Aside

the un-edited life // part one

I haven’t written in a while.
I’ve wanted to, of course. I really did.
Every time I started typing or scribling in my journal, the worlds just seemed to get jumbled. It was messy, much like my life over the last few months. And messy doesn’t get published; messy gets critiqued until it’s clean enough to share. Messy gets torn apart word by word. It gets marked up with red ink and obsessed over by people who can be pretty unsympathetic. You spend so much time chosing words that somehow give meaning to your emotions, and often you’re told you’ve chosen all of the wrong ones, or they’re all misspelled, or that your writing should be more sophisticated and meaningful.

When life gets messy, my writing gets messy, and I retreat for a while until I have my shit together and have something meaningful to convey with beautiful, flawless words.

“It’s not for everyone else. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just write for yourself. It’s your own coping mechanism. It doesn’t matter what it looks like.” I’ve heard it a million times in a milion ways from friends and family and counselors.
It’s well-meaning, and even somewhat true. But I can be my own worst critic, the most unkind editor of my life and my writing.

The truth is, I’m writing this from the other side of the valley. I can look across with perspective and find encouragement and hope because I’ve learned from the unhealthy decisions I’ve made.

TAKE TWO.

I’m sitting here with writers block again. I just re-read what I had previously written for this post (written over 24 hours ago); where was I going with that? I’m sure it had a point, but I’ve lost it. Something about how being raw and vulnerable in writing is scary and I’m sure the conclusion was going to say something about how that’s bullshit. Right.

What’s the point in writing, anyway? I just spent a little bit of time re-reading everything I’ve posted to WordPress in the last 365 days. To be honest, it’s like looking at several different photographs of yourself and realizing that you don’t recognize anyone in the pictures. And more than that, they definitely don’t look like the person you see when you look in the mirror. And what was I thinking? I used a life example that wasn’t even previously mentioned (except for on facebook)* to illustrate a point in a story that thousands of people read and probably didn’t understand.

I’m sitting at my kitchen table across from my fantastic roommate right now, with PBR and the FUN pandora station playing and the sun kind-of-sort-of starting to go down in the view of our enormous and wonderful window. I stopped to go change my laundry to the dryer, and I came back with an idea.

What if I could just learn to share the little things? Not that people are interested in what I’m having for dinner (which is pork fennel pasta, by the way). But what if I’m just honest about things that matter? What if I learn how to be okay with not having a resolution, and not being the girl who is always learning these grand life lessons and writing them down?

I wrote yesterday that I was on the other side of my mess, and I don’t think that was entirely truthful. I’m still not ready to share the messy parts of my life. I’m thankful for the people close enough to see me in the midst of my messiness and encourage my heart, but my heart isn’t ready to invite everyone in. Not everyone is as kind as the really beautiful people I call my best friends.

I do, however, believe that one can live in honest community that points you to the truth- even on the internet. I don’t want to pretend I have all of the answers anymore. I want to invite people to dialogue about the things that may be messy in their lives- but things they are maybe willing to share.

To start with,

- Do you consider yourself “a creative”? Whether you are or you aren’t, have you ever felt threatened by the creative community? Felt that your writing, photographs, dance, paintings, etc. didn’t compare to the work of others? Or maybe that they were too real, or too honest, or too vulnerable?

-Do you believe that you are a self-aware person- aware of your flaws and opportunities? In the wake of having an understanding of what your flaws are, how do you keep yourself from being self-deprecating? How do you balance confidence and humility?

-What are your “coping mechanisms”? How healthy do you think they are, and have they always been as healthy/unhealthy as they are now?

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Thank you for reading this post, and making your way to the messy end. I really want to hear your answers to these questions, and want you to feel free to ask your own. Thank you for entering into honest  community seeking Truth and meaning. The world is more beautiful with you in it. Here’s to living an un-edited life.

So much love, so much hope,
Charlotte

*The life-example referenced here is the one where the girl stole the caramel bottle, mentioned in Musings of a Recovering People Pleaser. Honestly, that particular story is much better explained in person, and is funnier to people who work at Starbucks.

Thankful: Then & Now

Two years ago I kept a blog titled “Hopeful Sentiments”. My last post before I switched to my WordPress site was “A Thankful Post” on Thanksgiving 2011. I found it last week and, for lack of better words today, was thankful that I had written it. It served as a reminder of eternal things which I will always be thankful for; it also allowed me to realize that some of the things I was thankful for have come and gone and I am just as thankful, if not more, for new circumstances. The post is below:

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“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:5-7

It is not a secret that anxiety is something I struggle with. It gets so bad sometimes that worry consumes my thoughts and my speech and my life. Philippians 4:5-7 is something I’m trying to consistently remember, and what better day to write and reflect on it than Thanksgiving!

Worry won’t add anything to my life, it will only steal my joy and strength. The act of giving thanks, however, restores joy and strength. I don’t want today to be about food and preparing for black friday shopping and watching the cowboys game (although all of these things are wonderful), I want to really remember what I am thankful for in the midst of everything I would change about my circumstances.

I’m thankful for a dad who loves his kids, and who loves to cook for us. I’m thankful that he still has his life and his ability to make my favorite Thanksgiving dressing every year. I’m thankful for a mom who bends over backwards for her family, who denies herself to make life better for us. For siblings who are my best friends: a sister who is going to make a wonderful roommate in a few weeks, a brother who is like my twin, and another brother who will take the dog out when I don’t want to.

I’m thankful for coffee — I bet you didn’t see that coming — and baristas who make good coffee. I’m thankful for art: good books and movies and photographs and paintings and music that explains how you feel better than you ever could. I’m thankful for good weather and colorful leaves. I’m thankful for friends who are there for me when I go crazy, friends who make me laugh until I cry, friends who are just as weird as I am.

I’m thankful for a job that I love (most of the time) and that I am able to support myself and my coffee addiction and still have enough to give to others. I’m thankful for an internship with a great organization that is making a difference. I’m thankful that I know what I’m passionate about and that I have dreams and goals and a future. I’m thankful that I have a car that runs so I don’t have to, although running probably wouldn’t be such a bad idea after I eat all of this food.

I’m thankful for the Body of Christ- the Church- the fellowship of believers. I’m thankful for grace, for a God who does not stop loving me when I’m selfish instead of thankful. I’m thankful that even in the midst of difficult circumstances I can lean on the cross of Christ- that I’m covered by the blood of Jesus, I have no righteousness of my own but that God saw it fit to give me His righteousness.

My hope is to reflect on these things more than I currently do.

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Today, I am also thankful for much. I am thankful that I’m still learning to struggle well with anxiety. More importantly, I am thankful for friends have stood by me as I’ve learned to struggle well. I am thankful for my family, both immediate and extended. I’m thankful that, although I am miles and miles away, my heart has never been closer to them. I am still thankful for coffee and baristas, and that both of these things have an entirely different meaning to me than they did two years ago. I am thankful to be continuing my education and that I know even less about my hopes and dreams than I did two years ago and am content. I am thankful that I live in a place that experiences all four seasons, and a fantastic public transportation system so that I don’t have to have a car. I’m thankful that I actually enjoy running these days, and that change isn’t as scary as it used to be. I am thankful for a God who loves and transforms, who breathes life and speaks things that aren’t into existence.

Happy Thanksgiving, loves. Life is richer and more beautiful with you in it.

On Settling, && What Makes A Place Feel Like Home

So here’s the thing: I don’t feel settled.

And I haven’t in a very, very long time.
Three years ago I moved out of my parents’ place to attend University, where it took me almost 3 months to embrace change and feel at home. I made fantastic friendships, was involved in clubs, and stayed busy with school and two jobs.
And then 6 months later I made the very tough decision to move back home, which didn’t feel like home at all. I felt like I had no space to myself, I missed my friends from high school and from ORU, I was bored out of my mind only working 25 hours at a restaurant and not attending school, and I was no longer a part of a Christian community.

It took at least a year to feel at home again. I made new friends, found a second job as a Starbucks barista, rented my first apartment, and adopted a kitten.

Somewhere within that year of discontentment I visited Portland and fell in love with this place. I don’t remember exactly what I loved about it in four days (I’m going to say it had a great deal to do with it being so green outside, the weather, Powell’s books, and my many walks along Waterfront), but I remember deciding I wanted to make this place my new home. As everyone knows, “Portland” and “moving” were probably my top two most frequently used words for the last year; it was all I could talk about and everything I did was centered around  “I’m moving to Portland in ‘x-amount of months’”. It dictated what I spent my money on, the people I allowed myself to get close to, and the lack of community I cultivated for myself. Honestly, I didn’t allow Texas to feel like home; I was permanently living in a “transition” mindset.

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The funny thing is that when moving became real- when I returned home from Haiti, started selling my furniture, buying plane tickets, and packing up all of my belongings- it suddenly weighed on me that Texas did feel like home, and I was choosing to leave. Again.
Memories of last year still play in my head like a movie: my vacation to Los Angeles where I spent 4 days on a beach, and being a camp counselor and getting to know some pretty awesome teenagers and spending my Wednesday nights with them, the entertaining camping trip I took with Kylie and Katherine to Arkansas where we learned how to change a tire and went spelunking, meeting Ashley and sharing a bottle of wine with her after a long night at work, working 70 hour weeks and becoming so sleep deprived that I had to quit one of my jobs, showing off my dance skills and playing Apples to Apples with my siblings Christmas Eve, seeing Les Miserables on Christmas Day, turning 21 surrounded by a bunch of my favorite people, my family + Kylie cruise vacation in January, getting promoted, Hurricane Harbor for Caleb’s birthday and laying out by the pool drinking screwdrivers with the siblings.

So now that I’m in Portland the question I get asked most is “Why did you move here?” and I think of all of those memories and I draw a blank. I just laugh and say something lame like, “I like the weather better” or “I’m finishing my Social Work degree”. Although these are true statements, they don’t make me feel like I’m home.

I know now that the only thing that will make me feel at home is time and a little effort. There are glimpses of what being settled here feels like, and those encourage my heart. It’s receiving my boots in the mail, going grocery shopping and cooking meals, attending classes, joining a bowling league, going to Yoga in the morning, cleaning my apartment and having dishes to wash, connecting with my coworkers, being excited about my new career opportunities with Starbucks, and having a best friend I can sit on the couch with and cry and laugh and drink with.

Despite all of the emotional upheaval that this move has caused, I know that I made the right choice. I still don’t have the answer to “Why did you move here?” but I can answer the question “Are you happy you moved here?” with a confident “YES”. I’ve felt unsettled and then settled and unsettled for so much of my life and fought and embraced change and I’ve learned something very important: anywhere will do. Anywhere can feel like home. It just comes down to the fact that I didn’t want to finish my degree there or raise kids there. 10 years from now, hopefully I’ll be married and have kids and live in Oregon and drive to the west coast and take trips to British Columbia and Seattle and I’ll be a Licensed Social Worker with the State of Oregon. And I’ll be settled.

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In other news:
- I’m so thankful to WordPress for my blog being “Freshly Pressed” and I welcome all of you beautiful people who, as a result, are following along on my journey.
- “Syllabus” week is done! 9 more weeks to go in this term. Sociology is fantastic and I’ve determined to make the most of my 2 years of required Spanish. My goal is to set aside my fear of speaking and make mistakes for the sake of learning a new language!
- I love my new Starbucks store. I’m so excited to be a part of this team and work for such a dedicated manager!
- I joined a bowling league with some of my co-workers from the other store I was working at. Games start this Wednesday!

I’m so thankful and humbled this week: for friends – new and old- , for school, for health, for employment.
So much love. So much hope. 

Musings From a Recovering People Pleaser

For those of you who don’t know, I’m what they call a “people pleaser” at the core of my nature. I spend way too much of my time and energy thinking about how to make people happy even if it makes me sad; if I absolutely have to say “no” to people, I spend heaps of hours mulling over their hurt feelings and searching my heart for how I can make things better.

I used to think this “people pleasing problem” was really not a problem at all. I mean c’mon, I’m TOO NICE?! I want people to be happy. I want people to like me. What’s the big deal?

However, over the last few years I’ve learned how this is indeed a big deal. It’s exhausting and self-deprecating. I try to take care of other people and be all selfless, and really I only end up hurting myself and being selfish.

My move to Oregon has really challenged this part of me: all in a whirlwind I had to impress my new co-workers and new bosses and new friends and new regular customers at work and make them happy and make them like me. After 6 weeks of being here, this season of “new” and trying to impress has not ended; I still have to make the move to a new Starbucks location, meet new customers and partners, AND meet new classmates and roommates.

You guys, I’m exhausted.

Today someone told me, “You need to challenge that way of thinking. The voice that says ‘Everyone dislikes you and you have to prove yourself’ shouldn’t be listened to. Because, honestly, people are the opposite. They are generally trusting and accepting of others until they are given a reason not to.” I’m going to let that one sink in.

There’s many things a recovering people pleaser has to learn and one of them is saying “no”. This has been so terrible for me. At first it started with a very apologetic, soft spoken “no” that was sure to convince anyone I would change my mind if they waited around long enough and asked a second time. But if you are asked something every single day from multiple people, that hesitant “no” will slowly change.

It’s the seemingly healthy men on sidewalks asking for money, the overly skinny girls asking to bum a cigarette, the non-customers wanting to use the restroom to shoot up or shotgun a beer, the boys you aren’t interested in asking to buy you drinks, and the homeless man asking for a free cup of coffee. It’s heartbreaking, at first, if you aren’t used to it. That is, until you pass the same guy on your way to and from work everyday (where you bust your butt 40 hours a week for minimum wage to put yourself through school). Or until you’re the one cleaning up the blood in the bathroom and finding needles in the trashcan. Or when you realize the boys want to get you drunk enough to sleep with them. Or when a girl steals a caramel bottle from you. Or you turn around to get a sample cup of coffee for a homeless man, only to realize he’s stolen from the tip jar when you had your back turned.

Needless to say, my heart became hardened and my “no” became a “NO”.

I had a moment the other day, though, where I was rethinking my career path. I felt like all of the compassion had been drained from me and that I was no longer cut out for a career in Social Work. I felt forever jaded. One day, I was talking to my new manager, Laura, about the girl who had stolen the caramel bottle. As I was laughing about the situation, Laura said, “Do you know why they do that? Do you know why people steal sugars and things that don’t seem nutritious or filling?” “…Um, no?” “Drug addicts who are going through withdrawals require a ton of calories, but they can’t afford them. So they steal things which will fill them with empty calories to help with the withdrawals. It doesn’t make the stealing right, but at least it helps us understand.”

In that one moment I remembered why I’m passionate about people. I remembered that there is a reason behind everyone’s actions and addiction. I promised myself to fight the urge to become jaded and complacent, and continue to be compassionate and intentional with everyone I meet. I want to still be heartbroken even when I’m used to it. My life style doesn’t allow me to give a dollar to every person that asks for money, and I can’t give away free coffee because it’s bad for business. However, I’m learning that saying “no” to people IS a way of helping. I want to be a Social Worker so that I can help create sustainable change in people’s lives, not to give them opportunities to shoot up in Starbucks bathrooms and become dependent on handouts.

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So, that was a lot.
On a more upbeat note, I’m buying a bicycle and purchased a book at Powell’s today! I also enjoyed a wheat-less peanut butter brownie and Au Chocolate (which, from what I understand, is kind of like a cafe au lait with chocolate? Delicious).

The book I’m reading, Adulting is fantastic. I recommend it to anyone in their 20′s. Find the book in stores or check out the blog!

Here are a few other things I’ve come across this week that have inspired me:

Donald Miller’s Storyline Blog post: “Does Trying to Impress People Make You Sad?”

A hilariously true post about our generation’s search for happiness and fulfillment: “Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy” 

Anyway, friends. I love you all and hope that life is full of inspiring moments for you, even when life seems dull or unpleasant or scary.

So much love. So much hope. 

Charlotte

The importance of setting goals, making plans, & embracing challenges.

I’ve mentioned before (and many of my friends are well aware of the fact) that I am a Image“plan” person. I thrive when I’ve written down goals – SMART goals- for every area of my life. Not to mention the to-do lists that follow the goals. I LOVE TO-DO LISTS. 

Some people think that this way of living is boring. Why not just be spontaneous, and take life a day at a time? I mean, you can’t have every hour of your life planned, am I right? 

First of all, I love spontaneity. Really and truly. Especially when it involves my free time. I do have a tendency to over-commit, and free time usually fills up very quickly because of this. However, I don’t like to plan activities too far in advance. 
For example: Say it’s Monday, & I decide “hey, I should go swimming on Friday because it’s my day off!” But then Friday comes and all of the sudden I’m not in the mood to go swimming, or I’d rather go hiking or shopping or MAYBE I just want to nap all day. 

Even if I do plan things in my free time, they generally change. Someone cancels, or it’s raining outside, or the museum is closed for some strange reason. I don’t fret about these things at all, I simply embrace what is available to me that day. Maybe it’s more boring because no one can hang out (in which case I probably needed time alone to recharge) OR it’s much more exciting than I could have imagined and I get to see an old friend I hadn’t seen in forever. 

ImageBob Goff wrote something awesome in his book “Love Does“: He doesn’t ever schedule things with people. Someone will contact him and say “let’s meet for lunch next week and talk” and he will respond with “how about meeting for lunch now?”. That way he doesn’t have to “schedule people in”; he simply spends time with people who are willing and able and he very rarely has to say no to people. I’m trying to be more like Bob in this way. 

So, being spontaneous is GREAT. Why do I plan anything at all?
If I don’t set goals, nothing will get done. And the goals that I do set I ALWAYS see accomplished. 

I get discouraged a lot because I am a “plan” person. Things don’t ever go the way that I plan: the timing is mostly wrong (things don’t happen quickly enough) or I’m not as fantastic at things as I hoped to be. 

As soon as I became “flexible” with the way in which goals were accomplished and pushed through the challenges, the more I accomplished and the more satisfied I am with my life. 

In the past year, I’ve set a handful of goals. A lot of them seemed absolutely bonkers to other people. These goals included:
1. Move to Portland, OR. 
2. Take a trip to Haiti. 
3. Do well and promote within Starbucks. 
4. Become a runner and live a healthier lifestyle. 
5. Enroll in classes to continue my Social Work degree and be able to pay for it.
6. Find a church home. 

It’s weird looking at these goals I set one year ago and see the progress I’ve made. Let’s be honest: this year has been brutal. And I’ve wanted to give up and I’ve certainly cried more than a reasonable amount of tears. 

But finally being able to cross something off of a giant life “to-do” list is quite possibly the best feeling in the world. I cannot even comprehend that I moved to Portland two weeks ago, spent two weeks in Haiti, am a shift supervisor for my pre-degree dream job, beat my best mile time yesterday, am enrolled in classes for the fall, and will have every Sunday off to work towards the goal of finding a church family. 

I write my goals down so that they continue to be at the forefront of my mind. If they stay there, I just have to ask myself simple questions each day: “Is what I’m doing / saying / how I’m acting going to help me reach one of my goals?” If the answer is no, I just redirect my thoughts and actions. Image

If you haven’t checked out Donald Miller’s Storyline tool, I strongly recommend it. It isa great use of social media in goal setting. You choose a few of your “roles” you wish to play in life (for example, my roles are “physical being”, “Social Worker”, “spiritual being”, etc) and create goals for each role. It’s so fantastic! (mysubplot.com)

Current goals, challenges, and needed prayers

When I cross off a goal as “accomplished”, I normally celebrate the victory in some way; this week I have treated myself to ice cream and purchased some new work clothes. 

After the celebration, however, the wheels start turning again. What’s next? After accomplishment comes the act of setting new goals and embracing the challenges. 

A few of my new goals include getting involved in communities in this beautiful city, finding an organization to volunteer with, learning to carry on conversations with the homeless and needy in a way that is full of love instead of fear, continue to work towards training for a 5K, develop in my position at Starbucks, get a 4.0, gain Oregon residency, join a church small group, purchase a bicycle, get married, and have kids.

(WOAH. Everything except those last two, y’all. Just making sure you were paying attention!)

Kaizen. Continual improvement. Being more of the person Jesus intended us to be by following the Holy Spirit and relying on His strength. 

I love you guys so much and am so glad to be doing life with you. 
So much love, so much hope. 

An update, to say I’m sad (for you) that you aren’t here

 

I’ve been in Portland for 5 days now, and I am sad that I didn’t spend the first 21 years of my life here. 

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  My cat doesn’t seem to hate me (all that much at least). She was shaking when we landed at the airport, and made a ruckus the first night we spent in a stranger’s condo. I think she’s mostly still hurting from being declawed. Let’s be honest: Nutella’s whole world has been flipped upside down over the last few weeks! 

Anyway, enough about my precious cat. I’m enjoying the city much more than she is. It was weird at first being able to hear everything that was happening outside at two in the morning, but you get used to it. In fact, it almost becomes kind of comforting. 

When I woke up on Thursday, I decided I was tired of stressing out about housing. I went to University Pointe, the on-campus apartments I had been looking at for a while, and signed a lease for a 2 bedroom x 2 bathroom shared. This means that I will share a bedroom and bathroom with one other person. To put it simply, I’m trading in my physical and social comfort for financial comfort. For me, the pros outweigh the cons. 

PROS: one block to school and one mile walk to work; my cat can come with me; it’s furnished, so I don’t have to worry about spending money trying to make it look cute; it’s made for students to share; & IT’S MORE THAN $100 UNDER BUDGET! There’s an Einstein’s Bagels downstairs, a business center, washers and dryers that will text me when my laundry is done, and the Cheerful Tortoise is right across the street. 

CONS: My cat and I might drive someone crazy and they’ll hate me. I don’t really see the opposite of this happening, considering I don’t get annoyed super easily and I can’t imagine being home much. But you all know how much I could potentially worry about what other people think! 

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The first few days were spent doing a lot of “tourist-y” Portland stuff. I went to Powell’s Books, thrift stores, restaurants, bars, the Rose Garden, the 3-story Target in the middle of downtown, listening to random people play piano in Pioneer Square, and hiked Multnomah Falls. Everything is so wonderful here. I love being in walking distance to almost everything (did I mention a 3-story Target?!) and experiencing the fantastic weather while I’m at it. 

I was, however, ready to be back at work. I always miss Starbucks. It’s nice to have a few days off in a row every now and then, but mostly I just love my job a lot. 

So today was my first day at work. My transfer situation is a little bit confusing. Basically, I was (and am) transferring to 5th and Oak. But then some stuff happened, and I need to help out 4th and Oak. (Y’all, they’re really one block away from each other. I can stand at one, and see the other clearly). I was only told to show up at 4:30 AM this morning, and that I would learn everything and get my schedule for the week when I got there. 

I was prepared for “different”. And anyone who normally works with me would have been SO PROUD at how calm I actually was. There was no “panic attack” Charlotte present; I think that Portland has this affect on me in general. Everything was backwards, though. And I feel like I’ll actually like this better than the drive-thru store back home, as long as I can make it through this week. I’m thankful that my new co-workers are nice and patient. 

I will spare you all of the details of things that are backwards. I think the craziest thing though is the fact that closers get out of there at 7:45 PM. I mean, you could cl-open and not even care! 

Another question that was answered: I have 38 hours this week (thank Jesus) and my manager was delighted when I told her I wanted as close to 40 hours as possible! 

Anyway, friends. Thank you for caring enough to make it to the end of this. I love you all and really wish I could just help everyone move here. (Did I mention there is a party-bike?! It’s a bike and everyone bikes in tandem and drinks throughout downtown Portland!) 

lots of love and lots of hope. 
Charlotte