The Blog: On Second Thought

(Photo source: Unsplash via Pexels.com)

(Photo source: Unsplash via Pexels.com)

People like to tell me I’m “brave” for sharing my darkest secrets, but I don’t consider over-sharing about my hurts and pains and desperations to be especially courageous. It might be for some people, but I’ve always been someone with a deep need, a near craving, which borders on desperation, to be known. Intimately, fully, in every gory detail.

And since I began sharing stories about depression, one of two things seems to happen with every post.

Either I hear from someone saying they’ve been inspired to seek help through my words, or I hear from someone saying they care about me and are praying.

So, maybe it takes a certain amount of courage to open up about hardship, but it’s not something I fear, so it’s not a courage I admire in myself.

What I’m about to say now, though, I’m scared to say. For me, this takes courage.

Today, I’m happy. I’m content. I’m OK.

I have a job that I love, that occasionally stresses me out but that I’m so fond of I willingly choose to spend my day off on the work premises, interacting with my coworkers and jumping at every phone call. It might not be the “dream job” I longed for as a child, but it’s a pretty darn good job, and I really, really like it.

I get to write a lot, and writing is something that soothes me, that gives me joy. There’s something so beautiful to me about playing with words, and the English language is my clay; it’s something malleable and moldable, something I can influence and play with and form to my own desires.

Plus, people. I adore them. I think humans are fascinating, wonderful, beautiful, and amazing. I think humans are full of potential, talent, and skill. They make me laugh, cry, and clutch my heart at how agonizingly gorgeous they are. I get to spend so much time with them through work and friendship.

So, there. I’m happy. Exquisitely so. Wildly so.


 I have so often rooted my identity in my depression, that it almost feels like I’m lying when I say that I’m happy.


I’m scared to say that because I haven’t been taught or trained to celebrate the victories in life; I’ve been taught to bow my head in shame and whisper about them rather than shouting them from the mountain-top when things are going well. I have so often rooted my identity in my depression, that it almost feels like I’m lying when I say that I’m happy.

Honestly, I’ve spent so much time practicing radical vulnerability in the dark that I don’t know how to be open about the light. It might sound weird to you, but it’s true.

I’m trying. I don’t know how long this happiness will last; I’m not sure when I’ll have another depressive episode. It could be in a month, a week; it could be before this blog post is even published.

What I do know is that I want to practice celebrating often. Dancing for joy. Throwing my arms to the air and spinning about with a goofy grin, singing aloud to the songs, dancing without worrying about whether I look good or not. I want to be so grateful for the good times. I want to breathe them in and savor them like a perfectly grilled salmon that’s so tender it falls apart on my fork.


I think we should all practice celebration. Not just finding joy in darkness, but finding joy in light.


I think we should all practice celebration. Not just finding joy in darkness, but finding joy in light. It’s there, and it should be as much a thing to discuss as the hard times.

So there you have it: I’m doing OK. Today. And you know what? That’s good enough to get me through for now.

Karis is a grad student at NYU in New York City. Her writing has appeared online with Seventeen as well as Good Housekeeping. She blogs at karisrogerson.com. To stay informed about all her writing, sign up here.

(Photo source: Clem Onojeghuo via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Clem Onojeghuo via Unsplash.com)

This post originally appeared on TWLOHA and was republished with permission.

My friend Don wrote a blog about you today and his blog suggests that you used to look a lot different than you do today. He says that you are the product of a poet and that before this poet’s pen, you were not a romantic holiday.

I think i would have liked you more back then, whenever that was. The truth is that you really bother me now. I think you bother a lot of people, honestly. You show up every year right after Christmas. You turn the windows pink and you sell your diamonds on the radio and I think I’ve gotten five emails from 1-800-FLOWERS in the last three days. I’m not sure how you got so much power.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that i don’t like love. I love love – I think it’s the best thing that happens on the planet. It’s the biggest dream inside me. But I bought a lie somewhere along the way. I bought the lie that says I’m not alive if I’m not in love. I bought the lie that says if I love someone but then they stop loving me or they start loving someone else, then I must have no value or power or worth. I bought the lie that says if I’m not in love, then I’m as good as dead.


I bought the lie that says I’m not alive if I’m not in love.


And if you believe that lie long enough, it makes a giant hole. It makes a hole so big that no one person could ever begin to fill it. Not even a princess. Believe me, I’ve tried. To fill it with a person, to fill it with beauty, to fill it with all the things you sell.

But I don’t think it works that way. Bono says his songs come from a God-shaped hole inside of him. He’s my favorite singer and he has a lot of things. He has great stories and a wife and kids and plenty of money. But in spite of all of those things, he says he still has this hole and he says that it’s the reason that he sings.

I’ve been thinking lately that maybe I’ve confused a girl for God, a different one every year or two, since the first day of junior high. And man, that is a lot of pressure to put on someone, to make them God. That is a ton of power to hand someone. Especially when they’re just a person. A person with questions and flaws and pain of their own.


I’ve been thinking lately that maybe I’ve confused a girl for God.


So maybe there’s a war, inside of me and for me and maybe my heart is the opposite of small. Maybe it’s the opposite of cheap and empty and alone. Maybe it’s sacred and enormous and wild.

To make a long story short, I think I’ve given you way too much power. I let you scare me and I let you name me and I let you tell me what I’m worth.

I don’t want to do that anymore.

There are dreams inside of me and those are mine and my guess is that they’re there for a reason. But for all the days like now where the dreams are asked to be only dreams, I’m gonna keep getting out of bed. I’m gonna keep living my story. I’m gonna believe that there is reason and purpose, and power in my life. I’m gonna believe that I’m alive inside a story bigger than my pain, bigger than everything missing.

It crossed my mind to try to ignore you, to try to go to bed early and wake up when you’re gone. But I changed my mind. I am part of a gang in Florida and we’re gonna get together tonight. We’re going to open our computers and we’re going to choose to believe that words are powerful. We’re gonna do our best to tell someone something true. We’re gonna ask people not to give up on their stories.


We’re gonna ask people not to give up on their stories.


Valentine’s Day, I don’t hate you. I don’t even blame you. Perhaps you did not name yourself. Perhaps you are the product of hundreds of years, hundreds of thousands of broken people and a million God-shaped holes.

The truth is that we’re all living love stories.

Peace to you tonight.
jamie


For another story about a man trying to fill a void in his life, watch our new White Chair Film:

(Photo source: Jeremy Bishop via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Jeremy Bishop via Unsplash.com)

I was curled up in a ball in the corner of my floor with tears streaming down my face. My stomach hurt, my mind raced, and my heart felt like it was being pulled in a thousand different directions.

You see, I had been dating this guy for a year and a half. Things were getting serious. We’d talked about getting married. Our parents were coming in from out of town to meet each other that day. The decisions I had made were culminating before my eyes. My life was happening. But the only problem was –  it was a story that I didn’t want to be living.

I felt no sense of peace. In fact, I was filled with doubts. Could this be right? If so, then why did it feel so wrong? Why was my heart so confused? Why did I feel like I wanted to throw-up?

I wanted so bad to be in love… but this isn’t what I had imagined.


It was a story that I didn’t want to be living.


So, with tears streaming down my face, I picked up the phone and called the whole thing off. I did it. It was time to face my fears- my fear of failure, my fear of disappointment, my fear of starting over, my fear of being alone, my fear of hurting people – and finally do what I knew all along was right.

Deep down inside, I was aching to find someone to love.  But I spent so much time trying to find “the one”, that I lost myself.

I was so confused. I had no idea what I wanted or who fit into my life. The real problem was me.

I didn’t know who I was.

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, if you don’t know who you are, you’ll never recognize the kind of person who fits into your story.


 I spent so much time trying to find “the one”, that I lost myself.


It seems like a simple truth, but it’s really not so simple. Getting to know yourself can be even harder than finding someone to love.

It’s so much easier to look out than it is to look in.  It’s much easier to focus on the hope of finding the right person than actually becoming the right person.  

The most successful relationships I’ve ever witnessed are made up of two people who are confident in who they are, and who’ve become the best they can be by depending on God for help.  People who understood that in order to really find love, you have to date a person you never thought you’d date: Yourself.

As a professional counselor, dating inward is a concept I talk about a lot, but how do you do it?

“So, do I take myself out to a restaurant, or to a movie?” a girl asked me on Twitter. I had to laugh, because that’s not exactly what I mean by dating yourself.

Dating inward is a process. It’s an experience of delving into the places where only you could ever go. It’s a process of insight, awareness, acknowledgement, and wisdom. You have to peel back the layers of who you are, one step at a time. Quite frankly, while it may sounds strange, it’s a concept that changed my life, and in turn, my love life.

Dating yourself requires you to know 3 important things:

1.  Know who you are today: There’s a huge difference between who you want to be, or who you’ve been told you are—and who you actually are.  It’s easy to lose yourself in relationships by becoming who they want you to become. But you’ll never be able to know what you really want in a relationship until you know who you are.  Use this time in your life to become the best version of yourself by dealing with the habits, thoughts, and behaviors that hold you back from living your best life.  Get to know who God says you are and remove the labels that have been placed on you. Invest in yourself, love yourself, and believe in yourself. You will always attract the kind of person who you believe you deserve.


You’ll never be able to know what you really want in a relationship until you know who you are.  


2.  Know where you come from: We all have our baggage, and whether we want to or not, we bring that baggage into our relationships. Dating inward means taking the time to understand and heal the hurts of your past to the best of your ability.  It means understand ing your past, and coming to terms with the impact it may have had on your life.  But most of all, it means learning to accept those things and move past them as you step into your future.
3.  Know where you’re going: When you’re walking toward something, you’ll be able to recognize those who are walking in your direction. It’s so important to stay true to yourself by living out the unique and meaningful purpose that God has given you. Trust me, your story has far more to do with finding your purpose in life than it does with finding the love of your life.
No matter what your relationship status is – married, dating, single, or searching – we should always be moving in the direction of healing and discovering who God is in our lives. Don’t forget to date inward before you begin searching for love from someone else.

This post is adapted from concepts in Debra’s book True Love Dates, and used with permission. Find more of Debra’s dating advice at TrueLoveDates.com

For another story on finding yourself, watch Lynsi’s White Chair Film:

(Photo source: Jon Eric Marababol via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Jon Eric Marababol via Unsplash.com)

This post originally appeared on TWLOHA and was republished with permission.

This past May, I lost my mom to alcoholism and addiction. In truth, I had lost her before that—long before that. But the shock of it was no less jarring. The timeline went like this: I picked up my 24-hour chip at a meeting on the 18 with my husband by my side. She went into the ICU on the 21, and at 5:00 p.m. on the 23, she died.

She lost her battle, and I lost her.

I am no stranger to addiction and mental illness. I lived the first three months of my life in a NICU in Boston, and as a result of a traumatic birth, developed anxiety that felt physical at times. I spent my childhood very fearful and tried to squelch that fear with alcohol in my early adulthood.

I lost myself.

Luckily, I found recovery in 2008 and have been falling down and getting back up since then. This go-around, and there have been many, I have a bit over seven months of sobriety. I can say with absolute assurance that my involvement in recovery has changed my life for the better. Although I have relapsed many times, I’ve been lucky enough to make it back into sobriety. This time, as with every time, I hope to stay there.


I can say with absolute assurance that my involvement in recovery has changed my life for the better.


On August 30, my one-year wedding anniversary, I discovered I was pregnant. It was my first pregnancy, and over the next month I felt every emotion in the book: fear, joy, anticipation, and intense anxiety like I’d never experienced before. Couple all of these emotions with the grief I was feeling about my mother, and you’d probably understand why I felt overwhelmed.

What if I couldn’t be the mother I wanted to be?

What if something happened to my child? How would I get through that pain?

What if I messed up my kid forever with my own messed-up-ness?

What if…

Yesterday, an ultrasound showed no embryo, only an irregular sac. I am not sure, but I might have absorbed the fetus back into my body, just as I will have to absorb this experience and make it part of my story.

My husband and I struggled through the day together as best we could. He bravely went to our house inspection while I stayed in bed, numb and mute. And just like that, the universe gently removed my anxiety and replaced it with emptiness.

Another loss.

In situations like this, I often ask myself, “What are my choices right now?”

I go through them one by one.

Drink.

Stay sober.

Stay numb.

Open up.

Live in fear.

Live in acceptance.

Over the past eight years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have these choices. Before recovery, I didn’t feel like I had any choices to make. Watching my mom die from this disease felt like another message from the universe, a dark and foreboding one. Keep drinking, and you will end up just like her. So since then, it’s been therapy, meetings, and sharing honestly. On that day in May, my choices disappeared once more, and two paths—the one I could take and the one I had to—grew very, very clear.


Before recovery, I didn’t feel like I had any choices to make.


Today I have these questions to answer:

How will I deal with this double-loss without numbing?

How will I walk through pain sober?

The answer is: as humanly as possible. Meaning: soberly, messily, weepily, angrily, with no grace at all times, and with immense grace at others.

I will always have questions, but now I have yet another choice to make: Embrace them and find myself or run from them and lose myself.

I am choosing to live, to struggle, to overcome, to slip, to fall, and to rise. I am choosing to show up and be counted, not lost.

I am choosing to be found.

(Photo source: Davide Foti via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Davide Foti via Unsplash.com)

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t feel like writing right now. My “creative juices” feel tapped dry, and I don’t feel like forcing words onto a blank word document.  I just don’t.

I’ve had a long week. There are a lot of things I could be doing right now that I actually feel like doing.  However, here I sit with my headphones on, feet propped up, trying to match my typing fingers with the stirrings in my exhausted heart.

Why force it? Well, there are a few reasons; one being that it’s my job to write, another being that I like to consider myself a writer. I’m a writer. I write, even if I don’t feel like it sometimes.

If I didn’t repeatedly tell myself that I was a writer, and if I didn’t truly believe that I’m a writer, there would be a lot of blank word documents on my computer. Because what I believe to be true doesn’t always match up with how I’m feeling at the moment. Can you relate?


What I believe to be true doesn’t always match up with how I’m feeling at the moment.


That means that how I’m feeling shouldn’t be the deciding factor of what I do. If I ever want to “make it” as a writer (and I still haven’t determined what “make it” means), I will often have to go against the pull to hit snooze or the temptation to scroll through that stinking social media feed one more time.

Though, this will only work if I’m constantly refocusing on who I am, who I want to be, and what I believe to be true. I’ll be the first to tell you that the person I want to be is certainly not the person that I am on most days.

For example, I want to be slow to speak and quick to listen, and I can instantly think of a few times that did not happen this past month. Oh yeah, I opened my large mouth way before thinking or listening. If that’s not who I want to be, then why did I do it?

Because that’s what I felt like doing in the moment. Plain and simple. It felt right, and it felt good.

Though, when I go back to the drawing board, when everything slows down and I sit with my bible and my journal, it’s as if the fog begins to rise and my heart drops a little when I realize that my impulse decisions actually did not line up with truth.

Can I tell you something? It’s healthy to recognize your mistakes from the day. We live in a world that ferociously shouts, “Do what you feel like doing!” and “Live life without regret!” But the truth of the matter is, we will do things that we wish we didn’t do.

If we don’t hit pause, take note of our mistakes, and ask God to help us move past them, we will continue to live off of our foggy feelings-based impulse decisions. And as long we do this, we will find ourselves in a constant state of falling and disappointment.

Always falling and never moving forward. Lost in the fog.


If we don’t hit pause, take note of our mistakes, and ask God to help us move past them, we will continue to live off of our foggy feelings-based impulse decisions.


I’m not suggesting that we dwell and feast on the things we did wrong every single day. Though, I do think it’s important that we take a moment, or two, every single day to remind ourselves who we want to be and what we believe to be true, because our feelings will always be fighting for our attention and can often lead us away from both of those things.

If I didn’t clear my mind every day, I would rarely write. Though, because I believe that God uses me to speak through my inadequate words to encourage you (and that’s even hard for me to type), I write even when I don’t feel like it. If I don’t push past my feelings constantly, (and I mean constantly, it’s a battle, y’all), I will lose my passion and my purpose. It’s happened before,  and it could happen again. It’s a lonely, deceitful place.

What feelings are leading you down dark, twisty paths of despair? What thoughts are keeping you from getting back up again? Have you lost track of your passions and your excitement for life? Perhaps it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Ask yourself, “Are my actions lining up with who I want to be and what I believe to be true?”


Have you lost track of your passions and your excitement for life?


Refocus. Recalculate. Take note of your thoughts and feelings that are not embedded in truth; ask for forgiveness from those you’ve hurt, forgive yourself, and keep pursuing a life well lived. Wake up from the fog and cling to what is true. Living a life led by truth will be far more rewarding than living a life led by your feelings.

Caitlin Jordan is the managing editor for I Am Second. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram (@caitlinr_jordan).

(Photo source: Jen Palmer via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Jen Palmer via Unsplash.com)

I’m going to be brutally honest today. The things I say might sound contradictory to things I’ve said before, but it’s not that I was lying to you then; it’s that I was lying to myself. But I’m going to try not to do that anymore.

I met with my counselor Tina (have I talked about how incredible Tina is yet? She’s the best), and we had a real heart to heart about a lot of things.

For one, I finally told someone how desperate I am.

Desperate for love. Desperate to fall in love and be fallen in love with. Desperate, in that terrible, unattractive, wrinkle-your-nose-up-in-scorn kind of way.

Anything you might hear about how ugly it is when women are desperate for love, about how much of a turn-off it is, anything negative you hear describing desperation for love — that’s me. That’s how I feel.


I finally told someone how desperate I am.


I’ve tried to hide it for so long. I hid it from myself as much as I hid it from the world, so when I wrote an article about how it’s OK to never have been kissed…I was being sincere. As sincere as I could be, without knowing how deep my desperation went.

So yes, I met with Tina and told her about my desperation.

I mentioned that one of the reasons I’m so desperate for this romantic love from a man is because, yes, I’ll admit, I believe it will add worth to my life.

There’s this deep-seated belief somewhere in the pit of my heart that if someone is never loved romantically, there must be something wrong with him or her.

Tina asked me, point-blank, “If there was a 70-year-old man who’d never married or been in a relationship, would you think there was something wrong with him?”

I hated that my answer was, “Yes.”

know that that’s false, that there’s really nothing wrong with someone who’s never been fallen in love with, and that our worth doesn’t come from those who love us. Rather, that our worth doesn’t come from humans who love us.

But do I believe that? Absolutely not.

On the one hand, I blame myself, because this is a belief I’ve fostered and nurtured for the past 20-some years.

On the other hand, I think it’s a product of the books I read. I read so many books, and none of them ended with the heroine alone. Either someone finally came around and saw her for the beautiful, personality-full person she was, or she changed herself and then, *bam!* a boy loved her.

I was brought up in the belief that romantic love was the end-all and be-all of love. Is it any wonder, then, that I believe that’s true to this day?

All I have to live off of is my own experience, and in my experience, guys haven’t liked me. And honestly, I’ve fallen head over heels for many boys and they either don’t see me at all, or only see me as a friend.

So, I’m desperate because I doubt I will find love. I’m heartsick over that.

I try to hide this as much as possible, but one of the deepest, truest desires of my heart is to be loved and to have a relationship, an engagement, a marriage. As Proverbs says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” And I am filled with sorrow.

Again, I know in my head that all of this isn’t true. I don’t know how to make myself believe it, though.

I do know that I don’t want any other girls to grow up like this. I want the world to have stories of girls just like me: girls who are desperate for love and never get it. A teenager who never gets the guy, and she never will. And she’ll be OK.

Because in the end, I know I’ll be OK, too. Yes, I desire love. I desire to be loved, and I’m human, so I desire to be kissed and have sex and be held. I am full of sorrow because that isn’t the case. And I’m desperate, sometimes dangerously so, to make it happen.


But somewhere deep inside me is this tiny seed of knowledge that romantic love really isn’t the definition of worth.


But somewhere deep inside me is this tiny seed of knowledge that romantic love really isn’t the definition of worth. The knowledge that the 70-year-old man I mentioned before does have something to offer, and just because no woman was able to see it does not mean it isn’t the truth.

I know this not because of an imaginary man, but because of the men and women I know and love who aren’t married, and because I know how beautiful and valuable they are.

If they’re valuable, then maybe, just maybe, so am I.

This is my honest piece, my confession to you: I am desperate. Ugly-desperate. But I am willing to work through it, to find worth in others and myself. I am willing to believe that my value comes from God and His love for me, which is sure and boundless.

Even if He never chooses to demonstrate it through a man’s love —

That last sentence is unfinished because it was so painful to write. It’s physically and mentally hard for me to say that it’ll be OK, because I want, so much, to be loved.

But I’m going to continue to say it, to simply repeat the truth until I believe it.

So here goes: even if God never chooses to demonstrate His love through a man’s…I will be OK. I will be worthwhile. I am valuable. Amen.

Karis is a grad student at NYU in New York City. Her writing has appeared online with Seventeen as well as Good Housekeeping. She blogs at karisrogerson.com. To stay informed about all her writing, sign up here.


For another story about searching for love, watch our new White Chair Film:

(Photo source: Denys Nevozhai via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Denys Nevozhai via Unsplash.com)

This post originally appeared on TWLOHA and was republished with permission.

Lying between the sheets in a psychiatric hospital, I was forced to ask myself this question:

Why should I keep living?

I could play my cards right and be out of here by tomorrow morning where I would once again, without a doubt, try to end my life. Except this time, there would be no mistakes.

In between the seemingly endless hours of hazy, medicated fog and brief moments of clarity, I would ask myself the same question:

Why should I keep living?

For many months following my stay, I failed to find a satisfactory answer. Nothing fulfilled or replaced the longing to just fall asleep and not wake up again. Nothing. 

No amount of laughter soothed me.

No offering of beautiful, encouraging words could take the place of the ones consistently repeating themselves in my head: I want to die, I want to die, I want to die.

I recoiled from the gentle pats and soft touches because I didn’t want people to waste their energy on me. I thought there was no point.


I thought there was no point.


Any attempt my friends and family made to give me any portion of hope was met with rigid stubbornness; I didn’t want them to talk me out of my ultimate plan. I didn’t want to give them yet another reason to see me as the burden I thought I was.

I was determined to let them reach the inevitable conclusion: I wasn’t worth their time. 

Maybe you’ve felt the sense of hopelessness that I’ve described.

Maybe you’ve felt more lost than even words can explain.

Maybe it’s difficult for you to understand what this type of pain feels like.

But no matter what your experience is, please open up your ears, your mind, and maybe even your heart to hear me out for one small moment:

There are reasons for you to keep living, even when you can’t find them.

Trust me, I know. I know this sounds repetitive; it sounds typical. You’ve heard it before. But hear me out, please:

There are reasons for you to keep living, even when you can’t find them.

I have searched and searched for every reason to NOT believe those words. I’ve scrolled through article after article, blog post after blog post, fooling myself into thinking I was searching for hope, when in reality I was just looking for more excuses to believe those words didn’t apply to me. I wanted confirmation that my sadness was too unreachable, my numbness too untouchable, to be moved by mere words.

But one last time, I’m telling you:

There are reasons for you to keep living, even when you can’t find them. 

Maybe you don’t see what purpose or use you could possibly have on this planet, but don’t you dare believe that just because you can’t see your purpose that it doesn’t exist. Don’t believe the lie that tells you that, because you can’t see it, no one else can either. Your life has meaning. You were not placed here on accident.


Your life has meaning. You were not placed here on accident.


Maybe you’ve never been told that before. Maybe you’ve been told that you could die at any moment, and the world would know no difference. Please let me be the one to tell you how untrue that is. The breath that is inhaled and exhaled through your lungs has value. The words that come out of your mouth are important and heard, even when you don’t think they are.

In all those moments of searching for an answer to the question of why I should keep living, I realized something, something I still have to remind myself of from time to time. In the deepest pits of my illness, I couldn’t provide an answer to that question on my own. I believed too many lies about myself, and I was lost in my own mind. But even in my darkest times, I couldn’t completely reject the idea that maybe the reason that I was still breathing, that I was still alive, was because there was a purpose hidden inside me that was far beyond myself; maybe there was a meaning to my life that I was missing out on.

I realize now that this was the one lingering thought that pushed me to keep living. And as the sun is slowly bringing light into my darkness, as my night gradually turns to morning, the reasons to not keep living are slowly being outnumbered by the ones to stay alive:

My niece’s laugh and the way she says my name.

The way my mom hugs me when she hasn’t seen me for months.

My Grammy’s phone calls.

The breeze that brushes my hair across my face when it’s warm and humid outside.

Christmas trees and big fluffy snowflakes.

Hearing my Papa sing his favorite old hymns.

The peace that rests over me on Sunday mornings.

The people whose lives I hope to impact someday.

The list of reasons continues to grow every day.


The reasons to not keep living are slowly being outnumbered by the ones to stay alive.


So today, no matter how little you think you’ve come in recovery, no matter how many mistakes you’ve made, please know that you would be doing a disservice to this world by taking yourself away from it. Allow yourself the luxury of time.

And believe me when I tell you that there are many, many reasons for you to keep living, even when you find it impossible to find one yourself.


If you’re struggling with thoughts of self-harm, there is hope. You can call 1-800-273-TALK to chat with someone about it. For a list of other resources, visit the website of To Write Love on Her Arms here.


You are not alone. Watch Chad Robichaux’s short White Chair Film to be encouraged:

(Photo source: Abi Lewis via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Abi Lewis via www.seeabigaillauren.com)

When was the last time you went to a store and the checkout clerk or salesperson didn’t have a big smile on his or her face? If you didn’t know any better, you’d think just about every store in the country was the happiest place on earth, filled with people who couldn’t imagine having a better job than selling you sneakers. And while that may be true for some, we know that forced show of joy is often just part of what it takes to stay employed. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that it works.

As Bloomberg‘s Rebecca Greenfield writes, “Relaxed shoppers spend more, research has found, and they’re more likely to return if they’ve had a pleasant experience.” Greenfield goes on to warn, however, that there is a downside: “Perennial perkiness also risks irritating customers and emotionally exhausting employees.”

Fortunately for all those store workers whose faces are in danger of morphing into a permanently fake smile, a recent study hints that there may be an easier way to achieve the same effect. Shoppers in Canada were given one of two stickers on their receipts. One group received a smiley-face while the other a generic geometric shape. A follow-up survey on the shoppers’ respective experiences revealed that those who received the smiley-face sticker reported feeling “significantly more satisfied” than those who did not.

As the study’s author remarked, “I was shocked . . . I think customer service matters, but if you want to affect someone’s recall of that experience, you can do so regardless of whether that experience was negative, neutral, or positive.” Essentially, where the cheer comes from may matter less than we think so long as it’s there.

That’s good news. As broken people living in a broken world, there will be days where we are left with the option of either faking happiness or admitting to those around us that our day has been far from perfect. The latter option seems like the more honest response but, so often, we’re afraid to choose it. It may feel like that façade is expected of us, but it’s neither what’s required nor what Jesus modeled during his life.


As broken people living in a broken world, there will be days where we are left with the option of either faking happiness or admitting to those around us that our day has been far from perfect.


When Jesus grew tired, he wasn’t afraid to show it. When he became frustrated with the disciples, religious leaders, or others who failed time and again to understand his purpose, he didn’t act as though everything was alright. And when he was overwhelmed by the pressures of life, he wasn’t afraid to admit it.

The difference between how Jesus handled those emotions and how we so often do, however, is that he never allowed those struggles to rob him of his joy or ability to share God’s love with others.

Part of the reason we do ourselves and others a disservice when we act as though everything is alright when it’s not is that we miss the opportunity to show others how God’s power is made perfect when we are weak.

This struggling world doesn’t need more people pretending that everything is alright. It needs more Christians admitting that this life is far from perfect and demonstrating that that’s alright. When we embrace the difficult times and focus on allowing God to restore them rather than on finding ways to hide them, we give others a reason to want to know God.


This struggling world doesn’t need more people pretending that everything is alright.


So the next time you’re going through a rough day and someone asks you how you are, resist the urge to put on that fake smile and say that everything is fine. Instead, embrace the vulnerability of admitting that your life is far from perfect, while finding peace and joy in the fact that it doesn’t have to be because our God is. That’s good news for every single person you’ll meet today and you don’t even have to fake a smile to share it.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Denison Forum (denisonforum.org) and has been used with permission.


For more about vulnerability and not acting like everything is perfect, watch our new White Chair Film:

 

Cheryl Scruggs joined her husband, Jeff, to tell their story in their White Chair Film. (Photo source: I Am Second)

Cheryl Scruggs joined her husband, Jeff, to tell their story in their White Chair Film. (Photo source: I Am Second)

I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I craved his voice. I couldn’t concentrate on anything else.  I was duped and falling fast.

***

The fatal blow to any marriage is an affair where one or both spouses think they “finally found his/her soul mate.”

Once I was convinced that I married the wrong person and that God put someone new in my life, the idea of divorce took root and began to grow. Blinded by the deception of the affair, I had no idea how I got myself to that point.

Many of us who have fallen prey to an affair did not see it coming. I was actually blindsided, and — before I knew it — I was involved emotionally and physically with a person that wasn’t my husband, Jeff. The sudden  connection I had with this man deceived me into thinking I had known him all of my life. This new “love” was the missing puzzle piece to my happiness — or so I thought.

I didn’t intentionally look for an affair that could potentially destroy my marriage. Forming such a connection to someone else seemed so unlikely, but it was a lot easier than I realized. All it took was one conversation, one innocent flirtation. I was vulnerable, so the ball started rolling.


Unfortunately, everyone is both capable and susceptible. I gave in because I was not guarding my heart.


It’s surprisingly easy to succumb to an affair. I never dreamed I could be capable of cheating on my husband.  Unfortunately, everyone is both capable and susceptible. I gave in because I was not guarding my heart. It never crossed my mind to be cautious about my relationships with other men because I never realized I could be so vulnerable.

I started having an “innocent” conversation with an acquaintance of mine. I felt compelled to share with him the unfulfilled state of my marriage. Yet that evening was the beginning of the end of my marriage. I quickly developed a deep emotional connection with a man I barely knew. I falsely sensed that I was falling in love with a stranger.


I falsely sensed that I was falling in love with a stranger.


I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I craved his voice. I couldn’t concentrate on anything else.  I was duped and falling fast. Within a matter of days, the negative feelings I had long been having for Jeff reached a heightened level. I somehow “knew” I didn’t love him and told him so.

Jeff was flabbergasted and caught completely off guard. What could have gone so terribly wrong overnight? In truth, I was completely deceived and I could not see it. When Jeff asked if there was someone else, I denied it. The truth is that I’d allowed my heart to be stolen.

Looking back, there were definite warning signs that appeared long before the actual affair: My thoughts began to derail; I failed to take negative thoughts captive, constructively deal with them, and face the issues in our marriage. Honestly, the emotional and physical disconnect was subtle and went unnoticed until I found myself in the arms of another person.

Once the temptation of an affair presented itself, I began focusing on how to get out of my marriage. I chose to stop working on my relationship and, instead, focused on this new and exciting relationship.

From my experience, God gives us every opportunity to walk away from the temptation, but many of us choose to walk toward it instead. God also offers us guidance and direction when we are tempted to have an affair. In fact, He tells us multiple times that it’s wrong.


God gives us every opportunity to walk away from the temptation, but many of us choose to walk toward it instead.


We must not ignore this fact, rationalizing why we deserve to have an affair or why we think it is right. Bottom line: We do not deserve it, and it is wrong. Period.

Please listen to me: There is a way to fight back against the temptation to have an affair. Two important things are necessary. First, read what God says about it in the bible. Ask God to show you the truth and what is right in His eyes. Second, share your struggles with a trustworthy friend, pastor or counselor. When a secret is brought into the light, the excitement of it lessens.

I regret not having told someone. It may have saved my marriage.

Jeff & Cheryl Scruggs are the founders of hopeformarriages.com, a 501c3 non-profit Christian non-denominational organization.Their writings include the well-known book “I Do Again,”  their 30 year story of marriage, betrayal, infidelity, divorce, emotional damage and scarring, forgiveness, restoration, trust, and re-marriage.


For another story on divorce and restoration, watch Lynsi Snyder’s new White Chair Film:

Watch Jeff and Cheryl’s White Chair Film:

(Photo source: Mihai Surd via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Mihai Surd via Unsplash.com)

I think I could believe in an alternate universe theory. The one that says there are an infinite number of other realities.

Because if that’s the case, maybe there’s one where I live in South Carolina.

If there’s a universe where Karis Rogerson lives in South Carolina, I like to imagine that she’s a very happy person. She rents out a small house downtown and spends weekends writing on the porch in balmy weather. She regularly makes deer burgers or goes to the driving range or gets coffee with her cousins, meets her grandparents and aunt and uncle for lunch, and keeps up with her childhood friends.

In this universe where Karis lives in the South, she can be a journalist, working for the local paper covering downtown events, being a watchdog for state and city government, and sharing uplifting stories of South Carolinians doing good.

Maybe she even has a boyfriend or a husband, a dog and a cat, a yard, a back porch, a grill. She has potted plants in her living room and when the temperature finally drops below 50, they light a fire in the fireplace and cozy up to it, watching NCIS or Castle.

She still sees a therapist and takes medication to cope with her depression, but she has fewer episodes, less loneliness.

She is happy, content, in a simple, uncomplicated way. She rails against rush hour traffic on I-26 and hates going to the local Wal-Mart after work. She is stressed about work and the struggle of making a relationship work and sometimes she feels constricted by life in the suburbs. She fights with friends and interview subjects, and money can be tight sometimes.

But she is happy.

I like to think there’s a universe where that Karis exists.

Because in this universe, I have to turn my back on that southern life and go back to the one I live in New York City.

I say “have to,” but it’s not something I’m mad about, not really. I love my life in New York. I pay an astronomical amount of money every month to share a bedroom in Brooklyn where I don’t have a back porch, and my family is hundreds of miles away, along with my childhood friends.

In New York, the job of the journalist is too demanding, too stressful, and too enemy-creating for me. I can’t do it.

I have a lot of depressive episodes and I feel lonely often, and though I am happy, I spend so much time striving that I can’t, in good conscience, describe myself as “content.” My life is complicated, my emotions a constant tangle. I am torn between my need for a relatively low-stress job and my intense push to succeed as a writer, by any means possible.

But.


But there are so many things that I love about it.


But there are so many things that I love about it. I love that I don’t need a car; that I can either take a subway or walk to get anywhere within the city. I love that when I’m having a bad day, all it takes is a 30-minute stroll through Central Park or midtown and I’m happier, my mood rises thanks to the sights and crowds. I love that urban beauty surrounds me no matter which way I turn.

I love it with a passion. I love my job, where I have responsibility, but the stress is so unrelated to academics or literature that it’s hardly a problem, and where there are countless people to interact with daily. I love my friends, and I love my church.

More than that: I am called to New York. I feel the call in the tug on my heart at the thought of my city, in the conviction I have about needing to be there, in the supernatural love I have for everything about it — from people to places to its history.


I am called to New York. I feel the call in the tug on my heart at the thought of my city.


I believe in all honesty that God has set New York City as a temporary or permanent destination on my path. I don’t know the details — whether it’s because of what I can give the city or what the city can give to me, whether it’s for my career or my own well-being, or whether it’s for now or forever — but I know it’s where I’m meant to be today.

There are no doubts in my mind about this.

My parents bought me a ticket back to Columbia, South Carolina for Christmas. I didn’t want to go. I was afraid, because this was a city I idolized for much of my childhood, and it unfortunately disappointed me deeply as an adult. But I went.

And what I feared was true: I realized I could be happy there.

But, at the same time, I also realized it’s not where I’m meant to be. I hope I’ll be back soon to visit.

It turns out, we can desire multiple, seemingly opposing things. And just because I want two things that are wildly different does not diminish either desire.

But here’s the other thing — I have to put this weird, new desire behind me, because it’s not the reality I’ve been given. And yeah, I could spend all my time pining for that life. But that would take so much away from the life I have been given, a life I adore, a life I’m immeasurably grateful for.


That would take so much away from the life I have been given, a life I adore, a life I’m immeasurably grateful for.


Life can suck because we only get to live one reality, but it’s amazing because we can choose to live that one as fully and richly as possible. And if we don’t, we miss out on every thing of beauty that God puts in our lives — and he puts a lot of beauty in our lives, guys. He just lets it overflow and consume us. It’s incredible.

I’ve been given one reality for each day; I’m gonna do my best to enjoy it and be as present in it as possible, rather than bemoan the lives I don’t get to live.

Karis is a grad student at NYU in New York City. Her writing has appeared online with Seventeen as well as Good Housekeeping. She blogs at karisrogerson.com. To stay informed about all her writing, sign up here.