Anticipating the Inevitable

I recently met someone who is the personification of a smiley-face emoji. Every time my phone buzzes, I hope that it is a message from him with three simple letters: he, y. Usually it’s just an email about clothing or makeup trends, which I delete. But those few times it actually is a message from him with those three letters, a smile involuntarily comes to the corners of my mouth. We usually talk about nothing and sometimes talk about when we can hang out, but we can’t ever hang out because I’m at work every time he’s free and vice versa.

On Wednesday this last week I messaged him out of complete boredom but after talking about hygiene, there was nothing left to be said. He messaged me over the weekend out of complete boredom, but after learning that my evening was taken up with a dinner party, there was nothing left to be said. Yesterday afternoon I casually suggested that I stop by his work place and buy food when he suggested that I come by around 7:00 so that we could eat together. The stars had finally aligned.

The stars never align so I was nervous. I’m always fastidious about hygiene, but I had just had a cup of coffee and hadn’t brushed my teeth! I had spent the afternoon with a friend and hadn’t thought to bring my toothbrush. I begged her to come with me as a buffer because all the unfulfilled anticipations were crashing in on me, and I just couldn’t carry that burden on my shoulders while driving to Woodruff.

We pulled into the parking lot (it took me three tries to park and I really should’ve taken four) when my mother called me. Family emergency: my sister is going to the emergency room, and I need to babysit my brothers. We jump back into the car, I drop my friend off at her house, and I drive to my parents’ place where my brothers have selflessly prepared pizza for me.

Yet again, the stars had not really aligned. It was inevitable.

My sister did not get home until 2:00 in the morning, and I did not get any sleep until she came home. When she got home she was in no condition to sleep so we had a powwow in the kitchen. She and I are both deathly afraid of needles. (When I go get my cavity filled tomorrow morning, my first!, I might faint.) The nurses had hooked her up to a heart monitor and stuck an IV in her arm. When they began to poke her, her blood pressure accelerated and the machine began beeping.  A nurse ran into the room, thinking that my sister was dying. She was not dying. She’s just afraid of needles.

Oh the burden of anticipation.

Morality in the Mundane

For the last three weeks, I’ve been working at my old job (the one I quit to get my master’s degree). Within one hour of my first day back, I remembered why I quit. Every morning of those two years, I prayed that God would help the hours go by fast, that He would cause interruptions to break up the monotony, and that my evenings at home would pass by slowly. And God faithfully answered those prayers.

I remember one particularly interrupted morning: I arrived at 7:00 to get some extra hours in and proceeded to make a pot of coffee with another woman in my pod. The regular coffee maker was not at work yet so we proceeded to make coffee without supervision or instruction. We put twelve scoops of coffee into the filter and waited impatiently for the liquid heaven to finish brewing. What I poured into my mug fifteen minutes later was medical-school sludge. But I was awake for the next two hours. So was the boss a few doors down.

Another afternoon was interrupted with practical jokes involving spicy Korean chocolate and constantly running to the bathroom for water.

These are the moments I remember, moments of joy.

After I quit working at this company, my sister started working there. She and I occasionally take our ten-minute breaks together and walk around the building. One afternoon she commented, “I wish life would slow down. I wish we weren’t always in a hurry to get somewhere. I wish I didn’t have to get up in the morning and rush out the door to get to work by 8:00. I wish we didn’t have to get home and rush through supper in order to meet our next commitment at 7:00. I don’t have time to enjoy life.” Jokingly, I responded that she has two options: get up earlier in the morning or move overseas. (Why are Americans always in such a hurry? Why don’t we ever slow down and breathe?)

The Lord created Time on this earth, and He created it to be good. He wants us to use Time wisely, and I believe He wants us to enjoy the Time we have.

I’ve observed three truths over the last three weeks about how people enjoy their Time:

1) People who do not enjoy their Time will waste their Time.

I interact with a girl everyday who wastes Time. The issue is not that she has nothing to do with her Time. The issue is not that she has too much to do with her Time. The issue is that she does not enjoy how her job requires that she spend her Time. I empathize with the struggle. Of course there are days when I want to binge-watch Netflix or stay in bed reading August Strindberg instead of doing my job. Of course there are days when the commitments squeezed into every hour of my calendar are overwhelming and daunting and depressing. Of course there are days when I don’t want to fulfill my responsibilities: who enjoys washing dishes? who enjoys creating lesson plans? who enjoys writing papers? But the responsibilities of work are not a punishment from God on sinful people. Work was created to be a blessing. The blessing is there if we take the Time to see.

2) People enjoy their Time when they are fellowshipping. (I feel this term needs defining):

I became acquainted with a Christian periodical recently that discusses mundane activities with intelligence and clarity. While reading one article about potluck dinners, I realized that I can glorify the Lord with what I put into my mouth and chew. Maybe eating a snack isn’t amoral. Maybe exercising (or not exercising) is a religious activity. In another article I read, the author states that her favorite time of week is when she leaves the kids at home and exercises at a gym (you mean her favorite time of week isn’t going to church?)! Finally, a woman after my own heart. While I don’t enjoy exercising, I also don’t enjoy church. I haven’t enjoyed it since my family left the church I grew up in.

When this woman exercises, she knows she isn’t where she needs to be fitness-wise, but she wants to get there. She knows she won’t get the rhythm exactly right and won’t be able to do all fifteen burpees, but she will be improving each day. She isn’t responsible for anyone’s performance except her own. She has a support group of humans (fallible) in different stages of fitness who are also working to improve their own performances. In short, she has found a community of people who are honest with themselves and each other as they encourage each other to “get fit” in the Time they have together (the definition of fellowship).

But so often in church, I sit in the pew, fully knowing what unconfessed sin is lurking, and put a smile on my face while gratifying myself with a deep concern for the girl two rows down who spent too much time applying cosmetics in the bathroom. I justify my own sin by comparing my white lie with the affair of the woman sitting three rows behind me. I forget the ugliness of my insides while my outsides look impeccable. I congratulate myself that my children aren’t running around the auditorium. My daughter isn’t hanging on a boy during the service. My son is wearing a suit coat and tie. But my children don’t know Jesus. My daughter watches movies she shouldn’t watch. My son is rebellious and disrespectful. I am addicted to gossip.

How can there be community when we won’t be honest with ourselves or with each other? (One of the missionaries I pray for emailed me an update of his ministry, and in his prayer-request section, he wrote that he would like prayer for his marriage. He and his wife recently reconciled after a fight that lasted three weeks, and he is more than ever aware of how much he needs prayer to love his wife as Christ loves the church. My first reaction, TMI! But is this not the vulnerability and accountability we need in order to grow as believers?) True fellowship cannot exist when our Time together is wasted on fluff instead of the honest nitty-gritty. More on this struggle at a later time.

3) People make the choice to enjoy their Time.

Because of Memorial Day, I was given the blessing of extra Time (or so I thought). I dived headfirst into the long weekend with plans for how I’d spend that Time: a little extra sleep, a little more exercise, a little more coffee, a little more Netflix, and a lot more lesson planning. On Friday I had a migraine so all my plans got dumped on Saturday. By the time I finished a little extra sleep, a little more exercise, and a little more coffee, the day was over and I hadn’t hit my lesson plans. And despite Sunday being the day of rest, it is never restful. I went to church with my parents and enjoyed the afternoon fellowship with them while I did my laundry. I was in good spirits and agreed to go with my sister to her Sunday-school fellowship in the evening. (I mean, it’s free food!) But two hours of lack-of-fellowship got me altogether grumpy and fit for nothing but Netflix. Once again, lesson plans got pushed to the next day. All Monday morning and afternoon, I worked diligently on lesson plans. I worked myself into another migraine. In the evening we had a cookout with my family, the whole family, and almost instantaneously my migraine was gone and I didn’t care that I hadn’t finished my to-do list . . . because I was enjoying my Time with my family.

I finally finished scouring through books last night and now have only to create Power Points for each lesson. But I enjoyed my Time spent studying last night. Not because of an added blessing like pizza or tea or cheesecake. In fact, I had a headache after work yesterday, too. But I took the Time to remember why I was studying. I took the Time to remember why I love the work God has called me to. I took the Time to remember that a life lived without passion is not worth living. I took the Time to remember that I love being alive.

So I chose Joy. And the great thing about Joy is that it sneaks up on you when you least expect it.

Looking Back

The overwhelming response from the fans is that I keep writing and that I write about my life. Even though I haven’t written in a few months, I’m finally ready to begin again so here goes . . .

I graduated yesterday afternoon with my M.A. in Theatre Arts. Where did the last eight years go? On Thursday I cleaned out the programs and notes from my time at this University. There is nothing like perspective. My junior year of undergrad I tried out for an experimental production but was rejected. The director (who became one of my most beloved teachers) emailed me the most encouraging rejection letter I’ve ever received. I printed it out and found it again on Thursday. I reread every note I received from the only faculty member to ever cast me in a production (until this year). I even found some of his rehearsal notes from the first University play I was in. I found the love notes from D—- and B—-. I found notes from people I don’t remember anymore. Looking back and realizing which moments are worth remembering lifted the burden of moving on.

I came across the only diary I ever kept: from the summer of my junior year until August 2014. The last diary entry I wrote was “This semester is going to be rocky. I have established a system, which my chronic illness has disrupted. I can’t eat whatever I want whenever I want. And buying groceries is so difficult! I either buy too much or too little. Work was hard this week, too. Vacation does that to you. I went to Pennsylvania to audition at Sight and Sound. I can’t dance and after the humiliating experience, I have no desire to ever try again. But I also know without a doubt that I do not want to stay at this University longer than I have to. I am in love with my best friend. My emotional attachment gets greater with every day. I need to leave or I will never have hope. It’s very difficult to believe that anyone will ever love me because whenever I want something, it never works out.”

Well, the time for me to move on from this University has finally come. I am moving to Chicago, alone, to pursue the most frightening dream of my subconscious. I am immersing myself in the world of theatre in the heart of the theatre world. I am afraid of failure. I am afraid of loneliness. But I fear succeeding most. To live a life of selfless vulnerability and collaborative teamwork terrifies me. Yet that life is the Christian life.

I have heard mention of something called a “safe place” when it comes to the theatrical process. While I heartily agree that there should be a “safe place” on this earth to be vulnerable and fail, on this earth there is no truly safe place. I cannot control what other people think or say of me or my art. I have to learn how to bear the criticism of others and be discerning. Only by vulnerability, which never feels “safe,” can I truly be safe. I learned this lesson in grad school. Only by bearing my soul open to the public and accepting the criticism of people who disliked what I created did I learn to feel safe. My safety is not placed in other people but in my Savior whose opinion of me and my work is the only opinion that truly matters.

I am moving to Chicago, safe in the Lord’s plan for my future, whether it include success or failure. No matter what the future holds, my life belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ to do with as He pleases, and that life will be a success.

Writing Should Be Practiced

I know I haven’t lived long enough to say this, but back in my day . . . people with something of value to say, communicated through writing. Today, anyone can write, and almost everyone does. The internet has enabled people with nothing to say to say a lot. Facebook has caused people to think that sharing what they ate for breakfast is classified as world news. Anyone can self-publish now, whether the book is good or not.

When I first began blogging, I took pride in my courage. One of the bravest things I’ve done is keep on living after my breakup with Fishie. I only knew of one other friend-blogger when I began my journey. At first I was gratified when friends asked my advice about the blogs they were starting up. Then the honeymoon ended. Almost all my friends have blogs now, so many that I certainly can’t read them all and some I wouldn’t want to read, no offense. (Side-note thought: if everyone is doing the writing, who is doing the reading?)

All this band-wagon-blogging has made me sit back and evaluate my own blog. Not everyone should be writers. I think everyone should write, but not everyone should broadcast their writing to the entire universe. I’m drinking tea right now that quotes Aristotle on its tag: “In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous.” Clearly, his writing belongs in the marvelous category. In the past few weeks in between school work and rehearsals and scholarship searching, I’ve watched two documentaries, one about Steve Jobs and one about Roger Ebert. Both were fascinating, inspiring, and humbling. Steve Jobs was an artist with a vision. Roger Ebert was a writer obsessed with films who believed stubbornly in his own opinions. Yet both of these men needed to be heard.

I am a Christian so I believe everyone has a voice, an important voice, in the kingdom of God. In fact, one of the most encouraging bits of advice I got in my theatre training was the admonition that God created me in His image with a creative voice, and because God created me, my voice deserves to be heard. But is it really?

This blog began as a breakup remedy. It turned into a travel blog and then a coffee blog and then an exercise blog and then a whatever-I-feel-like-posting blog. I haven’t reached that many followers so maybe I’m not as accountable as I could be, but the fact remains: the more I say, the more I have to be accountable for in heaven. I want to be sure I’m saying what needs to be said and no more.

My question for my followers is should I end this blog? and if not, what would you like to hear about? If I’m going to keep this blog open, I need a niche. Niches create accountability.

Not Self-Love, But God’s Love

Valentine’s Day. I feel I have to address the elephant in the room. Yes, I am single. I’ve been single for a long time, my whole life in fact.

I began receiving condolence texts at the beginning of last week, glib words meant to be comforting: “I’m praying for you,” “I miss being single,” and “You’ll meet someone someday.” My personal favorite: “You’ve had to watch three of your best friends begin dating this year. That must be hard.” Thank you. What else can I say? The consumer shopping centers have been vomiting chocolate and pink teddy bears since the day after Christmas. It’s not as though Valentine’s Day sneaked up on me. Today is not the end of the world, even for single people.

And yet, in a way, Valentine’s Day did sneak up on me. All last week people were posting anniversary pictures and sappy one-week-dating statuses. By the time I woke up this morning, I only had one thought: Get up on time to shower. I did not plan a Galentine’s Day or a treat-me day. I had no idea today was the day until I walked into my once-gray office and discovered that not one of the chocolate roses, red balloons, or gigantic pink cards scattered on my desk was meant for me.

Don’t misunderstand me. I love Valentine’s Day. I’m a huge fan of it even without the half-off chocolate. (Great day for pranks.) And some day I do look forward to being able to say “I love you” to someone without feeling ashamed. Then I remind myself that my life is not a Nicholas Sparksimg_4439 movie.

But as much as I desire to share my love without conditions to an unknown masculine specimen, I already have plenty of people I can love now, without conditions. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Bless them that curse you.

Plus, I already know someone who loves me unconditionally: But God commendeth His love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.

God’s love is lavishly spent on unlovable sinners, of whom I am chief.

How can I not love Him? How can I not love the people He created in His image?

 

 

Day 31 Is Beautiful

 

Just three more hours until I can eat cheese. I was told this diet would be difficult. I was told I’d want to kill people. I was told I’d hallucinate about food. I was told my energy would be drained. I was told in the end I’d be grateful. I was told this diet would curb my cravings. I was told that I’d feel the month of the Whole30 was worth it.

I don’t feel that way at all. I have vacillated between wanting to kill people and wanting to sleep consistently. I have had several dreams about milkshakes. I have become more and more exhausted with each morning (how much of that has to do with grad school, I never will know for sure). I am grateful, grateful that tomorrow I will eat pizza with cheese-stuffed crust. My cravings have not been curbed. I am planning a calorie-infused binge-snacking plan incorporating cheesy pretzels, two Starbucks lattes, crazy bread, and homemade mint-chocolate-chip milkshakes. Will I be sick tomorrow? Yes. But THAT will be worth it.

img_4413

The candy dishes in my office are calling my name so I am hiding from them!

How utterly American to complain about not being able to eat like a pig.

One Word: Fulfilled

I’m the kind of person who has to have four resolutions at once. My mother is the kind of person who has to fit every resolution into a box. While I was trying to celebrate fall, live minimally, apply to graduate schools, and binge-watch Friends, my mother was simply trying to be surrendered. On Christmas Eve she asked img_4317the family what our word for the year was going to be. My dad said fat. My sister said save. I guess my word should be fulfilled.

When I first got diagnosed with a chronic illness, I surfed the internet for online support groups. I never realized PCOS was so common or so discouraging. I never joined a group and I don’t talk about my illness much, but today, during a time of resolution-awareness, I think it may be time.

While some chronic illnesses cause immense pain, mine does not, in the physical sense. I don’t have trouble walking or standing or doing ordinary tasks around my apartment.  Depending on the day, I take two or three pills each morning. The pain comes when I miss a pill: migraines, extreme fatigue, abdominal pain, and emotional trauma. Probably like most people, I have to be careful about what I eat. Too many fatty foods cause intense stomach pain. My family has the tendency to gain weight easily as well as get diabetes. While I am not diabetic yet, I have to be even more careful that the way I eat does not push me over the edge. Because of the pills I’m taking, I have to be careful about sodium intake and iron. I can’t have too much of either or my body’s hormonal balance would mess up.

So far I haven’t described anything that differs drastically from any other human being. Most people experience migraines and stomach aches from time to time. Most women obsess about what they eat. My biggest battles are fought as I get ready in the morning.

When I take a shower and see clumps of hair in the tub, when I gather the clumps of hair into my fist and count them before flushing them, when I sweep up the hair that fell on the bathroom tile while I got ready, when I can’t cover up the bald spot no matter how I style my hair, when the water in the sink won’t go down the drain because it’s clogged with hair, when I brush my wet hair and see my scalp, when someone remarks on how fine my hair is, I need to cry. Knowing that nothing will change the fact that I’m losing hair is one of my most helpless feelings.

I try hard not to let my illness define me, which is why I don’t talk about it much. But I do feel like it’s something I should put on my online-dating profile: has chronic illness; has expensive bills; may go bald; may become fat. But I want desperately to feel fulfilled, regardless of circumstances.

So that’s it: I will study and be fulfilled; I will organize my apartment and be fulfilled; I will spoil myself and be fulfilled; I will read books and be fulfilled; I will drink coffee and be fulfilled; I will diet and be fulfilled; I will sweep up my hair and be fulfilled; I simply must be fulfilled.