March 27, 2013

Love In Action: An Introduction

Where is the love?

It's not just a catchy hook on a near decade-old Black-Eyed Peas song; It's a question that many are asking, and the answer seems to be split right now the middle. Such an answer will depend on a person's experiences, and unfortunately some allow their pasts mistakes and pain to determine whether they think love is alive or dead.

In my honest opinion, it's neither. It's just hidden deep within the crevices of our hearts, our busy schedules, our anger, our fear, and our pride. We have traded vulnerability and intimacy for superficial and distanced relationships, and unfortunately the blame gets put on the people around us, when everybody has a choice

Love is not just a feeling, but it is also something that we must do; not just one time, but multiple times over.

It does not have to solely exist within the romantic realm, or only taken seriously because one sees a person in a romantic light. Love can and should exist because we're simply human beings.

It is not about deserving or earning anything. We should love others because quite frankly, we would not be able to survive without it.

I'm not a doctor or any kind of expert; I'm a twenty-something passing on my observations and lessons learned over the years. Topics range from the simple things (love languages), to the hardest things (forgiveness and letting go). I can't say for certain how many weeks it will be or if I'll write everything at one time. I want it to be clear and well thought out, and since I have a busy schedule, it might not all happen right away.

Needless to say, I'm very excited about this, and I hope you'll come along with me for the journey!

March 23, 2013

On My Mind: Digesting And Managing

This is the busiest semester I've had thus far, if not the busiest year. Don't get me wrong, I like that I'm not constantly sitting around and ultimately having too much time on my hands. And if I'm not doing stuff for school, I usually have something going on in terms of extra curricular activities every single night, except Thursdays and Fridays. 

School work consists of reading anywhere from fifty to a hundred pages per day, and that's not always for one singular class. Depending on the week, I'll have one or multiple essays/papers that I have to write. While doing all that, I'm currently taking on an internship writing articles and distributing social media content geared toward college students. 

It can be exhausting, more on an emotional level than physical. My brain tends to shut down after looking at a computer screen for ridiculously long periods of time, so I can't necessarily plow through everything at once. I get overwhelmed a lot because it's easy to envision getting everything done, but not so easy to actually do it. 

The key thing isn't necessarily prioritizing, but knowing when to work and when to take a break. Since I still deal with depressive thoughts, it's important for me to make time to do things that make me feel good and I'm not just doing it out of obligation. If I don't, I start feeling incredibly lonely and frustrated with life. 

That being said, it was liberating to say that a lot of those feeling stemmed from over analyzing how people see me. In the days following that post, I realized that I don't have to share everything with everybody, especially when it comes to social media. It's not about a lack of honesty or authenticity, but still maintaining a sense of privacy. Just because you have the ability and opportunity to display your life all over cyberspace doesn't mean you have to, or should, for that matter. 

My spring break is coming to an end, and I'll be headed back to campus soon.  It was bittersweet, given the recent news of another death of someone I knew from my hometown (the fifth one out of the last year and a half). However, it has motivated me to mend fences with some broken relationships, and I also genuinely cherished the time I got to spend with my family and take it easy.

With so much going on, life can be crazy. But that's what happens as you get older; free time becomes a commodity, and it's something that you have to work at in order to have. In retrospect, things are really looking up for me, and I'm grateful to God for the opportunities to learn and grow.

I'm taking it all in. I'm being. I'm living. And I happen to like it like that.

March 19, 2013

A New Discovery

(Photo Credit: Pinterest

Not long ago, I revealed that I am still dealing with a mild form of depression. A few have asked me about the possibility of going on medication, and while I have considered it, I just don't think that it's the right way to go about addressing the issue. I know where it's coming from, and this week a lightbulb went off in my head in regards to what keeps fueling it. And I could easily sum it up in just one sentence: 

I care way too much about what other people think. 

During a Skype chat with one of my best friends, I told her that I was still feeling stuck between who I thought I should be and who I actually am. In the seven and a half years that I've had God in my life, one of the greatest stresses has been personal conviction vs. jumping on the bandwaggon of whatever current social issue is making headlines at the moment. Deep down I always knew what my beliefs were, as well as how they shaped my personality and the way I viewed the world.

And then the whole notion of the Proverbs 31 woman started to sprout up, especially as of late. Engagement season is in full swing and every time I come across a congratulatory comment on Facebook or Twitter, that person was always referred to as a "Proverbs 31 woman." I began to wonder if I had to become that kind of woman in order for God to bless me, particularly in regards to love and relationships. More so, was it even possible for me to do? 

It's not the actual passage that I take issue with; there's a lot of truth to be found, and it can bring about beautiful and insightful discussion. What I don't like is that it tends to be translated to, "this is how you should be and act within the church and with other Christians, otherwise you're not a real woman of God." 

How does one reconcile living for and serving God, while also embracing their personality? Let's face it, I'm not quiet, dainty, or proper. I'm a fighter, I'm loud at times, and I don't always do what I'm told solely because of who is telling me to do it. I try to keep up with politics, but I don't choose one side or the other; my opinions are based on what I feel in my heart, not one what a a large group of people say. And I could go on, but I think you get the idea. 

I'm not a cookie cutter anything. 

I went to a Zumba class for the first time last weekend, and it wasn't always easy to keep up with the instructor. I got frustrated at times because I couldn't move in the exact way that she and some of the other people around me were. 

And then I remembered the night before; I went out with one of my friends and we were going back and forth between a couple establishments. Every time I got on the dance floor, I let it all go; I didn't care how I moved, what I looked like to the people around me, and whether or not I was good at it. I just danced, and after it was over I felt like Beyonce after the Superbowl. 

During that class, that's when I decided that sometimes you just have to let go and quit worrying about what everyone else around you is doing. It's OK if you get to a point where you have to start improvising and doing your own thing instead of following those around you

When it comes down to it, it's not about trying to constantly change yourself; it's about allowing yourself to be changed, in whatever way that may  look like.

I've come to a place in my life where I don't necessarily want to just focus on who I should be or what I should be doing. Lately, I feel the urge to love and to give love in whatever way God calls me to. And that involves opening my heart up completely, which I'm confident in and ready to do. 

That's not to say that choices and character aren't important; but I'm realizing that love, and the ways that I put that love into action  frequently influence my attitude and choices that I make in life.Once you learn how to appropriately give and receive love, especially from God, everything else falls into place

The fact is, it's kind of useless to spend time constantly trying to figure out who you are; you're constantly evolving over time, and the person you are at this moment probably won't be the same in five to ten years. If you find that you can't fit into a particular mold for whatever reason, that's probably not the mold that you're meant to fit into. 

I'm tired, both physically and emotionally. I'm tired of wrecking my heart and mind over whether or not someone is going to give their stamp of approval, or assuring me that I'm living life the way I'm supposed to. From now on, it's between me and God, and I'm going to rest in knowing that He loves me exactly for who I am, not for who I think I'm supposed to be.

March 13, 2013

My Unusual Way of Seeing

As the poem says, I've only ever really talked to two people about this; mostly because they're the only ones who don't respond with a roll of their eyes and ask why I honestly give a damn. I wrote this after I discussed extensively with one of my best friends last week, and I'm just going to let the words speak for themselves.

Eyes of My Heart

Mother once told me that I tend to see the world differently
Differently than most people, that is
And lately now I think that a lot of it is true
When I think back on the memories of those that I’ve become so close with
The ones that have loved me, as well as the ones that have hurt me

He who knew me best for seven years
As though he had known me forever
I bared my soul to him
He held me like no one could at the time
My eyes saw stars and sparkles,
yet my heart saw one who could finally understand me
One stuck between staying a boy and becoming a man
Then one summer afternoon he ran away

I shared a home with her from the age of nineteen to twenty
I believed we were kindred spirits, albeit broken ones
She my best friend and I her helper
We shared secrets, while struggling and fighting not to be victims anymore
My eyes saw a selfish girl who didn’t care
My heart saw a lost friend who needed compassion
For she lacked faith and a sense of direction

On the outside he seemed like a bad boy
A rebel without a cause
We had just entered college; everything so new and undiscovered
The combination may not have been healthy, but I wanted to know him
We swapped crazy stories without judgment
He took me on adventures and every so often asked me dance
There was a tender soul in there somewhere
Yet I never found out because he cut me off without warning
No words or reason, just silence
To this day I still ask why

I rarely speak of these thoughts to anyone
Two people only know the whole story
For our world says we should not care for those who don’t care for us
But I don’t want to be like the rest of the world
A world who holds grudges and spills hatred every chance it gets

I want to love people in the way that God would want me to love them
To be a light and have a compassionate nature
To forgive and move forward

You can sing “open the eyes of my heart”
But it won’t happen until you’ve met someone who pushes your buttons and drives you absolutely crazy
Someone who does things that you don’t always like
Or maybe even understand
And still you’re willing to love them and look at them the way God does
Imperfect and human

March 08, 2013

Friday Finds

This week I found some amazing blog posts/articles! All of them were extremely refreshing, and others really made me think about particular subjects that I hadn't really formed an opinion on. Hope you enjoy reading them!

  • Sometimes, "Being A Woman" Makes Me Tired (Via Good Woman Project)-Sometimes with all the opinions, books, blogs, and advice, the whole idea of trying to be a Proverbs 31 woman seems exhausting. This is something that I find myself asking on a day to day basis, and it gives a very refreshing perspective on how there are times to focus on who to be, and times where we should just let ourselves "be." 

  • On Standing Up To Fear (Via So About What I Said)-A post/e-mail on how we just can't let fear get the best of us when it comes to love, or anything else in life. Melissa's blog is such an inspiration in itself, and I'd recommend a lot of what she writes.

  • I'm Just Me (Via Single Dad Laughing)-An absolutely beautiful post by one of my favorite bloggers, regarding how sometimes labels tend to open us up to more hurt, rather than give clarity. 

What special reads, videos, etc. have you found this week?

March 06, 2013

Light in the Fog: On Coping With Depression...Right Now

(photo credit here
I've discussed my struggle with depression in multiple posts; for each one that I wrote, I believed that I was getting closer and closer to finally putting it in the past. I wondered when that epiphany would come and I would know that all the pain was behind me. Over winter break I learned that certain family members had once dealt or were still dealing with it, to which I asked my Mom if I was at risk for anything. She assured me that I was probably one of the few, since I was a fairly happy and outgoing as a little kid; I didn't start to exhibit any signs of such until I became a teenager. There were mentions of depressive disorders, but from what I can remember I was never officially tested for anything, and there was no concrete diagnosis  

But then in the weeks leading up to my twenty-first birthday, followed by what I've dubbed the usual "post-birthday blues" I was engulfed in negativity. I sat on my couch and cried ridiculously ugly tears. There was no darkness or dark thoughts of any kind. I just cried. I didn't want to die, yet I was not sure how to live without constant anxiety and fear. 

And that's when I began to wonder if I should be doing more; should I be formally evaluated, along with exploring the possibility of taking medication? Maybe that's why it has taken me so long to get back up from the bottom. 

Yet, I truly feel in my heart that pills or some kind of prescription is not the answer for me; the deep feelings of sadness don't come out of nowhere, but from ten years of having false truths reiterated to me over and over again. It's not a constant occurence, but something that happens at specific times during the year; at the beginning of or toward the end of each semester, before or after a big event, and when I'm completely by myself for hours or days on end. 

Let me clarify that I am not against medication in itself; for some people it can be really beneficial if taken appropriately. On a personal level, medication would probably gloss over the roots of what I've had to learn how to cope with. I'm not going to speak for everyone that has walked in my shoes, but I don't want to live a life void of emotion just because it may be labeled "bad". When processed in a healthy way, releasing negative feelings can enable healing.

So then where did that leave me?

A week or two ago my counseling group went around and discussed positive thinking, and truthfully that concept has always been a bit of a sore subject; as a young girl,  the one question I was constantly asked was "why can't you just be happy?" as though the whole thing was a switch I could just turn on and off when I wanted.  I have no problem with good thoughts and gratitude. Yet, sometimes the whole notion of having an optimistic attitude tends to become circumstantial, or even materialistic. 

And when it comes to giving thanks, I tend to think it's not about what I'm thankful for, but whom I'm giving thanks to. 

Though I don't discuss my faith in God all that much in person, I cannot deny that it is a huge part of how I have gotten through so many awful periods, even moments up to this point. There were times when it seemed like God was all I had, and there probably will be many more. Clinging to what I can't see has not been easy, but it has tested me, strengthened me, molded me, and is still doing all of that every single day. 

I can't simply "think positive" without looking to the One who has given all that goodness to me. 

I once thought that battling my demons was all about cutting toxic crap out, but then that becomes a life of exhausting yourself to avoid pain. Pain is a part of life, and it's not possible to live life and avoid it at the same time. 

I can't pour myself into living life fully unless I have spiritual nourishment being poured back into me. 

That being said, I don't believe that churches and faith-based communities always handle this subject very well, particularly when someone admits that they're struggling. While I haven't had it happen personally, I've heard stories of others being told to "pray the pain away" in some form or another. Don't get me wrong, I whole-heartedly believe in the power of prayer in terms of confronting and dealing with pain. It can do wonders. It sometimes is the only way the some people can make it through an entire day. But as far as being an answer? That just spells disaster right there. 

Why? You have no way of knowing when you're going to come out the other side, or if you'll ever be truly free from it. I've been in therapy for a year and a half, and I still have a lot of stuff to work through. There times when even in the midst of prayer, the pain is so excruciating that I can't say a word. I don't know where I'm going to be down the road, however many months or years it is. 

The thing is, choosing to have faith in God is not where you ask Him for things and he just magically gives them to you. Just as in any relationship, you have a part in it as well. You do what you can, and then let Him take care of the rest. 

Yes, God does work miracles. But those miracles don't always come in the form we expect: sometimes it's modern medicine. Sometimes it's speaking through a pastor, a professional counselor, or a friend. Overall, it's a little bit of giving and a little bit of receiving. 

In regards to receiving, it doesn't just involved those that have to confront something like addiction or depression. The ones that have to watch a friend or family member go through this difficult journey are often the ones who can walk through it with them. The sad fact is, many choose to walk away instead. 

Of course you could say "I don't know how to help!"or "I can't handle this!" Let's get one thing straight: if someone comes to you and tells you that they have a problem and/or their life is at stake, it is not about you! It's not about you being comfortable. No one's saying you have to have the answers, because sometimes there aren't any. But don't just make up some bullcrap and say that you can't do anything, because that's the worst lie of them all. 

Initially, it's very likely that that person who is telling you will not want advice. Don't spout Bible verses at them. Don't say that God won't give them anything they can't take. And if there's one phrase to avoid at all cost, it's "Well, there's always someone out there who has it worse than you." In that moment, your loved one has hit bottom. It really can't get any worse beyond that point. 

Instead, wrap your arms around them and tell them you love them. Let them cry, and know that it's OK to cry with them. Let them talk. Let them scream. Just put aside your selfish desires and be in the present moment. 

But understand also that it's not your responsibility to try and "save" them. I speak from experience when I say that trying to take care of or help a person who's situation is out of control will only drain you, and do neither of you any good. Tell them you love them and that you will support them, but let them know that there are others who are better suited to help them sort through their pain, grief, etc. It doesn't hurt to offer assistance in their search for a support group/program or a counselor. But you can't take their whole weight on your shoulders. 

If there's one thing I've learned, it's that if somebody walks away from a relationship because they can't take the other person's brokeness, it only means one thing: they can't stand to look in the mirror and face the broken spirit within themselves. 

So yes, I'm still dealing with depression. I no longer feel like doing anything drastic, but there are times where the pain is so agonizing that I can't even move. Sometimes I don't know what to do with myself. Emotionally, I'm running around in circles. I'm not always so strong.   I might want to just escape for a little while, and frankly I think that's fine, as long as it's not overly dangerous. 

I don't hold anyone responsible for this; not the men who came into my life, took advantage of me and then broke my heart. Not the ones who promised to be there, but ultimately weren't. Not the ones whose intentions were good, but were enacted in all the wrong ways. 

I was ten years old when this all started, and am now twenty-one.  I don't know what the future holds, or whether this will be a life-long battle that I'll have to fight. There's a lot of history, and a lot of healing to be done. I've been told that some of it only God can do, and right now I don't know if I understand that. 

While I can't control how I feel, I can ultimately choose into joy. Psalm 30: 5 says "weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." That doesn't mean that everything will automatically work itself out or have a fairy-tale ending. For me, it just means that I have a choice not to be a product of my circumstances, my environment, or my past. It may not go away completely, but as time goes on, it will get easier to handle. 

Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to always be happy in order to be accepted or loved. 

I will continue to walk forward, and along with that, I will continue to keep looking up. 

There is a light; you just have to find it, and then follow it.