Category Archives: Uncategorized

Time for baseball

One of my strongest memories from childhood is lying on my parents’ bed at our house in Redmond, while my dad was watching a Mariners game. Randy Johnson was pitching that day, and Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Jay Buhner, and Edgar Martinez were all playing. My dad told me about each of them, and 3-year-old Brita¬†was intrigued. Or maybe I was 4. It was 1995 or ’96. But I definitely remember him telling me that Griffey’s real first name was George. He denies to this day that he told me this, but it’s a fact, and not an alternative one. ūüėČ

I tell this story because this was the beginning of my relationship with baseball. I never played the sport, but it was my obsession from then up until high school, when other concerns flooded my mind. That’s probably because the Mariners stopped being good after 2003 or so, and next time I paid a little attention, I didn’t know who any of the players were. But before then, I knew all of them. Everyone knew who Ichiro Suzuki, Martinez, and Buhner were, but I remember the less significant ones, like David Bell, Carlos Guillen, Mark McLemore, and Stan Javier. When my parents and I would go to Mariners games, I’d cheer just as loudly for them as I did for the superstars. In 2001, the year of 116 wins (and no world championship), I liked how everyone contributed to the team’s success in some way. Ichiro got a lot of hits and stole bases. Bret Boone hit home runs. Martinez was his usual clutch self. Jamie Moyer threw slow pitches and deceived hitters. Kazuhiro Sasaki closed out the close games. No one had a bad year. 9-year-old Brita was overjoyed.

It wasn’t just the Mariners I fawned over. I knew at least couple players on all 30 teams. So much that in 2003, I started writing a play called “Baseball Congress,” where a player from each team represented at meetings just like the ones the Continental Congress had during the years of the Revolutionary War. I’d become obsessed with the musical 1776 and combined my two obsessions by writing about them. My dad and I had fun making up stories for them to talk about in the Congress. And I would make sure my parents recorded the All-Star games on videotape (yes, videotape, not DVR) because I’d have swim meets while the game was going on. Complete obsession.

I don’t know why I stopped paying such close attention to baseball. By middle school, the Seahawks were taking over the attention of the Seattle sports scene. I became busier with swim team and orchestra. I spent much time away from home during the summers at music camps. I started watching football more. And of course, the Mariners were terrible. (Still are.) I stopped videotaping the All-Star games, though I did continue to watch them. It was part of growing up, I guess.

By the time I moved back in full-time with my parents in 2014, I had more time on my hands, fresh out of college, so I paid more attention to the Mariners. I didn’t know any of their names, except Felix Hernandez. I don’t think they were very good that year, but we kept the games on in the summer evenings. I was often too busy with my friends to pay attention.

In summer 2015, spending evenings in my apartment, I began to turn to baseball again. This time, the Twins. Also not a great team lately. But I found the broadcasts comforting. Watching baseball on a summer night seems like the right thing to do. Plus I enjoyed seeing whoever Bert Blyleven chose to “circle” on TV. I went to 2 Mariners vs. Twins games in 2016 – one here and one in Seattle. The Twins won both.

I hardly know any Major League Baseball players anymore. That’s when I feel old. The players I grew up watching have mostly retired, or if they’re still playing, they’re close to 40. Ichiro is still playing, actually, for the Miami Marlins now. George Ken has been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Martinez is the Mariners’ hitting coach. Moyer and his wife run a foundation for helping children in distress. Hernandez is still pitching. He’s still one of the few Mariners I know, except for Kyle Seager.

My love for baseball has reduced from the obsession it was when I was a kid. But it still lives quietly within me, reminding me that I don’t have to grow all the way up. I still call my dad sometimes and ask how George Ken is doing.

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I can’t tell if I’m okay or not

Most days I’m so busy sorting through news topics, inside my coverage area and out, that my emotions feel inconvenient. Or they come up, seeming as if they’re trying to convince me of something that’s not true, or that I should do something that I know from logic that I should not. That leaves me confused as to what I actually want out of life. Emotions are a here-and-now phenomenon – they evolve within you over the course of a day. I’ve always felt them deeply, sometimes destructively.

I’ll probably think differently by the end of the day, but right now, I dislike my emotions. I dislike how in middle school and early high school, I used them as reasons to do things that caused others to not like me. I dislike how in most of high school, they convinced me there was nothing worth doing other than hiding in my room, not interacting with anyone because I felt like I didn’t belong. I dislike how in college, they convinced me to stay with someone I shouldn’t have, while at the same time giving me all the reasons not to. I dislike how unclear they are, so my logical brain can’t translate them accurately into action. I dislike how when my senses pick up on others’ emotions, particularly negative ones, my emotions absorb them, dragging me down with them. I dislike how they make me insecure of how to act around people, which makes me act more awkwardly. I dislike how my emotions are what they shouldn’t be, responding to a situation with unnecessary strength, feeling rejection when I’m not being rejected.

I could level some criticism¬†at my logical mind too, for unhelpfully chastising my emotional mind. For working up anxiety. For thinking up all the “logical” reasons why I’m a loser. For putting together the puzzle of failures that others must be building up in their minds and will someday use as reasons to phase me out of their lives. For simply saying to me, “You’re doing it all wrong.”

This is where I’m supposed to come back with my usual positive platitude about something I’ve learned that makes all of this okay. But I’m not going to do that right now. It doesn’t feel right. I don’t even know what does feel right. While I was at home on Mercer Island for Christmas, I struggled with the sense that I’d changed a lot since the last time I’d been there. I’ve created this whole life for myself in Minnesota that continues to become more and more complex, that going home and re-living what I’ve grown out of felt the most strange that it ever has. It was a busy break, filled with family activities, and it slipped through my fingers. In my downtime, I unfortunately thought of the depression I dealt with as a teenager and never addressed for what it was. I either blamed my environment or myself for “doing it wrong”. I don’t suffer from depression as strongly as I did then, although it does flare up from time to time, as I believe it is now.

The tough thing about depression is that it doesn’t make sense. Why would your thoughts turn on you like that when life is good? I really have nothing to complain about. One of my interests is psychology. I find myself reading a lot of books about mental health and have more on my to-read list. It would have been my second major if I’d known I had this interest. Most recently I read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, about using your first impressions to make better decisions. I also read The Highly Sensitive Person in Love by Elaine Aron, which helped me gain a better understanding of the inner workings of my personality. I also read psychology articles on the internet quite a bit.

The downside of this is that it tempts me to self-diagnose. I read something, recognize symptoms in myself, and think I must have XX disease. But that’s unhelpful. It makes my head spin. Self-awareness is good, but perhaps I should take it in the direction of knowing what is helpful. I¬†didn’t start meeting with a therapist because I wanted a diagnosis; I simply wanted to find solutions. I love being able to talk about whatever is on my mind and have someone be a sounding board for me. I don’t have to try to work through everything myself.

And yet I still do it. I have this need to do everything on my own, to satisfy everyone. I know if I’m truly going to work through depression and anxiety, I have to care about myself. My progress should be self-motivated. Granted, my family and friends’ opinions matter to me. Being cared about is a motivating factor. But this motivation should be entirely internal. I know many people who have health or other kinds of crises make their children part of their motivation for getting better. I’m not ready for that yet, but I do understand that. Your children are a part of you and your wanting to be there for them is an internalized motivation.

I desire love from others, but I think I have done a poor job at seeing it. I have missed out on making friends because I didn’t want to be an inconvenience to people. Depression will do that to you. I don’t want to take advantage of people’s kindness to me because I don’t feel like I can repay it. I have gone to many people’s homes in Rochester to hang out, particularly Bill and Christina Tuckers’, but I haven’t had any events at my own place. I make the excuse that I just have a one-bedroom apartment, but it’s definitely big enough to host a gathering from time to time. Or maybe it’s that my condition has never been in a good place to do that. If I were to do that, I’d have to plan well ahead so I could clean adequately, and I’d probably still worry that it looked dirty. I’d worry that my guests would find my cooking unsophisticated, or they’d recognize that I’ve stretched myself a lot to impress them.

I worry that I talk about myself too much. I’ve been criticized for being self-centered in the past. I don’t want to be that way. But my mind is so full. I’m introspective and self-conscious. I listen to others when they talk, and I want to be someone people feel comfortable talking to. When someone makes themselves vulnerable to me, that opens up the kind of connection I desire. I worry that my constant blabbing about my minor issues is preventing that.

I think that’s enough documenting of worries for today. Maybe I do feel like ending with positivity after all. I don’t have any brilliant advice, other than to give all my worries to God, not to solve them all myself. My New Year’s Resolution is to reduce my self-judgment. I’ve written down what’s in my head, without telling myself why I’m wrong to feel it. I’m going to have tough days like this, where I just feel bad. More often than not, getting words on the page makes it better. Perhaps we can all work through what’s plaguing us by doing the same.

Politics-free zone!

That statement is as much for me as it is for you. I’ve had enough. When I went to church choir the night after the election, our director Pat declared right away that it was a politics-free zone, and I immediately felt lighter. So I’ll take her method.

I’ve been away for almost four months, at least off here. Before that I skipped for 3 months. My last post was remembering the life of my grandmother, Edith Swenson, whom I still miss every day. Christmas will be hard this year, I already know. But I also wrote in that post, “I’m on the verge of something. I can feel it.” Turns out, I was right!

At that time, I was unemployed, grieving, and uncertain about whether I’d be able to stay in Minnesota. The day afterwards, I got a call from the Rochester Post Bulletin, asking me for an interview for a reporter position at Agri News. After freelancing for several months at Agri News, a full-time position opened up, and I was offered the job at the end of July. I started there Aug. 1. It has been quite the ride. I take trips around southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa and connect with farmers and agribusinesses about what’s a big deal in their world. Many of them ask me if I’m a farm kid, to which I tell them, “No, I’m from Seattle.” It’s quite a departure from the bubble I grew up in. Even when I was at Luther, I didn’t think about agriculture much. But I’m grateful to be a reporter in this field, because there are so many issues people don’t know about. It’s important to know where your food comes from. It doesn’t come from the sky – it requires great effort on the part of many people. I’ve gotten so much valuable experience already, writing 3-4 stories per week, as well as creating the pages in Adobe InDesign. I usually take my own photos, too.

The coming week is a big opportunity. My boss, the managing editor of Agri News, is going on vacation (I’m really happy for him!), so I will be doing the whole paper. I have until Monday afternoon, but I want to stay on top of it, so I’ve already created templates for all the pages. I’ll be writing two stories, and I’ll get a few from my coworker Lisa as well. Otherwise, I pull agriculture-related stories off the AP newswire. I’m excited and have a good feeling about this.

I’m also excited because my parents are coming here for Thanksgiving. I haven’t seen them since July. The visit is quite needed. We’ll be hanging around here and probably going to the Twin Cities too. It’ll be my mom’s first time visiting here since she helped me move in back in January 2015. We’ll go to a restaurant somewhere for Thanksgiving dinner – I do not have the space or the energy to prepare that giant meal. If anyone has any suggestions for a good place to go, either in Rochester or the Twin Cities area, do let me know!

Speaking of space and energy… I’m learning quite a bit about how much of that I need. I’ve had some difficulty with anxiety and depression over my whole life, but more pronouncedly since August. That was when I started to acknowledge it for what it was, rather than pile blame on myself for not being tough enough. I started taking an anti-depressant and a birth control pill that helps with¬†emotions. Both are working well so far. I can’t drink alcohol while taking the anti-depressant, but the sacrifice is worth it. I’ve also started seeing a therapist here. I go every other week, and every time I come out feeling lighter and more energetic. I’m not embarrassed that I’ve sought help for mental illness, and I’ve been open about it on social media for quite awhile now. I appreciate¬†all the support and advice you’ve all sent me.

Meanwhile, I’m still learning how much stimulation I can handle that won’t trigger anxiety or depression. This goes both for real life and social media. I fit the definition of Highly Sensitive Person almost to a T. It’s biological and neurological. I can point to many times since I was little where my sensitivity has come out. I can’t bear to watch two people fighting with each other, or a parent having difficulty with a small child at the grocery store. So you can probably guess why I’ve had enough of politics. It also means that I have to spend enough time alone to recharge from getting so stimulated from life itself.

This weekend, I volunteered at church with Family Promise, a program that helps families in transition. They stay at local churches overnight. This week, we had four families with us, all single mothers. One had three children, one had four, and two had one each. The children were so fun and energetic, wanting to play tag and hide-and-seek constantly. By the end of Saturday night, I was shot. I couldn’t form a coherent sentence. I left, got¬†home and cried. My energy was gone, and all that was left was depression. That was in combination with a stressful workday on Friday and working on Saturday as well. I just ran out of gas. I feel bad because I wish I could have been more present with the children, but I just had nothing. That’s what overstimulation feels like. I knew when I fell into that funk that I would snap out of it, like I have every single time. But it still sucked. I’m still recovering from it. Knowing what I can handle requires some planning on my part, and I never took into account how much energy this week would need. I stayed up late recording election results on Tuesday night and didn’t sleep. Plus, my job is tiring on its own. As I learn more about what it means to be highly sensitive, I’m working on finding these balances. I am working on being kind to myself. I am not going to solve all of the world’s problems on my own, nor can I understand them fully. People are complex. My goal is contribute to the world in the best way I can. If I’m not healthy, I can’t do that.

This week has been hard because at times, I’ve felt like my mental health progress has been knocked back a couple notches. But that doesn’t mean I can’t get back to where I was. I don’t need to live angry – I can live joyfully, in spite of it all. So, let’s all take a few deep breaths, and walk onward in the light of the Spirit.

Peace,

Brita

The Hardest Thing

I’m on the verge of something.

I can feel it. I was last time I posted (3 months ago, unacceptable) and I’m closer to it now than I was then.

I’m a believer in the clich√© “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” These past three months have been a mix of both, but the darkest part just passed through. I did the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do: say goodbye to my grandma Edi Swenson, until Paradise. The fact that I call this the hardest thing speaks to my privilege, but also to how much she meant to me and our family.

Grandma was there when I was born.¬†She and my grandpa Gordon lived in Shoreline, WA at the time, north of Seattle, and my parents were in Redmond. She stayed with us for the first little bit of my life to help out. While they were still living there, they took care of me when my parents had to be places. They moved to Boise in 1994, which I don’t remember happening, but we went to visit them several times a year after then. They got involved with King of Glory Lutheran Church, where the memorial service was held. My grandma supported their ministry by singing, playing organ, and making lefse to name a few things, while my grandpa contributed in the financial realm. When I’d visit Boise and go to church with them, I’d sit next to Grandma, and occasionally I’d see her shed tears during hymns. This was especially after her own mother, my great-grandma Gladys, died in 2000. Of course I was distraught at seeing anyone cry, so my mom told me that Grandma was crying because singing hymns reminded her so much of her mom, who had a stunning voice of her own.

Thinking of this memory is a comfort as I miss my grandma. I know she is back with her parents now after missing them sorely for 16 years. She served as the “matriarch” of the Anderson family, especially at our family reunion last year in Tahoe. She was the oldest of five siblings, four girls and one boy. She was married to Grandpa for almost 55 years. They had anniversary photos taken just two months ago, and she looked absolutely beautiful in them. They were on display at their house over the weekend of her memorial, where my Anderson and Swenson relatives reunited in Boise to celebrate her. I was thrilled to see them, but the circumstances were not what I’d have wished for.

Grandma was one of the healthiest people I knew. She cooked delicious meals, took walks, encouraged us to drink water, kept track of family members far and wide, and had a strong social circle. I’m thankful for that last one right now, because that circle has risen up and shown how much they appreciated her friendship by being there for my grandpa. Grandma also was a quilter. At the time of her death, she’d been working on a piece for her first great-grandchild, Judah, who was born June 16 in Walla Walla. She also made quilts for Grant, Laurel, and me when we graduated high school. She knew us so well that she knew just the right pattern pieces for each of us. Mine is mostly purple (my favorite color), but there’s also myriad shades of red, green, yellow, and blue mixed in. When she saw it, my cousin Marta exclaimed, “That is so Brita!” I couldn’t agree more.

Spending Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa was always a treat. She had all the special Scandinavian recipes I craved – Swedish meatballs, lutefisk with white sauce, lefse, rice pudding… My mom and aunt have both made these recipes with great success, so I know those traditions will never die. But I can’t imagine Christmas without Grandma. I’ve done it once already, this past year, since she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in early December 2015. It’s a cancer I still don’t fully understand. I read the Mayo Clinic’s definition of it right when I learned of her diagnosis, and even from that, it seemed like the prognosis would be positive, as in, she could live with it for a few more years. But cancer is unpredictable.

Grandma fought it hard. She wanted to live fully like she had for 75 years. I was in denial about her sickness perhaps the whole time. When I visited Boise in February, she had good moments and not-so-good moments, which was¬†typical of how this thing went. She underwent chemo and radiation at a local hospital and was looking at changing treatments at the time of her passing. I believed – and prayed – that something would work, that would help her heal. But she died on July 6, 2016, a bit suddenly, but not without saying her goodbyes. She said it to me¬†over the phone, the hardest phone conversation I’ve ever had.

That night of July 5, I was constantly in contact with my parents, assuring them I’d jump on a plane whenever they needed me to. I did on July 8, with the service on the 9th, and actually planned to drive back to Rochester with my dad, since I was swapping cars with my mom and they’d driven to Boise in the car I got. We didn’t end up doing that, but rather drove back to Seattle and regrouped. I’m really thankful I got to be home for a night. Then I quickly booked a redeye flight back to Minnesota on July 11 – those are never fun, unless they end in Europe. So it was very rapid-fire in terms of travel plans. I was pretty loopy that week, with moments of intense grief bound to hit at any time. I became paranoid, with Grandma having died so quickly after doing everything right to take care of herself. How could I trust anyone or anything? (Especially with He-Whom-I-Refuse-To-Name in the presidential race.) This was the real darkness, trying to regroup on life after the service. My dad drove my new car out here and spent a few days with me, which I was also very thankful for. He got to meet my boyfriend Bill for the first time, and he even played with the Bridge worship team at Gloria Dei, a fun experience for all of us. I think I had the most fun ūüôā

Now, after two weeks of processing, I am at peace, and the darkness has passed. I have reminded myself of my internal empowerment, that anxiety and paranoia are neither helpful nor rational, and I am grounding myself in my faith to weather any more storms that come my way. That’s probably why I’m not bawling my face off as I write this.¬†There will always be an Edi-shaped hole in our lives, because she is irreplaceable. But I know we will keep on living. And I know she is still praying for us in heaven.

This peace tells me something good is coming. However long it takes to get here, I will wait. I know I can do it.

Brita

Let go, but hold on

I need to take a break from this intense book I’ve been reading. It’s an autobiographical piece about a woman from Minneapolis named Alexa who had to work really hard to get pregnant, and when she did (with twins), one of them died in the womb and the other was born four months early. If that’s not enough, the woman suffered from panic disorder and had miscarried twice before using IVF. And the pregnancy itself was no bed of roses.

The book is hitting me hard. I don’t have the life experiences that this author does, but I feel familiar emotions with the way she writes. I’ve talked before about struggling with anxiety (undiagnosed, I should add), and reading it in her words seems to magnify it in myself, bringing up insecurities to light in me that I like to forget about. Alexa describes herself as dealing in absolutes. When her daughter is born at 1 lb 11 oz, she visits her daily in the neonatal intensive care unit and feels horrible for not being there, placing guilt in things she has no control over.¬†We probably all know that feeling in some way. So this book is making me raw.

Also I haven’t blogged in over a month now. No time like the present. I’ve been stewing around with a topic over the last few days. Here it is.

I’m a nostalgic person. I place great importance in memories with the people I’m close to. This is not to say that I’m afraid of change; I embrace change and let go, but hold on to the joy of the old. If anything, moving forward in life makes the memories and traditions more meaningful.

I express this quality through inside jokes, in large part. When I come up with an inside joke with someone, I’m comfortable with them. I think of it and smile whenever I see that person, although it’s not always the best idea to bring it up with them. The first inside jokes I remember having with anyone were with my cousin Laurel when I was probably 11 or 12, when we played in the pool at Plantation Country Club in Boise. I’m sure we had them before then, because we’ve spent countless hours laughing together, and still do. Humor is an important part of nostalgia – it makes you feel good, and you need to be able to look back on that.

I also think of a new-ish tradition, within the last few years since the patio at my parents’ house was finished. In Seattle’s beautiful summers, we like to grill salmon and vegetables, pour ourselves some red wine, and sit around the table on the patio. I remember doing this several times a week when I was back living there in 2014. I came to associate this with my dad talking about fun times he had at Bethany Lutheran Church in the 1980s, the church where my parents met, my grandparents were memorialized, and my aunt plays organ. Particularly involving joking around in the choir loft. These conversations were, of course, humorous, and now whenever I go home (which I will be May 26-31), we repeat this custom. Who knows what stories I’ll learn next time?

The recent occurrence that’s got me riffing on nostalgia, though, was just this past Monday. I’ll preface with a story. My senior year of college, I became close with a boy 2 years younger than me, named Wes. We made a habit of going to T-Bock’s together, particularly on the night before school breaks started, and just hanging out and talking about life. He was (is) in Nordic Choir, and we share the talent of perfect pitch. This was one of the bright spots of my senior year, and I hoped we’d be able to do it again especially after I moved back here. Well, this past Monday (4/11), we finally did. Wes had his dress rehearsal for his senior vocal recital, so I decided to go listen since I can’t go to the event. That was all lovely, and then we went to T-Bock’s again. We sat in the same spot we used to, but unfortunately the shrimp basket that we liked is no longer on the menu. :/ But the nostalgia was very much alive. Oddly enough, we flipped the script in a way. It used to be that I would order a beer or cider, while he had to drink soda because he wasn’t 21. This time, he had the beer and I had soda, since I had an hour and a half drive home.

It was so interesting, too, to hear him in the same perspective I was 2 years ago, excited and anxious about real life. He’s still the boy I got to know then, but a little more mature and ready to find his niche in the musical world. We used to talk about sports quite a bit too, so we did that too. Leaving that night, I felt nothing short of content.

What this taught me about my nostalgic self was that returning to something you once loved to do a lot after a break in it shows you how much you’ve changed. Sitting across from Wes in that same spot at T-Bock’s, I was struck that I am not the same girl who sat there in May 2014. I mean, that’s obvious. But, like I said, I don’t like to think back to the insecurities I was suffering from long ago. I had a lot of those my senior year – while I was on the upswing after a rough patch, I wasn’t all the way better. Wes helped me with that quite a bit, to his credit. Now I don’t have them so badly (as long as I don’t read too many books about it).

The nostalgia of reliving this experience was happy both because it was a positive memory, and because it boosted me up, a reassurance to my 22-year-old self that I was going to be successful, that I do have the drive in me that I prayed for. I’ve discovered my core values that I searched for for 20-plus years – heck, I’m still finding them. I’m making new relationships and memories that give me joy just like the old ones. I do hope to keep returning to the old – living near my alma mater helps with that – but I won’t let that hold me back from life’s twists and turns.

In other aspects of my life, I’m pretty much continuing with what I was doing, although I’ve added more freelance work with the Med City Beat website. That’s quite a new thing – I’m only on my second story for it. And I’ve taken on new duties at Ashdown writing for Catworld magazine. I’m still doing Bead & Jewellery, don’t worry. I’m busy, but I enjoy what I’m doing, so I can’t complain. Doesn’t make me any less tired, though, so I think I will call it a night.

Peace,

Brita

Lent: Rest & Repentance

I’ve been giving things up for Lent ever since I was cognizant that people did such a thing. It seemed like a good way to regulate yourself over the reasonable 40-day period, to cold-turkey your way out of an addiction. Giving up meat my freshman year of college helped lead me to giving it up altogether several months later, and I still don’t eat it (unless it comes from the sea). And I’ve given up Facebook, my perennial mental health obstacle, several times and found relief in that break. I wrote last year at this time that “the point of giving things up is to refill your life with something better, to bring you closer to God.”¬†I haven’t always had that mindset going into Lent, but coming to this conclusion has made it a more meaningful season for me.

So what to do this year? Just as I struggled to decide what my New Year’s Resolution would be (to be who I say I am), I couldn’t figure out what to give up for Lent. I didn’t feel like there was any particular thing that I needed to get rid of. I am not addicted to Facebook the way I once was, and it’s not causing me the same anxiety. Overall, that is a victory. Eventually I chose to disable my Instagram account for the season, to cut down on the time I spend looking at my phone. But that’s not my focus. I’m not obsessing about how much I miss it (I hardly do, though I do plan to reactivate on Easter). Rather, in conjunction with my resolution to be who I say I am, I am focusing on being intentional in all I do… and that means taking care of myself so the intentionality is real. While my anxiety has improved since its worst point last fall, I still struggle with mental exhaustion. I decided to make this my positive Lent resolution: to be aware of my energy levels and choose what I can do at a given time without self-repercussion. I keep to-do lists and obsess about them sometimes, trying to accomplish everything on it as quickly as I can in hopes of relief from that. And if there’s not very much on my list, well, I still exhaust myself. So now I am working to be mindful of what I can do in a day. Often that means only doing one other thing besides my full-time job. The end goal is to do better at everything that I¬†do because my¬†mind is balanced and rested. I’m happy¬†to have gained more awareness of what my mind can handle and can choose to navigate that.

Now, this probably goes against what you may have heard about Lent. In the early church, as I learned from a pastor friend of mine, new Christians used that time to reflect before they were baptized. One practice that often gets associated with it is “fasting,” which gets translated to “not eating,” but can be translated to other addictions as well. Above all, it’s a time to repent for your sins. The Sunday School definition of that is apologizing. But there’s more to it. Repentance means you fully recognize what you’ve done wrong and why it’s wrong, apologizing, and seeking God’s forgiveness (which He always offers!). There’s no self-beating in there. Not to say you shouldn’t be humbled by the process, but that’s not harmful. In fact, being humbled feels pretty good, relinquishing the anxiety that’s built up and exhausted you. So, my process for reducing mental exhaustion allows me more space to repent, reflect, and rebuild. Anxiety drives people around the world to terrible sins every day… I’m not going to let it do the same to me.

As I go about life, whether at work, church, orchestra, social events, or out wandering around Minnesota (or anywhere else in the world), I’ll be taking care of my mind. You don’t need to commemorate Lent or even be a Christian to take care of yours, whatever that means. It’s not a reward – it’s a requirement for being alive. It doesn’t mean being haughty; it will allow you to treat others better too and take care of them if they need it. Set high standards, but stay realistic, too. And when Easter comes, celebrate your progress – and keep it going!

Lots going on lately – orchestra concert, making apps, writing articles for Agri News, making music at church, writing fiction, and visiting friends and family – all of it good. I have no need to boast about being busier than anyone else, because it doesn’t matter. I do the things I do with intention. My only hope is that the rest of you do the same.

Peace,

Brita

You who have tried… you who have failed… you who are.

For many, January is characterized as a boring month that just slogs by, with gross weather and not much to look forward to. But on the whole, I’ve taken the opposite view this time around. In general, I’ve made January a month of optimism, not dreading winter but embracing it and not preventing myself from excitement. The start of year 2 in Rochester has been a little too exciting, as a matter of fact. But I have come to some sort of internal consensus on my resolution for this year, which is apparent in the headline.

I got back from Seattle and to normal pretty quickly. The highlight of that first week was attending the Bread & Butter String Band’s concert in Decorah. My good friend Lucas is one of the founders of the band, back in 2008 (did I remember that correctly?), and I finally got around to hearing them last summer. I was so impressed that I go to their concerts now every opportunity I get! Plus it was fun to see him before he left for another semester of school in Montreal. The weather even held up for me to drive down and back, but right after, the deep freeze began. The obligatory below-zero days appear to have passed, and now we’re sitting in the comfortable 10-20 degree range. (Ha.) Fortunately, I’m a year more mentally prepared for the days of -30 wind chill. Considering I started dreading it back in July, I’m quite pleased with myself for holding up in it.

The cold did cause me a slew of new problems, though. A few days after that concert, I was driving to work. As I approached a red light on West Circle Drive, I braked… but couldn’t¬†slow down. There was a pickup truck in front of me, and about a half second before it happened, I realized I was going to hit it.¬†Wham. In hindsight, it was good that he was there to stop my motion. There was a spot of black ice there and I didn’t brake soon enough, so I slid into the guy. Returning to the feeling of it is intense. We were both okay – my car was the most damaged of anything involved. There’s a crack on the front bumper, my left tire rod got bent, and my driver’s side window regulator got broken. It’s all fixed now, except for the cosmetic stuff, which I’ll get fixed later. Still, I’ve been carless for bits of time, which I hate to be. And I won’t forget the financial impact, either.

So that’s what’s been messing with my life this month. That’s in addition to my usual activities – working on Bead & Jewellery Magazine (which I’m still getting used to) and our craft tutorial apps, singing and playing cello at Gloria Dei, Rochester Pops Orchestra rehearsals, reading books, and hanging out with friends. I will be going to England again in the first part of April for the next Big Bead Show ūüėÄ And I’m going to Boise Feb. 6-9 to visit my grandparents. My grandpa Gordon’s birthday is on the 7th, and mine is the 8th. I’m really not excited to be turning 24, but I am excited for the trip. ūüôā

Now, on to the philosophical. As my thoughts have formed, I’ve learned¬†that I value authenticity in a person. That means being truthful about yourself and to yourself. You should do what makes YOU feel most alive, most at home. The book I’ve been reading, Dr. Daniel Levitin’s¬†The Organized Mind, talks about flow, where you get so involved in what you’re doing that you don’t stop to think about it or get caught up in insecurities. It doesn’t exhaust you, but energizes you. Sadly, it’s been a long, long time since I felt this – not that I recall since practicing cello in the practice rooms in¬†Jenson-Noble at Luther. That doesn’t mean I’ve screwed everything up, or that I’m working at the wrong job. I just need to find my way back to it. And flow isn’t the only thing that matters. Rational decision-making is important too, which Levitin spends a whole chapter talking about. But flow comes when you’re doing something that’s part of¬†you.¬†That’s what I strive for. I know I won’t be good at what I’m doing if I don’t feel connected to it. So my resolution for 2016¬†is to be who I say I am. In this world where social media lets you portray yourself as happier than you are, I’m fighting that. Perhaps it would be better to say that I’m going to say who I really am. That includes to myself. I can’t achieve flow if I’m not truthful with myself about the best choices.

“Should” is a dangerous word. I take the perspectives of others seriously, and sometimes that turns into my thinking I should do or be something, even if I don’t feel connected to it. There’s a matter of trial and error to this, of course. I took ballet for 5 years because I thought I would love it when I was 7, but by the time I was 12, I didn’t feel the connection. The worst of this is when the “should” manifests itself in your brain. It blocks you from your truth. “Should” is what tells you that you’re stupid, irrational, misguided, worthless, that your emotions are wrong. But how can your emotions be wrong? Emotions aren’t supposed to be called “right” or “wrong.” They just are. You can analyze them to determine the root of them and from there, determine the right or wrong path through rational thinking. And emotions are dynamic, too. You may react one way upon learning a tidbit of information, but as you learn more about the topic, your emotions change. That’s why empathy is so important, why I value it so much.

Which leads me back to authenticity. Because I value empathy as well as authenticity, my goal is to show empathy always, to be a safe space for others to be authentic and true, which allows for their own self-improvement. But sometimes I think back on times in my life where I wasn’t empathetic. That’s where Impostor Syndrome comes in. How can I tout empathy as so important to me when I’ve failed so many times to live up to this, and hurt those who were dear to me in the process? I’m sorry that I have not kept my word. I feel like a failure – an impostor. Same as I do when I tell people that I’m the sub-editor of a prestigious beading magazine. I’m not a professional beader by any means. I know how to do it, but I confess I don’t share the excitement for the craft that many¬†beaders I know do. It’s not what brings me to flow. So why would anyone want to work with me?

It’s not hopeless. Impostor Syndrome is not going to doom you to depression, you just have to look into why it’s happening. In my case of empathy, I acknowledge the times I’ve failed, and I’m sorry for them. I’ve come miles in understanding all of it. Then I think of a line from a communion preface my pastor from Seattle gives, welcoming all to the table of Christ: “You who have tried to follow Jesus… and you who have failed.” It’s the grace of a second chance. With the help of God, I can live up to my own ridiculous standards, in my work and in my character. I know Yoda says “Do or do not. There is no try.” But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from the “do not”s. It’s possible, because I see the possibility.

It’s hard to mince this into a few words. This year, I promise to say things that reflect what’s in my head and heart, to not boast, to not hide from my feelings, regardless of what society is telling me about them. To take others at their word and hold them to it, and to only give word that I know I will keep. And to be honest with myself. How’s that sound?

Onward and upward.

Brita

P.S. I’m rooting for the Cardinals to win the Super Bowl because I had a huge crush on Carson Palmer when I was 10.