what happens when people ask how I am, and I try to say, “I like being happy”.

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.



  • Barnabas

    I’ve been going through a similar thing this summer. I was supposed to be busy, but I ended up having a lot of down-time. I don’t know how to deal with it. Some people have a gift for leisure, and are able to just slow down and do nothing, but I think I might be made differently. I think I really need work to do in order to be satisfied. I thought I was being ungrateful and that I should be satisfied with God alone, but someone pointed out that Adam, in his idyllic garden, still had a work to do. I was feeling pointless, and directionless, and it affected everything I did. I tried to keep my faith strong, but it got weaker and weaker.

    I’m not sure what eventually helped me. It was a combination of a few things. I met with a mentor, and he encouraged me. I think he helped me see (just by his character) what strong Christianity looks like, and what I should be seeking. He pointed out that I should be seeking God for his sake alone, not for any of his gifts, even something like satisfaction or purpose. I started a new habit of spending at least five minutes every morning thanking God for anything and everything, and for a while, only thanking him. I didn’t ask him for clarity or work, or anything for a few weeks. Then I also picked up two jobs where I felt like I was really helping the people around me.

    I don’t know exactly what helped me, and I don’t know if any of it will help you, but I want you to know you’re not alone in this. I don’t think we’re meant for leisure. I love what you said about Eric Liddell, because I think that’s the way things are. God made us for a reason, and as we act out our purpose, he is happy, and we are satisfied. We all have a contribution to make to the big picture, but also in the little things. I hope God has big plans for me, but if I can just help the people around me for now, that’s also fulfilling a godly purpose.

    I don’t know. God bless you, Lydia. Thank you for being so vulnerable. If you want to talk more, I’m here. I think it really helped me to start every day with thanksgiving, and I think you should try it.

    I just realized I’m completely unconcerned with post-college career decisions now. Two months ago, I was losing sleep trying to figure out what I was supposed to do, but right now, I’m truly trusting God to be enough, and to give me things to do as I go along. I’ll be praying for you!

  • Barnabas, thank you so much. thank you for being vulnerable as well; sometimes the best thing to hear is that other people have felt the same way, so you can know you’re not some weird case, or alone, and I really appreciate this. thank you. and thank you for the insights; I will try that. 🙂