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

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Unconventionally Feeling

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It’s a choice, a destination, and the only “good” emotion within the spectrum. It’s something we pursue not for the sake of enjoying life, but in order to avoid dealing with the realities and complexities that come with it.

Perhaps the concept of happiness has become a total cliche. 

Why can’t you just be happy?

As a young girl, I didn’t know the answer, and still have a hard time with it now . I look back and see the irony, as this kind of question usually came from those who were miserable in their own circumstances or couldn’t deal with their own pain, and therefore put it onto me. But still that one phrase followed me around like the plague, to the point where I started to resent my feelings, emotions, and even my personality for not being able to automatically plaster on a smile.

The fog started to lift as I began my freshman year of college; I had a sense of belonging, a group of friends, and was no longer in the thick of dysfunction. I was fully alive and present to what was happening around me, and I held onto it to where I can still recall most memories. But slowly, the spark began to dim, and I didn’t know why or what it meant. I went to therapy and took time to sort through a hefty amount of baggage, but even after five years of doing so, the heaviness is still there most of the time.

 

It comes in Small Pockets and Waves

Being a writer makes me observant and detail-oriented. I love things like coffee, wine, and pasta. I go on walks a lot, and it’s amazing what thirty minutes to an hour outside (or even just exercising) can really do for me both physically and mentally. There’s nothing like the excitement of a hockey game, or a somewhat long hug where both of us don’t want to let go. I’ve rediscovered the joys of singing to my favorite songs and not thinking too much about how I sound, and if my body feels inclined, I’ll go ahead and dance. Candles are calming, especially while reading books when I feel like yelling, “ME TOO” because the author seems like he or she could be a kindred spirit. I have a sweet tooth the size of Texas and will stop at nothing if I’m craving chocolate or ice cream.

But it’s not just about me; I share memes and funny pictures because I’m hoping it might make the other person laugh the way I did. I’ll send interesting or quirky articles because they remind me of that particular friend, and in a way it’s my way of saying, “I like this about you and I’m glad we have this in common.” I do get a little self-conscious about going overboard, but I’d hope that that person would tell me if they didn’t appreciate it.

Feelings are often momentary, which is why I refuse to wait for reassurance that it’s safe to let myself enjoy something, or wait to see if the other shoe drops. Even if I only have it for a certain amount of time, that’s time I might not get back or have a second chance at.

It might seem unbelievable, mostly because I do these things by myself. Therefore, not everyone sees when I’m in a good mood. But it’s there, and I shouldn’t have to constantly document it in order to prove it.

 

The Darkness Exists

It’s a black cloud that often manifests itself in the form of depression and anxiety. I can’t say if I have either or both and to what extent, but I can sense that they’re there. Whether they’re professionally diagnosed or not, mental health conditions make constantly thinking positive a little bit complicated. I experience what I’ve begun to call “dark moments” that are either triggered by something, usually on social media or loud arguments. Not too long ago, I sat in my bathroom thinking that my friends and family would be better off if I just disappeared out of their lives, or at least didn’t come back for a little while. I felt unwanted. I wondered if I mattered. I nearly convinced myself that I was worthless and unlovable. I wrestled with texting friends that I sensed would understand, but I didn’t want to worry/burden them on a Saturday night while most of them were busy. And I didn’t want to be a bother if it would only last for a night as opposed to a period of days.

We also forget that puberty and hormones play a role, or the fact that life ebbs and flows. It impacts. It changes. And it’s unrealistic to expect anyone to stay the same throughout the years that follow.

 

A Different End Goal

There’s a lot less pressure when it comes to setting a goal to feel good and/or whole, as opposed to reaching a destination based on circumstances or expectations. One is not required to have a sunshine and rainbows persona in order to take care of themselves and ultimately live a healthy life. Rather than looking at the glass as half full or half empty, it’s possible to give thanks that there’s even water in the glass. And you have to do these things for yourself, rather than trying to fit into someone else’s ideal of who you should be or how you should feel. No one should ever have to prove that they are “OK” despite what they have to deal with, nor should they have to prove that their pain and struggle is valid.

But in retrospect, a lot of it has to do with the type of person I am I’m a deep feeler and have a tendency to both cry and laugh pretty often (and easily, might I add). Sometimes I genuinely wish I could switch it off like the rest of the world seems to do, because at least it would be easier to blend in and therefore not seem like a lame duck. I’m told that I’m better off for it, yet am not always sure myself.

Everybody handles their own sense of well-being differently, so I get when those on the other side of the fence become frustrated if someone they care about seems constantly down and out. But rather than asking about why they can’t seem to get it together, ask how you can help them and support them with whatever they’re going through. In my experience, I do get particularly emotional (waterworks and all) when I’ve been holding things in for a long time, and have no idea how to talk about any of it without fear of being judged or condemned. Having a safe space (for lack of a better phrase) or a listening ear is much better than a to-do list of how I should fix myself or the situation.

If nothing else, l want to be free to live in the moment when those good moments are present. For instance, I’m prone to start giggling or smiling at incredibly random times, usually because there’s something that reminds me of another something that happened previously. This is usually in public, like at a grocery store or while I’m out walking, and an (unnamed) family member will jokingly warn me that everyone else probably thinks I’m crazy. That might be true to an extent, but if it helps me to smile and not feel the weight of the world for a little bit, then that’s a small price I have to pay.

Despite the exclusivity, at the heart of things I’m beyond grateful that I allow myself the ability to feel, whether it’s happy or sad. Not everyone can say that, and what’s worse is not all will allow themselves to experience it.

You don’t have to choose between being Tigger and being Eeyore. You can teeter-totter between both, and chances are more people do that than they’re willing to admit.

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When You’re The Adventurous Type

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I was raised to be an explorer

Curiosity drove me, though fear lingered

The depth of the water

How high I could climb

Whether or not I had the courage to jump

Sink or swim

Hit the gas

Sometimes I said yes, sometimes no

 

I pushed boundaries and defied odds

Away from home

Miles of walking

Late nights on a dance floor

Chugging beverages with bleary eyes

With best friends and almost boyfriends

Memories that can’t be described or explained

Writing, loving, and living

Proving some people wrong

With a cap and diploma in hand

 

Then the concrete jungle called

One which I was determined to conquer

The city streets that felt like a playground

Yet an exclusive club of high-rent apartments and living

That I could not access fully

I did my best

Chasing a dream

Seemingly bound by placement of family and pride for my roots

A place I swore I’d never leave

But now I’m not so sure

 

I can feel another space calling

A wider berth

Where I can still do the little things I’ve always wanted

For the first time

Driving down a back road, going over the legal limit

Sipping tequila and/or whisky at a dive bar

Sitting on a rooftop and watching the sun rise

 

Or things I haven’t done in a long time

Looking at the stars

Wine tasting

Staying out all night

Karaoke

Eat seafood

In whatever unfamiliar town I can find

I want to grow and challenge myself

Not to discover who I am, but embrace it

Wild like fire, calm like the wind

A plethora of this and that

Perhaps not belonging just in once place

But everywhere

 

We’ll see

For now, let me satisfy my taste of kicking back

Yet going all out

This is my adventure

Want to join me?

Taking Off My Headphones

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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.

Chasing Happy

 

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Chasing Happy

I’m probably overthinking this

But hell, aren’t we all?

Everybody seems to want it

But no one really knows how to hold it

It’s an emotion

A feeling

Something that you choose

There’s no one definition

Yet it has become something to prove

 

I feel like I’ve lived a divided life

Before the cloud and then there after

I’d be asked “Why are you like this?”

As the tears rolled down by face

Where’s the answer

To the thing you can’t explain

It’s up and it’s down

Like a rollercoaster

Something to keep at bay

Except from a select few

Who understand and have been there

 

It’s not that I don’t feel the sunshine

Or experience the colors

It’s just on a different level

In smaller pockets

Moments

Rather than circumstances

Because to smile all the time

Would be lying

And I’m not an actress

 

I believe in wholeness, connectivity, and meaning

That we are bound together more by struggles and challenges

Than anything else

And we chase what isn’t that

Because it’s what we think we’re supposed to do

Instead of sitting with the discomfort

Acknowledging what goes on around us

Forgetting that calling out darkness is the beginning of being a light

There’s a balance

Where some days are high

Others are low

Ebb and flow

And so it goes

When Anger Becomes Poison

 

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It’s no secret that the world is angry right now. I see it on the news programs and demonstrations. The articles and relentless debates on social media over right and wrong.  Conversations, laments, and calls to action. People are angry, and rightfully so.

I find it challenging to express my thoughts and opinions when I don’t always understand what’s going on. I want to get involved, to take a stand and use my voice, but I don’t know how to do that without getting trapped in the emotions and feelings that will come with it. I’ve gotten involved with various movements previously, but eventually had to take a step back because it took a toll on my mental health. Anger and outrage can be powerful forces that lead us to take action, but there’s a fine line between taking action and allowing it to take over our lives.

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I know what it’s like to be an angry person, because arguably I’ve lived a good portion of my life being pissed off at the world: barely a teenager, I blamed having a handicap for most of the rejection that I experienced from some of my peers and classmates, not able to understand why they didn’t at least try to get to know me. Upon freshman year of high school I switched from public to private education, yet couldn’t look past the previous pain in order to start over. Then in college, I turned that anger on myself, hating how I didn’t seem to have the courage or strength to ask for what I wanted, or needed, and rise above the ignorance that didn’t seem to go away.

And then there was my parents’ divorce; I’ve written in the past regarding why I had such a hard time with it, but have only now become comfortable with admitting that it boiled down to the fact that I had no control over what was happening. It took me to some pretty dark places, where I either envisioned hurting myself or someone else out of desire for revenge. I had to put friends on speed-dial in case I was ever seriously tempted to do anything that I couldn’t take back; and while thankfully that never happened, the rage still festered. It was an awful way to function, but back then it was either hold on for dear life in order to keep myself safe, or let go and risk being taken advantage of.

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There was no single moment of surrender, although I could sense the fatigue that went deeper than just a lack of sleep. As it usually goes, most of us aren’t motivated to get better until we bottom out, reaching a point where the only option is to face our demons or be destroyed by them. I’d occasionally look in the mirror and think, “if I don’t properly deal with this somehow, I’m going to lose my mind.” Part of me already felt like I was dying on the inside, which perhaps was necessary in order to begin the work of moving forward. A family sit-down was a good starting point in finally making peace, acknowledging the pain as well as the shortcomings in how everything was handled. When you name and acknowledge something, regardless of what it is, you give it less power.

Accepting reality, and allowing my heart to soften along with it has been no straight shot, and the rising has often come with pauses and standstills. Initially I was wasn’t sure what to do, likening what was actually freedom to standing in the middle of a clearing in the woods and waiting for a monster to jump out and grab me. I still have dreams that come out of nowhere and still deal with emotional triggers every so often: on Valentine’s Day I came across a picture that set me off in a fit, where I cried and dropped F-bombs and couldn’t stop thinking about it all day. But rather than seek out satisfaction in confrontation, I declared that whatever was going out was not in my hands, and that I was not responsible for ensuring that good decisions were made. This is not the first time that I’ve had a butt-kick in order to lighten up, and it probably won’t be the last.

I do have regrets, wondering where I would be right now if I had put more energy into actively building a career, (and overcoming the fears that came along with it) rather than kicking and screaming over a lack of  support from those who couldn’t provide it. I took people for granted, and I think I could have had better relationships if I was willing to look beyond my own grief and take control of my life, rather than allowing outside circumstances to dictate how I lived it.

I’m an incredibly deep feeler, so whether I’m excited or upset about something, there’s no hiding it from anyone. If I denied that part of myself, I wouldn’t be able to write, or connect, or love in the ways that I do.  Anger in itself is not the enemy, but rather when we choose to use it as a weapon or an unnecessary barrier in order to avoid dealing with our own pain or struggle. To be angry is one thing, but to stay angry is another battle all together.

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Though a lot of what I’ve mentioned above is personal, knowing how I handled it does play a role in how I approach discussing and taking part in what is currently going on in our country. I don’t want to be passive and just leave matters of change to those whom I feel can do a better job than I can, but I don’t want to throw myself into an ocean when I just end up swimming around in circles. Since November, I’ve spent a lot of time examining how I interact with people, especially those whom I suspect or know don’t share my point of view. I believe in listening to both sides, choosing to ask questions more than making arguments or assumptions. I believe in seeking to understand as much as I want to be understood, even if it takes a while for me to completely “get it.” And rather than take offense to someone’s anger or passionate advocacy, I want to honor where they’re coming from in the best way I know how.

I wonder how the world would be if we could admit that deep down, a lot of the outrage is the result of failure to be seen, heard, and loved exactly as we are. Are we angry solely because of what’s happening, or does it also have to do with the fact that we can’t force the people around us to think the way that we do?

I know that there are more complicated layers involving injustice, identity, and matters of life and death. I know that I have privilege, and as a result I wonder if I even have a right to contribute my own thoughts and ideas. But the conversation has to start somewhere, and the best place I can think of right now is within the context of our shared humanity. Different backgrounds, different beliefs, yet whether we want to admit it or not, we are all human here. It’s okay to be afraid of change, afraid of pain, and afraid of being alone. Damn it all, I’m scared too.

And yet, I refuse to let the darkness overtake me. If I want to lighten up, I need to be a light, both for myself and for others. The release, the laying down of defenses on a daily basis feels like one of the hardest things that I’ve had to do, since I lived that way for so long. Only this I know for sure:

Be soft, for softness is not weakness.

Be sweet, for a kind and compassionate heart will take you further than apathy ever will.

Acknowledge feelings and emotions, but don’t let those be the reason that you overlook what is good in the world, including those around you.

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Reason’s Voice

 

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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

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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.

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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.

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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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