Thursday, March 26, 2015

Lesson 205. Clean your own bedroom

I am mad about the state of the laundry this week. Last week, I was mad about the state of the kitchen. I am never mad about the state of my bedroom. 

I hate tripping over laundry baskets and stubbing my small and somewhat skewed pinky toe on my way to the bathroom and I hate the smell of fusty washing. I get mad about mess in common space, but I only occasionally deal with mess in my space. 

I actually avoid my bedroom if it's a mess. I study at the kitchen table, hang out with people in the lounge, research friends potential love interests from the chair that I broke a window with once in our dining room. But I'm first to get fired up about mess in the places that all of us use. 

I start by getting high and mighty and deciding that I do not contribute to the mess. My second mistake is made there. I then take up my noble cause of alerting my flatmates to the terror of untidiness in our household. That's my third mistake.

What's my first mistake? 

My first mistake is in the clean clothes that sit on my bedroom floor. Instead of dealing with my own mess, I decide to deal with the mess outside of myself. I should actually be dealing with the mess that I live with. It's easier that way, to get upset about mess that other people make, than to deal with the messes that we make for ourselves. But it isn't really the right way to go about things.

You see, all it takes is my flatmates opening my bedroom door to see that I'm somewhat hypocritical in my plight for cleanliness. It positions me to go about sorting out the rest of the flat in the worst way. Being blind to our own mess does anything but liberate us. 

So I'm turning over a new leaf, I'm endeavouring to keep my own room as tidy as possible. I'm trying to deal with my own failings and flaws before I point the finger. I know that I will never be perfect, I know that sometimes I am going to have to confront challenges out of my imperfection but I trust that in that moment I will have the discernment to know whether that's the right move. As for now, I'm going to do my best to keep my own room tidy. 

Before you get really mad about the mess of other people in your life, clean your own bedroom. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Lesson 204. Choose connection.

Here's a secret: I often start off these blog posts with little to no idea about what I'm going to write on. Usually, I just write a whole lot down, backspace almost all of it, get a bit cross at my lack of genius, and then try again. For example, I've written this sentence about three times, and I'll probably write the next about four.

There's a funny looking line between calculating the way you represent yourself and articulating your heart without giving it all away. I think the reason it looks so funny because we're so used to seeing the five times filtered, five hundred follower side of it. I was never very good at keeping a journal, but for a while I got good at keeping this blog. When I was on the trip of a lifetime in Kenya, we set aside time to journal each day. While everyone else was journaling, I was taking a nap. For some reason in that setting, sleep always took precedent. Yet I've laid awake many a night trying to figure out what to tell you. Isn't it strange how connection spurs on even the sleepiest of us?

Connection, however, is a little different to the social media satire version of it that we entertain each day. I'm trying to do something a little different to that here, even if sometimes I don't succeed that much at it. Using the same medium for an alternate purpose doesn't always allow me to get it right and I apologise for that.

See, I've written 204 blog posts hoping that someday, someone might just find meaning somewhere between cringey anecdotes and overshares. I've taken delight in the fact that maybe one day I'll have a son or a daughter who will read this and remember that his or her parent was once as awkward and burdened by overthinking as they are. There's a funny looking line between calculating the way you represent yourself and articulating your heart without giving it all away, but I think we see it more clearly when we care. We see it with clarity when we choose vulnerability over perfection, when we accept our humanity and realise that the exposure of it might actually help someone someday; when we realise that calculating an altogether unattainable creature, we're doing more harm than help. It goes for most things, doesn't it? Not just blog posts written by a semi all over the place twenty-something. It goes for conversations with people we care about, people we want to one day care about, people we once cared about. And the more we're aware of the line, the clearer the choice becomes. I think connection gives us the hope we need to move forward with our hearts on our sleeves. Knowing that even if we fail miserably, someone somewhere someday will learn from it or take solace in the fact that they aren't alone in their defeat. Knowing that if we succeed, someone somewhere someday will be spurred on to speak their heart out. We all have this deep need to be next to one another, don't we?

I'm in no way condoning absolute recklessness. I'm hoping that we learn to have the discernment to discover the moments worth both courage and heart, I'm hoping that we find the right kind of connections to keep us moving forwards.

There's a funny looking line between calculating the way you represent yourself and articulating your heart without giving it all away. Choose connection.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lesson 203. Finish what you started by starting what you never finished.

Maybe I'm back on board with writing these because I really want to feel like I've finished something I started. I feel like I'm not so good with that. Actually, I know I'm not so good with that, because it's more than three years later and here I am trying to finish.

I'm full of wonderful intentions and half-full dreams. I'm not that full of actual action plans or means to follow through. There's a large possibility that I've written this lesson out on this blog several times already, but it's one that I have to relearn almost constantly. It's a lesson of humility and determination, of overcoming the tension between neglecting for burial's sake or redeeming for sanity's sake. I know that I am better when redemption wins and I don't doubt that you are too.

So here's to starting back and not knowing where or how I'll find 14 lessons but knowing that I can and I will. Here's to finishing the things that we start and hoping that we'll learn a whole lot along the way. Maybe every step doesn't have to be crystal for us to reach the end goal. Finish what you started by starting what you never finished.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Lesson 202. Sometimes it's the best thing to just be like AWK.

Isn't life just such a cliche sometimes? 

I kind of love it and hate it all at once, similar to the way I feel about Five Seconds of Summer Song. I'd die if the world knew about it, but I purchased a pair of American Apparel unisex underwear with an obscene shipping cost attached simply so I could stand in it. 

Life taught me a cliche but crucial lesson today. One that I'm proud to say I was routing for all along, I just didn't realise quite why.

And so begins my story: I was supposed to be trading my car for my sister's old car. Why? Because hers is substantially better looking, so we all assumed it was a better car. First mistake made. My car is full of parking receipts and remnants of almost perfect conversations, dried up tears and consequent kisses and cuddles. However, she's known to my family members as "The Bash Mobile" because she isn't as pretty as the cars my sisters drive. So, my Dad told me we'd sell her on and I'd get the better car out of it, Katie's car would run better and serve me longer so I should probably just get over my sentimentality. My parents also told me that it wasn't a normal to go and sit in the garage and sing "Stay With Me" by Sam Smith at the top of my lungs, to my car.  But I believe in a thorough and proper grieving process, car through to cat (who am I kidding, I don't love cats at all).

Today I reluctantly drove my wee AWK to Honda and asked, as per my Dad's instructions, for them to check her out fully and let us know which car would be best to keep. I left with a heavy heart, almost certain that I would return to the news that AWK would be on her way and ERA would be my new girl. I stupidly assumed that because AWK looks a little worse for wear, she'd be the one to get rid of.

I was wrong. I went back to pick up the car and the Chelsea, the lovely receptionist with a skirt that was the length that nobody really knows how to describe, told me that they would recommend we kept AWK and sold ERA. Although ERA looked better cosmetically, AWK was running much better on the inside, and that's what matters.

I walked away smiling, it was kind of nice to know that I'd get to keep my old friend. But more than that, it was nice to be reminded of one of life's most generic lessons; you don't have to look perfect to keep going. You don't have to be the best to be valued, you just have to keep your heart healthy and in the right place.

Sometimes it's the best thing to just be like AWK.

Lesson 201. Let rain remind you

The last few days have seen a lot of rain.

Now, don't get me wrong, it's the kind of rain that I like because of where I sit. I'm home at the moment, so it's the kind of rain that sends me to bed with Calamity Jane, My Fair Lady, and a packet of chocolate chips stolen from the cupboard while my mum was in the laundry. But I get that it's also the kind of rain that has pulled trees to pavements and floods to floors. The kind of rain that can break things, the kind of rain that can sweep you off your feet in an entirely unromantic whoosh and land you with a bruised tailbone and mud smattered trousers. The last two years and a half years have forged a friendship between my bottom and the concrete in an (almost) purely metaphorical way because of this kind of rain, so I know it just as well as I do the feeling of safety that rain can bring. It's kind of strange how something can stir everything standing or secure a feeling of safety in where you are.

Over the last few days, life has reminded me of something that I'd forgotten from my now safe stomping grounds. Wherever you sit, stand (or fall) within what rain means for your life, it must always prompt a moment of gratitude.

If you're like me and you're experiencing a time of little to no turbulence, let it serve as a reminder of how you've grown to who you are. Recognise that maybe the whole cliche that nothing grows without rain is true, and that even though you might never understand why it rained at that time or why on earth it rained so heavy, you grew. You grew stronger and taller and braver.

If you're standing where I stood not so long ago and you're fighting the floods, take a moment to be grateful that you're still standing. Because when the waters are rising, we have to be grateful that we are still there to see them rise. Gratitude has to come from a place deeper than a superficial happiness, it has to come from that place past the corner in your soul that you shut and reopened when you fell in love, it doesn't mean you don't stand in the rain in tears, it means that you see how the tears make you taller, even in that moment.

Let rain remind you.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Lesson 200. Perfect doesn't come without practice

I'm skipping the apologies. I've decided to go straight in for the post-argument cuddles because I know that's your favourite part too. Your head just fits so perfectly on my chest, you know? I'm sorry we had to have the "Where've you been?" conversation, I'm glad we moved past it so swiftly.

Yes, you really have missed me and my hilarity (or perhaps I've missed you and my attempts at hilarity that you so graciously muddle through with me and whilst doing so validate my existence) so I won't waste any more precious text space with inappropriately long sentences.

How's your 2014 going so far? Mine looks a bit like this: excellent human beings, summer school, shingles, anger towards lack of resident parking on my street, general increase of enjoyment when it comes to all things Beyonce, and embarrassment in regards to the fact that I often forget to put my headphones in when walking home, don't realise until I get home and finally come to the conclusion that most people don't love Shania Twain any more. Ok, I'm tricking. Those things have all actually happened but that definitely doesn't even begin to cover this year and I seem to be plying you with the trivial- I'm not quite sure why but I'll do some in-depth pyschological analysis on myself and get back to you.

Last week I found myself actually learning something in my tutorial as opposed to making a grocery list or an hour-by-hour plan for the rest of my day, and it's something simple that I want to share with you. I've been struggling creatively, sitting down and staring at a blank screen, singing two lines and stopping, not knowing quite where the best place to push off from is. I sat and listened to my tutor talking about writing content, and how the only way to create it is to simply write. I then unlocked something I'd always known but never held, the ability to let go of perfectionism in order to do better.

It's a strange concept really, but one that makes sense. The more we try, the more we fail, the more we learn. The more content we create, the more likely it is that we'll stumble upon something we're happy with. The more we open up, the more likely it is that the thing we so desperately want to let go of will emerge.

So talk and talk lots, write and write excessively, love and love often, because one of these days, you're going to have a win. Perfect doesn't come without practice.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Lesson 199. Love always has and always will bring you through.

Tomorrow is the last day of 2013. Somewhere in between arguing with my family about Downton Abbey, and eating copious amounts of chocolate and as a result feeling deathly ill (wild exaggerations are my strong point. That and eating copious amounts of chocolate, did I tell you that already? I can't remember on account of all the chocolate) I've begun the process prompted by the turn of the year most commonly known as reflection. Are you still thinking about chocolate? Cheeky, stop that, your waistline will be unappreciative of my blog posts and ban you from reading them if you so weakly surrender to the train of thought that I'm dancing around and I rather like it when you read my terribly composed rambly (not even a word) sentences.

Reflection stirs up all too many emotions at the best of times. How do you sum up 365 days of conversations and revelations? How do you choose what you want to do better next time from 8675.81 hours of blunders and battles won? Well, to put it simply, you don't. I've typed and backspaced, mentally paced in one direction and turned to the next in the hope that I might conjure up some grand conclusion of the year that has been, but I can't. It's been the worst year of my life, but I have learnt the best lessons yet, and although I will not be sorry to see the end of 2013, the details of it will remain etched in my mind for as long as I live. I have learnt that life is never what you expect, that detailed plans will always falter to hopelessness, and that above all, love gets through. Love gets you through.

And it's not the kind of love that lies within romantic gestures or pretty pictures. It isn't soundtracked or perfectly timed. It is the love within the arms that caught me when I got the voicemail message that changed my life forever. It is the love that sat beside me when I sat glued to a pew in the Bethlehem College chapel. It is the love that shows up without needing a prompt or an invitation, and offers a hand regardless of efforts to push it away. The kind of love that will carry you looks more like your Dad than Ryan Gosling, but it is unwavering and without agenda. It doesn't seek to gain, but to give. That's the kind of love worth investing in, and that's the kind of love that changes things.

It is a quiet love that often goes unrecognised, which perhaps makes it the most spectacular of all. It doesn't ask for recognition or result, it loves because it is. He loves because He is, and I have never been so sure of God's ability to pour love in abundance into the broken places. It is a love that cradles vulnerability, and is far from blind to your flaws. It more than sees them, it knows them and chooses to persist in the small moments and gifts of each day so that you know that it is always present. It is a love that consists of hand squeezes in the hard moments, shares in belly laughter in the happier, and encompasses all of the things that love should. It carries hope.

So I give you this to see in the New Year, I do not present a resolution or a groundbreaking revelation, I ask that you might acknowledge that love somewhere between 11.59pm and 12am. I ask that you might appreciate it, that you might take the time to let those who have stood beside you this year know that their quiet love has played an important part in your journey to the 31st of December, 2013. Go into the New Year knowing that no matter what it holds, love will bring you through it. Trust me on this one, there is no circumstance in which love will neglect you and your heart. In fact, in the hardest of situations, love is highlighted by people you never expected.

My eyes are weary and my mind seems to have followed them to bed, so I leave you with a cliche that I very much hope you'll consider heading into the New Year: Love always has and always will bring you through.