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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Acceptance Doesn't Equal Love

Hello, readers!!

At this point, I am sure some of you are wondering if I am in fact still alive. I am. And, I still very much love this blog. I am even working on getting things organized to make it even better!! So stay tuned for that....

In the meantime, this has been on my heart lately, and while it isn't a post about writing, it is a post I have written, so it counts, right?

As I grow older, the more people I talk to, the more I am hit with the idea that love and acceptance go together. Even when people don’t mean it that way, it comes across as “because I love you, I accept you.”

And, as I grow older and talk to more people, the more I am convinced that this is completely wrong.

I crave love more than anything else. I want people to love me. I want people to want me in their lives. I want to be special to people. When my kiddoes tell me I’m the best babysitter ever, that craving is fed and it is the most amazing feeling in the world.

But that doesn’t mean I want to be accepted. I don’t. I don’t want people to simply accept me. As much as I hate it, I want to be called out when I do something wrong. I want people to tell me how I can improve.

I want them to love me, yes. But if they truly love me, they won’t let me stay the way I am.

In our culture today we are hit with this wave of thinking that if you love me, you won’t ever disagree with me. You won’t ever express that you think I am wrong, that you know I’m wrong. You won’t ever ask me to change. I am who I am. If you don’t accept that, you don’t love me. I can push anyone away, call them judgmental, because we do not see eye to eye. And that is socially acceptable.

Acceptance is equal to love, we’re told. Challenging someone, questioning them, is equal to hate.

That is so wrong.

The people in my life who have made the biggest impact on me are the ones who loved me enough to keep me from simply staying where I was. They pushed me to be a better person. They refused to accept me. One of my closet friends in high school had a way of always knowing which questions to ask to make me admit what was wrong. She never allowed me to bottle things up because she knew that wasn’t healthy for me.

But I like bottling things up. I want nothing more than to avoid conflict and I hate talking about how I’m feeling because I do not want to burden people. But that wasn’t good enough for this friend. She pushed me. Harder than I wanted to be pushed. And she made me talk about things I didn’t want to talk about because I knew once they were voiced I would have to deal with them.

And then, guess what? She made me deal with them.

I didn’t want to. Never. That’s why I kept them hidden. But this friend loved me enough to push me past my breaking point, to challenge me. That’s not hate. That’s not judgment. I don’t think this friend is capable of hating or judging me. She is the sweetest, most loving person with the biggest heart. But if she can’t accept me, she’s just a bigot, right?

Or how about my mom? She’s not a writer. And a lot of times, I know she doesn’t understand the things I say or feel or do. So she questions them. Not out of hate or malice or a desire to hurt me, but because she does not understand. And even when I can explain it, even when I make it make sense, I still have to take a step back and examine myself. If she simply accepted me, chalked up everything she didn’t understand to me being a writer, I would never have to take a closer look at myself. I would never have to wonder if my obsession with my current story was healthy or not or if I am spending too much of my time in made up places and not enough in reality. I would be accepted, yes. But is that really love?

Alternately, when I was deciding whether I should get my nose pierced or not, I asked a few moms if my doing this would cause a stumbling block to their daughters in anyway. I know the girls look up to me and I didn’t want to do anything that would cause their moms to want to take them out of contact with me or make them think any less of me (again, because I want to be loved). All of the moms were super supportive and assured me that they saw nothing wrong with it.

But one of the moms added something else. She told me she was fine with it, that it would not affect her daughter in any way. But then she asked me why I was doing it. She challenged me in the most beautiful way to think about whether I was doing it just because I thought it would be a fun change or if I was doing it because of an unrest in my soul. She reminded me that only God can fill that sort of an unrest, that my completion is in Him not a piece of jewelry. And while I simply wanted to get my nose done because I thought it was cute and have for a very, very long time, I still greatly respect this mom because of what she said. She made me examine myself, ask myself if I did need to change or if I was looking for it in the wrong places. She accepted me, yes. But then she loved me enough to challenge me to be a better person.

I could go on and on. I have so many stories about people who have made me a better person because they loved me too much not to.

Love is something that finds you in the place you are. It envelops you in an embrace and tells you everything is going to be all right.

But love doesn’t leave you there. That’s acceptance. Acceptance is saying “Where you are is fine.”

But it’s not. As Christians, we are always working toward being more like Christ, so there is always room for improvement. And, those who believe evolution believe that we are constantly evolving, so we are always changing and growing. Improving.

So, if those two worldviews make up a good portion on the population, why is acceptance so widely taught?

I don’t want people to give me positive affirmation unless they mean it. Please don’t tell me “Good job” unless I actually did a good job. Don’t tell me I’m fine where I am, when I know I am not. Don’t tell me I’m fine even if I think I am.

Positivity is getting in our way. We’re so busy trying to build people up that it becomes a false sense of encouragement. It’s like building a wall with Styrofoam bricks instead of concrete ones. They look great, they seem to be doing the job. But they’re gonna crumble under the least bit of pressure.

What if instead we stopped being positive for the sake of being positive? What if we truly built people up by equipping them to be better people? What if instead of telling people they’re fine we pushed them to be even better?

Because I’m sure I am fine. But I don’t want to be fine. I want to be extraordinary. And not in the way your teachers teach in elementary school, where everyone is special. I mean I want to be pushed to be the very best person I can possibly be.

I want to be challenged. I want to be called out on my crap. I want to be given advice. I want to be told when I do something wrong.

Please speak to me with love. Please be kind. Please be gentle. But please, please, please, don’t accept me for who I am when you know full well that I can be better.

I know I am capable of extraordinary things. I know I can move mountains, I can change the world, I can start a revolution.

But being told those things, they don’t mean anything. Stop telling me I can make a difference, start challenging me about what sort of a difference I am making.

I think my best friend and I get along so well because we can be honest with each other. When she’s being ridiculous, I can tell her. When I’m overreacting, she tells me. I don’t need to be told that my feelings are justified. Believe me, I think that without your help. I need someone to say “Take a step back and breathe. Maybe the other person was just having a bad day.”

I have issues. Major ones. I know this better than anyone. And being told I am okay, being told it’s just who I am, it doesn’t help. It doesn’t make me a better person, it doesn’t help me in anyway. In fact, you’re hindering me when you say that.

Don’t affirm what I say. I don’t want a yes man. Don’t repeat back to me what I just said. Tell me what you’re thinking. Tell me ‘no’ if that’s what I need to hear. Tell me to calm down. Tell me to relax. Tell me to take a step back and examine myself. Challenge me. Push me. Love me.

But don’t accept me.

I never want to settle for mediocrity. And if you are someone who is okay with me settling, no matter how positive you are about it, it’s still a negativity I do not need in my life.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Cinderella- The Review...? Rant...? Me Talking About It With Much Emotion

Hey look! It's Monday! And, I'm posting something! This is almost normal!

We'll see if you still love me after you read it though... I apologize if I offend anyone.

And, I've got some other posts written so be sure to look out for those. They're much... tamer than this one...

Anyway! Without further ado:



I wanted to write this review a long time ago, but when I went to see it, I went with my sister, my best friend, and my brother’s girlfriend. And they all loved it. So, I felt sort of bad because I didn’t like it and I didn’t want them to think that my dislike of the movie also meant I was disappointed with the experience.

Danielle, Allie, and Danielle, if you’re reading this, please don’t think I was disappointed that I spent time with you.

Because I wasn’t. I had a blast. I just didn’t like the movie.

Or, as anyone who knows me the tiniest bit can tell you, I don’t just dislike stuff. I obsessively dislike it. That’s how I felt about the new, live-action remake of Cinderella. I don’t just dislike it. I DISLIKE it with a fiery burning passion.

There were a number of reasons the movie just didn’t work for me. Starting with a small reason, I’ll work my way up to the biggest problem I found.

So, first, Cinderella’s dress. What was with the butterflies? Like, it was sooooo beautiful and then the butterflies along the top looked like they had been added on the whim of a five-year-old. No. They should have been left off. I don’t care about motif. Seriously. No. Take them off. The costumer inside of me was screaming. Like, literally screaming inside my head. You may be thinking it’s not that big of a deal, but it is. Trust me. It was wrong and it ruined the magical moment of the dress transformation for me.

Next, the stepsisters.

I. Want. Pretty. Stepsisters.

Or, ugly stepsisters are okay.

Just please, please, pleeeeeeeaaaaaase stop giving me pretty girls in ugly costumes and terrible hairstyles. Part of the reason Ever After works so well for me is because I’m given beautiful stepsisters with ugly personalities. Like, seriously, if they had taken two second to style their hair differently, would we have had a different movie? Would more guys have liked them?

Or, give me ugly girls. Give me girls who eat too much and complain when their mother tries to dress them up and marry them off. Or, maybe they try to be pretty but it doesn’t work. But, please stop exaggerating it. This movie was full of a gorgeous color scheme and then they plop the stepsisters right in the middle of it and it came across as more than a sharp contrast. From the pictures I’ve seen and the few second snippets, they looked as if they would fit better in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland than this version of Cinderella.

I don’t know where this tradition started, but please, people, stop it.

Then there was the story in general. I wanted something new. Anything. Now, I’m not talking about a full new story. I understand that people love it because they kept it truer to the original story and that’s great. It actually gave me a ton of hope for Beauty and the Beast because it shows Disney does actually know how to follow a story without changing everything they possibly can.

But, you can add depth to a story without making it a new story. The only character who had depth, they ruined (we’ll get to that later). I wanted the story to surprise me. To give me another layer.

As a writer, the story was very one-note for me. The dialogue wasn’t particularly witty, none of the characters had much depth, and the story was the exact one we have known since before we can remember. The only parts that grabbed my attention, truly drew me in and made me care, were ruined by the end of the movie. Everything else was uninspiring and even the gorgeous visuals of the story world weren’t enough to keep me interested.

Which leads to my last point- the real reason I didn’t like the movie: The Stepmother.

See, I loved her.

For me, she was the only character with depth. The only character I understood. The only character I truly cared about.

Look at it from her point of view- She’s a single mother with two daughter in a time when men were valued. She has no one to take care of her girls, no one to see they are found good husbands, a place worthy of respect in the world. She’s a mother who wants the very best for her daughters. How many mothers out there can relate to that?

So then she meets this man. And, he’s good and kind and just amazing. And the way he talks about his own daughter, the way he treasures her, loves her, it gives the stepmother hope. Perhaps this man could love her daughters in the same way. Perhaps he could find her girls good husbands, as a man who cares in such a way for his daughter would surely not toss another’s to the wayside. There’s a chance here that maybe this man will offer them a place, see they are cared for, see they get the very best life can offer.

And, maybe, just maybe she finds herself falling in love with him.

But her heart was broken. Maybe by her first husband. Maybe by her father. Maybe by a suitor she wasn’t good enough for as a girl. Someone broke her heart because she obviously isn’t the best at loving people. She wants it. You can see that. At least, I could. But I don’t think she knows what love is. Maybe because no one had ever showed her before.

And, now, she’d found someone who might. Someone she might be able to open her heart to. Someone she might be able to love.

But then there’s that terrible scene where she overhears the father talking to Cinderella about her. That was wrong. Think about it. How would you feel if you overheard your husband talking about you that way? Especially when he clearly told Cinderella before that that he might be in love with her. He called her a second chance at happiness. So, we know this wasn’t just a marriage of convenience. He professed love to her and then turns around and talks about her behind her back.

I’d be pretty mad too.

Especially when he dies and she’s left with the girl. The girl he loved more than her. The girl who kept him from loving her own daughters. Her plans backfired.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. SHE MADE BAD CHOICES. I am not saying she was right to do any of what she did to Cinderella. It was wrong. But, it made sense.

See, Cinderella is all smiles and sweetness, but then goes and talks about her behind her back. I wouldn’t like the girl either. I would probably be pretty ticked off if I found myself her guardian.

Especially when Cinderella’s so much better than her own daughters. Daughters she wants the very best for. Daughters she will stop at nothing to make sure are taken care of. She doesn’t want her daughters to end up like her- twice a widow, left with nothing, no hope, no future for her children.

Who better to set your sights on than the prince? Any children you have will be looked after, even if something happens to your husband. You’ll never want for anything, never go without, and you’ll at least have money to make up for it if the prince talks behind his back about you (not a good philosophy, but one that makes sense).

But, Cinderella is standing in their way. Cinderella, with all her smiles and kindness but beneath it, she just isn’t nice to the Stepmother. They never connected and Cinderella didn’t really try. Not like she should have. It’s like Cinderella just expected everyone to like her and it’s some grave offence if they don’t.

So, the Stepmother takes drastic measures. She goes out of her way to ensure the prince doesn’t meet Cinderella, because she knows there’s no hope for her if he does. Her girls don’t stand a chance next to someone as amazing as Cinderella. They’ll be left with nothing.

You all know what happens. You know the steps the Stepmother takes. But then, Disney gives me one final scene to hate.

That scene at the end, after the prince finds Cinderella. We’re supposed to be cheering. The prince and Cinderella are united! The evil Stepmother has been vanquished.

And so, Cinderella walks down the stairs, gives her Stepmother a condescending little look and says the three words that fill me with rage every time I think about them: “I forgive you.”

I wanted to punch Cinderella. Or, at least the screenwriters.

See, this is supposed to be a great scene. But, really, of course she forgives her. Why wouldn’t she? She’s won. She gets the prince and the Stepmother is left with nothing. Her girls have even less of a chance at finding good husbands than they did before. That’s the thing that determines girls’ worth in that time, that world. And, Cinderella took it all away. She won.

Of course she forgives her Stepmother. Because this woman can never do another bad thing to her again. This woman is fully and completely defeated. And honestly, I would be surprised if Cinderella ever truly thought of her again. She has no reason to.

Forgiveness is easy when your life is perfect.

If she had said those words five minutes earlier, as the Stepmother was taking the slipper, was locking her in her room, I would have loved her. I would have written a completely different post, briefly mentioning the other things, but telling you all what a powerful movie this is. I would be writing about how much I love Cinderella and how amazing she is and how beautiful this all was.

But any effect, any power this story might have had was lost. Because she said those words just a few minutes too late.

But, on the plus side, this movie inspired a Cinderella retelling idea for me and as I was writing this post, I was inspired to write another one. So, I’m off to write that.

Until next time, faithful readers!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Short Story...

My poor blog!

It must feel so unloved...

I don't have a post, but I haven't posted anything lately, so y'all get a short story. I don't have a title for it, so I originally called this post the first thing I could think of that applied, which was "The Goodbye Letter"

Then I pictured that popping up in your inbox and all of you freaking out. Super misleading!!

So, I went with the simple "Short Story." Because that's what it is. It's just something I wrote off a writing prompt, so I hope you enjoy it!

I wrote you a letter you’ll never read. If you look closely at the pages you’ll find the stains where my tears fell as I wrote. The handwriting gets sloppier with each sentence as I became so caught up in the words I forgot to keep my mind on writing legibly. By the end, you probably wouldn’t be able to read what I wrote anyway.
                Not that it matters anymore.
                I baked a cake you’ll never eat. I set it out and the guests all helped themselves, talking in hushed tones as they ate the thin slices. Pineapple pound cake. Your favorite. I jumped every time the door opened, but you never came through it. The cake is gone and the guests left but you never came home.
                I drove past your work every day for a month, but your car was never there. I looked every time I drove by but your blue impala was never in the parking lot, in its usual space. I suppose you don’t drive it anymore, so I don’t know why I would expect to see it.
                I saw you every time I went out, saw you in every crowd, saw you in the face of every stranger I past. But they were never really you. I kept an eye out. I really did. I always thought I would see you, always expected to run into you. But it never happened.
                I still have your voicemail, but it’s not enough. I wanted to see you one last time, wanted a chance to talk, wanted a chance to say goodbye. Why didn’t you give me that chance? You really think leaving a phone message is good enough? You’d really do that to the woman you claimed to love?
                I didn’t get out of bed for days after I got your message. I didn’t eat and my sleep was fitful and full of dreams. More like nightmares. When I did start eating again, I ate my way through six pizzas, three jars of pickles, and nine pints of ice cream. I threw up three times.
                I cried for months. I cried on the way to work and on the way home, and in the shower, and while I sat alone on the couch every night. I blamed you. And then I blamed me. And then I blamed them. I missed you and I hated you. I wanted you back and never wanted to see you again.
                I had to explain it to my friends and family. Only, what was I supposed to tell them? I dreaded facing them and avoided it whenever possible. How could I explain to them when I didn’t even understand it myself?
                You left me. And, I couldn’t even call you. You left me and I didn’t know why. Was it me? Did I do something? Was I not good enough for you? If I had done something differently would we be together today? If I had done things differently would you have stayed?
                I got rid of everything that reminded me of you. I went through the house and did a complete overhaul, throwing everything away, cleaning it all out. I felt so good about myself, actually getting something done. I removed all traces of you, fueled by my anger.
                And then I regretted it and collapsed on the kitchen floor, sobbing, pleading with you to come back to me.
                I waited for you. All those parties I skipped out on, all the people I kept at arms’ length. You were coming back. And I wanted to be available when you did. I waited. I waited so long, put my life on hold, hoping, praying, begging you to come back.
                But, you never did.
                I’ve moved on now. Just like you asked me to. I don’t know when it happened, but it did. One day I realized I could laugh without forcing myself. I could walk past a couple holding hands without wanting to hurt one of them. I actually wanted to go out with my friends.
                I still miss you. There are some days when it hits me all at once and I am struck with the overwhelming urge to cry. But, it doesn’t last. I’m doing better. I can live without you.
                I met someone. He’s so different than you, it’s almost funny. But we fit so perfectly together. I felt guilty at first, like I was cheating on you. I felt like I was doing something wrong, like I was being unfaithful.
                But, you’re not coming back. I’ve accepted that now. And, I’ve forgiven you. I understand now. You didn’t choose to leave me. You chose to fight for something bigger than us, chose to stand up for what you believed in.
                It wasn’t your fault you had to leave me.
                I’m not angry anymore. My life is good, just as you hoped it would be. Just as you asked me to make it. Robert’s a wonderful guy. You would like him. And, you would be proud of me. Proud of the things I’m doing, proud of me for doing so well. But, it’s time for me to let you go. To truly say goodbye. So, here it is:
                Good bye, Ethan.

                Rest in peace.

And, there you have it!! Let me know what you thought in comments below!!! :D