happy

day 22 : pride + happy eyes

Sunday, 3/27/16 

“Your eyes look happy. Like there’s light in them again” 

Of all days, today, on Easter Sunday, the day that we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead, one of my pastors told me that my eyes looked happy again.

Two days after the assault, I was in church. It felt strange - like I wasn’t in my body.  I felt like I was watching it all take place while hovering above it. Everything seemed disjointed - like all the seamlessly moving parts were somehow now separate. Or maybe that was me. 

I couldn’t say or sing the name of Jesus. I would will the word to come out of my mouth, but it didn’t. It was like pushing on the gas when the car is in park - screeching, spinning, dying, to be set free. I felt like if I sang those words of worship, I would be a liar. So I just stood there. 

13 months later, I stopped going to church. The weight of that unvoiced hurt, anger, and deceit became too much to carry. I started to fear that people would see through me - that they’d see this ugly thing that I was so desperate to conceal, and that when they did, they’d reject me and no longer deem me fit to serve in church. So I left. 

My last day leading my team, one of our pastors pulled me aside and asked me why I was really leaving. I said that my new job was very stressful and I couldn’t continue to lead and serve well while performing well at work. He asked me again. I said the same thing. He asked again and even, semi-jokingly, asked if it was because of a guy. I stuck to my script. On the inside I was absolutely screaming the truth, but I couldn’t bring myself to say it. My pride wouldn’t let me. 

That’s the thing about pride - it steals the things we cherish the most. 

First pride, then the crash - the bigger the ego, the harder the fall - Prov 16:18.. 

     (Dang, sometimes the truth in love hits you where it hurts.)

My pride clouded my ability to see the truth. My church was my HOME. The people there were my family. The very last thing that they would do is reject me due to brokenness. It’s the exact opposite of who they are and what my church home is. 

My pride stopped me from asking for help. Even with my pastor staring me in the face, my pride pushed those words of truth down until they were swallowed by an awkward laugh and a lie.

My pride didn’t want anyone to see me as anything other than great. When one of my leaders asked me, “hey- how are you really doing?”, my pride answered for me.

My pride couldn’t stand the thought of being lumped in with the stigma of victim.

My pride told me I could do it alone.

My pride didn’t like the truth - that I actually needed community to heal.

My pride lied, and then it led me to a dark wilderness. 

stolen from my 2013 insta which was stolen from Pinterest.

stolen from my 2013 insta which was stolen from Pinterest.

In Luke 4, the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness. (Luke 4:1, NIV) 

It wasn't accidental, aimless wandering..the Holy Spirit LED Him there for a purpose. In reading it, one would conclude that purpose was to be tempted by the devil.

To me, this is one of the most beautiful depictions of Father and Son that the Bible offers. Ha- I can see your face in my mind, like - "tempted by devil, beautiful depictions of Father and Son…? Okay, crazy lady"- but bear with me, I’m going somewhere! 

God needed Jesus to experience that wilderness. The Bible later says that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, yet did not sin (Hebrews 4:15.) So if He hadn’t been led to this wilderness and been tempted by the devil, that wouldn’t hold, which would make the word of God false. God, the Father, allowed, Jesus, His Son, to experience something really tough, knowing all along that He could do it. 

But I wonder if Jesus knew that He could do it. I wonder if the human part of Him ever doubted His ability to make it through. He had to rely so heavily on His Father during that time - in fact, the only weapon He used to get through it were His Father’s words. I mean Satan was tempting Jesus. That means he was offering Jesus things that He actually wanted, and Jesus resisted for 40 days and nights - WITH NO FOOD. I think it’d be one thing to be constantly tempted on a full stomach - but to be tempted by someone that you can’t stand for a prolonged period, AND be hungry at the same time? No, freaking, thank you. 

I also wonder what it’s like as a parent to know that you’re sending your kid into a hard situation where they can choose right, or they can choose wrong. God loved His Son, Jesus, so much (Matt 17:5, John 3:35,)  and I just have this picture of God in my mind, cheering Jesus on from heaven - like - “C’mon Son, you can do it! What have I always told you? You’ve got Me, I’m all You need! Keep pushing. Keep fighting. I WILL get you through! Trust Me!”

And see, Jesus believed Him.

So how come in my own wilderness I had such a tough time believing that God would cheer me on, His daughter (2 Cor 6:18, Gal 3:26,) in the same way? 

Maybe it’s because I couldn’t figure out if Jesus led me to that wilderness or if I wandered in on my own...  

I’ve said before that I needed that wilderness - I needed to go there to get here. I’ve always been someone that insisted on learning my lessons the hard way (much to the utter dismay of my parents growing up.) But did God need me to go there to get here? I doubt it. But I don't doubt that He loves me so much that He allowed it to play out that way, keeping me safe as it did.  

What I’ve realized is that how I got there doesn’t change that one constant - God loves me. He loves me wildly, fiercely, and passionately. It’s only a love like that that can light the way OUT of a dark wilderness. 

Eight months later, I finally found my way back to church thanks to the unrelenting love of my friend, Andrea. She knew that I felt wildly uncomfortable coming back to church, but it didn’t stop her from making sure my butt was, and is, in a seat every week. She encouraged me to be honest with my pastors and stood right next to me while I tearfully opened up about what’s been going on and asked tough questions. She sat with me through tears and arm-crossed worship. She is the epitome of “a friend loves at all times” (Prov 17:17.) Our church has this hashtag #sheissisterhood - and that’s what Andrea is, she’s Sisterhood- and no amount of writing will be able to give her her due. 

Andrea: aka my very own Gilmore Girl 

Andrea: aka my very own Gilmore Girl 

It’s been six weeks back at church and my pastor told me today that my eyes look happy again. I guess the eyes are the windows to the soul and all that... Because in all this time, it never even dawned on me that I was sad. And today, on a day when my eyes look happy again, I realize that for the first time in a long time, I am happy, and I feel the light beginning to shine. 

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 2: don't ya know that you're toxic?

Monday, 3/7/2016

So in the past few weeks I’ve become pretty obsessed with the idea of removing any and all toxic chemicals and allergens from my life in my food, beauty products, and household cleaning products (yes, yes - this is me being your typical white girl. Case in point: I simply cannot let the chance for an apropos Britney gif go by without taking it.)

But seriously, I was shocked when I learned about the harmful chemicals present in what we are lathering our bodies with ladies (and gentlemen.) Unreal.

What’s more unreal, is the junk we allow into our minds. I’m realizing that part of my desire to remove all this material toxicity from my world might stem from my subconscious knowing that I need to deal with the mental toxicity too.

Chemicals are the toxins affecting my physical body, and negativity is the toxin affecting my mind. 

boat jump.jpg

Negativity: well, that’s general. But I think it’s only general because it’s so widespread. It’s a pesticide that seems to spray every part of life. When was the last time I didn’t feel negative? Four days ago on the speedboat in Antigua. Jumping off the boat, eating on the beach, flying through the waves (sometimes whilst seriously questioning if I was about to go overboard,) hearing JD’s story, and laying in the water while it rained. Four days?! Four days is a long time. The inner knowledge that my life doesn’t look the way I want it to still existed that day, but I felt the teeniest part of my adventurous spirit peak it’s head around the corner and say, “hey, nice to see you again.” I remembered that I get to choose which steps I take next. 

Not too long later, I got some news that inspired one of the worst feelings around. Envy. 

Envy is an icky icky thing. There’s a reason that its known as one of the seven deadly sins.     

[Can we talk about that ‘America’s Next Top Model’ seven deadly sins photo shoot though from like a million seasons ago for just a second? So good.]

Envy makes me feel gross. Like what type of person doesn’t want to be happy for someone else when something good happens for them? I don’t think anybody wants to feel envy. It’s certainly not something we go around advertising. “Hey everybody!! I’m so jealous of blah blah blah, hear me roar!” But we do feel it. We are human after all. 

What’s interesting about my experience with envy these days is that it always turns to annoyance at myself. Probably rightly so. My thought pattern tends to go like this:

  1. “I wish                            would happen for me!” 
  2. “ Yeah but how could                            happen for you when you're too afraid to try?” 
  3. “Uhhhh hello have you seen the last two years of my life? Cut me a little slack.” 
  4. “Yeah, Becky, you’ve given yourself enough slack - it’s time to put your big girl pants on and get over yourself. If you want                    ,  go get it.” 
  5. “You’re right. But what if I try and                    happens and [insert negative emotion or experience here.] 

So, I have the awareness to know that envy is childish and unhelpful. Thank God. #winning (at least a little bit.) What I have trouble getting away from is the “slack" part. The me version of the little Lizzie McGuire cartoon that tells us Lizzie’s thoughts on the show, Lizzie McGuire, (a very important part of my pre-teen years) having this internal convo is not wrong.

I have needed to cut myself slack - yes. But I’m thinking it’s been the wrong kind of slack. It’s been the slack of excuses instead of the slack of mindfulness. And excuses lead back to negativity. And negativity leads back to the pit. And the pit sucks.

Negativity accuses and mindfulness observes. Negativity beats you down and mindfulness asks to help you move forward. For example: 

Thought: “I really need to prioritize my health and wellness.” 

Negativity: “ Yeah but today has been a tough day. And if ordering Indian food and cookies makes you feel better, you go ahead and do that. But don’t complain when you’re fatter tomorrow.” 

Mindfulness: “Am I actually hungry? If not, what am I trying to ignore by eating Indian food and cookies? If I am, is there a healthy option that doesn’t employ deprivation?” 

Negativity complicates everything. It strips away the simplicity of - this is how I feel - ‘x.’ This is what I want - ‘y.’ 

The more I read about life and health, the more I realize that to live a life of mindfulness requires retraining the brain. It is 100% the opposite of how the world communicates with us and therefore, 100% the opposite of how we’ve been conditioned to communicate with both ourselves and others.

I now feel overwhelmed. 

This whole 52 day thing is starting to feel like a total chore and why did I even set out to do this in the first place? I need a little reminding. So I go stalk the Team Wadadli (the Antiguan rowing team) Facebook page, and subsequently stalk a ton of other teams' Facebook pages and blogs, as one does, and I’m reminded why I started. (Don’t even try to tell me that you do not do some social media stalking every once in a while!)

The fact that I need reminding on DAY 2 scares me a little, but hey - keep on keeping on. And looking at those photos and videos of them coming into the harbour, the excitement, the sense of accomplishment, the victory... well, it gave me just the reminder I needed. 

In case you can’t guess it by now, I don’t believe in chance encounters, but I do believe in divine appointment. I believe that people are put in our paths and we are put in others’ paths for specific reasons, usually without knowledge of it. I know that JD was put in my path to jolt me awake to the adventure of life. It’s only with a sense of adventure that I would be willing to fight my way back. And the only way I'd hear that was if the vessel was completely new.

PS: I can’t decide if this is going to be suuuuuuper awkward if for some bizarre and very unlikely reason JD ever reads this. Hopefully it would fall on the - I’m so glad my story impacted a complete stranger in a positive way spectrum and not a - this random chick is crazy spectrum. But as one of the best people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing once said to me, “it’s none of your damn business what anybody else thinks about you."

I have no idea where this leaves me and I have no idea what the next step is. There seem to be a bajillion to choose from. But I do know that the negative part of me wants to say that I’m getting nowhere, while the mindful part of me wants to encourage me to keep moving, even if at a snail’s pace. And for the first time in a long time, I'm going to choose to be mindful - not negative.

Day 1 : pants-less

Sunday, 3/6/2016

Well, I woke up in denial about not being in Antigua. Utter denial. Pure denial. Like, I don’t think a greater denial exists in the world that what I was in. I mean - would you want to have gone from seven days of doing nothing but waking up, eating, laying on the beach, basking in the sun, being on or in the water, reading, talking with your parents (who also happen to be two of the people you’re closest to in the world) and sleeping? If your answer is yes - go ahead and keep that to yourself, because you’re a weirdo, because I was here: 

I am rarely happier than when I am at the beach and in the water. I was born in London and raised between there and Texas - mostly in Texas, but I swear my soul was born in the ocean and out of the sun (go ahead and mock me for however cheesy that sounds - I’m aware, with you, can take it, and also love it)

Bottom line: New York is hard for me.

It’s dirty, smells bad (versions of bad include: pee, body odor, and trash,) is crowded, expensive, often cold, people are mean (or crazy,) there’s no space, if you want to see the sky in most parts of the city you have to crane your neck up, you can’t walk around barefoot or easily put your feet on grass, fresh air doesn’t exist, you can always hear your neighbors, the catcalling is ob-nox-ious, it’s transient, getting out of the city takes an immense amount of effort - the list could go on, but if you (and I) remember correctly, one of the things on my Prep Day list was to not be needlessly negative, sooooooo…yeah…I think you get the gist.

Basically, I need…..wide open spaaaaaaces…. if you don’t know who the Dixie Chicks are, we legit cannot be friends and I don’t know if I even feel comfortable with you reading this blog. Kidding. But please go listen to them on Spotify - conveniently and thoughtfully linked for you here ASAP as it will only make your life better. 

To be frank, there are many days in New York where I feel like I’m suffocating. "But you were born in London" you say, "that’s a big city, you should be used to it." Yes. But in London YOU CAN SEE THE SKY. But I (semi) digress. 

I recently read a book that asked you to list the things that make you happy - things that you’re grateful for - which are often, and not coincidentally, one in the same. My list included, (I won’t list everything because 1. you probably don’t care (I wouldn’t either) and 2. who’s got time for that?) in this abridged but unchanged order:

the beach, sunlight and how warm it feels, wildflowers, art in all forms, football, Texas, family, best friends, driving, safety, love, adventure, travel, food, joy, yoga, elephants, babies, wine, reading, cheesy things, sports, sweating, going for runs in the rain, cozy sweaters, photos and videos.

So you can more than likely see that being back in New York isn’t exactly thrilling for me. But add to that that I had decided to embark on this 52 day journey challenge thing - and I just didn’t want to wake up. They say the first step is the hardest for a reason. Changing my life (which is the basic way to say what I hope the next 52 days bring) is going to be hard because it’s going to mean I have to change. And the stuff I want to change isn’t like changing a pair of pants. Wait - actually - yes, yes it is. It’s like trying to change in and out of your skinniest leather pants. 

You wind up pants-less, trying everything you can think of to get them back on, covered in a baby powder-lotion messy paste that you made when you tried to get out of your predicament, realizing you have no other option but to take the first awkward step… without pants...  It’s actually not that far off. I’m stripped to my core, covered in a mess I made myself after finding myself in a predicament that wasn’t my fault (how was Ross supposed to KNOW that the leather pants would be hell’s prison?) 

                                                                                                    Side-note: never did I think that I would tie a Friends episode into a metaphor for life... This may be a high point.

The only difference is that Ross called Joey - and I’ve been reluctant to call anyone. I may have admitted to some hard days here or there, but have I told anyone it’s been consistent hard days since August? Nope. Because that means accepting that I haven’t been honest with myself about the place I didn’t just magically arrive to out of the blue. It’s been a slow descent to a pit that has felt seemingly impossible to crawl out of. So I did some research and wasn't exactly thrilled with what I found.

If I’m honest, my first thought is - “oh good - one more lame statistic to fall into. First I’m a sexual assault victim and now I’m depressed.” (I’m not saying that’s a kind or valid thought, but I also pledged to honesty yesterday….dang those annoying pledges.) Prior to doing some research, I thought clinical depression was the term we only stamped on people who were always depressed and needed to take antidepressants forever due to a chemical imbalance in the brain. I was wrong.

Clinical depression is "marked by a depressed mood most of the day, particularly in the morning, and a loss of interest in normal activities and relationships  -- symptoms that are present every day for at least 2 weeks.” 20-25% of adults will suffer a bout of it in their lifetimes and women are at a higher risk (twice as many women experience this than men.) Two weeks, huh? Errrr try 5 months… Depression can be triggered by grief, social isolation, major life changes, personal conflict and any type of abuse. And it doesn’t always stick around forever. It can pass. 

Well, hallefreakinlujah. There’s a bright spot of hope.

Recommendations to treat clinical depression include, among other things, therapy. I was attacked in April 2014 and was in therapy until July of 2015. I struggled heavily with depression for the first four-ish months (with the fleeting thought of suicide coming once,) and then it more or less 'went away.’… there’s also a chance I willed it away and quit therapy that July because I just didn’t want to talk about it anymore. But the residual effects that I refused to deal with once those first fourth months were over, did not go away. They bubbled and boiled, always turned down at the last minute, until Thanksgiving 2015, when circumstances beyond my control finally turned the stove on HIGH. Every ignored and stifled piece of pain came bubbling up, blew the lid off the pot, and everything in me boiled over, creating a complete mess. The pot was empty and I had nothing left to give…and here we are. 

Tonight I went to church for the third time since abandoning it altogether last May. Showing up is hard. I more or less feel a silent rage when it comes to God and it feels hypocritical and fraudulent to sit in church when, if God was a person standing in front of me, I would probably punch said person in the face while screaming a few choice words… After all, nothing happens in heaven or on earth without His ok, right? So, where was He that night and why did he ‘ok’ this? 

Louie Giglio preached a sermon entitled 'The Comeback' and within the first five minutes of preaching he says, “God Almighty can turn the page of your life tonight and begin writing you a new story.” Well, ok. Day 1 of 52 days, and that seems pretty fitting. Not shockingly, I took that as another sign (I warned you in entry one about me and signs: see 52 Days.) I mean, write you a new story? And I’m writing about the 52 day journey? And today is day 1 which is basically page 1. And journeys are always stories to be told…I’m telling you - coincidences are not a real thing. 

He went on to talk about how we are so often shaped by what was and don’t lean enough into what we could be; that we have to stop re-reading the old chapters and walk in new life. Merp. Sometimes when you’re mad, hearing the truth is hard. Forget that - anytime you’re mad, hearing the truth is hard. Hard like, I go to a church where people ’shout down’ our pastor, (it’s not as terrifying as it sounds - stuff like - “That’s good, Louie!” or “Amen!” or “That’s real!”) and I just wanted to shout him down with, “Go away! Stop somehow weirdly seeing into my soul. It's annoying.” I restrained myself and through my severe annoyance, I felt a little truth slide through a crack of the barely open door of my heart and mind tonight. With it came the smallest amount of light. Maybe I should stop focusing on how mad I am at God. I’ve been doing a very solid job of making that clear… So now my question is, how do I actually deal with the old chapters without dwelling on them? No clue. 

But Louie (is it weird that I feel like I’m on a first name basis with a pastor after they speak a message I connect to? Probably, but it is what it is) suggested two things:

1. A desperate plea

2. ask God for the faith to actually believe for a new chapter. 

At the end of the service, another one of our pastors gave us the opportunity to raise our hands in prayer if we needed a renewal of the mind, and I (awkwardly and through tears) raised my hand. That was tough for me - for my pastors who once trusted me to be a leader in our church, to see that I’m in this place? It’s a pride thing (that I need to work on.) But you know what else? It was brave. And in that bravery, I felt a weight lift. It was trust. And it that trust, I felt my heart lighten just a little.

So I’ll start there even if it feels weird and I’m annoyed. Clearly, I don’t have any better ideas. My journal entry tonight finished with, 

“well on day 1, I cried out to Jesus for help and was honest for the first time about where my heart is at. what will day 2 bring?” - 

who knows?