Responding to the Conscience

Seven months ago, I packed up our three animals, my clothes, and anything I might need for six to eight months and drove away from our apartment in Arizona to Maryland for a job. This was the only solid job offer I had received in six months, and we were against the wall financially.

I tearfully hugged my husband, and I could see the emotion in his eyes, too.

As I drove out of the four feet of snow, my heart started hammering wildly, more tears sprung to my eyes, and I started to have trouble breathing. My mom, who had traveled from Maryland to help with this move, asked if I wanted her to drive.

I sniffed, shook my head, and gripped my steering wheel. But I glanced in the rearview, and when I did, I heard a murmuring in my head: why are you doing this? Don’t go.

Crying, I kept driving. Because I didn’t feel like we had a choice; it was take this job to help support our family or hate each other because he would be the only one working.

. . . . . . 

When was the last time you had a twinge of conscience? How did you respond to it?

This question was asked by one the blogs I follow, one of my favorite blogs actually. While I could have responded as a simple comment on the post itself, I felt compelled to create a post of my own about feeling the twinge of conscience. Because our stories are our testimonies.

I responded poorly. And I’ve never told anyone.

. . . . . .

The entire move, I couldn’t help but feel I had done something wrong. A gentle whisper pervaded my thoughts: don’t do this; turn around. The logic part of my brain, though, the part that handles finances and planning, was shouting at me: what are you going to do otherwise?!

Looking back, I now feel that small, gentle whisper was God telling me I was not doing what He had asked of me.

As the months progressed, things got worse. Tears became frequent, practically nightly. My heart ached (and still does). I began to see things in a different light. I was no longer excited for the opportunity; instead, I was miserable.

But I never told anyone I was miserable. I feigned happiness day in and day out. Because I felt if I let people know I wasn’t happy, I was showing weakness. If I let them know I felt I hadn’t made the right choice, I would be scolded.

In the months since, I have learned not to care what others think of my choices. I should not concern myself with what others think of my mindset or my aspirations. What matters is if I am doing what I have been called to do.

. . . . . .

I mentioned I was going to begin a fast. Week one did not go as planned, and I beat myself up for every mistake, as I am prone to do. I grabbed a cookie or two one night; I ate a few M&Ms at work out of sheer boredom. I decided the pre-packaged frozen chocolate covered fruit we have is acceptable since it curbs sweets cravings, but I realize that’s not staying true to fasting desserts.

But I have heard another gentle whisper on my heart during this time, so maybe I’m not doing everything entirely wrong.

This whisper has told me to “fast” complaining.

I realized I have complained about what I am unhappy about, what I don’t like, and just things in general. I am feeling angry all the time again, and that’s not a healthy state to be in.

Instead of complaining about my day or what I struggle with, I am going to change it to thanking God for another day and another opportunity. Instead of complaining out loud, I am going to give those concerns and frustrations to God, whether that means openly praying them during my prayer time or writing them in my journal as they arise. Either way, I am going to release them because, otherwise, they just poison my attitude.

. . . . . .

When I complain, I can feel a nudge of stop doing that. But, as we all know, once we begin complaining, it can be difficult to stop. But I know that nudge is my conscience, or God, telling me to stop and re-examine before I continue to speak.

This time I am going to respond better.

This whole experience has showed me that I have been self-centered in the past. I have been able to see that I gave up gifts I had been given to pursue things the world told me to pursue, because the world told me those things were necessary.

I am writing more now. I found avenues to publish material to get my content out there. I have reconstructed my blog to reflect my writing aspirations. (I hope you like it. Let me know!) I am actively working on writing pieces I had put away for years because I was told, not by friends or family or my husband but by society, that it would never matter because no one would ever care.

We all make mistakes. We all do things we shouldn’t have done. We all get off the path at some point. We don’t always listen to our conscience’s whispers to us. What matters, though, is that we eventually do.

I am choosing to actively listen.

. . . . . .

When was a time you didn’t listen to your conscience? What did you learn from that experience? What are the steps you took to change it?

The Creation of: “The Craziness of Laundry”

He found her on the bed amongst scattered, half-folded clean clothes. Mascara stained her cheeks, her nose was red and splotchy. He rushed to her side.

. . . . . .

My husband and I got married the summer we entered our junior year of college, as we were transferring colleges. At the time, I was majoring in biology, but I had flat-out failed general chemistry II at our first university (well, I got a D, but that wasn’t good enough for the degree path of course). The night before classes started, I looked at the learning management system for the chemistry class I was set to retake.

“I don’t remember learning any of this!” I shrieked at my husband.

“C’mon, we learned that!” he told me, perusing the syllabus.

It was about that time I started crying. “I don’t remember any of it,” I bawled.

He tried to tell me it would come back to me once class started, but I had lost all confidence, and I told him I would just fail again, that I just wasn’t cut out for biology.

“I want to change my degree,” I told him, having made up my mind once my tears settled.

“To what?”

“English.”

He paused, and he told me to sleep on it. The next day, we walked up to campus to make our way to the admissions and advising offices. We stopped outside the building, and he gave me the sternest look he had ever given me to that point.

“You can change your degree,” he told me (not that I’d necessarily asked his permission), “but I don’t want to hear you complain about it in a month. You make this change, you don’t go back. Are you sure about this?”

“I want to change my degree,” I told him, resolute.

He took my hand, and we walked into the building.

Another woman might have yelled at him, about how dare he try to tell me what decisions I can or cannot make. Another woman might have argued. I didn’t. Because I knew then, and I still know, that in that moment, he wanted to make sure I wasn’t making a mistake. He wanted me to know he fully supported me, but that this change would be a permanent one.

I changed my degree that day, and I never once regretted that choice.

. . . . . .

The college we graduated from had three options for English at the time: English – General Option; English – Creative Writing; or English – Journalism. At our previous university, I had taken a lot of English courses, since it was my passion, and the General Option fit best with the transfer credit I had. As with any degree path, though, I got to choose electives. All but one of the degree path electives I chose was creative writing of some kind (the other one was working on the student newsmagazine).

My senior year of college, I took a Creative Writing course. To this day, this was my favorite course, and what I learned about writing, even though I no longer have the physical notes, has stuck with me.

One of our assignments was to write a short story where we did not reveal anything until the end. I had never done anything like that before, and I had no idea how I was going to accomplish it. I always had high expectations of myself, and I didn’t know how I would meet those expectations with this assignment.

I had just had what I would later (and I mean a few years later) realize was my first real breakdown, and, looking back, it was probably some initial sign of some sort of depression. My husband worked off-campus, while I worked on campus as a tutor, and he had one semester less than I did left in school. I hated household chores, and all I was doing was homework. I felt stuck and inadequate.

When I told my husband of this assignment, stressed out about creating something I could be proud of, he paused and looked around our small apartment. We had laundry piled up that I had not yet folded because…well, I couldn’t be bothered. We always joked we would get a maid when we had “adult careers,” with “adult paychecks.”

“Write something about how laundry makes you crazy,” he said with a smile.

It was a good-natured comment, meant to make me laugh or smile. But it was also honest in that he thought writing would help me.

I remember just staring at him and excitedly grabbing my laptop.

“How’s this?” I asked him once the piece was complete.

He read it over, chuckled, and said it was good. I received a kiss on the forehead for my effort.

Writing that piece ended up helping me that night. Bonus: my instructor and my class (because I ended up sharing it with the class) loved it.

. . . . . .

That piece has sat in my external hard drive for years, untouched. It hadn’t been changed. It hadn’t been edited. It hadn’t even been read since I submitted it as my assignment. Looking back, it was the first time I realized writing could help heal. As I’ve been seeking to write more and make it more like a job, I decided it was time to revisit some previous pieces.

Today, The Craziness of Laundry finally got to see the light of day. I hope you take a moment to read it, and I hope you enjoy it.

Sometimes it’s the most mundane thing that can push us to the edge.

Attention Dog Lovers: On the PUPPERS Act

Between the two sides of politics attacking each other, whatever craziness is occurring in the White House, and the seemingly apocalyptic stories that grace our media on a daily basis, it rarely seems anything remotely positive is on the table for politics. I usually casually peruse current events, just to keep myself knowledgeable and up-to-date. One thing I am undoubtedly passionate about, however, and what can get me involved in politics, are animal issues. In May of 2016, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) signed legislation that voided laws in Phoenix and Tempe that pet stores sell only rescue animals, much to the dismay of animal advocates. Aside from the one-off stories, like Arizona’s, animal welfare rarely seems to make it to the light of day in anything political, and, when it does, it seems to serve as a “placeholder”. That may change, though, with the introduction of the PUPPERS Act of 2017.

Yes, dog lovers and Dog Rates fans, you read that right. The “Preventing Unkind and Painful Procedures and Experiments on Respected Species Act of 2017”, shortened to the PUPPERS Act of 2017, is an amendment to title 38 of United States Code “to prohibit the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from conducting medical research causing significant pain or distress to dogs.” It was introduced in the House of Representatives on July 12 and referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs the same day.

Thus far, this bipartisan bill states that “in carrying out research, the Secretary may not purchase, breed, transport, house, feed, maintain, dispose of, or experiment on dogs as part of the conduct of any study that causes significant pain or distress.”

According to an article with Circa, the bill comes after animal rights group White Coat Waste Project, under a Freedom of Information Act request, obtained documents which seemed to detail “cruel medical tests on dogs at the McGuire Veterans Hospital in Richmond.”

In a statement, which can be found on his website, Representative Dave Brat (R-Va.) said: “The revelations regarding the dog laboratory testing at McGuire VAMC are disturbing and the descriptions are almost on the scale of torture…I believe there are alternative and more humane methods that can lead to similar medical breakthroughs…Our bill sets clearly defined expectations for medical research and will prohibit research at taxpayer-funded VA facilities that causes significant pain or distress for puppies.”

According to the bill, the phrase “significant pain and distress” refers to “any study classified to pain category D or E by the Department of Agriculture.”

In the same Circa article, medical researchers claim dogs are essential to developing the medical breakthroughs Rep. Brat mentioned in his statement. Scientists cite specific medical developments that canine research has assisted with, such as the pacemaker and discovery of insulin, and the Director of the Center for Comparative Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine feels the public and supporting lawmakers have been misled.

However, since its move to the House Committee on July 12, no further action on the bill has occurred. As of August 15, 2017, though, there are 37 cosponsors for the Act, and it remains a bipartisan bill.

It will be interesting to see how this bill progresses. Keep your ears perked.

 

[This article first appeared on Odyssey.]

The Beginning of a Transformation

I feel like I am transforming, like a caterpillar into a butterfly. Well, I’m still in the caterpillar phase I think, but I can envision becoming a beautiful butterfly one day.

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It’s difficult to describe this week in one word, but I feel it has begun to change me (in a good way). I began teaching again, and walking into that classroom, I feel comfortable. Not necessarily inthe “this is my comfort zone and I refuse to leave it” (though maybe that’s part of it). No, it feels more like I am moving in the direction of doing what I am supposed to be doing in life. I think for so long I had these ideas of what I should do in life—based on societal and familial expectations—not what I wanted to do or what I was called to do. Now, I get to focus on those things.

For example, I wrote an article on a potential new law that was introduced in the House, titled the PUPPERS Act. I love animals, so anything animal-related in politics always pricks my ears (get it?). As I was writing it, I suddenly felt like my two loves—animals and writing—got to intersect, and I got really excited.

Then, for the first time, I submitted one of pieces of short fiction to be published on Medium. It will be published Monday. I’m really excited about that one, too, and I’ll tell you all about it (and link to it) on Monday. Promise.

I’ve encountered difficulty in treating writing like a job, though. This has to because I work 25 hours a week at my day job, and then I started teaching again on Tuesday, so that means preparing lectures and activities as well as the actual act of going into the classroom to teach. So, I’ve been upset with myself that I haven’t devoted my time to writing like I should, like I want to.

One thing I have done this week, though, is realize, at the very least, that I can’t allow others to bulldoze me anymore. Really, this week has made me see that it’s time to make a change and control what I can control.

I know I have responsibilities, though—rent (now that I’ll have my own place in 2 weeks), Belle, credit card payments, student loans—and I have to be able to take care of those. The problem is I’m torn. I know and understand I have adult responsibilities, but how much longer do I ignore my gut and my mental health? I feel my creativity is being squashed like a highly undesirable bug. When do I say “no more”?

I know I am going to sound like a whiny millennial, like a child who doesn’t get her way, but the hard truth is this: I don’t want to do it anymore. And what’s wrong with admitting when you don’t want to do something? What’s wrong with admitting you aren’t cut out for something, or it’s just not what you thought you wanted?

As I told my therapist, I feel like I should have already figured this out, like I should have known before I got to this point. And that just makes me angry and frustrated with myself.

The plus side is this: I have an idea of what I want. At least for now. So that’s what I’m going for.

Because I know one day the transformation will be complete.

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Treating It Like A Job

Something happens in your head, in your heart, in the way you see things when you finally make the conscious decision to move forward with something you feel called to.

I have felt called to writing for quite some time, years in fact, and I have really only recently begun to move forward with that calling in a conscious, viable way. I started looking for articles on writing and found one on Medium that sought to inspire writers to turn from “wannabe” to “pro” with their craft. One article in particular, though, said exactly the thing someone like me needed to hear: you have to treat your writing like a job.

As I have expressed previously, I started working on an assignment for my creative writing class in college, and I had hoped to turn it into an actual novel. When my instructor told me, however, that the only way it would be believable was for it to end in a way I didn’t want it to (read: not have a happy ending), I stopped writing. On top of that, I was down on myself—no one would ever read this crap I told myself, even though my husband insisted I continue working on it. (Lesson: listen to your spouse.)

But a quote from the article on turning pro really struck me: “a professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” Well, in the past, I quit. I don’t want to be that person anymore. I quit…quitting? (Does that even make sense?)

All of this has led me to the idea of rebranding this blog. Not because I’m not writing about what I want to write about (because I am!), but because I want to truly solidify what it is I do and what I write about. I started this blog as a place to just…write, but it has helped me to grow and realize what it is I want to do. If I want to be taken seriously, I have to begin to take myself seriously. So, over the course of the next month, I will be changing things up a bit. The biggest changes will most likely be a new domain name and a new layout on the blog itself.

The topics will not change. The overall goal of my blog will not change. I’m just going to actually work on developing that goal into a type of mission or vision. I will also keep writing during these updates.

I feel excited about this. The thought of treating my writing like a job brings me joy and an excitement I didn’t know I still had. I feel I am finally putting my calling to use, like I am finally honoring God with the gift He has blessed me with.

I hope you all will join me on this mission I’ve created for myself. And if you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them!

Making Mistakes

Today was the first day in a few weeks I broke down in tears and fell on my knees, literally crying out to God.

Even though this past weekend was enjoyable as we spent time on the beach in Delaware and I watched Belle frolic in the ocean for the first time, I could feel something bubble up, just beneath the surface. I could feel it in the way I had trouble focusing on anything other than Belle, in the way I couldn’t control checking my phone though I knew there was no reason to, and in the way I could barely finish a thought without a heavy mental sigh. Another episode.

I missed my therapy appointment last week because of our trip to Delaware. I thought I’d be okay for a week, but I guess I didn’t realize how much therapy is helping me.

I left work early today, explaining I “don’t feel well,” that I’m “taking it one day at a time,” and requested to work from home the rest of the week in hopes it will help me recoup some of myself. I don’t know if it will.

Honestly, the only thing I know to do at this point is cry out to God.

A few days ago, I woke up with this idea in my head: we can acknowledge we made a mistake without dismissing that we learned from it. As the day wore on (and I do mean wore on), I began to wonder if it was God trying to speak to me.

For weeks, I’ve been told by (some) family members not to view past decisions as mistakes. But why not? These people seem to think I’m somehow dismissing that I’ve learned from the mistake. I promise you, I’m not. I just learned the hard way. But the fact of the matter is I did make a mistake. If I don’t admit it, if I don’t say it out loud, if I don’t own up to it, then nothing can ever change.

I made a mistake.

Now all I can do is thank God for letting me learn, for not forsaking me, even in the midst of my mistakes, and for keeping His promises, even if I cannot see them yet.

Since my positivity challenge ended, I’ve struggled to write. It goes back to feeling I have nothing to write about, nothing that anyone else would care about.

But that is the enemy speaking.

I know that because one of the comments the Editor wrote on my draft of my final publication for the positivity challenge was telling me that she followed each of the posts and that I have inspired others to challenge themselves. And what better praise could an aspiring writer get than to hear you’ve inspired others?

So, yes, I made a mistake. But already God has kept a promise to me, and He has used that mistake to turn me back to a gift He blessed me with.

After falling on my knees, and with tears still streaming down my face, I took a nap. (Because when I’m depressed, I sleep a lot.) I slept longer than I meant to, but when I woke up, I felt a little better. Maybe not 100%, because that will come in time, but a little. My tears had stopped at least. But in that tearful crying out, I felt close to God. In the admitting of making a mistake, in admitting to trusting in my own will above His, I felt relief.

I hope I can encourage you. If you made a mistake, cry out to Him. It doesn’t make you weak. It brings peace, relief, and new insight. It is in those moments, when you give yourself entirely to Him, that He will speak to you.

Day 30: Mindset

How did it go?

Here we are. Day 30. The end of my 30-day positivity challenge.

You’ll probably notice I didn’t post yesterday either. My mom, Belle, and I left for a weekend getaway to a beach town in Delaware. We got out of town later than expected (I had to drop the cats off at my Nana’s for babysitting), so we didn’t get to our destination until about 9:30 at night. Since it’s a new place for Belle, and it was a 3-hour car ride, we spent an hour before bed letting her explore a bit and getting some energy out.

I was excited, though, that my Week 3 wrap up was published this week. Can you pick out any of the themes I’ve discussed in my posts?

Other than that, the day itself was simply uneventful.

I’m beginning to think maybe most of my days are. (And that’s okay.)

What did I learn?

I’m definitely the type of person that decisions affect my mind, which affect my mood. (Your mind affects your mouth, and your mouth affects your mind.)

I’ve noticed that since I’ve made a decision, the “don’t care attitude” I feel I have is actually coming across as positive and strong-willed to others. Who would have thought? Making a decision, even in my head, and adopting a different attitude has actually changed my environment because it’s changed the way I interact with my environment.

Mindset is everything, it seems.

And I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned from this whole thing: it’s all about your mindset.

If you’re willing to fight and “dig in” for what you want or what you believe, then don’t let the actions or thoughts of others deter you. Keep persevering, keep pushing forward. (God rewards the committed.)

My decisions won’t change; I will remain committed to not only having small faith, but also what I am called to do.

I will keep my mindset because my mindset will help to determine the outcome (or at least how I see it).