I’ve Heard it Said…

I’ve had several conversations over the last couple weeks with close friends about how strange adult relationships (friendships or otherwise) are–it’s as if in our minds as young people we think relationships will be: easier, less messy, more convenient, less drama, **fill in the blank here**. But, I think they’re harder…Playing on the playground at school it’s natural to go up to someone you don’t know and see if they want to play tag/ball/make-believe. But as an adult, it’s weird (okay, downright creepy sometimes) to walk up to another adult and say “Hi! My name is Shannon, want to be friends?” As an empath, I crave deep relationships. As an extrovert, I thrive on being around people. Together it can be a daunting combination. Because truly it isn’t quantity that matters (though sometimes that’s misleading), but it’s quality. I fall into caring about people super easily–really I care about all people and so it’s easy enough to find my connection on some level when I interact with new folks. And it’s often true that I can overwhelm others with my attentiveness and need for connection (I worry about the smother affect).

But recently I’ve struggled with connecting (not because anyone is doing anything wrong, but what I seek is not necessarily in line with what others can give). Many of my friends are coupled/married. That’s the first degree of separation (Kevin Bacon not included). Being a third wheel is something I’ve done for a loooong time. And it’s never really been a problem, but it’s different when we have jobs and bills and live more structured “I have to check with my partner” lives. And, though my sister who I live with is often my +1 in social settings, I don’t always have to check with her if I am just getting together with a friend or group. Add to this that some of these friends also have kids (second degree of separation). I love my friends’ kids, truly. But it means more flexibility in plans, rescheduling, or not having intentional time for months on end. It can be frustrating. It’s caused me to re-evaluate my reactions recently because I’ve been working so hard in 2019 to “be brave, be vulnerable, be wild”. And that has meant sharing how I feel (even when I know it’s ridiculous) and asking for what I need. Sometimes then I overlook the needs of others because I get frustrated by plans falling through. And–whoa–you’re telling me other people have needs too? Reality is that people can’t always give us what we need (even if they want to)–and that doesn’t necessarily mean they care about us any less. This is a big realization for me. Not that I didn’t already know it, but it’s like I could fully understand it for the first time. It’s a major reframe for me, and a process. I’m committing to understanding this more and trying really hard to take it in stride which feels counterintuitive. But, damn, I sure do miss the days of college when you could spend time with your people 24/7.

Adulting also makes the dating world difficult to navigate (you’re right, I don’t openly talk about this in person or here on my blog–be brave. be vulnerable. be wild–right?). Online dating is weird, it feels unnatural, and there is something about having absolutely no connection to the person you are talking to/going to meet that gives me the willies. Give me a blind date or dating an acquaintance any day over online/app-based dating. Also, the hook up culture runs rampant in online dating (if that’s your thing, no shame, it’s just definitely not where I am at this stage in my life–you do you though). It doesn’t seem that culture changes across platform (even though branding would lead you to believe otherwise). So I’m left with trying to meet and get to know people in the day to day–friends and potential dates.

There is a fine line (a gossamer barrier) between friendships and romantic relationships as adults–it’s harder to tell the difference. It’s harder to genuinely try and get to know someone, because you want friendship and camaraderie and support, without crossing over into any of those dating synonyms: talking, hanging out, dating, courting (does anyone still say this?), exclusive, bf/gf, etc. I’ve been concentrating on finding and growing friendships the last few months, but how is getting to know someone really all that different from “talking”? It’s easy to misread signals and cues and actions. Because today you can no longer assume whether the other person is into men or women, its not uncommon to think you are being friendly when someone else thinks you are flirting no matter the gender or relationship. That’s only one reason why clarity of our intentions and needs is so important (even when we don’t know–because saying “I don’t know” is an answer). And things change, you can think one thing and then find you feel another, or maybe you really just finally have an answer instead of not knowing. So continued communication and vulnerability is important, in any type of relationship. We all see situations with our own set of lenses. I worry sometimes my innate need for connection (what some would see as “clingy”) is too much or makes my intentions seem they are something other than what I say. In reality, I just love people and love them hard–that’s part of how my empathic nature presents.

Maybe I’m talking in circles, and maybe none of this makes sense outside of my own head. But I find myself sociologically analyzing my interactions and heart tugs and bonds with others–I can’t help it. I grow and age and “mature”, and thus I learn more. And where it brings some answers, it brings a hell of a lot more questions to the surface that make me evaluate my actions and what I want (or rather what I need). All I can do is try to be honest in all things, to be unapologetically me (even though I say “I’m sorry” too much). I’m not perfect, but I am genuine–that has to count for something.

I’ve been singing this on repeat (getting all of the High School show choir feels).

Active Listening

This may be one of the hardest blog posts I’ve written. Not because the subject is difficult, but because speaking this into being is scary and intimidating and makes it real. But growth means doing things that fall outside of our comfort zone. Here it is:

I have been doing a lot of soul searching the last few months. Our church is in a place of transition which puts my mindset in a place of self-growth as it’s juxtaposed with the growth of our church. That being said one of the questions I often get from friends, family and congregation members is whether or not seminary is in my future. And to be quite honest, that has been an up and down answer for me over the years.

When I was in undergrad I started the process of ordination through the United Methodist church and it became an experience that left a bad taste in my mouth. In scheduling a meeting with my DS, I was quickly passed off to his assistant. Strike one. Then in my meeting I felt belittled and talked down to for no reason. Strike two. I made it clear that I wasn’t prepared to move forward. Several years later I received notification that another meeting was scheduled unbeknownst to me, even though I had already decided to not move forward. Strike three.

It was at that point that I felt like maybe ordination wasn’t meant to be. And I couldn’t convince myself that seminary was worth it if ordination was no longer on the table. And so mentally and emotionally I moved on. I pushed it aside and brushed off inquiries about seminary.

Flash forward to a year or two ago as the congregation I work for entered its own transition. And as teams and groups were working through the vision and ministry and details of the congregation’s future, my own future smacked me in my face. I couldn’t stop thinking about what I wanted, “where I saw myself in 5 years,” and how I could best serve young people and their spiritual growth.

And so thoughts of my dream of running my own girls camp surfaced. It’s still there but not as the “5years” goal. And then I thought about the things that make me come alive: youth and young adults, faith formation, vocational discernment, service trips, college campuses, community building. And when I prayed and delved deeper I realized that these could all be tied together. My heart is calling me to campus ministry–at some point. Please don’t think this is an immediate jump.

It’s hard to say, it’s hard to admit. I am happy where I am right now, but I do need to work toward future goals and that first step is figuring out seminary and ordination. That’s a big enough truth and step for me right now. And so I keep searching to figure out where I fit and where I want to study. I’ve mostly been looking at online or distance learning programs. There are more and more of these that still hold good accreditation standards. I don’t want to sacrifice quality for convenience. We will see where this goes, but I am excited for the opportunities that are no doubt in front of me down the line. Here’s to self-growth. Here’s to staying true to our deepest passion and heart’s content. Here’s to listening to God. Here’s to answering the call.

I Find Her in the Words

One month to go. Less than really. And it doesn’t seem any more real than it did a year ago. There’s this strange time between 2/22 and 3/18 that will always leave me in a haze of wonderment.

I talked to one of my many “sisters” today. She brings much solace to my soul through her insight, mystical soul, and youngest camaraderie. Her words today soothed me, enlivened the song in my heart, and reminded me to keep watch.

No one will understand exactly what my grief is like. No one will understand perfectly my journey and purpose on this earth. But several know pieces. And I am thankful for how those pieces and those people are bound together. So when I feel sad or lost or without hope or direction I still have places to turn.

The words of others are just amplifying her words. They are bringing new insight, shedding new light, and constant reminders of her presence and being in the here and now. Today I am thankful for the thin places where I can hear her, where I can feel her, where I know she is reaching out fully of laughter and grace.

I am thankful for the memories other people share so I can continue getting to know her. So that when I am too tired to grasp on to the fragments of her there are still pages flooding in that keep her story in print.

I can remember the joy and wonder she had 30 years ago of being a mom again and welcoming you into this world. May this year and new decade be filled with many blessings and opportunities.

Blessings and opportunities. These are things I can create.

Roll Call

My word for 2018 is “create”.  I haven’t been doing as much of it as I want but here are somethings I have completed or are in the works:

  • Baby Onesies–completed and gifted
  • “welcome” door hanging–completed and hung
  • Mix CDs–completed and gifted
  • Mug Christmas gifts–completed and belatedly gifted
  • Tshirt quilt–in process
  • Boho bag–in process
  • Collage Birthday card–completed and sent
  • Wrap Pants–in process (for years now)
  • Tag Blankets–in thought
  • Falkor Plush “teddy bear”–in thought

It doesn’t seem like a lot, but at the same time it seems like a ton!  Here’s to holding myself accountable and continuing to create.  Crafty creations are just one piece of my “create” resolution.

One of Those

Do you ever have those days? Those days you just don’t fully feel like you? My whole week has been like that. I came off of the incredible “high” that is “retreat weekend”. Even more so this year because I gave my youth an even more in depth view of me. And that felt liberating, and honest, and 99.5% true to me, or the me I am trying to be…I think it’s really the “me” at the core of me. If that makes sense.

I had a day to recoup, and then back to the office. There’s always work to be done, never a lack. Some days that means looking ahead and planning for 6 or 12 months down the road. Other times it means planning for the following Sunday. Sometimes I get to be super creative (these are my favorite days–could you guess it?). And other days are full of mundane tasks (no less important, just doesn’t light me up the same way).

I had emails to write, events to schedule and, admittedly, events to tweak, change and reschedule. I had resources to prep, teachers to line up, trainings to dream for and budgeting to do. Some of it was super exciting. Some of it was less so. I love how my job has helped; and though I don’t always see it, how it continues to help; me grow. These days/week’s of “not feeling like me” sometimes make me question: my faith, my vocation, my relationships, my habits.

That can seem scary, but I’ve come to embrace the fact that the times it creeps up me, this feeling allows me a wonderful self-assessment period. To make sure my life is going in a positive direction: one of growth, and challenge, and general positivity. A direction I like and one I think God would be proud of.

As many of you know, I’ve started a new workout routine. I joined a gym the end of December and I’ve gone almost every day of 2018. Let me just start by saying this was, and is, a huge thing for me. I’ve always been too lazy to pay to workout. But I committed. And I thought for sure I’d be too lazy to get my butt moving…but I’m doing it. It’s not always the same amount of time, or the same machines used or exercises done. But I am listening to my body and figuring out what keeps me motivated and excited, and how I can help my body rest even while still being active.

Yesterday was a HUGE accomplishment for me. I did 60 minutes on the elliptical. 60!! Usually I’m a 30 minute workout and done type of girl. But I stretched myself to 45 minutes on Tuesday and wasn’t bored/tired. So last night, when I went at 8:30 to the gym I told myself it was a night of pushing myself. At about the 40 minute mark I could feel myself start dragging. “I can totally stop…40 minutes is good…”. But nope. I persevered and made it all the way to 60 minutes. My legs felt a little like JELLO, but they don’t feel horrible today so that’s a plus.

I am continuing to look for more ways I can “create” and incorporate healthy habits into my daily routine. Looks like this fitness thing just might stick.

Time flies…

Today is the first day of my blog.  I think that writing will be therapeutic for me.  It helps to center me, to ground me, and it gives me a chance to process my own thoughts.  Ultimately I am doing this for me.  This is a part of my journey.  I appreciate comments and well-wishes, etc.  If someone else can gain something from my writing, wonderful.  But if not, that’s okay too, because it helps me.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about time.  How it ebbs and flows, how it changes people, how it always seems to go soooo slowly until it goes way too quickly.  I look at my youth whom I have been working with for 6 going on 7 years.  They have grown, and matured, and changed so much.  And some of that I only see when I look at photos from when I started at my current job.

I think about all of my friends who have gotten married, and had babies (and babies and babies).  Wasn’t it yesterday that we were catching the bus to middle school? Or studying our nights away in Slocum during college?  Where did the time go?

Time is especially bittersweet for me today.  Okay, let’s be honest, its way more bitter than sweet.  I guess more appropriately it could be described as bitterbittersweet (kind of like NNW is to NW).  Today is a huge time marker for me.  I’ve cried a lot: when I posted on Instagram this morning, on the car ride in listening to music, in my office at various points as I’ve talked to my best friends, in public at lunch this afternoon (at least I know myself well enough to have brought tissues with me!), and almost during our Board meeting tonight when we were asked about things that were keeping our attention away from the meeting at hand.  It’s okay to cry.  It’s okay to mark the time, and to admit that 6 months is hard.  Emotions are a part of life, a part of each moment in time.  And we have to realize that without the sad we may not enjoy or even notice the happy.

And so today, like many days, I embrace the tears. I embrace the rain that came and the feeling of God crying with me.