Love

I am frustrated.

I am frustrated because my younger sister, K, texted me this morning explaining that this week at church, her youth pastor is talking about “homosexuals and transgenders.”

I am frustrated because K felt the need to construct a list of “comebacks” to speak up with when she (inevitably and justifiably) gets offended.

I am frustrated that my 14 year old sister is having to stand up for other people’s rights and freedoms in her church (of all places).

But, I am also incredibly proud. I am proud that I have an open-minded, headstrong, loving sister who chooses to put the needs of others first, and stands up for those who are persecuted, judged, and put down.

I am proud that she realized, at such a young age, that she can be both a Christian AND an advocate for the LGBTQ community.

I am proud that she understands one of God’s greatest commandments to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)

It pains me to see that church, a place that is supposed to be a safe haven, a place to feel loved, and accepted, a place of peace, has become a battleground against certain groups of people – in this case anyone with a different sexual orientation.

When did we, as followers of Jesus, step away from his greatest commandment? When did it become acceptable to start adding caveats to scripture? Love your neighbor as yourself – as long as your neighbor is exactly like you? Love your neighbor as yourself – as long as your neighbor isn’t gay…isn’t transgendered…isn’t Muslim…isn’t pro-choice…isn’t a Democrat. NO. The period comes after yourself – no caveats.

How are we to love our neighbors as ourselves if our neighbors don’t share the same rights and freedoms as us? How are we to love our neighbors as ourselves if we are busy judging our neighbors for their differences? The short answer – we can’t!

In order to love our neighbors as ourselves, we have to step back, stop judging, stop persecuting, and stop shaming. What we have to do is simple – LOVE. That’s it. Not love and tell how someone is wrong. Not love and tell someone to stop living a particular way. Just love – no strings attached.

For my sister (as well as the rest of my family), this is a personal issue. One that still sparks many arguments at holiday dinners with certain sides of our family. One that made us all feel pushed away by our church growing up. But also one that taught us to learn and grow into the individuals we are today. One that taught us that we can be Christians AND love our dads. One that taught us we can be Christians AND believe that homosexuality isn’t a sin. One that taught us we can be Christians AND believe that everyone – heterosexual, homosexual, asexual, transgendered, and everyone else in and out of the LGBTQ community – deserves the same rights, happiness, acceptance, love, and peace.

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Day by Day. Hour by Hour. Minute by Minute.

This week has been interesting.

To start, D had a meeting with his boss on Monday. I had big hopes for this meeting. Big, misguided hopes. Hopes that were quickly shattered when D didn’t bring home any new information regarding when we could possibly move home.

This meeting set the tone for the week. A tone of frustration and disappointment, while trying to remember D is not to blame and shouldn’t be the target of anger.

I spent Monday on the couch, with Netflix and tears.

Tuesday and Wednesday were a little better. I refocused myself. As disappointed as I was, I felt okay after a long conversation with D. I was in a better mindset and I set about my week, finding as many tasks, chores, and distractions as possible to keep me busy. I blogged, I studied for two upcoming tests, I did some trip planning, I went for walks with S, I read, and finally, I got really desperate and cleaned the house.

I felt happy(ish), I felt like I was doing something (even if it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing), I felt okay body-image wise, I felt okay anxiety wise.

Thursday was just okay. I could feel the anxiety rising, but I continued to distract and refocus that energy. There were times I struggled, but overall, it was a success.

Then today. I knew when I couldn’t sleep last night that today would prove to be a little more difficult. It started at 8:30 when S woke me up to go out. Usually, I get up when she wakes me up and we start our day – routine has been key to most “good” days. But this morning, instead of starting my day, I decided to crawl back under the blankets and sleep the day away…never a good idea.

When I woke back up at 9:45, I felt even more shitty. The negative self-talk started right away – “you won’t walk as many miles today because you woke up later,” “your abs aren’t going to be as visible because you woke up later,” “maybe you shouldn’t eat as much breakfast because you woke up later.” It went on and on and on.

And, because I woke up in this mindset, the exact things I thought played out. My morning was a little worse than most mornings, but I set myself up for that.

Morning faded into afternoon, and it wasn’t until C text me that I was able to snap out of this downward spiral. Sometimes texting her is like talking things through with myself. I write the text (okay, more like novel) for her, but as I’m typing it, I’m realizing things about myself and the situation that I couldn’t see before. Maybe it’s having someone outside of my head’s input, or maybe it’s taking a second and really evaluating how I feel, or maybe it’s a little of everything, I’m not sure, but it helps.

So, as I’m texting her, I realize a couple of things.

First, I may be biased, but I have the strongest, bravest, most supportive best friend. In just the two years (it feels like so much longer) I’ve known her, there have been ups, downs, twists, and turns and she takes them all in stride. She’s a rockstar. I’m not sure how I “did life” before meeting her and I’m glad that now I don’t have to do life without her. Sappiness aside – she puts up with me and loves all the weird, awkward, unlovable parts, and I’m pretty damn grateful.

Second, I’ve put myself into another hole while living here. I don’t think it was intentional, but I realize now that I did it to myself. Granted, there were things that were out of my control that helped me pick up a shovel and dig a little deeper, but I was the one who initially jumped in and started digging. Every time I refused to meet people, the hole got deeper. Every time I chose to engage the negative thoughts about living here, the hole got deeper. Every time something out of my control happened while living here (not being able to work, frustrations with living abroad, no English-speaking volunteer opportunities, etc), the hole got deeper. But, knowing that I am the one who initially started digging that hole, and voluntarily jumped in helps me take responsibility for my unhappiness here. And taking responsibility for my unhappiness helps me to do the opposite – take responsibility for my happiness here. I’m working on ways to do just that!

Finally, I’ve started to see that all of the negative, unhealthy behaviors, thoughts, etc. are symptoms of something bigger – anxiety. It’s taken a long time for me to come to that realization. I’ve always seen my ED and body image issues, depression, anxiety, and more recently, any thoughts about self-harm as separate, individual things. But, they aren’t. When I feel anxious and I can’t breathe, that’s when I think, “I really need to skip lunch today,” or “I’ve gained weight,” or “cutting would make me feel better.” All of the behaviors, thoughts, etc. are all just negative coping skills that make me feel “better” when I’m anxious. Now that I have that information, it’s a lot easier to choose the opposite.

It’s going to take time to fully be on track with choosing only healthy coping skills – this is a day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute journey. But, eating when I want to restrict is a lot less guilt free when I remind myself that the whole reason I didn’t want to eat was because I was anxious.

Today has been hard. That wake-up call text from C wasn’t until 1pm (long-distance/time difference problems) – I had already skipped my normal 10:30 snack and lunch. But, I have the power to do the next right thing, and if that means lunch will be at 2:45 today, then so be it.

This is my journey. A journey to health, happiness, and positive coping skills when I am anxious. I will keep fighting, I will keep learning, I will keep pushing forward.

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” – Japanese Proverb