Some Thoughts on Patience

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about patience.

If there’s one thing I could use more of, it’s patience. I need to be patient with my writing because it’s happening, even if it’s happening slowly. I need to be patient with God and trust His timing in my life. I need to be patient with myself as I struggle against anxiety and try to figure out my next steps in life. I need to be patient with the people I love because they are just as imperfect and incomplete as I am.

Sometimes I just want to be done waiting and get to the part where I’m there, having done/doing the thing or living the life I’ve been waiting for. Today I had a conversation with my boss about how the tough thing about patience is that you’re never DONE being patient. Even if you get to the the thing you’ve been waiting for, there’s always something new to have to wait and be patient for.

So then I guess life is one long string of waiting for something…unless you stop just living for the next thing and start being present in the moment.

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I’m really bad at this. That’s why I bought this shirt, as a wearable reminder to myself.

I tend to live in the theoretical someday because it is either more interesting or more concerning than the present. The older I get, the more I realize how much time I waste and how much I miss by doing that. True, a lot of the time, the present moment is painful or hard or even just boring, but it’s only going to happen once and if I miss it, that’s it, it’s gone.

It becomes easy to live in the past, which has already happened and we can replay, or the future, which hasn’t happened and we can imagine however we want. Living in the moment is hard. The moment is happening now and it’s always moving. It takes patience. It takes conscious effort. I’m trying, but I know I still have a long way to go.

I started thinking about this quote from Rainer Maria Rilke this afternoon. I think it captures what I mean.

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“Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as though they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future. you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

So, here I am, waiting, trying to live in the moment, to love the questions, and praying for patience.

 

Thanks for reading, God bless!

Clare

Blogmas 2017 – Day 14/31 – Turning 23

Today I turned 23 years old and here, in no particular order, are 23 things I learned while I was 22:

  1. God’s timing is perfect. I still don’t believe that on an emotional level but I have come to trust Him enough to know it’s true.
  2. Gatorade can heal almost anything.
  3. You have to be patient with your heart. Just because you get on Bumble and try out that whole dating app thing doesn’t mean your heart will be in it. Go ahead and delete the app. You’ll get there someday.
  4. People heal and grow at their own pace, some faster, some slower, and that’s okay.
  5. I am doing better than I thought I was.
  6. I have more work to do on myself than I realized.
  7. Laziness feels gross. Being lazy gives you the emotional equivalent of going too long without a shower or without brushing your teeth. Bleah.
  8. You may never be able to get rid of all the anxiety in your life but you can learn how to manage it and be stronger than it.
  9. There are no free snacks on Spirit flights.
  10. There is no shame in going to counseling, even if you think you’re ‘not that bad’. It is empowering to take steps towards being a better you.
  11. You can have a crush on someone and not actually like them at all. I think I’ve learned this one before but I guess I needed to be reminded.
  12. Anxiety makes you feel sick sometimes. Tough it out. Eat some food. Listen to Fear by Ben Rector. Distract yourself. You are more real than your anxiety and you are capable of being kind to yourself in spite of it.
  13. I am, in fact, a Taylor Swift fan. (Sorry, Mom.)
  14. I am lactose intolerant. Goodbye, yogurt. I will miss you.
  15. You must proof-read your book. Mercilessly.
  16. It’s okay if there are some typos in your book. Yes, some people might judge you for it, but some people won’t even notice, you can always fix it, and it’s a learning experience.
  17. Pray. Every single day. I’ve learned this one before, too, and that’s okay.
  18. God is merciful.
  19. I do actually like my hair long. My hair may never be fully low-maintenance and that’s okay.
  20. Saute the onions first.
  21. If your headlight is burnt out and you don’t change it, you will eventually be pulled over.
  22. Sometimes all it takes is putting yourself out there. Be brave. Make the first move when you need to. It is worth it.
  23. It is good that I am here.

 

So grateful for my life, to BE alive, and looking forward to another wonderful year. Thank you, Jesus.

Thank you for reading, God bless,

Clare

Gratitude – 1

I wanna talk about gratitude.

I’ve been very grateful lately. I have so many things to be grateful for. Here are just a few of them:

  • I’m grateful I know what I want to do with my life (that’s kind of new for me).
  • I’m grateful for the band Needtobreathe having just released cut tracks from their album Hardlove. So good.
  • I’m grateful for my mom calling me out for letting fear control me.
  • I’m grateful for counseling.
  • I’m grateful for dairy free cheese that actually tastes alright.
  • I’m grateful for my smartphone. How my life has improved since I got this baby less than a year ago.
  • I’m grateful for having a potential coffee date with a girl I hope to become friends with.
  • I’m grateful for the hope I’ve been feeling, hope that has surpassed my circumstances and my understanding.
  • I’m grateful for my ‘Cup of Gratitude’ mug – just about the best mug ever.

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Go on. Take a nice long swig of that gratitude.

And while it’s true some of this gratitude has been in response to good things that have happened, a lot of it has just been a shift in my attitude towards the boring, mundane, or even negative things in my life.

A few examples:

  • I’m incredibly grateful for my breakup with my ex-boyfriend, even though in the weeks leading up to it I was pretty convinced I wouldn’t be able to survive letting go of the relationship I had planned my whole life around. I learned God’s faithfulness and patience in the most concrete way.
  • I’m grateful for my trip to Virginia even though it was compromised by the terrifying experience of a friend of a friend attempting suicide while we were at a beach house in the Outer Banks. I learned new depths of my compassion and empathy, and that when I feel most alone, that’s when God is closest to me.
  • I’m grateful for my body even though it is weak, messy, and intolerant to dairy along with a random assortment of other foods. (I never wanted to be that person who ‘doesn’t eat X’, but here we are.) My body, with all of its limitations, is the one body I get in this life, and it has taken me everywhere I’ve ever been and carried every thought and feeling I’ve ever experienced.

Here’s the thing. Gratitude is an act of humility. It’s an act of acknowledging that what we have is a gift we weren’t entitled to. Being grateful even for suffering or difficult circumstances is the ultimate act of humility because we bend our self-serving, pleasure-seeking will and say, “Though I know not how, I believe this is for my good.”

Last year, I went to Rochester, MN for the Annual Thornton Wilder Short Play Festival put on by Words Players, and I saw Thornton Wilder’s play Pullman Car Hiawatha for the first time.

Let me tell you, I was shook.

There’s a scene in the play where a woman who everyone perceives to be insane is approached by a pair of archangels, and the one-sided conversation she has with them moved me so deeply, I was sobbing in the back of the theater space.

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Photo credit Joel Kuhlmann. 

She says, “What possible use can there be in my simply waiting? — Well, I’m grateful for anything. I’m grateful for being so much better than I was. The old story, the terrible story, doesn’t haunt me as it used to. A great load seems to have been taken off my mind. But no one understands me anymore. At least I understand myself perfectly. But no one else understands a thing I say. So I must wait? Well, you know best. I’ll do whatever is best.”

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This monologue had a profound effect on me and challenged me in my own gratitude – or lack thereof. Particularly because the woman is told she must continue to wait. I was, and still am, at a place in my life where everything feels like a waiting game, and there’s no guarantee when or how the waiting will pay off. Here was a woman in absolute anguish, completely alone, misunderstood, unable to express herself properly. A woman who has almost nothing. Because she has so little, she’s able to receive everything with open arms – essentially a personification of the paradox that the less we have, the greater capacity we have for gratitude. (I have a lot more thoughts about Pullman Car Hiawatha, but I’ll share them at another time.)

Gratitude changes everything. It takes us outside of ourselves, changing the dialogue from “look at everything I have” to “look at everything that has been given to me.” Even when we’ve worked hard for something, it is still possible to view that accomplishment as a gift. I worked very hard from December 2016 to May of this year to write and publish my book Good You Were Here, but I don’t really feel like it was something I went out and made for myself. It has been a gift, to the people who have bought it and read it, of course, but especially to me. I didn’t know I needed it, but I did.

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Even when something is awful (the death of a loved one, physical/emotional/mental suffering, unfair circumstances, etc.), it is still possible to view that circumstance with humility, trying to zoom out and see things from the perspective of eternity. My parish priest had a brother who was killed serving in the military, and he shared a story about how a woman approached him at the funeral and told him, “God is going to use your brother’s death for a great good.” He said he wanted to hit her. But over time, he saw she was right. Over time, he caught glimpses of the big picture God was painting and received even the unbearable loss of his brother as a gift.

I admit I have a long way to go in the gratitude department. But lately, I’ve been having more days where I wake up or sit down to pray, and my first thought is, “I’m so grateful just to be alive.” I know that’s a gift. I know to wake up to a day that will probably be a lot like a previous day, full of uncertainty and heartache and yet more waiting to figure out where my life is going, and be grateful, is a gift God gives me new every morning. And if I can lean into that, even when I don’t feel it, even when I have to just close my eyes and shift my perspective outwards to view my nothingness, my littleness, as something given to me for my good, I’m in a perfect position to receive whatever good God has in store for me next. I’m confident of that.

Here’s to all we have to be grateful for. Even when we have so little, there is so much.

 

 

Writing Alcohol (1 of ?)

As I type this, I’m sipping a cocktail made of some sparkling Izze juice and pomegranate vodka. I enjoy very few alcoholic beverages, have only had one shot in my life, have never been drunk, and I can have just as much of a good time with or without booze. I feel like I’m obligated to enjoy it just because I happen to be a 22-year-old woman. I’m still waiting for that magical day when I ‘grow up’ and love drinking wine. Wine is so classy and sophisticated.

Yeah, I hate wine.

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(Sorry, Kermit – and Mom.)

Meanwhile, today I finished an outline for a book in which the main character, Tony, is an alcoholic struggling to stay sober throughout the duration of the story. Here we face the challenge of writing what we don’t know! *Fireworks go off and fizzle out pathetically in the distance*

Not only am I a lightweight whom God did not create to dig the taste of liquor, but I don’t personally know anyone who I would consider an alcoholic – not even anyone who I would consider a reckless or stupid drinker. My older sisters are expert social drinkers and my mom is a wine snob, while my younger sister is an actual bartender.

So my knowledge of alcoholism is limited to TED Talks, Wikipedia, and Captain Jack Sparrow. Obviously, I’m not going to cut this element from my story. It’s part of the character, even if it’s not part of my personal experience. I’m just going to have to seek more sources and make sure I portray alcoholism – and recovery from it – as honestly as I possibly can.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately – how alcohol and writing seem to have a very close-knit relationship. Many of the most famous authors in history were alcoholics. Ernest Hemingway is credited with the line “Write drunk, edit sober.” (although the internet tells me the quote is actually from a writer named Peter De Vries) My desire to write drinking and alcoholism into my story has nothing to do with wanting to fit in with the “writer aesthetic”, and everything to do with my desire to write authentic, human stories. Just because I don’t enjoy most alcohol and genuinely thought until like three years ago that everyone just pretended to like it because they liked getting drunk (don’t ask me how I developed these delusions) doesn’t mean that none of my characters will drink.

I’m blessed to have been raised in an environment where alcohol has always been used for celebration and enjoyment, and never viewed as a dangerous or sinful thing. When I was three or four, my grandpa would let me sip his beer. When I was fourteen or fifteen, my mom poured me my own glass of wine for Easter dinner. Even though I never really liked it, I was introduced to it in a way that made it seem like nothing more than a fancy adult treat – grown-up soda and juice, as it were. So, in spite of my own indifference towards booze, it’s definitely a part of my life and it finds its way into my writing easily.

For example, in my book Good You Were Here, drinking happens frequently, and for different purposes. Lazlo is drinking to try and numb his pain when he’s first introduced, but at another point, he’s calmly sipping a beer on his front porch. Evan drinks a beer on a picnic at the beach. Angela’s parents enjoy a glass of wine with dinner.

This is the first time I’ve tried to write a character who has a problem with alcohol. Everything is different now. No reference to booze can be casual because, for Tony, it’s anything but. He’s constantly battling with the temptation to drink, and ‘just one’ is never enough. It’s not fun to enter into the perspective of an addict and explore that painful enslavement, but, whether I like it or not, Tony is an alcoholic. I can’t change that about him. I mean, I could. But the funny thing about writing is that your characters tend to take on a life of their own, and you can tell when the author is making them do something that isn’t authentic to them. 

So, off I go into the process of writing a novel currently entitled Being Daniel, about a twenty-something who has hit rock bottom entirely due to his unhealthy relationship with alcohol. If anyone has any personal experience they’re willing to share about addiction and recovery, please feel free to contact me. I promise I will do my best not to sugarcoat or misrepresent this sensitive and serious issue. 

Thanks for reading, God bless!

– Clare