Sunday, September 04, 2016

The Theory of Mirrors

Picture Credit to vbagiatis

The bottle slipped through my fingertips and dropped into the salty sea like a bomb. A bomb filled with words that will splinter into the universe, causing far more destruction than any metal and gunpowder cylinder ever could. In her world man wields power through machines. In mine it's only through spoken words. Syllables and rhymes woven together to make something greater than themselves. In her world man uses fire and force to create beasts that will fight their problems for them. Not here.

We use words and words are far more dangerous. Words plant thoughts and ideas and are spread through whispered wisps of sound that move faster and farther than tanks and jets. They carry more weight and cannot be stopped by an ordinary man holding a machine gun or a sword or a grenade. Words are unstoppable once spoken. Like a disease or a cure.

The number of rules I'm breaking by dropping this bottle and it's paper and ink contents are uncountable, immeasurable. But if I chose the right words, if I wove them carefully enough, she may be able to save him from repeating our mistakes. I couldn't bare for her to suffer the same madness that I have. That he has. That we have, possibly over and over again. Every mirror has a different shape, a slightly altered view, but in the end it can only mimic the image in front of it. If this bottle reaches her, every mirror will shatter. In theory. And right now theory is all I have. Words and theories.

How many times have I stood on this very rock and thrown that very bottle? How many waves have crashed against the shore between the last time and this time? How many times have I, has she... found that bottle and read it's contents aloud?

I hope this will be the first time. Her life and her world depend on this being the first time. But when you've only ever known one life, how can you know what happened in other lives? In other times? In other worlds? In other memories? This time has to be different. For their sake. For our sake, I hope this time is different.

I heard them behind me but I didn't bother turning. He yelled for me, no at me. He yelled at me to turn around, to look at him. He needed reassurance. As his army descended on me he was still asking for forgiveness. How dare he.

Just as I knew they would, they spoke the words reserved for those of the wickedest ranks, who break only the most dire of laws. It hurt more than I thought it would. The blood in my veins boiled and my skin was suddenly too tight and there were a million angry bees buzzing in my head, and yet through it all I knew I had made the right decisions. And as their powerful words seeped into every pore and molecule of my self, I made a decision. One that would make things easier on him. Because that's who I am. Who I have always been. Even in death I will be braver than him, more kind, more sure.

I turned, barely able to stand up straight, my hands covering my ears to stop the sound that was already within me. The wind thrashed my midnight hair across my face in waves of darkness and through the strands I met his eyes, now so much duller than my own. The words pouring from his lips slowed, allowing the pain to recede only minimally. Was this on purpose? Did he know what was coming? Suddenly those around him seemed to fall away and once again it was only him and I in our world. Almost like the first time we'd met, only this would be the last time. We both knew it. I couldn't concede and he didn't have the strength to.

I tried to smile through the pain, because it's laugh or cry and I would never leave him with the memory of such a weakness.

"Goodbye," I whispered, knowing my words weren't even audible and in that second he stopped chanting and a single tear slid down his nose. I felt his pain. Our pain. We have an uncanny connection that will ever only be broken by one thing. We both know it. We both knew it from the second we met. Perhaps we should have seen this coming. Seen all of it coming. But we didn't. And now we're faced with the reality of our decisions. Those we made willingly and those we forced upon each other.

With his silence I felt no pain and moved surely to the edge of the rocks. He didn't move to stop me. The coward. And I jumped.

image credit to Neonnote

Sunday, June 19, 2016

To the Man One Row Up and Two Seats Over

To the man one row up and two seats over from me in church this morning, thank you. Thank you for being vulnerable. Thank you for showing the emotions that so many must have been feeling, but so few would show in public.

You don’t know this, but I prayed for you on my way to church this morning. I usually don’t pray before church, but today I felt myself drawn to pray for others that would hear today’s sermon. I know now that you were one of those others. I knew today’s sermon was going to be on how our relationship with our earthly father affects our relationship with our Heavenly Father, and that I’ve had a pretty great example of what fatherly love looks like. So I knew that while the message would be inspiring, because it was Tanya Whitaker giving it, I knew that it wasn’t necessarily going to be for me.

So on my very short drive to church this morning, as I was running very late, I prayed that everyone who was going to be listening would find a connection to Tanya and find some personal understanding and meaning in their own lives, from her lesson. I prayed for all the fathers. And I prayed for those without fathers, regardless of circumstance.

To the man one row up and two seats down, I just want you to know that I don’t know which of those categories you fall into, if any of them. I want you to know that I don’t understand your pain, but I felt it. I want you to know that you were meant to be at that service this morning. And I want you to know that I hope whatever takeaway you have from this morning is a good and lasting one.

You sir, are a stranger to me, but I want you to know that when I saw you cry, I cried with you. I can’t pretend to know anything about you or your circumstances, your past, or your present. But I know that I am thankful to you for serving as a reminder that church isn’t about me and that God does answer prayers. You don’t know it, but you were part of an answered prayer. And I hope that whatever you prayed for at the end of service this morning, is a prayer that God will answer for you.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Because I Deserve It: The Beginning of My Lifestyle Change

Growing up I was never as thin as all my girlfriends. At the time I thought it was because I was just naturally fat and they were just blessed with fast metabolisms. And yes, my metabolism was something I thought about as early as elementary school, because I have never been happy with my body, as far back as I can remember. I remember being in gym class in 5th grade and watching my best friend, thinking how unfair it was that I looked like me and not her. What I didn't realize at the time, or just couldn't quite understand, was that I just had a different body type than a lot of girls my age. I got curvier, much quicker than them and in my mind, that meant I was fat. And I think somewhere along the line, between each diet I attempted and failed, I gave up on myself. Losing weight (that at the time I probably didn't even need to lose) was just too hard and I think subconsciously I thought "Why even bother. I'm gonna be fat forever anyway." Looking back at pictures of myself, I wasn't even fat. I definitely wasn't a size 0 like a lot of my friends were, but I didn't look unhealthy. I look at those pictures now and wonder why in the world, did I feel like such an ogre next to my friends, when clearly, I wasn't? That alone makes me realize how much time I wasted hating myself and my body, for no reason.

Unfortunately, the older I got, the more weight I gained. I guess in that way I became a self-fulfilling prophecy and I just kept gaining. I would diet for a while and then get tired of it and go right back to what I was doing before, and I would gain it all back and then some. It was absolutely exhausting hating myself. It was exhausting measuring every single thing I did and said against what I looked like. It was exhausting being hyper-aware of what I looked like at all times, even when no one else was around. It was exhausting feeling unworthy of every good thing that happened to me, just because of what I thought I looked like on the outside. It was exhausting trying to blend in to my surroundings so that no one had the opportunity to point out my flaws, that I wass already very aware of. My life was exhausting. Mentally and physically.

I wish I could say I knew the exact moment when I decided I had to change, but I don't. I think it's been an accumulation of many different things, over many years two of the biggest being my health and my faith. Now hear me out. This isn't going to get preachy, but I can't tell my weight loss story (or the beginning of it anyway) without talking about my faith.

Anyone who has attended church since childhood has heard about God's amazing love for each of his children. It's something you hear so often that it just becomes a thing you know, but don't necessarily understand. At River Pointe Church I belong to a women's group and often our lessons and talks revolve around the great things that God wants for us. And at some point, thanks to discussions with my girls, I came to the realization that I want to love myself the way that God loves me. And what would that look like if I did?

I realized I didn't know, because I've never loved myself. Because I've never been good enough in my own eyes. God tells us that he loves us as we are, and He wants only the best for us! In order to love myself, I would have to start treating myself right and giving myself the best possible chance. And for me, that meant first and foremost, losing weight. And not to look better, but to FEEL better about myself. To have more energy to get off the couch and go work out. To stop drinking so much on Friday nights and not waking up until 11:00am on Saturday, just to lay around the rest of the day watching tv and feeling guilty about it.

So despite the cost to my bank account, I started Jenny Craig. I did it briefly once in college, but gave up after hitting my first plateau. So I knew it worked for me, I just knew I would have to stick it out longer than I did the first time. I knew that I needed to lose weight as quickly as possible to begin with, and get my journey started, so that I could see results and gain enough momentum and energy to start working in exercise. And that's exactly what I've done. I think for the first time I'm realizing that it's a lifestyle change that I have to make, not just a diet change. It didn't matter how many times I heard that over the years, it's just now almost syncing in.

Posting this for everyone to read is absolutely terrifying. In the past I have prided myself in keeping this weakness a secret. It's one thing for people to see me and know I'm fat, but it's a completely different thing for people to know how much I hated myself and pity me for it. It's easier to act like nothing is wrong than to admit there's a problem. But I've come to realize that being vulnerable is not a bad thing. And it's when you're the most vulnerable that God can begin to change you for the better.

I also have a small (or maybe big) nagging fear in the back of my head that this isn't "it." That this will be just another failed attempt to get healthy and that everyone is just waiting for me to metaphorically fall on my face and gain all the weight back, in which case this post will only serve as evidence in the future of yet another failure. But that's when I remind myself that I have to stop thinking that way and that isn't coming from God. I have to stop waiting for myself to screw up.

In the last 3.5 months I have lost 30lbs and have gone down at least 3 pants sizes. I have more energy, and I feel better, about everything. It's amazing how feeling better about yourself, makes you feel more positively about every aspect of your life. Or at least that's the case for me. These days I don't feel guilty when I spend an evening watching tv because I've already been to the gym that day and worked my butt off. I don't feel bad about eating a cheat meal or two during the week, because I know I can handle it and it won't send over the edge. I'm learning self-control and discipline and most importantly, I'm learning how to treat myself which is translating into loving myself. I'm nowhere near where I need to be, but I am so much further than I have ever been before. And at the end of the day, that's what counts. I'm taking one step at a time and I am changing my own life for the better, because I deserve it.

My most recent comparison. Picture on the right is from today, 30lbs down.

I was 23lbs down in this March picture.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Bad Weeks Can't Last Forever

The last week has been really difficult for me. I was very sick with strep throat and the flu, and then the medication I was on for the strep made me feel even worse. I haven't been able to eat much, was barely able to get out of bed/off the couch from Friday night through Wednesday evening, and I haven't had enough energy to work out, which has made me feel really bad about myself because cardio has become a huge part of my routine in the last couple of months. I missed three days of work, which probably isn't that big of a deal for someone who doesn't have anxiety and/or guilt about letting people down, but I do. I basically felt like I was going to be sick for the rest of my life. Yes, that sounds a little melodramatic now, but I haven't been that sick in a long time and it seriously messed with me. And during all of that, my papap (grandpa), who lives in Pennsylvania, was rushed to the hospital and ended up having a triple bypass. He and my nana are solid rocks of love, faith, and kindness in my life. Chuck and Nancy Neff are the foundation of my family and honestly, to me, have always seemed pretty invincible. I think this really shook our whole family.

I tell you all of that so that you'll better understand why today was a really good day. Not because of anything big, but because of a lot of little things. I got to sleep in and wake up not feeling awful, and then eat breakfast and run errands with my baby sis. I spent most of the afternoon hanging out with my friend's little girls, who are the definition of adorable and spunky! We played outside on the jungle gym, made galaxies in jars (involving a lot of paint and glitter, of course), we watched cartoons, and painted nails and just had a lot of silly fun and laughter. As I was leaving their house my best friend (who is in town right now, but I rarely see because she lives out of state) called and asked if I wanted to meet her for sushi at a new place. We spent a couple hours eating yummy food and talking about life, movies, and books. Okay, mostly books. When I got home I called and talked to my Nana for a bit and got an update on Pap. He's doing really well. He has a lot of therapy and healing ahead of him, but he's doing well! And now I'm just relaxing in a quiet apartment, about to crack open a book and spend the rest of the night doing whatever I want to do while feeling healthy and happy and content.

Last week was bad, but it's going to make this week that much better. I realize having the flu isn't the end of the world, and a bad week for me doesn't even compare to a bad week for some other people, but it made me stop this evening and pray a thankful prayer to God for my health and family and friends. I'm thankful for a good day and a lesson learned: bad weeks can't last forever.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Fig: The Short Story of an Imagined Life

Fig was beginning to think she could write herself out of existence, if only she wished hard enough, said the right words, or thought the right thoughts. The perfect combination was there somewhere, hidden in the quiet places of her mind that she had yet to figure out how to access. What was it that Lydia's mother once said? She could do anything if she just put her mind to it. After having watched Lydia grow up, she thought perhaps it was true for her, and her family, and the rest of the people of the world, but not for her. She was different. She didn't know why, but she was. There was a foggy film around her that kept her isolated from everyone else, except Lydia. And no matter how hard she tried she just couldn't clear the film away. Like a confused ghost it followed her around, demanding to be seen, yet staying just out of focus.

She didn't seem to live and grow as other people did. Though her shell appeared to age as Lydia's did, she never felt any different on the inside. She is today who she was 5 years ago and perhaps 5 before that, and again 5 before that. She wasn't sure how long she had existed but she was fairly sure it could have been forever or never at all, if it weren't for Lydia. When she was with Lydia, she was alive. She was someone who mattered. They were best friends. Fig didn't know a connection outside of Lydia and she was fine with that. It was almost as though without Lydia, Fig didn't exist. Why would she need anyone else?

They spent their mornings at school, and their afternoons at the kitchen table doing homework. Fig never had any, but Lydia always did and often looked to Fig for help. In the chilly evenings they would sit inside the tree house nestled in the old oak behind the house. They'd sit back to back, heads leaning on shoulders, watching fireflies race to and fro. It was innocent and childish and all of the things it should have been. It was magical.

As time went on (a funny thing time is), things began to change. Though it was true that Fig sometimes had trouble telling the difference between one day and another, she very clearly began to see differences in Lydia. The things she cared about changed, as did her need for Fig. It seemed as though the older she got, the less she cared for her, the less she leaned on her. And eventually she stopped talking to her when other people were around. She tried to bring up the subject once but Lydia didn't seem to hear her. That was happening more and more often lately. And fearing she would upset her, Fig let it go, and let it happen. She told herself it was just a phase Lydia was going through.

But it wasn't. Lydia began to ignore Fig to the point that sometimes she wondered if she could even see her at all. She began to wonder if she even existed at all. Had she ever existed? The only person that had ever truly seen her now acted as though she were a mere breeze, alive enough to stir a blade of grass but not strong enough to sway a branch.

Fig's thoughts and feelings, if she even had any anymore, were of no consequence to Lydia. Before she knew what was happening, the the girl that had been her constant companion (or was it Fig that was the companion), was nearly a stranger, giving her just the slightest glance from time to time and nothing more.

With a clarity that surprised her, Fig suddenly understood what had to happen. If she didn't choose to leave, Lydia would banish her (intentionally or otherwise) and that was something Fig didn't think she could bear. So on a snowy winter evening, for the first time in her long (or short) existence, Fig took a step away from Lydia. At first just one, and then two, and then three. Though she grew weaker and once vibrant colors began to fade around the edges of her vision, she continued on, sure of what she had to do. That night she walked herself out of existence. She never found the words, but she finally wished hard enough and thought the thoughts that led to the steps that finally granted her the freedom to exist on her own. If only for a moment.