There’s a Light

Darkness has surrounded me recently. Depression has shrouded me in a cloak of insecurity and doubt so thick, so heavy I’ve forgotten what it’s like to breathe normally, without this heaviness in my chest. It’s like I’m walking through a maze, and the deeper I go, the darker it gets, the closer the walls seem to be. And to top it all off, it’s raining in this maze. It’s been raining long and hard for days, and the maze has standing water–not enough for normal people to be concerned with, but enough that I’m starting to feel anxious.

And I know that probably none of this makes sense, but hear me out.

My two biggest phobias in life are small spaces and drowning, but they didn’t use to be. Once upon a time, the bottom of the pool was my best friend, and I could play hide and seek in the closet for hours. Once upon a time, I was more scared of heights than anything, but I’m not afraid of jumping anymore (at least not most of the time). As we grow up, we change, and I hope one day I will grow out of these two fears, out of the memories they bring. Right now, they’re things I carry with me.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, and I can tell you the exact moment this all became luggage on my life trip.

It was a school bathroom, late afternoon, one day in the middle of May, almost eight years ago. I was alone, until I wasn’t. There were suddenly too many people, too many hands, too many demands. As the room started to close in, I felt too big, too small, too everything at once. And I wish I didn’t remember what happened next. I wish I could tell you I don’t remember any of it, but I remember most of it.(As I’m sitting here writing this, it’s playing over and over and over in my head. I wish it would stop, but I know the only way to make that happen is to keep writing, get the words out.)  And if you haven’t experienced this, I hope you never do. My world became so much smaller that day. They were everywhere. If they weren’t, they could’ve been around the next corner, or the next one, or the next one.

So, no. I don’t like closed spaces–they remind me of that time when the room I was in suddenly became too small for the memories it carries.

But what does water have to do with anything? It has to do with everything. I can still hear the drip, drip, drip of the bathroom sink I didn’t have time to shut all the way off. (Good thing I didn’t because when it was all done, I cleaned myself up that much faster. Ironic, right?) And I know you’re thinking, “What about the drowning?” So am I. This is a more of a “fill-in-the-blank association” than a direct correlation.

You know how people get you to open your mouth when you don’t want to? They pinch your nose closed.

And I tried, I tried so hard to keep breathing with my mouth closed and my nose pinched. But things started swirling and spinning and fading, and my lungs were begging for air. So, I opened my mouth and started gasping for air, which is exactly what they wanted. (But this isn’t really the time to discuss that.)

So my brain did the math and concluded that “gasping for air” plus “struggling” plus “water dripping” must be what drowning feels like. I became a fish out of water: the Little Mermaid never wanting to go back in the sea, never wanting to feel that feeling again. Even though I know it’s irrational because a) I wasn’t drowning and b) I’m a good swimmer. But, hey, there’s nothing rational about any of this.

I’ve tried so hard to not let my past define me, become me, influence me, but it’s so hard when so much in your life since that day has been directly or indirectly affected by it. It’s so hard to cut ties with the thing that is pulling you down on your bad days when it’s also the thing that allows you to fly on your good days. Because on my bad days, the pain in my chest, my racing heart when I remember this day remind me I’m still alive.

I know none of this makes sense. But I also know that none of this is permanent: this pain, this life, these memories.

I went on a road trip this weekend. And twelve hours in the car gives you a lot of time to look out the window and think. It also gives you a lot of time to compare unfamiliar places in the dark and in the light.

Unfamiliar places are a lot less creepy during the day, they’re a lot more beautiful. But there’s also something about the night that is just as beautiful. 12983928_10209209651944281_5671617332364340475_o

I took this photo as we were driving over the Ohio River, the lights of some city in Pennsylvania can be seen clearly.

This is what is so beautiful about the dark: it’s the light that can be seen shining through at a distance.

I may be in a dark place now, but this is not unfamiliar territory. I’ve walked this road before; I’ve sailed these seas; I’ve made my way out of this maze too many times to count.

I can see the light up ahead, and with God’s help, I’ll make it through this.

 

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Sunrise and Sunset: A Reflection on Six Years

As I was coming home this morning, the sun was beginning to rise. I reached the top of the hill by my house, and as I was waiting for the light to turn green, I soaked in the beauty of the just-beginning-to-stir world.

My world’s not a quiet world. Within walking distance of my house there’s a grocery store, a drug store, five or six banks, a Target, a gas station, two churches, a Kmart, pizza places, coffee shops, and various other ways to spend money. Close your eyes, and you can hear the steady stream of traffic rushing past the house: horns honking, music pumping, mufflers that need fixing. It quiets down at nights sometimes, though (as long as the dogs don’t bark). I live in the “urban center” of my town—like living in the city without actually living in the city. I’ve gotten really good at tuning out the outside world.

My world’s not a quiet world. If it’s not the noise outside my house, it’s the noise inside my head. It’s the insecurities, the doubts, the past playing on repeat in my mind that are louder than whatever is going on outside. They’re impossible to turn off, hard to ignore, but eventually you learn how to cope. I’ve gotten really good at coping.

Here’s the thing: when I started working on this post a month ago, I wanted to give you a month’s worth of reasons not to kill yourself. Because when you’re depressed, life is just a series of days at a time: if I can get through this day and the next day and the next day, etc, eventually you’ll have a month. And then you repeat this step 12 times until you have a year, and then eventually, you’ll have a lifetime.

Who knows, maybe after more writing and rewriting, I’ll end up getting there.

But this is all I know right now: if I had my way six years ago, I wouldn’t be here today.

I’ve struggled with guilt over the last six years, wondering why I got a second chance when so many others have not. And I don’t have an answer. I doubt I ever will.

I’m learning how to be grateful for the second chance I’ve been given.

My world’s not a quiet world. But this morning it was.

As I was coming home this morning, the sun was just beginning to rise. I reached the top of the hill by my house, and as I was waiting for the light to turn green, I soaked in the beauty of the just-beginning-to-stir world.

In the normally heavy traffic area, I was the only car. And through the mostly dark blue sky, streaks of cotton candy pink were beginning to emerge; the sun was beginning to shine through. As I sat there and took it all in: the way the drowsy sun illuminated the world under me, and the way the newly fell snow and icy rooftops dazzled and sparkled under the sun they reflected. As I waited for the light to turn green and marveled at the quiet beauty around me, a sense of calm came over me.

I thought to myself, “What a wonderful day to be alive.”

So, I don’t have a month’s worth of reasons to keep fighting, to keep breathing, to stay alive. I just have one: sunrise.

And I’m so grateful for the six additional years of sunrises and sunsets I have gotten to be a part of. Because nothing is better than realizing that the God who painted the beauty of dusk and dawn decided the world needed me too.

 

Continue Reading: Reasons to Keep Breathing

 

Recovery: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

(a continuation of my last blog post, “Bear Hugs From God”)

One of the biggest problems I have as both a reader and a writer is romanticizing things that should not be romanticized. I write poetry and use metaphors to try and make sense of my feelings, without actually acknowledging my feelings. It’s not really even that, though. What it really is, is that I’ve written about my past so many times—I’ve tried to lessen the pain by using metaphors—that I’ve forgotten to write about my present and my future.

My past isn’t beautiful. What I’ve been through isn’t beautiful.

There’s nothing beautiful about rape, depression, self-harm, eating disorders, and suicide attempts.

What’s beautiful is the fact that I’m still here. I’m still fighting. What’s beautiful is God’s grace—his mercy.

But, if you know me and my story, you already know all of that.

What’s beautiful is where I am now, and where I will tomorrow and 5, 10, 15 years from now.

What’s beautiful is recovery and healing, but even those aren’t always beautiful.

Sometimes recovery means hospital stays and feeding tubes and uncomfortable conversations.

Sometimes recovery means mending bridges you burned, going back to the people you’ve hurt with your tail between your legs to say, “I’m sorry.” It’s knowing that while you were hurting, you may have hurt others, too.

Sometimes recovery is learning that total healing doesn’t always come on this side of life. It’s having to be ok with that.

Sometimes recovery is being angry, and then sad, and then angry again. It’s about learning to use those feelings to motivate you to live every day, not just survive every day.

Sometimes recovery means grasping for straws, hoping that you can find one to hold on to. If you can find one reason to stay alive, no matter how small, it makes day-to-day life so much easier.

Sometimes recovery means doing things you don’t want to do. It’s like my sister talking about the Super Bowl: “If the Patriots and Panthers both make it, I’ll cheer for the Panthers, but I won’t be happy about it.”

I’ll ask for help if I need it, but I won’t be happy about it.

Sometimes recovery means not being afraid to fail and having faith that God knows what he’s doing. You know like Peter. “Ok, God. You called me out upon the waters, but I sunk. Now what?” And God replies, “Have some faith.” Oh.

Sometimes recovery is a bear hug from God, but often times it’s more like Him carrying you while you’re kicking and screaming, “But I want to.” You know like how a parents tells a child not to touch the stove because it will burn them, but the child does it anyway? And then they get burned. Or how a child throws a tantrum in a store because mom won’t buy them candy, and then when they get home, they’re put in time-out. It’s sort of like that—learning from your mistakes.

Like you’re standing on a bridge, and God says, “Don’t you dare jump.” But you do anyway. And then of course you hurt yourself. And God picks you up, wraps your ankle, and says, “What did I tell you? This time you just sprained your ankle, but next time, it could be worse. Don’t do that again.” But of course you do it again, just to make sure gravity works. And God keeps saving you over and over and over again. He doesn’t have to, but He does.

Sometimes recovery means remembering how great God’s love, grace, and mercy are. It means being grateful because you are so unworthy of any of it.

Sometimes recovery is trying so hard not to revert to old habits. Repeat after me: “I will eat today. I will not pick up that razor. I am beautiful.”

Last night, I was angry—don’t ask me why because I have no idea—and I was being mean to myself. I knew that if I went to bed with those feelings, it would lead to a terrible today, and a possible relapse. So, I went to my happy corner: the corner of my room, under my bed, next to my desk, in front of my bookcase where I have blankets and stuffed animals. And I curled up there, and I wrote for a while, and then read Edgar Allan Poe for a while.

After about an hour of this, God and I had a conversation. The exact details don’t really matter. But it played out like a parent talking to a child:

“Do you know why I put you in time-out?”

“Yes. I was angry and being mean.”

“Correct. And you’re not angry anymore?”

“No, I’m not.”

“And you promise not to be mean?”

“I’ll try my best.”

“That’s all I ask. You can get up now.”

Sometimes recovery is about learning how to keep bad feelings in yesterday to make for a better today and tomorrow.

Yesterday, I was angry.

Today, I am content. Today, I am “Carpe Diem”ing. Today, I will do my best to prepare for a better tomorrow.

Bear Hugs from God

When my dad discovered that I was self-harming, when he pulled up my sleeves and noticed the fresh-that-morning cuts on my arm, he pulled me into a giant bear hug—the kind only dads can give—and refused to let go.

I imagine God is the same way, especially when it comes to those who have walked away, those who have doubted, those who have lamented and struggled.

I doubted for a long time, but I’ve had faith for longer.

Doubting is easy, having faith is hard.

When you’re being raped, it’s hard to have faith that one day God will use this for good.

When you’re cutting yourself open and starving yourself, it’s hard to have faith that God made you, and will continue to make you, beautiful.

But there I was, having faith I was starting to outgrow. When I was little, it fit like one of my dad’s t-shirts: large and floppy. Now that I had struggled, it fit like one of those old t-shirts it’s time to get rid of: too tight in the middle, with holes in the armpits.

It’s hard when your faith is shaken. You begin to wonder if it was strong enough to begin with, if you were a good-enough Christian to begin with. Doubt begins to creep in when your faith doesn’t seem big enough.

I never stopped having faith, but I let doubt take control. I was like one of those tight rope walkers who tense up and fall when they look down and realize how far away the ground is.

The night I attempted suicide was a night much like this one. I remember it vividly: the house was quiet; snow, sparkling under the light of the moon, was falling outside my window. The roads were covered in snow, and tree branches were dancing in the wind. It was beautiful and magical, serene and tranquil, but it wasn’t enough to save me.

My doubt was.

As I lay in the darkness of my room, waiting for the pills to do their job, I could see the light of the moon shining bright.

The doubt I had been feeling for years had eroded a place for hope and faith. And I know that doesn’t make sense, but believe me when I tell you that one the night I tried to kill myself, I was angry at the beauty I saw outside. I was angry at the way God had created nature and man, called both good, but he had seemingly abandoned me.

I was angry, but I still held on to a little bit of hope.

So as time slowed down and the earth began to slip away, I made a last ditch “I don’t know if God exists, but if He does, I hope He hears this because I’m all out of answers, and I can’t do this alone” cry.

And He did. And He answered, not with a shout, but with the gentlest of whispers.

“You’ll be ok.”

He answered with a whisper, but I’m sure He was like: “Finally! I told you that you couldn’t do this alone, and I was here cheering on the sidelines like an idiot screaming, ‘Come on, you can do this!’ But you weren’t paying any attention to what mattered. You were too focused on your past to think about your future or your present.”

And He’d be right. I was.

When my dad discovered I was self-harming, he pulled me into a bear hug.

When he discovered I tried to kill myself, he pulled me into his lap and threw his arms around me, as if to say, I’m never letting you go.

I imagine God did the same when I finally surrendered my pain, my past, my failures, and returned to him.

I imagine him saying, “Come on, Child. We can get through this together.”

 

Rejoice in the Lord . . . Always?

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”- Philippians 4:4

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s hard to rejoice all the time. It’s easy when everything is going right, when life is smooth sailing, when the sun is shining bright. It’s a lot harder to rejoice when everything is going wrong, when life is choppy and bumpy, when the darkness has swallowed the light.

It’s a lot harder to rejoice in these times because it feels like God has abandoned you.

I used to feel this way. Sometimes, I still do.

In my darkest moments, I may feel like God abandoned me, but I know God exists because I have experienced immense pain, and I’ve come out to see the other side. In the deepest, darkest time of my life, God was there. He heard the cry of my heart, and he spoke to me—not with a thunderous boom, but with a gentle whisper: You’ll be ok.

Sometimes the quiet is more powerful than the loud.

So, He called out to me, and He rescued me from myself, and I’m still trying to make sense of the why. Why me? Why did I get a second chance at this thing called life? Why me when so many others do not?

I don’t have an answer. I don’t know if I ever will.

But I’m thankful for this second chance. And I’m rejoicing because of the way God has worked through my life, the healing that has come.

I believe God exists because my experience has answered that question. But there other questions that are a lot harder to answer.

Like, for instance, where was God when I was being raped? (There are no metaphors for this—nothing suitable enough to cushion the blow, nothing deep enough to distance myself from my memories.)

Where was God when I was dealing with the aftermath: the depression and the eating disorder?

For years, I wondered if it was easier to pretend God didn’t exist because then I wouldn’t have to blame Him.

For years, I was angry at him because being angry is easier than admitting that He never walked away—I did.

I was the broken one who had so much faith in a Mr. Fix-it-All God that I forgot about who God really is.

I thought if I prayed hard enough, cut deep enough, ate not enough, God would swoop in and make everything ok again.

And then I wondered if I believed enough because I still suffered.

It took me a while to realize that the God I was raised on—the God who wouldn’t let His people suffer—is not the God of the Bible.

Suffering was never a part of His original plan for mankind, but c’est la vie. Because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, we are all destined to suffer at some point in our lives because of the sin of mankind.

Out of the suffering, grows strength. Out of the ashes grow beauty.

And so I thank God for this. . . this. . . whatever it is. Because I can’t call it a gift, but I can’t call it a curse either, because I’ve learned so much, grown so much, helped others so much.

God isn’t “Mr. Fix-it.”

God is “Mr. Redeem It.”

I had enough faith, but I was expecting the wrong outcome, so I failed to see what God was doing right in front of me and within me—the strength he was giving me.

There are different kinds of healing.

I was expecting complete and total healing, but that’s not what I received.

Instead, I am at peace with the fact that the struggles I face every day will never go away. I will have to battle these demons, face them head-on, as long as I continue to breathe.

There are different kinds of healing. And as Christians, and humans, we expect healing to mean life. But sometimes healing means death. And we have to be ok with that.

So where was God when I was being raped? When I was dealing with the aftermath?

He was right there with me, carrying me—sometimes dragging me, kicking and screaming—through it.

He waited for me to cry out of my brokenness, before He answered, “I’ve never left you.”

And so I rejoice.

It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with all of this, for me to understand it all, for me to be content with the cards I’ve been dealt.

I rejoice because He saved me.

I rejoice because He redeemed me.

Rejoice in the good times because God is evident in the way He blesses your life.

Rejoice in the pain, not because it is a gift, but because God is right there with you in that present moment.

 

(Not) Enough

I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember, but somewhere along the way, I think I was taught something wrong. And I know it’s not just me because other people my age who I’ve talked to believe the same thing I did: if you’re a Christian, you won’t suffer.

So, basically you’re telling me that if I do suffer, I’m not a strong enough Christian.

You’re writing off my sexual assault, battle with depression, and my eating disorder as nothing more than a lack of faith. Let me tell you about my faith and how I would get up every day praying that the floor would hold firm beneath my feet. I had faith that I would make it through the day, that the weight of the world would be light enough that I wouldn’t collapse under the pressure of it all.

So don’t tell me I’m not a strong enough Christian because I’ve suffered.

I have told myself I’m not enough enough times on my own.

Not pretty enough.

Not smart enough.

Not good enough.

Not worthy enough.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say Christians will be free from suffering. In fact, the Bible explicitly states that those who believe in Jesus will suffer greatly, which should come as a surprise to approximately no one.

I mean, if you think about it, Jesus went through the Ultimate Suffer for us.

The Bible says a lot of things about a lot of things, but saying that Christians won’t suffer is not one of them.

One thing I’ve learned as an English major is that context is important. When analyzing a work, we all have our own interpretations, but we can’t forget the historical context of the work. Where it was written and when it was written are the only true ways to know why it was written.

My story is the same way. I have a story, but it’s only a smaller part of a larger story. It is this larger story that is the most important; and it’s determining where I fit, how my story fits into the larger story, that I am focusing on.

How can you tell me, then, that my suffering is because I’m not enough?

I know I’m enough because of what I’ve been through and how my story has impacted others. My story transcends language barriers because when I went to Guatemala, I was able to lead a young girl to Christ because I was brave enough to share my story.

Brave Enough.

I graduate from college in 9 or 10 days, depending on how you want to count, and I don’t really have any concrete plans yet.

I have all these big plans for my life, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever accomplish even half of them. And I’ve come to learn to be ok with that. I’ve learned that my life really isn’t my own. Yes, I’m living it, but it is a gift, on loan from the ONE who knows the end of this script.

Time is a weird, mind-boggling concept, and I don’t know how much time my life has been given.

5 years ago, I thought I was out of time, but God decided my story wasn’t finished, my job wasn’t done. I can’t pretend to know the inner workings of God’s mind, so I don’t know why I was called back.

All I know is that God decided I wasn’t done yet, and I have to be ok with that, despite knowing many people who aren’t given second chances.

Just because God has a plan for my life that doesn’t mean my suffering ends.

And no, suffering wasn’t part of the Plan at the beginning, but sometimes plans change. And the plan for humanity changed after the whole incident with Adam, Eve, and the devilish serpent.

The greatest downfall of man happened because of something the Greek Tragedy writers refer to as Hubris: excessive pride.

The pride of the first two people on earth doomed them and the rest of the human race to a life of suffering.

Suffering is hard to understand in the moment, but after the rubble begins to clear, you start to understand how strong you are.

I’ve started to understand how strong I am.

I’ve been sexually assaulted.

I’ve battled depression.

I attempted suicide.

I self-harmed.

I fought an eating disorder.

And I’m a stronger Christian now than I was before because through it all, God never left my side.

Because I am enough.

Eulogy for my Grandfather–9 years late

I remember where I was when I heard the news: I had just gotten home from a night at Youth Group, after a long afternoon of “Annie” rehersals. My parents sat the three of us down on their bed, and my Dad said, with tears in his eyes, “Boppa Guy died.”

I felt as though the wind had been knocked out of my lungs; my heart was pounding, and my eyes welled up with tears.

Your death hit me hard. I was in 6th grade, and at that point in my life, I didn’t know what fully death meant even though I had been to more funerals than weddings. Nobody so close to me had ever died before. All the deaths were such and such a person who had been “insert obscure relational title here.”

Your death was the first time somebody died that I had personally touched, whose voice I can remember clearly, whose laugh still rings in my ears. Your death was the first time a physical presence close to me had died.

Nine years later, I have come to understand what death literally means: a final cessation of all physical and mental activity. But nine years later, I have come to my own theories about death through my study of physics and my observations of how people interact with each other.

Yes, death is finite, unless you’re a Christian, in which case, death is temporary. But the finality of death is not important. What is important is what I’ve come to learn.

Physicists have this law called the “Law of Conservation of Energy,” which esentially states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; it just is. The same amount of energy has existed since the universe has been created, and the same amount of energy will exist up until the moment the universe ceases to exist. The energy that exists today is the same energy that existed when George Washington walked this earth; it has just been transferred from one form to another over time: light, potential, kinetic, sound, etc.

This law walks hand-in-hand with my theory about death: a person dies when all of their energy has been transferred to other people (I’m not talking about physical energy that one can obtain from eating food. I’m talking about the energy that makes up the universe, the energy that a person is made up of: personality, beliefs, what some people call an “Aura”). For people who die young, either the have less energy to start out with or they transfer it more quickly. For people who die when they’re 116, they either start out with more energy or they transfer it more slowly over time.

I’ve come to discover that people start to resemble the people they hang out with the most, like how married couples begin to look alike, except my mannerisms begin to resemble the people I hang out with the most. My vocabularly has expanded and reshifted to mirror the vocabulary of the people I know the best. My personality changes depending on the group of people I’m hanging out with. This is the transfer of energy to which I am referring.

I don’t have any direct proof for any of this, of course. It’s all speculation based on observations and physics, but I’d like to believe that it’s true.

If it’s true, we have the potential to affect people generations from now, not just because of the laws we make, the legistlation we pass, how we leave the environment. But we also have the potential to impact people generations from now because of the transfer of energy. Theoretically, the energy you give off, the energy you transfer from one person to another could be vibrating and reverberating in the universe a hundred years from now, or at least, technically, in the gene pool of your descendants.

Physicists have also discovered that there are rays of light called photons that can pass through objects as they are drawn into the ground. I like to believe that all these particles that have bounced off people’s face, travelled through these people, on the way to their final distance (or where ever photons go) have had their paths forever changed because they came in contact with these people. I like to believe that the same photons that came in contact with Jesus have, at some point, come in contact with me, a legacy 2000 years in the making.

I have no proof of any of these, Grandpa. But it’s been nine years since you died, and sometimes the facial expressions my sister makes are expressions I swear I saw you make before. Sometimes I’ll make a joke, and my dad will say, “That was a Boppa Guy joke.” Your energy and the photons that came in contact with you are continuing to make an effort nine years later and will continue to make an impact generations from now.

It’s either physics or genetics, and I’d like to believe it’s a mixture of both. Genetics are powerful because a child can be the spitting image of a great-great-great grandparent they never met. But physics is powerful, too.

It’s the language of the universe, and I take comfort in language. So, I’m taking comfort in this theory about death.

Life is finite, and so is this eulogy. But I don’t know how to end this; I’ve never been good with endings. But I guess I’ll end with this:

Scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy, and they have found it accurate and consistent across space and time. Take comfort in that because God is the creator of space and time, and time is relative. Down here, on Earth, it’s been nine years. But in heaven, it’s been no time at all.

Late Night Thoughts: I’ll Be Ok

The most common question I get is, “What you were wearing?” As if that makes a difference. I was in 8th grade, and my whole life I had been taught that, as a woman, I have to be careful what I wear because it could be distracting to boys.

I was wearing jeans and an extra-large hoodie if you must know.

The second most common question I am asked is, “what did you do to provoke him?” Nothing. Unless you count him asking me out and me saying, “no,” because he was a jerk who slammed my locker shut every day, who used to pull my hair because he liked the way it curled.

Now before you say, Boys will be boys, or, that’s how he shows you he likes you, let me tell you that I grew up hearing that if a guy is mean to you, he likes you.

“He’s pulling my hair.” He likes you.

“He stole my ball.” He likes you.

I took that to mean that if someone is mean to you, they must like you.

“He beat his wife for years.” He loved her too much.

“Why didn’t she leave?” She loved him too much.

For years, I was mean to my body: I cut myself open. I watched myself bleed. I starved myself. I belittled myself because I believed that in order to love my body, my being, I had to first be mean.

Meanness, I thought, was the way people showed love: Love is born out of hatred; Abuse is a symbol of love.

How messed up is that?

“Why did you do this to yourself?” I was trying to love myself.

“Why didn’t you leave?” Trust me, I tried. But something pulled me back.

You’ll be ok.

People like to believe that most sexual assaults and rapes are committed by strangers. However, that’s not the case. (Trust me, I’ve done the research. I know the statistics. 1 in 5. 1 in 7. I wrote a 12-page paper on the prevalence of rape in society and the way society treats the victims and the perpetrators. Sometimes, society doesn’t get it right).

I knew the guys who did this to me. I went to school with them. I saw them every day before and after until they dropped out. Win for me.

I graduated High School. They didn’t.

I am going to graduate from College soon. I’ve come a long way.

The things they called me, the things they told me, still echo in my ear.

Slut.

Bitch.

You’re asking for this.

You’ll never amount to anything.

Nobody will ever love you.

 

Maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s not.

But I love me. It’s taken me years to get to this point. It’s taken me years to realize how beautiful I am I have the advantage of knowing where I’ve been and can compare it to where I am now. And with all these facts laid out before me, how can I not love me?

There are days when I want to go back in time and say to my 13-year old self, It’s ok. You’ll be ok. It will get better. I want to take her by the hand and show her the people she’ll touch, the people she’ll meet, the lives she’ll change. I want to tell her the story of her 19-year old self going to Guatemala, sharing her testimony with a group of Junior High students, and leading a young Guatemalan teenager to Christ because of her story. I want to tell her about the hard days and the sad days and the in-between days. I want to remind her that one day the sun will come out, and she’ll feel better. I want to tell her that despite the cyclic nature of Depression, she can get through this.

I’ve learned life is beautiful, and I want her to remember this.

I want to tell her that one day she’ll learn about the power of words, how writing can change a life. When she discovers this, she will have found what she wants to do with her life.

I guess those guys must have been wrong about me then.

My 13- year old self would love me.

My current self loves me.

God loves me.

He’s the One who called me back that day.

You’ll be ok.

Some days I have to remind myself of this, especially on the days when the weight of the world is on my shoulders.

God loves me anyway, and I’ll be ok.

Graveyards and Milkshakes

This afternoon, two of my friends and I walked from Campus to a local coffee shop to buy milkshakes because 1. We’re in College, and we do what we want, and 2. Milkshakes are literally delicious. On our way back to campus, we took a little detour through the neighborhood cemetery. What an incredibly sobering moment it was.

This walk from Campus and back, through the cemetery, on this brisk autumn afternoon did two things for me. First, it helped me clear my mind. It’s been a long past few weeks, and the next few weeks aren’t looking much better. This is my second-to-last semester, and it seems to be a sprint to the finish. There are a million papers I’m in the middle of doing research for, and there’s not enough time to synthesize all this information. But I’m doing my best. Taking the walk this afternoon helped focus my thoughts on what’s really important; it helped focus my thoughts on the One who gives life and takes it away. I wasn’t thinking about school, or what I’m going to do after I graduate. I was focused purely on God, the creator, and all of his splendor. And it was beautiful. And I came back to campus refreshed and ready to work.

Second, I started thinking about my own mortality, not in a morbid way, but in a “What Will My Legacy Be?” sort of way. I started wondering if what I do with my life will really matter 25, 50, or even 100 years from now. I started wondering about the people buried in this cemetery, who they were, what their stories were, how they ended up here, in this cemetery near my college. Because at one point, everybody—from newborns to those who were 100 years old—were alive; they were loved. They were somebody’s mother, father, sister, brother, child, and friend. And one day, I will be just like them. One day, my family will put flowers on my grave on special occasions, like those tombstones from the last 25 years. And one day, they will stop. I will be forgotten, like those 150 year-old tombstones.

On the timeline of the universe, my time on earth is incomputable and small. My finite life can fill the infinity of the universe infinity times. And I have the audacity to be freaking out about my future? Yes. I do. I doubt I’ll ever be one of those important figures in history, those people who are learned about in school 200 years after they died. But that doesn’t mean my legacy isn’t important, because it’s taken me a long time to learn this, but what I have to offer this world is important. I have mass, and I take up space. Therefore, I matter.

People may forget me 150 years from now, but the universe won’t. Physicists have this law, known as the “Law of Conservation and Energy.” It states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, just transferred from one form to another. I may be gone, but my energy is not. I like to believe that people absorb little pieces of energy from those around them. As I get older, I find myself becoming more and more like my parents, and I like to believe that it’s a transfer of energy in the form of personality. And maybe one day, my children will be like me. A transfer of energy from one generation to the next.

Physicists have also discovered that there are rays of light called photons that can pass through objects as they are drawn into the ground. I like to believe that all these particles that have bounced off my face, traveled through me, on their way have had their paths forever changed because they came in contact with me. I like to believe that at one point, the same photons that passed through George Washington have come in contact with me, a touch of legacy 300 years in the making. Energy is neither created nor destroyed.

Energy is given off as heat, and I want people to be warmed by my presence so that even after I’m gone, they’ll feel warmth whenever they think about me. I don’t need to have faith to believe any of this, because scientists have tested these laws over, and over, and over again. They have measured precisely the conservation of energy, and they have found it accurate and consistent across space and time. And I find that comforting. Because 150 years from now, my existence may be forgotten by many people. But the universe will not have forgotten me. My energy will be vibrating and reverberating throughout the universe.

So I walk through graveyards, trying to absorb the energy of those who’ve walked before.

Flash Flood Warning- A Poem

It’s 4:30 am, and my alarm goes off—

A cruel irony, really.

I haven’t yet slept.

I watched the clock turn Midnight, then 1,2,3,4.

And with each minute that passed, my mind raced faster and faster—

A mile a minute;

A thousand thoughts a second—

A race against time with no clear winner.

“If I fall asleep now, I can get 5 hours of sleep…

5…4…3…2…1…

It’s raining.

Lightning.”

It’s been raining all night, and I’ve been awake to hear it.

You’d think after all this time, the tear ducts of Heaven would be all dried up.

(fantasy is often better than reality.)

My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty. . .

. . . there’s nothing my God cannot do.  

Apparently, God is so big that his tear ducts draw from a never-ending well.

Well, well,well…

It’s raining; it’s pouring, the Old Man is snoring…

Wait, nope. That’s just my Dad.

It’s been raining so long and so hard a flash flood warning was issued early this morning while the world was sleeping.

I was awake and read the warning along with the 15 text messages from Twitter.

It’s 4:30 am, and I didn’t need my alarm today.

I watched the numbers on my clock change, counting down the minutes until I need to get out of bed, their faces glowing red as if laughing.

My life isn’t a Cosmic joke.

I only get one [life], and I don’t want to screw it up,

But I’m afraid I already have.

There are no do-overs, no re-runs; I sure could use one.

I don’t know how God is running things up there,

But it seems kind of Laissez-faire.

Divine intervention would be nice right about now—

The future is big, and I’m rather small,

And this whole “I don’t know what I’m doing in life” is getting kind of old.

There was a flash flood warning, and I’m right in the way.

They always tell you:

“In case of a flood, find high ground.

Low places will probably be the hardest hit.”

I’m in a low place right now, and the flood waters are coming.

At least I know how to swim.

Of course, my swimming skills will be about as helpful as the levees of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

It’s a nice thought, but practically, it leaves a lot to be desired.

At least it’s the thought that counts.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m a 7. . .

. . . microwaves (which weigh less than 7 elephants).

I’ll take what I can get.

And yet, somehow, despite this weight on my chest, I’m still standing tall.

Right now, I feel as though my world is collapsing around me.

I won’t always feel this way.

Depression is like a Great Flood:

It happens slowly and then all at once.

(They disappear the same way).

It’s 4:30 am; it’s raining, and I haven’t slept.

Sleep makes you feel better when you get it and worse when you don’t.

(it’s kind of like rain that way.)

Last night, when I couldn’t sleep, my thoughts were racing a mile a minute.

“What if…”

“Why…”

“How about…”

When the darkness creeps in, that’s when the enemy line starts firing.

Under cover of darkness, it’s easy to be a brave coward.

Last night I was having deep existential thoughts about life and happiness.

The first thought that entered my mind when I got out of the shower this morning was

“Should I do my hair today, or not?

The rain’s just going to ruin it.” (I did; it might’ve.)

But like, the state of my hair is what I should be concerned with…

NOT…

Superficiality is only skin-deep; and I want to change the world.

It’s raining here.

There are wildfires out west.

So, tell me how life is fair.  

And there’s no peace in the Middle East.

I don’t know how to change the world, but I think love is a good place to start.

Love your enemies, those who disagree with you, those from an opposing political party.

Love your neighbors, those who come into this country to find a better life. We all want a better life in a way.

Love those who are different from you, those whose way of life you may not agree with.

Love them anyway.

Love yourself anyway.

Sometimes you can love too much, and sometimes love is not enough.

But between war and peace, I’ll take my chances with love.

Love makes the world go round in the circle of life,

Everything has a cycle, including water.

Hence, the rain.

I love the rain because it begets life,

And it can make you clean if you just let it.

We could all use a clean slate once in a while.

There was a flash flood warning, and it’s still running, and I’m doing my best to keep smiling.

My Lit Teacher asked the class to list things that die.

I started, “People, animals, plants, hopes, and dreams.”

It’s easy to die.

It’s not always easy to live.

I learned that once.

Because one time I tried to set myself on fire (figuratively, but literally with pills)—

I was a metaphorical Girl on Fire, trying to make myself someone new.

Out of the ashes and with the rain came beauty.

That’s all I wanted, and I’m trying my best not to screw up, to make the most of this second chance at life even when the going gets tough.

There was a flash flood warning.

Warning:

Beware:

Caution:

This flood won’t stop me.

Because it’s all too easy to drown in an ocean of tears, and sometimes we forget we can float in salt water.