No Resolutions for 2021

Photo by Oleg Zaicev on Pexels.com

Let’s not talk about last year.

We all know.

What can we do with the unknown of this year? Normally we’d be setting resolutions, making plans, starting new habits and routines. But we’ve all learned from the year past that our entire lives can be upended in a moment.

For me, personally, I am deciding to “build.” I had a massive amount of personal momentum last year, and I want to build on it. I want to keep looking for publishers for my work, I want to continue writing, I want to strengthen my career, I want to keep making connections with people to grow my community and friendships.

If I focus on building from the foundation I have set instead of setting big goals or resolutions, it gives me the flexibility to move forward at various paces, despite whatever challenges come.

Meaning and purpose are what we make of it! I hope we can build together. Happy New Year!

30 Things I am Proud Of

My 30th birthday is on Saturday, and a lot of people share 30 things they’ve learned at 30. But instead, I am celebrating my 30 years of life and all of the things I am proud of myself for.

  1. I was the first in my family to go to college.
  2. I earned 2 masters’ degrees.
  3. I have navigated myself out abusive situations.
  4. My husband and I have lived in 4 states, adjusting and thriving together.
  5. I wanted to publish at least one book by 30; I have published 2 books, 2 articles, and 7 poems.
  6. I have traveled out of the country. I am not as well-traveled as many of my other peers, but growing up I could not afford to travel. I am seeing the world based on my own ambition.
  7. I have learned how to say “no.” But I still need a reminder once in a while.
  8. I have developed healthy coping mechanisms for depression and anxiety. Sometimes I stumble and fall. Sometimes I don’t cope well and do unhealthy things when I am hurting. Healing and coping is an ongoing journey.
  9. I had a 6 year career in ministry, and then made a career change.
  10. I have survived what has felt like unsurvivable situations.
  11. I have lived through situations that changed me to the core, but I worked hard to rebuild and become a person that I like and am proud of.
  12. I have forgiven people who have hurt me. I still have others to forgive, and that might take some time.
  13. I am learning how to celebrate myself.
  14. I am learning how to advocate for myself.
  15. I have rediscovered important parts of who I am and reincorporated them into my adult life.
  16. I am intuitive and empathetic.
  17. I can change and grow. I am not stuck.
  18. I do the damn work.
  19. The friendships that I have maintained from past lifetimes are quality people.
  20. I still have some hope that the world can get better. Most days, at least.
  21. I am brave.
  22. I always want to learn.
  23. I always want to improve and be a better human to other humans.
  24. I fight to be here, because I know I deserve to be here.
  25. I know who I am. I have a strong sense of self.
  26. I am a problem solver.
  27. If I don’t know how to do something, then I learn how. I ask questions. I am open to being taught.
  28. I am more than happy to share whatever knowledge I have with others to make the journey easier for them as well.
  29. I believe our well-being is tied to each other. I want us all to succeed. I want us all to be equal. I want us all to be cared for.
  30. I am happy with how I am using my time on earth. I want to make the most out of whatever time I have here and have lots of stories to tell. I have not wasted my years. I have continually used them to grow and learn. I rest when I need to rest, I sprint when I need to sprint, and I stroll when I need to stroll.

What are you proud of? Even if you just make a list of 5 things, please affirm yourself today! Our lists don’t have to look the same. My list is messy and full of pain. But I also celebrate the journey. Be proud of yourself, where you have been, where you are, and where you’re going.

Here’s to a new decade of life!

Publication Updates

It’s an exciting time when all this quiet, lonely writing finally gets some traction and sees the light of day! On November 30 I will have 4 poems appearing on the “Academy of the Heart and Mind.” I will post a link when it goes live!

Also, my book is here! Breath for the Breathless has finally been published after I wrote it 2 years ago. Here’s what I posted about it on Facebook:

Clergy friends, I wrote this for you. I wrote this book of liturgy 2 years ago when my life was beginning to unravel. Writing this book was a lifeline for me. I hope it is a lifeline for you too! “Breath for the Breathless: Liturgy for Life’s Difficult Seasons” is the book you want on your shelf when a natural disaster happens, when violence strikes, when you need a prayer regarding mental health struggles or child loss. There are prayers and entire worship services written in here (with hymn suggestions) so that when disaster strikes, you can focus more on pastoral care and less on worship planning. If you’re struggling to find the words to say, my hope is that this book helps.

I am so excited to have gotten several publishing opportunities over the past couple years! Here’s to many more.

Just Enjoy It

The Saturday Disney movie marathon. The too early fall baking and decor. Rereading your favorite childhood books. Playing video games all afternoon. Extra cheese on your pizza. Whatever it is you’re splurging on to help you cope and get through the day, just enjoy it. If no one’s getting hurt, it’s fine. Don’t worry about people judging you for harmless indulgences.

Don’t disappear too long. The world still needs you. But turn it all off and rest for a minute.

Wins and Losses

I have had a few publishing wins this year with my writing. But I don’t often post about my rejections. I knew going into writing that I would get way more rejections than acceptances. Just this month I have received 8 rejections, and we’re not even to the halfway point of the month! I spent over a calendar year trying to get my upcoming book published. I thought it wasn’t going to happen!

Writing, like any of the arts, is subjective of course. And we’ve all been told that just because you get rejected doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. It can get discouraging, especially when you get so many rejections back to back. You might start to think your wins were just flukes and your success might be short-lived. But we don’t advertise this on social media! We don’t want others to see our more vulnerable moments.

I am sharing this because it’s important for people to know that rejection and discouragement are part of any process, especially when you are pursuing the arts. That is reality, and we aren’t entitled to anything more than that.

We believe in ourselves and our craft. We keep working and persevere. We learn and improve.

Celebrate every win, no matter how small, especially when your losses have been getting you down.

Using Our Time

I think we know now, more than ever, that our time in this life is limited and tomorrow is not guaranteed. I think we also have a new appreciation for the things we have taken for granted like going to concerts and seeing movies.I know many people are itching to get out of the house and have fun. I also know that without many options of fun things to do, it is tempting to stay inside and stream movies all day. But when we have some extra time given to us, it is a gift we shouldn’t take lightly.

I have been fortunate enough to have Fridays off during the month of August. I was both excited and sad about this, excited to have time off from work but sad that during a pandemic I couldn’t do all the things I would like to do. (I know some people have traveled to beaches where they can practice social distancing while also vacationing, but I personally haven’t felt comfortable with sleeping somewhere like a motel where other people are staying because of the possibility of spreading coronavirus.)

I wasn’t sure what to do with my days off, but I knew that I didn’t want to waste them. So each Friday in August I picked a different park within 30 minutes driving distance to explore and take pictures. I am not a photographer, but it is a fun hobby to take pictures that costs little to nothing (depending on what you are wanting to invest in.) Not only was it healing and peaceful to spend some time by myself in nature, it was wonderful to be out of my house and seeing people (at a distance.) And I got some good exercise. I saw frogs, turtles, geese, great blue herons, and sasquatch! (Well, a large cut-out of sasquatch leaning on some trees.) I was also amazed to see how much natural beauty was within a short drive of my home!

If you find yourself with some time on your hands, I highly suggest taking 2 or 3 hours and exploring the outdoors near you. How well do you know the area you live in? You might be surprised at what you discover!

Whatever we find ourselves doing in this pandemic, let’s make good use of our time. It is fleeting, and even a year as terrible as this one shouldn’t be wasted. Just make sure you are responsibly taking precautions to protect yourself and others!

(These are not my personal photos, I plan on uploading and editng my own pictures soon!)

Flight Response

Anyone else realizing their flight response is on high alert?

I think mine turned on a couple years ago, and I have yet to completely turn it off. And now in a pandemic, I think there might be a good number of us who feel this way. With our flight response, when there is an imminent threat that can’t be fought off, we want to run away from it and get to safety as soon as possible. With Covid-19, we don’t have a natural immunity to this particular virus strain, and there is no guarantee that the virus is mild or survivable. For many, yes, it will end up being okay; but for many others who were seemingly in good health, they ended up in the hospital or dying. And this pandemic is far from over, so this flight response that many of us may be feeling might stay in place for a while.

This is challenging enough on its own. But we still face every day stresses. A rough day at work. A miscommunication between friends. A burnt dinner. These are common issues that we are more than capable with dealing with, but these problems feel amplified when our flight responses is clicked on. Our daily inconveniences feel like major disasters that are a threat to our well-being, so we might be inclined to shut down and withdraw as a way of fleeing to safety.

There are times when it is completely appropriate to withdraw and take some time to collect yourself. But if our flight response is triggered throughout the day, we often don’t have the luxury to hide and practice self-care. It is good to develop some coping mechanisms to help us check out for just a moment and then get back to the day. One that I use often is box breathing, which is when you breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, and hold for four counts. This helps you regain some control over your thoughts and your muscles (especially if you are prone to panic attacks.) Grounding yourself by putting your hand over your heart and speaking affirmations to yourself can help focus your mind. Make sure you’re eating and drinking when you need to. Here you can find some other suggestions for anyone who struggles with anxiety: https://adaa.org/tips

I know it feels like the world is ending, and this makes our daily stresses feel like uncontrollable chaos. It’s rough. But when we break a dish or if the dog chews up a shoe or we forget to take the trash up to the curb, it is not a threat or a disaster. Get your breath, do what you need to fight off that flight response.

We aren’t going to feel this way forever.

Taking a Hit

I get impatient with myself when I am healing and growing. I get frustrated when I don’t progress as quickly as I want. Then, I get extra rattled when I encounter something that triggers pain in those healng wounds; I feel like I regress and my already too slow progress has been undone.

I make it worse for myself when I lack grace for myself. I cause myself more pain when I don’t allow myself the space to feel what I need to feel.

Healing is not linear. Steps forward and steps back are all part of the process, and the sooner that is accepted the better the healing process will be.

In the healing process we’ll all take hits. It doesn’t have to knock us all the way back to where we were. And if it does, we already know how to find our way back to where we left off because we’ve done it before. Expect setbacks. Love yourself through them. Celebrate every small victory. Rely on the strength you’ve gained in the process.

Our past healing paves the way for future healing.

All of It

I have not reflected theologically in quite some time. Most of the theological structures that I had in place failed me magnificently over the past 2 years. I prayed a lot. I begged for revelations, affirmations, and prophesies, none of which came.

So I am reevaluting everything. All of it. Everything involving faith and spirituality. I am starting completely over at the basics and trying to unlearn my expectations and assumptions. I am not trying to force myself to fit into any systematic theology; I am letting it all fall into place slowly, organically.

So this is my second deconstruction. I went through my first during my freshman and sophomore years of college when I left my fundamentalist upbringing.

That was a decade ago! And I thought I was lucky because I got my great deconstruction done early in my life. But no. A surprise round 2 is upon me.

Something I was able to really feel and celebrate soon after my first deconstruction was how holy everything around me was. I was experiencing so many things in my college years, and it all felt sacred. Late nights with friends. Laughter. The music we made in choir. The plays and musicals we performed in theatre. The theological study I was engaging. Traveling to another country. Chapel services. Conversations in the dining hall. The songs of the crickets and the frogs at night. The way we all took care of each other in our dorm rooms when tornados were touching down nearby. It felt like the Divine was everywhere! The whole earth was full of glory. All of it.

Of course, over time this bliss has faded. I experienced hardship the year after I graduated college. Then in seminary I worked extremely hard and was focused on success. I had beautiful spiritual moments there as well, but I was pressured to follow a ministry path that didn’t fit me at all and pressured to conform to a particular theological framework to satisfy my ministry requirements. I lost a lot of essential parts of myself. I thought I had to sacrifice them to do the right thing of being faithful to seminary and ministry.

This was all bound to fail. In college I was allowed to be fully myself, for the first time ever. In ministry and in seminary I went back to being what others wanted me to be in line with a particular religious ideal.

Now I see that a second deconstruction was inevitable.

As I am reclaiming the parts of myself that were forced to be dormant, I have realized that some of the ideas I had after my first deconstruction are coming back to me.

I am wrtiting and putting my art in the world. That is holy and sacred. The great blue heron I saw a week ago while I was alone in the woods near the lake was a holy moment. The butterfly that grazes my face, the old man sitting on the park bench excitedly describing all the birds he has seen around the lake, the dog that approaches me for a pat and walks with me for a while, the choir I sing in, laughing with coworkers, these moments, this world is full of the Divine. All of it.

What is Saving Your Life?

I’m not very good at listening to “weekly” podcasts. Instead I get in the mood and listen to like 4 episodes in a row. And then I won’t listen again for a few weeks.

One of the podcasts I listen to is “For the Love” by Jen Hatmaker, a spiritual/religious author. At the end of each podcast, she asks her guest a question that she stole from another religious author, Barbara Brown Taylor:

“What is saving your life right now?”

That’s a pretty good question.

This is an important question because I’m wearing down a little. To be perfectly honest, I was thriving at the beginning of quarantine. The sudden free time, the lack of commitments, the time to rest and catch my breath, it was all needed. I was tired, and quarantine was a relief.

But now I want to get out. What USUALLY saves my life is a live play, an orchestral concert, a ballet, a trip to the library, visiting local shops, grabbing coffee, trying new restaurants, going to museums, taking day trips, singing in choir. These are the things I rely on to save me when I’m worn out; now they can’t save me because we’re stuck inside away from everyone and everything.

So, this question has become a challenge, because my answer is different.

What is saving my life right now?

Reading on the front porch and watching the bunnies and deer eat.

The new Michelle Obama podcast. https://open.spotify.com/show/71mvGXupfKcmO6jlmOJQTP

Rewatching Jane the Virgin.

Horror movies.

Cooking good food and trying new recipes.

Christmas music.

Going to parks and taking pictures.

Streaming the local UU church on Sundays.

Anything Dolly Parton says or does, especially her pandemic song, “When Life is Good Again.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MejIAGuaiNM

These are normal, average every day things that aren’t specific to the pandemic. But it’s what I have at my disposal. I have get to draw my peace from this smaller, simpler list. I appreciate these little gifts that offer me a little peace and joy. I also know it is an immense privilege to have all of these comforts to indulge in, even if these are hard times. I am grateful. I want to take this lesson with me when “life is good again.”