Alyssa.

6. Write about your best friend (not significant other) and what makes them special.

I do not have a sparkling history with female friendships. Most of them have disintegrated over time, some of them had abrupt endings I wasn’t ready for, one ended in basically every girls nightmare, but mostly they’ve just quietly faded like jeans that have been washed many times.

At this point in my life, I only have so much energy to invest in friendships anyway. I feel like I have a core group of ladies, all over the U.S. really, that I would consider my closest friends. ‘Best’ implies one, but I really have at least 4 or 5 ‘best’ friends, so that’s kind of my middle finger to the English language and I don’t care. For the focus of this blog, Alyssa is my best friend.

There are roughly 8 people that I can truly be myself with. 4 of those are immediate family. 1 is my husband. 1 is Alyssa. [The others are irrelevant for this post.] I do not filter my thoughts or feelings when I talk to Alyssa. I’m never embarrassed by my words or actions or questions or thoughts when I share with her. I am truly my 100% unfiltered self with her. I don’t feel a need to please, and I’m not worried I’ll disappoint her. I don’t wonder if she’s judging me (usually she tells me if she is) or if she’ll hate me if I do a certain thing, and I don’t usually have to explain myself to her because she gets me.

That, among all the things that make her special, is what makes her the most special. Because I believe that this isn’t just true for me and our friendship, but for all people who know and are close to Alyssa. In her presence, we’ve found someone we can be our true selves with. Our conversations with her are raw and filled with the awkward beauty that only shows itself when a person can share all the things hiding in the cracks of our souls. Something about Alyssa beckons you to pour out the things you stuffed inside those cracks, and without judgment, she listens. And then she accepts you. For exactly who you are in the moment that you are. I know so few people who, when you’ve put yourself on the line, she takes it and says, “you are enough.” I have gone most of my life believing I was not enough, particularly in my female friendships. But I have never felt less with Alyssa, nor has she ever done anything to make me feel less.

I have more to write, because although that is my #1 reason Alyssa is one of my favorite people alive today, it is not my only reason.

This sentence will never truly capture how intensely I mean this, but Alyssa is thoughtful. Which is the most understated sentence on this blog. Tangible examples? The presents she buys/makes for people. A gift should say, “I understand you and everything you are” and all the gifts she’s given to others and the ones I receive they are just that. It honestly floors me, because I don’t know if I’ve ever met someone who understands her ‘people’ the way she does. One of a kind is another giant understatement.

Alyssa is honest. And honesty is all I ask of people. Seriously. I learned a long time ago it is THE thing for me. It’s a deal breaker in a relationship. Dishonesty boils my blood. So Alyssa’s blunt honesty is one of my favorite things about her. I can always count on her to give it to me straight, even, and especially if it’s something I don’t want to hear. Again, she’s like that with the people she loves. She’s strikingly honest and says what needs to be said to the people who need to hear it.

Alyssa is funny and a joy to be around. You might be like, okay yeah but there are a lot of people who are funny and a joy to be around. But Alyssa has my kind of humor. Her sarcasm is top of the line, her wit is off the charts, and I often want to screen shot our banter texting and show the world that we’re basically Fey and Poehler but not as famous. Yet. To say that Alyssa “gets me” is cliche, but so true. I’m circling back around to my other point, sometimes my humor can be a little dark or extreme, but there’s no need to filter, because Alyssa comes back with the perfect response. Every. Time.

There are a million things I love about Alyssa.
But this is what makes her special.

 

*insert globe pic*

5. Discuss some of the things on your bucket list
My bucket list is 90% travel destinations. If you’ve known me for more than 24 hours, this cannot be a surprise to you. All my locations hold special meaning though! So… happy reading!
1. Verona, Italy
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I’m going to go ahead and assume that you, my dear reader, are not going to be too judgmental when I open my heart up to you and tell you some of the special meaning behind these places for me.
Okay, having said that, I’ll let you guess why I want to go to Verona.
“Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona where we lay our scene.
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, a pair of star-crossed lovers take their lives. Whose misadventur’d piteous overthrows doth with their death, bury their parents strife.”
Yes, that is the opening for Romeo and Juliet.
Yes, I wrote that from memory.
There is probably nothing super special about Verona. (Save that it is located in Italy.) And I understand that Shakespeare didn’t WRITE this in Verona, it’s just set it Verona. I know. I’m an adult, I know things.
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But Romeo and Juliet holds a really special place in my heart. It’s my favorite play. I honestly find it so beautiful and so tragic. I weep every time I read it. Romeo is one of my favorite fictional characters and Leonardo DiCaprio is my favorite Romeo. It’s okay that we can’t be friends anymore, but one day, I will read Romeo and Juliet sitting in a cafe in Verona, and you won’t get to see the artsy photos that I post about it cause we aren’t friends anymore.
2. Hobbiton 
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The other thing most people know about me within 24 hours of meeting me is my love for The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings. Yes, it’s that fandom movie obsession thing and whatever. But I’m going to give you a slightly more sentimental reason for wanting to visit and perhaps you’ll understand more and judge less. (*cough* Alyssa *cough*)
“In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit…”
When I was in 4th grade, my mother and I read The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien together. We would read chapters out loud to each other each night, or almost anyway, until we finished it. It’s a memory I associate with love- love from my mother, love for my mother, and love for reading. The Shire, the Misty Mountains, Erebor, Lake Town, the Lonely Mountain, these were the far off places my childhood imagination explored. They came with me to adulthood. When I finally read the Lord of the Rings series, I added locations: Rohan, Mordor, Gondor, but I also went back to The Shire.
You can imagine my excitement when I realized that The Shire was a real place. So it’s been on my bucket list for years.
3. Visit WWII memorials/ camps
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I love history. Love to study it and read it and I find it interesting and engaging. However, This (WWII) is my favorite time period to study. I am morbidly fascinating with all the events and details of this World War. I’ve been to DC six or more times, and visited the Holocaust Museum at least 4 of them. I love fiction novels set in this time period, movies set in this time period, I am beyond fascinated by every single aspect of this war. I took a class in college called “Remembering WWII: Europe” about how different countries in Europe remembered WWII in their literature, museums, statues, etc… I waited three years to take that history class because I specifically wanted to study WWII.
I grew up in The South (Georgia) and being able to visit historical sites had a great impact on my life. A lot of our family vacations had some element of history to them. I always feel weird admitting this, but I want to take a tour of Europe and see the camps and the statues.
I’ll finish up on a happier note…
4. The Globe theater 
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You already know I like Shakespeare. There’s a good chance you know I was a theater major in college. Combine that with my appreciation for history and it doesn’t take a detective to figure out why I want to go here.

ACTUAL FIRST TIME SHAKESPEARE PLAYS PERFORMED HERE. This is history and theater and SHAKESPEARE, people!! I’m dying to go here. So much so that two different people have brought me mugs from the gift shop. I also had a friend who was in London briefly, and took a picture outside of the Globe JUST FOR ME. Like, crunched her schedule, forced her travel companions to go to this place, and took a picture outside just so I could see.

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Proof that my friends love me and believe in my dreams.

Open.

4. Something in life that gives you balance

There was a time period in my life where I kind of liked being out of touch with what was going on in the world. I kind of reveled in the reactions of others when I looked confused at their pop-culture references. I liked being able to shimmy out of conversations when they turned political and news-oriented.

But I also liked the peace of mind it brought me. It was a little “ignorance is bliss” – okay maybe a lot.

But something changed this year.

Maybe it’s the fact that things the President decides affect me more now that I’m getting older. I’ve seen how certain decisions Obama has made (healthcare) is affecting my world directly and I’m seeing the importance of having a President whose values are similar to my own. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that this years election season is kind of like a circus.

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But in the last few months, I’ve been listening to an elections podcast. It’s data driven, not opinion and yakkity-yak nonsense, and I’m learning all the things about our electoral system that I didn’t pay attention to in High School. I find myself looking forward to this podcast (FiveThirtyEight), it’s actually one of my top two favorite podcasts! (This American Life is the other.) Also, I subscribed to a daily email called TheSkimm. It gives me the latest news in a really fun way. It’s kind of like one page newspaper, and it’s clever. I feel informed, but not depressed. I also don’t feel like there’s a lot of bias there.

I am an artsy-language-food-and-fun-please kind of person. I prefer art museums and afternoons full of reading. I like to color and write and did I mention reading? I love plays and Shakespeare and I hate math and science. I think I’m stereotypical in that sense.

So these new things, keeping up with the elections and what’s going on in the world, give me balance.

Most importantly, it challenges me to trust that God is in control. I think when I was safely in my ignorance bubble, relying on God focused on things that were, in a way, in my hands. And I had to make an active effort of dumping them from my hands so as to trust God with them. But current events and elections are so far beyond my grasp, that my only reaction options are fear/worry or trust.

I have found immense value in taking off the blindfold to the world and keeping my eyes open to the reality of what’s going on around me. Shutting my eyes and ears to the outside world kept me in a safe bubble, yes, but where did God ask me to be safe? And answer me this, how can we see the world with God’s eyes, and love the world with God’s heart, if we don’t open either one of them? 

We talkin ’bout practice

4. Something in life that gives you balance

Despite my introvertedness (read more about that here), I am quite the doer. I have a hard time saying not to the people and things that I love. Want to grab dinner? Sure! Need someone to volunteer for a project? I’m there.

I love feeling like I’m contributing to bigger things and to the people around me. I get a ton of joy from being able to help someone out and going on random adventures whenever the chance comes up. In fact, some of my fondest memories are from times I said yes to spontaneous beach trips, road trips, girls’ nights out, whatever.

I enjoy looking at a full calendar on a Sunday night and seeing the name of each person I know I’m going to connect with the following week. Even in high school, my mom would drive me from school, to cheer practice, and then to church- all on a Tuesday night. I’ve always been this way… basically, I like saying “yes.”

“Yes” is a beautiful thing when used in the right context, but I’m learning to practice using another beautiful word. NO.

Saying no is not an easy thing for me. I struggle with feeling selfish with my time, and if I’m being totally honest, sometimes saying no makes me feel a little guilty. I can’t help but secretly wonder if I’m making the people around me happy.

So while I don’t really enjoy saying “no,” I have started to practice it more often. Because like anything we want to start (or stop), it’s going to require practice.

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It’s going to require a willingness to disappoint some people even though that’s the last thing you want to do. It’s going to require the courage to say no to dinner with your friends because you need to stay home and spend some time with Jesus after a long day.

Luckily, I am not the first person to struggle with this, and I certainly won’t be the last. Lysa Terkeurst says it perfectly in her book The Best Yes. “Here’re the reality of our current technique: Other people’s requests dictate the decisions we make. We become slaves to others’ demand when we let our time become dictated by request. We will live reactive lives instead of proactive.

I don’t know about you, but the last word I want to think of when I look back on my life ten years from now is reactive. I don’t want to let other people’s demands and expectations determine the way my life unfolds, but if I say yes to too many things, I think that’s what will happen.

I want to live a proactive life. A life that’s filled with moments where I wasn’t afraid to say no to some things so that I could say yes to what was best.

The power of 4:35pm

3. Something that is part of your routine that you enjoy

Alright, people. I have a confession for those of you who don’t know me really well. I am an introvert. There, I said it.

Here’s the thing though- I’m what I like to call a “closet introvert.”

I know most of you have probably never heard that term, and that’s okay, because a friend of mine made it up years ago to describe herself, and I fell in love with it. Let me explain to you what a closet introvert is.

Closet introvert:

  1. someone who is good with people (usually really good), but doesn’t really like them
  2. a person who can be incredibly friendly when they meet new people and entertain a crowd with the best of them, but then needs to go home and sleep for the next five hours

I think you’re getting the idea. So that’s me. Hi, my name is Alyssa Wilkinson, and I’m a closet introvert.

I love people and spending time with them. I love getting on the phone with a customer I really connect with and letting that eat up 20 minutes of my day. I enjoy going out to dinner with my friends and making new friends. I consider it a personal victory when I’m in a room full of people I just met, and I find ways to make them laugh. I really do love all those things.

At the same time, I love coming home after a long day at work or aforementioned dinner with friends and not having to say or do a single thing. I love being able to sit on the couch and binge watch old episodes of Friends and Gilmore Girls. (Lorelai Gilmore is my spirit animal.) I love getting to take my dog for a walk when I first get home and not have to talk to anyone, and I especially love getting to sit down with a good book and get lost in another world for an hour or so.

It is honestly a conflicting place to be sometimes. Loving people and being around them most of the time, yet still loving the time I get by myself. And not just loving the time by myself, but literally needing it.

If that sounds extreme to you, I’m not joking. If I don’t get a people break at least once a day, I turn into a person I’m not very proud of. I get snippy, easily aggravated, and very quiet. I shut down, and it’s not pretty.

But every day, I get to have this moment. It’s the moment when I get home from work, say hello to my dog, and I get to chill out. I’ll usually make myself a cup of tea and grab a book (right now I’m reading The Best Yes and Daring Greatly) and sit down on the Love Sac in my spare bedroom. *shoutout to my mom and dad for getting an RV this thing doesn’t fit in because it. is. HEAVEN.*

Some days I get an hour or two, and some days I only get ten minutes, but it’s always the best part of my day. When all the distractions are out of my head, when I have time to process everything that happened that day, and when I get to relax and just be.

I know some people swear by doing this in the morning or right before my bed, and I used to beat myself up over the fact that 5am is never a time I enjoy seeing on my clock. But now, my time is right around 4:35pm, and for me, it’s perfect.

channel zero

3. Something that is part of your routine that you enjoy

Some time when I was in middle or high school, I stopped watching television. I realized that every time I sat down in front of the TV, I would eat. I would want something salty and crunchy and I would want to mindlessly munch while I zeroed in on the screen. So at some point I decided to cut off the bad habit by cutting off the source.

I didn’t miss it much, which some TV addicts might find surprising, but I was pretty busy with other things and my preferred activity post-school was reading anyway. (Not homework. Just fiction novels.) And if I did want to watch TV, my small bedroom TV had a DVD player in it, so I’d just pop in one of my seasons of Will and Grace and binge watch that for a while. (This was before Netflix and Hulu, so binge-watching was a little more hands on. You had to change the disc every 4 episodes… I know, it’s complicated and exhausting just thinking about.)

When I went to college not only did I not get a new TV, I didn’t even take my little one with me. I watched a lot of Hulu (before it was a paid subscription) or went to someone elses room and watched stuff if I wanted to. As a theater major at a liberal arts school, it’s not like I had a lot of time to devote to TV anyway. The same applied when I went to Highlands College. My first year I lived with a sweet family, and any TV watching was done with them or the occasional movie while babysitting. Netflix and Hulu, again, if I really wanted to zone out. And my second year, I shared an apartment with 5 other girls so how would I have watched cable even if I wanted to? If the TV was on, it was probably a movie, and between school, ministry interning, and two jobs, I usually didn’t devote my little free time to TV watching.

When I moved to Delaware, well you probably see where this going. No TV in my room, and I opted out of watching any cable and paying the cable bill. Now it was economical. Plus, I had Netflix and Hulu…. so… yeah. I guess you get my point.

So when I married someone who loves to watch TV and moved in with him, you can imagine the culture shock of suddenly having access to cable. Let’s just say I binge-watched HGTV like the newly married woman I was.. but less because of the ring and new last name and more because I hadn’t had cable in years! And we have On Demand! It’s pretty magical.

And most evenings, Allen and I eat dinner at the table or in front of the TV (I’m a table eater, he’s a couch/TV eater, so we compromise by doing both) and usually watch TV for the rest of our evening. But around 9:00p we turn off the TV and go to bed. Since he works at 11:30, he’ll sleep for an hour and a half or so, and I read for about an hour. Sometimes I journal. Sometimes we chat and catch up. Sometimes we snuggle, sometimes we don’t. This happens at least 5 or 6 nights of the week. Sometimes this various, but mostly it looks like that. But that’s it. That’s my favorite part of the routine. Turning off the TV. 

I like TV. I don’t love it. I love activities you do with people that inspire conversation and eye contact. To me, TV watching is a distant activity. It’s mindless. And that’s okay, because sometimes I need mindless. And sometimes I’m all ‘talked-out’ from my day, and I just want to zone out. But my favorite part is always when the screen goes off, and the apartment is quiet. I get my husband’s attention all to myself, and I get to pick up a book. Sleep is imminent at that point, and is there anything better than the prospect of a comfy pillow and a good night’s sleep?

“you’re never fully dressed without a smile.”

2. Thirty things that make you smile

  1. Hearing the door unlock after 7:00a because it means my husband is home.
  2. Opening the blinds and filling my apartment with sunshine.
  3. Organizing my bookcase and seeing the beautiful end result.
  4. Picking out a new book to read after finishing my last one.
  5. When my husband smiles out of the pure joy of getting to see me.
  6. When someone buys me a doughnut.
  7. When someone offers to brings me Starbucks or surprises me with it.
  8. Drinking Starbucks.
  9. Hearing the words “thank you”
  10. When someone holds the door for me.
  11. Presents.
  12. Looking at pictures of the day Allen proposed
  13. The first weekend in November in Delaware/PA when the fall colors are at their peak
  14. My mother’s witty comments
  15. Soft serve ice cream cones
  16. Satirical articles and videos mocking Donald J. Trump
  17. Coloring.
  18. Hot mug of coffee that I get to enjoy sitting at my table.
  19. When someone I love texts me and says, “Let’s hang out.”
  20. The Office / Parks and Rec / Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  21. A clean house/apartment
  22. This:
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  23. Proper use of sarcasm and wit.
  24. Finding a note that my husband wrote and hid for me to find as a surprise (i.e. lunch box note)
  25. Hearing the song I walked down the isle to.
  26. Knowing I can go to sleep and I do not have to set an alarm
  27. My own clever tweets
  28. When people comment on my social media posts
  29. When I’m having an amazing hair day
  30. The thought and reality of vacation/traveling.

These are a few of my favorite things

2. Make a list of 30 things that make you smile.

  1. The smell outside after it rains. (I know there’s a word for this, but I can never remember it.)
  2. PUPPIES. Literally any puppy.
  3. While we’re on the subject, any baby animal. I can’t help it.
  4. Coffee. Preferably iced.
  5. Getting to talk to my dad on the phone.
  6. Catching up with an old friend.
  7. Kayaking.
  8. Seeing my employees reach a goal they’ve been working towards.
  9. Sunflowers.
  10. Listening to someone describe what they’re passionate about.
  11. Ice cream.
  12. Opening the mail and actually getting something good.
  13. Watching friends go from completely sober to a little tipsy after a few glasses of wine.
  14. Finding adorable baby things for my friends who are pregnant while simultaneously not having to have a baby myself.
  15. Climbing to the top of a mountain.
  16. Being near the ocean.
  17. Getting to watch someone “create.” Photography, painting, music- doesn’t matter.
  18. Watching my mom and dad interact with each other. They’re freaking adorable.
  19. Christmas Eve traditions with my brother.
  20. Seeing a rainbow.
  21. Trying out a new recipe and actually liking how it comes out.
  22. Looking through old photos.
  23. Getting notes from people.
  24. Hearing someone talk about a book they really enjoy.
  25. Reading a great book that you just don’t want to put down.
  26. Bonfires.
  27. Waking up in the woods after a night of camping.
  28. Having someone tell you something you can tell makes them feel vulnerable.
  29. A good pun will get me every time.
  30. Being so content in one moment you just can’t help but smile.

The struggle is real

  1. Something with which you struggle.

One thing that has always amazed me about little kids is their honesty. They are a people  not afraid to say it like it is! You promised someone earlier that day you would pick them up at the airport and are now trying to get out of it? They will call you on it faster than you can tell them to shut up. They have no qualms about telling you that shirt doesn’t look nice, you look older than you did yesterday, or on the flip side- how much they love you, what funny thing their friend did earlier… It doesn’t matter for kids. They just say what’s on their mind.

Being honest is not something I struggle with. Ask any of my friends- I don’t shy away from telling the truth (good or bad) even if it’s at the expense of someone’s feelings. I am so willing to tell the truth that I’ve had to learn to ask people if they’re telling me stuff to get my opinion or if they just want me to listen.

But in the spirit of honesty, here’s where I struggle: I have a tendency to use my honesty as a scape goat to being vulnerable. I think a lot of people wrongfully link the two, but they are actually very different. Honesty is defined as “truthfulness or frankness;” whereas vulnerability is “capable or susceptible to being wounded or hurt.” Continue reading “The struggle is real”

make it make sense

  1. Something with which you struggle.

Can I write about the struggle to come up with something to write about right now? Or how about THE Struggle, as in “The Struggle is Real” ? Or maybe the struggle of finding something to wear when I “have nothing to wear.” (Even though I have a closet FULL of clothes *insert eye roll*) Or the eyeliner struggle. I’ll explain for any men reading this: you put eyeliner on one eye and it’s perfect. You do the other eye and it’s not even, so you apply more to the first eye in an attempt to even it out. This goes on until ones reflection is actually a raccoon. The eyeliner struggle.

But in an effort to be transparent, I’ll go a little deeper than makeup struggles. Although there is a time and a blog for that.

So here is my general statement about struggle: I struggle with wanting to know and make sense of EVERYTHING.  Continue reading “make it make sense”