Breakup

I’m still not entirely sure what I ought to be writing about in this particular post. Primarily I thought it would be wise to at least give an update for clarity’s sake (and because I’d like to avoid some awkward conversations). My significant other and I have decided to go our separate ways. And I am still sorting out my emotions regarding this; most of the time since then I have felt that bizarre peace, some shock because this is definitely not the way I expected things to go nor at all what I wanted, and I have had some periods of extreme grief which seems more normal considering the incredible person I have lost. I miss him. And I still love him, and as much as I am trying to be vigilant about cutting ties in a good way, and to deal with things well, and not drag anything out or cling, particularly when he’s made it clear that he is not in favour of continued contact as is absolutely his right, I have loved him more than I’ve ever loved anyone for a long time now, and I can’t just set those emotions aside. I am trying to put them in their proper place, but it’s a process, which I will continue to diligent work at because I don’t want to cling in a bad way, but it’s a process nonetheless.

I will not discuss what happened, this is absolutely not the place for that, and I may someday write about some of our relationship, the good things because there were so many and they have deeply affected me and will continue to, and the myriad lessons he taught me, for which I will always be grateful. But I think I am going to hold off on writing about any of this for a while because I don’t trust my perspective at all and I also want to make sure I have a level head so I can avoid writing anything that should be kept private. I want to respect him and honour who he has been in my life and all he has given me above all. We did not part on good terms, which also breaks my heart. I have hope, because I’m stubborn that way, that there is a tiny sliver of a chance that someday, maybe way, way in the future, we will get a chance to settle things and be in each other’s lives somehow. But I have no guarantee of that and I definitely don’t think it’s something I have any right or welcome to actively seek; if God does it, then He does it, and if not then God’s will be done. I have faith that all things work together for good. God is still God. And He is merciful and just and good. So I cling to that.

I am okay, other than the times when my heart aches because I miss him and I am keenly aware of what we’ve lost. I am pretty sure he’s okay too; he’s strong and he’s good, and he’s wise, and I know God has countless good and wonderful things in store for him. I just hope and pray with all my heart that he receives every good thing, that he is safe and well, and above all that he will have the most wonderful people around him to support and encourage and strengthen him as he deserves.

I do not think that I will have any interest in being in a romantic and/or D/s relationship of any kind for a very long time. I want to make sure that I do this right, that I properly and respectfully lay this relationship to rest so that it is remembered and honoured well, but fully laid to rest first. I also know that I need a lot of work. I have a lot of things I need to deal with in myself and that I need to learn. And this person, this unbelievably patient, kind, loving, and gracious person dealt with a lot of my issues with me for a long, long time, and I appreciate more than I can say. But I want to make sure that I honour what he has done and taught me, what he gave me, and I want to not carry those things into another relationship. On top of this, part of me has that little shred of hope still that things will change and maybe we’ll have a chance. I don’t want to live my life by that forever, I don’t think that would be healthy or wise. But I also have faith that God is good, and He can accomplish anything; and this really is one of those impossible situations that I can do nothing about, so it’s going to have to be God. I have no idea if God will, so again, I want to be careful, and I am still way too close to this to trust myself to discern this well. So just to be absolutely clear, because I know how things sometimes go on this site (and I say that with exasperated fondness): I have no intention of seeking a dominant of any kind, nor of entering into any kind of intimate, romantic, or sexual relationship for at least the next several months. I am committed to that shred of hope. And I am committed to becoming the person I ought to be.

I am not going away, I will still write, but again if I’m weirdly avoiding talking about this it’s because I am waiting a long, long while to try to have some decent perspective before I start attempting to analyse any of it. Thank you for reading and I wish you all the very best.

Detoxing

I am currently having a difference of opinion with someone who is trying to help me with my current emotional struggles. He is quite convinced it’s due to me being around family; I feel that it’s more due to unfulfilled expectations (that delightful cycle that I keep kicking myself for re-entering) in a certain relationship and feeling brutally alone.

And I really hate it when this happens. When my perception of what’s going on and someone else’s, whom I trust and respect, and when I get to talk to this person even briefly I’m elated, is so vastly different that it makes me feel just…lost. And frustrated. Extremely frustrated because I don’t feel listened to, and I’m trying to not pursue that thought because it hasn’t led anywhere good before.

So now I’m wrestling with this. I’m trying to trust what he says, because he is quite perceptive. I am working on grounding myself, taking time to pray, to renew my mind through studying God’s Word, taking up the shield of faith, resting in the peace of God, and keeping aware of my emotional state and taking time apart from others to re-establish or strengthen these things as I need it. Then from this, hopefully, grounded state I can go and interact with people.

At the same time, I know that over the last few days the more I spend time alone, the more alone I feel. And not the ‘oh thank God, I can just be myself and focus on what I want to and not be interrupted or have to deal with anyone else for a blessed while’ kind of alone. And I know too that dwelling on that is not going to take me to a good place. It gets easier when I am doing something, when I am purposeful and focused, but I have to push back against those thoughts over and over and over, and it’s exhausting. I was thinking earlier today that perhaps part of why I feel alone is I keep hoping for companionship from one particular person, and that particular person has been quite unavailable, and now today again we could talk some, but said person is busy again. I perhaps ought to be looking for some companionship elsewhere too.

Which is rough, because what I really want is the kind of companionship where I can tell someone anything and I don’t feel like I have to fight to explain myself, to be heard, to be understood, or to defend how I think and feel all the time. That’s not something I find very often, hence my preference for the aforementioned particular person. But I need to not be quite so excruciatingly alone. I definitely do not want to be dealing with a small-talk situation, God help me. And I don’t want a big group of people either. For the next while, though, I can go upstairs and be working and writing at the kitchen table while my Dad and his wife are watching TV. I can converse a little, and not feel guilty for sequestering myself away the entire time I’m here (that makes it sound like this is an awful place to be and I’m avoiding people – I’m not, I’m just trying to find the balance between the alone time I need and the time I need and want to spend with my family). And during that, I think that if I can keep aware of my emotions and move myself downstairs to have some peace and quiet and solitude, as I did the other night in the nick of time, when I need it then I might do better.

 

Balanced with the suggested detoxing. I wonder if the person who suggested this is under the impression that I am spending all of my time around other people – while that was the case for December 24 and 25, it has been only half the day at most that I’m around anyone at all. If it was all people all the time, then the easy answer would be alone time with minimal contact with other persons. But when my alone time is making me miserable too…I just feel like there’s something else.

Maybe I am picking up on things from my family members here (I think that was part of what this person was getting at? Maybe. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, and maybe I can find out more when he is available for further comment), and maybe there is someone or several someones here who are feeling very alone and upset. I do know that I can trace a pretty distinct path in my emotional and mental state related to the expectations I mentioned above, so I am pretty convinced that’s part of what I’m dealing with.

Then I found this picture while sorting through files on my computer:

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It occurred to me that maybe I need to detox from those frustrations and discouragements too, more than I realised. I don’t want to go into details about a story that isn’t mine to tell, but the crux of it is I have been feeling like things are kind of one-sided again, I got my hopes up regarding some messaging expectations which didn’t really happen, I am bothered by a few things that went on, and as much as I have been working on not letting my mind dwell on negative thoughts, replacing those negative thoughts with good thoughts, putting my energy not into feeling sorry for myself but in projects and reading and Bible study and prayer and spending time with those whom I get to be with at the moment, I do still have some negative feelings from that (primarily, the aforementioned loneliness and now some frustrations because I don’t feel particularly heard). And that person was dealing with some incredibly difficult things, and perhaps I’ve picked up a bit of that, or at least I’m still dealing with the concern I felt and confusion and even frustration at times. Maybe I need to detox even from the people trying to help me.

Not that they are doing wrong by trying to help me, and I certainly don’t want them to stop or stay away. I appreciate them, and I don’t think their efforts or presence is the problem by any means. It’s just that we all have negative things in our lives, to not put too fine a point on it, and sometimes I catch a cold from someone who was wonderfully well-meaning and loving when they gave me a hug. The content could have been 100% right, and the delivery just bruised me up, and now I need some recovery (this one is a big maybe, I don’t like pointing fingers at someone else’s efforts, and I definitely don’t want to indulge in excuses). I just wonder if maybe I need to detox from the things that are frustrating me and making me cry and wearing me out, and perhaps that’s not just work and certain family members and a group chat. Maybe it’s the rest of the family and the helpful people I really want to be around too.

So that’s sort of my plan for the next few days. Not totally cutting myself off from others, that is not good for me, but being very deliberate about it, preparing myself first, detoxing after, keeping as aware as possible during and at the first sign of trouble, booking it out of there so I don’t let it become a problem. I’m also making myself prioritise keeping my space tidied, taking care of myself physically, as well as spiritually, taking time to read and write, to work on good projects, then to do some chores (something constructive that is not just reading and writing), before I do the distraction things online and such. And, most of all, and most difficult of all, limiting the days I get to check work and school emails to only three specific days now (and only once on those days) during the remainder of holidays, and leaving any chats and messaging until after I’ve done those priority things on my list.

We’ll see how it goes. I think I feel decently unfucked, and I’m going to spend a little time with other people, just enjoying company while not being obligated to talk. Which to me, is loveliness sometimes. And hopefully I will continue to unfuck myself for the rest of holidays.

That would be quite productive of me.

So Christmas is passed…

…and I am very peopled-out.

This has been a difficult Christmas in a lot of ways. It’s the first year that my Mom hasn’t had Christmas with me and my siblings either on Christmas or Boxing Day, and it bothers me. Since my parents split, Christmas has always been a less-than-perfect compromise, so now I’m kind of used to it, but it’s still…brutally unfair that we can’t all be together. My time with my significant other has been scant and our communication has been markedly limited by things he’s taking care of – which I understand and I’m at peace about it, but some days my heart misses him more. He hopes it’s temporary; I am being very cautious about what I hope for, only because I’m still working on keeping my hopes and expectations consistently untangled. Regardless, for right now, this is the way things are. Hence, I am blogging instead of talking to him about this stuff (multitasking, he gets these in his email so he’ll be up to speed, and I need to talk about it and sort things out a little).

Holidays are always a bit stressful simply because family can be stressful. Overall, this has been a better year. But these people to whom I am related and love so very much do not know how to plan well. My dream is to someday host Christmas for my family and make detailed plans and backup plans and just for one beautiful Christmas season not be subject to everyone else being too polite when people ask “What time?” so they say “Oh, whenever” and no one ever makes a bloody decision.

I also would like to be able to smile sweetly at certain family members as I explain that under my roof there is no mocking of anyone in this family, particularly my little brother, and that it’s probably time that they grew up and worked on being nice instead of allowing their insecurities to nudge them into asshole-mode, and would they like another cookie?

I have loved getting to visit with my family, it’s really just been the odd time that there’s been an issue. It’s just been a lot of people, a lot of noise, a lot of talking, a lot of Cards Against Humanity that went on for about 2 hours longer than it needed to… aaaand I’ve hit my limit :o)

The upside is, I am more aware of this limit, why I reach it, and what to do about it. I realised yesterday that this is something I’ve been attempting to deal with my entire life. When I was a kid and would go to camp, with some of my best friends, I would end up so exhausted that either during camp or afterward I would just burst into tears and not be able to fully stop crying for a solid half hour. I always thought I was overtired, because no one would fucking sleep (and hey, I am all for staying up and playing Janitor into the wee hours, but then our lovely camp leaders wanted us up at like 7 am, and at some point sanity needs to kick in), and I’d get home and my family would want me to talk to them about camp and have supper with them and all I wanted to do was go to sleep, and cue the uncontrollable sobbing. It was like torture. And I hated that I had so little emotional control, still hate it when that happens (although it’s not quite as extreme).

But now I realise it wasn’t lack of sleep necessarily; somewhat, but primarily it’s being around people all the time, constantly, not having a moment to myself, not having time to think, alone, sans company, always trying to figure out what was the correct way to behave, what I need to do and say, and it was fun but it was exhausting in a whole other way. Sleep helped some, but I just needed to be left alone, not give a blow by blow of my 5-day camp to my well-meaning but vastly unhelpful family. I needed to not have to interact or think about what to say, I needed peace and quiet. Because I can run on little sleep for a long time. I’m in grad school, it’s almost easy. But I cannot handle people all the time, day in, day out, without some very deep instincts kicking in and pushing me to get my alone time however I need to .

And similarly, this explains why I absolutely did not want, after a week of school and all my afterschool activities, to go to student conferences and conventions and hang out with either the lovely but very needy people I was good friends with or attempt to hang out with classmates who were only acquaintances and I did not have the energy or desire to attempt to deal with beyond class… I wanted to read, watch tv, play piano, and please, God, don’t surprise me with plans.

So here I’ve been very aware of how being around people so much for the last two days is wearing on me. And it’s worth it, definitely; I don’t get to see these family members more than a couple times a year, and I miss them and I love them, and it’s absolutely worth it. But now I’m done. Now, we enter the recovery and self love phase.

Starting with: limited communication. I caught up on messages tonight, and now I’m done with that (apart from staying logged into chat, because while my expectations are culled, I’m still a little bit desperate and need to at least feel like I am making every opportunity to keep channels of communication open on the off-chance we can spend even a few minutes together). I have sequestered myself in the basement with tea, so I can stay up and make good use of this time while the rest of the house is asleep, and food, and I am watching tv, and I put lotion on to try to help heal my skin that is all red and cracked and sore because I’ve washed my hands a thousand times in the last week, and I am going to paint my nails, and I am blogging because it’s cathartic, and I am not going to check work emails, I am not going to work on any work things for until at least day after tomorrow (possibly later), and I am going to organise things on my computer because it de-stresses me, and I am going to try to figure out how to make red-coloured gingerbread cookies using beets because I want to have another lovely stress-reducing baking day soon, and tomorrow I am going to stay in my pajamas for a while, sleep in, watch Star Trek and hopefully Doctor Who with my Dad (kind of a Christmas tradition around here), and that’s it.

I’m also deeply appreciative of the relatively taciturn nature of this household. I realise now that I have made past visits awkward because I think that I ought to be able to talk to my Dad and his wife like I do my Mom (we talk almost constantly), but my Dad is more like me. We don’t talk unless we have something to say, and otherwise we’re good with being silent. He’s not offended, he’s not uncomfortable, he’s not upset, nothing is wrong…we just get to enjoy each other’s company in silence, and it’s beautiful. More and more, I realise this was definitely the right way to spend my Christmas this year.

But I am still being very careful now that I know I’ve hit, or at least come very close to, my limit. I’m limiting contact with others (email, left a group chat that was stressing me, going to turn my phone off a good chunk of tomorrow, avoiding work stuff, etc.), and I’m going to prioritise what feeds my soul. I’ve been doing so much better with daily devotions, and they’ve made a world of difference; I want to keep that up. I have already de-stressed from most of work, now I de-stress/detox from being around people at intense levels for the last two days. Then I can refuel for my return to work. And I want to do this well.

This starts with keeping proper focus. As always, eyes on God. That helped today, although I still miss him and my emotions are still running high and it made for some tears earlier. But it’s okay. This really was a good Christmas, and still is, in many ways. Way less family drama this year, and so much to be grateful for. So I will focus on the good things, the beauty that’s all around me (we got a gorgeous snowfall the last few days, and it’s cold and it’s made the roads a bit tricky, but it’s so white and sparky and fresh and lovely outside…), and I will remember that God holds it all. It’s okay. Even if I don’t always feel it emotionally, I have faith, which means I know it regardless.

So Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

 

You Have Known Me…

I read this beautiful passage in my Bible study tonight, Psalm 139:1-6, 13-17:

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!

“You know when I sit down and when I rise up…You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways…” I realised tonight that this means God knows my bad habits, my cycles, my vicious circles, my struggles, my weaknesses as well as He knows…everything. He knows them better than do.

“For You formed my inward parts…I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works…” But those things are not me, the bad habits and weak spots. God does not create faulty works, He does not make mistakes, He does not produce shoddy workmanship. So those things are not me, not created ‘me’. And I ought to discard them and be more ‘me’.

Not to continue those things and excuse them saying ‘that’s not me’ or ‘I don’t know what came over me’ or just to act as though this anomalous and inconsequential. But to genuinely drop those things. And be created ‘me’. What could be bad about that?

There is a fear and reluctance that I tend to feel when I start working on dropping certain things, a fear and reluctance that is all illusion and lies. Lies that try to convince me that I love indulgence more than ‘me’, more than being genuinely fulfilled, truly expressed, truly knowing myself, more than freedom and hope and a life lived abundantly. Lies that being ‘me’ is scarier than these familiar habits and cycles. Because it’s unknown. But God is my shield and my strength, my refuge, my peace, my God.

So…why not? Just…stop.

Stop.

Being.

Not.

Me.

A Little Shift In Perception

Time for another theory.

I think that I have to understand that what people say is their interpretation; it’s what they see. Obvious, I know, but bear with me. I’m revising a lot of counter-productive thinking patterns.

What someone else says is not necessarily the objective truth, particular when they are talking about the future (specifically, I’m thinking about when people make plans, commitments, etc.). A person can only provide their subjective view, really. And it is inherently flawed simply by virtue of human finitude. This doesn’t mean I ought to expect people to get things wrong, but I must understand, through and through, that it is quite possible they are wrong at least in part, that they have not entirely nailed down in perfect form the objective truth, that they, like I, see as though in a mirror darkly…and I must tailor my own perception/reception of what they say accordingly.

I think, I hope, that I have humility regarding my own perspective. That I recognise the limitations of my own perception, even if I am sometimes blind to the limitations themselves and how they affect me. I need to also understand the the perspective of others is equally humble – they may have a great deal they can teach me, knowledge and wisdom I do not posses and need, but if I pedestalise what someone else says, even with something as simple as future plans, then I take it out of its proper context.

And if I’ve learned anything from literature and history studies, it’s that taking things out of context is a very bad idea.

 

God, however, has a perfectly objective perspective. I am supposed to pedestalise what He says; His Word is intended to be regarded as objective Truth and therefore as reliable and formative.

At the same time, my own perspective is still subjective, and therefore my interpretation of what God says is innately humble: finite and imperfect and destined not to be formative, but to be subject to constant correction, forever and ever, amen.

Now, I’m pretty comfortable with that last paragraph, and I have been for a while. There are certain theological precepts which I hold to be true and foundational to my other beliefs, and ideally my actions as well, and others which have been revised, still others which are currently being revised or are pending further information before I even choose a stance. The pending pile is quite sizable, to be honest.

What I realised yesterday is that I tend to expect people to do their best to be like God. And not in a “Christians ought to be like Christ” sort of way in this instance. Rather, if someone says they will do X, I automatically expect they will do it. It is not just a matter of having high standards regarding someone’s word and their commitment and their trustworthiness; it’s a pattern of thinking that is so deeply ingrained in my mind that I often am not aware of the thoughts themselves, although I keenly feel the effects. I can feel myself getting my hopes up; I go right away into planning for and around such things; I believe them, and I immediately begin acting or preparing to act accordingly.

The only hiccup is…people are not God. Which means there is a horrible error in this thought-pattern which so often dominates my mind and resultant behaviour.

It would be so much better if I understood automatically that the things someone says, their stated intentions and plans, is their subjective perspective, their interpretation, their hopes based on what they want and what they know and what they feel at the time. But it is not concrete, absolute, objective fact as though it has already been lived; it is only fact about what they hope and want. Just as I have learned not to assume that everything an author or professor or mentor whom I appreciate and admire is accurate, and that disagreeing with certain aspects does not negate that which the person has gotten right, I am now gradually realising that not everything that comes out of someone’s mouth, however well-intentioned, is accurate objectively.

At least, I’m realising this in my mind. My emotions are, as usual, lagging behind significantly.

This is particularly relevant when it comes to stated plans.

I can subject myself to someone’s view as objective fact, I can start planning my day, my week, my year, my life around what they say they want/will do. And I can continue to be disappointed and frustrated by their finitude and periodic incapacity to do exactly as they say.

 

Or.

I can remind myself, manually for the time being, that they cannot predict the future. What they say is well-intentioned, likely from the heart, genuinely meant, but its feasibility, its reality, and its accuracy in terms of predicting what will happen is questionable until it is proven fact.These things are not realised yet; they are pending and subject to change, derailment, and success.

Human finitude. That might be the key to me grasping this, finally. Much to my Dom’s relief, I imagine, considering how long he’s tried to get me to realise the issue.

We can aim for it, work toward it, hope for it, but reliance needs to be…tempered. At least until it becomes concrete, realised, factual.

Lived.

Now, the question occurred to me too, should people be speaking with such certainty, particularly regarding future plans? I think perhaps not; partly this is based on the fact that it frustrates me and I’d rather people not promise me anything or plan anything with me at all than break or change what they said before; partly this is based on my desire for language that is as accurate as possible; and partly this is based on James 4:13-17:

‘Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.’ (emphasis mine)

But really, it doesn’t really matter. One, because whether or not people should, they do. And I’m going to need to learn to deal with it decently, or I will continue to spin my tires in an incredibly painful way. Two, even if people shouldn’t, it is not my prerogative to correct them. So let me just back away from that.

I do know that I am not at all happy about the idea of me speaking carelessly. Words matter immensely to me. This comes from my love of writing, particularly regarding theology, where word-choice is essential – shifts in nuance can have an incredible ripple effect, as I have been wont to rant upon when the mood strikes. It bothers me deeply to realise that so much of what I say has been falling through. While some of that has been curbed by my dealing with my habitual excuses, I think much more could, and should, be addressed by me watching what I say. Why not state the conditions I know of? Why am I so reluctant to say, if I have time I will do X, or if I hear back from so and so we can do this, or if I’m up for it I can go, and so forth? Probably because I think people want a defined answer (I know I want defined answers), and I want to please people and avoid disappointing anyone, so I give answers that in retrospect were quite unwise and ill-considered. Not that I answer hastily, but I do not take myself and my other commitments and my needs and the simple fact that there are only so many hours in the day into consideration, not sufficiently. Gradual improvement is happening, but I don’t want to say it’s all good until I know this sticks for a good, long while. Sometimes a defined answer can’t be given, and therefore shouldn’t be given. I want to start holding myself to this.

Of course, there is a balance to all these things that I am keeping in mind. I do not, as I mentioned, want to start assuming everything others say is wrong or so flawed as to be untrue all the time. People get things right and follow through on commitments; perhaps less often than I personally would like, but they do. I need to make sure that my acknowledgement of my limits doesn’t devolve again into an excuse marathon, and that I do my level best to do that to which I have committed myself. And where appropriate, to meet the expectations of others as best I can, even if I am not initially sure that I can give that defined answer.

That was one of the things that made me a good submissive before, because I would push myself to my limits, I would prioritise, I would follow through, I would obey as best as I possibly could, and I loved every single second of it. And darn it, I was damn good at it, too. I don’t like that I set that down a while ago, somewhere, and neglected to pick it back up.

I want to be that person again. At least, I want to retain that part of who I was, there are other things I’m fine with leaving in the past. Hence my current attempts to re-train my mind to be constantly aware of limits and choosing reasonable degrees of trust, rather than either giving it all right out the gate or withholding it all because I’ve set myself up to be hurt and disappointed so much. Not to excuse untrustworthy behaviour, but to recognise it and accept as a reality, and live accordingly, not getting bent out of shape all the time over it.

So in sum, I need an incredible amount of grace.

Wrong Focus

I feel kind of silly.

I’m not entirely sure when it happened, but I began putting off things that feed my soul again. I mean really feed my soul. I’d pray, but not dig into my Bible or read this book that my significant other had recommended or work on Christmas things very much even. It just sort of got pushed out by other things, right around the time that I had my bad days. I didn’t stop entirely, I even picked up a few extra sermon podcasts which have been excellent, but my dedicated time dwindled to snippets.

I made the comment in my last entry that I wasn’t sure what I’d been doing differently. Sure, I was busier with other things. I didn’t feel like I was busier than usual, though. Putting things off some, and while that was only a few days I do know that’s a habit I cannot afford to resurrect. So I had a bit of angst about that, plus some concern about how peace-less I’d been feeling, and worst of all I felt like I was missing something important. Something right in front of me. And I was perhaps deceiving myself and making excuses again and not realising it – I wasn’t making excuses to avoid Bible study and such, as I said I didn’t stop altogether, I still prayed a lot, and I was picking up the other sermons, so I didn’t think that was the issue. But I still had that fear that I was missing something I should be seeing. So the other night, I got my act together and made time to read more of the aforementioned book, Thriving in Babylon: Why Hope, Humility, and Wisdom Matter in a Godless Culture (which is an excellent book if you are a believer), and I came across the answer. Which, sure enough, was in front of me the entire time.

I took my eyes off of God.

I have said so many times, on here, talking to other people primarily, that the key element I have learned in this Bible study over the past few months is that it is essential to keep one’s eyes on God. If I focus on the surrounding problems, I get discouraged. If I focus on the hurt, I get discouraged. If I focus on all the stuff I’ve fallen behind on (but am making pretty good strides on this week!), I get distracted. If I focus on avoiding the hurt of whatever I’m dealing with and indulge my desire to be distracted, I, obviously, get distracted. And then I will pray, and still have no peace. I will mourn and just keep mourning. And this eventually, if it goes on long enough, dissuades me from doing the things I should, because it feels like they aren’t working, so what’s the point?

But if I keep my eyes on God, that peace comes back. If I remember what He’s already seen me through, what He’s already saved me from, what He’s already shown me and taught me, then I have a foundation for my faith. If I remember who my God is and what He is capable of, I have hope. Perhaps not necessarily hope for specific things I want very much, but I have hope that no matter what I am given in the end, it will be okay. If I look to Him, my problems do not disappear, things are not ‘magically’ all better; but my mind is clearer, often solutions or at least a more helpful approach in the meantime occurs to me when I’m not chasing the hurts and frustrations around and around my brain, and I can pray, really pray, with gratitude that strengthens my faith and gives me strength and peace when I need it.

So today has been a much better day. I still miss the daylights out of my Dom, I’m still more than a little broken-hearted. But I haven’t had any crying episodes, nor have I had the urge to stay in bed all day apart from the usual “do I have to go to work on a Monday” episode, I don’t feel forlorn, Christmas music isn’t making my heart hurt so much that I start to avoid it, but the Christmas spirit is back and I am appreciating the things I do have, the little moments like waking up to a very snowy day today, Christmas lights, the lovely people I get to work with, etc. It’s bizarre, and it sounds so trite and cliched, believe me I was the first person to think “yeah, right” when I’d hear this stuff. But I have to eat my words/thoughts now, because it’s genuinely helping me now. I feel like I can breathe and I don’t have to avoid my emotions; that’s a big deal.

And tonight, as I continue reading, I came across another reminder of this: “When we focus on the size of our problems, we forget about the size of our God.” My theology never changed; I never thought that God couldn’t handle things, or even that He wouldn’t. I have never doubted that God is good; I do sometimes doubt that what I want is what God is going to give me, because He has not promised that specifically, but I have never doubted that God is who He says He is. And in my mind I didn’t drop those key theological concepts. But I did stop, for a few days, living like they were true. I took my eyes off of Him, and I looked at the surrounding pain and disappointment and fear, and it just sucked. Because there is no way that I can claw myself out of that; I’ve tried. I can sort of wait it out sometimes, but then either something else happens or I get used to living with it and before I know it I have convinced myself this is the way things have to be, my life just includes a lot of misery and I have to just live with it.

However.

With a little refocusing, not to ignore everything else but to put everything else in its proper context, subject to God, where my eyes are on Him, when I wake up, when I drive, when I work, when I wash dishes, when I pray, when I’m happy, when I’m scared, when I’m sad, when a certain someone has gotten under my skin like no other and I have to walk away from the keyboard to calm down for a few moments, when I lay down at night, if I just keep my eyes on Him then I don’t feel so weighed down, dragged down, pinned down by misery and despair. Literally nothing else has changed, this is the weird part. But I can breathe. I can think. I can function without having to distract myself all the time (a very big deal). I can enjoy Christmas, even if circumstances aren’t what I want. I can let go of things in a good way while still having some hope, even if I still haven’t a clue as to what specifically I get to hope for (which drives my mind a little crazy, but my heart is okay with it). I’m just incredibly grateful for this book and to my Dom for recommending it, because I needed this.

And I feel so silly for noting that key theme over and over and over until I’m sure certain people are really tired of me bringing it up all the time, and when the going got tough I frickin’ forgot it.

Honestly, Belle, where is your head?

So for now, this method of navigation is working. It’s not necessarily about more prayer or more Bible study or more of anything really. It’s about me keeping my eyes on Him.

I am doing a few ‘practical application’ things to help keep my expectations in check too, like keeping out of chat (because as soon as I log in I’m hoping that somehow, randomly, maybe, just maybe my Dom will be there) and making myself not put off things I want to do so I’m not frustrated waiting for something that I have zero guarantee can happen (which is fine, I just need to have a good attitude about it and not set myself up for failure here), and I’m letting myself shape multiple ideas in my head of what Christmas will be like this year, and I am actively searching for good and beautiful things in all scenarios. Not to hope for everything, but to remind myself that if I get snowed in, things will still be wonderful; if I don’t get to see certain people over the holidays, I will still get to see these other people; if I don’t get to do these things I want, maybe I can do these other things; that if I don’t get this particular experience, then it’s still going to be a beautiful, joyful, wonderful holiday. Because it’s Christmas. And I haven’t watched all those Christmas specials for nothing.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone reading.

 

Everything I Have Learned About Sugar Cookies

Brief Intro:

I have a few things I’ve practiced baking/decorating a lot. And because it’s Christmastime, and sugar cookies have always been a staple of Christmas baking in my family, this is my gift to all of you lovely readers. My strategy for yummy and pretty sugar cookies.

I will not be one of those blogs that tells you the inane details of their day that no one cares about so you have to scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll until you finally get to the recipe you were searching for in Google and that puts all the ‘helpful tips’ scattered about in the 37 paragraphs above into a workable context. Logic shall win this day!

Recipes:

  • 1 cup of butter (softened)
  • 1.5 cups of granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups of flour + another 1-1.5 cups
  1. Cream the butter and sugar together – you can do this with a mixer, but I prefer to soften my butter until it’s partially melted and then whisk the butter and sugar together.
  2. Add the eggs one at a time, and then the vanilla.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients, including the 3 cups of flour only, and then add to the wet ingredients and combine well. This is where a large, sturdy wooden spoon works best; I tend to use my hands for the last little bit of working. Mixer is fine if you have a fairly powerful one, because the cookie dough gets thick.
  4. The dough is quite sticky at this point, particularly if you use the melted butter method. If you want quite cookies that expand and puff quite a bit in the oven, then chill the dough first, then you can roll it out on a floured counter and cut your cookies. Or:
  5. If you prefer cookies that keep their shape (my preference) and spread minimally, then add another 1-1.5 cups of flour to your dough. It should be much less sticky, but not dry and crumbly. You don’t want to add so much flour that you end up with cracks when you roll it out. With this method you do not have to chill the dough, but still flour the counter.
  6. Roll out the dough to desired thickness. I do fairly thick cookies unless I have a cutter that also makes impressions in the dough – then thick cookies don’t work so well. But otherwise, the commonly recommended 1/4″ thick cookies…no, thank you, ma’am. I’m not a fan of crunchy cookies, so I roll them thick (3/8″ roughly) and bake them carefully so they stay soft.
  7. Bake the cookies at 350F. Baking time will vary based on elevation (I use this recipe in two different provinces, and it can shift up to 4 minutes) and thickness of cookies…so I can give you a range of approximately 8-14 minutes. Guess who doesn’t use a timer? Bake your cookies until they are done, and see Tips & Tricks below for more info.

Icing:

I have three different icings I use for sugar cookies: basic butter icing (which tastes the best, imho), glaze, and royal icing (I know, royal icing can be a pain and a disappointment, bear with me).

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Butter Icing

For this, I use my wonderful KitchenAid mixer because it can whip icing like nobody’s business. Mix 1 cup of softened butter with 1 cup of icing sugar, then add a splash of vanilla, a tablespoon of milk, and another cup of icing sugar. Divide your icing and colour it as you please.

Then you get to mess with consistency. If you just want to spread it with a knife, then you may want to thin it out with a little more milk.

If you want to pipe it and keep its shape, then this should be about the right consistency for the icing to hold its shape. It will need to dry some to be stackable, and it will stay fairly soft, just fyi.

If you want to pipe nice, smooth lines (and have your icing be a little shiny) then I have had good results when I heat small amounts in the microwave for only 10 seconds at a time to avoid boiling the icing which will make it go rock hard and it becomes a useless mass. And then I put it in my piping bag, and ice until it cools off too much. It’s kind of messy, but it dries harder which is nice for stacking cookies.

Glaze

I started dipping the top of my cookies in glaze a few years ago, to give a nice, smooth layer of icing over which I could pipe (see picture above). The easiest way to make this glaze is icing sugar + milk, mixed together with a fork until it’s as thick as you’d like it. I like mine to be fairly thick (I like a good layer of icing), so it feels a little thicker than white glue. Then I dip the cookie in the icing, use my handy icing spatula to remove some of the excess, and then let the icing harden (I let it sit a solid hour or more) before piping on top. This is way faster than when I would do a layer of butter icing and then pipe on top.

Because I still like the taste of butter icing, I have made glaze with a little melted butter and vanilla mixed in. This glaze still hardens on top, but can stay soft underneath – which creates some logistical issues. If you want coloured glaze, I like this icing; for white glaze, skip the vanilla.

Royal Icing

Okay, I’m the first to admit, I’m not crazy about royal icing because it doesn’t taste like much. Butter icing is way better. So I in no way, shape, or form advocate using only royal icing unless you are making a gingerbread house that will not be eaten.

However.

This year, we had great results with this recipe from Sweetopia. Check out her tutorials on piping lines and dealing with icing consistency too, they were fantastic. I still do the above glaze, and then this icing worked great for piping, and hardened way more than the butter icing ever has. It doesn’t taste bad but I would never use it as a standalone icing. It hardens fast, fyi, so if you want to add sprinkles, sugar, or anything, do it right away.

Tips & Tricks:

  1. When rolling out the dough, always roll from the middle to the edge, life is just easier that way.
  2. If your dough becomes too dry, you can get away with working in a little water. But be aware that even this dough can become overworked and make a ‘tougher’ cookie.
  3. Always, always, always flour a cutter that also makes impressions well so your cookie does not remain in the cutter. And if I’m not making any sense, I mean cutters like this.
  4. Please make your life a happier one by lining your pans with parchment paper. Scraping the lovely cookies off of the &^%# @%$^#R%& ^%!*^&$@ pan is not a good time.
  5. For soft cookies, I bake them until I can just see them browning around the base (about 12 minutes in the oven for thick cookies). If the tops start to brown, then that is the absolute longest I want to leave them in.
  6. If you like crisp, crunchy cookies, no judgement; just bake them longer but do not change the oven temperature, and watch the tops as well as the base, as the base will likely brown faster than the tops.
  7. Use butter not margarine in the cookies and the icing – margarine will make the cookies spread more, and your icing stay too soft to stack your cookies without them sticking a lot.
  8. Icing spatulas are a gift from God.
  9. I deal with icing consistency after colouring because I use the regular liquid food colouring (unless I need a really intense red or green, which I try to avoid because even gels can give the icing a weird taste) and for small amounts of icing that can already mess with the consistency and sometimes requires a correction of more icing sugar.
  10. Sift your icing sugar. It’s a pain, but it’s less of a pain than dealing with lumpy icing that clogs your icing tips.
  11. Use the saran wrap method of filling your icing bags. So much cleaner. If you are using a soft icing (like royal icing), line a small bowl with the piece of saran wrap, spoon your icing into it, then wrap and proceed as usual (the bowl keeps the icing from running all over the place while you wrap it).
  12. Practice. Practice, practice, practice. Sometimes it’s nice to choose one or two cutters, make 4 dozen of them, and work on just a couple of designs. You can usually wipe piped icing off of a glazed cookie if you do it right away (with your finger works just fine, or a piece of paper towel), and start over. Or you can eat the evidence. Sometimes I need a break from eating my evidence, and then I resort to wiping and re-trying.
  13. Freeze cookies that need to be stored longer than three days. Storing baking in the refrigerator will dry it out, but freezing cookies not only makes them last longer but can also help keep your butter icing looking nice.
  14. For icing ideas, Pinterest. I work way better when I have a template in front of me, and I get pretty much all my ideas from Pinterest.
  15. Sugar pearls are fantastic. Not hard little ball bearings like those silver things, they’re soft enough you can crush them between your thumb and forefinger. They are very pretty, and they just taste like…sugar.
  16. Have milk on hand. Trust me on this.

 

Story of My Life as it Relates to Sugar Cookies for Those Still Reading:

I grew up baking these cookies with my Mom. Every year at Christmastime, we would bake two things for sure: sugar cookies and butter tarts. To this day, those are two of my most favourite things in the entire world.

Just getting out that same box of cookie cutters (Mom actually has this set of red cutters like the one I linked above, and I adore them even if they are tricky to use) and picking them up, the sight and feel of them triggering so many memories, is the most wonderful dose of Christmas spirit for me. I have my own cutters now too, but I still have to use at least a couple of my Mom’s.

I remember my Mom giving me and my siblings each a little ball of dough, and we’d select our cutters, and roll it out, make our cookies, being careful to flour everything from the little bowls of flour we were each assigned. I remember my brother knocking the ice cream pail of flour onto the floor one year too – which we always mention every time we bake these cookies. I remember icing them, in pink and green because we could never get the icing to quite go red.

And then somewhere during my university years I started working on my icing technique, and messing around with glazing them and using different icing tips, etc. I may have become mildly obsessed. Mom would wait to make sugar cookies, at least, until I could come home, and every year I’d try something a little different. I’d plan for weeks in advance usually, she and I coordinating ahead of time, and me leaving room to pack all of my decorating paraphernalia in my suitcase.

But the tradition has grown. One year my Dad’s wife asked for the recipe, and then asked me to bake them with her when I was out visiting. Since then it’s become a tradition to have a baking day there too. One year I even got my brother to help with cookies. His were zombies, but he was joining in on the tradition for the first time in years, and that was more than enough for me.

And now this year my sister-in-law is planning a baking day at her house. She and I first managed to bond over sugar cookies. We’ve had some rocky patches, nothing too horrible but holidays can be notably strained, so this baking day is already a little Christmas miracle that makes me so excited and hopeful that we can build a real friendship.

It’s not just the cookies. It’s being in that same kitchen I learned to make those cookies in. It’s the same house being filled with the smell of baking cookies, and listening to the same Christmas music as we bake and ice, it’s getting to spend time with the people I love. And getting to push myself and try new ideas. I cannot draw or paint or sculpt, but I can ice the daylights out of cookies.

So, I have had my baking weekend with my Mom (it’s morphed). I am looking forward to one, possibly two, more baking day with family back home. And I have a jug of milk and jar full of cookies, and Michael Buble and Twila Paris and Michael W. Smith, so my breakfasts over the next few weeks are going to be delightful.

 

Attempting to Navigate Expectations & Doubt

So this is my struggle between yesterday and today, and probably continuing for a while. I am trying to find a decent balance between expectations and doubting someone.

This has gotten me into trouble before. A lot, actually. I tend to believe what people say, just at face value. And it takes a long time with a distinct pattern to get me to stop believing what someone says. Generally, I instantly have my hopes up, because I believe them. I start planning my day around this thing that this person is going to do. I start looking forward to it. Even if they make it conditional, a ‘might’, and I am trying to be cautiously hopeful, it’s still a lot of hope.

And then when it doesn’t happen, more accurately when whatever it is can’t happen, I am disappointed, either in the person or the circumstances.

Recently, my response to this was to take a more cynical view and essentially doubt everything someone said. It was one of those attitudes thickly laced with spite: if I was going to be left alone, fine, I’d be alone; if I couldn’t count on whoever to show up, fine, I wouldn’t plan around them or wait for them; if I couldn’t believe what they said about this sort of scheduling, fine, I would take everything they said with a grain of salt on a good day. And this was unfortunately me swinging way too far to the other side: doubt.

That doubt prevented me from genuinely forgiving this person, and that festered into all kinds of nastiness. All this is in the past, and it’s been dealt with.

Except now I’m re-facing a similar sort of situation now, and attempting to navigate my way through it properly this time.

I just don’t really know what that is.

I want to believe I can go to someone when they say they will be right there waiting for me when I’m ready to talk. I want to be understanding when I do go to them a short while later, and they don’t respond because they had to tend to something else, that was genuinely important. But at the same time, I hoop myself by expecting them to be there, wanting them to be there, and when they can’t be it hurts. So I am trying to be understanding, I know in my head what happened, and that it shouldn’t be cause to doubt them. That hurt is still there, and I don’t want it to be there.

So my inclination is then to try to mentally edit what they say when it includes any kind of timeline/scheduling. But I know, too, that this is a pattern of thinking that contributed to me being in a bad place before, because it opened the door to a lot of doubt and mistrust and bitterness, and just…it wasn’t good.

Then it occurs to me too that perhaps what I always ought to be saying, mentally, is “if God wills it.” Maybe that is the proper perspective, and I suspect that’s a significant part of it (so I am going to try reminding myself of that, it’s the only reasonable thing I’ve come up with). But see, then I struggle too with disappointment when I want X and I pray for X and I hope for X and then X doesn’t happen, and then I wonder…was I wrong to pray for it? do I hope too much? did I do something wrong? is my struggling because I am not properly understanding and acknowledging God’s sovereignty? should I not want the things I want? should I not be asking for them? should I be praying that God changes me instead?

I don’t want to hurt myself like this anymore. I don’t want to doubt, but I don’t know how to keep my hopes to a reasonable degree so I don’t end up spending the better part of two days crying and fighting with my mind to not follow negative patterns of thinking, to not blame but to forgive, to keep going and not let myself sit in self-pity because I feel hurt and alone and a little bit hopeless. I am tired of hurting myself. I just don’t see a way around that if I’m still going to try to hope. And what is really frustrating is a few days ago, I was in a really good place, I could just go with the flow and enjoy what I got and if I got nothing then that was fine too, and I was in pretty good spirits. I don’t know what’s changed, and I don’t really have a clear idea on how to try fixing it. I feel like I had this…spiritual high or something that gave me momentum, and now I’ve run out of that and I’m just facing the same old, same old. And scared that I’m going to be in this limbo forever. And then I feel guilty for thinking something so faithless, and I repent, and try to distract myself, and then a few hours later I go through it again.

And this is why I don’t normally write when I’m in the melancholy place. This is the muck I’m working through currently. And for right now, I just am going to try to keep going, and keep watching my thoughts, and pray, and read my Bible, and finish up my Bible study homework, which I keep letting myself put off – and that’s probably part of the issue. That’s what I’m going to try to hold myself accountable to, that and having patience and not despairing just because I have a couple of bad days.

Christmastime Is Here…

Oh boy, where to start…

My last ‘journal’ post was about how I’ve realised, thanks in large part to my significant other, that I have developed this horrible habit of using excuses to veer into self-pity for various reasons. This was a brutal realisation in many ways, although a markedly necessary one – see, I tend to hate excuses and self-pity and try to avoid both…and yet, here I am a recovering excuser and self-pitier.

That doesn’t mean that everything I’ve been saying/doing has been about excuses and self-pity. But I do go through phases of it where it’s more intense, regarding certain areas of my life. And this was, in fact, the key to that little indulgence vs. self love issue I was having. I would make excuses that would lead to indulgence; I would indulge in self-pity, rather than actually doing what I needed to do to deal with the things I didn’t like. This is such an insidious thought-pattern that I keep finding it attempting to creep back in; and thank God, I am learning to be more aware of such thought patterns and curb them early. So this is quite literally a ‘there but for the grace of God…’ situation. This doesn’t mean I don’t have real problems and real hurts either; it’s how I go about dealing with them. And I think for the moment that’s all I want to say about that.

I am much more productive overall now that I am aware of my excuses and can identify the self-pity attitudes. I am encouraged when I find I am more aware and not just carried along by these patterns of thinking; and my Dom has been a wonderful encouragement in this too. But. I am scared that I will slip. That I will fall back into it, that it will sneak up on me like it did before. I am scared that I will indulge one of those errant thoughts just a little too long before realising, and make a horrible mistake. I deeply hurt someone I care about very much because of this pattern of thinking, and I still am astounded that he chose to forgive me and that we’re good, but it was truly horrible knowing I’d hurt him like that the first time. I don’t know what I would do if did it again. And it’s one thing if I did it in full knowledge, but I feel like some of it was just…lack of awareness of the truth of the matter, and y’all ignorance is not bliss, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Stay in school, kids.

So I’m scared. And between yesterday and today I have been both randomly and not so randomly emotional (which I seriously hope is due to hormone fluctuations because that would explain a lot), which has been fun to deal with. My Dom has identified a key contributing factor, but I kind of suspect it’s a culmination of things.

I am getting better at dealing with people, and not being caught up in things that drain me, or at least not allowing the forced extroversion that is my life 6 days a week (lately 7) to suck all the ‘nice’ out of me. I am learning to take time for myself and say no to certain things and set more boundaries…much of this is in retrospect, but it’s like a day or two later not weeks or months later, so that’s progress. I am praying more, and finding it wonderfully effective. I am studying more, and enjoying it, and finding so many good things I will need several more posts to describe them all. Bible study has wrapped up for the year, resuming in January, so that’s lovely (although, they made us change groups and play an icebreaker game, which honestly, why? why do people still think this is a good idea? we are told to cultivate relationships and build trust and then you mix us up and have us spend 20 minutes doing one of the most hated activities of all time? is this a ploy to have us all bond over a common enemy? or a ‘misery loves company’ kinda deal?).

My Mom was wonderful this week, and she came over to help me get going on my Christmas decorations! So I finally have things going, my living room and kitchen are at least 50% done, my tree is up and lit, most decorations are sorted into the various areas of my apartment. I still have to deal with my bedroom and the spareroom and find my window stickers ASAP, but progress is being made! I have gotten to listen to a lot of Christmas music, which is also helping me pursue good thoughts, and unwind, and just take care of myself some more. My Mom and I baked a ton last weekend, so I have Christmas goodies too (need to have a baking post soon…). I got to wear my Santa hat all week, which is good because it’s cold and snowing!!!!!!!!!!!!! Which I also love, when I don’t have to drive in it. It was absolutely beautiful to wake up to the big fluffy flakes a few days ago, and then today everything is blanketed in white…

Almost made up for the very scary hill I nearly began sliding back down whilst in the motor vehicle that does not do well in slush. Good times.

I don’t exactly know what else to update people on. I’ve been avoiding writing because…I’m not sure. I think a lot of what’s going on in my head and my heart is tough to put into words, and I have to keep reminding myself the point of this blog was to not worry so much about being understood but to just write and process and get it out rather than bottling it in. Still very much in the middle of this learning curve, along with several others. I am having kind of a rough day between the emotionalness and now my Dom is unable to be in chat for the next few days (which is not his fault, it’s just circumstances, and I understand; it’s just hard when we want so much to share Christmassy things because this means a great deal to both of us, and I’m dealing with some melancholy there). The lights are pretty, and the music is lovely, and the snowstorm has not knocked out the power so I still have internet, and these are all things for which I am very thankful.

I still feel overwhelmed sometimes about how much I need to do and ought to do. But I am attempting to focus on finishing one thing, one single thing, each day, and that’s helped some. I’m still very behind, but I’m getting there. Slowly. And one more week of work now, and I’m done. A few days off, then a flight home to visit the rest of my family, and Christmas, and lots of good memories to be made, and I get to hug people I really miss hugging. I have a lot of good, so many bright spots, I get to look forward to.

See, gradually re-training my brain.

And now that I am pretty sure everyone else is asleep, as it is nearly three in the morning, I am going to head outside to make a snowman.