17 Things That Got Me Through 2017
17 Things That Got Me Through 2017 / in no particular order
It’s hard to adequately describe the transformation I felt happening last year. Getting into why I needed this transformation seems even harder. In fact, the messy, often indescribable nature of my unraveling is why I needed these 17 things to get me through.
I've been wanting to write about all this for a while, get a little more honest with the Internet world, lend insight into the potentially noticeable shift in the types of things I post, but it all felt too big. Finding yourself in wild uncertainty, questioning, grief, and existential crisis is pretty weird and vulnerable, so I thought I'd give myself time to process with community, and then maybe one day communicate about it in the digital sphere.
Nothing singularly consequential went down; rather, it felt like a year of processing and facing who I had become in the aftermath of all that’s already gone down in the 25 years I’ve lived. So, maybe I just experienced a quarter-life crisis? Maybe it was just your classic case of deconstruction?
Whatever it was, I’m glad it happened.
The basics of the back-story:
I grew up going to church since I can remember. I also grew up with alcoholism in my family. So there's that. And now, a couple other things about me: I have always loved people, been very curious, been super involved in church, had a mind that races, often running me into anxiety, and at any given time, I was pining after some guy’s heart. I went to a christian college and after that, worked at a church doing youth ministry, which I fell in love with as a senior in high school. 2 1/2 ago, I got married. Later that year, I took the Enneagram test and tested as a Two. It unlocked self-revelation that I began to regularly mull over. 7 months into marriage, I left my job in ministry and the church I’d called home for over 10 years. A couple months into attending a new church, I admitted to myself that I didn’t feel like going anymore. When I worked at the previous church, I signed a Community Standards thing saying I'd attend regularly, be in a small group, avoid all sorts of things, etc. so that contract was always in the back of my mind. When that was no longer a thing and my job was no longer at stake based on all the decisions I could make, I felt the room to actually decide a lot of things for myself. I began to re-evaluate why I was going to church, trying to figure out the point and if it was worthwhile. Jordie and I started talking about all this stuff and landed on a vision of a faith community we could see ourselves being a part of, one that would feel worth attending, but, we weren’t sure it existed.
In May 2016, just a couple weeks into looking for a new church, we landed at Mountain View, and were blown away at how much it aligned with the faith-community we envisioned in our mind’s eyes. When we walked in, we read the words “home for the wanderer and rest for the weary” and it resonated hard. Knowing I needed rest after my maaaany years of ministry, I intentionally avoided getting involved there and just let myself lay low. I don't remember much of what went down in 2016, but what I do know is that during February of 2017, Jordie and I were going through stuff, lots of the same issues over and over and over, and lots of life changes were messing with us individually. Anxieties I'd known for as long as I could began plaguing me all over again.
After a weekend flooded with intense frustration, lots of self-deprecation, and an eventual feeling of defeat and desperation settling in, I decided I needed to try something different, and on March 6, I landed in an Al-Anon meeting. (Maybe alcoholism had affected me more than I realized.)
A glimpse into my journal that week:
March 6, 2017: I started a new journey today that’s gonna be really important.
March 13, 2017: What a week. I feel like my life shifted last Saturday...I feel like I just stepped into a weird vortex. Feelings are flooding in. I’ve cried more in the last week than in the last 2 years. I’ve felt crazy often. I’ve thought about doing all sorts of wild things. I’ve let myself admit that I am where I am and feel the way I feel. I’ve not wanted to be around people...I don’t know what’s next...It’s hard to write about because there’s a lottt. I talked to my mom last night --- 3 whole hours of verbal processing. There’s a lot bottled up.
There’s so much I don’t know.
There’s so much I want to figure out.
I feel like this week is making me re-evaluate everything.
It feels like God has been chipping away at whatever I’d been carrying and finally the whole thing cracked, like I could actually see through to my soul a little clearer and then the whole thing broken off and now I’m mega exposed. It’s funny that I’ve felt undone before because this is a whole new level.
“Not knowing how to manage uncomfortable feelings, I tried to stuff them deep down inside, but they didn't go away. Instead, they led me to behave in ways that perpetuated the feelings.” Hope For Today, 3/13
“It was the effects of alcoholism over which I was powerless. Alcoholism doesn’t have to be active in my life for me to be affected by it. When I was the young daughter of an alcoholic father, I was powerless...to survive such an upbringing, I developed many defenses. When no longer needed, these defenses became my character defects.” Hope for Today, 2/28
These defenses became my character defects.
And so, it began.
1 - AL-ANON
Al-Anon, for whatever reason, felt like my first safe space to really be honest, to really see what was underneath all my ways of functioning in this world. I felt messy. I felt really in touch with all my broken pieces. I’d go to share during the meeting and then just sob. And all I was ever felt from the community was compassion, and I realized how desperately I had craved that. When I began trying to implement the principles, it was a rough journey. Self-care felt confusing and selfish. Wanting things felt complicated. Saying “no” made me feel really guilty and scared. I started feeling at odds with God. Growing up in church, I gathered lots of messages. Following biblical instructions, suggested habits, all these “ways to please God” became very overwhelming. I had worked so hard to get the “following Jesus” thing right for so long, and yet when I really got honest with myself, in the midst of pursuing "christlikeness," I found myself in this state of feeling anxious, burdened by people-pleasing, prideful, confused, disconnected from humanity, unsure of what God was like, embarrassed at how judgmental I was, and the list goes on. *cue unraveling*
2 - JORDIE
He’s been walking with me through this unraveling, giving me his listening ear, hugging me when I have no words, loving me when I’m bitter, angry, bad at communicating, giving me space to explore who I am, get in touch with what I desire, and believe there is space for my wants. Just now, he asked what I was doing, I said, “Writing this thing. It’s really long. But it’s for me.” and he said, “Very good! I love when you do things for you.” Oh how his permission to love myself has changed me. This man led me out of a darkness I didn't even know I was in and as I felt lost in the right direction, he encouraged me to keep running, to keep chasing after that freedom he knew could be mine. When I was blinded, he saw things I didn't see, in myself, in my future, in the realm of what-could-be. When I think of major turning points, he’s at so many. Cheering me on. Letting me do my thing. Being so many things I want to be. Marrying someone I want to be more like was a good call.
3 - FAMILY
A lot of reconciliation and restoration has happened in my family since the wounds were created, and so having my dad, mom, and sister, along for this ride, affirming the necessity and goodness of this journey, meeting me with understanding, support and love has been a redemptive gift. Also, my in-laws have been gracious, loving, insightful, thoughtful question-askers and compassionate listeners and I'm changed by the holiday weekend conversations we've shared.
4 - DEAR EVAN HANSEN
I found out about Dear Evan Hansen the day I started Al-Anon. It popped up in my Discover Weekly. (I also just found a spot in my journal where I said, “Finding out about Dear Evan Hunter seems like perfect timing,” and laughed out loud. Classic new-fan move -- calling it the wrong thing.) This musical carried me through the year, through moments when I would've otherwise felt alone, but instead knew there was a team of people behind the creation of this musical and a giant community of people who appreciated it for all the same reasons I did. It spoke to me (and speaks to me) about belonging and gave me this space, abstract and intangible as it may be, where I knew I belonged. It helped me towards honesty. It helped me shake off the insecurities I carried for so long. It prompted a special and impromptu trip to New York with Jordie that I cherish so deeply. I felt empowered as I watched Evan's growth, his efforts at connection, his moments of being met with grace. It was cathartic to see myself in Evan and watch relationships on stage mirror mine. It clarified the power of art and of a good story and deepened my appreciation for musicals. It clarified the power of connecting with art and with other humans, particularly both at the same time.
It felt good to love something so much, and to let myself.
“[Evan] is given the chance to have a strong sense of self, but it’s built on a fabrication, so it’s sitting on very, very shaky ground,” (Pasek). I see now that the sense of self I had built around being helpful and always available and needed and all that 2 stuff, was shaky ground. I never felt fully at peace. I always felt like I should be doing more, serving more, finding someone in need. I didn’t know how to move past this without feeling tremendously guilty.
5 - MOUNTAIN VIEW (ESPECIALLY TODD, TRACI & RYAN)
Mountain View has been a great place to explore the complexities of my faith confusion. As I navigated feeling burned out from a life of gathering that christianity meant a whole lot of overextending myself to please God, waiting forever to make moves because “God’s will,” not trusting my heart / my desires / what I want, always being “intentional” and knowing the purpose for everything, mixed with tendencies towards those kinds of attitudes and behaviors that surfaced from being in an alcoholic family, Mountain View was a safe space. I’ve been sifting through a mess of interwoven threads and watching my sense of self, of God, of how to be a person unravel. But it’s been freeing. It feels spacious. And Mountain View has been the perfect place to be on this journey.
In so many ways, my time at Mountain View has been redemptive. To borrow from Bethel, things that I thought were dead are breathing in life again. This has been a place to catch my breath and drink deeply from a well of goodness, love, creativity, Todd’s brilliance, the community’s kindness and genuine care.
As I’ve shared with people about my journey of deconstruction, many have asked, “So how’s being at Mountain View in the midst of this?” I can hear the implied, “Wait, but you still go to church?” in their question, and it’s valid. I’ve asked myself the same thing as I’ve sat here and questioned just about everything I once believed about God, but for some glorious reason, I’ve never once felt unsafe being at Mountain View in this season. And it’s not the I’m-safe-because-I’ve-learned-to-just-keep-quiet feeling. I feel safe because when I have chosen to open up, I’ve felt loved, understood, and accepted. I’ve felt drawn out. I’ve not felt like Something To Be Corrected or a Wanderer Who Needs to Be Led Home or a Broken Person Who Needs Fixing. I’ve been able to talk to Todd and feel his compassion and see the I-Get-It look in his eye. I’ve felt life-changing compassion from his wife Traci, when she responded to my pain with the sincerest “I’m sorry.” And when it comes to worship leading, where a sense of discouragement drowned out my passion, the encouragement of Ryan has given me the freedom to explore the world of music again and in a new way. The word graciousness doesn’t ever feel like enough when I try and describe him, but it’s the most accurate word I can find. The grace-filled space Ryan has created is healing me to happy tears.
6 - CHLOE
The friendship we share is the type I’ve longed for for so long. The way our lives are able to intertwine is a giant gift. I’m not able to spend as much time with many of the people I cherish because Adult Life and stuff, and I’ve been grieving it for quite some time, believing that looming loneliness is just part of being an adult. I tried quieting the longing in my heart for a friendship that felt day-to-day, but the longing remained and I don’t know how it all worked out, but it feels like the stars aligned this year. The gift of consistent memory-making with Chloe is one I was given in 2017 and I am really cherishing it. The ease. The laughter. The trekking together. Running errands. Enjoying each other’s joys. It’s odd to finally know what the phrase “doing life together” feels like.
7 - COUNSELING
For years, I’ve wanting to start counseling again. 4th (or 5th?) time’s a charm. For a variety of reasons, I kept putting it off. But this year, I finally just freaking did it and it’s changing. my. life. I’m obsessed with my counselor. She asks all the right questions, and intelligently, compassionately, and empowering-ly walks with me right up to the window I’ve been staring at my life through for so long. Together, we look and see what’s keeping me distant and disconnected, and gently break things down. I didn’t realize I had created a self-protecting surface around my soul or see how much was hiding underneath it, but weekly, we work through things together and I feel lighter every time I leave her cozy office.
8 - WRITING
As you can tell, I use a lot of words. My brain is much less foggy when I put my thoughts in writing, and I have a need to process life and document it as I go, so the many, many, many journal pages, lots of iPhone notes, some long-winded Instagram captions were crucial this year.
9 - THE ENNEAGRAM
This thing wrecked me, but it also has changed my life for the better. It exposed me to myself in ways I never imagined. Understanding myself as a 2 has been like looking in the most squeaky-clean mirror, and while the process of seeing all my mixed motives articulated so accurately was terrifying at first and probably catalyzed The Great Crumbling of 2017, I’m thankful for it. The Enneagram is bettering my marriage, my friendships, and my relationship with myself. This “sacred map to the soul” is one I delight to follow.
Since “lies about who we think we are keep us trapped in loops of self-defeat, the enneagram offers a bright path to cutting through the internal clutter and finding our way back to God and to our true identity as God created us.” - Chris Heuertz
Sign me up.
If you're interested, here are some tests to take to find your Type: One, Two
Here's where to get your Enneathought of the Day to keep you growing.
(Hit me up if you've got questions, or you think this is just another personality test and you're open to me convincing you otherwise, or you just wanna talk Enneagram stuff.)
10 - HONEST CONVERSATIONS - IN REAL LIFE & ON THE INTERNET
- Including the group of women led by Hope Schoen into the tumultuous waters of politics. Navigating and understanding the political climate with this community, knowing we're all trying to hold the pieces with care and compassion was a real gift. Our group text and in-person meetings made current controversies much less overwhelming. I feel grateful for a group of women who weren’t afraid to discuss political issues, who were humble enough to learn and ask questions, who were determined to take action and make a difference, and who engaged when disengaging would have been easier. They’ve taught me a lotttt.
- Including this blog by Rachel Held Evans. I had a good breakthrough reading this and was able to articulate in my own words what Evangelicalism taught me. I began to see all the messages I’ve heard my whole life more clearly, discern where they came from, figure out which ones served me, which ones didn’t, which I believe and which I didn’t. Her blog reminded me that many have walked this road before me.
- Including the ones Gem and Alan Fadling have facilitated where discussions of God don't have to land in certainty, to-do's or rigid rule-following
- Including these podcasts:
- The Liturgists. If you read the Podcast description, you’ll understand why I’m so thankful for The Liturgists. Shoutout to Science Mike and Michael Gungor and the conversations, meditations, and community they’ve created.
- You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes. Because I gain so much insight and joy listening to Pete Holmes interview people. (The episodes with Melissa Villasenor, Andy Samberg, Richard Rohr, David Bazan, Pete Davidson, and Rob Bell get two thumbs up from me).
11 - BOOKS
"The Sin of Certainty" by Pete Enns
"What is the Bible" by Rob Bell
"Finding God in the Waves" by Mike McHargue
12 - STRANGER THINGS
Stranger Things because Season Twoooo, coming in hot and reminding me of the power of stories. I love the excitement that arose in the thousands of people waiting to know what Chapter 2 held. There’s power in the reminder that this show was started by the Duffer Brothers' imagination and went on to become a source of connection for so many of us. That's wild. It became the inspiration for a party project I got to pour my energy in. It helped me dive deeper into joy and it became a foundation upon which I could make blissful memories. It helped me realized my affinity for 80's fashion.
13 - BROOKLYN 99
I thought I’d throw this in because it made me laugh out loud at the TV more than any other show has, and it made all my end-of-the-year editing fly by. Shoutout to you, Andy Samberg and the Brooklyn 99 team.
14 - SLEEPING AT LAST
Ryan O’Neal’s songs are on a whole ‘notha level - the beauty, grace, poignance, intuition, timeliness, insight -- I’m mind-blown every time. The song “Light” is wrecking me as babies I’m gonna love my whole life are entering this world. The Enneagram series is bringing me to tears. What a gift to have music as a vehicle for pondering the Enneagram; his Two song will be with me forever, reminding me of truths I need daily.
15 - "CHILDLIKE”
I'm thankful my small group leader had us choose words that would define the year. Focusing in on this word at the start of 2017 led me down a journey I did not expect. You don’t just wake up one day and become more childlike. (Maybe some people do, but I didn’t). It’s taken hard work to get free, become lighter, share my burdens, learn to play, and find my way back to the person I was made to be.
16 - RICHARD ROHR
He is the teacher of so many people I ended up learning from, so it feels proper to put him on the list. Any time I've heard him talk, it's blown my mind. I can only listen to his podcasts if I have the ability to write things down, otherwise I get too frustrated that I can't take notes.
17- Hosting Parties, Going to Italy, Finishing Things, Self-Care, Steffany Gretzinger and Amanda Cook, kind messages from previous pastors, and a bunch of other inspiring, fun, healing moments, people, talks, etc. (I realized I'm cheating on #17, but it's whatevz. I thought coming up with 17 things would be hard, but turns out, limiting the list to 17 was the real challenge.)
2017, YOU WERE A GOOD ONE.