travel

day 16: who gon’ check me boo: found in the rain

Monday, 3/21/2016

Today is Monday and I began my day by spending over an hour looking for lost keys. I feel like this is the definition of Mon-daze. I mean I LOOKED. I emptied every bag I own, I pulled up all the couch cushions, I looked under the couch, I emptied out our storage closet, I stripped my bed, I retraced my steps 87 bajillion times and the only logical explanation I can come up with is that they either fell out of my purse on the street and I didn’t notice or a ninja spy person bungeed into my apartment while I was sleeping and stole them.

I noticed on Friday that they were missing, but the last time I used them was Wednesday - so technically they’ve been lost for six days. Or have they been lost for five days? At what point does something qualify as lost? At what point does someone qualify as lost? When the losing is happening is it already lost? Because usually when you’re in the process of losing something, you don’t know you’re in the process of losing it - if you did, you would stop yourself and not lose it. Right? 

Well I don’t know. Because if I think about my life and times I got lost, I can pinpoint moments where I knew I was getting lost - heading down a bad path - and I still walked that path anyway. I’m not talking about getting geographically lost - though I guess the point still holds. Sometimes I get purposefully lost in New York, just so I can see new parts of the city in a different light. Some of the best and most memorable experiences I’ve had while traveling have been when I got lost on purpose. I’m pretty much of the opinion that it’s impossible for that to not yield great results. The difference is that when I visit a new city and I get lost, I do it in the daylight, with plenty of time to find my way back to a place of safety before it gets dark. When I’ve chosen to 'get lost' in life, I may have started in the light, but when darkness began to descend, I didn’t look for a road back to safety. I just kept walking until there wasn’t anymore light to see. 

I gave myself about two months after my attack to be sad - after that, if I felt sad, I went out. I didn’t want to feel sad. I didn’t want to just sit at home. If I did that, I inevitably ended up thinking about everything and rehashing it, searching for answers I would never find. The problem is that the more I went out, the more I went out. It’s a vicious cycle that way.

On Halloween, while dressed in an elephant onesie, three of my closest friends sat me down over dinner to tell me they were concerned about: 

  1. how much I was going out
  2. that I was using it as an escape.

I assured them that this wasn’t the case and backed off of going out so consistently. But my newfound inconsistency didn’t change the end result of my nights out - a wicked hangover and lots of regret.

I knew I was getting more and more lost, and still I kept walking farther into the dark. It was all about defiance. I was angry. More than I was angry at what happened, I was angry at God. I was more angry at God than I was with the police. I was even more angry with God than I was with my attackers themselves. I almost felt sorry for them - what had happened in their lives that they were able to treat another human being this way? But God? He had no excuse.

My anger towards God was a deep-seeded, confusing, multi-faceted experience. How dare I be angry at the most high God, the creator of the universe, and the savior of the world? And yet, if Jesus is about relationship, not religion, how could I not be? The only way I knew to express my anger (as if He needed me to express it in order to know what I felt…) was to defy Him. I wanted to hurt Jesus the same way I felt He had hurt me. I wanted to desert Him. 

Time and time again, I’ve heard parents say that seeing their child hurt, hurts them more than if they were hurt themselves. I wanted that. After all, He’s my Father in heaven, right? So the parent/child dynamic of hurt holds. Even if nobody else knew the decisions made in the dark, Jesus saw them in the light. This meant that seeing me purposefully make decisions that would hurt me, would hurt Him, right? Right. So I intentionally lost myself until I didn’t recognize the girl staring back at me in the mirror. I didn't want to look like her anymore anyway. Maybe He wouldn't recognize me either - then we could both forget the shame I was wearing every day like an old familiar coat. I wanted someone, anyone, to hurt the way I was hurting. To understand my gut-wrenching pain. And that’s supposed to be Him - 

                                        The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. - Ps 34:17-18

You know that poem Footprints? And that part where the man is like - but Jesus, in some of these places I see only one set of footprints instead of two and those were some of my toughest times - where were you then? And Jesus is like - that’s when I was carrying you? Ok, well, I was pretty convinced that Jesus slipped and broke His back while running to try and rescue me and obviously immediately healed himself because He can, but was like - nah, I’ve tried a lot with that girl and it’s time for her to be on her own for a bit now that she caused me to break my back. She wants to keep rejecting every opportunity I give her for help? Cool. Let’s see how that pans out. So in my 'one set of footprints,' Jesus and His broken back were sitting on the sidelines with a brewski. 

I thought He deserted me - something He promises He will never do. 

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. - Deut 31:6

And I thought He broke His promise. Something He also, supposedly, does not do.

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? - Numbers 23:19

And I. was. pissed. So I defied Him. I even ‘prayed’ him through my reasoning mid poor decision making one night. (Oh yeah, that’s me. You can't say I wasn't committed...) I don’t know if you could call it prayed, so much as challenged Him to prove His goodness. To prove that some people were safe. It was one of these: 

I walked farther away and I tried my damnedest to fill the deep, dark hole with anything except the truth.

But the harder I tried to block out His voice, the louder it fiercely roared for me.

For someday the people will follow me. I, the Lord, will roar like a lion. And when I roar, my people will return trembling from the west. - Hosea 11:10

The more I tried to ignore the light just barely creeping in, the brighter it shone.

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. - John 1:5 

The further down the hole I went, the clearer the way out He was pointing me towards became.

 And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Cor 10:13

The more lies I believed, the more Truth fought back. 

Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. - John 14:6a

The truth was that Jesus never left my side that night. The truth was that in so many defiant decisions I subsequently made, Jesus protected me. The truth was that Jesus didn’t need me to hurt Him in order for Him to hurt - His heart broke for me enough already because His love for me is so unfathomably great. 

And I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of His love, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge…” (Eph 3:17b-19a)
I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. - Romans 8:38-39

The truth was that no matter how much I tried to force Jesus to give up on me, He didn’t and He wouldn’t (and still won't.) 

It’s both the most amazing, and potentially the most annoying, part about being in relationship with Jesus - He doesn’t operate the way we do. I mean, I woulda kicked me to the curb a lllooonnnggg time ago. But not Jesus. The more I hated Him, the more He loved me. The more I ran, the faster He met me there. The more I used Him as a punching bag, the more firmly He held His ground. And finally one morning at 6am, after a questionable night, when I had no more punches left to throw, He scooped me up off the ground, stretched out His hand, and lovingly asked if I was ready to climb out of the pit.

         The Lord will fight for you; You need only be still.   -  Exodus 14:14

         The Lord will fight for you; You need only be still.  - Exodus 14:14

Later that morning, as hundreds of miles of Irish countryside passed me by out a bus window, I realized that I didn’t have it in me to keep running towards destruction. I didn’t have it in me to run towards anything. I was exhausted. I left the anger and rebellion and defiance in that Irish countryside - I didn’t need to carry it around anymore. When I got off the bus in Dublin, I just stood still in the terminal watching the world go by for a few minutes. Could I really do it? Could I let all of this go?

I stepped outside, and the second I did, the heavens opened up and let out a torrential downpour. I hadn’t slept in 24 hours and now I was destined to be soaking and cold for at least 30 minutes. As soon as the water hit my face, laughter sprang out of me, like an overflowing well. Maybe it was sleep deprivation, but in that moment, I knew that I wouldn’t walk the path alone again. I knew that I hadn't really been walking alone at all. I knew that God never stopped fighting for me, and the moment I stood still, He poured (literally!) out a love on me in a way that He knew I could not mistake as coincidence.

I’ve always had a love affair with the water. Growing up in Texas, the skies often opened up without warning, and when they did, you could find me running out to my backyard to just stand in the rain. In the 6th grade, my childhood best friend was hanging out at my house on one of those unexpected days, and we ran outside, fully clothed in our school uniforms to dance and play in the rain for hours. From that day on, for years to follow, we referred to one of our most fun days together as “Rain Day.”

In the same Psalm I quoted before, David says: 

“those who look to Him are radiant, their faces are never covered with shame.” - Ps 34:5

And as I made my way down the cobblestone streets of Dublin, drenched by the rain, with a smile radiating from the inside, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was walking right next to me, and that old coat of shame was nowhere to be found. 

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?