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I’m going to write probably the most honest thing I’ve ever written.

I’ve spoken too many times to count about depression and anxiety, but I’m going to go a little deeper here and extremely personal.

Have you heard of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why?

Spoilers ahead.

For context, it’s a series that follows the story of a perspective of the high school experience though a teenage girl Hannah Baker. In the opening scenes we find out she has killed herself and left behind cassette tapes for people in her life who influenced her decision to commit suicide.

The story covers so many topics: self-harm, suicidal thoughts, suicide, depression, anxiety, sexual assault, verbal abuse, rape, and the list goes on.

I have wanted to unpack what I thought about the growing popularity of the show and the show itself, this is my attempt.

This show is causing people to talk, which I think most view as a starting point for breaking down the stigma of mental illness but I feel for many it could be more damaging than helpful if you view the series.

I have seen the show be praised for its unflinching honesty, but I felt like it did this in places that didn’t make sense and on a whole it left some disappointing obscurity.

The scene where Hannah takes her life seemed basically like a “how to” and I felt immediate panic for any suffering youth that would happen to view this show and absorb it in that way. Parents, this is not a show for your children, your youth.

This is a good time for me to interject that I can’t recommend the series. At first I was compelled to, but the more I think about it – the more I’m not even sure who an appropriate audience would be. Even with parents watching along with their kids, I don’t think it’s a good idea. It’s too heavy. It’s not productive. You can facilitate conversation in other ways. Please, if you take nothing away other than this: this is not for your kids to watch. It is not for your teenagers to watch. It’s not even for some adults to watch. I wish I hadn’t watched.

At first I thought I enjoyed the direct nature of the show for exploring topics that are usually hush hush, but it did a horrible job of coupling that honesty with the appropriate resources to manage such heavy things.

The entire story seems to show Hannah as a hero, the viewer is continually shown person after person who Hannah wants to pay reparations for the things they did or didn’t do, and time after time she is met with that justice in her after life.

Suicide is not glorious.

Suicide is not heroic.

You will not be in a shiny Netflix series seeing if the people that hurt you are now understanding of their wrong doings. You will be dead.

I fear that this is sending an extremely unhealthy message to vulnerable minds that suicide will in some way give them some sort of peace or closure or redemption they’ve been waiting for and this is not only destructive that this is depicted, but it’s heart breaking.

Where the show spotlights suicide, it restrains on exploring more deeply the struggles of depression. I feel like there could have been some better use of the shows time to show more of the ongoing struggles of a person with mental illness internally, instead of all the external factors. We see these depictions of other peoples actions and how they lead Hannah to this choice yet we don’t see much of her processing and that’s a vital thing to talk about because you’re the only one who thinks your thoughts, you’re the only one responsible for your actions. I needed the show to give Hannah some more ownership of what she’s going to do with how she feels because that’s the entire struggle of being someone who is depressed.

You have to learn how to navigate your own darkness. It feels like a personal hell to walk through the shadows your own mind casts, even if other people are a part of lowering the light – but it’s a vital part of self care and recovery to be able to find the resources to deal with your thoughts and feelings and actions.

The show poorly depicts counselors and adults in general. Although I understand they are trying to make a point that adults miss signs or become lazy in their attempts to help people because they have their own lives to deal with – it felt damaging for the show to not bring in balance by showcasing what licensed professional counselors can offer to mentally ill (and mentally well) persons.

The show fell short here, as someone who continually battles depression – it made me feel misrepresented. Mental illness already makes you stigmatized, and I fear this show is only adding to that. Opening up conversation – sure, but maybe not a helpful conversation.

I think it’s really healthy to want to engage in conversations about mental wellness, mental illness, suicide, and suicide prevention but I don’t think you need or should use a Netflix series to do that.

For someone who knows too well what its like to not feel your value and question your worth, the show left a lot to be desired in terms of bringing a healthy understanding to someone who struggles with depression or suicidal thoughts.

The most memorable day I’ve ever lived was the day I questioned my worth the most. I was over my head with responsibilities, neglecting to take care of myself, and not sure how I was benefitting any of the lives living around me. I told my husband I needed a break and I wanted to get out of the house. At the time we had a small baby and though I needed a break I felt more at peace when he was with me so I loaded him up in the car seat and we went for a drive. It was gray and rainy out and I didn’t want to be on the road but I couldn’t breathe in my house one more minute so instead of heading back to the house I pulled into the parking lot of a fast food restaurant. I thumbed through a magazine I had in my car while listening to music and then I began to sob. I felt inadequate in every way you could. As a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend, a person. In my mind I was sure that I was doing more harm to these people around me than I was doing anything helpful or productive. In that low state of mind I called my husband and said I’m going to come home now. I was able to talk to him when I got home and work through some things I was struggling with.

The only reason I had the strength to overcome that moment of doubt about myself is because of the resources and care I had received prior to that dark moment. I knew what to do with those thoughts.

My struggle with depression didn’t start in that car – no ones struggle begins when they feel like life isn’t worth living, it starts before, in slow and subtle ways. Months before that gray day I had my first taste of depression and I strongly feel that because I did not ignore it when it began I’ve been able to become stronger everyday when it rears its ugly head. This is why the conversation about the in-between phases of depression is so important to talk about instead of just the external factors and aftermath of suicide.

There is so much help available, but you have to know about it and the only person who can ask for help is you.

That’s something people don’t want to talk about because it can maybe seem like it’s a jerk thing to say to someone struggling, “well, you’ve got to help yourself” – but you aren’t alone in helping yourself, once you take steps to get help – there are so many people available (links at the bottom) that are ready to soldier on beside you in your struggle, but they can’t struggle for you. People like Hannah, people like me – we have to learn to live instead of choose to die: we have to learn to fight for ourselves even if it seems like no one else will – because we are worthy of that fight.

That is what was missing from this show, we saw the darkest hour – yet the shadows leading up where you build resolve for the darkest hour was left out.

If you talk to your family. Your friends. A counselor. If you take a prescription. If you take breaks. If you ask for help. If you can learn habits that help you find strength when you need it most: you can live.

You can live.

You should live.

I’m linking some helpful websites if you or someone you know needs help starting these conversations or getting the help they need for their struggles.

As always – from the deepest place in my heart – you are loved, you are not alone.

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

https://twloha.com

https://www.nami.org

I was prepping food earlier and while I was dividing out everything that I needed before I started I got to thinking about garlic.

Garlic is the best, right?

If you don’t like garlic I don’t know if we can be friends, but anyway.

I’m not really here to talk about why garlic is the bomb. But more so, what is the purpose of garlic and how do you go about drawing that essential quality of it out?

Garlic is so potent. The usable part of garlic is surrounded by a thicker skin and then several layers of a husk. The husk seems stable in holding the garlic together while it’s closed around it but once you begin to peel it away you see how frail it is, and the slightest move in the air will find the husk being whisked away effortlessly. The skin, it’s a little more stubborn. You have to work to get it off, one of the best ways to accomplish this is actually by cracking it against the back of a knife so that it splits open and you free it up a bit so you can peel with ease.

As I was peeling my garlic, ridding it of the husk and then with a little more effort peeling the skin away, I started thinking about how I feel a little bit like garlic sometimes. Or at least my journey with mental illness makes me feel that way.

Today is the first day of spring and I am ready to welcome it. I hate the winter.

I am an introvert, yes. But I also love to be outside. SO, that’s a weird combination sometimes. I need fresh air, but I also need space.

The winter always heightens my feelings of depression and anxiety because there is so much time spent indoors and it’s pretty gray often.

This year was a little different than normal, because in NC we’ve had about, ummm, 3 hours of winter. But still, the official change of season has me reflective none the less.

When I choose to speak about the battles I fight with my brain and my surroundings I know that it resonates with some people, it’s made a lasting impression on some of my now friends, who I otherwise wouldn’t be connected to had I not opened up sometime about something. It makes me feel like that usable garlic, that makes a noted difference and adds something to the end result.

But the process of getting to those moments where I connect with someone over this unfortunate bond is similar to the process of getting garlic to that beneficial state. It’s a little bit of work.

Through the ups and downs of my anxiety and depression some situation or conversation will cause that outer later of me to start to open up, and that’s where things are fragile and frail.

I have a friend who observed me in a panic attack a few months ago say afterwards they could see the moment the change took place on my face and they noticed a shift in my stance and voice. That’s the husk, whatever disturbs it can take away what is seems to be effortlessly holding it all together. In that moment where my skin feels hot and the room is spinning and my irrational thoughts are assaulting me at a million miles an hour, that’s the outer layer coming off and I can tell you: I feel completely helpless and it feels like this battle was meant to destroy me. In those moments I don’t feel like my struggle is helpful or usable or something to be shared.

But then, the next phase.

Once that outer layer is gone there’s a more stable protection in place. It’s like the skin on the garlic, you have to use a little effort to strip it away. I feel that skin being peeled away when I open up to people on a personal level about myself and the way I process things.

Do you know how crazy a person with anxiety can sound to someone who doesn’t have anxiety? Just ask someone who doesn’t have anxiety (actually don’t).  I can mouth off about anything to anyone when it comes to a screen. I post ridiculous or funny or controversial or sentimental things on social media and I stand by those things – but I’m not always as willing to be as vocal in person or even on a one on one message thread. Some of my thought processes sound so ridiculous that I don’t even like talking about them out loud usually, but my momentary embarrassment at times seems to continually be rewarded by meaningful friendships or memorable moments when I can reveal some of my anxious tendencies so that someone else will learn that they are not alone, and no – they are not crazy. It’s like the protective skin of the garlic, whenever someone engages in a conversation with me in person about my struggles or their struggles, or in a message, I can feel that protective layer being pricked. It’s in that moment when the conversation shifts from the silly and everyday to the vulnerable and straightforward that I understand the purpose of having to shed all those outer layers. I’m finally down to the form of understanding how my struggles don’t have to box me in and destroy me, but the very thing I fight can also be a thing that enhances my relationships and can be used for good and important things.

Every message I get or conversation I have with someone who feels the weight of my words because they carry similar struggles inside is freeing to me because it reminds me of the goodness of relationships which I sometimes avoid. Even for people who don’t understand, there are people I talk to who love someone like me and maybe the person they love can’t articulate the things I say here in this blog or on some of my Facebook posts, and opening up that bit of insight for them reorients my thinking on mental illness and it feels less like a burden and more like a privilege. I guess that might sound a little silly, but I do truly consider it a privilege to be able to say what some of you feel that you aren’t able to say, and in turn help the people that love you learn to love you better. This is when I’m usable garlic: when I go through all those layers of living a panic attack, the shift in my behavior being noticed, having a conversation about it, and then coming here to document it all, which as I’ve always said: this blog is for me. It’s free therapy to catalog how I feel when I feel it and reflect on how much I’ve grown. But, I’m pretty thankful you’re here too.

Anyway, that’s how I feel like garlic.

Maybe you have something you live through day in and day out and you can’t see the purpose in it, you’re not sure how it’s useful or you hate it or you feel alone or misunderstood but maybe, just maybe, you are like garlic, too.

Unless you hate garlic, and then we can’t be friends.

😉

Sometimes when I sit down to write there’s a heaviness sitting in my soul before I even get the first word onto the screen.

It’s not necessarily always a dark thing, sometimes it’s just this present feeling that I’m about to explore a place I’m so familiar with but I haven’t yet truly visited. And that can have unexpected outcomes so I delay it sometimes but I can’t shake the feeling until I explore it so, here I am.

I read a quote, years ago maybe, that comes in and out of my mind every so often. I see it shared on someone else’s page and kind of tilt my head and inwardly think “oh yeah, that. I need to explore why that always stops me in my tracks.”

It’s beautiful and haunting and a bit perplexing all at the same time.

 

“Be who you needed when you were younger”

 

Every time I have come across it I wonder why it reaches out to me in such a way, because when I was younger I had everyone I needed. On the surface I did at least.

I had and have loving parents. Parents who held me when I was sick, corrected me when I was wrong, clothed me and fed me, let me explore my own interests even if they didn’t align with what the typical kid was doing. I grew up in a loving home.

I had siblings that didn’t beat me up. They helped me clean my room, or let me give them a makeover, or invited me to play with their friends when I was left out of my peer group.

I had friends in various seasons of life that meant different and important things. Some that I laughed with, some that I cried with. Some that stuck around for the hard things, some that pushed me into the hard places and I learned from that just as much.

I think I feel a little guilty when I linger on this quote because it feels selfish to say I needed more.

But, then that’s where I kind of settle in on why this quote resonates. If I could reach out to younger Alyssa, I think I would be the person who tells her that sometimes you’ll experience things in life that are very familiar to you but unfamiliar to those closest to you. And that’s okay. And you don’t need to feel strange for feeling out of place, and you don’t need to hold it against those closest to you for not understanding the way you are or the way things affect you.

You can grow up in a loving, attentive environment inside of the walls of the places most familiar to you but the external world still exists beyond that and that impacts everyone differently.

When I was five I had an extended relative of mine tell me to “stop smiling so weirdly” and just be normal for a picture. It’s the first memory I have of not seeming good enough, feeling less than in my appearance, because – I was just smiling the way I knew how. It’s the same way I see my mini twin son smile in pictures today. Squinty eyes, crooked grin, full of silliness. Not a glamour shot, perfect photo op type of way. It’s the first time I felt let down by family that I remember.

When I was in middle school, a Sunday school teacher of mine casually asked if I’d mention my weight to a group of girls in my class because a few of them were struggling to feel confident in theirs and she just “knew (I) weighed more than they thought” so it might help them to not obsess about their number on the scale. When I was 13 I looked like I was 18 and a lot of adults spoke to me as if I was some adult when I was just a vulnerable adolescent just like everyone else. That conversation is the first time I remember being let down by the church.

There was a guy one time in high school that condescendingly told me I was so much prettier when I smiled and I needed to smile more often. I spent the rest of my time in school every time I saw him with a passive aggressive smirk instead of a smile. At the time I felt so violated by his words. Who was he to try and guide me to be a certain way when I wasn’t that way?

In all of these situations and countless others from growing up I think about the type of person I needed when I had a handful of good options anyway, why – as a grown adult reflecting on this – did they not seem like enough?

I think who I needed when I was younger was just the older version of me.

It seems too simple, or maybe too complex.

Either way, it isn’t something I have figured out yet but it’s something that’s caught my attention, for now, until I’m ready to make peace with it and tuck it away.

I needed to age into a woman who still struggles but who also overcomes, and learn the beauty of self-acceptance. It’s a continual acceptance, by the way. Or at least for me it is. I don’t think you reach a point in adulthood where you’re all the sudden just fine with everything and everyone, you sometimes daily, sometimes monthly, sometimes yearly have to choose that you love yourself enough to be okay with who you are even if you feel misrepresented or misunderstood.

I’m careful about the way I treat those younger than me because I know what it is to be treated a certain way. I know I wouldn’t be as mindful of that were it not for the various things I experienced in life.

I needed to experience all of those things to shape me into who I am today.

I’m someone comfortable with posting a selfie some days because I feel cute and it feels good to accept myself on that day. For someone that used to hide behind sarcasm and quick wit, it’s nice to feel fine enough to show my face, too.

I’m someone who doesn’t weigh myself often because the scale doesn’t let me know if I feel confident and if I feel healthy. Instead I eat healthy some and I indulge some. I take walks with the kids to clear my mind, and I run or workout in my living room for my physical heart. I don’t look at clothes and obsess over a size but contemplate whether I feel confident in the outfit, do I like the clothes or do I want them because they are “acceptable fashion” to society right now?

I’m someone who smiles but who also is comfortable crying and showing emotion, because I don’t owe anyone a happy face just because it might look good on me. I’m attentive to my emotional needs so that I can be mentally well to take care of my sweet children and love on others well, too.

 

“Be who you needed when you were younger.”

 

I think I am learning to be that, every day.

I think if little Alyssa saw me, she would dig that I still very much carry a lot of her with me: cooking up various concoctions, appreciating art and words, rocking out to unpopular music, wearing a sweatshirt from ten years ago, and feeling confident enough to rock red lipstick sometimes.

I had a lot of people on my side when I was younger, it did make the difficult times easier, but I’m learning to have myself on my side now, too. And it feels good.

Whoever you needed when you were younger, be that for yourself, now.

wilderness

I’m forever searching for inspiration. I find it in thought provoking quotes, stupid memes, intellectual conversations, TED talks, things my kids say, stuff society does. Whatever.

 

I’m always considering things around me. I love to take ideas and concepts and perspectives and figure them out from the inside out.

 

I’m trying more recently to consider myself, though, as a source of inspiration.

 

It’s hard for me to turn inward and look for inspiration but sometimes I’m like “hey you’re good enough to inspire someone, even your own self.”

 

It’s sometimes a weird thing to feel as intensely as I do. I get the idea that most people care about things on a gradual scale from caring not at all and caring a lot. My scale seems to have the same two sides I just mentioned but with no gradual climb or decent. It’s like a light switch, it’s either on or off. That’s what brings me to writing most often, I can’t turn the switch off of a certain topic or idea or feeling.

 

It makes me feel a little bit immature that I can’t get over things or process things like others, but it also makes me feel empowered sometimes that I’ve got this ability to stay with something (like considering depression and how we view it and how I’ve experienced it) and not abandon it just because it’s awkward or hard to talk about.

 

I say that as honestly as I know how but it still makes me feel like I’m exposing some scandalous truth about myself. “Hi, I’m Alyssa and I am weird.”

 

I’m at home in my weirdness mostly, but it was just a decade or so ago (and then again several times over the years…peaks and valleys, you know) where I wasn’t and I think about that younger girl and the type of person she needed in her life and so in some ways I’ve already been inspiring myself all along. I learned to write because I needed something to read.

 

I’m sure there are those of you that are thinkers and feelers, if you are one then you know it feels like a lonely boat to sail sometimes.

 

I’ve always been a loner, and not in a negative way. Or at least I don’t see it as negative like I used to.

 

I can spill five thousand words onto a page in a day but I struggle to say three sentences out loud.

 

Small talk is painful to me and I usually avoid it at all cost.

 

I struggle with eye contact, I’m 28 years old – usually people figure this out by like age 7 or something. I don’t really know how to talk about the weather unless we’re going to write a poem about it, I’m not really sure how to carry on a conversation about what’s on sale at the grocery store this week but it feels like a work of art to cook a meal for you and given a pen and paper or screen and some spare time I could explain the ingredients going into the dish in a way that would make you love a dish you hate and hate a dish you love. Although I’m getting better at it I have been known to avoid social gatherings like I’m getting paid to do it. And it’s not the people, really. I love people. People are wired to want to connect with other people.

 

People are naturally inclined towards relationships.

 

Social situations intimidate me more so because of me than because of others. Strange thing to try to to learn to not be what’s expected of me and just to be me, especially when “me” is someone who doesn’t like to “be” in the sense of being out and about and on display.

 

I’d rather sit quietly here usually.

 

So, it’s kind of an interesting balance to navigate if you feel and think a lot of things and want to share those things but also are sort of fine living under a rock. Maybe I would just like to come out occasionally. But not as much as most of you.

 

It can feel equal parts therapeutic and incredibly silly to type away on this screen. I go back and forth between feeling like I’m writing for me (therapy) and I’m writing for you (so silly).

 

Silly because, why are any of you reading this? Sometimes I do not know. Yet, some of you are and some of you enjoy it and that moves me in a place I haven’t always been able to peg.

 

Recently I’ve had multiple people randomly shoot me a message or pull me aside in person to mention something on my blog and at the time these little thoughts or suggestions here and there were coming my way I hadn’t even written a post since four months ago.

Mulling over those interactions I think it’s helping me flesh out what starting this blog nine years ago has meant to me and through that I better understand that hard-to-peg part of me that feels a certain way when someone seems to like what I have to offer here.

 

In all of these posts – over 100 posts I’m pretty sure?! (and the first one referencing a Nickelback song no less, #cringe)– this space has given me a community I’ve needed. I type my heart out and I feel alive in the most real way. (usually with Explosions In The Sky – Your Hand In Mine playing in the background..I ditched Nickelback long ago)

 

 

In school you’re structured to be a certain way: group projects, oral presentations, team sports.

 

But then there are people like me. I can do those things. (K maybe not the sports…) But I don’t thrive there. No amount of what I’m “supposed” to be like is going to quell the person that I actually am.

 

I thrive in a quiet room, with loud headphones. I can lower my guard when no one is around, and then share that vulnerability with you in the most pure way I know how: words.

 

I might not be great at coming up to you and talking about our weeks, but I can type out my wonderings and help us learn about ourselves. I say us because every time I feel like I’m writing for you, I’m really equally, if not more so, here for me, too.

 

I’m not too good at a dinner and a night out with girlfriends, but I can post about my depression in motherhood and weave a bond through dozens of you that have quietly reached out to me feeling the same way and instead feed a part of our souls that are hungrier than our stomachs.

 

I may never have (or want, eek) a crowd before me listening to all my musings, but I can sit quietly with you on this side of the screen and offer my words to you in solidarity as we face the same questions and answers and problems and solutions.

 

The book that I’m writing that I’ve shared about with several of you has made a lot of progress recently and I’m excited to share it with you one day. So much of it has roots tied back to this blog that I started once because I was feeling some way about some thing. Strolling through this path that doesn’t always seem to look like the general population has at times felt like a wilderness but it’s been in the wandering of that wilderness that I’ve discovered so much purpose to press forward in exploring the goodness of the barren places of life.

 

This book… I owe so much of its existence to some of you who have encouraged me over the last almost decade to continue writing and continue sharing.

 

I’m going to keep doing that and I hope you’ll keep reading.

 

Until next time… ❤

Dear Brantley

I need to take a minute and reflect on the fact that I’ve gotten to love on you in the outside world for a year now.


The first night we were home this picture was taken and I couldn’t believe what a sweet baby you were. Being a mother for the third time I knew that a fussy period was going to start eventually so I wanted to soak in your sweet disposition while I could.

You never had that phase though.

 

You have remained the happiest baby for an entire year and my heart leaps when I’m around you. 

Each baby I have reaches down into parts of my heart that I’m unaware exist until your three tiny souls discover it.

Your sister helped me fall in love with the ordinary things, the day in and day out messy, beautiful parts of motherhood. 

Your brother stretched me to take care of myself. I throw so much of myself into taking care of you three that I sometimes need a reminder that mommy is a person too. It was a hard lesson to learn and I still learn new parts of it every day. He showed me it was okay to not be okay.

When I came out of my depression with Timothy that’s when I learned a side of wellness I hadn’t known before.

When I felt happy again, after being sad for so long, I didn’t really know how to handle it.

I had learned how to cope with depression and so when I came out of that nightmare I was hesitant to let myself dream again.

I was so anxious when I was pregnant with you. I felt like I would quite literally die if I had to soldier through postpartum depression again. 

When you finally arrived I kept anticipating all the hard parts hitting me again. The sleepless nights, the endless crying, the raging hormones, the self doubt. 

But you have smiled at me every day since you learned how.

And you could never know how badly I needed that. I needed to learn what it was like to dwell in the freedom to live happily.

  

You, sweet boy, you make me happy in the most genuine of ways. The joy you display is infectious. 

When you were tiny up until you were ten months old you coslept with me and those will always be some of my favorite memories.


You would fall asleep instantly when you were nuzzled next to me. I took the above photo because I never wanted to forget how much it moved me to find rest, literally at night but also in my personal life, and that you found me safe enough to rest beside. ❤️






When I have hard days, your bright eyes and big smile are like the loveliest winter fire after coming in from a snowy storm. 



Now that you are changing so much from a baby to a toddler, I know you will start to need me less and I will make peace with that. I see you try new things and I’m so proud of you when I see you figure something out all on your own, but then I’m also relieved when I hear you calling out for me at night and you just need me to rock you and hold you.


When you wake up in the morning you’ll be a one year old.

I feel so privileged that I get to have a front seat to all that life has in store for you.

Happy first birthday Brantley Griffin, I love you so much 

We’ve been doing a lot of artsy stuff over here lately because the craft store had a sale and Bob Ross got added to Netflix so now I feel like I can conquer the world or at least a canvas. 

I’m Bob Rossing it tonight, like I said, the first season of his show is on Netflix and so it’s Nostalgia City over here, population: me.

I used to watch Bob Ross when I was little and I credit a good bit of the beginning of my desire to create with words back to the days of sitting as a kid and watching him create with paint. There’s something about watching a blank canvas turn into a beautiful landscape that makes you feel inspired to create something yourself.

You see a white void and then all the sudden there is a sunset along a river and some happy little trees.

Watching this has me thinking about creating versus consuming.

Think about what you experience for yourself and see in others most often in the day to day… We consume video games, food from hip restaurants, clothes from Name Brand stores, cell phone Apps, literature, sports, news, etc. The list could go on, and the list isn’t all bad but I wonder how long our list is of things we’re creating. I would guess it is pretty thin.

When is the last time you let yourself create something you would otherwise just consume? What holds you back? For most I would say we probably like the convenience of ready-to-consume things and we also fear not creating something worth the amount of effort we’d have to spend creating. We might not admit it, but in the deep down place that we don’t let many people into we probably don’t create as often as we should because we’re scared others might not find what we create “good enough”, so we’ll look for already approved methods and products and just consume those instead, then if we receive criticism we have a place to fall back on “it was a highly rated recipe”, “this magazine said these shoes were popular”, “Pinterest told me to.” Blah blah, you get the idea. 

The longer I am a mom the more I become burdened to be intentional with my children in the way they are raised. I don’t want them to feel pressured to be perfect, I want them to feel comfortable with their own gifts and at peace with their own weaknesses. 

I want them to feel confident in their ideas. 

Sometimes my kids say they are bored and want me to structure their play time, but honestly they are kept the most entertained when I leave them to their own imaginations and don’t bombard them with fixed activities but allow them the space to figure out how to have fun with what’s around them, and the ideas in their own brains. Then they play until they are bored again and then figure out how to keep themselves entertained again, it’s small scale creativity. 

Creating keeps you hungry, with moments along the way that satisfy until you’re hungry again. This is a natural and good process. We learn balance in that ebb and flow.

Consuming keeps you starved and dependent on another source to continue to give.

This extends beyond creating things, though, right? 

When we let our kids create we give them permission to know their value. Their ideas for playtime are just as good as my ideas for playtime. (Honestly they are usually better, a Pinterest craft is not as fun as a pretending you are a princess night ninja on a mission to rescue a baby dragon who is about to set the house on fire because the baby dragon hasn’t learned to control its fire breathing yet. And yes this is a real example, and yes we caught the baby dragon in time.)

I feel like this is a small way to teach them about their importance as functioning members of society as they become adults. We can be contributing members to change but we have to take the initiative to offer ourselves when we’re generally looking to other people to give us the change we want to be a consumer of, so we can let ourselves off the hook of hard work. And it is hard work sometimes: to be a voice for change, to put action to that voice, to stand up when a lot of people are sitting down.

When we live simply as consumers we walk around like zombies looking for the next thing to feast on until that’s not enough and we need more. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to create ideas and things and change, we don’t just contribute what we’ve created but we contribute our very selves
I want my kids to be conscious that they are important members of society with much to offer. I want them to feel like they can accomplish things because they aren’t afraid to fail. I want them to feel empowered to speak out against injustice because their voice matters, they don’t need someone in a higher position to take the lead – they are allowed to be world changers themselves. 

I want them to see the blank canvas of their lives before them and not be scared of the void, I want them to be excited about the potential they have to offer. The world needs less consumers and more princess night ninjas ready for action. 

It looks like a thunderstorm may come tonight and I’m pretty excited about the potential for rain.

I think my favorite thing about the rain is that it causes everything to be still mostly, except for the falling rain of course.

Sometimes there is so much to process in your mind, or even just visually throughout the day, that it is a very welcome experience for something to cause the scene to still. Rain is like the white noise of nature, other things may exist outside of it but it commands your attention subtly enough that you can withdraw without much effort.

I don’t mind the gloomy hues, either. I like the darker skies, they make me feel relaxed, almost safe and sound.

Now I’m not a fan of total darkness, but when everything is just gray enough it makes what’s illuminated that much more beautiful and apparent. A lightning strike, a vivid flower against a dreary background, a candle. These things come into focus more when muted tones surround.

I was reminded today of something Sam says in Fellowship of the Ring, when he’s decided to embark on the journey with Frodo:

“I don’t know how to say it, but after last night I feel different. I seem to see ahead, in a kind of way. I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can’t turn back. It isn’t to see Elves now, nor dragons, nor mountains, that I want–I don’t rightly know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire. I must see it through, sir, if you understand.”

Despite the darkness ahead, Sam was able to have clarity- maybe not on the outcome of the journey, but he had a peace about moving forward in the unknown because there was a purpose ahead of him that he could no longer reach in the place he was so familiar with, the Shire.

I think we all have a ‘Shire’, the comfortable places for us, maybe not even comfortable but at least predictable – and not even physical locations. Maybe habits or social circles or opinions on things that we don’t allow space to grow, because growing is painful and our Shire’s are, even if not comfortable, familiar. And even familiar pain is better than unknown pain.

We can feel fear if we’re trying to break away from our typical ways, because: what if?

Isn’t that the question people torment themselves with most often: what if?

But we can’t let “what if?” hold us back from “what is:”

The “what is:” are the truths we have before us instead of the questions we have behind or ahead of us, and since I’m already on a Tolkien theme:

“No half-heartedness and no worldly fear must turn us aside from following the light unflinchingly.”

I was talking to someone I love earlier who is struggling in many ways I’m familiar with and they were making a comment about the contrast of their own thoughts where darkness is present but at the same time God is present there as well.

And I think that’s something a lot of us have a hard time reconciling. How can I know God and still be plagued by a certain mindset/habit/struggle?

But that’s the thing: apart from God, we are only capable of darkness, and so it should be no surprise that is what we are bent towards. That is the truth we must cling to, that is the “what is:” that we present to our “what if?”

We must know what is truth: God is the only source of light we can alleviate our darkness with, that is why we much ‘follow the Light unflinchingly’. He is the only remedy for the things that hurt us, and the fears that follow us, and the struggles that attempt to enslave us.

As you feel the nudge to leave your place of familiar, comfortable, or routine, I hope you can look beyond the darkness of the unknown. As you come across the many “what if’s?” I hope you can learn to focus on what is seen rather than what is not seen, I hope you can follow the light unflinchingly.

If you’re in a similar place and reading this, I hope this is a small reminder that there is light to be found even in the darkest of places.