Misanthropic Jo??

First, I offer an apology because this is mainly a rant, and I don’t usually dig the whole ranting thing. But here goes.

I am feeling very misanthropic right now.

mis·an·thrope  (mĭsən-thrōp′, mĭz-) also mis·an·thro·pist (mĭs-ănthrə-pĭst, mĭz-)n.

One who hates or mistrusts humankind.

[French, from Greek mīsanthrōpos, hating mankind : mīso-, miso- + anthrōpos, man.]

[The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.]

That I sometimes hate people might surprise some of you, while others of you may have known it for a year or more. There’s a certain mood I get into sometimes—more than simple introversion (which only requires time alone to “recharge”)—when I am annoyed by just about every person I see. The person doesn’t have to have done anything wrong in the slightest; in fact, it’s usually the most unsuspecting and innocent people who are the subjects of my silent annoyance and unspoken wrath. I apologize, truly. Sometimes I get into a rage against everything, and everyone, including myself. I am first on the list of people I want to get away from. Jo Horton? I would like her to crawl into a hole and disappear from sight for about ten years, until everyone forgets the silly thing she happened to just have said or done.

So it’s mostly out of fear or shame that I have these spells of misanthropy, I guess. When I’m embarrassed, or frustrated at myself, or whatever, I take it out on other people. Usually not with words or actions, but by thinking bad thoughts. Thoughts like “Why doesn’t everyone just go away?” or “I’m tired of having to deal with people.” Awful wishes that, if they came true, would be truly horrible to contemplate. Can you imagine a world without people?

If you can’t, then just imagine your school, your city, or your home—really, wherever you feel you belong—and then think of how it’d be if everyone else did leave you alone. You’d still be there, doing whatever you normally do, but everyone else would have gone away. Terrifying? It is to me, anyway. I wouldn’t have to “deal with people” anymore, that’s true—but just think of the silence that would come. Everything would be so quiet. For me, being quiet would cease to be a luxury; I wouldn’t have a choice in the matter. And when I did speak, there wouldn’t be anyone to listen.

The emotion I said I felt when I started writing this is leaving me, thank goodness. Occasions like this make me very thankful that God doesn’t grant my thoughts or un-thoughtful wishes. I’m glad God knows what I want better than I know.

Things like this blog post are not pretty or nice for me to write—I feel more hesitant to publish this because it makes it more clear that Jo ain’t perfect after all (surprise, surprise!). For some of you, it might seem like I’m over-thinking things—after all, I didn’t really hurt anyone with my (unjustly) impatient thoughts. I didn’t “sin.” Maybe it’s natural to feel a little misanthropic every now and then. It’s certainly more comforting to think so.

It’s not something I should remain in, however. As a Christian, I’m responsible to God for even my thoughts: at the risk of taking a verse out of context [yikes!], Christians are to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5, if you’d like to check my theology—if I did take things out of context, come tell me:) I’m even more certain of this idea when reading Philippians 4:8, where the author provides a handy list of how we are to think:  

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

I’m pretty sure “hate or mistrust of humankind” does not fit under any of those categories. I ought to love God, and love my neighbor, which is all of you, all the time. Thank you for allowing me to get these things out of my system, and I hope it was worth the while you took to read it.

<><Jo

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Some Thoughts on Valentine’s Day

I can’t sleep and that never happens. Not to Jo. Normally I can sleep like a rock (or a grandma, depending on how you want to see it), any time, any place. So I’m going to write (which will, of course, backfire on me because everyone knows a computer screen aggravates insomnia). Oh Well.

I was thinking about Valentine’s Day, as it’s almost exactly a month til and the stores are already red and pink and white and sappy. I like Valentine’s Day, even though I guess, technically, I’ve never “had a reason” to. It’s always been a family day for me; my parents get me and my sisters little gifts, and we give each other Valentine hearts. I’m pretty sure one of my sisters has been my Valentine for the whole decade she’s been alive. Whether you’re one of the ones who’s going to celebrate the day with one special person, or whether you’re one who sort of dreads the day because you’re not, I invite you to celebrate anyway by telling people you love them and appreciate them. It doesn’t just have to be on that one day, either—tomorrow you could try and remember to give an extra thanks to the person who serves you in the cafeteria or the coffee shop—heck, say hey to the janitor (cause they are pretty much the coolest:)

All that got me thinking about a little thing I wrote last year, as a freshman here, about the need both to say what you mean, and, just as importantly, to mean what you say. I was frustrated at the constant use of sarcasm toward friends, which, as I saw it, reflected peoples’ inability to say what they really meant. I didn’t understand why, in order to convey that they loved their friends, some people faked being mean to them, all in a joking, “harmless” manner, of course.

I see a little better now, I guess. It’s hard to open up—to expose your feelings without the assurance that they’ll be returned—that’s scary. And while I don’t usually use the tactics that I observed (observed with such righteous disgust, too;) last year, I do struggle with telling people I love them. I struggle with that a lot, actually. I’m a quiet person by nature—I know this; other people know this; those quizzes on Facebook even know this (which must be conclusive proof!)—and it’s very, very hard for me to open up unless I really trust a person, until I am truly comfortable around that person. Sometimes I think it’s with those people, though—the ones that I value the most—that I keep the most to myself. I think about how much I love them, but might never actually voice it to the person. That is sad, and pathetic, and I’m trying to change that. If I may, though, I will repost what I wrote last year, the year I spent Valentine’s Day in the library with a textbook. I called it, “This is Encouragement, Sheldon…”

I think I’ll start by petitioning my peers: can we stop being fake-mean to our friends? I’ve about had it with stale one-liners hit back and forth across a table of supposed companions. Does it make it more comfortable to pretend to take offense easily? Why the constant, petty insults covered by hasty “just kiddings”—what good can come from being insincere? I suppose I’m being too literal-minded and that it’s all in fun and kidding around. But people can pretend; what if something I said “just kidding” actually ended up hurting a friend, without my realizing it? I can’t help but think it’s part of a deeper issue. People find it difficult to say what they mean. I’ve noticed it in my own habits: I am a noticeably reserved person around those I don’t know very well, because I haven’t learned to trust them. I worry about the smallest flaws people might find in my words; I fear that they will laugh at me, or think ill of me, or simply not have a good impression of me, Jo. I am often just as restrained with the people I care most about—I fear that love will be one-sided, that I will “weird them out” if I tell them how neat I think they are. There are a thousand other tiny fears planted maliciously in my mind, preventing me from saying what I really mean.

Then again, I’ve never been able to stomach those who habitually toss out “I love you’s” without thinking about it. They make acquaintances and, quite suddenly, whoever happens to be in their favor is now their “favorite person.” No, they’re not. Don’t use those words, don’t say “I love you” if you don’t mean it. Overuse cheapens endearments.

My two tirades seem contradictory: one encourages more kind words while the other rages against thoughtless sugary phrases. This is my point: wait until you can say it and mean it. If that’s something negative or critical, then wait until you’re alone and have it out—yell, if it leads to reconciliation. Don’t allow fake cruelty to escape your lips and taint a good friendship. Don’t be fake.

Tell people what you notice about them as you grow to know them better—but don’t carelessly throw out “I love you” to someone you can’t stand. Keep it valuable, and when you can mean it, then say it. Say it often. Say it in different ways—aim to lift the loved one’s soul to the sky.

There is a TV show, apparently, in which one character doesn’t understand sarcasm, so other characters let him know for certain when they are being sarcastic. Can we be just as intentional about making our words uplifting? It would be nice if we were actually nice to each other; if, instead of worrying that we’ll seem—I don’t know— too sweet?— we actually encouraged one another. You do this so well, Sarah. Sean, I love seeing you smile. You are a kind person, Zach. You are a wonderful sister, Esther.    What if we outdid one another in making each other’s days bright and lovely?

What I wrote was not great, but when I couldn’t sleep just now it kept going through my head, and it connected, as it hadn’t before, with all those verses in the New Testament, usually at the ends or beginnings of letters, when the writer tells his audience to “encourage one another” daily, or to “exhort one another,” or to “build each other up in the faith,” so that their “hearts may be encouraged.” All these are phrases from Galatians, Ephesians, Thessalonians—pretty much any of them, really—that indicate that Christians, anyway, are commanded to love each other and make their love known and evident.

I’ll end here, but the other thing that kept going through my head was a thought that sometimes comes, and which may seem morbid to some of you: sometimes I wonder about death, and what would happen if I died. What would happen, I mean, to the ones I’ll leave here—I know where I’ll be. Sometimes I wonder whether the people who’ve hurt me (whether intentionally or not) will be slightly haunted by the lack of resolution on their part—that is the morbid part, I admit it freely. Mostly, though, I wonder whether I’ll have said all I needed to say. I fear, sometimes, that I ignore God’s promptings to encourage somebody who needs it, or that I let opportunities pass when I could make peace with one of those people who’ve hurt me (or with one of the many people I have hurt, in turn). I fear that someday, I will lose the chance to tell my friend, “I love you, just because.” While it won’t be a concern when I’ve left here, that in itself makes it more of a concern now. Let me tell you, and show you, how I love you now, while I can.

Good morning, friends, and thanks for reading:)

Distracted Driving

Some people have asked me how my break’s been/what I’ve done this break/how I’ve been. Usually, I just say “good”/”not much”/”just fine.” But if you want to know the exciting things that have really gone on, then keep reading…

There was a really pretty sunset tonight that I got to see while driving to Gurdon, AR. Right outside of city limits some fields (I’m not sure if they’re wheat or soy) open up so you could see the horizon, and a stretch of sky above the far trees was red and golden. Mellow orange streaks, reminiscent of those sherbet ice cream treats (the ones with the Flintstones pictures on them), became mellower as they extended west, blending with purples and weird blues. The black tree skeletons were framed against the brighter (oddly greenish) gold to the east and the duskier west. I couldn’t stop glancing over, scanning from right to left, east to west–until I saw the full moon rising. It was slightly behind me, which meant I had to turn my head quite a ways to see it. It was yellow, as only wintry full moons are, and very large, like one of those old-fashioned half-dollars with President Kennedy on the front. I was torn–which to look at? The sunset or the moon-rise? Or the road?

Really, it was a “typical” sunset, and my efforts at describing it have been outdone by many others before me. I only wanted to try and capture a little of it in words if I could. I wish you could have seen it, whoever’s reading this.

In other words, nothing’s gone on this break that’s sensational, or exciting in the usual sense. Sunsets happen everyday, everywhere–the difference is that I noticed the one tonight. My break might seem really, really boring to you (it’s seemed boring to me at times too), but maybe there’re a lot of things that seem boring but don’t have to be. G.K. Chesterton developed this idea already when he said that “there are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people.” We spend so much time being bored; it’s a shame we can’t be fully where we are in the moment. I guess I’m trying to say, please notice sunsets, and parents, and younger siblings, and boring rainy days when there doesn’t seem to be much around to notice. Chesterton, again: “The world will never starve for want of wonders;” he said, “but only for want of wonder.”

After school starts back, when I think I don’t have time to stop and wonder–remind me, please.

Let’s go.

Let’s go be. 

Let’s go be amazed.