Brave with Fear

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I'm afraid of heights. Deathly afraid. I cannot even climb a step ladder without getting anxious. I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that heights are high. Or scary. Or I'm a just a "scurrdy" cat. Regardless, I'm mortified.

Two of the things that scare me most regarding heights are bridges and Ferris wheels. Why? Well bridges that are high and travel over a body of water is seriously dangerous. If the bridge collapses you die, right? And Ferris Wheels, seriously. Who and why do woman think it's romantic to take a ride on something that isn't sturdy and is dangerously high? If you fall, well that's likely the end of your romantic date.

These fears are blown up significantly in my mind. It's very unlikely that I will drive over a bridge and it will collapse. It's also very unlikely that I will die riding in a circle on a Ferris Wheel. But I've just never overcome these things. When I drive over bridges I have mini panic attacks if my head is not between legs. It's crazy, ridiculous but a coping mechanism. 

This vacation changed my perspective though on fear and bravery. You see I always thought in order to be "brave" I had to be fearless.  Even Websters dictionary defines fearless as "free from fear, very brave." So for sure in my mind I'm thinking, "I cannot have any fear in order to be brave." 
But bravery is not always with a lack of fear. And being brave is not always beauty, muscles, and swords. Bravery is messy. In fact, sometimes it's flat out ugly. People have died showing bravery. 

Websters describes bravery like this: ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage. 

Being brave doesn't mean you don't feel anything. Most people who are brave experience a lot of pain and they know what's coming. They know that what they are about to do is either scary, or they have fear, or simply just plain anxious. 

My family and I went to Navy Pier here in Chicago. Of course one of the greatest attractions there was this giant Ferris Wheel. And of course everyone wanted to go on it. In fact, Tony bought the tickets without even consulting me first. I had no choice but to ride. 

Sometimes, when fear creeps in we need someone to push us into our moment of bravery. If my kids were not present and Tony had not already spent the money I would have easily walked away. There would be nothing encouraging me to get on. 

We waited in line and my nerves were already shot. My kids where there though and I had to try and remain strong, brave for them. I didn't feel overly anxious or scared honestly. I just knew that I wasn't sure how I was going to react. I haven't been on a Ferris Wheel since I was a young child. This wasn't what I wanted to do. I didn't want to be brave. I didn't feel brave. I felt weak. 

But being brave isn't about being strong. It's showing enough courage to know that you might face pain, fear, or a tough situation but still moving forward. Being brave is about admitting that you are messy, that you cannot do it alone. That you need a push.

On we went. This 7.5 minute ride was going to be the LONGEST ride of my life. Within minutes I was gripping the sides of the ride like I was dying. The cage felt like it was getting smaller. I was a mess. I was crying and could barely breathe. I realized quickly and told Grace quickly that I was in a full blown panic attack. 

In this moment I realized I'm a mess. Make up stains on my face and I look stupid, immature and dumb to everyone around me. But these people are not in the same season as I. They don't know what it took for me to jump on to this cage. To get into this box. To face my fear. Yes, I may not be standing, viewing the city skyline. But I'm here...and I'm rising. And that's what bravery is about.

Bravery is about rising. And rising is not always good looking or great feeling. Bravery is having people in your corner who will laugh with you, (laugh at you), rub your knee, and tell you to breathe. Bravery is conquering your fear even if it means feeling fearful while you do it. 

Tonight my youngest reconfirmed how I felt about bravery. We went to the country and visited a carnival. At the very end of the night she had just enough tickets left to go into the fun house. It wasn't scary. It had lots of little neat things kids climbed, went through, etc to get to the end. She went in with Grace and when she came out she was crying and saying, "It was scary." I looked her in the eye and said, "You are so brave Sophia, you did it!" She replied, "I'm not brave. I'm sad mom." 

My heart. Oh my bursting heart. God knew exactly what I needed to say because before I could process I responded with, "Sophia, being brave has nothing to do with how we feel in that moment. You were in the fun house and even though you felt sad and scared, you finished it. You did it. You were brave." 

Sometimes being brave needs to trump our feelings. If it never did we would never do things that made us brave. Brave is a something we do, not something we feel.

Sing to my Tune

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The first semester I started college I took a physical education course. I did it as one of my electives and thought it would be an easy class. The first day the professor said that the person who could describe love the best (it would be peer voted) would receive exemption from the final exam and that would be a 100%. I listened intently to everyone's definitions of love and while they were good they didn't seem to fit.

Then came my turn. I stood and said this:

Two people who are in love have moved into a beautiful home next to some railroad tracks. They go on and on throughout the days, weeks, years, living here, life seems normal. They haven't really experienced any trains disturbing them and have thought the track was no longer in use. They are playing a tune with their love....the melody is perfect and they are singing along together. Their favorite song.

One day, out of no where, a large train starts going across the tracks. The home starts to shake and both of them look terrified. They both continue to sing, continue to dance to this tune but not without thinking, "Is the other on tune? Are they singing the right lyrics? Are we still singing together?"

Finally the train has gone completely pass. The house starts shaking and the couple realizes immediately that they are still singing the same exact song and not just that they are on the same exact lyric and their tune is perfect. Despite this rocky moment they are one.

I won. And even though my professor (he was a personal health trainer too) pushed me throughout the entire semester he did what he said and I was not required to take the final exam and received a 100%.

I've been thinking of this analogy a lot lately. How true is it really? It's lovely to think of. To think that when we are in a relationship we are both singing and swaying to the same melody, the same beat, the same song. However, what happens to those who don't even like the same music? What happens to the marriages and the relationships in which the train stops and you realize you were never singing the same song in the first place?

In our society and in our day in age we have forgotten how important it is to realize that while love is beautiful - it's hard. You cannot be everything someone needs. Only Christ can. You cannot change a person when they prefer country music over R&B. It's so important to make sure that the one you are with is going to be OK with singing the same song; and if you are singing a song they don't prefer why not compromise.

Love is beautiful. I'm secretly a die hard romantic. I dream of romance, think of romance, and pray that I get to experience romance on a daily basis. But I also have to be OK with the idea that romance isn't in flowers, or love notes, or sex. Love is a choice. It's an action to be shown.

When that couple was hearing that train go by, feeling the house shake, they had to choose to continue singing. They had to choose to hang on, to allow the time with the noise and the unknown to grow them. Where do you need to grow?


Thursday, July 17, 2014

I was always a pretty thin child, in fact, I would call myself the cutest child out of the eight of us. It wasn't until puberty that my body changed so quickly I could barely keep up. What should have and should always be a normal change in an adolescence's life quickly became a nightmare for me. I hated everything about my changing body, including the fact that I just couldn't eat what I wanted to anymore.

Around this same time (I was 11-years-old) I began dancing. I didn't dance for but a few years but learned quickly that in this type of field you needed to be skinny. This is when I got my first real taste of any type of eating disorder "lifestyle." For those who may have not really talked with someone who has had a serious eating disorder this is how we view our disease. We view it as a way of living. We view it as a way to control something when everything else seems to have gone through our fingertips; it's a way to keep something even if it's toxic.

So I started an anorexic lifestyle. I started by limiting my intake to 500 calories a day. This included an apple with a teaspoon of peanut butter, 1 piece of dried toast, and 2 diet sodas. I did this for several weeks with very few cheats in between. I started noticing changes within that week. I was thinning out and people were actually liking me more. There is something so wrong about this concept. The fact that people just like attractive and thinner people more. Maybe they seem more inviting? I don't know what it is, all I knew was that I liked the attention and that the more people complimented me on my weight loss the more I wanted it.

But. Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love food. Like a lot. I love the textures. I love the smells. I love the different spices and combinations. I love to eat. I like to try new foods. This can be a big set back to any person trying to cut back their food. Within this time I started researching online different eating disorders. It was easy to research "pro-ana and pro-mia" sites. These were sites that were designed to encourage young men and woman (teenagers and anyone really) to continue on in this toxic lifestyle. They had "thinspiration" articles and pictures and even tips on how to get away with starving yourself or throwing up.

Thing it hit me. I could become bulimic. It sounded like the best of both worlds in regards to losing weight but still being able to "enjoy" food. But I also loved the control and power I felt by not eating. I decided to do both. I'd see how long I could go restricting my calorie intake/starving and than when I would have a binge (think hundreds of calories at a time) I'd throw it up.

Eventually binging and purging became my norm. I would eat and than have to go to the bathroom because my body became accustomed to just...throwing up. I lived this way from the age of 13 all the way up until I got pregnant with my first child, Kaidance. When I first got pregnant with her I was binging and purging after every meal. My OBGYN said I had to stop otherwise I could kill her. So I did. But it was so hard. I wanted to be thinner, skinny....I knew this child was going to change my body shape forever. And she did. Everything expanded. And I hated it.

As soon as she was born I went right back to my destructive and toxic lifestyle. This continued into my pregnancy with my second child Sophia. I was much worse in controlling my urges to starve/binge with her. While I rarely binged and purged there where times where I would go days without eating more than 300-500 calories. At one point Tony was nervous to leave me alone for Christmas (he went to see his family while I had to work) because he was afraid I would starve myself and hurt Sophia. God is so good and gracious in the fact that he spared her heath in all the stupid decisions I made in my pregnancy with her. Let me stress.....I was not starving myself to hurt her, or myself on purpose. Controlling what I ate, how I ate, when I ate, and even the amount that I ate was a control thing for me. I couldn't control certain areas (a lot of areas) in my life and so I controlled food.

I finally, after a lot of prayer and counseling was able to get this under control. Then I got pregnant with my third child Joseph. Even though God had healed me the temptation to fall back into this lifestyle is very real for me. It would be a lie to say that I don't go through seasons where I rarely eat. It's a way for me to cope with my stress and sometimes in extremely sad times or low periods in my life I will use this as a way to deal. God is always reminding me of my worth, and that my health is extremely important to Him. This includes how I eat.

This was heavily laid on my heart this past year after having Joseph. I started feeling those toxic feelings creep back in. I hate being unhealthy. I hate not being able to fit into my clothes and I hate being tired. I started working out in October of 2013 and thought, "I am going to be pre-pregnancy weight before he's one." When I gave birth to Joseph I weighed 210 pounds. Yep, I did. When I started my weight loss journey I weighed 195. 

I did really well from October to January. Really well. But than I started slacking off. I managed to lose 25lbs. I got done to 170. But I still felt blah. I began to try and discover what worked for me. Than I thought, "Why not give running a try, again." I ran with a running group at a local college I attended back when I was 16 (I graduated high school at 15) and so I knew that I could run, I just didn't know after all these years if I would be good at running. So I started running again.

I realized quickly that I'm not a good runner. I actually really suck at it. But I love it. When I run I forget everything around me. I only hear the music in my hears, I only feel the wind on my face.....I can hear the pitter patter of my feet and I feel as though I'm flying. I feel invincible.

I also started seriously weight lifting. I do a rotation. I do arms, legs, full body, arms and legs. There is something so empowering about working your muscles and your body. Pushing yourself to an extreme that you couldn't imagine. I've never been more fit and happy in all of my life.

Today I stand weighing 150. It's not about the weight though. I'm a toned size 7 and have tons of energy. I run, and even though I suck, I keep at it because sometimes we have to do things we aren't very good at it. Eventually though those things become our greatest adventures; our greatest strengths. He perfect his power in our weaknesses and when I'm running (I'm ready to go right now) I know that He is working in me the power to move past toxic thoughts of health, and starvation. I don't want to hang my head over a toilet anymore. I'm worth much more than that.



Sunday, July 13, 2014

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” 

I don't know why but the enemy always thinks he's going to take me out through attacking my identity/security. Seriously you guys, it's getting to be a little ridiculous.

I'm a photographer and dozens of times throughout the month I encounter seriously beautiful people. Some of these people are so genuinely beautiful inside and out it's hard for me to snap the pictures with gawking or complimenting in overkill. Most of my models (models are people I ask to take photos) are not just beautiful in the physical either. Their personalities are beautiful and anyone who knows me knows I'm in awe of such beautiful people. Why though?

Hi, I'm Meg and I struggle with insecurity. My insecurity is not rooted in thinking I'm not pretty (I believe that) nor is it in my identity (well, kind of). I struggle with just being truly comfortable in my skin. I'm as someone recently put it "an acquired taste." You either love me or hate me and most of the time I rarely meet someone who feels somewhat in the middle on that line. I have a strong personality and this both gets me in trouble and brings peace; which at times is very confusing.

So who is Meg? I'm this ambitious, wild, vivacious, LOUD, awkward, clumsy, cheerful, creative, determined, devout, energetic, generous, excited, humorous, sarcastic, loyal, crazy, lighthearted, joy-filled, peaceful, plain, tomboyish yet classy, compassionate, genuine, giving, sacrificial, crazy and free spirited almost 27-year-old coffee addict who has tried everything in her will to change her personality. Literally. Sometimes I don't want to be an acquired taste. Sometimes I just want to be.....semi-normal. I want to be the type of person people don't have to tell to quiet down, or to chill out, or to be still. I don't want to always have to hear, "I wonder about you, Meg."

I want to just be funny without being loud, and sarcastic without hurting anyone's feelings, and walk through Walmart without the urge to touch everything I walked by.

I even recently found an old notebook of mine filled with stories and articles from my creative writing class in college. There was one assignment in which we had to look at ourselves in the mirror for 2 minutes and write down what we say, felt, and dreamed of. My poem was so graphic and negative I couldn't even write it out for you. I had such self-hate. I could love everyone, but myself. 

But listen guys. I've been doing this game of walking the borderline for the last 15 years. It's not fun. I hate it. And finally this week I just yelled and screamed to God and said, "PLEASE LORD! Help me! I cannot take it anymore."

This past week I realized that I needed to accept who I was. Craziness in all. I came upon this quote and coupled with something a sweet teenage boy said to me on a midnight car ride home my heart was softened towards myself. 

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” 

I am an acquired taste; I believe this. Why? Because not everyone is meant to be in my life so intimately that they can taste a piece of my heart (follow me) or get a glimpse of my thoughts or my spirit. I can give away joy, and happiness, and be there for others but I cannot always allow others to take from me in this way.

Shortly after reading this quote a teenage boy said something to me that encouraged me. James is my sister's boo-friend and one of the sweetest teenage boys I've met. We were talking about personalities and how we all influenced one another when I said, "I know I'm crazy, I hope it's not too much." He began to tell me that if it weren't for people like me the world would be boring for people like him.

"You have this energy; this energy that just attaches itself to people like me and helps us enjoy life more."

He's right. We all need each other. We all are different and we all offer something different for people. Why am I any different? I finally realized that truly, once and for all, I MUST be kind to myself. I woke up and looked in the mirror and decided to stay. I wasn't going to try and change myself anymore. I do think there is a level of discipline that comes with maturity and I have seen myself "calming" as I've gotten older but I'm not going to allow the harsh criticism of others to affect me so negatively. There are some who challenge me but than there are others who just want me to be something I'm not. 

Today I am going to be OK with who I am. Tomorrow I'm going to be OK. And the day after I will continue to look at myself lovingly and tell myself that I'm beautiful in God's sight. And that I'm not the person I once was.