Come Together: On Celebration & Mourning

There is a lot happening right now, lots of emotions swirling around.

Some people are anxious and terrified of coronavirus. Some people are angry and infuriated by systemic racism in our country. Some people are sad, some people are mad, some people are feeling both, some people are feeling neither.

Responding to both the pandemic and heightened racism is a lot for me to process.

I feel anxious and overwhelmed regarding the pandemic. I feel a righteous anger and undeniably upset about white supremacy.

I believe there is a divine mingling between joy and sorrow.

Growing up, I used to think I had to be happy all of the time. I used to think sadness, anger, anxiety, etc. were bad emotions. But through plenty of therapy and many life lessons, I have come to appreciate my feelings–all of them and for all reasons and seasons.

Maybe it is because of my mood disorder, or maybe it’s just because I am a human, but sometimes in the sweetest of moments I cannot neglect a feeling of sadness and melancholy, too.

For example, leaving my adult job and starting a position at the climbing gym was perhaps the most bold and bittersweet decision I have made to date. I was excited to try something new, to pursue a passion, to leave a toxic situation. But at the same time, I was sad to leave familiarity, to close a chapter, to end an era.

These days, I think there almost has to be some bitterness simultaneously mixed in with sweetness. We cannot fully appreciate the highest of highs without experiencing the lowest of lows. We cannot feel pure delight without knowing utter sorrow.

Will you celebrate and mourn with me?

Advent is a season of hope and expectation: hoping and expecting a Savior to be born, hoping and expecting a King. But it is also a time of longing and craving: longing and craving our Savior to return; longing and craving peace on earth as it is in heaven.

The holiday season can be a time of joy and celebration, but also a time we miss a loved one’s face at the dinner table or around the Christmas tree.

I hope you feel delight in this season, I hope you feel peace and excitement. But if you do not, or if you do not entirely, I hope you know it’s ok to feel sadness, too. It’s ok to feel anxious and to struggle.

Let’s come together. Let’s build each other up, not break each other down. Let’s mend our hearts, heal our pains, and celebrate and mourn together.

The Monthly Update: July

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July highlights:

  • Fourth of July was a blast! I spent the entire day at my sweet friend Emily’s lakehouse with her husband and family. It was wonderful spending time in the sunshine with people who are practically a second family to me.
  • I went climbing in Austin at Reimer’s Ranch in the middle of the month. There was lots of sweat, but also lots of fun memories made. I led my first route (a special type of climbing) and I made new friends. The best of times!

July lowlights:

  • Thankfully, I do not have a true lowlight from the month. However, saying goodbye to my tiny apartment on Friday was the most bittersweet moment. I will miss living alone, nestling up in my place, and being close to my favorite Dallas neighborhoods. But I also am looking forward to growing as I live at home with my family again.

This month, I was filled by:

  • On July 25th, I had the privilege of seeing one of my oldest friends, Bryanna, get married to the love of her life. It was such an encouragement to be apart of such a special, joy-filled day. It reminded me that even though times are tough now, especially with coronavirus, there is still plenty to be thankful for and celebrate.

This month, I was emptied by:

  • Just like everyone else, I am very ready for this pandemic to be over. It is a struggle wearing a mask everywhere and adjusting to this new normal, but I am extra thankful for my health and my family’s health.

In August, I am looking forward to:

  • I officially begin law school on the 24th! It is absolutely wild to see this four-year-long dream come to fruition, I am utterly blown away.
  • My birthday is the last day of the month! Year 26 will include a lot of change, especially with starting school and moving back in with my parents. But I am excited and ready to see what else will unfold in this new year of life!

The Monthly Update: May

It is hard to believe it’s June!

Though some days seem long, the month flew by for me, and so has 2020 in general. Let’s go ahead and hop into this month’s update.

May highlights:

  • Celebrating Mother’s Day with my family was great. I got to see my cutie-pie nephews, and sitting around the kitchen table and eating lunch with the people I love was just nice.
  • Summit, the climbing gym I work at, re-opened this month! It has been so nice reuniting with the climbing community. And I was promoted to Assistant Manager. Nervous-excited about this new opportunity.

May lowlights:

  • Now that the gym is open and I have returned to work, my pup Jack and I are trying to get used to being apart. He definitely feels some separation anxiety, but we are working through it.

This month, I was filled by:

  • Now that things are starting to open up, I have been meeting friends for park dates. They’re exactly what they sound like, usually with Jack in tow, we hang out with a friend at a park, just catching up and enjoying each other’s company.
  • My home group has been meeting virtually since social distancing started. It has been encouraging to have that solid community during such odd times.

This month, I was emptied by:

  • The news of George Floyd has been devastating and heart-wrenching for me. I opened up a bit on my Instagram about scripture that encourages me during this time, and where I am starting as I seek to support my black friends and community.

In June, I am looking forward to:

  • My nephew turns two this month! It is hard to believe Mason has been with us for two years. He is a whirlwind of joy and giggles and mischief. I am excited to celebrate him.

The Monthly Update: April

Well friends, another month has come and gone.

It is hard to believe May is upon us! Quarantine days seem to blend together, making the weeks feel slow and foggy. The entire month of social distancing was long and hard, but also good for me–or at least I’d like to think so.

Let’s hop into this month’s recap!

April highlights:

  • I started fostering a dog, Jack, and he is the cutest little thing. Being a dog mama has brought me so much joy. And the daily snuggles and walks are giving me life!
  • As of just a few days ago, I have officially heard back from all of the law schools I applied to. Now it’s time to make some decisions!

April lowlights:

  • Unfortunately I didn’t get answers that I’d like from all of the schools I applied to, but I am just trying to be thankful for what I have and the yeses I did receive.

This month, I was filled by:

  • Video calling my friends and family has kept me sane and filled my heart. Even though I can’t see them in person, it is nice to connect with them virtually.
  • Similarly, I was able to have a video call with my therapist, Chelsey. The conversation was helpful as we tried to process law school and future decisions.

This month, I was emptied by:

  • Living in quarantine has been hard for me, as I am sure it has been for all of us. Even though I’d like to think my mental and physical health is going well, this experience has still been heavy on my heart.

In May, I am looking forward to:

  • Life going back to some sense of normalcy. I feel encouraged as businesses and restaurants start to open up again, although a bit anxious as well. I am hoping the gym will open up soon, as I miss climbing and my workout buddies!

Lessons From Home: On What Social-Distancing Has Taught Me

I’ve learned a lot lately.

A lot about the world, a lot about my friends, a lot about Jesus, a lot about myself. If you’re like me–which I hope you are–you have been at home and having lots and lots more time to yourself, which also means lots and lots of more time to learn.

Let me share a few things I have learned:

  1. We take a lot of things for granted: like going to the gym or movies or out-to-eat, like going on a vacation to a far-away place, or even simply taking a bus to a neighborhood down the road.
  2. Saying “I love you” goes a long way: maybe it is because words of affirmation is one of my love languages, or maybe it is because I am mushy gushy, but I can feel my heart physically swell when my friends say, “I love you” at the end of a video call. I’m trying to say it more often, more audibly these days.
  3. We’re all in this together: even though we are not physically together, it has been encouraging to see so many emotionally supporting one another through social media, phone calls, video conferences, etc. Community is important, especially during these times.
  4. But also, take time for yourself: living alone in quarantine has obviously given me lots of opportunity to spend time by myself and practice self-care, but it is a good reminder nonetheless. In order to care for others fully, we must care for ourselves and fulfill our needs, too.
  5. Emotional safety is important, too. It is very important for us to take care of our bodies during this time, but it’s also good to check in with our thoughts and feelings. Holistic wellness is what I am always aiming for.

This is a very rare time for all of us.

This will (hopefully) never happen again in our lifetimes. Our new normal now is far different from the normal it was before this pandemic. But I want to see this phase as an opportunity for refinement, growth, renewal.

I want to utilize the time I have to myself to become a better version of me. I want to look at pre-pandemic me and see all of the ways I have developed into a more polished self during this quarantine.

Change and growth aren’t easy, and sometimes they certainly are not fun. But at times they can be necessary, rewarding, and good for the soul.

Be Kind To Yourself: On Practicing Self-Care In Quarantine

My world is upside-down at the moment.

And I bet yours is, too.

Due to the coronavirus situation, both of my jobs are on pause and I am holed up in my studio apartment alone. I have had some extra time on my hands, which has been nice but also strangely intimidating.

During this whole social distancing experience, I have made it a priority to be extra aware of my mental health and to practice self-care accordingly. Sometimes alone time can lead me to feeling isolated and down, so it is particularly important for me to check in with my thoughts and feelings, and to practice a little self-love.

Self-care for me during quarantine has looked like:

  • Sleeping in— something I rarely got to do during my regular routine, it has been nice sleeping into the morning and laying around in bed before I’m up and at ’em.
  • Going on walks— now that the sun is out, it has been so good for my soul to let Vitamin D sink into my skin and bones on walks around my neighborhood.
  • Calling Sweet Denise— mothers know best, right? Extra down time has meant extra time to talk to my sweet mama and check in with her, and let her check in with me.
  • Heck, calling everybody else— in the past couple weeks, I have caught up with old roommates, friends who have moved away, friends I rarely see even though we both live in Dallas, and it has been so life-giving to emotionally connect even during physical isolation.
  • Spending time alone with God— my quiet times pre-quarantine were looking few and far between, but social distancing has freed up more time and space and energy to reconnect with my Heavenly Father.
  • Working out— even though I can’t climb right now, I have been participating in live stream workouts like core, yoga, and bodyweight classes. It has been good to get my heart beating and blood pumping.

I asked my friends on Instagram what their self-care routine has looked like. Some of them are taking baths, reading books, napping, meditating, and doing yoga, among other things. It has been encouraging to see that others are trying to care for themselves during these strange times.

Here’s some guidance I have for you: think about your needs, write them down if it helps, and take steps to meet those needs.

Maybe you need verbal encouragement, then reach out to a loved one. Maybe you need rest, then carve out extra time to sleep in. Maybe you need physical activity, then find a workout online. Maybe you need spiritual uplifting, then reach out to your church friends.

At the end of the day, we are all living in unprecedented times that challenge us for varying reasons. At the end of the day, we are all just trying to get by. So my final encouragement for you is this:

Be kind to yourself, be kind to others. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay home.

 

The Monthly Update: March

March was a hard month for me.

And it probably was for you, too. My world has turned upside-down the past couple of weeks, as both of my jobs were put on pause, and a Shelter In Place order went into effect in Dallas.

But, as promised, I am delivering you your monthly update. I have plenty on my mind and heart lately, and I am looking forward to sharing with you in the days and weeks to come.

March highlights:

  • Right before my job at Summit was put on pause, I was promoted to Event Manager at our Dallas gym (my home gym). When we re-open, this will entail me fostering community at our gym through hosting events and competitions. I am so excited to reunite with the climbing community!
  • I got my second tattoo mid-March, a simple “joyful” in script with flowers. This little ink is a reminder the Fruit of the Spirit lives in and through me. Even on my down and depressed days, joy is in my soul and bones.

March lowlights:

  • The coronavirus crisis and social distancing is affecting everyone, including myself (obviously). It has been hard to stay home alone and physically distance myself from friends and family, but I am thankful to be safe in my apartment, for video calls, and for food delivery.

This month, I was filled by:

  • While everyone has been physically distant, I have seen so many people come together during this time: supporting one another, praying for others, sending each other love in the form of flowers, cards, and treats. There is so much encouragement and love swirling around, and it brings me utter joy!
  • I was able to have a video therapy session with Chelsey, my therapist of four years(!!). I had not seen her in a couple of months and the timing could not have been better. I loved catching up with her, listening to her wisdom and advice, and left with high spirits.

This month, I was emptied by:

  • The news of having both of my jobs put on hold was tough and discouraging. It made me feel sad and down and even minorly depressed for a couple of days.

In April, I am looking forward to:

  • Time to myself that I can use for creativity, writing, playing music, and more.
  • Continuing to connect with friends via video chats and phone calls, doing my best to spread the love near and far!

We Will Not Be Changed: On Constancy + Coronavirus

Four years ago, life was easy in Nashville.

I had just graduated with my PR degree and I was working at an adoption-focused nonprofit. As a young 20-something adoptee who always dreamt of leaving my home state of Texas, I was living the dream.

I was going to a job I loved, working with people I loved, living in a city I loved. Everything was new and thrilling and adventurous and I felt like I had the whole world in my hands.

But then my world was rocked.

I went a week hardly eating and barely sleeping. My thoughts became disjointed and irrational. My mood became unpredictable and unstable. And I wound up back in Texas with a bipolar disorder diagnosis.

And (almost) everything changed.

Life was easy last week.

I was going to two jobs I loved–nannying and working at my climbing gym–with people I love, in a city I have grown to love: Dallas. As a mid-20-something with a heart for climbing and community, I was living the dream.

But this week rocked my world.

The coronavirus has taken over quite literally the entire earth: invading bodies, terrorizing economies, parting seas of people. It has violently taken over our thoughts and feelings and actions. It has threatened our lives and well-being.

It’s changed (almost) everything.

Bipolar changed my life, but it didn’t change me.

It changed the way I approach my feelings and emotions, it changed the way I process my thoughts, it changed the way I care for others. But I have always felt things, thought things, and cared for others. And that will never change.

It changed the way I understand mental health, it changed the way I practice self-care, it changed the way I see others’ hurt. But mental health has always been important to me, I have always tried to look out for myself, and sympathy has always been a part of me. Those things will never change.

This virus may change our lives, but it won’t change us.

A lot of us are physically keeping to ourselves these days, but we are still making (virtual) connections. We are still loving others as best as we can. A lot of us are feeling fear, but fear is just an emotion that we will always feel in moments throughout our lives.

Our lives are looking a lot different this days than they have in weeks past. We are holed up in our houses and apartments. We are establishing space between us and others. We are cancelling trips, homeschooling children, streaming church services.

But our identities, our beings, our inherent selves will not change.

I do not know if that encourages you or disappoints you or instills fear in you. I do not know what you are feeling or thinking or doing right now. But there is no concrete, definite right way to feel or think right now.

We are all just trying to do the best we can do. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. And remember, we will not change.