Wednesday, November 16, 2022

When Something You've Dreamed for Happens

(Note - this isn't a post about a stigma... but it is about gratitude, which is a major part of overcoming all of the stigmas that many of us have to deal with.)

I had planned to write this right after it happened but life got in the way. Now, several days later, I finally have a minute to do so. 

My new husband is a drummer. It's part of his identity, though he might not admit it. He hasn't played in years but still thinks about it a lot.

I can fully understand this because being a musician (guitarist and keyboardist) is part of my identity, even though it's been even longer than him since I last played.

Like so many other things in my life, like learning sign language or becoming a writer, I had given up on ever playing again, especially as part of a team. He hadn't... though he did recognize that it was very unlikely for him to do so again.

When we first started dating and found out that the other had played on worship teams before, there was a slight hope that one day we would play on a team together. This had been a secret dream of mine since I was a teenager and when my first husband wasn't a musician, I resigned myself to knowing it would never happen.

As time passed, it seemed less and less unlikely. We went to a church for a while that had a semi-professional worship team - they were all at an extremely high level. He played on their team once as a percussionist - and wasn't invited back. He found out later that they didn't want someone who couldn't read music - but they never asked him if he could. 

He was so hurt that he didn't fight it and so we were back to thinking it would never happen.

We ended up leaving that church to go to a deaf church. Though the Deaf love music, obviously they don't have a worship team. We factored this into our decision to join that church. We love the pastor and people so much there that we didn't even have to think about it to decide to join... and gave up that dream.

Then, almost exactly a year ago, our pastor shared that he had been talking with a pastor of a hearing church to possibly merge. It took a long time to work everything out, but as a group, we joined that church this past summer.

This was really exciting for my husband and me. The way it would work is that our church would join the hearing church in a joint service once a month where we would have an interpreter and the other three weeks, we met separately and had deaf church (all done in sign language).

Our worship team dream wouldn't have worked if the hearing church only had one service - but they have two. So we knew when joining that we could potentially be part of the team for the first service and still go to the deaf church for the second.

Even after a period of several months, we still hadn't been able to "try out" for the team. (I put that in quotes because there's not a formal audition but obviously, they do want to make sure you fit in before becoming a permanent team member.)

Finally, it happened. Well, at least it happened for my husband. Due to my upcoming rotator cuff surgery, I knew it would be months before I could even think about trying to play again.

Early last week my husband got an email that they wanted him to come to practice Wednesday night and play this past Sunday.

We both were excited... and nervous. Would he play and get burned again? Each of us knew that we had that same worry but we didn't discuss it. It was enough for him to get to play even once.

Last Sunday morning I was so full of emotions. I have been super stressed about my upcoming surgery and on top of that, I didn't feel well physically. It took everything in me to make it to church that morning (he had to be there early for practice so we took two cars).

I'm so glad I did! Some of those in our deaf church wanted to see him play so they asked that I record it. My heart felt like it was going to burst while I watched him play. I couldn't keep the tears from trickling down my cheeks.

Mixed in with so much joy was also a little sadness. I wanted to be up there with him. I know it'll be a while before I can even possibly play - and there's the chance that they won't need me even then. 

That sadness was a minuscule part of my emotional state though. Mostly I was just so thankful... so very grateful... that at least he was up there, doing what he loved.

I can't leave without being totally transparent, though. It's Wednesday afternoon and he never got an invitation to practice this week. There are soooo many reasons that he hasn't been asked at this point that have nothing to do with them not wanting him as part of the team, that we're trying not to worry. 

Not worrying is extremely difficult to do for me. I'm working on it in therapy (have been for years!) but it's still my typical go-to in situations like these. 

I think in many ways it's worse when someone you love is hurt than when you are. 

No matter what happens with him being asked to continue to play, nothing can take away how I felt last Sunday - full of joy and hope and a big reminder that even when you've given up on a dream, there's always the possibility that it can still happen.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Perspective

Today is one of those many days I've had lately where I'm full of mixed emotions - and where I possibly got something very wrong.

I'm literally at a conference that I've covered for the last three years (well, it would have been four if not for COVID.) For this conference, I'm "just" a photographer. There are other writers covering each session.

The first year I worked with this media outlet, I knew nothing about working with a newspaper - at least not for something like this. This is one of the biggest events that this media company covers each year - and that first year, I was the only photographer. I didn't slow down for a moment all three days. If I wasn't taking pics, I was culling and editing... and editing again because I second-guessed everything I did then (now I just second-guess about half of my editing. Sigh...)

This year is really different. I was really upset and felt extremely slighted when I was told that I would only be needed for the first day of the conference. I asked about it and was told it was for budgetary reasons and that they would be using staff members to take pics the other two days.

Then I found out that another photographer, one who has been freelancing for them for maybe a year, was asked to work all three days. 

I was so hurt and felt incredibly rejected. 

I'm getting older and I have a lot more physical and mental issues than I did four years ago, when I ran around all over like this newbie is doing now. I recognize this. 

I can't kneel to not get in someone's way when I'm shooting. I have to shoot from the side. 

I can't run up to the balcony to get an overhead shot. (I can make it, but can't "run" anymore). 

For those who understand spoon theory (https://www.healthline.com/health/spoon-theory-chronic-illness-explained-like-never-before#1), I know I only have a  set amount of spoons each day and they vary day by day. I can't use up spoons at the beginning of an all-day shoot because I might not make it to the end of the day.

Even knowing this, it still hurts. It hurts to be replaced, especially when it is while doing something you love and are passionate about. 

But after starting today, I realized a few things that my hurt feelings hadn't let me realize... I may have it all wrong. Instead of being slighted by cutting back on my work, the one in charge may have been giving me this assignment as an honor and as a loyalty thing. 

The newbie could do it all without me - and I know I can't anymore. Right now, as I'm writing, he's kneeling down in front of the front pew to get some pics of the speaker. That's not even a possibility for me now. Add to that, he got a mirrorless camera which means he can shoot with no noise (shutter clicks) or noise (in the pics).  

This media outlet easily could have gotten by without me here. In other words, it's very likely that they gave me this assignment because they like me and my work and not because they "need: me. It's possible they are letting me work when it might been better to cut me out completely and save the money they will be paying me.

I feel a little guilty that I'm here making this much money for this little work. I keep checking the schedule to make sure I'm not missing anything. Instead of trying to get twenty angles of each speaker/performer, I get a few from one or two places and quit. 

I'll admit - there's a part of me that's concerned that if I don't run around and try to make sure I have much better pics than him, he'll edge me out completely. However, that could happen even if I bust my butt today. I choose to get good pics and leave it at that. God will have to take care of getting assignments in the future.

Anyway, I'm writing all this to say that maybe it wasn't that the person doing the assignments was being mean... but just the opposite. She might have actually given me day one because she respects me instead of taking away days two and three because she doesn't. 

I don't know if it makes sense, but it's a game-changer in my head. 

Sometimes it's all a matter of perspective...

(Also, I realized that the newbie could potentially be doing this for free - for the experience. I did similar things when I started out. The thing is, I don't know and maybe I don't need to know. I just need to do my best and let the rest work out.)

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Nerves, Part 2

 This time it's not the middle of the night. In fact, it's almost the exact same time I wrote "Nerves" - just change the AM to a PM. 

My nerves are back, with a vengeance. 

This time it's not as much physical as emotional. It's flat-out worry. 

With anxiety disorder, worry is common for me. I have to actively fight against letting it overtake my life. Most days I win, if only by a slight margin in triple-overtime.

Today I'm losing... badly. It's been a massacre.

It's also been a long time since I was physically affected by the anxiety I'm feeling. My stomach is in knots. That feeling is not that uncommon for me but it's usually over something imminent and usually focused on one issue.

Right now I feel this way because of a multitude of issues. 

One is the surgery I'm having in, GULP!, 11 days to repair a torn rotator cuff. I've been dreading it now for a couple of months. As it gets closer, I am getting even more nervous. I think of more and more things that I won't be able to do and that's compounded because I have no idea how long I won't be able to do those things.

What a way to start a marriage! The day I have my surgery it will be 7 weeks that we have been married. 

It's tough for someone who has had to be strong and independent for so many years as a single mom to be dependent on someone financially... and even more so to be dependent on someone physically. 

I know that I'll adapt. I know I'll figure out ways to do most of what I need to do while my right shoulder is healing.

It's just that uncertainty combined with a loss of control that's driving me crazy.

I don't want to get into specifics, but there are also several other situations that are really nerve-racking. 

It's been said before on this blog... the stuff that I'm dealing with would cause even a neurotypical person to worry, especially when thinking of everything combined.

Imagine what that means for someone who can feel anxious on the best day, during a time when circumstances are all going well. You can probably guess that where I am now is worse than a horror-movie marathon on Halloween.

Plus, I can't keep telling myself that it's all fake. 

I don't know how to shake it this time. I've tried distracting myself (as I can't focus enough to even try to work). I'm busy but nothing has changed in my stomach. Apparently, it hasn't gotten the memo that I'm not thinking about all of those issues right now.

I guess there is one piece of good news in all this... I've been doing EMDR with my therapist about not wanting to go to food when I'm overwhelmed. At least that's been working. I don't want to eat. (Maybe it's working too well...)

If I keep going I'm at an extremely high risk of repeating myself even more than I already have.

I do have a request, though. If anyone reads this and believes in prayer, I would appreciate some for me. Right now that's the only hope I have to make it through the next few weeks.


Monday, November 7, 2022

Fitting In

Right now I'm in the church I go to. Note that I didn't say I was in a class or in the worship service. I'm in an empty room with my earbuds in while the service is going on about 200 feet away. 

I'm in here for two reasons. One is that my stomach really hurts. I would rather run out of here than run full speed out of the sanctuary if I suddenly feel a lot worse. 

The other is much, much more complex. 

I won't name the denomination or the church, but it's the denomination I grew up in. I would consider it a "high expectations" denomination, one built around following rules, with a lot of emphasis on "doing good works" for God. 

Throughout my 54 years, I've questioned a lot of those rules, always trying to figure out what is a cultural expectation/tradition versus what God really wants us to do. 

It makes me really angry when I hear all of the guilt trips that are a part of church, at least all of the churches I've attended. These range from not giving enough money, to not giving enough time, to a multitude of other expectations either verbalized or implied. 

Today's focus was on having what many Christians call a "quiet time" - a time set aside every day, usually first thing in the morning, to pray and read the Bible. 

During class as this was being discussed, I looked up Jesus' example in the Bible. Now, I know that I'm not a Bible scholar, but from the small amount of research I did, Jesus never had a quiet time. 

Instead, He communed with God constantly. 

Yes, there were many times that He left the crowds, the disciples, the needs…  in order to be alone and pray. 

One more thing you need to know about me…  I HATE confrontation. I can be extremely meek on the outside while boiling inside. 

However, through my many years, I've started learning to speak up for what I believe. That's part of the reason for starting the Spotlight on Stigma blog, in fact. 

So this morning, I decided to speak up. I brought up my earlier point about Jesus not setting the example of getting up early, getting out His Bible and a highlighter, and having a quiet time before everything started for the day. 

I didn't mention it, but that's something man made up. Growing up (and possibly still in many churches today), reading your Bible every day was something you got to check off on your offering envelope or get a star for on the Sunday School chart. 

Feeding the hungry, visiting those in prison, praying for healing for those who were sick… those were not ever included with the boxes to check.

I have to give my Sunday School teacher a lot of credit… He didn't argue my point but agreed with the part about Jesus not doing that. He did still say that it's good to set aside that time every day. And honestly, I'm not saying it's not a good idea. 

What I am saying is the issue is the guilt trip that goes along with emphasizing having this quiet time, especially when it's implied that we need to do it because it's what Jesus did. 

I was already having a rough time physically before this happened, but the nervousness I built up while wondering whether to say something against the status quo kicked my stomach issues into overdrive. 

My husband and I (I'm still having a hard time referring to him as my husband and not my boytfriend!) haven't been able to come much the last couple of months, with the wedding, going out of town one weekend, and me not feeling well several weeks. We were already here. I decided to try to attend the main church service after Sunday School. 

It started out okay. I found out that it was "Impact Sunday" - basically a commercial to give to the missions offering. Then an old hymn was sung (which can trigger me greatly). 

I couldn't make it. I had to leave. Like I said earlier, a big part is that I want to be able to get to a bathroom soon if my stomach gets worse. But honestly, that's not the main reason I left. 

Our denomination believes in patriarchy and following all the rules set up by the church. Straying into the beliefs of another Christian church isn't allowed. 

I've heard some horror stories about this denomination no longer funding missionaries who broke these rules or (God forbid!) allowed a woman to have any part of a pastoral role overseas. 

I am a giver. I give time, money, and other donations to Christian and non-Christian charities. But I don't plan to give to this missionary organization, knowing what I know. 

As I wrote that, I realized that it's entirely possible there's a lot of crap in the groups I give to. In fact, it's probable. I guess in this case, ignorance is bliss. 

You may be thinking at this point, "If she has so many objections to this church, then why does she go there?" 

The answer to that is "community." Maybe it's because growing up and my most of my adulthood, my best friends were all from my church. Maybe it's because I'm not big into any clubs or group hobbies. Maybe it's something else. 

But after moving back to the city where I grew up about 6 or 7 years ago, I know that I've only made a few friends and none are couples. 

My husband and I wanted to find a place to worship and a place where we could potentially meet others to sometimes hang out with. We are part of a small congregation within the big congregation. (Today is a "big congregation" service where we all meet together.)

I'm here mostly for the small congregation. I'm here for the love that I feel for that group - and for those we are slowly meeting in the big congregation. 

I'm not here for the worship service, especially the joint service. I'm not here to hear more man-made rules and to be guilted into doing them. 

Don't get me wrong. I'm a Christian. I love Jesus and am thankful for what He's done for me. I just think that the lines have become extremely blurred between what God told us to do and what others decided we needed to do. 

The service is ending. I'm tired of this struggle. Sometimes I wish that I was what my husband and I call a sheep - someone who follows the crowd and doesn't question everything. I wish I could come to church without all this angst. 

But at the same time I'm thankful that I do question. And I'm thankful that I'm here. I just need to reconcile how to do both. 



Saturday, November 5, 2022

Nerves

It's 2:57 am and I'm obviously not asleep. Being awake at this time isn't unusual for me. It's my pattern most nights that I fall asleep early (my best friend calls it my "baby bedtime") then wake up somewhere in the 1:00 am to 3:00 am range. I'm awake for maybe an hour or so and then I got back to sleep and sleep through the night.

Insomnia, unfortunately, is also something I'm really familiar with. I've had bouts of insomnia so bad that I didn't want to go to bed, knowing I wouldn't be able to sleep - or sleep more than an hour or so. However, I haven't experienced that kind of ongoing, overwhelming anxiety for a little while now. (Thank God!)

This time was different. I woke up like normal and did what I usually do - play games on my phone and listen to ASMR videos on YouTube until I get sleepy again. But then I started thinking...

Those thoughts have continued racing through my mind ever since I woke up. I'll come back to them later.

After having the realization that sleep might not come again before morning, I decided to go ahead and get up. I had a snack (one part of not being able to sleep was that I was hungry) and laid down on the couch. Sometimes getting out of bed and going somewhere else helps. Tonight it didn't.

Those dang thoughts wouldn't calm down. I got some awards from the media outlet I often work for today - three awards for my photography. At first, I was thrilled.

Then I found out that a photography assignment that I've done for the past three years - one of the biggest and a great income-generator - has been cut back. Instead of doing the entire conference, I've only been asked to shoot the first day. 

I was really surprised and thought I heard wrong. When I clarified, the person I was speaking to mentioned budgetary reasons as to why they have to cut back this year.

So, I have incredibly mixed emotions. 

Today this same group awarded me for doing such great work. The judge (an award-winning veteran photographer who also teaches journalism) praised my work and said it was consistently outstanding. I haven't received any negative feedback about my photography (other than I often turn in too many photos for each shoot - I'm working on that.)

But the pessimist in me - the part of me that hasn't quite gotten rid of imposter syndrome - feels like either I'm not good enough or someone else is better (or both).

On top of that, I'm nervous about another impending surgery. I thought that when the second carpal tunnel procedure was finished, I was done with restrictions for a while. 

Imagine my surprise when I went to check on the results of an MRI of my shoulder - thinking the pain and numbness were from some kind of arthritis or nerve damage - only to find out I have a torn rotator cuff. 

Though the surgery wasn't something I had to have very soon, it would definitely be in my future and the longer I waited, the more likely it was that it would tear more, or even tear completely. I looked at my photography schedule and decided to put it off just a couple of months - after the aforementioned shoot.

Maybe that's one reason this is hitting me especially hard. I could have had the surgery a little sooner but I thought I'd be needed for all three days of the conference. However, after asking about it but not hearing back and then making the assumption that they would want me the entire time, I scheduled another shoot for the weekend afterward. 

So now it's too late to reschedule the surgery for earlier.

Sitting here analyzing this, I realized I'm also really nervous about the recovery time for this one. Though I am supposed to be able to type, and thus can continue that part of my freelance work, I won't be able to shoot for probably 2-3 months. I won't even be able to drive for four weeks. 

With every surgery, I've had over the past few years (and I've had several), the recovery has taken longer and been more difficult than I was led to believe. I'm nervous about this one.

I guess on one hand, I have several upcoming real-life scenarios where many people would be worried.

My major photography client is cutting back due to budget... what will that mean for me? Even though I've been praised for how good my work is, what if I'm still not good enough? What will the next four months look like and how will I handle everyday tasks during that time? 

On the other hand, I'm thankful for what this media outlet has done for me. I have grown so much as a photographer while working with them and I wouldn't be a professional writer at all if it weren't for them. My shoulder at least can be fixed so I'm hopeful the pain I live with every day will be eradicated.

Either way, I'm still wide awake. I think I'll edit photos for a while. I'm still slightly behind from post-wedding/early marriage time suckers and it would be good to catch up completely before the surgery... just in case.

I just have to keep in mind that I've made it through many, much harder events in my life. I can make it through all this too.