Let Me Explain…

I don’t want to get into the habit of speaking vaguely about what’s going on in life. I feel it’s in poor taste to flood my social media with my problems, but here…this is truly my domain. Plus, I’m working on finding the balance between full disclosure and full responsibility for my words. I want to be a speaker of life and not just a venter of life. On a more exciting, but related, note I’ve figured out the topic of my next book, and I will definitely need this balance. (Trust me. You’ll see.)

So.

In the past 4 months, things have not only been confusing…but also disappointing.

— went from two working vehicles to no working vehicles

— went from sleeping normally to getting 1-3 hours a night (and not because of my kids)

— went from having an opportunity to fulfill a dream to teach on the collegiate level to not being able to

— seeing the possibility of only having to work 1 job, but now still needing to keep up with 2 jobs (technically 3)

— went from having a secure place to stay to being told we had to move in 2-3 months

— on the continual pursuit of my LPC credential to being stuck in residency because I cannot afford to register for/take the exam

— being convinced of the possibility to be homeowners, only to have that opportunity removed

I know these things aren’t as dire as sickness or homelessness, but these things all happened within the same 3 month span. My head is still spinning. I am absolutely fine most days, but then I have a brief relapse of disappointment, anger, and sadness. I trust that things will work out, because they always do and I have been in much worse circumstances.

But, this post is simply to explain that I am actively working on things beneath the surface. I laugh and encourage. Seek to be loving and inspirational. But this post is to explain that a lot of what I write comes from a place that does not have everything figured out. And many times I will write or post something encouraging because I am in need of convincing myself. I know there is life in words and I believe that I am just as much a recipient as anyone else.

I cry, curse,  and doubt like anyone else.

And oh, this past season has had much of these things.

I don’t really have a silver lining today, only to ask that you, reader, will join me in the “continuing on” part. Continue on with me and make a decision today to not stay postured in the hard stuff.

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Anxiety Manifested

I still remember getting my first pimple. It was on the right side of my forehead; large, painful, and it left a scar behind. The whole experience was traumatizing.

I had barely begun unpacking the concept of a self-image when this tiny protuberance manifested itself on to my face. And despite how normal I saw it was to be in middle school and have acne, it made me want to hide in a shell that I’d only emerged from 2 seconds earlier.  I was already naturally self-conscious, being a teen, but somehow I felt that my apprehension was more severe. I always wanted to hide myself and being around my peers made my chest literally hurt.

I was labeled as “shy”, but no one knew the chaos that was going on inside my head. It was odd, I wasn’t severely bullied; rather often ignored. But I knew that since I wasn’t particularly known for being pretty, or funny, or really smart, or talented in sports or cosmetics, that I’d better not speak up to draw ANY sort of attention. Because the roast that would ensue would be unparalleled. I felt trapped by the looming possibility that I would indefinitely embarrass myself, so I trapped myself in the social purgatory that I dwelled in until about 11th grade.

That sort of anxiety never let up, and the energy I collected needed to be funneled somewhere. So, I took to self-mutilation. No, I didn’t cut or burn myself. Rather, I picked at my acne profusely. It gave me relief when I scarred myself in this way. I used to wear my bangs/hair in my face to cover the scabs on my forehead, and I remember my mom scolding me whenever she caught me in the act.

Eventually, by the time I started sophomore year of college, the scars on my cheeks and forehead were slowly starting to fade.1923330_520938837788_8251_n

Fast forward 10-11 years. My fight with anxiety has led to many victories and set-backs. But the battles became tougher & scarier. It wasn’t my social life/self-esteem that I was fighting over, but now I fought to trust God with the lives of my children, my finances, and my marriage. The stakes are much higher now. Sometimes I am victorious! But I have not won them all.

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I took this photo today.

I got a little “smarter” regarding how I allowed my fight with anxiety to manifest itself. Instead of picking at my forehead and face, it’s shifted to underneath my chin. These scars are older, I am happy to report, but I recently disclosed to a client of mine that the fight doesn’t just go away because you undergo treatment for a mental illness/condition.

You become more armed to engage in the fight. And you aren’t as afraid to share your scars. I see these marks every time I look into the mirror, but rather than feeling ashamed, I feel empowered.

Empowered to continue to fight and to be victorious.

…And It’s Okay

If we’re going to use the technical definition, I haven’t been popular at any point of my life. I have just the right amount of social awkwardness & introversion that I’m forever stuck in the outskirts of every social group I’ve ever been in. Moments that I have the spotlight snatched by the throat are brief. I think I prefer it that way….

But spending lots of time on the outer circle gives you plenty of time to think and observe. I’ve been considering the following:

1. Social Insecurity isn’t just a struggle among teenagers.

We all remember what it was like spending every waking moment thinking about how to climb the social ladder as a teen. At least I did. We all had this inner longing to be accepted, but settled for a sense of belonging. It may come down to semantics, because they do hinge on one another.

Sadly, many of us realized that belonging comes at an unjust price. It’s a familiar ghost that often follows us into adulthood. Even for the most secure of us. We are faced with the occasional decision of whether we are going to be ourselves or fit in.

2. Pettiness stops being funny/admirable when you hit 30.

I remember when I stopped laughing hard at my “petty friends”. Granted, the #thanksgivingclapbacks are pretty brilliant.

3. The older you get, the harder it is to maintain relationships like you did in college.

I remember talking to my friends in between classes everyday. Going out every Friday and Saturday. Sitting with each other at church services. The only things usually standing between me and my social life were massive papers and part-time jobs. Now…I not only have a husband and two kids, but (technically) 3 jobs, a nonprofit, and a host of monthly volunteer opportunities. Life has never been this busy. I would love to keep up the same level of social life as before, but I’m confused that I will still get “You prioritize what you care about” shade. Sometimes I end up falling asleep before I can text my friends back, if I can be honest. My closest friends either 1)Are just as busy and/or 2)Understand that I’m busy and love me anyway.

4. I have some pretty driven, dynamic, gifted friends.

Okay, this one is more of bragging moment rather than a mere observation. If you simply followed my friends on their social media, you’d see that I’m connected with undiscovered artists, dancers, writers, musicians, orators, entrepreneurs, helpers, philanthropists, and dynamic personalities. Having them in my life and witnessing their visions to change the world unfold gives me hope.

I’m super okay with being on the outskirts because of the view I have.

The Gift of Suffering.

I truly feel like one of the greatest gifts a person can give is to sit together with another inside of their suffering. With no agenda. No reciprocity, even. Just the silent act of empathy, wrapped in genuine human connection. We all suffer, at one point or another. We all experience grief of various forms and severities. Pain is our great unifier.

Yet, we are so uncomfortable with someone else’s pain. We will fill gaps in conversations with awkward, well-intentioned cliches. Or avoid all together. Others will become hypervigilant from guilt or for appearances sake. Wracked with self-doubt or fear, we are afraid of getting too close to the sufferer.

Maybe we remember how suffering changes you. Snatches you from proximity with our superficial worries; instead focusing our attention on the abstract. The unknown and inexplicable. It is easier to pacify ones self with everyday cares.

Despite that fact that suffering tends to have nearly lethal devastations attached, the glory that can come from it is significant. Can we ponder on how this occurrence multiplies when communities mourn together? Can you imagine it?

What happens when you take your eyes off of your own pain for a moment & join hands with your neighborhood, family, and community concerning a hurt that we all may be able to relate to? And what happens when you lend ears to someone’s story that you have NO connections with, or a superficial awareness of?

Glory happens. Heaven is depicted. We are living out part of our best & purest selves when we join together. Humans are capable of great hatred and malice. But I don’t believe that’s our True Nature. That’s not our Origin. We are most like our Creator when we lay our own lives down.

So, I have a reason to be thankful today. Even for the pain I feel. Because I’m not carrying this weight alone. I have family and loved ones who are shouldering this with me. Let us do that for one another, especially in these days.

#GIVINGTUESDAY

This isn’t an attempt to make you feel guilty about Black Friday shopping, but since we’re discussing money, it’s good to have a reminder that we actually have options for how we’d like to spend our hard-earned incomes.  It’s refreshing to know that not ALL of my paycheck have to be held hostage by car repairs, credit card debt, and overpriced internet service.

I noticed this year that the #GIVINGTUESDAY efforts are much more streamlined and intentional this year, so I wanted to do my part by compiling a list of my Top 10 (which was SUPER DIFFICULT to do) Favorite Local organizations who are so deserving of contributions this Tuesday.

(Please note that this are based in Central VA, with a photo/quoted blurb from their FB pages along with the applicable link, and the list is in no particular order.)

 

Anne Spencer Memorial Foundation, Inc.

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“The Anne Spencer Memorial Foundation, Inc. supports the Anne Spencer House & Garden Museum, the historic home of Harlem-Renaissance poet, civil rights activist, wife, mother, gardener, librarian and educator, Anne Spencer.

Your tax deductible contribution will help The Anne Spencer Memorial Foundation to fund education, community outreach, and preservation of the 100+ year old historic home, cottage, and garden.”

Make sure and look over their FB page, as well as their website, for more information and direct access to donation opportunities. This foundation also have a #GIVINGTUESDAY FB event, which can be found here!

 

The Listening, Inc.

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“The idea was that people could still get together and create art and memories while also engaging with each other and learning about one another. Throughout that year, a small community began to take form, joining the creative renaissance already taking place within the city of Lynchburg, Virginia. Using the open mic format, they discussed themes like “Confessions” and “Classics”.

After a brief hiatus, The Listening returned in 2014 with the theme “Legacy”. Since then, the concept of creating art with intentionality and performing with passion and purpose has grown. A far cry from what it looked like in a loft-style living room session, the pursuit is still the same: to engage with people, to change people’s perceptions of what performance art can do and look like, and to save lives with our stories.

We’ve officially moved from a big idea to a powerful, community-based movement.”

Please check out the TLI’s website, as well as their FB page for ways to learn more, volunteer, get involved, and donate!

STITCH After-school Tutorial Program

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“The Stitch After-School Program is a non-profit organization sponsored by the Stacia Nicole Anderson Memorial Fund. This program is designed to provide free tutoring services for students in the local community, all in memory of the beautiful daughter of Dr. Keith and Mrs. Renee Anderson.”

Please mail all monetary gifts to the address provided:

Bank of the James

Stacia Anderson Memorial Fund

5204 Fort Avenue

Lynchburg, VA. 24502

 

The Motherhood Collective

19113953_1373382902710029_5101366169759340612_n“Specializing in walking with women from preconception through preschool. With immense value placed on peer-to-peer support we find that offering women a place to belong results in deeper connection to her community and increased opportunities for education. Our programs serve both the dark and sunshiny days of motherhood; recognizing that not all roads to motherhood look the same.”

TMC is actually having an All-Day LIVE STREAMING Party on #GIVINGTUESDAY, which can be found here. If you’d like a bookmark for early/late donations, check out their website!

Lynchburg Beacon of Hope

14732137_543466295859275_676909801217671345_n“What is the purpose of the Beacon of Hope?

To instill in ALL Lynchburg City Public School students the aspiration to pursue AND to provide them with the tools and resources to attain a post-secondary education.

To provide college opportunities for those would not be able to attend college otherwise

To change the culture in the Lynchburg community to a PreK-16 division

To create a stream of qualified/educationally prepared talent for the greater Lynchburg workforce

To ensure that all children who graduate from Lynchburg City Schools are prepared for the next step in life: 4 year college, 2 year college, technical / community/trade school, industry certification

To improve the quality of life in our community by investing in our most precious resource—our children—who are our future

To compile and disseminate data on current and continuing post-secondary education of Lynchburg’s student

What are the components the Beacon of Hope?

FUTURE CENTERS housed in both LCS High Schools (staffed, maintained, and funded by the Beacon of Hope) which provide resources on financial aid and college admissions for ALL LCS students, guidance on local and federal financial aid.

MENTORING PROGRAMS which diligently work to encourage students to apply AND leverage all available resources.

Programs in the Elementary and Middle Schools that plant the seeds of COLLEGE ATTAINABILITY for younger students.

Ultimately, SCHOLARSHIP opportunities above and beyond last dollar earned to level the playing field and get students onto post secondary education.

PARTNERSHIPS with our local businesses to provide funding and internship opportunities, so that the intellectual capital that is created through the Beacon does not “leak away” from Lynchburg after students earn post-secondary degrees.”

What an amazing opportunity to support this effort. Please go to their website to see just where your future donations are going towards.

 

Jubilee Family Development Center

11855626_1143502818997682_6483896979668992849_n“Our Programs provide opportunities for young people that center on educational enrichment and academic assistance, athletic programs and occupational training. Three are described below.
After School Tutorial Program- 90% of students participating demonstrated academic improvement by one letter grade.

Mentoring Program- Improves self-esteem, exposes youth to positive role models, increases social awareness and teaches problem solving skills.

Summer Enrichment Camp- Provides a disciplined and structured environment where children take part in high quality summer programs that blend academics, art, sports and technology which stave off summer learning loss.”

Check out their website to seek more of what they are doing in the community, and also check out their FB page where you can donate to their amazing cause.

 

Kids’ Haven

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“Kids’ Haven was founded as a community outreach project of the Junior League of Lynchburg. In 1998 we were chartered as an independent not-for-profit organization with the sole mission of serving, through the provision of support and educational programming, the unique needs of children grieving the death of a person who was significant in their lives. Kids Haven is a local non profit dedicated to providing peer support to grieving children, ages 3-18, and their families.”
You can visit their website, as well as look for them on Facebook in order to make a donation.

YWCA of Central Virginia

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“The YWCA of Central Virginia is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.”

Please visit the YWCA FB website, as well as their full website, for much more information and direct access to donation opportunities!

Miriam’s House

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“Miriam’s House is designed to end homelessness for women and families by providing them with stability and the skills to succeed in permanent housing.
All of the programs and services offered at Miriam’s House are based on the Housing First model, rooted in the belief that ending a client’s homelessness quickly and providing for her most basic needs will empower her to achieve goals in other areas including mental health, substance use, money management and parenting. Miriam’s House staff provides intensive case management and works in partnership with each client to build upon her strengths and resiliency. Miriam’s House coordinates referrals to therapists, mental health support workers, recovery services, job coaches, and social workers to ensure that ongoing, comprehensive services are available to clients even after they complete their program at Miriam’s House.”
Visit the Miriam’s House website, or their FB page to see more info & hit the “Donate” button!

The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lynchburg

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“The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lynchburg provides a positive, fun and stable environment for youth that produces winners, leaders and role models who make a lasting impact within our community. BE GREAT!”

 

Please visit Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lynchburg & HERE to donate!

10 Reasons Why I Love Play Therapy

1. Kids are typically more honest than adults.
And not necessarily in the way that leads to insight. If a kid does not want to engage with you, they will let you know. I don’t have to do the guess work of whether they are genuinely getting something out of being in therapy. You will be able to tell. Most of the time, a child hasn’t learned yet how to lie.

2. Kids keep me on my toes.
Historically, I need to mentally prep more when I’m getting ready to have a therapy session with a child. They require constant observation and engagement. If I can be honest, it’s easier for your mind to wander when sitting across from an adult who’s been talking for 15 straight minutes about their problems. There’s no room for that in play therapy. I am all in, every moment I am with the child.

3. Kids are hilarious.
I wish I could compile a book of random, funny things my kid clients have said in session. It would legit become a best seller. Many of the kids I see struggle with appropriate social cues and development. But this makes for some hysterical conversations.

4. Play Therapy is powerful.
Who knew that a simple board game or a tray of sand can be used to express a child’s deepest fears and highest hopes? Simple materials can be transformed into tools to teach kids skills, help them learn emotion management, and exorcise traumatic memories. To an outsider, my office looks like a distraction or a way to introduce the actual treatment, but it IS the treatment for the child. It’s the focus and their language. I love that about Play.

5. My inner child has a regular place to go.
I think implementing Play Therapy helps me personally, too. I can remember part of my childhood being marred by seriousness and trauma. I had to grow up faster than I wanted. Play Therapy allows me to let my hair down and engage in a pure place. I love fostering this place for a child, as well. Not to mention I get to spend hours each week playing on the floor with Play-doh and Barbie dolls.

6. I love teaching parents how to play with their children.
There’s a powerful attachment that takes place when a child plays with a caregiver/adult. It’s actually more effective than moments where a parent implements discipline or instruction. Integral concepts like kindness, fairness, and reciprocity are fostered within the relationship during play. Without the child’s, and often the parent’s, awareness. You want to profoundly impact your child? Get on their level and play with them. I’ve been in moments where you can literally feel the bond between a child and the adult grow stronger, right in front of me in my office. It’s honestly one of my favorite parts of my job.

7. I teach children what to do with power.
This one sounds odd, I’ll admit. One of the reasons children misbehave is to gain power. This is an appropriate desire, because it’s connected to the path towards independence. It’s the adults’ (including teachers, family, counselors, etc. ) jobs to teach a child appropriate use of power and independence through self-control and respect for others. Giving a child age appropriate power is really the only way to teach them this. If you’re always telling a child what to do and never giving them spaces to decide for themselves, you are forcing compliance but not teaching self-control/independence. I like to use nondirective play therapy with my most oppositional kids. While they are used to fighting with adults over control of a time/environment, I give them a healthy amount of control through nondirective play. Meaning they decided what we do with the time in session. Hopefully, nondirective play can help satisfy a need for power little by little. I’ve had parents question this part of my treatment, but it truly is important.

8. Play is fun.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. 🙂

9. It has helped me be a better mommy.
I’ll admit, I use myself and my kids as guinea pigs when conceiving a new play technique. But it’s helpful for me to put myself, as a mom, in my client’s parents’ shoes. This helps me foster more empathy and patience with some of my most frustrated, stubborn parents. Empathy is essential. It’s easy for a play therapist to “blame” the parents for a child’s issues, but empathy helps see things from a family systems perspective. My kids/families teach me lessons on a constant basis and I eat a huge helping of humble pie daily.

10. I am a place a refuge for my kids.
It’s a thought that took a while to get over, but it is now a constant reminder of the important work I do every day. Many of the kids that come to see me for therapy have no other healthy, consistent attachment with another adult. When they sit and play and learn in my office, they are given an opportunity to express whatever they choose, without being forced, criticized, or judged.

There is a script Play Therapists say at the beginning of each session that I typically use:

“This is a safe place for you, and I am your safety person. You can do or say most anything you want while you are here. If you can’t, then I will let you know.”

Three Reasons Why I’m Not [Yet] a Great Writer

Three reasons why I am not yet a great writer:

One.

Because I am not honest.

I would like to use obscenities sometimes, but I choose not to because I am a Christian. It’s not that I would like to be vulgar; I simply feel that there are times when expletives are necessary…

…like when it took me almost three hours to put my son to sleep. While tiptoeing out of his room, I step on a squeeky toy that I’d begged my daughter 12 times to pick up earlier, which wakes my son up.

or

..like when I put my last $15 into my gas tank, hurry into my car to get to work, and it does not start.

I would think a “shit”, at the very least, is applicable here.

But I would rather be proper than be honest.

Two.

I am afraid.

Of being too….something… Too black. Too feminist. Too religious. Too typical. Too universal. Too tolerant. Too much.

Or even not enough of these things.

I’m afraid that it only took 18 years to write myself into a permanent circle; with no more depth or height in my words. Only monotony. Around and around.

Passing by the same street corners; going down the same avenues that I’ve always gone and never daring to venture down scenic routes.

I know for certain that there are undiscovered dark corners on the outskirts of my pages, but I am afraid of finding if there are other worlds there or simply a cliff. I am afraid of losing myself. And I’m afraid of finding myself.

And three.

This one is more insidious than the other two combined: I care too much about what you will think once I’ve said my peace. I’ll show a tiny bit of bravery here and talk about my book that I released this summer…

I’ve sold 10 copies total. And it took 5 months to sell 10 copies. 1 of them was purchased by me (which I eventually gave away) and another copy my mother bought. I’m afraid I care too much about this. Even now, you are reading these words and may feel pity for me. It’s not my intention, but I see there may be something meaningful, but hidden, lodged in between this book and my next one. And I wish to reveal and pry it loose. At this point, I feel that my words just may be currently unimpactful, at the end of the day. Good, in theory, and even welcomed, but lacking what’s necessary to draw a reader’s eye and appetite.

It is these reasons, among others, why I feel like I’m not yet a great writer.