Thursday, August 25, 2016

Small Joys: volume 25

This week I started my second year of grad school at the IU School of Nursing.  Per usual, I'm sitting here writing a blog post instead of doing an assignment.  I've learned something about myself while juggling the duties of my job, school, being a wife, caring for our home, and raising a puppy.  What I've learned is that I can't really do my best work if I don't give time for my creativity, and many times that comes through the time I spend writing in this space.  This week I have some especially small joys that have made me week so lovely.

No. 1: Extra long PJs.  As a 5'9" woman, I have long struggled to find PJs that are an adequate length.  I don't like PJ pants that skirt my ankles and look like capris.  I want long PJs that drag on the floor and cover my toes.  And the only way I've been able to obtain those in recent years has been by wearing yoga pants to bed or by buying PJ pants that are too large in the waist in order to gain greater length.  In any case, I was browsing at Target today and found THE PERFECT LONG PJ PANTS.  See them here.  They don't look impressive in the photo but they are oh-so-soft and SUPER long.  I'm considering buying them in several colors because I have finally found the song of my people.  Or the PJs, at least.

No. 2: Volcano candles.  Would you ever expect yourself to pay $28 for a candle? No? Me neither.  But I did.  I had a birthday coupon from Anthropologie and decided to purchase said $28 candle for a birthday present to myself last April.  I've never been more pleased with a candle.  Check out the Volcano Capri Blue candle for a long-lasting, indulgent buy that will be sure to make your home smell like an Anthro store as soon as you walk in.

Image source: Anthropologie

No. 3: Sugar Paper office supplies.  Ok I know that it appears that all of my joys are material things this week... but I'll make up for it another week when I'm broke from my $28 candle and my Target PJs.  Sugar Paper is one of my favorite stationary companies, and they came out with a line for Target a few years ago.  This year, they did a larger line with Target that included some really cute office supplies (usually they do planners and notebooks).  Today I scooped up some Sugar Paper file folders and can not wait to use them for school! 

Image source: Target

No. 4: Being a TA!  I don't know if I've communicated this well or not, but in addition to pursuing my dream of writing and publishing my Small Joys book, I also very much desire to move away from bedside nursing to get involved in the world of academics.  I aspire to be an instructor in a nursing program, and with little experience teaching, I've wondered how I would get there.  I accepted a position as a TA for a Nursing Theory class this fall and am WAY excited to get my feet wet with the course.  

No. 5: The 'Happier' Podcast.  I just recently got into podcasts and am so sad that I did not discover these sooner! I now listen to Gretchen Rubin's Happier podcast every morning while I'm getting ready, and I usually squeeze in another episode while I am on my way to work.  I enjoy listening to the healthy habits and strategies that Gretchen and her sister, Elizabeth recommend in order to pursue a happier life.  I'm more into self-help things like this than I would care to admit, and this podcast nourishes me so very well in so many ways.  I would love to start my own "happiness project" like Gretchen did for her book, but I think instead, I'll embark on a smaller journey, adopting a few healthy habits that I've already long-desired to incorporate into my life.  

No. 6: Hand lettering.  I am super stoke to take a Modern Calligraphy course with my best friend and mother-in-law in two weeks in Wilmington, NC when I head home for a couple of weeks.  I'm VERY much looking forward to this course that will be taught by a friend I used to work with in NC.  I've been watching YouTube videos and practicing some hand lettering on my own, but it will be nice to have a more formal class.  

No. 7: A Pending Trip Home.  As mentioned above, I'm preparing for a 2 week vacation beachside in North Carolina.  I'm super thrilled to introduce Doc to the beach and the ocean, and I'm way excited for all of the lovely things I crave about home when I'm not there.  This trip is giving me motivation to plow through the first few weeks of school so that I can fully enjoy this beach trip and time with family/friends.  

No. 8: A Conversation with a Stranger.  I was getting my new glasses at the eye doctor yesterday when a man sitting beside me in the waiting room starting making conversation.  He started talking to me about his mother's death and how he had been her caregiver for four years while she suffered from lung cancer.  He talked about how his identity was changing now that he wasn't a caregiver and how he was just starting to learn about his place in the world now that she wasn't here.  I felt teary inside but didn't want to cry in front of this stranger.  It brought back so many memories of my grandmother as she suffered through breast cancer, and I felt intense sorrow for this poor man.  Yet, he had so much joy and such great perspective on how his life was moving forward now.  I left feeling touched by this conversation and hopeful for the life that is waiting for him.  I'm so glad for friendly, extroverted people who break me out of my little introvert shell.

No. 9: Little Doc.  He may make this list every week.  Doc has been extra snuggly since I started school and does not like that I have to focus on reading pharmacology textbooks instead of playing with him.  He makes me laugh almost every day and has made our house a little lighter than it used to be.  

No. 10: A best friend weekend.  My childhood best friend flew up here to hang out with me last weekend, and we had just the best time.  We drove to Columbus, OH for the Belong Tour with some of our favorite Christian women.  I was introduced to the incredible Angela M. Davis whose workout video I will surely be purchasing as soon as it comes out.  I heard necessary words from Shauna Niequist, my favorite author of all time.  I laughed while Jen Hatmaker quipped about different things that were just hilarious coming from her mouth.  I fell in love with Nichole Nordeman's voice and the equally amazing music of Johnnyswim.  Alex and I spent Sunday bopping around Indy and eating at some of my favorite places.  She's joining me for beach trip 2016 in a couple of weeks and I can hardly even stand the wait!  

That's all for this week.  Still to come: Needtobreathe this weekend, a 3 day weekend, reading more in a book for fun, and a taste of fall weather.  So many good things.  

Lots of love,

Friday, August 12, 2016

Inviting Yourself In

Have you ever had a time in your life that you just knew was a time of immense transformation? Or maybe a time when you didn't realize it right then, but later looked back and could pinpoint an exact stretch that involved a life-changing experience? I'm there right now.  And I'm very aware of it.  My last few posts (At Your Own PaceThe Growing & The Stretching: Part III, & The Wrong Ladder) have alluded to that, but I'm actually facing the reality of that these days and sitting with all of the feelings that come with that.

Do you want to know what I'm doing these days that is so different from how I've lived before? I'm doing something that I would normally shy away from.  I'm doing things about which I would normally say, "Oh-- that makes me nervous," or "That sounds really awkward."  Do you know what it is? I'm learning to sit in the living rooms of people I love.  I'm learning to sit in their living rooms when I know there's a lot that needs to be unpacked there.  I'm learning to push through my red flags that scream "Awkward!" or "This is making me uncomfortable!" And what I'm finding are souls that are in desperate need of rescue.  They need a lifeline, and sometimes I'm the lifeline sitting right before them, one of a few people who will open the front door and push my way into their lives, past awkwardness and past uncomfortable feelings and past the baggage sitting at the door.

I've been, essentially, inviting myself in.  I've been inviting myself into people's lives, into their homes, and while I'm not exactly intruding, I'm being intentional about being present in their lives.  And it's something I've never done before, but that lately, I feel called to do.  These days, I'm more aware of those who are hurting around me.  I'm more aware of anger and sorrow, of deep wounds and burnt flesh, of fake smiles and the feelings beneath them.  And God is calling me to sit in the living rooms of the people I love in the midst of their immense sorrow, and He's calling me to love them.

I can't describe what it's doing to me, but it's changing me in deep ways. I've sat in many living rooms this week that have forced me to sit with the uncomfortable feelings and awkward situations around me.  I sat in the living room of a friend who has been tough to get to lately, a friend whose living room is one that I've loved for so long.  Her living room reminds me of my days before marriage-- my days when my apartment was cute and girly, when I did things on a whim and didn't have to check in with someone when I wanted to make a big purchase or leave without taking care of the dog.  I sat in her living room recently feeling the weight of awkward and unusual, but as I sat there, I also felt the depth of her sorrow and the weight of all she has been through.  I sat in the living room of another friend this week who has been stripped of all that is meaningful, all that has identified and structured their life thus far.  And I've allowed conversation to unfold in ways that would normally make the hair on my spine stick straight up, but I've push through and sat with it and let those feelings dwell.

Dwelling with uncomfortable feelings in the midst of comfortable people and comfortable places is what I need to do more of.  The people in my life are hurting lately, and as I give up pieces of responsibility and identity that I no longer cling to, I'm learning to fill in those spaces with relationships and love and people who need more of that.  And God, through His Holy Spirit, is giving me words to speak and prayers to pray and the ability to just sit in silence when moments require nothing more than that.

Sometimes we just sit.  Or sometimes we drink coffee, or tea, or wine.  Sometimes we dance around subjects that are weighing us down and sometimes we dive right in, unpacking them piece by piece until we find some clarity.  Sometimes we watch TV and sometimes we read Scripture and sometimes we pray.  Sometimes it's really fun and sometimes I want to burst into tears for them.

But I'm thankful.  Thankful for those moments, and thankful for those people.  Thankful for the living rooms and thankful for Jesus being present in them.  Thankful for words to speak, thankful for courage to sit and dwell with whatever baggage and burdens lie there.

If there are people in your life that are going through something, invite yourself in.  Don't let them sit alone in their living rooms.  Invite yourself in and help them unpack the baggage.  And if they're not ready to, invite yourself in and just sit.  Talk about work or cooking or a TV show, or puppies and coffee and flowers.  But don't stay outside on the porch peering in, wondering how they're doing.  Invite yourself in and be part of what they're going through.  God will give you what you need to be part of that living room, part of that journey.  I'm thankful for the people who have been on the other side of the door when I've invited myself in, and I'm thankful for their courage in saying yes to me sitting in the midst of sorrow and grief and stress and worry with them.  For their courage in grabbing on when my hand was reaching out instead of slamming the door in my face.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

At Your Own Pace

There are a lot of things in life that sound really fun until I try them.  Watching the Olympics lately really has me believing that there's a lot of athletic activities that I would enjoy, but trying them is another story.  Six years ago when I was starting nursing school, I craved movement.  I was spending all of my days pouring over textbooks about the body and health and how to care for my body well, and I was doing all of this with my legs folded under me in a library or my dorm room.

I chose running as my form of movement, even though I hated it so very much.  I had been running with friends before and could barely make it a mile.  "Isn't this a nice way to exercise? Isn't this fun?" they would ask.  I couldn't understand what they were talking about, and wherever that little pleasure headquarters was located in my brain (somewhere in the pons of the brain?), I was aware that nothing registered there at all.  There was no amount of contentment or pleasure in this activity.  But for some reason, I felt drawn to it, like I knew it would be good for me and I knew I could make myself like it.  Have you ever made yourself do something until you've liked it? I've done this with so many foods in my life-- eggs, blueberries, seafood, etc.  The one food I can't get past is bananas.  They just weren't meant for me (unless they're in a tasty banana chocolate chip bread, in which case, sign me up!).  So I figured I could definitely do this with running, force it upon my heart until I loved it.

And it worked.  I laced up my gym shoes (I can hardly call them running shoes since I never bought them with the intention of running), put on some Nike shorts and a white V-neck, the classic look of athletic girls in the south, and headed out the door.  I had heard of this little street called Gimghoul Lane behind my dorm where there was a supposed castle, and I thought this would be a good place to start running.  I walked a good bit before arriving, and when I was safely tucked behind the trees, away from the busy road where new students were arriving, I started at a light jog.  No need to sprint and wear myself out on my first time, right? I ran about half of a mile while listening to Hillsong United music.  I slowed down, and thought, that's good for today.  I walked back to my dorm room and felt strong, encouraged, ready to do it again the next day.

So I did.  Each day, I tucked myself away on Gimghoul Lane, under the shade of the oaks and the pines, and I taught myself to enjoy running, at my own pace.  A few times I would try to do runs with friends while I was still learning this practice, and I always hated it.  Not because I didn't enjoy their company, but because I didn't enjoy running at someone else's pace.  My happy pace as a runner was running a 12 minute mile, and I did that for a very long time.  When I moved up to Indiana and continued running, I shaved down to a 10.5 or 11 minute mile, but still didn't push myself to run 8 minute miles like my friends.  When I tried running at someone else's pace, I felt frantic, rushed, anxious, and like I had no control over my body or emotions.

Life is best lived at your own pace-- not on someone's else's terms or at the pace that works for them.  Some people thrive off of a really fast-paced life, needing constant stimuli to keep them engaged and sharp.  I can't live life at that pace.  It's not meant for me.  I'm from a beach town in southern North Carolina, and life there has taught me that my rhythm is slower, steadier.  I like taking in what's around me instead of running around frantically and missing the beauty surrounding me.  Life at a breaknecking (thanks Dr. Seuss for allowing this word to be used in this way) pace is for some people, but not for me.  And recognizing that has been freeing and has allowed me to enjoy so many things that I may have missed out on had I not turned the speed back just a few notches.

I remembered all of this when I was swimming yesterday.  I was in the pool at the gym in lane #3.  Lane #1 had what appeared to be a triathlete training for the swimming portion of his race.  He had one of those gigantic watches that he kept pushing buttons on to time himself, and he would sigh every so often in frustration or smile when he was hitting a pace he was happy with.  Lane #2 had a gentleman in a large scuba mask who appeared to just be getting familiar with swim strokes, and he was very slow, steady, and gave himself a lot of grace when he messed up on a stroke or had to reset himself.  Lane #4 was a man who was going at a medium pace using some type of weighted gloves for his swim, I'm guessing for some sort of strength purposes.  And then in lane #3, there was me.  Wedged in between all of the different paces, I was swimming breaststroke at a slow, steady pace.  Quick enough to make my heart race and make me feel strong with each stroke as I propelled forward, but also slow enough to notice all that was going on around me.

My encouragement for you is to make sure you're living your life at your own pace, instead of trying to kill yourself living at someone else's. Life is sweeter on your own terms, and much more difficult and trying if you're on someone else's.


Monday, August 8, 2016

The Growing and the Stretching: Part III.

"I am learning to love the sound of my feet walking away from things not meant for me." -A.G. 

I woke up this morning to let my snuggly dog outside.  Per my usual routine, I let Doc outside, turned on the coffeemaker, and sat down to read through some e-mails.  And what I found were damaging, passive-aggressive e-mails that I had to start my day with.  And I sat there thinking Why do I do this? Why start my day like this? I typed quick responses and signed out, and I went to let Doc in.  He wagged his tail and jumped on me-- a habit I haven't yet broken him of (and one I haven't tried very hard to break him of).  I walked over to the coffeemaker and poured a cup of Fresh Thyme's Fogcutter, and I sat back down on the Chancey couch.  

I'm asking hard questions these days, desperately trying to evaluate what is good for me and what is not good for me.  I scrolled through Facebook and saw the quote I posted above: I am learning to love the sound of my feet walking away from things not meant for me.  I'm not there yet.  I'm learning this new pattern and new rhythm. I'm choosing things that are good for me and good for my faith, things that strengthen my marriage and my home life, things that make me a better friend, wife, daughter.  

I'm very aware that I've entered another season of growing and stretching.  I'm very aware that it's hitting me from all angles-- regarding my health (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual), school, work, my faith life, my dreams and passions.  It's a season of praying and seeking and finding out where in the world I am headed and wishing I could get there sooner, all the while knowing that there's a reason I can't, that I need the growing and the stretching, and that the only way there is through.  I'm learning to be ok with being uncomfortable, to be ok with being honest and not giving pat answers.  I'm trying to be my authentic self instead of the person who smiles and says, "Oh yes! Everything is fine!! I'm balancing so well-- look at all of these things I can do! It's not stressful-- nope not a bit!"  

The people who know me well know to dig deep, they call me on my bluff and tell me to cut it out.  They make me tell them what's really going on and they make me tell them the truth, not a version of the truth or part of the truth or the parts that sound nice.  I need more of those people in my life.  I need more of the truth-tellers and the truth-seekers.  I need the people who push me to be better and tell me when I'm receding into the superficial Cristina who gives nice answers and smiles a lot while feeling broken inside.  I need the people who walk through brokenness with me and remind me to look up to Jesus when I'm so very focused on myself.  

So I'm learning to do that, and I'm learning to say no and to walk away from shiny, glittery opportunities that are not meant for me.  And I'm learning that it's ok to be small and humble, to have a close circle of friends who know the real me well instead of a babbling list of ones who know the superficial me.  

I hope your week is lovely and that you're pushed and challenged in ways that make you better this week.  And I hope you have people to help you do that.  


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Wrong Ladder

I pulled into my parking spot in front of our house and glanced at the clock again.  9:30.  The past few shifts had been like this.  I stayed late to finish up charting, made sure all of my work e-mails got sent, and packed up to go home.  I sat in my car and looked at our house.  The light was on in the kitchen and I could see my husband doing dishes.  My heart ached looking at him, and I realized that I missed him.  Though I was sleeping beside him every night and sharing a quick hug and kiss to say hello and goodbye, I missed spending time with him, laughing with him, being goofy with him.  I barely knew what was going on in his world because I was so consumed with my own.

I didn't sign up for a job with a lot of overtime or long hours away from home.  The job I was supposed to be working was a 36-hour a week job that came with rotating weekends, occasional holidays, and a little paid time off.  The thing about being young, competent at your job, and a major yes person is that you get swallowed up in the opportunities that are given to you to do more, and eventually you're this monster who knows a whole lot, possesses a lot of skills that other people don't have, and who is a "go to" person for those who are still learning.  I'm not the most knowledgeable or known for any particular skill, but I read a lot of policies and attended all of these trainings and made myself into this being that possessed many different skills and so much information about so many different processes.  

I wanted to blame other people.  I wanted to blame the people who offered me these opportunities, who required them or recommended them or who told me I might be good at it if I tried it.  But I always had a choice, and I kept saying yes to all of the things that led me to where I am right now.  I'm not in the throes of corporate America with overwhelming pressure to perform or ridiculous incentives dangling in front of me.  I'm a nurse, and I take care of people when they're sick.  I start IVs and put in feeding tubes and administer life-saving medications.  I put bandaids on people and send them right back home to their loved ones.  I hold hands of dying patients and carefully lay their bodies to rest when they've breathed their last breath, and I tearfully hug their families and pray for them as they head back to an empty house that's missing someone they loved dearly.  So how did I end up here?

I said yes too many times and never once said no, for fear of disappointing someone.  Each yes was a new rung on the ladder-- the ladder I was climbing with no end in sight.  I kept looking up and seeing another rung to hold onto, and I grabbed it.  And it's only in the past few months that I've realized that this ladder isn't going where I want it to go.  I've gotten on the wrong ladder and need to get off-- this isn't the rooftop I was trying to climb to.  And truthfully-- what am I doing on any ladder at all? I'm scared of heights and have terrible balance and proprioception-- all this will do is land me flat on my back after missing a step or taking too any at one time.  

So what was there to do?  I couldn't just jump off, I was way too high up.  So I started taking it one rung at a time, giving things back that didn't belong to me. Responsibilities and knowledge and training and extra things that had been offered to me, all of it went back.  I knew if I gave it all up at one time, it'd leave me feeling just as out of control as when I had it all.  So I've been giving things back piece by piece, and this week I gave the final piece away.  

I was clinging onto an identity that wasn't mine.  I was trying to be what I was told I'd be good at, but it didn't feel right and didn't fit with who I was.  This year has been scary and humbling, and I'm just now realizing how much I had to be broken before I could start being fixed.  I had to trust that God would provide for me in the most glorious ways, even when I was being broken and humbled.  

I'm thankful that Scott was bold in approaching me months ago about my work habits and how it was affecting my home life.  I'm thankful that God gave me strength to loosen my grip on this fake identity and to start to reclaim who I really am.  And I'm hopeful that He is making me new.  Here's my advice to you, friends.  Don't be afraid to get off of the ladder you're on if it isn't the right one for you.  It's not worth the time and stress and angst, and it's not worth missing the life in front of you to chase something that was never meant to be your's.