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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Of course you're all right. You're alive.

I watched Garden State this afternoon for the first time in ten years because I was determined it was going to become my favorite movie now. You can venture a guess as to why, or you may know. I'm not really sure if I'm ready to talk about it. Well, it may not be my favorite movie because it didn't have Sandra Bullock in an over-sized coat or looking mannish but somehow still adorable and attractive, which is exactly how I envision myself, I think. But it was pretty good as I remember, and I laughed and cried, because that was the plan going into it. To laugh and cry. So I did.

I was at one of my jobs today sitting at my desk feeling a little sorry for myself and drowsy and medicated and was getting ready to leave. Right at this moment a client of mine showed up and plopped down and decided we were going to have a session and because I selfishly needed the billable time, I agreed. It was also one of the most difficult hours of my life. Truly. It was near agony. It was painful, emotional, scary. And I've had some pretty nasty hours before, and will again, I'm sure. But you know what? We made it through. We made it through together.

I may have messed something up. I may not have said all the right things. I know I didn't. But I was there, and eventually, although far from perfectly and completely, even felt some empathy. I even felt true comradeship with a client for the first time. I was there with her, I was her. I knew her experience, and it was hard to bear. There are therapy-ish ways of saying what these things mean and they are complex and layered.... and all that came crashing down on me when I experienced it for the first time.

I'm not an addict, yet.

I'm not an abuser, yet.

I'm not depressed, yet.

I'm not mentally ill, yet.

I'm not divorced, yet.

I'm not on medicaid, yet.

I'm not homeless, yet.

But what if I was? Would I be worth it? Would anyone care about me? Whether I did it all to myself or some of it just happened because...that's life. Does that matter? How much? Does that determine your value? How much of a human you are?

On a whole new level I am learning that we are all close to our lives folding in on us, balancing precariously on perceived perfection and seeking acceptance, and one day may change our lives. One decision. One mistake. One appointment.

I interact with people all the time that many people view as crazy, dirty, poor, worthless, degenerates, stupid, addicts and at the very least annoying and not worth looking at or talking to. Now more than ever before I feel close to these individuals not just because I see them with my heart but because I am with them. I could be them. I am them.

And we're all alive. And to the God I believe in, that means we're worth it. My hand of cards I was dealt is a royal flush compared to some people's lives. I'm blessed. I don't feel like it right now and I want to be pissed off. But I'll try not to be, and I'll try to be grateful. I'll try to act with grace. Ha. I'll try.

Of course you're all right. You're alive.





 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

a little bit of hope

I'm only 25, now, without the wisdom of 80 years, without even the wisdom of 40 measly ones. I'll wait patiently for these years. The laughter lines, the grey hairs, the loss and realization of so many unknowns.  The extra weight, both around my tummy and butt and in my heart and soul. The lumps and scars and unborn thoughts and ideas and  a child or two. The love, the forgiveness, the trust. The tragedy and thousands and thousands of tears. How is it that we know, we know these things are before us when we are young and yet we cannot know it at all? Cannot plan for it? To even grasp it, to get a real hold on all that life really is... well, it takes some hindsight. and Time. Time doesn't heal all wounds, and cannot erase some damages, but it changes us, and as we look behind our shoulders at our history, it tells a story and shapes what is to come.  

I live in the present but I love to learn from my mistakes, and there are plenty of them to teach me a multitude of lessons. I wish I could learn all the lessons, all at once, so I could avoid any further discrepancy. This is not how living life works. What gives me hope is that I every once in a late night mulling (and inspiration from several episodes of the all Great and Glorious Parenthood), I realize I managed to not do the stupid thing I did in a current situation that I did in a former one. Hallelujah, give me some kind of award, some kind of participation medal in the game of life for learning better behavior. One way life helps you learn from your mistakes is that if you don't run and hide (and even if you do) they'll find a way to find you. You will be confronted with your enemies, you will have to learn how to love them or tolerate them or say a good word about them. You will have the opportunity to be less of a jerk, tomorrow. And if you don't at least try to let yourself learn from your mistakes, the only person that it will not end well with is yourself.

I have hope in people. It's really, really hard to have hope for some people, but hope can be so small, it can really just be tiny. That's all we need, a little bit of it. A little, little bit.  I believe small changes are possible for all people. I believe big changes are possible for some. I believe God does work miracles. I believe love is a miracle.

We have this huge responsibility as human beings to bump into each other all the time and to try to do it well.  And if you have the ability, mentally, physically, soulfully, to do it well, please, please do. I mean, anyone can. But for some of us it's really hard. Almost impossible. And I'm here to say, I'm not playing the blame game. I'm just here to say that if some can't, it sure as hell doesn't revoke your responsibility to love and treat well if you can. It makes your responsibility that much more important. To love without agenda, without pretense, without worrying if you're going to get screwed over this time. 

I have hope in you. A little bit. You can change, you can do right by someone, even though you missed the opportunity to do so yesterday and the day before that. I have to believe it makes a difference. Even though I don't have the foresight to know, something tells me that when we're 80 we would have rather spent a lot of time treating others well whether they deserved it or not. Join me. Let's change the world. a little bit.

"And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’" - Matthew 25:40



Thursday, August 14, 2014

A few things I've learned about health, happiness and pizza.

We're all very obsessed with our health these days, aren't we. I'm sure it's nothing new, rather something I have noticed more than ever because of my peers and city culture. Me included. I try to deny it and be stubborn and do the opposite of the current  fad diets and eat a lot of bread and chocolate and stick my snooty nose in the air at it all.

The truth is I do care about how I look and how I feel and even the number on the scale. The truth is I know a lot about what is healthy and what isn't, and I listen and adjust my diet accordingly. The truth is that even though I deleted the stupid fitness app on my phone that depressed me more than helped me, I still count calories in my head. I've done that for years - ever since I took a fitness class in college that made me aware of what a calorie was and how much I should (not) have in the first place.

Actually, I'm really lucky to be a girl and to not have thought about my weight or calories until college. I never once dieted in high school, I was too busy playing on soccer teams and volleyball teams and fueling myself with probably not-so-good food. I suppose I'm glad I know more about what's good for a body and what isn't now, but I sure do miss those careless days of garlic cheese bread at midnight without an inkling of regret. Just pure, cheesy, garlicky joy.

The past few months I got a wee bit too controlling about my diet and my calorie intake. I'll admit it. It didn't last long because I was sad, and I knew it, and then my mom told me I sounded depressed, and I knew I was. And I actually believe that I was, chemically, not feeling well.  I realized after being vegetarian and vegan for 8 months I was deficient in some things my body desperately needed. No, not meat. Vitamins, healthy fats and probiotics that I had been denying myself. Poor body. In my attempts to be healthy, and, "fit", I wasn't giving you what you needed and you suffered for it. Sure, I eat way more vegetables and fruits than the average American. But even that doesn't equate complete health.

So, I'm learning you do need vitamins, and if you have a restrictive diet (or a bad one, I suppose), you need to know what you might be missing.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard about good fats, and sure, I know you need them. Yet until I started actually feeling my mood change without them, and my body yelling at me for not giving them the fats they needed, I didn't realize how much we really. do. need. fat. Consider this a friendly reminder that healthy fats are your friend.

All this talk about healthy this, good that... Man, that stuff can get a person down. Look, I know an avocado smeared on my toast is better for you than butter, and yet, sometimes I just want the butter. And, I have made the personal and executive decision as the person in charge of my body, that that is OK. I know that dark chocolate is better for me than milk chocolate, but as the CEO of me I have decided that I like all chocolate and I won't discriminate.  Plain yogurt does have less sugar than the fruity kind, but cherry yogurt sure does taste better.

The point is, I have stored up so much knowledge about what is good and right to eat, and overall, I think I do a pretty good job with my daily choices and what I need is a little more room for it's gonna be OK. I think those of us that are privileged know a lot about diet,  we have access to a lot of information, and we should be informed about our choices. We also have to be careful not to get carried away. I have seen this mindset of health steal happiness away. I saw it starting to happen to me. I experienced my body and mind weaken. I'm not willing to sacrifice so much for the sake of "health"

I wonder if Whole 30, Paleo, Vegan, Gluten-free, Clean Eating, etc. are really the solution to our health crisis? We do need to consume less sugar. I know, I promise, I know. I hear it every single day. Is it really our bodies that are the least healthy? What about our minds? What about our hearts? What about our happiness? And is it really for health or is it for a size, a number on the scale? These questions. These are important questions to ask when considering a diet change or move to a more healthy lifestyle. There are so many people that do need to eat more healthfully. I happen to know a lot on the other end of the spectrum, who need to be kind to themselves. Who need to eat a milk chocolate bar if they want. Or a piece of bread, one piece of white bread will not kill you instantly. I don't think.

I'm sorry, I don't mean to make fun. This is mixed in with my own struggle, my own failures, my own heart and mind and health. I've learned all over again that I should appreciate my body for all that it can do. The number on the scale simply does not matter. Our minds and bodies are certainly connected, intimately, and we need to be aware of how that effects what we choose to believe we "need" to give or restrict our bodies. What we fill our minds with will influence and impact us. Choose positive stuff to fill that mind - it matters too!

Last night I ate cheese pizza and had a couple bud light's on a boat with my soccer team. I asked for seconds on the pizza, because it was good. I was extremely happy and thriving, not a worry or a fear that this food consumption might set me back a week. It felt so great. I'm not saying the key to happiness is light beer and 4 slices of cheese pizza and you should do it every day. But maybe, at least, once in a while, it is the key to happiness, and the key to health.

Today, I'm not going to run 5 miles to "work off" the pizza. I went for a walk with my neighbor this gorgeous, cool morning. And that's all I'm gonna do.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Youer than You

My identity sure is confusing. If I had to fill out an about me section on a dating website I'm sure I would come up with zero matches because trying to categorize me is like categorizing your average Multiple-Personality. Even looking in at my own life makes me laugh. Who likes listening to George Strait and Alan Jackson while cooking vegan desserts made out of beans and agave nectar? This girl. Who spends their days working as a paralegal for a successful and high-volume attorney in her Basics sweatshirt and 5-year old jeans? Me. You won't catch me playing Frisbee or wearing grunge-chic clothing like your standard animal-loving hippie-hipster here in Chicago. You will catch me chucking a football as hard as I can in a still-decent spiral I can only attribute to having two big brothers, and anticipating only one sports season: football. Today is the opening day of training camp for the Green Bay Packers, in case you didn't know.

True to my little vegetarian soul, I do love animals. But I think if you raise them, you get to eat them, if you really want to. I'm not talking about your average house pet, hopefully you didn't think I was...

Yes, I really do like country music. I don't get sick of it. It makes me happy. So does hip hop, and the Top 40 for that matter.  I have no class when it comes to music. For a few years in high school and college I tried to be cool about music, but I gave up, and gave in to what feels good. I suggest you do the same.

I have lived in Chicago for six years now and have now idea how I've made it that long. I'm an ever-increasing home body who doesn't like to go out to eat and doesn't give a hoot about the up-and-coming restaurants and coffee houses and vintage shops and cocktail lounges. My favorite parts about the city, and what have kept me here so long, are the people, the lake, and, the people. Oh, and the small-town feel neighborhood I've moved to, and which I never leave if I can help it.

If I could walk everywhere I ever needed to go, I'd be happy. Not really interested in traveling much and I don't have the case of Wanderlust that many of my peers do. I travel to see my family and friends. Usually on a big blue bus with which I have a love-hate relationship.

Like most people I know and love, we have a strong addiction to coffee. But for me, the brand or way it's made matters little. If it tastes OK black, then I'll drink it. Dunkin' Donuts tastes better to me than Starbucks. And though I will admit that coffee from a local coffee shop is yummy, I rarely spend the extra money, and I only drink black coffee, so that fancy latte art is lost on me.

Julia Roberts is my style icon. She always seems comfy and is usually laughing. I like that. Sometimes I cake on make-up, sometimes I go a week without wearing any. I just ordered a one-year subscription to Glamour magazine today because it was $7.50 - I love the feel of a magazine in my hand and looking through the pictures, always starting from the back to front. Staying up-to-date with celebrity gossip is an absolute guilty pleasure of mine.

If I could own any kind of vehicle, it would be a little pick-up truck. Yes, even if I somehow found myself still living in a city.

Maybe I'm not so weird. What do you think?  Seems like so many people fit into their categories while I at best only kind of fit in 17 different kinds of categories of people.  I never went to high school so I don't know what table I would have sat at - let's blame this all on being home schooled - I was never forced to pick a popularity group so I didn't. I just am. I do think fitting in is overrated. Guess I'll keep doing my thing, and you keep doing yours, even if that means you fit into one "category" perfectly - because who made up these categories anyway? Like what you like, love what you love, and let others do the same. I leave you with Dr. Seuss, our fellow and beloved Odd Ball.







Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Chocolate isn't a feeling. Wine might be.

I don't know if I'll be any good as a counselor. It seems that most counselors have the desire to change people. Make them better. Help them be better. A good listener can certainly help you sort yourself out. That kind of counseling works. And mediation, we sometimes can't work things out between the two of us, and we need a third person. Unbiased. If there is such  a thing (at least, someone who chooses to not connect personally or develop a crush on one of the clients- that's effective enough). When we need someone to give us some direction, there is always a counselor happy to give you their opinion, guidance and find out your strengths, purposes, and perhaps, even understand your feelings!

If you don't want to understand your feelings, I would suggest you do not go to therapy. I would  suggest you continue to numb your pain with your vice of choice. I was given a big sheet of paper with feelings on it once. "Chocolate" was not a feeling, so I didn't put much stock in it.

Anyway. I'm not so sure I really want to help people find out what job would be just so great for them, or for them to connect with their innermost feelings, or for them to "live their best life now." Seems like you'll either figure it out or you won't. Seems like some people have the right instruction manual to life and some people don't. Who handed it to them? Parents? God? Nature? Nurture? Teacher? Friend? I have not a clue.

Some people are broken, and they are strong. Some people are broken, and they are weak. Some people have very decent reasons for being so messed up and some don't really have a reason at all.  Some kids turn out OK and some do not. Decent people wish other people that aren't decent just would be. Come on, get your act together, it's not always easy, but you can do it. Truth is, some can't.

This past weekend I was dog sitting. The sweetest black lab/greyhound mix. His name is Thor and he is five years old. Funny thing about Thor is that his parents gave him his namesake as a pup, long before they knew this pup would grow up to be a dog downright terrified of thunderstorms.  Bad storms have rocked Wisconsin and Illinois the past couple of weeks, and this weekend was no exception. The irony is obvious, Thor, the god of thunder, is not the most appropriate name for this doe-eyed, gentle dog. Saturday night at 4:30 in the morning I woke up to Thor whining and whimpering to the sounds of the wind and rain beating through Chicago, and I wrapped up Thor in his Thundershirt, petted him slowly, and tried to soothe his doggie soul. Finally he lay next to me curled up, resigned to his fear, not overcoming it. He never will. But I could help him feel a little bit more OK, which is all I could do, even though I wish I could make him not scared. Thor will never not be afraid of storms. He will not live up to his name.

Sitting with people, and dogs, in their pain and fear and weakness, is sometimes all you can do. And what I have found out is that there are some that will never not be afraid of storms. But we can help them get through life all the same.

My heart is naturally in tune with those in pain, those that are suffering, whether they heaped it upon themselves or not. Maybe that will make me a good counselor. If not, I plan on going into the business of comforting nervous dogs. I hear it pays well.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

moment


This moment, with these girls. It was perfection. (Note: cross your legs next time, Ems). I walked out into my backyard on a late Saturday morning to this... To my ya ya sisterhood.  I was yelling at my friends at how cute they were and to make a sweet face so I could capture the moment - C, make a nice face,  "you'll regret it if you look ugly." Whit, make it look like you're painting your toes or do something with that iced coffee. There, there. Sometimes you have to pose the moment, just a little, to get it just right.  After the picture I squeezed between them and scratched my friends' back and said oh if only we had some babies running around here with us, to which they replied with laughter and sighs... Fine, just get me a plant to take care of.  Then I jumped back into my chair so I could just look at 'em. Moments like these don't last long enough.  I want them to last forever.  I want to write about them and photograph them, the smiles, the sun, the love. I want to beam down at my friends, whose sisterhood I need, whose friendship I depend. My girls. These aren't just rare moments, these are lives lived with each other.  This is a glimpse into more than just a happy, carefree, lazy Saturday. It's a glimpse into laundromat runs, and late night talks, and tears, and doctor appointments and waiting for the bus at midnight just to get to your friend when she needs you.  Beautiful, beautiful sister friends. I love you, and I had to share this photo with the world, so I could remember it again and again.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

when do I get my own cute kids

I'm 25 and the number of failed relationships is rising. That's a fun statement to write. I'm really good at keeping friends. Really good at that. Or maybe they are really good at keeping me. Considering I have broken up every romantic relationship I have ever been in... I guess that's my problem. See, I'd like to, someday, not have to do that. I guess when it comes down to it I'm just not willing to stick with certain kinds of behaviors if it means I would potentially marry those behaviors. My friends I can love to death, and not have to make life decisions with on a daily basis. Plus I'm the friend with the disturbed life most of the time, so usually it is them that are glad they don't have to put up with me at every moment.  OK, I'm really not that dramatic but I am single, which complicates life in a different way than everyone else I know.  In my weak moments I do hate myself for it, because, like, why am I the single one still? I know there are plenty of people who aren't married at 25 and think nothing of it. But because I was raised Christian and most of the people I am surrounded by are still somewhat in this realm... I feel alone. It seems like a lot of people have found someone that they actually can stick with for more than six months. All I want is to share life with someone and have some cute kids. Sometimes I think I must not really want or it or I would have married the first man that ever cheated and lied. Yet somehow that doesn't seem like it would have been the right decision, even though it may have gotten me what I wanted. Cute kids.  I don't want to bring a bunch of cute kids into a terrible marriage, though, no matter how much I want them.

I know life is hard and complicated enough, and getting married and having kids just makes it more complicated. The hardest stuff you will ever do. But I also know it must be some of the most rewarding stuff, too. I feel it deep down. I know it would be that way for me. I'd like to get started right now, please.

Last year I started my Masters program. I ran the Chicago marathon. I started an awesome job that I love.

Just this month I got my first own little apartment, in my favorite neighborhood of Chicago, that's quiet, cute, and fun. It reminds me of home. It is a good place to call home. And my best friends are next door. Literally. I have the privilege to work from this home, a lot of people would kill for that. I'll graduate from my Masters program next summer. And get to live out one of my great purposes in life, one that I believe God has called me to even when I forget that He has.

My life is so good, so privileged, so blessed.

I was boohooing last night over some of these thoughts. Then I read the end of Philippians. Paul says, "I have learned the secret to being content..." Well, what the h-e-double hockey sticks is the answer, Paul, I'd sure like to know?

Peace. Peace in all circumstances. The Great Peace. The one we get only from God. That's contentment. I think I had this once, but I know I've loosened my grip on truly understanding it. I don't understand it like I used to because I doubt too much and life has weakened me. Failures and lost hope and unrequited love and pain have done their work and I forgot to dwell on good things instead of bad. My foundation doesn't feel as firm as it used to, but I know it's there...somewhere, and it was built long ago on the rock, so I know it's real and true and solid. I believe that.

I pray Shalom on my life and yours, too. I know that we are all broken, but that our wholeness is found in one that is not dependent upon us yet is always with us. I will try to remember and dwell in this completeness.

I'm imperfect for sure. If I didn't know that a few years ago I definitely know it now. And I bring these imperfections into everything and everyone, now. I guess we all do that. I have a lot of growing to do still. Maybe I will get to grow with someone, someday, and maybe I will get to have my own cute kids. I hope so. It's still hard for me to not feel shitty that I don't have that stick-with-it-ness that some people seem to have. In order for me to figure out what that's all about I will probably have to go to therapy. I'm a big believer in it. Job security.

This was more depressing than I meant it to be. I'm gonna work on being content, promise. Maybe even happy. And I'm going to try to think like this: "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4:8

Happy Saturday, friends. Signed, 

An ever-increasing believer in arranged marriage.