Saturday, January 28

choose your own adventure: follow Trump or follow Christ

This isn’t about picking political sides.
It’s about choosing whether to be a light that shines out the gospel to the world or embrace a growing darkness that will eventually, but inevitably consume us all from within.
Please read this article.

And if you do, make sure you read all of it.

And if you think it's a little extreme and overdramatic... well, so do I--but that doesn't mean I disagree with what it is saying. Because the longer I ponder it, and the longer I worry about posting anything about the bizarre alternate dimension we have entered, [1] the more convinced I am that it's worth sharing, and that it is definitely worth thinking about.

If it makes you uncomfortable: that's probably good. It makes ME uncomfortable, and I've been anti-Trump since the beginning.

I know, I know: he's anti-abortion. And while I, too, am (ardently) anti-abortion, that specific fact does not cancel out the rest of the insane and terrifying things that our president--our PRESIDENT--has been doing. If you call yourself "pro-life," then that title should extend to lives, period--not just the lives of the unborn. There is a difference between standing up for something you believe in and using parts of those beliefs to justify actions that contradict what your faith proclaims.

Don't forget the two great commandments we are given as Christians:
And one of them, a lawyer, asked [Jesus] a question to test him. 'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?' And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.' [2] 
I appreciate that Mr Hunt does not declare any people "not Christian," and I am certainly not doing that either. What I am trying to do--what I think I have always been trying to do [3]--is point out that being a Christ-follower should always come before being a member of a political party, and that supporting worldly leaders or their laws should always come after following Christ.
For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. [4]

---
[1] Especially given recent conversations I've had with people about how posting things on social media often does more damage than good... am I just perpetuating that constant loop? When it comes down to it: yes, I am, but at the same time it is becoming increasingly more difficult for me to not say anything simply on principle.
[2] Matthew 22:35-40
[3] Ultimately, my greatest dream for conversations like this is for people to think a little more critically about why they believe what they believe, and to know whether things they post/share/comment are really and truly coming from the core of their faith. I find that so many Christians share things that sound more or less like what they believe, even if it has some issues that contradict the fundamental nature of their belief, and that enrages me almost more than anything else I read (even when those other things are actively opposed to my beliefs--but at least they are consistent). Which is why, in a roundabout way, I struggled so hard with sharing this article in the first place, because I didn't want to add to the shaking-of-fists without thinking very deeply about whether I believed in it. So let it be on the record (even in a footnote) that I am not saying that this article is absolute truth, or that I will stake my beliefs on Zack Hunt's blog. What I am saying, however, is that this is well worth considering--especially if you are a Trump supporter.
[4] Ephesians 5:8-10

Thursday, November 10

the situation is always fluid

In light of, well, you know, I've decided to compile some thoughts. My guess is that they will not form a logical thread of a normal, well-written post, but I suppose we'll have to see.

1: sin is real.

And it's the reason for all of the crazy bullshit that goes on in the world, and it attacks and damages and destroys everyone, regardless of who you are or where you come from or what you believe in. People hurt and kill each other. Disasters happen. Injustice is everywhere across the world. And we're not safe from ourselves, either—regardless of how hard we might try to Do the Right Thing, we're not perfect. We all have our flaws, whether we can identify them or not, and even those of us who are struggling to live better lives, to be better people, are still, and will always be, fighting an upward battle. You can't avoid it, whether you are a Christ-follower or not. [1] And, I'm sorry to say, there is approximately zero chance of that changing—at least not while we're here on earth.

Certainly, we should do what we can to walk the right path, to prevent injustice, to protect and support those weaker or less fortunate than ourselves, to love all people as God has loved us. But so long as we're here, there will be no end to the terrible things that happen.

Sin just is, and it's awful, and it takes no sides but its own.

2: america is not a christian nation.

Reminder: we left England because we wanted religious freedom—not so we could use our faith to bully other people into living the way we want them to. The very concept of having religious freedom centers on the idea that all people should have that freedom, and that, perhaps, the government should keep its nose out of other people's business. [2]

I've had a handful of conversations with people about voting your beliefs, and that one is tricky for me. As a follower of Christ, I follow his teachings, and he teaches that there is only one Way, one Truth, and one Life [3]. And, as such, I don't (can't?) align with the pluralistic idea that whatever works for you is okay.

That said: I'm not (as I hope you know) the kind of person who just throws my beliefs and opinions in people's faces, because, while I and my faith do adhere to a "One Way" belief, I also don't expect anyone to change their mind simply because "I told them it was the right thing to do." The Way of Jesus is love and compassion, and I strive to follow that path, regardless of whether we believe the same thing, regardless of whether my heart hurts for you as a result of my belief. One of my (many) personal uphill battle(s) is that of finding the courage to share those beliefs, even when I sense that they may not be well received, but this struggle comes from a place of desperately wanting to share the love and the hope that I have through my faith.

Many people, even people that I know and care about, are relatively opposed to hearing about God and Christianity. This is primarily and unsurprisingly because the majority of their experiences with Christianity have been the hatred and judgment that so often radiates from "Christian" communities.[4] And yes, while the Bible draws some pretty explicit (and some unfortunately less-explicit) lines in the sand, Jesus also spent his entire ministry hanging out with sinners, even while completely physically and emotionally exhausted. Ranting and shaming and pointing fingers has never gotten anyone anywhere, nor is it what Christians are called to do. [5]

Anyway where was I — right — voting your beliefs. I struggle with this because I put my faith in God and not in the country, and I also recognize that a functional democracy is one that actually allows its people to live the way they want to. And—in case you were confused—democracy and Christianity are not the same thing. Democracy, in order to work, needs to allow people to live in the way that works for them. My belief system, however, doesn't really work that way. So... do I vote for what makes sense for democracy, because I think that certain laws and rulings and what-have-you create an oppressive, not-in-the-spirit-of-love government system? or do I vote based solely on what MY beliefs are, and let the rest shake out as it may?

The point I am trying to make is this: the Kingdom of God is not the same as earthly government, and democracy should not, and cannot, be used as a tool for spreading the Word and love of Christ. That's on you, kids.

3: in an attempt to pull this together

I think this all comes up because I'm tired—more tired than I have ever been as a result of politics. I've never voted in a presidential election before, because I've never been this invested, and (as a result) I've never been more disappointed in or alarmed by the results. I'm wishing that I had said some of this sooner (not that I think it would have made much of a difference, but you know), but more importantly—I'm tired of not saying any of this at all.

I'm a Christian. I'm a feminist. [6] I'm not a republican (was I ever?). I regularly attend a confessional Lutheran church (which is one of the more traditional/conservative brands). I think that church and state should be actually separated in order for democracy to work. [7] I think that many Christians need to seriously and carefully consider what they say and post on social media, because no matter how caught up you can get, just because something has a seed or suggestion of Christian belief doesn't make it something that spreads the love of Christ. [8] The same goes for everyone, really, but I feel that I currently only have the right to admonish my own people. Because Christians are my people, and—as I have said—no one is perfect, and sometimes judgment can be a good thing.

The point is that I'm tired of worrying that my non-Christian friends will think differently of me for being an ardent, conservative-belief'd Christian. I'm tired of worrying that family members will berate me for my political leanings or for not trying to put on a show of being a straight-laced good girl, when in fact I am just as real and flawed and struggling as the next person. And if nothing else, this election season/process has made it much easier for me to stop caring so much.

The Bible makes it pretty clear that to live means to suffer. But we aren't alone, and God's love is unchanging and eternal.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. [9]
Take heart. He has overcome the world. [10]



---
[1] actually, you can't avoid it especially if you are a Christ-follower, but that's a somewhat different angle on what I'm getting at here.
[2] credit to Amanda and/or Jasmine, although I can't remember which of you made this point so concisely.
[3] spoiler: it's him.
[4] judgment is not always bad, however, and I also believe that being judged by someone (in a loving way or not) can do a lot for the whole 'being a better person' thing. even if/when it sucks to hear. and the tricky part is deciphering when it's actually constructive criticism and when the other person is just being an asshole. anyway, that's not the point I'm making here, so if you're mad that I said Christianity isn't about judgment, please review Ephesians 4:1-7 and 1 Corinthians 13 and then just let it go because you might be part of the problem.
[5] so cut it out already, because the only people I've been tempted to "de-friend" are, in fact, largely fellow brothers and/or sisters in Christ. that alarms me. don't be part of the problem.
[6] if you knew me in high school or early college: your surprise is well-founded. let this mark the first time that I have clearly and publicly stated this, and I regret nothing.
[7] I also think this country's "democracy" needs an epic overhaul, but hell if I have any idea what that actually means.
[8] I'd just like it on record that Matt Walsh is a tremendous asshole. I got excited about something he posted, once, because it articulated something that I had been trying to put into words—and then I realized that he's a bigot with a chip on his shoulder who does nothing to display a Christlike humility or compassion. and yes, I recognize the irony in my calling him an asshole and then being unkind to him in the same fashion, but I'm over it (see above).
[9] 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
[10] John 16:33

Friday, January 8

I know she can GET the job, Harry, but can she DO the job?

I have always thought that making first-or-second-year college students pick a major was a little ridiculous. How on earth is someone supposed to know, at age 18, what they want to do with their lives? [1] I cannot tell you how many people I talked to in my senior year who decided that they didn't want to be an education or business or psych major, but they only had one more semester and changing their minds would mean more time and money spent at school. And yes, I know that (thankfully!) many employers are just looking for a degree in general, nevermind what that degree is in, and no (just for the record), I'm not saying that getting a degree isn't worthwhile (although see [1] and a probable future post for more thoughts on this), but the point is: that's a hell of a lot of pressure to put on someone fresh out of high school, who--thanks to senior year and an unrealistic sense of self-assurance--thinks they actually know what it is that they want to do.


Like me, for example. I knew exactly what I was doing with my life (note the rueful shake of the head). I never even changed my major, because I knew before going to college that I was going to get my English degree, and then go on to grad school to study Composition And Rhetoric, and then become a tenured English professor and teach college freshmen How To Write and have a book-lined office with a comfy swivel chair and be that crazy blue-haired professor who changed students' lives on the regular.

Confession: I had no idea what "rhetoric" actually was (something Aristotle something), and now after a year and a half of grad school I might be able to explain it to you. Same applies for "tenure." I have also learned (in a mere 3 semesters of teaching) that I'll settle for making sure my students remember to bring a pencil to class, and convincing them that teachers DO actually notice when you use 12.5 point font (and that it just makes you look desperate when I've told you seventeen times that there isn't actually a page requirement). [2]

--anyway the point is, being an English Composition professor just made the most sense. Writing has always been pretty easy for me (which is why I would wait until the night before to do it...), and I care about reaching students at the early-adult-stages because that's the time when most people deal with/go through a lot of pretty significant life changes. I certainly did. And you'd think (maybe) that the fact that literally all of my other plans had changed would have indicated to me that I should rethink the English Prof one--but no, I'm stubborn, and it was the one thing I was determined to hold on to. Going To Grad School was the reason I turned down a promotion at The Corporation (at least three different times), why I only half-heartedly looked for better-paying (and more enjoyable) jobs, why I spent my summers trying to study for the damned GRE and write up application essays instead of doing the thing that has always been waiting (patiently) on the sidelines for me to notice it. I was thoroughly devastated when I didn't get accepted on my first round of applications (surely the magna-cum-laude-with-honors and a talent for writing would up my chances of a killer statement of purpose?!) but then not getting accepted just became a challenge that I had to take on, which I did, because I knew that I could if I just tried a little harder.

Not once did I stop to think whether or not that was what I really wanted to do.

The summer before I started school was the first time I gave myself a break, took The Pressure Of Everything Else off, and allowed myself to take my writing seriously. After all, I had the time, and no other commitments, and I might as well make the most of my summer before I moved on with my "real" life. And then I wrote more that summer than I've ever written, and it was messy and mostly awful and that project has been temporarily shelved, but it underscored the thing I've always known and pretended not to: I want to write fiction. My heart has always been in the young adult fantasy shelves, with the stories about girl heroes and adventures, with magic and romance and learning about life and relationships and yourself. But then grad school happened, and there I was, doing what I'd worked so hard to do and trying (only somewhat successfully) not to be miserable while doing it.

This is a post about Making and Changing Plans (she explained), but allow me to take a small detour to talk a little bit about whining. The thing is, it's so hard to explain where I am with school without looking like I'm just pathetically complaining about having relatively-demanding responsibilities. On the one hand, my problems are directly related to the combination of the objective, widely-accepted stress about grad school and my own struggle with anxiety. Being a graduate student is all-consuming: you wake up in the morning thinking about the work you have to do, and frequently just doing your chores feels like reprieve. [3] But I also never feel like I am doing as much as I should, and I never reach a point where I can look at my to-do list and say "yep, crossed everything off for today." And because I'm teaching, I have the weight of the education of 48 students on my heart, and the constant feeling of failure when it comes to providing meaningful feedback on their work (which only about a third of them will read anyway), as well as managing my interpersonal anxiety when it comes to overly-confident-and-cocky students (or, worse, the totally non-confident students, when my Big Sister Function kicks on and it's all I can do not to hug them while they're crying). It's little wonder that I'll take my victories in the form of pencil-equipped students on a daily basis.

But that's only one side of it. The other side comes directly from the fact that I can't seem to stop from talking about how hard of a struggle this is. And that's the really upsetting thing about grad school: it consistently makes me feel like a failure, like I am the kind of person who would rather be doing anything other than the work she's supposed to be doing. It makes me genuinely concerned that I am lazy and/or incompetent, that I am bad at sticking things out, that I can't handle actual responsibility (so much for motherhood) and I'm never going to be happy because all I want to do is watch Netflix and color--and that all of this is my fault, because I'm useless. Personal life history and character references will probably (hopefully) prove otherwise, but grad school makes it hard for me to even know who I am anymore, and between weeks 1 and 15, sometimes it's literally all I can do to have a good solid cry on the couch (or the floor, or the shower, you know, wherever). [4]


For those of you who have asked me about school and gotten the overly-dramatic time-for-a-paxil answer, this is why. And then I hear myself say (again) how it's really challenging and how rough of a time I've had, and then I hate myself for whining about all of this, again, and then I shut up because methinks the lady doth protest too much.

And thus I return to my main point, which is that having plans is fine, and being the kind of person who pursues her goals is fine, but what we often forget to tell ourselves is that we need to take time to consider what it is we actually want to do, and whether our Well-Made Plans are really getting us there.

Last semester I had to decide whether to turn in an application to renew my teaching assistantship, as well as one to the Creative Writing department to Continue My Education and get a PhD (because regardless of the fact that The Plan had always been a PhD in comp/rhet, getting a PhD in general was still acceptable). It's such a good opportunity, everyone said, and it would be silly not to at least apply because you can always decide not to go later. And even if none of UWM's fiction writing classes will specifically help you with what you want to write, you can still benefit from the classes, because writing and sharing your work will always help you improve, won't it?

I am not ARGUING that with you, Harry. [5]

But for the first time (that I can think of anyway), I made an active decision not to act on something that I could have. I nervously took some deep breaths as December deadlines passed me by. Filling out some forms? No big deal. [6] But what was a big deal was realizing that even taking that step--even pretending that I would decide later--meant that there was a really good chance that I would make myself do it. Because, damn it all, I'm not a quitter! I'm not someone who flakes out on Serious And Important Life Goals! I am not someone who just gives up on her dreams!

Not arguing that with you, Harry. But just because I can get the job--and maybe, even if I CAN do the job--it doesn't mean that I have to.

Now (almost 10 years after Making Plans) I finally, actually, know what I want.

I want to write novels and raise a family. I want to go to a job that allows me to actually cross items off my to-do list, a job that I don't need in order to feel fulfilled, and I want to leave everything there when I come home. I want to read ALL of the books and learn not to feel like I'm disappointing anyone (myself included/especially) for not Being Productive every waking moment. I don't mind hard work, and I don't mind challenges. But if I'm going to face those, no matter what, they might as well be hard work and challenges on the road to doing the things I'm actually interested in.

So, long story short (much too late, they chorused): I'm about to hit the ground limping with my final semester of grad school. [7] I'm really, really overwhelmed by it (I have to write my thesis and teach a totally new class, not to mention ignore the noisy conflict of senioritis and highest-grad-school-stakes-so-far), and I could use your prayers, because I'm already a couple of emotional meltdowns in and the semester hasn't even started yet. But if Joe can jump into a volcano, and if Addie can leave the castle to find the cure for the Gray Death [8], then I can (probably) (hopefully) make it through the next 3.5 months.

And then?


I guess we'll find out.

---
[1] Not to mention the fact that we tell them to go directly to college, do not pass go, do not collect any money for having a full time job to grow up a little and figure out what you want out of life (because you certainly won't be making enough money to pay for college, to the collected dismay of the older generations) -- but that's for a different post.

[2] For the record, blue hair washes out right away and looks terrible with my complexion, and besides, I don't even like to own books.

[3] If that doesn't capture the sense for you, I don't know what will.

[4] For my Catholic friends out there: how do I nominate my husband for sainthood?

[5] This, the title, and the images are from the movie Joe versus the Volcano, which if you haven't seen yet you absolutely should.

[6] Sending in creative writing samples and actually getting accepted to the program? Much bigger deal. All things considered, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have gotten accepted anyway (realistic observation, not self-depreciation). But that's not actually the point, so this got footnoted instead.

[7] I've considered quitting, but Aaron has convinced me that I should have something to show for all the work I've done (emotional and otherwise), so I guess I'll at least give it a shot. See [4].

[8] Bonus points if you know what this is from -- looking at you, Minte.

Sunday, September 20

Rhetoric, Anxiety, and the Apology I'm (Supposed To Be) Living Without

It's been a while.

Mostly, I blame grad school--there really isn't time to do much outside of schoolwork. And summer is always much crazier than I expect it to be, and any writing I did was working on my novel (which I have since decided I need to shelve and ponder for a while because of reasons).

But the time away has given me a chance to think about the point of having a blog in the first place. I can certainly tell you what I do with it: sometimes I vent, occasionally I post an article I find interesting, and once in a great while I just like to update the virtual community about the goings-on in my life. But somewhere under all of that I know what this is really for--and I try to pretend I'm not avoiding it.

When I created this blog in 2011, it was because I was sick of not saying what I thought, sick of hiding from the things that I think and believe and care about. I was fresh out of college and everything was new and different and I decided: this is it. This is my space to think out loud. I'm going to create a blog that people have to choose to read, and it's not my fault if they don't agree, and if they don't care enough to hear me out and respect my perspective then that says more about them and the true nature of our relationship than it does about me.

That determination lasted for about three posts, and then I moved on to "I loved this book" and "ooh look at this interesting article I read." And now, years later, I'm still hiding.

Some of you may know, or have guessed, but it's not really a secret: I deal with a lot of anxiety. I've been told by a professional (but just one, so take that as you will), that I rank in the 93rd percentile for the amount of anxiety I have. (That means, she explained to a mathematically-challenged Piera, that only 7 percent of the population has more anxiety than I do.) That's... well, that's a lot of anxiety. I've lived with it for long enough that I don't always notice it, and teaching myself TO notice it has been the real challenge, but it's been getting better. Mostly. But it doesn't help me much when it comes to being honest with people about what I think. It's to the point now that a lot of the time I try to figure out how to say as much of what I mean in as little words as possible, because I can't believe that anyone would want to hear me talk long enough for me to get to what I'm actually trying to say. Mostly, that belief just shuts me up--I can't think fast enough, can't get to my main point fast enough, so it's probably better just to say nothing at all.

You might be wondering what I'm talking about. If you've made it this far (see my disbelief, above), then rest assured that I'll get to the point. Eventually. Probably.

It's hard, I have discovered, to exist as a practicing Christian in largely non-Christian environments. So hard, in fact, that a few people have been surprised to discover that I am a Christian. Someone told me once that they appreciated the way that I went about being one, because I didn't shove it in people's faces. In a certain sense, I was quite pleased to hear this, because I have little patience for people (Christians and non-Christians alike) who aggressively shove their beliefs in the faces of others. Underneath that initial pleasure, however, was the sinking feeling of failure, of being lukewarm. What does it say about my faith if I hold it so close to my heart that it surprises people to discover it there? And (more importantly) what does it say about God and what it means to have this faith--especially one that, as too few of you know, I hold at the very core of every way that I understand the world?

People (Christians and non-Christians alike) have an increasing tendency to make declarative statements about their beliefs, without considering (a) whether that statement truly aligns with and represents their "worldview" or theology, or (b) how they sound while making these broad, generalized comments. I have tried for my entire life to avoid doing either of these things. When non-Christians do them, I feel a vague sense of "that's not fair," because if I were to voice my beliefs about a particular topic, it would be generally written off as being preachy and obnoxious (and ain't nobody got time for that). But the thing is, when Christians make ignorant or abrasive comments, it makes me annoyed, nearly to the point of angry. Sometimes it's a matter of theology, and by theology I mean that what they are saying is not what the Bible actually says or means. Sometimes, even if their theology is correct, said Christian comes across as just generally being a loudmouthed jerk. Either way, Christianity, Christ, and the faith are all sorely misrepresented.

Before half of you who are reading this explode into a kind of frenzied alarm about my theological values, let me add this: I am not saying that Christians shouldn't advocate for their beliefs when those beliefs are fully grounded in what God has told us through his Word. I'm also not saying that those beliefs will be welcomed by the world, or that we should amend our beliefs so that they will be accepted by everyone. I'm not saying this at all. Both Jesus and Paul, among others (okay, like everyone in the Bible), make it perfectly clear that what we have to say is not going to be popular, and that is part of the challenge we face while we are still on earth. But there is a difference between holding firm to what you believe and being belligerent or rude about those beliefs.

In Paul's letter to the Colossians, he writes: "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." [1]

Paul's not telling the Colossians (or us) to "say things that people want to hear." But he is explaining that as children of God, it's our job to live in a way that demonstrates the love and peace of Christ Jesus.

But, because this post is really about me and my issues (hashtag selfie...!), Paul also doesn't say "hide the truth, defend your pride, keep your mouth shut so you don't cause any conflict." And this is my daily struggle. This is the battle I continue to lose.

I'm so jealous of the people who seem to find it easy to state their beliefs on any given topic. Many of them even do it gracefully, in a way that people listen and accept that while they may have a different view, that person is entitled to those beliefs. Some of them have told me that I just need to "care less about what people think," which might have some value, but then again, might not be a value that I can fit into who I am. And besides I've spent too many years being told, by different people and in different ways, that what I have to say is only valid so long as it doesn't run contrary to what the other person is saying. Most of the time, in my effort to be humble, I give up on expressing myself in order to validate the other person (which, I should add, is more out of cowardice than actual humility). And now, here I am, trying to exist as an adult (ha!) with many people who don't share my beliefs or my faith, and with whom I am trying to maintain various types of relationships.

The problem, I have realized, is that there are so few people that I actually trust to hear me out, to let me hold the shrew-stone [2] long enough to make sense of my "divided mind" [3] and get to some kind of point. It's hard for me to accept that I take a while to process my thoughts. I like to think I have a quick wit, generally speaking, but when it comes to things I care about, things that matter, things that have to come from the very protected core of who I am--it might take hours, or days, or years. I might never say it, no matter how much I need to, no matter how much I want you to hear it. Because I'm afraid. I'm afraid of losing you, afraid of inviting an argument, afraid of damaging your feelings, afraid that I might have any kind of effect on you at all, and that you might resent me for it.

But even in those moments when I get over myself, when I truly believe that the things I have to say might be more important than either of our feelings, I am faced with the paralyzing fear that I will say the wrong thing. At the core of it all, I'm a writer. Words matter. And if I haven't had the time to draft and reflect and revise, then I'm not ready to tell you. And conversations move so fast, and you're almost done with your beer, or I have to get to class, and my ideas are exploding like fireworks and I can't pull the shells together fast enough to even hand you a piece of shrapnel as we walk away from each other. And anyway, even if I was a little faster, I might hand you the wrong piece, something out of context that doesn't really say what it's supposed to mean.

It's better to stay quiet. It's safer. I can't fuck anything up that way.


I've been writing this post in my head for years. I've started it twice and walked away from it. Right now I'm working on my third version of this draft, and I'm still fighting the urge to tuck it away somewhere, to not say anything at all and certainly not share this post on any kind of social media. This is my problem, my particular dramatic emotional issue. No one really needs to know about it.

Why do we blog, anyway? Why do we tweet, or repost, or share pictures about our lives? Do we really think our mostly-unregulated circles of kind-of-but-not-actually-"friends" care about what we have to say? Do we really think we'll make some kind of impression on anyone? Do we want to? Do we care?

I care. I care too much. I care about the person who's upset that I used the word "fuck" just now (and in a post about Jesus, too!). I care about the person who's caught up on my having a faith that's not even supposed to be widely accepted. I care about the people who are going to leave a comment to be supportive, to tell me that they care, that they think I have worthwhile things to say. I care too much, but I don't think any of that matters. I don't think I'm doing this for you. I think I'm writing because I have to, because it's eating at me from inside and if I don't start writing, don't start sharing in some capacity, don't take my rants out from behind my shower curtain and make them in some way public, I'm going to drive myself mad.

Peter tells us to "live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God." [4] That's why I started writing: because I am a free servant of God, and because's he's given me a capacity to write. He planted all these fireworks, and he's going to keep setting them off. I don't know if I'll ever know whether I'm affecting you. I don't think that's the point. I have to trust in the freedom I'm given, and trust that he wouldn't set me loose on the world if he didn't think it was a good idea. I have been saved by grace, through faith, [5] and that faith sets me free--free from fear and from the constant pressure I put on myself to be perfect.

Living without apology is the single most difficult thing I have ever tried to do. And it might never get any easier. But since I have the hope of Christ "as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul" [6] --what have I got to lose?

---
[1] Colossians 3:12-17
[2] it's a Redwall reference. basically everyone has to shut up while the person with the stone says what they have to say.
[3] in Greek, the word "anxious" translates most literally as "drawn in opposite directions" or "divided into parts." See here for more details.
[4] 1 Peter 2:16
[5] Ephesians 2:8
[6] Hebrews 6:19a

Monday, September 8

"If you have to ask, then that’s your answer."

Warning - NSFSA (not safe for some audiences ... you know who you are)

This article, "Fuck Yes or No," pretty much says what I've been trying to say for forever. Manson and I have some different fundamental beliefs about sex [1], but other than that, we're more or less on the same page. I've been concerned for years with the all-too-common relationship approach of "this is good enough for now" or "I just don't want to be alone" -- if we're friends, you've probably heard my opinions about this firsthand. They might even have been directed at you. What I never feel I convey, however, is that it's so sad to hear people give terrible excuses for staying with someone they shouldn't be with. Not because I'm a hopeless, sunshine-and-unicorns-romantic [2], but because it reveals that people I care about don't think they're worth something/-one incredible.

You're worth it. Waiting for that person is worth it. I know, I know, it's easy for me to say because I have my person--but allow me to remind you that we fought for it. And the road wasn't always wonderful. [3] And before that happened, I came up with a lot of reasons to stay with other people when deep down I knew they were bad ones. Reasons, that is. Because ultimately, the Law of Fuck Yes or No doesn't say "this person is terrible and you should leave them"--it supports the idea that two people have to connect.

That being said, I want to comment on the two problems Manson observes at the end of his post. Ultimately they both sum up to "the problem is you." I mean, that's pretty much the argument he makes in general: if you're not happy, it's your responsibility to consider why, and what you're doing or not doing to cause it. And to some extent--yes. You're the only one responsible for your choices and actions. But I want to add that just because one person realized they weren't happy and needed to pursue something else doesn't mean that the other person was somehow screwing it up. Manson's Two Problems make it sound like if you aren't connecting with someone, it's your own fault, and I don't think that's true. I know some really incredible people who haven't met their person yet. I've witnessed seemingly-happy relationships blow up out of nowhere. Sure, everyone can use some self-examination and -improvement, and sure, sometimes your lack of self-actualization can prevent others from seeing who you really are, or bring about the end of a relationship. But not always.

Sometimes you just have to have the chance to meet the right person. Sometimes what seems like a "fault" on one side or another is really just a disconnect that wasn't very evident to one or both parties. Sometimes people just up and leave for "no reason" (essentially, because they're not saying Fuck Yes) and can't give a good explanation as to why. Usually I end up asking these questions: if the person you are interested in doesn't see how great you are, do you really want to try to establish a relationship with them? Do you really want to be with someone who doesn't care about you enough to work through their issues with you? [5]

I guess I'm just trying to cover both sides. You can't generalize and say that you've missed your chance because of something you did or didn't do. You also can't generalize and say that you're perfect and anyone who doesn't realize that is a loser. The point Manson is making--and that I am agreeing with--is that relationships are about connection. If you have to ask whether you are connecting, there's a good chance you aren't. If attempting to connect with someone is harder than it is successful ... maybe neither of you are saying Fuck Yes.

---
[1] primarily the whole "not doing it before you're married" thing
[2] I mean... I am. but that's not the point here.
[3] I'd love to tell you the story sometime. Because I love to tell the story. Although if you're reading this, there's a good chance you know it already and really have no desire to hear it again.
[4] They usually work in the course of a semi-objective, rational discussion. They're not quite as effective right after the breakup, but then, I'm not really great at being comforting. I do like sad movies and wine and ice cream, so maybe we could compromise with those?

Thursday, July 31

countdown

I think it finally hit me that my life is changing again, and I'm sort of in backpedal mode. No, I'm not pregnant. But I am starting grad school in September, and I am instructing two sections of English 101 in addition to taking my actual graduate courses (and still barista-ing on the side!) and basically, two weeks from now I will be trading in life as I know it so I can start all over again.

This was always part of my 'plan' [1], but it's hard to accept that I am, in fact, actually going back to school and actually getting hands-on, with-guidance practice/experience for the thing that I want to do as my career. I don't know how to be excited about that, because it's not even really ... real. It's like this pretend on-paper thing that's happening and it's all sort of still vague and overwhelming. Plus, the thought of actually teaching and being responsible for not one but two entire classes is just ... I mean, it's terrifying. Exciting, but terrifying. And I know in the back of my head that I really just have to--you know, show up, and go through the motions, and try not to stress out about how it's not going at all how I planned, and we'll all get through it together, but for the right-now, while I have the time to be thinking about it, it's sort of looming overhead as this big, all-consuming unknown thing.

And the weirdest part is that right now, I'm looking at the time I have before the four (count 'em, four) orientations before school starts, and I'm thinking, maybe I shouldn't have done this in the first place. I feel like I just started to figure my shit out. I somehow magically jumped the hurdle of "getting my ass in gear" and I have been faithfully writing, working out, and reading the Bible. Like, pretty much every day, or in a comfortably-alternating pattern. [2] I am creating, rather than finding, a balance of work/social life/Piera time. I've stopped stressing out quite so much about the times when I decide to do something relaxing, because it's occurred to me that it's actually good for me to let myself chill out for a while (who knew). In some ways I feel that I have a lot more on my mental/emotional plate than I have in a while, but in other ways, I feel a lot more at peace with myself in general. And I'm excited about it, and about being generally positive and happy, and I'm not ready to give it up yet! I just freakin got here!

Two weeks. Two weeks and three weekends of actually being the way I've been trying to be for the last three years: content. And that's already slipping away because the list of "things I have GOT to do before school starts" is growing--things like my proofreading gig, and having to actually research and decide on (and pay for....) my own health insurance, and cleaning/organizing my study (and finding a desk to put in it, which is really the most important part), and changing my facebook settings so that students can't see my stuff, and making sure I have some quality time with the sibs before they leave for school again, and buying things like nice pants and shoes maybe? and I already have upcoming weekend plans, and ... suddenly I don't even have my two weeks anymore, and I'm careening down the slippery slope into the future.

Don't get me wrong: I absolutely would not take it back. I can't wait to be back in school. I like me the best when I am in school--I love constantly learning, constantly writing, constantly being presented with new ideas and new ways of thinking. I love the schedule and the routine and the whiteboards and all of it. It just seems that I have been working so hard to get here that I have wasted the last three years, and it's almost ... not fair? to suddenly have figured out how to live a life that I enjoy. That I want. I finally hit my stride, and haven't I been looking for it my entire life?

In a way, it's probably taken these last three years of work and discontent and disappointment and hope in order for me to be "ready" [3] for this. A friend of mine pointed out that I needed to go through all of the challenges of the last few years in order to to learn how to face Life and find some kind of balance. I have to stop thinking of it as a waste and start trying to see it as the learning process--but that's hard to do when I am finally here, and I can't remember what was so hard about it in the first place. Then again, I will have had a few months of this before I get started... maybe I needed it all to happen right now in order for me to be excited enough to carry it with me into the upcoming semester.

What I'm saying is, I just want to BE at the start of Orientation #1. Once I hit the ground running I won't have the time to look back, even if I wanted to--and I definitely don't want to.

---
[1] don't worry, I never actually counted on said plan, but it was, you know, there
[2] side effects may include: not knowing who you are anymore; wondering how long it's going to last before you fizzle out; random bouts of ridiculous excitement over the amount of productive I feel in a given day
[3] I'll probably be referencing this post from now until the day I die...

Tuesday, April 15

it's just money

Yup, you guessed it: this is another temper-tantrum post regarding the evils of growing up.

Seriously though--when they told me it was rough, they weren't kidding. When the adults I've complained to all gave me the "heh, yeah, I remember those days," I thought, "well, at least I'm not alone, at least they survived."

What I didn't realize was that the little "heh" was a temporary flashback to the red font on your bank statement, or the dreaded calls from 800 numbers (fourteen times a day), or the fact that you start using change when you buy things, simply because it makes you feel like you're spending less money.

For a while it was comforting to know that this is a normal post-college experience. Everyone agrees that it's hard to balance yourself out, start paying back loans, try to pay rent or utilities or whatever, nevermind--God forbid--the occasional "splurge," which at this point, includes paying $1.50 for a redbox movie. But it's normal, right? Plenty of Real Adults have done this, and survived, and have even started to have children! [1]

If it's normal, which they keep telling me it is, then everyone deals with it, and eventually, people recover. It's not forever. One day, or so I am told, it'll be normal to have a positive number in your bank account when you get your next paycheck.

The only thing is, that's just not helpful.

No, I don't want your budget lecture or your helpful suggestions or your "have you tried"s. The problem isn't our lack of ability to manage our money. The problem is the lack of freaking money. And sure, it's going to get better. Aaron is being handed work left and right, and my student loans go on hold in the fall, plus I get a salary to be a TA, which yay, but that doesn't help me now, this week, when it's Tuesday and we're overdrawn and there are literally only two eggs and a stick of butter in the fridge. At least I don't have to decide what to make for dinner?

And so, because I'm me, I like to look at all the things I did or am doing wrong. I could have gotten a degree in something marketable and not "English," because what does that degree even mean [2]. I could have "saved up for college" and/or applied to a bunch of places until I got a free ride somewhere and then I wouldn't have loans to pay back. I could shut my stupid mouth and get the job at Aldi bagging groceries, because in the end, what's another 20 hours/week of dealing with the average American consumer, and no one really cares about your degree or actual abilities anyway. And the time you are (selfishly!) taking for your marriage, your sanity, or cooking actual meals isn't really that important, because--you need the money! Get off your high horse and stop bitching!

....

I used to believe, wholeheartedly, that doing what you love is the most important. I used to believe, wholeheartedly, that it was just money, and that there would never be enough, and you just had to focus on what God is giving you today, and let tomorrow sort itself out...tomorrow.

The thing I'm most upset about, more than anything else, is the fact that it's getting harder and harder to believe in that. In theory, I do. In theory, I completely believe that God gives me what I need, when I need it. In theory, it could be a lot worse, and I have a zillion things to be thankful for, and I really have no right to complain at all.

You may have noticed, but I like to whine about growing up. Partially, it's because I know I'm not alone and I feel a sort of camaraderie with my fellow post-grads--and also, I'm a smartass and it's part of my stand-up routine. But honestly? It's so much harder than I realized it would be. And I'm not just talking about paying my bills. I'm talking about shouldering the responsibility of an apartment, a car [3], a job. I'm talking about facing the fact that it's irresponsible not to do something about the anxiety disorder I've been ignoring for years. Regular day-to-day responsibilities aren't homework that I get to put off until the last minute. The decisions Aaron and I have to make--we're it. We make the last call, and if it's a bad decision, there's no one to rescue us. There's no midnight-"get me out of this sketchy party"-phone-call. We're the end of the line, and we're just so used to being kids. Sure, we listened to what grownups told us, and eventually we actually started paying attention, but how on earth can you be "prepared" for this? All you really have is an idea of what it'll be like, and then cannonball, it's into the freezing cold water and you'd better learn how to swim.

You probably won't believe this, but I actually hate listening to myself whine. I know I don't have it as bad as it feels. I can look at today and think, I have a job, I have tips to buy groceries, I have a car to get home and a fantastic relationship with my fantastic husband. College degree, acceptance to grad school, prospects for the future, friends, clothes, cell phones--what do I really have to complain about?

"Growing up" is finding--or sometimes, creating--balance. Maybe I'm not at work every waking moment, but I'm making the most of my life. And life is more than the bank account. Life is goals and relationships, it's using the talents that we're given (even if they don't make us money!). It's finding the strength to face another day, to be able to say alright, let's have a kid or two, [4], to remember that the amount of money you have/don't have doesn't--shouldn't--can't--dictate how you live your life. Can I make changes? Sure. Will it be touch-and-go for a few years? Probably. But that's just how it is. That's just life, and it's not supposed to be easy.

"Growing up" means actually living and breathing the belief that God is giving us exactly what we need, exactly when we need it. It's not something that just happens, it's something you face, you learn, you exercise over and over again, probably forever. It's exhausting, and there's no going back. And that is the hard part.

---
[1] I can't even begin to process how that would work right now. The suggestion alone raises my heart rate.
[2] If you're one of my past or future professors, please note that this is rhetorical and cynical and ... just keep reading...
[3] Two, actually, and no I don't want to talk about it
[4] Nope, not a pregnancy announcement. Stand down, soldier.