Pity Parties on an Airplane

exhausted traveler

Do you know what it’s like to be on that last leg of a long journey? When you’ve forgotten how many flights and layovers you’ve had? All you know is that wherever you’re going, it is taking a really long time to get there? It’s always the very last, brief flight the gets me. Not the hefty, ten-hour one or the three-hour one after that, but the final one- or two-hour flight from Dallas to Nashville or from Atlanta to Nashville or, like yesterday, from Detroit to Nashville.

This Delta Detroit flight was a whopping one hour and eight minutes long, but before that flight was a 4.5-hour one and before that a 5-hour one and before, after and in between those was walking through terminals like a zombie looking for coffee and a grouping of chairs I could spread out on and contemplating asking a complete stranger what city, time zone and state I was in.

By the time I boarded my Detroit flight around 3pm, I had been flying traveling since 10pm the night before. I was in a state. Not only did I not want to talk to the people sitting on my right and my left, I didn’t want to look at them. I had no energy to acknowledge the existence of other humans. I was tired, I was hungry, I was achy and I refused to engage in the lighthearted attempts next to me to make conversation. I spent my hour and eight minutes with my eyes closed pretending to sleep and hating my life. If only the guys next to me knew how exhausted and ready to be home I was. I had been away for ten whole days.

When I don’t speak to those around me, I get very caught up in my own head. My problems become the worst problems anyone anywhere could ever have. I have the worst pain. I am the most tired. I’ve been traveling the most. I want others to know my story, but I do not want to hear theirs. So for one hour and eight minutes I blew up my tiredness and problems in my head until I was most certainly the one on that aircraft suffering the most and I believed everyone else should be catering to my needs and feeling sorry for me.

Because I refused to speak to the men next to me, I didn’t learn until we were landing that their exhaustion was actually worse than mine. The guy to my right had been flying for 23 hours (ten hours more than I had) and the guy to my left had been on the road for 18 days straight, was about to be home for two days, then hit the road again for another 18 days. Because I refused to speak to the guy on my left, I only overheard this information as he, without complaint, detailed it to another passenger. I only heard about the guy on my right who had been flying for 23 hours because he made a second attempt to engage me in conversation as we were landing, and I finally listened. He had come all the way from Manila, twice as far as I had come, and was in Nashville on business. This wasn’t even home yet for him.

This is what always gets me in trouble. I would rather sit and wallow in my pain than go out and listen to someone else’s story. As long as I don’t hear it, mine is worse, but every time I break out of the pity party—every time—I come out of myself, just far enough to get perspective on my “difficulties” and “hardships” that seem much less difficult and hard after I’ve listened. It’s not about comparing your problems with another’s; it’s about seeing yours in a different light, a more realistic and less doomsday shade of light. I wonder if the solution to our problems isn’t fixing them, but instead, is putting others’ stories before our own. I wonder how our perspectives would change if we began to listen less to the voices in our heads and more to the voices of the real people around us.

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The Parts of Us That We’ve Forgotten

The Parts of Us We've Forgotteb

I continue my time of rest from a place my family has returned to almost every summer since I was 15 years old. This place, oh this place.

I got to thinking as I was walking on the familiar beach path a few days ago that I’ve walked that path as many different girls: a teenage girl, a college girl, a girl in love, a heartbroken girl, a confused, sad, joyful and excited girl. A girl arm and arm with her mom, her dad, her best friends and her sisters. No matter who happened to show up as me that summer, I consistently walked or ran that path by the water and the lava rocks and the giant sea turtles as many times as possible before the sad departure day arrived.

It’s strange how a place can remind you of who you once were and what you once were like. I’m laughing now at how timely it is for me to visit that path at this point in my own path when I’m starting a new career and hoping for the best and trying not to be terrified of the worst. This path has been good for me these past few days to remember why I’m doing this, to remember the parts of me that love and have always loved to write. The part of me that told people at age five that I was going to be an Author. The eight-year-old me that made up stories and read them aloud to my class. The college me that competed in a slam poetry contest (yes, yes I did that).

Those parts of us. Remember them? They’re still there, but sometimes we quiet them and hush them until we convince ourselves they’ve gone away. We do this because we are clinging to the reliable things like schedules, and financial goals and to-do lists and things that aren’t bad but when they are our rock, we feel no need for anything else—a hobby, a passion, a savior.

On my beach path, I’ve been assured the parts of me I’d forgotten have not actually gone away. Neither have yours. I’ve also been assured that we owe it to ourselves to be honest about who we are. To let what we’ve let die a little come back to life. This often means taking little steps like signing up to be in the chorus of a community theater production, taking a substitute teaching gig, knitting a scarf for a friend. Whatever it is that taps into that part of you you’ve been keeping under the surface, into that thing you once loved and were good at and others told you so.

Find the walking path, or the city, or the house or the park that will remind you of this. Go there, walk around and remember what it was. Remember who you were.

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Learning to Rest

Brier_Island_Lighthouse_(1)

I write to you today from the lobby of a Ramada Inn in Ft. Walton, Florida. I’m on a somewhat last-minute beach trip with a friend. We plopped ourselves onto the white sand for two days on this long weekend with no agenda, lots of snacks and what turned out to be expired sunscreen. We are “resting.” At least, that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. I have vowed to take a breath between leaving my job and diving into My Writing Thing. A couple of weeks to breathe deeply, read, look at the water and renew my mind in preparation for a transition.

You would think I would be really good at resting right now. I don’t have a work email to attend to. I’m not anticipating the craziness that is Tuesday after a holiday weekend. No one will need me to answer questions or send them things. I’m not getting calendar alerts for meetings happening this week. I can say my body has been resting this weekend. I have done nothing but lie or sit in sand. Yet my mind is a different story. It’s been running. Running in the wrong directions: ahead and behind. Running anywhere and doing anything but stopping to recognize the present moment.

I don’t think many of us are good at true rest. I actually wonder if it’s something that we as a culture have forgotten how to do. True rest lies in the present. I’m not resting on a beach if I keep wondering about my future or replaying past conversations and events in my head.

It’s not surprising I’ve been revisiting my past this weekend. I’ve said this before but it’s ever true today, I think we go to the past because we know what happens there. It’s comfortable. And when you’re in a time of change and things aren’t as clear, you hurry back to familiar scenes and faces. So these past two days, I have been gripped by a nostalgia for my past. I’ve thought about the places I’ve lived and the people I knew there and I’ve missed them and I’ve wished I was back. Back to being 22, in school and certain of more than I am certain of now.

Maybe you do this too? Who wants to squint at an uncertain future when you can see and hear with clarity the voices of your past? On the other hand, who wants to stunt her own growth and refuse to take leaps in the dark because she can’t turn her head around to face the future?

I’ve been playing “Out of Hiding” by Steffany Frizzell-Gretzinger over and over since her album released last Tuesday. I listen to it for these words:

Come out of hiding


You’re safe here with Me


There’s no need to cover
 what I’ve already seen

I’ll be your lighthouse when you’re lost at sea


And I will illuminate
 everything

God as our lighthouse is a powerful image. If He is our lighthouse, He will point the light in the direction we are to go, and I bet that light won’t be pointed backwards. I bet He isn’t aiming to illuminate our past for us. Maybe for clarity’s sake, but not so we can find our way back there. If we are to arrive safely to shore, His light will point us ahead. And I believe it’s in His light, that we will find rest.

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And He Will Make Your Paths Straight

And He Will Make Your Path Straight

My fourth summer in Nashville and I’m still not accustomed to it—the fast and furious rain storms that interrupt your day in the rudest way and leave you, just as suddenly as they came, walking along steamy pavement. This girl from the desert of south Texas is still surprised that rain in the summer even happens.

I watched a downpour like this the other day from the safety of my living room. People were on the street one minute and then nowhere to be seen the next. They had wisely run for cover. This particular rain was the vision-impairing kind that wouldn’t allow you to get anywhere fast anyways. A thick sheet of rain.

I haven’t made a major life change in almost five years. My last one was moving to Nashville, where I live now, to work at a book publishing house where I worked until this last Friday. This is the first Monday in 23 years that I have woken up neither an “employee” nor a “student.” It would be fair to say I am looking at a thick sheet of rain. I will probably be looking at it tomorrow too and many days thereafter. This is what it feels like to have an uncertain future. To leave a job you love and people you loved working with to do something you’ve known for a while now that you are supposed to do.

About a year ago after a succession of events I will write about in due time, I knew I was ready to start to pray about a job transition. And a few months ago I knew it was time to start to plan for said transition. And a few weeks ago, it was time to make it. I put in a five weeks notice, and here I sit on my stone on my uncertain path staring at the thick sheet of rain.

This is as descriptive as I can be about my next step at the moment: I’m going to be Doing My Writing Thing. At best, I’ve piddled in writing since I started a full-time job. I’ve freelanced here and there, been on and off this blog, taken a few weekends to work on longer creative pieces that are more fun than they are focused, and it’s time to get real about it.

I’ve never leapt like this before. My life to date has been about sensible choices. College, graduate school, career. I have felt safe in these decisions and yes they were challenging and scary when they started, but nothing has been quite so unclear as this next step. Never has my future looked so blurry. I can do nothing to get it into focus, squint as I may.

Sometimes several stones ahead of us on the path are illuminated. It’s so nice when that happens, isn’t it? When you kinda know what’s coming next, and the education and career track you are on are clear. Then there are those times when it seems only the stone you stand on and maybe one or two ahead of you are lit. Everything else? Dark.

We can’t know what’s next, and that’s difficult for we humans still not convinced of our mortality. But we can trust what’s next.

As I stand on my one illuminated stone, I don’t know what else to do except cling to this: “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:6). And he will make your paths straight. Not clear. Straight. We aren’t promised that we will know what’s next, we are promised something better: that what’s next will be in the right direction. It will be straight ahead because he will make it so.

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Why You Should Apologize to Yourself

Why You Should Apologize to Yourself

We all know saying sorry to others is important. But have you ever thought about saying sorry to yourself? I hadn’t until I read this blog post on Storyline by Mike Foster a few weeks ago about negative self-talk. Read it then come back here, please.

I don’t know about you, but his words were spot on for me and the way I talk to myself. Think about all of the voices that go off in your head as you go through your day. If you lean perfectionist like I do, you may have a few more voices and they are probably a little more critical.

For me, the voices start early in the day. The first thing I see when I walk into my office in the mornings is a big, dim, full-length reflection of myself in the tinted mirror/wall opposite the front doors. I tell myself not to look, but I always do and then I always have an opinion about what I decided to wear that day and how I look in it. I share this opinion with myself and make it to the stairs v. elevator debate a few feet away. “You have to take the stairs,” I tell myself, “and you know why.”

After this internal conversation about my looks is over, the internal conversation about my day begins. I check my calendar and see a meeting scheduled that I’d forgotten about and beat myself up for forgetting about it, even though it’s two hours away so it’s not like I’m going to miss it. Then I start to make my to-do list and get distracted by an email, so I get onto myself for being so easily distracted. And the negativity continues and progresses until it’s really a miracle I make it home not physically bruised from it all.

I think we become very accustomed to this in our lives. It’s the norm to be mean to ourselves and then nice to others. This is how we exist, but we don’t have to.

The other day I decided to put into practice #3 on Mike Foster’s list of recommendations for kicking negative self-talk to the curb: Apologize to yourself. I had been making fun of myself for acting awkward in a social situation and was running over in my head how I should have said and done things differently. I do this a lot–chastise myself for not acting “cooler” in public. But this time, I stopped me mid-sentence and apologized. To me. I said I was sorry I was being so hard on me, and that really I hadn’t acted that awkwardly and probably no one had noticed. I said I was sorry I lacked grace for me and then I gave myself a compliment.

It felt weird, and writing it out like this feels even weirder, but as I was kind to myself in my thoughts, I felt that toxic negativity start to leave and make room for a little confidence and grace to enter in. It’s physics (or something), really. You release the bad stuff and have more space for the good. Think about that, the potential beauty inside of you released with a simple apology.

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Stop Pretending You Know What You’re Talking About

Stop Pretending You Know What You're Talking About

The other night I found myself in a cluster of new friends at a concert. The second band was sound-checking so we huddled together to talk about the previous band, what we thought about them, if we liked them and why, how they fit into the trend of that genre of music these days, where music was headed in general, and how everyone was starting to sound like The Black Keys. And when I say “we” talked about this, I mean that they talked about this, I said very little, and mostly listened and smiled. Because I don’t really know how to talk intelligently about the type of music we were seeing. I don’t even know what it’s called – Indie? Americana? Words I don’t know the definitions to.

At first, I felt ashamed at my lack of contribution to the conversation. “Everyone is starting to sound like The Black Keys? What does that even mean?” I thought to myself. I like be to useful in chats like this and add interesting facts that impress people, but on this topic, I really had nothing to say, and I grew fearful these new friends would not like me anymore. That they would move on to other clusters of people who did things like listen to vinyl records and would never listen to Taylor Swift turned up loud with the windows rolled down.

In my moments of insecurity, I began to remember a friend I really respect. The reason I respect her is because she never pretends to know things she doesn’t know. She asks the questions everyone else is too afraid to ask but we’re all deep down wishing someone would tell us the answers to. So I decided to channel this friend’s confidence in my conversation at the concert and finally asked what the guy meant when he said music is all starting to sound like The Black Keys. The answer turned out to be interesting (something about their producer who produces a bunch of other random artists), and I felt like I learned something I wouldn’t have leanred if I had continued to stare at the few of them and nod as if I agreed and understood all of their musical jargon.

The best part was, these new friends did not seem to like me less after I confessed my ignorance. They didn’t point their fingers at me and laugh; they simply answered my questions in a kind way, happy to have some knowledge to offer me. Their kindness invited me to be myself for the remainder of the night. And nights are always more fun when you’re being yourself instead of pretending or trying to be someone else.

It’s so easy to like people who are genuine and comfortable being themselves, and it’s so easy to forget that we are allowed to act this way too. I would much rather be friends with someone who is honest than friends with someone who’s trying to impress me. We can’t all know everything about everything, and that’s ok.

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‘The Waves and Wind Still Know His Name’

The Waves and Wind Still Know His Name

If you’re not familiar with the Bethel version of “It Is Well With My Soul,” get familiar with it now.

This song played in my head all weekend. My little sister chose it as part of the music played in her wedding ceremony, and I melted as I heard the band rehearse it at the church Thursday night and then again when my sister and I played it on repeat (at my request) on the way to the bridal luncheon and finally during the wedding itself as it played and everything else was silent before the moms walked down the aisle with the ushers’ help, and the bridesmaids lined up behind the large wooden doors, hushing the flower girl who kept meowing back at us.

There is a line in the chorus of this song I’m singing still:

“The waves and wind

still know

His name.”

I first caught it in the car as the song played on its fourth repeat. “They still know His name,” I thought as I drove. “They still know His name,” I thought as we reached the old downtown manor where the luncheon would be held. “They still know His name,” I thought as I got out of the car and walked beneath the too-hot 10am sun. I kept thinking about this lyric until I said it aloud to no one, “THE WAVES AND WIND STILL KNOW HIS NAME.” I couldn’t help myself. They still know His name!

You know this story. Remember it. There was a storm and the disciples were afraid and Jesus was asleep and they woke him up at a loss for what to do, “And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” (Mark 4:39-41).

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about this wedding and how as much as I was looking forward to it, it reminded me of a color I was missing in my life’s paint-by-number creation. And tonight I sit here and all I can think about is how that story in Mark didn’t just happen in Mark, but that it happens still. That Jesus told the wind and waves to be silent and I like to remember that story in past tense and I keep it locked up there tightly. I forget he is the same today, that those winds and those waves? They still answer to Him. That my “storms” as I like to dramatically consider them, are at the mercy of Him not only years and years ago but this morning, and tonight and tomorrow. That His faithfulness is in motion, not sporadic. It’s continuous and moves with us, in and out of the dark and light times, whether we see it or not.

Nothing about this weekend felt unfair or incomplete as our paint-by-numbers often can. When you walk in the knowledge that everything around you still knows His name, that includes you too. And if you know his name, life is suddenly filled in with peace and, like the waves and the wind, you are still.

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