Placing monetary value on human beings?

I must have been born with the ability to handle money. I’ve never been an impulsive spender, and I’ve never asked my parents for insane amounts of stuff. In fact, I’ve always been a bit intimidated by money. I compare it to the ocean–it’s wonderful, but must be feared and respected. Being in debt, I can imagine, is like drowning. You’re literally underneath where you should be.

So, when people have tried to convince me that I’m “priceless,” I’ve always had a bit of trouble with it. I understand what they’re trying to say. I’m valuable, worthwhile, and special. But priceless? So valuable that a price tag wouldn’t even apply? I can’t comprehend it.

Let me try to take this from a semi-logical standpoint. I wouldn’t describe myself as a logical thinker–I tend to live in my fantasy worlds and touch reality only when needed–but I can use logic, especially if I’m angry and need to throw hard facts at somebody.

I used to price myself around ten dollars. Obviously, with my improved self-esteem, I’d put myself much higher than that.

  • $100: Um, I’m definitely worth more than an iPod.
  • $1,000: What can one buy with a thousand bucks? A motor bike? I’ve got more worth than that.
  • $10,000: For a fourteen-year-old with no job, ten grand is a boatload of money. Actually, it’s a boatload of money for most people, I think. Still, I’d place more worth on myself.
  • $1,000,000: That much money could probably pay for the college tuition of all the Duggars on “19 kids and counting.” That much money could buy a nice house or several luxury cars. Heck, that much money could buy an iPhone for every kid in my school and its rival! I’ll put myself around 1.3 million. For a young blogger who’s done only a bit of volunteer work and lives under her parents’ roof, I think that’s a good sum of money.

I’m sure plenty of people will try to argue this point, but try thinking about it from a logical standpoint. Just do it, instead of immediately trying to defend your view. I believe that I have immense worth. Just like 1.3 million dollars. This is not a matter of low self-esteem. This is a matter of “Abigail was thinking about random things in the middle of the night and wanted to blog about it.” Everyone is precious. If you think your life is worth less than 1.3 million, you’re wrong.

Oh yeah, and I don’t support the sale and purchase of humans, okay? This has absolutely nothing to do with that at all.

You aren’t the only one.

At the end of seventh grade, I was so terrified of being rejected or hurt again that I gave up trying to get others to accept me. My only solution was to build a wall–a solid, sturdy one–and hide behind it. It was my last resort. I’d been building it slowly since sixth grade, but I went on speed-building mode the summer before eighth grade. I remember I was at an event sometime right before eighth grade started, and I was overtaken by fright. I felt like every single person there was staring at me, hating me, whispering about my every flaw. I truly believed that nobody could ever love me, that I would never be accepted. Never, ever, ever. Sadly, I left the event early, despite how much I would’ve liked to stay.

It got worse from there. I could no longer make eye contact with someone for more than two or three seconds. Carrying on a simple conversation or introducing myself terrified me. I dreaded being around people, even though I desperately wanted to be loved and paid attention to. The times I had to talk to people, I’d fidget and ramble, letting my voice trail off in frustration and self-hatred. I’d analyze my every word and action, beating myself up if I’d said or done something silly. Weeks after the mistake, which others had probably forgotten about, I’d still be beating myself up for it. Cafeterias and public restrooms were torture. A few times, I was so self-conscious about the way I walked that I actually started stumbling a bit.

I remember hearing people talking about how they were “ha ha scared of people.” Anger bubbled behind the walls I had built with my own pain. I’d hear my peers joking about how other people scared them, but I knew they didn’t have a clue what they were talking about. They didn’t know what it was like to go through an entire school day hardly uttering a word. They didn’t know what it was like to hate every word that came from their mouth. They had no idea, and they never would.

 I had built walls around me to keep out pain, but I failed to realize that the walls were not only keeping out kind and well-meaning souls, but they were trapping me inside. The more time I spent locked inside my own mental prison, the sadder and more hopeless I felt. The sadder I felt, the more afraid I became. It was a dark and seemingly endless cycle that I remember describing as a “pit of loneliness.” People would give me all kinds of unhelpful advice. “Just trust more,” they’d say. “People don’t hate you. Just trust them. Take chances! Take risks!” While what they were saying was true, they didn’t understand that I really felt incapable of trusting people. Hearing this advice only made me feel more frustrated and inadequate, like I wasn’t even good enough to conquer my fear of talking to people when others could carry on such good and meaningful conversations.

I’m not going to tell you to “just take a risk and talk to people,” because I understand how hard it is to stop feeling afraid. I’m not going to tell you to “get some self-confidence” or “toughen up,” because I know that it’s not that simple. I won’t tell you to “stop worrying, you’re just shy,” because it’s more than just shyness. I will tell you, though, that you aren’t the only one. I always used to think that the problem was unique to me, that I was some sort of freak. I wasn’t, and neither is anyone who struggles with this.

Since eighth grade, I’ve gotten a lot more in control of the fear. I’m not going to say it doesn’t exist at all, because that wouldn’t be true; it still exists and comes up. I’m so happy, though, to be able to look people in the eyes and carry on a conversation! I can’t remember any certain day where everything changed. It happened over time, I think. One day I just realized that I had gained more control of the issue instead of it controlling me.

If you asked me what the secret is to putting a leash on the fear, I wouldn’t be able to give you an answer. It’s because the answer–if there really is one–is far too complicated to put in steps. There’s no flow chart on how to handle anxiety. There’s no ABC-123 method to it. I can assure you, however, that there are people out there who do understand you. Hold on to this truth. You aren’t the only one.

 

 

 

 

 

I just want more chips.

Yesterday’s post was a beautiful story of an autumn leaf. Today, I’m afraid, will not be as inspiring or poetic.

What am I honestly doing with my life? Nothing I do really has any direction. I go to school, do all my crap, then come home and do more crap. What are my goals in life? Get into college, publish a book, start a family eventually? That’s about it. So what’s the point? Obviously, I have to do well academically to get into college. Other than that, though, I’m pretty aimless. I guess someone who’s fourteen isn’t supposed to really have direction, but I like knowing what’s next. I like knowing that what I do has purpose and meaning. Have I done anything extremely marvelous with my life? What am I doing? 

Breaking news! Fourteen-year-old girl eats bag of chips and puts away laundry!

Let’s look at just this evening. I walked home from school and immediately changed into pajamas. I gorged myself on all things salty, sugary, and unhealthy. I came online and zoned out somewhere between the “what does the fox say” video and a funny British YouTuber talking about procrastination. I ate dinner and more snacks (PMS, okay). Then I checked on homework and got back online again.

Wow. There are people starving, being killed, abandoned, betrayed… and what am I doing? Eating a Pop-Tart. I could be doing anything, but I’m sitting in front of a computer doing absolutely nothing. I need to do something with my life, give it some direction. I don’t want to float around looking for the next thing to happen. 

Everyone is talking about what’s next. Me? I just want more chips.

Chips, and some opportunities.

 

 

 

My leafy purpose

Look into the sky, and you will see me–a golden leaf fluttering on the crisp autumn winds. I am blown about by the words and validations of those around me. These winds carry my moods, bringing me up among clouds or down to soaking, slippery asphalt. I flutter and spin, alone in the cloudless blue of a September sky. The leaves on trees, the strong ones, they jeer at me, shifting and rustling each other in mockery. They are an angry red, crimson as the rage they have against me. Another tree is adorned with oranges, both bright and deep. The leaves are clever, skillful in the way they rip pieces of me and keep them. I am the bit of yellow in their sea of flame-bright tangerine. When they have had their fun scraping me, sneering at my every brown spot and crinkled vein, I fall away and into the winds. The chill of autumn stings my brokenness, and even the warm airs that bring me to the sky cannot feed me with the belonging I crave. A tree of lush green lies in the distance–they wave to me in kindness, so unlike the crimson leaves of further back. But no, I am not whole like the leaves there. I am not innocent and carefree like the leaves there. They will never want my spots, my shredded, paper-thin self. To the ground I drop, ashamed, fatigued, and lonely. I am flattened to the chilly pavement under the heavy rubber of tires, stepped on, forgotten. Even the will to get up abandons me. The sky releases chilly rain, icy fingers stabbing me right in my wounds. Green leaves bow in compassion, orange leaves snicker, red look away.

And then I feel them.

Hands, warm and fleshy, peel me from the asphalt, being careful with the flimsy pieces of me that threaten to fall. Cradled in comfort and safety, I await my purpose. Was I so special and beautiful to be noticed, picked up, and carried away? Some time passes, and the whistle of the damp winds ceases. Instead, I hear the hum of a radiator and the whir of a washing machine. The hands brush away from sawdust from a work table and set me on it–gently, tenderly, so as not to break me. My rips are sewn together skillfully, the dirt and dust from the harsh world outside brushed away. The hands, rough from many years of woodwork, but still so gentle, attach me to a beautiful wreath of bent sticks, pinecones, and other sewn-together leaves. With great care, the hands hang my wreath on the front door. I am bright, beautiful, and radiant, now drawing the attention of leaves upon trees everywhere. The very things for which I was ridiculed for–my spots, my crinkled veins–only add to the splendor of the decoration. I am strong. I am secure. I am me–a beautiful golden treasure.

Happy all the time?

I used to think that while I’m waiting for God to show up, I could just laugh off all the things that hurt me. It seemed to work for everyone else, so why wouldn’t it work for me? If I was going to be in any sort of chain or shackle, I’d at least make it look pretty. What? You called me ugly? Aw shucks, that’s just dandy! Those kids called me stupid in fifth grade? Well, just give it a good ‘ole chuckle, and it’ll all be fine!

Live in bondage fashionably! Let’s get some bling on these chains!

See, none of this feels right. It all feels fake. I can’t be fake, so I can’t do this. It’s easy to put up a facade and pretend you’re happy about everything. Have you ever heard that song “inright, outright, upright, downright happy all the time?” It’s false. Nobody on the planet can be happy all the time, and if they say they are, they’re lying.

In a society where everyone is supposed to shove everything away, choke back all the tears, and live life with plastered smiles on our faces, admitting that we’re not okay feels like something to be ashamed of. I went through my depressed time trying to make sure no one was aware of how dark I really was. Instead of trying to deal with the fact that I wasn’t okay, I tried to decorate it.

It’s like being sweaty and gross, and spritzing perfume all over your body instead of taking a shower. It’s just not right. Underneath, the nastiness is still there. Do you get home from a sports practice, clothing drenched with sweat, and tell everyone that you’re really not drenched with sweat? No. You admit that you’re gross, and then clean up so you’re not gross anymore.

Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy with emotional stuff. Nobody can just “make themselves okay again.” I’ve tried so many times on my own strength to “just be okay again” and it only made me more frustrated that it wasn’t working. Just like if we tried to take a shower in, I don’t know, coffee and whipped cream. It’s getting you wet, so it must do the job of cleaning you off, right? Wrong. We need water–Jesus water–to make us okay again. Until then, we need to bring down our facades. If you’re not okay, don’t try to hide it. Don’t try to be “inright, outright, upright, downright happy all the time.” Just be you. Come as you are.

Come as you are to the showers of Jesus water!

Easter egg hunts of pain

Sometimes I look at pictures of myself from the past, and I begin to wish for those times. I was so young, innocent, and unbroken, unaware of what was to come. My first instinct is to try to protect that little girl, but then I realize that she’s gone. She ceases to exist. In a way, though, she does live. Her pain is my pain, her struggles mine. In a way. Am I making sense? Probably not.

I want to talk about the hurty (yes, I made up another word) experiences I’ve had, because it’s actually relieving to get them off my chest (though most people really don’t want to hear about things that happened three or more years ago). Often I find that when I’m talking about one experience, I remember another one, and another, and another. It’s like an Easter egg hunt, but not as fun, obviously.

I’m not quite sure why these things still hurt me. Why should it matter what a bunch of fifth graders said to me? Why should the opinion of a twelve-year-old kid cause me such pain? I know that the things they said were lies, but I can’t seem to just shake it all off. Should I be expected to, though? Should one expect me to find and crush all the Easter eggs at once?

I find an Easter egg, try to pull it up, but it’s chained to the ground. How uncool is that? Even when I find and recognize a painful memory, I can’t just decide to make it stop hurting. Seriously, I’ve tried all sorts of approaches, but they turn to ash and nothingness when I attempt them. I’m running out of ideas. And, if you know me, that doesn’t happen very often.

I’ve conquered so much in my life, but my own past seems like a mountain that cannot be scaled. “Well, walk around the mountain!” they say. “Leave the past behind you! Forget it!” But should I have to live like this? Should I have to feel such continued anguish like this for the rest of my life, and just shove away the feelings every time they arise? I wish just telling bad memories to go away could work.

Oh well. Maybe if I just ignore it long enough, it’ll go away.

Kidding. I’ve already tried that.

I’m a water balloon!

Earlier today in my first class, I was overcome by the love of Jesus. It wasn’t anything visible, so you wouldn’t have been able to tell by looking at me, but I felt it deep in the core of the my heart. I felt its true ringing all within me. It rung so true that I needed to overflow into my school’s hallways. How can one just keep that sort of love to herself?

I have all this random compassion that I honestly don’t know what to do with. I find myself aching for the problems of my friends, acquaintances, and even people I’ve never talked to. What do I with this? I so want others to know Jesus, to know this life-altering love that I felt earlier today–but how? I’m a water balloon of compassion, and I could pop any moment. Feelings and emotions are raining from my life’s sky, and I can’t keep them all to myself. There’s so much on my mind! I’m overwhelmed. Questions, thoughts, wounds, random comments, inspirations, and ideas are everywhere. Someone needs to sit me down and let me talk on and on for about four hours about all that swims in my brain. If I start rambling, or if I suddenly start crying about nothing, I apologize.

But hey, it’s better than the numbness I used to live in.

 

A best friend.

 I miss the days when it was acceptable to ask someone to be best friends. Nobody would give it a second thought. Playing with someone at recess would be grounds for soulmateship (that’s not a word, but I’m making it one).  Somewhere along the line, however, something changed. Social groups and hierarchies formed, friendships shifted, and people drifted apart. Suddenly, asking to be someone’s best friend just wasn’t cool anymore.

When the switch happened, I stopped having such close friends. Actually, it’s not that I lost friends at all. A close friend to a first-grader is very different from a close friend for a sixth-grader. While my peers began to form closer and closer bonds, I remained with simple acquaintances, no matter how much I desired the proverbial “BFF.”

Throughout my life, I’ve struggled with this. I’d meet someone new and get butterflies in my stomach–friend butterflies, that is. This could be it, I’d think. This could be the friendship I’ve been waiting for! It never was, though. The other person would eventually pop the “best friend” phrase. “My best friend and I were at the mall the other day” or “When my best friend was little,” etc. It was then that I’d realize that the other person already had a best friend, and I obviously wouldn’t get the friendship I’d thought was possible. I realized that to this person, I’d never be first, only second. Only second-best. No matter how hard I tried, I’d never make it to the best friend rank.

Those moments were crushing.

Why couldn’t I be “BFF” material? Was there something wrong with me? In an effort to become everything to everybody, I became no one at all.

I don’t honestly know what to make of the best friend thing anymore. I’ve stopped expecting it, really. Sure, I have really close friends, but they certainly wouldn’t consider me “best,” would they? I wonder. Maybe, somewhere in my life, I’ll experience it. I don’t know. I’m so confused.

Yes we can!

Today, for some reason, I began to sing the Bob the Builder theme song. As a kid, I never really got into that show–I was much more interested in the adventures of Caillou.

Anyway, I then began to think about my heart, and the healing I still desire from God. I don’t know what that has to do with Bob the Builder, but I connected the two and came up with this little…parody, I guess.

God the Builder–can we fix it? God the Builder–yes we can!! Hope, life, and healing, forgiveness, too–love, joy, and patience join the crew. God really loves me; he gave his son. Now he’s healing my wounds, and he’ll get the job done! God the Builder–can we fix it? God the Builder–yes we can!!

This makes me happy.

Addicted to validation

There are plenty of explanations as to why some people want to sit in the sticky spaghetti sauce of pain and melodrama. Today, I’m going to go into just one–the one that I’ve personally dealt with, therefore the one I know the most about.

We’ve all heard about fair-weather friends. We’ve all had them, too. They’re there for you during the good, but as soon as the clouds start rolling in, they’re out the door. Nobody thinks about stormy-weather friends, though–the friends that are there for you in the bad, but leave when the clouds roll out.

I remember a time in seventh grade when I was having a bad day in a bad month in a bad year. This girl, whom I wasn’t particularly close to, came up and asked me if I was alright. “No, not really,” I muttered in response, staring down at whatever I had for lunch that day. The girl looked at me sympathetically. “Do you want to talk about it?” Of course, I thought. She popped the ‘do you want to talk’ question. Great. This time, however, I decided to give it a try–after all, who else would I talk to about it? My sandwich? That’s a real listening ear. Actually, corn would be a listening ear. (Sorry. I had to.) Anyway, I told her a little (a little, I’m careful about who I trust) about what was bothering me, she listened to me, then walked away. She never made an effort to talk to me again. Sure, we’d have cordial conversation during math class, and we’d smile at each other in the hallways, but that was it. That was the extent of our friendship. 

That’s a stormy-weather friend. They’re the sympathetic, well-meaning souls who gather around you, pat your back, and give you tissues when you’re crying, but are never as eager to be around you when you’re okay. They go back to their better friends and sort of forget about you.

As much as I hated (and I mean hated) crying in front of other people, something was strangely comforting about being surrounded by those tissue-givers. They were caring about me. They were paying attention to me. I was mattering to somebody. I felt like if I wasn’t in pain, these people would never give a single thought about me ever again, which, in some cases, was true.

But in many cases, it wasn’t. Because of all my lies (feeling unwanted, unloved, etc.) I felt that I would never truly matter to anybody. When I was hurt, people seemed to care–and that was something. Something was better than nothing. I’d never lie about experiences (I hate when people do that), but when I started feeling sad, I did little things to keep myself there so I would keep mattering. Once I’d start to feel okay again, I was afraid people would leave me, and I’d be lonely again.

Eventually, I got addicted to the pain. Maybe it wasn’t even the pain I was addicted to. Maybe it was the validation I received from others when I was in pain, the feeling that I mattered. I wanted the tissue-givers to stay there. Even with people I knew would always be there for me, I still felt that they’d leave me because I wasn’t good enough. They’d abandon me because I “didn’t need them anymore.”

I’m still sorting all this out in my head. It doesn’t all make sense to me. All I know is that I’m now making the decision to believe that I matter all the time. I’m not blaming this on anyone, by the way. It was all my decision. Again, I’m just trying to make sense of it. This is what I’m doing half the time with this blog. Something doesn’t make sense to me, or I have a burning desire to write about something, so I write it and I feel better. I never really have an outline or a plan for these blogs. I improvise, do a quick run-through when I’m finished, and hit publish.

Anyway, the trick is to believe that you matter. You are important and loved all the time, not just when you’re upset. Don’t be a stormy-weather friend, be an all-weather friend. Don’t just say “I’m there for you when you’re in pain,” but also say “I’m there for you when you’re not in pain.”

It makes a huge difference.