Waiting For Aslan to Move

What do you do when you are hopeless, in the deepest of slumps. Help is immanent, but it’s not here yet and you can’t bear it any longer?

It feels like darn near everything is going the way of the buffalo.¬†That’s extinction, if you haven’t guessed. I feel like a broken record saying this, because it seems slumps are a regular part of my life and I haven’t been silent about this.

Running is bad right now.

Today was another in a series of crap runs. I stopped at about two miles in and cried. I don’t know why. I just did. It’s a girl’s prerogative to cry whenever she darn well pleases.

Money sucks right now.

Due to issues with the tax man, I’ve been waiting on my return for three months now. Government efficiency and all that. Meanwhile, I, the dreamer of big dreams and the lover of new clothes, have run furiously on the treadmill of my finances, living in hope of that big cheque coming in the mail. It’s become a schtick of sorts. I text my sister as soon as she’s home for lunch.

“Did anything come in the mail?”

“Nuthin'”

“Darn them!”

Wednesday night, after the cheque didn’t come and I aborted my 13 mile run at 9 miles due to persistent hip and knee pain, I cried in the shower.

Girl’s prerogative, to cry when she darn well pleases.

Those two big issues seem to drag everything else down too. I’m lost with my writing. I’m not blogging, and I’m not really present on social media. I just don’t want to.

Self-medication, can you help?

But I realized that I couldn’t keep waiting, putting my life and happiness on those two things: a good run, and a government cheque. I had to do something about it. And I was reminded of this story from Prince Caspian in the Chronicles of Narnia. God does love to give me examples from fantasy literature. He knows me well. ūüôā

The four children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are called from England into the land of Narnia as Prince Caspian and his band of faithful Narnians do battle against the usurping king Miraz and his nation of Telmarines.¬†(This is the book we’re talking about, not the slightly sub-par movie–cute Prince Caspian aside).¬†Caspian and his insurgents are besieged in the stronghold of Aslan’s How, at the last of their strength, wits and supplies. Everyone among them has lost blood. And then the four children arrive, late at night, at the How, guided there by Aslan the Lion himself.

But here’s the thing. Aslan doesn’t leap upon the Telmarines and kill them himself. He sends Edmund and Peter into the stronghold to help Caspian. Then he leaves with Susan and Lucy on a tour of the countryside. It doesn’t look like he’s going to help at all.

So Peter proposes a plan. It’s a near hopeless plan. He will personally duel King Miraz, man to man, sword to sword. “Can you beat him?” Edmund asks. “I’m fighting him to find out,” Peter replies. It’s a lousy plan and he knows it, but as he explains, it will take the better part of the day to send messengers back and forth between camps. By the time they set up the duel, Aslan may have done something.

Aslan may have moved.

And he does, by the way. As the duel ends in treachery, and the two armies clash, the trees, which Aslan awakened, sweep down the hill into battle and terrify the Telmarines into submission.

Yes, it is a girl’s prerogative to cry when she wants to, but sometimes you have to dry your eyes and make a plan. Do something, do anything, even if its a lousy plan. Take the first step from your slump, and perhaps by then, Aslan will have moved. Deliverance may be upon you.

So what was my first step, by the way? Yesterday, in anticipation of¬†not receiving the financial deliverance I’m looking for, I made two or three plans of inexpensive things I could do that evening. 1) Use my theatre gift card and see a movie with my sister. 2) Go for a run. 3) Make coconut-lemon icecream out of coconut milk so that my sister (who is dealing with allergies) can have icecream again.

We picked #1.

Today, after my awful run, I decided to pack up my laptop and go get an iced coffee at McD’s. I’m writing this post there. I guess I’d better post it before I don’t feel like it any more.

5 Things I’m Thankful For (In the Midst of Winter’s Gloom)

This blog has been discontinued due to amoeba brain.

Hello Friends, yes it’s been that kind of winter. ūüôā For the few weeks (forever, it seems) I’ve been in survival mode, my brain descending into ever deepening layers of slush, reduced to basic functions such as watching TV and scrounging for salty, fatty snacks.

Even running has lost it’s appeal. I continue due to doctor’s orders. ‘You must not let up on the running. It will be the best therapy’ he said. What if I’m reduced to ugly crying because my easy 5K has become an insurmountable task?

It’s time for a pattern interrupt, a jolt of positivity. So, here are five things I’m thankful for.

Work and Fantastic Coworkers

The doctor asked, “Have you been missing work?”

“No, I find it easiest to concentrate there.”

Strange but true. It’s easiest to leave my raincloud behind when I go to work, partially because I have one focused task at a time, and part because of great coworkers who are so crazy they make me feel sane laugh and joke and make me happy. There are crazy conversations about stuffing people into barrels and feeding them spray cheese with one coworker. Another coworker lovingly, and in a motherly sort of way, pinches and slaps me when she passes me in the hall. I told my sister about how at the end of a long shift, I wrapped my arm around this coworker, and she wrapped her arm around me, and we walked off the manufacturing floor together.

“That would never happen at my work,” she said.

A Neverending Supply of Folk Music

Thanks to Spotify, of course.

This song, with it’s sublime string introduction, is one of my favourites right now. I’ve sung, whistled and hummed it almost every day for, I don’t know, weeks? It also serves as a romantic theme in the series I’m currently writing.

Damien Rice: I Don’t Want to Change You

 Winter Running

IMG_0839Despite recent bad, bad runs, I’ve enjoyed running outside this winter. I was a big chicken, and ran on the treadmill for November and December. But soon I got very bored and started staring out at the snow and sunshine, saying, “It’s not THAT cold, is it?”

Cue trips to Walmart to find makeshift winter running gear. The proper stuff is far to expensive, even if it is really pretty… (sigh).

In my grape Kool-aid purple jacket and three layers of pants, out I go to slog where no runner has ever slogged before. I’ll stop when I can’t feel my legs anymore.

Sermon Podcasts and Other Audios

Because sometimes I need help to shut up the voices in my head. An outside voice speaking truth and inspiration can pattern interrupt long enough to reboot my brain and stop the negative thoughts for a while. The church I attend records and podcasts their sermons, so during the week I can listen to them again. LIFE leadership audios are also excellent.

And… Summer!

You know, it always comes back. It always does.

Judgement is Rich Coming From Me

“Why are there so many people here?”

That was early January in the gym, as I pounded away on the treadmill and grew increasingly annoyed by the chatter around me.

Oh yeah, January–resolutions and such.

stretching-498256_1280I confess that as I watched two pretty, thin girls do five or six reps on each machine and then complain how hard it was, I killed myself laughing on the inside. I’m a little chunky, but I’m in a heck of a lot better shape than those barbie dolls. But after I stopped laughing, I felt guilty. Judgement is pretty rich coming from me. I spent the summer daring anyone who passed me to laugh as I panted and wheezed through Couch to 5K. Now I’m thinner and can run farther, but I still probably look like I’m going to die when I jump off the treadmill.

I hope to heck those girls don’t quit. I hope they can push past the pain and actually get in shape. Not to look better–like I said, they were both beautiful girls–but to become strong in body and mind, and to prove to themselves they can keep their promises to themselves.

I still can’t pinpoint what is the difference between a kept New Year’s resolution and one that dies in the womb. Why did I actually lose weight last year, when every other time I failed? Why am I motivated to run, when I always used to say ‘me no work out’? Because I can’t say ‘here is the cure’, I can’t judge the people who start, and then quit after a few weeks. It wasn’t a physical thing, because I don’t think I’m designed to run. Too short, too thick. I’m predisposed to be addicted to sugar, flour, any kind of crap food. I should still be fat.

I worked really hard–I do work hard–but maybe I’m also very, very blessed.

I mentioned that I had a whole list of New Year’s Resolutions. Well, when I made them I forgot that January is historically when I have a bout of seasonal depression. This year was no exception, with added anxiety and chest pain. I feel like I’m pulling out of it faster than last year, but in the meantime I’ve gone into survival mode. Hence almost no blogging, less running. Less of everything, except maybe sleep. Like I said to my sister today after an aborted 10K, you have to learn to listen to your body. I’m no good at that. But¬†Sons of Earth, my next novel,¬†is on schedule, and I have many months yet to get in fighting shape for my half-marathon (the big resolution of the year). I’m not ahead, but I’m still on track.

Each day is a new day. If your resolutions have all been broken, I encourage you to take stock of what’s important, and try again, and again, and again.

4 Ways to Know if you are in a Slump

The dictionary says that the word ‘slump’ originates from a word meaning ‘to fall into a bog.’ ¬†That’s wonderfully accurate. ¬†The kind of slumps I’m thinking of are quicksand-ish things that suck you down and render you, the high-performance machine, into a tire-spinning mess.

They’re kind of dangerous if not diagnosed. ¬†So here is how to know if you’ve fallen into a bog… and possibly my own tongue-in-cheek confession.

If You Refuse to Eat Your Veggies…

If you usually get your five to seven servings, but now you call those green flakes in your bag of sour cream ‘n onion good enough. ¬†If you call the ketchup on your fries and the lettuce on your burger a salad.

You may be in a slump.

If You’re Watching Way Too Much TV…

If when you’re gunning for a goal you don’t give a rip about when Castle and Becket are getting married, but now it seems like a good reason to stay on the couch. ¬†If you’re surfing YouTube at random–for hours. ¬†If the kids who run the video store don’t need to ask for your phone number to process the rental, ’cause they know it already.

You may be in in a slump.

If You Hate Everyone…

If you’re usually Mr. Nice Guy, but now the world is full of idiots. ¬†If even your Mom can’t get a smile out of you. ¬†If you can’t stand to have someone breathing beside you because the noise drives you wild.

You may be in a slump.

If You Can’t Stand to be in the Same Room as Yourself…

If your internal dialogue consists of constant rants, diatribes, and arguments with yourself. ¬†If you can’t muster the will to say no to yourself anymore. ¬†If it’s Saturday and you’ve ticked nothing off your to-do list and you feel like a fat, lazy slob.

You’re not as bad as you think you are.

Look yourself in the eye and tell yourself “I am worthwhile,” because you are. ¬†Your worth isn’t based on what you do. ¬†You are a human, a unique soul, a special gift. ¬†You are the image-bearer of God. ¬†You might be going through a slump right now. ¬†You may be full out depressed, and I’m sorry. ¬†I wish I could make it better.

But you aren’t a waste of space.

I’ve watched so much TV, YouTube, and movies this week. ¬†I ate two whole bags of chips this week (and I profess to eat low-sugar, low-carb). ¬†I slacked off of blogging and tweeting. ¬†I avoided my novel manuscript. ¬†I was a grumpy bear to my coworkers and my family and ranted a great deal more than is seemly. ¬†I’m sure I’ve been annoying as heck. ¬†About the only things I did right were going running and showing up in church on Sunday morning.

But the clock is at three minutes past midnight. ¬†It’s Tuesday morning, and I have twenty-four hours to try again.

What Can My Small Voice Do?

Monday, Robin Williams dies in his San Francisco home, succumbing to severe depression. Tuesday, across the continent, I am in a factory making antidepressants. This isn’t lost on me. I mourn helplessly as I watch the hundreds of thousands of tablets rush by.

Iraq: Christians, Yazidis and other innocents are systematically killed under the onslaught of the ISIS. Outrage explodes all over social media, and every Christian blog sounds the trumpet. “Wake up!” they say. “Grow a pair!”

So I write to my Member of Parliament, and I look for an organization to donate to, and I pray, all the while knowing that the letter won’t reach the government for days, and the money can’t throw up a brick wall between the bullets and the little kids.

What can my small voice do?

In times like this it’s stylish to bash North American apathy. Oh yeah, I have it easy. I’m safe at home in front of my MacBook after my shift in the pharmaceutical factory. But what the hell do you want me to do? Get a gun and hop on the first plane?

Does anyone ever tell you that you must live your own life?

You cannot for one instant become an Iraqi Christian, take a bullet and be cleansed of the guilt of being a rich, white American. You are yourself, and here you are, in front of your MacBook.

But consider that Robin Williams was also a rich, white American, and he died in his own home, in the agony of depression. He’s a public case of a common story. We are surrounded by people who feel alone and hopeless, who stagger under the crushing weight of mental illness, physical abuse, relational brokenness, financial burdens, failure at their job, and unbearable schedules. Twitter isn’t hopping with their stories, but the pain is real.

We are surrounded by a sea of troubles. ¬†We don’t need to look so far into the distance when they are right under our noses.

I fear that North Americans come off as apathetic because they’ve been convinced that they are too little to fix things. ¬†Think of what we say: “The government ought to… My boss ought to… My parents need to…” ¬†Our movies are all about BIG problems fixed by action heroes, spies, and superstars. ¬†Heck, even the Evangelical Christian world is dominated by megachurch pastors and their best selling books.

That’s bull.

I can’t help but think of the proverb “If everyone would sweep their front step, the whole world would be clean.” ¬†It is by ten-thousand small acts that the world changes.

I hope I’m not coming off too preachy. In fact, this post is the result of hours of contemplation and quite a few helpless tears. What can my small voice do? I’ve come to the shaky realization that I must do what only I can do. I must complete my assignment on this earth.

There are four ways I believe this can be accomplished.

1. Accept our Assignments.

No one has the exact combination of friends, family, location and predispositions that we do. We must be at peace with our starting point because it makes us uniquely qualified to work in our circle of influence. The moment we say “I wish I was…” or feel guilty for who we are, we inadvertently say “I am too good for this.” Instead, start looking for what you are good at, and what provokes you, and consider this the trailhead to your mission.

2. Become experts.

We begin by acceptance, but we can’t be satisfied with who we are. The resources and knowledge we begin with won’t be sufficient to live a meaningful, excellent life. We’ve got to become educated, to move past shallow opinions to a true understanding of what we believe. Moreover, we’ve got to develop the skills needed to propel us forward, be it interpersonal skills, business know-how, communication and writing–in my case, all of the above. University is good, but not necessary. Quality books and audios are much cheaper, and readily available.

3. Build a Community

It has been said that you are the results of the books you read and the people you associate with. It’s important to assemble a team of people around you so you can encourage each other, learn from one another, and shore up each other’s weaknesses. I have a community of writers around me who’ve encouraged me and have taught me everything from the mechanics of writing to business and marketing. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without them, and six months or a year from now, I will be much better because of them. They speak truth to me.

4. Make an Impassioned Plea

Let your voice be heard. Talk about what is important to you. Write letters to your government representatives write to editors, blog, post on Facebook and Twitter, and talk to your friends. Do this with gentleness and respect, and the deepest understanding you can muster.

I denounce the use of guilt tactics to try to wake us up. ¬†Guilt is a lousy fertilizer for growing spines. But I don’t condemn that every blog is talking about Robin Williams and the slaughter in Iraq. ¬†I wouldn’t have heard about it otherwise.

Let your voice be heard, but don’t be satisfied with just speaking. ¬†Reach out–with your gifts, your connections, and your knowledge.

“It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little. ¬†Do what you can,”–Sir Sidney Smith.

Resources:

How to Communicate Effectively with Your Member of Parliament

LIFE Leadership (A well-rounded source of training on interpersonal, leadership and success principles)

The Center for Social Leadership

Playing Hooky… From Everything

I’ve been lazy this week. No, not lazy, maybe desperate. Desperate for a little sanity.

So I haven’t kept to my rigid blogging schedule. I haven’t been listening to my audios. I haven’t kept up with the dishes. I didn’t even write a to-do list for the week. What the heck is wrong with me?

I’m playing hooky.

I hear that Winston Churchill, in the heat of World War 2, would take time to paint water-colours. i think it was Ronald Reagan who chopped wood on his ranch. Some famous person was famous for napping. So I figure I can cut myself a little slack and do something useless from time to time.

Not that watching Catching Fire is useless, per se, but it’s not like me to watch TV more than once in a week. This week, at least three times.

I’ve been reading a lot instead of working on social media. That hasn’t been helping, because I’m reading Thank you For Your Service, which is about American Soldiers returning from Iraq with PTSD, or traumatic brain injuries. It’s research for my novel, but it’s heavy stuff.

So, all in all, not a recipe for a great mood or a lot of energy.

My monthly goals are probably going to go to the dogs, but I suppose it’ll be okay. I don’t know that one week of hooky will make a big difference, in the scope of a lifetime.

Why Am I Still Up?

Well, that may be it. This week may be a failure. And it’s only half way over. The clock flipped over to Wednesday an hour and sixteen minutes ago.

Despite vitamin D supplements and adequate levels of sleep and yet another episode of Sherlock on my laptop, I’m in a funk I can’t seem to shake. I’m generally good at spinning all the plates that compose my life, but this time they’re wobbling something fierce.

And this is only a 44 hour workweek.

My mental real-estate is taken up by debates and work and my monthly budget, none of which are cheerful subjects, and the writing has fallen by the wayside. That’s why I’m pouring my own depressed little self onto the page. I have nothing interesting to say–unless you’d like to hear about how to exegete John 1:1-2 and if I’m going to be able to make my car payments.

No? Neither do I.

I don’t know what to do with myself.
Perhaps there’s nothing more to do but to watch funny YouTube videos and eat breakfast sandwiches (no matter what time it is).

20140205-010127.jpg

But, there is always good news. One, January is over, and that means there may only be six weeks of winter left (if the groundhog may be trusted). Two, I don’t have to work on Saturday. Three, the world is not my responsibility in the end. And Four, I still have two English muffins.

So fry up an egg. We’re going to make it, you and I.

Maybe in a couple days I’ll have something original to say.

One of the Biggest Lies I Know

One of the biggest lies you will ever hear is “Mom, these aren’t my cigarettes. I’m holding them for a friend”–to paraphrase Claude Hamilton.

Another is this: no one understands you.

Have you ever just known that no one ‘got you’? Have you ever been sure that if people knew the real you, they’d never accept you? I’d venture that we all have, and I’ve come to believe it’s a lie.

We are not alone.

I’m the only writer in my family. They find my imagination and my humour and my obsession with social media to be rather off the wall. Don’t get me wrong–I love my family to death. But sometimes I find this frustrating, because I can’t talk about what is important to me. I thought I was completely unique–perhaps even a wacko–until I found entire communities of others just like me. It was sort of a homecoming. “You mean you’ll take me seriously if I ask ‘do clones have souls?’ You mean we can have whole conversations about punctuation?”
Yup.

I had an addiction that was eating away at my insides. I was ashamed, and didn’t want anyone to know. I wanted to deal with it myself, but I couldn’t. When I finally confessed it to friends, they said “Uh huh. I know what you mean,” and gave me grace and encouragement. Just having it the open took away its power.

It’s a humbling thing to realize that your eccentricities and your dirty secrets are actually not uncommon. What? I’m not special?

Well, yes, you are.

But the belief that we are the odd one out may actually make things worse. It drives us away from those who could help us, and who may actually understand what we’re going through. We get all turtled up in ourselves and don’t see that hands are reaching out.

Its actually a great strategy. I don’t know if you believe in the devil, but if you were the devil and wanted to destroy God’s creatures, what better way then to drive them all apart? Feeding them the lie that ‘no one understands’ is a great place to start.

There may be a scenario where we actually are alone, and in that situation, it is helpful to have a solid grounding in faith. My own faith is in Jesus Christ, and he is always with me. Sometimes it just requires me to pull my head out of my troubles and look up at him. Because he came to earth as a human being, he can empathize with the failings of our mortal selves.

My brothers and sisters, the weirdos, you are not alone. Your oddities and your secrets do not have to isolate you. Keep looking. We will find each other eventually.

A Lesson from a Week of Making Antidepressants

I spent the week coating antidepressants, ’cause that’s my job.

Yesterday, I watched the waterfall of 800,000 tablets rush past, and thought about how messed up this was. In the last two weeks I coated literally millions of antidepressants for North American consumers.

Wow.

According to Harvard Health contributor, Peter Wehrwein, “The federal government‚Äôs health statisticians figure that about one in every 10 Americans takes an antidepressant. And by their reckoning, antidepressants were the third most common prescription medication taken by Americans in 2005‚Äď2008, the latest period during which the¬†National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey¬†(NHANES) collected data on prescription drug use.”

There must be a root cause.  I recognize that depression is sometimes due to physical and chemical factors. There is a history of depression and other mental illness in my family.  I went through a period of depression and emotional instability in my mid-teens, which I attribute to chemical and hormonal causes.

However, I struggled with depression this spring, and after discussing it with a medical professional, tracking what triggered it, and eliminating factors, I realized it was¬†not¬†chemical. It was situational–caused by stress and discouragement in the workplace. ¬†I don’t doubt many of those who suffer from depression are also suffering from situational depression. ¬†It is serious. ¬†It can’t be just ‘snapped out of’. ¬†For me it took changes in lifestyle, a support-system of friends and family, faith in God, and just plain healing. ¬†Many people do not have those options.

So, what to do? ¬†I’m not content to just continue coating antidepressants.

I’ll be honest, I believe one root cause of depression is isolation and directionlessness caused by a broken relationship with Jesus Christ. ¬†Depression pushed me to lean on God. ¬†This gave me the strength to find a way out.

But I know many of you do not believe the same way.

Today, as I washed my heaps and heaps of dishes and listened to a sermon by Pastor Mark Driscoll, I was reminded of the need to be an encourager. ¬†People spend their days in negative, being thumped by work, thumped by their family circumstances, thumped by their finances. ¬†Then they turn on the TV and the news thumps them some more. ¬†Jeepers! ¬†That’s hard on the system. ¬†The least I can do is bring some positive into their life–listen to them, complement them, point out the good in them. ¬†A little encouragement won’t solve their problems, but it sure lifts the spirits.

Maybe my encouraging words could make one or two of those antidepressants unnecessary. ¬†I’m not gifted in encouragement, but I’m going to step it up. ¬†I invite you to do the same.

I can think of encouraging words that changed my life, for instance, when my voice teacher told me I could actually sing.  Up till that point I thought I had a bad voice. What are some encouraging words that have stuck with you over the years?