From the Desire of Being Loved

I’m getting to be that age. You know, the age when you take a look at what you have (or haven’t) accomplished.

And it pisses me off so much.

It doesn’t piss me off that I’ve accomplished so little, as much as it pisses me off that other people have accomplished so much.

I wish we were judged more by how difficult it was to accomplish something rather than being judged by the accomplishment itself.

For some people, rolling out of bed every day is 100x harder than running a company would be for someone else.

For some people, earning their high school diploma is 100x harder than the master’s degree someone else earned.

We judge people based on the view from their position. Oh, you’ve reached the summit? What a beautiful view!

That other guy? He hasn’t even made it above the tree line yet.

What we don’t like to talk about is how the first guy had top-notch gear and a guide. The second guy had a pocket knife and a whole family strapped to him the whole time. And when he complained about his crappy knife, someone with expensive gear yelled down to tell him, “Well, at least you’ve got something. You should be thankful.”

Boy, do I ever want to knock those guys off the mountain.

I think it’s great that people are able to reach their goals. I really do. But there’s such a lack of self-awareness in most people. We have this idea that hard work pays off. And it does, but it doesn’t pay off equally.

I’ve always had this idea that eventually my climb would get easier. Maybe I’d get a cool parka or something. If I just kept climbing, I’d get rewarded. I’d get what I’m due.

I’d climb high enough to reach a place where people would see me standing up there. They’d appreciate me and give me a pat on the back for working so hard.

Most of the time, I’m invisible.

My high school had something called Class Day. It was a way of sending off the seniors. On that day, we’d all go into the gym and sit through some goofy prophecies and memories from the seniors. The seniors would have an opportunity to walk out into the bleachers and give gifts to the underclassmen. One year, I had some friends who were seniors. I didn’t expect to get any gifts, though.

I also didn’t expect all of my underclassmen friends—friends who weren’t any better acquainted with some of those seniors than I was—to receive gifts while I didn’t.

I didn’t want a flower or a bag of candy. I wanted to be acknowledged. I wanted to matter.

When I’m being really honest, that’s still what I want. I don’t want to be the girl everyone forgot about. I want to matter.

I irritate people sometimes because I’m hard to compliment. I don’t want to hear I look nice or anything like that, but there are ways of fueling my ego, and boy do I want that fuel.

I want people to see me. I want them to think I’ve got something to offer. I want to be wanted.

But I don’t really deserve attention and accolades any more than the people at the peak of the mountain deserve them. We’re all just using the tools available to us. What’s so special about that?

If I’d had a more stable environment when I was younger, you bet your ass I’d have used that tool to climb higher and faster. And I totally would have basked in those back-pats along the way.

If those peak guys had been forced to drop out of college or had a genetic condition that can’t be fixed, you bet your ass they’d be right where I’m at.

I need to get over worrying about how everyone else sees me.

I know what I am.

I know what I’ve walked through.

I know that sometimes I had an easy and pleasant hike up, and sometimes I was barely hanging on by my fingernails.

I know that some people look at where I’m at and they feel like they haven’t gotten as far as they should have. That’s the kind of thinking that jolts me out of my little bitterness spell.

Because I don’t ever want anyone to feel less-than because of me. I don’t want anyone to feel invisible or unappreciated.

Honey, if you’re still on the mountain at all, you’re fucking amazing.

Life’s hard. People get buried in avalanches all the time. And most of those avalanches are completely random. Managing to avoid them doesn’t make you an expert climber. It makes you lucky.

I’ve avoided a lot of them, and I know it.

And that’s just it, though, isn’t it? It’s the knowing that matters.

If you’ve made it higher than someone else, enjoy the view. But also remember that it was partially being in the right place, at the right time, that got you there.  Sure, you had to make the climb yourself, but you lucked out a lot along the way too.

I bitch about where I’m at sometimes, but I know people who are way more ambitious, intelligent, driven, hard-working, and deserving than I am who are way down there still.

A few people tried to knock me off the mountain, but I didn’t fall off.

So, I have a good grip. B.F.D.

I started out with equipment an Oregon Trail farmer could’ve afforded. (Without the bonus points at the end.)

Who cares? Hell, I’ve got a lot more than a pocket knife.

It’s easy for me to forget I’ve dodged a few avalanches that have taken other people down. I fall into that same self-satisfied trap everyone else falls into. I think I deserve to avoid those avalanches. What bullshit.

Nobody deserves the fucking avalanches.

Nobody deserves the fancy starting equipment.

There’s no correlation between what we have and what we deserve.

I mean, what exactly do I deserve? I haven’t done great things for the world. I haven’t cured anything or stopped any horrible things from happening. Why do I deserve to be acknowledged and appreciated more than some other person?

I usually try to do the right thing, but most people do. I’m not any more deserving of “my day in the sun” than anyone else.

I go to the Litany of Humility when I get like this. I came across it years ago and it helps reorient me. Instead of looking up the mountain, it makes me look down the mountain.

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

What are we really supposed to do with our climbing equipment? I’m not supposed to use it to make my way up the mountain. I’m supposed to use it so we can make our way up.

But I can’t do that when I’m so worried about getting all the things I want for myself.

The only way we’re going to get to the top, and deserve getting there, is if we all climb up together. That starts with lowering some ropes and lending our equipment to the people who have a harder climb than us.

I can’t control or influence what’s going on above me, but maybe I can help dig some people out of the snow. Sometimes that means I have to climb down to do that.

And maybe I should get over myself a little.

Maybe if I’m forgotten, someone else doesn’t have to be.

And maybe that’s OK.

Two Mennonites Walk Into a Catholic Literary Gathering…

 

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Full disclosure: Neither of us are actually Mennonites anymore. Sometimes we just pretend to be for the pie.

A few months ago, my friend, Timothy Putnam, gave me a head’s up about the Trying to Say “God” conference. (I’ve got to give him credit here because I usually just give him a lot of crap and nonsense.) Even though I’m not exactly Catholic (I’m not exactly anything), I couldn’t pass it up. Notre Dame isn’t that far from me and it wasn’t expensive, so I decided to give it a try.

My sister and I drove down Thursday afternoon, which meant we missed a few things that day. I would have liked to attend Mass, but part of me is still convinced I’m going to somehow offend people with my presence, so I didn’t push to go.

We must have hit the registration table right when whoever had been watching it was at Mass because it was the only time I saw the table unmanned the whole time. Since Angela and I are all independent and whatnot, we just grabbed our tags, lanyards, and info packets. When a few other stragglers wandered in right behind us, I helped them find their stuff too, which led to people thinking I was helping with the event. I quickly corrected them with, “Nope. I’m just really friendly.” (And I might have issues with boundaries.)

After that, we walked down to see Mary Karr speak. She’d injured herself and couldn’t make it, but that’s what we have Skype for. Angela liked her so much that I bought her a copy of Lit.

The next day, my first session was “The Virgin, the Annunciation, and the Artistic Imagination” with Mary Szybist. I have some mixed feelings about Mary, or really, how Mary gets portrayed, and absolutely loved the artwork and poetry. Angela found her way into a discussion on icons. She didn’t know what icons were. I know what they are (thanks, Orthodox friends!), but I didn’t tell her. Because I’m like that. She thought it was really interesting, so it worked out.

We split up again for the next session. I headed in for “Finding the Sacred in the Profane: The Role of Vulgarity in Religious Art” because of course I did. Are you new here? I appreciated the discussion, especially around where that line is, and I agree that if we’re just shocking to shock, with no greater purpose, it’s likely crossing that line. I struggle with that a little. After being in an environment where “butt” was considered a cuss word, I wave my profanity flag a little too much sometimes. Just because I can doesn’t always mean I should. Unless it’s really funny. Then I totally should. But, really, the whole conversation was right up my alley. Things that we think of as profane can absolutely point us toward the sacred. It’s counter-productive to shy away from using those tools.

Even though I’ve been writing a memoir for what seems like forever, that’s not my normal thing. In the past, I’ve mostly written fiction. And I write about weird shit sometimes, so I sat in on “Weird Fiction as Sacramental Practice”. The nice thing about a presentation like this is it sort of gives you permission to “go there”. Like, some people might call me a witch and threaten to burn me at the stake for writing something weird, but at least not everyone will do that. That’s comforting.

After that, Angela and I walked over to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, even though we were getting rained on.

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Here’s the thing about that…

When I was 10, my family moved from Texas to Elkhart, Indiana. Just after we moved, we were driving home from some place and my dad decided to stop at Notre Dame to look around the campus. I don’t remember anything about walking around the campus except going into the Basilica. Back then, my family didn’t attend church. I’d only ever been to Methodist churches, maybe a total of ten times in my life. Walking into all that artwork and all that stained glass and those ceilings made a big impression on 10-year-old me. Beauty pulls on me and it sure did back then. I wanted to go to that church. I don’t remember a lot about it, but I remember that it felt like a church. I don’t know how to describe it any better than that. Not even a year later, my parents found the Mennonites and we went down that path. I’ve always had a soft spot for Catholicism, even when I was hanging around people who thought being Catholic and being pagan were basically the same thing. The Basilica at Notre Dame is part of that soft spot.

It was really great to be able to visit it again, about 25 years later. A woman saw us walking around and pointed us toward some interesting things. We talked to her for a little while and she tried to convince us to come back as students, but we’re almost two decades too late for that.

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Just before lunch, I sent Timothy a picture of me on campus to see if he could guess where I was. Then I got a list of people he wanted me to say “hi” to because he forgot I’m the most introverted person in the world (You can be both introverted and kind of aggressive. It’s a thing!) and I always make terrible first impressions on anyone who crosses my path. It’s not that I’m shy. I just don’t like to impose myself on other people. When I hemmed and hawed a little about it, he outed me as a Mennonite and sent my picture around to people he knows because apparently that’s what friends do.

I had to duck out early after that. The weather was being crazy and I have chronic migraines, so that’s not a good mix. I was disappointed because I really wanted to hear Heather King speak. I read Shirt of Flame a few years ago and loved it, so I was pretty frustrated with my stupid head. Thankfully, Angela and I had an opportunity to listen to her on our drive home since her talk was recorded and uploaded to Sound Cloud.

I wrapped up Friday night by eating a bunch of lasagna from Olive Garden and chilling in the hotel room. That was kind of a big deal because we don’t have an Olive Garden anywhere near me. When I say I live in the woods, I really mean that. The nearest McDonald’s is about 45 minutes away.

My sister and I are kicking around an idea that we aren’t ready to make public yet, but that idea was why we were so excited to go into our first session on Saturday: “Devotional Literature with Teeth: Writing Complexity and Darkness in Modern Spiritual Writing”. Right before we went in, Angela and I were standing around in the hall (eating free muffins!) and I was venting a little. Sometimes I experience push-back against what I do. If I’d just be a little more inspirational… If I’d just show the upside of a being traumatized… If I’d just clean up my language… If I’d just make people less uncomfortable… I’d have a bigger readership. My response to that is always the same. The people who want some easy, feel-good, inspirational writing without any real substance already have people providing that for them. They’re being served. I’m writing for the people who aren’t served by that. For the people who are still hungry after that. For the people who want to connect with someone who doesn’t pretend that believing in Jesus makes the pain go away. For the people who live with thorns they can’t get rid of. For the people who don’t have any patience for pretentiousness. For people who enjoy a little dark humor because we all get that it’s how we survive sometimes. I don’t care if I have a big readership. I only care if I’m reaching the people I need to reach. It was affirming to hear that echoed in the Devotional Literature panel. I get a lot of “you’re doing it wrong” either implicitly or explicitly. It was nice to hear that maybe I’m doing it right.

My sister walked away with more new books than I did. This is the first time that’s happened since 2003 when she was buying Christian books in a bookstore, while I was loudly being mouthy about how crappy Christians are, right when we ran into a man from our dad’s church who was buying a South Beach Diet book. I told you I don’t make a good impression on people.

The last session we went into was my favorite: “Not Always Sweet: Beyond Liturgical Cupcakes in Catholic Women’s Writing”. When female orgasms get brought up, you know it’s going to be a good time. The only time I got anywhere close to crying was during this session. That’s partially because of how personal and painful some of these stories were, and partially because of how freaking hilarious these women are. Listening to so many different women, from different backgrounds, talk about their own challenges and how they live out their calling as both writers (and I absolutely believe it’s a calling) and Catholic women was the first time in a very, very long time (maybe ever) that I felt like I was sitting in a room with people who really “get it”. I feel privileged to have been some small part of that. I live in a fairly conservative area, and I also run in mostly non-religious circles (out of self-preservation, more than anything). I have a very small circle of women who are both religious and called to create. That gets lonely. It was worth driving five hours, just for this session.

I had to take off after that. Again, I’m so thankful for those Sound Cloud recordings.

I didn’t interact with anyone else too much, aside from my weird rural, southern thing where I “hello” and “how are you?” at almost everyone I pass.

When you’re around a bunch of writers, they’re going to ask you what you write. And remember that thing about me making bad first impressions? Yeah. “Hey! I’m Kristy and I just wrote a book about someone who straight up wanted to murder me because the Bible and some of our church members were cool with it. What’s your deal?” probably isn’t the way to go. They might start thinking he had a point, you know?

I’m really glad I went. It was a positive and affirming experience, which is important to me since I’m up here, alone in the woods and all.

How to Help a Friend Who is Being Stalked

Credit: Brett Sayer

Credit: Brett Sayer

Take it seriously.

The first thing you have to understand is that stalking is a pattern of behavior, not a one-time incident. Your friend may tell you she’s afraid because her stalker left dead flowers on her porch. That may sound minor to you, but what you don’t know is that her stalker has also been calling just to wake her up every night at 3 AM, driving past her place of work on a daily basis, and leaving notes that say “Whore” in her car. The flowers might just be the thing she mentions because is scares her the worst, not because it’s the only thing that’s happened. For you, dead flowers might just be dead flowers, but the stalker intends it as a symbolic threat that he wants to hurt your friend. They do this on purpose. He knows what dead flowers mean. Your friend knows what dead flowers mean. But most other people wouldn’t see them as a big deal.

Understand that the issue here isn’t so much what the stalker has done, but the fear of what the stalker could do. Every day, most people wake up and they have a good idea about what will happen that day. Your friend doesn’t have that luxury anymore. Will he ignore her today? Will he break into her house today? Will he email her a threat today? Will he kill her today? She doesn’t know. She’s living with an incredible amount of uncertainty and fear.

 

Ask before offering advice.

Is your advice welcome? Is it even needed? Honestly, it probably isn’t.

If your friend has already researched her state’s anti-stalking laws, has already spoken to the police, or has done even the most basic level of research, she probably knows more than you do about stalking. She definitely knows more than you do about her particular case. Your friend is the expert here.

Well-meaning people, who don’t fully understand the situation, can offer dangerous advice. There are different types of stalkers, each with their own levels of risk. You can’t handle every stalker in the same way. And what you see on TV isn’t how these situations play out in real life.

The stalker is trying to take control of your friend’s life away from her. She gets to control how she handles dealing with him.

 

Understand that this is a dangerous situation.

Don’t downplay what’s going on. Being stalked isn’t a minor inconvenience. It’s a life-altering and potentially life-threatening situation. You won’t help your friend by acting like it’s not a big deal. In fact, you’ll hurt your friend if you shrug it off. One of the most important things you can do is offer validation and emotional support. Because stalking is so often misunderstood and dismissed, your friend is likely dealing with plenty of people who either don’t believe her or refuse to believe the situation is as bad as it is.

One of the most damaging things you could do would be to ignore the situation or pretend it isn’t happening. It might make you uncomfortable (it would make any normal person uncomfortable), but your friend needs to know they are heard and you are taking this seriously.

 

Offer to go with your friend when she speaks to the police.

It can be frustrating when reporting stalking. Anti-stalking laws vary from state to state, and some of them don’t allow police officers to arrest a stalker until an explicit death threat is made. This means, even if a police officer believes your friend is in danger and wants to act, they might not be able to do anything to help her.

Having a friend along for emotional support, and as an advocate in case a police officer isn’t taking her seriously, can be a huge help.

 

Help your friend with a safety plan.

What will your friend do if she comes home at night and sees her stalking circling the block, waiting for her to get out of her car?

It’s important for her to have a safety plan in place. She needs a safe place to go, temporarily, if she can’t safely go into her own home. You can offer to let her come to your home, at any time, if she needs to.

Offer to tag along if your friend needs to go somewhere and she doesn’t feel safe going alone.

Even something as simple as offering to walk her to her car at night is helpful.

 

Do not have contact with your friend’s stalker.

Most people are stalked by someone they already know. So, chances are pretty good that you know your friend’s stalker. If this person runs in your circle of friends, cut contact with him. Not only should you do this out of loyalty to your friend, but this will help create a larger buffer between your friend and her stalker.

 

Do not give out any information about your friend.

This seems obvious, but it’s easy to slip up. Your friend’s stalker might not come directly to you and ask, “Where is she?” Instead, he might scroll through your Facebook feed to find pictures of your group of friends out for the night. Now he knows she isn’t home and can break in.

Do not post information about your friend or any pictures of her online without her permission.

What’s less obvious are all the little conversations we have about people. Maybe a mutual acquaintance asks you what your friend’s been up to lately. Don’t give this person information that could lead her stalker to her. The acquaintance (who doesn’t know anything about the stalker) may let that information slip later on and it could get back to her stalker.

 

If you witness anything, write it down.

You can’t get a stalker arrested without good documentation. Your friend is likely already keeping a log of incidents. If you are with her when the stalker approaches, write it down and give a copy to your friend. If you are with her when she finds a note in her car, write it down. If the stalker approaches you, without your friend around, and makes comments about her, write it down. The more documentation and the more witnesses, the better her chances of having him arrested.

 

Don’t blame your friend.

Nobody asks to be stalked. Nobody does anything to deserve it.

It doesn’t matter if she stayed with an abusive boyfriend for way too long. It doesn’t matter if she flirted with him once. It doesn’t matter if she walks around in short skirts.

While victims are advised to cut contact with their stalkers, sometimes they slip up and respond to them. This isn’t wise, but it’s understandable. If someone has been threatening you for months, you might just snap one day and pick up the phone when he calls so you can curse him out. This doesn’t mean your friend is to blame for the stalker continuing to harass and threaten her.

The only person to blame for what the stalker is doing is the stalker. Your friend isn’t controlling his actions. He is making these choices on his own, and unfortunately, a victim can do everything “correct” in these situations and be in the exact same situation as someone who does everything you’re not supposed to do.

Never, ever blame your friend for what her stalker is choosing to do.


Visit the Stalking Resource Center for more information, including anti-stalking laws by state.

This Post is Definitely, Absolutely, Positively Not About Mike Pence

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I don’t normally jump on the latest topic that’s flying around on social media. And I’m not going to jump on Mike Pence. (I mean. I’m a pacifist. Jumping on people is frowned upon.) What I do want to talk about is something I’ve mostly seen people talk around instead of about.

Some people believe that men and women should never be alone together. That might mean they never ride in a car without a third person, or that might mean they can’t even eat dinner together in a public place.

People who have this rule have it for different reasons. I’m not going to talk about all of those reasons. (If someone wants to defend their reasoning, I’d love it if they wrote their own post. Link it in the comments, if you want).

I’m going to talk about the reason I have personal experience with.


Here’s a journal entry I made when I was 16 years old*:

After we were done at the job site [my dad and a few other adults took the youth group on an MDS trip], we went to a Waffle House by our motel. I took a drink of my water and then dumped two Equal packets into it and Nick asked, “Why’d you do that?”

I told him the water was bland, but he said water couldn’t be bland. It can too be bland.

Then we heard a crash and turned around. Joe had spilled his Mr. Pibb all over Angela and Daniel. It was hilarious.

After we got done eating, me, Andrea, and Nick wanted to go watch TV but all the adults were taking forever. So we decided to walk back to the motel. When we were leaving, Candace yelled, loudly, “Y’all need to leave the door open!”

I just stood there, like, “Huh?” I thought maybe I had the only room key or something and she didn’t want to get locked out.

Then she said, “You know, boys and girls. Together.”

WHAT?!?!?!?!

I tried to make a joke of it, so when we were walking back, I told Andrea, “Hey, are you excited for our big orgy? Do you want to share Nick?”

That’s when I realized Nick was literally right behind me, so I real quick said, “Just kidding,” just so we were clear. I need to stop saying everything that pops into my head.

Anyway, it didn’t even matter because Candace sent other kids out after us and they were mad because they didn’t want to sit in the motel room and watch TV, but they had to because of us.


And then I talk about watching Volcano, but that’s another story.

I want to break this down a little.

At first, we were just a group of kids, being kids. There were absolutely zero sexual thoughts going on. My focus was on bland water and Mr. Pibb accidents. When we went to leave, it never even occurred to me that something sexual might possibly happen while I was watching TV. At that point in my life, I’d never even had a first kiss yet. Never held hands. Nothing.

The woman who didn’t want us to be alone is the one who sexualized that situation, which I tried to defuse with a dumb joke (because, let’s be real… that’s always been my way.) It was embarrassing for her to say that, especially in front of everyone else in our group. And, since my father was there with us, it wasn’t that she was “in charge” of me for the trip or anything like that.

I’d only known that boy for a couple of months. One of my friends was walking over with us. Maybe she thought we were playing a trick with that… I’m not sure. We just wanted to watch TV. It’s an innocent activity.

The suspicion that we might get up to something gave us the impression that we were dangerous to one another. The lack of trust was insulting. The idea that my awkward self might tempt him down some dark, sexually deviant road was mortifying.

I wasn’t Kristy in that moment. I wasn’t a sister in Christ, which is how Christian men should see me. I was a female body that could be the object of sinful lust. I was something to be protected from.

About a year later, this woman was teaching our youth group. She was an advocate for courtship, which required a chaperone to accompany any boy/girl pair. She extended that to adults as well, and gave us an example.

The example she presented was a time, a few weeks prior, when she’d been in the church doing something and my dad had walked in. She told us all she felt extremely uncomfortable being alone with him like that, for the whole, maybe 5 minutes he was in there. My dad was the pastor. Of course he’d be walking into the church sometimes.

How do you think you’d feel if a woman told a group of your friends that she was uncomfortable being alone with your father? What does that make your father sound like?

I pressed her a little on it, asking if he’d actually done anything inappropriate. She said he hadn’t. It was just his presence that made her uncomfortable. Why, though? Because her belief was that you couldn’t trust a man and a woman, alone together. Something might happen, even if the risk was extremely low. And, even if nothing sexual happened, it wasn’t appropriate, even for a congregant and a pastor to share the same space for a few minutes.

What sharing her “caution” did was make my father sound like the kind of creep who would make a woman uncomfortable. (If you knew my dad, you’d know that’s a weird thing to say about him.) What sharing her “caution” did was make me sound like the kind of girl who’d jump a boy the second the motel door closes.

It’s hurtful and shaming.

I can’t speak for every single person out there who’s been touched by the “no boy/girls alone” rule. I can speak for me, though. The idea that this rule isn’t ever used to prevent temptation is just wrong. I’ve got a copy of my very first orgy joke that proves that’s exactly how this rule can be used. This was my introduction to the rule, and when I talk about it, this is where I’m coming from. If that’s not how it’s played out in your life, well, great. But you can’t tell me it hasn’t played out this way in other people’s lives.

*Names have been changed.

Survival Guide for Weirdos

 

Weird

Blessed are the weirdos, for they shall something, something… I don’t know, but I bet it’s pretty great.

There are two main things people who know me well will tell you.

I’m weird and I like it.

I’m comfortable with who I am, but I wasn’t always. It was a hard road and I endured quite a bit of bullying and deflated self-worth before I got here.

Lately, several people have asked me how I learned to own, and even embrace, my weirdness. Maybe it won’t all work for you, but this is what worked for me.

Different isn’t bad. It’s just different.

I didn’t know I was weird until I went to elementary school and the other kids told me. Dad used to teach me random words out of the dictionary, so I walked into Kindergarten spouting all those words and the other kids didn’t know what in the world I was talking about. And that didn’t change until I hit middle school.

I wasn’t any good at sports. I didn’t care about New Kids on the Block. I was more interested in dinosaurs than neon slap bracelets, and I couldn’t have cared less about the school’s popularity hierarchy.

I’m also severely lopsided. I’m the sort of person who’s really good at what I’m good at and not at all good at anything else. It was hard being around all those well-balanced kids who might not have excelled in any one area, but they didn’t tank in any areas either.

I was lucky enough to have weird parents. My dad’s overtly weird, while my mom keeps her weird a little more under the radar. But they’re both big dreamers and “creative types”.

My family doesn't build snowmen. We build snow alligator/unicorn/stegosaurus hybrids.

My family doesn’t build snowmen. We build snow alligator/unicorn/stegosaurus hybrids that eat children.

One night, I was really frustrated over cartwheels. I tried harder than anyone in my gymnastics class, but I just couldn’t do them.

Instead of telling me I was actually super awesome at gymnastics (which would have been a lie), my dad sat me down and drew two pie charts. (I told you he’s weird.) One pie was mine and the other pie represented all the other kids. The other kids had a pie that was evenly divided. They had a decent slice for sports. About the same sized slice for math, language skills, art… My pie only had a tiny sliver for sports. Because let’s be honest. I don’t have any talent and there’s no point pretending I do. But I had huge slices in other areas. In the end, both pies were whole pies. They were just divided up differently. And that’s OK. The world needs people who are extra good in specific areas. And you can’t be extra good in all areas. You’d run out of pie and running out of pie is the worst tragedy I can imagine.

It’s OK to be different. It’s even good to be different.

My parents and I had a lot of conversations about that. While they did try to curb some of my quirks (the stuff that was just obnoxious and served absolutely no purpose), they never tried to force me to be “normal” and they never encouraged me to just go with the crowd so I’d fit in. Instead, they encouraged me to find my own way. That wasn’t easy (see the comment about bullies, above), but it was right.

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Some people don’t like me, and that’s OK.

When I say stuff like that, people will usually rush in to say, “Oh, don’t say that!” or “Those people are just missing out.”

Nah. Some people honestly just don’t like me. Sometimes they don’t “get” me or misunderstand me. Sometimes they do understand me, and they still don’t like me. And it’s really OK. It doesn’t make them bad people or anything. I don’t click with every single person I meet either.

The thing about saying, “Not everyone is going to like me, and that’s OK,” is that it frees you up. It gives you permission to stop worrying, “What will the people think?!”

If they aren’t going to like you, no matter what you do, who cares what they think?

Whether people like me or not is more a reflection on them than on me. Maybe their personality just doesn’t mesh well with mine. Maybe their sense of humor is different than mine. It doesn’t automatically mean I’m doing something wrong when someone doesn’t like me.

(Though, let’s be real. If most people don’t like me, maybe I’m a jerk. That doesn’t seem to be the case, though.)

Also, people don’t care about what you’re doing nearly as much as you think they do. They’re all too busy being anxious or embarrassed about their own stuff to put much effort into thinking about whatever you’re anxious or embarrassed about. If you act embarrassed about something, that’s a signal to the people around you that this is something to be embarrassed about. If you don’t act embarrassed, people will usually go along with that signal, and assume it’s not something to be embarrassed about. Really. I’ve done some of the stupidest things, and as long as I shrugged it off and laughed, everyone else went right along with me, whether they were my friends or not. (One time, I spilled an entire mug of coffee on myself during an interview for a job I wasn’t even qualified for. I laughed it off and got the job.)

I was embarrassed to drive the family wagon around in high school. A friend called it a "beast" because it growled going up hill, so I wrote THE BEAST on the back window in shoe polish and started bragging about my car at school. Three kids asked if they could drive THE BEAST around the parking lot. If I'd acted sheepish about it, it could have been a different story.

I was embarrassed to drive the family wagon around in high school. It was pretty beat up. A friend called it a “beast” because it growled going up hill, so I wrote THE BEAST on the back window in shoe polish and started bragging about my car at school. It caught on and kids would stop me in the hall to ask how THE BEAST was doing. Three of them asked if they could drive THE BEAST around the parking lot. If I’d acted sheepish about it, it could have been a different story. When you act like something’s awesome, it becomes awesome.

Here’s a tip: The less you care about what people think of you, the more people tend to be attracted to you. Almost everyone wants to be all indifferent toward other people’s opinions, but most people aren’t. Those people like to hang out around people who don’t care what other people think of them.

It’s OK to Fail

People who are different are so used to being judged that it can make taking a risk extra scary. Not only do you risk failing, but you risk hearing about what a weirdo failure you are from other people.

Years ago, I decided that being labeled a weirdo was a strange sort of gift other people had given me. I’m already a weirdo, so if I fail, how can I be any more of a weirdo than I already am?

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I recently launched a new blog. It’s backdated to the late 90s and written by my teenage self. If that’s not weird, I don’t know what is. And don’t think I didn’t consider what people might think. What a narcissistic thing to do. Who cares about your life, Kristy? Why would she do this instead of saving all this material for a second memoir?

People aren’t always going to understand why I do what I do. I’m not going to let that stop me.

And if I try something and it doesn’t work out, I’ll just try something else. Win or lose, I’m a weirdo anyway.

I know several people who I’d say have “vision”. People who don’t have vision aren’t going to understand people who do. And they often try to box those visionaries in and bring them down. If you have a vision, don’t let them.

Being weird is a gift.

Do you know what’s super rare? The ability to make people feel comfortable around you.

Do you know what makes people feel comfortable? When you’re weirder than they are.

Because, honestly, everyone’s a little weird and everyone feels self-conscious about their own weirdness. When I’m out there, being all weird out in the open, it helps people feel like they can share their own stuff with me. And they can. Because how can the woman who impulsively jumped into a fountain just to make someone laugh, not realizing it was full of really smelly algae that would stain her favorite jeans, judge someone else?

I used to hate my crooked teeth, my ridiculously long arms and legs, and my very Italian nose.

But you know what? Nobody feels comfortable around a perfect person. It’s my imperfections that draw people in. I’d much rather have a warm and friendly smile than a perfect smile. My long limbs are good for a laugh and my big nose is a great bullshit detector.

Use a little common sense when trying to make people feel comfortable.This might be taking things a step too far.

Use a little common sense when trying to make people feel comfortable. This might be taking things a step too far.

I’m Horace Slughorn, except less Slytherin-y.

I’ll be friendly with pretty much anyone who’s willing to tolerate me. I don’t ever want anyone to feel like they aren’t valued or accepted, so unless you’re actually a homicidal stalker, I’ll almost definitely hang out with you.

But I do take a special interest in some people and I try to keep a circle of people around me that I consider exceptional in some way (and a lot of them have no idea how special they are). Some of them are people I can look up to and get advice from (because, hey, I don’t have all this totally figured out either). Some of them are people I want to help in any way I can because I see so much potential in them. I think it’s a real gift to be able to watch someone grow into their strengths.

There are so many amazing weirdos coming up behind me. I can’t wait to see where you all take us.

An Online Conversation With My 17-Year-Old Self

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In 1998—the era of screeching modems and dial-up speeds we thought were lightning fast—I was one of a few people I knew who had a home internet connection and their own website. When Geocities closed down, I thought my teenage website was gone forever, but thanks to Internet Archive’s Way Back Machine, it’s still out there, kicking it late-90s style.

I was an opinionated little thing back in the day. (I’m an opinionated big thing these days.) Since I’ve been working on a memoir for the past couple of years, I’ve been super focused on my teenage years. There have been many times I’ve wanted to get my past-self’s attention and set her straight on a few things.

So, let’s do that.

Kristy, we need to talk.

1


OK. First of all, nice Jack Handey reference.

But, honey, you need to go learn about the First Amendment because that’s not what “freedom of speech” means. It doesn’t mean you can say anything you want and nobody can argue with you about it.


2


Just so you know, nineteen years from now, you’re going to feel pretty damn smug about the Y2K scare.

And you remember that research paper you wrote on the Y2K bug for your senior English class? You know all those survivalist websites you read while doing research, and how you thought, “Hey, maybe this information will come in handy someday”? I’m sorry to tell you I’ve never had to help deliver a breach baby, so all those diagrams we saw are just taking up head space. Sorry.


3


You feel like people are kicking you around? Oh, my sweet summer child. You have no idea what’s coming for you next year.

I do like that barking comment. I’d make the same sort of nonsensical comparison between myself and a barking dog, though I have spellcheck so I can spell chihuahua. It only took me three tries to get close enough for the spellchecker to figure out what I was trying to say. Advancements in technology will definitely make your life easier.


4


You know what? I think people are basically good too. (But don’t tell anyone. It’ll hurt my street cred.)


5


Aw, did you really have to take a swipe at organized religion? You do realize you’re a member of a church right now, don’t you? You can be religious and have a personal connection to God, Kristy. I promise.

And I know you’ve heard a lot of noise about those Mary-worshiping Catholics, but they aren’t so bad. Most of them will be pretty nice to you, even when you’re being kind of an asshat.


6


You probably spent it all at the concession stand at the drive-in. Those burgers are the bomb! Well, they were the bomb. Sadly, nothing is the bomb in 2017. It’s a bleak world you live in now.

Also, “Where’d all the money go?” is a question you’ll be asking for the next two decades. Get used to it.


7


Right now, I kind of want to pinch you. I get it. You were told, “Get a degree, and you’ll get a great job!” We were all told that. It’s not your fault you believed it.

You know, ten years from now, you’re going to have a good paying job without a college degree. You’ll still go back to school, which is great, but it wasn’t the degree that got you anywhere. It’ll be your work ethic, willingness to help others, and miming skills that’ll get you ahead. (OK. Maybe not the miming skills. Those haven’t really come in handy yet, but I hold out hope for the future.)


My best advice to you for the future is to settle down a little. Let people disagree with you, and when they do, listen. You don’t have to change your mind, but at least listen.

Learn to be patient. Learn to be humble.

Stick with that frantic writing style you’re starting to develop. It’s the bomb.

You’re a little annoying, but I think you’re going to be OK.

How to Train Your Christian

 

Christian

Christians, while fun and loving, can present many challenges. Proper training is the key to a happy and healthy Christian.

Obedience Training

There are two commands that every Christian should learn.

Down – This command is often difficult for Christians to learn because of its submissive posture.

Leave It – This command is vital, though many trainers neglect it. Do not shy away from it, as it can safely remove your Christian from a fight they clearly can’t win.

Socialization

It’s important to keep your Christian from becoming isolated, which often leads to aggressive behaviors. Expose your Christian to diverse people and experiences as soon as possible. If you delay socialization, it can lead to an easily frightened and startled Christian when they encounter these situations at a later time.  Their fear may lead them to react by growling and even biting.

Nutrition

Start your Christian off with easily digested nutrients. Slowly work your way up to foods that take a little more effort to chew. Your Christian may resist the change, but keeping them on a liquid diet will lead to malnutrition.

Territory Marking

Christians instinctively mark their territory. Do not be surprised when this happens.

Marked territory

Discipline

If may be tempting to smack your misbehaving Christian on the nose with a rolled up newspaper, but this is not effective. Instead, give a clear and firm, “No.” Attempt to redirect your Christian toward a more positive activity. If your Christian persists, repeat “no” until he stops. Reward him with praise when he gives up the negative behavior.

More Mature Christians

While most people flock to cuter, newer Christians, others prefer the company of more mature Christians. This can be both rewarding and challenging.

A properly trained mature Christian can be a delightful companion, bringing warmth and love into your life. Many people appreciate their more patient pace when compared to less mature Christians, who are prone to jumping on people.

However, a poorly training mature Christian presents a real challenge. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to break any bad habits they may have picked up. If you choose a mature Christian who hasn’t been properly training, know that you can still receive plenty of love and affection from them.

 

Taking on a Christian is a serious responsibility. You should not take on the challenge unless you are prepared to fully dedicate yourself. Christians all over the world are abandoned every year. If it’s absolutely necessary, you can find your Christian another safe home, but never abandon your Christian. This only contributes to packs of wild Christians roaming through cities and neighborhoods.

If you do decide to take on this responsibility, you will be rewarded with a few chew marks, but plenty of love as well.

 

Photo credits: Freely

6 Important Stalking Facts Everyone Should Know

6 Stalking Facts

You know a woman who has been, is being, or will be stalked.

1 in 6 women have been stalked at some point in their lives.1 These women believed they (or someone they cared about) would be harmed or killed by their stalker.

How many women do you know? 1 in 6 is a high number. There’s a very good chance you know one of these women. However, many stalking victims are hesitant to tell others about their experiences with a stalker. They might be afraid you won’t believe them, or that you’ll blame them for their stalker’s behavior.

By raising awareness about the reality of stalking, you can show your friends and family members that you’re behind them.

Stalking 1

Men can be stalked too.

1 in 19 men have been stalked at some point in their lives. While women do stalk men, most stalkers (of either gender) are men.1

Men may be hesitant to speak up about their experiences because they’re afraid of looking weak, especially if their stalker is a woman. But these men aren’t weak. Stalking is intrusive and dangerous.

Most victims know their stalkers.

When people think of a stalker, most have this picture in their head of some creepy stranger, skulking down a back alley, taking picture of an oblivious woman.

In reality, two-thirds of women are stalked by a current or former partner. A quarter of women are stalked by someone they’re acquainted with, even though they never had a romantic relationship with them. Only about 13% of victims are stalked by strangers. 1

Stalkers don’t just follow a person around.

Stalkers are creative in the ways they terrorize their victims.

Sometimes they follow the victim. Or they might call non-stop all day long. They might break into a victim’s home.

They often leave items for the victim to find. These aren’t romantic trinkets. A stalker might break into a victim’s house and leave a glass of water on the kitchen table. The message to the victim is, “I can get to you any time I want.”

These types of incidents are difficult for victims to report. Victims are often afraid the police won’t take them seriously if they call to report something as seemingly innocent as a glass of water on their table. If the police officer doesn’t know the incident is part of an on-going stalking case, he might not take it seriously.

Stalkers often threaten their victims with physical harm or death. They sometimes threaten the victim’s friends and family members as well.

Stalking victims are forced to face each day, not knowing what might happen to them or to their loved ones.

Stalking kills

Stalkers kill.

All death threats should be taken seriously.

76% of women who are murdered by their current or former partner were stalked first. 85% of women who survived an attempted murder by their partner were stalked first.2

Only 10% of female murder victims are murdered by a stranger.3

Stalking is a serious red flag that a woman is in danger of being murdered, especially when she is being stalked by a former partner.

Stalking is illegal.

All 50 states have anti-stalking laws. However, some states have stricter laws than others.

“Some state laws specify that the victim must have been frightened by the stalking, while others require only that the stalking would have caused a reasonable person to experience fear. In addition, states vary on what level of fear is required. Some state laws require prosecutors to establish fear of death or serious bodily harm, while others require only that prosecutors establish that the victim suffered emotional distress.”4

Stalking is difficult to prove and restraining orders often do nothing to protect victims. Unfortunately, proving a stalking case can be a long process, during which the victim is continuously terrorized. It’s important for victims to have a strong emotional support system during this time and a safety plan in place.

 

More information is available from the Stalking Resource Center.

 

Sources

1 – Michele C. Black et al., “The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report (pdf, 124 pages),” Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010. (https://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf)

2 – Judith McFarlane et al., “Stalking and Intimate Partner Femicide,” Homicide Studes 3, no. 4. 1999 (http://www.victimsofcrime.org/docs/src/mcfarlane-j-m-campbell-j-c-wilt-s-sachs-c-j-ulrich-y-xu-x-1999.pdf?sfvrsn=0)

3 – Shannan Catalano et al., “Female Victims of Violence,” Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2009.

4 – Shannan Catalano, “Stalking Victims in the United States – Revised,” Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2012. (http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=1211)

For the Ones Who Can’t See the Light

Dear You,

I know.

I know what it’s like to trudge through knee-high snow, in the woods, at midnight, without a coat, during a blizzard, and squint through those icy bites, looking for that warm candle light that will lead you home, but there is no effing flicker of light out there.

OK. Maybe I don’t actually wander the woods during a blizzard, but I think you understand what I mean. I think you understand what it’s like to be lost. You know what it’s like when you can’t find the light, and no matter which way you turn, you just find more trees blocking your view, and you’re so, so tired of wading through snow banks.

And you get how scary it is to be alone in the woods at night. Monsters live in the woods. Werewolves and demons and child-eating witches. This is no place to be alone.

But you already know that. Because me and you? We know what it’s like to lose. For every forward movement to be a struggle, and you don’t know what’s ahead of you, or even if you’re going the right way.

Every snowflake’s supposed to be unique, right? Maybe your snow looks like your children not having enough food. Or maybe each flake is an image of someone you’ve lost. Or all the mistakes you’ve made. Or all the false faces you’ve worn. Or the memories of a thousand backhands.

Here’s the part where I’m supposed to say something inspirational. But I’m not going to tell you something stupid, like if you just look up you’ll find a star you can follow all the way home. Because I know you can’t see the stars when you’re in the middle of the woods, during a fucking blizzard.

And I can’t tell you things will get easier. That the wind will die down and the snow will let up. I don’t know what’ll happen.

What I can tell you is you aren’t out in the woods on your own. I’m out here with you. A lot of people are. And maybe we aren’t all heading in the same direction, but that doesn’t mean we can’t wade through the snow together for a while. When your fingers go numb, borrow my gloves. When I fall face first into a snow bank (because God knows I fall into a lot of snow banks), maybe you can give me your hand and help me up.

I can’t promise we’ll make our way home, but maybe we can provide a little warmth for one another. And maybe we’ll be a little safer because those monsters would rather pick off lonely travelers.

So, if it’s OK with you, I’d like to walk with you for a while.

Love,

Me

The Spiritual Gift of Shutting Up

 

Have you ever taken one of those spiritual gifts tests?

You answer a few multiple choice questions and the test suggests which spiritual gifts you might have. And then you compare your gifts with your friends, while pretending to be all humble about “leadership” being your spiritual gift. Next, comes the argument about whether or not those pesky charismatic gifts still manifest today or not because Jill got the gift of healing and that just plain doesn’t happen anymore.

Right?

I guess it might depend on what you consider “healing”.

For now, let’s ignore physical healing. Instead, let’s talk about emotional and spiritual healing. Some people are gifted in this area. And do you know what they have in common? They’re good listeners.

When someone with an emotional or spiritual wound comes to you, the first thing they need you to do is listen. They need to know that they are heard and understood. After all, if you don’t take the time to learn what their problem is, how could you possibly help them with it?

Shutting up is a spiritual gift. Listening, without adding your two cents, or making suggestions, or pushing your own agenda, is healing.

After that person is done speaking, don’t just jump in with, “OK, now here’s what you ought to do…” or “Well, here’s why that happened…” Don’t compare their pain to anyone else’s pain. Don’t jump all over them and tell them why they should already be over it.

Take time to make sure they know you’ve truly heard them. Express a little empathy. Keep it short and sweet.

“What happened to you was wrong.”

“That really, really sucks.”

“I’m so sorry.”

And then shut up again. Because just that little expression of understanding and validation will probably unleash the flood. Most people are used to everyone ignoring their pain. Like the priest and Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan, most people just avert their eyes and run-walk past a person who’s hurt. It’s not often you run into someone who’s truly willing to listen to you, so it’s not uncommon for people to unload on the first person who’s willing to listen. That’s OK.

Just shut up and let them unload.

Over time, most people will get to the point where they can move forward again. It takes time and patience, but everything worth doing takes time and patience.

Maybe this person isn’t in a place where they feel comfortable talking to God. In that case, it’s up to Christians to step in. We represent Christ to the world, after all. Let the Holy Spirit work through you to be the ears of Christ for that person.

The next time you encounter someone who is suffering some emotional or spiritual hurt, I encourage you to embrace the work of the Holy Spirit, and shut up.