Invisible (a poem)

(inspired by Agoraphobic by Corpse)

Cover all the mirrors

and hide from the horde

because I can still see myself reflected in their eyes,

and I just can’t bear it. 

I don’t understand this skin I’m in

or the veins pulsing beneath.

So I surround myself with haunts

because I see through the ghosts

and they can’t see me.

Maybe it’s because I am one of them,

part of the family?

Families scream at each other,

and these phantoms wail.

But there’s an ache the accompanies the role

of Invisible Man.

Better (a poem)

Something agitated has quieted within me.

Life can rip you up

and leave you with ribbons that don’t 

weave

or tie?

back together

the right way.

But there is no right,

I don’t think.

They just ache to be together.

So I let the ribbons fall down

wherever they wanted to.

Then the churning turmoil

soothed and cooled.

Whole (a poem)

WHOLE

You don’t have to return

to the hands that broke your bones

or to the words that manipulated your mind

to fear for your next breath

or to the people who dripped poison

to rot your heart.

You don’t have to make nice

or pay your respects

or explain yourself

or justify your existence 

or reconcile

to be whole.

If you love your body,

mind, and heart

the way they didn’t

then your soul is whole

in and of itself.

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!

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.

Takeaways Revisited

It’s been almost two months since my last blog. I had committed 2020 to be a reconstruction year after the deconstruction of 2019. So I have been quietly working on myself personally, professionally, and spiritually. While I have been doing this work, I haven’t had much to say here, though I had hoped to return once I felt ready. I am still not ready to blog regularly, but in light of the coronavirus pandemic, I am reminded of my takeaways from 2019. If you’ll remember they were “be not afraid” and “accept what is.” I am reflecting on these while living through very scary times.

monochrome photo of woman
Photo by Joanne Adela Low on Pexels.com

I am afraid of getting sick. I have been sick 6 times since October. I’m still on a round of antibiotics now. I work with little ones and they pass on their germs pretty easily. I have been so frustrated with myself for not just accepting the state of things and refusing to give in to fear. I have also had old wounds from last year start to burn again. I have made so much progress personally, and all of this has felt like a setback.

But fear and grief are part of being human. Healing, growth, and progress are not always linear. There are ups and downs, falls and rebounds. It’s all natural to being who we are as people. So I am choosing to have compassion for myself. I am allowed to have complex emotions and still move forward in my journey. I encourage you to have compassion for yourself, too. This is a harrowing moment for the entire world! Don’t panic, don’t be selfish, but allow yourself to feel what is going on in the world around you.

black drawing compass
Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

I truly believe that one of the reasons that we fail each other with compassion and empathy is because we often lack it for ourselves. Self-compassion doesn’t mean we selfishly hoard toilet paper and deny it to others who may need some…

But it does mean we appreciate our whole selves for who we are, acknowledge and validate our emotions and experiences, and give ourselves grace when we need it. When we are full of compassion for ourselves, it overflows to others. I have seen some of this compassion already! Like Italians singing to each other from their windows and Lin-Manuel Miranda releasing a secret Hamilton song to lift our spirits. (For anyone who knows me, Lin-Minuel Miranda is my celebrity crush and I am obsessed with all things Hamilton.)

So be not afraid if you can be, but if you are afraid that’s okay too. Accept the state of things as best you can. Have compassion for yourself and others.

Ungrateful is okay.

It’s Thanksgiving. So we give thanks. Supposedly.

Christians, all Christians but especially evangelical Christians, capitalize on this holiday to talk about how bad we are at giving thanks to God and how we need to do better. The church often trumpets about how we’re never praising God enough, heaping guilt on someone receiving chemo and not simultaneously erupting in praise or shaming someone who can’t make ends meet for the month and not bursting out in song when their electricity is cut off. Apparently, an attitude of gratitude gives you the strength to persevere.

variety of pumpkins
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

That may work for some, but please, for God’s sake (yes, I mean that literally), stop telling people how they should suffer! If someone wants to weep through physical therapy as they have to relearn to walk and they can’t summon gratitude, then it’s never, ever your responsibility to correct them and direct them to do so!

DO NOT start a sentence with, “Well, at least you…” They don’t need to have a change of perspective to see that “someone always has it worse.” Listen, but don’t give advice. Encourage people when they go to therapy. Stand by people when they have mood swings from their depression medication. Cry with them. That pleases God so much more than demanding they constantly give thanks when they see little to give thanks for.

God doesn’t stand over the stranger, the orphan, and the widow and demand that they forsake their tears and praise God. God gets down on the ground and weeps with them.

So if you’re struggling with gratitude this Thanksgiving, it’s okay. Don’t pile more guilt and shame on yourself because your sighs are too deep for words. If counting your blessings doesn’t cheer you up, then don’t worry about it. Just survive the day, take the next step, and take care of yourself. Don’t wound yourself more by living up to the religious expectation of unabashed praise. It’s okay not to be okay, even on Thanksgiving. God is patient, and God would rather have genuine gratitude over “fake it until you make it” praise.

Pushing Through with Queer Eye

I’m carrying a lot these days; this year has been a tough one. The first third of the year was miserable with leaving my toxic ministry and dealing with panic attacks. The middle has been full of rest, healing, and discovery. But this last third has almost undone all of the healing that I worked so hard for.

man carrying black and gold briefcase
Photo by Emma Bauso on Pexels.com

I am grateful for those who have encouraged me and shared my ministry with others. Starting a new ministry with Tales of Glory means that I need help, and asking for help can be really hard. But I am also disappointed that I haven’t received as much help as I have needed and asked for. It’s discouraging and lonely.

I have made some tough decisions in regards to setting myself free from abusive situations, how to move forward, and realizing how that might (permanently?) affect my future. I am fighting off another cold (I had one just a month ago!) and we’re coming up one month of living in a hotel after our fire.

It’s hard not to be depressed. It’s hard not to lose my faith. It’s hard not to close myself off from others and completely withdraw within myself. Sometimes I feel as if I only have my husband and myself. Part of that is beyond my control. The other part might be my own doing as I retract from the world that seems to really have it out for me.

close up photo ofg light bulb
Photo by Rahul on Pexels.com

On my sick day, I decided to go back and watch Queer Eye from the beginning. 5 gay men, known as the Fab 5, enter a person’s life to make them over on the outside and makeover their home, but also reach deep to boost their confidence and self-image, work on their relationships, work on their professional lives, and truly bring out the beauty in each one of the “heroes” they work with. It never fails to bring joy and light in my life. But it was extra profound to watch these episodes that hit on so many of the things I am experiencing: loneliness, complicated family situations, struggling to connect to others, struggling with faith and theology, and even the grueling struggle of starting a business.

In one of the most recent episodes where they took Queer Eye to Japan, one of the Fab 5 named Antoni, who specializes in food, was watching some of the footage from one of their makeovers. They always watch footage of how their makeover has helped their “hero.” Antoni was openly weeping when he saw the hero and her friend embracing each other for the first time after decades of friendship, which they said was not common in their culture. He cried out, “Why does kindness always make me cry?!” Through my own tears, I laughed and said, “That’s all of us watching this on every episode!”

I have been knocked off my feet so many times just this year alone that I know there is no way to know what the future holds. I don’t really know how this chapter of life is going to work out for me. I keep scanning the horizon for a sign and coming up empty. What I do know is that Queer Eye is the microcosm of what the kingdom of God should look like. I am going to keep gathering these little pockets of joy and kindness to sustain my soul. Maybe my own faith and my own ministry can grow from there. For today, Queer Eye has kept my faith in God and in the goodness of others alive. Each day looks different, and each day I react differently as I stumble through; but at least for today I am pushing through with the small gift of hope given to me by the Fab 5.

Escaping

I debated posting this because I like posting thought-provoking blogs, and I thought this might come off as silly. But I think this is a worthwhile share that could be meaningful to someone, which is why I do what I do.

When life is tough, we often look for an escape. There are unhealthy escapes such as excessive eating, heavy drinking, oversleeping, and addictive drugs. There are times when someone is depressed they binge hours of TV or Netflix to distract them from the pain. But then there are the healthy, necessary escapes. They may seem silly on the surface, but sometimes indulging child-like hobbies can help us find light and joy in our lives when everything around us is shrouded in shadow.

 

I started playing Pokemon Go around this time last year. I had played some in 2016 and then quit.  Then last September things in my life that had already been precarious and troublesome had begun sliding downhill. So I redownloaded the app and began spending some of my free time entering another world where I hunted Pokemon. This got me out of the house, where I was tempted to stay because depression was setting in, and gave me something fun to focus on instead of spiraling into panic attacks. This may sound dramatic, but it’s true. An escape was necessary. It was by no means an all-consuming escape that was an unhealthy obsession but provided a much-needed break from the reality that threatened to crush me.

Now, I want to pause here and say that the hobbies that help us escape are coping mechanisms but are by no means a cure or answer to depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses. Fun and positivity can help us endure day to day, but therapy and medication are what truly treat us to promote mental wellness. Please, do not see this as a promotion of fun and games over professional help.

 

I hit my lowest point in December. This low point lasted through March. It was so ugly and so painful. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go to therapy until I moved to another state in April, so I just had to get to the next day. I started really delving into Pokemon go. I would wear a hoodie and take long walks at night while playing the game. Again, this may sound silly, but hear me out. There was something about obscuring myself in my clothing and in the dark from the people around me that gave me some of the power back that had been taken away from me. I was invisible. No one could find me and bully me. I was playing a fun game. No one could interrupt a good moment and attack me. It felt sneaky and exciting. I was still depressed. I had panic attacks when I least expected them. But I had these moments where I escaped, I did something that uplifted my soul so that I could face another day.  Then, as soon as it was available to me (just 2 weeks after I moved) I began therapy.

There were other escapes. I wrote a book (I am looking for a publisher!) My husband and I took a number of day trips on my days off to explore Florida (where we were living at the time). These were productive escapes, and much less childish. But sometimes you have to remember the child inside of you to keep you from becoming cold, hard, and bitter.