Sunday, December 30, 2012

Give me hope in the darkness.

"Are you kidding me?!"

That was the first thing out of my mouth today when I read about the shooting in San Antonio.

"What is this world coming to???"

That was the second thing I muttered right before I fell melodramatically onto my bed. My mind raced as it flipped through all of the messy, tragic and confusing things that have happened in this world in 2012. I felt heavy with grief, but worse, I felt the cold tendrils of despair begin to wind their way across my heart.

The world is full of evil; the world is full of pain and horror. There's nothing we can do to predict it or stop it. It's a reality that not only feeds despair, but also the mentality that people are bad and we must live closed and guarded if we are to survive. And maybe it's true. Maybe we do need to live cautiously, but to what extent?

My fear is that if you open the door to despair, hopelessness will soon follow. Those two go hand-in-hand it seems, and they can easily tie themselves to your feet, the cement blocks that they are, and bring you to the very bottom. That is not a good place to be. Darkness and fear thrive down there, and pretty soon those convincing four will become so loud that's all you hear. Then what? You become frozen, closed, bitter or harsh. Or maybe you become numb to it all, and lose yourself in the various forms of modern day distraction.

It's easy to go there, at least for this catastrophisizer (yeah, I just made up that word). It's much easier to sink than to shake off the despair and hopelessness, and choose hope instead. It's so hard to carry hope when all of this horrible stuff is happening. But we must.

I remember someone telling me that faith is believing the unbelievable. I think that having hope and faith feels like that - believing in the impossible. It feels counterintuitive sometimes. But I have to look at these negative news stories and believe that people are still good, that love still exists in this world.

Luckily, examples of this are not hard to find. Spend time at a park or playground, and you'll see kids laughing. Go to a restaurant and see families sharing food together (just don't go to Chuck-E Cheese's... not the best place to find peaceful joy). Go to a corner downtown around sundown in Austin, and you'll see people feeding the homeless. Watch the "Free Hugs" video from Sick Puppies and laugh at all the love. (

These are the reminders that make hope not so hard to have. It reminds me that despite the darkness of the world, there is much more joy and love to be found. No matter what we do in this life, we're all called to carry this joy around and be hope for those around us. Love cannot stop just because there is suffering. Because there is suffering, we must love more.

That's the beautiful thing about love - no amount of pain or suffering can squelch it. Love is immune to death; it is immune to darkness. Where love exists, so does hope.

As I go to sleep tonight, I mourn the suffering of the world, but I rejoice in the blessings all around me: my family, my friends, my sweet boyfriend, my job, my life. They give me love, and they give me hope.

"So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
Cause oh they gave me such a fright
And I will hold on with all of my might
Just promise me that we'll be alright."
- Mumford & Sons 'Ghosts That We Knew'

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Therapized Therapist: Part 1

I've been debating about when or if I would blog about this. I usually blog about love or stupid things I see that I find amusing. Sometimes I blog about faith. This topic probably encompasses all of the above, plus some.

I've been putting it off because it's sensitive and sometimes difficult and blah blah blah. Excuses really. It's not something that is talked about often, but I really feel like it should be.

Unfortunately, trauma effects more than just a few of us. It's a sad reality, one that would be super depressing if it wasn't balanced by faith and hope. It's something we should know to watch for and learn how to guard against and heal ourselves and each other from. Even as a therapist, I missed it.

And I'm still stalling.

Sigh. Here's the truth: I was diagnosed last May with "Acute Stress Disorder", which is the baby version of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or what I like to call (thanks to Pomeranian Catholic for this one), "Hunger Games Readiness". Basically, it's the label they give people who have been traumatized, but haven't been traumatized long enough to get the oh-so-coveted PTSD label. They save that for later (like now).

Long story short - I worked in a drug rehab facility with unstable, potentially dangerous people. Some really scary shit ensued. I was caught in the middle of it for about 6 months, until I cracked and changed jobs. That's when I met my Australian psychologist friend who pulled me from the trenches and has been healing my brain ever since. He first encountered me 4 days after my last violent encounter at work; 4 days after I finally broke down and told people what I had been going through. He was the first person to tell me, "Hey, what you went through is NOT NORMAL. You're not crazy. You just feel crazy. It'll get better." He then proceeded to teach me more cognitive behavioral tricks than I've ever cared to know.

It's fun stuff, really.

And still the battle wages. I sit here watching my thoughts whirl and spin in the oh-so-familiar dance of anxiety. This happens when I get tired, sooo like every night. My thoughts go running, like wild horses penned up all day suddenly bursting forth, kicking and chomping, so eager to be free from the confines of my ever-vigilant thought police.

But it's better than it was, thankfully. I actually feel like there is hope (yes, even Emo's have hope). I feel like I can actually beat this beast of trauma and panic. I praise God for even small moments where I think that. The hope is that 5 minutes of belief will stretch to 10 moments the next time, and 15 the next, and so on.

Hmm... that should do it for now I suppose. Next up will be all the fun PTSD symptoms. Or perhaps how God literally dropped help into my life. Both? We'll see.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Love as easy as breathing.

We've all seen them, those people who are so in love that depending on your emotional state will either elicit feelings of awe, jealousy, nonchalance or mild disgust. Regardless of your internal reaction, (or sometimes external, for those of you brave enough to say aloud "Aww" or "Get a room!"), you have to admit that these lovebirds have some things in common:

1. They gaze at each other as if they were the only two people on Earth.
2. They do things like buy each other trinkets, write them poetry, hold open the door, greet them with flowers, shower them with compliments, and generally act more hospitable and giving.
3. They probably spend an inordinate amount of time thinking of their significant other, often getting lost in daydreams or spending time planning the next date or sweet thing to do.
4. They are filled with good will, good intentions, positive energy, motivation and charity.
5. They try to make a good impression, often displaying the best version of themselves.
6. They smile with ease and they smile a lot (unless you're super emo, then you might just smirk more often).
7. They overlook the bad and are quicker to forgive each others' flaws.

Now maybe some couples embody these traits, others don't. We vary in love as much as anything else perhaps, but these are commonalities I have seen and felt. The love, the happiness, the energy, the brightness, the giving... It's beautiful, really.

And it makes me wonder, what if we all acted this way regardless if we were in love or not? What would the world look like?

Now I'm not saying we should all walk around wooing each other. That would get weird, complicated and all kinds of inappropriate real fast. But what if those traits that come so easily when we first fall in love - charity, generosity, excitement, motivation to serve, easy smiles, forgiveness and warmth - what if we practiced those traits every day to those around us? What if love wasn't something you fall into once, but something you choose to fall into every day?

I like the idea of this but already realize how difficult it would be. There are people on this earth that I love as easily as I breathe. Being charitable to them is second nature. But then there are those that I struggle to love. Maybe they pester me, maybe they ask too much, maybe they treat me poorly and maybe they drain me of precious energy I work hard to save. I haven't thought about loving them as much as I love my best friends or my sister, but maybe I should. Then maybe those loving traits would become second nature, would become like breathing.

To love as easily as I breathe... now that sounds like a worthy goal.

"Perhaps the feelings that we experience when we are in love represent a normal state. Being in love shows a person who he should be." - Anton Chekhov

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Feels like quiet.

Today I was stressed, and as a result, was furiously thinking and analyzing and worrying. Before I knew it, I picked up the cat and was petting it against its will. Pets can be so soothing when they want to be, yes? Unfortunately, this cat was not in the mood to sooth or even be looked at. He scrambled out of my arms and high tailed it to his scratching post, as if he'd been separated from it for years. I laughed because he was acting like I was before - anxiously grabbing onto the closest soothing thing.

We do that, seek comfort when stress gets high. I'm pretty sure that's why chocolate and alcohol manufacturers will never go out of business. It's natural to seek comfort. We seek it in things, we seek it in all kinds of ways and places. But for me, and I'm sure for many of you, the best comfort I have found is in other people.

There are people and things in this world that add to the dizzying spiral of thoughts that concern me. It makes my head feel full and tight, overflowing with questions, what ifs, possible solutions, and a myriad of other emotions. This isn't good or bad. It just is. I imagine it causes my brain to look like a tangled mess, with thoughts careening in and out of the webs in a pinball-esque fashion. It's exhausting, if not useful.

But sometimes, I need to be quiet. I need to be still. I struggle with this because there's so much around to keep me occupied and engaged. Add the fact that I love people, and that makes for tiny amounts of quiet time. It's something I'm working on, this whole meditation, rest idea. Turns out I suck pretty hardcore at resting. A good friend asked me recently, "Do you feel you're worth taking care of? Do you love yourself enough to rest?" Wow, just punch me in the heart, why don't ya? The effect would have been the same (ah, tough love).

After I added "practice resting" to my ever-growing list of "Things You Suck At and Should Work On Instead of Pinning Pictures of Cute Animals All Night", I realized that I do rest. Just not on my own.

I am blessed with the presence of precious people who, when I'm around them, have this amazing ability to relax me without me even trying. Being around them causes my thoughts to settle softly, the tension to ease out of my shoulders, and my lungs to breathe deeper than ever. They are peace and meditation in human form, the human equivalent of a Xanax or 60-minute hot yoga session. They allow me a place to rest, to feel happy and carefree, to believe in life and love again. Even when they are going through crisis, or having conflict with me, we always come back to that place of peace.

And in this I am truly, deeply blessed.

So while I work on taking better care of myself (what? Eating chocolate everyday isn't good self-care?), I am so thankful for the people who quiet the crazy in my life.

"So much noise,
Always so much noise inside.
Some people,
Some rare
and absolutely
vital people,
Will always
like quiet."
- Tyler Knott Gregson

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fifty years and counting.

I have the honor of calling Irene Holan my Nana and Thomas Holan my Papa. They are my dad's parents, and I grew up in Nana's daycare, learning everything from how to play Duck Hunter like a pro to why it's never a good idea to fake being sick to get out of eating something you don't like (because then you'll sit at the window watching all of the other kids play outside, while your bowl of soup congeals on the table).

Something else my grandparents taught me was how precious and real true love can be.

My grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year on October 20th. They didn't have a grand party or posh trip. They simply went to dinner, like they have thousands of times. You would think that after 50 years, having dinner with the same person would get old, but just the contrary. When I asked Nana if dinner was romantic, she exclaimed, "Yes! Of course it was!", as if there couldn't possibly be any other answer. When I asked her how it felt to be married for 50 years, she responded, "Like it's our 25th anniversary. I love him even more than before, it just gets better with age. The more you know someone, the better it gets."

This answer was so beautiful and stood out to me, since I work and live in a society that often looks at marriage as something so easily thrown away. Marriage should be something permanent, uniting two people committed to a life of mutual self-giving love and sacrifice. Instead, marriage has become something that people begin with one foot in and one foot out (confusing it with the hokey pokey?). Lifelong commitment is a scary thing, no doubt about it. It's not easy or always pretty. But I have to believe that lifelong marriage is possible and worth every second. I've seen it.

When asking my Nana about how she's stayed in a marriage this long, despite our society's trends, she said, "Well, you have to have the three things: faith, trust and love. Without faith, you have nothing to stand on, you have nothing to go by."

I asked her about trust, saying it seems that might be the toughest part. She sighed and said, "Yes, it seems it's hard to trust in relationships these days." Oh so true. Trust is not an easy thing, but nothing worth it in this world usually comes easy, does it? Sigh, if only...

That brings us to Nana's third thing: love. Love is that anomaly that we all want, but none of us really understands. It's the topic of so many songs and movies and books, and yet we still don't really know what it means. But we know it when we feel it. And sometimes, it comes out of nowhere.

As Nana explained, she never intended to fall in love. She was discerning another life calling, and my Papa thought he was going to be the eternal bachelor. But that all changed on the night she saw him at a dance in Minnesota, "and it was all over". My Papa, fresh out of the Navy, danced with my Nana, then asked if he could give her a ride home. She declined because she was with her girlfriends, but that didn't stop her - Nana called Papa a little later, and the rest is history. She explained, "God had a plan for us, and had three kids waiting to be loved by us." She told me that it wasn't always easy, that there were times when they thought it was over, but they held on through it all. And now 50 years later, she laughs as she tells me, "You kinda get to start all over, just like you're dating again!"

My Nana and Papa have a beautiful relationship. He teases her mercilessly, but adores and dotes on her more. She pretends to get offended at his flirting, but giggles and adores him right back as if no time had passed since the day they were married. She once told me that he asked her what she wanted for Christmas, and she replied back confused, "I already have you - what more could I possibly want?"

I hope and pray that I can one day be as blessed as my grandparents are in love. And I hope that those of us called to this amazing commitment, will embrace it with courage, and a love that sets the world on fire.

Monday, October 22, 2012

All the time in the world.

I used to be good at waiting. I enjoyed sitting in traffic on the way to work, because that meant I could listen to music longer. I didn't mind waiting in line at the grocery store, because I had more time to look at magazines or people watch (admit it - you enjoy that too). Waiting didn't bother me. Life came at its own pace, and I went along merrily, content to go with the flow. Or at least my laziness was so pervasive it appeared as patience. Either way.

Yet somehow within the past year, I have become very bad at waiting. Not bad as in, like I'll hit slow pokes with my shopping cart or flip the bird to the race car driver wannabes in Austin. I'm bad when I get in a long line at HEB, then hop lines, only to get stuck in the next one, and OH EM GEE, why does that lady have to have all produce that has to be manually typed in and then pay with all correct change that keeps falling ON THE FLOOR?! That's just an example. Insert other stores/characters/long waits/anything keeping me from my next activity, and you get the idea. Granted, my impatient thoughts stay safely in my head, and I just smile politely as if I have all the time in the world.

But I don't have all the time in the world. I'd like to think I have the future, since that's what I spend so much time worrying about and planning for. But the funny thing is, the future never comes, at least not in the way we expect or plan. The truth is, the only time we have is right now. This very moment. The one you're spending reading this sentence is the only time you currently possess (sorry, I can't give you a time refund on reading that sentence. Hope it was worth it!). We live minute to minute, or even second to second, but I'm finding that I'm so focused forward (or dwelling on what's behind me), that I don't even appreciate the moment that's in front of me. What's up with that?

I feel this impatience is more pronounced when I'm experiencing something unpleasant, and I'd venture to say that perhaps you experience this too. Most people don't enjoy pain or fear or anxiety or sadness - we run from it, avoid it, and try to soothe ourselves ASAP. I'm no different. Anxiety bothers me like no other. (Uh, so I'm supposed to just accept that there's this whole universe of unknown, not to mention a future of endless possibilities, most of which I can't prepare for, and not freak out? For serious? Because that does not sit well with me.) I like to know what's coming. I will read the last chapter of a book if I have to, and I've been known to ask people to tell me how a movie ends before I see it. Call me crazy (just not to my face), but I see nothing wrong with wanting the reassurance that comes from knowing what's going to happen.

Except there is a lot wrong with that attitude.

First of all, waiting for reassurance is like waiting for it to rain in central Texas. Most of the time it doesn't, and even when it does, it's unexpected and either too much or too little. Secondly, wanting to know the ending first, implies a basic lack of trust in people, in God, in our own abilities to cope, and so on. Trust is kind of important, it being the building block to any decent human relationship, and also the reason we can stand to leave our houses everyday. Thirdly, wanting to know the future causes me to waste a helluva lot of energy worrying about things I can't change (seriously, if worrying burned calories, I'd have to eat cheeseburgers for every meal just to stay supermodel size).

I would like to live for today without worrying about what may or may not bother me/scare me/hurt me tomorrow. I would like to embrace each moment as the gift it is, and recognize that each moment is precious and not necessarily guaranteed. Maybe if I could learn to live mindfully, to use each moment of my day to love in every way I can, then maybe I wouldn't be so worried about the future. Maybe I wouldn't be in such a hurry to get to the next thing.

And if I wasn't always in a hurry, maybe I could use my time in line to help the lady pick up her change off the floor, smiling as if to say, "Take your time. In this moment, I've got all the time in the world."

...This is gonna take some serious practice.

"Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today." - John Dryden

Monday, October 15, 2012

Love without haste.

I love music. It's true, and maybe even just using "love" is not saying enough. Music has been a passion of mine ever since I first listened to Metallica's "Black" album on the way home from a flute competition when I was in 9th grade. I had been jamming out to N'Sync or something else equally embarrassing, when my friend tapped me on the shoulder, handed me Metallica, and said simply, "Here." One word, one CD, and my little teenage life was forever changed. Since then, I've grown to love all music (with a few exceptions, cough cough Britney Spears, cough gag). Music is something I share with my family and friends, swapping songs back and forth, quoting lyrics to each other, and spamming each others email with subject lines reading "YOU MUST YOUTUBE THIS IMMEDIATELY. FOR REAL." Or something to that effect. Going to concerts is almost a religious experience, and in the case of hearing Mozart's 'Requiem' performed live, it actually was.

This is my long way of saying, I am a music nerd. I love everything about it - the chords, the changing tempos, the screaming voices or soft cries, the upbeat dance remixes or heart-crushing love songs, and the lyrics... Oh the lyrics! They are my favorite part of any song; they can make or break a song (again, with a few exceptions... I mean, "Sexy and I Know It" is not exactly the epitome of lyrical genius, but entertaining nonetheless).

Which brings me - FINALLY - to the point of this post. I've been listening to Mumford & Sons nonstop (well, in between other awesome music people have blessed me with). There is one bit of lyric from their latest album that goes:

"I will love with urgency, but not with haste."

I've been turning that over and over in my mind, and even asking other people what they think about it. After some deliberation, I have interpreted it as this:

Love as if it is the most important thing you will ever do on this earth (because it is).

The word "urgency" implies importance, seriousness and immediacy; doing something with urgency means that whatever task you're attending to requires all of your attention, no distractions and no hesitation. In contrast, the word "haste" implies disregard, sloppiness, desire without intent or seriousness. Something pursued in haste may not be as important or worthy of attention and care as something pursued with urgency.

If this is true, then how perfect it is to love with urgency, and not with haste. We must love like our lives, and this world, depend on it. We should love with attention and intention. We should love with our whole selves, as if loving the other was our first and only task.

Hmm... sounds difficult, but not unworthy. Now I really want to love and be loved with urgency. Thanks M&S for raising the bar.

"Do not let my fickle flesh go to waste
As it keeps my heart and soul in it's place
And I will love with urgency but not with haste."
- Mumford & Sons

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

F(alse) E(vents) A(ppearing) R(eal)

It irks me a little when people tell me "stop worrying!". As if I worry for fun or wake up every morning and willfully choose to spend my time fretting. Because I don't. Granted, I realize most people tell me that with all the love in their heart, but it's hard to listen to because I'm what you would call a "worrier". I'm also an over-analyzer, and sometimes a worst-case-scenario type of person. For the most part, these traits are what helped me become a therapist. But they really suck when I'm trying to not let fear get the best of me.

Speaking of which, I had an interesting text argument with an old friend recently about this. Because it was a text argument, I took something out of context (crazy how important body language and voice inflection can be). I don't even remember what it was exactly, but my friend responded with, "You need to stop worrying." Which of course made me even angrier, 1. because I hardly ever get angry, so when I do it doesn't take much to stoke the fire, 2. because I knew this person was right, and 3. I WAS WRONG. And that pissed me off. So what did I do? Well, I did what any mature adult in my situation would have done: I stopped texting them back. So then my friend flooded my phone with a speech that went something like this:

"You struggle with anxiety of worldly things. But it needs transformation to be a concern only for the eternal. Then you will be set free of the binding that causes you to fear what has no power over you."

Ugh... I stomped my feet and rolled my eyes at that. WHAT-ever. Like my friend knows me...

Sigh. Okay. Okay.

It wasn't until the next day that I'd calmed down enough to accept how right they were. I do fear worldly things, things that in the grand scheme of life, don't matter as much as I'm allowing them to matter. And even if they did matter, I focus so much time and energy on worrying about them, that it takes away from my most important task: to love God with all my soul and strength.

Now I know what you're thinking: "There she goes, climbing on top of her God soap box again". And/or, "Will this blog ever end?"

Bear with me, I'm almost there - I'm only climbing on this soap box because it's the only truth I have. God is everything. God is love. Love is everything. And if these things are true, who am I to fear anything? Who am I to doubt or worry or complain? If I believed in these things like I claim to believe, why do I waste so much time running or hiding or worrying about things I can't change?

Why do I believe that fear is more powerful than Love?

Fear is so loud sometimes. It's energetic and alluring and so easy to listen to, whereas Love is soft and quiet and tranquil. It's much easier to notice the crashing wave over the serene pond, because the wave causes a ruckus and the pond stays ever-still. I'm much more likely to be pulled and pushed by the wave, trying to fight against it, getting dragged under, only to be spit out on the beach, sputtering and spent.

And it makes me wonder: what if I were to let the fear wash over me, knowing with my whole heart that it was just a feeling, something transient, that is sometimes protective but oftentimes misleading? What if I didn't fight it, but trusted that if I held onto Love with all my might, when the wave passed, I would still be standing, soaked but safe?

What if I believed that Love truly conquers fear?

Fear is a powerful thing, but I'm tired of believing that its power is greater than the Love that has saved me, and will continue to save me, every day from now until forever.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Love > fear

On my way to work today, I saw a bumper sticker that said simply, "Love > fear". I smiled at that, and then immediately yelped as a car cut me off (thank youuu Austin drivers). My safety assured, I went back to contemplating that sticker. Love is greater than fear. Ah, but fear is so good at getting in the way of things, making otherwise strong dispositions wither with doubt and insecurity. When it comes to loving anyone, be it family or friends or strangers, fear so easily dilutes the strength of our most basic call: to love one another.

Why do we have fear with love? I feel like that answer can take up an entire blog series: the unknown, the possibility of pain, unrequited feelings, helplessness, anxiety... it goes on and on. Our brains are pretty good at searching for fear and threats; we do it automatically. Sometimes this is good because it means you jump out of the way of a speeding car or run from a hungry lion. Sometimes this response is bad, because in less obvious forms of danger (aka vulnerability), we run away from something that we should be running towards. I'm finding in my life right now, that the more you run from something the more you train yourself that it's dangerous, and therefore worth running from. If we run from love because we fear it's too hard/anxiety provoking/whatever, it just increases the likelihood that we'll keep running. But if we do the opposite, and approach the fear instead, we find that what we thought was a big scary monster, is really nothing but a shadow.

And even if the fear doesn't decrease right away, then maybe we can hope that eventually the love will shine light into those dark corners filled with our worries and doubts.

Love > fear... If only we could truly love each other freely and fully, accepting fear as it is, and loving beyond its lies and limitations. After all, fear is just a feeling, stagnant and transient. But love... love is a choice, an action, something that moves and lives and breathes. So maybe the answer is not to love without fear, but to love despite it.

Seems so easy to write about. Putting it into action seems about as easy as getting over my fear of squirrels (you can't tell me they don't purposely stop in front of speeding cars... crazy demon rodents) and the ocean (um, endless dark abyss filled with flesh-eating sea creatures? Scary!). So yeah, not easy, but probably worth it.

Here's some C.S. Lewis awesomeness to close:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable." - C.S. Lewis

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The things that stay behind.

[Originally written in 2007... felt like busting out more old emo pieces to match the weather and my new blue-ish hair.]

The things that stay behind are not real things. They’re not tokens, photos, or old concert tickets. They’re not forgotten shirts or crumpled notes. They’re nothing that you can hold in your hands or put away in a box.

The things that stay behind were born of him and the feelings and happenings that came with him. He left them to me when he walked away. They trailed behind him and stopped at the door. He shook his head and they dropped off, discarded as if he were merely shaking the rain out of his black hair.

He is gone, and so are the tangible things. The things I could roll between my fingers (the cool metal of his cross necklace), the things I could smell (the comforting scent of his favorite t-shirt), the things I could see (the look of his hand in mine), and the things I could hear (the ringing of his laugh against the walls).

In their place are things that I can’t see, touch, smell or hear. But I can feel them. The memories and emotions float about my head, softly now. Back when the door clicked shut for the first time, they assaulted me until I was blind to them. Now they’ve lessened and so have I.

Sometimes I think that we never really existed. Maybe we didn’t. The memories feel more like dreams: vague tendrils of words and images that swirl in a complicated mess of grief, leaving me in confusion as I wake in the cloudy haze of morning.

He's gone, and it's time for me to go, too. Move back to where I came from. When I leave, letting go of him, of us, I will not lock the memories away. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t. They can’t be contained. But they have such strong roots here, I don’t believe they will follow me far either. That is the hope.

Still, I can’t control them; I know they will be back. Like long lost relatives, they will spring to me out of nowhere. They will be accommodated, but I will be uncomfortable. I will wait patiently and eventually they will leave, only to visit less and less as time wears on.

This is letting go.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Running Away: Part 3

So I have officially registered for the Austin half-marathon. It's far enough away that it seems like it will never get here, which means it will get here before I know it and I'll find myself freaking out, wondering why I ever agreed to do this to myself. But then I remember how it all began...

Let's go back about a month-

Me (IMing Bri): Too bad we don't live closer together. I've been wanting to get back into running.

Bri: I know! That would be awesome.

Me: Maybe we could meet up every once in awhile and run together.

Bri: I would love that.

Me: We should definitely do that.

Bri: We could also have a goal to work towards...

Me (thinking along the lines of a 5k): Yeah! I'd be up for that.

Bri: We could train for a half marathon!

Me: ... That sounds like many miles.

Bri: Yeah, 13.1

Me (thinking !!!!!!!): Oh, okay.

Bri: Wanna train for it?!

Me (not wanting to look like a wimp): Sure! Let's do it!

Bri: Awesome. I'll send you the link.

Me (whimpering inside): Yay, sounds great.

Aaand that's how I got involved in this half-marathon. Since then I've gotten seriously excited about it. Every time I run, half of me feels amazing, like this was the best idea in the world, and the other half of me takes note of my weak knee and is like, "Are you sure about this?"

Yes, I am sure. Like I've told Bri, I'm doing this whether I have to walk the whole thing, whether I come in dead last, or whether I have to cross the finish line on my knees (or on a stretcher). We're doing this together, and every mile will be dedicated to something we've had to overcome this past year. It's a testament to the fact that we don't give up, and we won't give up. We may cry, I may complain, but we won't quit.

Besides, this is turning into quite the family affair. My sister just decided to train with us, and I found out I have some other relatives running, too. Now if I just convince my dad (who runs religiously and even has one of those crazy winter running masks that makes you look like a burglar) to join... Dad, if you're reading this - join the race!

Anyway, I'll end this blog with my last running trip. I got up at dawn and ran with the sunrise yesterday, and it was one of the most beautiful mornings I've ever experienced. If I could always run in that condition, I'd be a happy camper. Well, a happy runner. Now if I can just get my knee to keep cooperating...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Running Away: Part Two

My alarm went off at 5:45am, and my first words went something like, "Uuuhhhhnnnnn.... Nooo..." And I went back to sleep for 5 more blissfull minutes. Then I dragged out of bed, got ready and walked outside to see a sky still full of stars. I said, "Oooh!" and then immediately registered that I felt queasy and my side hurt, like my body was already anticipating the imminent pain that was to come. I told my body to suck it up and went running anyway. As with most of my runs so far, it started out painful, but got better with each stride. It helped that I was running with a good friend who can amazingly keep up funny banter while she runs, whereas I'm still at the stage where I wheeze-breathe my way through the whole thing. But by the end of the run, I felt like I could have kept going which is a good sign. My left knee was unhappy with me, but the rest of me felt strong and energized. Not bad.

So now, my running enthusiast readers, can you give me any pointers for protecting/strengthening a weak knee during training? I hurt it 6 years ago (dislocated the knee cap), so it occassionally likes to complain when I run too long. I've gotten some tips already, like using a wrap, icing it if it swells, etc, but I'm open to more advice. My bum knee can't be the reason I don't do this race!

"My body tells me no, but I won't quit 'cause I want more." - Young the Giant

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Nestle, don't wrestle.

So, I think a lot. Now these thoughts aren't necessarily brilliant or even coherent, but they're there nonetheless, spinning about and making a ruckus at times. For someone with such a liberal arts, anti-math/logic type brain, I tend to analyze and re-analyze things. It's hard to turn off.

Most of the time, this thinking is good for the type of work I do. Other times it is tiresome and I wish I could venture into that foreign place that my guy friends call "the nothing box". You know, the place you go where your thoughts stop and you just zone out for awhile? Yeah, I've never experienced it either, but it sure sounds nice.

Awhile ago, I was talking with a good friend about my thought processes, and she said, "Well, you certainly know how to wrestle. Maybe it's time you nestle." I blinked a few times, "Do what now?" My genius friend went on to explain that I wrestle with problems, curiosities, and the like, going over them again and again hoping to make sense of them. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it just gives me a headache. "That's when you nestle," she said. "Quit wrestling with yourself."

Huh. She had a great point, a point that reminded me of some other advice given to me by a fellow counselor. He told me, "Brittany, you can't be in the problem and the solution at the same time. Stop thinking so much."

Now the first part of that advice was useful, whereas the second half seemed as absurd as telling me, "stop listening to music" or "hey, you know that breathing thing you do? Cut it out". That absurdity aside, the advice was quite good. I needed to let go of the swirling thoughts, step away from the stress and nestle...

...Which is how I found myself spending this weekend alternating laying in the sun and playing in the rain. When life amped up again this afternoon, I got swept up in the wrestling, and had to remind myself, "Hey! Go nestle." So after finishing my latest wrestling match, I threw on my running shoes and ran in the peaceful quiet of my dark neighborhood. I ran past deer, saw the 5 stars that are visible in the city sky, and let my thoughts slow down. And guess what happened after that? I actually found some clarity. Yay!

Balancing wrestling and nestling is an art that I'm still working on, but it is oh-so necessary. I'm very thankful for all the ways God gives us to nestle - prayer, fellowship, meditation, nature, reading - and hope to strike that balance between work and rest.

"Nestle, don't wrestle." Hmm... maybe I should get that stitched on a pillow. Or tattooed somewhere. Or put on a t-shirt? Bumper sticker? Oh, dangit. I'm doing it again. I think I'm going to go nestle in that great unconscious gift known as sleep. Buenas noches.

No one can get inner peace by pouncing on it. ~Harry Emerson

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Running Away: Part One

Today marks Day 1 of my half-marathon training. Yes, you read that correctly. Half-marathon training. Me, the girl who hasn't run more than a couple miles since track in 8th grade, is doing a half-marathon. I mean, I've worked out since 8th grade. I once boxed so long I almost fainted. And once I even hiked 11 miles (5.5 of which I wouldn't have hiked had I had another way of getting back to my car, but whatevs). But running 13.1 miles? Yeah freaking right.

Top Three Reasons Why I Shouldn't Do This:

1. My knees are weak. I once dislocated my knee cap three times. That was fun.

2. I'll have to train in the winter, a time when I walk around the house wrapped in an electric blanket and 3 layers of clothing. If they made footie pajamas for adults, I'd have several sets. But for this marathon, I'll be running outside sans electric blanket. Brrr....

3. It's going to hurt. And I might get sick running for 2 hours. And I might come in dead last and no one will be there to cheer me on and I'll look like a loser and then I'll have to get carted away in an ambulance because my heart implodes. Okay, that's really like 1 real reason and 5 irrational fears. Yikes.

Top Three Reasons Why I Should Do This:

1. Running encourages good brain chemistry. I need my serotonin.

2. Running clears my head and strengthens my heart. Since I need both of those organs in top shape, this is a good thing indeed.

3. Accomplishing this goal after the stuff I've gone through this year with one of my good friends will feel AWESOME. Like "hey, look I've climbed to the top of a mountain" awesome or even "I've defeated my worst fears and came out smiling" awesome.

So, I'm going to do it. I started my training today and ran for 15 minutes without stopping. I just have to do that 10 times over and I'll be set. It didn't suck as bad as I thought it would, and I actually feel pretty good right now.

We'll see where I am in a few months when my coach amps up the workouts... Bring it on!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Love is free.

Sometimes we walk away from love, be it romantic, platonic, or familial. We walk from it because the pain is too great, or because we feel enslaved by the other. Somehow by giving our heart to another person, we give them the power to hurt us, and this is dangerous because they so often do. So, we run.

This is no small reality; it can break connections that never should be broken, or it can break connections that should never have occurred in the first place. My question is, how do we love freely despite this?

I believe that true love is free. It is a gift freely given, with no expectation. No expectations! This seems to me a difficult, if not impossible, task. We spend our whole lives collecting expectations, consciously or not, and when they are not met, we get angry, hurt, disappointed, et cetera. I'm still trying to figure out how to love without expectation, and so far what I've discovered is that 1. it's hard, 2. it takes daily recommitment, and 3. it involves the oh-so-fun process of letting go. (Ah, letting go. Yet another task that we're supposed to know how to do without any specific instructions.)

Anyway, I also think that free love is given with the idea that the one being loved should have the freedom to be themselves, to make their own choices and mistakes, and to pursue their own heart's desire... Even if their heart's desire is not you or what you want for them.

Ouch, right? This is the fuel that makes people run from relationships because it just freaking hurts. If those we love don't meet our expectations, causing pain or disappointment, we may walk away to protect our hearts. I'm not saying this is always a bad thing to do. Sometimes the best way to love someone is to walk away from them. Sometimes we do have to force separation to save ourselves. I've done this myself.

But sometimes I wonder, what if we're not supposed to run every time? What if we let go of our expectations long enough to see that true love thrives without them? Who would still be in our lives?

If love is truly free, we must love without the expectation to be loved the same way in return. The point of love is not to receive, although that is the hope. The point of love is to love, even if we have to love from afar. Distance doesn't dilute its existence or purpose. Love has only the boundaries we place on it.

... Of course I could be totally wrong about this whole notion. I've got a lot of loving and learning to do.

"The success of love is in the loving - it is not in the result of loving.
Of course it is natural in love to want the best for the other person, but whether it turns out that way or not does not determine the value of what we have done." - Mother Teresa

"And the person who loves wholeheartedly feels free." - Paulo Coehlo

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

You save me.

About three months ago, everything I thought I knew fell away. All of the things I counted on disappeared, seemingly at once, and I was left depleted and broken. I fell to the bottom of the bottom. I fell further than I thought possible, so far in fact, that I thought I would never get back up.

Sounds melodramatic, I'm sure, but it is how I felt at the time. As proof, here's an excerpt from that first week of falling:

"My heart is shattered. Once again I find myself alone and in utter disbelief. I can’t sleep for the life of me since it happened. My thoughts swirl and clutter my mind: pain, shock, anger, sadness, confusion, guilt... The pain ebbs and flows and I can’t bare it. It chokes me. Another wave comes, I see it cresting, and it washes over me, pulling me under the current, helpless and hopeless, not even fighting it. I give in to the weight of the pain, I let it drag me along, knowing I’m powerless to stop it. It swallows me. I want nothing more than to be free from this. To have my old life come back, to have someone pull me from this dark water and back onto dry, steady ground. How could this be happening?"

Again, I know it sounds melodramatic and this post is not meant to solicit pity or consolation. I write this post as a testimony to the miracle that the love of God and community can be. I write this in praise and thanksgiving for the incredible support I received by those around me. I prayed for God to save me, to send me help, and He sent it abundantly.

Sometimes when we're in the thick of trauma, it's hard to see grace. But looking back over these past 3 months, I see that God loved and healed me through every kind glance, friendly hug, funny text, late night phone call, and late night hang out that my community gave me. Even those who didn't know what was happening in my life, but were still a part of my life, be it on Facebook or church or my new (blessedly trauma-free) job, supported me without even trying to. And even people I thought were lost to me forever came back in amazing, powerful ways to support me.

Community is powerful and immensely healing. In three months I have been to hell and back again, steadily healing from the chaos that was my life in April. I still have some healing to do, but I can finally see hope again. It would not have been possible without the communities I take part in: my family, my friends, my church, my work, and even my internet community (I even got support from Australian pen pals! Now that's cool).

Moral of this blog? Trauma can lead to desperation. Desperation can bring you to your knees. From your knees, the depths of your pleas are heard, and if you look closely, are answered through God's love, in the form of community.

Thanks to all of you who saved me, and who keep saving me, a day at a time.

I am truly blessed.

P.S. This song seems appropriate. Music is good that way. Gotye "Save Me":

Sunday, July 29, 2012


First of all, I'd like to start by saying I'm writing this blog while kneeling. My desk is gone, and my computer perches precariously on a filing cabinet while I type at its metallic edge. It's cold and uncomfortable, which is exactly how I feel right now.

Not to get into too much detail, but I just recently (as in this last week), had some interactions with a person who was desperate. At first, I couldn't pin point what they were desperate for - love, attention, security? All of the above? The desperation seeped into every action and word during my conversations with them, and I tried to comfort them the only way I knew how: listening. It didn't help. When our conversation finally ended, and they walked away, I was left as I said before, cold and uncomfortable. As I write, I realize it's because that desperation is so familiar. It has enveloped me, too, many times. In fact, the last three months have been some of the most desperate months of my life (to be discussed in my next post).

Desperation is not foreign to me, and I would venture to say that it is not foreign to anyone. We've all had those moments in life where we felt that hopeless yearning for something we felt was lacking. We feel its void in our life until it becomes an obsession and colors our every behavior and thought. We wander around looking for that something in what we think are obvious places: other people, money, a better job, bigger house, attention, fame, recognition. We look to these things to fill us, to satisfy this yearning that calls to us so urgently.

But now I wonder, what should we be desperate for other than God's love?

I think that we will not ever be completely satisfied here on Earth; we may come very close, but there will always be that void, that feeling of incompleteness, that follows us on this journey. True peace, true fulfillment will only come when we're united with Him who made us.

And with that, this blogger is going to sleep. My knees hurt now and are desperate for bed.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


[Originally written 10/9/07... back in my more emo days]

What am I afraid of? For so long I’ve been walking around in my head, peering out now and then to make sure I’m still alive. It’s like I purposely put up this foggy wall between me and the world and all the people in it. I guess I’m trying to protect myself – it’s an emotional survival instinct. I’ve been working veiled, pasting a smile to my face, saying all the right things, and basically being a prisoner in my own head. My wall has turned into steel bars; I can’t climb over them, I can’t break through, but I can see through them just enough to be aware of what I’m missing.

Every once in awhile I’ll stick my hand through the bars with my tiny little cracked mirror and take a hesitant look around. I enjoy the things I see, even the other prisoners like me. I see their eyes and their mirrors and in both I see myself. Sometimes the sun will shine through the dusty window and for a single moment I feel myself breathing, I feel myself living. The sun warms the blood in my veins and coaxes the stale, aching breath from my lungs. Then it goes away, or as is more often the case, I turn my back on it. What if I were to stare at it any longer? Would its rays burn me? Would my eyes adjust to the light and not be able to appreciate it anymore? What if its warmth were enough to pull me through the tiny window? What then? I would fall to the dusty earth, scramble to my feet, back pressed against the wall, as my bloodshot eyes darted frantically from the people and things in my midst. My bars aren’t there to protect me anymore. I can’t hide within the safety of my misery and desperation. I have to step away from the wall and remember how to use my senses again. Baby steps. Am I afraid of failing? Am I afraid of succeeding? In my prison, my failure is expected, comforting even. I hold onto it, purposely finding ways to keep me in my cell – I am good at self-destructive behavior. It’s like I want to stay here – it’s easy. Success, or even the attempt of it, comes with so many more responsibilities and expectations... more opportunities to fail and with greater consequences. What if I’m not strong enough?

I am weak. I am weak. A priest told me this yesterday, and it hit me with surprising intensity. I am weak. Yes, I went to confession. I felt compelled to go and I’m glad I did. The priest was nice and grandfatherly and opened my cell for me, just a little... just enough to get me started on the process of integrating back into the land of humanity and feelings. He told me that God is forever patient, and He’s always waiting for us to come back to us. He said that we all have dark periods in our lives, but we can always step back into the light.

I need to breathe. I need to write. I need to pray. I need to do all these things. And maybe then, I can slowly ease my way out of my self-imprisonment and into the light.

"He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness."
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Cor. 12:7-10

Monday, July 23, 2012

Navigating the Friend Ship: Part Two

Acceptance. Genuineness. Raw, open honesty. Unconditional positive regard. High standards, but low expectations. These are the qualities that have come aboard the friend ship lately. They are qualities that were not necessarily there before, or if they were, they were lacking or hiding behind some insecurity or misunderstanding.

But now they seem to surround every conversation Random and I have. It adds a different feel to the communication, this new acceptance and vulnerability. We hypothesize that it is what allows for platonic love* to grow. [*"platonic" here meaning strong, non-romantic, brotherly love]

This poses a very important question: How do you let go of romantic love while at the same time increasing platonic love? Is it even possible? I would like to think so, but am still uncertain. I think the transition from romantic love to platonic love requires a more extensive and intricate use of the heart muscles, a workout I haven't done before. (Can I get a personal trainer for that?)

At any other time in my life, or with any other person, I'd probably have just walked away from this entire thing, letting my wounds close up over the parts of my heart that needed further exploring. Instead I stay, one dialogue at a time, in hopes that maybe my heart will learn a lesson it couldn't learn otherwise. Every dialogue is a mix of nostalgia, discovery, pain, beauty and growth. It's exquisite in its uniqueness; We're walking through mostly uncharted territory, with no guide but God Himself (I wish He'd leave us a map or something... just sayin'). It's not particularly easy.

Perhaps this is why so many people run ashore when trying to ride the friend ship. It's HARD. And not like have-an-awkward-conversation hard, but let-me-tear-out-my-old-heart-and-grow-a-new-one hard.

I'm not sure in what ways it's hard for Random, but for me, the letting go is the hardest. Letting go of our past, and accepting this new way of relating. While Random loves me in this platonic way, a way that still fulfills me and brings me peace, it is intrinsically different than it was before. I'm still adjusting to it. It's not a bad, just different, and it doesn't allow for old feelings or emotional baggage (that has to get checked and processed often.. but that's a whole other blog). So I have to practice letting go. I have to accept the direction our friend ship has taken, which is freer, fruitful and to be honest, kind of fascinating.

Moral of this blog? The friend ship is still a bit scary, still uncertain, still difficult, but so far, still worth it.

We'll see what happens next...

"The art of love is largely the art of persistence." - Albert Ellis

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Navigating the Friend Ship: Part One

In keeping with the nautical theme of my last blog post, I find it only fitting that this one be named such. Navigating the post-break-up-let's-be-friends ship can be a bumpy ride. Luckily, with Random's penchant for all things viking, and my weird love for all things pirate (I mean, they say 'arrr' and have parrots - love it), I feel like we're up for the challenge of riding this possibly stormy sea of unknown friendship-ness.

When we first started the whole "let's be friends" thing, I was definitely not completely on board (ha! I promise, I'll stop with the word play...eventually). I had plenty of doubts and fears that friendship could lead to more heartache and confusion. And there's still a risk of that, I suppose. But I was willing to take the risk, mostly because I felt like God was calling me to. And I'm glad I did, because with each dialogue I have with Random I learn something valuable.

This week I learned, or felt, something remarkable:

For the first time since I've known Random, I feel more free than ever. I feel free to really be myself. I'm not scared of saying or doing the wrong thing. I'm not worried about impressing him. I'm not worrying about whether he's going to call or not or when I'll see him again. I am free of these worries and fears. And without them, I feel lighter and more myself. Now when I'm around Random, I am just me. Simply, genuinely me. What joy and peace there is in that.

My hope is that this new freedom, this openness, will lead to building a stronger friendship (more on friendship building in the next post!). And while it saddens me to think that it took us breaking up before we could be more open and real with each other, I am so thankful for the gift of these experiences (read: social experiments) with him now.

Alas, since neither Random or I are captaining this ship, there is still some fear about where we're headed (on my part anyway), but if we really trust in God's navigational skills, I'm sure we'll end up better off in the end, no matter where He takes us.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Walking the plank.

I was listening to Gotye's song "Eyes Wide Open" and one of the lyrics really struck me:

"We walk the plank with our eyes wide open."

At first I was delighted at any lyric that inspired pirate imagery, but when I let the words sink (ha!) in further, I realized why they struck me so deeply. I feel that "we walk the plank with our eyes wide open" when we embrace God's truth and true love. We know that defending the truth is a dangerous task, one that may lead to scorn, ridicule or hate. And with true love, we go after it, knowing that within its beauty, there is still plenty of pain, confusion and loss to be found.

But in life we are all called to pursue these things - truth and love - even though they may not be popular or easy. If we are brave enough, or as scripture mentioned yesterday, weak enough (since through our weakness Christ's strength is shown), we will work towards holiness by aligning our lives with Christ's mission to spread His truth, and to love each other completely, "without complexities or pride" (Pablo Neruda's words here).

We were made to walk the plank for Truth, for Love, for God, fully aware that had we hidden from our true calling to be radical in this life, we would not have to suffer the pain of free falling into a vast ocean of unknown. Because we could stay on the boat, laughing and carrying on with all the other scurvy pirates, living a life that is easy and uncomplicated. But it would be a life that is empty. Pointless. How boring is that?

So while pirates are awesome in theory, I think I'd much rather take the radical step off the plank and plunge in the icy water, knowing that I can only fall as far as the cross.

"A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for." - William Shedd

Thursday, July 5, 2012

To boldly (and prayerfully) go where no one has gone before.

This is what happens when you break up with someone after seriously dating for 8 months:

1. You go through the always awkward/painful ritual of giving back each others things (trade back his Jesuit book for your Oliver Sacks book).

2. You make the unsettling (and somehow more official) move to remove your relationship status on Facebook.

3. You perform the really discombobulating "last goodbye" as he walks you to your car and you realize as you drive away, you won't be back.

4. Finally, you have the moment when you wake up the day after and realize that no, it wasn't a nightmare, you really did just break up with your heart and somehow the world is still turning.

What follows next is assumed from the standard protocol I've witnessed since watching and experiencing adult dating: once those rituals are complete, you typically don't encounter "the ex" ever again. At least not on purpose.

And that's it. You break up, navigate the socially awkward goodbye scene, and you're done.

That is standard protocol, unless of course you are Random.

Random never has, nor will he probably ever, follow standard protocol, something I appreciate and admire in him.

But because of this difference in Random, I find myself navigating a place I've never been before: The Land of Staying Friends After a Break Up.

When I say "staying friends", I don't just mean acting polite but distant when you happen to bump into them at Whole Foods while buying groceries. When I say "staying friends", at least where Random is concerned, I mean building and maintaining a real, honest friendship that involves talking and platonic hang outs.

Dangerous territory? Quite possibly. Uncommon? Sure. Potentially confusing? You betcha.

Alas, Random and I were nothing if not adventurous (okay, he is adventurous, and I'm just impulsive and prideful enough to accept a challenge), and it seems even after the end of "us", we're not much different. And so we're accepting the challenge of being friends despite the emotional baggage, allowing for the baggage to be present, but choosing to work around it for the possible fruit good friendship can often bear.

So where does that leave us? Charting unexplored territory very slowly, very prayerfully and with the hope that God will lead us where He will.

I'm not sure where this will take us, but if our previous dialogues are anything to go by, I'm just thankful for the spiritual fruit, emotional healing and clarity I've gained so far.

No matter what happens, we are in God's hands, and at the end of another day in unfamiliar territory, that's where I place my trust. In His hands, we're never without guidance.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Only the lonely.

[Originally written 5/14/12] It’s the loneliness that gets me. In the beginning, I woke up with it and went to sleep with it every night. It was there as soon as I stopped focusing on work or too many social events or money issues. It was confusing at first, because well, I guess it never left completely, even when Random was around. You see, loneliness followed him, too; though sometimes when we were really in love, it took a break from pestering us. We could breathe, really breathe, in those moments.

But now that the biggest tidal wave of the grief has passed, the slower waves are breaking. Sometimes I’ll go whole days without loneliness, if I work really hard at it. Then some days, I’ll dream of how things used to be, and it's right back to haunt me. Or when I'm alone and no one really knows where I am, and if I were to be eaten alive by feral cats in my parking lot, no one would know for a couple days... the lonely gets loud then, too.

The absurdity of that last scenario distracts from the underlying truth:

I can’t stand the lonely.

It’s suffocating. It makes me tense up and want to run. Where I would go, I have no clue. I guess that’s why I love reading so much: I can escape, however briefly, the lonely that lurks around.

We were not made to be alone. When I’m alone all I can see are the people around me who are not alone. (Jealousy is very close to loneliness. Second cousins maybe. I hate it, too.)

Perhaps the loneliness I feel, that we're all prone to feel at times, is the result of forgetting what's inside us. God's presence is with us always, even in the darkest of moments. If we truly believe and trust that God dwells within us, who are we to fear such a small thing as loneliness?

It's only loneliness. It's only pain. It's only suffering. It's really an opportunity to cling to God with all our might and remember that in the end, He is all that matters.

"Yet it is in this loneliness that the deepest activities begin. It is here that you discover act without motion, labor that is profound repose, vision in obscurity, and, beyond all desire, a fulfillment whose limits extend to infinity."

- Thomas Merton

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Love and pain.

Peace. Happiness. Fulfillment. Love. These are all the things we yearn for, strive for. These are the things that we push for whether we realize it or not. Freud may have been wrong about many things but he was right about this: all humans seek pleasure and avoid pain. It's natural, right? Who wants to be unhappy, broken or lost?

Unfortunately for us, life isn't always sunshine and roses. Sometimes (or a lot of times) life is full of the very things we hate: pain, heartache, loss, and uncertainty. We can question why - why must I hurt? Why must my life be filled with misery? Why me? But really, shouldn't we be asking ourselves why not me?

The truth is, pain in life is inevitable and unavoidable. Sure you could curl up in a hole somewhere and hope that nothing terrible befalls you. You could sit waiting for the bad things to pass, and tell yourself, "Well, when things get better I'll finally start living." But if we waited until circumstances were perfect to go out and embrace the daily gift of life, we miss the whole point. Life isn't about being happy or free from pain. Life is about loving. Life is about giving. We learn to love despite the pain; we learn to give despite the fear. Besides, in pain there is always the joy that comes with uniting our suffering with Christ's. There is no pain we have that He hasn't also endured. And He endures it willingly and lovingly. Aren't we called to do the same for Him?

Pain and heartache will come and go, that much is certain. But the joy and peace of Christ is ever-present, if we only choose to hope in Him.

Where hope would otherwise become hopelessness, it becomes faith. ~Robert Brault

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pro's and a con of dating Catholic guys.

There are many pro's to dating a hardcore Catholic man. Going to mass together, going to adoration together, saying a rosary together, having late-night discussions about theology and Church teachings... all beautiful and blessed things to do with your significant other. While I dated Random (obvious name change here), he surrounded me with faith, buying me my first crucifix, teaching to me out of the catechism, and even doing a stations of the cross with me in the candle-lit chapel at St. Louis, with no one else around. This man knew his faith and was proud to profess it. He was everything a Catholic girl like me could ever hope for.

But there is one downside to dating a Catholic man, and that downside comes in the form of discernment. True Catholic men know how to discern and they discern well; Random was no exception. He was so good at discernment, in fact, that he broke up with me, something I didn't really appreciate at the time. I ranted and argued with him about it, actually. This mostly-hardcore Catholic girl suddenly wished with everything she had that Random was not as hardcore Catholic as he was. Because you see, he ended it something like this, "I love you, but don't feel called to marry you." Um, ouch? Excuse me while I scoop my heart off the floor and try to figure out how to regain the use of my vocal chords... Seriously, how on earth does anyone argue with that? What could I say, "Oh, well God is wrong on this one" or "You need to wash out your ears and listen again"? I could do nothing but watch in awe as this man walked away from love because he felt God was calling him to. That takes faith that I still don't understand.

While grieving the loss of Random is painful and confusing and not exactly how I want to spend my free time, at least I know that his decision was somehow rooted in God. And okay, I admit that being good at discernment isn't a downside at all. It's a blessing that I'm sure I'll come to appreciate once I grow a new heart and get through this incredibly awesome (not) post-breakup season.

Moral of this blog? Dating good Catholic men is the way to go, even if it doesn't turn out the way you want in the end.

"Love is so short, forgetting is so long." - Pablo Neruda

Thursday, April 19, 2012

It is the pain endures.

There are worst things than breakups. For example, I'm sure a zombie apocalypse would be much worse, with all the brain eating and zombie slaying. Or I imagine getting kidnapped by evil, scurvy-riddled pirates would be pretty unpleasant. But when you're in the middle of a breakup, that's about the worst scenario you can imagine - you can't really see past your own misery. When it feels as if your heart has fallen out and you're walking around, nothing but a raw bundle of nerves and confusion, it's hard to focus on anything else.

I went to the doctor today because not only did I get broken up with, I am also sick. Hey, go big or go home right? Anyway, I went to the doctor, telling him I was coughing so much my chest ached. He listened to me breathe and said my lungs were inflamed and infected. He said he could tell breathing was difficult for me right now. Yeah, no kidding. I wanted to tell him it was my heart's fault. It must have irritated its two breathing neighbors while it broke out and made its hasty escape. I still had hope my heart would come back, but until then some medication might be nice, seeing as how breathing is necessary to life and all.

This reminds me of the time I prayed for God to "help me see" sometime last year. I should have been clear and asked him to help me see his will, but alas I left it at that. Then later that week I got an infection in BOTH eyes. Felt like I could relate to Tobit a bit after that, minus the birds and short-term blindness of course. But now as I'm coping with the reality of my lost love-life, it seems acute bronchitis is really just a manifestation of my missing heart, the physical pain reminding me of the very real absence of the man I love. As if I needed a physical reminder of the emotional pain I'm experiencing. Thanks body.

Seriously though, when I'm not shaking my fist at God in frustration at the seeming injustice of this week, I see that underneath it all it's making me realize my complete and total dependence on Him. He is my true light and true love. He is my everything. And at the end of another day of heartbreak, it's nice to know I haven't lost it all. Love is ever-present, and I will find it again.

"When my heart is breaking, I never leave Your hands." - JJ Heller