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When the night’s the darkest, you can see the stars

To say my life has been dark lately would be a gross understatement. It’s literally just been one thing after another after another after another. Like seriously, give. me. a. break. 

And I’m not going to lie to you, I haven’t always dealt with life’s blows gracefully. I sulk, and I lash out, and I recoil. Mostly I sleep and ignore people. That’s my coping mechanism. Say what you will, but it’s healthier (and cheaper) than heroin, right?

In my last blog I tried to describe what it feels like to be “more than just sad” during the holidays. It was hard then, and then things got worse. It’s one thing to lose one person you care about, it’s infinitely worse to be blindsided by the loss of several people.

Without going into a lot of detail (if you’re here to read the latest gossip in the on-going saga of my life, then you’ve come to the wrong place), I got pretty badly hurt. But, it was not by the person who I thought would deliver the most painful blow. Honestly, it was the way everyone else reacted that hurt the most.

The fallout was worse than the initial impact. 
My friends, or people who I thought were my friends, turned their backs on me.
When I needed them the most they were nowhere to be found.

Under the guise of not wanting to get involved, or trying to stay neutral, they all left me high and dry. And that was when I learn a valuable lesson first hand: your boyfriend’s friends are not your friends. I thought due to the fact that my circumstances were different that my outcome would be different. I knew most of them outside of Lucas*. Even if Lucas had never been in the picture, I still would have known these people, and we still would have been friends. So I thought it was different.

It was not different.
When the dust settled, they were not my friends.
They were his.

That’s when I learned a second lesson: when the night is the darkest, you can see thedark2 stars. This works both on a scientific level, with actual stars, but also on a metaphorical level. Right now, while my night is the darkest, the stars in my life are all the more clear. And it’s not always the people who you would expect. There were people who I believed in, who let me down, and there were people that I didn’t really give a second thought to, who have stuck by my side. Life is funny like that. Constantly reminding you that you have no idea what’s going on.

Right now, it’s easy to see the people who really care about me. Because when you care about someone, you don’t skirt around the hard topics, you face them head on. When you care about someone, you don’t avoid them when you think something might be awkward, you walk through that awkwardness with them. When you care about someone you are not just there when it’s easy, you hang around when life gets messy.

These people, my metaphorical stars, have the knack for knowing when to be exactly what I need. They know when to give me tough love, and when to offer gentler advice; when to offer me a distraction, and when to let me wallow a little; when to encourage me to run a 5K, and when to feed me and tell me I’m pretty. They’ve all been incredibly thoughtful and kind to me, even when sometimes I was less than kind and thoughtful in return (read: when I was the worst person to be around).

So in a really strange way, I can already see the bright side of this situation. If nothing else comes from this, at least now I know who is in my corner. It was brought to my attention recently that I had been “burning bridges” with people, which I didn’t for a minute think was true. What had I done to burn any bridges? I wasn’t hateful to anyone, I didn’t even really talk to anyone about what was going on. How could I be burning bridges with people I wasn’t even talking to? But it looks like I was just blissfully unaware. I’ll just say this, if a rumor, or a little awkwardness is enough for you to cut ties with me, then honestly, I’m probably better off without you. I am not currently in a position to be able to tolerate having to question the intentions of everyone around me.

Feel free to divide yourselves up into the categories of STARS and BRIDGES and then react accordinglyI don’t think it will be hard, you know who you are on both sides of the fence. Thank you for continuing to help me figure life out, because you all play your part, some just do it better than others.

*name changed for obvious reasons

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A that’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.

It’s okay to feel sad.pain
It’s okay to feel sad.
It’s okay to feel sad.

I have to keep telling myself this.

It’s okay to feel damaged.
When you care you take that risk of getting bruised.

It doesn’t make you weak to feel insecure and broken.
It doesn’t make you crazy to struggle with reacting to pain.
It doesn’t make you a bad Christian to feel sad. 

It makes you human. To feel these things makes you human. God gave us the full-spectrum of feelings for a reason. Yes, choose joy, but you can also be sad.

I think, for me, I spend so much time worrying about how I’m going to appear to others. Am I too this, or too that? What will people think about me?? This much worse thing happened to so-and-so, do I even have the right to be sad about a problem so inferior in the grand scheme of things?

I had a couple bad experiences this year. Yes, one of them involved a toxic relationship with someone who lied to me and treated me like I  was disposable, but I also had a job I absolutely loved that I tried to resign from because it got tainted and ruined but some bouts of poor leadership and bad decision making. But in comparison to some of the other things my friends went through this year, those two things, even combined, seem so insignificant.

So I try to squash my feelings and distract myself, only for the pain in my heart to intensify.

When it does finally emerge, it’s that much worse.
It’s full-blown depression, instead of sadness.

Depression isn’t always what you see in movies.
It’s not just blue filter to indicate the sad montage of your life.
Usually it’s not even really blue, it’s grey. Blue has too much feeling.

It’s feeling empty.
It’s crying for hours.
It’s not properly eating for weeks.
It’s sleeping for days, or not sleeping at all.
It’s when the things you loved, you don’t love anymore.
It’s making plans you have no intention of following through with and canceling at the last minute. 
It’s telling people you’re fine because you are embarrassed to talk about it.
It’s when nothing is wrong, but really everything is wrong.
It’s a numbness that is hard to explain if you’ve never felt it.

How do you begin to talk about having feelings of depression during the “most wonderful time of the year?” How do you bring it up in the midst of twinkling lights and emotionally charged family dinners without making it sound like you are just an attention seeker? How do you begin to be vulnerable in a world where all people want to do is judge you and make you feel insignificant and roll their eyes at you when you say you’re more than just sad? I can picture people doing it now as they read this. People who I consider my friends, I can vividly see them rolling their eyes at my words. And yeah, it hurts my feelings, but it’s not the end of the world. Some people just won’t understand, and you can’t make them. What seems so insignificant to someone else, could literally be the biggest thing in your world. And you can’t make people get that.

I don’t even get it really, how this happened to me. How can I be mad when someone else, who isn’t feeling what I’m feeling, doesn’t get it?

Why is it easier to share how I’m feeling here in writing available for the whole world to read than it is to talk to my best friends, or my sister, or my mom about it? I think it probably has to do with the veil of protection the internet provides, and absolutely zero to do with those people. I like having the ability to hide when I need to, instead of laying it all out in person. The ability to ignore texts and phone calls (which I will do), and respond in my own time frame and after I’ve had the time to formulate exactly how I want to respond, instead of the required instant response of face-to-face interaction. I also think the backspace key helps. There’s no backspace key in verbal communication, I’ve learned this the hard way.

The truth is I don’t know.
I don’t know why it’s easier to write a blog than have a conversation.
I don’t know how you bring up depression while everyone is singing Christmas carols.
I don’t know how to shut the numb out and just be happy again.

I’ve noticed that my house looks a lot like a college dorm room. Littered with pictures of people and places, instead of real home decor. That’s because I need those picture to remind that there are people who love me. I need those pictures to remind me of those happy moments. Frame after frame serves as a touchstone for me, and right now, that is what I need.

Until I figure it out…until I figure out how to move forward, I guess I’ll just keep being. I know to whom I belong, and I know that I can be restored, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. I’ll keep fighting to be myself, when the darkness threatens to overwhelm me. I’ll keep doing the everyday things that make me me. Trivia nights, Friendsgivings, Clark cuddles and Netflix, Sunday afternoon football, nerdy conversations about Harry Potter and Myers-Briggs, bonfires and s’mores, sarcasm, beach vacations, over-sharing on my blog, and Taylor Swift sing-alongs in my car and shower.

I’ll keep doing it all until the darkness has retreated, and the light is back for good.

***** If you are struggling with depression, you don’t have to struggle alone or stay broken, here are some quick resources, just in case:

•You can learn more about starting therapy here, since pretty much everyone can benefit from talking to a professional.
•You can learn more about depression here.
7 Cups and IMAlive are free, anonymous online text chat services with trained listeners, online therapists, and counselors.
Vent and Paralign are community-based apps where you can express yourself anonymously and connect with people who might be feeling the same way.
•If you need to talk to someone immediately, the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. A list of international suicide hotlines can be found here.

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Hell is empty and all the devils are here.

I hope “the other woman” is never a part of you life.
I hope that you never have to meet her, or hear about her, or think about her.
Because I hope for you, whoever you are, that she doesn’t exist.shakespeare

Because I wouldn’t wish that kind of pain on anyone.

Because that kind of pain is something totally different. It’s an endless labyrinth full of twists and curves, and tunnels that lead you to new kinds of pain every day.

The initial pain is thinking about their whole relationship in your head. How intense is their relationship? How long has this been going on? How did it start? Why did it start? Did she not know? If she did know, why? If she didn’t know, how? Why didn’t he tell her? What did he tell her about you? Did he call you crazy? And trust me, after some time, you will be able to see it all, and then some.

And then it’s the pain of thinking about your own relationship with him. Why doesn’t he love me? Why would he be so cruel? Did he ever love me, did he ever even care at all? Was it a game the whole time?

The pain of realizing that everything he said to you, he was saying to her.
That quiet, soft voice that you thought was reserved only for you, he was also using with her.

The pain of realizing that the same lips he used to kiss you, were also kissing her.
That body that you felt so sure of and so safe with, was also holding her.

And then you feel disgusting and dirty.

The pain of having to imagine them in the same places that you once were yourself: his kitchen, his car, his office, his porch. Anywhere you ever were with him, is now tainted by her.

The pain of knowing you obviously weren’t good enough.
Not pretty enough.
Not smart enough.
Not funny enough.
Not talented enough.
No thoughtful enough.
Not enough.

The pain of wondering what is so wrong with you that he needed someone else.
Then the comparisons start; why is she better than me?

The pain of remembering all the times he excused himself from spending time you, that now you have to wonder if it was to spend time with her. You never wondered before what he was doing when he wasn’t with you, because you assumed that he was working, or hanging out with his other friends, or going to the gym, or doing something else productive to society, you never assumed he was cultivating another romantic relationship. How many stupid lies did you fall for?

The pain of feeling absolutely betrayed.

And then, another darker and worse tunnel leads you down the path of wondering how many other people knew about it and didn’t tell you? How many people saw what was going on, but allowed you to stay oblivious? How ridiculous did you look to those people?

That tunnel is where you meet your new friends embarrassment and humiliation. And you just learn to live with them. Because you were stupid and this is what happens to stupid girls.

You were not different. You were not special. You were just another girl.

(…but the secret is that YOU are special one. You have been all along.)

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#BeachHouse2016: Dauphin Island

Today is our last full day at Dauphin Island, and it’s already making me sad.
It’s been such a good week here. IMG_6511
The only stresser being whether or not we were actually going to make it back to the shore with our paddle-boards (we did make it, for the record, with only minor injuries).
To be totally honest, I was a little apprehensive about coming to Dauphin Island, because normally we go to North Carolina every year, and I wasn’t real excited to change that. I was afraid we were coming to an island with absolutely nothing, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. The water is warmer and clearer here, and there is a pizza place that serves the best pizza, so really I’ve got all I need.

Plus my best friends are here, too.
(Now if only I could get Clark to make a 12 hour trip in the car.) IMG_6539

I’ve spent a lot of time by the water that last few days (the red hue of my skin will vouch for that) and this is a small sample of what I’ve been listening to:

  1. Can’t Stop the Feeling – Justin Timberlake – Single From DreamWorks TROLLS
    “I got that sunshine in my pocket. Got that good song in my feet. I feel that hot blood in my body when it drops. I can’t take my eyes up off it, moving so phenomenally.” 
  2. Heartbeat – Mat Kearney – Just Kids
    “I feel your heart beat, beat, beat beating right next to me. The heat, heat, heat got me feeling like I believe in all the things, baby, that we could be.”
  3. Cake by the Ocean – DNCE – Swway EP
    “You should be rolling with me, you should be rolling with me. You’re a real life fantasy, you’re a real life fantasy. But you’re moving so carefully; let’s start living dangerously.”
  4. Giants – Matt Nathanson – Show Me Your Fangs
    “I’m done trying to fit in, and be half forgiven for things that I never did. We’re more than what scares us, we’re final and fearless.”
  5. Rock Bottom – Hailee Steinfeld – Haiz
    “You hate me now and I feel the same way. You love me now and I feel the same way. We scream and we shout and make up the same day, same day.”
  6. New Orleans – Parachute – Wide Awake
    “We’re runnin’ by the river, the city lights are blazing. She looks like she could fly off, like gravity is failing.”
  7. We Don’t Talk Anymore – Charlie Puth feat. Selena Gomez – Nine Track Mind
    “Every now and then I think you might want me to come show up at your door. But I’m just too afraid that I’ll be wrong.”
  8. Peppermint Ice Cream – Brett Taylor – Highway Jetliner
    “When life gets to moving too fast we kiss and it slows down. We might not know what it’s about, we’re too young to have it figured out.”
  9. The Sound – The 1975 – I Love It When You Sleep…
    “I don’t regret it but I’m glad that we’re through. So don’t you tell me that you ‘just don’t get it’ cause I know you do.”
  10. Dancing in The Dark – Bruce Springsteen – Born in the U.S.A.
    “You sit around getting older, there’s a joke here somewhere and it’s on me. ‘ll shake this world off my shoulders, come on baby this laugh’s on me.”
  11. Love Me Like That – The Knocks feat. Carly Rae Jepsen – 55
    “I hear thunder in the distance, and it hits me in an instant. Crashing through my heart and I’m blown apart, you don’t love me like that.”
  12. Unexpected Love – Matt Wertz – Gun Shy
    “Sun 
    shinin’ in the morning’, midnight, you’re the moon. You’re the tide in the ocean pullin’ me right into you.” 
  13. Blank Space – Taylor Swift – 1989
    “‘Cause we’re young and we’re reckless, we’ll take this way too far. It’ll leave you breathless or with a nasty scar.”
  14. I’m Yours – Alessia Cara – Know-It-All
    “Oh, how rude of you to ruin my miserable, and tell me I’m beautiful. ‘Cause I wasn’t looking for love, no.”
  15. Talk Too Much – COIN – Single
    “Silence is golden, and you’ve got my hopes up. We talk too much. No hesitation, what are we waiting for? We talk too much.”
  16. Something in the Way You Move – Ellie Goulding – Delirium
    “There’s not one thing I can do to change your ways, but I can’t sit back and take the lonely days. When our eyes meet, I can only see the end.”
  17. Get the Girl Back – Hanson – Anthem
    “Tell her she’s your moon and sun. Tell her that she’s always been the one. You’ve gotta say it from the heart ‘cause she will know a fake right from the start.”
  18. One Dance – Drake feat WizKid & Kyle – Views
    “You know you gotta stick by me. Soon as you see the text, reply me. I don’t wanna spend time fighting. We’ve got no time.”
  19. No – Meghan Trainer – Thank You
    “I was in my zone, before you came along, don’t want you to take this personal. Blah, blah, blah, I be like nah to the ah to the no, no, no.”
  20. Don’t Mess With My Girl – Jon McLaughlin – Like Us
    “If you mess with my girl…you leave me with no choice. Imma have to raise my voice get all up in your face. And put you right in your place.”
  21. Bullet – Chelsea Lankes – Chelsea Lankes – EP
    “And I played my favorite song. Turned up the volume and I danced. I didn’t care anymore. I’m better than I’ve ever looked. And boy, I never felt this good.”
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#GratiTuesday: “Six billion souls. And sometimes all you need is one.”

Last Tuesday was the birthday of one of my best friends. We went to dinner and then went bowling. Because we are adults and those are the things we like to do.

Kendall is one of the genuinely kindest people I’ve ever known. Sometimes she’s so kind that it makes me mad. Kendall would literally give you anything she had if you needed it. She would do anything in her power to help you, and she will never turn away a prayer request. (I’m sure there’s been many times when Kendall’s prayers have, unbeknownst to me, intervened on my behalf in crisis times…or really anytime).

She has the sweetest disposition in life, which is why sometimes I can’t figure out what makes her like me so much. The thing about sweet people is that sometimes they are hard to be friends with. Yes, you like them, but you can never actually be friends with them. Kendall is not this way. She is sweet, but also sarcastic and funny. She is sweet, but also relatable.

We tried to calculate the other day how long we had actually been friends, and it was a long time. Approximately like 18-ish years (since fourth grade, but math is hard, so I just started guessing — also, fortunately for all of us, our awkward middle school and elementary school selves were not well photographed). That’s a long time to have someone in your life who’s not attached to you by blood. And I am grateful for every day that I’ve had her. She brightens my life with her humor and blesses my life with her spirit. And I hope there never comes a day when she’s no longer a top-tier member of my life.

Kendall is currently attending The Ramp ministry school in Hamilton, Alabama, and if you’d like to donate to her world-and-heart-changing mission, you can do so here: https://theramp.org/students/index.php. And by donating to her, I promise you, that money won’t be a waste. God has major plans for her. She can lead people in to worship, and that is one of the greatest gifts anyone can have.

I love you, Kendall! Happy #GratiTuesday!

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#GratiTuesday: Evan James

Today is my one and only nephew’s 13th birthday, and today’s GratiTuesday (yesterdays….technicalities) goes out to him.FullSizeRender

To be real honest, I never really know what to do with Evan. He’s a good kid, but he doesn’t like make-up, shoes, or painting his nails, so my aunting skills are basically useless with him.IMG_3004

 

 

 

 

 
The only thing we can agree on is dinosaurs.

He picks on his sisters, but what brother doesn’t? Despite that, I think he is still kind for a 13-year-old boy (and sometimes his sisters deserve it). He makes friends easily and works hard. He can draw and can invent and fabricate things I would never think of trying or creating.

He is the only reason I even contemplate going to baseball games, and he is my favorite outdoorsman.

Happy birthday, Evan. I love you!

 

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#GratiTuesday: Side by side or miles a part, sisters will always be connected by the heart

This week I am grateful for my sister, Stephanie Bradshaw. Her birthday was last week, and this post was supposed to occur then, but as you clearly can see, planning ahead is not my strong suit.

SIMG_1749teph and I grew up in an unconventional family system. As you may know (or not know), we are technically only half-sisters. Not that that has ever really mattered to us, it just means that we had different dads. It never meant that we were any sort of “second rate sisters” or whatever. She grew up with my grandparents in their home with my brother, while I grew up at home with my mom and dad (her mom also, just so we’re clear). I honestly think that’s probably why we get along so well, because we never really had to compete for attention. And I’m sure that 8.5 year (to be exact. I was her half-brithday present) age gap helps in that as well, that meant we were never trying to share friends or make-up or clothing, so there was really nothing to fight about.

I can remember being probably about 6th grade aged and it was the beginning of the school year and my parents didn’t have the money to take me new clothes shopping, and as far as I was concerned that was the end of the world. Because what kind of girls shows up to the first day of school in something she wore to school last year? But Steph took me shopping with her own money and bought me at least two new outfits (one of them included Mary-Kate and Ashley brand electric blue plaid pants). And it was then that I knew I wanted to be like hr when I grew up. Steph is kind, and funny (sometimes the two are mutually exclusive). She thinks of others. She’s a thoughtful, creative writer. And I’m proud that she is my sister. IMG_2557

These days we’re best friends because that 8.5 years didn’t matter so much once we both because adults. Though she does still feed me on occasion because as an adult mother she cooks dinner every night, and as an adult with just a dog I don’t always cook dinner (read: pretty much never).

We like to go to concerts together (namely Taylor Swift, we’ve seen her every time she’s come to the Sprint Center) and we like to go shopping…well I like to go shopping, she probably wouldn’t agree so much on that one. What we can agree on is Cici’s Pizza, we would both eat there literally every day if given the chance.

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Love you, Steph! Happy GratiTuesday!

(Lucky for everyone I’m such a poor planner that I couldn’t find any photos of us as children. I did com across this one from her wedding though! So rejoice, sister! Also you can thank our mother who pretty much took zero photos during my childhood.)

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#GratiTuesday: Bolivar City Fire

Today, and always, I am grateful for my Bolivar City Fire Department family. All of them.

IMG_5377

I know I have blogged about this before, but it’s never going to stop being true, I never in a million years thought I would be working in the fire service. Like, never. The thought never once crossed my mind.

But now, after three years with BCFD, I have no idea who I would be without these people in my life. They have given me so much and enriched my life more than I can quantify. And I don’t just mean the people who work with me at the station…I mean everyone of them, spouses/significant others and children included.

These families have graciously welcomed me into their hearts. I’ve formed friendships with them that I didn’t even know I needed.

And that is what I love so much about BCFD, we truly are a family. And how many people get to say that about the people they work with? I am a lucky girl. It sounds a little exaggerated to say it, but I really believe if I was in distress I could call anyone of the members of our department and they would drop everything to aid me…I’ve seen it happen. And I don’t think there is a single crew who’s family hasn’t welcomed me to a meal (or twelve), and their wives/fiancés/significant others have spent many hours hanging out and talking with me and getting to know me. And that means more to me that I think they’ll ever comprehend. Because being accepted and loved by your work family is not a luxury everyone has, and I feel very fortunate.

I am eternally grateful for their friendships.

Happy GratiTuesday! 

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#GratiTuesday: Alexis Layne

Today is the 12th birthday of my niece, Alexis. And today I am grateful for her.
IMG_5522
She is funny, smart, and creative.
And when I say smart, I mean she’s way smarter than I was at 12. She’s probably way smarter at 12 than I am at 26.
And when I say creative, I mean that she has more creativity in her pinky than I could ever hope to have. She likes to paint and draw and create things.

 
IMG_2036

 
She is also thoughtful and has a mess of feelings. And it’s hard having feelings in middle school. Because middle schoolers are not the most sensitive of creatures. They poke and make fun, and bully. And I spend a lot of time worrying about her.

She’d rather play Minecraft than wash her hair, and I love her for that. Because come on, why wash your hair if you don’t have to?

Happy Birthday, Alexis! And happy GratiTuesday!

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#GratiTuesday: Colossians 3:13

This week I am grateful for forgiveness. I know that sounds cliche, but this is my blog and I’ll be cliche if I want to. And as my bfffff Tara would say, cliches are cliches for a reason.

12301754_10153186971036975_2715205849436186696_nMy gratefulness for forgiveness comes in two primary tangents. First, I am eternally grateful for the forgiveness that comes from my Savior. The guy who knows all my hidden sins and all the bad things I do, but still chooses to call me by name. Christ forgives what I’ve done (and what He already knows I’m going to do) and instead decides to see my potential for what I could be one day.

What kind of life would it be with no hope, which is what I would have without forgiveness? No hope to be better. No hope to be stronger. No hope to be happier, or smarter, or kinder. That wouldn’t be a life I would be interested in living. So I am grateful to be a loved child of the King.

Second-fold: I’m grateful for the forgiveness my friends and family extend to me on a daily basis. I am aware that I am not the easiest person to get along with all the time. I have my selfish moments, and I have my hateful moments, and my ridiculous moments, but my friends and family love me regardless of how bad I mess up. And I mess up a lot, but they always look to see the better parts of me, even on days when those parts are tucked way deep inside.

Without their gracious hearts, and their willingness to forgive my flaws, I would have no one. And I don’t think that’s a life I’d be interested in living either.

So, to my friends and family, thanks for forgiving me, and remembering that I can sometimes be cool, even when I suck.

Happy GratiTuesday! (Even though today is Wednesday. I knew this moment was inevitable. I knew I was bound to miss a Tuesday somewhere along the line…I just thought it’d be further out than week three!)

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