Express Yourself

Admittedly I haven’t been blogging a whole lot lately, at least not much more than posts about my training sessions. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to blog. There have been days when I have felt the need or desire to blog but I didn’t. There are many reasons for the lack of blog posts, ranging from the “I have nothing to say” to the “I don’t know what I can say”. In a way, I feel sort of handcuffed in what I can say on my own blog, because someone has chosen to twist my words into something drastically different than what I have ever said or intended. While I obviously cannot control how people may interpret my words, I know my heart and my intent and I am at peace with both. Despite the peace I feel in this situation, I have been feeling reluctant to blog about much of anything beyond the basics of training. I know this is a season of sorts, and I will get past it to blog more candidly once again.

I have to admit that part of my reluctance to blog flows out of the knowledge that my blog could be read by those who choose to twist my words into something I never intended. Obviously, if you find something on the internet personally offensive to you, you have complete freedom to NOT continue to read it, right?! This is my blog. It is about me and my journey. This is my journey of self-discovery, of growing comfortable in my own skin, and knowing who I am. Sometimes my journey towards becoming Angela involves other people, because we do not go through life without being touched by others and in turn touching others. This is my journey. If you don’t like it…don’t read it. Plain and simple! I don’t blog for personal glory or recognition or followers. I have no expectation that anyone reads my blog and won’t be offended if nobody does.

And still, I hesitate. I open my WordPress site with the intention of blogging and then I hesitate. I think about who might read my blog, about who might take my innocent words and twist them into something ugly. So I pause until I have no more time to blog, or I simply blog about my training, all the while feeling censored.

Despite how I feel in regards to blogging, I am feeling perfectly fine. I am sleeping well. I am happy and at peace with myself. Although I have been hurt and rejected recently, I am doing very well. My husband and I were talking about that situation the other day, and he asked me if I had forgiven the offending party. I was kind of taken by surprise by his question, because I don’t even look at that turn of events as being worth my time or attention. Was I hurt? Yes. Am I holding onto any of that hurt or resentment? Heck no! While I do not agree in any way shape or form with the other point of view in this situation, I also don’t consider this to be worth holding onto. It’s difficult to explain how I feel without going into more detail in the situation, which is something I am not going to do. Suffice it to say that I am completely comfortable with who I am to know that I am not at fault in this situation, and as such my forgiveness is essentially automatic. Would I be comfortable bumping into this person in public unexpectedly? Probably not but that’s just me and my non-confrontational nature potentially pushed into an uncontrollable scenario! Am I losing sleep or stressed out over what has happened? Absolutely not! Like I said, I know who I am. I know my own heart and my intentions. I can put my head on my pillow each night knowing that I was true to myself, to my family, and to my friends. If someone sees that differently, then that is their problem and not mine.

I suppose this post is where I draw a line in the sand and say, “No more!” This is my blog. This blog is about me and my journey and what makes me who I am. If you have a problem with that, then feel free to stop visiting! If, on the other hand, my journey interests you, then please follow along. I cannot promise that my journey will always be cool or exciting, but I will always strive to be real and honest. I am no one of consequence or importance. I am merely Angela, a 45 year old woman, a wife of 25 years and mother of 3. I am a friend, a powerlifter, a barista, someone who is thankful for everything and entitled to nothing. Although my education is limited, I am a lover of words, and writing is how I express myself best. And this is my blog.

Love Lifts

“Our heart can never overindulge, for our capacity to love grows as we do it. The heart is a muscle that wants to lift heavy things, so, love-and keep loving.” ~B. Oakman

Recently I was told that my relationship with someone I considered a good friend was unhealthy. That declaration came out of nowhere, and it hit me with all of the force of a category 5 hurricane. I didn’t understand then. I still don’t understand. My first response was absolute horror that I might have done something to hurt or offend, then I was filled with a crushing sense of hurt and shame. The hurt comes from the belief that I have lost a friend, and I honestly don’t know how else to feel about it. The shame flows out of a sense that I’ve done something wrong or that there must be some inherent flaw within me that makes me unlovable and worthless, because it doesn’t really matter how much one sugar-coats the words, my heart takes rejection personally.

Roughly two weeks later, I still don’t understand what happened or why. It still hurts, and I still feel as if I did something wrong or just wasn’t enough of…I don’t even know what. Perhaps a braver person would push a confrontation and defend herself, but I am not that brave. I am a non-confrontational kind of person and, while I will defend myself when appropriate, there are times when the best course of action is simply to do nothing. I don’t agree with the pronouncement that this friendship is unhealthy, but I also don’t feel like I can express my disagreement with my friend. At least not right now.

But this blog post isn’t actually about my friend. It is about what happened to me after being told that my friendship wasn’t healthy. I cried. A lot. I didn’t sleep well at all. My appetite vanished, and the food that I forced myself to eat tasted like sawdust. I’ve been anxious, nearly sick to my stomach. My mind replayed past conversations and second-guessed every word or action I’ve made over the past year. I read through every blog post going back at least a year. Every time I’d close my eyes I would visualize old scenes and analyze them for something, anything that could have been misconstrued. I kept coming up with blanks, but that didn’t stop me from obsessing over what I could have done so horribly wrong. Self-care became a struggle. Housework was limited to the absolute necessities, so a load of laundry when I needed clean clothes for work. At home, I was grumpy and emotional. As much as my emotions were frayed and fragile, I was numb inside. This is the truth of my humanness. I feel deeply. I hold my friendships in high regard, although I have never before been accused of any inappropriateness within those friendships. The implication that I’ve been too much or too wrong hurts. It hurts a lot and deeply.

Now it is no secret that I am a Star Wars girl, so forgive me for the upcoming Star Trek reference. The previous paragraph illustrates my humanness, but this paragraph is going to reveal my Vulcan side. Why Vulcan? Because I am not only an emotional being. I am also quite logical. As much as I am confused and hurting in this situation, there is a part of me that recognizes that this whole thing probably really isn’t about me at all. There are other things at play, which I cannot and will not delve into in my blog; however, I know of those things, at least some of them, and such knowledge makes it easy for me to extend grace when my heart has been broken into a thousand pieces. There is a quote somewhere about not truly knowing what is going on inside of another person. I don’t have the energy to search for that quote right now, but the essence of it applies here. This person has been my friend. I know some of this friend’s story but not all of it. I know enough to realize that this probably isn’t about me…that is, of course, unless I am ever given a specific reason or explanation for the how and why my friendship is unhealthy.

My belief that this isn’t about me doesn’t stop me from being confused, nor does it erase the hurt and sense of loss. The comments just don’t make any sense, but I could drive myself mad trying to figure them out. My friend wants space, so I will give it, even if doing so leaves me hanging in limbo.

I have been in a somewhat similar situation before…similar yet different. Many years ago now, a close friendship ended, one that was much deeper and longer than this current friendship. That relationship ended because I wasn’t willing to compromise my principles in order to condone her attitude and behaviour. The loss of that friendship hurt deeply, and it took me a long time to find my way out of the black hole that I got sucked into, to realize that I wasn’t a horrible person, an uncaring friend, worthless and flawed.

The one major difference between this situation and the previous one is that I am not the same person as I used to be. I am stronger now, more sure of who I am and what I am not. One thing I will always be is a sensitive soul with feelings that run deep; however, I no longer want to be one who retreats behind high walls when the storms rage outside. Although hiding away is easier at times, I was created to care and love, and I’ve learned that I feel better when I am true to myself. As such, I have allowed my heart to lift heavy things, to love and love some more. If that is my only crime, then so be it! I am guilty of loving, but I am determined to keep on loving those within my circle and those outside of it.

The Tell-Tale Heart

“Our heart can never overindulge, for our capacity to love grows as we do it. The heart is a muscle that wants to lift heavy things, so, love-and keep loving.” ~B. Oakman

A television commercial can cause my eyes to well with wetness.

A stranger’s story of random blessing will bring a sting of tears to my eyes.

A beloved book, oft read and remembered, tugs at my emotions every time I take it down from the shelf.

My motherly instincts cry tears of joy with every milestone reached by my children.

Streams of tears flow fiercely for friends facing trials and tragedies and celebrations of joy.

Words, both written and oral, have the power to melt my heart and turn me into a sniveling fool.

Memories move me in a multitude of ways: choking, inspiring, motivating, heart-warming, heart-breaking.

My heart is tender to the cry of a kindred spirit, easily broken for others, by others, by my own doubts and mental self-flagellation.

And yet, my heart is strong and resilient. It beats fiercely with passion and with compassion. It is vulnerable yet indestructible. My character flows forth from every heartbeat. My tears are not a sign of weakness, rather an outpouring of inner strength.

Silent Night

“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.”                           ~ Elbert Hubbard

“There’s a great power in words, if you don’t hitch too many of them together.” ~ Josh Billings

 

I was invited to go to a birthday party which took place this past Sunday. I had thought that I would go, but I didn’t. I feel guilty about that decision, and yet I don’t. Welcome to the world of an introvert.

Sometimes I love getting out and being social, but I am also extremely particular about who and when and why. I had planned on going. I woke up that morning with the intention of going that evening, but my decision wavered as the day progressed. What I had thought was going to be an easy, low key day quickly became a day half-wasted with stuff yet to be done. By that time it was a no-brainer for me to decide to stay home instead.

As much as I really, truly enjoy spending time with my favourite people, most of the time I am a homebody. I had worked closing shifts the two nights prior, and I desperately wanted to just sit in the quietness of my own home. Still, I stress a bit wondering if that makes me seem uncaring. I won’t lose sleep over it, but I don’t like to disappoint, even when I do so for my own sanity.

My hope is that those who know me truly understand me. I do not always speak words in abundance, and, when I do speak, I frequently stumble over my words. I enjoy being with people I care about, but I am not the life of the party and never will be. I am the wallflower. The quiet one. The one who seems difficult to get to know…unless you are willing to wait for a relationship to blossom. I can be a great friend, I think. Sometimes I am. Sometimes I am as caught up with the busyness of life as everyone else. I listen well. I think. A lot. Maybe too much sometimes. My heart is big and tender and open, if you can get past the walls.

Not everyone will get me, but I appreciate those who do. Even when I let them down.

 

Connection

There must be something in the air today, because I have been feeling rather unexpectedly emotional. It began as I sat at the end of the bar while on my break this morning, when I was approached by three customers within a few minutes of each other. Sincere and warm greetings along with conversation that skimmed just below the surface. Connections. As I sat there eating my lunch, the warmth of the connections that I am making here made me think about the differences between my current and former jobs. Tears threatened. Happy tears that I choked back lest I look foolish or upset about something not there.

Since I worked an early shift this morning and I have a closing shift tomorrow, I stopped back at work this afternoon for my second cup of coffee and had a couple more encounters with regular customers, even though I wasn’t behind the counter. Have I ever mentioned how much I love my new job?

I guess know that I feel things deeply. I think I always have, but there were quite a few years where my ability to feel and care and connect were crippled by depression, insecurities, and emotional wounds. Three years ago the thought of changing jobs would never have seemed possible. While I was capable of being amiable, internally I was reluctant to get involved, to open up, to care too much about others or even myself. I was a different person then, but I am not that person anymore. I am so glad to feel again, to care again, even if deeply. I may not always jump into connection with two feet, but I no longer desire to shy away from it.

Just as a leopard cannot change its spots, an introvert cannot become a permanent extrovert. This is who I am. I am an introvert, but I take great joy in using my gifts and strengths in ways that compliment my personality and nature. I am enjoying the opportunity to be a part of my customers daily routine, and I am thrilled that I am being accepted as part of that routine, and welcomed like a part of a family.

So much has happened in my life over the past three years. I have been changed in some pretty radical ways and couldn’t be happier about it. I almost wouldn’t recognize the me of three years ago, and I suspect not many would. I’ve been on an amazing journey, and I’m far from reaching my final destination.

 

The End of an Age

Today was my final day as an employee of Tim Hortons. Although there were many frustrations within the job over the years, this job was like a secondary family and I enjoyed doing what I did. My biggest issues had little to do with my bosses, franchise owner, and so much more to do with the corporation and the direction it has been taking the company. I understand the concept of a business striving to make profit and grow business. I just have different values and priorities in my life and how I view our customers. This is why, after 11 years of working at this job, I jumped at the opportunity to seek employment at Starbucks.

Everything I see and hear and experience at Starbucks, even before I have worked a shift there, leads me to believe that this job will align more closely with my values. Perfectly? Probably not. However, as a frequent customer at Starbucks, I have already experienced the value this company places on building connections with their guests. I love that! Will the new job be perfect? I know it won’t be, because there will always be difficult customers and pressure to meet performance expectations. What I can say is that there will be a difference between working at Starbucks and working at Tim Hortons, and I find that exciting. My first shift isn’t until Tuesday, so I have the next six days to decompress and relax and simply exist in a temporary job-free existence.

As excited as I am for my new job and as easy as it is to say good-bye to Tim Hortons the company, saying good-bye to my co-workers was not so easy. I have worked with some of these people for my entire 11 years there. While some co-workers have been there for a much shorter period of time, in many ways we are like a family. It was the saying good-bye that was the hardest thing. I won’t miss a great deal of things about the job itself, but I will miss the daily interaction with these people. And the regular customers, too! I was given a lot of hugs today. I also received flowers, balloons, a ceramic travel coffee mug, and a beautifully handmade Wonder Woman card. I cried many tears.

Then I came home, took off my uniform for the final time and had a hot bath. The tears have dried up, I think, and I am good. It feels slightly strange to know that I do not work at Tim Hortons anymore, but I am looking forward to this new chapter in my life. Change, although often uncomfortable, can produce amazingly beautiful results. In the half-proud, half-mocking words of my youngest son, “Aw! Little Angela is all grown up!”

A Stone Called Ebenezer

tattoo

1 Samuel 7:12

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far has the LORD helped us.’”

The back story, in a nutshell, was that the Israelites had defeated the Philistines and they placed a stone as a memorial or testament of what God had done for them. It’s a very small part of scripture, but the concept of the Ebenezer stone has stayed with me for nearly twenty years. In fact, I decided long ago that were I ever to write a book that ‘Ebenezer Stone’ would figure into it somehow. Well, I haven’t written a book and doubt that I ever will do so, but today I am placing my Ebenezer stone in the form of a tattoo!

Some reading this might be rather shocked that I am getting a tattoo. I can’t say that I blame you, as I never would have thought that I would get one either! At least not up until several months ago when the idea first sprouted. Once sprouted though, that little idea grew as quickly and pervasively as a weed, but I waited for a special moment to take place before allowing the idea to become reality. That moment was two months ago today, when I deadlifted 303.1 pounds, more than double my bodyweight.

This entire blog is a chronicle of my journey to know and love myself; however, even though I’ve had this blog for six years, the greatest growth has only been achieved over the past three years. Without a doubt, the catalyst for this was when I started training at Progressive Fitness, but I know that this journey, this growth and change, has not come without the Lord’s help. In ways big and small, God has been guiding, shaping, changing, and loving me. When I didn’t love myself, He did. When I doubted that I could ever change, He knew I could and He placed people in my life who not only believed I could but also had the ability to help me get there. When I felt lost and alone, He was always with me and gave me the most amazing people I am blessed to call my friends. For all the years that I felt useless and incapable, He has given me a passion for something that makes me feel strong and capable. For all the years that I felt invisible and insignificant, He has placed my name in record books and on television screens. Thus far has the Lord helped me!

So the idea for this tattoo took shape in my head and heart, and I am so excited!

First, there is a barbell, because training and lifting weights has been such an integral part of this journey. In the gym was where I first truly began to believe in myself and discovered the depths of my character. My husband had told me for years that I needed to do more than just run, but I was scared of weights. What a flip! Now I don’t/can’t run, but I absolutely love lifting weights. I’ve lost excess weight, I’ve improved my health and fitness, I’ve gained self-confidence and inner strength, and all that is the result of my time at Progressive Fitness, training with Michael.

Secondly, the weight on the barbell represents the 137.5 kg or 303.1 pounds that I deadlifted two months ago. How many non-strength sports women do you know who can pick up more than double their bodyweight from the floor? Three years ago, I would never have believed that I could ever do that. I probably wouldn’t even have truly believed it at the time of my first powerlifting competition two years ago. Lifting that weight two months ago was such a powerful experience. Without a doubt, my strength will not stagnate at that weight. I will lift more in the future, but that first time lifting more than 300 pounds, more than twice what I weighed…well, that’s simply momentous.

Finally, there is Ebenezer, because this is my Ebenezer stone. I am here, in this place, because the Lord has helped me get to this point. He will also continue to help me. This journey is not finished yet.