Learning to Believe

I’ve taken another short writing hiatus. Hiatus is probably too ostentatious of a word….I’ve been wrapped up in a cozy little life I’ve formed for myself, and I’ve not cared enough about being disciplined to keep writing on a regular basis.

For the past month or so, I’ve felt like I’ve been on another planet. The holidays had me all sorts of mixed up mentally, and I wanted nothing more than for them to just speed by. Christmas didn’t really feel like Christmas, at least not the kind of Christmas I used to look forward to every year. The good part about this Christmas, however, was finally making peace with my new life.

I went through my divorce toward the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014. For all of 2014, I assumed the mask of “divorcee” because that’s all I knew to identify myself by. For the majority of 2015, I was the girl who was mostly interesting because she had lived abroad and traveled to interesting places across the world. Moving to Arkansas meant another new start, but it wasn’t an interesting one. Moving back to Arkansas was meant to serve one purpose: allow myself to finally finish what I started in the form of a college degree. I returned here knowing that it wasn’t going to be my final destination, just a stepping stone to greater things.

Being back here has been harder than expected. My only friends who I had up here were ones who knew my old married identity, who knew my ex and the rest of my ghosts. They knew me as that person, and weren’t around first-hand for my transformation that I’ve been going through for two years. That’s not to say my relationship with those friends is hurt or hindered, it’s just more difficult returning to friendships when you aren’t the same person you were. But for the past two years, I had been able to grow and cultivate friendships with people who hadn’t seen me at my worst, so the dynamic has been different.

I have branched out and made new friends. I’ve been lucky enough to have made some incredibly fast friends with the people I work with. We’re a small staff, so we spend five days a week together, and the sense of family is very strong. When meeting this group of people, I struggled with the question of “do I reveal my married past and everything that went with it, or do I act like I have a normal and easy past?” as I do with every new group of people I meet. I’m good with keeping the important stuff to myself and acting like my life is just fine, so that’s been my default approach to any new friends. It’s safer.

However, for the past several months, I’ve tried to not wear a mask around the new people in my life. I’ve been growing more and more confident when letting people see who I really am underneath the easy going, content outer shell I present. Using the conversation I had with a close friend about how I make it hard to allow people to love me as inspiration, I’ve been working hard on laying out most of who I really am from the beginning of a friendship as a way to separate the true friends from the casual acquaintances.

It’s been so difficult. There is such a sense of rawness and lack of control living a more vulnerable life. You’re much more susceptible to hurtful criticism when you show the bad parts with the good. Recently though, I’ve discovered how rewarding no longer hiding all the layers of my life can be. Sometimes, when you share yourself entirely, you stumble across people who are capable of truly understanding you.

So I’ve found a small community of people who care about me in spite of all my flaws, even though I’ve made no effort to hide that person I’m a little ashamed to be at times. I’ve been surrounded by people who embrace me even when I may feel difficult. Even more mind-blowing, I’m finally starting to feel appreciated and special, instead of having to mentally remind myself of this fact over and over again. It’s beginning to become a learned fact. For the first time in my memory, I feel treasured not only for the cool stories I might have or how “interesting” my experiences seem, but for what thoughts and emotions make up the core of who I am. There’s a sense of peacefulness that overwhelms every other thought when you are finally able to believe how much you matter to another person.

Louvre- Paris, July 2014
Louvre- Paris, July 2014

currently listening to: Spotify’s Discover Weekly

Another Year Down

If I had to sum up 2015 in one word, that word would probably be tenacity.

The past few years have been hard. Learning how to live with the darkest days and appreciate the good days seems to have been my life theme for months. 99% of my blog posts seems to follow that stream of thought, but mostly just because my mental health is such an important part of my everyday thinking.

Tenacity is defined as “persistent determination”, and while I don’t often feel that way in the moment, I’ve realized that many of the big things I’ve really wanted to happen this year have happened. For the most part, I’ve made peace with the crash and burn of 2013. I’ve learned more about my family history and formed relationships with some in my biological family. I’ve moved out of my parents’ house and returned to the place that first began to teach me independence. Most importantly, I’ve experienced the pure love of friendship and learned to actually accept it and let people in, instead of holding everyone at arm’s length.

2015 held so many difficult moments for me, but as cliche as it sounds, those moments have forced me to grow. Growing is an ugly, painful experience, but after I begin to make it to the other side, I’m always appreciative of the difficulties I had to fight through. Time after time, that has been my 2015. Luckily, I’ve encountered SO many beautiful souls who have not only shown me love and support, but who have gone out of their way to help me when they can.

This year, when I’m cheering and ringing in the new year, know that I’m cheering you. I’m cheering your love, your support, your lasting friendships that have been the only light on some of those darkest days. You people who transcend traditional friendship- you who are spread all the way from Tyler and Fayetteville to Alaska and Germany- I love you.

Tyler, TX- July 2008
Tyler, TX- July 2008

listening to: Glass Animals, Iron and Wine

It’s the Hardest Time of the Year

Many people count down to the holidays every year with baited breath. For most of the world, December is a month of celebrating and happiness. For others, however, it’s a time that reminds them of the bad, the difficult, and the painful. For others, the entire holiday season fills them with dread.

For the past few years, I’ve found myself in the second group. I’ve found myself wanting to avoid everything holiday related as much as possible. I’m not sure if it’s constantly being surrounded by people who insist that it’s the “happiest time of the year”, if it’s the reminder of the holidays formerly being happy memories, or if it’s just that depression seems to be spiked with extra strength steroids at the end of the year. Honestly, it’s probably a combination of all of the above, but no matter the reasoning, I’ve found myself becoming more bitter and less willing to give any holiday celebrating the time of day.

I read an article on the habits of people with concealed depression a couple days ago. I think this is one of the most on-point articles on describing my thoughts and actions in dealing with depression that I’ve ever read. There is nothing more that I hate than feeling like a burden to the people around me…having the thoughts that make you believe that if you fully let someone in to the way you experience the world, there’s no way that they could willingly spend another minute with you. The paralyzing need to just have someone want to be there while you sob, but not being able to trust that someone would be that strong backbone for you. The guilt that floods through you as you sit on the floor, unable to move. The facade, the impenetrable mask of peaceful happiness you’ve created and don’t know how to remove because you’ve feared the abandonment by the people you care for most in this world if they saw that darkness that flows through the truest form of you.

The holiday season is always one when the mask is weakest. When the sense of aloneness becomes stronger than ever and threatens to break down your walls past the point of repair. When the joy around you is almost unbearable because the opposite feeling feels so clear in your life. For me, it always begins on Thanksgiving. That’s the start of the season when I want to go into hibernation, only returning back to the world after the holidays have passed and the harshest part of winter makes the general public want to withdraw into their shells.  So I find ways to avoid celebrating. I work through the holidays. I avoid time with family and friends. I make it a point to stay home.

It’s really a battle between hard and harder. I was sick this Thanksgiving, and while I have been hit with waves of loneliness stronger than I think I’ve ever experienced before, part of me was thankful that I could use that sickness as an excuse to stay home instead of accepting friends’ offers to join their families. There’s a sense that those invitations come from a place of pity that I am alone, even though I know that’s a ridiculous idea to have. There’s the idea that if I were to go and celebrate any holiday with others, that I would be a downer, even though the people that I know are sincere in their friendship wouldn’t actually mind my melancholy. It’s a constant inner battle between my feelings and thoughts and knowing that those feeling and thoughts take over through the power of depression.

I started writing this post as a reflection, as an explanation for some of my actions. However, I think it’s become more of a plea to the people around me, as an attempt to put some of my thoughts into words, and to let the other people I know who struggle through this month know that you aren’t the only one. Even if some of us choose to struggle in silence and solitude, there’s a slight relief knowing others are fighting similar battles.

Austin, Texas - February 2015
Austin, Texas – February 2015

Healing

Part of my plan for this first year of living in Fayetteville is to really learn to take time for myself, so I’ve been going through this meditation journal for just about two weeks. I found it through the world of instagram (the same way I’ve found many of my favorite current poets), and  the premise behind it is just so wonderful. There is one question per day that is different, but then there is a list of the same things to think about every day: daily intentions, what you’re thankful for, things to enjoy and accomplish for the day, and then a couple things to work on. I’ve been able to use it as a daily way to mentally check on myself- to see how my mood shifts from day to day, and to find common themes in my thinking.

One of the questions I really struggled with was how to know when you’ve really healed from something. I written about brain bruises before when tied into depression, which I think is still a great analogy for the reason why it’s so much easier to fall back into that place after thinking you’ve fully recovered.

Yesterday, I was watching one of my girly drama shows during some down time, and one of the characters compared the end of a relationship to a broken bone: it can take a long time to heal, and the pain does eventually go away, but there’s a certain ache that comes back when it rains. I love that because it’s so accurate. It’s so spot on, it’s almost scary.

I thought I was healed from my last heartbreak. I thought I had fully recovered. But that communication opened back up recently, and I allowed myself to become vulnerable again. However, that trust and vulnerability got shut down, and again, the pain was intense. It was a sharp stab that caused all the emotions from a year ago to come boiling to the surface again. Even writing about it now brings the hurt back again.

This is where I come back to the idea of healing. The pain was just as strong as last year. The tears fell just as hard. However, it didn’t last as long. I was able to gather my thoughts and emotions back together more quickly. I didn’t feel as obliterated. I think that’s where the evidence of healing can be found. It’s not the lack of feeling that pain or sadness anymore, it’s the ability to acknowledge the issue and still remain a fully-functioning being. It’s not placing blame anymore, just accepting that there was a major loss. It’s being able to realize that while you may or may not feel that strongly about someone again, the answer will never be found in turning off those emotions and refusing to care about the repercussions of your actions.

So yes, I’ve healed. But I’m still healing. Part of the beauty of the human experience is the constant healing from hurts that life hurls our way.

Bluebonnets at Black Rock Park, Texas - April 2015
Bluebonnets at Black Rock Park, Texas – April 2015

listening to: Animal Collective

Silly Little Girls

I’ve been wanting to use this blog for more than just a place to spill all of my thoughts out. I’ve been wanting to also use it as a way to share some of my writing in an attempt to become more comfortable with people other than myself reading it.

I will never claim to be a poet. In fact, I’m already dreading any future poetry classes I’ll need to take for my degree, and those are quite a ways off. I’m much more comfortable writing in essay form or even short stories. Poetry is probably my least favorite of all writing styles for me. I love reading works by others, but it’s not something I enjoy doing for myself.

But I’m trying. I’m making an effort and branching out. Experimenting with other mediums is what creating art is all about.

This is part of a collection I’ve been working on for over a year. Mostly inspired by my experiences, some just inspired by observation, I want it to eventually be a solid representation of the counterculture I had the privilege of being around the past thirteen months or so

Silly little girls.
You naive, pretty things.
One day, you’ll learn. One day, it won’t be all sugar and dancing anymore.

Silly little girls.
You who know almost nothing of true hardship and suffering.
You love things you’ve yet to understand.

You stand, you cheer, you shout praises for the man on the stage.
When he screams from the front of the room, it’s partially for the recognition, but most of all, it’s to expose his soul.
He shouts pain, for darkness and struggle are his prided muses.
He pleads for someone, anyone, to bring him the drugs, and your praise is deafening.
Your adoration is blind.

This is what he claims to want- this blind celebration.
Without it, his intentional anguish means nothing.
Without it, his self-inflicted torment is for naught.

Take heed. Be careful. Count yourself lucky for not knowing that pain.
For one day, the world could come crashing in.
Those easy days could turn into a long-forgotten fantasy.
Treasure the good, the calm, the innocent.
Take hold of your own soul.
You can’t know that you’re giving parts of your own self away until you’re running on empty.
At least then, when the word master weaves his web of tormented phrases on stage, you can feel at one with his words.
Just wait.
You’ll see.

Tyler, TX - Summer 2015
Tyler, TX – Summer 2015

listening to: Damien Rice