The Gospel of Millie

image

This was the day I met Millie.

My boyfriend’s sister was at her seasonal job as a nanny on the first of July when, in her words, a small, light tan dog emerged from the bushes near the parking spot she pulled into. After a couple of excitable coos and “hello’s” apparently the dog didn’t need much more of an invitation from her to jump into the car (she hadn’t even had a chance to shut the car door). Since my boyfriends and mines house was a mile away, she took this sweet, collarless terrier mix to our garage and called me at work. Side bar, if a close-living sane family member who you trust asks for your garage door keypad code, always give it to them. I was thankful I did.

One of the first things we did was take her to our vet to get her scanned for a microchip. No luck. We searched and searched and searched. We posted flyers around our neighborhood. We went to the country club where she was found multiple times to see if they’d heard of anyone missing a dog. We posted on various social media outlets… and those posts were shared like wildfire amongst our friends and family. In the meantime, “Millie,” as we had begun to call her (a variation of the name of the country club where she was found), seemed to take in every new scent and square foot of her temporary home with ease and enthusiasm. With the exception of our German Shepherd, Wrigley; she wasn’t too keen on him right away. He’s got an intimidating appearance but is a big softie.

The days went on and we came to the heart-wrenching conclusion that she must’ve been a drop. We realized most likely someone, for whatever selfish, inhumane reason, abandoned her. Which is extraordinarily befuddling considering she’s one of the most adorable, well-behaved, house-trained and loyal dogs I’ve known. My boyfriend and I debated back and forth about whether taking her to a no-kill shelter was a better option for all parties involved than keeping her. You see, less than 2 months prior, we lost our beloved boxer to a common heart disease, and weren’t exactly sure if the timing was right to introduce a new dog into our lives. I waited weeks to put a collar on her. I knew once I clicked that fastener, she’d be a member of our family.

My boyfriend and I were watching television one night and he abruptly mentioned the elephant in the room (more specifically, the dog in my lap.)

“So I guess we’re keeping her?”

He said it as more of a rhetoric than a legitimate question. I responded with a smirk.

Earlier that week, my boyfriend’s sister had given us a pink and purple floral hand-me-down collar her dog had previously worn. I put it on Millie that night and she was ours.

//

The last thing I want to do is turn this narrative into some kind of run-of-the-mill, philosophical meandering.

What I mean by that is this:

I feel like I can get halfway through a post or article and if I sense that the story is going into a moral, blatantly Christian spectrum of thought I stop myself dead in my tracks. My boyfriend actually caught me once with a literal snarl on my face after reaching that point in a post. A snarl, for God’s sakes! So forgive me if I sound cynical and bitter and prejudiced but I can’t stand that kind of writing. It disgusts me. And I know some readers legitimately are moved by it and I think that’s beautiful. In my eyes, that’s where writing as an art form is most evident. When someone strings together a bunch of seemingly random words, they never really know if it’ll reach anyone’s understanding. I mean, it’s my biggest fear and my greatest insecurity I’m working to overcome. But when someone else does step out of that darkness and say “Hey, I get that. I like that,” something incredible is born.

So I’m not judging at all. Yes, that kind of writing style isn’t my thing but I’m so thankful fellow writers feel that calling because it matters. If it matters to one person out of 7 billion, it matters.

Gosh, I get distracted easily.

//

I’ve discovered I have this notion that ideas and writing and posts must serve a greater purpose. They need to affect people. They need to have that label of “heavy” or “powerful” or “significant.” This is an echo of my previous post about writing for myself versus writing for others. Sometimes it’s okay to just write or talk about something just to share. I’m having to learn that. I tend to get so infatuated with the idea of peer approval (I’m a chronic textbook people pleaser) that I lose sight of the art of writing. The art of writing is true freedom from those expectations.

So with all that being said, I don’t have a thought-provoking point that ties into my narrative about our new dog, Millie. I’m happy with her in our home and she’s (cautiously) getting acquainted with Wrigley.

That’s all.

But I will end by saying I was inspired by a conversation recently I had with a new friend. We were by a campfire at a beautiful state park nearby and after many beers, the conversation shifted from work and surface level subtleties to matters of a deeper capacity. She said something that kind of hit my soul profoundly: “I’m not one of those people who believes everything happens for a reason. Because everything doesn’t.” It seemed like some newfound concept as it’s shock ricocheted around in my head. Shit, I was about ready to call up the Pope and every news outlet in the world and tell them about this amazing, prophetic philosopher I had just met. But in reality, I’m sure a ton of people agree with this idea. It’s probably nothing new at all. In my rose-colored world full of rainbows and divine reasons, I’d never heard anyone declare it with such certainty and conviction.

So I’ve been digesting that whole thought process for the past couple weeks. Regarding the Millie situation, I’ve been grabbing at straws trying to find the supreme reason for her coming into our lives. Maybe our passed-on boxer was trying to tell us something with Millie’s arrival. Maybe she jumped into my boyfriend’s sisters car because the universe knew our other dog needed a companion when we didn’t (even though she, of course, couldn’t care less about him). Or maybe she came into our lives simply because someone else didn’t want her and, by total chance, she ended up in our home. Maybe there’s no more to that conclusion. No existential purpose, no stardust or divine intervention. It just happened.

I don’t know why or how exactly Millie ended up with us. Either way, stardust or not, what I’m trying to say through all this writing out loud is that I’m glad she did.

Advertisements

Realizations in Rabbit Holes

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve started 3 or 4 blogs in the past few years. I think my most committed achievement was 2 posts on one blog. And now they’re all floating out there in the digital abyss; my typed words that, to me, once seemed severely special, possibly prophetic, now filler in the voids.

That hopeless feeling of defeat before I even had a shot at recovery is what overshadowed my enthusiasm and passion and caused each of those attempts to fizzle and fade. And now, during what seems like my hundredth attempt at this, I’ve realized translating my thoughts to written ideas is less about my audience and more about myself. An easy assumption, sure. Obvious, one would think.

But it’s no secret that as emotional beings we’re all wanting validation, respect and appreciation from our contemporaries. When I was part of the “churched” demographic, just like any other sub-culture or social group, I took in sermons and studies and prayers dedicated to the real meaning of purpose and the value of your calling. “Let God use your gifts for His glory.” “That is your God-given talent.” So, naturally, I equated all that jargon to becoming a renowned Christian author. I’d have the edgy book titles, black and white thoughtful self portrait and plain front cover to show potential readers I didn’t buy into the marketing ploys of mainstream Christian consumerism. And it would all be for everyone else. I was looking at my dreams through the telescope of what I thought was right and what I thought was intended for me. I won’t necessarily say the church taught me how to shame myself or how to water down self-love because I wasn’t brainwashed. I was involved with some crazy shit. I’ve had people pray over me in tongues, my trembling body covered by their hands, shouting out to the Lord for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I witnessed a miracle similar to that of Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 in Nicaragua when the people in a village we served ridiculously outnumbered our expectations. At age 11, in the first car wreck I was involved in, I was visited by a woman in white who came through the hoards of silent, still people gawking at my injuries and said I was going to be alright. I’ve got a lot of stories, plenty more that are testimonies to the spiritual but honestly, these days, in my post-churched, messy quasi-beliefs, I’m hesitant to share them because I understand how legitimately mad I sound. I get that. I myself think I’m partially as mad as people think I am.

Anyways. I say all that to reiterate the point of how I personified my faith and how I made every choice based on my own conjurings. The notion that my talents and passions were meant for the purpose of the church wasn’t outlandish for me. I was taught that love ought to be demonstrated in this order: God, others, yourself. I understand the intentions behind that and why it’s important to prioritize. It’s a poetic, euphoric concept. But, for me, after years and years of hearing this and trying to always further my awareness of humility, somewhere I understood this to mean losing myself was a necessary sacrifice. The less I could love myself and transfer that love to others, the more godly I’d seem, thus, the more I could help people. I think for years in my young adult life, I didn’t really know who I was or what I wanted from life. My emotional growth was stunted and I didn’t identify with a sense of self outside of the Church. It was my life.

One day in a personal devotion while studying the ever-quoted “Do as to others as you would have them do to you”, something awakened in me. All of the sudden, I saw this piece of scripture as a beckon to love and find myself. It occurred to me as naturally as walking: how could I love others if I couldn’t love myself properly? How could I be authentic to others if I couldn’t be authentic to who I was? I remember that moment; sitting in my tiny college rental and thinking how vast this new idea, this new possibility seemed to me. And I was pretty terrified of what it meant for me. At 21, it was the beginning of me deciding to abandon my years of faithfulness to the Church and instead follow this rabbit hole of self discovery that, ironically, was shown to me through the supposed words of Jesus. Funny how that works.

Although I’m an entirely different, bolder person now than I was 6 years ago, I’ve realized recently that in my writing I still hold onto those notions of others before myself. I think that’s part of the reason me abandoning so many blogs over the years came so easily. I didn’t get much feedback. I didn’t feel like anyone benefited from my words. So I just gave up.

So maybe this blog will survive longer than this second post simply because now I know I’m doing this for me. I’m in the process of understanding my writing is more about my own benefit and my own inspiration than the readers. These words may not matter to anyone but me and so be it… Or, I at least recognize this fault and am working towards total acceptance of this. Probably the latter more so because I am human after all. So for this blog, I’m committed to doing it for me. For my own identity, my own story, my own rabbit hole of self-discovery.

117

In the spring of 2006, I began a novel.

Although I was an impressionable child emotionally, legally I had crossed over that bittersweet threshold into adulthood. With my new sense of “real world” freedom (whatever the hell that means), I felt empowered to pursue exactly what I damn well wanted. No matter the cost. And I ended up here, almost 10 years later, an ex-almost-author with a rhetorical trash can full of reluctance and remorse piled pleasantly on top of that failed dream. This is why that’s okay…

Sometime in 2005, in the midst of my junior year of high school, I decided to abandon my new found passion of theater and the high school culture altogether and “dual enroll” in college courses at the local junior college. Since year 14 or so, I maintained a sense of disillusionment with my peers and society’s standard of what a teenager out to be. Instead, I immersed myself in church activities and created relationships with those around my age who shared similar views of boredom and disenchantment with those hobbies our peers keenly, often obsessively, chased. Proms, football games, student elections, parties… I truly did not care. When looking back through the sobering lens of perspective, I was rebelling. I was a church-going, non-partying, never-been-kissed safety rebel. (I may expand on that reverse rebel idea in a later post) My one attachment to my high school was through the drama department. Since I was a young girl, I found a sense of belonging and purpose when creating thoughts and ideas with written words (even now, at age 27, while tapping away on this keyboard, I feel most myself). Writing has always been my “thing.” At age 13, I was published in a national, seasonal literary magazine that was read by thousands of kids my age. At age 14, I received the coveted perfect score on my state’s standardized writing test. I was frequently published in my schools literary anthologies. I took ownership of my writing and somehow that didn’t translate to me being an honors English student nor, even more oddly, did I find interest in our school’s writing club. That was too mainstream. Too expected. I found more interest in the stories and theatrics and outlandish themes of the drama department. Because of my quirky, eccentric, old soul attitude and style, I identified more with theater. I felt fed and satisfied and accepted there.

And then junior year happened and I decided I was done with high school. I’ve always had to fight my selfish wants of flitting from project to project, dream to dream. But this time, my want was insatiably satisfied. I happily flaked out. I would complete my final courses at the junior college while also gaining credits for my future college career. My parents loved it and applauded my discipline and commitment to higher education. I simply wanted to get the hell out of the public education system.

(All of this back story does go somewhere.)

I was able to focus on my personal growth as a young woman with a pliable mind. Which, again, in retrospect, was probably just me wanting the freedom to be able write when I wanted, how I wanted without a guiding structure. Looking back on my quarter century of life, I realize how precious those days were. I had recently discovered Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice” and was intoxicated by the brazen female characters, self-discoveries and recurring themes of opposites. I launched into creating a fiction novel based loosely on Austen’s work and found myself obsessed with maintaining its literary life. I kept pens and scraps of paper on me at all times. I’d excuse myself from family functions and social gatherings to record possible character dialogues. I’d scribble thoughts and ideas on old receipt paper between customers at my job as a supermarket cashier. A usual night of falling asleep equated to the interruption of slumber by way of turning my light on with half open eyes and weak handwriting translating my constant imagination. My entire life up until that point felt justified and necessary, every memory was an “a ha” moment. Every accolade for my writing, every aced essay, every club or high school event I shook my head at suddenly made sense in the larger picture. This was me. This was my dream, my purpose, my passion. It was a drug-like bliss I have yet to experience.

My church social life began maturing in sync with my novel and before I knew it, I had received my first burning heartache when a close friend rejected my attraction and romantic interest with little sympathy. So at 18, I made a hasty decision to move to my father’s town in south Georgia and resume life there.

From there, my story diverts and multiplies into even countless more outlets and wings of memory but for the sake of this, my first post, I’ll keep it fairly straight. While my interest in my novel remained constant, I doubted my passion and gift time and time again in a suffocating, self-inflicted sub-life. Naturally, time spent devoted to my novel waned dramatically. Between the bible studies, mission trips, intense college courses, nearly full-time working hours and budding new relationship with a pastor (that ended in a failed, messy engagement… again, more on that in a later post), I could barely look at myself in the mirror without feeling like a sellout.

Life happened. I went back on promises. I disappointed friends. I made a move back to my hometown and reevaluated my spiritual convictions. That was the beginning of me truly finding myself. At 22 as an ex-churched agnostic and college dropout, I finally began the process of growing up. So, nearly 10 years after I began my novel and after many writing conferences and projects, there still sits that file on my laptop desktop. 117 pages of chopped pieces of a larger epic, some more advanced and edited than others. It’s been a year and a half since I actually sat down in hopes of resurrecting those old feelings of identity and unstoppable, flowing words. Every now and then (usually after too much wine), I’ll open the document and read to my heart’s content and remember the pleasure being a creator of some kind gave me.

Recently, in this new stage of my life, I’ve haphazardly told people I’m “working on a novel.” Of course, I leave out the fact that “working” really means “worked” and those words are now pretty much a dead end for me. It’s taken me months to accept that and find peace with it. I will no longer claim to be a prospective author; not until I find that passion and commitment again. To me, those 117 pages are more about my childish dreams than they are the actual characters and plots. Part of growing up and maturing into yourself is about knowing when to let go of pursuits and, instead, knowing when to face the bleak darkness ahead with a suitcase full of doubt and self-questioning, all of it held together by a mousy thread of hope.

A novel is not complete until it teaches it’s audience its purpose and brings the truth full circle, right? In abandoning my novel, I’ve found a new sense of purpose, a clean slate, a dismissal of the shame and regret. In abandoning my novel, I’ve discovered that the girl version of me was the only one holding onto it, clinging for any promise of salvation.

I used to beat myself up about not being able to commit to finishing my novel. But in some weird, existential sense, I did finish it. I grew up and realized that dream has passed. I have a big girl job now, I have more debt than I’d admit, I have a 401(k) and with each passing weekend, I seem to find more and more joy in staying at home and getting in bed around 11. Maybe if I was a different person, I’d have finished that novel. Maybe it’d be on the bestseller’s list. But I didn’t let that girl version of myself down, I didn’t disappoint her. I don’t consider it a defeat of me; I consider my doubt defeated.

So here I am. A new city. A new job. A new house. A new blog. I won’t say this is a new chapter. I’m actually not an author, I’m not writing a novel, so this is a new post. Literally and figuratively. I’ll be enjoying this new journey’s existence in this present day until these new 117 pages have taught me what’s intended.