Affirmation 10/11/17

Deep breath. Slow, even breath. With each new breath bring in the strength of the past. Breathe in the stardust of centuries. Breathe in the power of trees. Breathe in the all that came before you. Release all of the hurt and fear and share with the air renewed hope.

I’m glad you’re here.

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Adventure in Breaking/Mending

Eight weeks ago something happened. Six weeks ago something worse happened. One week ago more brush was shoved on the fire.

It’s not a new topic for me, especially in the last couple of years, but try as I might, try as others might, I won’t stop talking about it.

Eight weeks ago, between eating lunch and picking up a comic to take to his next city, I stopped at the home of a person I know. Someone I had spoken with regularly. Someone I considered a friend. In the course of less than half an hour, everything changed.

I was able to take myself out of the situation before it became desperate. But “no” wasn’t a viable answer. “This isn’t why I came over,” was also unaccepted. “I don’t want to redo my makeup” was a good reason. “I’m on my period” granted me enough space to get up and leave, but not enough space to have control to stop things.

I picked up the comic and went about my weekend.

Six weeks ago, I was feeling good. I met up with someone and lost complete control of the situation. I’ll continue to spare you details. I got home in the middle of the night, uncontrollably sobbing. I knew the right things to do. I knew to call the police. I knew not to shower. I knew those are the things you’re supposed to do. Another thing you should do, if you’re able, is take care of yourself, whatever that looks like. So I did. I showered. I took my clothes off. In that order.

I did something I haven’t done before though. I reached out to people immediately. Everyone was asleep, but in the morning so many people were affirming. So many people kept my mind safe. My dear friend, who is far away, encouraged me to go to the Sexual Assault Treatment Center. My dear friend, who is down the street, hugged me while I sobbed on him.

I called the Sexual Assault Treatment Center, because I didn’t know how it worked. She said to come in immediately. I asked, “Can I wait an hour? I have a job interview in 15 minutes.” She called me a toughie.

Throughout an hour-long job interview, I held it together. I needed this job. She asked how I handle stressful situations. I refrained from saying, “I haven’t cried once or given pause that something is wrong in this interview, have I?”

My dear friend, who hurried back from out of town, met me at the Sexual Assault Treatment Center. I met with a forensic nurse, a police detective, and a woman from victims assistance. I had a full exam done. I only cried once. She was kind. She was patient. She took my time, not hers. Some times when we interact with people who need kindness and patience, we offer them patience on our own time. She did not do this. She gave me time to breathe. She waited until I said okay. I know it’s her job to act this kindly with victims. We could all stand to work this kindly with everyone.

My dear friend waited in the lobby for two hours. Her phone died. She read every pamphlet. She waited on my time. She was kind. She is kind.

Another friend far away shared my assailants picture. He told the story. He checked with me and then told anyone who would listen. Profiles were removed. People were talking, in the best ways. He shared the truth, not the easy parts.

The next day I had a gynecological exam to get checked for my tumorous cysts. The nurse was kind. She talked to me about her own trial. The RN was not kind. She was cold and shaming. I scheduled another appointment for an ultrasound, because the RN didn’t believe me. It was five weeks later.

I stayed open. I kept talking. I asked for help, for company. I was granted this more times than I can explain. Food was brought to my home. Kindness after kindness.

Two weeks later I had a second interview for the same job. I hadn’t slept in four days. I was certain I wouldn’t get it. It was a terrible interview. I was exhausted. I was beaten. I was destroyed.

The next day I received a call from my doctor’s office. It wasn’t just my fears. Other unwanted news came. Nothing uncommon, just unpleasant.

Three weeks went by, and it became a problem for some people. This made me stronger. My survival and my means of survival were problematic for some people. I vowed to become immortal out of spite.

At four weeks, I wanted nothing, but hugs. I also wanted to never be touched. I was watching as people I knew were having pretty serious allegations brought up against them. I was watching and being pulled in. People were contacting me, as if I’m an authority on consequences. The only consequences I understand are my own, the ones I face every day. I watched possible (albeit likely) assailants keep friends, which is a type of affirmation of those actions. While I was losing people for being dramatic, for causing problems.

Do you know why someone talking about rape seems dramatic? I do. Because trauma is dramatic. Because tragedy is drama. Because truth is dramatic.

This only made me louder.
“I wish I could talk my way out of being raped the way rapists talk their way out of trouble.”
“So we’re clear. A rapist hears the word ‘no’ and expects that to mean ‘yes.’ But when accused the rapist is like ‘I didn’t rape her.’ Apparently only his ‘no’ means ‘no.'”

I started to feel more isolated. It was silly. Weeks prior I was surrounded, literally and figuratively. Friends from all over were reaching out to me. Nonetheless, I began to fear I had worn out my welcome on asking for favors. I’m not quick to ask for help, but this time as a means of survival I knew I needed to. Coming up the stairs at home and collapsing to my knees sobbing, I knew I needed help. I had reached out to someone I was told was a therapist. They proved to be a crazy person that would only escalate my issues.

I felt alone. I was not alone. I felt alone. I felt empty. I felt lost. I felt alone.

Loud noises began to affect me. My parents’ dogs barking made me terrified and panicked. Thunder made me panicked. A dear friend brought me earplugs and other kindnesses.

At a show, I wore my “please-don’t-rape-me” jeans that I bought eight weeks ago. I told my friends not to touch me and to make sure no one else did. I did not keep it together. I left in the middle of the show. Broken. I had stayed because I couldn’t be alone, but the music was loud, the voices were loud.

Week five I was fine again. The dogs and I were fine. I could cuddle my dog again.

Creative 30 for 30 started again, and I could force myself to put some of the things in my head to good use. I started baking again. I didn’t start passively baking. I have no one to give baked things to. I started baking to heal. I started baking more than just that one cupcake Kristen Wiig made for herself in Bridesmaids. I started making full pies. I made pies for healing. I recorded recipes. I made the same pie twice. I improved on pie. I improved on pie to improve myself. I taught myself new skills to show myself I can do more. I watched Moana eight times.

I went to my ultrasound. The tech was kind. The tech took my time. She made six marks on the image of my single ovary. She paused. She asked if I wanted children. I turned my face as tears grew in my eyes. I’ve been in pain again for a couple of months. When I finally saw my doctor she explained I had several cysts in my ovary. They ranged in size from 0.5 cm to 1.3 cm. She explained that they would likely dissipate. She explained that in my case they needed to be monitored closely because of my history. She said it was Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. It explained so much about my last year. It explained so much. It still scared me so much. It still does. Of course, it does.

I also made it one whole year writing affirmations. It’s not been a full year since I moved them to this platform, but I’d brought myself a full year on the strength of my own mind. I’ve continued. I will continue.

At five weeks I also found out I got that new job. I found out I’d be working in an incredibly life-giving, safe, and affirming space. I could walk to work again. I could pay my bills again. I could be motivated to fight PCOS simply by doing my daily work.

Six weeks/eight weeks later I started my new job. I love my new job. I’ve been doing research on diet options to make PCOS more manageable. I’ve continued to reach out to people. I’ve broken my own heart this week. I’ve had my heart broken. I’ve cried on the phone with someone I haven’t heard from since I told them what happened because I felt abandoned. This crying went unnoticed.

In eight weeks my nightmares have come back. In eight weeks several people have taken themselves out of my life because I’ve been too much. In eight weeks I’ve cycled through peace and pain. In eight weeks I’ve screamed and cried. I’ve gone silent. I’ve pushed myself. I’ve been pushed. I’m not healed. I’m not cured. I am still moving. I am healing. I am mending. Pieces of me are coming back together. (please, ignore that Ashley Simpson reference. I can’t take it out now, but I don’t want it there either).

Some times for no provoked reason, I still fill with all manner of sadness and pain. It doesn’t take new provocation. There’s a lasting provocation lodged inside of me. A provocation I can only hope to learn to cope with. It will live beside me. I will be bigger than it. Some days, I’ll get to a place where I will feed it too much. It must be fed. If it’s starved it will get loud and angry. It must be fed and acknowledged. It is my constant companion. It is my monster. It is not me.

Thank you to everyone who has helped carry me over the last two months and over the last 30 years.

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Adventure in Moleskine

I’ve always been dreadful at filling notebooks completely. I don’t do a lot of things well in that way. But once in college I filled an entire journal. I forced myself to write in it every day. It was bleak. The end result was bleak.

But something about a Moleskine, this Moleksine, has made me faithful. It’s the second one I’ve ever filled completely. Almost two full years (short by a mere two weeks), and as it has come to the end of its journey, I offer you several of the trinkets in it that stick out to me. May they serve you as they serve me.

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This Sunday I crack open my Moleskine with the sketch of Smaug on the cover, and a new adventure shall begin. A Moleskine befitting Resurrection Sunday.

Adventure in Strength

strength

(some times, even I don’t understand my neighborhood)

Let’s be clear. I’m a weak lady. People are far too generous when they tell me they think I’m strong. I’m here to tell you that I am not. Not really. I’m a persistent person. I’m an independent person. Ya know what? I’m well-practiced. Let’s call it that. Can we?

I am not strong. I am easily manipulated, particularly through guilt. I am quick to relinquish power. I have multiple times found myself in dangerous situations and thought, “yeah. Of course, this is happening. And this will be how I die. That’s fine.” I survive, because I’m supposed to. Not because of anything I’m doing. Every day that I am alive is not because I woke up and said, “Ah yes, I shall live on.” I never make that decision. That decision makes me. No. That’s dumb. And not true.

Here’s what it is. Here is why I continue on.

A few years ago, I finally started to get the wherewithal to recognize that I needed prayer. not just “oooh stuff is bad. I need prayer.” I mean, okay, that’s where it came from, but soon I started recognizing that that was something I needed all of the time. So I started asking for it, and would in return offer prayer for those individuals as well.

*That has value. Please, don’t misunderstand me on this. Having others pray for you is important. Praying for others is important. These are intrinsic to strengthening the body of Christ.*

What I didn’t learn, or learn to embrace and then practice, until about a year ago was one very important thing. Hear me. Please. It is not selfish to pray for yourself. It is imperative. Open communication with the Father about your needs, fears, pains, victories. All of it. Let me tell you, from my own personal experience though, having others pray for me to understand and have peace, strength, be surrounded by hope? Is virtually useless if I am not also admitting to God that I need those things. It’s one thing to say to a friend “I am broken here. Please pray for me that it can be repaired.” It is something else entirely to say to a friend “please pray with me in this brokenness.” AND to take that brokenness and say “Father, I know it’s broken. Help me fix it. Fix it.” It’s easy to admit to those who don’t already know and can’t fully understand “oh this is broken.” One, because you don’t ever have to be completely honest in that. Two, because they can’t fully comprehend it with you. It’s hard to admit to the one who actually gets it and already knows, but wants to hear you say “I know you know, but hear me out.”

Ultimately, it’s taking actual responsibility for your head and your heart, your spirit. Anything else is really shirking that responsibility. Not always. I know that. Some times it is impossible. It is impossible to say what you need to say to God. Some times all that comes out is a string of expletives that would not only make you sound like you just murdered a pirate, but also probably embarrass your mother that you even knew all of those words. He wants those too.

Pray is our greatest strength. Christ is my only strength.

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Adventure in Misery or Sadness Takes a Holiday

Disclaimer: Some day I may have the strength or presence of mind to fully explain the back story for this, but for now embrace a big dose of vague. You’re welcome, I know how specificity irks you so.

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Lately, things have been strange. Downright odd.

This particular week is, generally speaking, a very hard week for me. This week every year. Among other very painful things, the father of a dear old friend of mine died this week when we were but freshmen in high school. This week is riddled with similar painful reminders.

In previous years I’ve let the pain of the week just wash over me. I’ve allowed myself to wallow and suffer and drown. To barely keep my head above water. To take in whatever I needed to stay alive, if I must, but otherwise sink. And sink hard.

A recent conversation, or series of conversations, has left me admitting one very powerful thing about myself to myself. I love misery. It’s disgusting how comfortable I find it. I thrive in misery. I also love to be the martyr. Try not to be surprised. I bet you are. I put misery on like a baggy sweatshirt and yoga pants in front of the TV for an entire week. I curl up inside it like I’m Luke Skywalker, and it is my toasty, dead tauntaun. Like…no, enough similes. that’s a hard thing to shake though. It’s hard letting go of something that’s been such an enormous part of my identity for so long. If I’m terribly honest with you, I’ve let it be my identity for a very long time. And that’s messed up. That’s gross. That’s disgusting. It genuinely disgusts me.

What troubles me is now I find myself in a healthy place, and still I try to find that misery. Peace is weirdly uncomfortable for me. Still. It shouldn’t be. It should be my comfort in these trying times. It, by nature, is comfort, and I can’t seem content in that. It makes me so uneasy. While it is true that there is no need for hope or grace, if we aren’t broken and torn and hopeless, that doesn’t mean we should ignore hope and grace when it’s there. And it’s there. It’s here. It’s everywhere.

Instead of dwelling in my own self-produced disasters, I should be reveling in grace. I should be overcome with joy from the moment I wake up, because I’m being constantly repaired and constantly renewed. When I go to sleep, when I am asleep, I am renewed. We are renewed.

Any claim I hold on misery, is my head and heart screaming, “no thanks, Jesus. I got this one. I can save me.” Joke’s on me. I cannot.

“You can’t just sit there and put everyone’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can’t. You have to do things.” Stephen Chbosky Perks of Being a Wallflower

These songs have been pouring through my head and heart the last month or so.

Adventure in Waking Up

We’re tired. We’re lazy. We’re beaten down by reputations and negativity. My brothers and sisters, I am heart-broken as I watch those I love fall away from the hope they once held so dear. It is devastating to hear people say they’ve given up on Christ because others who tout his name are misusing it. Cries in the streets of “God hates fags,” do give us all a bad name. “Hate” is the worst thing anyone could carry around with them, and to have it attached to Christianity breaks my heart. What scares me more than a bad reputation though is that people who had put their faith in Christ are denying Him because they don’t want to be associated with a few bad eggs.

My sisters and brothers, no one said it would be easy. In fact, quite the opposite. Perhaps you expected the opposition to come from playful puppies or in sing-song form from little children on the playground to you as an adult. You didn’t expect it to be something that came to you because of other Christians? No, I suppose none of us did, but we get a pretty clear picture that proclaiming God’s truth will not be well-received in any capacity. Unfortunately, the people shouting God’s hatred in the street have sorely missed who God is. Yes, God is a wrathful god. He does hate. He hates one thing. Sin. You know who’s got sin? Me! You! That guy. Her. That little girl. Gays. Straights. Murderers. Moms. People who make candy. People who can’t eat candy. Cobblers, coopers, black smiths, habber dashers, soup nazis, bakers, candlestick makers, teachers, clowns, puppeteers, doctors, pastors, rabbis, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans. We all do. And in all of us is that one thing that can keep us separated from God forever. Sin. The horrible chasm standing between us and pure, uninterrupted, unalterable joy in the presence of God.

And the only thing getting us there is the immeasurable grace of Christ. Born as a human, a clumsy, fleshy, crying baby. So that he could grow up for one singular purpose. To save your damned soul. To give you one last shot. Because while we don’t want to be separated from him for all eternity, he clearly doesn’t want that for us either. He died remember? For you. For me. So that you don’t have to suffer blindly.

Yes. Life. Is. Hard. Being a Christian is hard. Especially if you’re doing it right. You will face opposition. If you don’t like being associated with the people shouting hate in the street for whatever reason. Shout love. Show love. Pour it out. Don’t grumble. Don’t be discouraged. Be broken-hearted and be anything but that. Be Grace. Be Love. Be Peace. Be Hope. But don’t be discouraged, because you have Hope and Love and Grace and Peace, and God will use it.

Step up and do something. Wake up! We don’t have to stand idly by. We shouldn’t! We can’t!

Encourage your brothers and sisters. Because it’s damn hard to do this alone. It’s easy to be encouraging in life, but that will only teach us to rely on each other. We must encourage each other in Christ. Because our reliance must be on Christ.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

You deceived me, LORD, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. 

I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side! Denounce him! Let’s denounce him!” All my friends are waiting for me to slip, saying, “Perhaps he will be deceived; then we will prevail over him and take our revenge on him.”

But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten. LORD Almighty, you who examine the righteous and probe the heart and mind,
let me see your vengeance on them, for to you I have committed my cause. Sing to the LORD! Give praise to the LORD! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.

 Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed! Cursed be the man who brought my father the news, who made him very glad, saying, “A child is born to you—a son!” May that man be like the towns the LORD overthrew without pity. May he hear wailing in the morning, a battle cry at noon. For he did not kill me in the womb, with my mother as my grave, her womb enlarged forever. Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?

Jeremiah 20: 7-18

You are not alone. Ever. Wake up.

She’s Bilbo. Bilbo Baggins. Bravest little hobbit of them all…

I woke up a bit late today, but when I was ready for my day Bethany was still sleeping, so I went out on my own. I bundled up a suitable amount and headed out to meet the beautifully foggy day. Across the football field I walked down the winding garden path where I met knotty, old trees twisted and ripped and turned with age.  The ground was soft and I took each step with care as I embarrassingly feared some sort of sinking sand. At long beautiful last I reach the end of the wooded are and came out to a lovely opening.

I followed the prescribed path as far as I could before my shoes began to fill with sand.  I knew the sand would only increase as I drew nearer the water’s edge so I resigned myself to a seat there in the sand.

Carefully, I removed each shoe, gently placing them on the soft Irish sand, all the while the CD “Whiskey in the Jar” spoke of Irish beaches.  I removed my socks hoping I’d not filled then with too much sand. I emptied my shoes. Socks in pocket, shoes in hand, feet bare, I rose to journey on.

As I approached damp sand I saw to my left the brilliant green, rolling hills. Each square of green a different shade; emerald, jade, forest, olive, all fresh and inviting. The water lay quiet before me as I took as many pictures of it all that I could manage.

I headed the opposite direction toward the sea, my feet now sinking deeper into the cool, wet sand.  Stones lined my path and I picked a few up tumbling them gently in my hand, seeking the perfect one.  I picked up a few perfect shells, though I kicked them over first to ensure they were not still home to some creature.  As I rounded the bend the sea expanded before me and the Mourne Mountains grew in the sun lit mist. and I felt like Bilbo as I wandered nearer the Misty Mountains and the Shire faded further and further behind me.

Though I never faced Smog, I wrestled so many childish issues in my head and put them aside as I thanked God for the small favors, as I looked upon a big one.

My feet became colder so I turned to return to the house. I went back the way I came, as I passed a sign that said something about not walking on the beach when the red flags were out because it meant the military was doing some range shooting. The red flags were out. Unshot, I returned my feet to their toasty shelters when the ground returned to a solid state.

I made the journey back, now less frightened of quick sand, but of trolls and giant spiders and goblins.

I went back to the house and ate lunch with Amelia, who, after hearing the troubles of yesterday, offered me a ride into Belfast.  Not knowing if I’d get a hold of Ruth at all I accepted and we made the journey.

Amelia gave me a wee tour of East Belfast where C.S. Lewis grew up, and she showed me beautiful and powerful murals and a statue of Diggory looking quietly and hopefully into the wardrobe which was just outside the library.

From there I walked (shh, don’t tell Nanny) to the City Centre and waited for Ruth. We met for dinner, and I sat across the table from a total stranger I felt entirely comfortable with.  I’d never met her or seen her and yet it all felt so familiar, but I’d guess that’s how family is meant to feel.

She took me to see Queen’s University before dropping me at the bus station.  I waited there, reading, enthralled by the Little Women I have always loved.

My bus arrived a bit early.  I took my seat and read the whole way back. At peace as the Prince Caspian soundtrack spoke of journey and home and hope and I smiled a quiet smile.

The bus stopped as always outside Spar and I set off on another journey, Prince Caspian playing all the way down and around the corner as I walked the two or so miles up the long, dark road to the house.  The moon shone through the whisping clouds vaguely lighting my path. I crossed the bridge and breathed deeply in the soft, cold air of the sea.

I passed a large, dark shape and as my eyes adjusted I noticed more of the same forms.  I took out my booklight to see a bunch of cows near the road, which startled me. No. Squared the poo out of me, until I remembered I was walking through a cattle grid. And I finally reached the large door of the house to make myself warm.

All in all a successful day. I am at peace with myself and with the world.  Much love to all.