Embracing the Next Step

wander

I don’t like large shifts and changes. I especially don’t like not knowing the next step in front of me. Waiting on the universe to unfold the next stair while my foot already dangles mid air. No thank you, sir. And sometimes. This general resistance toward change can lead to a not so great thought process.

In mid June my contract at my current position is ending and I’ve chosen to not attempt to renew it. I’ve known for awhile this season was passing through, but now that it’s coming to a close I’m wanting to stay on this page instead of turning to a new chapter. I want to write a few more pages into something already ending because choosing to stay means not having to feel stuck, unsure, or afraid the next move won’t present itself. My instinct as of late has been to avoid the uncomfortable nature of being stuck and the following changes.

I became frozen with the indecision of staying where I am or moving forward because not having it all figured out felt unnatural, irresponsible, and a wee bit nerve wracking (read: makes my heart clench cause PLANS ARE THE BEST EVER). I was ready to stay in a season that had passed in order to avoid feeling unsure and afraid of not being able to figure it all out.

But here’s the thing: You do not have to have it all figured out to move forward. You just don’t.

Let’s be honest: Change is hard. Even when it’s good change, it’s hard. Just like stress is a bell curve so is change. It’s good up until you hit your max and then it starts to wear you down.

And dammit. I’m tired of change. Since I began college it has felt constant. However many years later I am in grad school and change still beckons with it’s knobby old finger. People who think spontaneity is sexy are smoking something because consistency is the real head turner if you ask me. I like rhythms and familiar things. Knowing what to do when and where. But that just hasn’t been the road for me. I look to my left and right at friends who went to college and graduated to get normal jobs, and feel envious of the routine they already have in their lives. And then I look back at what’s in front of my own two feet. And I know they’re planted right where they need to be and I’ve been making the hard choices to move forward even when I’m not sure how it’s going to pan out.

Maybe you feel this too. Stuck. Not wanting to move forward for fear of what it will mean to take those next steps. And I really get it. But what scares me more than change and not knowing the next step is staying somewhere I’m not supposed to be anymore. Somewhere where I’ve learned my lessons and left behind my own good things.

All that said… Now I get to choose if I want to keep walking along resisting each tiny step forward. Or if I would like to embrace the new opportunities that I know are silently on their way. As stubborn of a person as I am, I think I would like to let go of the fear and say hello to the new good things on their way. I’m not saying I won’t feel the weight of the change because I know I will. I’m saying that I’m choosing to trust myself that this is for the best and I’ll be happy I didn’t choose to stay.

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Old Wine & New Skins

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I’ve put off writing this fine piece. You might have noticed that it’s coming out late, and I really don’t have an excuse other than I’ve been muddling, processing, and attempting to make sense of a strange encounter I recently had. I’m going to do my best to tell this true, honest, and well, but I won’t lie the idea already makes me quake.

Because last week I basically had someone hold up a mirror to my insides and tell me to take a good hard look. She saw through me over and over and over. In the course of two hours I had a perfect stranger lay my shit bare. I suppose you could call this a unique experience. Especially, when this is person is a writer you have fawned over and followed since they first started publishing words to a page. And god. It was good, and hard, and I cried a lot. And I’m not the crier in my groups. You know the one I’m talking about. The one who cries at commercials, and puppies, and lifetime movies. I’m not that girl.

But when a stranger is filling up your computer screen and you’re supposed to be talking writing and strategy, and instead you find her gently ripping off every band-aid on your heart, only to reveal gaping holes you thought no one could find – well, you cry. And wonder what is even happening because you’re pretty sure this wasn’t what you signed up for. And before what now feels like a therapy session even ends you feel yourself rapidly replacing the tiny little blocks she had just broken down because you don’t have the faintest clue how to process what just happened.

Let me back track.

The writer in question is Hannah Brencher (HB). If you follow her words, then you know HB has worked tirelessly to grow in authenticity and candor in her writing. What appears like effortless authenticity and vulnerability is repeated bravery put down on paper.

HB skimmed my most recent post, failure is not a four letter word, started to smile a few paragraphs in, and tapped her fingers against her face as she spoke, “I see what you’re doing.” Her words told me something I already knew. I have never known how to be the open one, but I am damn good at appearing like I do. I write to capture what it is to be human, but refuse to give you all anything of mine. I hold my fists tightly on the details of my own experience, and say it’s because I want you to be able to picture yourself in my words. I could scroll back through these pages and probably find not even one time I genuinely shared myself.

I never told you that I can write about heartbreak because I fell for a blue eyed sharp mouthed boy who was every kind of wrong for me and I for him. Or that I can sit over a steaming cup of coffee and talk about grief because I’ve lived in the dark place they call depression and anxiety. Or the gaping holes I mentioned earlier? Most of those come from deconstructing the conservative fundamental Christian worldview I grew up into and which then spiraled me into that dark place. That I’m just now admitting that even though I’ve come so far I need to open those wounds back up. I didn’t even tell you last week, when I was hurrahing on and on about failure that I was drowning in stress and controlling coping methods because I didn’t get a graduate assistantship I was counting on, and now I have no idea how I’m paying for graduate school. Or how about that I’m now in a better relationship than I ever imagined I could receive.

I hide away because all of this was mine to know, not yours. And even now. There are a thousand stories inside these tiny words I’ve just handed to you.

HB somehow saw and found all of these tender spots I just splashed out on this page. We talked about things I haven’t talked to anyone about because I’d prefer to act like they aren’t a part of me, or how I got to where I am. But she helped me to know something I’ve been purposely avoiding for awhile.

I need to put myself back into my writing. All of me. And that isn’t easy, but it’s real.

And so, I will be taking baby step after baby step toward allowing my own voice and experience to scribe these words. As someone who loves words, it is by far easier to hide behind them than to use them to put myself on the line, but that’s the new goal.

Blotting Out the Backdrop

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I’ve said this before, but I will always deeply deeply cherish the bonds I have with the women in my life. But lately, I’ve noticed something – we speak so highly of valuing ourselves because we are strong and we are sure of our fire. But then my eyes drift past all our actions and I see this story painted out in grey behind us. I’m not sure if it’s the real story, but it’s there setting the backdrop. A story we don’t want to give words to because we want to blot it out and pretend we’ve never been mumbling the words to ourselves all along.

Independent and kicking life’s ass as far as the world can see, but coming home to take your heels off and wondering, when you get to just chill at home and watch Netflix with someone by your side because you’ve never had to learn how to be alone with yourself. One more perfectly edited picture in that LBD and you’ll believe that you don’t care. But maybe if you stayed still long enough you’d remember how wonderfully weird and funny you are on your own. You’d find yourself enjoying the nights of lounging by yourself in the middle of the bed and sipping your favorite cuppa tea.

Maybe life spat you out this year.

Every last possible thing which could throw you into the mud did. And then life ground it’s six inch stiletto in deep just in case you missed the point. But you’re still here. You dug your nails in and clawed and clung with every last sinewy muscle in your tiny body. You’re tired and feel like you’re barely even crawling with no end point in mind, but darling, you’ve been swimming against the current for so long, when other people would have just given in and floated down, down, down. The end is so close in sight – it’s time you sing a song of change and hope because you are all the better things that are yet to come.

Held down for years you don’t know how to stop, and even the words slow down make your heart beat faster in a frenzy. All you know is the push, the drive, the will to overcome everything in your way. After all, it’s what has gotten you this far… But the hands reaching now? They aren’t looking to tie you down, or throw water over your fire. No, these are the hands of people who hope to kindle and blow breaths of life onto those flames, but their words will be honest and sometimes hard to hear. Will you let them help?

Your words come out like honey and you know just how to lift the dark veils on people’s eyes. How to reach into their dimly lit places and start a tiny spark. But what about your own dark places? The ones you won’t let us see. You’re afraid of the fallout, not being what people think you are, and worse the feeling after you let someone in. The dreaded waiting and hangover of a thousand feelings pushing you down. How do you know we won’t meet you there? The same place you’ve met us so many times and told us we are never too much, but just enough.

Yes, you are just enough to us friend.

So many paintings casting shadows on who we really are, where we are, and the journey forward. Turn around, take in this dark backdrop, and then look a little closer. The paint is flaking and tears litter the canvas, where you started to pull it down because heaven knows you’ve tried. Running a hand over the paint you can see the colors are fading because you’ve stopped dabbing new hues to give it life. Tug the corner and rip it down, or grab a bucket and toss a fresh coat over the whole damn thing, just know that you need to do the thing. The scary thing of doing a new thing to end up somewhere else. Turn the corner, turn around, run a little faster or slow down, make the choice to change so that you want to frame what’s behind you instead of blotting away the words.

Painting a New Portrait

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For the longest time I carried this old book with words in faded black and grey. Oh I know the words to this book by heart. The words would tightly wind around me like they could somehow become the essence of me. And maybe they did. After all if you carry something long enough, it subconsciously colors more and more of you than you’d like realize.

Somewhere amidst years of relationships, perfectionism, and a culture that breeds shame & fear I had accidentally begun to wear the words to this old book. Garments strung together with words and thoughts of my person not being truly likeable or loveable. Or deserving of it for that matter. Specifically, that if someone really knew me (and saw all the things I don’t say) they would back pedal so fast that heads would spin. The idea that I looked good at first glance to people – smart, a bit sassy, and cute – but that the underneath wasn’t really that great after all. No reason to really stick around. That my path boasts of too many jagged corners and questions. That my faith is too doubtful and hopeful all at once. That I have carried too much for too long to put it in the hands of someone else. The ever lethal dichotomy of somehow being too much and not enough all at once.

My spirit isn’t really dark, but those words would color it in all the darkest shades. Dark and smudged like an old photograph touched too soon. No, on a few occasions I’ve had people off handedly mention how they perceive me, and I’m embarrassed to say it’s usually all I can do not to stare at them with my mouth awkwardly gaping because their words are heartbreakingly kinder than the ones I internally hold onto. Their words are softer, filled with life, and are actually a better depiction of how I really am.

Too many of us are walking around with the ugliest of pictures of ourselves in our frayed back pockets. Pictures drawn with lies and overly critical pens. Honest introspection is valuable, but you are worthy of loving regardless of where you find yourself.

I said out loud my own lies the other day in the most off hand manner I could muster. I sat there silent, afraid my face would give away how petrified I actually was to hear the response. And someone who knows me better than most looked me straight in the eye and quietly told me that my words were absolutely heartbreaking, and that it was maybe even a bit messed up to believe those things about myself. I was caught off guard and felt a bit unnerved in my vulnerability. But I know I’m not the only person who needs to ask these fears out loud. Or the only person who needs to take a lighter to that picture in their pocket and replace it with one in the colors of kindness, truth, and grace.

So what are the words you can’t quite imagine uttering out loud to another set of eyes staring back at you? The words iced with fear and coated in shame. The words you’re desperately afraid someone will someday say out loud and finally solidify the crushing weight of doubt and worthlessness you’ve been carrying like some hidden gem.

Maybe you don’t have someone in your corner that you can whisper to the words and fears that press in all around you. We’re all alone sometimes and that’s okay, but I don’t want you to be alone in this. It’s too important and so are you. I’m in your corner as much as someone possibly can be from the other side of a glowing screen. I want to hold your doubts and fears so they don’t feel so heavy and you can watch them fade. I want to reach across the sticky coffee table and grab your hand and tell you how everyone really sees you: brave, lovely, capable, and fiercely wonderful. You are all the good things even if that’s not the message etched into your being yet. Keep learning to love yourself; it will take you so many places.

*my inbox is always open and I would love to hear from you ❤  someonetoldmetousemywords@gmail.com