Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Bless Your Heart...

Growing up just a hop, skip and a jump from West Texas, sayings like "y'all," "bless your heart," and "oh my stars," were commonplace. We listened to country music and grew up in a rural setting. In a way, even though we were geographically removed from it, I thought I understood southern charm and southern life.

I had even visited southern areas and watched my fair share of movies set in the south (shout-out to Sweet Home Alabama, which was my favorite for years). But, last August, after deciding to move across the country, my eyes were opened to a whole new world.

For the last six months, as of today, I have called Pensacola, FL my home. Having always loved Florida, I was excited for the adventure, even though I'd never lived anywhere outside my home state of New Mexico. When I announced my decision, I had a great deal of variation in terms of feedback, to most, I was "living the dream," or "taking up the beach lifestyle."

In some ways, they were right. There is a beach (the most beautiful beach I've ever seen in person, I might add), and there is definitely a beach atmosphere in terms of the way people approach life. However, there's also the caveat of this place often being referred to as LA. That's "Lower Alabama" for those of you who don't know, and it's an accurate representation.

I had visited the area, but I couldn't tell you how accurate it was until I actually lived here. Pensacola may be in Florida, but it is definitely down-home southern around here. In my first month, I saw and heard things my New Mexican mind had a hard time computing. 

In true southern form, sometimes you just have to be a little colorful...

From an outsider perspective, here's what I can tell you about the place I now call home.

There are commonplace sayings 'outsiders' have never even heard before. 
Seriously, y'all, there are things I've heard roll off the tongue of some of the locals that no one bats an eye at, while I'm left with my mouth agape, wondering what in the world they meant. Some of them are gems, though, and I plan to pick up as many as I can while I'm here.


The people are nicer than anything movies can express. 
We've all heard about southern charm and southern hospitality (sometimes tongue-in-cheek), but until you've seen it firsthand, there's really no accurate description. In the short time I've been here, I've been invited into people's homes, people talk to you in the grocery store or at a restaurant, I've met my neighbors (something rare in Albuquerque), I've made friends just by sitting down for dinner, my dog has developed an almost cult following in the streets of downtown (I mean, he is pretty cute, but still...), and meeting people wasn't nearly as difficult as I've found it to be in other areas. It's all pretty simple. People talk to you, you talk to them. Conversations and meaningful interactions still matter a lot to people down here, and I love it.

The food...there are hardly words... 
If you're not a fan of pimento cheese, good barbecue, out-of-this-world seafood, the most amazing things put between two slices of bread and called sandwiches, the best fried foods you've ever had, and dishes you didn't even know existed but now can't get enough of, this may not apply to you. But if you are, come to the south, and eat the food. Just do it. You can thank me later.

Even in "Lower Alabama," the beaches are unreal. 
I've heard a handful of people from other (somehow deemed fancier places, which really hams my biscuits...I'm trying to get the hang of the slang) parts of Florida cast a few jabs at Pensacola. And to be honest, when I first got here, I was almost right there with them. But I've been to beaches in other parts of Florida, and I can tell you nothing holds a candle to the Emerald Coast. The white, sandy beaches and emerald waters are a sight to be seen. And best of all, we have options. If you enjoy taking your dogs to the beach, we've got a dog beach. If you want to lounge in a nearly isolated area with a good book and a quiet spot for some thinking, we've got those. If you want a party beach, complete with tiki huts serving your favorite frozen concoctions right on the water, we've got those, too. Maybe that's why we secured the hashtag #upsideofflorida ;)

 Taken just last weekend (yes, you can have a beach day in February)

Mardi Gras is no joke in the south.
In New Mexico, Mardi Gras wasn't really a thing I really to which I paid much attention. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the meaning of Lent and have even gone to a few Ash Wednesday services. But the whole Mardi Gras season was something that pretty much escaped me, at least until Fat Tuesday, when my friends and I would usually meet for a beer. But that was it...pretty much just an excuse to grab a beer on a Tuesday. This year, I was introduced to a new reality, complete with costumes, bead (and moon pie) throwing, crowds, all day champagne brunches, and a slight touch of insanity. If you come down here during Mardi Gras season, at least check it out. It might be a tad much for some people...but trust me, you'll have fun!


Gators and bears, oh my! 
This is not a drill. There are gators and bears. I haven't seen any yet, but just the other day, while checking out potential camping grounds, I noticed the strict rules on bringing dogs to campsites. After doing a little research, I read that gators tend to frequent most campsites. On that note, I'm not sure I want to bring myself camping, let alone the dogs. And bears too...those are scary. 

People who live other places will complain about the humidity for you. 
I can't count the number of people who, when I tell them where I live, tell me how awful the humidity is. I know. I'm living it. The truth of the matter is, you somewhat adjust (okay, not really all the way), and what you can't adjust to, you make it better with a beach day at the aforementioned gorgeous beach. Besides, I have naturally curly hair that doesn't tame anyway. Now I just have an excuse for it to be out of control.

I'm adopting this motto. Consider it adopted.

There's truly no place like the south.
New Mexico is my home, and there is certainly no place like home. I don't mean to say that this place is the best place in the world, but I do mean it when I say this place is unlike anywhere I've seen. There are pros and cons, just like anywhere else, and I most definitely had my adjustment period before I wrote this blog, but there is nowhere else this quirky and amusing, full of life, still focused on the things that matter most–namely people, oozing with southern charm (and some southern hilarity that will make you look at things twice), and welcoming. Also, the beach...I've mentioned how great that place is. All in all, this place somehow manages to combine the feel of a simpler time in terms of the way people interact with one another with all the things you'd need in a city, and somehow also throws in the element of a stunning beach town. 
If you've been dying to check out a slice of southern living and start a new adventure, bite the bullet and give it a try. You might run for the hills screaming when you see that Sweet Home Alabama is a semi-accurate portrayal (it really is, I've found, after watching it three times since I've lived here), or you might just find a whole new world to explore.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Is it November 9th yet?


Having worked in politics for several years and previously having been a political news junkie in what feels like another life, I now cringe when I turn on my television, open social media, or read the news.

Election 2016 feels as though it’s some kind of twisted, sick joke on America. I have remained largely silent in expressing my disgust, because I have felt no need to weigh into the largely appalling discussions.

As the hilarious Kathleen Madigan once said about American Idol, I’ve been treating this like “the jackass game show that it is.” That said, I’ve seen enough in the past week to make me use my words—words I’ve kept mostly to myself and close friends throughout this entire debacle. These words come on the heels of seeing very heated discussions on the pages of my friends.

My two-cents follow. Take them or leave them. I don’t work in politics anymore (thank goodness), and I don’t really want to spark a debate.

We, as the American people, should be enraged right now. Truly, we should be angered that these are the choices set before us. Both of the leading candidates have said and done truly despicable, deplorable and heart-wrenching things. In my opinion, both lack the trustworthy nature we should expect from our leaders. Both are bad choices—terrible choices, even.

We should be enraged by both, and that’s truly the point of this post. I have been most angered by seeing responses to posts, claiming one is worse than the other. People have somehow decided that calling one or the other candidate out on their atrocities is an open endorsement for the other. False. They are both appalling. Truly appalling.  And I believe it is our right to call them out on these situations, without being casted as either liberal or conservative.

My friends, these are not liberal or conservative issues at the heart of this election. They are human issues—issues about how we view, treat, and interact with one another. These are issues that will shape our nation’s future. And this election has served to bring to light some of the most devastating truths about how our nation is full of hatred and lies, how quick we are to devalue anyone on the basis of who they are, and how sickeningly easy it is for people to overlook these harsh realities or excuse them in the name of politics.

I cannot stand by Clinton’s words or actions. I cannot stand by Trump’s words or actions. She is what’s wrong with government, and he is what’s wrong with people in general. It shouldn’t have come to this, but it has. I will leave this post without talking about my voting plans, but I will say this:  we should all be calling out both of them, and we should all be demanding more from our “Presidential Candidates.”

I’m tired of hearing how one deplorable word or action is worse than another. These instances are not jokes. These are paving the way for the future of our nation, and I’m tired of the hatred spewed on posts from friends when one calls out Trump’s heinous words or actions, or when one calls out Clinton’s heinous words or actions. Speak up, freely, and call them both out for what they are. Our nation's future hangs in the balance, with all of the economic and foreign turmoil in the mix. As we were taught from the time we were children, two wrongs don’t make a right. Nor do two wrong and unfit candidates make a presidential election.

Vote. Vote your conscience. Vote your choice. Some of you may well like one of these candidates and fully back them. Some may be voting on the basis of “the lesser of two evils.” Some may be writing in or voting third party. Whatever your choice, I do not blame you for that. In fact, I simply have overlooked most political posts this election season, because this choice on Election Day is breaking my heart.

I expected more, like so many others. I longed for another choice. Yet, here we are. Vote Trump, vote Clinton, write-in, vote third party, or do whatever you feel is right. Whatever you do, just make sure you can stand your choice, and stop attacking others for what they believe. Stop belittling atrocities in the name of supporting your candidate of choice, please. These words and actions on both parties are still awful, and still rightfully deserve to be called as such.

Clinton being terrible does not make Trump less terrible, and vice versa. Stand up for what you believe in and call out evil in all forms—regardless of whether they have a D or an R in front of their name. The next generation is watching, and they deserve to be taught the truths of right and wrong. 

Dear 2016,


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

There's no friend like a brother


On this day (ok it's tomorrow but I'll be on the road then), eighteen years ago, my life changed irrevocably—but definitely for the best. Having been the youngest child for ten years, it was quite the shift when my little brother was born. I went from being the baby to the middle child, but from that day forward, I learned a type of fierce, protective love I hadn't yet experienced and to this day have still found nothing comparable.
 
It was kind of like that at first (ok, so honestly, we have pretty much this exact same picture), but the little guy did grow on me.

On his birthday, I celebrate, because my best friend was brought into this world. But, as I celebrate, I also reflect upon what he means to me. Of course, he is many things to me—my little brother, my tag-along, my friend, my confidante. Over the years, our relationship has grown and changed, but he has always been my constant partner-in-crime, the one with whom I always know I’ll have a good time, and the one who just “gets” me even when I’m saying something off the wall, quoting a movie, or just generally being silly.

I celebrate, because having a little brother means I learned many very important lessons:


Life is unpredictable. Life throws you curves, and situations jump out to meet you in unexpected ways. Never was this more clear in my life than with the addition of a little brother. Whether it was standing in the batter’s box while he learned to pitch and getting hit by a ball or two, not quite catching the toys tossed my direction (when I clearly wasn’t looking), or realizing that I’d never love anyone in the world quite like I love my little brother, life was full of unpredictable moments—some great, some bruise-causing, but you know...all worth it in the end.

There were times I felt this kid's pain. After all, it's unpredictable...

The little moments end up meaning the world. We have a lifetime of small memories. We drove to school together, we bickered off an on, we had inside jokes, we have silly stories—a million small memories. They were passing moments, fleeting moments, but they shaped us with an indestructible bond—and let’s be real, most of them make pretty funny stories these days.

When I think back on our time growing up together, I often remember how, whenever I’d go outside to play basketball, he’d tag along with me. At thirteen, fourteen, and so on, I had no idea how special those moments would become. I had no idea that I’d go from sighing and laughing about him always wanting to hang out with me to wishing we could go shoot nightly baskets again and chat about life. Similarly, each morning on the drive to school, we’d jam out to music. Then, it was just an ordinary day. Now, those are some of my favorite memories—and still some of our favorite songs to sing together.

Tanner was—and always has been—my reminder to cherish and live in the fun of the simple moments. 


 

Someone is always watching you. Leave a good example. Pretty self-explanatory for any big sister. Nonetheless, thanks Tan for always making sure I thought about most decisions and knew you were paying attention. I think it’s safe to say either your presence—or knowing you’d say, do, repeat whatever I did—probably saved me from a lot of trouble.

A little encouragement goes a long way. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been thankful to have my little brother in my life to remind me to look as myself as he views me. Sure, his opinion is biased, but he was my biggest fan when I played sports, he thought I could hit the right notes when I was singing badly to Bon Jovi, and he never relented in telling me how awesome I was. Even now, when I forget my accomplishments, he’s there to remind me and encourage me—something I’ll never be able to fully express the right amount of gratitude for.

Brothers are forever friends. When we were young, we let adventure, silly shows, go-cart rides, and games take us away together. Even with our age difference, we played. We enjoyed each other’s friendship. When I learned a new sport, he learned with me. When he learned football, I learned with him. We were kindred spirits, truly friends from the beginning.

As we’ve grown and we don’t see each other every day, our friendship has only grown and adapted to the distance of our locations. His influence in my life has taught me that no one can be a friend quite like a brother. He’s bravely stepped up to be my defender—even when he was so much smaller. He’s been the one with whom I can cause trouble. He’s been the one who will listen, who will always make me laugh, with whom I can just go for a quiet drive and enjoy the beauty of peaceful silence, with whom I can talk about the truly deep things and problems in life, and with whom I can always be myself. I know that, whatever stage we’re at in life, I can call him or he can call me—and we’ll take it on together.

That’s why I get so excited every June to celebrate his big day. So if you’re lucky enough to be a sister to a little brother, thank your lucky stars. I know I will—not only on his birthday, but especially on his birthday. I will celebrate because my sweet, fun loving favorite little guy has become the young man with unshakable but quiet strength and with a one-of-a-kind zinger sense of humor. I celebrate, because eighteen years ago, I was given the coolest gift—a little brother!

Happy birthday to the coolest, strongest, funniest guy I know, my brother.



Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Society of Entitlement


Someone asked you to dinner, and you said “no.” Or maybe, you didn’t respond at all. They went anyway, and they had fun. Now you feel left out and discarded, especially if they didn’t ask you to hang out the next time.

Someone posted something on Facebook expressing a negative view. You looked, with your mouth agape, thinking “I do that.” You got offended.

As you got busier with life, your friend made new friends. You got jealous. When they reached out to you, you assumed they were doing it out of obligation, and you grew bitter.

Someone went to a cool new restaurant and texted while they were there for you to come join. You think you were an afterthought and pass it up. You feel slighted.

You had loose plans to meet up with someone, but hadn’t set a place or a time. They didn’t text to confirm, but neither did you. You assume they stood you up, and you get angry.

Maybe, someone you care about got a better job, got a promotion, moved to an amazing place, had a milestone in life, found a significant other, had the golden child, has lost weight, or found a new lease on life. Even though you want to be happy for them, you got upset all over again. They have something you want, and you feel like they’re rubbing it in your face.
 
Before I start into an opinion of my own (which will probably offend a few), I want to state that it is not wrong to feel those things. That is human nature, and let’s face it, human nature can be a bit petty. The problem lies not in feeling those things, but in owning them and enforcing them without solid reasoning.

When you give into being offended at the drop of a hat, when you feel like everyone owes you something—be it your time, your effort, whatever—you begin to let entitlement take hold. You begin to lose sight of empathy, self responsibility, and respect for your fellow people. You refuse to put yourself in the other’s shoes. You let anger seep in, and you assume that everyone is trying to personally wrong you. Even the simplest actions on their part begin to feel targeted, and you tighten your grip on feeling as though they are making an effort to make you feel small.

In reality, they’re probably just being happy with their lives, but you look at life through a lens of entitlement and believe it’s personalized to inflict pain and hurt feelings.

That’s when the real danger begins. You lose sight of those gestures that are made out of love or friendship. When they ask you to hang out again, you think it’s out of pity. You think it’s a ploy for something. You assume the worst of everyone. You close off, and you get comfortable in your anger. Then, eventually you are offended by everything someone does or says. Friendships get lost. People drift away, and you get even more set in your bitterness.

It’s a sad reality, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Think for a minute, and wonder what it would be like if we didn’t automatically leech onto that sense of entitlement. What if, for a moment, we considered that we’re all busy adults? What if we took hold of the reality that we had responsibilities to keep in touch as well? What if we realized that, sometimes, letting go of stubbornness and accepting invitations—even last minute ones—might turn out to be fun? And, what if we found a little forgiveness for one another and realized that, while we might differ on things, it’s okay to voice what we believe?

If we took hold of that responsibility and the realization that not every move is a personal attack (let’s be honest here, very little of us have the time in this fast-paced world to place time and effort into personally making someone else feel offended or slighted), we would be happier. We’d be more easy going. We would be the adults we claim to be.  We would give our friends, family members, and loved ones the empathy that we all need to be shown. And, we’d start to understand that the ways in which most situations unfold depends on us.

For example, if you’d like to go to dinner with someone, maybe you should have texted them. If you’d like to be friends with someone, make time for them. If you want people to be happy for you when good things happen, make the effort to be happy for them. If you want something, ask. If someone says something you don’t agree with, either speak up or don’t but don’t take it personally. Don’t always assume it’s their responsibility to make you feel good or wanted or needed. After all, the old saying goes “you don’t get anything you don’t ask for…and only half of what you do.”

I’m not saying we need to just sit back and take being wronged repeatedly or that we need to become doormats. I’m simply stating that the entitlement has to find some sort of end. We need to take a step back and review situations. If we could have done something to avoid a tense or angry situation but chose to take another’s actions for outright personal attacks without even giving the person so much as a chance to explain, we might bear some of the blame.

Simply, we need to start taking responsibility for our own actions, and stepping up to the plate away from entitled behavior. The world owes you nothing. You owe it to yourself to remember that. 

P.S. If you thought this blog was about you, it probably was. Kidding, but here's a little music to go along with that thought...  

You're so vain, you probably thought this blog was about you...
 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

"I don’t know why, but I'm just grumpy."


Recently, I visited Florida to see my family, and I had the amazing opportunity to surround myself with my two incredible nieces. During one of the days I was visiting, my youngest niece, who is two, hit a bump in the road—it seemed miniscule to me, but it was HUGE to her.



She’s a big girl, and got over it after crying it out for a few minutes. But, later on (maybe about half an hour later), she frowned at me, and said words that spoke to my soul.



“I’m grumpy. I don’t know why, but I'm just grumpy.”


Sandra Boynton gets it (excerpt from her book "Happy Hippo, Angry Duck"), and I get it. 
This week, I feel myself identifying with that statement more than any time in recent history. It’s been a difficult week. There’s really no way around that fact.



Honestly, today has been what I would call a bad day. In the midst of this “bad day,” it seemed that there was bad news everywhere I turned. Around me, people were sick, angry, stressed, overwhelmed, and the works.



I felt the same—spread too thin, with very little control over the situations at hand.



Needing a break, I set out for lunch with the company of my dog, in the security and sanctuary of my own home. Despite my best efforts—and the help of a coffee and protein shake—I couldn’t shake my mood.



The day, it seemed, was wrecked. Finally convincing myself that I would get through all of the different situations life was throwing at me, I got back into my car to finish my day.



“There are never enough hours in the day,” I said, letting out a sigh as I drove down the street.



Sitting at a stoplight, I got probably the only message I needed to turn my grumpy mood into one of humility. Awakening to the reality that it’s not a “bad day,” I glanced to the right and watched a family, all clad in black, walking toward the funeral home.



That’s when it hit me:  there are never enough hours in this life, so we had better make each one count.



In an instant, I was reminded that days aren’t really “bad;” they’re simply a chance for us to turn things around, to grow and to learn, and to move forward.



More than that, though, each day is something we’re given—a chance to make connections with other people, to create something lasting, to take part in the things that make us come alive, to give, to laugh, and importantly to live in the moment.


Yes, sometimes, the moments are unpleasant, but pleasant things also exist in those moments.

As if on cue, shortly after I experienced all of this, I got an email from my sister, containing a video of my youngest niece (who clearly beat her case of the grumpiness long before I did) laughing with reckless abandon.



And, just like that, I was reminded that our moments are fleeting, and we have the power to choose whether we look for the pleasant parts or focus on the not-so-pleasant, stressful, angry parts of the day.



After all, the stress will still be there another time, as will the opportunity to get sucked into the senseless grumpiness. The opportunity to be present in the moment, looking for the joys of life is something we’re not promised. We’re not promised tomorrow, so, instead of settling for a “bad day,” we should celebrate those pleasant gems planted in the midst of the difficult days and weeks.



In case you need a little help finding those bright spots, just like I did, here’s a sneak peek at the simple beauty that exists in today:

video

Friday, January 29, 2016

What is love?

In honor of the upcoming “month of love,” February, I’ve been pondering the subject of love. While it’s no secret that some love Valentine’s Day, and some hate it (both with equal passion), I personally believe there’s nothing wrong with celebrating a month of love—be it love of family, friends, or a significant other. Yes, Valentine’s Day is typically celebrating romantic love—and I adore that notion—but our lives are spent surrounded by loved ones, all who deserve celebrating.

Hate all you want, but it's a special day! 

But, prior to the celebrating of love, I think it’s important to address just what love is. I’m not on groundbreaking subject matter, here. It’s a question that poets, songwriters, novelists and more have been exploring for centuries.

And, for those of us who have grown up in the millennial age, we have had a number of things thrust before our eye, painting the picture of love. We grew up on Disney movies, in which women sang to woodland creatures and got kissed in forests by strangers and lived “happily ever after.” That’s not real love (also, we should be kind of grateful it’s not. If you’ve never stood in a budgee cage of birds, do it, and you’ll realize it’s not that glamorous to be a Disney princess. Additionally, how weird would it be if some random dude came over and smacked a kiss on your lips in the woods or anywhere, really—especially if you were in Snow White or Sleeping Beauty’s shoes! That’s a lawsuit. That’s not love).

We’ve seen rom-com after rom-com, and we’ve heard every bit of love—tainted, tortured, blissful, forgotten, unrequited, forever, etc.—on the radio for all of our lives. We’ve heard of love, we’ve felt love, but what love truly is remains a debated concept. While I am a romantic at heart and one who genuinely enjoys sappy love songs, poetry, movies, and books, I also live in the real world—where love is a little different, thus why I feel this concept warrants a blog post.

As I sat down to write down all of my thoughts, I played through several of my favorite love songs. While “Bad Romance” wouldn’t quite suffice, I did find some gems on my iPod. In my search for the perfect love song, I’ve come across many that tell the story well, but I think many lose the full picture. Perhaps the most perfect illustration of love I’ve found is in a Celine Dion song, which albeit cheesy, is a great example of love.



However, my main issue with this song is that it only portrays one side of love.

“You were my strength when I was weak,
You were my voice when I couldn’t speak,
You were my eyes when I couldn’t see,
You saw the best there was in me,
Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach,
You gave me faith ‘cause you believed…”
-Celine Dion “Because You Loved Me”

Definitely, those are all statements that ring true to me. In life, we all have moments when we need the strength of the one we love, we need their love to carry us through to the other side of whatever we may be facing. Yet, true love is the reciprocation of those instances.

Yes, you were my strength when I was weak—but you trusted me enough to be your strength when you were weak.

With the reciprocation and trust mixed in, this is perhaps, my most treasured song about love. Nonetheless, this is the love of luster—the type that is portrayed in music, film, literature, and the likes. This is not the everyday type of ordinary love that can make life so extraordinary.

Thus, in the search for “what is love,” we must look deeper beyond the lyrical perceptions of such a complex emotion. Certainly, Pink’s “True Love” gives us a real-life view, but I think it’s deeper than just that.

Here's this lovely picture, that has a lot of truth in it. 

I believe that every “I love you” says a little something different—whether it’s to a friend or a family member, and definitely to a significant other. I think it says a few of the following things:
  • When I have a bad day, I know you’ll comfort me—or just let me vent.
  • Likewise, when you have a bad day, I’ll do everything I can to lessen that burden.
  • When we both have bad days, we’ll support each other the best we can, and we’ll take the space we need to self-soothe.
  • When we have bad days together, I promise to remember why I love you.
  • When I have a good day, I want to share it with you.
  • When you have a good day, I’ll be your biggest cheerleader.
  • Thank you for being my encourager.
  • I’ll be proud of you for your accomplishments—both big and small.
  • Thank you for believing in my dreams and cheering me onto my goals.

  • I will sit through your stupid TV show with only a few snarky comments—and only play on Pinterest for half of the time, so if you want to recap with me afterward, I’ll at least know the names of the characters.
  • Thank you for doing the same for me (same goes with music choices).
  • I’ll celebrate those things that make you come alive, that are uniquely “you,” even if I can’t understand the depths of them.
  • I’m weird, and I know it. Thanks for celebrating who I am, though.
  • I’ll learn your love language, and I’ll do my best not to get upset when you show love differently than I do—or than I expect.
  • I will always attempt to see your weirdness or annoying habits as little quirks that make you tick, rather than as weaknesses.
  • Once again, I’m weird, and thank you for loving me, too!
  • I trust you—whether that’s with my personal well-being, my emotional well-being, plans for the day, or just with remembering my pizza order.
  • You trust me, too, and I’ll never break that.
  • You make my life a beautiful place—even in the ordinary of every day.
  • I want to make your life just as beautiful.
  • I’m thankful for you.
  • Let’s continue to laugh and live together. Let’s continue to encourage each other.

To me, that’s the meaning of love, and I look forward to celebrating all who I love—not only in February, but throughout my life.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Kindness is Not Weakness

Call it a Damascus moment. Call it an epiphany. Whatever it was, it happened on my road trip home this past weekend. 

I needed to go home. For one, it had been far too long since I had seen my family. And, for another, I needed to feel that wholeness of the place I come from, to see those flat lands, to hear the cattle, to look off into the distance and see nothing but fields for miles, to remember who I was raised to be. I just needed the change of pace from the hustle and bustle. I needed an escape. 

I found it. I found it somewhere on the road between the city and the country. 

Earlier in the week, I recalled a Sara Groves song I had once loved, "I Saw What I Saw." Without much thought, I downloaded it onto my iPhone and went about my day. It wasn't until I was on I-40 and the song started to play over my speakers, that it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was a song I knew 
well—in fact, it was one I had once quoted in a speech I gave. 

For those who are unfamiliar, you can watch the video below. Or, you can read some of the lyrics here: 


"Something on the road, cut me to the soul;
Your pain has changed me,
your dream inspires,
your face a memory,
your hope a fire,
your courage asks me what I'm afraid of,
and what I know of love"






This was a song that had once been one of my favorites, because it had described my heart. When I first heard the song, I identified myself as one who was merciful, kind, empathetic, generous, tenderhearted, and full of fire. I could just as easily burn for someone else's dreams and successes as I could my own, just as I could lament with those who were hurting. This song had always served as an overflow of what I knew lived inside of me. 

But, on my drive home, it brought me to tears. It made me breakdown, simply because that was not who I had allowed myself to become. 

No, I didn't stop caring, stop empathizing with people, or stop giving. Those things are still very much a part of me and always will be. The change was simple. It was not a change of heart or a change of action; instead, it was a change in the way I perceived myself and the reasons why. 

As I always have, I give, I feel deeply, I compromise, I trust, I bend, I listen, I empathize. Yet, the world has taught me to see this as something other than a beautiful part of my soul. Over time, those I had let in had taken advantage, used, and hurt. I remember each of these hurts, each of these times my trust was broken and my kindness exploited, and I remember, each time in a most stubborn fashion, rising again and asserting that I would not harden my heart. I remained tenderhearted, but I stopped letting it come naturally, stopped letting it be a thriving part of my identity. It became somewhat of a burden, a responsibility, that I donned, determined to continue being who I was in a world that didn't want it or respect it. I continued with kindness, but often it was forced, as it was something I grew to resent about myself. 

Kindness, mercy, and being generous were considered offenses worthy of resenting, because that's what everyone else did. That was their assessment. It was how they viewed it. What I had always defined as beautiful had been defined for me (and with my permission by not disputing it, and later by accepting it as my own definition) as naivety, weakness, and a propensity to make poor decisions when it comes to trust.  

This was perpetuated by the fact that my traits had come to mean different things to different people. While there were many wonderful people in my life who never questioned these traits, never judged or labeled, and simply accepted, there were several who took these traits to mean that they could take and take, while I continued to give. They placed their labels on what I was, and the result was a label that I accepted, a label that read "weak." 

It wasn't until I was headed home to the ones who helped foster this soft heart within me and I was presented with a vivid picture of the girl I had once been that I had one of the most powerful revelations I've had in a long time. 


You see, I cried partially because I couldn't remember whether these things I knew to be true about myself were a strength or a weakness. I couldn't remember why I ever placed value in my soft heart. And, that's when I finally got it.  

When we begin to place value on how a quality is perceived or accepted, rather than on its merit alone, we begin to lose sight of what is real in our hearts. We let a jaded world define our reality, and we begin to see ourselves through a lens of cynicism. In order to stay true to who we are, we must stop letting labels others place on us define how we see ourselves and how we interact with the world. We must begin to believe what we know of ourselves, rather than what an outside world sees. 

We must reclaim who we are from the grips of others and hold fast to the beautiful qualities that make us unique and set us 
apart—for what they mean to the individual to whom they belong, not for how they are seen or assessed by others. 

For, even our strongest qualities lose significant power when we let another define or place a value upon them.