Thursday, January 16, 2020

The person I used to be.

“We all change, when you think about it. We’re all different people all through our lives. And that’s OK, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.”
― Steven Moffat

When I first heard these words, I disagreed. I'm not a different person throughout my life, I'm the same person that I've always been.  Sure, you change a little, but different person? That's a big statement.

But the recurring thought that rings through my head now is, I miss the person I used to be. I miss feeling vibrant and alive. I miss feeling competent and successful. I miss making an impact, filling in where needed, working as a team, rising to the occasion, planning big events. I miss teaching God's word to those who have barely heard it. I miss being capable of taking care of big things. I miss being capable of sitting down and listening to small hurts. I miss being the person I had become in Chicago -- which, in retrospect, was actually quite the different person than I was before that. That quiet, introverted bookworm could never have imagined leading a club of 60 rowdy Jr. High students!

I miss living a big life and having an impact on the lives of many. But I grew so very weary of such a big life - trying to meet the needs, hopes, and expectations of all those around me.

Did you catch that, dear reader? The subtle lie disguising itself in "goodness"? It seems so very good, so Christ-like, to try to meet others' needs, to put others above yourself, to think little of yourself. It seems so very good to want others to be well, to be happy, to feel loved, to feel supported. But the lie that twists these not-wrong things into soul-crushing wrongness is, "I am responsible." I am responsible to make sure everyone around me is well, happy, loved, supported. I am responsible to fill each need that I see. I am responsible to meet the hopes and expectations of those around me. 

Because try as I might to meet all the needs, fix all the problems, be all that is needed to all people, I found myself coming up short. Feeling frayed at the edges, spread too thin, not enough

My counselor outright laughed at me when I described this drive. "Do you think you are Jesus?" I laughed, too, shocked that somehow, deep down, I actually thought I was capable of being Jesus to those around me. Not in the, "Christ in me," "ambassador for Christ" type of way, but actually to be the one who meets the needs and satisfies the soul. I was beating myself up for having limitations, for not being able to be all things to all people. 

Bill Thrasher describes the freedom of replacing the impossible-to-fulfill belief that "It is my responsibility to make this person happy," with "It is my responsibility to be a channel of God's love to this person." Somewhere along the way, I had conflated the two. 

We're all different people, all throughout our lives.

I was a doing person. In high school, I was involved in church in every way possible, and helped out in my parents' ministry as needed. In Bible school I worked so hard at my job in food service I got tendinitis, studied hard to graduate with honors, volunteered at ministries beyond the requirements. I was a doing person.

Now, by necessity, I am taking a few years as a being person. It's taken while to realize that my husband won't judge me or love me less if I don't do a lot, if every day isn't productive in some way. I'm often surprised at how supportive people at church are upon hearing my "season of rest" explanation to "What do you do?" It takes practice, to just be in this busy world. It takes practice to stop evaluating myself by productivity and accomplishments. 

My life now is beautiful and sweet. Quiet days alone, evenings with my incredibly understanding, loving husband. But it often feels strange. I feel like a different person now. A person who still dreams of big things but is currently capable of little. My life is small, and though I longed for a small life I am not satisfied with it. I want to do big things for God, but the "doing" part in me is broken. 

For now. 

I'm still the person who loves a good book, who gets excited at seeing turkeys and opossums, (I've been a city girl for the past 15 years, wildlife other than rats and pigeons is pretty cool). But now I'm the person who can't do it all. Who can't volunteer in the local school or soup kitchen, in children's church or youth group. Who ignores texts and phone calls until I have the emotional energy to communicate with another human being. Who sees the needs around her and has to say, I can't right now

Things that I thought were immovable actually are. Things that I thought had to happen actually don't. 

And while I soak in this rare, quiet season of life, I can't help but wonder, 

Who will I be next?

Monday, February 11, 2019

This One's for Valentine's Day

Chocolates and roses.

Teddy bears and pink hearts.

It's that time of year. Where romance blooms, or not. Love is celebrated, or longed for. Special dates and special presents. I recently saw a social media post from a young person I know saying just because he's already her boyfriend doesn't mean he doesn't have to ask her to be his valentine. There is a lot of pressure around this holiday, a lot of social and cultural expectations.

But I'd like to challenge some of these assumptions, to contradict the notion that romance looks like gifts and poems and flowers and chocolates.

There is more than one kind of romance. More than this socially projected and expected expression of love.

You see, if the popular idea of Valentine's Day is the norm for romance, then my dad was never very romantic. Neither is my husband. I can count on one hand the times my Man has brought me flowers, and the only time he gave me chocolate was the 3 bars he brought back from France last summer. At first, I wanted to receive the "normal" romantic expressions from the man who loved me, to get flowers "just because," to have fancy date nights planned for me, to hear sweet nothings and be told I was beautiful all the time. 

This year, as the Husband expressed his disinterest in Valentine's Day plans and my first response was disappointment, I examined my reaction. Valentine's Day is special, it's a day to celebrate love, right? But every day, the Man celebrates our love in little ways that make me feel cherished and cared for. Every morning of my childhood, my dad brought my mom a hot cup of tea in bed. And my Husband is so very like him.

I often wake thirsty in the night, so I keep a bottle of water by the bed. More often than not, the Husband fills it for me before I even remember to. Before we switched to flannel sheets, he heated my rice bag and placed it at the foot of the bed so my cold toes would encounter warmth. If there are ever any dishes in the sink that I haven't washed (again, more often than not), he washes them without complaint. He chips off the ice so I can sit warm in the car. He comes home from work early when I've had a bad anxiety day, just because I need him near.

Each of these and so many more are his constant, frequent gifts of love.

Dear Young Women, love is not flowers and gifts and showing you off and knowing your size. Love is patience when you cry because you dropped something, kindness when you burned the food, understanding your needs enough to avoid the things that stress you. Love is encouraging you to pursue God and fellowship with others, knowing that you need this on Sunday morning more than extra sleep. Love is celebrating your victories over inner struggles, even when they would be small to anyone else. Love is treasuring you regardless of what you do for him.

Love looks a little different for each person in each relationship, but I can guarantee that it is not solely, or even mainly, what is sold to us by consumerism and the media.

In fact, love isn't just romantic. For years when I was single, I watched people around me grit their teeth and bear it through February 14, calling it "National Singleness Awareness Day," or bemoaning their lack of significant other. I observe movies and TV shows as characters scramble for a date to avoid being alone.

But I never felt that way. There is so much love in each of our lives to celebrate without a significant other, because being in a relationship, getting married, and having children isn't the ultimate achievement. Your ultimate happiness won't come from a romantic relationship - many divorced couples will tell you that.

So this Valentine's Day, go ahead, celebrate love. I'll be celebrating friendship and fellowship of those brought together by the love of Christ in our church small group. Celebrate your relationship, celebrate friendships and family, but don't let others' expectations dictate what that celebration looks like. Instead, look for those small, everyday acts of kindness that you share with those you love.

And then maybe eat some chocolate, too.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Learning to Say No (Long winded and with tangents)

"It's hard to say no when the need never stops."

That's what I told Pastor Zach on Sunday while explaining why I wasn't going to Ecuador with the church in February.

Let me repeat that:

My church is going to Ecuador. My current home has a passion and love for my home country. And I'm not going with them.

I'm not going with them because I'm still in recovery. Ministry burnout took more than I knew, recovery takes longer than I hoped, longer than I planned. I planned for two months, three at the most. The Husband and I married in September and stay-at-home-wife isn't really a thing in my generation, so clearly I would get a job. A couple months off to rest, I figured, then I'd work on my resume and definitely have a job by January. At least a part-time job. Something to show that I am a worthwhile person, that I am contributing to my little family of two, that my time is spent well, that I am not lazy and taking advantage of my wonderful husband, that I'm not using anxiety and burnout as an excuse to binge Netflix and keep up on Hulu.

Yet here it is, the day before February, and my church is going to my home country (where it's the best time of year, sunny and in the 70s) and I can't go. I consider a productive day to be one that includes cooking and/or knitting, possibly some freelance editing. Laundry is an accomplishment. Showering in the morning is an accomplishment. One that I haven't completed today, I confess.

But that's all a tangent.

"It's hard to say no when the need never stops."

I felt that way for four years with ICI. I feel that way still. My parents are moving in February, and my first instinct is, "Should I go down and help?" My friend from college is in the hospital, her husband home with two foster boys, and I think, "Should I go down and help?" We're not even that close anymore, but I passionately believe that we should foster, adopt, and support those who do. The church asked if we could help with the children's ministry, and I gritted my teeth as I forced myself to say no. The crisis in Venezuela continues as refugees pour into Ecuador, my parents supporting a local church that is partnering with a church in Venezuela, and I think, are there relief programs in place? Can I go help in one, start one?

No. No. NO.

So, unable to be the hands and feet of Jesus, I pray, and I ask the Husband if we can give. Be the pocketbook of Jesus, so to speak. Not that He needs us to be His pocketbook. Not that anyone in America calls it a pocketbook anymore.

Having explained my burnout and limited energies to Pastor Zach, he responds by sharing the time he also ran himself ragged. How he also talked to doctors and counselors. He encouraged me to be ok with taking care of myself. After all, even Jesus left the crowds for times of rest. Even though the needs didn't stop there either. People still needed healing. Still asked Him to talk to them. Still wanted more from Him. But He stepped away.

This January marks 25 years of ministry in Ecuador for my parents. I only made it four in Chicago. But then again, Jesus only had three years of active ministry on earth, so maybe it's not a numbers game. Because if it were, then I beat out Jesus, so I must have done pretty well after all. But that sounds not only sacreligious, but petty and foolish.  And maybe a bit funny. I'm sure he had a sense of humor. Has. Present tense.

I don't know why I expect more for myself than is reasonable. I don't know why I assign time frames for healing and recovery. I don't know why I assume the Husband is silently judging and evaluating me. He's not. He gives me more grace and understanding than I give myself.

Pastor Zach suggested something I had never considered: A long-term view of ministry. The Husband agreed: I tend to sprint right out the gate. But sprinting isn't feasible for the long-term. A lifetime of loving and serving others can only be achieved if I also love and care for myself. There's all kinds of literature out there now about The Best Yes (which is a book on my shelf given by a kind roommate that I have yet to read), and how every time you say yes to one thing you say no to something else, and saying no allows you to say yes to something else. The latter being things like rest, family, health, etc.

Some days, the Husband comes home from work and he has to reheat the plan-ahead leftovers, because I am so drained, from life in general, from a migraine, the reasons vary, that moving from my nest on the couch seems infeasible. My one job as a wife: feed the man. And I don't even always do that. (Maybe I'll change the job description to "Kiss the man." I can always do that.)

I am learning to accept that my needs matter, even though the wounds are hidden wounds and hard to describe to the outsider. I'm learning that limitations are a beautiful thing. I'm learning that "No" is not a bad answer. And I daily thank God for the gift of the time and space to do that.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Simple Kindness

The snow was still light and airy as I swept it off the car. My neighbor shoveled around his minivan beside me. Last week, my husband cleaned out the minivan's spot when we cleared ours, and now the neighbor had already shoveled away all the snow between the two cars. Kindness shared, I thought and tried to catch his eye in greeting. I was careful to sweep the snow to the unshoveled side as I cleared off the roof, respecting the work he had done.

As I finished shoveling around our car, I moved on to the adjacent walkway, yellow stripes that marked the entry to the sidewalk appearing as I pushed the snow to the edge of the lawn.  The snow was packed hard here from the treading of many feet, piled high along the edges from the passing plow. The neighbor, his car freed, loaded with sleds, wife driving the daughters off for an adventure, moved to join me in clearing the public space. Then we started on the sidewalks. I shoveled till my hands shook, my arms ached, my shirt soaked through with sweat. The neighbor's son had come out, cute in the unique Asian way, smiling eyes and quiet demeanor, whispering to his dad in a tongue I couldn't understand. He skittered back towards the apartment, watching us. As I stretched my back, rolling my shoulders, I decided I had done my share of caring for our communal space and turned to wave goodbye to the neighbor. The boy emerged from the apartment with a juice box. He spoke quietly to his father, and the man pointed at me, urging him forward. The little boy ran up to me, smiling shyly, juice box in his outstretched hand, and said "Thank you."

This simple kindness was touching. The thoughtfulness of a small boy to offer something of his own to me. I clomped up the stairs in my heavy boots, stripped off my parka, wool mittens, and snow pants, then collapsed on the couch. Reaching immediately for the juice, I smiled as I pierced the little foil hole with the straw - adulthood hasn't diminished my delight in juice boxes.

A few hours later I glanced out the window and noticed the apartment complex actually had sent out snow blowers - everything we didn't shovel was evenly cleared. I let out a short laugh. Our hard work had been unnecessary. But I didn't regret it. It gave me some healthy exercise, a sense of a job well-done, and the opportunity to make a connection and receive a young boy's honest kindness.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019


I cried on Sunday. 

Tears dripped off my chin as I sniffled quietly, listening to the pastor's message.
Then I fled, 
Pulling up my hood to shelter my tears, 
To the ladies' room.
Sobs shook my chest and my lungs caught, unsure if air was still welcome. I looked at my wet eyes and something crumbled inside of me, trying to hide itself back into the tight ball shattered by that short sentence: 

"We need to go headfirst into the darkness."

I'm not sure I can describe the ripping, the tearing these words caused, still cause, something deep within me grieving. 

I remember that burden, that burning desire to walk into the pain, the brokenness, the darkness, the hopelessness, the torrent of lives untouched by the church, something inside me screams. I remember it, and I went, and I broke. "He won't ask you to do more than you can handle," said the pastor, encouraging the congregation to step out in faith. But He does. He asks for more than we can give, offers more than we can carry. How else will we know we are weak? 

I wasn't weak, I was strong.

There is a certain high you get from succeeding, from doing well. 

That is gone now. 

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."

Martin Luther King Jr. said that. We just celebrated his legacy and his memory.
But he died. 
I have died, too. 
Hate ended his life. Inspired by his words, I offered love, yet hate screamed so loudly all around me. I grew hoarse. My breath, gone. A passionate, living part of me has died. The light no longer enough for any more than myself. And my world, oh, blessed relief, has shrunk to just me. And my husband. I no longer fight to offer love. My role is just to be loved.  

Faces still haunt me. Voices echo in stillness and solitude. I dream about them. The ones I loved well. The ones I failed. Their vibrant joys and violent pains. 
I step back to let someone else fight in the darkness. Someone else shine. 

When Pastor Z called the church to step out intentionally in love, as Christ did in Matthew Four, I wanted to shout back. 
But I honestly don't know what I would shout.
A warning? "Don't do it. It hurts!" 
A retort? "I have, and I can't go any further. Let me rest!"
An agreement? "Yes! Please! Everyone, join the ranks, let's bathe this world in Christ's light!"

I've been reading the book of Job, and find deep comfort there. This man sees the injustice in the world. Has fought to love the broken, stood strong in his service to God, yet is now brought low. Steeped in misery, everything stripped from him, he asks God, Why? What did I do wrong?  
We need space to feel this. To say this. To not jump straight to celebration and ignore the pain. 

So please, join in with Pastor Z and MLK and fight the darkness, with the gospel, with love, with social awareness and justice - but don't ask me to join you. I don't have any more love to give. I am learning to simply be loved. And to keep crying.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Privilege to Leave

I didn't want to leave Chicago.

I didn't want to leave Chicago because it didn't seem fair.

I didn't want to leave Chicago because it didn't seem fair that I could.

I loved living in the city. I loved the hustle and bustle, the wind, the architecture, the wrought-iron fences. I loved the parking skills I gained, understanding the grid system, the different atmospheres of different neighborhoods. I loved my friends and "family" there, the sense of belonging I developed, the confidence I'd gained.
I loved the people, the richness of the culture, the joy found in good food and graduations, deep bass music and quick-footed dancing. I loved hearing friends call out to each other. I loved yelling across the street myself.

And yet, Chicago crushed me.

It broke me.

Till each breath, each heartbeat was a struggle, full of tension and despair.

Chicago is full of darkness.

Because, you see, when I lived in Chicago, I didn't live in the world of glittering lights and new handbags and smooth jazz and farmer's markets - though I loved visiting that world.

I lived in the city, under-privileged and under-resourced. Drive-bys, school fights, gang signs cluttering up the stop signs. Angry voices, hardened faces. Desperate moms asking for help, needing food to put on the table. Neglected teens with no money for bus fare to get to school.

"Some days I can't even get out of bed," confesses one woman to me.

"My son was murdered last week. Please pray for us," texts another.

"Do you know where my sister is? She never came home last night."

"Can I stay with you? My mom kicked me out."

Violent scars glare at me from one girl's arms, her defiant attitude screaming, "My pain is my own and I am not ashamed of it."

I grew overwhelmed by the pain and the helplessness and the anger and the fear, the vanity and the pride, the delight taken in lewdness and violence.

But I left.

I left to live a quiet middle class life, where all my needs are met and I don't even have to work.

Instead of gunshots I hear wild turkeys.
The lake across the street will never be dragged for bodies.
The only person I know who died recently passed from old age after a long and beautiful life.

I left. My soul is slowly re-anchoring itself, remembering what calm feels like.

But Janine couldn't. Nor Kathy, Maria, Amelia.
So many are stuck just trying to hold themselves together, their families splintering, stuck in a world with harsh rules, constant demands, and no peace.

I can leave, step in and out at will. I have a new husband with multiple degrees working a productive job, I have friends and family that gave us generous wedding gifts (I have an espresso maker! What says middle class extravagance more than that?).

My privilege weighs heavy on me. Why am I so blessed when others are not? Why do I get to step away but others do not?
How can I step away when the world still cries out for love and understanding, for someone to listen and care and give a helping hand? How can I leave when so many others stay?

I don't know.

I just know that I did. I left because I had to, because it was tearing me apart, piece by piece. I shouldered burdens that were not mine to carry, fought anger that was not mine to feel. And I found a man who was kind and gentle, brave and steady, a man who cared about me, not what I did or what others needed, but me. And he pulled me to a quiet place so I could find healing. So I could breathe and feel my heart beat.

But still my heart waits with all those trapped in the darkness.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Race and Privilege Through the Eyes of a White Girl.

I have always felt my privilege.

Growing up gringa in a South American country, I stood out as a minority, but not a marginalized minority. I fit the goals of beauty - light skin, light eyes, light hair. Being American meant being wealthy (true or not), therefore looking gringa like in the American movies meant being beautiful. Countless strangers on the street commented on my green eyes. Catcalls were the norm since puberty hit. I tried to hide my sexuality to attract less attention. It's not that I was an exceptionally beautiful girl.

Society told me I was beautiful by nature of my coloring.

If society can deem that one coloring is better than another, is it any surprise that the reverse is also true?

"You're pretty for a dark-skinned."

These words were said to my beautiful young African American friend. I often admire her deeply dark skin, her great big smile, and the hair that is so very different from mine that I always want to touch it.

As a child, I quickly grew accustomed to people wanting to touch my hair. Blond and soft and fine was so different from what those around me were used to - Corn tassel stands out as strange in a sea of raven. I know what it's like to be on the receiving end of, "Can I touch your hair?" and grew accustomed to it being touched even without my permission.
But I don't know what it's like to be deemed less than because of my differences. To never fall under the category of "normal." To have my hair likened to animal fur.

I am familiar with being an object of curiosity.
I am not familiar with being an object of scorn. Of equally unsettling, well-intentioned, I-think-I'm-complimenting-you insults from racially biased mouths.

What is even more unsettling is this way of measuring someone's beauty or value - by the tone of their skin - penetrates even to the minds of the minority. Light skinned African Americans look down on dark skinned, hispanics closer to their indigenous roots are deemed less than those who have more European blood in them.

These values are assigned subconsciously and trace back to overt historical reasons. Lighter skinned slaves were in the house, darker skinned were in the fields. The unclaimed offspring of the masters who raped as they pleased still had more value than those without white blood in their veins. I saw this in South America, as those enslaved were not African but indigenous tribes like the Quichua. The indigenous people are often looked down on and scorned as uneducated, dirty, work-hardened, poor. The general populous in Ecuador is mixed from the European conquerors and the indigenous. The upper class trace their roots more closely to the Spanish.

Let's face it - in the early days many of the Europeans who came over to the Americas were pretty full of themselves, seeing themselves as better than those around them. They were more advanced and wealthier than the people in the land they were exploring, and if they weren't, they took the wealth for themselves. This created a society where the wealthy were white and the lower class were less so. Value is so often determined by money.

Therefore, most racism is heavily laced with classism. Someone is valued less because they are in poverty. Classism becomes racism when we pass judgement of class based on skin tone.
He's black, he's probably poor. Uneducated. A thug.
She's black, she's probably a single mother. A slut. Living on welfare.
Is a business more likely to hire someone named Andrew or Andre? Joe or Jose? Studies show that people are passed over even because of their name. Their name.

Sociologically, we usually deem whatever the wealthy have as what is ideal. In the past and in other cultures, carrying extra weight meant that you had a surplus of food, were well off. Therefore, being "fat" was beautiful. When I was 13 my friend's dad told me I should gain weight so I could be prettier. Fifteen minutes later, his son told me I should lose weight so I could be prettier. (You can see the culture shift in the span of one generation, as idealizing American values of beauty started invading the Ecuadorian culture).

If the wealthy determine the standard of ideal beauty and value, (value is so often assigned based on beauty), and the wealthy are white, then minorities suffer from never being what is considered ideal. By very nature of being non-white, they are not good enough.

When I first heard the term "White Privilege," my initial reaction was typical: "But there are lots of poor white people. What about trailer parks and (please forgive me) 'white trash'? Sure, some have life handed to them in a neatly wrapped package, but many others have to work hard to get the American Dream. Some never attain it. So how can you say that White Privilege is a thing?"

I came to understand privilege doesn't mean you don't have to work hard.
It means that you are starting from an easier place.

Part of Privilege is thinking everyone can do what I can do, everyone has the same opportunities and tools available to them.

But that's not the case. And there are different types of privilege.
I may experience the privilege of being white while facing discrimination as a woman.
This article sketches a picture of how different privileges play out. Gina Crosley-Corcoran puts it clearly:
"Recognizing Privilege simply means being aware that some people have to work much harder just to experience the things you take for granted (if they ever can experience them at all.)" 

I do not apologize for being white - that is how God created me to be.
But I am sorry that historically my race has abused it's status as majority to marginalize those who are black, brown, yellow, red.

We must acknowledge it's a problem when we detract value from a person or group of people - be it because of attractiveness, gender, race, social class, weight, or any other reason.

People have value because they are human beings. Because they are created in the image of God, carefully, intentionally crafted with myriad amazing traits - creativity, compassion, intelligence, strength, courage.

We must readjust our view of the world if we look through any other lens.

If you have not had the benefit of being taken out of your world to see another, as I have, then be intentional. Educate yourself. Dialogue with those who have experienced lack of privilege. Listen, seek to understand. As racial tensions continue to rise, be compassionate. Be a part of the solution.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

I'm so tired of life.

I'm so tired of life.
I want the world to disappear.
To slowly fade away, bit by bit, falling to pieces around me
Till there is nothing
Only the gentle brush of the wind
No longer a sensory assault that refuses to be assuaged
I want to stand
And breathe deep
Tension easing away into the open 
Floating like motes 
Until it disappears.
Til bit by bit I too
Ease away into nothingness


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Five Date Venture: Part 2

I have done it.

I have officially gone on my first date.

Well, not technically my first date. But the first that I knew for sure was a date and that had a "romantic" purpose. (Do I count when my friend took me out on a platonic Valentine's date?)

I have taken the first step into the fierce storm of the dating world. 

I am running late. (When am I not?)

I am terrified.

I didn't expect to be nervous. I hadn't felt the need to primp or impress him. I'm not too concerned about his opinion of me. Though I joke about serial killers and axe murderers, I'm not specifically concerned for my safety either - I've taken steps to make sure people know where I am and that we meet in a location in which I am comfortable. 

Yet as I walk past the familiar Moody campus to the local Starbucks, my insides churn and my hands shake and my heart cries out a prayer, "God, don't let me be there alone!" I'm not worried about being stood up, I could handle that. But my God has been with me through every venture in life, and I need to know he will be with me in this strange dance we call dating. I prayed desperately, filled with unspecified anxiety. What do you talk about with someone you don't know? What if I don't like him and I don't know how to be kind? What if I can't stop fidgeting? 

Let's be real: when do I ever stop fidgeting? 

He's late.
He's late and I'm sure I must not have told him the right location.
I text him.
I message a couple close friends.

"If he turns out to be a serial killer, tell my mother I love her."

I can be a bit dramatic at times. 

My friends' delayed response unnerves me even more. I sit facing the door, glancing up every time it opens.
Wrong race.
No glasses.
Wrong gender.
Maybe he doesn't always wear the glasses?
I don't have glasses in my picture, but I'm wearing them now.
I think I'll recognize him. If I don't, I'm sure he'll recognize the nervous white girl who is obviously waiting for someone.
My phone is my safety blanket as I pull up Messenger, my friend has replied and in a round about way tries to reassure me. I'm not sure I feel assured.

He walks through the door, remarkably recognizable. Taller than I expected.
Tall is nice.

I don't know the protocol in situations like this. If we were friends, I'd hug him. But we're not.
No contact seems cold, foreign.
I stick out my hand, a fairly safe, classic gesture. "Hi. I'm Cristina."

We stand in line to order. He doesn't make much eye contact, which is a little odd, but less unsettling than too much eye contact. Why am I so concerned with eye contact? We're talking about church, denominations, and his mother. Comfortable topics. 

Grande latte in hand, I gesture to a table by the window. People watching would at least be a fall back. 

We don't have much in common.
"Do you like sports?" About as much as pickled beets, but I respond with,"Eh, I'll cheer for Chicago if we win. Beyond that..." Unless it's baseball. I like being at a baseball game. But he's a Sox fan, I think that makes us arch rivals or something. At least it would if I cared about sports.
"What TV shows do you watch?" No overlap.
We strike out on politics as well. Not that I like talking about politics anyways.
We both like to draw. That's something.
Food? Well, who doesn't like tacos?
I earn brownie points for being able to cook. 
He earns points by proudly being a nerd. And by keeping the conversation going. This isn't nearly as awkward as I thought it would be. I can feel my facade of confidence relaxing, I laugh more freely, chime in with my own thoughts more frequently. 
He likes winter. Definitely earns points there, I don't find many people excited for the cold weather. I can't wait to go ice skating and see Chicago decked out for the holidays.

"So, Sundays are generally free for you? I'll call you."

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Five Date Venture Part 1

I recently created an OkCupid account. 

I always thought online dating was odd. Never thought I would be one to do it. But I know two great couples who met online, and recent events in my life have led me to the point of, "Why not?" Also, both my roommates were super excited for me to get an account. Encouragement helps.

So I create an account. Put up a few cute pics. Try to be clever in my description. 
"Six things I could never do without:
Affection, tea, sunshine, creative outlet, time outdoors, cereal"

I will literally wither away without those things. Just watch me.

Ok, I actually do fairly well without cereal.

I was surprised at how quickly I started getting views, likes, and messages. If nothing else, this online dating thing is good for the ego. Random guys are totally into me. Things they say range from:
"How is your day going?"
"Hi, you're cute, who are you and why aren't you my girlfriend?"
I really don't know why guys from Pakistan, Australia, and Madrid even bother. What do you think it going to happen from across the ocean? 

When I told one guy, Patrick, that I didn't think we'd be a good match, his response was "I'm worth it."

Which promptly got Fifth Harmony's "Worth It" stuck in my head for a week (not a good song, but so catchy). I foolishly continued the conversation -mainly because the song was stuck in my head- agreed to go on a date, and then balked with then actual day came. 

He did seem like a little bit of a jerk though, and at some point Roommate started to refer to him as d-bag. He said things like "You're a cutie pie" (hello, are you my grandmother? Or some random guy on the street? Who says that seriously to a grown woman?), "How come your single?", called me "hun" and was being a bit thick when it came to making me pick everything about the date and then not looking up any of the deets himself. When it came right down to it, nothing on his profile interested me except that he was an EMT and was planning on being a fireman. So I made plans with my roommate and told him I had plans when he tried to reschedule. Since then, I have been "ghosting" him (which is apparently a thing, basically ignoring him) and feeling a little bad about it because the people-pleaser in me just feels like that's a bit rude and if he's going to pursue me I ought to acquiesce, right? Except that his grammar and punctuation were atrocious.
Note to self: add "ability to spell out y-o-u" to list of requirements in a potential. 

I had another date scheduled for the next day with a guy who seemed pretty decent. I was the one to actually ask him out, mainly because he was nice and open about his life, and I was bored and if I was going to do this online dating thing, I might as well go on a few dates. But then he messaged me all the time and I started to rethink it. So when he needed to reschedule and I was having a bad week and didn't want to see anyone at all I was relieved, and when he tried to nail down a time I left him unread. I thought about ghosting him, but decided to be an adult and just tell him that what with life and all, I didn't want to pursue anything. He said he understood and to keep in touch.

Which apparently to him means messaging twice a day. 

Wrong move, brah. Wrong move. He has now been labeled "Acquaintance" on my Facebook so that he doesn't see most posts. I was hesitant to give him my Facebook, but he said it would give me a better feel for who he was, and it was true - and I was bored. I continue to leave his frequent messages "unread" which feels a little petty, but I work with Jr. High students so pettiness may be rubbing off on me. I know the grown thing to do would be to say I don't want to talk anymore, but I don't have a solid reason other than a simple "I don't want to" so pettiness seems like the better option.

After bailing on Patrick and Deshawn, I just wanted to be done with the whole thing. I uninstalled the app from my phone, I stopped visiting the website on my computer. There was one potential who actually seemed legit and like someone I would for real want to know, so I gave him my number in case he came to town. He's actually a believer and volunteers in his church's middle school youth group (yes!) and we have tons of interests in common - board games, tv shows, books, food. And we both really want to go to the Shedd Aquarium. The only problem? He lives in Milwaukee.

Which is what Roommate and I call him.
"So Milwaukee texted me last night." 
"If Milwaukee comes to Chicago then we can..."

I was ready to be done with the whole thing though. 
Roommate's friend tried online dating and set out to go on 10 dates. 
Roommate suggested I give it five.
So this is what I am setting out to do. 
Go on five dates.
With people I think I might actually enjoy, not just whoever is pushy.
Get used to the whole concept. Get over some of my awkwardness when it comes to dating.

Five dates.

I can do that, right?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

When I still feel alone.

How is it that I  want anonymity yet crave connection?

I liked Armitage because people were friendly and welcoming. And because it was a big enough church for me to attend and observe without any pressure.

I like being invisible yet my soul cries out to be seen.

While there are people I connect with, it's sporadically. I am afraid to burden them with my presence - I'm sure it must become tiresome.

Connecting with people, knowing people, requires intentionality. And I try, I fight against the remnants of shyness that still cling to me and attempt to initiate with others.

But wouldn't it be nice to be sought after myself?

I'm hesitant to even say this, as I don't want to be pitied, someone's project they are trying to comfort. I want to be desired in my own right.

Is that so much to ask for?

As I feel that maybe it is, maybe I'm too needy or complaining or boring or any other characteristic that might drive people away, I once again think that anonymity may be better than community - reaching for community and finding my hands empty may be more painful that remaining invisible.

Solitude can be its own comfort.

Yet I would rather solitude be choice than a fall back.

I know the deep answer, the Psalm 139 answer, that I am completely known by God and never alone, never apart from His presence. But where is His Body? Are we not supposed to be there and reach out to each other?

Maybe I am failing in this as well, maybe there is someone I am overlooking.

It just seems a bit messed up that Sunday morning is the time I feel most alone.

The person I used to be.

“We all change, when you think about it. We’re all different people all through our lives. And that’s OK, that’s good, you gotta keep movin...