Sunday, June 25, 2017

Not A Priority

I'm a bit of a productivity addict. I've had to teach myself not to view every moment in terms of "productive or not," and that sometimes (usually? I still need help with this) simply being is the most beautiful thing. My desire for constant productivity paired with being way too busy all the time means I often utter the phrase, "I don't have time for fill-in-the-blank."

No time.

There's never enough time.

So I keep not sleeping enough and obsessing over my schedule and not making time for myself. Which is code for not making time to actually sit with my emotions and feel them, but that's for another blog post.

As a productivity addict who never has enough time, it shouldn't be surprising that when I see articles about time management and fixing the never-has-enough-time trap, I read them eagerly and with great hopes that they will hold the thing I've never heard before that will change everything.

A few months ago I read an article about changing our language from "I don't have enough time" to "such-and-such isn't a priority." "I don't have time to sleep" becomes "sleep is not a priority." "I don't have time to meal prep" becomes "meal prepping is not a priority," and so on.

I wrote the phrase down on a sticky note and taped it to my desk. There it has sat for months, the edges of the faded pink note are frayed, ink worn light from my hand grazing over it day after day.

Last weekend and weekend I broke. I shared a blog post about reaching my limit. Realizing my current feeling of being too stressed, overwhelmed, and emptied to continue giving and doing was no new feeling but instead a constant pattern of going and giving and doing until I've been running with the Empty Light on so long I finally break down.

Feeling so stressed and overwhelmed led me to to have numerous conversations with close, old, and new friends and all of them said similar things. I needed to make more time for myself, take care of myself, say no to a few things, take action steps instead of constantly talking about how I'm tired and overwhelmed and feel trapped and don't know how to fix it.

And do you know what my response was to being told to take better care of myself, sleep more, take personal time, and actually practice self care? "I don't have time."

Then I got to my desk on Monday morning and saw my little note. And for once those inspirational, how-to-be-successful articles actually worked because I saw something I'd never seen before.

I filled the little blank in on that faded pink sticky note with my own name and now it read:

"Katy is not a priority."

"Self care is not a priority."

"Loving myself is not a priority."

"Taking care of myself is not a priority."

I don't know if I've ever been a priority to myself. I was deemed the "second parent" at a very young age, and with five younger siblings and a deep Need To Be Needed I leaned into that role. Afraid that if I prioritized my own needs I would be saying I mattered more than someone else, and since Good Christians aren't selfish I tried to Love Like Christ, which I interpreted to mean I couldn't need anything and should constantly lay down my life for others. I think somewhere deep inside I wanted to be a martyr to justify my existence. I was afraid that if I asked for what I needed (let's be honest this is still a fear) I would be rejected because my needs were not as important as the needs of those around me, or rejected because they didn't matter enough to the person I was asking them of, or that I wouldn't be wanted anymore because all I was good for was Giving and Serving and Helping.

I've never been a priority. But it's time for that to change. Which means it is time for me to make that change for myself. I matter. My life matters. My needs matter. Self care matters.

And I can ask for help.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Old Thoughts, Fresh Feelings

I haven't blogged in a long time. I wrote this post last fall, eight or nine months ago and never posted it. It seemed too raw, like too much pain to share. I was in a place of being so overwhelmed and exhausted and hurting so badly and all the circumstances putting me there were still too close to home to share. When I logged back in to the blog today and re-read this post I had to confront the reality that I still feel the exact same way. Life is different and circumstances have changed (for example, I now have an actual place to live instead of crashing on the floor of a gracious and generous friend), but I still feel overwhelmed and exhausted, like I have given everything I have with nothing left but no choice but to keep giving. I journaled yesterday that when I really pause long enough to be honest with myself, I want to run away and start again so I can put the stress and drama behind me. It's like I'm juggling so many balls I can barely keep them in the air, and more keep getting thrown in, and I wish I could just drop them all and become something other than a juggler. 

I wanted to share this old blog. Because I think it's good to be open and honest about our struggles, and because I'm trying to be better at "not being okay." And because this blog still applies. And because reading my words from nearly a year ago and realizing I still feel the same way as I did then tells me that something needs to change...maybe I'll become a hula hooper next.


I can't do it anymore. 

I just...

I just can't. 

I have screamed those words. I have repeated them over and over in the overwhelming medley of stressful thoughts swirling my brain. I have whispered them through uncontrollable sobs. I have prayed them. Hurled them at God in a demand to know why I am where I am.

I don't know if I have ever felt so exhausted as I have in the last month or two. Or maybe I've simply never allowed myself to be so exhausted, so worn out. I am completely spent. I simply have nothing left to give.

If you know me much at all, there are a few things about me you have probably figured out: I am insanely busy, like I'm always going and doing and moving from one thing to the next. I am usually put together (emotionally at least, because yoga pants and workout clothes are life). I let people in to a point. I am very always. And if you've gotten a bit closer to me, you may have started to see The Wall that is up around me all of the time. A Wall I have only recently begun to realize still existed (apparently these constructs exist in layers, go figure I only tore down a few).

I am all of these things, or at least I think that I am. Believe I've managed to fool everyone into thinking I've got this life on lock-down and "I'm good, I'm fine, I'm great," all of the time. No, I don't need your help. Because yes, I can do this on my own. Because no, I don't need anyone else. Because yes, I am strong enough.

But sometimes life happens so many times and in such rapid succession that you can't hold it together and you find yourself sobbing frequently in your car in the middle of the night because there's nowhere else to cry. Or breaking down in a coffee shop. Where people can see you. Or parking your car on a sunny suburban street some Sunday afternoon, bawling and incoherently babbling to your mother on the phone while suburbanites walk by two (or six) times trying to subtly "not stare." Which definitely hasn't happened, multiple times, nope. Definitely not.

Some difficult, unexpected, and painful life circumstances both recently and over the course of the last few years have left me just empty. Just absolutely, utterly spent.

And suddenly Miss Always Strong Enough Who Can Do It All Herself Because She's Afraid Of Needing People Because They Will Almost Definitely Leave As Soon As They Actually Get To Know Her is actually not strong enough. And despite being rejected a few painful times, she still has to ask for help and be vulnerable and risk being let down or let go again.

All I'm left with is to admit it. To actually acknowledge that I do not have it all together all of the time. That I am a mess. That I have no idea what I am doing and no idea how it will all work out. That I have no clue how to fix my life this time, and all my attempts crash and burn (or graciously don't work out because they would actually have been terrible. Thanks Man).

I'm so damn tired. I guess all the giving and doing caught up with me. The ever-present need to always do better, improve, be the best version of myself, and hold myself together all the time was too much. Too much pressure, too much effort. Thinking you have to be perfect all the time is exhausting, folks. Don't do it.

I've always been an extrovert who chose some introvert time for personal growth and general emotional and spiritual health. Rarely was alone time an absolute necessity to survival. Recently, I've never longed for personal space and alone time more in my life. I usually can, want to, and in fact need talk all of the time (...just ask my mother/boyfriend/friends/whoever I'm closest to at the time). Recently, I feel out of words. Or just too tired to say them.

This has resulted in me understanding when people talk about their need to be alone as introverts. I never understood, and honestly had some frustration with it earlier in my life. I figured that everyone could pull it together for a few hours and fulfill their commitments. Because I usually can "turn on" the extroverted, outgoing, present person and just bury whatever emotion or exhaustion would inhibit me from showing up. Apparently that is not how all humans operate, and the last few months have taught me to both have grace for others and, more importantly, grace for myself.

I've been so angry with myself.

So angry that I couldn't pull it together. So angry that I couldn't do it all on my own. So angry that I've "let myself" be so deeply wounded by old friendships and rejection. So angry that I have issues with vulnerability and control that permeate my life in deep, shameful ways. So angry that I can't fix myself. So angry that I pay for counseling and I'm not fixed yet. So angry that I'm not doing better.

Essentially, I'm angry at myself for being a human being.

A broken, beloved human being.

"Beauty from ashes," a friend reminded me today. Things don't "happen for a reason," a God who does that would be sadistic and cruel. But beauty comes from the charred remains of things that once were, if we open ourselves to the beauty.

I'm broken. I'm breaking.

And also I am perfect in my beloved brokenness. These two, seemingly uncompromising truths can exist in the same being. Our souls are some beautiful mixture of oil and water swirling together, separate but one.

I suppose all I'm really saying is that I'm not okay. And that is okay. And in me learning to accept and love the Katy who cannot do it all and is not always okay is what will lead me to the most okay, whole version of myself I can possibly be.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Confession

I must confess that in a world of wounds and war
I have contributed to division

In a world where people are wrapped up in their own pain and fear
I have allowed my own fear and anger to control me
putting up walls between myself and those I disagree with
those whose opinions anger me
sadden me
and make me fearful

I’m heartbroken by opinions and politics that propose great walls 
to keep out the immigrant, demonize the refugee
And yet I do the same
turning those with whom I disagree into an enemy
allowing perspectives and politics I deem as hateful
to stop me from seeing a fellow human being

It’s easier to create stories
than to listen
So I’ve written stories about those people
decided they are evil, racist, hateful
These stories are safer, easy
then I don’t have to see real, hurting people

I must confess that in a world divided by pain, fear, and loss
my words have not been invitational, my actions push away instead of draw near 

I want to rage
I want to scream
demonize the other
and not see a fellow hurting human
not pause long enough to acknowledge that pain renders us irrational
and perhaps we’re all just hurting too much to function clearly

I have to be honest that
I don’t want to listen
Don’t want to stop and hear the stories
Don’t want to ask questions
Don’t want to seek to understand
those it would be easier to simply hate

Because it is easier to keep “those people” “over there”
where I don’t have to know them
understand perspectives, sympathize with pain
If I choose to see brother instead of enemy
I suddenly must see the violence in my own heart
No longer can I blame and say “how dare they” 

I must confess that my heart does not always desire unity, and that I have not always pursued it
But my first step towards peace, is saying I’m Sorry

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Tired of God

Tired of God

photography & poetry © katy owens

Sometimes I’m tired
of a God who just cares

As the world dissolves
in pain, injustice, and tears
I demand to know 
where God’s been all these years 

And with every 
Where are you God?
The answer always an infuriating 
I’m right here with you

And sometimes I’m tired
of a God who is just with us 

I want more
I want what I deem as better
I want action and grand displays of power
from the stable-born humble babe in a manger 

Come down from that cross and
they taunt while silent Jesus
surrenders spirit and dies

He invited our violence, met insatiable power-thirst
with radical display of surrendered power and love 

Prove yourself, I continue to demand
Your mere presence doesn’t show it enough
And he looks me in the eyes, says
kill me, in three days I’ll rise

But God don’t you know they see you so poorly
And I scream for great displays of glory 
from a God with no need 
to satiate their ego

And humble human killed-on-a-tree Jesus is here

God with us. God with you. God with me.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Jesus and Voting for Donald Trump

Everyday my newsfeed seems full of Donald Trump. Now because he is officially the Republican nominee for president of the United States. This alone is unbelievable and horrifying, but far more harrowing is the resurgence of Facebook posts and blogs from people asserting that God told them to support Donald Trump.

Now I'm pretty sure if Jesus was here on earth he wouldn't be engaging too much in politics. I am quite confident if Jesus was here today he would be spending time with those in poverty, seeing the people often unseen by society, acknowledging and validating people's humanity, and engaging in the lives and stories of those marginalized for their skin color, sexuality, or religion.

I'm not sure if Jesus would vote or not, so I'm not going to be one to say who he would vote for. But I'm very sure that if Jesus were to vote, he would not vote for Donald Trump. 

You can tell me that I don't know that, because I'm not God. And this would be true. I cannot speak for God. But I can talk about the Jesus I know, and I can assure you the things that Donald Trump says and does are vastly out-of-line with the way of Jesus Christ. 

Jesus spent his time with those hated most by society. He spent time with the hungry and sick. He spoke to women, which was already radical because he actually stopped to acknowledge their equal humanity, but he went even farther and spoke to the women no one associated with. He touched people who were sick and dying, often making himself "unclean" according to the religious tradition of the day just to with with someone cast out by society. He entered the homes of the "sinner," and spent so much time with those on the margins that the people in power whispered about him behind closed doors. 

Jesus spoke with such radical love and inclusivity that it threatened hierarchical power structures and got him killed. Donald Trump sits at the top of a pyramid of power, using his power to further marginalize, using fear to control people, and spreading hatred and lies. 

Jesus went to those cast out and built relationships with them, the very ones Donald Trump promises to keep and kick out of this "great country." 

In fact, in line with Donald Trump's racism, xenophobia, anti-semitism, lack of compassion for the poor, and so much more, Jesus probably wouldn't even be allowed to enter the United States. 

But if he made it in, I think Jesus would spend time with Donald Trump. Not out of support, because nothing about the way of Jesus in line with what Donald Trump stands for, but because Jesus acknowledged the humanity of everyone. Jesus ate dinner with the oppressed and the oppressor. He ate dinner with the tax collectors too, the ones taking advantage of the system and using it to further themselves while stealing from those already too poor to pay taxes to the government, much less the additional "fees" added on by the tax collectors that went into their own pockets. Jesus spent time with them too. And his love for them, willingness to engage with their humanity also, changed the hearts of the tax collectors (like Matthew) who followed him. I do not believe Jesus would ever vote for Donald Trump, but I think he'd at least try to have dinner with him. 

Whether Trump would ever accept the invitation to dinner with a Middle Eastern poor man is another question entirely. 

Monday, July 18, 2016


Up and down Broadway
Passing along Colfax
This broken, battered world
Is close enough to touch
In the shirtless man
Pushing a shopping cart
Still groggy from last night's
Watched a group of three
Cross busy street
Sleeping bags dangling
From bags overstuffed
With all their belongings
A man unfolds himself
From a pile in a doorway
A concrete corner can't
Be a restful place to lay one's head
People passing by, shouting, prodding
Sharing insults to remind that
In their eyes you're less
Than human

Battered souls
Living on hard concrete floors
Beneath benches, under trees
Holding cardboard signs on street corners
Begging to be seen

Just broken beings
Hurting humans same
As you or me
And once you've stopped
To truly see them
They will remain forever seen

Because we're all just
Broken beings
Divine in you
Divine in me
So take a moment
Stop and see
The man in the doorway
And pushing shopping carts down Colfax
The group of three

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Anything Helps

I drove by a shopping cart as I turned onto my street, full of someone’s worldly goods, brown cardboard sign poking out from the top. It was haloed in light from the street-light above. I didn’t see anyone nearby.

Last night I passed the same shopping cart piled high as I got off the highway. It was just a few hundred yards away from where it sat tonight. 

Someone “lives” in this area, parking all their belongings as they try to catch a few moments of rest. Likely struggling to truly sleep, racked with anxiety their cart will have been taken away come morning. I wonder, as the owner flew their sign earlier today, did they make enough money to find a cheap place to stay? Some shitty motel with a low rate, anywhere slightly cleaner and more comfortable than the hard concrete. 

I simply cannot fathom keeping everything I own in a shopping cart. Honestly, I can’t fathom owning so little it all fits into a shopping cart. 

I can’t imagine what it is like to have to fly a sign all day, standing at the corner of the exit off I-25, not only wanting to make some money, but also longing for someone to look my way and acknowledge my presence, my humanity. Standing there as people are waiting at the red light. Awkwardly fidgeting, avoiding eye contact, praying the light turns green so they don’t have to sit here and pretend I’m not there because they don’t have any cash, or they don’t want to give it, or they think I’m a lazy bum, or they just feel guilty that they have while I have not. 

I can’t imagine what that’s like. 

Yesterday I was driving back from my shift at Network, a coffee shop centered around providing a safe, humanizing space for Denver’s homeless. A place to just be present, enjoy friendships, drink too much coffee. I’d just spent hours practicing presence with the homeless, and as I drove down Grant and turned a corner, I realized there was a homeless man standing on the corner with his sign who I had barely seen until I’d already passed by. 

I spend my weeks engaging with the poor and building friendships with the homeless and I still barely saw him. 

We’re so conditioned in our society to ignore what makes us uncomfortable, to pretend that which is not right simply does not exist (for to acknowledge it would mean having to address it). It’s far easier to dehumanize the “other,” because if I have compassion and begin to actually see another human being, I can no longer excuse their suffering. 

There is so much injustice in this broken, hurting world. When these injustices are happening to a far-off group of “others” who I have no personal connection with, I can speak in lofty terms, pass judgments, and create grandiose hypothetical solutions for the human beings I’ve never met. But when someone goes from a nameless, faceless being to a person I know by name, the hypothetical solutions and lofty conversations are now about my friend. 

We must begin to see the Imago Dei in each and every human being we encounter - whether we love them or not. There are people in this world who I would rather hate. I want them to just be evil, because that would be simpler. Bad people are bad, therefore I do not have to love them. This releases me from humanizing my enemy. But the truth of God is that every single human being in this world is a Child of God, made in God’s Good Image. Even if they are deeply broken and twisted at this time, the core of humanity is still a Good Creation. And when we acknowledge this, that we are all Beloved Children, then I can no longer demonize the other or the perceived enemy. I can no longer hold those I deem bad at arm’s length, because we have the same core identity.

When I see the shopping cart glowing in the late-night street lights, and I pause to think about the Child of God who pushes it around, holding a cardboard sign reading, “Anything Helps,” I must begin to also see myself. 

I too am a beggar. While my physical needs are met and I have been afforded much in my life, my beggar is within. What would my sign say if I stood there on the street corner? My shopping cart full of my insecurities and bad relationships, piled high with poor decisions and all the ways I try to earn love, affection, and worth, all covered up in a blanket of doing good things for the wrong reasons because I’m afraid I won’t be loved if I don’t. My sign begging for love, pleading to be wanted, asking for security and success. “Help, I’m addicted to affirmation. Won’t believe I’m enough on my own. Can’t seem to get clean.”

We are all human beings created in the Image of God. We’re all beggars in some right, suffering from loneliness and racked with addictions trying to fill the void. The question is if we will choose the humility to see it. 

That shopping cart could so easily be mine, on the corner of lonely and hopeless under a street light in the foggy night.