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.

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Checkmate

One day, you wake up and realize that you don’t know how you got there. And you’re surprised because you didn’t think you would make it this far. But you did. You have.

I have.

We have.

We have secrets and stories from our pasts that are Weapons of Mass Destruction if the wrong person gets their hands on these things that have destroyed us once before. So we protect these stories for all that their worth (which we tell ourselves is not more than a penny, because like a penny we are practically worthless—it costs more to make us than what our value is. Or so we believe. But, really that’s all just lies). So we package up these secrets and stories, and tie them with bows to make them look pretty. And we put these packages on the “Do Not Discuss” Shelf of our lives and leave them there until someone cares to listen (and we tell ourselves that no one will. Check. Check. Another lie).

And repeating lies over and over again does not make them true.

But we tell ourselves that it will be fine anyway, because we’ve made it this far on our own, and we “don’t need no Superhero” in a fancy cape to come rescue us.

Because all we need rescuing from is ourselves and the demons that plague us (and personally, I’d like to see you try to climb into my mind and fight these battles for me).

Because our minds aren’t some freakishly fast rollercoaster with ups and downs that are completely unpredictable. No, our minds are dark tunnels with caution signs and landmines threatening to explode at any moment. (Did I mention the hundreds of tons of dynamite?)

So we fight these battles the only way we know how: self-destruction. Our skin is constantly bloody from fighting last night’s battles. Our stomachs are constantly roaring as we empty the contents of last night’s self-loathing.

With all this pressure to be perfect we hope that all this grit and grime will turn into a diamond. But it doesn’t. It turns into a geyser, which promptly explodes in our face.

And now the secret’s out—it’s written all over our face. And we still choose to believe the lies, because humans are stubborn. And the more times you repeat a word, the less it starts to make any sense.

Worthless.

Worthless.

Worthless.

The more you repeat a word, the less it starts to make any sense.

Worthless.

Worthless.

Worthless.

It loses its meaning over time.

Somehow, despite all this, people still care. And it’s these people who care who convince you to get help.

So, you do to appease them (because it’s better to appease the masses than to go against the flow). You learn to deal with these feelings in less destructive ways (I’ve heard that writing helps a lot).

But the feelings don’t go away; they just act more like waves. Low tide and high tide. In an instant, they come back (so this is what drowning feels like). In an instant, they go away (I can breathe again). So you come up, choking and sputtering and gasping for air. And this cycle continues.

Because sometimes you are so focused on breathing in and out that you forget how to put one foot in front of the other.

And this is ok.

It’s ok to fall in front of all the cool kids. Your Fan Club is there to boost your confidence once again.

Knowing is better than not knowing.

And it’s certainly better than the

Tick, tick, ticking bomb that could explode at any moment.

Tick

Tick

Tick

Tick

BOOM!

Checkmate.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

I am writing. I am writing hard, because writing means fighting. And I’m not done fighting my inner battles. I’m not done. God is not done with me yet.

One day, He will turn this Grit and Grime into a Diamond.

Be the Change You Wish to See

Friday, December 14, 2012, 27 people were killed in a shooting at an Elementary School. 20 of the people killed were children. It breaks my heart to hear about any loss of life, especially when the loss of life is the life of a child. These children had futures as bright as the stars, and now are not given the chance to grow up; they are not given the chance to change the world. These children had all of life to live, all of life to experience, and in an instant, it was all gone.

It is not just about the children that died either; it is also about the children who survived. Those poor kids, who are still babies, should have had years of innocence left before they realized that life can be cruel. These are children who still believed in Santa Claus, magic, and wishing on a star, whose biggest hurts could be fixed with a Band-Aid and a hug. These babies are too young to be experiencing this kind of grief, pain, and heartache.

It is not just about the children either; it is also about the parents. Parents should not have to bury a child because of life lost at the hands of another. Parents should not have to remember Christmas as a time of grief and mourning. Parents should not have to bury a part of their soul. Parents should not have to have these conversations with their children when they ask why their sibling is not coming home.

It is not just about what happened; it is also about how we move on. It is about how we change. This is not the first time this has happened, and it probably will not be the last. Violence has always been a reoccurring theme throughout history, not just in our society but also around the world. Wars and Genocide, Shootings, Murders and Violent Revolts have rocked the world while trying to solve problems.

I do not know enough about society to start making policy. But I do know about right and wrong. I do know about pain and suffering. I do know that the past can influence the future, and I know that the best way to learn is to look at our mistakes and ask ourselves “what can we do better next time?”

As children we are taught that violence is not the answer, but as soon as we reach adulthood it seems to become the answer. We say to other countries, “don’t mess with us because our weapons are better than yours.” We go to war to prevent future violence. The reoccurring theme is that violence leads to violence.

How many more innocent lives are we going to let be lost before we actually do something? Change starts with us. It starts with you and me deciding that enough is enough. Violence is not the answer; it is the problem.

It starts with you and me putting down our hate, weapons, and fists, and picking up our forgiveness, pen, and microphone. It starts with you and me deciding that our words are powerful enough to change the world. Words combined with actions are more powerful than wars will ever be.

Learn a lesson from this.

Learn a lesson from the first thing my parents ever taught me: “Use your words, Kaleigh. People will understand you much better.”

Human Life

What does it mean to be human, to think, to feel, to breathe? Is it being born with nothing, trying to become something? The first cry, that filling of infant lungs with its first breath, its soft feet and sleeping breaths are the beginnings. It is a mother’s tears and a father’s steady hand. It’s the moment that a child takes its first step, and the moments that it falls to the earth. It’s the scars, a nightmare, and the first fresh reality of dreaming. It’s being there, simply being there when someone needs you. It’s the meaning contained within music, the hope after a rain. It’s the first step to breaking boundaries between people, to seeing beyond skin and tongue and bone, to seeing within. It’s the giving of good ideas, good thoughts, and the modest reception of another’s kindness. It’s the smile in a stranger’s eyes as they watch life unfold, in the way couples who have been together forever become one. It’s the sound of violins in the summer, and the patience to listen to their song tell a story. It’s taking baths in the running currents of a river, running colored pencils on fresh paper, and writing your soul on a cloud. It’s learning to make a mess, clean it up, and then learning how to make messier messes. It’s the moment when the seasons change, and you do too. It’s in the way that trees learn to let go of their leaves as they swirl around like helicopters. It’s in the work of the small ants that carry mountains on their backs. It’s the beauty of a sunrise, painting the sky with all the colors of the wind. It’s yearning for the moon, letting it guide you back home again. It’s the joy in learning to write, in writing letters, and then mailing them. It’s the company of other people, and being other people’s company. It’s in the happiness of food. It’s in clean water, clean air, and a place to sleep, but not all humans have that luxury. It’s the first death, and the next. It’s the never-ending cycle of one birth and one death. It’s the desire to leave something behind, and the desire to take something with you. It’s leaving with nothing when you were once something.

I’m a human, and I’ve lived for 18 years. I was born to two people who were strangers when they first met, but fell in love with time. I have walked on the earth, and I have tasted it. I have dangled my legs into a rushing river, and I’ve touched creation. In the beginning, I couldn’t say words, and now that I can, I sometimes still don’t. But in the beginning, I made sounds. When I grew old enough to walk, I learned to hide away from everything. Music and writing became my confidantes. I would be loudest when no one was listening (the same is true now).  My hair has changed. I have told lies, and I have been told lies. I want to save other people. I have wanted to travel and see the world, but for now I am content with searching for pictures. My mother taught me that life is what you make of it. My father taught me not to take life too seriously. My grandfather taught me that hard work is important, and so is school. My grandmother taught me how to cook. My aunts taught me how to read. Words have been the lifeblood and spark that have kept my heart beating. I can read a book in a day, and then thirst for more. I tell myself not to fall in love with fictional characters, and then I do anyway. My books and my notepads filled with stories are my treasures. I have been aware of how words can pull people all my life. When they’re thrown like sharp knives, people get hurt. How words can make people laugh with their whole being. I have lived 18 years, and I’ve seen death before.

Learning to Love…Myself

I don’t like people.

I, er… What I mean is… I guess… technically that’s a lie. I don’t do well with big groups of people (and by big, I mean more than 5). I’m fine one-on-one. I can make eye contact, have an intelligent conversation and really connect to people. But as soon as you stick me into a room with more people than I can count on one hand, I turn into this socially inept creature. I stumble over my words. I play with the rubber band around my wrist. I twirl my hair around my fingers. I bite my lip. I look everywhere but at the people around me. I don’t make eye contact. It’s as though my brain completely shut down. 

Sometimes, if it’s a really bad day, I will be louder than I wish to, or I’ll trip over my own two feet.

This whole social anxiety, introverted-ness thing makes college kind of difficult. I’ve never made friends easily, and I’m not that trusting. I feel uncomfortable in my own skin—almost as if the skin I wear isn’t even mine, as if it’s on loan from someone else. But I’m trying really hard to fix this. I really am.

And yet, I still hideaway in the library among the books, because that’s where I feel the most comfortable. The written word has always been better at communicating what I want to say better than my spoken words ever could. The books don’t judge me. The notebooks filled with my words don’t judge me as I pour out my inner thoughts, struggles and questions. Books and notebooks just soak it all in.

And that’s where I sit, day-after-day, wanting to meet people, but being unable to–two sides of the same coin that’s never in harmony.

I prefer to be alone, because it allows me to ponder and think. But I still thoroughly enjoy talking to people. I like connecting heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul, one-on-one, without the fear of judgment.

But I don’t know how to make friends.

Is this all a product of my past (besides the obvious introverted part of me)?

I feel as though I’m completely useless and broken, pieces that don’t fit together as they should. I have been hurt in the past. People have left me broken and bleeding, again and again. My heart heals itself, but my brain doesn’t. And I’m trying really hard to step out of my comfort zone, leave the library, talk to someone new. I’m just scared that I will be judged, or worse, not liked. Because, more often than not, that’s how I feel.

…because in that moment, I had never been hurt so harshly by anyone before. It was as if all my flaws had been impeccably arranged in front of me for the world to scrutinize. There was no gray area, no pointing out the things that made me special, admirable, or wanted. It was all the things about myself that I hated, all listed out. They were a despicable finger pointing at me, ridiculing. My ego had never been bruised in this way before. There was not a drop of self-confidence left in me after that. I have searched introspectively for things that I could grasp, hold on to for dear life, thing that once gave me a reason to love myself. I don’t always find anything.

But I’m trying. I’m learning to love myself. And slowly, but surely, I’m gaining my confidence back. Some days, I’m more confident than others. But sometimes, I wish I could be the mysterious and fascinating girl with long, flowing hair that you read about all the times in novels; the girl who always becomes the love interest of some amazing boy. They share lovely memories and talk forever of nothing and have a sweet relationship. Sometimes, I wish I could be the girl who is always sure of herself and who always has something interesting to say.

I want to be that girl.

“I’m quirky, silly, blunt, and broken. My days are sometimes too dark, and my nights are sometimes too long. I often trip over my own insecurities. I use music to speak when words fail me, even though words are as important to me as the air I breathe. I love hard and with all that I have… and even with my faults, I am worth loving.”

I just don’t know how.

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.”

In Order to See the Rainbow, There Must First Be Rain

It started at the beginning: a refreshed way of looking at the world. Not enough of a change to look at the world through the eyes of a child both innocent and trusting, but enough of a change to be less cynical, less doubting—enough of a change to learn how to see the world from different perspectives.

She had learned to walk through life with open hands, catching everything that life dropped in her lap. Somebody told her once that she didn’t have to walk through life with her arms up, defending herself from all things evil, that hurt was a part of life, and from it beauty could grow. She learned that life could be beautiful and magical if she allowed her mind to remain open to all life had to offer.

Gradually, she began to see the world anew and refreshed. Rain was no longer just dark and dreary; it could be alive if she would just let it. She learned that dancing in the rain is beautiful and is capable of changing moods. Rain, she learned, can wash away all the regrets and the pain. The steady pitter-patter of the rain on the roof is soothing and able to lull her to sleep, but it’s also capable of inducing much thought—deep and insightful—as she begins to fall asleep. And the smell after a rain is synonymous, to her anyway, to new life. A renewed world, ready to take on whatever life throws at it—a refreshed world, that is ready to begin the day after a refreshing shower. Très bien.

The backpack she carried now, vastly different than the one she started her journey with, contained chocolate, rain boots, and a notebook.

She carried chocolate because when life begins to get tough, when life leaves her with the short end of the stick, she can eat it. There is no problem that chocolate can’t fix. But when there is, she can wear the rain boots and dance in the rain. She can let the rain wash away all the problems. And when that doesn’t fix the problem, she can write about it in her notebook, because words are capable of doing so much.

Words, she learned, have the ability to make people laugh, evoke feelings, provide healing, and connect people on an intimate level. Not only that, but, she learned, in order to know someone, in order to irrevocably love someone, you needed to be connected emotionally and mentally. But love, she learned, doesn’t always go the way you plan. You get hurt. Love can be dangerous and confusing. Then the rain comes and washes it all away. The cycle continues until the rainbow appears. Happiness, at last, is hers.

Because in order to see the rainbow, there must first be rain.

 

Words

“If you have a big enough dictionary, just about everything is a word. ”
Dave Barry

I like words. As a person who is better at writing out my feelings, I am reliant on words to share how I feel; I have to make the words describe how I feel without the use of my facial expressions or my inflection.

Over the years, I have learned many words. Some of them are inherently funny, and some of them are just fun to say. So, being the unmotivated person I am who has nothing really philosophical to say, here is a list of some of  my favorite words.

  • Doppelganger- a ghostly double.
  • Behoove- necessary or beneficial. For some reason unbeknownst to me, every time I see this word I picture me as a horse. It must be because horses have hooves.
  • Serendipity- good fortune, luck. This word is so… bubbly. But “serendipitous” is better.
  • Flabbergasted- astounded
  • Coccyx- tailbone.
  • Hullabaloo- an uproar
  • Ish- somewhat, rather. This word is intended to be used as a suffix, as in “noonish.” But, often I just use it as a word to describe my mood, as in a syllable for blah. 
  • Conniption- a fit of rage
  • Subtle- not immediately obvious. This word is great because the subtly slipped a “b” in that word.
  • Persnickety- to be fussy about small details. This word reminds me of Lemony Snicket. 
  • quixotic- impractical
  • Supercalifragilisiticexpialidocious

Spanish has a lot of funny words.

  • Cacahuete- peanut
  • mantequilla- butter
  • limpiaparabrisas- windshield wipers
  • hablaba- used to talk
  • palomitas-popcorn
  • zanahoria- carrot
  • porque- because
  • muchedumbre- crowd
  • rascacielo- skyscraper
  • ito/a- a suffix that makes something little. Hermanita- little sister
  • sonrisa- smile
  • esperanza- hope
  • repollo- cabbage

To be quite honest, all Spanish words are so fun to say–it’s one of the most beautiful, musical languages ever. If you know someone who speaks it, have them say something to you (same with any of the Romance languages–they are so musical).

As a writer, I also en0y making up my own words, which is why I like Dr. Seuss and Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky.”

“I’d like to say a few words: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!” – Albus Dumbledore

Words are great.

But, I’d urge you all to use words cautiously. Words can be extremely damaging.

Who doesn’t love this song?