Hey all. It's been a minute since I last wrote. There's been PLENTY of things happening all around me that directly or indirectly affected me. Things like the war in Ukraine raged by Russia (aka Vladimir Putin). Things like mask mandates and vaccination proof requirements being lifted across the country thanks to lowering cases of COVID. Things like Tom Brady un-retiring to come back to play for the Buccaneers. (YUCK!) Things like the Emmett Till Antilynching Act being passed in Congress, making lynching a federal hate crime. Things like Ahmaud Arbery's killers being convicted for his murder and for the hate crimes committed against him. Things like speed skater Erin Jackson becoming the first black woman to win the gold medal at the Olympics in the history of the sport. Things like actresses Emilie Kouatchou and Brittney Johnson becoming the first black Christine Daae and Glinda in Wicked and The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway in the history of both long-running shows. Things like the trucker's convoy stopping all traffic and trade in Canada for over two weeks before making its way to the United States, where it has unsuccessfully tried to stop traffic on the Beltway in the Maryland/DC/Virginia area. Things like Ketanji Brown becoming the first black woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court. Things like all of the physical Amazon bookstores closing across the country. Things like Queen Elizabeth, Patti LuPone, and Barack Obama testing positive for COVID... and surviving. And so much more... If you really want to get into the nitty gritty of how things in my life directly impacted me, let me give you the rundown: I had to take on a bunch of tasks all at once at my job while we were severely understaffed, which led to an anxiety attack while on the job, with no time to recover and heal until several weeks ago with a four day vacation. My second job was practically closed due to the Omicron variant raging within the cast and crew. I'm going through the ups and downs of life with mask optional outings, with mostly yours truly keeping her mask on for safety purposes. I had to go up dosage amounts on my medication because of the stress and anxiety at my jobs, as well as start taking iron supplements due to being diagnosed with anemia. I'm giving up shrimp fried rice egg, rolls/spring rolls, Yangzhou rice, cheeseburgers, fries/sweet potato fries, burritos, po’boys, onion rings, fried chicken, cookie dough ice cream, doughnuts, bacon, hot dogs, potato chips (sour cream and onion/barbecue), Velveeta shells and cheese, and store bough ramen for Lent for the sake of my physical, mental, and emotional health. (This includes giving up some my favorite restaurants as a result.) I had a week filled with auditions, callbacks, and self-tape submissions that led to zero (you read that right) casting offers, in the form of rejections or just plain silence. Needless to say, I needed a break. And it was much appreciated. I got to take care of my own needs, reflect on what's happened recently, relax, and just simply start to heal again. This, of course, included a day trip up to NYC to walk around Central Park, eat ramen, see Phantom for the third consecutive time (because why not?), and have some Neapolitan pizza on the train ride home. Did I mention I rode business class on the Amtrak train in both directions? By the time I got back to work again, I was well-rested, recharged, and reenergized. Of course, coming back to work on a Monday is usually NEVER a good idea for several reasons. One: you get a pretty harsh email from someone over something you had no control over. And two: you get a pretty harsh text message from a former friend over something that happened you had no control over. Both hurt really badly, and brought me down for the day. In case you need a reminder... In my previous blog "I'm Not Fine, I'm Not Fine," I talked about a friend I cared about deeply who was struggling with how the community group was apparently against her marrying a non-Christian. She showed up on the group chat out of the blue and basically called us out for being against the marriage and promptly left. As you well know, I repeatedly reached out to her, letting her know that I was here to talk to her and to help her in any shape or form. Weeks would go by without any response. And I consistently texted her the same message - "I'm here for you." I tried again several weeks ago on the Monday I returned to work because at this point I was extremely concerned about her from the Facebook posts she was sharing and her statuses filled with hurt, anger, and grief. I told her once again that I was concerned about her, and that I'm here to help, and that she wasn't alone, and that she was loved by so many people in her life, whether she realized that or not. Her response? ”Nice knowing you.”
My response? Just as passionate, and just as emotional.
”You may feel alone, but I will still love you and be there for you, no matter what happens.” Yeah. That and dealing with an irate patron who didn't seem to be grateful for me reaching out to her and apologizing for an error at a performance I wasn't at due to my four-day vacation made for a very frustrating Monday. As you can imagine, I reached out to some good from who knew about what was going on, and they appreciated me sharing what happened between my former friend and I. There was something they all said to me that marks the basis for this week's post: "I'm encouraged by your persistent love for her..." I'm not a fan of giving up, especially on people or things that mean a lot to me. Or even if it's a lifelong quest that fills my very heart and soul. You could even say that I'm holding out for my friend. Or even holding out for the world around me. Even when I was at my lowest point with so much going on around me, I still held out for the small flicker of hope within me that helped me keep going. Especially if it meant asking God constantly to just carry me through each day when I was so afraid and tired to go on. And you know what else? You can still hold out for hope in the world, and especially for each other. Take my hand. We're going on a journey together.
I don't think you need me to tell you all the details of what's going on in Ukraine right now. In layman's terms... A power-hungry, psychotic ruler named Vladimir Putin instigated an all out attack on the nation of Ukraine for the sake of control, putting many innocent lives in his way, with over 7,000 Russian soldiers dead because of this conflict. Many of the Ukrainians fled in terror of the horrific uprising by Russian, while others stayed behind and fought for their beloved country. Some of them are on the front lines with guns and moxie to keep the Russian armies at bay. Others are using their own talents to lead the resistance and keep hope alive. It could be through music, art, dance, writing, protesting, or even continual prayer in the face of the enemy. There are those who are still using their voices to assert their power and unity, even when the odds are severely stacked against. There are still holding out for a victory, or even a change in the tides that would turn in Ukraine's favor. Still holding out... What does that phrase mean, anyway? Well, according to the dictionary, the particular phrase means to refuse to accept or agree to something in order to get (something). Refusing to accept. Refusing to agree. Well, in the case of the Ukrainians, they're refusing to accept that their country is going to be easily taken over by Russian. They're even refusing to agree with Putin that he has the right to take over a peaceful nation like Ukraine. In other words... They're standing their ground. They're not giving up without a fight. They're STILL HOLDING OUT with hope. And that can be a powerful weapon in times like these. There's so much discord, tension, and division within the world, our relationships, and even within ourselves. The day we give into the hate, division, confusion, fear, and darkness is the day we will all fall. Ukraine has the right idea to not give up on their nation or on each other through their respective gifts to fight back. Yes, there are those who are fleeing the country for their safety and well-being, but when you think about it, they're still holding out hope for their families and loved ones who are with them on the perilous journey to a better life. Or even those who are remaining in Ukraine to fight that it will become a peaceful nation again and this dark time will end. Or even holding out hope that other nations will agree to assist Ukraine in whatever way possible to stop Russia's invasion and even put Putin and his cronies in his place. Thus far, many pro-Ukraine protestors around the world are holding out hope that this war will end and good will defeat evil, and justice will prevail. And then there's the kind of people who are holding out for a better life for the wrong reasons. I'm talking about the truckers convoy, the anti-maskers, the anti-vaccines, the white supremacists, the male chauvinists, the body shamers, the mommy shamers, the insecure, the selfish, the greedy, the narrow-minded, the egotists, and everyone in between. These individuals are refusing to accept CHANGE and how it can transform each person's lives for the better, and are only concerned for their own well-being and security. They don't care how their actions, words, or opinions may harm, disrupt, or even damage relationships, especially those who are fighting for change to help EVERYONE. And it's even harder for them to see how their behaviors can cause friction, or even the most meaningful relationships to end, since they're unwilling to seek out information, let alone help, in order to mend their lives for the better. Remember my friend I was telling you about earlier? Well, I ended up having a long conversation about what was truly going on, and it opened my eyes and heart to determine the best course of action.
I can’t share all of the exact details out of respect of privacy, but there should hopefully be enough information to be shared in order for this story to make sense. Earlier this week, I sat down with my friends who were all aware of the text message exchange that happened last week. I knew I needed more information about what truly happened if we were all going to decide what is the best way to help out this beloved member of our church community who left. After I shared what happened, I was given more details about my friend and her situation. It turns out that she had severe mental health issues, which weren’t being treated or managed at all. We all loved on her so much, and yet things slowly started to change.
(Before I go any further, I will explain that the Bible explicitly says that marrying a non-believer is against His command and we are disobeying Him. However, I know many people out there who are in healthy, loving, and creative relationships that aren't believers or even followers of any religions, and I still love them and accept them as human beings. One of my main spiritual gifts is showing unconditional love, and that's never going to change.)
While I don't know the exact details, I will say that people out of love were concerned for my friend because they didn't want her to be in a tough or even dark place should she decide to go through with this. There was no spite or resentment in this. Just plain love. My friend took it the wrong way and left for a brief period. After a while, she returned and my community leaders reached out to her and told her that while they disagreed with her choices, they will always continue to love her and support her, no matter what. After attending a couple of the Bible studies, that's when she announced on the group chat that she was leaving. And you can pretty much figure out the rest. One of the most frustrating things about holding out hope for people is that we believe that they can come around and see the error of their ways, and we can all start over again. I learned that it never happens that way, and it's for an important reason. It's because we want to maintain control and fix things so that there won't be any tension or division in our relationships. It's almost like we're trying to FORCE others to see through our eyes and make them understand how they've hurt us. Nobody should be using any sort of force for anything and everything we do. Especially if an individual is struggling with untreated mental health issues. I've come to the realization that I can't force anyone to be my friend after a disagreement, or even see things my way if they're unwilling to see or even acknowledge the hurt they've caused. And I'm almost certain all of you reading this know what I'm talking about. We're all guilty of refusing to accept things out of our own selfishness because of that reluctance to change and transformation. We don't like what it does to us, physically, mentally, emotionally, or even spiritually. That's why we stay rooted to one spot so often. We're AFRAID. We're afraid of what we will LOSE instead of what we will GAIN. In the case of Ukraine, they've lost so much already - their homes, their monuments, their gardens, their culture. But the people are willing to hold out for hope of the transformation when it does come from victory, no matter how slow it may be, and will gain their independence, their respect, their livelihoods, and their relationships. In the case of what happened with my friend, I lost someone who made a huge impact in my life, but what I've gained in all this is clarity, understanding, patience, wisdom, and even love through a time because I didn't have to go through this alone. And more importantly, I saw how truly amazing and powerful my unconditional love can be, and that I'm not a horrible person for my persistence in this spiritual gift. We can refuse to accept the way things are now but not from a place of selfishness or our own comfort. But rather, it comes from a place of urgency. Change is the only constant, and it's the only way each of us will learn, grow, and thrive in our lives to truly transform the world into what it could be. We will lose so much, yes, but we can gain so much more if we hold out to hope, kindness, gentleness, courage, compassion, patience, vision, creativity, wisdom, and love to help guide us to a better world.
(This was an especially tough post to write for this week since it hit so close to home, but I'm so glad I have a platform to write my vulnerability and authentic voice on, even if it's with a small crowd. Like all of my previous blogs, you are welcome to disagree with me or even add your own thoughts and experiences. However, I absolutely will not tolerate any disrespectful or harmful comments on this or any of my past posts. I will block you if you do so.)
I initially thought I could send my friend one last email letting her know yet again that she's not alone and she is love and enough. But then I realized something important. I already told her how much I loved her and always will. It was in the last text I sent her. Sometimes, holding out for hope may mean letting go and letting things play out as it's supposed to, without any direct involvement or force involved. That's why I deleted the email I was going to send to her. And that's why I also let her go... for now. Or even for good. I saw that I can't keep on forcing people to be my friend or like me. It never ends well, and I always end up being hurt in the process. And in the case of what happened these past few months, my mental and emotional health comes first. To add one more important point, I don't have much knowledge of bipolar disorder other than from my late father, who also never got treatment. The only methods I have of supporting someone with a mental health disorder is through love, but in cases like severe mental illnesses with a lack of treatment or maintaining their issues, it can be difficult due to their grasp of reality not being in tune with the rest of us. This causes much trauma, hurt, confusion, and anger when someone acts out in a way that is so unlike themselves. No matter how hard I pushed him to get help, he never did. It's the same with my friend. I can't force her to get help, let alone see how her actions aare causing division within her relationships, and even within herself. She has to be the one to see that, and it has to be without my help or force. It's all in God's hands at this point. But that doesn't mean I'm giving up on her. Not by a long shot. I'm still going to pray for her and send all of the positive vibes and well-wishes her way, even if it's unspoken. I believe the people I let go or leave me after a season are always worthy of love, even if I was the one that hurt them to begin with. And sometimes simply wishing them well and peace is the greatest form of love. And it can also be a form of holding out hope for them. No matter what she thinks, or even of you out there reading this that may know someone like her, I believe in the power of prayer. I believe in the power of love. I believe in the power of being enough. And I believe that no one is truly alone. I wish for nothing but the best in her life, which especially includes much healing and peace, and that it may be a rippling effect in her life to share with others. And I hope that someday we can reconnect and forgive, or even maybe love each other again. I know what you all are asking: "Are you doing okay? Truthfully?"
Truthfully? No, I'm not doing okay. It's never easy to say goodbye to someone who's made an enormous impact on your life, even if it is for the best. But I also know that somewhere down the road, I will feel better, and that I'm not going through this alone. And I will be smiling and laughing again. I will feel tugs of sadness every once in a while, but it won't be permanent. Something else that won't be permanent? The crisis in Ukraine. I'm still holding out for the people of Ukraine that this conflict will end with justice prevailing and those responsible being held accountable for their actions. And I'm even holding out hope that one day the world will be a brighter and more wonderful place to be again. It sounds foolish, but if you know me, hope is NEVER foolish. No matter how far-fetched or impossible it may seem, hope is the greatest thing to hold out for, even now. Keep on holding out for those you love, even from a distance. Keep on holding out for better days. Keep on holding out for your dreams. And keep on holding out for yourself. Never lose sight of what's important to you.