Celebrating Life AND Death at Christmas

On my mind …

JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

christmas celebrateIt’s not a traditional Christmas carol, but this– my favorite modern Christmas hymn– stirs my soul like no other. While most people I know have Christmas as their favorite holiday, mine will always be Easter. But, of course, they are connected.

We begin in the dark: a humble stable, a pregnant girl whose faithfulness means giving birth in a barn, a baby king with no cradle but a manger.

And it gets darker still: abuse and blood and death, a broken body in a sealed-up tomb.

But it ends (or is this actually a new beginning?) in the light: LIFE LIFE LIFE LIFE LIFE.

That’s why “I Celebrate the Day” by Relient K is a holiday gem. Because it celebrates it all: light and dark, life and death and life again, the entire plan.

Listen below.

 

Lyrics:

And with this Christmas wish is missed
The point I could covey

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Deet 34

Happy 34th birthday to my favorite Janet-Jackson-dancing, upside-down-Princess-Pat, goofy, amazing, easily scandalized, figure-skating-obsessed, compassionate, honest, God-fearing, sweet, hilarious sister.

You are the first one to consider how to include a newcomer. Your instincts are so good, even when you doubt yourself. You have an iron will, a heart of gold, and care so much it sometimes turns you inside out. You can also slay a jumpsuit.

I adore you.

Here’s to the next 34 years of making memories as Sommers girls!

YES

Having an ultra productive day, one where I feel happy enough and healthy enough and motivated enough to just BLAST through my to-do list.

Productivity is one of my all time favorite … feelings, I guess. Situations? Experiences?

I used to feel like this EVERY. DAY. Can you imagine? No wonder I got so much accomplished! The last couple of years have been an exercise in humility and stillness, finding inherent worth in BEING, instead of in DOING.

I wrote every day for maybe 5 years. I look back on that and it feels so bonkers.

This week has been good, even though it’s been hard. I know I’ve used this metaphor before, but once again, it feels like a thread has been stitched through so many areas of my life and it’s almost time to pull, to cinch it all together.

I am celebrating.

I purchased a goal planner from Cultivate What Matters. I know it’s the kind of thing that stresses some people out, but I love it. I call it empire building.

It feels amazing to be building anything, let alone an empire. It feels like it’s been a couple years of dismantling.

AND YET

Sometimes it’s best to take apart all the faulty things and make them right.

I heard it once upon a time and have said it over the years to many people. Remember, Jackie, that mountains have switchbacks. You may not always be facing the direction you’d like, but that doesn’t mean you’re not still approaching the goal. In fact, at times, you may be moving in the literal opposite direction of your destination, but it’s just part of the path that leads there.

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Adulting

I can’t seem to adjust to Daylight Saving this year. By 6 pm, my body thinks it’s 10 and is confused about where I slipped into a wormhole.

I have to take so many supplements right now. It’s overwhelming, and I find myself skipping it a lot. I haven’t figured out a coping method yet, though it helps to spread it out a little. I’ll bring a baggie of meds and supplements to work and take them over the course of half an hour. I probably need to do this at night too.

Periods are the worst. Mine have always been bad physically but now they are bad hormonally. I’m on a rollercoaster and absolutely anything can make me cry.

Being an adult is so hard. It feels harder the older I get, in some ways. Easier in a couple, but harder in most.

I’m just venting here, obviously. I fell today and banged up my knee and I just want cuddles.

*Updated* Online Dating Sites as Described to Harry Potter Fans

Hinge
Love the prompts on this site … it feels like you get to the core of a person so much faster! Unusual skills … advice to my younger self … I’m legitimately bad at … I’m weirdly attracted to …

Bottom line: Quirky as Harry laced up on Felix Felicis.

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MeetMindful
The app asks about all your best habits and then forces you to slow down every time you swipe left.

Bottom line: Hufflepuffs only.

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eHarmony
Here I paid serious cha-ching to get curated matches– so these people were basically me with different anatomy, except everyone was freakishly timid and on their best, most boring behavior. The closest matches to what I think I want– at least on paper– but IRL it looks more like monthly credit card charges so that I can shout into the void.

Bottom line: Dumbledore is setting you up, buuuuuuuut you have to destroy horcruxes for him in exchange. 

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Coffee Meets Bagel
Every day at noon, female users get sent one “bagel” (yes, that’s what a man/his profile is called on this site). If we like each other, a chat screen opens up. You only get one bagel a day unless you want to purchase another with “coffee beans” that you can earn or buy. I mean, I have friends who found love in this hopeless place, but unless you are ready to make it rain, this is the slowest possible method for finding breakfast. I mean, a partner.

Bottom line: this is like going to the Room of Requirement every day at noon, just hoping that some hottie will be there at the same time. 

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OkCupid
Okc has multiple search options but a pretty unfocused constituency, so be prepared for booty calls and marriage proposals in the same day. I find myself coming back to it over and over again though, since you never know who will show up.

Bottom line: keeping an eye out for love at the Three Broomsticks.

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POF
Plenty of Fish wins #1 Sketch City, and your profile picture is all that matters to most. In a weekend, you might get 99 inquiries for chill and 1 for Netflix.

Bottom line: Knockturn Alley. 

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Christian Mingle
If you’re picky (which I am– hence a specialized dating site), Christian Mingle might give you a killer selection like it gave me: two locals and one guy from Ohio. Cool.

Bottom line: seems like a great idea until you match with two Muggles and one wizard from Durmstrang.

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Bumble
Bumble is called the “feminist Tinder” because only women can initiate conversations. Bumble brings all the hotties to the yard, enough that it makes me wonder how many profiles are fake. It gives me a feeling of power over incredibly attractive men … who may or may not exist, so … win? Hard to say.

Bottom line: you and Professor McGonagal have a girlfriends night to drink wine and look at cute wizards, which kind of makes it fun even if you don’t find love.

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Zoosk
What the heck is going on here? This is a hot mess.

Bottom line: like apparating the first time. I got out before I got splinched.

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All the Things

I’m going to start a fragrance … catalog. Not of what the fragrance smells like, but how it makes the wearer FEEL. Don’t tell me if this already exists; I want to believe this idea is original.

I’m voting next week. I used to only vote in presidential elections. That now feels foolish.

Completely changing my diet is SO. HARD. I think a big key for me will be getting groceries more often so that I always have healthy food for meals and snacks. If I dont have it on hand, my diet and willpower are blown to smithereens.

I have a date tomorrow. He is very handsome. I’m intimidated.

Work feels good and fun. My coworkers are the best. I’ve been missing some former coworkers too.

I spoke on a panel for disabilities week at mt university. It feels so empowering for me to talk about OCD. That, I recognize, is a miracle.

Some English majors at my university invited me to join them Sunday evenings this month for NaNoWriMo writing fun. I feel like that will motivate me! I’ve been thinking about Salt Novel so much.

I still miss The One That Got Away, although I’m PISSED at him too. I’m hoping God is protecting me from something I couldnt have saved myself from.

I couldnt find my notes from a talk I hear author Aly Carter give about being a “baby author” … so I contacted her online and asked for it. She sent me the PowerPoint. SO. GOOD. I will recap it for you soon.

Reading:

The Great Reckoning: Surviving a Christianity that looks Nothing Like Christ by Stephen Mattson

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

The Hero is You by Kendra Levin

Looking for:

Easy Paleo options

A kitten ring

A man/hero

Grateful for:

Therapy

Frozen peas

Friends who are exceptionally anti-shaming

Lessons on Being

I told a mentor of mine: “I feel like I’m on the edge of learning so many things about myself, and it’s a hard, scary, EXCITING place to be.”

Because I’m on the rim of that canyon and not yet fallen into that knowledge, I’m using my best tool (writing) to sort through it. Welcome.

1. I am enough. More than enough. If I am not a particular man’s cup of tea, that only means he is not the one for me. It doesnt mean I am a failure or undesirable. My confidence, humor, creativity, faith, and compassion are plenty.

2. I need to choose better rewards for myself. Sugar hits the spot for about one minute, then I feel junky. NOT WORTH IT. Better rewards: feeling good, writing, time with friends, new earrings, painting my nails, a hot shower or delicious nap. All of these have better, more lasting results than sugar.

3. The body remembers trauma (both capital-T Trauma and lowercase-t trauma), and I am teaching it that the emergency has passed. Be kind.

4. Even if it’s my fault that something went bad, it’s more productive to move on and make it good than to sit in the shame and blame.

5. Everything and anything can make me miss him. But none of it has to stop me from moving on.

6. Lipstick is battle paint.

7. She who finds a good doctor is blessed.

8. Vulnerability suits me.

9. Intentionality matters.

10. I have the power to hit reset as often as I want, but I don’t go back to the factory default without putting in the work.

The Place on Dalhousie

Always reblog the Marchetta.

Melina Marchetta

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(Release date March 2019)

‘You look the type to break your father’s heart.’
‘Yeah, but he broke mine first.’

When Rosie Gennaro first meets Jimmy Hailler, she has walked away from life in Sydney, leaving behind the place on Dalhousie that her father, Seb, painstakingly rebuilt for his family but never saw completed. Two years later, Rosie returns to the house and living there is Martha, whom Seb Gennaro married less than a year after the death of Rosie’s mother. Martha is struggling to fulfil Seb’s dream, while Rosie is coming to terms with new responsibilities. And so begins a stand-off between two women who refuse to move out of the home they both lay claim to.

As the battle lines are drawn, Jimmy Hailler re-enters Rosie’s life. Having always watched other families from the perimeters, he’s now grappling, heartbreakingly, with forming one of his own . . .

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The Shame That Drowns, an Honest Post

It’s so much easier for me to write about a hard experience after I’ve “conquered” it. I can come to this space and talk all I want about OCD because I’ve had ten years of freedom from and victory over it. It’s exponentially harder to talk about current struggles because there’s no distance from them. It’s not looking back on that time you were in quicksand and boasting how your quick thinking and hard work got you out of the mess. It’s being in the actual quicksand. It’s being up to your chin in the quagmire, having no assurance that you will survive.

Last week, my therapist asked me how I felt around my writing career, and something like a dam broke in me, and the words and tears and shame wouldn’t stop.

Shame?

I usually use the word fear, but there was no confusing my rush of emotions: fear and sadness and stress may have been in the parade, but shame was the grand marshal.

It felt amazing to talk about it and awful too, and even as it was all spilling out of me, I knew that I needed to write about it on my blog. Not because I’ve found any victory, but because healing for me has almost always come about via vulnerability.

I was a high achieving kid, top of my class, Most Likely to Succeed, summa cum laude, hard worker, strong leader, a go-after-it-hard kind of girl. I approached publishing that way too. I spent four years on a novel that never got an agent, and I barely blinked before I started a new story, which ultimately became Truest. I wrote every day for years, threw my time, money, and heart toward writing. I was relentless and driven. I finished the story, then got an agent and a book deal in the course of just four months.

And that’s when the panic came. I was very familiar with anxiety after a lifetime of dealing with OCD, but this was so different. The stress was high, there were deadlines, I wasn’t always on the same page with the revisions expected of me. I battled through it though, and I published a book that I’m still so damn proud of. September 1st, 2015, was like this incredible dream: a hardcover with my name on it, all my friends celebrating with me.

It was only three weeks later that I had one of the hardest and worst conversations of my life– one of the major distributors had not placed a large order for the book, and it was unlikely that sales would be able to make up for it. My book was only three weeks old, and I was being told it was essentially dead in the water. Get ’em with the next book.

Don’t get me wrong: there were so many amazing things that have come from publishing Truest. I’ve heard from the most incredible readers, people whose encouragement will live with me for the rest of my life (shout-out to Kristen!); I’ve met authors, some of my favorites (talking about you, Huntley!); I’ve been able to talk about creativity and mental illness and freedom and stories all over. I have loved connecting with readers, with young writers, with the English majors at my university. I have contributed to discussions and given advice, and I’ve taught classes and workshops and so, so, so many amazing things.

And yet.

I have so much shame around it all.

Like I’m some sort of fraud because the book was never a bestseller. When my friends tell others “she’s an author!” I feel like such a fake. My awareness of my (beautiful, beloved) book’s short reach stings. I let the panic and anxiety and stress get to me. I let myself get ill from it all. I couldn’t get on the same page as the editor I was working with and suggested that we go our separate ways. I can’t seem to follow my own advice and get my butt in the seat and hands on the keyboard. My body went into revolt and it’s been hard and scary to even open my manuscript.

Theoretically I understand that this is not failure. I published a book. Not that many people read it. I will write another and see what happens. Health problems have slowed it all down, but nothing has yet made me STOP. That’s not failure.

But it sure feels like it sometimes. A lot of the times.

Even though I’m no longer under a deadline or signed to a contract, my body seems to not have gotten the memo. It still reacts like I’m under all this pressure. I’ve been told the body keeps the score, and that’s proving very true in my life.

My therapist asked what more positive way I could frame this. I said, “I am at the beginning of a long writing career that got off to a rough start, but someday I will tell stories about these days and encourage other writers.”

I hope that’s true. I want it to be true.

Lately, the desire to write has become more insistent. I want to tell stories. I want to create worlds. I open my manuscript and tiptoe into it for a few pages. I know my characters have important things to say.

I’m still in the quicksand, trying to get on top of the shame and fear and stress. They are like ghosts from a different season, but ghosts can still drown you.

One day at a time. Today I’m tackling the shame head-on by sharing about it. Thank you for listening.

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All the Updates

I started seeing a new doctor, a neurologist, and … I feel SO excited, nervous, and hopeful! I may start a little side blog to chronicle and process my journey to health because, well, I’m a writer and this is how I process life. To make a long story short: I was going to invent my own little trigger point mat but decided to see if what was in my mind already existed … and it did … and the inventor of it was a neurologist known for FIXING (note: FIXING, not just TREATING) fibromyalgia pains AND HE WAS LOCATED 20 MINUTES FROM WHERE I LIVE.

Needless to say, I made an appointment with him right away. He has an entire wall of testimonies of people who found health and relief after years of pain. People come from other states– and other countries– to see this doctor. And here he was in my backyard.

As he said to me, “You’re too young to feel this bad.” YES! I AGREE!

I’ve been writing again! It’s wild to me how much the past couple of years have absolutely BLASTED the confidence right out of me. I’ve been a hard worker, high achiever, intelligent girl for basically my whole life, and that led me to feel pretty confident about anything I undertook. You wouldn’t think that publishing a book (a lifelong dream of mine) would actually lead to having all of that confidence vanish … but it’s true. I am rebuilding slowly.

Online dating still sucks. Basically, all the advice everyone gave me that I chose to ignore came back to bite me. Of course. “The One That Got Away“? I’ve spent the last month feeling lonelier than ever before. But great friends and family and a fantastic therapist and a marvelous God have been softening my heart. I started following Brene Brown on Instagram, and she says that “It’s not fear that gets in the way of our daring leadership. It’s our armor.” So even when fear assaults me, or loneliness, or whatever it may be, I really want to keep myself from the armor.

I want to stay tender and exposed to life.jernej-graj-656657-unsplash.jpg