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.

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Forever is Stronger

Have you ever had an experience where the darkness seems so much stronger than the light?

I have had this thought on my mind quite a bit lately.

candleThis post is a hard one for me to write. It is one of those posts where I have the thoughts and feelings rolling around in my head for a very long time. And for whatever reason, I then decide that it is okay for me to pour out my soul to whatever human decides to stumble upon my internet space.

When I write these posts, there is usually one thought that ends up pulling it all together. One thing that brings it home and helps me make sense of it all. And maybe that’s the real point of posts like these. That I somehow make sense of it all.

When I was fifteen years old, my older sister Jamie had her first baby boy: Barrett. He wasn’t the first grandchild, and so obviously being an aunt wasn’t new to me. But for some reason, it was different. Maybe it was because it was my sister’s baby this time instead of my brothers’. I’m not really sure. But from the moment he came into the world my nephew Barrett has been one of my best friends. He used to call me when I was in my first year of college and say things like, “Hey, Jordan. Where’s you at?” or, “When you coming to see me?”

But today I remembered something that I had forgotten about. A memory with Barrett that was actually one of the most precious moments in my life.

One day, only a few months after Barrett was born, I got to rock him to sleep. I was sitting in a chair in my bedroom. It was slightly cloudy outside, a light rain falling against the window. I remember looking down at him: so tiny, and so completely perfect. And I suddenly felt the most overwhelming peace and love. A feeling unlike anything I’d ever felt in my life. And I was struck with the powerful realization that this baby, this little life, was the most sacred, precious thing in the world.

It didn’t take long for tears to start streaming down my face. door

I wish I could say that this moment turned a dark night into a bright day. That it changed everything and that nothing was ever the same again. But this wasn’t the case. It was, however, a moment that lit a candle in a dark room and gave me hope for the day when the drapes would be cast aside to let the sunlight stream in.

Let me explain: for as long as I can remember, physical touch has been very hard for me. I’ve never been an overly touchy person. It takes me quite a while to be comfortable with touching people, even just hugs. Even with my family, many of whom are very touchy, I sometimes have to put up some physical barriers. What is hard about this quirk of mine is that as far as love languages go, physical touch is probably my first language for both giving and receiving love. So you see the paradox I’ve lived in my whole life.

It was never really an issue until I got older, and started thinking about boys and relationships. I had a lot of guy friends, but when it came to the thought of anything romantic I never felt good about it. Not with anyone. To make a long story short, I eventually had to face the reality that the thought of holding hands with somebody or kissing somebody actually made me physically ill. It made me shaky and scared. I couldn’t do it.

What followed all of this was an extremely long process that took years.

All spelled out like this, it really isn’t surprising that it was eventually revealed that I experienced sexual abuse in my past. I say “revealed” because it wasn’t something that I remembered. It took some extensive therapy and a lot of really hard moments. And believe me, coming to the discovery wasn’t easy. You see, it happened when I was very young. Probably about the age of 6, which is why I don’t really remember anything.

What makes this hard is that I still had to live with the consequences of the experience. That years later I was still haunted by it. That it kept me from living my life and doing things that normal people are excited to do.

tunnelAnd it wasn’t fair.

It wasn’t fair that as a child I experienced something that horrific. And it wasn’t fair that it made something that’s supposed to be exciting and good horrible and terrifying. When I came home from my very first date I went into my room and cried. And the worst part is that it was a lovely date with one of my best friends. He was a perfect gentleman the entire time. Nothing bad happened at all. But the very thought that I’d been on a date, that I’d been in a setting where romance could’ve been possible completely sent me over the edge.

And that wasn’t fair.

It wasn’t fair that I was stuck with these fears. It wasn’t fair that I had had this thing happen to me and I couldn’t change it. I couldn’t have protected myself. I couldn’t have stopped it. I was the victim of something absolutely horrendous. And not even just as a child, but for the rest of my life after that.

That wasn’t fair.

And it was so overwhelming, so horrific, so terrible, that for years I just convinced myself that I was better off alone. That I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t ever even try to be in a relationship. I wasn’t capable of breaking down walls that dark. And for years I was content with that understanding. I simply accepted the fact that this was my lot in life. It wasn’t fair, but it was the way it had to be. Because I couldn’t be anything else.

Obviously, this is no longer how I feel. And there is an even longer story mountainwrapped up in that. I can’t say that I’m 100% cured of every fear and insecurity that comes with having this in my life. To this day, there are moments that it overwhelms me. Where it brings me to tears. Where I am struck once again with just how horrible it is. And that it isn’t fair.

But back to this moment with my nephew Barrett: it was the beginning of the healing process for me. Because I was able to see, for the first time, how a physical relationship between two people created the most precious thing in the world. And I understood, even just a little, how sacred it is that a man and a woman can love each other that much. That they can literally create life. The beauty in that is indescribable.

It also taught me the incredible nature of the human soul. I looked down at that baby and knew how precious he was. I looked at him and knew how amazing he was. That he was going to move mountains.

It was a moment that taught me that even though I was surrounded in darkness about the most important things in life, love and a family of my own, that one day it wouldn’t be that way.

There are moments in life so dark that light is nothing but a vague concept.

sunThere are moments when darkness is so, so much stronger than light.

But they are just that: moments. Brief shadows.

But that experience with my nephew, that moment, was a glimpse into eternity. A perspective so much wider than the darkness I was facing in the moment. A promise that my forever was so much stronger than the horrible things that I had experienced in a brief shadow.

So I guess the point is this:

Forever is stronger.

 

 

Like We’re All Gonna Make It

There are a handful of memories in my life that I look back on as the best ones. I think you know what kind I’m talking about. They are the kind of memories that you look back on and the beauty almost hurts. There is a sort of golden sheen over the picture as you sunrelive it. Sometimes when we’re in the midst of these moments we understand it, and we think to ourselves, “I’m going to remember this forever. This moment is about to join the foundation of who I am.” And other times we don’t know that, we only have to discover it later.

These moments are happiness.

I’ve been really intrigued by the idea of happiness for a very long time. Mostly because I think that happiness means something different to all of us, but yet we are all scrambling to find it. Amidst the countless directions that life pulls all of us in, I believe that at the end of the day all of us are working towards a moment when we feel like we’ve “made it”.

“Making it” is an interesting phrase, but I think it is what we modern people say in place of happiness. We want to be financially stable, emotionally stable, stable in relationships, or just able to watch our favorite show every now and again and not feel ragingly guilty about wasting time. We are all working towards this moment when we’ll finally be there; when we’ll finally arrive at the sight of happiness. When we’ve “made it”.

Now before you jump to conclusions, please understand that I am not going to sit here and tell you any of the following cliches: Happiness is in the journey [and/or] Happiness is a choice. While I believe that these cliches hold truth and exist for a reason, I also just hate cliches. Just so much. So I’m not going to take that route on this happiness post. flowers

I think nobody has found the perfect formula for happiness because it doesn’t really exist. And I think it doesn’t exist because happiness is different for everybody. And there are different kinds of happiness. For example, I received several vinyl records for Christmas. My family knows me very well that way, and that gives me happiness. Each time I pull them out and listen to them, I feel that happiness all over again. My records make me happy. But that isn’t the kind of deep, long-lasting, “making it” type of happiness that we are all looking for. I think it’s a piece of happiness.

So what is happiness, really? Is it one big “I’ve finally made it” or is it just the little pieces of happiness all added up? Or both? Or something different altogether?

I think that the answer is very simple but also a little complicated: whatever happiness means to you is what it means. I wish that happiness wasn’t such an elusive thing. Are we really meant to just search for it for forever before finally realizing that the journey was the happy part? Or are we actually supposed to get there?

My personal belief is that we’re supposed to get there. We’re supposed to make it.

light and darkI think that happiness evolves over the course of a lifetime. And there are definitely going to be times in our lives that are anything but happy. And no matter what inspirational quote dares show its face in those times, sometimes life is just darkness. Sometimes you can’t choose happiness no matter how hard you try. But I think that in those times the important thing is to remember that it did exist once and that it can again. And in that way happiness is very closely linked with hope. And that is one of the ways in which it lasts.

It is interesting to me that happiness creates so many problems.

If I look at it from the spiritual perspective that I tend to apply to most things, it makes sense. I mean, why would Satan (or whatever you believe in as far as the kind of realm goes) want us to be happy? I personally believe that God wants us to be happy. He wants us to have joy. He thinks we deserve everything good. God thinks we deserve happiness.

So whatever happiness means to you, remember that. If you find yourself surrounded bybridge darkness, remember those golden moments and have hope that there will be more. If you are in a moment of happiness in your life, cherish it. Be grateful for it. Love every second. We’re all navigating our personal road, and that’s okay. But just remember that 100%, totally, completely, you belong in the light and not the dark. You deserve the gold moments.

Happy travels.

 

10 of the Songs…

Even though I played the flute for four years, it’s been forever since I’ve picked it up. I don’t really consider myself as being musically talented. But I could never overstate how important and influential music is in my life. I don’t really understand why, but music is really a lifeline for me.

Because my parents are quite wonderful, I grew up listening to all kinds of different music. Pretty much every genre has a few memories in my past. As I’ve gotten older there are several genres that have stuck out as my favorites, but as a whole, I really enjoy every kind of music with very few exceptions.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and about some of the songs that have influenced me. Now, it would be absolutely impossible for me to make a list of all of the songs that have had an influence on me.

But there are some songs that can only be described as soul-touching. There are some songs that you hear and they just strike something inside of you that nothing else does. If I were to make a list of these songs it would be much easier, but still an incredibly long list. So I decided to narrow it down as best I could and blog about each one because these songs all hold a very special place in my heart and mean something very important to me. So, in no particular order, here are only 10 of the soul-touching songs:

heat of the moment1.”Heat of the Moment” – Asia

This song is everything good. Oh, what can I say? I went through an incredibly powerful 1980’s phase my senior year of high school and this song fulfilled every single need posed by said phase. It is a very powerful song because while delivering that unforgettably wonderful 80’s guitar that rocks everything, the lyrics are also very powerful. That’s going to be a common theme among all of these songs: the music itself says what words can’t, and the words somehow say what words normally could never touch. This song is about how sometimes we do things in the heat of the moment that may take us in places we never planned, but how it’s wonderful because the heat of the moment is a beautiful thing.

2. “One for My Baby” – Frank Sinatra

I have written countless posts about Frank Sinatra, so obviously this isn’t a surprise to anybody. There aren’t many words that I can use to accurately describe that whole situation. But if you’re curious you can visit my tag cloud and click on “Frank Sinatra”. It’ll be a good time. This is one of my favorite Frank Sinatra songs because I love how simple it is. There is that simple, lonesome piano playing and just the natural richness of his voice. And that’s really all you need for a song like this. This song is about a man whoone for my baby has just lost a great love, probably the love of his life. He’s telling a bartender about all of it, and about how the road before him is incredibly long and lonely without her. It’s completely heartbreaking, really, but something about it is also very beautiful. I love it so much.

3.”Two Steps Behind” – Def Leppard

I bet you weren’t expecting Def Leppard!! Okay, but seriously, Def Leppard was a childhood staple for me. When I was a little girl I used to drive around the farm with my dad. On summer nights he liked to drive around and check on all of the fields, just make sure everything was going well or the irrigation was doing what it needed to be doing. I loved going with him. I’d sit in the front seat of his pickup, legs barely reaching past the edge of the seat. I’d have a Pepsi in my lap, and we’d drive around together. On these excursions, we would always listen to his 80’s music and Def Leppard featured prominently. This song (particularly the acoustic version) always touched my heart. It’s actually a pretty sad love song, just about a person who will stand in the background and let their love do whatever it is they need to do. But when they are needed, they’ll be right here to help.

4.“A.M” – One Direction

I have blogged about this song before. (If you are curious click here.) But I just…wow. I honestly don’t have the words to explain this song. I honestly never thought that this would be a thing ever, ever in my life. But not only is this my favorite One Direction song, it is my favorite song. Period. My favorite song in the whole world. Out of the thousands of songs that have made me who I am, out of the thousands of songs whose lyrics I’ll never forget, this is my favorite song in the entire world. Now you can think what you want about One Direction (I personally didn’t become a fan until this last year and it’s a sad regret, but that’s a post for another time) but this song is pure gold. I really a.mdon’t understand it, but something about this song strikes a chord within me that no other song ever has. I hear this song and suddenly feel like my soul is just displayed before me in musical notes. It is about love and the uncertainties of life. It is about two people who have grown up together – which can be taken in many ways I think. It could mean that they literally grew up together, or that the experiences they have shared have made it so that they have grown older and wiser together. Either one is equally beautiful. The chorus then says, “Won’t you stay ’til the a.m? All my favorite conversation’s always made in the a.m. ‘Cause we don’t know what we’re saying.” I love these lines because I think “a.m” is a bigger metaphor. I think they are asking their love to stay until the morning, to stay with them through the darkness. To stay with them and love them even though there are things they don’t understand. Because together they are able to make it there. I could honestly write novels about this song. It’s beautiful.

5.”Caledonia” – Celtic Woman

If I’m being completely honest, sometimes I forget about this song. And then every now and again it pops back into my mind and I remember how influential it was for me. It is a traditional song, sung by many different people and groups. But the Celtic Woman version is the one that changed my life. For those of you who don’t know, “Caledonia” is the traditional name for Scotland. And this song is about somebody who is from Scotland and who has been away from it. And they are finally ready to go home. It is about how important home is, and how it often makes us who we are. And that no matter what we experience or where we go home is constant. It was interesting for me because my family history is heavily Scottish, and for reasons I couldn’t explain I’ve always felt the tie to that. A sort of pull. And the first time I heard this song and really listened to it I felt such a feeling of comfort or understanding. That the land of my ancestors is still very important to me and still very much a part of me. It was beautiful.

6.”Faithfully” – Journey

This is another one of those “driving with my dad” songs. I have countless memories of driving places together as a family and listening to this song and many others by Def Leppard and Journey. This song is a classic love song: about being faithfully in love with somebody despite the challenges that often arise. If I’m being honest there is nothing spectacular musically about this song or even the lyrics, really. It’s just a classic. It’s beautiful in its classic simplicity.

7.”Perfect” – Ed Sheeranperfect lyrics 2

I debated heavily about whether or not to include this song in this list. If I am being completely and totally transparent, I can’t even listen to this song. But there was a time in my life when it described everything flawlessly. It was like Ed somehow knew and wrote me a song. So, I actually don’t listen to this song anymore. But to deny its impact in my life would be dishonest and horrible. Because it is truly one of the most beautiful love songs ever written. If you haven’t heard it, go listen to it. There’s no way to explain it, you just have to hear it for yourself.

8.”Knock Three Times” – Tony Orlando & Dawn

Okay, I decided to put this song in because its just plain and simple fun. I grew up on this song – again, lots of driving in the car memories. But interestingly enough these ones aren’t tied to my dad but my mom. She has always loved this song and we listened to it all the time when we were driving with her. It is about a man who is in love with the woman who lives in the apartment beneath him. They don’t know each other, but he’s convinced he loves her. The chorus says, “Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me. Twice on the pipe – if the answer is no. Oh, my sweetness (knock, knock, knock) means you’ll meet me in the hallway. Hhmm twice on the pipe means you ain’t gonna show.” It’s just a fun, lighthearted song that always made life a little bit better.

9.”Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” – Il Divo

This song was originally composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber for the musical Evita. But the version by the band Il Divo was the first time I’d ever heard the song. Again I encourage you to go listen to it if you have never heard the song before. It’s incredibly beautiful. It’s about how when we go out and experience life to the fullest and do all the wonderful things we wanted to do, sometimes it can be a sad thing if we forget where we came from or the people that got us there. It can be sad if we forget who we are in the process of our accomplishments.

10.”Long Live” – Taylor Swift

long liveSimply put: I love this song. I love this song with everything in my heart. It has such a special place for me. Ever since the first time I heard this song, I’ve never been able to hear it without getting goosebumps. Honestly, I almost cry every time I hear it. I’ve heard a lot of different interpretations of the song: that she wrote it for her band, that she wrote it for her fans, for her friends. But whatever the case it is an amazing tribute to the people that you go through life with. The lines, “Long live the walls we crashed through, I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you,” always punched me right in the heart. Because there really are those people who stick with you through everything, you go through the night with you and fight all your dragons with you. And they are incredible. This song pays tribute to them.

So, there you have it. Only 10 of the songs that have touched my soul and largely made me who I am today. If you haven’t heard any of them I urge you to go and listen for yourself. Or to sit and think about what things (it could be music, movies, books) have impacted your life in a similar way. You’d be surprised by the things you remember and how you suddenly realize they made a difference.

The Predetermined Poem

I recently had this idea for a poem. Now, it’s a really intriguing idea, and I’ve heard of poets doing similar things. But there are several potential problems/facts that come along with this idea. But first, the idea itself.

By now, you are all aware of how important music is to me. I’m constantly listening to music, writing about music, trying to find the perfect song to fit my mood. I’m really, really into music. One of my favorite things about finding a new favorite song is identifying that ONE LINE in the song that strikes a chord in my soul. That one line in the whole song that says everything I need it to say.

I recently wondered – what would happen if I took all those lines that struck my heart and created one giant heart-striking piece of literature? What if I took all those lines from all these songs I love and made a poem out of them? My first thought was something grandiose about my level of genius.

But, like I said, there are a few factors to consider:

  1. I know A LOT of songs. Like thousands and thousands and thousands of songs. Making this a ridiculously huge project from the get-go.
  2. Is this even legal??? ……I honestly don’t think so.
  3. I won’t get to choose what this poem is about. Essentially, every song is about love. This is going to be a giant love poem filled with heartwrenching lyrics. So there’s that.
  4. How do I choose which songs to use and not use? How do I choose lines that will somehow all work together?

All of these factors and several others not here mentioned make this project and its aspects:

  1. Something I now have to do just to see if I can do it
  2. An unnecessarily extra thing I’ve now decided to do
  3. Largely predetermined due to the nature of songs
  4. A very interesting writing challenge

So I’ve been working on this project and it has been really interesting. I’ve come to the conclusion that this project must be done in chunks, and we’ll see what happens. I’m also not even sure what to do with this project once it’s finished…due to the fact that I’m quite certain it isn’t legal.

One thing that has surprised me about this project is that even though I strictly have to work with just the lyrics – no adding words – there is still quite a bit of room for me to create something that I love. I can still arrange the words into a pattern that means something to me.

I finished the first chunk of this project this evening. Which consists of some of the artists I listen to regularly and the lines of only some of their songs that have always really touched me. I’ve decided to share this chunk of the project with you. Enjoy:

The Predetermined Poem

I said, “Remember this moment”,
in the back of my mind.
Cause you feel like home,
you’re like a dream come true.
Feels like this could be forever right now:
everything will be alright
if you keep me next to you.

When all those shadows almost killed your light,
I saw a shooting star
and thought of you.
And it’s so quiet in the world tonight,
the truth is I never left you.

I’ve been there too a few times.
I thought, “Heaven can’t help me now.”
Just grab my hand
and don’t ever drop it.
Come morning light,
you and I’ll be safe and sound.

You can see it with the lights out:
how the kingdom lights shined
just for me and you.
And pain gets hard,
but now you’re here
and I don’t feel a thing.
I think I might give up everything
just ask me to

I’ll be waiting,
all there’s left to do is run

 

When The Night Is Coming Down

Today I want to talk to all of you about anxiety and depression.

This post is something that I have had on my mind for a really, really long time. For a few years probably, if I”m being honest. I have mentioned this kind of this vaguely in some posts or posted about it indirectly in others, but today I want to be open and honest about it. True to Jordan fashion I’ll probably remain a little vague, but I’ll share the most important facts of my story with you.

Mental illness is a pretty touchy subject for a lot of people. Despite the growing understanding of it in recent years, I think that it still remains a largely taboo subject. I think there are a lot of reasons for this, honestly, but one of them is because mental illness is really hard to understand. And until you’ve dealt with something like anxiety or depression it is really hard to wrap your mind around what it does to your brain. Another thing that makes it hard to understand is that even though there are common symptoms or feelings, it honestly does different things to everybody. But today I want to tell you my story; or give you as much of a glimpse as I can.

I grew up in a family who operates by ignoring the deep issues. My father was severely boxesabused as a child and to this day has never sought any kind of professional help for the things he experienced. We are a farming family: hard workers who believed in getting the job done. Because of these many different factors, any kind of emotional struggles we ever had as children were dealt with with a “get over it” mentality.

Before I continue let me just say that I don’t think this was any fault of my dad or his experiences. Or my mother for that matter. The older that I get the more I realize that the generations before mine simply dealt with hard things that way in general. If there wasn’t a physical problem or a physical way to fix it, then it is easier to forget about it. Box it away in your head. And even though we’ve discovered that this isn’t necessarily healthy, I understand it. Maybe because I was raised that way or maybe because sometimes it just makes sense, there are days when boxing away the emotional baggage is incredibly tempting.

Anyway, with this background as context, this was the mentality I grew up in. Looking back at my childhood now, I recognize one period of time in particular when I was very depressed and needed help and didn’t get it. After this experience, I followed in the tradition of boxing things up. A lot of other factors played into this, factors I won’t get into, but eventually, my mentality was to either deal with my issues by myself or act like they didn’t exist. I didn’t feel like bothering anybody with things because I didn’t like asking for help. I didn’t like inconveniencing anybody with my problems. So if I couldn’t deal with it alone, I simply ignored it.

For me, anxiety and depression go hand in hand. I think that’s the case with a lot of people. (I will also say as a quick aside that there are way more people in this world that deal with anxiety and depression than we even know.) As a general rule, I think I deal with depression more than I deal with anxiety, but anxiety is still very real and usually triggered if I’ve had a bad day depression wise.

All of this information about myself was hard learned. If I’m being completely honest, the words “anxiety” and “depression” did not exist in my vocabulary in reference to myself until I was 19 years old. I was serving my religious mission when all of that happened, which is really where everything came to a head.

I will never forget the moment that I broke.

I remember where I was and who I was with. I remember what time of day it was – 9 brokenp.m. I remember every detail of how it felt. Like a giant cavern had opened inside of me and I was falling inside of it, falling forever and ever and ever and smashing into the sides along the way. After several weeks of intense pressure, one single moment not only cracked open the emotional boxes I’d packed on my mission itself but every emotional box I had ever packed ever. Every single one split wide open all over inside of me.

To date, there have been two such moments in my life when this type of thing happened inside my head. And both times my very first thought was, “Well (insert expletive of choice), this is going to hurt.”

I’m not sure if this practical/joking approach to emotional decimation is healthy, but nevertheless, that’s what my brain decided to say in that moment. The last moment of sanity before the madness, apparently. But I digress.

The aftermath of this first breaking moment was not good, to put it mildly. For months afterward, every moment of my life was a constant battle to try and figure out what was going on inside my head and how to fix it. It was the hardest thing I’d ever dealt with up to that point in my life. Looking back on it now, depression was probably the main thing I was dealing with, but anxiety was close on its heels.

I remember waking up every morning. Waking up was the most horrible thing to ever happen to me for days and days and days. The instant I gained awareness, the dark cloud descended on me again. There was absolutely no escape from it. Have you ever woken up in the morning crying? I wouldn’t recommend the experience. Every single morning was the devastating moment of, “Oh, I’m still here. This is still my reality. I have to do this again.”

candleDepression is horrible. There’s no way around that. Nobody should have to deal with things like that. Nobody should be trapped inside their own head like that. There is something about depression, about the moments when it is the worst it gets, when you are in the darkest of places, and you sit and realize that nobody is coming to save you, that is one of the worst things a human can experience.

And as hard as it is for those of us on this side of it, it is also incredibly hard for the people who have to watch us go through it.

Because more often than not, they just want to help. They can see the value of life and the potential we have so much more clearly than we can. More than anything they want to be there for us and help us fix it. But when we don’t even understand everything that’s going on in our head, it’s so hard to let others try and figure it out.

For me, one of the hardest things about depression is that even when it is horrible, just downright terrible, and I’m in the midst of that kind of darkness, I still know what all the answers are. I know the value of life, I know there’s a point, I know great things are ahead of me, I know that God has promised me incredible things and that He does not and cannot lie. Everything motivational you could think of, I know. I know all of that. But in those moments that are the darkest of dark: I just don’t care.

And I honestly think that’s the greatest tragedy of all. Just not caring.

When you mix this mental illness that brings you to a state where you truly and honestly do not care with a mental illness that makes you care too much, you’re going to have issues. It is 100% completely immobilizing. And honestly a little bit humiliating. I have a hefty record of canceling plans, being unable to make it to work, and basically avoiding the process of life because of things that are going on inside of my head. It’s frustrating because you want to be fine. You realize how crazy all of it sounds, and that by all accounts you’re completely okay.

It’s hard because on the outside you appear completely fine.

But you’re just not.

To continue with my story, I eventually got things figured out. I say “I” but honestly I was not the one who figured it out. I was surrounded by an army of supportive people who refused to leave me alone, but not in a way that suffocated me. They were simply there. To talk when I needed it, to support me when I needed it, and to cry with me when I needed it. They figured it out for me. They carried me through. They taught me that love is the key.

I wouldn’t say that there just came one day when everything was suddenly okay. Because to this day, I still fight the same battles sometimes. And they are still just as devastating. But I will tell you a few of the things that helped me get to a point where I could entertain the notion of life again.

  • When I realized that the things I was dealing with were real, it became easier to move forward. I had spent so much of my life feeling like emotional things were fake, something to be pushed away. But once I came to terms with the fact that it was a real thing it was much easier.
  • For a period of time, I allowed myself to embrace the darkness. It is a risky strategy lightthat I’m not sure I’d recommend. But for a moment I let myself be completely immersed in the darkness, I embraced it, I lived in it. The hard thing about this strategy is that it is so easy to get stuck there. But for whatever reason, allowing myself to be in the darkness helped in the end. I didn’t stay there long, not at all, but getting to a point where I could admit the issues with complete honesty and face them head on helped. If you’re going to pull this kind of mental battle, you have to know when to retreat. If you fight it too long really bad things happen. You have to run away from the darkness before you’re ready. If you get too comfortable there that’s not a good thing.
  • I had to understand some things about my mind. I had to come to terms with the fact that I am a human being who feels things on an incredibly deep level. That goes for sadness or happiness and everything in between. Once I came to terms with this fact about myself – or was at least aware of it – it became easier to move forward.
  • I learned the difference between moving on and moving forward. I learned that “moving on” is pretty much a myth. Sue me, but none of us really ever “move on” from anything. Nobody just forgets completely about the things that happen to them and live life merrily like it never happened. To be honest, I felt dirty. I felt dirty and used after going through all of this. And when you feel dirty and used, moving on isn’t really a thing. You just do your best to move forward and cling to whatever whispers that someday you’ll feel clean again. You move forward, not on.
  • Along with this, I had to learn that being beaten up by the world doesn’t make me dirty. For reasons I don’t know, my entire life I’ve thought that if I remained untouched or innocent of certain things in the world then I was clean. But the moment I broke I was dirty, the moment I let the world hurt me I was dirty. To this day I still struggle with this and fall prey to it, but until I began struggling really badly with anxiety and depression I didn’t even know it was a thought pattern that I had. Becoming aware of it made a lot of things a lot clearer.
  • I learned to find joy in small or new things. I learned to dig the joy out of small moments. I went on this crusade to discover new things and find the joy in learning and discovery. This discovery of new things to love and find joy in is a great strategy that I still use.
  • I learned that sometimes we just have to go for certain things – even if we aren’t ready. A few months after this breaking moment the time came for me to move areas in my mission. I was terrified because even though I’d been struggling so badly, at least everything in my life was familiar. I felt I had come so far and I was scared that a move would take me right back to square one. But even though I wasn’t ready I went forward with faith, and it ended up being one of the best parts of my mission. I didn’t feel ready, I was still so trapped inside my own head, but I went for it anyway.
  • I learned to hang on to words. Because my brain/body is so crazy steeped in emotion, I had to learn how to hang on to facts. For me, this came in the form of words. That way, even in the black moments there were words I could remember. As a person who loves words, this was an especially effective strategy for me. Even when I wasn’t feeling great, when my emotions were so dark and so overpowering, I could remember words, comforting words from others or from God, and get through it.

dream of sunlightThis is definitely my longest post to date, and if you’re still with me, thank you so much. The end of my story is an interesting one. And since I’ve dropped you this novel I’ll give you the short version – I mostly “recovered” from this breaking moment for a few really wonderful months that are very precious to me. I met great people and had so many wonderful adventures. I eventually experienced a relapse, however, and became so ill that I had to return home. I had to sort of begin again with my recovery process, but all the things I had learned about anxiety/depression and myself made it much easier.

Anxiety/depression aren’t things that you ever 100% recover from. They are things that you learn to live with and manage. Some bouts are more serious than others. And you do your best to move forward step by step even if you don’t care, even if you’re surrounded by darkness. Hang on to the words, the facts that you do know. Remember that you aren’t alone, even in the moments when you realize that nobody is there to save you. Because even if you can’t believe or feel that you’re not alone, it is still the truth. That’s the beauty of truth: it is the truth no matter how we’re feeling. That’s been a huge comfort to me in my own journey.

Much Love.

‘Til the A.M

Summer 2017 was the summer of stars, drives, and songs.

night skyI honestly don’t know how many times my friends and I had what we term “rooftop sessions”. We’d get in my car and just drive, drive anywhere. And eventually, we would pull over somewhere, open the sunroof, and sit on top of my car. From up there, the world looked a little different, and the stars were a little brighter.  We were often surrounded by fields of some kind, in the quiet of a beautiful summer night.

And we would listen to music.

Usually One Direction, or Harry Styles’ new album. (We’d have listened to Niall’s, too, if it had been out. Can you even believe how wonderful it’s doing?! I’m so incredibly proud. But that’s a conversation for another time.)

And we’d have all kinds of conversations, about all sorts of things. Sometimes they were deep conversations and sometimes they weren’t. But those moments, surrounded by my friends, the beautiful summer night, and music in the background are memories I will treasure forever.

I’d also always look for a shooting star.

I had an absolutely amazing experience one night during a rooftop session that had to doshooting star with a shooting star. As we sat there, listening to our music, I was praying. I was expressing to God how I was feeling. I was asking Him about answers He’d given me, and telling Him that I had faith. I was telling Him that more than anything I wanted what He wanted for me. I wanted to remain faithful so that He could keep His promises. And as I finished saying this prayer, an incredible shooting star with two tails shot across the sky.

Call it what you will, but I don’t believe in coincidences.

And ever since then, I look for a shooting star whenever I get a moment to look at the night sky. And every time I see one it is just one more reminder from God about all the wonderful things He’s done for me and all the answers He’s given me.

It’s part of what made those rooftop sessions so beautiful.

One of our favorite songs to listen to during a rooftop session is the song “A.M” from 1D’s last album together. It’s an absolutely beautiful song, and if you haven’t heard it I implore you to set aside whatever atrocity has lived inside of you to make this your reality and go listen to it.

track 17But remember that music is incredibly important to me, and so when I ask you to listen to a song I need to really listen to it. Drink in the lyrics, let the music itself wash over you. Experience this song in every way that you can. All too often people take listening to somebody’s favorite song too lightly. If you learn anything from me, learn how to really listen to somebody’s favorite song and all that it says about the way they’re feeling.

Anyway, I’m not sure what it is about this song, but it strikes a chord deep in my heart. I’d post the lyrics for you right here and now if I thought it would penetrate your heart the way it penetrates mine.

One of my good friends just finished reading the novel I recently finished. Late one night as she read, she sent me a video. She was reading about the couple in the novel and said to me, “If they had a song it would be ‘A.M’. It’s perfect for them. They’re perfect.” I honestly couldn’t have ever been given a better compliment about my writing.

Essentially, this song is about people having a conversation late into the night. The lyricsa.m imply that it is about two people who love each other, who have been through a lot. It is about them talking late into the night, and into the morning. It is about how they always come back to each other. It’s about that enduring quality of love. One line says, “You know I’m always gonna look for your face.”

It is a sweet song, so sweet and full. Really that’s the best way I can describe it. Just full. The song talks about how these conversations sometimes don’t mean anything, and how sometimes they have no clue where they’re headed or anything. But underneath it all there is a sense of surety in the person they are with.

Won’t you stay ’til the A.M.?
All my favorite conversations
Always made in the A.M…