Thursday, January 16, 2014

Letting Go of Worry

I almost titled this post, "Holding onto Worry," because that is what I tend to do. It's almost like worry seeps into every crevice of my heart and becomes this deep-rooted anxiety that leaves me in a twisted, dark place.

The worry comes at me from all directions.

Well, I should be more specific: my OWN stress and hearing about others' heartache turn into worry.

I choose to worry.

I make a choice to turn that stress into worry.

I've always been deeply affected by other peoples' pain. When I heard about starvation and AIDS in Africa when I was five years old it left me deeply saddened. Not just sad, but so heartbroken that I couldn't function.

Even now when I hear stories of child abuse or anorexia or suicide it haunts me. I have dreams about these people who are hurting so badly, even if I barely know them. Their faces greet me at every corner.

I care deeply for people and it hurts to see (or hear about) them hurting. Most of the time I am fairly far removed from these situations so I feel helpless. I want to give them love and make them tea and let them talk and hug them.

I'm going to be really honest--at times I have felt out of control from the stress in my own life. Hearing about other people's issues left me feeling even more like there was no floor beneath me. (As I look back, there was always a floor, I just couldn't see it in those experiences). I had my own feelings of despair and brokenness and regret and confusion that seeing people in their own turmoil sent me over the edge.

But in another way, I focused all my attention on what I couldn't control. It provided the illusion that I was had a more confident footing on the ground that I was desperately trying to maintain.

For a few years I have played with the idea of becoming a therapist. Of course , the main reason was to "help people." I could offer empathy and insight from my own difficult, painful experiences, but I would also have a front row seat to these people and their pain. Maybe in helping others come to terms with their own trauma, I could make sense of my own.

My reasons for wanting to become a therapist are not entirely selfish, but as I examine going foreword in that direction I don't think it is the job for me. I'm scared to shut the door completely on that occupation, but I think I am too sensitive and could possibly become entangled in their stories.

I believe that my ability to let go of worry and channel that anxiety is becoming more refined. But this is only because of a supernatural hand holding my heart. Sensitivity and the propensity to worry are built into my personality. I want the ideal for everyone--whatever that ideal may be.

A wise friend always reminds me that "everyone has to have there own testimony." Hearing this initially ramps up my anxiety, but soon it becomes a salve to that sliver of my heart that aches for justice and is afraid of brokenness. It's true. We all have been given our own story. Nothing I do or don't do can determine someone's life story. It's the dark, twisty times that give us strength and perspective. These scary, lonely times give us the capacity to love deeper and hope with more buoyancy.

While everyone has their own story and essentially only God determines their breathes and steps, human beings most definitely impact each other. We don't know how our words or our actions can affect someone's heart.

My life has been deeply impacted my the choices of others' to love me when I was a tad delusional. The simplicity of cooking a meal together or holding another's hand have saved my life, or at least my sanity.

I don't want to spend my time worrying about other peoples' pain. I want to spend my time loving them, even if that means praying for them from a distance. Suffering is real, but so is God's love. While I don't want to obsess about people, I also don't want to miss opportunities to reach out. A smile, a note, a long conversation at the kitchen table--it is the seemingly little things that make a difference.

*Let's love people.*

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

My Dad

My dad is awesome. He is one of the most jovial and fun-loving people I know. He is incredibly supportive of my choices and sincerely wants the best for me.

We are spending the week together in Santa Cruz, California. We always have a blast. Every morning we get up and get a coffee at Pete's. He gets a large and I get a small. We like our coffee the same--half and half and two raw sugars. Mine is obviously sweeter because it's a smaller cup.

Coffees in hand we walk down the beach. I am continually bending over, picking up rocks and sand dollars. We talk about life and God. Sometimes he tells me stories of his past, some funny and some bittersweet. He asks me about my dreams. Today he asked me if I am one of those girls that has dreamed about her wedding since I was little. I told him that there are specific things that I would like, but I don't have a binder of magazines clippings and pictures of dresses...I don't even a Pinterest board related to my dream wedding.

He is not afraid of my feminineness--the emotional, nurturing parts of me. He is also not afraid of the deep places that I can tend to go. He is rational when I am sliding into the cerebral construct that I can get stuck in. He tries his best to understand my pain. He tries his best to love me when I am pushing people away. He tries his best to stay excited with me when my mind is lighting up with ideas and dreams.

We haven't always got along and sometimes we still don't, but generally we are on the same page. I There is some buried resentment for expectations that weren't met, but I am definitely not as angry as
I used to me.

I think he has adored me since I was born. He shares his memories of swinging me back and forth when I was a colicky infant. He would walk up and down the stairs until I stopped crying and fell asleep. He took me on walks everyday and often would take me to a local park with a petting zoo.

He is so good to me. I enjoy his company. Even if we are simply sitting in the car talking or going to the grocery store it's like being with a friend.

My dad is one of the most hard-working people I know. He is a provider and caretaker. He has a sensitive heart and makes it a point to apologize when he gets upset with someone.

So thanks, Dad. Thank you for loving me unconditionally and for seeing the best in me. Thank you for your kindness and understanding. I look forward to many more grocery store runs, hors d'oeuvre dinners, moscato toasts, and walks on the beach.

Love you.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Bloom

What would happen if we "bloomed where we are planted?" 

This sentiment is difficult for me to take hold of because I haven't really ever been planted anywhere. I lived in the same house for the majority of my childhood, but it was quite tumultuous and chaotic. It didn't feel safe to plant myself there--physically, mentally, and emotionally. I always had a yearning to move, a yearning for adventure. I even graduated high school a semester early so I could begin my adventure, which began in England.

England was amazing. I was in a supportive community and in a beautiful place full of history and charm. My initial intent was to just stay for one semester, but I fell in love with the place. I thought I would have a semester of fun and adventure, and then come back to "regular" college. At some point I decided that it wasn't acceptable to just study the Bible and live a simple life surrounded by wonderful, accepting people. I thought that I had to do more, to be more. 

When it came time for me to leave England I was incredibly torn. Part of me wanted to pursue a traditional academic pathway, and the other part of me ached to stay in the beautiful, ancient city that I had come to love over four months.

I had to return to the States because of my visa, but the longing to come back was so strong that I remember weeping on the train back to London to catch my flight. I had a long conversation with God about what to do. I remember a still, small voice telling me that it was acceptable to return to England and continue the life I was living there. He said that I had wrapped up my worth in academics and becoming something important. I was only concerned about the security of a professional career where I was successful and made an obvious mark on the world. 

But on the two hour train ride I felt peace like never before. I knew that people, especially family, would disapprove of me if I made the decision to return to England. I knew that I had no money to make the trip back in three months. I also knew that I had a substantial amount of money waiting for me if I did decide to go to university. There was a trust in my heart that He would provide. There was trust that He would continue to accept me and love me even if people thought of foolish or that I was "not living up to my potential."

In the end, I ended up not returning to England. Something in me broke. I didn't even last one full semester at college. The last seven years have been a continual uprooting...most of it my own choice. I haven't been confident in my own gifts. I haven't been content in the jobs I've had. I've had the opportunity to live in some mighty beautiful places(Santa Cruz, Catalina Island, Montana), but at some point in all of these places I got scared that I wasn't doing enough, being enough.

These years still have been rich and I have learned a lot about myself(I'm obviously still learning. Isn't it a lifelong process?). But I still feel this yearning, like I'm ignoring my needs and my loves. I'm still trying to fit into this "ideal" person that has been created by me and family.

It's scary to break out of this "ideal person cage." The things I want to do are unconventional, perhaps risky, but they are things that feed my soul. I love people and stories. I also love being creative, making things.

All these unrealistic expectations have dampened my passions and left me discontent and confused. 

I'm ready to unlock the cage I've been trapped in for so long. I'm excited for new beginnings. I'm excited for open doors and open hearts. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Names are Important

I think it's high time that I explain the name of this blog. Yes & Thank You. Each word in the title is important and deserves individual attention. The original blog was called Thoughts on Joy. It was a nice enough name, but it just didn't really fit what I was writing about. 

Yes & Thank You came to be after a therapy appointment when I lived on Catalina Island (I either leave a therapy session almost totally hopeless or incredibly inspired). My therapist on Catalina Island was excellent. She was challenging and empathetic and made me think.

The season I spent on the Island was rich. There was natural beauty everywhere. It was not rare to be escorted into town by dolphins and visited at dusk by bald eagles. The sky was thick with stars at night-you could almost reach up and grab a handful.

I made very meaningful relationships while I lived there. I lived in a close community of only twelve people. We ate together and kayaked together. We laughed together and cried together. Some friendships were complex and some stayed simple and at surface level. The important thing was that I generally felt accepted for who I was--flaws and gifts. It was inclusive. 

My short life on Catalina Island cemented many of my personal values and those can be basically summed up in the title of this blog: 

Yes.
And.
Thank You.

Let's start with yes. This word represents inviting love and grace and goodness into my life. It also means accepting depression and anger and grief. I have the tendency to plant my feet firmly in a minefield of shame which essentially causes me to live with a no stance--cautious and untrusting and fighting what is. Subconsciously, I am saying no to friendships and possibilities for growth. I am saying no, closing my eyes, to the hard stuff that is painful to examine. 

Someone is saying, “You aren’t allowed to be sad. You’re not allowed to experience that inexpressible joy, and while I’m at it I’m going to steal your hope. “

My stubbornness and resistance to maintain an open heart causes a lot of torment. The shame I stand in keeps me isolated. It is a heavy burden to carry.

I want to live my life with a loud and powerful, “YES!” Yes to forgiveness. Yes to looking at hard things. Yes to bright colors. Yes to putting one foot in front of the other. Yes to love.

...

Okay, next up is and. This may seem like a little word with little meaning, but it’s a big deal. In my life it’s about accepting seemingly opposite emotions and thoughts. It’s okay to feel deep sadness, AND also have hope for the future. It is being upset with someone, AND still loving them. It is being afraid, AND walking forward with courage.

The word and is also important because it is a connecting word. In our language it joins different ideas, different phrases, and separate people. I thrive on connection. My connection with God is what sustains my very breath, and it allows me to witness miracles in creation. My connection with other human beings gives my life depth and purpose. I’m thankful that little word that represents connection.

...

Finally, thank you. This word represents the gratitude that I want to color my life. I’ve been in countless situations where the only thing I know to say is thank you. I want to make this attitude a habit. At times it is really difficult for me to focus on the gifts I have been given. I know I’ve rolled my eyes countless times when I’ve heard a counselor or doctor or pastor discuss the idea of making a “gratitude list.” I’ve thought, “Honestly, how can writing down everything I’m thankful for really make a dent in the severe depression I am experiencing?”
Well, honestly, it really works. It doesn’t always have to be a deliberate pen-and-paper list, but there is way that gratitude gently enters the heart.

I want to live my life with my heart  in this position.


I want to live with open arms of acceptance. I want to live connected to God and others and nature. I want to live with thank you continually engraved on my heart.