Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Clear Perspective

I've worn glass since 4th grade. It felt like my vision changed overnight. One day I could read the whiteboard just fine, and then one morning I had squint to barely see the math problems written at the front of the room.

My teacher noticed my odd, intense squinting and she sent me to the nurse's office. The nurse did a simple eye test and sent me on my way with a note relaying to my parents that I needed to make an appointment for the eye doctor.

I picked out a funky dark-rimmed pair of specs. I thought they made me look smart and sophisticated. On the way home I marveled that I could see individual leaves on the trees and the road signs were crystal clear.

A lot of kids at school poked fun at my style choice, but I thought my glasses were cool and they set me apart. There were only a couple others in my class that wore glasses.

The style of my glasses hasn't changed much over the years. I don't purchase new glasses very often, but I gravitate to the funky. I've had red frames, two-toned turquoise frames, and lately I've toned it down a notch to a simple tortoiseshell.

I've worn glasses for so long that I'm pretty much lost without them. I reach for them before I even get out of bed in the morning.

You'd think that I'd take really good care of my glasses because they are so critical to my day-to-day functioning. But honestly, I'm hard on them. I rarely clean the lenses and I'm certain that the screws need to be tightened and the frames adjusted.


I struggle with severe depression intermittently, and a few years ago I was going through a particularly difficult time and was being treated at an inpatient facility. I was meeting with a psychiatrist. He was asking me questions and we were talking back and forth when all of a sudden he blurted out, "How can you see? Your glasses are filthy!!"

I smiled at him. My glasses were particularly dirty because I had been weeping sporadically for the last several days. When tears fall they land on the lenses and the salt forms little crystals which cloud the glasses.

The doctor paused in his questioning, opened the door and hollered at a nurse for a few alcohol wipes. I gave him my glasses and he carefully wiped the lenses with the alcohol pads and then used the corner of his shirt to dry them off.

He handed them back to me, and I could see so much clearer.

That small exchange has left me a different person. Someone that I respect reached out to me in a tangible way and offered me a glimpse of hope--quite literally.

When I'm in the throes of a deep depression I can barely catch my breath, let alone see anything but my own confusion and pain. My perspective is clouded and murky. I get in the habit of seeing everything in a negative light which drags me deeper into despondency and hopelessness.

I'm just used to looking out to the world through dirty lenses. When my doctor cleaned my glasses my outlook was brighter and I could see things that I was missing.

I'd like to say that I always have the strength and resiliency to remove my dirty glasses and clean them myself, but some days I'm unaware that my perspective has been somber and deeply melancholic. It feels impossible to look at my situation differently. I'm in the rut of the primal fear response and the panic just keeps circuiting in my brain.

Personally, at times it seems like the only way to bypass that anxiety loop is to bump into another person. Maybe not bump into them physically, but I need a positive encounter with another human being to make me feel human again.

When my doctor noticed my dirty glasses, it shifted something in me. In an abstract way, he noticed my pain and validated it. He realized that all I could see was my pain. He saw how desperate I was for answers.

But depression doesn't always have answers and any relief can be a long road, but his action that took a minute changed my life.

For the next few weeks, every time I met with the doctor, he cleaned my glasses on the corner of his shirt. Our conversations became less heavy; I was beginning to see clarity and hope on the horizon.

On the day I was discharged, instead of asking for my glasses to clean, the doctor handed me a small plastic case with eyeglass cleaner and a soft purple cloth to wipe the lenses.

It was like he was giving me permission to move ahead with clarity in my hands. I was stronger and and had gained more insight into my depression.

I am forever grateful for my doctors' compassion. The simple act of wiping my tear-stained glasses every day will always be tucked in my heart.

There are still really difficult days, but I have that little eyeglass cleaner pouch next to my bed. When I spray the lenses and wipe off all the smudges and tear stains I can't help but be reminded of the people who have held my heart and helped me find clarity in the midst of a harsh and scary tempest.

Remembering without Regret

I've had the opportunity to live in some truly beautiful places. My first adventure was to an ancient city in Northern England. I can remember peering out the train window on my way to York and pinching myself. I felt like I was in a dream--white lambs dotted the emerald hillsides. My heart was bursting with my first international adventure.

I spent two summers in the Redwood forest. Then there was that year where dolphins and bald eagles were a daily occurrence. There was the  pristine air of Northern Montana that tingled my nose with pine and woodsmoke. Then there was Southeast Asia, sticky sweet with an abundance of mangoes and melons just as sweet.

Most recently I got the chance to live in a tiny town on the Oregon Coast. At high tide, I could hear the waves crashing right outside my window. The steady push and pull lulled me to sleep every night for several months.

Circumstances have brought me back to the high desert of Idaho. If you were to just drive down the center of this city, it's really difficult to find the beauty. But I've lived here off and on in different seasons and there is a desolate, starkness that is enchanting about this place.

I've always been someone that appreciates the aesthetics of a place. Beauty in nature inspires me and calms me. But place is so much more than natural beauty.

Place is about the community of people and friendships that you gain...the give and take of vulnerability.

I've lived a lot of places in the last several years, and often my heart aches for a particular place. It used to be England. I fought to get back there and walk the cobblestone streets and read in the Starbucks that was housed in a 500 year old building. Thankfully, that desperation to return to England has subsided and I've been able to store those memories in a file of my mind that doesn't  cause so much pain.

I know God has directed my journey so far. Yes, it may not be linear and I know a lot of people are curious of why I can't stay in one place for very long.

But each place holds a space in my heart, and there is a certain sense of grief associated with each move.

There is also regret. Regret about not appreciating the beauty that each place held. Regret about not investing enough in the community. Regret about not relishing in the quiet moments.

But what if I could remember without regret? Each place I've lived taught me more about God and the universe and myself. What if I just left it at that instead and let go of the berating for not staying long enough. What if this letting go led to a freedom to live fully where I am in this moment?

I want to live right now with wonder and intention at the seemingly mundane around me. Right now there is everyday grace sprinkled right in front of me.

Friday, April 17, 2015

I often struggle with purpose.

The question of who am I crosses my mind frequently. People tell me that everyone my age passionately processes this question. This stage in life is marked with this question, but I still get frustrated. Maybe I've been running into this brick wall because I thought I had my dream life all figured out. 

When I was younger I thought I knew exactly what my life was going to look like. I was going to go to a prestigious university and become a doctor and help save the world. I was going to travel to exotic places and see all the wonders of the planet. Obviously I would get married and have kids and balance everything perfectly. 

Those big dreams kept the fight in my heart. Those big dreams pushed me to survive. My rich fantasy life distracted me from the pain that was very real in my heart. The hope of a future kept me afloat in a sea of unpredictability. 

My fantasy life hasn't come to fruition, and I'm okay with that, but sometimes I feel as if I am tumbling headfirst into a rabbit hole. During the last several years I have developed this severe, ironclad construct in my mind that doesn't allow for any flexibility. There is this cage of unrealistic expectations and judgments that keeps me trapped.

The battle to know who I am and where I fit in the world pulls my heart and my head in this constant tension. It's a fight and it is exhausting. I've been trapped in this struggle for so long, and I've developed some bad habits. I berate myself for making mistakes and am self-critical which just gets me more tangled up in the trap.

The only way to become free from this trap of unrealistic expectations is stillness. I have the choice every hour to keep scrambling for answers or breathe deeply and rest in the Truth that resides deep within my heart. I've developed the habit of scrambling feverishly and fighting the gifts I've been given.

I have the choice to cower in shame and regret or to stand up and walk into the freedom of new beginnings. I can remain in the trap of constantly asking "who am I?" and keep a tight fist on the childhood fantasies I painted for myself.

I don't want my broken dreams to define me,  just as much as I don't want my anxiety about the future to hold me back. I trust that when I am still and keep my hands open that purpose that I desperately seek will become clearer. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Great Song

My friend is awesome at making mix CDs for our car rides up and down the coast. One of my new favorite songs is this one by NeedtoBreathe. I've been listening to it on repeat ever since I heard it first. I love the words and the calming effect of the music. 
I hope it inspires you.