To the Could-Have-Been..

As mentioned a few days ago, I’ve started the second round of a writing course that’s already proven to be transformative in my life. Many posts I wrote several months ago were inspired by the last round I participated in (here, here, and here), and I’m so excited to see how much this round changes and grows my writing.

There’s been one prompt that has really struck a chord with me so far. In life, there are many moments that you can look back on and realize that the decision made at the time had the power to completely change the course of your life. I was encouraged to write a letter to a person that I could have been by now, or that I think I should have been. The idea is to dig deep and really grow to appreciate the person that you are now and celebrate the decisions that you’ve made to lead you to your current state.

This seems to be a pretty regular theme with my writing, but I’ve been pondering what my life would have been if I had stayed in Arkansas, if I had stayed married, if I had never decided to do a 180° turn in my life. I don’t have to think about it much at all to know that I made the right decision, but sometimes I wonder if it would have been easier on the surface if I had stayed in that life. When I saw this prompt, it was the opportunity I needed to reaffirm my decisions on the major life changes I’ve made in the past two years.

To the could-have-been,

Thank goodness you aren’t the should-have-been. Every day, I’m glad more and more that your existence ended on a dreary October day in 2013. 

You gave up easily. Outside forces fought to keep you living, but if you would have stayed, it would have been the type of life only sustained by life support, constantly pumped full of drugs to keep the heart beating. Thank you for fighting to get free from that half-life.

On the outside, you had it all: a husband, a new house, a puppy…by now, you’d probably have a child too. Under the surface, the person who was fighting to be free- the person who has transformed and turned into the person penning this letter- that person knew it was wrong, that you were heading to a destiny all wrong.

Looking at the surface of my life now, it might seem like more struggles. I’m constantly fighting debt, I am stuck living with my parents, and I have to rely on the generosity of others for transportation. That all may sound a little overwhelming, which it can be at times, but it’s well worth it to be free. Free from the constant drowning feeling I only now understand as the deepest levels of depression. Free from a shallow life focused on trying to achieve happiness through material junk. And most importantly, free from a relationship that should have been a supportive partnership, but instead was an oppressive that stripped me (you, us?) from the excitement that a life full of growth can provide.

So, you tragic could-have-been, I’m more that just happy that you dissolved from reality that day. If you had continued to exist for much longer, I’m not sure you or I would be here today.

Winged Victory of Samothrace- The Louvre, Paris, France (July 2014)

listening to: Florence + The Machine

A Villain

Several months ago, I wrote about being asked about moving on. While I still agree with all of my statements in that post, I don’t think that it’s necessarily about me moving on. I think with some current events lately, it’s clear that I haven’t actually moved on.

The end of a serious relationship is always difficult. The end of a marriage is even more so, especially when it doesn’t end amicably. There’s a lot of pain that one endures; a type of pain that sticks with you, no matter how much you try to rid yourself of all of the baggage.

It shows itself in feeling completely alone with your thoughts. It shows itself in the inability to really connect with another person. It shows itself in being completely disinterested in any type of relationship. It shows itself in feelings like you are simply too much trouble for anther person to have to deal with.

I know I’ve written about my inability to connect and the trust issues I have. I don’t want to be seen as beating a dead horse. But I’ve been encountering this major downfall in a newer way recently. In high school, I saw myself as completely undesirable. In college, I probably settled a few times more than I should have for guys that weren’t all that great. I don’t know what’s changed since then. I’m still incredibly awkward, not the perfect picture of beauty, and I don’t have much going for me. I live with my parents, I’m carless, and I’m waiting tables. But somehow, I’m attracting people. It’s a completely foreign concept to me, one that’s taken me aback and left me confused about what to do.

I’m still in the “I’m never getting remarried” phase. Actually, I’m still in the jaded phase of feeling like relationships are mostly a waste of time and emotional energy. I’ve got several friends that I love with everything in me, but sometimes I just don’t have the strength to be around them and their significant others. It’s not that I’m unhappy or jealous. I suppose it mostly just reminds me of what I thought I had five years ago before everything started to really fall apart.

In the writing course that I’m still wading through, one of the prompts involved fictionalizing and vilifying my own traits to make myself the villain in a story…turning it into a sort of shadow self. I blazed through over three pages of writing, and my shadow self was all about one thing: emotional destruction. An excerpt:

“She was carefree. Carefree in the way that she handled hearts. She wanted to be loved- more than anything, she wanted to believe that she could be loved- but she didn’t trust anyone to fully love her for her, so she hid her qualities until she was a shadow of a person.

She was a wild thing. She was a person who had trained herself to ignore any possible pain she might be causing anyone because otherwise, she’d never do anything for herself. So she turned off her ability to connect with others, especially in a romantic setting. She came in like a whirlwind through men’s lives and demolished everything in her wake.

She was an all or nothing type of girl. And when it came to fight or flight tendencies, she ran every time. Part of her realized that with the running, she just wanted someone who would want to actively chase after her. She knew that when people learned her true character to the fullest extent, they would no longer want anything to do with her. So she kept parts of herself hidden from the world.”

It’s funny. Part of me wishes I could find someone that I can truly be myself around, a person who could love me despite all of my flaws, a person who I could trust with anything. But there’s this other part of me that wants to run any time anybody shows any sort of interest in me. I’m a person who was completely broken, and even though I’m putting myself back together, the cracks will always be visible. I don’t want anybody to have to deal with all of those cracks.

Neptunbrunnen (The Neptune Fountain), Berlin, Germany - May 2014
Neptunbrunnen (The Neptune Fountain), Berlin, Germany – May 2014

listening to: Letts, Awolnation, Purity Ring

The First Seven

I have a project that I’ve slowly been working on. A project that will hopefully chronicle the growth and strength of the culture I’ve mentioned a couple times prior in this blog. When the writing course I’ve been going through prompted us to work on some character descriptions and development, I was so excited because this was the perfect shot of adrenaline that I’ve been needing.

These are all based on people that I know and love dearly. The descriptions might be embellished here and there to create more interest, but this was an incredibly fun exercise. I only made it to seven people, but I’m hoping to expand this and possibly do some extra characters each week.

She flitted from group to group as if she knew everybody. She looked young, but seemed ageless. When she chose to, she could turn those crystal blue eyes on you and flash the brightest smile like you were the greatest person on the planet and her best friend. She was free, a hippy child born far past the era she belonged to. Under the freeness, however, was a vulnerability. If you took the time to get to know her, you noticed the expressions of uncertainty that flashed across her face when nobody was really paying attention. Through it all, she loved. She loved more fiercely than anyone I had ever encountered.

He had an aura of serenity enveloping him. His smile was slow and steady, and although he looked quite young in general, his eyes were ancient. When he chose to grace someone with his undivided attention, he looked as if nothing in your soul could be hidden from him. As terrifying as that should have been, his air of total acceptance put even the most unsettled person at peace. He was attractive in the traditional sense, but there was something oddly majestic about the way he carried his tall frame. You could see that he had dealt with many demons throughout his life, but his utter acceptance and love for everybody he met was proof of his strength.

His hair was untamable. His laugh was infectious. His smile was proof of his love for life and the people he surrounded himself with. He looked like the kind of person who could instantly befriend anybody, but it betrayed a little of his uncertainty if you looked carefully.

A third man sat in the corner with his phone in one hand and a pitcher of beer in the other. He hardly glanced up at all, but when he did, there was an attitude of melancholy that radiated off of his entire self. He wore a red beanie that sometimes served as a form of armor- a protection that prevented him from being completely vulnerable.

She walked in with the guy with the untamable hair. She knew his feelings- she knew that he wished they could be together and have a happily ever after, but her actions showed that she just didn’t care if she hurt him or not. She was careless- careless in a way that many viewed as attractive, but not in a way that brings any sort of value to a community. She lived her life without remotely caring about the feelings of people who dreamed of caring for her, so she left a path of destruction in her wake.

They were the ideal rocker couple. He expressed all of his emotions through his guitar, and she showed her love and support by being front row every single time he was on stage. He was the most introspective-looking man around, one who had thoughts running through his head constantly, but was only able to express those thoughts through music. He always looked as though he was under the influence of something, which he might have been, but you could also tell he was constantly fighting demons- demons of addiction and overindulgence. She loved him despite all of this- she loved him so selflessly. It was a pure sort of love- a love that was constant and battled through the demons, a love that most people could only dream of. They shared a love that was pure despite all of the dirt that tried to fight them.

Tyler, TX- January 2015
Tyler, TX- January 2015

listening to: Portugal the Man

Ten Years of Advice

I have this strange fascination with what I can only call “instagram poets*”. There are probably literally thousands of them out there now, but two of my favorites have been around for a while and will both be published authors soon. Imagine my excitement, then, when I found out that one of them decided to create a 30-day writing course.

I signed up right away. I’ve been whining and moping about this epic case of writer’s block I’ve been battling, so I figured this would be the push I needed to start getting over it. The two authors who created this course came up with writing prompts for each day and included other questions and quotes to mull over each day. It’s only been going on for three days as of today, but I think it’s already been really helpful if for no other reason than just delving deeper into my own thoughts and feelings.

The first day’s prompt has been my favorite so far: we were supposed to write a letter to a 10-years-younger version of ourselves. I’ve done a similar exercise before, but you always get something different out of something like this. In an attempt to get my words out of myself, I’ve decided to publish the responses to the prompts I really enjoyed through this blog, starting with a letter to the fifteen-year-old me:

“I know you’re stubborn and aren’t really fond of anybody giving you advice, so I won’t. I won’t warn you about the decisions and choices you’re bound to make because you’ll refuse to listen and you need to learn for yourself.

You’ve got so much ahead of you. You’ve yet to really get to know the friends that will become your tribe of people- the family you’ve dreamed of for years. You’ve got adventures headed your way. In fact, this summer, you’ll fly to Germany and experience your first real love. No, not some boy, but a place and culture that you fit into so well, it’s almost as if you should have been born there.

You’re also going to experience more pain than I can express. I know it would be more practical to tell you to try and avoid making the decisions and mistakes I’ve made, but they’ll be what makes you great. Being an overcomer will be your greatest quality- trust me when I tell you you’ll make it through, even in the darkest of moments still yet to come.

I know you are incredibly boy-crazy right now, but don’t worry about it so much. I’m not going to lie and tell you that the perfect guy will come along any time soon, because I’m not even sure I’ve encountered that magical person yet. Just don’t get so desperate to finally get that boyfriend and first kiss that you settle. You’ll eventually find somebody in a few years, but don’t take the friendship side of it for granted. Be a better communicator. If you don’t, you’ll lose years and years with someone who could be one of your best friends.

Speaking of communication, work on that with your family as well. Spend as much time as humanly possible getting stories from your grandmothers. They’ve lived such interesting lives and are incredibly strong in their own rights. However, age will inevitably catch up to them and their memories are stories will be lost forever if you aren’t careful. Eventually this will also happen to your parents, so soak up time and memories with them instead of avoiding them every second of every day.

College is going to be a weird experience for you. You won’t finish or be very traditional about it, but don’t worry about what that says about your character or intelligence. You’re much smarter than you give yourself credit, you just haven’t found the correct outlet for your creativity yet.

Writing is going to really help you find clarity when your life takes a nosedive. Trust your friends because they will turn out to be completely loving and loyal. Don’t lose your faith in humanity even when some guys down the road treat you without a speck of respect. Hold on to your love for the world and helping others.

When your gut screams that something isn’t quite right, follow the gut feeling. You might still have that pride that’s unwilling to let anyone see you’ve made a bad decision, but you have to let go of that. That pride will be your downfall. That pride will drive you straight to the pits of hell. Don’t let your pride define your decisions”

Lago di Lugano- Paridiso, Lugano, Switzerland (July 2014)
Lago di Lugano- Paridiso, Lugano, Switzerland (July 2014)

listening to: Portugal. The Man.

*poets mentioned in the beginning: Tyler Knott Gregson and Christopher Poindexter