Getting Muddy

San Francisco 2013 024

I think courage comes in a multitude of ways. We often hear it associated with war or soldiering, firefighting, policing, or something of the sort. And though I’ve never been engaged in any of those activities, I am sure they require one to forgo one’s innate fear which kicks in the innate flight response… but lately, I’ve been thinking about a different kind of courage.

The kind which allows you to wait in a relationship while you are working things out, the kind which allows you to hold a friends hand during a scary health situation, the kind which allows you to continue to inspire even when you do not feel inspiration, the kind which allows you to admit you are weak or tired or both, the kind which allows you to go into the mire and muck with people and get muddy.

There are so many fears in this world, that it is natural for us to want to survive and take care of ourselves first. But when we enter into the mud with another person, we are saying essentially, “screw what may or may not happen, screw the violence around this place, screw the fear that I have of not getting far enough in society, screw the fear I have of being drug down by someone else’s problems, screw the to-do list I should have had completed two seconds ago… I believe that you matter right now, and I am here for you. I am breathing life into a situation which you can’t see the life in because I believe, at the end of this crappy day, love conquers all.”

It is not being afraid of getting muddy, of getting soaked, of letting the mascara run. Today, this is courage to me. May we have the courage to get filthy.

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Who you gonna be, if you can’t be yourself?

I am writing as I am coming out of a very tiring season of life… one that I have undoubtedly grown in, yet one that has drained me of my usual inspiration and emotional stability. My defenses are down because I don’t have any energy to nurse them. My perfectionism is loving my present state and is seeping in like oil from a marine rig spill. It seeps it and it is thick, impeding my soul from inspiration and joviality.

So perfectionism becomes my norm and not an exception. I am not strong enough to resist societal and personal pressures of perfection from my surroundings. Why am I writing this? Because I think you probably, deep down, can identify. We live in a world of scarcity, which greets us in the morning, telling us we didn’t sleep enough last night, then accompanies us through the day. Not enough. We don’t have enough money. We aren’t put together enough today. We aren’t fitting the cultural gender norms enough (for females: nice, thin, & modest; for males: emotional control, primacy of work, violence, and pursuit of status) . We aren’t thin enough. We aren’t smart enough. We aren’t working hard enough. This line of thinking quickly turns into… ok, well, I should do this more, I should work out more, I should be working at a better paying job because most of my peers my age have surpassed my station, I should be a “better Christian”, I should run to the store because this shirt is so 10 years ago, I should be more interested in this popular hobby, I should have made first team, I should appear to be more invincible, I should act like I care who Justin Beiber is dating, I should be having children right now, I should be prettier so I won’t get bullied, I should be shorter, I should be taller, I should be married by now, I should have the latest iPhone to keep up with the times, I should, I should, I should.

Where am I getting these ideas? Oh my friend… from many, many conversations carefully dancing around the topic of scarcity, without every calling it out for what it is. I’m not going to be silent or sugar coat today. I don’t have the energy to do either. Just enough energy to write my truth.

These “shoulds” take over and honestly, we listen to them, we conform, and we become a shell of who we really are deep down… we become a shadow of who we want to be. And let’s not fool ourselves… the shell looks ok on the outside, but hideous in the inside. It sucks our energy out of us to be someone or something we are not.

Who are you going to be if you can’t be yourself?

Dr. Brene Brown, a vulnerability and shame researcher writes in her latest book, Daring Greatly: “We can’t give people what we don’t have. Who we are matters immeasurably more than what we know or who we want to be.”

I frankly don’t have the energy to compare myself to someone else any longer. I am my best when I love who I am. I am able to help and love and change things when I am at my best. I will not become a shadow. This is me. Accept me or move along.

As I pen this post, I am reminded of some chillingly appropriate lyrics from: “Pick Yer Nose,” by Ani Difranco, a folk music lyrical genius.

How come I can pick my ears
But not my nose
Who made up that rule anyway
How can you say that’s the way it is
That’s just the way it goes
Why don’t you decide for yourself
What you can do
And what you can say

I think shy is boring
I think depressed is too
I think pretty is nice
But I’d rather see something new
All these plastic people
Got their plastic surgery
But we got a big big beautiful
We got it for free
Who you gonna be
If you can’t be yourself
You can’t get it from t.v.
You can’t force it on
Anybody else

‘Cause I’m not going to pretend
That I don’t pick my nose
That’s just the way it is, my friends
That’s just the way it goes
This is who I am
What I do
And what I say
If you like it, let it be
If you don’t, please do the same

I fight with love
I laugh with rage
You gotta live light enough to see the humor
And long enough to see some change

So today, I will celebrate myself for who I am. I will honor all of the parts of me. My gifts, my talents, my body, my smile, my knowledge repertoire, my spirit, my spirituality, my laugh, my passions.

I freely admit I am imperfect, I don’t know everything there is to know about biology, I do not have a huge bank account, I may not have the wittiest response, I do not have the strongest arms or fastest mile run, and I will probably screw up something in the next hour if given the opportunity.

But I can promise you that I will be kind to you, that I will hug you, and I will respect you for who you are. I can promise you I will fight for equality with my hands and my faith. I can promise you when I say I will pray for you that I will. I can promise you that when you speak to me, I will be present and attentive. I can promise you that I will give you dignity. This is me; I am Kate.

So see me. See right through me. And let me be.

I always welcome comments. Even on personal posts like this. Tell me your story… tell me how you pick your nose.

Fully Alive

“The glory of God is a human being fully alive”
― Saint Irenaeus

In a culture where we are all trying to figure this life out… trying to figure out how to live presently, to feel everything we need to feel in this moment, what does St. Irenaeus mean in saying “be fully alive?” Is it reaching a goal? Is it being completely present, in mind, body, and spirit, with the moment you are in? Does it mean that you are doing and living things that fully resonate with you? Does it mean that you are finding beauty even when your circumstances say there is none to be found? Does it mean you are living a life of consciousness and subsequently, activism? Or does it mean a little something different to everyone?

I wonder if God is most glorified when God’s creation is living passionately, with purpose and meaning. Navigating this world of pain, loss, scarcity, and betrayal, it seems like living fully alive is a miracle. Surviving is a miracle. Love is a miracle.

It takes courage to live fully alive. It takes vulnerability to show up. It takes gumption to go into a profession because you love it, not because it brings in sizable paychecks. To live simply when those surrounding you aren’t. To get off of your phone and give someone your full attention. To go down a path that no one else understands, but you know it is the path which resonates with you. It’s the way your intuition is guiding.

How do you care about your brother and sister when it’s all you can do to look out for yourself and your family? When it’s all you can do to survive?

Maybe fully alive means this. That when certainty is evasive and you aren’t promised that you’ll be taken care of… you aren’t promised your health… you aren’t promised your finances… you show up anyway. You show up and you bring a glass of water to your neighbor. You keep painting, keep writing, keep studying, keep singing. You go into ministry even when the church is declining. You say “I love you” first even when you don’t know if the one you are in love with will say it in return. You advocate for equality even though you know people see your actions as heretical. You call your kid who has broken your heart, just to tell her how much you love her. You choose to believe you can do the thing others have said you can’t.

In the ambiguous fear, in the uncertainty, and most of all, in the skepticism,

You show up.

And you breathe the breath of being fully alive. Glory be to God.

Tell me a story of how you showed up.

Something Unpredictable

Inevitably life comes in seasons. Much like the four seasons that greet us at the door each year, we journey through a sectioned life. Seasons in our lives change. Change perpetuates more change. It’s not all bad… because we need that change to grow. People enter and leave our lives for seasons. And sometimes that’s ok… and sometimes it hurts terribly.

So how do you endure… how do you persist?

First, knowing who you are is key. You have to understand your passions, your personality, your body and then sanction all of the above. Learning to be kind to yourself is a necessity. You have to know that when you are on your knees praying, your voice matters. You matter.

Next, it helps to understand the following helpful (rather painful) lesson. Some people who you have given your heart to and love deeply just can’t give that back to you. Maybe it’s because they don’t have it to give. Maybe they still don’t know who they are. Maybe they are just stretched too thin. Maybe they are fighting a bigger battle than you can compete with. Or maybe you just aren’t their person (Grey’s Anatomy reference). Here’s the thing: you can’t force that relationship… as much as you want it to happen, you have to let them go. As painful as it is, you have to release them.

You have to let them go so they can be. Let them be. And be kind to yourself, knowing you’ve just created more room for the right person for you. Or just room for you to breathe again and keep growing.

Often when you let something go, something that matters greatly, you get it back again. Maybe it’s time to let someone go.

And last, you focus on those people in your life who do not change with the seasons. The ones who will hold you in bed when you are exhausted and the ones who will sit down at the kitchen table after their busy day to hear about yours. The ones who let you double dip. The ones who plop down next to you while you cry or confess your deepest insecurities. The ones who you can call 24/7. The ones who look into your eyes, and without speaking, tell you they’ll love you forever.

The ones who would be crushed if you weren’t in their lives tomorrow.

So thank those people in your life today because it takes a lot of bravery to love you like that.

For an INFP like me, this lesson may be one of the hardest I ever have to learn. But the learning of it, is also the path to freedom and hopefully, on the other side of the cloud, the sun’s just waiting to shine.

Have you had to let people go? How do you show those who love you that you appreciate them?

Lessons from the Playground

How often do we learn the most from the least likely to teach us?

This week I had the joy of being able to take my little 6 year old friend out for a girls day. She is, by far, one of the coolest people I know. Having had a fun day of shopping and eating, we decided to make our way to the local playground. Now this isn’t just any playground, it’s a super-charged playground with several yards of various colorful apparatuses to conquer.

As she began to climb the castle, she stopped in her tracks when coming to a roped feature that connected the two towers. The flooring had ended and the roped webbing became the route in which she had to tread to continue her conquest of the castle. She decided that this feature was too scary and not worth the fear it created. She gave up and turned around. She did this several times at various spots on the playground. I could see she was missing out on a lot of fun, but all she could see is that this was a giant obstacle that was too scary.

Eventually, we came to a rather frightening spiral ladder… the ladder was tilted, making it a slightly more difficult ladder to climb than your average ladder. Because of her short stature, she couldn’t see what was beyond the ladder, but I could. And I knew that she’d want to partake in what fun awaited her at the top. To my amazement, she left the ground and began the ascent. She made it about 3 seconds before telling me this was too scary and asking me to help her down.

Now if I thought she couldn’t make it, by all means, I would’ve given in and lifted her down. But I knew she could do this thing that scared her.

At this moment, I wanted to tell her so many things. I wanted to tell her that life was messy and hard and, at many times, scary. I wanted to tell her that fear would be a frequent visitor and would tempt her into taking the easy, safe way out. I wanted to tell her that giving into fear is not the way to life… it’s not the way to joy– or intimacy– or vulnerability.

I wanted to tell her about the evil that has come from people motivated by fear. The racism, the discrimination, the hate. I wanted to tell her the mistakes people make because of fear. I wanted to tell her about the amazing things people miss out on because they give up out of fear.

I wanted to tell her all of these things. I even wanted to lift her off the ladder so she wouldn’t have an unpleasant experience. But I didn’t.

Because here’s a secret I’ve been learning… a pleasant life is not always a rich life.
The safeness and steadiness quickly wear off and give way to superficiality and boredom.

Instead, I stood behind her… close to her… and I told her that I just knew she could do it. I told her that I wouldn’t let anything happen to her. I told her that we’d work through this together.

After a moment, she decided that she could take just one more step, which turned into another and another. I let her inch along. Finally, she made it to the top. She was ecstatic. She was empowered. “Oh Kate, I am Merida from Brave“, she yelled. “Yes, you are… you always were,” I replied.

Having completed this feat, she began attempting other playground equipment that scared her. And before long, she had free reign of the playground. As the sun set, I could see joy radiating from her.

And once again I realized, life lessons are often learned from the least likely to teach us.