Letters From Grace

24 May

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Once upon a time, my therapist suggested I start writing letters to myself from grace.

It makes sense.

I am a words person. A words of affirmation person. A words-are-the-best-thing-in-life person.

It makes sense I should be writing to myself.

Grace is a very new second language to me. It is unnatural and uncomfortable and sometimes I forget I ever started to learn it in the first place.

And so I practice with words.

April 20th

Hey there.

Wow.

OK.

You know that was beyond you, right?

Like, that was a tsunami. An earthquake.

And you are human. You were swallowed whole.

Be gentle with yourself in the aftermath. Treat yourself like a friend who survived something tough.

What do you need?

What can you give yourself right now?

Even some kind words like

I still like you

or

I still love you, too

You’re doing WAY better than you think you are.

xo

Grace

I don’t know how to transition this part of the blog post.

I’ve tried.

Again and again and again.

I’ve tried so hard that I started to wonder what grace would say about it. Would it tell me to just publish the mess and give myself grace?

Or would it tell me to set it aside and that itself is an act of grace?

Both are potentially right answers.

Both sound like grace.

April 22nd

Hi there. Me again.

Yes, you need me twice this week.

I’ll let you in on a secret:

You actually need me FAR more often than that.

And guess what? That’s totally normal. Totally human.

This sensitivity you have isn’t a curse or a weakness, it’s a wonder.

You’re a wonder.

It’s true!

That whole list you have, of everything wrong, everything so far away from where you’d like it–your health, bank account, career–there’s also another list. The other side of things, the things you do have — health, bank account, career (LOVE).

You’ve got this.

xo

Grace

The creators of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text are doing a Little Women & Writing as a Sacred Practice retreat.

It’s the sort of thing I would go to immediately if money weren’t an object.

The description of the event says:

We will spend three days asking ourselves one key question; what role do we want writing to play in our lives?

We will ask this question of ourselves, of each other, and of Louisa May Alcott’s classic work of genius, Little Women.

The thesis of this trip is that writing can be a form of prayer. This trip is not about writing for publication, but writing as spiritual technology that we can use to live full, actualized, joyful lives.

I’ve read and reread that description a few times, feeling myself shift through the words alone. Grow a little more solid.

Writing as a sacred practice

These letters from grace are exactly that.

A form of prayer.

To myself. To the universe. To a God.

Let it be so.

Let me treat myself better.

Please, let there be grace.

A few weeks ago, out of the blue, I got a text from my friend Bailey.

It said this:

Hey Jillo,

SUP?

Hey gurl guess what? Today’s a free day.

I mean, I know you have to work, but beyond that free day!

What does that mean? It means you can have all the cups of tea you want. Until you start to shake then maybe step it back and switch to fizzy water.

AND THEN! You get to go home and see Dolly and Robby! <3

And then it’s weekend time. Even if you have responsibilities this weekend, let’s not think about that right now. Let’s just be like, “Hey it’s Friday. Not Monday, not Wednesday. Friday. Almost Saturday. Holla.”

OK I gotta make sure your fellow sisters and brothers are showing themselves grace, so off I go. Call if you need me.

Love,

Grace

(It spread.

My letters from grace spread.)

It’s Thursday night.

Maybe write yourself a note from grace?

Maybe start it out with something like

You’re doing way better than you think you are

or

I like you

and

I love you

Maybe start wherever you are?

That’s always a nice place to start.

A few breaths for transition?

xoxo

Jill

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I Am Not Exempt From Life

11 May

IMG_2827Rob Bell talked about The Rock’s Rolling Stone interview on his podcast.

Apparently, at the beginning of the interview, The Rock recounted a story. How he finished work at 2AM and was exhausted. How there was a strange noise coming from his hotel room. How no one could identify it and after an hour of trying everything (including earplugs) he had to move rooms at 3AM.

“It was a whole thing,” Dwayne said.

Rob laughed as he recounted it.

No one is exempt from life.

No one is exempt from life. From those 3AM inconveniences, those mystery noises. You can be The Rock, the highest paid movie star in the world, and you still have to do life.

No one is exempt.

The past few days I’ve had annoying life problems pop up. Paperwork. Unexpected bills. You know.

You really know.

And for the past few days I’ve had a bad attitude about them. An “Are you kidding me?” “What a nightmare!” “Why me?” attitude.

Today I was able to take a deep breath. Begin what will likely be a long process of figuring them out.

Take a step.

Today I was able to say, this is life. I’m not exempt.

Rob Bell continued. He said that, to him, people who are successful generally are people who

Keep going

Pay attention

Are open

I like that.

It’s not completely on topic, but it’s not off either, really, is it?

I am not exempt from life.

Keep going.

It’s going to be a whole thing.

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Life Lately

8 May

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Life lately is a lot of Dolly Purrton.

Our little

cinnamon bun

toasted marshmallow

cappuccino of a cat

with a pink heart nose and cotton ball puffs for paws.

Dolly Purrton who is gentle and talkative, whose favorite spot to snuggle is the bend in my knee, who follows us everywhere because she wants to be in the room where it happens.

Our little croissant who runs to the door to greet us when we come home from work.

Our baby.

Life lately is missing Utah in unexpected ways. In going to 7-Eleven and feeling a hole in my heart that can only be filled by a chocolate chocolate Dunford Donut.

In wanting a really good, really full Diet Coke with fresh lime and settling for a mediocre-at-best Subway bleh.

A friend told me she misses the flowers of her hometown. It’s crazy, she said. I’m in LA. We’re full of flowers.

But there’s nothing like your mother’s lilac tree in the spring.

There’s nothing like a Utah Diet Coke.

Life lately is going to bed at 11, 10, 9. At finally giving in and saying OK. If this is my schedule I can no longer be a night owl. OK, sacrifices must be made.

And so I go to sleep early.

I go to sleep early and that whole part of me of me, the part that people could rely on to be up at 3AM, has shifted.

That identity is asleep.

For now.

Life lately is creating boundaries with church service (a girl can only do so much).

(And there is so much to do.)

It’s wearing pink tassled slippers and loud, crazy sunglasses. It’s ordering lunch ahead so I don’t have to pack anything in the mornings, and realizing that that is worth it. Not having the stress of making a lunch is worth it all.

Life lately is thank you notes on Beyonce stationary.

It’s less TV, not on purpose, just because.

(Because I’m sleeping, most likely.)

Life lately is a lot of Dolly Purrton

Did I mention our baby?

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Here In Your Pain

7 May

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Years ago I went through a breakup.

I should say, years ago I went through many breakups with the same person, a sort of Groundhog Day nightmare I feel lucky to have made it out of partly intact.

But heartbreak it was.

On one of these occasions I showed up at my friend’s house. I had told her what happened and when I arrived she stood at the door with a notebook.

She handed me a pen.

Would you like to talk? was written on the first page.

I checked the box for NO

Would you like food?

I checked the box for YES

And down the flow chart we went. Without saying a word I communicated what I needed right then. We got food. We were there together.

I don’t know what else we did. But I’ll always remember that flow chart. That notebook. That response.

I’m here.

I’m here in your pain.

In the book Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle says

We think our job as humans is to avoid pain, our job as parents is to protect our children from pain, and our job as friends is to fix each other’s pain. Maybe that’s why we all feel like failures so often–because we all have the wrong job description for love. What my friends didn’t know about me and I didn’t know about Amma is that people who are hurting don’t need Avoiders, Protectors, or Fixers. What we need are patient, loving witnesses. People to sit quietly and hold space for us. People to stand in helpless vigil to our pain.

A couple of months ago my grandfather passed away.

It was sudden and shocking and a very difficult for me. For my family.

The day before my grandfather’s funeral, a friend texted me. “Hey, me and B are coming to the funeral. We’ll watch any young kids so people can be there for the service.”

I didn’t ask them to do this. I didn’t even know they planned on it. They got babysitters for their own kids. They took their personal days off of work for a man they met only briefly.

They did it for me.

After the service I stood with them among wooden blocks and plastic trucks and let some of it out and they listened and they said

No problem

Of course

I’m here in your pain.

I’ve been working on inviting my pain to the table. Witnessing it, if you will.

When I feel something uncomfortable I slow down.

Hello there anger

Sadness

Jealousy

Fear

Shame

Regret

Come on in. Here’s a seat. What kind of tea would you like?

Would you like to talk? Check for YES

I’m here

I’m here in your pain.

(I’ve learned from the best.)

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Instead (A Post About Depression)

26 Apr

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I wanted this to be a slightly smug, self-congratulatory post.

Hello everyone. Have you gotten your physical recently?

I did, and let me tell you what. It changed my life. It solved all my problems.

I wanted it to solve all my problems.

Instead.

Well, instead.

I got a physical a few months ago. My therapist suggested it, as I’ve been struggling with fatigue and she wanted to make sure there was no physical component to it.

I doubted there was. I have depression. Depression and fatigue go hand-in-hand.

But I went to the doctor.

Several tests, several strange results later I ended up in a specialist’s office. From everything I’d read about this highly unusual condition I had, fatigue was a large component. All I needed to do was get the thing removed, a quick surgery here, a quick medication there, and bing, bang, boom.

New lease on life.

New woman.

Problems solved.

Instead.

Well, instead.

The specialist told me that I was totally fine.

Yay! My friends said.

That’s great news, my family said.

Oh no, I said.

You see, somewhere in those few months I had let myself hope. Let myself hope that maybe there was something bigger at play here. There was a reason! something tangible! for the way I was (am). There was an easy fix. Soon I would be accomplishing things with the best of them.

With the “normal” people.

Instead.

Well, instead I’m here. Writing the opposite of a smug post.

It turns out that this condition I have, this depression and fatigue I live with every day, yeah, it’s exactly what I thought it was.

That can be incredibly daunting.

Depression, for me at least, doesn’t have an end date. I can medicate it, but I can’t eradicate it. I can put things in place, set my life up to manage it, and yet, it can breeze into town and destroy everything without thought.

In my lowest moments I wonder how I’m going to do it. How I’m going to live day-in and day-out with this darkness, this pressure, this sadness.

It’s overwhelming.

There’s not a lot of light or hope in it.

I wanted the easy out.

The easy out felt so good.

Instead.

Well, instead.

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Book Club

22 Apr

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My house is so squeaky clean right now that I actually took off my shoes and put them away rather than leave them on the floor.

You know that place where everything is tidy and cozy and you commit to making it this way for the rest of your life?

I’ve been there for the past few hours.

Thank you, book club.

I started a book club (again).

My last one, RIP, ended due to schedules and distance and then the pesky problem of 2/4 members eventually leaving the Los Angeles area.

Eventually, being key to that part of the story.

But I am telling this story. And this is how I’m telling it:

This year when I was looking at what I wanted to accomplish I wrote down a few things.

Read The Brothers Karamazov

Approach social media with intention

Join a book club

Join a book club.

Invest in friendships near, rather than always far.

Join a book club

And so, because I am forever a Kristy, I sent out a few texts.

I chose a book sure to be rich for discussion.

Bing. Bang. Boom.

French toast!

START a book club

(I should have known myself.)

We had French toast today. And bacon. (We ate the whole pound, hello ladies.) And eggs. And fizzy fruity drinks and Diet Cokes and we talked about the book some, yes. About what the book made us think about. About where we lack compassion. We talked about creativity. Religion. Politics.

We listened to Dolly Parton.

We admired Dolly Purrton. (From afar.)

I provided fuzzy socks for those in need.

And nearly four hours after it began I said goodbye to the last member.

I said goodbye and I turned on the sink and got out the soap.

Squeak squeak.

Hear that?

I’m committing to be in this place the rest of my life.

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My Protected Writing Time

11 Apr

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I’ve been sick for four months.

I’ve been sick for four months not in a chronic, (or) real, (or) life-threaning way, but in that awful way where you’re blowing nose on everything and you’re losing your voice and people are like maybe you should be at home? And you’re like, listen if I were to be at home every time I felt like this I would be at home every day, SIR.

I’ve been sick for four months.

It’s a bum start to the year.

2018 is that very pretty vintage car that looks so nice, but every time you try to get it going it kind of begins and putters out. Begins and putters out. And you spend all your time in the shop thinking, wow this is it?

This is what’s happening?

I’ve been sick for four months.

Apparently I’m not alone. A girl I follow on Instagram keeps giving updates to her own illness.

stillsick.com she says on her beautifully lit photo of a green plant

stillsick.net I say.

I’ve been sick for four months.

At one point I thought I would do a library blog. I even own the space.

jillianlibrarian.com

It sounds so great, right? I want to do that!

I want to be that librarian! That person!

I could do a post on National Poetry Month! On my book spine poetry lesson! And my magnetic poetry boards! The blackout poetry interactive station!

I want to write about that.

And I want to do so much else. I want to do it all and there’s no time and I’m at a place in my life where I have the most time I’ll ever have and there’s no time for jillianlibrarian.

And so I sit here writing nonsense on jillianlorraine.com in my 35 minutes of protected writing time. My 35 minutes set on a timer.

And so I sit here and waste the timer time on this time. Timer.

I’m watching Home Town. Now that Chip and Joanna are gone I have to do something to fill the achy brrakey void. I have to emotionally attach to strangers.

Rob refuses to be the HGTV couple with me.

It’s not that hard, I say. We’ll just move to a small town in the South. Restore it home by home. You’ll have to pick up some carpentry, maybe construction skills. I’ll use my natural design eye I’ll soon acquire.

It will be a hit! I’ll be a maximalist who loves color, a unicorn in the white-everything world!

We’ll buy homes for $30k!

Does it depress anyone else to watch people buy homes for 30K? Like what? What is happening? That is a decent rent for a year, fools.

I am the fool for living here.

We are all fools.

I have 16 minutes left on that writing timer I told you about. I could be working on the two books that I’ve begun in the last year. Or my wedding stuff that I keep avoiding. Or maybe a deep personal essay that I could send somewhere.

But here I am talking about Missisippi real estate.

Here I am, being me.

I did begin my wedding writing. It goes like this:

It has been over seven months since that day in Cape Cod.

Seven months in Santa Monica.

Seven months of meal planning (seven months more than ever before).

(Seven months of marriage.)

In those seven months, I’ve consistently had on my to do list, “write about the wedding.”

I know it’s some of the most important writing I’ll ever do. Writing that I’ll want to look back on again and again.

That’s probably why I’m avoiding it.

(Definitely.)

Because it feels so Important.

This writing will live on. Long after the memories have faded, long after those who karaoked forget exactly what they sang, my words will exist, telling people what it was like. Informing our children, and our children’s children.

Oh gosh, I’ve spiraled.

It always comes back to that maybe.

This is what I get for having a mother who is big on family history. I see how words live on. How an obituary is what we remember of a person. How a poem about an absent father informs how I see a great grandmother.

Words are powerful and they are something I have to offer and so I sit here paralyzed.

There are 13 minutes left on my timer.

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Two Ways To Talk To Yourself

9 Apr

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ONE OPTION:

  1. You’re on spring break
  2. You’re surrounded by people who love you
  3. You should not be upset about anything right now, cut it out

 

ANOTHER OPTION:

In the past month:

  1. Your grandfather unexpectedly passed away
  2. Your family dynamics shifted (and keep shifting)
  3. You don’t live by your family and feel unable to help. But you really want to help!
  4. You got strange medical news
  5. You defended your thesis
  6. You presented at a church conference
  7. You had a sad conversation you’re still thinking about
  8. Your feelings are totally valid, of course you’re stressed. This is a crazy time and it won’t always be this crazy. Give yourself a break. Seek help if you need it.
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Five Group Texts That Work In My Life

28 Mar

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1. The Family Text

Group name: n/a

Used for: Confirming family dinners, spreading unflattering photos

2. The Writing Group

Group name: FAC (First Authors Club)

Used for: Talking about writing, complaining about writing, discussing writing projects, dreaming

3. The Political Chain

Group name: Stronger Together

Used for: Sharing political articles and ideas, venting, wondering what on earth is wrong with Utah

4. The Friend Group

Group name: Important Things

Used for: Daily texts about all that is going right, daily conversations about all that is going wrong

5. Caitlin + Rob + Me

Group name: n/a

Used for: Cat pictures. Tweets. Pop culture. Laughs.

 

What group texts work in your life?

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Ways In Which Dolly Purrton And I Are The Same Individual Residing In Two Separate Bodies

27 Feb

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We both have:

  1. A large amount of fluffy hair
  2. An uncanny ability to find a hot water bottle in a large bed, immediately

We are both:

  1. Clumsy
  2. Talkative
  3.  Expressive
  4. Attention seeking

Neither of us like to:

  1. Leave bed

Neither of us respond to:

  1. Cat nip
  2. Being picked up

Both of us love:

  1. Fixer Upper
  2. (Naps)

We are both:

  1. Rescues with tumultuous pasts

Both of us rescued ourselves with a little help from:

  1. Robert

Because yes, yes, no one can rescue you, that’s an inside job ETC but aren’t we all rescues a little bit? Isn’t that part of the human experience?

Meow.

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