The Hierarchy of Suffering

This meme has been going around like wildfire lately. It expresses the common idea that the way not to judge others for their struggles is to think that maybe they are not as strong as you are. On the surface, the intention is great. The idea is to encourage people not to judge others’ suffering. Every time I see it though, or hear someone express the idea it visualizes, I get so frustrated about the more subtle issue with this idea.

In the picture, one dog is smaller than the other dog. There’s nothing wrong with that, he’s a Jack Russell terrier, they are meant to be smaller than a Golden Retriever. Of course, the mud comes up much farther on the Jack Russell Terrier than it does on the Golden Retriever because the Golden is taller. In the same way, many people comfort others who compare their struggles to others saying, “Maybe God gave you this cross because you are strong enough to carry it,” “Maybe she just couldn’t handle what you are going through,” and other variants of you-must-be-stronger-than-them-because-their-struggle-is-smaller-than-yours. That’s where I struggle.

There is this idea that there is a hierarchy of suffering. My dislocated elbow is not as intense as my friends breast cancer, my post-partum depression is worse than someone else’s anxiety, etc etc and so on. It leads to a kind of competition about suffering. There are real life consequences to this competition-who gets taken care of in a hospital, who is allowed to talk about their struggles, who doesn’t get judged for being tired, who gets help from friends or the Church. To be fair, we live in a world of limited resources, so to a certain extent this can be avoided, and to a certain extent there is a hierarchy of suffering, no one would argue that a paper cut or a dislocated elbow is as bad as cancer.

However, I do think that the hierarchy of suffering is much more complicated than we might think. There are so many unknown factors that go into suffering that sometimes a seemingly small thing can be monumental and something really big can be nothing. When I had a placental abruption and ended up in the hospital terrified that my baby and I were going to die and then went through a terrifying labor, it was honestly far less terrifying than the experience I had with my dislocated elbow, as ironic as that is. Recovering from the elbow has been actually much more difficult than recovering from what should have been a much more difficult trauma.

The reason for this is that there are countless factors that contribute to how intense pain and suffering feels. Researchers are finding more and more just how many things affect how the brain perceives pain. There are whole industries and books based on all the different ways we can affect the pain in our bodies.

As far as my example above about birth vs. my elbow, there are some big obvious differences. I got a baby out of the equation, not so with my elbow. I did fear for my life in a way I didn’t need to with my elbow. However, I DID fear for my life with my elbow, because I have already been struggling with Post Partum Anxiety that has been debilitating, and I wasn’t struggling with that as intensely during labor. This was not helped by the fact that when I fell I was actively praying, and it seemed like an answer to a prayer, which felt like God was a God of wrath who hated me, sending me into a terrified circle of spiritual crisis that haunted me the whole night, while the doctors and nurses encouraged me with prayer during labor.

Another huge difference is the care I got. When I went to the hospital for my placental abruption, I had been reading Hypnobabies which works really hard on preparing women to communicate with their doctors. Because of that I was able to communicate my anxiety and physical worries in a rational way, and did not feel guilty for forcing doctors and nurses to stop and listen to me if I felt like they were rushing. On top of that though, immediately when I got to the hospital, the nurses attending heard my requests and needs and did their best to meet them, even when they were silly. When I dislocated my elbow, the nurse immediately denied every request I had, rolled her eyes at me, and communicated her annoyance to a doctor who came to help. No other nurses came in contact with me until much later.

I believe the care I got for my elbow is a consequence of exactly what I am discussing in this post. A dislocated or broken elbow is nothing in the grand scheme of things. I am aware of that. I am aware that much much worse things happen to people every day. But the care I got reminded me of that every second of my struggle. Every second I felt reminded me, “you don’t matter because it’s not your femur, it’s not cancer, it’s not blood.”

I was also dehydrated, hungry and away from my baby while breastfeeding. All things I didn’t realize until much later, but that are probably the explanation for the random cold sweats and hormonal shifts that turned into panic attacks that plagued me all night on top of everything else, and probably made the care I got worse because the nurses couldn’t see what was happening so it just looked like anxiety to them.

When I dislocated my elbow, I had a veritable cocktail of things that are known to make pain worse, while during labor I had many that are known to make it better. On the surface and on paper the elbow should be nothing. Anyone comparing the two would have said that labor was worse, but after the traumatic labor I was joyful and relieved and felt invincible; after my elbow I felt that there was no hope in life, angry, and worthless.

My point is that what someone’s suffering looks like on the outside may be nothing compared to what it looks like on the inside. The assumption that someone’s pain is not as intense as yours, or you are just stronger than they are dismisses the fact that you have no idea what is going on in their story. You have no idea what is making their pain worse or better or different than yours. I think it’s comforting to us to feel like our pain is better than someone else’s because then our needs deserve to get validated, but that’s just part of the competition. We need to feel like our pain is enough to be worth taking care of, so we have to put down other peoples because it highlights how bad our own pain is. The problem is that that affects how we take care of the other person, and how we view them, as well as how we describe their problem to others and help them to get help. Their suffering grows and our need to justify our own gets more intense too.

I want to live in a world where we recognize that everyone’s suffering matters. In the Gospel, when Jesus was carrying His cross, about to be murdered in arguably the most monstrous way possible, He stopped to talk to weeping women. He told them not to weep for Him, but for their children. I have heard some say that He is telling them to weep for sins, but the way He says it tells me that isn’t the case. I believe He was genuinely expressing compassion for the suffering that women experience, while He was on the road that we would say is the worst suffering imaginable. I would like a world where everyone does that, where everyone accepts that we are all on an unimaginably and sometimes unbearable journey, where we accept our own suffering and that of others as worthy of healing, no matter what it is, where we acknowledge that our struggles do not make us better or worse than anyone else, just different. Then, we would have a spirit of sorrow for everyone’s tears even if we didn’t understand why it was so hard. We could show the same amount of compassion for someone who had to wait at the DMV as someone who got crushed in a car accident. We could heal all the big hurts and all the little ones too.

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I’m not LGBTQ, but I don’t Belong Either

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2019/08/18/churches-need-less-tradition-more-flexibility-welcome-teens-column/2011731001/

This article and others like it have been posted and talked about on my online and in person Catholic groups over and over again. There’s always a couple of people kindly talking about it and then the avalanche of more traditional Catholics who start mocking the author and saying, “Oh they just want the Church to be open to whatever, be ok with doing anything, anything goes, they just don’t like rules.” It’s so frustrating to me because they get so caught up on deciding that this girl is a sinner and therefore shouldn’t get to belong in the Church, in their eyes, that they forget that this girl is a PERSON, and God loves people.

Catholicism is not an exclusive club for the perfect people, though it is often treated that way. I think a lot of people like the idea that they are the people who are “right” they are “God’s people” and everyone else is wrong. There is something liberating to that, I get it, that makes you one of the ones making it through the narrow gate, as it says in Scripture, and “they” are the evil ones.

Let me just come forward now and say, I always felt like I didn’t belong. I wasn’t doing something wrong. I wasn’t a bad kid. I was a praying the rosary daily, offering it up, making sacrifices, going to Mass, and being kind kid, teenager, adult. I was M-I-S-E-R-A-B-L-E. I was terrified of doing something wrong and God would hate me, I was shunned in multiple Christian groups, once for a rumor because I quoted a sex joke on MySpace-so that all made all rumors about me true, once because I danced at Homecoming(no I didn’t grind but that’s what everyone thought), once because they thought I was on birth control, when I had really had miscarriages. I was HATED by the Church no matter how hard I tried to do things right.

I cannot tell you how many times I have raged about what a horrible place the Catholic Church is, and I am not one of the people who are just made because they don’t want to follow the rules. Stop blaming it on some public sin, or then not being good enough. The Church, as it stands right now, is not a welcoming place. There are Churches that are welcoming, there are a few groups that are welcoming, but they are few and far between and the hurt we are causing is monstrous.

The Church has a huge power, and that is to connect people with God, or to disconnect them from Him. My friends are falling away because they do not feel welcome or loved. I have wanted to fall away because I often do not feel welcome or loved. At my amazing Alma Mater, Ave Maria University, I met people who taught me that God is love, and He wants us unconditionally, and any rules He makes for us are to help us to live better lives. That God is a God who finds ways to heal people whether it is in Mass or not, He finds ways to help people, even if it’s a walk in nature. That is the God St. Paul talked about in Scripture when he talked about “easing burdens” for the people.

If it were not for that experience, and some that I am happy to be having right now, I would not be Catholic anymore. I would have run as far away from the Church as I can. Instead, I cling to what I can find of the God I recognize as a God of love, and I try to bring Him to others. I do not shame the people I know who have left because I have felt their pain, and I have seen how they have been hurt. And, for better or worse, I point out what the Church is doing wrong, because I pray and hope that one day Gods mercy and love will be what people think of when they think of the Church, and not anger and hate.

Mother Teresa, who ministered to all faiths, and saw the pain humanity is in, pray for us.

Yes, The World Needs God, But Not Like That

A couple of weeks ago, there was a shooting in Texas that just devastated me. A couple days before I watched The Hate You Give, which rocked me as well. Both of these events are on the heels of, and preceding so many horrible tragedies and fearful events happening all over they world lately. I find myself desperate for God’s love to be present in our culture. However, I immediately feel guilty and annoyed at this sentiment, which then makes me feel guilty and annoyed for feeling guilty and annoyed at that. I caught myself thinking at one point, “The world just needs God,” and immediately rolled my eyes at myself. That phrase is one I have heard a thousand times, and it’s one that makes me instantly angry and I disagree with, even though I technically agree with the sentiment.

The problem with the phrase “The World Needs God” is that most people who use this phrase mean it in a very particular way. “The World Needs God” means that the world needs people who believe the same thing I believe, teach the way I teach. Mostly, what it really means is “the world needs people who follow all the rules I believe in.”

In my experience, the people who use this phrase are often the same ones who talk about how “the homosexuals are taking over” and they are going “ruin the family” or are hateful towards mothers who are thinking about abortion, or who are unkind to a woman because her skirt is one inch too short. What they mean by “The World Needs God” has nothing to do with who God is as a person, and everything to do with who they believe He demands every person to be. These are the same people who talk about how the Church is getting smaller and that’s a good thing because all the lukewarm people are being weeded out.

What I mean when I say “The World Needs God” is something very different than the above. What I mean when I say it, is that the world needs UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. The world needs a force of love and acceptance that heals wounds on contact. The world needs tenderness, thoughtfulness, kindness, respect, and love. The world needs something that is more powerful than itself that can radically help people suffering in an unkind world. When I say “The World Needs God” I mean it in a desperate plea for an outpouring of love and mercy that can heal the hurts that are far too big for any one person to heal.

I’ve had many eyes rolled at me for making this distinction. “Oh but rules are important too.” Sure. Yes. How we act is important. But what did Jesus do when He came? Did He come down and look for people doing wrong so He could make them feel bad about themselves every day? Do you think He would’ve been invited to dine with the sinners every night if He had? He talked to people about sin when they hurt others, or when they already knew what they needed to change. Far more than that, He worked miracles in their lives, He touched people, He was kind to people when no one else would be kind to them.

What would the world look like if Christians stopped talking about who doesn’t belong and who’s not good enough and started letting everyone know that God wants them? What if we looked for the abandoned and lonely and told them they were worthy? What if we healed people, touched people, embraced people? What if we were happier with a loud bustling Church than a quiet perfectly fine Mass?

I have seen churches where this happens and it changes everything.

So yes, the world needs God, but not a God who only shames every person who comes to Him. The world needs Jesus who loves people where they are at, and guides them tenderly to their best self.

T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. Part II: The Babies

Just to clarify; This may not have been what Tupac meant, but this is what keeps coming to me when I think of this line. A post closer to what he meant is in part one.

The

Hate

You

Give

Little

Infants

Fucks

Everyone.

I’m going to write about something I don’t particularly like to write about.

Abortion.

I know, you’re rolling your eyes, so am I every time I read another of these posts.

Oh great, here’s another hateful post talking about how our society are killers, and we are evil.

Look, that’s not fair. Abortion is a very complicated subject because for centuries we were not able to get much information about babies in the womb. Even St. Thomas Aquinas wrote an article that could be used as a defense of abortion. He said that the soul joined the body at birth. Well, if that’s the case, then technically according to the philosophical definition of a human body as a body soul composite, then it wouldn’t really be considered a human until birth.

The problem, for lack of a better word, is that we have a lot more information now. We have seen babies shy away from the instruments used for abortion. We have seen babies born at 21 weeks and LIVE, even if not for long.

I do not believe we are a society of killers, I do not believe that pro-choice people are murderers. I do, however, believe that these children are in pain. I also am starting to believe there are consequences sometimes to actions we don’t understand.

Just some consequences of abortion are:

Struggling in motherhood is not respected or valued in the same way as it could be, because we had the power to end it, so people don’t need to help mothers because they will just condemn them and say they shouldn’t have had a kid in the first place.

There are women who are suffering because they chose not to have their own child, and now their bodies and minds cry out for their baby who is missing. (This is a real struggle that happens to moms who have had abortions, not necessarily all but enough to be a serious suffering that people are enduring.)

There are men who have made children who will never get to meet them.

There are children who know that someone in this world did not want them to exist before they were even born. That is a horrible feeling to grow up with.

Our society is in a social war and constantly talking about the death of children, what does that do to a collective consciousness?

The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everyone.

I don’t think anyone would deny we are a culture in pain. I would not go so far as to say abortion is the only reason, but I don’t think it’s helping the situation. If babies are supposed to be our hope for the future, then what happens when we end then before they begin?

How to Stop Mass Shootings: ACTIVE LOVE

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2019-08-04/el-paso-dayton-gilroy-mass-shooters-data

Today, while researching what to do about mass shootings in America, I came across this article. The author of this article researched what the commonalities between the shooters were. Two of them, made my heart ache: most of the killers suffered from some sort of mental illness, and most of them suffered some sort of traumatic event. As someone who has a mental illness, and someone who has been alone through a traumatic event, I have been there, and I have lived moments where I just wanted to watch the whole world burn, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

I have struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life. I didn’t know how to talk to my parents about it, or how to get help. They didn’t understand what was happening to me, and neither did I, so we just pushed through. I pushed through nightmares, stomachaches, paralyzing fear, fainting, and more. Sometimes, every day seemed like my worst nightmare.

It got worse as I got older. I had to take on more responsibility and more worries, when I was already crushed under the weight of what I was already struggling with. I was constantly yelling at myself for not being able to get it together like everyone else could. I tried to go to counseling, even made it a couple of times, one was really helpful, the other was really not. Counseling was expensive though, really expensive, and I was struggling with money and years of built up money anxiety, so it wasn’t an option.

Something that I think a lot of people don’t understand about depression and anxiety is the brain fog that complicates everything. While some people may just say, “Oh, I’m going to a counselor,” it may not be that simple for someone who really needs it. They may be paralyzed with fear of what the counselor might do if they say the wrong thing, they may be terrified about how the heck they are going to afford the counseling, they may be worried about how they are going to get to appointments, if the counselor is going to judge them, or even if the counselor’s office is going to smell weird. It could be anything, but it’s terrifying. If the person also can’t afford it, or has a hard time affording it, on top of that, it’s really hard to see it as an option.

The thing that sucks the most, though, about depression is the loneliness and isolation. Our culture, especially Christian culture, is hellbent on positivity. We talk about “energy vampires” and negative people, and “debbie downers,” and we encourage each other to back away from them, to keep ourselves healthy. This makes me so angry I could literally spit. These people are the ones who need help the most, and they are the ones who are not getting it. When I was going through my very worst period of depression, nearly all of my friends stopped talking to me. Completely. Then at the end of the year, they were like, “Why didn’t you tell us it got so bad?” This is how we treat people who are struggling, and then, we are surprised that they are losing their minds?

This brings me to a part of my history that is really hard for me to talk about. My miscarriage. When I lost Emma Rose, I was a newlywed with big hopes and dreams for the future that all came crashing down around me. We were navigating the complicated time of figuring out new family relationships while everything I believed in seemed to me to be a lie. We were grossly mistreated at the hospital after waiting for 6 hours, so much so that even three years later, when I complained too late, the hospital held a training session for the doctors.

It’s not just the medical field though, Catholics are great at helping out the people that they think need help. The people that they see as good and holy and fun get an abundance of help when they need it. They get meals delivered to them, flowers, money sometimes, all kinds of things. I DO NOT IN ANY WAY BEGRUDGE THEM THIS. I AM HAPPY FOR THEM, AND I EVEN HELP. However, I was the unpopular Catholic. I got the facebook “I’m sorry’s” and a meal from my mom(who did offer to help more, but we just were so lost we didn’t even know how to ask.) Worse though, my husband and I were treated horribly by the Catholics in our area. A youth group ganged up on us making nasty side comments about birth control and bragging about who got pregnant earliest. We said nothing, though we were pregnant first, but we cried on the way home. Priests gave homilies over and over again about how holy the families with a lot of children were, and I couldn’t bear staying in Mass for one second longer than I had to.

Now, I am struggling with post partum depression, on top of the depression and anxiety I already had, on top of being low income and figuring out motherhood. After months of searching, I finally found a counselor I could afford, then the entire world fell apart every time I tried to go, and then my car broke down and my mom got a job, so now I don’t have the time to go, and even if I did, I’d have to take both toddlers. I have called multiple remote therapy places, and their discount rates are absurd. If you are low income, $180 a month is NOT going to happen. Seriously. Even Catholic Psych’s low income option at $120 a month is crazy. If you are living on a low income with anxiety and depression, this is your worst nightmare.

My point is not to ask any of you to feel sorry for me. My point is that, in a lot of ways, I am a person with MORE help than usual. Not less. In fact, a LOT more help than most people have. People who are dealing with traumatic events, and dealing with mental illness, or heaven forbid, both, are falling through the cracks. I can promise you that is the truth because I am fighting a hard battle to try not to fall through the cracks and I am seeing the other people who fall.

We HAVE to get more and better help out there for people who are struggling. We HAVE to have people looking for those who are struggling and offering them a helping hand instead of turning them away. WE HAVE TO HELP THEM. We are all struggling, I know, and we are barely holding our heads above water, but we all have to help each other, and we have to watch out for the people who are getting missed.

Please, next time a friend of yours is upset more often than you want her to be, or a guy friend is acting weird, or struggling, don’t turn them away. Please give them a shoulder to cry on, not just to prevent the violence, but to heal the hurt that is all over this world right now. Please do whatever you can to help the mentally ill. Use your talents. Whatever you are good at, DO IT. Help them. Help our world to be a better place. There is so much pain, please help anyone you can.

5 Steps to Take When the Baby Steps Seem Too Big

This week, I wanted to give up on Dave Ramsey so bad. I was so done and hopeless feeling I wanted to pull out the credit card and just spend it all. I’m a free spirit and spending as little as possible to put as much as possible towards debt and towards our future needs wears on me. I just want to spend with reckless abandon, but that’s exactly what I am learning not to do. I love spontaneity and hate planning, and I am learning to have a plan. I want to run free and go play and do whatever I want, but my poor wild heart has a lot of constraints on it right now, not just from Dave Ramsey, but from being a relatively new mom, from living with my parents, from being low income, from not having my own car, from helping Patrick do work and school, and from recovering from HG. (Wow, writing that is kind of comforting. No wonder I’m having a hard time!) It is a lot to be doing at once. In fact, I read an article on Dave Ramsay’s site that said it was ok to stop if you are in a big life transition, and we are in about 5 big life transitions. I have no plan of stopping, but it was nice to hear that even Dave would understand what we are up against. Anyway, the point is, I was crushed under the weight of it all this week, and I was convinced there was no point in working this hard because it will never get better.
To be fair, I am not completely out from under it yet because this week’s stresses are still there. However, I am working on pulling back out of it, and I thought I would share some things that help me when I feel like I cannot go on.

1. PRAY! I know some people will struggle with this step but Dave Ramsey teaches that financial peace only comes through the “Prince of Peace.” There was time in our journey when it seemed like everything was falling apart, it seemed like everything we had done was for nothing. I listened to Dave on the radio, and he said that line about the Prince of Peace. I realized we had been missing the whole point of FPU. I went back to the prayer that started us on this journey, and I offered my fear to God. Ever since then, when things get bad, I stop(or if Patrick is with me we stop) and we say that prayer. It’s not magic, manna doesn’t fall from the sky every time, but every time we have experienced enough grace to pull out of the anxiety spiral, and eventually, to figure out how to fix the problem. Sometimes, manna really does fall from heaven.

2. Take a Technology Break-My brain gets so buzzy from being on social media and reading all of the reasons why it’s not ok that I’m having a hard time, and all the reasons that it all is, what my life should look like, how many people have died, how much else I should be doing, who I should actually be instead of me, and whatever people think is wrong with me. Sometimes, it is time to just step away for a little bit, and get a chance to move around, breathe fresh air, whatever else you need to do to be ok.

2. Give Credit Where it’s Due. Quiet your mind for long enough to think about the good you have already done. Maybe even have some sort of ritual to be account for it. I redesign our tracking sheets periodically because actually writing out where we have been vs. where we are now is pretty amazing. Once, I thought we had done nothing at all, and we were making no progress, but then I was able to see that we had in fact paid down $3000 of our debt, on top of saving our emergency fund!

3. What is The Lesson. One thing Dave Ramsey is teaching me is how to give myself grace while still taking responsibility for my actions. This week, the lesson was, we have to get better about planning for the future. I started to downward spiral into despair and beating myself up about not doing it, but don’t do that. You are still learning, and you are going to mess up. This is not an easy lesson to learn, but it’s worth it. Don’t Quit.

4. Rest Most of the time when I am feeling this way, it is because we have been overly stressed about other things and it has dominoed into our financial life. Spend some time in quiet, or quality time with the family, or whatever is free and recharges you. It makes a huge difference.

5. Do Something About It Once you have rested(and NOT before), take some time to do something about whatever it is you are worried about. If you need some extra money, figure out how you are going to make it, or where you can look at the budget again to retool it, sometimes I go back and the problem I thought was there actually isn’t at all. If things are not going fast enough, do something that will make you money in the future, work on your big money dreams if you have them-for me it’s my blog writing and my screenwriting. When I am in these downward spirals, I stop working on this stuff, which is ridiculous because these are my dream for changing everything. Once I go back to them though, I remember that we are planting seeds for the future even if it seems like they are too small to mean anything.

Once I have followed each of these steps, it is amazing to see how much everything can improve. The heart of Dave Ramsey’s teaching is to become a person who lives by faith and not by fear, and doing each of these things transforms my heart everytime. I am so grateful for the little steps we are taking even though I am not patient and they seem like nothing. I pray one day we will look back in awe at what a difference we made when we gave our little seeds to God’s hands.

Jaded

Ever since I grew to adulthood,

I hear the echoes

of everyone who told me,

“That’s not real.

That’s a fantasy.”

Most of the time, I silence them

With a wave of the hand,

And maybe a deep breath,

But then,

Sometimes, a wave of grief comes,

My heart begins to ask,

“Were they right?

Does God give us dreams to take them away?

Does He dangle hopes of a beautiful future,

Just to laugh when you are in pain?

There are times in my life when I believe them,

When the hope that God is listening grows as faint as a fading heartbeat,

The ache swells until my chest begins to cave into itself.

I cease to breathe in in terror of reality,

I force myself to breathe and anger overtakes me that God has turned His back.

But He hasn’t turned His back.

He is here when hundreds have told me He doesn’t hear me.

He is waiting for me when I can hear Him through the despair.

He hears me when I cry out in the pain of the skepticism that is our world.

Cast behind you the words of those who condemn you for belief in hope.

Cast behind you the belief that grief will win.

Cast behind you the grief that God doesn’t hear you,

And doesn’t love the real you.

There is a place for you.

Just because you haven’t found it doesn’t mean you won’t.

Use your wounds to heal others until you escape the chains,

And then free the slaves.

Sometimes God answers no, but not when it’s His promises to you.

If you are called to something, He will bring you to it somehow, I believe.

I believe.

I believe.

I believe.

Even here in the darkness.

I believe.

The Paradox of Being Grateful When Things are Hard

I find myself oscillating between two extremes fairly often. One is that I am struggling and I am frustrated that things aren’t getting better. The second is that I feel like maybe my struggle is not actually that bad, so I’m actually just a horribly ungrateful person who doesn’t deserve to live. Okay, that’s extreme, but there are some days it feels pretty intense. I think sometimes it’s easier for me to feel like I am a horrible person who deserves to suffer, than to acknowledge that sometimes bad things happen to good people and there’s no rhyme or reason to it. Sometimes God helps you, sometimes we are responsible for believing He is there in the storm. I’ve tried my whole life to be someone so perfect that God wouldn’t “punish” me, but that’s not how He works, and it’s really just hurts me more than just living would anyway.
The thing I’m struggling the most with is waiting in hope. I am not a patient person even when I know something is coming, but when there is a question about it, my entire emotional system goes into revolt and I turn into a 2 year old who hasn’t eaten in 2 hours. Right now, there are several things that I am waiting for, and they are not coming quickly, they are coming slowly, and they are things that I have been told are impossible over and over and over again, and they are things intrinsically connected to every trauma I have experienced. That being said, I am wanting them, and I am waiting for them, and I am working towards them. That is a miracle in and of itself because I had taught myself not to care anymore, and I had given up. I had convinced myself that those things didn’t matter to me and I would figure out life without them. But I asked God to bring me back to myself, and He did that, with a fire that burns a little out of control sometimes.
I desire with everything in me to serve God with my art, and my desire is not just for teaching, or volunteering, or whatever else though those are positive endeavors too and I don’t mind doing them also, but my desire is to MAKE GREAT ART. I want more than anything in me to spend my days creating films that reach deep into the depths of your soul and rip you apart in sadness or joy or horror or whatever it is your soul needs. I want to create films that wake people up to the other people who are struggling in the world. I want to create films that let the lonely know they are not alone. I want to make movies that sell like crazy not because I want to be famous but because I want to touch people and I want to spend every waking minute in the freedom that comes from being successful at what I love.
Is this a big ask? Yes.
Am I asking this in a world where most people do not get their big asks? Yes.
Does that make me terrified beyond the ability to breathe sometimes that I am asking? Yes.
Can I stop? Not if I want to be the person I was created to be.
God has asked us over and over to ask big things of Him, so no matter how stupid I feel or how hopeless this whole adventure seems to be or how much I want to give up, I am going to keep asking over and over and over again and throwing my pen at his feet and begging that He use it and give it a place to be heard.

A problem, though, with having such big asks, is that sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t ask for such big things. Who am I to ask to make art for my career when so many people would kill for one minute to work on theirs? Who am I to long for the money to have a nice house and maybe even a housekeeper because my artist family hates and sucks at cleaning? Who am I to long for more happiness in this life when I am not a Holocaust victim, I am not dying of cancer, I am not alone in life. I have so many amazing amazing blessings. My double rainbow babies are the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me. I am the luckiest girl in the world to have the husband I do. My parents have gone above and beyond to make sure I get to be with my babies. My in laws saved us over and over again from trials.

The point is, I know I have so much to be grateful for, and sometimes it makes it hard to ask for the big things, like I’m a spoiled child for wanting more. I’m not sure how to handle that. Maybe this is just a side effect of the constant meditations on gratefulness that I am always surrounded by, or the knowledge that sometimes I am not as grateful as I could be( although I’ve recently noticed that I do not handle gratitude very gracefully, so this may just be an attempt to escape the total panic that comes over me when I am deeply grateful for something. ) Or maybe it’s another lesson in balance. I do tend to run across paradoxes frequently and usually the answer is a little bit one and a little bit the other. So maybe the answer is to work on gratitude a little more, but to remember it’s ok to want things. I don’t know. My gift isn’t answers. My gift is really freaking big questions.

Finding Freedom in Motherhood

When I became a mom, I was terrified. I thought this meant I had to be into legos, Lincoln logs, and other little people toys and I was going to have to give up on everything I actually do love. The problem with this that a lot of people don’t have is that I wasn’t even into these things when I was a kid, so being forced to play with these for the rest of my life seemed like a horrifying fate. I still get the head tilt eye roll combo from some moms when I’m vocal about how much I hate that stuff.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with feeling like I had to give up and just be that mom, and it was killing me. I’m not a good mom when I try to be that quintessential mommy because it’s not me at all. This morning, though, I was reminded of how good it feels to be myself as a mother.

Yesterday, I found Useless Magic, a compilation of art and poetry by Florence Welch. I bought this for myself, to share with my oldest when she was not even one yet. It’s a beautiful red velvet art book with odd drawings and sketches, accompanied with random phrases from the wild imagination behind Florence and the Machine. She is my favorite singer and an artist I respect incredibly deeply. Willow curled into my lap and had me read it to her again and again. We traced the “Heartlines” on each other’s hands, laughed about the eye that was also a heart, and she misunderstood a song lyric to say “play dough head!”

Afterwards we scrambled to get our swimming gear on and we went to the pool to spend a glorious hour in the water and sun, which is by far my favorite activity in the world. We watched other people play, and ran our fingertips through the water, spun, and splashed. It was amazing, and the great thing is they got the active play and sunshine they needed, and I got to do something I enjoy.

Last night, I was wondering if parenthood meant giving up everything you love and becoming a shell of yourself. Today answered me that it doesn’t have to be like that. It reminded me of how much my oldest loved staring at mandalas with me when she was only a few weeks old, how much she still loves to read classic literature(at one year old her favorite book is an old copy of Crime and Punishment we let her play with), how happy her sister is when I do yoga, and how much they both love to dance and draw. All of these things are things I am so passionate about, and often felt lonely doing them alone, but now we can enjoy them together.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how hard motherhood is, and whether or not the sacrifice is worth it, and honestly, it is hard on a level that I cannot even explain, and I’ve never felt so defeated in my life, but at the same time, there is something to it, something more than happiness, something more than joy even, maybe even something just so perfect about that moment when you see your family becoming a family. That is what you do it for, worth it or not.

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