Feeling better helped

As I’ve been reading my bible more lately, I notice that I remember to surrender my worries to God.

It’s a precarious time of year for someone so ready to move on. I’m learning to lean on God’s strength when I’m ready for college to be over.

Some life hacks I only would have considered by being reminded of God’s power:

  • I’ve spent four years complaining about the Psychology department. I’ve spent 6 months praying for them, my professors and classmates. Am I a fool or just human to waste so much time? Being a Christian only the last two of those years, it took me a while to surrender my worries to God after I took notice of them. Yes, it can be hard to know how to perform without clear expectations, and more often than not, my professors seem scattered. But I prayed the other night that God would show me how not to hate one of my professors, and guess what happened? This random dude named Terrance spent 10 random minutes filling me in on the fact that our professor is just a space cadet, that the way he acts in class is just his personality, and (go figure), I shouldn’t take it too much to heart. I can pray for my professor all the more now. Problem solved. Thanks, Jesus.
  • When I don’t feel like I have enough strength to invest in friendships (especially with underclassmen who look to me for encouragement/direction), I have the option to call on God, who will give me more than enough stamina to help me be kind and lean in. This year has been the biggest growth year of them all, and God has honored me by helping me lean in, despite it being the last year of college. Now that I have definite plans, it’s so easy to back away from people as a self-protection mechanism. But all of that is bullcrap. I can continue to share people’s burdens. The Lord will give me the strength. My best friends ever are from this year. I’m going to keep casting my burdens upon the Lord and he will give me what I need if I just ask him.
  • My gospel choir has a big concert event coming up, and when our exec board told us to each take a pinch of flyers to pass out, I thought to myself: “Oh Lord have mercy.” Feeling overwhelmed and tired of relying on my own strength, I was annoyed, and concerned that I would have no place to post them. So I prayed about it. I asked God to reveal to me the places where I can put these flyers, or where people might see them. Tomorrow we have rehearsal again. I’m picking up another pinch because by the grace of God, I ran out of flyers. I have at least three more spaces I need to put them (places I’ve steadily been noticing), and like that moment where Christ shows up after the Resurrection after Peter and two others have been fruitlessly fishing and they have to cut the net because it’s so full of fish, I may not have enough flyers to go around.
  • I’m working towards gathering people for an interfaith event in my city, where we will ask local government to commit towards making progress on issues of justice for mental health, childhood trauma, and affordable housing. It’s been an interesting time giving up my Saturday mornings to commit towards furthering the goals of the organization that will host it. I’ve overwhelmed because it’s been hard gathering the amount of people we want to show up. The Lord (through the encouragement of my team and ministry friends) has provided a strategy for me to communicate with everyone who committed to go (my section of people). I’ve prayed that the right people would come and that we’d be able to pack the house. Lo and behold, a couple handfuls of people keep contacting me in order to be put on the list. Watch if we don’t run out of tickets.
  • I have a couple good friends who allow me to talk honestly with as much insight as God has given me in a way that doesn’t make me feel awkward. I can explain why I believe Satan has been able to help prosper a certain sin, trace some of the reasons I believe we as a society are stuck in a certain way, and we can talk through the things we see and find a sense of belonging. I’ve felt unappreciated a lot in the past and basically shunned for not being able to stop noticing the things I notice, or care for the people I care about, or believe the things I believe. For now at least, I don’t have to stay silent. I can be understood, and hope that God uses this sorrow/anger/recognition for a holy reason.
  • There is this boy in my Intimate Relationships psych class that looks at me in a way that is like unwanted attention. Some of his body language and general posture of being makes me think he’s insecure. Today in class, I wanted to put my hair up, but didn’t want to draw any extra attention. That line of reasoning no longer works on me. It’s not up to me to save you. It’s not up to me to make you feel a certain way. My hair is heavy, and I want it off my head. Maybe it’s just because I’m a woman who already has to think about everything, but if I need to pull my hair back, it’s not my responsibility to ruminate over your feelings. There is nothing I can do as a woman to help make you secure, and it’s not up to me to police my behavior to not lead you on. If I have no interest, that is obvious. My hair is freaking heavy. I have heavy hair.
  • It’s becoming very obvious that I have no power to make people accept Christ. I can walk out my Christian walk. I can try to be more like Jesus. I can tell people about Jesus. I can tell people about scripture. At the end of the day though, I make a pretty crappy Jesus. And not even Christ could force people to believe in him. They had to receive him. I can’t receive on your behalf. If you wont take the stupid grace, my hands are more or less tied. I will still walk out what it means to be a Christian. Sometimes though, it’s hard to have this overwhelming sense of truth while overwhelmingly aware that the world lives as though they have no need of it.
  • It’s really weird to have people appreciate you for things you weren’t aware were visible. I’ve been in my own little bubble of just trying to do the right thing for so long that when somebody actually notices or appreciates it I’m not even sure how to react. Yes? Yes, I do that. God is good. I’m still surprised that you see these things. I’m used to being the only one who sees these things.
  • It’s like not understanding people’s sarcasm. I know that the person I’m talking to thinks that they have just made a funny joke. I can follow the reasoning for why they probably think it’s funny. What I’m not aware of is whether they are being “ironic” because of the line of reasoning I’ve guessed, whether they’re just pulling my leg and there’s nothing to see, or whether they are using some extra line of crap joke that I have yet to see. Sometimes when people are sarcastic, they make fools of themselves in ways they don’t even realize that can be funnier than their dumb jokes to begin with. Sometimes when a person is sarcastic and I laugh, their jokes aren’t actually as funny as the context. Is it me who doesn’t get the joke, or is it you?

 

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For real though, the joy is out there

I have been spending large quantities of time recently writing privately, and trying to figure out why I’m so regularly happy. While I can’t forget my past history of depression, the joy that I have in Christ seems obscene most days, and it’s lasted long enough that I no longer think it’s temporary.

It feels like a cycle of gratitude. Like the opposite of rumination and unhealthy thinking; like you’re being filled up. I have lived through enough mistakes at this point to understand that a person’s mistakes don’t determine their identity, but lack of health can absolutely distort who we are made to be in Christ. As I get more filled up, I am grateful for having perspective. While I used to despise people who were legitimately happy (including Christians), I now understand that being a few steps ahead of people who are currently suffering has nothing to do with what a jerk I must be (and especially for talking about it), but how I can minister to people in prayer and encouragement.

Honestly, it’s almost better to encourage quietly. While I can sometimes catch the patterns of what God is trying to teach people, it’s only seldom, with hope and guessing. Because I know personally how much mental health problems (or any sort of grief-inducing circumstances) suck, I have the blessed responsibility of interceding for people in prayer. It’s one of those things that is better done discretely because it’s not for your credit anyways. If God saves people from their pain, that is blessing enough.

I always thought the happy people were either “holy than thou” or completely spared from misfortune. Maybe happy people are just lucky, either for a while or a season, and it is just their duty to help intercede for the rest of us. When you live in community, it’s hard not to know when someone else is having a hard time. In my opinion, it’s more effective to ask God to help on the long run than to interject yourself into a person’s friend-zone without getting to know them first. Being kind to people and praying for them can be combined, and you can ask God to give you opportunities to minister to the people who you notice are hurting.

I don’t really know how this joy has come into my life, despite years of working towards it. This kind of joy isn’t something that can be earned, and I’m so grateful that it’s been made available to me in Christ Jesus. As a fairly young Christian, I often wonder if there is any explanation for why some people are willing to encounter this kind of joy, and some people never do. Just like wondering whether there is meaning in suffering, I question whether there is all that much meaning in the joy. Like, is encouraged by self-reflection? Does it have to do with suffering? Is it related to being open to criticism? Is it fair to even talk about joy (because that’s not really a problem)?

If this joy is so rapidly available to all who believe in Jesus, why do so few people follow through long enough to find it? Why is it that there are so few Christians that live truly productive, joyful, and satisfied lives? Do people just not know what they’ve signed up for, or do they just become alien to the Holy Spirit? I don’t really understand. If Christ’s love is the only thing that can heal, and truly heal, how can you be so close to the vine and not crave after it’s fruit? Like, do you even believe it’s there?

I totally didn’t. Part of me still thinks it’s got to be a joke, even if by living it out, I know that it’s real. I thought that perfect happiness was a fad or something Hallmark invented. Every day, I’m a little more sold.

But it’s out there: true love and joy and perfect peace and happiness and the whole shabaang. It looks exactly the opposite of what we all hope it will look like. Which makes living in happiness feel all that more bizarre. I consistently feel like my life is the living joke no one has the guts to believe in. Believing in death/destruction/pain/suffering/war? Those are such plausible renditions of reality. But joy that transcends death, space, time, and betrayal? That one takes a lot of guts to believe in.

Conflicted about doing well in school (nonsensical guilt strikes again)

This post is brought to you by academic guilt. Please indulge my rumination for a moment.

For as much as not having to study very hard may be attractive, flying by the seat of my pants brings a sense of guilt into my life like none other. I have always hated those people who don’t have to try very hard, and as I get closer to graduation without giving up the pace of my learning, I find that I can deduce a lot of my teachers’ expectations and goals without putting much effort in. Part of that is busting my butt learning a while ago, and part of it is that as a whole, reading people is not hard for me.

It’s so disturbing, because it’s not like I’m just laying around and waiting for good things to come to me. I have very working class values, which is why the idea of just skating by really annoys me. I work two part time jobs currently, and it’s not like my quantity of work is any less (it’s probably more than a lot of my peers), I just develop strategies. What bothers me most is that it is false advertising to assume that every person has the same amount of difficulty studying, or learning concepts. Yes, I have struggled with classes before, but not recently. What I’ve found in all this time is that it’s really not the subject matter that a person is learning, but whether the presentation of that subject matter (as in, the methods they have to use to learn it) suit their learning styles in the first place. The way we present certain subjects generally attracts a specific kind of person, unless we use alternative methods to help others reach the same understanding.

I am really only in psychology and the humanities because analyzing people and having opinions costs me nothing. I would trade every opinion that I have as a lump sum to have a little more kindness, but it’s a work in progress. Seeing the structure in disciplines helps me design ways of relaying information, and I really don’t try very hard to learn what I need to learn. Still, I can’t shake the guilt that comes with the false assumption that pain has to be part of the learning process. I know it’s not true, but being a better strategist with time isn’t fair to people who will always have to keep trying.

At this point in college, it makes you wonder, though. Like, if people spent less time at bars, would they be able to do better over the things that they continue complaining about? Bad decisions make you blame others for your problems and ignore what you could be doing to solve them. If people actually wanted to learn, would it be so hard? Please, peers. Take your lives seriously and assuage my guilt.

Sins by Major (college)

I made a list! After being in college for four years, these are my go to cynicisms, even if I think there’s a kernel of truth there. Part of this is stereotypes, but part of it is the genuine intentions of people I go to school with. Even if it’s not wholly true, it’s something to think about.

Sins by Major

  • Business: Serving the wrong Master ($)
  • Education: Do you really know what it means to be taught? (self-discipline)
  • Social Welfare: Feeling like you have to bear all of the world’s burdens alone
  • Psychology: Believing that you can be mankind’s fixers, and creating solution after solution regardless of the cure
  • English: Writing about problems vs. addressing problems
  • Drama: Repeating the same cycles over and over again as a continuous performance
  • Engineering: “My brain is what validates me”
  • Pre-Med: “One day I’ll be good enough!”
  • The Humanities (as a blob): No one would understand me
  • “_______” Studies: I have the solution, and this specific group of people is to blame
  • EVERYONE: Follow the plan, and everything will be okay

Within each person, there are specific sins that we must individually address for the things that we love to really have meaning for us. Even if I love studying people (I study Psychology), I don’t like what this field has come to mean. With psychology roughly translating to “the study of the soul” (psyche + ology), you don’t see much of a focus on the divine within what we study. Truth be told, I don’t know any other college major that sets you up so well to address spiritual sickness, which is one of the most ironic twists of this degree that I can think of, considering how most people think we’re using it (Let me crack open your skull and examine spoonful after spoonful of your brains”, or anything related to psychoanalysis and Freud). For me, coming to terms with the sin embedded inside my major has meant remembering who is in control and allowing God to be the one who is right instead of myself. I don’t have the solution y’all, but God does. The questions is whether I will let that be enough for me.

What do you think? For those of you who have attended college, what sins do you think are associated with your major?

Things I hope I will remember about today

  • My mom’s vicious and sublime talent for cursing. We have a small scale mice infestation at my house right now which our two dogs refuse to do anything about, and it’s funny to hear what comes out of her mouth as I sit upstairs, doing my homework. She communicates better with her pet cockatiels when she is asking them politely to get back inside their cage than she does with me most of the time. Although I subdue it for the most part, reminders of my childhood habit of cursing like a sailor come back whenever my sister comes home from school. Once there are three of us in the house, it takes off like a poorly positioned wildfire. Nevertheless, my mom has an affinity for weirdly inappropriate verbal expressions that have become out of date but are only exacerbated by a good dose of cursing. My favorite to date is “colder than a witch’s tit”, used to characterize a particularly frigid winter’s day.
  • I was in the middle of typing notes for a reading, and something in the air must have triggered a memory to when I was a child and we used to go to Penny Annie’s downtown candy store and buy exactly $1 or $2 worth of mint nonpareils and chocolate rocks with my baby sitter. Those were the best days of the year because the entire store (which has since closed down and was sadly replaced by a frozen yogurt shop) smelled so sweet and fresh at the same time; like you could get sugar high by benefit of the air alone. The old wooden display housed so many different boxes of candy, with corresponding glass jars on the counter that electrified Roald Dahl’s account of the nasty mouse he placed in the candy jar in Boy with real and visual mischief. They had bubble gum ice cream which was the only solution for having to choose between either ice cream or candy. If you saved up all the nasty spit covered pieces at the end of your scoop, you could even blow a bubble. You’d probably have to wash your hands at that point though, because the food dye would have leached all over your fingers while you were in the process of fishing the pieces out of your mouth.
  • My dog Ella’s obsession is sticking her Pomeranian tongue up other people’s nostrils. She loves to pick your nose for you if she has the chance, and I might finally know why. Teddy (our poodle) will lick at your eye balls to give you affection, in part because of his enormous eye goobers that never seem to leave. Teddy assumes that you want love the same way he wants love, which is for you to wipe away his eye goobers with a washcloth. I never put two and two together, but Ella is always sneezing like she has allergies. Sometimes after she eats, she contorts herself on the carpet and rubs her snout on the ground as she’s itching herself. What if the reason Ella is a booger caper is because she has chronic snot problems? Mystery solved.

Small thought 8/16

Maybe the secret to not being invested in who of all your friends is getting married/having babies/buying a house/buying a dog/buying a gummybear factory is as simple as learning to be content and happy with what you’ve had? First comes the breaking even feeling of contentment, then comes happiness from re-evaluating and noticing that what you actually need has already been given to you. Way better than the “first comes love, then comes marriage” because marriage is hard, and if it’s coming, it comes when it comes.

Dancing and the Casual Art of being someone you’re not

Can I tell you something? I mean something really dumb?

When I first came to college, one of the quickest ways I related to new friends was to dance. With a little top forty music and a bizarre back to school function, dancing was this new miracle I had only really indulged in for highschool PE and to celebate leaving high school at prom. I didn’t know much about it, but if you have a little joy or confidence and you dance, it isn’t hard to get attention.

And that isn’t always good. In my cluster of a small social life, we had various dances in the on campus hall at which I lived. Themed dances that were alcohol free (for 99 % of people) and often featured groups of girls standing in circles and dancing and boys doing the same, often with a seemingly required air of creepiness. It wasn’t that anyone thought in good and clear judgment that they were trying to be creepy, it was just assumed, just as the same manner of dance and music had us ladies copying music videos and whatnot. It was a well organized opportunity to proove yourselves to others, and the dress up was fun.

So we danced. Not always well, generally only moderately offensively, but there was something about it that didn’t make sense. I always got the feeling that what people most appreciated about me in those moments was so disingenuous to what I like about me. Along with the standard stereotype of casually expecting me to be sassy and “telling it like it is” because I was fat, I wasn’t expected to be kind, or gracious, or compassionate, or respectful. I was expected to cause a scene and enjoy the attention, because I also thought that was all that I want.

When you are extoverted and have the ability to be a presence among others, there can be a lot of temptation to actively be someone you’re not. A lot of my friends have always thought of me as a someone likely to raise hell, and anymore, I’m not sure how well that fits. It may have been more true a few years ago, but my peers have always seemed to separate into these two camps of thinking I was nice or expecting me to introduce division. And yet, causing problems and attracting attention is no different from cradle to grave, although we can do it for different reasons. We can delude ourselves. We can accept the delusions of others. What do you do if others expect and legitimately think you are crazier than you are, based off of putting off the vibes you feel expected to send and hoping its enough? Sin feels complicated when you are stuck in a cycle of depravity and you feel blamed for the weirdly polarizing effect honesty has on others. It’s easier to fake it around the edges, and muddle over things you don’t believe both because it’s convenient and because you’re too tired to pick at it. We encourage one another to fall into these categories of traits we desire in ourselves and our friends in order to make ourselves popular, and its really hard to get out of that. People don’t realize what kind of fracturing feeling that allowing yourself to be the worst version of yourself can create. We pick friends who will tolerate our nonsense instead of people who will inspire us, all because we don’t want to budge. These stagnant relationships that expect you to never want more, not invest in your dreams, and stop maturing. And once you get to the end of that rope and decide you have more to offer than you’ve been performing, you find yourself very alone and afraid of figuring out the rest, especially if you get the feeling it will draw you away from others. What if being genuine means you will chronically not be able to suffer all that nonsense? That regardless of if anyone else gets it, this just has to be your best option? Yeah, good luck with that.

It may seem like a paradox, but God gives me the peace to be really deeply weird. It’s ironic that the world thinks that Christians are so likely to conform, when that has not been my experience. If you are following God’s Holy Spirit instead of the hype, you should be more free and made more like him, not saddled with guilt and even more weight you don’t understand. Allowing others to see you and your failures more freely is an act of surrender to God because you are trying to swim in the direction of caring solely about what he thinks, instead of prooving yourself. It doesn’t necessarily feel new that you will be more honest, just more transparent.

The best version of me does not look like a mess. She’s kind and articulate. She would rather solve problems than cause them. On a basic level, something like dancing should be a release instead of working to gain others approval and perform off the clock. You she move because you feel free to, nit because you want to make you and your peers look less boring and jaded. Besides, being genuine isn’t a passive thing. Like dancing, it’s a series of habits that become a routine and center you on some sort of goal. Not all dancing can be bad, just like you can pick better choices that celebrate a good lifestyle, and welcome in health. Ignoring your best traits and actively choosing your worst in an effort to jive with the limited scope of what others appreciate about you is bad news bears. It’s like being spiritually bloated.

I’d rather be weird. It’s easier and more convenient because it requires less striving. It makes space for others to also be the more hidden parts of themselves, and allows you to appreciate others for the stuff that maybe no one else finds fascinating. How often are people appreciated for very baseline things, like humor or wits or strength or mechanical understanding? I bet you five dollars that every person who is just “smart” may not think that is their best quality. What if it was being good with kids, or respecting others well, or being generous with one’s time, or loving to laugh? If we each could invest a little more in the less fanatical good qualities in our friends and familis and take time to notice the “littler” gifts, wouldn’t that make for a happier and more benevolent human race? We don’t have to be disingenuous if we can just love and appreciate one another better, and not expect others to change for us so often. It means more to love a friend who is very different than yourself than people just like you, because you learn more (and better). Why are we being fools and trying to nip all that in the bud? People are more complicated than we think.

It is an empowering thing to commit to being yourself and live that out. It is good for us. I’d rather dance like a goober than use my body for attention because if you crack me open, I’m much more of a goob. I’d rather be dorky and have the heart like a derpy little boy and look for weird bugs and talk about destroying stuff and have a dark sense of humor. Those things are not things I can inhabit if I’m the sassy fat girl who wants your attention. And for frick’s sake, if anyone was paying attention, I wasn’t really those things anyway. It was the only way the freaking world would let me get away with being fat and not take away from literally everything else.

There is a whole bucket list of expectations we each get assigned in our various paths in life, and some are good and some are bad. It’s good to be yourself. It makes everything else easier.