Adventure: En Why See

My sweet lil friend Celine came to visit from Idaho this past week! It was my pleasure to assist in checking a few items off her bucket list. Honestly, I’ve explored the city many times and it’s always a dream for me; however, this time was different and magical for so many reasons. The biggest reason being – the awe and delight on Celine’s face brought me so much joy – she was such a trooper too! So thankful for her in my life – she is one of the best around and I adore her face!

12.5 miles walked | Times Square | Empire State building | Grand Central station | The Met | Central Park | Bethesda Fountain/Terrace | 5th Avenue | Alice and Wonderland statue | Brooklyn Bridge | Statue of Liberty | Tiffany’s | Madison Avenue | Vera Wang | NYU | Hillsong Church NYC | Bleeker Street | NY Subway | Washington Square Park | Macy’s/Herald Square

She definitely got a true NYC experience: drug deals, public urination, piles of vomit, mobs of people, two famous people, the best coffee, the best pizza, a swanky hotel and rooftop bar, and her Gossip Girl dreams fulfilled on the Upper East Side. She kept up with me, power walked like a champ and brightened everyone’s day with whom she came into contact. I can’t wait till next time – hopefully, it is warmer than 23 (“feels like 11”) degrees.

“It upsets me, and it upsets Christ.”

Once on my lunch, I saw a squirrel funeral outside the local cemetery. One of their brothers/sisters was struck by a vehicle and lay dead in the road. Five various squirrels created a circle around the ‘body’ and wouldn’t move for any car. I ended up driving on the wrong side of the road to pass. It was quite heartbreaking. As my eyes glistened, two extreme thoughts naturally surfaced: 1. Was that squirrel saved? 2. Were they mourning or do squirrels eat their dead and they were playing best out of five – rock, paper, scissors – to see who got the carcass?

A little background: I grew up in a fairly religious home. We went to church generally twice a week. Our circle of friends consisted of 93% church peeps and 7% school and family. We didn’t own a TV and we could not watch movies over a PG rating unless pre-screened by our parents. The radio was generally set to talk radio or church music. I was a puppeteer at VBS [that stands for Vacation Bible School you heathen], I participated in all children’s plays/choirs, I played the piano during the offering and unless grounded (which was more often than not) I attended every youth group function. This was all I knew and I didn’t mind – I loved the people and the family atmosphere. One of my dearest friends dates back to a small non-denominational church we attended in a windowless building. Also, it’s important to note: I was not forced to wear long skirts, I was allowed to cut my hair, and I could walk ahead of any boy/man if I damn well pleased.

Growing up alternating between non-denominational church [themes being spiritual warfare, angels/demons…etc.] and Southern Baptist [summers spent in TN fearing eternal damnation to the fiery pit] I may, or may not, have lived in fear. I had panic attacks on a monthly basis – waking up at night shaking and crying because 1. I was afraid to go to hell or 2. The Nazi’s were going to find me and take me away. I spent many nights sipping warm milk, singing myself to sleep and battled a year-long stint of fainting on the regular. These fears also translated into wanting to save everyone and everything from the devil. I was overly concerned that my pets, and everyone else’s, needed to be saved. There is a chance, if I was ever at your house between the ages of 7 and 12, I prayed the salvation prayer with your pet.  I am not kidding. My cats got saved every other weekend just to be sure I would see them in heaven. I even made sure my stuffed animals were saved just in case they had souls. If I’m being totally honest, Buddy and Maeby are lucky they haven’t been baptized.

I spent a lot of my life concerned about the eternity of others. I was afraid of death, of war, specifically in the Middle East, the book of Revelation ruined me (it speaks of an apocalypse of sorts; the rapture). One time in middle school we were going to buy lunch, a classmate took a little too long in the bathroom. When she came back to class everyone was gone – she honestly thought the rapture occurred and she was devastated. She was still on earth which either meant she wasn’t saved, or, she was one of the few left to be persecuted for years and years. (See the Left Behind series for Hollywood’s perspective on this – Kirk Cameron, the Christian Scorsese). Good content for kids too – the world is going to end and you will likely be tortured, and it could literally happen ANY DAY! I spent so much time worrying about who was saved and who wasn’t and judging those who believed differently than me. It was a way of life.

Through adolescence and my early twenties, I made my own decisions when it came to church and belief. I followed many of the same practices but also developed my own worldview. It all began to feel robotic and methodical, lacking in emotion, lacking in a relationship – simply put, focused on ritual and social status. I soured to the entire idea of Sundays – standing up, sitting down, only to stand up a couple more times. People going through motions, rarely questioning their significance or whether they actually wanted to do those things. It felt vacant and rehearsed…and if you know me, I don’t typically fall in line with trends or ‘shoulds.’

I don’t talk about my faith very much, or at all. I have a heart for specific things, and sometimes, specific people. I don’t believe our words have to be rehearsed or even sound acceptable to the confines of spirituality – which basically means I curse a lot. I believe in sound theology – The Gospel; death, resurrection, and forgiveness of sin. However, I equally believe in Love. I believe that Jesus ALWAYS, always, lead with Love. It was His love for us that made him approachable, that allowed him to rebuke but also show endless amounts of grace. He lived His life without filters and it endeared him to the lost, the poor, the sick, and the dying. I also believe our humanness, those hurts that shape our individuality, are more profound than any cliche, anything scripted ever could be. It’s in our messy and raw realities where redemption is found and lives are changed.

I now know, I cannot redirect anyone’s eternal trajectory, as difficult as that is for a control freak to grasp. But (there’s always a ‘But’ isn’t there?), I can share my (many) broken pieces, practice empathy, and love people, love the CRAP out of them. As the brilliant Bob Goff says, “I used to want to fix people, now I just want to be with them.” Doesn’t that idea instantly relax you? Every time I read it, my shoulders drop a few inches and my jaw unclenches. As much of an introvert as I am – and the idea of sharing my highs and lows here gives me anxiety some of the time, it is in our vulnerability that Love and Grace thrive.

** title is a quote (I think) from Steel Magnolias **

The house we live in

Big change tends to stir up those things we repress. It draws out any ugliness we try to cover with the “New” thing or the “New” experience. I guess the real adventure is embracing every part of the process – not just the shiny newness, but all the brokenness that brought you there in the first place. Since we moved I have been a lost and found box of emotion. I have tried detaching, scare tactics, distraction, numbing, close up magic (just kidding) – none of it works. At the end of the day I look like an out of control emotional crazy person, and basically, I am.

Over the last six or so months I have been a little obsessed with personalities. There is a part of me that always wants | needs to know the “whys” of things. Why things happen, why two people can look at the same situation and come to separate conclusions…etc. Back in September a friend introduced me to the Enneagram (read: diagnosed me). The nerdy researcher in me began reading everything and anything I could get my hands on. It’s an absolutely fascinating concept, and dare I say, spot on. I am familiar with various other methods of personality typing, but this one described me perfectly, to the point where I may have had a small identity crisis. If you aren’t familiar, and are willing to see yourself in the best and worst sense, I would encourage you to check it out.

On my quest to gain a better understanding, I realized my biggest enemy, other than grief, is stress. When I am stressed I either get very sick or basically turn into a monster. I could be a monster to those closest to me, those within a 3 to 5,000 mile radius, or just to myself. I researched introvertedness, logical | critical thinking, sensing, feeling, judging; all the ways we as humans emotionally react to any given situation. I am incredibly hard on myself, the expectations I chase are more often than not impossible to catch. When I disappoint myself I take it out on others. When I am angry or lonely or sad or frustrated, but cannot put words or emotion to it – I project. It is a vicious cycle, one I am desperately attempting to correct. Stress inspires a way of acting/reacting that gives me visions of what I would have been like as a cavewoman – absolutely terrifying. If this were a sitcom we would flash to a scene: me in torn clothes, feeding on raw meat, blood trickling down my face, dirt smeared skin, and grunts and growls being my only form of communication. It also gives me an appreciation – like a deep tear inducing appreciation – for friends and family who love me in spite of my gnashing of teeth and/or disappearing acts.

Who we are and why we are those people is an important study. I was insulted at first by my personality typing and I was incredibly unkind to myself as a result. I am thankful for so many of the things that make me, me – but there are scary parts – there is a wildness that needs – not taming so much as love…self love. I read a quote the other day that basically said – the words you say to yourself, become the house you live in. Throat.Punch. The house I live in is weighed down by words of frustration, sadness, and weariness. Words of joy and gratefulness are certainly scattered in there – but self reflection is no joke. I need to strengthen my walls with encouragement, lower my expectations, accept my lack of control. I need to stop withholding grace – be OK with time: time for growth and healing.

I have been horrible at balancing life this last month. I have been difficult, cold, and ambivalent. Here’s to embracing all the messy broken parts – accepting responsibility and owning the process. Part of showing myself grace, is also a practice in showing it to others, better than I have in the past. Recognizing we are all works in progress – and the only way we can do this life is together is by simply loving ourselves and one another. Love has no expectations or pro and con lists; it is kindness, it is grace. And when we do a crappy job, which we ultimately will, love is owning that failure and trying again, over and over and over.

Gratitude

Expressing gratitude is something I am learning and training myself to do. I often find it difficult because I get so caught up internalizing everything and lose myself in the analytics and process. I can write down ten things for which I’m grateful, but I am more excited about the list writing than its actual content. I am making a concerted effort to be more present in life, opening up to things that cause me discomfort like hugs and compliments and general touchy feely things. Saying it aloud makes me cringe a little. I can do this – and by this I mean – be a little less awkward and less controlled and embrace life for exactly what it is.

Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance…Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness. -Brene Brown

Have you ever played that game where you stare at something for a really long time and it almost becomes unrecognizable? It could be a familiar face, a piece of art, or a word – it shape-shifts and the longer you stare, the more familiar you become with its beauty and flaws. If you stare at yourself (read: your past | your present) and allow it to shape-shift – become something different entirely – you may just see beauty. You may see how the flaws of your youth created unique and fantastic bits that freckle the landscape of who you are today. You may see how the difficult times prepared you for a larger mountain to climb later in life. You may recognize past relationships and their impact on your ability to love and be loved. I don’t think I knew true gratitude until I was comfortable with imperfection – not being OK – loving the mess that is me and being grateful for all of it…even the messiest bits.

So as this season of thanks continues through the new year, I want to encourage you to actively practice gratitude. It can be a journal or sharing them aloud with friends/family/partner. If this cynic (I’m talking about me guys) can get sentimental and a little sappy…anyone can do it.

I am grateful for relationship. I hit the friend jackpot – some dating back to 4th grade and others still in their introductory phase. I don’t know if your friends would fly cross country for a cocktail, spend 36 hours talking about life, take a night drive as a ritual, call you on the plane to say I love you one more time, hold your hand through the sad part in a movie, send you amazing things from thousands of miles away, or make up a dance just to see you laugh – mine do and I adore them. I want my legacy to be honesty, dance parties, and laughing, A LOT – these people, make me believe it’s possible. That may sound trite and weird but I’m 100% serious. What more is there to life than relationship; showing up, loving people for exactly who they are and walking through life together. Everything else just kind of happens when you’re letting love and grace light the way. Cliche’? Maybe, but it’s gold and I am incredibly rich with the greatest friends and will fight anyone who tries to tell me different.

I am grateful for a temporary retirement – one that allows me to rest, be present, be available to people I love in a way I am incapable when buried under stress.

I am grateful for adventure and a partner who is willing to face just about anything, trusting we can handle whatever’s next.

I am grateful for my brain and how it over analyzes everything – because of it’s annoying approach to life, I have learned so much about myself this last year – and look forward to more growth.

I am grateful for new friends when I least expected it.

I am grateful for family who continue to champion Mick and I on and speak truth into our lives in ways that change us and bring us back to a simpler way of living.

I am grateful for brokenness – it has brought me more challenges and joy than I ever anticipated – this next year is going to be incredible. I look forward to watching our life shape-shift further into authenticity and vulnerability.

being known

Interrupting our house updates (because nothing is happening) for words on, being known.

We are slowly watching This is Us – and by slowly, I mean, it takes me a bit to recover before the next episode…and by a bit, I mean, weeks at a time. Believe it or not, I am sensitive; I tend to absorb whatever feeling is being portrayed which is obviously the desired effect of exceptional acting. I don’t mind feeling things – I do like to control how I receive it. If I can almost guarantee something will make me cry, make my soul ache with sadness – no thank you. So, why the heck did I start watching this show?! Well, if I’m being honest, I have a thing for the actor who plays Jack – aka Milo Ventimiglia circa 2002/2003 when he played the bad boy to Rory’s good girl on Gilmore Girls. I own this fact; that character will always have a spot in my cold heart. Then he went and played Rocky’s son in what turned out to be a cheesy addition to the Rocky series, but it was truly perfect casting. (if I have to hear “Hey Lil Marie” one more time….) Anyways, this is not about him….Right?!

This show is blowing minds everywhere – the acting, writing, storytelling – it’s top tier. If there were enough time in a day I would elaborate on how William instantly stole my heart and how I love Randall just as much – those two slay me. The character development on this show is absolutely incredible! This requires a separate series of gushing and not what brings us here today. No, what has me fangirling is the story and portrayal of family. My whole life I was surrounded by big, loud families. You would think a family like that would cause the introvert inside to cower, retreat to a tree and read a book. Surprisingly, these people were a force by which I was controlled. I loved loved being around the chaos, the banter, and being an audience member to their love and dysfunction.  When I was 17 I lived with one of my best friend’s family – it was a revolving door of kids, lacrosse sticks, instruments, debates, sarcasm, and laughter. A tornado of extroverts spinning around me as I sat quietly, taking it all in.

As I watch this show I can’t help but see all the reasons I love loud families – families that talk, laugh, play, and love being together. There is freedom facing a relationship without fear and the comfort in being known. This has been a theme for me this last year – I keep coming back to the idea – resting in it – craving the crap out of it. I am so very private – I trust few people with my heart, my true free self. It has very little to do with insecurity and more to do with me weighing their worthiness. I by no means think I am the most fantastic of people; that you would be SO honored to know me and love me and diiiiiine with me (said with an uptight British accent)…it’s more that I am flawed by introversion and self-preservation.  I have always been choosy as to who sees me…really sees me. I desire authentic relationships; I want to be with people who talk about things – like REALLY talk about things. I value my time, I value the time of others and find it difficult to project anything ingenuine.

Being known doesn’t just mean someone knew that at 16 you may have worn your great grandfather’s clothes; thought make-up was for suckers, and bought a pair of steel toed Doc Martins two sizes too big because you couldn’t part with them. I would say, whoever that weirdo is, they are lucky if they have friends. Being known is not only one of the greatest parts of any relationship but also the most difficult and most jarring. It takes an incredible amount of vulnerability – to trust you are embraced for whatever “ugliness” you bring to the table; to know love is the foundation even when anger and hurt make everything blurry.

I believe there is an emptiness we carry when no one knows us, Humans are meant for relationship. We are hardwired to be a community, to carry each other’s burdens, to rise up when we see others falling. We were created to love and show kindness. I can’t think of a better way to be love, to be kind, to be strong than to just be yourself – no matter what that looks like.

I cannot express the gratitude and freedom I feel when around those who truly know me. I find joy in their honesty, their grace, and I am so thankful they love me. These are the ones who push through my silence and my distance; they seek me out when I try to disappear. They will have week-long conversations with me strictly through giphs (yes, this is real life people!). These people hold me as dearly as I hold on to them and that’s something…truly something. To exist with people who have seen you at your worst and stick around even if in fact, that wasn’t your worst; the beauty in this – this state of being known – is one of such purity…there is joy, there is honesty, and there is light – so much damn light.

Trials of an introvert – Freshman year

I had really high hopes for my freshman year in college. I attended a two week summer program prior to the first semester and knew a handful of incoming freshman. Initially, this was a good thing. I was also living out of state with one of my best friends in one of the oldest residential halls on campus and we had an awesome room [read: no A/C, this-end-up furniture, a mirror too tall for me to use, and a neighbor who did interpretive dance at night to Disney music – she clearly had a single…and was single]. Despite the recurring brown theme and plywood smell; we lofted our beds, had a mini fridge, microwave, tv/vcr combo…coolest kids on the third floor.

There are so many awkward meet and greets when a college freshman – aka organized torture created to crush the spirit of any introvert. There were nerds in collegiate sweatshirts overzealous about extracurriculars, selling used books, and telling you how much college was going to “rock!” no thanks. Keep your group activities to yourself, I’ve got friends already. Anyways – after getting all set up and going to a couple mandatory events, I set off to find the familiar faces I met over the summer. [Please note – I was 18 with an attitude problem]

The first few months went by great – my roommate and I made friends with the girls in our hall and heard all about the promiscuous soccer players. One day exiting class I ran right into one of the upper classmen who helped facilitate the summer program. We chatted and he told me where to get the best coffee on campus…and that he was a soccer player. At that night’s game I ran into two other summer program leaders and introduced them to my roommate and her boyfriend. All three really nice guys, all three happy to see me; I was clueless.

I would often receive a voicemail or two from one of these three guys…calls I never returned. I would randomly, or so I thought, run into them outside my residence hall, the cafeteria or hear them yell my name as I walked into class. One night while my roommate and I were studying, there was a knock on the door… “Yo…I was in the neighborhood, thought I would stop in and say hey…” Classic Misie response – “oh, hey. You don’t live in this neighborhood so that’s a weird thing to say.” We chatted briefly and I awkwardly let him know I was in the middle of an intense study sesh and needed to get back to it. The phone calls increased, as did the clandestine meetings at dinner and in common areas. One day a guy popped out of the woods while I was walking home from class, “I figured you’d be walking home around this time!” [How would you like a swift kick to the throat?!]  I began to freak out! How the hell did he know my class schedule/walking route? Since when is it OK to hide in the woods to see a girl? I began ducking behind columns and tall people, taking new routes to class and my dorm. One time I hid in a cabinet while my roommate’s boyfriend convinced them I was on a date. It was getting ridiculous and my flight or fight reflex was off the chart. I remember my roommate telling me, “Misie, just be nice!” Ha – yea, OK Liz…if I knew about human trafficking in 1999, I would have transferred out immediately. [I still love you and your kind heart Liz!]

One night there was a salsa dancing event and the girls on my hall really wanted to go. I begrudgingly attended, sitting in a corner scowling at anyone who dared make eye contact. As I attempted to leave, someone grabbed my waist and pulled me back onto the dance floor. I found myself mere inches away from one of my suitors/stalkers beady little eyes and almost mustache. Of course all three guys were in attendance and I spun back and forth between them. As my face grew hot and panic set it I scanned the room for someone, anyone, to save me. Suddenly I saw a hand reach into the crowd – I grasped tightly and was yanked out of said dance circle. It was a friend from high school – he didn’t know I was panicked – he just didn’t like that these jokers were all up in my biz. From that moment on I decided to never leave my dorm room except for class and the bathroom. I could easily live on saltines, pilfered bagels from the cafeteria and raisin bran. So, while most girls gained the freshman 15, joined every extracurricular, and created long lasting friendships…I lost ten pounds, hid out in dorm rooms, and became the invisible college student.

This sounds dramatic – and at the time – it was a bit over the top. Thankfully my stealth secret agent moves sent a clear message and eventually I was able to travel to class in peace. The phone calls and messages stopped and every once and awhile I would make a special trip to the cafeteria with my friends. By year end it became a running joke…and still is actually.

To Christian, Vern and Jelani*: if you ever read this – I know you guys weren’t total creeps – if it’s any consolation, I had a very cold heart and no intention of warming up to you. Today, I am mildly flattered. In 1999, I was sure you wanted to kidnap me and keep me in your basement.

*yup, these are real names…Philly represent

 

trials of an introvert

This is what happens when I try to step outside my Misie shaped bubble and convince the world I am a real girl.

FIRST:

The other day a kind man bought me a drink. I don’t know why. I did not know him nor had I ever seen him. He handed me the drink, when I offered my card he said, “don’t worry about it.” I was shocked, my eyes widened and I squeaked, “are you sure?!” He smiled wide and nodded yes, as I fumbled, almost knocking over the free beverage, he grabbed my attention again, “the proper response is ‘thank you’…” totally embarrassed and getting clumsier by the second, I sheepishly smiled and thanked him. I was nervous to even take a sip, he obviously may have been attempting to human traffic me, but I also couldn’t compartmentalize why he offered such kindness. Does this happen to normal people? Yes, and they handle it ten times better!

SECOND:

The awkward hug you didn’t realize was awkward until eight hours later. You are seeing people you have not seen in a very long time. You cannot figure out whether the statute of limitations has passed on whether you know them well enough anymore to give hugs when saying hello. There is a grey area where it should be socially acceptable because it’s been years, but at the same time, you do not know them anymore.

They walk up to you (at least you think they are but now you cannot remember if they even made eye contact with you); you smile and their arm goes out toward you. Your stomach settles – oh ok, this means they want a hug – so you go in, like ALL in, both arms squeezing tight (might as well have closed your eyes, breathed in deep and threw in a back rub), however, you realize they were possibly only offering a side hug. As you back away, hoping they did not notice you smell them, they are looking in a completely different direction. Hmph – that is weird – maybe someone called their name? You turn and notice everyone is very serious – like praying over dinner serious. Wait was it a hug?! Oh.No. It wasn’t even a side hug!!!! Were they actually waving to someone, sniffing their armpit, stretching!? Introvert.Nightmare. The worst part – I will never know because introverts do not ask the follow up questions, especially if they know it will lead to further embarrassment. I will soon be that person at parties who says, “I’m going to hug you now.

*Places hand to face, whispers…oyyyyy*