Not as Alone as I Think

I want to say something,  something illogical and foolish, but please bear with me. It’s been a while since I have written anything. There’s good reason for this, well no, actually it makes sense but it’s not a good reason, in fact it’s rather counter intuitive.

In the past month(s) I’ve come to realize something about me. I enjoy being around people, not ground breaking, but I need to be around people. I need to be with people I trust and I can be completely vulnerable with. The difficulty I’ve found is that though I have people around me I close myself off, in part because I worry about people’s thoughts about me, what I’m sharing, but in large part due to this feeling that I will overwhelm the people I care about with the extensive overthinking I do.

I feel as though, because I want to care for people around me who carry so much as it is, I cannot load more on their shoulders.

So the problem persists, grows, and compounds, creating an unhealthy Greg, withdrawn from the people that care for me and stewing in negative thoughts or just too many thoughts.

Foolish right?

Now, in the past to sort of “sidetrack” this issue, or for an eloquent “put together” way of expressing my internal turmoil, I blog, I write about it. (This is beyond the daily journaling I do). This way I can share a struggle, a frustration, a confusion, without true intimacy because I give it themes and metaphorical meaning, externally processing with the enigmatic wide web which includes whomever “chooses to read/hear” my stresses. Typically written blogs give an air of finality to personal struggles, like “writing about it means it’s solved, or mostly solved” which is much more manageable than unresolved conflict, which is messy.

Since I have been trying to work on friendships (or rather this is what I told myself) I didn’t want to share my struggles via blog without cluing in at least some people because then I’d get the typical former response of, “Hey I had no idea, please come to me if you ever need to talk”. I want people to know me, I need people. This is why I haven’t been blogging.

While this has been “good” I haven’t been doing my part. I haven’t been sharing.

I recently reread “Scary Close” by Donald Miller, this is now the third time reading it (I think this will become a habit). The book outlines how Don struggles with intimacy, how he’s been “performing” his whole life. He walks through his journey of discovery through his relationship patterns up until his wife. The book explores how life is meant to be shared and though it’s scary, to be known by people.

Rereading this book and a moment of clarity on a Sunday at church woke me up. My ideas culminated to a realization, I’ve been emotionally unhealthy. I realized it fully when my friend asked me why I was sitting on my own reading my Bible rather than be at lunch with my team/friends.

Reading the Bible is not the issue, in fact it’s a great thing, an essential aspect to life. It was the timing and the scenario. I timed my day in such a way that I missed lunch with my friends, in fact I didn’t miss eating, I had grabbed food on my own and then sat down to read. I told my friend as I was realizing it for myself. Because I need people to process my own thoughts with, I isolate myself when I am feeling anxious because I don’t want to overwhelm my friends with my anxieties.

I’ve been making things worse.

Last night as I was sharing with my friend an encounter I had with God this week, a moment where God was again asking me to trust Him which I was struggling to do. It was interesting though because after I shared, after I included him in my struggling and the process God was walking me through he thanked me. Not just for sharing “myself”, my process, with him, but also he was reminded of something God had spoken to him. My friend basically told me that not only should I share with people for my health but for others to learn.

Life is meant to be lived with others, to share the burdens we are not strong enough to carry on our own. To get perspective from those not within a situation, not themselves crushed by a specific anxiety. We can learn from hearing what people are processing and realize that we are not as alone as we may perceive.

Advertisements

I am terrified. I feel sick. I want to vomit. Can I continue to believe the fantasy? Can I pretend just a little bit longer?

If there’s one thing about me that I really hate, it’s that I’m not perfect. I wish I was without any flaw, a paragon of humankind. I yearn from my innermost that I might be the most, the best, be what everyone wants of me, be what I think everyone needs of me. Perhaps I am too hard on myself. Perhaps my personal standards are too farfetched, that I could be perfect. Perhaps what scares me the most is when I know other people know of my brokenness.

You know I’ve gotten extremely good at wearing a mask, so much so that sometimes I believe it  when I look at my “reflection”, but I know deep down how marred I am.

But God. You see, I am broken, but God is perfect. I make mistakes and God has none and yet, He still loves me. He has died for me, so that I can live life with Him forever, so my brokenness is of no consequence because He is so good.

Here’s the rub. I’m still not perfect. I need someone to save me and while I eternally grateful, I still don’t like it. I don’t like that I need someone to save me. I don’t like that I cannot manage it on my own, that I cannot somehow do so much or be so good as to warrant good things. I don’t deserve good (not the good as we have watered it down to in our language, like nice things or stuff I want, but true good). I don’t deserve to be loved by the one who gave me life and gave me more, the one who is goodness and love personified because I am a mess. I am not perfect.

Have you ever seen that couple that you know one of the people is dating way up, way out of their league. That’s what it’s like with me and the creator. You see, the God of the Universe, loved His creation so much that He wanted to give Him the greatest good imaginable, Him (it’s hard to comprehend when we have for muddied the definition to mean anything that is beneficial to our happiness, but true good is going for your best in spite of desires). But because He is so good and His creation chose to leave Him, He made a promise with a group of people that as long as they trusted Him, believed in Him and His character, thereby knowing His love for them, and living in community with Him, then He would go above and beyond in blessing.

The story doesn’t end there. He chose these people because they were small and weak, not because they were the best, in order to display the greatness and vastness of His love as well as His limitless power. If these weak people followed Him and where thereby blessed how much would the rest of humanity envy them and wish the same for them? However, in the choosing of weak people and flawed people they did not do the best in sharing His love and character. Furthering His mission of sharing His love and goodness to the world, He came Himself in part and in whole (honestly this bit is a little confusing, but nevertheless the important aspect is how he came to live like one of His creation) and then died furthering His showing of love by providing the ultimate good, a way for our souls to be made perfect so that they could spend eternity with the perfect father.

There’s this slight thing though, God wants a lot of His creation to know Him, so in the same model of how He used the people group He chose, He wants those who believe in Him to share His story, to share their story with Him, how broken they are without Him. That’s the thing of it, too. Because those who believe in Him still live here on Earth, they are not completely rid of that which is bad, the imperfect. God allows imperfect people in His presence to be molded and changed into what He originally had us designed as, without fault. This process is not easy as it requires letting go of control, because as I mentioned I cannot be perfect. To attain perfection I need someone perfect coaching me, guiding me and thereby changing me.

Here’s where it’s about me again for a second, for you see I am one of those imperfect ones who believes God is who He says He is but cannot seem to do well enough to show it on His own. I’m so fractured, I need the creator to slowly break parts away to reform me to who I am meant to be, my true self, the one before the breaks. I don’t know where the fractures began exactly but I know where they lead if I don’t let go.

When you try to hold shattered glass together you’re going to end up bleeding.

Here’s where it’s not about me. To show the process of me being reworked into perfection, I need to be honest with myself and others as to wear some of my fracture points are. I need to expose my wounds to oxygen or else they will fester. I need to allow the doctor to tear away the shrapnel to fix me. How will others know who to trust with their fractures if they don’t see who fixes mine? I can tell people “I’m broken” but unless I really show them how, they won’t understand or even believe how I’ve been healed.

It’s hard to open up because it hurts, but if you’re not willing to be in pain a little there will be no growth.

Much like many people I have identity issues, I forget who I was designed by and what He intended for me because I begin listening to other people and their opinions about who I am. So in an effort to really begin healing I am taking off the self-made bandage before it gets any more toxic.

I am gay. I am straight. I am neither. I am both.

There’s this spinning storm inside of me as I try to sort out my thoughts. But I can’t seem to land on one thing because I want a simple answer to a complicated question. I’m trying to label myself by someone else’s standard, but I cannot. I don’t know how to articulate the confusion, the frustration, or just the anxiety with sharing because you’re thinking a million things right now. Something inside of you is telling you how to think about me and I am terrified of what it says. I couldn’t handle you slapping me on the back congratulating me for coming out, because I haven’t. I haven’t declared anything other than I am confused. And please don’t tell me I’m living in self denial, because I know what that is and I’ve left that behind.

I worry because some of you might think your suspicions were right all along. I am afraid of you being disappointed that I wasn’t more than I am. I couldn’t handle the shame you might give, I’ve been letting that go for some time and I don’t want it back. I worry that when I have this conversation with my future wife she will think less of me, or feel self conscious. I want to ease your curiosity and say I am attracted to women and I have been in love with a woman. Contrarily I have never been in love with a man, nor am I even sure if what I experience is even considered completely an attraction to men.

Writing it out makes is weird and I worry you’ll get queasy but finally putting it down is somewhat of a relief as well.

Before you get angry, telling me I’ve just been brainwashed into not being myself, I want you to consider how you, the one claiming to not want overbearing entities to define me, are trying yourself to define me. That’s not your job. It’s not your responsibility to identify me. The only one with that privilege is the one who made me. The one, who in this confusion and struggle has just whispered love and truth to me, comforted me in my anguish knowing I would let someone down one day because I was not what they hoped I would be.

I write all of this down for me and for you. For me, it means freedom, letting go of the shame and personal bonds I have placed on myself, to allow healing in my life. For you, for you it’s to see the healing process. It’s painful, but it’s good. I am exposing my wounds to you, not for your politics, not for your philosophy or psychology; I expose my wounds for your theology. I want you to know as I do, how He loves.

In church my pastor spoke about how we are to embrace grace, to fully welcome the knowledge that God loves me as I am, but wants so much more for me, the very best. That in my life embracing this grace means embracing it for others, embracing our weaknesses so that others may see the grace that envelops.

I have a problem, a serious problem. I don’t know how to ask for help. The very idea of it scares me, almost to the point of a panic attack. I don’t know where it comes from. I don’t know if it’s pride, not wanting to admit that I can’t handle life on my own. I think that is part of it at least.

But you know what really gets me?

The idea of writing this, makes me anxious, too. Because this is an indirect ask for help, part of me wants this to be an ask, but the biggest need is to be cathartic because not sharing is also hard. Whenever i get stressed out the best way for me to figure it out is to talk about it, but often as not when I talk about needing something people want to help.

Which stresses me out.

I love helping people, in fact, I don’t know if I like anything more than to be that dependable friend who helps in times of need. I don’t know how to be helped. I feel mixed up, grateful and happy, but also indebted and stressed. I keep mental notes of what I need to do, but you know what is awful, typically I cannot pay it back.

This past year has been extremely difficult and it seems to be culminating up as the year comes as a close. I have been paying all my bills, some a bit late, but they get paid in full. If you’ve been reading my posts over this year you know this. I am tired. I know I need to be faithful, I know I need to hope and that God will come through and I will wait for that, but I am tired and stressed and I don’t know how to ask for help.

Christmas is a week away and I’ve managed to get the week off, but you know what? I don’t have anything after that. I just paid last months rent three days ago. I probably won’t be able to pay next months on time. I have eaten grilled cheese about three times already this week. I have zero dollars in my bank account, well a little more, but I have to keep shifting it around so that my bank doesn’t give me any penalties or some money doesn’t get charged for something random. I have all these parties this week too, and I can’t figure out to attend and not be the party pooper who can’t bring a gift, or someone buys a gift for me to give, or I can’t afford to get anything other than water.

But how do I ask for help?

Aren’t I supposed to prove to the world that I can handle this? Isn’t God supposed to prove to everyone that this was where I was supposed to go? If I ask for help won’t people think that this wasn’t actually where I was supposed to go? Or perhaps it’s a different sort of success we are to see in our lives, that the people of the bible who were called places faced a lot of adversity? Or perhaps what’s scarier is maybe I’m deluded.

A few years back there was a difficult time in my family and when I finally broke through my own insecurities about asking for help I was accosted and told to “grow up” from someone I trusted. It hurt. I know it’s not correct, but it’s still in my head that I need to prove myself a capable adult, but I don’t know if I can. I can’t do this on my own.

I can’t even complain because there are so many people that have worse off and I have so many people that I have in my life that care for me and even people working to get me home, it’s still uncertain, but there are those who are really trying to get me even now, and perhaps this is going to be an eleventh hour miracle, or even 11:59 miracle.

And here’s the takeaway, I suppose, sometimes life isn’t full of roses and rainbows, but you’ve gotta just keep going. I think it’s alright to ask for help though, and I think it’s alright to be stressed and anxious, but I think you can’t let it ruin your life.

One time I had a conversation with a good friend and we were mentioning the cliche (which is Biblical and true) that God’s mercies are new every morning when it dawned on me (pun completely intended) that it’s always morning somewhere.

Well, who knows I may write a “amazing God came through, everything worked out” post, or it may be one of those “well I was surrounded by friends and sometimes life is difficult but it’s okay” post. Life is weird that way. Anyway, this was kind of a ramble but that’s where  my brain is at currently, so sorry.

Merry Christmas!

Cake Pop

“Please, mommy! Look it’s my favorite”

I hear as I wait in the back while on my break.

“It’s my favorite cake pop, can’t I please have it.”

She’s impassioned. You could here it in her voice. What she wanted more than anything in the world at this moment was that cake pop. I waited to hear how the mom would respond. I was invested in this now. Probably a little cynical in my eavesdropping expecting what normally occurs where the parent feebly responds no until giving in after the child begins  throwing a tantrum.

“Honey, no we are already getting a treat and we’re going to go and have dinner when we get home, we’ll get it some other time. Remember I said not to ask for it”

Here comes the tantrum.

“I’m sorry, I know.” Her voice begins to get choked up, “It’s just my favorite. I’m sorry, I just really want it.”

“I know honey, but I said not now-”

By now the little girl is sobbing, not hysterics, just completely broken up about this cake pop.

“Haven’t I been good, though mommy? I’ve been really good and I really think I deserve the cake pop” She can barely get her words out. She is weeping at this point.

I think her mom became really concerned at this juncture, “What’s the matter? You have been really good. I know you want this cake pop and we’ll get it some other time but not tonight.”

“Alright”

“How about I let you pick out dinner? What would you like?”

More quiet sniffling, “I donno”

Now I was impressed at first at how well behaved this girl acted. She was not throwing a tantrum, hoping to sway her mom, she was just sad. She didn’t understand why in the world she couldn’t have this good thing. She had acted good, validated by her mother, and her mom showed concern and love for her, which leads me to believe her mother has given her good things before, basically meaning the mother was not known to promise good and withhold it.

The little girl just didn’t understand. She knew her mother loved her and gave her good things and she had a grasp of the concept that typically when you do good things you get rewarded with good, but here she was learning a new lesson.

Reward not always following good behavior, but more than that good being held for a greater good that lies just around the corner.

In that moment, God spoke to me. He said it is the same with me right now and for a lot of how he operates. He has this greatest good for us and we see the good in front of us. We perform well, we behave well, and we expect the good that we see and desire. God knows better and He holds off, and has us be patient.

He doesn’t love us less, in fact He loves us more. He loves us too much to give us the first thing we see.

How do we respond to this? Well I know how I have responded:

God I gave up everything for you, for this, to be here, can’t I please have this. I’ve done what you’ve asked, I’ve been faithful, can’t I have this? Please, I need this. Lord, I need this right now, I am about to sink, this may be the last straw, what if this is the point of no return with my faith remaining? All these people are looking at me, expecting success in your name, where is it? I don’t want to let them down. They’ll think I was a fool, that they were right for not believing you could do this or that you even want to do this. Lord please.

Meanwhile, God has this great plan, this great gift waiting for us, but if we could stop focusing on ourselves we might see it.

I don’t want to settle for a cake pop if there’s cheesecake waiting, if there’s an entire meal at my disposal.

And since when did I actually do anything warranting more blessing than I can even think or imagine.

Honestly, I like to think I deserve the world, when I don’t even deserve that cake pop.

Three Things

I’ve been avoiding writing for a while. I’m not sure why. It seems that I have had something of note to write about for the past three days, but I have consistently busied myself so I would not have an opportunity to write. Today in a moment when I was praying I felt God impress on me to write. Write three things.

I graduated from college Saturday,

My mom suffers from severe Multiple Sclerosis,

and

God is good.

It may or may not be known but for the past four years I have been attending college at Life Pacific College, well in a manner of speaking I have. To begin with, I knew in 6th grade I was supposed to attend LIFE, but as these things go, by the time I was in High School I wanted to go anywhere but LIFE. In a longer story for another time, God made it clear I was to attend LIFE. So, much to the chagrin of my teachers, I applied to one school. I was accepted and I moved in Fall of 2010.

I got the most coveted job on the campus, the coffee shop and I enrolled in 19 units. Because of my IB Diploma units I was able to take upper division courses. Needless to say, I had a full semester. I also was able to make some wonderful friends in that time. During this first semester of college, God spoke again to me very clearly. There was a discipleship program moving across the country to grow into a school and I was to go with them. Though I was sad to leave I knew this is where God wanted me to go.

During my first year in Virginia I took courses distantly through LIFE, just a few, but it kept me on schedule enough for when LIFE opened up their Degree Completion Program, and 18 month online program that would allow me to finish my college education on time.

Thus we are now at present. Four years go by faster than you would think. I walked Saturday with those that I did Freshman orientation with four years ago. I graduated with to my first college roommate and nearly my whole quad for that first year.

Surreal

How amazing it was to graduate with those I started with and though I was apart from them for three years I was able to make it back to the finish line right with them. I would never have planned this, but it was a gift. I graduated college.

I’m going to Disneyland!

Sunday was Mother’s Day and this was the first Mother’s Day I have been with my mom in three years. Because it has always been a family favorite, we went to Disneyland. It was hot. My mom has severe Multiple Sclerosis. To give a gist, MS inhibits nerve function, heat makes it worse. Besides some difficulty we were able to manage the day.

We went again yesterday. It was hotter.

To be honest, living far away has made it easy to not think about this. To not consider how bad my mom’s disease has progressed. She is consistently in a wheel chair and my dad has to carry her in and out of it . She cannot go to the bathroom alone. Her legs shake and fall off the foot rests. She can’t hold up her body so she slides into the chair and just recently she has has had difficulty holding up her head. This creates the problem of drooling as well.

Ten years ago my mother would have charged through the crowd with determination, avoiding the people who lagged.

The first time we noticed it was bad, was about five years ago when we tried to ride the Matterhorn. It’s a rickety roller coaster but it was designed to do “lap sitting” so my dad could hold her. After launching off we proceeded with what was probably the worst ride of our lives. She was in hysterical tears the entire ride, panicking that she would fall out. My dad was holding her as tight as he could and she was still sliding about unable to hold herself up. After that we stayed away from that ride and mostly stuck with boat rides like Pirates of the Caribbean or It’s a Small World. She can no longer ride any rides other than the large ships that circle the Rivers of America or the Disneyland Train.

We finally decided after being there for a mere three hours that it would be best if she went home to rest. I realized that may be the last time she goes to Disneyland.

My mom loves Disneyland.

It has always been a place for our whole family to go. I think the realization that she may not be able to go back to Disneyland has made this disease real to me. When my dad and her left yesterday I nearly broke down.

My father is a champion.

He has loved and taken care of my mom since the diagnosis with more responsibility as it has progressed. He carried her, washes her, dresses her and does what he can to provide for her, all on his own. They live in Oregon while my sister lives in Southern California and I live across the country.

It is in these moments I question. I wonder. Should I move home to help them? What could I accomplish? Then I think, “No God called me here”. But, I finished college, I was gone for three years from home and in that time they were kicked out of their house and moved away. My moms health has deteriorated. I know it’s not my fault these things happened but could I have done anything to make it easier?

Looking back doesn’t help. I must look forward, but to what? Working at a school? Perhaps a higher degree? To what end? I sat pondering this, wondering if I should return west and help my parents. They have a huge Shakespeare theatre festival I could work. Perhaps I attempt to work there. I can’t shake this feeling though, that I need to stay in the East.

Do you trust me?

Is what I hear Him say. Can I trust Him to take care of them? Can I trust Him to take care of my future? I know I need to return now, but who knows what will happen in a few months? God will care for us, He will guide us, He will provide for us and I know it is still possible for Him to heal my mom.

God is Good.

20140513-222519.jpg

Don’t Feed the Fears

I don’t know if this is just me, probably not, but for me I feel like I run on two speeds. One, I’m high functioning do it all guy, chatting with people, getting stuff done, and I feel happy, well something like happy. In this speed I am running fast and not stopping to think, sometimes I feel like I’m running on autopilot. This is my organizational micromanaging side of my ENFJ personality. I am doing a lot, getting a lot accomplished, I don’t like downtime here because then I’ll slow down. If I slow down I might fall into the other speed.

My second speed is stagnant. I sit and mull over life. This happens typically when a random idea creeps into my mind and it cripples me. I become consumed by the emotions that the idea created. I feel anxious and I don’t always know why. I feel sad and hurt by the smallest things. I starve for attention. This is when the needy side of my ENFJ surfaces and I want more than anything to be surrounded by people, but because my need for people needs to be meaningful and positive I why away from people out of the fear of rejection or less than meaningful connection.

I think I’ve determined that these aren’t so much conflicting speeds, but two attitudes that are on the same coin. The two faces of anxiety.

I rush and work hard to avoid facing something I know I can’t avoid forever, and when I finally encounter the something, it cripples me. I don’t know why I fear it, but it is not just feeling afraid but it immobilizes me. I can’t sleep. I feel numb. My thoughts are scattered. I am afraid to do anything.

What if I make a mistake?
What if this will haunt me for the rest of my life?
What if this will affect my children?
Will this be constant for the rest of my life?
Will this lead to feelings of discontent?
What of I miss what God wants me to do?
Will this hurt my relationship with Him?
Will this hurt others around me?
What about the people I need to help?
Can I help them?
Will someone else help them?

I am worried that this will steal the happiness from my life? I can have days that are great and it’s like that evil one won’t let me have a happy thought. Every time I come down from a happy high, I am reminded of all the things I don’t know, all the things that are unsure, the loneliness I feel.

This isn’t the end. God is with me, He is my strength and His strength is my joy.

20140119-120023.jpg