if grace is an ocean | journal entry.

Waves crash hard against
you, but stand up; see how, too,
they have washed you clean.

I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me against the Rock of Ages.
Charles Spurgeon

Sometimes bravery comes in the form of waking up and getting out of bed in the morning. And that’s okay. But I can’t let that be the only brave thing I do every day for the rest of my life. I yearn for days where my bravery takes me somewhere new, muscles and mind left sore from the stretching and burning of hard work and willpower.

I am stuck somewhere between dreams and doubt, and it’s an abrasive, gravelly place to live. Days are scratchy. Unformed, like sand on the shore.

But grace is the ocean. There is grace (abounding); there is truth (alarming); there is time (allowing).

Grace is the ocean, and truth and time, too–oceans with ebbing waves are soothing and supple, carrying with them beautiful, unbroken things like refracted sunlight and seashells that echo sounds into eternity and back. And sometimes the same ocean, or another, will have waves that crash and clamor their way toward shore, languid but loud in their demand for space and sediment, and the tides like grasping thin fingers tear you beneath the surface of the water, leaving you gasping and graceless, washing away the very ground to stand on.

But you stand up because you know staying down will do you no better than it did the sand that is being washed away. You stand up to see that the very waves that crashed into you also washed you clean, and the dry scratching of the sand is to no effect when you’re submerged and swimming in the ocean.

And you begin to see why one might kiss the waves that hurl you to where you are, as you feel your muscles and mind ache with the hard work and willpower you yearned for just before you were washed from the shore.

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mindful even in the muck.

Today, my resolution to be mindful was hard. Oh, so hard. The choice to be mindful forced me to wrestle with myself and feelings about myself I’d rather not feel.

I found myself slouched on the couch today after a long day of keeping it under control at work. In the comfort of home, I cried long and hard, trying hard not to demand answers of myself that I couldn’t quite yet give as to why I was crying or what I should do about it. I just let myself feel.

But of course, my mind automatically asked, “Why?” Why am I crying? Why am I so, so sad? Thoughts crossed my mind about emotions, about anxiety, about the ludicrous and frustrating monster that inexplicable, overwhelming, and seemingly reasonless sadness can be, how it sneaks up on me so subtly, and even though I know the warning signs, I always seem defenseless against it.

And I am, as usual, disappointed, almost angry at myself for being unable to pinpoint a reason for my emotional upheaval. A hot shower was my practical attempt to shake it off, and I found myself resting my head against the shower tiles, or hunched and doubled over, fingers gripping my knees for stability, asking myself why I was so weak, why I was crying over nothing, half of me wanting the sadness to go away and the other half of me hoping the feeling would linger long enough for me to figure it out.

I wrestled with those questions, trying to grasp onto things I knew to be true about my worth, my abilities, my identity. I did things, like shower and listen to Ed Sheeran, letting steam and hot water relax my muscles and beautiful music relax my mind, giving my sadness some sort of rhythm, a beat to drown in.

Then I took a deep breath, ate some chocolate chip cookies, and did what I needed to do for the day. And I survived, even though all I wanted to do was retreat under my covers and pretend the world didn’t exist.

More wrestling now: deep down, I know I am sad because I am not all the things I want to be, and that weighs heavily on me. I am not perfect. I compare myself to others and feel I do not measure up. I collapse after a bad day, and I start to wonder if all of my personal goals are just dreams that I’ll never achieve. Do I really have what it takes to do the things I want to do? I get angry that I find the day-to-day of adulthood and living to be so wearisome and difficult; I wonder if anyone else around me feels that way, too; I feel feel lonely and lost. Am I weak, or is this part of growing up? Does everyone else find themselves wearied and worn thin by the mere living of life, or is it just me?

I think about the amount of loss and grief that so many people I know have experienced, and I ask myself, “If I’m this much of a mess now, what happens when larger tragedy hits me like it hit them? Will I stand up under it?” I am already sinking under the pressure of the what-ifs and the not-yets, feeling weak and insignificant, incapable and foolish. I start to question everything I’ve ever been told that I am, everything I’ve ever believed about myself, and I wonder: is it still true? Was it ever?

All I know for certain, if I am going to be mindful, present, and honest this year, then I must be in the moments like these, too, when the mindful, present, and honest things are hard to mutter. When the truth is still murky, and when I still haven’t found the answers to my questions, the resolutions of my doubts.

So today, I mutter that I feel like I am none of the things I have always been told I am, none of the things I have always thought I was, none of the things I have always wanted to be. And I also know that I could be very wrong about that.

And life and time move right along despite all of my not-knowing.

Tomorrow I may feel differently, and that is the nature of sadness and anxiety and disappointment and shitty days: they end, and tomorrow is a new day. So I turn up Ed Sheeran on Spotify, cuddle with my puppy, and practice grace, seek out truth, and choose to be mindful even when the atmosphere is cloudy and cold.

take my word for it.

Dear Me at 18:

You probably haven’t the slightest clue who I am. And you won’t for a while. Someday, I think we’ll find a point on the map of time and space, mind and soul that makes sense for the both of us. But for now, you simply don’t know.

That irks you, I know; you’ve always wanted all the answers up front. But trust me. In time, you’ll start to realize that this life is just one big question mark, and sometimes who we are and where we’re supposed to be is the question preceding it. (You’re going to hate that.)

You’re probably reading this wondering why I would even bother taking the time to write you. Don’t I have grand, monumental adventures to be living? Massive theories to teach and explore? Classes to teach? Books to write? Dreams to live?

The truth is, yes, I do have all of those things to do. But I also have lots of fears and doubts blocking my way, and I think you should know that.

You deserve to know that the dampness of growing up has snuffed out more than a few flames that I once burned at both ends, and I guess I’m still waiting for the wick to dry. I am discouraged in the waiting, and I feel I owed you some words of explanation as to why your to-do list of dreams and accomplishments still remains mostly undone.

I know you believe you can and will do anything and everything you’ve ever wanted. And I guess part of me still believes that, too. But I’m afraid I’ve allowed ghosts and cobwebs, dust and grime to settle in on all of the things you may have hoped to accomplish by this time in your life. Things grew stale.

I’m afraid I’ve let you down. I’m afraid I’ve let life knock me down for a time, and I’m afraid the process of standing back up has proven to harder than I expected.

To be honest, I’m just plain afraid.

You’re cringing, I know. Because you understand fear, and you thought I’d have banished it by now. I remember how fierce winds carrying in dark storm clouds used to color and confuse your mind with anxiety and panic. I remember how your heart stopped, with your breath choking and sputtering as you sucked in too quickly at the sight of Dad and Mom sick or in pain. I hate to tell you that certain fears will be part of your life forever. But I want you to know I’m doing my best to cope. Would you believe that I’ve actually come to love thunderstorms?

If only you could see me now, standing where I’m standing; I’d like to think you’d understand. I’d like to think you would smile at me and say that we still have time to do all the things we want to do, that you would extend grace to me for letting fear back in because you understand that life has highs and lows, that you’d applaud me for my new appreciation for the flash of lightning and the clap of thunder because that’s a sign of moving on, growing up.

But I can hear you in the back of my mind. A thunderstorm is just a symbol, and the point is that I’m still afraid of the things in life that really matter, like success and risk and friendship and truth and failure. I know you’re disappointed. And I have to say, you’re partly right. I need to be brave.

But I also need grace, and I know you haven’t learned the art of that quite yet. But you will.

When you’re finally where I am now, standing where I stand, I think you’ll begin to see how important grace is. More important, perhaps, than checking off all the things you’ve always wanted to achieve in order to feel worthy or important.

Yes, I know, you don’t buy it. But you’ll just have to take my word for it. Again. Consider how far I’ve come over the years; isn’t it possible we both could be right about this? That maybe the long, weary path of growing up and achieving dreams is riddled with the downhills of grace and the uphills of struggle and hard work? Of always falling, sometimes resting, and always getting back up?

If you must know, I do feel lousy sometimes about where I am, and I know it’s because I’m worried about what you might think. Your high expectations and your lofty demands did as much damage as good in me–but I don’t blame you. You accomplished so much. You worked so hard. And you’ve always been able to motivate me to do my absolute best, even when I felt anxious about falling flat on my face.

I guess at some point, a part of me you have yet to meet demanded a time of rest, and I had to heed that need. So I put your high expectations aside for a while.

But I’m ready to let you back in a bit–to let you expect things of me and push me harder.

You must trust me when I say I’m going to need a lot of grace. I know you don’t know quite what that is yet, so once again: take my word for it.

Take my word for it, and I promise I won’t forget the things you said you wanted. I won’t stop trying.

With love and grace,
Me at 24