Poison and Wine and Whatever Moves You

So, I joined a writing group. Why? Because that itch, that need to be creative, that gnawing sensation of what I’ve not yet done, of where I’ve not yet gone, of who I’ve not yet been was clawing its way out of my skin and I was left with no other choice. So, I joined a writing group to help me help me.

I sat, giving eager attention, as the women seated around the small table took turns sharing their writings. A devotional. An inspirational blog. A self-help book. A memoir. Words written to help others. Beautiful stories created to inspire.

… Hmmm…

… Thinking and processing…

… I have “nothing” to share…

… Three days later… still thinking… and processing… and “nothing” to share

Enter The Civil Wars‘ Poison and Wine on my Spotify with the moment of truth.

I just want to write love stories. Fantastical, romantic fiction about the human condition in and out of relationships. I want to write about hearts meeting and breaking and mending. About longingly waiting and painfully letting go. About expectant butterflies and unceasing tears. Even if that doesn’t seem very… inspiring, it is what’s moving me.

Here’s a list (in no particular order) of what else is moving me:
Lisa Hannigan “I Don’t Know
P
aramore “Still Into You”
Rictor “Till the End”
The Civil Wars “Dust to Dust” and “To Whom it may Concern” and “Falling”

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The Art of Feeling Goodbye

She sat across the table from me early that morning. The only other people in the Panera Bread restaurant was her husband, a few tables away, discipling someone else. Not a surprise, if you know them. We talked about how much we meant to each other these past two years. I listened in amazement as she expressed how much growth she has seen in me. Growth I still had a hard time catching a glimpse of. And then, with tear-filled eyes, she shared her concern. “You were in such a dark and sad place when I met you,” she said, her accented voice cracking under the weight of her fear, “I don’t want you to go back there.”

When I was eight years old, my home country growing rapidly unstable, my parents sent my sister and I to the US to live with a dear cousin. Being so young, I did not have the words to explain how difficult it was for me to leave my life (my friends, my family, my roots) behind and start a new one. I was full of so many emotions – anger, guilt, sadness, shame, anxiety, confusion – I did not know what to do with them. And being a deeply feeling child, it did not take me long to realize that those emotions were not preferred. How strenuous it must have been for my cousin to deal with an often moody, irritable, and depressed child. I am not sure if it was out of sympathy or self-preservation, but I eventually learned how to compartmentalize. And I’ve become quite the expert at it over the years.

Every goodbye, every difficult season, every move that took me away from hard-won friends (five schools between third grade and high school as an introvert, you can imagine the emotional tribulations that caused), was carefully packed away in its own box with accompanying memories. Whenever it was time to move on, life was broken down into related fragments and I moved on. Leaving my family, boxed. The death of my sister, boxed. Losing dear friends, boxed. Disappointing failures, boxed. Heart-wrenching heartbreaks, boxed. Life became a series of carefully labeled and neatly organized boxes. Some forgotten once stored, others often looked at but never opened, and yet others so full that the slightest provocation would cause the contents to spill out, sending me on a downward spiral until I could “get it together”. And all the while, I smiled. The biggest, brightest, most welcoming smile to let the world know that I had indeed moved on… That I was, “ok”.

The problem was, I had not moved on without my emotions. The deeply feeling girl had grown into a deeply feeling woman. And by the time I met this dear lady, the only thing I felt was anger followed by guilt and shame which triggered a desperate sadness that lead to anguish, anxiety, and confusion. If you had asked me then, there were one-hundred and one reasons, just as easily as there were none, for my feelings. But the truth is, in all my packing I had managed to box myself up and shut most everyone out. Somehow, my friend saw past that. She looked looked at my smile but saw the distance in my eyes, so she bid me to draw closer… And closer still… So close that the warehouse of boxes could not be hidden… And even closer then, until the labels could be read and the boxes started unpacking.

And now she is saying, “goodbye”…

My initial reaction is to engage my usual pattern of “keeping it together”. Head high, shoulders up, bright smile, life is tough, appreciate the time you had and move… No. I pray to God, I want to feel this one. “I won’t go back there”, I promise. And I cry too.

~ that’s life… in no particular order

Proofreading Emotions

As the director of one of the easiest but least appreciated courses on campus, I often receive complaints, requests, and excuses (oh so many excuses) as to why a student doesn’t believe s/he needs to take the course. Those  comments usually come in the shape of phone calls, followed by emails, followed by a form that I will not sign. And since we are nearing the end of the current semester and the start of a new one, the requests are flowing from those who have failed (surprising for such an “unnecessary” course) and those who think requirements do not apply to them.

Case in point: 

“Hello Ms. Pierre, I have been dual enrolled since last fall and will be coming in with 24 credit hours. I will be majoring in ___. One of my professors advised me to see if I could get an override for ___, due to my experience already at ___. While dual enrolling, my high school GPA remain at a a steady 4.0 and my college GPA is at a 3.8. Although I know this class is not academic in nature, I feel that my GPA proves that I now how to manage my time and keep my grades up. I also have highly decorated Professors that would be willing to give character references. Also, I was told I would not have to do “orientation”. Could you please clarify for me?”

After rolling my eyes and laughing hysterically, I wrote this: 

We are excited that you will be joining the ___ family as a freshman (no longer a dual-enrolled high school student). Once on campus, you will find that the transition, though seemingly small, comes with a wide range of challenges. I am interested in which instructor told you that you wouldn’t need ___. The Chair of your intended major seems to think it’s an important course and teaches it for the ___ students every Fall semester. No matter, you don’t really need to divulge that information. I would not want you to implicate anyone for not supporting the president’s initiative.

The policy is that all freshmen and transfers with less than 30 credits are required to take ___. I appreciate you offering references to your character. It does not change the policy, however, it does make me look forward to having you in class as I am sure you will be an asset to the other students. As for Orientation, this is an online module that can be completed in one afternoon. There is nothing to waive.

By God’s grace, I have learned that having the skill to write means having the skill to build or destroy with your words. I want to build, even if it’s in the middle of setting strong boundaries. So, after proofreading my sarcastic, passive aggressive emotions, I wrote this:

We are excited that you will be joining the ___ family as a freshman (no longer a dual-enrolled high school student). Once on campus, you will find that the transition, though seemingly small, comes with a wide range of challenges. I am interested in which instructor told you that you wouldn’t need ___. The Chair of the music department seems to think it’s an important course and teaches it for the music students every Fall semester.  

The policy is that all freshmen and transfers with less than 30 credits are required to take ___. Although I appreciate you offering character references, they would not change the policy. They would, however reveal that your commitment to education is evident to those around you. And this makes me look forward to having you in class as I am sure you will be an asset to the other students. In college, there will be many classes you don’t believe you “need” or are not particularly interested in taking. It is your commitment during those times that will set you apart and build your character as a student.

As for Orientation, this is an online module that can be completed in one afternoon. It is required before students come for ___ so that they can be better prepared. There is nothing to waive.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday break and looking forward to meeting you in the Spring.

 

Giving Thanks

I am thankful that God is faithful! He gives me the Holy Spirit to guide and support me in all circumstances. He disciplines me and provides people, family, friends, trials and triumphs to mold and shape me into the woman He created me to become. And most importantly, He gave His Son as ransom for my sin, my debt, my death so that I may truly live (aware of His grace and conforming to His truth) now and forever more.

Giving thanks for love, emotions,  connectedness, communication, music, words, talent, gifts, prayers, tears, laughter, hugs, smiles, senses, beauty, pain, touch, warmth, colors, life, death…

Nichole Nordeman, My Offering