Hope

I’m Kind of a Superhero and Other Things I’ve Learned From Bipolar Depression

Last week one of my students called me out. “Mrs. Dunn. Why you in such good mood today? Last week, you seem tired. Today you are hyper. Why you so happy?” (I teach students who speak English as a second or third language).

“I’m in a good mood because it’s Friday,” I told him. “I’m excited for the weekend. Believe it or not, teachers love the weekend.” I was surprised by how perceptive my student was. The truth was that I was in a good mood because finally (finally!) the heavy fog of depression had lifted for longer than a few hours or even one good day, and I felt hope and energy and excitement that I had not felt in nearly three months.

In truth, I was in a short burst of hypomania that often comes just after a depression for me. I am Type II Bipolar which means I never experience full-blown mania with psychosis or delusional beliefs and reckless behavior, but sometimes experience a milder form of elevated mood called hypomania. My bipolar disorder is marked by very regular periods of moderate to severe depression and occasional bursts of high energy/activity accompanied by high adrenaline and impulsivity. For me, hypomania is subtle enough that it can easily be taken for just a very good mood, though it’s often accompanied by spending sprees, new tattoos, sleeping less, trying to do ALL tHE THINGS, and being increasingly social or chatty. Hypomania isn’t necessarily a bad thing for me (it ‘s sort of like what I imagine being on speed would be like) as long as I can be aware that I am experiencing an elevated mood and can keep my impulsivity in check.

Over the last nine months I’ve spent a lot of time trying to make sense of the last 12-15 years of my life. There is still so much I do not know, but here are a few things I’ve learned.

• I might never be “healed” and that is OK. Along with the “You don’t seem bipolar” comments, another common response I receive from well-meaning friends and family members is something along the lines of hoping that I will get better or believing that God can heal me. These are beautiful thoughts, and I don’t want to make light of them. I also believe in a powerful God. But it is not helpful for me to think of my illness as a condition I might suddenly be healed from. The nature of bipolar depression is that I go through seasons of depression and seasons of stability, with occasional bouts of hypomania in between. Learning that I am bipolar and that I am likely to experience bouts of depression chronically for the rest of my life has actually given me an incredible sense of hope. The best way I can describe this is that it is like having seasonal allergies. People who suffer with allergies can treat them, but there is rarely a permanent cure, so they are also not surprised when they flare up. Before I knew I was bipolar, I still experienced depression. Every time depression lifted I believed it was gone forever, and every time it came back, I believed I had failed in some cosmic way. Knowing that depression is likely to recur makes me feel intense gratitude for the stable times. It keeps me from believing that the depression is somehow my fault, and it also gives me hope when I am in those seasons because I know that they will end. In the past calendar year I had two long bouts of depression lasting a total of about 5 months. During the first depression, before I knew about being bipolar, I truly thought it might never end, and but during this most recent season, which lasted nearly three months, I knew that one day I would feel better.

• Having bipolar depression has taught me to show greater compassion, to others and to myself. I try to live believing that everyone around me is doing the best that they can. Because 98% of the time I am doing the best I can. Often it is not the right thing and it is not good enough, but I really am giving everything I’ve got. It’s not up to me to judge how hard someone else is trying based on their performance. I have no idea what’s going on inside their minds or in their personal lives, so I choose to believe that they are doing their best, just as I am doing my best. As part of self-compassion, I am learning to celebrate small victories in times when small things are taking all of my energy. I have a few encouraging pep talks for this.

o For example, “You are so awesome! You got out of bed and then you put on a shirt AND PANTS! PANTS! You could have just given up and stayed in bed all day, but instead, you are doing the thing. You even brushed your teeth. You should write that on your To-Do List and then cross it off. Cause you did that. Cause you can do things. You overachiever, you.”

• Some of the things I like most about myself are directly related to bipolar disorder. I am deeply empathetic. While I don’t get my own feelings hurt easily, I cry easily and often when I sense someone else hurting, even if that person is an actor in a commercial. It is this intense empathy that makes me good at my job and (I think?) is one of the things that my friends appreciate about me. It is also one of the things that is likely to spark depression. Often, depression begins when I have reached a level of empathy saturation I can no longer sustain. I am constantly absorbing the feelings of people around me, especially of those suffering all over the world. While that isn’t necessarily a good thing, I firmly believe that the empathy is a gift. Basically, I like to think of it as a superpower—like Dr. Charles Xavier’s except less useful.

• “I have a condition!”is a magical phrase for explaining to your husband why you have gone completely limp and are requiring him to physically drag you into the bedroom and put you to bed because you are “too tired to go to sleep.”

• I am not alone. This, mostly thanks to many of you who have told me so.

There is so much that I am still learning about myself and about how to live the fullest, richest life I can. I am not defined by my illness, and yet, it is as much a part of me as my terrible dancing and my freakishly small hands. Today I find that with all of the things that are hard about living with bipolar disorder and (perhaps even more so) wearing that label, I am profoundly grateful. I am grateful that there is an explanation for the things I feel and that it’s no longer a mystery. I am grateful for treatments and for coping strategies. I am grateful that I pushed through the fear and the shame and started talking about this, and I am grateful for all the love and understanding waiting for me here. Most of all, I am grateful for a family that is immensely supportive and for a faith that, though feeble, is still somehow enough.

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To Write Truth on My Arms

On Saturday I got a new tattoo, lyrics from a song I love crawling down my forearm from elbow to wrist,inked in carefully crafted, one-of- a-kind lettering designed for me by a dear friend. It says, “I will hold on hope.”

When you tattoo words on your arms, people ask questions. They want to know “Why these words? What do they mean?” And there is no simple explanation, no easy way to describe everything these words mean to me, and everything the song they come from represents.

Last Wednesday night I woke up to the sound of gunshots. Three sharp staccato cracks and then the squeal of tires and the roar of an engine. I lay in my bed, heart pounding, afraid to move, mind racing through possibilities. A domestic dispute? A drug deal gone wrong? Or maybe it wasn’t really gunshots at all. How did I even know what gunshots sounded like? But minutes later, when the police lights pulsed through my bedroom window like a beacon, I understood that what I’d heard really was a gun and it really was just yards away from my bedroom. Panic wrapped its fingers around me like a vice as we took our pillows and crept upstairs into the loft in the dark, trying to escape the flashing blue lights without attracting attention. I folded my body onto the short end of the sectional, knees pressed into my chest, trying to make myself as small as possible, thinking about how much I miss living in a place where I never felt threatened, where I was never suspicious of my neighbors or worried for my safety.

For several anxious days afterwards I flinched at every loud noise or flash of motion caught in my periphery. My body trembled and my teeth chattered with chills produced by the excess adrenaline coursing through me. The days blurred together until, with a little medication and a lot of prayer and some serious support from my husband, I started to relax back into my life.

There are many things I cannot control about my circumstances. There are many things I cannot control about my own body. But I believe that I have the power to choose what defines me. Each of my tattoos represents a truth about who I am and who I hope to be. “I will hold on hope,” is both a truth and a resolution. I will not be defined by anxiety and I will not settle into a unfulfilling life because I’ve given up on dreaming for a greater one. I will choose hope.

Later on in this song come the lyrics, “But I need freedom now/And I need to know how/To live my life as it’s meant to be.” Like with any form of art, I’m sure there are different interpretations of this song, but to me, these words are powerful. They express the restless energy I have felt for most of my life–the tension I feel between the life that’s expected of me and the life I dream of. I believe that I can live my life “as it’s meant to be.” I believe that even as I struggle with anxiety and depression, I can choose hope. So I hold on.

I hold onto the hope that the broken parts of me can be made whole, that I can grow strong through struggle, and that I can find the freedom to live my life honestly and authentically, as it’s meant to be, even if it looks different from the lives of those around me.

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My mom went with me to get my tattoo…which was an experience I could never have imagined in a million years. If you know my family, you’ll know what I mean.

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The lyrics are taken from the Mumford & Sons song, “The Cave.”
The font was hand lettered for me by my dear friend Asharae Kroll.

What’s Saving My Life Right Now

In Leaving Church Barbara Brown Taylor writes about a time she was asked to speak on the topic, “What’s saving your life right now.” Taylor says she realized this was a good question to ask herself from time to time.

My blogging friend, Cara Meredith at Be, Mama. Be, recently wrote a post answering this question (which was inspired by another blogger, Modern Mrs. Darcy) and I decided to join in.

I struggle with seasonal depression and February is often the hardest month of the year for me. The holidays have passed and we’ve returned from vacation, but it’s still cold and gray with nothing to look forward to in the near future and spring still too far off to see over the horizon. February is a month where I fight hard for the good things in my life. Writing this list of what’s saving me is a way of recognizing to the ordinary graces that get me through these days.

  1. My Yoga Pants. Yes, I know, I’m stepping into something of a hot-button area here. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry about it, it’s not worth it). Here’s the thing – There was Thanksgiving, then my birthday, then Christmas, then vacation and now my regular pants are like a fabric prison for my thighs and belly. But my yoga pants always love me. They stretch over my new jiggles without judgment. They whisper, “Go ahead and eat that King Cake. We’ve got you covered.” And I love them for that. (Can I just say, for 99% of women yoga pants are not about showing off our legs and butts. Yoga pants are about finding something that stretches over our legs and butts without cutting off our circulation. Amen.)
  2. Common Prayer. I started using Shane Claiborne’s collaborative book Common Prayer in my devotional time back in the fall, but I find myself clinging to it even more lately. Though they are designed to be used in a faith community (it’s called “common” prayer after all) I read the morning prayers myself each day and I find that this has helped to ground me. The book is inclusive and attempts to piece together parts of many liturgical traditions rather than just one and I really enjoy that. It has given me words to pray when I’m too tired or the days feel too heavy to find the words on my own.broadchurch_thumbnail_02_web
  3. Broadchurch. This is a BBC show that just slays me with how good it is. It’s a melancholy murder mystery kind of show that just haunts you in the best way. The second season is currently airing in the UK right now (don’t know that it’s available in the US) and thanks to using a VPN for our internet anyway, we can access it! It’s a bit torturous but so incredibly well done.
  4. blenderMy Beauty Blender. I’ve heard rave reviews about this product for a long time, but I was always kind of like, “Eh…it’s a sponge. How special can it be.” But since I’ve always wanted to be able to do my makeup to where it just looks like I have flawless skin I finally asked for it as a present for my birthday. My mother-in-law sent it to me, but the box got lost in the mail (first time this has ever happened). Finally, two months later, it showed up! I started using it. I cannot explain why this is the best thing ever, but it is. It feels like memory foam for one thing. You use it damp and just sort of pat in your foundation or concealer or whatever and it makes your face look absolutely flawless and not cakey at all. It’s seriously miraculous. I did try some similar products that weren’t the brand name beauty blenders (like the Real Techniques one) and to me there was a huge difference in the results. The real deal is worth it. I’m just bummed I didn’t find it before now.
  5. Edible cookie dough (doesn’t have raw egg – does have raw flour but I’ve eaten lots of dodgier things so that doesn’t bother me). Don’t tell my husband, but I secretly make just a teensy tiny amount of this sometimes and eat it really quickly while he’s at the gym. (shhhhh!) I admit, this is probably contributing to my needing #1 so much in my life right now.
    Cookie dough

New Year: My One Word for 2015 and Why I Can’t Leave 2014 Behind

In Korea people don’t stay up until midnight to ring in the New Year. Instead, they get up in the middle of the night and they hike a mountain. They climb through the dark, snowy pre-dawn hours and when they reach the top they stand with their faces to the sky to greet the first sunrise of the New Year.

What a contrast to how we in the West often enter the New Year – stumbling out of bed at noon, tired and quite possibly hungover. For many, January 1st is a day of recovery. We spend New Year’s Eve celebrating the ending of something and the beginning of a new thing. We bombard the internet with reflections on the previous year. Even the less introspective among us take a moment to declare the past year, “the best” or “the hardest” or “the craziest” year of their lives.

I can never bring myself to make those kinds of statements. Because I don’t believe a year can ever be just one thing. Life is never just one thing, and what is a year besides a microcosm of an entire life?

Elaine’s comment on my Year in Review post explained this perfectly. She said she was struck by “how every year is a little life – with birth, death, family, love, travel, new things, familiar things, difficulties and good friends all swirling through it.” I thought this was profound because of what it says about the year we’ve just lived and what it means for the year ahead.

2014 had a life that is both self-contained and part of a larger whole. Entering the New Year doesn’t mean we’ve finished with the old one. We can’t discard it like a worn-out pair of shoes. We carry our past years deep inside our bones. They make up the very DNA of our lives.

The person I was as a child is markedly different from the person I am today, but I could never say I’ve left her behind entirely. You never completely stop being the person you were at 8 or 18 or 28. You carry all of these selves inside of you and they shape who you become. In the same way, we each carry dozens of lives with us –the lives we lived in our previous years – and these lives become part of our future.

But carrying the past year with you doesn’t mean you have to be weighed down or shackled by it.

In the past, I’ve looked back on my previous year and made some promises. I’ve set goals for the year ahead that were largely lists of how I would do better, be better than I was the previous year. I used to think that doing this was a way of leaving the previous year behind, but maybe all that is is a way of letting the previous year enslave me.

I don’t think we have the choice to throw out the previous year or any year of our lives. But we do have a choice about how we let it shape our lives. I can either look at the previous year and allow my mistakes and disappointments and perfectionism drive me to guilt-ridden resolutions, or I can look at the previous year and simply embrace it all, both the proud moments and the parts I wish I could undo, thank God for them, and let them be part of my story.

This year, instead of making a list of resolutions, instead of thinking of all the ways I failed in the last year or all the things I want to do better, instead of making 2015 a giant to-do list, I’ve decided to join the many people I know who choose One Word. The idea of One Word is to get rid of your list and to choose just one word to focus on for a whole year. “One word that sums up who you want to be and how you want to live.”

I’ve been thinking about my word for several weeks. At first I thought about “Belief,” because it’s something I desperately want more of – in God, in myself, in the world. And then I thought about “Present,” the practice of being fully engaged where I am instead of constantly thinking of the next thing or the last thing. Both of these are important to me, but when I really considered what summed up who I want to be and how I want to live one word rose to the top. My word for this year is Wholehearted.

Wholehearted is about sincerity and commitment. For me this means authenticity in my life and my writing. It means commitment to continue my faith-wrestling and to asking sincere questions. Being Wholehearted is also a commitment to courage, compassion, and connection. It is the courage to be vulnerable despite the risk, the compassion to love other people well and to extend grace quickly, both to myself and to others, and the choice to develop genuine connections with others. Wholeheartedness means committing to being fully present, to showing up for every day of my life instead of checking out when things are hard or boring. It means engaging with Today and believing that every day is a gift. And Wholehearted means believing that I am worthy of love and belonging – not because there is anything especially great and deserving about me, but because we are all worthy of love and belonging and because we can’t fully accept love and belonging unless we believe we are worthy of it.

This year I want to step into the New Year with intention. I want to turn my face towards the sun and say, “I’m here. Whatever you have to offer, I am fully present and ready to receive it. The births and the deaths. The joys and the fears and the disappointments. The beauty and the brokenness. The faith and the doubt. The longing and the contentment. The adventure and the mundane.” May 2015 be a step on the journey towards Wholeheartedness.

Happy New Year.

 

Image Credit: Iamidaho at Deviantart.com

Holy Longing: Why Advent Isn’t about Peace and Joy

Growing up my family didn’t celebrate Advent in any traditional sense. We always attended non-denominational churches that lacked any sort of liturgical traditions. We never used an Advent calendar or lit the appropriate candles on Sundays, though we did set up a nativity scene where the baby Jesus remained conspicuously absent until Christmas morning when me or one of my siblings got to unwrap the Christ-in-manger figurine and place him between his expectant parents who had been kneeling in awe of an empty space for weeks.

Even without Advent traditions the Christmas season was always full of excitement and anticipation for me. There was something mystical and magical about the lights and decorations, familiar tastes and smells and the chance to sing Christmas carols during regular church services.  But, like many people, after adolescence hit, some of the glitter started to rub off. I remember feeling a sort of let-down that for some reason even though I enjoyed Christmas, it just didn’t feel as magical as it used to. This continued year after year and despite my attempts to follow the advice of all Christmas movies everywhere to “Just believe,” I could never recapture the way I’d felt about Christmas as a six-year-old. Eventually I gave up hoping that Christmas could ever be as magical as it was back then.

I’ve noticed a lot of people this year posting blogs or statuses about feeling disappointed and discontented with the way Advent is turning out. People are angry about the injustice in the world, disappointed with circumstances in their own lives, or frustrated with their own busyness. All of this disillusionment seems to center on the idea that this is not how the Christmas season should be. I’ve seen a lot of comments along the lines of, “This is supposed to be a season of joy, a season of peace, a season of contentment and closeness to our families, a season of celebration.” Even those who don’t claim Christianity often consider this time of year a good time to remember the poor, to celebrate family, and to intentionally show more love and patience to others.

I think we may have gotten it wrong.

I don’t think Advent is primarily about peace and joy and all the other warm and fuzzies we think we’re meant to feel. I think Advent is about longing.

It is about longing for a world that is not broken. Longing for justice for Michael Brown. Longing for restored relationships with our families. Longing for a world where people cannot be bought and sold as commodities. Longing for comfort for the friend who has lost her child. Longing for rest from a world that is moving so fast we feel like if we pause for a moment we’ll get left behind. It is about longing for hope that we are not abandoned.

Most of us are very uncomfortable with longing. We live in an instant-gratification world, one where it is unacceptable for a need to go unmet or a wish to go unfulfilled, so when we feel emptiness in ourselves, we rush to fill it. Sometimes the desire to satiate longing manifests itself in materialism – the need for the next new thing. Sometimes it shows up in our relationships and we use and abuse other people in our desire to satisfy our longings.

My own attitude towards longing is usually, “How can I make this go away?” But I think we have two choices when it comes to longing – we can lament the discomfort we feel and try to make the feelings go away, or we can embrace those longings and let them change the way we live and love.

Maybe Christmas is the perfect time to bring awareness to the disparity between the world we live in and the world we long for.

My favorite Christmas song has always been “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

This is a song about mourning and emptiness and the longing of a people for rescue and restoration. But it is also a song about hope. Yes, we are mourning in exile now, but Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come.

Calling attention to the brokenness in the world doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. As long as we continue to deeply feel this disparity, there is hope. As long as we still have the image of what peace and joy could look like in the world – as long as we live every day to bring these things to our corner of the world, there is hope.

For Christians, it is the hope of the incarnation. It is the tangible promise of God with us. It is the belief that we are not abandoned. As long as we both pray and live “Thy Kingdom come,” there is hope.

If we’re looking for a perfect time of holiday cheer this season, we can be sure we won’t find it, but that doesn’t mean we have to resign ourselves to disappointment and disillusionment the way I did when I outgrew my childhood belief in Christmas magic. We can embrace the longing and feel it deeply instead of trying to chase it away with other things or feeling guilty that we aren’t filled with peace and joy . And we can rejoice that Hope is still alive and  let that longing and that hope  change the way we live.

True Confessions: I Have Cellulite and It’s Not From Having Babies

Yesterday I found some new stretch marks -thin white lines running parallel to each other like the rungs of a ladder climbing up my outer thigh. My heart sank and my shoulders sagged involuntarily under the weight of yet another imperfection.

I’ve seen a lot of articles and videos lately about women embracing their post-baby bodies. About society learning to respect the body of a woman who has stretched herself around another human life. Who has willingly allowed her own body to be “wrecked” for the sake of another person. These articles and videos urge us to see their sagging breasts and wrinkled bellies as beautiful symbols of strength and sacrifice. I applaud that. It’s beyond time that society honored women, especially mothers, for who they are and what they do instead of making any kind of statements about how their bodies should look.

But every time I read one of these articles or watch one of these videos, I experience an underlying sense of guilt and shame. What about those of us who haven’t birthed children and still have hopelessly flawed bodies? What about those of us who can’t look at our veiny legs and count these as something we have embraced in order to create new life? It’s embarrassing to admit this, but I have often dreamed about the day when I can embrace my mess of a body as “post-baby.” People understand that. Other mothers, particularly, have great compassion for that. I have great respect for that.

But what about the 26-year-old woman who has never had a child, who is healthy and active, but whose knees are still dimpled with cellulite? The angry purple lines that criss-cross my inner thighs don’t mark my body’s anguished and miraculous journey to produce a new life. The cellulite that ripples my skin from my hips to my knees is not from the strain of carrying another human’s body inside of mine. These are the marks of an adolescent girl whose body stretched into a woman’s before she was ready for it.

Here is a short list off the top of my head of things I am ashamed of about my body and that I actively try to correct where possible:

  • Stretch marks
  • Unfeminine body hair Thick, dark, impossible-to-get-rid-of hair.
  • Razor burn from removal of unfeminine body hair
  • Bushy eyebrows
  • Uneven skin tone/acne
  • Flat chest – but not flat enough to just be super thin and shapeless like the Korean girls, just flat enough to make me pear-shaped.
  • Possible improper ratio of breast to areola to nipple (I just found out that that’s a thing recently, so naturally now I’m worried about it.)
  • Cellulite
  • Hair that is simultaneously dry and greasy
  • Belly down – (what I call that very light layer of hair over my belly that makes it look pudgy even when you can clearly see the outline of my abs)
  • Saddle-bags
  • Chunky calves that make it impossible to buy boots
  • Short, stubby fingers with short stubby nails
  • That one weird mole on my back

After reading that list you probably think I am obsessed with my body image and spend way too much time thinking about this. Maybe that’s true, but I really don’t think I spend any more time thinking about this than the average woman does. In fact, these are all the flaws I noticed this morning during my 12-minute shower.

As a society, we are starting to speak out against “body-shaming” mothers and against the promotion of unrealistic and hyper-sexualized expectations for women’s bodies. We, as a culture, still have a long way to go, but we are making some noise. And this is a good thing.

On Saturday I ran six miles on my solid, muscular legs, and on Sunday my thick calves and cellulite-y thighs carried me to the top of a mountain. I didn’t feel particularly proud of either of those things, but when I saw those silvery lines stretching up the side of my thigh yesterday I felt defeated and ashamed. So today I am wondering, is there grace for me too? Is there a way to love my flaws when I can’t explain them away with the sacrificial love of a mother? Can I still be beautiful and strong and proud if I didn’t earn these imperfections in a noble way? Can I let you see my scars and not feel ashamed?

Just Around the River Bend: Nobody gets me like Pocahontas does

The past few months have been filled to the brim with activity. Trips and adventures, anticipation and hard goodbyes. Since my last post I have been to my sister’s high school graduation in Louisiana, to my best friend’s graduation from her Master’s program (see the picture – Master Christina), on a weekend getaway to Washington DC, on an anniversary cruise to the Bahamas, to visit sweet friends Thai and Lanise in Wilmington, had our dear friends Brandon and Christy visit us and went to a Durham Bulls game, and had a crazy girl’s weekend in Chicago/Wisconsin with my roomies. We found a wonderful girl to keep our sweet kitties while we are gone, sold both of our cars, and moved out of our beloved apartment in Raleigh. We said goodbye to a place we love and many of our closest friends, and drove 17 hours down to my parents’ house in Louisiana to store all of our furniture and visit my family and grandparents (aren’t they the cutest?) From there we spent a few days in Orange Beach, AL on vacation with Jonathan’s family (which included the sailboat cruise pictured below  – most terrifying thing I’ve ever done) before making the 14 hour drive back up to their home in Cincinnati where we have spent the last week trying to fit our entire lives into four 50-lb suitcases.Durham Bulls Game Washington DC Bahamas Landscape Bahamas Christina the Master Grandparents sailboat

Girls WeekendI have cried more times than I can count, but I am still incredibly excited about the adventure ahead of us. While it has been harder than I imagined saying goodbye to family, friends, pets, and a city I have come to think of as home, the prospect of all we will learn and see and experience in Korea and wherever else we may make it to on the way has given me hope and excitement about the future. The world feels full of possibilities and even the most ordinary things seem beautiful.

A few months ago I was watching Pocahontas on Netflix (hurray Netflix for getting that contract with Disney, but boo for not being available in South Korea) and as I was singing aloud at the top of my lungs to “Just Around the River Bend” (what…you mean you don’t do that every time you watch a Disney movie? What…you mean you don’t just watch Disney movies by yourself?) I was really overwhelmed by the lyrics. Pocahontas is trying to decide whether to do what is expected and traditional by marrying Kocoum or keep chasing her dreams.

You have to admit, Pocahontas is pretty bad-butt.

You have to admit, Pocahontas is pretty bad-butt.

“Should I choose the smoothest course
Steady as the beating drum?
Should I marry Kocoum?
Is all my dreaming at an end?
Or do you still wait for me, Dream Giver
Just around the river bend?”

And I wept. (What, you mean you don’t weep openly while singing along to Disney songs in Disney movies that you are watching by yourself?) Because I knew exactly what Pocahontas was asking…well, not the marrying Kocoum part, but the rest. Should I choose the smoothest course (stay put, settle down, find a desk job, start a family)? Is all my dreaming at an end? Or do you still wait for me, Dream Giver? I thought, “Pocahontas really gets it.” She gets what it is like to feel deep down that there is something else out there for her, even though everyone else is content to stay where they are and do what is expected. Pocahontas understands what it means to follow the Dream Giver (even though her Dream Giver was probably some sort of weird-looking cloud spirit, judging from the controversial Mother Willow).

“Just Around the River Bend,” has become an anthem for me over these last few months. In the harder moments as well as in the exciting times I have been spurred on thinking about what I might find beyond this particular river bend. I think the Dream Giver is still waiting for me there.

Jonathan and I have set up a new blog to chronicle our Korean adventure together: Two Sore Thumbs…Because two redheads living in Korea stick out like sore thumbs. We would love for you to follow us there so we can continue to share life with you, even from the other side of the world.  Such Small Hands will stay up and may still be used occasionally for non-Korea related posts, but most of our adventures will be posted to Two Sore Thumbs. Hope you check us out!