Why There Isn’t A Blog Post

It’s been hard for me to come up with Monday posts lately. I’ve actually skipped several weeks in the past few months. I have a few ideas saved, but Sunday (when I usually write Monday’s posts) rolls around and I have zero energy to write them. I can’t focus on “Avoiding ‘Us vs. Them’ Mentality When Studying Personality Types” right now. And I’m not yet at the point where I can write “Tips For INFJs Going Through Heartbreak.” But I didn’t really want to share what’s going on with me either. So I just let the posting schedule slip.

I guess I’m going to share it now, though. My boyfriend and I broke up a little over a month ago. The cat I wrote about two weeks ago ran away the last day of March. And if you rank anxiety on a 0-10 scale (0 being none and 10 being a panic attack), mine last week was hovering at 3-4 and jumped up to a 9 one morning.  I feel like my life is unraveling and my mind keeps swirling through weird thought patterns.

  • Update: I wrote this Sunday evening and Monday morning before the blog post went live my cat came home! He was there when I woke up, hungry for food and attention. Praise the Lord, for He is good and answers prayers even about missing kitties!

If I take a mental step back, it’s clear my life isn’t really spiraling out of control. The breakup was emotional, but we both decided we didn’t really see a future in the relationship so we agreed to end it and stay friendly. I feel terrible that I still haven’t been able to find my poor little kitty, but there wasn’t much I could do about it (wind rattled open two locked doors leading out through the garage — what are the odds?!). And I am seeing a counselor to work through my anxiety, so for the first time since my inaugural panic attack over 10 years ago I’m getting help.

But knowing that breaking up was the right thing to do, that I can’t control whether or not my cat comes home, and that I’m working toward healing and coping doesn’t really help me feel like writing. At least not writing anything to share on this blog, other than typing up my weekly Bible studies. So that’s why there isn’t a real post today. And there wasn’t one three weeks ago.

I almost just skipped this Monday again, too. But sometimes I think it’s good to let people know things aren’t really okay. If we all just go through life keeping up this “I’m fine, how are you?” facade, then no one gets the chance to be authentic or to experience authenticity in other people. And if we believe that everyone else is “fine,” then we can feel guilty for the times when we’re not at all fine. So it’s okay to share when you’re not fine. To stop hiding and invite people to share in your tears as well as your triumphs. Because it’s okay if I’m struggling. And it’s okay if you’re struggling, too. We’ll get through this together.

Advertisements

Lessons From My Nervous Cat

Meet Flynn. He’s 2 years old, weighs 15 pounds, and lost his previous home (not sure of the exact circumstances). I brought him home from a local humane society a couple weeks ago. I’d asked them if they had a sweet, cuddly cat that would do well in a single-cat home. They recommended Dorito (I’d originally planned to keep his name, but he doesn’t respond to it at all and it just didn’t “feel right” to me. Hence the name change, after Flynn Carsen from The Librarians).

Lessons From My Nervous Cat | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Flynn Carsen and Flynn the Cat

My new kitty cried for the entire car ride home. Once I released him from the cat carrier he promptly hid under the couch for the next six hours. Poor little thing’s been through a lot. But we’re starting to settle in and get used to each other. And after two weeks together I’ve learned that

  • He loves meat and will beg in the kitchen for beef, poultry, and fish
  • Catnip mice are his favorite thing. He just lays on the floor while hugging and chewing on them
  • My fleece mermaid blanket must have a texture he likes, since he danced around with a look of wonder on his face the first time he touched it. It’s our favorite blanket
  • His purr is furniture-rattling in volume and intensity
  • He likes sleeping with people. Usually he picks my bed and spends the night curled up near my feet or legs

But I’ve also learned some other things:

  • He’s terrified of people in motion. If you stand up or walk into a room his eyes get big and he runs away
  • If you reach out toward him he flinches, like he expects you to hit him. But he’s sweet and affectionate if you’re sitting down and he comes up to you
  • He doesn’t like being picked up
  • The slightest noise is enough to make him startle awake, leap in the air, and/or flee the room
  • He spends most of the day hiding, only coming out to spend time with us in the morning and evenings
Lessons From My Nervous Cat | marissabaker.wordpress.com
hiding under the bed

I don’t know what happened in Flynn’s past as Dorito. Being a storyteller, I have a completely theoretical narrative that goes like this: Dorito’s owner was a sweet, elderly person who was confined to a wheelchair. They fed Dorito in the kitchen, invited him to sleep in the bed, and showered him with love. But this person had a caretaker that came in during the days and wasn’t kind to the cat. So Dorito learned that people walking toward him meant he’d be kicked or grabbed or chased out of the room. And then when their elderly person passed away, Dorito was dumped off at the Humane Society.

Of course I have no idea if that’s anywhere near the truth. What I do know is that I’ve adopted a very nervous cat. He startles at the slightest noise. He flinches if you touch him. He doesn’t do “normal cat” things like lay around all day and nap (at least not out in the open). And he’s taking a very long time to relax around us, especially my 6′ 3″ younger brother.

After a few days of this, someone in my family described Flynn as a “useless cat” because he won’t cuddle. And then someone asked if I could return a defective cat. I was behind the couch at this point trying to convince Flynn to come out and raised my voice just enough to say, “He’s scared and he needs our love and understanding!” After that the (mostly) joking suggestions that Flynn wasn’t the cat we were looking for stopped. He also started becoming more friendly, which helped with that.

Lessons From My Nervous Cat | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Flynn’s favorite blanket

I don’t know what in Flynn’s past made him so scared. But I know that right now he’s easily startled, worried, and only wants touched on his terms. So I decided to love him where he’s at and work with him. It’s not going to help if I lecture him, saying he’s got it so good now that he should just suck it up and move forward with his life. He needs patience. He needs someone not to push his boundaries because that will only prove we can’t be trusted not to go too far. He needs someone there for him when he does want held and petted.

And then I started thinking, isn’t that what hurting people need too? Love, understanding, acceptance, and someone to be there for them on their terms. But how many times do we meet someone who’s going through something we don’t understand and yet we treat them as if they’re “lesser than” because they’re still showing signs of their past trauma? Why are we so much more willing to extend grace and compassion to a nervous cat than to an anxious, depressed, or hurting human?

Then I had another realization. The way I’m treating my cat is the way I want to be treated when I’m anxious, nervous, or on the edge of panic. I want patience, understanding, and someone who will ask what I need instead of pushing me to just get over it. And it’s also the way I should treat myself (I’ve recently started seeing a counselor to get help working through my anxiety and she was delighted with this realization). We must give ourselves the same compassion, love, and permission to be ourselves that we long for from other people and should extend to others who are going through similar things.

So that’s what I’ve been learning from my nervous cat. I think he’s turning out to be a pretty good teacher.

Lessons From My Nervous Cat | marissabaker.wordpress.com

One Week To A Better You

My friend Cody is launching a startup business called Affirmations Coffee. Part of that project involves an encouraging blog and a short e-book titled Be Awesome: One Week To A Better You. You can get the e-book by supporting his Kickstarter, along with some other really cool rewards like this mug:

Affirmations Coffee Kickstarter

I’ve been curious about the e-book for a while now, so when Cody asked me to review it for my blog I jumped at the chance. It’s a motivational 30-page devotional with repeatable weekly tasks to help you move forward in life. I spent a week working through the book and writing down something for each day.

Survey Sunday

Sunday’s task is to plan out a schedule for the rest of your week. I’ve been using The Freelance Planner to help keep track of assignments each week, so I spent some time Sunday morning filling out my main goals for the week. Mine is a very different sort of planner than the one recommended in the e-book so my planning took a less detailed form, but it was helpful to actually fill out all the days at the beginning of the week (something I don’t always do). I also spent some time journaling that morning — a habit I’ve been meaning to get back into.

Motivation Monday

E-Book review: One Week To A Better You | marissabaker.wordpress.comMonday’s challenge is to think about what motivates you to achieve your goals. For me, it’s often quotes, scriptures, or songs that resonate with something deep inside.

This might seem odd to non-writers, but for quite some time one of the most motivating things I’ve encountered has been the song “Non-Stop” from Hamilton. That picture on the left is hanging over my desk right now, alongside John Keats’ poem “When I have fears that I may cease to be.” I suppose you could say I’m motivated by the idea that I’m running out of time to write all the stories, articles, and studies overflowing my mind.

Tranquility Tuesday

I already have a morning routine designed to build focus and calm, so Tranquility Tuesday started out with prayer, yoga, breakfast/reading (yes, those go together), and Bible study. We all need to take time for ourselves and I find that’s a good way to start every day if I want to be more productive and engaged.

Wisdom Wednesday

The Wednesday chapter reminds us to actively seek wisdom. As I mentioned before, I start every morning with Bible study so I suppose I could have just left it at that. Because of today’s theme, though, I determined to spend some extra time taking in other peoples’ perspectives, knowledge, and experience. I began reading an Enneagram book because I’ve heard the theory layers well with Myers-Briggs to give more complete pictures of personality. I took some time to read deep-thinking posts from other bloggers. And I read a chapter in Proverbs before bed.

Thankful Thursday

E-Book review: One Week To A Better You | marissabaker.wordpress.com

For today’s focus, I made a list of five things I’m thankful for. It’s not necessarily my top 5 (more like what came to mind first that morning). I’m thankful for

  • The Lord’s love and the fact that He offers us the chance to be friends with Him
  • My blog readers, family, and friends
  • Having the opportunity to dance and to help teach dance at my Messianic Congregation
  • Books. Every single one of the 1,100+ on my shelf, plus others
  • My boyfriend ❤

Fearless Friday

I really didn’t know what to do with this day. The books says to go outside your comfort zone and overcome a fear. But Friday is a whirlwind of article due-dates, blog scheduling, and baking for Shabbat. How’m I supposed to find time to identify a specific fear and conquer it today!? (somewhat ironically, I started feeling anxious just thinking about it.)

One line did resonate with me, though: “Live purposefully, not fearfully.” So my goal for Fearless Friday became not letting the little fears and anxieties that pop-up throughout the day control me.

Sabbath Saturday

Ah, the Sabbath. My favorite day of the week. Most of the day isn’t particularly “restful” for me since I leave at 9:15 to get to my morning church and pretty much go non-stop until getting home from my afternoon church around 5 or 6 that evening, but it’s a wonderful time of learning more about God and fellowshipping with brethren. And the Saturday that I worked through this book, I had a chance to spend some time after church chatting with two friends and my sister at a coffee shop, then come home and spend time with both my siblings.


I enjoyed this e-book’s daily suggestion to take time and focus on connecting with God and exploring an aspect of personal growth. You can get the book and support Cody’s Kickstarter at the same time for just $5. I also highly recommend you follow Cody’s blog and Facebook page. His positive, encouraging focus is something I think many of you would enjoy reading and appreciate seeing in your inbox or Facebook feed.

Once again, here’s the link to his Kickstarter:

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Giving Yourself Permission to Take Up Space

I’m 5 feet 6 inches tall (about 168 cm for my readers on the metric system). When I was a teenager I decided that was about 3 inches too tall for some reason ostensibly connected with Joe Hardy (yes, the fictional character. I know — I needed more real friends). That’s not the only reason I do things to make myself look smaller, but it’s one of the stranger ones. In general, though, being taller than other people simply makes me feel awkward. And even though I’ve explored that feeling before in a creative non-fiction class in college, I really wasn’t sure why.

Recently, I’ve been asked why I use body language that makes me look small. That question made me  take another look at why I’m doing what I do. I hunch my shoulders. I sit in corners of sofas. I cross my arms and legs or ankles. Or I have my hands together nervously fiddling with my fingers. Part of this is unconscious but I’m often aware of it as well. I know I make myself smaller and sometimes I do it on purpose, especially if I feel nervous or threatened. I suppose I’m saying with my body language, “Don’t notice me. Don’t hurt me.” And this sort of thing has become instinctive for me.

Giving Yourself Permission to Take Up Space | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: “Shy” by Karel Macalik, CC BY via Flickr

One of my more vivid childhood memories is of being enrolled in a summer school program and hiding under the playground equipment from the other kids. My experiences there played a large role in why my parents chose to homeschool. In some ways, that scared little girl is still part of me and hiding is still my default move. But, as someone recently reminded me, fear isn’t a good way to live your life. I feel like it’s time for a change. Read more

Walking Across Sea World

Because yesterday was Father’s Day, I want to share with you a little (true) story I wrote for the Encouraging Dads Project. Those of you who follow my Facebook page might have seen it before, but I hadn’t shared it on the blog yet.

This story goes out with a big “Thank You!” to all the dads and father figures making positive differences in their children’s lives. Even the “little things” you’re doing mean more than you realize.

Me and Harpy in 2002

My father dislikes shopping of any kind. Gift shops are particularly pointless. We just paid how much to get in, and now they want us to buy overpriced junk just because it’s got their logo on it? I don’t think so!

I share that so you’ll understand how rare it was to have him inside a gift shop, let alone offering to buy something in it. The setting is Sea World Ohio, a well-nigh forgotten theme park along Geauga Lake near the city of Aurora. Summer sun beat down on the pavement, sending trickles of sweat down my dad’s back as he pulled two little princesses around in a red wagon. My sister and I had been treated to an orca show at Shamu Stadium, sent through a playground with a sea of ocean-colored plastic balls, and given the chance to pet stingrays. And now, we needed stuffed animals.

I’m not talking about just any stuffed animal. It was a pure white harp seal pup nearly as large as I was at 5 or 6 years old. He had big brown eyes and a friendly smile. He was perfect, except for one thing. The only one left in the gift shop had a big stain discoloring his side.

If there was one thing my father disliked more than buying overpriced promotional items, it was buying defective overpriced promotional items. But let me tell you what Daddy didn’t do. He didn’t tell me I was stupid for wanting that stuffed seal. He didn’t tell me I wasn’t worth getting the best seal Sea World had to offer. And he didn’t tell me to suck-it up and live without the seal either. Instead, he sent a message that has stuck with me my entire life.

Daddy walked to the opposite end of a 50-acre theme park to retrieve a better version of my baby seal. At the time, he probably just thought he was doing a nice, and rather inconvenient, thing for his little girl. But he was doing so much more than that. He told me I was valued. He told me that he listened when I talked about things I wanted. He told me he’d go above and beyond to make me happy. All by walking across a theme park to pick up a stuffed animal.

In the grand scheme of things, a stuffed seal isn’t the most impressive present a dad could buy for his daughter. But the love behind that gift solidified Harpy’s position as my favorite toy. He slept in my bed, went on vacations, and attended slumber parties with me for about ten years after Daddy walked across Sea World for him. Now, another 10+ years down the road he’s a bit fragile and has lost some of his fluffiness and most of his white color, but I’ll never get rid of him.

We remember the big moments with our dads because of the intangible things that go along with them. My dad gave me other gifts. But this one sticks in my memory because it was a visible reminder of the sort of things he did, and still does, every day in the many ways he took care of me and told me I was precious to him.

This article originally appeared on Encouraging Dads.com, January 2017.

Save

Save

Be The “Anyone”

There are 3,310 pairs of socks in the men’s homeless shelter.

This past weekend, I attended a young adult service and enrichment weekend. After a Friday evening and Saturday of discussion questions, seminars, Shabbat services, and good fellowship we spent Sunday on a service project. Nearly 100 of us descended on a homeless shelter to help tackle some of their needs, including wall painting, deep cleaning, window washing, and sorting the donations room.

I spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out what my gifts are and how to use them effectively. That interest in personal growth and development is, in part, why this blog exists. But somewhat surprisingly (to me, at least), this weekend’s focus on filling your role in the body of Christ barely touched on spiritual gifts and individual talents. Rather, the take-away was finding your identity as a servant of Christ and then following His example no matter what.

Photo: “Helping Hands” by Valerie Everett, CC BY-SA via Flickr

While I’m a staunch advocate for finding, developing, and using your gifts (that’s why you have them, after all), it doesn’t really take any particular gift to count socks. Perhaps someone with a gift for math could have worked more quickly, or a person with a gift for organization sorted them more efficiently. But really the only thing absolutely essential was showing up and doing the work.

In focusing on where we fit best, perhaps we sometimes close ourselves off to areas where anyone could serve. Maybe we think, “Anyone could do that, so I’ll focus on what I do best.” But that doesn’t mean “anyone” will actually step-up and do it.

During your quest to find the best way to use your gifts, don’t overlook the importance of being the “anyone” who will step in and fill needs. Move from theory to practice. Whether it’s in your family, your church, or your community, let’s look for opportunities to help and then actually take them.