nonsensical tendencies, but we can always let it absorb into our minds and souls -- let the spirit of it relax our bodies into the sweet lull of coconut halves being clapped together.  Say no more, say no more!  Wink-wink, nudge-nudge.  Afterall, I always did want to be a lumberjack!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Self-Esteem, PCOS, and All That Flab: Part 5

* This is part 5 of a series of posts that explore my struggles with self-esteem, weight, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and the very difficult task of trying to be my fullest self in a world that constantly demands more than what I am. Because this subject is so vast and most of my life has been spent swimming in its waters in some form or another I thought it best to break it up . . . also so as to not bore you to death!

Some of you may not be able to relate, but I hope that you will find it interesting anyway. And perhaps you will be better able to understand someone in your life. Some of you may be able to relate and I hope that you will know that you are not the only one -- that the journey may be long, but progress is progress. Remember that no matter how small it may feel, you still are not the same person that you were yesterday. And that is something to celebrate!

For Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 please scroll below . . .

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

A very significant phenomenon ocurred when I was in ninth grade . . . the church in which my dad was ministering asked him to leave. That in and of itself is a story for another day -- a very difficult story that helped shape the contours of my life. But it is far too long to include within this topic, and deserves to be fully explored on its own. Once my dad was asked to leave he began searching for a new church in which to work, and in turn, a new home for us. Unfortunately, the parting with this church was not at all harmonious. Like thick, sticky cobwebs, bitterness and callousness clung to walls and doorways, distorting foe and friend alike. My dad was deeply wounded there, and I will always probably harbour a little leftover anger for not only what they did to him, but what they did to all in my family. I was uprooted because of their insufficiences and selfishness. And an uprooting at fifteen is a most difficult tide to wade. I did the best that I could. And sometimes, that wasn't very good.

Within a few months we learned that we would be moving to another small town, only about twenty minutes away. While there was some comfort in that, it wasn't quite the panacea that I had hoped for. No, this move would prove to be a very tumultuous and tender time for me, more than I ever expected. I distinctly remember my parents giving us two options: 1. we could wait till after Christmas to move or 2. we could move before Christmas . . . two days before. I wanted to leave. I wanted to get away from the connotations that only reminded me of the pain and hard-heartedness that had battered us down for so long. As much as I hated that we had to move, I wanted to leave it all behind and start over. I wanted some peace.

I think it was mostly me that wanted to go ahead and move before Christmas, but the rest of my family agreed, and so on December 23, 1995 we moved into our new home, new town, new life. We worked hard to unpack as much as we could that first day and night. And the next day, Mom and I frantically scrambled to launch every possible Christmas decoration so that the holiday would not come and go without the usual pomp and circumstance. There was some excitement . . . it was fun learning all the nooks and crannies of the new house and the new church. I still love that house, even though it's been a few years since I last set foot in it.

After a couple weeks it was time for me to begin my educational life in a new school. I was half-way through my ninth grade year. At my previous school, grades 7-12 were housed in the building, while at my new school only grades 9-12 existed. So once again, I was shot down to the bottom of the totem pole. Even though this school had fewer grade levels it was nearly four times as large in terms of the number of students in attendance. I was nervous – nauseatingly nervous. I have always had a problem with severe nervousness in new social situations, and sometimes even old social situations. I’ve never been diagnosed, but I have probably been dancing along the line of social anxiety disorder for a long time. It has only been in the last couple years that I have been able to calm the internally frenetic storm. Now my social anxiety doesn’t completely terrorize my mental and emotional states like it used to.

I remember that first day of school . . . I woke up in the bleak darkness of an early January morning, with a soft, warm glow of the multi-colored Christmas lights that outlined the perimeter of my ceiling. I turned on the soundtrack to Aladdin, which I had just received that Christmas. I thought it might comfort me, but with the fears that I had of getting lost, being ignored, being thought of as a loser, allowed no comfort to be had that morning. My mom drove me out to the middle school on the north end of town, where the buses gathered and collected all the high schoolers, like prisoners being transported to the state penitentiary. I lugged my tired body onto the bus and let my loneliness drape over me as if it were a heavy sheet used to protect the body from an x-ray. It was one of the loneliest sensations I have ever felt.

I spent every lunch hour sitting in an orange chair along a wall of windows in the commons area. I was so afraid of looking stupid and interacting with people that I never ate lunch. I would sit in the orange chair, doing homework, trying to look like I was content and confident -- trying to look as if my solitude was purposeful and painless. I am sure that I failed miserably. Every day I would try to look like I didn’t give a shit, when in reality, I cared all too much. Those were quite possibly my most pathetic moments.

This school was difficult in which to attempt to ingratiate myself. The students there had been in school with many of their peers since kindergarten. I was coming into the party awfully late. Cliques had long been formed and I was not going to be a part of them – not with my shy, quiet nature. I interacted little and tried to fill up the emptiness with diligent academics. Late into the semester two kind girls took pity and befriended me. They sat beside me on my orange chair and started a conversation. After that they frequently made it a point to offer me some company. Sadly, I don’t even remember their names or what they looked like. I couldn’t really tell you anything about them, except that they had much kindness and compassion in their hearts, and that I will never forget what they did for me in those weeks. It didn’t solve all of my problems, not even a few of them. But it made me feel as though some people cared, and some people perhaps understood what it’s like to be alone.

Despite the few kindnesses I received it was one of the worst times of my life. I missed many days of school from a panic of not knowing how I would make it through. On one particular day, the day after I had attended a Michael W. Smith concert, I had a breakdown. I was at my utterly lowest point when I stepped out of the shower that day. As I walked back into my bedroom I accidentally bumped into my trash can and tipped it over, scattering all of the contents across the floor. When people talk about hitting that “last straw,” that was mine. It was the absolute last thing that I could take. It may seem silly, but how often does a minor spill or mess send you into an outrage on a particularly bad day? Well, that’s what happened to me, only I didn’t yell, I wept.

I crumbled to the floor beside the trash can, laid my head on my knees, and I cried . . . harder than I ever had before or after. I had one of Michael W. Smith’s cd’s playing at the time and right after I fell to the floor his song “Breathe In Me” came on, acting almost as an audio reel to my in-the-moment biography.

Breathe In Me:
Words & music: Michael W. Smith & Wayne Kirkpatrick

You breathe in me
And i'm alive
With the power of your holiness
You breathe in me
And you revive
Feelings in my soul
That i have laid to rest

Chorus: So breathe in me
I need you now
I've never felt so dead within
So breathe in me
Maybe somehow
You can breathe new life
In me again

I used to be
So sensitive
To the light that leads
To where you are
Now i've acquired
These callouses
With the darkness of
A cold and jaded heart


Many people are going to think that I imagined this, but as I sat huddled on the floor, almost sobbing myself onto another plane of existence, I softly felt a touch on my back, as if someone had gently laid their hand in comfort. The touch was like warm water running through me, quietly surging through my legs and the tips of my fingers, soothing every cell and sigh. And suddenly I felt peaceful. I don’t know why; I couldn’t tell you what happened. All I know is that there was no one else in the room with me. There wasn’t even anyone else in the house. Perhaps it was my own creation, in an attempt to comfort myself. I know that the mind is a powerful self-corrector, and anything is possible. But I’d like to think that, in whatever way, God was there for me in that moment – that he felt compassion and love for me, when I had none for myself. I’d like to think that my pain was his right then, and that for that moment, he took it away.

No matter the catalyst, I was comforted. A deep emptiness was abated and somehow I no longer felt quite so alone. My problems still weren’t solved, but I felt stronger. Somehow (and I really didn't know how) I felt as if I could make it through this dark time . . . and . . . I did. My experience that day helped give me strength to finish out the semester. It was difficult. It was dark. It was messy. And I still screwed up. But as the wonderfully wise and insightful Iyanla Vanzant once said: “It doesn’t matter how you do it. It doesn’t matter if it’s ugly. All that matters is that you make it through.” Believe me, I’ve achieved many cuts and bruises along this journey, and I’ve made an awfully ugly time of it. But I’m making it through . . . and, I think Iyanla would be proud.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

In the Facebook of Judgment

I started using Facebook only a little over a year ago (I'm always a late bloomer!). Prior to I had absolutely no interest in participating in one of these social forums, and still don't outside of Facebook. I finally decided to start a page, thinking it could help build my freelance business, which I had just started at that time. I'm honestly not sure that it, so far, has done much in the way of business, but I have surprisingly enjoyed it very much on the personal socializing front. I have come into contact again with many people from my past and also stayed in better touch with some of the people from my present. I am often very bad at consistent communication with many people, so this has been a helpful tool for me in nurturing some of my relationships. Plus, I really enjoy taking those silly, little quizzes. :)

I never would have guessed this before, but Facebook has also been an effective tool in my journey toward complete authenticity. It basically provides a person with a format in which they can make daily self-proclamations, humorous, serious, strange, or whatever you like. I have used it many times to shed my inhibitions and let people know the real me. If you've read some of my other blogs, you'll know that that has not always been easy for me, due to having a low self-esteem. Now that it has improved greatly I'm beginning to get more and more comfortable in shedding my onion layers and letting people see my stinky core! Only kidding . . . well, sort of. It really has been helpful for me to show more of my authentic self, and to be okay with that. Whether or not other people are happy about that is yet to be discovered. :)

I'm going to be very honest here . . .
since exploring this playpen of Facebook, there have been many instances in which I wondered if my attempts at authenticity were indeed a good thing. And I think there may be a couple others on here who have wondered the same. There are some people, myself included, who use Facebook to make social commentaries about the world -- politics, media, religion, etc. Not always, but often these comments lead to more comments from friends, and sometimes to arguments. I have been a participating party in many of those "discussions." At first I tend to think, "Okay, this is good. People are being honest and sharing ideas and viewpoints . . ." And then as they sometimes mutate into more heated discussions, where one or multiple parties involved seem to have become offended and/or hurt, I begin to wonder, "What was the point of this anyway? What did this accomplish?"

Anyone else been privy to that sort of scenario? Do you ever question yourself and your involvement or feel any guilt over it? I do. But I pretty much question everything around me and in me. I am always wondering whether or not I did the right thing. I guess I do not have the luxury of automatic self-assurance. And honestly, I'm not sure that I would want that. A little self-doubt is good for everyone. Although, I'm quite sure that I take that to a fallible extreme.

Because of the nature of Facebook, it is all too easy for words to be misinterpreted, taken out of context, or misused. We don't have the addition of facial expressions or body language in order to help us completely assimilate the true and intended message. I have done this many times . . . utterly misunderstood what someone was meaning to say. At times, the original poster could possibly have been a bit more clear, but other times it was simply due to my own filters and assumptions. I do not ever mean to do so, but I admit, I sometimes jump to broad and far away conclusions. For any of those friends whom I have done that to, I am truly sorry. Please know that it was not my intention.

Giving one's opinions is a tricky business. As Bilbo would say, "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to." (I find myself quoting Mr. Baggins of Bag End a lot these days for some reason.) Authenticity is a scary journey -- you decide to step outside of yourself, not quite sure where it will lead. You will make progress and you will stumble. But the trick is to always be true to yourself. I am trying to do just that, including in my communication on Facebook. I have spoken up more on there than I probably have in the rest of my life. Course, it is an easier place to do so; it doesn't take quite as much courage. But for me, it's a start.

For those of you who may not know . . .
I am a Christian. I grew up a minister's daughter, still am in fact. My political views are progressive and independent. I am, what you could possibly say, conservative in my lifestyle, but very liberal in my ideologies. I am an idealist. I am a paradox, always holding views that are seemingly contradictory on the surface. I am passionate, often intensely so. I don't believe I have all the answers, or even many of them. I realize that I have much more I can learn and am still trying to figure out many things. I believe that open-mindedness, tolerance, acceptance, and compassion are four of the most beautifully gracious and least-used commodoties in this world. I believe that people should be allowed to live their lives fully, how they feel they are meant to be, without having to be harshly judged. I believe in the capital "T" truths of the Bible . . . that it is not meant to be used as a book of facts, but rather a book of ideologies, guiding us to become better people. I believe that the things many people hold as absolutes are actually quite gray. I believe that all things are relative and must be taken circumstantially and within context in order to be understood. I believe that the Bible may be literal, may be figurative, may be somewhat both . . . and that there is no way for us to know for sure. I believe that there is no way to prove or disprove God's existence . . . I choose to follow out of faith, not fact. I believe that absolutely anything is possible, and that no one can convince me otherwise.

As you can see, I don't fit very well into any demographic's views, especially the ones that I am surrounded by, namely the midwestern Christian demographic. It's probably quite obvious to you now why I've been involved in several Facebook "discussions." I know that my views are perhaps scary to some, confusing, or maybe even downright offensive. I am not trying to offend anyone, only simply trying to express my perspectives and offer other ways of looking at things. I accept that I could possibly be wrong in every way . . . I have been wrong before and don't expect to never be wrong again. But I hope, no matter my rightness or my wrongness on any issue, that I treat others with the respect and compassion that they deserve, even if I am not receiving it from them.

I admit, I am quick to anger. The anger itself is not the problem, but it is my sometimes heated response that is one of my faults. Nothing angers me more than when I feel there is intolerance or self-righteousness. Partly because of my genetic make-up and partly because of my experiences I have grown rather hypersensitive to these qualities. And I am sure that there have been times when I, trying to combat self-righteousness, responded with my own level of it. But one credit that I will give myself is that I am willing to concede to the other side at times. And unfortunately, I have come across a number of people who do not ever seem willing to do the same. And that is a difficult frustration to overcome.

For those who may not understand where I am coming from, or where someone else in your life is coming from who has expressed frustration over intolerance and the like, I will do my best to explain. It is difficult being in the minority. No, I'm not an ethnic minority or even in a religious minority. It's nothing like that. The minority that I am in is a minority of thought -- a minority in outlooks or viewpoints. I am a liberal Christian surrounded by mostly very conservative Christians. On the surface, it doesn't seem as though there is a huge difference here, but trust me, the gap is VAST. And to be the one that is different is both immensely frustrating and exhausting. I won't assume to know how you feel or from where you are coming. For all I know, you may find yourself in a similar predicament.

But there are many people out there who do not yet understand. Some do not understand what it is like to feel this way because in their whole lives they have been surrounded by people just like them, both in background and in worldviews. They assume that most people they encounter, especially if they are also a Christian, think and believe EXACTLY as they do. They have lived in a very homogenous world and have not had to be challenged. I'm sure many of these people, if not most, mean no harm and have no intention of placing judgment on those who differ. I don't think they're terrible people. I just think they don't understand, often times because they've never had to. And perhaps a smaller group of them don't understand, and don't even try to.

I have very frequently felt stifled and not free to be myself outside of my immediate family and a handful of friends. I always knew my views were different. Everyone else seemed to feel very free to express their's and I often did not. I felt as though differing views were not welcomed, and were sometimes even demonized. There were a small number of times when I dared to voice my opinions, and luckily some of those people did still accept and love me. But there have also been plenty of times when I have been judged and felt the sting of self-righteousness. There have been times when I have been looked upon as an inferior Christian, an inferior person. Each time this happened I allowed it to stifle me again. And after so many years of feeling stifled you begin to create a volcano-complex, ready to pop at any given moment. You can only stifle your true self for so long before it begins to eat away at the crevices of your soul. It took me many parts of my soul to be chewed off before I had enough. And now, this is where I am at . . . trying to be myself, vulnerable, open, and naked.

I am a fallible being. I know that I fail to be my "best self" many times. I continue to work on that -- to be authentic, gracious, tolerant, and loving, even in the face of intolerance. And I hope that perhaps all of this can help some others to understand those of us who have had a little more trouble in taking that first dangerous step out of our doors.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Prodigal Poet

There are days when I love writing so much that I just can't seem to get words out quickly enough to satisfy the inundated crevices of my soul. And there are probably far too many days when I hate it -- I hate the way it feels, sounds, tastes . . . I hate the way it taunts me and chastizes me for not being more clever and witty. Writing is really a love/hate relationship. You don't do it simply because you love it. You do it because you feel you have to -- that you will cease to be
you if you don't.

I've talked plenty about how I discovered that writing was my life-calling when I was 9 years old, writing my first book of poems for the Young Authors Contest. I had never felt such satisfaction before as when I first put pen to paper for that very first poem, titled "Mothers." I will probably never aptly articulate just what that moment meant for me and what it did to me. I was hooked. I was lost and gone forever in a world full of words, symbols, plots, rhymes, and meter.

Writing made me feel alive and more like myself than at any other time. I've shared how my confidence got slaughtered during college with my writing, and how afterward I didn't read or write anything of substance for a few years. Well, now that I've been reunited with both, it feels like my long-lost friend has returned. Or rather, that
I have returned to it -- the Prodigal Poet. A large and prominent part of me is back from a long journey into darkness. And like the Prodigal Son's father, I welcome it with open arms, unconcerned about what took it so long.

Despite the lovely welcome-home party, the frustrations with writing never end. I'm finding my voice again, and hopefully strengthening my craft each day. Now my problem is trying to find an audience that is interested. I'll be honest, I find myself very often frustrated in feeling that no one is terribly interested in what I have to say. And there are other people in the world, that never studied the craft, that maybe don't even love it, that don't have much talent for it, but yet have an endless audience. It's difficult to not feel jealous of that. I know I shouldn't concern myself with what accolades other people are or are not getting. It's not for me to deem their worthiness.

Every writer wonders for whom they are writing . . . themself, others, God, etc. For me, it's a combination of them all. For myself I write to live out my passion as a creative outlet, to vent, to help form my identity, to ponder every question I can think about of the world and spirituality. For others I write to offer something with which to relate, to offer comfort, humor, or insight. And for God I write because I believe he has given me a passion that I should use however I can to make the world a better place.

The motivations for writing are never black and white; they are a complex, ever-swirling pool of questions and doubts, both colorful and dark. I don't think most writers are ever fully satisfied with their work. There always seems to be something that we can do better, something we can change. I sometimes wonder if all writers are masochists . . . at least, I seem to love beating myself up, maybe that's just me. :) But despite any of the criticism or self-doubt, we come back to our first love. It will always draw us back into its arms, cradling us and reminding us of why we fell in love in the first place.

Last week I completed ghost-writing an e-book for a client on her experiences going through cancer and the all-natural path of healing that she chose. This is my very first paid-for writing gig. Finally, my degree in writing is beginning to manifest in a very real way. It may not be a widely published book, but it's something. And something is better than nothing. It's a first step, hopefully, to making my writing dreams a reality. I don't know how long that will take, but I'm ready to begin.

I know that my writing is not going to be everyone's cup of tea. My style and my views are probably not going to be attractive to a lot of the people I know. Unfortunately (and in some ways, perhaps fortunately), I don't fit neatly into any certain category, genre, or audience type. I suppose my writing is more for people that are a little more like me, a paradox. And that's going to be perhaps a more difficult niche to find. I am hoping that someday I can find it, where I can offer something of value. For now, I'll try to remind myself that not everyone has to "get" it or like it in order for it to mean something. I'll try to remind myself that before I ever concerned myself with praise, attention, and acceptance, I fell in love with the words. And no matter how many times I may stray into the darkness again, they will always be at home, waiting with open arms.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Oblivious Shopper

CAUTION: The post below is a little bit of ranting, a tad bit of raving, and a tiny bit of hostile aggression. Read at your own risk. (Sarcasm intended).

I don't know about you, but I hate shopping . . . yes, I'm a girl that hates shopping. We do exist! There are many reasons why I don't like this national female high-inducing pasttime. When it comes to clothes, I get depressed because I feel fat in everything, and nothing fits that perfectly because I don't have a perfectly proportioned body. When it comes to household items, I feel hassled. It's really just a chore, not a recreation. And when it comes to gifts, I find myself wandering around for that elusive, outstanding and most glorious present that just never seems to materialize. That's why I do basically all my gift shopping online. Plus, I can find thousands more things online than I ever could in stores, at least without having to hop around to a dozen or more.

The biggest reason that I hate shopping, however, is . . . the PEOPLE. I hate crowds. I hate chaos. Let me put it bluntly: if you laid a hammer in front of me and told me to choose between smashing my own fingers and going for a stroll through the mall with a bunch of teenage girls talking on their cell phones . . . I'm going to have to say goodbye to some digits. My problem is that I have a larger required radius of personal space than apparently does the average person. I find my magic circle of comfort being irreverently invaded every other minute.
Take for instance, the other day when I was in the checkout line at Wal-Mart. I was waiting on a couple people in front of me, and another couple people got in line behind me. No big deal. But then one of them, a teenage girl, crept up behind me, stomping through my personal barricade, nearly able to create breath on the back of my neck. Okay, now big deal. As my husband can tell you, this sets me off. I roll my eyes, somehow hoping that a small lift of the eyebrow will bring me peace and tranquility once again. I usually sigh heavily and mumble to myself, knowing all the while that I'm too chicken to actually say anything to any of them. In my head, I have all of these wonderful obscenities that I dream of using. But, I know I never will.

The other problem that I constantly have is the shopper that's always nonchalantly strolling through the middles of the aisles, stopping in the middles of the aisles, and then not moving when you come along looking to quite obviously attempt to pass. HELLOOOOO!!!! 2 + 2 = MOVE! The other day, during the same shopping trip at Wal-Mart I turned to enter a new aisle and immediately stopped when I saw that on the left side were two women with a cart, stopped, and talking to a man with a cart on the right, also stopped. Unfortunately aisles were not built for the width of three carts, and there were no go-go-Gadget wheels for me to trigger so that I could send my cart off rolling high above their's. I stopped and waited for one of them to move. I was three feet away and right at the end of the aisle. No movement. Okay, I'll give them a few seconds, no need to rush. Chitter, chatter . . . no movement. Uhhh, dude, I'm right in front of you, not moving! Hello?! Seriously, 30 seconds later, the guy on the right finally moved, sort of. Well gee, thanks very much. Hope I didn't put you out!

Oh, and the kicker is that when I passed by them, the younger girl said to the guy, "So, what's your name again? Oh, well call me sometime okay!" I guess the aisle was blocked due to a pick-up in-the-making. Look, I know you're trying to flirt and everything, but that doesn't mean that you get to be oblivious to the rest of the world. Maybe next time I shop I'll try out these tricks and see how they like it.

Oblivious shoppers . . . my biggest pet peeve! I always stress myself out when I shop because I'm going about it as if I'm implementing a football play strategy, always planning out my moves twenty steps ahead. I'm literally trying to strategize my movements to avoid running into people, because they obviously are not paying any attention to whether or not they are going to bump into me. I often still do run into people. I did the other day, and I always smile and say I'm sorry or excuse me. I try to always make eye contact with the person to make sure that they know I mean what I'm saying. The sad thing is, so many of them don't even respond with a look, let along a word or two. The other day several people looked at me as if I had just insulted them. Weeeellll, didn't know I was the only one at fault here! Guess I should have shuffled aside and bowed until they passed to offer my deepest gratitude for gracing me with their presence.

Ughhh, I really need to stop caring about these people. I let myself get too frustrated with them. It's difficult for me because I am overly self-aware, and they are so . . . not. I just don't understand people like that. It's foreign and doesn't compute in my system. It's like trying to translate colors into numbers; it just doesn't work. Hopefully you are not one of those oblivious shoppers. I'm sure most of them are decent people. But if you are, watch out, because I just may . . . scurry out of your way and roll my eyes in your general direction! :)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Self-Esteem, PCOS, and All That Flab: Part 4

* This is part 4 of a series of posts that explore my struggles with self-esteem, weight, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and the very difficult task of trying to be my fullest self in a world that constantly demands more than what I am. Because this subject is so vast and most of my life has been spent swimming in its waters in some form or another I thought it best to break it up . . . also so as to not bore you to death!

Some of you may not be able to relate, but I hope that you will find it interesting anyway. And perhaps you will be better able to understand someone in your life. Some of you may be able to relate and I hope that you will know that you are not the only one -- that the journey may be long, but progress is progress. Remember that no matter how small it may feel, you still are not the same person that you were yesterday. And that is something to celebrate!

For Parts 1, 2, and 3 please scroll below . . .

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I hated gym class. It was the bane of my existence in junior high. In elementary it was fun, but after that it just became 50 minutes for me to feel like a fat, pasty freak with purple, blotchy skin under the unforgiving fluorescent lights, hanging a couple stories above me. It was honestly a nightmare, especially when it came time for showers. I couldn't imagine a worse scenario: me forced to expose my inferior body in front of twenty other girls, half of whom were thin, tan, acne-free, and confident. I did everything I could to avoid it. I would use tons of deodorant and perfume, hoping that it would serve as an acceptable substitute, fearing that someone would notice how I never got in the showers and would relentlessly taunt me with disgust. I couldn't win: it was either be made fun of for my body or be ostracized for my hygiene.

I've often wondered how many other girls in my class or in my grade felt the same way I did, or if they even chose also to forego the showers out of shame. If there were some others I couldn't tell. If they existed they were better at concealing it than I was. One of the defining characteristics of bad self-esteem is that you often feel alone, and I was no exception. Even though I knew better, I often felt as if I was the only person who winced at the sight of their own body in the mirror, who wrote poems of self-loathing, or who wondered each night if there would ever be someone that would love me and think that I was beautiful. My head knew better, but my heart was very . . . silly.

One of the most unfortunate side-effects of having a low self-esteem is that you live a very self-absorbed existence. It's not the typical form of egocentrism, but it is egocentric, nonetheless. It is self-absorption in the opposite direction -- in the negative sense. Everything that happens around you is a confirmation that what you do and who you are is not good enough. In reality, probably very little is actually about you, but when you think you are the most pathetic thing on the face of the earth, then suddenly you are able to connect the most unrelated of subjects. Hey, that takes talent! But unfortunately, it does nothing to serve you well.

* * * * * *

Back to the gym . . . in seventh grade I had the blessing of being in a gym class with several of the most popular girls in the grade -- girls that I couldn't stand. One in particular really made me boil, since it appeared that she had it out for me for some reason or another. She would often make pithy comments to me, pointing out one of my deficiencies but masked in a seemingly benign question of curiosity. One of these such questions was during a gym class while we were nonchalantly playing a game of basketball. Remember the afforementioned first boyfriend in fifth grade, from Part 1? Well, he went on to junior high and high school as one of the top dogs in our class. He was very popular and very liked by all the girls.

This girl came up to me casually and said, "So, like, I heard you went out with _______ for like a month. Is that true?" My initial reaction was, "Okay, well, like, um, it was like, um, THREE months!" And then I wondered, why is she asking me this? Why does she care? I quietly just said, "Yeah, in fifth grade." She paused for a split second, raised one eyebrow, and smirked as she trotted off, mumbling, "Mmmm, hmm." Then I realized, she asked me because she couldn't possibly understand how that could have been true . . . how one of the most popular boys had gone out with one of the nerdiest girls. Whether she believed me or not I could not tell. Whether or not she shared that information with the other girls, I don't know. But I'd be pretty naive to think that she didn't. I mean, come on, she was a thirteen year old girl!

I'm sure this girl doesn't even remember this little incident. It was an inconsequential moment that was probably forgotten as quickly as it occurred. But for me, it was stored into my vast vault of confirmation that I was deficient and unworthy. For a long time I harbored resentment toward those girls who I was jealous of and who treated me less than kindly. But I have come to understand that by doing so I give them power over me. I give them control over who I am and how I view myself. I have learned to let go and forgive since those days. And I have even come to believe that they maybe weren't as bad as I thought they were. Maybe they weren't as kind as they should have been at times . . . but they were kids. And most likely, at least many of them, have grown into kind and caring adults. Maybe not . . . but I don't need to worry about that.

* * * * *

Nearly every moment of my life during those years I was worrying about what people thought of me, if I was pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, talented enough, outgoing enough, interesting enough, liked enough . . . I spent all my time, all my days, worrying about whether or not I WAS ENOUGH. And you know the sad part about it all? My answer was always . . . NO. I often even wondered just how good enough I was in the eyes of God, the one being that was supposed to love me unconditionally. I couldn't even accept that. I couldn't fathom how anyone in their right mind, even God, could love inferior, incapable, inefficient, little me.

People often say that unless you love yourself, no one else can really love you. I don't believe that's true. I hated myself for many many years. And you know what? A lot of people still managed to love me. I'm sure it wasn't always easy for them to love me, but they did. Now perhaps a more accurate theory is that unless you love yourself no one can FULLY love you. Think of it like the blooming of a flower. You can give it lots of water, sunshine, and special fertilizers to help it grow strong and beautiful. And any of these offerings will show signs of its nourishment. But the flower cannot fully bloom unless it has rooted itself deeply within the soil. Until then the flower will always be a lesser version of itself, never completely blossoming into its fullest self.

That is sort of where I am . . . trying to blossom into my fullest self. I am on my journey to self-actualization, as the psychologist Maslow termed it (hey, I gotta use all those years of studying psychology somewhere, right?). It's not an easy road, this pathway of authenticity. In fact, it's sometimes scary, at times depressing, and very often frustrating. Not everyone will like the real me. Not everyone will be happy with the changes. As my dad says, I'm changing the contract. And as much as I hate all of that, I know that I have to do it. I don't care about the color of my petals, the size of my leaves, or even how beautiful of a blossom I will have . . . all I care about, is that I fully bloom.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

More Below the Surface

I've been listening again to the soundtrack to "Lady in the Water," possibly my favorite of all of M. Night Shyamalan's movies. I know, it was pretty universally panned as being terrible. But why should I care? I loved it and that's all that matters. I love it because it's simple. I love it because it's beautiful and tender. I love it because I can see and feel the heart and soul that M. Night put into making it. I love it because it's fanciful and whimsical. I love it because it's a creative way of doing a modern-day, allegorical fairytale. I love it because it's honest.

My working theory is that the people that hated it, do so because they don't know how to enjoy something with childlike love anymore. Or that they are far too "cool" to suspend disbelief for just a moment. And the rest, well, they were just upset that M. Night took out some personal aggression on the in-movie film critic. Yes, I can see that there was definitely some pent up frustration there. But I can understand why. As a writer, albeit an unprofessional one, I can fully understand that feeling of frustration when someone doesn't "get" your work. When they just don't see a point to it and don't really care to try to find one.

I see M. Night's point in "Lady in the Water." I suppose it boils down to purpose -- the purpose that each person has on this earth . . . that they sometimes don't know what it is, how to live it out, or if they even have one to begin with. We all need to feel as though our lives mean something -- that we were put here for a reason, whether it be to do something great, or something quite small, but still just as important. Purpose is what drives us, makes us feel hopeful. And it is what gives us comfort that despite all of the hard-knocks and despite all of our mistakes, that maybe, just maybe, we will somehow create something good out of all the bad.

Each of the characters had a vital role in the story. Some even had titles, such as The Healer of The Protector. But each one, no matter how small a part, was necessary to the events that transpired. I have to admit, Paul Giamatti's character was my favorite. But that's partly because I adore him; he is one of three of my favorite actors, the other two being Johnny Depp and Gary Oldman. One of these days I'm going to have to expand that list to four favorites, and create a nice, comfy spot for Sir Ian McKellan.

Paul Giamtti is wonderful in this movie. He is kind, quiet, lovely, and broken. He is the sort of man who you may not know has seen real tragedy . . . you may think that he is just a loner, someone that has little to say and is mediocre to the core. We've all seen people like that, or that we at least THINK are like that. There is not much memorable about them. Cleveland Heep is like that . . . easily dismissed. It makes me wonder just how many people I have dismissed in my life, or how many people have dismissed me. Probably far too many on both accounts.

Cleveland wasn't always this way. He used to have a family, a job as a doctor, and a regular home, instead of the small grotto-type house sitting next to the aparment complex pool. He used to be engaged in the world and alive. But tragedy has a blunt way of taking away your oxygen -- cocooning you from connections.  Cleveland's family was murdered by someone that broke into their home.  He was a doctor and could not save his own family.  Can you imagine how much guilt you would have for that?  Your profession is saving people's lives, and the only ones you couldn't save were the ones whom you loved the most. 

Cleveland had retreated from the world after that, creating a lonely existence in which no one knew his real story, until Story, the water Narf, from the Blue World, who has been sent to "awaken" someone meant to greatly affect the future of humanity.  Story was the first one who learned of Cleveland's past and true nature, by reading his tucked-away journal that recounted all of his dark and long-held secrets.  When Cleveland finds Story reading his journal he takes it from her and, bent over, cradles the journal against his chest, asking her to please never speak of this again.  

That part gets to me every time.  The way he holds it so tightly to his chest as if by her reading the journal she has somehow cut him open and he is now trying to hold all of his organs inside of him again.  There is almost a fetal-like quality to it -- a certain security from holding the body close to itself.  There have been glimpses before about who Cleveland is, but not until then do we discover what immense pain he has been holding deep inside him.  

That pain comes out beautifully near the end of the movie when Story has been fatally wounded by the Scrunt.  The woman who was believed to be the healer held Story's limp body but failed to reverse the effects of her injury.  Finally it is realized that the true healer all along was Cleveland, whom was originally believed to be the Protector.  Cleveland cradles Story's body in his arms, much like he did with his journal, and begins to talk to her, telling her how much she means to him.  Suddenly, without saying it, he begins talking to his family that he lost, telling them how sorry he is that he couldn't save them.  

He sobs, releasing years of pain.  I absolutely lose it in this part of the movie.  I have never seen a more genuine and beautifully gut-wrenching cry in any other movies or shows.  Paul Giamatti is amazingly honest and vulnerable.  In this movie, he is just about the most endearing character I have ever experienced.  

This is Kevin's favorite M. Night movie as well.  After it was over, I remember we were both emotional, drained, uplifted, and did not say anything for a few solid minutes.  We were so overwhelmed with . . . oh, I don't even know what exactly.  It stirs a lot of different emotions in us.  But the one that I can pinpoint is hope.  And this the music also beautifully exemplifies.  There is something so hopeful about this movie that I can barely describe.  I get swept away in it, wishing that I could live in this world.  There is hope in this world.  Hope that all things can be made right . . . that people can be selfless enough to follow a crazy whim and try to help someone else . . . that there is some kind of magic in the world . . . that even the seemingly most insignificant people can do something great . . . that each person is more than they know.  Afterall, isn't that what all fairytales come down to in the end . . . realizing that you are much more than what you always thought?  Perhaps there is a little of the Blue World in us all . . .

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring Musings

It's springtime, and like everyone else, I am glad. Although, the reason that I am glad is not because I hate winter, snow, and cold weather. On the contrary, I adore all of those things. In fact, if I had to pick a favorite season, I would probably pick winter . . . call me weird. I love each season as it comes -- each season in its due time. The reason I am happy to welcome back spring is for three things: the smells, leaves once again on the trees, and THUNDERSTORMS!! Yes, that's right, I love storms. I am pretty much infatuated with all bad weather . . . storms, snow, wind, cloudiness, etc. The only thing I do not enjoy, however, is driving in them.

Springtime really pulls out the Transcendentalist in me. I like to channel my kindred spirits of Emerson and Thoreau. I suppose most people would say that nature is the thing that most inspires and rejuvinates them. So I won't say that (even though it's true), because I hate being just like everyone else. So instead, I'll say, that nature exxagerates my poetic soul, prompting me to want to write more than normal.

I have a lovely memory of my third or fourth year of college, when I was taking my American Poetry course. I went to the park one day, in early spring, and sat on the grass reading my designated assignments. Reading poetry never felt like an "assignment." I read Frost, Dickinson, and Crane . . . rubbing my toes in the soft, smooth hairs of the ground. It was fairly cloudy that day, and I loved it. I remember hoping that a storm was coming soon.

* * * * *

This morning, as I was walking our dog, Desmond, I saw bumblebee hovering over the grass. I internally shook with excitement when I dorkily thought, "It's moving like a Landspeeder!" For those of you that don't know, a Landspeeder is the vehicle Luke uses in Star Wars when he is sent off to find the newly purchased droids, R2-D2 and C3-PO, so that he could get back and run off to the Toshi Station to pick up some power converters! Okay, geek-out is over . . . sorry. All these years of being a Star Wars nerd and having two older brothers tends to take control of my mind-to-mouth or brain-to-fingers dynamic at times.

* * * * *

I think of my mom when I think of spring. It's her favorite time of year, when all things fresh and green come sprouting out of the ground, speckling the landscape with long-forgotten colors and fragrances. It's rejuvenating for her. I think it makes her feel as though new and wonderful things are on the way. It's hard not to when the buds begin popping up on the bare, well-rested branches and the breeze turns warm, brushing past your cheek. It's hard to not be in a good mood with all of that. Spring suits my mom . . . it is cheerful, optimistic (but not in the obnoxious way), and is full of hope. And neither get the full appreciation that they deserve, as spring is all too quickly apprehended by summer heat and humidity.

* * * * *

Spring makes me think of the end of school drawing near, even though I no longer am in school. I still sometimes get that feeling of freedom coming closer, of care-free days and little responsibilities. Ahhh, yes, I do miss that very much. There really is no such thing when you are an adult. There is never such a definitive end to the responsibilities. That is often depressing, if I think about it concretely. Spring doesn't mean quite the same to me as it used to. But that's okay. I've just about come to terms that I can never go back to the way things were as a child. I've just about gotten the Peter Pan complex beaten out of me . . . almost. Although, I fear it will never be totally gone. And I'm not sure that I want it to. As much as it's caused me grief, struggling with accepting this whole "adulthood" thing, feeling like I'm never quite caught up with the rest of the world . . . I have a feeling that if it were gone from me forever, I would feel an incredible sense of emptiness. It is precisely my inner child that keeps me going. Without it I would simply be a muddled mess of issues. My inner child is the thing that gives me joy, of the most true and unadulterated kind. It is my inner child that makes me feel like me.

* * * * *

Spring . . . just one transition, one passage . . . till the next has arrived. And I am glad to experience it. Hopefully I can find much delight in the simple fact that all is well . . . flip-flops are once again appropriate attire. The windows can open. And the strawberries are looking deliciously crimson and plump. Some things should just never be taken for granted!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Today, I Am Not For You

Dust of the day

Light sometimes
Always clingy, magnetic, sure
Campaigning the status quo
Slow to retire, quick to spread
A swipe, a wipe
Smearing fragments till all is speckled
With the mess of the day.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hope for the Spring

There have been times in my life when I truly wonder where is the mercy. Where has God gone? And why has so much painful suffering been allowed to endure? Enough of those times have been for my own plights . . . but tonight . . . tonight I am left bewildered as to why my brother, sister-in-law, and two nieces have had a lifetime of burdens weighed upon them in the last several months. They have had more than their share of burdens for years now, but the last several months have been particularly difficult.

My seven-year old niece, BryAnna, whom I have written about before was born with Treacher-Collins Syndrome. From her first moments in this world she has been poked and prodded by countless doctors, had innumerable trips down to Riley Hospital, and stubbornly made it through dozens of surgeries . . . at just seven years old. Where is God's mercy and grace through all of this? Well, to be quite frank, it is often times difficult to tell. We all wonder why any child should have to endure such hardships. If there is anything in this world that epitomizes injustice, it is precisely that.

For about the last six months BryAnna has been in the process of getting ears, which she was born without, save for small "buds." They put balloons under her skin where the ears should be and systematically expanded them in order to stretch the skin. Once that was complete they took some cartilage from her rib and fashioned her first ear, attaching it to her left side. While there were some minor complications, it overall went very well and her new ear healed beautifully. They next did the surgery to create her right ear. Everything seemed to be going fine at first, until her stitches came undone and the cartilage became exposed. So they did a repair surgery to encourage the ear to heal. Shortly after, the stitches came undone, and once again the cartilage was exposed. Tomorrow will be BryAnna's fourth repair surgery on this ear. Three times they have tried to repair it. And three times it has refused to heal. Each time they go, they hesitantly hope that this time it'll take. But it is getting nearly impossible to hold onto the now, seemingly frail strings of hope left.

They are tired. They are weary. They are worn thin, like butter scraped onto too much bread, as Bilbo Baggins once put it. Not only do they have the medical worries about BryAnna, but they also have burden after burden piling up on them from all sides. Mary works a high-stress job, for little compensation and with a frail guarentee of job security. Jeremy works a different high-stress job that keeps him out of his home for long hours all throughout the day and evening, with plenty of overnight stays. His compensation is well below what it should be as well. They have very little time together as a family. And Nikole is feeling the hurt from needing her family and needing normality. They all have more than one person or one family should have to bare.

And through all of this . . . enough to make any sane person crazy, they don't complain. They don't give up. And they even manage to find something to laugh about. I cannot fathom the depths that they have waded through, even though I've talked to them plenty about it all. My life is incredibly easy compared to their's, at least in almost every way. And I honestly don't know how they do it. I believe that they are four of the strongest people I've ever known. And they just so happen to be my family, people that I love very deeply.

Each time they have the other shoe fall, I am left with, what feels like, little to say. I don't have any magic words that will make it all better. I want so desperately to say all the right things. But what do you say to someone that continuously has the ground knocked out from under them? It's even gotten to the point where I don't know what to say to God. I've said it all so many times. I've prayed and pleaded for his help for them time and time again. What is there left to say? I know God already knows what is in each of our hearts -- what we all desire and need. I know that technically, he doesn't need us to explicitly state what it is we are asking for. But I almost feel as though, if I can't even pray for them with specific statements, that I must be the laziest person on earth. And they deserve better than that.

When someone that you love is hurting, you hurt with them. And right now, though I cannot ever understand exactly what they are going through, I ache for the pain they are feeling. I wish so very much that I could take it all away and give them a break from what Mary told Nikole is the winter of their souls. Each time I pray for them I ask God to relieve these burdens -- to free their backs from the sadness, the fatigue, and the stress. But tonight, I pray now to God that whatever good he is going to give to me, give to them instead. I have enough good; I can go without for awhile. But they are the ones who need it. And they are the ones who deserve it. I pray to God that he will transfer my blessings onto them.

I believe that God hears every prayer, spoken or unspoken. And I believe that he cares about them all, no matter how small. Did I mention that BryAnna's middle name is Hope? How very fitting isn't it? No matter how dark and wintery it may seem, we must always hold onto Hope. So I am praying right now, for four people that mean the world to me . . . please, God . . . help. Help to bring the Spring.