Rape Joke

“Hey, did you hear the one about the girl who got raped?”

The punchline is that she was 13 years old.

The punchline is that he slammed her locker shut every day because he liked her.

The punchline is that when he asked her out, she said, “No.”

The punchline is that he decided to take matters into his own hands, along with the hands of four of his closest friends, to show her what she would be missing.

After it was over, the punchline tried not to make eye contact with her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She tried to clean herself off and hide the bruises shaped like hands and teeth as best as she could. She exited the bathroom, walked down the hall of the deserted middle school, opened her locker (half expecting it to be slammed shut immediately, and when it wasn’t, breathed a sigh of relief). She exited the building, lonely footsteps echoing behind her, got into her dad’s car, and pretended it didn’t happen—everything was fine.

The rape joke is that he sat behind her in English class. His breath on her neck was the only thing she could focus on, making it very hard to concentrate on whatever work of art they read that last month of class, especially that first one: that poem by Emily Dickinson, “My life is like a loaded gun.” 7 years later, she thought it would be fun to take an Emily Dickinson class. She’d be fine. And she was, until that poem when she found herself transported back to that moment.

The rape joke is that her professor asked her what she thought it was a metaphor for. She didn’t know how to say she thought about all the memories this poem brought back, how it could be a metaphor for all of that. “I think it’s just about a loaded gun,” she said.

The rape joke is the way he didn’t threaten her, at least not really. He just said, “no one will believe you.”

The rape joke is that earlier that year, she was taught in Health class how to not get raped. Fat lot of good that lesson did her: she wasn’t drunk; she wasn’t wearing revealing clothes; she wasn’t outside, at night, alone.

The rape joke is that his locker was right next to hers because life likes cruel irony and alphabetical order is the most convenient way to organize everybody (a terrible thing really), and he still slammed her locker shut every day.

The rape joke is that on the last day of school, when they both opened their lockers at the same time, he didn’t slam hers shut. Instead, he whispered in her ear, “At least I didn’t get you pregnant.” And then he dared to smirk: an insult to injury, really. Maybe if you had, people would believe me when I’m ready to tell, when I’m ready to stop pretending this didn’t happen, she thought to herself. Which is a terrible thing to think, but when you’re 13, you sometimes think terrible things.

The rape joke is that the first time she told somebody who wasn’t a close friend or family, they responded, “Don’t feel bad. It could’ve happened to anybody.” Translation: Lucky her; close call, everyone else who’s last name is similar.

The rape joke is that a few years later, she had to break up with her boyfriend because of this joke. Because every time he put his arm around her, she was transported back to that bathroom. And even though he knew what had happened, he didn’t understand she needed space. But she blamed herself really for believing she could be loved in the first place.

For the longest time, she thought she was going crazy. And she was.

No offense.

No offense (that it happened to her).

No offense (that she buried the pain so deep, it took cutting her skin open to feel anything).

No offense (that the words said would echo in her mind for years to come: Bitch. Slut. You’ll never be loved. You don’t have to cut hard enough to leave a scar in order to draw blood).

No offense (that she went crazy, that it took her years to find her voice again but eventually she found it when she started writing about monsters and darkness, caves and loneliness).

No offense (it took a long time for her to forgive).

No offense (it’s just a joke).

The punchline is that she’s not the only one this has happened to. Among her acquaintance group, she knows of at least six others. That number grows every year, standing in solidarity, alone together.

The punchline is that she knows guys this has happened to. Nobody believes them, either.

The punchline is that we have to feel pain to become stronger, but does it have to hurt this bad?

The punchline is that our past doesn’t define us, but it does help make us who we are today.

But no offense.

The rape joke is funny because the punchline is me.

The punchline is at least I was pretty enough for it happen to me, but then how come sometimes it makes me feel so ugly?

The punchline is that this joke doesn’t define who I am.

“Come on. Lighten up. It was just a joke.”

If it’s just a joke, shouldn’t I be laughing?

It took me years to really truly laugh again.

I’m finally laughing again.

But not at this because nothing about this is funny, especially when it happens to you.

 So, yeah. I’ve heard the one about the Girl who got raped.

Have you? 

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Aladdin’s Genie is Free

Robin Williams died today*.

*August 11, 2014.

He was an actor, a comedian, a father.

This is sort of, kind of, but not really, about that.

Preliminary reports indicate that he killed himself; he had been battling major depression (and Bipolar disorder) as of late.

This is about that: Mental illness.

Statistics show that 1 in 4 people suffer from some sort of mental illness. I, like Williams, suffer from Depression. This blog has told the story of my life as I deal with the everyday happenings brought on by my illness: the triumphs, the failings, the high-points, the low-points. I’m trying to raise awareness for the demons from which I suffer, because I can’t fight on my own.

We cannot fight on our own.

People like me need a support system: a group of people who can see past our happy face, people who hear past our jokes, people who find the hidden nuances in our “I’m fines.” People like me don’t want to be seen as weak.

We’re not weak; we’re strong.

Mental illness is hard to understand if you don’t know what it’s like to have one. I’m going to put it as simply as I can:

Our minds are fighting a civil war for control of our bodies: death versus life. And it’s not that we want to die, because we don’t, at least not most of us, not really. We just don’t know if we want to live. At least not like this. It’s like we’re living in this purgatory between living and dying, waiting to decide if we’ll be sentenced to life or death. We feel like we’re stumbling through life–a tumbleweed being blown by the wind–a witness to life, not an active participant.

A few weeks ago, my sister switched the placement of a few apps on my iPhone. I freaked the heck out. I had a mini Mental breakdown.

To her, it wasn’t a big deal.

To me, it was.

Depression and other Mental Illnesses cause you to feel as if your world is spinning out of control, a merry-go-round that doesn’t stop. And when we can’t control the big things, we try to control the little things. For me, that means my apps have to be in a certain order; my socks have to match my outfit. For others, it means they count each calorie that goes into their body. For still others, they turn to drugs or self-harm to try and control and numb the pain they feel.

We’re not crazy. We just feel like the world is too heavy for us. It’s a roller coaster that only goes down. It’s a never-ending tunnel filled with darkness and a thousand tons of dynamite. We’re wandering around in this big world, and we feel so small. We don’t know if we’re ever going to be ‘ok’ again.

And we probably won’t. Because even when we’re happy, we’re always cautious. We know the darkness is just around the corner. It comes in waves, and right now, we might be swimming, but soon we’ll be drowning. And with each wave, it gets harder and harder to get out of bed, to breathe, to think, to have any energy whatsoever.

I’m exhausted. I could stay in bed for 100 years and still be exhausted. The floor is lava, and I can’t get out of bed. But, I’m not crazy.

I have an illness. And there are millions of people just like me.

Just like Robin.

We’re your neighbors, your relatives, your friends, your classmates, your worst enemies. (But even I wouldn’t wish this feeling on my worst enemy.)

Everybody in this world is hiding something. Even the funniest people can be suffering from Depression.

Mental illness is not a joke.

Mental illness is a battle. It’s a fight every single day. Some of us survive; some of us do not.

I almost didn’t.

I don’t think suicide is selfish, because I’ve been to that point where it feels like the only option. Suicide isn’t selfish because we think about everyone and everything.

Committing suicide isn’t a sign of weakness, because the strongest people in the world can only be strong for so long.

I don’t care if you think suicide is a sin or not. This isn’t the time or the place to discuss it.

Suicide is what happens when the pain you’re enduring is exponentially greater than the strength you have left; some of us run out of strength sooner than others.

Our sicknesses are as big a part of us as our blood and our bones. It’s not all we are, but it’s an inexorable part. Some of us accept that, and some of us can’t. By which I mean, some of us learn to live with our illness, and some of us only learn how to die with it. But either way, we hold on for as long as we can.

So, yes. Robin Williams was a fantastic actor and stand-up comic. But he was also a man who had an illness and just needed room to breathe. And I understand that, because I’ve been there before, and maybe someday I’ll be there again.

And even though I don’t know exactly what Robin Williams was going through, I can understand. I hope wherever he is that he is happy; he’s pain free; he can breathe again. He suffered long enough.

He was fighting demons and just wanted to be free.

Aladdin used his last wish to set the genie free.

He’s free.

He’s free.

He’s free.

One day, we’ll all be free: free from the stigma, free from the pain, free from this world.

Here’s to the ones who survive, and here’s to the ones who didn’t.

And here’s to Robin:

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”- Dead Poets Society

Thank you for contributing your verse.

Thank you for the laughs. Thank you for your movies that have changed so many people’s lives. Thank you for the tears, for reminding everybody that we’re still alive.  Thank you for showing everybody that words and ideas change the world. Thank you for everything.

(If you are someone you know is suffering from depression/is at a risk for suicide, please call the National Suicide Hotline at: 1-800-273-8255)

I am Sisyphus

Here’s the thing: I’m having a hard time.

Yes, I’ve beaten things: I’ve beaten anorexia. I said goodbye to self-harm. I survived a suicide attempt. I’ve been told that I’ve impacted so many people’s lives, but this winter’s been long and hard. It’s been cold and snowy since before Thanksgiving, and I should be used to this crazy western NY weather by now, but I’m not.

I’ve been living with Depression for 7 years, and I should be used to it by now, but I’m not. And I don’t know how to make this feeling go away: I feel like I’m drowning. I’m being suffocated by the weight of the world’s worries, and like Sisyphus, I’ve been rolling this stone up this hill for what feels like an eternity; and everytime I get to the top, I fall down again.

My knees are permanently scarred.

Somedays I’m ok, but somedays I don’t think I’ll ever be ok again. I’ve learned that these feelings come in waves. And right now, the sun has thawed the ice-caps, the ocean levels are rising, my levees have broken, and I’m drowning in all these feelings I’m feeling all at once.

People tell me, “Carpe Diem.” But sometimes the onlything I can carpe is getting out of bed, and even that sometimes stabs me in the back, like Brutus to Caesar.

Et tu, Brute?

Trebuchet.

I feel like a trebuchet is lobbing 25 tons of burning coals at my skin, and I’m catching on fire. Because I was taught ‘stop, drop, and roll’ over and over again, I thought catching on fire would be more of a problem. Maybe the concept applies to metaphorical fires, too.

Stop everything you’re doing.

Drop into bed.

Roll away into your happy place.

My happy place is in a far off land that begins, “Once upon a time.” I get lost in words, and every so often, I find myself wandering among the sign posts that point from the beginning to the end, and I’m not sure which way is up.

I believe in the magic of words, and I believe the best time to read poetry is 1:30 in the morning, when the world is silent, and I’m feeling everything at once.

My soul has no clock, which is why I’m writing a poem, instead of doing homework, because it’s 1:30 in the morning there, and I’m feeling everything at once.

I’ve uttered the phrase ‘help me, Jesus,’ so many times, I’m sure the phrase is tattoed on my lips 7×70 times, which is how many times I’m supposed to forgive. And I’ve forgiven more than can be expected, but this pain in my chest won’t go away.

Sometimes this pain in my chest is the only way I know I’m still alive.

A professor tokd me yesterday, “I know you’re having a hard time, but I appreciate your smile. I appreciate the way you put 100% into everything, even on days when your 100% is less than half of normal. I appreciate the way you get out of bed everyday.”

I get out of bed everyday; I show up to life, but sometimes life fails to show up for me. And sometimes the only way I know how to survive is to grab the bull by the horns, and throw myself onto its back, which makes no sense. But, I’d rather be the bull than be the flag the bull’s charging towards.

Sometimes I get tired of throwing myself out of the way of the charging bull, of the oncoming flood. Sometimes I just have to ride the waves for a while.

This is a ride I’m willing to waive, because it doesn’t have a claim on me anymore.

I’ve been living with Depression for 7 years.

Somedays it’s hard to be normal. Somedays the pain in my chest makes it hard to breathe.

Sometimes this pain in my chest is the only way I know I’m still alive.

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.

Time Line

Word association time: Time line. time passing. Growing. Healing. Rebirth.

May 19, 2013. 5 years later:

I remember you like it was yesterday. I remember the time and the place because for a few moments, the clock stopped, and everything was chaos, upside, backwards. They say wrong place, wrong time. But what they mean is: be watchful of your surroundings, don’t go alone. As if that makes a difference.

Because I had every right to be there. You didn’t. If my body were the most secure apartment building on the Upper East Side, you were the best con man who lied his way into getting the security key and set up temporary residence within my walls.

But for being temporary, you left a permanent mark. You stained the walls yellow with the smoke of lies you exhaled as you destroyed my once-white walls. Because, white is the color of purity, and you made me impure? I guess. And you rewired my brain into thinking yellow walls are permanent, because no one would sell white paint to someone like me.

Unfortunately for you, my body is not an apartment building on the Upper East Side. It is a temple. And I don’t need to repaint my walls white, because I know someone whose red blood painted me gold. And I know yellow + red does not equal gold, but this guy I know defies the laws of physics, because He died and rose again (not like a zombie rises, but for real, for real, He rose).

 

June 16, 2013 3 years later:

Time heals all wounds, yes. But, time fades all scars. Remember those lies you told me? Well, apparently, repeating lies is self-destructive. Lies turn into self-hate turns into release through a razor, which does more self-harm than good.

Did you know the constellations can be mapped out on your skin? I’ve tried. I think I got to Andromeda before I realized I was Andromedone (I’m sorry. I had to. I use humor to mask some of the pain).

My body is a Temple, but I tried to destroy it, because I thought you destroyed me.

I made myself bleed, because I wanted to be my own Savior.

 

Today:

Some nights I lie in bed, and I feel nothing. Some nights I lie in bed, and I feel everything. And I don’t know which is worse.

I used to get ready for bed with the lights off, because I was only beautiful in the dark. Now, I do everything with the lights on (except for sleeping). Because a rose needs light to grow.

I told you, one day I’ll be a rose. You laughed. But you were a thorn in my side. Rose have thorns.

My Gardner wore a crown of thorns on his head so I could grow and blossom.

Guess who’s laughing now? I am.

I’ve learned out of the ashes comes beauty. And while you said I was ugly and burned my soul to the grown, God said I was beautiful and rebuilt me whole.

Because with the passing of time, I’ve healed. Chaos has become order. And no matter how many times I test gravity, I will always find my wings and fly.

Ice Breaker

The first day of class is always my least favorite day of, well, ever. And it’s not because I have to be around people and have to change out of my pajamas. It’s because of the stupid “Ice-breaker” games that teachers like to play.

“Let’s play a game,” they say. “Tell us something about yourself.”

Let’s not play a game, and say that we did. Because I’m sitting here wondering, where do I begin? Where’s the line between too much and not enough? And where’s the point of suspense that’ll keep you wanting more? Because there’s a lot I could say, and I never know how to start.

So, I get the ice breaking by saying,

“My name is Kaleigh. I’m 19 years old. I’m an English Major. I play piano, and unlike some of my favorite books, I don’t have an appendix. Oh yeah, I also make stupid jokes, punintentionally mostly.”

And that usually gets a laugh or two, but I’m sitting there thinking, you still want to get to know me? Are you sure? Because there are so many things you don’t know…

Like, did you know that when you ask me how I’m doing, I usually lie and say I’m doing fine, because lies are easier to handle than the truth.

You shouldn’t love me because I’m broken. You should love me because I’ve found beauty despite the brokenness.

I’m not afraid of dying, because I was once afraid of living. But I am afraid of trying to die, which is why I’m afraid of heights.

The last time I cried was two weeks ago in a Walmart bathroom, because I saw three of the guys who made me this way. Or maybe it was last Thursday when my head hurt so bad I couldn’t do anything, not even think. I cried tears of pain and joy, because it took a debilitating headache to stop the thoughts of self-destruction, which is ironic. I guess.

And irony is one one of my favorite things in the world.

Did you know that my name means “Beautiful,” or “laurel crown,” which is funny because most days I don’t feel beautiful, or even remotely like a Princess. You gotta love irony.

I believe in the power of words, which is why I’m a writer. And I also know that words are in fact capable of hurting you, despite what the popular phrase says.

Did you know that despite the healing I’m experiencing there are days all I want to do is lie on the floor and cry, because the only thing that makes sense is brokenness? The Healing Process sure does take a long time.

When I laugh, I laugh hard and for a long time, and it usually ends in an asthma attack. I’ve found joy, because I’ve experienced pain. And I think everybody should experience both, because you can’t have a rainbow without any rain.

Did you know that these scars on my body are from a time when I was so full of self-hate, I became numb and couldn’t feel anything? I needed to feel something, so I cut myself open.

I’ve learned that people will tell you lies as they steal your innocence, but repeating them over and over again does not make them true. And losing yourself is the only way to find yourself.

Did you know that when we discussed eating disorders in Health, I sat there tapping my foot trying to burn more calories? Or that anytime we discuss the topic of rape in class, I feel like walking out, because five years later the memory is still painful, and I still feel the shame and guilt even though it wasn’t my fault.

If you call me beautiful, I won’t believe you. But if you call me ugly, I’ll sit there and agree with you. But that’s beginning to change, as long as I don’t look in the mirror for too long.

Did you know that I sit and write the same thing over and over again because I’m still trying to figure all this out?

Some days I use up all my faith getting out of bed in the morning. I pray to God that the floor will stand firm under my feet. This is how I know what true strength is.

But, most of all, did you know that all I want in this world is for people to know they’re not alone? I want to know I’m not alone, and that I’m lovable despite the brokenness.

 

But, I don’t say any of these things. Because this is an Ice Breaker, and not an Ice Already Broken.

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

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.

You Look Like a Leprechaun!

Have you ever laughed so hard you sound like a retarded seal?

I have. I do. All the time. When I laugh, I either blow a little bit more air out of my nose than usual, or I laugh so hard tears stream down my face, my face decides to do tomato impersonations, and my very distinct giggle turns into a deep laugh, which turns into absolutely no sound at all. I have been told I look like a leprechaun when I laugh. I have also been told my laugh makes other people laugh, which is a good thing… I guess?

I remember one time I was sitting in my college’s library, and I read something punny on the internet. And I laughed so hard. A few seconds later, one of my very dear friends came and found me. She told me, “I was sitting upstairs in the library, taking a nap, and I heard you laughing. So I had to come find you.”

…Gee, thanks. I laughed so loud and hard I woke you up from a nap. I was never self-conscious about my laugh before, but now I am. My laugh may be obnoxious, but hey, it’s better than the cackle I used to do. I’m moving up among the Ranks of Laughter. Gold star for me!…

Personally, I think laughter is great. It’s one of my favorite things to do (besides smiling and crying), and I believe everybody should have a healthy dose of it every day. If you live in my house, it’s not hard to do. Seriously, if you ever come over to dinner at my house, be prepared to have most of your dinner come out your nose.

There is no such thing as “normal” conversation at my house. Conversations at my house turn into stand up comedy routines pretty quickly. We use accents and different voices and hand motions and puns and one liners and more sarcasm than you can imagine. And we’re pretty much the stupidest bunch of geniuses you’ve ever met.

But this post is not about that. My post is about this picture one of my Facebook friends dared me to make my profile: 1005200_10201617908555441_329423959_n

This picture was taken after I had had a particularly difficult day, which, I’m sure you know if you’ve read any of my other blog posts, occurs frequently.

I once read somewhere smiling is the easiest way to trick yourself into being happy. It’s as if the simple act of smiling is enough to release Magical Happy Hormones into your bloodstream. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it worked that day. The smile turned into a deep fit of laughter, which is not uncommon. Because, as my family can tell you, I’ve been known to start laughing hysterically for no reason.

Some days, smiling is the last thing I want to do. Some days my Depression is so bad it’s hard for me to get out of bed. Some days I hardly ever smile. But that’s ok, because some days I can’t stop smiling.

2 weeks ago, I had to be to work at 6:30 in the morning, and I was extremely un-smiley (mostly because I am the complete opposite of a morning person. I’m as close to being a morning person as a mouse is to being a blue whale).

But, by the time the end of my shift rolled around I couldn’t stop smiling. I had a conversation with Rudy the Janitor, and we were discussing my boyfriend situation. I told him I didn’t have one. To which he replied, “Oh. I’m sure you have two or three. They just haven’t introduced themselves yet. I mean, you sit in the Pearce Coffee Shop all day, staring out the window with a big smile on your face. It’s like you’re so happy to be here and are so content to just sit, think, and watch the world around you. You’re just so content and relaxed and studying hard, all while daydreaming. And you’re always smiling. It’s like you’re telling yourself stories in your head, which, since you’re an English Major, you probably are. That’s the kind of girl most guys want. They’re just too scared to admit it. Keep smiling! It lights up the room!”

This information had me smiling all day for two reasons.

1. Boys.

and 2. Random compliments are fan-super-tastic!

For the longest time I didn’t think I’d ever laugh and smile again. I thought my past prohibited me from ever feeling happiness. I thought my hurt and pain was too great to ever overcome. And I thought beauty was only reserved for those who were never ugly.

But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s life is beautiful. I’ve learned how to feel pain, and I’ve learned how to feel joy. And I will keep smiling, because one day the one whom God has planned for me will reveal himself.

I just hope his laugh is as joy-filled and obnoxious as mine!

What’s in a Book?

In a recent post, I wrote about wanting to impact the world at least half as much as it has impacted me (for that post, click here). I think we all want to impact the world in our own way. Some of us want to be President of the United States. Some of us want to find the cure for cancer. Some of us want to decrease World Suck (if you understand that reference, you are AWESOME! DFTBA!).

I have many dreams. I want to fall in love, get married, travel the world, have children. You know, normal things. But I also want to write a book. Or rather, I want to finish my book. I’ve started this book so many times in my mind, but I never moved past the ‘thinking about it’ point. This time is different. This time I know how the book is going to start and finish, which let’s be honest, is half the battle. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from writing this blog, it’s beginnings and endings are the hardest, and are almost the most important: it’s who you were and who you became. The middle is just the journey from Point A to Point B: why you are who you are.

So why do I want to write a book?

I want to write a book because I believe in the power of words, but I also believe that I’ll never be very good at saying what’s on my mind. Because when I speak “my thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations” (thank you, John Green for that fabulous quote), but when I write everything makes sense. I believe we can all learn things from each other, because everyone on earth knows something you don’t. And I believe the best way to learn is by sharing stories.

What makes me qualified to write a book?

Absolutely nothing. I don’t know the first thing about writing a book, because apparently reading more books than you can count each summer does not automatically guarantee your ability to write a book.

So, why am I trying?

I’m trying because of my experiences. I’m trying because writing has helped me in my struggles. I’m trying because I believe what I’ve been through, what I’ve learned can help others. I believe I’ve been given this gift of words for a reason. I’ve found my voice. I can be the voice for others who have not found theirs.

Am I arrogant to believe that my words are important enough to be read?

I don’t know. Maybe. All I know is people read what I write. All I know is I’m scared my words aren’t important enough to be read. I’m scared maybe I’m making a big mistake, maybe what I’ve been through in my life is totally unrelatable and totally not something that should be written about.

Basically, there are a thousand reasons why I shouldn’t write a book and a thousand reasons why I should. And when push comes to shove, I need to write this book, not because I need to be validated, but because I need to be liberated. I have this intense desire to help others, and if writing about my experiences can help others, then I will gladly relive every moment, every painful memory.

I believe in the healing power of words. I believe words are beautiful, and I want to leave this world more beautiful than it was when I arrived.