62 Degrees

Don’t you do it. Don’t you dare make that joke.

Dang it. He knew the joke I was about to make–the morbid joke with death as a punchline. But, you see, that’s the way I’ve always dealt with my pain: holding my breaking facade together with Plaster of Smile; laughing instead of crying; invalidating how I truly feel in the darkness by making a light out of the whole situation.

That’s the kind of person I am, the kind of family I live in–finding humor in the darkness. We cracked jokes at my grandfather’s funeral. And I’ve just sort of adopted that way of thinking, adapting it to fit my ever-growing body over time because it’s grown a lot over the last few years.

I no longer have the eating disorder that ravaged my body for five years, and I haven’t been to the gym for a few months on the orders of my therapist, so I’ve been learning how to manage the weight with what I have.

I’ve also been learning how to manage the wait with what I have. Because right now, I’m in the in-between phase: the “Look how far I’ve come but look how far I still have to go” phase. The kind of phase where people ask me You’re not healed yet? It’s been years.

Technically, yes. It has been years. It’s been almost ten, in fact. Ten years since the initial trauma. Ten years since being raped. Ten years since the voices in my head became theirs and not mine. But it’s also been ten years of repressing and ignoring. Ten years of shame and guilt. Ten years of you’re not worth enough to take up people’s time.

In reality, it’s only been about nine months. And extra fact: it’s only been the last three-ish months that really count. Because it’s really only been the last three-ish months where the stars have aligned in my favor, where people have come into my life at the right time to make the burden I carry just a little bit lighter.

It’s frustrating, Brandon said to me in therapy on Monday, you’re using all these skills you’ve learned to get better, but you still don’t view yourself as worth it. 

I fill spaces with I’m sorry. Apologizing for existing, apologizing for opening up, apologizing for taking up space in a crowded world.

And I know I need to stop: need to stop invalidating myself, need to stop apologizing, need to stop thinking I’m too much–too broken to be fixed, too much of a mess to be useful–and simultaneously not enough–not good enough, not worth enough, not enough to be taking up the space I’m taking.

You need to stop apologizing. Don’t be sorry. You’re family, and we’re here for you.

I know. I’m sorry.

Today was 62 degrees and sunny. Tomorrow it’s supposed to be warmer. Yesterday it snowed. That’s just the way life is right now.

It’s 62 degrees and sunny, but I still wanted to die, not actively, just passively. Because, yes, there is a difference. Because here’s the thing: I want to be here in the world with the sunshine and the flowers and the laughter, but most days, I don’t feel worth being in the world, like somehow the world would be better off without me because I don’t add much.

And I know that the voices in my head–the voices that are not my own, the ones of the guys who raped me, who called me worthless and unlovable, and bitch and slut, the one of my ex who told me I should have completed it after he found out I tried to kill myself.

I told the guy that I wouldn’t go out with him. So it’s my fault.

He was angry because he doesn’t like talking about feelings, not since his parents divorced. So it’s my fault– I know that these voices are lies because somehow I found enough strength to reach out with all the faith I had left to one person who urged me to get help: the right move but the wrong life preserver.

It’s 62 degrees and sunny, but I’m tired of people telling me to “buck up” “find the bright side in all of this” “find the silver lining.” Because it could have snowed today. It snowed yesterday, and then three hours later, it was 52.

Yes, I’m happy to be alive and all that jazz. But there are moments, brief fleeting moments when I regret not jumping off that parking garage back in September. But those are just that: moments. That’s all life is: a string of moments held together by hope. Hope that the darkness won’t last forever, hope that the next moment will be better than the last, hope that even if it’s not, I have the tools I need to survive.

Because sometimes I feel like I’m not strong enough to survive the moment I’m in, so I reach out, looking for a hand that can pull me up just long enough for me to catch my breath. And I hope you do that too.

Sometimes I have to be reminded over and over and over again that I’m not a burden. That I deserve to be here. That hear is something people are willing to do. Because everybody’s pain and sorrow and grief and hurt and whatever feeling they may be feeling deserves to be heard, deserves to be seen. And most of the time, I invalidate mine. But I’m working on it; doing the best I can with what I have, trying to make it from moment to moment.

I want to be here, and I want you to be here, too.

I want to help carry your burdens, even if sometimes I feel guilty for letting people help to carry my own.

It’s 62 degrees today and I have hope because it’s easier to just be when it’s sunny. And being is beautiful.

And breathing is beautiful. And laughing is beautiful. And doing all of these things when it’s -10 and snowy, when it’s darker than night inside your head is especially beautiful.

Believing in hope when hope seems hopeless is the reason I am here. Because people believed in me and hope when I couldn’t.

Because despite my past, despite the shame and guilt I carry, despite the feelings of inadequacy I spew with I’m sorry, there are people who still love me and support me, who encourage me on in my weak moments.

And to me, that’s more beautiful than any day that’s 62 and sunny.

 

 

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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.

6 Years Ago, I was Raped. This is kind of sort of (but not really) about that.

My body is a temple, which is better than a castle. Cinderella and all her princess friends better watch out, because I am a true Princess. A daughter of the True King, and I have come to claim my place in His Kingdom.

For years I’ve been looking for my beauty in all the wrong places.

You see, six years ago today, I was sexually assaulted. And for years I believed I was no longer beautiful. I had been dirtied by an act that society told me was my fault. I was impure. No longer worthy to be called innocent. No longer worthy to be called beautiful. No longer worthy of love, and I couldn’t even love myself.

I tried to destroy my temple of a body any way I could, over and over and over again.

I failed to realize I was beautiful all along.

I was beautiful when I was skipping meals. I was beautiful when I was self-harming. The temple was beautiful; the destruction of the temple was not.

Eating disorders are not beautiful.

Self-harm is not beautiful.

Mental illness is not beautiful.

But, I am. I am beautiful, and I was beautiful when I cut myself open trying to cleanse myself using my own blood. My scars are not beautiful, but I am.

I am beautiful because I have been sanctified through the washing of HIS blood, not mine. I am not a god, but I know a God who has made me in His image, making me beautiful despite my sins, despite my past, despite my scars.

I am a temple, and I destroyed these four walls of my body, but I have been rebuilt by the master carpenter. And I am stronger than I ever was before. I have come to realize that I am not ugly even though I have ugliness in my past.

Rape is ugly.

Self-harm is ugly.

Eating disorders are ugly.

Mental illness is ugly.

I am beautiful because of the way I have preserved through it all. I am beautiful because I have overcome. I am beautiful because my worth is not found here on earth, but in heaven. I am beautiful because I am a temple, a daughter of the King.

My beauty is not lessened by my past. My value does not decrease because of an act done to me by adolescent boys who were never taught how to properly treat women.

I am beautiful. But it’s taken me years to realize I have so much more to offer the world than my beauty.

 

 

Use Your Words. Here are my Words

I’ve forgiven. He’s apologized. (and, yes, it happened in that order.) But I can’t stop writing about it, and maybe reading about it all the time is getting annoying, but that’s your choice. I don’t force you to read what I write. This is not North Korea, nor is it Mao’s Little Red Book. This is not a required text for any of your classes, and I won’t quiz you on what you’ve read (unless you’re planning to date me, in which case, that last statement goes out the window, and any question is game).

So, basically, you can stop reading any time you want.

But I can’t stop writing, because I don’t write for writing’s sake. I write because I’m trying to figure something out, I’m trying to work through something, and I don’t know any other way to do it. (sure, once upon a time I did, but that just left me with too many scars, and it really did more harm than good.) When I was little, I didn’t talk: I knew how, but I had no reason to. I was the first grand-child on my mother’s side, and I was the first grand-daughter on my father’s. So, basically, my family knew I needed things before I did, all I had to do was point and go, “uhhh. Uhh.” Continually, I was told to use my words. “Use your words, Kaleigh. Use your words.”

Here are my words written last night when my nose was so congested I couldn’t breathe to sleep. Here are my words written last night when my head was so full that I wouldn’t have been able to sleep even if I could breathe.

The thing that hurts the most about this whole thing is that he told me that I should enjoy it, like it was a gift. A one-size fits all t-shirt. A gift that keeps on giving. A non-returnable, non-refundable, no one wants it anyway, type of gift. It’s the elephant in the room, or rather, the white-elephant gift that nobody is eager to trade. Warning: not permitted for resale. 

He asked me out. I said no. And then he got four of his friends and sexually assaulted me. And then he told me I should enjoy it, because it’s what I wanted when I turned him down, because I’m a bitch and a slut (his words, not mine). And it’s always easier to call the victim something else, to give them a non-human identity. They couldn’t call me by name even though they knew me for years. We were on a first name basis until that day. And then that tie was metaphorically severed. 

It’s easy to call someone else those words until you know how it feels to be on the receiving end: to catch the football thrown by the quarterback, and then immediately be tackled by a huge middlelinebacker when you are defenseless. *throws flag* Hit on a defenseless receiver. Defense. 15 yard penalty. Automatic first-down. 

There are no replays in real-life.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. I am an expert at bs-ing most of the papers I write, but this has got to be the biggest piece of crap I’ve ever heard. It’s as though his words can’t affect me if I say it long enough. My words can’t hurt you if I play this song over and over and over again. But, words do hurt. 

I’ve forgiven. He’s apologized. We’ve moved on. But I don’t think I’ll ever get over what happened to me. It’s not a hurdle to jump, nor a mountain to climb. I’ll heal, most definitely. But there’s a difference between healing (letting go) and getting over. I don’t freak out when I see any of them anymore. Or at least I didn’t the last time I saw one, anyway. But that’s a start.

Sometimes, it’s the littlest things that hurt the worst. I hope one day I’ll stop dreaming about what happened. I hope one day I won’t hear their voices in my head on my bad days. I hope one day shirt collars around my neck won’t terrify me as much.

I’ve never liked turtle-neck shirts, but I like them even less now. And I don’t always mean to wear low-cut shirts, but sometimes the thought of a t-shirt around my neck freaks me out. And until you’ve had hands around your neck, choking you as you try to fight off 5 pairs of unwanting hands, I don’t think you can understand. You should try, though, for my sake. And if not for mine, then someone elses. Because I’m not the only one.

T-shirts sometimes freak me out. But it happens less and less nowadays. 

Big steps, like not freaking out when you see someone in the store, are great. But sometimes, the little steps, like wearing t-shirts, are the greatest.

I live for the little steps. 

Just Keep Swimming

Disclaimer: this post is a post I’ve been mulling over for a few weeks now. I’ve been trying to figure out the way to treat this subject with the sensitivity it deserves, because yes, I can be open and candid about it, but for some people it’s just not easy. The wounds are too fresh. I’m showing you my cards here. I’m wiping off my poker face. I’m putting it all on the table. This post, like so many others, is about suicide. And I need, no, I want, you guys to know that before you keep reading. Because I understand that some of your wounds are fresh, but I also know that sometimes talking about can speed up the healing process. I also know that sometimes talking about it can make it worse. So, if the latter is the case, stop reading. I don’t want to make your burden heavier than it already is. Make yourself a cup of tea and go to your happy place. If the former is the case, make yourself a cup of tea and read this post. Either way, I want you all to know that you are loved, and there are people out there who understand your pain, who will be willing to help carry your burden.

 

It’s been 4 years, 1 month, and 1 day since I attempted suicide. I survived. Yet, so many others do not.

I’m not going to give you statistics, because if you want to know, you can look up the numbers on your own. I’m not going to give you statistics, because this isn’t speech class where I need numbers to convince my audience to agree with me. It’s not that I don’t have facts, because I do.

Fact: Suicide is a moment.

Fact: Depression is a race.

Fact: Suicide is a moment. A moment when someone decides they are tired of running.

Fact: Depression is a race, and if you stop running for even a second, it catches you.

Fact: Suicide is a moment. A moment when someone decides they are tired of running. In that moment, it doesn’t matter that there are people who love them.

Fact: Depression is a race, and if you stop running for even a second, it catches you. If you stop and rest, it begins to grow on you.

Fact: Suicide is a moment. A moment when someone decides they are tired of running. In that moment, it doesn’t matter that there are people who love them. Because all of sudden, life hits them in the chest, and they realize this sadness will never go away.

Fact: Depression is a race, and if you stop running for even a second, it catches you. If you stop and rest, it begins to grow on you. It’s like a vine that blocks out the sun, a python strangling the joy out of you, and rust that corrodes the bones.

Fact: Suicide is a moment. A moment when someone decides they are tired of running. In that moment, it doesn’t matter that there are people who love them. Because all of a sudden, life hits them in the chest, and they realize this sadness will never go away. And they dare themselves to do it.

Fact: Depression is a race, and if you stop running for even a second, it catches you. If you stop and rest, it begins to grow on you. It’s like a vine that blocks out the sun, a python strangling the joy out of you, and rust that corrodes the bones. And it’s so easy it sit there and let it consume you, because it whispers to you of an eternal sleep.

Fact: Life is made up of moments.

Fact: Life is a race.

When I am up high, I get scared. Because I’m telling myself, I could really do this. I could. But then, when I think these thoughts, I think of how great it would be to fall in love, how great it would be to travel the world. And I return back to normal. But I hold on to the moment and the thought of what it would be like to travel through the air. And I know I’ll probably never take myself up on the dare again, but the memory gives me a comfort that the day is mine to choose. Because the memory of how I felt in that moment when I swallowed those pills is tucked away in my brain like a sour candy stored in my cheek. I don’t like sour candy.

Some people do.

Some people take themselves up on the dare, because they don’t see how life can get any better. And I can understand why, because sometimes I’m tired of running, which is usually 2.5 minutes after I begin, because I have asthma.

Some people take themselves up on the dare, and they leave their families behind. And their families are left picking up the pieces and are trying to make them fit. But like a jigsaw puzzle with a missing piece, it will never be the same.

And we can’t save everybody, but we should certainly try.

Because I know first-hand how devastating a suicide can be. My mother lost a cousin to it, and my dad did too. And they almost lost a daughter.

And in the last year, my high school has lost two graduates to it, and now the families and friends are wondering why.

I don’t know the reason for other people, but I know mine.

And I think society is talking about it more, which is good, but I think people need to better understand that this is a disease. People like me can’t just snap out of it. Because we can recover for a while, but it will inevitably return, so we live our lives in the moment. The future is scary, and it’s not always guaranteed.

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

 

 

Matter of Factual Finiteness

Yesterday, I turned 19. (My Birthday was fan-super-tastic. Thank you for asking.) A common question people ask after one has a birthday is “How does it feel to be a year older?” And I don’t know. Because the thing is, I’m only a day older than I was yesterday, and yesterday I was a day older than I was two days ago. But yesterday was special because the number associated with my age changed. Ergo, yay for me!

(Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful. Really, I am. There was a time when I didn’t think I’d live to see 16, but somehow, I’m still here.)

I’m grateful, but I don’t know what else I feel. Am I supposed to feel different? How quickly do people think it takes change to occur? A day?

Nah, bro. No good.

I believe change happens the way ketchup falls out of the bottle: slowly and then all at once. I am who I am because of who I was. And when you get older, who you were doesn’t just disappear; it becomes a part of you. Inside of you are all these pieces of former yous that help shape who you are today, which is why some people never grow up. When I turned six, I was still five and four and three and two and one, which is why I’m so curious and I learn something new everyday, and why I sometimes forget how to use my legs and trip when I walk.

The same is true today: I’m 19, but I’m also 18 and 17 and 16 and 15, etc.

And life is trying to throw all this responsibility my way, but I can’t hear it screaming my name over the sound of my crayons scribbling furiously. But, I still wonder what these next 365 days have in store for me. I wonder what adventures I’ll have. I wonder what kind of people I’ll meet. I wonder what stories I’ll write. I wonder what kind of person 19 year old me will turn out to be. I wonder if I’ll be able to impact the world at least half as much as it has impacted me. And I wonder if I’ll finally learn what it means to matter, and if I’ll finally matter.

Because popularity and coolness are fluid: they change depending on the container they are placed in. And you spend your whole life trying to achieve a certain level of coolness and popularity, until one day, you won’t remember why you were trying to achieve them in the first place, because they don’t matter.

I believe 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. I matter because I care about family and friends. I matter because I’m passionate about sharing my stories and about hearing yours. I’m passionate about life and about making beautiful things. And I want to leave this earth a little bit more beautiful than it was when I arrived.

Even though I think I have a lot of time, time is relative, and life is finite. My finite life takes up space on the infinite line of the universe, and even though the space of my line seems rather insignificant, I have enough time and space left to make it significant.

In these periods of 365 days, there’s enough room for me to reinvent myself. I can turn myself into who I want to be. Because if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that you can’t stop the future from coming. And why would you want to? Because life is beautiful and also terrifying. And if you try hard enough, so much is possible. I want to be possible.

So, life, I see your finiteness, and I raise you my hopes and dreams.

Run Away

Before you move away from home, you will probably think about running away at least once, statistically speaking. Some people will run away; some people will get half way down the street and realize they have no idea where they are going, so they go back.

If home is where the heart is, my body is not my home. My mind has threatened to leave so many times, and my hands have carved a map into the walls of this body. I’m not sure how I’ve made it this far. My feet are on the ground, but my heads in the clouds, and sometimes if I dream hard enough and long enough my heart falls in love with impossibilities formed by the imagination.

And sometimes I’m scared my heart and mind will pack their bags and leave this body for a less tormented soul. Because if I can’t love myself, how is anyone else supposed to love me? On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m pretty darn naïve, so I don’t have all the answers. But I have all the questions.

Like, how some infinities can be bigger than other infinities, and howmymindcanmovesofast but m y m o u t h m o v e so s l o w, and how people can write books and poems and use words that just tear at your soul and make you question everything you thought you knew about everything you thought you knew.

Because when I’m speaking, my mind is a complex connect-the-dots with no apparent connection, but when I’m writing, the world makes sense. Perhaps John Green said it best when he wrote: “My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.” Because right now, my mind is the sky, my thoughts are as numerous as the stars, and the connections between thoughts are like shooting stars moving from Point A to Point B in this intergalactic sphere of connectedness we call humanity.

And I don’t know many things, but I do know about love, because love makes the world go round. John Green once wrote, “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once,” which is true. But I also believe you can fall in love in an instant, if only for a moment. Or at least you can fall in love with the possibilities and the ‘’could have been”s of what might have been possible in that moment. Time is not linear, because a moment can last forever, even if it’s only in the replays of our minds.

Because I once saw a boy on a bus in Seattle with muddy brown hair and eyes so blue they put the sky to shame. I wondered what his life was like, and if he was in love or out of love, or even if he believed in love. I wondered if he had a Mom and a Dad or just a Mother and Father. I wondered what his hobbies were: does he read, play the guitar, dance in the rain? Does he fall in love with words the way that I do and as easily as I fell in love with him (because in that moment, we exchanged a glance, and my heart left my chest and connected with his for just a second. But it was one of the most beautiful seconds this heart of mine has ever experienced). Because on that bus in Seattle, I saw a boy with muddy brown hair and a crooked smile, and big, sad blue eyes, and I wanted so badly to save him from the darkness of his own mind, but how can I do that when I’m not able to save myself?

But none of that mattered, because when he got off at his stop, I knew I was never going to see him again. It was by pure happenstance that we met, and it was by chance that I saw the weight of the world on his shoulders. But I can’t help but wonder what might have been had we met in a different place and time. Because even though I don’t love him, my mind is in love with the idea of him. And even though I can’t control time, I wonder what he’s doing now. I wonder if he’s happier. I wonder if that crooked smile has finally connected with his big blue eyes. I wonder if someone’s saved him, if someone’s loved him, like I’m learning to love myself.

Because if home is where the heart is, I want to build myself a castle with a moat and alligators and a fire-breathing dragon. Because I’m not afraid of loving, I’m afraid of leaving.  My heart won’t run away, but it might sprout wings and fly.

And you could fill a novel with all the ways to love.

Fall in Love

When you fall in love, don’t fall in love with just a person; because sometimes hearts get broken.

Instead, fall in love with life around you.

Fall in love with the way hope creeps up on you when you least expect it but need it the most.

Fall in love with the way the seasons change and how the world keeps going on.

Fall in love with the autumn causes trees to shed their leaves, sending leaves and petals fluttering in its breath.

Fall in love with the way winter turns everything around you to ice; how it holds misplaced leaves captive in their frozen, glass tomb.

Fall in love with the breath of spring as it melts the world around you, ushering in new colors in its wake.

Fall in love with the way summer sings its song to the tune of crickets and laughter, crackling fires and the boom of thunder.

Fall in love with music that makes you believe in magic.

Listen to it over and over again as it weaves its way into your soul, becoming a part of you with every note.

Fall in love with old couples who have been together forever. Their wrinkles a road map of their journey together.

Fall in love with the way the moon and the stars turn the dark sky into a beautiful masterpiece.

Even the darkest things are capable of being beautiful.

Fall in love with the lone candle sitting patiently in the window of your far away home, like a beacon it will guide you back always.

Fall in love with the way your bruised kneecaps cushion your fall, with the space between your rib cage that will be full one day, with the way your pulse echoes at the hollow of your wrist—reminding you that you are alive.

Fall in love with the way that your heart quickens its stride at the sight of a boy whose song harmonizes with yours, of a little girl who refuses to give up on dreams that are bigger than she is, of a person who has been knocked down over and over again, but somehow always finds the strength to stand.

Fall in love with the way oceans talk to you through seashells, with the way the sky and the land don’t meet, there is always a horizon.

Fall in love with the way light streams in through your window, because today is a new beginning.

Fall in love with the way baby birds learn to fly; shaking off bad dreams like downy feathers.

Fall in love with gravity as it holds us together, but fall in love with the idea of flying.

No dream is too high.

Fall in love with the way broken hallelujahs sing out from all around you, marvel at how they are transformed into beautiful melodies.

Fall in love with hellos and goodbyes, with the way eyes can ask so much.

Fall in love with the way the train track never ends. It’s on a journey to find itself and somehow manages to always miss itself.

Fall in love with the way a tombstone can say so much with so few words.

Fall in love with a book; make it your favorite, read its story over and over again.

That new book smell of paper and ink will never go away, but will always be there, dancing at the end of your fingertips.

You can tell a lot from fingertips and hands if you pay careful attention.

Fall in love with the rain and the tears. Fall in love with you, because you are beautiful.

Fall in love with stories and write your own on your journeys.

Fall in love with things that don’t make sense, dream in colors that don’t exist, create a world that will one day be.

Fall in love with your shadow, with your reflection; because it will always find you again.

 Fall in love with the wispy clouds on a clear summer day.

Fall in love with something new every day.

Fall in love with the eye his eyes light up when he smiles.

Fall in love with the way she captures the beauty of life with words.

Fall in love with the way her eyes fill with wonder.

Fall in love with the way she is clumsy but graceful at the same time.

Fall in love with everything.

Transform “I love you” into “I love your everything.”

Unfinished Thoughts

I’m having a creativity block; my creative juices flowing through my brain like a river are being stopped abruptly in their tracks by a dam of self-doubt.

Unfinished thoughts are the makings of my stories, but that’s all they are right now: unfinished.

  1. And just as the waves kiss the seashore, we are reminded that goodbye isn’t forever; goodbye is for now.
  2. Have you ever felt ashamed of yourself? Of who you are? I used to be like that; I used to be the person who put on the mask of all that is false whenever certain people crossed my path. I used to tell myself, “Run. Run far, far away; come back only when no one is looking.” So I ran. I ran far, far away with little to no intention of coming back. And replacing me was someone new, someone different, someone who was not me. Someone under the false pretense of being someone they are not, someone they honestly don’t want to be, and someone they could never be.
  3. I believe we give pieces of ourselves to the people who matter—the people who see our scars, and do not cry, but hold us, and tell us we are beautiful.
  4. I am scared of being, that is why I am becoming.
  5. So I sat there surrounded by faces; every face a story, every line a memory, every blink a future.
  6. I feel like I have two personalities, both almost polar opposites; I think that the place where they meet, where they join in their least common denominator, the place where I’m most conflicted, and where there is no distinction of color, only an infinite abysmal grey, is where I am my true self. Because more often than I should be, I am lost. I waver between one end to the other and this constant fluctuation is what makes it so hard to find my identity; everything is too confusing. But when I stand at the shore and both ocean and land are within eyesight, I’m at peace. I understand the essence of what it means to be me, and that includes the whole spectrum of it. I can actually accept myself.
  7. The most beautiful smile I ever saw was the one you are wearing right now, because I’ve never seen a smiling face that wasn’t beautiful.
  8. I believe that good things take time, and the scars that still remain will be only a lesson; because time heals, and someday the sun will shine even brighter than ever.
  9. Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in life has purpose; there are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings given to us to learn from.
  10. Because when you stop and look around, this life is pretty amazing.

These are my unfinished thoughts, the beginnings, the ends, the middles—a tangled web of ideas and words that are waiting to be made into something beautiful; until then, all the rest is unwritten.

I Accept the Terms and Conditions

The three biggest lies in America are: ‘That was my last piece of gum,’ ‘I’m fine,’ and ‘I have read and accept the terms and conditions.’ These are, of course, in no particular order.

It’s not that you want to lie when we encounter The Terms and Conditions, but nobody wants to sit there and read hundreds of pages of writing either.

So, when it comes to downloading the latest iTunes version, you can be divided into one of the following groups.

1)      You just click the little box without even reading a page. This could be because you are too lazy, too busy, or you just don’t care. If you are in this group, you are pretty safe; I have yet to see a Terms and Conditions that obligates you to participate in criminal activity.

OR

2)      You attempt to read the Terms and Conditions; but, somewhere between the beginning and the

end you either fall asleep, or the words become a group of undecipherable mumbo-jumbo that

literally fries your brain. If you are in this group, I applaud your effort.

 

OR

 

3)      You read the hundreds of pages of words and are able to decipher the legal jargon into an understandable language. If you are in this group, you deserve a medal; you are most likely one of the following: a superhuman, a robot, a super-intelligent ET type thing, or you have a Masters and three Doctorates.

Life doesn’t have one of this Terms and Conditions; but if it did, I imagine that it would something like this:

Contract with Life:

By signing below, you agree to the following Terms and Conditions.

1)      Life has the ability to make your time with us as easy or as hard as it would like.

2)      Life has the ability to end your contract with us whenever it wishes. At that moment, your contract will be null and void and you will no longer have a place with us. *

*this may occur with or without warning (ßwritten in fine print, as all important things are)

This document is not permissible in a court of law.

I have read and accept the Terms and Conditions

X________________________________

Unfortunately, life does not have such a thing. There is no Caution sign as you enter the world blinking “Warning: Bumpy Road Ahead.” If there was, I’m sure we would be at least a little prepared for the difficult journey that is life. In my short 18 years of life, I have learned a few valuable lessons.

1)      Don’t compare yourself to others. Yes, sometimes it is difficult. Life continually shows us people who are more successful than we are. These are the people who are out winning Olympic Medals, saving lives, changing the world. While parades and accolades are being given to them, you are standing in the background, waving your arms, trying to get noticed; you are left to eat their dust. It’s hard not to compare yourself to others. Trust me, I’ve been there. But over time you learn that everybody is good at something—just at varying levels.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish byits ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

2)      We all have a purpose; we all were put here for a reason. Sometimes the reason is slow in showing itself, but eventually, it will. If you ever doubt that, put your hand over your heart; that beating you feel is purpose.

3)      The sooner that everyone realizes that we are all beautiful, interesting and unique, the sooner we will all love ourselves and stop spending our lives trying to change everything to fit in. We are made and altered exactly how we are supposed to be. Everything happens for a reason. But don’t change yourself just to fit into a society that has no idea what it’s going on about. You. Are. Gorgeous. Whether you are fat, thin, tall, short, mainstream, different, you are beautiful. Please, please, remember that. Confidence will always be your most attractive feature.

4)      People aren’t mirrors; they don’t see you the way you see yourself. So go easy on yourself.

5)      Failure is the key to success.

6)      You are harder on yourself than anybody else is.

7)       Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Don’t be afraid to call people out. The people that matter will respect you for it.

8)       When people hate you, you must be doing something right. Those who aren’t living don’t have enemies.

9)       Live the life you want to live. Be the person you want to be. People don’t define you.

10)    People you talk about you. They will point fingers, whisper, and laugh. Don’t let it get to you. You are worth much more than what they give you.

11)    Always hold your head up high. It’s easier to see the beauty in things when you are looking at the sky.

12)    It doesn’t matter what people in High School see you as. Most of them won’t remember you 10 years from now.

13)    The only people that really matter are those that are there for you when you need them.

14)    You can’t trust everyone. And even when you think you can, sometimes they end up hurting you.

15)    Popularity is overrated. Being “cool” does not have any merit in the real world.

16)   . Everybody has a story. We all have hurt we are carrying. Be mindful of it.

17)   Always be willing to go out of your way to help someone, even if it’s just holding the door open. It could brighten someone’s day.

18)   Laughing until tears stream down your face and you can’t breathe is one of the best feelings in the world.

19)   Smile

(I will admit that I stole part of that list from a previous post about Graduation…).

20)   Life is short. So make the most of it while you are here. Life your life the way you want to—within the legal constraints of the law, of course; because I am going to assume that you enjoy not being in jail (unless you do enjoy being in jail, in which case you have a whole different set of issues entirely). Life your life to the fullest. Don’t be afraid to take risks; because nobody gets out alive anyway.

So, life, throw whatever you wish my way. I can take it; I’ve learned the tricks of the trade. I accept your Terms and Conditions. Bring it on!