My Boots Are Heavy Today

heavy boots

When my friend Elizabeth is having a rough day, or when life just generally feels like it’s too much, she will say her boots feel heavy. It’s a reference from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and it makes total sense. Sometimes life feels like too much – so much, in fact, that just walking through life is hard. It’s hard to pick up your feet and keep moving.

That’s how life is feeling these days. My boots are heavy because:

  • Violence is once again the top news story. I hurt for the people of Orlando, I hurt for the lives lost and the families forced to figure out how to make it through the day. I hurt for my friends that feel this act of terror so personally because it was an attack on them, too.
  • Missing girls are always in the news. In Bloomington, it’s been 5 years since Lauren Spierer went missing. Five years of her parents not knowing what happened. Five years of no closure and no peace. And then I saw in the news today another young girl is missing locally.
  • A local church trying to good had their bus stolen and burned. They use that bus all the time to make a difference in their poor, hurting community. Now they’re at a loss again. And it hurts my heart.
  • Friends have family members fighting cancer, fighting mental illness, fighting to make it through the day.
  • Friends have had to say goodbye to the people they love all too soon.

The world is heavy. Walking through the world is heavy. And sometimes it feels hopeless. But it’s not. I promise it’s not.

If you’re like me, you’re wondering what you can do? How can you change the world, how can you stand up and be a voice in the dark void of heaviness? How can you help.

Be Present. People all around you are hurting and crying out. Be present in their lives, even when (especially when) it’s uncomfortable and you feel a little lost.

Be Open. Everyone hurts, mourns and deals with pain in their own ways. Don’t assume that someone is processing the world the same way you are.

Be Real. Forget the platitudes and pedantic sayings. Sometimes life stinks. Sometimes the struggles are too much and too hard and too big to really fully understand.

Admit Your Fears. Nothing feels more isolating than thinking you’re the only one afraid, struggling or unsure how to deal with the world. Admit your fears to those who struggle.

Carry Each Other. Sometimes your boots are too heavy. Sometimes your best friend has the heavy boots. Sometimes it’s a total stranger. Know the signs of hurting people and offer to help carry the load. There is nothing that makes the load lighter than sharing it with people who are willing to help carry it – and you – through the dark places.

Be Brave. Stand up for those you love. Hold them proudly when they’re hurting. Admit that the world is ugly, but people can be beautiful.

Judge Sparingly. Instead of judgement, focus on love. There is enough name calling and vitriol in the world. Instead of judging people, love them.

When Anxiety Attacks, Part Three (What TO Say)

Anxiety red rubber stamp vector for mental health concept

Thank you all for your gracious and awesome responses to this blog series! It’s been such a huge encouragement to me.

Here’s part three, also known as what to say to encourage and support someone with anxiety.

How can I help?
Most of the time, dealing with anxiety and combating a panic attack is a personal thing. Everyone is different, so ask the people in your life (individually) what you can do to help them with their anxiety. The best time to ask this is when they are not in the middle of a panic attack, FYI. They may need you to do nothing, or they may give you ways you can support them (like being someone they can text at 2:00am if needed, someone to run errands if they’re in a really bad place, etc).

Is it OK if I hug/touch/comfort you?
If you know me, you know I am a hugger. I love to give and receive hugs and physical touch is definitely a love language. Except when I’m panicking. If I’m in the middle of a really stressful attack, I don’t want to be touched. For me, a hug right at that moment feels suffocating. So, ask before you hug/comfort.

What’s the worst that you think will happen?
Yes, this was on yesterday’s list, as well. It’s all about tone with this question. Sometimes Tim asks me what’s the worst that can happen and it helps me realize that I’m freaking out over something that is highly unlikely, if not completely unlikely. Case in point: I used to have panic attacks every time Tim left for an overnight trip. I was convinced that something horrible would happen to our dog, who he adores. In my anxiety/panic/illogical state I then convinced myself that if something happened to Madi, Tim would leave me. (Yes, writing it out makes me realize how silly it was). Tim asking why I was panicking and what the worst thing was that could happen led us to have a conversation about my fears and help me work through them.

I love you. I accept you. Just as you are.
One of the underlying fears on most anxiety issues (at least in my circle) is that our disease makes us unlovable and unaccepted. When we panic about something small, we are also panicking that our anxiety will make the people we have in our lives turn away from us. Remind us, especially when things are rough, that you love us and you accept all of us, not just the parts of us you see when we have our anxiety under control.

I believe in you.
I know the things I fear and worry about seem silly to most people. What I need from you is to believe that I believe that they are real. You don’t have to believe they’re true, but I need you to believe that, in my head, this is what I think is going to happen. We can talk through it and work through what is imagined fear and what is legitimate, but validate my feelings. Believe in me when I say I want to get better. Believe in me when I say I don’t know how to get better.

Above all, remember that people with anxiety need to be loved and trusted and supported. We need to know that you aren’t judging us because of our illness. We need to know that we can trust you with the anxious parts of our hearts and the non-anxious parts of our hearts. We need to know that you won’t run away when we panic and that you’ll help us pick up the pieces when an attack is over.

Thanks for reading this series! Tomorrow is a bonus post – anxiety and faith. Because it’s something I have to get off my chest!

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When Anxiety Attacks, Part Two (AKA What Not To Say)

Anxiety red rubber stamp vector for mental health concept

So yesterday I came clean about my anxiety issues. Which, ironically, caused all sorts of anxiety for a few hours as it published and I fretted over what all my friends and family would think/say/do.

Today I just want to talk about what not to say to someone who has anxiety. Yes, all of these have been said to me, so I know exactly how little they helped in my personal situation.

It’s not worth getting all worked up over.
I know. Trust me. The logical part of my brain is screaming this very sentence at me as soon as an actual attack starts to happen. Every logical part of my body knows that most of what I’m worried about/anxious about will never come to pass.

If only anxiety were logical.

You’re freaking out over nothing.
To you, yes. It’s nothing. To me, it’s my worst fears coming true. It might just be a bug to you; to me, it’s a carrier of deadly diseases out to kill me and my dog. It doesn’t help when you tell me it’s nothing. It just makes me feel small and judged.

Seriously, what’s the worst that can happen?
We don’t want to answer that question. The worst that can happen is the thing that controls our anxiety and our every waking thought in the middle of an attack.

You’re on medication?!?!
Yes. Sometimes I am on medication. If you’re sick, you take meds, right? Anxiety is a type of sickness. There was a time when I couldn’t control the anxiety anymore and I went on medication. It doesn’t make me a bad person.

Can’t you take something for that?
Whether or not to be medicated for anxiety is a personal choice. It’s also a HARD choice. There are pros and cons to both sides of the argument. Please don’t make us feel bad about our choice to not medicate either.

Your faith isn’t strong enough/you don’t trust God enough/you’re not praying enough.
This one is worth a whole blog on it’s own. But, as a Christian, you would not believe the number of times someone has equated my anxiety with my faith. Just because I have anxiety doesn’t mean I don’t trust God. It doesn’t mean I don’t try hard to follow Him. It doesn’t mean I don’t spend hours in prayer. Anxiety isn’t about faith. Faith, quite frankly, is the only thing that gets me through anxious thoughts sometimes.

Just breathe. Calm down.
Breathing is second nature to most people. And yes, deep breathing has helped my anxiety immensely because it gives me something to focus on other than whatever is causing the attack. But, there is not amount of breathing that can make everything “better.” Don’t tell me to calm down, either. Trust me, if I could, I would.

Anxiety isn’t a real disease/you’re looking for attention
Saying anxiety isn’t a real disease is like saying what I’m feeling isn’t real. Trust me, it’s as real to me as a headache (which I get because of the anxiety, btw) and any other issue that I have. People don’t talk about mental illness because they are told it’s not a real thing all the time. We suffer in silence because talking about it is taboo and you think we’re looking for attention. I don’t want to be known as Anxiety Girl. Trust me.

I’m a worrier, too.
I appreciate that, I really do. But worry is not the same thing as anxiety. Worry you can fret, process and move on in a very short amount of time. Anxiety means that you stew, obsess and get to the point where your anxiety pushes you to a place where you no longer feel in control.

Do you suffer from anxiety? What have people said to you that has hurt instead of helped?

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When Anxiety Attacks, Part 1

Anxiety red rubber stamp vector for mental health concept

Several years ago, we found a tick on the dog. It was gross and disgusting. Instead of having a normal, rational reaction to said parasite (shuddering, disgust, anger, any number of rational emotions), I remember what I did vividly.

I sat in the middle of my living room floor and had a full-blown panic attack. Hyperventilating. Unable to breathe. Crying hysterically. Shaking. Feeling like I should throw up. I couldn’t catch my breath. I couldn’t stop. Even as my husband and dog looked on, I got worse and worse.

I knew something had to change. This was not the first time I had experienced an anxiety attack. It wouldn’t be the last. But, it was the moment I remember finally thinking, once I was able to think again, that I needed help.

I went to the doctor. She listened patiently to my symptoms and fears. She quickly diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and put me on Lexapro. I started taking the anti-anxiety/anti-depressant that night.

For the next 16 months, I lived in a Lexapro-induced state of relative lack of panic. I stopped freaking out about everything. It wasn’t until I realized I had also stopped feeling pretty much everything that I discovered how much Lexapro had affected my life. I weaned off the drug. As much as I liked not feeling anxiety and panic, I missed feeling other things – like anger, fear and joy. Feeling too much was better than not feeling anything.

In the years since I stopped the Lexapro, my anxiety has been kept mostly in check by having honest conversations with myself, my husband, and my friends. It’s been learning to breathe through it and not let it bubble too hot, too fast or too long. It’s about being real with who I am. My friend Victoria encouraged me to start a prayer journal, and it has helped immensely.

But sometimes it’s hard.

It’s tick season again, and this year it’s bad. In addition to the normal disgust, I find my anxiety sitting right on the edge, waiting to push me into that chasm again-that dark place where the world is too scary and too much. The logical part of my brain that knows these aren’t big deals is at war with the anxious side of my brain. I need to process and this is my best place to do so.

So, I’m getting honest with my blog and writing about my anxiety. It may take a few blogs to work it all out. But, if you’ve ever been around me, you know that words on paper come way easier than words face-to-face.

So, join me as I talk frankly about my anxiety and how I’ve learned to live through it.

Tomorrow I’ll post the things not to say to someone with anxiety.

Wednesday I’ll post the things that have helped me.

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Book Review: Looking for Lovely

Looking for Lovely

Hey! I know you’re shocked I’m on another launch team!

This time I want to tell you all about the amazing Annie F. Downs and the phenomenal new book out today – Looking for Lovely.

I am familiar with Annie. I read Let’s All Be Brave as part of my planning for last year’s One Girl Conference. Annie is a conversational writer, and her books read exactly like I imagine a conversation with her would go.

Looking for Lovely is all about finding the moments that matter and dealing with the stuff that keeps you far from God. There are so many amazing quotes and moments in this book. For me, it was Annie’s struggle with her weight, with the way she was treated by others, and with coming face-to-face with the need to talk to someone about what was going on in her life that spoke deeply to me.

Looking for Lovely is about the moments that can define us, but it isn’t an “everything is roses” kind of book. Annie admits that life is hard, that struggles are real and that sometimes not quitting is the most important thing you can do. But, in spite of all the junk the world tries to throw at you, Annie reminds us that there are lovely moments worth collecting along the path of life.

Collecting those lovely moments is what makes the hard moments all the more bearable. When we surround ourselves with the lovely – with the things that matter and the things that make us US – makes the junk not so junky.

Annie says,

The things you want, the things you love, the things that make you cry, and the things that make you laugh, and the things that make you more angry than you thought you could be – it’s a rare combination. In fact, it’s a one-of-a-kind combination. Because God made you that way. On Purpose. Your looks. Your loves. Your losses. They are you.

Find the lovely in your day, friends!

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Someday Librarian

Shelf with Color Book on the White Wall, Concept, Render

I’ve always loved book. Like, not just liked books, but LOVED them. I love the way books feel, smell and look. I love the words and the stories. I love knowing that, even for a few minutes, my world can move into another and I can live 1,000 lives without leaving my house.

That being said, I knew from about the moment I got my undergrad degree at IU that I wanted my career at some point in my life to involve library school. But, when I got through with college, I was D-O-N-E. The idea of going to one more class made me want to run away. I didn’t do as well as I could have in college because I was just so burnt out.

So, even though I knew I should go right to grad school, I didn’t. Instead, I worked in a publishing company for a year. And then I started working at my job at Sherwood Oaks. And here I am, 15 years since I graduated from college. I have thought of library school often, even getting my LTA from IvyTech to see if I would really love it.

I did.

So, Tim and I talked and I took the plunge. Back at the end of February, I applied to the Library Science Master’s Program at IUPUI. It’s all online and it’s a fraction of the cost of IU. I didn’t say much, because a part of me was worried that I wouldn’t get accepted.

But, I did!

I’m going to be a librarian!

I will start school this summer, while still working and living my life. Online classes are great because they work into my life. I’m not quitting my job or anything silly like that. I am still doing theatre and hanging out with friends, but I’m doing this, too.

I’m so excited!

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Review: 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit

Woman Who Doesn't Quit

Woman Who Doesn't Quit

The truth is, we’ve all had things we’ve quit. But, why?

I loved this quick read that will leave you thinking long after you put down the book. 5 Habits is Nicki’s journey through being a quitter to someone to rely on. She uses the Biblical examples of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz to put her 5 habits in perspective and help her readers have context for her advice.

Reading this book was a little like looking into my own life story. I have definitely quit a few things in my life, and Nicki helped me realize what I was quitting and, more importantly, WHY I can be a quitter. When the going gets hard, how do you react? Do you step up to the challenge, or do you quit and look for something safer? Nicki reminds us time and time again that the world is a crazy, disappointing place and true grit and determination is revealed when a woman refuses to give up and quit.

With grace and humility, Nicki uses examples from her own life to help her readers see the character of a woman who is being transformed from a quitter to a doer.

  • Habit 1: Accept the assignment of refinement
  • Habit 2: Follow through with commitments despite how you feel
  • Habit 3: Stay open to the movement of God
  • Habit 4: Give others what you need.
  • Habit 5: Move forward in faith.

    If you’re ever quit something, or wanted to quit something, and you’re not even sure why, this is the book for you! Highly recommend for all the women I know who are constantly trying to be pinterest perfect.

 

Review: Quarter Life Calling

Quarter Life Calling

When I first started reading “Quarter Life Calling,” I wasn’t sure I would fit the demographic. I’m decidedly out of my twenties and heading quickly to my forties. I feel like I’ve more than surpassed my quarter life! That said, I was so glad that I picked it up and read it anyway.

This book is not just for twenty-sometimes looking for purpose in their life. “Quarter Life Calling” is about finding your purpose and place in a crazy, hectic world. It’s a book about finding your “sweet spot” and looking to make a lasting impact, not only in your circle of influence, but to those beyond your immediate reach.

“Quarter Life Calling” is a rallying cry for a generation that is often categorized as passive, entitled and lacking passion. Instead “Quarter Life Calling” asks readers to find that spot – the place where your passion, abilities and experiences intersect – and then DO SOMETHING in that space.

Author Paul Sohn is unapologetic in his challenge that millennials can and should be changing, challenging and captivating the world. Sohn is a writer who offers practical, easy steps while still saying “what’s next” to his readers.

“Quarter Life Calling” is a great book for college grads, wandering souls, and those just looking to make a change.

After all, imagine a world where everyone worked and improved in their sweet spot. How different would you be if your job wasn’t a J-O-B, but instead the true calling of your life?

We’re Off to See the Wizard

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The challenge of taking an iconic film that has shaped countless lives and turning it into something that fits the stage is no easy task. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I settled into my seat at Clowes Memorial Hall for opening night of The Wizard of Oz in Indianapolis.

A quick internet search revealed that this is early in the run of a total re-imagining of the show, complete with new songs, technology and sets. From the opening curtain, you can tell that the young cast is loving being a part of something that is such a part of American history. The dual casting of many of the characters is obvious as they roll onto the stage, prepping the farm, fighting against the evil neighbor, and trying to find Dorothy in the oncoming storm. Muted Kansas is just 16908-0that – dull and normal. Costume, set and lighting choices make the transition to Oz visually beautiful and stunning.

Sarah Lasko’s Dorothy is both innocent and fierce. She is a misfit on her Kansas farm, but finds a purpose and passion among the fellow misfits that make up Oz. The Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Glinda and the Wicked Witch are all there in their glory, each getting a moment or two to really shine. Even Toto steals his scenes, maybe because the audience is waiting to see what he will do.

I loved the additional songs, written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, especially the poignant Wonders of the World when Dorothy meets Professor Marvel and the Wicked Witch’s lament, Red Shoes Blues.

Overall, the show is a fun, family-friendly couple hours of theater (the flying monkeys and Wicked Witch may scare young children). The first 20 minutes of the show felt a little crazy and rushed and the use of the screens to hide the transitions from Kansas to Oz and back again are effective, but a little long.  The biggest distraction of the night came from the auditorium staff (we were seated on the aisle and could hear them talking and flashing their lights regularly) and a seemingly high number of missed mic and tech cues.

The Wizard of Oz runs through Sunday, January 17 at Clowes Memorial Hall on the campus of Butler University.

As usual, thank you to Broadway in Indianapolis for the tickets in exchange for an honest review of the show!

2016 Reading Challenge

MMD-2016-Reading-Challenge

(One of many, I’m sure).

This is the reading challenge currently popping up in my social media feeds and blogs:

MMD-2016-Reading-ChallengeThis is still a list in progress, but here are my first thoughts:

A book published this year: The Raven King. This won’t be the only book published this year, but it’s definitely one of the ones I’m looking forward to the most. Because this series is amazing and I want it to end and don’t want it to end all at the same time.

A book you can finish in a day: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Read it. Drank the juice. Clean all the things!

A book you’ve been meaning to read: Scary Close. I know I need to read it. But, it’s going to make me think, and evaluate, and process and…

A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller: still need this one. I’ll ask at my Friends meeting later in January 🙂

A book you should have read in school: Oh, so many. I avoided most of the classics because I just didn’t enjoy them. So, I’m going to say…. Crime and Punishment. I think I started it once and didn’t hate it.

A book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child or BFF: Finishing the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms series recommended by Victoria!

A book published before you were born: The High King. 1969 Newbery Winner.

A book that was banned at some point: Pillars of the Earth. I’ve heard great things about this book. Time to read it.

A book you previously abandoned: A Clash of Kings. I really need to read these books. But then again, the next one may never actually be written, so…

A book you own but never have read: This is a lot of the books on my bookshelf right now. So many books. This one needs to be narrowed down still.

A book that intimidates you: Atlas Shrugged. It’s been on the list forever. But it’s huge. And the print is TINY.

A book you’ve already read at least once: To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s been a long time. It’s time to read it again.

What about you? What are you going to read in 2016?

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