Category Archives: life

What A History Of Broken Friendships Taught Me

If you’re anything like me, than you have had a handful of friendships take a sudden left turn after going really well. The beginning is almost always the same – an immediate, spark-like connection. We have a lot in common emotionally, even if our backgrounds are different. It feels easy to talk about anything, and like we’ve known each other our whole lives.

I used to believe that these connections were brought into my path by God, but now, I know it’s not that simple. One friendship ended after she moved away suddenly without telling me, while another friend who moved changed all her contact information and I had no way to contact her. I’ve had friends suddenly become emotional abusive, cuss me out, or ghost me for no apparent reason. Every time it happens, I tell myself, “Never again,” and build up my walls by another brick. At the same time, though, I’m always ready to be vulnerable and listen to my “gut.” However, after this past weekend, I’m just really tired.

This most recent friendship probably took the quickest turn I’ve experienced, which makes it all the more jarring. I was left gasping, shaking, bewildered, and outraged. I’ve thrown up once every night since. After talking to others about the situation, a mix of those who know and don’t know the person, I know that it wasn’t my fault. Still, I find that I blame myself for taking yet another chance on a connection that had all the signs of a disaster just biding its time. I keep asking God, “Why, why, why.” Why do these people keep crossing my path?

I don’t have a lot of answers or “lessons.” The one thing that all these experiences have taught me though, is that good friendships don’t always begin with a spark. If my track record is any indication, if they do, they’re destined to explode. The friendships that are more likely to succeed are the ones that take work. A lot of awkward silences. A lot of me asking myself, “Do I keep trying?” I’m someone who likes to rush into deep, personal conversations, but most people aren’t, so I’ve learned to be patient. Somewhat. It’s a work in progress.

Advertisements

What Does It Mean To Feel Alive?

For our first small group session, we did an active listening exercise where we described a moment where we felt most alive. Mine was about a morning in Jamaica, the summer of 2011, where I and a few friends got up early to swim. The sun wasn’t scorching yet, and the water was just cool enough to be refreshing. I floated on my back, eyes closed. The last few years had been extremely rough. My soul felt like a raw piece of meat that had been beat with a mallet. It felt like my body and mind were set against me, determined to kill me.

Some people feel most alive when their adrenaline levels are high, but I’m the opposite. For me, high adrenaline levels mean I’m afraid, that I’m in danger. There’s a theory about anxiety that it was biologically important back in the days when life was really dangerous, when we lived without much shelter and death by wild animal was common. That anxiety kept us alive and told us to run when we encountered danger. Now, however, most of us don’t need that much anxiety. I certainly don’t – I’m not in a bad area, I’m pretty much white-passing, and I’m not being hunted by animals. That adrenaline/anxiety sparked up at every little thing, and told my body that sitting in class was a life-or-death situation. I didn’t feel “alive” in those moments, because I wanted the feeling to stop.  I wanted to shut it off. I wanted to be dead, because at least then I could have peace and quiet.

Floating in the ocean, my ears beneath the waves so the only sound was my own breathing, felt like being alive. I felt whole, my mind and body not fighting. It was sort of weird, too, because I also felt disembodied at the same time. That felt like freedom, like I had found a way to escape the chaos of the physical, and just be. Recapturing that is not easy. The closest I get is when I can’t sleep at night, and I lie down in Baxter’s room. It’s the coolest room. The sleeping bag is slippery, and feels a little like water. The only sound is faint rustling. After a half hour or so, I feel calm again, pieced back together, and I can go back to bed and fall asleep.

What this taught me is that my soul is connected to the ocean. Whenever we go to the coast, I know that I could live by it forever. When I’ve visited deserts, like New Mexico, I feel off-kilter, like something is missing. The ocean has its rhythms, like a pair of lungs, and follows the moon. It’s steady, but also not predictable. It’s totally, completely alive. 

what I’ve been into

TV that I’m into: “Playing House” on USA with Jessica St. Claire and Lennon Parham. I’ve been binge-watching this show, and I LOVE it. It’s exactly my sense of humor. It also has the added bonus of having Keegan-Michael Key in it.

TV that I’m looking forward to: “I’m Sorry” with Andrea Savage on TruTV

Books I’ve been reading: I’ve been reading A LOT lately, which is good. Just finished a historical novel called The Ghost of the Mary Celeste. It’s based on a real incident, and pulls a lot from history including the Spiritualism craze, Arthur Conan Doyle, and more. I just started my second Erik Larson book, In The Garden of Beasts. It’s about the American consulate in Germany during WWII and his family.

Work stuff: Just finished a book on Ethereum, which is Bitcoin’s competition. It’s unique in that you can create applications on its blockchain, it’s not just for currency. If that makes no sense to you, look it up, I’m not going to summarize the book again. I usually just get blank stares. Still working on the book for my Gildshire articles, too, just finished up editing and writing the intros.

What I’ve cooked/baked lately: Made no-bake brownies with black beans and dates. It’s more like fudge than brownies, but it’s delicious. Getting out a slice is kind of like digging for fossils, because they have to be frozen, but it’s worth it. I also made homemade tomato sauce the other day. It was a bit runny, but I can thicken it up by just reducing it some more. I didn’t make this, but we tried Ben and Jerry’s “One Love” ice cream flavor, which is banana ice cream, graham cracker, caramel, and chocolate peace signs. Chris says it might be his new favorite.

Fitness stuff: Still using the good ol’ mini trampoline and rowing machine most nights. I take just one day off a week. Also got myself a resistance band, which is very convenient. Looking forward to having the toned arms of my dreams. It’s been gross and hot lately, so haven’t been exercising outdoors as much as I (or Yoshi) would like, but what can ya do. I know weight isn’t the goal here, but I am happy that I’ve successfully went down to about 155 after plateauing at 160 for so long. Paying attention to macros and sugar has made the difference. It doesn’t matter if I’m eating just 1200 calories if way too many of them are coming from sugar.

Novel stuff: Still steadily working on my Harley Gray novel. I filled out one notebook, so I’m on to a new one. That feels like an accomplishment. Been focusing a lot on trying to actually picture my characters moving around in the world I’ve created, so I can convey that to the reader. That means writing a lot of stuff that won’t actually end up in the book. I’m still figuring out how to get that in the story without actually putting it in the story (like a character’s whole marriage, basically), but I enjoy the challenge.

So that’s pretty much it, that’s what I’ve been doing. Small group meets again soon. Chris’ parents will be visiting, which means beach day!

 

 

what to do when old memories resurface

At night, thoughts just trickle down like raindrops into my brain. I really can’t control the onslaught, and I never know what form they’ll take from night to night. Last night, my thoughts turned to my year at Northwestern. It seems like an eternity ago, and I realized that I couldn’t remember a lot of peoples’ names. It was a relief, though, because most of them were people I didn’t actually know. They just knew the few people I did know, extending far out into the college life I never shared. I forget sometimes what a hard year it was. I’m honestly shocked that I made it through alive. At my worst, I had imagined crawling into the oven in the little kitchenette in the dorm room I shared with two other girls, and at my best, I successfully went to class, to the on-campus therapy, and check-ins with my hall director who needed to make sure I wasn’t going to kill myself. Even at my best, I was just surviving.

The thoughts of that year just kept streaming in last night, filling me up, like I was an inflating balloon. Chris snored peacefully beside me, and Yoshi had gone downstairs, so I couldn’t occupy myself with petting him. Instead, I went into Baxter’s room and lay on the sleeping bag I always kept in there for just such occasions. He wasn’t interested in playing with me, so I put him back in his house and lay on my back, listening to him rustle in his bedding and toilet paper tubes. With each breath, I tried to imagine thoughts leaving my body like air, as if I was decompressing from a deep dive. I wanted to become completely flat, even with the floor, and not swollen up with strange emotions.

Memories kept flying in, like the first week of living on campus where the college hosted an ’80’s costume party, and I sat watching three girls from my hall put their long hair in side ponytails, with off-shoulder sweaters and neon eyeliner, and the only ’80’s look I could possibly pull off was Joan Jett, because I owned a lot of black clothes and my hair was short like hers.

It’s so weird what comes up in the dark, with no distractions except the sound of a hedgehog drinking water. I kept picturing the little lounge area of my floor, Red Hall, even though I rarely spent time there. Then there was the “prank” some of the older girls played on the freshman when we first moved in, that there would be a table set up where any boys who came to visit would have to sign in. When they revealed that they were joking, it wasn’t really that funny, because we did still have to always keep the doors open if we had a gentleman caller, and they could only visit one day during the week. I truly can’t remember if it was part of the prank that we had to also hang little paper dolls on the door if there was a guy there, or if that was real. I knew that none of that would apply to me, prank or no, so it was a weird way to start the year.

Screenshot 2017-06-14 at 1.36.12 PM
My corner of the NWC dorm. That big squared blanket is now primarily Chris’.

That was also the year that I got really into charismatic Christianity. After one especially intense devotional session with one of the girls sharing her story of being abused, I started getting worked up during the prayer session, and when someone tried to put their hands on me to pray, I flipped out. I ended up being held down on the floor, growling. When I finally calmed down, I was exhausted, but didn’t want to go back to my dorm to my roommate who never came to the hall Bible studies, and who did not understand either my depression or hyper-spirituality. She might have been in a cult. The other roommate, who was more receptive and open, was out with her friends. I don’t remember if I talked with my RA about what had triggered the spiritual attack (panic attack, as I now know it was), but I don’t remember feeling safe or reassured afterwards. When I think about that time and my relationship with the girls in the Hall, I’m left with a big question mark. It feels like I bled all over the floor all year and everyone kind of avoided it. Occasionally, someone would ask how I was, listen intently, and I would feel better.

During the year, I felt like I had some allies in my battle, so when I decided to transfer, I wanted to end the year well. I hung out one-on-one with the girl whose testimony had triggered my attack, and tried to connect with her using the only spiritual language I really knew: charismatic crazy talk. I thought she would understand, but by the end of our conversation, I could tell she thought I was insane. I never saw or talked to her again. The older girl who I had met with during the year was nowhere to be found when I moved out, and when I texted her during the summer about getting coffee, she was always busy. My RA unfriended me on Facebook until I refriended her, and she accepted. We never spoke of why she deleted me. Unless I’ve forgotten about that, too.

I’ve blogged about these experiences before, and I’m not bitter or mad about them. It was so long ago, and so much has changed since then, I kind of feel like telling myself, “What the hell, get over it.” And most of the time, I am over it. Last night was the first time I’ve really thought about any specific memories in a long time, and I’m not sure why they just appeared again. Maybe because I’m starting this small group and on the threshold of new relationships with Christians again, and some old fears are trying to get back in, like bloated ticks eager to feed on my blood again. Vivid image, I know, but that’s what it feels like. So I lay on the floor in the hedgehog’s room, breathing in and out, until I no longer felt like my chest was going to stretch apart and my brain was too tired to absorb the raindrops of thoughts. I checked on Baxter one more time, who jumped angrily when I touched him, and went back to the bedroom. Chris was no longer snoring.

rainy day prayer

I write my prayers; I have trouble articulating them otherwise. I don’t share them. This one, though, I wanted to share. It summarizes what I’ve been feeling spiritually for quite a few years now.

———

I’m at the point where I don’t know if I would recognize Your voice if I heard it. No, that’s not true. Your voice is this quiet, in this room, as cars go by in the rain like steady white noise, like waves. What does the voice say?

Peace, peace.

I can feel myself become calm. My heartbeat slows.

I guess I’m just not sure if that’s “good enough.” Most of my conversations about You now are like seeping wounds, barely just scabbing over. I feel like all I have to tell people is how the church let me down, how Christians let me down, how the different denominations (Lutheran, Episcopal, Evangelical, charismatic) let me down. I don’t really have a silver lining. Is that because something is wrong with me?

I guess the one good thing from all that I can tell someone everything You are not. You’re not loneliness in a crowd of girls at a Christian retreat, or an angry argument over Facebook, or the agonizing fear of demons in every corner. You’re not silence from friends after a church collapsed. You’re not shame. Rage. Hate.

But…what are You, then? Am I starting from scratch? I feel like my insides are scraped clean, ready to be filled with…what?

Easter season is about rebirth, right? I guess that’s what I ready for.

birthday thanks

Today is my 26th birthday, and I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who wrote on my Facebook wall. Even if it was just the for the millisecond it took to type out the words, it means ya’ll thought of me, and that means a lot. It’s people who make life worthwhile, and that’s going to be true as I enter the next year of existence.

I’d like to give a special shout out to the special people in my life:

To my parents, who are two of my favorite people in the world, besides being my     parents. They model a fantastic marriage, are both intelligent, compassionate, curious, and funny. My mom, who gave me my love of books and the curl in my hair; my dad, who always believed in me and never made me feel any less because I was a girl; they are both inspiring.

To my brother, my younger twin, who never betrayed himself and what he was about even when his peers didn’t understand. He hid his own pain and fought his battle alone when my depression was the focus in the family, and came out strong and never bitter. Here’s to over two decades of inside jokes, weird childhood stories, and wordless communication that could only happen because we share a bear (brain).

To Erin, my best friend, who always accepts me just as I am, and teaches me how to be a better person. She is the most inspiring and humble person in the world, without a cruel bone in her body, and fights tirelessly for what she believes in.

To Lilly, my cousin, the girl with naturally-curly hair, who I played Barbies with when we were young, and now share political rants with over Facebook messages. She’s always been more of a sister to me than a cousin, we share the same intensity about life, and the same resting bitch face we inherited from our mothers, but ya know, bitches get stuff done, and she’s definitely getting stuff done.

To Brynne, from the peanut-free table in high school to bridesmaid in my wedding to teacher in Kenya. She always worries that she isn’t a good enough friend to me, but the truth is she’s like my sister in that we don’t have to talk a lot, I know she would always be there when I needed her.

To Hannah Rasmussen, one of the most intense people I’ve ever met, who is going to do the kind of things that the world notices, and I can be like, “I know her!” She loves Jesus more than anyone I know, and it overflows to everyone she comes into contact with.

To Lauren, the first friend in Oregon. She grabs life by the horns and teaches me how to have fun. She and Jason welcomed me and Chris into their lives so quickly and warmly, I’m so grateful for their friendship.

To Kelia, the kindred spirit I thought I lost, who is always ready to talk out boy issues and laugh at random Instagram posts I send her. Even though we’re super far apart and I can only see her through her cracked phone camera, I feel like she’s right in there in life with me.

To Ronny, always cool-headed and calm, but full of an inspiring energy and sense of justice. She’s amazing at her job, always insightful, and always ready with a “Parks and Recreation” reference.

To Jess, with the artist’s heart, and like a crouching tiger, has a hidden dragon inside. She is always fighting to be able to do what she loves, and going out of her comfort zone. She’s grown so much since I first met her years and years ago, and whenever I see her, I will start crying at some point, because she invites vulnerability and honesty.

And last, but certainly not least, to Chris. I know we’ve had some really rough times, and we’re still braving the storm, but I’ve only grown to love you more and more. You bring out the “me” in me, and I want to be the best version of myself. I love the life we have, the tiny moments like getting ready for bed and knowing Yoshi is going to start licking your pillow, and you turn it over; or watching a TV commercial for a new burger, and you’re going to make a “yum” noise; your kindness, and respect for every human being you meet, your willingness to always make dinner when I’m working…the list goes on.

 

What I’m Reading Now: The Buddha in the Attic

The leaves of the trees continued to turn in the wind. The rivers continued to flow. Insects hummed in the grass as always. Crows cawed. The sky did not fall. No President changed his mind. Mitsuko’s favorite black hen clucked once and laid a warm brown egg. A green plum fell early from a tree. Our dogs ran after with balls in their mouths, eager for one last toss, and for once, we had to turn them away. Go home. Neighbors peered out at us through the windows. Cars honked. Strangers stared. A boy on a bicycle waved. A startled cat dove under a bed in one of our houses as looters began to break down the front door. Curtains ripped. Glass shattered. Wedding dishes smashed to the floor. And we knew it would only be a matter of time until all traces of us were gone.

Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic is short. It’s 129 pages. I read it in one sitting, on the couch, in the evening. It has a very unusual structure that some people really hated or found distracting, but I loved it. It’s first-person plural. We. It’s so important to the voice of the book, because it is a book about the shared experience of being a “picture bride,” a Japanese woman sent to America to start a new life with a husband she’s only seen in a picture. That being said, the experiences are very different, and the book accounts for that with contradictory statements, one after another. It’s almost like a list, but a lyrical one. In just a few sentences, Otsuka is able to paint an incredibly vivid picture of dozens of different perspectives. Sometimes the woman comes to America and finds out the man in the picture isn’t even her husband. Sometimes it is, but the picture was taken two decades before. The husbands are gentle, violent, awkward, loving, cruel. The women have to take jobs as maids to white women who don’t like Hispanic, black, or Chinese maids. Sometimes they become prostitutes. Sometimes they are farmers.

The book is divided into 8 sections, with titles like, “Babies,” and “The Children.” It explores how when the first American-born children get older, they reject their Japanese heritage, forget the language, and change their names. Then comes the chapter, “Traitors.” I knew it was coming. How could it not? But I wasn’t prepared.

Men start to disappear only days after Pearl Harbor. There are rumors of a list of names, but no one knows how it works. Wealthy Japanese men are taken alongside dirt-poor field hands. Wives start to pack bags and leave them by the door so when a husband is taken, he has a change of clothes. Chinese people get beaten up because people think they’re Japanese. Japanese families start to burn everything that would identify them as Japanese, but they can’t burn their faces. And none of it matters in the end. They are ordered to leave.

“Extraordinary circumstances,” is what the government says.

And I look around, I listen to the rhetoric going on now about Muslims, and it’s all too familiar. It’s happening again. It hasn’t even been that long, and we’re already surrendering to fear. Don’t watch silently.

Yoshi Arrives

Yoshi came home yesterday! He was wiggly and as bizarre as ever. After a 4-day car ride, he was itching to run around, so we took him to the park. That meant he had to endure a 15-minute ride there and back again. He was pretty good, though! No screeching. He just ran back and forth in the backseat, looking out the window, and crashing into stuff. He loved the park. He wanted to smell and rub on everything, and he only barked once, at a dog that surprised him.

He slept through the night. In the morning, he decided to test us. I tried giving him his pill, and he wanted NOTHING to do with it. He wouldn’t even come over. He does this thing where he looks at me over his shoulder, and prances away. When I told him to sit, he did so, but very slowly. Eventually, Chris was able to get him to take it. I figured if we just kept bugging him with it, he would see that we weren’t giving up, and resign himself to his fate. Then he played fetch with his pig’s ear for a little, and we all went back to sleep.

I only heard him bark twice this morning. Once, when Chris left, and then a little later. He stopped after a few minutes though. Very good sign. It really helps that he can’t see out any windows, and the fan covers a lot of noise. Right now, he’s passed out underneath a coffee table. Today, he’ll probably be very sleepy. He’ll get a walk later. My goal is to give him a good walk every day around the neighborhood, and then on the weekends, take him to Minto.

It feels like our family is complete again, and we’ll all happier and healthier than the last time we were together. I can’t find the words to thank Tom and Marsha for taking care of Yoshi for these past three years, and giving him the best home we could have asked for. You’re both superheroes.

5 Things Church-Goers Should Know About Former Church-Goers

1. We don’t want to be invited to church

The reason we aren’t going to church is not because someone just hasn’t asked us yet. We’ve already been there, we know what it’s like. I have this thing where I go to small groups (I’ve been to, like, two) and see if the people are actually invested in people, or just getting people to the church. The first group was structured around the sermons, so right off the bat, it’s clearly intended for people who already go. For one of their outreach things, they went to a grocery store and handed out gift cards, but also included a church business card. It was a PR move, not a service project. It wasn’t about building relationships or meeting a real need (I’m sure people appreciated it, who knows what their stories are, but if the church really wanted to make the most impact, they would not have chosen a grocery store in one of the wealthier areas of town), it was about drumming up attendance. So, long story short, don’t invite us to church. Invite us into your lives. There’s a difference.

2. We didn’t necessarily stop becoming believers when we stopped going to church

When someone stops going to church, there’s an assumption that they’ve lost their faith. However, that is not necessarily the case. A person’s faith can actually become stronger when they leave church, because they’ve realized their convictions are not hinged upon going to a building every week, and that staying in a place where they don’t belong is harming their faith. I’ve never stopped loving Jesus.

3. Church PTSD is a real thing

Yes, someone’s experiences at church can be so bad, they start to manifest PTSD symptoms. People have been physically assaulted at church by church leaders, they have listened to damning sermons, they have been betrayed and abandoned by trusted mentors, and so on. That is trauma, and trauma has consequences. Going to church feels dangerous. It’s not like I can should just shop around or that I haven’t found the “right one,” it’s that the whole concept of church, the rituals, the decor, the music, the language, reminds of me all the bad things that have happened. Anxiety kicks in. Panic. My body is literally telling me to run.

4. We still want a community

It’s really hard to find a shared-faith community that is not a church. Right now, I’d say it is impossible. While the concept of “church” literally makes me want to throw up, I still want to find the people who love Jesus, but are having a real hard time justifying it. I still want that spiritual “mentor” of sorts, who I feel knows more than me, but still asks the big questions and doesn’t act like they have all their shit together.

5. We want to talk about why we left church

I guess I should really just say “I” want to talk about it. I’m sure there are lots of people who don’t want to talk about it. I just know that it’s kind of a weird moment when people have asked what church I go to, and I say that I don’t go, but Chris does, and they don’t ask why. Sometimes I offer a slew of reasons unprovoked, but they don’t dig deeper. They probably don’t want to be nosy, but at the same time, if you’re a church-goer, you should really be interested in why people are leaving the church in droves. The worst that could happen is the former church-goer saying, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

 

Image source: http://www.sbts.edu/blogs/2016/05/06/should-i-leave-my-church-8-critical-questions/