Transitioning out of 2017

I’m not a big New Year’s Resolution enthusiast, but I love the coming of a new year with all its symbolism of rebirth and starting fresh. It’s a significant milestone or checkpoint—to look back on a whole year and reflect on what was good, what was hard, and what has changed since the beginning of it. It’s also a useful tool for evaluating what to carry over into a new year, what to discard, and what new themes to incorporate. This is much gentler and more flexible than a rigid “resolution” and therefore less likely to fail you in the long run.

A friend of mine asks God for a word for the coming year—to guide her spiritual journey and give her a focal point throughout the year to help her attend to her soul. My tradition is similar—asking God to help me categorize my year in a theme or two (for instance, 2016 was the year of waiting and of the unknown), then asking what God foresees the theme of my upcoming year to be. It gives me a good idea of what to look for and how to interpret events and my reactions to them.

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The Hierarchy of Want

Advent always gets me thinking about longing, including the many layers of desire inside me. I want a lot of stuff—some material and some immaterial:

  • a new jacket
  • a new computer
  • tickets to Disneyland
  • a graduate degree
  • getting out of credit card debt*
  • uncluttered counters
  • my neighbors to be more considerate in the laundry room
  • my fellow humans to be treated with dignity
  • introvert time
  • to feel loved
  • to actually be loved
  • for my loved ones to feel and be loved

There are so many layers to desire.

I spent most of my life suppressing desire because I had inadvertently learned that it was selfish and ungrateful to want. But over the past 5-6 years, with the help of many therapists (mostly friends, but also one I’ve seen professionally), I’ve been on a mission to discover who I really am, including all the layers of unspoken desire locked inside.

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Married to a Non-Introvert

I am a super-introvert, and my husband definitely is not. Not that he’s an extrovert—that actually might have been easier to adapt to since he would have had a broader social circle to run around with and would have depended on me less for social stimulation. But he’s sorta in the middle of introversion and extroversion which means that he prefers to spend most of his time with one or two of his favorite people. And that almost always includes me.

So, spending time together gives him social energy, while mine becomes depleted (as is the case with all of my social interactions).

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Talk Therapy

I think that we all could benefit from a little professional “talk therapy” in our lives. Some of us could benefit from more than a little. Here’s why:

We are more capable of loving ourselves and our loved ones when we at least know why we sometimes behave insecurely, erratically, defensively, or arrogantly. It’s even more effective when we take that knowledge and do the hard task of working through our shit.

We love our people. And we hurt them because of hang-ups in our distant and not-too-distant past. It’s usually not irreparable damage—the people we love tend to forgive if asked, sometimes even when they aren’t asked. But I’d rather be the kind of person who engages with my loved ones in healthy, helpful ways. If I can help it.

And sometimes our people are the ones who hurt us. Therapy teaches us how to handle the pain they cause us and how to form healthy boundaries so we stop enabling them to hurt us and others.

I don’t want to settle for the unhealthy patterns in my life. If you don’t either, I urge you to give therapy a try. Find someone you feel comfortable with, who accepts your worldview even if they don’t believe it themselves, and whose priority in your conversations is to help you find the ability to thrive in all areas of your life, including your relationships.

May you love well and be loved well.

My Kind of Feminism

One of my earliest memories associated with feminism was a TV commercial that admonished parents to not buy their daughters tea sets but to buy them chemistry sets instead. It was an attempt at shaking up the status quo, to introduce science to little girls who otherwise wouldn’t have thought to ask for it because it had never been modeled for them, and to broaden the career horizons of many young women. That commercial infuriated my mother.

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Meaning What I Sing

I love to sing songs to God in church. Not all songs, certainly, and not all verses/refrains in any particular song. I feel very strongly about meaning what I say, and sometimes I stop singing when I’m not quite sure I’m on board with a line or two in a worship song.

In particular, some songs bring up a lot of tension for me as an introvert. They may have their root in scripture (or they may not), but I have some difficulty singing them if they haven’t been contextualized for our modern day and if they seem rather extroverted on first look.

Verses like:

Shout it, go on and scream it from the mountains, go on and tell it to the masses…

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My Year of Yellow

My life was consumed in my twenties by my ministry job which was devoted to helping people. It was hard but fulfilling work, and I didn’t have a lot of energy, time, or money outside of it to have much of a life or to develop hobbies. My color-coded schedule in my google calendar represented the major categories of my life: blue for work, red for church, green for finances, and yellow for fun. There was very little yellow in my calendar.

So at the end of my twenties I decided to change that.

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Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, by William Bridges

I read Transitions during a stage of life when things were shifting for me in the areas of work and romance. It helped me navigate those shifts and it equipped me with tools to handle even bigger transitions I anticipated for the future. In a nutshell, Transitions helped me freak out way less than I would have without it.

One of my favorite pieces of wisdom from Transitions:

Rule #2: Every transition begins with an ending (we have to let go of the old thing before we can pick up the new). This is difficult, even if we’ve been looking forward to the change, because we find our identity in the old way/role/situation, and now that identity is shifting.

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Silence Says Something

I am terribly ill-equipped to say the right thing when it comes to racial tensions, racial inequality, and racially-motivated killings in the United States. Anything I say will come up short and (as an introvert who takes quite some time to formulate words) too late for the moment it’s needed. So I’ve often opted for silent, private grieving. But silence, although comforting to introverts like me, can be experienced painfully by others.

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Lean Facebook

Facebook is a great tool for connecting with far-away friends and acquaintances. It can also lend itself quite easily to superficiality:

  1. voyeurism without connectivity,
  2. exhibitionism, and
  3. a facade of the “newsworthy” things

The latter is usually comprised of the highlights and occasionally a life-altering lowlight that we are essentially asking prayer (or warm thoughts) for, but not much of the mundane in-between. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because

a) most of us don’t want to be inundated with the minutest details of our friends’ lives, and

b) most of us don’t like our “dirty laundry” or that of others to be constantly aired out online.

The issue is, because Facebook is mostly a conglomeration of good times and best moments of hundreds if not thousands of friends on the newsfeed, it can be very easy to believe that one’s own life pales in comparison to everybody else’s.

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