Monday, August 14, 2017

When The Moments Become Paramount

I remember the exact moment I decided I wanted to be a journalist. 
I watched Blood Diamond as an extra credit assignment as a freshman in college and felt like I would explode if I didn’t also get to be like Jennifer Connelly’s character Maddy and educate the world through my award-winning news coverage.
I don’t know how I didn’t smell the cliché dripping from the moment.
I also remember the exact moment I decided I could never be a journalist. 
I was a senior in college writing a news piece on something I don’t even remember and was bored out of my mind with the interview I was conducting, and then my interviewee said something about how our campus’ trolley driver had been driving the trolley for years, and I perked up because I was way more interested in a random trolley driver’s life story than whatever important news story I was covering. 
I found the trolley driver the next day, befriended him, wrote a lifestyle piece on him because he was so interesting, barely convinced my editor to print the piece (not because it was a poorly written piece but because he kept saying, “Is this really newsworthy?”), then went home and wrote three short stories based on random snippets of the trolley driver’s life and bits of advice he threw in that inspired me. 
I was happy with the piece I wrote about him for the paper, but I was really proud of the three short stories I wrote. 
I felt like I would explode if I didn’t get to people watch and get inspired by their lives and write my own stories.
I remember the moment I decided to cave and take a job with a newspaper even though I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do. 
But it seemed like I had to start out with a paper because that’s what my degree was in. 
I remember the moment I decided it didn’t matter how much money I was making. 
Or how my “career path” was going because I was miserable and just wanted to come home. 
I remember the moment I had a meltdown because I had been jobless for 7 months. 
And I didn’t know if anyone would ever hire me ever because I couldn’t sell myself well enough in an interview because I had no idea what I should be doing with my life.
I remember the moment I was offered a temp position with CUPA-HR. 
I was sitting in the parking lot of the library after having just checked out four new books to try and distract me from the fact that I was jobless for the eighth month in a row. My first day was covered in me being bright eyed and full of determination, thinking that if I could just get this company to love me and hire me full time, I would never ever leave them.
I remember the first time I ever cried at the thought of being at my job for the rest of my life. 
Not because it was the worst job in existence, not even the worst job I had ever had. But because it was a terrible fit for me. I could feel that this was not what I was supposed to be doing with my life. It didn't matter how good of a boss my boss was or how many friends I made at work or how they had a free gym for me to use. They could give me all the best health benefits or perks in the world (and believe me, they give their employees really really REALLY good benefits) I would still go home each night with feelings of craving, even if I wasn't sure what the craving was for. 
I remember the moment I knew Barnes and Noble would offer me the job. 
And the same moment when I knew I would take it, regardless of the massive pay cut or how it would look to others that I left a good job with a good company making good money and getting good benefits to take a part-time job at a bookstore making exactly half what I was making, all the while taking a pretty grand leap into thinking I could be my own boss and manage a freelance and writing career.
(Yes, that is my employee badge at the top, and I have been there now for three weeks and it feels like home more than any job I've ever had.) 
I remember the moment I let my cares about what people would think of my job path dissolve.
I remember the moment that I saw how everything was connecting and could connect, and how I was maybe taking steps to do what I was created to do.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

That Dirty Addiction No One Talks Much About

See those three bottles of Ranch dressing? Meet my vice. Or at least, my vice before last Friday, when I was told that my borderline diabetes was creeping up to be full on diabetes if I didn't make a change. So if you'll notice, what you're looking at is three bottles of ranch dressing, a bag of spicy jalapeno chips, and a container of croutons.

All currently in the trash.  

I can tell you this hurt throwing them away. 

I can tell you I nearly cried when I emptied out my fridge of all ranch dressing. 

I can tell you, but you probably already guessed it from the above two sentences, that I have an unhealthy relationship with food, and have for years.

Looking back over my most unhappy years of my short 27 years of life, I can see where food slowly became a companion because I didn't have any other humans to act as a companion. I can see where food slowly but surely began to be a replacement for friends. I can see where I ate to convey every sad and pathetic and depressed and even happy emotion that I had for years.

Somehow we don't talk much about food addiction in the culture where I live. Sure we talk about alcohol addiction (at least sometimes we do) and we talk about sex addiction (but in a sort of taboo kind of way) and I'm grateful for the talks and tears and aches and Godly wisdom I've received from my circle about those things. But food addiction is just something that doesn't really come up in conversation.

And yet I can't possibly be the only one who does everything with food: I celebrate small and large victories with food, I reward myself with food, I eat to cope with hard emotions, I suffer alongside of food.

I know I'm not the only one.

So let's talk about it.

Let's talk about how much easier it is to be overweight, or how much easier it is to go through the drive through of Wendy's than cook a healthy dinner at home, or how much easier it is to sit on the couch with a pizza box and Netflix than swim 20 laps at the pool. Anyway, it sure is for me.

Maybe not everyone needs a kick in the pants to realize that as cliche as it sounds, the best things in life take work and determination. But like fun I do.

So I'm learning to be grateful that I'm a diabetic and I'm grateful that I have possible food-induced panic attacks and I'm grateful I have Meniere's disease.

Without these things, I would never have thrown away the three bottles of ranch dressing in my fridge.

Friday, April 7, 2017

It Could Be A Lot Worse

It took me a long time to admit I needed one of those. 

I was diagnosed with Meniere's disease in February of 2016. That's when I started taking my first daily prescription. 

Then in January of this year, I finally worked up the courage to go to the doctor for the crippling panic attacks I had been having for four months. 

That's when I also learned I have hypothyroidism and am borderline diabetic. 

So now I take four prescribed medications. 

I constantly tell myself it could be so much worse. I could have cancer or only one arm or be in and out of hospitals instead of just doctor's offices. 

It could be a lot worse. 

But it's not great now. 

I get spouts of vertigo with the Meniere's, I can't remember how to breathe or stop crying or stand when I get a panic attack, and thanks to my stupid left ear's inner canal mixed with the Meniere's, I'm also prone to ear infections (3 a year like clockwork to be exact). Some of the medicine I take for the panic attacks gives me mood swings, another medicine makes my stomach churn, another that ironically helps with vertigo makes me dizzy. I have to be incredibly careful with my diet, or if I'm not, I pay. 

It could be a lot worse. 

Writing it all out reminds me that truly it could be so much worse. 

I have so much to be thankful for, way more things than the side effects I encounter from my medications, way more than the health problems I deal with. 

I have a ridiculously too good for me man who reminds me how to breathe when I get a panic attack. 

I have a family that loves me unconditionally and who constantly reminds me that they're here for me always. 

I have a best friend who reminds me in love to not cheat on my diet. 

I have other friends who pray for me and walk with me and make me laugh and forget all the crap. 

I have a God Who never gives me more than I can handle, even when sometimes it feels like a lot. Cause when it does feel like a lot, He nudges me towards Him so He can hug me. 

I have books to escape to and movies to explore and a cat that is weird but adorable and a good boss who lets me take sick days and work from home when it gets bad. 

It could be a lot worse. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Abbey Of Gethsemani

Last weekend, Bert and I visited the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. Being the introverted worrier I am, I had the long weekend all planned out in my head and thought I knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into.

Of course - of course - I was completely and totally wrong.

As I packed the day before we left, I told myself to not expect to have a divine revelation or great religious and other worldly experience, to just let what happens happen.

But I was hoping for a divine revelation or great religious and other worldly experience. I even thought maybe I deserved one.

We were at the Abbey for about three hours before I realized this was the worst way to start a weekend intentionally looking for God.

Sadly, I didn't come to the revelation that I shouldn't expect a revelation on my own. I was told, gently but enthusiastically, by a monk named Carlos. He stood in front of a room of fifteen or so of us and kindly told us how not to retreat.

By the time the weekend was over, I was so grateful for Carlos, because through his words, I was able to have what my soul really needed - a sweet time just resting in God's presence and learning more about the side of Him that's my friend.

I read back over my journal notes from that weekend tonight. It took awhile because if you put a writing introvert in an Abbey of silence for three days, she'll practically fill an entire notebook of thoughts and prayers.

If any of the 3 people who read my blog are even a little bit intrigued by the idea of going away for a few days and resting in God's presence in a state of silence, let me know and I will pack your bags for you and push you out the door towards the Abbey.

If you need another reason to go to the Abbey, I give you exhibit A:

When you get to the Abbey after you run out the door because that view, one of the first things you'll do is meet Carlos. After I met him, I was so entranced and inspired by him I couldn't help but take pen to paper and write out my encounter with this wonderful monk:

"The first thing you notice about him - besides the robes or the almost hidden crocks under them - are the laugher lines around his eyes.

You can see them clear as day, extending from the frame of his glasses nearly to his ears.

The second thing you notice about him is his thick Filipino accent. Sometimes his words get lost into his throat, but even if you only catch 75% of his words, you'll feel content.

Even, dare I say it, blessed.

His words and his laughter lines alike are rich in both wisdom and simplicity.

Wisdom because he knows when to laugh and the best times to tell a joke, like the one he ended his talk with the second night I was lucky enough to hear him.

Simplicity because he tells you things that everyone in the room knows somewhere in the back of their mind, but the thing needed to be said aloud to bring it roaring up to the front of their mind to take deep root and live.

He's not afraid to tell you what you shouldn't do, and this is honestly what makes him lovable. Being told that how you are approaching something in your mind is wrong is a tricky thing to do well, but with his almost teddy bear personality, Carlos is the best person for the job.

After gathering introverted courage and walking up to thank him for speaking, we were rewarded with well-wishes and advice on our upcoming marriage, a moment that will not easily be forgotten.

You know somewhere in your mind that monks are just like the rest of us, with real life heartache and trauma and beautiful victories, but it took Carlos for this to hit home.

Thank God and peace be with dear Carlos, the friendliness monk to ever monk."

                                                         *                 *                  *

Another thing I learned while at the Abbey is that I am not Catholic.

I had never been to Mass before this trip, and after attending my first Mass, I again picked up pen and paper and got out all my thoughts about Mass:

"When the first long moment of silence happened, I thought perhaps one of the monks had forgotten it was their turn to read.

When the second and third and fourth moment of silence happened, I comprehended that the monks are not afraid of the silence as I am.

This is what I took most from the service. I am afraid of silence and the monks, who live in holy silence, are not.

I think I would have felt just as lost and out of the place if I had had a booklet of songs and responses during the service. Perhaps the only difference would have been my anciness for the service to end knowing how many pages were left.

I arrived early for the service, about fifteen minutes before Terce was to begin. I wanted to give my mind time to slow down, to rest in the preparation, to inhale the calm of the chapel.

Really to prepare me for the beauty I anticipated I would experience.

I suppose there were moments when I saw glimpses of beauty, where I almost felt God.

Mostly what I experienced was a divine revelation that I am not, nor will I ever be, drawn to become a Catholic.

It is possible, likely even, that if I had grown up Catholic, or even attended a Mass before 27, that I would feel differently, that I could find the glory with ease.

I'm being unfair. I can see how one could sense the Spirit of God in Mass, or be brought to tear by the liturgy, or moved to a deeper faith by way of the holy rituals.

I can see how one could.

I just can't.

Maybe it's because before my adulthood relationship with Christ, I first really fell in love with Jesus a few rows back from the pulpit in an open-minded Baptist German church. I wanted to be baptized after a somewhat fire-and-brimstone type sermon by a visiting pastor at this same church. And I first discovered that closing your eyes and raising your hands can be a very appropriate response to a singer belting out worship music backed up by an electric guitar and drums at a winter retreat with my young group here.

So maybe I just learned to find God in a different way than those celebrating Mass.

I don't go to a Baptist church anymore. I also don't raise my hands in worship much either.

These days when I really feel the power of God in a place, my reaction is to remove my shoes ("Moses, take off your sandals, for the place you are standing is holy ground"), sit down, and begin furiously writing down prayers of adoration or cries of woes or general thankfulness to God for His Presence.

I'm not sure what branch of Christianity that makes me. But I don't mind not knowing so much."

These are just a few of my experiences with God from this weekend. But after you go to the Abbey (because seriously, these views), I can't wait to swap stories with you.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"I like corny. I'm looking for more corny in my life."

The title line is from The Holiday, and it's the best line possibly in any movie ever, and I wish every day that I had written it. 

When you're a writer who's not writing, I guess it's only natural to end up where I currently am.

Which is knowing that something's wrong and missing, and just being grumpy about it all the time.

So I did what any writer in a slump does - put on a movie with a fantastic screenplay and wished for the day the screenplay writer is me.

I think as I get older, I want instant results or an immediate change more and more, and I forget that old cliche that the best things in life are worth waiting for.

I also forget that I've had to work damn hard to get literally everything I have in my life. So why should writing be any easier.

I want writing to be easier. Being a writer was how I defined myself for so long, I felt like I was entitled for it to be easy, for the inspiration to just flow naturally.

But tonight as I sat on my couch with a half-eaten bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and yelling at Nancy Meyers for making The Holiday almost too good, I was struck with humility and pride all at the same time.

The humility because I don't deserve anything I've worked hard for, but God in His mystical and crazy ways has allowed me to have it. If it's in my best interest and His best will, then I'll get what I work hard for. Period.

The pride because do I really want something to be published that I half-assed? I'm way too much of a perfectionist for that. I should be submitting the seventeenth draft, not the second. I should be thoughtful and deliberate in my writings, not willy-nilly or just cause. I should write something that I can be proud to show strangers and friends alike.

I hate slumps. So I'm going to get out of this one.

Watch and learn, kids.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

You’d Think By Twenty-Seven

You’d think by 27, I’d have figured out how to not spill water all over myself like I did this morning.

You’d think by 27, I’d have learned how to not oversleep.

You’d think by 27, I’d have figured out what to do with my hair. Today so far, I have straightened it, put a headband in it, taken the headband out, put the headband back in, taken the headband out and put bobby pins in it, taken the bobby pins out and tried braiding a portion of it, only to finally just wear it down and let it do what it wants. All before 9 a.m.

You’d think by 27, I’d have found my shade of lipstick. Or at least learned how to wear lipstick without feeling like a five year old who just raided her mom’s makeup case.

You’d think by 27, I’d have my dream job. Or at least make enough to not count my pennies and feel that buying new underwear at Target is a splurge.

You’d think by 27, I’d have a house full of playful kittens who all love each other along with the one neurotic old grumphead cat I currently have. Some day…

You’d think by 27, I would have at least something to show for my passion for writing besides a weird blog I sometimes write in and a movie review blog with a grand total of three movie reviews.

You’d think by 27, I’d know how to walk in heels. Or walk in flats, for that matter.

You’d think by 27, there would be nothing left for me to pin on Pinterest (just kidding, there’s always more to pin).

You’d think by 27, I’d have stopped envying other girls for the way they looked and learn to take care of my body properly.

You’d think by 27, I’d have learned which Instagram filter is the most flattering, and never to get on the Facebook because it just pisses me off every time.

You’d think by 27, I’d be better at time management.

You’d think by 27, I’d know that eating $15 of Taco Bell will make me sick.

You’d think by 27, I’d have learned the value of spending time every day alone with God and actually do it.

You’d think by 27, I’d know how to not be awkward when opening presents in front of people.

You’d think by 27, I’d have found my soulmate and someone who not only gets my sense of humour, but shares my sense of humour to a tee.

Oh wait, that last one has come true. 27, you’re too good to me.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Why I Go To The Movies Alone

[Note: I actually wrote this piece as a guest article for another blog, but as it simply never got published, I decided it would be a waste not to publish it on my own blog.] 

The first time I ever went to see a movie by myself, I went to see Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World.

I was terrified as I walked up to the counter and asked for one single ticket.

I also felt hilarious because of the irony of my movie choice whilst being alone, but that’s beside the point.

I had this preconceived notion that it was sad and depressing and just plain pathetic going to the movies alone. I thought everyone in the theater would judge me or feel sorry for me, and I didn’t like either of those options. I remember being in high school and seeing people alone at the movies and swearing that I would never be that pathetic.

And then after college I moved to a city where I had no friends and was five and half hours away from family, and had no choice but to be pathetic and go to the movies alone. I befriended my town’s $2.50 movie theater after living in the city for six months and swallowing my pride long enough to tell the guy at the counter that I just needed one ticket.

An hour into the movie, it hit me that going to the movies alone was the best thing that could have ever happened to me at that time in my life.

No one is watching you. Literally.

I have always been a self-conscious person, caring way more about how people view me than I should.

But in a dark movie theater, I realized that literally no one is looking at me or cares that I’m there by myself. They’re there to watch a movie, not watch me.

There is a lot of freedom in realizing that you don’t have to worry what others are thinking about you because they’re not paying you a bit of attention.

A movie theater alone can be a little slice of heaven.

I was in a place where it didn’t seem to matter that I didn’t know anyone or was alone. I could laugh with people, cry with them, be shocked, amazed, inspired, and all without even talking to them. I could eat snacks and junk food in public to my heart’s content, and no one judged me because no one was looking at me.

An introvert’s paradise, really.

Going to the movies made me take myself on a date.

That may sound silly, but I was alone in a city I didn’t want to be in, and it was really easy for me, on my days off, to stay in bed till 3 p.m. feeling sorry for myself. The movie theater got me out of bed, dressed in something other than sweatpants.

I used to consider going to the movies as like taking myself out on a date. Before going, I would shower, put on makeup, do my hair, dress up a little even maybe, not for anyone but myself. I would buy popcorn at the movies and not have to share with anyone. I didn’t feel so gloomy and self-pitying while I was enjoying a movie.

Even though I currently actually have a few friends now and am dating someone I can drag to the movies, I still sometimes take myself to a movie alone, just to cheesily remind myself that I’m my friend and I’m pretty cool.