Art, Activism, & Apathy

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I was once told that I have emotions seeping out of every pore in my body.

It doesn’t take a plethora of scientific studies to prove that artists are sensitive (though many studies have).

At risk of sounding incredibly cliche, I find my own sensitivity to be a blessing and a curse. If you are having a bad day, I’m a good listener; I’m also fairly decent at reading other people’s emotions. I feel deeply and fiercely, and most decisions I make are made with my heart.

Emotions are also kind of a pain in the ass. Sometimes, I am brought to tears just because Drew said something really nice. For instance:

Me: I’m afraid I’m going to trip while walking down the aisle.

Drew: That would be hilarious. 

Me: What the hell!? No, it wouldn’t! 

Drew: I mean, I’d laugh, but then I would just think, “That’s the woman I fell in love with.”

Me [eyes shining with tears]: AWWWWWW. 

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So, yeah. I have emotions seeping out of every pore in my body.

That’s why I write, and why others paint or make music or dance. Art has a funny way of helping us understand and appreciate this beautiful, messy thing called life.

Perhaps this hyper-sensitivity is also why art so easily lends itself to social justice. If sensitive artist types like myself are already FEELING ALL THE FEELS and then catch a segment of the evening news, we’re going to start feeling even more feels. And, like everything else buzzing around our minds, those feelings have to go somewhere.

That’s why I continue to write. There are plenty of stories that are just for me, and there’s something beautiful in that, too–but I will have truly answered my call to create if my words can help make the world a better place.

In the past, I wrote about social justice and politics sporadically; in other words, I wrote about justice when I didn’t know what else to do. Words were the best way–the only way–I knew how to change myself and the world around me. I took my anger, threw it back at the world, and said, “Ha! I made something beautiful. You can’t hurt us anymore.”

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”
― Cornel West

After the 2016 election, I vowed to do everything I could to stand for justice and social change.  I would march. I would call my Senators. I would write letters to Donald Trump every day.  I would stay educated on every single bill. Most importantly, I would write. God, I would write. Because that’s what I was put on this earth to do, dammit.

This is a promise that is impossible to keep, even for a girl who feels too much and too hard. You see, the problem with feeling so many things at once is that you are in danger of burning out. Fast.

Not that my exhaustion stopped me. I called my Senators. I prayed every day and started writing more articles about justice. I wrote letters and Tweeted up a storm.

But I had started to feel numb. Everything I did felt useless. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be called an ‘activist,’ because I was just calling politicians and writing on my blog that barely reached a hundred people. I hadn’t started writing any thought-provoking dystopian novels or anything, either. I listened to the news, and instead of heartache I felt hopelessness. I was angry, but I was no longer surprised. It was a familiar reaction, really–how many of us catch a news story about a shooting or a terrorist attack, shake our heads, and change the channel?

That might be the scariest thing of all: that tragedy and injustice strike, and we aren’t even surprised.

We should be. We should be shocked to our very core. This is not how the world was meant to be. 

***

A few months ago, my pastor taught a sermon on compassion fatigue. He explained that thanks to the Internet, we are bombarded with information every second of every day.  We can only process a certain amount of information at once, so our empathy fizzles out. We stop caring.

That Sunday, I realized how tired I was. I had stopped caring, and I didn’t feel like myself. Emotions may be a pain in the ass, but I would rather feel too much than nothing at all.

Rest was long overdue. I took a short break from social media, and listened to the news a little less. I was less weary, and I started to FEEL ALL THE FEELS again.

And, once again, this proved to be a blessing and a curse. This past week, I was in tears after reading the news and scrolling through Facebook. I was worried about healthcare and heartbroken for my transgender brothers and sisters; it had already been a stressful week without another blow from the government.  My empathy was back in high gear, but so was my hopelessness.

“I’m just so angry and sad,” I told Drew. “No matter how many calls we make or letters we write, it doesn’t seem to make a difference.”

Drew paused, and then in his thoughtful, wonderful, Drew way, he said something I will never forget: “Sometimes, you don’t fight to win the current battle. You fight to win the next one.”

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I do not write this little blog entry as a how-to, or an advice column, or even as a promise for myself–but I do write this as an encouragement to my fellow artists and hyper-sensitives.

We cannot afford apathy. We need your emotions–every single one. We need art to light up the world. We need fierce compassion so we can love the least of these. Stay sensitive. Empathy is indeed a blessing, even on the very worst days.

Pain is a part of life, yes; it’s unavoidable in this broken, brutal world. But we’re a part of this life, too, and that fact alone means that we are not powerless.

Listen to the aches of your heart and keep creating, whether you bake or write or paint or dance. The world may not need you in order to keep spinning, but it desperately wants you–because there are future battles to be won.

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Quarter-Life Celebration!

 

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I don’t know if I feel like an adult, or if I ever really will, but I turned twenty-five the other day! That’s worth celebrating, right?

In honor of my twenty-fifth year, I have compiled a list of twenty-five things that I think and feel. There is no rhyme or reason to this list; I just want to remember what I was like after spending a quarter of a century on this earth. Enjoy, and feel free to write a list of your own in the comment section!

  1. I often feel like I am made up of contradictions. I hate crowds, but I love places that are typically full of them, like cities and theme parks. I want a cute apartment in New York but I also want a little cottage in the English countryside. I love to travel and plan adventures with Drew, but I also just want to stay home in my sweatpants and watch Netflix. I claim to hate religion and that I just want to love Jesus and love people, but sometimes I become the most religious person I know. But maybe I’m not a contradiction; maybe I’m just human, and that’s okay.
  2. Writing is somehow the easiest and hardest thing in the world. For someone who wants to write for a living, I sure spend a lot of time not writing. I should get on that.
  3. I had never thought of myself as a particularly materialistic person, but I’ve come to realize that’s only true when it comes to technology, cars, and jewelry. I’m more likely to spend my money on, say, a cute mug that I don’t need, while refusing to buy something I actually need, like shoes that don’t have holes in the soles, because what I have is fine and shoes are expensive. Fortunately, Drew is good at reminding me that I have plenty of mugs, and is sweet enough to suggest a charity wedding registry (He also bought me an air purifier to help with my allergies, another item that I would have briefly considered before balking at the price and convincing myself that being sniffly 24/7 isn’t that bad.). I know I need to practice resisting things, and I am forever grateful that I’m marrying someone who is helping me (whether or not it’s always intentional).
  4.  There are many ways to say, ‘I love you.’ It’s like learning another language; the more you get to know someone, the more you notice and understand.
  5.  Wedding planning is certainly stressful, but not nearly as stressful as I had expected. I also know not everyone has such supportive friends and family members as I do–and I’m sure my scatterbrain has found some rest because of it. I’m so grateful, because it also makes planning kind of…fun. Is this how organized party people feel all the time? Except I also feel like I need a Remembrall. So…probably not.
  6. I love children and want to be a mom one day, but I don’t think I’ve hit the baby fever phase of my life yet. However, I do have kitten fever, and would love nothing more than to adopt kittens and bottle feed them until they are old enough to eat real kitten food. I’ve tried to convince Drew and Kate that we need another animal. All my attempts have been futile.
  7. Cooking (or, in my case, trying to cook) is the worst. I just don’t get it when my friends say it’s fun and relaxing, because if I try to embrace my inner Gordon Ramsay, I feel like I’m going to burn our house down. For instance: Drew and I tried Hello Fresh for about a month. At first, we LOVED it. Then, after a few culinary mishaps, we decided it was way too hard to cook during the week. But when I sit down to eat a meal with my family or read about The People’s Supper or listen to stories about the early church, I start to understand–at least a little–why someone would rather cook and share a meal than order a pizza. Maybe I can start with simple recipes and work my way up.
  8.  I miss the days when I could read and write for hours without interruption or distraction. The Internet and Netflix are a part of it, sure, but I know I only have myself to blame.
  9. I often struggle to call myself a writer, or even claim to be a creative person, because I hardly ever finish the projects I begin. My blog is full of drafts. My Novlr and Scrivener folders are full of drafts. I’ve been a winner during National Novel Writing Month, but never made it past the editing phase. Right now, I’m struggling to finish this list; I seriously considered ending this at number 10.
  10. I fall more and more in love with Atlanta every day. While I claim Missouri as my home state, it’s not entirely true; my family moved from Texas to Maryland to Georgia to Missouri. Missouri always felt like mine because I had extended family there; when we moved, it felt like it has always been home. Cities were another matter entirely. We lived in Kansas City, but my mom is from St. Louis. I have family on both sides of the state and resent the rivalry between KC and STL. I couldn’t claim either city as my own. But Atlanta is starting to feel like mine, and it is so, so wonderful.
  11. One time, RuPaul retweeted me and I FLIPPED THE HELL OUT and told everyone I knew and it was the BEST DAY.
  12. I value hard work and admire people who have a strong work ethic (I am a Hufflepuff, after all), but I often resent the “hustle” that my generation has had to adopt. Obviously, there are people who are older and wiser who have done the same–but thanks to the Internet,  we are now at a point in history we are bombarded with messages every day about work and success. It’s as inspiring as it is exhausting.
  13. I never, ever thought I would move back to the South, let alone move there to be with a boy. But here I am. And I am so, so happy.
  14. I only allow push notifications from my Goodreads app. I’d like to think that says something about my bookish, anti-tech ways, but it doesn’t. I’m still on my phone all the time. I’m trying want to break my tech and social media addiction, but I’m not sure how to in a way that doesn’t cut me off from the world entirely. Sometimes that scares me; sometimes, I think that’s exactly what I need (especially with our current news cycle).
  15. I keep reading this list for inspiration. It’s from Glennon Doyle Melton’s blog; I have completely fallen in love with her work and have been reading her blog like another book.  I’m also in love with Gala Darling, whose blog is always full of inspiration and magic.
  16. Some of the most wonderful people I know are those who I have never met in person; I’ve only met them because of the Internet (such as my fellow staff members at Thistle and the Teacup Trail). I love how the Internet breaks down barriers we didn’t even know existed.
  17. Thinking about the future freaks me out–but not necessarily my future. Just the future in general. Whenever I think about the year 2020, or the year 2030, I have a mini existential crisis. I mean, think about it: self-driving cars! The Internet of Things! People born in the year 2000 will be adults and I will have no excuse to think that 1990 was ten years ago! People born this decade will literally not know a time before iPhones. Sometimes it just completely weirds me out that we are in the year 20-anything! Drew claims he has never experienced this. Then again, he is really excited about self-driving cars.
  18. I wish I had time to learn ancient Greek and ancient Hebrew, so I could read the Bible in its original language. Words are important. We miss so much beauty in our modern translation.
  19. I miss my blue hair.
  20. My first-ever published poem was about how much I hated working a 9-5 job, and I just wanted to write and make the world a better place. Looking back, I know I didn’t really hate my job that much; my heart and soul were just in a really bad place. I was horribly depressed, and battling anxiety like never before. Writing was a crucial part of my healing process, but pain is not a crucial part of the creative process. We all need to stop romanticizing the starving, heartbroken artist.
  21. I have the best best friends in the history of the world.
  22. I love the fact that Disney is releasing more princess movies, but it’s making me re-think all my favorites and it’s just another existential crisis waiting to happen. At least I know Jasmine will always be my #1 (followed closely by Belle and Rapunzel. And Moana. And Aurora. Dammit. They’re all wonderful, okay?).
  23. When I was little, all I wanted was a dog. I still love dogs–I love all animals–but cats have become somewhat of a personal mission. I’m extremely defensive of them (why do people expect them to act like dogs?!), and I volunteer at a cat shelter on a weekly basis. I feel like God knew that even though I wouldn’t become a veterinarian (my childhood dream, before I realized I don’t do well with blood), He knew that animals would be a huge part of my life. My childhood dream of helping animals is coming true–just not in the way I would have thought. Isn’t life incredible?
  24. “White Man” by the Michael Gungor Band  is my favorite song about God.
  25. My hope and prayer for this blog is that it becomes a safe place, where we can talk and love and learn together. I know I don’t always post here on a regular basis–sometimes not even a semi-regular basis–but I promise I’ll never abandon it.