preface · part one · part two · part three · part four · part five · part six  · part seven · part eight

ix. learning to breathe

Not too long ago, an old college acquaintance buzzed across my dating app and I panicked and swiped left. The best word to describe what I felt in that moment is a word I don’t use very often . . . triggered.  He wasn’t supposed to be there; I wasn’t supposed to have to make an executive emotional decision about him. But there he had been . . . and then, he was still on my mind. Days later I found myself hoping his profile would populate again so I could see what he had to say for himself . . .

‘Gideon’ and I got to know each other as UNC freshman riding the Chapel Hill Bible Church shuttle on our way to get ‘welcome bread’ after worship. Even as two bright, wholesome, and relatively mature individuals, we were still very young. Only recently have I understood how underdeveloped I have been.

Fourteen years is a lifetime ago and all I remember is the Switchfoot cover band we never ended up putting together, and being entirely confused as to why my friends construed the two of us casually attending a Lacrosse game together as a date . . . but in our collective ridiculousness, a date meant that Gideon and I were definitely getting married and a non-date was – evidently – a waste of time . . . which is just sad and laughable now. The older I get, the more I understand why people sometimes refer to teenagers as babies . . .

All these years later, all that old pressure to Make A Decision About ‘Gideon’ presented itself in full-force at my fingertips, comically appropriate for so much context and the weight of a person to be condensed into a swipe.

As God has been increasing my emotional awareness, intelligence, and capacity, I’ve become more equipped to address some things and people that I didn’t realize had such a strong impact on my history and who I have become. Taking my triggered distress to God for processing, I realized that Gideon is one of those people . . . perhaps a perfect illustration of the emotional incompetence of my youth . . . my inability to appreciate and enjoy friendships with men, exemplified. It makes for a fascinating case study, really. With two caveats:

  1. I’m aware of how easy it is to idealize what never happened.
  2. There is no definitive proof positive that Gideon was ever “in love” with me as my college friends postulated.

Beyond the allure of nostalgia, though, I wanted to understand why I had panicked . . . twelve years later and ever at all. As I thought about things, I started to realize that what I had felt back then was seen by Gideon. And therefore, exposed. At the time it felt so much safer to pine away after guys that were more aligned with the idealized ‘perfection’ that I wanted to be true of myself; guys that and were somehow unattainable or otherwise barely aware of my existence {classic narcissism & trauma response, ha}. Gideon saw me, and I didn’t know what to do with that . . . I realize that’s a vague and vibey explanation. I think a more concrete example is the fact that he used to call me Rebekkah when I went by ‘Bekkah’ at the time. My friends used to make fun of him for it, and I had totally forgotten about it until recently. Without even having thought of or spoken to him for a decade, and for a host of unrelated personal reasons, I gradually drifted into ‘going by’ my given name to the point where anyone who has met me in the past six years or so doesn’t know me any other way . . .

I also have a faded memory of him making a comment or asking a question once about me doing ‘more’ with my life than being a stay at home mom to which I responded with salty offense and indignation . . . akin to when a songwriting coach asked me if I’d thought about pursuing songwriting as a career and I was like, *lol of course not.* Like the coach, Gideon saw something in me that was there all along when I didn’t see or take it seriously in myself, and my family didn’t seem to either.

So then, of course, a train pulled up to my mental station full of empty what-if seats to choose from . . . what-if I had had the good sense to recognize and appreciate how rare and wonderful and amazing Gideon was instead of ditching our friendship out of pride and insecurity . . . caving to the chaotic fear that came with the college feeling that he was The Husband God Had Picked For Me . . . How different could the last ten years of my life have been?

I call this a case study because it feels like an undergraduate psych final . . . piecing together the components of childhood emotional neglect and its lingering effects, rooted much deeper than I realized . . . a leveled up introspection that makes my historically unsuccessful approach{es} to relationships make sense . . . so I can be free of them.

I am entirely convinced that God would have me get better . . . get better at aspirational authenticity and tempered emotional expression . . . get better at enjoying and appreciating process, and be less affected by the messiness of my own humanity.

As difficult as the past few months {and by few, I mean year+} have been, I am immeasurably grateful that God has taken the time to iron out and remove the emotional wrinkles and pebbles that have skewed my view of the tapestry He’s been spreading out like a picnic blanket; catching the air of spring breezes with the patience to snap it out again.

What a ten years of adulting this has been. To God be the glory for the sweat-equity He has put into my soul.

. . . & &



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