The Good is Better Because of the Bad

I’ve been rewatching Skins. There’s a scene in the fourth season between Effy and Freddie where she looks at him and tells him that all of her bad memories are gone, and she only has love left. She had been dealing with manic episodes and psychosis, subsequently getting sent to a hospital and having constant care from a psychiatrist. This psychiatrist helps her to “delete” all these bad memories, but it eventually is shown that this is even worse for her mental health. She loses so much of who she has become because she no longer has bad memories to remind her of her growth and change.

There have been several times in the last few years where I’ve wished to just delete moments in my life, especially regarding past relationships. I would love to be able to remove moments like my marriage and really even just meeting my ex. I convince myself that being able to delete the hurt and pain, the insecurities and fears that I developed would make me a happier person. I go back and forth between this desire and trying to embrace the failed relationships because they’ve taught me how to be stronger, to stand up for myself, and to leave when it turns toxic. I know that facing these issues is the healthy choice. I just don’t want any of that to tarnish what I have now and who I am now. I’m struggling with balancing my past and my future, and I’m not quite sure how to merge the two.

I had never intended to get married again. I allowed myself to become completely absorbed in that relationship that I lost who I was. I’ve labeled myself as damaged, unlovable, undesirable. I had a couple people come through my life after my divorce that I thought would maybe be a long-term part of my life, but I was unaware of my self-sabotaging these connections for quite some time. When I finally noticed my pattern and the unhealthy consequences, I made a conscious effort to change. When I met Josiah (which is probably a story for another time) and as we grew in our relationship and made the decision to get married, I tried to stay aware of my sabotaging tendencies.

I still feel unworthy. I still feel like my ex and my past haunt me. I still have family and friends who ask me about him and if I’ve heard from him. I suppose the biggest reason I wish I could delete all of the bad memories is because I’m tired of my past demanding to be my present. I’m so excited for what my future is going to hold, and I’m thrilled that I have someone who makes a consistent effort to understand. I know those bad moments will eventually fade until they’re tiny specks in a very distant memory, but I’m trying to accept them as ways to fully appreciate what and who I have in my life now. I think that’s the key in all of this: trying to appreciate the lessons learned from all of the hurtful moments. It’s just a very difficult thing to remind myself day in and day out- the bad is worth remembering because it makes the good so much better.

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Navy Pier, Chicago – June 2016


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

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

Not A Victim

I’m sure most women can relate to the uncomfortable feeling of having to walk home alone in the dark and feeling nervous because you know someone is behind you, but you don’t want to act like you’re scared. When you know for a fact that you’re getting followed around a big city in the middle of the day, and the person following you keeps glancing at you and smiling because they know exactly how much they are making you feel uneasy, it’s just as bad.

It was last Sunday. I had been planning on spending the afternoon wandering around some of my favorite parts of the city in order to get proper photos of all these places I’ve loved spending time in the past several months. I headed down one of the main streets, and while I was stopped at a crosswalk, I made eye contact with a man who was probably in his mid-40s. He smiled at me, and while I normally am pretty friendly and smile at most people I come across, something about him unsettled me a bit. I stopped a few times at different statues and buildings, taking photos, when I noticed that every time I stopped, he stopped as well. I tried to play it off as a coincidence, but this went on for over an hour. He stayed far enough away from me, but no matter where I walked, he would be watching me. I started using the giant windows to keep an eye on his reflection, but there would be a few times that I couldn’t see him, so I’d look around, we’d make eye contact, and he would smile this terrible smile because he was aware of just how creeped out I was starting to become. At this point, I had been walking with no chance of losing him, so I stopped at a coffee shop hoping that he would get bored and leave. I waited inside for about thirty minutes, but when I left, he was waiting down a side road. I eventually lost him walking through several large crowds of people and down some alleys and through shops, but the fact that he was watching me for at least two hours still gives me chills.

I feel like I need to point out that I have never felt uncomfortable in the middle of the day like that in Frankfurt ever. It’s generally a very safe city, and I can’t even count how many times I’ve walked around the city by myself. In fact, most of the men here I encounter when walking home at night will cross to the other side of the street or will pass by in what I can only assume is an attempt to avoid making any female that might be walking home in the middle of the night feel unsafe.

This man made me mad. It made me angry because while I’m capable of taking care of myself, I felt out of control in this situation. I have encountered creeps before. Guys that think it’s ok to do things in attempt to see how uncomfortable they can make a girl. I know it’s been said over and over in all sorts of ways, but there is no reason that behavior like that should ever be acceptable.

The first time I ever experienced any sort of action like that was in 7th grade. A boy that had the locker next to mine had been inappropriate towards me several times, and when it came to the end of the year and we were all writing in each other’s yearbooks, he wrote this message in mine: “I’m going to rape you and f*ck you up, b*tch.” I was horrified. I don’t remember what I said to him, or if I said anything at all, but I do remember using white-out and covering up the message before my parents could see it. The only thought I recall thinking is that if my very strict, very conservative parents saw what he had written, they would be angry at me. I was horribly embarrassed.

I think this is the biggest problem. Instead of talking about our experiences or those moments that made us feel scared, vulnerable, or uncomfortable, we tend to be embarrassed and try to hide what happened. I lived with someone who treated me far less than desirable for three years before finally feeling brave enough to tell someone what had been happening and leaving the situation altogether. It’s hard to talk about these things, but this is what needs to happen. When something happens to you that makes you feel sick to your stomach, your concerns should be vocalized. Being brave and telling someone not only helps you, it also helps others that might be too scared to talk about their past. When people know that similar things have happened to someone they respect and trust, they gain the courage to share their own hurts. Talking about these things is the only way to heal, and it’s the only way that people like the men in my stories can be stopped.

Niederrad, Germany- October 2014
Niederrad, Germany- October 2014

listening to: Ani DiFranco