Tonight is like the nights I used to have in college.

 

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My senior year of college, I had a terrible sleeping schedule and a lot to think about. I was working as the Editor in Chief of my school’s newspaper, which kept me up til the wee hours of the morning, and every night I wasn’t doing that, I was working on editing and producing a feature-film. I had just gotten my first smart phone, and so I would sit in my room, checking audio levels, scanning through b-roll, or waiting on my PC to render the latest chunk of footage, documenting everything through social media, broadcasting to an audience of no one.

No one was awake at 3 am. The house that I rented was big and many-storied. It swallowed noise, so that even though I lived with 5 other girls, I nearly always felt alone. And I was never more alone than at 4 am. Or better yet, 5 am, when the sun was starting to come up over the mountain and the birds started to sing.

I would sit in my room and debate whether or not I should try to sleep. I had class in the morning, but on the other hand, sleep deprivation was my drug of choice.  I had made it nearly 40 hours once without sleep, trying to see at what hour the hallucinations would start. They never did.

If I decided to stay up, I would look for something to watch, or something to read. A love story, maybe, about star-crossed kids and ultimate unhappiness. Maybe something about a girl like me; so bitterly lonely that she decided to excel at it, who built walls to keep everyone in the world out, until she met a hurricane who knocked them down. Despite best efforts, this girl-like-me would find herself head over heels, at the end of her senior year at school, doomed for heartbreak as graduation loomed like the sunrise behind the mountain.

I would journal, writing fictionalized accounts of my friends, trying to make sense of the impossible mess my heart was pulling me through. Sometimes I would cry thinking about the girl upstairs and how well she treated me and how much I would miss her. Maybe I was only forcing myself to stay awake so that I would have an excuse to fall asleep the next day in her arms.


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Tonight feels like one of those nights, which is strange. I don’t have a job that keeps me awake, although since I’m awake, I should be doing work right now. But my house is hot, like my place was at college. It’s small, but it is empty, and I’m completely alone. I’m watching movies and searching for things to read, accidentally finding representation even though I don’t need it so badly anymore.

I just finished watching Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael, which seems like the type of story I would have watched in college. It’s a coming of age story with questionably gay characters, a main character who is written but never seen, and a rather depressing ending. I loved it.

And afterwards, it made me want to write again. Writing is a rarity for me now, as my former “creative hours” simply don’t exist as they once did. All through growing up, I would journal obsessively, sometimes writing fiction, other times, reality. I would stay up hours and hours into the night, finding that the more sleep-deprived my brain was, the more colorful it seemed to get.

Now I just fall asleep. There’s not enough hours of the day to get things done. Back in college, that wasn’t a problem, as I would just stay awake and get them done at 4 am. But now as an adult with a vague, ever-worsening sleep disorder it’s harder and harder.

Tonight, however, I recaptured a glimmer of that. It’s too hot to sleep, so I’m laying in my bed among a mess of clothes that I’m in the midst of unpacking, alongside chargers and cables and hard-drives. It’s not 4 am, but rather just midnight. I’ve about hit my limit for the night. On the brighter side, I’m not crying about that girl anymore. I’m a bit less angsty, but perhaps I can still be poetic.

 

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Tonight is like the nights I used to have in college.

Where there is God, there is life.

A Tree and its Fruit
(Matthew 12:33-37; Luke 6:43-45)

15Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20So then, by their fruit you will recognize them.

I was told growing up to beware the false prophets. Beware the wolves in sheep’s clothing. Beware the World; it will look like life but it will lead to ultimate death.

If we follow that logic, life within the church–within Christ– should lead to ultimate life. When you’re in Christ, it’s supposed to give you hope for the future. You’re supposed to be able to look forward with anticipation.

Somehow ironically, I ended up suicidal and broken.


My church, and perhaps many others of evangelical conservative faith, will claim that it’s not the church’s fault. If I’m not feeling the hope of the spirit, then my faith isn’t strong enough. Or maybe I’m not “in Christ”, as I claim to be.

The fun thing about all of this is that I followed all of the rules. For 20 years, I was a good evangelical girl. I attended ALL of the church things. I knew all the creeds and sang all of the songs. But some of the worst moments, the worst feelings, the worst thoughts I had about myself came from teachings I learned within the church walls.

Maybe that’s just the way it’s supposed to be. Maybe that’s my cross to bear, I thought. After all, we’re supposed to reject ourselves–our own ideas and pleasures– and listen for God’s plan.

Perhaps it was just my denomination, but I grew up with an ultra focus on how humans were despicable to the core. Total depravity, was the buzzword. And we were all supposed to accept this.  We were rotten, disgusting, prone to every sin in the book, riddled with every soul-disease imaginable. Any thought, any action, that came from within ourselves, was pure evil. Only thoughts, actions, and words that came from God were pure and good.

I might be oversimplifying, but I am not exaggerating. This belief was the heartbeat of the church; at the core of every message. The idea was that God is so good; if you bury yourself and lift him up, you’ll be just fine.

But in order to bury yourself, you have to kill yourself.

This wasn’t a suicide cult. But I found myself as a young person thinking more than once, “if the afterlife is so good, and if now is so bad, why can’t I just go?”

But like everything else, suicide was a sin too. It looked grim, as a young person, stuck in a world of hating myself. Hating myself because that was what God required. God didn’t want us to glorify ourselves. We weren’t supposed to love ourselves. That was what the World told us to do. We were different. We were cross-bearers.

And so I just kept hating myself.


What was the fruit of this?

The fruit of this wasn’t the glorification of God. As I made myself less and less, a change came over me. I became resentful of my peers. It bred insecurity; my confidence crumbled. I made myself small, skipping lunches in favor of grueling workouts in the summer heat, desperately trying to diminish the space I was taking up on earth.

I hated my body. My pale skin, my widening thighs. I hated my voice. I hated my heart, how it led me to dead ends in the arms of lovers that I could never keep.

I hated the fakeness of it all. I hated the faux compassion from the pulpit after a sermon of condemnation. I hated the smiles of elders who preached we were to hate ourselves. I hated that they got to go home to their families; their loving nuclear families that they were allowed to have because they were God’s chosen.

Maybe I just wasn’t chosen. My heart felt walled and guarded. When I looked to the future that God was supposed to have planned for me, I saw nothing. Felt nothing. I cut my skin to try to feel something. I cut my skin to try to get rid of the badness, or maybe to get the outside to reflect the badness that I felt within. The badness that I was told we all had.

I exited my teens, fragile and broken by the religion that had raised me, looking for a hint of kindness among the evangelical at college and finding nothing but judgement and anger.


When someone committed suicide, the language changed only slightly.  ‘It was a waste,’ they called it. ‘A grievous misunderstanding of God’s plan for their life. They were unable to see the love that God had for them. They couldn’t understand that they were precious to God; God’s beautiful creation.’

I guess you have to die to be glorified.


The whole thing is morbid, really, and I guess this whole religion, at its core, is rather morbid.

But the story doesn’t end with a crucified Christ and a sealed tomb. The darkness only lasts until the morning. Somehow that message has been lost.

Christ brings hope to the hopeless. Comfort to the hurting. Christ brings life to things that were once dead. We may have been depraved, but now we are glorified through Christ. It’s a game-changer.

Yes, some need to hear a humbling message. But overall, especially to young people, and during times which seem so dark, we need to hear the gospel. The good news of Christ. And that good news isn’t that we are supposed to bury ourselves. We are to lift up ourselves. Lift up ourselves and each other in the name of Christ and go.

Maybe if someone had told me I was beautiful, I would have one less scar. Maybe if someone had glorified us, as young people, more of us would have stuck around. Maybe if someone had told me that God loves me, just as I was, no matter what, I would have spent my teenage years looking upward to God instead of inward at the body I despised.

Because the truth is, friends, where there is God, there is life. When I picture what life looks like in a church setting, it isn’t what I was brought up to believe it was. It’s not numbers, or children, or activities. It is simply people thriving. Thriving. Not surviving. Not coping. Thriving.

Over the years I’ve grown to recognize that while the evangelical church in which I was raised considers their view on the Bible the ultimate and sole correct view, this view produces bad fruit. It produces hurt and pain. It pushes people out instead of drawing them in. It tears people down instead of building them up. It does not produce life. Instead, in my case, it nearly produced death.

As my heart settles into a wider understanding of myself and of God, I realize now that good fruit comes from my new congregation, from the liberal Christians on twitter, from the faithfully LGBT community, and many others. Good fruit like the comfort and acceptance of the trans boy at my youth group. Good fruit like the lesbian who almost lost her faith being invited to lead worship. Good fruit like young people being encouraged to ask weird questions. Good fruit like pastors speaking out against injustice to a congregation of white rich people, and them listening.

Beware the false prophets. By their fruits you will recognize them.

Where there is God, there is life.

Thank you Scott for making tiny changes to earth.

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I’m in the arch of the church
Between her thumb and her forefinger
I’m a worshipper
A zealot king, cursed, a devotee
Of the heady golden dance she does
She’s an uncut drug
Find the vein and the pulse
Chased it and for a minute I was floating dead above myself.
Get out of my heart. She wont. She wont.

I’ve always found it compelling to write about the physical nature of love and loss, rather than the mental aspect.


My love, you should know
The best of me left hours ago, so
Shove a rag into my mouth and let me smolder
Fallout and the damage done
I can’t un-sink the things I’ve sunk
Still not giving up, though I wish that I was sober

 Whenever it gets dark, it’s totally my fault that it does. There’s no heroism in this, it’s fucking pathetic. Don’t even bother listening to this song. And don’t look at me, I’m hideous!

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I’m trapped in a collapsing building
Come find me now, where i hide and
We’ll speak in our secret tongues
So will you come back to my corner?
Spent too long alone tonight
Would you come brighten my corner?
A lit torch to the woodpile

It’s a big, confident rock song about helplessness. I like that juxtaposition.


So tie your ragged fuck-ups in a neat little knot
And put it on the shelf behind the picture we bought
I found the way to make the best of a flaw
And realize it’s not the end, it’s an uncomfortable pause

But I had this need when I was 18 to write a song. Should I try and tap into that again, and see where the need lies within my existence?

 


And when asked how he was doing now, Scott said he was “pretty fine” and described his feelings a “solid six out of ten” on a day-to-day basis.

He said: “I don’t know how often I can hope for much more than that. I’m drawn to negatives in life, and I dwell on them, and they consume me.

“I don’t think I’m unique in that sense. I’m all right with a six. If I get a couple of days a week at a seven, fuck, it’s great.”


I’m away now. Thanks.

Thank you Scott for making tiny changes to earth.

#iamkatemessner, and Everything Sucks!

Spoilers ahead! If you wish not to be spoiled, get off WordPress, go watch the show. It definitely does not suck.

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I’ll just get right to it: this show was better than anything I could have anticipated.

I’m drawn to character stories, and even more so, I’m personally fascinated by coming-of age stories, so right off the bat, this was absolutely something I was going to love. In fact, as I started watching, I realized that this was a version of a story that I have been looking for for years. For years, I would walk into a bookstore or browse the internet for a story that reflected my own experiences in coming to terms with my sexuality. Everything Sucks! is pretty close to the story I’ve been looking for.

Kate is me. I am Kate. I was a behind-the-scenes type girl, quiet, with long straight hair that was never styled because god forbid I show my face. I wanted to blend in. I even dressed like Kate because like Kate, my dad bought my clothes growing up. I was awkward and intimidated by girls who were more confident in their skin (see locker room scene, shopping scene, etc.).

I totally got it: Am I boyish because of my clothes? Because of the way I was brought up? Or do I genuinely like dressing like this? Do girls make me flustered because I’m shy? Do I want to be like them or do I want to date them?

Unlike Kate, I didn’t try dating boys until college. But even then I get it. Why don’t I want to hold this guys hand? Why does he annoy me so much when he’s trying to be romantic?He’s my best friend, but I can’t stand to be around him if it means I have to kiss him.

When I finally fell for someone in college, she was a lot like Emaline (except she was nice to me from the start); super cool, artsy, super hot, and really popular with the guys. Similar to Emaline, my friend fell for me, and I for her. And like “Kemaline”, our relationship came to an abrupt and premature end.

The news of the cancellation of Everything Sucks came as a surprise to me. The show connected with people across ages, orientations, and life places. My high school coworkers connected with the characters, who were genuine representations of students their age. My age group, “the millennials”, connected with the kids because we were those kids. This was our era. Even my mom connected with the show, through the music and the sweet story of Luke’s mom and Kate’s father.

Netflix was sitting on a goldmine–a story driven by nostalgia, good acting, and relatable situations. The cast was racially and socioeconomically diverse. And my personal draw: the show had a gay female lead.

I am Kate Messner. To see my story brought to life on screen was so touching and so very sweet. It became a story I could point to and say “That was me in high school.” I had never had that before. It was a story that I could watch, with one foot in the closet, and relive all the realization moments with Kate:

The embarrassment of the gym locker room; undressing in front of girls way more confident and beautiful than you.

Hanging pictures of boy celebrities in your bedroom just to fit in; not because you actually find them attractive.

Seeing a lesbian couple for the first time and realizing that it’s everything you want. Simultaneously being exited at the possibility, but sad at the reality; that it’s not likely to ever happen.

Then later, having your breath catch when you finally experience physical closeness for the first time and find that it’s wonderful.

The concert scene is the scene for me. That’s the story I was looking for. That’s the feeling I felt. That’s the experience of a baby gay.

Shows like this aren’t something that can just be thrown away. The show isn’t only a goldmine for viewership, it’s a piece of people. The show is meant to connect with people, either through nostalgia or relatable characters. And when a story allows its viewers to be that vulnerable, it must be treated carefully.

Kate is an important character. Luke is an important character. Luke’s mom, Emaline… all of them. It’s important for these stories to be told. Specifically, it’s important for kids to have the representation that I didn’t have when I was in high school.

Perhaps if I had a Kate Messner when I was young, I would have spent less time hating myself. Perhaps if my parents had seen young Kate’s struggle, they would be more compassionate toward the LGBTQ community, and to me.

It’s a story that connects with viewers who don’t have much to being with. It’s a story that I have been searching for for years, and I finally found. It’s a story that deserves more time to be told, or at least, it deserves a proper ending.

Netflix, you’re sitting on a story that must be told. Tell it.

#iamkatemessner

#iamkatemessner, and Everything Sucks!

How can I feel God if I can’t feel anything at all?

I’ve gone to church all my life. I’ve attended services from many different denominations, but I grew up Presbyterian; conservative pres at that, and we’re definitely not the most forthcoming of people. There’s a reason why we’re called the “frozen chosen.”

That didn’t stop me from getting swept up in the excitement of music festivals and seminar, and the emotion of testimonies and alter calls. If it’s really possible to be “on fire for God,” I felt that. Occasionally. It’s hard not to be touched when 80,000 voices are signing hallelujah.

Upon returning to real life, that is, my real frozen chosen, Evangelical Presbyterian church, we were (i kid you not) always subjected to a lecture warning us of the inevitable fall we would have off of our spiritual high.

In a lot of ways they were right to warn us. The idea was to encourage us to not fuse faith with an emotional high. If your faith relied on an emotional high, what would you do in the low points?

On the other hand, I also grew up being taught that God has a physical (okay, spiritual) presence, and that if you don’t feel the spirit, you need to take a closer look at your faith. Other people feel moved by the spirit. Other people feel calmness, or a sense of clarity, or a sense of passion for the word or works of God.

I can’t feel anything, so how on earth am I supposed to feel the presence of an invisible God?

The problem is, I’m now in my twenties and I’m decidedly not an emotional person. I don’t get sad, but I don’t get happy either. I look back at concerts and events that I attended and try to remember the emotion I felt during them, only to realize that I haven’t felt that way in so long–I can’t remember how euphoria feels. I don’t remember what it felt like to have a spiritual high; to be connected to the spirit. I can’t remember the feelings of sobbing, begging, sadness I had a child when I pleaded with God for the life of a family member or friend.

Nothing excites me, nothing upsets me. Part of it is nature; I’m highly depressed and heavily medicated. Part of it is nurture;  I was brought up to be logical, not emotional.

When people talk about feeling the spirit now, I struggle with finding a point of reference. I can’t feel anything, so how on earth am I supposed to feel the presence of an invisible God?

Have I reached a point in my faith where my belief hinges on my ability to feel the spirit? No, if that were truly the case, I wouldn’t believe in a great number of things. Happiness doesn’t vanish from the world if I can’t feel it. On the other hand, how can I call myself a christian if I never feel the spirit? I’ve been taught that that’s not possible.

So what do I do? Is this a phase of life? Is this a side effect of medication or mental illness? I’m still a leader in the band at church. I’m still a youth leader. What am I supposed to do if my heart isn’t in it right now for the sake of God?

I think the only thing I can do is to keep on going. I was warned as a kid not to become complacent with my faith; don’t just go through the motions. But what if that’s all you can do?

I enjoy playing music in the band. I love working with the kids. I like discussing social issues through a christian lens, and figuring out where I can be of the most help in this crazy world.

Maybe if I can’t feel God right now, I can just keep going on and do Their works. Maybe that’s what we can do in seasons where we don’t feel God, or anything at all. If we keep our hearts as open as we can, and pour out compassion, empathy, and kindness, maybe the spirit will find its way back in.

If we keep our hearts as open as we can, and pour out compassion, empathy, and kindness, maybe the spirit will find its way back in.

 

How can I feel God if I can’t feel anything at all?

Look deeper than the “good ole days”

Every so often I get fired up about something at work and it always leads to the same conversation; me venting to the next cubicle over about the state of the country. And without fail, she (a boomer) always says with an air of hopeless resolve, “well, it’s not like it used to be.”

The problem is that she only focuses on the effects, the tangible, what she’s personally affected by. Aggressive driving for instance. She says that people drive much more aggressively these days. “It’s not safe. It’s not like it used to be. Nobody takes leisurely drives anymore.” That’s where it stops. Her analysis of the world stops with nostalgia.

I’ve been trying for months to try to get her to ask different questions. Not just what is different, but why it’s different, and more importantly, how did we get to this point? Have you considered that aggressive driving might be born from stress and anxiety? Your beloved leisurely drives have gone by the wayside… what has taken their place? Extreme productivity and time efficiency?

In many cases, these bad things in our society today are not the issues themselves, but symptoms of underlying problems. To continue with the aggressive driving example; local governments can change traffic patterns and reduce speed limits all they want, but at the root of the problem is driver aggression.

But we can go deeper. Why are drivers becoming more agressive? Is it because greater speeds and safer vehicles have unlocked some primal instinct? Maybe, but I suspect it has something to do with stress and how we as a society manage our mental health.

See, the Germans don’t have the same road rage problems that we have in America, and they can go even faster than we can. What does their society do differently? For starters, they treat their workers better. The kids go to school at a later hour. The drinking age is lower. They don’t eat nearly as much fast food.

It’s not perfect, but imagine this: what if Americans as a whole were less stressed, daily. What if that man didn’t have to rush to work every day, because his workplace valued him as a person and not a number, and understood that life happens sometimes. What if he wasn’t quite so worried about things going on at home; that if he lost this job that he hates, his children would starve and his wife would die of cancer without health insurance. What if he was taught from a young age that talking about his feelings was valid and essential for men to do?

Maybe this is stretching the analogy a bit. Try this; a recent study has concluded that high school students today exhibit on average MORE stress that the average mental institute patient did in the 1950s. Meaning that if this were 1950 (the good old days), all of our young people could be put away for “nerves”.

Something is broken. You’re right; in many ways, those were the good old days. But boomers, you have made the world we live in today. Maybe if your generation wasn’t so focused on growing the economy, they would remember that we’re all just people, not machines. Perhaps if your generation wasn’t so intent on gathering as much money as possible, you would remember that your young people are in debt that they will never climb out of. Want to build the economy? Remember the future of it; who will be taking care of you in 20 years. Remember the children born to parents who they hardly see. How can you bring back family values to a world where both parents work 50 hour weeks to put food on the table?

I’m asking, please look deeper than your nostalgia. If you want things to go back to the way they used to be, you need to start valuing people for their souls, rather than the monies they contribute to society.

Look deeper than the “good ole days”

I’ve been away for a while

During the summer, my brain felt like it was on fire with activity. I really began, for the first time in a long time, to think about my place in the universe. For a long time, I could not see my place in the universe; that if I disappeared things would stay much the same.

This summer, questions began to circle in my head, and I began to deconstruct the faith and social structures in which I was raised. Here I was, a queer democrat in an evangelical republican world. What was I supposed to do with all of the teachings I had learned growing up? Was I going to hell for being gay? Does God even care that I’m gay? Are evangelicals the only ones who get into heaven? What makes John Piper so special? Have I lost my mind because I don’t hate Muslims? Am I going to hell because I voted for Hillary?

I started this blog to sort through those questions. I find that putting my thoughts down in the physical realm helps me fully realize them.  During the summer, I had a lot of energy for this blog. Unfortunately, that energy seems to have disappeared. I’ve been sick for what feels like half a lifetime. I wake, feeling as though I had run a marathon in my sleep. I work, through a foggy brain with a memory that seems to have deteriorated.

My boredom used to turn into creativity. It’s how I wrote an album, drew a comic, and created music videos. Unfortunately, my boredom now puts me to sleep.

I had a few tests done to make sure my sleepiness wasn’t due to a sleep disorder. The doctors determined that it wasn’t, which leads me to believe that it’s just depression. It’s just the cloud of nothingness rearing its ugly head again.

Hopefully this won’t last long. I’ve got a wonderful girlfriend to help me through it all, but I’ve learned my lesson about relying on people.

Anyway, I’ve been away for a while. I’d like to set a schedule for posting, but this is going to have to be one of those blogs that goes inactive whenever I have a mental crisis or whatever.

Be good to each other.

Interior of a bedroom with a blanket and a window showing smoke and other houses outside

I’ve been away for a while