a lesson in faith

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In the past week, I have been finding myself facing battle with an old friend–depression.

Yet it is in stark contrast to the youthful, immature depression I once knew, when I believed the cloudy gray life I lived was all that there was and that there was no true escape. Fast forward to now, after years of self-growth, self-improvement, and therapy, I have now what I would call a “mature” depression. When I get in my depressive episodes, I am acutely aware that I am roaming minute to minute in the gray, with the knowledge that I am not the depression, and I am not really stuck. Feelings pass. Situations change. The things my depression are trying to convince me of are false. But it does not make the depressive episode any easier to bear through.

It is like someone hijacked your brain and is steering your thoughts and feelings down paths you know is not realistically accurate. But because you’ve been taken over by D, your stumbling down them regardless. Then you are left feeling so overwhelmed–overwhelmed by sadness, loneliness, hopelessness, and a feeling of bleakness about your life and where it’s headed. I know that I am doing great things with my life, that I am making a valuable mark on this earth. My mind is aware. But still, it is difficult to fight through the feeling of dissatisfaction with yourself and the world, or the feeling that things will never change.

I was driving home from work today, and I found myself asking God, “How do I get myself out of the black hole I’m in? What are you trying to teach me through this? What are you trying to bring forth through me?” I know well enough by now that God teaches us through pain. But at that moment, I could not gather what I was supposed to learn. So sitting in traffic, I paused and listened. Then I could hear God replying back, You need to have faith.

With that, I had an epiphany. Here I was, fighting and fighting to make things work, to get what I’ve always yearned deeply for, but to no avail. Losing friends, people going MIA, stress where ever I go… it has felt as if nothing I do would give me the life I have been aiming for. Things have been falling apart instead. So I have felt hopeless and helpless, like I am stuck with this unsatisfying life I have been trying so hard to change. But then it became so clear. There are no options left at this point, because faith is all I have left. Nothing else is working, because God wants me to choose the one last option. I can either stay where I am, or walk out onto unknown waters.

This has always been my problem. I am Peter, who is afraid and does not trust that God will allow me to walk on water. I am fearful that I will sink and meet my death. So of course God sees it fit that I learn to have faith–to face my fear of sinking. The God who calms the storms. The God who can move mountains. The God who splits seas. I must have faith.

So, my fellow readers–for those of you who know what I speak of, who are also struggling: when it seems as if there are no other options, perhaps that is because God is bringing you to the one option that will help get you through whatever you are going through. Allow your courage to rise, and have faith. You’ve been through worse, and just as it has before, this period too will pass. Life is impermanent. You’ll get through this.  And in the meantime, let yourself go, walk out onto the water, and have faith that God will give you strength to conquer the waves.

the art of moving on

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To the grieving and broken-hearted:

I know how hard it is–to have your heart smashed into pieces, to have that large void growing in your chest where your loved one used to be. And the struggle of every day, every minute, every second. Then the people on the sidelines shout to you from the comfort of their seats, “Just get over it. There’s more fish in the sea. Don’t think about it anymore. They’re gone, but things will get better.” Platitude after platitude falls at your feet and your find yourself tripping over the how-it-should-bes.

But listen to me. It’s not a matter of knowing it will get better–I’m sure, deep down, you already know that. And it’s not a matter of “getting over it” or not thinking about it–surely if it were that easy, we wouldn’t be struggling so hard in the first place. If I could burn those cliches in a glorious bonfire, I would… why? They have it all wrong.

Because it’s not about the destination, or quick, imaginary fixes. But instead, it’s about steps. One step, two steps, ten steps, twenty, hundred, thousand steps… one at a time. Slow, slow, eyes up, moving your body forward, even when you don’t always feel it. That’s it. You got it. Rain and hail pellet you, it’s hard for you to breathe, tears stream down your eyes and you can barely see, but still, you take one tiny step forward, you push through, you don’t give up on the forward motion… it’s your solace, your last thread of hope. That’s right, the rain won’t last forever, just move forward. You can do it. One step. One more step. See how they all add up? There you go, look up, the sun is peaking out from the clouds. But don’t stop moving. One step at a time.

It won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick. Take it from someone who has experienced a myriad of grief and loss experiences, from losing boyfriends and close friends, to losing her own father. There will be days that will be dark indeed, and you’ll forget what you’re living for. But if there is one thing to put your hopes in, it is not that you will “get over it.” No one “gets over it,” and if anything, we must honor the love our loss reminds us of. Yes, it’s tough, so tough. But the day will come and go, and at the rising of the sun, you’ll have an opportunity to start fresh again. And again. No feeling is final. And all things will come to pass.

Soon, on your journey forward, you’ll find yourself somewhere you would’ve never imagined. New people. New opportunities. New skies. New scenery. New feelings inside you. Yes, that grief may come to visit you along the path, but instead of devouring you as it once did, it will walk along side you, like a mournful companion–but then you keep moving, and he leaves once more.

If there is one certainty in this world, it is its impermanence. The world is always changing. So are they. And so are we.

rising to the new year

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Hello, 2017. Nice to make your acquaintance.

I know we only just met, but I must be frank with you from the get-go: I’ve come from a pretty dark place. 2016 kicked my ass, and then some. It was one of the toughest years of my life, almost rivaling the year my father died… and from the way everyone else talks, I know I’m not the only one. People speak about being wishful and hopeful this year, praying for a more joyful time.

But this is where I diverge. 2017–I am not waiting for you. I am not going to sit around and wish for the best. I am not going to operate on the belief that the world will make things happen for me, while I do nothing to live my life.

Yes, 2016 yielded very hard circumstances, most of which were out of my control. There are still things out of my control. I cannot change my past. I cannot force my future. I cannot control how people are, or how they treat me. I cannot control whether are not people are able to see me for who I truly am. I cannot control people’s projections. All I have is now. You. In this minute, this very second. And I intend to make the most of it.

I intend to endeavor to love myself. To have compassion for myself, at my best and worst moments. To live according to my passions and convictions. To speak my voice. To take a stand for who I am and what I believe in. Because in addition to you, me is all I have. While people come and go, I am the longest relationship I will ever have.

Essentially, what I am trying to say is that I will not be passive this year. I will make the most of the gift you give in every minute of every day of every month. Yes, just like everyone else, I want a year full of love, hope, and joy–but I realize that the responsibility does not lie on you alone–as if time has any bearing on the matter. The responsibility is on me, to try my best in every goal I seek, and take the risk of vulnerability, in order to find a real love that will last. God tells us that the seeds we plant bear their fruit. My intention is to reap a bountiful harvest.

So, you may find me at times dogged and unrelenting, and other times, weak and dejected–but rest assured, that I will always eventually come to greet you every day, fighting for myself and for a better life. The universe is abundant and I know my happiness is out there, waiting for me to find it.

2017–I look forward to working with you.

the tension in life

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In Harry Potter, there are these creatures called “dementors.” They guard the wizard prison and by nature, they are dark, cold, and soulless. They suck every joy out of the unfortunate person within their proximity, leaving the person to feel as if they can never be cheerful again. Dementors even have the power to suck someone’s soul out of them, a fate worse than death. J. K. Rowling has said that dementors are a metaphor for depression.

Having suffered with depression for more than half of my life, I can see the clear parallel.

The wizard who wants to scare away the dementor has to cast a Patronus charm. A patronus is cast when one focuses on one’s most happiest memory. It takes the shape of an animal, vibrant and full of light.

The significance of that too, is not lost on me.

When I think of my “Patronus” and happiest memory in my life, I think of when I was thirteen, isolated and unpopular. One day in winter, a boy that I liked grabbed my cold hands and said emphatically, “I will warm them for you.” It was incredibly touching, and a memory that was seared onto my brain with love and adoration.

But then I think of my dementors–my demons, my depression. And my most saddest, and arguably most traumatic, memory. I was fifteen. I arrived to the emergency room, anxious yet oddly numb, wishfully thinking that my dad was going to be okay. A family friend asked me, “Do you want to see your dad?” When I said yes, he led me into the dark room. I stared at my father lying in the bed, still as a stone. Sitting in the chair next to his bed, I reached out and grabbed his hand–but it was stiff. Cold as ice. And I knew. He’s dead. Why did no one tell me? He’s gone. He’s dead.

These two memories, are intricately linked and tied together. Hands. Warm hands. Cold hands. Connection. Love. Death. Loss.

As I reflect on all this, I think of Jon Foreman–he stated that as human beings, we are constantly living in tension, like a guitar string strung between two poles. While we often make attempts to fight against the tension, he asserted that perhaps instead our goal should be to make beauty in the tension.

And this is one of the biggest tensions we must face in life: Love vs. Pain / Loss. Or even more so, Love vs Fear.

I’ve spent most of my life fighting the tension. Living in fear, while also running from it. Fearing love, while also desiring it to the point it physically ached. But this is the tension: to love, despite our fears of hurt or loss. To love, even when we don’t know what will come. To never cease loving, even as we are drenched in pain. If we avoid loss or pain, we also have to cut out love. And having lived that way for many years, I can say with confidence that avoiding loss does not mean you will not experience pain–in reality, it is a confirmation that you will feel pain. Except it will be a different kind of pain… the pain of loneliness, of isolation.

I’ve experienced some of the most painful losses, but I realize now that this is a part of living in the tension of life. It is a part of living life in full color. We love and give love, empowering, inspiring, and giving warmth to others in the brave act. But then we lose and we suffer.

We will hurt, that is a guarantee. But eventually, we will be okay. With all of these swirls of human emotions, we are inspired, we grow, we make beautiful music. They are the raw materials that we use to build our lives and amplify our voices in the world.

The tension is where the beauty happens. The melody of our lives is when we dance on these strings of tension. Be brave, your melody is worth it. Be courageous, your melody is needed. I dare you. I dare you to live out your purpose. That the melody within you would soar above the fear, above the crowd, above the past, above the pain, and that the song that you were born to sing would come to life.” – Jon Foreman

year of faith

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At the beginning of this year, 2016, I made an unconventional resolution: I will learn to have more faith and trust in God. At the time, I recognized that one of my main struggles throughout life was maintaining faith when things got difficult and operating under complete self-sufficiency. But I wanted to live in trust and faith.

Well, God heard me. If I knew at the time what He was about to put me through after making that resolution, I may not have been so bold to make it.

He put me in the ringer. My (narcissistic) boyfriend broke up with me during the spring, co-workers picked on me throughout the year a la Mean-Girls-high-school style, I lost most of my friends, I couldn’t find a new job… I began to even doubt why I was in the career I was, because I felt as if everyone else owned my life and there wasn’t any joy left. My life was completely shaken up and I experienced more loss than I could bear.

Soon, there was no one else to rely on completely, except for God. People were coming and going. People weren’t consistent. People took and took, without giving anything back, tossing me to the side after they were done. God was my only Rock in the turbulent sea. Mid-way through the year, in the thick of storm, my new year’s resolution rang in my mind. I will learn to have more faith and trust in God. I realized that God was taking my vow seriously, and shifting my life significantly to bring about the change I needed.

It got to a point in the darkness where I had no other choice but to choose faith. It was the tiny white dot stretched far from where I was, but I walked toward it. I yearned for the light. I yearned for a life different from what I’ve always known. And God took care of me. Even when things got really bad, He brought the right people at the right time. He gave me moments, things, sunsets, animals, and anything and everything under the sun to keep me afloat.

Fast forward to today. What a windy journey it’s been. Now it’s the end of 2016, and I stand in awe of what God has created in me. Faith. Hope. Love. Authenticity. I was driving home today, my last day at my work, my new job starting next week… and in my grief and sadness at the end of a chapter in my life, I felt something bright and foreign in my chest: I’ll be okay. God will take care of me. The universe will yield what I need.

Faith. I don’t know what will happen in the next chapter of my life, but for the first time, I feel trust in God and in the fact that no matter what happens, in the end, I’ll be fine. I’ve been through hell, not only this year, but throughout my entire life. Yet here I am, alive and very much well. I’m a survivor. I’m a fighter.

And so, even though this year proved to be a very difficult one, at the close, I am grateful beyond words for the fruit that has come from this battle. God has given me a very special gift… faith. I’ll be okay, not because I have enough love, hope, and resources inside me, but because now I know with confidence that God is on my side, taking care of me.

 

Self-Empowerment

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Any woman will tell you, it’s almost expected to take a hit to your self-esteem when you break up with someone. Even for the most evolved human being, it is hard not to hurt when any kind of attachment is severed, especially if you were not the one to do the cutting. Particularly in those cases, it is difficult not to think, was it something about me? Am I not good enough?

That same old tape plays, over and over again. All the negative thoughts and beliefs about yourself. It’s been the same since childhood, it comes up without you having to push play. Like some sick joke, it plays during the worst moments of your life, and during your best. When the kids taunted me as a girl and called my ugly. When I make a mistake at work. When I trip on the sidewalk. When someone asks me out. When someone pays me a compliment. The tape goes on, and this break-up is no exception.

But there is a clear difference this time around. I’ve had years of self-awareness of my tape, but oftentimes struggled to press stop. It was too overpowering, it sounded too true to my ears. However, after a long time in this battle, I have now finally found myself at a point in my life where a still voice is breaking through the noise, saying, I’m done. I’m so over beating myself up. I’m so over letting people treat me like shit. It ends today. It’s done. This is it. No more. We all have our own journey and timing, and now, I feel truly ready to throw the tape out. It is no longer serving me. It is killing me. And with that, the truth sinks down to my very bones: I am good enough. I am worthy. I am a human being, prone to make mistakes, but I also have so much to offer. I take responsibility for my actions. And most of all, I always strive to do better. There is nothing more the universe could ever ask of me. No one will ever get me to believe otherwise again. Absolutely no one.

At the beginning of this process, my favorite word in the English language came to mind: empowerment. It is a value I’ve come to hold, and in this season, I am challenged to live up to it. And that also speaks to one of my other values. Integrity. It means living and always remaining true to your values and what is good, even in the face of temptation. My tape tempts me. My ex’s words reverberate through my broken heart. The pain sometimes clutches too tightly. But I will not waver. I will stand strong, knowing what is right and true, and never let go of that.

And this is how I empower myself. I remind myself of all my good qualities… I am intelligent, good-hearted, compassionate, empathetic, resilient, beautiful. I refuse to put up with any kind of abuse or ill-behavior. I speak out against injustices. I give kindness to those I meet, yet never allow anyone to take advantage of what I have to offer. I value every single fiber of me, physical, mental, spiritual, or otherwise. I give thanks to the good the world offers me, and use the lemons I am given to build strength and character. I will not allow for any person or circumstance to define me; I will define myself. In everything.

This is my path toward self-empowerment.

discovering real love

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How can someone give love and take it away so easily?

Two weeks into my break-up with my partner, and this is the question that has been plaguing my mind. Yet today, I happened upon wisdom that gave me a much clearer answer to that question.

Wisdom came in the form of my mother. I put the same question to her, and this was her astute response: Every human being is different, and will handle love in different ways. Because we are fallible, we will fall short many times in truly loving someone–meaning that real love is loving someone at their best and at their worst, receiving while also giving, even giving when you may not necessarily want to. Some people are able and willing to truly love, and others are more focused on their selfish needs.

Your partner was focused more on his own needs, on his comfort level. He wanted things to be simple and easy, and therefore, his bowl was very small. There is nothing wrong with that… he merely operates differently, and all of us have our different capacities. At the same time, struggle is embedded in the experience of life, and to divorce yourself from that leaves you alone and narrowed into a very tight zone. Bailing when things get hard speaks to where his values stand.

When anyone is in love, you only see the good in that person–it’s easy to understand and explain things away, because you love them. You have blinders on, and everything about the person looks wonderful and perfect. But the thing to remember is that it takes a long time to really know someone. As you do, you start to see things about that person: Oh, that’s odd he said or reacted that way. Doing that doesn’t seem like him. When you have those thoughts, it tells you that there is still a lot of things you do not know about that person. You may come to see that you really match well and love particular qualities about the person, and see other qualities that you do not like at all. That’s when the blinders slowly come off, for the both of you.

When he bailed that way, it was because he didn’t want give more than what was comfortable. He wanted it to stay easy and avoid challenges. He doesn’t want to take responsibility for his actions. He can choose to live that way if he wants, and with that mindset, he will be better off alone in his life. Otherwise, he’ll be doomed to recreate the same issues and pattern, whoever the person may be.

Don’t make the decision to be with someone just because you love them. I made that choice when I was young with your father, and you see how it turned out. You think at the time when you make that decision that the future will hold much joy, but for me, I suffered and despaired a lot. Your father had a lot of issues and it made our marriage very difficult. So this is something I want to pass onto you. Don’t choose someone only because you love them. Although love is certainly important, it’s not the only factor. This is going to be someone you’ll be spending 30, 40 or even 50 years of your life with. Choose a companion with good, stable traits. Your partner has to be kind, patient, have a good heart… someone you have a strong friendship with.

Although the sadness is hard and you’re feeling it, don’t stay sad for too long. These hardships will build you stronger and allow for better things to come your way. Have faith. For the 60 years I have lived, I’ve learned that healthy minds attract other healthy minds… and the same goes for unhealthy minds. So focus on building yourself up into a healthier person, and you will naturally attract better.

For the past couple of weeks, I felt like I was close to drowning at sea, but these words are becoming my life saver to float on. My blinders are coming off now, and I feel more disillusioned. I want to be someone who strives toward truly love someone. I want a relationship built on sturdy things, not on unrealistic expectations and love myths. While I was willing to work through challenges, he was not. I was not “perfectly good” to him, and “I” didn’t give him constant comfort or joy… but reflecting on that, that says more about him than it does about me. No one is perfect. That is yet another false expectation.

I share my mother’s wise words in hopes that it may help others out there, as it is helping me.