No Beginning, No End

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.

Words from the Wise

  • It may not happen the first, or second, or hundredth time. But it will happen. -SWS
  • Your safe place and person will find you if you keep yourself open. -SBS
  • Doesn’t matter how it got there, just being there at all is exhausting. -ABJ
  • You do deserve to be a priority. -CSL
  • It is hard but you deserve so much better and to be treated and cherished for the wonderful person that you are. -MK
  • If [they] can’t make it work at the beginning when it should be sunshine and rainbows, what’s going to happen when the shit gets real?! -BH
  • It can hurt and still be the right choice. It’s okay to walk away from someone unable or unwilling to give you the basics. -SMS

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

I’ve put myself in therapy. I’m not sure if a I’ve written about this yet, or only crafted words mentally. But here we are nonetheless. I absolutely adddddoreeee my therapist. She’s real and relatable. And just such a good fit for me. And for this, I am thankful. Here’s why I think it’s important to share I’m in therapy:

  • As a helping professional in the counseling field, sometimes folks think we have all the answers. We don’t, and we need space to process as well.
  • I talk a lot about my struggles on this blog, or what I’m wading through at any given moment. It became time not to do that “alone” and I want to be transparent about that.
  • There is a stigma around therapy and I want to do what I can to help normalize that.

So why, why did I decide therapy was a necessary thing to add to my life? Well, first, there has been a lot of grief and loss in my life in the last ten years. Two uncles, my grandma, my mom, and two aunts all passed. and in there has been many family dynamics that have been heavy to sort through on top of the grief. Couple that with an uncomfortable work environment that I stayed at for way too long. And add in a dash of a roller coaster dating experience over the last two years and it all just felt like too much. I was overwhelmed and really needed help processing and moving forward. Thankfully the job aspect worked itself out on its own. But the grief and the dating are daunting and emotionally charged to say the least.

Much grief never goes away. It sticks with you and you learn how to deal with it. I like to say, and tell others who need to hear it “you get through it, you never get over it”. And it’s so true. You live with it your whole life. And sometimes it feels less present, or you forget for a moment. But it’s still there. It’s a part of your story and you’ll carry it forever.

The same is true with relationships: romantic or platonic. They enter our lives and some are short and some are long. But all are important for the time they are with us. One of my biggest flaws is that I hate goodbyes. I’ll let people stick around (or I’ll stick around rather) for much longer than I should just because I don’t want to let go. I’m working on it. And I admit how difficult it is, and how I’m learning boundaries because this flaw has affected my own well-being and mental health on more than one occasion. I’m trying to be clear about my boundaries. Because if others don’t know, they can’t accommodate or act accordingly. But here’s the thing, boundaries don’t work unless you stick to them.

Mind. Blown.

And when people can live inside of the boundaries you set, and you can communicate, and compromise—it’s wonderful. And when they can’t, we’ll damn. You better assess whether you need to move on (likely) or compromise the boundaries you put in place. For me the recurring theme (though I don’t like it, and sometimes don’t listen) is to move the eff on.

These things I’ve learned, and I am continuing to learn. And learning is all a part of the growth journey. and I believe in growth, I believe in us becoming more and more ourselves. I believe in mistakes and failures and heartbreak and grief. Because it makes our stories ours. I believe that how we deal with our brokenness shows our true character. And I believe none of us go it alone, whether we realize it or not.

I don’t regret any of what I’ve been through, though sometimes I wish I had acted or reacted differently. But I am who I am because of each moment and experience. And for that I am truly thankful on this day.

Grace, Under Fire?

If you’ve been following along for any amount of time you’ll know there are certain themes that come up here often: grief, faith, relationships, honesty/vulnerability, etc. But recently I’ve found my mind circling (and circling and circling) back to the idea of grace.

I offer the people in my life a lot of grace. Sometimes admittedly maybe more than I should (meaning I sacrifice bits of me in the process). But my faith tells me to have grace (because God gives me grace every day of my life). And I was raised to have grace toward others as well.

But here’s the thing. There is a limit to grace. Or maybe rather, you can have grace and still have boundaries. This is admittedly difficult, for me at least. It takes me a while to figure out what my boundaries need to be with others (they are usually not the same). And then it can be a bit before implementation. I’m getting better. Mostly because I’ve let others mistreat me enough to know I don’t like that for my life trajectory. I’m better at saying “no”. I’m better at expressing my needs. And better at walking away if those needs can’t be met (or just blatantly aren’t). I’m not perfect. But I’m better. Because grace and understanding where another is coming from is important. But making it clear people can’t walk all over you or take advantage is essential.

But Where Is She?

I don’t like November. I don’t like March. I don’t find that ever changing. I’ve been distracted, and to some extent disconnected. I admit it, even though I don’t like it and it feels uncomfortable. Work has been hectic (and stressful–but not in a debilitating way). I’ve been trying to navigate a relationship that came back around briefly (and I put more effort into it than it was worth). I have been swamped with school work and projects and having a lot on my plate to complete before the end of the semester. And if I’m completely honest, it’s the first time in a long, long, long time that I haven’t felt her all around. Well, what does that mean??

There are many things that I have chosen to take a hiatus from through the end of the year: church, dating, Facebook…Have I somehow also lumped her in with the others? In no way has that been my intention. The last few years have been so strange, I can’t imagine what she would have been like through this whole pandemic, whether at home and thriving, or in her care facility just getting by. So for that, I am thankful…that this hasn’t been her experience.

I’m afraid she is slipping through my fingers, little by little. I’m afraid my job, and my friends, and my dating antics, and my school work are taking over all of my brain power and pushing her out. November is a heavy month. And it feels heavy because: there is endless testing for our students, it’s cold and rainy, people are navigating (yet again) what the holidays and their traditions look like in this pandemic world, I’m navigating what my faith and faith community looks like or needs to look like, I’m figuring out relationships or the absence of relationship and if/how I’m okay with that. It’s a lot. It’s heavy. But the usually heaviness of her birthday right around the corner hasn’t hit me. I haven’t embodied that like the previous years. And I’m not sure if I’m sad and appalled by this, or if some how I’m grateful and relieved by it. Nevertheless, it is strange.

Perhaps I just need to do a a full life assessment/evaluation. Am I where I want to be? With so much growth in the last two years, where do I want to head next? What should my focus be? How do I want to keep her central to me? And what else takes center stage along with that? I’m not sure I know any of those answers in this moment. And that is okay. I am more and more okay with the unknown. But I also need to have a skeleton of a plan. And so, it’s time to get to work, dig deep, discern. It’s time to bloom.

Credit: The Avett Brothers

Brutal Honesty

**I reeeealllly hesitated posting this. But as I often remind myself, this blog is for me. It’s healing and cathartic. And so, I think this post deserves to see the light. Some things need to be spoken to be lifted from our shoulders. And speak it I will.**

This is one of those things I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to write down, let alone share “publicly”. But sometimes the Universe picks and picks and picks at you until you finally cave. And so here we are. Maybe it’s most appropriate to start with a quote. I’ve been reading a lot of Mandy Hale recently. Mostly her Instagram posts. But I traversed down “You Are Enough” and very much enjoyed it. Certain things just resonated.

I served and served and served the church because that was what was expected of me. And in the process, I lost sight of what it meant to simply serve God”.

Mandy Hale

That hit home. I’m a cradle church-goer. My parents actually met at the church I grew up at and they were married there as well. That place was so formative in who I am today, and so many connections have been made there over the years that are priceless. I found my first calling at that place. I fell in love with serving youth and children there. I had what felt like an unshakeable faith and was deeply connected and committed to the religion. But then college hit. And though my major still kept my faith life afloat, and I connected with Christian and Methodist clubs and activities, I was quick to let myself sleep in on Sunday mornings. And I was quick to make excuses for why I couldn’t find a church home away from home.

My summers though provided much of the faith and spirituality I needed to ride me over for a whole year. Working with ASP reminded me of the love of Christ, the grace of God, and the magic of the mist over the mountains. I learned about prayer and deep love in those mountains.

When I graduated from college it took a bit to find a job in my profession, but thanks to the “old school” nature of my dad, I answered a classified ad about a position and things fell into place. And as much as that place those people fed my soul, that place drained me and stole my own spirituality and belief of organized religion from me. If I’m honest, brutally honest, I stayed too long. I was there almost ten years. Those people became my friends, many of them became family. And it’s hard to see your friends and family act in ways you’d never imagine. It’s hard to see the home you’ve helped build and upkeep be stripped of its drywall when all that was needed was a few new coats of paint.

Some were shocked when I left. Others knew it was coming, that I had had 4-5 other job offers over those 10 years. But I’d always been too afraid of making that jump into the unknown (cue Frozen II sing-along here). I was too afraid from leaving my kiddos. I was too afraid of walking away from people I love. I was, simply put, too afraid. But there comes a time in your life when you realize you can’t live bound by fear. Or rather, you need to act on what God is calling you to despite of the fear. The last year and a half had been the biggest struggle. Not just because of COVID, though I’m sure that exacerbated things.

The last year and a half of my time there showed me how undervalued I was. And, yes, I am fully aware that I have a skewed perspective. Every story has more than one side. But this is my story. And I own that not everyone saw or experienced the same thing. I literally poured my everything into my job. I sacrificed who I was, and the time I had, because I loved the people. But that love was not often reciprocated in more than just words. I was given a title change after 8ish years. But not the added benefits of the title: no raise, no extra time off, no sabbatical time, no continuing education relief. Just more assignments and work to be done. I was mandated to be in the office at least twice a week when part time staff and my boss were free to manage their own time without restrictions. I was micromanaged and told how I was and wasn’t allowed to carry out my tasks and responsibilities: which seemed harsh and heavy handed when I had been doing this job ten years in the same community, a community I knew very well and has listened to and done ministry alongside of. I watched as a place I loved and valued lost their collective sense of autonomy, creativity, and passion. They were told how to dream, they were told how to respond, they were told that everything they’d built could be scrapped for the vision of a leader who had little care to invest deeply and meaningfully in their lives. I watched, sometimes silently and often with a bleeding tongue, as the wool was pulled further and further over their eyes.

I think there were many things that led to me wanting to needing to leave. I was raised to use my voice, but too long my voice went unheard, rather unlistened to; my complaints and concerns fell on deaf ears. I was unhappy. My mental health was constantly being challenged. I was not excited about the work I was doing—the joy had been taken away, the opportunity for creativity and collaboration and growth were long gone. Without my voice and my creativity, I feel like a shell of a person. And it all felt fake. I began doing and acting what/how I knew was expected of me merely to get through the day and collect a paycheck. They had stopped investing in me long ago. And it was time I stopped investing in them. I truly didn’t understand how we got to that place. But I knew there wasn’t anything I could do to change it. And I would never again find joy in that place.

I’m not sure that I’ll ever go back to worshipping in a church. I’m not sure that’s how I want to find community. I don’t know that I trust the aspects of organized religion that have repeatedly burned me. Let me be clear, I allowed myself to stay in an unhealthy (for me) environment for too long and that colored my experience. I blame myself for not getting out sooner, for not having the guts to leap. I’m not pointing the finger at anyone else. But I feel secure in knowing I can connected with the divine in my own way. I can still continue in my own spiritual journey. I don’t need an intermediary. The things that are important to me (mission, community, etc) can still be richly a part of my life. I can make it so. Because I’ve been doing it for the last 15ish years.

Friendships and Boxes.

My coworker (and friend) at work and I often have those Friday conversations I’m sure are typical at most workplaces. “Got any plans for the weekend?” And often I talk about dinner with friends, or catching up over coffee, a hike, some household tasks, studying, seeing my dad, etc. But as these conversations have grown and morphed over the last several months (whaaaaat? It’s been that long??) we’ve come to find that she has few friends, and she categorizes me into “having a bunch”. I’m not sure what constitutes “a bunch” but I digress.

I have always been a highly social person. Whether with family or friends (and to some extent strangers who have then become friends). It’s part of who I am. Though he’d deny it, much of that derives from my dad. I am a true extrovert. I thrive on interactions with others. Though I’m an HSP and empath so it is also very effing draining as well. A constant battle for sure. What wins out goes in waves. But I’ve learned over my 30+ years (and even more so during the pandemic) that I need to be intentional about the time I spend with others and who gets access to me. And even though I’ve learned, I don’t always make the best and healthiest decisions in this realm. But I try. As you may have read in previous posts, I’ve let romantic relationships (situationships?) take precedence and this has been detrimental and somewhat demeaning. But I know I need to create those communities that I need and crave. And so I put in the effort.

So what do adult friendships look like (for me)?

  • Weekly texts with my dear friend in Spain.
  • Haphazard texts and phone calls with my longest term friend—since 1st grade??? 🤯
  • Daily (or almost) texts with my best friend.
  • Monthly dinners with some special couples.
  • Bimonthly book club.
  • Intentional check-ins with three ladies who just “get” me. And organizing times to hang, hike, frolic, eat, bitch, etc.
  • Coffee dates and park dates with friends and their kids.
  • Dinner and drinks shenanigans with my free spirit animal. How’s that for a ‘before and after’ Pat Sajak?
  • FaceTimes with family.
  • Seeing family friends once in a while, or when they are in town, or I’m in their town.
  • Phone dates with my house mom.
  • Random drop ins on my secondary dad.
  • Notes and texts when something makes me think of someone.
  • Holiday get togethers.

I’m sure there are things I’m missing…but I guess the moral here is that people are important to me. And it is hard for me to let people go. Even the people I know I should. So I make it a point to keep connecting. Because it’s what I need, and I hope it’s what they need too.

Honest. Direct.

If I’m completely honest, there have been many times in the last two years where I haven’t felt like enough. That’s super vulnerable to admit. But maybe it’s important for someone else to hear and realize. If you’ve had those feelings you are not alone! I’ve felt like I’m not enough in a job where I was taken advantage of repeatedly. Where expectations were high, bosses were unfair, and compensation was low. I’ve felt not enough in dating. The constant swipe, the empty words and broken promises, the repeated dead ends.

I have to remind myself that I’m human. So what I am feeling is normal to an extent. I’m human and there are trials and tribulations and lessons along the way. But they are human as well. They aren’t perfect, no one is. And because of our humanity, we don’t always show up in positive, full bodied ways. We do shitty things, or act rude. We don’t always have the capacity to show up for others. And for whatever reason I’ve run into that a lot this year. People without the capacity to understand or receive me. I told a friend recently that all of it made me wonder what the learning is in all of it; what is G-d trying to teach me?

Though I’ll never know for sure His intentions, I think I’m supposed to be finding pieces that will come together and be embodied by one person. “Oh you didn’t think this existed? Let me show you this trait in one person. But ‘no’, he isn’t the complete person for you…” Things don’t always work out how we want them to. There’s a reminder in there that not everything or everyone is meant for us. Not everything or everyone is meant to stick around. And sometimes it is hard to let go. Sometimes it is hard to want something so much, and yet to have things fall so short.

At the end of the day I know my worth. And I know I’m not willing to settle. I know what is important to me. And I know what I need/deserve. I’m pretty secure in my life course at this moment, which is a beautiful thing. I would like to find someone who walks alongside of me in the journey and amplifies what I already have. But the time is not now, and so somewhat unsuccessfully I try to be patient.

I still get into “what if” spirals sometimes. And I have days where I don’t feel anxious at all. It’s a big back and forth as I process through gobs of emotions and experiences from the the last year plus. But it’s exactly why a break is needed. Room and space to just be, to listen to what is meant for me, to reground myself and have a fresh (more directed) start. Time to just be without putting in effort to things that were draining me (more than I realized). It’s finding new rhythms, a new balance. It’s about going to my core and making sure that continually shines through, regardless of who it does or doesn’t draw near.

Morgan Harper Nichols. Always.

Refocus and Connect

I’m overwhelmed. I feel it. In my bones, skin, blood. Yes, in my being. I put so much into dating. Into getting to know other people. Into being my truest self: vulnerable and honest and raw. And so often that has led to disappointment. Don’t get me wrong. I am not berating myself. I am full and complete. But I throw myself and so much energy into the process that it can be overwhelming. I let myself expect consistency from others. I expect it because I crave it. I look the other way when red flags pop up–give people the benefit of the doubt and don’t run. I allow myself to be hopeful. Hopeful because now more than ever I know what I want. Hopeful because I believe someone is out there for me. Hopeful.

I don’t understand folks who say one thing and then do another. Say they will text, or call you back and then don’t. Say they will tell you a story because they can’t in the moment and then never do. People who say they want long term. Say they are ready to do the work. Say they are tired of people giving up and not working through stuff. People who say all of this and then show absolutely no effort. I’m tired of people promising good communication and then sorely lacking. I don’t get it. How difficult is it to say “I’m busy but I’m still interested”. Or “I’m not into it”. Or “I wanna be friends”? How hard is honesty? Consistency? Vulnerability?

When I look back at the last year and a half I see how much I 1) put myself out there (go me) and 2) didn’t give myself space for me. I was consistently either dating, talking to, or swiping for 18 consecutive months. EIGHTEEN MONTHS?!?! Holy. effin’. Shit. That’s crazy. I’ve said it before that I needed a break. I was ready to put myself out there and I did. I proved to myself that I could do it. But, I need to recenter, come back to me, and remember I am complete without anyone else.

Life is pretty damn great right now. I have a wonderful family. I have supportive friends. I have a fulfilling job. I do things that I enjoy. It’s magical and I am happy. Even though a relationship feels good and like and end all be all, it isn’t. There is time. I have more growing and healing to do. I have more searching and questioning to do. I have more living to do. So here it is. No more dating in 2021. Time to refresh. And after that, absolutely no more chasing. If they want it, they will show it. If they don’t, well, then they won’t. And that is that.

Things I have Remembered
  • I’m flipping’ awesome.
  • If they think I am too much, then it isn’t a good fit.
  • It is okay to compromise, it is not okay to change who you are/your values.
  • It’s a two way street. I can’t do all of the work. Can’t and won’t.
  • I deserve someone who responds.
  • No one is perfect. No one.
  • People will show up. People will stay. People, your people, will be there when it matters.
  • What is meant to will come. What is meant to will go. Be kind and let both happen with grace.
  • These things often say more about others than they do about you.
  • You don’t need validation. You don’t have to explain yourself. You don’t need to hide or apologize or shrink.
  • “Decide what to be and go be it”. –The Avett Brothers.
  • This is not the end of the story.