I’m not a positive person

Positivity vs Negativity - Two-Way Street Sign

Someone recently thanked me for being such a positive person. This is not the first time this has happened, but it always takes me aback and I never really know how to respond. Every. Single. Time.

I’m not a positive person.

I’m cynical. I think people are not basically good. I think we’re all doomed and headed for oblivion. I expect the worst. I expect to be hurt and let down. Most of the time I’m really on board with “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

But I get thanked on a regular basis for being so positive?

Parents teach us all sorts of things, both directly and indirectly. It’s what they do. They teach us the basics of life as well as the larger issues of how to behave socially and (hopefully) how to be a good person. My parents taught me two things that I think back on regularly – multiple times a week.

1. God expects Christ followers to work hard. Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it wholeheartedly as though you were doing it for the Lord and not merely for people.” Ecclesiastes 9:10 “Whatever the activity in which you engage, do it with all your ability.” The way my parents explained and lived this out was that working hard and doing things with excellence is part of how we live out our love for God. This means to give everything at work, not working half-heartedly. Do the work, and do it well.

2. Treat people how you want to be treated. Matthew 7:12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” All of the do’s and don’t’s of religion boils down to this. Don’t do something to someone if you would be hurt by someone else doing to you. It’s that simple.

I think people look at me and see me working hard and trying to treat people right and assume I do it because I’m positive. But I don’t. I do it because this is how I was taught to be a good person, to live a good life. I can be cynical and negative all day while doing these things.

I offer people the benefit of the doubt because I want people to give me the benefit of the doubt. I offer people grace in their mistakes because I need so much grace myself. I recognize people have bad days and say stupid things because I have bad days and say stupid things. I respect people’s professionalism because I hope people will respect mine. I forgive offenses because goodness knows I offend all the time and need forgiveness. How can I ask someone to extend to me that which I will not extend to them? How can I ask someone to respect me if I offer no respect?

I don’t work hard at my job because I have such positivity about it. I don’t work hard because I need a paycheck (although I do need a paycheck). Sometimes I don’t even work hard because I am filled with passion. I work hard because God calls me to work hard, because my using my skills honors the Divine.

It’s not positivity; it’s working hard and treating people how I want to be treated.

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Time Travel?

If you could time travel to any year, which one would you visit?

I’ll admit it, I’m a huge fan of Doctor Who. What Whovian hasn’t dreamed of the TARDIS appearing and the Doctor grabbing your hand and telling you, “Run!”? All of time and space within your grasp! You can go anywhere, meet anyone, witness anything! Some of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who are when they visit the past and meet historical figures. Vincent Van Gogh, Winston Churchill, Shakespeare, Madame de Pompadour, and so, so many more!

The Doctor and Amy Pond running

Made by the wonderful iliaskrzs on Deviantart: http://iliaskrzs.deviantart.com/art/Doctor-Who-RUN-415149178

As fun as traveling with the Doctor would be, the Doctor is fictional. The “historical figures” he visits may have the names of real people from real places, but ultimately, within the confines of the show, they are fictional too. The fictional Doctor travels to fictional places and meets fictional people.

Real life is different.

Real history is full of disease. Real history is full of injustice. Real history is full of… yuck.

I’m not saying the present is perfect. Disease is still a huge problem in a lot of places, injustice still occurs, and life can still generally be yuck.

But.

Vaccines are amazing. So many thousands and thousands of people are alive purely because of vaccines. Beyond vaccines, modern medicine is truly amazing. Sicknesses/ailments we view as “simple” or don’t worry about because we have over-the-counter, cheap medicine for would have been a death sentence in the past. I like not dying of preventable/treatable diseases.

Many people still find themselves suffering from injustice, but that percentage of people has gone down drastically. And for many people, the injustice they face is not as great as the injustices faced in the past. People don’t own people anymore. Women can own property and vote and get jobs (even if they still aren’t paid the same as men) and wear blue jeans. Gay people don’t have to hide who they are.

I don’t want to travel to a time period where I am going to be shamed for wearing shorts and a t-shirt or for not having long hair. I don’t want to travel to a time where I don’t have electricity or antibiotics or indoor plumbing or air conditioning or any of the other wonderous things I take for granted in my daily life. There is no other time in human history I would rather be than right here in 2016.

“Well, what about the future?” you ask.

No. Just no.

I enjoy seeing how the creators of Doctor Who and other sci-fi shows/movies envision the future, I really do. I especially enjoy watching older movies about the future where “the future” is now or has already happened (like Back to the Future II) so I can laugh at how wrong everything is.

But once again, real life is different. Knowing anything that is to happen in the future seems like an incredible burden. No matter what you learn about the future, you can’t tell anyone – they’d never believe you. Beyond that, though, imagine if you knew that in 17 years World War III was going to break out and 30% of the earth’s population was going to die horrendous deaths during it. And there is nothing you can do to prevent it. I do believe I would go insane with knowledge like that.

I don’t believe the future is meant to be known. It’s supposed to be a mystery, supposed to remain hidden until its appointed unveiling. As nice as it would be to know the next mega lotto powerball super jackpot numbers (who couldn’t use some extra flow?), knowing anything at all about the future seems a much larger curse than blessing.

So when would I time travel to? Right now. I like being right now.

Hold on to Hope. No, Really: Hold on to Hope.

As this year draws to a close, I can’t help but look back and reflect. Friends, it’s been a hard year. Not just for me; so many of my friends and acquaintances have walked through dark times this year. Loved ones passing away, huge life changes, battles with depression, divorce, losing jobs, miscarriages – the list goes on and on. Not to mention all the scary craziness in our nation and around the world.

There are so many words I could use to describe the past year. Fear. Change. Depression. Exhaustion. Yet as I look back the word that floats to the top above all these words is “hope.” Hope makes all the difference.

This goes out to three of my friends in particular, though I believe others may find these words helpful as well. To the one who feels he must be strong; to the one who lost her art; to the one who feels dead inside: Hold on to hope. No, really: hold on to hope. If you have no hope left to hold onto, then chase after it with everything you have.

Hope is the thing with feathers, the thing that gets us through. Hope is what convinces you to pull back the covers one more time, face the world one more time, take one more step. Hope does not let us down, but guides us through without fail. Hope says that even though you are on the floor unable to move, there will be a better day. Hope tells you to put down the revolver. Hope tells you that you. can. make. it. through. One more time: You can make it through.

It gets better. Even if you cannot see it, trust that I can see it. If you have no hope, draw on mine. It gets better. There is so much ahead of you! Life is dark right now and everything hurts, but I am begging you: hold on to hope. I say this not from a place of perfection, but from a place of empathy: I have walked through the darkness and I have found the sun again, even if it’s not perfect.

I want you to know that people care about you. Even if no one else cares, I care about you. Each and every one of you, I care about you and I ache along with you. I will walk with you through this, you do not have to go alone.

 

Hope Does Not Let Us Down

My dear friends, it has been five long months since my last post, and I was not in a good place then. To be honest, I still have days when I’m not in a good place. The difference now, though, is that instead of just flat out not being in a good place, now I only have days where I’m not.

I talked to my counselor about what was going on, and she strongly recommended I speak to a psychiatrist to consider going on medication. As I mentioned before, that did not initially sit well with me. There’s all the stigma about being on meds, and I was afraid of being zombified. But I trust my counselor – I’ve been seeing her for five years, after all. If she truly thought I needed medication, maybe she was right. So I went to see the psychiatrist and told her about my issues and about my medication fears as well. Ultimately, she ended up putting me on a low dosage of an antidepressant.

Within days I felt better.

Life seemed more manageable; I no longer felt I was drowning in the ocean of life.

I’ve been on this medication for five months now, and I’m so glad I did. I still go to counseling and I’m still trying to work through my issues, but the medication makes it so I can continue to function like a human being while I do so. The meds didn’t flatten me – I can still write, I can still draw, I still have my creative spark.

I had to make some adjustments in other areas of my life, too. I dropped out of one of my three courses (of course, it had to be the one class I actually enjoyed… but it was my only elective). I stopped trying to push myself as hard, became more aware of my limits. I gave myself permission to not have to care about every single thing in the world (I mean, there are only so many things one person is capable of caring about, and that’s okay).

And I spent more time with my family. I went to my brother’s house almost every weekend for several months. I chilled with them. I went to garage sales with them. I held the baby. I played games with them. And somewhere in there God restored my soul.

I have had to remind myself daily that I am more than a conqueror, that hope does not let us down, and that He Himself is my peace. I have cried through hours of “It Is Well” and “Dead Come to Life” and “My Lighthouse.” And I have survived.

And I’m stronger now than I was before.

Friends, no matter the valley you’re walking through, no matter how hard life tries to defeat you, know that you. will. make. it. through. Hold onto the flicker of hope, chase after the light. And if you need to get help, get help. There is no shame in getting help. Did you hear me? There is no shame in getting help.

I Should Have Known

I should have known.
When I got home from work and put my headphones on. When my friend called and I hit the “reject” button.When I realized I had no words left.
I should have known.

But I didn’t, so it was the next morning, when I wasn’t “sick” but I still had no strength to get out of bed. When I had no spark in me. When I did not care about anything. When I (irrationally) screamed inside my head that I’m a colossal eff-up, just a big mistake. It was then that I recognized my old pall Depression is back for another visit.

I like to think that we live in a world more accepting and understanding about mental illness and mental health, and for the most part we do. People generally are no longer accused of being demon possessed if they are depressed, and we no longer prescribe isolation as treatment for depression. But we’re still not there. Society still tends to view those who openly own up to their depression as “less than,” as just needing to go have some fun. Or you get the other side who thinks you should just pop pills until you’re so medicated you are effectively a zombie (maybe that’s where the zombie apocalypse will come from).

Now don’t get me wrong, meds can be a wonderful tool for dealing with depression, and if that’s what you and your doctor have worked out as the best treatment for you, then I’m glad for you and wish you all the best of luck. But personally, I don’t want to be on meds. For one, I can’t really afford to be on meds. More than that, though, I’m afraid that I’ll lose my creativity. I’m not the most artistic person in the whole world by any means, but I am most certainly creative. I play piano and draw in my free time, and at work I lead projects and do a lot of graphic design. I’m extremely worried that if I go on meds I won’t be able to create anymore.

So for now I cope with depression as best as I can. And I’m grateful to have a boss who may not understand depression, but at least doesn’t give me grief about calling in sick more than I probably should.

Laugh, Cry, or Both?

I found this draft while cleaning up my tagging system. I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, and since the brotherly advice still holds true I decided to add an update for 2014 as well.

 

One of my brothers recently shared with me a piece of wisdom: “If at the end of the year you have done nothing to either make you laugh, cry, or both, then you have wasted a year.” This year is not quite over, but I thought it’s  close enough to go ahead and spend a few moments in reflection.

2013 Cry-Worthy Events:

  • My best friend moved half way across the nation
  • Meeting the man I hoped to marry, only to have him decide it wasn’t reciprocal
  • Getting hopelessly lost in Fort Worth and accidentally driving into an airplane factory

2013 Laugh-Worthy Events:

  • Playing ridiculous games with my family
  • Icemegeddon causing unintended dances on the stair-well
  • Spending five minutes on the phone with my graduate school trying to explain that I am not a high school student, but am, in fact, enrolled in their grad program

Okay, now let’s try this for this more recent year!

2014 Cry-Worthy Events:

  • Family drama
  • More family drama? Outside of that it was a pretty good year…

2014 Laugh-Worthy Events:

  • Watching my 7-year-old niece and several-month-old nephew roll around in the floor laughing and giggling for no reason
  • Eating gourmet ice cream standing in the rain in downtown Dallas with the bestie
  • Sitting in line forever to watch The Fault in Our Stars with mis amigas.
  • Spontaneously attending a Stars game

Kitchen Table Musings

I look at my kitchen table, all covered in scars. There are cup rings and cuts and more scrapes than can be counted. This table bears its history, its story, on its face, wearing it proudly for all to see. I look at my table, and all I can think is how much I love my table and its baggage. I smile and run my hands over its surface and think look what we’ve been through together

And as I gaze upon this table I find myself thinking… Maybe this is how God looks at me.