Voice in the Snowdrifts

Storms are intense.

This week, in my area of the world, we’ve been stuck in a perpetual winter storm for five days. In an Island community, where there’s rarely ever snow, we now have over a foot and it’s steadily coming down. What’s more, the sun pops out now and then to melt just enough snow into ice–only to have more snow fall on it.

This means holing up in our houses. If we do venture out, walking can be dangerous business. Just today, I had a good friend fall and injure themselves pretty bad–I mean, it’s nothing life threatening, but it will certainly be a literal pain for months to come.

The crap storm that is Trump is no different. Normally, I am very active in keeping informed in world politics. As a Canadian, I especially pay attention to my neighbours to the south. Since the election, I have no idea what sources to trust. On a daily, sometimes hourly, basis–my newsfeeds and inboxes are filling up with rumours, lies and direct quotes that make my heart hurt deeply.

Like my winter storm, I’ve retreated. I’ve hidden my voice in the white noise. I’ve shared articles, talked to friends and colleagues, but avoided adding my own opinions to the mix. I feel like we’re overwhelmed. At least, I am overwhelmed. I’m not done fighting though; I just need a break.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve no energy for fun, friends or any more feelings. I keep being invited to things, but it’s all I can do to go to class and get my homework done. Part of that is second semester blues, but a large part of that is the frivolity of it all. I get annoyed at small talk  and silliness. I don’t judge people who are able to do that, to cut loose and have fun–I am not one of them.

First, I’ve never really been able to goof off or play around. I crave deep intimate intellectual connection. Which is ironic, because I love Ron Burgundy and Zoolander.

So here I sit, trying to change the world from my laptop.

~Cheryl Folland

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When Thursday is a Monday

We’ve all been there before. Doing something that makes us sigh at our humanity. It keeps us humble and reminds us that sometimes we just don’t have it all together.

The holidays are a hard time for me. It’s dark out almost the whole say, thanks Canada. I am far away from my family that I haven’t seen in going on three years, even more than that for my brother–whom I’d like to say was my childhood best friend and I do not take that for granted. I don’t have the ability to be as generous as I would like to. My brain is exhausted from school and all the work I put in to be my best.

Needless to say when I pour the unground beans into the coffee filter making coffee this morning, I let out a sigh and almost cried. My exasperation was heard by my roommate on the other side of our modest apartment–and I poured the beans from the filter to the grinder and mumbled “I obviously need coffee more than I thought”.

I’ve lost the ambition to clean my house, because I don’t have the finances to host anyone. Showering and putting on pants today was my victory.

During this time of year, it’s easy to forget in all the fun and events those among us who have aching hearts. I miss my son whom was taken from me before his life got to start. I miss the mountains of my childhood, the children that call me auntie, and the familiarness of a place called home.

To cheer myself up, I started to think of all the things I am thankful for. I urge you to give it a try. Here’s my list:

  1. A Warm House– This might seem trivial. Lately, it’s been colder than normal on Canada’s West Coast. I have a warm house, with a warm bed, and a cupboard full of tea. There are many in Nanaimo who are trying to get by this winter on the street. They are literally freezing. I am thankful for enough support to remain housed and I’m thankful.
  2. My Roommate– Our friendship is deeper than that of most roommates. Part of it is that we are both followers of Jesus, but there’s more. We take care of one another. We allow space for brokenness as we both struggle through life with mental illness and trying to function in a world that isn’t kind to those who cannot work full-time and go to school. She blesses me more than anyone I’ve ever lived with, and in less than a year we’ve become family and I’m thankful.
  3. The LGBTQ+ Community– They accept my contradictory nature. I love Jesus; many of my rainbow friends have been deeply hurt in the name of Christ and I am no exception. Yet, they do not fault me for my faith. There is a deep respect in this family of misfits and I do not take it for granted. The group here in Nanaimo holds some of my greatest champions. They help me to get out of bed some days and give me an outlet for my creative side and I’m thankful.
  4. Young Adult’s Group– I attend a very open, accepting and loving Young Adult’s Group that is groundbreaking in their inclusion of myself as a LGBTQ+ person of faith. I’ve never been judged or limited in my ministry by them. The leaders of the group have endeavoured to create a safe place for me, including a no-tolerance of abuse mandate. I will never take for granted the bravery to stand with me when many church leaders do not and I’m thankful.
  5. Outreach– There are pastors and friends in the community whom build me up emotionally, spiritually and even financially. They’ve helped me through a very dark period of my faith journey. It would’ve been easy for me to give up on the church after some of the abusive actions toward me. These folks have reminded me that we are all human, we all fail at loving one another, but grace allows for a better way and I’m thankful.
  6. My Family– Though we are a total mess, though there are not many of us that are even speaking to one another, my mom and brother have helped me in this past year. It speaks to the healing that comes with maturing over time. We are there for one another as best as we can be and I’m thankful.

By no means is this an exhaustive list, but it sure takes the blow out of the silly humbling things I do each day. It reminds me to look forward and not dwell on the little tedious circumstances that threaten to steal my joy. What about you? What are you thankful for?

~Cheryl

Anxiety, My Old Friend

Recently, though I thought it was relatively conquered, my anxiety has been rather high. As per usual, I have been giving myself a terrible time about it. Thoughts of self-condemnation and ceaseless internal berating only fuel the embers of fear and depression.

Last night, I was awaken with shock like symptoms: cool clammy skin, dizziness, rapid breathing and intense nausea. I do not and did not have the flu or food poisoning. This physical reaction is a direct effect of my anxiety.

When one lives with generalized anxiety disorder day-to-day activities are clouded with worries and agitation. In light of the local and international violence, my anxiety has been on high alert for the last while and it is taking a toll on my sleeping and emotional well-being.

Orlando–this was a huge trigger for me. I recently came out publicly and had been receiving mixed reactions, some compassionate, some hurtful and some hateful. Orlando hit me hard.

Within a week of that shooting, there was a shooting near my home. Shootings in Canada are substantially less common and more remote in small cities like mine. This compounded my fear, and I started to hide away in my home.

Once I had recovered some from those traumas, a body was found in a culvert near where I used to live. I saw the area, next to a church, taped off while riding the bus home from work. My fear of the unknown, it’s still not been released as to what happened with that incident, caused me to further isolate myself. I began to be afraid to walk down the street in the middle of the day. I closed my blinds so strangers couldn’t see if I was home or not if they knocked on the door. All while painting a smile on my face and working everyday at a local daycare.

The daycare I work for is connected with a local church. The people are lovely, this kids are energetic and rambunctious, and it was only a matter of time before local church staff tried to recruit me for their kids program. Unfortunately, I am not out at work. They don’t know that I am not heterosexual. I am not sure I would lose my job, but I am not sure that I would keep it either. When the Pastor asked me if I would be interested in kids or youth ministry, I had to fumble around for reasons (that are true, but flimsy) for not joining. I am terrified as I make new Christian friends in the community that they will find out I am queer.

I am afraid I will lose my job, I am afraid of gossip, I am afraid of losing my credibility as a theologian, I am afraid.

This constant state of fear has worked its way into my other activities. I am afraid to go places alone in the event that I might run into someone who I know disapproves of my sexuality. I am afraid to tell people I am getting to know someone because they will invalidate and pervert that relationship. I am afraid that I will not be able to do what I love–working with God’s people–because I am queer. I am afraid.

Fear is quickly taking over my life, with each tragedy, each conversation between peers condemning LGBTQ people I avoid commenting on, each church event that will actively preach against people like me, each letter from concerned former friends–each of these magnifies the fear.

What’s a person to do? It’s easy to offer glib responses like “who cares what other people think?”, truth is, we all care. We get lonely when we don’t have like-minded people in our corner. We become afraid to try new things because of how events went in the past.

I will strive to be a safe place for LGBTQ people of faith (and people in general). I never want someone to become physically ill because of the fear they have in being themselves.

You are loved. You are precious. Fear not.