Poem Ashes

For some reason, I haven’t written poetry in a while. I think it’s because things have been so stressful, and the chaos of it all makes me feel utterly disconnected from myself. Writing in general keeps me sane, but writing poetry especially keeps me sane. Isn’t that the way of things, though? When things are stressful and you most need to do your self-care things, you end up shoving them aside because “there’s no time”.

On the other hand, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I can muster up a poem just so that I can write an inspiring blog post. Read the title, people: attempting authenticity. So instead I’m just going to say that whatever it is right now that’s holding you back, whatever it is that’s making you feel disconnected from yourself and out of touch with the things you used to be entwined with, don’t overthink it. Just be. Struggling in water doesn’t make you swim, you know?

So be patient, and don’t waste energy worrying. You’ll find your way back to yourself soon enough. ❤

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It’s 2 a.m.

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It’s 2 a.m.

I’ve been waking up between 2 and 4 a.m. for quite a while now, and then I’m awake awake. My dad has had this issue for decades, so I’m dealing with it the same way he does: I get up and work. Lying awake in the dark, staring at the ceiling and trying anything and everything to get back to sleep, only serves to make my stress worse.

I guess this is the life of an indie author. It’s the life of the self-employed. It’s the life of the non-profit worker (which I am as well, so it’s a double dose). So when you read a book, or decide to support an indie business, or donate to a charity or NGO, look at the words on the page and realize that many of them were probably written by a stress-fueled, tired insomniac who is crazy enough to follow their dreams, even when it means being a cliche (ahem: starving artist).

Doing what you love is not as romantic as it sounds. Let’s not pretend it’s all being a hipster in a trendy coffee shop, wearing cute glasses and cheerily typing away on your Apple computer.

But you know, I wouldn’t trade this for anything, including the 2 a.m. days (which are most of them). And hey. Sometimes it is being a cutie in a coffee shop. A broke cutie, but still.

Hello, My Name is Anakin

I get up and it’s still dark. I stumble to the kitchen and make coffee, still half asleep, and greet my cat when he comes in from his nightly adventures. I take the coffee back to bed with me and prop up my pillows so I can read my Bible. The day starts well.

And then, the more awake I get and the further away from my Bible reading I get, the more my head starts to cloud up. Other things creep in: fear. Guilt. Anxiety. Chaotic thoughts about academics, deadlines, work, life things, whether or not I’m choosing the right thing to do at every moment. The desire to live well and the fear that I will fail. The feeling, the irrational feeling, that if I misstep just a little I will completely veer off the path I’m supposed to be walking on and end up somewhere I was never meant to be. Fear that I will make a huge mistake. Because as self disciplined as I try to be, I am a human being.

This is our condition. We are human beings. When Paul said that he does what he doesn’t want to do and doesn’t do what he wants to do (Romans 7:15), he was describing our condition. Because no matter what, no matter how hard we try and how many routines and structures and rules and roadblocks we put up around us, we are human, and we will make mistakes. It is inevitable. And it becomes overwhelming and even terrifying, at times, that knowledge that I. Will. Make. Mistakes. Despite my best efforts.

And I struggle. And I doubt. And I worry. And I am uncertain. Because despite what the world would like us to think, it is a fallen world, and there are many things wrong with it. Our struggle is proof that something is wrong. It was not supposed to be this way. And perhaps that is the first step: acknowledging that yes, the world is flawed and the systems are flawed and we are flawed and everything has something wrong with it. Everything is out of sync. It is too easy to do the wrong thing and too difficult to do what is right.

So, yeah, let’s not kid ourselves. It is freaking hard to walk this road. It’s nearly impossible, in fact. We can be real about that, yeah? We are pretty much Anakin Skywalker. It’s just how it is.

But let’s also not forget that we have a God who gets it. His standards are impossibly high, yes. Do you think He doesn’t know that? He is our Creator, literally. He made us. He knows. It’s even in the Bible: we all have sinned and (as it is popularly translated) fall short. We fall short. That’s the point of sending Christ to die for our sins and rise again, defeating them forever.

So instead of making God out to be this horrible, scary, judgmental monster in the sky who is looking for an excuse to punish and kill us, let’s go to Him instead. Because the problem comes when we allow our failures to drive a wedge between us and Him. When we give up. He never gives up, not on anyone. He never gets tired of hearing the same thing over and over. He never stops loving us. He never stops waiting for us. We don’t understand Him and the way He does things, and we never will. We don’t have to. He understands us. He sees us. And despite understanding us and seeing us, He loves us. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. In our brokenness and failure, not after we got all squeaky clean and righteous. In the hole. In the abyss. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. So trust Him.

Change

The stack of work I have for the end of vac...thanks, UCT.
The stack of work I have for the end of vac…thanks, UCT.

When I come home for vac, I tend to take some time to think about life, the way I live it, and what I need to let go of and/or change. Some changes are external (for more of that you can take a look at my other blog, I Make Mac & Cheese), but others are internal.

One of the biggest things I take a look at each vac is my stress level. How high has it been lately, what’s causing it, etc. It’s important to know these things because that’s really the only way you can deal with them, and eliminate the stress they’re causing you.

This vac the theme seems to be: 1) what I feel people expect of me and who they expect me to be, and b) feeling like I’m being constantly evaluated by everyone around me.

I’m going to tackle “b” first because it’s easy. It’s not true. Of course we evaluate people around us and we’re constantly making little judgments as we perceive our world and surroundings, but think about it: when’s the last time you were obsessed with a judgment you made to the point of really letting it affect your opinion of that person. Example not based on reality, at least not that I can remember: I see a good friend of mine wearing a shirt that is, in my opinion, a little immodest. She normally wears modest clothes. Do I now think she’s fallen off the wagon? “Gone off the path?” Sold her soul to the devil?

Actually, no, I shrug and move on with my life. That’s the way we function most of the time; see, make a judgment, forget it and move on. Also, what do I care? Of course people are going to disagree with me, and I’m going to disagree with them. It happens all the freaking time. So then what’s my problem? My problem, uncomfortably, is that I have an insecurity that makes me feel like this is what’s happening, because that’s what I’m doing to myself. I want me to be perfect. I want me to be brilliant and wise and spiritual and funny and charming and smart and good at everything I do. I have set an impossible standard for myself.

Which of course led to a somewhat uncomfortable realization that this fear/stress factor of mine has more to do with the fact that I have a very strong need to always be right and to always let everyone know that actually I already know what’s what. So…yeah. That’s uncomfortable and awkward and about a billion other things, but it’s the truth. It’s pride and a bit of rebellion and some other stuff. Now I know and I can pray about it and work on it, so all in all, it’s a good thing, just…yeah…uncomfortable. And kind of makes me want to write a really long letter of apology to everyone I know, because how annoying that must be.

Oh how embarrassing it is when you realize you think this way.
Oh how embarrassing it is when you realize you think this way.

As for “a”…unfortunately, it’s a very real thing. But the thing is, it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. I keep saying this partly because I wish it would just drill itself into my brain and stay there and not float off again like a fickle soap bubble, but also so that YOU will hear this and know this. Yes, people expect things of you. A lot of people, in fact, expect a lot of things from you. They expect you to be a certain way. And when you’re not that certain way, they get all ancy and weird and you’re left wondering what the heck is wrong with them. The thing is, you do this too. I do this. Everyone does. It’s what we, humans, do. It’s a fact of life and it can’t be ignored.

The solution is one of those really obvious, easier-said-than-done things, but it actually works.

Be yourself.

God made you who you are. That’s not to say that there aren’t some kinks [read: sins] to be worked out, but you, the person you are, were hand-crafted, hand made, 100% organically processed, so-natural-you-aren’t-even-found-in-a-health-store natural, created by God. He knit you together in your mother’s womb. He knows all the days of your life before they happen. While you were still a sinner He died for you. Look it up; it’s in the Bible, I promise (start with Psalm 139).

Sound advice. Even though this is actually a folder in my planner.
Sound advice. Even though this is actually a folder in my planner.

It sounds stupid and self-helpish, but clearly some of us need help, so there you go. Be yourself. Practice the gloriousness of being completely and totally free in being YOU. Realize that 90% of the time you feel hurt or offended or like someone just dissed you personally, that’s not the reality. We all say things in jest or without thinking or without really meaning the gravity of the words. People are different. If I were to say something like, “Why on earth would you want to do that?” with lots of sarcasm, it would mean I am trying to hurt the other person, and so I don’t do that. But maybe if Annie Oakley says it she doesn’t mean anything of the kind, despite the way it sounds. Realize that other people are different from you (again, obvious and yet rarely practiced) and give them the benefit of the doubt. Choose not to be offended. Choose to give the people around you space. Choose not to constrict others, just like you don’t want to be constricted.

In other words: chill and live life. It’s actually all simpler than it sometimes feels.

*As always, I share this not to ramble on about my own issues but in the hopes that this might help you, too.

Time

Photo from Nilima Home
Photo from Nilima Home

I feel like I write about this at least once a semester, but it’s important, so here it is. Everyone procrastinates. Some of us are more afflicted than others (ahem: my hand is raised), but we all do it. We laugh and joke about it, and there are hundreds if not thousands if not hundreds of thousands of articles, memes, and puns about it. Maybe this is out of sheer desperation to pretend like it’s okay, or maybe laughing about it is yet another way to procrastinate. I think that it’s a way to justify it so that we don’t feel a real need to change our habits. For crying out loud, there is a whole website called I Waste So Much Time, which I am sorry to say I visit too often. Here are some examples of procrastination memes:

from iwastesomuchtime.com
from iwastesomuchtime.com
from iwastesomuchtime.com
from iwastesomuchtime.com

It’s all good and well to joke about it, but the fact is, procrastination is horribly, horribly wrong. It most definitely goes against the Bible, so much so that there isn’t nearly enough room to put all the verses here:

“The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.” Proverbs 13:4

“The sluggard does not plow in the autumn: he will seek at harvest and have nothing.” Proverbs 20:4

“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16

Procrastination is, in my life, the source of most of my stress, the reason why I don’t get the marks I am capable of getting, the reason why I haven’t finished books I am working on, and the reason for many other things. I can say I won’t go on Facebook, or that I won’t watch TV, or that I’ll only use the internet for university related things. Ironically, I have the discipline to do this, but not to stop procrastinating. If I am deprived of internet and TV, I will still find a way to procrastinate, because that’s the main issue. If we don’t deal with the root of the problem we are going to keep on struggling and wasting time when we could be achieving amazing things. It’s not as if it’s all that hard, really. All that has to be done is to start doing things right away. And the best part is, when you relax and rest then, you don’t have the stress of unfinished work hanging over your head. So really, it’s a win-win. Why on earth would we continue the self-destructive habit, then?

So. Let’s pick up our swords, and try again, shall we?