I hate the phrase “girly girl”- you know when someone is like “are you more of a girly girl or a tom boy?”  I hate it because it tells girls they can fit into one category or another, instead of letting them bask in the plain category “girl”, which is terribly exciting if we didn’t screw with it.

I’ve had a weird hang-up with the phrase “girly girl” for almost two decades of memory.  I love flowers; I’m freaking obsessed with how much greenery I can fit in my bedroom.  I used to memorize the Latin names of dozens of them just because.  I also love snakes and frogs and caught them as pets growing up.  and in my head, even though both of those things felt like equal parts of me, I felt that I wasn’t allowed to fit into the “tom boy” category, because even though I loved climbing trees and showing off my scars, also loving tea parties felt like a trump card that cancelled me out of that grouping.

so for all these years I’ve been thinking about what kind of girl I am, and whether I’m the right kind of girl or the wrong kind, whether I’m enough of a girl or too much of one.  whether I’m the kind that guys like or “friend zone” or straight up don’t notice, and whether I should change to be a different kind than whichever of those I feel most like at the time.

I won’t believe that I’m the only girl out there whose head is always swimming with these thoughts.

but the moments that triggered this blog post were a) my incredible friend Sam posting an instagram where she talked about insecurities and what femininity meant to her, and b) the moment when I decided to re-chop my hair a month ago.

you know when you’re a kid, you usually don’t care a ton about the way you look naturally; some girls care about hair and clothes and such from birth but I don’t think the majority learn to criticize their own features until they get into that weird tween stage at least.  I could be totally off about that.  I was a super awkward tween person who both second-guessed everything I did and somehow remained totally oblivious to how badly I dressed.  (beside the point.)

as we grow up, I think most of us will always want to be beautiful, even if we manage to believe we don’t need to be.  most of us will always compare, and always feel dissatisfied with something, and always wonder why? to something about ourselves.  sometimes I have to look in the mirror before I leave my apartment and say, “love it,” out loud in an attempt to drill new subconscious thought patterns into my own skull.

the thing is, I don’t remember a time since the blissful ignorance of childhood that I liked how I looked for longer than a good day here or there, until I chopped off my hair three years ago.  I had tried various long (or really long) hairstyles over the years but had never liked my hair itself; it fell flat on my head but was frizzy most days and always split ends.  I didn’t look good in bangs, or with my hair at my shoulders.  I was never happy.

for years I moaned, “I’d cut my hair like Carey Mulligan except I could never pull off hair that short” because of some built-in idea that somehow, despite having the face of a girl, I would suddenly look indistinguishably like a boy, and hate myself even more (other insecurities were already warring for which could rule my life so I didn’t need “looking like a man” added to the list).  I don’t know where that came from; no one told me “Lydia if you cut off your hair you will look like a man”.  people did tell me, in an off-handed, matter-of-fact way, “men don’t like girls with short hair” (obviously what I should base my own appearance on, right?  because what’s my value as a woman if not being at least generally attractive to men?  that’s a blog post of its own I think).

I eventually just worked myself up into this frenzy of “if I don’t now, I never will” after doing that thing in the mirror where you drape your pony tail over your forehead to simulate a shaggy pixie and you think, “hmm maybe?”  so finally I went and cut it off – at the start of winter, so I could cover it with a beanie if I hated it.  and thank God for that day.  it took some getting used to, for sure; I had to learn to make it look good (I’m not much of a primper ugh), and true, I honestly got a lot less attention from men (to clarify: a lot less than the already minimal amount I got).  but the second I had my pixie, I was lighter.  I was freer.  I was more me than I’d ever been.  I was relatively comfortable in my own skin (for the first time in a decade!), much more confident in my friendships, and felt like I’d found my tiny groove as an “artsy writer person”, since I finally had the cool haircut to make me feel more legit.

I vividly remember a day where I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “I don’t mind my face”, and if that sounds silly to you then let me just tell you that I cried when I thought it, because it was a new feeling.

there’s a quote I read recently that’s something about God being most glorified in the life of a person who is living fully as the person they were created to be.  I don’t remember who said it but I feel that deeply.  I felt like I was the Lydia I was meant to be.  and I’m not advocating for making shallow changes so that you’ll feel better about yourself and thereby not resent God for who he made you to be.  but I think there was an element to me throwing off the subtly ingrained insecurities that had nothing to do with what God said about me that was really healthy.

fast forward almost two years with the short hair; still loving it, still always trying new things.  I bought bolder jewelry and cuter dresses to hone “my look”.  but when I didn’t take the time to make myself look nice, I’d get so little attention from men that I started to notice.  and then sometimes girls would check me out or subtly flirt with me and it made me really uncomfortable, wondering if that was the vibe I gave off.  and then came the fateful day in the pizza parlor where the waitress asked for my number.

I stammered “sorry I like boys/don’t like girls/something awkward” and spiraled internally, doubting myself and my face and mostly my hair because that was the obvious problem.  so I started growing it.  I told myself I’d try a bob, and see if that still felt fun and edgy enough.  I impatiently let my hair grow and grow, and then, last month, just under a year and a half later, it was finally there.  brushing my shoulders, looking pretty cute some days, less so others, but always like a girl, always “feminine”.  I did it, I’d tell myself, and I’d look in the mirror and I’d daydream about swapping my face and my body out for literally anyone else’s in the world.  and as melodramatic as it sounds, I cried in bed a lot of nights because I was convinced I wasn’t pretty, and as much as I didn’t want that to be a big deal, it felt like a big deal.  a really fucking big deal, to hate how you look every day.  and I started to realize that over the last year and a half, I’d worried more about how I looked than ever.  and I’d disliked my appearance more than ever.  and most importantly, even though I started getting male attention again (and, for the record, was more awkward with it than ever), I did not feel like more of a woman for having longer hair.  not even a little.

and when I realized that, and I realized that I hadn’t felt like myself all that time, I googled “best places to get an edgy haircut Cambridge” and I made an appointment and I snipped away a year and a half’s useless patience, and I was finally myself again.

it’s made me think and think, about what being a woman even looks like.  I started running over a list of women who the scriptures commend, and what they’re remembered for, and it kind of blew my mind.  indulge me; I’m gonna pick on a few notable ones though I know there are so many more.

Leah – shortest end of the stick ever, married to a man who loved her little sister / never liked her no matter what she did, but God shows her kindness and favor, and then literally makes his people through her when she shifts her perspective and praises him in the midst of her hard life.
Tamar – despite her circumstances and family turning against her, she pursues what God’s law promised her and (by cunning and unconventional means) becomes one of the mothers of Israel.
Jochebed (Moses’ mother) – praised for her faith and for being “not afraid”, she defies the edicts of the Eqyptians out of love for her son and hides him, and it is through him that God saves his entire people.
Deborah – one of the famous judges of Israel, a poet and prophetess that people would line up to speak to, not afraid to call out men on their disobedience to God; a woman of faith, boldness, bravery; she goes into battle with the Israelites and rallies them with a battle cry/reminder that God is with them; God tells her that because the army’s commander is too afraid to go without her, the enemy king will fall into the hand of a woman.
*bonus character* Jael – fulfilling God’s words through Deborah, Jael’s epic (& gruesome) cunning in killing King Sisera wins the victory for the Israelite army.
Rehab – cunning, brave; she hides the Israelite spies in her roof and lies to the face of her evil king; her whole family literally gets saved from death because of her bravery and her belief in the God of Israel who she had heard about and chose to honor.  The book of Hebrews lists her in the “Faith Hall of Fame” for the faith that saved her.
Ruth – hard work, faithfulness, devotion to family and to God, honoring her mother(in-law), boldness that saves her family and makes her a part of the lineage of Jesus.
Hannah – her faithfulness and endurance in prayer are rewarded and she’s given a son who becomes the mouthpiece of God for generations; also a prophetess herself, a woman of faith, steadfastness, feeling, and long-suffering.
Abigail – described as “discerning and beautiful”; humble, brave, bold; she risks her life to save her household, pleading with an angry King David at risk to herself.
Esther* – beautiful, young, brave, willing to stand up to evil even though she’s terrified and it will almost certainly cost her her life, all to save her people fulfill what she believes could be her life’s purpose.
Mary – obedient to God and courageous (she literally calls herself “blessed” to bear the son of God despite the ridicule that a pre-marriage pregnancy would no doubt bring on her).
Eunice & Lois (Timothy’s mom and grandma) – commended for teaching Timothy the word of God growing up (though his father did not become a believer), and for mentoring younger women in the church.
Lydia (person I was named for!) – a business woman in her own right who opened her house to Paul and Luke and the other missionaries as a church, and preached the gospel to her family.

I’ll stop there for the sake of time.

here’s the thing: in the scriptures, there are some women who are mentioned for their beauty and outward appearance, but very few of those are cast in a positive light.  I’m not saying there’s something wrong with being beautiful (trust me, I still look at people everyday and wish dearly that I could look like “that”), but clearly, I think, the things God prizes in women are their faithfulness, courage, boldness, humility, endurance, kindness, hospitality, character, cunning, obedience to his word, etc.

my point is that no where do I see that to be feminine is to look a certain way and to make sure men are attracted to you and to fit a certain mold that society (both Christian and non-Christian) have drawn up for us.  I have come to believe that to be feminine is to be fully woman.  and that means anything from loving Disney princesses (me!) to loving to help my dad with repairs on the car (me!) to loving babies (me!) to loving shooting guns (me!) to a million things that aren’t me at all.  I am learning this: that God is glorified in me when my security is in him.  and I am so bad at this but I want it so badly.  and a part of that is realizing that he didn’t create women to all fit the same cookie cutter.  (remember that whole “what good would a body that was all eyes or hands be?” thing?  while that specific passage was addressing the church as a group, if that doesn’t apply to us as women, then the gospel doesn’t.)

I was blessed to have parents who didn’t go out of their way to tell me what I could and couldn’t do on this earth because I was a girl.  they encouraged the tea parties, and they encouraged the tree-climbing, and they encouraged my writing and my art and my horseback riding and my piano-playing and my rock-climbing and whatever else on earth I wanted to do and I assumed, all of my life, that there were no doors closed to me.  I know that there are many women who were not allowed to believe those things growing up, or who hear from peers or bosses or even husbands and boyfriends that because they are women, they are worth less.  I am so sorry, and I am so angry, when I see that.

when I read the Bible, I don’t see that.  honestly I love the way that the Bible treats women.  I love that God himself said men would be lost without us, and that our first mother’s name means “life-giver”.  I love that God frequently chose the ones that society dismissed to stand out in faithfulness, often when men around them did not.  I love that the New Testament epistles challenged every convention of the day by addressing “wives” directly, in the same breath as “husbands”.  I love that Paul and his companions would “sit down and speak to the women who had come together”, despite the taboo nature of it at the time.  I love that the first person Jesus told his true identity to was a shunned woman who then shared the gospel with her whole city.  I love that the first people who saw our resurrected Lord (and were trusted with his story) were women who the world looked down upon and often didn’t believe.  I love that when Adam and Eve broke God’s perfect world with their sin, he said that humanity’s deliverer would come from a woman.  I feel honored to be a woman.  there are so many Christians who have treated women horrifically over the years.  but the God they claim to serve never has, and for that I am grateful, and because of that, I am trying to take my cues from him and not from the flawed ideals of the broken world where I find myself.

so, to sum up: I believe that to be feminine is not to fit a man-made mold of certain hair and make-up and shoes and clothes and interests, but to be fully women, and I truly believe that that will look different for every one of us.

for me, femininity is beginning to look like this: I have really short hair and I don’t use much make-up and I wear mostly dresses because I love them and I smile at everyone on the street even though it’s Cambridge so NO ONE smiles back, and I like to climb rocks and jump off of high things into water with all the boys and I like to watch Hilary Duff movies and I especially love to tell stories, which I believe I was made to do.  and mostly I love Jesus, and I want to love the person he made (me) because when I don’t it’s unhealthy and he won’t get a lot done through me on this planet while I’m all in my head about it.

I could have a lot of this wrong.  I’m 24, for goodness’ sake.  and even if I had all the answers, I am so far from actually implementing them into my emotions and thoughts and actions that I need help.  my sincere hope is that we women can learn to build each other up, to honor each other, to love each other, to encourage the differences in each other, and to recognize the amazing potential that God has placed inside each of us.

that’s all I’ve got for now; I tried to keep this short and failed (this is the cut down version) but I crave conversation on this topic.  if you have thoughts, things you’d like to push back on, additions you’d like to make, I’d love to hear it all, as long as it’s kind.

I love you all, really.

 

this is me in Central Park the other day, really happy, really myself:

I want to stay this way.

*on the note of Esther’s story- can we talk about how God literally saves his people through a petrified teenage girl who never would have been queen except that the first queen refused to give a strip tease to her husband’s party guests, and then all of his advisors freaked out, literally because they said “all the women in the kingdom will think it’s okay to deny their husbands sex now if we don’t put them in their place”?  and then God uses a woman to defy the rules and break every cultural standard for a woman and through her boldness, yeah, he saves his people and blesses them.  what.

Save

oftentimes I hurry into bed so I can fall asleep before my thoughts catch up to me, clutching at me with their ugly, heavy claws. before the voice that sounds like me reminds me of certainties that aren’t even true: that my friends tolerate me but do not love me, that my words will fail me when I need them on the page, that the pain of caring deeply is not worth the joy of it, that I will always be better off alone, that I should flee far from love before I spend too much of myself on it.

these have been my nightly thoughts for the last month. considering the moments of joy, the care shown me by those I work with, the sheer number of birthday celebrations I’ve joined in on in the past month, you’d think things would at least even out.

but somehow it’s still there, the depression seeping in about the corners of my thoughts, and somehow I still find myself plastering on brave faces a lot of the time, and somehow when I crawl into bed at night I’m still hit with all of these certainties about myself.

I feel tired.

I’m tired of fighting it, but also tired of being broken and weak and staying that way.

I’m tired from over committing myself socially and from over committing myself to serve others.

I’m tired of giving in to the emotions that lie to me, and tired of crying in bed almost every night as I fall asleep, and tired of that damned voice assuring me that this will always be the case.

there are facts that contribute, certainly, to these feelings – I have a very fast approaching deadline on a draft of my sequel that’s keeping me from sleeping many nights.  I work full time now and have commitments half the nights of the week that sometimes stress me out.  historically I don’t manage my time and energy well, and I haven’t had much introvert-down-time lately.  but I can’t help but feel that none of that should be enough for the suicidal thoughts to come back the way they have been recently.

I know that I will be okay.  but right now I’m not.  and I’m tired of believing the voice that tells me not to say anything.

I ran this by my extraordinary sister before posting, and she challenged me to think about why I’m sharing it- if it doesn’t end with help or hope, is there value to sharing it with a world that might feel the same, but need some light?  and she’s not wrong, that it’s important to share things that bring hope.  so this is why I decided to still share (with amendments):

right now, when I think that I should just kill myself and have done with it, I’m usually only stuck in those thoughts for a few moments before I shake myself free.  but it used to be that I only thought about ending my life when I was – as Anne Shirley would say – in the “depths of despair”, and it was all very dramatic and non-logical.  and before that, I didn’t think these thoughts at all.  so it seems to me that the longer I’ve been fighting this, the harder it’s fighting me back, and the longer the shadow seems to grow.  and that’s not to say I haven’t had victories; honestly, in so many ways I’ve grown a lot, and have shaken off a lot of the darkness.  but it’s not all better.

it’s hard not to feel entirely and fundamentally broken, that despite every victory and every step forward in this struggle with depression, there’s always a step back, because that’s just how things are going to be.  I looked up that word – fundamentally –  because it was stuck in my head.  and it boils down to what something is at its core.  I want to hold onto the words of King David, that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  but I struggle with “knowing full well” that God’s works are wonderful; other people, certainly.  but I have not learned to own this for myself.  “fundamentally broken” feels truer.

I have found that the busier I get, the more social I am, and the harder I work, the more difficult it becomes for me to tell people what’s going on inside my head.  I don’t want to look weak, I don’t want to look as if the workload is too much, I don’t want to look as if I’m fundamentally broken when I’ve spent my entire life trying to take care of other people and hold it together for their sakes.

so for me, even though writing about my struggles has always been a deeply helpful thing, it’s actually getting harder to do.  and I know that’s my enemy at work.  sharing my heartache has impacted others than just myself, and I’m sure he’d like to shut me up.

I wrote on the chalkboard by my bedroom door, “this, too, shall pass”, and I believe that.  what’s hard is feeling certain that it will also come back, as it always has.  not always this badly, of course.  but in some form.  sometimes much worse.  thoughts that tell me I am worthless.  thoughts that tell me everyone will see that I’ve failed if I ever break down.  thoughts that warn me not to tell anyone what’s going on if I want them to ever speak to me again.  thoughts that do not reflect what my creator thinks of me, but feel overwhelmingly true all the same.

I was singing the song “I Surrender” this morning and thinking about the line, “Lord, have your way in me”.  I know that he will.  I know his plan is vast and wonderful.  I know he has used my pain and will continue to do so, and I know that he is good and I can trust that.  I don’t resent the heavy feelings the way I used to.  but I’m wearing thin, and I don’t feel strong right now.

most nights it’s all I can do to hurry to sleep, to flee from the voices.

and most mornings I hurry about my day and keep busy enough that I barely hear them, and everything feels fine on the surface.

and by most evenings the voices have started again and I am so, so tired from the hurrying, and from fighting them.

I wasn’t going to share this with anyone.  it was cathartic for me to write it, and I was going to keep it like that.  I don’t want to be dramatic.  I promise, promise, that’s not why I share these things.  I am passionate about hearing and sharing stories, yes, but not about clickbait.  (unless it’s a facebook status.  sometimes I think I’m funny.)  but I don’t share my feelings – which are sometimes very painful to write down, and sometimes very soothing to write down, but always leave me very vulnerable when shared with other people – to get attention.

I share them because I have learned by doing so that I am not alone.

because for some reason, to help me cope, or to help others cope, my creator allows me to word things in a way that have made other hurting people say, “I feel the same, but I didn’t know how to say it.”
I share my feelings because people have said to me, “I didn’t think I could talk about it, but now I will.”
because people have said, “I had no idea you felt those things.  I thought I was the only one.”
because people have said, “I don’t struggle with depression, and I didn’t know how to relate to loved-ones who did. your writing has helped me understand.”
because people have said, “I tried to kill myself, and I don’t know how to tell anyone, and I need to talk.”

and I promise I don’t mean this to puff myself up in any conceivable way.  I am deeply grateful for the chance to open a crack of light into someone’s darkness, someone who maybe doesn’t realize the scores of people who love them and want to be there for them but don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes.  I am deeply grateful for the chance to process through words what often feels like unbearable weight; without that outlet, I think I might have broken by now.  I am deeply grateful to the people who surround me and ask me how I’m doing, and remind me that I am loved when they see me, and have never, ever, made me feel disgusting or annoying or too broken when I share what’s crowding my head.  I know there are so many people who don’t have that, or who are so much more severely depressed than I am.  I could have it so much worse.  so I am grateful.  I hope that when I tell you that most people are willing to love, you will be encouraged to talk about the hard things.

so.  suicide.

we can skip the backstory on my decade or so of struggling with depression, and the years where I felt guilty even calling it that because I wasn’t cutting or trying to kill myself.  by God’s grace I’ve never gotten that far, thought I’ve thought about it a lot.  I’ve decided, and then undecided.  I actually just typed out the story of the first time I planned to take my life and then erased it.  I don’t think you need to know that.  I don’t think I need to talk about the details of the moment or the ways I decided to “do the deed” over the course of those hardest years.  what matters, I think, is that I’m still here.  and that you are, and you’re reading this, if suicide as ever appealed to you.

about a month ago was the first time I thought about ending my life in years.  thoughts of, “I don’t want to be alive” and “this is all just too much” have come and gone, sure, but I’ve been in deep enough pits that I can see mere potholes for what they are, at least.

this last time it was a different approach, one that seemed logical and causal.  I think it was the worst, because it was the hardest to talk myself out of, and the hardest to pinpoint where to lay the blame.  I’m not going to tell the story of how my brain reached the conclusion of, “it would probably be best and simplest just to end things.”  instead I’m just going to share what I wrote afterward, angry and exhausted.

 

dear Suicide:

you’re beautiful in theory.  you sound like the clear air after I’ve been under the covers for too long, or the quiet darkness when I close my eyes after a long, weary day.

you sound like the easy way out, and the hardest decision.  a little selfish, because you leave so many in pain in your wake.  but right, because some things feel too heavy to keep on bearing.

you sound like rest.  to be done with the pain and the heaviness.  an end of the weariness and the sharp aches and the tears and fissures in my heart.  what a thought.  full to brimming over with sweet possibilities.  and my savior at the end, of course.  a shortcut to that joy.

these are the sweet things you tell me.  these are your calls, your promises, your guarantees.

but Suicide, I need to stop listening to you, always beckoning me closer.

all the crowding thoughts, that tell me things won’t change, or need to change, I need to shut them out.  they all lead to you.  you don’t tell me how to fix things, only how to escape them.  I don’t think Jesus wants me to escape the hard things.

I think he wants to redeem them.

maybe with my help.

maybe that’s why I can’t quit.

that’s why I have to stay, even though you’re pulling.

I’ve said no once, twice, half a dozen times.  why do you insist?  why do you try to change my mind?

what if this is all so much bigger than I am?  what if I need to stay to do something, to bring God glory, to tell stories, and hear stories, and bless people and be blessed by people?  what if I’m a thread Jesus wants to weave through this city and the lives of the people around me and the literary arts?  what if, what if, what if?  why would you want to take me away from that, pulling at me with your sweet whisperings, or your alternating emotions and logic?

one day it’s, “but it makes sense.  you can’t fix this, you can’t be better; just cut it off now before you waste breath and time and effort.  you know you should quit while you can.  just make the rational decision.”  and another day it’s, “you know this is too heavy to bear up under.  you know you’ll break.  it hurts too much, it always will.  it will only get worse.  end it.  save yourself the heartache.”

but I won’t listen.  I won’t obey.

you’re a pretty door I won’t walk through.

you’re not worth it.

it’s really hard to say what is worth it, on the hard days.  so I’m making a list, of just a few things:

-little faces, splitting with love, and the cries of, “MISS LYDIA!” as they run on pitter-pattering feet toward me across a room.
-heads dropped on shoulders, looking at the stars, losing trails of thought and laughing about feelings.
-dancing in my room when I’m the only one home, pretending I’m Liza Minnelli in a cabaret club.
-knowing I’m the only one in the world who was trusted with someone’s secret.
-curling up in bed with pillows all around and a good book and a sense of total calm and real sabbath.
-crowds of strangers on a city street with stories etched on their brows and unknown eternities riding on their shoulders, full of endless possibility.
-the moment when the airline company sends you a confirmation on tickets you’ve just purchased, and you know you’re going to go somewhere.
-coming into a room and having someone grin and wave when they spot you.
-perfect, smooth pebbles worn down by salt water, and bright green leaves against dark wood after a spring rain.
-finding dried, pressed flowers in a book you forgot about.
-waiting for a polaroid picture to develop.
-the moment when the lights go dim in a theater and the orchestra quiets before the overture starts.

so goodbye, Suicide the Promising.  what you have going for you is an end.

I’m going to choose beginnings.

you lose.  you’ll always lose.

 

it’s World Suicide Prevention Day, the culmination of World Suicide Prevention Week.

two days ago I was at work and I got lost down a trail of ugly thoughts that ended with me saying to myself, “you are just weak and afraid, Lydia.”  I think the worst things I’ve ever been told are the things I say to myself.  I am so unkind.  maybe we need to stop listening to ourselves.

you, reading this: you are beautiful.  and valuable.  and the God of the universe stamped you with his image because he loves you, and he died to save you because he thinks you’re worth it, and he calls you his beloved.  he has made us his sons and daughters by giving up his own life for us.

and maybe you don’t believe that.  or you know it’s true but it doesn’t seem like enough- like living isn’t worth the pain of the day-to-day, when everything is going wrong, or nothing is but you are the world’s biggest mess on the inside.  I know those days.  today I’m writing from a good place; life is crazy and I’m in the middle of my own heartbreaks and frustrations, but I know I’m okay.  maybe you don’t know you’re okay.  but today, I want to stand in the gap for you.  today I know you’re brilliant and you have purpose, and you are a gorgeous, unique, funny, strange, worthwhile human being.  there are people who love you, or who will love you, people who will hurt with you and hold your hand if you let them.  and there is a world around you that is in need of you.  a neighbor who will need help up the stairs, or starving children who need your rescue plan.  there is a place that you are meant to fill on planet earth.  don’t quit on humanity yet.

don’t quit on me.

I’ll see you tomorrow.

 

~Lydia

 

p.s. I wrote something, this summer, when I was in a dark place.  it’s short, some weird fiction that deals with depression.  maybe it’ll speak to you.  maybe not.  you can find it here.

I wrote this the other day and it’s been milling around in my head since.

“how are you doing?” people keep asking me.  the flippant way (“what’s up?” “how’s it going?”) or the sweet way (“how are you?”) or the real-friend way (“how’s your heart lately?” “tell me how you’re doing.”).  it’s normal; people ask these questions, sometimes wanting to sit and hear the answer, sometimes hoping for a “good thanks, you?” in response.  and I just moved, and started a new job, and I have lots of really wonderful friends, so I get to answer this question a lot.

but I’m here on this blank “sheet of paper” because I don’t actually have that answer.  I don’t know what to say.  sometimes the “good thanks, you?” answer is all I’ve got, because people generally don’t have an hour to sit and listen to me try to unravel and understand my own feelings.  or lack of feelings.  my apathy and lukewarm or my kilimanjaros and mariana trenches.

I don’t even understand these places myself.  I wonder if even-keeled means boring, but I also don’t love the drama when I’m in the middle of it.  I’m my most creative when I’m at my darkest: the deepest ruts of despair and depression have historically brought about my most poignant creations.  and when I create – especially out of hardship – I feel like I’m doing what I was made to, down to the core of my being.  it’s like the natural outpouring of my soul.  Eric Liddell, the famous athlete, said, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”  and that’s how I feel about pouring out creatively.

but I don’t want to be sad, do I?  I just typed out three different versions of a sentence along the lines of “I love being happy but…” and the more I think about it, the less I think I do…?  I don’t know.  I think when I’m happy – placidly so, not because something amazing is happening – I feel shallow.  (I’m well aware how self-centered this may come across as.  I’m trying to figure it out myself, and that usually comes by writing about it.  this is weirdly personal.)

I’ve been in the throws of despair and hated it but still found a way to be deeply grateful for the feelings, thoughts, and experiences I’ve been given.  but maybe when things are good I don’t know how to be satisfied.

maybe this comes back to the thoughts I’ve been having recently about struggle.

I don’t want to live ‘struggle-free’.  what I want a is life that’s pulled along by the right struggle.  when I picture an existence that fuels and fulfills me and glorifies God with my particular gifts, I don’t picture white fences and easy-going conversation with the neighbors.  I just don’t.  something about that actually kind of makes me anxious.  this isn’t to say I want struggle for its own sake.  I certainly don’t want to toil on and on for the wrong thing, something pointless, or outside of God’s will for my life in the grand scheme, just so I don’t get too comfortable.

I’d just rather work hard with push-back for the noble thing God has set out for me than to either have it easy on the wrong path or struggle and tire but toward the wrong goal. I want the dignity and purpose that come from the right struggle.  I can’t imagine I’m meant for a ride without bumps.

and when things are too easy, or just feel like…nothing…I worry that I’m wasting beautiful time with stupid flat-lining.  I don’t know how to be grateful for “down time” when it’s a whole week or a month or six months.

maybe it’s a gift, this quiet in my spirit.  but it doesn’t feel like Holy-Spirit-stillness, it feels like I’m missing something, like I’m not pressing toward God or he’s not pressing toward me.  it feels like I’m doing something wrong because I’m not “sucking the marrow out of life”, as Thoreau would encourage me.  it feels like I’m just dog-paddling around in the kiddie pool.

I don’t want the kiddie pool.

maybe I don’t know what I’m asking for – I dealt with a lot of emotional shit last year (external and internal), and I’m not saying that was fun – but I don’t think I want to stay here.

I don’t want to look for God in the whirlwind and the fire but miss him in the still, small voice.  I want to learn patience, and quiet.  I want to learn to rely on his timing.  I want to learn what this “season” of life can teach me.

but this placidness kind of sucks when I don’t even know if God wants me to sit in faith or move in faith.  I don’t know.  I just don’t know.

so my update, when people ask:

I don’t know.  where I’m at, what I should be doing, what I shouldn’t be doing.  I don’t know if I should be grateful because I’m okay, or if it’s a warning sign that all I am is “okay”.  I don’t know if the quiet is convenient, aiding and abetting sinful distance from God, or if it’s a gift, after all the craziness.  and if it is a gift, is it supposed to stir up a restlessness in me that will push me toward God’s plan for me, or is it supposed to quiet my spirit and draw my closer to God in a time of rest?  I don’t know if pulling out my own hair because of boredom and confusion and apathy is better than suffocating myself with busyness and too many “yesses”.

what I do know is that right now I can’t create.  I can’t draw or play music.  I sure as hell can’t write.  not a scrap.  my fingers have only cliches and pedantic adjectives to offer.

I don’t want to demonize this period in my life, any more than I tried to demonize the hard times last year, or idolize the times that Jesus redeemed in their aftermath.

but it’s hard.  because it’s not hard.

as stupid as that sounds.

like Diana Goodman, I miss the mountains.