Sometimes I write poems, or short story fragments. Sometimes it makes it into the public world but more often than not it stays tucked away. I wrote two things this weekend that I’ll leave here. Mostly reflections of things and times and people gone by long, long ago. It’s cathartic to remember. It’s empowering to share. It reminds me of my strength and my craft.
“I don’t want to be these people,” I told you long ago. Your baffled expression and stitched eyebrows told me you didn’t understand. “These people: who hurt each other, and themselves. Who hang on for dear life but don’t do the work. Who claw and claw and claw to stay afloat, only to find the air on the surface is just as suffocating. Who love but don’t understand how to make that enough. Who yell and fight and ignore the ragged edges as if it can all be solved with a coy eye and a morsel of skin. These people we’ve become, I don’t want us to be them. I want us to be ourselves, free from the pain and suffering. Free from each other. Free to find what God is really calling us to. Because this vicious cycle we’ve maintained can’t be all there is.”
It used to be you. Best friends. Late night calls. Silly inside jokes. And quite serious talks. I used to have your birthday memories and you’d do anything to make me laugh. I don’t miss it. I don’t miss you. But it makes me think about how simple life was back then. How naive we were without even knowing it. How much we had in front of us. And how much we’ve each grown. I wouldn’t change a minute, Benj. Not. One. Thing.
“ ‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said. ‘To talk of many things: of shoes, of ships, of ceiling wax, of cabbages, and kings; and why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings’.”
Conversations are my favorite. Getting to know other people, diving into the deeper parts, figuring out how they tick and why they are the way they are. It truly captivated me. And a huge part of that feeds into my need for genuine communication. It’s important to me at the very core of my being. It hasn’t always been that way, it’s developed over the years. I admit to having been someone who would avoid difficult conversations in the past, who would avoid direct communication in certain instances. But now I truly do not function well without it.
But I’ve been in many a relationship where the other person doesn’t have the same view on communication. And that’s difficult. In my mind communication isn’t difficult. And you gain so much by being clear and willing to be vulnerable. And so, as I’ve worked through things with myself and with my therapist, I’m turning over a new leaf. I’m not excusing repeated poor communication, and I’m definitely not accepting it. Opening up takes time, but even that you can be clear about.
Honestly, Easter feels like just the time to do it. Life begins anew. We see it all around us as spring unfolds. We see it in the Gospel lessons; new life. And I’m right there as well. New life—in relationships, with my education, etc. and it feels really refreshing.
There was a side of my mom that very few people knew. You had to traverse past the RBF, and deeper than the heightened intelligence. And there in, neatly tucked away you would find her silly side. I can’t even encapsulate exactly what this was like, or how it presented differently than the laughter and joie de vivre found in most people. She was, by far, one of my favorite people to joke with. I can remember moments with just the two of us, and belly laughing for hours. I can remember stories and feeling the ache in my side from the hilarity. Though many saw her as serious, stoic, and perhaps abrasive—there was much more to her. And I miss that. Sure, each of the three of us carry it on inside or us. But what I wouldn’t give to just sit and giggle with her. Today sucks, but in every way I can, I choose to find joy.
By happenstance, two of the recent books I’ve listened to on audiobook have been about some sort of conservation. One about trees (no surprise there) and one about wolves (which also talks a lot about trees). It’s made me think pretty deeply about my own life. What do I actually think about conservation? About the environment? About caring for the land? I’m not sure I know. Someone I dated a few years ago was a stickler for conservation. If he could have, he would have lived off of the land. Who knows, maybe he is doing just that. But it definitely skewed my perspective during those few months. But it didn’t stick. It was conservation by association of some such instead of me actually subscribing to my actions and making them long term. Funny how people change us. Or rather, funny how we change ourselves for others (whether in small or big ways).
We aren’t owed anything. We owe a lot for our actions though. This last book talked about how we could be doing much more for our planet and our world if we just chose to “rewild”. And I wonder what that looks like. It the sense of the book, it means going back to basics and living a more sustainable and simple life. But I wonder what the rewilding looks like in other areas of our lives as well, and not just in terms of conservation. In what places of my life do I need to rewild and once I do, what does that look like and how do I maintain it? As a highly introspective person, it almost comes as a shock to me that I have a different perspective on something deeply personal. But it is a direction I am pursuing during this early part of Lent. And honestly, I like having an introspective direction. Perhaps part of Christ’s own journey held elements of rewilding as well. A rewilding that took him away from the thoughts of his society. A rewilding that allowed him to subsist in the desert. A rewilding that gave him deep insight into the animalistic actions/reactions of his Disciples.
I don’t know much, but a quick Google search shows this book as part of the rewinding endeavor. And boy, everything about it makes me want to give it a read. Perhaps it is next.
If you have been around here long enough you know that Mardi Gras is my favorite holiday, and Lent is my favorite time of year. It’s about a week away and I have been thinking a lot about what I’m giving up this year. I definitely settled on something, based on experiences the last two weeks. And I’m hopeful this will be the last blog post specifically on this topic.
An Open Letter
This is a letter I could never send. You’d see it as petty, and dramatic, and you wouldn’t take it seriously. But writing it is still cathartic to me. And so, here we are. I need you to know that I’ve woken up, I’ve seen through a lot of what happened, and I am choosing me. At the end of the day, the gaslighting, which I don’t use lightly, was not okay. And it wasn’t in just one area. Trying to convince me that I am fundamentally not who I am was not okay. Trying to convince me that interactions were precipitated in ways that were so different than the truth was not okay. I realize we are allowed to have our own perspectives on a situation. But you aren’t allowed to tell me my reality didn’t happen (because, honey dee, it did). So here is what I’ve decided, for me:
I’m giving you up for Lent. Do I realize how silly that sounds? Yes. Is it important to this time and place and does it hold deep meaning? Also yes. It’s proof to myself that there is no turning back. It’s proof to myself that even though Lent starts on your birthday, there is no need to reach out. It’s proof to myself that I can disappear for 40+ days (and never return). It’s a very real metaphor for me: walking in the desert with my own temptations. Part of me wants to “stick it to the man” but none of this is actually about you. It’s about me, and my growth, and standing up for myself. And you aren’t worth it.
You’re savvy. You’re sneaky. You don’t like to be called out. You don’t actually want accountability. Your emotional capacity is nonexistent. You manipulate. So I’m also giving up: trying to crack your code, trying to understand the secrecy, the backlash from calling you on your shit, battling the gaslighting, giving and not receiving, being taken advantage of for crumbs. I recently said to someone “know better, do better”. And that is my new trajectory I am claiming. I see more. I learn more. And then I adjust and act accordingly. I do more. Giving space for others is important. Forgiving is important. But you can do that without keeping someone in your life. Not my typical MO, and obviously not something that is easy for me. But it starts now, today, in actuality and perpetuity. No turning back, no turning back.
I’ve never had to question how my faith and belief comes off to others. I feel comfortable in what I believe and how I live my life accordingly. I don’t spend much time worrying about whether others have an opinion on how/where I commune with G-d, how I pray, the ways in which my intuition and spirituality are sprinkled in. It’s all mine, and defined by my being, and I think radiates from my core. I don’t hide it.
But today I had an interaction that shook me to my core. Literally dumbfounded me in a way that hasn’t happened since I met our cousin Luann for the first time. A friend was sharing with me that their father is having open heart surgery on Monday. Me being me, I asked what time. “I don’t know,” they said “Monday morning?” And I asked that if they find out the specific time for them to let me know so I could be in intentional prayer for their father—something I try and do in cases like these for my nearest and dearest. And their response floored me. “Ha! But why? You don’t believe in God!” My jaw dropped. “Excuse me; what? Come again?” “Shannon…” “um, I don’t believe in God? WHAT would have ever given you that impression?” “Because you don’t. You don’t believe in God”. And that’s where it was left. Because they hoped off the phone for another call and I was left in the wake of someone who, for whatever reason, felt they knew something about my being that is utterly not true.
From a stranger on the street, perhaps that response would have felt justified. From someone who knows me at all it seemed like they’d just ignored who I am. I’ve had faith conversations with this person. I’ve told them I’m praying for them. I’ve shared a book of blessings with them for their grief (written by on of my favorite Methodist minister poets). I’ve talked to them about my former position as a youth minister. I’ve shared about getting back into the habit of attending church. I’ve shared intimate details about my struggles with organized religion and various calls God has had in my life.
Where then did I give the indication I didn’t believe in God? I’m sorry, but who exactly do you think I am?
Trying not to take it to heart. Remembering that people maybe don’t always know us as deeply as they believe they do—or maybe they don’t know us as well are we previously thought they did. I still feel confident in myself and my beliefs. But boy if that didn’t throw me for a loop.
I’ve been thinking a lot about why we do what we do. How we choose one thing over another. Why we prioritize what we do. And much about it is due to convenience. Whether in our daily lives, the work that we do, or the relationships that we create. We live in a world that has slipped into instant gratification. We order our groceries online to be picked up at a time that we are available. We order food to go, or to be delivered directly to our doorsteps. We respond to texts and emails and phone calls when we “have” the time. We choose where we put our energy. Don’t get me wrong, you should be picky and choosy with where you put your energy. But what you choose says a lot about you. There is no shame in the chooses you make. And what conveniences you allow into your life. Because you do what you think is best for you. Convenience has its place. But inconvenience, that says something too. It shows where your priorities lie, what is truly important to you. The inconveniences are the things that you fight for, sacrifice for, truly align with on a deeper level.
And so I am choosing to find joy in the inconveniences in my life. The reminders that to get something worthwhile and substantive I often have to dig deep(er). That I am unwilling to be a part of a friendship or relationship that is merely built (or dictated) by how convenient it is for the other person. That my choices and my alignment is driven by my core. Sometimes its okay to give in to the conveniences in our lives. But most times, I seek to live a life of meaning. And that means constantly assessing what is important and takes precedence in my life, putting those things first and working with my whole heart and soul to commit.
I am meant for more:
more than just quick fixes and instant gratification, I need long term plans and goals.
more than the on/off convenience that someone else choose, I need consistency and reassurance.
more than just a “sure” or “I guess” or other forms of apathy, I need to prioritized and be prioritized.
simply put, I am meant for more than some are willing to give, I need to stick around those unwilling.
I want more than convenience. I want to choose things and people because they make my heart sing. I want to show dedication and commitment and love. I want to value and be valued. But in order for that to be true, I have to stick to my boundaries (it’s hard, it’s really hard). There’s a sweet spot in life. A place where you continually figure it what you want, what’s important, what’s not. It changes as you change. But there comes a point where you won’t put up with the same shit as you used to, but you also won’t settle for the boring. You wade through what’s in front of you and keep looking for the sweet spot. And one day, you find it. You find it more each day, little by little.
I’m not sure I know what I want anymore. Yes, life is an endless circle of finding and refinding yourself. But I have to remind myself often to pause on that journey. Because if you only focus on growth, you won’t leave much time for living. And what is life if you aren’t living?
At one point, even recently, I was sure footed in what I wanted out of this life. Now I’m not sure. I’ve taken a moment to just breathe, to look at the things I’ve pursued or am actively pursuing. And I’ve wondered if any of it is still serving me. I don’t have an answer for that just yet.
I think the lesson here is that it’s okay to change. It’s okay to grow. It’s okay to not know what’s next. It’s okay to feel like you have no direction. It’s okay to be uncertain if what you are getting is enough, or is what you want. It’s okay to be confused and question. It’s simply okay.
And maybe, just maybe, for the first time in a long time—I’m just supposed to lean I. To the unknowing. Maybe this is the first time is so long that my faith and spirituality is supposed to lead me. Perhaps that is the lesson.
And though I feel lost at times, I am learning more and more what I don’t want. I am learning to trust my self. I am learning that love means so many things. I am learning to not turn a blind eye.