Joy in the Moment

I have always had an appreciation for watching fireworks. There’s just something special about a dark summer sky lit up with bursts of glowing confetti. I love the booming sound that beats against your chest and makes you stop and watch. As a kid, I was in awe of the magnificent displays at Disney, showering the castle with magical bits of sparkling fire. It would remind me that there is beauty in the midst of those hot and humid days. No school, no worries, just glistening lights shooting across a midnight canvas.

I wanted to experience that same sense of wonder that I did as a kid. Recently, I was feeling a little unsteady from all the changes in my life. I was struggling with the turmoil of new transitions and leaning on my faith to settle the worry I wrestled with. I was in need of some stability, yet at the same time, I was craving to be wowed. I wanted something to jump out of the sky and shake me, something to rattle me back into a place where I could plant my feet wherever my heart was wandering.

This past 4th of July, I went to the local high school to watch the fireworks display with a friend. The heat was heavy and thick, but we parked down the street and made our way to the football field, eager to relax and be entertained. The smell of sticky sunscreen mixed with fresh fried dough drifted across the air as we walked laps around the track to pass time. We enjoyed each other’s company, reminiscing and talking about life’s ups and downs.

I had just seen a picture of an older woman looking out into a crowd, possibly watching a show, with her arms folded in front of her and a pleasant smile on her face. She was surrounded by many other people with their cell phones out, snapping pictures and trying to capture that moment through creative lenses and vintage filters. I was struck by this picture because I love keeping memories tucked away in photo albums and getting great shots of a time I want to remember. But this woman inspired me to sit back and actually enjoy a moment in its purity. No new status or clever hashtag, just being present and taking it all in.

I decided that I would put my phone away and only take a few firework photos at the very end. The emails could wait, the texts could be read later. I love watching firework displays, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to practice this mindful habit. I wanted to experience something like this fully and whole heartedly. Yes, I wanted to see it, but more than anything, I wanted to feel it.

As I watched the fireworks dancing through the sky, I saw the view through my own eyes and not through the lense of a camera. I took a deep breath and soaked it all in. I think the most amazing thing for me was just being present and actually seeing my surroundings. I saw parents and kids resting on blankets, huddled together to watch the show, maybe taking time as a family that they normally don’t have the opportunity to do. I saw couples holding hands and walking the track, maybe reflecting in this moment on a summer love they’ll never forget. And I saw people of all ages stop what they were doing to look at the sky.

For those few minutes, it didn’t matter that we had to go back to work tomorrow or study for that test in school. It didn’t matter that the daily grind would still tire us out and the unknown future would still make us weary. There were no deadlines to reach or papers to grade. We were there, we were present, and we were feeling everything that moment was giving us.

I wanted so desperately to find something that would give me hope and assure me that everything would be okay. I was seeking something, anything, that would fill this void of uncertainty. But I think I forgot one thing in this picture, and that is the power of faith. Whether you have faith in God or faith in life in general, I think we can all relate that sometimes we need to give up the reigns and let life take its course. If I spent that night worrying about everything that was weighing me down, I wouldn’t have lifted my eyes to the sky to be present in the moment. I literally wanted the fireworks to shoot out a sign saying, “You’ve got this, Kristie!” And even then, I would probably have said the sign wasn’t specifically for me.

Ironically, I was looking up at the sky and waiting for these massive fireworks to shake me, but it was the stillness of my heart and the gentle peacefulness of the night that moved me. As I watched the fireworks pounding against the dark slate of the sky, I received the message I needed to hear. I closed my eyes and opened my heart to find joy in the moment. I didn’t need to go somewhere I couldn’t find or be someone I couldn’t be. I just needed to be present, and that was a gift that would light the fire within me.

Worthy of a Dream

I love writing because it’s an opportunity for me to connect to people through my words. As I began writing on this blog and continued to write posts, I enjoyed hearing that people felt moved by my stories and felt touched by my writing. I became eager to write and wanted to work on my craft. My goal became to write on this blog so I could express myself while reaching the hearts of others.

And so, the research began. I started participating in writing webinars and reading up on the art of writing. I compiled lists of my favorite authors and writers so I could study their process. I took out books at the library and signed up for online courses so I could learn as much as I could about the industry. While these tasks were meant to inspire me, it actually did the opposite. I started comparing myself to other writers and how well spoken they were, how quickly they got published, how many followers they attracted, how often they wrote a compelling piece, and the list goes on.

I started doubting myself as a writer. I didn’t think I was a good enough writer to even be called a writer. I felt like I shouldn’t even think of myself as a writer because that was a title for people who were real writers. The doubt spiraled and I decided to cut back on writing. I told myself that I would pick up writing once I felt more comfortable. Days, weeks, months passed. I jotted notes down here and there, but told myself I wasn’t ready to write again.

As I look back on this, I realize that I was the one who decided that I was unworthy of being a writer. I didn’t do something I enjoyed for months because I told myself I wasn’t good enough. And I robbed myself of the joy writing brings me because I compared myself to others instead of focusing on myself. I wanted to be a writer and I took that away from myself, simply by believing that I wasn’t worthy of that title.

I think sometimes we get so caught up in knowing what we want but fear traps us into thinking that it won’t happen for us. I had convinced myself that I was unworthy, when in reality, our worth is defined well beyond the things we are good at. I told myself not to write, that my voice wasn’t loud enough or my tone wasn’t clear enough. But those things don’t matter if I don’t even put the words out there at all. What matters is that I enjoy what I am doing, and people feel connected to the stories that I share.

It’s so easy to believe that we aren’t worthy of all the amazing things this life has to offer. Sometimes it makes more sense to think that we are destined to only do what our to do list tells us to, but I promise you that there is a much bigger world out there when we allow ourselves to unapologetically go after what we want. Life becomes that much more grand and colorful when we know that we are worth all the joy and happiness that comes our way!

So whatever goals you have, whatever journey you want to take, know that you are worthy of making all those dreams come true. If you have a dream you want to revisit, write it down and say it out loud. Share it with those close to you so you may be reminded to continue to pursue it. And above all else, remember that you are worth all those dreams coming true.

Real Life and Raw Words

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As I have learned over the past few years of writing and sharing my stories, I have come to find that my style is to write with emotion, connect it to a bigger picture, and tie it together with a bow of hope and inspiration. I began writing for myself but saw that other people resonated with my words, and that was one of the motivating factors in continuing to write these posts.

So, what happens when life gets messy and words get jumbled? What do I do when I want to share positive thoughts and meaningful insights, but feel at a loss for keeping that bow neatly tied, holding my words together in my heart? As my sister suggested, I should write about this too. The experiences I’ve had recently should also be highlighted, because it’s real life too. And if someone else out there can connect to these words, then it is well worth the fear to write it.  

I pause here, as it is hard to put words to pain sometimes, especially when the pain is numbing. While this may seem contradictory, I think it accurately describes these past few weeks. It starts slow, with extra sleeping and a dose of heavy crying, and then it morphs into panic attacks and fast heartbeats. Loading the laundry machine one day, I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. Starting my car one morning, I felt sick to my stomach. The “resting anxiety” was seeping into my skin and choking the air I breathed. It calculated my every move and kept me filled with panic and fear of the unknown.

I became really depressed, not knowing when or where my anxiety would strike. Some people go on high alert, whereas for myself, I shut down. I cancelled plans with people I enjoy spending time with. I skipped meetings I knew I would like to attend. I was paralyzed with fear that my anxiety was a weight too heavy to bear in public, and my depression fed me lies that I couldn’t be helped. I couldn’t taste food or see sunshine or hear laughter. I felt like a walking zombie with no destination.

I wish I could say that something happened and I could point fingers at what triggered these episodes, but I am learning that it doesn’t make these moments any less real. It’s as if I had a reason for the chaos, then it would make sense that it was happening, therefore being acceptable. Unfortunately, the formula isn’t that simple.

I kept telling my family that I was scared. It felt like my medications were failing me and I didn’t recognize myself. I kept trying to grasp onto a thread of trust that I would get through this, but the line kept getting thinner and the boundaries were blurred. I got frustrated with people who didn’t understand my pain and I was furious with myself because I couldn’t explain it. I took the anger out on myself, beating myself up for losing the words that carried my voice. Here I was, writing about being your own mental health advocate, and I couldn’t even identify the body I was living in.

Tears are falling down my face as I write this, feeling the burden of trying to keep up the act that I’ve got it together. I felt selfish for wanting more out of my life than being dictated by the bullies of anxiety and depression. I thought I was crazy for suddenly plummeting to a dark place that was cold and unfamiliar. It seemed like everything I had worked so hard to overcome has come crashing down to the harsh reality of the life I was living.

I don’t want to believe that this is all we are meant to be. I don’t want to accept that the way things are is the way they will always be. I have faith that life changes and we continue to grow, despite all the challenges and setbacks. Just as the sun sets and rises on a new day, there will be another opportunity to revive our heartbeat and begin again. So I sit at my computer, with just my words and my heart, praying we can see that our soul’s journey isn’t finished here, and the light we shine beams on this precious and fragile world.  

 

 

Share Your Story: July 2015

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You hear those sayings, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” And, “You need to think before you speak.” These would play in my mind as I continued to battle depression. I thought the world was cruel and ugly, so I had nothing nice to say. I thought about how people would chit chat and talk nonchalantly about the weather. I thought that was a waste of time. I didn’t want to participate in those conversations because they seemed fake and superficial to me. I felt that not speaking was a better option. I didn’t think I had anything to contribute anyway.

Students would ask me about homework assignments. Friends would want to know what I thought about the latest movie. Leave me alone. I don’t care. But instead I said nothing. I did not feel like conjuring up the effort to have conversations. It was too exhausting. I spoke when spoken to, and participated in class when called on. But as far as I was concerned, I believed being silent was the answer to an unspoken question.

I wanted to shut myself out from people. They talked too much and all I could hear were mumbles and whispers, echoing through my thoughts. I wanted someone to grab me by the shoulders and shake me, yell at me, anything necessary to get me to speak. But I felt like my voice was no longer a part of me. It was swallowed by the depression, another side effect that this illness brought into my life.

There comes a time when you forget what it feels like to say something and have people listen. I was silently screaming at the world. Other people’s happiness bothered me. Don’t you see the world that I see? I hated that I was in so much pain, it made my voice become torn pieces left scattered on the floor for people to walk over. Nothing I said had any meaning, so I chose to say nothing at all.

People started walking out of my life, and I had no words to stop them. Others became concerned, but I couldn’t express myself to convince them I was okay. I let people say hurtful things, and I had nothing to refute their points. Losing my voice was my way of saying that there was actually nothing to say. I didn’t understand my depression and what was going on. There are no words to describe the feeling of not being able to say anything.

It makes me think of how many people suffering from this mental illness have felt like their words do not matter, that their thoughts shouldn’t be spoken. You have to be able to say out loud what you need, to give the world and the people in your life an opportunity to give it to you. I had so much to say, but nothing I wanted to share. By shutting myself out like that, I could not explain what I needed. I wanted people to be mind readers and that’s not fair.

I urge each and every one of you to share your story. It took me a long time to find my voice, and I want to speak out for those who feel silenced. I am learning to articulate my thoughts and feelings and I encourage you to do the same. To a family member, to a private journal, don’t let the words go unsaid. You are worthy of being heard. Know that there are people who will love and cherish what you have to say, if you only give them the chance. Here’s your chance: don’t let it slip away.