Rounding the Corner of Conviction

It was midnight.
Past time for bed.
We brushed our teeth together.
We prayed.
I said:
“I have a writing itch. Would it hurt your feelings if I didn’t come to bed right now?”
I meant:
You may not know this, but your wife is coming alive.
Something in me is waking up.
I think he knows. He usually knows these things.
But this time, so do I.
My words are coming to me just a little easier than they have in a long time.
And oh man it feels good to skip out on sleeping so I can type type type them out.
I am here.
I know what is happening in my heart, because I am paying attention.
And here on this couch with the glowing laptop light, I belong.

I am writing.

Image

I think tonight I will try to work through this thing I’m feeling…
I have named it: My Career Identity Crisis.
Welcome to graduating from college.
Here it comes.

I think I have been re-visiting my ten-year-old self so often lately because:
That is when I started writing.
That is when I began to find a place for all this love and desire in my heart.
In my emotional, I’m-moving-back-as-soon-as-I’m-eighteen stage,
My poor Mom just didn’t know how to handle me.
Anyone could see that I needed an outlet.
She suggested I get a journal. Way to go Mom.
It was the summer after fourth grade. I found it at TJ Maxx for $3 and it was my refuge.
My safe place to figure out what the heck was going on with me.
There was no career crisis then, just little me saying:
“When I grow up, I’m going to be a writer.”
Fast forward to 2013. The world says: time to grow up.
This is the part where I actually get a real person job but…

I do not know how to become a professional writer.
Still, I fear that if I do not pursue this future,
I will ignore a huge part of myself, and eventually,
lose that part of me entirely.

At the same time, I fear that if I do figure out this whole game of
networking/promotional branding/social media…
I will end up writing for the wrong reasons.
I will lose the truth in the pursuit of validation, popularity…
in the pursuit of “likes” and “followers.”
And here’s the deal: I could never live with that.
Though that is what the social networking world often uses writing for,
that is not writing for me.

For me, writing is about telling the truth.
Finding it. Questioning it. Admitting it.
Whatever it takes.
Through writing, I’ve faced immense monsters: depression, self-doubt, scary memories.
Through writing, I’ve found out who I am over and over again.
I have found the liberation of knowing HOW TO SAY what’s IN MY HEART.
So what’s the problem?

Let me try to explain how this has become so complicated…

When I think about professional blog writing,
I do not think of these revelations I was just expressing.
I think about product reviews.
 i.e. photos of a new shirt you bought and all your rave opinions about it.
I think about recipes w/ polished food photos, complete with witty back-story.
   i.e. the kind of thing that has so many women striving for a false perfection of “womanhood.”
I think about neatly ordered lists that promise to solve your life.
   i.e. Ten ways to be a better you. Five DIY crafts to ring in the season.
     i.e. Gross–I want to barf.

There are bloggers out there that rock that kind of stuff, and people love it!
I do not look down on these writers or these people.
(I admit I’ve got a whole pinterest board full of them recipes.)
But I will never stay up at night, itching to type out recipes and reviews.
I just don’t wanna write that stuff. I can’t. I won’t.
For me, as far as a career goes, as far as a lifelong-goal goes, that would be a deception and a waste of words.

But then again, in not writing that stuff, I have landed myself 13 followers.
Woo hoo me!
Therein lies the big question:
How can I engage the world in a conversation that tells the truth?
This is hard when it seems the world is more interested in sparkly promo posts.
But I just know it’s got to be possible.

People need real life more than they need another show-off, flashy deception.
For example, when you face doubt and instead proclaim surety, no one feels anything.
No one moves forward through those words.
Though admitting your doubts is terrifying, there is truth in the expression of doubt.
Transparency. Honesty. Clarity.
That kind of communication is real enough to be strong.
People need that.
And further, if you can then express belief regardless,
you can offer evidence of real, human faith.
People respond to that because they know it.
They know that that is what it’s like to live here in the world.
There, in those words, is a refuge for anyone that’s listening.
It’s just better that way.
There is nothing inspiring about pretending, even if you’re pretending to be inspiring.
In doing so, you forfeit your capacity to connect with others and therefore influence/be influenced by them.
You forfeit your capacity to experience with them, what it’s like to be alive.

As I sift through all of the blogs and articles out there, I am so much more interested in WHO THESE PEOPLE ARE, than what they’re buying.
Or what they’re selling.
Or what they’re advising me to do with my kitchen.
AHHH— how do I say what I’m saying here?
It’s not that I think I have something particularly inspiring and ethereal and wise to say.
It’s that I’m trying to have the guts to actually SAY SOMETHING that matters.
I just want to be out there, encouraging that type of communication.
That type of thought and connection.
The type of relief that comes with telling the truth.
That’s what words are for.

So when I look at the wide world of successful writers out there,
and see what so many of them are doing,
it terrifies me.
I want to reach the people they are reaching,
and yet I cannot reach them by the means they are using.
If I do, I will divorce myself from the original intent of reaching anyone at all.

Now, I realize that if I want to do this I have to get up off the grass and play the game.
I have to network and learn the system. I think I can do that.
But I just can’t give up my conviction.
I can’t betray my experience with words that got me here in the first place,
And I can’t ignore my late night itches that keep me up trying to say something about it.

HOME.

I am sittin here on the bed eatin blueberries,
wondering what to write about next.
I’ll just let myself talk to you.
(Or the void that is the internet.)
(Or whoever and whatever it is I speak with here.)
Here it comes.

This morning was a weird morning.
I swear I got out of bed multiple times and then woke up: still under the covers.
Ken tried to help.
I remember him nudging me with his nose like some kind of animal.
When I didn’t respond he pawed at my shoulder and made rawr sounds.
“Roaaarrrrrr! Wake up!”
“No” I said.
“But we’re pretending to be LIONS!” he replied.
“Nope.” [roll over]
“Oh. But why not?!”
And then somehow I was dressed and ready for church.
This is all I remember.

I don’t like to sleep when the sun is down,
but then by the time it’s up that’s all I wanna do.
The fact that I woke up every morning at 6:30 for a year and a half is a miracle.
(That’s when I was a missionary.)
The church is true people. That actually happened.
My mission is also the only time I looked forward to going to bed.
I was worked. WORKED.
All of that feels so far away now.
Now I work at the Missionary Training Center.
I help teach missionaries.
I am all around it every day, and yet my own mission feels far far away from me.

This has happened to me before– I want to tell you about it.
Remember the house on the culdesac?
The one with golden lights in my room at night?
The one I ran away from?
I ran away because we were moving.
My Dad was getting “transferred.”
That meant I was too. And I was real sad about it.
Now I know this all sounds very trivial, but it was so real to me then.
I wasn’t old enough to drive or take a bus or have a friend bring me back.
So, in my eyes, I couldn’t ever come back on my own.
I was leaving everything I’d ever known.
My friends and my cheer team and the woods in my back yard.
My bus stop and my Mamaw and my friend down the street.
And I couldn’t do anything about it.
That’s why I packed-up some canned food in the trees.
That’s why I planned for my friend to leave me sandwiches.
I was going to keep my life there, no matter what.

We moved on my tenth birthday and my heart broke.
There’s a lot to be said about this time in my life.
But the part I want to tell you about is this:
One time, we went back.
We drove back to Greensboro and Mom said we could go by our old house.
I couldn’t wait. That was my world! My home. I was going back to my life.
I carved my name in a tree in the front yard.
(…with my Mom’s tweezers, stolen from the console of our mini-van.)
We still had the key and no one had moved in yet, so we went inside.
I burst in the door, but
There was no big rug in the living room.
Everything was painted white– no colors.
No floral couches.
No kitchen table. No hand soap on the counter.
No shoes in the closet. No candy on top of the fridge.
No curtains on the windows. No pictures in my room.
It didn’t even smell like home.
It smelled like carpet cleaner and white paint.
It was empty. It seemed bigger. Father away.
At ten years old, this didn’t make sense to me.
I was HOME but nothing belonged to me.
I was right there, but it was all gone.
I was confused and embarrassed to have expected anything different.
I cried and cried.

And sometimes, when I’m walking around the MTC, watching all the boys and girls– the Elders and Sisters— with their black name tags and their scripture bags, their big nervous hearts, I try so hard to feel at home. To feel that I love this and I know this and I’m back and I belong. But that’s not who I am anymore. That doesn’t belong to me anymore. Sometimes, I can barely remember Sister Brown. She is all around me and yet she is not my life now. And really, that’s okay. I didn’t expect for the curtains to stay on the windows this time. The problem, even then at ten years old, was not that my old home was gone, so much that my new home was yet to be found. Seeing that there is no place in the past for me only emphasized what I had been ignoring: that I must go forward and find somewhere new to belong. At ten, this was terrifying. I didn’t want to belong anywhere else. Now, nearly 15 years later, I would love to belong somewhere besides full-time missionary work. I am excited and willing and open to this idea of somewhere else.

And yet, it is scary to know that everything behind me has been painted white and re-inhabited by strangers. Until this new home comes to light, I am floating, with what’s left of my torn-up roots scraggling along beneath me. But roots aren’t meant to float around exposed. Their work is meant to be concealed, deep underground, as they dig and hold steady to whatever they can find, spreading out for stability. Branches and leaves are blown in the wind, but roots find something more solid, more safe, and more steady. Especially my roots, because everything else about me is an emotional blow-around-in-the-wind mess. In short, I’m not crying in the mini-van this time, riding towards the scary unknown. I’m driving. I’m going willingly. I have lots of safety and stability and steadiness in the man next to me. I have big faith in the future. But still, it is disorienting and unnatural to drag one’s roots around every day. I am ready for some solid ground I can belong to for a while. Not only solid ground in God or solid ground in my husband, but real, squidge-your-feet-in-the-dirt solid ground. A place. A city. A home.
Texas, here we come.

UT.tree

University of Texas from Wooldridge Hill

Say What You Mean.

Sometimes I am afraid to write the truth.
And doesn’t that somehow equate to: “I am afraid to face the truth.”
…Am I afraid to face the truth?

And if so, why now?
I have done many scary things. Many hard things.
Mainly, what I’m referring to is: I went on a misson.
Before that, at least in my memory, I was rarely afraid to write the truth.
Regardless, I always found a way.
What has changed?
And why I am not better at writing the truth now, instead of the other way around?

.     See? There it is.
.     I was afraid to say “worse”
.     I dodged it with a common phrase–
.     “the other way around”
.     That way I didn’t have to actually say I am now worse at what I love SO MUCH.
.     Or maybe I avoid the word “worse” because:
.     I don’t really believe it.
.     I believe the me that writes the truth, is still in there.
.     I’m not ready to say she is gone. I’m not sure that is the truth.

S0 why am I not writing the truth now?

One answer at least: I don’t practice.
I get worse at things I’m not regularly practicing.
I used to have shelves and shelves of living notebooks.
Always a pen and a journ in my bag.
Part of learning to write the truth back then, was that I was always trying to.
And so, I was always learning to.

Since then, since I’ve stopped trying to write the truth,
I’ve found that I see much less of it.
When I’m walking home or waiting at a stoplight,
I don’t see my life and feel my heart like I used to.
I don’t churn my language
I don’t mold my phrases
I don’t listen to what I feel so I can
later sit down and scrawl it out until I say:
That. That is what my life is like. I found it and I found how to say it.

I don’t articulate. express. ask. edit. speak. listen.

Instead, I continually come to that moment where I need my words and
…they are not there.
Because I have not sought them
cultivated them
spent time with them
asked for them
trusted them.

Writing was like praying then.
Writing was like revelation. In my handwriting.
That’s why, on pages, I found the truth.

People do not know me as the girl with the notebook anymore.
But I know me:
I know.

Gallery

What happened to Lyndsi Shae?

Sometimes I look at pictures of my friends in high school. We are at the beach on spring break, shooting blow darts across the room at a styrofoam boogie board. We are eating pancakes on Saturday morning in our pajamas, painting our jeans before we all move away to college. We are driving through town at night with the windows down, angsting it out to punk rock love songs. We are longing for SO much and not knowing how to explain what it is we are looking for. So we sing U2 all the way to the coast “and I stilllll haven’t founddddd what I’m lookin for…” The thing is, I look at these photos and feel like I could go right back there, with those same people in the same cars and the same music toward the same Atlantic Ocean. And I would love it. I could be that girl again with the pancakes and painted jeans.

But I would feel a little different, and why is that?

What has happened since then that’s got me out of the angsty car and into other routines? Into going to bed before 2am and paying more attention to my schedule than my blog? Some might blame it on growing up–say I’ve lost myself and my young passion. They would see my life now compared to my life then and think, where did she go? Where is her freedom? But it doesn’t feel like that to me. It doesn’t feel like I’m lost. It feels like I have found so much of all that stuff I was looking for then, so much that I no longer have these insatiable impulses that keep me up all night singing and driving to the water. So much that I can sleep, and go to work, and do the laundry, and all these things that were so boring before, and yet still feel fulfilled. My freedom lies in stable things, safe things, things that do not fade away or threaten to elude me. Because I served my heart out on my mission and found lasting homes for all that passion I couldn’t seem to express before. Because I fall asleep next to Ken who is staying with me always. Because I wake up to God over and over and over. I always knew who I was. But now it is easier to be that person.

That being said, man what I wouldn’t do for those painted jeans and a weekend at the beach.
I will always be the girl with sand on her feet and a notebook in her hands.

Identity Perpetual.

45_518175664829_8186_n

31_518173394379_1211_n

31_518173509149_1803_n

iden·ti·ty (noun) \ī-ˈden-tə-tē, ə-, -ˈde-nə-\
1 a : sameness of essential or generic character in different instances
   b : sameness in all that constitutes the objective reality of a thing : oneness
2 : the distinguishing character or personality of an individual

per·pet·u·al (adj) \pər-ˈpe-chə-wəl, -chəl; -ˈpech-wəl\
1 a : continuing forever : everlasting
(1) : valid for all time
(2) : holding  for life or for an unlimited time
2: occurring continually
3: blooming continuously throughout the season

530637_10100672118810489_7548341_n

Realization

Let me tell you about something that happened to me two weeks ago.
Before I start though, you might need a little background story.

First of all, I’m what people call: a Mormon. It’s one of the best things about me. It means I belong to a church called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What most people don’t know about this Church is that it is actually the original church of Jesus Christ, which was lost for a while, but has been restored in our day, for people like us. You can find that out for yourself if you want, which I would highly encourage, because it will extend your heart into more than you ever thought your heart could become, and suddenly, life will make more sense, and you will know exactly what to do. You can’t fully experience that just by reading a blog, so I won’t try to make that happen right now, but you could start here.

Okay, so because this church is the same organization that existed in the beginning, it is run completely on revelation. That means we receive direction from God about what we should do. Anyone can do this in their own personal life. You can pray about individual things like, Where should I move? How can I be more patient? Who can I trust? God will send you answers in whatever way is best for you—a feeling, an experience, a friend– and then you can make the best choice based on what he sends you. Our church also receives revelation about what we should do as a group. This means we pray about who should be asked to do what at church. Who should teach the little kids? Who should help the unemployed people find jobs? Who should speak in church this Sunday? Who should regularly visit the elderly woman on Brawley School Road and make sure she has a friend? These responsibilities are called callings. Sometimes you get a calling because it will help other people. Sometimes because it will help you. And sometimes, usually, because it will help them and you. One of the main people that pray about these group choices, like who should do what calling, is called the Bishop. And recently, the Bishop asked me to fulfill a really big calling at church.

This is the part where I stop talking about my church at large and start talking specifically about me– the personal part.

When the Bishop asked me to do this big thing… when he told me that my full name came into his mind at while he prayed and that he received definite confirmation that this responsibility was for me… I found myself feeling surprised. In my mind, I thought something like this, “Really? I didn’t know I could still do significant things like that.”

Before that moment, I didn’t consciously recognize that I’d doubted my own significance, but I did doubt my own significance! I must have or else I wouldn’t have thought that. I don’t know when it started, but somewhere along the way I had started thinking that I was no longer on God’s list of people he could trust with significant tasks.

In the years before my mission, I remember feeling so empowered. I knew God was aware of me. I knew He knew my name because I could feel Him sending me to different people who needed someone like me. Someone like me, who believed in herself and had great faith in what was to come. Someone like me, who was capable of doing difficult things, things beyond her understanding, because she knew how to ask God for help. On my mission I felt the same way. God trusted me to help other people find Him and learn to rely on Him. God sent me to help other missionaries. He sent me to love people who were difficult to love. He sent me to do what I didn’t know how to do and was not capable of doing, because He knew I would seek Him out and receive His help.

Then I came home from my mission.

Then I found myself trying to be a daughter or a sister who didn’t get impatient or prideful or rude. Shouldn’t that be easy? I found myself struggling to manage my time well. Didn’t I learn how to do that already? I found myself to be pretty lame at doing the wife stuff I was probably supposed to be doing—cooking and keeping things clean and being pleasant all the time. I found myself batting with depression. (Again?) Again. I found myself with so many weaknesses. So many simple everyday tasks I couldn’t seem to do well. So many expectations I couldn’t seem to meet fully. I felt so… insignificant. For a while I was confused, Is this really the former Sister Brown? The former Lyndsi Shae? Is this really what I have become? I felt so anti-climactic. And so slowly, all that big-deal stuff, that helping-other-people-feel-loved and having-something-great-to-offer-the-world stuff, started to fall under the category of former-stuff.” Those were things I just didn’t seem to be capable of anymore. I felt like I was nothing that special anymore, just, average. I felt like that’s just the way it was going to be from now on, or at least for a while, and that I should find a way to be okay with that.

And just like that I stunted my growth. I shrank. I receded.
And I didn’t even know it.

I didn’t even know it until the Bishop was saying that God wants me to do this big thing and my mind responded with “Really? I didn’t know I could still do significant things like that.”

And the thing is, of course I can’t do this big thing the Bishop asked me to do. Not by myself. That’s not the point because God will help me do it. The point is that I’m still on God’s list of people He helps, but even better, I’m still on His list of people He can trust.

And since then, I just can’t believe the change I feel in myself. I am not so heavy with deception. I am hopeful. I am believing. I am prepared.

Since then I feel like I was capable of significant things all along—I was just deceived into thinking otherwise. I was deceived into shrinking and receding because I thought I was insignificant. I believe that if you feel this way, you are being deceived too, and that you can, as my Mamaw says “cut yourself loose.” You can ask God to help you get free. And I just know if you are sincerely ready to act on what he sends you, it will work.

“I am become a name.”

Today I was sitting in the third row, laughing my head off at my professor. He was wearing a purple shirt and had made some nerdy joke about the poetry we read for homework. I was eating a caramel from Becky’s wedding and laughed out loud with with my sticky fingers. I had prayed to feel happy that day and had that momentary feeling where you realize your hopes are coming true. Even small hopes feel great when they’re coming true.

Did you know that it’s hard for me to feel happiness sometimes? It is. Not because I’m a pessimist, but because they chemicals in my brain are sometimes unbalanced and it makes it very difficult for me to feel positive things. This is called clinical depression. It means you are sad, but not because of a situation. You are sad for no foreseeable reason, other than the chemicals in your brain that help you to feel happy aren’t really working right now. But it doesn’t feel like it’s just chemicals! It feels very real. And very lonely. And very personal. So sometimes you can’t figure out what’s wrong with you, you’re just tired and sad and alone. Or sometimes you’re having a hard time feeling anything. And so some days I am a bit of a robot, numb to things around me even though I am reaching out as hard as I can to be a part of them. And that’s rough, because I love to feel. I want adjectives and verbs and change and life. I want to feel it. For this reason, I’ve had lots of practice with what it takes to have a good day. Because for me, good days rarely happen by accident. I have to strive for them and look for them and choose them over and over, even if the chemicals in my brain aren’t reacting to those efforts. For this reason, a involuntary burst of laughter at an incredibly intelligent purple-shirted joke is especially appreciated.

The other night I was sitting on the porch with Ken. We had just come back from a walk by the stones in the river. We were talking about how hard it is for me to feel joy sometimes. How tired I get from trying. We were talking about our future and how some things might need to be different for us. Ken thinks some things might need to be different for us so we can make sure I’m getting what I need to have a happy life. I felt so defeated. Why should anything have to be different? Why can’t we do things like everyone else? Why should we have to take a step back, or take a step extra, or take a step away… for me? Doesn’t that mean I’m weak. Doesn’t that mean I’m doing something wrong. And I started to feel it again. I started to feel that I am less than other people because of the chemicals in my brain. I know this is a physical thing, like a broken leg or bad blood pressure. All the right choices in the world won’t heal it. All the poetry and scripture reading I can muster won’t heal it. At the end of the day, it’s just not my fault. It’s physical. But it feels like it’s my fault sometimes. Like I am to blame.

And then Ken got his serious voice on. His listen up, I mean this and I love you voice. He said that he knows I think depression holds us back sometimes, but he thinks this difficulty of mine is helping him. It is helping him learn to focus on something other than himself. It is helping him learn to take care of someone and sacrifice for them. For years he’s been striving to change his heart by learning how to do that. He is grateful to have the chance to do so, with me, for life. And after that I felt much less alone. Much less to blame.

The bottom line is that depression is real. There are books and theories and methods for coping. There is cognitive behavioral therapy and yoga and exercise and meditation and yes, there are pills. In the end it is a very physical problem that manifests itself emotionally and spiritually in me and many other people. I am not the numb girl who cannot respond to the dullness in her heart. I am not the dullness in my heart. That is serotonin and norepinephrine and neurons and synapses. That is chemical.

I am Lyndsi. I am the girl unwrapping caramels in the third row, laughing about poetry. I am the girl with a notebook of thoughts in her book bag and some peanut butter crackers for later. I am the girl who reads novels on the front porch and highlights the good lines with a green crayon. I am the girl riding my bike by the river and looking at trees upside down. I know joy. I know longing. And though the chemicals in my brain might change my mood from day to day, they do not change who I am. I know who I am. Identity Perpetual.

[Today’s post title comes from a poem called Ulysses by our friend Alfred Lord Tennyson.]

Aside

A Blabbering.

Did you know I used to be full of words? FULL.
I know they are still in me but they are way down deep, maybe even a little lost in there.
Because I don’t call out to them and conjure them together and USE them like I did before.
I don’t group them into identities or clarities or the nominative indicative infinitive diminutive.
Did you know that’s why I’m writing here?
I am writing here to practice my words. To practice Speaking. Shouting. Feeling. Again.
With words.

Almost no one knows I am writing here.
Because so far I don’t necessarily have much to say.
So far I’m still getting my voice out.
That’s a wimpy way to avoid admitting that I just don’t think my writing is very good right now so I’m too prideful to advertise it out in the void. It doesn’t feel completely ME yet.
But with my words I’m telling the truth! I am. I just want to tell more of it.
I’ll need to tell more of it before I am satisfied.
Before my soul is at rest with its level and quality of expression.
Until then, my soul is kinda bunched-up and wrinkly in there.
It’s still happy, but it won’t be still.
It’s tryin’ to wriggle itself free.
I wriggle in words.
Here are some for today.

Sometimes I get very sad. I find myself taking naps and not talking very much. I feel heavy and sleepy, even when I want to feel alive. I know this pattern. It scares me. I pray and go for walks by the river with Ken. Things get better.

I love the moment at the pool when I realize the sun has melted my crayon. I know because instead highlighting a line in my book, it squishes a victorious spludge of green wax across the page. Oozing youth and summer.

I love when the doctor’s office wants an emergency contact and after I write Ken’s name it asks: Relationship?
And I write: Husband.

I love when I’m at J-dawgs with my little brother sayin “Get the secret sauce! Get the secret sauuuuuuuuce!” He’s a first-timer and I’m way more excited than he is. Let’s sit in the grass with our chips and drink. (I never buy the chips but this was a special occasion.)

I love that as soon as I get home from work I can pick up whatever book I want.

Books Just Finished:

The Help (Writing truth frees the southern women of Post-slavery America.)
The Five Love Languages (Find out how to love your favorite people the way they want you to love them.)

Just began:

The Dance (From my friend Brooke. I think this book is about how to quit obsessing over your flaws and just love your life.)
One True Thing (This one’s from my Mom. It reminds her of me.)

I love that reading other people’s words is generally promised to spark your own.
I am reading reading reading.

I love that my friends are growing up too. They are wrapped-up in various corporate/creative/therapeutic endeavors that help them to further unfold. I know some fantastic people. They just keep unfolding. There is no end to them.