November – The month of thankfulness

Over the past year or so I’ve tried to embrace the spirit of gratitude in my life and it’s done wonders for my emotional well being.  There’s always something to be grateful for, but perhaps taking time out intentionally and writing it down will help concretize my thoughts in a sharable way, making me and others more aware of what there is to be thankful for.

Tonight, on the first of the month, as I sit down to write out checks for rent, my phone, internet, etc, I am thankful that I have enough employment to make it possible to pay for the life I lead.

Hopefully lacking stereotypical cheese

“My life got flip-turned upside down.  I’d like to take a moment just sit right there….”

A few months ago I was on a dating marathon.  OkCupid and I were good friends and, even though I kind of hated him, I visited multiple times a week. Sometime in July I kissed three different boys in three days. I figured it all was probably futile, but I couldn’t just sit idly by anymore.  More than anything I wanted to find and be found by someone, so I had to inch toward it the best I knew how.

Does anyone else think first dates generally suck? Part of my plan involved enduring first and second dates to get to the good stuff – the ‘we’re comfortable together, you know me, just hold my hand’ state.

But then one first date actually didn’t suck.

Now…80 days later, I’m in love. boom. Eighty days.  Besides a grueling 10 day stretch of uncertainty near the beginning, I’ve never been so happy, so calm, and excited all at the same time for such an extended period of time. It’s overwhelming, in a good way.

I’m put off by writing about love – it’s cliched. But I can see why people want to write songs and poems and novels about love. It’d be naive to think that all the words I have that might possibly capture what’s going on in my gut haven’t already been used, but I’ve never heard it described as pre-holiday excitement.

Do you remember the feeling you had on Christmas Eve (if you grew up christian) or in the days leading up to your birthday?  Or in college as you walked away from just having turned in your last exam for the semester? That’s how I feel all the time now.  Like ‘finally everything’s going to be ok’.

Of course, I’m trying to keep my feet underneath me, not get swept away, He’s not my savior, all of my happiness can’t ride on him, etc.  But damn if he’s not the best addition I’ve ever had, probably other than the Church.  I want nothing more than for this feeling to stay, for us continuing to be us. Happiness feels good.

The Drugs, Man

I didn’t even realize how unwell I was, and I don’t know how long I was unwell before I hit the breaking point. In January of this year, however, after finally being enrolled in an insurance plan through the marketplace, I made an appointment to get my mind moving in the right direction. 

I started taking generic Lexapro at the end of that month, and the kinks began to work themselves out.  Slowly. I stopped having panic attacks at stoplights, I didn’t have to worry as much about my friendships, and then I was able to make healthy decisions for myself about unhealthy friendships. I was released from the paralyzing fear that accompanied me up on to the chancel every time I was asked to help with worship. And then I wasn’t nervous even to give a sermon.

And then.

The most exciting consequence of seeking help and finding it has been the development of my current relationship.  Over the last 4-5 years I have wanted to try, I’ve wanted so badly to give a relationship a go, but two or three days into ‘dating’, I’d panic. My anxiety and low self esteem would get me spinning and the resulting tension would build up so quickly and oppressively that I’d find myself under my covers, crying, feeling like a failure, disappointed and convinced that I’d never find someone.  The only way to find relief was to end the budding relationship and endure the embarrassment and confusion of that end.

Now, I can let my guard down. I can let this man know that I like him without second guessing myself every minute and worrying that I am going to hurt him. I can look ahead without obsession and live in the moment without over-analyzation.  

Don’t get me wrong – I think that the therapy helped a little bit, especially with some specific complicated situations that were causing me problems.  But I firmly believe that it’s the drugs that have changed my life. I haven’t researched how (that’s my neuroscientist boyfriend’s realm… I should have him explain it to me) but I know the change is real. I cannot express how absolutely grateful I am. 

So where’s my advertising gig, Lexapro?

The Bible and a 10k

Today was a pivot point, I think.

Tomorrow I am joining a bunch of other people – online, mostly… and mostly Episcopalians – to read the Bible, from front to back, in 90 days.  I know!  Lots and lots of words in that sucker, but since there are 50 of us doing it, and we’ll get together for food and stuff once in a while, it seems pretty doable and kinda fun. Perhaps the ‘we’ve been in this car for way too long and now we’re delirious’ kind of fun, but still. It’s organized on Facebook, mostly, so join if you’d like – there’s still time! https://www.facebook.com/events/1410640489214064/1420456221565824/?notif_t=plan_mall_activity

Here’s the reading schedule, on their Tumblr page: http://summerofscripture14.tumblr.com/post/86858647940/hey-friends-heres-the-summer-of-scripture

Sidebar/confession: I don’t really understand Tumblr.  Yet.

So, lots o Bible and hopefully meeting some fun people along the way. I’ll also be training for a 10k race at the end of September. And working more.  And a personal life, God willing. I’m (almost) ready for you, Summer!

 

Winging It

When I was not so much younger than I am now, I preferred the world to be black and white, yes or no, right or wrong.  There’s a comfort in definition, in standing firm and knowing what you know, and answering with confidence. Today, I understand you can’t begin to see the truth of our world without the grayscale. Emotion and relationship add color to that picture, taking the understanding to a whole other dimension. For me, strangers live in the hues of gray, but as soon as I meet someone, their colors begin to develop and slowly I’m allowed to understand more about what makes them, them.

When I was much younger, I thought everyone was an expert at what they did.  Most people were experts in multiple things, in my child-mind.  A 40 year old woman was an expert at being 40, a woman, perhaps a mom, or a wife, and whatever it was she did for a job.

Today, right now, I am in awe of how much of life is just ‘winging it’. People sometimes marvel at how ‘well’ I can understand technology (granted, generally these people are older than I am, which puts me at an automatic advantage of exposure), but 95% of the time I’m pushing buttons to see what happens, learning and adjusting on-the-fly. Maybe this is how people live a lot of their lives.

I’ve struggled quite a bit in the last nine months since I left Wesley, especially anxiety-wise.  I’m surprised that the transition isn’t over for me, that I’m still adjusting to life ‘outside’.  I miss the depth of conversation and relationship in seminary.  Without it, life seems more dangerous, cold, and lonely.  Things have gotten out of hand recently, with my worries controlling aspects of my life that I value most…the result being less than beautiful.

This year, now that I have insurance (thank you,Obama, and thank God), I have access to actual experts.  While it’s uncomfortable at the time, seeing doctors gives me a sense of calm and comfort that has given me hope for the future. I’ve been checked over, prodded, talked to, prescribed, and diagnosed. I’ve been seen and cared about.

This week I began relationships with a psychotherapist and a psychiatrist to start to confront my anxiety. Today I’m considering what it’s like to approach life without beating myself up for not being an expert on it. Tomorrow I’m going to try to embrace ‘winging it’ and being a little more patient when the colors are slow in coming.

30 before 30

Well.  I’m 29 now.  I have my own apartment and full time employment.  (the audience goes wild!)  Some people like to make a bucket list for their lifetime – I started one, but it feels morbid – and some people make a ‘before 30’ bucket list.  Often, just to keep things simple, they have 30 goals on it.  I’ve started mine!  Here’s what I have so far.

  1. Find my ‘go to’ wine, both white and red.  (this will be fun!)
  2. Chop down a tree.  With an axe.
  3. Be able to run 5 miles.
  4. Use all of my CSA veggies for two consecutive weeks. (I plan on doing CSA next summer)
  5. Have a penpal.
  6. Lose 30lbs. 
  7. Preach without freaking out. (first date is already scheduled!)
  8. Make dinner for a friend and deliver it.
  9. Have health insurance. (come on Obamacare!)
  10. Have no credit card debt.
  11. Take at least one Spanish class. (I already have a student ID at a tech school to take this class starting in Jan!)

What are your suggestions… what would you like to see me do before I’m 30?

Reality

This morning I woke up and the first feeling I could identify was stress.  A general rising panic about not being fully employed, not having my own place to live, and the unease that comes from a complete lack of knowledge about what my life will look like next week or next month.  General life math tells me that stress=bad, so I made a decision to do the least stressful thing this morning.  After a few minutes contemplating this, I realized that all of my choices present a different kind of stress, there wasn’t much getting out of it.  So I got up and made maple banana french toast.  I chose ‘delicious stress’.  

After a particularly hard day this week, a dear friend suggested that that I allow myself to really be in the thick of this uncomfortable messiness, this demoralizing/hopeful/stressful/strange/exhausting roller coaster that is a 20-something’s job search today.  To think about it, to not avoid it, to learn from it.  To force something positive out of this reality, damn it.

There has been so much talk about ‘Gen Y’ lately, about how we ‘feel too special/entitled’ or if we are victims of a crazy broken system that has made breaking into the workforce especially difficult.  I can’t speak for an entire generation or our culture or say much about economics – I can only really describe my reality and add it to the pile.

We can probably all agree that each generation has had unique stressors and advantages.  While I’m having a tough time in 2013, I’m ‘allowed’ to work, I face little risk of being burned alive in a factory, no one I know is going to be sent against their will to war, and I’m pretty sure I won’t die of a rattlesnake bite, yellow fever, cholera, or dysentery, and for all of these things I am eternally grateful.  I know and acknowledge that I have it pretty good, speaking in generalities. The specifics are a little more grey, however.

I’m very privileged.  I don’t come from a wealthy family, but we didn’t struggle either.  I have absolutely amazing, inspiring, generous friends who can and will help me, house me, hug me, and feed me.  As much as I sometimes feel like I’m at risk of falling through the cracks, I know that those who love me won’t let it happen.  This is huge.  I don’t take it lightly and I know that not everyone has a network like mine. 

I’m starting to feel like a bottomless pit, however.  I was taught to be generous, to give, to be helpful and courteous and show my appreciation and gratitude, to be fair and not use people.  It feels like there’s a limit to the length of time and the degree of help sought while not being a burden, or a charity case, or ‘needy’.  I was also taught (by family and society) that I need to be independent and strong.  That, while it’s ok to ask for help once in a while, I should be able to take care of myself the majority of the time.  Perhaps I’ve internalized this too wholly, but I find it very difficult to feel good about myself when I’m living off of others. 

At 28 years old, holding Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, I have yet to have a job that pays over $15,000/yr (which, by the way, is technically above poverty). I’ve made choices in my education that apparently exclude me from living a decent life.  Even if society doesn’t mean to be cold, What I am and what I know how to do aren’t worth supporting. I don’t deserve to have a life.  I should have become an accountant or an investment broker, apparently.  Protecting other people’s money is much more valued than protecting other people’s children or teaching and encouraging people to be better or more loving.  You can (and should) argue against that statement, but in this culture, we show worth in dollar signs.  It’s brutal.

In some sense, we lie to children.  We love on them, we tell them they are special and that they can ‘be anything they want to be’ in America. The sky is the limit.  We struggle to teach them to be kind, generous, loving people and good citizens.  We try to inspire them to want to make ‘the world a better place’ when they grow up.  But when those adults succeed, and the child pursues a path that could actually change the world for the better, people (probably parents that instilled the same values in their own children) turn their backs enmasse. I’m not talking in a face-to-face situation, I mean culturally.  If our focus is on ‘what can I buy next?’ then money will always be the bottom line.  If money is the bottom line, good people wanting to do good things will always get shafted.

I won’t get started (today) on realities when you start behind.  This is probably enough ‘grim’ for today.

Both/And – or- It’s alright

Things are both/and now.  (This idea is a seminary favorite)

I’m both settling into routine and still completely up in the air about where and how I’ll live a month from now.  I’m both ecstatic about this stage in my life and completely worried sick about how it’ll turn out.  I’m both so happy to be ‘home’, but sad to not be all the other places that hold hostage people I love and sad that I don’t really have a place of my own to call home.  I’m both grateful to be given a place to live and some time to figure things out and feel completely guilty that I still can’t support myself.

Being outside is also a strangely dual experience for me.  I usually come away from a good run or time on the lake feeling euphoric (today I got to canoe!  And no back problems!), but, increasingly the idea of ‘outside’ scares me.  The sky, the space, space, the vastness of it all makes me want to hide… but there’s nowhere to hide from that reality.  I am starting to see how agoraphobia can lead to becoming a recluse – I feel myself ever so slowly inching that direction, which scares the living daylights out of me.

As of late I swing from one extreme emotion to the next, but generally it’s on the ‘good/happy’ side, so it’s probably best to focus on the positive. Today I got to spend half the day with some of my favorite people, just riding through rural Wisconsin in a car, chatting and house hunting. I made friends at a canoe lake lesson through Hoofers (finally I’m a member again) – Gretchen, Catherine, Zach, and Grant. This week I had one positive interview at a job I’ll jump on if offered to me, AND I have another interview next week, for a position I’m so pumped about that I’m doing research and brushing up on some stuff beforehand to prepare.  I never prepare.

The good was so good when I got ‘home’ and saw this absolutely gorgeous : photo (17)

AND THEN this oh-so-perfect song came on the radio, and I found the harmony (so exciting) and belted with it, dancing around the living room like an idiot. Presenting The Lone Bellow’s ‘Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold’: (I’m going to go see them at the Majestic on 10/30, if you want to come too!)

“Green eyes and a heart of gold, all our money’s gone and the house is cold but it’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright.”

It’s alright.  I’m leaning into this reality that ‘it’s alright’, even if all of my money is gone, I don’t know where I’ll be in a month or what my life will look like.  I’m safe, I’m loved, I’ll be ok.  It’s alright.

Made it.

A blog post has been brewing in the back of my mind for a long time, unsurprisingly.  It’s been almost 7 weeks since I’ve said anything on here, but so much has happened.  I ‘made it through CPE’ (quotes included because it was much more than that), drove across the country with one of my best friends, and started a job and a life back on home turf.

As Lia and I drove across the country (with most of the second, impossibly flat, half being her domain) I thought a lot, and I tried not to think a lot.  I was ready for CPE to be over, but I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the friends I made and the mode of learning that was healthy for me.  I was ready to set the Cadwells free from the burden of me living in their spare room, but I wasn’t ready to leave the beauty of the city and the Northwest, and the adorable, cubby cheeked, enthusiastic toddler I’d grown to love dearly.  One thing was certain, however. I was ready to be home.  When I crossed into Wisconsin, alone after dropping Lia off in Minneapolis, I was beaming.  A bit road crazy, I started thanking the trees and hills and cows.  Out loud.  I cried, I was so happy.

That feeling hasn’t mellowed much.  I live in a beautiful world and I don’t want to take it for granted.  Some mornings when I’m driving to work, and it’s humid and the sun is low in the sky, the actual air glows golden. I drive to work alone, but I am compelled to say out loud how awesome I think it is and how happy it makes me.

I have a job that challenges me but is worth the challenge to me.  I have responsibility, I’m trusted.  I work with my mentor.  I can’t even.  Back in the day it was our joke dream, ‘Some day we’ll work together, both of us getting paid. ha ha.’ Joke’s on us.  I wanted so badly to link to a post to prove that way back then we were plotting, but apparently it was so far fetched I never wrote about it.  I did find this gem though, on the day that I discovered Trinity and my life actually shifted. Anyway, not only did I get to come HOME, I got a JOB.  In a CHURCH.  And I get to work with one of my all time favorite people.  Somebody wake me up.

Alas, it’s only a part time job and cannot support my life as the sole income, so I’ve spent a lot of time applying to different jobs and going to interviews and worrying and feeling a little worthless and under qualified.  Things are starting to look up on that front again, though, fingers crossed.

I’m living at the lake house. I can’t believe that either.  This place that was a bubble of relief from real life is suddenly very much my real life.  Sunsets every night, beautiful mornings, and memories of the few times I hung out with one of the most fun families I know.  I have friends?!  They’re attached to the church, but, they’re friends.  They’re hilarious, and good, and… sigh. It’s just great.

Tonight, I feel like I’ve made it.  I woke up late, went to work and got stuff done, went grocery shopping, played guitar in an empty, echo-y house where nobody could hear me sing, and then I made salsa from home grown tomatoes.  I may not actually have it all figured out, but today… today I’ve made it.

Getting a Healthy Shake

So, I’m in Seattle, doing this CPE thing, not loving it.  Really like the people I’ve met and the places I’ve gone, love love love the little man I live with and his parents, and this city is great. I don’t often talk about the things that I’ve enjoyed here because I, like most people, talk about the things bothering me, the things I need to get off my chest, or those things I need support to get through.

I like to think I’ve done difficult things before.  I’ve cleaned hotel rooms.  I’ve worked at a day care.  I lived in Russia for 10 months. CPE is a challenge not only because it’s difficult ministry, but also because it’s hard to see the benefits of it during the program.  Everyone I’ve talked to said they learned a lot, but they couldn’t recognize it while they were in the midst of it.

In the middle of my time here, we interns have gotten stuck in a complaining routine.  We’re all very tired (one of us has strep throat no less), we’re running out of money, and we are frustrated that we can’t see our growth.  Most of us are forced into this internship – a tough pill to swallow when you don’t have much interest in this kind of ministry but you have to spend a summer doing it anyway – and we’ve become somewhat bitter.

So last week I called someone I love and trust.  I called to hear about happy things and take my mind off of the internship.  She wanted to hear about my experience and I, thinking that she’d commiserate with me, told her the sob story I’ve become used to telling.  ‘Unfair’, ‘tired’, ‘frustrated’, ‘angry’, were the words I used. She used words like ‘ungrateful’, ‘bad attitude’, and ‘growth’.

I was shocked and shaken. I cried. I felt unheard, unsupported, and misunderstood.  I felt alone.

A few days full of thought after this conversation, I feel differently about it.  It’s true that I probably have spent too much time complaining about the situation lately.  Everything that I’ve said is true, but utterly useless if it’s all you say.  Anyone who isn’t here doesn’t see me enjoying things, they only see the things I’ve needed to talk about – the downsides.  That conversation was a wake up call.  I have to learn to recognize and talk about the upsides too.

In CPE, I am learning to ‘claim authority’.  This means learning to recognize BOTH what I need AND what gifts I bring to a situation, and be confident in that.  While it seems removed from the actual work we are doing, this is a huge deal.  I’m learning how to tell people no.

In CPE, the interns are given a small taste of what it means to serve and be at the mercy of others.  None of us are paid (we pay) for the work we do, so we must live on the generosity of friends, family, or church communities. To know that I have nothing physical or monetary to give to people, that I only have myself to offer, that’s a true humbling experience.  I live here solely because of the hospitality of my friends.  I can’t ‘repay’ them.

This is what I have learned.  They’re not pretty lessons that someone could teach in a few hour long sessions.  There’s nothing to memorize.  It’s tears and uncomfortable, awkward moments, and tiny movements toward getting stronger and knowing more about life.

So, thanks for those who shake me, even if it hurts.