Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thursday Tales: V is for Vampires



Alyssa!" My friends called from a back booth. "We're over here!"

dark hairThe door to the local Vamp Cafe closed behind me and I was finally able to push my sunglasses back up on top of my head. It was very bright out this morning. Sliding beside my next door neighbor Jesse, I greeted the table. "Hey guys... how was your nigh--  What is that smell?"

Rebecca glanced up from across the table where she was picking white bits out of her long curly hair. "I'm sorry... Old Lady Peterson threw minced garlic at me again last night. I don't know why people insist on thinking that's going to do anything."

Her boyfriend Kevin leaned in close to her, nuzzling her neck and inhaling deeply.  "I don't know," he murmured.  "It's kind of hot."

Jesse and I both wrinkled our noses in disgust.  "Gross."

Helga, the witch that ran the place, called out from the kitchen. "Your usual, darlin'?"

"Yes, please, thanks! Newt blood pancakes and a cup of black coffee!" Remembering the last time we came here, I added, "And no dragon's teeth this time!!"  I could hear her cackling in the kitchen. Witches could never be trusted.  I turned back to my friends at the table. "Remind me again why we don't just go to IHOP??"

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Unhealthy Relationships

I want to talk a little bit today about unhealthy relationships. We've all heard them described before as "toxic" relationships, but I don't really like that term. It brings with it a connotation that there is someone in the relationship that is bad-- that they, themselves, are a toxic person.  Poison, if you will, and I just don't like that. Most of us aren't inherently bad people.

But, I do think that there are unhealthy relationships.  Much of the time, that comes in one-way connections where one person is giving everything and one person is taking everything. That's unhealthy. Maybe for a time, we can get by on that... but in the longterm, a one-way relationship isn't beneficial to either party. But, it's important to recognize that both parties are participants in that sort of relationship. Both parties are responsible for it becoming what it is. "What you put up with you end up with."

friends on bedSometimes unhealthy relationships began as healthy ones. But, for one reason or another, they've become unhealthy. Perhaps there's too much past to get over, too much to forgive that you can't forget. Maybe you've both just changed and what made the friendship possible in the beginning isn't a part of either of you anymore.

Did you know that it's okay to walk away? It is. But, I wish I had known that a long time ago. I bought into this belief that if I was a good person, I would fight for every relationship, every friendship, prolonging them as long as humanly possible until there was literally no other choice but to give up. And for some relationships, like your marriage, that's valid.  You made a promise and a vow and you have to fight for that.

But, not every relationship is a marriage. Sometimes hanging on as long as humanly possible creates more strife, more bad feelings between you, and is the last thing you should be doing. I can think of a few friendships in my past that I wish I had walked away from earlier.  And that isn't because they were bad people, or because I was bad people...  but the friendship had run its course.  It was over. By hanging on too long and trying to force it for too long, we created a vast ocean of resentful feelings between us. Resentment of each other that I'm not sure we'll ever really get over.

I wish I had understood about unhealthy relationships better, and I wish I had known that walking away didn't make me a bad person. I feel like I could have saved us both an awful lot of pain.



Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thursday Tales: P is for Prayer

book banner


There lived a girl, a very sad girl. Having suffered requisite untold tragedy, she was left alone with nothing but her sorrow and her heartache to keep her company. Every day, she would go to the lake near her cottage. She would kneel by the lakeshore, and she would pray. She prayed for solace, for company, for someone to share her sorrows. She prayed for hope and happiness and peace.

Down the lane, there also lived a boy. The boy was not sad. But, every day, he passed by the lake and he saw the girl praying at its shore. Every day, he would walk by where she rested, and he would ask her the same question.  "Is there anything I can do to help you , miss?"

But, every day, she shook her head and explained, "I'm praying. Help will come." So, the boy would nod his head, smile sadly, and continue on his way, not wanting to press her.

One day in May, the girl was particularly sad and praying with particular ferocity when the rain began to fall particularly hard. Racing home from town, the boy was surprised to see the girl still at her lakeshore, and he ran to her. "Miss, please. You will get stuck in this storm if you don't come in. Let me help you."

But, the girl only shook her head and told him that help would come. So, he continued on his way home.  The girl stayed at the lakeshore.

The next morning, the boy returned to the lake to see how the girl had fared in the storm. When he saw her, he ran to her and touched her cheek, whispering "Oh Miss... if only you had let me help you."

And to this day, he visits the lake and the girl. He kneels in front of her, and he asks her the same question. "Isn't there anything I can do to help you?"

girl in prayer



Wednesday, April 17, 2013

O is for Ownership

lake
"I am like this because of the way I was raised."
"My mother wasn't very loving, so I can't love others."
"So-and-So raked my heart over the coals so I can't *doblank*"

Oh, I protest. Please, can we put the victim mentality to rest?

Ownership of our own problems and issues is something I've written about on and off for a long time. It bothers me when people are continually blaming their shortcomings on other people, on things that were "done to them." It is a refusal to open our eyes wide enough to see that sometimes our hardest situations are a matter of consequences to our own choices far more than they are a matter of other people persecuting us.

But, as my fingers hovered over the keyboard this morning, it occurred to me that the problem with refusing to own your own issues isn't just with misunderstanding how you got into them. But, when we continually blame other people for our problems, we also absolve ourselves of the ability and responsibility to seek healing from them. Not only do we refuse to believe that we had any part in getting into them, but we also can't see that we have a role in getting out of them.

And so we sit in shallow waters, flailing and drowning, unwilling to accept that if we just stood up, we could see the shore.

Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for Manipulation

mysterious womanIt wasn't until the last couple years that I began to really notice manipulation in relationships. I'd gotten out of a friendship where, in retrospect, I'd been manipulated a lot and it really opened my eyes to the myriad of ways in which manipulation was a big part of some of my friendships.

It probably seems naive, and I guess that I was, but it really took me aback. I hadn't known. I really hadn't seen it. But once I saw it, I couldn't unsee it, and it was a strange process. At first, I was just plain hurt that people I cared about would use those manipulative ways to get me to do or be the things they wanted me to do and be.  And then I was angry that they would have so little respect for our friendship and for me that they were willing to use me instead of be friends with me. But, over time, I began to accept that I had a role in that too.  Because while maybe I was blind to it, I had also allowed it. I had caved to the manipulation. I had reinforced the habit. And I had maybe even done it back.

What followed were two years of hypervigilance on my part...  I was so tuned to the manipulation and so wary of it. I began to cut people out of my life who used it the most stringently.  But I also kept most everyone at arm's length, so worried about someone else manipulating me where I couldn't see it. I'm not sure that was the healthiest way to behave, either.

Where I am now is not a bad place.  My eyes have been opened. I am aware of the places in which I am most susceptible, and I am less naive than I was before. But, I am also learning once again to be more soft. To be trusting again.. but in a healthier way.

Baby steps.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

J for June's Downpour




“Sarah! Would you wait up?”

But, I only laughed as I ran down the dirt road in the summer rain. “What’s the matter, Seth? Keep up!” I heard him curse behind me and it just made me laugh more. “Come on, we’re almost there.” I could feel the rain soaking through my jacket now, and I knew that Seth must be even colder in only a T-shirt.

running down roadI crashed through the doors of our neighbors’ old barn and turned around just in time for Seth to slide his arms around me and flatten me against his chest. “You are impossible,” he smiled.

“Agreed.” Sliding my arms around his neck, I demanded, “Tell me again.”

He dropped a kiss on the tip of my nose. “I love you.”

And then he kissed me.
And then he kissed me.
And then he kissed me again.


I shook my head to clear the memory and had to ask her to repeat her question. “I’m sorry?”

“How did you know Seth?” The hands of his widow held mine in the church sanctuary, her eyes fresh with shed and unshed tears.

I glanced at his coffin sitting mere feet away and chewed on my lower lip for a moment before smiling sadly and merely replying “I just knew him from when we were kids… in school together, you know.  I’m very sorry for your loss.”

She patted my hand and thanked me for coming before turning to the next person.

In school together, you know.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for Insecurity


I have seasons where I like me. I have seasons where I don’t. I go through phases that sometimes last over a year where I am completely confident in who I am. But, then, I also have seasons when the opposite is true and I am constantly unsure, painfully aware of all the things about me that I’d like to change if I could.

girl sitting on sidewalkBut, whatever season I’m in, whoever I am… I’m worried that you won’t like me. I’m worried that I am going to fall short, yes even when I’m confident, of who you expect me to be. Of who you want me to be. Of who you need me to be.

I know, in my head, that this is silly. Silly and unhealthy. A need to be 100% liked by everyone I know is a need that will never be fulfilled. No one is going to be liked by everyone. So, it’s completely illogical to set that up as the standard. And yet, I do.

And, of course, I don’t measure up.. for who can? So I begin to change myself to fit who I think you want me to be.  Maybe not in big ways… but definite changes. A little tweak here, a little tweak there. A compromising of my own integrity so that I will pass muster and become okay in your eyes.

Until one day, I wake up. I look at myself in the mirror and I realize that the “me” I have squeezed myself into in order to fit some ideal isn’t me at all. She doesn’t fit. She’s uncomfortable and stiff in all the wrong places. And she isn’t me.  So I begin to peel her off.

One piece at a time.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for Hurt

I feel hurt by the things you have done and I don't always know what to do with that.

hurt heartI should be able to forgive you. I know that. It's been a long time. I should be able to let these things go by now.  Yet some days, they still hurt.  They hurt because of the things you said. And they hurt because of the things you did. They hurt because of the things you didn't say and do. They hurt because of the relationship we shared, and the betrayal that it was.

I should be able to let them go.

Some days, I absolutely believe that I have. I've put the past behind me, I've begun a new chapter, I've turned over a new leaf. I've made a choice to not let your past choices affect me so much, to not let the things you think about me cloud the way I think about me. And I am certain that I've been successful in those choices on those days.

But, other days, when I least expect it, I'm faced with the knowledge that I'm wrong. That I haven't let the past go, and that it's still there. That there's something in me that just can't figure out how let it go.  There's something in me that still feels that hurt.

And even while I know that I should be able to forgive and that I should be able to let it all go, I know too that it's okay that it's hard to do that. It's okay that this is slow. It's okay that there is backsliding. It's okay that I'm not as strong as I wish I was.

It still hurts. Someday, I'll figure out what to do with that.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

F is for Failure

broken and defeated
You've been beaten today. Work, school, romance, friendship, love. Somewhere, you've been beaten.

Broken and small, you have nothing to do but stare at your hands and marvel at the failed dreams, the broken promises, and all the petty mistakes you've made on the way to get to to this beaten broken place. The "what-if-I-had"s crowd your mind, torturing you with the things you could have done differently.

Maybe it was someone else that was just better than you, and that is how you were beaten. Maybe you were beaten because of your own choices. But, I'm not sure it really matters.  For you are broken either way and blame does nothing to change that.

But, being beaten and having failed are not necessarily the same thing. Being beaten is an occurrence. Something that happened.  But, failure... ah, failure is a state of mind. An attitude. A lack of hope. We can't always help being beaten. It happens.  But we can keep ourselves from being failures simply by standing back up.  Falling down is not the same as staying down.

We all fall.  But, the steadfast get back up. We try again. We live again.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

D is for Death and Desire




BZZZZZZZZ.

Tessa slammed her hand against the alarm clock, switching it off. She didn't even know why she bothered turning it on. When a person stops sleeping, they don't need an alarm to wake them up. Another sleepless night, another bleary pre-dawn morning. Another day to get through.

It was the 11th day since her beloved husband Mark had died. Everything was numb. But, numb was better than the pain that filled her head when the numb wore off.  And at some point during the day, somewhere between the condolences and the pity and the shielded looks, at some point, the numb would recede and she was faced with the piercing knowledge that Mark would never be back.

And for the 11th day, she would face it all again.

Tessa pulled herself out of bed and slowly padded toward the bathroom. As she reached for the lightswitch, a voice murmured behind her. "Tess." She screamed and threw herself through the bathroom door, slamming it behind her and flipping the lock quickly.

"I don't who you are," she yelled through the closed door. "But get out of my house. I have a gun!"

The voice chuckled. "You do not."

She frowned. That voice sounded familiar. "Fine. A knife, then!"

"What are you going to do, Tessa? Throw a bottle of shampoo at me?"

"Mark?"

"Please come out, darling. There isn't much time."

Tessa opened the door cautiously, and peeked around it. Sure enough, there in the dark, she could see the form of her husband.  Her dead husband. "I thought you were dead?"

Mark shrugged. "I am-- sort of."

She wasn't sure that she cared. With a cry, she launched herself out of the bathroom and into his arms, staggering them both backward into the middle of the bedroom. She pulled his head down to hers and pressed her lips against his, their mouths parted, as his hands roved over her back.

"Tessa," he breathed heavily. "I can't... I only have a minute." He glanced quickly toward the window and tried to step away. "There's a letter in my desk downstairs. It's addressed to you, and I need you to read it when I'm gone."

"Fine, yes," she waved the demand away and reached for him again.

"It's important, Tessa." He looked down at her and ran a finger over her cheek. "God, I wish I had more time." Bending his head, his lips claimed hers in slow tenderness, his fingers caressing her hair.

It was too late. As the sun peeked through the room's curtains, it was as if he began to disappear. It wasn't so much a fading, as it was that slowly, parts of him flew away. Despite her cries of anguish, it was only moments before she was once again alone. Once again without her husband. Once again numb.

Hours later, she remembered what this phantom husband of hers had said. And opening the letter she found, she began to read:

My darling Tessa...  I'm not who you think I am.  I'm not WHAT you think I am.
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