Close Your Eyes- A Fiction Piece

Author’s note: Originally written for my Creative Writing class, it also won best Fiction piece for the literary edition of my school’s newspaper.

Of the two of us, my little sister was always the smart one. I was the dreamer; she was rational. She’s a law student now, working as an intern in the big city. My life, however, turned out a little different. Looking back on how I lived my life, all I can wonder is: did I do enough?

. . .

On the evening of my twenty-first birthday, my friends and I were out celebrating, not drinking. I had seen how alcohol can destroy lives. My parents died during a heavy snowfall, in a five car pileup on the Thruway after some guy who had too much to drink lost traction and slammed his pickup into a tractor trailer, which jackknifed. My parents weren’t the only ones who died in that crash, but they were the only ones I knew, the only ones I cared about. My sister was two years old and understood mostly none of what happened. I was nine and understood too much. She wondered why mom and dad weren’t coming back, where they went; I wondered how someone could get behind a wheel drunk, putting other people’s lives in danger, and not think twice. He lost his life, and I felt like I lost mine. Eventually, my sister became my life.

. . .

We were alone, my sister and I, so my grandparents took us in. Bless their souls; they certainly had their hands full: my sister was just beginning to be potty trained, and I was still learning how to break out of my shell of shyness and talk to others. But we were tough, the two of us, and we learned how to survive. Every day, we taught each other the ways of the world, and in the process, learned more about ourselves. I was the one who taught her how to tie her shoes, who helped her learn to ride a bike. I taught her how to stand up for herself and when to walk away. I told her not to believe everything she sees on TV, but I also told her to believe in magic. In the process of being an older sister, my little sister taught me how to find joy. She taught me to take time to laugh, and that the curiosity of a child is a wonderful thing. Sometimes, all you need to get up in the morning, when the day ahead seems like too much to bear, is a simple reminder that you’re not alone. She reminded me every day.

I was the one who reminded her over and over and over again what happened to Mom and Dad, why they weren’t coming back. My sister was too young to remember them, so I had to do enough remembering for the two of us. I told her Dad’s favorite jokes, which were plenty. He knew how to find something humorous in every situation. In our small town, he was known for his ability to make up jokes off the top of his head, pull them out of thin air—like a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat. I thought he was Superman: invincible except for kryptonite. If kryptonite is snowfall, alcohol, and a pickup, I guess I was right. I was the one who sang my sister to sleep every night, watching as she closed her eyes and drifted off to the same words that once graced my mother’s lips: the wind knows a place where the stillness is, where the world seems to stop, and time stands still. Close your eyes, and in that moment, we’ll be together again. I thought my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world, and I hoped to God I would be like her someday.

My sister is the spitting image of my mother, with her big blue eyes and long blonde hair and ringlets cascading down her back. Dad had the dark hair, tan skin, dark eyes. “My Italian Prince,” my mom used to say. Somehow, I inherited his dark hair, tanner skin, but I have my mother’s eyes. Of the two of us, my sister definitely inherited my dad’s funny bone. She made me laugh when all I wanted to do was cry. And she could impersonate anybody and anything. A weird old man used to live in our town. He had a southern twang, and used words I’ve never heard of, and when he talked, he used every part of his body. Every time he spoke, it looked like he was dancing, or at least having a seizure.  Anytime we needed a laugh, she did her “Southern Man impression,” and she played him better than he did. My sister always told me that I have the prettiest voice in the world, and I would be famous someday. I always wanted to believe her. I wanted to make her proud of me, but what I failed to realize was that she was: she wanted everybody in our school to know that she was my sister. I guess she got her wish, I’m famous now, and everybody knows she’s my sister.

Yes, we were close, my sister and I, despite the seven years between us. I was never sure which was better: being so close that your younger sister copied everything you did, or being so distant that you hardly ever talk.

My sister and I talked for hours every day as we were growing up. We talked about boys, the future, and the funny happenings of life, but we also talked about serious things: I gave her the sex talk, which was awkward, and we also talked about death, what we thought heaven was like. We talked about almost everything. When I was eighteen, I recorded a demo of my Mother’s lullaby. It got me a recording contract, so I moved to the big city. Even then, we talked every day.

My sister wanted to be just like me. One time when I was fourteen, I found my sister in her room, pinching her stomach, disgusted at how she looked. My heart broke. I had done the same thing just a few minutes before; she had seen me do it every day for four years. What a hypocrite I was: I had always told her not to compare herself to others, and yet, there I was, comparing myself to all the girls I deemed prettier than me. I was never confident in my own skin. My sister and I were close, but I had never told her about my insecurities before that day. Open communication about everything started right there and then. I told her about all the anger I had toward that driver who killed our parents those six years before. I told her about how the mirror was never my friend. Then I told her how I was beginning the painful process of letting go of the anger I had, and in that process, I was learning how to love myself.

. . .

On the evening of my twenty-first birthday, my friends and I were out celebrating, not drinking. Instead, my friends and I went midnight bowling in fancy dresses—something I had missed out on doing after my Junior Prom. My sister had called me earlier in the day, and I told her to keep her eye out for a letter that would be arriving in the next few days, and after the “I love you”s and the goodbyes, we hung up and promised each other we would talk again tomorrow.

It was the best night of my life.

On the evening of my twenty-first birthday, my friends and I left the bowling alley. I heard tires screeching, a horn honk, and my friends screaming. I saw a bright light, and then everything went black. My last moments alive, I was surrounded by friends who loved me, but my sister wasn’t there. I regret that.

. . .

Four months after my funeral, my friends and family sat in a big city courtroom facing the man who hit me. Before the verdict came down, my little sister said she wanted to read the letter I had written her for the first time. The letter was dated my twenty-first birthday, and upon seeing this, she began to whimper softly. But after a few seconds, she somehow found the strength inside of her to begin reading:

Dear Little Sis,

            If I timed this letter correctly, it should be your first day of high school. Congratulations! People are going to tell you a lot of things about high school. Don’t listen to them. It’s not the best for years of your life, and you don’t have to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life.

            Don’t let anyone define you or put you in a box. It’s not for them to decide who you are and who you are going to be. Dream big. Reach for the stars. Defy gravity. Learn to embrace irony; life is riddled with it. If you want to travel the world, travel the world. Don’t live life with regrets. Learn how to love yourself, because there was once a time when I did not, and I spent so much time worried about what others thought of me, I didn’t define myself. I tried to please everyone, and it made me unhappy. Learn from my mistakes. Life is too short to let others dictate your life choices. If you ever see an injustice being done, fight. Fight hard. Fight for those who have no voice. Fight for those who are weak. Fight for yourself, but also learn when to walk away.

            I’ve learned that anger is a powerful motivator, but it’s also toxic, corrosive, destructive. It almost destroyed my life. But I learned that forgiveness is more powerful than all the wrongs done to you. Love is more powerful than all the evil in the world. If you ever find yourself angry at the world, take a step back, take a deep breath, and find the strength to forgive. Find the power to love. If there’s ever a day when you find it hard to get out of bed, when it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, remember that an ant can carry things 6x its own weight. You are not an ant; you’re not alone in life. You have family and friends who love you, and a big sister who is more proud of you than anything in the world. And no matter how many miles separate us in the future, remember that I will always be with you. There are some chains distance can’t break: the love of a sister is one, because boys will come, and boys will go, but a love of a sister is forever.

            Talk to you soon,

            Your Big Sis!

The courtroom was quiet as the verdict came down: guilty on both counts—vehicular manslaughter and driving while Intoxicated.

. . .

Somewhere on a stretch of road, the pavement is stained red, serving as a reminder of how fragile life can be. Somewhere, in the cemetery of a small town, a twenty-one year old law student sits at my grave, her older sister, a singer known for one song, a lullaby; a singer who became famous only after her death. This woman sits in silence and listens as the whispering wind sings the words to her mother’s lullaby.

The wind knows a place where the stillness is, where the world seems to stop, and time stands still. Close your eyes, and in that moment, we’ll be together again.

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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. 

To the Guy who turned a date rejection into a sexual invitation

First of all, how dare you.

Second of all, You don’t scare me anymore.

You see, I saw you in Target the other day. I didn’t freak out. I didn’t run to the bathroom and cry. I walked by you as if you were a normal person. I didn’t even acknowledge your existence.

And that’s a big deal, because up until a few months ago even meeting someone with the same first name as you was enough to make me break out into a cold sweat. But not anymore. And I can’t tell you how great that feels.

For so many years, you’ve had this invisible hold on me. I couldn’t allow myself to be happy. I couldn’t allow myself to be loved. And even though I forgave you, I wasn’t healed from you.

But I am now. I am completely and totally free from you.

AND I COULD SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS, BECAUSE IT’S BEEN A LONG TIME COMING.

You don’t scare me anymore.

However, that doesn’t mean the Depression you caused will go away. It won’t. It hasn’t. Some days I’m fine, and others I’m not at all fine. Some nights I lie in bed and feel  nothing. Some nights I lie in bed and feel everything. And I don’t know which is worse.

But I do know this: I’m a different person than I was 5 (almost 6) years ago.

And I’ve learned things from you I might have never learned. They’ve made me a better person. So, I guess in a way, I’m saying thank you, but I’m not really.

I’ve become stronger.

I’ve become more open at my struggles with depression, anxiety, anorexia, and even you.

And one day, I’ll meet a guy, and he’ll be fantastic. Maybe I’ve already met him, and he is fantastic. Either way, one day, I’ll tell him the whole story.

And he’ll probably be mad (if he’s a good guy, he’ll be mad), but I’ll tell him to forgive you, to have compassion for you like I do.

I have compassion for you, because I don’t know the whole reason why you decided to get your friends together and sexually assault me after I turned you down. Maybe you were abused. Maybe you had a rough family life. I don’t know.

Whatever the reason, I hope you’re in a better place now. And I want you to know that me having compassion on you, is not the same as justifying what you did. Because I will never do that. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Time changes a person.

I hope if you ever find somebody who loves you, that you’ll treat her with the respect she deserves.

I hope one day you can ask for forgiveness for what you did to me–not from me. From God. I don’t know where your relationship with God is, or if you even believe in God. But I hope one day you do.

Because everything He’s done for me, He can do for you, too.

 

 

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.

Open Letter to Society

I read somewhere once that it takes 21 days to form a habit. I also read somewhere that people who are anorexic believe themselves to be larger than they are, and they will turn their bodies when they go through doorways large enough for them to fit, because despite the vastness of the doorway, they believe they occupy more space than any doorway ever could.

I was anorexic for 4, almost 5, years. I was anorexic for 1825 days, give or take a few. That’s enough time for me to form 86 habits and 9/10ths of another. That’s 60 months of training my body to not need 3 meals a day, training my body to not need very much at all.

It’s taken me longer than 21 days to get in the habit of eating again, because I still don’t feel confident enough in my body to think of eating as a top priority.

And sometimes I still find myself turning my body when I walk through doors. Some habits are harder to break than others.

I stopped cutting myself 41 months ago, and sometimes I think if I day gets bad enough, I could start again.

I was raised in a society that taught girls how to protect themselves from sexual assault, but didn’t teach guys how to not rape. Fat lot of good that did me.

I was raised in a society where beauty is found in Photoshop and good lighting. And even though society’s beginning to change, I think it’s too late for my generation.

It’s too late for those who have already starved themselves to the point of hospitalization. It’s too late for those who have killed themselves because the pressures of society were too much. It’s too late for those who have already created enough scars on their skin to map the constellations in the sky.

But it’s not too late for the next generation. That’s why I’m going to teach my children to be more than pretty. Because pretty is boring. I’m going to teach them to be pretty amazing, pretty funny, pretty inquisitive, pretty respectful.

I’m going to teach them that ‘hate’ has four letters, but so does love. It’s easy to hate, and it’s hard to love. But love makes the world go round.

I’m going to teach them to love the 26 letters that make up this alphabet. Because language is powerful, and sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can also hurt you. Which is why I try my hardest to build others up, because I know what it’s like to be torn down.

I’m going to teach them the importance of equality and mutual respect, and the things you learn in school can have practical importance if you know the places to look.

I’m going to teach them that no matter their past, no matter what they’ve been through, they can do great things with their life. Your past does not define who you are. You are so much more.

And I’m going to teach them the following:

Girls, if a guy hits you, do not hit back. Walk away. Tell yourself that you deserve so much more.

The correct response is not, “Don’t hit me because I’m a girl.” The correct response is, “Don’t hit me because I’m human.” Guys don’t like being hit either.

Guys, if a girl hits you, do not hit back. Walk away. Tell yourself that you deserve so much more.

The correct response is not, “I can’t hit her back because she’s a girl.” The correct response is, “I can’t hit her back because she’s a human.” Do not answer violence with violence.

Girls, if a guy tells you that wearing a dress makes you look more dateable, wear sweatpants every day. Dress up to make yourself feel beautiful. Do not dress up to impress the guys.

Guys, if a girl tells you that they are into guys with six-packs, keep your shirt on. Go to the gym and work out. But do it to make you feel better. Do not do it to impress the ladies.

Girls, do not find a hero in a guy. Be your own hero.

Guys, be a hero for a girl. Do not be perfect.

Girls, do not let a guy kiss you/ touch you/ do anything to you without your consent. It’s not ok.

Guys, do not let a girl kiss you/ touch you/ do anything to you without your consent. It’s not ok.

Girls, do not fall in love with a guy who has the perfect body. Fall in love with a man who is not perfect, but who has a heart filled with the Perfect Man who died for us. Fall in love with a man who respects you, who knows you, who loves you for who you are. Fall in love with a man who isn’t afraid to express his feelings.

Guys, do not fall in love with a supermodel. Fall in love with a woman who is far from it, but who has been made beautiful by the washing with His blood. Fall in love with a woman whose heart is so lost in God’s that you need God to break through. Fall in love with a woman who respects you, who knows you, who loves you for who you are.

Girls, do not for a minute let a guy treat you like trash. Do not let a guy control you. Do not find your value in a guy. Walk away.

Guys, do not for a minute let a girl treat you like trash. Do not let a girl control you. Do not find your value in a girl. Walk away.

I’m going to teach my son that if he likes a girl, he should not pull her ponytail, he should not be mean to her. I will tell him, Honey, if you like a girl, buy her flowers or chocolate or make her a card. Do something, anything that will show her how special she is.”

I’m going to teach my daughter that a guy pulling her ponytail is not ok. I will not tell her he likes her. I will tell her, “Honey, if a guy really truly likes you, he will show you how special you are over and over and over again.”

If someone has a history of being abusive, do not get involved.

If someone has a history of being abused, do not continue that cycle.

If someone is making you uncomfortable, walk away.

If someone is hurting you mentally or physically, walk away.

Do not for a minute believe that the world is better off without you. We all have a purpose. We all have talents, but sometimes we doubt our abilities.

If worse comes to worse, rely on God. You are loved by a God who is far greater than any love you can find on earth.

But most importantly, I’m going to tell them over and over again about the importance of faith. Because there will be days when the size of life’s problems will be too much for their small hands to handle, but they have a God who has hands big enough for all of us.

Open Letter to my Depression

Dear over-bearing body sharer,

I now understand how Sisyphus felt everyday when he finally got the boulder to the top of the hill only to have it roll all the way back down: joy and immense despair all at once. Because in that moment, all his hard work failed to pay off. Likewise, I too think I’m over this hill, and one small action causes me to stumble and roll all the way back down into your arms. And then I have to fight to find my footing, to find the strength to stand up and try again.

I do have this to say about you: if nothing else, you are persistent.

But other than that, I don’t really know what else to say to you. I’ve referred to you with many titles. You are the Mr. Hyde to my Dr. Jekyll, the Yin to my Yang, this Omnipresent sadness. But more than any of those things, you are perhaps most like a volcano: sometimes you’re active, but most of the time you’re dormant, bubbling under the surface of my facade, waiting for an (in)opportune moment to burst forth.

And notice I said, “inopportune moment,” because that’s what it is. An ideal time for you proves to be the worst time for me. Like in the library last week. Dude, what you did was harsh and mean and cruel, which makes sense because you’re a bully. But let’s be honest, I was all fine and dandy until you pointed out the group of girls a table over from me, laughing and whispering. And I know they most likely weren’t laughing at me or whispering about me, but you showed up and made me feel so inadequate, I honestly, truly thought they were.

And in an instant I went from self-confident to insecure, which happens more than I’d like to admit.

The whole insecurity thing isn’t even the worst of what you do to me. The worst is your cousin anxiety you bring over for dinner once and a while. Our conversations are anything but reassuring.

I can deal with the feeling of numbness you sometimes decide to bring home. But I can’t deal with the constant fear of being judged, of making a fool of myself, of being alone. Because when your cousin Anxiety shows up, I over-analyze everything. I can’t sleep, because I’m afraid to dream. I can’t get out of bed, because what if the floor collapses under my feet? No, staying in bed is definitely safer.

People keep telling me I’ll grow out of it. It’s just a phase. But, I’m not so naive to believe that. I’ve been trying to fight against you for long enough to know you’re not going anywhere. You’re like the people I try to avoid when I see them in public, but I can’t avoid you. We occupy the same space. You are a part of me, and I can’t hide from myself. I can’t fight against myself. And I most definitely cannot preform a lobotomy and separate you from me.

So, I must live with you. And I don’t always know how to deal with the feelings I experience, the thoughts that zip through my mind, but that’s why I write.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think you are trying to kill me. But I’ve been there, and I’ve written that letter. And I’ve also burned that letter (and by burn, I mean “I’ve torn you up into a million pieces and threw you out the window as I was driving). I’ve come to realize, though, you’ve helped me discover a lot.

Yes, you’ve shown me the valleys, but when you’ve allowed me the occasional room to breathe, I’ve seen the heights. And yes, sometimes the thought of ending it all enters my mind, but when I reach the heights and don’t want to jump, all I see is beauty. And even though I have to convince you to let me out of bed, when I take that step of faith, I realize the world isn’t so bad.

You’re the reason I need to remind myself to breathe, and the reason why sometimes I’m so focused on breathing in and out, I forget how to put one foot in front of the other. But, I’ve learned that sometimes forgetting how to walk is better than forgetting how to live.

Without you, I wouldn’t have found the passion to change the world, to impact others lives. But without you, I’d have the courage to do so.

I’ve learned to live with you. Learn to live with me. Because what’s yang without yin? 

We’ve learned from each other. We’re in a symbiotic relationship, and I can’t escape. I’m not suffering because of you. I’m living despite you. And I want others to do the same. Because this life truly is beautiful.

You’ve taught me I’m stronger than I think I am. You’ve learned I will always prove you wrong.

But ultimately, I’ve learned if we work together, we can change the world.

I Think Someone Died Today: Letter to my Future Boyfriend

Dear Future Boyfriend,

I read somewhere once that when a person dies, and there is no one who loved them and who will miss them, the mourning is assigned to a random human, and this is why people sometimes just feel sad. I doubt there’s any truth to the tale, but some days I wish there was at least a small grain. Because some days my sadness outweighs my other emotions, and I don’t know how to tell people the reason behind it all. But this little nugget of mostly incorrect knowledge is so much easier to swallow than the truth behind this dark monster.

Because how do you tell someone there are days when you can’t love yourself? How do you tell someone that somewhere along the way from your brain to your heart, the love for yourself was accidentally renamed and rerouted to love for others? How do you explain to someone that hating yourself doesn’t mean hating others, because the two aren’t mutually exclusive? I don’t think you can; at least not easily. But I’m going to try to anyway, because it’s something you need to know. It’s a part of who I am. It’s not a phase. I won’t grow out of it. We’re a package deal, which sounds a little foreboding, but I can help you along the way. Because I’ve been living with Depression for five years, so I guess you could call me an expert on darkness.

Which is why I want to help you and as many other people as I can understand this sinister plague. And the first place to start is to let you know thoughts can be detrimental to happiness. People like me have the tendency to over-think everything, 98% of the time. And over-thinking, well, let’s just say no good can come from it. Believe me, I know. Over-thinking leads to doubt, and doubt leads to self-loathing, and self-loathing leads to all the side-effects of Depression. We can go from relatively happy to overwhelmingly sad in less time than it takes to blink, which leaves most people saying, “Well, that escalated quickly.” And they’d be right.

I’ve gone from laughing myself into an asthma attack to absolute self-hatred in the time it takes me to catch my breath. And then I’m left wondering: how can anybody love me if I can’t love myself? But the fact that I still believe in love and I still see the beauty in the world despite all I’ve been through is a sign of the strength of the human spirit.

There are days when I don’t think I can get out of bed because the weight of this load I’m carrying is too much to bear. There are days when I use up all my faith as soon as I get out of bed when I trust the floor will stay firm under my feet. There are days when I hate myself so much, I wonder how other people can be around me. But these are the days when I love others the most, because I know they’re travelling the same dark road I am, and it makes this journey so much more rewarding. And I want everybody I meet to feel loved.

And I’m going to warn you now: there will be days when I tell you, “I don’t need a man with a superhero cape to rescue me.” Don’t believe me. It’s a lie. Because for a long time, I tried to wear my own cape, but I couldn’t get out of the pit since my cape was held down by my own two feet (which goes to show that you really can be your own worst enemy).

There will be days when I call you at ridiculous o’clock because I can’t sleep and my mind’s a battlefield in the middle of a war. Just listen. Don’t try to fix me. You’re not God, and I’m not either. God will do what he will in his own time.

There will be days when I won’t believe any of the nice things you say to me. Tell me anyway, and I’ll save them for a day when I need to hear them the most.

Accept me for who I am, Depression and all, and I promise I’ll accept you too. You help me, I’ll help you. And when I’m having a bad day, and I can’t love myself, I’ll come find you. I want you to do the same. No one ever said life was easy; they just said it was worth it. And I for one believe them. And yes, I tried to kill myself, but now I’m trying to outlive myself.

Because this is something I have to live with. I’ve made it this far, and I will keep going. I won’t always know the precise, exact reason why I’m sad, but when that happens, like it did today, when I come up to you with tears streaming down my face, and I can’t tell you why, I’ll just say:

 

I think someone died today.

 

in response to: http://thoughtcatalog.com/2013/what-its-like-to-love-someone-with-depression/

The Letter No One Read

We are now 1.49 years into this journey known as my blog. And by now I’m sure you know a lot about me.

In case you don’t know a lot about me: I use humor to hide my pain.

That’s it. That’s all you need to know about me in a nutshell.

But, many of you know the whole, ugly truth about my life. And I’ve talked about many things on this blog–Depression, Sexual Assault, self-harm, my eating disorder–but, there’s one thing I’ve never really talked about. I’ve talked about it briefly in passing, as if it were no big deal. Honestly, it is a big deal. And honestly, I need to talk about it, because I’m on a journey of healing, and you know what they say about healing…

To put it bluntly: 3 and a half years ago, I attempted to commit suicide.

Looking back on it now, I have no idea what led me to that point. I have no recollection of what straw broke the depressive’s back. I can’t remember the days and weeks leading up to this event. But I do remember that dark, dark night.

I remember coming home from Youth Group and thinking, “I can’t do this anymore.” I remember cutting my wrists, crying quietly as the blood dripped from my skin, I remember writing a letter, and when I was done, taking some pills.

And then I remember crawling in bed, waiting to die. I remember hearing a quiet, yet strong voice.

You’re not alone.

3 words. So simple. But they saved my life. (It’s amazing the parallel here. 3 words saved my life. 3 words describe life: it goes on.)

I threw up the pills. I hid the letter no one read, and with it I hid the memories of this night somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind.

That is…

Until last night when I found the letter in a stack of notebooks on my bookcase.

I cried as I read it, because I saw so vividly the night when 15 year-old me decided to write it. And last night I realized how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown, how much I’ve learned.

Dear whoever’s reading this,
If you’re reading this, I’m probably most likely dead. And I bet you wish you knew why. I do too. The truth is, I don’t know. I have no idea, but I feel like I’m drowning. My lungs are filled with water, and they can’t take in air. I’m finding it hard to breathe. And I don’t really know where I am, what I’m doing, where I’m going. I can’t live like this any longer.

I’m not sure you’ll understand. I don’t either. But things have happened to me, and I can’t tell you. I’ve never been one to ask for help, and I can’t start now. Because right now, my pain is too much to lay on you. I’m hurting. I’m bleeding colors I didn’t know existed. I’m crying emotions I shouldn’t feel. I’m so filled with self-hate, I can’t feel anything else. The world is so full of ugly, and all I want to be is beautiful.

I’m fighting a war I shouldn’t be fighting. I’m defending myself from me. My mind is a booby trapped maze filled with hundreds of tons of dynamite. My body is a graveyard for all the battles lost. I’ve tried to fight harder and harder,but it’s exhausting to fight without back-up. It’s exhausting to fight at all. My life is a roller coaster that only spins down. And I can’t live it anymore. They’ve won.

I’ve never been good at goodbyes, so don’t imagine it this way. It’s more of a TTFN–ta ta for now. I’m trying to find happiness some place else other than here, a place where I can’t find peace.

I hope one day you find it too.

Clearly we know how this turned out.

I’m alive.

I’m breathing.

I’m fighting.

My demons haven’t won.

This isn’t for sympathy. I’ve had plenty of that.

It’s for acknowledgement. It’s my “I went off the Deep-end, and I survived” medal. I’ve always been a fast learner, and each experience teaches me something new.

I’ve learned no matter how many times I think I’m drowning, my lungs will always come up for air. I’ve learned life is a normal roller coaster. I’ve seen the valleys. I’ve seen the peaks. I think both are beautiful. I think life is beautiful. And sometimes, a little comedic relief in the form of a Tweet is the best way to deal with pain.

This morning, I burned that letter (metaphorically, of course. I’m no Pyromaniac). I cut it up in little pieces, and I threw it out the window as I drove down the road. And as I looked behind me, I saw little tiny pieces of someone who no longer exists scatter in the wind.

And it was beautiful.

An Open Letter to my Readers

To everyone who’s ever read my blog, whether you’ve read one post or all of them or any number in between: Thank you!

In the last few weeks, the number of people reading my blog has increased dramatically. And in the last few weeks more people have thanked me for writing my blog than I ever thought possible.

People have thanked me for my “openness and honesty when it comes to real life issues teenagers struggle with today.” People have thanked me for how I “put feelings and emotions on paper in a way people who don’t understand Depression are able to understand.” People have thanked me because my blog has helped them/someone they know. People have thanked me because they are now able to relate better to people who have Depression.

People are thanking me when I should be thanking them.

I should be thanking you.

This is not the first time I’ve kept a blog, and it probably won’t be the last. But this blog has been the most rewarding. When I started this blog, I was on a journey of healing with the intent to find myself. This journey has been long and hard. There have been many sleepless nights, many internal battles deciding if I should write about “such and such a topic,” and there have been many tears as I relive certain painful memories. This blog tells about what it’s like to struggle with Depression, Eating Disorders, and self-harm. This blog has recounted the memories of my Sexual Assault, and how I dealt with the pain of it all.

But mostly, this blog’s been about hope. I believe no matter how painful life is, it’s also beautiful. And there are many days when I don’t want to write anymore, because it’s all too painful. There are days when I tell myself no one wants to read what I write, no one cares what I have to say, but day-after-day, “thank you” after “thank you,” you prove me wrong.

People like you who read my blog, who tell me your stories, who tell me how my blog has helped you, have made this journey full of sleepless nights and many tears worth it.

And I just want to say, Thank you! I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I hope you will continue to join me on this journey called “life.”

Letter to My Grandfather

Dear Grandfather,

I should probably start this letter again, because I never called you “Grandfather.” I called you, “Boppa.” But, I am a firm believer deleting when writing is a bad omen. It’s better to keep the bad sentence and work around it, to make the rest of the piece beautiful. It’s symbolism for the past. I can’t change my past, but I can learn from it, and make my life beautiful. I learned symbolism from my other Grandfather (Boppa). And I believe life is full of symbols, which is why my brain speaks in metaphor, and why I write.

Your death was the event that sparked my writing. The first thing I wrote was a song, which was probably mediocre at best, but I know you would have thought it was beautiful. I found the music score when I was looking through my piano music a few days ago. And then I found the lyrics not too long after. You always did enjoy listening to your family make music. When we would come down and visit, I would play the piano. I heard you tell my Grandmother, “Listen to how beautifully I play the piano,” as if in that moment, your fingers were no longer bent from years of battling Rheumatoid Arthritis, and you could do anything—even do something small like play the piano.

I spent years trying to make myself seem smaller. There came a point in my life when I didn’t think I could stand up, because the weight of the world seemed too heavy for my shoulders to carry, and my spine didn’t seem strong enough. There came a point in my life when I forgot what your voice sounded like, but in that moment when my back was so bent that my stomach met my knees in agony, I heard “listen to how beautifully I play the piano,” and my spine became a little bit straighter.

When you died, I was only in 6th grade, so I didn’t really understand, and some days, I still don’t. But I think about death a lot now. I think about my death and how much easier it would be to die, because then I wouldn’t have to spend every day fighting battles I don’t feel equipped for. I think about the future, and how one day, my cousins and I will be the older generations. And when I’m lying in bed, thinking about that, the world seems so vast, because I don’t know how to exist in a world where my Grandparents and Parents don’t. That’s how I know I won’t handle death well.

I don’t handle life well either. There are many days when I’d rather stay in bed than face the day, because I’m too exhausted to fight any battles. I’d rather walk through life with my fists crossed in front of my face ready to protect myself, than to walk through life with hands open, palms up, ready to catch whatever life drops in my lap. But I’m learning that’s no way to live, so I’m working on changing that mindset.

I’m trying to be a member of society, but right now the future seems so intimidating, which is why sometimes I need quiet. In that quiet I hear, “Listen to how beautifully I play the piano.” My spine straightens up, because I can do anything.

You taught me what true strength is. You taught me with the right attitude, anything is possible.

I can do anything.

I’ve never been good at endings, in life and in my writing, which is why it’s been so hard for me to move on. But here goes nothing. 

I love you. I miss you. I hope Heaven is treating you well. I hope your sense of humor is being put to good use, because if you and God are not telling each other jokes, then I’m disappointed.

I’ll see you someday, but until then, I’ll be listening for your voice.