Happy Holidays or Seasonal Calamities?

I asked a friend for some assistance with writer’s block on a holiday blog post. I wanted to write about the struggles of single people during the holidays, but I couldn’t find an appropriate angle. Here are some of the unhelpful suggestions:

  • The silver bells have a ring to them but you don’t?
  • Children make snowmen but you can find no men to make children?
  • The weather’s as cold and dark as your heart?
  • There are lights on the houses but none in your eyes?
  • You really put the “miss” in mistletoe.
  • Now that your eggnog’s gone you’ve realized maybe your eggs are gone?
  • New Year’s Eve? More like two beers and leave.
  • Jingle Bells? More like Single’s Hell.
  • A reindeer can find his way out of the fog he’s in but you can’t?
  • Your credit card gets swiped right more than you do?
  • You get plenty of presents when all you want is someone’s presence?

In summary: it sucks to be single during the holidays for precisely the same reason it sucks to be single the entire rest of the year. You’re missing out. It’s just worse at Christmas because there are more puns.

If this holiday season is starting out on the wrong foot for you, if you laughed at the above list and then gave a quiet, sad sigh, I’m here for you. Me and so many others who know what it’s like to be alone and “without” at Christmas.

I’ve always found it amaing how many more Hallmark holiday movies are churned out during this month, movies that just reinforce and validate the “normal” standard of girl meets boy and they fall in love and live happily ever after. ‘Tis the season to be reminded that you’re unfulfilled.

Of course, Hallmark like so many other socially aware companies –jewelry stores, department stores, even car dealerships — can’t help but misunderstand the meaning of Christmas for their own economic ends. The unfortunate truth is that we all get suckered in because it sounds so much better than our lives actually are.

Like the above list we play either/or with our happiness and sadness. Either I’m a sad single or a happily married. Either i’m fulfilled in a relationship, or empty on my own. Christmas, and every other season of the year, is not a black and white look at celebrating life. It’s colorful, it’s vibrant, in a lot of cases it’s glittering. It should be reflecting the best life has to offer — in any way you find yourself living it.

Be a vibrant and colorful single this year, don’t make your life either/or. Don’t be content to be pitied. You’re a glorious showing of this life, a life that should inspire gratitude, and exude joy that comes from purpose truly found, not socially mandated.

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The Unsociable Female

I’ve always been a little too introverted for “normal”. As a kid I preferred playing on my own in my bedroom to family time. I disliked making small talk in the vestibule of church — still do to this day.

I don’t enjoy “water cooler” talk, small talk, chitchat. I don’t ask how your vacation was, your time off work, your big holiday because I don’t care, for the most part. I don’t mean this aggressively or antagonistically, I just mean that for me it holds little value because so much of the conversation is routine, by rote or memory. When someone asks how you’re doing we all know to answer “fine” or some derivative thereof. So if we’re all doing it just to do it, why bother?

So I tend not to say the right things when they should be said, and I jump in too quickly and get familiar too quickly. And later someone will ask me about that person, something mundane and obvious that you’d discern from small talk, like occupation, and I won’t know because I didn’t care about that.

The problem I’m discovering as an adult is how much more I’ve been required to be sociable by virtue of my gender. I’m realizing more how “interesting” conversations get pulled to the male side of the room. I’m aware that the initial relating that’s so commonly attributed to women therefore includes me, and aware too of how often I’ve feigned enjoyment of these tedious conversations and situations because it was expected of me, when an equally introverted man might be allowed to avoid it.

If men are socially awkward and don’t like “idle” conversation it’s fine. If women don’t it’s abnormal. It’s weird, it’s probably why she’s single. Women who are naturally expressive, naturally extroverted, naturally inquisitive, naturally social are correct, and the rest of us are deviant. Odd. Unnatural.

I’ve been skilled enough with my camouflage that when I moved to college the concern was I’d hole up in my room with school work and DVDs and not make any friends and be miserable (half of that was correct). When they learned I was moving into my own apartment, no roommate, the main concern was I’d get bored and hate it.

Being good at faking sociability, extroversion, has its benefits, but as I age I find more drawbacks. Once you’ve pretended to be good at something for long enough, say 30 years, it’s expected that you will continue and when/if you don’t, understandably people are confused and disappointed, to say the least.

But we do need to stop assuming introverted women are going to be “shy” as an indicator. We need to stop making women with “resting bitch face” smile all the time. We need to stop shushing women for being blunt and direct because it’s too aggressive and masculine. We need to stop expecting relating to be the solely female domain.

Sure, I may not be like “most women”, but to be honest with you, I kinda figure most women are not like “most women”, and that there’s a lot more of us wearing camouflage than we’d ever dream.

“Putting Yourself Out There”

As far as I understand it from context clues, the phrase “putting yourself out there” is a way of reassuring someone after an embarrassing, unsuccessful, or humiliating social encounter of any kind.

“Sure, your date didn’t go the way you planned, but at least you’re putting yourself out there.”

“It’s too bad that you aren’t getting the recognition you deserve, but at least you’re putting yourself out there.”

As if you should be pleased to know that it’s through trying something that you fail, as opposed to those who stay home and can say things like “I bet if I put myself out there it’d go better. Oh well, back to Netflix.”

Whenever I hear someone say “at least you’re putting yourself out there” I don’t see encouragement. “At least you’re available for rejection” that’s what I hear. “At least you were brave enough to have some actually say to you, “no thanks”.”

Also, where is “there”? Most often this phrase is used in conjunction with single people, and used by married people. Married people often talk about the dating pool as if it’s an actual body of water teeming with single folk looking to be in relationships. Just put your suit on, get out there and dive in! But I haven’t actually found this oasis that seems so easily accessible in the phrase “out there”.

I don’t know if it requires a map no one gave me, directions I’ll never be able to follow, or some secret pass code, but there’s no giant single person pool where we can pair up. Mostly there’s a lot of desert punctuated by misleading vistas that proclaim bodies of water but result in puddles.

“There”, in my experience, means “anywhere that’s social”, which covers a lot of ground, and still turns up very few single available humans. The unfortunate reality is that single people look an awful lot like married people because we all tend to look vaguely, I don’t know, human-like. And as it turns out, it’s not just singles going out to socialize, but it’s married people too. So unless you’re prepared to walk yourself to a “meet” market, odds are you’re going to run into a bunch of married people “out there”.

The truth is that while these are all perfectly valid reasons to hate the phrase “put yourself out there”, none of them actually cover the reasons why I personally dislike the axiom. These are the reasons why I find it hurtful for my friends, because when you are trying to find someone it does begin to feel exactly like there’s some cool club out there that’s hidden from you, that’s inaccessible to you, and there’s no way you’ve even got a shot to get in. When even “out there” is frustrating, exclusive, out of reach, it’s certainly no longer a helpful expression.

But the reason I’ve always hated it is that I LIKE the indoors. I mean this both literally and metaphorically. I love being inside. Love it. Always have. Inside has food, blankets, movies, wifi, pillows…I’m happy inside.

But I get the impression this is wrong of me, because so often I’m still told to “put myself out there”. There’s an impression that my life would be better if I just tried to not be single. I’m not a fan of this idea because it strongly implies that my life is inferior by virtue of the fact that it’s singular. It implies that contentment without a romantic relationship is incorrect, doomed to failure, and in need of fixing.

As a society, as a Christian community, we tend to prize marital relationships above the single life, and we could get into the whys and wheres of that, but to be honest, I’m more focused on the fact that as great as marriage is (can be), there will always be single people. And we must believe, we must espouse (pun!) that the single life is valuable in its own right, it isn’t something that needs to be fixed, it isn’t broken (necessarily), and it’s not miserable by default.

So I implore you, friends, don’t throw your single companions out there into the cold. And don’t judge them for staying in the warmth of the indoors. Encourage them to live their life to the fullest, and make sure that “fullest” doesn’t fixate on romantic culmination.

Baggage Handlers

“Have you ever been abused?” was the question my friend got on her third date out with a non-baggage handler.

It was out of the blue, apropos of nothing, and it stopped her in her tracks. He clarified, “A lot of women seem to come with baggage these days.”

The dream date: the baggage free human. It’s an aspirational goal. It just so happens that as you age that dream date starts to look more like a white whale, a unicorn, a yeti — rumored, but unconfirmed by sight.

My own theory is that after 25 there is no one who is baggage free. By the age of 25 it is impossible to avoid having things happen to you. By 25 life has treated you, shall we say, unfairly and you are no longer the pristine blank-slate dream date of someone else’s fantasy. Or even your own fantasy.

You’ve been married and then divorced, you’ve had kids, you had one long-term relationship that ended really, really badly. You made mistakes, you were the victim of mistakes, malicious action, idiocy. Life.

Let’s face it, dating in your 30s looks nothing like dating in your 20s. In your 20s I’m not even sure we’re real people yet, we’re just opportunities and options and ignored advice.

By your 30s you’re stocked up with the baggage of recovering from your 20s.

Odds are that by your 30s someone out there is recovering from you, and you are recovering from someone else. Baggage.

Of course, not all baggage is created equal. It’s all about if you’ve learned in that time how to be a grown-up. Some people come with a lot of seriously huge baggage, and yet they’ve sought help for it, they’ve learned from it, they’ve grown, they’ve adapted, they now have character.

Character, good character, is what you should look for in your 30s.

Because those others? The ones who can’t be bothered to look at their baggage, process it, handle it, get help, get advice, change, well these poor morons are the ones you actually want to avoid like crazy. These are the people we fear when we’re talking about baggage.

So maybe the divorcee is not damaged goods, and maybe the dad with kids is not a trainwreck, maybe maybe someone who’s been sexually assaulted is the grown-up in the room.

Find you someone with character. Good character. After that, everything about them will be fascinating, not draining, amazing and not terrifying.

Who’s Responsible for Abuse?

The problems with systemic sexual assault — assault in general, are more myriad than we want to admit. With the Harvey Weinstein allegations and accusations that take place over decades, showcasing a variety of blatant abuses of power, it should not be difficult to fathom why it took so long for truth to come to light.

What’s staggering anytime something of this magnitude happens, is the number of people who are quick to remark that it’s surprising someone didn’t say something sooner. What we all seem inclined to forget is that the culture we are involved with and invested in is something we all too easily become inoculated against. “It’s just how things are done” is what anyone who feels helpless says in the midst of a situation that’s overwhelming. In these cases, trying to justify and rationalize is about the only survival weapon one can grasp — and make no mistake, in abusive environments, survival is all that is hoped for anyway.

To suggest that victims, or those who knew victims, or those potential victims who escaped, were responsible for speaking up is to ignore how often in our own lives we ignore indications of abuses of power and normalize the event to save ourselves further stress.

A few years ago I was leaving work heading to the parking garage to take the elevator to the fourth floor and to my car. Outside the garage were a large number of homeless people, this wasn’t not really remarkable because it’s common in downtown Bellingham, but what happened next was.

I got on the elevator and as the doors closed, a man brandishing a stick as a make-believe sword charged into the elevator, sword first. My friend and I immediately parted to get out of his way in this tiny box. We then all proceeded to take the elevator to the four floor. After which the man got off and continued practicing his sword fighting in another area of the floor.

During the elevator ride I spent the bulk of my mental powers on rationalizing and normalizing what had just happened. In this stressed out environment my worst fear — besides being attacked — was offending this man who held power in this situation. My goal was to be as pleasant as possible if addressed, and to otherwise pretend I was invisible. I didn’t want anything to happen to me.

This experience of mine was fleeting, minor, and uneventful, but I feared the potential actions of a man who did have power in that situation. In no way was it a situation I felt capable of taking charge of or directing. After I got off the elevator, it did not occur to me to call the police simply because nothing had happened to me. Could this man have actually been physically violent to someone else? Is it possible that after this he went on to actually attack someone else with a sword? It now strikes me as a possibility, but at the time I was only filled with my own relief at leaving that situation unscathed.

It is infinitely easy in hindsight to tell someone what they should have done, knowing full well what the outcome would look like, but at the time? At the time of any stressful situation the body is in survival mode. I’m told with proper training in the military encountering the stress of a war zone is made somewhat easier due to automatic reflexes that have been ingrained. Instead of thinking about the right thing to do, you just act as you’ve been trained.

I cannot stress this enough; women — as a very general principle — have been taught not to make waves, not to cause a fuss, just to keep their heads down and do the work without being obtrusive. The reflexes of someone growing up in a war zone will always look different from a trained soldier or a bystander in another country, and it is the same with systems of abuse.

A woman seeking help from an abusive relationship will voice her discomfort until such a time as it is made clear that this is not welcome.

“You’re overreacting.”

“You took it the wrong way.”

“That didn’t mean anything.”

If you are told often enough that your discomfort is meaningless, or that you will need to handle horrible situations in order to achieve your desired goals, most people will put up with almost anything, because they now believe it is normal. Women have a tendency to learn that their own intuition is not valuable, it’s not accurate, and they’re too sensitive. All of which can contribute to a system that perpetuates abuse.

What this entire situation should call us to is again critical reflection on and intense vigilance of any person in a position of power. There are many people who hold positions of power because those around them live in fear. They hold positions of power because it has been made clear that it is in the victim’s “best interest” to keep quiet. They hold positions of power because so many people are trying to survive, to normalize completely un-normal cultures.

It should disgust and infuriate us when we see people abuse their power, instead the true problem is that often these titans are applauded and supported by the unknowing population, and even when we do know, we find many reasons to excuse it. We reward success and achievement, not ethics and positive influence.

Our focus is wrong and as long as that remains, victims will live in shadows seeking to survive the horrors of their environment silently.

Before we get too excited about a leader, about their charisma, their “common man” vernacular, their relatability, their lack of PC content, consider for a moment the small fleeting voices we have heard for decades, potentially, signalling the alarm.

We are, as a culture and society, doomed to repeat the environment Harvey Weinstein created unless we are willing to dismantle the untouchableness with which we embue powerful leaders — simply because of the position they hold. In this, we will always all be culpable.

Office Space Romance

At the end of a first date there’s that moment, that sizing up space where you’re both considering if you want to see each other again, and then you’re considering if you think they want to see you again. And how do you find that out without sounding like you really want to see them just in case they don’t want to see you?

How do you treat your date with appropriate casualness so that you don’t appear vehemently opposed or obsessively interested?

Honestly, I don’t know why we bother with the theatrics at all.

Tonight I sat down for the first time and watched Office Space and I know, sure, I should have seen this like fifteen years ago when it was relevant, but I’ve only gotten to it now which is fine because the life lessons are still timeless (eh, this could be debated).

My favorite scene is when Peter finally asks Joanna out on a date. He walks in, goes up to her directly and asks if she wants to have dinner with him. He’s fine if she says no and he’s fine if she says yes. Either way, he’s having lunch.

I can’t help but wonder if the trick to dating and relationships is just being excited about having lunch. She/he might come, they might not, but you still get to eat, and isn’t that what’s great? I think we often get so fixated on who may or may not want to eat with us that we lose sight of the enjoyment we can have in life on our own.

We often get so caught up in the “do they or don’t they” that we don’t let ourselves consider what we think and how we feel. Maybe we think it’s too rare, that it’s too special to meet someone that we like and can connect with, but is that the case? Or is it that we selectively try to connect? And that in those selections sometimes we miss and we take those misses more personally because they’re so few?

What if instead we approached dating like Peter does? Just ask her out. If it’s no it’s no and then you go and eat a nice lunch and find someone else to ask out. It’s better than fixating, mentally embellishing and idealizing in your own mind until that other person is so great there’s no possible way they’d ever date…you.

So don’t be afraid to profess interest, to do the asking. And then don’t be afraid to ask someone else. And in between, grab a sandwich. Because nothing in life makes you feel better than a good sandwich (this is just a personal theory, but please test it out).

Drawbacks of a Sugar High

I’ve been thinking about jealousy a little a lately, and how it skews perspective, and narrows focus so completely that even the object of our envy is unrecognizable to any realistic perspective.

I’ll give you an example.

This past Saturday I went into a store and bought two bags of candy and a puzzle. I promptly went home, poured both bags of chewy candy into an empty vase, left my phone in another room, turned on the air conditioning in my bedroom, took off my bra, put on a Netflix movie, and started that puzzle whilst dipping my hand into my candy vase every so often for a treat.

I don’t mean to brag, but my weekend sounds absolutely exceptional, wouldn’t you agree? It has everything I could want in a weekend, or at least everything that ten year old me wanted in a weekend.

Perhaps you even fill in a few details that I left out. You might assume that since I have money to burn on puzzles and candy I have few financial worries. Or you might assume that since my plan was to spend the day eating candy I had carefully adjusted my diet and exercise plans to accommodate this splurge. You probably also assumed I had no other important pressing obligations to attend to. And you might assume that I chose do all of those activities being of sound mind and body, filling up my weekend to the brim of funness.

So much of jealous is in the assuming. I’ll take a walk in the evenings sometimes and see these delightful homey scenes in living room or dining room windows. And I get filled with a certain sort of longing. They look like they’re having such fun. And I mentally fill in all the blanks from the TV shows I’ve seen.

Naturally they all like each other and have explicitly chosen to spend this time together. No one is in ill health, nor do they know of anyone intimately related to them who is suffering. They are free from all worries. They are all of like mind or open minded and they are having good, uplifting conversation.

And this is just from quickly walking by a house and seeing its occupants for perhaps fifteen seconds in total. But a glimpse that we build a fantasy on is never close to the reality of that moment.

My great weekend of eating candy and working on a puzzle? The reality is that I hate summer and it was ninety degrees in my apartment most of the time. There was no escape except to sit locked in my bedroom, because I was definitely not going outside. I was exhausted all weekend. Tired from the heat and tired because my arthritis has been more active this past week.

So I was grumpy, tired, in pain and then I went out to buy self-soothing things like candy, and distractions like puzzles.  Reality always ruins jealousy.

Remember when you were a kid and you thought being an adult would be 100% totally awesome? No bedtime, you get your own place, you have cool sophisticated conversations, you get to buy whatever you want, you can do whatever you want!

And then you grew up. Oh boy. This is not what I was advertised. Suddenly as an adult you realize why you don’t see many adults in the bulk candy aisle without accompanying children.

I had that realization today when the sugar headache kicked in and the dentist told me I had a cavity. First cavity in over ten years, too. Jealousy misses results and consequences. It’s always the short view of a very long game.

Men of Tinder

Tinder, the phone app that allows you to browse photos of humans and decide if you want to get to know them from a short bio, musical preference, brief list of common interests, and four additional photos, is perfect for the lazy slob that I am (at least when it comes to dating).

It is also a treasure trove of similarities. And if you’re someone who likes finding odd/obnoxious patterns and habits in groups of people (totally me) then you’re able to find some interesting commonalities in the truly varied group that is: Men of Tinder.

What you’ll find in photos

  • Fish — I don’t know if all fishermen use Tinder, but certainly a larger than average amount. What I don’t understand is why they think posing with a dead fish is a big draw for the average woman. Is it proving you’re an excellent hunter/gatherer? We’ve got grocery stories, my friend. I can get my own fish.
  • Pecs — Alright, so women are probably looking for dudes that are built. I get that. And on one hand I almost appreciate men pandering to that specific desire. But there’s no way to do a shirtless selfie that doesn’t make you look like a tool.
  • Women — So you know hot women. Great. From a picture it’s hard to judge relationship and context. Those could be pictures of your wife for all I know, or long term girlfriend. I get it. Other women think you’re fun to hang out with. But now you just look like a guy who’s trying to use his popularity with women to lure in other women to compete over him. Gross.
  • Random objects — Tinder man is not in these photos, it’s just random things he may or may not be interested in. Or photos of slogans that are apparently way too challenging to try and write out in the bio.
  • Children — I get it. You’re pandering to our maternal instincts. Maybe they’re your kids, maybe not, but guys look less sketchy when they’ve got a kid snuggled up next to them, right?
  • Cats — Cat guys are the weirdos. I don’t know why. This might just be my impression because I hate cats.
  • Dogs — “My dog is better than yours” is what is always said in a bio when a guy has a photo with a dog. I don’t know why this is a competition. Can’t we just love all the dogs? I get it. You’re an alpha bro who likes winning. You don’t have to win at dogs.

What you’ll find in bios

  • Self-Employed — As one sharp friend of mine mentioned, it’s just code for “unemployed” given how often it appears.
  • Height — Almost always guys include this physical detail in their bios. Also they always blame women for it so apparently we’re always asking about it. Women! Stop. It. Also, all men seem to reluctantly divulge. Like women over 40 being forced to tell their age. “I’m 5’9” because apparently that matters.” Ugh only to SOME women. Stop talking to women who make you feel like crap, I don’t care how hot she is!
  • List of physical assets — This is usually just a list of material possessions of any substantial worth like a car, a house, a good job, etc. Since I never think to ask about these things it makes me genuinely concerned that they’re just responding to the blanket material questions that some women ask. Which, by the way, how is that not just an instant red flag for them??
  • Nothing — If you’ve just posted one photo or several photos but no bio, it doesn’t matter how attractive you may look, or how normal. I a mentally filling that bio in for you and it’s not complimentary. It’s bad. It looks very bad.
  • 4/20 Friendly — A lot of guys are really just looking for pot buddies.
  • Outdoorsy requirements — I’m probably bitter about this because there’s so many attractive outdoorsy men who are looking for someone to go rock climbing with them and I am soooooooooo not that person. If there’s a picture of you happily in a sleeping bag in the great outdoors, I’m fairly confident we won’t get on well.
  • Female requirements — I don’t care if you have specified “I don’t like materialistic women” the fact that you feel compelled to say this smacks of you having at least a certain baseline issue with women. Also the whole “I don’t like women who don’t laugh” I mean geez, did you ever consider that maybe you’re not funny?
  • Whining — This one always gets me. I don’t know a single woman who is lured in with the “I guess women only use this to check out hot guys because no one ever responds to a good guy like me”. Oh sweetie, that’s not how anything works. Sometimes life’s hard and you need to buck up.
  • Life advice — Speaking of handing out unsolicited advice, Tinder men are full of it. Whether it’s a pithy phrase perfect for a motivational poster, or a quote you picked up somewhere to help spur your aspirational living, it’s gross. It smacks of some 80s sitcom Dad handing out wisdom at the end of a half hour episode. That may do it for some, but that’s a really niche market you’re working in.
  • Just Ask — Usually it’s phrased like this “I don’t know what to put here, lol if you want to know something just ask.” This is pure laziness. If you can’t even pretend you’re interesting or thoughtful, don’t make me work to figure it out.

Bottom line: Tinder caters to the demographic that believes in taking good selfies that make it look like you didn’t just take a selfie for a dating app, and those with any amount of writing skill and healthy (over-healthy) self confidence.

All this to say: if you can’t get any hits on Tinder, it 100% has nothing to do with who you are as a person. It probably just means you’re bad at marketing. And to be honest with you? That’s kind of a good thing.

Now Is the Time to Overreact

I’m a woman. So I’m no stranger to overreacting.

I mean, I’m a woman, I’m no stranger to being told I’m overreacting.

And overreacting is bad. It’s not reasonable is it. It’s not rational. Zeal is way out. Overreacting is passe. We hear things, snippets of things, small ideas or words and think these things:

  • That’s a minority opinion.
  • Everyone knows that’s crazy.
  • They don’t mean it.
  • There’s a kernel of truth.
  • Listen to the other things they’re saying.
  • Give them another chance.
  • You didn’t hear it right.
  • You’re misinterpreting.
  • Maybe he’s a racist, but he’s a nice guy otherwise.

So we let behavior slide, and we let words slide because we don’t want to make a big deal out of something that is “probably nothing”. And we have been doing this, culturally, for years and we have done it most profoundly harmfully to minorities in this country.

Here’s the things I have myself though in response to racism around me:

  • I don’t want to get into politics with him.
  • He’s an idiot, of course he thinks that.
  • This isn’t the time or place.
  • I don’t know enough about this to say whether he’s wrong or right.
  • I probably am overreacting.
  • Maybe I’m just a bleeding heart liberal.
  • I’m just too focused on the one side.
  • I wasn’t there, how can I really know.

My lack of zeal is the problem. My willingness to let things slide is the problem. My stance toward casual racism is in part what contributes to an entire country having a casual approach toward racism. And it’s easy to be casually racist, because it requires you to do nothing but think and act defensively. To remind yourself when you hear about racism that

  • It’s probably not how it actually went down — the media skews things in favor of minorities.
  • They’re making things difficult for themselves.
  • If they’d just focus on keeping their heads down and doing work this wouldn’t be a problem.
  • It’s not like I have it that much easier.

This is an absence of zeal. An absence of love. An absence of empathy. This is selfishness. This is apathy. This is complacency. This is rationalizing.

I’m a good protestant. I believe in total depravity. And because I believe in this wholeheartedly, it is my job to work against it with every fiber of my being, in my own self and in the world at large.

There are too many Christians who believe in “tough love” to minorities. The old adage “pull yourselves up by your bootstraps”. They believe that minorities ought to put in a little effort and try a little harder to earn the support — financially and otherwise — from the Christian community.

This is completely against the saving grace of God and the state he found me in when he saved me.

We are not to reach out to the oppressed because they earned it, they deserve it, or they’re worth it. We are to reach out to the oppressed because we are to show the love of God to whomever we can.

Sin is easy. Sin is the natural default. Doing nothing is easy. Doing nothing is the default.

Be zealous. Be loving. Start in your small circle to take the important stance that racism in all its forms and colors is not okay. It’s sinful.

It is when the majority of people do nothing, that insanity is free to reign. This has been shown in history time and time again and in every age the human reaction is the same.

  • I’m probably overreacting.
  • It’s probably going to pass.
  • This isn’t that big of a deal.

Please, overreact to racism. Please overreact to ideologies that inflame violence, incite hatred, and beget pain. Things pass only when we take a stand against them. Things only become unacceptable when we say they’re unacceptable.

I’m terrified of what my friends and neighbors will think of me being so passionate about this topic, isn’t that tragic? I’m afraid of what they’ll say about me.

But if I’m being totally honest, I’m more afraid of what the future will say about me if I don’t stand up and speak up for what’s right. I’m afraid for the people who will get crushed under the wheel of my apathy. I’m afraid for the people I could have helped, but didn’t because it didn’t affect me. I’m afraid of the way history will remember me if I’m okay with what’s happening now. I’m afraid of the history we’re creating because we’re unwilling to overreact.

I Can’t Say “No”

I’m never too busy. It’s impossible. I’m single. All I have is “me” time. And yet I can go several weeks at a time feeling that it’s impossible to take a clean breath of air, overwhelmed by tidal ways of obligations and activities that I genuinely wanted to do, until they were all scheduled for tomorrow, or oops, is it today?

Last month I decided on a novel concept. I was going to stick to my obligations only — that I’d scheduled a month or so earlier — and I was not going to add to my weekly plans unless I was confident it would be a positive experience that would be enjoyable, and presumably non-taxing.

In summary, last month I practiced saying “no”. You wouldn’t think I have trouble with that word, with telling people that one thing, with disappointing them. There’s something about my face that indicates I say it on the regular, but the reality is I HATE saying no to people. I hate canceling plans, rescheduling plans, or saying outright that I won’t be doing something.

I’m especially bad when the phrasing is “do you have time?” because, as has probably been sussed out, I’m single. All I have is time. I also have a very flexible schedule that allows me to shift priorities or obligations. Like sleeping and eating.

I’ve often confused the concepts of “can” and “should”. It’s taken more time than I feel is reasonable to admit that just because I CAN do something doesn’t mean I should. It certainly doesn’t mean I’m the right person for the job. Availability doesn’t equal aptitude.

What I learned in my month off is that my priorities are different from those of the people around me, and that — to some degree — I have very good priorities that I should focus on. That it’s okay to say “no” to people in favor of the things that I value. I also learned that simply because I’m asked doesn’t mean I’m required. Sometimes I’m just an easy ask.

Most importantly I discovered that saying no isn’t the worst thing you can say to someone. It doesn’t crush them, ruin their day, destroy their hopes, or tear down God’s master plan.

Amazing what can happen with a month of clarified priorities.

Now of course, it’s August and I’ve totally shot that horse in the face with overbooking my first two weeks. I learn, but I learn very, very slowly.

Which is fine, there are weeks ahead of me with whole nothings planned, and now I know how to keep them safe from all the busyness I usually can’t resist.