#Selfie

I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror this morning and it caught me by surprise.  I hadn’t seen my face in a while.  Since I don’t wear makeup and my hair doesn’t listen to me anyways, my morning routine doesn’t have me looking in the mirror very often.

My strategy for staying body-positive in our social media world has been to ignore how I look.I work out because I want to be strong and my capsule closet is an insurance plan to cover clashing so there’s no reason for me to spend much time examining my features.

Here’s what I discovered:

  • Looking at my face isn’t as scary as I thought
  • My eyes really are more green than brown
  • My hair really is out of control

I’ve found myself with more time for reflection (both literal and figurative) during this time in Russia.  I don’t plan on becoming a millennial selfie queen but I am very grateful to be forced to take life a little more slowly.

In high school, I studied and volunteered and worked to fill out my college applications.

In college, I studied and volunteered and worked to fill out my resume.

In California, I studied and worked to fulfill my duties as an employee and make a living.

Here, I’m finally free to take a deep look in the mirror and learn more about what I actually enjoy doing.  There are no more applications to live for, no more resumes that cry out to be updated.

For the last 10 years I’ve been running away from not being enough, not doing enough to get where I thought I needed to go.  And now I’m finally able to look forward and whisper “Onward and upward!” and mean it.  I walk slowly and cautiously as I explore what the future could look like.

Not A Travel Blog

When asked what I write about on my blog, I always respond with a tentative “lifestyle things?” although I don’t really know what that means.  I started writing here 8 years ago and since I’m free from all pressures of monetizing the site, I’ve never defined my genre. Content marketing has a powerful gravitational pull and I’d like to keep this corner of the Internet free of all gimmicks, content gating, and gotchas.

What I do know is that this is not a travel blog.  My husband and I currently call Saint Petersburg home and we hope to travel more than we normally would over the next few years, but this will still be my place to share my musings on the world around me, which just happens to be in Russia right now.

Moving to Saint Petersburg has felt like becoming a child again.  I’m slowly sounding out words on buildings as we walk by them, am fascinated by the bright colors of the buildings and parks, and it takes so much longer to do simple tasks than it feels like it ought to.  Just charging my phone is a 3 apparatus ordeal.  And there is the child-like wonder to it as well.  New sights and sounds amaze me and each day is a new adventure as we explore the town, transportation system, and shops.

Daily life here so far is very similar to life in the States on a large scale, and very different in many minuscule ways throughout the day.  The downsized toilet paper and circle electrical plugs, for example. Differences that are neither bad nor good, just different.  These small changes were threatening to throw me off-kilter (is this what they call culture shock?) until I read this passage from C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet:

It was only days later that Ransom discovered how to deal with these sudden losses of confidence.  They arose when the rationality of the hross [a being from a different planet] tempted you to think of it as a man.  Then it became abominable–a man seven feet high, with a snaky body, covered, face and all, with thick black animal hair, and whiskered like a cat.  But starting from the other end you had an animal with everything an animal ought to have–glossy coat, liquid eye, sweet breath and whitest teeth–and added to all these, as though Paradise had never been lost and earliest dreams were true, the charm of speech and reason.  Nothing could be more disgusting than the one impression; nothing more delightful than the other.  It all depended on the point of view.

By no means am I suggesting that Russians are extraterrestrials, rather, I’m realizing more and more how similar we all are.  But moving to a foreign country can feel like an other-worldy experience and I’ll drive myself crazy if I’m finding the small differences “disgusting” instead of appreciating things for how they actually are and finding the similarities delightful.  As Lewis put it best: It all depends on the point of view.

I’m a big believer in dreaming and doing but reality is a  strong force to be reckoned with. Our expectations about what reality should look like often cause us to be disappointed when life doesn’t deliver.   I’d rather rejoice in the ways it gives me joy instead of constantly comparing reality to what I think it ought to look like and ending up feeling like everything is just a little bit (or a lot a bit) off.

Welcome On Board

I’ve been sharing my thoughts, fears, and musings on this web log (blog for short) for over 6 years.  If you’ve been following along, you’ve patiently bared with my 16 year-old angsty self, saw me navigate the perils of my freshman year of college, fall in love with my husband, move to San Diego, and read all the laughs & losses along the way.

I started this blogging journey on Blogspot, moved it to Wix over a year ago, and finally took the leap and bought my own domain name.  After months of painstaking copy & pasting, I have my whole history of blogging under one happy blog roof called chloejsayers.com.

I’ve been slow to announce this change because if you followed my blog while I was moving posts over, you’d be getting 5 annoying e-mails a day.  Now that everything is in its place and the dust has settled, I’d be honored if you’d follow my blog (see the button on your right).  You’ll get an e-mail when I post a new blog, nothing more and nothing less. I’m fanatical about keeping my inbox clean so I promise not to clog up yours.

Since I’ve been on a blogging fast while getting this one set up, I’ve got lots of thoughts bursting to get out.  Stay tuned & thanks for joining me on this journey.

Until next time,

Chloe

My 49 Cents

For the first year of dating, my now husband and I communicated almost exclusively through hand-written letters. You might assume that we were separated by a great body of ocean or some other romanticly difficult situation. In reality, we lived on the same campus the size of 3 football fields.

Eventually, we both were connected to cell phones and discovered that e-mail is a valid form of communication. One thing led to another, and now we are married and live in the same house so communicating is a tad faster than the snail mail days.

While it was mildly frustrating at the time, I wouldn’t do have started our relationship any other way. Now, I have multiple shoe boxes full of meaningful letters from my beloved. And I’ve often taken the habit of letter-writing to my other relationships. Just this week, I received a beautiful note from a long-time friend. Writing a note doesn’t take long, but that one made my entire week brighter. Totally worth the 49 cents.

The company I work for is a huge proponent of sending out personal notes to serve one’s customers better. It was the first time I had heard of them being used for professional purposes, but the hundreds of notes and letters that I still cherish are a dust-collecting testament to the fact that the written word is alive and well, and emojis haven’t completely killed all communication.

I love this company’s practice of sending personal notes, even between employees! No better way to start a Monday.

A photo posted by Chloe Sayers (@chloejsayers) on Feb 1, 2016 at 3:43pm PST

 

I was actually in the middle of writing this blog when I came upon this article about Peyton Manning’s habit of writing hand-written notes (verified by comparing his signature on an autographed helmet) to football players and figures who had inspired him over the years–even if they were bitter enemies on the field. If you know me, you know I know nothing about football. But I do know that celebrity sports players don’t have a lot of time, and if Peyton could make space in his schedule to appreciate those around him, so can we.

Pretending to be an Insomniac

I’m not, though.  Rather, I’m quite good at sleeping.  I used to practice putting my brain to sleep at bedtime when I was little, and now it seems to turn off all on its own most nights (and most days it seems too).  Exciting things can put me to sleep and boredom can put me to sleep.  I’m probably closer to being a narcoleptic than an insomniac.

Yet tonight, I will fight sleep and I will win for a while.  I am afraid of what dreams might contain and want to hold onto reality a little bit longer.

I have nothing profound to say.  Nothing of value or intrinsic worth.  Which is why I haven’t posted here in such a very long time.  The good thing is, I’m pretty sure I’ve disappeared off the blog sphere world and I doubt this will reach many eyes, let alone minds.

Not that my life is meaningless.  It is brimming with significant events and lessons but I haven’t figured them out yet and don’t feel like this is an appropriate place for such half-thoughts.

And maybe that is why I won’t sleep tonight.  This blinking cursor mocks me with the thoughts I’m too scared to write. I’m constantly searching for distraction but the world around me is in temporary death and will provide none.

I Didn’t Know

I have officially written as many drafts here as I have actual blog posts.  The fact that this blog has has over 10,000 views also seems remarkable.  Yet what really caught me off guard when looking back through this blog’s history, was that I started scribbling thoughts here 5 years ago.

I don’t feel like I am old enough to have been doing something for 5 years.  I’m sure some hobbies can claim that longevity, but in my mind, I started blogging when I thought I had something worthwhile to say which is  when I thought I had achieved some standard level of maturity and adulthood.

5 years ago, I was a freshman in high school.  I knew nothing.  But I also knew that I knew nothing, which helped a lot.  I knew that I was the product of society and my school system and The Town and my family.  I didn’t do much about it, yet I knew it.

But there were a lot of things I had no idea about.

I didn’t know that I wasn’t going to be an engineer.  I didn’t know that I was much weaker in some ways than I thought.  I didn’t know how many people that I would see die.  I didn’t know how much brokenness there was in this world and how little I could do about it.

But I also didn’t know how much of a help I could be if I looked beyond myself.  I didn’t know about the sleepless nights and tired days.  I didn’t know how writing would simultaneously save me and destroy me.  I didn’t know that God was truly my only Savior.  I didn’t know that I would go to a Christian college, or even that I would still be a Christian at this point. I didn’t know about the incredible friends and memories I would find here.  I couldn’t have anticipated the amount of mental strain I would have to learn to overcome. I didn’t know that I would see lives fall apart and God piece me together.

While I’ve never put much stock in who I am, I have an inexhaustible source of confidence of what can I can do.  Even so, alone, I am nothing.  With God, I am still nothing but I am with God.  Being able to say that is more astounding than 5, 10, or 15 years of life-changing experiences.

Misaligned

midslihnrf.
Here is a phenomenon about myself that I have never been able to understand.  Every once in a while, I start typing too quickly or too lazily and my hands get one key off.  Instead of making nice coherent sentences, everything comes out like s nunvh og hinnrtidh ( translation: a bunch of gibberish).  What I don’t understand is that I always follow this illogical pattern:

1) Notice that all the letters I typed on the screen aren’t actually forming words.
2) Frown
3) Erase the half page of gibberish.
4) Start typing again without fixing my hands.
5) Frown at my incompetence when I make the same mistake again. and again. and again.

It’s like running the vaccum over the same piece of string 50 times in a row because you are convinced that the 51st time will be the charm.

The sad thing is, I do this with my life too.   I wake up one day and realize that everything is a mess and run around like crazy trying to fix everything and once I do, continue living in the same way with out realigning my life with God.  Sometimes, its because I’m just going too fast to notice that something is wrong or I’m too stubborn to admit that the problem is me.  Either way, I don’t particularly like my life story being a bunch of gibberish.

Which is why I’m thankful for nights like this, when my schedule becomes so busy that I refuse to pick between four different plans and instead stay in my room and think and pray and realign.

It’s time to start making sense.

Happiness Revisited

It was rather cold this morning for August.  Driving with my back windshield fogged up because 1378211213_8f5b7900cdI’m too lazy to wipe it off and being awake and on the road before 8 in the morning made me feel like I was going to high school again.  However, instead of staying in the 50s all day like most school days, the sun came back and summer showed its face again.
Today was probably just as nice as any other day this summer.  Playful sunshine and soft breezes, swaying trees and all that wonderful summer beauty.  Yet, because I woke up cold and had to put on jeans and a sweatshirt on this morning, changing into a skirt and sandals made the day seem so much more delightful.
I find it sad that I can’t appreciate how wonderful life is until I have something to contrast it with.  I don’t see the sunshine until I’ve lived in the shadows.  I can’t muster up any happiness if I never feel sad.
Today was probably just as nice as any other day but today was more wonderful than any other day.  I have reflected back on my summer and realized it was even better than I thought.  Its been a fun experience and perhaps more importantly, a learning experience.  Even without test scores and grades to validate me, I am quite assured that I have learned just as much in the last two and a half months of living life than I did over the past year.
I’ve learned how to balance my to do list and organization and obsession with getting things done with enjoying others around me and making the most of my limited time.  I’ve learned how to balance listening and talking, being home and being away, hiding in my writings and expressing myself out loud, staying aware of the world while staying delightfully oblivious.

I’ve learned how to deem things irrelevant, such as having a balanced life, so I could live to extremes.  Quite obviously, I’ve also perfected the skill of contradicting myself.  At the beginning of the school year, I wrote this: http://86400seconds-smiles11.blogspot.com/2010/12/theory-3-happiness-is.html.  If you don’t feel like taking the time to read it, I basically said that happiness was a worthless goal in life.  I still think joy is way more important yet hard to come by sometimes.  I have tested my theory and have lived an equally full life being indifferent to happiness as when I embraced it.  I’m not going to make happiness the main focus of my life by any means but there is more value in it than I originally supposed.

Here is what I have found happiness to be good for:  Until I let myself feel happy, then I can’t feel sad either.  Not feeling sad bothers me more than not feeling happy.  I suppose switching the order would make more sense, that it makes more sense to feel sad first so happiness means more when it comes.  Either way, a juxtaposition between the two emotions is needed, therefore happiness does have a valuable purpose.
Saying goodbye to family, friends, familiar places and memories in the next two weeks will be sad.  Yet it wouldn’t be genuinely sad if those things didn’t represent genuine happiness at one time or another.  This heartache is well worth years of happy memories.

Side note:  This is my 50th post in the span of roughly a year.  Thank you all who make it to the end of these long-winded posts.

Writing a Better Story (Part 1)

Blogger graphs the page views from this blog, and I’ve found that it has a unnerving correlation to my personal up and downs.  The best parts of my year have huge peaks then there are massive valleys during the hard times, when I want to write, to express myself, to shout something, but nothing comes out.
Speaking of writing, I have been thinking a good deal lately about stories.  In particular, the story that is your life.

Do you realize that?  That this life is a story, and we are in the process of shaping the rising action, anticipating the climax, and choosing the setting.  Arguably, it is God doing the writing but I will discuss this later.

I have a friend who put it this way: “We define ourselves as characters with our actions, our inactions, so on, so forth.  And really morality is merely doing exactly what your protagonist would do.”

I tend to agree.  I’m not promoting a frantic, Willy Loman, “I haven’t got a thing in the ground” reaction to the story idea.  A life lived solely for the purpose of leaving a legacy will most likely look very impressive.  However, a character that has spent so much time focused on the appearance of their actions will miss the actual living part.

I am promoting an intentional life.  What can you remember from your story so far?  Which moments stand out?  If you were weeding out all of the commonplace events and stringing together the significant ones would it make a good story?  Would you make a good protagonist, one that you would root for and relate to?  It doesn’t matter if it would make the bestseller list or end up in the free box at garage sales.  What matters is if it is a story that you would like reading, and inevitably, one that you wouldn’t mind reading to God.

At the end of any book, it usually isn’t the success of the mission, the resolution of the inherent conflict, or whether the boy gets the girl that makes an impact on me.  If it is any sort of quality book, it is the personal success (that is, the development of their character towards a better end) that creates an enticing plot line, significant climax, and satisfying end to any book.  (Side note: I have a habit of aligning myself with the wrong character in any given book, which my English class was ever so kind to point out to me.)

The reward you get from a story is always less than you thought it would be, and the work is harder than you imagined.  The point of a story is never about the ending, remember.  It’s about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle. [Donald Miller]

So envision what you want life to be.  Decide to like the main character, which, by the way, is you. Take the opportunities to write a better story.  Don’t shy away from confrontation and changes.  But be wise, be careful, and seek God’s will continuously.  The only problem with writing a better story, is that it might just work.

Regret

In a retrospective and introspective mood lately, I decided to read through some of my personal rants, poems, narratives, and essays.  For the majority of them, I completely understand why the past me didn’t share them.  However, a good deal of my wrirtings were direct letters and notes towards people and this makes me a bit sad.  I regret now that I did not share them sooner.  So to those people, I apologize.  I should have shared my thoughts.  It would have made us stronger.