Trekking Through Madness.

“I have traveled through madness to find me.” – Danny Alexander

 

I’ve spent countless moments giving off a bit of my light, but mainly in secret. My biggest nightmare has never been to give a public speech or being the center of attention. (Although those things are terrifying…) I’m most afraid of being perceived as faking it. Being disingenuous. That I’d be characterized as a phony.

Someone would assume that the things I truly love, the passions and beliefs I carry, I may not be as passionate about as I claim. Or that my abilities and skills probably won’t match what others perceived. It’s funny because the price I’m paying for coming out of hiding; for being me out in the open, is that now I’m looking over my shoulder. Aware that others are, in fact, watching. And they are constantly drawing conclusions about what they see or don’t see. It makes me paranoid, honestly.

I know that the right answer is to not give a single care about what others think. But you must understand something about me: I care. And I cannot help it.

One of the struggles attached with being a self-declared empath (google that one) is that I’m aware of others without trying to be. I can feel variations of others comfort levels, hear depths within the inflections of someone’s voice, feel tension the second I walk into a room. While navigating through this, I often gather that what I’m picking up is directed at me. Ha. Insecurity is poison for an empath.

Beyond wanting to be liked (which is what we all want if we’re honest), I desire to be helpful. Effective. I want people to leave my presence with more good things than they came with. I understand it’s not all on me, or about me, and I often do not have the power to make things happen 100% of the time. But I’m aware that a tiny bit of my own madness can find a way to attach itself to others…..if I’m not careful.

Wrestling with Greed: A Cautionary Tale

I dreamt greed almost killed me.
I woke up abruptly with my shoulders hunched and my body shaking because it was right before she snapped my neck into two that I’d opened my eyes.
At first, Greed had taken on many forms:
An overweight neighbor who’d lost her home;
my mother, but with much grayer hair and soft hands, needing me to feed her before she got a hunger headache. Or a pastor I once knew who kept asking me to serve in yet another ministry.
There was always Legitimacy behind their pained monologues.
The large neighbor chased me swiping at my last bag of possessions that I carried on my back. All she wanted was my daughter’s baby doll that resembled one she had as a child. She made multiple attempts at this doll until I screamed at her, “This does not belong to you! Why can’t you just go buy one like everyone else?”

That’s when her face contorted from sadness to rage. She moaned from her soul then; focusing her eyes on to me. From then on she repeated softly “No fair. You take faster than you give. No fair.” I didn’t understand what she meant until the moment she had her fingers interlocked around my throat.
I was somehow responsible.
She did not always go by her current name, I realized. And she had a story filled with loss before I decided that her level of need was uncalled for. It was then I shared her rage.
“I get it now”, I gasped through a struggling breath.
Her eyes widened and she loosened her grip;
Sat on the sidewalk in front of us and immediately I saw the sadness had returned.
It hovered over us like a cloud; shielding the sun. But even in the haze of the gray I saw her more clearly.
I realized the only reason greed did not kill me that day is because I learned her real name.

She wasn’t Greed, she was Poverty.

Self-Efficacy, etc.

Literally defined as “a person’s belief in their own abilities and competence”.

This has been one of my biggest challenges, truthfully. No matter the amount of growth or comfort in my own skin, I still manage to look over my shoulder to compare my progress with another’s success. Granted, jealousy was a rare occurrence, but no amount of mountain top experiences secured my mind in thinking that I was doing much better with “life” than I was assuming.

I remember being the main one jumping through hoops for attention. And like a chameleon, the lengths I went to for a reassuring nod depended on the circumstance/environment. Fear kept me from chasing accolades to an extreme level, but emotionally, mentally, and spiritually — I laid myself bare.

Here I am, dreadlocks past my shoulders, slightly weird style, and a rebel to the American dream — and I still struggle to not look over my shoulder for approval. This time around, it’s for the arts-driven or alternative culture crowd. For those who rebel simply for the sake of being controversial. For example, I protested about Kony in 2012. I cared because I was told to care. I didn’t want to be the one person NOT caring. It was uncool to not care.

Lots of people are “caring” now. Isn’t that funny?

……….

So, I’m reevaluating my choices, trends, and pursuits; wondering what I truly care about. What makes my heart ache, break, and soar? What would I care about if no one saw or I didn’t have a social media account to use as proof? What if no one else cared…or disagreed…what would be so important to me that I carry on anyway?

I’m learning to accurately take inventory of my own journey. Because its not enough to be free to walk your path, but maturity comes when you can begin to process where you are. Change your mind or hairstyle if you want. Take that workout selfie because you’re proud of yourself; not to brag. And not feel a need to answer every question that crosses your FB page, for the sake of peace.

For most of my life, I assumed that only two extremes existed among people: those who have the spotlight, and those who are left to give the applause. But I’m realizing that I can be center stage in my own life and that be enough. More than enough.

No matter the age, we are naturally narcissistic; desiring to shine and show off our best attributes. Especially in the workplace — with the competition for promotions and reputations among colleagues. I used to envy the person welcoming harmony and being a team-player without the drama of workplace politics. But now I’m becoming that person.

Little by little.

50 Shades of Black & Blue

Confession: I spent much of my life being an in-closet feminist.

Not only did I recognize how women are viewed as having minority status, but I soon saw countless examples of how women seemed to exist for a man’s pleasure. I understood the Biblical design for men/women, but yet my ideology of equality and shared submission battled with the way things actually are. And I was angry and even bitter.

When you only have your rights to rally for, it’s easy to simplify the struggle to a moment of protest. A single march. But it appears that something as simple as an erotic book series can ignite talks of inequality.

For example, I should be able to read a book surrounding a straight-laced young woman, who lived her life suppressed, finding a supposed “sexually liberated” experience. Anyone discouraging me from reading are being oppressive, right? After all, men are able, and even encouraged, to be sexual. Women, however, are expected to be both Mother Theresa & Nikki Minaj when beckoned.

I want to read these books. Because it is my right as a person. I should do it without being judged.
Simple.

But then I gave birth to a woman.
…well…she’s a toddler now. But it is inevitable that she will become a woman.

I’m not responsible for her gender. God already took care of that part. But I’ve been given the thrilling, tumultuous task of showing her how to be a woman (Lord, help me.). She may not take one ounce of my teachings/example with her into adulthood, but darn it if I won’t still try.

The process of rallying for certain rights become complex when you are considering how it will affect the next generation. I’m picturing Naomi as a 29 year old, and I’m praying that she will not only feel equal with men, but that she will recognize her uniqueness/role as a woman.

Regrettably, books like 50 Shades of Grey does not give respect to a woman’s uniqueness. Only nods to the most debased version of her desires. A 2D version of the fire that a woman’s heart actually contains. It shifts the perspective too far right that love becomes abuse. But isn’t that the typical narrative that we hear of a woman in love?

Crazy. Desperate. Ultimately misused.

I know it is not a philosophy book or a textbook for Women’s Studies. And I understand that the poster-child for the Anti-50 Shades movement are largely conservatives. However, communities are coming to this book’s defense as being normal, acceptable treatment between a man and a woman. And that is not what I want my daughter to desire; not in her love or her sexuality.

This book teaches that pain is the path to desire. I won’t nick pick here because I understand people have various tastes. But this isn’t about having different desires, but about the definition of desire being altered. In my opinion, true desire is only unlocked when two things are present:

Safety
Commitment

By safety I mean a relationship where two people can explore and deny any part of the sexual intimacy. Being tied up, blindfolded, coerced, manipulated, and emotionally and physically gagged does not create safety for the woman. It only enhances the distorted satisfaction of the man. The woman’s satisfaction is not a byproduct of this set up. A happy accident, at best.

And then there’s commitment. When two people make the ultimate commitment (dare I use the M word here: Marriage), they are declaring openly that they share the responsibility to respect one another: mind, body, and spirit. In these books, there was no such commitment made, leaving this woman in danger of being physically, emotionally, and spiritually wounded by an already wounded man.

Another complex portion of rallying for rights is recognizing your part in narrative. The young lady in the first book constantly pursued the man, even after him telling her to stay away.

Raising, not simply head-strong, prideful, self-absorbed young women, but those in touch with their identities is integral to helping them know when a potential relationship is toxic. Not simply knowing what they are attracted to, but gaining a wisdom about what traits to stay far away from.

Ultimately, it’s not all about changing policies or evening the playing field at the end of the day. The heart is hard to legislate. As it has always been, confident, wise women will till their own fields. I will teach my daughter and daughter-types to conduct themselves as if no glass ceiling exists….until it no longer doesn’t.

A Prayer on My Birthday

Heavenly Father, thank you for keeping me this past year. Your strength is exactly what I needed & will continue to need.

I rejoice in the fact that your faithfulness and dedication towards me still catches me off guard. I want to always be in awe of you, Lord. Thank you for taking care of my family as I battled internally. You are the One who wars for my soul and you reminded me of that. Depression and anxiety continued to pursue me, but “Mercy said no”.

I’m finally thankful that I have little control concerning the course of Life itself. People will come and go & I get to enjoy their companionship while they are here. And they can enjoy me. Thank you for that privilege.

I praise you for my mate and husband. Thank you for tightening our grip onto one another and for being our Counselor and Teacher. When we felt alone, & unsure of where to go, you gave us Counsel.

I’m growing to accept the call, Father. I understand my place here now, more than ever. So I ask for your grace and courage. Protect my heart, Lord. Guard me from callousness and a critical spirit. Pour into me joy & a peacefulness that can encourage the hopeless, oppressed, and afraid. Gird my integrity so that I will seek to serve and not be seen.

Continue the healing, Father. Dry every tear. Solidify my written testimony that others will read and find courage to seek out their own Victory.

You are beautiful, Lord. I love you with all of me. I give you all of me.

Brittney

Tribute to Your Little One

This post is not about me. 

I can tend to write about topics where I can easily draw a parallel into my personal life. Conclude with a profound anecdote, but today I cannot seem to do that in good conscience.

Because this one isn’t about me.  

Today is the 1 month anniversary of the day my dear friends said their temporary goodbyes to their newborn son. I say temporary because our Faith dictates that this life is temporary for us all, but that a blessed, never ending eternity awaits us on the other side of this life. I’ve been tempted to create a connection with our stories (the mother and I); but the more I think of her, or look her in the eyes, or hug her, the more I feel that the place she and her husband are traveling through together is foreign, scary, and noteworthy.  

The only image I can muster up in my mind that matches is the look I saw my mother give the day we put her son’s body in his grave. It’s one of my most vivid memories from that time. I remember thinking that this wasn’t right. Shouldn’t a child be putting their parent in the ground, and not the other way around? What was my mom to do now? How could she carry on? I can remember having brief feelings of anger towards God for letting things happen outside of His natural order.  

But as time went on, some of the questions have settled. My mother has been able to carry on, somehow. And even though I know that the pain is still present, it is contained within a precious keepsake; a box…Hope.  

Hope that God has a purpose for the events he allows & that no grief is to be experienced without a blueprint…and a map…attached. There is a Way that we all must go, & our God is aware of every tumultuous turn and terrain. Some areas are filled with breathtaking mountain tops and wide, peaceful meadows. And there are places so unstable and uncertain that we cry out questions to God of why He would bring us here.  

But I have seen my mom’s pain be transformed by this Hope. A purpose became clear. And Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”, became tangible. It is/was hard watching my mom grieve. It is/was hard being the surviving child; helpless and having no words to comfort. Only prayers that,at times, felt fruitless.  

…but I repeat, this isn’t about me.  

Their son’s life, no matter how brief, brought great joy. And that is the reputation with which he left for heaven. His little hands & toes & hairs were known by his parents. And I know he knew them. His bright, innocent eyes content with be holding his mom’s and dad’s faces. God counted him faithful & suitable for Heaven.  

I pray we live for that same purpose & will be ready when our times come.  

To the parents, I love you both. Words will never be enough, but I pray our presence with you may minister to you when you need it. And may God’s presence be felt above all. 

Signs You’re too Young Minded for a Commitment

Today was the day that the term marriage was redefined. Whether you agree with the decision or not, the institution of marriage is on an examination table. A whole collection of people will finally get to experience the challenges & heartaches of marriage. On some level.

Ironically, there is an entire generation that will simultaneously rally behind marriage equality but are wrestling with commitment. The term “prolonged adolescence” means that young adults are waiting longer than ever to finish college, move out of their parents’ homes, and get married. Perpetual bachelorhood is romanticized over romance itself. It seems to me that there is more warring against traditional marriage besides the recent declaration.

But I’ve been thinking….current culture reveals so much evidence that not only are most 20 somethings not choosing to get married, but they aren’t even prepared for the commitment. And not only that, but they aren’t attempting to prepare themselves. I can’t speak on this without having the experience to back it up. I wasn’t married at 22. I made a ton of mistakes.

…so, I’m not at all pointing any fingers here…

Anywho. Here’s the list I came up with of signs that you are too young minded to handle a long term commitment. Feel free to comment/add/minus any of these….

1. You cannot take constructive criticism with humility.

2. You haven’t the foggiest idea of where you’d like to be in 5 years.

3. Your ideals/beliefs change depending on who you’re around.

4. You have multiple personal electronics which their cost add up into the $1000s but you can’t seem to save for a car.

5. You cannot make a full meal on your own (including a starch, a meat, a vegetable, and maybe dessert).

6. You stink at having roommates or always choose to live alone.

7. When out with friends, you can’t (at least once) pick out the restaurant.

8. Your FB timeline is filled with passive aggressive/attention seeking posts.

9. Your previous relationships ended due to the same, exact reason. Doesn’t matter which one, but they are all identical.

10. You believe its the opposite sex’s fault you aren’t in a relationship.

11. You spend most of your time looking for someone, rather than becoming someone.

12. If you’re female, you still say the following: “I have more guy friends than girls. I just don’t get along with girls.”

12b. If you’re a male, you still use derogatory terms for women (e.g. thot, etc.).

13. You either feel like marriage is a) a prison sentence or b) your salvation.