Sign Post Sixty-Three
December 23, 2005 - Can you tell where I've been? Can you tell if I'm strong?

I think this past year has been my best year in a long time. Perhaps my best ever, but a year can be so much better, so I've got a lot to strive for. For which to strive? Ugh.

There is so much going on in my mind, I don't know how to sort it all out. I guess I'll just talk about my latest strides in the journey and the thoughts will be connected somehow. I'm back living at home, and I have to find a new apartment. The situation is a little complicated, but suffice to say that the landlord wants to inhabit the place. I can't be sad about that though, I can't be sad about any of the ordinary changes in life. There is so much in this world that is worthy of sadness and pain, I cannot feel something so profound and special over an ordinary change. And that "new" attitude of mine has a lot to do with the lack of depression. My brain is finally mine, and I can give it up to Jehovah. But it does not belong to any disease caused by the imperfection I can never fight on my own.

One of the worst aspects of my depression was the fact that I couldn't really confront legitimate concerns and problems. My self-esteem was so low, I loathed myself so much, I blamed myself and felt such undeserved shame, that I couldn't really, REALLY address my actual problems. Any thought could send me over the edge, and when you don't feel like living, it's not the best time to address flaws, because they'll be blown out of all proportion and no actual progress will be made. However, being me, I never stop critiquing myself. I don't think most people realize how hard I am on myself. Actually, I am both very hard on myself and very easy on myself. What I seek now is balance.

I'm easy on myself in that I shun effort. There are things that I can do easily that may seem difficult to other people, and this may fool people into thinking I work hard. But I don't work nearly as hard as I should, and this sadly affects my service to Jehovah. I shy away from anything that may require a lot of me. I don't really know why I underachieve this way. I do know that it must stop. Even when I was 9 years old, I distinctly recall getting an A for achievement and a D for effort. At the time, I thought it was unfair. It wasn't my fault that things came easily. But now I see the wisdom in it, and I wish I'd learned the lesson then. Now it is much harder to learn that lesson. And of course, the difficulty makes me want to avoid it.

On the other hand, I am very hard on myself when it comes to self-image, morality and social expectations. Externally, I can be lazy, internally, there is a lot going on and I don't stop. This gives me some hope for external changes, I'm already seeing it. I just had to focus my internal criticisms and add some praise. I have a million rules for living, ways that I MUST be or I'm not fit to live. Now maybe it isn't so drastic, but I'm still a pretty harsh mental taskmaster. This most often shows up in social situations. I always think I have messed up.

However, I have made several small but significant strides in the social arena.

First, I sang one of my songs in public. I have sung in public before. In high school, we used to have special casual Fridays that involved music, dance and games (and no uniforms!). There was some sort of cabaret in the main auditorium, and my friend Carmencita and I sang both together and apart. Once I sung one song, I wanted to sing more. I would call the high school performances successful. The failure would be when I sang karaoke on a cruise ship in 2001. This sent me to my cabin in tears and shame. However, I came away from the experience wanting to sing more karaoke. But nothing compared to singing one of my own songs. That was putting myself out there in a way that made me want to faint but also signified a monumental change. And it was an unmitigated success. Now I dream of going to open mic events and singing more songs (once I learn how to play an instrument well enough for accompaniment), or singing karaoke with friends. I don't really think it is the singing that I enjoy so much, actually, it might be just being up there, "on stage", with music. That sounds so weird for me.

My next social stride involved Tara, a sister from Cleveland who visited me in the apartment. Sharing my space for any amount of time with another person was daunting. I had a lot of nerves and anxieties but for some reason, everything was fine and ultimately, comfortable. Tara does a lot more in Jehovah's service than I do, and seems more spiritually mature, and this is exactly the kind of friend I need.   

Another social stride was when I confronted a librarian who wasn't doing her job. I don't normally confront people at all, and I wasn't rude or mean or anything, but sometimes you have to ask for what you want even if the other person doesn't seem inclined to give it to you. And I did, calmly, and I got what I wanted!

Lastly, I actually bargained in a store a few days ago. I don't know if "bargain" is a verb, I don't remember exactly how to say this, but I asked for a lower price on an item that was ALREADY ON SALE. I never thought I would do such a thing in my LIFE! Me, the girl who is embarassed just to enter a store and leave without buying something (because I feel I have created an expectation)! Well I did ask for a lower price, AND I GOT IT. Mom-Mom would be so proud of that. She is just the one I wish I could talk to now about so many things. Now that I am grown up enough to appreciate her, she is sleeping. But this just gives me more to look forward to if I am approved by Jehovah.

I have such ups and downs with regards to my service to Jehovah, but overall the relationship is improving. Sometimes, just for a moment, I lose all hope, but then it comes rushing back. I have also found that praying to Jehovah is an excellent thing to do when confronted with unsettling, bad thoughts or when anxious thoughts threaten to keep me awake. I just don't want things to be one-sided, although I know they'll never be balanced, I'll never give anywhere near as much as He does. But I don't just want to pray and ask for what I need and keep begging forgiveness, when I'm not doing much for Him.  
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