When I don’t feel like enough

Today is the second day off I’ve had in a row. The family I nanny for is on vacation so I’m able to be off of work. I don’t know what it is about being off of work, but I really struggle to relax. I feel guilty for not being productive with my day. I feel like I should be working out, or reading, or going to the ophthalmologist so that I can get a new prescription so that I can read without headaches. Then there’s wedding planning… and everything just adds up: the potential of what I should be doing with my time, versus what I am actually doing with my time. At this point, my days have consisted of doing laundry, relaxing at home, watching movies off of my netflix list and taking care of the dogs. I suppose that’s something, but I still feel like I’m being lazy.

Then there’s the whole body image/”I’m getting married and I want to be more fit” aspect of my laziness. I sit here and fear I’m gaining weight by not being more active. That I should go and run and lift, and do the things I enjoy doing. But some days you just don’t want to work out… sometime I get into these phases of needing to rest physically. And I cognitively know that’s good and necessary, but I feel like it means I’m being lazy and I’ll get fat, or lose tone. That’s the whisper voice at the back of my head, that I’m not pretty enough, that I’m not thin enough, that I’m not______ enough. I know that voice shouldn’t be listened to. I do know that. But it’s either the GAD or just plain body shame and guilt that tells me there’s some weight to those whispers.

Sometimes it’s hard to be alone with myself. Not because of the self-injury, or depression, but because my head tells me that I’m lazy and that (when I have days off) that I’m doing nothing with my life. I like working. But I do need to rest: I know I’m not Superman. But I feel guilty for resting, which makes me ashamed about my life and all the decisions I make. Which then has a tendency to push me to depression and self-injury. It’s really a vicious cycle.

And then I have a tendency to beat myself up for not doing more wedding planning. For procrastinating what I can do today… I don’t know where this large amount of responsibility comes from: the responsibility that everything is on me and I have to use every second of my time in a productive way. It’s just hard though.

It’s not that I want to be perfect. I just want to be the best me that I can be. And I’ve spent years wrestling with that and rebelling against: doing well, participating, making healthy and wise choices, and now I feel like I have to make up for lost time, I think. It feels impossible to be happy sometimes. There are these moments, these shooting stars of happiness, that blip across my sky. And then there’s me in my head, feeling the weight of the world and the desire to be everything I can’t manage the energy to be. And it all feels pointless, and I feel like a waste of space and matter.

And even knowing all of that isn’t true doesn’t make it easier to pull out of the feeling it leaves.

And then comes the fall

It’s 2015. August, almost September… which is typically one of my favorite times of the year. All the students coming back to school. The city abuzz with life and a little less warmth from the summer. I can drive down Lake Shore Drive with my windows rolled down and not blasting the AC. The sun sets and it’s soft glow is seen shining off the steel buildings, and something inside of me says that it’s a beautiful time to be alive.

This fall I’m engaged. I’m madly in love with Andy Albers and I can’t wait to be married. There’s a lot of planning that we’re doing, and it’s pretty stressful. Not for us, in our relationship, but for me. The amount of organization and the lack of knowledge I have regarding wedding planning, makes this task seem overwhelming most days. But it’s happening and at the end of the day, we’ll be married: which is exactly what I want. What we want, and what we are so excited about.

I used to write a lot. I haven’t touched a computer or my notebook since May at least, though. Some of that might be the fact that Andy and I live together and so many of my memories are attached to our relationship, that I don’t feel the need to catalogue them so that we make sure to remember every detail. There are now two people here who can remember these precious moments. Some of the not writing, may be the exhaustion that comes with working 40-50 hours a week, with preschool aged children, and coming home to wedding planning and two dogs. I can’t say which has taken me away from this art form on which I so dearly rely. But I want to write again.

I have this thing that I keep saying, which is that my life feels so segmented. Part of that may be the way I grew up, all over the place and in different houses and apartments with different friends and activities. Part of that may be the traveler in me that cannot help but look at things in pieces. Part of it may be the trauma. The thing is, I didn’t expect to feel like engagement and marriage were going to be this new segment. I thought my time with Andy, since it was interspersed through other segments of my life, would feel like one continuous piece. And it doesn’t. This too, is a whole new segment.

Currently, I hold all of these pieces of my life as Rachel Kohar Rogers, and I don’t know how to put them all down and lay them out without dropping and breaking them all. It is a bizarre and uncomfortable balancing act that I’ve been trying to perform my entire life, and somedays it is so precarious that I feel this need to write everything down and catalogue every part of my life. So I know who I am. Who I was. I want to write a memoir, an autobiography, an ode to the restless part of my soul that longs to wander. Often I think this writing journey I approach should be done as a play, or a creative piece, in order to honor the creative pieces of my own life. It would be an effort to show my ability as a playwright, as a writer. But then I realize that I often speak in first person, and there’s no way I would write a play without the intention of it being performed, and I realize I can’t write an autobiographical play.. it would have to be a piece of non-fiction, maybe creative non-fiction. And I would have to commit to telling the truth as much as I am now going to commit my life to another’s. I would have to honor it all. And my desire and ability weakens as I consider that aspect. I don’t know how to look at my past unbiased. I don’t know how to write myself now. Because I don’t know how I would do it. Would I just start by age, and write chronologically? Would I begin with a topic, and write all my experiences in that bracket? And could I write an autobiographical piece without copying so many of my peers in their styles and intentions? These are the questions that leave me feeling it’s better off to use my time planning a wedding, watching Netflix, and napping, rather than writing.

Maybe this will be the time that I just try. I just give it a go, and see what comes out.

Monday.

Last week my therapist told me I needed to create a list of priorities. At first, I was thrilled. I enjoy making lists and organizing my thoughts and feelings into something that feels manageable. Now, I am sitting here trying to order my experiences by what feels like it needs the most attention…. and it’s not going well. Cataloguing one’s life and one’s experience into a list–starting with what feels most triggering/traumatic/unmanageable and going down is actually way more difficult than I thought it would be.

I weigh childhood against adulthood, and healthy relationships against abuse. I thumb through my beliefs and then review them: determining which ones sustain and which crush me. And it’s all very difficult. Because–let’s be honest– these are stressful things to think about, and if they weren’t, I wouldn’t be seeing a therapist.

So, instead of trying to rate and judge the entirety of my life, I’m sitting here next to two puppy dogs, watching Supernatural, and eating cookies for dinner. My adulthood largely consists of having and doing my responsibilities (work & the occasional grocery run), and then procrastinating the not-so-urgent by doing the things I couldn’t as a kid (eating cookies for dinner mostly).

So…Welcome to my Monday night.

It’s Enough For Now

Today, I am attempting to turn over a new leaf.

A lot has changed in my life– and I don’t even know how to begin to talk about it all. So I am going to do what I haven’t in awhile and just speak honestly. Write honestly. And hope that somehow truth, reality, and art collide to create something I can be proud of.

1. I moved into the basement of our condo with my wonderful boyfriend, Andy. I was living upstairs but then all of my past housemates found new places, and so I was the sole survivor. Thus, I have a new abode in the basement with an amazing man, and I could not be happier about it.

2. I have a new puppy. His name is Gilbert. And he is one of the best parts of my life. He’s a lab pyrenees mix from a shelter and he’s just four months old. He likes to crawl up to my face in the morning and give me all of the kisses. I adore him.

3. I am a nanny for three beautiful children (ages four, three, and eighteen months). They are hilarious, full of life, and so loving. Sometimes work is exhausting, stressful, and I come home feeling a mess. But mostly, I love it. I love that my mornings are spent outside running, playing, walking, and climbing with three children and a puppy. I love that I nap when they nap. I love that our afternoons are yet again consumed with outdoor adventures and sometimes picnics and kites.

4. I work at a church on Sundays– a Presbyterian church, not PCUSA. I teach two and three year olds about Jesus. To some extent I am in flux about my beliefs and convictions. But I can support teaching young ones about Jesus. That much I can stomach and agree with.

5. I’m in therapy. Twice a week these days. I don’t know how to feel about it right now. I have a wonderful therapist; the woman is a saint. But it’s hard. It’s a lot of work. And EMDR is this new thing that is incredibly exhausting.

6. I have depression and anxiety and OCD and PTSD. They’re always lurking in the background and in nightly dreams–so I light candles, breathe, take my medications, and try not to cut, or drink myself into numbness.

7. I thought I knew what my life was going to be, which I hear frequently from us twenty-somethings, but it was true for me. I was set: I was degreed, I was well versed in the culture, I was fluent in the language, I was excited, I was passionate. And it all turned out to be something I couldn’t handle. And while that might be because I wasn’t on any medications for my mental illness, it still feels like a blow to the chest– a blow to the soul. I was so sure, and so passionate, and so in love with the people I knew there…. and I couldn’t hack it. There are many reasons for this– but it all boils down to the feelings of failure, disappointment, and a lack of direction that have a tendency to consume my thoughts.

8. I grew up doing theatre. Auditions, Classes, Callbacks, Rehearsals, Shows… they were all apart of the norm. I didn’t know anything different. And I loved it. Art, Dance, Singing, Acting… It all captivated me, and gave me a great love for the Arts. I have great faith in the power of the Arts to draw out and embrace human existence and feeling, and that hasn’t changed over the years. My pursuit of the medium has changed. And sometimes I feel lost in the enormity of it all. It’s overwhelming and exciting, and altogether so much work– but the reward is better than any high.

9. I got a tattoo this last year which says: “Be Brave. Stay.”. I got it while I was in intensive outpatient therapy. Because the truth of the matter is that staying here requires me to be brave every day. It costs something to stay…and not to take my life. And that cost is 100% worth it (most days), but it requires me to be courageous in a way that drains me, but also is an absolute necessity.

10. I love to read, write, and run. I love to have adventures, and think philosophical and existential things. I want to understand life, my life and those around me. I want to understand and know suffering, and to be a comfort to those dearest to me. On a good day, I do one of those things– I read, I write, I run or go for a walk. On a bad day, I can’t hardly get to work and the idea of doing things that I love to do, is just too exhausting that I collapse after work and sleep, hating my inability to live as fully as I would like to.

Here are ten true things about me. Maybe tomorrow or in the next few days I will post another five or ten things that are true about me. It may seem ridiculous to do this– but for some reason, lists help me (probably my OCD). And it helps me understand who I am and who I want to become: to sit here and type out true things. Doubt, worries, and fear are all too easily believed. So, sometimes writing the things that I know about myself that are true, serve to remind me that I am a person. I exist. And I will continue to exist with imperfections, and I will still be me. I will exist with heartbreak, grief, depression, joy, hope and love and I will become more of myself than I have ever been.

And this is enough to go on for now.

The Idolatry of God… and My Ideologies (Ch. 1)

I began this new year with many pseudo-resolutions. You know the type: the “I’m probably not going to actually do this thing in it’s entirety but at least I want to start strong”. And two of mine were reading and blogging more. The last couple of years for me (the two following my graduation from Bible College) have been a “what the hell do I believe?” existential crisis. I am just now, finally, at a point where I want to explore and wrestle with some alternatives to the fundamentalist/evangelical cult mind. Thus, I have began this exploration with reading Peter Rollins’ The Idolatry of God: Breaking Our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction. You can find out more about him at his website.

Part of the thing I’ve come to like about Rollins is his intellectual mind. He writes incredibly philosophically– which I appreciate. Because of this, I am finding that I do need to wrestle with some of his definitions, ideologies, and assumptions before I move onto the next set of definitions, ideologies, and assumptions.  So, this blog will hopefully help me work through some of my questions and struggles with my faith and current belief system (or lack thereof). In addition, it gives me the opportunity to hopefully converse with those of you that can speak to some of the points I wrestle with. I would love for this writing and wrestling to be a mutually beneficial choice.

To begin with: Chapter 1– The big idea that is communicated here is that we feel a lack, a void in our human experience. And that we bear witness to, as God created, life: creatio ex nihilo (creating something out of nothing). Rollins tells an analogous story that explains that an illusion of something can generate a desired effect: Nothing being made to look like something and this creating a result. Of course this idea, feeds the main point that our feelings of a void are actually an illusion which generates the desired effect (unhappiness/dissatisfaction with the world as it is), and thus we are creatio ex nihilo on our own. This happens when we first enter self-consciousness (between 6-18 months). We experience the void feelings, because we are able to actualize ourself in relation to everything that is not ourselves (an inner vs. an outer world). It is purely our feelings of separation (from a world that is not ourselves), that creates a sense of loss. In actuality, there was no physical, measurable loss that occurred, so these feelings of loss and void, are purely an illusion. This is where I first have started to have issues: is an illusion that generates an effect actually creation though? Rollins postulates that the illusion of something can result in the creation of something else. But I just don’t know if an illusion that leads to a desired effect, can actually be defined as creation.

As we age, this belief that something will fill the void is constant. Rollins distinguishes between objects that we seek because we feel they will improve our life and objects that we believe will fill the void we feel at the core of our existence. Obviously, this is something we all definitely experience and cannot deny. We see ourselves and others every day seek after not only enjoyment and improvement but also existential fulfillment. Rollins add that this seeking of existential fulfillment– this insane need for something to fill the void, while appearing worthwhile, is actually a self-destructive drive. This is where Rollins brigs up the MacGuffin– a name given to whatever object helps drive a narrative forward and create an enduring tension within an audience. This MacGuffin is the perfect metaphor: an illusion that becomes a creation. For this MacGuffin is a vessel, an empty void that promises fulfillment,  but is utterly nothing in content. Basically, Rollins points out here that our dreams and fantasies act in the same way the–“ultimately covering over the fact that what we think will satisfy our souls is really powerless to do so”.

This leads into the discussion of Original Sin– as this is the theological name given to that felt void, gap, and separation at the core of our beings. Here Rollins sets himself apart from conservatism. He understands Original Sin to be the first primal separation that we feel when we become self-conscious. Having only ever heard Original Sin referred to as inherently existing mar on humanity, I am struggling with this non-shame/guilt ridden understanding of the term. Rollins acknowledges this struggle when he says: “Sadly almost the entire existing church fails to embrace the full radically of what Original Sin actually means, for they presuppose that there is something we are separated from, something that will bring wholeness and insight.” I think the entire existing church would say we are separated from unity with God. It is very difficult to get away from my fundamental upbringing. I can’t imagine a world in which Original Sin does not mean I am effectively marred and unholy before I was even born, simply because I am human. And yet I desire to get away from that crazy, shame-based theological mindset, but getting my mind around Rollins’ understanding of this, could take some time and wrestling.

Of course, this is the point where Rollins can title his book: The Idolatry of God. He explains how because we have this first illusionary felt void, that now we spend our entire lives seeking something that will not fill it, precisely because this void does not actually exist except in our feelings of its existence. Moreover, when we say that God will fill this void (since it is a “God shaped hole”) we make him into an idol and a product. To this, Rollins holds the church more responsible, as “ A god by any other name would smell as sweet“. He ends the chapter with noting that “whatever we act toward as if it were the thing that would rid us of our sense of emptiness… always ends in wanton destruction.”

So… one chapter done. I appreciate any thoughts or opinions that would be a contributing voice to this conversation.

21 Lost Lady Perspectives That Do Apply Today

At the beginning of the year, I said I wanted to blog more.

Today I read SheisMore: 21 Lost Lady Traditions That Still Apply Today, and I was given that opportunity.

So, Ms. Wolfe here are my thoughts on what should and shouldn’t be  “lady traditions”. I realize I am offering an unasked for but perhaps necessary perspective on this article.

For starters, Ms. Wolfe determines that acting like a lady is carrying yourself with dignity— I however beg to differ. I think carrying yourself with dignity is something that all humans should do— regardless of with which gender you identify. If however, Ms. Wolfe does insist that carrying yourself with dignity does distinctly promote “lady-likeness”, then I would like to acknowledge that this “carried dignity” does not necessarily empower men to be gentlemanly. While the two can be compared and observed on most conservative Christian blogs, they are not in fact directly related. Ask many a dignified young woman, who walks down the street and hears catcalls. My dignity as a woman is by no means a lightning rod for gentlemanly behavior. To introduce it as such, only promotes rape culture and the mindset that women are “asking for it” by how they act, rather than by what they say. This is an incredibly inappropriate and offensive idea to post.
Ms. Wolfe’s third paragraph says that being a lady “allows you to enjoy the niceties of life with the ease of knowing how to act in all situations.” Perhaps I am not a lady— but I’ve never found that I know how to act in all situations. There are times that decorum does not dictate behavior or possible situational outcomes.
I will continue to address each of her numbered points here:
Manners:
  1. If a man wants to stand while waiting for a lady to sit- it is by no means her responsibility to ease his tired legs.  He is a man after all— so I think he can bear the burden of his etiquette and stand.
  2. Is language a representation of your mind and heart? Absolutely. Does that mean sometimes that it is behaviorally appropriate to express shocking and potentially rude things? Absolutely. Also, I will say that refraining from rude and shocking language whilst at the table, is just basic human (non gender specific) decency.
  3. Not talking with your mouth full is also basic human decency— one of the most basic decencies.
  4. Dressing tastefully does not make you a lady. Many a woman dress appropriately for the occasion— only to be told by other “ladies” that their attire is inappropriate. By Ms. Wolfe’s standards, I do wonder whether or not these other opinionated ladies are in fact ladies at all….Also which ladies are right? Who’s to say what the appropriate attire is for the occasion?
  5. The hours of 9am and 9pm are for businesses to maintain. This is in no relation to what is ladylike behavior. Furthermore, considering the time when making a phone call is basic human decency.
  6. I’m going to sound like a broken record, but basic human decency— please say more than hello when being introduced. You don’t want them to think this is painful for you.
  7. Again: basic human decency. Turning off the cellphone during meals, meetings, and church does not set you apart as a lady. But you should probably make sure it’s still turned off at a mosque, synagogue, movie theater, and during a broadway show.
  8. Using the words “nope” or “yep”, while somewhat unprofessional, have no say on whether or not one is a lady. Pick your words— and know that your lady-likeness will not vanish the moment you cease talking like a 19th century novel.
  9. Sincerity is important… yet again this is basic human decency. I sincerely believe that speaking sincerely is something we should all do… with sincerity.
  10. Shall we abbreviate here? BHD? I hope we can all help someone in need without having a gender stereotype of gentleman or lady placed upon our shoulders.
  11. By all means, please RSVP ASAP, learn to read, and do not expect the world to revolve around you. But cut yourself some slack— you won’t ever be able to thank everyone who has shown you hospitality. Oh, and your “lady-ness” won’t suddenly be revoked, either.
  12. If you can bring a gift to a party— excellent. That is a kind thing to do. You don’t suddenly get described as “ladylike” because of it.
  13. BHD. Our words should be our bonds.
Dating:
  1. Let’s not mistake today for another year in which women could not speak first. If you want to talk to him, you should talk to him. Just because a man does not call you first does not mean he is not a gentleman. There are so many other more important factors that could be considered— none of which should include who initiates contact.
  2. Time is precious and valuable. But outside of work, most of us aren’t booked up 48 hours in advance. Just because he didn’t ask you out 48 hours in advance does not mean that he does not honor your time. Acting like he must allow 48 hours in advance, when in actuality you are available before hour #48 is rather unlady-like behavior, I believe.
  3. It is not a woman’t job to make dating her convenient— nor is it a man’s job. If he has the ability to pick you up and offers then that’s wonderful. If he doesn’t or can’t that doesn’t make him less of a gentleman, and it CERTAINLY DOES NOT MAKE YOU CONVENIENT OR EASY— which is of course Ms. Wolfe’s insinuation.
  4. 10pm? I always thought it was midnight. Also— please define “good”. Because there are some pretty good things that can happen after midnight if you ask me.
  5. Ms. Wolfe now discusses appreciation— defining it as not being “entitled or snobby”. If you were to follow all of the 17 rules she’s set forth up until this point, I think you might at least border on entitled…and snobby. This is quite the bind.
  6. I would again like to chalk this up to BHD. It doesn’t matter which gender you are. If you are on the accepting end of the date, you shouldn’t order the most expensive bottle of wine. To be honest, I am shocked that Ms. Wolfe even considers the thought that a lady can drink wine on a date, and still be a lady…. wait, actually she didn’t say that. My bad.
  7. BHD. Oh, and sometimes ladies are boring. That is true. Life is not a soap opera… you will be boring, and your lack of being interesting does not make you less of a lady. Also, sometimes ladies are rude and dismissive— and it can be a good thing. Especially when dismissing certain ungentlemanly behavior.
  8. This is where I agree with Ms. Wolfe, when you go out on a date you should always be prepared for anything…and safe. (A point my roommate, Morgan, insists I mention.)
Finally— I would just like to say— Please don’t call me “princess”… I find it incredibly sexist, offensive, and degrading.

friends and family

Sitting on the couch in Guatemala right now, I’m feeling the need to write.

I don’t really know where this will go.

I’ve been thinking a lot about vulnerability recently. I guess it’s something I’m always thinking about, or trying not to. Given that I’m currently in a whole new living situation with people I really don’t know, I find myself craving vulnerability. I also find myself seeking it, not here, but with old friends. I’m constantly emailing and texting my dear friends from home…because as much as people don’t belong to you– sometimes they do. I don’t know how or when it happened with my friends & I, but somehow we all started belonging to one another. Maybe it’s a phenomenon that happens when you’re twenty-something and single.

Regardless of the reasons, I want this realness and honesty all of the time. Maybe it’s because I’m in a different country. Maybe absence does make the heart grow fonder. Or maybe I’ve just realized that what I have with my friends, doesn’t grow on trees… or in random groups in Guatemala.

I am so blessed to have the friends I do. Friends without superiority complexes. Friends that text me at random hours. Friends that I can text and whine to when I’m sick. Friends I call when I’m lonely. Friends that call me when they’re lonely. Friends I can send gigantic emails to. Friends who send me e-cards when I’m sick. Friends who send me movie recommendations! Friends that encourage me when I seriously think that I’m going to go crazy and moving here was the worst life decision. Friends who stay up talking with me ’cause I’m having a mental breakdown. Friends who make scrapbooks for me of our friendship and our spirit animal/TV alter egos. ;] I am so incredibly blessed and thankful to have them in my life.

And of course, I can’t leave out my family. My family has been so supportive and encouraging. They’ve sent me wonderful, incredible packages and text me everyday. They are so encouraging and listen to be complain about things like bedbugs, and the flu. I am so grateful for them as well.

So here’s a shout out to: Mom, Dad, Stephen, Morgan, Andy, Jordan, Crystal, Andrew, Kevin, & Pip! Even if you don’t realize it, you all have been really incredible and have encouraged me in so many different ways, and I am so glad to have you in my life. I love you all so so so much and miss you dearly.

Proverbs 27:17: As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

John 15:12-13: My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:  If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

 

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