Thinking out loud while "changing my thinking"

in Him


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Time

(Exhale)… For the first time in several months, as the chaos dissipates… I hear silence.

I have missed moments like these… moments where I can hear the birds chirping, watch the deep green leaves rustle in the wind, and hear insects crash into my glass patio door – though today one ended up in a gecko’s mouth.

 I have longed for this stillness for so long, it seems surreal. 

This morning, I am reflecting on where I am today with a level of gratitude…yet, I can’t help but ask myself, “What just happened?”

It’s like I was swimming blind folded underwater for months and now I have come up to take some air, and find myself facing a completely new land… and I am wondering is this where I belong? Is this real? How did I get here? Am I happy? Or better yet, content?

Years ago, the process of “sitting – planning – expecting” stopped. I learned to accept the patterns and cycles I found myself trapped in, though I always put up a fight or attempted to resist. I gave up on chasing some “idea” of what my life should look like. I made peace with where I was, and made the most of it.

During this period, I also found some level of satisfaction in being confident in whom I was, and more free to walk to the beat of my own drum. While others anxiously desired the model happy life of success, companionship, or whatever else… I learned to just watch and evaluate myself along the way.

Some might think this meant I was protecting myself from feeling disappointment, or that I had lost hope… but really I had just learned to separate myself from the limitations of time.

Time is the ultimate source of pressure for most of us. There is a sense of failure when we think of what little we have accomplished or experienced at a certain point in time. There is a sense of fear that our “dreams” will never be fulfilled within this lifetime. But at the end of it all, who says your life has to fall on the same scale as everyone else? Who instilled that scale… and why is it the standard?

Don’t get me wrong, taking double the amount of time I expected, to complete my graduate studies may never be something I look back on with pride and happiness… however, EVERYTHING was worked for my good (Rom 8.28)… and boy did I go out with a bang! 

I have officially attained my doctorate in chemistry and it still has not sunk in… who knew there would be no climax even after attending graduation. I have secured a job that I am extremely excited about and can’t wait to give my undivided attention to…and in one sweep, I have gotten engaged to a man that could not be a better complement to me… a man that I consider my friend and family… a man who’s presence has given me a sense of home.  Yet I am still asking myself, “What just happened?”

In my next post, I plan on slowly addressing some of these questions as I reflect on the happenings of my life these past few months … but what I am really grateful for, in this moment, may have been missed.

It’s like I was swimming blind folded underwater for months and now I have come up to take some air… 


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Are you “powerful” or “powerless”?

I have to say, I am pretty excited for what is happening in my heart.

For the past few months, I have been challenged in my thinking and actions in ways that go beyond subtle awareness of faults.

Areas in my heart that need “work”…healing…and softening, have been highlighted relentlessly, yet delicately.

The real question is where to begin in the sharing process (bear with me as I am running on 2 hours of sleep again).

Like a great number of people, I was the product of a broken home.

I grew up in a family that was filled with laughter and celebration. The sweet smell of fresh-baked yeast breads clothing the house in warmth. Sounds of music fluttering through the air. Gatherings where games were played, movies watched and stories shared.

On the outside looking in, we were the perfect family.

Even under the scrutiny of an insider, we seemed like the perfect family. But something was just a little…off?

Expression of who I was seemed to contradict the culture I was growing up in…or maybe it just threatened authority figures sense of control.

If I was in a serious or sad, introspective mood… I was commanded to look happy.

If I wanted to spend some time alone in the bedroom, I was approached – asked what I was doing – and told to come join everyone else.

If I expressed myself truthfully but politely through letter, I was given “the keys to my life”… aka told that the security I had in having someone care for me, was being removed… and I, in return, would have freedom to do anything of my choosing without interference. A pretty detrimental thought to a child.

Considering verbal communication was already a challenge for me due to fear of rejection, the statement of giving me “the keys to my life”, along with other responses to my attempts at communicating, pushed me further into a lifestyle of people pleasing.

However, the hardest, yet most hidden issue within this, was the sense of not belonging.

There was an aching inside that was not pacified by the warmth of my family. And I had no idea how to process it.

Fast forwarding to about 17/18 years old, I discovered a lot was hidden behind lies for my protection.

Parents were grandparents… oldest brother was biological father…my dreams of witnessing physical abuse and experiencing intense fear must have been real…and the woman in those dreams, was my mother.

So naturally, the next question was…who and where was she?

Though grateful for the family I grew up in, for all the good things….ex. saw a beautiful marriage, had a loving father and strong mother (bio grandparents), etc…A part of me struggled to suppress the restless desire to know who I came from genetically… even though I did not understand why I was curious.

I also had a longing for intimacy…a true desire to connect.

Fast forwarding to the present day… I am now pretty disconnected from my family.

Between broken ties from my biological parents (who are divorced) at a young age…rejection of who I was over the years … coupled with moving every 3 years…AND then moving away from my family. I have become a detaching/distancing expert.

A queen at avoiding pain…fleeing while masking it with confidence…(unknowingly).

Initially, I saw my detachment as a coping mechanism that became a part of me…which meant I really had no control over it.

But as the issue began to surface in my close relationships… especially one in particular…I became more attentive to it.

Then another friend addressed me head on, telling me how he felt slighted when I kept my distance while his daughter visited etc…he proceeded to discourage my detachment from those I love…advising me to allow myself to feel the pain of missing people.. to put myself in the presence of them, even at the risk of rejection.

I WAS BAFFLED.

All I could say in response is “Why on earth would I do that?”

But the conversation was speaking to my heart despite the resistance I put up.

Every single day, from that point on…I can tell the dead, dark places of my heart are surfacing and being replaced…the dry places are being watered…while the calloused parts are being chiseled off…slowly, steadily, and gently.

Every day, my interactions with people are revealing my active commitment to moving toward them, or away from them. Aka, my actions are revealing my subconscious or conscious goal to connect or disconnect with people… as described in Keep Your Love On by Danny Silk (so far a great read).

All this coupled with what God has revealed to me through scriptures and reflection…. I am like wow, I have lived so much of my life as the “powerless” when I am fully equipped to live as the “powerful”. 

Here are some key points of the “powerful”:

  • They do not control other people; their job is to control themselves
  • They can choose to love because He chose to love them
  • They respond instead of reacting to fear and pain.
    • “Powerful people are not slave to their instincts…they can respond with love in the face of pain and fear”
  • In responding, they engage by training their mind to think, use their will to choose, and their body to obey

All this being said, I am on a journey and the question posed to me today, is the same I would like to share with you….

What is the goal in your close relationships? Whether it is marriage, friendship, parent to child, sibling to sibling, co-worker or even a stranger….

Are you trying to create a safe connection or a safe distance?

Will you choose today, to be “powerful” or “powerless”?

LOVE


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A place to call home

Bare with me as I attempt to communicate on very little sleep.

Still awake from the unexpected alarm going off at 3:30 am (UGH)… I can’t help but think about my experience here in Denver.

So far it has been…interesting.

Contrary to what I imagined, the city appears to be small… or better yet, spread out… kind of like Atlanta.

Even on the ride into Denver, we literally saw NO mountains. (jaw drops)… not sure how I could be wrong on so many levels…I thought I searched all possible google images LOL. But to make things worse, there has been no way to escape the tentacles of this meeting aka major disappointment.

Please realize that for the past several months, I have conjured up an image of perfection when thinking of Denver. Between thoughts of the majestic Rockies… beautiful weather… the overall idea of being able to gallivant a real city, yet have the option to retreat to cabins and /or trails with spectacular views and lakes at my disposal… yes…I had a dream.

I had built an idea in my head, that somehow, Denver could be the place for me to finally call home.

 

Within in a few hours of exploring “16th Street Mall”…which I will admit, is very cute and buzzing with energy at night… we had multiple experiences of bad food… bad service (do better Cheese Cake Factory!)…and noticeably fewer options, with all the replicas of stores (such as 6 Starbucks on one strip)…. I was pretty much on the side of “There is no way, I would want to live here.”

But the following morning, around 5:30 am…as the dawn pierced through a sliver of spacing between the curtains… all was quiet…I decided to take a peek at what the city looked like in the stillness of the morn. Much to my surprise, I caught a glimpse of the Rockies from my hotel window. 🙂

I was ecstatic.

From that point on, all the negatives we had experienced began to look like minor divots in a sea of possibilities. No place would be perfect. It could work! I just need a chance to explore.

Now I wish this was a tale of how I played hooky and created the experience I wanted (my typical norm) in trying to discover my “home”…but it’s not. I was stuck in the hotel where the conference is being held and in the vicinity of 16th Street Mall for meals.

But what I take from this, is the potential for more…a part of me longs for that place to call home…and I believe even if it may not be in Denver (still not ruling it out)… It could be in Boulder… or Knoxville…or wherever else. Nothing says I can’t keep exploring my options until I find the place that truly resonates with the desires of my heart.

At the end of the day, my true home lies with Him… so the physical home is a temporal satisfaction… and the possibilities of that, are endless.

Rest assured, I will be back!

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The Blog World (revised)

Somehow my edited version of this blog did not get published. So sorry for the redundancy, but I will take a stab at recalling what I actually hoped to communicate.

The blogging community is pretty amazing. Though I was up at an ungodly hour (alarm went off at 3:30 am Denver time), I finally realized there is a method to the madness!

It began with a notification that Opinionated Man (http://aopinionatedman.com/about-opinionated-man/) is now following my blog. Then by seeing a response, Morning Story and Dilbert (http://morningstoryanddilbert.wordpress.com/author/morningstoryanddilbert/) had written to me…WHO KNOWS HOW LONG AGO!!! SMH!

(utter shock)

You have to realize, each of these bloggers have THOUSANDS of followers… one in particular over 20000…so for them to take the time to respond to commentary is like WOW.

It was at this moment, a light bulb went off!

Though blogging is very much a way of communicating and sharing your deepest thoughts with whoever may be interested… it is also about humbly, valuing the readers…respecting them…showing an interest in them… and in some way acknowledging the time they take to read an expression of yourself.

Afterall, who am I that anyone should take an interest in my rantings?

So today, I say THANK YOU to all those who have chosen to follow this blog and/or read posts. It is definitely not a polished art for me yet, but my hope is that as I continue to read and get inspired through Him and other written expressions…it will get there!

 


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What they don’t tell you about graduate school

So this has been a long time coming. As I sit here, slowly getting drowsy and maybe a little high from my good ol’ perky (yes, an unexpected root canal has led me to more scripts … smh). I am reflecting on what is an almost 9 year journey and counting. 9 years!!!

If the people who knew me now, knew me back then… they would have never guessed that I, of all people, would still be lingering in graduate school. I could never have guessed it myself. I had a plan… and I knew where I was going.

My freshman year in undergrad, I discovered I was not as dumb as I thought. Unlike high school where I made the full spectrum of grades, I found myself “excelling” in my classes… well, in all but the ones I hated… For example: Dr Prigg’s english class – where you got locked out if you arrived when class started, also known as the hardest english course, though introductory. Linear algebra – which back then, seemed to have no purpose, but now I regret not paying attention. And essentially all the other elective courses that did not stimulate my critical thinking skills in any way.

With time, teachers were giving me extra assignments to keep me engaged, were allowing me to skip final exams because they knew I would ace them, especially my math courses. By the time I graduated, I was off to Finland, for my second international research internship and had a 3.8_ GPA. Not perfect, but pretty decent considering my background.

The whole time, I was convinced by multiple professors that grad school was the route for me, because I was able to think… and would succeed at it.

I was excited. It seemed like a match made in heaven… spending years, receiving a modest stipend to be a student, getting to work on/solve real life problems. To be able to learn and apply that knowledge to something tangible… yes, It sounded like a dream. I would never be bored, after all I loved chemistry for that very reason… it challenged me.

However, the challenges I have experienced through my graduate career… were not what I anticipated…nor was I warned about them.

1) I’ll start by saying, graduate school is NOT academically hard… it is mentally hard.

When people are selling it to you, they do not tell you that you can no longer rely on having rewarding milestones to make you feel like your accomplishing something. There are a limited number of courses you will take…so you quickly realize, no one is really that concerned with grades. That mentality might as well go out the window. There is no pat on the back…

2) Your research advisor, principal investigator (PI), boss, aka head honcho mentor… can make or break your career in a single sweep or the slow and steady decline….or even the prolonged “long and winding” road journey to the finish line.

My 9 years… has been a combination of ALL of … LOL. I have no clue what category to fit it in.

2.5 yrs was spent with one boss who trapped me into a project he loved and i did not…another 2.5 was spent with a boss who got fed up with my lack of motivation, due to working on a project that was a dead-end… and now the past 3 years (well technically 2 of actual productive work), has been spent with the best mentors I have encountered so far…and I am finally closer to the finish line.. but also pretty burnt out.

3) Though your co-workers can not truly determine your career… they can make that journey dreadfully painful.. or the most enriching tale of friendships and support you will encounter!

I have experienced both…between a group that was united in friendship, laughter, potlucks, tears, tragedies…etc… and a group where within the first 1.5 years of my joining, the tension was so thick that when you walked into a meeting, you gasped as you entered the room.

But in each case, you come to realize the significance of collaborating… learning to be flexible and adjusting… coming to appreciate the good that exists in even the most conniving of characters. You also learn to respect people regardless of how you feel or how they act… basically to make the most of the experience because you will be with these people for at least 3 to 6 (or so) years of your life.

If you find yourself in a “the world is coming to an end mentality” aka severely struggling to cope, you will probably realize some maturing has to occur on your part…

4) Research takes PATIENCE and truly changing your thinking.

It really does not matter how smart you are…how driven and self-motivated you are… RARELY will you stumble on miracle results that earn you that instant gratification of publication worthy stories. Which means, you have to set you mind up for the training ground of ENDURANCE. There will be failures, hits and misses, subtle or abrasive condescension, competition, bitter battles with that sense of defeat, spurts of basking in your productivity…secretly hoping it won’t go unrecognized aka pat on the back moment lol. All of these lead to pretty intense emotional responses…which brings me to

5) Let’s be real… no matter how independent you consider yourself…you NEED support.

There is no going solo on this journey… there are days you may find yourself crippled… in need of just a little human interaction… love… something that brings life to the dry, dead bones caused by constant staying afloat in quick sand.

For me….God, the numerous people he has placed in my life whether for short periods or long-term, family (with all the imperfections), activities I take part in which I love (ex singing, hanging, travelling, etc), and those times of spontaneity where I chose to go against fulfilling the daily demands of this worker bee society, and just rest/live…have been key in coming this far.

IF someone were to ask me to do this journey all over again… I would say “Hecks naw!”
But I would not oppose re-doing it with a more realistic view of what grad school really entails…and making wiser choices a lot faster.

So to those who are considering it… talk to people who will be honest with you about the journey. People who will be deliberate in sharing the success and failure stories over trying to seem so intellectually superior and/or act like they have everything together…to preserve the facade of how perfect their lives are.

Be ready for an experience like none other… a true challenge and test of character. And make the decision, right from the start… and every single day… that you will not let the system or anyone else define you and what you can accomplish… that you will be honest with yourself as you learn or re-discover what your passionate about or not so passionate about… that you are the person, people can trust. Make someone elses journey just a little brighter along the way…recognizing that though research may have a global impact in the direction of science and/or products created for the masses or maybe more small-scale… the impact of what you do to another living soul, counts on an eternal level.

As I write this blog, I realize these are things I would have liked to know and/or tell myself before I began. Either way, today I can say I am grateful to be a little more aware and closer to the end.

(If only I could be inspired to write my dissertation so fluidly)


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Don’t quench the fire

Just as I was finally calming the scatterbrain, beginning to read my bible in the midst of talking to Him…I started thinking about the camping trip I will be missing out on…because I am attending the Rocky Mountain Magnetic Resonance Conference in Denver.

I thought of the missed opportunities to connect with people and to observe them in a different setting… Boy do I LOVE seeing people in a variety of experiences… so much to learn! Then somehow, my brain went into how I would want to be known as well, in a different setting…

I started thinking about, how the only way to share who you are, is by letting people see who you are in a variety of environments… the only way for someone to truly, find some level of attraction to you…that is beyond the physical… is by them experiencing your fire burn…the warmth that they enjoy being around, the radiance of personality, the pain that comes from being scorched by your anger (maybe a little reach with word choices here LOL)… etc…

I thought of the this guy, who is going on this camping trip, and how I consider him decent physically, but have found his personality attractive for a while… and some of his challenges in pursuing women…I thought of how he is successful career wise and financially… etc… yet single. And in the maze of thoughts, fast pictures  of a number of my single female friends… especially the ones who have never even dated…and how they see themselves because they have gone “unnoticed” for so many years of their lives. I thought of the convo I shared with another friend where she emphasized the importance of preparing yourself for marriage etc.. Again a topic most married couples seem to elude to, saying they didn’t realize how different marriage actually is.

Entangled in my web of thoughts, was the article I just read about Tina Turner (73) getting married to german music producer, Erwin Bach, in switzerland yesterday… after 27 years of dating. 27!!! I can only imagine  what caused that delay…between her past experiences and maybe wondering if there was any real reason to get married… who knows…

But what I noticed from one of the photos of her and the new hubbie, is that she was just radiant…absolutely gorgeous. And He looked enamored with the sight of her. After 27 years, of which they probably lived in their house for at least a decade, if not more… he simply looked like the doting husband.. who was happy to finally put a ring on it.

And I could not help but think about how we should NOT let our fire die out! More than learning to keep house… to cook… to dress for various occasions… and manage money (PLEASE DO… very important considering its one of the leading causes of problems in marriages… I pray I get better at this myself)…and getting physically healthy for yourself and your family (Extremely important, hence I started slowly working out a few days a week, 2 weeks ago)…

Besides these practical preparation steps… I think during these times, rather than become disheartened…losing hope… or even having such a low self-image… for example, thinking you must not have anything to offer.. or are unattractive… BURN EVEN BRIGHTER

Become more confident in being yourself in every circumstance…

I saw an ad on Facebook, which used an old George Elliot quote “It’s never too late to become what you might have been” …showing the legs of a runner.. I believe it was for Zephyrhills… and I was like YEA! (mainly because my goal is to one day be a runner! lol)

Bottom line, be who YOU are created to be… FULLY… and let the God given relational experiences teach you how to be even better!

Dive into those friendships, no matter the risk of judgement, hurt, loss, etc… and be the best friend you can be… and let those experiences reveal your selfishness, childishness, wrong thoughts… and allow yourself to experience the grace of being sharpened!

You can only become more radiant.. more attractive…and more secure!

At this stage in the game… what will hiding in a corner, holding back who you are and feeling inadequate really accomplish? Absolutely nothing!

So if you are single… at least enjoy who you are and let the people you come in contact with be left with a mark from the encounter!