Recovery: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

(a continuation of my last blog post, “Bear Hugs From God”)

One of the biggest problems I have as both a reader and a writer is romanticizing things that should not be romanticized. I write poetry and use metaphors to try and make sense of my feelings, without actually acknowledging my feelings. It’s not really even that, though. What it really is, is that I’ve written about my past so many times—I’ve tried to lessen the pain by using metaphors—that I’ve forgotten to write about my present and my future.

My past isn’t beautiful. What I’ve been through isn’t beautiful.

There’s nothing beautiful about rape, depression, self-harm, eating disorders, and suicide attempts.

What’s beautiful is the fact that I’m still here. I’m still fighting. What’s beautiful is God’s grace—his mercy.

But, if you know me and my story, you already know all of that.

What’s beautiful is where I am now, and where I will tomorrow and 5, 10, 15 years from now.

What’s beautiful is recovery and healing, but even those aren’t always beautiful.

Sometimes recovery means hospital stays and feeding tubes and uncomfortable conversations.

Sometimes recovery means mending bridges you burned, going back to the people you’ve hurt with your tail between your legs to say, “I’m sorry.” It’s knowing that while you were hurting, you may have hurt others, too.

Sometimes recovery is learning that total healing doesn’t always come on this side of life. It’s having to be ok with that.

Sometimes recovery is being angry, and then sad, and then angry again. It’s about learning to use those feelings to motivate you to live every day, not just survive every day.

Sometimes recovery means grasping for straws, hoping that you can find one to hold on to. If you can find one reason to stay alive, no matter how small, it makes day-to-day life so much easier.

Sometimes recovery means doing things you don’t want to do. It’s like my sister talking about the Super Bowl: “If the Patriots and Panthers both make it, I’ll cheer for the Panthers, but I won’t be happy about it.”

I’ll ask for help if I need it, but I won’t be happy about it.

Sometimes recovery means not being afraid to fail and having faith that God knows what he’s doing. You know like Peter. “Ok, God. You called me out upon the waters, but I sunk. Now what?” And God replies, “Have some faith.” Oh.

Sometimes recovery is a bear hug from God, but often times it’s more like Him carrying you while you’re kicking and screaming, “But I want to.” You know like how a parents tells a child not to touch the stove because it will burn them, but the child does it anyway? And then they get burned. Or how a child throws a tantrum in a store because mom won’t buy them candy, and then when they get home, they’re put in time-out. It’s sort of like that—learning from your mistakes.

Like you’re standing on a bridge, and God says, “Don’t you dare jump.” But you do anyway. And then of course you hurt yourself. And God picks you up, wraps your ankle, and says, “What did I tell you? This time you just sprained your ankle, but next time, it could be worse. Don’t do that again.” But of course you do it again, just to make sure gravity works. And God keeps saving you over and over and over again. He doesn’t have to, but He does.

Sometimes recovery means remembering how great God’s love, grace, and mercy are. It means being grateful because you are so unworthy of any of it.

Sometimes recovery is trying so hard not to revert to old habits. Repeat after me: “I will eat today. I will not pick up that razor. I am beautiful.”

Last night, I was angry—don’t ask me why because I have no idea—and I was being mean to myself. I knew that if I went to bed with those feelings, it would lead to a terrible today, and a possible relapse. So, I went to my happy corner: the corner of my room, under my bed, next to my desk, in front of my bookcase where I have blankets and stuffed animals. And I curled up there, and I wrote for a while, and then read Edgar Allan Poe for a while.

After about an hour of this, God and I had a conversation. The exact details don’t really matter. But it played out like a parent talking to a child:

“Do you know why I put you in time-out?”

“Yes. I was angry and being mean.”

“Correct. And you’re not angry anymore?”

“No, I’m not.”

“And you promise not to be mean?”

“I’ll try my best.”

“That’s all I ask. You can get up now.”

Sometimes recovery is about learning how to keep bad feelings in yesterday to make for a better today and tomorrow.

Yesterday, I was angry.

Today, I am content. Today, I am “Carpe Diem”ing. Today, I will do my best to prepare for a better tomorrow.

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Flash Flood Warning- A Poem

It’s 4:30 am, and my alarm goes off—

A cruel irony, really.

I haven’t yet slept.

I watched the clock turn Midnight, then 1,2,3,4.

And with each minute that passed, my mind raced faster and faster—

A mile a minute;

A thousand thoughts a second—

A race against time with no clear winner.

“If I fall asleep now, I can get 5 hours of sleep…

5…4…3…2…1…

It’s raining.

Lightning.”

It’s been raining all night, and I’ve been awake to hear it.

You’d think after all this time, the tear ducts of Heaven would be all dried up.

(fantasy is often better than reality.)

My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty. . .

. . . there’s nothing my God cannot do.  

Apparently, God is so big that his tear ducts draw from a never-ending well.

Well, well,well…

It’s raining; it’s pouring, the Old Man is snoring…

Wait, nope. That’s just my Dad.

It’s been raining so long and so hard a flash flood warning was issued early this morning while the world was sleeping.

I was awake and read the warning along with the 15 text messages from Twitter.

It’s 4:30 am, and I didn’t need my alarm today.

I watched the numbers on my clock change, counting down the minutes until I need to get out of bed, their faces glowing red as if laughing.

My life isn’t a Cosmic joke.

I only get one [life], and I don’t want to screw it up,

But I’m afraid I already have.

There are no do-overs, no re-runs; I sure could use one.

I don’t know how God is running things up there,

But it seems kind of Laissez-faire.

Divine intervention would be nice right about now—

The future is big, and I’m rather small,

And this whole “I don’t know what I’m doing in life” is getting kind of old.

There was a flash flood warning, and I’m right in the way.

They always tell you:

“In case of a flood, find high ground.

Low places will probably be the hardest hit.”

I’m in a low place right now, and the flood waters are coming.

At least I know how to swim.

Of course, my swimming skills will be about as helpful as the levees of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

It’s a nice thought, but practically, it leaves a lot to be desired.

At least it’s the thought that counts.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m a 7. . .

. . . microwaves (which weigh less than 7 elephants).

I’ll take what I can get.

And yet, somehow, despite this weight on my chest, I’m still standing tall.

Right now, I feel as though my world is collapsing around me.

I won’t always feel this way.

Depression is like a Great Flood:

It happens slowly and then all at once.

(They disappear the same way).

It’s 4:30 am; it’s raining, and I haven’t slept.

Sleep makes you feel better when you get it and worse when you don’t.

(it’s kind of like rain that way.)

Last night, when I couldn’t sleep, my thoughts were racing a mile a minute.

“What if…”

“Why…”

“How about…”

When the darkness creeps in, that’s when the enemy line starts firing.

Under cover of darkness, it’s easy to be a brave coward.

Last night I was having deep existential thoughts about life and happiness.

The first thought that entered my mind when I got out of the shower this morning was

“Should I do my hair today, or not?

The rain’s just going to ruin it.” (I did; it might’ve.)

But like, the state of my hair is what I should be concerned with…

NOT…

Superficiality is only skin-deep; and I want to change the world.

It’s raining here.

There are wildfires out west.

So, tell me how life is fair.  

And there’s no peace in the Middle East.

I don’t know how to change the world, but I think love is a good place to start.

Love your enemies, those who disagree with you, those from an opposing political party.

Love your neighbors, those who come into this country to find a better life. We all want a better life in a way.

Love those who are different from you, those whose way of life you may not agree with.

Love them anyway.

Love yourself anyway.

Sometimes you can love too much, and sometimes love is not enough.

But between war and peace, I’ll take my chances with love.

Love makes the world go round in the circle of life,

Everything has a cycle, including water.

Hence, the rain.

I love the rain because it begets life,

And it can make you clean if you just let it.

We could all use a clean slate once in a while.

There was a flash flood warning, and it’s still running, and I’m doing my best to keep smiling.

My Lit Teacher asked the class to list things that die.

I started, “People, animals, plants, hopes, and dreams.”

It’s easy to die.

It’s not always easy to live.

I learned that once.

Because one time I tried to set myself on fire (figuratively, but literally with pills)—

I was a metaphorical Girl on Fire, trying to make myself someone new.

Out of the ashes and with the rain came beauty.

That’s all I wanted, and I’m trying my best not to screw up, to make the most of this second chance at life even when the going gets tough.

There was a flash flood warning.

Warning:

Beware:

Caution:

This flood won’t stop me.

Because it’s all too easy to drown in an ocean of tears, and sometimes we forget we can float in salt water.

Eggs and Elephants

I was told once that I should be happy because when I was sexually assaulted, I wasn’t actually “raped”, whatever that means.

Who are you to tell me to be thankful that “the act wasn’t completed” if you know what I mean? How dare you. There’s no scale on sexual violation. It’s not “on a scale from 1 to 10, how raped were you?” To think otherwise is to perpetuate the idea that reporting a rape can ruin a man’s life. Politicians today are arguing about what constitutes rape and all these other things. My experience is not greater, nor is it less than, anybody else’s.

We are the same.

Lots of things in life have scales. The weight of how much I was raped is not one. My burden of being a victim weighs the same on my shoulders as everybody else’s.
When I went to the hospital for my appendectomy, I was asked to rate my pain on a scale from 1-10. I said 7 every time.

When people ask me how I am, I reply with “good.” The people who know me best ask me, “on a scale from 1-10, how much does it hurt today?” I live my life at a 7. My number is 7, but the effect this 7 has on me changes. The number is constant; the weight of the number changes.

Confused? Yeah, I know. It’s confusing.

But, imagine this: 7 bowling balls are heavier than 7 eggs. 7 microwaves are heavier than 7 bowling balls. 7 elephants are heavier than 7 microwaves.

Some days I’m 7 elephants. Some days I’m 7 eggs.

That is the scale of Depression: eggs to elephants, not 1 to 10.

Right now, I’m about 7 eggs. I’ve been 7 eggs for a while now, which is good. But, I’m cautiously optimistic, because I know one day (maybe soon; maybe later) I will be 7 elephants, again. The weight of 7 elephants is a lot harder to deal with than that of 7 eggs. Elephants poop a lot; the only problem with eggs is if it put them all in one basket.

That’s why I haven’t been writing a lot lately. The weight of 7 eggs doesn’t weigh heavy enough on my chest to make the words flow. I write my best work when the pain of 7 elephants is unbearable.

My friend messaged me the other day. She told me she was horribly depressed and angry at herself because she has every single reason in the world to be happy.

I told her, happiness isn’t a choice. People say it is, but it’s really hard to be happy when you feel like you’re drowning on solid ground. I can choose to put a smile on my face, but my inside isn’t getting any happier, because inside I feel like I’m dying. When people say happiness is a choice, I ask them if they have a remedy for that. Because Jesus is supposed to fix this hole in my heart, but even with all this prayer I feel like I’m bleeding out. So don’t tell me Christians aren’t depressed, because Jesus was human once, so I know He understands pain. And I know He loves me despite all of this.

I told her, it’s not her fault if she’s depressed. She didn’t do anything wrong.

She asked me, but isn’t there a way to manage it? I’ve had it for a very long time, but there were times when I was happy and satisfied with life, when things that I enjoyed filled me, and now I just feel empty. Is it just that we go through phases?

I told her, phases. It’s like a spiral. Life is like an ocean filled with waves of Depression. Some people are Michael Phelps: they swim through life easily, breathing in-and-out expertly as they keep their heads above water. You and me, we aren’t Michael Phelps. We struggle day-in and day-out to keep our heads above water. Some days we are thrown a life preserver or other flotation devices. Some days we aren’t. And we have to do the best with what we have, with what we’ve been given.

She asked, can the waves come on sporadically, not from a certain situation?

I responded, yep. Those are the worst, because you can’t figure out what’s triggering you, so you can’t find a way to stop. But, one day you’ll wake up and realize it’s easier to get out of bed than it was the day before. The ground fills firmer beneath your feet. And you’ll feel this way for a while, until you don’t. Over time as the cycles continue, you’ll be able to recognize the signs, and deal with the feelings better.

With 7 eggs, I give pretty good advice.

Recently, I turned 20, which is a huge milestone. I survived my teenage years.

I attempted suicide before my 16th birthday. I didn’t think I’d make it to 20. But I have, and despite everything I’ve been through, I’m stronger than ever.

I was asked recently what I would do if I had a time machine. Would I go back and change the past? Would I stop my sexual assault, which would have bit the cutting and anorexia flower in the bud before it happened?

Honestly, no. I wouldn’t. There was a time when I would, but standing here and knowing where I am now, I would not.

I am who I am today because of my past. I’ve met some wonderful people because of what I’ve been through. I’ve formed friendships with people I might not have otherwise. My story has helped others from the United States to Guatemala. From Romania to Australia. And that’s all I want out of life: to help others.

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the weight of 7 elephants isn’t so bad when you have people around you, supporting you, and helping you carry that weight.

If a group of ants can make light work of a potato chip, a group of people can lift elephants. (Really, we have machines that can do that now.)

Faith can move mountains (or mole hills that seem like mountains).

All we need to remember is that we’re not alone.

A Father’s Day Letter and a Father’s Response

I was going to write a post for Father’s Day, but then my Dad suggested that I share a letter I wrote about a year and a half ago, as well as his response. So, I decided to do that. I have no fixed any of the ages or information:

A Daughter’s Letter:

Life is fear. And lots of it.

When I was little, I was scared of the monsters under the bed, Santa getting lost and missing my house, and spiders. Now that I’m older, I’m scared of the future and spiders.

I have a rose from my Grandfather’s funeral to remind me that death and sorrow are real. This was the first time I cried at a funeral, which was the same day that I realized that there would be one less hand to hold mine when I needed someone there.

The most painful thing I’ve learned so far is that no matter how much love I wrap my family members in, no matter how many ropes I weave from their hearts to mine, they cannot stay with me forever. The ones that I hold most dear to me are growing older as I am. And it terrifies me. Because one day, the wind will carry them home, and they won’t be here with me to dry my tears, to hug me and tell me it will be ok. Even though a heart can be the home of memories, a home can’t be a heart.

And I’m scared of growing up and moving on.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Daddy, I miss you. And I know break just ended, and I saw you a lot; but I miss you. I miss our talks, your hugs, cuddle sessions on the couch. And even though I’m in college and still live under the same roof, I never see you. And it’s hard, and it’s painful.

I’ve given this whole “growing up” thing a shot, and I’ve decided that it isn’t for me. I want to go back to when I was five. I want to go back to the days of playing airplanes, back scratch wars, sitting in your fort, curling up next to you and falling asleep. I want to go back to the times when putting a Band-Aid on a cut was enough, because now there’s pain that you can’t fix even though you try so hard to do so. I want to go back to the days when you held my hand to cross the street, and to teach me to walk. I want you to hold my hand forever, because I’m scared of tripping and falling. These shoes of adulthood are too big for me.

And I can’t help but think if this is how I feel now, how am I going to feel when I don’t live with you? How am I going to feel when you’re not there every day for a hug?

And while I’m sitting here trying to figure it out, the world keeps spinning. People keep breathing, and while my mind is stuck in a corner, refusing to let go, I’m getting older and closer to moving on.

I know I’m only 18, and I have my whole life ahead of me to ‘figure it out,’ but that’s what scares me the most: not figuring it out.

Because life is a mystery. Life is pain, fear, and love. And when you love someone, pain is involved.

And Daddy, I know I’m growing older, but I’ll always be your little girl.

Right now I’m just confused about why life must hurt so much. Right now I’m just scared about what the future holds.

And I don’t know if I’m ready for it, any of it.

I want to be five again. Then I can say “tay me bit more,” and it might actually work.

 

A Father’s Response: (originally posted on his blog: http://rdistaffen.blogspot.com/

Dear Kaleigh,

When you were younger I was afraid of monsters in cars trying to steal you, but not spiders so much. Now that you are older, I am afraid of boys, but still not spiders.

I, too, miss grandpa. There are still times I have a question I want to ask him, or something my girls do I want to brag to him about. There are times I realize that even though he is gone he has planted a deep impression of himself in me; when I sound like him, or deliver a witty comeback, or unleash an amazing joke.

Kaleigh, I miss you too. Observing from a distance is no fun. I can tell you, everyday I am amazed at how much you have grown and matured and become a lovely young woman who loves Jesus. I miss you sitting in my fort, cuddling on the couch, and especially back scratch wars.

When you were younger and something broke, I would tell you to put it on my desk. Then I would fix it. Even then I knew that someday there would be a problem that wouldn’t fit on my desk and I wouldn’t be able to fix. So, when I superglued a limb back on a plastic doll, or untangled a dollar store necklace, or taped the cover on a book, I prayed, “Father, your eyes are better than mine, your superglue stronger, and your tape more adhesive. When my girls’ problems are bigger than I can fix can we put them on your big desk and let you take care of them?” It was at times like that the words of Ira Stanphill’s song would float through my mind.

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.

I remember in vivid detail that day as a toddler that you announced that you had two daddies. I was confused until you explained with great earnestness, your little finger pointing in the air, “I have a heavenly Father” then your little finger pointed at me, “and a down-here daddy.”

I long for the days when you were little and you would say, “ ‘tay me bit more.”  and I would linger for a few more minutes, snuggling you. I wish you still needed to hold my hand in busy parking lots. But you are growing older, and I am still stuck at 25.

I feel a bit like Moses, who after leading the people of God for 80 years, stood with them on the border of the Promised Land and told them he wasn’t crossing the Jordan river with them. He finished his comments with these words, found in Deuteronomy 31 and verse 6.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Don’t be afraid Kaleigh, when your down here daddy can’t hold your hand, or fix what is broken, or isn’t nearby, because your Heavenly Father is holding your hand, helping you cross the street or the river. Be strong and courageous.

 

I have learned so many things from my Father, from his father, and from my Mother’s Father. I’ve learned how to have a good sense of humor, even when I cannot laugh. I’ve learned to question everything, keep learning, keep reading, because life has so much to teach. I’ve learned the characteristics of a good man, a faithful man, a strong man, the kind of man I should marry, the kind of (wo)man I should be. And I hope one day, the two of us can teach our children what it means to be strong in the storm, the same things my Father taught me. 

Sorry I Punched You in the Face, but Your Ignorance was Asking for it.

To the group of guys in my campus library who said that girls who are raped are asking for it:

Fuck you.

Normally, I don’t swear, because I believe that words are powerful, and I was raised by parents who got mad if I said ‘crap’ too often. But, I’m an English Major, and there are approximately 1,025,109 words in the English language, but I can’t think of a better way to sum up how I feel about what you said than this: Fuck you. I hope you get high-fived in the face with a chair.

That might wipe the condescending grins off your stupid faces.

It’s not your fault that you believe girls who are raped are asking for it. I blame society. I blame the way women have been seen as inferior for years. I blame the phrase “boys will be boys.” I blame the way we teach our daughters that if a boy is mean to her, if he pulls her hair, he likes her. I think that’s why women stay in abusive relationships; she feels obligated to stay. He says he loves her. He beats her up with his words and his fists, and she thinks she deserves it.

But let me tell you a story. It’s my story. Because you say I deserve what happened to me. That some how because of the clothes I wore, the things I did, I deserved to be assaulted. But I didn’t.

When I was sexually assaulted, I was wearing a hoodie and jeans. When I was sexually assaulted, I had the audacity to tell a guy, “No.” I had the audacity to refuse a date from a guy who was more of a jerk than a man. I had the audacity to not be a prize that’s won.

I wrote what’s below a while ago, but I think you need to hear it now. So, I’m sharing it again, because apparently, guys like you need to check your privilege.

When I was in first grade, I was told that if a guy was mean to me, he liked me. I would go tell the teacher that Billy stole the ball I was playing with, and he wouldn’t give it back.

“Kaleigh,” I was told, “He likes you.”

“Sam pulled my hair.”

“He likes you.”

7 years later, I’m lying on a school bathroom floor, and I’m wondering if these guys are showing me they love me. And now I’m walking on egg shells around every guy I meet, not wanting to be loved again, because if this is how a guy tells a girl he loves her, I’d much rather be single forever.

I was taught in school how to protect myself from rape. Don’t walk alone. Don’t walk alone at night. Don’t go out at night. Keep your body hidden. Don’t give them a reason.

If the reason was turning him down when he asked me out, because he was a jerk, then yes, I gave him a reason.  Maybe I gave him a reason because I was too quiet all the time, and too loud at the wrong times. And apparently, his friends decided I was the worst and decided to punish me too. And now I’m stuck keeping it a secret because I don’t want the blaming questions.

“Why were you alone?”

“What were you wearing?”

It’s been 5 years, and I’m still getting told by some people to praise God I don’t remember it all. Let me tell you, I remember it enough to know I don’t want to remember it all.

It’s been 5 years, and sometimes unexpected contact is still the worse, and sometimes it burns as if I’m holding the sun in my hands.

It’s been 5 years, and sometimes I still have to defend myself against judging glances. Because, apparently, has someone who has been blessed with two x chromosomes, instead of one, the only job I have in life is to not let myself get raped.

Hold up, let me tell you something.

My job as a female is to do whatever the heck I want to do. I am not part of the “weaker sex.” And I may not be able to bench press as much as you men, but I know how to be strong. I may have wider hips, but I have a fighter’s stance.

And I don’t want to hear these excuses about men having a voracious appetite for sex. The word appetite should only be used when talking about food. I am not food.

Sometimes my thoughts threaten to eat me alive.

But, I will not be silenced. I am a statistic, but that doesn’t define me.

Because one day in my first week of college, somebody said, “If someone hates himself so much they want to die, they’re better off dead.” And then,  ”If someone gets raped, they probably deserved it.” So I told my story, and then he had the audacity to defend the other guys’ actions.

I’m pretty sure the “Bros Before Hoes,” part of the Bro Code does not apply in this situation. Because he wasn’t justified, and I didn’t provoke. I was in the wrong place in the wrong time surrounded by the wrong people. And their touch is woven into the deepest part of my skin, and 5 years later, I still get shivers down my spine. I was told no one would love me, and I believed them, until I realized I have the most amazing friends.

I was told not to get raped. They were not told how not to rape.

Guys tell one another, “You throw like a girl!” Since when is being a girl an insult? Some of the strongest people I know are women. Being a girl is not an insult.

I am not an insult. You are not an insult. I will tell my daughter she is not an insult.

I may be a girl, but I know how to fight. And so will my daughters. My sons will learn the meaning of “no.”

“No” is not “maybe.” “No” is not “convince me.”

And I will teach them both the two best things I’ve ever learned: How to love myself, despite everything. And how to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start again.

Because repetition forms habits.

I’ve found my voice again. So yes, I may be ‘beautiful’ or whatever, but I am so much more.

I am woman.

I am a fighter.

I am a survivor.

And I will teach my children to be the same.

I will teach my Children what love is, and what it’s not. Because you shouldn’t be afraid of love.

I’m not afraid anymore.   -“Afraid in Love”

I’m not afraid anymore, but I still get mad at guys like you. Because guys like you are the ones who wink at girls on the bus. Guys like you are the ones who catcall girls on the street. Guys like you make girls uncomfortable in their own skin. Guys like you are the reasons for some of my sleepless nights and the scars on my skin. Guys like you fail to realize that work of art you’re canvassing is not yours to steal. Girls bodies are not your playground. We are not simply woodchips crunching under your feet.

We are people too.

I’m a person despite being a female who’s been raped.

And I know that the next time a guy lays a hand on me when it’s unwanted, he’ll be on the floor so fast, he won’t know what hit him.

Spoiler alert: My fist will have been the thing that hit him.

So, the next time I hear anybody say that girls who are raped deserve it, I will punch them in the face. And if they get offended, I’ll just say, “Sorry I punched you in the face, but your ignorance was asking for it.”

 

Olympics and Flying: What they Have in Common

When I was little, I would watch the Olympics in complete awe and reverence. I would watch the gymnasts run down the mats like an airplane taxing down a runway, fling themselves off the vault, fly through the air, twisting and turning like a leaf in the wind, and stick their landings. I would watch the ice skaters glide on the ice like a knife over butter, twirl in the air as they complete their triple axels, and come back down to earth all with the grace of an angel.

And I wanted to be a gymnast and an ice skater and a fairy princess. So, I tried my hardest. I put a step stool down between the lines on the carpet in the living room. I would run and jump off of it, doing a half twist in the air before my feet hit the ground. And in that moment, I was an award-winning gymnast. I would “ice skate” in my socks on hardwood floor, and as I glided over the floors I pretended I was Michelle Kwan. I would take my light pink super hero cape and pretend it was a Queen’s robe, until I decided being prim and proper was boring. Saving the world is more fun.

When I was little, I was obsessed with the idea of flying. I would stand on the bottom step of the staircase in my home and channel my inner Buzz Lightyear by saying, “to infinity and beyond.” Of course, being 3, it would come out “to infiniby and beyond.” And then I would jump off that 6 inch step and flap my arms, because I was convinced that if I flapped my arms hard enough, I could fly around the room. One day, I told my Dad with all the enthusiasm little me could muster, “Daddy. I was in the air for 6 whole seconds!”

Of course, I wasn’t. Children don’t understand time… or gravity.

Sometimes I still don’t.

Time is a relative concept. It’s not a line. It’s more of a… of a… big ball of timey wimey stuff. Gravity isn’t concrete either. Sometimes, when I feel particularly unhappy about my body, I remember that I would weigh less on the moon. So, if I ever fulfill my dream of becoming an astronaut, I’m all set. Because what is weight, but the force of gravity acting upon us? And the amount of gravity depends on the mass of the object. The earth is bigger than the moon. But compared to the size of the universe, the earth is miniscule. A speck of sand on the finger of God. So it’s easy for me to feel small.

On the day I decided to test gravity and throw myself off the metaphorical cliff, I wasn’t small enough for God to see me, to protect me, and save me.

I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of flying, and I’ve learned that 37,000 feet in the air is beautiful.

Gymnasts fly. Ice skaters fly. I’ll never be either.

And that’s ok. Because I’m a writer. I believe in metaphors. I believe in life. And what is life but a metaphor anyway?

When I was little, I believed that if I jumped high enough and flapped my arms hard enough, I would sprout wings and fly around the room.

One day, I woke up, and I had wings. And now I’m flying.

The girl who is scared of heights, which is more a fear of falling aka a fear of trying to die, is flying high in the sky. And nothing will ever bring me down.

I Need to Sleep

People annoy me. 

Ok, technically, people don’t annoy me; people annoy my Depression. And it’s not like people annoy me all the time. They just annoy me when my Depression is at it’s worst, which pretty much sums up my recent days.

And when I find myself in this state, the state where every single thing anybody does makes me want to punch them in the face with a snarky comment, I find it best to stay in my bed, in my room, secluded from the world. It’s better for everybody if I sleep it off, or at least attempt to. (But that’s not to say I don’t ever use sarcastic comments, because I do. However, they are reserved for situations, and things, like Intro to Sociology or other 3 hour night classes, not people. Unless of course I consider you a bro. In which case, be prepared for the sarcasm.)

And personally, I don’t think it’s that people annoy me. More than anything, I think it’s that I annoy myself. I have all these dreams of things I want to do, but I never have enough motivation or faith in myself to do them. And it’s not as though I can got to the store and pick up a bottle of motivation or purpose in life. So, I pretty much have to make do with what I got. 

And I want to go out with friends and do things, but sometimes being around people is exhausting. And sometimes, doing things that used to make you happy don’t always make you happy (which is one of the biggest paradoxes I’ve ever heard). And that makes me feel even worse about my present predicament. So telling me to go and do something does more harm than good. 

You also shouldn’t tell me or ask me any of the following:

1)      Snap out of it. If I could snap out of it, I wouldn’t be here right now in this moment. Yes, I know everyone feels sadness at some point in their life, but in my case “at some point in their life” translates to “every freakin’ day,” or a hopeless pit of despair where it’s so dark, I’ve forgotten what light looks like. And I know everyone feels anxious, but that’s not the same as having an anxiety attack, which is best described as: “a terrifying lightning storm of despair, self-hatred, and the absolute certainty of my immediate death.”

2)      You don’t look depressed or conversely, you look depressed. Thank you, really I appreciate it. Thank you for letting me know I can’t be sad, because I don’t look sad. Conversely, thank you for letting me know you can see my sadness. I appreciate knowing that it must be real now.

3)      You must have asked for it somehow, or you must have done something wrong to be depressed. I asked for a pony, but all I got was this lousy feeling of impending doom. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

4)      What’s wrong?  I don’t know what’s wrong. If I did, I probably wouldn’t be here, right now, in this moment. Yes, it’s true that a particular event sparked what would eventually become known as Depression, but right here, right now, in this moment, everything’s wrong and nothing’s wrong, and I’m still trying to figure out how that can be. (You can ask me what’s wrong, but don’t expect a coherent answer).

5)      Stop focusing on the bad stuff. Thanks, now I feel horrible about myself, because I’ve tried this many times. I’ve listed out all the good stuff about life, but it hasn’t worked so far. And right now, I’m not feeling very hopeful, because the Evening News begins with “Good Evening,” and then proceeds to list off all the reasons why it isn’t. And yes, they usually conclude with a little “bright spot” showing that there is in fact light at the end of the tunnel, but this tunnel isn’t getting any smaller, and I’m not getting any closer, and really, right now, the light bulb is rather dim. I think it needs to be changed. And you know it’s bad when a listed side effect of anti-depressants is: increased suicidal thoughts. I’m sorry, but isn’t that why we started taking this little happy pill to begin with: to make us just happy enough so we weren’t thinking about suicide all the time?

 6)      Just pray about it. I have witnessed the power of prayer, but prayer can’t fix everything, and you’re making me believe that I don’t have enough faith. Are you implying that the way I feel somehow equates to my lack of faith? Because if so, let me explain to you that my faith is quite intact. Because it takes a lot of faith for me to get out of bed in the morning, to believe that the ground won’t fail beneath my feet. I have enough faith for the both of us.

 7)      Being busy will help distract you. Ignoring an issue, doesn’t make it go away. I’ve discovered this when I ignore homework.

 8)      Sleeping all the time isn’t healthy. Maybe not, but it’s the only escape I get from my feelings. If I could sleep for a week straight, I would. Because sometimes I have too much pain to be awake for. Sleeping is like death, without the commitment, because I know one day, I will be temporarily happy, and I want to be awake to see it.

 9)      You’re doing this for attention. This is literally the worst thing to do for attention. If I wanted attention, I would wear a clown costume as I was riding a unicycle while juggling. It’s much easier. And that way, the stares and whispers would be because of something good.

 10)   I understand. No you don’t. The only way you’d understand is if you have the same feelings I do.

11)      How are you doing? (or similarly, How you doing kid?)

Right now, I’m not doing much of anything except trying to survive. Some days I use up all my energy getting out of bed in the morning because the ground looks pretty shaky, and sometimes it takes everything to believe that I will be ok. Those are the days when I know I won’t be able to get along with people, so I hide away in my room. But really, this is pretty normal for people like me. So a better question to ask me would be…

12)      How’s it going?

It’s going. Because life moves quickly but also so slowly, and I move right along with it. Although sometimes it seems as though I’m moving in slow motion, because I have no idea what I’m doing or where I’m going, and I’m just trying to figure it out. So I’m going with the flow and also against the flow, because if society is going to tell me that I’m not beautiful, I’m going to prove them wrong, because my battle proves otherwise.

13)      Can I see your scars?

No, you cannot. Over the years, I have learned to wear my scars boldly, because they are a reminder of where I’ve been. And they serve as hope for the future. And I’ve had too many people make fun of me because of my scars. Self-harm is not a joke. It is not funny, and it is not something you should make fun of to get a laugh out of people. It’s a serious problem. It’s not ok to diminish the severity of this issue by taking pictures of fake blood in the shape of a heart or whatever because you think it’s beautiful. Because let me tell you, every time I cut into my skin I felt a little bit less beautiful, and I hated myself a little more, and I’ve spent the last three years trying to undo it. IT’S NOT OK. It’s horrible when you get to that point when you feel self-harm is the only way to feel pain. It’s horrible when you become addicted. And I hope I never walk that path again, but every day the struggle is real. It’s not a joke. And it’s not ok to use my scars or anybody else’s as a joke or an example of what not to do. Everybody deals with pain differently. Don’t make anybody hate themselves more than they already do.

So no, you cannot see my scars, because while you may think they’re beautiful, I don’t. I do my best to hide them, because all I want is to feel beautiful.

14)      How are you feeling?

I don’t know how I’m feeling. I’m feeling happy and sad and sometimes nothing at all. And I don’t want to feel this way. I don’t want to be cautiously happy and overwhelmingly sad. I’d give anything to not feel this way—my left kidney because I only need one, part of my liver because it’s the only organ that regenerates, my lungs because I feel like I’m drowning, my heart because I doubt anybody could ever love me, and if I still had my appendix, I’d probably give that too. 

So really, I’m feeling everything and nothing, but most of all I’m feeling terrified. Because life is unpredictable, and I don’t know if I can deal with anymore hurtful suprises, and I’m trying to make sense of this chaos, because out of chaos comes beauty, but when I look in the mirror all I see is ugly.

 

So, yes. Sometimes people annoy me. But being annoyed is better than feeling nothing at all. But, just so you know, if I think you’re annoying, I’ll probably just shut my eyes and take a nap. 

Hey, A&E. What are you doing?

Dear A&E,

What the heck are you doing? First of all, it must be noted that I’m not a political person. Politics don’t interest me, and I don’t really care enough to figure out what on earth is going on. However, I do know two things. I do know everything’s a mess, and consequently, 50% of the country is mad 100% of the time. But, this isn’t about politics, except for the fact that it has everything to do with politics.\

I know you all have an image to uphold. But let me tell you, this is one of the best shows on Television. I’d much rather have my young cousins watch Duck Dynasty than Teen Mom, Toddlers and Tiaras, or any other of those reality shows.

I don’t watch the show religiously, because it’s not on Netflix, and I don’t have cable, nor do I have the time. But I know many friends who do. My Dad watches the show sometimes at work, and let me tell you, that man always draws connections back to that show. “This reminds me of that one episode of Duck Dynasty…”

What I do with books and episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, he does with Duck Dynasty. And honestly, I’m not complaining. It’s a good show. It’s hilarious, and it’s wholesome for the whole family. So let me just say…

Second of all, let me emphasis this question: WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING?

Phil Robertson is suspended indefinitely from your show after expressing an opinion based on his personal beliefs. How dare he. How dare he have opinions. How dare he express said opinions. Am I right?

Wrong.

How dare you. You released a statement that read, “We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series ‘Duck Dynasty,'”- read more

I repeat: What?

They’re Southern Christians, and y’all knew that when you gave them a TV show. Do you even watch the show? If you did, you’d see that his personal beliefs are reflected in the show. Maybe they’re not so quite glaringly obvious, but they’re there nonetheless. Yes, I agree he could have phrased his opinions better, but sometimes what you want to say doesn’t come out like you want it to. And it’s not like you can grab them once they’re said.

This is almost exactly like what happened when Chick-fil-A came out as opposing gay marriage. Wasn’t that a shock? Not for me. News Flash: They’re closed on Sundays! And it’s not just because they can be.

So, why are we surprised here? I don’t know, because I’m not. News Flash: They’re Southern Christians.

By taking Phil Robertson off the air, you’re punishing him for having his own opinions, for believing in the Bible. This is not North Korea.

Third of all, there is a difference between thinking a way of life is wrong, and hating people who live that way. Phil is saying that he thinks being gay is a sin, not that he hates people who are gay. There’s a difference, and if you can’t understand that, let me say it in a way that might make more sense.

I think eating salad all the time is wrong. That does not mean I hate vegetarians. And I hope vegetarians don’t hate me because I prefer a steak over a salad.

If you still don’t understand, consider parents. Teens go through a rebellious phase, and while parents may not agree with everything their teen does during this phase, they love the teen anyway.

Fourth of all, you can’t open the can of worms and then get offended if a long, hairy one crawls out. That’s like diving into shark infested water with a large, bloody cut, and then getting mad when the sharks bite you.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think taking Phil off the show will solve anything. He is Duck Dynasty. He started Duck Dynasty, and taking him off the show will not make more people watch the show. If you’re people don’t get mad at you for expressing opinions, you either don’t share them, or you don’t have any.

I don’t like offending people, so I try to keep my comments to myself (unless it’s night class, and I’m too tired to care). But the lack of sharing does not mean I’m not opinionated, because if you could hear my inner sarcastic commentary, you’d understand. If you need sarcastic comments, I’m your man… or, woman (don’t want to offend anyone).

If you are able to share your opinions on controversial topics without offending anyone, that means you’re telling two different things to two different groups. In High School, we had a term for people like you, “two-faced.”

So, yes. I applaud Phil. I applaud Phil for saying what he believes. I applaud Phil for sticking to his Christian vales, even if he creates backlash.

And I hope you, A&E, have learned three things.

1. This is America. We have Freedom of Speech. We should be able to express our opinions without people trying to silence us. You know what we get when that gets taken away? We get North Korea. I’m content with not living in North Korea.

2. There’s a difference between thinking a way of life is wrong, and hating a person who lives that way. I hate eating salad. I don’t hate people who eat salad.

3. If you don’t like worms, don’t open the can of worms. If you don’t want to be eaten by a shark, don’t dive in shark infested waters.

Things I Learned In School

While I was learning a^2 + b^2 = c^2,  binomial expansion, and Implicit Differentiation, I was not learning that life is not a math equation. You can’t plug in different variables, different circumstances, and get one definitive outcome, one definitive life. My life is different from your life is different from his life. My experiences define who I am as do yours. There are only two experiences every person has: birth and death; how we get there, and what we do in between is completely dependent on the individual. You can graph where a person’s been, but you can’t graph where they’re going. You can graph the past, but you can’t graph the future, because life isn’t a line or a parabola, or the sum of an infinite series, or etc, etc, and there are too many “what ifs” to get a clear picture anyway, even if it was or were (for being an English major, there are a lot of Grammar rules that continue to confuse me).

But, that was a tangent.

Hey, speaking of tangents, did you know tangents only touch a circle once? And circles don’t have points, and I guess neither did that fact, because school teaches you facts, but not how to apply them. It teaches you to think, but not how to reason. So, yes, I’m really good at spitting back whos, whats, wheres, whens, and whys, but not the “so what?”s. I’m still trying to figure out how the past has influenced my life and how I can influence the future. And as to where my story fits in the grand scheme of things, I’m still trying to figure that one out, too. But as I’m beginning to experience more things, that picture’s becoming clearer. That’s an equation I hope to solve one day.

Mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell. But, I bet you knew that already, didn’t you?

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, which I learned in Math, but I understand it the best when I’m trying to find the quickest route to avoid someone or the shortest walk to class in the cold of winter or the pouring rain.

Weight equals mass times gravity, and you learn this in physics, but you understand it when the bathroom floor pulls you against its cold, flat surface after you’ve emptied last night’s calories.

All matter has mass. But you don’t learn it school what it means to matter. You have to learn that on your own, and I’ve discovered that you matter because of what matters to you. Your level of mattering is directly equivalent to how much what you care about matters to you. Your value is not inversely proportional to your weight; it’s directly proportional to the amount you care.

You learn competition, because this whole system of class rank separates the “good at memorizing,” from “the not so good.” But how well you do in school has no bearing on how successful you will be when it comes to the ‘real world.’

You learn about Supply and Demand and Opportunity Cost, but you won’t really understand until you have to live paycheck to paycheck, or until your Dad has to work three jobs to make ends meet and he has to decide between earning money and spending time with the family.

You learn about interest rate and the idea of loans, but you’ll wish you paid attention when it comes time to pay back student loans.

You learn about Total Surface Area and Volume, which becomes helpful when you have to fit a week’s worth of dirty dishes into a dishwasher.

You learn how to compare yourself to others, but not how to love yourself despite others.

Life has taught me many things, and learning how to love myself is one of the hardest.

I’ve learned life is hard, some days you will hate yourself, but there’s always hope.

Why doesn’t school teach you that?

Gene Pool

“Dear Je…”

“Hot food over here, cold food over there.”

My Grandfather was laughing so hard he couldn’t finish the prayer.

My Grandmother has always been a little hard of hearing. My Grandfather has always been a little hard of seeing. So between the two of them… they’re a perfect pair.

If that’s not the best way to describe my Grandparents, I don’t know what is. But allow me to continue.

My Grandfather is a well-educated, even-keeled man. He has a Bachelor’s, two Master’s, and a Doctorate. His official title is “Reverend Doctor Boppa Sir,” but we just call him “Boppa.” (Since I am the oldest grandchild on my mother’s side, I called all the shots). I’ve never heard him laugh, but I have heard him chuckle deeply. He may forget where he placed his keys, but if you ask him a question about anything he ever learned, he’ll remember the answer. He was a College Professor before he retired, and he was also head of the Religion and Humanities Department for a while. It should come as no surprise then that when I needed help writing a paper for one of my classes, I sought him out for help.

When I called him up and asked if I could “borrow some of his knowledge” (those were in fact my exact words), he didn’t sound too enthused. But I could sense excitement in his voice as he responded with a strong, “sure. When are you free?” When I showed up the next morning, he said it would take him a few minutes to find his notes. Not more than 30 seconds later he returned with a copy of all his lectures. (Clearly he knew exactly where they were, and clearly he was waiting for the day when one of his Grand-children would ask for his expertise on his specialty.)

Unless you are prepared to learn why you are wrong and are prepared to receive a lecture on what Grammar means, “where are you at?” is not the correct answer to use in my Grandfather’s presence. Yes, he was an English major in College. And in case you are wondering, I probably received my love for English from him. But that’s not all I received from him. We both love trivia and game shows, and we both think Jeopardy is fantastic. We both like puzzles of the jigsaw and brain varieties. And while he does his crosswords in pen, I do mine in pencil. And we both love a good game of scrabble. I beat him at Scrabble for the first time a few months ago. I was excited on the outside. He wasn’t. But, I know on the inside he was proud.

He plays Solitaire on his computer for hours, but he’s never lonely. He has seven Grandchildren. One of them shares his name. (One time my Grandmother was yelling at my Grandfather, and my Cousin put himself in time-out (ok, it was more than once)). I’m sure when we’re all together it feels like there are more than seven of us. Both of his daughters married Italian men, and Italians are good at being loud and eating.

My Grandmother knows how to cook. When you are at her house, you never go hungry. At her house, there is no such thing as a simple snack, because even snack is five courses. Phrases such as, “Grandma, I wanted a little scoop of ice-cream, not the whole tub,” are heard frequently. The candy jars are always full, and you always leave her house a few pounds heavier than when you came. She doesn’t know how to cook for two people; she only knows how to cook for a small army of people. And even though she has hearing aids, she may not hear you the first time you call. But when she does, she’ll be there immediately.

When I was smaller than I am now, I would curl up in her lap, and we would read books for hours. By the time I was too big to fit in her lap, we had three joke books memorized. That is why I’ll always understand the punch line before everyone else (living with my Dad may have helped my getting of punch lines too, but shhh. It’s a secret). She always gives the best advice: “Never get old, Kaleigh. Your memory starts to go/your knees get bad, etc.” I hate to tell her my short-term memory is not much better than that of a goldfish. I think I’ve inherited her bad knees, too. They are starting to mimic the sound of an old house.

Staying home from school because of sickness were always the best. It meant a free day at Grandma’s. She just knows how to take care of you. When I had my appendix out one Christmas Eve, all I wanted to do was see Grandma. So I ate that yucky hospital food. I peed in the stupid toilet. I took that painful walk. And even though it was 7:30 pm on Christmas Eve when I left that hospital, I went to Grandma’s, because she wanted to see me as much as I wanted to see her. Grandma makes everything better. And I’m not sure if it’s because she was a nurse, or it’s because she’s Grandma. I’m leaning toward the latter.

When she left her purse in the cart at K-mart, the first thing she thought was, “Oh no! The Grandkids!” She was more worried about not getting those pictures of her grandchildren back than she was about the credit cards. And if that’s not the perfect definition of Grandma, you need to change yours.

My Grandparents give more than they take. They’ve been to more concerts, school plays, soccer games, and piano recitals than I can count. They even came to my High School Graduation (bless their hearts)! They’ve let my sisters, cousins, and me spend the night. They even let me spend a week at their house, sleeping in one of their extra bed, eating their food, because they didn’t want me spending the week in an empty house (even though I am 19).

My Grandparents taught me what it means to love. They taught me love is in the little things, not necessarily the big. They taught me loving someone is not the same as liking someone. And you don’t always have to like someone, but you always have to love them.

My Grandparents are adorable. She calls him “dear.” He pours her coffee and opens the bottles she can’t. And sometimes when he’s going to meet my cousins’ school bus, he will pause at the door a little longer and say “bye” one more time.

So I know genes are inherited, but most behaviors are learned. And I want a marriage like theirs someday. I want to be like them someday. And I know life isn’t a competition, but I’m winning. Because when it comes to Grandparents, I have the best ones.