Category Archives: self-discovery

Part 1: What Happens When You Don’t Believe Anymore?

Episcopal Church in Bluffton, SC 1854

Episcopal Church in Bluffton, SC 1854

Something is missing in my life. I haven’t been to worship in a couple of years. I miss it.

I’ve questioned a lot. Do I believe what mainstream Protestant churches teach? Or do I believe my interpretation of the New Testament and Jesus’ teachings?

What I do believe: God is HUGE. God is infinite in love, understanding, and forgiveness. God has no gender and no race. God is not human. God is. I’m only human. I’m not able to wrap my mind around the concept of God other than the feeling of love and grace I feel when I pray, worship, forgive and be forgiven, see kindness, get a hug, give a hug…

God is without limitations. This is what I believe. What happens when what I believe goes against what mainstream Protestant churches teach? Where do I go when I feel that I  am limited at church because I am a woman? Because I am a woman with no children? Because I’m not domestically inclined in any way?

One of the reasons I left church was because of its sudden turn towards limiting roles women could play in our church. Suddenly our sermons went from challenging and uplifting to all about women who have chosen poorly, fell into prostitution or drug abuse, but found Jesus and returned home to loving parents. Participation in church relegated me to two choices: taking care of children or volunteering with the elderly. This wasn’t a small church either. It was, for our town, a mega-church with many ways to get involved. These were the two choices offered to me.

When I delve into my core beliefs I do not feel guilty for believing that women and men are equals in church leadership, in household leadership, or in their communities. I’m frustrated that in 2014 (soon 2015) Christians and other religious institutions are still teaching that women are lesser than. How can my God who created both men and women in God’s own image agree with this?

Genesis 1:27 “God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.”

And this is just the tip of the iceberg on the questions.

 

Oprah and Elizabeth Gilbert

10401219_53874611937_6380_nI confess, I like Oprah. I think she truly wants people to understand themselves better. I think she wants the world to be a happy place. I think she’s right on track with her Super Soul Sunday series. So much wisdom from so many people from all over the world. I always feel like I’m searching for who I am, what my purpose is in this world, and all that fun stuff.

I could not pass up taking the How to Uncover the Talents Only You Can Offer The World: A little exercise to put you on the path to self-knowledge exercise on Oprah’s website. I’m taking this quiz mostly because of the very first question.

1. What did you love to do in junior high? (That’s me in 9th grade) My best friend Tina and I embodied all things Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. We might not have dressed like Bill and Ted but we certainly spoke like them. I was Bill and she was Ted. We’d address each other as Bill and Ted. “Ted, it’s bogus that you can’t come to the party on Saturday!” “Bill, surely it is.” We even performed as Bill and Ted in our English class while reading our synopsis of the previous day’s class.

2. Why do you think you really loved that activity? (Maybe reading gave you a glimpse into others’ lives, or running track freed your mind and put you in the zone.) I loved being part of Bill and Ted’s excellent adventure in Enterprise, AL because Tina understood, accepted and encouraged my goofiness. It made her laugh. It made me laugh. It made other people laugh. I was extremely happy.

3. What gives you that much joy now? I still absolutely love making people laugh. And I still absolutely love making silly voices and doing bad impressions.

4. What deeper desire do you think that activity fulfills for you? It makes me happy to see other people happy. When I’m laughing I’m not worrying about anything. Inevitably if I’ve made someone else laugh I’m laughing too.

5. If you had six months to spend any way you’d like, what would you do? I would take a class in improv.

6. What were the last three things you read, watched, or saw that fascinated you? What do they have in common? (If it’s a detective novel, a nature documentary, and an investigative report about campaign funds, maybe you love to delve deeply into a subject to examine it from every angle.) I watched too many YouTube videos of Ricky Gervais because I love his laugh. It’s infectious and he’s a comic genius. I’m listening to upbeat music that has a lot of sass (Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass). The things I’m choosing to participate in are all upbeat and lively things. Things that makes me feel really good.

7. What are three adjectives your friends would use to describe you? Quirky, definitely. Funny, hopefully. Sincere.

8. What are three adjectives you’d use to describe yourself? Weird. Silly. Sincere.

9. Name the things that most relax you, excite you, move you, and delight you. Relax me: reading, sitting at the beach, yoga. Excite me: good movies (especially Sci-Fi), knowing that I have something fun coming up (a trip to Atlanta to see my Adult BFF Sarah so we can decorate for Halloween). Move me: reading, music, looking at art. Delight me: seeing someone’s joy coming through. laughing, swapping stories about life.

10. What do you consider your best quality? Are you showing it off as often as you could? I think my best quality is my desire to make the people around me happy. Not to placate them to my detriment. I like happy people. I like helping people be happy. Sometimes my depression gets in the way and I forget that if I’m laughing I can’t be depressed. I also hold back around people I don’t know very well because I’m afraid I’m not as neat as I think I am. I am still learning even after almost 40 years that what other people think about me is their business and not mine. I need to be me and not what other people think I need to be like.

A Good Challenge

IMG_5469My co-workers have issued me a good challenge. I’m addicted to soda, specifically Diet Pepsi. I love Diet Pepsi. I sometimes feel as if I cannot start my day without it. Much like coffee people needing their morning Starbucks, I need my morning Diet Pepsi. My lunch Diet Pepsi. My afternoon Diet Pepsi. You see where I’m going with this addiction. One of our students gave me a separate recycling box for under my desk specifically for cans and bottles. Yeah, just a little embarrassing (more than my grammar).

THE CHALLENGE

In effort to cut my diet soda intake down my co-worker AG suggested I bring in 5 cans of diet soda and label them Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

THE GOAL

I’m trying to drink more water. This summer I was at a work event and I got really dehydrated because I hadn’t had enough water. If you’ve ever been dehydrated you know how horrible it feels – light-headed, dizzy, nauseous.

THE FINE LINE

I can drink the next day’s soda but that just means that I’m down a soda. So if I drink all my sodas by Wednesday then Thursday and Friday I am out sodas while at work.

HOW I’M DOING

Well, it is a good challenge and it doesn’t make me feel deprived. I did really well Monday-Thursday. Today…not so much. But that’s okay. I’ll just try again. I can make a different decision next time.

Sick Kitty and a Missed Funeral

breaking my heart

breaking my heart

Last night I dilly dallied about as if I were trying to put as much time between me and leaving for Enterprise to attend Rodney’s funeral. As if that would heal my heart. Ignore it, and the pain goes away. Poof!

So I was just drifting off when at 1:30 a.m. my beautiful, bossy Fluffy Jane started retching in the living room. I don’t know if it’s a Kitty Mama Sixth Sense or what, but every time one of my fur-kids gets sick I know it. So I popped out of bed, grabbed a flashlight and found her leaning over a small pool of bile and blood.

We knew she hadn’t been feeling well. About a month ago we bought the wrong cat food. Ridiculous that we can barely remember what cat food to buy; and even more ridiculous is that we don’t even write down the name. So no excuses. Jane is a very picky cat. She turned her nose up to the food and wouldn’t partake. She would get a bit hungry, have a bite or two, but for the most part, her bowl remained full until Jack or Lizzie finished it off for her. A couple of weeks ago we realized that she was loosing weight. She’s a big cat; part Maine Coon, part God-Knows-What-All. She used to be a hefty 16lbs. We figured it was the food. We were about to run out and when we brought the new stuff home she’d eat and get back to herself.

Until this morning.

You can only lie to yourself, to each other, for so long before you have to face the music. I cleaned up the vomit, washed my hands and climbed back into bed where we discussed what we would do the next morning – Cat to the Vet or Hop in the Car Bound for Enterprise. We decided that I could sleep in the car on the drive up; therefore allowing me to take Jane to the vet in the morning.

At 7:30 we opened the doors to the clinic. At 8:15 the vet took a look at her (the tech, Mary, had already been in to take some blood, temperature, etc.) and get caught up.

By 8:30 we all determined that Jane was very, very sick indeed. By 9 some of her blood panels came back and confirmed the depth of her crisis.

Isn’t that a strange thing? My cat is in crisis. Her health is in crisis. By 9:30 all panels were back and the news was not good. Jane has pancreatitis, among other things stemming from the pancreatitis. The goal was to hydrate her, get her on a tiny morphine drip to take care of the pain she was in, and see if in a couple of hours she would eat a bit of wet food and water.

At 10 a.m. the vet comes back in and says he was pretty certain she just might also have Addison’s Disease. It’s extremely rare in cats. It’s more often seen in dogs and humans. So they were going to do another test before the antibiotics and to see if that was the case.

At 10:30 I rolled out the door, reassured that I would be called with updates on her condition.

At 10:45 I parked in Holy Faith Catholic Church parking lot and meditated, prayed, lit a candle, prayed some more, meditated some more. Because not everyone understands that my cats and my dog are my children. That I would have gone to Rodney’s funeral if Jane wasn’t sick or needed to be hospitalized. That saying good-bye to Rodney with his sister and his friends was something I truly wanted to do. But…

It just wasn’t going to happen. Not today. My cat, my baby girl, my Fluffy Jane is sick. She is hospitalized. She’s connected to IVs and being force-fed and drugged up; and if tomorrow her panels are not improving we have to say good-bye to not prolong her pain. Or ours. I believe that is something that Rodney would have understood. He was cool that way.

One of my prayers today was asking God to show me how I could honor Rodney. My ears, my heart, my mind is open. Friendship was so very important to Rodney. Dedication, loyalty, unconditional love. I don’t know if I can excel at these things like he did but I’ll take it a minute at a time if I have to if it is meant to be. Maybe just finishing my degree – something else Rodney would have liked to have done – will do it. Overcoming my insecurities about my talent. Losing weight and getting healthy. Just going for a good walk every morning. Who knows? But I want to try. For him, for our friendship, and the grace of forgiveness.

Chance Meetings Heal Hearts

I tend to randomly meet people. Seriously, just chance meetings of people who I really dig. For instance, meeting people at retreats for work who work in my division but not in my office (and my division is HUGE) and it feels like I’ve known them forever (Stephanie L. I’m looking at you).

Last year, (last year? year and a half?) I started reading a blog called Tamara Out Loud. I started reading her blog about being a Christian woman because then, as I am still struggling to do, was trying to figure out what my beliefs were, what my faith was because I was really, really lost. Her blog was so real. Turned out she lives in my town and invited me to her church Bible study. I went a few times and enjoyed it a lot but let my own insecurities (I’m not good enough, I don’t have kids, I can’t cook, etc etc) get in the way and I stopped going. I felt like I was intruding on this great group. I’m sure I wasn’t but that’s what insecurity does – it lies. So to further hide my embarrassment I stopped reading her blog, too. Yeah, my insecurity knows no bounds!

I recently popped in to see what was up. She announced the book she edited was published. The book’s idea genesis began from a blog post at A Deeper Story called “What’s a Girl Worth?” (you can read more about the book’s creations and beginnings here as she celebrates its introduction into the world; it also has links to where you can buy a copy). (Interesting side note: today’s top blog post is “The Five Stages of (Faith) Loss“; gonna have to read that.)

Every day in April she is posting a free graphic with a quote from each contributor of the book. The quotes are beautiful. The image is beautiful. But the quotes hit deep and hard.

After all that’s been happening the last few days I knew I could use a pick me up. When I saw the graphics and quotes I knew I wanted to share them, but also share Tamara’s blog and A Deeper Story’s blog. You don’t have to agree with everything they say but they will definitely make you think. I’m all for thinking. I am also all for grace.

Pilar

Is It Wednesday Yet?

IMG_0074 I found out that I love working with my iPad. I love my little stylus and drawing and trashing the paper over and over. It makes me feel so much better about all the tree killing I do at work (we make a lot of copies).

My mom is a painter. She does these really wonderful botanical watercolor paintings. She picks each of her paintings apart. We’re very similar that way when it comes to our art. So is my dad. He makes jewelry and he frets over the pieces because he wants to make sure everything is just so.

Tonight a classmate of mine and I talked about our perfectionism. That everything we do we are our own worst critics. We’ve both admitted to break downs early in the quarter. And we admitted tonight that the madness has to stop.

So we’re committing to recognizing that we’re on a journey. We’re improving in our craft right before our very eyes.

So drawing on my iPad, releasing the perfectionism and just playing. The goal for tonight: sketches. That’s it. Just sketches for ideas. Nothing too elaborate. Don’t need to be correct even. Just ideas on paper. Man, how refreshing and fun it was to just do this.

Seriously – if you are a perfectionist you have to try these drawing apps! It’s really freeing.

 

Yeah, I have nothing tonight. I’m so ready for this week to be over so I can…keep working this weekend because I volunteered.

 

Dang this heart of gold!

I won’t eat broccoli!

This was a post I wrote Sept. 9, 2011 while I was working in a particularly harsh environment: a complete lack of employer support, no training, and a boss who was constantly contradicting herself by telling me she supported me and my efforts and then changing her mind and said she could not support me when our big boss disagreed with my suggestions for expanding the project they had hired me to expand. The nice thing is that all the changes I created were very successful and never failed us. Anyway, like most bad things, I did learn a few important things about myself.

Do you ever find yourself fighting against a specific part of who you are? For instance, say you have a dire aversion to broccoli but everybody keeps telling you to eat it. So you try to eat it. It makes you sick. But you still feel pressured by friends and family to keep trying to eat broccoli. No matter how many times you try it, no matter how many times you change it up, it’s still broccoli and it still makes you sick.

At what point do you accept that you do not like broccoli, never will, and move on with life? Accept that you are created specifically to not like broccoli and that it would be okay to never ever eat it again?

It’s not broccoli, but it’s similar. This story begins years and years ago based on some poor choices. Because of the poor choices, I worked various office jobs to help make ends meet. These jobs are the easiest to come by (if not right at this moment) and usually pay okay. The work is stable and so is the paycheck and benefits.

I started office work because we were poor and there wasn’t a whole lot of call for inexperienced theater majors with a second Bachelor’s in journalism. At least, that’s what I thought. My frame of mind was, “I graduated college, now where is my job?” I had no idea that I would actually have to go out there and find these jobs on my own, beyond online job searches. I felt entitled.

I know, finesse is not a trait I have.

Years later I’m still working in office jobs. I hate them. I hate office politics. I hate people who don’t communicate. I hate playing corporate games.

But I do like my steady paycheck, my benefits, my paid vacation and separate paid sick leave. I like knowing that it will have to take a lot, and I mean moving a mountain a lot, to fire me (don’t ask how I know this).

But office jobs bring out my worst. At least what I perceive is my worst. Specifically, my lack of “tough skin.” I’m, apparently, “too sensitive”.

Lack of tough skin is my broccoli. No matter how many classes I take, books I read, therapists I see, I am just a very sensitive soul. And for some reason that is a bad thing. My entire life people have told me to toughen up. Grow some thicker skin. Stop being so sensitive. Don’t take everything so personally.

A couple of weeks ago I heard a co-worker say about another co-worker, “He’s just really sensitive. We need to toughen him up.” I know the co-worker being commented about, and yeah, he is another sensitive soul. He’s a good guy. He’s kind-hearted and funny. He sympathizes with the students he works with and worries about them. He has worried right along with me through all the trials I’ve faced in this job. He loves his wife and supports her in just about everything she wants to do. He isn’t whiny. He doesn’t complain. He’s just struggling and frustrated with his job. Just like me.

But this makes him “sensitive”. And in this case “sensitive” equals a dirty word; as in, “She’s so smelly. We need to encourage her to take a bath”. Telling someone like me, like my co-worker, to grow tougher skin would be like telling Shaquille O’Neal to grow short. But why should we change?

My boss repeated tells me that I’m too sensitive and need to toughen up. At least she tells me to my face, unlike my sensitive-soul counterpart whom she just talks about behind his back. Oh, I know she talks about me behind my back, too, I’ve walked in on discussions about me she’s having with two of my other co-workers.

She told me again today that I needed toughen up, grow that crazy thick skin EVERYbody else has (all the cool kids have thick skin!), I realized that I was told to be somebody I’m not.

I am a sensitive person. But I don’t think this should be considered a bad thing. When people are fighting around me, I’m usually the first person to step up and make everybody back away (Halloween 2009). I like to work in a harmonious, drama free environment where people work together not because we have to but because working together makes everybody’s lives easier. It’s important to have sensitive people like me around.

It’s a shame that when I’m told to toughen up I can’t say, “You know, three years ago I chased, on foot, one of the three guys who broke into my home; a guy carrying a gun. The only reason I didn’t catch him and beat the shit out of him was because he can jump fences. Please don’t tell me to toughen up. My skin is thick when it needs to be. Apparently, this is not a time when thick skin is needed. Instead of me changing for you, why don’t you change for me?”