these many little deaths.

A lot has happened in not-quite-a-year. The long and short of it is I found myself in a relationship, I fell in love, he broke my heart. A sad but familiar tale…and I am still reeling from it.

The first part of my year-long relationship was filled with highs. I felt loved, cherished, wanted and cared for. I resolutely ignored the red flags because there was just so much good. And there truly was…The Guy was so thoughtful and considerate most of the time that I overlooked his reticence to define the relationship, his habit of being triggered by my teasing jokes, and his reluctance to get to know my friends. The second half of our relationship was an emotional rollercoaster filled with really high highs and really low lows. I found myself in a relationship where the physical intimacy had escalated considerably (we fell short of going all the way). I take full responsibility for my part in letting that happen…but…I was in love. And that aspect of our relationship seemed to be the only way we could truly connect (Red flag). Unbeknownst to me, The Guy was having doubts the entire duration of the relationship. Ultimately, he broke up with me (3 days before his birthday and 4 days before our anniversary) because he felt we were too different. He thought my passions in life were shallow. We were vastly different on what we found important in life – he wanted to serve in a grand way and I wanted to affect my inner circle. Something that I had brought up several times and he had reassured me was “no reason to break up”. Oh the irony.

I cried for the whole day when we broke up, and a week later I cried through a more rational conversation on why we were breaking up. I shared my grievances and thanked him for the good times and thought – at least we’ll have ended gracefully.

A month later, he emailed me. He had been thinking about our relationship and wanted to talk. When I emailed back to ask what he wanted to talk about I got a cavalier “just want to see what’s new in your world” reply. This was more painful than the actual breakup. The fact that it seemed he had moved on so quickly tore at my insides. I politely worded an email thanking him for the breakup and for having the courage to do what I couldn’t and that I would be willing to speak to him if he had something he wanted to discuss but that I didn’t think it was healthy to “just say hi” to the man who broke my heart. He succinctly responded with “this was a mistake, I won’t contact you again”. I cried another million tears.

4 months later the scars are still fresh – although I can stare at them without crying all the time. I miss him still. You don’t stop loving someone just because they’ve hurt your or behaved badly. Your heart needs to heal and to patch itself up slowly. I miss his gravelly voice, being able to reach out and feel his scruff. I miss starting and ending my day talking to him and Skype sessions over the weekends. I miss the security I had knowing he found me utterly beautiful even without a stitch of makeup on.

Now I feel like an insecure shell of the person I was in that relationship. I struggle to hold on to that belief and security that who I am matters. He broke something in me by breaking up with me. I feel like perhaps I have nothing worthwhile to offer a man. That I am not interesting or intelligent because I didn’t have a grand vision for my life like he did. I feel stupid for having loved him (and at times, loving him still) even though it was clear he was holding back. I struggle all the more with sexual sin because I am trying to recapture that feeling of being cherished and wanted. Even though he and I “messed up” it was still less than how I feel I am “messing up” now! I feel so far from God – it is a struggle daily to read my Bible and it is even more of a struggle to remain pure of heart and mind. Its as if I am stuck in quicksand and the harder I struggle the more entrenched in the bog I become.

I hold on to the hope that I have in Christ – that he will ultimately be the one to drag me out of this. That there is grace upon grace available to me. I have never felt more undeserving of it. Maybe one day I will wake up and the fog will have cleared.

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Disclaimer: at his heart, my ex is a good person. he has some faults (as do I) and there is blame to share for how this relationship progressed. this post is only detailing my side of the story and my own feelings and interpretations of our breakup

this discontent.

In 2 days it will be my birthday. I will be 1 year older. In the space of a year so much has changed. Early in the year I went on a grand adventure hoping to find myself. Instead a door closed. I went back home feeling like I needed to stop wishing and hoping and dreaming. Soon after I went home I met someone. Unexpectedly I found myself in the middle of a long-distance dating relationship. The word “dating” is an important qualifier. We are not together-together. But we are getting to know each other exclusively and tentatively seeing if this is worth calling a “relationship”. So surprise surprise. I find myself wishing and hoping. And trying to keep the dreaming to a minimum. These are all important milestones in my life. But they are not everything. I find myself wishing and hoping and dreaming of something more. Something bigger than myself and bigger than my dreams. Something to fill the God-shaped hole in my heart.

I spent the day unshowered, reading a book about a dark fairytale (aren’t they all dark though?) and feeling depressed and alone and unloved. I knew it was not true. but I also knew something was wrong. I had not talked to God today. I had not talked to God, really talked to Him in a while. Well that’s not true. I talked to him about my life, about my feelings, my relationships…but I had not talked to him about myself. The deepest part of my heart that longs for something only He can give. I don’t think it is love – because I am certain I am loved. I think it has to do with purpose. About who He says I am and what I should do with this life should I be lucky enough to get another year to live it.

I feel as I have always felt – that I am not doing what He planned for my life. That I am still having days where I am unshowered, reading books till the late hours of the night, eating McDonald’s and leaving the paper bag and wrappers on the floor. A mess of a human being. When will I ever get it right? When will my life look like what I imagine it should be? A crusader who comes home after a long day of being Jesus to people, loving the unlovable, helping the weak and downtrodden. I don’t have a family of my own, I don’t have anyone to take care of. Can’t I use the time I do have to bless the less fortunate? To offer them my care and time and attention? I don’t know why it is so hard to do. Is my heart so closed off?

I feel like a fraud. Like a failure of a person, like a failure of a Christ-follower. I still worry about bills even as I purchase items for my upcoming holiday trip. I still question God’s grace and goodness even as I realize that I am getting to go on an all-expenses paid trip holiday trip around the world with someone I am coming to care for deeply. I can still see all that is lacking in my life even as I can see all the undeserved, unmerited blessings I am receiving.

What is wrong with me? I know what my friends would say. They would tell me that I am amazing, kind-hearted, and caring. I know what the man in my life would say. That if I want to do something to change my life I CAN. I know what my family would say. That I am an overthinker who is perpetually discontent.

I do not know what God would say. So on my birthday – this is my wish. To hear his voice. For Him to turn my head to the direction I should go and forcefully say – “Here. Do this. Be this. I will show you how. Chase after it with all that is in you. This is what I am choosing for you.”

Is that too much to ask?

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different needs.

As I continue getting to know the man I’m dating I’m finding it trickier to navigate our relationship. We both believe in really taking the time to get to know the other person and building a safe space while we do that. But I’m starting to feel like I’ve hit a wall as far as growing this safe space. We are dating exclusively – somewhere in between casually getting to know each other and being in a committed relationship. And I find myself liking him more and more and sharing my vulnerabilities and secret parts of myself. I am beginning to wonder – if this doesn’t work out, will I regret having shared so much of myself with someone who wasn’t my boyfriend?

When I talk to him I get the sense that he needs to feel that he has really gotten to know me before he decides whether he wants to take it to the next level. He needs time. But, when I search my heart, I’m starting to realize that I need that commitment to feel safe before I continue to share even more parts of myself with him. I don’t think either one of us is right or wrong. I think we just need different things.

And it’s not only the internal things. It’s also the physical side of the relationship. I was never the girl that wanted to save her first kiss for the altar. But at the same time I had never imagined feeling so connected, physically, with someone who wasn’t my boyfriend. I don’t regret experiencing those things with him but at the same time, a part of me questions whether I would regret it if we don’t ever get to a relationship.

It’s not an issue I can force. I can’t twist someone’s arm into giving me what I need at the expense of his own needs. I can, however, make decisions as to how much I do share or how much I am willing to do physically. I just worry that the boundaries I place on myself, particularly about sharing parts of my internal world, will make it harder for him to get what he needs – which is a deep sense of knowing a person.

It feels like a catch 22 sometimes. And I don’t have the right answers. At some point, I think someone has to bend. But how do you bend in such a way where you both feel you are still standing firm on your convictions? Or where you feel like a conviction has genuinely changed because you see the other person’s viewpoint and understand it, as opposed to changing because you want to give the other person what they want?

Tough questions to ask myself. And tough questions I’ll have to ask him eventually. In the meantime, I’m praying that God works in both of our hearts and minds to reveal the next steps He wants us to take.

This is hard y’all.

on vulnerability.

I recently had a talk with the man I am dating about how I was feeling vulnerable and didn’t want to think I was the only one in this boat. He bravely opened up and made himself vulnerable in response to my letting my guards down. So today I googled “vulnerability” and “dating” and a list of articles popped up. One of them was “Being Vulnerable and Increasing the Attraction”. I didn’t even click on the link.

When did being vulnerable become a game we play at to entice someone? To manipulate them into liking us?

Brené Brown says this of vulnerabililty –

Vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them. Being vulnerable and open is mutual and an integral part of the trust-building process.

So if vulnerability is about trusting someone…isn’t it counterintuitive to use vulnerability in such an untrustworthy way? I don’t want my vulnerability to be a tool to lure a guy in. I want it to be a gift I share the more I feel safe with someone.

Over one phone conversation he mentioned that he feels we are in a stage where we are building a safe place to share and be vulnerable and get to know each other. A couple of nights ago I told him that everytime I shared something with him, he responds with such graciousness to where I feel like our safe space is expanding and we can talk about more vulnerable or intimate topics. I am slowly learning to trust him and feel safe sharing pieces of myself. It’s something I am grateful for and would never want to cheapen by “using” my vulnerability. I just want to BE vulnerable with him. Because he makes me feel like I can.

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*In the midst of all this anxiety and feeling all the feels…I need to say…I am so grateful to God for this whole…whatever this is. i’m just grateful God decided to take me on this journey with this man. I’m keeping things in check but at the same time hopeful about where this might go.

the space between.

Well. It went somewhere. The last 2 weeks have been a bit of a blur. Meeting the guy in person for the first time. Feeling all kinds of awkward. Panicking (again, internally) about what I should feel and how I really feel. Traveling together. Becoming more relaxed with each other. Being playful and flirty and affectionate. Developing real feelings. Dealing with uncertainty and insecurities. Having to say goodbye. Missing him. It’s crazy how life changes for a person in a handful of days.

I don’t want to get into the details of getting to know him. Those are private and special and I’d like to keep it that way. But we are now exclusively dating. I’m still not completely sure what that means. Isn’t that the same thing as being in a relationship? Or is that a step before you really dive in?

This is the space between. And I am terrified. I am terrified of being abandoned. Of possibly liking someone more than they like me. My past experiences always seem to have included men who pursued me and once I made the decision to like them back…they left. And I am so afraid that will happen again. But I got some really great advice from a guy friend who isn’t usually known for giving great advice…

You have to let his actions speak for him. You can’t put the actions of others on him.

Wise words.

What do I know about the guy? He’s honest. And open. And if he’s struggling with something he will let me know. He won’t intentionally hurt people. He loves Jesus. This is enough for me to take the baby steps of trusting him.

What do I know about God? He is with me. He is guiding this. He’s speaking to the both of us. He will work everything out for His glory. I can trust Him.

It is hard navigating the space between friendship and relationship. This could go either way. You don’t have an assurance that things will work out. You don’t always know what the other person is feeling. You worry about being out of sight = out of mind. You panic for no reason sometimes. You have to be patient and let the other person process at their own pace. And all while continuing to be vulnerable and open. I still have to invite him into my life and continue to take the risk of getting to know him. I still need to step out in faith. But faith in what?

Faith in God. He’s got this. He knows what is best. He knows what will grow us both. Faith in the guy. He’s a good person. He can lead and navigate this situation. I can take these small steps of trust. Faith in myself. I am worth being pursued. I am worth the difficulty of getting to know someone long distance. Because I am loved by the God who assigns me immeasurable worth.

Now it becomes a season of patience, and of “wait and see”. And maybe someday this space between us will be filled with something more.

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growing up.

 

I’m not good at romantic relationships. Maybe it’s because, at 30, I haven’t ever been in a real relationship. And I only really started dating at 28. I’m sure it’s because I fed myself a steady diet of romance novels since I was 7. Or maybe it comes from my mom constantly telling me that men were deceitful and to never settle. Maybe it’s because my old church hyped the fact that women are “princesses” and men should jump through hoops to get to them. I don’t know. Whatever the reason – I suck at this romance thing.

My MO has always been to fall for someone who I know will never actually commit to a relationship. It’s usually the fun, charismatic, carefree guy who will ask to “hang out” late at night and well into early morning. We’ll talk about our deepest darkest fears and hopes and dreams. He’ll tell me I’m beautiful and amazing and a wonderful catch. I’ll wonder why he doesn’t attempt to catch me. We’re just friends. Who hang out. All the time. Deep down I know this isn’t going to work out. And because I know that – I’m free to be emotionally vulnerable. I will give it my all, because in a roundabout unhealthy way – this feels safe.

When a decent guy does come along and shows interest I have the opposite reaction. I will freak out. I may have started out liking them but as soon as they start to show interest in me I bolt. I suddenly find myself repulsed by them. I nitpick and find things to dislike and I focus on those things until I convince myself that they are completely wrong for me. Decent men liking me does not feel safe. Because deep down I know, this could go somewhere and I will have to actually commit to a relationship. I will have to be in uncharted territory. I will not be able to control whether I get hurt or heartbroken. In a way falling for the douche is better because even if I know I will end up hurt – well, I control that choice and decision.

But that can’t go on forever.

So I met a guy. Someone totally different than the fun-loving, life of the party, center of attention guy I go for. He’s serious and intense and introspective. The second time we talked he told me he liked me. I freaked out (internally of course). Old habits kicked in and I started to try to find things to dislike about him. But something held me back. I never regretted pushing all the other “decent” guys away. I could have handled things better but I was happy with the end result. With this guy – I had this strong sense that I would regret not giving it a fair shot. This was one “relationship” I did not want to sabotage.

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I started talking to my best friend about my feelings. Her advice was simple – “everytime you start to panic and pull away – DON’T. Just tell yourself to stay. Be open and vulnerable.” So I did. It’s only been a month. But for the first time I’m actually powering through my baggage and dysfunction. And I’m getting to know a really good man. Who I happen to like quite a bit. And when he cleared things up for me by telling me he was “pursuing” me – I didn’t panic. I have no idea if this will go anywhere and I know this doesn’t mean my bad habits have disappeared for good. But it feels like I’m finally getting over this. Like maybe I’m finally growing up.

ps – I’m really hoping it goes somewhere.

this is what I’ve learned.

the great big north american adventure is over.

It’s been a wonderful trip. I went there thinking this was going to be mainly about the counseling program and as a consolation prize I’d get to see my friends…well that’s not exactly how things turned out.

The gift and the blessing was getting to see my friends. Meeting new people. Being blown away and overwhelmed by how generous and kind people are. I literally spent $350 CAD during my entire month-long trip (excluding the airfare of course). Everything else was provided for – food, beds, couches, hotels.  I stayed with people I didn’t know. I was toured around by friends of friends. It was amazing. It was something I badly needed – to be reminded of the goodness in people.

A bigger blessing was having the freedom to strip away everything people have told me about myself in the past couple of years and just feel free to be myself. No judgments. No unwelcome opinions. No one speaking into my life telling me what is and isn’t wrong with me. I learned so much about who I am as a person and I learned to stop trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. I will always be one of those people that straddles cultures, that is forever in the camp of the outsiders and people who are labeled “not easy to understand”. That’s OK.

Some lessons I learned on this trip:

  1. People that are truly helpful will just help you. I met so many people that were willing to house me, feed me, tour me around. And yes, some were old and dear friends, but some were strangers – friends of friends that had heard that a girl from another country needed a place to stay and someone to host her. It was amazing to hear people say “What do you need? Let’s make it happen.” instead of just “I’ll pray for you.”
  2. Sometimes, the problem isn’t me. During the course of this trip I felt free to just be myself. I would say something about how shitty I felt or how angry or hurt I was…and instead of hearing “well, maybe it’s you” I heard “that’s such a horrible thing to go through”. Or “that doesn’t seem fair”.  Maybe it’s a cultural thing but back home it always feels like people are uncomfortable with “negative” emotions. If you are feeling angry or hurt or let down then you should find a way to deal with it quickly and move on. Never blame the other person. Never hold anyone accountable but yourself. It was so refreshing to be in an environment that seemed to accept the good, the bad, and the ugly. All in all it was great to have my feelings validated.
  3. Standards of beauty are different across the world. Where I live, people freely toss around opinions like “you got fat” or “you look tired” or “your eye bags are so dark!” (because you decided to forego makeup that day). While I was in North America not once did someone tell me to go put on more makeup. I lived in sneakers and leggings for a month and never felt more beautiful and accepted – even when I noticed that I had gained 8 lbs.

The biggest thing that I learned on this trip is to be myself. And to have the courage to fight for that authentic self – that beautifully broken, messy self. So that’s who I’m going to be from now on.

The Middle - Jimmy Eat World

The Middle – Jimmy Eat World

It has taken me 2 and a half months to actually write this down. This trip was so meaningful that it literally took all that time to process and organize my thoughts.