There’s No Place Like Home

There’s no place like home. A common catchphrase and when sung by Marianas Trench my favorite song for the last few years.

This phrase came to mind quite often as I visited home over the weekend. I live closer to my hometown than I have since leaving five years ago but still not so close as to make it easily accessible. I was unable to get home for Christmas this year but enjoyed my time spent here with my sister. Work was more than willing to give me a less in demand weekend off in January and my parents were delighted to have me for the first time since September. They have been up to visit but I haven’t been home so I was super pumped to see my dog again.

While a short visit it was enjoyable. My grandmother recently had surgery so visits with her were spent checking to see that she was okay as well as applying eye drops. I got to visit my home church and it went surprisingly well. It was good to see the older people in my church and let them know that I miss them. I stopped in to see old coworkers and visited old haunts. I spent the boat ride with two of my dear friends from high school and their infant son. I’m not a babies person but I find their son precious.

I got to pet SO many dogs, oh my goodness. My parents have two dogs, my best friend has two dogs AND a cat, and my honorary mother has two dogs. I was in heaven. My dog is 9 and still as silly as ever. She’s become better at cuddling though which makes sleeping easier.

While at home I had Adele’s Hello stuck in my head which just made me laugh really. I watched the Def Leppard movie with my family and listened to the hair metal channel with my dad. We took the scenic (mostly) plowed roads back to my current home and arrived in time for my evening shift.

I’m sorry for the delay in this week’s blog post and the lack of grist it contains. Right now I’m avoiding cleaning, listening to music, trying to remember how to cook proper meals, and piecing together a Young Adult novel in the making. I hope you are well and please let me know what you think of the new theme.

Take care,

V.

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Inviting People Into The Mess

As anyone who has ever lived with me before will tell you I am not a clean person. I will leave laundry on my bed until it gets worn, there is enough paper lying around my room to make your own journal, and if I don’t leave conscious and continuous reminders I am unlikely to sweep let alone mop until I come home and realize just how bad everything has gotten (again) and go on a wild dance party cleaning spree. Since university I’ve learned to keep it short of a toxic waste dump by staying on top of dishes or at least keeping them out of non-eating places and I keep a pretty good handle on laundry being cleaned if not actually folded and put away. So in this way and in many more figurative ways I can be a pretty messy person.

I have lived in the city for just shy of four months. In these four months I have made one new friend. I have been to her house on several occasions to watch hockey, cook together, borrow books, watch movies, and other things that friends generally get together to do. She has not been to my place and I have always given the completely valid excuse of “it’s a dump”. About once every two weeks I go on a previously mentioned cleaning spree but by the time I want to show people “look! I have done the thing!” it has inevitably fallen into entropy again. C’est la vie.

I have reconnected with a couple friends since moving to the city. One of them has been to my apartment a few times to pick me up and hasn’t been eaten by any Star Wars related garbage monsters. Yet. Recently we have committed a day of the week to getting together to catch up, make food, and watch movies. She is an excellent hostess but I always felt guilty for not having her over to my place. This last week we met at my place and for the first time she was there for longer than ten minutes. I had planned to clean after church but ended up not getting home until an hour before they would arrive. After a much needed shower I had about fifteen minutes to get the house in order. Needless to say it was not the most thorough job and I apologized as I walked them to my door.

And you know what? We had a great time. Yeah, the apartment wasn’t very organized and I had to get a little creative with dishes to make supper with. But we worked on colouring pages they had brought and watched Two Towers while eating nachos. It was a great visit. No one died in the Messy Apartment Sinkhole of 2016 and on my next day off I had sufficient time to make my house a home again and all is well.

It is only fair that I warn you that I am overly fond of making allegories and Life Lesson connections out of everything. I’m also really bad for getting into a rough spot in life and suddenly thinking of ten friends I want to reconnect with but not wanting to be asked “and how are you these days?” I genuinely want to know how things are with them without making it about me or divulging that things are less than great. I never stop to think “hey, maybe it isn’t all peaches and cream with them either.” I think there is a fine line to walk between only talking with someone when you need to unburden yourself and genuinely wanting to reconnect with someone who comes to mind when you’re at your lowest. For me, I try to make a list of people that when I get out of this slump I will reach out to.

To be honest though I’m still not sure if this is the best plan either. Maybe, like with a messy apartment, sometimes you need to welcome people into the mess before you are able to clean. I spent this summer working at a home ready meals and pizza counter in my hometown’s grocery store. The part I hated the most about the whole ordeal was running into old classmates and having to admit that I had no idea what I was doing with my life. I quickly came to learn that they were still trying to figure things out too. People I hadn’t talked to in five years were suddenly stopping by to chat and letting me into their fears and questions as well. On good days when I let myself reach out to friends I had made at university I found out that they were still confused as well. It didn’t matter if they had found their dream job, were in grad school, getting married, or just as lost as I was everyone had things they were still trying to figure out. Everyone gets tired. Everyone doubts themselves. Everyone has some good in their life they wanted to talk about as well (most days).

One of the things I’m trying to do in 2016 (and tried in 2015 and probably tried in 2014 as well) is to be better at intentional community and keeping in touch with people. This way it is like reading the book of my friends’ lives and not just the spark notes/greatest hits. It allows me to be there for them when things are going great, when they’re going poorly, and when they don’t really appear to be going anywhere. Like I said, I’m working on it. It also allows me to show them my life as I try to figure things out, experience highs and lows and all the plateaus in between.

What I think I’m trying to say and honestly might have said by now is to let people into the mess. If they let you into their mess as well see what an honour that is. Celebrate, cry, and let yourself have gray days together. And don’t forget that dancing is a great way to get yourself through many a cleaning day.

V

 

What a difference a week makes

This time last week I was curled in a ball on my bed crying and screaming at God. September has been very difficult for me. For the first time in 17 years I am not in school. I had a very difficult summer and told myself it would be okay because my friends are returning in the fall. I still see them but not as often as I’m used to. Unfortunately I spent quite a bit of time with my head up my butt, hurt, angry, and very convinced that I had been unceremoniously dumped by everyone I cared about. Someone who was a father to me died just over a month ago and I am still learning to live with that. I worked at a job that was minimum wage and had nothing to do with my degree. I felt I had no purpose and no support.

Last week was the final straw. My father contacted me to say that my great grandmother was very sick and they were calling the family in. My great grandmother has been a rock of mine since I was young. I’m not very close with my family but I have always loved my great grandmother and she has always supported me. I snapped. I started sobbing and screaming at God “what next? What else am I supposed to put up with? I can’t fucking do this.” I don’t think I’ve ever consciously sworn at God before but I just went completely off the deep end. It scared me.

It was a wake up call. I went to an older church friend after I picked myself up enough to leave my bed. He gave me amazing hugs, sound advice, and just listened as I ranted and raged for about an hour. I ran into one of my pastors and his wife on my way home from visiting with Keith. I felt like God was telling me that I wasn’t as alone in this as I thought and I got some comfort from that.

Now this week my great grandmother is doing much better. While I still work at my minimum wage job I feel like I have some support there and I have also been offered two part time jobs in my field. I have reconnected with friends and pulled my head out of my butt for the most part. I went to chapel for the first time this year and felt rejuvenated from that experience. Things aren’t perfect but I no longer feel so alone or wasted.

Long story short it never amazes me how much this town keeps showing me again and again how much can change in a week.

Sorry For The Fire We Couldn’t Put Out: An open letter to anyone who cares to try

(Warning: this is a lot of angst/ramblings and not directed at anyone in particular. I promise blog posts will be more concise from here on out.)

I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the good days and the bad. I’m sorry for the days when I gave us both hope. I’m sorry for the days I frustrated you, lashed out, still felt I had something to prove. For the days I still didn’t know what that was. I’m sorry this apology is in past tense. I sit imperfect, tense, and apologize for a future of the same.

I thank you. I thank you for being you. I thank you for loving me. I thank you for being there. I thank you for caring. I thank you for staying. I thank you for not giving up.

More than anything I apologize for resenting you for the above. I apologize for the times I spent hating you. I apologize for the days I felt like a caged rabbit, heart thumping so fast and blinded by the instinct to kick at anything within reach.

I am sorry for and thank you for the dreams you gave me of the future. I thank you for making me reconsider my self imposed solitude. I thank you for visions of a future where we work out. Where I allow my body to make the changes that come with a healthy pregnancy and we have beautiful children together. Where these friendships last and I am not forced to rethink who I am every four years. Where my future does not consist of a Great Dane, cluttered book shelves, and long lonely drives into town for work. I thank you for daydreams of waking to the ocean breeze through the window and kissing your neck as the sun rises over the water. I thank you for connections all over the world. I thank you for keeping in touch from hundreds of miles away. I thank you for giving me space in a town fifteen minutes wide even when I hated you for it.

I’m sorry for hating you when you don’t meet my silent needs. I’m sorry for expecting you to fix me even as I adamantly insist that I do not need to be fixed. I’m sorry for projecting my hopes and dreams on you. I’m sorry for expecting you to rescue me from things I’ve never breathed a word of to you or anyone else.

I’m sorry for this fire that picks up again with a chance breeze. I’m sorry for these embers and a heart forged by fire. I don’t blame you, my parents, my upbringing, or anyone else. It’s all me and I know this and I’m sorry. I’m working on it except when I’m not. I apologize for the times when I’m not. I apologize now because I damn well won’t at the time.

Know this. I do love you and thank you for loving me. And while it may ignite flames that I swore were merely coals I thank you for leaving when you did. When you do. For the time you spent, for the investments that did not come through. Because these too are lessons that needed to be learned. This too is life.

And it catches up to us all in the end.

Damaged Goods?

To say I started this blog because of a singular event would be incorrect. To say it was started because of a string of events would be closer to the truth. In reality, it was a string of mentalities that really brought this blog into being.

Allow me to set the stage.

I grew up in a Christian home. My father grew up in a United Pentecostal church and my mother was a Wesleyan. My siblings and I were raised in a Baptist church in a small conservative fishing village. Given the remoteness of our community along with other psychosocial factors we had a tendency to cycle through pastors fairly quickly. One thing all these men had in common was weekly altar calls and warnings about hell. Every. week. My church went through a period of three years where we pastored ourselves while waiting for the right leader to arrive. These were spiritually some of the best years of my life.

At the age of sixteen my church finally elected a new pastor. He and I clashed from the start. It seemed the focus of every sermon was on the inevitable descent into hell. As someone who had been told at the age of three that if I did not want to pray then Jesus would forget about me when I died and I would go to hell this terrified me. I wanted nothing to do with a theology focused on damnation—the fear of which having already influenced every decision I had made for the last thirteen years. At the age of sixteen I started questioning the beliefs of my church, choosing instead to try and find my own relationship with God. A relationship not so driven by hate and fear.

By the time I entered university I was going through the motions of faith. I was still motivated by my fear of hell but questioned if there was any real significance to anything else I had learned. I went to church sporadically, made an effort to read my Bible daily, and lived my life however I wanted. I dated non-Christians, swore like a sailor and drank like one too.

This brings us to September of 2012. I was a washed up mess. The toxic combination of my drinking and unhealthy relationships had sent me into a suicidal head spin over the summer. I had fallen in love with a girl for the first time. These feelings weren’t returned but I was left to figure out my sexuality all over again. I was mentally, spiritually, and physically exhausted. I showed up to my university’s clubs and societies fair in a daze.

This was how the Christian Fellowship at my school found me. I had meant to join when I started university but there was a conflict in my schedule and each time it became easier not to go. I knew a few people in the IVCF (InterVarsity Christian Fellowship) from church, but not well enough for them to know who I was outside of church. Those who did know me thought I was eccentric if not outright crazy. Nevertheless they invited me to their first event and I found myself saying yes. I slowly because more involved with the group and started making friends. All the time looking at myself—a queer, recovering alcoholic, self-destructive, feminist—surrounded by all these Good Christian Kids and silently asking myself, “what the fuck am I doing here?”

I kept my insecurities to myself. Some days they ate at me more than others. Some days I clashed with my Christian friends even when I didn’t want to. Over time however I came to see that my friends weren’t perfect either and this helped. I still felt like damaged goods, but I came to realize that maybe I wasn’t alone in these feelings.

All of this is a really long lead up to Easter Sunday 2014. On Psalm Sunday we had watched a video in church of people holding up cardboard signs saying what they had struggled/were struggling with and how God had helped them. Our pastors told us that they would like to see something similar happen at our church for Easter Sunday. They asked us to spend the next week thinking about what to say if we wanted to participate.

I spent the next week wrestling back and forth with the idea of saying anything. I love being there for other people but I am terrified of being vulnerable. I was worried that the friendships I had worked on for the last two years would be taken from me. That I would be seen as the damaged goods I always knew myself to be. I was terrified.

Sunday morning as I was enjoying Easter breakfast with my church family I gathered up the courage and decided to let myself be vulnerable. I grabbed a piece of cardboard and a permanent marker. On one side I wrote in big bold letters ”DAMAGED GOODS”. Along the edges of the sign I put “self-medication (pills, alcohol), depression, self-harm, eating disorder, sexual abuse, suicidal ideation.” On the back of the sign I put the words “being transformed by Christ.” A little shaken I returned to the breakfast table and waited for church to start.

I was surprised by the amount of people who came forward with signs. Some of them I knew and some I didn’t. When it was my turn I stood at the front and unloaded my insecurities on the church. As I flipped the sign I started crying. I stood there with tears in my eyes on the stage with the rest of the sign holders for what felt like an hour. I was still crying when I returned to sit with my friends. I was met with hugs, not ostracization. One of my friends thanked me afterwards for my honesty and bravery. I didn’t feel very brave. It just didn’t make sense to keep it inside of me anymore.

Thankfully my friends did not abandon me upon hearing The Truth (as I so dramatically put it at the time). My friendships remained strong and having not been accepted into grad school I decided to stay in town another year. Some of my reasons for doing so were healthier than others. This town is the first place I’ve ever felt at home. This is the first place I’ve ever had a strong group of friends. I was still worried that if I left my friends would say “Thank God” and no longer feel the obligation to talk to me. I would be alone again and that terrified me. I trusted these people but not enough to test it apparently.

A summer apart taught me that real friends stay in touch. You might not talk to them everyday but you know that not only would they care if something bad happened to you, but they care and are there in the good times too.

Which brings me to the night I decided to make this blog once and for all. I am sorry it has taken me so long to get here. I’ve never done anything like this before.

As I mentioned, I decided to stay in my university town after graduation. There isn’t much work outside of the university. I was working in a coffee shop two towns over. I had graduate friends visiting and the only exciting news I had was I had found a job working at the coffee shop in the university town instead. My friends showed up with the young adults who were working as counsellors at a Bible camp for the summer. Even though they were all very friendly, once again I felt like a dirty penny, like everything I said was wrong in some way. This mentality was no one’s fault but my own. I managed to shake myself of it by the end of the evening. After the late teens/young adults had left I wandered the streets with my friends and reminisced on the last four years. It was empowering to see how far we had come, how much things had changed since we first arrived. I momentarily stopped beating myself up and conceded that maybe I wasn’t a lost cause after all.

So here we are, blogosphere. This isn’t a recovery blog, per se. It’s not a Dear Abby blog either. It’s just a place to spill out some thoughts and try to make sense of my own headspace. Sometimes it’s not enough to keep a journal but posting somewhere that all my friends can see it doesn’t feel right either. As time progresses people I know will hear about this blog, but we’ll both just have to deal with that when the time comes. This space will not be perfect and for the most part it will not be apologetic. But it will be my own. My words to share with whom I please and if you made it to the end of this incredibly long diatribe and still wish to stick around then I applaud your patience.

Welcome to my self, perhaps still salvageable after all.

September 10, 2014 (posted September 23 because I am a slacker)

Just to get things started

Greetings. Good morning? Good evening? Hello all the same and thanks for tuning in.

After much hemming and hawing after the last year or so I have decided to start my own blog. Like any other recent university graduate/20-something I believe that now that I have some Life Experience under my proverbial belt I have Some Things to Say. One might even say, Some Advice to Give. Hence, this blog.

Will it be painfully pretentious at times? Perhaps. Prone to preamble and perilously long rambles that don’t actually lead anywhere? Almost definitely. Will my Strong Opinions change as time goes on? I certainly hope so.

So if you’re still interested (and by no means should you be at this point) stay tuned. There is more to come very shortly. My first post will most likely be an explanation of this almost flinch worthy title followed by some (hopefully well thought out) posts about Things That I Think About A Lot. I will try to organize these thoughts into categories which may or may not have sidebar settings. I am not as tech savvy as I have been or as I could be.

But this will be a growing experience for both myself and for anyone who tunes in and feels like speaking up. I believe this blog should have a comments section. If this proves false I will post a way to contact me. Above almost everything else, I want this blog to start a discussion, or to keep a previous conversation going. If there is something you would like me to speak on specifically I will do my best to write on it, even if it’s just to admit my utter ignorance/indifference on the subject and then go from there.

Let’s see how it goes.