Emotions

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Aloneness

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

I’ve been in the Shotgun for two and a half weeks, and things are coming together. I have all of my furniture, and as of Sunday, a washer and dryer. A few pictures are hung on the walls. I painted the hallway, but gave up halfway through painting the bathroom because the ceilings are too high and the floor space is too small for a ladder; I think I’ll need to hire a professional to finish the job. My curtains are up, and I’ve jerry-rigged a temporary solution for the skylight over my bed (a towel draped over two tension rods). I’m learning the oddities of the space, and despite the quirks, it’s starting to feel like home.

But the transition has been rough for Toad.

This little dog has been through more than her fair share of change in the last few years. We just passed the 2-year anniversary of her amputation, which is right around the time she came to live with me. In less than two years, she’s been through three moves, lost her dog companion when Becca got married and took Gabe with her, grew out all of her fur just to have it shaved off, and has tripped and scraped her nose more times than I can count. Through it all, she just keeps hopping along.

But my new next-door neighbor (with whom I share a wall) recently told me that when I’m not home, Toad barks. This is surprising to me, since Toad never barks when I’m around – she’s a silent, sleepy mutt who, for hours at a time, barely makes her presence known. But it appears that she has an alter ego, and as soon as I’m out the door, starts barking – and she doesn’t stop.

Last night I came home from guitar class, and had to park on the street a few houses down. As I walked toward my front door, I started to hear it – a desperate, throaty cry. “That’s not Toad,” I told myself. It couldn’t be her. But as I got closer, I knew it: my dog was barking incessantly, to the point of losing her voice, and she’d been doing this for the past 2 hours straight.

After an apology text to my neighbor, I sunk onto my bed feeling exasperated. Doesn’t this dog know that I take good care of her? Doesn’t she know that I always feed her, always make sure she has what she needs when she needs it? Doesn’t she trust that I’m never going to leave her alone, that I’m always going to come back for her?

She doesn’t believe it, so she cries. And I am no different.

How often do I buy into the lie that I’m all alone and that no one is going to take care of me? How often do I overlook the ways I have been provided for? How often do I draw conclusions based only on what I can see? How often do I assume the worst?

I’ve lived alone before, but something about being the only signature on the deed to this house has exposed my “aloneness” in a new way. Have you ever tried to hang a picture on a wall without someone standing back, telling you whether to move it higher or lower? Or deciding to change the placement of the rugs after the furniture has been set without someone else to lift the corner of the sofa? Not to mention being the only person earning money for the bank account to pay for it all. If I think about it for too long, I start to feel a lot like my little dog: frantic and afraid.

But here’s the good news: when you’re alone and you know it, you’re so much more aware of the ways in which you’re taken care of.

If I didn’t feel the full weight of my aloneness, would I feel the value of a Home Depot gift card from Luke and Maggie? Would I understand the thoughtfulness of flowers from Allie on my doorstep? Would I fully appreciate Steve coming over to drill things into the walls? Would I know the significance of Graham taking his entire Sunday afternoon to help me move a washer/dryer? Would I acknowledge the Denver map from Hitoshi, the rosemary plant from Isreal, or the bottle of wine from Erica as so meaningful? Would I read all of the well-wishing words with as much gratitude? Would I wake up each morning well aware that I’m living in a home that I didn’t even know to ask for or expect?

In the morning, I’m leaving for a 36-hour work trip, and I have an Anna-Hannah-Becca tag-team to make sure that Toad is never left home alone to bark. I don’t know what I’m going to do about this problem long-term. But despite the aloneness I am so tempted to feel, this little stressor of a dog is being provided for and taken care of – and so am I.

Shotgun

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Over the weekend, I traded in my dollhouse for a real house: as of Friday, I’m the owner of a shotgun row home. I’ve spent the past few days vacillating between absolute elation and a full-on panic attack – mostly for irrational reasons, like What if it’s built on a sinkhole? and What if I’m murdered?? Because obviously there is a direct correlation between owning a home and being murdered.

Back in February, I was not looking to buy a home. It was not a thought in my mind. You know me – I’m a rolling stone, a vagabond gypsy, a tumbleweed of a girl – and the thought of “settling down” makes me break out in hives. Of all of the feelings, trapped is the worst one I can think of.

But there’s a difference between being trapped and making a decision. When you go to a restaurant, you can’t keep staring at the menu forever just to “keep your options open.” That would be dumb, because LAY OFF ME I’M STARVING. There is goodness to be enjoyed and life to be lived, and sometimes you just have to choose.

Two months ago, Greta was here for a visit and we walked past an open house. I can’t resist an open house, because apart from becoming a lawyer, it’s my only legal-slash-socially acceptable chance to be nosy. I took two steps into the house before I realized I was in love.

Built in 1900, the house is 11 feet wide and 55 feet long, four rooms stacked one right after the other: living room, dining room, bedroom, kitchen. It has hardwood floors, 10 ft. ceilings, 3 skylights, a brick wall, and the tiniest backyard perfect for a 3-legged dog. Two minutes from downtown, the Jefferson Park neighborhood has a history of violence and crime, but it’s in the process of development and change. The area is still gritty, but right now is an exciting time to buy here (even though you know I’m still using the Club on my steering wheel).

It all happened pretty quickly: I got a realtor and a lender, sent off a bunch of paperwork, had an inspection and an appraisal, wrote some checks, and bam, signed on the dotted line. Call me crazy, but I didn’t look at a single other house; I saw this one, loved it, and bought it.

The entire experience has been surreal, and I have a lot of emotions swirling around in regards to buying a house as a single woman, the financial commitment, the fact that this house is in Denver, and the dead mouse decomposing on the cellar floor. I also have emotions about the skylight right above my bed, forcing me to wake up with the sun (I welcome your solutions to this problem).

I’m sure that I’ll write about these things in the future, but for now, I just wanted you to know where I am. Home.

Hanging

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Not to be dramatic, but my goal of having zero nervous breakdowns in 2013 is hanging in the balance.

Fine, that was dramatic.

They say the only constant is change – and I hate them for it – but it’s proven true in my life time and time again. In the past few weeks, I’ve experienced changes at work, changes in relationships, changes in my bank account, changes to my reality. I’m about to be a bridesmaid for the 13th time, our family changing yet again – this time the addition of another brother-in-law. I’m in the process of purging my closet and household items, preparing for yet another move. I’m behind on all forms of personal communication, and the thought of catching up is exhausting. I just got a haircut that surprises me every time I look in the mirror (not in a good way). All the while, I’m working my tail-end off at work, coming home so mentally drained that all I want to do is turn off my phone and lean my forehead to the doorframe.

Life is going fast, and I can’t keep up. I’m trying to do everything well, which leaves me doing nothing well – and man, I love to hit the mark.

All this to say, thank you for being here, no matter how much or how little I have to offer. Right now, it feels like very little. But the opportunity to share a little sliver of my life and have it received for whatever it is (currently Crazy-Town) helps me breathe just a little bit easier.

Hanging in there, cat on a tree branch,
Annie

Hissy-fits and growing up

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

I woke up this morning to freezing temperatures, icy wind, and snow on the ground.

Not cool, April 9th. NOT COOL.

After several days of near-70 degree weather, I was starting to believe that spring was here to stay – but leave it up to April, the hormonal teenage girl of Colorado’s calendar year, to slam the proverbial door on that idea. She’s all “I HATE YOU” and then storms off to her room to hang out on Instagram, all the other months looking on befuddled.

And that’s the way it goes – two steps forward and one hissy-fit back.

Since my 30th birthday last summer, I’ve been making a conscious effort toward health and wholeness. With the realization that no one is going to fix me, I’ve taken personal responsibility seriously, owning up to some shortcomings, working on my (many) faults, and making the hard-fought choice to live and believe differently. For a while there, it was exciting – so much growth, so much change, hopeful rays of sunshine after what had felt like years of winter.

But then one day it snows – and it’s easy to forget how the warmth had felt.

Backsliding into the bleak is discouraging – dis-courage being the opposite of courage. It makes determination and backbone and fortitude and pluck seem futile. If you can’t feel the sun on your face, do you know it’s even there? If a tree falls in the forest, who wants to rub my shoulders?

But the cold can’t last forever. Time moves forward, never backward, and we’re headed for sunny days. Because no matter what April would have you believe, hormonal teenage girls always grow up.

At least, I’m trying.

Soul-stomping

Friday, February 15th, 2013

I recently took my car in for a major repair – one that required taking the engine apart, and then putting it all back together. I knew that it was going to cost a painful amount of money, so when the mechanic called to tell me that the clutch was shot, too, I lowered my forehead to the table. “Uh huh,” I said. “You can fix that, too.” TAKE EVERY DOLLAR, man. It’s all yours.

Later that day when I picked up the car, I asked the mechanic if there was any way I could have known that the clutch was on its way out. He said, “You should have felt it in the pedal.” I shrugged, saying, “It felt normal to me – just the way it always feels.” I settled the bill and headed to the car.

As I drove away from the shop, I was surprised at how different the new clutch felt. It was so easy to press down; my left leg barely had to work. All of a sudden, shifting was no longer a full-body effort – it was a breeze. Everything seemed quieter, easier – and I realized that this wasn’t some fancy luxury, this was just the way that it was supposed to feel.

It’s funny how dysfunction can sneak up on us. We go about our busy lives, from one distraction to the next – and just as long as we keep moving, we don’t have time to notice what might be falling apart right beneath our feet. The growing noise becomes normal. The increasing struggle feels standard. And before we know it, something inside is burned out, worn down, used up.

These days, I’m becoming more and more aware of the beliefs and thought patterns that have made my life feel hard for a really long time. Years? Always? It’s hard to tell. All I know is that the mantras I’ve repeated for so long, framing the way I think about this life and my place in it, have advanced to a point that has made everything feel like a fight.

Just like my stubborn clutch, life has gradually become a soul-stomp. And I just thought that was normal.

Famously hard on myself, I have a habit of self-pressuring to be better, be more, do more. I have pushed myself hard and fast, aspiring toward a place where there is nothing left requiring relief, all the while ignoring the ever-growing trouble inside.

And sometimes, it isn’t until we experience something the way it should be that we realize just how bad off we’ve been.

I’m going through somewhat of a personal renaissance these days, feeling revived and encouraged and all-around refreshed, and through this, I’ve had a taste of what feels right. It makes me sad that I have spent so much of my life fighting against things that were broken to begin with – things that could have been easier, should have been easier. I want to live differently.

So today as I drive my car to work, with each easy push of the clutch I will remind myself that it’s okay to go easy. It’s okay to quit training for the half marathon for the sake of my back. It’s okay to fall a little short of my monthly savings account goal. It’s okay to order the bridesmaid dress in the size that I am, not the size that I want to be. It’s okay to be a beginner at something. It’s okay to not know what’s going to happen – because whatever happens, it’s not worth the soul-stomp.

Stuck

Friday, December 21st, 2012

When I turned 30, I had the sinking realization that no one was going to fix me.

I had long harbored the belief – although perhaps not consciously – that someday, something was going to shift, and I would no longer be broken/sad/angry/afraid/lonely/insecure/what-have-you. Believing that someday things would change somehow made it easier to accept that today, I was still stuck.

I continued to allow myself to be stuck in the (shoddy) confidence that the elusive and undefined someday was coming.

But when the calendar turned to a new decade, I realized that I was struggling with the same things I struggled with at 14 and 19 and 23 and 28. I realized that in certain areas of my life, there was no movement. I realized that I was stuck – and that no one was going to dig me out, even if they tried.

Because oh, they have tried. Parents and friends and boyfriends and mentors – they have all meant well, and genuinely cared, and offered both words of truth and tangible acts to attempt to loosen me from the muck and mire. But I’ve been like a Chevy sunken to the axles: desperately, impossibly stuck.

A trusted person recently observed to me, “I see a war happening over your heart.” And I believe her. Feel free to disagree, but I believe that about all of our hearts – that there is good and there is evil, and they both want us desperately. Now, I believe that good wants us much, much more than evil ever could – but evil is insidious and conniving, and if the devil can’t have our souls, he’ll settle for our lives. He’ll do everything he can to keep us bound and gagged, to keep us from being a force for good – to keep us stuck.

Right around my 30th birthday, I got an email from Thomas Nelson Publishers asking if I would be willing to review a women’s bible study. Now, you guys. Confession time: I’m not big on bible studies. I just haven’t really done many (pastor’s kid failure). Thomas Nelson asking me to review a bible study was the equivalent of the MLB wanting my thoughts on the statistics of, I don’t know, BUNTING. (Although remember when I was so sporty and wrote this?)

But the name of the study caught my eye, and so I said yes. A few days later, Jennie Allen’s Stuck arrived on my doorstep.

This DVD-based study was so meaningful to me. It helped me pinpoint some of the areas I struggle with being stuck in: brokenness, anger, discontentment, fear, sadness. Jennie’s conversational teaching and storytelling made the 8 DVD sessions completely engaging (I want to know her in real life). And while I can’t say that I’m now completely “unstuck,” I know that addressing these topics head-on has given me language and tools to MOVE.

God wants our hearts, and is fighting for them. I truly believe this. And I’m happy to say that he is helping me get free, even in the smallest of ways.

– – – – –

Thomas Nelson gave me an extra study kit to give away to a reader, so if you’re interested, leave a comment saying you’d like to be entered for a chance to win. The curriculum includes an 8 session DVD, study guide, leader’s guide, and conversation cards for group discussion. While I believe that the lessons apply to both men and women, Jennie created the study for women – so all you burly men, feel free to enter, although you have been warned.

A winner will be chosen via good ol’ RANDOM.ORG on Friday, December 28th.

What to do with this blog

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

I have a confession: I don’t quite know what to do with this blog.

The posting has been light, at best, in 2012.  I’ve thought about scrapping the whole thing, taking the site down, going off-the-grid in the virtual world.  I’ve thought about forcing myself to post more often, rehashing the meaningless minutia of each day.  I’ve thought about doing a series, dedicating each day of the week to highlighting all 5 members of various boy bands.

Instead, most days, the site just sits here.

I have so many amazing friends who are doing a great job of keeping up their writing, featuring vignettes from their lives, sharing what’s on their heart and mind.  I used to do these things, I think.  But these days, when I sit down to write anything – a blog, an email, a journal entry – it just feels flat.  It feels forced.  It doesn’t make me happy – which is alarming, since historically, writing has made me happier than just about anything else.

It’s been a long time since my heart has felt full to the point where I feel like I have something to share.

I keep trying to rally, but the truth is, I feel too tired.  I miss my friends – I really do. I miss having a sense of belonging.  The future feels big and overwhelming. I wish my family was intact.  I wish I wasn’t broken.

I know, I know – this is the point where I’m supposed to stop and say how lucky I am, how many things I have going for me, how there are good things about my life and situation (because there really are, and I know it).

But just now, as I was writing this, the tears came – and damn it, but I’d rather cry than say nothing at all.

“Loved Louisiana”

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Ugh, don’t you love songs about regret? It’s the worst kind of feeling, and the best kind of song – the twist of the knife, the sailed ship, the too little too late.

Right now, I’m in a season in which I’m thinking about the big picture – the whole of a life – the decisions we make today that could change the course of everything else. It’s a lot of pressure and weight – and I don’t like it, because I don’t trust myself to not royally screw everything up.

Ultimately, it pushes me to realize that I’m not in control (and thank God).

But my subconscious is still ruminating on the truth that our decisions have consequences – for better or for worse. And my creative endeavors – the elements of my personal life woven into sometimes fictional stories – are somewhat reflecting this.

Back in September, I was driving from Seattle to Denver. Somewhere near Bozeman, driving 80mph, I just kind of ran over this song. A chorus tumbled out quickly, and the rest of the drive was spent singing words and phrases and piecing them together like a jigsaw puzzle.

When I arrived in Denver, “Loved Louisiana” was finished.

As always, it feels scary to share. But I hope you like it.

[I’ve taken the track down for now. Maybe you’ll hear it again someday.]

Recorded with Calvin Locklear in Palmer Lake, Colorado.

Running uphill

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Well, well. It seems that yesterday’s post was the blog heard ’round the world – that was the most visits I’ve gotten since December 1, 2010.

In the event that you’re new here, welcome. I’m Annie, the curator of this here little web log, and I live in Denver, where the weather is currently 27 degrees and snowing. I’ve been told that for having a desk job, I lead a pretty exciting life – and a lot of the time, I have to agree, although it’s probably worth arguing that I just like to make a big deal out of the dull. I’m hungry all the time. I order the clothes in my closet according to ROY G. BIV. I’m working really hard toward becoming debt free. I don’t own a single pair of leggings.

Here’s a little glimpse into my present reality.

I’m less than a month away from the Seattle Half-Marathon, and my training has been going super well. I’m excited to run this course through my favorite city (if you’re familiar with Seattle, check it out – such a fun and scenic route). I know that there are a lot of hills, and I’ve been figuring out how to run hills more efficiently. My über-runner friend Mark Miller always says that when running uphill, one should keep the same effort level, but not necessarily the same pace – which is relevant to my life right now.

I’m heading uphill, and trying just as hard – but just going a little bit slower.

Several months back, I found myself at rock bottom in the ditch of all ditches – down with the muskrats and the snakes and the creepy crawlers – with no clear and easy way out. I’m slowly but surely working my way upward, but realizing that a lot of damage has been done. Movement doesn’t come as easily as it once did. I’m finding that it’s helpful to slow down, to not push myself too hard, to strip away distractions, and to focus on one step at a time.

It’s not flashy, and it’s not exciting, and it’s quiet and tough and sometimes painful work that can only be done on my own, under the strength of my own two legs. But it’s leading me higher.

Thanks for being here, friends.

The art of the non-sad

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Last week, Carmen left a comment on one of my posts that completely resonated with me:

For the last 1.75 years I have eliminated all sad music from any playlist I can control and axed sad movies. Guess what. IT IS AWESOME. I am all about melancholy, but some seasons require axing all extraneous sadness. I recommend this. You’ll love it. Get trashy movies and books, action and stupidity, and fill extra moments with hilariosity.

I could not agree more.  Last spring, when I was going through the darkest season of my life to date (which, in some ways, continues today), I watched a devastating, raw documentary called “Dear Zachary” that just about did me in.  I cried for days, and walked around with puffy eyes in a dark haze that just wouldn’t lift.  Right then and there, I chose to take a break from sad movies, music, and books.  Life is heavy enough – and while I definitely see a time and a place for sharing our tragedies and our struggles and our heartbreak (because you know I love a good wallow), there are times when we’re just not strong enough for it.

For me, right now, sad stories and words just crush me down, down, down – like a trash compactor*.

So I’ve cleared my Netflix queue of anything dark (aufedersein, Holocaust), and am skipping the sad songs on my iTunes (sayonora, um, most of my music), and have abandoned Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” (for now) in favor of more delightful, fluffy reading.

Here are my recommendations for a few non-sad things to be consumed.

Watching
I am loving “Parenthood” on DVD.  I’ve caught episodes on-and-off over the last couple of years, but I’m starting at the beginning and working my way through.  What great, lovable characters, and relatively true-to-life situations.  For all of my bad boy crushes (Tim Riggins, anyone?), when it comes down to it, I’m just looking for a man like Adam Braverman.

The Human Experience” is a fantastic documentary about man’s search for meaning.  The filmmakers and their mission completely charmed me.  Soak it up.

And I’m pretty sure that “Being Elmo” is going to be so sweet, so poignant.

Reading
I bought Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” at Target, and trust me: this book will cure whatever ails you.  Except maybe kennel cough.

A few years back, Rod bought me “I’m Down,” and I still laugh when I think about certain parts.

Also, my good friend Annie Downs is currently blogging a 31-day series on courage, and I’m loving it.  Mostly it’s just because I miss Annie Downs all the way to Scotland, which is where she is currently living, and getting a virtual dose of her every day in October is doing my heart good.

Listening
This one’s tough for me, since I’m obsessed with songs that gut me – I am masochism personified.

I have had to curb my repeat-listens of Jill Andrews’ “Sinking Ship,” because oh man, it’s cutting deep.  She has this line that’s like, “You told me lies with your hands and the truth with your lips,” and I’m like, “Oh my word” because she must have read my diary.  And then she says this thing about, “I’m searching, now not finding a better part of me, ’cause I want it back,” and that’s it.  I can no longer function.

So maybe don’t listen to that one.

But definitely listen to “Heart of the World” by Lady Antebellum.

And Sara Groves‘ latest, “Invisible Empires,” is just… so good.  “Open My Hands” is a current favorite track, as well as “Obsolete.”

And you should for sure listen to songs by Marc Scibilia.  I don’t really know how to get your hands on his music, but go on a hunt to find “Something Good in This World” and “How Bad We Need Each Other” and “Ain’t My Home.”  This guy knows what’s up.

What about you – know of anything non-sad that we should check out?

*When I was younger, I SO wanted a trash compactor in the kitchen.  Only our rich friends had them, so I associated the trash compactor with wealth, luxury, and ease.  The moral of the story is: kids, please dream bigger dreams.