How To Burn Down A Life

There’s a moment where you realize that the more you try to help the process of getting your life together, the more it falls apart.  One morning, you wake up, you drink coffee, you listen to the birds, and you realize the answer was there all along: switch teams and burn your life down. 

I didn’t make this decision because I’m sad or because it’s hard to Do Things.  I’ve made this decision while I’m mentally very well (neither depressed nor manic).  There is no space for any life amid the half constructed/destroyed rubble of what I have been trying to build ever since I left Michigan with a backpack and a dream. I have not gone fully toward any of my goals (except school, and that broke my heart to stop going, even though I knew I should) and that is so much worse than not doing it at all.  All of it needs to be ash.

The minute I gave the plan a name, I felt hope for the first time in a very long time. 

Someone once told me that a dream dies three times before it comes to fruition.  I don’t know if that’s true,  I don’t know if I even believe in having a dream any more,  but if it’s true then I am in the home stretch.  At night, I dream of those pinecones that only propagate where there is fire.

I’ve been plotting the arson of my heart for a while. I started seeking an answer in earnest on a weekend at the ocean with my best friend, a month ago. The other week I was horribly sick, and could not read or watch TV I was so ill… and so my mind churned and it all crystallized. So now I have a plan.

Step 1:  Get rid of all the things that are attached to the definition of self you have been living. 

For me, this is getting rid of visual white noise, getting rid of projects I haven’t finished, getting rid of decor that has to do with who I want to be.  Not making things uncomfortable or getting rid of everything, but stripping down to essentials.  Getting rid of anything that I find uncomfortable.  I’m systematically getting rid of things that I don’t want to clean, things that are linked to my journey of creating. I’m going to trash the collage by my bed of things that comfort me, the ideals that I would like to enjoy and live.  They are done.

Step 2:  Let go of people who are not allies. 

They don’t have to be bad.  I just have to pare down my time and attention and increase quality.  Anyone who treats me like the Giving Tree and sits on my stump… i’m burning the stump.  Go sit on someone else.  Anyone who talks about collaboration but really means control.  Anyone who can’t receive love (we are burning a life down, we don’t have time at the moment to teach anyone).  Maybe it’s not forever, but it has to be firm for the foreseeable future.

3. Give up the idea that you are doing your job “just for now”.

I had dreams of doing all sorts of creative things for a living.  Then I thought that I would go to work and use the work to fund creative things.  What this meant in real life is that I did not ever buy into what I was doing.  Even when I found the work interesting and recognized that there was a potential for fulfillment,  the fact that I wasn’t doing what I felt I was meant to do undermined everything whether I knew it or not.  So I have decided to Buy In.  This Is What I Do Now.  Maybe I’ll never do anything else in my life, maybe I will… but as far as I’m concerned, This Is It For Me.  I’m going to figure out how to not only do it better, but do it the best.

4. Stop Being A “Good Wife” and “Good Daughter”

Because I am an enabler.  I am a worrier, I feel guilt that has no basis. I have unrealistic expectations of how I should be.  I have to get rid of all that mess in my head and emotions and daily life and leave a blankness.  I’m not saying to not love and support my husband and parents, but that my ideas of that are broken and can just be leveled.

5.Say No to Everything For a While

This is the one I haven’t really started yet.  I want to get further with steps 1-4.  Once the beautiful blankness arrives, I will Decide What To Do Next.

6. Externalize A Little Bit 

I have never been someone who spent a ton of time on hair and clothes and nails and makeup, but I’ve realized they can be armor.  My natural transparency can be a little obscured by it, and it gives me some breathing room.  It gives me a creative outlet without undoing what I’ve been working on.

7. To Be Determined

Not sure what G-d is going to do with all this, I’m just very sure He is orchestrating all of this.  I’m very sure that I am guided and that I am empowered to make these decisions and that there is a Hope and a Future even though I’ve given up any notion of what that looks like.

All of the sudden, I feel like I can almost breathe again without sharpness in my chest.

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Nice to meet you 2015… shall we be friends?

There are times where I am just tired of the constant motion of life.

Usually this frustrates me and I fight it and it increases.  This week I’ve tried a new tactic and let myself off the hook. What this looks like is lounging with kitties playing video games on New Years day instead of packing up Christmas, organizing and reading.  All things that I enjoy, that must happen… but the momentum they create was a more exhausting prospect than the execution.

New Year’s Eve I took a bath and decided it was time to have a little luxury.  I cleaned the bathroom,  lit a guava candle,  poured the hottest bath I could, dropped in a Lush bath bomb,  slapped a face mask on, and read the first chapters of “Yes, Please” by Amy Poehler.  It was lovely.

While in the tub, I promised myself that I would treat myself gently, and that I would practice some self care in January.  I really believe that self care is important when you have people to serve…and I do.  My mother in law is coming to town to recover from a hip surgery in a few days,  work is amping up, and this community has a lot of people who are in need.

I want to be kinder this year,  to be more connected spiritually,  to practice humility, and to truly enjoy successes.

My intentions this year are to carve out more time alone with G-d,  to drink more water, to practice yoga regularly,  to find ways to be kind,  to create less waste, to send more packages and letters. I feel these are all do-able.

Be kind to yourself, reader.  Serve G-d, serve others and remember to accept love. ❤

Lipstick Dilemmas and Mascara Theology

I have a love/hate relationship with makeup.

Random, right?  This blog is usually not about makeup or hair or nails… and it still isn’t.  I’m getting there.

There’s this memory I have from youth group of this woman with some Serious Makeup going on… like, foundation, blush, blue eye shadow, and perfectly coiffed hair telling this goth girl that she needed to ease back on her black eyeliner and dark lipstick (the only makeup she was wearing) because it was ungodly, and wouldn’t God want her to look sweet?

I have another memory of watching church women discuss Tammy Faye Bakker’s makeup with disdain.  I was very little, and I remember thinking that she looked a bit like a princess and I didn’t understand why people were mean to her.

Sometimes I’m really not into the makeup thing.  I like it, but I’m not someone who needs it to leave the house. Sometimes I’m super girly and go on Youtube and figure out what I want to try and Full Face Makeup.  I have thrown out every cosmetic I own, and I have spent $50 at MAC without batting a well mascara-ed eyelash.  Usually, I feel very passionately on the subject of grooming and makeup.. namely I feel you should do what you want on that front.

RuPaul Charles said that “We’re born naked and the rest is drag”, and that’s pretty true.

Recently I visited this young, hip church in the area, and was reminded at how church culture has a Look, and how much you stick out if you don’t adhere to that Look.  I don’t know that the Look itself is bad, but I don’t know that it’s super genuine either. Maybe I’m too judgy about a Look that I don’t fit into.

This is all roiling around in my head because Self Care is such an important practice, and for me sometimes that means not spending any time on hair and makeup and focusing outside myself, and sometimes that means makeup and taking some time to take stock of myself and express myself creatively.

Makeup to me is like painting.  It’s not about anything other than creativity.  However, I have an awareness that it has an association with vanity, pride and selfishness. Is the medium really the message in this case, or is it possible to have a relationship with Appearance that is not too severe on either side?

Then, there’s an ethical component.  Are we using things to make us beautiful or even express ourselves that are slowly killing us, or our planet?  Trying to find even a basic cleanser without microbeads or a plastic base in it is becoming nearly impossible, unless you shell out for organic good quality products… and then one has to ask if that money is well spent?

Is paint a waste of money?  If not, is paint for your face a waste of money?

There is a lot to be said for humility and meekness, but are we using that to stifle?  There’s a lot to be said for the fact that “man looks at the outward appearance”, but are we using that to justify?

Am I going to come to a conclusion about balance once again?

Or am I going to decide that it doesn’t matter as long as I do what seems right before God for me?

Perhaps I just put a little more mascara on, and remember Tammy Faye, who was beautiful and didn’t need all the makeup… but more importantly was kind and creative and loving.

Lists Save My Life

When I say OCD, I get the impression that people think that this is extreme finicky-ness or perfectionism that I have as a personality trait.  But that’s not the case, as people much better at writing than me have pointed out.  I’m fortunate to have a pretty mild obsessive compulsive disorder, or maybe it’s just better handled because my parents were so aware of my genetic predisposition for it.  But the obsessive compulsive thoughts are always my hardest battle.

This morning was a bad one. Depression or stress or anxiety always ups the compulsive loops in my brain.  Sitting at my desk at work with a lot of uncertainty about my future and a lot of just generalized despair and I felt the thoughts go through, like some evil version of Buddhist prayer wheels, poisoning the air in my mind.

I learned a while back that if I made lists, it would fight it.  I figured this out because prayer solves a lot of things in my life, but because of the nature of these thoughts it is so difficult to practice, it become a religiously tinged negative loop.  Making lists works though.  It works as a form of prayer, as a meditative practice… something weirdly obsessive enough to disrupt whatever is going on in my brain.

These lists go from the mundane to the spiritual.  They can be lists of ways I can fix a situation, or things I’m grateful for,  of the LORD’s promises through scripture, they can be a shopping list.  I don’t know why it short circuits the compulsive thinking, but it does, and it offers me relief.

The tricky bit is to remember to do it.  When you are locked in what Allie Brosh calls a “Sneaky Hate Spiral”, thinking about anything outside of that spiral is hard, even without an OCD component.

I don’t know.  Maybe it’s time to go back to therapy, and possibly get medicated.  Maybe I shouldn’t make mental health decisions when I’m on my period and my husband has had a bad week.

But until then, I’m going to make lists, and remember to breathe,

A.C.

A walk in the rain…

I just like it when it rains.  It feels like Eugene is more itself, and I feel more like myself.

Rain in the desert smells different, it smells wilder, it is wilder.  Lightning forks and thunder rolls off the mountains for minutes on end.

Here in the rain forest, the rain has settled in and has slippers here.  Its toothbrush is in the cabinet.

There are two things in nature that I have obsessed about since I was very small.  One is the moon.  The other is rain.  In my head I am every age I ever was when encountering those two things.

I have been studying so very hard, and working and full of duties, and outside is wonderful for me, even if I’m walking in what is considered inclement weather.  The other night I stayed late at the college to go to a study session, and when I left the building, night had fallen.  The moon was out and the air had that wonderful night coolness and promise that there were Things Happening somewhere, and that those Things could be Anything.  It was this delicious and freeing sensation and it shocked me how strong it was, how cubed in I have been.

I have looked at the moon through the branches of trees all over the country.  I remember some of them specifically… Washington DC,  the middle of the woods in Michigan,  palm trees in Miami.

School must be done, work must be worked, but this weekend I need to get outside and pay attention.

Unsolicited Christian Dating Advice.

So a good male friend of mine, who is single, posted this on their Facebook:  “Thought on finding “the one”: every married person becomes like their spouse, so in looking for him/her, choose one you want to become like.”

I thought that was pretty good,  so I said ” Look for the one that you can fulfill your calling better with than without. 😉 The ideal mate list is mostly hooey to me… unless the LORD has revealed to you what you need, no one really understands what they need from a spouse until they have one, unless they receive revelation! Pray for revelation!!!”

And then I started thinking about it deeper, because this friend is one of the terribly marriageable people that seems to get looked over quite a bit, and I have quite a few male AND female friends that are unmarried who are unhappy with the unmarried bit (my friends who are happy with it are good to go).  I started to think about marriage and what I thought before or after I got married, and especially how “dating” and “courting” in Christian culture happens…

So here’s my unsolicited and very young wife advice for my Christian single, dating and engaged friends (I promise I’ll do marrieds later).

1. Never say to a girl (or boy, really) that you would like to find someone “like them”.  This is so baffling. Every single woman I know (EVERY SINGLE ONE, think about that)  has told me that at some point either a guy they were interested in, or one of their best friends of the opposite sex who were not ruled out in their heads as a potential spouse has told them this.  You may mean this to be complimentary, but the truth is it is so derogatory… because everyone hears the “except” in their head.  “I need to find someone like you…” and “Because you’re awesome” is what you are implying… but what they hear is “I need to find someone like you…

… except not fat”

… except maybe blonde”

… except you’re too honest and available so it’s no fun.”

Trust me on this people.  Especially if the person you are saying this to is a girl, because girls are trained by society and the way their brains work to analyze and break down crap like this to the tiniest molecule. No matter how intentioned that is, unless the phrase immediately after “I need to find someone like you…”  is “.. and then I realized you were right here…”  THEN YOU SHOULD NEVER SAY THAT.

2. Pay attention to how the person you are interested treats their pets, their family, people they don’t know, and people that don’t garner respect.

I was very privileged to know some truly amazing men, who set the bar high for what people could be.  A common pitfall I observed happened across a wide selection of people at every ministry I’ve ever been involved in.  It would be that the guy or girl would be an awesome teacher, worship leader, preacher or intercessor (though this happens less with intercessors) and during times of ministry would gravitate toward the exciting, popular, interesting, most desperate appearing people to hang out with or minister to or associate with.  This is human nature, but it’s so very important for people in ministry not to fall into this.

For instance, I have a very charismatic friend who is super obviously anointed and gifted.  He’s one of my favorite people on earth. I watched while every older guy in a 100 mile radius really vied to be this friend’s mentor and guide.  And yes, he needed one or many of these.  However, I have another friend who is not so charismatic,  very gifted and anointed, but in a less showy way.  He worked at the same ministry as me and my other friend, and was often frustrated at the lack of response from people he approached for mentoring, etc.  The guys in the ministry would go out, and forget to take this guy.  Finally, someone started to pay attention to him, and foster his gifts… and that person was a truly amazing individual.  It doesn’t mean that the people wanting to help the super charismatic guy were bad people or anything,  but it revealed something about the character of the person who took the time to get to know the less ostentatious young man and invest time and love.

It can be very telling.

One of the ways I knew my now husband was a little more than met the eye is because of how he treats his cats.  It seems silly maybe, but he believes his cats are part of his family, and he took the responsibility when he adopted him, and they have to be treated well.  He feeds them and cleans up after them and worries about them, and doesn’t torment them.  It showed me something about his character.

I think that families are difficult and in laws are an adventure… but if they did not have an abusive childhood, watch how someone interacts with their family… if possible before you date them.  Watch how they talk about their family.

And good grief… watch how they treat your mother.  It’s easy to be nice and get along… but does the person you took home to mom and dad treat them with respect and display boundaries?  And now bowing scraping respect, but as people they can talk to and trust.   At some point as a couple you are going to have to set boundaries, interact with each other’s parents in a conflict… do they have the character to develop those skills?  Because you don’t come born with them.  Because parents push every button.

Dave Barry once said “Someone who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person”.  And that’s a motto I kept pretty close to my chest while I was dating.

3.  This one is kind of hard to put into words. It’s really about getting over the flesh and that’s really hard when you’re single (well, or married or whatever).  There are easy people to love.  People who understand their personal potential, who speak up during testimony time, who share constantly about the wonderful things God is doing in their life. They put things in the positive, they have really well phrased ways of describing their feelings, they are attractive and lovely.  This does not make them bad or less worthy or anything… I want that to be really clear.

There are people who are not so much harder to love, because maybe they’re messier or seem boring.  They seem a little uncomfortable during testimony time.  They talk really frankly about where they’re at and what’s going on in their lives.  They’re a little quirky.  They don’t seem to have it all figured out.  PAY ATTENTION TO THESE PEOPLE. They are amazing.

I was, for a very long time, only looking at people in the first group, because I tended to be someone in the first group, and I thought that was who I was supposed to like.  (I’ll get into that weird “supposed to like” thing later).  I would hear the guys in that group talk about how they couldn’t wait to meet their future spouse who was also confident, outspoken, a great worship leader and “on top of all that she’ll be hot!”  That is how it was and that is what they deserved, it seemed.  I thought similar things, if I’m honest… I had  a list.

Ugh, the list.

On my list was that of COURSE I absolutely NEEDED someone who played an instrument, could sing and write worship music, led bible studies and maybe also painted.  Because those are things that I do and am called to do.

I dated those guys.  I argued with those guys.  I threw a lamp at one of their heads.  They said horrible things to me without meaning to and I treated them badly without realizing it.

My husband doesn’t play guitar, and sings mostly in the car.  He appreciates art but his is writing.  He will think long and hard during bible study and speak up when he really thinks he has something different to contribute or has a question to ask.  He has taught me that I can’t and shouldn’t take on everything, encouraged me without competing with me,  had my back, and generally been the best kind of balance I could ever ask for.  He says exactly what he means… there is no hunting for double meanings, you know where he stands.  I ignored guys like him for a long time.

3. For goodness sake, spend some time preparing.  And I am not talking about reading material, necessarily.  Although, if you’re a woman the “Created to be his Helpmeet” book by Debi Pearl is a book I can’t recommend enough (I don’t agree with everything in it, but the concepts are solid).

There are practical things that you should know… how to get along with a roommate (if you have never had a roommate, have one at least a year before getting married),  cooking and cleaning,  being respectful of someone else,  how to manage money,  how to make someone feel special,  how to be romantic and when.  How to disagree.  Tithing.

There are other things that help out a lot.  Volunteering… helping other people and doing something for the community that you don’t actually want to do.  And guess what?  The less people you tell about this the better.  It’s not about recognition, it’s about building your own character, and learning to care for someone when you don’t want to even look at them.

Working on your looks, being sexy, finding a fascinating hobby… meh.  Those aren’t bad things, but they’re not going to really equip you as much as learning and growing will.

4.  So after I’ve spent a thousand words saying “look for this, do this”  my best advice is HAVE COMPASSION.  It’s so hard to meet someone, and once you’ve met someone we’re trained not just by tv and movies but by the church to look for this perfect package, instead of a person.

You should be able to look for and be a person of the Spirit and a person of character.  You should look for those things.  But people are in progress… you’re looking for someone to share your life journey with and get in your corner.  You are looking for someone who shares your values and can laugh.

Laughing is important.

You need someone who can show you where you lack and whom you can take rebuke from. You don’t need someone who never makes mistakes, you need someone who can be shown their mistakes and acknowledge them, repent and grow.

5. Put down the stupid ungodly list.

Seriously, throw that crap away.

I think that list was popularized by Elizabeth Elliot, a woman who has some good things to say, and has some destructive things to say.  One of the destructive things is to make a list of your ideal spouse and marry the person who fits the most or all of those things.

This is really an arrogant thing, thinking that you know what characteristics are best for you.

If you are a Christian, you serve a Divine God who knows you have been, who you are, and all the yous you have the potential to be.  Pray for revelation, not just of some list, but just to see those around you with His perspective.

I know that I didn’t find anyone near what I needed until I put down the stupid list and started looking for the Fruit of the Spirit.  Well, that’s a little untrue.  I got hit over the head with the fact that the guy in my list doesn’t really reflect the fruits of the spirit, and surprised by the person who did.

What if you did this list instead… make a list of the married couples you know and pray for them.  Make a list of the single people you know and pray for them.  This praying for your future husband thing is great, don’t stop it, but I remember how self focused that made me sometimes.

Anyway, that’s just a few observations… take anything useful from it and throw the rest away.  To my single, dating, engaged and married friends… it’s a difficult world, and I pray for all of you all the time.

Much love,

A.C.

Simplicity is sometimes complex at first

So first update, I lost 2 pants sizes in the last couple months!  Makes me super happy, and worth the lifestyle change… I’m keeping it up!

Also, been on a massive simplifying process at my house,  trimming down my householding expenses while making things more eco friendly. So far, I’ve made:

Laundry Soap

Dishsoap

Shaving Lotion

“Febreeze” like stuff

“Soft Scrub”

Window Cleaner

General Disinfectant Cleaner

Carpet Powder

It’s a lot of initial work, but the keep-up is totally easy, and it’s worth it.  Most of these items use the same four or five ingredients, and I like that I can scent them however I like.  My house smells like Rosemary Lavender Lime whenever I clean.  It’s AMAZING, and makes it feel like my home.

I hung up my “inspiration collage” up in my bedroom.  It’s pinker than I’d think something that inspires me would be.  It makes me calm and happy at the end of my day,  with either rainforest incense burning, or lavender vanilla oil in the candle heater thingy all snuggled down in quilts… it’s a good time for refection.

Today I harvested some lemon balm from my little herb garden and did some folk method tincture which is soaking up in the cupboard. I can’t wait to do more, and hopefully it won’t be folk method (actually it wouldn’t have been today, except my scale is out of batteries).  I don’t think most of those herbs will come from my garden this year, as I didn’t quite think big enough and the rain/cold has kept it from getting as prolific as it has in the past.  Half my garden isn’t even really planted/potted yet… hopefully tomorrow.

Herbalism class is starting to pick up a bit, really enjoying the energetics and botany of it all.  Next week is farm week and I’m looking forward to it.

I know I need to do a post with recipes/photos… so maybe tomorrow!  Or, er… later today as it’s one a.m. and I need to turn off the tv and get to sleep.

What a weekend,

 

A.C.

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