When I Talk About…

Initially I wanted to tell as many people as I could, or at least many as I thought needed to know. When you keep a serious problem like an addiction/disorder under wraps for a length of time (whether intentional or not) you suddenly don’t want to have a filter anymore. You want to tell the truth, all the time, believing that’s exactly what you need to do to heal. And perhaps in a way, I absolutely needed to back then.

But as the saying goes, not everyone can handle the truth. And my truth is that recovering from an eating disorder is complex and multi-faceted. Three years later, I’ve come to regard it as something sacred, a big part of my life, but a part nonetheless that not all can be part of. There’s an assumption where if you don’t openly discuss the absolutes of who you are, you must be ashamed of them. Yet what if it’s not shame, but protection, that motivates the quiet? A healthy protection of progress, and protection of self.

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My best friend asked me how I wanted to celebrate, given that the pandemic had put the original plan on pause. My immediate family was supposed to reunite in Florida after my brother’s return from deployment, and we’d even spend a day at Disney. The courage to share with my mother what that trip would mean to me, what I had accomplished personally, was enough of a celebration in and of itself. It was tough to come up with anything else beyond that at the time.

I dreamed the night before the three-year mark about being surrounded by cakes, each one looking too damn delicious for words. And the morning of the seventeenth, I finally came up with a short-term idea (well, mostly). It should involve macaroons or chocolate truffles (two of my favorite sweet treats). I want to get dressed up and go dancing when it’s safe enough. Do a photo shoot. Anything that allows me to appreciate food and my body.

And yet, recovery is so much more than that, and I want it to be a focus as I continue to grow and evolve: it’s about getting in touch with yourself, valuing yourself, and ultimately coming back to yourself.

The romantic in me. That sense of child-like wonder and awe. The sensitive smile with a tender heart who cries easily. She doesn’t need to be found because she’s always been there. She just got buried under a lot of garbage for a while. And though I’ve done a lot of work in terms of getting to know her again, there are aspects I’m still learning to accept and embrace.

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As Sunday ended, I had a hard time falling asleep, so I began to pray:

I’m sorry that I haven’t always loved and cherished this beautiful creation that you’ve given me.

I’m sorry for when I didn’t show it compassion or understanding.

I’m sorry for the ways in which I allowed my body to be disrespected and used. I wasn’t strong enough back then.

Thank you for three years of healing.

For learning how to honor, rather than avoid hunger.

For trusting myself enough to know what I need when I need it.

And thank You for walking with me through it all, especially in the moments when I’ve felt very much alone.

Of course, there is grace; grace for when I wake up too late and feel like I don’t have time to eat breakfast because I must play catch up. Grace for when I chug a protein drinks or various snacks just to get something in my stomach. Grace for when I the constant news of COVID-19 made me want to hug the toilet because I couldn’t hug anyone else. When I fear that gaining weight will no longer mean I’m beautiful, because that’s what I’ve known and was used to

But I am more than that. I have my heart, my mind, and my spirit. My church, listening to podcasts, reading books that make me think, quiet time, all remind me that I have a body, but other parts of me just as much nourishment.

In some respects, with diet culture so prevalent, I’m always going to struggle. I’m now just finding the gumption to call BS when I see it. And it takes a lot of mental energy to let things go when people around me just don’t “get it.”

There are good days, and there are hard days. I’m grateful to be part of each one of them.

Love Alive

Raised on boybands and princesses
Nothing was messy
The 90’s was where it was at
A writer and a wordsmith
Telling stories on end
Hell, I made volleyball sound romantic
A first kiss in a bar
Relationships became a rollercoaster
Now what do you say about that?
//
The life raft
The mirror
The runaway
The free spirit
The Rock
They all gave me something so beautiful
And it hurt just the same
How do I risk enduring it again and again
//
Role models are few
Formulas are cheap
But walls aren’t worth it
And love runs deep
//
Looking to the horizon
Having faith that all works together
But how does one allow whole hearted togetherness
When pain and memories prickle
Like needles to the skin
//
Art has a purpose
Imagination is limitless
The possibilities full of wonder and romance
A balance of realism and whimsy
The music we sing and dance to
The stories we hear
The way we root for others
And the way we hold each other
//
But it’s choosing and trying
Again and again
It’s declaration followed by action
Not despite imperfection, but because of
Scars and beauty marks
Here for it all, baby
Every moment
Gratitude
//
There is wisdom, and there is noise
Pain does not have to become cynicism
It’s hard to grow from bitter thoughts
That are not without value, but not worth blood
//
Believe in meetcutes and meeting halfway
Passion and compromises
Slow dances and running together
Flowers and basic needs
Arguments and fighting for what’s right and real
Over and over
Now until kingdom come

The Thing about Therapy

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October has always been a special month for me, beyond the colors and the coziness. It marked my first official visit to Iowa, and the beginning of the most transformative chapter in my life. I have met some amazing people, and even fallen in love (more than once) as the leaves have changed and the air turned crisp. But it was also the time when I decided that I could no longer do it on my own; I needed hope, and I needed help.

I went back to therapy.

There’s a lot of truth in not being able to do something until you’re genuinely ready; though I had seen professional counselors as a child, I didn’t have a ton of autonomy over who I talked to, and I was too young to even begin to remotely process the real struggles, much of which were still going on around me back then. And sometimes we’re not genuinely ready until we hit the bottom, until we realize that we have nowhere else to go and nothing left to lose. That took about seven years, where finally at the beginning of my sophomore year of college I hit the floor, threw my hands up, and then picked up the phone. I don’t remember how long it took to get in for an appointment, but sooner rather than later I was trudging over to the University Counseling Center.

I’ve done individual and group sessions, non-religious and Christian counseling, depending on the season I was in and what I needed at the time. In the past three years, I’ve gone from learning how to adjust to the transition period of post-grad to navigating and battling against demons that I never believed I would have to face in life. And with it, I’ve grown more than I ever would have outside of it, and it’s incredibly possible that I wouldn’t be writing this today had I not reached out for another studier and well-trained hand. While inner circles and friendship are necessary, one’s personal home team isn’t typically trained to navigate the depth and complexities of their loved one’s psyche. There comes a point where everyone says, “I love you and support you one hundred percent, but I only know so much.” It’s not a matter of choosing between one and the other, but allowing them both to enrich life and compliment it.

Society says we shouldn’t need help, and that it makes us weak.

Churches say to pray more or simply have faith.

Skeptics in general accuse the entire field of only being after money and making a situation worse.

A good, professional counselor will understand that their job is to listen, to guide you without shame in order so that you may unpack the past in order to create a better future. They should accept who you are and affirm that you’re human, but also be willing to challenge your way of thinking when appropriate, and encourage you to trust the process rather than dig your heals in. God can speak to you through that person, but you have to be willing to open your heart and mind to what they’re saying. And it might take a few times to figure out if you and that person mesh well, or it might take a few people to find somebody that you click with; but when all is said and done, it really does come down to you.

That’s right: in order for therapy to work, YOU have to be willing to show up and do the work.

You have to tell the truth, but also be willing to acknowledge that your version of the truth might be just that. And you also might be wrong.

You have to take responsibility for your life, your actions, and your overall well-being. No one else can, nor should they do that for you.

You should embrace who you are fundamentally, but also allow yourself to grow and evolve.

You have to get out of your head, and get out of your own way.

And you have to want it. If you seek help purely for the sake of pleasing people or trying to be the person they think you should be, it’s not going to do any good.

This kind of transformation is often uncomfortable, even brutal. It does get lonely, because those on the outside might not understand, or they don’t want to have to face their own crap. It might become a pressure cooker here and there, a race to get to the finish line and get back to normal. But it takes as long as it takes, and it’s nobody’s business as far as why or how you go about that time.

It’s not limited to a one-on-one or group discussion; healing also involves writing, music, painting, and any kind of creativity. It’s what allows you to speak and live out your truth, to feel closer to yourself, others, and even to God. I tend to share my writing as a way of communicating with my therapist and with others, otherwise I’m probably be fumbling over my words and nothing would come out the way I intended.

And while there are a lot of resources and spaces dedicated to finding help, overcoming stigma and a willingness to start is only half of the battle. There’s dealing with cost and having the ability to afford it, as has been my battle when seeking out both psychological and physical medical care. I’ve been fortunate where most of my therapists have allowed me to pay on a sliding scale, because it typically has been out of my own pocket. From the research that I’ve done and what I can grasp, insurance companies typically don’t like to pay for mental health services because they don’t recognize depression, anxiety, and so forth as legitimate health concerns. For whatever reason, some can’t take a broken heart or a chemically imbalanced brain as seriously as they would a broken leg.

I’ve never liked the term “broken,” one that’s tossed around in Christianity, or the concept of needing to be “fixed.” We’re not robots, or the sum of our many and complex parts. We’re human beings, all with different stories and backgrounds bound by the common thread of desiring love, connection, and validation. We need to grow, learn, heal, and become who we are meant to be.

What other alternative is there?

Getting Wonder Woman All Wrong

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She was motivated by compassion rather than revenge.

Her strengths were not by chance, but by proper training and preparation.

She did not want to hide, nor did she want attention. She was simply fulfilling what she felt called to do.

Chills scattered across my skin as she grabbed her shield and began climbing the ladder out of No Man’s Land.  She rose up and began to run forward in cinematic fashion, deflecting bullets off her wrists in the process. I was so overcome by the power and awe of these singular moments that tears formed in my eyes and poured onto my cheeks. I had come across an article headline where many admitted to crying during this particular scene (and others), but didn’t read any further for fear of coming across spoilers. And while it is wonderful that strong female characters have been brought to the forefront in action-adventure, there’s another reason, a personal reason to celebrate the incredible film and story that is Wonder Woman.

In my teens an early twenties, I proudly called myself Wonder Woman in Real Life, though my only vivid interpretation is the most recent summer blockbuster. I’d seen various references through the old days of Cartoon Network, but never knew her story within the context of any comic books. It was a lot of assuming and creating a definition in my own head based off her title alone. I desperately wanted to be strong, fierce, and independent; not for the sake of being a heroine, or doing what was right, but merely proving people wrong. It was a defense mechanism, a way of communicating that underneath a sweet (and perhaps naive) exterior, there was a badass not to be messed with.

And one could argue that the fictional Diana Prince is similar, but the difference between her and I has been a matter of pride.

She never had to proclaim who she was in order to make a statement or have an impact, nor did anyone have to point her out in dramatic fashion in order to shape her identity. She allowed herself to be helped and advised in adjusting to the outside world (even when the majority of the responses to her requests were “NO!”), leaning on her male comrades for support without total dependence. Her relationship with Steve is not a back and forth of who saves who, but it more so revolves around what they teach one another, about partnership, grace, and the harsh realities of justice and evil. And as I’ve dug deeper and reflected on what this film has meant to me, I realized that perhaps it’s not just social media, loneliness, and ignorance that’s slowly killing us. Rather, it’s also individualism.

The reasons for “every person for themselves,” are plenty, from the fear of coming across as needy/codependent, to the fear of rejection and abandonment. I’ve always been, and still am slightly terrified of being too much, and have assumed that’s why people tend to disappear out of my life every so often. It seems like when it comes to lending a helping hand now a days, there’s a bit of a debtors mentality, where if you do something for someone, then they automatically owe you (or vice versa).

And so we do everything ourselves, or at least we try to in order to avoid pain, disappointment, and betrayal. Whether it comes from society or otherwise, we’re either pressured or expected to dig deep within ourselves and by ourselves for that which is beyond comprehension. We dig and we dig until we’ve become hallow shells, resentful and isolated from what we were created for.

Love. Connection. Community. Building each other up instead of tearing each other down.

I believe that love comes not from within, but from God above. And I believe that we learn to love ourselves through experiencing aspects of God in other people, both women and men.

The first time I heard that God loved me was from a man.

Had it not been for the men I’d met during college, I wouldn’t have begun to understand what loving myself meant until much later. They accepted me and didn’t judge me, even in the midst of bad decisions and mistakes.

And not too long ago, a man whom I very much care for, admire, and respect said to me, “You’re one of the strongest and most resilient women I know.” He then continued, “I wish you could see in yourself what I see in you.”

But I think that’s what relationships are for, whether they’re platonic or romantic; again, to show us what we’ve been blinded to by impossible standards.

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I’ve had to fight battle after battle since the day I was born. More recently, it has been the battle to overcome stereotypes, establish a career, and live my own life. A battle to let go of anger and allowing my heart to soften toward my family history. And now, a battle with a disease that threatens to land me in the hospital, and perhaps even take my life.

Since coming to terms with it three months ago, many have asked me how they can help or support me. Most days I’m not entirely sure, but I do know that it goes beyond just getting me to eat, or encouraging me to take deep breaths when I feel like going back to an unhealthy physical behavior. It’s a lot of patience, especially as I’m still in the midst of trying to get some kind of professional help. It’s grace when I ask obvious questions or bitch and moan over silly things, portraying myself as self-absorbed.

But mostly, it’s letting me know that it’s OK to not be a superhero. That I’ve got this, and we’ve got this.

There is part of me that will always be a fighter, stubborn and willing to kick down doors if need be. If that wasn’t the case, I wouldn’t have lived past infancy. But I’m practicing and allowing myself to be soft: Instead of “I’ll show you!” it’s, I’ll show you what I have to offer. Rather than getting angry at those who don’t understand, I seek to gain a better understanding of both myself and others. And rather than putting up walls, I choose to set boundaries. It’s still in present progress, and I can’t say whether or not I’ll fully get there.

But the best way to get healthy is to start getting real. No cape. No lasso or tiara. Just an open heart and willingness to see what wasn’t there before. One day at a time, one foot in front of the other.

That Place

 

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Monday Morning wakes me

The sun instead of an alarm

I’ve gotten used to sleeping a little later than usual

Instead of up and going, I lay there debating

How to move when my body doesn’t want to

 

An aftershock due to a loss of money (and routine)

A decision made in the same way week, not regrettable

Yet affecting me emotionally more than I originally anticipated

Ultimately, it’s the disconnect from those that I care about

Isolation

The need to hide everything

 

This funk is not unusual

Now accompanied by an absence of hunger

And motivation to actually feed myself

[Anything other than wine, coffee, and chocolate, because comfort]

Too thin, they say

Don’t waste away, they say

But what if I did?

That’s the surprising difference

It’s not sadness

But indifference

Almost hopelessness

 

Is it better to go through the motions?

Just ride it out

Like I would a physical sickness or virus

Or do I drag my ass around in an attempt to normalize this ball and chain?

Especially when “self-care” feels like bullshit

Take a shower before noon

Exercise

Eat some damn food

Despite the gagging and stomach cramps and overall fatigue

SMILE, they say

Little victories lead to betterness

Oh fuck off

But instead I just say “fuck life”

 

And I know it’s bad

When I don’t want to write

My saving grace

My soul’s escape

Or read

Without my thoughts going off in a million directions

Podcasts and sermons make me fidgety

What do I talk about in therapy?

 

I pray for strength

The ability to get through it

But I’m more concerned for the people around me

How to tell the truth

Without being a burden

When they’re all scattered around the country

And even the world

I don’t need shame or to be scared into getting help

I need support, though I can’t say what that looks like exactly

A hug or a listening ear goes a long way

Or just know what’s going on

And don’t tell me you can’t unless you’ve tried

Don’t run away unless you’re taking me with you

 

This blackness, this thing is scary

But I’ve spent far too long in speculation

It’s time to get some answers

Though it might a long road

Please be patient with me

Educate instead of assume

Ask questions instead of giving quick fixes

This is not your fault, and it’s not mine either

I’m human, not broken

Twenty-Five

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Tomorrow is my twenty-fifth birthday.

It’s not considered as big of a deal as eighteen or twenty-one, but I wouldn’t call it “just another day,” either. I’ve seen and done a lot, but I’ve also had a few close called in the process. One was a pretty serious surgery when I was just two weeks old, and the prognosis was grim. The other was the result of a dark depression that followed me everywhere as a teenager, snickering and whispering that I wasn’t good enough or strong enough. I’ve also carried a sense of self-awareness, that what is given can be easily taken away, and just because it has been around for a while doesn’t mean that it will be there forever.

A quarter of a lifetime is something. It’s not the end-all-be-all, yet there is a sacredness and an emphasis (though I don’t know how to describe it). Maybe I’m just feeling humble. Maybe, despite the years that have passed, I’m not entirely sure if I’ve accomplished a whole lot. And maybe I’m trying to be cautiously optimistic, preferring to have balanced expectations and be surprised than the other way around. I’ve always had mixed feelings about birthdays in general, as I have to work at not getting wrapped up in what I want to happen (versus what actually does). And for the sake of not sounding conceited or ridiculous, I’ll leave it at that for now.

I haven’t picked a word yet, one that I can set both long-term and short-term goals around.  At twenty-four I wanted to be bold, and that definitely manifested itself in ways that I wouldn’t have expected or imagined. Brave sounds too cliché, especially when I don’t have a whole lot of trouble with that. Merely being, however, is an entirely different story all together. It has been a struggle, like having my hands tied and being forced to accept whatever happens to me in life. It had no sense of direction, no end-goal or destination. There has to be more to it, otherwise it doesn’t serve much of a purpose.

What about being unapologetic?

Like many, I’ve developed a habit of saying “I’m sorry” too much and too often. Sometimes it slips out when I don’t realize it, becoming my fallback even in the midst of trying to do simple things like getting from one place to another. Admittedly, it has also become my way of diffusing tension in emotional conversation or situation; rather than just allow both parties time to process what took place, I’m quick to jump up and take blame for the discomfort. Part of it has been ingrained in me since childhood, and part of it stems from fear and insecurity. I’m constantly afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, especially at the wrong time. If a question or moment of vulnerability is met with silence (more so when it comes to texting), my anxiety kicks into over-drive and I automatically assume I’m at fault. It’s not good for my relationships, and it’s definitely not good for my emotional health.

“Unapologetic” does have negative connotations: the refusal to grow and evolve, or to make changes when you know that your current path is doing more harm than good. There’s a lack of responsibility, of owning up to mistakes and taking proactive steps to make amends. And there’s an aura of self-centeredness, of basically flipping the bird to everyone around you. With my history of taking tough as nails to the extreme, I can understand why these assumptions exist. And just because I re-define it does not mean that these assumptions will automatically go away.

When I think of what tends to define me, what comes to mind are the ways in which I care for others:  depth, compassion, curiosity, sensitivity, stubbornness, grit, and patience are all driving forces that influence how I interact with people around me, despite having days where I felt like I needed to hide or at least tone it down. Not everyone communicates in the same way, or feels as deeply as I do, which is why it’s unfamiliar and therefore uncomfortable. But I refuse to apologize for trying to add light into the world, for wanting to treat people like human beings and show them that they matter. I have always known who I am, but have not always been confident in the ways in which I feel led to be my own person. With the country and the world so divided, I believe in seeking to understand as much as I seek to be understood. Whatever is done out of love, and in a loving way, should not be followed by regret. In other words, I will not take something back (that I did for the sake of reassuring, affirming, or supporting) just because a reaction might be difficult to read.

What lies ahead is unclear, but my purpose is not. Here’s to another year of opportunities, risk, creativity, faith, and adventures.

Here’s to feeling alive at twenty-five.

Photo Credit

When “Fixing” Is Not The Answer

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It is a scene that I’m all too familiar with, a sign that I’ve either hit a wall bottomed out again: I’m crying uncontrollably, emotions taking over my entire body to the point where I can’t even move. The tears were probably triggered by something specific, yet there’s an overall exhaustion, loneliness, or a combination of the two. It’s an emotional black hole, where the cause is probably different, but my thoughts remain the same:

I can’t do this anymore.

I feel isolated and alone.

I’m depressed and barely functioning.

When is this shit going to actually go away?

 I want to get better NOW.

You might have been there before. You might already be in the thick of it.

It’s definitely not my first rodeo: I’ve been in therapy for  five years now, to where I have people asking me if it’s really helping because a lot of the time I don’t act like it. It’s hard to explain that it has made a difference, though the feats are often small and not easily seen by those on the outside. I still get stuck, and  it’s frustrating as hell because I feel like I should have a grip on it all by now, especially the triggers of depression and anxiety that tend to ebb and flow over time. I’m still considering the possibility of medication, but would like to get a psychiatrist’s perspective before making any decisions.

I had a moment this past summer, just wanting to be done with it all. Not suicidal done necessarily, but done with the darkness and living out the definition of insanity (which some will argue I’m still doing). I won’t call it an epiphany, but I thought of something in that moment, and it has stayed with me ever since:

What if it wasn’t about fixing ourselves, but feeding ourselves?

On the other side, what more could we accomplish if we stopped trying to fix other people, but instead support and encourage them to seek nourishment?

Perhaps that’s why I’ve seemed to be going in circles over the years: I sought outside help believing that it was a one and done thing, and that I’d be fine after sorting through all my baggage. What’s more, I believed that it would lead to love and acceptance from those whom I wanted it from the most, and all would be right and well.

It’s tough to acknowledge, but real healing doesn’t work like that. There’s no formula or specific set of instructions to follow, and not every situation comes with a timeline. Processing is necessary, and medication can make circumstances more bearable and easier to deal with. But the real work has to come from you alone and for you alone. You are the solution, because you are the one who is ultimately in control of how you choose to view life, despite your experiences while living it.

Feeding yourself, I’d like to think, is doing anything that makes you feel alive, at peace, and allows you to stay true to who you are. It might involve working out, creative projects, community service, going to church, prayer, and investing in quality time with both yourself and with others. It’s a way of putting talk into action, rather than sitting around and bemoaning your story all the time. Yes there is pain, and letting it go is a lot easier said than done. But what other choice do you have? You can choose to be a victim (and from my experience, that has only led to regret). Or you can choose to be resilient, and be surprised at just how much you can do when you have an open heart and mind to the possibilities of what’s right in front of you.

You are not broken, because you are not an object or a robot. You’re messy and you feel deeply. You’re hungry for connection and real relationships. You’re human, and you yourself need the same amount of love and care that you put into anyone else.

It’s overwhelming and unfamiliar, which is what ultimately makes it scary. I’m always a work in progress, so I can’t say what it truly feels like to get “there,” so to speak.  Yet, I tell myself to just keep going. Take it easy. One foot in front of the other, one day at a time. Whether you’re pursuing nourishment literally or figuratively, it’s something to be savored, enjoyed, and ultimately worth holding onto.

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I say this all with the uttermost compassion and understanding, because I’m still striving, working, and occasionally crawling to get where I want to be  I don’t know what road you’ve had to walk or what hell you’ve endured, and that might be all you’ve ever known. I can’t tell you what to do, but I hope you’ll do something that brings you healing, peace of mind, and wholeness.  Regardless of where you’re at, remember that you are brave, you are strong, and you are loved.

To love yourself is to feed yourself.

You’ve got this.

Photo Credit

Making Room

 

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Many of you hugged and kissed your way into 2017.

Some of you danced.

Perhaps many of you simply let it be, but it felt like you were actually doing an army-crawl.

It’s easy to talk about hope and possibility when you’re on the cusp of something. There’s a kind of magic in those feelings, and you hold onto them because it might be all that you have. But once midnight rolls around and the real work begins, accomplishing any resolution can seem like navigating an obstacle course with a load of bricks on your back. Either that, or you want to “get there” as soon as possible because you don’t want to waste any more time or live with regret.

I get it. There’s a sense of urgency in the air, especially in days like these. But the turning of a calendar year does not take away insecurities, change habits, or rebuild what has been broken down. You have to be the one to set goals, make the effort, and stick to it (even when it gets difficult). Yet consistency can be and often is a challenge because of how people approach trying to better themselves, along with the collective reasons for wanting to. The path to success/achievement is viewed as a straight shot, never mind that there are probably going to be cracks, rocks, and roadblocks along the way. It’s all about the hustle, and once you fall, you’re done and it’s no longer worth pursuing.

And that’s probably why resolutions lose their luster after January. It’s not a lack of realism or ambition or motivation, but a lack of loving and taking care of ourselves in the process. If you want to accomplish anything, you have to understand that you’re going to trip and stumble. You’re going to have setbacks. Failure might not be an option, but obstacles are a definite possibility. Ultimately, it will be up to you to decide whether you’ll allow those things to define who you are and what you’re capable of, and whether you’ll choose to keep going or let challenges get the best of you.

I’m not sure if I resolve to do anything differently, as much as I resolve to continue what I’ve already been doing. That’s not to say change isn’t important, or that I’m avoiding making changes in my life all together. But life does get messy, and trying to ignore that reality has only led me in circles. When I make room for the mess, and I invite people into the mess, I’m able to do my part knowing that I love myself and am allowing others to love me too. And when I do my part, when I take control of what I actually have control over, the rest takes care of itself and the changes happen a bit more naturally. Approaching change with shame never works because you end up trying too hard, and you end up making choices for all the wrong reasons.

Yes, I want to accomplish things: I want to exercise as often as possible and eat healthier food so that I have more energy to actually have a career. I want to become a published writer and reach people with my words. I want to communicate (especially with text messages) in a way where I’m not constantly acting and reacting out of insecurity. These are not just goals to achieve, but habits to maintain after I achieve them. In terms of personal development, growth is never static and the work is never entirely done. There is rest and there is acknowledging the journey, yet I’m always evolving as a person. And I’m not sure if I really want to know if I’ve succeeded or not (in some respects), because I don’t want to take anything for granted.

I suppose I say all of this because the-end-of-one-beginning-of-another jargon has started to make me cringe. Yes, 2017 can be YOUR year, but why make three hundred sixty five days the end all, be all? Of course you have the capability of making it a good one, of writing a great chapter or even a great book…but that takes time, and writing anything great comes with a lot of sitting and editing. The best mentality that I can come up with is to take it all one day at a time, and put one foot in front of the other. Life is unpredictable, and you really don’t know how you’ll handle a situation until you’re in it. You can plan and map something out to a tee, but life can be turned upside-down at any given moment.

One day at a time, one foot in front of the other.

Remember that you’re brave, you are strong, and you can do hard things.

If nothing else, you never have to wait until midnight to start over. You can do it again and again, reinventing yourself every day if it means getting to where you want to be.

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Project Publish

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A couple of months ago, I submitted an essay to be reviewed for possible publication; the piece itself is a personal narrative, and one that I’d spent months composing and editing while simultaneously coming to terms with the subject matter. At the beginning of October, I finally decided to hit, “send” and then sat back to wait on a response. While it had been well-received by the editors, I was told that unfortunately it was not the best fit for the platform. I wouldn’t be human if I said that it didn’t sting a little bit, but I was grateful for those on the other side who took the time to give genuine and truthful feedback. It was the first time I’d submitted anything in a while, and in hindsight I was just glad to be getting my feet wet again.

The majority of serious writers know that getting their work out there can and often does take a long time. Depending on the genre and length, it could take years:  Write. Edit. Submit. Critique. And repeat. I first started the summer before my last year in college, where the process of researching, emailing, and waiting actually took several months. Eventually I put it aside to focus on other things, and didn’t think about trying again until after graduation. By that time I was becoming more of an essayist, which compared to fictional short stories, is most definitely another ballgame.

The past year has helped me realize that I want to take it to a platform that’s perhaps a little bit bigger than this blog or my Facebook page. It’s not about bucket lists or recognition, but having a unique perspective and sensing that the world needs it, especially right now. I’ve been told over the that I have a different way of thinking and communicating, which I’ve been quiet about because I don’t want to brag or act like I’m better than anyone. I don’t have all the answers, and there are certain situations in which I don’t think I have a right to offer my perspective, simply because I haven’t been there. Yet, I continually find myself asking, “isn’t there another way? Does it always have to come down to this or that, without any gray areas?” There are always layers and complexities to unpack, especially in a culture that’s constantly changing and advancing.

But there’s also a personal side to it, and one that I didn’t think much about while composing the original piece: writing helps me to connect with people. It’s my way of saying, “here is an invitation for you to truly get to know me, and I hope that you will allow me to get to know you.” Of course this is hard to accomplish with a multitude of strangers, particularly when sharing something on the internet. Over the last several years I’ve taken to writing uncensored versions of things and then sharing them with my closest friends, at times way before it goes public. They are my tribe, the ones that don’t mind curse words, revealing details, or occasionally using the all caps button to get a point across. To know and to be known is a beautiful and most precious gift.

This is why you cannot be creative without being vulnerable. Creativity doesn’t necessarily stem from inspiration, but a willingness to get to the heart of whatever you’re trying to depict or communicate. And it’s challenging because not everyone will understand; your words might be misinterpreted as an attack, rather than mere expression. They might say you’re overanalyzing or going too deep, when in actuality you’re just too deep for them. You have to find a balance between telling the truth and taking others’ feelings into consideration. Sometimes regardless of the disclaimers or choice of words, they’re just not going to get it. Authentic writing requires thick skin, or at least an ability to recognize when someone is temporarily lashing out versus expressing genuine hurt.

By the time this year ends, I’m hoping to have sent another piece out for consideration, one that I specifically wrote for The New York Times “Modern Love” column. Two years and nearly ten drafts later, I’ve held back because of how meticulous I’ve been when it comes to editing. I’m more afraid that it won’t be “compelling” enough, and that ultimately my point is just going to fall on deaf ears.

Of course there is life after rejection, and a singular no doesn’t indicate that there won’t be a yes somewhere else. I’m considering Thought Catalog (and others) as a main base because I’m still  a new and emerging writer, and for now that might be my best bet. It also seems to have a larger audience, and from what I understand, a submission fee isn’t required.

It’s something that I’ve wanted to do my entire life, and will keep pursuing until that door closes on me for good. If it ends up that this gift only stays between me and certain audiences, so be it. Nevertheless, it is a talent that I will not let go to waste, and will use it to make a positive impact in any way that I can.

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When You Don’t Know What to Call It (Call it Good)

 

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It was like doing a cannonball into the deep end of a pool; last spring I attended a singles mixer for the first time in months, not really expecting to meet anyone special, but still curious nonetheless. One in particular did end up catching my attention, and after introducing ourselves, we were inseparable for the rest of the evening. We left the place early due to the crowd and the noise, opting for exploring the surrounding neighborhood while getting to know each other. At the time I was typically wary of being alone with a man who I’d only just met, yet his personality didn’t set off any alarms; he was a sweet nerd who hadn’t dated much and had a thing for cars, guitars, and skinny jeans. We swapped numbers and kissed several times before I let him drive me back to the train station, simultaneously asking myself what just happened and wanting to do a happy dance.

The following Thursday was one of arcade games, watching playoff hockey, and being incredibly vulnerable with one another. We came from different backgrounds, and I was grateful for his compassion and understanding, despite not always knowing how to respond. The physical connection was just as strong, and he was affectionate in a way that I absolutely adored. I appreciated not having to hold back, that we didn’t have to hide that we liked each other. It was fun to sneak around places while trying not to get caught, something that I hadn’t even dared to do while in high school or college. And by the time we parted ways after midnight, it was like we were officially a couple.

Our relationship moved quickly, but I felt safe and natural being with him. I didn’t see any reason to wait for the “right” moment to enjoy what was between us, having over-calculated previous dating situations in the past and ultimately ending up frustrated and stressed out. Certain topics came up sooner rather than later, but it was good to be honest about where we were both coming from and what we wanted in that respect. There was no pressure or force, nor was there a need to rush anything. He definitely brought out a side in me that I knew I had, but had tried (and failed) to conceal for years; it was almost like he flipped a switch, but I was relieved instead of freaked out.

The ending was just as unexpected as the beginning; I went out of town to see my brother graduate from The Air Force Academy in Colorado, and hadn’t heard from the guy in several days. I knew something was off because we normally kept in contact regularly, though I tried to hold it together in front of my family. I woke up one morning and got a text from him saying that it was over, for reasons that I believe we could have discussed and worked through. I responded as if I accepted his decision, but on the other side of the screen I was devastated. I cried just about every day of that whole week, confused and wanting an explanation. I worked up the nerve to call him when I got home, and sadly he hung up on me when he recognized my voice. He didn’t want to be with me and that’s all the closure I would get for some time.

It took a while for the sadness to truly dissipate, because not only was I upset over what no longer was, but what would also never be. We had all talked about the things that we wanted to do together, and I’d hoped to introduce him to my best friends and family at some point. I should have been angry at him, but I took the usual route of blaming myself; it’s what I’ve done when I have no idea what’s going on, and am trying to fill the question marks for the sake of not driving myself crazy.

It’s as much speculation now as it was back then (as far as what exactly happened and why). I’m aware of the possibilities; that he could have been using me, met someone else, or freaked out and ran the other direction. Ultimately I choose to trust my instincts and believe that his interest was genuine, and that he meant what he said about me. I have compassion for him, knowing what he has struggled with and how it shaped him. Men have pain and fears and complexities just as women do, and those deserve to be acknowledged and honored. It does not excuse disrespect or taking the easy way out, but we’re all human here and each person should be viewed as such.

I don’t regret investing in him or spending time with him, nor do I regret the way we were with each other. If anything, I wish I hadn’t confided in so many people about what was going on, both before and afterward. I over think relationships enough as it is, and a multitude of opinions and theories became paralyzing. It was wishful thinking to be vulnerable and not expect a reaction, especially since most of my close circle didn’t know him. By now I should be able to let cynicism and unnecessary advice go in one ear and out the other, but that’s challenging, given that I second guess myself a lot. I’ve learned to be much more protective about what I share, and selective with whom I share it with. Everyone means well, but not all end up being helpful.

So what do you say when something might or might not have been love, but it was no less real and meaningful? It was more than just an experience, not “right” but not necessarily wrong either. It was beautiful and amazing and I’m grateful that I met him. Initially I was scared that I wouldn’t have something like that again, but as time has passed I’ve seen how each individual relationship is unique, and it’s unfair to make comparisons or box yourself in. It really comes down to whether or not you feel like you can be yourself with someone, and whether or not he/she motivates you to be a better person. That takes time, patience, and grace. Don’t panic if you don’t figure all that out within the first two dates.

It was brutal at first, but I let it be and kept going. Eventually I met new people and put my energy into those who were present, as opposed to those who were not. I occasionally wonder where he’s at now, and various places and songs will momentarily bring back memories. Writing (and reliving) this was somewhat painful, bringing deep-seeded fears to the surface again. I’m still trying to come up with a confident way to explain to a man, please don’t leave without telling me. Please, whatever you do, don’t just disappear.

I hate the way that he left, but I don’t hate him. And despite not knowing, I’m glad for all of it. He woke me up, and in turn, I stayed away from my shell and trusted what was to come. Heartbreak is an excruciating bitch, but it’s also the price for love. When you’re willing to love someone despite the risk of heartbreak, it’s not a sign of naiveté or bad decisions; it’s a sign of a life well-lived.

That in itself is worth celebrating.

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