Saturday, February 27, 2016


We all have flaws.  Even people who truly believe they are without fault will, for posturing's sake, tell you "oh, trust me... I'm not perfect".  Most of us are acutely aware of some of our own flaws and many of each other's.

I have a distinct memory of my dad, although I couldn't tell you what year it was.  A story about a flour mill.  And a God who peeks behind a curtain of stars.  A desire to be fully known and completely loved. As I've gotten older, this shared desire makes me feel closer to him.  I get it, I always think.  If anyone saw all the bad parts of me, they'd run.  Run fast and run far.

These are the words, which have been bouncing around in me head in the last couple of weeks since I decided it was time to start writing again.  This post may be the reason the words haven't come; it's that necessary.

And I'm sitting here now trying to think of everything to say except what must be said.

Deep breath, jump off the edge.

I don't believe if people can see my flaws, they'll still love me.

I struggle, all the way to my core, with the belief that if you saw me get angry, if you can sense my insecurity, if you engage in an argument with me, if I talk too much, if I worry too much, if you're privy to my poor boundaries, if you've ever tried to criticize me, if you've ever tried to encourage me, if I've ever bossed you around... there's no way you'd find love in your heart for me.  I assume, to be more articulate, if you know these flawed parts of me surely they're all you see.

That's certainly not how I see you.  I believe I am capable of seeing others and recognizing their strengths and their weaknesses and loving them for their whole selves.  But I don't trust you can do that.  I don't trust you're capable of seeing all the bad in me and loving me because of it.  Add this to the long list of my flaws.  I'm not sure what word you'd tack on to this feeling, but God help me, it sounds a lot like emotional superiority.  And that sucks.

I don't want to be loved despite my flaws.  I don't want you to look at me and listen to me and do life with me and love me, even though... fill in the blank.

Because when I look at you, even though I may have known you for years, even though I may have been through hell and back with you, and I know those flaws and I see those personality traits, I have to go digging to remember them.  I'm not ignoring them.  I'm not sweeping them under the rug to make loving you possible.  But for those of you I love, it's just all intimately intertwined.  The goodness and the not-so-goodness.

Daily, however, I struggle with believing if you can see the bad parts of me then you won't want a relationship with me.  A friendship with me.  To be my family.

I compartmentalize a lot of my thoughts.  I situate words and memories in my brain so some have to be dealt with and others can collect dust in the corner.  The Time Warner bill is hidden in those shadows, along with my primary care appointments, and the way he called me a "slut" last week and a bad parent last year.  I don't want to think about that shit.  So.  Any inkling I have that you might know me, you might see how messed up I am, gets shoved into the corner.  Not because I believe it's not true.  Not because I am believe I am perfect.  But because I don't want to think about what you know.

Sometimes I sit across from the table at Qdoba with Rachel and I talked ninety miles a minute and I watch her face and I make myself slow down because I know I'm talking too much.  And I am concerned I am a bad friend, that this makes me unlovable.

Sometimes other people try to encourage me and I am sit stuck, deep in a rut of my discouragement.   I worry people are recognizing this difficult trait in me and I worry this will ruin their desire to do life with me.

Sometimes I talk to my family about my love life.  Against my better judgement.  And I worry they see my decisions and attribute them to my flaws and my failure.  I worry they respect me less because I am almost thirty and a single mom.

I have started to worry Judah will love me less because I couldn't give him a family.

I worry my coworkers hate me because I am so easily frustrated.  Because my voice gets loud.

So I push it all into the corner so I can function.  I am actively trying to work on all these flaws.  Every day when I learn about something less than attractive about myself, I try and make a point to do better.  Those things don't go in the corner.  But what I am afraid you think about me because of my flaws, straight to the corner it goes.

Because my greatest fear is if you fully knew me, you couldn't completely love me.

The last six months have brought this fear front and center.

A hot compress drawing infection to the surface, my experience was equally painful and healing.  My daily prayer has become: I hope others don't see me the way he did.  I hope the hatred he expressed when things went wrong is not the lens everyone else sees me through.  While there was always a grain of truth in the hatefulness, I remind myself it was not constructive and did not come from a place of love.

I don't want to sit with anyone--not my boss during an evaluation, not my partner, not my friend, not my family--and talk about my flaws.  I develop ulcers just thinking about it.  This is a large part of why I hate criticism so much.  Not because I believe I am above reproach,not because I don't want to admit I am fatally flawed, but because if I know you see the bad parts of me, surely that's all you see.

I resonate most deeply with this quote:

"I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions."
 -Augusten Burroughs 

I often entertain the thought, "it is not my place to identify flaws".  My job requires me to navigate personalities.  So often I feel we identify differences in someone and instinctively call them "flaws".  In reality, most of our differences are not attributed to flaws but to personality traits.  And the real challenge of having relationships with humans is to navigate those traits and explore them.

I'm working on this.  I'm getting help with this.  But personally, part of the getting better is always the confession.

As I write, realizing I'm almost finished, there's some apprehension about being so honest.  I fully expect you to say, "Anna, you have to love yourself before anyone else can love you" and a bunch of bullshit like that.

That is not what this is about.  This is not about self awareness or self love, although I have my blind spots.  In the dusty corner sits the thought: there are flaws in me I don't recognize and they are driving you crazy.  This thought goes there because it embarrasses me.  However, I work daily on being aware of myself and attune to your reactions and responses to me.  I'm not perfect.  A thought I have pulled from the corner to dust off is, my flaws outweigh my strengths.  

This isn't about self love and a lack of self confidence.  Over the years I've worked to become more self assured.  Done the hard work to identify parts of myself I love.  That felt like harder work than this. It's not that I don't struggle with it... But it's just a different topic entirely.

I am just afraid after all the work I've done to become a better woman, all you still see is the bad.

I may be afraid this is why I don't have a family.  Afraid this is why I struggle at work.  Afraid this is why I've lost my community.  I'm afraid the goodness in me can't be seen for the neon flashing lights, which are my flaws.

My intentions are good.  I have some goodness in me. I just have to learn to trust you more.  I have to learn to believe you are capable of loving me the way I try to love you.  That you may believe there are parts of me you wish I'd work harder on, and there are days I am not the person you want to talk to, but even in my worst form I am a person you love.  Wholly and fully.

Saturday, February 13, 2016


In January, I packed up the car.  I buckled Judah into his car seat and early in the morning we merged onto 75 south. It's practically instinctual for me, to fly south for the winter.  And for so many years I had been resisting the urge.  Telling myself it wasn't safe, I didn't have enough money, that Judah couldn't handle the drive.

But I had something to prove to myself. After months of questioning my ability, my independence, my bravery, I wanted to prove to myself that our story wasn't going to leave us sedentary, rooted, settled because of fear.

It felt so much like going home.

I can't count the trips I've made down the southern stretch of highway.  Or the times my eyes have adjusted just in time to notice dirt turned to clay and small mountains instead of rolling hills.  Tall, skinny trees instead of old oaks.  And the moment when the highway takes a turn, and just over the rise you catch a glimpse of the skyline, and country turns to city; whispering, "welcome back, old friend".

There was nothing truly remarkable about our few days in Atlanta.  Nothing out of the ordinary, no wild epiphanies, no inciting incidences.  Which was exactly what I needed.  I needed to know Judah and I were capable.  I needed to know that my wandering heart had not been buried too deep. That my adventurous spirit, which had grown out of a cautious childhood, had not died along the way.  I needed to know I could teach Judah, that I could take Judah, that we did not need anyone's help in order to brave.

My heart was overwhelmed with pride.  And when we saw Tiffany come around the corner in Target, where we had chosen to meet up, I felt the quiet rumble of the earthen plates of my heart rub together.  To see her, to have her meet Judah, to watch Judah walk alongside me in this city I love, was equally surreal and natural.  I was proud.  Of myself, of my son, of our story.

We drove back on Sunday morning. Reluctantly leaving Griffin and Tiffany and city lights behind us.  Judah slept the entire way after lunch and I drove with Brandi Carlisle and Adele's new albums on repeat.  Just before leaving, I asked a few of my closest friends to be praying.  It was a new year.  I was trying to avoid the obligatory resolutions.  But I wanted a word.  I needed a word to attribute to this coming year, even though I did not even have a word for 2015 yet.  I didn't want a resolution or to make promises or set goals.  I just wanted a word, to speak wisdom over what comes next.

 It only took until Tennessee.

I know from years of experience, when you ask for something with an open heart and prepare yourself for any answer, God usually loves to speak.  And if He doesn't speak, I'd like to think He turns our heads to look.  Much like when Judah is looking for one of his special toys.  "I no can find it, Mommy," he will cry to me.  More often than not, the toy he's looking for is in plain sight.  I can see it, right there, but he's not looking in the right place.  So if God doesn't speak to me, He usually just guides my eyes.

But on that New Year's drive home, He was speaking.  And what I heard Him say, I'm clinging to as truth.

Anna, you are already good enough.

I was, and still am, overwhelmed by the thought.  I turned up the music a little more as our car meandered up the highway, long stretches between exits.  What did this mean for me?  If it were true, this already being good enough, what did it mean for what comes next?

It was wild the way my thoughts rippled from that one truth.  Like a Jacob's Ladder toy.

After months of feeling attacked, of being treated as an inferior, of fighting, of disagreements, of doubt, of worry, I was hearing words again.  Thrive, wholehearted, continue, synchronize, curiosity,  challenge.  I felt like I was chasing these words, hearing their truth, and watching them point forward to one word, which would mean the most.

I switched my music to Gretchen Rubin's podcast and the stream of words changed.

I felt validated.  I heard, "Anna, the things you have begun are good.  You've done well.  You need to keep doing what  you've already learned how to do." I was sure, by this, I was being encouraged not to start anything new this year.  That the things I had explored and begun and desire in the past, would somewhat come to fruition this year.  The things I had already obtained for myself, taught myself, pursued for our lives, needed to be implemented.

In congruence.

At that time the highway I was on, merged into a bigger highway just north of Knoxville.

And I received my word.


There are multiple definitions for this word. But the one, which resonates with me the most is this:

"A situation in which two or more things happen at the same time" (

The peace I felt was overwhelming.  Judah and I stopped at a Starbucks in London, Kentucky and did a little dance in the parking lot.  We had made it from Georgia to Kentucky without a single pit stop. We loaded back in the car, with the sun setting, and continued the short hour drive back to Lexington.

Later I would make a list.

1. Exercise
2. Mindful journaling / writing
3. Read
4. Simplify
5. Grad school
6. Travel
7. Meal plan
8. Dave Ramsey
9. Podcasts (for commute to work)

These were things, habits, rituals, achievements I've already accomplished over the last year or two.  I have either taught myself, or had someone teach me, how to do each item on that list.  At one point in time, I have also been exceedingly successful (with the exception of grad school) at each habit listed.

I know how to do this.

I know how to be successful.  I know how to be ambitious.  I know how to run a household.  I know how to take care of my body.  I know how to build knowledge.  I know how to build community.  But over the years, as each achievement as moved to the top of my priority list, other achievements have taken a back burner.

So this year it's about adding a ball to the juggle.  One at a time.  Synchronizing what makes me healthy and whole, what makes my family strong.  Turning gears so in unison, there's forward motion.

As always with the New Year, there was a false start.

Money ran out.

There were more fights and more tears.

Sickness relapsed.

The job got harder.

I held onto the truth I heard on my trip, but my grip was loosened.

I felt doubt and sadness and so much like failure was imminent.  I was impatient and I was not paying attention.  I have not been the parent I want to be, the employee I want to be, the friend or sister I want to be.  I felt like I had lunged forward and fallen on my knees and I still wish that a new year meant newness at all.  But it doesn't.

And so I added something else to my list.  Not a new thing.  An old thing.  An old thing, which worked before.  That I've been avoiding because of cost, because of vulnerability, because I was afraid it was all my fault.  Afraid I'm the broken one.  Afraid at some point I'm going to crack and break and be beyond repair.

But I added it.  Just this week.  And I followed through.  Head down, one foot in front of the other, to avoid thinking, to avoid backing out.

Now I can start my New Year.