Ceaselessly into the Past: A Look at Journals, Conclusion: A Troubled Heart

Do you remember how it felt to move into college? It almost felt like going away to summer camp. You’re put in this tiny room where you’re going to live for an extended period of time with a complete stranger who kind of weirds you out and are directed around for a week-ish of orientation and mixer games until BOOM. Classes start and you feel like you got hit by a truck.

I did that twice.

Yes, friends. I’ve talked about it a little bit, but not in too much detail. In August of 2014, I moved into Hillsdale College. Five days later, I moved out. I was terrified, alone, homesick, and having existential crisis after existential crisis.

(Audrey, calm down. That’s how everyone feels when they move into college…) Well, I guess I just wasn’t prepared. Was it fear that motivated me? Probably. But would I make the same choice again? You bet your bottom dollar.

I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had since I made that fateful decision. In September of 2014, I moved into Cornerstone University. One day later, I started classes. Three years later, I’m starting my senior year. No regrets.

But freshman Audrey, 18 years old and tossed about on buffeting waves of choices and their consequences, wouldn’t say the same. She spent her first fall semester of college crippled by fear and anxiety (like most freshmen, am I right?) She thought about transferring multiple times. She thought about changing her major (she did. I have a semester’s worth of music classes under my belt, in case you were wondering.) She thought she would be married by the time she graduated (HA. She fell prey to the Christian college mentality.)

And somewhere in there, she started to journal. Ish. So here we go:

Journal #5: No name (I wasn’t that creative anymore. It was just a red composition book from Meijer.) October 2014 – July 2016 (I think. It is rather unclear.) 

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The quote at the bottom is from Frankenstein the Musical. Yup. You read that right. There’s a musical. About Frankenstein. And it’s actually pretty legit so don’t judge me. Ok judge me.

So here we are in October of 2014. It’s chilly and Audrey has found a moment to pour out her thoughts. She’s sitting in the lounge of Pickitt Hall (I remember this part but not much else) and finds time between homework to jot something down:

24 October 2014

It’s been a long time since I’ve journaled. The first time was when I got this thin little journal from my aunt (was it my aunt? I think so. There was a sparkly pen with it. It lit up when you wrote something.) (Good memory, kiddo.) It had this cartoon angel on the front (Remember?) I think I was nine? Ten? (Eight.) …I kind of stopped [journaling] in high school because I couldn’t find any time. I should find those journals and read them (What a great idea! Then share them with the Internet, ok?) I was a weird child (yes.) Er, creative. Both. Whichever one. (Both is good.)

For years people have been telling me “You should journal! It will help you organize your thoughts/reduce stress/help you figure out your life!” Well, maybe, but

1) My thoughts are just as messy on paper as they are in my head; 

2) Journaling feels like an obligation and therefore a stress-producer;

3) My life has never been resolved through writing things down. Maybe that will change. It’s cheaper than therapy, anyway. (Cue laughter.)

So what do people usually journal about?…I think [famous writers] have an innate sense that they’re going to be famous so they make sure everything they write is elegant and extemporaneous. Or they are just innately good writers and therefore get famous. (The rest get blogs.)

So there’s your introduction to 18-year-old Audrey at a turning point in her life. You can tell that from October 25’s entry:

How about I start with this: Who am I? Good question. I don’t think I can answer that. I was just thinking how weird it is that we define ourselves by who we are when who we are is constantly changing. Can one be defined by that which always changes? Maybe that’s the answer. Who are we? Constantly changing things. Who am I? That which is never the same. 

Someone get this girl a blog. She’s hopeless. And she’s feeling the weight of 18, apparently:

I’m learning a lot in college. Not just conventional things like what I’m paying to learn, but other things too…For example, I’ve learned that eighteen may possibly be the most insecure age there is (oh honey it gets worse.) That’s why everyone feels they need to be in a relationship or talk about all the great things they’ve done. They’re starting to feel the pressure of adulthod. I know I am. Seeing people who know exactly what they want to major in make me feel like I should know too. People who are in relationships make me feel like I should be in one (story of your life.)

So here’s what we know about Audrey so far: She’s confused and she wants a boyfriend. Is that what I’m getting here? She’s also paranoid. October 27:

I feel as if there’s never a time during the day when I’m not being scrutinized. There’s never a time when I’m completely alone, without fear of someone walking in or watching or staring at me (that’s called living in a dorm.) Just now someone looked at me, smiling and laughing in my direction. Why? What’s wrong with me? 

On October 28 I wonder if I’m attractive. Who doesn’t? Image is still a difficult thing to handle in college. You can still feel the judgment of high school seeping over (I know I did.)

On November 4, 2014, Audrey fell in love. She would stay that way for two and a half years. She met someone, and in her insecurities, latched onto him, thinking he was her only shot. (You can imagine how that went.) But she’s real excited on November 5. Everything seems to be falling into place.

She talks about Hillsdale on November 10. She’s still having dreams about it, but claims that the doubts are gone (they never go away.)

And then a little introversion –

11/15/14

I went to a dance tonight. I always go out thinking I’ll have a great time, but I always stand to the side and watch awkwardly. This was the first time I went with extroverts who wanted to dance. I just wanted to dress up and look pretty. My outgoing friend pulled my arm all night so I would dance. I said I didn’t like the song. “No one does,” she said. That really hit me. Is everyone as uncomfortable as me?

And on 11/22 –

Sometimes I think of myself as an F Scott Fitzgerald character: a narcissistic, restless, overly-romantic youth…I feel displaced. Restless. Confused. Bored, sometimes. Hopeless other times. Scared. Childish. Recently, lovesick for someone I’ve only known for three weeks and only seen three times. But you know me, making a big deal of little things. (that won’t change any time soon!)

So we find our little heroine troubled. She longs for something that she can’t have, but she still has hope. She’s about to enter one of the most stressful times of her life. Winter of 2015 was not a good one. She had an overload of classes, a lovesick heart, and a mind full of anxiety. I remember a lot of painful, bitter tears being shed during that time. Life just did not seem to be coming together for me.

But looking back, I realize how much all of that taught me, and I couldn’t be prouder of myself for enduring that and becoming the woman I am today. She still has a long way to go, but she’s made leaps and bounds in the right direction.

So I’ll conclude this short series with a little tidbit of knowledge from our heroine. Where will she go from here? No one knows. She doesn’t journal anymore (she blogs, which might be a mistake, but we’ll see.)

3/15/15

The heart is the harbor of love. If God is the author of love, then the heart must be God’s harbor. But what if the heart is not full of God, full of love – what is it filled with? That is a dangerous, tempestuous harbor, one that no sailor would find refuge. Let your heart be the refuge of the sailor Love, who tosses wearily from wave to wave in hope of a safe haven. Why not calm the waters of your heart and whisper, “Author of Love, you are welcome here. You who calm every storm, calm my troubled waters.”

a. w.

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Ceaselessly into the Past: A Look at Journals, Part 3 – The Writer Becomes

Today you will read a story about farts.

When I was around 11 years old, I realized that I really loved writing stories. I mean, I knew that before, but by 11 I knew I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to make a living writing books. Ten years later that dream does not look attainable, but that hasn’t stopped me from working on a book (mostly because I like the sound of “Yeah I’m working on a book right now.”)

Young Audrey (now five-foot-two with three inches to go) is eleven years old and in 6th grade. The urchin has entered middle school. She’s got a little baby fat, has the worst bangs you’ve ever seen, and wears the same sweatshirt to school almost every day (but she showers daily and launders it weekly, so chill.) Recently, Audrey has started reading the Chronicles of Narnia. And she is hardcore into those books. (More on that later.) But for the time being, let’s dive in.

Journal #3: “Scrappy” – Circa 2007-2008 (no exact dates. Young Audrey is making me go all paleantologist on her.) 

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“Word dungeon” is written affectionately on top. Next to all the girly stickers. Also I drew a “scanner” on the claspy thing. Who does that? I guess I did. 

Audrey is much changed since last we checked in with her. Hormones are happening, and angst is increasing. Seriously, this child has some angst issues. She’s also pretentious as heck upon entering sixth grade.

She didn’t have a lot of friends, so to defend herself from rejection, she puts up a front of being smarter than everyone else. In fact, in the second entry, I call the journal “my second best friend in the world (my first best is God).” Isn’t that cute? This entry was at the tail end of fifth grade. I had three friends. I had recently lost the person I thought was my best friend (but hey, friends come and go in elementary school.)

Boys still aren’t a thing in young Audrey’s life. However, she does talk about boys a few times. But then she censored herself. Exhibit A:

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Was I Donald Trump? Also, I’m not talking about how excited I am for a bathroom. A toilet bowl is a kind of waterslide, you uncultured swine.

So I guess you’ll never know who I was madly in love with at that age. (I honestly don’t even remember. Let’s just keep it that way. I can only be so embarrassed by my past self.)

This tiny human could be pretty funny sometimes. Case in point:

“I may have seen a few scary movies and I know they always go down and explore but NO I AM NOT GOING DOWNSTAIRS TO CHECK IT OUT! People in scary movies are idiots. Who would actually go down to explore a noise when they KNOW, after some freaky dude told them, that there was CLEARLY a monster down there. Sheesh! And they always open doors that the freaky dude tells them not to! And something bad ALWAYS happens! Then later they say, in the middle of dire havoc, ‘We shouldn’t have opened that door in the first place!’ Duh, you shouldn’t have! What idiots! Clearly if that freaky dude told you in a creepy tone “DON’T OPEN THIS DOOR!” You probably shouldn’t, and then nothing would ever happen bad!”

Ok, calm down. Also, this. I had a dream where I was reading a newspaper:

“I woke up after I read a headline that said NEWSPAPERS LIE – DON’T READ THEM.”

True. Story.

Like I said, Audrey wasn’t keen on boys. (If you saw the boys in my 6th grade class you wouldn’t blame me.) She admired a few actors a bit more than others because they were good looking (and many of them have aged like a fine wine…sigh…) but here’s a little tidbit Audrey wrote on the day after Christmas, of all days:

My brother tells me that soon I’m going to like boys! Ew! I hate boys, their guts, and their kind. All the ones I used to like are water under the bridge now. He always asks if I like any movie stars. I said no, I appreciate them as actors. That’s it. 

Oh, STOP. You literally just wrote a censored entry about cute boys. Don’t fool yourself. You’re falling and you’re falling hard, little lady. (Like I said, hormones.)

On February 14, 2008, Audrey expressed her disdain for Valentine’s Day. Not much has changed there.

One thing this child talks about a lot is boredom. Apparently, I was bored a lot back then. I’m pretty sure about half the entries I wrote are about being bored. Was my life really not that interesting? Or did I just happen to be bored every time I sat down to write? Or was I just a pretentious little snot who thought she was too important to be bored? Who knows. I’d rather not dive into the psyche of a 11-year-old more than I have to.

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You just can’t make this stuff up. Luckily I started doing theatre a year later, because I was a drama queen already. “Don’t forget sunscreen.”

Now for the reason you’re here. 11-year-old Audrey farted and told a story about it. Her life is so exciting.

It was a placid spring day. I was listening to my teacher’s lecture about feudalism or whatsit. I scooted to the side of my desk and…pffft (It came out louder than expected) Moments later: 

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Such art.
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Names withheld for safety purposes. Although I’m sure they don’t give a rip (get it) anymore.

All I have to say to small Audrey is: WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS?!

But for real, things like that were a lot more debilitating at that tender age. If I did the same thing now, I probably would’ve laughed along with them because I’m immature and still think farts are funny. (shrug emoji) But in middle school, like I said, you put up a front. Because you don’t know what else to do because you’re so insecure that you might melt into a puddle of anxiety at any given moment.

I also realize that this might have been early signs of the anxiety that would soon enter into my life. I was “diagnosed” at the age of 16 with anxiety and depression, but I’m sure it started much earlier than that. My mounting insecurities were evidence of that – fear of rejection, anxiety over friends, a drive to overachieve, and so on. (That’s also a Type 3 thing on the Enneagram, which I only found out this week. I should’ve taken that test when I was 10 and maybe middle school would’ve gone a lot better.)

That’s probably why I decided to try out for the middle school play! Stay tuned. 7th grade is on the horizon. And man, is there angst. (And pimples.)

I’ll leave you with this. Every sign-off, middle school Auds would add an “Inanswerable Question” (I now realize this is grammatically incorrect.) See if you can solve this one:

A doorhinge is the square root of…

a. Pi

b. Einstein’s theory of relativity

c. mass/volume

d. cheese

e. d

f. e

g. all of the above

Answer: I literally haven’t the foggiest.

a. w.

Not How you Are, but Who you Are

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I laid in my bed feeling like I was going to throw up. I wasn’t sick, but I was certainly queasy. My heart was pounding out of my chest and my stomach felt like a rock. It was nearing midnight after a long day, and I had gotten home late only to log on to my computer and find out I needed to buy a textbook for my summer class – a textbook that cost almost $200.

You’d think the computer had punched me in the stomach. That’s almost half my savings. So at 11:30pm I shakily entered my debit card number with a limp index finger and smashed my head into my pillow with thoughts racing.

Why did I decide to take an unpaid internship this summer? Why didn’t I try to find a higher-paying job? Why am I even taking this class? I’m paying off loans, shelling out cash for parking every day, and just scraping by with a minimum wage job.

I could take on another job. There’s got to be something I could fit in to my schedule. How am I going to pay for my apartment in the fall? 

And then the racing thoughts got deeper. Why did I decide to go to a private college and live on campus? I’m up to my eyeballs in debt. I’m never going to get a job that will pay it off. I’m gonna be homeless. This is a disaster. 

(It’s amazing how money will make you regret every decision you’ve ever made. But that’s a discussion for an entirely different blog post.)

Summer is a weird limbo period for most college students. You have a heck ton of time that you didn’t have during the school year, so you have lots of time to think. Instead of cranking out homework, you’re probably working a wage slave job to scrape up a little money for the semester to come.

And trust me, when you have time to think, you think. A. Lot. And your thoughts can turn on you fast.

This has been one of the most stressful summers of my life. I spent a month (and a lot of my money) in Europe on a school trip, which was three weeks of physical, spiritual, and emotional intensity. I returned broke and exhausted and threw myself into a part time job at Starbucks, a play, an internship, and a summer class. My gas gauge and my bank statements descended quickly. I overdrafted three times in the month of June. I still try to make it each week with a tiny paycheck (thank heavens I live with my parents. I’d live in a box if I didn’t.)

I made the choice to take an unpaid internship and rehearse for a play back in April. I, being the idealist, didn’t see the harm. Until I started paying for gas after driving across the city for rehearsal every night, and sticking coins into a parking meter every morning (and getting a ticket…) And months before then, I made plans to get an apartment with my friends before school starts in the fall. Idealism, am I right?

I’ve struggled with myself this summer. I feel like I’m one of those second graders that’s getting held back (remember how scandalous that was when it happened? It was basically jail.) I’ve never felt like more of a hapless child, even moreso than when I was a hapless child.

I’ve been asking “how come I…” a lot, with the emphasis on “I” because a lot of our worries stem from ourselves. How come don’t have a boyfriend? How come didn’t get that paid internship? How come decided to do all of these things for free? How come feel stuck and like I’ll never amount to anything?

And then the even more dangerous question: What’s wrong with me?

So what’s the answer to that?

Nothing.

Nothing is wrong with you.

Parents and counselors will be the first to tell you that, but let me tell you that as a fellow human being, and maybe someone who is around your age. There is nothing wrong with you. In fact, keep asking those questions. But instead of wallowing in them, answer them.

Why did I decide to take an unpaid internship? Because it’s in a field I’m interested in. It will help me learn what I want to do, and I won’t just be doing it for a paycheck. I’ll have to keep showing up because I want to. It will grow me as a human and as a professional.

Why did I decide to be in a play instead of working more? Because I love creating art, and I’ve made something beautiful with a group of people I love. Because life isn’t just money. Life is experience. And no experience is wasted if you decide to learn something.

Why do you feel stuck? Because maybe you’re not supposed to be where “that person” (someone comes to mind, don’t they?) is right now. You’re supposed to be where you’re at, spending a summer with kids at a camp, bussing tables for 60 hours a week, getting married, preparing for the birth of your first child. None of these things are small. And you can learn something from it if you decide to. And something good can come out of everything if you decide that.

Life is more than gas money. Life is more than the number of zeros on your paycheck. It’s more than your relationship status, your friend’s Instagram feed, the number of messages in your inbox. It’s about who you want to be now, in a week, in a year, in ten years. It’s about how you greet your coworkers on a Monday morning. It’s about how you treat the stranger sharing your seat on the bus. It’s about who you are and not how or what you are. The kind of friend, sister or brother, husband or wife, mother or father you want to be. It’s your eulogy at your funeral, the words on your gravestone.

Life is Patience. Not merely standing by, but actively waiting and seeking. So be patient. You’re not there yet because you’re supposed to be here. So while you’re here, learn. Grow.

Be patient. Wait expectantly for the sunrise in the middle of the storm. Walk in the rain instead of rushing through it with a newspaper over your head. A year from now, look back at the storm. Instead of thinking about how it was or what it was like, think about who you were then and how you changed. Don’t let it be a regret and don’t let it be a waste.

Let it be something that, no matter how difficult it was, made you who you are. Not everything has to be a period, conclusive and final. Maybe right now, your life is at a comma. Because you’re not sure how this short story in the anthology of your life is going to end.

But I promise you that when it does come to an end, it will make sense.

a, w,

 

What if We’re Not Actually Busy?

There are five other things I could be doing right now, but instead I’m writing this.

That’s a predicament we find ourselves in often, isn’t it? We have a laundry list of things to do, but we don’t do them. We find something else to do that is much more trivial. Netflix, for example. (Or blogging…)

But we still manage to let people know more than once a day that we are “soooo busy.” Sometimes it becomes a competition. “I have three papers and a text this week!” “Oh yeah? Well I have FOUR papers and THREE tests this week, plus I have to walk to Canada and back WHILE studying for my THREE tests! Beat that!”

Hang on a second.

What if we’re not actually busy?

What if we just like telling people we’re busy?

There’s a kind of badge of honor that comes with being “busy.” It means we’re important. People need us. We have deadlines because we hold important positions. We whisk ourselves away from one thing to another, wearing our “Hello, my name is busy” name tag with pride.

I took a class my sophomore year called creativity, innovations, and problem-solving. It’s a requirement for everyone at my school. And you guessed it – creativity was the key talking point. Many people think they’re not creative, but really they’re just not giving themselves enough time to be creative. Some people use the excuse that they “just don’t have time.”

You know what my professor said to that? “When students say they don’t have enough time, I offer to go through their schedules and find time for them. They never take me up on that offer…because they know I’ll find time somewhere.”

It’s our best excuse. “I just don’t have time.”

But what if we actually do?

Take a minute to take inventory of your time. You don’t need to be excessive. Just think through an average day for you. I’ll give you my example. I wake up at 7:15am. I hit a button on my coffee maker so it can do its job, and I sit down with breakfast until 8, when I get ready. During this time, I’m usually on my phone. I have classes in the morning, then a lunch break at 12. Sometimes I’ll do homework, other times I’ll be on my phone…again. Then I have class and work until 4, then about an hour til my evening activities, which will go til either 6 or 9 depending on the day. Then I’m in bed my 11.

It might look busy, but I can pinpoint places where I actually have time – my hour-and-a-half lunch break, the half hour I have between class and work, the hour I have before dinner and evening activities. You might have less time than this, but I can still guarantee you that somewhere, you have time.

I’m not going to be the grumpy “get off your dang phone!” mom-ish person, but – sometimes you gotta get off your dang phone. I think sometimes we feel like we’re busier because when we’re not busy, we’re keeping up with everyone else’s busyness. Then all of the sudden – gasp! Off to the next thing!

That’s not the point of this post, though. I’m not saying we all *think* we’re busy because of our phones.

I think it’s because we’re supposed to be busy.

This is America. (Probably, unless you’re reading this somewhere else.) Everything is time-based, schedule-based. Our phones ding when we have an appointment. We have color-coded planners. We have to-go food. Because we’re always going. We’re looking ahead on our planners to see what’s coming next. When we’re not actually doing things, we’re looking at what’s coming next. 

What if you just stopped for a second? Record-scratch, freeze-frame style?

e.e. cummings wrote a fantastic little poem called “little man in a hurry.” Take a look:

“little man
(in a hurry
full of an
important worry)
halt stop forget relax

wait

(little child
who have tried
who have failed
who have cried)
lie bravely down

sleep

big rain
big snow
big sun
big moon
(enter

us)”

(Source)

Since it’s cummings, it’s a little bit hard to interpret and remains somewhat ambiguous. But I think you can get the gist of it. Halt. Stop. Relax. But even his “little man” is stopping and halting breathlessly, as indicated by no punctuation – “halt stop forget relax” like it’s a to-do-list in and of itself.

Relaxing isn’t just another thing to check off your to-do list. It’s necessary to your mental and physical survival. 

And if you do decide to relax, you’re not being lazy. 

What “important worry” are you carrying around? Is it really that important? Can you “halt – stop – relax” for just a moment? I think you can. Because sometimes we wear our busyness like a badge of honor.

I’ll make the moral of this post short and sweet. To quote Elizabeth Schuyler from the immortal musical Hamilton:

“Take a break!”

Missing Someone.

 

Sometimes people leave you halfway through the woods.

– Cinderella, Into the Woods

There have been many times in my life when I’ve missed someone. I’m sure that’s happened to you too – missing a person is not a peculiar thing. Maybe they’ve left your city, or just left your life. Or they’ve left this life, which is its own kind of missing someone.

Whatever it may be, they’re not with you anymore. But they’ve left something behind, and that something is usually (ironically) Emptiness. Because there’s a hole in your life now, a gap that used to be filled by moments, moments with that person. But now that the person’s gone, you gotta work on filling that gap.

I’m in a period of life right now where I’m missing someone. I forgot how much it hurts. The last time someone I loved moved away from me, I was in third grade. I remember laying in my mom’s bed crying after I found out my best friend was moving away. I didn’t think it was fair. Why would my best friend leave? How do people leave people they love?

I did the same thing a few months ago, except I was with a different loved one and we cried together. We sat there and hugged each other and cried for a long time. Because parting is hard. Missing someone is hard. I replay the last time I saw them again and again in my mind, wishing I could have held on to that moment just a little bit longer.

I didn’t think it was fair. How do people leave people they love?

And then those memories come, the whispers of the time you spent with that person. You associate things and places with them. I think of my friend every time I see a Pontiac Grand Prix – no joke. Sometimes those memories hit you like a truck. Other times, you wake up with those quiet remembrances in your head.

There’s a certain stretch of busy road that I associate with that loved one. It’s weird how those associations start, isn’t it? We drove through that corridor so many times, after going out to restaurants or watching scary movies, usually accompanied by blaring music. All of those times we drove it, I never thought it would end. I think about it every time I drive down that particular stretch of road. On a bad day, it’ll bring tears to my eyes. On a good day, it’ll make me smile.

That’s the thing with missing someone. You never know how it’s going to hit you. You never know how a memory is going to make you feel. I smile when I think about the time the friendly stray cat followed us around my neighborhood. Until I wish we could do it again. Then I start crying. (I cry easily.)

After I got off a FaceTime conversation with them the other night, I started crying. I started crying because I saw them, but I wasn’t with them. I have it much easier than some people – if you’ve lost a loved one, you can’t see them or be with them. Thank goodness for modern technology.

There’s a little bit of selfishness with missing someone…maybe more than just a little. You want them to be back with you, for them to stay as they were, locked in your memory. But people change and grow and move. To keep them in one place forever would be selfish.

One thing I’ve learned from missing people is that people are perpetual, never static. You, as a human being, have the right to change – and move. And leave, if you think it’s necessary.

I tried moving away once. But I’m a homebody. I still live close to my childhood home. I got so devastatingly homesick that I couldn’t function. My loved one just moved back to his original home. I couldn’t imagine doing what he did – moving so far away for such a long time. It takes a brave person to do that. It takes a brave person to leave. And to go back.

Just like it takes a brave person to change.

Change, like a person, is perpetual. There won’t ever be a facet in your life that isn’t changing. And usually, change hurts. In this case, it can cause you to miss someone. Badly. But keep in mind the oft-quoted words of C.S. Lewis:

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

Sidney Carton also said something similar to this at the end of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities – right before he was about to die. That’s what we call Perspective.

Back to that Person. That person who is not with you anymore. Remember that there are far, far better things ahead than what they left behind. Leaving is a hard decision. But just wait. Watch that Person grow and become something incredible, something they could’ve never been if they’d stayed. Continue to cheer for them, to love them, and miss them. It’s okay to miss them. Because eventually the “missing” part becomes less painful, because you look up from your tears and see not only the person they’ve become, but the person you’ve become.

And trust me, it’ll be amazing.

 

Things that Bring Us Together.

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If you haven’t noticed, this week hasn’t been great. For anyone. For various reasons. And if you thought I wasn’t going to talk about it, you’re wrong. Things don’t change unless you talk about it.

If we don’t talk, we become islands and we become bitter and overprotective of ourselves. If we don’t remind ourselves of what we have in common, we’ll become fixated on what we don’t. If we don’t realize we’re more alike than we think, we’ll spend our entire lives believing everyone is out to get us.

And it’s true. We’re more alike than we are different. Only a few strands of DNA separate us, but those strands carry traits that make us each unique – our hair, our skin, our laugh, our talents. And that’s beautiful. But, as you probably can tell, it’s also not sometimes. Because people forget that, other than those few strands of DNA, we are equal. We are all humans.

And for the sake of humanness, I want to remind everyone that we’re not all that different. That there are universal experiences that bind us together. We all experience happiness, sadness, joy, pain. These are all things that every human on earth can relate to. But I also think there are things beyond static emotions that unite us.

I’m going to list a few human experiences that I hope relate to most people. I hope you can relate to at least a few of these, and realize that we can relate through shared experience.

  1.  The quiet that comes right before the sunrise. When it’s cool and still smells like nighttime, when everything feels clean and new, when the world is just starting to wake up.
  2.  The smell of an old house. The feeling that people have been there before you. The mystery of what they might have been like.
  3.  Your best friend’s laugh.
  4.  The point in autumn where the leaves fall all by themselves, like nature’s confetti. And when you look down, the ground is carpeted in color.
  5.  Warm summer rain. The smell and the warm dampness afterwards. The distant thunder that gives you a little thrill every time you hear it.
  6.  When you sit and cry with someone you love. No words exchanged, only hands held, prayers whispered, support given. A beautiful kind of pain.
  7.  A hug from your favorite person in the world.
  8.  A kiss from your favorite person in the world.
  9.  A summer evening after the sun has just gone down, the world is warm and drowsy. A few birds are still singing, and the sky is slowly turning dark blue, insects beginning to hum a lullaby.
  10.  The touch of a toddler’s small, soft hand in yours. The way they look up at you with so much trust and hope.
  11.  A conversation that you didn’t expect to be long, but went on for hours and left you feeling enlightened and refreshed. The connection that’s made. The mutual understanding.
  12.  Sitting in a room full of people singing a cappella.
  13. The pearly glow of a cloudy sky on a winter evening. Everything is gray, but it’s a luminous gray, not dull or dragging. It’s so gray it’s almost silver.
  14. A warm shower or bath after a long day.
  15. The sound of lapping waves on a beach. The smell of wet sand, of leftover campfires, of coffee. The feeling of memories made.
  16. The sound of your mother’s voice.
  17.  A blanket straight out of the dryer, or straight from the clothesline. The way it feels like the warmest thing you’ve ever felt.
  18.  Cloudy, windy days where the cloud patterns are more beautiful than a blue sky.
  19.  Getting a compliment. Not just “nice shoes” or “I like your haircut,” but “I love your confidence” or “you are just such an amazing person.”
  20.  Hearing someone’s heartbeat. Whether it’s that of an unborn baby, your father’s as you snuggled up to his chest as a child, your lover’s as you lean on them for support. That reminder that there’s Life.

And where there’s life, there’s love. And where there’s love, there’s hope.

Feeling Uncomfortable.

Have you ever had a sock slip down your ankle while you were wearing a shoe? If you are a human being, you answered yes to this question. Everyone who has ever worn a shoe has encountered this problem.

It’s a small problem – it’s literally a piece of cloth sliding down your foot for one reason or another (it’s probably because it’s an anklet. Anklets are the worst.) but it affects you. You’re always somewhat conscious of it, you can always feel it. It might even change the way you walk – I mean, part of your foot is stepping on soft, cushy, socky goodness, and the other one is just pounding on the cold sole of your shoe. (Maybe your soles are comfortable, but in my experience, they’re cold and kind of rubbery feeling under my heel.)

Bland and long-winded analogy aside, sometimes a situation in life can feel like a sock slipping down your foot. Sometimes, you can have a situation that’s like stepping in something wet when you’re wearing a sock (which is worse. I save that analogy for really bad situations.) But a lot of situations are just like that – slightly uncomfortable, something you’re constantly aware of that’s nagging at the back of your brain, something that you can’t readily fix until you get a good moment (usually in privacy, because it’s kind of weird to dig into your shoe in public.)

Second bland and long-winded analogy aside, life is sometimes uncomfortable. More specifically, situations in life are often uncomfortable. Life as a whole is pretty all right, wouldn’t you say? But sometimes there are things or situations or conflicts that just mess with you. They’re not pressing, they’re not urgent, but they’re there. And you know they’re there, but you can’t readily do anything about it – or you’re putting it off for later, constantly pushing it back. And it’s uncomfortable.

In which case, it will only get worse. Your whole sock will end up bunched up by your toes the more you walk. Which feels like someone jammed a couple oversized cottonballs between your toes. In other words, not a great feeling.

All of these extended analogies to say: there’s probably something like that in your life right now. (There usually is, unless you’re a Disney princess after the credits have rolled, in which case everything’s fine and also you’re not real.) It could be something really small, like calling the doctor to make an appointment. It could be something really big, like buying a house, or something adult-y like that. It could be something emotional that you’ve set aside, but you still have to work through. You have a sock slipping somewhere. You might even have two socks slipping. That’s two more slipping socks than anyone needs. But still, there they are. And they are bunching at your toes.

“So Audrey,” you ask, maybe, “what do I do? You seem to know a lot about footwear. Do I just unravel everything? Pull off my shoes and make the strangely satisfying adjustment to my sock? But that means I have to pause. That means people might realize how bad my feet smell.”

Well, gross. I wasn’t going that direction, but you’re probably right. You’re going to have to stop and fix your sock, and yes, people might smell your feet. That was the most awkward sentence I’ve ever written.

I’m putting the feet analogy away now. Yes. You are going to have to stop and fix your problem eventually. And people might notice that you have problems. I’m not saying press pause on everything (Hey look, an analogy!)

But what I am saying is, you have to deal with it. Before it gets all bunched up and complicated. Then it will just take longer to unravel. It will be more uncomfortable.

And people are going to notice your problems anyway. Congratulations! You’re a human with problems! You are normal! You are not a robot that tags people in Ray-Ban ads on Facebook!

If necessary, peel those socks off. Run barefoot. It will make you more sensitive and you might step on something uncomfortable, but it will also make you more free.

All of this to say: You’re going to feel uncomfortable eventually. It’s all in how you deal with it. You might be a stoic and stick it out – just let that sock bunch up until you lose circulation. (Literally and figuratively would not recommend. But it’s your decision.)

Your sock might be small, like a bootie that people put on babies (the most unnecessary thing I’ve ever seen), or it could be a nice hearty crew sock like your grandpa wears. Whatever kind of sock you’re dealing with, you have to grab hold of it while you still can. It’ll be uncomfortable, but it will be worth it.

So hike up your socks and go on an adventure.

Brownie points if they don’t match.