The Gift of Going Second

I used to work at a charming little bookshop called “by the Book”.  It was right after I quit full-time ministry and before I became a teacher. I loved it. I have always been a reader. As a child I spent my money on two things. Candy and books. Books were and still are some of my best friends.

As much as I loved working at the bookstore, there was one season I loathed. Returns. Every quarter, a bookstore is allowed to pull all the books that have not sold within a certain time frame and send them back. Small bookstores need this in order to keep their shelves fresh and doors open. It really is a nice perk.

If you are the employee, however, this requires lots of boxing and schlepping and details. Three things that I don’t especially enjoy. It was like a really long tedious scavenger hunt. Searching for books that had been miscategorized or improperly shelved. My boss would hand me a 40 page list with the doomed titles circled in red and the hunt was on.

Later when I managed my own shop, I was amazed that certain employees thrived on returns. The challenge. The sense of accomplishment as they surveyed the stacks and stack of books that had been found. The list conquered.

I was not this employee. It was an exhausting chore. Sadly, I would gather all the books that would never go home with a loving fan. No one would dog ear their pages, scribble in the margins  or hand them off to a friend because, “You just have to read this.” No. These books were the unchosen. Unloved. Soon to be forgotten.

And inevitably, I would get distracted by one of the titles or the cover. It would pique my interest and I would sit down cross-legged and begin to read. 20 minutes would pass and I would think to myself, Maybe if we put this in Women, it would sell or If people could just see the cover then  someone would buy it. So I would rescue the ill-fated book, take it to the Women’s Section and give it reprieve for a few more months. Needless to say, follows directions is not one of my strengths.

It was on one of these days that I found a beautiful book that gave voice to an idea that had been brewing in my heart since my return to Maui. I can still remember the feeling of discovery as I sat on the carpet, my forehead pressed into my fists with the book open on my lap. It was called “Permission to Speak Freely”, by Anne Jackson. What blew me away was what the author called the “gift of going second”. She explains that when we are brave and share our story with someone-not just the pretty parts that can be pinned on Pinterest for the world to emulate. But when we confess the hard stuff, the dark stuff, the nitty-gritty honest struggles of the day-to-day, we give people the opportunity to open up as well. Or as the author calls it, the gift of going second.

Something in my soul started tingling. I call it the Holy Spirit hot flashes. When God puts his finger on my heart and whispers “Pay attention.” Sitting there in that bookstore years ago, I had no idea that He would be calling me to a lifetime of going first.

Sharing what the Lord is doing/has done in my life is easy for me (now). I am so amazed by his love, blown away by his grace and overwhelmed by his affection that it’s hard to keep my mouth shut. He rescued me so dramatically and thoroughly from a life of despair that it is impossible not to tell my story. It just flows freely from my lips, making it’s way into everyday conversations.

It has not always been this way. I had an incident in junior high that taught me to never be myself. To keep the real me untouchable so that no one could ever wound my soul like that again. So I learned how to blend. Vowing that I would never let someone know all of me. When I was dating and engaged, I began to let my walls down. But soon after we were married, I faced the greatest rejection I could imagine. When the person who says I do, changes their mind. But it would be years before I left. So I did what I had always done. Put on a brave face and blended into the background. Dying a slow death. Longing to be known.

It was when I moved back to Maui six years ago that I knew something in my life had to change. What I was doing was not working. In recovery they say, “We are only as sick as our secrets,” so I decided I would choose one person to reveal all of me to. My thinking was, I got myself in a mess by trying to do it on my own. I do not want to ever do that again. So this time around, whatever was going on in my life, one person would know it all.

Enter the Blond Bombshell. Gorgeous. Inside and out. I had known her before I got married. She actually threw my bridal shower. Coming out of a broken marriage, my biggest fear (besides ever being rejected like that again) was becoming bitter, hollow and angry. To me, the Blond Bombshell was everything I wanted to become. Kind. Warm. Inviting. Loving. Fun. Gracious. Charming. Generous. Thoughtful. Compassionate. Besides all that, she is a wonderful wife and incredible mom to two grown kids. But the main reason I chose her to help me navigate my way out of the darkness was because her life has not been easy. She was born with spinal bifida and has had to learn to walk four times in her life. Three times while raising children. And there is not a seed of bitterness, anger or pity in her. She has made peace with all of it before the Cross. That is why I choose her to be my secret keeper.

And I’ve told her some doozies. And she has walked me through some heart wrenching seasons. But she was also there when my heart, which had been frozen in fear, started beating again. And she was there when my dreams began to blossom. And she has been there, cheering me on, when I began to fly.

I write all of this because in my dream scenario, this blog would help others find freedom. That by going first on some hard issues, others might have the gift of going second. A lot of what I write might feel raw but the reality is I have been working on these issues for a while now. With the Blond Bombshell and the other amazing women God has brought into my life. My hope is that by being honest, vulnerable and transparent, we can get some conversations going and in the words of Goodwill Hunting, let the healing begin.

Love, Love, Love

The Girl Who Lives in My Head

 

Here is the actual excerpt from Permission to Speak Freely by Anne Jackson.

“Sometime later I was at a concert with a youth group I was working with. I noticed a girl sitting by herself and really felt God pressing on me to talk to her about porn. What an awkward conversation to start! But I did and after I was done sharing she broke down in tears. It turns out she had been trapped in porn since she was 10 years old. She never felt like she could tell anyone, and she thought she was the only one, so when I told her about my story, she realized she wasn’t alone. She was able to start confessing and start healing. Fast forward to today. This girl got counseling and eventually got licensed in counseling herself. Now she has a ministry to help women who are trapped in sexual addictions. I gave her the gift of going second and now she’s giving that same gift to thousands of girls.”

Pushing Through the Lonelies

I don’t know about you but I find there are times in my life where being single is harder than others. In those moments, I feel all these feelings. I can feel sad, wistful, longing, blue, melancholy, possibly hopeless and at times I may even teeter the edge of light despair. After facing them year after year, I finally decided to call them “the lonelies”. As in, man, I sure do have a case of the lonelies today.

 

I find that single life has this ebb and flow kind of like the seasons. Metaphorically speaking when it’s spring, summer and fall, I’m totally fine. But man, when winter hits, things get bleak.  And it’s weird because the lonelies can come out of nowhere. And if I’m not careful they can take me out. Sometimes it’s just a random day where they come on fast and then I bounce back to normal. Other times they can last for weeks if not months and seem to follow me around like a dark grey stormcloud. The nighttime and long weekends tend to be when I am most susceptible. But over time I have developed a few little strategies that help me keep the lonelies in check and keep those winter seasons short and sweet.

 

5 ways to push through the lonelies:

1. Take a break from love songs.

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Love songs are wonderful, magical even. I have so many favorites. I have my go-tos and somedays. But when the lonelies hit, the first thing I do is change what I’m listening to. I remove all romance. A song that in a summer season makes me rock out in the car can reduce me to pitiful tears on a lonely day. So when the lonelies knock at my door, I make sure to only listen to music that leaves the heart strings alone. The radio is tricky because I can be beeboppin along just fine and then some slow song that triggers the right memory and bam…down the rabbit hole I go. So, I make a different choice. One that protects me from the sadness and in turn hopefully gets me outside of myself. A new worship album can work wonders. I keep a playlist of fun platonic tunes that just make me smile. Pandora on Hawaiian or Pink Martini keeps it breezy. And it doesn’t last forever. Once the threat has passed and spring has sprung…love songs lose their power and are ready to be enjoyed once again.

If it is a particularly brutal winter season, I might even cut out love stories all together. Movies and books if they start to trip me up. I just make sure to delete anything from my life that invites the pain and makes the rabbit hole look appealing.

2. Make a Date

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I don’t know about you but when the lonelies hit, I have been known to isolate…some might even say wallow. I pull away, roll around on my couch for evenings ( if not days) on end and think of how happy I would be if I were just married or 10 pounds lighter or whatever it is I’m convinced would break the sadness. To be honest, I sometimes kind of enjoy the misery of the wallowing and can get trapped in a painful cycle. For me, this is when I need to put down the Netflix remote and call someone. I intentionally make a plan to see someone the next day,  usually an early dinner because I’m less likely to punk out because hey, a girl’s gotta eat.  If they are single and on a budget,  I might invite them over and we watch a show or four while one of us catches up on laundry. If they are married with kids and dinner is not an option, we might grab coffee or visit over nap time. I just make sure that there is a plan in place to connect with someone the next day. Otherwise, a lonely day can turn into a lonely month.

True confession: I may or may not have watched 154 episodes of West Wing this summer as tried to avoid dealing with a broken heart.

I think it is easy for single people to assume all our married friends are busy living fabulous lives, making out with their sweethearts 24/7, so we wallow in a bed of loneliness when in reality…our married counterparts often struggle with the same feelings of isolation. Because the lonelies don’t go away once the wedding bells have rung. I remind myself that constantly. I have to learn how to cope and process these feeling now because loneliness is a heart issue that follows you wherever you are. So when the lonelies come a knocking, I have a go-to set of peeps to schedule a date with so that I get outside of my head and start pouring into others. And I rarely bring up “the lonelies”on these outings. The point isn’t to make a date and chat them out. The point is to make a date and do something fun outside of the den of despair that I have created. Mix things up. Get some fresh air. Stop being alone.
3. Get touchy

A Christian counselor that I greatly admire (Karen Johnson) once said that humans need 7 healthy touches a day to thrive. This is definitely true for me. I grew up in a very affectionate family.Lots of hugs, pats and squeezes. It was my normal. Because touch is one of my love languages* getting my daily dose has always come easy. Sometimes to the chagrin of my less touchy roommates (Shout out to Caroline and Andrea for always letting me tuck my toes but not wiggle them while watching TV). Anyway, in a winter season, I make a habit to add a little extra healthy touch into my life. A massage or a pedicure allows for me to meet this need and fill up my love cup so that I’m not looking for connection in way that might leave me wounded.

 

4. Get out and serve

Working the snack bar at the roller rink. Good Times.

It’s really hard to wallow and be sad when you are doing something great for others. Part of living a life of maximum impact is to find something that you enjoy doing that helps others and do it well. In my hardest bouts of the lonelies, I keep myself busy doing things where I don’t have time to think about…myself. Looking back, there have been times when I had something to do 4 or 5 nights  a week. And it was awesome. I can’t keep that pace forever but if you are truly rolling in the blues…sign up to serve (more). Bible studies, youth ministry, homeless shelters, food banks are just a few ways you can improve your serve. Find something that you are passionate about and commit.
5. Pick up a pen and journal

This is by far the best way to beat the blues and usually my last resort. Isn’t that just how it goes.  We know the cure but avoid the medicine? Stubborn and hard hearted. Anyway, if I take the time to journal out my feelings and then turn them into a prayer where I cry out to the Lord…things tend to change pretty quickly. It opens the door to hear from the Lord and get some perspective. When journaling, I try to focus on identifying the lies and replacing them with truth. What lies am I believing in this moment? What is the truth? This is where the Bible really helps in sorting things out. God’s word is the truth and there are so many precious promises starting in Genesis and ending in Revelation.

This process also helps me to not eat my feelings.

Bonus….Get thankful

One night about 6 years ago I was spiraling down the rabbit hole of loneliness and was in the throes of a midnight crying jag. All of a sudden, I felt like I was supposed to make a list of all the things I was thankful for. I took out a pad of post-its and one by one filled up the side of the fridge with everything I was thankful for. Turns out the list was long and I had much to celebrate. That broke the lonelies and turned around my heartache. I left those stickies up until I moved out of that sweet little ohana. They were a constant visual reminder that even though I may not have that relationship I long for, my cup overflows with blessings galore.

Side note…Singleness is not forever. It is a season. We all start single and statistically a lot of us will end there after our spouse passes away. Learning to be content and even joyful whatever my season is a huge part of developing mature faith. One of the lies that tripped up

Eve in the garden was that this is all there is so you better grab hold of whatever pleasure you can…it sells a lot of beer and terrible decisions. When things get hard, I use these little tricks of the trade so that I won’t fall for the lies of the lonelies and end up make choices I regret. Hope this helps.

Love, Love, Love
The Girl Who Lives In My Head