Friday, December 25, 2015

Love that Doesn't Make Sense

I was speaking with a friend earlier today... a bit of nostalgia on my heart... when the phrase "Loving when it doesn't make sense" came to my tongue.

and I thought that felt appropriate for Christmas.

We make much ado of Christmas, and the miracle of Jesus' birth.

And we make much ado of Easter, and the final moments of Jesus' sacrifice.

But somehow, we often skip over the part in the middle -- the part where He shows us how to live and how to love.

and perhaps "Loving when it doesn't make sense" is what describes it best.

When it's hard.
When it defies logic.
When everyone tells you it should look like something else.
When there's no reason for it other than the tugging on your heart.
When it's outside the norm.
When you're tired and you just don't want to.
When no one understands.
When you're afraid.

Maybe those are all the moments that we're supposed to love and to love recklessly.

Maybe that's more of what I want to be.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Lost in Thought

I wandered the mall today, in search of the perfect Christmas presents for the people in my life. I was lost in my own thoughts, and was aware -- but also unaware -- of the people around me.

As you do in a crowd, I suppose.

As I walked by this man, my eyes focused for a moment on his face and was startled to find him searching out eye contact, a goodnatured smile on his face.

Why the smile?  I don't know.

Because my hair is purple?
Because my T-shirt was a replica of the opening credits to Star Wars?
Because I was having an imaginary conversation in my head and my face was contorted into odd expressions (as my children say I do when engrossed in thought)?

Who knows... and I suppose it doesn't really matter.

I nodded and smiled back at him and walked on my way.  

But the moment made me stop. I hadn't been startled to find him smiling at me. I was startled because until that split-second, I hadn't seen him.

So lost within myself, I hadn't seen anyone -- and that isn't like me. So I took a second and reminded myself to be present. To see the people around me. To make eye contact. To nod. To smile. To find little moments of commonality.

They are small, I know. Those moments. If I stayed lost in myself, it wouldn't change anyone's day.

But I do believe that we all have power in those little moments to do just that. To create a life of little connections that spread outward and we have the potential to become a life that centers around making others feel seen.

I think that's important.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

That time I turned down Celtic Thunder...

Almost two years ago, I was asked if I would take on a "position" that involved writing for the CT Times (Celtic Thunder's monthly newsletter) and helping to run their Facebook page. The person who was in charge of those things had read my account of the inaugural Celtic Thunder Cruise and figured out I could kinda sorta write.

In the end, I turned it down -- for a number of reasons, I suppose.

I honestly probably would've enjoyed the "job" of writing for the newsletter -- if given the tools to do so effectively. I like to write... I love Celtic Thunder. It seemed like it could have been a match made in heaven...  There are lots of things that could be done to improve its readability and I would have been excited for the chance to do that -- but the lack of editorial control would have done me in.

Officially, I turned it down because it was a volunteer position that would have taken up far too much of my time. In truth, I didn't care that much about being paid. But I did care about my time and my talents being valued. At that point, I'd given a great deal of "free" time to Celtic Thunder -- and I had done so willingly!! But I was at a point within myself that I was willing to expect that my time would be respected.

I had to laugh a little when a rather condescending reply came back to me, extolling the virtues of the CT Times internship and how that would open doors for me in the music industry. Clearly, the person didn't know me very well or my less-than-zero desire to work in the music business.

Looking back...  those things are all still true... but I think that I was just as much moved by my desire to not have to police grown-ups into acting like grown-ups anymore. It was exhausting, emotionally draining, and I just didn't want it to be my job any longer.

I suppose I still feel that way.

I think it's a lot of why I'm limited about what I say on the internet anymore. Politics, religion... all the things that get us fired up, make us think that we need to go to Internet War.  The passive aggressive shows, the pity parties, the boardie stomps.

It hardly seems worth it...

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Forgiving the Girls I've Been

Sometimes I look back on the people I have been at earlier points in my life -- and I cringe.

Things I've said that I regret...
... that I did.
... that I thought.
Weaknesses I let have free rein.

It embarrasses me that they embodied the person that I was. As time has gone on and I've continued to grow and mature, as we all do, I have left many of those things behind. Or, at least I hope I have. My thoughts have become softer, my convictions gentler, my words kinder, my actions more controlled...

I wish that I was no longer trailed by the worst of the girls I've been. I wish that I could be forgiven. I yearn for my mistakes to no longer be held against me. I wish to be out of those girls' shadows.

But, in the end... while there are a few people who truly do hold those "me's of the past" against me and can't give me the freedom to change -- I know that the worst offender is myself.

I'm the one who punishes me for my past the worst.
I'm the one who can't forgive myself.
I'm the one who can't let it go.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Getting People to Change

Things get different when you stop trying to change people to fit your desires and simply let them be who they are. Women often complain about a man's propensity to run in to fix situations that they deem need solutions. But, I think perhaps we women are just as guilty.

Only it isn't situations that we think need our interference -- it's people.

How many women get involved with men and think, "If I can just get him to change this one thing, he'll be perfect?" And we apply that thinking to, not just men, but a myriad of different relationships.

I've a friend who used to say that often our strongest strengths and our deepest weaknesses are really different-extremed manifestations of the same character trait. A person who is deeply kind might also be a terrible pushover. Or a person who bleeds stubbornness might also possess strong determination.

So, really... when we try to wrangle a weakness out of the people we purport to love, are we also stripping them of their best strengths as well?

Of late, I suppose I've just come to the conclusion that I have enough issues of my own without needing to go around borrowing other people's, too. So I'm trying to love people for who they are, be as kind as I can, and let go of my needs to be right and in control.

I know that all sounds very goody-two-shoes and Pollyanna-esque. But, it isn't. I get frustrated. I get annoyed. I think that I know best. I get hurt.

I suppose that's when I make myself take a breath, go back to Square One, and think about who I want to be and how I want to treat people -- and then reset my path and my thoughts from there.

It isn't always easy. It usually isn't. But I think that it makes my heart calmer and happier ... and in the end, maybe that is easier.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Problem with Isolation

It began with a Season of Busy. There was exhaustion and errands and doing the bare minimum, just to survive, and barely holding it all together.  But, it was okay -- I knew it was only for a season and that I would be back to being a person and a friend and a part of my community.

It started with a letting-go of always needing to explain myself... always needing to come out on top... always needing to be right.  It was an acknowledgement that sometimes explaining myself just made it worse, and couldn't I just be content with what I could and couldn't change? I think it was healthy.

But then, there was the week where everything that came out of my mouth got twisted by other people to mean something that I hadn't intended. And some of that I probably deserved... I am not always as pure in intent as my ego convinces me that I am. --  But some of it was not.

I began to defend myself... explain myself...  and I just took a breath and I thought, "Is this really so important?"... and I just let it be.

The problem with that was that I let it be publicly... but I internalized the hurt that came with the misunderstanding. I felt wounded -- and instead of dealing with it, I sucked it inside and let it fester.

The truth was that I was tired of feeling like people were just looking for something to argue with me about... and so I did what I always do.

I tightened up my edges. If I didn't say anything, then no one could find anything to find fault with. I couldn't get wounded.

So I pulled inward. Inward and inward and inward. The problem is that once you start pulling inward, it can be hard to stop.  So, you just keep retreating and retreating.

It stops people from finding fault with the things you say or do, yes.  But once you retreat as far as you can go, you begin to realize that you have completely isolated yourself.

And completely isolating yourself is very lonely.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Wrong People

Today, I was at lunch with one of my teenagers. She confided that she'd stumbled across a journal she kept when she was in elementary school, and it was "SO DRAMATIC."

I asked for an example, and she said, "Well... I was kind of sad and wrote that I thought you had to be perfect all the time for people to like you."

"That's interesting...  what do you think about that now?"

She paused for a minute and answered thoughtfully, "I don't believe that now...  I just think I wasn't talking to the right people."

And I thought that was quite wise...

Sometimes when the world seems like it's against us and we believe all the negative things about ourselves, maybe we're just not talking to the right people.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The One Who Was Invisible

I spent a lot of time in Seattle earlier this year. Errands had me returning there again and again, which is outside of my norm.  I'm a suburbs girl.

But I ended up making the best of it... doing what I needed to do, throwing it all into a day's outing, walking around town and smiling at as many people as possible. I made it a game with myself.

Pick at least one person on each block... See them. Smile at them. Say "hello." Find something that would make their day just one iota brighter than the moment before I walked into it.

I'm not sure that my mom loved this game. I think she imagines that I'm always in my house, and the idea of me running around "the big city" by myself all day... talking to strangers...  I'm sure that gave my overprotective momma fits.

But, looking back, there is one that I missed...  and I have regretted missing him ever since.

One of these afternoons, I was walking the mile back to my car, flashing my ever-so-winning smile at anyone I passed. I'd tarried too long at the pier, so of course I was cutting it close on getting back home in time to greet my kids on their return from school. On the way, I passed a man.

I couldn't tell you how old he was, but I want to say young-ish.  I couldn't see his face, but there was something about the way he sat that said 20s to me.  But who's to say?

He sat crosslegged on the sidewalk, his back against the wall... but hunched over his own lap.

He had a coat draped over his head, and he sat staring at the ground below him.  Or napping? I don't even know.

I slowed down to read the piece of cardstock he had sitting beside him on the ground.

"I Feel Invisible."

and I didn't stop.

There are lots of reasons.  I was late. I am a girl alone in downtown Seattle. He could have been a deranged lunatic. He could have had a knife or a gun. None of those are unwise reasons.

so I didn't stop.

But I should have. I really should have.

Me, who tries to be deliberate about making it a practice to see people...  Someone begged me to see them, and I walked right on by.

I will always wonder what kind of changes could have been made in the truth of his sign if I had looked past my fears and just bothered to stop.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Night I Should Have Just Gone Home

If you had said it to me then, I would have argued and denied it. Vehemently, even.

But, looking back from where I sit now -- for when is our vision clearer? -- you could have been right.

I wasn't supposed to be there that night. Not in that courtyard. Not down that alleyway. And yet, I had gone. I had crept down it silently, keeping to its shadows. No one could know for it was forbidden.

Not to everyone, but to me. And so I was the mouse, the vermin.

I couldn't say now why I had felt compelled to go. Why hadn't I just left well enough alone? Done what I was told? I should have gone home. But curiosity had me by the tail and wouldn't let go. I didn't want to be part of it necessarily - I just wanted to see it happen.

The alleyway opened into the light and I skirted its edge. I could have withstood the consequences of recognition, but it was easier without them. So I drew my cloak close and joined the edges of the crowd.

He was already at the gate, holding court-- he on his side of the gate, the crowd on ours. There were sighs. Women swooned.

It was a bit surreal to see him in life -- like a picture that had jumped off the page when you looked away and now suddenly wouldn't return from where it had come. I was too far away to hear the words he said, but the music of his voice reached me on the wind.

There was a spell in the timbre of it.

Soon, another from the Court emerged into the courtyard and the mob followed, like dogs after the scent. The corners of his mouth turned up with a glint of sardonic humor and he made his way back to the Castle doors.  The mob would come again as they did every night and, when they did, he would weave his spell once again.

I didn't follow after the mob. But I didn't leave either. I found myself alone, hands wrapped around the steel of the gate, wishing to speak but afraid to utter words. Someone called his name from afar and he turned to wave them away until the next moonlight. But, his eyes caught mine instead, and he stopped.

It was too late to run. Anonymity was no longer mine. I was still the mouse-- but the mouse that had ventured across the kitchen floor and was now in the sights of the housecat. He smiled as he returned to the gate, his guard following in his shadow.  I didn't know what to make of that smile. When he spoke, I could feel the music of his spell float around me and I shook my head to ward it off.

I understood how he held the mob in such thrall. It wasn't that he was handsome, though this was what was said. It was that he was so utterly charming. My mother had taught that a charming man was a dangerous man.  That a man who oozed charm always knew what to say to turn your head at the right moment from the things that you should be looking at. That a man who knew what to say could never quite be trusted to mean what he said. In everything that passed after, I would always wonder who I was speaking to -- the charmer or the one who lay underneath.

Maybe they were always the same.

He lied to me that night, and not for the last time. You will hold that against him. Maybe you should, though I will rush to excuse him. It wasn't a lie meant to harm, but to shade a truth that might have wounded. A lie is like that sometimes. It feels like kindness, but...

If he had fed me the same lie today, I would have called him on it and we would have laughed. But, I didn't see it or I chose to ignore it... or I just didn't know that I could do anything different.

I must admit with chagrin that his spell worked on me that night, despite my convictions to the contrary. I should have known. As we spoke, I forgot who we both wore. But the guard cleared his throat and looked pointedly at my hands still clutching the railing of the gate, too near to his charge.

I lowered my eyes and stepped back, chastised. I had forgotten that we were from very different castes, very different worlds. His spell, his laughter... they had made me forget and the spell he had woven nearly crashed around me with the remembering. He glanced behind him with annoyance and stepped up to the gate himself, leaning across it as he quickly re-wove the magic.

I felt a flush of gratitude toward him in that moment as I listened to his voice.  And while I would have denied it then, that was the moment I began to love him.

Perhaps the spell still holds sway. Perhaps it is better that way.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

I'm a Superhero

I have a hidden talent.

I didn't used to see it as a talent. It was just a thing that I did, that I liked to do. But, over time, I've begun to recognize it as a talent.

Not just a talent... it's my superpower.

For years, I've had strangers stop me... usually old men (it's less creepy than it sounds... I think older people just care less about being weird)... and they would say, "I just had to tell you that you have the most beautiful smile."

I would say my thanks... but I sort of always thought it was the kind of thing you'd say to be nice to the overweight girl.  You know how you say... "Well, she has a really nice personality..." when you couldn't say she was gorgeous and svelte? I thought it was like that...  and so I appreciated it, but I always thought it was a cop-out compliment. The best someone could come up with when they couldn't come up with anything else.

But... as time has gone by, as my body shape has changed, as I've grown in self-confidence...  I still get the same comments.  But more, I've begun to pay attention to the power that a smile has -- and it does. It has great power -- but you have to mean it.

It isn't enough to crinkle your face into a uptilted moon. Your eyes have to mean it. You have to want to earnestly pass on a little bit of joy to someone else, even if it's just for a moment.

What I believe is that most people desperately want to be seen. In a world where it is ever so easy to hide in our phones and our computers, where we rush from place to place, where we're absorbed in our own busy -- more than ever do I believe that most people want to be seen for who they are, want to be appreciated for who they are.

Sometimes a smile is just that... a smile, and then it's over. But being willing to smile at strangers and to really see people opens you up to the possibility of more. I believe people want to be seen because I've seen what happens when people feel seen.  And all of a sudden, you find yourself in conversations with people you've smiled at because they grasp at being seen like a hungry child. Before you know it, a smile has turned into an exchange, and an exchange turns into a conversation, and they walk away from that one smile... seen.

And so I don't think of my smile as a second-rate compliment anymore. It's my gift. And so now I find myself looking for places to use it.

Because when  you have a superpower, you have a responsibility to use it for the greater good. Isn't that what superheroes are for?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Accepting What Is

Those closest to me could tell you that I'm not very good at letting go.

If I ever find myself in a situation where a relationship is dying, I just don't want to let go. I keep trying and trying and trying to make it work -- even when it's obvious to everyone around me that it just isn't going to.  Probably, a lot of that is because I'm so goshdarned stubborn.

I don't want to admit defeat.

I think it's more than just stubbornness, though. I guess I just don't like to give up on someone. I don't want to be the one to walk away...  because it isn't just a relationship I'm walking away from.  It's a person.  And perhaps because I struggle so much myself with feeling like I'm not "enough," I never want to be the cause of someone else feeling like they aren't enough.

Sometimes, though, I hang on long past the point of sanity. It gets to the point where we're more poison to each other as friends than we ever would have been if we had just said, "We're not really that good for each other anymore" and walked peaceably away.

Some people start out the year with picking a WORD for their year. I admire that, but always marvel at it. I can't quite figure out how anyone does it before the year even happens.  For myself, I often find myself looking BACK at a year and seeing a word or a concept come up over and over... and I'll know that was my word.

A couple years ago, it was "CHOICE."  Another year, it was "IDENTITY."

This year, as I look back, I think this year has been "ACCEPTANCE."

The beginning of the year, I walked through accepting people as they are... not expecting them to change for me.

The middle of the year, I walked through accepting my need to people please for what it is... and began to understand and internalize that not everyone was going to like me -- and how that wasn't a statement about who I was or about my self-worth.

Perhaps, now, I'm walking through accepting relationships for what they are. Sometimes that's pure beauty.  Sometimes that's relationships that are simply in need of my attention and my priority. And sometimes... that's relationships that have run their course and perhaps need to be accepted for having played their part.

And that's not defeat. That's just life.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Thursday Tales: The Return Home

Morning was almost here.

The grey of the fog began to lighten just the slightest bit and I quickened my step. Looming in the distance, the manor appeared and I sighed -- both in relief and resignation. It had been a long journey and it would be good to home.

But, it was also hard to be home.

It seemed always odd to me that both were true.

I climbed the steps and reached to push open the doors, but before I could, they swung open.

"You're nearly late, Miss Jane." Reproof and worry creased the man's features for just a moment before he smoothed it away to the aloof expression he usually wore. "My apologies, Miss."

I couldn't help but smile. Even after all these years, Thomas still clung to the old ways.  But, he was from an old family -- and that was saying something. "I'm sorry for worrying you," I consoled gently. "It all just took longer than I had expected. There were... complications." I followed him up the stairs to the upstairs hallway.

At the top, he turned and raised one eyebrow. "Complications, Miss?"

I shrugged. "The old hag agreed. Father won't like her demands. But she agreed. Could you tell him that I'd like to rest a little before reporting? I'm so very tired." The exhaustion had finally caught up with me, it seemed.

Thomas pushed open the heavy door to my bedroom. "Of course, Miss Jane." The ivory glistened in the candlelight. "Your coffin awaits."

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

You Have Permission

When I was a very young mother, I remember visiting the NICU to say Hello to our nurses shortly after taking our last twin home. I was sharing with the two that I had grown closest to how tired I was. I was trying to breastfeed -- which meant feeding one premature twin, feeding the second one. Repeatedly waking her up because she'd fall asleep after sucking twice, and starting again. Supplementing her with bottle feeding because it was important that she have a certain amount per feeding. Pumping breast milk. Changing everyone's diapers. And by the time that was done, it was pretty much time to do it all over again.

One of them touched my hand and said, "They're three months old and you are already a mess. It is okay to formula feed. It doesn't make you a bad mom."

And I cried.  Because I needed the permission. I just needed someone to say "It's okay."

I've grown up a bit since then... and don't need anyone else's permission so much.
But I find that I do need my own.

So, as we head into a new school year, I'm giving myself permission.

Permission to be myself.
Permission to be involved or not involved.
Permission to say yes.
Permission to say no.
Permission to do all the things.
Permission to be busy.
But also permission to do none of the things.
Permission to relax.
Permission to try.
Permission to fail.
Permission to succeed.
Permission to grow.
Permission to fly.

You, Jo, have free rein this year. Live without apology.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Friendship Refused

I offered my friendship to someone a few weeks ago. That sounds sort of silly to say... but I let it be known that I'd like to get to know them better -- and left it in their court.

Which they... walked away from.

It's not that they said "No way, why would I want to be friends with you?"  They just simply digitally left me hanging.

Of course that stung a little. The message was "No thank you. You're not someone I want to know." But... over Lent this year, I dove a lot into my need to people please, my need to have everyone like me.  And when Lent was over, what I was left with was a new mantra for myself in those situations where I feel less-than and that I need to change myself to please someone else.

It is simply this: "You have lots of people who love you just as you are. It's okay if there is someone who doesn't."

So, that's what I said to myself... and I was fine. I just let it go. Why chase someone who doesn't want to know you?


This week, that same person sought me out and I thought, "Well, maybe I was wrong? Maybe they do want to get to know me?" So I was friendly, or at least I hope I was... and I tried to continue the conversation they started. And again, they just walked away.

So, I tell myself again, "It's okay if there is someone who doesn't like you."

And I am fine.  Honestly, I am.

At this point, I'm probably more irritated by the whole thing than anything. I'm too busy to play games. Like me. Don't like me. It's fine...  but don't play with me. I'm worth more respect than that.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Byrne and Kelly 2015 Tour review + Setlist

 As we sat in the old pews on Saturday night, waiting for the show to start, my dad leaned over to me and asked, "Do you think those work?"

Behind the stage, there was a beautiful old organ with pipes to the ceiling. I shrugged, "Beats me!!"

We would find out.

We were in Portland, Oregon at The Old Church concert venue, waiting to see Byrne and Kelly perform the second show of their 2015 tour. It was the first time I'd brought my dad to a show of theirs and I was both excited to see it with him and thrilled to soak up the music of a few of my favorite musicians.

Byrne and Kelly is headlined by Celtic Thunder's Neil Byrne and Ryan Kelly, both stellar vocalists. Last year, they added violinist Nicole Hudson and player-of-87-instruments Peter Sheridan.  This year is actually the first time I've seen them in person since they had moved to the fuller band, and oh was I pleased! Nicole is an amazing musician and added so much beauty to the music -- and I loved the addition of Peter just as much. Every time I looked over, he seemed to be playing something else.

Also, I sort of adored and coveted his hat.

Full Disclosure: I have been following Ryan and Neil for a long time. I am passionate, invested, and have great love and hope for them as musicians. But following them for a long time also means that I was there when they were feeling their way, trying things out, making mistakes... and I've seen how much they've grown as musicians, as vocalists, as music arrangers (is there a cooler word for that?), as songwriters.  And it's a lot. It's true that they get better and better every time they come out on tour, and this weekend, they were earnestly the best I'd ever seen them.

The setlist for this year's show (which will follow later) is a balanced mix of upbeat fun songs that showcase their personalities and slower pieces that really worked to show off their individual voices. One of the things that I've always found to be a particular strength of these two performers is the quality of their vocal blend. They are both powerful vocalists on their own -- but they blend really nicely. Their harmony is beautiful... and you just want to sit as still as you can, close your eyes, and let the sounds wash over you.

Course, you miss the man pretty that way.

Step It Out Mary is one of my favorites at the beginning of their set. It's a fun catchy song with a beat that gets into your bones and makes you want to bounce in your seat. Back Home in Derry is a great story song off of their first album, Acoustic by Candlelight, that is just amazing sung live. It was during Back Home in Derry that I discovered my new favorite game. There is an instrumental section in the middle of this song that is pretty darn rocking. I'd actually seen this show the night before in Seattle with my best friend... and during this section, we had looked at each other and she said, "Ryan is working REALLY HARD."  And you guys... it's kind of awesome.

Beautiful Affair, also from their first album, is a song that I have consistently ranked in my list of ABSOLUTE FAVORITES ever since I first heard it, and I still haven't moved it. This is particularly the song where I don't want to move, lest it mess with the pristine beauty of the harmonies in any way. Just lovely. I was especially impressed and taken with Neil in both On Raglan Road (so beautiful and poetic!) and The Water is Wide. I really thought that they were beautiful songs that really showcased the strength of his voice.

One that I really enjoyed a lot was Down in the River to Pray. This was done as an ensemble song, acappella, with all four voices -- and truly, it was lovely. Both of the venues I saw them in this weekend were old churches, and so they seemed particularly appropriate to the setting. It was just beautiful.

I am pleased to see that Byrne and Kelly are moving further and further away from Celtic Thunder music. It's not that I don't like Celtic Thunder music -- but it delights me that Ryan and Neil have developed enough of their own material in their own style that they don't need it. Ryan does sing both Ride On and Black is the Colour, which have both garnered him much delight in Celtic Thunder, but in such less disco-fied versions that they don't really even seem like the same songs.  I have "BEAUTIFUL BEAUTIFUL" scribbled all over my notes...  so... they were pretty alright. Black is the Colour especially was such a lovely and touching demonstration of Ryan's vocal power. I'd listen to that again.

Ryan and Neil have been busy recording all summer for an upcoming new album full of music they've written themselves, and they showcased three of those songs during the show: Home from Home, The Ragman, and The Garden. If these songs are any indication of the whole album to come...  well, what I imagine is that when they all got together to write, they said, "Okay. What stories do we want to tell?" The Garden has a refrain that I really liked with a memorable cadence, but The Ragman is the one that I really liked best. It gets into your head, the instrumentals are intricate and delightful, and for some reason that I can't remember, I wrote down, "Neil is so cool."

And as the concert drew to a close, and the final song of the main set was upon us, the beautiful sounds of that gorgeous church organ filled the room. I grinned at my dad and said, "I guess it works!" Tom Petty's Free Fallin' on the organ?  Pretty darned awesome.

Normally, when I write these reviews, I really try to be honest. I try to be balanced. I try to be upfront about the things I loved, but honest about the things that I didn't.  But honestly? This time, there really wasn't much that went into the second category. There's maybe one song in their setlist that really isn't my favorite... but the rest, I was really very happy and taken with.

I can't end without saying something about Neil on the guitar.  Wow.  That's all. Just wow. Actually, I think I'm going to write this just to Neil. Neil, I love Brad Paisley.  And I love going to Brad Paisley concerts JUST to so I can watch him play guitar solos.  --  No one is going to complain if you just go to town on your guitar for five minutes at a time. One of the reasons I love B&K shows is that I can watch you do that...  Please don't feel like you need to skimp.  You. Rock. Love, Me

Okay, I think I've said everything I want to say. I had a wonderful time. I soaked up the music as deeply as I could. I left very happy... but wistful that I couldn't see it yet again. If you can catch them on their tour... do it. They are so lovely and you won't be sorry.  (Tickets here!!)

Set List (give or take one I missed)
Where the Streets Have no Name
Step It Out, Mary
Beautiful Affair
The Ragman
Rock n Roll Kids
Back Home in Derry
Saints and Sinners
On Raglan Road
American Dream
Don't Go
The Garden
Ride On
California Dreamin'
Brown-Eyed Girl
Black is the Colour
The Water is Wide
Down in the River to Pray
Wagon Wheel
Land Down Under
Free Falling
Home from Home (encore)

Monday, July 20, 2015

CHANGE the Place that You Are

"If you aren't happy in the place that you are, 
change the place that you are."

I used to think I knew what that meant.

And so I spent a lot of time and energy looking for the place that would make me happy, looking for the place where I would fit.  I would dig in and engage until it started to feel like I didn't fit, until I wasn't happy.  Then, I would think, "Jo... if you aren't happy here, then find a new here."  I would disengage. I would search for a new here -- and I would start again.

But what if that's not what it means?

What if the answer doesn't lie in picking up and moving... but in staying and changing the actual place you've already set down roots?

What if it means that you aren't meant to be forever searching for a place that is made uniquely for you...  but that you're meant to be setting yourself down and having a meaningful impact on the place that you already are?

What if you're meant to stop looking for the place you're meant to be and instead to start creating the place you're meant to be...?

What if you were looking at it all wrong?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Forget You Knew My Name

(on Saturday)

"Forget you ever knew my name."

He had pulled me into his arms, his scent filling me, and whispered those words into my hair. He had pulled back to cup my cheek in the palm of his hand, seemingly on the brink of saying more...

And then he was gone.

Forget I ever knew his name? I laugh now.

Maybe it would have been easier if it hadn't been for all the other things that were so hard to forget.

If I closed my eyes, I could still feel his hand on the small of my back as we walked, his lips on my neck when he woke me in the early morning. I could still feel the warmth of his hands as they skimmed my skin.

The beat of his chest. The scent of his hair.

I think of him when I touch my coffee cup to my lips each morning. I think of him when an old song comes on and I remember the way we danced. I think of his laughter. The hard spots and the soft spots. The ways he made me crazy and the ways he made me love him.

Forget I ever knew his name?

How can you ever forget something so terribly right that went so terribly wrong?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Chasing My Own Worth

I used to believe that it was me. I used to believe that if a relationship went through a dry or untended period, it must be because of me.

It was something I had done. It was something I had said.
It was something I hadn't done or said, but that I should have.
I had gone too far. Not far enough. Crossed a boundary without respecting it.
Mostly, it must be because I was lacking in some important way.

I would make myself crazy -- actually crazy -- trying to figure out what it was. I would blame myself. I would think less of myself. I would earnestly believe that there must be something wrong with me. Something I needed to fix.

But that was something that proved impossible because of one important detail.

It was never about me. And eventually, I learned that.

Maybe it was about how busy they were.
Maybe it was about the stress level in their lives.
Maybe it was even about the priority, or lack thereof, they put on our relationship.

But it truly wasn't about me. It certainly wasn't about my worth as a person. And there really wasn't anything I could do to change what was.

Somehow...  somehow that was freeing. And I stopped chasing them.

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Vulnerability Circle

Making yourself vulnerable to others can be a hard thing. It comes with the risk that you could be hurt -- that your heart could be somehow trampled on, leaving you broken and burned.

It is placing your most private corners in someone else's hands -- gambling that they'll respect the trust you've placed in them -- but knowing that they might not.

Sometimes that comes when I share my innermost secrets with a person, trying to be real and transparent. Sometimes comes just when I've written something here. And I hope that you read it the way I spoke it -- that you will understand it. That you won't ridicule my heart offering.

And I suppose that's why it means something when someone allows themselves to be vulnerable with me -- when they give me the power to trample -- when they put themselves on the line to ask what I think about what they've made - what they've offered.

A vulnerability circle, if you will, that circles to infinity as long as you maintain respect and trust.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Making Everyone's Day Better

The truth is that I don't love going to Seattle.

I'm more of a suburb girl than a big city girl. I like big parking lots and Target. Not so much skinny one-way streets and a need to know how to parallel park. Which I don't. Also, I hate stopping at stoplights on giant hills where I am petrified that I am going to back into the person behind me when I switch my foot from the brake to the gas.

Also I'm usually lost.

And there are a lot of crazy people in big cities.  I don't mean "mildly crazy" like me.  I mean, actually crazy.

But, today, I needed to go to Seattle to work out something with my daughter's passport.  So, to Seattle, I went.  But, since I had to be there anyway, I decided I'd make a morning of it.  The plan was to do my business at the Passport Office and then walk down to Pike Place...and then walk back to go home.

Gratefully, the Passport part didn't take very long -- which left me in a pretty good mood.

It was at this point that I met the guy that started my project. He shoved his way out the door of the private side of the passport office, and smacked the elevator button while running his hands through his hair.

"Tough morning already?" I asked him tentatively.

He smiled at me tightly as we both got on the elevator. "Yeah. The side you came from is only half of it..."

"I'm sorry," I offered. "It's not your fault that we all procrastinated getting a passport till the last possible minute."  As the doors opened again, I patted him on the shoulder. "I hope your day gets better."

"Thanks," he said.  "No, I mean it.  Thanks."

And at that point, I decided I was just going to make everyone's day better. It was roughly a bazillion block walk from the passport office to Pike Place... and roughly the same distance back. So I decided I was going to find at least one person on every block and I was going to do something to make their day just the slightest bit happier.

I made a point to "see" the people asking for spare change.
I complimented lots of people on their hair, their outfits, the beautiful color of their shoes.
I smiled at a lot of people.
I said Hello to all the cops and security guards standing outside downtown buildings.
I made small talk with people at crosswalks.
And even just inserted myself into a conversation and reassured some random girl that no, she wasn't being irrational for being upset when people treat her like an idiot.

And you know what... Seattle wasn't so bad.

Also I found cool stuff!  Did you know that there's a waterfall there? And an old time fire engine museum? And that UPS was started there?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Banging at the Window: Lessons from a Bug

Fifteen minutes age, some sort of very buzz-y bug flew into my house through the open door.

And for 14 minutes and 30 seconds, I have watched it across the room, trying to fly its way out of a window that won't ever open. It thinks there is freedom on the other side if it could just fly hard enough, fast enough, high enough.

It just keeps trying and trying. The left side? The right side?  Down low? Up high? It's tried every bit of that window... and still it remains stuck inside my house.  Separated from what it wants by a pane of glass.

As I've watched it try ever so hard, I am struck by how like that bug I can be.

I am struck by often I bang myself against walls that I think I want to climb. Bridges that I think I'd like to cross. Roads that I think I'd like to travel.

And I try so hard.  I try so hard and, so often, to no avail.  The walls won't budge. The bridges collapse under my feet. The roads are too tangled with brush to make any headway.

I am so wrapped up in shoving what I want into reality that I don't stop. I don't stop and look around.  and I never see that what I really want is already here. That the road to where I want to go is already behind me.

That if I just turned around, I would see it. I could follow it.

And I could get to where I wanted to be.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Never Good Enough

I always felt like I wasn't good enough with her.  --
Or that she thought I wasn't good enough.

She always had to be smarter. She always had to be wittier.
She continually took the credit for things I had done.. and I let her because the only person it hurt was me.

If I had a story, she had one that topped it.
If something good happened to me, it was because of something she had done.

If I ever tried to keep something as just mine, she'd guilt me until I gave her that too.

One day, I said "I'm sincerely sorry that I'm not good enough for you..."

And I walked away.

Not because I wasn't good enough... but because I knew that I was.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Finding Myself

I am not the same person that I was.

I am different but it's a good kind of different.

I used to push and pull myself to fit into the boxes I thought I was supposed to be in. I was clay to be molded into who I thought they wanted.

But I found people who were like me... and so it gave me the freedom to be me. And I found all that pushing and pulling was really a lot of work.  It was exhausting to always be someone you really aren't.

Having a safe place to be me gave me the courage to still be me in places that didn't feel as safe. Places that were risky, places that made me feel vulnerable.  It was still scary to risk being me in places that held emotional danger...

But knowing that there was a place that it was absolutely okay to just be who I was gave me the strength to just be who I was in places that could still sting. Knowing I had people who loved me just as I am made the potential backlash of being just who I am less debilitating.

Despite the best attempts of people who love me very much, I will probably never be the kind of person who doesn't care what people think of me. I do. And I will probably always tend to being the chameleon. It's a safety blanket.

But I know now that I'm okay.  Faults and all, I'm okay.

And maybe I don't need that safety blanket as much as I used to.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Mask over our Changes

I have taken my daughter to counselling for some issues she was having for two years now.

For the first year, all the changes were hidden. They were important things, things that needed to be worked on before we could get to the big things.  But they were things that were all under-the-surface. Heart changes. Confidence. Belief in herself.

If you had asked me how counselling was going, I would have told you it was good -- because it was. But the concrete evidence I would had to back that up would have been small.  They were inside changes that meant the world -- but that you couldn't see unless you knew her really well.

And the second year came.

We'd done the inner heart changes the year before... and it was time to make those changes outside, as well as inside. But that was hard too because it meant that she had to take off her mask.  The changes were no longer things that only she could see.  They were changes that she was going to reveal to the world.

But what if the world didn't like those changes? What if the world didn't like her?

Do we ever feel like that too? I know that I do.

In life, we grow and change.  Sometimes that's just in "living wisdom." Sometimes that's because of experiences. Sometimes that's because epiphanies and being convicted by things. We are spurred on to change.

And those changes are all safe as long as we keep our masks on. If people don't know we really are or who we're really becoming, then we can't really be judged on who we are, either. -- They don't know. There is a safety in that, keeping who you are and who you're becoming a secret.

But you've become who you are for a reason. You have walked paths and roads and climbed obstacles and mountains. You have hit dead ends and retraced your steps. You have conquered. You have changed and you have grown. You have been convicted and you have rewritten your journey. And these all happened for a reason. They have all combined to make you who you are.

And who you are shouldn't be hidden by a mask anymore.

Take the risk. Don't be afraid to be the person who you have become. It makes the Becoming worth it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Trusting Myself

I was walking through some friend-y strife a few weeks ago. So, on an evening run, I was listening to Christina Perri -- who is sort of my "having a hard time with people" go-to music. My best friend introduced me to her a couple years ago, and I really liked her first album. It's a little angst-y and fills my emotional needs when I'm struggling with people.

But I liked her second one even more. Sort of the same themes as her first...but the songs seem to speak much more to dealing with yourself after people struggles -- rather than just being mad and sad they exist.

I happened to be listening to her song "trust"... and I thought "This is exactly what I need tonight."

You see, I trust really easily. I don't really think of that as a flaw -- it's a choice that I make, and I make it knowing that it could backfire on me. I know that people can use that against me. But I don't want to be someone that's cynical -- and so I trust with the hope that people are worth it.

Because I want to be the kind of person who believes that they could be.

I have two people in my life that I've become friends with over the past months or years that were a risk to trust. They were people who were friends with someone that I knew really didn't like me -- and allowing them inside my heart and my confidence was a risk.  It was a risk that I knew could be extremely hurtful if it didn't turn out well.

But I want to be the kind of person who believes people could be worth it.

And so I risked...  and in these cases, I'm glad that I did. They have become friends and people that I enjoy talking to and spending time with.  And they wouldn't be if I hadn't been willing to trust -- even when it seemed unwise.

But sometimes that risk doesn't pan out.  Sometimes that risk breaks me. And somewhere in the brokenness, I whisper to myself, "You were wrong to trust. You were wrong to put yourself out there. You were wrong to let yourself care. This brokenness is your fault."

But I want to be the kind of person who believes people could be worth it.

So I think that voice is wrong.  Even when it feels right... I think it's wrong.

Yes. I might be hurt. And I might pay the price. But I am the kind of person who believes people are worth it.

So I trust.  Them.  But mostly, I keep learning to trust myself.

Because I am who I am -- and I think you're worth it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Time and Distance

There is a sadness and a grief to losing a friendship, one that leaves a hole in your heart that only time and distance can heal. Perhaps you miss the camaraderie and laughter... the shoulder they had been to cry on.  You see things that you would have shared with them before... but then your shoulders droop when you remember you aren't speaking anymore.

That is a hard thing and a sad thing and a grieving thing...  but you will heal if you give yourself time.

My best friend said to me, "Accepting that someone doesn't care about you when you care about them so very much is very tough."

I've thought about that a lot. She's right... it is. I think there's a lot of different parts to that -- and I think that one of them is that it shakes up your trust in yourself as well -- because you probably thought that they did.

So when you face that you were wrong about that, what else were you wrong about? What else are you wrong about? If you follow that road too far, you start to doubt that anything you think is right... that anyone you trust is worthy of it.  But, really, who you don't trust anymore is you.

And maybe it takes time and distance to grow that back, too.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

"It's Okay to Feel That Way"

I was out with my 15-year-old daughter tonight and talking to her about some friendship strife I've been in the midst of lately -- about some hurt I had experienced, my struggles with what to do about it, and such.

She's my sweet compassionate one... and after a little thought, she said, "Well... I think it's okay that you feel that way." It's funny how that little bit of permission makes you feel.

It made me think about how we don't allow ourselves to feel the hard emotions. There is an emphasis on joy and happiness, a belief that these are the "good" emotions and that you are doing something wrong if you wallow too long in grief or sadness or sorrow.

And that "too long" is really a very short amount of time.

I think that sometimes those harder, less-pleasant emotions have a purpose. There is a healing purpose to them... but if we shove ourselves out of them too quickly, we have robbed ourselves of the chance to heal healthily.  And while we're whipping ourselves into a happy frenzy and insisting that life is good, we're missing the chance to walk through our heartache and heal it from the inside.

For myself, I think a longer healing time might be necessary. I can whip myself up into joy with the best of them, but I'm not sure that's really going to serve me well in the long run. My biggest danger there, I think, is being sure that I understand the connection between sorrow, hurt, and anger.

The anger is there to protect you from the sorrow and the hurt. There is a protective part of you that wants to go there.  But that anger moves very quickly from protecting you to hurting who hurt you. And that truly isn't where I want to go. Hurting someone else doesn't heal the hurt in myself. It just makes more hurt to be healed.

So, this time, I'm going with my daughter and telling myself that it's okay to feel this way.

I've lost, or am losing, a friendship that meant a lot to me, and I'm sad. I've been hurt by some things, but more so by the indifference to that hurt than anything -- and I feel wounded. I'm struggling with questions of honesty and doubt and self-trust, and I'm twisted around.

And maybe this time, instead of searching for the silver lining to make myself feel better, I'm just going to allow myself to be a little sad for awhile.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Vulnerability Pep Talk

Today, I am writing a pep talk for myself... but you are more than welcome to read along and take anything you want from it.

I have been reading some Brene Brown lately, and have been trying to embrace and act out more vulnerability. Maybe I should have waited until I'd actually finished one of these books or something. But partway through, I decided to try.

It involved talking with someone that I've been struggling with, someone I'd been hurt by. It meant being very open about those hurts, about how they made me feel, and they involved asking for something I needed. I'm a girl who secretly believes that if I ask for something, I've failed somehow... so that part was hard (and possibly not done with much finesse).

I guess it could have gone worse. It could have ended in a fight and mean words tossed back and forth. It didn't, and I guess I can be grateful for that. But it was the equivalent of pouring out your inner heart to someone and having them look at you blankly, shrug, and walk away like it didn't matter. Like you didn't matter.

This morning, I want to erase the whole thing. Not only do I want to erase it but I want to never do it again. If that's the result of being vulnerable, why would anyone do it?

But I'm here to tell myself that locking up is not the answer. Never trying again with anyone isn't the answer.
When someone shares a mess-up of some kind in Weight Watchers, we often ask, "So what did you learn?" It isn't a failure if you can learn from it. So I'm asking myself, "What did you learn?"

I learned that vulnerability can hurt.
I learned that maybe that person isn't the person who has earned me being vulnerable with them. They aren't the kind of person who can be trusted with it.

But what I know is that I definitely have people in my life who can be. I have people in my life who I can trust with my heart and know that they wont break it.

And if I close off my vulnerable points from the whole world because of one person, then I am robbing myself and them from beautiful opportunities to be there for each other.

So, no. I'm not going to erase what happened. And I'm not going to never do it again. I'm sorry that person couldn't understand my heart, but that doesn't mean I'm going to wrap it up and hide it away. That's their issue... not mine.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

When Being "All-In" Ends in Pain

None of this is really mine, but it struck me enough that I wanted to share it.

I was trying to catch up on my YouTube subscriptions the other day and I came across this video from Carrie Hope Fletcher. I love her. I stumbled across her while watching the Becoming YouTube series a couple years ago, thought she was sort of adorable, and wanted to check her out.  Since, she's become one of my favorite people to watch. Her demographic isn't really me... but then again, it is.

In the video, she talks about heartbreak and how strongly it can affect us.  But, what she said that caught me and spoke to me and convicted me and begrudgingly made me sign on was this:

When we encounter situations that don't work out... whether that be love or friendship or work or whatever... the level of the heartbreak that we feel is directly related to the amount that we cared, to the amount of energy and emotion that we put into the thing that didn't pan out the way that we had hoped.

The more we cared, the more we end up hurting.  So when things don't work out and we are broken-hearted?  It isn't a bad thing to feel that way.  What that heartbreak means is that we really cared about the thing. We cared about it so much that letting go of it just really hurts a lot. We were all-in and we committed our heart, so of course our hearts hurt. We needn't be ashamed of that.

When things don't pan out, it's easy and natural and understandable to want to pull back from everything.  It's easy to say, "Well, that really hurt. I don't want to ever feel that way again so I'm going to make sure that I never give of myself like that again."  And you can do that.  You can.

And if you don't give much of yourself to the next thing, it is true that you are less likely to hurt in that all-in way again. But your rewards are also connected to how much you care, how much you give, how much you commit.  So... while it's true that hurts might be less if you give less, your rewards and, as Carrie put it, your victories are only worth that little bit of caring too.

So... you can't.  Really, you can't. You can't let being hurt stop you from being all-in from the next thing or the next person or the next relationship or even the things and relationships that are already part of your life. You may hurt less... but you will win less too.

So keep being all-in. Keep being that person that cares "too much." A world full of people afraid to care would be a sad one, wouldn't it?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Not Everything is About You

I've been struggling with a relationship lately. Lots of angst, lots of feelings, lots of frustration. I was dumping my heart out into the lap of one of my dearest friends this week and she said this to me:

This isn't about you. 
This is completely their issue. 
It isn't yours.

And as I thought about it more and more, it became something that was more and more important for me to internalize... because I've kept trying to make it my issue. And I probably try to make a lot of issues into my issues.

Because, you see, if things are my issues, well I can fix those. If something is off because I did something wrong or I said something that offended, if I'm the one being unreasonable... those are all things that I can fix. And if I can fix those things, then I can fix the relationship, right?

But if they're not my issue... well, there's really only so much that I can do about that. There's only so much of that I can fix. In fact, there's relatively little of that I can fix.

At the same time... it's a little bit freeing to start to internalize that. I'm very good at making things my fault. I apologize for everything. I have apologized for a lot of things that I didn't really think were my fault at all. But acknowledging that not everything is me... Well, that's freeing.

And maybe that doesn't fix the relationship. Maybe it won't ever be.

But it starts to fix me... and that's a start.

Friday, April 10, 2015

LENT: A Look Back

Easter has come and gone, so I figured it'd be good to take a look back at how Lent went. Nearly a week late, but I'm busy raising teenagers and saving the world.

This is not the first time I've attacked the idea of learning to care less what people think. It's something I've come back to more than once, something I struggle with over the long-term. When I first got involved with Celtic Thunder, their producer used to tell me, when I was hurt by things that people had said, that I needed to learn to let things roll off my back, that it didn't matter what those people thought if it wasn't the truth.

She was right... but I remember thinking then -- "But how?"

And so it's something that I've come back to more than once. But I think it's something that I grow a little more from each time. I think of the arena in Catching Fire, from the Hunger Games series. Do you remember how it went in a clock and each "hour" of the clock was a different catastrophe?  Sometimes I feel like the lessons I learn are like a road that winds through a world like that on a mountain.  And the road goes through each "hour" more than once... but it winds up through the mountain. Each time you go through the hour... it's the same kind of trial, but the road is a little different. And what you learn is a little different each time, and every time you go through it, you learn a little more and you grow a little more.

Does that make sense? I would draw you a picture, but I'm a terrible artist, and you would be all, "Is that a mountain...or... a .... penis?"  Trust me. It wouldn't be pretty.

So what did I learn this time?

This time, I think I learned that I can order my own world in such a way that the people who don't matter to me... aren't seen by me. I am always going to care what the people I care about think, and I don't think that's a bad thing-- and it's not something that I want to not do. But it doesn't make a lot of sense to get overly worked up over the opinions of those that I neither like nor want to be in relationship with.

The internet and social media is an easy place to get worked up.  One click of your button and you can see what people are saying... it's easy, but I think it's detrimental to us in a lot of ways and not just in the ways that we can see what people are saying about us. -- But that's really a whole different topic.

So I changed my internet presence... or I changed what I could see. I was proactive about not clicking into places where I was likely to be worked up. I let things go... When I was in conversation with someone who I didn't agree with... but that I also knew I had no chance of changing their beliefs, I just let it go. It wasn't worth getting into or spending my emotion on it. After all, what did it matter if someone thought something different?

I don't know that I was really tested over the last several weeks. I didn't really do anything of note that would create drama or fiery sentiments. And maybe that will be the next time through the "hour" on my mountain. Maybe there will be something new to learn then.

But for now, I'm happy with the last couple months. I feel like I made some changes that were healthy and that put me in a better place to move forward.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Covering and Finding Yourself

I have been operating under a mask for a long time.

I can't even decide the right image to use for this...  Under a mask, a leash, in a fishbowl? Maybe it doesn't matter.  In the end, I simply haven't been myself.

I have felt like I needed to cover up who I was. I needed to make her prettier. I needed to make her different. Why? So that other people would be okay with me. Or because I felt that I had to portray a certain image because of things and people that I was involved with.

It's really only been recently that I've come to take that off a little and have really begun to understand just how suffocating it is to not allow yourself to be you. How constricting it is to always be hiding what you think and feel, to always be playing a role.... and how the more you play it, the more you lose who the real you is.

And you finally are pushed to the brink and you rip off your mask/leash/bowl and step into the light and it feels so good.  But at the same time, it's awfully scary.  Because you're not quite sure who you are in the light anymore... and now you have to find her.

But it's a good kind of finding.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Crisis of Faith: Part 3

Part 1 and Part 2 here of the story, in parts.

I began to feel frustrated.. both with other people and with myself.

It seemed like the answer to everything was just "have more faith" or "have better faith."  And that if you did that, then everything would be fine. But everything wasn't fine.

My life was more complicated than that. The lives of the people I cared for were more complicated. "Just have more faith" wasn't the answer I was looking for. It honestly wasn't enough.

In retrospect, I think I just wanted someone to be real with me. I wanted someone to say that it was okay to think that life sucked sometimes. I didn't want church-y answers. I wanted real ones. Answers that got down in the mud with me and helped me find the way out... instead of trite ones thrown which weren't a lot of help when I was in the trenches.

But, I couldn't find "real," at least not in the places that I was looking. And it ended up just making me mad. Every time I heard or read anything that was in that "trite" sphere, I just pushed it away. I pushed the people who said it away. And then I pushed... sort of everyone away.

I felt guilty that "have more/better faith" wasn't enough for me. Church-i-ly, it should have been, shouldn't it? It was obviously something wrong with me.  But... I didn't want anyone to know that. So I walled off....

If you build your walls high enough, no one can know what's behind them.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Crisis of Faith: Part 2

For me, a faith crisis wasn't really about theology. It wasn't questioning whether what I believed was true.

But I suppose it was about feeling like what I believed and what I felt made me different. And if I was different from what I saw around me, was I wrong? Were they wrong? Was anyone wrong?

I don't really know when it started.  It was a discontent that grew over time until I was so annoyed by it that I reacted with disgust to those around me.

I'm a blogger... and as such, I like to read other blogs. But I began to feel more and more frustrated by the other writers I was reading. Having a hard day? Jesus will save you. Going through a divorce? Jesus will save you. Have a hangnail? Jesus will save you.

I used to teach in the children's ministry...  And when I taught, I could always tell the kids who had grown up in the church. It didn't really matter what you asked, half of them would yell out "JESUS!" as the answer -- They'd been pretty well-trained that "Jesus" was a darned good guess if you didn't know the answer, and I'm pretty sure they threw it out there, without even listening to the question, just in case.

It was kind of like that.

And I started to feel like "Jesus" just wasn't enough.

But how could I say that?  How could I say that Jesus wasn't enough? Isn't He supposed to be enough?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A Crisis of Faith: Part 1

The worst part about a faith crisis isn't that you've had one or that you're going through one.

It isn't the questions.
It isn't the changes.
It isn't the unsurety.
It isn't the doubt.
It isn't the searching.

The worst part about a faith crisis is doing it alone. It's worrying about what people would think of you if they knew that you're struggling or that you're questioning. It's worrying that they would mistake your questioning for something it isn't or that they would make assumptions about you... that they would judge you for your thoughts.

So you don't tell anyone... and you do it alone... and you withdraw. Because if they knew... well, you don't know what would happen.  And so you do it safe and you do it alone...  And that's very lonely.

Part of me says that Easter is a terrible time to admit to a faith crisis. Why would you mar the celebration of that day with such a thing?

But then, part of me says, "This is exactly when you talk about it." And maybe that's the part who's right.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Path I Could Have Avoided

As I meander down this little path of healing I'm on right now, there is a voice inside my head that speaks. It tells me that I wouldn't have to be walking this path, if I had only listened.

This path isn't a surprise. I have people in my life, who love me, who saw it coming.... before I even knew the path was there, they saw it coming. And I was warned, cautioned, advised, whatever you want to call it -- out of love, out of concern for me.

But I set off on the path anyway, sure that I could handle it.

And so that voice, it says, "You could have avoided all of this if you had only taken the advice given to you in the first place."

The voice is probably right. I could have.

But I think that, in some ways, I needed to walk the path anyway. I needed to walk it out. I needed to learn the lessons for myself. I needed to change how I thought about myself, and I'm not sure that would have happened in the same way if I had never set out on it in the first place.

This time, heading out on this rocky part of the path was a conscious choice. I know why I'm on it because I chose it. And I'm not seeking out closure this time or the reasons.  I don't need them.

I know why I'm here. While it may not be what I would have chosen when I first started out, it's what I'm choosing now. And perhaps that's something I needed to come to on my own.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I Care.

All this said about trying to become someone who cares less what people think...  I mean, it's good. Caring too much about what people who aren't even important to me think of me isn't a healthy thing. I want to learn to let that consume me less. And I feel like I'm making important strides toward that.

But the truth is that I'm never going to become someone who just doesn't care what anyone thinks about anything.

I'm always going to care. I'm always going to be the person that feels perhaps a little too much.  But honestly, I don't want to become not that person. It's a part of who I am, and it's not something I'm ashamed of being.

I'm always going to care... but I think that I can learn to care in a way that is healthier for me.


I think I'm going to let a friendship go. It's been rocky for awhile... unbalanced, not honest. I've always been the one to fix it.... the one to say I'm sorry and I'm willing to try again. I've always been the one that cares. But I don't think that's going to be me this time.

And that's not to say that I wouldn't be willing to try again... But I'm not going to chase it to fix it.

Probably, that will mean it's over.  And... I care.

Monday, March 23, 2015

LENT: A Musical Serenade

I slept in yesterday and needed to add a walk to my day if I was going to keep up with my biggest competitors on Fitbit. So, I threw on a jacket, plugged in my headphones, and set of with my beagle for a little jaunt in the almost-rain before I ran out of sunlight.

To tell the truth, I was feeling sort of plucky. Happy to be outside. Happy to be by myself. Happy to have my music with me.

So I started singing along as I walked.  At first, quietly.... but as I got more and more into it, I got less quiet. Encased in a world of Meghan Trainor, Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, and a stray My Chemical Romance track, I was happily dancing along to my own beat, ignoring the cars that drove by and just enjoying myself.

Eventually, my walk took me back into neighborhoods.  With people.  With people outside. With people outside close enough to hear me.

At first, if I noticed anyone outside, I quieted down. I either stopped singing or brought my volume down really low -- until I noticed myself doing it.  I said to myself, "Hey! You're having a good time! What do you really care if someone hears you?"

So for the rest of the walk, I stopped quieting down. I just kept right on singing and bouncing, with a smile and a wave to whoever thought I was insane.

And I ended it happy. And also not arrested, so that was good.


I don't really know that I've tested this whole project well... Things like yesterday are good things and things that I'm happy to have pressed myself to do. I think that they are good exercises and that it's positive to push myself outside of my comfort zone.

At the same time, I know that it isn't these situations that are really my problem. It's not really the little "she's a little weird" looks that get to me... but the hatred that gets passed your way during the big things.

And in many ways, I've taken myself out of the big things. For several years, the big hurts have come from within a community that I have largely spent the past several weeks removing myself from.  Not entirely -- I still have friends within it that I would not want to let go.  But in many ways, I've removed myself from it... there are things that I just don't want to be involved with anymore, and I find that I don't care that much about the favor that we're all supposed to be currying.

But I think that's a good thing and a healthy thing... However, I feel that not putting myself in a position to hear the hateful things is not the same thing as not caring about the hateful things.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Letting Go of What "Is"

Letting go of what "is" isn't the hard part.

Chances are that when you get to a place that you're even thinking about letting go of something, it's what "is" that you want to get away from. That's not really what is holding you back.

It's the hope... and it's the dreams... and ... mostly, it's the hope of what could have been. Maybe it's the memory of what "was" and the hope that it could be the "is" again. Hope is powerful. It can suck you in for so long, that hope that keeps you strung along for moment upon moment.

But you eventually have to come to a place where you accept that you cannot force the "was" to become the "now." You can't will your hopes to become reality.

And you have to decide.

  • How long are you willing to swim through the status quo of what is? Especially if it's something that makes you unhappy.
  • What sacrifices of yourself are you willing to make in order to change it?
  • What will you lose in the process?
  • Is it even worth it?

Sometimes you have to stop focusing on the illusions of what could be or what could have been, and you have to take a good hard look at what is reality now.

And you choose based on that. When you strip away your illusions, your unhappy unreality is a lot easier to let go.

Friday, March 13, 2015

LENT: Taking Lent to Celtic Thunder

It was time to talk less, do more. It's all very good to talk about not caring what people think when you're busy and too hyper-scheduled to bother much with anything. It's talking about something that you don't have to actively practice.  It's easy to not care when there's nothing to care about. But what about when there is?

I had a very Celtic Thunder-centered past week. I started by going to a concert in my hometown and spending the weekend with my family. This was all very nice. CT doesn't come to Eugene very often and because of the crackpot way they pledge that show, there really isn't a huge base of overinvolved fans there. (Nobody get excited, I put myself in the same category.) So, it was honestly nice to go and simply enjoy the show without all the trappings of the fan community.  Relaxing and lovely.

The next event would be different and I knew it. I was going up to Canada with my best friend, for our much loved Abbotsford road trip.

For a long time, I have been involved with the show and its producer in a minor role. As such, for a long time, I have felt like I had to fill a certain role when I went to their shows. I felt like I had to represent. I felt like I had to make nice, and be bubbly and enthusiastic, and pretend with people who I knew were cruel to me behind my back. It was the one part of attending Celtic Thunder shows that I hated the most. It was fake and difficult and unproductive -- they were just going to go home and talk shit anyway.

This time, I decided I wasn't going to do that. I wasn't going to be rude. But, I wasn't going to pretend that people I didn't even like were my best friends and I was just so happy to see them.  Smile and wave is polite and I could do that honestly. But really, I was there to enjoy my favorite show with one of my absolute favoritest people in the world. I wasn't going to waste it with pretend smiles and uncomfortable small talk.

So I didn't. And it was kind of awesome. I just enjoyed myself... and enjoyed the companionship with my friend... without having to be someone that I didn't really want to be.


I recently read something on the internet that when you are learning to care less what people think of you, one way to do that is to actively put yourself in situations where you might feel a bit embarrassed. So...  later in the evening, when I was in a situation that I would ordinarily dial myself back on... when it was around people who I knew would have the tendency to be enthusiastic gossipers, I didn't dial it back.

On purpose.

And you know what?  That was okay too!  

I don't honestly know what those people thought... and that's okay with me.  I don't really care. The people that I care about love me... and I would suppose that this is what really matters.

So the lesson.

I spent a whole evening being who I wanted to be, around people that would ordinarily make me feel like I needed to be someone else. I did it unapologetically.

And I didn't die.

In fact....  I was a lot happier.

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