Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Hustle Is Real

The hustle. 

You know what I'm talking about. Hint: not the dance from the 70's.

The rush. The craze. The frenzy. The urgency. The panic in our lives astounds me. We live in a culture of busy. A culture that rewards the hustle. A culture that encourages the mad dash.

We go, go, go, go. We live our lives like sprint runners giving 1000% of our energy into GETTING. IT. DONE. But rather than a short sprint, we do this all day. Every day. Round the clock. 

And you know what? Living in this permanent state of chaos is not sustainable. Americans really don't get that. Other cultures recognize the value of pressing the pause button of life to actually LIVE IT, but we don't. We wish for more hours in a day, we don't wish for more joy in the hours we have. And therefore we are overwhelmed, panicked, stressed, anxious, defeated, exhausted, drained, depressed, or worse: we're just immune to it and numb. Every day we're hustlin'.

I swear… EVERY conversation I have with people is "I've been crazy busy lately." Every other tweet hints at being overwhelmed. I get in this place a lot, don't get me wrong. I do. I totally do. 

But I also need to veg. I need downtime. I need time to do nothing. I need time not to think. Not to dwell. Not to plan. Not to go. I just need to sit and bask in the glorious silence of rest. I need to watch my son laugh. I need to stop what I'm doing and hug my husband. I need to take naps. I need to pray. I need to read.

But when I'm in this place of stopping the hustle, the world still spins around me. I sit back and watch the hustle, and I feel so irresponsible. So inferior. So friggin' lazy. The hustle struggle is so real.

Because no one Instagrams pictures of themselves napping. They post the hustle. They post pictures of MacBooks with cups of coffee… and the comments are all "get it, girl!" This isn't totally wrong, mind you. We need some hustle. I'm all for working hard. Hard work is important. The grit & grind that comes with working hard is part of living a healthy life. 

But at what point is it too much? At what point is the hard work no longer healthy? At what point does the hustle become a black hole that consumes all of our stamina, peace, joy, love, kindness, patience, humility, grace, calmness, energy, and life? At what point does the hustle steal from life rather than add to it?

I think it's the point when the hustle stops being a means to provide and starts being a method to prove yourself.

When you work so hard to buy a beautiful, huge, perfectly decorated open floor plan to prove yourself… rather than providing a peaceful, joyful home with happy healthy children, you've passed that point.

When you schedule your kids in 15 different sports to prove yourself as a parent raising a rockstar jock… rather than providing them quality time & love them no matter what the scoreboard says, you've passed that point.

When you work so into the night to prove yourself to your boss… rather than working hard on that project and working just as hard at loving your family, you've passed that point.

When the hustle becomes solely about making you feel good about you… and you throw your coworkers under the bus to suck up the glory, you've passed that point. 

There is such a fine line between providing and proving that it's virtually invisible. It's so hard to detect. You often don't notice you've passed this line until you're so far past it you don't know how to find your way back.

There is no amount of hustle that will make you feel like you've achieved your goal in proving yourself. Proving yourself is a fleeting feeling. Once you've done that, you'll need to prove yourself again to feel that rush. And again. And again. And you'll blink and be at the end of your life without ever truly living it.

So work hard. Hustle hard. Work very hard at providing for your family. Provide them with food, shelter, clothing, joy, laughter, memories, kindness, guidance, work ethic, boundaries, rest and BALANCE

Please don't hustle so hard that you forget how to smile. Hustle responsibly.



Monday, August 22, 2016

Battle Wounds & Warpaint

Hello God. It's me. Gosh that sounded awfully Adele-ish if she were a worship leader. Oops! But that would be awesome, I will not lie. I kinda am obsessed with love her.

I know I'm no one exceptional. I won't ever be making headlines like Michael Phelps has over the last few weeks. I'm not a champion of anything. You name it--bowling, running, ping pong, a focused mind, weight management, coordination, dancing, crafts--I'm terrible at it. I bomb. I stink. I just outright CANNOT do a lot of things.

I see other people achieving great things. I see Olympic gymnasts slayin' it when I struggle not to trip on air. I see all the supermoms at the PTA Pinteresting so hard, and I'm confident my popsicle stick creation who be a hot mess-house of cards. I see people who never have to work hard at losing a few pounds, but I could starve for 3 days and still gain weight.

I am but one small portion of Your creation with no real extraordinary skills that translate to the worldly definition of success.

I accepted that I would never be an Olympian as a 6 year old because I fell on my keester more than I stood on my feet. I accepted that I will never reign supreme at being the mom's mom who is good at all things Crayola because my creations are more like Crapola. It doesn't matter what I have or haven't eaten, I have always struggled with weight. I always resolve to keep trying because I don't feel comfortable in my own skin. Maybe I'll get there one day. Maybe I won't.

But here's one thing I'm sure of: I want to do something big for You, I always have. I just assumed that my depression disqualified me from working for You. I saw people out there doing amazing things. Great things. Big, big, BIG things. They're bringing thousands of people to know You. They write bestsellers. They travel the world to feed the malnourished and the spiritually hungry. There have been times when my depression has felt like an anchor holding me back from doing big things for You. If I'm being honest, I feel this far more often than not. And I thought I would never do anything big for You. So I thought my worth was less than these people doing big things.

Talk about a load of Crapola.

For a long time I didn't know what it was that I would do for You. I didn't know what You wanted me to do. I do now. I now believe that this depression of mine makes me uniquely qualified to work with the mentally different {see here}; to work with them for You. To help them see their worth. To help them remove the stigma.

Sometimes this messy tearstained face represents my battle wounds, but I'm learning to turn it into my warpaint. I'm going to war against the stigma for people who suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD, or any other mental difference. I'm not skilled in the traditional sense of being skilled, all I have to offer You is my broken heart. I will give every last shard of my broken heart to You and to people who are told to get over it, take a jog, or stop being a drama queen. I love these people without limits. They are Your people, but they are also mine. I will never stop working for them. My broken heart drives me to heal theirs, and my purpose is this cause.

That's better than any bestseller. It doesn't take being KNOWN to work for You. It doesn't take EXPOSURE to help people. You don't want me to wait to start working until I've passed go and have a blue checkmark on my blog's Facebook page. You want me as I am, right now. All you want is my heart, and it's all Yours. And if I use it help one person who is mentally different, that is more than enough, because You love that person enough to know the number of hairs on their head. I get that now.

And to you, dear reader, if you're someone like me who wants to achieve greatness for God, the greatest thing you can ever achieve is to give Him your heart. That is way more than enough.



Thursday, August 18, 2016

It's Not You, It's Them.

I spend a lot of time wishing my brain worked like other people's. I wish it was a normal brain. A mainstream brain. A brain that doesn't over-think everything. A brain that doesn't see as much pain in the world as mine does.

I spend an equally large chunk of my time wishing my heart worked like other people's. I wish it was a normal heart. I wish it was a heart that didn't bleed so much. A heart that didn't break so much. A heart that didn't hurt as much as mine does.

I wish I knew where I began and where my mental illnesses stopped. How much of me is depression? How much of me is C-PTSD? What would life be like without them? What percentage of me wouldn't exist of those issues didn't exist in me? What would I be like? 

I would be so much more confident. So much less obsessive. I would be so much more normal. So much less weird. I would feel so much lighter. I wouldn't feel like my whole body is made out of lead. I would have so much more peace. So much less pain. The self-hate would go away, and maybe, just maybe, I would be level. Stable. Still. Maybe, just maybe, that inner voice that tells me how much the world hates me, would instead tell me how much the world needs me. Maybe I wouldn't feel like a burden to my husband who feels powerless to help me out of the dark place. Maybe I would be more present. Less neurotic. Maybe I would be different… better, even.

Is this you? Do you do this to yourself? Do you also wish you didn't care too much, feel too much, or cry too much? Maybe you have depression. Maybe you have anxiety. This world labels you as mentally ill. And that's a tough pill to swallow, pun intended. You don't want to be mentally ill. The words "mental" and "illness" together are associated with mass shootings, violence, padded rooms, loud screams in some forgotten ward where patients are sedated and restrained. That association is the stigma. And that stigma makes you think even less of yourself. And you don't need any help thinking less of yourself. Am I right?

So let's take those words away for a sec, K? Let's not call you mentally ill. Let's call you mentally different. Isn't that better? "Illness" implies a deficiency, or even brokenness. "Different" implies uniqueness. You are mentally different. Not mainstream. You are special. 

Maybe… just maybe… being mentally different {like you} is not altogether bad. Parts of it are bad, I get that. Believe me, I do. The struggle is bad because it's hard. The hard almost consumes you. Maybe there already has been a close call to the struggle consuming you. Maybe the strugglebus hit you so hard you just wanted to lay there and die. That struggle is a fire that burned slowly and steadily, eating away at parts of you until you almost burned to the ground. 

--But-- maybe that same fire that almost consumed you is exactly what you'll use to light up the world. Maybe you'll set the world on fire with what makes you so unique. 

You'll love people too hard. You'll help people. You'll advocate for causes. You'll create beauty. You'll create art. You'll create history. Your mind will be turbulent, but your works will be mighty. Your heart will break, but the light that shines through the cracks will brighten the world for others. The world will tell you that you are too fragile, but you'll use that tenderness to pour out buckets of love. You won't want anyone to feel that sadness that you feel, so no one will work harder than you to bring joy to the world. There will be times that you need saving, but there will be times that you save the world right back. This world NEEDS people like you. This world NEEDS the mentally different. This world NEEDS people who show up and care too much.

So, when the world tells you that you are defective, high-maintainence, emotional, ridiculous, a burden, a drama-queen, frustrating, maddening, selfish, a whiner, or someone who just wallows…. If this world tells you that you would be better if you'd take up jogging, get a new haircut, eat better, take more vitamins, get out more, or if you'd just suck it up, buttercup… Just remember, it's not you… It's them. You have so many gifts that come with being mentally different--the world just labels you as mentally ill, or a stigmatized outcast. 

It's crazy hard being mentally different, but the world needs you. The mentally different are the poets, the healers, the history makers, the world changers…. If someone tries to tell you that you are defective or broken beyond repair, it's not you, it's them

Note: This post in no way suggests that you shouldn't seek help for mental "differences". This post is solely meant to reduce the stigma of those mental differences. If you are struggling, seek help with a mental health professional. Don't suffer alone so that the fire consumes you.  The national suicide prevention hotline is 1-800-273-TALK. The line is always open.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Gone Girl

I promised myself I would sit down and write something… anything… and press publish today. I've said this several days weeks now, actually. I've been silent because I had nothing to say. Nothing. NOT. ONE. THING.

But I miss you guys. I do. I really, truly do. I really, really, miss my sweet readers who send me so many messages. I love interacting with them and being their friend. Most of my readers have broken hearts, and they tell me all the things. All those things that are tangled up and dark inside. They tell me all the things they are afraid to put out on the Internet for the world to see. In fact, 80% of the communication I receive from my readers begin with "I was scared to comment, but I just had to tell you…." And then they do tell me. And then my heart shatters for them. So many of you are fighting such hard battles, and you feel like no one would listen or care. You feel like you'll be judged. You feel like your problems aren't that big a deal compared to other people's. But you can tell me. Can I just say I am so very sorry that you're hurting? But I'm deeply honored to be helping in whatever small ways I can. 

But lately…. I've had nothing to say. Nothing that is worth your time. Nothing helpful. Nothing worth hearing. Nothing worth reading. Not. One. Dang. Thing. 

I thought I was on solid ground. I thought I was on the upswing from this soul sucking yuck that is depression. I was up and about and greeting the world with enthusiasm. But now… I just feel empty and I do not know why. But if you were to run into me, you would never know it. 

My family went out to eat with some dear friends over the weekend. We got there before they did, and we were chatting with some of the restaurant staff while we were waiting for a table. I'm chatty and smiley with anyone I meet, no matter where I am. In fact, if I am not smiling, a zillion people will ask "what's wrong?" You've heard of resting b**** face? I have resting smile face.

My husband was distracted by watching the Olympics that were on all the big screens around the restaurant, so it was just me making conversation with a waitress and the seating host. We were laughing and having a great time. At least, that's what it would look like from the outside. But inside the thoughts were colliding everywhere: "Just stop talking." "No one wants to hear what you have to say." "They're just being polite." "You may as well go back home where no one has to put up with you." Our buzzer lit up, and one of the waitstaff walked us to our table. As I was walking away, I heard someone say "Well, there goes our entertainment. She is so much fun!" 

FUN? Did they really say FUN? I was feeling a lot of things, but "fun" was not one of them. I was feeling uncomfortable. Anxious. Like a burden. I was feeling like these people had an obligation to be warm and friendly to me because it is their job. 

And this, my friends, is depression. Depression sucks every ounce of life out a person, until they disappear. There is no more color or zest to life, there is just surviving in an exhausting, empty world of yuck. Depression isn't living life, it's existing while life goes on around you. 

You can see someone talking to you, laughing with you, and you can be so happy to be with them… But if that person is depressed? They are not there with you. They are not there at all. They are an empty shell of a puppet acting in a way to fit in with their surroundings. So you can see me, sit with me, hug me, but I am GONE. I am focusing all my energy to APPEAR to be there, but I am not.

Let me just tell you, it's a humdinger of a hootenanny. Good times. NOPE. Not at all.

I knew I had felt off for a week or so prior to this restaurant encounter, but this situation brought to my attention that I am gone again. Just gone. My life was back to being in grayscale, and I had no idea. Sometimes, no matter what I try: more sunshine, more interaction with people, better nutrition, putting on makeup, fixing my hair, and trying to go chase life, I cannot. It feels like my whole body is made of lead as I drown. I can't remember what I like about life. Even the things that used to make me squeal and giggle with delight, no longer do. Even the joyful things are just "meh" to me now. So I decided to make a list to myself from myself… a list from the "there" self to the "gone" self… to remind myself that this life is absolutely worth loving. This is what I came up with.

These lists bring me back. I'm here. I'm here again. I came back from wherever I was. So, that's good. But I've got to tell you, sometimes I get really frustrated at this do-si-do of depression. Always taking steps forward to only end up taking steps back, while going around and around in circles. It's exhausting. 

I feel like I end up erasing all the progress I made every single time I go and come back like this. I end up dazed and confused, and saying to myself "I had all this stuff figured out. I did. Now I know nothing again. WHY?! Seriously. WHY?!" One of the bloggers I follow posted a blog about how He makes us new. Maybe that's what this depression dance is for me. He makes me new in these places of coming back. 

"Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new. 
It's bursting out. Don't you see it?
There it is. I'm making a road through the desert, 
rivers in the badlands."
-Isaiah 43:19 (The Message)

Every single time I come back from being gone, He makes something new out of it. Not just for me. For anyone who I want to help. Staying close to brokenness makes me uniquely qualified to feel the pain other people feel, and just listen. Only listen. Not to talk. Not to teach. Just to lay there with them in the deepest darkest pits of pain and listen. And understand.

Just to be there. And thanks to this newness of returning from the badlands, God has built a road next to me to help them through their desert.

Six people. SIX. Told me that I helped them get through their darkness or asked me to help them through theirs that same weekend that I was standing in that restaurant drowning. Within about 12 hours SIX PEOPLE were helped by my pain that I share from my little corner of the internet. In the midst of me encouraging all those people, I was at my darkest.

I am an encouraging blogger/motivational speaker who is clinically depressed. And maybe it is that depression that is what gives me the ability to encourage. Because from this deep place of brokenness, I have an overwhelming urge to love. Maybe, just maybe, my depression is not a shortcoming, but a gift.