The Good Girl Lie

Yesterday I woke up too early. I woke up fidgety and restless. Falling back asleep was out of the picture so Netflix was turned on immediately. When that failed to distract, I got in the car under the pretense of running errands and picking up groceries but the driving was what mattered. Getting out and doing something. Meandering down the aisles did nothing for me so I found myself back in the car. I drove the long way to the movie theater. A favorite form of escaping myself. Only I wound up in the theater forty minutes too soon even after grabbing a bite to eat. I saw a movie about a girl who more or less ran away to find herself and contemplated doing the same. Instead I got back in my car and went to some stores and bought nothing before heading home, completely forgetting to stop at the grocery. The restlessness followed me into my apartment, buzzing and popping in my ear while I waited to go back out. I was so grateful it quieted down once I saw my friends. I wish it had gone away because it would have made for a simpler evening. Instead it turned into anxieties and frustrations and an inability to keep my legs still. It never fully dissipated until I fell asleep. Sleep which mercifully came quickly once I let my head hit the pillow.

January wasn’t a kind month. It’s not one I care to revisit should time travel ever become a reality. 2015 did not ring in with all good things for me or for so many people I love. Honestly January was just hard.

February, while better, has been about regrouping. It’s been about coping in all its glory. It’s been about learning to do simple things that have grown complicated. About navigating the way new normals.

Hence the restless agitation I woke up with yesterday. My coping skills sometimes involve far too much pushing emotions down. This leads festering which I have learned the hard way in the past. I didn’t want to bottle things up because I know I’d eventually explode so I have been talking about how I am when people ask. I’ve also resisted the urge to hide and withdraw because I have been there before and it took me way too long to resurface. Instead I have been very social and engaged in all kinds of activities and avoided hunkering down and going it alone.

This morning, though, when I finally made it to the grocery, feeling much calmer, I realized it’s not the coping that caused my restless Thursday. It’s just that good girl skin itches.

I’m not sure if it started with avoiding time-out or fear of not getting presents from Santa, but somewhere along the way I got it into my head that I had to be a good girl. It’s a role I’ve worn for as long as I can remember. Just be good. Don’t get into trouble.

I’ve spent a lot of my life being a “good girl.” I rarely got into trouble, I made good grades, and I participated in upstanding activities. I steered clear of underage drinking and premarital sex. The idea of doing drugs or anything illegal (other than speeding) rarely crossed my mind. To this day I am a helper and a fixer and a doer.

Which means that since basically forever, the adjective used to describe me has been sweet. I have received countless notes, yearbook comments, and compliments where people have told me I am sweet. As a teenager, this drove me batty. I wasn’t edgy at all but sweet sounded so blah and it was never an adjective the guys I knew used to describe girls they wanted to date. I was okay with being sweet but I wanted people to realize I was so much more. It’s probably why when a friend told me a couple weeks ago that he was glad I’m around because I’m so mean that it made me very happy. Our friendship involves a lot of good-natured ribbing so he was mostly kidding but I took it as a compliment all the same.

There’s nothing wrong with being good or sweet for its own sake. The problem is that sometimes I equate being good and sweet with good things happening. Be good and you can blah blah blah. Be good or Santa won’t come. Be good and God will give you what you want…

And that’s when I start to feel itchy. Good girls don’t get mad at God. They don’t argue with Him when babies die and relationships get tough and work feels like too much work. Good girls smile come hell or high water. They are sweet and polite even if they don’t feel that way. And they certainly keep it together.

Right?

But God never said being a good girl would get you what you want anymore than falling short removes his love, thank God. Grace is a five-letter word I live more and more. I am finally discovering that the good girl is a lie. She doesn’t exist. She’s just a facade I’ve worn for too long and God is peeling that skin away- whether I like it or not.

This peeling skin is unpleasant. It’s not pretty. It’s messy. It comes off in weird patches and takes time. It’s leaving me more sensitive and vulnerable than I’d like. Sometimes it itches, stings, and hurts. But there’s hope in it too. This new skin may be raw but it’s new. It’s whispers that it’s okay if I don’t have it all together because He does. Maybe it’s time to start believing verse I’ve been clinging to and writing on myself, “In Him all things hold together.”*

Maybe then I can say goodbye to being a good girl and start learning how to be a grace-filled woman.

*Colossians 1:17

Vulnerability: AKA Something I Suck At

I stood in my kitchen yesterday, eyes watering from cutting onions and thought,  This is why I bought them pre-diced.  But for some reason or other the diced onions I’d purchased smelled rancid and I wasn’t about to ruin the chili by using those. So I keep dicing and blinking tears.

I thought about the year that dicing onions was the closest I ever got to crying. I was numb and knew if I let myself cry, I’d fall to pieces. Since I wasn’t sure I’d be able to put myself together again, I just continued to keep it together, to put one foot in front of the other. Keep calm and carry on.

Because I have a reputation for being calm and collected. I’m a steady, sturdy girl. I’ve been described as reliable, responsible, and all things that make for a good baby-sitter, fairly typical first-born and all around good girl. Part of it is my nature. I am easy-going and flexible. I’m not easily flustered. I know how to roll with the punches. But more than that, I know how to make it look like I’m okay. I am quick to present myself as having it together. I mean I’m not above admitting when I don’t know the answer and I’ve never had a five year plan, or even a one year plan. But usually when I don’t know what I’m doing, I know how to make it at least look like I know what I’m doing. Which isn’t always a bad thing, especially in my line of work. It’s generally a good thing to feel confident that your nurse knows what she’s doing.

The trouble is that I like the control of it. I like being able to manage my emotions. I like knowing that I have the ability to compartmentalize and by simply reading a good book or binge watching a TV show, I can push back emotions that bubble under the surface. Once I compartmentalize, I can go on presenting a pretty picture of poise and composure. Or at least do a decent enough job that most people buy the line that, “I’m just tired,” or, “Busy,” when they question if I’m okay. Because I like looking like I’m okay. No pride there, eh?

But as I stood there, dicing those onions, I looked out my kitchen window at the rain falling and the trees on the hill. I felt like those trees. I’m changing. The leaves are just beginning change color. They aren’t vivid oranges, reds, and yellows. There’s just a subtle hint of color. It won’t stop you in your tracks and leave you breathless but there’s enough difference that if you look for it, you’ll find it. That’s the trees, that’s me.

A month ago, I was talking to a friend. We were having a very honest conversation and I told her how I suck at being vulnerable. She told me we should have a week of vulnerability and see what happens. If it went badly we could, “have a crying party and build up walls.” It was mostly a joke but something struck me and it became a challenge. Could I be vulnerable?

I wasn’t sure. But I googled Brené Brown because I remembered she did a vulnerability study and this TED talk popped up. It’s definitely worth watching. Here’s the part that smacked me in the face:

 There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging.That’s it. They believe they’re worthy. And to me, the hard part of the one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we’re not worthy of connection, was something that, personally and professionally, I felt like I needed to understand better. So what I did is I took all of the interviews where I saw worthiness, where I saw people living that way, and just looked at those.

What do these people have in common? [. . .] And the first words that came to my mind were whole-hearted. These are whole-hearted people, living from this deep sense of worthiness. So I wrote at the top of the manila folder, and I started looking at the data. In fact, I did it first in a four-day very intensive data analysis, where I went back, pulled these interviews, pulled the stories, pulled the incidents. What’s the theme? [. . .] And so here’s what I found. What they had in common was a sense of courage. And I want to separate courage and bravery for you for a minute. Courage, the original definition of courage,when it first came into the English language — it’s from the Latin word cor, meaning heart — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and — this was the hard part — as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were,which you have to absolutely do that for connection.

The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable,nor did they really talk about it being excruciating — as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing.They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, “I love you” first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.

She continues to talk about how the problem with numbing the bad feelings and experiences is we miss the joy too. I know this first hand. I’d lived it and I don’t ever want to again. She concludes with this:

But there’s another way, and I’ll leave you with this. This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen,deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — and that’s really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?” just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.” And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.

By this point I am feeling one thing: deep conviction. So, I tell my friend that I’m going to try to be vulnerable. I felt a little bit nauseated but it convinced me I was right. Conviction usually makes me feel like I might throw up. That night at home group when it was time for prayer requests, my heart was thudding in my ears but I managed to spit out an honest request. I blushed as I shared what felt “silly” and “girlish” in comparison to what I’d deemed as “worthy” and “serious” requests. Fortunately my attempt to be vulnerable was met with the kindest words, encouragement, and understanding.

So, I go through the week trying to be more open. I try to answer direct questions with truth. I may not be an open book (no matter how long I live) but I share more than I would have before this challenge. At the end of the week, my friend and I touch base. She asks how it’s gone and I tell her I think I need a month to decide if it’s worth it.

A month later, I know it is. Oh, it’s not easy, not one bit. I fight it. I’ve had moments where I’ve put up walls, deflected, and generally failed. I’ve had a couple conversations where there’s been too much silence as I try to make my lips articulate what’s going on in my head and my heart. But I also had these really great conversations with people because I’ve let them see what a blushy mess of a girl I am right now. I’ve gotten to know people better. I am having a harder time not letting what I’m feeling flicker across my face. It’s a little disconcerting to me when people can guess why I’m sad or smiling but I’m slowly getting used to it.

I’m taking more risks. I’m attempting to be more open. Sometimes it’s worked out really well and other times I’ve found myself apologizing and having to try, try again. This month has been a roller-coaster of emotions. It hasn’t been calm nor business as usual. I haven’t been steady. It’s weird and sometimes it’s made me weird by extension.

I know I’m just starting down this path of vulnerability. The closest I am to wearing my heart on my sleeve, is to kind of put it out there on my sleeve and then cover that sleeve up with a jacket but it’s a start. It’s a risk I think I’m going to have to keep on taking because even though getting hurt is a real possibility, and honestly an inevitability, there’s too much good and sweet and wonderful I’ll miss if I don’t risk it.

I hesitate to even post this. It’s very real and very messy and I’ve already confessed how I like to appear to have it together but these words were echoing in my head and I felt like I should put them in writing. And then I thought definitely no I should not do that. Too much. But in church this morning, while I was debating, Matt read this verse:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. ~2 Timothy 1:7

This verse is one of the verses written across my heart. It has been a mantra I’ve clung to over the years. I’ve repeated it to myself as I’ve spoken things I’ve been afraid to say. I carried it with me through places I was afraid to walk. It steadies me when I have shaky knees. It’s conviction and courage all in one verse. And just hearing it felt like a push to write. To put a little bit more of myself out there. To let one more wall drop away and receive more space to breathe. To live a little bit more open and free and love a little better. It may be messy and hard and sometimes it really hurts but I think this whole-hearted way of living just may be a crazy-wonderful-beautiful way to live.

Wet Cement

It was raining as I made my way to my first day of work last Monday. There’s nothing quite like a rainy Monday, is there? I was excited, sure, but also nervous. Fortunately, some familiar faces of my former classmates greeted me in the conference room and helped calm my jumping nerves.

I’m not sure what I expected from an orientation day. Definitely to hear about policies and procedures and benefits. Definitely not to hear that I am there because God called me there. I wasn’t expecting to be commissioned or have someone bless me saying, “May you find growth and renewal.” Growth and renewal . . . I’m living and breathing that daily.

Yesterday, was my first day to take on two patients. Not on my own mind you, but all the same it was a little surreal. My patients were good to me and graciously overlooked my fumbling around with new equipment and trying to figure out where things were located. As a “newbie,” I’m more than a little unsure of everything so when I hear my patient on the phone talking about how well she’s being taken care of and how she has the “cutest little nurse,” I think maybe I can do this after all. A coworker laughingly told me with my sassy attitude I’ll fit right in and I hope that’s true. Little moments like this that make the long hours, tired feet, dehydration, and steep learning curve worth it. Because if I can do something with my small hands to help heal, reassure with a smile, while earning a paycheck, then I am definitely blessed. And I felt that blessing driving down West End last week watching the sun rise and kiss the tops of the beautiful old buildings and church steeples on my commute.

A couple Sundays ago at church, Darren was talking about January hopes and resolutions and newness. He used this phrase “wet cement” to describe it and I found myself thinking it was the perfect description of life right now. I’m in a season of wet cement. There’s a lot of change and possibility.

I’m falling in love with life all over again. Finding unexpected joy in so many moments. When I sit in home group with this assortment of people who would never come together under other circumstances yet somehow make this amazing kind of sense as a whole. It’s in the sheer excitement of getting to wear royal blue scrubs instead of the white ones I’ve endured the last couple of years. It’s going to bed exhausted from a well-spent day. It’s the quiet moments when I can catch my breath. Grabbing breakfast with a new gal-pal and talking until the lunch crowd appears. And it’s nights spent with this group of friends that grafted me in and finally realizing they’re not just being polite because I’m a friend-of-a-friend but that they actually like hanging out with me. It’s in finding myself in someone’s lyrics:

it took me 27 years to wrap my head around this-
to brush the ashes off of everything i love.
where courage was contagious, confidence was key.

right as rain, as soft as snow,
it grows and grows and grows,
our home sweet home.

we’ll try to document this light,
with cameras to our eyes.
in an effort to remember
what being mended feels like.

Isn’t it funny how you don’t realize just how broken you’ve been until you’re in the process of being mended?  Sometimes mending comes in the beauty of watching snowflakes drift in the wind and other times it’s being able to simply find the right quip at the right moment. It’s listening to the back-and-forth of a story from so far back no one recalls the same details. It’s being able to make someone who’s in pain laugh. It’s in the randomness and the trivial and the silly. I’m being stitched up by good hugs and long talks and the best company.

And I am more than a little grateful for the mending, for the wet-cementiness, for second chances, for a season to smooth off the rough edges. For time to lean into the scary and embrace the unknown. Just to live the growth and renewal and be thankful for this moment right now, for as long as it lasts.

A New Year’s Ramblings

I’ve started this post in my head so many times the last few weeks. I’ve typed phrases and have several drafts I discarded. Even now, I’m not sure how to start in an eloquent way, so I guess I’ll just wing it.

Life’s been rather full as of late. I almost want to say busy, but busy to me implies a certain level of unwanted tasks tying up your time. And it certainly hasn’t been that.

On December 13th, I commenced nursing school. I walked across a stage, received my pin, and stood with my classmates to recite Florence Nightingale’s Pledge. I can hardly believe it’s finished, but I’m so grateful. Nursing school had a way of draining my brain from it’s usual level of functioning and interacting. Some days I found myself with little room to cram any more info or remember anything new. So, I’m happy to leave that aspect of school behind me. I will, however, miss my fellow nursing students. Going through classes, clinicals, check-offs, and tests with them bonds us in the most unique way. I know I wouldn’t have made it through the past two years without this amazing group of individuals who will make wonderful nurses.

On the way out of pinning, I received an email to interview the following Monday morning for a nurse internship program. My excitement was quickly replaced with a bit of panic when I realized I had nothing to wear. So Saturday, my mom happily endured an endless amount of time outside dressing rooms until I found the perfect outfit. Funny, I was more nervous about finding the right clothes than about answering interview questions. By the grace of God, Monday afternoon I was offered an internship position. I’m thrilled and a little bit terrified to start next week.

Life’s funny sometimes. I feel like the first half of 2013 I was in a holding pattern. I felt stagnant and stuck. And then, things started changing and now sometimes I can’t get them to stand still even if I try.

Late last night I drove home in the freezing cold. The stoplights were blinking and the stars were bright and I found myself reflecting on this new year and this pocket of time I’ve had between the end of school and the start of my new job. I’ve gotten to spend it with some of the people I love most in this world. I’ve had a couple breakfasts with some gals that know me better than just about anyone else. There’s been dinners and game night and parties. There’s been teasing and laughter and theological debates. Talks about hopes and hangups and dreams for the new year. I’ve found that when I go to sleep with a full heart, I wake up with a clearer head. I know I’m better for the company I’ve been keeping.

We’re a week into this new year. I can’t help wondering what 2014 holds but I hope to receive it with open hands. That’s my One Word this year: receive. Sometimes I kind of suck at receiving. I’m awful at taking a compliment and quick to credit Target or just shrug it off. I’m not always good at asking for or accepting help- although nursing school as mostly eradicated this hang up. But my hope is that when 2015 rolls around I will be a little bit different. That I will receive what God’s giving me and where he’s placing me without trying to earn it or wish it was different. Accept the invitations I receive. Simply say thank you to compliments without deflecting. Just have a general openness and let people into my life more.

Life’s never easy and it holds more heartbreak than I dare imagine but I have to believe there’s still hope and sweetness to uncover. That there will be blessings and celebrations and adventures along the way. That the light will shine into the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it. I’m daring to believe this will be a year filled with stories and people that change me for the better and I hope that I can in turn, return the favor.

Singleness, Downton Abbey, Fears, and Flirting

If I used Twitter, I would file this under #confession. But I don’t tweet because #imissedthebandwagon and #athispointwhybother. Nevertheless, this is a confessional of sorts on singleness, Downton Abbey, and one of my greatest fears.

Being single, female, and twenty-seven is a strange thing. It’s not bad nor good; just strange. Having spent twenty-six and half of those years not “in a relationship,” I’m more or less used to it. It’s what I know, but definitely not what I desire. And certainly not how I anticipated my life unfolding. Sometimes I’m grateful because not being attached to a significant other has allowed me be the me I want to be without having to factor in someone’s expectations. There’s a freedom to it at times. And there’s a quite hope that someday, in the nearish future, I’ll get swept off my feet.

That being said, singleness is different when you’re no longer in your teens or early-twenties. Continue reading

Count My Stitches, Cross My Heart

The thunder rumbles and I count my stitches. I cross my heart.

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Even with a pattern to follow, I make mistakes. I drop stitches, I add one too many, I have to take them out and start again. At least this time the needle fails to draw blood. With each stitch the picture looks a little bit more like it should. I pull the needle and thread, I whisper prayers too close and wistful to say aloud.

The rain keeps falling and I listen to rainy day music.

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Continue reading

Ten Tips for Dealing with Crying Girls

Did you watch The Bachelorette last week -hang in there, this isn’t a post about the show- when Brooks decided to call it quits with Des? I did, I know, I know. I don’t always watch the show, but I’m glad I did last week. Please note I just watch The Bachelorette and not The Bachelor. It’s fun to watch a bunch of guys trip all over themselves to get a rose. It’s not so much fun to watch a gaggle of girls do the same thing; it’s too much like real life.

But back to the point, about last week’s episode, it was painful. Just painful. Not the fact that they broke up- but how they broke up. It never ever ended. It went on and on. She just sat there and cried (naturally) and he didn’t know what to do. It was obvious. Instead of really comforting her or just getting the heck out of there, he just kept sitting there awkwardly.

Here see for yourself:

And that’s just the first half. Seriously, it never ended. I kept waiting for the camera man to put the guy out of his misery or at least hand her a tissue. We were urging him through the TV to just leave already.

But it got me thinking about how he clearly didn’t know what to do when she started crying. And it got me wondering how often this happens. I’ll admit, a crying girl can be a very scary thing. So, I thought I’d give you some tips so you won’t make the same mistakes poor Brooks did.
Continue reading

Just a Date

I was sitting across from this incredible twenty-year-old girl at coffee last week and felt that bafflement once again when she told me she’s never dated. Not because she doesn’t want to date. It just hasn’t happened. And let me assure you this girl is not homely. She’s not one of those girls you have to get to know to see her beauty. She’s just beautiful. Big blue eyes, cute figure, great smile and the fact that she’s actually got a great personality, loves God and her family, and is funny should be icing on the cake. She’s totally dateable and yet I’d venture a guess hardly anyone’s asked her out- ever. Because, unfortunately, she’s grown up in this weird Bible-belt culture we’ve created where asking someone on a date is a foreign concept.

I feel it is necessary to add a disclaimer upfront:

1. This is something I’ve been thinking about for years, like 10+ years, basically since I was of dating age.

2. I am not fishing for dates.

3. I know I’m not the only one out here thinking this, so I thought I’d join the current social commentary.

4. This is just me rambling. I’m just putting this out there, not trying to bash a particular school of thought.

5. Mainly, I’m writing this because this is something I wish I’d known at sixteen. What I wish had been okay when I was sixteen.

I’ve always loved anything set in the 1940s. I love the clothes, the history, the WWII era attitude. I adore the dances. Big band + boys that know how to dance = swoon. I think, though, one of the things that struck me as wondrous was the dating culture. The concept of casually asking a girl to a dance or the picture show without all the drama. How incredibly appealing. Back when a date was just that, just a date. I’m not saying there wasn’t drama or heartbreak involved- but I think for the most part people accepted that just because you asked a girl out to the diner didn’t mean you were asking for her hand.

And this was also fairly true in the 60s- 80s. So, what happened? Please, someone give me a clue? How did we go from the accepted casual date to what it was for me in the early 2000s- if you went out on a date it was something way more than casual. You had to have prayed (and possibly fasted) to be sure of what you were doing because essentially a date equaled a relationship. I know that wasn’t always the case, but that’s how it felt.

When did dating become so serious? Continue reading

A Schooling in Kindness

I said yes. I simply said I’d love to come. Then, I made plans. I went shopping. I made cookies and Chex mix. I packed. I didn’t think about what that yes entailed. Well, at least not until it was too late to back out.

And for the past few years I’ve been the queen at backing out. I can come up with an excuse lickety-split. You know those books people read about how to set boundaries and how to say no to people? Never needed one. I’d gotten so good at building fences they’d become fortresses. Which isn’t a good thing, it’s just a fact. And even though she’s my oldest friend and I love her dearly, it’s her invitation I have declined again and again. Not when it’s just her mind you. We go to dinner, we’ve talked over cups of coffee, we’ve historically split large Sonic Reese’s blasts with extra Reese’s on too many occasions. But when it came to parties and group events I quickly came up with an excuse. Or I said maybe which nine times out of ten became a no. I’m sure it was hurtful to her at times but that didn’t really occur to me until recently. I’d just been thinking of how I felt at those parties. Small. Continue reading