Identify something muddy that kept reoccurring in 2013; what was the truth that was underneath once you washed yourself clean?
I had spent the week stressing out over midterms, and by Friday was in need of a drink (or two). It was my junior year and I had just turned twenty-one about a month prior, but was still getting used to a lot of the perks that came with it; not only could I buy my own alcohol, but I was able to legally be in a bar after ten o’clock and no longer feared getting in trouble. There was also a surge of confidence, particularly in terms of guys. I was slowly getting over an incident from the previous year and felt ready to embrace that men considered me attractive. On top of that, I had just cut my first love out of my life and had a huge hole in my heart. I didn’t expect to find anybody because I was more focused on simply having a good time.
What was the biggest decision that you made this year? How has it affected you?
On the outside, it didn’t look like that big of a deal because it was informal and we rarely ever talked at that point. But in my heart, cutting my first love completely out of my life was by far one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do; perhaps not as a whole, but definitely this year. I didn’t want to, but there wasn’t much of a choice because everything involving him was starting to become unhealthy. Adding to that, it wasn’t fair to put my fears and insecurities onto others; if I was going to get past all of those, he needed to be out of the picture for good. There were no words exchanged, just deleting his number and making sure he could no longer see my Facebook profile. It was a relief, but also just flat-out-weird; I had no idea what to do afterward, and ended up going on a bit of an adventure for the next six months in trying to figure it out. I prayed, wrote, kissed, dated, drank, talked, and cried. Not only was I letting go of a special person, but the person whom I believed I would marry one day.
Looking back on it almost a year later, I fully understand that it was for the best. It’s a pain in the heart when you’ve invested in somebody for almost eight years, but our relationship had become one-sided. I didn’t really know him anymore and I’m willing to admit that I might not have known him at all. But I wouldn’t trade any of the time we spent together for the world.
Not many people are aware of this, but the whole reason we got so close in the first place was because I was going through a very rough time. My self-esteem was a roller-coaster in the midst of changing friends and distant family members, especially my parents. I should have gone to a pastor or another adult at my church that I was attending, but I didn’t trust adults back then. He supported me without judgment and ultimately helped me survive. He was the first person who ever told me that God loved me, and convinced me that cutting my wrists and popping pills wasn’t the answer, among other issues. I know there were those that looked at us with raised eyebrows, but the idea of having to explain that stuff to anyone else was unbearable.
That’s why I choose not to be angry or hold a grudge; he took care of me in ways that I needed to be, but I had no idea how to articulate. I am not ashamed to say that it’s nice to be taken care of, regardless of all the crap out there involving self-reliance or what the true nature of a relationship is. While God should always be one’s true foundation, we weren’t put on this earth with others to walk through life alone. It took me a long time to get that, and I’m still learning.
I did go through and grow from a season of dating, but also made the decision to take a step back from that for the time being. Most of the dates were fine and I appreciated the experience, but a lot of the guys weren’t the type that I genuinely want to be with. I totally support giving chances when appropriate, but when your instincts are telling you that it’s not going to work, it’s best to listen to them. I often had a “down the road” mentality, where I thought I would find a reason to like a guy once I got to know him better. And while I believe that can and does happen, the chances are slim when hardly any of your values line up. But the subject of dating in itself is for another post.
I’m not going to say that I don’t miss him at times, but more so I miss the affection and the sense of intimacy that we had. However, not having him around has been like a breath of fresh air: I have standards for a relationship that go beyond just being nice and the willingness to accept me as I am. And it’s not just about deserving better, but actually needing better. By looking at the bigger picture, I understand that I need so much more than what I thought I did at thirteen or fourteen.
Knowing what I know now, I wish I hadn’t taken him for granted. But despite all that has happened, I think it all turned out the way it was supposed to. Just because something or someone isn’t forever doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it. He does and will probably always have a place in my heart: not in hope or wishful thinking, but in gratitude. And that’s why I’m writing this; I choose not to be cynical, but instead thank God for that particular blessing and that special time. It doesn’t always make moving forward easy, but it makes it doable.
photo credit: letmebeyourswearword via photopin cc
What quote resonated with you in 2013?
“There are a lot of things in life that are going to break your heart, but you should never let them break your spirit!”
I’m not sure when or where exactly I came up with these words; I think I was writing in my journal one summer morning and all of the sudden it just popped into my head. It has been very much a reflection of this year as a whole, at least in terms of how I’ve felt about about it. On one hand, there has been a lot of pain, mostly in regards of the big moments. There were days where I would just lay in my bed at home or sit on my couch at my apartment and cry or stare into space. I felt so hallow on the inside, like I was in between a nightmare and reality. It was pretty much like being in The Twilight Zone.
Everyone has a different way of mourning; there’s no one right method of expressing pain, anger, etc. But there comes a point for me when it becomes exhausting. If I’m like that all the time, I start to wonder if it’s actually doing more harm than good. I believe that when bad things happen or tragedy strikes, you should allow yourself to feel and process all that’s going on. But at what point do you begin to accept your new normal? At what point do you risk being destroyed by what you can’t change?
I’m not saying lock it in a closet and pretend it never happened. There are always going to be certain events, words, and/or periods of time that are going to stay with you forever, no matter how much time goes by. But that doesn’t mean you can’t let yourself have moments of bliss or happiness. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be happy, while still being aware of the fact that you’ve got a broken heart.
And that’s the thing: awareness of one thing but still allowing yourself to feel another if it comes on. I can’t base my happiness on whether or not the people around me are happy, though it does affect me to an extent. I don’t want to miss out on so many other blessings because I could only focus on the negatives.
Don’t try to find the balance; rather, maintain it.
photo credit: seyed mostafa zamani via photopin cc
The Right Stuff
What went right for you in 2013? (Prompt credit: Kat Mcnally)
In hindsight, 2013 was a bit of a bleak year for me, but I do my best not to look at it that way. In the midst of the loss and grief, there were a lot of good moments; This was mostly due to having finally become totally comfortable with the friends that I have in my life right now. And not that I didn’t have them in previous years, but this was the first year that I wasn’t terrified of being vulnerable with them. I didn’t have to hide or sugarcoat anything, but more importantly, I felt like I could be myself because I’ve finally begun to accept who I am as a person.
The following excerpt is from a larger essay that I wrote about healing, which I read at my first literary reading last night:
What is your favorite song from 2013?
This year was a great year in music, and I love sharing new songs/artists that I find through my “Music Monday” series. From “Sunny and 75” by Joe Nichols to “Wake Me Up” by Avicii, it’s so hard to choose just one. But if I had to pick a favorite I would say….
Post your favorite picture from 2013, self-portrait or otherwise (prompt credit: Kat McNally)
I didn’t know how the costume would turn out; I just wanted to dress up as Audrey Hepburn for Halloween. I already had a black dress and paid close attention to make-up tutorials. My friend did my hair and I managed to find a ten-dollar necklace and earring set.
It was one of those times where I looked in the mirror and truly felt beautiful. Not because I chose something other than a skin-tight get-up, but because it was simple and yet it was also glamorous. It actually was the beginning of a change in how I do my make-up and how I’ve been trying to present myself as a little more sophisticated.
The way we nourish ourselves determines our ability to shine a light in the world; And nourishment doesn’t just come in the form of food and drink and sunshine. It’s equally important to nourish your spirit. What made you feel nourished this year? (Prompt credit: Kat McNally)
2013 was definitely a year of being spiritually thirsty; I was still struggling over the concept of faith and having God in my life, and what that meant. For anyone that has ever questioned their beliefs, living in the age of technology can make the journey even more perplexing. Instead of just books or sermons, there are now tweets, personal blogs, and podcasts dissecting every Biblical or spiritual topic imaginable. The constant what-if scenarios can drive any person crazy. And I realized that maybe that was the problem; I needed to stop enveloping myself in all the fluff and get back to the basics, specifically with prayer and having quiet time again.
When my friend passed away earlier this summer, I was in agony. I felt like I didn’t have very many people to lean on at the time because it seemed like hardly anyone around me wanted to acknowledge the situation, let alone talk about it. I was never taught how to deal with death as a child/teenager, particularly when it’s sudden and unexpected. Subconsciously, I understood that my faith (however much or little) was the only substantial thing I had to cope. While it might have seemed typical that I was only turning to God when life became nearly impossible, it was also the beginning of an understanding and a sense of peace that I’d been longing to feel for several years.
It didn’t happen right away; in the days following the accident, I was numb and kept thinking that this all was just a nightmare. How do I pray? What do I even pray about? Memorizing Bible verses and relying on cliche Christian phrases felt like using band-aids and Neosporin. I needed to grieve. I needed to allow myself to hurt. But there was little to no room for that in the time that I was at home, at least that’s how I interpreted what I was being told.
Going back to my apartment was like army-crawling out of a minefield, but slowly I got a grip and began to develop a routine. Mornings were spent writing in my journal or reading a passage in my Bible. Sometimes I played meditation music in the background. Sometimes I prayed out loud. And other times I simply wept and could only ask God to hear what was on my heart because I couldn’t articulate my thoughts. I went to church every so often, but there are some things about church that still make me anxious and fidgety, but that is for another time.
Despite the frustration and uncertainty of that time (my writing gig and main reason I had stayed at school for the summer was constantly up in the air) I appreciated being able to meet with God wherever I felt safe and comfortable. It did not make the pain go away, but gave me a way to process it. It did not make everything better, but it did give me some clarity. For once, I was not measuring my faith based on a sermon or whatever was going on around me; I was looking inward.
And as scary as it is, nourishment has also come from being vulnerable; there are quite a few people that I’ve become incredibly close to this year because I was willing to be open with them about a lot of things. It was hard because I hadn’t done it in such a long time, at least without feeling rushed, like I had to put it all out there in a month of meeting them. I took my time and was careful that I letting them in for the right reasons, which is where I learned a lot about connection versus attachment. Attachment is where two people become close rather quickly, and more so that they do so in hopes that the relationship will be the solution to either one or both persons’ problems. Connection takes its time; it can be instant, sure, but you don’t truly get to know a person within a day or so. I’m fascinated by people and think it’s great when you can still learn about them, even after you’ve known each other for a while.
Not only has it helped me deepen relationships, but it’s opened my eyes to one of my biggest struggles: the struggle of being able to say “I need you.” However, that is also for another post down the road.
But that’s how nourishment works; you keep watering/feeding yourself, and hopefully it becomes second nature. When your nurture yourself (and allow others to nurture you) you begin to no longer make decisions out of fear, but of love and faith.