Daring to try…again

‘Bravery’ is just a word I use when I’m talking about the virtues of characters in Harry Potter, or when I’m being really dramatic. Generally speaking, it is not a principle found within the boundaries of this thing I call my life. I am a weakling, and I feel comfortable admitting that. Things scare me–not just sometimes, but a lot of times. Attempting difficult tasks (running, running, and running), meeting new people, taking risks=sweaty palms, nervous stomach, and totally-freaking-out-right-now Jessica. Going through difficult circumstances=shutting down because dealing with the aftermath is scary. I am not brave, but I’m learning that my ability to try again doesn’t depend on how much bravery I’ve got stored away someplace. It just depends on my ability to get my game plan together and take a few deep breaths.

A statement like “I’m daring to try” can’t really happen without a confession on my part. Because I wouldn’t have to dare to try if I hadn’t stopped trying in the first place. And you might be wondering what in the what I’m talking about. I’ll put it this way: when your parents get a divorce and you only see one of them all the time, sometimes you just quit trying. Feeling things isn’t fun anymore. Hobbies suddenly become gloomy. And sleeping doesn’t make the tiredness go away. A what’s the point apathy can really derail everything a gal had going for her. So, she just quits and slips quietly into the nearest couch.

So, I have stopped functioning to an extent, and now it’s time to power up again–not for anyone else, but for me. Rising from the ashes, if you want to get all dramatic about it. I’ve got to get my to-do list together and start in. Today, I’m daring to try…again. 

 

 

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If I Break the Mold

Note: [If you’re reading this and you’re also a Christian, I want to give you a fair warning that some of this blog  post might make you angry, disgruntled, defensive, etc. So if you’re having a good, happy day and you like having all the answers to every question, I will say this as nicely as possible: go read something else. The more I grow up, the less patience I have with closed-minded people, whether they have good intentions or not. Also, I love you all, so don’t be offended.]

Have you noticed the mold? The Christian Mold, I mean. A certain way to pray, a certain way to vote, a certain way to live life, etc. Make the wrong choice–vote Democrat, cuss now and then, and lust just a little–and don’t be surprised if you’re faith is suddenly under inquisition. You imagine them whispering about you…”Do you think she might have voted for him?” or “Don’t you think she’s making wild choices, what with the Philippians 4:13 tattoo on her ankle?” “I haven’t seen her at church for a while. Maybe she’s running from God.”

They might start holding prayer vigils for you so that you see the light and slip back into the pew. They’ll smash some Bible verses over your head until you say, “I’m sorry. I’ll do better to be more like you.” You won’t pray for healing, sanctification, or grace. You won’t even pray for forgiveness for the wrongs you’ve done. No, you’ll pray to be back in the mold. To make them happy. To not be so different, so…crooked, broken, sinful.

As the oldest daughter in a Christian family, I think often of the what my family and friends would say if I should make decisions they don’t agree with. Does the love run out? Am I less Christian? I shudder when I imagine myself maybe breaking the mold one day. What if I, good Jessica, wore tighter jeans, got a nose ring, or “liked” Barack Obama’s Facebook page? This isn’t about me rebelling. This isn’t about me disrespecting people who view certain issues, political or religious, differently than I do.

But this is about a legitimate pressure I feel to look one way, or else to have my name whispered down the prayer chain.

I absolutely believe in right and wrong. I absolutely believe in becoming more like Christ. But I do not believe in the Christian Mold. I do not believe that everything is only either black or white. And do not believe in feeling guilty for having a personal relationship with my Savior that might look different than someone else’s.

The last time I tried to fit into the Christian Mold, it shattered and crumbled all around me. And when I stopped hyperventilating and backed away from the mess it made, I saw the hand of my Savior still reaching for me..the one who broke the Mold.

Once Upon a Tennis Court

 

I felt myself slowly losing control somewhere toward the beginning of the casual tennis game my brother, cousin, and I were playing as the sun gently slipped behind the palm trees outside our condo’s tennis court. In the beginning stages of my emotional meltdown, I tried to ignore my feelings by attempting to hit the ball a little harder. I crouched down low, pretending to be a professional tennis player. When that resulted in me swinging hard and missing the ball repeatedly, I realized that ignoring my feelings was going to be quite impossible. Still, I wiped my sweaty brow and tried my darndest.

Gradually, as my frustration grew, I changed my strategy to involve eye rolling and snapping rude remarks at my family members when they tried to encourage me…saying, “It’s alright. You’ll get warmed up!” But I was not alright, and I was going past “warmed up” to sweltering, blistering anger.

At the time, I thought I was just upset about playing so horribly. A familiar voice—one I know so well from my days of depression—started to tell me I had every right to feel sorry for myself because “I’m so bad at everything!” So, I was like, “Well, if you insist….I suppose I can act like a baby and pout!” But somewhere in the middle of my “poor me” routine, that terrible word…divorce….came flying at me faster than any tennis ball my brother might later serve in my general vicinity. I kept swinging at balls, saying the score, failing. And I remember this distinct moment when I thought, “My parents are getting a divorce.”  And that ugly thought, firing rapidly from my brain straight to the tender part of my heart,  was like a swift smack to the face. In my mind’s eye, I had lost my white-knuckled grip somewhere high up in the confines of my I’m-stronger-than-this-divorce fantasy world and had started to plummet down into the unknown world of feelings.

My parents are getting divorced. I’m losing. I can’t breathe. I couldn’t think any other thoughts.

My lower lip started to tremble, and I felt hot tears seeping from the corners of my eyes. I lost a game of tennis. I cried. The very act of crying made me angry, which made me cry more. My brother and cousin stared, dumbfounded by my sudden breakdown. I mumbled something about not being good at anything, and they mumbled something about that being untrue. They were right, and I knew it, but my mind was too distracted by a developing thought: I just wanted to feel one thing: disappointment at losing a game. But that one feeling made me feel everything. That one thing made me feel the divorce . And that’s not okay.

This story is important, but I did not tell it well. I wanted to write eloquently tonight. I had so many ideas of how to make my frustrations on the tennis court some kind of impressive work of art. But it turns out that divorce just sucks, and that writing about it sucks, too. I can’t deliver a strong message to my readers. I can’t use imagery and big words to make these letters encourage or challenge you. All I can do is state my reality with honesty…raw honesty…and hope that maybe facing this for the sake of facing it will work out for my good. Here’s to yet another journey toward growth. Anyone care to join me?   

Quiet

I’m not a particularly talkative person. When it’s necessary, I can talk for a long time about a variety of topics. Cereal? I’ve got opinions. Favorite kind of cheese? Let me fill you in. Politics? Just kidding; we better not go there. My personal life? Let’s get coffee.

All jokes aside (and thank goodness because it’s only 8 am), I must say that I’ve been noticing a change in my conversations lately.  I can still talk about the cat outside, how pretty the ocean is, and how I wish I could sleep in a little later. I can even talk about my family and say the word “divorce”. 

But I cannot talk about me. I’m quiet.

Yesterday was our first full day in Florida, and you had better believe that my cousins didn’t let my brother and me miss a single moment in the sun. We trudged out sleepy-eyed to the shore and jogged through the gentle tide. Then we trudged back out and shrieked into the icy water, where we rode waves and floated down the coast for hours. And when our bodies seemed unable to recover from the tugging and pulling of the the tide, we caved and jumped in the outdoor condo pool. This meant more goggles, more doggy-paddles, more sun, more fun. But when I started to tire of the exertion (not the fun), I pushed myself up onto the deck of the pool and squinted onward at the happiness unfolding around me. I realized that while nearly everyone was talking to someone about something, I didn’t hear anyone say anything completely personal. I saw people tanning in swimsuits, but that didn’t mean I was witnessing vulnerability.In the midst of laughter and splashing, we vacationers were eerily quiet about ourselves.

I’ve written about this topic before. Indeed, I do feel like a broken record stuck on “vulnerability, vulnerability, VULNERABILITY”. But in my repetition I must include a confession of sorts.I can shout that word, write that word, sing it a song all day long–but I’m not being any more vulnerable than the next gal. I’m being quiet, and even in my introversion I find this period of silence incredibly unsettling. Why can’t I talk about myself?

The scariest part is how my muteness affects my writing.My writing courses seemed to pound into my head the necessity for honesty and vulnerability. This was the only strategy I had. I still have just as many things to write about. My parents are getting divorced, I’m trying to make sense of my faith, and I’m trying to be in relationship with people all at the same time. I could fill journal after journal with all of this…except…..I can’t. I can’t make myself talk about how it makes me feel. Every description of my life will lack depth if I’m not a part of it. So…why? Why can’t I talk about me?

I woke up in a quiet room this morning that reminded me of myself. With only a little light coming through the window, the furniture and beds looked almost chilly, foreign. And the room was in fact so painfully quiet that I had to literally tiptoe out to keep from drawing attention to myself. I knew as I was closing the door and sneaking through the hallway that I needed to write about my quiet refusal to speak about myself. I didn’t want to, and I’m already dreading the publish button.  I knew from the start that I would just be using words while still fighting to keep myself intact. I can’t say I didn’t try to open the quiet room that is my heart, but I suppose today isn’t the day. I’m not ready to let anyone witness what appears to be a very broken heart. This girl is going to the beach, and she’s going to keep quiet.