Life · Ramblings

Letters to Jacqueline

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thanks to Jacqueline for the photo

In my newest search to find my joy, I’ve discovered letters. I mean the real kind that need stamps and go through snail mail to get to you. It all started with a letter from my friend, Jacqueline. She wrote me a beautiful 3 page letter, telling me about her life and asking me about mine. Someone had placed in on my desk and when I saw it was from her, my day got instantly brighter. I started reading, and then read it again before I wrote my response. It wasn’t a huge piece of life changing information, but just a letter between friends, complete with inside jokes and open hearts. I started my response, and as I wrote, I found that I couldn’t stop. Even when my hand cramped and I reached for another piece of lined paper, I couldn’t put down my pen. It was like a piece of my heart had been tapped, and was now leaking all over the page. And the sight of it was beautiful. To me, feeling like I could let out some frustration and anger on the page to someone who was removed from the situation, helped.  I mailed the letter, a beautiful six pages of my word vomit, and a piece of my sadness and pain and frustration. My heart on paper.

A couple days later a received a text from her:

“I just want you to know, I love you and treasure you like none other. A response is coming very soon.”

Before I had even received her response, I had started my next letter. Who knew that putting away my phone and picking up a pen would heal me more than a thousand emojis? As a writer, I should have known.

One of my favorite writers, Karen Scalf Linament, author of masterpieces such as “Normal Is Just A Setting On A Dryer”, and (my personal favorite) “I’m Not Suffering From Insanity, I’m Enjoying Every Minute Of It!”, wrote in the latter mentioned book, about a friend who finds so much joy in writing letters to her friends. Something about encouragement and openness, bringing people together. I always loved that part, thinking that writing really does do that. It puts a piece of your heart down on paper in a way I don’t think I can always do out loud. But blogging out to the world, and opening up to a dear friend in a hand written letter, are two very different things.

Because of this, I have a new goal I’m going to work on for a while. I’m going to write letters more. Handwritten, on paper, with an envelope and a stamp, in the mail. That’s the plan. We’ll see what happens, I suppose. It’ll take some practice, and just a pinch of discipline, but I want to try it.

If you’d like me to send YOU a letter, let me know! I don’t promise I’ll send you something right away, but as long as you give me your address, I can begin working on it.

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Life · Personal · Ramblings

Choosing Joy?

Who knew such a little thing could set me off? It was a piece of yellow construction paper with the words “Choose Joy” scrawled across it in blue crayon, pinned up in one of the offices. I was sitting in an armchair, staring at the offending paper, contemplating the existence and futility of mankind, when the annoyance finally boiled over.

“That’s just stupid.”

Zach, our office manager, looked up from his laptop. “Am I missing something?”

I pointed, and he followed my line of sight to the sign on the wall.

“The paper?”

“Yes. Do you realize how absolutely dumb that is? Anyone who’s suffered from depression knows exactly how impossible that is.”

Zach stared at the offensive paper for a second, then turned back to me. “I think it’s actually more about attitude and head space, than emotion.”

“Yeah, but joy isn’t something you can just turn on like a light switch…” I trailed off, annoyed that Zach was right and I was just being a grump.

“I think the ‘Choose Joy’ phrase is actually a lot more about finding the good within the bad, and not letting the bad suck all the goodness out of life. Choosing Joy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re choosing happiness or choosing to suddenly be fine, but instead choosing to see the hope, or at least choosing to search for it.”

If I haven’t mentioned before, Zach is a very wise man.

The sign (and ensuing conversation) got me thinking, though. I was so quick to find fault in something so simple, and so slow to try and see the good just because I was in a low spot. Sometimes you have to look for your joy, search for it in the midst of stress and emotional dehydration.

So, I started making a list. I’ve realized that I really enjoy lists. Having them all down in an easy tangible form is helpful, and I can continue adding to it without feeling like I have to remember everything. At first, the list began as something of a “to-do” list of things that I needed to work on that might bring back a little of the joy I was missing. I present it to you now:

  • Work on your herb garden. You saved a pin about this. I’m thinking basil, rosemary, and mint for starters. Put them in mason jars, or some fancy hipster thing like that.
  • Blog more often. You should write more. Writing gets you out of a funk.
  • Be a better wife to Allan. He deals with all your crap and your whining.
  • Finish Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans.
  • Finish Worm by Wildbow.
  • Start A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans.
  • Compile a good reading list for the year. You need better reading goals. You always surprise yourself with how happy reading makes you. Dumb bunny.
  • Think about a five year plan. Also maybe a ten year plan. Or just a plan.
  • Finish playing Bioshock Infinite
  • Start a bullet journal. Your inner scrapbooking queen is screaming to be let out (just a little bit).
  • Cook for people. This is your love language, and since people need to eat, this is pretty convenient.

As you can see, the list doesn’t really have any real thought process to it, other than being a bunch of things I’d like to do regularly. A couple goals thrown in, and voila! A partially functional list. A couple joy things, a couple goal things, and a couple life things. Now, some of these I can’t really work on at camp (like the video game and cooking), but other things I’ve already started. I finished reading Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans, (which was, by the way, absolutely amazing and blew my freaking mind all over the place), and am already half way through A Year of Biblical Womanhood. I’m almost 1/3 of the way through an audiobook of Worm by Wildbow, (and considering the book is approximately the equivalent of 6 War & Peace books, I’m quite proud of my accomplishment thus far). I’ve started trying to write in my spare time, jotting down bits and pieces to later weave them into something coherent. As for the “being a better wife” part, I consider that an ongoing project that I shall continue to master until my death.

I had a conversation with my boss, Tim N., a couple days ago, and he brought up something I hadn’t thought about before. He mentioned that I seemed unhappier this summer, and that (since he had read my blog) I seemed to really be struggling more so than the past two summers. He guessed that it might have to do with my lack of people-ing. That’s not the word he used, but you get the idea. As an extrovert, I get energy by being around people. And not just being in their presence, but interacting and having an impact. As photographer, I am around people all day, but don’t have the time or opportunity to interact on a deeper level with the campers. I think he might be right. Yet another insightful piece of information to help me locate my joy.

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Life · Personal

Happiness vs. Joy

If you didn’t already know, I’ve been struggling this summer. I’ve gotten easily frustrated and fed up with processes that work too slow, and wind up feeling defeated and deflated. Here’s an excerpt from something I jotted down while in a serious decline:

“What am I doing? I feel like I ask myself this question a lot. At the moment, I’m a photographer for Camp Sandy Cove. While I love being back at camp, I’ve found myself already in a rut of “in-between”. What is an “in-between” rut? Well, sit back, grab a drink, and I’ll tell you. An “in-between” rut is when you hate everything. You shouldn’t, but for a split second that makes absolutely no sense, everything is useless including yourself. You hate the grass and the pavement and your own shoes and people in general. You mostly hate yourself though, because everything seems to have come from nowhere and it makes you tired and sad for no reason. It makes you question everything you do. Those of you who might confuse this with depression would be wrong. Depression would be when you question your very existence and when this feeling continues for longer than a few hours. A rut usually only lasts anywhere from 60 minutes to 24 hours.

I’m tired. So incredibly tired. The kind of tired that seeps in through your lungs and grabs you and rips you to shreds. I have no problem admitting any of this. I’m tired. But it’s not that kind of physical exhaustion you get from running around all day and taking pictures of small children. And pretending to have the energy of ten people that you obviously haven’t had in quite a while.

It’s a mental and spiritual exhaustion. A soul exhaustion that feels like everything good has just been completely wiped from the planet. All you can hope for and all you can pray for is just to make it back to your bed. I’m at a point where I just don’t care. And caring usually keeps me alive. I want to lay down in the wet grass of the soccer field and just be. Who knew I would miss the freedom that comes with being able to even do that much? Working six days a week at camp doesn’t really allow that behavior, because even on your off day, camp is thrumming with children. Compete with their whining and their screams and their “you’re in my personal space” banter.

Maybe the sun is sucking it all away. Maybe the heat and the exhaustion mix to form a messy cocktail of emotions that leave me tired and aching for something else. I keep waiting for the eminent breakdown, with tears and some horrible mental break that drives me off the edge. It hasn’t come yet. The waiting is almost as bad as the break.”

If that doesn’t give you a hint of where I’ve been at this summer, I don’t know what will. Feeling exhausted even after a good 8-9 hours of sleep, waiting for impending break down. As the summer has sprawled on, my emotional state hasn’t gotten better.

Since Chesh is my boss, that means he walks and talks me through my mid-summer evaluation. Over-all, his comments were that I was doing well at my job but needed some tweaking in certain areas. One of those things was my attitude. His comment was that while around the campers I was high energy and high smile; a good attitude and engaging. As soon as the office door closed, though, I became a grumpy, sassy, complaining person that was downright depressing.

“We need to work on that.” He said.

“I’m exhausted,” I admitted, grumbling my way into a slouch on the armchair. “And I don’t want to do this anymore. I feel worked to my limit and even though we get a day off, it never feels restful. I don’t feel re-charged. I keep waking up tired.”

“That’s what I mean. We need to work on finding something that makes you more than just happy, but gives you the re-charge you need to get through the summer.”

After a while of contemplation about this (I ended up being placed on the shuttle that Sunday, which meant a solid 8 hours as co-pilot to think things through and mull over possible ideas), I figured out it was my joy. I was certainly happy on my day off, and happy when the wifi worked, and happy when I got to use a golf cart to get around camp, but there wasn’t joy. I suppose I should say there still isn’t joy, since as I write this, I’m still working it through myself.

What brings me joy? I’ve been trying to figure it out. I think there’s a difference between those “little happys” and true joy. A little happy would be a surprise oreo cookie, or a late night trip to IHOP. These are beautiful things in and of themselves, but they offer a happy relief that usually doesn’t last very long. I need to find out what brings me joy and not just happiness.

If you have any ideas, let me know. This is a journey, after all!

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