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 · Ramblings

Aaaaaaaaand She’s Back!

Who knew that the month of your wedding would be so stressful, eh? I mean, I had figured it would be, but had kind of hoped I would have some time here and there to do some writing. Unfortunately for my blog, the little pieces of time from “here and there” ended up being spent going over arrival times for the wedding party, planning out exactly WHAT I was going to do with my hair, and lying in bed till 3 am worrying about the weather.

The only comfort that remained (as the wedding date loomed, and my blog began to accumulate dust) was the thought of our two week honeymoon after the wedding. A cabin in the woods with plenty of books to be read, stories to be written, and wine to be sipped (in the hot tub). Cheshire and I planned on doing a ton of writing. There were, after all, no distractions in Blue Ridge, and we could get a lot of work done. Thank God I married an introvert who’s idea of fun is to seclude ourselves from people for two weeks solid. (I say this with absolutely NO sarcasm. After having a million people to talk to and hug and interact with at the wedding, two weeks of foresty silence has been the BEST.)

There are, I think, a couple things I have already realized about married life, having been married for a grand total of one week and one day.

  • The bed will not often get made.
  • Cheshire and I will not go to bed at the same time.
  • There’s never enough milk in the fridge.
  • It takes a while for the “wife” title to really kick in.

Allow me to explain.

I, much like many other women of all ages, love Pinterest. I can create my perfect board with my perfect pictures of my perfect house of my perfect life. And Pinterest, my lovelies, can be a beautiful pedestal of happy thoughts that NEVER come true. Take, for instance, my favorite picture in my “Dream Home” board. This photo is of a beautiful bed with cute, comfy looking pillows and a throw that is carefully folded at the foot of the bed. The headboard, the rug, and even the hallway, look beautiful and clean and cozy. It’s lovely. I want to crawl through my laptop into that photo and curl up with a cup of tea on that bed. But. It has occurred to me (7 days into my honeymoon), that having a made bed will not be common. If ever. I have made the bed once. No, actually twice. While I am not opposed to having a made bed, I don’t think I really want to do it every day. I would just rather go drink coffee on the couch and watch Cheshire play (insert game here). Does that make me a bad wife? I sure hope not.

Another connection to the “made-bed-thing” is the “going-to-bed-thing”. Cheshire is a night owl. He doesn’t like to lay around and let his mind wander. Sometimes it goes places he doesn’t like. So instead, he’ll stay up and do something else until he gets tired enough to go to bed. I don’t mind. My dad does the same thing, and it makes perfect sense to me. You go to bed when you’re tired, not when it’s “bed time”. I, on the other hand, can get tired at 10 pm and have no problem announcing that I’m tired, and doing just what I mean to do: SLEEP. I heard once that couples should go to bed together because then they can talk to each other about their day before drifting off to dreamland. To me, that seems strange since the question arises of “what have you been doing all evening?” You should be talking to each other WAY before “bedtime for Bonzo.”

Thirdly, we’ve gone to Walmart three times to get more milk. Three. We’ve only been here 7 days and have scored through a whole gallon already. Not really surprising though, if you consider all the cookies we’ve dunked, and all the hot chocolate and coffee we’ve slurped. As someone who has been dubbed as the “baby cow” for how much milk I consume, it really should be no surprise that the two of us (the baby cow and the cat) could drain through all of that 2%.

And lastly, but not leastly: It really DID take a bit for my new title to sink in. The morning after our wedding, I found myself muttering to myself: “Wife, wife, wife. I’m a wife. This is my husband. I’m his wife. Wifey, wifey, wifey. Weird….”
And it still is weird.
BUT. It’s kind of an awesome feeling. Cheshire isn’t just my boyfriend or fiance anymore. He’s my HUSBAND. And I’m a WIFE. Makes me really happy thinking about it. Every once in a while, I’ll catch Cheshire staring at me, and when I give him a look that says, “What are YOU staring at??” He just smiles and says, “Just looking at my WIFE.”
I think it’s still kicking in for him too.

Well, now that it’s OFFICIALLY time for me to sleep, I’ll leave with this last word: Life is awesome. Freaking awesome. And the things you do and the choices you make, can really make life awesome. But honestly, it’s the people in your life that make life worth living.

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Personal · Ramblings

Stream of Consciousness

There’s something burning in me. Something burning wanting to burst forth and incinerate the whole world. I’ve been trying to put my finger on it for so long and I still don’t quite understand it. I don’t really like fire. Mostly because of the damage it does when it touches the skin.  I’ve seen what it can do and how such a small flame can destroy so severely. And yet….

The metaphor of fire is burning in my brain and I want to use it. Our lives come in snapshots and moments and sequences of events that weave together to form the days that turn into years. Maybe it’s because I’m getting married in 25 days and I want that new chapter of my life to begin. Maybe it’s because I hate routine. I like it at first because it gives me structure to who I am and what I’m supposed to do, but then somewhere along the way I only end up feeling trapped by it. It’s the excitement of shopping for school supplies but dreaming for Christmas break only a month later.

I’m supposed to be doing something with my life but I don’t think I know what it is anymore. I’ve had dreams and plans and actions I want to take, and like waves plowing into the sand, new ideas sweep the old ones away. What if I am never satisfied with where I am, constantly shifting like the flickering of flames? What if I will never be satisfied with the me that’s under my skin. That scares me most of all. I never want to look back and hate my life or the decisions I made. Life it too short to live that way. I want adventure but I’m terrified to take it. I want normalacy, but am  too afraid I’ll be trapped by it.

That fire in me leaves me tapping my foot impatiently for something, ANYTHING, to happen. If a bear walked by my window, I’d go outside and hug it. I feel like a hot-headed Disney princess singing about wanting more than this “provincial life”.

What am I doing? What do I want out of the world? Why do I hate walls and ceilings so much?

Being mediocre at most things leaves no lasting impression on the world. The things that make me stand out like a sore thumb only make me angrier. Having pink hair and a nose ring doesn’t change the world. Wanting to write, yet never writing, can achieve nothing in retrospect to the giant globe we’ve been thrust into. Going to school to be a designer means nothing if your talent is next to nothing. Coloring doesn’t make you an artist, and answering the phone with a smile in your voice doesn’t make you a good person. Copy and paste has no meaning in a world where your own ingenuity can make or break your career.

The ticking of a clock can be so slow, and the pounding in my head can be so fast- there isn’t a good medium for the two. My fingers don’t type fast enough and my brain can’t form coherent sentences fast enough.

The thoughts jumble together and i don’t know what they even mean anymore. what if they stop making sense to you and me and the world and everything crumbles into…..

I have to stop. Go back and fix my capitalization and spell check the mess I’ve just written. Because one misspelled word can be the difference between “a beautiful stream of consciousnesses from a brilliantly jumbled mind” or “the rant of a whiny lower-than-normal woman”. I should go back and read what I’ve written before sending it to the void. I debate it even as I write this sentence. If I do, I might just erase it all…

 

 

 

Am I even allowed to want something more?

Everyone everywhere wants more. Does that make it selfish? or human? To yearn is human; to lust is hypocrisy. I thought in writing this, I would be able to work through my own thoughts. In the end, I’m only more frustrated with my own inability to make sense of the jumble in my mind.

I had dreams of different things at different times in my life. Each one has been pushed away be the understanding of how the world works. Reality is a painful mistress. I’m not talented enough to grace the stage. Not driven or disciplined enough to be a writer. Not smart enough to be a veterinarian. Not artistically inclined enough to be an artist. Not adventurous enough to be a world traveler. I used to feel like I had purpose. A goal I was striving towards. Now I feel like a ship with no course, a car with no tires, a flame with no fuel. My dreams are fading away. And I don’t know what to do about it.

Ramblings

Drafts on Drafts on Drafts

My “Drafts” number of blog posts has almost reached the number of my “Published” blog posts.

Every day I open up my site and stare at those drafts and wish that they were actually something worth reading. It’s probably the reason they’re only drafts and not published yet. I’ve talked before about self doubt, and while that might have something to do with it, I think the key is that I don’t want to just write to write. I’m afraid the things that will come out will be trivial and stupid. I want to write about things that matter.

I need a subject. Something that makes me want to rant. For pages and pages.

I saw on Pinterest a page titled “31 Day Blog Challenge”. It has 31 days worth of blogging, with examples for each day.

  1. Introduction
  2. 20 Facts about me
  3. Meaning of my business name
  4. Earliest childhood memory
  5. My guilty pleasure

And the list goes on…

Part of me wants to do it because I need to get into the habit of writing every day, and also because I don’t have any other topic ideas at the moment. But the “deeper” side of me aches for substance rather than fluff. So what do I do?

I’m hoping maybe as I write trivial fluff, I’ll hit something of meaning that gives me the chance to rant about it. Hopefully.

So that’s the plan. I’m going to go through the list. Much like Julie Powell did when she blogged through Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, I’m going to do it. Maybe having a goal to go one way, will lead to a whole other road of subjects I want to write about. Maybe.

I already know I won’t do this every single day. But, I’ll do my best to write one at least 5 times a week. We’ll see how that goes….

Oh! Cake!

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Life · Personal · Ramblings · Writings

Lines

 

Sometimes I don’t know how to deal or how to function. It usually hits me out of the blue and I don’t really have it calculated down to an exact science. I wish I knew what could trigger it. I wish I could know why lines are so important or why I crave them. Isn’t that weird? I guess it only needs to matter to me that I think lines of red are so beautiful. But I’m selfish in my thinking. I hate them on others and want to kiss them away. But red lines on myself? Quite promising.

I wrote the above paragraph while trying to make sense of my brain. I still have yet to discover the key to unlocking my mind’s clockworkings, and yet the above paragraph helps. Even if it’s just to me.

I really do wish I knew what started me feeling a certain way, or what made my feelings vanish all together. I remember when I first tried to explain to my parents what my depression looked like. To them, Nothingness isn’t an emotion. And they’re right. It isn’t an emotion because you don’t feel anything. It’s the lack of emotion; the lack of all feeling whatsoever.

My dad asked if it was like a nothing box.
No.
But nothing boxes have nothing in them, right? And that’s what you’re saying, right? That you don’t feel anything. Doesn’t that just mean you aren’t thinking about anything?
No. You aren’t listening. It’s not that I’m thinking nothing, it’s that I’m feeling Nothing.

It’s like when the sun is suddenly covered with a cloud even though there’s been a cloudless sky all day. Or when you drink your coffee and discover it’s ice cold even though you JUST pulled it out of the microwave. It’s like when there are less steps than you thought, and your foot comes to contact with the ground out of nowhere. Or when you reach for a hand that you expected to be there and it isn’t. It’s like talking to a loved one and then realizing they’ve been gone for a week now, and you’re left picking up the pieces all alone.

You could be sitting in traffic, thinking of nothing in particular when you suddenly seem to wake up to discover how alone in the car you are. How still the air is. How meaningless the radio is. You aren’t sad or lonely or angry or happy or tired or excited or bored or annoyed or hurt or forgotten or anything. Just Nothing. And the Nothingness scares you. And just like attempting to wake from a nightmare by jumping off a roof or laying down on railroad tracks, you draw lines. Somewhere that no one can see how scared you got. Because pain is better than the Nothing. Anything is better than the Nothing. In that moment, driving your car off a bridge is better than the Nothing.

I wish I knew what triggered it. But I don’t. It helps to talk about it with people, though. Later, when I can feel things again, like shame and sadness, I feel like I can talk about it. But by then, usually I’m much better. Back to normal, even. Sometimes the Nothing lasts 30 minutes. Other times the Nothing lasts for weeks. My friend Jacqueline was great at helping me hide my sharp things when the Nothingness lasted for weeks. She saved me from a lot of lines in college.

Chesh hasn’t really had to deal with it much, because for some beautiful reason, the Nothing doesn’t come around like it used to. I think it has to do with feeling safe with Cheshire. Nothing can’t hurt me when is arms are around me and everything smells like applesauce. He helps me feel less alone when I re-surface from my Nothing. He calms me down and helps me breathe. And I am so thankful I have him.

I don’t have a conclusion to this post because I haven’t found a conclusion to my Nothing. Just more lines and less alone.

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Life · Personal · Ramblings

Love is…

For the past two years I have worked at Camp Sandy Cove, a Christian camp nestled up in the mountains of West Virginia. My first summer there I worked as a Chief (the camp’s term for counselor), with the Squaws (the camp’s term for 13-15 year old girls). If you want to feel like a fully insane, fully tired, and fully joy-overloaded individual, I say work at a camp. There is no other place to act like a kid with the title of authority than at camp.

The summer had been wrapping up, and I was on my last cabin of Operation Purple girls before heading back to SC for my senior year of college. Operation Purple was the best week of the summer, as the kids who came were from military families. It’s a great way for kids to be kids and build great relationships with other MKs as well. Since the program is funded by the government, we remove chapel from our schedule, and have a moment of silence before every meal instead of a prayer. We don’t have quit times or cabin devotions, but allow ourselves to be there should any of our kids want to talk about spiritual things. That way we can respect the fact that not all kids who come during OP are Christians.

My group of girls were fantastic! I had a great group that knew how to have fun, knew when they should all take a nap, and knew how to drive me insane. The week was coming to a close, and the girls and I had gotten pretty close (which is a personal goal of mine at camp). A rainy day rest hour had begun, and I was jumping in the shower while there was still some hot water, when I heard the girls talking.

“Love is crying into your pillow at night.”
“Love is wondering if he really does love you.”
“Love is getting your heart broken over and over again.”

Let me tell you, I jumped out of that shower so freaking fast.

“Hold on just a second!”

I stood in front of them in my towel, hair dripping from the three seconds it was under the water, and gave them my best “mom” look.

“Chief? Uh… You’re making a puddle.”

“Yes, thank you Rachel, I realize. I just needed to say something really quick.”

They gave me The Look. If you’re a mom with teenagers, I’m sure you see this look a lot. It’s the ‘oh-god-are-you-about-to-be-super-embarrassing??-yep-ok-here-she-goes’ look. Six of my girls were scattered through the room, laying on bunk beds and curled up under blankets as the rain poured outside.

“Love, my dears, should never be those things. There are emotions you can feel because of love, like feeling heartbroken or hurt, but they should never drive love. If your love is based on whether the other person returns it or not, maybe that isn’t the right kind of love.”

At this point, I wanted to pull out my bible and show them 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, but since no one had technically asked “what the Bible said about love”, I felt weird pulling it out. So instead I racked my brain and hoped I didn’t misquote.

“Love is supposed to be patient. It’s supposed to be kind. It doesn’t get jealous or bossy or demanding. Love is not hurting others to get what you want. Love focuses on the truth and doesn’t hold grudges. Love is protecting people and putting them above yourself.”

It was Rachel who said something first. “Chief…isn’t that from the Bible?”

Leave it to Rachel to know her Bible verses.

I smiled. “Yeah, I guess it is. But here’s my point: Real and true and honest love has absolutely nothing to do with the other person. There was someone I loved once who didn’t love me back. We were best friends and he was dating someone else. And you know what? That didn’t change the fact that I loved him and still to this day love him. Here’s the difference. The love changed. It went from romantic gushy love to a deep friendship love. I knew we would never be in a relationship and that wasn’t what drove me to love him. I love him because of who he is as a person and because of all the time we have spent together sharing our lives. Whether he loves me back has nothing to do with how I feel about him.”

The girls awed and “poor chief”-ed at me, but I stopped them.

“Guys, you’re missing the point. That wasn’t supposed to be a woe-is-me moment. All this happened a long time ago. My point is that love shouldn’t be “crying into your pillow at night”, because that means your love is dependent on their feelings as well. Should that really change the fact that you still love them? Is your love based on their returned affection, or is your love based on who they are as a person?”

After that I went and took my shower, and wondered if that had meant anything or made any sense to them. I’ve thought about that moment a lot, and it was only two months ago when I got another reminder. Cheshire and I were at a pre-marital retreat in Rome, GA called “Prepared to Last”. The retreat was excellent, and he ended up proposing on our last night there. Talk about perfect!

During a session, one of the speakers talked about how sometimes in marriage it can get really hard to love your spouse. They were talking about how the best marriages happen when each person is giving their un-selfish 100% towards the other person. She said, “Remember this: You are called, by God, to love him. But you are not called to be loved by him.” Talk about an ouchy, am I right? Everyone wants to be loved by their person. But when I think about it, whether or not Chesh loves me, shouldn’t change the fact that I love him 100%. And I do. When I marry him, I’m promising to love him through good things and bad things and loving him despite how he feels.

Romantic love changes over time. In fifty years, we are not going to be the same people we are now. But that’s ok. That’s the exciting bit to life. We are going to grow and change and (hopefully) mature. Most importantly we are going to do it together. And I can’t wait.

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P.S. If you’re interested on Chesh’s perspective, he wrote a (sort of) similar post here.