Monday, October 14, 2013

An Anniversary to Remember

I.

“Let us look forward to the coming anniversaries, with their age and their gray hairs without fear and without depression, trusting and believing that the love we bear each other will be sufficient to make them blessed.”

Samuel Langhorn Clemens to his wife, Olivia “Livy” Langdon

II.

September was full of wedding-related festivities and milestone birthday celebrations

And this:

Lower Twin Lakes - Mammoth Lakes, California



Hiking to the "open pit", which we've affectionately nicknamed "The Bear Cave", above Lower Twin Lakes. 
And before we knew it, it was our anniversary.


How has it already been five years since this?

9/27/2008 - Best day of my life.


We’d wanted to get out of town for the weekend, but after spending the last two weekends in the mountains, we were tired and broke.

So we stayed local and hung out.

It was lovely.

Brunch at Bottega Louie.
Sustenance for our walk around L.A.
Dinner at Black Hogg. I'm pretty sure everything was laced with cocaine. How else can I explain why I'm still fiending for it several weeks later?
That weekend, we didn't worry about whether or not we would ever have children or how we would pay for IVF or if the treatments would actually work for us.

That weekend, we didn't talk about building our family through adoption or when we should begin the process or how everything we ate didn't fit within our new diet.

That weekend, we talked and laughed and explored the city, which is pretty much what we've been doing every day since I dropped him off after class eight years ago.

That weekend, I thought about the beginning, when we had nothing but each other and our dreams.

(So really, we had everything we needed.)

When I think about the beginning, I think about what he said to me all those years ago:

“I know I’m short, I don’t have big muscles, and I have a chip in my front tooth. I know there are way better-looking guys you could be with. I don’t have any money, and I probably won’t have a lot of money down the road. So basically, I don’t have anything to give you, but I do know one thing: I will be the best at loving you.”

I know that Mike is really good at loving me when life is good and everything's going smoothly. But last year he proved he was even better at loving me when life was hard, and everything was falling apart.

There were too many days when he'd come home from work and the house would be a mess, and dinner was nowhere near started, and it was obvious I wasn't going to cook or eat anything. So he would cook - after working a long, hard day and commuting two hours in ungodly traffic - and would get me to eat, and would try his best to spend time with the sick person who'd replaced his wife. 

He was patient and loyal and kind. He stuck with me even after I'd given up on myself.

So that weekend, when I thought about the beginning, I also thought about last year and everything in between. 


Calaveras Big Trees State Park, 2005.

I don't want to relive it again, but I'm glad last year happened. Last year gave us the opportunity to test our mettle. Last year threatened to unravel us, but instead, knit us closer together. Last year made this anniversary feel especially sweet. We did it - we survived last year. We made it to five.

Hallelujah. 

III.

Mike and I had thought we'd be parents by the time we celebrated our five-year anniversary. I don't know why. We just assumed we'd be celebrating this anniversary with little people who looked like us.

We just celebrated five years of marriage, and it's still just us (and Crosby). 


It feels a lot like the beginning, though we are older and have grown-up jobs and more lines on our faces. We no longer have nothing, but we still have our dreams.

I’m not sure what will happen next. I have no answers, and to be honest, sometimes I still get scared. Sometimes I still plead with God to make my version of a happy life come true, the version that includes having babies with Mike right now. And then there are moments of clarity when I realize that my version of a happy life has come true: 

I get to hang out with Mike Fox every day. I am seriously the luckiest girl.

At the top of the waterfall overlooking Lower Twin Lakes.

Happy anniversary, my Mike. Being your girl is the greatest adventure of my life. I love growing old with you.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Bad News

“It’s easy to believe that having a child is as simple as growing tomatoes: you do the right couple things, you take your prenatals and avoid caffeine and nitrates, and the universe hands you a perfect life, right on schedule. But if you've ever tried to grow anything – a tomato plant, a baby, anything – you know it’s more mysterious and more treacherous than that. It turns out that conceiving and carrying a healthy baby is just exactly like a lot of other parts of life: way more out of our control than we prefer to believe. There’s a mystery we tend not to acknowledge until certainty has been ripped out of our clutching hands. And only when certainty is gone do we allow ourselves to bend and open to that terrifying mystery, dark and incomprehensible.”

Excerpt from “Heartbeat” from Bittersweet, by Shauna Niequist

I.

When Mike and I first started trying to have a baby, we were blissfully, hopelessly, prematurely excited. We talked about our future-babies, researched the best strollers, planned our nursery and picked baby names. I stopped drinking caffeine, began taking prenatal vitamins and bought the entire suite of “What to Expect” books.

I was delirious with baby fever.

I was so sure I would be able to get pregnant without much difficulty – never mind that I had had open-heart surgery to repair a congenital heart defect; never mind that I had Graves Disease (a.k.a. hyperthyroidism). Those were minor details.

Even still, doctors ran tests on my “problem areas” to make sure everything was in working order. I passed. They shook my hand and said, “Go forth and procreate!”

(Actually they said, “Have lots of intercourse!”, but I can’t type that without laughing.)

We entered into a cycle of trying and failing, high on the idea that parenthood was tantalizingly close. I spent a small fortune on name-brand pregnancy tests. I justified the splurge, reassuring myself that I wouldn't have to use that many. I was going to get pregnant very soon.

But after several months of trying and boxes of wasted pregnancy tests, I quietly stockpiled generic pregnancy tests, purchasing them en masse when they were on sale. I did not acknowledge the fact that I might need them all. I told myself I was being frugal.

After my sister-in-law announced her pregnancy, the seeds of doubt I’d tried to ignore sprouted into hearty, aggressive weeds.

I knew there was something wrong with me.

II.

If you’re trying to conceive your first child and are relatively healthy, most doctors discourage you from seeking consultation until you've tried for a year. When I told my doctor’s staff about my wildly irregular periods, they scheduled an appointment for me to see him.

I’d only been trying for six months.

During my first appointment, I answered my doctor’s questions as honestly as possible: my periods were sporadic; my diet was indulgent; I exercised by walking Crosby; my stress levels were under control - now. didn't know if my season of binge eating and weeping was relevant, but I mentioned it casually, like I was trying to convince us both that it was no big deal.

My doctor frowned. “That’s a pretty significant event. It was probably very stressful.”

I shook my head, the beginning of a rebuttal on my lips, when he interrupted me.

“My wife and I went through the same thing. Her sister got pregnant several times while we were trying. It was very difficult for us even though we were happy for her. We tried with IVF for four years before we had our daughter.”

Well then. Never mind.

He ordered tests and said he would see me soon.

I was cautiously optimistic during my follow-up appointment. I was going to get some answers, and I wouldn't have to wear a paper gown or put my feet in stirrups to get them. Hallelujah - God's goodness abounds. 

But the answers weren't what I expected.

“You have PCOS - polycystic ovarian syndrome.”

I stared at him hoping I’d misheard.

“It encompasses a wide range of symptoms and side effects, one of which is infertility. Essentially your hormones are imbalanced so you’re not ovulating. Let’s get you on drugs to help you do that.”

He was rather nonchalant about it, like he was a close friend telling me I had broccoli in my teeth. I willed myself not to cry. I remember him saying, “It’s very common” and “Don’t worry – we’ll get you pregnant.” He prescribed Metformin and ordered monthly blood tests.

didn't cry till I got home.

I thought this was bad news, but that’s because I had no idea that more was still coming.

Later, after months of failed attempts, I would cry again after my doctor, puzzled over my abnormal blood work, told me to stop trying to conceive until I saw a hematologist and geneticist.

I would cry again after the hematologist confirmed that I have hemoglobin e, a common mutation that leads to thalassemia and sickle cell disease, among other blood conditions.

I would cry after he told me that there was a chance - if Mike had any blood abnormalities – our children could be born with serious blood disorders ranging from mild to life-threatening. He implied that death was a possibility, and that we should seek genetic counseling to “consider our options”.

I would cry after my doctor told me, after months of taking the maximum allowable dose of fertility drugs, that I would have to see an infertility specialist.

Had I known that I was going to have more reasons to cry, I would've held off till I received the very last of it. I would've stored it up and had one epic cry. And then, after there wasn't a drop of moisture left in my body, I would've poured myself a glass of wine and eaten a pie. Because what else can you do?

III.

The diagnosis itself wasn't bad. Several people attempted to reassure me by saying things like, “I know people with PCOS, and they have tons of kids” or “At least you know, and knowing is half the battle”. Thanks, G.I. Joe.

What hurt the most were the unspoken implications that came with it.

Having PCOS meant parenthood was not something I could plan or decide, that the life I’d imagined for us might never be realized.

I realize now I was too confident, that I somehow believed God would absolutely give me what I wanted based on years of responsible decision-making and really good behavior. Okay mostly good behavior. I mean, if he would give babies out in droves to the stars of Teen Mom, surely there was one for me?

(Yes, I know I was being totally judgy, and that my view of God as a cosmic judge/vending machine/genie is completely inaccurate. But that's just where I was.)

It would take me a few years to get comfortable with the idea that my life could look different, and that different could be good. But I was far from that place when I received my diagnosis. I was freaking out. I was trying to do everything in my power to hold onto the dream life that involved kids at that moment in time.

After hearing my diagnosis, I did what most people would've done: I Googled it. If I educate myself, I can come up with a plan (said Lina when she still thought she had control over her life).

That was a mistake.

I was bombarded with too much information, and all of it scared me. I saw the same symptoms and side effects on every site: infertility, depression, excessive weight gain, hirsutism.

I shut down.
I stopped researching.
I stopped reading the “What to Expect” books.
I stopped taking pregnancy tests.
I stopped thinking about my future-babies.

I fluctuated in and out of mild and deep depression. I denied it, told myself and everyone who asked that I was fine, that I was just really, really sad.

It was a lie I desperately wanted to believe.

I was not fine. My depression strangled my ovaries. I did not ovulate for two years. I thought I was barren, and nothing anyone said – nothing I ate/bought/drank/read/heard – made me feel any better.

Three months ago, my doctor’s office called to tell me I ovulated. I have since ovulated each month, which is, to me, a modern day miracle.

There’s a chance I could get pregnant. There are so many other factors to consider, and even though my ovaries are finally working, there’s no guarantee I could get pregnant. I’m forcing myself to focus on the good news, to revel in this miracle, this tiny victory. For now. We are celebrating, quietly, awaiting the next step, which is to meet with the infertility specialist. We are nervous and cautiously excited. This will be the first appointment we have to attend together. We don’t know what we’ll learn, but for the first time in years, we are daring to hope.

Maybe someday, this picture will be of Mike holding one of our sweet babies.


Dreaming again.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

I.O.U.

I.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
There was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I would shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

“On Turning Ten” – Billy Collins

II.

When I wrote my last blog post, I thought I was fine, that I had emerged from a bleak, mind-numbing couple of months completely intact. Mostly intact.

I thought my career as an emotional black hole was over.
I thought I was done crying and binge-eating pie.
I thought I’d be able to write about my “journey toward parenthood” (for lack of a better phrase) as I was living through it.

Ahh – the folly of the eternal optimist.

Looking back, I can see now that writing about it all as it happened was a stupid idea, but I was naive and optimistic. I really believed my story would end successfully – I was going to get pregnant, and soon. Any day now.

I was so, so wrong.

I told myself I’d successfully survived the worst good news of my life. I told myself that things could only get better from there.

But then I kept getting more bad news.

It wasn't all related to my ovaries, but it was all bad.

My aunt died unexpectedly.
We had to make the difficult decision to re-home our other dog, Gemma.
I was diagnosed with another endocrine disease. (I'm trying to collect them all.)
I was diagnosed with a blood abnormality.
I was put on medication for several months, and when that didn't work, I began taking fertility drugs. This doesn't sound like bad news, but it was to us: fertility drugs make you feel psychotic. And yet month after month, nothing seemed to be working.

Did I mention that my sister-in-law was pregnant and I still wasn't?  I know that’s actually GREAT news, but at the time, it felt like salt in the wound. (Let’s be real–everything felt like salt in the wound.)

I know I could’ve received way worse news. I know that. But at the time, it felt like the universe was conspiring against me to help me build character. (Yes, the universe - nebulae, black holes and galaxies - all of it. I was that overwhelmed.) I was desperate to stop feeling so many emotions all the time. I couldn't take it anymore. Every cell of my body was saturated with anger and frustration and despair and deep, deep longing. I self-medicated using my favorite vices.

You might think I was looking at all of the bad news from a positive light - that in between the tears, I said to myself, this could be great writing material!

That would be an incorrect assumption.

I wasn't thinking about anything. I didn't care about anything.

Case in point – I volunteered to cook the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. On Thanksgiving day, I brought a raw, thawed turkey to my mom’s house and barely glanced at the recipe I’d brought with me. I didn't even bother to read the cooking instructions correctly. I was distracted and apathetic. As a result, I cooked the turkey low and slow for way too long. I basically made turkey jerky. It was awful - the absolute worst thing I've ever tried to make. And yet I didn't care one bit.

I felt numb.

I was lost. I felt like a failure: my body could not do what it was designed to do, something 14-year-old girls could do. Like a bad habit, I replayed that thought over and over again. I was surrounded by friends and family, but I’d never felt so alone. Unless I saw you in real life, you probably didn't know the extent of my anguish. I tried to hide it, tried to be okay, but I didn't have the energy. I was completely shattered inside. I was running on fumes.

I think that’s why God sent you to save me. At that point, I wasn't really talking to Him much. At best, I was grunting in His general direction, but I was mostly not-talking. Like deliberately not-talking.

After reading my last blog post, you reached out to tell me you were sorry.
You reached out to tell me I wasn't alone.
You shared painful, intimate details of loss and longing and sorrow.
You said you were praying for me and thinking of me and hoping for the best.
You listened and didn't try to fix or force me to be optimistic. You just let me be sad.
You texted/emailed/messaged/commented the kindest words.

It took another six months - maybe longer - to feel not-shattered, to slowly pick up the pieces and glue myself back together again. Slowly, methodically - one piece at a time. Your thoughts and prayers and kind words and company got me through each day. 

Thank you for your kindness and generosity. You showed up when I needed you most.

III.

There you have it – my long-winded excuse for why I disappeared so abruptly. It’s kind of lame, but it’s all I've got. Next time I fall off the face of the earth, I’ll make sure it’s because I've done something dramatic – like I've quit my job and have been eating my way through Europe with Mike and Crosby.

There’s a part of me that wants to leave Last Year in the past, to just fill you in on what’s going on now.

But I can’t.


Last Year was awful and horrible and hard. It was a mess. I was a mess. I lost sight of myself and the absolute best part of my life – this guy:
  

But I learned a lot about myself, and because of you, about how to be a good friend to someone who’s stumbling through the darkest nights of his or her life. And maybe – just maybe – what I learned will help one person feel not-so-alone. And so, I will write.

More to come.

Thanks again.

Bean


Monday, May 21, 2012

A hello, and an explanation.

I.


The cure for anything is saltwater: sweat, tears or the sea. Isak Dinesen


II.

Sorry I've been gone. I'm back now.

I had to take a break for a while, and when I say, "I had to", I mean I had no choice because I couldn't stop crying for two months.

Three months ago, on a Saturday morning, my sister-in-law called to tell Mike he was going to be an uncle.

I was sprawled out my bed, lapping up the morning sun, when he shared the news with me.

First reaction: "Oh YAY".
Second reaction: cue waterworks 2012.

I don't think I've gone from zero to sixty/fine to weeping since I was six. I fled to the shower.

I'm pretty sure I peed out of my eyes for a good hour. I cried, brokenhearted, like a small child. As I lathered and rinsed and lathered again, I begged:

"Me too, God--please, me too.

You know this is what I want more than anything right now. Please, God. PLEASE."

I begged, knowing the answer was still no.

I know I should've been happy for my sister-in-law, but at that moment, I felt utterly disappointed it wasn't us sharing that news with her.

I felt insanely jealous.
I felt angry.
I felt betrayed by God.
I felt really, really sad.
I felt barren.

You may be thinking, GAWD, you are dramatic, which would be a true statement. I can be dramatic. It's not like hers was the first pregnancy I'd heard about since Mike and I started trying. Everyone around me seemed to be exploding with children, and I was genuinely happy for them--people who were trying, people who just happened to touch elbows and got pregnant unexpectedly, people who'd been trying for a while and were finally successful.

But I fell apart that day in the shower. I kept thinking, What makes us so different from them? Am I not ready? It's because you know I've got a lot of issues to work out before you entrust me with a child, isn't it? 

I sat in my bathtub and tried to justify my extra long shower by shaving my legs, which was a terrible idea. I couldn't see through the wall of water and ended up cutting the back of my knees. When Mike got off the phone, he was surprised to find me swollen and pruney, drowning in sorrow and salt water. I didn't want to get out of the tub, so he sat outside of it and asked me why I was so sad.

I didn't want to tell him how my heart really felt. I knew it would confirm that I am a terrible, self-centered person, but I also knew I needed to be honest.

So I told him everything I'd said to God.

And because he is my best friend, he just sat with me and listened. He told me he was disappointed, too, and that he was sorry--sorry I was disappointed, sorry we weren't pregnant, sorry I was so, so sad. We clung to each other, or rather, I clung desperately to him--naked in every sense of the word--and cried all over him.

I wish I could tell you that I was fine after that epic cry, that my heart was able to rejoice every time I saw my sister-in-law after that.

I could tell you that, but then I'd be lying.

Instead, I slipped into a season of sadness (a.k.a. S.O.S.). That's my dramatic way of describing the two-month-period when I ate, slept, and cried almost every day. It wasn't like I woke up weeping every day, though some days, that did happen. I felt full of sadness, and being that full of sadness meant there was little to no room for any other emotion. Some days, I woke up and just wanted to go back to sleep. On those days, the sadness felt thick, hot and stifling, like being in a steam room with a bunch of old, naked women. Other days weren't so bad. I was sad, but the sadness felt thin, wispy and damp. I felt lost, but sure-footed enough to keep walking ahead even though I couldn't see an inch in front of me.

I'm a huge believer in giving myself room to feel emotions. I'm sure this sounds strange and overly touchy-feely, but I don't like to rush through them. If I'm sad, then damn it, I want to feel sad. I want to know what it tastes like, what it smells like--I want to become familiar with it, so I can more clearly appreciate what it feels like to be not-sad. Unfortunately, having a full-time job means that I can't wallow in a pool of sadness for weeks on end. I did my best to comfort myself with food and drink. I ate a lot of pie and cheese and chocolate, though not all together. That would taste bad. I didn't even bother to put the pieces of pie on plates. I just ate them right out of the tin. That little act of rebellion made me feel a tiny bit better.

I tried to channel my sadness into writing or reading--activities that seemed more constructive and cathartic--but found that when I sat down to write or read, I just couldn't. I couldn't feel or focus. I couldn't string more than a few words together. I couldn't read more than a few lines. It was exhausting and annoying.

So instead, I watched a LOT of television, ate a lot of pie, and tried my best to keep moving.

I'm grateful that the S.O.S. eventually came to an end. I don't have a secret formula that helped. I think I was just all cried out (does anyone else think of that song by Allure featuring 112?). God also took pity on me and provided me with some perspective and other reasons to celebrate--a dear friend's joyous engagement, another friend's progress in their adoption journey, more new babies. With each day, I noticed that there was more joy floating around in my body than sadness.

Finally.

III.

For some reason, I felt like I couldn't/shouldn't talk about my real feelings about my no-baby situation. Did someone (Emily Post? Miss Manners? Dear Abby?) say it's not okay to talk about how sad you feel when someone else tells you she's pregnant? I'm not sure, but I felt guilty for feeling sad, as though I'm ONLY allowed to feel unselfish joy for everyone else's very fertile wombs.

Is that true though?

I can feel joy and sorrow in the same breath. Both emotions can exist in my body at the same time. If that's true for me, it must be true for others, right?

I'm going to assume the answer is yes--at least for one other person. If that's true, why aren't we more open and honest about our feelings of sadness and disappointment? Why can we talk about being disappointed about not getting our dream job but not about wanting to be dating/engaged/married/pregnant/[insert stage of life]?

The first time someone asked about how I was doing post-S.O.S., I remember thinking, I have a choice: provide a decent, polite, easy-to-digest answer, or be honest.

I'm not good at lying, so I chose to be honest.

I'm glad I did. So many friends shared their own stories of disappointment or regret. Others who didn't have their own stories shared other people's stories. Almost everyone just said, "I'm sorry. That's really sh*tty."

My sentiments exactly.

IV.

I had to give myself space to write about the S.O.S. I wanted to be honest, but I didn't want to hurt anyone--namely my family. I definitely didn't want to write anything I would regret. Time has helped. So have food and booze. Sometimes I still feel sad when my sister-in-law announces another mommy milestone, but I don't cry anymore. I'm mostly happy now and am looking forward to meeting my niece.

I'm still not pregnant. In fact, since my S.O.S., I've survived even more life: not-good news about my womb, a sad goodbye, a death, and in the midst of all that, graduations, bridal showers and more weddings.

But more on all that later.

Sorry I was gone so long. I'm back now.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

daily scribbles :: courage

Click here to read why I scribble every day.

Inspiration:


"When you are born," the golem said softly, "your courage is new and clean. You are brave enough for anything: crawling off of staircases, saying your first words without fearing that someone will think you are foolish, putting strange things in your mouth. But as you get older, your courage attracts gunk and crusty things and dirt and fear and knowing how bad things can get and what pain feels like. By the time you're half-grown, your courage barely moves at all, it's so grunged up with living. So every once in a while, you have to scrub it up and get the works going or else you'll never be brave again. Unfortunately, there are not so many facilities in your world that provide the kind of services we do. So most people go around with grimy machinery, when all it would take is a bit of spit and polish to make them paladins once more, bold knights and true."


Excerpt from The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente. Words embolded by Bean. :)


I.

When we are born into this world, we arrive with a few things no one can take away from us. Every boy and every girl receives the same gifts: a jar and a bottle. Inside the jar is courage--sparkly and fuzzy and electrifying.  And in case you were wondering, courage glows slightly blue. Inside the bottle is hope--fresh, effervescent, smells-like-sunshine hope. Every child instinctively knows what to do with courage and hope. We rub courage liberally all over ourselves and drink deeply from hope and go out into the world to explore and discover and learn and take risks. We are fearless. We know that our jar of courage and bottle of hope are bottomless as long as we keep using them.

As we grow, some of us forget how to use courage, forget how to drink hope. At least that's what happened to me. I stopped using these gifts and began to ration them. For when I really need them, I said.

Foolish Bean.

Courage and hope, unused, dwindle away to nothing.

When I decided to start scribbling every day, I didn't expect to receive any feedback. In fact, I expected to lose blog subscribers and followers because I was rambling aloud.

I was just adding more noise to an already noisy virtual universe.

Blog friends, I was surprised and delighted and humbled to receive responses to the daily scribbles. I have loved the conversations we've had, the parts of your lives you've shared in your responses. Thank you for your texts, phone calls, e-mails, comments and spoken words of encouragement.

My jar of courage and bottle of hope were empty, but you filled them up.

Thank you

For encouraging me to write;
For wanting to have conversations with me;
For sharing your own stories.

II.

If you are running low on courage or hope (or if you're completely out), let me know. I will be your cheer cheerleader.

To those who strive to tell stories through words or sculptures or pictures or movement or song or paintings or movies:

Thank you.

You are courageous for telling your own stories and sharing yourself with a nameless, faceless audience who may or may not like you.

(You might not think that's courageous, but I do.)

Keep on keepin' on.

III.

Do you have a super-secret passion for something--anything--that you're hesitant to pursue? Do you want to open your own bakery or start your own dog-walking business? Write a novel/poem/screen play? Become the next Food Network Star?

Please share!

I could tell try to persuade you to go for it (in way too many words), but I'll let Jon Acuff do the talking. He is the one who inspired me to scribble every day. He is one of my favorite people--my far-away friend and unofficial mentor. (It's unofficial because he doesn't know. Shhh. It's still a secret.)

Also, he is hilarious. Check him out. Be inspired.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Daily Scribbles :: Thin Seasons


Click here to read why I scribble every day.

Inspiration:

"It isn't the great big pleasures that count the most; it's making a great deal out of the little ones."--Jean Webster

I.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm thankful for seasons when life feels uncomfortably full, when I feel I'm stretched thin and am starting to lose my elasticity. It is during those longer, harder days that I see and appreciate all of the good things in my life.

We are entering into this season once more. Work demands more time than it already owns. Life demands more--more time, money, energy, self. I'd like to think that I'm not easily derailed, that I can segue from one season into the next without losing my cool or getting flustered.

But I lost my cool last week. 

I allowed myself to sit in a pool of despair for a few hours. I grumbled at everyone and no one in particular. I splashed around and waited till my toes got pruney. Then I got out.

No use grumbling and crying about things I can't change.

We're trying our best to adjust to work days that bleed into long nights, to eating everything out of our pantry and freezer because our budget is so taut you could bounce quarters off of it. 

We're in a thin season.

Thin seasons force me to assess my priorities and be creative and intentional with my time and resources. Thin seasons remind me to celebrate the little things, like having just enough time to hold hands before going to sleep. Great friends. Peanut butter. Happy dogs. A clean house. 

These things are more than enough. 

II.

Dear God:

Thanks for thin seasons. They remind me to celebrate all of the good things you give me every day. Maybe some day, I won't need thin seasons to remember.

Yours,

Bean

III. 

My friend, Nannette, is determined to focus on the blessings in her life and is sharing her reasons to be grateful each week on her blog. Her determination to focus on the good things has challenged me to focus on the good things in my life, too. 

What are three good things in your life? Here are my three:
  1. Mike Fox. And Crosby and Gemma. And our families. And our dear friends. (I'm going to cheat and count all of those people as one really wonderful blessing.)
  2. The Orange County Public Library
  3. Drinking tea with Mike before bed

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Daily Scribbles :: Regret

Click here to read why I scribble every day.


Inspiration: A shameful memory.


I.

When I first started college, I naively thought I wouldn't allow "the world" to change me. I was going to change the world. I was going to bleed Christ's love all over everyone I met. 

I had never been kissed, never smoked a cigarette and never had a beer. 

College was eye-opening.

It only took a few days for me to realize I was just a girl among men and women. Perhaps "girl" is too generous of a label. I was practically from another planet.

My suite-mates were kind to me, but I felt my "otherness" showing. I wanted to bleed Christ's love all over everyone, but I also wanted to be liked. I didn't want to stick out so much.

Can you imagine my surprise when a boy showed interest? I couldn't believe my good fortune!

His name was Mark. He was charming and funny and cute, and I could not believe he was paying any attention to me. I was in college! A boy was talking to me! He thought I was funny! I was giddy from the attention, but the must-change-the-world-through-love programming could not be overridden. Was he a Christian? I didn't know yet. I was pretty green about boy-girl interactions, but I had enough sense to know that there were a few things you didn't talk about on the first date (or the first few dates, for that matter):
  • Marriage
  • How many kids you want to have
  • Ex-boyfriends
I assumed that personal beliefs fell somewhere on that list, though I wasn't sure where. I knew we would talk about it eventually.

It came too soon for me.

We were on our way to a concert on-campus when he asked if we could stop by his room. While we were there, he asked if I wanted anything to drink. I politely declined. He said, "Don't be shy, Lina--honestly, I have plenty. You're welcome to whatever I have." I told him I didn't drink. He said, "Oh. Do you mind if I do?" I told him I didn't. But I was secretly disappointed. This beautiful man drank alcohol? I felt as though he told me he killed puppies for a living. 

Let me explain.

I was raised to believe that certain things were unquestionably wrong. For example, killing another person. The bible says no, and the law says no. I also believed that there was another list of things you didn't do if you loved God. I like to call this list, "Lifestyle Choices for People Who Love God". If you love God, you wouldn't do these things:

  • Drink alcohol
  • Smoke cigarettes
  • Get tattooed 
  • Get extraneous body piercings
  • Have sex before marriage
(Disclaimer: I am not claiming that this list is Truth. This is just what I believed.)

I actually thought that doing any of the things on this list was bad, like really bad. Not quite up there with murder, but people who loved God didn't do these things. 

Back to Mark.

He could tell something was bothering me and was concerned and attentive. I was sweating profusely. I didn't want to talk about it. I didn't have to. He guessed.

Mark: Does it bother you that I drink?
Me: *nodding dumbly*
Mark: Why does it bother you? Does it offend you? If it offends you, I won't drink around you, or when we're going to hang out.
Me: *looking at my feet and hating him for being so nice*
Mark: Could you please say something?
Me: You don't have to not-drink when I'm around.
Mark: Oh, but it bothers you.
Me: Well, yeah. It's bad.
Mark: Why does it bother you? Is it because of your beliefs?
Me: Yeah. Why do you drink? It's bad for you.
Mark: I like it. It's fun. I really enjoy it.
Me:  I don't think we should hang out anymore.
Mark: What? Why? Because I drink and you don't?
Me: *nodding and avoiding his gaze*
Mark: Well, let me try to understand where you're coming from, because to be honest, I don't see how me drinking alcohol should get in the way of us hanging out. 
Me: Okay.
Mark: Let's say I like artichokes. And I really like artichokes, but you don't. Would that stop you from hanging out with me?
Me: Well no, but that's different.
Mark: How is it different?
Me: Artichokes don't hurt people.

Even after 10 years, I am still terribly embarrassed at how that conversation went. Mark was gracious and kind. He didn't understand me but respected my decision. I really believed that I shouldn't hang out with him--even if we were just friends--because he did things I didn't think were right. And instead of loving him and respecting his lifestyle choice, I decided we couldn't be each others lives.

I was wrong. I was naive. 

I perverted my desire to spread Christ's love by judging people and alienating them. Jesus hung out with hookers and cheats. He didn't treat them differently even though they were doing things He didn't agree with. He just accepted them. I blew my first real chance to show love to someone who didn't know Jesus. 

Instead, I just judged him.

II.

I saw Mark occasionally around campus while I was at UCSD, but I never mustered up the courage to apologize for being judgmental. And hypocritical. And the opposite of loving. I wanted to run up to him and say, "I'm so sorry, Mark. That was totally lame and judgmental of me." But I was ashamed. I also imagined myself running up to him and saying, "Mark! I drink alcohol now!", but I didn't think it would suffice as an apology.

I regret that I missed the opportunity to be friends with a really nice person, to show Christ's love to him simply because God made him. Period. It makes me sad that the only memory he really has of me is telling him we couldn't be friends because he did something I didn't agree with.

Because at the end of the day, who am I to judge him?

III.

I abandoned the list of don'ts a long time ago. It's formulaic. God isn't. I think ditching the list is one of the reasons I'm much better at loving people now. I stopped having ideals about who to love and what it should look like. Instead of seeing what makes us different, God helps me see everything that makes us the same--what makes us human.

IV. 

Mark,

Thanks for loving me where I was at. It was supposed to be the other way around. Sorry I didn't figure it out till it was too late. I regret it.

V.

Have you ever tried to show Christ's love only to fail miserably? Regrets are personal so if you don't want to share, please don't feel pressured. But if you want to share, I'd love to hear from you.