Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A sanctuary for the funky

My Tuesday refrain was a short one.

"I'm in a funk," I declared to several friends at the bar last night.

Because Honesty is the Girl Scout badge I wear, and I struggle to leave any emotional stone unturned, I just put it out there. When people asked how I was doing, I answered. I didn't give them the drawn out version of things, how work is busy, life is busy, I'm finding myself continually agitated, blah blah blah. Instead I grabbed onto a PG-rated four-letter word and owned it.

Funk. I'm in a funk.

Rather than causing people to squirm, this seemed to be an agreeable descriptor, one those around me could sit with.

All right, they nodded their heads, you're in a funk. Tell me more.

In fact, my pals at the local watering hole seemed to really want to know more. They leaned in to listen, and one person, after our conversation got cut short, caught up with me later and requested more info about this funk.

Another, when I told him of my state, said matter of factly and not at all in jest, that most of the people he meets at this bar are in some sort of a funk.

I found strange comfort in his straight, insightful observation. I don't hope for others to be in a funk, but I thought it was markedly interesting what he had to say about the crowd around us.


On Monday I found myself in tears.

In what started as another conversation, I discovered over dinner with Alex that I feel very disconnected from my friends in LA.

In the last year, I've spent the bulk of my time with Alex and Abby. While this has been fantastic and I wouldn't take it back, I realized in an alarmingly discouraging moment that I have woefully neglected my other local friendships and the consequences are real.

I don't mean for it to sound like I'm being punished for largely fostering only two major relationships, but I suddenly realize something that I've already known, but recently forgot: all relationships take tending too. Like plants, they will wilt if not watered and sunned. Soil must be tilled, lunch dates must be had.


Now let me just declare here -- Yes. Declare. -- that I am the Queen of long distance friendships.

Several people who I love dearly live more than 1,500 miles away. I have not lived in the same town as any of them in at least four years.

And yet -- with very few lunch dates, our soil has been tilled. We have survived. And we still love each other. We still embrace heartily when we reunite.

So maybe I just need to master the lunch date? I'm a pro at flying Southwest, but not the best social organizer?

My friend Courtney (who's a member of the 1,500-mile club) suggested that maybe all my writing and analyzing of late is contributing to my funk. Perhaps I'm zeroing in on why I'm upset and focusing on whether or not I'm a good lunch dater when maybe all I need to do is ride this out.

Worthwhile thought, indeed, and I am reminding myself of it each day.

But if y'all will indulge me, I will analyze my night at the bar/the state of my life in general.

(Because I can't seem to stop writing these days and as a writer when that happens you kind of want to latch onto it and never let gooooooooooooooooooo.)


I find it ironic, and awesome, that while I'm in the midst of taking inventory of my local friendships (I literally made a list), I seem to have found my Cheers.

In Los Angeles, of all places. Don't get me wrong, this city is so right for me in many ways, but it's not exactly lauded for its friendliness.

In the church I attended here for several years, our pastor seemed to always be preaching about loneliness and community. It could have just been me and the struggling state I was often in while attending there, but it seemed that the loneliness in that place was palpable. I know it's been life-giving to a lot of the church's members, but the congregation has seen more than one suicide over the years, and the pastor doesn't preach on loneliness because he's out of sermon topics.

Again, please don't get me wrong. Before I go any further let me say that I am in no way blaming the church for suicides of its members. And while they are not perfect institutions, churches around the world get so much right. They are not immune to scandal, and abuse, and broken heartedness. But I know firsthand that they are full of people who love and want others to feel God's love, period.

But church can be a hard place to be real. We go there for an encouraging message, and I think somewhere in there we get mixed up inside ourselves, thinking that because we know the Truth about our salvation and the peace that is offered to us, that we must act like we are at peace in this very moment. Sadly, there is very much a mentality that to be a "good Christian" we must always exude happiness, because to be unhappy with our circumstances feels like rebellion against God, to express to Him that we are not pleased with the life we have.

Also we're Americans and we're trained to act like we've got it all together.

Also we're human. Broken humans always want to appear whole. Christians nod their heads when they hear that God is our potter and we His clay, but privately we fear that if people see our cracks, they will not want to spend time with us.


I want the church to look a little like my favorite bar.

I want people to walk in alone, tired, overwhelmed, and make a friend. I want them to leave feeling renewed. (This legitimately happens at my bar. Many people who patronize the place arrive solo, and people are always meeting new friends, sharing the pool table, cheering on karaoke performances, offering a cigarette light.)

I want people to look back on their time spent at church, and smile, and look forward to going back the next week.

I want people to feel free to cry, and to find a hand on their shoulder and hear a voice saying, "Me too." God, those two words are so powerful to a person who is suffering. If that's all you can mutter, by all means do it. "Me too." "I get it." "I've been there."


Some of the charms of my local bar are obvious.

I'm drawn to the 50 cent games of pool, the cold beer, the worn in, mixed-up décor. A surf board here, some books there, an inverted Tiffany lamp hidden in a corner so dark it took us months to notice.

But there's more to it. This bar that I frequent is a sanctuary for those in a funk. Yes, I wish with all my heart that one of these days these bar friends of mine will find themselves a mile down the road inside the doors of my church. I want them to find peace there, and with God. But for now I'm happy to share in fellowship and friendship within the walls of a saloon. And I'm so grateful that my bar pals -- and I -- have found a place where we can safely be in a funk.

These people may not know my whole history. I may not know them well enough to know that were they to move 2,000 miles away I would hold onto their friendship, nurture it, till the soil.

But they're in my backyard, and I'm looking for friends in my city, so why not start there? And when a certain four-letter word escapes my lips, these new friends don't run for the hills.

You're in a funk? they say. Fine by me. Let's rack up the pool balls and talk about it.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Inventory the confetti

I wonder if any of the great philosophers have anything to say about being grouchy.

Probably just something not helpful like: "Don't be grouchy," which is about as helpful as simply telling someone to "Be patient."

Ah yes, of course, great philosopher, why didn't I think of that? Why don't I just reach into my bag here and dig out my patience...

I've been defaulting to grouchiness lately, and it's making me regret that I haven't purchased a coffee mug at Disneyland with Grumpy on it. I feel as if I would feel some solidarity if I had a ceramic dwarf on my desk this morning, reminding me that he, too, is a little cranky, and I am not alone.

Now, first. It is Monday. I am trying to recognize and remind myself of that. I tend to enjoy Monday mornings, actually, but I know that sometimes they have a way of carrying a "LIFE IS TERRIBLE" cloud and I might simply need to dodge the shade of that cloud.


This defaulting to grumpiness is not cool with me. In fact, it's making me grumpy.

Where is that coffee mug when I need it?? I NEED THE CERAMIC SOLIDARITY!!!!



I feel like anger, and depression, and anxiety are recognized -- to varying degrees -- as notable issues that warrant some effort and time to be worked on. They're attention-worthy. People are willing -- again, to varying degrees -- to help you work through these things.

But grouchiness?

Not so much, right? I feel like when we're grouchy, we've trained ourselves to maybe rant to a friend, but then to go seclude ourselves until we feel better. I feel like a child in time out. I'm not allowed to socialize until I'm acting like a better-adjusted adult.

So when I find myself continually in the pit of Grumpy, what am I to do? Just cut all ties until further notice?

Let me tell you, as an extrovert, this really doesn't work out for me. When I try and keep myself from social situations for too long, I end up feeling worse.


I just spent a good moment trying to decide what music to turn on. I settled on the Forrest Gump score, and I am still determining if it's the right fit.

I mean, I know I'm a music enthusiast, and as I like to find the perfect word to describe a feeling or a moment, I too like to line up my musical genre or artist with the current mood at hand (or opposite mood, if I'm trying to turn from a negative to a positive mindset, a hyped up demeanor to a calm one, etc.).

But just now it felt a little excessive, like it was too much to decide on a temporary soundtrack.

I talked to a friend recently who's been keeping up with my blog posts and she said, "It sounds like you're working through some stuff. Are you OK?"

The knee jerk in me thought: of course I'm OK.

But maybe I'm not. Maybe this continued grouchiness is something to look at more closely with my emotional microscope.


It did occur to me today that life is not meant to serve me. I am blessed and have been very fortunate in many ways, but this world is not designed to meet my every whim and fancy.

Sure, it's frustrating to deal with this negativity in my bones, but maybe it's just a season. I don't mean that I'm not going to keep an eye on it, because I take emotional well being very seriously, and I hope and pray that others will too, always.

But sometimes the world feels like it's ending and you just realize you need a nap, you know?

Or a snack. Snacks are highly important in this life. I have learned to be prepared at any given moment with a book, cross stitch, and either readily available food or a credit card ready to swipe at a gas station snack shop.

And water. Boy has paying attention to my water intake made a difference in my life.

I wonder if this grumpiness, in fact, is a sign of my state of generally being spoiled; I may be experiencing a break from life's carnival and, like an ungracious host, I have no desire to take a moment and clean up the discarded confetti on the ground, to ready my life for the next gala.

Instead of reflecting on the recent joys of my life -- and there have been many fun occasions -- I am disgruntled that the music has stopped, that the guests have left.

I want my confetti to be forever in the air, apparently. At least when I so dictate it.


So what can I do?

I've asked Alex to keep an eye on me. He in turn suggested I write down these feelings to take to therapy.

I suppose I can also inventory the confetti.

I can list all the great things that I've been able to experience lately.

When I get done writing this blog, I can make a gratitude list (I'm a huge advocate for these) regarding my day and life today.

I can look at what's coming up, to look forward to.

When I worry that negative things may be coming my way, I can remind myself that life is always unpredictable and it is best to live in the present and live in hope.

I can get some water.

And I can practice breathing. Breathing through the negative until it passes. Breathing through the boredom, the doldrums, the hum drum.

I can reframe. As much as I like to offer myself time to feel my negative feelings (and I don't frown on this, to a point), I can look at how I can make certain situations more palatable. When the confetti's not in the air, I can look for other positive things at life's party.

Ooh, what a beautifully decorated cake.

Isn't that nice, so-and-so drove so far to be here and celebrate with us.

[Claps hands] Look! A cooler full of beer!


I truly, truly hope my blog doesn't sound like it's full of simplified platitudes. If it's bothering you, maybe just see past it as my attempt at positive self talk. If it helps you, great. I've just found that when I inventory my confetti (not that I've been doing it lately), I see how consistently it helps turn a mood around.

Maybe my grouchiness is here to teach me how to exercise my skills learned over the years in order to weather more than just a moment's mood, but to survive a season of a mood.

So here I go, wish me luck. I'm going in, with a dustpan. I'm going to scoop up that confetti, and remember what each piece felt like as it was suspended in air.

The way my heart was pounding when we yelled "Surprise!" for Abby's birthday.

The way the sunset hovered with us, as we slowly sipped margaritas on the deck of the ship.

The rush as I pull the microphone out of its stand, my turn to sing for my karaoke audience.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to write a gratitude list, drink some water, and do some yoga breathing.

And to sweep some confetti off the floor.

No need for a trash can, though. I'm putting that confetti in my pocket, so I can toss it up again. When the moment's just right.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Weepy reader

It happened.

A book finally made me cry.

I mean, I think this has sort of happened before. I came across a Little Golden Book in a drugstore once that got me on the verge of tears, and if I had let it I could have dropped a tear onto the page which I would have then had to purchase.

Which I did anyway.

Three copies.

One for niece and nephew, children of one brother.

One for nephew, child of another brother.

And one for me -- duh.

The basic plot was animals in a barn telling the story of how they remembered Jesus' birth. And they were like, magical animals, because their owners lived in modern day, but the animals still remembered the ancient story as if they were there.

Just tell me you wouldn't get misty right there in Rite Aid.

It was so sweet and gently powerful that I couldn't not put it in the hands of my niechews.

So there were almost-book-tears once.

Welllll, and now that I think about it, Kelly Corrigan's The Middle Place made me cry, I think.

But this crying as the result of reading a book recently, it was different, OK?

Thanks to Marisa de los Santos' gorgeous and wise prose, tears were a-free flowing as I finished off the final chapters of her book and licked my reading chops, more than satisfied with my literary meal.

In de los Santos' Belong to Me (the sequel to Love Walked In), things (almost) end with an explosion.

Feelings blow up -- anger, confusion, grief. Things become not what people thought or expected or wanted in their lives.

"No house is big enough to hold us, with all of our tensions, all our wariness and histories," she writes.

This terribly gifted writer does a beautiful job of weaving together several lives in her almost-400 page book, and entwines them in a way that leaves each of them hanging in their own private but ultimately shared balance.

But only for a moment.

Because -- and this is where my tears started to appear -- then she ends everything with a baptism.

[Sorry not sorry for the spoiler alert. (You should still totally read the book).]

Churches like to argue about whether baptism should occur with infants or adults, but here's what I see: it's new life no matter what. It's an ability to rise again, a new chance that is gifted to us, not earned. We can't do anything but let the water fall over us and wash us clean.

When I get really selfish, and feisty, and grumpy and ugly and dig my heels into the crusty ground, I am not consumed by all this.

We may only be baptized with water once, but His mercies are new every morning.

God holds these lives of ours, not us. He's the only one who can truly erase pride, and anger and hurt and all the other muck.


"Yes, pain is abominable, a nightmare," writes de los Santos. "But pain reveals, when we've had to throw all else overboard, what is left in our personal sinking boat."

Thanks to people in my life who have patiently seen me through my (not always pretty) growing pains over the years, I didn't lose anyone to the raging sea. They're all still present in my boat. Hallelujah.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

When honey breaks

Blah...Sunday blues!

I feel like I've mostly outgrown these, but occasionally they come back to hang out.

As I sit through them this moment in time, I am grateful that a wonderful man is sitting next to me, available for emergency snuggles and talk-about sessions if need be. And I take comfort simply in his presence. Thank God for this addition to my life.

To weather this particular bout, I have the following game plan (aside from talking to Alex if I need to). I've opened the blinds, to let the last bit of daylight in. I can read my book (written by Louis Sachar, author of the Wayside books and Holes, who is still publishing!). I can drink water. I can take Alex on a walk.

That sounds like he's my dog.


I can also write -- I can share with you what was on my mind this morning, before I blazed into the afternoon with its pizza and Friends and taxes (yes, I filed today) and a cushy bed to read in.


This morning I woke at 8 and was like:


I was up, and I was already looking for a change of location. Sometimes you just wake up ready for action, ya know? Usually I'm just ready for coffee, but today was different. I packed a bag with four -- yes -- books and was out the door in about five minutes.

I ordered the quinoa "power" oatmeal at Panera (yes, I live there), and settled in with my coffee in a cozy booth.

When my breakfast was delivered to my table, I took a spoonful. The honey was impossible to miss upon hitting my tongue. Just a little, nearly invisible dollop upon the almond topping was enough to really sweeten things up.

I'm not a big eater of honey. I had a brief but enthusiastic zeal for toast drizzled in honey during high school, but said season came and went without ever making a reappearance.

One, as Alex can tell you with rolled eyes, I'm big on refined sugar.

Two, well maybe that's it. I just prefer the processed terrible-for-you stuff over the natural option.

I'm working on it. Did I mention I ordered quinoa oatmeal today??


I tend to float through my days, of late. Well, I race, really, but with a lot of happiness in me as I jump from birthday party to cat snuggle to drinks with Alex to project at work to dinner with a friend to...

I only seem to slow down for sleep, but for once I'm not rushing from thing to thing to avoid the thoughts in my head. I'm just stimulating my brain and feeding all its passions, rather than trying to avoid depression. I still get the blues (seldom but occasionally), like today, but even now I feel less like a monkey swinging from tree branches and more like a groggy sloth waking from a nap. I am writing as a means to breathe through the blasé, not as a flight from, well, facing it.

But where was I? Sorry, this was much more organized in my head earlier, when I wasn't in sloth mode. 

Oh yes, I float.

Like Mario collecting coins in the sky, I float.

But as Mario has to eventually complete the game level, he comes down from above the clouds. And so do I.

Or at least, I feel myself maybe slipping downward. I feel it as a possibility.

And I get scared.

Instead of tasting the sweetness of life's honey, suddenly there's a pinch as I let my mind wander, and a taste of metal enters my mouth, like I'm a curious kid who's popped a penny in my mouth and suddenly regretted it.

The fear of something bad isn't like it used to be, where I'd feel happy for a day and fear that I'd be down the next. I rarely worry that life's big dark cloud will come to hang over my head, the cloud of depression and never-ending anxiety and fear that used to hang over me.

But for whatever reason, I fear other clouds. Death of people close to me. Natural disasters. Missiles launching. Cancer. Losing relationships.

This morning, though I marched into my favorite coffee place with energy, I was followed in by a sense of foreboding. Subtle, but there.

Sometimes I can chalk this up to fatigue, or stress, or even boredom. I blame it on something else, look back at the people I love, and move on. But on other days I have a hard time getting past the thought of "My good run has gone on long enough, it's bound to be my turn to be dealt a bad lot soon."

This is terribly healthy, and I'm sure my therapist is applauding with glee.

But I can't deny it. These thoughts come to visit me sometimes, and they cause me to feel less like I'm in the clouds and more like they're rolling in on me.


My church gives jars of honey to its guests. I'm not sure why it does this, but I also am not one to question such kind hospitality. It might have to do with a Bible verse, or it could just be because it's a nice thing to do, and we want people to feel welcome.

I was recently with some people at church, and one of them who will remain unnamed dropped his jar of honey on the ground.

We were all shocked for a moment, immediately running through our minds the steps it takes to clean up broken glass, until we were stopped by something else.

Examining the mess, we realized rather quickly that there was less of a shattered explosion on the concrete and more of a self-contained, slow ooze unfolding -- or unpouring -- before us.

It was so interesting that we all lost focus on the problem and instead commented on the physic novelty of the situation.

The honey was so thick and sticky that it clung to the slivers of glass and the glass to the honey. Had there been water in the jar, the shards would have shot further outward from the point of impact.

It was like the honey and the glass were one, a devoted couple clinging to each other in a time of distress.


Now this may sound obvious, but broken glass stresses me out.

I know, right? As if it's a downright celebration for others.

I just hate the urgency of it. You have to take care of it right away. You have to corral people, and pets, and babies, keeping them from the area.

You have to find the broom. Really, worldwide panic ensues.

And then you're never sure if your work is done. For days after, you're nervous to enter within 10 feet of the area without, at the very least, wearing socks. And if you're really neurotic, like some of us are privileged to be, you worry that infants will stick glass in their mouth, that animals will get it stuck in their paws, that basically everyone will go to the hospital due to your own negligence.

So in a weird way, during the Broken Honey Jar of 2016, I found myself...comforted? Maybe just calm. But yes, comforted that we weren't dealing with a bigger broken-glass issue than I'm used to.


My pastor, Rustin, preached today about everyday life. He referenced Romans 12:9-21, which basically just says:

  • Be nice. 
  • Don't seek revenge.
  • Hate evil.
  • Love each other.

Basic Christian stuff, right? So a pretty good text for a sermon on basic everyday life.

I like these everyday messages in church, because they make me feel secure in working a normal, domestic job, for being slow in reaching my write-a-book dreams, blah blah etc.

But today, as I kept picturing that jar of honey on the ground, I thought of all the clouds that could come visit me at anytime. I thought of the clouds that are visiting people in my life.

An infant with frightening disease. Thoughts of suicide. A marriage broken up. A spouse recently passed.

How is it that I remain untouched by such atrocities, I thought? Sure, I had a rough time -- a legitimately rough time -- in my twenties, but I'm still pretty young yet. What if something terrible's around the corner?

I can hear my therapist's applause getting louder. We've moved into a standing ovation, really.

So here's what I latched on to today, to keep myself from getting sucked under the umbrella of hypothetical storm clouds.

Romans 12:9 -- "Love must be sincere."

Simple enough, right? I can do that, love sincerely. And where I can't, I can pray for help. And let me tell you, it is such a comfort to know that only God can make us feel certain things -- I love just turning it over sometimes, and waiting for results inside me.

And Romans 12:12 -- "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."

Joyful in hope. I feel like that's a mysterious little phrase, and I find the Bible to be full of those. But be joyful, and be in hope -- AKA be hopeful. Embrace joy. Embrace hope. This is how I'm going to interpret this (and wait for the ministers and theologians in my life to break it down for me further -- ahem, Rustin, Caleb, Dad).

Faithful in prayer.

Pray for my own life, and pray for others, particularly the people who are under storm clouds at the moment.

And be patient in affliction.

This is tough. I mean, yowza. I know someone who lost her husband, and you want me to ask her to be patient?! I would think when you get the one free pass at screaming and throwing a fit in life, it's when you've lost your great love. But who am I to argue with Scripture?

And who knows? Maybe the point of patience in affliction is to make the heartbreak slower. That seems, in a way, horribly cruel, that we should ever have to endure pain for a longer period of time. But when things are slower they also aren't as sharp. And we aren't rushed through our grief.

I don't know. I'm just yammering to try and make sense of it all.

But I know this: I can praise the Lord that I'm not facing serious, crippling affliction right now in my life. Perhaps God wants me to enjoy the ride, and not think about when it might end?

And as I kept thinking about that jar of honey this morning, I couldn't help but think that if and when a storm cloud comes to hover over me, I hope that I can be held together like that broken jar of honey.

I hope that my church family, new as it is to me, and my Alex, my friends, my family -- I hope that they can be like sweet honey around me, keeping me from shattering so far from myself that I can't be swept back together in one place. I hope they can be joyful in their hope for me, faithful in their prayer for me, and patient, like oozing honey, through my affliction.

And through it all, the ups and downs, may our love be sincere. Please, God, help us to be sincere in our love.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

I'd like to thank...

Yesterday I completed the Hollywood Half Marathon. It was an impromptu race, as I jumped in for an injured friend, and it definitely had its challenges. I wasn't always sure that I would cross the red carpet finish line, so I'd like to take a few moments to thank all those who helped make it possible. My apologies in advance for anyone who I forgot.

I'd like to thank the Academy, for providing me with a medal so large it can double as a dinner plate.

Thank you to the producers of Pitch Perfect, and to Taylor Swift, for writing 1989, as both albums helped pump me up during the race.

Thank you to time zones, for making it not rude of me to call Dad at 6 a.m. my time on a Saturday, for the traditional pre-race, over-the-phone prayer.

Thank you to the downhill portions of the course for being slanted downward.

Uphill portions, I think you know how I feel about you.

Thank you to the Red Bull vendors near mile 9, for not throwing your drink in my face when I said, out loud, that I might vomit if I drank your product.

OH THANK HEAVEN for 7 Eleven, for 1) being along the course, and 2) for having vaseline in stock. My chafed legs will be ever grateful.

Thank you, then, to my sports bra, for holding the jar of vaseline, providing me with a very one-of-a-kind rack for the morning.

A HUGE thank you to the police officer who did NOT arrest me for indecent exposure. When you made a bee line toward me after I slathered vaseline on my legs, I have to say my heart raced for reasons other than cardio. Thank you for keeping my record clean.

Thank you to all my friends and family who sent me encouraging and silly texts throughout the race.

Thank you to the genius race organizers for placing the finish line a full mile away from my train stop. I really enjoyed the continued movement after 13.1 miles.

Oh wait.

Thank you, Port-a-Potties, while you were few in number, for being there at all. I was tempted, as many have done in the streets of Hollywood, to drop trou and pee right where I pleased, but thanks to you I didn't have to.

Thank you to Dad, for your running counsel over the phone. For shouting, "NO!" when I asked if I should purchase Neosporin, and insisting I get vaseline instead. Your 60+ way-faster-than-me self is a trusted voice of reason, and I know it may have been annoying to receive several phone calls from me while you were trying to drive across Missouri. Your enthusiasm helps turn my attitude around. Since running is fun for you, it becomes, well, semi-fun for me.

Thank you to the man pushing another adult man in a wheelchair for the duration of the course. You were my "I can do this" inspiration.

Thank you, Alex, for always telling me that I can do things. Your voice over the phone line will ever comfort me.

Thank you to the cross on a steeple that stood in the foreground of my view of the Hollywood sign, reminding me who stands first in my life, for reminding me that this was just a silly race, and I am your beloved child whether I were to finish or not.

Thank you to the five slices of pizza for letting me eat you.

Thank you, bed, for being so comfortable for my nap followed by 12 hours of sleep. Thank you, Max, for snuggling with me all night, every night.

Thank you, Abby, for carbo-loading with me the night before, and letting me borrow your computer to load up the iPod with fresh tunes. And thanks for cracking open a beer for me as soon as I walked in the door, post-race.

Thank you, Becky, for graciously letting me run in your place. I hope your foot feels better soon.

Now, I can see that this speech is getting too long. So before I pull a Julia Roberts, I'm gonna leave you all be.

Me and my sore legs will be perched here in my favorite booth at Panera, hammering out another freelance job. Am I crazy to say I'd rather be back on the course? Spoken like a true procrastinator. Time for a refill on the coffee and to get down to it. Thanks for reading this blog. Writing for the Daily Bailey is my favorite way to put off other work.

Bailey, the girl you can always count on to take a walking break. :)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Missing my 12-year-old self

Gahhhhh, where to start?

For starters, the music at Panera is not matching my groove right now, and for that I am cranky.

Well, more cranky than I was already. 

I'm annoyed by the people near me, talking animatedly and contentedly. 

Go away, People, this is the Cranky Corner. 

I just ate some carbs -- and then some more carbs -- and I am washing them down with bottomless iced tea, so hopefully I will become less cranky as I write this. Ideally, not cranky at all. 

Because I have spent too much time in a bad mood lately. 

At worst, it's disturbing me. At best, it's a reality check? That my life couldn't have continued on that floaty bubble for much longer? 

Maybe I need a pastry. And to run to my car and get headphones, so I don't have to listen to this crap music or this party planning at the table across the way. 


All right. Brownie procured. Tea refilled. Patty Griffin Pandora station, take me away. 

Perfect. First up? Mary. The song that introduced me to Patty, after I read about this exact tune in Don Miller's Blue Like Jazz, a peaceful read in the midst of an anxious final semester of college. 

I am blaring this song. 

It is drowning out all the noises of Panera. 

I think I'm breathing again. 

Thank you, Jesus, for new breath. 

My breath has been rattly and shallow for weeks. 

I don't mean to sound dramatic, but unfortunately my reality is kind of dramatic these days. 

All of a sudden, I'm not very happy. 

I just typed that and I'm questioning if that's even true. 

But I find myself slipping into anger, and annoyance, and impatience, and negativity -- OH THE NEGATIVITY -- every few hours, so doesn't that, on some level, indicate unhappiness?

My 12-year-old self would be so disappointed if she knew I came into a season like this. She was so happy. So positive. So non-comparative to others. She proudly marched down the middle school hallways in religious t-shirts, paying no mind to the girls with make up on, who had attended parties over the weekend where kissing games were played.

Twelve-year-old, never-been-kissed me was more than content perfectly matching her brothers' sarcasm, reading her Babysitters' Club books, cutting and pasting pictures of cows onto three-hole-punched paper and assembling not one but two "cow scrapbooks."

(These scrapbooks are available for viewing at Mom and Dad's Place, Kansas, USA).

It's not that 30-year-old me isn't content with who she is, quirks and cat obsession and all. [I've moved on from cow scrapbooking, but I still have occasionally insane attention for the detail of cross stitching.]

It's that she's so hard on herself. 

I was out for a walk earlier this week, and I realized the real reason I hate working out. (By the way, I used to love to work out). It's not because it's hard, or boring, or that I'd rather be eating fried chicken. 

It's that I spend the entire time I'm pounding the pavement not celebrating the fact that I'm doing something healthy, but instead berating myself for not measuring up, for not being enough. 

Wow, 12-year-old Bailey is PISSED. Gym was her favorite class. 

"Sure, you put on your work out clothes at the end of the work day and you're covering four miles, but you're not running those miles," says Berating Bailey. "It's good that you're walking, yeah, but your stomach will still be soft when you finish this little stroll around the block."

I'll be the first one to recognize that this is terrible. I don't take this negative self talk lightly, which is why I'm trying to address it in the most natural way I know how -- in writing it out. 


I started my day today with a little coffee, fried some bacon so it wouldn't rot in the fridge, and then I got to gettin'. 

I schlepped many clothes to the washer. 

I made my bed. 

I cleared everything off my desk, wiped the dust off. 

I moved some furniture. 

Put books on a shelf, vacuumed two strips of carpet, arranged knick knacks. 

I cooked lima beans. 

I ate the lima beans! Not quite a vegetable, but better than chips, my first food group.

I shuffled clothes in my closet. I grabbed my laundry. I called Dad, bubbling about the fact that I had discovered via Facebook that one of his classmates at the community college used to work with me. 


The happy rug pulled out from under my feet, and I laid into myself. 

Look at your room, it's still such a mess. 

Who cares that your foot hurts? You should suck it up and go for your nine mile walk, to train for your race. 

Alex sounded buoyant on the phone. Why don't you feel that way? Better not go hang out with him or you'll bring him down.


I just don't know when my mind decided it would be acceptable to turn every inaction or anything short of pristine perfection into failures. 


I used to view women as women. Sisters, friends, my makeover queens, the ones who made me laugh in ways the boys never could. 

Now I view them as yardsticks. Skinnier, prettier, more accomplished than me. More organized. Martha Stewart bakeresses extraordinaire. Ones who keep their spaces neat and take their trash out at acceptable life intervals. 

Exercise used to be an option, one step away from being a luxury. My body already looked the way I wanted it to, and I used the activity as a way to chase off anxiety, the blues, and to feel a rush of energy and ecstasy. 

Now I can't win. If I don't exercise, it's a reminder that I have folds under my t-shirt. If I do, it's a slap in the face that what was once a pleasure is now a slow crawl to non-guaranteed success that seems unattainable. 

Worst, I largely blame my anti-depressant/anti-anxiety/mood stabilizing meds for the last several years' weight gain, when I know good and well those puppies saved my life. I will of course choose the pills over slimness, but damn if that's not frustrating.

I used to salivate over books, unable to get my hands on the next masterpiece by Bill Bryson, Lauren Winner, James Herriott, Bailey White, fast enough. 

Now I can hardly read three pages of a new novel without focusing on the fact that the author is only a few years my senior and has already published several books. What did they do that I didn't to achieve such success? Surely they have no struggles in life. 


I hate that you guys are going to read this and start worrying about me. 

I guess I also love that -- that I'm not alone or uncared for, and that my blog (which is almost 7 years young!!) is not a futile cry into the darkness. It falls on listening ears, which is more important than the fact that the number of people in that audience may be a humble one. 

I guess I wanted to believe that the tough part of my life story -- Frodo's battle*, Holden's angst, Jo's being silenced by publishers -- was over. I lived through the anxiety, the depression, I held my head up, I cried, I found helpful medication, I talked to counselors, and now I can be stabilized with 22 milligrams a day and that's that. Now my job is to take care of the people not quite past their Frodo battle. But me? I'm past all that. 

*Frodo had a battle, right? I may not have been quite riveted by the Hobbit to make it further than 100 pages in. 

It's funny -- not exactly "ha ha" funny -- because I kind of feel like I'm fighting the battles now that most of my cohort fought when we were twelve. 



I attended a youth gathering in high school and heard four words there that I will never unhear. 

Gianna Jessen, an incredible singer, had been leading the worship portions of our week's events. I appreciated her talents, but had no idea that there was a possibility I could have missed those talents, until she told us one night that she was living with cerebral palsy, because she had survived a failed abortion. 

I can still hear her saying, measured and powerful: 





The crowd roared, so blessed to have this singing light before us, realizing that for days prior we had taken her voice for granted, not realizing it could have potentially not been there to encourage us. 


As long as I'm being honest here, I will say that I'm not on the brink of death. I'm not thinking about harming myself. I'm not thinking about giving up. 

I -- thank God -- don't have to overcome feelings of not being wanted, as I was born to parents who rejoiced over my birth and have ever since lavished love and praise upon me, helping me through all the muck life would throw at me. 

So it may be extreme to use the phrase "I have not died" as some sort of pick-me-up in my life right now. 

But another phrase comes to mind. From the late, great Ms. Angelou: 

Sure. I'm having a rough go of it. There may be no tool to get me through it other than time. And as always, there is no way through but forward. 

But as hard as it is for me to ignore negative self talk, I have been given this ridiculously powerful survival instinct. When my friend George first met me, he mentioned that he could see it in me. We were simply chatting over some beers about our love for Kansas City, yet he saw something floating in me, like the froth on our drinks. 


So here's my game plan, Folks, because I can't stand to be grumpy any longer, and I hate letting Nastiness win. 

When I see my shadow on the sidewalk, I will not see love handles. 

I will see a body that can walk, and a sun providing warmth and light. 

When my room is messy, I will not count myself less than my peers. 

I will recognize that the task of organizing one's life is large, and I will note my progress. 

When I am not typing, I will remind myself that my daily observations and meditations are future words on a page. 

When I remember that my name cannot be found inside Barnes and Noble, I will tell myself that I am not "published" or "unpublished," but that I am Bailey. 

When I get cranky, I will breathe. I will eat. I will walk. I will regroup. I will call the people who make me laugh, and request prayer from the ones who often bow their heads. 

I will pack up my things at this Panera. I will take a pee break -- because WOW! all the tea. I will drive to see my muffin top, sweet sweet Alex. I will do my best to quiet the negative and to enjoy the evening with the precious man who loves me and whom I love. 

And when I feel like I've lost a better version of myself, I will remember my Shepherd.

I will know that I am one of His lambs. 

I will remind myself that all I have to do is wander the field, snack on some grass, and that He will not lose me.