…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.

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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.

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