Restless

Every year I make a promise to myself that I'm going to write more. I'll take more pictures. I'll be a pro multitasker (even though multitasking is incredibly inefficient and we all know it) and then it's January first and I lack inspiration. Or it's January first and I'm newly engaged and wedding planning and moving out for the first time and trying to keep my grades up and working full time. 

And actually, It's April first. So I'm way off.

I'm living 18 and a half hour days (I just counted that on my fingers). My day consists of waking up at 5:30 AM (a horrible idea) to workout with my fiancé (a much less horrible idea) then getting home to frantically shower and make myself look like I didn't just crawl out of a sewer, then breakfast that hopefully isn't all carbs, squeezing in that quality time with the Lord I need and then rushing to work, inadvertently late. 

I'm trying. But am I trying my best? That is left to be seen.

1. We drove for an hour to find this super cool place Noble talked about from growing up here. We found this trailer park. It was scary and maybe two people live there. Apparently Grand Theft Auto has an accurate depiction of the scene. 2. After another 20 minutes we found the lake Noble promised kills most fish and is covered in the bones of dead animals. To quote a reviewer  "The dead fish and dead fish aroma was unpleasant. But it was a once in a lifetime experience." Like this reviewer, I give this lake 5 stars. 3. My heart 

I'm taking it one day at a time, whatever "it" is. I learned this year, and I believe we are far enough into the year to warrant a lesson, is that I can't push things even if I know it's good for me. My life has been consumed with planning and commitment and achievement. That stuff that I look back on with a touch of pride. I've successfully run a magazine whilst working two part time jobs and taking college classes full time, I know I can do hard things. To see myself having to pull back just to stay afloat is the most keenly frustrating thing I have ever experienced.  

When I was growing up my family had goats on and off throughout the years. When you tie a goat up in a grassy area where there is plenty to eat, plenty of shade, plenty of water, they will stretch and pull against their rope just to sniff the tiniest weed until the rope is so tight it is practically choking them and causing them to cough. That's what I picture when I say "I'm at the end of my rope".

I can feel myself coughing but I do not know what I'm straining for.

Life is pretty much as perfect as it could ever be. 

My boyfriend that I adore decided my hand would look better with some bling on it and he became my fiancé. It's seven months until the wedding but it feels like years. 

I get to work a job that genuinely excites me and challenges me every day. 

My health is better than it's been for years and I'm not losing my hair any more. Someone told me my hair looked healthy and beautiful the other day and I didn't know why it meant so much.

But. 

If I'm completely honest. 

I'm unsatisfied. 

It's not that I'm unhappy, though I do have those brief moments of panic at my plans not aligning with reality . But I continually feel myself balancing on the edge of a precipice. 

I can only write when I'm upset. 

I can only write when it's too late to care. 

I've noticed a pattern; I'm proud of a lot of things that happen when I'm not in control.  

Lately my head constantly feels like a raging storm. I'm pressing for creativity. I'm starving for material. I'm on my hands and knees begging for even a piece of inspiration. A crumb, the tiniest press to my lips. Anything. 

Yet when inspiration comes, I hold back.

Thanks to the tourist who offered to take our picture and then snidely said, "you should really get a polarizer". 

 

Why is that?

That's a question I've put some thought to lately and I think it's fear. Not FOMO. Or fear of losing. Or fear of not being good enough. 

It's knowing exactly what I'm capable of but knowing how much energy that takes. Is it laziness? Maybe. Probably. 

Yes. But it's also a big dose of realism which is I CAN ONLY DO SO MUCH RIGHT NOW

Geeze, brain. Not doing three hundred things at once is okay sometimes. 

Could I be doing more? It's quite possible. Should I? That's what I'm conflicted over. I am constantly drawn to words and expression through language yet I am the most un prolific writer of my day (right now). There was a time when I'd write 20 pages a day. A blog post, an extra post. A journal entry.  Some thoughts for Grafted Magazine. A lengthy instagram caption waxing poetic about the struggle of life. 

Last night was the first time I had written in my journal since I was on the plane coming home from California. Almost a month ago. Who am I now? I don't feel like the same person. If a person is judged by their actions then I am simply not "a writer". 

Here's the root issue, I am restless. I have a million amazing things in  my life and it's everything in me to not constantly be looking toward something new. It's strange to be in a place of stability where I do generally know what my days hold and what I'll be doing this time 6 months from now. I know all things in life are subject to change and I am okay with that. It's the fact that I don't have the freedom to follow dreams and passion and whims the same way I always have. 

Maybe it's good, it can't all be bad. 

I'm just stuck in the middle with no clue on the next possibilities.

The whole world is definitely my oyster, and that oyster is slimy and salty and doesn't have enough lemon squeezed on it.

I need to learn rest instead of restlessness. Restlessness is so close to being discontent and I don't want to play with that. So I suppose I'm learning small things that build into a bigger plan. 

Who'da thought. 

I am restless till I rest in you
— Audrey Assad

California Dreaming I

Once upon a time I traveled alone a lot.

I made my way through Arizona, found myself in North Carolina, stayed with friends in Chicago. I spent some time in Mississippi, chilled in Mexico, and helped my best friend move to California. While I was there my loving boyfriend said over the phone one day, "next time you go stay with them, I want to come too!" So I said "okay!" and then realized that we couldn't travel alone together and he's from California and I hadn't met his people either.

The decision was easy -- we'll just go on a road trip up through California for 2 weeks, spend some time in Palm Springs with my honey, some of our siblings and his basically kinfolk then drive up to the Bay area. Doable? No problem! 

So that's just what we did. 

I was going through a lot during the first part of our trip while in Palm Springs, and because of that, I didn't take many pictures of the course of the few days we were there. The majority of these images are from our visit to the Williams in Yucca Valley.

Here's what I've found in my two years of traveling alone: you are free. You can go where you want, when you want. You could get on a bus and go to a city you've never seen before and all you'd need to do is tell a few people that you're leaving. You get a lot of time to yourself to think. You're pushed to meet strangers and talk to the guy on the plane next to you who's an astrophysicist and ask him what his favorite kind of cheese is.  I love to travel alone. 

This year I haven't done that. At all. Which is odd for me. The past few years I have visited strangers, slept in their beds, eaten their foods, and gone where they go. I've made my dearest friends this way. This year I have learned how joyful it can be to travel with others. To be responsible for other people and have other people be responsible for you. I have been able to experience the unity that is found in working together in unity. I don't mind it one bit. 

Broken Restored

Is it possible to feel so much hurt and so much anguish in one year, while it is simultaneously the greatest year of your life? 

This has been the year when my entire family, sans myself, was inches away from certain death. After a long bible study on spiritual warfare at a friends home, they were heading home when, only a few miles from our house they were struck by a huge truck, which totaled our minivan and somehow my whole family walked away without major injuries. 

We looked for and found our joy. I worked and studied a lot. I passed and had a tough time with classes. I led a bible study with a friend and started planning the missions trip I’d eventually lead later in the year. My parents graduated their second daughter and planned the whole thing themselves with a budget of $0 and it was a beautiful success. 

My mom put on her support boot, grabbed her crutches, and flew all the way to Florida to spend a few weeks with my grandma at her winter home. And we at home ran our home and had fun and missed our mom. They drove back to Texas together at the beginning of May, stopping in Mississippi to attend my cousin’s graduation and then they were home. We took a big breath. All was well, all was home.

I put off visiting my grandma. I talked with her once or twice. But I was so busy. 

I can’t remember with what. 

At the end of May my sister, my boyfriend and two of his siblings (my friends) got in a little car and started driving. “California by sunset… tomorrow!” We saw a Texas sunrise in a town we’ve never seen before but looked like a place we’ve all been to before. I slept through some borders, we sang loudly and off key. It was a daydream state of mind. Young enthusiasm, a touch of fear, joyous hope. 

Then my grandma was in the hospital. Then my grandma was comatose. Then my grandma passed away. 

And I’m 1,500 miles away on the adventure of a lifetime. 

I still don’t talk about her without crying. I can hardly think about her without tears welling up in my eyes. I had the joy to live just over 100 feet from her house for 10 years of my life. I got to cook with her and tell her my secrets. I rarely sat in a chair at her house. I’d always sit cross-legged on the floor because I wanted to always feel small, and she’d sit in her LazyBoy and we’d talk and argue about everything. Without fail, I’d walk in and say “Grandma, I can only stay for an hour.” And then hours later we would still be laughing and I’d look at the clock and realize that whatever was important didn’t seem so important now and she’d ask if I’d like a mug of tea and after half a moment of hesitation I’d say yes. 

 

On the road, it didn’t seem real. I cried and cried and cried in homes of various friends we stayed with. I sobbed in campgrounds before anyone else was awake. A few hikers asked if I was okay and I’d smile, “not really, but I’ll be fine.” and I’d dry up my tears before my camp was fully awake and pull myself together and cook and clean and everything was fine. 

I didn’t go over to her house for quite a few days, and I probably would have continued that trend if I had not refused to let my cousin sleep there alone. But it was so different when I walked through that door. She carried such a strong presence and it was so still in that house. It wasn’t a home any longer.

Things haven’t slowed down since then. I had to help plan a funeral. I had to plan a missions trip. I had to keep my grades up and try to hit my deadline (I failed). I had to try to be normal and not freak my boyfriend out with how heavy my heart has been (also failed). Somewhere in the mix of all that I lost touch with Jesus, I couldn’t pursue him because I was just exhausted. 

God has truly worked in my heart these past few weeks and I have grown more in him than ever before. Trust is such a difficult thing and though my trust has slipped quite often this year, I am thankful for all the growth He has allowed me to experience. Funny enough, through my brokenness and doubt God took me on a wild journey to Alaska with a group of my friends to minister to a church and community. And in rural Alaska, he sealed the cracks in my heart.

My heart still hurts. My grandma’s house is empty now, her familiar scent doesn’t rest there any longer. I can’t go over and she can’t give me tea and a big hug when my days are tough. It's hard looking at the home I've spent the greatest part of my life in and knowing that in a few short years I'll have to walk away forever. It's hard knowing that I might not be able to get married on top of the hill in the perfect fall light with friends and family. But you know what? This world is not my home. 

I can trust Jesus to take me through this crazy life, knowing and believing that we DO go through things that are too hard to handle. But it's his redeeming love that fills our souls which makes it possible to thrive and have joy even in the darkest points. 

Pictures from my California trip. Coming soon: full posts of my California adventures. Soon to follow: Alaska adventures!

Romance of Rediscovery

I've always considered myself an artist--or a wanna-be, could-be, should-be artist. Not that I've made anything that intrinsically matters to the fabric of humanity but that drive in me to create something that pulls on one's soul throbs like a burning ember. Pulsating, whispering I'm still here, I'm still breathing. Yet, I am the writer who rarely writes. I have great dreams of grandeur, of my words shaking hands and making themselves known. Thoughts are filled with unwritten words, of stories untold, of fractured pieces of my story fitting for a table for many, broken off pieces of bread passed from hand to hand. 

There are many times when I am tempted to give up on my dreams. They're too big, they're overwhelming. I think maybe I'm not smart enough. I wonder if studying is truly meaningful -- or if I'm wasting time that could be spent investing in business, or ministry. I look around me and see so many seemingly successful young people, by the standards they present themselves through social media, anyway, and wonder if this is all worth it. 

I am not living life the way I do to impress those around me. It is not to live up to some impossible standard I set for myself. I do not strive to complete my checklists merely for the effect filled in boxes gives. I do not live for the now, I live for the future. I seek to be diligent in my work today in order that tomorrow would be more complete. I work late hours, I drink too much coffee, I don't spend as much time on "loving myself", as others say I should -- I know it's only for a season. 

When I look back on the past year of my life, I am amazed at the level of self-discovery I have experienced. From losing my voice in writing and wallowing in months of despair knowing I was disconnected from my first love of writing--to slowly, painfully beginning anew. Last year my journal filled slowly, I grasped onto anything I could put into words and sealed the pages so I wouldn't see it, so no one else would.

Lose your life, so that you can find it. Lose your words, so that you can find them.  

I'm on a road of restoration. Of finding my voice in new ways. Things that were once easy to me feel static and cold. Yet, is that not the essence of what art is? It's an expression of our inner selves. My writing used to reflect the inner turmoil I felt at being unsure of myself. It was a reminder to myself I am here, I am breathing, I am moving on. And when my inner self-grew--became more self-aware, became more appreciative of, well, itself -- I did not try to grow with it.

I want to write!  But I had lost my voice. Sure, I've written things this year, I've even written pieces that I proud of! But the feeling was missing. Fellow writers, I am not sure if I am alone in this, but writing is akin to the feeling of love. It is a deep, romantic, sensual draw. I know when I have written something good, even if no one ever reads it and approves. I feel the words slipping from my thoughts to my fingers and mixing into ink or keys on my laptop and I just know. 

I have only been in one relationship, I have never suffered through a hard breakup, or have had to tear up old pictures of former happiness, but the depth of raw, empty, unfeeling of knowing I am in love with writing but the flame had died down was honestly heartbreaking. This process feels a bit like starting over. Maybe I truly have lost the old me in my writing-- but I am starting to think that is okay.

Truthfully, I do not think my younger self would fully recognize my almost-20 soul, but I do not think she would mind it so. My younger self was ready to take risks, she knew that her words must grow as she must grow and how much better would it be if we did them together? I imagine myself at 15, 16--the middle portion of a highschool romance. Full cheeks, acne prone, round belly and thoughts far beyond herself. She stayed up late pounding out stories and poems on her old keyboard. She filled journal after journal and thought herself to be very intellectual and advanced. 

She'd roll her eyes at me. Duh, you have to grow. She'd say. And she'd drink her coffee black because she's still pretending to like it like that. I will not tear up any old pictures, I will not burn my middle school romantic letters. Instead I open a fresh notebook, flip to the first white page (the first one is always best.) My, my, old friend. How time has changed us. Let's get coffee this week.