Recluses’ Excuses

Recluses’ Excuses

I wrote this entry back in late May and never published it, so here it is ūüôā


There’s been a change in my life over the past 2 months. My anxiety has dissipated quite a bit.

Explanation? I think I’m just getting used to my work routine, and I think the subway is helping me grow a thicker skin, so to speak. Also, lots of prayer. And it’s sunnier longer now!

With the current season of warmer weather, I am entering a season of my life where I actually want to go out and do stuff. I’ve spent the past three years letting my anxiety dictate what I will or won’t do. Now that I’m calmer, though, I’m realizing that a fully lived life requires going outside and interacting with people–and that I don’t want to look back on my early 20s as “the time I did nothing because I was afraid of everything.” Real life doesn’t happen within the confines of my room.

So, for fun, I’ve compiled a list of “recluses’ excuses” that I’ve used over the past few years. (A recluse, by the way, is someone who stays in their house and doesn’t go out. Like ever. Emily Dickinson was a recluse. I can’t help but wonder if that’s why she wasn’t really famous until after she died.)

Okay, so, these are things I’ve either told myself/my mom/my sister/my friends whenever I want to get out of going out (along with some snarky responses I have for myself):

1. “But I’m tired…”–I am convinced that exhaustion is 40% physical and 60% mental. True, there are times when I feel really tired after work, and yet for some reason I find myself doing contemporary dance in front of my bedroom mirror at 11:30 PM. More often than not, my second wind will kick in. I just need to eat some protein and keep calm. (My mom recently joked that I need to take Geritol *sigh*)

2. “It’s too cold outside”–I know I’m not the only one who hibernates in the Winter. And really, it’s not always healthy/safe to spend extensive amounts of time outside in the cold. But if I’m just traveling from point A to point B in a heated vehicle, then what’s the problem?

3. “It’s too hot outside”–As you can probably tell, I don’t like extremes in temperature. I like when the weather is somewhere between 40 and 85 degrees (Fahrenheit). Last summer I did attempt to go to the park with a friend during a heat wave. It lasted all of 15 minutes, and judging by the fact that only 5 cars were parked in the usually-packed parking lot, we were among the brave ones. Same as I said in point #2, though, just because I can’t be in the outdoors doesn’t mean I can’t go out at all.

4. “It’s raining”–Not kidding, I used this excuse twice in the past few weeks. Apparently I’m not waterproof…even though I own a raincoat, rain boots, and an umbrella. I think the reasoning here is just sheer laziness. Also, I get strangely sentimental about being cozy in my house during a rainstorm….

5. “Nobody will care if I go or don’t go”–Don’t go for them. Go for you.

6. “I’m not familiar with that neighborhood”–And I¬†never will be if I¬†don’t visit sometime and explore a bit. Granted, there are certain neighborhoods I wouldn’t visit by myself after 9 PM. That’s common sense, though.

7. “I don’t know anybody there”–Exactly! That means a clean slate for making a good first impression. And if the chances are high that you’ll never see these people again, even better! Hey–you never know who you’re gonna meet.

8. “But I was planning on doing this nice indoor activity”–Oh, like reading? Or going on Facebook? Or watching a movie? Unless it’s a creative project, this excuse doesn’t apply.

9. “My [insert random body part here] hurts”–It will hurt whether you stay home or you go out. As long as it doesn’t prevent you from enjoying yourself and being able to engage in whatever activity is going on, just go.

10. “My nerves are shot”–This is something I usually say after a busy day at work and a tough commute home. It basically means I am emotionally spent and I am in “the panic zone.” This does not necessarily mean I *will* have a panic attack if I go out, but the chances of me feeling anxious while I’m out are pretty darn high. Interestingly enough, there are times when my nerves are shot and I go somewhere because I have to, and then after the first 15 minutes of being there, I end up having a good time for the rest of the night. So, in short, results may vary. But “what if’s” are inconsequential either way.

I will do my best in the upcoming weeks to avoid using these excuses and, as Nike says, just do it. I would love to take a pottery class or sing karaoke or go see Shakespeare in the park.

I just need to find people to do these things with. And I just ended a sentence with a preposition.


Letters to guys I had crushes on in college.

Letters to guys I had crushes on in college.

The title speaks for itself, no intro necessary. I will say this, I don’t think any of these guys knew I liked them (except for one).

If I said what I really wanted to say, here’s how it would go.


Dear Blue-Eyed Nice Guy,

When I met you at orientation, I couldn’t help but feel drawn to your shaggy hair and goofy personality. You were one of the prime reasons I wished I was single upon entering college, and I spent the rest of the summer wishing the end of August would just come already. Of course, given that I already had a boyfriend, I couldn’t date you. And as time went on, I realized that you and I weren’t compatible. Whenever I hung out with you and the rest of the group, I felt pretty out of place. Of course, being the only girl–and the only person in the School of Arts–didn’t work to my advantage. I’d visit you all¬†after classes were over, and you’d all sit and play video games as I sat quietly and watched. Any attempts to start a conversation with any of you failed when you were all in video game mode. Unfortunately, I was quite immature and insecure, since I had just graduated from an all-girl high school and I was in a long distance relationship. I wish I could start that semester over and “be better,” less¬†clingy…but hindsight is 20/20. You were the¬†one I missed the most when I backed away from the group at the end of the Fall 2009 semester. At least we both liked Maximum Ride novels.


Dear Spoiled Greek Boy,

I call you a “boy,” because you were never a man. You were the main reason I had to leave the group behind at the end of the Fall 2009 semester (but I do forgive you). You spent money like water, because your mom had money. Like, she had-had money-money. Our AIM conversations were hilarious at best and insulting at worst. We argued over beliefs, you made fun of my obnoxiously large bookbag, and you badmouthed me behind my back. But in the beginning, you were quite sweet. And you played guitar. And I like guys who play guitar. I still remember that conversation we had when we sat back-to-back in the library and spoke in hushed tones. It’s the stuff of movies. You never got to hear my story, and I never found the right time to tell you. I was happy when you transferred out, because at least I wouldn’t have to see you around campus anymore. Talk about awkward.


Dear Sadistic RA,

You are quite possibly one of the most villainous guys I have ever met. You enjoyed sabotaging people for the fun of it, you had an ego the size of Russia, and you were too talented for your own good. You were a¬†savvy violinist and sax player. I think you might have even played guitar, too (me and the stupid guitar players…). Perhaps you were bullied as a child, and that could be why you liked bullying others for the fun of it. One moment, you would seem wise beyond your years, and the next moment,¬†you would act like an 11-year-old jerk (gotta keep it PG here). You led my friend on, but I wasn’t going to let you do that to me. You and Spoiled Greek Boy reminded me that GUYS GOSSIP TOO. When you found out I was a pastor’s daughter, you said that made me even more desirable–because of the conquest that would be. But oh, you never conquered me. You ridiculed me to no end, which is why I had to unfriend you on Facebook. And despite your frequent attempts to re-add me, I will never, ever add you again. I remember when you tried to teach me a self-defense move. And with every time you coerced me to hug you hello, I would *shudder*. It was like God was convicting me¬†to get away from you. You were nothing but trouble, trouble, trouble. Enough with the Taylor Swift references. Clearly, I found dysfunction attractive.


To My Favorite Atheist,

When I first saw you in Intro to Psychology, I thought you were a junkie. With your matted shoulder-length hair, skinny body, and worn out grey hoodie, I was convinced you were a drug addict of some sort. But once I saw you in a t-shirt, my perception began to shift. Talking to you was like pulling teeth. Either you were incredibly shy, or you had no social skills whatsoever. Or you found me annoying. I don’t know. We both started out as English majors, though, and I liked talking to you in class. I don’t know exactly why I was attracted to you. I guess there was something endearing about your awkwardness, and you were so¬†freaking brilliant, and–oh–you played guitar. I have a video on Facebook of me singing an original song called “Closer to the Edge.” I wrote that one for you. The message of the song was to give you the motivational push you needed to pursue that girl you liked at work. Because I had already accepted that I would never be with you anyway, and I wanted you to be happy. Or maybe I secretly wanted things to not work out…maybe.¬†Anyway, you were the first and only time I’ve cried for someone’s atheism. I found out from something you posted on Reddit. And I sat at my laptop and cried. Not because of me, but because of you. That might change someday, but in the meantime, I’m glad having a girlfriend changed your life for the better. When I see how you look now vs. how you looked back in freshman year, I can’t believe the difference. Did you sell out, though?


Dear Mumbling Scarecrow,

After I met you, I held onto the idea that the transfer students at MC were more interesting than the students who were there since day 1. You were an upper classman, so I knew my time of seeing you around campus was limited. All the same, I made the most of the meager opportunities to converse with you. My friend and I agreed that there was something kind of James Dean about you, even though you don’t even remotely resemble him. You walked with a swagger, your lanky limbs moving kinetically as you balanced your brown leather messenger bag on one shoulder. I remember that you¬†duck taped the inside of one jeans leg because you didn’t like the rip at the knee. Despite the fact that you could paint (and play guitar), you were a Physics major. This always boggled my mind, the dichotomy of being an artist interested in science. Our conversations often consisted of me saying “what?” because you never spoke clearly–you spoke in this low mumble. Words were buried behind your lips. And yet, your resume says you did¬†Toastmasters International. A friend of mine saw you not too long ago, and she informed me that you remembered me. Since I’m always afraid of being forgotten, I’m glad you remembered.


Dear Esoteric Metal-and-Pot Head,

Ah, you. Every time we spoke on AIM, you were either about to take a shower or about to go smoke a blunt. Clever excuses. Just kidding. Maybe not. Anyway, you were yet another guitar player I knew, except you had legitimate skills. That combined with your talent for poetry is what made you intriguing. I found your ideas about “the universe” a little strange, but you found my ideas about God a little strange, too, so I guess we’re even. You once answered your door shirtless, and I had to restrain my inner giddy schoolgirl as I sat at your feet on your carpet¬†to hear your teachings ramblings and musings about life and music. You lost my copy of The Case For Faith by Lee Strobel, but I hope you find it when you most need it. What I liked about our conversations about beliefs¬†is that they never escalated into arguments. We were able to have thoughtful and challenging discussions without leaving a bitter taste behind. Thank you for that. My short story “Wander” is based on you, in case you didn’t know.


Dear Writing Thief,

We met on a mutual friend’s facebook wall. I recognized your name because your short story¬†won the Egan Award¬†the¬†previous year at¬†Manhattan Magazine’s release party. So I was like, “Oh my gosh, you’re that guy! You write well!” Thus began an internet correspondence, which turned into an internet flirtationship. You had already graduated MC, but you were going to visit campus in the Fall. ‘Til then, we spent the summer chatting long into the night, and you told me things you probably haven’t told other people. With honesty comes vulnerability, though, and I knew we were both becoming attached, and I knew that the relationship was doomed before it even began. Beliefs aside, you had a dark side to you, and I knew the potential was there for you to become volatile as times goes by. I had just started learning to deal with my own baggage, I couldn’t carry yours, too. And yet, I didn’t want to completely leave you behind. Severing ties with you was one of the hardest decisions I made during my college years. Then I had to face the consequences….You knew the best way to¬†get your revenge¬†was to steal something of importance to me. So you kept the only existing copy of that play I wrote when I was 12. I never got it back in my hands. You never mailed it to me. For all I know, you probably burned it. I can’t say I didn’t deserve what you did.


Dear Artistic Jersey Boy,

You (serendipitously?) transferred in when I was starting out my new major–Communication. I looked forward to every Tuesday, because we had 3 classes together–a total of 7.5 hours worth. I loved your creativity, your refreshing¬†sense of humor, your intelligence, your taste in music, and your smiling eyes. I think you were the strongest crush I had in college–to this day you still occasionally pop up in my dreams (not like that haha). I admired your colorful perception of the world, especially since I was very black and white and grey. I thought we would’ve complemented each other nicely. Thing is, you wouldn’t give¬†me the time of day. After leaving Public Speaking, we’d walk back to the main campus for Video Editing, and we had that 1 hour break in between those two classes. I always told you I would be eating my chicken cutlet sandwich from home for dinner. Portable meal, dude. I could have eaten it anywhere. But I never found the courage to just ask you if I could stop by your dorm room. And you never thought to invite¬†me, so we would go our separate ways until Video Editing. I’d¬†sit alone at the mini quad and eat my sandwich in silence. But my imagination was loud with the possibilities of what could be. I felt envious of the girls you befriended, and I wondered why I could never have that sort of friendship with you. I guess I wasn’t…colorful enough. Interesting enough. Bohemian enough? I don’t know. I stopped trying to initiate conversation and embraced the truth–this ship was sinking at the harbor. My story “Anticipation” was written based on you. I figured that would be obvious…but for a deep thinker, maybe you’re more dense than I thought.


Dear Curly-Haired Adonis,

Your hair was the first thing I noticed about you, but then again, it’s probably the first thing anybody notices about you. Where do you get those incredible golden locks? ¬†Your tall, athletic frame, your blue eyes, your happy disposition, how articulate you were (are)…I’m surprised girls weren’t just throwing themselves at you. Or maybe they were, I wouldn’t know because I only saw you in class or on the quad playing ultimate frisbee with your friends. In our Film Noir class, I had dubbed you as one of the members of the “holy trinity”–you and two other guys made the most philosophical, intellectually rich observations about the films we watched, and I would sit there in awe as you spoke. I was smitten with you from a distance. I didn’t know you well personally, but you seemed like a swell guy nonetheless. ¬†You are also way out of my league (like, I am far beneath you). It’s like the difference between creme brulee and jello…and that’s a film reference.


Dear Younger Christian Man,

Last, but definitely not least. Unlike the previously mentioned guys, you and I actually share the same beliefs. Because of this, you were able to help me through some rough times in college when I needed (wanted) to hear a Godly perspective. I liked how I was able to tell you anything, and nothing shocked you. We’d have these obnoxiously, gloriously loud conversations about God in conspicuous parts of the campus, so people within earshot could hear everything we were saying. And we didn’t care. When we went with our friends to the Argentine Tango lesson, I thought you were my best partner. I liked you enough to ask you to accompany me to an event. That slow dance with you is the last time I slow danced, and it was the first time I slow danced in a long time. You were always able to uplift me, but I knew you were carrying some burdens of your own, and you had to put them on the back burner while you went to school and worked. In the end, I’m not sure our lives were going in the same direction. I mean, sure, we’re both following Jesus, but we’re parallel to each other, and our individual paths aren’t crossing. I left the ball in your court on purpose–when I told you I wasn’t going to initiate contact with you anymore just to see what would happen, my hypothesis was proven correct–indeed, you forgot about me.

But it’s okay.


College was an interesting time for me. After I graduated from an all-girl high school, I was ready to take the plunge back into a co-ed environment. The fact that I had a boyfriend outside of school for almost 2 years actually saved me from a lot of misery. If it weren’t for Clark*, I don’t know what lengths I would have gone to to impress guys back in freshman and sophomore year. I still had some growing up to do. By the time I graduated, I believed wholeheartedly that I didn’t need a man to complete me. There was a lot of sorrow that came with this lesson, though. Because if you read the above, you’ll notice a trend.

Okay, besides the guitars.

Ignorance. I only liked guys who were mean to me or who ignored me (with a few exceptions, I guess). Sure, I was never 100% ignored, but if I hadn’t opened my mouth to talk to them first, I probably would have ceased to exist in their minds. Just another face in the crowd of undergrads wandering around campus. With the exception of one guy, the attraction wasn’t mutual. Over the course of the past few years, there were a few guys (inside and outside of school) who have expressed interest in me, but I wasn’t interested in them. I wanted the guys who made me feel invisible. Why? I wish I knew.

But I love and respect myself enough now not to bother wasting time with crushes like these. Actually, that’s not fully true. The truth is that there is a sad lack of testosterone in my life since graduating, so there aren’t any guys around for me to like. All the men at work are married or taken (and old[er]). Which is fine, because I can just focus on my work without any distractions. No guys my age at church. *Sigh* This is something for another entry. ¬†I’m tired of my days of pining and pursuing. No more. I’ve sworn it off.

Except for those times I glance¬†at guys on the subway, hoping we’ll make eye contact.

But they don’t see me.




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When I spent those 5 months unemployed (and looking), I was pretty bummed out. I wanted something to do–needed a reason to get up every morning and leave my room, besides going to the kitchen to get a box of Kashi cereal. It happens. The worst part is that when you have anxiety, the more you stay inside, the harder it is to go outside.

Then, I was hired. Somebody decided I was worth a chance, and to this day, I still enjoy going to work. I like my job, I like my coworkers, I like the the location. The commute is very simple–but I have to admit, taking the train was an adjustment for me. In the beginning, I’d be sitting on the train crouched over, squeezing my stress ball and struggling to catch my breath as I listened to Jesus Culture’s album Come Away. Then gradually, I was able to put the stressball away and just listen to music, but I would still be crouched in the fetal position. Recently, I graduated from fetus to sitting upright. It’s taken me two months, but I’m getting used to the train. Even starting to enjoy it, to an extent. Except when there’s a problem.

Today there was a switch malfunction…or a fire…or a broken pipe…I don’t know, I can’t find an accurate story. All I know is that when I got out of work, all trains going uptown to the Bronx were out of service. I noticed when I first walked into the station that there was a swarm of people rushing upstairs from the 4-5-6 platform. They looked like rats scampering to get out. And me, like an idiot, thought “Oh wow, there’s a lot of people getting off the train.”


So I swiped my Metrocard, went downstairs to go uptown, and figured everything would be business as usual. I noticed it was a little more crowded than it normally is, but I thought, eh, maybe something’s wrong with the 7 train (I always blame the 7 train). But then the people on board the 5 train were told to get out. Well, you’d think the conductor must’ve said something about their mothers, the way one man reacted. But the 5 train people stayed. So we had a mobbed platform full of hungry, angry, lonely, and tired people. And when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, you need to HALT and make sure you don’t do something regrettable. It was by this point that an already packed 6 train left the platform, and then the disembodied voice came on the PA to announce that “due to a switch malfunction, 6 trains will not be running between 42nd and 139th.” Okay, I thought. I don’t need to get off between here and 139th anyway.

But the longer we waited, the more “delays” showed up on the schedule, and I realized I’d better get my behind to the express bus stop if I wanted to get home anytime soon.

Walking to the express bus is, for me, a revelatory journey of sorts. The few times I’ve done it, I’ve found it tiresome, confusing, isolating…even though I’m surrounded by people. Technically, the express bus is not that far from my job. The problem is me. So I walked to the express bus and had my moment of crashing at 331 Madison Avenue, where I sank down in the hallway of an elitist apartment building. The security guard was about 30 feet away, but I figured I should let him know that I was not deliberately trying to loiter.

One thing I’ve learned as a receptionist is the value of courtesy. Like the Bible says in Proverbs 15:1, a soft answer really does turn away wrath, and in order to come across as disarming, I’ve softened my voice. (To the point that if my mom calls me at work, she remarks about how nice I sound on the phone. Haha. I learn from the best!)

So I told the security guard something like this: “Excuse me, sir, I’m not trying to loiter. I’m just staying until I recuperate.” He said it was okay. I continued. “You see, the 6 train had a switch malfunction, so I’ve been walking to the Express bus at Madison and 45th, and I’m really out of shape.” He said it was fine if I stayed. I could stay as long as I needed to. I could even sit by the stairs.

His kindness undid me. I was going to weep. I got myself together, gulped down some Gatorade and water, put my coat on, grabbed my bags, and headed out to walk to the BxM8.

Where there was a line of people waiting.

I managed to get a seat, and I figured I was set, but then the bus driver had to tell boarders at the next stop that they would have to stand if they got on the bus. One middle-aged blonde lady didn’t care–she just wanted to get home. We all, in fact, just wanted to get home. This is the goal of every commuter. This lady–I’ll call her Cassandra–stood in the aisle right beside my seat, where she proceeded to murmur and complain.

I felt like I should give her my seat. After all, I’m young. I’ll live. So I offered my seat to her. She asked me if I was sure. And I was all, “Yeah, of course!”

Look at me, getting all optimistic. As the bus got fuller, we aisle-standers had to make our way towards the back. I took my coat off and put it in that shelf above the seats. I felt stylish and confident in my black blazer. The feeling was short-lived. Let me tell you something–Express buses were not made for standing. This is why they have narrow aisles and lots of seats. So after awhile, my anxiety kicked in. My feet got numb because I wore my heeled boots today. My legs felt stiff and strained. I tried various positions of leaning. But I became pretty scared once the hot/cold flashes started coming over me. I contemplated sitting on the floor. It wouldn’t be comfortable or socially acceptable, but I don’t know these people so it’s all good. I continued to stand, though.

And it was strenuous. I appreciated the scenery and all, but the traffic and swerves and whatnot made me feel thrown, and I was starting to feel weak.

When I finally felt like I couldn’t take it anymore, the bus driver announced our first stop. Then I was finally able to sit. And I cried because of 3 things: 1) I was glad it was over. 2) I felt bad I put myself through that. 3) God proved me wrong like He always does–I can do it. Because He will give me the grace/strength I need. I prayed while I was on that bus, and the song “Shoulders” by Tal & Acacia played on my iPod.

Slowly, I’m building up resilience. I’m not like I used to be. And I’m not alone.


The Panic Diaries: Fighting Immobility

The Panic Diaries: Fighting Immobility

Hey all. As I announced in my last entry, I now finally have a job!

But with any change comes new adjustments…and new fears.

Thankfully, I’ve built up a pretty sizable arsenal of coping techniques. The unfortunate thing is that I have my moments when even those don’t seem to work…

And those moments are frightening.

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My boss was kind to let me out early this past Friday because many people took the day off and it was a slow day. I was determined to go to Posman Books in Grand Central to buy two contemporary classics–Slaughterhouse Five and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, Grand Central was really mobbed on this particular day because it was Black Friday–which meant that the place was filled with travelers and shoppers. I soon felt overheated and overwhelmed, so I plopped myself down on the floor under a closed ticket booth and drank my gatorade as people rolled their luggage and gave me strange looks. Or maybe the looks weren’t strange, but either way, I felt really self-conscious.

And I continued to sit on the floor. And the fear of getting up seized my heart.

I started mentally going over my options. Cab? No, too expensive. Call my mom and ask her to meet me in Grand Central? Not feasible, and she’d probably want to slap me through the phone. I knew two things: 1) My problem was anxiety in and of itself. I wan’t afraid of any particular bodily ailment or any specific threat or dangerous person. I just felt scared for no particular reason. And it sucked. 2) I couldn’t stay on the floor. I had to get up at some point, whether I liked it or not.

I felt anguished. Based on past experience,¬†I knew a good cry would be somewhat relieving, but I couldn’t muster up the tears. So I had to be a big girl and get up. I unlocked my iPod so I could play Jesus Culture’s album Come Away, and I started to repeat Joshua 1:9 to myself over and over again. I needed to remind myself that God was going to be with me wherever I go.

I walked over to the area where I could go down the escalator to catch my train, but when I saw the crowd of people just waiting to get on the escalator, I thought to myself, “Nope. I’ll just take the Express bus.”

Which meant that I would have to walk to the Express bus. In the cold. By myself….Just like everybody else! But when you have panic disorder, even tasks that normal people find trivial can sometimes turn into mountains. So I made a few stops along the way to the bus so I could warm up. It snowed for all of one minute, and I had to laugh at the whole situation. When I finally boarded the bus, I felt a huge sense of relief.

You can’t die from panic disorder, as I’ve reminded myself multiple times. The problem is that when you’re in the midst of an attack, even though you feel like you’re gonna die, you know you’re going to live…and that there’s a huge chance you’ll have another panic attack sometime soon. The combination of these three things makes me feel miserable at times–I feel like I’m dying, but I know I’m going to live, and I know I might feel like I’m dying again sometime soon. But I cannot focus on the what-if’s. Instead, I can look back on the small victories. To you, these things may be run-of-the-mill and mundane.¬†But for me, getting up in the middle of Grand Central station and moving ahead was momentous. Because it proved to me that I’m more resilient than I think I am, and that God is still with me, even when I’m walking alone.

‚̧ Nikita

PS Is anybody looking to get rid of an old copy of either Slaughterhouse Five or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? Please let me know via Twitter @Vacca_To_World. Thank you!

Losing Loved Ones (Who Are Still Alive)

Losing Loved Ones (Who Are Still Alive)

A few people in this photo are still with us. My sister is actually the girl standing behind me.

When my sister was in her senior year of high school, she had to take a class called “Death & Dying.” I don’t think I need to explain what the class is about, but when I took that same class at that same high school six years later, they had changed the name of the course to “Alpha & Omega.” The school did this renaming for two reasons:

1) “Death & Dying” was apparently too morbid.

2) They wanted to talk about beginnings as well as endings.

Still, death was very prominent in this course, and I remember reading an essay about mourning the various “deaths” we encounter throughout our lives. Some deaths are concrete–the death of a loved one, or confronting our own mortality. However, some deaths are more abstract–the death of our childhood, the death of a marriage.

Over the past 4 years, I did grieve the deaths of several family members and friends. These deaths are difficult to think about, because when I do I am reminded that I didn’t get to know some of my relatives very well before they died, and vice versa. Now I can’t visit any of these people and talk to them.

Those were not my only losses, though, because over the past 4 years I’ve mourned many friendships. Some of these friendships disintegrated, some were cut down at my own hand, and some just…evaporated. I mourned the loss of the youth group at my church. We went from having 25 members to having almost no one. And yes, I lost these friendships, too. Sure, sometimes a few keep in touch. I’ll give someone a life on Candy Crush Saga, or they’ll wish me a happy birthday when it’s that time of the year. But otherwise, we do not confide, we do not converse, we do not pray for one another, we do not call each other, we do not hang out. At all.

Everyone left for different reasons. Some left on bad terms. Some wanted to go to a different church. Some simply left without a trace. And some wanted to walk away from God.

Most of these people who left did not say goodbye to me. And you see, when somebody dies, that’s usually one of the first complaints of the person who grieves–“I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye! I didn’t get to tell them that I love them! I didn’t get to make peace with them before they passed on!” But when the person is still alive and they exit your life, and you don’t get any closure–it just stings. Can I track some of these people down? For sure. I know where some of them live, I’m friends with many of them on Facebook, I even still have some of their phone numbers. What’s the point of it, though, if chances are they won’t be receptive? After all, they haven’t bothered reaching out to me, so why should I reach out to them?

That’s when I realize, though–maybe they’re thinking the same thing. Maybe they get sentimental for the good old days, too. Maybe they want to contact me, or contact someone else who left, but they’re afraid to because we’re all afraid of the same thing–


For those of us who still follow Christ, though, we have no excuse. If we truly are brothers and sisters, why can’t we get along? If my mom or my sister moved to a different house, I wouldn’t disown them. So why do we, as Christians, get into such an uproar when someone leaves our church to go to another?

It partly has to do with how they left, and why they left. What did they leave behind? Did they cause division? Do they speak badly of us now that they’ve left? Did they get into a fight with someone prior to their leaving?

I took some of it personally in the beginning. In my mind, I kept making the situation about me–why didn’t they say goodbye to me? What did I do wrong? We were working on the same ministry team–why didn’t they tell me they were going to jump ship? After awhile, though, I tried to understand their story, their side. Some of these people were abandoned themselves, and maybe they don’t know how to respectfully leave a person or a place. Some of these people had serious issues and needed help. Some of these people felt humiliated and didn’t want to make the situation any bigger.

Now, I can understand these things. I forgive those who have left and I still love them all. I still mourn from time to time, but as time passes by, I can relive the memories without crying. 

‚ÄúA new command¬†I give you: Love one another.¬†As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.‚ÄĚ (John 13:34-35)


The Most Calming Album

The Most Calming Album

Music’s effect on the brain

I once asked a friend of mine if she believed that the media you expose yourself to can have a negative effect on you. She said no, and since then her opinion has slightly changed. I still believe your input can definitely affect your output, though.

With that said, knowing my personality, there are certain things I avoid exposing myself to. I don’t watch horror movies, I avoid listening to artists with bad messages (i.e. Marilyn Manson), and I don’t read really dark books (iDrakula wasn’t what I’d classify as “really dark.” It was kind of a spoof).

These are self-imposed restrictions, by the way. When I was teenager, I was really into paranormal fiction, and my mom made no gripes about buying these books. Then one day I woke up, looked at my book shelf, and tore these books apart. Then I recycled the mess of covers and pages, because I care about the environment. (I kept the Twilight Saga, though, because those books are tame and don’t dwell too heavily on mythology).

Aaaanyway, this is supposed to be a music post. I think music really taps into something deep within our hearts/minds/souls. An upbeat pop song can put you in a good mood. Listening to fast music while you’re working out can help you keep pace. Listening to a violin and piano duet can make you cry. Why? What is this mysterious thing about music that makes us react to it so viscerally?

Lanny Donoho touched on this subject in his book God’s Blogs, which I plan on writing about in the near future. So for now, I’m going to tell you which album has had the most soothing effect on me.

Around the time I was diagnosed with panic disorder, worship band Jesus Culture released their album Come Away. A friend of mine recommended that I check it out, so I bought it and listened to it.

It was recorded live, so you hear the crowd between songs. Indeed, the album does have that spontaneous, live quality to it, as if you’re there in person. The songs were so encouraging and calming for me that I started listening to the album on my commute to school, and in my room as I got ready in the morning, and I would even play it looped on my iHome as I slept at night.

It’s not an album for music aficionados, per se. If you’re looking for a more artful and experimental worship album, I’d recommend Gungor’s Ghosts Upon the Earth. Come Away has songs with repetitive lyrics and melodies, and some songs are pretty long–but that’s kind of the point. The album isn’t meant to entertain you–it’s meant to uplift you and bring you into God’s presence. And it succeeds in doing just that.

My favorite songs on the album are “Rooftops,” “My Soul Longs For You,” and “One Thing Remains.” All the musicians and singers in this band are very talented and “tuned” to each other and to the Holy Spirit. Worship music can be done one of two ways. You can have a set list and simply stick to the set list, without leaving any room for spontaneous worship and alternate songs. Or, you can have no set list at all, or just have a basic idea of what songs you want to sing, and then let things go onstage as God leads.

Come Away has been my go-to album when I feel anxious, scared, and overwhelmed. If you fall into any of those categories, I’d recommend this album for you.


What albums do you listen to when you are stressed out?