Desiderium

It has been said that to repeat a word too much causes it to lose its meaning. I have spent so many days and nights repeating your name, hoping it will somehow mean less with each breath.

How can it already be more than year? How can so much time have passed, and the same intensity still be kindling there in my bones?

Let me tell you a story of love:
Two hearts meet
One dissolves
One flees.

-Regret

I know something of sadness. I know something of pain. I know many things about life. I know nothing of love. I only know that a name still lingers on the tip of my tongue, that all the speaking in the world cannot shake it. I know that a breath still hides in my lungs despite a thousand kisses since. I know he still resides somewhere in the caverns of my otherwise empty heart, that I cannot seem to untangle him from my veins. He has taken up residence in my soul in a way that will not be undone, despite my every and best effort.

When did you leave the world around me and become a part of who I am, more intimate than a story or thought? When did our blood so inseparably meet?

When will I be free of someone I can no longer have? Or must I carry that name through my life like a hidden book?

When did I submit to being a person halved, and having done so, to exist as such forever?

Is it forever?

To Whom It May Concern:

I am more sorry than this sorry prose could ever word. I am sensible of the cuts my knife made. I am aware that trust can never be restored. I am certain I am to blame.

I find I am still fully yours.

Semper tua ero
Dum spero spero

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Finifugal

Finifugal: (adj.) hating endings; of someone who tries to avoid or prolong the final moments of a story, relationship, or some other journey.

How do you encapsulate nearly four years of a vital and life-founding friendship into words? Four years of proximity, of wide travels and unforeseen mishaps and all of the laughter and the inside jokes formed in between? A friend moving away, unexpected or not, might seem a little commonplace, I know, but this particular friend and parting is deserving of a great deal of fanfare in both my and the minds of many others here sad to see her go. I don’t feel that it would be right to close this chapter of life without a proper nod to someone who has been instrumental in shaping me into the person I am and hope to become

When I first met my friend Allison we were both re-entering a college at the beginning of the spring semester, two of a small crowd all huddled in a room for orientation early on a Monday morning. I doubt either of us would have believed you had you old us we’d not only become fast friends, but move across the country, and even across the world, together. Having her company has become an almost constant ever since, so much so that I don’t know what to do now that she’s parting ways to head back west. I want to properly celebrate this person and her friendship without the clamouring of self interrupting, but Allison is probably best understood by her actions towards others. When I was floundering she offered support. When I needed a home, she offered hers. When I needed advice (whether or not I wanted it) it was there and it was wise and full of caring. She is someone who constantly pushes her boundaries and inspires others to do the same.

This isn’t meant to be a long and morose post, just a note of appreciation for someone who is always willing to jump in despite how uncomfortable it may be, just so long as she feels someone may benefit; for someone who has constantly put the needs of others before herself while also learning to achieve a balance that allows her to protect her space; for someone who has spent the past year earnestly seeking who she is and how God intends to use that for His glory.

To Allison: I’m so incredibly lucky to have been privy to these past years of growth in your life, and a constant beneficiary to your selfless love. As flatmates and friends we both know there have arisen instances of frustration, but even when I splash green all over the white trim in my haste to finish painting the kitchen, or sing at the top of my lungs the same showtime you’ve been hearing the past two weeks,  you’re patience and integrity win the day. Thank you for being my buddy-back, my Captain of the Friendship-Ship. May your quiet confidence and steady, good-natured love and sense of adventure continue to inspire others as it has inspired me, and may we continue to challenge each other as sisters and friends running this race together, no matter the miles that separate us. May your quiet confidence, steady, good-natured love, and sense of adventure continue to inspire everyone lucky enough to cross your path, and may we continue to challenge each other as sisters and friends running this race together, no matter the miles that separate us. Sirius and I can’t wait to see you again soon.

Thank you.

Stay Gold: A Year In Review

It amuses me how we try to mark so fluid a thing as time, as if naming and measuring and dividing could corral or control the inevitability of it. But we’re all standing here none the less, counting down the hours and minutes, drinks in hand, to welcome what feels like a fresh start, a blank slate, a clean ledger. I’m probably at the front of that group, an entire bottle of champagne in either hand ready to pop, my running shoes laced and tied to better hurdle me headlong into the coming days. The concept of a fresh start has always resonated with and left me uneasy all at once: I’ve never been able to fully internalise the concept of complete forgiveness.

It’s strange to recall the close of 2016 and reflect on the surrounding emotions and thoughts in comparison to those of today. I wrote a year ago about the dredges and the struggles, setting a word of intent for the year as I did so, certain this time would be different. Looking back, this year has arguably been the more difficult of the two both physically and emotionally, but I carry an unexpected measure of peace in my little suitcase of a heart as I turn the handle on the door leading from one year into the next. So much has happened in 365 days, but I can still surmise it in digestible fragments: a wide variety of hair cuts and colours, more tattoos, a new home, different jobs, at least three relationships (two of them convoluted and turbulent), and a great deal more needle sticks and blood tests than I’d care to count. I don’t like how solitary and selfish these things seem on their own, but together they form a context of discovery, of growth, of refining. I’m not quite able to echo the words of Job 23:10- I have a long way to go before these trials and valleys reveal gold, but I trust that the purifying process of the fire is meant for good.

However disappointing 2017’s word seemed at first, it’s nothing to the daunting approach of my word for 2018: celebrate.

This past year- perhaps two- has been of grief: learning how to grieve, embracing it and its stages, and accepting the necessity and healing. But I’m good at grieving, and it’s become comfortable in its familiarity. Celebration feels like an overwhelming and taxing concept right now. To throw off the weeds of mourning and put on a crown and dance? These are not skills I have honed; however, I expect that I very soon will as I prepare to enter this new chapter with all the pomp and circumstance I can manage, and in my very best heels. I have spent weeks planning and preparing for a party of good friends in fine clothes with whom to spend an evening of celebration and discussion, actively seeking to hasten the time on even as we relish the time we’re in. It’s easy to forget that celebration isn’t relegated to parties and prosperity: it’s an attitude and intention to be carried into every circumstance, and attitude with which you decorate every room. The modern Western mind things in great polarities of one versus the other. Why shouldn’t you be able to mourn a loss and celebrate its life all at once?

Even so, I have set my intention for 2018, and I do so with a far greater sense of who I am and who I serve as I do so. I’ll don my Kate Spade and Hepburn style and raise a glass of of good champagne with friends to toast What Has Been and how it informs and continues to live through What Will Be, and together we’ll celebrate the tired close and the coming unknown. I desire to live a life that could never be accused as halfhearted.

Rotto

I am tired.

I don’t mean the haven’t-slept-enough, over-active, too-little-coffee kind of tired. I mean the bone-weary, worn-soul and beaten-heart kind. The kind that keeps you nailed to the ground and muffled as if wrapped in layers of cotton. Anything that comes in contact with you makes little impact if any, just pinging off and away as you watch in apathy. The kind that leaves you with no energy to move and no motivation to try. The depression kind.

I am so tired.

And I can’t overcome it.

Forgive me as I try to clumsily word the things I’ve never permitted out loud.

There’s something about this season of life that constantly seems to leave me feeling stranded in a vise-like grip. Everything is tight: money, time, energy, willpower. It wears you down with no elegance. Not the nicked and smooth hardwood floors, gleaming with age and love, but a dirty, frayed and matted carpet that’s sat in the rain and mud and baked in the sun. I wish it wasn’t so amusing, the self-identification with an over-bested, threadbare rug, because it hurts to smile these days.

I’m grappling with a season of life defined by refinement, and it feels less golden than it does galling. I’m trying to wrestle with an overwhelming disappointment in God as I feel continually abandoned and beaten down by the odds and life, wondering where is the cup that runs over with anything but pain? Where is the embrace that doesn’t suffocate? Where is the relief, the peace?

I don’t know how to address this in a way that gives glory. It’s as if after all of these days in the wilderness I’ve arrived to find an empty Promised Land. How do you continue to proclaim Christ when you feel abandoned by Him? The Father, the Brother,  the Friend; the Prince of Peace, the Lover of Our Souls. All of these names have felt empty lately as I cry out and receive no answer.

I think often of the passage in Hebrews on hope and faith.

Things not seen.
Believing.
Earnestly seeking.

What does the believing soul do when these steps seemed to have failed? I know depression well enough to realise it deals unfairly in pessimism and lies, each card the colour of cynicism and disappointment. But how to have hope when there is barely enough energy to breathe? How to help meet the needs of others when yours are so incomplete? How to think on eternity without considering the means to reach it sooner?

I ask for prayer a lot these days, and I long to explain in ordered words and lists the reasons why, but how can I when I don’t even know myself? There is no way to quickly sum up the stumbling blocks of life that have landed me here, there’s no way to organise and quantify the pain. It’s certainly not my first time here, but it’s absolutely my first for allowing myself to acknowledge it and attempt transparency. I cannot pretend to offer a shiny end of brightly trimmed ribbons to what I have to say here. I know the True Things: I know that God works in the silence and moves in the pain. I know that brokenness always precedes the blessing. I know that nothing is wasted, and that even the heaviest crosses are meant to be borne.

But I still feel the empty corridors echoing in my chest, the brokenness still hurts, and I still have eyes deceived by the desert’s trickery of mirage and beating light. I have learned the word for brokenness in more languages than I can count, most especially that of my own heart.

I have seen glimpses of that far-off place of light and life. I have known its taste, I have felt its joy. But as these memories seem insufficient to carry me forward I would humbly ask for the prayers and encouragement of those who have been here before and seen the proven hand of God draw them out of their many waters, that I may at least be reminded that I will not drown in mine.

Thank you.

Graduating

IMG_5332

It’s been about a year since I did a true update on life, and I won’t lie– I’ve largely been putting it off. This isn’t so much because I’m trying to hide as much as it is my inability to line up the grand smear and mess of things that linger in overall impressions rather than identifiable feelings or thoughts.

So let me set the stage with the barest bones I have: events.

I’ve been dumped, started a new relationship, broken it off, fallen into a third, and parted ways again. I’ve gotten seven tattoos (my latest being the one pictured above), three massages, and seen one Broadway show (crammed somewhere in my near countless trips into Manhattan). I’ve bought a turntable and amassed too many records, temporarily adopted a dog, and started using essential oils. I bought an old car, sold it, and started leasing a new one. I started taking antidepressants, got back into counseling, found a mentor, left counseling, and started getting counseling from my mentor (who happens to be a licensed counsellor). I’m still taking the antidepressants. I’ve gotten a second job, decided it’s time to leave my first, filled out thirteen applications, had three interviews, received two offers, accepted one, and begun to work three jobs with plans to have officially left the other two as of today. I’ve travelled over 8,000 miles, dreamed of traveling more, done a lot of laughing, and done even more crying.

It’s been a busy 365-plus days, and here’s what’s changed since last year: not a lot.

For all my talk of settling in and down, I’m no better at it than I was a year ago. I have more pillows (three, actually), but two were free and I took them in knowing I’d feel no qualms donating them at the drop of a hat. I’ve routinely cleaned out my closets- I have a fresh load of mugs and trinkets to take to Goodwill tomorrow- and only have one box’s worth of random “things.” My seven crates of books are still thousands of miles away. Most of the records I own were gifts. Only last night I took pictures off my wall because having so many up made me feel uneasy— as if it were punishable for home to feel lived in.

A few months ago I finally acknowledged that I’ve been living an improper life for a long time. I looked at my two jobs, my physical health, and the mountain of worry and fear that I carry around on my back at all times, and compared them to the things I know I’m supposed to be, and who I know I truly am:

A daughter of the King and an inheritor of peace.

A mixed bouquet of wildflowers and cherry blossoms.

A logical thinker and a hopeless dreamer.

A communicator.

An artist.

A writer.

I gathered up all these explanations and names and put them on paper, starting a separate list below it of all the things keeping me from all that I am. The results have been tumultuous.

In less than thirty days I’ve tendered resignation at my two jobs (admissions counsellor for my alma mater and sales associate for a retail shop) and found a new one (at one point working all three over the same two weeks, and let me tell you that is its own special kind of hell that no one should have to endure). I’ve even had to end a few friendships along the way as well– none of its been easy, but I can promise all of it has been good. I’m taking on a reception role at a local animal shelter and humane society, and the difference in the job, my coworkers, and the lifestyle are so different from anything I’ve ever known or done before. It’s hard, often smelly, doesn’t pay well, and is somehow incredibly rewarding. I’ve taken my focus off the worry of gaining the financial and life goals being chased by my peers, and back on the things I truly love and value. I’ve started spending more time with people who share my passions and think deeply. I’ve cleared away the things that have been eating up my time and am making space for what I truly want to do: create.

As I stepped out of my office for the last time today I had a funny thought: it feels like a delayed graduation. When I last posted about life, I talked about how everything felt like it was slipping easily and nonchalantly into place: out of college, and into work, then a relationship, then a house, then more work. This chapter shift has been the exact opposite: it’s been jarring endings and sudden epiphanies. It’s been a lot of tears, a great deal of sweat, and a number of looming deadlines. I’m thankful for what this past year has been, and for the job I was given, but when I turned to look up at the 100-year-old building of brick and bells behind me, I finally had that sense of completing a heavy, weighty task, an impression that never truly arrived a year ago when I walked across that stage. It was as if leaving the place and this chapter- however rough and wonderful- behind, I was finally ready to let go. I am finally ready to graduate.

And I have.

So tonight I’ll celebrate, drinking champagne and wearing my favorite pair of old socks as I dance on my own to some old Ella Fitzgerald records, and tomorrow I’ll go to my only job, and then I’ll use my free time to write. Because that’s who I am– that’s who I’m made to be, and I’m finally stepping into that role full-time. And you know what? It feels like home.

Soli Deo Gloria

They were playing old emo-punk songs in a coffee shop yesterday- the haunt that’s quickly becoming my weekly Tuesday job-hunt base- and it took me back about ten or so years to when these songs were the shiny new anthems of the misunderstood misfit many. I can still remember the black-lined eyes and long dyed hair of the singers, fists raised against growing up and growing complacent, and the resonance I felt humming  along, the volume turned up all the way on my little off-brand MP3 player, trying to make sense out of all the ache from where I listened in secret.

Underneath my bed.

In a black velvet skirt repurposed as a cape.

I find it ironic that most of those singers likely lead somewhat normal, complacent lives today, comfortable to live on whatever riches and fame they acquired through their neon anthems only a few short years prior.

But I haven’t. Certainly I’ve ditched the cape and learned to apply eyeliner in acceptable amounts, but the confused ache and search, that same sense of displacement and longing, still lingers in my bones. It’s redirected itself over time and with maturity, less focused on a rise against the machine, and a more introspective angst aimed at the sense of inevitability that culture and expectations seem to move me- move us- towards.
A degree.
A career.
A husband.
A family.
I was asked in an interview on Monday where I wanted to be in twenty years, and I didn’t have a good, direct answer (something I know breaks all of the good job-interview rules)  because I don’t know. I half-stuttered through a sentence building cloud-castle dreams of merely living a life and working a job that enables me to utilise my gifts and passions each day. Beyond that, my only true desires include being student-debt-free and a fully stamped passport or two. I don’t want wealth, I don’t anticipate stepping up and onto a career-structured ladder, I don’t long for children, and I certainly don’t yearn to be someone or anyone well-known on a larger scale. I’m certain I can’t be the only one. Right?

It’s a theme of this year, discovering just how dissonant my desires are with the expectations given me by whatever source you choose to indicate or blame be it society or tradition. I’m trying to parse a disparity of information for the truth and for what I truly desire, what I was truly created for. I know more and more that this includes and is centred around writing. The difficulty falls in learning to chase the how and disregard the many potential outcomes for failure along the way. Failure means many things to different people: for me they look like scathing disregard and blasé contempt of my attempts, thoughts, and final product. There aren’t enough words in the world to properly describe to you just how much I fear failure.

I could likely quote here the entirety of Elizabeth Gilbert’s masterwork of a book on chasing creativity in spite of it all- especially the fear- but I’ll settle here for a public reminder to myself- and perhaps you if you need it- that we’re not held to the standards and expectations of anyone but God. The God who made you and me, the God who guides both of our paths independently (although often crossing), and the God who delights to lavish His children with good gifts and see them grow to trust Him, and all for His glory. Not ours: His. We just get to benefit from the good things along the way.

Sermons spend a lot of time encouraging us not to fear the hard things that God will ask us to do: it’s easy to translate this to mean that when God asks us to do something, it will inevitably be the hard thing. I think this short paragraph in my life is yet another reminder that sticking with God’s will and walking the “right” straight and narrow path isn’t a needle-in-the-haystack hunt, and it’s rare that we find ourselves faced with two similar choices one of which will plummet you into utter darkness and propel you down a path of rebellion. That’s simply not contiguous with all the overwhelming evidence and examples of God’s character that we’ve been given, and no matter what path we take we are always in danger of rebelling. That’s the sad truth of taking your sin nature with you wherever you go. So as I’m faced with choices, I’m choosing to make the ones I believe will make me more like God, and with only his expectations in mind. Soli deo gloria.

 

Eudaimonia

I am here.

(I inhale at these words- a small catch in my throat- then exhale, a slow, steady stream).

I am here.

How long as it taken? How many days, months, years of wandering and wondering? How many moments spent searching, seeking, only to discover my arrival on a nondescript morning, fresh pieces of a broken heart arranged before me on the chipped wood of a Starbuck’s table?

I try to tally them all.

I quickly lose count.

It’s so much more than a mere journey from point A to point B.

It’s been twenty-four years of struggle and confusion, comparison and contrast, darkness and a ceaseless reaching for the light. It’s been love songs on repeat and the acute ache of a broken heart. It’s been so much grief, often for things I neither understand or even know.

It’s been walking—so much walking. Step after step in any direction, towards any goal: anywhere but where I am.

I have pawned portions of my soul and bartered peace of mind for it, only to find myself robbed and unable to buy it all back. I’ve been in debt and withstood whole seasons of silence and dark, being blind or deaf. Sometimes both at once.

I have felt the crash and roar of the ink in my veins, and experienced the unsettling calm when none seemed to be found.

I’ve cut lines through my skin in search of more.

I have peaked a few mountains and walked through many valleys, often in the shadow of death.

I have known Death intimately.

I have lied and strained to understand truth, I have starved and eaten, starved and eaten again. I’ve thought about starving a lot: I think about eating more.

I have slept through the day and woken with the stars, counting pinprick holes in the sky as they appear.

I have lingered on cold concrete steps in the dark, gazing at the world of twinkling lights on the hills beyond, my entire life and worth sitting in the person next to me.

I have watched my entire life and worth walk away.

I am learning to secure my entire life and worth in a safer place.

I have built bridges and stood aside, eyes covered, as I’ve lit the matches that would ignite their burn. I have not always done so on purpose. I have often found myself standing bereft on the wrong side.

I have known both sickness and health, and I have learned how to live fully in both

I have danced in the sun and in the rain, arms open and carefree. I have done so in worry and fear too.

And after all this fight, this rest, this struggle, this strength, this darkness, this light; after all this building and tearing down and building up again. After all this wandering, wondering, seeking, searching; after all of this asking asking asking– I find myself here, I find myself arrived.

And- most wondrous of all- I’m finding I was here all along.