I love my messy house

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My favorite room in my home.

Today for the first time ever in my life, I felt a pure sense of love and happiness for my home. As a former military brat, my family moved around a lot when I was growing up. I would come up with grand design plans for each space. I believed that a space, the four walls, would tell you how they wanted to be designed if you would just listen. I never finished one idea completely. I would run out of time and then it was off to the next place.

Now I live in a two bedroom apartment with my husband. We have been here for three years. Slowly blending all of our stuff; his Bobba Fett figurines with my knick-knacks, all of our books and furniture. It’s not done yet. The spare bedroom is still covered with boxes we need to talk about. All of my items for large art projects I have yet to start and his boxes that I haven’t peered into. But, it’s our house.

For me, home is people. A city can change, but for the most part that sense of home in my experience comes from the people I love occupying the particular space they’re in. I wouldn’t say that a place has ever really felt like home. Places feel familiar of course and memories provide the warm feeling of nostalgia. Cities have heartbeats and I can remember the time when I walked to the beat of a city’s heart. Until this morning however, I have never felt that sense of home people talk about.

Moving around a lot has provided me with a different sense of roots. I have a bag of seeds and plant them along my travels. Gardens to visit across the land and tend to if I choose.

This morning something shifted. I have been reading this book, A Creative Companion by Sark. It encourages me to put things up on my walls. To feed my creative and whimsical side by claiming the space around me with loving reminders or powerful wisdom. While the focus of the book is to embrace your creativity I feel what it’s really trying to do is help you embrace yourself. To love yourself. To love where you are. To spread that love around to others.

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I wouldn’t say that I’m there yet. If I‘m brutally honest I don’t love myself, not unabashedly, not without doubts and caveats. I am working on it though. Everyday I’m trying to learn to love me just as I am.

Today felt like a first step. I love my messy, cluttered, comfy, fun house. It is a safe space where I can be me. Be a goofy, silly human or a sad human or a lazy human. If I can accept my four walls, the space I occupy often, then maybe I can begin to accept me. That’s my hope at least.

So if you’re still reading this I suggest one thing for you today. Take a moment and sit in your favorite room in your house. Look around as though you are at a museum. Do you like what you see? Could you love what you see? If no, grab pen and paper and make something you like and tape it to the wall. It’s one small step, but maybe it will lead to love and acceptance of more than your house.

No Heroes or Villains

I awoke from a dream where I got to tell the person who hurt me everything she did wrong. It felt really good. She understood how she had wronged me and seemed somewhat apologetic as I walked away, vindicated and triumphant. It was a beautiful dream.

I have only been deeply hurt a few times in my life. Realizing that just now, I realize how lucky I am. I think there are a few reasons why this is true.

  1. I have learned recently through my shrink that as far as relationships go I only have three camps: stranger, acquaintance, and intimate. There is one more past those; but only one person has ever made it past intimate and that’s my husband.
  2. If someone upsets me I think through it deeply. Why did they do this? What did I do to contribute to the situation? And on and on and on.
  3. I can’t stand unresolved anything. If I have wronged someone or someone has wronged me I would rather it be addressed as quickly as possible.

All of this means that if someone upsets me I talk to them quickly depending on what camp they’re in. If they’re a stranger, I will generally go through the thinking process just a little and then it’s resolved, for me at least. If they’re in acquaintance camp, I may not care one way or the other if the relationship ends. That would suck but life is short and I don’t like having unresolved stuff in my life.

So, for something to deeply hurt me a person has to be in a position where I don’t feel comfortable confronting them directly or close enough that I don’t just cut them out of my life when they are unwilling or unable to change the behavior causing me hurt.

This describes the only two people who have ever deeply hurt me. The first is my mother. We are great now, but that took a lot of time and therapy.

The second person is also a woman who is old enough to be my mother. Although her behavior often lacked that level of maturity and I don’t think she has any love for me in her heart. Of late, I’ve been struggling to forgive her. Hence the dream. She essentially bullied me out of my job. That may give her too much credit, but she’s the reason I left.

With my mom it was easy to forgive. She begged for it. Although she could never really know how she hurt me at least she wanted to make things right.

With the other woman, I don’t think she cares. The dream was wonderful because I got what I wanted. In the dream, she understood how she had hurt me and felt bad.

I find myself wanting to paint her as evil. She was the villain in my story. And although my shrink is helping me to see that most likely her actions had very little to do with me and everything to do with her; that doesn’t stop me from wanting to slay the dragon or melt the witch.

We are programmed to desire justice. Of course when everyone sees themselves as the hero of the story things get complicated. Who’s justice?

It would be so much easier if the woman who hurt me was truly evil, but that is not the case. For her, she was the hero and I the dragon or more likely simply a peasant who became collateral damage.

A few days ago I watched this movie, Radio Rebel. It’s a Disney TV movie but was enjoyable. There was only one person who was painted with one note, the principle. She relished in the agony of her students and once defeated quickly leaves the story. Maybe this is because in order for there to be a hero we can’t feel for the villain.

So where does this leave me and my dream?

I guess I have to acknowledge that maybe for this situation there are no heroes or villains. Just people doing the best they can. She was doing the best she could and that just happened to be the worst for me.

The Selfish Seduction of Stasis

Recently I have had one desire deep and true. I have wanted for everything to stop, stasis. Sitting in my kitchen sorting mail I opened yet another invitation for a wedding. In frustration, I threw down the invitation and loudly proclaimed to the room and my husband sitting working on his D & D campaign not really listening to me, “I want everyone to stop! Stop having babies. Stop graduating. Stop getting married. Just stop.”

I meant it.

Then my uncle died a few weeks later and I was reminded that the world doesn’t care. The world as a whole macro-sized village does not care about the death of one person, it doesn’t stop and won’t stop for anyone. I learned long ago this hard truth.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I know that people care, tiny micro-sized people within the village of the world care, but generally the attention of those people is fickle and short.

So when my uncle died, I kept moving with everything that had to keep moving. It may be different in other industries, but in the theatre the old adage, “The show must go on.” is just a loose translation of the world doesn’t care.

And even though I knew this truth: that the world doesn’t care, my desire for stasis only deepened. More and more I wanted all things to stop. At an event two days before my uncle’s funeral I was sharing my desire with a perfect stranger who said simply, “Stasis is an illusion.”

The 8 year old sci-fi nerd in me wanted to scream, “But in the future it won’t be. Star Trek tells me so!” I didn’t say that and tried not to let the statement bother me. I didn’t care if stasis was an illusion or a lie or impossible. Stasis is so deeply what I wanted. That is all that mattered.

It was on a walk with my husband that I was able to verbalize what I was coming to understand and couldn’t ignore. The perfect stranger was right. If I could make everything stop, make all things stop growing and moving. If I could make the grass stop growing, and the birds stop chirping, and all things still; it wouldn’t matter. The world would keep rotating anyway. And even if I was able to achieve what I wanted; where would the worms live if the grass stopped growing? How would the birds be able to make new birds without their mating calls? What would prevent all things on this planet from flying off without gravity?

Stasis is a lovely lie. A dream of how to preserve life. A desire for it to matter to everyone else as much as it matters to me that my uncle breathes no more.

I wish this weren’t true. I wish it was possible to stop or even slow down, but even if I did. Even if I slowed down that wouldn’t make everyone else stop. And I guess this is the true lesson to learn from Star Trek stasis pods or Rip Van Winkle’s deep sleep or Ripley’s drift through space.

Although you can take yourself out of the world and create a false sense of stasis, when you return everything else will have kept moving. You then get the task of trying to catch up.

So while, stasis looks really good it is only a mirage and even if it were possible it would end the world for everyone. I guess that means we all get to suffer sometimes. And hopefully you have a bunch of tiny micro-sized people from the macro-sized village of the world who have long attention spans and aren’t easily distracted.

My Optimistic Who

For about the past six months or so I have been deeply questioning my faith. Entering into a new phase in my journey with God. This shift has caused my world view and overall life perspective to shift. I found myself becoming more pessimistic. Then asking questions about the nature of pessimism and optimism.

Lately there has been a picture in my head. The picture of my optimism. She looks a bit like Cindy Lou Who from The Grinch Stole Christmas. In my mind, she is surrounded by a protective circle of clear bright light. All around her though is darkness threatening to snuff out her life and light. This fragile image is what represents my optimism. It is something to be protected. Something to hold on to.

On a daily basis, there are at least 10 things I come across that could send me into the darkness never to be seen again.

I feel things. I don’t understand how anyone who has heard the wails of mothers gently holding the bodies of their dead children in Syria doesn’t end up in the fetal position on the floor. It is only the little who in my mind that helps me to try to see hope. To give the benefit of the doubt to people. People who themselves don’t hesitate to be their worst selves in front of me. To share freely with me the darkness and ugly within them.

In addition to this, I am not one who looks away or tries to hide from the darkness. I am the dumb brave individual standing and staring into the darkness. As tentacles reach out from the dark I say “Hi” and try to make friends with this odd creature. Where others run, I stand and question. I try to understand even to the detriment of my self. I guess you could say that I lack a sense of self preservation. The running joke I have with my husband is that he has to have enough self-preservation for the both of us.

Today as I did yoga and thought about the affirmation for today “I awaken,” I finished the sentence in an interested way. “I awaken my optimistic who.” In my mind, I think she lives in my hips. An odd visual I know, but that is where she exists. She protects my womb and supports my center and breath, my power. She helps me to feel sexy and dance and move through this world.

With this simple observation I realized that my optimism wasn’t dead or being covered by the darkness. She was just sleeping and I had to awaken her. I had to consciously seek her out. And when I did that her light would shine so bright that darkness could never overwhelm her.

If this was the case for me maybe that is the case of others. Maybe their optimism looks more like a bear and is located in their head and so when it sleeps it rests for such a long time you would think it was in a permanent coma and was never going to wake up. Maybe these people consider pulling the plug on their optimistic bear. What would it take to convince them to not take this action?

My husband often says that we are just in a swing toward apocalyptic themes in our thinking and culture today and eventually we will swing back toward utopia. That utopia will come again to fill our minds, hearts and dreams. I’m not very patient.

The thought of having to wait sucks. Don’t get me wrong I love all of the apocalyptic stuff. Maybe a little too much. I love the movies and the comics. But. There is a but for me. I want the light.

My longing for optimism is like the longing people who experience winter feel. You spend months bundled up. Then the sun comes back. When you get to feel the sun on your skin you have to smile because it feels good. You know that soon the birds will come back and the flowers will bloom and there will be spring and there will be summer. There is hope.

I want hope. I want light. For this world and those who are surrounded by darkness. For them I want light.

So if you happened across my blog and took time to read this post, thank you and I have a challenge for you. Take some time today and think about your optimism. Where does it live? When was the last time you tried to awaken it or feed it? Give your optimism some time today. Maybe then we can begin to change the tide of our culture and return to a time utopia and light. Here’s hoping.

Unrequited Like

I live in North Dakota. I am not white or a farmer or of Nordic heritage. This week I realized something. I like it here. It’s cold, the people are xenophobic, I have had more health problems here than any place I have ever lived (I am a former military brat). All this, but I like it here. Then why I am sad and bitter and frustrated? The simple truth is North Dakota doesn’t like me.

I haven’t been in serious like with something/someone with no reciprocation since middle school so it took me awhile to realize what was going on. I can’t ignore the tell tell signs anymore though. When I ask North Dakota how it’s doing it just says “Fine” and scurries away to avoid further conversation. I don’t get invited to any of North Dakota’s party’s; they are reserved for Norwegians and Lutherans or Catholics. Even the land is trying to kill me slowly. I am in my late twenties and my knees ache from the cold.

It sucks knowing the place where I currently live truly doesn’t like me and won’t anytime soon. Feeling this I can’t imagine how people from here feel. I have encountered a few who are different: feminist, brown, atheist, childless by choice. These people stuck out like a beacon of hope. For a while, I thought well there are a few others who stick out like me, maybe it’ll be ok. Sadly that is not the case. If you are different here the waterfall of sameness will slowly try to erode away the pieces of you that aren’t like them. Slowly and painfully you lose your will and desire to try to change this place. Why try for people and a place that doesn’t appreciate your work and will fight you every step of the way?

If these wonderful people who are different are lucky they will get out. I have realized that is the only option. It makes me sad. We could have been great North Dakota. Sadly it was not meant to be, but just like the unrequited crushes I had in middle school this pain too shall pass.

The Importance of Journaling

While on vacation, I took a moment to read some early entries in my current journal. I have been journaling pretty consistently since I was about 13. During college I started titling my journals. It was my way of naming the current chapter of my life. Then usually around the time I was about to run out of pages in my journal a new one would leap out to me at a book store or I would receive one as a gift. The next chapter of my life was ready to start.

For the past two or so years I have been using an old journal. One of the first ones that I started writing in when I started journaling. It was a gift from my Aunt that has guided questions in it. What is the weather today? News about family and friends? Current activities? What brightened your day? What have you done to brighten someone else’s day? Then a general section to account things going on in your life. At some point when I was fourteen I abandoned the journal.

As a writer, people often gift me journals so I have a pretty large collection of them waiting to have their pages covered in my words. When I picked this one up again to start writing in it I guess I was looking for the comfort of guided questions.

Looking at old entries from my 13 year old self the memories flooded back. Old friends, first crushes. The voice was so different than my current one. It was interesting looking back and seeing repeating themes and desires. Seeing how I have changed and not changed.

Then my husband and I went to visit the interpretive center where we were staying. We took our vacation at Ft. Stevenson State Park. It was our lucky day because the center was open late in the season due to a festival going on in the town nearby. The lovely old man at the gift shop said he was willing to take us through the small two room building and share with us some facts about the fort.

One of the facts struck a chord with me. He said that the General of the Fort had kept a journal. It was from this that they were able to gain an idea of what life was like for the soldiers. The man from the gift shop was able to share funny anecdotes about the soldiers and fort life based on the General’s journal. For example, through the journal they learned that many soldiers were put in the fort jail often. They were a rowdy bunch not just blank faces in an old photo.

All of this has made me realize how important it is to journal. To keep a record of your life. You never know how important that journal may be later. The perspective you can gain about yourself and about the changing world in general.

While social media has made it easier to keep an account of your life there is something false about this account. How many people report factually to their 500+ stranger friends about the comings and goings of their life? Social media has made each person a celebrity.

So this makes journaling all the more important. A journal is a space just for you and those you choose to share it with. There is no reason to lie to yourself about what is going on. No reason to try to paint things better than they are so that you will get more likes or comments. The blank page of a journal is a free space where you can share how you feel and what you truly think without having someone tear you down for it.

As we head into the second month of the new year I encourage to you to take a moment and journal. You never know how important your words may be later to future generations. Or even just for you.

Fighting Sweetness and Light

I just finished a Christmas time play. The play is short and lovely but not amazing. It plays on the human need for sweetness and light. As a young theatre artist living in a one theatre town I often find myself fighting against these things. Saying things like “nostalgia is just a place of ignorance or selective remembering”.

I am surrounded by people who limit all forms of art to entertainment. For me that is the bare minimum. If a piece of art regardless of the medium doesn’t provide some form of entertainment it hasn’t even begun to do its job. In my region however that is all an audience expects, to be entertained. They don’t expect or want to be moved or made to think and something really wrong has happened if they are made to feel. These for me are what art is meant to do. So I fight against farce. I fight against joy. I fight because I want for the people around me to understand that when art is at its best it can open up your world, it can change your life.

The thing about this play I just finished is it reminded me that sweetness and light and nostalgia aren’t bad. It’s ok to want to be comforted by something that doesn’t make you think. It’s ok to want to selectively remember for an hour. The play reminded me that sometimes great things can come out of work that does this. A movie comes to mind, Forest Gump.

This movie reminded people that although the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were a rough time in US history it wasn’t all bad. I think the difference between this movie and much of what the audience in my region wants is that Forest Gump doesn’t forget the bad. Sgt. Dan is still bitter and angry and broken but he isn’t the star of the movie; he isn’t our focus. The writers of the movie however don’t shove him out of the frame. They don’t say you can only look at the good by forgetting the bad. Rather the writers and director of this movie make a choice to focus on the good while allowing the bad to still exist. What a hard thing to accomplish; but by doing so they strike a beautiful middle ground. They created a movie that is happy and joyful while still being real. This gives me hope.

Hope that maybe in my work at the theatre and my work in my writing I can find this middle ground. I can stop fighting joy. Maybe if I can find the middle ground then the audiences in my region can too. Here’s hoping.

Reformed Codependency

It is Thanksgiving. I feel like some sort of supernatural being just punched my gut and reached into my chest and ripped out my heart. Somehow I am not in the fetal position on the floor.

Things you should know: 1. My mother is a recovering alcoholic 2. I have spent almost the past decade trying to work through my feelings about this and gain a healthy relationship with her 3. Lots of therapy 4. We are in a good place 5. A really good place

Today I will celebrate Thanksgiving with my wonderful mom. About an hour ago I called her to see if she saved the giblets from the turkey. I need them to make gravy. She said she had and seemed really flustered on the phone. She asked me if I could come over early, I couldn’t. I still had a pie in the oven and cornbread that needed to go in. She sounded disappointed but politely said she had to go. I leapt into action, quickly giving instructions to my husband so I could head over and help my mom.

In the car on the way over I was happy, everything was going to be fine. If I am honest as I charged into my mom’s apartment I felt like a superhero, “Here to save the day”.

I helped some, then my mom’s friend Lori arrived. I turned to my mom and said, “She’s early.” I didn’t understand. Then I realized, my mom had asked her to show up early to help. Her friend not me was the true hero.

I could tell my mom felt bad, she didn’t want to hurt me. As quickly and politely as I could I grabbed what I needed and said goodbye.

This doesn’t make any sense. She used someone else instead of me. I should be shooting through the moon with joy. I have been trying to get to this point for a little under half my life span. And here is the moment. We are no longer connected in the deathly way we have been for most of my life. But I feel sad and my heart hurts.

I imagine the way I feel is most similar to how most parents feel when their children leave the nest.

For most of my life, starting at about 13, I have been the parent in the relationship. I have been responsible. I have thought ahead. I have planned. I have cleaned up messes. This is not how things should have been but it is how they were.

Today for the first time, I received the clearest sign that this time is over. From this day forward I am free. It is as though an invisible thread tangling my mother and me has broken.

Yet, I feel sad. She doesn’t need me anymore. We are no longer linked in the spiral toward oblivion. We now walk on separate paths. It is the end of a journey.

Can We Just Be More Openhearted?

This past week as my news feed was filled with people talking about the Starbucks red cup controversy I rolled my eyes and avoided Facebook. I am sick of being a punching bag.

Fair warning, I am Christian who is about to vent a little and talk a lot about the idea of identity bashing. So if you don’t care to hear those opinions please move on. I don’t care to be your punching bag.

When I say I am a punching bag I mean that it feels like currently it is just fine to Christian bash. To say that Christians just need to change their beliefs or their way of life or insinuate that they are dumb or stupid or out of touch with reality or hateful or…I could go on but I’ll stop there. I am not saying that those words don’t apply to some who are also Christian. What I am saying is I’m sick of people using wide and vast generalizations and assuming that I as a Christian should just know that it doesn’t apply to me or that I shouldn’t take it so personally.

Any identity is personal. If you identify as a ginger and you are proud of that and happy with that and happy with that part of yourself it is personal. When someone says something not nice about all gingers it is difficult not to take it personally. Does that mean you should get really defensive and yell a lot? No. It also doesn’t mean people should take away your voice just because they don’t want their views challenged. Continue reading

You Are Not Allowed to Tell Me How to Feel

I am awake. I just had a nightmare about weird zombie government experiments. Sitting in bed trying to slow my heart rate I run through my day. It was a good day. Great time at work, finished a first draft with my writing partner, skyped with my dad. Why was I having this nightmare? The walk.

Last night, my husband and I took a walk. My dad told me about the father of my step-brothers. This man recently had to have part of his foot removed because of diabetes. I have been meaning to take better care of my body. So, hearing this story motivated me to take a late evening walk with my husband.

It was a good walk. You could see the stars and no one else was really out because we live in a community of mostly families and it was late. Most of these families were probably putting their kids to sleep. As we were finishing our loop a big truck drove by and when it was right next to us it honked its horn.

This sent both my husband and I into panic mode. Get home. Get home. We both sped up our pace and walked as quickly as we could. My husband reassured me that the truck wasn’t turning around and that it was ok. I felt a little better, but we both kept walking quickly.

Before I continue you should know that I am a non-white person and my husband is a white person.

Luckily for my husband and me the car didn’t turn around. This did however change our conversation. I mentioned that the other day I was walking to our car and noticed that our downstairs neighbor had a confederate flag blanket in their window. This blanket had not been in the window before that day. When I saw it I quickened my pace and tried not to think of it. After the honking thing, though, I told my husband.

Was this why they had never really warmed to us? Friends of theirs just moved into the apartment below us. What are their feelings toward an inter-racial couple? If I am being truly honest I mainly worry about their feelings toward me. In the eyes of people who hate, I am the problem; my husband would be fine if he wasn’t married to me, he’s white.

As we continued to walk, my husband mentioned an article in response to statements made by Rush Limbaugh in September about Ohio State University’s new policy regarding consent before having sex. He didn’t remember where he had read this article, but he liked what the person who wrote it had to say in response to Limbaugh’s comments. This person simply stated that you are not allowed to tell other people how to feel.

This instantly rang true with me, not relating to my identity as a woman but to my identity as a person of color. I told my husband that it would be nice if when I got into a conversation with a white person about race they just realized this simple fact from the article. Even if they truly do believe that racism is a construct and I just overreact to things, it would be nice if before making it about them and their own insecurities they could acknowledge something about me and my experience.

It would be really nice if they could acknowledge that for me every day I wake up; I am being judged by the world. That although the driver of that truck may not have been concerned with me, a person of color, holding my husband’s hand, for about a block and a half I was scared.

I was so scared that my subconscious tried to work it out with a dream about horrible zombie government experiments. If you have stuck with me this far I thank you.

After having a scary dream and waking up to realize that there is something scarier in real life, there is little you can do. I chose in this moment to try to help others understand what I feel sometimes. Even if it is just in my and my husband’s heads; we feel it. We felt it on the dark street corner when that car honked. We feel it when people look at us just a little bit strangely.

It would be nice if just once rather than tell us to feel differently people would first acknowledge that we feel those things. While this does happen on occasion it is too rarely.