Coming to terms: part 2

This is the third blog post in a series: How I got here.

You don’t have to be sick to be sick of yourself. 

That line keeps haunting me from my last post. I’ve been writing about coming to terms, and I talked about circumstances in the last entry because it’s been a tough few years with my health issues — more on that later. Now I want to talk about coming to terms with how I’m wired — how you’re wired. And not even just coming to terms, but respecting and celebrating who we are at our cores. Because it’s so beautiful.IMG_3469

We all have moments or seasons where we are immersed in thoughts of inadequacy and we wish to be anyone but ourselves. We want all the qualities, except the ones we already possess. Is that a little too dramatic? That’s okay, I think a few of you resonate.

When I returned from my bike trip, my hometown felt foreign. There was distance between my friends and I, my mom moved to New Zealand, and there were strangers living in my childhood home. I had rent to pay for the first time ever, and I had to stay put after seeing a new town almost every day for 12 weeks. All I wanted to do was ride my bike or run. I wanted to go, and feel that sensation again. The one that comes when you’re on the road, and you hit the upswing so often you swear you can fly. I had so many experiences in those 12 weeks, from the high of reaching the top of Independence Pass to drinking a disgusting vodka & redbull in a Boise bar, to sitting at the front of the boat while it glided on an Alabama lake the day after Christina got hit by the car. There were the ordinary moments mixed in with once-in-a-lifetime moments; the genuinely beautiful experiences and the so ugly you wanted to curl up and sleep it off ones. All of the people who knew those experiences were scattered across the country, and I was back home in Sacramento, sick with mono. Two people came right along side me, friends in the dead of night: Sarah Marie and Marcos.

Sarah Marie was my roommate, and is still one of the best people I know. I remember spending a couple of evenings on our front porch with our favorite beers during those first few weeks I was home. She asked me questions about my trip, the kind that make you answer in detail. She asked me tough ones about my relationship with Marcos and reminded me of truth, of who Jesus is. She listened as I spilled emotions all over our front yard, and continued to do this over frozen yogurt the rest of the time we lived together. She was the friend I broke my calorie count with, the one who interrupted my studying with chipmunks singing pop hits, and the one who opened her arms to whoever I was in that season, no strings attached. I hadn’t yet come to terms with who I was, but Sarah Marie was happy to help me get there.

honest loveYou see, when I returned from Bike & Build, I didn’t know what to do with all those moments stuffed into the 12 week trip. All of the moments that shifted and shaped who I was. What was I supposed to do with all my questions? All of the things bubbling up inside of me? Did I really have to process those things? Yes. Most definitely, yes. And as I processed, I was undeniably becoming a different person. I was growing, which inevitably means growing out of the things that made sense to me before.

All of the hard moments that came with that summer, or that sprouted from it, brought me closer to understanding myself. My heart was raw and I had no energy, so I could only offer my truest self to those around me. All broken and bitter. I felt like I was carrying a sign around that said, “I’d like the complicated version” because nothing seemed to come easy. Sarah Marie didn’t flinch, and I didn’t realize then how truly beautiful that was. How much she resembled Jesus, and how she was one of the buckets of grace I was yearning for in that season. The friendships I had with Sarah Marie and Marcos helped me to know I wasn’t completely lost, and I definitely wasn’t forgotten — redemption, grace, and rejuvenation were still a part of my story.

And so the year continued, and Marcos showed up at my doorstep enough to know this was for keeps. I spent so much time wanting to be someone different, someone healthy — a dreamer who hustled through the night to do good things. Marcos didn’t spend any time wishing I was someone different, and he never made me feel like I was inadequate. I think I wrote in my journal a thousand times: “thank you for a man who shows me how You love me, God.” This love took my fragile heart and carried it through a tough season of work, last semester of school, preparing for a wedding, and struggling with health issues. You see, I wrestled with the change that happened over the course of those two years until I was spent. I was like a toddler throwing a tantrum, shaking and crying, until there was nothing left to give. No more guts in my fight.

I wanted it to be simple and easy. I wanted to have the same dreams I had before I left for my bike trip, and I wanted the people I knew then to want to spend time with me now — I wanted to be able to talk like there wasn’t a chasm between us. I wanted to fit right in where I left the spring of 2011.

I had to come to terms with who I was becoming meant some things, and people, wouldn’t come with me. Sarah_Marcos_Engagement 62

This person I was becoming, the person I am now, feels so right and it sounds silly when I read what I just wrote. But man, how true it was. I wanted to go back because the years after the bike trip were hard, and the life I lived before that summer was pretty easy. But both of them were rich in different ways.

The last three years, Jesus has used His word, special moments (even the simplest ones), my creativity, and people in my life to bring me closer to Him. And in the middle of that relationship, I’ve found my heart. I see the wires of my soul and mind, and I’m beginning to understand how I work best. It’s not a science, but it sure does make a difference to understand and be mindful of who I am. I look back on that really tough season and I see so much grace. I see moments when I struggled so hard for control and I didn’t need it.

Even as I read this, I am battling thoughts in my head that are telling me I should be out on the town in Auckland instead of writing this blog post. That other 20-somethings would be seizing the day, so why am I eating strawberries and looking forward to watching Parenthood tonight in a foreign land? Because for me, seizing the day means making the most of your moments. And making the most of my moments tonight means resting so that I am not an emotional mess tomorrow. Plus, these strawberries are delicious.

Cheers from New Zealand, where the humanity runs through the towns like it does everywhere else and the coffee always tastes good.

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Coming to terms: Part 1

This is the second blog post in a series: How I got here.

In the first post, I mentioned that I set unrealistic physical expectations for myself over and over again in the last few years and my emotional health suffered because of it. I spent a lot of time being bitter, but I learned more from what I couldn’t do than I would’ve learned if I could do everything I wanted to. And I’m still wrestling with this.

I’m writing this from a place of, “I think this is what I’m learning,” and I’m doing that on purpose. There’s value to looking back years from now and reflecting on what I’ve been through, but several months ago I realized that my heart will only grow more bitter if I don’t try to see the beauty now. So I started on that journey, and I’ve only found freedom and grace. Lots of it. I’m hoping my stories will help others see that you don’t have to have your stuff in order to find and celebrate the beauty. Your heart is free now, if you make the moves and choices to see it.

I think one of the most important moves is coming to terms with your situation and knowing that your circumstances do not define you.

You don’t have to be sick to be sick of yourself. IMG_4354

I think everyone can resonate with the feeling that parts of you were a mistake. Wishing that you were more like the women who seem to always approach life with grace and ease, or the men who landed on the side of the coin of being genuinely funny rather than straight up obnoxious. These are just examples. After writing them, I realize how absurd it is that we think anyone is wired this way and only this way. The idea that the funny men are always funny, and not obnoxious. Or that the women who seem to approach life with ease haven’t done a lot of inner-work to get there. Or that their circumstances must be so easy because they have this attitude, and of course they don’t go home at night struggling with their demons just like the rest of us. It’s crazy — I put so much pressure on my circumstances to guide my attitude, and I doubt I’m the only one. We all have had moments in our lives where we think we were a mistake or we feel trapped inside our circumstances, and we want it to change now.

I want to talk about a few of my moments with you. 

Summer 2011, in the middle of my bike trip. Or maybe several times that summer. Definitely several times that summer. I was sick and I didn’t know why. When you’re sick, most people hand you advice in hope for a quick fix. Eat more, drink more water, you’re probably just tired, etc. They don’t want you to bring them down, and most of the time they have no idea what else to say. It’s okay, I’ve been there. I’ve been on the well side, and I know what it’s like to be on a high and wish the person next to you would just stop raining on your parade. That’s how I felt most of the summer, that I was raining on everyone’s adventurous parade. I felt a lot of other really fabulous feelings but this is about the moments I was sick of myself. I didn’t appreciate how I was wired and didn’t respect my body’s needs, so I tore myself down because of it.

We were biking somewhere on the edge of Colorado. I think we were on our way to Utah, because I remember we were meeting up with the team doing the Central U.S. route and I hated that I had to meet them from the van, not strong enough to ride. I started the day on the bike. It was just getting light outside, we were all in our thicker layers, screaming about how cold our hands were. We learned early on that loud noises helped distract from pain.277603_10150236879823575_7161999_o

A couple hours later, layers stripped to just jerseys and cold hands defrosted, a few of us stopped at the van for lunch together. I think I had dried fruit because I read somewhere it was good for low iron, and I’m sure we all had some version of peanut butter sandwiches. Kara and Kristen were riding with me when we left for the second half of the ride, and Ramon caught up with us just as we were starting up a set of large hills. My body gave up in the middle of a hill. It just wouldn’t give me anything more, and I knew it was telling me to stop. But I made myself get to the top, and then try for another hill. In the middle of the second hill, I clipped out and stopped, heaped over the front of my bike. I started crying — yes, crying. Kara and Kristen were used to my stops on bad days, and patiently encouraged me. Ramon offered tough love – Sarah, you can do this. Just push yourself. 

And I lost it. I snapped back. Did they not think I was pushing myself? 

I was immediately embarrassed. I was so physically weak, and I had pushed myself too far, to the point where I had worn down my senses. Ramon and the others only wanted to help – but all I could think was, they don’t get it. And maybe that’s a little bit true, but it was a small view to be looking through. IMG_2363

It wasn’t Ramon I was snapping at on that random hill right outside of Utah – it was myself. I didn’t understand what my body needed, and I hated it for being so weak. I was this big, pent up ball of bitterness. I wished I could just be like Kara or Kristen,  who seemed to be strong and healthy, enjoying every little bit of that summer trip. I spent a lot of time wishing things were different – that I wasn’t sick, missing home, or having a hard time taking things lightly.

This was one of my moments. A moment when I wanted everything to change, and I got myself stuck when I was just a few choices away from finding and celebrating the beauty. 

There isn’t a really cool ending to this story because I didn’t do anything amazing, I just apologized to Ramon later that day. It’s just a memory of a moment when I was stuck. It took me a long time to come to terms with a lot of things that happened that summer and the months that followed, mostly inside of myself. The first part of the “How I got here” series is going to be about these things, and my coming to terms. Thanks for following along.

It’s just the beginning

This is the first blog post of a series: How I got here.

I’m sitting in my new corner of the house, a big world map on the wall behind my computer, and a sticky note in front of me that reads, “CREATE SCOUT & FEATHER.” Next to that one, “streams of mercy, never ceasing.” At my feet, my dog sleeps soundly despite the Girl Talk that’s playing out of the speakers. And I just feel like I’m in the middle of a daydream.

When your daydreams start to bleed into your reality, your sleep is interrupted with ideas and you wonder if you can really do this as you send an email about information that you are now being considered expert on. You make late night lists on sticky notes of all the things you don’t want to forget when your alarm goes off at 7am. You want it to begin and slow down all at once. IMG_2510

It’s just the beginning. Three years ago I spent most of six months on the couch, trying to recover from mono so I could get on with my life. I wanted it to fly by and be over with. I grew bitter and thought as long as my health suffered, I couldn’t dream. I mean, what was the point? I was stuck in fear. Paralyzed by it.

It took so long to recover from mono because I got it on a 12-week bike trip across the U.S., and didn’t slow down. So when I returned, I watched my 30 team members tackle life with vigor, making true the dreams they spoke on the trip. Me? I had no vigor in my bones. The fast-beating heart I came home with was fearful of a lot of things.

I visited coffee shops in every city we went to, because I was fascinated with them. I dreamt of opening my own shop, and even writing a book about my experiences on the trip. I tried to continue on that path when I got home, but I lost speed quickly. I had to drop classes, take longer to graduate, find a job so I could pay rent, and my immediate family no longer lived in Sacramento. Those are the things I focused on – the negative.

I didn’t let myself rest in the beauty: I had an amazing roommate, Sarah Marie, who was so supportive and made me laugh a lot. Marcos was right by my side, through good and bad (and let me tell you, I was producing a lot of bad that season). I had a professor who let me do an independent research project so I could get credits but not have to be in class, so I could recover. I took two walks a day with my dog, Radar, who held no grudges and just wanted to be by my side.

And then Marcos asked me to marry him. I look back at that time, and realized I learned so much about true love, God’s love. I was bitter, producing a lot of ugly, and Marcos STILL wanted to marry me. I hardly felt like I was “prepared” to be a wife, to be supportive and loving. Or even prepared for the season of engagement, preparation, and celebration. Marcos asked regardless. He saw the small amount of beauty I was producing and reminded me of the goodness all around IMG_2367us. I learned a lot about God’s grace through that season.

The girl who encouraged Marcos to dream gave up on herself, but God didn’t. And He put people in my life to show me that.

After six months, the mono cleared but other issues arose. The bitterness continued. It wasn’t obvious. Intellectually, I knew truth. I knew that I had hope in bigger things, great things were happening in my life, and I had so many things to be thankful for. I could write it a thousand times in my journal and on post-it notes that I would see as I got ready in the morning. But as the days went by where I felt like my body was operating at 60% on my best days, the things I knew in my mind didn’t make it to my heart. I had so much fear and doubt.

I would have a few great days, and then get really sick.

I would make plans, get excited, and then not be well enough to participate.

I wasn’t realistic about my needs, so I continually put myself in situations where I fell short.

It’s just the beginning, and this is the first post in a series on grace, redemption, and creativity. I am calling it, “How I got here,” because this new adventure might be just beginning, but there’s never really a clear beginning to anything in life. It’s all connected.

I’m glad you’re here with me.