Winging It.

A week or so ago I got a message from someone with a question I get asked a lot (and I ask a lot to others); How do you keep going? How do you cope when things are hard? Because I find it nearly impossible to write short answers to anything I care about (ask anyone that I’ve ever sent a text message to), I wrote back a small dissertation that I thought I’d share, as I find it to be a vital question and something so so soooo important when living out any peace-waging effort.

I have not cornered this market, but here are some things I have picked up along the way:

Counseling. I have been in and out of counseling for years. I first started going after being held-up/car-jacked in college and started displaying really odd behaviors, fears and nightmares. I was interning at AIDS Project Los Angeles and slowly a job that I had LOVED was turning me into a complete wreck. If needed, counseling is one of the greatest tools, once you can humble yourself enough to say “I freaking need help.” (That part took me a long time- in fact, someone else made my first counseling appointment for me and strong-armed into going. That said, I think everyone in the world could benefit from it.)  It has really assisted me in processing things when I’ve thought I might lose my mind. It’s also helped me learn how to set up healthy boundaries- learning where to let go and recognize that I can’t make people’s decisions for them even if I want to and that at the end of the day, I really have very little control over anything has helped me a ton.

Art/Writing. I am not some incredibly talented artist- most of visual art is in a closet at my parent’s house and a good majority of the things I’ve written are in journals that I’ve made four different people promise they’d burn unread in the event that I die unexpectedly or decide to run for presidency- but finding a way for me to express myself has been a huge processing tool for me. Sometimes in the midst of something it’s really hard to see it for what it’s worth, I’ve found that reflecting upon things after the fact can be a pretty powerful healer and motivator.

People. I am INSANELY lucky in the human department. I have the best support system. I have a group of girls I call my “home team”- we send each other texts constantly updating, making jokes, asking for prayer, encouraging one another, screaming cuss words when we’re frustrated, etc., as well as a family that just won’t quit.  Knowing that I am never walking alone has changed everything for me. Getting to a place where I was not too prideful to reach out and ask for help is not always easy for me, but it’s ALWAYS worth it. Having the right people around you who know you and know when it’s time to be gentle and empathetic and when it’s time to call you out on your crap is everything. I am not always easy to call out- I am super sensitive and more often than not will either cry and/or get defensive, but the people who love me the most are not afraid of that, they love me enough to push through those barriers. They also love me enough to know when what I need to hear most is “give yourself grace, Rachel.” This doesn’t mean I am never lonely- I think everyone is to some degree or another, but there is crazy freedom in being loved by people who understand you.

My faith. It took me a long time to really understand that God loves me, but He has really made my eyes open to that in the last few months in a way I’d never seen before. He’s done a lot of reminding me where I’ve been and how present He’s been from the beginning. Faith has always been a huge part of me, but it’s fluctuated, it’s never been simple or easily packaged- the thread it’s woven in and out of the facets of my being though make it impossible for me to deny. God has been really, really good to me and again, placed really amazing people in front of me who constantly reminded who He is when I fail to remember. I went through a period where I really, reaaallly doubted that God was real and found so much grace in my questioning. God is not afraid of my spinning head and through His allowance of me being in that place, I would say, I can see Him more clearly now than I ever had before.

Recognizing that I am fighting WITH God, not against Him. For a long time I would get really pissed at God and scream things like “If you were really good you wouldn’t allow injustice” or “DAMMIT, FIX THIS!” and the response I heard back the loudest: “That’s what you are here for, Rachel.” We, as solo humans can’t fix everything, but God will call you where He wants you to right the wrongs you can for His kingdom. Often times that calling looks less like a huge blaring sign and more like this is what fires me up the most- this is what speeds my heart-rate, I’ve gotta do this.

Looking at the micro, not just the macro. I HAVE to celebrate the small victories, not just the large. Looking only at the bigger picture constantly threatens to swallow me whole. Lao Tzu’s quote “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” is one of my favorites, because it’s TRUE. Very few things will ever change overnight, but each step, each victory makes a dent and should be celebrated. Some days that is celebrating that one of my residents has been living indoors for an entire year, while other days it’s that someone who struggles with alcoholism ate a sandwich before they started drinking instead of doing so on a dangerously empty stomach- BOTH are victories, both deserve to be accounted for.

I know there are a million other, perhaps better, ways* to cope with the messiness of life and seeking shalom, but this is what I have learned to be most effective for me thus far. There’s a chance I could look back ten years from now and think wow, I sure was naive… but for now, these processing tools are working for me. I have a piece of paper taped to my computer at work that says “we’re all just kind of winging it” and I think to many degrees that’s true- it’s simply a matter of finding what helps you wing it with the most sanity, inner-peace and motivation to keep you fighting for what’s good in this world.

 

*wine, definitely wine

  

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Weighty Matters.

(April 1st)
“What year were you born, 1971?”
“That better be an April Fool’s joke.”
“A what?”

“Can I please have your gum when you’re done with it, Rachel? I’d like to test your DNA.”

(The Monday after Easter)
“How was your weekend, Miss Rachel? It was kind of a big one for you and your people, eh? Wellllll, maybe a rough one for your Jewish side, but I bet the left side of your body was alll ‘wooo! it’s our time to shine!’ ”

“Okay, be real with me- are you more excited about your big Easter holiday yesterday or that today is the Dodgers Opening Day? I imagine you consider them both holy so I am just curious.”

“Hey lady, do you want to buy a joint?”
“Uhhh, do I really look like I am someone who would be down here to buy weed?”
“Well yeah…kinda.”
“That’s fair. No thank you, sir.”

“Miss Rachel, come here I want to pick you up to see how much you weigh!”
“I WILL NEVER LET YOU DO THAT.”
(He then proceeded to sit outside my office yelling out guesses for 25 minutes. His first was SEVENTY pounds over.)

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That is the Gospel.

Yesterday was not my finest day. I think I started complaining the minute I woke up. From the guy cutting me off in traffic, to a meeting I needed to help facilitate, to being hungry during said meeting- EVERYTHING was frustrating and annoying me. I am not proud of this- in fact, if you’re reading this it’s because I lost the debate with myself as to whether or not it would be okay to just erase this part and admit to nothing. At one point I stated to a friend, “I should be quarantined today, take away my phone and all human contact, I think it’s most beneficial thing for society.”

As you might expect, that didn’t happen, life had to go on as did the workday much to others’ chagrin I am certain.

Right now at Skid Row Housing Trust we are in the middle of leasing up a new building, which essentially means we are in the process of identifying and then housing 60+ new residents, bringing them off the streets into their new home. To say this is an honor would be a huge understatement, but to say it’s insanely stressful and often times confusing as all hell would be too.

In the afternoon we were slated to hold a workshop for 32 folks that will soon be moving in; these workshops are neat in that we get to spend time with the people that will soon become familiar faces, but they are also harrowing- they consist of A LOT of paperwork and working around what feels like 3,000 yards of proverbial red tape.

As the workshop began a man named Tony walked in. I didn’t recognize Tony by face or even by name, but assumed it was just because I’m still getting to know these folks. As it turns out however, I didn’t know him because his previous documents had somehow slipped through the cracks and we hadn’t been tracking him at all. Ugh. [insert multiple cuss words here.] We ended up having to send him back by bus to his referring agency, which was roughly 15 miles away, to retrieve his forms, however when he made it there they turned him right back around and sent him back to us empty-handed. To say I was mad would be putting it mildly. These are people’s lives! I screamed in my head. Why would somebody be this careless?! And now I am charged with telling him that we can’t move forward? Awesome. [Expletive] awesome.

Almost in tears I went to him and explained the situation, apologizing over and over that things were unfolding as they were. I expressed to him that I couldn’t imagine how frustrated he must feel and promised him that we would follow-up and straighten out the situation at hand, to which he replied, “This day has been ummm interesting but not frustrating. God told me a long time ago to stop worrying, so I don’t. It doesn’t make any sense to worry- I’ve never been promised simplicity, but I have been promised grace.”

I sat there with my mouth agape as he went on, “A problem is not a problem really, Miss Rachel- a problem is merely a solution waiting to be realized and once you realize the problem you can act upon it and it becomes history. We’ll get this mess figured out, don’t worry.”

I don’t know if the kids these days still use the expression “you got served,” but if they do, I am fairly certain this qualifies.

I sat there humbled and appalled by my own arrogance, entitlement and impatience with others’ imperfections, reflecting on how much I think I am owed by the world before Tony came back to THANK ME for listening to him. WHAT?! He thanked me?

I was speechless.

That is grace.

That is love.

That is peace.

That is the gospel.

While Tony is obviously pretty incredible, he is not alone in his faith either- it’s close to impossible to talk to three people on Skid Row without hearing God’s messaged preached to some extent or another by at leasts one of them. “I can’t imagine it would be very comfortable to be an atheist on Skid Row,” a local pastor recently told me, “there is a culture of Jesus marked all over this place and it’s real. Knowing genuine need tends to connect those dots in a way that I may never understand- to be honest, I think most of this community probably has a better grasp of Him than I do.”

It’s true. I am asked often what it looks like for me to “bring Jesus to Skid Row”my answer: “You mean, how do they bring Jesus to me? Because I think that’s probably more accurate question. I know Jesus better because I know the patrons of Skid Row.”

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Dear Me,

This was originally written to myself, for myself only- but after sharing a tiny snippet, a couple folks asked to read it. My initial thought? Umm, HELL NO. But then I decided to listen to my own voice below and worry about the dry heaves later. The inspiration came from my stupidly-talented-artist friend Tom, who is in the process of finalizing a pop-up gallery show he titled Make, what you most need to find.” I asked myself the question What do I most need to hear? and this is what came out unedited…well, mostly- I edited out a few parts that were perhaps too personal- nobody needs to read me talk myself in circles about relationships. :)

Dear Me,

Life is scary and it will hurt- that’s ok. You’re going to take risks and some will break your heart, in fact, many already have- that’s ok too. You know what you love now, but don’t stop falling in love with new things and new people. It’s ok to be afraid, just don’t let it determine your steps. What makes your heart beat faster? Do that. Your hands may shake and your voice may crack- but do it. Face it head on. It’ll be messy, most good things are. Don’t be afraid of the mess.

Stop being so fearful of your own voice. You love to write so stop whining and just do it. Be bolder; your best pieces have been those that’ve induced some panic and even a few dry heaves. It’s not wrong for people to know you in this way- it’s uncomfortable and weird, but remember what I said about good things being messy? God gave you this voice, use it- some people won’t listen to you…so what? They don’t determine who you are any more than you determine who they are.

You’re never going to please everyone, so stop trying. You break your own heart over and over striving to make everyone happy. Not only is this not healthy OR possible, it’s kinda selfish- compulsion to act in order to make others like you is not nearly the same as moving out of the goodness of your heart. Don’t be afraid to say no, but don’t use that as an excuse to get out of the things that make you squirm in discomfort.

Don’t forget what you know about God right this very minute; that you are insanely loved. You struggle with doubts, you over-think things- it’s ok, don’t freak out, you’ll get through them as they come- just don’t let go and don’t allow them to be an excuse to do whatever the hell you want. Keep fighting for it. God will too- take comfort in that.

Learn to be grateful for what you have, comparing yourself to no one else on either side of the spectrum. There will always be someone worse off than you and there will always be someone better- comparing yourself to either robs you of true gratitude and turns people into statistical competition.

Learn to let others take care of you- this is not weakness. Being in need is weird and incredibly uncomfortable, but learn to embrace it when it’s reality. People love you, they want to walk with you- let them. People want to be the hands and feet of Jesus for you, let them.

Don’t forget to follow your heart- use reason too, but really listen to your heart, it will guide you far better, with more clarity than your anxious brain will. Learn to know when to let go and when to hang on. This can be a confusing one, but it’s vital. You’ve spent years fearfully hanging on to what you’ve needed to release, while also giving up on things that have just needed a little more patience and energy. There is a time for both, but it will take some discerning to figure out which is which- your heart will know, listen.

Lastly, give yourself a little more grace. You have been making mistakes your whole life and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll stop now. It’s ok to be imperfect- perfection is a lie. Nobody else expects you to have it all figured out, so why do you insist that you must? That kind of life is exhausting. Embrace the mistakes you make- it allows others to embrace theirs too, it’s not comfortable, but you’ll to be ok…I promise.

Love,
Me

p.s. I still think it’s weird how proud you are that your favorite color is orange.

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World Water Day 2015- What are YOU going to do?

I will never forget the day that I was walking down the street in the heart of Skid Row and saw a woman, Susan, squatting in the gutter. I didn’t think much of it at first, things that in many places seem strange are fairly commonplace here, but I stopped when I noticed exactly what she was doing; scooping water in her mouth to drink from the run-off of a local vendor’s hose as he sprayed down the streets. I ran over to stop her, to help her find clean water, but she refused. I explained that this water would make her sick, but she stated “I am so thirsty I don’t even care, I’ll take whatever it gives me.”

She was later hospitalized as she was not only severely dehydrated, she became incredibly ill.

While it’s not necessarily impossible to get clean drinking water as a homeless person, there are places to access it if you know where to go, it’s not as easy to come by as one would assume in America. Drinking fountains are scarce and a running faucet is not easily accessible for someone who looks and smells like they haven’t bathed in weeks.

I take for granted the clean water that I not only have at my disposal, but often waste, while others would be willing to crawl into the gutter for it. Meeting Susan called to mind the summer I spent living in the Domincan Republic where I was told very explicitly DO NOT DRINK THIS WATER and yet, somehow toward the end of my time there ingested it only to find myself violently ill for days. It made me consider how often I call 911 for someone only to learn that they were sick due to severe dehydration. It made me think of the harrowing statistics I’ve read about diseases and fatalities all over the world due to contaminated water.

It reminded me how selfish and self-centered I can be and how easily I forget how good I’ve got it.

It made me want to be different…but how?

This Sunday, March 22nd is World Water Day. A day marked to recognize the immense needs and efforts being made to bring people clean water all over the world. Let’s all do something to get involved…it can be small- a small drop can create a ripple of change. (see what I did there?)

Learn. Educate yourself on the importance of clean water for everyone- it’s not merely about hydration- clean water is needed to create sustainable living, sanitation and economic growth.

Get Practical. While I think that giving money to organizations that serve people is great and incredibly vital, I am a big proponent of person-to-person giving. The best way I have learned to give clean water to someone in need is…to give clean water to someone in need. While I am not typically a huge fan of plastic water bottles due to their wasteful nature, I often carry some around in my car and my purse to give to homeless people that I meet. Consider toting a few around with you and spreading the love.

Take Action. In my quest for answers to our world water crisis and how we can all do our part I’ve recently come across a couple organizations that I’ve quickly become huge fans of:

World Thirst What I love about World Thirst is their mission to not only provide access to safe water, but they are doing so on a micro-finance platform, offering economic development as well- the key to sustainability. Being a young organization they are in “pilot” phase currently, but you can subscribe to them and follow when investment opportunities will be made open to the public.

Waves For Water W4W is a local Southern California non-profit that combines two major loves of mine; the ocean and clean, drinkable water in developing countries. On their site the offer of ways to raise funds, campaign and even go to the places as a clean water courier- come on, I know some of you have some surf trips you’re dying to take.*

*Let me know if you do, I am IN.

Lastly, consider hopping in your nearest ocean, lake, swimming pool or shower and giving thanks. I know that may sound a bit cheesy, but I for one don’t want to live another day taking for granted the gift that is clean, drinkable, swim-able, surf-able water that is so readily available to me. Water is life, y’all and it’s far too easy for me to forget it.

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Take Heart.

Today has been one of those days- one of the ones where the weight of the world feels heavy…like, so incredibly heavy. It started this morning as I was walking to a meeting on the earlier side of the AM and found myself feeling physically impacted by how many people I saw still sound asleep on the pavement. My chest felt heavy, my shoulders weak and each step felt like wading through swampy waters. As I neared closer to my destination I heard someone call my name- not “baby” or “white girl,” as are often the monikers hollered at me on this particular street, but my actual name. I looked down to find Mr. Harvey, a man who I’d spent my first 4 years with here on Skid Row. This man holds a special place in my heart as our first meeting was while I was doing outreach, looking for specifically for him at 4:30 in the morning on his birthday…which happens to be mine too. This commonality bonded us instantly.

At first glance Mr. Harvey and I have absolutely nothing in common- he is an older black man with a severe mental illness and a catalog of memories that I can’t even begin to imagine. But as he stated this morning, the uniqueness of the day we met, “our day” remains imprinted on us both.

It’s been a couple of years since working with the program that Mr. Harvey was in and I’d since heard that he’d left, but I never knew why- to be honest, I am not sure he does either. Seeing him this morning snapped something in me. As I sat down next to him, noticing his missing shoe I couldn’t stop the flood that felt like one thousand pounds of grief- grief for Mr. Harvey, grief for multitude of other men and women on the street, grief for the broken systems and hearts that got them there.

I’m supposed to be stronger than this, I thought.

I walked away feeling very, very human; limited, defeated, overwhelmed and as I often find myself doing, began to calculate what it would look like to get every single person off the streets into a home. Mid-calculation however, my thoughts were interrupted with another, In this world you will have trouble, but TAKE HEART, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

I stopped.

That’s it.

That’s all of it.

It has to be it.

I have mentioned before my struggles with doubt and continuous questioning of just about anything I can get my hands on, but I believe these words. I have to believe these words. Because if I don’t, nothing else makes sense to me. Love, justice, peace- none of these add up without these words. I have to believe that when God says that he is bigger than all of this mess, that He means it. I have to believe that there is something more going on than what my brain and my eyes can see.

I have to.

And so I will. I will grit my teeth and dig in my heels- I will keep fighting. It may be through tears, it may come with screams and there’s a good chance there’ll be a few of swear words, but today I will cling to this truth like a life raft in a storm; take heart.

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The Skid Row Fashion Police.

Overheard:

“Oh grrrrreat, Rachel has on her hippy bathrobe again.”

“Do you think she’s going to make us talk about peace and love again?” (not all that unlikely)

“No, probably just about global warming, recycling and crap like that.” (also not that unlikely)

“She’s cool, but man she’s a weird white girl.” (this is probably more true than false)

“Maybe this is why she’s still single, do you think?” (uh-oh, here we go)

“Nah, she’s single because she’s picky- she obviously doesn’t want to end up with a loser.” (preach, girl- said by the only woman in the group)

“No way, she’s single because she hangs out with us all day.” (partially true)

“You are all wrong, she’s single because she’s too skinny.” (bless you, sir)

“Well, either way, she’s single- and we need to get her fixed up so she can start having babies.” (no, no you don’t)

These are my people.

IMG_4765

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I Breathed.

I’ve been sitting at my computer staring at its blank page for about 15 minutes now. Words seem to elude me as to how to begin this and really how to articulate much of anything at all. But my heart’s been moved, so I am going to try. To put it mildly, last week was ROUGH. Between the shooting on Skid Row, the passing of one of my residents and the heartache of some stuff going on outside of work, I wondered if I was eventually going to get to a point where my tear ducts just up and stopped working altogether out of rebellion. (Doctors, is this possible? Please advise.) To make matters more complicated, I was slated to fly up to Washington State to participate in and speak at the Washington State Leadership Forum. For those of you that know me, you know that two things can make me an anxious wreck faster than just about anything else; public speaking and walking into a crowded room where I know nobody (how I ended up in a position where I am forced to do both fairly regularly is still a lost on me), so to say I was hesitant would be a huge understatement.

As I got into Seattle and was waiting for my ride I received more bad news and just sat down and cried; I was 100% certain this weekend was going to be a mess- I was going to be a mess. I couldn’t help but feel a longing for my people- my home team; the ones who know me and get me…or maybe don’t, but at least humor me a bunch. I realized that it wasn’t so much that I felt like Skid Row needed me to heal from recent heartbreaks, as much as I needed them to cope with my own. I was fairly certain I was making a rather large mistake in being where I was at.

But as it turns out though, evvvvery now and then I am wrong…don’t get used to this, ok?

On the docket t-1o speak throughout the weekend were an incredible line up; the governor of Washington, several legislatures, the head E.R. doctor at the local county hospital, U.N. Ambassador and right-hand man to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., ANDREW YOUNG*…oh and me. [What? No. This must have been a mistake, we should not be addressing the same crowd- oh we are? Okay great, I will just start panicking now, thank you.] I was reminded over and over by these community leaders that true change takes time and courage- BUT THAT IT CAN BE DONE. I was moved by accounts of peaceful protests and heart-changing metaphors. I was taken in by folks who up until walking in those doors didn’t know I existed.

*Want to see my freak out like a tween at a TSwift concert? Place me in front of a Dodger and/or one of our country’s greatest heroes in the fight for justice and racial equality.

But you know what my favorite part was? From all over Washington came college students desiring to live lives that will change the world- and I got to hear from them. You guys, the generation rising up- they are doing BIG things. They are dreamers and believers and want to make beauty in the ash. I can’t tell you how honored and encouraged I was to fie-2ld questions and hear stories of the hearts within so many of these students. Holy heck, our future looks bright.

This weekend my heart was handed rest over and over again and for what felt like the first time in days, I breathed. It reminded me that sometimes my biggest job is showing up and following through, even when it’s uncomfortable. It reminded me that God can do big things with our metaphorical loaves and fishes- even when we fear they are rotten and stale. It reminded me that I am not alone in this fight for peace. It also reminded me how important it is to get away, regroup, reevaluate and let yourself be loved as you love. We weren’t made to do this alone, y’all- thank God we don’t have to.

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It’s OK: 7 Things I am (Unapologetically) Thinking About.

“I’ve seen people drink themselves to death,” my former therapist told me, “but you, you on the other hand might very well think yourself to death.” I sorta laughed when he said it, as did he- this didn’t really seem like standard therapist-client discourse, but then again, I didn’t really feel like a typical client. When you spend large chunks of your day around therapists and psychiatrists the veil wears thin in regard to the magic often experienced by folks on the leather couch.

He was right though, I tend to think and over think about things that many find simple answers to. Some of those things have very little consequences at all for instance, my distaste for sport coats and lip-selfies, while others hold greater weight and meaning such as faith and belief systems.

Tomorrow marks my 7 year anniversary here at the Skid Row Housing Trust and to commemorate, while also staying in the spirit of the aforementioned, below I am offering you a glimpse into the ramblings of my mind- 7 things I have recently pondered while commuting to work:

1. Dating. Good God dating is miserable. There’s a reason the only time I’ve written about it, it was satirical. I am convinced that people who think it’s fun must be masochists and never worry about going to the bathroom. I am an anxious dater…which is not a shocker, I am an anxious live-r. I don’t get asked out some crazy exorbitant amount but for the reason stated above, when I do, I am always a bit reluctant to say yes.*  And don’t even think about trying to convince me to ask someone out, that will never happen. Ever. You want me, come get me. End of story. But recently something changed ever so slightly- I read a quote by Angelina Jolie where she stated,  “I always play women I would date.” I didn’t really think about it before replying in my head, ‘I’d play me. I like me. Shit, I’d date me.’ It sorta shocked me at first, I mean, I know my flaws and they aren’t pretty, but then I realized ya know, in spite of those, I really do like me. I’ve put myself through hell getting here, it’s been a long and rough road- so much so that I almost missed that I’d arrived at this destination at all. But I did. I find there’s a lot freedom in knowing that I like me regardless of what anybody sitting across the table thinks. That said, I recently met a guy and shortly after our introduction stated, “if you think I’m great here, you should see me on Twitter,” so I will probably remain single for a really, really long time.

*I imagined as I wrote this part my grandmother reading this thinking ‘Ugh Rachel, don’t say that- you need to make yourself available!’ as I laughed and refuse to press delete.

2. I think it’s incredibly embarrassing that Christians are willing to fight over the acceptability of yoga pants. There are way too many horrific things going on in the world (read: OUR OWN BACKYARDS) for us to be wasting emotional energy on this. I am wearing yoga pants right now. That is all the words I will use for this topic.

3. I consider myself a feminist, I believe women are equal to men and can do far more than history has allowed us to…and I hate the term “mansplaining.” It shuts people down and is not helpful. Do I believe there are men out there a-hole men out there that would like to tell me what, why and how I should feel as a woman? Yes. But there are also just as many who have really valuable things to say and/or are trying to understand what it’s like to live in skin other than their own and they feel completely disqualified simply because of their gender…isn’t that what we are prejudicially accusing them of doing? That word needs to go.

4. I am afraid our generation has become too sensitive and ready to throw down in the name of emotional self-defense. Hear me on this, I abhor offensive slurs and I will never stand for them- I would rather stand on the side of the oppressed over the oppressor any day of the week. Oppression is real and needs to be addressed with venom, but I fear that we are so emotionally charged that we jump on and want to crucify anyone who disagrees with us or misspeaks- even when accidental. We need to create more room for people to learn through healthy dialogue. It’ll be messy, it could be ugly, but it’s through conversation that we gain insight into what it’s like to be different than our own. I’ve been lucky to live my life amongst folks who are very gracious with my ignorance. They field my questions and gently point out when I am being narrow minded. I want to be like that. I don’t want to trigger-happy with bullets of fancy rhetoric and passionate prose, merely to say I have won and argument. I want to foster change.

5. I think moms should be more honest with one another. I recently talked to a mom friend of mine who confessed how difficult she finds motherhood. While it may not have been the most sensitive thing to do, when she told me that she thinks she’s the only one who feels this way I started laughing. I laughed because it’s just not true, I’ve heard similar sentiments from every new mom I know- and I am 32, I know a lot of them. Moms, get to talking, it’s simply not as comforting when I confess to similar feelings but am referring to mothering Bella, my pitbull…quite honestly, things get weird.

6. I think everyone else needs to be more honest with each other too. I am guilty of this. I don’t particularly like admitting to people when I feel like I am going to lose my mind or when I feel insecure or when I question our very existence. I’d really rather keep everyone believing I’ve got it all together and feel none of these things, but alas, I do. All of them. Almost everyday. The sooner we let those walls down with one another, the sooner I think we will find the real authenticity we crave- the kind that heals one another. In a recent conversation with a friend I confessed to him that I had a hard time trusting him because he was so honest and unscripted- and that made me sad. Sad for me, sad for him and sad for the current state of our society. I don’t think we give each other enough room to be imperfect or rather, be works in progress…but we all are, aren’t we? Let’s be better at this. In order to bring on this change we need to also be better listeners and acceptors of the truth. We need to stop trying to fix one another and simply be a friend. I am mainly writing this to myself, it’ll merely be an added bonus if someone else gets something from it too.

7. Faith confuses me. I will admit, I am a habitual doubter. I recently began compiling a list of all the things I question regarding my faith and good grief it multiplied quickly. I have questions about everything from creation to prayer to sexuality and everything in between. In all honesty, I often feel as though my faith is merely hanging on by a thread- but it’s a thread that has woven itself in and out of my life and held me together thus far. About a year ago I realized that I had, up until that point, spent most of my life teetering the line of commitment; having one foot in and one foot out all over the place, ready to bail when things got too uncomfortable. Relationships, jobs, plans, everything was held fairly loosely. In noticing this I decided to change- to follow through and to dig in my heels even when things were rough and uncomfortable. I’ve found this brand of tenacity to be especially poignant as of late, in regards to my faith. More than once I have found myself wanting to jump ship, thinking that maybe what I’d always believed about God was just too crazy…but I am beginning to think that maybe that’s ok. Perhaps doubts aren’t necessarily a bad thing and they certainly don’t merit the scarlet ‘D’ I once feared. I don’t think God freaks out when I doubt, in fact, if He is who I think He is, He welcomes my questions with more grace and freedom than I give myself.

I am learning to say it’s ok. It’s ok to be imperfect, to be confused, to have questions and doubts and to not always have the right answer. It’s ok to hate dating or struggle through motherhood. It’s ok if I spend 90 minutes reading about Bruce Jenner’s gender identity…wait no…no, that’s probably not ok. But it is ok if I think I cry too much and yet fear I am far too insensitive. It’s ok if I over think most everything and then make a mistake because I didn’t think something through. It’s ok to be afraid to open up to people and it’s ok to hate sport coats. It’s even ok if you hate yoga pants. It’s ok. It’s all ok. I’m ok. You’re ok. We’ve just got keep going, moving forward as the works in progress that we are. We are by nature learners and growers and are constantly changing and it’s going to be ugly and messy and totally weird, but you know what? IT’S OK.

It’s been a fun 7 years. I am lucky to have spent them doing a job that I love. Maybe next week I will write a reflection on that– but not today- today I am going to share this with you, panic a little, as I always do when posting something new and then over think what to eat for lunch.

 

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Better Late Than Never? A Year in Review: 2k14

I know what you’re thinking; it’s two weeks into the new year, you are way past due on writing about 2014, Rachel. Heck, everyone is just now ceasing from messing up the year when they sign and date things, if that’s not a clear indicator that you’re not on top of your blogging game than nothing is.

Oh, you weren’t thinking that? Well I was.

But alas, I am going to write this anyway. Truth be told, I’ve come to learn that I enjoy writing more than I do blogging- writing makes sense to me, it’s how I process and cope, it isn’t hard- blogging on the other hand forces me to do a lot of internet-y things that usually end in me wanting to throw my computer across the room. Am I old enough to become a Luddite yet? If not, am I important enough to have a HOBTH intern? Let me know if you think either of those questions warrant a ‘yes’ and then let’s talk.

As I reflect on 2014, there is really no superlative that seems to fit just right. As to be expected, it was a of collection of really great and wonderful moments, while also many that were less than so. This year I came out of the closet, got married to the love of my life and was flown to the White House. That is actually 66% false. While I didn’t come out or get married (I’m truly sorry if I got your hopes up that I am not in fact an old spinster- I still am), I did go to the White House to celebrate the success of the 100,000 Homes Campaign, that part was true…and incredibly amazing.

2014 brought with it some really fun writing/collaborating opportunities as well. In August Darling Magazine pitched me an idea to write a piece for them about mental illness, stigma and homelessness for their winter issue. I loved the chance to do this in part because it is obviously something I am deeply passionate about and was proud to contribute, while it was also exciting to see my words in print, sans hyperlinks and a comment section. (I’m still working on having a thick enough skin to withstand the blasted comment section of many websites.)

Along with that, I got the chance to hop around the web a bit, lending my words to a few different sites; here are some other favorites:

Single Forever! And It’s My Dad’s Fault! -This one made my dad cry and I bet he’s thrilled I just told you all that.

Dating the Dodgers

Priscilla

Addiction- An Interview With The Giving Keys

Aaaaand just in case you missed them, here are a few of my favorite pieces from HOBTH this year:

I Grew Up on Skid Row.

March Against Excess. -That time WE gave away a bunch of shit stuff. (40 of you told me you joined!)

I Am Not the Voice of the Voiceless.

At long last, I’d like to say thank you to you all for what you have done in 2014 to contribute to this journey. It still overwhelms and to be honest, weirds me out a bit that anyone is willingly reading what I write, but man I love it. I am thankful for each one of you who has reached out, liked a post, passed it on via social media or simply just read along- you make this process richer for me and for that I am just so so grateful.

Happy New Year.

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