When Monday Makes You Cry

Social services can beat the energy out of you. It clearly did on Monday. Even before, I got into the office, I knew that there was a sad situation awaiting me including scared kids, a hidden parent, and many questions. Unrelenting questions. Questions I had to ask and answer, taking the lead, driving a situation, continual counseling, managing the emotions of children and adults, fear…overwhelming fear, a rush of blood to the head, finding facts, laughter and anger, and sadness. This is social services.

Monday makes you cry and you don’t actually shed a tear. You just feel like you have. It’s like the weight of the world crushing you and encouraging you to pick yourself up again. It is duking it out with CPS knowing they’re your ally and enemy. The all-around badness concerning my 40 is exhausting.

These are the moments crawling into bed are difficult. I am exhausted by the day. At night, I don’t know if I will get rest. A warm body next to mine would be a nice commodity. Yesterday, I needed the assurance that someone was there for the Mondays that make you cry. I didn’t, but I did go to sleep.


November 2

When did you first know you were truly loved?

This is a hard and complex question. I will answer it as best I can. I cognitively know I am loved. I struggle with always knowing that affectively. I cognitively know the love of God. He is faithful to me and has loved me so deeply that it terrifies me. In the early stages of faith, I could affectively feel it. After ten years the feeling wanes, but the fact remains the same.

Love for me is very much so tied to a sense of regard. I need to know I matter and that I am truly seen. Masking myself is easy. People are so caught up in their own lives that it is simple to forget others. I try not to hold it against anyone. It’s just kind of how life works. This year was particularly hard for me. My 28th birthday came and went and I felt like an atom lost in the cosmos. I had to remind friends it happened. I don’t say this as an inditement, but a mere fact. I remember a Sunday after church dashing out and calling my sister. I let out the longest sob-filled side of the road lament about feeling so forgotten and embarrassed that I wasn’t remembered. Then, I had to remind people they forgot me. It’s part of the reason, I have a tiny circle.

However, no one has made me feel more cognitively and affectively loved than my old friend Forrest. It felt like a dream to be seen. I was in my twenties when we met. It was not that there was anything done that was spectacular. There were no hoops or rings, just remembering and seeing behind the mask. It wasn’t the first time I was truly loved, but it was the first time, I was loved the way I truly wanted to be loved.

We are no longer friends. All my friendships terminate or go through some profound change after 3 years. It has been interesting to feel truly loved and deal with the aftermath of no longer being friends. Doubt has crept into my mind surrounding motive. Why did Forrest care in the first place? Was it really regard or just avoidance? Maybe Forrest just thought I was a sweet girl? It is difficult to only know your own feelings. I think what is difficult about answering today’s question is that it also answers the question of when I felt the most unloved. The day in which, I began to wonder if Forrest loved me in the first place…yesterday.

November 1

How do you remember and honor loved ones who have passed?

I don’t know. My circles are really small. So, I have never had anyone very close to me who has passed away. Last year in November one of my teens died suddenly, due to senseless violence. On the way back to Houston from Temple, I played Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” to its entirety. I wept. On Green Dolphin Street belongs to Andrew’s; bright and springy, but still sad. I attach albums and playlists to memories and feelings. I’ll probably relisten to that album this month and cry all over again. Andrew was a good kid. I see his cold body in an open casket swollen and cold. It doesn’t even look like him. His curls were so lifeless. I hear his mother howling, the irreverence of his extended family. The humility of that chapel. Hundreds of adolescents became too familiar with death, and I wanted to mother every single one of them. Music helps me remember.

I feel like the best, I can do is honor him with my life. I have another Andrew right now. I just want to love him better than I did the last.

October: the Longest Month of the Year

I have long held the view that October might be the longest and my least favorite month of the year. As a child–and an adult– I scared really easy. So all the demonics of Halloween never appealed. Life is scary enough. I don’t need to pay someone $15 to be more scared. Let me walk a dark alley and I will be just as scared and probably out of $15. As an adult, October just felt daunting like an massive anticipation to get to the holidays. Like a plot build up for a massive let down. Like an overture that went on for 5 minutes too long.

This October felt no different.

I knew this October would feel like forever by the midpoint of September. The parts of the month I would need to move slowly would race like nascar. The parts that could have sped would drag on like roadkill. Nevertheless, like every year October comes to a close and I think I am grateful.

There are days from this month that I wish I could relive and sadness I wish I could dispense. I am beyond grateful for my counselor who has bared the brunt of my melancholy. I have cried more publicly and privately. I have stepped more fully into being a manager and out of a friendship. I have written papers, completed projects, and binge read books. I have gone to a wedding and a baby dedication. I have authored the longest email that will probably never get sent. I decided I need to outsource accountability if I’m ever going to lose weight. I have decided to let go of dreams of living in Houston, just in case the Lord moves me somewhere else. I have realized that I still struggle with figuring out where I fit in this city and in friendships and in families, but I’m grateful for those who are kind enough to make some space for me and reassure me when I’m ready to flee.

This October is no different, but somehow different. I’m glad it is over. I’m glad that I get three days away from work and people and daily life. I’m glad it ends with tears again and repentance. I’m glad it ends with a long lost friend celebrating love lasting another year in their family. I’m glad I get to look forward to a Waco road trip, Thanksgiving in Atlanta, and concluding another semester. I’m glad for silence.

I’m most grateful for faithfulness. God has been very faithful to me. This month has hurt beyond words and humbled me like nothing else, but the Lord has been with me. I have felt so lost and feel no more found than I felt at the beginning of this month, but there is hope because I know I’m not alone. God has journeyed with me through so much. Underneath it all, I’m terrified and confused, but I’m not alone.

Every blog feels like a lament. So much so that I don’t know why I write and why people read it, but I’m glad October is ending. I hope it is ending for you too. I hope November brings thanksgiving and hope.

A Pleasant Haunting

Pitchfork: Considering you had a distant relationship, were you at all surprised that her death hit you so hard?

SS: Yeah. In the moment, I was stoic and phlegmatic and practical, but in the months following I was manic and frantic and disparaging and angry. They always talk about the science of bereavement, and how there is a measurable pattern and cycle of grief, but my experience was lacking in any kind of natural trajectory. It felt really sporadic and convoluted. I would have a period of rigorous, emotionless work, and then I would be struck by deep sadness triggered by something really mundane, like a dead pigeon on the subway track. Or my niece would point out polka-dotted tights at the playground, and I would suffer some kind of cosmic anguish in public. It’s weird.

I was so emotionally lost and desperate for what I could no longer pursue in regard to my mother, so I was looking for that in other places. At the time, part of me felt that I was possessed by her spirit and that there were certain destructive behaviors that were manifestations of her possession.

The above is an insert from an interview between Pitchfork and Sufjan Stevens. While discussing Sufjan Stevens album, Carrie & Lowell, a friend told me the album was contrived after Stevens felt haunted by his mother’s ghost. He took on her spirit and lived as her in his actions and thoughts.

I feel haunted as well. My normal desires are still there. Nevertheless, I took a bath. I bought peanut butter and jelly for sandwiches this week. I take a hike tomorrow. In all these practices, I am reminded endings are not endings. They don’t feel final nor are they beginnings. Perhaps, they are just transitions and transformations allowing us to move from one space to another. I am fascinated by how my soul has chosen to feel sorrow.

Tears are too much to muster in absence. It’s a fool’s work to try to recreate a presence. I just cannot separate so quickly. I will not destroy myself; the Transcendent Giver of Mercy will not allow it. I just may ritualize baths, only eat PB&J’s, and take long walks until I can run. Might not know just who I am, but I’ll pass the time.

Disconnected Ramblings on Love’s Presence, Absence, & False Form

It seems that all my friends are in seasons, where love is raining down in giant drops of warmth and relief and joy. It is a time to dance in the rain; I feel like I am drowning in it. Most days, it is enough to keep me afloat, but lately watching love in its mysterious abundance has become painful. I could condemn myself for the exaltation of romantic love, but it would be a legalistic attempt to repress what feels entirely human and appropriate.

Flowers and weeds were planted in the desert, just in time for the skies to open and release what they were holding back. Time and weather allowed for waters to recede and flora to blossom. Flowers and weeds looked all the same and took over the terrain. How does the desert know a flower from a weed? It has seen nothing of either, it just knew it was covered. To be covered with life is wondrous, to be tended divine. You were once a desert. Nothing could have ever grown there. You never expected bloom. You never expected life. You never expected for weeds to take over and destroy you. If you don’t tend to a garden in the desert properly it is only a matter of time before weeds will bring it to ruin.

Faithful Desert Fathers and Sisters witnessed the wild takeover from afar. If the desert was to be saved every weed and flower needed to be uprooted. They were. Every pull took a bit of sand and water with it. It left the desert exposed, fragmented, and dry; it was a lesser desert. The weeds were taken and burned before her eyes, along with the flowers. It is better to be a desert than filled with weeds robbing you of life.

But the flowers left seeds, that the desert knew it could never bloom again. So when it rained in the desert the terrain wept as she remembered.

Anyone who would encourage me to be content in the love I have now is a fool. I don’t think of them actually as a fool, but how? In counseling, Dalia tells me, I feel things deeper and process quicker. I know my sorrow is a lack of specific love.

My closest friends are busy with their families. My most recent of question is “Where I fit into all of it?” I think in terrible analogies. It includes this one that has been running through my mind.

Our individual worlds are entire solar systems, with moons that revolve around planets and planets revolving around the sun. My friends feel like planets or moons, receiving priority in my solar system. Sometimes, I have to settle for being a meteor, brightly quickly passing by causing temporary interest to return to normal orbit once more. Love – if it has degrees of goodness – generates a new planet to add to the solar system. It may begin as Neptune, colder than ice, but in time it will draw near to the sun.

I was once Pluto. The appearance of a planet in orbit, but actually a moon. I was devasted to learn I could never be either. I would love to draw near a sun.

There are people in need of more than a handout or hand up
Litmus tests we give people have showed them what we are made of
If you choose to love, love well
If you find someone intriguing, don't caricaturize them
Give them space and time, let them be human
If you choose to love, love well
People will never show you pain until you see it was your hand
People that you hurt will still want to be your friend
If you choose to love, love well
A lion is leaving in the autumn leaves
Both lion and lamb are weeping sorrow and relief
If you choose to love, love well
Go to bed cold, sad, and alone
Remember your two hands are something you can hold
Love is more work and time than one could afford
After loss, I want to love once more
Love may kill you and bring about death
It's the one way to die with a heart still beating in your chest
I choose to love, so love well, so love well, so love well.

A Year After Hurricane Harvey

Rebuilding your life after a hurricane tears it apart takes time. It only takes a drive through my old neighborhood to remind me of that. I woke up early this morning to drive the 35 minutes from Katy to Houston to see my former home. Last night last year was the last night I would have spent there, and I didn’t even know. It’s a tragedy that one doesn’t know that memories are being erased. As I sat outside my home, I stayed long enough that I only cried, but didn’t weep.

This past year has been the greatest unwanted challenge of my life. I have been vulnerable in the best and worst ways, and I know it is still not over. The same feeling, I had towards my birthday last year is the same as I have now. Why celebrate? I don’t have the lightheartedness needed to supplement the festivities. I survived, losing my roommates, home, and things. I survived, living in a homeless shelter. I survived failure that near ruined everything. I survived, living in 3rd Ward and moving to Katy. I survived another challenging year of seminary.

I survived and I’m grateful, but when do I get to go back to living? When does life start once again? All of the pains and perils of prehurricane are still present. I still want to root myself in Houston, but I don’t know when or where. I still want to have someone to companion with, but who and when? I still want to know why I’m in Texas. It will always feel easier to start anew that to remain where you’re planted, but remain I must. When will life feel like it is settled again?

One thing that I am confident in, is that God is faithful to me even when I am profoundly unfaithful. God could have and should have left me this year. It would not be unwarranted. He didn’t though. He used people, His people, to love me in ways, I didn’t know I needed to be loved. I have been loved at my worst this year. I have been loved when filthy and writhing in my detestability. I have been loved in rebuke and counsel. I have been loved in discipline. I have been loved with people’s time and money. I have been loved by a child who brings praise and his mom and dad. I have been loved by a girl filled with beginnings. I have been loved by an Equa-Nore couple who God has just used in simple and profound ways. I have been loved by my pastor and his wife. I have been loved in settings where I get to place my feelings on a canvas. I have been loved by my family in Atlanta and my family in Katy. I have been loved by classmates and roommates. I have been loved by former coworkers. I have been loved by a woman with a shy dog. I have been loved through the Spirit, from the Father, by Jesus. I have been loved by God.

Hurricanes destroy things, but they help us know who will be there to rebuild when life falls apart.

Dear God, 

Thank you for uprooting everything. I mean this sincerely and sarcastically. I know there are some things I would have never uprooted if You hadn’t plowed through, but I’m grateful you did. I am exhausted. I’m always exhausted. I’m grateful for another year. I’m hoping and praying for a good one next year, but if sorrow comes once more, I pray I would be more faithful to you than before. 

God thank you for loving me when I was unlovable. I don’t deserve it and never will. Thank you for knowing the depth of my failure and still allowing me to know You and be associated with you.