It’s taken me several years–okay, make that basically my whole life up until now–to realize that at some point, you have to stop waiting for X to happen to experience joy.
Joy, as it may be known, is different than happiness because you can be joyful while still experiencing sad events, turmoil, and problems in your life. But we still often link the two and assume they’re practically the same thing. And that’s where problems arise.
Over the past few years, I’ve become much more outgoing (and if you’re thinking, “Um, lol, what, Emma? You’re the shyest person I know”, please understand that I have broken out of my shell and am much more personable and friendly than I was in middle school and high school. That is a fact.) and have developed at least acquaintance-ships, if not friendships with those I attended college with and worked with. I’m quite proud of the fact that I’ve gotten a job on my own (without the referral of a family member), that I can and have made a few more friends than I had in high school (a.k.a none), and that I told the guy I liked, albeit in written form, what my feelings were for him.
And yet, because I’ve inferred that joy and happiness are synonymous, I’ve been left feeling about as empty, lonely, and sad as I was in high school. These feelings are partially due to the fact that my college and work relationships were only thriving because I lived in the dorms and went to class and/or lunch with them or worked with those people, respectively, and apparently we were obligated to be sociable. But in my mind we were on the verge of being friends or staying friends for a long period of time! Boy, do I often experience heartache and problems because what I think and feel and what actually is happening/happens are two completely different things. Sigh.
My skin crawls, chills run up and down my spine, and tears often seem to work their way to the corners of my eyes. Sometimes I sit there numb, not feeling anything because it’s become as normal to me as my heartbeat. And other times I get so worked up over a little annoyance that feelings that have been shoved down deep inside to keep from others knowing about and to somehow trick myself into forgetting (and yet I never can quite do) well back up to the surface. As I sob, my body shakes with every memory–happy, sad, and everywhere in between–that are of what used-to-be. My body, mind, and soul seem to have been in shock for so long, as it’s a perpetual occurrence every few months in my life. (But my body and mind still don’t know which is more acceptable–to numbly act as if nothing is wrong or numbly be unable to respond to the feelings or to exude emotions that reflect what once was a very real part of me. It’s something I’m not sure I’ll ever grasp and or expertly act out.)
I’ve also learned (somewhat) how to stand up for myself. I quit my job a month ago by standing up for myself (more so in action than in word) and indicating that I’m not down with how the new management was treating the regular employees. I immediately took on a job to rescue myself, or so I thought, from the problematic traumas of the food service industry. And now I’m on an arduous trek in a completely different realm–childcare–which has troubles and trials of its own.
This experience is another lesson I’ve been learning. Sometimes what we think we want and need to take us away from what we have dealt with “for too long” might not actually be the right thing at all. It could be a good thing, a step to get us out of what was “bad”, but not necessarily the best step. But once we take it, although it might be devoid of happiness, at least for a time, it can lead us to joy, as again, that feeling is separate from the actual experience and different than happiness. Once you make a choice you must take it upon yourself to learn to deal with the consequences and responsibilities of that choice, even if you “weren’t ready” or “didn’t know” what those results were. It may be hard, less-than-ideal, and stretching, but remember, it’s your path now. And it’s taking you away from that “bad” path you used to be on. (All of this advice, however, is coming from hindsight. Actually having to experience it as it comes without seeing it coming is rather exhausting, painful, heart-wrenching, etc. Sigh.)
Anyways, I thought sticking up for myself was what I was socially expected to do to be seen as a strong, independent, twenty-something female. It seemed everyone around me was standing back, sizing me up, placing bets on whether or not I’d actually have the guts to take the plunge. Apparently I did, but I was not prepared for the shock of the plunge or the responsibilities and requirements that would come with doing so and not being submerged and drowned as a result. I’m afloat and learning to be joyful in staying afloat, but it is a whole new adventure–and not always a fun one at that.
I thought becoming more outgoing by finally expressing how I feel instead of bottling up emotions, such as anger and annoyance, feelings for guys and excited, crazy, boisterous, psychotic, immature, and more thoughts would lead me to happiness, and thus joy, at long last, that if I did so I’d finally meet my Prince Charming, my best friend for life in my area, other members of my squad, people who were “chill” and “cool” and whom everyone in my family would be jealous of me knowing and wish that they had my friends or were me. I thought if I finally learned how to put on makeup “perfectly” and change my hairstyle to a cool, in-vogue cut (because apparently I used to not care about my personal appearance or what others thought of me in this area), that the same would happen: I would get amazing friends, a cute guy on my arm, and life would be perfect and happy. I would be able to post limitless pictures on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc., my followers number would skyrocket, as would my likes, and that then, popularity, love, good vibes, happiness, joy, blessings, and life would rain down from the Giver up above. I thought if I just kept doing what His creations told me to do, since it was “different” (slightly) from what my formula for success, popularity, acceptance, love, happiness, and joy had been, that pretty soon my rocky path would even out. I would finally have my life together and would be able to accurately and appropriately meet everyone’s expectations of me in the beauty, friendship, and love life arena. And in short order, I’d be able to move on to mastering more and more social skills and other life skills such as keeping a house clean, baking a pie, as well as planning meals for the whole week that were both delicious and healthy, making time for daily exercise, getting places on time, raising children to be wonderfully mannered, while dressing them cutely every day, parenting them with neither too tight nor too loose of a grip, taking the advice and instructions that worked in raising my siblings and me and combining those with techniques of my own to have the perfect mommy tool kit. And in all of this, I would make sure to add God in there somewhere– giving Him praise and honor and thanks when the sailing finally became smooth but sort of pushing Him to the side immediately afterwards, unless storms could be seen in the near future. And I would make sure to never, ever push Him onto those who didn’t want to hear about Him in person but would make sure to add the word “God” here and there on social media just so everyone knew that I “believed” in God.
But remember?? This life could come about only if I could attain a guy, a perfect makeup routine (one that was neither too bare nor too heavy “to draw unwanted looks” or criticism about the amount on my face) and friends to make memories with.
Except this didn’t happen.. Before I opened up to people, they thought I was pretty weird, and then when I did open up, they thought I was psychotic. When I stood up for myself and expressed my thoughts and disagreed with my managers, regardless of who was in the right, I got major backlash, and people joined together on the opposite position I was taking. I began wearing makeup and cuter, more stylish clothes (in my opinion), and people (friends, of all people) still told me that they wanted to dress me and give me a makeover, implying that while I didn’t look bad, I could look better! I would get looks from guys, but it went no where. No guys wanted me, it seemed. I also got hit on undesirably by those of the same gender. My plan to change my personality, change my physical appearance, and be my “own” tweaked version of what I thought some had told me to be like wasn’t giving me the results I wanted. It was all in vain. I had become a slightly differently-packaged version of the same me in my heart.
And that is where I am right now. I wrote all of this as if it happened to me years ago and now my life is perfect. But it’s not..because I’m dealing with this prideful insecurity veiled in self-confidence-ishness currently. These events have happened in the past few months and even weeks!!
The bitterness, anger, loneliness, fear, insecurity, doubt, anxiety, skepticism, annoyance, and more have been washing over me more and more and are becoming apparent to those around me in floods. My words and actions have been vicious and completely antithetical to the commands of the God I say that I know, belong to, and am proclaiming. I don’t drink or swear (publicly), but yet, I slap my brother when he says something I don’t like. I hate it when injustices are done to me in the workplace, but don’t refrain from letting my coworkers know that, “I hate _____.” Or the opposite happens. I pretend I like someone and am okay with their lifestyle, hang out with them, and act as if we’re cool, and then perhaps go online posting how I don’t agree with ______ (the very lifestyle my “friend” lives). Or in another hypocritical turn of the heels, I defend this person to another person in real life, while still inwardly feeling as if I’m not actually chill or okay with them. My life has become a masqueraded lie where I don’t dare be too Christian because then I won’t have any friends, but I also knowingly betray my Lord by pretending I still love Him, believe in Him, and adore Him more than any other person. God, Satan, others (possibly), and I know differently. And then I become ashamed, saddened, and embarrassed by my hypocrisy that is glaring yet often is “merely” the elephant in the room. My parents yell at me for not wanting to go to church and be fed by the Word more. They know I hardly read His Word. But I continually am caught up in the struggle of having to continue in the facade that my life has become by going to church or further distancing myself from the Only One who can set me free from this self-imposed bondage. I know some people from the outside probably think that I’m a saint by my white-washed living and my sometimes-quiet ways. But they don’t know the whole story of my life, or the spiritual journey I’m on, that sadly has gone off of the path, in the opposite direction from Him who is calling my name. They don’t know the vast number of ways in which I, too, am imperfect and am oh so very much a lost sheep. We’re all lost, in our own ways, even those of us who look like we’re obeying and following. We know, deep down, where we stand, and that we’re far from being right with the Shepherd. But we still so often are filled with pride that we keep on the mask, when we’re in certain places, that we continue to act as if we already are in an a-okay standing with Him. And then we try to act as if we don’t even know the Master when we’re in other locations. We do what we want when it best suits us.
This is why I need redemption. This is why I need help. I can’t do it on my own. God, You know that! I need Your power to help me humble myself and ask for help. Please help me give these feelings, desires, hopes, aspirations, future life plans, health issues, relationship issues, and more into the hands of the Only One who has it all figured out. Please help me give these things in life back over to Your control!
I’ve tried so long to be happy and joyful. And clearly it’s not working. My ways have come up short.
I’ve looked in the wrong places. I’ve tried to change myself on my own account and merit and merely altered a few outward things but did not and can not alter the true issue.
It is a heart issue. I’m not being Pharisaical when I say that because my heart is far from being white and is actually slathered in “black” and dripping with sin.
I’m tired of trying to do this on my own.
God, I need You. Please help me!
Jesus, save me!