Your life can be a fairytale without that happy ending. Right now, is the time to just love yourself. And kick ass.
Less than 12 hours before I leave for the airport, and i’m still not packed, not prepared. Booked my hotel for a couple of days TODAY at 2 am, bought my tickets last week, and i’m flying by the seat of my pants (err.. leggings are pants right? ;P) Before I would have been totally prepared like a month ago, and on my third go of packing/unpacking/repacking.
Instead, I’m sitting on FB and playing candy crush, but it will be ok. It will work out, and I’m only going to have mild anxiety about it. I’m scared for this trip, and I’ve been running around like a headless chicken the last week. All those stupid thoughts running through my brain.
Why do you deserve to go? You’re just gonna take up space that someone else can use. Waste of space. Waste of space. Waste of fucking space.
No one’s gonna like you. You don’t like you most of the time, how can anyone else like you? You’re going to clam up and not say anything of value. You’re just a fraud that no one likes.
Like, seriously, WHY?
Stupid. Fucking. Brain. All the time. Never stops chattering. Never stops name calling, and being so rude. If I said half the things I say to myself to someone else, I would be smacked. Hard. So… why is it ok for me to say them to myself?
It’s not. I know that, but I do it anyway. I have a good life, filled with utterly amazing people, and better friends than I could ever have dreamed of. I get to do such cool things, and see awesome places, and do amazing things. So going into this week in Portland, I’m not going to pack that stuff. I can leave those thoughts, and those negative words and feelings back in my container in MN. They don’t have a ticket to go, I do.
Like my awesome friend Kaija says, “Fuck Fear, and do the thing.”
Fuck fear, and do the fucking thing.
the mind forgets
but the body remembers
storing all of our lives
in tissue, cells and tendons
all of it there
just lingering below
lingering below the skin
passing through the blue veins
in the heartbeat
in the blink of our eyes
the lives we live
the quiet ones
not even we know of
every single thing
the mind forgets
but the body remembers
This is a writing prompt from an amazing writing retreat I went to over the weekend. The prompt was our response to “What are you gonna do about it?” Referring to the times when we receive compassion from friends or family, someone close to us who we seek counsel from when we feel sad or stuck. This was more in response to us feeling stuck, not being able to jump over some hurdle or open a door.
So, what are you gonna do about?
This the what the fuck I’m gonna do about it.
I’m gonna dig.
I pick the shovel up. It feels heavy in my blistered hands, years of digging and digging.
Dirt everywhere. Dirt in weird places, mixed with sweat, tears and a little blood. The digging hurts. But, not in a way I’m used to. It’s uncomfortable.
Shedding the skin.
Removing the hands from around my throat.
Using the voice that cracks to say, “You will not break me. I own you. Not the other way round. Fuck off, Depression!”
I can’t dig anymore.
The digging feels so painful. So uncomfortable. Like a claustrophobic panic attack. Stealing the breath from my lungs, sucking out the oxygen.
Holy shit, I can’t breathe.
Same shit, again and again and again. These vicious cycles of garbage getting recycled over and over in my head. The hurtful remarks from blood to blood only causing the cycle to shift and become smaller, threatening to kill us all. Sucking the goddamn oxygen out of us.
The digging helps. Removing myself from the cycles I get so fucking caught up in. Those words and actions, becoming toxic and crying out “I OWN YOU!” The cycles own us. They scream ownership over our blood.
But I dig. I escape like a thief in the night. I dig my escape tunnel to freedom. I do not want the chains the cycles put on me. I will not wear them. I will not drink the poison from the veins. I will not perpetuate those fucking cycles.
I am done.
Blood in not binding. Sharing genetic material is not a family make. The cycles have made us nothing more than a makeshift patchwork family, sewn together from once useable parts, now just pretending to be real. We are just pretenders, faking it until we make it.
I dig my way out. But the shovel feels too heavy, too burdensome. How can I support this change? It’s so uncomfortable. It’s too claustrophobic.
This is the goddamn fuck I’m gonna do about it. I pick the damn shovel up because it scares me. That fear is good. It makes you do things you normally could not. Dig! Be terrified!
Just fucking dig, Rachel!
Just fucking dig, and then keep on digging.
Dig and dig.
Dig and Dig.
Digging and Digging.
Harmony is a word I don’t understand.
I have studied music on and off for years, the idea that you can place notes together to create a chord, that in turn goes on to create a larger piece of music is a concept I understand. But when it comes to application to life? Hell, if I know. Is it the same as music, where it’s little pieces put together that help create a larger more beautiful piece? Harmony in that concept feels like a puzzle then, finding the right pieces to place together at the right time.
Is harmony just a fancy word for balance? Maybe. But, maybe it’s just something we figure out for ourselves as we dig out our issues and face them, as we mature and grow, as we learn to filter out the bad from the good, as we see what we really need. Harmony is just the idea of finding out what works for us, what helps us be the best we can be, what pieces we need to be good, to finally feel happy or just calm, to help us get the gunk out of our souls. Harmony is the expression of us using little steps, little pieces to help the larger picture become clearer.
I would love for it to be done overnight. Wouldn’t that be amazing? My god, if we could just wake up with our pieces already in place, and just enjoy our lives? Fuck! I would be a happy camper. But it doesn’t work that way. We have to dig to find our pieces, for the internal ones we already have, that are just hidden, and for the external ones that come quietly into lives, and just begin to poke us, saying you need this. You need me!
I have some of my pieces in place, and I have to honestly say it’s scary. I think the idea of it is being unknown territory, well out of my comfort zone is definitely a big piece of it, but the even scarier part of it, is that I never thought I would be here. I am at a point in my life where I never thought I would live to see. It always seemed to be a mystical place I could never imagine, let alone reach. I’m good with my parents. I am not consumed by anger and hate. I am not allowing my depression to snap my neck like a twig. I still have bad days, where the depression comes and sits on my bedside not allowing me to move. I have grief and loss and pain still, but I am able to see the good that has come from knowing the love I have lost. I know that I need that love to go on. I know I need to be able to nurture and love something outside of myself. That is the main reason I miss my dog. She was that source for me. She supported and I loved her right back. I need to give that love to something that is mine. Completely mine. Maybe it’s selfish, but fuck, I’m allowed to be. That helps me find harmony. It helps me find my pieces. This is what I know I need. It’s not a want, it’s a need. I’m good with myself for the first time, probably ever. I want to give this new found love to something else. Something that needs it. I know what that pain is like, and it sucks.
The scariest and bravest thing I have ever done was attend a writing retreat. Over the years, words have been my solitary solace. The quiet thing I do when I need to vent, and can do so without any judgment. There is no back and forth like in therapy, there is no question of why I feel that that, or why I chose to write about that topic. I can just allow the words to get vomited up, and splashed on the page. Seeing these things that my subconscious clearly thinks I need to talk about out. I don’t think it’s always some hidden issue or feeling that needs to get out. This is my way of using my voice in my way. I can stand up and say exactly what I want to when I write. I can use my backbone and not have to worry about pissing anyone off because I wrote about a topic that wasn’t ‘okay’ or worry about airing my dirty laundry to the world. The funny thing about airing that laundry is that you realize every one else has it too, and yours isn’t that dirty or that smelly.
Everyone’s family has their problems and their issues. Sometimes they get aired like that dirty laundry, but more often they get buried. Often to a deep level where no one will want to put in the effort to dig them out. I can’t express how irritating and frustrating it is to live in a family where the issues just get pushed down. No one talks about things, and if they do, there are so many levels is misunderstanding and miscommunication that it almost defeats the purpose of trying. What I do with my path is so different than the rest of the members of my family. We make our choices and we deal with it. I wanted nothing more than them to be there for me, especially when I felt like I was falling down a pit of pure darkness with no end in sight. I grew resentful and angry because they were not physically here. They had made their choices, and looking back I wouldn’t expect them to come back and help in the way I wanted them to. They got out before the shit hit the fan, and they were lucky in that way. They avoided the full front attack of it, but they still felt the aftershocks of the earthquakes. I know they have feeling regarding the issues we have, and while it would be so easy for me to get up on my soap box and say I know how to deal with this in a healthy way, from my 14 years of therapy, I don’t. I don’t talk to them unless necessary. Which for me, is the best thing I can do for myself. Maybe it’s sublimely selfish, but I’m the only one who will take care of me.
I can’t be angry like I was. That anger bubbles up from time to time, but it’s easier to push away now. I feel it bubble up around holidays, when I know family time will be coming. Any sense of harmony I feel just fucks off. It’s tension so thick you can cut it with a knife. I don’t know if we just don’t understand each other or if we are resentful of the ways we have been treated differently. The thing that I have come to accept with siblings and children is, that we will always be treated differently. There are ways in which it can be even and fair, but in all honesty, we all require such different things from our parents, because we are each unique. What works for X will not work for Y, same goes for Z. I feel like that has caused a rift in the family. Because we only see the differences, we don’t the reasons behind it. We don’t try to see the reasons behind it. I used to think that maybe we could one day be a loving supportive family, and I’m beginning to truly see that it will not happen. I don’t believe it will happen, and if it ever does, not anytime soon. I just feel too much unspoken anger and unresolved issues for that to be reality. I’m probably being negative, but I think it’s pretty reasonable considering my feelings towards everything. I can’t speak for everyone else. I can only use my voice, and that’s what my voice believes. We are connected because of blood and this idea that we ‘should’ be a family. Not the idea that we want to be one. The subtle snide remarks and the outbursts of emotions hurt. They truly cut deep. I know families all have those bad days, but these feel very calculated, and dis-attached. I have hurt myself enough for several lifetimes, and I have done nothing to deserve those remarks. I have committed no crime. Why do I feel like I have? I don’t know. But it’s so tiring. You make your choices and I make mine. Don’t presume to know where I am in my life. I don’t know where you are in yours.
Where do you find harmony in a situation like that?
I don’t know if you do. I know that if you want it with everyone involved it will take communication and everyone actively wanting it. But if that’s not the case, then you have it to find in YOU. It has to be a strong enough foundation that you will not sway with those winds of trouble come barreling back. It takes a lot of effort, work and strength to do it. Harmony is a life long process, it is never something that is achieved with the snap of your fingers. I wish it was that way, but it’s not.
Harmony is so worth it though.
When I was eight, I saved up my money and went to the Discovery Store at the Mall of America. I remember this very vividly, I had saved up for a telescope. I was so proud to pick one out and to go up and pay for it all myself. I don’t remember exactly why I was so obsessed with having one, but I spent that summer looking at the stars. Every single night, I was out there looking at the constellations, and the planets, I could tell you where the planets were and why you could see certain ones. I could pick out constellations, and tell you the story behind them. I loved it all.
Astronomy was my first great obsession of any substance. It was the summer of Hale-Bopp, and I watched that comet glide through our night sky. Dancing around the stars. It never seemed to move, it seemed stationary at some points, but little did I realize how fast it was traveling, how far away it was, and how big it was. This chunk of rock and ice is being flung at speeds I can’t even begin to comprehend, and yet to my eye it seems so still. It seems stuck in the sky, like an ornament on a christmas tree. This frozen memory serving as a reminder of what once was.
I had declared that summer that I wanted to be an Astronomer when I grew up. Other little girls were still in their princess phases, and wanted to be mommies and wives when they grew up. I just wanted to stare at the night sky forever. I can’t explain why I was so transfixed on the stars. The light traveling so far from stars that have probably been long gone. Serving as frozen memories, just like that comet. Serving as reminders that we are not the only planet in this vast universe. That amongst the billions and billions of others stars and galaxies, we are utterly tiny. Maybe that’s what I was trying to understand as I stared through that telescope. Trying to understand what the universe was telling me. That I am tiny. Not just literally, I have always been on the tiny side, but figuratively too. That everything I will experience will feel so big and so overwhelming to me, but to the universe, it’s barely a blip on the radar.
The dichotomy of being big and small at the same time. It’s something that I still have trouble understanding. Especially when you slip into the darkness, you feel things on a larger scale. The sadness makes you feel tiny, and large at the same time. But in a very different way from staring at the night sky. Those humid nights with the telescope never made me feel sad. I felt free. Like there was some unspoken knowledge being pumped into my brain, that things will be fine, and I can let go of those things that will bog me down in later years. The darkness is the thing that keeps you chained to the earth. Not even fully to the earth, it chains you down in a hole underground. Unable to feel the breeze, the humidity from the summer, unable to see the stars, you lose you sense of place. You go stir crazy. There are days where you feel like you will crawl out of you skin, where I can see the layers of epidermis being peeled away like an onion, only to reveal things that reduce me to tears. It doesn’t emit an odor like an onion, but it emits the pain I keep bottled up. It emits the feelings I shove down. That feeling of wanting to peel your own skin off is nothing compared to what it feels like to have that pain come out. It’s uncomfortable and leaves you feeling so vulnerable that you might as well be running down the side of the highway butt-ass naked as the day you were born. The darkness taught me that those feelings are bad. They are a weakness. The sadness will keep me strong. If I bottle it all up, I will be able to endure. I will persevere. Which in a twisted sense, is true. I survived, but not as I thought I would. I have come to love the sadness too much. To rely on it on a level that is unhealthy. It has become such a part of my identity that the idea of losing it scares me as much as having a limb cut off. I have these moments of clarity where I can see what it has done to me, how it has poisoned me, how it has betrayed me, and I can truly see it for the monster that it is. But eventually it becomes seductive again. The idea of being in bed, having the pity party, making the excuses, just seems too natural for me to turn my back on it. I grasp to it like child does for it’s mother. Sometimes it feels like that. It felt like a parent for me. When you’re a teenager, you’re already in a very vulnerable place, undergoing drastic changes in a short amount of time is enough to make anyone desperate for some kind of control. But when you’re not just a teenager, you’re a teenager who’s already been exposed to the seduction of the darkness, and who undergoes massive life changes in a extremely short amount of time, you latch onto whatever you can to keep you afloat. I latched onto the depression, to the darkness, because it told me that it would let me survive. That through giving myself to it, I could endure the hardships that were to follow. I never realized that I was selling my soul to the darkness. The stars in my sky began to disappear, one by one they vanished. Lights going out until I was left alone with the dark. That’s how I remained for years. In this hole I had dug for myself, with the dark, only the darkness.
As the summer humidity faded, and turned into the chill of autumn, the telescope was little by little moved back towards the house. Then as it got too cold to stay out in the night for long, it eventually was placed in the basement, where it would go on to collect dust. The dreams of being an Astronomer were shattered, as soon as I learned how much math it required, it was replaced with dreams of begin a history professor. I traded the night sky for Elizabeth the First. Eventually Elizabeth got left behind. She collected just as much dust as the telescope. These frozen memories of the life I had wanted so young. After that, nothing really fit. No careers jumped out at me. I tried a little of this and a little of that. Half-assing these choices that seemed to come so easily to my peers. I just wanted to remain in my darkness. I knew I was safe there. My vision got fuzzy and all I could see was my pain in my tunnel vision, surrounded by pure black. Nothing mattered but that pain. I think feeling that from time to time was the only way I knew I was still alive. I certainly didn’t feel alive. I felt like a shell of a person. Just functional enough to get by, do the bare minimum so that people leave you alone. I learned how to do just that. The absolute bare minimum. I slipped through cracks, and didn’t apply myself. I look back and wish I had applied myself. I knew I was capable of so much more than I was doing. I know that now. I know I am capable of so much more than this bare minimum crap I put out. Do I change it? Do I bother to do anything to change it? Just enough to get by. The darkness has me by the throat, and in those especially dark times, it threatens to snap me like a twig.
This is why I measure my life by my losses. By the pain. By the things I don’t have. The things I won’t have. The things I couldn’t have. Never the things I do have. The things I have been taking for granted for so long. I measure my life by my pain. Those big losses are milestones in my life. Like dysfunctional birthdays, that serve of reminders of what was lost. Everyone has losses in their lives. What makes mine so special that I feel the need to mark my life by them? Because it’s mine and mine alone. That pain is solely my property. No one else will ever feel it or see it or touch it. I find myself getting mad at people who share those losses with me, that they have pain that stems from those losses as well, and they share how it hurts them. I get mad at them for having the same the loss. I feel the anger bubble up, and the “fuck off” on the tip of tongue, but I bite it back. I get selfish with it. I want it just for myself. What kind of person does that? They get mad at someone for sharing their pain, for allowing themselves to be vulnerable enough to share that. Not a happy one.
The darkness has been ever-present in my life. The shades of it vary from time to time. It has been especially dark since September of this year. Ironically I think that’s when the constellation Orion started to present himself. My brain is telling me that, and I’m choosing to remember that, whether or not it’s the truth. The Scottish variant of my last name is Bowman, or Archer. Which I thought was kind of ironic that my favorite constellation has a connection with my last name. Purely coincidental, but still pretty freaking cool if you ask me. Depending on which mythology you want to subscribe to, Orion is the hunter or the archer, who stalks the night sky with his dogs. The Archer and the Dog. I think the reason my brain is telling that Orion presented himself in September was some kind of sign. I had a hard loss with Fala, the Jack Russell I got for my 14th birthday. We weren’t Orion and his dog, but she was the dog and the hunter in one. Always looking out for her prey.
I got back home in early September, and from the start, she had been acting different. Very unlike herself. She kept checking to make sure I was here, and wouldn’t leave me alone. This was after several days of giving me the stink eye for being gone for a few weeks. Two weeks go by, and you can tell by the way she’s carrying herself she felt like crap. She was always a tough dog, but this was uncomfortable on a level I had never seen her behave. After a few days, we take her to the vet, completely unsure of what is wrong. They do an ultrasound on her belly that had bloated up to a scary level, and discovered that it wasn’t just fluid retention. It was blood. She had a rupture in her spleen, and had been amassing blood in her belly as a result. We were given options regarding her health, and they could have done surgery to see what had caused the rupture, and if had been cancerous they could have done chemo. Which the vet suggested could have given her 6 to 8 more months. She’s 12 at this point. She’s had a good long stretch of life. The vet had also suggested that it might just be her time. I thought about it and decided it wasn’t fair to Fala to keep her around for my selfish needs. It wasn’t fair to have her be opened up and have her body possibly dumped full of chemicals for chemo. It wasn’t something I could do for her. I wasn’t ready for her to go, and I wanted to keep her forever. Despite that, I told the vet that it was her time. That maybe the hardest choice I’ve made this far in my life. Even now I still feel like I killed her. In the darkness, I tell myself that I killed the one source of unconditional love I will ever have in my life. I held her while they gave her shot, and when she took her last breath. I was holding her when her heart stopped, and she looked so peaceful. I’m sure everyone in the pet hospital heard the howling of the cries coming from that exam room. I have never cried that hard. It has never been that gut wrenching and painful. I felt like someone ripped my heart out of my chest and held it up for me to see. They forced me to watch it still beating in their hand. My heart was that dog. It might sound silly to some people, but when you find a source of unconditional love, and you witness the physical death of the source, it hurts. A lot.
All the stars in my night sky vanished in that moment. The darkness descended, and I bottled up my grief. I wasn’t prepared to deal with it. I’m still not prepared to deal with it. I still spend time looking around the house for her. Expecting to hear her nails tap dance on the wood floor. Anticipating her collar jangling as she runs around the house in this bundle of energy. All I have left of her is that collar. All those years with her are only tangible in a collar we bought from target, with her dog tags on it. That is the frozen memory I have of her. A collar that she hated to wear. I had it on my bookshelf the first two weeks after she died. I couldn’t even bring myself to look at it. The pain would bubble up and I wasn’t prepared for it. You’re never prepared for it. Loss is something we think we can harden ourselves against in preparation, but we can’t. You never are prepared for it. Maybe that’s why I measure my life in losses. Those are the moments I was caught off guard. Those are memories of when I didn’t feel in control, I slipped out of the numbing indifference that serves as a protection for moments of unadulterated loss. The grief so thick you could cut it with a knife.
I go for walks at weird times in the night. I’ve always had a hard time sleeping. I see more of the night sky than I do of the sun. The stars have been a comfort. Always a comfort when I see Orion in the sky. It feels like a silent guardian protecting those balls of light that can be such a source of relief for me. Seeing Sirius the bright star in the dog just to the lower left of Orion is a comfort now. The Dog Star shines brightly in the sky. I always think of Fala when I see it. The pain bubbles up, and it hurts, but I let it hurt. Because of what she gave, it’s worth the pain. The love of all those years, and the companionship I knew would always be there. The warmth she was so picky with, was given to me, and I feel lucky for being able to have received it. She was a fickle dog with her affection, not just the attention, but the true affection she gave. The non judgmental looks she’d give you. The unconditional love she gave to only a few of us. We were made better for it. I know I was. Even through the darkness, She was a light for me. She was the one star I had in my night sky. I had my Dog Star, and I knew I could endure. I could survive because of her. She saved me. Without either of us realizing it, she saved me from collapsing completely into that darkness. She died, and her star went out. Now I feel left with no stars in the sky. Complete black surrounding me, and it’s something that is too overwhelming to describe.
The milestone of her death is the biggest one I have so far. The Dog Star shines the brightest for me now. I wish I still had that telescope so I could see it a little bit better.
The Archer and The Dog Star.
Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.
Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.
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I’m not sure I really know how to have faith anymore. I live in the black and white world of facts. In the realm of the tangible. Where I know something. I don’t feel it. Faith was always feeling for me. It was the grey between the black and white. The mere idea of faith shakes my core, because it’s about not knowing, it’s about believing. Feeling it in your heart that things will okay, and that you will endure. Not planning and plotting how you will survive.
Faith was more about being. Just the simple idea of BE. Not plotting, scheming, planning or thinking. It’s about turning your brain off and just feeling. Being. The simplicity of it seems almost stupid to a point. Not the concept of believing but the concept of being seems so stupidly simple to me, that you should just be able to do it without even thinking. …. Right?
The funny thing is, it’s not that simple. Maybe the idea of it is, but the actuality of it, is that it’s more complex then that. Because you’re not fighting and surviving. You surrender yourself to something bigger than yourself. Facts are isolating. Thinking can be isolating as well. But believing? Having faith is so much bigger, and so much more complex then that. Because of that surrender, you aren’t giving yourself up. You aren’t auctioning off sections of yourself to something else. You are giving yourself whole, as you are. Broken, unbent, unbowed. That beautiful mess that all humans are. We give that to an idea or a belief that is so much grander than we are. Faith can be something that helps us even more than just survival. Faith is something that gives us hope on those hopeless nights. It can light our fires and allow us to keep fighting even when it seems like our battles will beat us.
I had faith as a kid. I could surrender myself to something external. I could believe. I had the capacity for it. Maybe I wasn’t that stubborn then. (I’ve always been stubborn, but less so.) Maybe it’s the flexibility we naturally have as children. That the world hasn’t beaten our imaginations out of us, and we are still able to look at the world with wide hopeful eyes. We aren’t bogged down by fears and insecurities. We are able to imagine great and utterly captivating worlds where we can spend hours in. We don’t get tired as easily, and we aren’t afraid. We are fearless, powerful creatures as children. Maybe that’s what fuels faith. Being fearless. Being okay with the idea of throwing our hearts and minds into something that we have no idea how it will turn out. We aren’t so careful with our hearts. We fall, and we learn the ground is hard because of it. We learn lessons, because we try. We don’t have to plan out everything so carefully that we take away the magic of it. Maybe faith is just magic, and as we grow, we get it beaten into our heads that magic is nothing more than stuff of legends.
Do we have our freedom taken from us? To try to fit into this box that so many of us don’t really truly belong in? That maybe that stupid cookie cutter box is nothing more than an attempt to pull the wool over our eyes and to blind us from the truth that faith is what keeps humanity going. That being stupid and fearless and free is what keeps our species surviving.
Creativity requires a massive amount of faith. Often we do it for no recognition, no monetary reward. We do it, because there is some part of us that has to do it. We crave it. We need to exorcise that part of us, that it helps us understand our place in this massive universe. On our little blue marble of a planet, we are so small and so big, it’s a mind-blowing concept. That we are special, and we aren’t at the same time. Is that why we created religion to help us deal with the comprehension of this concept? That maybe if we were purposely created by something bigger than us, then we are special. I’m not a theologian, and I don’t really understand enough about religions to argue why they were created and why they are practiced so widely, but faith is something that feeds into it. That you need to have faith in order to be religious, spiritual or even a non-practicing secular, or a non-believer. Even the most militant atheist needs to have faith that nothing exists. We have to have faith in something. Whether we believe in a God, a Pantheon of Gods or none of the above. It all comes from the same core. We need to have something to put there.
The dictionary has a definition of Faith as “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” So whether it’s God, it’s the President, it’s your Mom or it’s YOU. There is faith. Faith stems from trust. From an unwavering devotion that this person or this idea or this thing will not let me down. I think that’s why when our faith is shattered, it’s hard for us to believe again. That once our trust is broken, it’s difficult to let people in. Especially when it’s someone who you had complete faith in. A parent, a spouse, the universe, God, Shiva, Who or Whatever, when that is tested, and shaken, it doesn’t just rock our boats, we feel the rumble of that earthquake to the core of our being. That when something happens, sometimes we can shake it off, and move on. Sometimes we get stuck in the aftermath of the earthquake. That we try to clean up the rubble, but we feel the after math for months, years or even until the day we take our last breath. We can take the broken faith to the grave with us.
Sometimes we fix our faith. We clean up the rubble, and we patch it up. We build stronger cores, and we are able to be a little more picky with where we place our faith. We are able to forgive, but we don’t forget. You don’t forget an earthquake like that. It’s all so dependent on the person and what they feel capable of doing. I feel cowardly sometimes, because I still like feel the quakes, I like rummaging through the rubble and seeing the aftermath. I enjoy feeling the aftermath of my broken faith. It’s definitely not healthy. And I think it’s very seductive to want to keep poking the bruise, even after it’s healed. Because you learn through broken faith, that your brain somehow makes a new connection of this is what I deserve. And it’s not. It’s not what anyone truly deserves. No one should have their cores shaken and their hearts broken, but we don’t always live in a fair world. I think fair and deserve are tricky words and tricky concepts. Because people will often say that you should treat people fairly, and yeah at a base level, it makes sense. But no two people are truly alike. I’m not the same as anyone else, and I shouldn’t be treated and given the exact same things as other people. Because it’s not what I need. It’s not how I can have faith. I can’t rebuild myself with parts for a broken sink, when I have a broken car. The gesture is nice, but it’s not what’s needed.
I can’t pretend to be someone else. It doesn’t do any good for anyone, especially myself. It’s very easy to group yourself in with other people. Maybe for a fear of standing out, and people seeing you for what you really are. I can’t pretend to have faith in A, when I have faith in B. It’s not fair and and it’s not what I deserve. See it’s still tricky. Because so many of us will go through life and maybe deny ourselves some of those things that are fair to us, and maybe things we deserve, and we sacrifice a part of ourselves for it. Yes, there are comprises and sacrifices that need to be made as you go through life, but there are some things that really should never fall into that comprise category. I can’t tell anyone what they should do with their life and what choices they should make. I can really only worry about myself. I find this a difficult thing to do.
Especially when I don’t have faith in myself. I don’t trust myself to do what I have do to. I don’t trust myself to have the strength I need, to stand up for myself when I have to, and to pick my battles wisely. I don’t have faith that I will ever be happy, or even content. I don’t have faith that I will figure anything out. This is something I need to confront and I need to find the strength to have that faith. Even if I have to fake it til I make it. I have to learn how to surrender myself to something bigger than myself. It’s not backing down and it’s not giving it. It’s not falling down. It’s re-learning that flexibility from childhood. Learning that imagination isn’t bad, and believing in magic is not silly. It’s having faith that the universe is gonna help hold you up, and take care of you, even when you can’t take care of yourself. It’s believing that your words are worthy of being heard, and your voice is worth more than you could ever imagine. Have a little bit of faith in yourself, or whatever you need to get through life. Believe that your hand will be held and your back is protected. That your battles will not overtake you, and that you are worth having faith in.
I can’t hear the words “Heavenly Father” and not stop in my tracks.
My belief in God died long before I stopped going to church. I was baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran Church. I grew up in Minnesota, being Lutheran was pretty much the standard form there. We had a community at our church. My parents were married there, my siblings and I went through everything there from being baptized, sunday school, summer camp, confirmation. The whole she-bang and we were apart of something outside of ourselves. We weren’t just in this community of a church, but we were apart of a wider family. We had a heavenly father watching over us. That was enough to get through life, we had someone watching our backs.
I remember going to church on Christmas Eve, I have no idea what year it is, but I can’t be any older than 10. I remember the way the church looked with the candles and the wreaths spread around the chapels. I remember feeling warm. Not just warm like from a giant fire, but a warmth that spread from my belly throughout my veins. I still don’t really know how to fully describe it, or even name it. Maybe it was feeling awe, or a connection to something bigger than myself. Or maybe it was just really fricking warm in the church that night. My memory starts to get fuzzy around the edges as I grow further away from that time. But I distinctly remember looking up at the lanterns, and remembering how the colored glass in it looked, staring at the bright red glass, and remembering that’s how I felt. I felt warm like that shade of red. I haven’t felt like that since.
This was a period in my life when I wasn’t aware of anything beyond my life. I wasn’t in the depression yet. My chatterbox brain hadn’t started rambling. I could still look at things with a sense of awe. I could look at the stars and feel apart of things. I didn’t feel isolated from the world. I didn’t spout out hate at myself. It was a lot easier to feel the good things. Because they weren’t so distant, they were still tangible for me. I don’t know if it’s just being a kid, and still having eyes that are wide open to everything. But I miss it. I miss being able to feel good and not have to work so hard at it. To be able to just be. Not have to work so hard at trying to enjoy things, and not having to plan and be proactive. I could just do what I did, and be good with it. Not wanting to be somewhere else, and not wanting to be someone else. I was good, genuinely happy and I felt loved and protected by that Heavenly Father. It was never really something that I walked around spouting out, that I believed in God and trying to convince others that I was special because of it. I think it was just something that I accepted as part of my life and never gave it a second thought. I think there was a safety with it. That no matter what happened to me or what I chose to do. I knew that I had something to catch me if I fell. That makes life a hell of a lot less scary.
I was confirmed when I was 13, and I remember walking down the aisle after pledging myself to God, and thinking “I don’t believe in this.” I felt like a fraud. I think that was the first time that I felt that way. It was definitely the strongest impression that feeling ever left. I felt like such a liar, that I could stand up and say one thing, and really feel another way. I think the scariest part of all of that was losing that sense of security. I didn’t have my safety net anymore. This was just the cherry on the top of a shit cake. Life for me seemed to fall apart that year I became a teenager. I was scared of falling and never getting back up, but what was worse then that, was how scared I was of jumping. As the depression got worse, I felt like jumping sometimes. Just to see what would happen. How far I could fall. Where the bottom was. It seemed like there wasn’t a bottom, it was endless. Knowing that I even that the smallest urge to jump, even now, is overwhelmingly terrifying. That you know you hit a point in your life where you just don’t care. It doesn’t matter what happens to you. All you see is how horrible things are for you. The tunnel vision kicks in, and you can’t even see what it’s doing to you. How it consumes you inside out. How it takes control and everything else becomes meaningless. You become your darkness, and it becomes you. It’s everything for you. Comfort and fear to love and hate. It makes decisions for you, and you are no longer yourself. You are a shell of what you were. Depression is a trickster. It plans ideas in your head, and you believe that they are from your mind, but they’re not. You think that those who love you, don’t anymore. You think that your life is meaningless and pointless. You lose hope for everything.
You are out on a ledge overlooking the Grand Canyon. You look down and see the fall. How far down it goes, that you can’t even see the bottom. While the wind whips your hair back and forth, you feel it whisper in your ear. “Do it. Jump.” It seduces you with the idea that the jump would be a good thing for you. That maybe then you’d get some peace of mind.
You don’t get peace of mind. You just get on a carousel that will take you around and around the same cycles for years. For however long it takes you to realize what has been going on. It’s not a ride that you’re meant to get off of. You can, and it’s possible, but it’s difficult. The depression probably has it’s claws in you, very deeply by the point you see what’s going on. Getting off of it and back on solid ground is made much easier when you’re surrounded by some kind of support. Whether it’s strength you draw on from yourself, or if it’s external. You can’t do it without that support. You can try, but even with support, you will likely end back up on the carousel at some point. The rides may be shorter and easier to end, but it’s not something that gets cured and goes away. It will cling to you, and come to you in the most inopportune moments in your life. You can have everything you need and want, but it doesn’t care. Depression will find a way in and find a way to light your insides on fire. It will burn your life if given the chance.
Writing about depression and what goes on in my brain has made it both easier and harder for me to let go of it. I can see patterns and can be more aware of what I do when in the clutches of depression. It makes it harder for me to distance myself from it. I’ve been doing it for so long that it almost seems easier to just stay on my carousel and keep going around and around in my cycles. They’ve matched up with other cycles to a point where I have a blueprint for what will most likely happen. You can gauge what probably will happen in those situations. I don’t know if it’s really a way to live a life. I certainly don’t live mine anymore. I’ve been stuck in neutral for so long that trying to get momentum again is just something I don’t have words for how terrifying it is. And trying to explain what I’ve experienced to others isn’t always something that goes over well. There’s still such misunderstanding that goes on with mental illness that some people will automatically assume that I should be in a psychiatric hospital, and the fact that I’m not is almost unnerving to them. Or you get the opposite where people think that you can just shake it off and it fades away. It’s not something that I can just sleep off, and it’s gone forever. It’s isolating. I already isolate because of the thoughts I have, and what goes on in my brain, but when trying to share that with people and when that doesn’t go over well, you just stop trying. You give up. You keep it inside and pray for it to go away. But then there’s a problem when you don’t believe in a higher power, and your Heavenly Father is gone. You just send words up in the air like smoke to fade away into nothing.
There have been many nights when I wished I was still that kid who felt that warmth. Who could feel that love so readily and so easily. Who could send those words up into the atmosphere and they wouldn’t fade. I could watch them fade into the clouds and I just knew they were heard. I could know with all my heart that someone was watching out for me. That I could get out of neutral and be ok. That I didn’t have to plan my life out to the tiniest detail, that I could just be, I could be alive and be okay.
There were nights that I prayed and prayed so hard for that Heavenly Father to come back. Even for the night, just for a moment of reprieve from this all-consuming thing inside myself. I wanted, even for a moment, to feel that love again. That love without judgments or strings or anything. I could just show this monster I felt I was turning into to something and be loved regardless of it. I still trick myself into thinking that it doesn’t exist. That love like that is something saved for fairytales.
When I went to church Christmas Eve 2003, when I was still in residential treatment for depression, I knew almost immediately that I wasn’t going to feel that warmth I had felt so many years earlier. I was just angry on the outside, and a mess on the inside. I hadn’t done much of the therapy there, and I was so resistant to any kind of change. I wasn’t willing to see any other side to what was going on. All I cared about was what I felt. The service was pretty typical. Then we got to the prayers, I used to love the Apostle’s Creed. I was so proud when I had memorized it. I knew the Lord’s prayer pretty early on. The Apostle’s creed was one I always had trouble with. When the service reached both of those, I lost it when hearing the word Father. I was having difficulties with my own dad at the time and wasn’t in a position to even think about my relationship with the Heavenly Father I once had. I had to leave the chapel, and I just bawled in the lobby of the church.
Within a decade I had come from awe and love to anger and hurt at those words. Things will always change, and sometimes for the worse, and sometimes for the better. I made peace for the most part with my father. I suppose at some point maybe I should make some peace with that Heavenly Father.
Last sunday was my 26th birthday, and while it’s not a major milestone birthday, it felt that way. It wasn’t a big explosive day, or even a loud declaration of a day. It was just a quiet shift. I became a year older, and tried (the keyword here) to not make a big deal about it. Externally, I hope that’s how it was, cause inside it was a big deal. I’m no where near I thought I would be when I looked forward as a kid. Naturally when you’re young even your mid twenties seem eons away. You think that you have forever, because time moves so slowly. Like snails could out run time then.
As soon as you hit your late teens, and shift towards adulthood, time begins to speed up. Maybe you spend less time staring at the clock, waiting for school to get out for the summer. At some point, your focus changes. You worry about university, relationships, what you will be doing with your life. The all consuming idea that we have to find one thing to complete our lives becomes the focus. There’s little else we can see when in that tunnel vision. We lose appreciation for the small things. Those silly jokes exchanged with friends during lunch, the smell that permeates the air as summer shifts to fall, buying school supplies, feeling the sun on our skin. Those things are still there but our focus isn’t it on it. We don’t take that moment to appreciate what we have in front of us, because we are so focused on the goal. The endgame is what we want, not the small things that don’t feel like victories. More often then not, just being alive can be a victory. Being able to breathe fresh air, and feel the sun on our skin and the grass between our toes is enough of a victory, even for a day.
I don’t really know how we shift from being young and feeling like the world is so open and so wonderful to feeling so claustrophobic with needing all of our ducks in a row. That we have to have it all figured out as soon we are in our early twenties. That if we don’t have a path chosen by then, that maybe we aren’t good enough. That we aren’t smart enough or capable enough to make decisions that seem so simple. The truth of it is, it’s not simple. Choosing a path for your life is rarely something we just pick and go with. Often enough we pick one and realize that maybe it’s not a good fit, or that we don’t enjoy it as much as we thought we would. Or sometimes life makes the choice for us. That through circumstances outside of our control, we end up doing something different. We find a different path, and maybe that one doesn’t work either. Then, we feel hopeless, because unlike everyone else we might know, who seem to have it all together, we are floundering. We can’t decide on job, we can’t pick out anything. We are stuck and everyone else isn’t.
Comparison doesn’t do anyone any good. What they have and you don’t have, really at the end of the day doesn’t mean much. It just means that their path is different from yours. It’s no better or worse than anything else. But we have such a capacity to get stuck on it. What this one person has and I don’t. What I got instead of that. What I’m lacking and what they have in plenty. It’s like a hamster running on a wheel or sitting in a rocking chair. It gives us something to obsess over, to analyze again and again until we drive ourselves crazy, but it doesn’t get us anywhere. Instead we are tired, depressed and so very stuck.
Being stuck is something I revisit a lot when I write. It just keeps presenting it’s self as a topic. Whether I want it to or not. It keeps popping up, reminding me of just how stuck I feel. Stuck in depression. Stuck in anxiety. Stuck in those stupid thoughts that have kept me bogged down for so long that it seems like eons. That’s what depression has done to my sense of time. It makes almost everything feel like eons. The bad stuff at least. It stretches it out for eons. It makes me feel like a kid again, waiting until the clock ticked down to 3 and we were out of school for the year. I feel like that again. The heavy sense of anticipation lingering so heavily in the air that the perfume of it is almost smothering. Those last 10 minutes of the school year felt like eons to me. Time in my depression or in a panic attack feels like eons. The best way I can describe it is when they slow things down in a movie. How two people stay perfectly in sync with their time stream but everyone around them slows to a point where their movements are trails behind them. It’s kind of like that. You become lost in a different time stream while everyone seems to be synced up in the world’s time stream. You get dislodged from the world, and lost in your own.
Time flows so differently when you live in your own head. Faster or slower, it doesn’t matter. We feel like we are no longer a viable part of the outside world. So we dive even deeper into our own heads. In a dream or a scenario we wish and pray so hard for it to come true, because then, then I can be happy. I can be someone else. Sometimes we get lost in our hearts. In a love or a heartbreak that just seems to overwhelm everything else. That we crave a family so much that when we see people walking their children with their spouse our heart aches too much to look away. We get lost in those moments that hurt, we get lost in the pain, stretching it out for what feels like eons, but it only lasts a moment.
Pain allows us to distrust a lot. Especially with ourselves. We lose our sense of time. We lose our sense of belonging in the world. We lose ourselves. Our confidence, our ability to speak, our ability to engage with people. We can become so fearful of just making small talk with someone that we isolate and keep our apartments quiet, so that our neighbors don’t engage with us. We lose our courage, and become fearful. I don’t believe we become weak, pain is not something that can be endured with weakness. We endure it with a different kind of strength. I think a lot of people come to the same conclusion about strength. That if you are physically strong, you have a lot of muscles. You look a lot like Thor, or another Superhero. You look strong. But if you are emotionally strong, that it maybe is being stoic and enduring. That it comes with a quiet strength. Maybe it does. But there’s not just the one type of emotional strength. It’s not just quietly living with your pain and surviving it. There’s strength in vulnerability, in sharing, in being open with your struggles. Which is something that some people seem to struggle with understanding. That by actually opening yourself up and sharing some of that pain, you can be strong.
I made this mistake for a long time. I thought that the only way I could be strong was by keeping it all in and denying the existence of any pain. I realized after years of doing that, that for me, it didn’t do any real good. I just feel deeper into my darkness. It’s never a one size fits all scenario. What worked for me may not work for someone else. Combinations of therapies, medications, lifestyle changes, exercise can all contribute greatly, but you have to try a lot of different things before you will find something that works for you. Even the combination I found, only helped so much, because I only really did the work in my therapists office. I took my meds and did what I was supposed to for school, but I wasn’t trying to work through that depression on my own. I retreated to my mind, and maybe that helped. It’s been so easy for me to look back and try to analyze what I did. I look backwards, or forwards. I can’t seem to stop and look around me in the moment. I could argue that I’m too antsy for it, and maybe I am, but if it requires me to get my brain to stop yammering for a moment, oh lord, that’s a tall order.
My brain loves to chat away. I’m always thinking about something that could happen or might happen, always planning something, always doing this or that. Always GO GO GO! I don’t really understand how that came to be, but some people are just wired that way. Some of us have our brains constantly chattering, and some of us have quieter minds. I suppose the grass is always greener. I’ve had suggestions of meditation and yoga, and I enjoy yoga from time to time, and I’ve attempted (keyword there) meditation, but if it’s longer than 10 minutes my brain does off on a tangent. Usually waiting for something stupid to happen. Like in yoga, I’m in a twist of some kind, and I’m afraid that my ass is right in the face of the person behind me, and knowing me (know this well) I’ll fart. Very audibly. Then I’ll get embarrassed and pick up my stuff and immediately leave. This hasn’t happened. (The farting has, but it’s been quiet, and I giggle, quietly. Farts are still hilarious to me.) I’m always anticipating those embarrassing moments, that usually don’t come, and if they do it’s because I get myself worked up because I’m somewhere else, then I get flustered and then I embarrass myself. This is because I’m in my head, and I listen to those stupid chatterchatterchatter thoughts that don’t do any good. They don’t keep me focused on the moment, they don’t keep my focused on the goal or the endgame, they keep me focused on what might happen. That’s not a great place to be. It just doesn’t do anything useful for me. It doesn’t help me plan anything for my day or my life, it just makes everything feel like eons.
This is my question now: How can I learn to control time just a little? How can I have a few moments of just a few moments, not years, or centuries or eons, just a few moments. Just to enjoy the sunshine and the grass between my toes, and my beloved fart jokes.
Still working on that one. Maybe it’s time to make friends with the unknown for a while. See what happens then.