Just One Thought

Tonight I am tired and tired and tired and also my brain may have got stuck in a loop and refused to continue to form words but I choose to write one thing, in the hope that one day someone might read it and feel a weight lifted off their shoulders. God is not a God of guilt, of denial, but a God of love and abundance. Of relationship, not religion. Of intimacy, not rituals. I just want to throw this out into the netherworld. Feel free to comment with questions, thoughts, opinions, queries. I will write more one day. When the words fall out and don’t feel like they have to be squeezed out like toothpaste from a near empty tube. AKA when I have some caffeine.

But good night world.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Talk About Books With Me?

Hello lovely people! I hope you’re all experiencing the best of circumstances! I haven’t posted for a good while, but I feel no guilt as I don’t think anyone actually reads this blog! If you are a human, and you have found your way here: welcome. If you are not human… call me. Anyway, here is a quick spewing of brain about two books I recently read:

Image

Credit: Goodreads

Pursued, by Jud Wilhite

If you are a Christian, get this book. Get it, borrow it, buy it, download it, read it! I guarantee it will bring some new form of clarity, refreshment, or just, a “hey, God’s so cool and I am SO loved” kind of feeling to your life. This book covers the basics in a shockingly clear, exciting way. I was manically writing quotes down because, well, you’ll see.

If you are not a Christian, but have been toying with the idea or are just curious, this book will still make sense and will at the very least give you some pretty tasty food for thought. It’s message is radical and life-giving and freeing. No previous knowledge/experience/goodness needed.

And perhaps the group this book will impact the most. If you are a Christian, have been a Christian, think you’re sort of a Christian, feel guilty about being a Christian or are just, well, confused: this book. This book will show you why you don’t have to stress, don’t have to keep running. God’s doing the running, and He’s running after you!

Enough endorsement. No, I was not paid to rave enthusiastically about Pursued. I am known to fangurl at times, and today seemed to be one of them…

Okay, so secondly I wanted to ask, has anyone read this book?

Image

Credit: Goodreads

I’ll See You Again, by Jackie Hance (with Janice Kaplan)

It’s the memoir of Jackie Hance, the mother who lost her three young daughters Emma, Alyson and Katie in the horrific car accident on the Taconic Highway in 2009. The book, is obviously heartbreaking. What cuts the most is the raw humanity that Jackie was not afraid to include in the book. There was no sugarcoating how turbulent the past few years have been for her. But when I went on Goodreads I saw that some reviewers felt like the book was too much. Too much unlikeability on Jackie’s part. Too much wallowing sorrow page after page. I don’t know. To me, it’s exactly this sorrow that makes this memoir a real testimony. And who would be likeable after such a tragedy? We can’t even comprehend the kind of pain she went through.

One thing I find quite noteworthy is that this book was written looking back. She makes reflections, but she also allows the reader into her head at the time. I think some people have looked at how, for example, she got angry at her friend for not cancelling her Halloween party the second year after the accident, and rolled their eyes at her selfishness. But Jackie was not saying she now thought it right to be angry, so much as she was saying at the time she could not stop her (as she oft says) ‘irrational’ feelings. Even in the text she sends to her friend she says: “I know this is wrong of me and I’m being irrational and selfish. But it’s what I’m feeling.” It does not mean that her overall outlook is that her friend owed it to her to cancel the party. Or that her husband was not there for her. Or whatever else someone might say proved her to be selfish. It seems very clear that Jackie appreciated her friends, community and husband immensely. But entrenched in her grief, she first stumbled and sank before emerging.

I also hope that Jackie will come to know God in an intimate, loving way. It saddened me to read about poor Jackie trying so hard to find answers after her world collapsed through religion alone. But I am glad that right now she and Warren are finding they can move forward, and that they have a new baby.

Please let me know if you’ve read any of these two books!

Adios.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Always.

God is good. It’s one of the only true things in my world. Looking back, it always seems truest when I didn’t want to believe it. I want to give Him everything. Usually I don’t give Him anything, but that doesn’t change His wondrous love for me. I am in turns overawed, humbled, indifferent, apathetic, sinful, broken, desperate. I turn away. But He will bring me back to Him every time. He is there, full of renewal, of second chances. Love most of all – always love.

Always. It’s a concept I’ll never wrap my head around. He’s a God I’ll never wrap my head around. And I am so thankful for that.

Tagged , , , ,

A Tribute

This is a tribute to Julia Gillard, who I disliked and never even tried to understand until now, despite her having been the leader of my country. Two days ago, the members of the Labor Party held a secret ballot after the Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, called for one. The ballot would determine whether she or Kevin Rudd would be Labor Party leader. This was seemingly necessary; popular opinion was that Rudd had been shadowing the PM and gaining support in the face of her unpopularity. It is only natural that people suspected that he was after the job that had once been taken from him. In Gillard’s announcement, she said that she thought the loser of the vote should leave politics once and for all. It seemed extreme, but perhaps also necessary, in order to stop the loser lurking around and stirring up more dissent in the Labor Party. Confident that she had enough support from her own party, Gillard seemed self assured as she announced the ballot a few hours before it took place. Later that evening, Julia Gillard came out of the Caucus room having lost the vote 57 – 45. 

I am not going to go into the circumstances of Gillard’s initial replacement of Rudd, nor the  events preceding her loss of the ballot. The Labor Party has been divided by disloyalty, confusion, plotting, etc. for the past 3+ years, and it is beyond my limited knowledge of politics to try and point toward contributing factors or people. Instead I will talk about Julia Gillard.

While she was prime minister I saw her through eyes that were not my own. I saw her through a filter, apropos to offhand comments I had heard, articles I had read, and general public opinion I had absorbed. This was entirely my own fault. Had I stopped to consider her competency as PM myself, perhaps I would have appreciated her before it was too late. But I didn’t. I saw her as incompetent, blundering, boring, insincere, and unaware of her own faults. I am an 18 year old girl, not a misogynist, but I saw her through the eyes of a society ready to pick fault with females in the spotlight. Did I blatantly think to myself, “Gee, she’s a female and she’s trying to run the country, look at all her flaws!”? No. Heck, I consider myself a feminist. Did I, at some level, consent to the existence of these apparently existent flaws anyway? Probably.

During the Caucus meeting I took a hiatus from my usual ignorant indifference to politics and sat glued to the screen with my Dad as we waited for the announcement. I was hoping that the winner would be Rudd, and was of course rewarded. Then Gillard came on the screen to give her speech. By this time I was only half watching, but even so, something was happening. Her speech was good. Even I could see it. It was inspiring. It was bittersweet. I could tell she was upset. I willed myself not to care. But as she spoke, something was being conveyed, and it felt awfully like the message of someone who had tried their hardest, believed in their cause passionately, and was leaving abruptly, at once deflated and dignified. As one of the news anchors said, I couldn’t even begin to imagine what this would be like for her. She had worked her whole life for this. It was gone, and I was seeing, live, her fierce, stoic faith in what she had stood for while she had had the chance.

Was the whole ‘the dead are never bad’ effect going on? Was I only praising her because she was gone, and I felt sorry for her considering how it had happened? I started to become obsessed with Gillard, watching speeches on youtube, reading interviews and articles about her road to prime minister, looking at pictures. I wanted to know. Who exactly was she and why had I dismissed her offhand? It took awhile at first to drop all my past perceptions. But nonetheless, I was beginning to see Gillard afresh, now that the circumstances had shifted and my preconceived notions were off kilter. I am just sorry I never paid attention earlier. There was no excuse for allowing others to shape my opinion so much that I never even bothered to reconsider. Even if my perceptions of her had been true, I had been cruelly heavy-handed in taking them on so willingly. I am now a staunch supporter of Julia Gillard. Regardless of anything else she was our Prime Minister, ambassador for our people, and so she deserved our respect and honour. And because of how much she tried, the sacrifices that she made, the lives that she cared about, the hard decisions she was willing to make, the grace that she showed and the passion that she brought, she has my admiration as well.

It broke my heart, to see the clip of her choking back tears as she sat in the back bench yesterday, one of her colleagues who had also resigned with her telling her that her deceased father would have been proud of her. I now know that she put so much of herself into being PM. It was ripped away so suddenly, and the disappointment must be crushing. I can only hope that she knows that there are many people in Australia who are proud of her too. I know I am.

Julia Gillard is strong. In the face of hatred from a portion of the population (and some of her own party), she went to work each day with a smile on her face, confidence in her gait and an untrembling voice. What kind of person could endure such vitriol and not even crack, not even one sliver, for three full years? The same person who was occasionally called unfeeling for this same stoic strength. Gillard wasn’t unfeeling. Her feelings just weren’t worn on her sleeve, and she has taught us that this is okay.

Gillard knew how hard she was working, but she was often viewed quite negatively – and still she refused to let it get to her. She faced criticism for several things, but I now think they are unfounded. Her refusal to go into much detail about her private life? Inconsequential. Many people would be the same. There has to be a job/life barrier, especially if you are in the public eye, and especially if, like Gillard, you devote such long hours to your job.

Some people would say she was boring. But as Gillard herself said, she was there to run the country and make tough decisions, not to be a well-liked member of a TV show. I also think this is grossly unfair. Looking back, Gillard was perfectly friendly, dignified and warm and caring. She was passionate in her speeches and clearly had a great sense of humour. She could balance this with well-thought out, intelligent stances and a thoughtful nature. She was good at negotiation and listening to people. She was also down to earth and jovial. Gillard did have charisma; it was just not the kind people were used to seeing. They weren’t used to seeing a woman who was so devoted to her job that she didn’t see appearing on copious amounts of talks shows and developing her own personal brand for the media as hugely important. Instead, she was driven, a doer – someone ready to push for change in a country that it is evident she genuinely cared about.

I had once decided that Gillard was oblivious to how people saw her, and used this for further proof in my head of she was naive and ill-suited to the task. I now know that much of this was propagated by the media; there were plenty of people who liked her. I also know that she was not oblivious to the more unsavoury aspects of people’s opinions. She knew, and she faced it. And in terms of the ‘gender wars’, she was damned if she did and damned if she didn’t. If she asked that people would look past her gender, which was clearly not the most important thing, she was playing the gender card. And if she ignored the obviously sexist pokes at her then she was allowing them to deride her. She couldn’t win, but Gillard fought valiantly. Win, I believe, she did, with every attempt she made.

With my new eyes, I watched footage of Gillard greeting and answering questions from school kids, as well as members of the public, and I saw that she was as sincere as they come. I saw the crinkles in the corners of her eyes and the way her face lit up. I believe her when she says that she loves to hear other people’s stories. Also, some people have used the fact that she does not have children against her. Gillard said she had never felt called to have kids. Why do we have to make this a negative thing? Why is it even important? As well, let’s not forget that where she could have put time into caring and looking after her own children, she put that time and effort into the children of Australia.

It upsets me that Julia Gillard had to resign this way. I am crushed that she had to go at all. It must be horrible for her. But she has left a legacy. She has shown us the power of courage. The power of dignity, of single-mindedness, determination, self belief, humbleness, passion, a warm heart, ambition, kindness, hard work. Bravery in the face of contempt from some. She was always so gracious. I wish I’d known all this while she was still PM. But perhaps, just as I and a few of my friends have done, people will take her stepping down as a time to see finally, clearly, just what she has done for us. She said in her last speech that she knew it would be easier for the next woman to be prime minister, and that she was proud of that. I know that just like me, there are girls all across the nation who, if not aiming for prime minister, are aiming for something great; and that they hold Gillard’s example close to their hearts.

Thank you, Julia Gillard, for being the Prime Minister that you were.

Getty Images

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hey, how’s it going?

So, I know that many people, introverts especially, complain that the act of asking someone how they are is just a social ritual that involves no meaningful discussion of either person’s welfare. 

My own foray into the topic is not to criticise, as I am kind of grateful that this handy little prop is there to instruct my fumbling brain when I find myself in front of an acquaintance. If it’s an acquaintance then I don’t mind giving a general answer anyway. And I figure that if I am talking to a close friend then the ensuing conversation will undoubtedly be about how either of us is anyway – so I don’t mind so much the meaningless of the initial question.

Instead I present to you my frustrations on HOW THE HECK IS ANYONE MEANT TO NAVIGATE THIS MINEFIELD OF HOW ARE YOU ETIQUETTE WITH PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW WELL AND AAAH. Here’s my issue. Am I alone in it?

Let’s say I walk into work. “Hey, how’s it going?” Asks my coworker as she walks past to give someone their coffee. Now, what do we do here? Is this question, as I suspect, more of a friendly greeting that requires no answer? Because the problem with the walking past scenario is that by the time I react and answer, it’s likely that she’s several metres away, leaving me talking to the guy at table six. Or, what if by answering her, I am forcing her to have to come to an awkward half stop to listen, and what if the cafe is busy and she can’t afford to stop and I’m grinding things to a dramatic halt with my “Yeah, not too bad thanks!”

Obviously if I say nothing than I sound rude. If I just say “Hey” then I feel guilty because she asked me how I was and I didn’t, and she’ll think I don’t care when I do really, seriously, I do!

If her question is just a friendly greeting then the logical thing might be to reply with the same friendly greeting, but somehow “Hey, how’s it going?” followed by “Hey, how’s it going?” sounds a little… well, off. Really all I can think to do is answer really quickly, but by the time you throw in a “what about you?” at the end the whole thing sounds like a rapid, rehearsed monologue in order to get the answer out before she has to stop, and soon I find myself starting to say it before she’s even got the question out and then that’s awkward. “Hey, how’s it-” “Nottoobadthankswhataboutyou?”

Gosh. The logical thing might just be to ask the question first but my mind does not work fast before 3pm people! Oh and when I ask first THIS is what happens: “How are you?” “I’m good, how are you?” “I’m good, how are you?”.

Sigh. Anyone else with me?

Tagged , , , ,

Beneath the Veneer

 

Sometimes when I run, I watch my reflection in the windows of the houses that I pass. Okay, yes, occasionally it’s because I want to examine how fit (or not) I look. But usually it’s because I am fascinated at how the burning of my legs, the pain in my chest, the voice that is screaming “stop” inside my head, is not visible in my reflection. It seems as if what I am going through is so real and powerful that words should literally be on my forehead saying “exhausted”, “help”, or “about to die”. But they’re not. The me that everyone else sees is just a girl running, albeit pathetically slowly, and with a large grimace. It’s a face just like every other face that I see; beneath the veneer lies so much, and most of it stays there.

The mind and soul are such complex things. Inside us is depth and width and nooks and crannies and voices, both good and bad. To live in our own head is of course intimately familiar, and to live in someone else’s hard to fathom. I find myself spending a lot of time thinking about how I can never know what exactly someone is feeling, thinking or processing at any moment. Even if I think I can imagine, chances are I am only partially correct. I mean, if someone says they are sad, I have plenty of parallels to draw with my own life. Are they sad because they lost their job? I try and think about how I felt when I lost something that brought me stability. That’s empathy, isn’t it? Or is that sympathy? Anyway, the old ‘put yourself in the other person’s shoes’ is what I’m getting at.

But my own sadness would have been different. It must have been. There was a different precursor, a different meaning to it, a different shade of emotion. We are all shaped by our own personalities, experiences, neurochemistry, beliefs, frames of mind, and personalised thought cycles. It’s interesting and scary to think about. Yes, human emotions may all be universal, but the way that they interact with every other part of us is unique for everyone. Chances are the person next to me in my exam is writing similar words to me while using different memory pathways to access them. They have used a different style of thinking to come up with their answer, triggered by different ideas. While I feel stress in the pit of my stomach, she might be clenching their jaw. I feel terrible about how I’m going, and so I take a deep breath and focus, feeling everything become crisp and clear as I do so, my pen becoming an extension of myself. But she has ADD. Every time she starts a sentence she has to strain to stay present. Her mind feels jumbled. And when it’s finally pens down, my relief makes me feel light and heady and like I could float down the street, whereas she just feels heavy and tired, the relief a small bubble of quiet joy deep inside.”How do you feel?” I ask. “Glad it’s over,” she answers. “That was so hard.””Yeah, I know what you mean!” I answer, even though my experience was, in fact, decidedly different.

It makes you wonder. What right do we ever have to judge someone? And yet, we do the best we can with what we know. Someone who tries to be open-minded can start to understand that there are many subtle differences in people. But can they ever really know? How the same situation might cripple someone with depression and someone without, and yet the depressed person finds themselves consumed with a lingering sense of unease for a long time after, unexplainable to the other person who experienced grief and then found that they could be stronger for it. They both experienced crushing grief and it was both equally valid. Problems arise when the person without depression turns to the other and points out that they went through the same thing, and then rebuilt their life. “You’re not trying hard enough,” they think of the other, “my pain was just as bad.” And they have no way of ever knowing if that is true. 

I find it hard to know what people are experiencing. Is relating someone’s experiences to the closest thing we can personally understand real empathy? Sometimes I feel it is not helpful as it projects ourselves onto them, often inaccurately, and even selfishly – but then the alternative is to have no concept at all of their experience. Should we accept that we cannot personally ever understand fully, and then try from a more rational point of view to simply be tolerant and there for them (whatever that means)? Because sometimes when I do this I feel almost unmotivated, uncaring. As if the very idea that I cannot identify with them strips me of any urgency to help them. I cannot imagine what is going on so inside of them so it does not feel real enough. It is so so selfish, I know.

Actually I think sometimes it is best to pray. When I pray for someone I start to feel that I can understand in some form -however limited – their plight. And if not, I begin to feel this overwhelming sense that whether I understand or not is irrelevant, because their reality is real to them. Whether I can ever experience it is besides the point, because just as I am alive and human, so are they. And I feel that God understands them best anyway. 

I suppose it is this constant validation of other people that is what matters most. It is empathy when we acknowledge that what goes on behind their eyes is genuine and real, regardless of its connection to ourselves. It is empathy when we try to help, when we pray for them even though we don’t get them, when we decide to try. My own reality always feels deeper, most meaningful, more reasonable, but it is not. It is just the only one I know. And to someone else, it seems unknowable. 

Anyone else have any thoughts?

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Stagnant Pond

I think I may have sunk into some form of depression, or at least fallen into lazy valley. I moved cities around Christmas. I started uni – an arts degree – because I didn’t know what else to do and besides, I always knew that by default I would end up doing one. And then I realised I didn’t want to. It it wasn’t all I’d imagined – wasn’t going to be a fascinating dive into knowledge, but more of a long, very unglamorous string of due dates and research and tutorial participation (terror in a box). I wanted answers, information, books. But instead we would get arguments, speculation, critical analysis. I was disillusioned but committed.

Maybe it was Mum, maybe Dad, but someone told me that if I wasn’t serious then I should pull out now. As soon as the idea was planted, all subconscious parts of me began preparing for surrender. Half-heartedly I continued going to the prelim lectures, signing up for things. But that seed of possibility had grown and all I could think was: what the heck, I just turned 18, I’ve got my whole life to spend at uni. Why waste money and time if I don’t like my course and it’s not leading anywhere. Why not see the world, chill out, earn money, find myself, etc etc. I withdrew, feeling good, better.

And yet uni was the safe option. This world isn’t. I am scared to get a job, even more so because now I have no option but to. My self diagnosed social anxiety has me in its claws, and I waste my time watching Revenge online and feeling isolated. I have no friends here. Absolutely none. This does not bother me as much as the guilt does. I have become a bum. I am doing nothing. But the comfort of nothingness keeps reeling me in, and I am afraid I might never be someone, do something. And I am even more afraid that I don’t want to.

Tagged , , , ,

One Post at a Time

A blog seems like such a good idea until you actually have to write for it. I can’t really remember, but I think this is my third blog that I have started since discovering WordPress. Don’t get me wrong – I’m no veteran blogger. The key word here is started. Neither contained more than one post, and for a long time I used my account to read Freshly Pressed and lurk and linger and subscribe and occasionally comment. I read and read and absorbed and that was all.

I am not really going to be surprised at myself if after a few posts I am crippled with sudden anxiety and delete this entire blog in a shame-filled frenzy; but this time I will be disappointed. I am afraid of being fake, of romanticising and glossing over my life. I am afraid of being honest and seeing how really bad I am in black lettering on a white screen. Isn’t there some quote about artists simultaneously wanting to share their work, but being afraid of being found? That’s me but minus the artist part. I’m just a girl who wants to talk to the world but perhaps just needs to talk to herself.

So don’t write a blog, you might say. That’s what diaries are for. Keep the personal rantings and  dramatics to your journal or prayer time or best friend. I know, I know. I’m not doing this for the right reasons. I am doing it out of selfishness.

Only I am still going to do it. Maybe for a day, maybe for three years. Maybe I will find a niche, maybe I will not. Maybe this will be nothing but me, me, me. Maybe it will grow into you, God, us. Whatever. I am starting this blog and if it goes down in the annals of the unread then it will be therapeutic and I will grow from it.

A part of me though hopes for more. A part of me wants these words to help you.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Firsts…

Well, first post and I’m already stuck for ideas about what to write. I think I might go and read a book. Cheerio new friends 🙂

Tagged