Growth Hurts

I loved my junior year. Everybody else seemed to be stressed, but I was in my happy little world of denial. I had a cozy little place in my social world and felt a deep sense of belonging as a result of that. I spent hours doing whatever made me happy and felt content almost all of the time. If I was forced to repeat one year of my life for the next ten years, I would certainly choose junior year. It was the time of my life.

It was enjoyable, but was it fruitful? Hardly.

Of course I learned things. I discovered some things about myself, primarily concerning identity and ambition. I just can’t say my life was radically changed. After each completed year of high school, I always chose one core lesson I learned that year that was represented in a new piercing. Freshman and sophomore years were easy for me to pick, but not last year, because I didn’t do a whole lot of maturing. Of all the years in my life, I learned and grew the least during junior year. Why? Because I was comfortable. 

It is impossible to make enormous strides in maturity or confidence when you’re comfortable. Remember when you were little and you’d lie awake at night because your legs were aching? Those were growing pains. Growing pains. You have to give up some of your satisfaction in order to mature. If you’re not willing to give it up, well, you’ll be forced to; often our satisfaction is stripped from us by circumstances out of our control. You have to decide whether to become bitter and stubborn or to allow yourself to learn and cherish the time you have to improve yourself.

I wouldn’t take back junior year. I think it was important for me to get a break from growing for a bit, as I’d been doing quite a lot of it in the years prior. However, I wouldn’t trade the growing I’m doing now for another year of fun. In the long run, there’s nothing “fun” about being stagnant. Besides, who would ever want to be sixteen forever?

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Post-Epiphanies

After a life-changing epiphany, there’s always a high. The first few days following are magical. Nothing could ever break you, nothing could ever bring you down, everything is going to be align. This high wears off shortly when you realize that changing your life actually takes work and is rarely something that is fixed in a moment of positive emotion. When this happens, you have to make the choice between falling back into old patterns (i.e. the easy route) or fighting tooth and nail until you start seeing changes (the hard route).

And so here I am. The high from my epiphany earlier this month, referenced in my previous post, has worn off. It would be so much easier to let it go, like every other potentially life-changing experience I’ve had. Just wait for the next emotional transformation. Yes, that would be easy, but my mind has grown to be more practical. Life is not run by emotions. If I actually want to become a new person, I have to make sacrifices and lifestyle changes. The epiphany was the launch; the progress afterwards comes from flapping my wings.

I refuse to continue waiting around for the next emotional high. I will not be a slave to whims; I’m taking hold of the reins and steering myself towards where I want to be. What does this mean, practically? It means I force myself to get outside and run, even if I’m more comfortable on the couch under my cozy blankets. It means I refrain from needy behavior and passive-aggressive communication. It means I consistently reassure myself that I deserve love and compassion. It means I quit going through old conversations and recalling memories so that I can live in the present moment.

I am creating the life my epiphany showed me I could have.

 

Healing From the Ceiling

The other night I wrote about how God turned from me when I needed him, and how I realized I was essentially talking to the ceiling. Last night, the ceiling–in the metaphorical sense; I am not hearing voices–talked to me. It’s funny how God has delayed reactions, isn’t it? Maybe heaven and earth are so far removed from each other that messages get caught in the void for a little bit.

Last night, right before bed, I had a conversation with an estranged friend. It would not be appropriate for me to go into details, but I can say that it poked something deep inside me. For the past few months, I’ve been distressed over some personal matters, and it has been painful for me to reflect on happy memories from a particular good time in my life. After the conversation, I closed my eyes. Something told me, go back to those memories and feel them. All of them. I didn’t fight it. I gathered all the sweet memories I’ve been repressing and let them all flood into my consciousness. For a straight five minutes, I cried so hard I could barely breathe.

Eventually the emotions subsided. I felt more purely free than I had in months. There was a new voice in my mind, and it was wise and comforting. I had a conversation with it. To an outsider, it would’ve looked like I was talking to myself, but I think that the voice–God–was using my voice as his. Honestly, I can’t even describe it, but the words that voice was telling me were far more mature than what I would always come up with my own mind.

After some time of talking with God, I am fully confident that I am called to be alone right now. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to cut myself off from people and become a hermit. I am talking about aloneness in terms of intimacy. My life has been lacking closeness lately. I don’t have a “group” or a “person,” and it’s been excruciating to see everybody else have one. God has told me that it needs to be this way for a time.

For the past few years, I’ve been hyper-focused on my relationships with others. My happiness, my lifeblood, my identity–every bit of it depended on my friendships. If a friend was upset, it would ruin my week. If I was happy, it was surely because I’d had a good time with friends. I only felt validated in the presence of other people. If anything went wrong in my interpersonal relationships, I would freak out and become desperate. It got to the point where if a friend was upset with me, I would cruelly punish myself. I could not assert myself in personal relationships at all; I constantly blamed myself. I had no idea who I was besides what others said about me. Honestly, it was extremely unhealthy.

I don’t need to hear, “Join clubs and find people who share your interests!” or “Try to spend more time with people so you can get closer!” No. I need to heal. I need to find out who I am and learn how to make myself happy rather than depending on others. I need to work on the abandonment and attachment issues that have sabotaged my life. Until I’ve figured myself out, getting into other close relationships will only be a repeat of the same old patterns.

Again, I’m not going to hide from the world. I’ll still be my same old sociable self, and I’ll still hang out with people every now and then. But I won’t chase closeness or try to find a “place.” I’m not in a position to be close with people right now. I need to finally, finally get close to myself and to God. It won’t be an easy feat for an affectionate, fun-loving extrovert like myself. But it will be done. In time, I’ll become so comfortable with my own company that I won’t need others so much. God will sustain me, and I’ll never go hungry with him. Yes, I’m hopeful that one day soon I’ll be at a point where I can maintain healthy friendships, but today isn’t that day. I need to be alone right now–and not so I can strive to be a better friend, because that would defeat the purpose of this healing. I’m trying to learn how to not center my entire life on others, how not to be obsessed with becoming a better friend. My end goal is to end this constant dependency and learn how to rely on God and myself for satisfaction.

I’m not scared anymore. In fact, I might even be a little bit excited. It’s going to be interesting, painful, and of course, lonely. But I have never been so confident in my life that I’m going to be fully healed soon…

Because God turns lonely into lovely. 

 

An Encounter With The Ceiling

Last night, I lied awake in bed thinking about the past, the future, and the tangled mess that lies in between. For the first time in a while, I talked to God. 

Hey God. I’m ruining every aspect of my life right now. I’m unconsciously sabotaging everything that is good and I don’t know how to quit. Please, for ten minutes, stop my heart. 

To be clear: I don’t want to die. There’s too much undiscovered territory ahead of me for me to want to abandon it, too long of a race for me to quit before it even starts. I only wanted to die for ten minutes, just to see what heaven is like and to feel true emotional freedom. I made that clear to God. 

Lord, don’t kill me forever. Please bring me back in ten minutes. I just want to feel free, and then recreate it somehow on earth. Tell me or show me something that will change the trajectory of my life.

I prayed with more sincerity than I have in a long time. I lied still, very still. Listening. Waiting. All I heard was my heartbeat. The more I thought about it, the quicker it went. I tried to forget it, but it was like breathing–once it’s brought to consciousness, it’s impossible to ignore. 

Are you there, God? Please tell me something that will change my life. Please show me what it’s like to be free from insecurity. Where are you?

God? I’ve never been so serious about anything before. I want you to free me. Are you there?

I turned over. Five minutes passed. I turned on my other side. Another five minutes. More pesky heartbeats, more crushing silence. 

One last time, I pleaded.

Give me a sign that you’re real. Show me that I’m not just talking to the ceiling. 

There was still undisturbed quiet. I opened my eyes, which I had faithfully kept closed and motionless. At that moment, it came to me that whatever God there might have been had turned his face from me. I saw the ceiling and realized that there was nothing else above it, at least, nothing that cared. 

I sleep alone tonight. 

Dear God–Where Am I?

Dear God,

It seems that over the past few years, I have either hated you or loved you. I’ve pondered your existence, asked the hardest questions, and pushed the boundaries of conventional theology. That isn’t true now. You barely cross my mind. Where are you? Or, more accurately, where am I?

I’ve been gone. Where I am, I don’t know. I took a wrong turn somewhere. It feels as though I got drunk, blindfolded myself, and sleepwalked (all at once) out into the world, and now here I am, waking up, having no idea where I am. Lord, I don’t even know how I’ve gotten myself here into this peculiar unknown. Everything has been a blur these past few months. For once, I don’t feel as though you have abandoned me. I am the one who walked away.

I read a devotional and the Bible every night, but it’s only a ritualistic chore, something I’ve been doing every night since New Year’s Day that I continue to do only for the sake of uniformity. I’m not even reading the words on the page. Church is only a bundle of good feelings–a place where I socialize, joke around, and make myself useful as often as possible. I like the camaraderie and leadership opportunities I have there, but I miss the point every Sunday. I’m nothing but a fraud in your kingdom. I could, and would be willing to, preach a sermon to a thousand people about how good and unfailing you are; evangelize, pray for people, ask other people to pray for me, go on mission trips, be on a worship team, and share testimonies, but it’s all a shell. My faith is a beautiful package full of nothing but more paper and bubble wrap.

When I need help, I completely forget your existence, like a person forgets the day they’re born. Sometimes when I used to say “forget,” I meant that I knew you were there and felt you couldn’t help, and therefore didn’t reach out. Not so in this case. You have become so irrelevant that the thought of you does not even reach my conscious mind. How do I immerse myself in your word, your music, and your church, but not even think of you? How do I ask people for prayer but not even think of who is behind it all? Has everything only become a social pleasantry, like “hi, how are you, I’m fine?”

I am in need of somebody who can recognize me as real, because Lord, sometimes I don’t even feel real to myself. I have so many faces that I wear for so many different people; I can’t keep track anymore. I do my best to care for all my images, like one would tend to a garden of a hundred different flowers, but sooner or later I forget one, and it crumbles and shows the dull dirt beneath. Every day, I experience so much anxiety that I feel physically sick. My mind is constantly playing paranoid tricks on me. I’m sad, I’m reactive, I cry too much, I’m uninspired, and I’m becoming more and more proficient at covering it up. Because who would want to be around someone so negative? Who would ever love someone like that? The only way to be loved is to be inspiring, or funny, or spontaneous, or creative. Lord, I don’t know how long I have until I run out of all the old jokes I’ve stored up over the years just for times like this, or the pep talks I’ve recycled from better days.

I can only hope that you want to be around someone so negative. I can only hope that maybe, for you, I don’t have to be an actress in a hastily-produced play. I can only hope that you would willingly choose, above all things, to sit with me in complete silence.

Your fraudulent and flaky servant in name only,

-Abigail

 

 

A Letter To My Conservative Friends

Dear conservative and Republican friends,

If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I’m a liberal. I wasn’t raised that way. I grew up in a relatively traditional and Republican environment, actually, and I held the views in alignment with that environment dear to my heart. Around eighth and ninth grade, I began to come into my own and form opinions based on my own observations, experiences, and reasoning. I really do believe that that’s part of growing up.

But it doesn’t really matter how I grew up or what the past is. What matters is the present, and right now, in this present moment, I’d like to make peace.  In the past, I admit, I’ve become angry with you–well, not you, per se, but the stark contrast in our perspectives. My liberal beliefs form a large part of how I interpret our current political atmosphere, how I come to conclusions about the world, and even how I choose to live my life. In the midst of my own fervor, I’ve forgotten that you most likely feel the same way about your views. It would be unfair for me to claim that I’m more of an activist than you are. You are an activist in your own way, and I admire your passion–yes, even if it directly conflicts with mine.

I’m starting to accept that we will never see eye to eye on many of the things that matter deeply to both of us. And you know what? That’s okay. We’ll never change each other’s minds by arguing, whether in person or online, so let’s just put it all to rest. I hate what politics have done to how we view each other–at least, how I view you, and how I perceive you to view me (my perceptions are admittedly faulty, so please correct me if I’m wrong). I just want to go back to when none of this was an issue. I want to talk about things like nature, art, music, our stories, our hopes, our dreams. These things bring us together on a truly human and universal level.

So please, take this as an olive branch from me. I will not think of you as bigoted, closed-minded, or intolerant. I hope that you won’t think of me as wayward, clueless, or amoral. All I want is peace between us. Hopefully this post will help soothe some of the animosity.

With love,

Abigail

The Human Element

I work as a cashier at a large supermarket. The job, to me, is a whole lot more than menial, automatic tasks. If all I did was scan cucumbers and bag frozen burritos, I’d have quit the day after I started. What I really love about my job is the human element.

I actually care about my customers, because I care about people. I hope the saddest people come through my line so I can say something that might make a difference in their life, even if only for a moment. When they tell me something that’s going on, I tell them I’ll remember. A few weeks ago, one woman told me her son had a brain tumor. I still pray for her son every time I think of him–which is actually quite frequently. Somebody today told me her mother was in the hospital, and she had to go there every day to visit. I’ve been praying for her all day.

If there is any opportunity for me to interact with people, I will do my best to use it to inspire. The world needs a little more humanity. I want to be the change, one frozen burrito at a time.

How God Spoke to Me Through Pokemon Go

If you haven’t heard of Pokemon Go, you’ve been living under a rock (or a Rhyhorn). I downloaded it a few weeks ago, becoming just one of millions of players. I’m not hardcore about it; I’m only on Level 7 and I play it when I get the chance.

Anyway. Today, people were rude to me at work, other conflicts arose, and I was overall just feeling really miserable. Later in the evening, I decided to triple-task picking up groceries, taking a walk, and hunting Pokemon.

Usually I don’t get more than Rattatas and Pidgeys. But on my walk, I stumbled across a CP 250 Pidgeot–something I’d never caught before. Just 100 yards later, I caught a Bulbasaur. Both of my eggs hatched on my walk. One was a CP 185 Rhyhorn, and another was an Exeggcute. I had neither of those, and for a casual player who’d never hatched any eggs before, I was absolutely ecstatic.

I didn’t really think much of it at the time. I got home and started feeling emotional again. It wasn’t for another few hours that I realized that maybe, just maybe, those Pokemon were a sign from God that he loves me.

Many people think God’s voice must be found in visions, dreams, or sunsets. He certainly can speak that way, but the way he loves us through the things we love cannot be ignored. If we keep our eyes open during our everyday lives, we can start to see God’s love in countless more ways. He’s leaving signs of his deep love for us everywhere, like treasures.

We need to go catch ’em all.

Christ In Me, a Doubter

I always doubt God. Sometimes, in the middle of sermons or services, I’ll start feeling really weird. Talk to God, they say. Really? We’re all praying to absolutely nothing. Singing to nothing. Gathered here in a building talking to ourselves. And then just as quickly as the feeling comes, it passes. 

I have tried to become an atheist before. Really, really tried. In tenth grade, I went through a time where I felt loss and loneliness constantly. Weirdly, I wanted the satisfaction of making someone hurt for me. I felt let go of, and I wanted to be the let-goer. God was my only option, because I couldn’t have brought myself to do anything like to that to someone or something tangible. So I let go of God. I immersed myself in atheism, in science, in reason. I read articles on how to make myself stop believing. But I couldn’t. Honestly, I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was up there. So I quit the pursuit of godlessness and just settled for “being angry at God.” I believed he was unjust, unkind, a liar, disgusting, shameful–but I believed he was. 

I got over the anger, though I am grateful for it (I wrote a fantastic, ruthless piece of religious satire, for which I will never stop being proud of). But I’m still a doubter. I’ve accepted that I always will be. Maybe I like it a little, because it makes me feel rational. Unsheeply. 

So here I am, caught. I can’t believe, but I can’t not believe. Nobody will ever convince me that God is undeniably real. He will never be proven to me. But beneath all the doubt, there’s this sinking feeling that he’s there, defying everything that science says should be true. That’s Christ in me. It isn’t a constant peace, a blessed confidence, or a warm feeling that I’m never alone. It’s a literal, rock-solid presence that cannot be shaken, no matter how much the world and I have tried. 

You’re a Mindless Consumer

Everybody who isn’t living in the Dark Ages has seen a YouTube ad, an everybody who doesn’t have the patience and serenity of a monk has been annoyed by one at least once in their lifetime. I’ve become especially fed-up by corporate America and invasions of daily life that I do my best to avoid brands that advertise excessively (for me, the best advertising is no advertising). After the same Always and Charmin ads popped up before my Twenty One Pilots lyric videos for the 33rd time, I decided to find the companies behind those two brands so I could see what other related products I should consider boycotting. What I found was surprising.

Always and Charmin are associated with the same company: Procter and Gamble (P&G). Curious, I investigated other brands owned by them. I was even more surprised when I found that seemingly everything is owned by P&G. If I wanted to boycott Procter and Gamble, I’d have to give up my favorite products that I’m just not willing to give up. I won’t abandon Old Spice (women’s deodorant can suck it). Crest toothpaste is my friend. Puffs. Tampax. Olay. Gillette Venus. Herbal Essences. Pantene. CoverGirl. Even Charmin, despite their hideous bear commercials. I’d have to give up all these things if I were to boycott P&G. I don’t think I hate advertising that much.

I have to accept the fact that my life is not my own–it belongs to Procter and Gamble. Yours does, too. We are all inseparably bound to this corporation, whether we realiza Me it or not. But now you do realize.

You mindless consumer, you.