Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Typical, first-person blog entries full of my thoughts on life.

Starry Night

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I carry a specific fear with me.  I’ve carried it in my friendships for a long time.  Are you ready for this?  I am afraid that I’m a lot of work.  Work that no one wants to put forth.

I’m not high maintenance in many ways.  I’m not really into nice clothes or cars, expensive food, or high end travel.  All in all, I’m a pretty simple girl.  But there is a tender nerve inside me, a looming question I ask in relationship to others: Am I too much mental and emotional work?

You see, I’m what people call a deep thinker.  I also have big feelings on lots of topics.  And my because I’m a deep thinker and a big feeler, my emotion doesn’t just come off the cuff.  It isn’t easy to sway or influence, but rather is entrenched by all the previous deep thoughts I’ve had swirling around the big feelings.  My counselor once related it to me breathing underwater at the bottom of the pool, while everyone else enjoys sunning themselves on rafts at the surface where the air is, thank-you-very-much.  Who wants to try to breathe underwater???

But I don’t know another way to be – anything else feels superficial.  (And that is worse than feeling a nuisance.)  Much of my life, I’ve felt ashamed and embarrassed – carrying around a sense that other people just want me to “calm down” or “forget about it” or “move on” or maybe just stop bringing stuff up.  That I over-think things and need to stop being so sensitive.  I got that last one a lot while growing up…  “Emily, you’re being over sensitive.”  When I was upset, I received the message that, “We don’t want to deal with that or with you.”  I tend to turn over the rocks.  The ones with grubs and dust and ugliness underneath.  Rocks that were heavy and “just fine where they were.”  My fear is that people are always feeling this way about me.

(Even as I write this blog, the voice is saying, “This is too severe and serious!  No one wants to read this.  No one else feels this way.  It’s only you.  Why are you going to put this on the internet?  People are just going to feel tired reading this.”  Well… imagine me sticking my fingers in my ears and humming.)

But!  I woke up to a text message yesterday morning.  It was from my aunt (who is, without a doubt, the coolest aunt a girl could possibly have).  She had sent it around midnight – I have no idea why.  Although I would say we are close, I hadn’t spoken to her in months, and haven’t seen her in over a year.  I read the text with sleep blurred eyes, but it jolted me awake.

You are such a deep, complex woman who I love so very much!

What a random text at a random time. But, oh!  What a balm to my soul.  I want those words to seep into my heart.  I want to believe that about myself.

I am a woman.  I am deep.  I am complex.  I am loved.  Very much.

Being deep or complex or having strong emotions doesn’t make me a load other people are obligated to carry around.  Intricacy and uniqueness reflect the ability and creativity of the artist.  The Creator.  You don’t look at Starry Night and think, “That was a lot of work.  Why go through the effort?”  You think, “Wow…  How stunning.  How amazing.  Even if I don’t fully understand it.”

I want to see people as the exquisite artwork that they are.  A reflection of their awe-inspiring Creator. Not as a object either aligned with me or obstructing me.  Not as friend or foe.  Easy or hard.  Rather, every individual is a Starry Night unto themselves – something to be looked upon with curiosity and appreciation.  And I’m trying really hard to think the same way towards myself.

“He saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”  Even me.

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My Artist Life

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Sometimes I think about if I were me in a different life…

I’d be a free spirit.  Someone who loves yoga and being outside.  Somebody obsessed with good coffee and drinks it black.  I’d say random things that nobody understands, but then turn those thoughts into art that everyone relates to.  I’d prefer dancing to anything else, my iTunes account would have way more music on it, and I’d listen to it constantly.

If I lived my artist life, I would be heavy with “misunderstoodness” rather than busyness or stress.  I’d more freely blur the lines than rigidly follow them, and encourage others to do the same.

I would write every day.

And host people constantly.  I would experiment in the kitchen without calculating the number of dirty dishes in advance to see if I should even bother.  I would perform in community theatre.  I’d own a bike and ride it regularly.

I would twirl at least once a day.

I wouldn’t shy away from bright colors and they would fill my house.  Buying beautiful art wouldn’t feel like an impractical use of my money.  If I were my artist self, self-consciousness is a thing of the past.  I’d rejoice in people so very different from me.  And, they wouldn’t be put off by my slightly kooky ways… but endeared.

A few things would be exactly the same.  I am desperately and wholly in love with my husband.  My dog is the cutest thing in the world, according to me.  And I’m incredibly grateful for a Creator God infinitely more artistic than I am.

The question is: how do I start living my artist life in this one?

Threatened

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I’ve written about being angry before. I find other people’s anger threatening, but I find my own anger even more so. I’m a passionate person, my feelings ebb and flow in waves that rival the ocean’s (as Sean can attest…). So the flashes of frustration aren’t what I find threatening. Those subside quickly enough… No, it’s the seething, long-term, holding-it-close-to-my-chest anger that I really don’t like to deal with.

I had an extremely bold dream a few weeks ago. It was vivid, scary, and occurred right before my alarm went off, so it didn’t drain away into the subsequent hours of sleep. I carried it with me all day, remembering the stark emotions I felt in it. There are lots of details, but the crux of it is that in the dream, someone very angry started punching me in the stomach repeatedly. And I started screaming, “Stop! I’m pregnant, I’m pregnant!!” Now according to my therapist (who I trust and isn’t weird at all), in dream interpretation pregnancies don’t “mean” actual pregnancies – but rebirths of some kind. And typically every character in a dream is part of you, even if they are real people in your life. So, after pouring out my dream to her, my counselor gently asked if I felt like I had any anger was actively preventing me from growing or becoming the person I want to be.

Ouch.

And true, so double ouch.

The problem lies in the fact that I have no idea where to go from here. I know, in the hidden parts of my heart, I’m angry. But unlike my daily emotional ebbs and flows, this anger has never run it’s course. I’ve capped it off with a tamper-proof, air-tight seal and now with childish hands, I can’t figure out how to open the darn thing. Not to mention that I don’t really want to open it… because my anger threatens me. It doesn’t feel safe. I’m not comfortable around it. I don’t want to admit to anyone that it is a part of me.

Yuck. What am I going to do? How do I “fix” it. Another question with no answer…

Lyrics to follow along with the song are below.

How long must I pray, must I pray to you? How long must I wait, must I wait for you? How long till I see your face, see you shining through? I’m on my knees, begging you to notice me. I’m on my knees, Father will you turn to me?

One tear in the dropping rain, one voice in a sea of pain, could the maker of the stars hear the sound of my breaking heart? One life that’s all I am, right now I can barely stand, if you’re everything you say you are, would you come close sand hold my heart?

I’ve been so afraid, afraid to close my eyes. So much can slip away before I say goodbye. But if there’s no other way, I’m done asking why. Cause I’m on my knees, begging you to turn to me. I’m on my knees, Father will you run to me? Yah…

One tear in the dropping rain, one voice in a sea of pain, could the maker of the stars hear the sound of my breaking heart? One life that’s all I am, right now I can barely stand, if you’re everything you say you are, would you come close sand hold my heart?

So many questions without answers, your promises remain. I can’t see but i’ll take my chances to hear you call my name, to hear you call my name.

One tear in the dropping rain, one voice in a sea of pain, could the maker of the stars hear the sound of my breaking heart? One life that’s all I am, right now I can barely stand, if you’re everything you say you are, would you come close sand hold my heart? Could you hold my heart? Could you hold my heart? Hold my heart.

Fat Squirrel

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We have a squirrel that lives in our backyard.  He is obese.  And maybe because of that, he seems to be flying through Atlanta’s Snowpocalypse 2011 just fine.

Here he is, stuffing his face finishing off one of his breakfast acorns.

Sean has a love affair going with alliteration.  In what way, you ask?  Well, his car is “Maxine” the Maxima, our Christmas tree was “Fred” the Frazier Fir, and “Bob” the Birthday Balloon managed to keep enough helium in his system to float from October 14th, to around January 1, 2011.  So, for appropriate and obvious reasons, I have dubbed this squirrel “Squatty.”

We admired Squatty the past few mornings as we leisurely checked work emails, read books we normally don’t have time to read, and sipped coffee all from on top of the couch and in front of the fabulous invention known as the space heater.  Squatty follows a routine.  He scurries to the back of our house, right up underneath our bedroom windows, where the snow has not accumulated and either finds a new piece, or retrieves a pre-emptively stowed portion, of his many meals.  He then whisks it away from the cold, wet snow and perches in the crook of our little tree, where we have a perfect view of him from our snow day snuggle nest.

I really wish I had a Planet Earth worthy lens that I could look through and watch exactly how fast his jaws need to be moving in order to whittle away the outside that fast, much less consume the actual nut.  But I don’t.  Here’s a shot of him after one nut, before he gets another.  Notice how his arms seem to nearly not meet in the middle of him….

I realize that animals like this store fat in order to “make it through the winter” and at this particular moment, it appears rather wise and as if the rest of Atlanta is copying him.  (As in, there were no bread or eggs or lettuce the last few times we ventured to the grocery store.)  But has this little guy gone a bit overboard?  Does he need that much excess chub?

Though I do not do this with acorns in particular, my fear of the future, my attempts at self-provision ooze out in other ways.  I lay awake at night, planning for worst case scenarios that hopefully will never come close to touching my life.  I sometimes smother my husband with “affection” (more accurately neediness) because I’m afraid tomorrow he may forget, or change his mind, or think I’m no longer enough.  (To be crystal clear:  my issue, not his.)  At different times in my life I have fallen into a really weird place where I didn’t like spending money on food – because it was such a “short term” investment.  Just sitting in my bank account, for some reason, seemed like a better thing to do with it.  I am a Squatty in disguise.

What do you hoard or over-indulge in because of fear?  The thought of lack?  The absence of provision?  Some that might come to mind…  Relationships?  Food?  Money?  Time?  Work?  It’s good to know what we’re afraid of and why and to recognize how we compensate.  There’s a line between wise and extreme… and I’m still learning how to walk it.

And just for kicks…  here is Squatty with what was the last nut of the morning. Stay hungry, my friends!

Attack *Insert Most Aggressive Animal You Know Here*

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If conflict avoiding was an Olympic sport, I’d be a medalist.

Well.  Kinda.

I avoid conflict in the moment of conflict.  I despise yelling as it makes me feel approximately two feet tall.  I turn into a passive, “Okaaaaay” insister to just make it all go away as soon as possible.

But… this is where I become abnormal.  A normal conflict avoider would just keep on truckin’ with that methodology, “stuffing” as they say.  Maybe with some underhanded, manipulative techniques thrown in there to try and assert power in other situations.  But not me.  I detest unreconciliation almost as much as I despise conflict – maybe more.  So instead of stuffing it and moving on, I tend to go back to the person after the fact and lay out all my hurt feelings.  This can have two outcomes:  it clears the air, we air out our differences, I learn how I hurt their feelings, and the issue is resolved OR it is completely threatening to the other person.  I am violating the conflict avoider role and they are not sure how to respond.

I don’t know many other people who do this.  I’m not sure how or why I do it… as I came from a family where 3 of the 4 other members were not conflict avoiders, and my continual wringing out of my wounded emotions got eye rolls and/or scolds much of the time.  Because of this, if anyone tells me I’m “over reacting” or being “too sensitive” I magically transform from mild mouse, to Attack *Insert Most Aggressive Animal You Know Here*, defending myself at all costs, even if I tear off someone’s limbs…  It’s an ugly side of Emily.  It’s one of my “buttons.”

I don’t know why I started this blog, and the more I type, the less I want to post it.  Except that, I know the better I know myself and the more I can confess what my buttons are and recognize when they’re being pushed – the less often, or less fiercely I turn into that Attack Animal.  If in the moment I feel the twinge sending me over the edge and say internally, “Oh, this feeling has more to do with me than what they just said,” then the Attack Animal doesn’t have a career anymore.  And it also gives me a way to share my hurt feelings with conflict non-avoiders in a way that reflects my issues instead of their screw-ups, which usually lessens the defensiveness factor, and helps soften the edge of my stereotype/role violation.  All good things… if I could do it with any consistency at all!

Which at this point, I still don’t.  I hope for the day with the Attack Animal is officially retired, and I can respond to people without a sense of being threatened – in identity, in thought, in belief, or in feeling.  I am me – they are them.  It’s ok.

What’s your hottest button?  What do you do when it gets pushed?  (Most common answer: fight or flight – or in my case, a combination of the two.)

So now I’m going to hit the “Publish” button without reading the above… my Conflict Avoider, Approval Seeking heart would appreciate your suspension of judgment!  Happy Holidays!

Beneficiaries & Victims

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I recently heard someone say that we are both beneficiaries and victims of tradition.  It caught my ear…

Beneficiary: a person who derives advantage from something

Victim:  a person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident or other event or action (or idea)

These ideas appear to be incompatible or opposite.  But I fear they walk hand in hand much the time.  The most obvious example that comes to mind are families.  Are we not all benefitted and victimized by our parents, siblings, childhood relationships?  Gifts are given to us, but much is taken away…

When it comes to my life, I’d like to think that I choose relationships to be in, jobs to work, ideas to believe that derive me more advantage than harm.  But do I have the perspective to really know?  Can I, on my own, acurately determine what harms and benefits me – and if not, do I have the humility to listen to someone else?  I think it’s crucial to be aware that we are beneficiaries and victims of SINGLE things in our lives – and to make decisions out of that awareness.

I have a friend who recently decided that facebook did her more harm than good.  She deactivated her account.  I went to an Episcopal high school…  there were traditions in daily chapel that were of benefit.  There were some that seemed pointless, but innocuous.  There were others that literally killed attempts to reach the next generation with its messages.  I got to a church that only serves communion four times a year (and not on a Sunday) – is that a good thing?  Or is a benefit lost in the name of avoiding the tradition(s) of a faith with a history of victims?

This is all a little in-concrete for me, but the idea has been rolling around in my brain for a few weeks and I wanted to get it out.  I come back to the purpose of this blog:  to pursue honesty as an art form, not a science.  And maybe the next time you think something is all black, or all white, you’ll think of me and this post and say, “Well, maybe the lines are a little blurred, and maybe I can make out white and black, and even some of their red-headed step-child: gray.”

Celebrity

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According to a couple hundred 3 and 4-year olds in the Buckhead area of Atlanta – I am a celebrity.

That’s right.  I’m super cool.  You see, I’m a “Storyteller” for Waumba Land.  And let’s just say, I wish Sunday School had been this awesome when I was growing up…  Because in my day, a storyteller would have been someone who sat on a too-small chair and read from a picture book while holding it up in front of kids arranged on gray carpet floor.  I get to do something a little different each week…

I wear a mic pack.  One of the fancy ones with the bendable, skin-colored, super thin wire that wraps around your ear, lays against your face, and rests along your jawline till it’s near your mouth.  There are stage lights.  There’s a stage!  I have a script.  I memorize it.  I tell kids all about different, exciting stories each week. It’s a blast.

Sometimes, I dress silly.  Sometimes I stuff my face with goldfish and then get some caught in my lungs and cough orange dust everywhere (true story).  Many times I ask rhetorical questions, or at least questions to get the kids involved.  “Have you ever been scared?”  “How do you think that made him feel?”  “Can you make a face like this?”  And most of the time the squealed responses are on topic, but every now and then the funniest stuff gets shouted out!  Last week was pretty eventful – I asked the question, “What do you think happened next?”  From the midst of quiet, pins and needles kiddos – one brave soul shouted out the answer.  I praised, “Wow, that’s great!  You’re right!”  He humbly yelled back, “I have the movie.”

Sometimes I can acknowledge the funny random insights of my mini-buddies, sometimes I have to keep talking over them so that the other 87 kids in the room don’t start sharing about their movie collection or what their big sister did that hurt their feelings all at the same time.  Last week, in the midst of my story, I heard one little man insistently repeating, “I have something to tell you.”  I kept trucking right on though – because let me tell you, kids catch on quick.  If I stopped the story in the middle this week to listen to a personal anecdote, they’d all come armed with something they had to tell me the next week.  After 5 tries or so, he gave up.  But as soon as I dismissed them back to their small group rooms that one little man walked straight up to me:

“Um, tuh-tuh-tuh, um.  tuh-morrow, I’m going to dress up like The Flash.”  That was it.  I gave him a huge grin, “That’s awesome buddy!”  And he turned around and walked back to his classmates, thirst for my attention satiated.

You know…  this isn’t that different than what I do.  I like to impress the coolest, most important person in the room too: be it my boss, the musician at the concert I’m attending, my parents or the girl with the cutest outfit.  In Sean’s case, he decided he really liked me the day I made it a point to impress him with my soccer skills (bakyard bbq 4v4 with bare feet, glittery jeans, and a shirt that required a strapless bra…  you’d have been impressed too.  😛  Kidding!).  But in all seriousness, approval is an addictive drug.  How many times have I shared things with people just so someone I looked up to knew that I was going to dress up like The Flash the next day.  And it’s ingrained in us humans enough that at four years old, my little man knew that he wanted it, he needed it, and he was going to walk straight up to the person who could give it to him.

I’m not used to being the person that people want their approval from.  Or rather, I don’t see myself that way.  As the oldest child, my parents would tell me that my siblings looked up to me, that the reason that they hounded me and my friends when they were over was not to annoy us – but because they thought we were awesome and wanted to be near the limelight, so-to-speak.  I didn’t get it then, I couldn’t put myself in their shoes, but I sure did understand wanting to impress people once I got to high school.  I once scored a goal (soccer again) against a team we were losing 5-0 to because my boyfriend of over a year who had broken up with me a week or two before walked up to the sideline.  (As soon as I scored, my best friend ran up to me, “Emily!!!  Matt is here!!!”  You better believe I already knew…)  Approval.  Attention.  Want.  Need.

After little man got his update out, all the kids trotted past me in their lines and hand-holding groups as I stood in the entry way, waving, smiling, thanking, “have a good morning-ing”, and high fiving.  One girl stopped mid-doorway (creating quite the fender-bender back up behind her) to tell me that her baby brother had “moved”.  I never discovered if this meant moved rooms in the house, began to crawl, or if she was the one little girl that I didn’t know the face of, but had prayed for because her baby brother had died in his sleep.  But once again, she wanted to share with someone she thought mattered.  She wanted to tell her story and know that someone knew.

Writing this blog is kind of like that for me.  I don’t exactly know who hears my story, but I’m putting it out there… and I love it when I get feedback, or when someone says, “I read your blog the other day.”  I feel like those little kids… my thirst for attention, for being know satiated – however temporarily.  And I will continue to be the person to love and give attention to those kiddos as much as possible.  If they know at 3 and 4 that they are important, that they are known, and they are loved no matter what, they’ll have giant steps towards a healthy adult life beyond the average human being.  Who’s hands-on celebrity can you be?