hard to say: God loves me… apparently

I’ve been trying to write this story for weeks. In those weeks, I’ve learned two things. One: much as I’ve tried, there is no way to tell this story without sounding fucking crazy. And two: I experience it all over again anytime I so much as think about it.

Despite my distaste for religion and distrust of the church – the very organization that’s so wronged my family – I’ve been attending a Monday evening young adult’s service for months. I originally agreed to go with a friend so she wouldn’t have to go alone (heaven forbid) but when she bailed, I still went. This service is held at the church my sister attends – a church I think very little of – and she and her husband often lead worship.

I thought I knew my sister well up until that first night; but as I finally saw her in all her glory, I realized I’d been a fool.

This was not typical worship, where wannabe musicians fuel their egos and a congregation competes for the best Christian performance, no. This was something else. To witness my sister worshiping is to know, with absolute certainty, that something good and real is happening within her. She is generous enough to let it pour out of her mouth and into our desperately hungry hearts. And so I kept returning by myself.

One day, after spending Christmas with a good friend and engaging in a surprisingly honest conversation about God, our struggles and hope, I found myself praying. What I’d been doing before then can hardly be called prayer; I’d been yelling (and cursing) at God. But this time, armed with my friend’s encouragement, I asked God for a message. Nothing vague or confusing, but rather something undeniable to show me He was real and He loved me. Then, as was advised, I gave Him a deadline. I asked for His reply no later than the following evening, which was (conveniently) Monday night.

I went into service that Monday believing this was going to be it; I was going to get a message from God. Instead, I received a big, giant, God-sized middle finger in the face.

First of all, some other people lead worship that night and it sucked; I felt nothing. Then, after the speaker gave a few prophetic words, which were most definitely not meant for me, she went on to speak about walking in faith through disappointment. HA! I left that night in a dark cloud. “Fine! Fuck you, too!” I shouted on my drive home.

The following week I did not want to go. I felt tired and irritated and it seemed pointless. My friend (the same one who originally bailed on me) once again convinced me to accompany her. There was a brief moment, sitting in my car, where I took a breath and thought aloud, I still choose you… you dick.

Worship began and in all my irritation, I could not focus. It didn’t help that my friend was putting on the most perfect performance I’d ever seen. But instead of writing her off as a total phony (because I really have no way to know one way or the other) I decided to sit my ass down and try to ignore her. I took off my boots and sat cross-legged in my seat. I closed my eyes, controlled my breathing, put all other people out of my mind, and just listened. And in my meditative state, weird shit started to happen.

It started with a very strong tingling traveling up my spine, causing me to gasp upon reaching my neck. Then I was bombarded with thoughts of my niece. I had not naturally reached for these thoughts; they were put there quite forcefully.

I saw her running toward me, smiling, arms open wide. I saw her laughing and jumping on the couch. I saw us dancing together with Taylor Swift’s Shake it off on repeat. I remembered dancing with her in my arms when she became tired but insisted on continuing. I saw her throwing a tantrum, scrunching up her face and stomping around. I remembered the effort it took not to laugh.

Then I began to feel it – a love I didn’t know existed, let alone that I was capable of. I thought of how when my niece misbehaves or rebels, I somehow love her even more. And in that moment, as I became completely overwhelmed by love, I felt an undeniable THIS IS HOW I LOVE YOU. Then my sister started to sing Taylor Swift’s Shake it off and I dissolved into tears.

My tears quickly turned to laughter as I realized I was crying to a Taylor Swift song. Then I opened my eyes, remembered where I was and wiped away the evidence. All around me people were flailing about, completely unaware I’d just had a breakthrough.

Since then, I’ve been walking around on shaky legs, trying to adapt to a reality that obliterates much of what I thought to be true. I’ve only been able to tell portions of this story to two people: my sister and my therapist. Both times I kept it short because I started crying all over again. Hell, I’m crying again right now. Apparently God loves me. Holy shit.

-EC

resolution pollution

It’s resolution time again! Time to look back on all the mistakes and regrets of the passing year. Time to look forward with unrealistic expectations for how everything is somehow going to be completely different this time.

When I look back on 2015, my honest thought is: well done, me. I did a lot of good, hard work this year. My honest thought when I look forward to 2016 is simply this: I am onto something good. Don’t stop.

I haven’t shared any of my writing for a few months. Like most of what I do in life, I didn’t worry about why – I didn’t put much thought into it at all – I just stopped because I felt like it. Only much later did I think about my decision. It had become time for me to dig deeper, somewhere uncomfortable and frightening; and to do that, I needed a break from sharing myself.

When I left off, I was purposefully going on dates by myself (in public) for the purpose of getting to know/falling in love with myself (as you would with another person). It was going well. Actually, the last date I’d written about went poorly but still did its job. I went on a couple more solo dates I never bothered to write about before stopping altogether. They weren’t bad; they just didn’t feel meaningful anymore. I had outgrown my simple plan.

This is the part of my story where I would normally begin to roll my eyes at myself, but my eyes are steady. This is all very real for me. It would have to be or I would never do it.

It irritated the shit out of me – how, without thought or intention, the quest to know and love myself unexpectedly yet naturally evolved into the necessity to seek God. My eyes remain steady.

I am searching and I am battling and the struggle is constant. But somewhere within all the noise and horseshit, I am finding glimpses of hope and love, and I am holding onto this truth with everything I have. Even if that means tattooing “God is love” on my forearm. I definitely tattooed “God is love” on my forearm last week.

And so I head into the New Year without a typical unrealistic resolution. Instead, two very powerful words urge me forward: Keep Going. Just thought I’d share. 🙂

EC

hard to say: I want more

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I look like garbage, on paper. I am a single, unemployed 30-year old occasional blogger, living in her parents’ basement, and driving her parents’ car. Love me! It’s not shocking that online dating didn’t go well. Men with profiles saying “I have a stable job, a nice car and a big house; I really have my life together!” just couldn’t relate to me at all. I deleted my account and vowed to avoid this smorgasbord of fuckery. As most vows I’ve made to myself go, I broke this one too.

In a moment of loneliness, watching bad Saturday-night TV movies by myself on the couch, I signed back up. Pajama-clad legs bouncing in anticipation, I answered the mandatory questionnaire and began late-night perusing a database of weirdoes. Then morning came and I remembered I am a wonderful person, not a shitty profile. I wiped the residue of shallow, unsatisfying banter from my tired face and deleted my account, again.

“What was it about the loneliness, that night, that made you run away from it?” asked my therapist after my confession. Oh, fuck you, dude. Sometimes I really hate (read: admire) that asshole (read: genius). He is just the worst (read: best ever in the world).

Here’s the thing: being unemployed doesn’t bother me; I know I’ll find a job. Cars do not impress me in the slightest; I can get around without one. I can handle living with my parents; I know it isn’t permanent. But I’m supposed to be in love by now!

For years I pursued the “really having your life together” checklist: job, car, house. I graduated college with honours, I found a good job, I got a nice car, and I had my own place. So why was I so deeply unhappy? Running away to Australia did not fix things. Ooh, maybe I’ll get a better job, a nicer car, a massive house! I came home after a year, more lost than ever.

“I just want to be in love!” I shouted in my therapist’s office one day. Finally, my fundamental truth. I would gladly sacrifice a job, a car, and a house. I want more.

“Good, then do it!” he shouted back. No, don’t do that thing where you say something so simple and obvious it makes complete sense. “I want you to be in love. I want you to fall completely and madly in love, with yourself.” God dammit.

When I returned from Australia, the last place in the world I wanted to be was at my parents’ house. The home where anger lived. Thankfully I had no other option. Uncomfortable as it was, I was exactly where I needed to be. In that discomfort I gained acceptance, I learned forgiveness, and I let go of my anger. Back home is where I finally found myself.

So yes, I fucking hate being single. It is the farthest thing from what I want. It is the last place in the world I want to be. Yet it might just be exactly where I need to be right now. Perhaps in the discomfort of loneliness, I will find love.

-EC

hard to say: I do care

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They’re idiots. They don’t know what they’re talking about. I don’t give a shit what they think; they’re just jealous. I don’t need them; I don’t need anybody. I didn’t even want that. They were just holding me back. I’m better off alone. I’m fine on my own. I’m tough; nothing can break me. I prefer solitude anyway. I don’t even care.

God it was exhausting to be so full of shit. Disappointment, rejection, betrayal, failure: it didn’t matter how tough I acted, it hurt and I cared.

I could get angry and seek revenge, I could deny ever wanting my failed efforts, I could pretend that a breakup or a falling-out was my idea, and I could retreat into my own protective bubble of self-pity, settling for the easy and the safe. But it never soothed the hurt and it couldn’t stop me from caring, a lot. Perhaps never more so than when I was outright saying I didn’t.

Not caring doesn’t look like that. If I genuinely don’t care about something, it doesn’t make me feel happy or angry or sad or passionate. It doesn’t make me feel at all. And I can hardly be compelled to say or do anything about it. When I truly don’t care, I am indifferent.

Sometimes it’s healthy not to care. I am learning not to care about things I have no control over or things that have nothing to do with me.

Example: if somebody thinks ill of me, somebody who hasn’t taken the time to get to know me, there is nothing I can do about it. I suppose I could try to convince them otherwise, but it is likely their feelings have little to do with me. Blind judgment really does say more about the judge than the judged.

But when something hurts me, I do care. I am real and I feel things. I am human and I am breakable.

The difference is I no longer need anger or denial. My ego is not so fragile that I must attack first to save face. I don’t need to lie – to myself or to anybody else – and I don’t need to act tough. I don’t need to push people away or to isolate myself.

Yes, I need people. Kind, compassionate, and trustworthy people. Not to minimize or make light of difficult situations, and not to try fixing things for me, but to simply love and stand beside me while I figure shit out.

I am strong enough to look at myself and my world with honest eyes. However heavy life gets, I can bear it. Yes, I do care, and I can handle it.

-EC

hard to say: I need help

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I am a textbook middle child. I am the black sheep. I am stubborn and headstrong. I developed an “I don’t need anything from anybody” attitude at a very young age. So when I came crawling home a few years ago, exhausted and broken, asking for help was the most shameful experience of my life. Even after I asked for help, I resisted it. Finally accepting help was both humbling and liberating. I now look at asking for help very differently.

A few weeks ago, I was present as my sister gave birth to her second child. It was a 17-hour drug-free home birth. (I am convinced that she could lift a house off of somebody if she needed to.) Initially, she asked me to be there just to film the birth for her. But I ended up being there through all of it: bringing snacks and drinks, fetching wet cloths, or just quietly moving stuff out of the way. My contribution to the day’s events was tiny, and yet I felt so lucky to have been involved. It was extraordinary.

I stayed for four days – tidying up, fetching things, and entertaining my niece while she got used to her baby brother – and in that time I watched as my sister and her husband’s friends (unsolicited) organized for dinner to be brought to their house by a different person every night for one week.

I remember my sister, exhausted yet somehow very much awake, telling me that she felt guilty accepting this unexpected kindness. After all, she felt well enough to get up and fix dinner herself. I gently assured her that allowing the people she loves to help, no matter how small, is a beautiful gift. In this joyous time, we feel happy for her and want to express our love, but we don’t always know how. For her to accept what, for us, is a very simple offering of congratulations, is actually quite generous.

Not a week after my sister gave birth, I was in the emergency room with extreme abdominal pain. An ultrasound revealed I had gallstones and pancreatitis. I was admitted to the hospital for the next nine days and ultimately both the stones and my gallbladder had to be removed.

It was overwhelming how much effort my siblings and friends made to contact me frequently, visit when they could (not my sister, whom I ordered to stay home with her toddler and newborn) and stay involved in everything that was happening. But my parents in particular were absolute superstars. They showed up every single day. They brought me supplies, entertainment, comfort. They talked with me, spent time with me, played cards with me. It was wonderful.

Upon my release, my mom brought me home then went out and filled my prescriptions. It took me a long time to lay down and get comfortable, so she got a blanket and covered me up once I started to get cold. At bedtime I couldn’t twist to turn off my lamp, so my dad tucked me in and turned out the light. But at no point did either of them seem annoyed or inconvenienced by these small tasks. Dare I suggest they may have actually gotten some satisfaction from their pig-headed middle child accepting their help?

No! I shouldn’t need people to bring me things or take care of me. I’m a strong and independent individual and I don’t need anybody! – says my adolescent self. I disagree wholeheartedly. I challenge that entire way of thinking. Accepting help from other people in no way diminishes my strength, my independence, or my individuality. Plus, what the heck are we here sharing this space for, if not to connect and help each other.

In times of struggle, pain, or even celebration, asking for help feels just awful. But for the lucky people that we seek out and trust with our care, it’s a truly wonderful opportunity to express their love. Screw feeling shameful accepting help; I choose to feel grateful and loved. Plus, I think we can all agree that having your 60-year old father tuck you in is pretty stinking adorable.

-EC

pretty in pink

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Roughly a year ago I painted my bedroom bright pink. There was no reasoning whatsoever, I just felt it then did it. It happened exactly like that. Redecorating was nowhere in my priorities when I woke up that morning; then by the end of the day, my room was pink. When I was little, I wanted to be cool and tough and run around with the boys. So I didn’t like pink because it was gross and weak. As I grew up the ploy continued, most of my opinions were based on wanting people to like me, guys especially. This continued into adulthood. So after 28 years of this, why the sudden change?

Sometime last autumn I went to a Psychic fair. Say and think whatever you want about Psychics. I won’t judge you if you don’t judge me. I honestly don’t know if I believe in it, but I like to keep an open mind. It can be entertaining and some of it is really interesting. In fact, I spent more time asking them about their beliefs than asking for any kind of guidance.

I was killing time waiting for a past life report to be printed out, so I sat in on a lecture. The Medium, whose name I can’t remember, was speaking about colours and their meanings. She said that we choose the colours that we wear and surround ourselves with based on our energy, without ever realizing it. She pointed out a lady in the room who was wearing white and explained that white stands for purity and light. The lady gave kind of a snort laugh that made everyone giggle. Then the Medium went on to say that it also represents cleanliness which is why you see it in hospitals because wearing white and surrounding yourself in white offers a sense of healing. The lady stopped laughing. When she got to purple, the colour that I was wearing, she explained that it is the colour of the crown chakra (which is on your head) and if your aura is purple it means that you are very spiritual. I nearly let out a snort laugh of my own but she went on to say that purple can represent elegance and luxury and that wearing it can provide a calming energy for those experiencing anxiety or depression. Busted.

So I did some researching (Googling) about colours and their meanings. There’s a lot of information available. Some of the meanings contradict each other so I am putting little weight on what I found; but still, I am fascinated with the idea that I could have painted my room pink with no thought process whatsoever because my subconscious decided that I needed it. Some of the meanings I found for pink are: insight, originality, creativity, self-knowledge, perception, poetry, and self-esteem. What alarmed me is not that I am none of these things, but rather that I am desperately searching for all of them. So maybe this means nothing. Or maybe for one moment a simple colour change represented an opportunity to get in touch with a part of myself that I had yet to explore. Maybe I was tired of feeling lost and heartbroken so I took a chance and did something for myself with complete disregard to what anybody else would think about it.

A year later and I’ve integrated a few other pink pieces into my life. My room is still pink but my favourite addition is my pink laptop aptly named Molly. I haven’t morphed into a princess or anything and my all-time favourite colour is green; but I am loving the feeling of taking care of myself. There is still a lot of work to do. Much to discover and lots of self-loathing to work through. Plus now that I’m not trying to convince anybody to like me, I have to face the chance that I may end up alone forever. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll love every part of myself – crazy bits and all; then it won’t matter if I am alone. One thing’s for sure, when given the choice of companionship versus self-actualization, I choose me 🙂

best friend

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you wake me up early in the morning so you can start your day
you do the silliest things and make me laugh so hard I could cry
you’re the first one to greet me whenever I come home
but I really do miss you while I am gone
sometimes you make me so angry that we don’t talk for a while
but you’re always quick to forgive me when I’ve been horrible
sometimes you just stare at me and I wonder if you are reading my mind
but when I think of the vacuum and you just yawn, I know that I was mistaken
when I am hyper you let me dance you around the room
and even though you can’t smile, I am sure you love every second of it
I get so scared when you are ill that everything around me stops
and as you are getting older I appreciate every minute that we have
to love you means that I am pathetic and to talk about you means that I am nuts
but I am the one with the advantage because I know of something pure and true
a love so strong that it remains, even when I am cleaning your poo

buried inside

luggage full and ready to travel

The word hoarder is thrown around a lot these days. In some cases, maybe we should be less casual about using such a strong word, but generally I think it’s good that such a debilitating condition is being talked about so people can get the appropriate help. My parents hold on to a lot of useless stuff, but you can’t really blame the older generations can you. They grew up with so little and worked hard for every one of those broken blenders. I can’t say I’ve ever had this issue; although in earlier years you could barely get into my room or sit in my car, but that was less of a hoarding problem and more because I was a filthy slob. Nowadays, I keep my space efficient and tidy; if I don’t need it, its cut. I wish I could say the same thing about my mind though, it is a mess. I hate to say it, but I think that I am an emotional hoarder.

A few weeks ago, while performing a regular email cleanse, I came across a folder where I had saved all of the emails from my most recent romantic entanglement. To be fair, it’s been a while and I am now friends with this person. However, contained within this folder, which had been saved on my account for nearly two years, were hundreds of emails; conversations that I cannot even remember, raging arguments, and some emails that were only a few words. Why was I holding on to these? There was no important information contained in there. It’s not as if I was ever going to read them. It’s not as if I was performing an autopsy on this failed relationship or conducting research for the next one – really, I promise, I wasn’t. The more I thought about it the more it disturbed me. Ok, then what am I doing with this folder? And, as mad as I was getting with myself, why had I still not deleted it? This sparked the little mouse in my head to start spinning the wheel, and I began to think more about letting go. It sounds so simple, seems so obviously the right thing to do, so why couldn’t I just let go. They were, after all, just emails.

The interesting thing about holding on to old feelings – alienation, rejection, inadequacy – is that they follow you around everywhere. You can ignore them or try to suppress them and they may subside, but they don’t disappear. Or worse, you may be subconsciously coping by faking elation, going numb while your mind takes you elsewhere, or even getting drunk and promiscuous. If you’re thinking this all sounds pretty specific, yes, I speak from experience and not qualification. And yes, I’m nuts. What’s most annoying is thinking that I am the only one affected by baggage. Everybody around me seems to be getting along just fine. Surely I cannot be the only one struggling. And I guess that’s the point isn’t it. Whatever it is that I am dealing with, it has nothing to do with anybody else. They may have their bags that I cannot see. But this is just me, holding on. Whether I continue to hold on or not, life around me continues. Does this mean it is entirely within my control. Can it be as simple as making a decision and letting go. It is a lot easier said than done but maybe by clearing out the clutter in my head, I will be making room for something better. Just like the people we see on television, maybe I get sweet new furniture in the deal.

For the record, I have now officially deleted this folder and my email account is the tidiest and most efficient it has ever been. But more importantly, I feel lighter. It’s as if something I didn’t even realize was there has been lifted off of me. Perhaps this is step one in the right direction. Or maybe it was just deleting a dumb folder off an email account and it doesn’t mean anything. You can choose to look at it either way. I see it as a milestone of an achievement – one I may refer back to for years to come when I am making vital life decisions. No, in all honesty, I will completely forget all about this. But for now, yay me 🙂

love is in the air

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My previous experience with Valentine’s Day is broad and vague. When relationships have conveniently fallen on this “holiday” my sentiments have ranged from too cool for school, oh dear why limit ourselves by celebrating Valentine’s Day when we are so in love every day of the year, to thrilled simply for the privilege of having somebody willing to spend their time with me; from alone and miserably cursing the happy couples that seem to swell in magnitude, to completely denying any need for human interaction whatsoever. I look back and laugh, not because I am any wiser, but because I recognize how very little I know about love.

My previous use of quotation marks when describing today as a holiday was not intended as bitterness. I simply know little about the history behind Valentine’s Day or why we celebrate it in today’s culture.  Wikipedia (the unconditionally non-judgmental friend who I refer all of my dumbest questions to) goes into extensive detail of the origins of Saint Valentine, who was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers and ministering to Christians, and then my brain gets lazy with information overload and there’s something about bidding farewell before his execution saying from your Valentine, it continues about other legends from other parts of the world. I quickly discover that I am much less interested in this topic than I first suspected.

Whatever the origins, somehow Valentine’s Day became what it is today – a day reserved for the celebration of love.  It is also argued to have become highly commercialized and far too superficial. But in an attempt to prolong the time until I become a martini-glass slinging, cat-loving spinster, I acknowledge the cynical part of my brain but move on.

I can’t say that I understand love. In retrospect, I don’t know if I’ve ever been in love. It is embarrassing to admit that I have said I love you to four guys. In all four situations the words were heavy with meaning and the thought of losing that person was inconceivable. Is real love really so fickle? Concerning the most recent guy that I loved – who I shall refer to as Four, no wait that’s horrible, I shall call him Manny – we knew each other for roughly two months before we said the words. We fought a lot, he fell out of love with me and I clutched onto him as hard as I could and went absolutely nuts doing so.

Why did I fall so hard so quickly. Is it because I was insecure and needed the approval. Is it because I got a small taste of love and became desperate for more. Was I so blinded by physical attraction that the rational part of my brain turned off. Is it all of these, am I just completely crazy? Haha, probably. My point is that I was attracted to him, I liked his personality, he saw something he liked about me, but at some point it stopped being about getting to know each other to see if we were compatible. I wanted love so badly that I filled in the missing information with my own, made him into the perfect person in my head and confessed my undying love for him. What a disaster.

I celebrate alone today. I acknowledge my previous Valentine’s Days without judgment. I see the happy couples in my life and I feel happiness for them rather than jealousy. I admit to myself that I do want love but that rushing it will be counter productive. Instead, I refocus and open my definition of love to include myself. Happy Valentine’s Day me 🙂