No Hope, No Disappointment

It’s easier to just share the highlight reel, easier to only show the happy, exciting moments.  Just like it’s easier to be cynical, easier to give up, easier not to hope for anything.  Because it’s hard to deal with disappointment.  It’s hard to fail or feel like I didn’t live up to expectations.  It’s hard for things to not go as planned.  And so I think I have had a tendency during my life toward cynicism.  I have spent a lot of time looking at the potential pitfalls and expecting the worst.  The thing is, you’d think this would make the unexpected goodness more joyful, but instead it tends to just rob the joy from the whole process.  It stunts my ability to authentically care about the things I care about and to get excited about the things for which I am hopeful.

To put this in context, months ago I found out that Jay Ryan of The Bird Machine was going to be one of the artists leading a session at Penland School of Crafts this summer.  I have wanted to learn to screenprint for quite some time now and am in love with Jay Ryan’s work (to prove this love, I can attest to having four of his prints hung in my apartment, in addition to his book on my shelf), so this news definitely caught my attention.  After looking into costs, however, it was clear that I wouldn’t be able to attend without a scholarship.  I spent weeks putting together an application, choosing what to include in my work sample, and getting recommendations.  I was really excited about the possibility of learning a new skill and getting to meet other artists. Even if I didn’t get my first choice of session, I was excited about any possibility of attending Penland.

After waiting months to hear back, I got a response in the mail today.  As you can probably guess, based on what I’ve said so far, I wasn’t awarded a scholarship and thus won’t be attending Penland this summer.  After reading the rejection letter I went outside to sit and think for a while.  I found myself oscillating between emotions, trying to convince myself of apathy yet also feeling definite disappointment.  My thoughts kept returning to, “See, this is why you shouldn’t hope for things.  Getting excited just leads to disappointment.  How did you let yourself fall into that trap?  Haven’t you learned anything?”  I kept trying to tell myself, “It’s better this way anyway.  Now you won’t have to face that social anxiety, won’t have to travel, and you won’t have the chance to make a fool of yourself in front of all those other artists.”  But then something caused me to stop and looked at what was going on in my head.  And as I did this, I noticed a newfound desire within me to fight these thoughts.  I want to give myself the freedom to be upset, to feel disappointed.  I want to use this as a way of helping to gauge what I am actually passionate about, instead of pretending, trying to convince myself that I wasn’t that interested in it.  Now, of course I don’t want to dwell in the disappointment.  I don’t want to let it consume me, but I do think a healthy level of it is okay.  Especially if I can somehow use that emotion to propel me forward try again, to work harder, to keep chasing (and helping to identify) my passions.

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”
― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

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No Hope, No Disappointment

Systems Thinking // effects of effects

The innumerous nodes of the system shift infinitely, are shifting. In spite of their untangleable entanglement we, perhaps unconsciously, persevere in our belief, our obsession with one directional cause and effect. But the cause of the causes of effects were (a/e)ffected by other causes in the same way infinitely unless there was one first cause, which isn’t that the big mystery, so please no more reductions of the irreducible and solutions to the insolvable. We and me and you.
Let’s revel in the complexity, our understanding complete in its incompleteness.
But I preach

To her
Because she has an undying obsession with answers. Trust me, we know. We tried.
Dying that is. That year. that year is the one that haunts, that demands, that is eternally unentangled. Because him and him and her and them make too many trails to follow; they loop and swerve and intertwine like necklaces thrown in a bag and left for years because that was all an act and the curtain was drawn and the scene changed and now even if she wanted to separate them she couldn’t.
But she does want to separate those chains of days, to complete the autopsy, for what died was her hope and perhaps the black box of her heart could hint at the happenings causing the crash. She may not be able to reconstruct but perhaps she could aid someone else’s avoidance.

But time disperses all nodes which feels more like the continual ripping of stitches rather than the healing of wounds. And she awakes again from the dream of a memory of an idea, who was once flesh. But her reinvigorated desire to detangle is thwarted by the dispersion.
And so platitudes fill her, pumped by the society obsessed with succintness. Forgive and forget to keep calm and carry the dark days tucked away where nobody can see them because they’re over now, over your head, that is. Today is a new day, because we say so even though all the days are the same spinning spherical ballet connected only by the thin strand of memory and the untangleable web of effects of effects of effects of effects of effects…

 

Systems Thinking // effects of effects

He said; He said.

The water of brain
in the pool of her skull
and the endless reverberations of ripples
Ad infinitum
Of a voice she never actually heard
And ever since she put pills as plugs in the drains of her eyes
There’s still two ways in and one way out
But trapped by the tongue
So no way out,
really

“I see no architecture here”

They said that to him too
A variant
(Why the constant connections)

“I see nothing here”

She thought he was dead
And he may be
For the emotions surely are
She killed them
Gagged them
Anything to forget them
Because they were
A constant confusion
Though it was simple,
really

“I see something here”

He seemed to say,
And she had been waiting,
waiting for so long
To be seen.
Not the facade fabricated,
the person of performance,
The Seen Self

No

a gentle thread to a
fragile whisper
of a being
so long protected
it was mistaken for myth

However

Seeming is dangerous,
For to seem is not to be,
And she’s always been
too trusting,
And she’s always been
too hopeful,
Blinded by her belief
in her own doubt and cynicism
and their perfidious proffer of protection
against the hurt of hope
unfulfilled.

Now left with simultaneous aches
from the words said and silent:
An ache to return and remember
and an ache to flee and forget,
She sits
wondering if she would have done anything different
had she known.

 

He said; He said.

The Stranger

*knock knock knock*

I wonder who that could be… I’m not expecting anybody… Gosh, I hope it isn’t my landlord to show the place, everything is a mess right now…

I leave my dinner prep and walk to the door. I glace through the peephole and see a man I don’t recognize. Uh oh, I wonder if something is wrong downstairs or if I’m walking around too loud. I open the door about a foot and peer out.

“Hello?” I say in a friendly, yet questioning tone.

He looks slightly confused and says, “Oh, hi, I’m here to see Eric.” (I already forgot the actual name he said.)

“Uhh, sorry,” I say, as we simultaneously realize he is at the wrong door and a look of embarrassment comes over his face. “I’m not sure who Eric is.” I wish I knew who that was so I could direct him to the correct apartment… Should I suggest the one at the bottom of the stairs?

“Jesus Christ,” he mutters as he fumbles for his phone in his pocket, clearly trying find the message with the correct apartment number. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s no problem at all,” I say cheerily as I close the door and return to my cooking.

I hope he finds his friend. Man, I really should have met my neighbors and learned their names.  It’s definitely too late to do that here, but I really want to make an effort at our next apartment building.

As I stir the vegetables in the pan, my mind continues on.

Oh jeez I hope I didn’t offend him or anything by only opening the door up a foot… It was only because he was a stranger… I would have been timid opening the door for any stranger… Maybe less hesitant with a woman, but all unexpected men would make me tentative… But I hope he didn’t think it was because he was black.  I would hate to have just unintentionally played into any racial insecurities he might have.  Hmm…I wonder if me thinking that he might have been offended is considered racist? Or thinking that he might have insecurities?  Was me thinking that his friends might be the black people living in the apartment at the bottom of the stairs racist? I mean, I didn’t want to assume that, but they have a lot of visitors and most of the other people have moved out for the summer… But the fact that I didn’t suggest that he look at that apartment… was that a good thing? Or did that just mean I wasn’t being helpful? No… probably better I didn’t say anything.  He just seemed so flustered, I wish I could have helped. 

Is this a helpful internal dialogue?  To question my reasons for doing this and how they may or may not have impacted others?  Is doing this going to make me more aware and sensitive or just more likely to overthink things and make them awkward?  I genuinely want to be aware of other people’s feelings and reactions, but I am also aware I can’t control those.  I want to be sensitive without tiptoeing.  For a long time I just did my best to ignore color and race… to view everyone as the same.  But in Gardner’s class we learned that that is basically erasure, which isn’t beneficial either.  So I should recognize race and the potential for prejudice, and then… what?  Also, I know there’s a difference between racist and…what’s the other term… racial?  I need to read more about this.  Maybe the blog world could have some helpful input…

 

 

The Stranger

In Response

It upsets me that I end up crying in church all the time.

It upsets me that Christianity feels so arrogant. And that it condemns a large portion of the world to hell. And that a lot of the time it turns people into projects and checkboxes.  And that God’s sovereignty can be used as an excuse for a whole range of things.  And that the woman at the playground didn’t even care who I was as a person or what I had to say when she handed the Jehovah’s Witness pamphlet to me.

It upsets me that we exist in a broken world but that God hasn’t fixed that yet.  And it upsets me that that increases my doubt and causes me to question his sovereignty, power, and existence.

It upsets me that every image or thought I have about God is tainted by my humanity, and that I am supposed to be able to see him as perfect, when all I have are imperfect people as previous reference points.

It upsets me that I have to try and discern the difference between biblical truth and fiction created by “christian culture.”

It upsets me that I can’t read the Bible without twisting the words or getting stuck on some theological/philosophical issue (e.g. the problem of evil or the interplay of sovereignty and free will).

It upsets me that faith is so difficult.

It upsets me that I don’t understand. And that this can be answered with “well you’re finite so what do you expect.”

Death upsets me.  Seeing my mother-in-law fight for her life for four years only to die after all upsets me.

It upsets me that we are given friends and loved ones only to lose them.  And it upsets me that the sermon today seems to suggest that this is to teach us a lesson. And it upsets me that all of life feels like a lesson to be learned.

It upsets me that I have a friend dying of cancer. And it upsets me that praying seems futile. And my pessimism upsets me.

It upsets me that life isn’t fair.  And it upsets me that I feel guilty for saying that as I live in a free country with a roof over my head.

It upsets me that I am small and insignificant.  And that I don’t feel in control of anything.

It upsets me that sovereignty and manipulation seem interchangeable.  And that I feel like a pawn.

I am upset by the feeling that Christianity promotes self-loathing and low self esteem.

It upsets me that the arguments against Christianity feel so potent.  And that so much can be explained by science and psychology.  Because this makes faith seem even more impossible. And it upsets me that my doubt makes me feel inferior.  And causes me to fear becoming ‘a project’ to my Christian friends.

Empty words upset me.  And hypocrisy.

And it upsets me that sometimes I feel so much anger inside but I don’t know what to do with it.

It upsets me that this list is so long and that it is only the tip of the iceberg.  And it upsets me that it shows my selfishness and my price and my brokenness and my laziness and my need and my misunderstanding.

And it upsets me that numbness feels like a more tolerable way to exist than having to deal with all of these things that upset me.

 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

In response to the opening question of:

what upsets.JPG

In Response

One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying, Perfect People Pleaser

I wish I could make everyone happy.  I really do.  I wish I never disappointed people pleaseranyone, never let them down, always met their expectations.  I wish I never had to feel that drop in my stomach of realizing someone is upset with me, frustrated with me, mad at me.  If I could only be a Perfect People Pleaser

…then what?  I could avoid awkwardness.  I could avoid confrontation.  I could avoid the unpleasantness of conversations I don’t want to have.  I could find my worth in knowing that I am a perfect friend, a perfect wife, a perfect daughter, a perfect student.  I wouldn’t have to confront the fact that I fall short.  And other people wouldn’t have to confront that fact either.  Selfish?  Yes.  But it’s true.

And at the same time, if I was always able to fill all the roles perfectly, would that really be the best situation?

“It is extremely important to be able to make negative assertions.  We must be able to say what is ‘not me’ in order to have a ‘me.’  What we like has no meaning unless we know what we don’t like.  Our yes has no meaning if we never say no.  My chosen profession has no passion is ‘just any one would do.’  Our opinions and thoughts mean very little if there is nothing we disagree with.” (Changes that Heal by Dr. Henry Cloud)

Changes that Heal is a book that I read (most of) during senior year of college (a.k.a my fourth year…having an intentional 5-year program makes labels like ‘senior’ rather confusing haha).  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.  Even if you don’t believe in God, I think it has a TON of really helpful topics about developing boundaries and interacting healthily in relationships.*

The question of people pleasing goes two ways:  What happens when I don’t live up to the desires and expectations of others?  And what happens when they don’t live up to MY desires and expectations?

“Love cannot exist without freedom, and freedom cannot exist without responsibility.  We must own and take responsibility for what is ours, and that includes our disappointment in not getting everything we want from another person.  The disappointment that comes from our loved ones exercising their freedom is our responsibility.  We must deal with it.  This is the only way to keep love alive.”

I have expectations for people in my life: my husband, my friends, my teachers, my family…the barista at the coffee shop.  But they all have freedom, and part of that freedom is freedom to make decisions that will disappoint me, whether they mean to or not.  It is up to me to determine how I will react to that disappointment and to determine what I will do with it.

“This is true even when others’ freedom leads them to sin against us.  The pain we feel is not our fault, but it is our responsibility to deal with it.”

What does it mean to deal with the pain felt?  I think that actually feeling it, processing it, confronting it, accepting it, analyzing it, acknowledging could all be parts of that process.  I also think that having a conversation about it with the person involved could be part of the process too.

A few years ago I went on a trip with a group of people I didn’t know.  We spent 6 weeks together and endured some pretty life-changing experiences together.  We learned a lot about one another and shared some of the deepest parts of ourselves during those weeks. Near the end of the trip one of the girls said something to me that I think I will never forget.  I was hurt in a way that felt irreparable.  But blaming her for that hurt didn’t get me anywhere.  In fact, it kept me from seeing how unintentional the comment was. It kept me from moving on.

On the other side of the coin, in a different friendship, I was constantly tiptoeing around this person’s feelings.  I would do or not do things, say or not say things because of how I thought this person would react.  How they would feel in response.

“If we feel responsible for other people’s feelings, we can no longer make decisions based on what is right (or healthy); we will make decisions based on how others feel about our choices.”  (parenthesis added by me)

And isn’t this so often how we live?  It is for me at least!  Constantly worrying how what I say, do, or choose will cause others to feel.  As if I can CAUSE another person’s feelings.  Yes, I can impact them, but I cannot single-handed MAKE anyone feel anything.  And neither can you.

“Some of you may thing that this approach is mean and insensitive.  Please hear something loud and clear.  We should always be sensitive to others’ feelings about our choices.  But we should never take responsibility for how they feel.” 

Soooo… after that long, rambling post of me trying to process what is my responsibility and what is not…  I think my conclusion is that this, like everything is a balance.  Of course I don’t want to be outright rude, mean, critical, or hateful.  Of course I don’t want to purposefully or maliciously disappoint or hurt others.  However, there will always be times when I am doing the best I can, choosing the options that I feel to be the healthiest, having to say ‘no’ to people… and there will still be conflict.  Relationships are hard.  Having (and maintaining) boundaries is hard.  Recognizing and accepting the boundaries of others is hard.  Especially when it leads to disappointment.  And then humbly accepting the fact that I am imperfect and fall short of what others desire from me and for me is one of the hardest of all.  Well, that, and also knowing where to go from there… what to do next when someone I care about is hurt as a result of something I have done.  How to reconcile without compromising who I am and what I believe.  How to apologize for what I am truly sorry for but not for those thing that are not my responsibility, things not in my yard (to use a phrase from the book).  How to even know what that includes!

Man….life is such a learning process.  Let’s talk about it.  Is there anything you have found particularly helpful related to this?  What are your thoughts on boundaries and responsibility for feelings?  Comment below :)  Let’s chat.

people pleaser2

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

 

*Dr. Henry Cloud is a believer so he tends to relate the concepts in this book back to biblical stories/ideas…that’s why I make the God comment.  I never want people to be taken off guard by things like that (hmm, me taking responsibility for your feelings? Or being sensitive?) …when you go and google it and see the summary thinking I am somehow trying to manipulate or “trick” you into reading a book about God.  (I used to always roll my eyes when things like that would happen.  Or when I would go to a site thinking it was going to be one thing, but finding out it was just a ploy to make money.  So frustrating.  I don’t meant to be that at all.)  It is just genuinely a helpful book.

 

One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying, Perfect People Pleaser

freedom to dream again

So I think this 5 day challenge may actually take me 10 days…

(one) …because who knew watching kids every day was going to leave me absolutely exhausted?! I’m not complaining though.  It’s a wonderful type of exhaustion.  The kind where you know you’ve been doing things, using your muscles, laughing, watching, enjoying, giving yourself.  Chasing neighbor dogs back to their side of the fence, lifting kiddos onto chairs, consoling, reading aloud, playing simon says (and while having the full attention of three little ones (basically impossible) finding out that Simon can’t think of many things to say! ah! where’s my creativity?!).

(two)…and because I am realizing there are a lot of internal barriers making it hard to even do parts of this challenge.  As I tried to do Day 2 I kept unknowingly hitting these walls that would curtail my dreaming.  Walls like:

stings

  • that’s selfish
  • that’s impossible in today’s society
  • what will people say if you do that?
  • that’s not a real job
  • you aren’t talented enough to do that
  • remember last time when that failed
  • someone else is already doing that better than you could
  • you’re lazy for wanting that
  • is that going to make you a “productive member of society”?

And from there I typically end up in a philosophical/existential internal debate questioning the goal of society, the definition of productive, the meaning of life…

I won’t get into all of those tangents now…as I have the rest of my life to explore those things…  However, what I keep finding is that one of the things I most desire is a sense of freedom…And isn’t that what we all want in some capacity?  Freedom to be who we are regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, economic status… freedom of religion, of speech.  Freedom from discrimination and hate. Freedom to pursue our dreams… freedom to HAVE dreams.

Freedom has been on my mind for a while now. I remember in elementary school, when we were sitting in the car outside of the Blockbuster (back when we went to actual stores to rent VHS tapes and DVDs…man, won’t that shock my future children) and I asked my dad a question I had been thinking about for quite a while… I said “Daddy, are we all just God’s puppets?”  And looking back, I think there was a lot more wrapped up in that question than anyone realized, even me.  For over the years that question of freedom kept coming back and it has continued to remain at the core of some of my deepest struggles…my search for meaning, purpose, hope…  It has led to many tearful conversations (with others and with God).  And it’s not just my question.  People have been asking this question for…well…seemingly forever.  The idea comes in numerous forms: fate, destiny, predestination, soul mates. Has this story already been written? Or are we writing it as we go?  The question of time: how past, present, and future interact and impact one another.  Do the characters influence the plot? Or was the script written long ago?  Are there eraser marks?  Can things change?  Or through the precise creation of the characters did the author predestine all that will come to pass?  Trust me, I know these are not new ideas.  And I tend to trip over my own feet when I start wading in them…Do they affect the day-to-day?  Maybe not. But I think they should!  What I believe matters for how I live my life, what I teach my future kids, what I believe, what I value, how I spend my time…doesn’t it??  See, even now I was supposed to be doing this seemingly simple task of answering some questions about my future and I end up on a philosophical/theological tangent…

I know you don’t have all day, so here we go:

Day 2: Clarify Your Vision.

Basically, in the email I received about my second task, I was asked to create a clear vision of what I would want my future to be like… What is there?  Who is there? What is my morning ritual like? What have I stopped doing? What do I do for a living? How much money do I make? How much am I giving away?  How are my core values being realized?

At first I couldn’t think of any answers to these questions besides knowing I want my husband by my side.  I sat staring at a blank piece of paper… I had been so stuck certain questions for so long (“What do you want to be when you grow up? Where are you working after college?  What’s your major?”) that it took me a bit to switch mindsets. However, once I got started I found that I do have things in mind when I think about my ideal future.  They don’t necessarily dictate a “career path” as I kind of hoped they would… but I do think they have helped me to see what I value.  Namely: creativity, learning, and people.  Here’s what days 1 and 2 look like in the scrapbook I created to keep track of this post-college journey:

1b2b6b

Thanks for reading!  and for joining me on this crazy journey called life! :)

Now, I want to hear from you!  What are you passionate about?  Do you have a vision for what you want your life to look like?  How do you balance living in the moment with goals for the future?  Comment or email me. :)  I would love to get to know more about you!

 

freedom to dream again