Don’t ask why—just love people

I think we go through much of our lives with too many questions and not enough answers to satisfy us—especially when the question why is involved.

And now that’s our reality more than ever.

When I was a freshman in high school, I broke my right hand while playing basketball with some guys at the local YMCA. Basketball season was just about to start, and I had been busting my tail for months trying to get ready for it, so that was a pretty big disappointment for my teenage heart. On top of that, I’m right-handed.

I’ve always wanted to be ambidextrous, so I figured it would be a good thing for me to get lots of practice using my left hand for everything (the cast turned my right hand into a claw or paw of sorts, so it was essentially useless to me). I never realized how much I used both hands in so many normally easy tasks until I couldn’t use both of them, and those tasks became much more challenging.

Have you ever tried putting a fitted sheet on your bed while using only your non-dominant hand? Don’t. I remember getting extremely frustrated while trying to make that thing stay in place in each corner and feeling my body temperature actually rise in irritation when I couldn’t do it. My mom came in my room and offered to help, but I wouldn’t let her. Eventually I got it on there, but it took longer than it should have and required way too much effort.

Trying to dry my hair was also a joke. So was geometry. We had a test that required us to draw 3D shapes—something I could barely do with my dominate hand. I’ll never forget what my teacher said to me when I went up to her desk in the middle of the test to tell her that I was struggling with drawing shapes that looked anything like they were supposed to: “Life’s tough sometimes, huh? You’re just going to have to deal with it.”

And she was right. I may not have appreciated her words (or her tone) in the moment, but I went back to my desk and decided that I was still going to ace that test and show her that I could, indeed, deal with the tough things. I still think about that moment sometimes when I face difficult situations in life, so regardless of whether or not her words of inspiration would cause her to receive phone calls from upset parents if she said them to students in this day and age, they’ve had a lasting impact on me.

I currently only have pictures with my dog. Thanks, COVID.

We’re likely all going through some challenges right now, and they don’t necessarily look the same for everyone. Some people are struggling with job losses or too much time with family or too much time in solitude or frustrations of having to work virtually or fears of having to show up to work each day or losing loved ones or battling racism and injustices or actually contracting the coronavirus or anxieties about the unknowns of the future or a number of so many other things that have absolutely zilch to do with the pandemic. I get it. It’s rough out there right now.

I don’t mean this to sound insensitive by any means, but my geometry teacher was right—we simply have to deal with the tough stuff that life throws our way. It’s definitely not easy. There are way too many uncertainties, and it feels like we receive new or contradicting information almost daily. As a teacher, I hated the way that the school year had to end in May, and I didn’t think that things would still be this bad when it was time for us to start up again in the fall. Yet here we are, just a few weeks away from what is supposed to be the first day of school, and it seems like we’re only hearing that conditions are getting worse by the moment.

It’s easy to sit back and ask why. Why is all of this happening? Why isn’t it going away? Why can’t life be normal again? For the love, WHY?

But we don’t have the answers right now—and we may never.

It’s almost like we’re all trying to put fitted sheets on our beds while using only one hand or draw 3D geometric figures with a hand that can barely hold a pencil correctly. It’s frustrating and sometimes leaves us feeling hopeless and defeated. I truly believe that we’ll get it done, though.

I don’t have all of the answers for the things going on in our world right now. Actually, I really don’t have many answers for many things at all. What I do have is hope. What I do have is trust. What I do have is belief. Most importantly, what I do have—and what we all have—is love.

The other day, I was thinking about how far I’ve come. I don’t say that statement to be boastful, but I used to be a pansy when I was younger, so I consider where I am today a pretty big achievement. By pansy, I mean that I could barely utter a coherent sentence to a guy if I had a crush on him. I wrote about many of these situations in my book, Anything Matches If You Wear It with Confidence, so if you’ve read it, you know that they were all pretty ridiculous. I mean, I hid in a science classroom to avoid saying hi to a guy in the hallway, I couldn’t make eye contact with my crush in detention, I basically ran away when a guy told me that we should talk about “the big elephant in the room” when he found out that I had feelings for him, and the list goes on for longer than I would like to admit.

What I’ve learned, though, is that it’s often much better to be do the things that you’re afraid to do. It’s OK to be afraid, but it’s also OK to be brave in the face of your fears. There are a number of things to be afraid of out there, but there are also a number of times to be brave in those moments when you face them.

We’re all going through our own things, whether there’s a pandemic going on or not. We all have different timelines and responses and reactions and emotions and processes and strengths and weaknesses and personalities and dynamics and so many other things about us that make us who we are. We don’t know everyone’s mind and heart, so it’s probably a good idea that we should have a little grace with each other. It’s the right thing; it’s the brave thing.

When in doubt about what to do or say, just love people—it’s the only answer that makes sense anymore.

When you stop asking “why me?”

As little kids, we constantly ask why many things are the way they are.

Whether we realize it or not, though, we don’t truly change that habit when we’re adults.

Last Friday was not the best day of my life. When I woke up, my right eye was bothering me and had some weird goop coming out of it. Since I moved back to Texas a month ago, I’ve been having weird allergy issues that I didn’t have before I was in California. I figured those allergies were now getting to my eyes, so I put my contacts in and went running. The right eye was leaking weird stuff most of the run, but I thought it would be best to ignore it—I didn’t have time to deal with it.

I briefly glanced in the mirror after I showered and got dressed for work, and I couldn’t decide which looked worse: my hair that I hadn’t washed in seven or eight days (I know—gross) or the eye that was still goopy and getting redder by the second. It also hurt, and if I’m being honest, I had a slight irrational fear that it was simply going to fall out. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t Google how much glass eyes cost. I started thinking of Captain Ron and all of the jokes I could make, but then the fun stopped when I got into my car.

The battery was dead. Perfect.

I stopped the first cute guy I saw in my parking garage (JK—he was actually the first person I saw, but he was for sure a good-looking fella) and asked him if he had jumper cables, but he did not. He came over to look at my car and told me what I already knew: “Yeah, it sounds like the battery.” No kidding, Sherlock. I called Triple A and then had to go get a new battery. By the time I finally made it to work SUPER LATE, I had forgotten that I still had an eye filled with puss and pain until I went into the restroom and saw myself in the mirror. One of my coworkers said it looked like I had pink eye, so then I was sent to work from home since it spreads rather easily.

Pink eye is an evil beast. Also, the picture doesn’t do it justice.

I stopped by an urgent care on the way home, and the doctor there gave me the official diagnosis and a prescription for some antibiotic drops. Here’s one of the big problems with pink eye: It’s highly contagious and shows no mercy on its victims. Because I didn’t know I had it for most of the morning, I hadn’t been careful not to touch my left eye after rubbing my right. It wasn’t long before that same nasty goop was filling up my left eye, as well. By the end of the day, I had two disgusting eyes competing for the title of most painful and obnoxious. I hate you, pink eye. And I mean that. (Also, I didn’t think this was a thing adults get. I’m 34, not 7.)

When I woke up on Saturday morning, for a brief moment, I thought I had gone completely blind. I started trying to figure out how I was going to live the rest of my life with no sight. When my dramatic reaction ended, it took me probably six minutes or so to be able to get my eyes completely open. They were so crusted and dried shut that I’m surprised that I still have any lashes left. I went to look in the mirror, and the shallow part of me almost burst into tears.

You know the scene in Hitch when Will Smith has an allergic reaction, and his whole face swells up and becomes deformed? That’s basically what I saw when I looked at my reflection. My eyes were so completely swollen that I wasn’t recognizable. I didn’t even look like a real human. Thankfully, my eyes were also too swollen and nasty for me to be able to muster up any tears, so I just stared at myself for a few seconds in disbelief until I decided that I needed to go running. I figured that would help the swelling go down.

I essentially had to quarantine myself for most of the weekend, which was slightly depressing (but, as my sister pointed out, considering my lack of rest in the last few weeks, probably a little needed). I slept quite a bit and caught up on laundry—mainly because I needed to decontaminate everything that had come in contact in some form or another with my poisonous eyes.

As I was sitting at home and admittedly moping a bit, I remember making a comment when I was talking out loud to myself about how I felt like Job from Scripture. DRAMA QUEEN MOMENT. I had to stop myself—are you freaking serious, Natalie? He had A LOT more to deal with than I did. Sure, I had pink eye and a dead battery (that was replaced) and a few other things going on that seem like they’re constant plagues in my life, but I was nowhere near as distraught as that man was.

And then I remembered my promise to myself to steer clear of the “why me?” mindset.

I have “Be brave.” tattooed on my arm because sometimes I need the reminder. It isn’t always easy.

When we face situations we don’t want to face and go through the tough things that we really don’t ever want to go through, it doesn’t do much good to sit around and ask ourselves the one question we typically want to know: “Why me?” The truth is that you may never know why what happens to you has to happen to you. Or maybe you won’t know until way later in life. But the why shouldn’t make a difference, because you’re going through it regardless, my friend.

Instead of asking why, ask yourself how—how much faith are you willing to place in a God who will never let you down? Ask yourself what—what are you going to do to be brave and fight the battle you’re facing? Ask yourself who—who do you want to be: the fearful or the fearless?

You don’t necessarily get to choose what happens to you, but you do get to choose how you respond to what you face in life. Whether it’s a dead car battery or pink eye or a much more serious illness or a broken heart or a loss or a shattered hope or an injury or a number of other things that put you in situations in which you never want to find yourself, you get to choose whether you do nothing but ask why or ask the bigger questions that you’re ultimately going to have to answer yourself.

I certainly don’t know why many things are the way they are, but I do know one thing: We were always meant to be brave.