Do what you love

The other day, one of my students asked me, “Ms. Evans… was it always your dream to become a teacher?”

I had to stop and think. As a child, I had some wild ideas about what I would be when I grew up. A singer? A dancer? A doctor? A lawyer? A teacher? A writer? An actress? A movie director? An FBI AGENT? (No lie… I actually wanted to be one for a while…)

But when it came down to it- when I was forced to declare a major back in college… it all came down to what my gifts were and where my passions lay. It had to be writing or teaching.

So, I went after what I loved.

And became a teacher who writes. Or a writer who teaches… depending on how you want to look at it.

And in that moment, I realized just how thankful I was that I was doing what I genuinely… LOVED. I wasn’t stuck in some dead end job trying to make ends meet… drudging through each day with the weekend as my only respite to what was otherwise an exercise in futility. I mean… how many people can say that? “I love what I do and I’m doing what I love.”

Can you say that? Because if you can’t… I encourage you to go for what you really want. Even if your dead end job is just a means to an end… work at it and stick with it and keep your eyes on that end result… because truly, it’s never too late. And life is too short. So, find what you love and do it.

Advertisements

Earning Love

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks.

Having additional time off and not staying crazy-busy has sent me into a bit of a tailspin.

I had no idea how much I crave busyness. During the school year, I rarely have down-time. During the summer, even with my part-time gigs, I underestimated just how much down-time I would have. I seem to have forgotten the negative effect down-time can have on me. Suddenly, I have time to think. And when I have time to think I have time to obsess. And when I have time to obsess, I have time to be anxious about everything. And when I have time to be anxious about everything, I have time for panic attacks.

Before going to bed, while in the shower, while prepping for tutoring, while babysitting, while in the doctor’s office, while waking up in the middle of the night, while preparing for the day… panic, panic, panic.

It didn’t actually occur to me that I was having panic attacks until I took the time to look it up. All I could think was, “What the heck is wrong with you?! Chill, woman. You’re being ridiculous.” But all the chastising in the world couldn’t bring me down from the ledge I was about to hurl myself over. It all came to a head while in the shower one afternoon, freaking out about the numbness in my leg, convinced I had a life threatening disease that was going to kill me right then and there, when I pulled the towel off the rack, tied it around my head and…

A spider, the size of Cincinnati, crawled out of the towel and into my hair. The result? There is no gif adequate enough to properly convey the madness that followed. The screaming, the throwing, the hyperventilating… Winston (who doesn’t get up for anything) actually came to check on me. That’s how bad it was. When I realized I had trashed my apartment and emotionally fallen apart over a spider? I knew it was time to see the doctor.

So, of course, the doctor prescribed me something. But, of course, since it wasn’t a magic pill, it took a few days to kick in. (Actually, I may still be waiting for it to completely kick in…) In the meantime, I surrounded myself with Bible verses and prayer and sleep. (Well, the best sleep I could get when I wasn’t obsessing, worrying, and panicking.)

One night, while in the throes of yet another panic attack that had awoken me at 3:00 in the morning, Winston jumped up on the bed to offer his company… and I immediately launched into what I like to call my, “Have-To” mode.

I have-to cuddle him. I have-to let him know he’s appreciated. I have-to show him he is loved. I have-to give him some attention. I have-to be a better pet parent. I have-to brush him more, feed him less, play with him more, hold him more, leave him home alone less, etc, etc, etc. I have-to do this, that, and the other thing for him, right here, right now, otherwise, it’s all going to fall apart.

Okay, clearly the have-tos play a big part in my anxiety… But it was in the midst of me tearing myself down over how much I wasn’t doing and how much more I could be doing that the following thought crossed my mind…

Maybe Winston just wanted to give me some affection. Maybe he wanted to keep me company. Maybe he wanted to check on me. Why couldn’t I  just let him love me? Why couldn’t I just let myself be loved… period??

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a thought. Maybe it was a prompting of the Holy Spirit. But it was this thought and/or prompting that made me realize… If I can’t even let my cat show me love, how can I ever expect the Lord to get His foot in the door long enough to show me love? I’m always so worried about what I’m doing earn that love – any love – all love – love from family, love from friends, love from coworkers, love from Jack, love from God, even love from my pet. What it boils down to is the fact that I seldom am able to receive love because I’m always convinced that I haven’t earned it. I haven’t done enough, I’ve done too much, I’ve done it too often, I’ve done it too seldom, I’ve done it too late, I’ve done it too early, I did it too eagerly, I did it impersonally, I did this wrong, I did that wrong, I didn’t do the other thing well enough… And until I can fix it all, and tie up the loose ends, and prove I’m worthy of love, I shrug it off, push it away, and ignore it altogether because… anything that unconditional… that free…. can’t be meant for me. I’m not good enough for it.

Why can’t I just receive it? Who said I had to earn it? What makes me think I’d ever be able to earn any of it? EVER?! That’s what’s so amazing about our Heavenly Father’s unconditional love… it’s just always there for the taking… but we’re not taking it… because we’re too busy trying to earn it.

At least I am. And it’s exhausting… and probably an excellent source of all that anxiety.

So, as I settled back under my covers with Winston nestled under my chin and drifted off to sleep, I realized, I can barely do enough to earn my cat’s love, thank God I don’t have to earn His. And with that, I let Him love me, as I settled in for the best morning’s sleep I have gotten in a long time.

 

 

 

 

 

Ahem.

I know.

I’ve been ridiculously inconsistent about writing on here.

It’s not that I don’t have the time…

It’s just that… well there’s so much else to do!

Kids to tutor, kids to babysit, boyfriends to date, siblings to talk to, friends to keep up with, thank-yous to write, dishes to wash, laundry to do, books to read, music to listen to, cats to clean up after, road trips to take, prayers to pray, naps to sneak in, lessons to plan, new years to prep for, pretend arguments to have in my head…

And all of a sudden, one third of the summer is gone and I still don’t feel like I’ve had a vacation. I feel like I’m still on everyone else’s schedules… because I am… with parents to answer to for tutoring and babysitting… when all I ever wanted was a break. A break from screaming, arguing, challenging, whining children. And I don’t get a break…. It’s just that I get to deal with them for a shorter period of time and I get to sleep in a couple extra days a week… THAT’S NOT A VACATION.

I know. I do it to myself. Because I can’t say no. It’s all my fault really. But I’d be much obliged if everyone would stop POINTING IT OUT TO ME.

“What are you doing here?! School’s out! You’re on vacation!” says every other married teacher at the school who is simply maintaining this job on a disposable income kind of basis because their spouses are the bread winners and they just get to pursue their hobby of teaching.

No. See, this is my actual JOB. Which requires additional jobs in order to maintain. I actually have bills to pay. And I need food to eat. And clothes to wear… n’ stuff. So, I HAVE to work these extra jobs… along with this other teaching “gig”. I don’t do it just for fun. I’m not a public school teacher. Geeze.

I just want to sleep. And stare. And write. And drink coffee every day. And not set an alarm clock. And shower when I darn well feel like it!

I realize how petty and pathetic this all sounds. “Oh, BOO HOO. Annie has to work the rest of the summer like EVERYONE ELSE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD!”

I know. I’m spoiled rotten. I get it. I need to shut it. But hey, don’t blame me because you didn’t go into education. It’s not that it’s my fault that I have a cushy job that affords me the privilege of having 3 months off and the perks of working only 3 extra days a week for some extra cash.

Ahem.

I’m going to stop talking now.

And pretend this conversation never happened.

Because it didn’t.

I’m too busy for such pathetic, self-pity wallowing conversations.

Ahem.

Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.

A Christ Follower

Being the nerd that I am, most weekends, I spend a decent portion of my time watching documentaries. Sure, I could watch any old thriller or comedy… but I’d much rather learn something… anything… if I’m going to stare at a TV screen for a couple of hours.

This weekend, it was learning all about eating disorders in “THIN” and the process of a proper Amish shunning in “The Amish: Shunned”. It was during the latter that I heard the following quote:

“For the Amish, Jesus alone is not enough. Working, trying your best, following the rules and traditions of the forefathers. You do it all just right hopefully, you’ll make it into heaven. To me, all the good works, and traditions, and rules, and regulations covered up the simple, easy play of salvation…. Are we going to follow man or are we going to follow the scriptures?”  –The Amish: Shunned

This quote, oddly enough, describes much of my experience within the Catholic Church. The church would claim that they too, believe that faith alone in Jesus Christ is what is necessary for salvation… BUT… it is the good works that aid us in our journey toward heaven. To counter that, the Protestants claim that the good works are a direct result of faith in in Jesus. So, to simply things… Catholics believe that good works aid in our salvation. Protestants believe that salvation aids in our good works.

That was something I struggled with entering the Catholic Church. Yes, I believed in the teachings of Jesus. Yes, I wanted to serve and honor God in all I did. Yes, I had faith and a relationship with my Lord. BUT, it was my baptism that first sanctified me, and it was the works that I did that further sanctified me and fully prepared me to be accepted into heaven.

IF I went to church every Sunday. IF I received the Eucharist worthily. IF I went to confession once a month. IF I did corporal works of mercy. IF I prayed daily. IF I asked for the intercession of the saints. IF I observed all Holy Days and Feast Days. IF I kept up with the daily scripture readings of the church. IF I tithed and fasted and lived well and kept a good witness… THEN, I would at least be accepted into purgatory to be further sanctified and perfected until eventually I would earn my heavenly merit badge and be accepted to be with Christ for all eternity.

It was a long year and a half of walking on egg shells. I couldn’t miss Mass. I couldn’t miss confession. I couldn’t forget to say grace. I couldn’t refuse to learn more about the saints. I couldn’t not know my catechism front to back. I couldn’t read a non-Catholic Bible. I couldn’t listen to Christian music, (but rather, it was best to listen to Catholic pod casts.) I couldn’t forget my Holy Days of Obligation. I couldn’t go to another church. I couldn’t receive communion anywhere else. I couldn’t not appreciate or embrace suffering. I couldn’t not silently judge and pray for the salvation of my non-Catholic brothers and sisters. I couldn’t not perform to my full ability. Anything less would mean not offering all of myself to Jesus. Anything less would be one further step away from purgatory. Not even heaven, but purgatory.

Looking back, I can’t believe how tied up in knots I was. Every day… trying to prove my worthiness. Every day… worrying that if I were to die that day would Jesus still want me? Worrying that I hadn’t done enough to merit His grace and mercy and love. I needed to earn it. I needed to trust the teachings of the Church, follow the rules, and hope for the best. That’s all any of us could ever do.

Admittedly, I feel like a good portion of churches all around the world have begun to rely too heavily on the grace of Jesus Christ – as though it’s a Get Out of Jail Free Card. We can do what we like, forget about God, and somehow His grace will see us through. Yes, His grace is a gift – it’s not something that can be earned – but we’re still expected to live rightly.

I think some Catholics fail to understand that Protestants don’t view salvation as a “One and Done” deal. I haven’t met a single Protestant who believes that. We still believe we have to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling… but we don’t believe that we can earn brownie points just by doing the right thing. We don’t think we can shave time off our sentence in purgatory simply by praying for the dead. We don’t think “work” of any kind will ever make us more worthy. Because our righteousness is as filthy rags. There’s nothing we can do to deserve His grace. It’s a gift. A true gift. No matter how much time I spend in church praying, no matter how much I give to the poor, no matter how consistent I am with confession and communion and charitable works… I still won’t deserve it. I’ll still be unworthy. And God knows that. That’s why He sent His son to die on the cross as reparation for our sins. So, why are so many of us working so hard to EARN it?

I look at my time in the Catholic church and sometimes I wonder, “What was I thinking?” and yet other times I think, “Meh… you know what? They’re right about that.” There are things I vehemently disagree with within the Catholic church and things I downright love. Thus the struggle. This “breaking” so to speak with the Catholic Church wasn’t a sudden, overnight epiphany. I didn’t wake up one morning and realize, “Huh. Maybe I’m not Catholic after all.” It’s been months of praying and seeking and reading… and I still don’t know all the answers. All I know is that I want to throw these expectations of what a Catholic is and what a Protestant is right out the window. All I want to be is a Christ follower. What’s so wrong with that?

Just Say No.

I truly have no one to blame but myself.

No one.

I could be all, “UGH! Why are you people demanding so much of me?! Don’t you know I have a LIFE?! DON’T YOU KNOW I’M SUPPOSED TO HAVE SUMMERS OFF?!”

I could do that you know… and in my head I often have these confrontations which only end in tears.

But then I realize just how silly I’m being….

Because, I’m the one who agreed to nanny for the summer. I’m the one who offered to tutor kiddos. I’m the one who was all, “No! I can start at 8:00 and end at 4:30!” It was I who didn’t protect her one day off a week. It was I who was all, “No! I can fit in your kiddo (and your kiddo and your kiddo and your kiddo) for tutoring!”

Until my schedule is chock full of kids I’m supposed to care take and educate. DURING MY TIME OFF.

WHY AM I THE WAY THAT I AM?!

WHY CAN’T I JUST BE ALL…

shrug I don't care

I don’t care about you or your child’s educational needs. I’m off for the summer.

WHY CAN’T I BE THAT AWESOME?!

I HATE that I still fall into the trap of pleasing people. If I say no, they will figure it out. They’re not imbeciles!

There is no justification for being as ridiculous as I am. There’s just not. I am a sad and pathetic shell of a human being.

sleeping beauty

*sigh*

Well, I better be off… to start my awesome summer of work.

Yaaaaaayyyyyyyyy….

 

 

Welcome to Catholicism

Where everything is your fault… and even if it’s not, you may as well do penance for it.

I don’t know if I mentioned this… but I joined the Catholic Church about a year and a half ago.

Apparently, I don’t have the staying power the cradle Catholics have because I started pulling up stakes a few months back.

I just couldn’t do it anymore…

I mean, not really…

I could go through the motions and pretend, but…

But even the pretending became burdensome. You know you’re doing it wrong when the whole time at Mass you’re thinking, “I wonder if I can find something decent on Netflix after this…”

I tried. I really did. But what with all the suffering, and the Marian devotions, and the guilt and the shame, and the bickering over how pious and holy one would have to be to attain perfection and gain admittance into heaven… It just became too much. I couldn’t buy into it anymore. I didn’t buy into it anymore. It all became too convoluted and treacherous and… well… backwards.

I mean, when you start to brow beat yourself for thinking that Billy Graham certainly made it into heaven, and feel guilty for not praying for his admittance into purgatory… You know there’s a bit of a problem.

I mean… really, Annie?

It just became… exhausting. And worship had become… forced. And Jesus had turned into a sad, angry, hurt martyr… and God was mad at me ALL THE TIME… and all semblance of grace and joy and peace had been left in a dust heap by the door…

It was just time.

So… here I am. Trying to figure out the why and the “HUH?” to my conversion and reversion and making my way back around to the light and joy and the peace.

I don’t know… Like I said… Over and under, around and through… I guess that’s the only way I really learn.

 

 

 

Be careful what you wish for…

Be careful what you wish for… you might just get it.

Isn’t that what we’re always warned about? You wish for something, that wish comes true, and it turns out the grass really was greener on the original side of the fence?

I wonder if the same thing goes for what you pray for. Be careful what you pray for… you might just get it.

But I suppose that’s how things work in an imperfect world. Nothing is perfect. Therefore, if nothing is perfect, then the after-affects, the consequences of an imperfect world must be imperfect as well. Even with perfect intentions, there are pluses and minuses, pros and cons. Nothing is perfect. Perfection is impossible in an imperfect world. So, even if you wish for perfection, you’ll never get perfection – you’ll get reality – and that’s the downside of the whole thing.

It’s funny when you look back on the things you once wished for – things from long ago, and things more recent. Sometimes we wonder, “Why did I ever want something like that?” Other times we wistfully think, “If I could only grasp that one thing…” That was my mood today. While waxing philosophically, I was thinking back on things I wished for… things I prayed for… and I was taking account of answered prayers and unanswered prayers. Some of the unanswered prayers were blessings in disguise. (No, scratch that. ALL of the unanswered prayers were blessings in disguise.) While some of the answered prayers were among the greatest challenges, the things that forced me to grow and stretch – especially when I didn’t want to.

Case in point: When I was younger (Okay, not that much younger. I’m not that old to begin with…)… college-aged… young and naive about my future… restless and adventurous and slightly rebellious… I used to pray for a life less ordinary.

I didn’t want an ordinary life. I wanted a life full of surprises and adventure and wild expectations and miracles. I didn’t want a house in the suburbs with a stable job and 2.3 kids, a trustworthy husband named Stewart, a golden retriever named Lady and a reliable car that got 15 mpg. No. I wanted to live by faith, and I wanted to see God do great things and I wanted to achieve great things and go where God led me.

And now… 10 years later… I think I actually got what I prayed for. Which at 32 years old isn’t what I really want at all. At 32 years old what I really, REALLY want is a house in the suburbs with a stable job and 2.3 kids, a trustworthy husband named Stewart, a golden retriever named Lady and a reliable car that gets 15 mpg. But instead I have an apartment in a podunk farming town, no kids, a husband who left me, an emotionally insecure cat and a 10 year old car whose rusty bumper is about to fall off. I work at a CATHOLIC school for very, VERY little pay, I have zero financial security, a ridiculously boring social life, my parents are gone and I have zero family nearby and… and… and the highlight of my days is going to Mass with my second graders. I’m excited about possibly becoming Catholic, and taking my kids on a field trip, and getting them involved in their church, and learning all I can about all the things I never knew about my faith. And here’s the really bizarre thing: I. LOVE. IT. It’s exciting and adventurous and miracles (big and small) are happening every day and I’m literally hanging on for dear life not having a clue which direction God is going to take me in and yet loving every single minute of not knowing and not having a plan but feeling all giddy because I know it will be good. It might be slightly uncomfortable at first… it might require me to stretch and grow… it might force me out of my comfort zone… but it thrills me!

It’s… in no uncertain terms… a life less ordinary. And there are days when I hate it and lament it and abhor it. Days when I want to get off the roller coaster and get back on the swing set. Days when I ask God (like I did just last week), “Can I PLEASE stop growing now? I’m about as strong as I can get. I’m good here. Just… let’s just leave it be… seriously. I’m tired. All done. Annie go nigh-nigh.” But that’s what you get when you ask for a life less ordinary. You might just get what you ask for.

And most days? I wouldn’t change it for anything.