Learning to Love Myself -An Experience at the Gay Christian Network Conference

I came to the Gay Christian Network (GCN) conference exhausted, wondering if I had the capacity to handle the mental, physical, and emotional roller coaster I knew would result, and it didn’t disappoint. I left feeling even more drained than when I arrived. I felt like I was leaving behind my support system. I missed working with GCN over the summer for my internship; I missed the conversations and being a part of something that meant so much to me. Being back in this space with these people was a surreal experience and I didn’t want it to end. I hated that I was going back to Missouri, back to graduate school where I doubt every decision I make and it brings out the worst in me. I was going back to feeling alone even though I was going to be surrounded by a plethora of people who support me and love me. The conference leaving me with the question, “WHY do I feel so tired?”

If you know me you know I connect with God the most through service and activism. I enjoy doing small things like parking in the back of the parking lot so people who are less able have better access to where they need to be. I buy the fruit that looks imperfect in hopes that less food will be wasted in the long run. A kind of silly example was at the GCN conference After Party when I was placed in charge of the wristbands. I was meticulously placing each wristband on people trying to make sure it wasn’t too tight and I didn’t get any of their arm hair. I was able to keep up with the person checking people in (for the most part) so I thought my system was pretty efficient. I can’t tell you the number of people who thanked me for taking the time to do that. And that’s exactly what I wanted to happen; I wanted them to know they were worth those few extra seconds.

I care deeply for people and I strongly believe story matters. When someone expresses emotions, I experience that emotion. When they express pain, I feel physical pain. I feel privileged to be a part of those moments no matter who it is.

However, when I was asked at the conference to interview for a video sharing more about 12472674_10153835361139732_6794971693057565261_nmy story with GCN, I felt this resistance. Even after the people who would be interviewing me lovingly shared what they would be asking and tried to put me at ease, I couldn’t do it. I began to cry, not understanding why I was feeling this way, feeling immense guilt. After reflecting, I can now identify why I felt resistant to sharing. I didn’t actually believe my story matters. Kind of ironic considering while I was at the 2015 conference my biggest revelation was that my story did matter.

 The thing is, this isn’t anything new. This is something I have battled with a majority of my life. It’s frustrating that yet again; I’m back in the same place. And if I’m going to be honest, I feel like people are frustrated with me having this pattern in my life. I mean, really, how many times does someone have to tell me that I matter before I finally get it? The question I keep asking, why does this keep happening to me?

While at the conference a friend said two words to me that stuck, “Be good.” TWICE! Which left me thinking, “What the hell does that mean?” When I asked for clarification they responded with this: “Be good to yourself. You work so hard for others. Give the same to yourself. You need it and are worth it.” I don’t know if they know this, but I had an ugly cry in that moment (although I was crying all of the time at that point). It was then I realized I didn’t believe I was worthy of love nor that I was worth being taken care of, and this was why I was so exhausted leaving the conference.

I returned home from working with GCN for 3 months last summer to a campus full of tension after graduate students had been informed we would have to figure out a way to pay for our own health insurance. Rallies and protests became the norm. I poured my heart and soul into my work and I barely had time to process the cultural and community shift I experienced moving from Raleigh back to Columbia. I didn’t have time to process any of the pain I endured since I had come back. Seeing people I knew in public spaces, preparing to greet them, only to be ignored after making eye contact. People gossiping about me without actually asking to hear my story. People I thought cared about me ended communication with me altogether. The overwhelming message being “You are not worthy of my time.”

As the daughter of a gay parent it is rare for me to meet anyone like myself, especially within the Christian community. Much of my time is spent wondering where I belong. Do I belong in the LGBTQ community? Am I an ally? I don’t feel like an ally… What am I, really? There are times when I seriously wonder; do people even want to hear my story? Do other adult kids of the LGBTQ community, or even LGBTQ parents, really want to have this conversation? Am I the only the one, along with the few people I know who are the children of LGBTQ parents, who feels this strong desire to meet other people of faith like me?

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Says: “In appreciation for her outstanding dedication and service above and beyond to the call of duty for the members of The Gay Christian Network”

When I received the The Brian Eckstein Faithful Servant Award, it meant a lot to me. Even though it was an honor to be recognized in that way, what meant more to me was that I felt I belonged somewhere. That I matter. I wish I could say that I feel differently now after such a heartfelt gift, and there are some days I do. But more often than not, I feel this doubt plaguing me like a dark cloud. I keep that plaque next to my coffee pot, a little ray of hope, so that way every morning when I get my required cup of coffee I am reminded of the community I do have and to keep going despite my doubts.

Many of us who have been marginalized have been told repeatedly we do not matter, our experiences aren’t real, our stories do not matter.

Many of us who work in social justice give so much into the things we are passionate about that we often forget to take time for ourselves and feed our soul with love and care in the midst of the endless opposition we face.
The end result often being us in a discouraged state, wondering why we are even here in the first place.

During his keynote at the conference, Justin Lee brought up a quote that makes frequent appearances throughout the Bible while talking about how important it is for Christians in the Church to be empathetic toward those who have experiences different from their own:

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

However, there is an important aspect to this quote I think we often overlook, a couple of questions we need to ponder. How do we love our neighbor fully if we do not think we, ourselves, are worthy of love? How do we love our neighbor as our self if we do not think we are worthy of being taken care of?

I think it is extremely important for us to love and empathize with those who have different experiences than us. But if I don’t have the energy to do so because I’m not taking care of myself how will I be able to serve others when they need the support?

I think many of us could power through, but as we can see from what happened to me it takes a toll on our souls in the long run and ultimately our ability to love is impacted. I know for me, the small things I enjoy doing for others happen less frequently and I am less aware of the people around me when I am not loving myself. As a result, I’m not able to connect with God in the ways that give me life.

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Pretty sure this is the only pic I took with humans. So there you go.

At the GCN After Party, I was in a place where I felt loved, where I felt wanted, my cup was full. So I was able to do things like putting wristbands on people, even though being an introvert it kind of sucks the energy out of me. I was able to enjoy the people I was surrounded by in that moment.
Conclusion? We all are worth being treated with tender and loving care. We need to give ourselves that gift. I know for many of us it is hard to believe, but in order for us to even begin to be empathetic toward others we need to be actively loving ourselves.

How might loving yourself look? I can’t really say, I think it’s unique to each individual person.

I think, “What’s Next” for me is the following:

  1. Giving myself permission to feel the emotions that may make others and myself uncomfortable. I know for me, even acknowledging that I feel this way about myself is hard. To admit it to other people is even harder. Recently, I contacted a friend when I was at a pretty low point. What I found myself doing was downplaying the whole situation, not because I didn’t trust them but because I didn’t want them to worry and I didn’t want to make them uncomfortable. As a result, they had a false idea of what was really going on with me and were not able to help me in that moment in the ways I needed.
    I have a strong belief that emotions are God-given alarm systems; none of the things we feel are bad or negative. When we experience anger it is an indicator we are protecting something we care deeply about. When we experience sadness there is something deep within us that needs to be acknowledged. When we experience happiness it shows us we are in a temporary space that brings us some amount of joy. Some of these emotions are uncomfortable for us to experience. But in order for others to love us, in order for God to love us in the way we need we have to be honest about how we are really feeling.
    To acknowledge how we feel, to be vulnerable with those we trust isn’t weak. It is brave and courageous.
  2. Recognizing peace is not about eliminating the discomfort I experience but about embracing discomfort as a part of my everyday life.
  1. Collect in the moment all of the things people say that reflect my true nature, and who I am. And go back and read those things when I am at a low point. 
  1. Remind myself of how the Lord sees me and allow that piece of truth in. 
  2. Listen to these songs when I’m feeling crappy.
    “Every Heart” Sara Haze 
    “Read All About It, Part III” Emeli Sandé

My 2015

As I turned in my last essay, signifying the end of the semester, I felt the relief wash over me. “It’s over.” I thought. I now had five weeks of eternal bliss, reading books I wanted to read and crocheting while watching Netflix. I would not use my brain in any way other than creativity. The next morning I found myself waking up in a panic thinking of all the things I had to do before the end of break; a conference, research, job searching, applications, cleaning the mess that was my apartment. I finally settled on cleaning a little bit of my apartment, the weight of the unaccomplished pulling me down as I went.

I have tried to process a year that has passed me by in a blur, words failing me as I attempt to write it out. I debated whether I would write something in the New Year, thinking it wasn’t wise of me. However, here I am, writing. If anything, I have determined I am doing this for myself. If this helps others understand me a little better or even helps them in some way, then that’s a bonus.

It may not come as a surprise to you, but this year has sucked the life out of me. I left a place I called home for many years, not planning to return. I listened to and cared for many people in my life who were/are hurting. And I placed myself in environments where I was challenged to the core. I don’t regret a moment of it. I have made discoveries about myself that I would not otherwise. However, I was so busy trying to learn and challenge myself that I forgot to stop. I forgot to stop and listen, not only God but to the crying of my own soul.

This has been a year of complete uncertainty, my soul repeatedly being beaten down, the pain increasing with each blow. I powered through, ignoring it. Telling myself that I was okay with it. Convincing myself this was the price I had to pay.

When I finally allowed myself to stop, I began to write, the words flowing out in a cathartic mess. One night I sat absorbing the worship music I had once enjoyed and found myself crying uncontrollably, praying the words. As I prayed, I slowly felt the weight of the year ease off my shoulders.

For most of 2015 God felt distant. Not distant from me, but me distant from him. I had hurt for so long that I didn’t want to approach the mess I knew was deep inside. I refused to talk about it with anyone, holding onto the secrets with an iron fist. I needed to be strong and I needed to be compassionate. Yet the feelings I had were ugly… and I determined no one would want to experience that.

But… He was there the entire time, waiting… sometimes calling my name, pulling me toward him, only to have me back away, tears in my eyes, ashamed of what I considered to be dark.

He waited… waited for me to come to him, poised and ready to take on the burden that had been plaguing me for so long. Allowing me to continue suffering in the darkness as I stubbornly refused to let Him in. As I refused to look at what was happening deep within my heart.

I am so thankful for those moments when I do let go and let it be with Him. They remind me of a time before these 2 years happened. When my faith was much stronger than it is now. When I allowed the discomfort and mess into my relationships, into my relationship with God. When I had begun to experience peace.

I wish I could say that after all of this I feel better. But I am still tired… and feel the weight of the incessant expectations I place on myself. Perhaps that’s disheartening and you wonder if I’m attention seeking. If you do, I can’t stop you. But I think this quote from a friend could help. It captures how I feel right now, and I hope his words will seep in and help you understand me and where I am.

“This is the tale of my story through, and eventual healing from, a very long, dark night. One reviewer of this book suggested that I offer a light at the end of the tunnel sooner than I do. He wondered why I waited so long to introduce hope. One might ask the same of the biblical book Job. Why so many chapters before a resolution?
Because that is the way the story happened.”

–Matt Rogers, “Losing God”

At this point in time, I’m not at the end of this Part of my story. I’m not ready for the page break.
I wish it could be like the Harry Potter books where at the end of the year we have some sort of resolution or clarity but alas, this is not the case (I smile every time I read this sentence).

I enter into the New Year with a deep desire to be at peace with myself and the path I have chosen. I have been asking God, “What are some things I can do while I wait?”

And I have felt the prompting on a few things:

  1. Engage in Play. My life has always been a serious one. Darkness always seems to snuff out the light. Laughter has become a rarity. I miss that part of myself… I wish to engage with it a little more.
  2. Read fiction. I’m taking a break from the many greats in nonfiction and have given myself permission to read fiction. Armistead Maupin and Jane Austen being two I cannot wait to start. I want to read stories with characters who are real, not flawless. These stories, despite being in a fictional world, can help make our world a better place. There are lessons to be learned everywhere.
  3. Write daily. This was one of my goals last year and I just didn’t do it. Fear held me back. I want to have the courage to write and process my feelings. Even the ones that make me feel uncomfortable.
  4. Find a new church home. It’s time. It is time to move forward.

These are invitations to my friends as well. If you have gotten this far… then you probably have a real interest in my personhood and me. If you would like to provide recommendations or even engage in any of these activities with me… please, don’t hesitate to contact me.

And finally… I will leave you with a quote that has brought me much comfort as I wait:

“Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and let it be there. Until some light returns.”
– Anne Lamott

It wasn’t all bad though. Here are a few of my favorite moments from 2015:

My sister graduating college.

This sweet dog being in my life over the summer.

North Carolina beaches.

My regular Saturday breakfast spot in Raleigh.

The North Carolina Symphony.

Being reunited with this lady.

Just Hope. 

Having the opportunity to work for GCN.

Participating in many rallies throughout the fall. 

Citizen Jane Film Festival.

Visiting Duke gardens.

Playing with this pup.

Meeting Sharon Shattuck Eaves

This moment… This press conference. 

Seeing Nate Ruess, Michael Franti, and Third Eye Blind

Finally getting my nametag.

 

Seeing plays.

PRIDE.

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Visiting this guy in Fargo

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Poor quality picture of GCN Conference.

To Pro-Lifers Who Want to Defund Planned Parenthood

Go for it. Exercise that right to freedom of speech. That freedom to create change and back only the things that support your morals. I fully support you in utilizing your rights. But I ask you to think about one thing before you make such a major decision. Because this defunding of a national organization is going to have dire consequences whether you choose to believe it or not. I would like for you to think about the number of lifesaving services provided within Planned Parenthood that you will be ending. Services that actually help in preventing abortions.

But let’s take abortion off the table, because Planned Parenthood more than an “abortion clinic”. They provide contraceptives, preventative care, and so much more. If you choose to defund such an organization, all of these needed services within our communities will no longer be available to women who cannot afford it.

Let’s use the PAP smear as an example. Getting a regular PAP is imperative to a woman’s health. I personally am someone who needs to get a PAP regularly because I have a higher risk of getting cervical cancer than other women. This kind of preventative care could save my life in the long run and I am very lucky in that I can receive preventative care at an affordable rate. Some women do not have that luxury and places like Planned Parenthood provide this for them.

However, this form of preventative care can be dehumanizing to women if not done properly. I had one such experience when I went in for my first PAP. I was told repeatedly to “calm down” and “just relax” while they did nothing to try and help me relax. I felt like I was being told that I was over-reacting to an unwanted object being shoved into my cervix. At the time I didn’t realize how wrong it was for me to have an experience like this and that it didn’t have to be that way. I didn’t realize that I have the right to be treated with care and love.

Here’s the issue with defunding Planned Parenthood. We need places like Planned Parenthood who will provide these services to women who need access to that care. We need places like Planned Parenthood to provide these services that place women in such vulnerable positions and will not degrade them.

So, before you defund something like Planned Parenthood…. I suggest you figure out a way to make up for the services that will be lost. If we don’t do that, then we are failing our daughters, mothers, sisters, grandmothers, and friends, all over our country.

To the Children of LGBT Parents: Marriage Equality is for Us Too.

I remember it vividly. I was 17, sitting in the computer lab of our business class, and the teacher had left the room when suddenly a student blurted out, “All gays should die.” I sat there feeling the heat begin to rise to my cheeks. Years of listening to people saying such hateful things bubbling to the surface.

What this kid didn’t know was my own mother had came out to me only a couple of months before. The wounds were fresh. My senses heightened to all of the derogatory language that surrounded me in such a small town high school. I couldn’t keep the anger in any longer. So I yelled. I yelled, “YOU have NO idea who you are talking about when you say that! NO idea who you are impacting!”

Tears began building in my eyes and I’m sure a few escaped down my cheeks. There was a stunned silence. Kaitlyn, the quiet girl, the girl who doesn’t challenge, the girl who gets along with everyone… yelled. And not just that, she spoke up for something that a majority of the people in room disagreed with. The kid stared at me. I looked back at him, my eyes daring him to say something, anything. I knew he regretted what he said, I could see it even if he couldn’t identify it. He muttered something about faggots and looked away. I went back to my work and didn’t say another word the rest of the class period.

This…. this is what I’ve had to sort through for most of my life. I have sat through whole sermons of pastors, who I deeply respect, speaking on how a family unit is incomplete without a both a father and a mother. That the children who are raised in an environment different from that are missing something important. And I, once again, am reminded that I am “different”. That my family is “different”.

And you know what? My family IS complex according to our societal norms. My dad gets along great with my mom’s partner. All of us, including both of my parents’ partners, can have dinner together and it isn’t awkward. (Waiters/waitresses often don’t know what to do with our bill) 

We certainly have our flaws (just like ANY other “normal” family), but I do consider myself blessed with the family I have and I do not wish it to be any other way. This, all of this, has shaped me into who I am today. I am me because of what we, as a family, have gone through.

Don’t get me wrong. I have experienced a lot of shame in relation to this part of my life. But slowly, I am beginning to see I am enough. That my story matters. That God loves me unconditionally along with my non-nuclear family in tow.

After the SCOTUS decision, I felt numb. I wanted to be as excited as everyone else. I even posted a facebook status saying I was experiencing “all of the feels”. And to an extent, I think I was. I just didn’t know what they were. It wasn’t until I got on Facebook this morning and saw all of the rainbows that I began to cry. I was overwhelmed by the amount of support flowing through social media out at me. Telling me: “You are loved. Your family is loved.”

Marriage equality is for us too, the kids of the LGBT parents. We get to celebrate with our parents after the pain we as a family have endured. We get to experience the joy of watching our parents marry after that extra-long engagement. We get to experience the Love that has been overflowing throughout the world.

So thank you. Thank you to everyone who has shown support to our families. Thank you to everyone who has celebrated with us.

Goodbye, Missouri. Hello, North Carolina!

Since I have a lot of people wanting me to keep them updated, I thought I would do so through the good old blog that I barely post anything to. Let’s jump right in.

First, I have not moved permanently moved to Raleigh. I am here for the summer for my two internships at The Gay Christian Network and The American Sexual Health Association. Second, I have not left Woodcrest. I still plan on attending when I get back at the end of the summer. 🙂 Now that we have sorted that out…

I knew coming into this that I would have a really hard time transitioning. I’ve never been much for change. As a kid, I would get severely homesick and cry every single night I was away. As a teenager, I acted out when I felt bombarded by the changes that had become a part of my life. Now, I am able to handle it without running to my room, slamming my door, and blasting my music. Much, I am sure, to the delight of my roommates.

Speaking of roommates, I have them now. That has been an adjustment. From living on your own with your furry cat child, to roommate of 3 other people. I’ve finally gotten the hang of closing the door when I go to the bathroom, now I just have to remember to take my clothes in with me when I shower.

The first week I spent getting used to said roommates, the city, and meeting a shit-ton of new people at my internships. (By shit-ton I mean like 5 people at each place) Meeting new people, in a new place, with no friends to go home to…. my anxiety was through the roof. One of the “many” people I met was Justin Lee. I walked into the meeting room unknowingly about to meet him. I walked in, saw him, and immediately my bladder turned to the size of a walnut. Being the genuinely nice guy he is, he started asking me how I was doing and where I was living. I — standing there shaking and feeling about ready to pee my pants — naturally told him I didn’t know (even though I knew exactly where I lived). While he looked up my address on his phone, I sat down willing my bladder to expand and tried to breath without sounding like I was hyperventilating and about to die. Best first impression ever. Have I ever mentioned how awkward I am? Meeting new people: not one of my spiritual gifts.

However, I do want to give a shout out to my friends who have been there for me as I’ve been adjusting. AKA I’ve been texting them constantly because I have felt lonely and keep telling them that they need to come out here NOW because I need them. I’m of course kidding, I wouldn’t expect them to drop everything they are doing with their lives just to appease me *I wish there were a way to show my imagined facial expression*.
I also want to thank my parents for being so supportive of me pursuing my dreams all these years. I truly appreciate their support and this whole experience would not be possible without them. Literally.

As I have adjusted I have found a church that I think I will continue to attend throughout the summer. North Raleigh Community Church. I am hoping to learn a lot from the way they “do church” and bring it home with me. The more liturgical aspects are different from any other church I have attended. The service is structured in a way of worship that is different every Sunday. There is a time during service for dialogue between the pastor and the congregants. There is a huge focus on the enneagram and how that plays in community and spiritual friendship. It’s different, and different is exactly what I need right now. I miss my Woodcrest family — along the many people I love and care for back home — very much and I wish you could join me here, every day.

I finally feel myself becoming acclimated to Raleigh and am beginning to fall in love with it. 🙂 I have had the joy of finding this quaint little place in North Raleigh that I have frequented on multiple occasions. I have attended Summerfest with the North Carolina Symphony and enjoyed listening to some of my favorite classics along with a rendition of 80’s hits. I have been running throughout the suburban streets of Raleigh, thoroughly enjoying the excessive amounts of trees and hills (I will have to share pictures to give you a better idea of what I mean). And I look forward to the many more adventures that this summer holds, which will hopefully include Washington D.C., the beach, the mountains, and many other cool things.

If you have questions for me, please feel free to ask and I will answer them in an email.

My Great Performance.

I wish we didn’t feel the need to walk into a room and throw down our ace cards—cards like what we do, what we’ve accomplished, who we know, and so forth. I wish we could just walk into a room and feel connected because we’re human, because we’re walking miracles regardless of our jobs and accomplishments. That would be a good world.

-Donald Miller, http://storylineblog.com/2015/01/28/do-you-only-matter-because-of-what-you-do/

I posted this quote a few weeks ago on facebook. At the time it was something that was encouraging to me. Now, after reading more of Donald Miller’s book “Scary Close”, it brings discomfort into my life. The reason? I think that I use what I do to receive love from people.

When I initially got the book, I was excited to be reading about intimacy and ways to improve that part of my life. I knew that I struggled with intimacy but what I didn’t realize was how much of a hard outer shell I had created over the years. I went from having no boundaries and letting everyone in, to having such strict boundaries that it’s nearly impossible for anyone to see the whole package that is Kaitlyn.

Outwardly I project someone who is confident, wise, independent, and intelligent. And I have taken a ton of pride in that part of myself, to the point that I think if I don’t project that side then I’m not lovable. When thinking about that, I’m reminded of this 6 year old girl who just wants to feel validated and known, but fears it because that means people will see the mistakes she makes. It’s amazing to me that I started worrying about this stuff when I was 6, that I started experiencing shame then. And it’s very disheartening.

A way I perform is through my writing. It took me a long time to admit that to myself. In writing I control what I say and how much others see of me. I can share only the parts of myself that I think sound beautiful and creative. And I dislike how manipulative that makes me sound. It causes people to question me and what I write about. And I don’t think what I write about isn’t true…. I think I am being honest. But I also think that because encouragement is such a major affirmation for me that I have turned to my writing, made it “perfect” (when it’s really not), and made it into one of the only ways that I can receive love. Creating this false sense of intimacy for myself.

This is one reason why it takes me forever to get anything done… my perfectionism is one of my worst qualities. I have been combating it for years and often it seems I will never get past it. I fear people not liking what I do to the point that I often don’t finish.

I don’t have any magic words to make this all okay. Nor do I have a step by step process of what I need to go through. Life isn’t like that anyway. All I know is that this is a mess that I wasn’t expecting and I am intrigued to see what I learn about myself and my relationship with God in the process.

Tips from a 24-year old Grad Student on Liquid Computer Disasters

Here are some tips just in case your laptop gets doused by a random liquid of your choice:

1. Turn it off immediately. Don’t just sit there denying that it even happened, continuing what you were doing before. Even if your plans didn’t allow time for a spill and you really need to get a ton of shit done. Turn. It. Off.
2. If you take the computer apart, don’t leave the parts in an easily accessible place. Animals, like say a cat, tend to be attracted to objects they are not supposed to touch. And they might eat them.
3. Be prepared for your relationship with that liquid to change drastically. I am currently drinking tea and having terrible headaches. You do the math.
4. Allow yourself to feel the full spectrum of emotions that will ensue over the next two days. There is guaranteed anger, a few tears, and a ton of anxiety.
5. Pray. Or if you are like me: go to communion, thank The Lord Jesus for his sacrifice, and plead for him to salvage what is left of your data on your computer. Perhaps pray a psalm or two that truly reflect your emotions. The Big Guy really loves that.
6. After that tidal wave of….. Crap. Accept it. I’ve gone through every possible solution and tried to control every bit of this process. Unfortunately, I will just have to wait for another 24 hours and see if my computer is okay. If it is indeed fried, I hope I will at least be able to recover some of the stuff I have written over the years, along with some writing samples. If I’m not able to even do that, I will cry for a very long time and may need a few friends to console me. Eventually, life will go on.
7. And finally, Be prepared for it to be the longest 48 hours of your life.