2020. Can we really be here already?

I’ve been reflecting back on the past decade and have been overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that’s happened. Quick take: got married, moved back to Arkansas, bought a house, got divorced, moved to Germany, learned what love looked like, moved in with my parents in Texas, spent a year in a tailspin, moved back to Arkansas (3rd time) to live by myself for the first time, met my husband, moved to South Carolina, got married, got diagnosed with bipolar, had a baby, moved to Virginia, did some solo parenting during my husband’s deployment, and turned 30.

See? Stuff

If I had known ten years ago what my life would look like now, I would have equally laughed and sobbed. There have been so many moments that I didn’t think I would survive, but I’ve somehow clawed myself back into some sort of living. It’s been messy and unpleasant more times than not. It’s also been transformative.

2014 was my growth and healing year. It was the year that I moved to Germany and left all of my trauma and frustrations back in the states. Of course, trauma never really leaves (and I’m currently needing to do some serious recovering), but it was a fresh break that I desperately needed.

The end of 2016 through 2017 held the moments that I never thought would happen. After the disaster of my first marriage and the serious heartbreak I experienced a year later, I never believed that I’d find someone that would be a healthy partner. Even more than that, I couldn’t imagine having a child of my own.

This won’t be a political post, but I’m frightened of the decade to come. I want a safe and healthy planet for my daughter to thrive, but I can’t see that happening. The past several months have been spent in a massive depression, so maybe that has something to do with my sense of hopelessness, but I fear that every day of this new year has created more and more danger for my child.

2020, please be kind. You aren’t off to a great start, but I hope that we’re able to find moments of joy and encouragement that can keep us going and help us fight for better days.

Being Known

“Shame caused me to hide…the more we hide, the harder it is to be known. And we have to be known to connect” -Donald Miller, Scary Close

I wanted to expand upon my last post. Not the relationship part…that will come soon enough in a more lighthearted manner. No, I wanted to expand upon feeling fully understood. Feeling known.

I’ve been a huge fan of Donald Miller for almost ten years. I first fell in love with his writing voice during my freshman year of college. Some of my fondest memories that first semester are of sitting in the laundry room of my dorm, reading Blue Like Jazz and listening to Iron & Wine’s “The Shepherd’s Dog”. I realize that doesn’t sound like a particularly thrilling time, especially for an eighteen-year-old who was experiencing freedom for the first time, but I credit those moments as the ones when I started to fully think for myself.

I’m not a fan of most “religious” writers. I don’t like the voice of someone who is obviously trying to convert their readers to their worldview. It’s pushy and desperate and doesn’t feel genuine. If I’m going to be approached with an entire worldview, I want it to come from someone who fully accepts their faults, acknowledges that they don’t have all the answers, but are trying to be their best. I like being able to read words by someone who lives through their flaws.

Scary Close came out in early 2015. I had been struggling with finding my voice and felt like I had lost the ability to connect with anyone on any kind of level. I was feeling lost and unable to trust. Miller’s book was all about relationships and feeling intimacy. This didn’t always necessarily mean romantic intimacy, but just connecting and being known by others.

Through a series of events, I had lost that. In my writing project, I had written myself into a character that “left destruction in her wake and in a way was proud of herself for being able to attract people enough to destroy their idea of love” because I saw myself in that life. I saw myself unable to be known by people because I had lost my ability to trust. I know that some of that mistrust should have been consciously aimed at myself instead of others, but that year was a mess of epic proportions, and I avoided self-blame at all costs.

Somewhere along the way last year, I hit the wall. I learned that I had been avoiding any of the blame for my actions. Perhaps blame isn’t the correct word, but I was tying all of my mistakes and faults to the people who had hurt me. I wasn’t willing to accept that the bad experiences had actually shaped anything about me. There was a moment close to the middle of last year that I had a breakdown in front of others. I was being pummeled with questions about my divorce from a guy I barely knew, and by the end of the night, I was in the passenger seat of a friend’s car unable to breathe or speak. I texted that friend the next morning, apologizing for the inconvenience my panic attack had caused, and his response was so simple and so true: “There’s no need to apologize. It was a true human experience”

That was the first time in a very long time I realized that I shouldn’t be apologizing for the permanent marks my experiences had left on me. Being in the midst of painful moments is as much a part of being human as any joyful moments are, perhaps even more so. All of us experience hardships, and acting like those things don’t exist chips away at our humanity. In my quest to become fully exposed and at peace with every piece of me, I’ve made it a point to not hide my experiences. If the people around me know what I’ve been through, what both pains and soothes me, they are shown my true self. If they choose to spend time with that true self after being made aware of all my flaws, my ability to trust in them grows. This is the way a healthy relationship develops.

Black Rock Lake Park, Texas - April 2015
Bluebonnets at Black Rock Lake Park, Texas – April 2015

Jumbled Brains

It’s been one of those days. There are so many topics I want to write about, but my brain can’t seem to focus on one enough to hit the “publish” button. This is the fourth post I’ve attempted to start writing today.

This is when I typically break out one of my journals. I can start writing about one thing and switch to another topic without having people question why I started talking about adoption, but then switched to materialism for a bit before settling on the general perception of the church in America. I’ve tried to get a full set of thoughts out, I really have. I’ve listened to music, I’ve sat in silence, I’ve taken a walk….this is apparently just the kind of day that my mind cannot be tamed.

So why am I writing this post? Why am I rambling on and on about something that has no sort of purpose? I’ve been on a blogging roll lately. I’ve written more in the past couple of weeks than I have in months. I feel like the posts I’ve published have had some good content and I’m proud of them. I want to keep that going, but I also am aware that the inspiration won’t last forever. What I’ve done in the past when experiencing a block is to just stop writing. I don’t want to do that this time. I want to push through and write something that is on my mind, even if it’s just short and simple and doesn’t have much to do with anything.

I know many people probably don’t really care what I have to say, but for those 45 followers out there, I want to put out semi-regular content. I want to be relatable and interesting. Part of the relatable-ness is admitting that writing inspiration isn’t always there. Maybe this is just an off day. Maybe I have too many thoughts running through my head. Maybe I just need that waterproof notepad to get those thoughts out.

Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, Frankfurt, Germany- September 2014
Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, Frankfurt, Germany- September 2014

What If…

I tend to do a lot of my deep thinking while in the shower. In fact, I was just mulling over the main topic this whole post is about and rushed out of the shower and started typing as fast as possible so I wouldn’t forget anything. I don’t know what it is about showers..maybe it’s the white noise, maybe it’s the fact that you are just alone with your thoughts and nothing to distract you. Whatever it is, I need some sort of waterproof notepad to write everything down. Much easier than rushing to the computer and failing to completely wash the conditioner out of your hair. Anyway, I digress…

I’ve always been one to think about all the different outcomes for my decisions. I know it’s not healthy to live in the past or just look toward the future, but stay with me for a moment. Most of the time, I can clearly see where my decisions would have taken me if I had decided on a different path. If I hadn’t dropped out of college the first time, I probably would be a teacher somewhere. If I had graduated after my second university attempt, I’d be a manager of some hotel, running events and losing my mind. If I had stayed married, I’d be in a pit of depression so deep I don’t even know if I would be functioning. If I hadn’t moved back to Texas after dropping out of college, the marriage wouldn’t have happened in the first point. If I never moved to Germany and stayed in Tyler like I was temporarily tempted to, I’d be bored out of my mind in Texas right now.

What I’ve come to realize, especially in the last few months or so when thinking about all of these different possible outcomes, is that I’m thankful for the decisions I have made, the paths I have gone down. I’ve always been a firm believer of things in life happening for a reason, and while I don’t dwell on the “what if” question, I do think it’s a good thing to think about occasionally if for no other reason than to see how much you’ve changed from the decisions you did make. The key in all of this is to not let the “what if”s paralyze you.

This also comes into play when thinking about plans for the future. I have a skeleton plan laid out- spend some time in Alaska, write a book on adoption, and travel- but I don’t plan for many specifics anymore. Whenever I have in the past, I’ve just been disappointed when things don’t work out exactly according to plan. So while I still think it’s important to have some idea of an end goal, deadlines and specifics can just make you feel like you’ve failed if things don’t work out the way you want.

Moments in life serve some sort of purpose. Every experience can have a lesson if you try to stay aware of that. The most important thing I’ve learned recently is to enjoy the moment I’m in.

Kelsterbach, Germany- May 2014
Kelsterbach, Germany- May 2014

listening to: The Civil Wars, Iron & Wine

The Struggle And The Growth

I spent yesterday wandering around what has easily become one of my favorite cities. I’ve got two weeks and two days left to say that I’m a resident of the Frankfurt area, so I’m trying to soak up every moment possible. I walked down Kaiserstraße, through the Zeil area, next to the Dom Römer, across the river on the Eiserner Steg (the bridge covered in locks), and along the banks of the Main River. In my opinion, the best part of the city is that it is situated around a body of water, and there’s nothing like being able to sit along the bank of that river and enjoy a sunny day. I also enjoy the face that Frankfurt still isn’t very touristy, but it’s a big international city, so you don’t often have to deal with massive groups of people.

I read an article months ago about the ex-pat life, and how it’s hard to really feel like you completely fit in back home after living in another country. I haven’t even moved back yet, but I’m already starting to feel that way. While the German culture isn’t as different from the American culture as some others might be, there are still many differences. I’ve gotten fond of the language barriers because I feel a strong sense of pride when I understand and can answer questions. My diet has completely changed, and the idea of throwing all of my trash in one big bin seems almost foreign now. Because of the heavy British influences in my friendships, some of the words I use in everyday language is different, and some people have even pointed out that my accent has changed somehow. Even now while I sit writing this, I think I’ll miss the German way of living far more than I would ever miss the American one.

Of course, whenever you go through a big move, you simultaneously go through a big change. If you chose to move back to your original location, it will never the same. You may look the same and you may continue to enjoy the same friendships, but you as a person will have grown and changed. With an international move, that change will inevitably include an expanded worldview.

I’m not looking forward to moving back to Texas (even though I know it’s just a temporary move) for that very reason. I’m excited to see friends and family, but I know I’m not the same person that I was when I moved away. In some ways, I feel like they might be meeting an entirely different person. At the risk of sounding conceited or overly proud or whatever you might call it, I feel like I’ve gained a sort of quiet confidence. I’ve become even more independent than before, and I know that the limits I used to believe were holding me back are now mostly nonexistent. I will have only been gone for nine months, but when you move away like I did, you’re forced to hit the fast forward button on changing and maturing.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “I’m not sure what I’ll do, but — well, I want to go places and see people. I want my mind to grow. I want to live where things happen on a big scale.” This sentiment is one of the biggest reasons I want to travel and live in different places and immerse myself in different cultures- I want to grow. I don’t want to be stuck in some small town and keep a small worldview. It’s been so long since I’ve lived in Alaska that I’m not expecting anything to be as it was when I was a child. I’m excited to be back because I know there will be struggles and lessons to go through. Of course, the gorgeous scenery and a wonderful man are big things to look forward to, but most importantly, it’s a chance for me to grow even more. It’s time for that next chapter.

Frankfurt, Germany- September 2014

Frankfurt, Germany- September 2014

listening to: Jason Mraz