What You Say

 

scrabble-243192_1920

 

It started with him and I

Once

A seemingly typical experience for strangers

Beginning in hope and ending in silence

 

With a superficial sense of comfort

I confided in him what haunted me

Explaining that I’d preferred to go in small steps

Relieved when met with a response of compassion and understanding

The same wavelength

Which we seemed to be on through the following night (and into morning)

Not one of regret, but not one without lessons

Deep enough to soul search

 

In living in the tension

No verbal response of what was next

With the news of the days, weeks, and months swirling around

I began to ponder

Whose responsibility is it,

To ensure not just an avoidance of attack

But a positive coming together

 

And upon reflection came the realization

Such responsibilities are for both partners

A responsibility to communicate needs, wants, and boundaries

And to respect said boundaries without guilt, shame, or coercion

A perhaps awkward but necessary conversation

That happens before doors close

And clothing removed

 

Language. Words.

They matter

Even in a culture of anything goes

Which lately, is seeming to be anything but fun or empowering

Especially for those who are deep and emotional

With desire to know their partner, and be known

 

But we cannot blame cultural norms entirely

Or fault expectations or standards in leu of personal choices

Yes, it’s challenging

And one might not be sure

Until they’ve walked that path or mile

Yet society is fleeting

Always changing

One cannot let it blow like the wind

Letting these broken norms do anymore damage

To those who navigate the taboo and silence

 

Let’s not simplify by idolizing marriage or previous ideals as the answer

Relationships and interactions as a whole

Only successful with conversation

Humility

Listening

And a willingness to grow and evolve

 

Maybe I can’t change the world

But I can be better than I’ve been

I can honor my body

I can honor my heart

That which I truly want

By acknowledging it

Out loud in prayer, and to others

 

What you say

(or don’t say)

May not hold you responsible for what happens

But by staying true to that which you hold dear

May it set you free

Are You Tired? Me too.

nature-dead-1180189_1280

I first saw it circulating on Facebook as a copy and paste message, figuring that it was related to the Harvey Weinstein scandal. I hadn’t been following the news that closely because it seemed overwhelming, but I knew enough to understand what was going on. I typed it out and shared it within my newsfeed, but something in me was screaming that generics weren’t enough. So I went a little bit deeper on Instagram, detailing certain nights that I had experienced in college, and that I’m still dealing with repercussions to this day. Soon after I was asked about why I had posted something so personal, and that I needed to focus on letting it go. Trying to keep my emotions in check, I explained that it was about more than the things that were said to me, detailing how I had been groped and followed on a number of occasions. This was not our first conversation on the subject, but I was still vulnerable to intimidation, rejection, and inadequacy

All of the reading and processing left me emotionally drained. My head was in a fog, and there were times where I had to close my computer and walk away, the details of another horrifying yet courageous story too much to bear. I could feel the anger rising: anger that my mind feels at peace with what I went through, but my body apparently is not.  Anger that we have a president in the White House that perpetuates such disgusting behavior. Anger for having received multiple of versions of sex education growing up that ultimately left me confused and frustrated.

Recalling the first incident nearly five years ago, I blamed myself until I broke down and told my closest guy friends what had happened. They were compassionate and protective, assuring me that it was not my fault and that they didn’t look down on me or think less of me. It was almost as if I needed permission to stop beating myself up, which I do when I sense that I’m about to be judged or abandoned. I didn’t know what do think or how to feel back then, and that same kind of wrestling continues now.

I’m tired of bearing all of the responsibility.

“Cover up” so men don’t lust after me and want to touch me.

Don’t go out or walk back alone. Watch the alcohol.

Be careful not to send mixed signals (i.e. dancing, kissing, or even just showing interest).

Make sure keys and pepper spray are visible.

And so on.

To live in such a way where you’re constantly watching and disciplining yourself for the sake of others is to barely live at all. It’s perfectionism, which I’ve taken on in other ways already. Perfectionism is a disease in itself, which lead to other illnesses in both mind, body, and soul. But there’s a difference between doing these things to honor someone’s humanity, and doing such because you have or fear having yours taken.

I can’t do it anymore, yet I’m not sure where we go from here.

However, I do know this:

It is NEVER the victim’s fault, and they’re not responsible for anyone else’s actions. Alcohol, sex drive, location, and clothing are no excuse for taking what is not yours to take. Being powerful does not make you a man. It does not make you a woman. It’s not about gender, but about being a decent human being and treating others the same.

Whether or not one chooses to share their story doesn’t make them any less brave or honorable. Trauma is complicated, and so is sharing it with others. Whenever you’re ready, whether it’s telling one person or telling the world, know that you’re loved and supported.

“If it’s not actually rape, then it doesn’t matter.” That’s a load of crap and we must do better than that. Surviving harassment and assault are not olympic sports, competing to see who’s experience is more painful and more deserving of validation. If anyone disrespects your boundaries, it’s wrong. If it leaves you feeling violated, it’s wrong. Full stop. 

Instead of saying “Not all [insert gender, religion, ethnicity, etc] are like that,” sit with the one baring their soul to you and actually listen. Sit with them and share their pain, the multitude of feelings and emotions. Then stand with them. Instead of being angry at others for being “lumped in” as a response to trauma, cast your anger toward sexism, racism, misogyny, and overall dehumanization by calling it out when you see it. “Not all,” is a cop out and a refusal to take responsibility for what we might contribute without knowing it. “No more” is acknowledging that it’s not about you, but it’s about doing whatever you can to help redefine the toxic cultural standards that are killing us as a whole.

Let’s talk about sex. Without shame, judgement, or disgust. Let’s talk about consent, getting to know our bodies, and having difficult but necessary conversations. Instead of preaching and teaching, let’s discuss and be willing to admit that we don’t know everything. Forget the sermons and Cosmo articles. Put away the porn. From extreme scare tactics to extreme silence, none of its working. Sex is real, beautiful, and deserves to be truthful.

Healing is necessary. Healing is agonizing. And it takes as long as it takes.

We can’t go back. But if the decades of walls, empires, and old ways of doing things are going to come tumbling down, we have to be willing to do the work and rebuild.

Old-Fashioned Developments

film-2233656_1920

“I wish you could see yourself the way that I see you.”

It was during a phone call with one of my closest friends from college, after I had tearfully vented some frustrations about my life situation at the time. 2017 has very much been an inside job, where it wasn’t necessarily what what happening to me, but what I had to reckon with as a result. His words stuck with me, as they do quite often, and it’s something that quite honestly I’m still processing.

As I’ve pondered and prayed, my response became twofold: we live in a culture that essentially trains us to dislike ourselves and tells us that we need to be better, whether that’s in the form of changing appearance or acting a certain way to blend in. And because of that, God gives us opportunities to engage in life-giving and healthy relationships/friendships in order to show us what we can’t see, both the good and the not-so-good.

But even with the affirmations and reassurance from loved ones, the concept of feeling good about and believing in myself isn’t exactly cut and dry. I’ve always had a quiet confidence, but have shied away from it for a fear of coming across as unrelatable. I still want to connect with people, to need them and for them to need me. I want to practice humility and gratitude.. And I’ve never been interested in owning a room the second I walk into it or getting people to instantly like me. I’m sure already get enough attention as it is without even trying, probably for reasons that aren’t exactly flattering. Having power and/or control does not equate to being the best person.

So what do you do when self-love and sugar-coated platitudes seem ridiculously hokey?

How do you love yourself when you inner critic (or the critics around you) are so loud to the point where you can’t hear anything else?

Instead of trying to have it all together beforehand, maybe we can learn how to extend compassion inward as we go along.

Maybe the key to self-confidence is not necessarily believing that we’re awesome all the time, but being kind and gracious to ourselves in the moments when we think we’re not. Or at least that’s a start.

For instance, on my first day at my new job I had very little direction due it being Thanksgiving week and not many people were in the office. There was an initial mix up upon receiving my badge and computer, which had me waiting an hour longer than expected, my cheeks burning with embarrassment and fear that I would make a bad first impression. Once I set up and settled in, I spent a lot of the the time introducing myself by saying, “I’m Alyx and I’m new here, can you show me where the bathroom is? The microwave?” and so on. I’m not shy about taking the initiative, but doing so on a regular basis can be overwhelming after a while.

When I overthink, that’s where I have to be my own best friend. I’m a softie, so I speak to myself in a way that’s tender: Honey, you’re okay. You’ve got this. Take a deep breath and just do the next right thing.

Am I enough?

Yes, you are.

Why?

You’re a human being and a child of God.

But what about–?

Shh. Lists aren’t necessary for being lovable.

It’s like the way we take pictures: the sugary, caffeine like boost is similar to taking a selfie, where you simply hit a button and then you can immediately look. Self-compassion is old-fashioned development; it takes time, patience, and the right equipment. It’s not a quick fix, but something more sustainable.

I’m not just digging inside until I’m hallowed out as though I have nothing left; I allow love and grace to pour down on me as a reminder that it’s not just about me.

Compassion. For self. For others. A work in progress and an aim for growth, so that I’m no longer beating myself up over doing the best that I know in that moment.

Broadening Horizons

sunrise-1634734_1920.jpgLately I’ve been thinking of publishing longer essays on different platforms, and this week decided to venture over to Medium at Delightful today. This is something that I feel very passionate about, and have had to put into practice in order to grow in order to get to where I am right now. It’s not an us verus them, or at least it shouldn’t be. We’re in this together.

Read More »

In The Valley (Life Lately)

zion-park-139012_1920

 

About a month ago, I began waking up and struggling to get out of bed. I’ve been in funky throes before, but never to the point of complete exhaustion and not being able to think straight. It hit me without warning after unexpectedly losing my job and choosing to do something that I can’t say I regret, but in hindsight it had more of an emotional impact than I anticipated. Over the past several weeks, I’ve had to come to terms with some heavy stuff all at once; being formally diagnosed with depression and anxiety was a relief, having sensed it all along and now finally being able to address it. The health of my body has been a tougher pill to swallow, not because it was a surprise, but because I had been denying it for such a long time. For now I’ll say that it has a lot to do with a lack of appetite, along with the ability to keep food down when I do eat. I don’t want to hide anymore, and I’m slowly opening up to my closest friends and family regarding both situations. And whether I’m on the road to recovering or learning how to manage certain things, I want it to be for me, so that’s why I’m only sharing so much at the moment.

Yet even among those that I know, I’m not sure how to adequately describe what I’m going through. The circumstances are atypical, at least in comparison to the way that the issue is portrayed in Hollywood and the media. And because of that, I wonder if I even have the right to talk about it out loud. By merely looking at me or looking at pictures, you wouldn’t guess that there was anything going on. There have been accusations of dramatizing the circumstances or discussing the subject to get attention, and that is not something I would stoop to when it comes to something that can potentially kill me if I’m not careful. It’s unfortunate how it still comes down to looks; one has to “look” sick or be at death’s door in order for their struggle to be taken seriously.

I can’t say how I feel about it all right now, specifically identifying with having an illness or a disease. I would much rather call it a weakness; a weakness that was the result of wanting control in the midst of chaos, and the fear of losing control if I ate too much or didn’t exercise enough. And yet, I ended up losing control anyway, where it psychologically ran wild for two years. I don’t see this as another notch of shame to add to my belt, or another layer of baggage that will supposedly make me hard to love. I’m actually grateful that I’m coming to terms with it sooner rather than later, as though God gave me a lifeline rather than letting me nearly flat-line before I asked for help. It feels like a major (and hopefully a final) step in dismantling this tough as nails exterior/persona that I portrayed in order to protect myself. It’s already teaching me a lot spiritually, and I’m leaning on my faith more than I ever have in a long time.

I’ve been asked about support, and truthfully I’m not entirely sure what that looks like. I’m going to both a recovery group and individual therapy, though not as often as I would like. I don’t expect anyone to fix me, nor do I want them to try to, because I don’t need to be fixed as much as I need to be fed (literally and figuratively). I need patience as I navigate how to think differently so that my stomach can accept nourishment. I need compassion (NOT pity), as I walk and stumble as I figure out what kind of treatment is best for me, and what allows me to be healthy. I need to get out, spend quality time with people I care about and have deep conversations. I need to experience adventure in new places, taking road trips and be spontaneous. I need hugs and physical touch. More than anything, I need to be encouraged not to hide anymore. Hell, that’s how I got here in the first place, because I isolated myself and the pain eventually manifested itself on a physical level.

I’m not broken, but I am human. I want to be an example for others, to show that you can face adversity with both grit and grace. I’m not going to wait for the light to just magically show up in order to start healing, but to be a light myself. True strength is not self-reliance, but being able to admit that you cannot do it on your own.

I am strong.

I am brave.

I am resilient.

I am loved, and worth loving.

And by the Grace of God or come hell or high water, I am going to be OK.

For anyone who is out there struggling, regardless if you can relate to this or not, so will you.

We got this.

Taking Off My Headphones

headphones-1149205_1920

With a portable CD player, I often ran out of battery every time we traveled; headsets were the norm, although I remember how they always broke in one way or another. Jumping on the iPod bandwagon in high school, I typically used it on the bus, or sitting on my swing-set for hours as a form of relaxation and escape. I liked that earbuds were becoming popular, but the Apple brand seemed to be the only ones that wouldn’t fall out when I put them on.

In college, I scuffed up my second generation Nano from carrying it around campus so much, and went through several pairs of those tiny speakers because they were either getting worn out or crushed in my backpack. I would honestly just walk to class or work out at the gym like I was in another world, daydreaming about all the things that I wanted to do or whomever I had a crush on at the time. There were a lot of playlists involving John Mayer, Kesha, The Glee soundtrack, and 80’s power ballads.

As my final semester progressed, I started to leave my beloved device at home; I realized how silly I looked wearing a shit-eating grin for no apparent reason, and most likely came across as unintentionally rude when my friends tried to say hello or have a conversation, and I didn’t respond because I couldn’t hear. I accumulated many scrapes and bruises from tripping and falling (i.e. not paying attention), and received the occasional dirty look due to bumping into random people on the sidewalk. Yet I also wanted to take everything in and appreciate all that was Iowa City, because come graduation I wasn’t going to have it anymore.

As I ride a lot of public transportation in order to get around, I choose to challenge myself beyond just being hands-free. I make a point to thank the conductors and bus drivers for making getting from point A to point B as easy as possible. If I’m at a store where there’s a cashier or barista, I’ll ask them how their day is going. The goal is to always take as many opportunities as I can that allow me to engage with the world around me, especially if it’s uncomfortable at first.  And most of the time, it is.

It’s enlightening to say good morning to fellow walkers passing by in the neighborhood, or to give someone a genuine compliment and see just how much it makes them smile. I’ve discovered that meet-cutes still exist, and that you can flirt on the CTA without being a creep.

Yet, it’s just as disheartening when you want to start a conversation, but you don’t want to yell over Bruno Mars or the latest TED talk. Sometimes I’ll notice that nearly everyone around me is staring at a screen, like it’s a shield from all the apps and online games that we’ve seemingly become addicted to. Shortly after the election, I witnessed a situation between two women where one used a racial slur against the other because her baby was being too loud (giggling, not screaming or crying). I was wracked with guilt over not having done more than just tell the shocked young lady to have a good day before getting off at my stop. And it’s tough wanting to be kind, but to not put myself in a potentially dangerous situation when sitting near someone who’s drunk or looks like they’ve been taking some kind of substance.

I’ve been practicing, but I don’t always get it right. As a partial introvert, I understand those who don’t have the energy to make small talk after a long day. For some, their commute is the only alone time they have before going home to a house-full of kids or roommates. If you can’t communicate much during the day, it’s normal to want to return text messages or personal emails as soon as you get the chance. And as it goes, sometimes we just do things out of habit. If you want to change your habits, you have to figure out why you have certain ones in the first place.

When it comes to being in public, my hunch is that it has to do with fear; the fear of giving someone the wrong idea if we give them the slightest bit of attention. The fear of ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time. The fear of being alone with our thoughts, and having to face the possible truths that come with them. These fears are valid, but what good will come of allowing them to dictate how we interact with our surroundings? You can ignore the person making crude/sexual comments about your body, but that’s nothing compared to standing up for your humanity, with dignity. You can get pissed at the person attempting to talk your ear off, or calmly explain that you’ve had a tough day and that you’d like to be left alone.

We can’t backtrack and act like technology doesn’t exist, or wish that it would just disappear. We need to learn to deal with it, to peacefully coexist instead of making it the enemy. You don’t have to completely unplug, but at least start by turning the volume down or wearing one earbud and leaving the other one out. If you’re going from one place to the next, focus on doing something positive (like smiling or holding the door open) rather than just avoiding taking out your phone. It takes baby steps, and at first it feels really weird, like you’re missing a limb or you have this wide open space to contend with. I’m still not entirely used to it, and I find myself mindlessly scrolling from time to time. A lot of it is generational, because I remember what it’s like to grow up without being attached to something at all hours, so that makes it easier to take a break from it.

I want real, face to face connection, and I’m not ashamed to say that I need it. If that makes me an old soul and a lone wolf, so be it. I’m willing to be a leader in order to feed myself.

Reason’s Voice

 

bridge-1871276_1280

Reason’s Voice

I’m often overwhelmed

By the division before my eyes

Shouting and yelling all around

An expectation that I must take a side

 

Trying to observe and comprehend

A lot of what I don’t understand

Gender, faith, race, politics

It goes over my head

Like a ball too-high in the air

 

And so I sit quietly

Not without an opinion

But without proper argument

Not know what research to trust

Or having a way to fully wrap my mind around it

 

But what is arguing if it doesn’t lead anywhere worth going?

Nowhere but the same circle

Without broadening ways of thinking

Considering the different experiences

And acknowledging a lack of insight as a result

 

Like being in a cartoon

When everyone else around you squabbles in a big crowd

For the same prize

Being right

Having all the answers

And I’m trying to keep my head above it

Choosing to hear different viewpoints, different ways

Without judgement

For I do not wear their shoes

Some ideas might be misguided, but they’re no less valid

Whether or not I agree

 

I want to be a voice

A calm voice

Without screaming and shouting

Demanding action

Yet not like a child demands a favorite toy

I want to speak not for those, but with them

As I seek to understand various angles and perspectives

Because I do not believe in an “us versus them”

It’s not about winning, but about seeing and listening

Finding middle ground

A place of rest

A voice of reason

 

Yet how to do that

While protecting my health

Mentally and emotionally

It’s exhausting and scary

The toll it takes

Is fighting cultural norms even worth it

If you lose yourself in the process?

 

Anger should motivate, but not consume

Passion for a cause should lead to real change, not violence

Get up, but don’t get dirty

Be fierce, without inciting fear

For that is where monsters feed

And I refuse to be one

Photo Credit

When Loss Comes Closer

img_6268

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.

img_6290

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.

img_6722

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.

img_6266

Project Publish

type-1161954_1280

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.

Photo Credit

And So We Rise

It has been over a month since the election, and I refrained from writing (let alone posting), because I wasn’t sure how to express my feelings. In some respects, that’s still true, which makes it challenging to have conversations on the subject. Since I’m a much better writer than a talker, I thought I would let these words be a symbol of my thoughts.

beach-1867285_1280

 

 

And So We Rise

 

After months of anticipation

And anxiety

It came down to one day

I cast my ballot and prayed

All through the counting hours as results rolled in

The outcome looked dark

The unknowns were swirling

Like my head after two glasses of wine

I cried at midnight

Physically sick

Like millions of others

Lamenting and asking why

 

The air had changed

From hopeful to questionable

It seemed like a free for all

Divided and pitted against one another

Us vs. them

And so I grieved

 

Politics is like a foreign language

One I only know bits and pieces of

I rarely speak it for a concern of looking silly

But now I know that consequences of not learning

At least to the extent that I should

It’s hard to understand

But not impossible

 

Reality TV is not real life

And real life looks grim on the surface

But let this not be a reason to hide

Or a reason to run

Let this be a wake up

Call to action

To be moved by compassion

To not rely on one person alone to represent us

Or fight for us

But to look in the mirror

And be the change we so desperately need

And so we should act

 

This chapter will not be an easy one

It might get worse before it gets better

But we cannot allow fear and cynicism dictate the direction

We as individuals and collectively

Want to go in

We might fall

And hit the bottom

Time and time again

But we keep going

Speaking

Writing

Teaching

Advocating

Together

And so we rise

Photo Credit