Thoughts On Plan B

townOne of the reasons I decided to study history was because of how much it changes. The past may be set in stone, but there is so much about it that is different every single day. We discover new things, learn about new perspectives, and uncover lost truths. And through it all, we are constantly building the story and the identity of the human race.

I find it incredibly beautiful.

And one of the reasons that I am a writer is because of the same thing. I love meeting new characters and figuring out what their stories are. I love seeing their perspectives. I love being able to figure out how the words will fit together so that what I’m actually trying to say is said.

There is something I have often struggled with in writing that I have never struggled with in history. And this is the problem of originality.

I have fallen into the trap so many countless times of thinking that whatever I write has to be totally and completely unique. But the truth about literature is that this isn’t really a thing. We take elements that already exist and we create a story in the way that we wish it to be told. It is the way that we put them together and the way that we say what we need to say that makes a story different and individual.mountain

For some reason, I’ve always understood this about history but never about literature.

Do you ever look up at the stars at night and wonder? I once read something that said that whatever your mind goes to when you’re looking at the stars or the ocean is where your heart truly is. Perhaps this is true sometimes and not others, because the child in me will, every now and again, look frantically for the Big Dipper when I look at the stars and I can promise you that isn’t where my heart is.

And sometimes when we are faced with something that vast it makes us look inwards and wonder what we are in relation to it.

Can I compare to a star? What does my life truly mean in the face of the countless ones a star lives through?

The last several days have been pretty hard ones. A lot of things that I struggle with have decided to come for a visit all at once, and it has been very hard. It is in times like these when I start to question absolutely everything. I look back at posts I wrote when I was doing well and wonder how I was naive enough to have that kind of hope.

Of course, this is ridiculous. But that’s what I think.

planI realized something about myself this week. And it is this: I am a Plan B-er. I am. 100% completely and thoroughly and absolutely. I am a Plan B-er.

Let me explain.

I have this picture in my head. This very special, sacred picture, of what I want my future to be like. Of what I believe would be the very best future for me. The future that would help me learn and grow, but also make me wildly happy. I have this picture. I very rarely look at it or entertain the notion of it, because if I’m being honest, too much of me doesn’t really believe it will happen. I believe in how incredible it would be. But a lot of me likes to whisper horrible things about it. That it’s a stupid picture and I should get rid of it.

And as terrible as this sounds, it is the way I’ve always been.

No matter what my dream was, and no matter how hard I believed in it or prayed about it and felt amazing in it: I always let a very horrible side of me dressed as practicality talk myself into believing that it was a joke.

And so I live my life for Plan B.

I think of the next best thing. Whatever would do its best at filling the void. Whatever would get me to the silver medal. And I plan on that. I pour over my plans for that. I tell everyone about them. And nobody ever knows that it isn’t even what I absolutely and truly want for myself.

And all the while I’m pouring over Plan B, in my deepest heart of hearts, I pray for Plan sunA. It is so deep inside my heart that sometimes I even forget about it. I just focus on Plan B and do whatever I can possibly think of to get there. And then sometimes, very late at night, when my mind is full of all the things I don’t let it think when the sun is shining, I remember Plan A.

And I say a prayer. And I hope. And I let Plan B go away until I’ll need it again the next morning.

I have realized this about myself, and I think it is something I should stop doing. Maybe you’re the kind of person who thinks that we should absolutely go for our Plan A, for our number #1 dream. And if so, you’d probably agree that this isn’t a very good mindset to have. So I’ll see what I can do about fixing that.

Advertisements

Stop the Sun

stop the sun

i asked you to stop the sun
to keep it right there
before it left the dome sky
don’t let it touch the horizon yet
wait for me to cross the world
and stand with you beside the pond
where all the fireflies live
and then the cathedral colors
can fade into the indigo night
but it won’t matter that the
world is ready to dream
because i will be with you
underneath a blanket of stars
and there will be that soft
rightness of settling home
and that will be real

Not-So-Open Notes

Dear L.P.,
Please stop sliding into my DM’s unexpectedly.
A small sliver of my heart wants you to stay there.

Dear Rosebud,
Let yourself bloom, baby. I can’t wait.
The world’s not ready but that doesn’t
matter. You are.

Dear Team TB,
Get out of your own way. Don’t be afraid
anymore. Just shine.

Dear JH,
I get you. Not everybody does.
Not everybody will. And that’s
okay. Forgive and grow. Be brilliant.

Dear Fellow Fangirl,
I love you more than all the things. I
love watching you conquer the world.
Don’t stop, okay?

Dear JHH,
It’s okay to feel. You’ll never do it. You’ll
never be that person. And that’s okay.
Keep being unashamedly you. But someday
I hope you understand that if you do feel its okay.
I love you.

Dear Former G.I. Joe,
I just want you to have joy. Real joy. There
is a difference between fun and true joy.
True happiness. And someday I want you
to remember that the truth isn’t easy,
but it’s worth it.

Dear Track 10,
Just shaking my head for many reasons. And
smiling.

Dear Pocket Square,
Hope is never lost.

Dear Superhero,
Everyone falls. I know you can get back
up. The little girl in me still fearlessly
believes that you can do anything.

Dear Dreamer,
There’s a reason you’re here and that you
are who you are. Please don’t doubt the
beauty and goodness in you. You know how to
fix anything. It wasn’t a mistake.

The Grace House

The Grace House

below the little house
at the top of the hill
are cottonwood trees
that cast shadows
across the silvery road
and for a moment they
hide all of the reasons
that I am driving
to the house

• • • • •

my sister’s hugs
have always been
the perfect balance of
fortress and lighthouse
comfort and strength
when I walk in the door
her excitement is soft
and she smiles

• • • • •

the guest room is
full of rosy light and
plump, gray pillows
Lucy wags her tail
and crowds my feet
as I leave all the reasons
in my suitcase

• • • • •

William has a red box
full of small Legos
that we dump out all
over the master bed
red, yellow, and blue
against white blankets
and he always wants
a house or a bike

• • • • •

Gus wobbles on tiny legs
sometimes giving up
to crawl even faster
other times he hugs
my legs tightly for
just one moment as
he walks by me in a
small second of needed
love amid play

• • • • •

two dainty, white cups
live beside the stove
after bubble baths and
bedtime stories my
sister fills them with
steaming water and as
the peppermint steeps her
husband smiles goodnight

• • • • •

our words mingle
together with the tea
and the cups make soft
clicking sounds
we’ll do this more than
once in the calm of the
night and unpack all
of the reasons

• • • • •

I have reasons for coming
and she for asking me to
but they all gather close
in a cup of herbal tea as we
transfuse both wisdom and
a special love that exists in
the realm where others don’t

• • • • •

she is older than me
but often asks for wisdom
I simply wish that
I could hold the soft
strength and love that
she protects me with

• • • • •

in the cool grace of her
home my sister repacks
all of my reasons
but now they are rose gold
instead of midnight blue
I help her weed the beds
of her reasons and reposition
the sun

• • • • •

she planted bits of lavender
that quietly spread until the
garden mists with purple sprigs
she presses her hands together
tightly and smiles proud and
happy excited for the growth
William does that, too

• • • • •

she holds a depth that is
similar to my own
a universe attempting to
fit inside flesh and bone
the spaces have collided
but know now that they
extend one another

Religion, Macklemore, & Wine

Today I did something completely insane.

I scrolled all the way to the end of my blog. All the way to the very first post. Published on November 12, 2013, and titled “Fear No More” this post was about how it’s okay to love Shakespeare. To embrace the wonderful things he gave us and not shy away from his work, even in this day and age.

shakespeare loveWhy did I do this, you may ask?

Because I have been thinking about this blog incessantly lately. If I posted for the very first time in November of 2013, that means that we hit our five year anniversary this year.

What?

And I’ll be the very first to say it: this blog has been through SO many ups and downs. One of the great things about reaching my very first post, which took a lot longer than I’ll here record, is that I got to see how I’ve evolved in my writing in the last four and a half years. I got to see the things that I used to blog about. The things that used to excite me.

I used to be a very exuberant writer.

The number of exclamation marks. The language. Oh, glory. What a ride we’ve been through to develop the writing style that I know pose on this blog of mine. If you think it’s a little crazy now, scroll back a few years. I dare you.

My blog has been struggling recently.

I won’t deny that. In fact, I’ll be even more honest and admit that my blog has been dead for about a year now. I have blogging friends that I haven’t heard from in a million years. Do you suppose they’re still alive? hello neon

The reasons behind the death of the vitality of my blog are probably many and various, and to be honest I’m not sure if this post is the correct way to go about fixing it. I’ve admitted before how dead this blog has been for a while, and none of that seemed to do much.

Not that I’m complaining.

I love blogging and I always have. My blog has often been a great place for me to go to in order to create and express myself. It’s been invaluable to me for so many reasons.

When I first started blogging, one thing that I loved to do was write posts about specific things about myself. I’d tell people fun facts about me, or overall just try to be funny, in order to attract more followers and feel a little bit more validated.

So I thought I’d do that again today. Just for old time’s sake.

  1. I love God. I love Him so much. It’s not enough to say that my religion is important to me. It’s everything to me. It influences most of my decisions, if not all. My relationship with God is central to my life. I’d be completely lost without it. I love it that I know He is always there. That He loves me unconditionally and knows me perfectly. There is no greater comfort than that. I know that He has a plan for my life. And when I am following Him and doing the things I know I need to be doing to very best of my abilities, there is such a safety and comfort to life. God is so good. He is so, so good.
  2. I am a huge Macklemore fan. I am. Most people would never, ever guess that about geminime in a million years. But Macklemore is one of my most favorite people who has ever lived on this planet. I not only love his music, but I think he’s a great person. If you don’t follow him on Instagram, you should. It’s a treat. I love Macklemore.
  3. I love wine. I have never had wine. In fact, I’ve never drunk at all. No joke. Not a lie. 100% honesty. For religious reasons, I have never drank and I never will. It’s a belief that I hold very close to me, no matter how ridiculous it might sound to the outside world. But all of that being said, you will have a very hard time finding anybody in this world who loves wine more than me. I’m absolutely fascinated by it. If it were in any way possible, I’d be a key figure in the wine industry. I’m fairly certain it’s impossible to do that and also keep my religious standards, so that will have to remain a dream. But I think wine is totally amazing and incredible. I study it whenever I can. I have books about wine that I’ve read a million times. I study every wine menu I ever come in contact with. I love wine. I think it’s beautiful.

Don’t See Me! I’m Sneaking!

In the days when my family was very young, my parents lived in a double-wide trailer on the family farm. I have vague memories of this house, which we now refer to lovingly as The Blue House. It was situated at the bottom of a hill which held two massive rock piles we aptly named The Big Rock Chuck and The Little Rock Chuck. Back then I thought they were completely massive. (Age and perspective, as well as later visits, have assured me that The Big Rock Chuck is, in fact, quite massive. The Little Rock Chuck, not so much.)

mountainsMy mother had a rule that we were never supposed to play on The Big Rock Chuck, which was a rule we obeyed most of the time. When I was that age I imagined that these huge rock piles had once been a medieval castle. The home of a great king who ruled the land with power and influence. I even imagined once, when I found a formation of rocks that looked rather like a chair, that I had found the ancient location of the throne room.

And this was the playground of my youth. In front of the house was a stunning view of the mountains and a wheat field that was brilliantly gold in July and August. It was absolutely stunning. A very rare place to have a very rare childhood, I now realize. But as beautiful as it could get in the summer, it was equally beautiful in the winter. The entire land is covered in a thick blanket of snow until you can’t really remember where one field ends and another starts, and every here and there telephone poles jut out of the blank canvas. It’s lovely.

But there were dangers.

In the summer, the biggest danger was always rattle snakes. Oh, we got super good and hearing them and running away really fast to get help. If they were far from the house we would leave them be, but if they were close to the house my dad would come home from work long enough to kill the snake and dispose of the head. (It’s still very venomous and dangerous even after being separated from the body.) It was something he’d been trained to do his whole life, as shown by the little green jar of rattles he now keeps on a shelf behind his desk.

But in the winter, the danger was the ice and snow. On the farm, the winter can get exceedingly brutal. Very high winds, unheard of low temperatures. You name it. Winter as epitomized in every “I’m-lost-on-a-mountain” movie ever made. Winter is kind of scary at the farm.

It is in this context that one of our very favorite family stories occurred. The characters of this narrative are my mother, angel that she is, and my older brother Jud. He was about two years old at the time, which means that I was not a being who yet lived upon the earth. However, this is one of my favorite stories that we bring up as a family.

One snowy day, my brother Jud wanted to go outside and play. However, my mother wouldn’t allow it for one reason or another. Probably because we lived in the North Pole, or close to it, anyway. I think the weather was particularly harsh that day, and so for obvious reasons my mother didn’t see fit to let her two-year-old go outside and play.

This, however, did not stop Jud.

One thing it is necessary to know about Jud is this: he gained the nickname Mowgli. mowgliSome of you may immediately recognize this name for the character in The Jungle Book. Jud became Mowgli early on in life, and to this day he still responds to it occasionally. Why was he named Mowgli, you may ask? Because he never, ever, ever kept his clothes on. He ran around in a diaper or his underwear until he was fairly old, but I’ll keep those details private for the sake of his modesty.

So, on this very snowy day when my mother informed Jud he wouldn’t be able to go outside and play in the snow, she discovered him only moments later at the back door trying to open it. Wearing a diaper, boots, scarf, and hat. At seeing this sight, my mother asked, “Honey, what are you doing?” Jud turned around, facing her with wild eyes as he responded:

“Mom! Don’t see me! I’m sneaking!”

When I was three years old my family built a house in town. We now lovingly refer to this residence as The Town House, even though it was not, in fact, a townhouse. Merely a house that was located in town. For many years we moved back and forth between The Blue House and The Town House. Blue House during summer and potato harvest, Town House during the school year.

When I was probably about eight years old we began living permanently in town, as we’d given the use of The Blue House to my aunt and uncle. That was hard for us, but a few years later we moved back to the farm permanently to a different house and have been very happy with that choice.

Now, in this time of life when we lived permanently at The Town House, I was what you might call a daddy’s girl. I spent as much time as possible with my dad. We were the very best of friends. Which also consequently means that I probably got away with more things than I should have.

One night I remember very clearly. My older siblings, rebellious teens that they were at the time, had all been banished to their rooms. For reasons I do not know and can only attribute to my status as the favorite daughter, I was not forced to go to bed. I was sitting by my dad’s chair watching a movie with him and my mom. When very suddenly, a major rule was broken.

audreyOne of the bedroom doors opened. And one of my siblings emerged.

Completely unheard of under the present circumstances of: go to your room and go to bed. Do not come out until morning.

It was my sister Jessie. Ever the bold one.

She emerged from her room wearing a huge, poofy blue parka with fur around the hood and a large pair of sunglasses (very Audrey Hepburn). In this disguise, she walked through the living room and into the kitchen, got a glass of water, and then went back to her room.

We. Laughed. So. Hard.

My dad literally could not be mad at her. Her disguise was everything she needed to gain access to the kitchen and a drink of cold water. Mission accomplished.

What I absolutely love about both of these stories is how blatantly obvious, and quite hilarious, the “rebellion” is. Jud was very clearly not going to last out in the snow in his diaper, boots, and hat, and Jessie was obviously recognizable despite the parka and sunglasses.

But they tried anyway. One successful, the other not. Both equally funny.

I’ve been thinking about these stories today, and what they mean in several different contexts. And interestingly enough, I have found a parallel between these stories and something else. Something that makes so much sense to me.

God knows us perfectly. Completely and perfectly.

It is like the story of Jonah and the whale in the Bible. Jonah legitimately thought he could hide from God. And while Jessie didn’t legitimately think she was fooling anyone in her disguise, but she knew she had humor on her side. In Jud’s case, he was just fiercely hoping he wouldn’t get caught.

I know that I have done similar things a million times.

Sometimes it can be so hard to understand that God knows and loves us perfectly. Sometimes we try to hide away from Him, disguise our lives, or sneak away. Sometimes we have experiences where we just want to move in our own direction, in our own way, and throw behind our shoulder, “Don’t see me! I’m sneaking!”

But even though we are intelligent beings with our own minds, our own plans for cherishedourselves are never as amazing or perfect as God’s plan for us. Surprisingly, though, it takes a fair amount of humility and courage to admit that we shouldn’t be sneaking into the snow storm.

I love that these stories brought me to this spiritual parallel because both of them are some of the funniest stories in the family repertoire. And when compared to our relationship with God, it helps me remember that He loves me completely and perfectly. And yes, He can see through my disguises and see me sneaking, but He always loves me.

He knows.

Perhaps that can be ominous, but for me, it is the biggest comfort in the world. I don’t have to hide anything from God. Because He knows me. I can be completely honest and transparent with Him because He understands. He gets it.

So while the world may be confusing at times, or even a place of turmoil, I never have to be afraid.

Reputation: Themes in Taylor Swift’s New Album That Changed Everything

coverI am a Taylor Swift fan. I will neither deny it nor apologize for it, and there was a time when I might have done both. But I have been on the Swift team since the beginning. Since the “Teardrops on My Guitar” days. And I am not ashamed to admit it.

A few years ago I wrote a post about Taylor’s last album, 1989, and how it was just what I needed in my life at that time. I wrote about how it helped me start over and heal and begin again. Today I want to do something similar with Taylor’s most recent album, Reputation.

Reputation is definitely Taylor’s edgiest album. It brings to light a lot of her struggles and highlights a lot of things that she’s usually very private about. It lets us into the darker sides of her, and the darker sides of what she experiences as a result of who she is. But like the true artist that she is, Taylor somehow manages to turn that darkness into light.

From beginning to end, Reputation is a journey: each song taking us through a different phase and highlighting different themes. As I’ve thought about this, I’ve settled upon seven major themes throughout the album that have come to mean everything to me. Themes that have changed the way I look at life and helped me see my own experiences in a different light.

Theme #1: The Fall From Grace

Even if you aren’t a T Swift fan, or don’t know much about her either way, it is pretty much common knowledge that she went through the ringer for a while there. As an ardent fan, I feel like I should know all of the details and have a very strong opinion, but honestly, I don’t know all the details. I really don’t know a lot about what happened. What I do know is that it hurt her, and she disappeared for a long time. I do know that it was a very hard fall for her.

Haven’t we all been there? I know I have.

We’ve all been through that point in life when we fall from grace and become very familiar with the feeling of a cold floor against our cheek. And quite frankly there is nothing worse than this kind of brokenness.flowers as thorns

This theme is highlighted in a couple of different songs on the album. “Call it What You Want” and “Delicate” are a few. Lyrics like: “My castle crumbled overnight, I brought a knife to a gun fight”, and “my reputation’s never been worse” whisper a little bit of this feeling.

Theme #2: Because You Break Them

Sometimes the people in our lives do stupid things. They do things that hurt us deeply. Things that confuse us. And while that isn’t fair, it is a part of life. What is interesting about this theme is that it is something we’ve all seen, and it can usually lead us down a couple of different paths.

If we have been deeply hurt by others, sometimes the healthiest thing to do is just move on. Leave it behind and start over. And other times we have to acknowledge that the pain changed us, and maybe not completely positively. Pain can do dark things to you. Again, that’s just the way it is sometimes.

“This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” and “Look What You Made Me Do” talk about this idea.

Theme #3: I Did Something Bad

Obviously, I can’t speak for everybody, but I think that most often the theme/phase that follows is usually the rebellious one. It was for me, at least. If we’ve been hurt sometimes we lash out. Sometimes we have to go through a moment in our lives when we do things we might regret later.

bikeThe song “I Did Something Bad” is the poster child for this phase. The lyrics say, “You say I did something bad, then why’s it feel so good?” This is an entirely accurate summary of how it feels to do something bad. It is an interesting look at the difference between good and bad or right and wrong. But the cold, hard truth is that sometimes doing bad things is fun.

But I will be the first person to say that staying in this phase really isn’t good. It’s not healthy. At some point, you have to realize that sticking your middle finger to the world is hurting you more in the long run.

Theme #4: In The Middle Of The Night, In My Dreams

One of the things I love most about this album is that while there are heavy themes of brokenness and rebellion, there are also very strong currents of hope and rebirth throughout everything. I love the words, “In the middle of the night, in my dreams,” from “…Ready For It?” because they start off the album with this idea of hope and dreams. The kind of dreams that you saw break into a million pieces against the floor. The kind of dreams that you slowly begin to dream again, piece by piece. The kind of dreams that are so precious you only dare dream them in the middle of the night, when the world can’t reach them.

Theme #5: I Know That It’s Delicate

When you start to begin to dream again, that is when it gets scary.

Picking yourself up off the floor, or letting people pick you up, is one of the hardest, scariest things you will ever do in your life. Because there is a certain comfort in being that broken. When you’re that broken you may be completely miserable, you may be in so much pain and darkness that it is unfathomable, but at least it can’t get any worse. At least you’re there now, not fighting to stay afloat. is it cool

So the process of standing up and walking back into the light is slow and scary, and very delicate. It’s very piece by piece, moment by moment. And somehow it can be the most reckless thing in the world to even fathom the idea of hoping for something again. But you do it anyway.

“Is it cool that I said all that? Is it chill that you’re in my head? ‘Cause I know that it’s delicate … isn’t it?”

Theme #6: My Broken Bones Are Mending

“King Of My Heart” is one of my favorite songs on the album, because it is such a blatant celebration of healing. It talks about how bad things happen, and we do find ourselves on the floor sometimes, and it is the absolute worst. But then healing can happen, and it does happen. We just have to believe in it. Even a little bit.

“Is this the end of all the endings? My broken bones are mending.”

I don’t care who you are, these lyrics are iconic. There is a bit of mystery to it. Like she can’t fathom that she’s healing. As if she’s watching it happen in disbelief. Another song has a line which says, “I woke up just in time.”

your midnightsAs if she emerged from her brokenness just in time. As if she threw the darkness aside in an act of wild faith and hope and passion and it was the best thing she ever did. Because now she is mending.

Theme #7: But I Stay

I love the song “New Year’s Day” more than I love many things on this earth. It ends the journey of Reputation on an incredibly beautiful note. It is a foundation song. A remembering who you are song. A grounding song.

I love this song because it is very simple. It talks about standing beside somebody through thick and thin. It talks about a very deep and abiding love. Something very powerful. But also very real and human. The kind of love that holds you through a dark night or helps you clean up after a party.

It is the song that says, “I know I’ve been through a lot of darkness. But somehow I’m still me. I’m better and stronger. I didn’t stay broken. I rose.”

Reputation is an incredible album about rebirth. There is so much to it. I could write a million more words about it, and extract countless other themes, I’m sure. These are only a few. Just some very powerful things that have changed my life and helped me in my own journey.