Sunday, July 17, 2011

Back to Basics


When the foundation is God, the foundation holds strong. When the foundation is anything other than God, everything starts to slip away. How is it that I can fully know this, and yet be blind to it at the same time?

The weekend has been busy, as most of them are. Friday was dinner and the Blue Chip with family, Saturday was some much-needed sleeping in and a concert (was supposed to be two concerts, but we missed the first one accidentally), and today has been church and lunch thus far. Have to take Michael to work shortly and pick him up later. I'm over the trepidation of kids getting drivers' licenses after our first one went through it, so at this point I'm rather hoping he gets his sooner rather than later and gets himself a decent car. He's done his book work for drivers' training, now he needs his permit and his driving time, then he can get the license. Hopefully, by then, he'll have enough money for his first car like Zachary did.

Church was great today. My cousin Erica and her three kids came and met us there, and they all seemed to enjoy it. Hopefully they'll come back again next week. I highly suggest if you live anywhere within an hour, check out Granger Community Church and, if you don't, you can always watch the video or live feed on the website (just click the link). I always feel refreshed when I get a chance to go. Also of note, a couple of very good friends of ours will be getting baptized in a month! They go to the Elkhart Campus, so we'll be traveling there to see the baptism and be there for them to start their new life in Christ together.

I made an Oreo No-Bake dessert, and it's in the refrigerator right now calling my name. I can hear it. "Steeeeephaniiiiiie..." it whispers. Kind of like it's being spoken in Parseltongue and only I can decipher it. I have a compulsion to go to the fridge, pull it out, grab a spoon, and bring it in here to devour all of it while no one else is paying attention.

Aria wants to get her hair cut. *HUGE SIGH* It is so long, and so beautiful. I can understand her desire, because marching band starts next week and she'll be outside in 90+ degrees every day, but I really wish she'd reconsider. Yes, she'll donate it to Locks of Love for those of you who are wondering. I can never get my hair to grow that long again. It was down almost to my rear end when I was 22, and I cut it to my shoulders, and it's never recovered since. I just don't want her to regret her decision when marching band is over and her hair is gone.

Well, I don't have any philosophical jargon to spew today, so I guess I'll cut this short. (See what I did there, with the haircut paragraph and the segue into this one? "Cut this short"? Huh? You see?)

I hope this new week brings everyone great joy, or at least rains less of a poo storm on all of us than it did last week.

Stephanie Jean

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Storm Damage


Last week, we had a day or two of pretty bad storms. High winds, tornado touchdowns, dark skies, rain, sirens everywhere, lightning, hail, plague of locusts. Okay, well, perhaps not the latter, but all the rest of them were certainly present. Our back yard had a huge branch (the size of a tree, really) break off and come within inches of demolishing part of our chain-link fence. Steve and his dad took care of it, and our daughter did a lot of clean up of branches. Our stick pile looks like someone employed deforestation on the 100-Acre-Wood. But it does give me hopes of an excellent bonfire sometime soon. If I get time. Or maybe it'll just keep piling up until it blocks the sun and our A/C won't have to work as hard. Another silver lining, hmm? (By the way, this storm damage picture is NOT of our backyard, it just looked like a good way to demonstrate my meaning today.)

I relaxed for precisely one hour yesterday, laying in the sun in my new (to me) bathing suit over at Uncle Galen's house at the end of the cul-de-sac with Aria. I love the sunshine when I'm doing nothing in it but laying there. I'm finally starting to get a bit of a tan. It takes me forever because if I try to do it for more than a few minutes per side, I burn to a crisp. I've built up my tolerance a bit, it appears. I wish I could get an even tan in the real sun. I'm not about to pay for tanning inside somewhere just to even out my tan. That's like buying bottled water when you can get it out of the tap for free. Oh... wait. I do that.

Anyhow, I digress. The storm damage got me thinking about my life. About life in general, I suppose. Look at all of these cities that have been completely ravaged by storms, typhoons, earthquakes, cyclones. People come together to help out other people. They rebuild after their devastation. And, through their grief and sadness, they make connections and most people who are interviewed later say that it made them stronger. It's no different from our day-to-day lives. We experienced trauma: a break-up, a car accident, the death of a loved one, an infidelity. We grieve, heartily and fiercely. We are wrecked. We are consumed with agony, physical and/or emotional. And then we learn how to rebuild. People come together to help us if we seek them (and sometimes when we don't). We get support. We learn from our mistakes. We learn healthy coping mechanisms, and we learn what to do and what not to do in the future. Storm damage makes us stronger.

I swear, if I get any stronger, I'm going to be unbreakable.

I'm tired of being consumed by my anxieties. Worrying about whether something bad is going to happen has never once prevented it from happening, or made me feel better when it did or did not happen. There's no point in devoting my life to fear of the future, because I'm ruining my present by doing so. I'm halting my own ability to grow and mature by wallowing in self-pity every time something happens that I don't like. I know I'm not the only one who does this, and believe me, I understand the mindset behind it because I've lived this way for so long. But my husband (who, don't tell him I said this, is a wiser person than I) has this Take-It-Day-By-Day outlook that I've never seemed to master. It's Biblical, too -- Jesus taught us to pray for our Daily Bread, right? Not for a feast next week to make us forget all the ramen noodles we have to eat this week. This day's suffering is sufficient for this day, so we shouldn't be concerned about what's going to happen tomorrow. Just get us through THIS day, THIS trial. Help us to find hope and faith and positivity.

And what about a positive outlook? Though I don't believe that praying specifically for something is going to make that something occur if God doesn't want it to occur, I do think there's some merit to remaining positive throughout our trials because positivity breeds positivity, and negativity breeds negativity. If I'm in a bad mood all the time, I'm only going to bring down everyone around me. If, in the midst of my bad mood, I focus on the positives, then not only is it better for the people that surround me, also more positive people will want to BE around me, therein helping to elevate my own mood. Everyone's life becomes cyclical, a self-fulfilling prophecy if you will. And it's all in my choices. If I choose to be negative, wallow in my own self-pity, and live in fear and anxiety each day, then I'm not opening myself up to happiness and therefore, happiness will not find me because I've shut it out. If, instead, I bear whatever burdens the day carries but live with hope in my heart that tomorrow will be better, put a smile on my face and face the world with a "BRING IT ON" attitude, laugh in the face of negativity, and find joy in the good things, no matter how small they are, then I'm allowing happiness to dwell within me. Then it will be much more likely that things will begin to look up.

When I put it like that, it's not really much of a choice, is it? Why would anyone choose to stay negative? I'll grant you, it's easier to stay negative in this world because there are so many others who will tell you (or at least imply to you) that you are not good enough, that you are worthless, that there is no joy, that love is a fairytale, that life is pain. But the world has enough of those people, right? So why be another one?

This is what Jesus meant when he told us to be the light of the world. It's full of darkness already. The people who call themselves "Christians" that are condemning other people, judging them, being hypocritical -- they're not being the light of the world. They're just multiplying the darkness exponentially. The 'salt of the Earth' metaphor applies just as well. Food tastes good with some salt. If you open the saltshaker and dump it on your steak, you've ruined your steak. But a little light, a little salt, here and there... that makes everything better.

There's my pep talk to myself for the day.

Time to rebuild from the storm.

Stephanie Jean

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Unplugged


The house phone is off the hook. My cell phone is on "silent" and turned face-down so I can't see if someone calls, either. I've been reading this morning, some outdoors, some in the bathtub, and some in bed. I can't say the haze is lifted, but I can announce that I see the faint beginnings of a light somewhere far, far at the other end of the proverbial tunnel.

What do I really want? I mean, that's the question, isn't it? Is it fulfillment? Contentment? Joy? Wealth? Success? Fame? Power? Some subtle combination of all of these things? Does anyone ever really get what they want? Or is everyone living in some perpetual haze where, in comparison to what other people have, they're unhappy or disillusioned? If I say I want wealth, that it would solve all of my problems, am I not just fooling myself? Because I've known plenty of wealthy people, and they all have problems. Granted, they're different problems, but they are problems nonetheless. If I say I want fame, will it just end up being grossly overrated if I achieve it, resulting in a lack of privacy and an outlandish disappointment when there are, inevitably, very vocal critics everywhere, both online and in real, day-to-day life? What if I want peace/contentment? Is there any true peace and/or contentment in this life? What if all I really want is to have a baby? If I have a baby, and I can't sleep at night, and I never lose the twenty pounds I already have to lose and the thirty I'll gain when I'm pregnant, and the beautiful little one grows up to be a sociopath? Then what? I mean really, REALLY, what do I want?

I don't know.

That's the simple answer. There are things that I wish for, that I pray for, even. I pray for love and happiness for my family members. I pray for fertility, for a child to raise from birth to adulthood with my husband without having to share said child with any other parent. I want to be out of debt. I want two vehicles with air conditioning, both headlights, no rust, all four hubcaps, no leak in the coolant system, and all wheel bearings intact. I want weight loss and physical fitness. I want to write for a living, and actually MAKE a living at writing. I pray for safety for all my friends and family. I want acknowledgment when I do something well instead of consistent criticism for the things I don't. I want more schooling. I want to spend a month on the beach. I want to live in Las Vegas. I want new furniture.

I want, I want, I want.

Or is the real question, "What is the bare minimum required for me to feel like life is worth living"? Because I obviously already have that, or I would've offed myself a long time ago. So what am I so depressed about? What's my major malfunction? What is keeping me from having a happy life? Stress? Everyone has that. It crosses all caste barriers. Work? There are very few people in this life that don't have to work for a living, and I'm not special enough to be one of them, so I might as well give up the notion that that will ever happen. Infertility? I've not been technically diagnosed, so actually it's the just anxiety produced by my fear of infertility and lack of faith.

Oh... OH... wait, did I just hit on something there? (The sarcasm is completely opaque, isn't it?)

I'm allowing my anxieties to get the best of me. And not just the best of me, but the best of everything and everyone around me. I'm wallowing in fear, stewing in sadness, and drowning in depression because I'm allowing it to happen. It's a choice I'm making, albeit sub- or unconsciously, at every avenue. If I let it continue, I'm never going to be happy. Or fulfilled. Or content. Or any of the other things to which I may (or may not) be aspiring.

Then the real question is, "What am I going to do about this"?

...

...

Hmm.

...

Sigh.


Stephanie Jean

Monday, July 4, 2011

Haze


Greetings.

This will be rather lackluster and depressing, I warn you to begin with, and there won't be a happy ending. It's been awhile since I've felt passionate about anything, hence the serious writing hiatus. I feel like things are falling apart.

"The center does not hold." (--"The Stand", Stephen King)

It's more than a feeling of being overwhelmed, because I'm really not. I have handled everything in stride thus far, I believe. The thickness inside my head makes me feel somewhat insulated, as if I have earplugs in all the time. The haziness makes me feel like there's a cloak of fog covering everything in front of me, and the air is palpable but not pliable. Yet there's this whining, itching, high-pitched, searing, laser-focused pain somewhere inside of me that I can't quiet, can't scratch, can't soothe. It's not physical, it's emotional. Maybe it's spiritual. Maybe it's violently emotional due to a lack of being spiritual. One thing's for sure:

I can't take much more of it.

I find myself filled to the brim with what I deem "incorrect" emotions. Anger, bitterness, resentment, hatred, jealousy, rage, sadness, depression, envy, greed, disappointment, hopelessness. I picture myself as a little lab rat being slowly poisoned in my own environs, spinning aimlessly along on a wheel, frantically racing myself, busying myself, torturing myself by going nowhere at the same time as those who have the upper hand are feeding me various new evils, day by day. Periodically, I feel sentient enough to wonder "is this ever going to end"? before I jump right back on my wheel and pedal my feet vigorously, playing their game.

I hate my job situation.
I hate my physical body.
I hate my lack of ability to do anything with my writing that amounts to a career.
I hate my infertile internal organs.
I hate the drama that surrounds my daily life.
I hate selfish people.
I hate my inability to focus on the positive.
I hate my anxiety.
I hate my constant drowning feeling.
I hate how every time things seem to look up, something crashes down unexpectedly.
I hate that every time the phone rings, I expect bad news.
I hate that I can't look at someone else's baby without crying.
I hate the way pregnant customers hold their belly while they order lattes.
I hate my consumption with rage each time I beg God to be pregnant and I'm not.
I hate when people give me advice on getting pregnant, as if I might not be doing it right.
I hate when people who barely know me nonchalantly say not to worry about it, it'll happen.
I hate when people refer to the kids we have as "Steve's kids" or my "stepkids".
I hate that if I can't get pregnant, it will affect me more than it will my husband.
I hate that I am filled with all this hate.

I am beginning to hate leaving the house. I feel like there's nothing good out there for me anyhow, so why subject myself to the torture? Why keep running on the wheel? Why keep eating the poison? It's all to the same end, is it not? Whether rich or poor, happy or hopelessly depressed, we all die eventually and we all return to the dust from whence we came.

Sporadically, hedonism makes perfect sense to me, but I try to push those feelings down because I know in my heart that what I just said isn't true -- it's not all to the same end. It's in the living. It's how I live my life. It's what I stand for. It's the kind of person I'm supposed to be, not the kind I've become because I'm too lazy to do it right. It's who I believe in. It's not about me, it's about everyone else. It's about surviving this day-to-day crap so that I can appreciate what's at the end of the road more fully.

But all of this knowledge that I have, it's locked up behind a little door in my soul right now. I can walk it like a dog on a leash, bring it out when I need to for the sake of others, but I can't let it run free inside of me. There's something holding it back right now. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there are boundaries inside of me. One of those invisible fences. Sometimes I think I'm on the right track, and something happens to shock me and knock me back a step or two, and I get that sinking feeling again that nothing I do matters, and why should I even try.

I hate it.

I'm pretty sure I warned you at the beginning that this one wouldn't have a happy ending.

Stephanie Jean