Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: A Year In Review

I don't even know where to begin when trying to recap this year. So I'll start with what I said on Facebook and Instagram, and maybe that will inspire me.

"2016 was nothing like I thought it would be. It was harder than I expected, more exhausting than I expected, had more tears than I hoped it would, and broke my heart more times than I knew was possible. But you know what? It also brought the start of a new chapter, built new relationships, helped me restore and strengthen some of the ones that matter most, gave me memories I wouldn't ever give back, taught me more about who I am and the person I want to be to others, and showed me how to love harder each and every day. So no, 2016 hasn't been my favorite year, but it's brought lessons and experiences that are part of the greater picture of my life. I learned a while ago that I want God to write my story, so here's to seeing what He has in store for 2017."

And really, 2016 was not a very good year for me. But it wasn't all bad. Even though my seizures were a mess, I still got my freaking Master's degree, with Honors, and it was a semester by semester struggle to pay for it and get through it. Even though I lost two of my best friends, I restored one of those broken friendships, made new friends, and strengthen old relationships. Even though I had to leave NYC and wasn't happy about it, it turned out to be a good thing I could be here to take care of Mom, I got to see some of my soccer boys play, and I've gotten to spend more time with Matt. I guess age is providing me with some perspective. Go figure.

I know I've had much harder years than this (hello, brain surgeries), but for some reason, I've felt much more tired than I have in recent memory. That's why I've stopped blogging with any regularity. It's like I'm so tired I've not only run out of things to say, I just don't have the motivation or concern to even try to say anything. The stress from so many different things and so many new things on top of the things that already stressed me out in previous years just wore me down to the point of utter exhaustion.  Here's hoping I find some rejuvenation in this new year. If I get into a PhD program, I'm certainly going to need it.

That's why I pretty much failed at the mission I put my behind my "One Word": enough. In short, the mission was two-fold in that I wanted to boost my self-confidence and grow closer to God. The first part was more successful than the second. I went on my first real dates and finally had some new experiences with guys. I figured out that maybe my friends maybe do have a clue what they're talking about when they constantly say that a guy can actually find me beautiful. But I think those things, combined with the previously mentioned exhaustion, stood in the way of me growing close to God like I wanted to and placing my self-esteem in what God says about me rather than my relationship status or attention from guys. I want to be different. That's why one of the goals I am focusing on in 2017 is to teach myself the discipline of daily Bible reading. I don't do that like I should, despite the fact that in my gut I know that it's the only way to truly deepen my relationship with the Lord. I want that. I need that. I believe the self-confidence will naturally come with that. There are some other goals that I'll talk about in my 2017 One Word post, but this is the main one.

Ha, I just at my 2015 Year In Review post and realized that I started that by saying 2015 was nothing like I expected, either. That seems to be the overwhelming theme of my life, especially since I graduated high school. For all the ways I dream of my life going and expect it to go, God usually goes in an extremely different direction. And more often than not, I don't like it at the time, but looking back, I can see why it was a good thing and the right thing, and I'm reminded that everything really is so much better when I don't fight God being in control of my life. Let's see if I can remember that should I be rejected from all of these new PhD programs.

I don't have a clue what this next year is going to hold, just like most of the events of this year took me by surprise. And year after year, I find myself becoming more and more okay with that.

I got to see Matt tonight (and on Christmas Eve, which is when this picture is from), so considering the only other things happening today were errands, a basketball game, and a football game, that was a pretty awesome ending to 2016 for. Check out my Instagram if you want to see a collage I posted, complete with a cheesy caption, about the two of us.

Happy New Year, friends. May peace, love, and joy cover you and yours no matter what this new chapter brings. I love you.

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Well, butter my buns and call me a biscuit!

It was far too long to go without getting to hug this fella.

It really, really sucks only getting to see your best friend once a year, but when you do get to see them, it's Christmas morning levels of excitement.

Wednesday afternoon, Mom drove me to meet Clayton at the same Smithfield's that Mommom and I met him at last Christmas. It's a pretty accurate halfway point, and we both love their barbecue, so win-win.

We got there at about 1:15, and he and I sat there and talked straight until 3:00 when he knew that he had to leave to get home for a family dinner. We spent half the time discussing theology, because that's what happens with us, but honestly, it was just so perfect. Yes, we talk quite often on text and FaceTime, but it's just not the same as getting to actually see them in person and hug him.

After everything that's been going on with Mom, and me, and the family, and school applications, and everything else, this was exactly what I needed to lift my spirits. When I talked to my therapist that night, I even told him such, that for the first time in a long, long time, I felt truly peaceful. What sweet relief from everything else that has been happening.

(The title is this hilarious Southern saying he taught me.)

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Reality of Chronic Pain

I woke up in severe pain today, much more pain than I was in yesterday, and with no explanation. Most people would probably be confused as to why this happened, but at this point in my life, it's something I'm quite used to. When you live with chronic pain, days sometimes throw really awful surprises at you.

When your pain flares up, the simplest things require giving yourself pep talks, from sitting up in bed to standing up to go to the bathroom.

When your pain flares up, you want to sleep to get away from it, but your body won't let you sleep because you can't get comfortable in one position for very long.

When your pain flares up, your joints get stiff and beg to be moved, but moving them hurts so badly that you're scared to do it.

When your pain flares up, you lay still trying to rest while stressing about everything you should be doing that day.

When your pain flares up, every single step is a calculated move.

When your pain flares up, you have to decide what is worth getting up and moving for.

When your pain flares up, you sometimes forget what it feels like not to be in that much pain.

When your pain flares up, you practice putting on a face around others so everyone you see believes that you're okay and won't worry.

You learn not to talk about it because you don't want to sound like you're complaining. And that's not what I'm intending to do here. I just want people to understand that there are a lot of illnesses and health conditions that you can't see that still do exist. There are plenty of people suffering on a daily basis who push their pain to the side and out of other people's view because they don't want it to become other people's problems.

Here's the truth: I do that on a pretty much daily basis. People think I deal with this stuff so well, and that I seem to have my stuff together more than most, but I don't. Trust me. I really, really don't. I just learned how to hide it years ago when I came to the realization that this pain wasn't going away. I used to hide it because I didn't want it to define me, because I don't want it to hold me back. Then, it became more that I hid it because I finally had real friends and I didn't want to annoy them or make them feel sorry for me. I wanted to be normal, even though I knew that I really never would be.

I hurt. All day every single day. Some days more than others. That is just the reality. I've spent so long hiding it and plastering a smile on my face on the bad days, and I'm at the point where I just don't want to do that anymore. Not because I want pity; please, whatever you do, don't start pitying me. I don't want to pretend anymore. I don't want people to think I have my life under control. Sometimes it feels like life is controlling me.

Do I recognize that I still have plenty of blessings in my life? Yep. You bet I do. It's those blessings that keep me going. But those blessings don't make this part of my life suck any less. And I know I'm not the only one like this, but I can only share my story, and if my story can help spread some empathy in the world, then at least it will do some good.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about." - Wendy Mass

I wanted to make this post more eloquent, but well, reality isn't always pretty, so here you go.

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

When unexpected things bring back the most awful feelings.

Confession time: I'm a fan of One Direction.

I know. I know. It started about a year and a half ago. Part of me is ashamed of it. The other part is like screw other people's opinions haha.

For those of you who have blocked this boyband from your mind, this is Louis Tomlinson.

He's the oldest of the band, and I'm not entirely sure why, but he's been my favorite since I started following them.

Well, this past Wednesday, his mom Johannah/"Jay" died from leukemia. They actually kept her diagnosis private, so none of the fans knew she was sick until the press release from her husband announcing her death. And this may sound silly, but this has hit me really hard, much, much harder than I could have ever predicted.

Louis has six younger brothers and sisters, two of whom are only two years old. My heart especially hurts for them because I know what they will be going through in the future with having to rely on stories in order to know someone who is literally half of them. I know what it will be like to grieve for and miss someone you never really got to know.

And Louis. I've watched a lot of interviews with him since I became a fan of the band, and if there was one thing that was clear, it's that Jay is the most important person to him. He was the textbook description of a "mama's boy" and couldn't have been prouder of it. And if you looked at Jay's social media, you could see she was his biggest fan (as she was for all of her kids). That's the relationship I want to have with my kids one day.

Tonight, just three days after losing his mom, Louis got up on stage at The X Factor UK and performed his first solo single since 1D went on hiatus a year ago. He wrote the song, "Just Hold On," for his mom, and it was announced that it was one of her last wishes for him to continue on with this performance, so he did. This not-quite-25-year-old stood up and performed in the midst of unimaginable pain and sang his heart out for millions of people (literally millions - there was an international livestream for his performance), and it was the most beautiful thing I have seen in a long time. That immense bravery, that level of strength mixed with utter vulnerability, it's beyond comprehension to me.

Watching the video of his performance brought back some hard feelings, feelings I didn't think I'd have to deal with just because of the loss of a celebrity's mother or 17+ years into this whole grief thing. But man, this hurts. I miss my dad so freaking much, and looking at the tears in Louis's eyes after his song ended made me feel actual pain in my chest. And I get angry sometimes, wondering why some families get to stay in tact and others don't, why some good people get healed on earth and others have their bodies and minds taken and destroyed by cancer. I wonder if I'll ever let go of that question, or if it's something I'll be holding onto until I'm meeting Jesus face to face. I've never grieved for a celebrity as hard as I have for Louis's mom, and I think it's because we're about the same age and I know exactly what he's going through.

The sun goes down and it comes back up
The world, it turns no matter what
If it all goes wrong
Darling, just hold on

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