On a perfect mess…

Three weeks ago I was laying on my kitchen floor crying.

What brought me to the floor? A fucking bouillon cube.

A few months ago I was diagnosed with celiac disease, which means that if I eat anything with gluten (something found in wheat, rye or barley) I get really sick.

I had planned on making a delicious soup for my husband and my mom. But when I reached for the bouillon, I started reading the ingredients and could not figure out if it contained any gluten. So I went to the company website, and there was no more information. I scanned the barcode on an app I have, and the app database couldn’t tell me if there was gluten.

I was tired of searching. My plans hit a road bump. I was exhausted because I had to start a new routine of reading EVERY single label. My brain was confused. Not knowing what to do, I laid on the ground and started sobbing.

Like most people, I have a few pet peeves. My biggest pet peeve is misinformation (that’s a different blog post). But near the top of my list is when people deny having any problems.

I have a really good life. Good job. Good husband. Good friends.

But some days, I feel like I’m falling apart. Honestly, some weeks I feel like I’m falling apart.

But if you listen to some people (you know who I’m talking about) you’d think they had everything figured out. I’m sure there are a few people in the world who live in harmony, but for most of us – life can be a struggle. Struggles are relative. To many, me crying over bouillon cubes is ridiculous. But to me, it was difficult.

When I feel like everything is a mess, I find that there are a few things I can do.

1) I recognize that there is a problem.

Some people never admit to having any personal problems. Some people never discuss their own issues, but excel and discussing the problems of other people. I find those traits exceptionally harmful, because every person has some issues. Denying that we have issues is just that – denial.

In my experience, the best thing to do when I have a problem, is to sit down and think about it. “Why am I mad?” Oh yes, because of this. “Why am I crying?” Oh yes, because of this.

There is nothing wrong with having issues. God recognized sin the first day it happened. He wasn’t happy, but He sent us Jesus. Jesus gives us hope that we are better than our imperfections.

2) I call out for help.

I sat and cried on the floor for three minutes. Then I looked into the other room and my mom and husband were waiting there. Why should I be alone when two people I love are sitting in the next room?

If you can cry out for help – you should. If you don’t have anyone for whom to cry out – you should start looking. If you pick a time and public place, most people don’t turn down hanging out.

I’m not great at calling out for help, but I’m trying. Each year, I get a little bit better.

3)      I recognize that only God is perfect.

I swear a lot. I have a temper. I cry over trivial things. I blame my husband for my own mistakes.

I am not perfect. The trick isn’t to be perfect, the goal is to become better.

The only way we become better is through Christ. Christ died for our own imperfections so that one day we could be reconciled into perfection. Until that day comes, we all just have to live with being a perfect little mess.

On J.O.Y…

J.O.Y.

In Christian-ese, it’s an acronym for: Jesus, Others, and then You.

It’s used to convey the notion that our primary focus should be Jesus, then other people, and lastly – ourselves.

The phrase is used to let many people know that they should not be selfish, and they should put the needs of others ahead of themselves.

I have always hated that acronym. It isn’t the letters, it is their order.

In my life, I have never had trouble taking care of other people before I took care of myself. In fact, I would say that not taking care of myself has been one of my largest struggles. You remember that blog where I avoided going to the doctor for 10 years? And that other one where I never asked for help? Yeah, it’s a problem.

When I was a kid, I can remember packing my mother lunches before she went to work so she would have food to eat. I’d make her an egg salad sandwich, pack her some fruit, and then I’d shower and get ready for school. I was eight.

Taking care of others before I took care of myself is a theme that followed me to other relationships. In eighth grade I had a terrible friendship with a girl named ‘Terri.’ If there was a board game Terri wanted to play, I’d give in. If there was a snack Terri wanted, I’d get it. I’m sure Terri loved having me as a friend, but I did not get much out of the relationship.

In my first few romantic endeavors, I can remember making sure the needs of my significant other were taken care of before I would ever consider myself. With my ex-husband, I remember spending a few months doing all of the housework, working two jobs, and doing all of the laundry because he voiced that he was tired. My needs? Can’t say I thought about them.

Some people are givers. Some people are takers. Many people are a bit of both.

I have found that there are two really big problems with always being the giver.

First, always being a giver allowed me to ignore my own personal needs and problems I should have been addressing. Yeah, I packed my mom lunch because I loved her. But I also packed her lunch because of a deep insecurity that if I did not take care of my mother something bad would happen to her. What? Who knows?

And I took care of so many things for my ex-husband so that I could avoid taking care of my own issues. Lose weight for my health? Why would I do that when I am taking care of a spouse? Spend time in prayer? How can I do that when I am helping all of these friends?

Second, I think my need to take care of others first comes from a deep insecurity that if I do not please other people they will not love me. And if no one loves me, who am I then?

If I pack my mom lunch, she will love me. Right?

If I do everything for my spouse, he will love me. Right?

If I do whatever my friends need, they will like me. Right?

I found out the hard way that nothing you can do will make people like you.

After I got divorced, I lost several of my ‘friends.’ When I moved to Michigan I knew no one, but became friends with two women I thought loved me. When I got divorced these women told me they no longer wanted to be my friend because ‘of my decisions.’

I thought I had done nothing to them. I had been whatever they wanted whenever they needed it. Yet, they could still dump me. I was baffled.

Losing those friends taught me one of the best things I have ever learned. I learned that you have to be yourself and you have to take care of yourself. I could spend my entire life pretending to be some else and do whatever people want, and people can still hate me or leave me. So I might as well be myself and take care of my own needs.

I highly doubt that I am alone on this. In fact, I’d venture to guess that a lot of people take care of others to the detriment of their own needs.

So that annoying acronym. I think we keep Jesus first, because through Christ and our devotion to Him we can understand how we should respond to all things.

Then, You. If we keep in line with Christ, it will guide us to take care of ourselves. If I have little sleep, how can I serve others? If I never exercise and am unhealthy, how can I take care of children? If I never buy myself anything, how can I be happy for my friend’s gifts?

In keeping in line with Christ, and then taking care of ourselves, that will allow us to have the energy to take care of other people. We should be taking care of others. We should love our friends and family. We should take care of others.

So I propose we arrange this acronym. Instead of J.O.Y., how about J.Y.O.?

I think that will save my life, and my sanity.

On the Lansing State Journal building move…

The worst job I ever had, I remember going to the bathroom and crying in the stall at least once a week. It just was not a good fit.

The job before that – also not a great fit.

When I started working for Gannett at the Lansing State Journal, I was a bit concerned about whether this new place was going to work. After two jobs that were not amazing, I started to wonder whether I was cut out for the workforce. Was it bad mangers? A bad company? Was I just a crappy employee?

I started at the Lansing State Journal on January 7, 2013.

When I walked through the building, I was, um, surprised at the accommodations.

“Its always cold here. And its colder in summer than it is in winter – so just bring a space heater.”

“You want a new office chair? Um, let me steal one from one of the abandoned rooms.”

“You’ll get use to the cockroaches. Its just an old building.”

Friday was my last day working from the Lansing State Journal building on Lenawee in Lansing. Two days a week I work in downtown Detroit at the Free Press/News building, two days I’m in Lansing, and once a week I’m at home. For the two days a week I’m at Lansing, I’m excited about moving to the new building we’ll work from. But there is a part of me that is sad about leaving this historic building.

My first day at LSJ, my co-worker Robin and I toured the building. Friday, my co-workers Robin, Nancy and I toured the building again photographing this old place.

Here is a picture of where the old print press use to run. You can see the ink from printing newspapers splattered across the walls.

 

And here is the ‘half room.’ For decades, a copy of each edition was stored in this room. The cupboards are noted with numbers in marker, and with plates, and in some spots – tape.

 Moving to the end of the half room, prior employee graffiti marks the walls.

 

 Here is the old basement break room. Legend holds that the drain got plugged in the 90’s. To ‘fix’ the issue, a new break room was built over the old one. The move left the old blue break room exposed.

 

 But the bathrooms are, well, rough. With narrow hallways and old school colors.

And there are all of these weird nooks and crannies. Here’s a cage in the basement, and a room full of machines. I wish I could tell you the history behind these places.

 

 And there are cords without ends, and electric cables without matches.

There is an empty room on the second floor where IT once lived.

 

 And another empty room on the third floor that was once the employee break room.

 

And empty hallways with empty ‘IN’ boxes on the second floor. I wish I could tell you what documents were housed in the in box.

 

 And there are boxes, where the business office once operated.

And more boxes, in a weird half room on floor two.

 

 And dusty drinking fountains.

 And the old freight elevator on the third floor. I don’t think this has operated in years.

 

 And three floor histories all meeting in once space. To me, this picture tells the story of the building. Beautiful wooden floors symbolizing a golden age of prosperity. Laminate tile marking a time of quick growth. And plywood – just trying to keep things together as we move through change.

 The newspaper industry has experienced many transformations. While millions of people still read the print paper, more and more people get their news online.

As the world changes, Gannett and the Lansing State Journal change as well.

The bathroom stalls are old, and kind of icky. But I love them. And I’ve never cried in a stall.

Although it might be filled with cockroaches, this building is also full of memories. The secret to being happy at work is never the work and it is never the building – it is the people. The people that work for this company have made some great memories in this damn place. I’m privileged to have been a part of that.

I pack light. When I left the building I didn’t take any bricks or tiles. When I moved into my cube the prior occupant had this quote taped on the cubical wall. I’ve always liked looking at this quote as a reminder of how I’d like to live every day. So I took the quote down and will take it with me when we move to the new building.

 

 As we leave the building, I’m sad to leave behind the amazing memories of what happened within these walls. Moving forward, I’m excited to see how we will change the world – and how the world will change us. I trust that people will be good. I trust that God will guide us. I fear not for what lies ahead.

On how I overcome feeling alone…

Sometimes I think people only imagine that the devil comes to us in big things. You know what I mean, right? That we will meet our demise or downfall through things like drugs, murder, or violence.

While these things obviously lead to problems, I think the devil is in the little things.

 If the devil were to conquer me, I do not think it would be with alcohol or beating someone up. If I am conquered, it will be because I have been convinced that I am alone.

Actually, maybe that is not so small?

Most of my life I have felt alone.

In daycare, I remember struggling to connect and make friends.

In high school and college, I felt the same way. I would talk someone and struggle to feel a of connection.

The need to feel connected is a God give desire.

Feeling alone is often just that – a feeling; it is seldom a reality.

I feel alone, but at any moment, I have a dozen people I can call and ask for help.

Regardless of this reality, my perception has led to some dark times. I have struggled with bouts of depression, paralyzing anxiety, and when I was in college – a suicide attempt.

This last year has not been helpful. In mid-2015, my church campus closed (I wrote about that here), and a few months ago I was diagnosed with Celiac disease (and I wrote about that here). Losing a church campus feels lonely. Learning to adapt to a disease where you cannot eat food others are consuming feels lonely. In spite of being surrounded by people – I feel alone.

This morning I woke up and felt lonely. My brain was telling me to stay at home and sulk. But if you want to grow loneliness – you feed it with being alone. If you want to grow connection – you feed it by being around good people.

Instead of sulking, I drove to church. I was going to sit alone, but instead, I forced myself to sit by some friends.

When I feel alone, I try to overcome it by remembering these three things.

First, I remember to pick up the damn phone. Instead of sitting in silence, I call out to someone I love. I call my mother and tell her I miss her. I call my friend Brandy and ask her about her day. I message my friend Bri and see how she is doing. Honestly, I forget to do this – ALL the time, but I am trying to be better.

Second, I try to realize that my struggle with feeling alone comes from a place of pain. I feel alone because I do not want to let others in because I feel like I have been hurt by a lot of people. When I married Del I put in my vows ‘I vow to let you love me.’ I am surrounded by people that try to love me, but I struggle to let them. I fear that if I let them in, they will only hurt me. Since marrying Del, and learning to let someone love me, I am starting to overcome that. But its hard. Every day it is hard.

Third, I reflect on the fact that even if I lost everything I would still have God. If my friends go away, if my husband dies, and if my church is gone – God still remains (for the record – I would prefer to have those things stick around). I am a child of God. God dwells in me. At any moment, at any time, He is with me. When I am alone, I try to remember Him. With Him, I am never really alone. And if I am never really alone, the devil can never conquer me.