My Birthday, Jack Bauer, and Fighting Back

My 24th year of life was somewhat similar to the tv show 24. Ironically enough, it was also the year in which I watched all eight seasons of the show and fell in love with Jack Bauer and also Tony Almeida. But not Sherry Palmer, she was legit the craziest person television has ever seen (except for Deb from One Tree Hill).

Anyway, my 24th year of life was like that show in that it was a lot of sleepless nights feeling like I had to save America. Except I am not Jack Bauer and I failed us because Marco Rubio is not President.¬†I tried, but my methods of coercion¬†are a lot less persuasive than Jack’s.

But as I’ve been reflecting on the past year, I’ve found that it was a year of fighting back. It was about finding some stability,¬†standing back up and dusting myself off. It was one of letting go, grabbing back on, and letting go all over again.

Fighting back came in the form of moving to a town where no one knew my name, my face, my history. We didn’t have strings, years of history swimming between us. It came in the form of solitude, getting rid of the voices that told me who I was supposed to be.¬†It took getting alone in a city of strangers to find out who I really am, who I always was, and who I am free to be.

I had to find my footing again. My voice. I had to hear God on my own, without the temptation of distraction. I had to find him in the silence, in the stillness between my own four walls. I had to learn how to stop being afraid of the darkness. I had to learn how to ask questions that ripped my heart to pieces. I had to weigh costs that and decisions that felt impossible to make. I had to learn how to open my doors to my home, to my heart, and risk that it may only be for a season. I had to believe it would still be worth it.

I had to learn how to make speeches that have been stirring in me for years. I was finally able to let go of the pain and regret of unsaid words. I prayed and I still pray that I learn from that pain and I don’t spend so much time in fear. I pray I’ve become the person to¬†take chances and say the things that are worth saying to the people worth saying them to.

I had to learn to laugh. To make plans. To finally plan a birthday that didn’t make me cry, to no longer feel obligated to make that one day a day of redemption and atonement for everything that goes wrong the other 364. I had to learn that boundaries are good and beautiful, that you must embrace and often welcome pain when it comes, but you don’t necessarily have to invite it.

I had to choose to see that holding yourself and others to unrealistically high expectations is rooted in pain and a fear of disappointment. Disappointment is not nearly as bad as your fear of it. The anticipation of everything is always so much worse than the actual thing itself. Worry and dread are the enemy. The results you can live with, it’s the turmoil of inaction that will nearly kill you.

Here at the beginning of 25 I realize that there is still so much I don’t have figured out, there are so many opportunities that sit in front of me and the ever present temptation to be overwhelmed by the options and possible outcomes. But if 24 taught me anything it’s that taking chances is worth it. Nothing ever turns out the way you imagine or anticipate, but it often gives you a gift that far exceeds your expectation. Life and God have a funny way of presenting the right people and places at exactly the right time, and so when you find yourself wanting to dive in, it’s usually got something worth offering to you.

Dive in. Sit in the silence. Weigh the cost. Fight back. Say the thing you need to say. Life is a gift, the opportunities and people in front of you are the best part and every time you let yourself grab onto them, you always find something worth holding onto.

 

Adulting: It’s Not a Thing (or a Verb)

Let’s be honest, we’ve all laughed at a good¬†adulting¬†meme¬†that so adequately describes the difficulties of trying to¬†be a grown up and do the responsible thing.

I will be the first one to admit that the majority of the first half of my twenties has¬†been a complete train wreck. I didn’t own a rain coat for most of it. A rain coat. Even small children own rain coats. I also literally did not understand the phrase¬†take it with a grain of salt until like two weeks ago. So you know, there’s a lot that I have yet to master about adulthood.

But I have become so incredibly annoyed with a generation of people who keep complaining and making t-shirts about how hard it is to¬†adult. Adult is not a verb. It is an adjective. It describes the stage of life that you¬†are in and will continue to be in. You don’t get a choice about that, my friend.¬†You are an adult. You will never be a child again and it is time that you just get past that fact and accept that this, in all its glory, is not a choice.

Your adulthood is just a fact.

When we treat adulthood like a choice we create a lifestyle of really horrible habits. We justify and make jokes about our¬†really poor choices because¬†adulting has become a thing we do or don’t do¬†today.

I love you enough to tell you this because I was the person doing it like eight and half seconds ago.¬†Eating doughnuts for breakfast every morning and watching Netflix until 2 PM in your bed when you’re in your twenties is not cute. It is not worthy of a “like” on Facebook or Instagram.

Being a¬†human is hard sometimes, but the hard parts about it are not your laundry, making your bed, or taking a shower. Difficulty is not¬†looking at your bank account and being sad that you can’t buy more Starbucks.

When we say it out loud, I think we can see how selfish it is: I’m feeding a culture that says life is hard because¬†I¬†want to be able to eat Oreos and not gain weight, or have the luxury of walking into Target¬†and spending $200 on pointless stuff.

We are a product of our choices, the things we do and the things we say. If I keep telling myself that the struggle is real at Target and everyone spends this kind of money because adulting is hard and budgets are hard when I wake up without any money for my future, at least I can laugh about it. I can post about it on Instagram and get a few hundred nods of approval.

Those things are not the hard part about adulthood and if you¬†actually believe that they are, you live in a very small world. You live in a bubble known as¬†entitlement and it’s a really dangerous place to stay. It’s a dangerous thing to joke about. It feeds bad habits. It’s a bubble that I’ve known well and it has caused more grief in my adulthood than maybe anything else.

You know what I love about my grandmothers’ generation? Those women got out of bed every morning, got dressed, took on the world, and sometimes never left their own home to do it. They’d wrangle seven kids looking like they just stepped out of a magazine. I never understood it and I actually thought it was incredibly pointless. But throughout the years of listening to¬†their stories I finally started to understand why.

They did it because getting out of bed, looking presentable, making breakfast, and¬†getting things in order is¬†good stewardship. It¬†is being thankful. It is loving themselves and others well. It is taking care of what God gave them. It is living a lifestyle of worship, of having a grateful heart. It is saying to God: I love and cherish this sweet life that you’ve given me and it is way way more than I deserve. I’m going to take care of it, I’m going to treat it like the gold that it is.

That’s not to say that some of them didn’t have careers. Both of my Grandmothers worked. They showed up for themselves, their kids, their husbands, and worked outside of their homes. They kicked butt (am I allowed to say that about my grandmothers?). They were moms, wives, business women, workers, church members, community members, and more. They were not¬†adulting,¬†they just accepted the fact that they were adults. Most of their generation accepted this a lot younger than¬†I did.

The point of all of this is not to say that we have to be perfect. I will have times of rest.¬†I will also still have some days where I wear sweatpants and watch a few hours of Netflix.¬†I will have times of eating pizza and wishing that it didn’t have so many calories. But that’s not an acceptable daily lifestyle and it’s not a culture that I want to encourage.

God handed me adulthood, sometimes it’s hard, but the fact remains that I don’t get a choice. But how I honor this gift of life¬†and how I choose to respond my¬†God-given responsibilities is entirely up to me.

 

 

Time and Space

We were talking about small victories, about the little choices we make along the path of finally moving on.

She and I both have our stories. We have our chapters where we had everything we thought we wanted, and turned the page to find out that those were the things we could not keep.

My fingers pressed the buttons and typed a sentence that I didn’t even know was true until after it had been said:

“I tried to make time and space my healer.”

I became the person who thought miles and state lines would be the medicine I was desperately seeking.

Sometimes I’m both the fight and¬†flight type of person. When it comes to others, count on me to fight. But when it comes to my own pain, you’ll usually see me¬†headed toward I-85.¬†So, I learned the art of leaning into time and space. I put them¬†on a pedestal¬†and¬†just knew that they¬†would solve all my problems.

So, imagine my surprise when I found myself crying over a bowl of salad and asking one of my best friends if we’d ever stop having this conversation. I begged her to tell me that one day¬†I would¬†wake up to find that the clock’s hands had finally¬†been able to repair all the holes in my heart.

She didn’t promise me that because¬†she knew better. Time and space had not repaired any more of me¬†than the last time we sat across from one another, back when Christmas lights lit up our hometown.

Time and space can sometimes be the tools in His hands, but they are not the one who can fix your brokenness. And the second you think they will, God will set them down and tell you that¬†He’s not going to let you¬†depend on them, you¬†must learn to only depend on Him.

We keep thinking that age and¬†life experience are the things that will save us. They’ll fix the pain and they will make us stronger, healthier, more reliable, less insecure. Eventually,¬†we’re just going to grow up and get it together.

But we’re fooling ourselves when we tell¬†ourselves that God is intimidated by our allegiance to time. We often think that if time doesn’t heal us, He’ll eventually just break down the door and say¬†it has been long enough, I’m just going to fix you and get this over with.

We forget His patience. We forget His willingness to let us work it out and wait it out. God is not threatened or moved by our¬†idolatry of waiting and¬†growing up. He knows that eventually we’ll figure out that time and all its experiences don’t fix a broken heart.

He knows we will eventually have waited beyond what we can bear and will throw ourselves at Him once we finally remember that¬†He’s the only healer there is.

Until then, we bury our heads in our work, our social lives, our gym memberships and keep telling ourselves that eventually we will feel better, be better. After some time we will have moved on and the pain will have lessened.

But the reality is, that the pain doesn’t lessen, we just get used to feeling it and it¬†becomes our new normal. And in this new normal, we’re able to call ourselves¬†better and healed not realizing that we forgot what it was like to live without it.

I’m sometimes glad God keeps me in front of my pain and heartbreak. That He rips down the¬†altars that I build in front of time and space. He lets me cry into bowls of salad, and all the way down I-85. Because¬†time doesn’t heal wounds,¬†and when¬†I think it does, I’ve¬†made it my god.

And so, no…¬†we’re not going to wake up one day and suddenly no longer feel the heartbreak.¬†We are¬†not going to just grow out of this stage of pain. We will either lean into Him as healer, or wear ourselves¬†out counting on¬†clocks that hold no power.

You’re Not Going to Change

We settled into a booth in the back of the restaurant. We talked about work, God, love. We caught up on where old friends ended up–have you heard from her lately? How is she?

Then we talked about my move, about what life is going to look like a few weeks from now.

“Coming back home is hard” I said, taking a sip of water. “I become the worst version of myself. You think you’re a different person and then instantly you come home and you go right back to the person you used to be.”

Straightforward, confident, she looked at me in the eyes and said these words,

“People don’t change, they make different choices.”

I felt them in my gut. She’s right. At the end of the day, we are who we’ve always been. But we wait to wake up one day and be someone else, to feel different things.¬†We think that moving away and starting over is going to instantly make us become someone new.

It doesn’t. I’m realizing that in these few weeks of being back in my hometown. I was in Georgia for a year and a half,¬†I thought I became a different person. I thought I was better.¬†But then, I came home and old habits came barreling in and were sitting on my chest like they never left.

It wasn’t that I changed in Georgia, it was that I made different choices. I gave myself a chance–to be who I really am,¬†without all the baggage, without all the chapters of brokenness that were tattooed to me before I left.¬†

New places and blank slates don’t change us, but they are usually the only reason we give ourselves a real chance to be who we’ve always been.

We’re always trying to get to some¬†better version of ourselves, but what if the best version of us has always been there? What if we just covered it up with all the pain, judgement, and words from the years of living we’ve had so far?¬†

I kept thinking about the four of us. In that group of girls, there were four of us who were always drawn to sadness, to the brokenness. You could find us listening to melancholic music and weaving ourselves in and out of those lyrics. We called it our personalities, a part of us that had always been there. 

She and I talked about that. We talked about how easy it had always been for us to see pain and how that might be something that never changes.

 There are some advantages to being able to see and feel brokenness in all its magnitude.

But then we talked about how we had to turn away from that kind of sadness, because we knew that we would never change.

We wouldn’t just wake up one day and forget how to feel pain. We wouldn’t stop loving sad songs, movies with less than happily-ever-after¬†endings.¬†But we knew that we had to make different choices. We had to choose not to put them on our daily playlist. We had to often¬†pick a different genre of movie.

We had to choose not to focus on the hard things, even though the temptation would always be there.

We haven’t changed, but life is different. Life doesn’t look the way it did when we were sixteen. But we didn’t change, we just grew up and decided that¬†we had to make better choices.

The choices bring the change, not the other way around.

You’re not going to wake up tomorrow and love working out. You won’t wake up tomorrow and have no feelings toward the person that broke your heart. You won’t magically wake up tomorrow happier, healthier, stronger, more beautiful than you are today.

The change you want to see is in your choices–it’s not in a formula of moving away, and starting over.¬†You’ll be the same person tomorrow, even if you wake up in a different place.

I’m starting to think that there’s a part of me that will always be this girl. Some part of me knows that I’ll be the girl who gets impatient with the people of my hometown, who is drawn to days spent lying in bed and accomplishing nothing. That I’ll always be drawn to being the person who wants to throw away responsibility because I’m¬†an¬†all or nothing¬†kind of girl–if I can’t do it perfectly, I don’t¬†want to do it at all.

That’s not going to change. I won’t just open my eyes ten years from now and not be that girl.¬†But the change comes in choosing patience, getting out of bed, choosing responsibility, giving myself the grace of making mistakes a long the way and not throwing it all away when I do.

Sitting in that booth, she and I were the same girls we’ve always been. We still laugh at sarcasm, can read each other’s facial expressions, still love pizza. But life is different and that’s because of the choices we’ve made. Day by day, we chose different things, places, roads to take than we used to.

I’m starting think that Robert Frost guy was on to something.¬†It was the road that diverged in the wood, not the person.

It came down to choice–and in the end, that’s what made all the difference

We Break and We Build

I specifically remember the day we stopped fitting into each other’s lives.

We never got that back. Its been years now, and sometimes I think, from now on¬†we will always be strangers. We will always find ourselves unfamiliar with the shelves and cupboards of one another. I won’t know if you still like peanuts and you won’t know that I don’t own¬†that floral shirt anymore.

I guess that’s how this whole thing works, sometimes people stop fitting in your life. One day you realize that you¬†can’t¬†find spaces for them to slip back into.

I never said “thank you”, but I’m saying it now.

I was angry. I was hurt. I firmly believed you were out for blood–that you were punishing me the only way you knew how.

Maybe you were. Maybe pushing me out of your life wasn’t supposed to be a favor, maybe you never intended for me to see it as a good thing.

But then one day when I was sitting in your shoes; I suddenly felt grateful that you taught me when to let go and how not to walk away.

When it was my turn, my first reaction was to do exactly what you did. I wanted to just disappear and I had good reasons for that. But in that moment, I remembered how it felt to be on the other end. You gave me the fortitude to properly say goodbye when you refused to do that for me.

I’ve learned that a lot of people treat others the way they’ve been treated. If their parents were mean, they’re mean to their kids. If they were bullied in school, they lash out later in life. If someone leaves them, they leave others.¬†Too often we become the people that hurt us most and in our pain we justify it.¬†

But in that moment, when I wanted to do the wrong thing…I remembered all those years ago and even in my anger, I couldn’t wish that hurt¬†on someone else.

I’m learning that’s what determines our character–what we make of our pain.

When it comes to our past, we can either be broken by it or built by it. It can either be the reason why we learn to love people or an excuse to hate them.

Running, disappearing, leaving people to wonder where things went wrong–I think people with integrity would call that cowardice. I’ve never heard them listed as attributes¬†next to the name of someone who’s brave.

Sometimes we have to walk away, draw lines, set boundaries, move forward & move on.¬†I’m learning that.¬†I’m learning that not every relationship can be healthy, that there are some times when you just have to shake hands and part ways. But I’m learning that it doesn’t look like folded arms and slamming doors.

There are two types of people in our lives: those that we thank for teaching us the right way, and those (if we choose to be forgiving), we can grow from them showing us the wrong way.

The thing about that is, we also get to choose what kind of person we will be for the people around us.

We’re all going to eventually have to say hard things, we all have to make choices that might hurt others.¬†But we get to decide what we say, if we say it, how we say it and if¬†whether or not we help break or build them.