When Loss Comes Closer

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And only the good die young…

 My mom and I had gone to see Billy Joel at Wrigley Field that Friday, and that was the song he closed with as we began to make our way toward the exit. We stopped for a little bit to dance and sing along with the rest of the boisterous crowd, but part of me was (and still is) unsettled by the song’s popularity. I had a really funny feeling that drove straight into my soul, and I remembered how I had lost a friend from high school to a drunk driving accident three years ago. But as I would come to find out two mornings later, that wasn’t the only reason why.

I will always remember the day he died, and the day I heard the news. On August 27, 2016 I was in Chicago for an unofficial high school reunion, sipping wine on an apartment balcony that overlooked the city. The next day, I was getting ready for a date when I noticed that I had two missed calls from my mom and brother, and they texted that I call them back immediately.

“There’s been a car accident and it was fatal,” my brother said. I called my mom and she confirmed the little that she knew. I don’t remember the actual feeling of being sucker punched, but all I could do was put my hands over my face and cry.

“Why?” I kept asking over and over to the empty bathroom. I had known Connor and his family from the time I was a baby; they were our neighbors and we had all pretty much grown up together. The accident happened during a rainstorm, and he was only twenty-two years old.

I laid down on my bed and instantly grabbed hold of my favorite blanket, a Hawkeye theme where the edges of the material had been tied together. His mom and sister had made it for me before I went to college, and I held onto it in times homesickness or stress. Even though I was no longer in Iowa, it continues to be a source of comfort, my “blankie,” if you will. I spent the rest of the day battling a splitting headache, probably because it was all too much to process at the time. I wanted to reach out to Kaitlyn, his older sister and one of my best friends. I knew that bullshit clichés and platitudes would be of little comfort, and more than likely more than one person was trying to pile them on.

The days leading up to the funeral were filled with anxiety, part of it relating to being in shock over the tragedy that had taken place. This wasn’t the first time I’d been faced with an unexpected passing in my life, but it was the first time I felt like I was allowed to openly grieve because I knew the person really well. On one hand I was numb, silently going through the motions and merely observing everything that was going on in the situation. But I also wanted to be strong for the others that were in mourning, as Connor was not only my brother’s best friend, but also my best friend’s brother. She has held me up during many difficult times in my life, and now it was my turn to do the same for her.

I arrived later than intended on the day of the service, so the process of saying goodbye while simultaneously offering support felt rushed and all over the place. Certain aspects of that day will remain in my memory forever: the look of anguish on my brother’s face as he helped bear Connor’s casket up and down the church aisle. My mom’s arms around me as we both stood and cried together. The way my legs shook in anticipation of finding the family and silently hugging each of them (and the way they seemed to be comforting me more than the other way around). It was all very much surreal, and I’m not the only one who felt like they were existing between reality and an unfathomable nightmare.

I had hoped and expected something inside of me to break, where the floodgates would be opened and I could get everything out and be done with it. When that didn’t happen, I became frustrated and uneasy, wondering if there was something that I needed to tap into or a switch that I needed to hit in order to find closure. I had heard that one of the ways to process the loss was to have a conversation with the deceased person. Knowing that I’m a much better writer than a conversationalist, I decided to write him a letter.

It was two pages of me reminiscing, grieving, and ultimately thanking him for being such a large part of my life. I had an amazing childhood, where the six of us practically lived in our own little world for at least a decade. At a more private memorial, I relayed stories that our parents hadn’t either known about (or had forgotten about) until then. I then did one final sendoff at sunset, releasing the words into the lake in us kids had grown up on, and would now hold a tender mixture of joy and pain. I began to understand that the grief would come in waves (which it still does) and would often hit me when I least expected it.

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There are no words to aptly describe the pain of losing someone so suddenly, and especially when they have so much life left in them. And it’s been painful to see people that loved him (and he loved just as much, if not more) in so much agony, although that’s not to say I regret bearing witness to it. In a weird and morbid way, I’m thankful that I allowed myself to see and feel everything that I could, even if it hurt like hell. Nobody wants to talk about the fact that death is part of life, although no amount of knowing and preparing will decrease the weight and impact of the loss. It fucking hurts, and it fucking sucks.

I don’t know if Connor’s passing happened for a reason, and I don’t think that everything does happen for a reason. Yet I have learned a lot about compassion, and what it means to show up for people in their darkest hour(s). For the love of all that is good in this world, please stop with the whole “If I can’t take away the pain, then it’s pointless to do anything” way of thinking. There is always something that you can do! Go to the person that’s hurting and let them know that you love them and that you’re there. There is so much love and power in the simple act of merely being there: sitting with them. Holding them. Letting them be sad and mutually sharing in that sadness.Listening. And if you can’t physically be present, you can still send flowers or a card or something. How much time does it really take to type out and send a text message that says, “I’m sorry for your loss”? Pick up the damn phone. Write a letter or an email. Whatever you do, know that the smallest amount of support and tenderness is better than nothing. Show up and show love.

Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but walking with someone through tragedy is NOT about your level of comfort. It’s not about you. I’ve learned how to be extremely vulnerable in those moments where I have no idea, to say, “I love you and I’m also terrified of saying or doing the wrong thing right now.” I understand that’s where a lot of the hesitation and resistance lies, because no one wants to make things worse or end up being the insensitive jackass who meant well but epically failed. There is grace in that, because at least the person is making an effort. Questions are always better than assumptions: “What do you need?” “How can I be there for you?” “Do you want to talk, or do you want to just sit in silence?” Never assume that you know what a grieving person wants or needs, just because you might want or need to do that in a difficult situation. Again, it’s not easy and often requires stepping out of your own box of comfort. But if it makes people feels less alone, then damn it, swallow your pride and do it.

I waited at least a day or so to tell anybody on the outside (unless I absolutely had to). I’ve had this habit of telling people too soon (when bad things happen) because it keeps me from being sucked into a black hole of depression and despair. Contrary to popular belief, it is helpful to have the support of those who didn’t know the deceased, or at least that’s how I feel. There were times where I needed to breathe emotionally. There were times where I desperately wanted the perspective of those who had already been through it, or whose minds weren’t shrouded in the clouds of unspeakable loss. When another friend died three years ago, I ended up turning to alcohol and random strangers for comfort. I didn’t want to numb the pain, but I wanted to feel connected.  And now I would rather be a raw, emotional wreck than go down the path of functioning alcoholism again.

Maybe it is expecting too much, or maybe it’s wanting to know that you and your experiences matter. It’s a lesson in real friendship, about who’s willing to be there and who isn’t. People make mistakes and they mess up, but pure silence does say a lot.

It’s been over one hundred days. One hundred days where I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that he’s no longer here on earth. I miss his smile, his laugh, and the way he made fun of me whenever I got tipsy. The memories still keep popping into my head, though most were from ten or twenty years ago. I post old pictures and am still hoping that somewhere in one of our houses, there is a picture of all of us together, at least one. I still feel a little guilty over moving forward with my life, especially since there are a ton of people who are still living with the pain as if it just happened yesterday. I know he would want me to live my life to the fullest, to love people around me with everything I have, and to not spend my days in darkness. I think about things that I’ve been too scared to mention out loud: weddings, babies, and a plethora of occasions that will never be exactly right without him. I continuously find small ways to honor him, whether it’s occasionally drinking his favorite beer or leaving his name on the wall at Wrigley Field after the Cubs won the World Series. I’ve never been into hunting or fishing, but those things now remind me of him. Country music is more meaningful than it ever has been, especially Eric Church and a variety of songs that now make me happy and sad at the same time. This is all neither good nor bad, but it’s reality. It’s the new normal that we all have to live with.

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It is said that pain changes with time, although I’m fully aware that it will never go away completely. I don’t know how I’ll feel a year from now, or what I’ll have learned from it in the next three or five. I understand that grief is the price we pay for loving people, but a broken heart is also an indication of a life well lived. I’m blessed, fortunate, and honored to have known such a kind soul, and I thank God for all of it.

Life is really is precious. He left a mark on the world, and I hope somehow he knows that.

I miss him. Now and always.

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For The Sensitive Ones

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You’re not sure if you were born sensitive, but you know that you weren’t raised on it either. If you had to guess, it’s something you’ve cultivated through a lifetime of observing the world around you, and being keenly aware of what sits well with you and what doesn’t. The smallest things can bring out your passionate and emotional side, and both positive and negative triggers occur pretty easily. You experience joy and pain on ravine-like levels, and it’s nearly impossible to hide. People can read you like the most basic map, and you can’t decide if that’s a good thing or not.

Perhaps your sensitivity goes deeper than that; part of it is how you feel, but it also has a lot to do with how you function and interact with others. You’re not the biggest fan of small talk, and large crowds become overwhelming after a while. You believe in taking time for yourself as much as you believe in socializing and spending time with others. You try to avoid violent media, loud noises, and the constant cycle of TV and the internet. Too much exposure makes you anxious and depressed, despite wanting to be aware and educated. At the end of the day, you have a lot of thoughts, most of which you have no idea how to vocalize, let alone articulate.

Unfortunately, the world typically has only one thing to say about it: STOP. Stop taking everything so personally. Stop letting temporary situations get the best of you. Buck up and chin up. Whenever the swell rises, there have been a slew of well-meaning folks who immediately attempt to shut you down, either by command or a speech about how you won’t get anywhere in life without a layer or two of thick skin. You might nod your head or try to fight back, but after it’s over a whole separate battle continues to rage on: wondering if they’re right or if you’re just misunderstood.

It could be you (to an extent), but it could also be them. This is how they were raised, and they’re simply speaking from their own experiences and what they know. A lot of people are uncomfortable with Big Feelings and Being Vulnerable, so whenever they sense it they do their best to push it away. If they can’t do anything about it (or fix it), then it’s not worth discussing. It comes from a place of frustration, of powerlessness and having little control.

And as much as you want those people to get it, it’s a waste of time and energy to try. On the other hand, you cannot just flip a switch and act like your emotional triggers and sensitivities don’t exist. It’s really about how you choose to deal with them, and whether or not you allow other attitudes and ideas to get the best of you. You can still respond calmly and maturely in an argument without holding everything in. You have every right to remove yourself from a situation if it genuinely becomes too much or if it’s too hard to hear. Get up and get out of the room. Go for a walk. Pray. Write. Whatever calms you down so that you don’t do anything regretful out of impulse or anger. Instead of stuffing it all down, find a way to acknowledge what hurts and set it free.

It’s not about proving which side is right and which side is wrong, but accepting and loving the way God made you. There are so many blessings that come with being a sensitive person—being able to actually feel in a culture that prides itself on not caring and going numb is just the tip of the iceberg. You have the ability to know when to speak and when to listen. You have a natural ability to slow down and appreciate beauty and wonder, rather than glorifying business and productivity. Compassion and empathy are practically second nature, and that’s what’s going to make you a gem in the eyes of those who are ultimately going to build you up and allow you to love yourself. Ultimately, you love deeply and without reserve; despite the risks and possible pain that come with it, it helps you to live a life of freedom, joy, and fullness.

Yes, we should always strive to improve and be the best that we can be. But don’t forget to stop and truly ask yourself if it’s for God’s glory (and your benefit), or if you’re trying to live up to others’ expectations.

The way I see it, caring too much has become an advantage more than the other way around. It means you’ve stayed true to yourself and your convictions, and gave whatever it was everything that you had. And the world needs more of that. It needs more of you.

There’s no denying that it’s tough, especially when you feel like you’re the only one (or at least one of the few). But trust me when I say that it’s worth it.

Keep going. Keep feeling. Keep living.

 

Reckoning






Reckoning (For New Life)
See
Once broken down to the bones
By my history
Pain so intense, tunnel vision at an all-time high
Angry and defiant, desperate for influence
Screaming on the inside
Venturing to dark places for relief
Hear
Obvious feelings without the words to express them
Make for awkward conversation
Translating high expectations without the intention
Perceived discomfort leading to my taking responsibility
When supposedly rejected
Silence created stories in my head
To ease the dread of not having answers
Insecurity bred anxiety
Anxiety bred impulse
Out of character
I had become a stranger to my own self
It took a hard thing to give me pause
A conversation that became a dead reckoning
Distance and disconnection was tearing me apart
And tearing me away from those that meant the most
Know
That I was not myself
For over a year
Buried underneath resentment
Trapped in my own vengeful thoughts
Many moments where I questioned
Where bitterness rooted down
Why I built walls, instead of setting boundaries
Escaping to cope
But trapped all the while
Darkness does not go without remnants
Storms do not settle without aftermath
Many unknowns lie ahead
Fear of repetition peeks its head out of the shadows
At least every once in a while
I ask for forgiveness
For lashing out against loved ones
For clinging to false distractions
For being self-centered
Such actions and emotions were a disguise
As a longing for close relationships and intimacy
A desire to know and be known
But what I see now is the miracle of grace
Embracing the here and now
Who we are and where we’re at
Trusting in what we cannot predict
Believing not in forgetting, but in learning and loving
It is what it is

Let it be

Unrecognizable



What surprised you this year?



I’ve been sitting here for a while, unsure of how to respond to this topic. There wasn’t any one specific event or even a series of happenings that caught me off guard, but I won’t say that this year was entirely predictable either. However, it’s not what what has happened on the outside that has me taken aback, but how I’ve been responding and reacting to it inwardly.

I can’t hide the fact that I’ve been an angry person, regardless of whether it was justified or not. Part of it did relate to my parents’ situation, along with both my personal and professional lives looking nothing like I had envisioned  as time went on. I had a lot of outbursts, and each time I asked myself why the hell I’d get so worked up, since some of it had no bearing on me. It might have been something specific in the heat of the moment, but the cause went much deeper.

A few days after Thanksgiving, we all gathered at my mom’s house to watch football and eat leftovers for the majority of the day. I was sitting on the couch and happened to overhear a conversation involving a subject that makes me uncomfortable at best, and has me seeing red at worst. It was like I had become The Hulk, except I had to shove down my feelings down and keep my mouth shut. And whenever I hold back, my defenses go up and I snap pretty easily.

Even after there were plenty of opportunities to talk, I was still crabby and stubborn. I cursed and cried and thought a lot of things that I wouldn’t dare say out loud.

What on earth was wrong with me? 

Anger is healthy. Sadness is healthy. But eventually I began to grow tired of what was now becoming a ball and chain, and just wanted it to go away. Don’t think, don’t feel…just stop.

But I couldn’t do that, at least not in the long run. I finally wrote it down it my journal:

When I can’t express my feelings, I get cranky.
When I’m ashamed, I get defensive.
When I can’t connect with other people, I get depressed.
And when I sense that anyone is trying to change me (or change how I feel), I lash out.

Who am I? What have I become? 

I would admit to my therapist a week later that I didn’t recognize myself anymore, and that I didn’t like what I saw. My heart was as hard and cold as it had ever been, and I often wanted to project a “Don’t Mess With Me” attitude toward anyone I came into contact with. I’ve always had a bit of a rough and tumble side, a warrior spirit, which has kept me going through numerous surgeries and obstacles. However, my mindset was beginning to cross over to some pretty dark places, and I was a little afraid of where it would lead.


I’m not a controlling person, but I did wish that I had some influence over how everything was being handled. Though no longer a child, I resented not getting the kind of protection that kids usually have when their parents are splitting up. I was hurting not just because of what was happening, but because I felt like I couldn’t be honest about it. I lost a large part of my identity, and had no clue what to do except sit there and grieve. These feelings dominated most of the summer, apart from wanting to escape from them. And despite was it looked like, I kept a lot to myself; most of my support system was from a distance, and I didn’t want to risk the pain of trying to make everyone else understand my experience. 

Being stuck inside my own head made relationships somewhat difficult, and at this moment I’m wrestling with an interesting mixture of gratitude and regret. I’m not going to speak for anyone, but there are probably some that were upset by the way I acted. I can’t imagine the kind of impression I made on those that I was just getting to know, and might have pushed away as a result. I’m not sure whether to apologize or simply say, “thank you” for being there when I was not in the best place. Maybe it’s a balance of both.

There’s freedom in taking a step back, in realizing that I can’t be responsible for others’ choices or happiness. I’ll have to set boundaries when appropriate, and there are still triggers that need to be dealt with. But I feel a lot calmer now, a lot more at peace. It’s all on a day by day basis, baby steps and then some.

And that’s why I’m looking forward to starting over.

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The Word(s) I Didn’t Expect


Reverb: The time of year where I sit down for the next month or so, reflecting on the past year and manifesting what’s next. Part of me is already feeling raw and exposed enough as it is, but this writing exercise has become a tradition that I don’t plan on backing out of any time soon. Some of the prompts will be of my own devise, while others will come from other hosting websites

A number of people are now opting out of New Years Resolutions, and instead meditating on one word or theme for the year. Looking back, what was yours for 2015?



As I typed out a final reflection for the current year, my mind kept coming back to the concept of hope. Hope for all things made new, for the past to die away, and for the possibilities to come. I experienced it in waves: when I finally found work, Mom and sister moving into a new house, and meeting some pretty great people inside and out of my comfort zone. But there were times when hope seemed superficial, a buzzword coated in cliches for what I could not guarantee to actually happen. It felt shallow, as though I was chasing after something I could never quite catch (which from a certain perspective, I was). 

The more appropriate word would have been emotional. 

Good Lord, 2015 was quite an emotional year. A year filled with a few big changes that were a long time coming, including my parents finally going their separate ways. I was literally on a pendulum of feelings, literally hitting everything on the spectrum from complete and utter happiness to all out rage. I found joy in the little things, the every day and mundane. It was my way of focusing on the here and now, rather than get all worked up about what may or may not happen eventually.

And of course I was sad that a part of my life was coming to an end, even if it was unhealthy and dysfunctional in the grand scheme of things. I had to come to terms with the nature of certain dynamics, that some relationships might not be what I so desperately wished and prayed for since I first became aware of it. 

Yet, the more obvious factor, anger, was actually a misconception. I was more pissed at the way things were being handled, as opposed to what was actually happening. I couldn’t be genuinely honest without someone making comparisons as to who was suffering more, or completely invalidating what I had seen and heard for so many years. And when I can’t communicate what I’m feeling, I start lashing out and become resentful. It will build until I’m literally on the verge of taking somebody’s head off.

It all was very much a disguise for helplessness. It was one thing to not have any kind of control, but to have very little influence was a different story entirely. It seemed like nothing I did or said mattered, and eventually resign myself to the fact that this was a train wreck in which I couldn’t get away from. 

But I’ve learned a lot from it, having become more aware of how I express myself, communicate, and ultimately relate to others. And that is what I call progress. 

On the outside, it’s not particularly monumental. However, I have battled with my sense of self-worth for close to thirteen years, and I am finally in a place where I’ve comfortable with the way that God made me: 

I am an expressive person, and it’s literally impossible to hide it. Whether I’m in a good mood or a bad mood, most people that know me well enough can tell. 

I’m a sensitive, and toughening up is not in my vocabulary. Yes, some things will initially hurt at first, but I try to be an advocate for letting it out and then letting it go. When you name something, you give it less power over your mind and over your life.

I am a deep feeler; love, pain, everything. As uncomfortable as it is to feel like an outsider to both my peers and dear ones, I’m grateful for it. I consider it a gift to feel, as we now live in a culture that continually glorifies busyness and keeping it casual. It’s scary as hell and kind of weird, but I’m leaning into it…slowly. 

There’s so much more to discuss and expand on, but I’ll save for that for the coming days. For now, I welcome this journey with open arms, and I give thanks for all that join me.

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When Morning Breaks: Moving Onward, Looking Up


Weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning.
-Psalm 30:5

I’ve often spoke of the multiple transitions that I’ve been experiencing since finishing college, much of which has been taking place in moments rather than in stages. The last year or so has felt like one incredibly long night, and one that is filled with grief, loss, fear, anger, uncertainty, exhaustion, and occasionally despair. Every so often the darkness threatens to swallow me whole, causing me to wonder if my friends and family would be better off if I just went away for a while and didn’t come back until I got my shit together. In the grand scheme of things, I’m fully aware of how important it is to acknowledge and embrace emotional ups and downs, despite the societal encouragement to go numb all together.

Since every journey is different, you really can’t put a timeline on the healing process. There is such a thing as getting through it, but never quite getting over the pain, the piece of your life or your heart that was buried underneath all the devastation. There is indeed a time for everything, whether it involves mourning or celebration; for me it is not a question of what exactly, but of when.

When is it time?

Time for what, exactly? I don’t want to say “let go” because that seems to imply that you go through a whole range of motions and then act like the whole thing never happened. “Move on” is rather cliche, and is more applicable to relationships; in my case, relationships aren’t necessarily ending, but some of them will look and function differently. When I truly think about it, it comes down to this:


When is it time to stop wallowing and start living?

I’d been angry and depressed for a while, and to such a level where I felt like an animal gone rogue. Having no control over the decisions that were being made, I felt like it was the only way to truly protect myself from what was going on around me, and to make sure that I wasn’t taken advantage of. Lashing out didn’t do a whole lot in regards to motivating the people around me to listen, but neither did holding it all in.

Some have and will call me selfish, and I’m not going to deny it. I came to a point where I was tired of being the rock, the parent, the one that held the fort down while all hell broke loose. I didn’t know how to support one without resenting the other, and I’ve always believed that you have to take care of yourself first before you can take care of anyone else. Isn’t post-grad usually the time when most people establish healthy boundaries in order to find their own footing? I was constantly being told that I needed to focus on my own life, so that’s what I did. I wasn’t always compassionate, nor was I always mature. Now that the smoke has begun to clear, understanding might be a little bit easier to come by.

I’ve learned a lot, much of which I’m not quite ready to share with the world just yet. Though I don’t agree with how certain aspects were handled, I pray that this next chapter gives both of my parents the freedom to find their own sense of happiness and make better, healthier decisions for themselves.

So what now?



I’m re-discovering my identity, one that is fully anchored in faith instead of the events of the last decade or so. I’m learning about truly being comfortable with who I am as a person, to own my perspective instead of questioning it. The beauty of being where I’m at now is that I feel like it’s less about what I have to prove, and more about what I have to give/offer. I shouldn’t have to constantly explain or justify my reasoning, as long as I don’t harm myself or others in the process. I still care, but I’m not putting my lively-hood on the backbone of other opinions.

It comes down to choices, really: you can use happenstance as an excuse to blame other people for your wounds, or you can put on your boots and keep walking. The older you get, the more autonomy you have to go your own way. It’s why I don’t fear getting married or being committed to someone, because I’m aware that history doesn’t have to repeat itself.

If nothing else, I’m afraid of missing out on life because I held back.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy, or that it won’t involve falling down, picking myself back up, and starting over again. It’s going to happen a lot. A lot of my personality has been a defense mechanism in what has gone on, not just with my parents’ situation, but for most of my life. There is a part of me that will always have this feisty, don’t mess-with-me attitude that is more than determined to accomplish what I’ve set out to do. From this point on, I can be stubborn and hard-headed while having a soft heart. I can take things in baby steps while still building something worth holding onto, whether it be creative or relationship-oriented. 

Yes, it’s very possible. 

I still have moments where I feel like I’m going through a bit of an aftershock: like I’m a character in a horror movie who’s standing in a clearing in the woods, waiting for the monster or whatever to come out and attack her again. It will take time to get used to this “new normal” as it’s called, but it will happen eventually.

I have trouble finding adequate words to express how grateful I am to those that rallied around me, who still walk with me to this day. I’m grateful for the validation and reminders that I wasn’t alone, that I had people to confide in and carry me (both literally and figuratively) when I needed it. I’m thankful for those that prayed, listened, loved, and still continue to do so. And…I’m grateful for a kick in the pants every so often. 

I’d like to think of myself as a strong person. Resilient. Determined. Brave. Raw. Nothing can hold me down, and nothing can keep me in.



I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future. 

Let’s move.

Talk Bravery

Choose one moment of bravery and write a letter to yourself back at the beginning of 2014, letting you know how brave you’re going to be this year.



Dear Al,

The year 2014 is a year filled with so many possibilities; people to meet, places to see, and ways to strengthen and grow. But this is also a year to be brave, though you may not grasp that in the first moments while reading this. And not that you weren’t in years past, but this time around you will do something that you’ve shied away from for a very long time. Given the turmoil within the family and being away most of the time, it’s understandable why you haven’t given much thought to it. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a long time coming, close to a decade to be exact. 

Not only will you leave the familiarity of Iowa City and embrace the uncertainty of post-graduation, but you’re going to have two very difficult conversations, each with your parents but at different times and for different reasons. The common thread is that you’ll come out of both of them with various perspectives but a deeper understanding of what has happened and why. The anticipation will become unbearable because you can’t predict how either of them will react, but you know it needs to be done. 

Sitting down with Dad is a little unplanned, but you’ll be relieved that he initiates the conversation. You won’t realize it until days later, but this will be the first time you have ever sat down and had a deep, emotional conversation as father and daughter. It doesn’t matter what was said as much as how it made you feel close to him. You discover that he has wanted to be there for you all these years, and that just because he’s a reserved person does not mean that it didn’t hurt watching you struggle or that he doesn’t deal with his own feelings. You won’t necessarily agree with everything that he says or thinks, but you’ll appreciate his compassion. 

You will write Mom a letter (edited and re-edited multiple times) and read it to her in a therapy session. It’s a little more tiring because the both of you will go back and forth about doing a session together for weeks, so it will definitely be nerve-racking. But it won’t be as dramatic as you picture it to be. There will be emotion and there will be tears; she’ll say a lot of things that you’re already aware of, but it’s different when your therapist affirms her perspective as well. You will walk out of there feeling relieved that you did it, but extremely overwhelmed by the discussion and all that you have to process, much of which you will continue to do for a while. The best thing is that you’ll be able to say what you need to say so that you can move forward

Some will try to warn you that this might have made things worse, and others will repeatedly ask you what was said. But you know that this is between you and your mother and no one else’s business, so you stand firm. That is exactly where bravery comes in: choosing to tune out the noise and gradually come to your own conclusions, despite the outside influences. This is the first time that you’ll understand how everything your parents did and continue to do for you was an act of love. You think that because your parents know you so well, that they should be able know what you need. But here’s the thing: every person gives and receives love in different ways, and doing so in a way that you might not recognize doesn’t indicate a lack of love. It more or less shows that all of us have limitations, including you. It’s not a question of whether or not they love you or you loving them, but how to communicate that when you have different love languages.

Know that you will wrestle, doubt, and wonder, and that is all OK. It’s not always easy to accept people for who they are, particularly when it’s easier to picture change in your head. You won’t admit this right now, but deep down you do struggle with that: You don’t want to be walked all over (due to someone else’s behavior), but it’s also frustrating feeling like you have to adjust to every one else’s flaws, yet no one has to adjust to yours. You’re not sure how to accept their past choices without denying how each one affected you personally. 

That’s OK too. You’ll get there. You might have to do it more than once, but you will.

The good news is that by the time I’m done writing this, you’ll be in a place where you’re more self-aware, and therefore can overcome it. You don’t have to hold onto certain ideals or myths anymore, because you’re no longer trying to just survive. In fact, you want to do more than that: you want to succeed, you want to grow, and you can’t do that unless you loosen your grip. It’s scary, not knowing what it will all look like when the divorce is over and done with. You want to lean into hope, but not so much that you become blind. Believe me, I get that. 

You have done a lot of brave things, and will come through to the other side. Have faith, and trust that God will carry you and mold you, and all will be well in the end.

photo credit: Mike_tn via photopin cc

When My Heart Breaks For Theirs

I do not want to go to deep into the meaning of this poem, or reveal any specific names out of respect for these people. But I’m sure we’ve all been there; watching a person(s) from a distance as they struggle and hurt themselves repeatedly. What’s worse is that there is that there is very little that can be done on my part, aside from praying for these people and listening to them when needed. But even that can be tough, particularly when you want to scream and yell about just how badly they’re destroying themselves. At the same time, I also have my own life to live and cannot fully bear a burden that isn’t mine to take on. The words will hopefully explain themselves. 

Watch, Hurt, Hope
She’s just seventeen and still a child in many ways
Yet needs a prayer for something bigger than she can understand
She’s put her trust in all the wrong people
Built a foundation on people and things
Tired of loving and being left over and over
She tells her friend’s that life’s not worth living
For over twenty years
They threw themselves into what was only temporary
They claimed it didn’t matter and that’s how things would be
But at the end of the day all they do is blame each other
Neither one of them is happy
He has been struggling to find his way for most of his life
Running around in circles
One minute he’s confident, the next he’s lost again
He cries out in anger and frustration
Yet doesn’t seem to understand personal responsibility
Here I stand
Looking from the outside in
My heart breaks for such pain
A kind of pain that doesn’t seem to end
I want them to know that I care
That love will always be there
Still I hesitate for a fear of being ignored due to indifference
So in this place I pray
For healing and peace
For forgiveness and mercy
For peace and starting over
That what I call home may become a place of sunshine again
Rather than a place of sadness and bitterness
A world of gray

The Smallest of Times

Day 24-Celebration 

What did you celebrate this year? 

Aside from today being Christmas Eve, where in my Christian faith I celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and enjoy a time of laughter and family, there are many other occasions in which I toasted and look back upon with gratitude. I’m not going to go into too much detail since I have to help with last minute preparations and getting ready before we go to Christmas services at my family’s Catholic church. But here are the smaller, but no less significant celebrations that I took part in:

I celebrated my twentieth birthday; that is, surviving my teen years

I celebrated making it through two semesters in an awful living situation

I celebrate my ability to succeed in grow during two years of college

My grandparents fiftieth wedding anniversary

Oddly enough, I celebrated on the day and I chose to start going into therapy again. It has been over a year that I’ve been getting help, and I have never felt more present or aware of who I am and what I’ve been through. 

I celebrated a variety of birthdays, and will be celebrating my twenty-first birthday a little over a month from now. 

I celebrate my health, and the health of my loved ones

And above all, I celebrate being alive and for coming as far as I have. I will never take that for granted. 

Whether you celebrate Christmas or another holiday, may you have a blessed day (or multiple days) surrounded by people that mean the most to you, God bless!

Gathering: A Breath Of The Southwest

Day 3-Gathering

What was the most memorable event/gathering that you attended or held in 2012?

When my parents approached me about going with them to Colorado over Labor Day weekend, I (literally) jumped at the chance. I was not about to go through another weekend of winding up completely exhausted (my freshman year) or crying a bucket of tears on my bedroom floor (sophomore year). I was feeling that itch to get away from the chaos of campus, as I often do when student life becomes stressful.

But this wasn’t just a simple getaway; we would be primarily going to visit my brother at the Air Force Academy since it was his parents/family weekend up there. Along with that, we would also be officially celebrating my grandparents fiftieth wedding anniversary.

It was my first time being back in two years; the last time we took a little mini-vacation so that my brother could do an unofficial visit at the Air Force. I was kind of nervous that the wildfires (back in June) had swallowed up the majority of the natural elements that surrounded the place. There was some truth to that, but not from what I could see.

While my siblings and I occasionally have our differences, I had missed mine very much. Seeing my brother for the first time in two months was amazing. I don’t mention this a whole lot, but that kid is like my twin, even though we technically are not. We just have strikingly different personalities, almost to the point of being completely opposites. But he is the reason I have been able to physically accomplish as much as I have; without having him as an example, I might not have gained the motivation to crawl, walk, and a lot of other things, particularly when I was little.

We spent a lot of time doing activities related to the Academy and the wrestling team, which I didn’t mind; it was interesting to see how things worked around there, and made me appreciate the things that I have at my school (although the lack of structure can be tempting). There were a few instances where I teared up, such as the fly-over during the cadet parade. I felt so proud to have a sibling that is serving our country and that he gets to do all these things. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had uncles and grandfathers that have served as well; but for some reason, it didn’t hit as close to home. Probably because I never got to see them in the uniform or see the kinds of things that they did.

This may sound silly, but another part that I genuinely enjoyed was the car rides back and forth to different places. Mom would always know to turn on the Country music station for me, and I’d sit back and watch the different mountains go by as we passed them. Hearing Brad Paisley, Jason Aldean, and while taking in such incredible views, everything felt a little bit easier. It was relaxing. It was simple.

It reminded me of what you’re able to see and experience when you stop stressing out and just sit back and enjoy life. 

The end of our trip culminated in having dinner at Cheyenne Mountain Resort for my Grandparents wedding anniversary celebration. Not only was it remarkable to be able to toast to such a milestone (especially today given the divorce rate) but we did so in a place filled with incredible natural beauty. 

I was a little depressed on our way to the airport; there’s something about Colorado (or maybe the Southwest in general) that is peaceful and uncomplicated. I can’t say that I would like to live in the country because of how spread out everything is. However, if God allows it, it would be wonderful to have a little place to go and just get away from the craziness when I feel the need to. 

Ultimately, the main reason why that weekend was so special because I had practically everything that I hold dear to me in one place: family, love, and the simple things.