I believe that one of the hallmarks of a life well-lived is vulnerability. If you don’t believe me, then maybe you’ll believe Brene Brown. She has a Ph.D. and a heck of a lot more life experience than I. Plus, everyone at TED and on YouTube loves her, so she’s got to be saying something right.
Understanding the importance of vulnerability, I’m penning down these thoughts fresh off a conversation last night with a friend in which some broken areas of my heart were revealed. Please note at the outset of this post, unlike most of my other writing, this post has not been censored by any of my loving girlfriends who all keep me from saying things publically that could reveal how crazy I actually am. (See… Had this been edited, they probably wouldn’t have let me talk about being crazy).
But really… if you’ll allow me… I’d love to share what this mid-twenties, overcoming-perfectionistic-tendencies, single, white female learned about herself last night:
I hate being verbally affirmed.
And I don’t know how to get over that.
Let’s back this story up to a few days ago… I was at lunch with two very sincere girlfriends last week when one of them, with no ulterior motives or guile, began complementing me on a couple of physical features of mine. Lest you think this is weird, it’s totally normal for girls to show appreciation (or comparison in some cases) by pointing out aspects of another girl to her directly or to others around. Men often simply observe, but girls will usually verbalize.
As her specific compliments mounted in number, I began to squirm in my chair and then thanked her before nicely, yet awkwardly asking her to stop talking about me because I was feeling the strong urge to run in a corner and hide.
And that wasn’t the first time I’ve felt uncomfortable like that. For years, I’ve felt like I was getting internal hives as strangers, friends or family would compliment me on a job well done, a dance performance well executed or a physical or personality characteristic that they deemed charming.
Shoot me. Someone. Please.
A few years ago, I just decided that the best thing to do when verbal affirmation was offered to me (because we all need to give and receive it) is to just suck it up, smile and graciously reply “thank you.” Even though internally, I would be screaming for them to shut up about whatever they were saying about me so we could talk about the weather, their children or even sports; something… anything other than having their verbal attention on me.
If you know me at all, then you know that I am not shy whatsoever. So I knew my aversion to verbal affirmation didn’t come from being a wallflower or not desiring attention (I’ve hogged the stage since I was three for heaven’s sake!). Though I felt uncomfortable whenever there was verbal affirmation toward me, I never probed any deeper as I assumed it was just a normal side effect to humility (not necessarily a trait I think I have a lot of naturally).
But over the last couple of months I began to feel like God was probing my words of affirmation sore spot. As my friend complimented me at lunch the other day, I finally realized that I really needed to get to the bottom of why I really just wanted everyone to shut up if they were going to affirm me.
I had recognized over the last month or so that a small part of my aversion to verbal affirmation is that I watched churches and organizations I’ve been a part of that used flattery as a manipulation technique and many people had mixed motives. As a result of learning from their (unhealthy) communication styles and desiring to be a woman who you can take at her word and at face value, I’ve prayed and worked to be one who doesn’t mince words and also trusts people at their word without mistrusting their motivation for giving compliments.
But I knew that it went deeper than just seeing words of affirmation used as manipulation… I knew there was more. And then last night, I figured it out…
Fundamentally, I haven’t felt deserving of your compliment.
I began to look back… if you were complimenting me on a performance, I probably didn’t feel like I had performed well enough so ‘thanks for the compliment, but I could have been better’ is really what was running through my head as I smiled and said “thank you.”
If you were complimenting me on my looks (whatever that means) or my personality (which is winning if I do say so… there’s that humility showing again!) than I feel undeserving because I DIDN’T EARN THOSE… I didn’t even choose them. They’re all gifts from God, genetics and the environment I grew up in so who am I to take any credit?
Please hear my heart that do I NOT, in any way, think that I’m all that and a bag of chips. I don’t. This post is not meant to be The Elizabeth Show. Frankly, Amanda Bynes did that with The Amanda Show and we all know how well that turned out for her. No, I don’t think I’m all that; nor do I think I’m a doormat. I’ve got a pretty healthy dose of confidence (thanks to the grace of God and supportive growth environments), but my point here is to simply be real. I don’t have it all together. Far from it. I’m a mess: my family knows it, my close friends know it and God sure as hell knows it. Some days I’m better than others. Most days I underperform and I’m learning to live with it.
I’m just being real here and letting you know what I’m working through.
So if I cringe if/when you say something nice… It’s not you, it’s me and I’m working on it.
All my love… for everyone,
P.S. If you made it this far, thanks for putting up with vulnerable, uncensored-by-my-besties Liz. You’re a dear. xo
I thought I was pretty good at relating to people. I’ve always had lots of friends (not bragging… I was just born a social butterfly) and I really try to make a concerted effort to connect with people’s hearts as well as the fun, light, social stuff.
In the midst of building friendships and relationships, I began to learn that I was horrible with boundaries. I’ve always been a strong personality, yet at the same time, I have no problem accommodating others (with me, it’s not often “my way or the highway”). I’m definitely not a doormat, but I had no idea until about two years ago, how much of my life I was inadvertently allowing others to dictate because of my poor boundaries.
A couple of summers ago, a girlfriend called me up and told me she had sent me a link to an two-part audio series by her pastor, Alyn Jones in Nashville. He talked about boundaries and she said it had changed her life. I reluctantly agreed to listen, but really felt I had no need for a “boundaries” talk since I wasn’t dating anyone at the time.
Little did I know…
I listened to that two-part teaching and have listened countless times since and even coerced friends to listen (I may or may not have played it on long road trips when they couldn’t escape the car. ). I’m not exaggerating when I say that it is one of only two messages that have been personally life altering.
I cannot tell you in strong enough language how you NEED to listen to this podcast (below). It WILL change your life. Every one of my close friends has heard it and our relationships have all dramatically improved as a result. I will ask the man I marry to please listen to it one day. I will teach my children the principles. I will shout it from the rooftops because it has SO impacted me.
I encourage you to listen to the podcasts which I’ve embedded below, but let me sum up what I learned through both the podcast and some life lessons in the last two years about retracing boundaries:
- There are four ways that people try to get their needs met:
I think it goes without saying that none of these will ultimately satisfy our deepest desires.
- Fundamentally, your value is NOT in what others think/feel about you. – It is based on the deep, trusting, heart-knowledge that you are loved by God. You were made to receive and give love and that is enough.
- You are valued regardless of how well you perform. – Seriously, you are.
- “No” is a complete sentence. – You do not owe others excuses or explanations for why you choose to do or not do something. You may offer them an explanation if you choose, but it is out of love that you offer it, not obligation. People with healthy boundaries won’t manipulate or guilt you for your “no.” I love how Alyn says it, “until you are free to say ‘no,’ you’re not free to say ‘yes.’” On the flip side, if people aren’t free to say “no” to you, then they’re not truly free to say “yes.”
- The Hula-Hoop Rule. – Understanding I am not responsible for other people’s stuff.
Imagine there is an invisible hula-hoop around you. In your hoop are your feelings, your actions, your hopes/fears, your reactions… anything that has “your” in front of it. Inside Jane’s hula-hoop are her emotions, her actions, her reactions… etc. I am not responsible for anything in Jane’s hula-hoop. Those are hers to deal with. If she chooses to invite me in, I can consult or guide and vice versa, but an invitation must be offered or it is a violation of boundaries.
Understanding the hula-hoop rule has helped my friends and I SO VERY MUCH. We are much less affected by or feel the need to “fix” others problems and will kindly remind each other “that is not in your hula-hoop” when one or another of us is trying to take on someone else’s hurt feeling, worry, problem, etc.
- Not everyone has the same access. – Sorry, I love everyone, but there are only a handful of girlfriends and members of my family (and one day, my husband) who have full access to call out junk in my life. That’s for two reasons: 1. I have given them that access… verbally and by investing my time into them. 2. They have given me their time and they encourage me even more than they challenge/critique me.
- I’m not your Savior, so don’t expect me to fix your problems. – I swear that every member of my family has 1-800-TellMeAllYourStuff tattooed invisibly on our foreheads. EVERYWHERE we go, people offer up their issues. We don’t mind it; we love people, but it has become imperative over the years that we understand boundaries. Including understanding that it is NOT up to me to fix all of your problems. (It goes back to the hula-hoop rule). Jesus is the only Savior I know and he does a better job than I ever could. Also, it’s your life… I’ve got my own issues to fix. I love ya. I may or may not share some wisdom, but I’m not gonna save you.
I have been involved in ministries and businesses where there was enormous pressure to say “yes” to everything and a strong emphasis on performance. Perfection was masked as “excellence” and if you dared take time for family or yourself, it was as though you were living in sin. (More on perfectionism in an upcoming post.) Understanding these (and other) principles of boundaries have changed my life. I no longer feel the pressure to perform. I am not offended if you tell me “no” to an invitation I extend and I feel no twinges of worry if I have offended you with my “no.”
Retracing my boundaries in relationships has enabled me to have an unspoken agreement in all my close friendships and with my family (with whom it can be the hardest for me to have boundaries). But now, publically online, I’m speaking forth my agreement.
Now, better understanding boundaries, here is my heart toward all those I have in my life (from strangers to family): lovingly and respectfully, I don’t need you… if I’m inviting you into my life, it’s because I want you in it. And I do want you. But I want you to know that I’m not here to perform or to please you.
I will do my upmost to invest in you, pray for you and point you to toward Jesus. I’ll join with you in having fun, adventuring and laughing at life on both the days of beauty and those of heartache. I’ll sing spontaneously, dance like a crazy person and care for your sick babies. I’ll ask for your advice and constructive criticism and I’ll welcome your love and encouragement.
I’ll do what I can to always be a shoulder for you to cry on and a friend to lean on, but with all of my heart, I’ll encourage you to pursue Jesus to find your wholeness and pray that you’ll do the same for me.
I’ll do my best to let my yes be yes and my no be no. I’ll strive to uplift you with my words and in my heart. I’ll respect you by respecting your boundaries, and I ask you to do the same.
Welcome to my life, my friend. May we together, always grow into a greater knowledge of love and may that outward expression change the landscape of our world for eternity.
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” –John Lennon, Beautiful Boy
I am the queen of announcing life plans to the world and then having them change.
Like when I was in junior high and I was asked to speak to the church congregation about God-knows-what. I publicly declared to multiple thousands of people that I was going to become an OB/GYN to Central and South American countries.
That was thrown out a couple of years later when I realized it would be difficult to raise a family and be a doctor.
The summer before my last year of college (remember… I was getting a degree in journalism) when I swung the pendulum from considering going to law school to once again entertaining medical school or (this is the craziest of them all) getting an upper level degree in psychology, meanwhile getting a two-year nursing degree… because those are skills you can actually use.
Then there was that time (like last year) that I said I was moving to New York. Yeah, that’s not happening either… at least not in the foreseeable future.
Starting at age 13, I had not one, but two five-year plans mapped out. The last one expired when I turned 23 and I actually accomplished quite a few of the things I wrote down. There is power in goal making and planning.
But my compulsive need for a plan changed in the summer of 2011. I remember coming back from London that July and God speaking clearly to me to stop planning my life. I’ve gotta be honest… it scared the $#!+ out of me. I had NO idea how difficult having no plan would be for me. Nor did I realize that he wanted me without a plan for a year and a half. It wasn’t until the beginning of this year that I was able to get any direction for the future.
It required every part of me trusting him in and for everything: friendships; relationships; finances (I became a fulltime freelancer at the beginning of 2011, so income can be volatile); stupid stuff like health insurance and of course the general trajectory of my life. For the last two years, every week of my life has been unique. No two weeks are the same. And until January, I had no plan beyond the week ahead of me and photoshoots and weddings booked in advance.
Here are a few things I learned about planning over the last two years:
- Having a plan is not in and of itself bad.
- You can plan your way, but understand that ultimately God will direct your life if you choose to partner with Him. As cliché as it sounds, His plans are ALWAYS better than ours.
- God won’t trick you into doing something you don’t want to. If Africa isn’t in your heart, you won’t go there. Don’t sweat it. He will send you to places that make your heart come alive.
- If you’re not willing to give up your plan/dream/desire/goals, you’re holding on too tight. Have an open hand so that you can give it up if needed, but also so that God can add or replace it with something else if he chooses.
- Do your part. If you’re supposed to go for something, do the due diligence to plan, prepare, follow through and make the call, fill out the paperwork, submit it before the deadline, etc.
- Relax and live in Nowhere. Now + Here = Nowhere… It’s the idea that life can only be experienced fully in the current moment. So live it to the fullest here instead of analyzing the past or obsessing over the future.
Last fall, I was doing well living for each day and I quite enjoyed not planning my life. I had already delayed grad school one year, but I felt it was time to start my application for my Masters at NYU before the December deadline. As far as I knew, NYU was the only university to offer the type of program I needed AND I was a shoo-in for a fellowship that would pay for my Masters.
About five minutes into applying, I realized that the funding for the fellowship, which was ultimately my ticket to NYU, had dried up. I made a call to my NYU advisor who I had met with the previous spring and she gave me a plethora of other options for funding, but I knew that none of them were going to give me enough to enable a $40,000 a year school and the cost of living.
So I had about 15 minutes of throwing a fit to God about the plan changing again and then began to research my options. What I’m going back to school for is super specific and I knew of no other school offering a program like NYU’s. However, God had something up His sleeve. Within a few minutes of finding out that NYU wasn’t an option, I had discovered a state university only 20 minutes from home had a rapidly expanding program that more than rivals the one I was going to at NYU. Bottom line (the “plan” as it currently stands): I will begin this fall at UTD getting a double masters into a Ph.D. in both Applied Cognition & Neuroscience and Arts & Technology. I’ve been accepted into the Neuroscience program and am still waiting on the official word from Arts & Technology (already received the verbal yes).
I am well aware that all of these “plans” could change and a year from now I could be blogging from India or something crazy. But I feel really clearly like going back to school is one part of this season of my life.
Despite my school plans, I’ve let go of my need for a five-year plan, I still live pretty week-to-week and I have definitely been surprised by a few things since the beginning of this year. I have learned that godliness paired with contentment really is the key to life. I’ll be totally excited whenever it’s time for me to get married (to God-only-knows who), but I’m not counting down the days; babies are wonderful, but I don’t want them tomorrow or the next day; I love my quality time with family and friends, but alone time is great too.
Contentment, I’ve learned, is the balance to all of my crazy plans.
“At some point, you gotta let go, and sit still, and allow contentment to come to you.” –Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love
Stuff I Like # 2
1. The Holstee Manifesto
I’m assuming you’ve probably seen this before. It’s apparently been viewed a bazillion times online. However, it still rocks my world. It’s hanging in my bathroom and it’s my desktop so I HAVE to see it at least a few times a day.
2. Man of Steel
This is what I feel like is happening: Marvel has taken the amazing babeness that is Clark Kent/Superman (and a bearded one at that!), thrown in a little magic of Christopher Nolan and then added a splash of a silver fox in Kevin Costner. This movie comes out four days before my birthday. Coincidence you might say? I think not. It’s gonna be a great summer. Bring on the heat!
I’m a frequent listener to Radiolab podcasts. I probably should contribute financially to them some day. But in the meantime, I’m an avid fan. But this episode rocked my world more than any other. In fact, it might be one of the best-produced pieces of hour-long audio I’ve heard to date.
The story is riveting. I don’t want to give anything away, but let me say that my heart was gripped the entire episode. It chronicles a journalist couple in Florida who struggle to get pregnant, eventually do, but then have to figure out what to do when their daughter is born 23 weeks 6 days premature.
I HIGHLY recommend you plug it in when you have an hour whilst cleaning the house or driving. It is moving and the statement they (inadvertently I believe) make about the sanctity of life and when it begins is powerful.
4. Texas Sheet Cake
One of my favorite things about electing to live at home for the time being is all of the piping hot deliciousness that emanates from our kitchen. Texas Sheet Cake is no exception.
One day, I plan to assemble a cookbook of the Erickson family’s favorite/original recipes, but until then, here is a link to our Texas Sheet Cake. Or you can come over anytime for some…
5. Asian Babies
I have one friend who has found my weak spot: if she knows I’m having a rough day, she will send me photographs of random Asian babies. You may think it’s creepy, but we’ve all got our quirks. Like my affection for Kevin Costner, there is no logical explanation for my love for Asian babies. East Asia, Southeast Asia, India… doesn’t matter, I think all Asian babies are beautiful. One day, maybe I’ll adopt one (provided my Man of Steel is on board). Until then, please friends, feel free to text me Asian babies ALL. DAY. LONG.
I remember it starting one particular Friday morning; junior year of college; an hour and a half before a math test.
Freaking out that my life was over.
Or at least my life with Statistics was over.
I was having a PANIC ATTACK. (I’m shouting it because that’s what your body is doing when you’re having one.)
Typical symptoms of a panic attack can include an assortment of: shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain or tightness, hot and/or cold flashes, nausea, dizziness, paresthesias (tingling sensations—like pins and needles in your hands and feet).
This was the beginning of what was about a two-year-long struggle to overcome panic attacks.
It wasn’t every day. It wasn’t even every week. But I found myself experiencing strange sensations that had no explanation for.
In addition to panic attacks, I was experiencing frequent heartburn, acid reflux and regular digestive issues. (And I will leave the descriptions of my complicated digestive functions at that.)
In the midst of learning about Grace, giving up coffee, whilst I was without a plan, my body was detoxing, distressing and needed a good reboot.
What I know now that I did not realize then was that my panic attacks and my screwed up digestive system were intricately related.
In fact, 75 percent of the nerve receptors having to do with stress are actually found in your gut. So when your tummy is sick, your propensity toward severe stress is heightened.
I’ve met countless people recently who tell me about their anxiety or the panic attack they just had. Whether you are having regular panic attacks, struggle with anxiety or just have a bit of extra stress in your life, I’m going to share with you my secrets on how I’ve been getting better. I still have a mini-freakout every now and again, but it’s irregular and never goes into a full-blown panic attack. Thank God.
1. I worked on my gut. I cut out coffee, went gluten free/dairy free for a little while and gave my body a chance to get regulated. I am not currently gluten/dairy free, but maybe at some point. My inflammation got SO much better just by changing my diet and I found that a lot of my digestive issues got better. I have an excellent naturopathic doctor that I see every six-ish months, Danette Goodyear, here in Dallas. I highly recommend working with a doctor who will help you get to the root issue instead of just giving you medication (I had a previous M.D. prescribe me PepcidAC for digestive stuff. It only masked the symptoms instead of treating the root issues).
2. Essential Oils. Everyday I use various therapeutic grade essential oils. My favorites for combatting stress and using them in the midst of a panic attack are Peace & Calming, Valor, and Lavender. I’ve found that my body will be drawn to one oil or another depending on what I’m needing that day. I rub them on topically, inhale them or put them in a diffuser to disseminate throughout the room (or all three). For helping with all of those weird digestive issues, Di-Gize essential oil is literally my best friend. I rub it on topically or take it in a capsule form and Dear God, I feel better almost instantly.
3. GABA. Words cannot describe how much I love GABA… My eldest sister jokes that I used “coffee, GABA, coffee, GABA, etc.” on rotation throughout school. Seriously, nothing (other than the essential oils) has helped me combat panic more quickly than this. You can find it at any health food store.
GABA is an amino acid and works as an inhibitory neurotransmitter to regulate brain and nerve cell activity by restricting the number of neurons firing at once, calming both your central and peripheral nervous systems. GABA is referred to as the “brain’s natural calming agent.”
Before I moved to London, I was having major freak-outs. One night, I was in the middle of hyperventilating (not dramatic at all), I took one GABA and my breathing slowed within seconds. Literally. You can safely take up to 1500mg of GABA in a 24-hour period (500mg 3x day). (Any more than that and it might actually make you feel a little jittery, but there shouldn’t be any major adverse reactions). I get the 500mg pills and take one. If after 20 minutes, I’m still feeling a little jittery, I’ll take another 500mg pill. Usually just one GABA combined with using essential oils, I’m good to go.
4. Serotonin (Tryptophan). Serotonin is one of the major neurotransmitters in your brain/gut for controlling stress. Whenever your gut is sick and/or you’ve been feeling heightened emotion (anxiety, anger, fear, sadness) your body uses serotonin in order to cope. If your body hasn’t had time to replenish the serotonin, you’re going to be more susceptible to all of those negative, high emotions. Tryptophan (yes, like the turkey) is the precursor for serotonin in your brain. I take homeopathic drops of tryptophan from my naturopathic doctor, but exercise, fresh air, sunshine and a serotonin-rich diet (proteins such as turkey, fish, chicken, cottage cheese, nuts, cheese, eggs and beans all contain good levels of tryptophan; both medium and long-chain healthy fats high in Omega-3s such as avocados, nuts, flaxseed, vegetable oils and seeds, salmon, tuna) can all help to boost your serotonin levels naturally.
5. Prayer. This has become my staple: Philippians 4:4-7. I live by it. Enough said.
If you want to research more on the topic, here are some things I’d recommend…
- Listen to Radiolab’s podcast “Guts”. Specifically the story in the middle section of the podcast (about 17 minutes in) illustrates why Serotonin is so key to your life and your gut. I warn you, it’s not for the faint of heart… or those with weak stomachs.
- Click through some of the links embedded in this article for specifics on some of what I’ve talked about. Do your own research and find what works for you.
*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor… so talk to yours. If yours is lame, find a new one. Do lots of research. Ask questions. Don’t go on any crazy fads/diets. Be smart and do everything in moderation. Ultimately, it’s your body so take care of it and don’t be an idiot. xoxo
Welcome to Wednesday… the part of the week where we all freak out that we only have two more days to accomplish all that seemed so feasible on Monday morning.
So, to quote Lina Lamont in Singin’ in the Rain, I’ve concocted a scheme to “…bring a little joy into your humdrum lives.” As she so aptly puts it… ”it makes us feel as though our hard work ain’t been in vain for nothin’.”
So here begins what will probably be an infrequent (just trying to be realistic and honest here people) “Stuff I Like” post. Please, hop inside the randomness of my head and blame my hippie family for encouraging my eclectic interests. Enjoy!
Stuff I Like # 1
1. “Heart’s a Mess” by Gotye (most recently on The Great Gatsby soundtrack)
First let me say—I loved The Great Gatsby. I loved the soundtrack even more. I’m sure Lana Del Ray’s song “Young and Beautiful” will get all the attention and maybe rightfully so, but I’m totally and utterly digging this new song from the Belgistrailian (yes, I made that up). I foresee so many dance parties in the kitchen of the Erickson household happening to this song. You should have seen us when “Somebody That I Used to Know” came out… the dance party lasted for weeks. No really. It did.
Hear me out on this… Someone brought these bad boys home from Whole Foods about a month ago and now I’m totally addicted. It is the best snack. There are only 25 calories in a half a cup (lest you think I’m a calorie counter… I am totally not, but I just like touting that figure because it sounds really good ). Although they look super weird, they are packed full of fiber and are super nutritious. Best part is that the light salt on them actually brings out the natural sweetness. Don’t take my word for it… OK… Actually do. Go get them. Hurry… You still have time.
Yes, I know that 24 is coming back and I’m SUPER excited to see Jack. However, because I dislike bandwagons, 24 returning to Fox this fall will not be on the “Stuff I Like” post this week. But SYTYCD (freaking longest acronym ever) is. Can we please just take a moment of silence to respect the massive creativity that this show exudes.
Great. OK. Moving on… The show is in it’s tenth season and although that span of seasons made American Idol a grandmother in the reality television world, SYTYCD is still your cool second cousin that you only see every summer for a few weeks at your grandparents farm and this year you expect them to have pink hair or something.
OK, just indulge my inner dancer and let me celebrate this show. They are doing all the things I can do in my head but was never able to actually pull off in real life when I was dancing. Admit it. You know you attempted to do a grand jeté down the grocery store aisle after watching last night’s episode. Roll with me here people.
I stumbled across this kid online… I’m sure you probably have too. But in case you haven’t, please block off an hour of your life and watch every single one of his videos, especially this Pep Talk one. Then consider what you can create that will make the world more awesome.
5. Dallas is Changing
This is last thing that I officially like this week and it’s something I really like. Several years ago I seriously desired to move to L.A.… then a few years later I was making plans to move to New York. I may or may not ever live in those cities, but both cities drew me for one reason in particular (among others): they both embrace creative people wholeheartedly. You know how the Statue of Liberty has imprinted on her “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” ––in my mind, that actually means “Give me your artists, your innovators, Your nameless creative masses yearning to break free.”
Dallas had nothing to offer me three years ago. There were very few outlets for Creatives to express themselves in a corporate, citywide setting and even fewer places where you could find creative community. That has been changing. Within one week, I will have attended three art gallery openings, a pop-up show, a private concert and interacted with incredible artists and creative professionals at Weld, the co-working space I joined about a month ago. Maybe I’ll still live one day in New York, L.A., Nashville, London or other beautiful, creative places filled with beautiful, creative people. But for now, I’m loving where I’m at.
Until next week…
All my love… For everyone.
My Dear Coffee,
I find that I’m at a loss for words. I never thought this day would come.
This letter is to tell you plainly: I love you, but we need to break up.
I must admit that it pains me deeply to have to tell you such things. Although you give me buttery warm feelings as take you in, I find that you could very well be the death of me.
Your caffeination causes me to have jitters of all sorts. Heart palpitations, yet not from affections for you. Shallow breathing. My tummy in knots.
When I’m without you, my head aches in all sorts of ways. My sight is blurred almost to the point of blindness. I think it is what some may call a ‘withdraw migraine.’
Whatever it may be, I can trace it to you. Although presently, we meet five times a day—sometimes more, sometimes less—it has to stop. I cannot continue loving you the way that I do.
I’m so sorry, dearest Coffee. I wish you all the best.
Such were my sentiments two years ago. Coffee had done a number on me. I was drinking up to five shots of espresso and/or cups of coffee a day. If I accidentally missed a day, it was head pain at monumental intensity. The panic attacks* were horrible. I had to do something.
So I weaned myself off of coffee. Completely. I only drank water and sometimes tea. I hated it… but I loved it.
I came to realize once coffee and I had broken up that I was using coffee not only for it’s caffeine benefits, but as a sort of… emotional booty call. Essentially, a large part of my motivation for drinking coffee was comfort.
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter (connector in the brain) responsible for helping us feel pleasure. It’s commonly known as being responsible for “reward-driven” learning.
For instance, if I wanted to train my puppy, I would “reward” her by giving her a treat after she did something positive like coming when I called. Eventually it will get to the point that I don’t even need a treat in hand. Her brain will adapt so that just me calling to her will fire off the dopamine—she doesn’t even have to have the treat in her possession yet.
So it was with me. I was the little puppy drinking coffee as a reward. When I was stressed: coffee; feeling happy: coffee; being social: coffee; sad: coffee.
Coffee was no longer just a desire, it was a necessary part of my life. It used to be that one cup gave me the dopamine hit. But I was at the point where five cups still wasn’t doing it.
My adrenal glands were shot. My digestive system was torn up. I had to do something. So coffee and I broke up. It was heartbreaking. But it was necessary. Coffee and it’s dopamine-inducing-relaxation were not inherently evil or bad, but I began to realize that I was using it as a pacifier instead of dealing with whatever was the actual stressor. Again, not inherently bad, but anything in excess is unhealthy.
So I said goodbye to coffee for a good several months. I detoxed my system and dealt with some other issues and now I can enjoy a cup or maybe even two without any of the painful side effects or emotional drama. I don’t have it every day, sometimes not even every other. I still love coffee… but I realized that we’re better off just as friends.
If you missed the first post, read it here.
I think I came to full awareness of what Grace did for me a few months later. It was October 2011 and I was still under a pretty hefty cloud for reasons that will mostly be explained in a string of the other “Since I’ve Been Gone” blogs… Needless to say, I’m assuming you’re starting to get the idea that I was a tangled mess.
Although I could rest somewhat easier after reading Ruthless Trust, I was still not talking to God (I had however dealt with my anger and bitterness for none of my… I mean “His” plans coming to pass). I wasn’t doing any of the good Christian things that usually help you out in crisis. You know: reading your bible, praying 15 hours a day, helping others, yada yada.
Instead I tried a multitude of practical things: exercise, cutting out coffee*, dealing with anxiety*, homeopathic and herbal supplements, talking with a counselor, blah blah blah. Some helped, but I still wasn’t “better.”
During the course of my grossness, Brittany (the one who was in New York with me when we first discovered Ruthless Trust) had gotten engaged. I was genuinely excited for her. Not that the excitement could do anything to push back the depression. But nonetheless, I hopped on a plane to Nashville for five, yes five, engagement portrait sessions with her and her fiancé (now husband) John.
I left on a Friday and returned on a Thursday. Seven days and nothing substantial had happened. Nothing except the cloud had lifted. Somewhere between Dallas and Nashville and sometime between a Friday and a Thursday, something substantial had happened. Grace.
Grace had seen me at my worst.
It looked past the brokenness.
It wasn’t worried about what I had or had not produced.
It lifted off the heaviness.
It took me where I could not take myself: into openness.
Everything changed on that trip to Nashville. I haven’t dealt with depression at all since that trip.
And what is so powerful here is that I did nothing to make that happen.
I want to emphasize here that I DID NOTHING TO HELP MYSELF. All of my feeble efforts failed. I was too battle weary and broken to do anything. Grace did it entirely on it’s own. Whilst I was asleep the seeds were growing.
That is why I know I’ve met Grace. Because Grace did what I couldn’t do. It rescued me out of darkness into glorious light. I’m not just talking about salvation here. I received salvation at age three, consciously and in a very real way.
Grace goes beyond salvation; Grace is about living in the light and loving the freedom within. It’s about resting in the goodness of a God who loves unconditionally. We can’t earn Grace; it’s freely given. We open ourselves to receive it and sometimes, when we’re desperate and broken and unaware of our need, God gives us grace somewhere between Dallas and Nashville, sometime between a Friday and a Thursday.
“…but equally amazing to me is the steadfast grace that allows us to remain relentlessly faithfulthrough the disasters and disappointments, the struggles and the heartaches of the human adventure. Our graced track record instills a modest confidence that, although we often stumble and fall, we will keep getting up; that we will not be numbered among the superficial who burn their Bibles at the first sign of trouble, or the defeated who fight long and struggle honorably for their faith but eventually yield to despair; that the grace for the next step and the courage to receive it will be given.” –Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust