This is what I do, don't try to understand how I do it; I don't really know either

The 40’s

So this is it.

I’m watching the last minutes of my thirties run out. I’m ok with that.

They have been good and they have been not so good. I came to my favorite place in the world, Mexico City, so I can enter my fourties with all it’s sights, smells and sounds that make me feel like home. I get to have diner with my family. It’s a place I feel like I belong. The more confident I am in who I am, the more places I find where I fit. I just left my first residency for my PhD and I found that I fit there. I found people I connected with and instantly bonded with. I found people who want to change the world, just like I do.

The more I am happy with me, the less I care about the places that I don’t fit. It doesnt mean it never bothers me, but it bothers me less. I have enough difficult things anyways. I was talking with a friend and he said, Amanda you have been depressed for the last few months. I didn’t understand what he was talking about. Then I took some time to process and he’s right. It’s not that I am sad ALL the time but when I am sad I have been REALLY sad. It’s not that I give up, but it’s been harder to get back up and keep going. Who wants to admit that they are depressed. Who wants to put that out there for the world to make their judgments.

I will. Because people get depressed. Good people, strong people, people like me. It doesn’t mean I have to stay that way, and I won’t, but it means I am here now.  This wasn’t the easiest trip to pull off, but I knew I needed it. I didn’t realize how bad I needed it until I got here and after saying I was depressed, my friend said I was now glowing. He said he saw a smile that he hadn’t seen for a while. I laugh like I haven’t laughed for a while. He said it is evident that this is the place where I belong. I am not able to live here but I can come and recharge here. I don’t have my four favorite people here with me, and for that I am sad, but I needed to be here for me.

Tomorow I am going to Frida’s house. I say that like she’s my friend because I wish she was. She had so many horrible things happen to her in her life, she made tons of poor decisions. I wouldn’t hang some of her artwork on my wall but I admire them because she painted her pain. She lived life fully and was not ashamed of who she was or her story. She lived it. So I am going to sit in her garden and write in the place where she painted and the place where she died. I’m going to start my 40’s in the state that I am and I am going to do the very best with it that I can. I will make mistakes and I will get back up.

It might be getting off to a slow start but I’m going to watch three of my kids graduate in my 40’s. I’m going to finish my PhD in my 40’s. The research is going to make a difference in my 40’s. I will change, the world will change, and I will continue to get better; in my 40’s. I’m writing my story.

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Following my heart

I am 39 years old, 40 in 12 days to be precise. When I was a child I always wanted to learn to play the piano. It has such a beautiful sound and I could imagine those sounds being created from my fingertips. I was not given that opportunity as a child so as an adult I have now gotten a piano for my children but I also have a teacher and am learning to play. I did not start easy. I told my teacher I wanted to learn Fur Elise, but not the childrens version; the proper three page long, full Beethoven style. It was ambitious but it’s my favorite piano song.

I have almost all of it memorized now and when I play, I can create the sounds that Beethoven composed so many years ago – with the exception of the non-memorized parts. I realized when practicing today that as long as I follow my heart I play flawlessly. When I start to lose focus and think about the notes or even about life I stumble and falter. Today I told myself to stop the words in my head and hear my heart. And I sat at my piano and cried.

Someone I love dearly has repeatedly told me to follow my heart but I have rejected that advise based on Jeremiah 17:9 which says that the heart is deceitful. I refused to listen, but I was wrong. I follow Celtic Christian Tradition on facebook and am continuing to learn about Celtic Christianity. They have a post that talks about the fact that we can not actually be lost. I have felt lost so many times. Their point is that we are not lost, we are just covered over by the labels of the world, by stress, pressure, expectations etc. We are actually there, underneath it all, who we were created to be. We just need to unbury ourselves and we are there.

This morning as I felt so strongly that I was to follow my heart I looked up Jeremiah 17. I read the WHOLE chapter. In verse 10 it says that God searches the heart and then rewards based on our deeds. I believe this means our deeds are connected to our heart and it means there is good in our heart – there also can be evil, as I have witnessed in my life, but it does not have to be. The heart is not ALWAYS deceitful. We have a Christain adage that when you accept Christ, He is allowed to live in your heart. Jesus is my saviour and I will follow Him all my days. I will make mistakes, I will mess up but HE LIVES IN MY HEART.

His voice can, will and does speak from my heart. In accordance with His word in the Bible, I will follow my heart.

Times

I wanted to write days ago because days ago was the one year anniversary of when everything started, but I was unable because another family crisis demanded my attention. One year ago a beautiful young girl ended her life for reasons that are tragic in that they should not be the cause of an end of life or lives. The way she chose to do that has left trauma for others more than just feeling her loss.  I had to stop as much in my life as I could because I started to fall apart. I just didn’t know it was the beginning of a series of events that could continue to tear apart pieces of me.

It’s been a long year, it’s been a full year, good and bad. Time always ticks on with no regard for our feelings or state of being. Time refuses to stop. There has been loss upon loss this year and my heart has not had time to recover before the next wave washed over me. There is a time to be sad. I have had many of those times and the thing I am most grateful for are my friends and family who have walked with me, sat with me, cried with me, spoken affirmative words over me and loved me in ways I desperately needed.

There are also times to push through pain and move. After each wave there should be a time of reflection on what could life look like now and what do I need to do to make it like that. You start to build and of course have to adjust your plans often. The waves will never stop as long as your breathing. Some are bigger than others and some have more time in between. There have been so many this past year that at times I have felt like I am drowning but by God’s amazing grace I somehow keep finding breath.

Crackers for Everyone

I have celiac disease and so it makes normal things very challenging. My food can’t touch food that has gluten. I have had a bad rash on my leg for over a month now and that is just a minor reaction to my disease which can range to very severe.

Today in church we have communion. Something Jesus commands us to do to remember him. Churches can handle people with celiac disease in three ways – force people to bring their own “bread” (which I never remember so usually I go without), offer both rice crackers and bread (thus segregating people like me), or like my church – they just offer rice crackers instead of bread. They might be offending people who want bread- I mean Jesus did break bread and not rice crackers. They do not have to offer this alternative or force all who want communion to have crackers but they do this for the weakest among them. Is it a sacrifice for others – sure but is it worth it for us all to have communion together and not feel different?

This isn’t really about rice crackers though that’s a real and tangible example of how churches treat people. Dear Christian brothers and sisters, please look around you and ask God to show you who you can eat rice crackers with in the name of Jesus, not just in communion but also in life.

I have been told many times in my life to guard my heart, including recently. I mean it is Biblical right? “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it,” Proverbs 4:23. I believe this is not unwise advice, but Proverbs are just that, proverbs. They are good reminders but not exact doctrine to live by. 

I mean, if you literally “guard” your heart, would you ever let anyone in? We were not created to live on solitary islands. That being said, there is a lot of hurt that happens in the world that was never the intention either. So how do you balance it? How do you live vulnerably but still not be a doormat?

I am a super passionate person and when I do something, I am all in. I work all in, I parent all in and I love all in. I don’t do things half way. I understand the wiseness of slow and steady but I can’t remember a time I have ever done it that way. I feel like I wasn’t wired that way. The problem with this is that I make decisions that are not always the best and my heart gets fully invested very quickly. I am also a very visionary person, so often I see things as they could be (not that I am ignorant to reality) and believe that they will get there. I believe people can change, I believe goals can be achieved – because they can, but they don’t always.

So when things don’t work out I am devastated. I get so heavily invested, sometimes and somethings you need to be fully invested in. When the market crashes and all you have invested in is gone, what is left? I have the broken pieces of my heart and I hold those tight and say ‘Never Again!”  I swear that I won’t love people recklessly. I start to build walls around my heart. I put armed guards at the door and I try my best not to feel.  When Susan and the babies died I could not imagine how easy it could be to lose something and someone you loved so much. When my marriage ended I never wanted to love someone that way again. The pain that comes with loss is so enveloping you can’t feel anything else and you never want to feel again.

Susan David has a powerful Ted talk I have watched multiple times, the gift and power of emotional courage (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDQ1Mi5I4rg). She says people have said those kinds of things to her about not wanting to feel and she says to them, “you have dead people’s goals.” She’s right. Dead people don’t feel. We don’t get to pick and choose our emotions – we either have them or we don’t. You feel pleasure and pain, hope and sadness, excitment and disappointment. Your alive or your dead. I want to live.

I do still understand the wisdom of healthy boundaries and I will do my best to hold to those even when they hurt. I will screw them up. I will try again.  I will not give up, because I want to live. Not a day before God decides to take me home am I going to give up. I will lean into the pain and let it craft me into a better person. I will admit my mistakes and work at change.

My heart will hurt, it will also hope. It can harden or it can heal. You chose.

It’s what you do after

We all fail. Repeatedly.

My ethics class is really about examining failures. It’s fascinating to see where people crossed the line and what were the factors that influenced their compromises. We all have them. Some are bigger than others. Of course it’s easier to see these in others than in ourselves. Self reflection is sometimes as productive as trying to lick the back of our own head.

Eventually we are confronted by our own decay. So what then?

Do you deny, minimize or cover-up as much as possible?

Do you downward spiral into a pit of dispair and self loathing?

Do you run and hide?

Or do you own it?

I am working hard to not own my mistkakes in the way that they are part of my skin or my DNA. I am not the sum of my mistakes, but in order to grow and be free I do need to own that I made them. They were an article of clothing I had put on but am deciding to take off. It looks like, “Yes I did that, but it is not who I am.” This is not easy.

Shame says, all those people who talk and think negatively about you are right.

Guilt says, that was wrong but you are better than that and can make good choices.

What do you do wtih people who fail? You look at their behaviour after, you err on the side of grace, and most importantly you remember that you are one of them.

It’s Time to Quit

Bob Goff says you can quit anything on a Thursday. I decided not to wait till Thursday and on Monday I put on my big girl panties and rolled out the chopping block. Yesterday and today I have/am quitting a lot of things. It’s been long overdue and it’s painful.

My favorite song is by Avicii and it says “all this time I was finding myself, and I, didn’t know I was lost.” One morning you wake up and think, who am I or where am I? You learn things about yourself that you didn’t realize because you didn’t notice getting off track. It’s just a slight degree in deviation and it can change your whole trajectory. It’s like cooking a lobster slowly but lobsters can still realize what’s happening and jump out of the pot – at least this lobster is.

Priorities are important. Going for what you want in life without compromising who you are is essential.

Quitting things that need to be quit means I may have to hold off on some big dreams, but if I get there in a way that is not true to me then it’s not worth getting there. God called me a long time ago and He still does. If He wants me to achieve these things then He will find a way. I have to follow Him and make the right choices- even after I have made wrong ones. I own my story – the good and the bad, it’s all me. People can make any judgments they want, it will not change who God created me to be and that when I forget that, He will remind me and call me back.

There has been so much ongoing pain since last October and it has not ended. I thought yesterday that quitting things would help bring an end but I realize today that that might not be the case. It probably will, in fact, get worse before it gets better because moving away from things and people you love is painful. A whole year (and possibly longer) of constant pain is a very long time and makes sense why I compromised in some areas. But today I decided that even if the pain doesn’t end, I will find a way to live with the pain, acknowledge that it is there but still live a healthy life.

I am His child, dearly loved and daughter of the King of Kings.