One Hundred Story Summer: Adventure in Empathy, Week 1

Last week, I shared my plan to read one hundred stories this summer.  While I allowing a wide open field, any fiction counts, I also have some intentions for my grand adventure.

  • Read authors from many backgrounds, not just white folk.
  • Gain understanding and empathy for lifestyles and cultures unlike my own.
  • Learn about culture.
  • Focus without being “busy”
  • Re-visit well-loved favorites.
  • Have conversations about fun, interesting, difficult or controversial issues.
  • Gain a better understanding of myself.
  • Have fun.

I can’t remember a time I didn’t want to lose myself in a book.  I’ve used books as escape, comfort, adventure, and for companionship.  My reading ranges across most genres. I generally go where ever my reading muse takes me, a pattern I will follow this summer too. However, I also plan to be more intentional and self-aware in my reading.  I want to get outside my own experience and as Atticus Finch prescribed, “climb into [someone’s] skin and walk around in it.”

I can’t be another ethnicity, or change my cultural upbringing, but I don’t have to accept it as the superior or majority experience. Essentially, I hope to increase my ability to empathize with someone I may never actually meet. Expanding my experience, even my reading experience, with the human condition will help me connect with humanity instead of ignoring it, or worse, judging it.  My summer reading adventure is active resistance against the callous indifference generated by a constantly overwhelming news cycle.

This week started off wonderfully.

What I read this week

Underground Airlines

I shared a bit about this book last week, having just started it that morning. This served as the third book in an excellent book grouping covering the themes of slavery, racial ethics, and race relations.

Underground Airlines approaches these issues from an alternate reality. Abraham Lincoln does not become President and thus, never implements emancipation. The ramifications of this change reach farther than I could have imagined. The ideas of power, freedom and survival are deftly woven as a fast-paced thriller filled with double-cross and deception.  I loved every minute of it.

This is How It Always Is

I heard about this book on the What Should I read Next podcast. After hearing Anne Bogel of WSIRN call it a favorite of the year, I grabbed it off the New release shelf at the library without looking inside the cover. Here is what met me when I finally did.

This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess.

When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl.

What follows is an exquisite exploration of the things which determine who we are (hint: it’s not what’s under our pants), and how those things may constantly change.  It’s a beautiful exploration of family, relationships, acceptance and humanity. The subject matter is incredibly important and is handled with equal parts of humor and heartache. Full of hope and secrets, fairy tales and sibling rivalry, this story has impressed itself on my soul. Rich and detailed writing make a great story into a beautiful journey.

The Grownup 

 This book keeps showing up on my recommended reads list on Amazon. I enjoyed Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, but I haven’t read anything by her since. When I saw it sitting on the end of the library shelf last week, I snagged it. This book is only sixty pages having been originally published in a collection of paranormal stories by George R R Martin. Honestly, I’m glad to have finished it in less than a hour. Because it was so short, it felt rushed. There was no time for character or atmosphere development.  The ending felt jumbled by too many possible twists, too conveniently assembled. It seemed as though it wanted to be haunting and mysterious in the vein of James’ turn of the screw, but that’s a feat which cannot be managed in so short a time. I’ll read more Flynn for sure, but I won’t recommend this one to anyone.

Those who Journey with me: Voices in my Head Pt 2

Yesterday I wrote about finding the courage to tell my story, and why telling our stories matters.  I’ve been writing about the three boxes: order>disorder>reorder.  Until now, my journey through the box of disorder has been like my dirty little secret.  I don’t often talk about publicly about this because it makes people uncomfortable, or it looks bad, or it’s not what’s expected from someone in my position. Honestly, much of the pressure to not talk is internal. I struggle with a high level fear of rejection, for obvious reasons, but as I said, that’s not the narrative I’m accepting anymore.

Church is a funny sort of creature, both the theological construct and the various local tribes. In order to belong, we have to believe and practice certain things. Over time these things become sacred, unquestionable. They are the way things are, the markers which come to identify who is in the tribe, and who is not in the tribe.  When we start to question these markers, the push-back can be both cruel and severe. Or sometimes it’s more subtle, a quiet and gentle withdrawal, a dismissal delivered congenially behind closed doors. Whatever the method, it hurts, deeply. I’ve seen it happen in multiple ways in my own life and watched it happen publicly and terribly to others.

Which is why I kept my own counsel, mostly.  Fortunately, I’m a reader, so I relied on what came most naturally to me to find support. I went to books. Books turned to podcasts. I found a few lovely, courageous people who were also deconstructing, who could sit with the questions I asked, and who honored me by sharing their own. I may most often wish to be a hermit, but this process of deconstruction is nearly unbearable without some form of community. 

Today I want to share a few voices that have meant the most to me over these last few years. Perhaps you need them too, or maybe you will one day.  

7: an Experimental Mutiny against Excess by Jen Hatmaker and Beauty will Save the world by Brian Zahnd.  I credit these two books as the ones that started it all. Or perhaps it’s better to call them the books which finally gave permission for me to explore a different way of faith.  They gave voice to what had already begun to stir in my soul. They are spiritual catalysts.  Brian Zahnd went on to publish Water to Wine last year, a semi-autobiographical account of his own disorder/reorder journey, which I devoured in two days.

Faith Shift by Kathy Escobar.  This is the book which helped me believe I was not crazy.  All the emotional wreckage I was sorting through, I found in this book. I read story after story of those who also survived the journey. I learned how they did, and that no two journeys are exactly the same. Faith became mysterious, organic and impossible to predict. I learned there are paths for those of us who leave The Path too.

Peter Enns, The Sin of Certainty and The Bible Tells Me So.  I read the Bible Tells me so before I read Sin of Certainty, mainly because the second book wasn’t published yet. When I recommend them to others, I advise reading them the other way around though.  The Sin of Certainty is another journey of disorder story, encompassing faith from many aspects and embracing the idea of mystery, questions and the unknowable. The Bible Tells Me So deals specifically with scripture, introducing alternate perceptions and various accepted theological understandings.  For those of us who have learned there is only one way to look at scripture, this is a doorway to a whole new world, inhabited by more than just heretics and fringe lunatics.

Brian McLaren – A New Kind of Christian and A Generous Orthodoxy.  One thing I appreciate about these new-to-me authors and their stories is their overarching willingness to say, this is what I think, but I might be wrong. I’ve never lived in a spiritual space where the possibility of being wrong was tolerable. Being right has always been very, very important. But Brian’s is a voice willing to speculate, to have a conversation. He makes room.  It’s feels not only refreshing and lovely, but welcoming and safe.

Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans and Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey. I could write for days and days the way these two brave, beautiful souls have ministered to me through their words and witness. I desperately needed women of faith who’d been on this journey too. Their pain and their passion mirrored my own; their desperation to know God in a way they hadn’t previously even known was possible, made it possible for me as well. Because they shared their story, I believed I, too, could reconstruct a living faith eventually.

There are others, many others, voices I am just discovering or ones that would take me down rabbit trails to a dozen other titles and voices if I listed even one more. 

I want to finish by listing a few podcasts which have also helped my sanity tremendously.

Rob Bell, the Robcast – Far and away the voice I have relied on most heavily in the podcast world.

The Liturgists – generally topical, this podcast provides the voices of several folks as well as guest speakers.

The Deconstructionists – A great podcast for those who are deconstructing, but who also want to connect and reconstruct in new and exciting ways.

Brian Zahnd – As the voice who started all of this, I seldom miss his weekly sermon. When I need a reminder to inhabit the Kingdom and reject the empire, Brian delivers.

Greg Boyd – Greg is new to my list of voices. I hear his books would probably also make my booklist above, but so far I have only enjoyed his podcast. Challenging, engaging and relevant. He’s currently at the top of my list.

The voices in our head: Why story matters

I relied on many voices to help me through the box of disorder. Of all the voices who share about their experiences, Rob Bell’s is one of the kindest, wittiest and most inspiring in my world, currently. Each week, when I listen to his podcast, I find myself agreeing, stopping to swear (which is apparently how I voice my agreement when it’s too strong to keep inside), or sending quotes and links to anyone who will listen. Most people aren’t as excited as I am, probably. Having felt alone for a very long time, I throw connecting moments out like candy from a parade float and hope it reaches someone who really needs it.

Anyway, I was listening to the Robcast recently, specifically, The Importance of Boredom (weeks later and this is still rolling around in my soul so maybe you would like it too). He tells the story his wife’s experience with pregnancy induced asthma, which was terrifying. After the trauma of daily fearing for her life, she would talk with Rob about her story: how it felt, what happened, what she thought, over and over. She talked about it every day until finally the experience was actually in the past instead of continually happening to her in her mind.

Trauma is like that.

It isn’t only mental. It’s physical. It’s on our cells. Scientists can find it in our hair and our fingernails months after the events themselves. We carry it, and often we carry it silently, pushing it down into deep dark corners and hoping it will just go away.

But trauma is not like that.

Trauma grows in dark places and secrets. It gets bigger, and hairier, and meaner. The only true cure for trauma is light and love. Light and love over time, sometimes a long time. Sometimes days and weeks and months of bringing our trauma out into the light until finally it begins to fade, never leaving us entirely, but certainly becoming more like all the other events that make up who we are instead of THE event which defines us.

Love and light and time.

I listened to this podcast within the first few days of deciding to write for one hundred days. When I heard this part about trauma I wanted to yell, That’s it!!! to anyone who would listen.

Over the last seven years, aside from my messy spiritual disintegration:

  • we’ve been kicked out of church,
  • lost our home,
  • filed for bankruptcy,
  • my brother endured his own trauma of stage 4 colon cancer,
  • my mom had a melanoma on her face,
  • two of my three children have graduated,
  • all three children have started college,
  • we’ve lost two close friends to suicide and
  • endured several episodes of “not the same, but feels the same” as my previous spiritual abuse.

But only some of these things are socially acceptable to talk about, or at least, that’s the message I received. The rest are private, or make other people look bad, or are bad for the church, or so many other reasons why it was simply easier to not tell my story.

So I didn’t. And in the dark spaces it grew teeth, and claws, and these things became who I am instead of just things that happened to me. Because I couldn’t put them in the past where they belong, they jumbled up and piled up, and stacked up, always in my face, always part of my present, always something I had to be afraid and ashamed of. Always.

Every single day.

Until I finally decided that the chips will fall where they will. It’s time to let my story out. Again and again. As many times as I need to share it, until finally, it becomes merely part of me instead of defining me.

So you’ll forgive me if you’ve heard this one before, but I’m not done telling my story yet. Even though it’s no longer happening, I’m still living it inside. I’m still understanding all the ways it broke me and strengthened me and changed me. Stories matter. They are how we heal, how we tell the voices in our head what really happened.

Maybe you have a story too. Maybe it’s big and scary and ugly and all up in your business day after day. I encourage you to find a safe space, a person who loves to hear the same story time after time, a recovery group, a therapist. Tell your story; bring it out into the light. Let someone love you right in the middle of that great, big, hairy-scary mess.

I promise, pinky-swear even, with light and love over time, it really does get better. It never goes away, but we learn to live with it. The weight becomes bearable, and we become ourselves again.

Something Fun Sunday: Ep. 2, Poetry and the Dance of Joy

I don’t know about you, but after a busy week, I am ready for some fun! Even if my week is full of mostly good things, when I reach the end of a long stretch of busy days, I’m glad for a few days of breathing room at the end of it. Aside from tackling my demons, leading a community care class, and writing every day, I also managed to watch a season of Gilmore Girls. I spend a lot of time thinking about food since I decided to do a modified Whole 30, pescatarian style. Suddenly and without planning, I also changed my morning walk to a morning run. I haven’t run very regularly since the half marathon. I like me when I am a runner. It’s an activity that does great things for me even while making me grunt and sweat and sometimes cry a little.

Oh, and I came up with really fun summer reading plan for myself!

We’ve also experienced some heavy emotional things this week, so I’ve been especially glad of my heightened awareness of things which make me smile, and especially laugh out loud. So without further ado, something fun for Sunday.

On Tuesday we were so fortunate to be able to see Matilda the Musical at the Fox Theater. I didn’t know much about the show going into it, but oh my goodness! What fun! The music was so fun and whimsical. The staging was absolutely fantastic, and the actress who played Matilda was just divine. Way back in the stone age, Hunky and I met performing on stage.  Early in our marriage we had tickets to the whole Broadway season at Bob Carr auditorium. But it’s been so long, I had tucked all the memories of just how magical theater is away down inside. I’m so glad they are awake again now and that we got to have such a fun night.

(I’m also not at all sorry that I snapped at rowdy eighth grade boys mid-performance and made them afraid.)

Speaking of good musical theater, I had entirely forgotten about this gem of a show

I don’t even remember who posted this on facebook, but I watched it at least five times and almost laughed until I cried.

Speaking of genius, have you seen this amazing poem floating around this week? I truly love sharp and beautiful word craft, and this perfectly fits the bill. Ah, mansplaining.

MansplainAnd one more very quick thing, a book I have very much been looking forward to not only released this week, it went immediately on sale! Tsh doesn’t know this, but we are kindred spirits. Contemplative and longing to wander. She actually wanders far more than I do, so I’m living vicariously through her.  I was willing to wait for my birthday to pick this up, but instead, I caved, bought it on sale, and already started it. Lovely.
Here’s a link to the digital version, which is the only version on sale.


Tsh Oxenrider, At Home in the World

 

Friends, I hope we all have a week filled with beauty and laughter and the encouragement of friends when the first two are hard to find.

One hundred story summer: The beginning of a grand adventure

I’ve been thinking about summer–the long, hot, humid, stuck indoors summer–and how to make it more enjoyable.  Lately, adding reading to my weekly goal list has increased my reading time while cutting out the “you’re being lazy” guilt soundtrack. I thought about the books I read/ am reading this week, how even a fictional story makes a person more empathetic and increases awareness on very non-fiction subjects. These thinkerly thoughts birthed an idea, a sort of crazy, wonderful idea. Remember the other day when I said I love a numbered challenge?  I created a challenge, a goal and an indulgence all wrapped up in one shiny package: the 100 story summer.


Starting today, and going through Labor Day, I’m going to read 100 stories. True, it’s not quite summer but my A/C is already running, so close enough! Then, every Saturday, I’ll share about them here on the blog. After all, I have one hundred days of writing -81 now!- to fill. Usually, I drift through summer time, binge watching Netflix and finding ways to avoid being outside in daylight. This adventure keeps me out of the sun and focused on a destination. It’s the best of all worlds. Not to mention making a dent in the amazing hoard of unread books sitting on my kindle.


I’m going on a story adventure! You’re invited, too.


This week I read/am reading an amazing trifecta of racially related books. I didn’t plan to read them all together like this, but I’m so glad the due dates aligned on them to make it so. What an amazing journey.


The Underground Railroad – If you are one of the few people who haven’t heard the premise here it is very briefly. Set in pre-Civil War America, this story follows the escape of slave woman from the South to the North. The twist: the Underground Railroad is a literal railroad people ride from one stop to the next. The story is harrowing and dreadful in so many ways. While the railroad is an imaginary device, the rest of the story only seems surreal in its cruelty, hatred and violence. Sadly, those elements are all very real.  Yet somehow despite the brutality, the overwhelming theme is one of fierce hope, inspiring perseverance and the depth of courage within people who refuse to participate in racial dehumanization.


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – This book has been on my reading list for a long time. I tend to believe that most books fall in my lap at exactly the perfect time, and so it has been with this one. This story seems as though it should be imaginary, a bizarre, dystopic, sci-fi depiction of medical science. Only it isn’t. It’s a true story about what happens (and is still happening) when when the ends justify the means, any means at all.


The misuse of Henrietta Lacks, both cells and person, alongside the echoes of racial injustice and poverty that echo through the generations of this story are heartbreaking. The author puts a human face on a biological nightmare by telling the story of the Lacks family, as well as the HELA cells. It’s absolutely riveting. I’ll be unpacking how I feel about this one for a very long  time.


Underground Airlines – I only started this one this morning, but after 78 pages, I am ALL IN. This novel is set in present day with a twist, the Civil War never happened. In four states, The Hard Four, slave labor, plantation style is alive and well.  I didn’t expect the author’s recreation of global economics and scientific and technological advancement as a result. Without the Civil War, it really is a whole new world. The social commentary is scathing and altogether too close to present day reality.  It’s a thriller, but so much more than that.


 This post contains affiliate links

The intersection of margin and play: A Playful Manifesto reboot

Nothing feels more expansive to me than an unscheduled stretch of time.  When I take a day to refocus, I swear, I can actually feel my brain, my physical brain, relax.  Learning how to create margin in my schedule and responsibilities is an on-going process, but I am getting much better at it.

While I not looking at my to-do list and not vacuuming the bedroom, my brain was deliciously occupied with plans and fun projects for the summer (I can barely stand not to write about it today, but I’m saving that fun for the weekend. It’s going to be great!). I hooked new yarn and dreamed about our new bed. For a little while, I stood outside and glowered at the tomatoes which aren’t going to grow anymore apparently.  I watched an episode of Gilmore Girls, or seven. What?!! I’m almost done with the whole show!

In other words, today was great big unruly, lazy, restful enjoyment, and I don’t feel one bit guilty about it. It’s true; I require a good deal of margin to be at my best, but I’ve decided my best is worth the wait.

Last week, I planned to start a sort of throw-back Thursday theme, sharing writing which originally appeared on the Middle Places blog (A moment of silence, please.  They were good years). Instead, I decided not to stress over an in-depth project today.

However, while I was sorting through the word treasures, I found this fun little piece from last summer, which completely fits my mood today.  I remember feeling full of hope and inspiration when I wrote it. Which helps me believe that maybe I don’t hate everything anymore. Maybe I just hate some things, now. It seems a little writing, running, music, booking and hooking and great deal of margin is exactly what I need in this season.

So as a reminder to us all: The playfulness manifesto, a reboot

 

Playful Manifesto

Today, I will not lose myself in the mundane or the hum-drum.
Time is precious and happy memories last a lifetime;
No one reaches the end of their days with regret over unwashed laundry.

I may make a to-do list, but I reserve the right to leave items for tomorrow.
I may sleep in, or I may get up early to see the sunrise.
Some weeks I will do both,
And take naps.

Refusing to hurry, I will waste time.
If there is cake, I will eat it.
As often as possible
Yes! will be my response to myself and my loved ones.
I will read books that make me feel.
I will watch movies and eat popcorn.
Since, both ice cream and watermelon both have healing properties,
I will have second helpings of both

I will smile often,
Be in pictures with my family.
 The words “beach body” or “bikini ready”
will not be a measure of self worth.
I will wear pajama pants at inappropriate hours.
As the sun sets,
I will drive fast with the windows down and the radio on
Full blast.
I will live in the moment.
When I forget to live in the moment,
I will breath deeply and try again.
Then I will try again.
I won’t stop trying.

I will swim in the lake.
 Lie in the sun,
Rest.
I will stop looking at the time while rushing everywhere.

Playfulness is as important to life as discipline and responsibility.
I will not lose myself in in should and must.
Instead, I will laugh, because laughter is a miracle.
Embracing imperfection I will remember
just because I can’t do a thing perfectly doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it.
It’s perfectly acceptable to be weird.
or eat cake and ice cream for breakfast.
I don’t have to conform to the modern definition of anything.

 Now, let’s go out and play.

How to Love your Introvert: lessons in self-care

When I was talking with some friends the other day, I explained how life as an introvert is like spending from a change jar. Where a person is on the introvert scale determines how much change she can spend each day. I am extremely introverted, so my change jar spends quickly. When it’s gone; it’s gone along with my ability to process, tolerate spoken words, my manners, my patience and my desire to see another living human being. Introverts must spend time alone to refill the change jar, the more often the better. It’s been a wild week, however, following a busy weekend. Lots of expenses, not much replenishing.
I always assume, because introversion is so often the subject of books and articles, everyone understand the difference between shyness and introversion. Then I remember not everyone is a personality junkie like I am, and I probably assume too much.  The conversation about the change jar was actually part of a defense for the wide array of introverted personalities in the world. Honestly, I’m a loud introvert.  Not when I am in a new place with people I don’t know, but when I am among friends, feeling comfortable and safe, I’ll talk your ears off and not in my sotto voce.  What can I say? I really am a performer at heart, though I’d much rather play a part than be my authentic self.
Learning about, and finally accepting these things about my personality radically changes my ability to care for myself.  All the impatience and irritability I feel bristling underneath my skin isn’t something I can just “get over” as I’ve chided in the past. My body is trying to tell me something, Provide me with a quiet, safe place for a long period of time, please. Then we’ll be able to play nicely with the world at large again.  It helps in my home relationships as well. I can just tell my family, I need to introvert, and they understand it’s not them. Mom’s not in a bad mood, she just needs a time out.  And they kindly provide the space I need to be my best self.
I used to think, and I believe a large portion of American culture still thinks, that introversion is a handicap, a trait that needs reforming or overcoming.  As though I could just make myself enjoy being around lots of people, expectations, and noise. I should just force myself out there into the fray until I am comfortable in it. But introversion isn’t something which is likely to change, and I don’t want to anymore.  I like living in my head and pondering life deeply. I enjoy being alone, being quiet. Certainly, I can handle social situations; I just have to buffer them with quiet space before and after. It’s fine if you love your room full of lively people. Instead, I’ll be engaged in a meaningful one on one conversation in a quiet corner.  There’s room for all sorts in this world, even we quiet-ish types.
So you’ll forgive me if I keep it short and sweet today. I’m storing up for the last social thing I have to do until next Monday. I’ve scheduled an introvert weekend (with time to write) to refill the stores I’ve seriously depleted. Even when my life is wonderfully full, I still need to withdraw for awhile until the quiet works it’s magic within me.

My Moving Obsession: Thoughts on changes big and slow

I’ve talked about my obsession with moving before. I’m restless and ready for change. Sometimes the quickest way to change is your environment rather than the slower, less noticeable changes which happen internally. Fortunately, both have their place.
We’ve lived in four different houses in our time in Georgia, each one a little smaller than the one before. When we moved from Florida we packed for weeks, used the largest U-haul you can rent and still needed an extra truck and trailer. Even then, knowing what I know now, I think we owned less than the average American household.
We lived in our first house for two years side-by-side with boxes we never bothered to unpack. Crazy right?  Before we moved into our second house, we looked at a small house located on property our church owns.  It seemed like such a good idea, but the house…as we walked around it, all I could think was, our stuff will never fit. There’s nowhere for our stuff. Eventually, we moved elsewhere.
Moving a second time encouraged me to dispose of a few boxes we had never unpacked, but most of our stuff just moved right along with us.   While living in our second home, two things happened. First, although there was a large master bedroom on the bedroom end of the house, there was also a much smaller bedroom and bath on the opposite end away from the cluster of kid bedrooms. It was tiny but connected to a gorgeous sunroom and offered opposite-side-of-the-house privacy.
Oh yeah.
Then, I joined a thirty day writing challenge. I wrote about organization, because who doesn’t want to be more organized? I bought into the idea that organization was the answer to creating a more meaningful life. If I can make room for everything, I can have it all. True to my nature, I began reading books about organization and prioritization.  Randomly, I chose  The 100 Thing Challenge: How I Got Rid of Almost Everything, Remade My Life, and Regained My Soul by Dave Bruno (I’m a complete sucker for a numbered challenge…I mean, I’m writing this as part of the 100 days project, right?).  This began a pattern of exploration which drastically transformed, and still transforms my life.
I discovered the concept of minimalism.
If you’ve read, or spoken with, or been near me, or know someone who’s known me for more than five minutes, you know I beat the drums of minimalism loudly and often.  I love it for a million reasons. But mostly I love that the closer I lean into it, the better me I become. Minimalism is has opened the door for me to learn to release, to examine my motives, to explore new ways of thinking and being and living. There are other ways to become more yourself, for sure (I’m engaging in one of them for eighty-six more days). Minimalism is mine, and I find excellent company in it.
Moving and writing were the catalysts for huge changes in my life. Some happened quickly, like a van full of stuff to Goodwill, or two, or fifteen. Five years later and I dropped four boxes off today.  The real challenge of minimalism began once I worked past the surface: the closets, desk drawers and garage boxes. Then, I wasn’t just purging and prioritizing; I was engaging in some serious self examination.  I begin to ask myself, “Why do I keep this? Do I use it? Do I love it? Is something deeper going on here?” 
Now I entered the real work, the meaty good stuff. Occasionally it’s intense and I have to step away for awhile, but mostly it is completely, abundantly liberating, like being buried under rocks in a cave and suddenly finding the way out.
This whole journey of self-discovery and recovery is possible because five years ago I embraced a new way of life. I wanted cleaner closets and less maternal melt-down. I had no idea when I started where it would lead. Looking back, the whole experience justifies my belief that a simple thirty challenge just might change your life.  Sometimes change is quick, and sometimes slow, but usually, it jumbles hopelessly together.
Incidentally, that little house the church owns that I said we’d never fit into? Five adults and two dogs comfortably live in it now, and we’re only going smaller from here.

 

Something Fun Sunday: Episode one

I think that success is having fun. – Bruno mars


Last week, I shared about my Sunday struggles
, and my plan to reframe how I feel by adding something fun each week.  I dubbed it “Something Fun Sunday.” This week, I made sure to take notice of books, events, songs, and moments so I could share them today.  I’m pleased to say, it worked! I was definitely more mindful of enjoyable moments. I anticipated their arrival and savored them longer, and then reflected on them more often in further anticipation of writing about it.  These are all keys to happiness. Without further ado, here’s Some fun things for Sunday
I’m an unashamed Marvel movies fan. No, I didn’t grow up reading the comic books, and I don’t know all the lore and back stories. I just know I enjoy a good completely imaginary action flick.  So when Craig showed me the new Thor: Ragarok trailer, I was thrilled! It’s not many movie trailers which make me laugh aloud, but this one does. “I know him! We’re friends from work!” I crack up every time. Watch it here.

Two books added to my enjoyment this week. While I tend more towards literary fiction and non-fiction, some weeks I want cozy chic-lit filled with tears and laughter and a guaranteed happy ending.  I want a great story about relationships and life and the crazy way its beautiful and terrible all at the same time. This week, I found it in Taylor Jenkins Reid’s One True Loves.  I don’t want to give anything away, but, friends, if you need a cozy good book this week, this is it.

On Thursday night, my book group gathered (more fun things!), and we ended up talking about an entirely different book. The Happiness Project is a long-time favorite.  In fact, I’m undertaking a happiness project of my own this year. I reread this book almost annually and was so excited it came up because it’s currently $1.99 on Kindle. I don’t know how much longer this deal will last, so if you decide to read it too, I wouldn’t wait too long to buy it. Incidentally, when I talk about how anticipating, experiencing and remembering an event increases happiness, that’s a concept I learned from Gretchen Rubin.

I’m a bit late to the bandwagon (aren’t I always?) We’ve had family premium on Spotify for about six months now, and the whole experience is wonderful. I’d forgotten how much I like music, and how entwined my mood and music can be. New music at my finger tips and the ability to make playlists for every mood?  YES, PLEASE!! EVERY DAY ALL DAY LONG!  A couple weeks ago I ran across this little gem, and I’ve probably listened to it sixty-eight times since then. So now I share it with you, enjoy!

Internal rebellion: Fighting against learned helplessness

I struggle with a sense of learned helplessness, a condition where a person gives up trying to affect change during difficult circumstances or toxic relationships. When I believe nothing I do will make any difference, I give up. In fact, I sometimes believe anything I do will only result in more pain, so I try to disappear entirely.

Several years ago I had an emotionally and spiritually abusive relationship with an authority figure. Obviously, it didn’t start that way. The changes were subtle, and because I was not familiar with the psychology of control, I didn’t read the signs.  The relationship lasted for years, but the power play escalated slowly. When I finally deviated too far from the desired behavior and could not be controlled, the retribution was immediate and devastating.

Unfortunately when dealing with trauma, we are often our own worst enemies. I allowed the counsel of others and my own, critically injured, self-esteem to tell me I was responsible for my pain. My choices bore the sole responsibility for damage inflicted on myself and my family. I became the enemy. For years I allowed other’s perceptions control over how I acted and how I responded rather than trusting myself.

Even though the abusive relationship ended the day of my ‘punishment,’ the influence of the relationship did not. Shrapnel embedded in a person’s body can take years to work its way to the surface.  So too, emotional shrapnel, while not visible, continues to cause pain and damage as it works through the soul. My response to trauma was to do whatever was necessary to ensure no one was ever unhappy with me. I used to have a dog who had been so abused he practically begged every person he met to not kick him.  He and I have a lot in common.

Even though I have experienced a great deal of healing, I still struggle with falling into self-destructive behavior patterns. The abusive relationship is long past, but shadows and echoes linger, sometimes, in current relationships. When this happens I want to cringe and beg or disappear.  I still experience learned helplessness in situations where it seems I can do nothing right, and I still deeply fear retribution because of my failure to please.

On Wednesday, I wrote about being self-aware that I’m circling dangerously close to depression. Learned helplessness is one of the fastest rides down that road. These next one hundred days of writing— now 96 – are my way of pushing back.  There are circumstances in my life which I cannot resolve. But each day I can summon the courage to write, no matter what others may think.  I can reframe the narrative which tells me I should disappear. By taking back control of my voice, I’ll spit in the eye of the messenger who tells me I don’t measure up to an impossible standard.

This is my story. This is my song. No one gets to silence it, not even me.