In a lovely little chapel on the campus of Houston Baptist, I received kind words, a pen, and a pin. This was the last Friday night in May. I had taken the classes, put in the work, and completed requirements for my MFA.
Now, I hear Frank McCourt in my head, and he says, “Stock your mind. It is your house of treasure and no one in the world can interfere with it.” I notice his two polysyllabic words and the strength of his monosyllables. Now, I will work with my tools, read books, study language, and hone my craft. I will put my bloody manuscript in a drawer and let it rest. Same for me, sans drawer, just rest. I’ve learned that good art takes time.
Even though my angel mother grew up in the Baptist church, the “B” in HBU filled me with trepidation. I leaped with faith anyway. God played a role in my story, and I wanted to do Him justice. Still, I never imagined I would find my tribe of like minds at HBU. Now, I see God’s plan. I’ll be forever grateful for these people—my cohort and professors. They became my friends and family, encouraging and inspiring me with their ideas and insight, persistence and growth, love and prayers. All of this without judgement. Even their criticism was kind.
At HBU, I’ve learned to make time and space for my writing and for me. And I’ve realized we all feel like imposters sometimes. I’ve learned to be scared and do it anyway. And I’ve realized the power of continued progress. Anything is possible with belief and persistence. I’m still learning trust and patience in God. At the same time, I believe He is using my story in a way I never could’ve imagined.
All it takes is a step,
then another and another,
until momentum takes over
and propels you forward.
The steps we don’t take
are the ones we regret.
Just take the step.
Don’t worry or fret.
Our paths, like our steps,
always lead to the next.
Billions of us on journeys
with paths that intersect
Plan all you want.
At some point you’ll see
what happens in life
might be destiny.
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” (Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene III, L. 140-141).
Cassius in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene III, L. 140-141
This past week, I googled Dr. Wayne Dyer quotes. If you ever need inspiration, he is an amazing go-to. Anyway, while scrolling, this one spoke to me:
We tend to pity ourselves when we perceive that fate is against us. I know a person whose son battles a severe brain illness, and her house flooded from a hurricane a few years ago. Recently her mom died, and just a month later her dog died. I understand how she might say, “Poor me.” A person can dwell on those thoughts or reframe them. “We are alive. My home has been rebuilt. My memories bring comfort and joy, and I am blessed to have them.”
Both Dr. Wayne Dyer and William Wordsworth proclaim the ability to create our own realities—through thoughts and intentions. How encouraging is that idea when it comes to our writing?
We can create our thoughts: “I am a writer. I am good. I am improving.”
Our thoughts can create our intentions: “I’m going to read at least three books a month with the goal of improving my writing, and each weekday I’m going to practice writing and check in with my writing group.” Our intentions create our reality. Little by little, in the same way that Wordsworth set out one summer with the intention of crossing the Alps. He didn’t even realize he accomplished his goal. He just had the thought and showed up and put one foot in front of the other. In the words of my friend Narayan Kaudinya—
Self-pity will inevitably sneak up, self-kindness is a practice, and I know what Dr. Wayne would say—
My friend asked the question, “If you could tell your younger self anything, what would you say?” And so here goes:
Dear Little Crystal,
Be true to yourself and live your God-given purpose. Be honest and courageous, proud, confident, and unapologetic. Keep your body, mind, and spirit strong. Love wholly and forgive fully. Don’t let anyone shut you up or down. Maintain boundaries for bullshit and remember you can do hard things.
Your Bigger, Wiser Self
And as a follow-up, “If you could encourage yourself in any way today, what would you say?”
Be kind to yourself, progress is progress, and don’t ever forget your own best advice. I love you!
P. S. Today I’m celebrating women’s achievement, raising awareness against bias, and taking action for equality. For more information go to InternationalWomensDay.org.
The day was February 1st, and I needed a kick in the pants. I decided I was the one to do it. Inspired by my friend Dwight’s Less Is Now Challenge, I figured the first of the month was a good day to start. My own guidelines go like this: SELL, DONATE, RECYCLE, TRASH. I just don’t have the energy to sell. Two questions guide my decisions: Do I love it? Do I use it?
Day 1 — get rid of one thing
Day 2 — get rid of two things
Day 3 — get rid of three things
And so on for thirty days. If my math is correct, week one’s removal adds up to 28, and the entire purge ends up eliminating 453 items.
In my entry way closet, I had a small box started with 8 items to donate. In January, I helped my daughter Lauren move and ended up with some of her laundry, which equaled 11 things. In my car, I still had 3 trash bags of her clothes to donate (I didn’t count what was inside, but I counted the bags) and 2 patio chairs that I didn’t care to keep. From my own closet, I pulled 3 dresses, 2 pairs of shoes, and 1 pair of jeans. In the pantry, I found 23 dog items I no longer needed. In the garage, I found a box of flooded books, numbering 13, and recycled. And on Monday, I made a trip to the Goodwill donation site closest to home and left everything except what will go back to Lauren. From there I drove to the post office and mailed four envelopes and counted that, too. I started my gathering last Sunday, and on Monday 70 items vacated my house. That felt awesome, and I’m ahead of schedule.
And on February 1st, I went for a walk, two miles or so. As I did on February 2nd and the 3rd and the 4th and today is young. Also I started February 1st with a devotional from a book I haven’t finished. This year I thought I would try. I’ve kept it going all week. How is that for a kick in the pants?
Word of 2018. HOPE. When I began this self-imposed writing gig while living in a La Quinta and rebuilding our house that had been flooded by a hurricane named Harvey, I named my blog Faith + Gratitude = Peace + Hope. My dad gave me a silver bracelet engraved with HOPE for my December 30th 2017 birthday, and I wore it almost every day for the following year as a reminder that HOPE, in all caps, is a choice. Dad taught me years ago that I could choose my attitude. Even amid crisis, I have a choice. HOPE or DESPAIR? I choose HOPE. Even though I’ve retired the word as my focus, I want to say I’m eternally hopeful. I credit Mama, too, for the faith she passed along.
Word of 2019. BELIEVE. Yes, I realize HOPE and BELIEVE are practically synonyms. In my mind Belief removes all doubt and fuels the Hope. Belief reminds me to trust God in the process. In 2019, I was back home and typing my posts on the comfort of my new couch. Then and now, I BELIEVE in a better, healthier future for everyone in my family. I BELIEVE in the progress of medicine and stem cells and cures for paranoid schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s and addiction. I BELIEVE that together we are stronger, and our relationships are important. I BELIEVE my writing is evolving and helping others evolve. I BELIEVE one day I will publish my first book, the first of many more. All through the grace of God. In 2019, my best friend Denise sent me a new bracelet. This one said BELIEVE.
Word of 2020. I broke the rules to the whole one-word idea. I picked two: HONESTY and COURAGE. In 2020 I returned to school to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing. Through this program, I’m finishing my memoir that focuses on my son Drew, the effects of his paranoid schizophrenia on our family, and our search for help. This story cannot be told without HONESTY and COURAGE. It begins in 2010 and spans the course of six years. Our journey begins with the realization that something is wrong. Post-diagnosis, we come to terms with needing help and learn that help is a perfect formula of medicine and counseling, family and community support. I understand now that help is not possible without Drew’s full investment, and the story I’m writing is about me. My reality and my hope. It’s about sharing to help others know they are not alone. At the end of 2020, I felt like I fell short of complete HONESTY and true COURAGE. I considered a 2021 repeat. A second chance.
Word of 2021. PROGRESS. Truth be told, I’m lacking inspiration at the moment. I might even be feeling sorry for myself. I suppose pulling myself out of my slump will be PROGRESS. I suppose giving myself some extra compassion when I struggle with feelings of inadequacy, grief, and anger will be PROGRESS. I will graduate with my MFA in May, and I’ve learned so much in a year. We don’t know what we don’t know, and I know I have more to learn. That’s PROGRESS. I can say I have written a book. More PROGRESS. Now to PROGRESS with revisions—word choice and phrasing, metaphor and humor, insight and transitions. To PROGRESS with courage and honesty. To PROGRESS with living my best life despite circumstances. I wish you PROGRESS, too.
For anyone struggling with “Meh” at the moment, I recently stumbled across Ashley Peterson’s “Action for Happiness” post, a compilation of information from actionforhappiness.org and the eight pillars of joy from The Book of Joy by the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Ashley includes visuals that I continue to contemplate in this year’s PROGRESS. I learned something new and wanted to share.