dreams

day 26: the flu, pt. 3: contingency plans

Thursday, 3/31/2016 

I never plan for getting sick. I mean, I don’t think anyone really does. “In two weeks, I’ll get the flu…” Uh no- that’d be weird. 

But before my brain surgery- I always had a plan for getting sick. Because I didn’t ever just get “normal people sick.” If I got a common cold, or the flu, oh holy Lord… - double the pain, uncomfortability, and frustration felt normally, and we’re in the outskirts of the ballpark of what my friends and family have lovingly dubbed “beckybrain." No lie. Your brain being strangely positioned will do that to you - both the pain and the horrible nickname. 

So I had a plan: icepacks. If I could strategically headband (yeah, those stretchy workout ones) 2-3 children’s lunchbox icepacks to the base of my head/neck, I could manage for a few hours until I could go home, lay down, put more icepacks on my head, and wait a few hours (aka 6-36 dependent on that days severity) for things to return to normal. 

Because of this, it never occurred to me that there was such a thing as “normal people sick” and that it sucked too. Until this week. And I was not prepared. No plan in place. Totally planned for the crisis, but never planned for the normal. 

This shouldn’t shock me. I’ve never had a contingency plan for my life. Why would I have any type of plan for being sick? I feel like normal people have back up plans. Not me. Which is funny because I think I’m currently living in one - the backup, contingency, never-really-thought-this-through plan. My original unplanned plan, was to be successful in the entertainment industry. That was it. There wasn’t much planning to the plan. So I guess, somewhat inevitably, here I am, living in a contingency plan that I made up along the way. Geez - how many times can I say “plan” in one paragraph?

So, now what? 

Well, I’m still young. 25 is still young, right? Even though, when I was little, 25 seemed ancient and I was convinced that by 25, I’d be a millionaire, a popstar, a business owner, in movies, a wife, a mom, a gymnast, a teacher, have won every award imaginable, somehow have managed to compete in the Olympics, and have met my ever elusive goal of being a teenager? Yeah. 25 is still young.

Yeah.

Obviously those dreams have shifted and changed. I mean, be a teenager? Been there, done that. #winning. So beyond that, what is there…? Just kidding. But they have changed. (Thank God.) 

Some days I don’t even totally know what they are anymore. And I find that everyone around me asks me (and wants me) to define them.

“What do you want to do? What’s your dream? What’s your end goal? What’s your plan? How are you going to make it happen?” 

Well, put it this way. I never in my wildest dreams thought that doing this would fall into the dream category. Writing. Speaking. Sharing my faith. Wanting to be in ministry. “In ministry” - not a huge fan of the term, but I should get over myself - bigger fish to fry, B, bigger fish to fry.  

Having this little outlet to write about all the unreal stuff that God has done in my life, share my insights (hopefully theologically sound ones,) and encourage those who read it… that’s spurred on a whole new dream - a big one. One that still somehow fits in with the old dreams - the changed ones - not the list above. Though some still make the cut. Believe it or not, being a popstar is not high on the list of priorities these days.

And you know what? There’s still no concrete plan. I’ve got ideas and goals. But I still have no idea how it will all fit. Like none. Some days I don’t even know what the next right move is. But I do know that if I make the next right choice, take the next right step, and listen carefully to the next right nagging of the Holy Spirit, I’ll be ok. I’ll be more than ok. 

When I was a baby, my nana gave me “my verse."

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. - Ps 37:4. 

I always found it so encouraging - but I would also get so frustrated. 12 year old Becky’s prayers went something like: Ok Lord, I love you. I delight in you. Why am I not a popstar? 

But now it’s the verses around it that get me. 

Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong. For like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. -  Ps 37:1-7a

My nana was the wisest lady I’ve ever met. She passed away before I began the blog - but she was around for the attack and the aftermath. She was around for a lot. When she gave me that verse as a baby, she couldn't have known that it was the first place I would turn when I decided to go on this journey, but that my eyes would fall just barely above those familiar words…

“He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”

She couldn’t have known how desperately I would need those words when I didn’t feel righteous. When I felt I was to blame. But Jesus knew. He knew that when I was so angry, I didn’t want to open my bible, I’d need to turn to a place that was easily found. And He knew that when my eyes landed on those words in the verses preceding "my verse," I’d be set free from blame and self condemnation.  

We can’t plan for life. We can dream of how we’d like it to go - but we don’t know the twists and turns - both good and bad. We don’t have a play by play of those we will encounter who are evil. I mean, I never planned to be on a journey ignited by sexual assault. But here I am. And now I’ve got a cause. And one day, the justice of the cause will shine like the noon day sun.

In the in between - I’ve got to continue to trust. To do good. To dwell. To enjoy safety. To delight in him. To commit. To be still. And to wait patiently. I’ve got to be ok with being 25 and being where I’m at. I’ll have to be ok with the fact that I never competed in the Olympics. (The hilarious thing about that is that I have no idea what it was that I thought I would compete in.)

And duh, 25 is young. There’s a lot of time left to do it all - whatever “all” is. What’s nuts is that three years ago, I didn’t have a lot of time left. I was living “on borrowed time” as my doctor said, and I didn’t even know it. So I’d say things are looking pretty freakin great. 

I’m actually not living in the contingency plan- I’m living in the plan. The one God had picked for my life from the very beginning. I’ve obviously taken a few detours - where’s the fun in a straight line - but it’s the path. The life path. I’m in the plan and I’m on the path - and it just doesn’t get much better than that. 

 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jer 29:1 

day 11: pet peeves in the 8th grade

Wednesday, 3/16/2016

I had a phone date today with my best friend who lives a million miles away on a tropical island and she dropped an awesome life lesson bomb on me.

When we were in the 8th grade, Truly suggested that we make pet peeves lists. It was middle school - we were all very into paper games. MASH determined the course of our lives and homemade fortune tellers decided who we should like. It was very important that you used gel pens and had a good “font” for handwriting.

We made our lists and gave them to each other during geography. I quickly wrote Truly a note -

“I feel like these are all about me”

She wrote me back: “hang on I have something to add”

So I subtly handed her her list. (I was not tryna get detention for the hundredth time.)

She passed it back. The final addition: “when people think everything is all about them.” 

It turns out that whole list was indeed about me. To this day, I fall into fits of giggles when I think about this story. 

Believe it or not, over 10 years later, we’re still best friends. As Truly recently commented on my Instagram, if our friendship can survive the 8th grade, it can survive anything. (Junior high = rough)

Truly moved to a different school for high school. Lucky for us, her school and my school were less than a mile apart and her house was two minutes from either location, so on any given afternoon, we could be found laying out by her pool before I had to head off to rehearsal. We signed with the same modeling agency in the 9th grade and bemoaned the lack of cheeseburgers we were allowed to eat until a year later when we both said screw this hip measurement thing, we miss french fries, and quit within weeks of each other. We snuck in and out of her house via the roof and spent countless nights in her bed laughing our heads off telling stories of our latest escapades. She’s family.

She moved to a small tropical island called Nevis about two years ago to be with her boyfriend (now fiancé - hello! - I’ll be at that wedding in Italy in May!!!!) and it was quite the adjustment.

Though I often rag on technology, I am so grateful for it when it comes to keeping up with those I love. Letters just wouldn’t suffice when it comes to everything we need to catch up on. So today we’re catching up after two whole weeks without a phone date (thank goodness we don’t have to worry about “phone minutes” anymore!) - and I’m telling her about all of THIS - the blog, the beach, JD, my new outlook, the negativity breakthrough - and she stops me and as her voice cracks, says, 

“I’m so happy I’m almost crying. You know we had our rough patch (we had our first fight since the pet peeves fight about six months after my attack and we were lame and didn’t talk for a bit)  and I think it was partly because I knew that no one could pull you out of the place you went to after what happened to you. It was dark and you weren’t going to hear anything from anyone that knew you and that was scary.” 

Those are not easy words to hear. Especially from your best friend. Especially when you know they’re true. I wasn’t going to listen to anyone because I was fine. I wouldn't even acknowledge the darkness to myself. But to know that my friend could not only see it, but could also see that I was rejecting offers of help to climb out, and that it scared her.. well that blew. 

But that’s the thing about true friendship. She didn’t run away. She waited. I wouldn’t have heard her two years ago. I wouldn’t have heard her two months ago! And she knew that, so she waited. And in her waiting, her objective never changed. She gently coaxed me in the right direction. She never let a conversation go by without asking how I was really doing and what steps I was taking towards my dreams, regardless of whatever version of BS I fed her that day.

A true friend knows when it’s the right time to tell you like it is, from a place of utter love, and even if it’s hard to hear, you hear it, because it’s them. Then, you take it to heart and you make a change. 

I want to be a friend like that. I can’t believe how blessed I am to have friends that are amazing examples of how to love others. I get chills when I think about the teachers that life offers us if we’re willing to open our eyes. Thanks Tru, love you mucho. 

day 5: pick six

Thursday, 3/10/2016  

When I was nine years old, I went to visit my new school that I was dead against being forced to attend. It had been a long application and interview process and this was the day where I would tour the place that was to be my new stomping grounds. The fact that they accepted me was, in and of itself, shocking. In my interview, when the headmaster asked me why I wanted to attend the school, I broke down crying and said that I didn’t and that it’d be good if they denied me admittance. Then I proceeded to wipe my snotty nose on my yellow pearl snap button down shirt with a denim collar and little navy blue baby’s breath flowers all over it. He then very gently offered me a kleenex. 

I remember moments in life by what I was wearing. That was my favorite shirt at the time. Heck, if it still existed today in an adult size, I’d wear it. My fondest memory wearing it was at my Granny and Grandpa's house in the English countryside. We have a photo somewhere that I can't seem to find...

Granny and Grandpa Paul’s house was the keeper of my secret spot (which I now know was not secret at all.) In the very back of their garden was a big bush, and nestled up against the back of that bush, was a wooden bench. I would sit on my bench for hours, telling myself stories, dreaming about what my life would be, and laying down on it, just looking up at the sky. If I stood on the bench and got up on my tiptoes (thankfully, the trusty bush was tall enough to hide this occurrence from my Granny’s manner minding eyes,) I could see over the back fence and into a field that stretched for what seemed like a hundred miles - you couldn’t see beyond it. This last Christmas, we took a detour past the cottage and the new owners have changed everything. I hate change. I so desperately wanted to knock on the door and ask if I could go sit on my bench for just a moment, but the fear that I might discover that in all their changes, my secret place no longer exists, stopped me. I want to remember it in all its perfection - a place untainted by the realities of life. My greatest desire when I was a little girl peering over the fence, was to jump it and just run through those fields until I couldn’t anymore, collapsing in a fit of giggles, gasping for air. I’d still love to do that.  

My new school scared me. I knew that I was being sent there because it was a more academically focused school with the structure needed to tame my wild and rambunctious spirit. I wanted to be left wild.  Leaving my old school made me realize that I would have to make new friends. I’d never even realized that making friends was something you do and I wasn’t scared that I wouldn’t.

Sitting on the big leather chair inside the school office waiting for the tour to begin, a little blonde girl that I recognized from a basketball camp I’d attended earlier that summer, walked in with her parents and plopped down right next to me. 

“I like your Nike watch. I’ve got a turqouise Baby-G, see? But I like yours too. I’m Kitty.” 

“Thanks. It was my Christmas gift this year. I like it because it’s sporty, but I like yours too. I’m Becky.” 

Kitty and I didn’t know as we sat in our soon to be art room later that day, bonding over the Mary-Kate and Ashley movie, “Passport to Paris,” that our friendship would stand the test of time. We should have known - because any friendship that begins because of Mary-Kate and Ashley is obviously a good one. 

We had no idea that we’d become a part of the same friend group and watch each other go through our most formative years. We didn’t know that I’d be there when she got her heart broken for the first time or that she’d be there to see me and cheer me on as I fulfilled one of my biggest dreams. We were definitely clueless when it came to all the questionable decisions we would have a ton of fun (sorry, Mum and Dad) making together in high school. We couldn’t have predicted that during out senior year of high school, I would be rushed to the hospital, and that when I was discharged a week later, it would be with the knowledge that I was sick with life-threatening conditions. We might not have even believed how fun our 'senior summer’ would be - when our group of friends saw each other every single day, until that gut-wrenching day when the first of us went off to college, and the weeks involving lots of teary goodbyes began. None of us were going to the same schools. It was the first time that classes would finish at the end of the day, and the option of just driving to Kitty’s house to lay out in the pool or hang out on the third floor didn’t exist. 

The group text started almost immediately after the first of us left. Well, this was 2009, so it started as a group Facebook message. We had to be completely up to date on every nitty gritty aspect of each other’s lives. Our first Thanksgiving home was the reunion of all reunions and our best tradition began. Every Thanksgiving night at about 9:45pm, we all go to Kitty’s house, light a bonfire, make smores, eat her leftovers, have a few drinks, and talk into the night. (#holeyjeans) Personally, I like to think that in our subconscious we do it because it's Thanksgiving and this group of girls is one of the things we are most thankful for in our lives - but writing that down, I can see the girls rolling their eyes and going “ohhhh gawwd” at my puttering on. Thanksgiving is truly “our” holiday though. In college, that five day weekend was like the holy grail…always the scene of our most memorable, or not so memorable, nights. It still is. Though in our old age, we’ve become much more responsible. I think.

                                                           Thanksgiving

                                                           Thanksgiving

We know each other so well that sometimes it’s just weird. And other times it's perfect. The first time I had my heart shattered into a million pieces and told them via group text, not one of them called me for a few days, because they knew I wouldn’t be able to, or want to talk. But you better believe that my phone never stopped buzzing with messages for three days. We have seen each other at our best and at our worst, been there for each other’s highest highs and lowest lows…and those lows have been pretty dang low. We’ve fought hard and made up hard. We once went over a year without one of us, and it sucked every single day. But it took us all of about five minutes to get over it and welcome her back with open arms the first time she showed up to our standard “last night we will all be together before one of us leaves” dinner - and it’s never been different since.

Our lives are changing and so are we. We’re adults now who live in different parts of the country, with jobs and responsibilities. Our dreams, beliefs, and priorities have shifted and changed, but I have to believe that at the core of it all, our deep rooted friendship won’t. A few months ago, the last time all six of us were together, I threw out the idea of giving up on everything I came here to do - and every single one of them just yelled at me a version of “absolutely not” (Melanie’s version may have had a few choice words thrown in there...) because they know me and they believe in me - even when I don't believe in myself. (I’m vomiting at how corny I sound.) 

I can’t imagine my life without Mary Ellen’s long lasting bear hugs, Mel’s high pitched scream when I walk through the door or when a particularly funny part of a story is told, Eleanor’s bringing Curly Sue (her dog) everywhere we go - she’s basically the 7th honorary member of Pick Six, Kitty’s chuckle laugh, or Sarah’s “heyyyy” when she walks into a room. I have learned everything I need to know about friendship from these girls. They are my chosen family. They are a massive part of why I miss TX, but an even bigger part of what keeps me here. Whenever I come home, one of my mum’s first questions is - “Well, what are your plans with the girls?” because she knows. 

The group text that began seven years ago lives on strong today, and as I write this post, with tears in my eyes on and off at the gratitude I feel, my phone just buzzed to say I have a new message on our thread, and all seems right with the world. 

*~hugz n kisses~*

Day 4: busting a move with my tribe

Wednesday, 3/9/2016

I danced around my apartment today for no reason. Like, full on, out of breath, makin' moves. My general work from home attire is a sports bra, harem pants, unwashed lion hair, and no makeup. So it makes sense that when my boss FaceTimed me the first day I ever worked from home, I had a total Carrie moment. 

Today, I felt a need to full on just dance (so weird.)

And let’s be clear about one thing...

Everyone else when they dance: 

Me when I dance: 

Oh Chris Martin. Just moving where the music takes him. I unashamedly adopted his style of dancing from the day my obsession with Coldplay began at age 12. I mean, when I go to the club, it's just awkward - because everyone is bumping and grinding and I’m like, "can I just get some space for my baller Chris style moves?” It won't come as a shock to you that I cannot. 

Coldplay is my all time favorite band in the history of the world and Chris Martin is essentially my spirit animal. He's at the top of my artistic tribe. If you don’t have one of these, you should 100% make that list. Even if you don’t consider yourself an “artist.” (blegh - that phrasing has such an hoity toity connotation that stinks because most artists I know aren't hoity toity at all.) It is SO FUN. I give myself a lot of leeway because I think ‘artists' exist in all forms. Artists, athletes, and even things, are in my tribe. Anyone or anything that inspires me to live positively, chase my dreams, or who I would love to share a meal and converse with, goes on my list. Coldplay, Elton John, Peyton Manning, Jesus, fringe (yes the type that hangs on clothes and bags,) Kate and Leo (Winslet and DiCaprio respectively, duh,) the 70s, One Direction, Gwyneth Paltrow, Roger Federer, country music as a whole, Ellen DeGeneres, the ocean and palm trees, Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Bush, the Beatles, elephants… I mean I could go on and on… 

But for real, can you imagine that dinner party? The amazing conversations and perspectives on life? I can. I’m learning to sit in the moment these days.

Meditation and yoga y’all. I’m not even kidding, they have changed my life.  So today I’m sitting in joy (and envisioning that dinner party.) 

Joy. I have to say it to myself a couple of times to get used to it.  

It makes me feel a little crazy that in 48 hours I have gone from feeling absolutely helpless in church and lifting my hands in a desperate plea to God for a renewing of my mind, to dancing around my apartment for fun… But then, why am I surprised? That’s how it works.

Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning. - Psalm 30:5

There is so much promised to me - the question is, do I believe it? Not do I say I believe it - but do I really believe it?

I’m starting to. 

And now I'm gonna go dance it out-

52 Days

out of the ashes and into the light

When I sat on the beach meditating that morning (you may already be like, "oh geeeeez make it stop!") and had the thought, “if JD can do that, what can you do for 52 days?”, I decided to begin a 52 day challenge. I’d been stuck in a negative space (that's a kind way of putting it) for months and wanted to drastically change my life. So, I starting thinking of personal mantras that I could adopt for 52 days, all with the underlying feeling that this was a silly, new-age-y, foundation-less idea that I was concocting. Basically, I was annoying myself. 

But then I felt prompted to count out 52 days on my calendar. Day 52 would land on April, 26, 2016. Uhhh what? That couldn't be right. So I counted again. And again. And one more time for good measure because I don’t believe in coincidences, (also because anything in the math realm, even something as rudimentary as counting, is not my strong suit.) My friends might tell you that I have a tendency to take things to be signs. I can categorically say that this was not one of those instances. Because of that, I decided to not only go on this journey, but write about it. Don’t fear - that idea was immediately accompanied with humbling and self-deprecating thoughts like: “Becky, who the actual eff is going to want to read a '52 day journey' about some random, normal chick who doesn't have any idea what it is she's journeying toward or even what she wants out of it, inspired by a random encounter on an Antiguan speedboat?” But that date...

Two years ago, on April 26, 2014, nine months after moving to New York to pursue my dreams, I was drugged at a bar, taken to an apartment with the promise of finding my missing friend, forcibly held there, assaulted, raped, and then physically thrown into the rain with the trash. It changed the course of my life. 

Sadness, anger, depression, anxiety, fear, recklessness, shame, confusion, pretense, destruction, excess, bitterness, self-hatred, and doubt became the foundations upon which I very secretly, and somewhat unknowingly, rebuilt my life. (Geez, that's a lot of emotions for one sentence.)

I didn’t want to be hurt. I didn’t want to give my attackers any power. I didn’t want to be another statistic. I definitely didn’t want people to identify me as this. And I certainly didn’t want anyone to know the deep wounds, previously healed with some antiseptic and a bandaid, that this ripped wide open. I didn't want to think about any of it.

So while bleeding out, I stuffed some lap pads in there (avid Grey’s Anatomy watcher over here,) abandoned my dreams, and said I was fine and “healed."

I “knew" that one day I would understand why this was allowed to happen and that "God was at work somewhere in it." But I didn't actually believe that. I just knew it's what I was supposed to say. When you really know something is true, you feel it in your bones (or in your fingers and toes… Love Actually anyone?)

I felt like I was being blown around in a tornado. But because I didn’t want to be feeling enraged and embarrassed, I decided to "trust God" the way I have been taught to my whole life. And I believed that the longer I blindly trusted Him, the healing would just come; the more that I got on with life and ignored it, this would fade into the background. That I was exhibiting faith. But I wasn't and it didn't.

Within a month, I stepped into new leadership roles at my church. Within nine months, I decided to start a foundation (this is how I ARISE was originally born) that would raise awareness towards the issue. But being a highly functioning, jerry-rigger of an emergency surgeon on my heart helped no one, least of all me, and the in-between was filled with patterns of self-destruction, often hidden in the dark of late night and early morning hours. 

I wanted I ARISE to be a non-profit, activist, organization that pioneered change, raised awareness and shifted the reality of so many women in the world. My free time was filled with researching sexual assault statistics, finding people who wanted to partner with me, watching documentaries, building a website, putting together a support team, partnering with a production company and filming the beginnings of a documentary. But I quickly burned out. How could I build something designed to help others when I hadn’t even begun to truly pick up my own pieces? But instead of asking for help, I ran in the opposite direction. I stepped down from leadership in my church and within two months, stopped going to church altogether. 

A blog was certainly never on my agenda. The thought just kind of arrived in my mind a few days prior to meeting JD, and I immediately dismissed it. I’m one of those cynics who is almost instantly annoyed at anyone who starts a sentence with, “Well on my blog…” - oh yes, please do tell me about your surely earth shattering blog filled with political opinions, healthy recipes, spiritual guidance, conspiracy theories, and an essay on how if you were the coach of your favorite sports team, they would absolutely, positively, never have suffered such an embarrassing and clearly avoidable loss to                          (insert winning team here.) Not that I don't understand the anger that drives that last one - I mean, I still feel personally victimized by the Texans loss to Miami last season where at the half, they were down 41-0. Sorry. Not the point and I will now get back on track.

Despite my hoity toity attitude toward the blogosphere, here I am blogging, so clearly God humbles our negative attitudes and pride even when it blows - actually let’s just be real here, being humbled pretty much always blows because it means admitting you're in the wrong….oh wait, is that just me? 

So the idea is this: one entry for each of the 52 days of this journey. The day of the idea is March 5 and will go up tomorrow, April 30. Day 1 = March 6 = May 1. 

I have no idea what these 52 days will hold, and therefore, no freaking clue what this blog will look like. Today is March 14, aka day 9. I started writing this introductory entry on March 8, aka day 3, and it'll probably get another edit before it goes live. All other entries will be in the voice of that present day. Here’s what I do know: this will not be a curated blog where everything falls under the same well thought out theme, follows a fluid storyline, or depicts photos all edited the same way for aesthetic consistency. It will be honest (likely to a fault) and at times will seem random - but uh HELLO, we all have a million random thoughts a day...I'm just the ding dong that's putting mine out on the internet for all to see - I'm also the ding dong who is immediately beginning to question this decision.  

But here I go - 52 days, huh? Doesn't seem so long until you come up with a weird idea to span them, and then it's like uhhhh what was I thinking? But if JD could survive his 52 days (I tell you all about that tomorrow,) I can get it together for this. And if I can't, well, I've got a lot more to figure out than I realize! 

 If you've stuck it out thus far, thanks for reading. Hopefully you'll come back and see what happens. 

One thing I've learned already - adventure isn’t for the faint of heart, that’s for dang sure.