EXTRA! SO VERY EXTRA!

Archive for the ‘R[evol]ution’ Category

Reunion: A sense of something past

In Choosing to see the wonderful #CTSTW, Depression and Mental Health, Encouragement, Friendship, Happiness, R[evol]ution, Somewhat disjointed rant... on April 29, 2014 at 3:14 am

This past weekend was my 10 year reunion for Agnes Scott College. I was very excited, and it was a great weekend. A great many of the women with whom I attended school came, and it was something not quite nostalgic. There was a sense of something new: the chance to form adult friendships with women who are smart, accomplished, articulate. The chance to form mature friendships that I could not have formed as a young 20 something.

But, then, there was also a sense of something past for me. I did have good times in college, but (overall) it was not a happy time in my life. I have written before of how I dealt (back then) with deep depression that made me feel disconnected from other people. Strangely, though, I was brought into very close contact with people without whom I would have been unable to graduate on time and move beyond my stint in the behavior disorder ward. The administration of Agnes Scott and many of my friends made around me a protective circle of love, prayer, compassion, and faith. I’m forever grateful.

But, momentarily, I was flooded with questions like: why didn’t I…? Why couldn’t I…..? Shouldn’t I have….?

Is there a way to step, for a moment, back into that time and pick up the things that I missed? Or, can I at least figure out why I didn’t do this or that? I concluded, that for me, there is not a way to step back into that time. The things that I missed, the connections that I did not make cannot be redone or remade to be as if it had been ten years ago. For me, the best thing was to be grateful for the past, to be grateful for those who loved me in the past, to be grateful that I have a chance to connect with the women as they are now rather than lament that I missed the chance to connect with who they were.

This past weekend was a practice in living the now. And, I realize that I need to allow myself a healthy amount of grief over the very young and scared woman who was me. Until now, I mostly ignored her and the past. But, there is no need for shame, embarassment, and denial. After all, she eventually became me. But, grieving over her is not at all the same thing as resurrecting her. I cannot make her time happier, but I can work to make my time now happier. I cannot reach back across 10 years and make her experience peace; but, I can be at peace with who I am now.

And, oddly what so worried and saddened me 10 years ago was the thought that I would never feel happy or at peace. Some things do fall away into the past. Moving beyond those crippling thoughts and being the woman I am now among other women of the now made me happy–perhaps not exactly nostalgic–and glad to be with them.

Advertisements

Distance and Engagement

In Choosing to see the wonderful #CTSTW, Depression and Mental Health, Encouragement, Friendship, Law School Problems, Love and Romance, R[evol]ution, Uncategorized on April 21, 2014 at 2:42 am

On April 2, 2014, my boyfriend went down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I said yes. He and I were by ourselves at this moment, and we went to celebrate by ourselves. In the coming days, we were quiet and savored the newness of the thing largely alone. Despite what movies and novels would have you believe, I didn’t have friends who I immediately called to gush over the news. Many of the women who I might have called for that reason have distanced themselves from me and I from them–perhaps due partially to this man.

But, it’s not a new distance among us. The drift had begun before he and I took real notice of each other and it quickened as soon as two weeks after he and I started dating in the summer of 2011. We met in law school, probably very early during my first fall semester since we both rode MARTA then. We were each involved in our own lives and really didn’t overlap each other. I was certainly swallowed up in the emotional and intellectual tides of first-year law school. At the end of the Spring semester, though, I called him to apologize for not coming to his graduation party. From there, we talked and saw each other regularly.

After about two weeks, we had our first real date and I met two of his friends and he and I went to watch movies at his friends’ home. It was all so deliciously normal that I began to feel guilty…..as if I was dragging this man into all of my friend-losing, engagement-breaking, prozac-taking drama. The criticisms of others had long before become the rain that watered my soul. Also, I have very little sophistication when I comes to relationships. Later that evening when he and I were alone I started to cry and all of THAT came tumbling out in (what I can safely assume was) a rather jumbled tale.

It was a little embarrassing at the time, so I can’t truly say that I remember it clearly as the significance did not dawn on me until later. What I remember most is how gentle and kind his eyes looked once he realized that I was serious and in some distress. There wasn’t really any pity and absolutely no shock in his voice or face. In those moments, he was quiet and listened. He said to me then what he continues to say to me now: that we all have our scars, weaknesses, and troubles. That mine were not worse than those of anyone else.

In the coming days, I watched for a sign that he thought I was different, crazy, soiled. But, that sign never came and it has not come. I did not recognize that I was in love and even if I had, I would have found it hard to explain it to my women friends. What I did know was that I felt comfortable, peaceful, at ease, and unsuspicious with this man–and those were things I experienced rarely then. Even though I communicate(d) in short, pointed, expressive, honest bursts punctuated with silence and he is more comfortable with conversation and words, he made (and makes) me feel an equal. I did not have the words to explain that to them–and did not (for whatever reason) search for the words to explain it.

I was, honestly, a little selfish in absolutely basking and camping in these experiences and not being particularly open with my friends about how I felt. The feeling of acceptance was such a God-send and I had no desire for anyone to remind me of the doubts I was slowly putting to death at the time. Maybe I was wrong to hoard that positivity. But, it was beautiful. And, it was mine. And, I had a chance to forge a healthy relationship with a balanced and open-minded person.

I took that chance, and I have not regretted it.

No, I’m not watching the Academy Awards

In and other uncomfortable topics, Examining my tears #ExMT, Race, R[evol]ution, Somewhat disjointed rant... on March 3, 2014 at 3:00 am

This is one of those posts that, the writing of it, takes a sigh and the publishing of it takes another. I have immense self-doubt even as I write this. Also, I have hood-winked you. This post is only slightly about the Oscars, and a lot about my own confrontations with and misunderstandings of color.

I am an American, and steeped in the hypocritical psuedo-democratic, but at the same time grandiose and hopeful, rhetoric and culture of this place. And, like so many other Americans who are aware of this Oscar season, I found heart-breaking the words of Lupita Nyong’o as she accepted an award at Essence’s Black Women of Hollywood luncheon. As a child, she prayed to God to “wake up lighter-skinned.” That prayer embodies years of negative comments to Ms. Nyong’o; years of not being told she was beautiful period; hundred of years of subjugating and objectifying and brutalizing darker women; colonialism; the slave trade; religious teachings about the evil and depravity of darker people.

Those things set up a hierarchy, embodied in the old (though not so old) Southern U.S. saying: “If you’re white, you’re right; if you’re brown, stick around; if you’re black, get back.” But, as I am typing this, I am looking at my fingers and realize that I might be scoffed at for joining in this conversation. I’m in an outsider position and, for years, I was told as much: “You don’t have Black girl hair”; “you’re best feature is your light skin”; “you get handed things because you’re light.”

I say “for years” because I now actively refuse to participate in color conversations because no matter what someone always gets hurt and because I am not an outsider. I am an insider. I am an inside witness to what the still-working system of subjugation does to darker people of all hues.

That system–and all of us who participate in it–defines darker as ugly; if not ugly, then less than; if not less than, then different; if not different, then exotic; if not exotic, then not *quite* White. Darker is never allowed to be, to live, to exist as an unremarkable part of daily life. We all have the daily opportunity to see beautiful people of every color. Whether we choose to seize that opportunity is another thing; whether we choose to wholly acknowledge that beauty is another thing.

In plain language, Morris Chestnut is not a beautiful brown man. That is not wholly appreciating beauty. No, he is a beautiful man. Jesse Williams is not a beautiful “mixed guy.” No, he is a beautiful man. And, most importantly, the two do not stand as representations of polar opposites of each other. Ms. Nyong’o deserves all of the accolades and attention for her acting chops and her beauty. But, it makes me a little sad that, in some of the writing about Ms. Nyong’o, “lighter” actresses are getting thrown under the bus as examples of what’s wrong with Hollywood.

The hard part–and the part that sometimes makes me feel hopeless–is that there is no real way out of the system. The fact of the matter is that women who look like Lupita Nyong’o and Grace Jones and Iman and Viola Davis are often either told they are ugly or not told they are beautiful and these same women deserve to be smothered with love and appreciation and admiration because they were beautiful all along; the fact of the matter is that Halle Berry and Paula Patton and Zoe Saldana are very popular actresses and not always because of talent alone. Is there a way to reconcile all of that? Is there a way to love and appreciate and admire one without pointing out the fault in the other?

And, the point of the whole thing is money made by selling images and films and tickets. It seems that the better the system works at making someone feel ugly, the more likely that person is to pay good money to see someone who looks like them who is beautiful. So, the system wins in the end anyway, and in the end we all end up distracted from the fact that minority communities (and I don’t just mean Black folks and racial/ethnic communities) are underrepresented anyway and all the damage caused by that can’t be fixed by a couple of magazine covers, a television show, and a few awards.

So, no. I’m not watching the Academy Awards–despite the fact that I think Ellen DeGeneres is hilarious. I’m no longer sure that I can trust what I am watching. I am no longer sure of where the system ends and true admiration and healing begin.

Here goes: sigh.

World: 1; You: 0

In Choosing to see the wonderful #CTSTW, Encouragement, Examining my tears #ExMT, R[evol]ution, Somewhat disjointed rant... on February 26, 2014 at 5:08 am

Allow me to be frank.

The world has a way of telling you that you ain’t shit, of ever so slightly lifting away your protective ego and exposing your sensitive soul to the withering glances of uninvited eyes. Then, what began as a just a corner lifted up turns into a gale force that rips away your confidence.

And, all it takes is one voice. One completed action aimed at you. Today, I heard that voice. Then, my own insecurities took over. It started with one dissatisfied client and
I’m inexperienced
I’m young-ish
I’m Black
I’m female
I’m not on anybody’s magazine cover
I’m not on any tracks
I’m not able to fit into any of my clothes from high school
I’m not a mother
I’m not married
I’ve not made any large or notable settlements
I’m in some serious student loan debt
I’m unable to replicate any of Norm Abrams’ wood-working

Obviously, some of those are pointless….

But, I realized that EVEN IF ALL OF THAT IS TRUE, there is one thing I have in my “plus column”: today, I was not that voice to someone else. I have the choice–and I made the choice–to speak positive words to others. I do not have to be the trigger for someone else’s insecurity spiral. I refuse to allow the World to get a plus one over on someone else because of me.

Instead, I can be for someone else what my loved ones were today for me: a voice that nurtures; a hand that consciously and purposefully replaces the protection over an exposed and shivering soul; a reassurance that one does matter; a reminder that there is no score card in life.

Tomorrow is another day, sure to present a multitude of voices. But, the only thing I can control is what I do with my voice.

Remember that day Jesus skipped to the cross?

In and other uncomfortable topics, Choosing to see the wonderful #CTSTW, Encouragement, R[evol]ution, Somewhat disjointed rant..., Thoughts on Christianity, Using my words for good #UMFWG on February 7, 2014 at 3:18 am

In the end, I suppose that there is a self-centered reason for me writing this piece. I am not always happy. Not always. Some hurts take a deep root and are difficult to snuff out. I shed my tears. But, I believe that I have necessary things to learn from the hurt. And there are few things that anger me more than someone trying to cut short my healing process. That process is important. It cannot be circumvented; sometimes, it cannot even be shortened. It starts low, and it ends in balance and strength. Most of all: nothing can be earned from avoiding or denying the healing process.

But, there are a few key phrases that Christians, myself included, love to drop when we are faced with a person who is sad because of, despairing over, or agonizing with something in life:
1. “Count it all joy”
2. “Rejoice”
3. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

Stop. Please for the love of peanuts, stop it. Jesus did not skip to the cross. He did not sing songs while He was whipped. The day before He was crucified was not a last grand bro-fest with the disciples.

Instead, He had (what sounds to me) a rather sad supper (seeing as how He had to tell His disciples that one of them would betray Him and Peter would deny Him) with the 12 men who had been closest to him, broke bread, drank wine (see Matthew 26: 17-35). Then, Matthew 26:38 tells us that Jesus told His disciples “My soul is very sorrowful . . . ” Mark 14:36 says that Jesus prayed, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.” Luke 22:44 says that “being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground.” After being arrested, He was beaten, spit upon, and pierced with thorns. Then, either Simon of Cyrene was made to carry the cross of Jesus (as it says in Matthew, Mark, and Luke) or Jesus carried His own cross (as it says in John 19:17) to Golgotha where Jesus was crucified.

It sounds sad, agonizing, dramatic. Jesus was marching to His own death. He was not skipping. He was not shaking hands and kissing babies and tuning his guitar. He was not repeating “I’ll soon be in Heaven” like a mantra passcode to better times. He did not look down from the height of the cross with a wink and smile. Jesus went through a process that began thick with agony, despair, and sadness. But, the process ended with Him glorified as the Son of God, the Risen Savior, and one of the most compelling (if sometimes elusive) figures in history.

To all of my Christian brothers and sisters, never forget that someone’s healing process is not an affront to God. Someone’s hurts do not indicate a lack of faith. Sadness is not a sin. When Jesus preached to others about the process and ordeal He would go through in Jerusalem, Peter rebuked Him and said it would never happen. But, Matthew 16:23 relates that Jesus turned to Peter and said something often quoted, but rarely contextualized: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

I know you don’t mean to be, but when you tell a person who is going through his own ordeals to act happy (or “rejoice” as we Christians like to say), you may indeed be casting yourself down as a stumbling block to him by convincing him that sadness and agony are evil even as God tries to bring him through to a place of strength. As humans, we dislike negativity and sadness. But, sometimes: those things are vital.

Simply put: if we are Christians and if we do believe that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God, what was good enough for Christ is good enough for us. We will have despair, sadness, agony, and sacrifice.

Of course, in closing I have to leave you with the required (but, appropriate) words of Jesus at John 16:33: “In this world you will have trouble. But, take heart! I have overcome the world.”

After the suicide attempt…

In and other uncomfortable topics, Choosing to see the wonderful #CTSTW, Encouragement, Happiness, R[evol]ution, Using my words for good #UMFWG on February 3, 2014 at 4:55 am

[Note after writing: I am pressing publish with a deep sigh.]

In a couple of months, it will be almost exactly ten years ago that I attempted suicide during my senior year of college. I suppose I fit the stereotypical cliche that my attempt was a cry for help. I took a handful of random, but not very menacing, painkillers. I admitted what I had done to three of my friends and spent the next 72 hours in the behavior disorder ward of a nearby hospital.

It would be really great and deeply gratifying to say that I emerged from that ward a changed person; a butterfly from the chrysalis. But, I remember that ward as being scary as all hell and hardly an environment that nurtures change. I emerged tired, hungry, and fragile.

Thus began a long journey, a slow battle of the bulge, a crawl, a marathon. To be honest, I did not then and I do not now really know what the end point of the journey is but I remember full well what the starting point was. So, the journey has been to put as much space as possible between myself and that starting point. Some days I feel like the theme song from _Chariots Afire_ is playing every where I go. Some days are just days.

I have found out that there are many people on the same journey, and that many of us on the journey do not want to talk about THE JOURNEY because people can be cruel and abusive and manipulative. Simply by writing this post, I am aware that someone may read this and think that I am weak, weird, or crazy. But, I know there is someone at the same point that I was 10 years ago; some days I feel like I’m back at that same point.

But, I remind myself…..

1. That this life is entrusted to me and me alone. Apparently, God thought I was good enough to handle it. When the criticisms of others burrow so far into me that they become my own criticisms of myself, I remind myself that this life is mine. Despite what anyone thinks or believes, my life is not at anyone’s disposal. My life was not created to be firewood for someone else’s life.

2. That I am not disappointment, or saddness, or tragedy, or anger. Oh, I will disappoint others, sadden others, and anger others. But, that effect does not define who I am.

3. That I am flawed because I am me. That’s the way life works. But….

4. That flaws are sometimes simply misunderstood limitations. For instance, I can be overly emotionally sensitive. Is that a flaw? Perhaps. But, I choose to look at it as a limitation in one sense and a characteristic in another. I would not make a particularly good surgeon (one really doesn’t want a surgeon who melts into a puddle when one is on the table and things start going wrong). But, I do make a good listener. So, really: is it a flaw or is it a strength?

5. That I must be cautious around those who want to force me to see my limitations and characteristics as flaws. I mean, I could spend a lot of time trying to become less emotionally sensitive. I could spend a lot of time trying to “fix” that “flaw” if I surrounded myself with people who “encouraged” me toward that “goal.” I do admit: I have had to harness my strengths, limitations, and characteristics to work for me rather than allowing them to master me.

6. That I must dig deep when confronted with anyone who believes that I am worth less because I have attempted suicide. I have learned the hard way that such a person often wants to use me as a stepping stool for his/her own ego. Such a person often wants to make me his/her do-it-yourself fixer upper. A close relationship with such a person will usually force me to constantly remind myself of #1 and #4.

7. That the world, for a number of reasons, is a messed up place that labels normal people as crazy. One of the strongest impressions of the behavior disorder ward that I carry with me to this day (and that, to this day, will bring tears to my eyes) is that most of the people inside that ward were not crazy. We were people who were some combination of quiet, shy, sensitive, hurt and healing slowly, or sad in a world that values talking, outgoing, brash, devil-may-care bravado. Back then, I felt that I was lost on a journey that so many other people were making quite easily. Little did I know that many, many people were not only as lost as I, but also in denial.

8. That nothing is ever gained by lying to myself about who, what, and where I am. As I become ever more accustomed to being true to myself, it is easier to be truthful with others, and miraculously others have been beautifully truthful with me. As alone as I sometimes feel, there are others lost and blundering in the dark, too. We just need to play Marco Polo to find each other.

9. That Jesus is not disappointed in me for my attempt. How ugly, how truly ugly a thing it is to tell a hurting person that she’s let down the One in whom she believes. And, I was told that. And, it hurt. But, it is not true. If God is God, then I must believe that He knew my limitations and my strengths far ahead of me. He did not send His only Son to die for a bunch of smarmy know-it-alls who have their stuff together. Where is the grace and mercy in that?

10. That somehow, mysteriously, miraculously, slowly: things do get better. I do eventually untie the knots, work out the puzzles, clean up the messes, and learn the lessons. Life may not pick up at the same thread, but life does continue. Laughter returns. Smiles return. In the end, there is no darkness that can wipe out the light. That is the great thing about light. One small spark is enough sometimes. And, sometimes, a Youtube puppy video can provide that spark.

Learned of Love

In Choosing to see the wonderful #CTSTW, Encouragement, Lawyer Problems, Love and Romance, R[evol]ution, Somewhat disjointed rant... on January 27, 2014 at 5:59 am

I’ve been sick for a few days–a lingering health malaise that still isn’t cleared up. Right in the middle of all the deadlines of a federal case. And, without the placations of the Prozac I’ve recently quit cold turkey.

Today, my law partner boyfriend (LPBF for short….let’s at least pretend at anonymity) brought me the case file for that federal case in which a deadline is currently looming. It didn’t take long for me to feel overwhelmed and frustrated. It took even less time for me to start taking it out on him in pounding, snipping, cutting words when we had a telephone call about the case. I realized what I was doing and that I was in the wrong. But, somehow, that didn’t stop me. Oh, did I mention that this wasn’t the first time I’ve done that? This wasn’t the first time I’ve done that to LPBF.

After an episode of Downton Abbey tranquilized me (I think it’s their lovely accents), I recognized that I was being an unmitigated douche bag to a man who taking up the slack for me on my case so that I can get healthier. Of all the people who deserve my choice words, he wasn’t one of them. But, he was the easy target. He was the one talking to me at the time.

So, I apologized and asked him why he hadn’t called me out on being so snippy. His response taught me to love him even more:

“Because I love you and now is not the time to argue.”

That response is packed with love and acceptance and patience and focus and passion. Love is a miracle that can happen everyday we wake up and it doesn’t need to come with flowers or chocolate or jewelry or flamboyance–but, somehow, it manages to come in the way you need it. But, it has to be nurtured. I’ll have to get over my unnecessary use of cutting words. That’s not nurturing. It will take love, acceptance, patience, focus, and passion to break that bad habit. I already know someone who can teach me how to use those.

Love is a miracle. I learn something new everyday.

#UMWFG: Friend dumped redux

In and other uncomfortable topics, Friendship, Happiness, Love and Romance, R[evol]ution, Somewhat disjointed rant..., Using my words for good #UMFWG on November 3, 2013 at 5:21 pm

I’ve written before about being friend dumped, but at the time I was studying for the Georgia bar exam and life was an emotional roller coaster.

I found out that I passed the bar several days ago. So, I decided to revisit those feelings. Not surprisingly, things look different now that I am in an emotionally different place. I still hurt from those losses, but I also see that I have done the same thing to other people for both good and bad reasons (from my point of view). That realization has helped to move to a place of forgiveness toward both myself and others.

In my victim-mindset, I had all questions and no answers as to why anyone would do such a thing. But, now that I am in a more triumphant mindset, I am able to supply some of my own answers–and maybe answers for others, too.

1.  I THOUGHT WE WERE CLOSE.

There are areas and zones of black when it comes to answering any questions about human relationships. But, often times we WERE close. We shared physical and emotional space. Sometimes, however, perhaps *I* thought I was closer to the other person than I actually was. Perhaps *I* wanted to be closer to the other person than I actually could be. Nonetheless, we still shared some degree of connection.

I should NOT allow the disappearance of the friendship/relationship to diminish the closeness and connection that genuinely did exist.

2. WHY DID YOU LEAVE?

Sometimes, I left because the leaving was in my best interest. Maybe I felt emotionally dominated or suppressed by the other person. Maybe I felt recurring but unpredictable tides in the relationship that I just couldn’t decipher. Maybe I was trying to make some changes in my life that I didn’t want to force that other person to become a part of. Maybe I was changing and that other person blatantly did not want to be a part of that. Maybe I was just too immature to handle the weight of that relationship.

Sometimes, I left because the leaving was in the other person’s best interest. I do freely admit that I did not do altruistic abandonment very often. But, the times that I did, it was because I knew (felt) that other person wanted something from me that I couldn’t give and I knew (felt) that other person would not accept that fact that I couldn’t; that I was emotionally unable to deliver.

Sometimes, life pulls people apart. Maybe I was courageous enough to fight life’s gravity, maybe I decided to just be pulled away. But, I still harbor gratefulness, thankfulness, and fond thoughts for those people that life pulled away.

3. WHY DIDN’T YOU OFFER SOME SORT OF EXPLANATION?

No explanation is good enough, anyway. Truly. Besides, sometimes “explanations” turn into blame games. And, that would just leave everyone feeling terrible. Of course, that’s a cowardly response. There was a way for me to explain what was going on with ME without involving YOU. Also, in situations where I was wrong and continued to be wrong and knew that I would stay wrong for a while: it’s so much easier to just tiptoe out of the backdoor in my socks. HOW could I look another person in the eye and admit: “So, yeah. I had underhanded motives. Still have them. Will continue to have them. Sorry for not being sorry about that.”

4. DO YOU EVEN CARE THAT I AM STILL HURTING?

Maybe. Maybe not. For some people that I friend dumped, I do feel bad that I changed the locks, didn’t let them know, and now refuse to answer the door. I know those people didn’t deserve it, but I’m just too cowardly to reopen the subject. A couple of times, I have reopened the subject (but, years later). I felt awkward at first to bring up something from so long ago; I thought it would seem as if I had been ruminating for all this time (true); I thought maybe that other person would not remember what I was talking about; I thought they would curse me out. It WAS awkward. S/he DID remember. S/he was, surprisingly, mild and mature in response.

But, it doesn’t get easier to reopen to past friend dump.

Sometimes, though: I don’t care. Sometimes (in a most UN-WWJD way), I feel like I screwed him/her because s/he screwed me first.

5. I KNOW YOU ARE VAGUEBOOKING/SUBTWEETING ABOUT ME.

SUCH a 21st century problem. Yeah, guilty as charged. I did. Totally. Sometimes, I vaguebooked/subtweeted from the victim’s mindset. Sometimes, I did so from the dumper’s mindset. But, yeah. I totally did it. Like, totes.

6. COULD WE REBUILD A FRIENDSHIP?

Ummmmm (from both the dumper’s and dumpee’s mindset)…..probably NOT, but maybe. I’ve never really tried it. Is there a way to rebuild a friendship after a such a rift? In my experience, no. By the time both of us are ready to mend the rift, we’ve both grown and changed–perhaps into an appreciably different person.

Smiley faces

In Happiness, R[evol]ution on October 11, 2013 at 4:53 am

This post is sort of about Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project–a book and a website all about her one year journey to finding a way to a happier life. It may sound like a tome of first world problem angst, but the book is really about the habits, words, and thoughts that make one’s self and those around one happier. All in all, I found the book to be a great and worthwhile read.

Gretchen (because obvi, we’re like bff) offers lots of practical tips and illustrations from her own life and the lives of others. Her own happiness project was broken down into monthly chunks, with each month allowing her to focus on a different aspect of happiness.

I would like to do my own happiness project, but it occurs to me that I lead a pretty happy life. I could simply follow Gretchen’s plan, but that wouldn’t mean as much to me. So, I am going to start by identifying areas in my life that could include more happiness.

1. My relationships with my family members.

2. Honesty about my spiritual life.

3. Body love. I need to accept and nurture the skin I’m in.

4. Be easier to work with and be more accepting of those I work with.

5. Make quality purchases at quality places.

6. Eat good food.

7. Build closer friendships.

8. Try more new things.

9. Be more forgiving and let go of old grudges.

10. Get rid of clutter.

11. Stabilize and learn more about my mental health.

12. Feel and express gratitude.

13. Celebrate more.

14. Express my emotions at the right time and in the right way.

15. Volunteer more.

16. Communicate immediately, openly, honestly.

===========10/11/13 Update

17. Use my words for good.

18. Brush up on my French.

19. Grow things

20. Develop my art skills

21. Talk on the telephone more

22. Relax more.

23. Exercise more.

24. Be more collegial

C.S. Lewis makes me smile

In and other uncomfortable topics, Encouragement, R[evol]ution, Thoughts on Christianity on October 7, 2013 at 12:02 am

I love The Chronicles of Narnia. I return to those stories at least once a year. They refresh me. Therefore, I have always had great respect for the author, C.S. Lewis. He was a great writer, a great thinker, and a great Christian. He did radio broadcasts in Britain during World War II to help keep the morale of the British up. His books are mainstays for theologians, apologists, and anyone looking to find out more information about Christianity. He married late in life, and his wife died after a prolonged struggle with cancer. In the days and weeks after her death, he kept journals.

Oddly, these journals are the things that have made me smile.

Lewis later published these journals under the title A Grief Observed. He grapples, transparently and despairingly and courageously, with the loss of his beloved wife and the delicate nature of his faith in God. Lewis says things that many people are too scared to admit about faith.

But go to Him [God] when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited?

Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘so there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.

Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.

And, I smile not because his wife, Joy, is dead. I smile not because he is suffering in these pages. I smile because his path of grief that is so sharp and so different from anything I have ever known, reminds me that I am not alone. His grief reminds me that sweeping away my feelings and telling myself to buck up, man up, and put on my big girl panties is nothing. The missive “hold on to God’s unchanging hand” is not something that I have to do. I believe in God, but I think that anyone who tells me to hold on to His unchanging hand doesn’t quite understand. God does not change, true enough. But, what I understand about God changes. I cannot hold on to His hand…that is a part of the journey of being human and separate from God, yet with the ability to unite myself with Him.

My faith, in plain speak, is shattered and it has been for some time. I am thankful to God, I love God, I believe in God, I appeal to God, I worship God. But, I no longer understand what it means to be a Christian. But, surely I am a Christian–I believe that Jesus died on a cross to make right all my sins.

In this world of church politics and genocide and Twitter and great poverty thrown against great wealth—-no. Let me cut straight to the chase rather than do this whole poetic list. Between church politics and my stance on LGBT issues and my (bleeding heart liberal) politics in general……..I’m just not sure where I fit anymore.  Like Lewis, I’m not afraid that I will quit believing in God or Jesus. I’m afraid that I will realize, ‘This is what it meant to be Christian all along.’ And, then where will I be? A woman who believes in the Creator, in God, in Christ, in the cleansing of sin, in eternal life….but without Christianity? Without church? That’s blasphemy or something like it.

God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down. (–C.S. Lewis)

And, I smile. My faith is knocked down. I am winded. I am feeling alone. But, I am still moving. I feel alone, but I know that I am not. I smile. I am in the process–and if even a man like Lewis got mired for weeks and weeks I know now not to despair at being mired for months and months. Maybe what I have been involved in and what I have given myself to for all these years has not really been Christianity, but only my understanding of Christianity that looked very much like Christianity but just wasn’t. Maybe Christianity means something that I don’t quite understand yet. Here is one of the shortest, strongest, and truest sentences in A Grief Observed:

I NEED CHRIST, NOT SOMETHING THAT RESEMBLES HIM.