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

In the Same Town

Sometimes I think I was crazy to move back to Fayetteville.

Don’t get me wrong. I love this town. I feel more at home here than most other places I’ve lived. It has most things I want in a place to live: support of the local community, a diverse art and music scene, all four seasons, exquisite views of the outdoors, and a good base of people.

There are also a plethora of ghosts here. This has always been a place where 90% of the people I run into know who my ex-husband is. He is still very prevalent in the community, and Saturday night, I had to run into him.

On the surface, we can stay friendly. Most of my friends up here are still mutual friends of his as well, so there’s no escaping him. On the surface, everything is fine. Underneath that though is still the hurt, the anger, the sickness that hits when I least expect it. Insomnia has again become a familiar companion at night because not sleeping is still better than night terrors.

I didn’t expect it to still be this difficult. I’ve been nightmare-free for so long. I’ve survived so many things that I thought this would be the same- it would just take time, and that part of my past would no longer be able to reach me. I had a plan. I’ve been through so much healing, and I believed that moving back here would be me saying “I don’t hurt anymore. I’ve taken that pain and turned it into something that made me strong.”

I’ve spent the past two days trying to convince myself that I didn’t make a huge mistake in coming up here. I’ve spent 48 hours thinking of all the good that’s coming from being up here again: I get to be around those friends who are in my same stage of life, who are some of the most supportive women I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. I get the terrifying privilege of attempting to live on my own for the first time and stretch those wings of independence. I get to have a space that isn’t shared by anyone, which allows me to finally have some peace and quiet after two years of being constantly surrounded by others. There are so many good things that have come from me leaving Texas.

I suppose I just didn’t realize how many ghosts were still haunting me when I wasn’t paying attention. I didn’t notice how strong of a hold someone’s actions still had over me. I wanted to be able to say that I was over it and his behavior, his attitude, his voice no longer made me want to curl up in an attempt to not feel so sick. I can’t say that yet, as evidenced by my past few days. It’s far better than it was, which is a welcome improvement. It isn’t good yet, but I’m still holding out hope that there is some sort of healing that will come in time from being back in the same town.

Frankfurter Dom, Frankfurt, Germany - September 2014
Frankfurter Dom, Frankfurt, Germany – September 2014

listening to: Sleigh Bells

Self-Living

A year ago today, I had huge hopes and dreams.

A year ago today, I was leaving part of my heart in Germany, but I had a plan. I was moving temporarily to Texas as a stopping point until moving to Alaska at the end of 2014. A year ago today, I was in love.

Those close to me know the story. I had finally gotten out of a marriage that was only doing me harm, and I had reconnected with someone who was the first person I had ever liked. We hadn’t gone into anything with the intention of a relationship being the outcome. We were both still recovering from abusive relationships and found comfort in having someone to talk to who could understand those wounds. What started off as casual emails turned into long Skype sessions and eventually just constant conversation during those precious hours that we were both awake. I visited him that August, and those twelve days were spectacular. Nobody had ever understood me that wholly before, and I had never understood someone else on that level. I thought he was it. The end all in partners.

Becoming involved with someone so soon after my divorce wasn’t something I had planned. I was still in the stage of not wanting to ever be with anyone because I didn’t think I’d ever be able to truly trust someone again. I hadn’t given myself time to heal, because part of my moving to Germany was a way to run away from the problems and allow myself enough time to gather my thoughts before dealing with the serious issues lurking in my subconscious.

It shouldn’t have been a surprise when I moved back to the states, but everything almost instantly fell apart and I had no idea what to do. Suddenly, I found myself unwanted in Alaska, unwanted in Texas…unwanted practically everywhere I wanted to be. However, as I struggled though most of this, I began to realize part of the issues was that I was putting my value in terms of how other people viewed me.

I’ve been back from my reality break in Germany for exactly a year now. For a year, I’ve been trying to learn how to see my value outside of others’ opinions, outside of how people act toward me. It’s been a struggle. A massive struggle. It’s been something that I fail at on almost a weekly basis. The person I thought could actually love me through all the monsters changed their mind. Losing that love has caused a down-spiral this past year, but it’s thrown lesson after lesson straight at me.

In a week and a half, I’ll be getting yet another fresh start. I’m moving back to the only place in the states I’ve moved to solely for myself. I’m returning to school, I’ve got a new job, blah, blah, blah….the only important thing to me in this moment, in this reflection time leading up to my move is this: I’m moving to continue my growth as a person. I’m moving to learn more about myself, to prove that I can survive on my own, to fight my own battles, and to discover what I truly want out of my life.

In my life so far, I’ve tended to live for others. I’ve concerned myself so much with pleasing those around me that I’ve lost sight of who I am and what I can accomplish. If I could condense different advice I’ve gotten from a multitude of friends this past year into one phrase, it would be “you have to be more selfish”. I hate that advice mostly because I’ve been taught to not be selfish my entire life, so the idea of living more selfishly is completely opposite of what I’ve known forever. However, living that way has cost me so much in the past few years. Living that way has prevented me from doing things that I can truly be proud of. Living that way has stifled the life I want to be living.

So this year, I still have huge hopes and dreams. This year, I’ve got goals. I’ve got direction. I’ve got a version of me who is finally learning to be strong on her own. No more outside influences, no more giving up what I want for other people, and no more relationships until I can get myself on the right path. This is probably the most intimidating step I’ve ever taken in my life, but with great risk comes great reward, right?

Alaska - August 2014
Alaska – August 2014

listening to: S. Carey

The Month of Change

For me, October has always been a month of change and growth. I’ve experienced my first heartache, the beginning of my marriage, the loss of a child, the reality of my parents’ mortality during my mom’s battle with cancer, the exquisite pain of the end of my marriage, and the adjustment of moving back to the states from Germany all in the month of October over the years.

It’s a transformative time for me, and this year is no different. As I’ve written about before, my move back to Arkansas is coming up very quickly, and my mind is racing to catch up with the plans I’ve made for myself. I’m ready for the change. Despite the nervousness connected to the knowledge that I’ll be completely on my own for the first time in my life, it’s time. It’s time to prove to myself that I can survive, that I can be the independent person I’ve always embraced the idea of.

Almost exactly a year ago, I was leaving Germany. More than any other time in my life, 2014 was the year that I really began to discover who I was and what I was made of. I feel like I’m equal parts older and younger than my age. Older because I’ve already been through so many experiences, but younger because until last year, I had no inkling of how I saw my future. In my marriage, I had given up my identity and lost some of the most important years of self-discovery, so I’ve learned to turn my mid-twenties into those experimental years.

Germany changed me. It was the initial push that caused me to really start enjoying writing for the sake of recording thoughts and allowing my emotions a place to rest. I began to embrace the parts about me that I previously viewed as weak things to be ashamed of. It was a pivotal moment in my life, a realization that sharing my true story, struggles and all, was the only way to truly heal. So I shared. I made friends with people with whom I knew would be loving toward me no matter what mistakes I made, no matter the battles I still had waging within me. I truly believe that last year in Germany saved me.

Coming back, I wasn’t prepared for the culture shock. I wasn’t ready to be surrounded by the world that wants so hard to be vulnerable and open, but hides their real weaknesses in order to look strong and put together. I wasn’t expecting to relapse into the emotional tug-of-war, the sense that people are only willing to help when it satisfies their own needs first. That’s not the way that everyone is here, it’s just a generalization based primarily on experiences I’ve had over and over again in this small town I live in.

Perhaps it’s just a feeling that comes with the knowledge that it’s time for me to move on to the next thing. Perhaps my negative feelings of this place come from situations I’ve only got myself to blame for. Perhaps it’s just knowing that with October comes change. With the autumn comes the end of a chapter. When the leaves start changing and the world is covered in a blanket of reds and oranges, it’s a beautiful symbol of saying goodbye to everything I’ve known from the year, of preparing myself for the birth of something new and exciting.

Kelsterbach, Germany - October 2014
Kelsterbach, Germany – October 2014

listening to: Bear’s Den