I

I’m people-watching at a corner table at Starbucks right now.

There’s the group of four older people, taking pictures with their phones of  a woodpecker outside the window beside them.

There’s the employee with the afro, and the woman wiping the counters. And I wonder if they’re happy. I wonder if people love them.

There’s the young couple, he with rubber bracelets on his arm, stacked halfway up to his elbow, and her with the Seahawks t-shirt and long, black ponytail.

There’s the couple at the table to my left, too. Their earphones in, their laptops open before them, papers strewn all over the table.

There’s the four-year-old with the mop of curls atop her head, crying because she spilled her hot chocolate. There’s her parents, drying off her seat and reassuring her there’s still some left in the cup.

And I wonder, if someone was people watching me, what would they see? Would they wonder why I don’t do my hair? Would they wonder why I’m sitting in a public chair with my feet on the seat and my knees up to my chest? Would they see the tears brimming in my eyes? Would they see the child within me reflected in my face?

*

At work the other day, my coworkers were talking about a client with BPD.

“What is that?” one of them asked.

“It means she’s a drama queen,” another one of them responded.

“Oh,” said the first person. “Then I feel less worried about how she’s doing. She’s probably just making it up for attention.”

I wonder if my coworkers see me.

*

I am tired eyes and a tender heart.

I am unruly hair and chipped fingernail polish.

I am “one day at a time” and sobbing myself to sleep.

I’m “throwing my head back laughing” and “aching for someone to hold my hand and never let go”.

I’m “pull the blankets up to my chin” and “kiss Arlow’s face until he pulls away”.

I’m picky about books and doesn’t drink enough water.

I’m “I know you love me” and “Tell me again you’ll never leave me.”

I’m so grateful and so scared.

*

I still sleep with my baby blanket.

I fall asleep every night with its worn fabric clenched in my hand, and wake up every morning with it still there, woven between my fingers. If I lose it during the course of the night, it wakes me up and I search for it, not falling back asleep until it’s been recovered from under my pillow or lost within the mess of other blankets on my bed.

I have never, not since the day of my birth, been without my blanket.

And I don’t know what it says about me that I, a thirty-year-old woman, still needs an fraying piece of yellow cloth, but I do know there’s a parallel between how I feel about my blanket and how I relate to others. There’s a desire to hold on, to grab on tight, to hold them close to my chest, to never let them go.

*

I don’t think any part of me is a mistake.

I don’t think my big eyes and baby-fine hair and innocence are a mistake.

I don’t think it’s a mistake that I sleep with a baby blanket and that I would rather have a mom than a husband.

I don’t think the ache of my heart and the way I love with all of me are mistakes either.

It would be a mistake, however, to minimize who I am. To decide that because I’m different, I’m less than. It would be a mistake to overlook the fact that I have been pieced together by a divine hand.

It would also be a mistake to take the screaming need inside of me and try to fit people into that ache.

It would be a mistake to not appreciate people for exactly who they are. It would me a mistake to try to make them be something to me that they are simply incapable of being.

It would be a mistake to overlook the fact that I’m in this place now, not because my relationships are somehow lacking, but because there’s something inside of me that is lacking.

It would be a mistake to give in to despair, rather than give in to God, letting Him grow me through the discomfort.

*

I’m “sleeps with a baby blanket” and “stops to move a caterpillar off of the sidewalk”.

I’m quick to hug and forever needing to be held.

I’m long walks and green tea lattes.

I’m yellow Converse and depression.

I’m thirty and I’m three.

I’m “It will all be okay” and “Tell me it’s going to be okay.”

I’m “I don’t know how to be a person apart from other people” and “Lord, teach me.”

I’m struggling to live and refusing to give up.

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Crises And Smart Choices

I called the crisis line tonight.

I called Laura first. I called her and I cried and she hugged me through the phone as well as anyone possibly can.

But then I hung up and I was alone again. And hysterical. And I realized two things in the midst of this:
1) No matter how much anyone loves you, you can’t take people and shove them into the empty an aching parts of yourself.
2) What’s left empty and aching is meant to be brought to God.

I knew this, even in the midst of my hysteria, but I also knew that the place I was in emotionally was absolutely no good.

So I paced the house, panic heating me up from the inside, tears running hot down my face. I paced and tried to figure out how I was going to fix what I was feeling. Because certainly enduring it wasn’t an option. (I’m saying that last sentence with something like a wink. But also I’m dead serious. If ya feel me.)

And then I grabbed my keys, without knowing where I was heading, kissed Arlow, and left.

The me of the past would’ve done one of two things:
1) Called Laura back and been like, “No, but wait. I’m really not okay. Fix me! Love me! Do you still love me!?” or
2) Vodka.
…Because apparently my status quo is taking a bad situation and making it worse. Praise Jesus for growth, amiright?!

Anyway, I ended up at Starbucks. I had my book and my laptop and was still actively sobbing, but I figured I could go in, take a seat, and let some green tea (and the uncomfortable stares of others) help me pull it together.

But then there was nowhere to park.

Isn’t it funny how something like that can just really throw you over the edge? Because suddenly it isn’t even about the stupid parking spot. Or at least it isn’t entirely about the parking spot. And that’s how you end up bulldozing over every car in the parking lot to “teach them a lesson” or something, (“How dare you get here before me!”), and then the cops come and you’re all, “There was nowhere to park!” And they look back at you like, “Well, you handled that well. Way to go, problem-solver.” But really, that was just the final straw. The whole unfortunate series of events actually began much earlier.

Don’t worry, I didn’t actually bulldoze any cars. That’s not really my style. I’m much more the “park my car in the middle of the aisle so no one can get around me, curl into a ball on the backseat, and cry” kind of girl. Although, really, either way probably ends in cops, so tomato tomahto.

But anyway, back to my story. So, I was sobbing, my brain was on fire with unhelpful thoughts and fears, my insides were all knotted up because “how am I going to survive this night!?”, and then, in a last ditch effort to keep myself afloat amidst the tidal-wave of my emotions, I reached out to Starbucks for a hug and it (metaphorically) slapped my arms away.

Rude.

So I called crisis.

Because sometimes what you need in the moment, the people who love you can’t provide for you. The amount of crazy I was about to bring to the table could only be handled by one person: a stranger.

And you know what he said? A lot of not helpful stuff. But then he said, “You know, a lot of people struggle with being alone, especially at nighttime.”

And my next thought: “Bull. Shit. I am NOT going to be one of those people.”

So I thanked him, hung up the phone, drove my butt home (without getting my green tea, for the record), marched inside, kissed Arlow, looked up at the ceiling and said: “Okay, God. It’s just You and me. Let’s do this.”

And I lit candles, and made tea, and got some nail polish out and decided that I’m done. I’m doing being afraid of being alone. I’m done with the panic. I’m done.

Whatever inside of me is broken, whatever it is that is making panic a recurring theme, I’m not running from it anymore. I’m not running from it, and I’m not going to try to take anything else and fit it into that place inside of me that is broken. Because that isn’t the solution. All it does is keep me spinning in circles, looking to the wrong things to fix my hurt, and completely oblivious to why I’m hurting so much in the first place.

So tonight I hunkered down. I told myself I’d breathe deeply and that any thought I had or activity I did that made me feel even the slightest twinge of panic, I’d stop. I would be gentle with myself.

I told myself I’d give this night to God, letting Him speak to me in the quiet moments- through the things that made me feel fear, the things that brought me peace, the things that made me feel hope. And I would, in that way, find out what it is inside of me that is broken, and also, what is holding me together.

You know what I’ve learned tonight? If you let your brain fill up, and then trust yourself to sort through the thoughts to determine what is true and what isn’t, you’ve already lost. You have to catch the thought on the front-end.

Like a bouncer.

“How does this thought make me feel?” you have to ask as the thought shows up at the door in its party clothes, smacking its gum and twirling its hair. And if the answer is: afraid, panicked, hopeless, defeated, depressed, anxious, etc., then it’s not a thought from the Lord. Send it packing.

You know what else I’ve learned? When you approach uncomfortable emotions with a “how do I fix it!?” mentality, you’re essentially setting yourself up for a panic attack.

At least that’s true if you’re me.

Because most of the time, there’s no immediate solution. And if you’re looking for a solution, and no solution exists, you’re going to feel like a person gasping for air underwater. Enter: panic.

And so, it might feel irrational, but the best way to cope with whatever bullcrap emotion it is that’s causing you so much turmoil isn’t to fix it, but to let it be. You just have to ride it out, breathing deep, and letting the bouncer stand with its hands on its hips at the door of your mind.

And then you can endure without inviting panic in to complicate things.

Your mind is guarded,
you’re breathing deeply,
and your heart is safe because it’s in its Creator’s hands.

There’s nothing to fix.
There is only this moment in which to be present.

Inhale,
exhale.
And when possible, drink some green tea.

Twelve

Below is a list of twelve things I learned in February.

Chatting at the Sky likes to do a monthly collaborative wrap-up of things that the month taught us. I’ve never before felt compelled to join the festivities, but tonight I shall- partially because I’m feeling sentimental and emotional and contemplative, but mostly because I don’t want to go to sleep.

1. American Idol is so much better now that they focus more on helping people realize their potential and less on making fun of those who probably shouldn’t have auditioned in the first place. I cry every episode, without fail. When you see pride in the eyes of someone’s dad or grandma, or when the judges speak life-giving words to the contestants? Tears. And it makes me think of God and how He looks at us with even more pride and tenderness and love, and how if we could only hear Him clearly, we’d be even more assured of our worth and value and of His good plan for our lives.

2. My love language? Touch.

3. I worry way too much whether people want me around or not, when really what I should be doing is just fearlessly following where I sense God leading. When I stop worrying that people are going to look at me and think, “Ugh. Why is she here!?” it makes it a lot easier to just make loving them my primary goal. And when I’m more concerned with being loving than with whether or not I belong, social situations are way more enjoyable.

4. I am straight up addicted to green tea lattes. And I would say I need a twelve-step program, but I’m not yet ready to do my life without them. They’re a hug in a cup. I swear, every morning as the barista hands me my drink, my drink actually smiles at me. And it says, “I’m so glad you got out of bed today! I’m proud of you!” And a girl needs that kind of encouragement in her life!

5. You can shop TJ Maxx online now. And I cannot be trusted with this information.

6. This book is seriously dope.

7. Even though it’s hard to be financially generous, it feels better to spend my money on other people or put it towards tithing than it does to spend it on a shopping spree. Sometimes I think all I really need is more sweaters. That’s such a lie. My closet is full of sweaters and I don’t feel like they’ve done anything to heal my soul. I get much more from seeing the sweet face of my sponsor child on the mantle than I do from looking over the contents of my closet.

8. Having a clean house isn’t the most important thing in the world. In fact, I don’t even think it’s second. Or third.

9. If you’re struggling to love life, the answer is very rarely to withdraw from people.

10. When I make comfort the primary goal for my life, I make huge mistakes. What appears to be comfort is often a liar. Staying in bed all day, calling in sick, cancelling plans, skipping church, ignoring phone calls, binge-watching episodes of Teen Mom, eating an entire pan of brownies, eating nothing… Those options might feel like comfort in the moment, but they actually just take us one step closer to developing addictive behaviors. I think addictive behaviors always start as comfort seeking. When we allow comfort seeking to become our primary decision-making-strategy, we’ll discover a life less full and meaningful, not more. Usually, the path towards genuine life and comfort, which only the Lord can provide, requires that we go through something quite uncomfortable. But it’s always, always worth it. “Go,” He says. “Go to church and work and leave your house and love people. And you don’t have to feel strong enough or social enough. You don’t have to be well-spoken or witty. It’s okay if your hair doesn’t look the way you want it to or if your pants feel tight or if your eyes are red from crying. You just need to go. Where you are weak, I promise to be strong.” And He always, always comes through. Even when I’m cranky because I’m doing the hard thing and all I really want is a blanket and some Pad Thai, God goes with me when I follow where He’s leading. And I’d rather be where He is than anywhere else, even if that means being scared and uncomfortable. When you can lay down in your bed at the end of the day and say, “I did the hard thing and I’m so glad I did,” that’s genuine comfort.

11. I think we all need to be hugged more often. We all carry within us brokenness. Life is hard. That’s why God gave Adam a partner to do life with. We aren’t meant to do it alone. We need someone to share in our joys and our sorrows and see our messy, genuine selves and say, “I love you.” We need to know that our hearts and lives matter. We need to know that the details about us matter as well, that someone notices and loves the way we smile or the sound of our laughter or the way we mispronounce the word ‘pillow’. It’s all so beautiful. We reflect Him. It’s incredible. We, our existence and the thought and love our Creator put into us, is seriously awe-inspiring. It makes me feel like donning a sundress, running to a sunny, flowery field, and twirling in circles with my arms outstretched, a smile on my face, and my head tilted towards heaven. No joke.

12. My favorite people are the messy, authentic ones- the ones who love the Lord passionately, who are quick to laugh, quick to cry, and who carry kindness in their eyes. I want to be that kind of person. I want to be the kind of person who trusts God fully with my life and my short-comings. I want to live with complete authenticity, fearless of rejection or failure, because I know He is in control and I could never be, not even if I hid behind a self-protective facade. Choosing authenticity not only helps us form deeper, more genuine relationships with others, but I think it also helps us draw closer to the heart of God. God put His entire heart into creating us. He knows the hairs on our heads, after all. He didn’t do that, He didn’t pour His love into us and care about everything from the way we walk to the size of our hands to the shape of our ears, only to advise and encourage us to hide who we really are. We are His masterpieces, and where we fail, He is even more glorified. He wants us to be exactly who we are and trust Him with the outcome. And I want that, too.