Put Some Pressure On It. #pressure

This last week has been unexpected for me. I’ve written more in the last seven days that I have for probably the last few years. I’ve published them on a blog, and rehashed them on various social media sites. I’ve got a Facebook page for my writing now. I thought I was laying the groundwork for a big week of readers. In my head, I automatically assumed that because I put it up, it will get read by a lot of people. Naturally, I didn’t get hundreds of hits and an overwhelming heap of comments. But I got great feedback on my writing, and I felt good after starting to write about the struggles I’ve had in my life.

So why can’t I be happy with that?

Why can’t I just be happy with the fact that I’m putting my work out there and I’m starting to work myself out of this funk I’ve been in for so long? Truth is, I have no idea. I put pressure on myself when I’m not being creative and that leads to a whole downfall into the rabbit hole of Not Good Enough. I put pressure on myself when I am being creative and that leads to Not Good Enough. Why do I have it in my head that no matter what I do, it’s never going to be good enough. I can feel good, and be happy about what I’ve written/painted/photographed/said but that lasts for a few moments/hours/days then I’m back to the dreaded Not Good Enough. Why that is my default is something I’m still trying to figure out. Whether it’s an age thing, a state of mind, or a consequence of what I’ve experienced in my life I’ll probably never figure it out. I have that problem too. That I have to figure everything out to that last minute detail. Those details can be important, they can help give you a breakthrough or drive you down a new path, but honestly, would knowing every detail really help me? Would it give me some kind of closure and that amazing ability to fully release and let go of my crap? Nope!

I think I like trying to analyze and figure it out to minute details because it forces me to stay in those situations. In that state of mind that I’m comfortable with. I don’t push myself into situations where I know I can grow because I’m scared. Because if I let go of this state of mind then I feel like I lose who I am. I lose my identity.

I lose me.

This is far from the truth though. I know it is. But that irrational scared part of my brain likes to latch on to these not so great ways of being. I think it’s because it’s allowed me to survive. I have these things imbedded so far in my DNA, that it’s almost a comforting thing. That I could lose everything else, but those would be remain.

The complete truth is that I am not those thoughts or those situations. I am allowing myself to believe I am, because I am used to it. I put that pressure on myself because I know that it feeds into those stupid things I cling onto. It’s a cycle that I have built and maintained. What I’m really doing is putting pressure on past wounds, to keep my present and future in line with that past pain.

I put pressure on it to not ease the pain, but to create more.

I keep the Not Good Enough on ready alert all the time. I know that it’s so easy for me to slip into that, then to actually think I’m good at something. I did good today. I put pressure on it to keep the bad stuff in. Like when you’re told to keep pressure on a cut, to help the wound heal it’s self. I’m doing that, but not for good reasons. I’m doing it to keep myself in the dark.

Maybe it’s time to take the pressure off.

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Stars.

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In 1996, when I was 8, I was obsessed with Astronomy. I saved up and went to the Discovery Store at the Mall of America and spent my money on a telescope. This was probably the end of 3rd grade, over the summer gap, and the first half of 4th grade. I spent most of my nights outside looking at stars. This was when the Comet Hale-Bopp was at it’s height of popularity and curiosity. I remember, vaguely, the cults and the superstitions around the Comet. I wasn’t really at an age where I could say I cared about that stuff. What I cared about was the stars. The light from thousands of miles away in the universe. This light that permeated the night sky. I spent those months reading about stars and learning the constellations. I could tell you where the planets where in the night sky, when you could see Venus and Mars, which lights in the sky where Jupiter and Saturn because of the way they reflected light. (There’s a difference between the gas planets and non-gas planets. The Gas is more reflective of the Sun’s light.) I knew the stories behind the constellations. How Cassiopeia was the mother who tied her daughter, Andromeda to a rock and left her for dead. How Orion and his dog, Canis Major, were mighty hunters. I learned everything I could about the universe and our solar system. I prided myself on knowing the planets, being able to name them in order and where the names came from. I loved this so much. Stars, Planets, Comets, Nebulas and The Universe. I lost interest in it about 6 months later, the die hard love for it flittered away, and was replaced again by history for a time, then I delved into the dark once I hit middle school. I didn’t realize that I had already spent time in the dark, out in the backyard looking at the stars.

I had continued to have an occasional flirtation with Astronomy. When I was 8, I wanted to be an Astronomer, but that idea was quickly dashed when I realized how much math was involved. I have never understood math. I was never geared toward Math and Science, I hated taking those classes in school, and managed to get by with minimal effort. I wish I had learned how to understand it, and like it. I’m not well versed in the mechanics behind Physics. I’ve been drawn to it though. I ended up briefly dating a Math/Physics Major, and a Theoretical Physicist. But they never really talked about it with me. Those relationships were brief for a reason, we didn’t have much in common. I think they liked the facts and evidence behind all of it, and I loved the poetic awe inspiring aspect of The Universe. The way that poets refer to stars and how you can look up at the night sky and feel so small, but connected at the same time.

In more recent bouts with my personal darkness, I have returned to the Stars as a beacon of hope. To try to squash the darkness within by using the external darkness as a way to remind myself that while my problems are important, in the end they will end with me. Those thoughts I have, and the lies I tell myself will not continue after I die. The cycles of up and down, and the depression I have will not last beyond that last breath. Thinking about death is intimidating, it is a literal end to our consciousness and to these lives we lead. But when I look up and see the illumination cast on our atmosphere by stars so far away, and remember that most of those stars are probably dead and gone. It can be kind of a comforting thought, that even after we are physically gone, we can leave a light behind. We can leave a legacy for those in the future to possibly find some comfort in.

I see these things on the internet all the time, of how we are made of stars. Our bodies and every thing single on this planet, from person to car to plant to sea to rock was created out of a star that died long ago. I suppose you could argue that we are born out of death. The atoms in our bodies came from different stars and different places in the universe. They came from different points in time and space to create us. Our specific make up of atoms is unique to us. No one else will ever have those same atoms in that particular arrangement ever again. I always thought that beautifully poetic. That we are genuinely unique. Our atoms, our thoughts, our memories, our experiences are all unique to us. We have common threads with others, but the particular arrangement of all of those is purely ours. We own that. I suppose you could argue that we don’t own it, that we are merely renting it. I guess that depends on your specific belief system. I’ve struggled with faith and questioned it. I was raised Lutheran. I was baptized, confirmed and went to sunday school. I believed in God, but it felt so similar to believing in Santa Claus for me. That if I believe in this man, and do good I will be rewarded. Of course as a kid, I just wanted the toys, so I would be good for that. I was an angry Atheist for a while, and I felt so strongly about it. That people who believe in some kind of higher power are just deluding themselves. I don’t subscribe to that anymore. People will believe a multitude of things in their lives, and I’m not in a position to say that one belief system is any better than another. I’m not okay with people pushing their specific beliefs on to another person, and I’m not okay with people getting up on a soap box decrying anything other than their own. I think that belief can be a source of comfort for some people, while they try to make sense of their lives and their place in the universe. I’m not going to take that away from people. This world can be a huge and scary place, and any kind of good comfort we can get and use should be supported. Pushing one way because you believe is it the right way is not okay. The world is diverse for a reason, we need to celebrate our differences and revel in our commonalities. The Universe is a scary enough place without us at each other’s throats. It seems, to me, to be a waste of time and of our short time on this planet. Especially when there are so many people wandering around in their own darkness. We should be helping each other to find the light and the joy, and to carry each other through those dark times. Instead of ignoring it and allowing us to succumb to our own personal hells. We are all representative of the universe. We are made of stardust, we should f*cking act like it.

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Without that darkness I have lived in, I could not cherish the idea of there being light within me. Of there being a chance of my light peeking out through the darkness that seemed to blanket me so heavily. For years there were no stars in my sky, it was nothing more than an absolute all consuming black that was ravenous. It would have consumed me whole if I submitted to it. For a long time I did. I surrendered to it, and allowed it to permeate my thoughts, to cloud them with a gloomy haze. To overwhelm my heart, to freeze and it make it feel unusable. I felt that my brain was useless and my heart wouldn’t beat. I felt stripped of my humanity. I was on my fifth round of anti-depressants, and this was the time I finally let them work. It was just enough to get a kick in the ass to start working on what I need to. It’s a long process to come out of a pitch black night, to begin to poke holes in your dark sky to allow the light in. The stars in my sky are slowly starting to come out, and I find comfort in that. There aren’t as many as I would like, but it’s a slow process. I have to remember to be patient, for it will come with it’s ready. You can’t force yourself to purge that darkness out in one fell swoop. I wish it worked like that, but alas, it doesn’t. Nothing does. Anything worth having in life, will be hard work. You may sacrifice things along way, and the path will not be clear, and most likely be bumpy and rocky, but you have to keep your eye on the prize at the end of it.

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Comparison (Valentine’s Day Edition)

Comparison is the Devil.

 

It’s Valentine’s day today. This is a holiday I have had a lifelong hatred of. The hearts and the super cute factor of it, even as a kid, made me want to dry heave. I always liked the chocolate that I got, but hated anything heart shaped. Even as a kid, when we had to give out those little card to everyone in class, my mom would have to physically force me to sign them I protested every year, and once I finally got past the age where we had to do it, I felt so relieved. As an adult, there is an onslaught of the sweetness of this holiday, from television to conservations to Facebook, it’s everywhere. I don’t feel happy about it. I just feel like I’ll end up with diabetes from exposure to the over-saturated sweetness of this day. I think what really irks me now is seeing the posts that people made on social media. It’s so easy to sit and feel badly about yourself by seeing what they have and you seem to lack. The love that is proclaimed on this day is, to me, really sickening. I never seemed to understand why we have to have just one day to proclaim our love for someone. Isn’t that something we should do every day? Not just with grand gestures once a year, but with smaller gestures, actions and words that show it everyday. 

 

Naturally, I woke up this morning feeling crabby. I didn’t even realize it was Valentine’s until I checked my phone and then made the realization of “God damn, not today!” It put me in a bad mood for no real reason. I went about with my routine, checking email and Facebook (I spent way too much time on there) and the first few posts showed nothing to do with the holiday. Then, for several scrolls that’s all it was. People waking up to heart shaped food, people getting flowers and gifts and other people proclaiming their love for their partner. I could feel the bile start to rise in my throat. I’m unattached, and most of the time, it doesn’t bother me. I’ve not found someone who I would want to be with, and I’m okay with it (most of the time.) I don’t have a need for it at this particular moment. I’m figuring my own stuff out and working on fighting off my demons. Which is where I need to be. So why does it bother me so much? Why does this one day drive me insane? 

 

I think it forces my brain to delve into those insecurities that I like to ignore. I’ve taken to calling them the “nots.” Those stupid things my brain launches into my thoughts, sometimes randomly. The you’re not good enough, not smart enough, not worthy enough. Those things that I’m beginning to see aren’t true, but when you’ve been riding that tilt-a-whirl for so long, it’s hard to come off of it and not have some kind of whiplash. I’m starting to get off the ride, and I’m experiencing the whiplash already. I can feel those “nots” breathing down the back of my neck. It doesn’t mean that they are front and center all the time, but they definitely are an active part of my life. I don’t want them, I don’t believe that anyone would want that. We should love each other and love ourselves. It’s something that sounds so easy, but at least for me, it’s harder to put into practice. I love people, and have had great luck with having amazing friends who are nothing but supportive, and I hope that I am able to reciprocate that. That’s a love that I need very much. The romantic kind has never been my forte. It makes me anxious at best, and at worst, it’s a horrible thing that goes through my brain. I delude myself into thinking I don’t deserve it, and while being aware of it is good, it doesn’t really help the problem. I have an easier time putting my attention on people I know I genuinely don’t have a shot in hell with. 

I set myself up for disappointment down the road, but honestly sometimes that’s easier than running the risk of being open with someone. In my mind, I’d rather reach for the unattainable, then I can keep the course I’m on. I can keep my heart protected, and not have to worry about pain. To keep that hardened heart locked away in a cage, because then I’m safe. I’m able to continue to live. I can survive that way. It’s kept me going this far, it can’t be a horrible way to go is it?

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Truth is it’s nothing more than a giant chunk of bullshit I feed myself. At a young age I adapted it because it seemed like a good way to keep some of the pain at bay, to avoid further pain and to avoid feeling abandoned again. There is no way to truly protect yourself from pain. It doesn’t work that way. All I’ve done is keep myself from experiencing that part of life. Maybe that means that if I can have a moment of clarity (really pulling my head out of my ass) I can enjoy it when it comes. I’m not looking for it, but I can only hope that someday it will. I just have to be ready for it when it comes. Despite all of that, it’s not to say that it couldn’t work out with those people, but when you spend half your time thinking that you’re just a worthless piece of shit, doesn’t really bode well for much does it?

 

 

So here I sit comparing myself to people on Facebook, which honestly I think many of us are guilty of. It’s so easy to look at what people post, and think “God they have an amazing life! They have it all!” The truth is that what we see is so carefully constructed. We only see their highlights. We compare our messy behind the scenes to the glimmer of their highlights. 

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Which isn’t fair to anyone. We don’t see other people’s bad days, the moments where they breakdown, those moments of pure joy, and the tender moments they share with someone else. We don’t experience what they experience, we don’t feel what they feel. It’s easy to get lost in the idea that someone else has it so easy when we have it so hard. It’s simply not true. Everyone has moment of hardship and days when it’s easy to get through life. It’s so easy to slip into the idea that someone else is perfect, and we are just a messy slob who can’t figure it out. Which I think is part of the reason why we like to tear people apart and put them down. Maybe we are projecting false ideas and jealously onto them, maybe not. I know I’m guilty of making assumptions, and we all know what assuming makes us. (An ass of you and me.)  It’s so fucking easy to listen to a song, especially a heartfelt song about love, and assume that the person who wrote it is some infallible being who’s perfectly in touch with every emotion and can always articulate themselves so beautifully. That can be the case sometimes, people can be in touch with their emotions and know how to express them, but no one is infallible. From my limited experience with songwriters, they don’t sit down and write every song in one go and it’s perfect the first time. It can take a long time and a lot of editing to reach that final version, the version that people end up hearing. The one that people can think makes them perfect. Perfection is a trickster. It doesn’t exist, but we think it does. 

 

 

I think that’s a thing that many people look for in a person to share their lives with, to have a relationship. They want someone perfect who can be their other half. I’ve always hated the quote from Jerry Maguire, “You complete me.” I loved it when I was a pre-teen and could engage is the romantic notion that someone could come along and complete you as a person. I grew up with Disney and Prince Charming, which looking bad is a kind of a horrible thing to put into anyone’s head. That you have to wait around for someone else to come and make your life better, to be your other half. It’s not a horrible notion to have someone help you make your life better, and you make you be a better person, but the idea that we aren’t a whole person until we love someone else is an idea I’m not comfortable with. I had a “Zen for Dummies” book, back when I was toying around with it, and I liked what they had under relationships. “That you are a whole person, and they are a whole person. You are two whole people choosing to make a life together.” It was something along those lines. That you aren’t looking for someone to fill in your gaps, but rather that you are both two whole people beautifully flawed choosing to say I like you, I want to have a life with you. You are with them because you want to be not because you need to be. Maybe I’m detached from romantic love, and the idea of passion is nice, but I’ve read too many articles saying that the initial passion of love, that honeymoon phase isn’t going to enough to build a life. It’s great for a good time, but I’m not interested that. I’d take dedication and commitment over passion any day of the week, and it probably sounds boring, but I’d rather have a life with someone. Not a few months of fun. I don’t know if it’s a point of maturity in life, or if I just have railed against what Disney taught me as a kid, but I like the idea of genuinely wanting a life with someone else. Not because you have to. I watched my parents marriage as a kid and even now. I still don’t know if they got together because it was expected of them, or if it was something else. I do think they were dedicated, and they at least liked each other, but they ended up getting divorced. So many marriages end in divorce for a multitude of reasons, and that’s a whole other conversation, but I’m going to be selfish and say that I’m choosing to do it because I want to, not because I should. The same thing applies to having children. I don’t want to do it because I should. I want to have children because there are two of us that want them. I know I’m trying to avoid having some cycles follow through to the next generation. I spent most of my life wondering if I was loved. (I now know I am) I don’t any children I might have to question that for a minute, ever. 

 

 

Maybe that’s my comparison. I’ve compared what I want to what I should do, and I’m not interested in what those should be’s are. Valentine’s Day is another should. Those subtle messages of you should be with someone, you should be in love. Don’t do it just to do it. I think that’s a stupid reason to decide to do something. Oh, Valentine’s Day, you make me irritated but at least you helped my writer’s block! Maybe you’re good for something after all. 

 

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Labels

Labels.

Labels. Where do I start with this? Those words we attach to ourselves, to others, to things created and purchased, to items consumed, to items discarded, to feelings, to thoughts, to actions, to everything. Labels are often how we can organize and compartmentalize the world. For better and for worse, these words are what helps us get through the messiness of it all. How we can divide and unite, lift up and bring down, use and abuse, how we suffer and delight. These are tricky little things.

When I was a teenager, what I used to label was music, books and people. I went to a high school that ranked among the top 200 in the country, and, I will admit to this now, it was a damn good school. Did I care at the time? Hell no. All I cared about what how I saw the people I went to school with. How our dynamics had changed so drastically since what seemed to be those carefree days of elementary school, where money and status of our family didn’t matter quite as much. We just wanted to run around outside, sit in the mud and genuinely not give a shit about anything. You look back and notice how cliques started to take hold, and how people started to get compartmentalized and labeled. Pretty enough, smart enough, rich enough, and the flip side of not pretty enough, not smart enough, not rich enough. There were those who were at the very middle, the people who were average, those who slipped through the cracks of it. I had spent most of my middle school years swimming through those awkward teenage waters, (I’ll be honest, I’m still bobbing in the waves of those seas.) and it’s hard to realize that you’re not like everyone else. We try so hard to shove ourselves into this idea of what we should be. That often we ignore who we are. I don’t think this is an area that is isolated completely to middle school and those awkward years of puberty, I think we often spend our lives navigating those waters, trying to find a way to land. Most of us will end up kind of settling for the fact that we can’t afford to what we want, so we get a job we hate, and have a family to support. We bite the bullet and live a life that we don’t necessarily hate, but we don’t necessarily enjoy like we ought to. That isn’t applied to just working a job we hate, but to our we view ourselves.

We live in this grey area between hate and love, between black and white. Sometimes we believe that it is only black and white, or even grey. We don’t come to realize that there are so many other colors in this world, and that can be a very demoralizing thing to realize. If you manage to hit the point where you can accept the hard truth that we will have many aspects of both in our lives, we will have the hard and the easy, the black and the white, I think it can be easier to begin to see the other colors there. Those colors of anger, and of pure joy, of frustration and of ease, of annoyance and of toleration. Those little things that we do feel, but often enough don’t really allow ourselves to feel completely. I think there is still a bit of that “We don’t talk about these things” in our society. That maybe if this stuff was brought out into the open, we wouldn’t be able to continue repressing them. Mental Health, LGBTQ issues, Equality for EVERYONE, Religion, Politics, Education, Differences between the Social Classes, Stereotypes, Misrepresentation of Human Bodies, (I’m looking at you photoshop!) you can probably think of many other topics, but we don’t accept these as readily as we should. These are issues that make most people squirm in their seats, or they don’t know they exist. I’m not going to launch into a long rant about them, because me screaming my issues on the internet isn’t the way to change things, maybe it will get someone to open their mind to see that there are so many other ways of life, and to be, and to recognize that each is valid. There are things that make me want to rip my hair out and punch people in the face, but that doesn’t accomplish anything. Screaming doesn’t do anything. Anger just poisons things. Hatred is bullshit. These are all things that affect the person doing or feeling them, even then it just starts to poison them.

I grew up with an idea that I was supposed to be one way. I was supposed to fit into this cookie cutter idea of what a girl should be. And I did it for most of my life. I was the little blonde haired girl that loved barbies and playing dress up. I played that part beautifully. I don’t look back at it and want to trade out the barbies for G.I Joe actions figures or wish I had spent more time playing Army instead of House. I enjoyed my childhood, because my Mom was willing to let me play with what I wanted. It was probably what I was supposed to play with, but it is what it is. I was a happy kid who didn’t think about stereotypes and what I was supposed to be. I was ignorant and happy. It wasn’t until I was a teenager, and I was in residential treatment for my depression (among other things) that someone pointed out the flaws in my childhood. I was left home alone a lot, my dad and brother were home as well doing their own things, and I would be up in my room playing with my toys. I had my imagination, I didn’t consider myself to be alone. My mom had a scary temper when I was growing up, she was frustrated with my dad and with how we were living. I remember the tension in the house, and it was always so thick you could probably have cut it with a knife. I remember her yelling a lot, and being scared of that. Even to this day, I can’t be around people who yell, it’s a trigger for me. She unleashed it on my dad, the screaming, the one sided fighting, the broken dishes. She used to spank us when we did something bad. That’s what it was like when she grew up in the 50s and 60s. They spanked. I’m not justifying it, I’m personally not okay with it, but it’s what she thought was an appropriate punishment for us doing something bad, because her parents had done it. I was not a well behaved kid, hyperactive and wild child. I’m not going to use the bullshit term for it and say I was spirited. I was a wild child, and I liked to push buttons. I can only imagine how frustrated she would get with me.

When I was in treatment, we had a family therapy session, with both parents. I’m still very surprised my dad showed for any of it. Therapy was not his cup of tea. Somehow my mom’s anger came up, and I remember my dad very vividly, saying my mom physically abused me. Because she had left a hand print a few times when she spanked me. That’s a whole grey area of discussion that I don’t really want to get into, but I remember feeling some mixture of disgust and surprise that he would think that. It was a few times, and I never had an inkling of it being abuse. I suppose it’s all point of view, and it’s a very touchy subject, but I personally haven’t viewed that as abuse. I remember retorting a few sessions later that he had emotionally abused us. Neglect is another grey area. Isn’t everything just one big grey area? I think his lack of interest felt more damaging that the hand print on my ass. Neither one is good, they are both things I don’t like. I think that was the session that I asked him point blank why he packed up and left like a thief in the night. His answer was “he had to take care of himself.” That’s still a very sore spot for me. I hated that answer, it only served to make me more angry and more hateful. I’ve spent a long time feeling like I wasn’t good enough to be cared for by him. I wasn’t good enough to be loved. This only poured more fuel on my self hatred fire. I didn’t realize until later on that it’s part of being a child of alcoholic. We will work twice as hard for half the recognition. We strive for our whole lifetimes to be loved by our alcoholic parent. We want what we will probably never get, since they usually aren’t in a position to give it. We contort ourselves to fit what they want us to be. And often enough we find that we do that for everyone else we come across. We sacrifice who we are, for who we are supposed to be.

I feel like I sacrificed those years where I could begin to explore who I am, for ensuring my survival. My shit went on the back-burner, because I made the decision to caretake my mom during her stuff. My stuff bubbled up from time to time, and it was always just under the surface, but it wasn’t who I was. It was who I felt I was supposed to be. That tricky little fucker that deludes you into thinking that is who you really are. That this role you play at times of crisis is all you will ever amount to be. That came about during that transition in middle school, during that internal struggle to be what everyone else is. To be what society wants you to be. Sometime during seventh grade is when depression came out to play, and it’s been trailing behind me like that tricky little ghost ever since. It’s been a strong presence in my life, and I have come to accept that I will have to fight it until I die. I don’t want to say I suffer from it. I’ve never liked saying I suffer from depression and anxiety. For me, it felt like I was giving them that power to control me. To be the defining aspect of who I am. “I’m Rachel, and I’m depressed.” I’m not my depression, nor is my depression me. It is an aspect of myself, and it has, for better or worse, been a defining aspect of my life. It has both abused me and pushed me down, and allowed me to survive through some of the worst. I was able to retreat into it when I couldn’t handle the rest of what was going on. Maybe the blessing of it was that it stripped away that need for me to be who I was supposed to be. That once I was able to fight it off enough to be able to breathe, then I could try to figure out who I am. Maybe not, it could all be a big chunk of bullshit I’m feeding myself, but I’d rather try to see the silver lining of it.

Those ideas I grew up with how I should be are gone. I’m not going to be this tall thin blonde with an Ivy League degree who can do everything like Wonder Woman, and is perfect all the time. I was never going to be that woman. Because she doesn’t exist. No one in the world is perfect. NO ONE. That’s the main thing I thought I was supposed to be growing up. That I had to be perfect. Thank god, I’m not. What I got instead, I’m happy with, sometimes. There are still parts I utterly despise. Those messy dirty parts that I get so embarrassed over, they will always be there. I have to accept them. I have to accept the dark, because I will never be pure light. No one is. We are human beings, with both light and dark. We are so different, and for a good reason, because if we were all the same, how fucking boring would that be?  Those labels we use, for good and bad, help show the differences between us all. They show the light and the dark and the grey in-between. They show the blues, purples, yellows, oranges, reds, greens and every other color on the planet. They show us who we are supposed to be and who we are. It’s up the person to decide which one to be.

As my short (thanks grandma!) brunette, tattooed, yoga pant loving, burping, sometimes socially awkward, loving books too much, UK obsessed, too sarcastic for my own good, weird sense of humor, feisty, chatterbox (around people I know), wishing I was a better writer, self hating, depressed, anxious, need some self loving, learning how to crack my own walls, harry potter loving self, I’m saying that I will what I can to be who I am. To accept all the parts, to learn to love them, and to rework my labels. I’m sure I will have many people not like me, but with them out of the way it only makes more room for those who will like me. It doesn’t come overnight, it will be a life long process. But the most important thing of all of it, is that I can learn to live with myself. Labels and all.

The most important relationship I will ever have is with myself. That’s the one I’m going to start working on.

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“Love yourself. You are the only one like you that will ever exist.”

Of Storms and Books.

It’s 3 am, and I’m sitting here drinking a pot of coffee I just made. My artistic side wants to say that I’m up being creative, and my classy side wants to say that I’m up writing (which I am). In reality, and my complete honesty, I’m up because I’m thinking. That little nagging voice that keeps me from sleeping, since the day I was born, always up at odd hours. While I like to pretend that I’m up having a creative breakthrough writing some ground breaking piece on my struggles though life listening to Bach or Beethoven, you know being a “real” writer. I’m really sitting here surrounded by paint I bought years ago that only kind of gets used, a half finished painting that I’m not sure what the fuck is going on with it, and listening to the Harry Potter soundtracks, because I am revisiting my angsty teenage years. The ones that the series about a wizard boy got me through. The ones that I hate, and am sometimes grateful for, which sounds odd. I do have these moments of enlightenment (I really want to call them “pulling my head out of my ass moments” but that always gets the stink eye vote) where I can pretend to understand that every single thing happens for a reason, and that I am genuinely grateful for my dark shadows and my trials through life, because they made me who I am now. I like who I am most of the time (okay, just some of the time) but I know that I am a hell of lot smarter and more capable because of that shit I went through. (I have no problem referring to it as shit, because that’s how it felt. Shitty.) It doesn’t mean that I like it, or that I wish it hadn’t have happened, but it did. It is what it is. Shit. So I’m sitting here, listening to the music that accompanies the visual representation of the books that kept me going. I feel like a cliche saying that Harry Potter kept me going, and it feels really silly typing it out, knowing that someone will read it, and hopefully not laugh at it. But regardless of my embarrassment at it, and feeling silly, it’s the truth. Books have always had a strong impact on my life. They were my lifeboat, allowing me to escape to another world for a few hours, to a place where I didn’t hate myself. Where I didn’t think I was too stupid, too fat, to inept for life. I could live in whatever time and place I wanted. Music gave me the same outlet. They were both these amazing teleportations devices for me, that I could remove myself from the physical world and be someone else. I later used them as a form of therapy. I sought out the music that was able to articulate how I felt; the anger, the hatred, the sadness, the depression, the longing and the loneliness. Someone else understood this! THEY GET IT! As a teenager who felt so cut off from the world, to have any kind of lifeline was gift that I can never fully express how thankful I am for it. 1551678_410032159132626_1434690353_n It takes courage, maybe some kind of stupid courage, to share your soul with people. To share what hurts you, and what makes your heart beat. To share what you would die for, and what has nearly killed you. To cut yourself open and be brave enough to say, THIS IS ME, is a rare form of courage. Not many people are willing to drag their dirty laundry out to air in public and to rip the skeletons out of their closet, and not fear the consequences for it. So many of us work so hard to repress those dark dirty little secrets, that honestly aren’t that dirty or that dark. Those scars that we hide with too much makeup and too big smiles. So many people are so good at hiding them, that sometimes we can just almost forget they are there, hiding just beneath the surface. We feel the rumble of the thunder as the storm builds, sometimes there’s a crackle of lightning that comes out as some misdirected emotion launches it’s self at some unsuspecting victim. We all have storms within us. Sometimes we flood and it over takes us. Sometimes we learn to control the thunder and the lightning, directing it to where it needs to go, to where we want it to go. Learning to control those storms is something that takes years to perfect, and unless you’re Storm from X-Men, most of us don’t have the natural ability for it. It’s like trying to read a book in Greek out loud to people who only understand Russian. I’m not a meteorologist. I don’t understand weather patterns or know what a cold front means. (I know what the cold is though, I live in Minnesota. It’s known for the cold and snow for a reason.) I don’t know what it’s like to be able to predict the weather. When it comes to the storm within me, I’m still confused sometimes. I can feel the thunder rumbling through my belly, and the lightning crackling through my veins, but often enough I don’t know how to anticipate what it will mean. I will feel sad, then feel depressed (They are very, very different beasts. That’s a whole another discussion though.) then will feel happy. I now have a capacity to feel light, and some kind of joy. Those are still foreign to me. I don’t understand how I can feel like my feet are no longer on the ground, after wearing cement shoes for so much of my life, the idea of feeling weightless is something my brain can not truly begin to process without have a massive clog in the intake of information. It’s reaching out and wanting to understand, but it can’t quite reach that mark yet. Some times I wonder if my brain is fully capable of understanding anything other than darkness. The idea that all I am in this life is just dark is at the forefront of my mind almost constantly. I wonder if my true capacity for love, joy and light was scooped out when I was young, or if never existed at all. If I was just happy when I was little, because I was truly ignorant of anything other than being a kid. I know I’ve spent my life deluding myself. I pull the wool over my own eyes. This deceitful trickery was only amplified by the skills of depression, how it rearranges and destroys everything it touches. It takes perfectly functional people and turns them into hollowed out shells of who they once were. It strips them of the capacity to be who they should be, of that potential to be even greater than they thought they could be. It only feeds us lies about what we are, how good we are and what we are worth. The inception of that deceit lies with the awakening of depression, those flames get fanned by us, we allow those lies to grow from a seed into creeping ivy that will cover us wholly and refuse to loosen it’s grip until we are engulfed by it. Lifeboats from the storm are what keep us alive. Literally and figuratively. They help us endure those storms that threaten to flood us, and they ensure our safety back to land. Whatever form they come, a lifeboat is something to be grateful for. I am grateful for mine, they came in the form of a protection for my mind, when it would run it’s self ragged from self hatred. There are no proper works for how grateful I am to the woman who wrote those stories about the little wizard boy who had the world on his shoulders. She was able to articulate how I, and so many others felt. As silly as it maybe, they helped ensure my survival to this point in my life. 1509761_405804639555378_1594513590_n

Fear

Note: 2/6/14 This is an extremely rough draft of my ramblings. I’m still adding to it and editing it, but I was pretty happy with what came out of it.

 

Fear.

This is a tricky subject. Due to the fact that is both general and specific. We have our fears as a society, as a country and as a planet. Then we break it down to fears of a community, a family and a person. You can choose to write about the broad things that scare all of us. Horror films are usually a good allegory for what scares us. Ghosts remind us our past transgressions. Aliens and films set in the future remind us of the unknown, of what lies before us. Both can be equally terrifying in the right context.

While an individual can be terrified of both those things, the past and the future. What really scares us? What induces blood curdling screams and chill us to our bones? That one, I’m afraid (even fear is there!) I can’t answer that. I can talk about what scares me, in both the general and the specific contexts. Generally, I’m afraid of heights, I don’t do well on rollercoasters. I’m afraid of the unknown. Sometimes I’m afraid of the dark. Both literally and figuratively. You watch enough horror films, you end up convincing yourself that there’s an axe wielding maniac ghost hiding in your closet. You know there’s not, but you go into some irrational place where you can convince yourself of anything. That’s another fear of mine. This place in the darkness where you can trick yourself into believing things that aren’t true. But because you believe them, they end up becoming your gospel. Fears and Labels. Especially those you give yourself, those are what sticks. They can be a long standing source of fear.

Fear can be utterly crippling. Anxiety that stems from these fears keeps us stuck. Refusing to move forward and to walk out of these shadows that threaten to overtake us. There are so many different metaphors for depression, sadness and anxiety. There are so many metaphors for Mental Health issues, that because of fear, don’t get brought out into the light so that they can be treated and talked about. That scares me. We all deal with this to some degree. There are people who fall into the rabbit hole and never return because they don’t receive the help they need. There are people who wander through life trying to figure out why no one will talk to them, not understanding that it’s not their fault, that it comes down to an issue that we don’t understand as well as we should. Mental Health care is just as vital to our survival as traditional medicine, but there are still such strong taboos around it. Which is something I do not understand at all. We welcome sad movies and sad songs into our lives, and commend those who write them for being so brave for sharing these things with the world, but when it comes to our own stories, we zip our lips and keep quiet. I’m not saying that everyone should bring every skeleton out of their closet, and air their dirty laundry for public consumption, but how in this day and age can we truly be so ignorant of it all?

We are so quick to pass judgement and just assume that those with depression are not able to handle the pressures of “normal” life. That they just cannot assume responsibilities like “normal” people. That they’re “different” and “weird.” There is a strong feeling of stigma attached to anyone who willingly shares their pain. Like they’re releasing this secret into the atmosphere that should never be seen by anyone. If we don’t see it, it’s not there. Denial is an easy defense against things we don’t understand. We shouldn’t try to understand it, so it’s lets just sweep it under the rug and hope it’s disappears. The problem with that aspect is that it can be fatal. It can eat you a live if you let it. The thing is that it can be treated and prevented if we accepted it as part of the human condition.

For me, it comes with both fear and anger. The ignorance and denial never allowed my family to fully form. The cycles started well before any of us were even born, but they have continued through us. These cycles that are subtle and can morph themselves into different forms for each person. These silent time bombs that just wait for the right time to go off, then BAM! They are fully formed and here to stay. My anger moved from the person affected to the issue it’s self. I was so angry with my parents for so long, for reasons I can’t honestly say I understood, but anger was the easiest feeling. Because then you don’t have to understand, you don’t see how far down it goes. I think I was fearful of seeing that, of seeing them as flawed human beings with issues. I wanted to maintain this look of pride and wonder I had adapted as a kid, that they were superheroes and could do anything. Of course they aren’t, but I do miss that optimism that I had a kid, the look of wonder and hopefulness. Those rose colored glasses through which I viewed the world. Those glasses were ripped off very quickly, and everything I knew about the world came crashing down and I felt like I had been gutted like a fish. I was a dark shell of what I was. Depression came in and filled that shell with a dark comfort that kept me in twisted survival mode. I was half alive and angry. That anger was directed at my parents, because as a 13 year old they are the easiest target, and I had in my head that they were the source of everything wrong with me. That was when we all fell into the dark seemingly bottomless rabbit hole, kept in a state of stasis since that tumble.

What I saw, and honestly still see most of the time, is how our mental health issues have affected us. My mom fell into a parallel with me. Sometimes I wonder if we are the same person. We have many comparable issues and a lot of common ground. I ended up being her caretaker, which is a role that I still carry out to this day. I put my stuff on the backburner to make sure she would survive. I was already on auto pilot, so I figured what was a little extra weight? I was afraid that if I didn’t do things the right way, and make sure she was ok, she wouldn’t survive. She punished herself in ways that I never indulged, and because of that inability to understand it on my part, I became fearful. I feared for her. I’m still afraid that if I walk away, she will succumb to her issues. I know it’s not true, she’s so much stronger than her issues, but that’s the caretaker mind set. I have to do it, because if I don’t then it will all fall apart. Fear is a powerful motivator to stay stuck. It keeps you paralyzed. I don’t know how to get moving again. I’ve been this way for most of my life. How do you kick yourself out of survival mode to thriving mode?

(I don’t like this sentence) The main aspect of all of the mental health in my family came barreling towards me when I began to see the parallels between my dad and myself. I spent years hating him. I blamed him for my empty shell, for gutting me by leaving. I know where my abandonment issues stem from. I used to think he left because of me, and in that irrational portion of my brain I still do. That 13 year old inside my head that hates everything, and just wants to be left alone to be consumed by the darkness. My dad and I both shut down, becoming completely and utterly closed off from the world. We retreat into our heads and try to rationalize, but then the parallels I have with my mom keep those emotions close. I have them both fighting in my head, the rationalizations and the emotions fight for dominance. The shutting down wins most of the time. I bottle and repress as much as I can. Keeping it inside is how I keep going. That’s my survival. Keep it locked inside behind those walls and keep the one thing that keeps me human, my heart, under lock and key. I think that’s what my dad does too. He keeps it all locked away because it’s easier to survive. I don’t know if he hit a point where he couldn’t handle it, or if he was wired for it, but he numbed himself away from reality, from those emotions. He survived by drinking. Alcohol kept him functional, in a kind of half life for years. Until it doesn’t. I can’t understand why he is that way. I just know that mental health, and the denial kept him from being the person he was supposed to be. It kept me from having a dad. It happened well before he met my mom or even had us kids. That’s a big part of my anger with the stigma around mental health. I wonder if they had been able to help him after he came back from Vietnam, and if he had kept his alcoholism under a tighter rein, if I could have an active dad. I wonder if my mom had been able to be who she was supposed to be earlier, if she would have been able to fight back against those demons that were nipping at her heels for years. I think about a lot of what-if’s but those are the painful ones. Because those are the one that offer a completely different life. Maybe then I could have been a functional person, I could have learned how to love, I could have known that being open is a good thing, and that it’s worth it to try. Instead of being stuck in my mud, my heart locked away in a cage, and feeling empty. Maybe then I could have told myself I was good enough and that I do deserve good things in life. I now know that the love was there, but it’s not accessible. It’s like we all speak different languages, we can find a few common phrases, but we are all essentially alone. Alone with our fear.

I feel alone with my fear. I don’t know how to communicate it with people. I don’t know how to fight it, and how to overcome it. Fear keeps me from going after what I want in life. I think mostly because I don’t really truly understand it. I get the theory of it, and can guess at the rest, but if it were to fall in my lap. I wouldn’t know what to do with it. The main thing I’ve realized I want is to break my cycle. I want to get out of this trap that was set. I want to have my go with a family that doesn’t keep love locked away, that doesn’t fear each other. I want security and comfort. I want to feel like I deserve it, and I want to burn that cage around my heart. I want that shit gone. It was last year when I decided that I want kids. But only under the circumstance that it be different than what I had. I know I was loved, but I spent so long questioning it. I don’t want them to ever question it, and have to worry that they were wanted, even for a second. I don’t want any of that denied to anyone in my life. My brain tells me that I’m not good enough for it, and that I don’t deserve to be loved. Never good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, deserving enough. You don’t deserve to lick the dirt off of someone’s boots, let alone be a partner and parent.  Through that my brain tells me that I will never get what I want. So why bother?

Fear takes over.

So here’s a new thing I want to try, “FUCK YOU, FEAR!!”

 I hope that can replace the lies I tell myself, and replace those labels I burned into my heart. Those lies I trick myself into believing. I do deserve love, and good things in my life along side those not so good things. Kick fear aside and begin to thrive. That’s my new goal.

I am.

Memoir Poem for English (2005)

Where am I from?

I am from the oak tree

I used to climb

that is no longer there

I am from the

piano tunes

and faded black and white photos

I am from the

persistent wanderings

and unconditional loving

I am from the

three generations

of Chuck Taylors

I am from the

old rusted swing out back

and the used guitar

I am from the

music loving

introvert

I am from the

attention loving

extrovert

I am from

many things

but those things

made me