Faith

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.

Heavenly Father

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.

 

Eons

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.

Ghosts

 

I started wondering about ghosts. Like one of those beings that you can’t ever really see but you can hear from time to time on those Friday night reality shows I watch on Travel Channel. They never show enough to truly get you to become a believer, but it’s always enough to keep you wanting to tune in the next week. I did a ghost hunt in Chicago once. A few voices, which when it sounds like they say your name sends chills up your spine. We had some responses to our questions, and I experienced this very light touch on the back of my neck that would turn it’s self into frozen chills that would run throughout my body. It was definitely an experience you can tell people about, but you can never fully explain. It didn’t feel terrifying, those cold chills, they almost felt comforting. Like they were familiar to me. The names we got that night were ‘Arvid’ and ‘Rozella’ and they had been reunited just recently. If I am to take it at face value that would be the names of my paternal grandparents who had both passed away in the last few years. My grandma just  January of 2013. I was asked to write something for the funeral, and I ended up writing something for both my grandparents. All those things you wanted to say when they were still there, but of course you don’t realize how much they mean to you, or how much you loved each other until they are gone. That was always one of the sadder and honestly, really quite shitty, realities of life. That you never fully realize how much something or someone means to you until it’s gone. Maybe it’s something we’re conditioned to do. It doesn’t mean we’re not grateful for them or that we don’t love them, but most of the time we don’t fully recognize that until it’s no longer there. We don’t tell people how much they mean to us while we can. I know I’ve done it while sitting and talking to their headstone, hoping that somehow they can hear me. Like the Ghost of their former selves is still wandering around and will just happen to hear you purging out everything you kept locked away so tightly in your heart out.

 

My Grandparents had both become ghosts when they were alive. My grandpa had pancreatic cancer, and managed to survive with it for almost a year. He was 89 when he was diagnosed. We watched it start to consume him, and see his transformation to a physical shell of the man he once was. Mentally, he never left. He knew what he was facing, and the mountain he was about to ascend. He knew he was facing the end, and did his best to keep his dignity intact. I never heard him complain about it, but he never did openly talk about his experiences with it. He did his best to keep himself the same as had been before. I think he spent more time focused on my grandma. She had been dealing with significant losses of memory for almost 20 years at that point. She was beginning to lose her grasp on reality. My grandpa did not, which I am still not sure if that made it more difficult to deal with him dying. The fact that he knew exactly what was happening and what was to come. I can’t help but wonder if he could feel the Grim Reaper standing behind him throughout this time, and true to who he was he fought it off. He was a pillar of strength, he fought his way through wars, through life, and through this. He fought off death for as long as he could have. I do remember him saying that he was ready to go, that he had “a hell of a life.” Selfishly, I never wanted him to go, but if he was ready to go, then you can’t stop it. You can never stop it. The last time I ever saw him, was the only time I ever heard him utter a complaint. He was a pain medication, and was strolling somewhere between sleep and wake. He muttered, “I hurt” under his breath. I sat with him, and held his hand for a while, and then got up and told him I loved him. I can still vividly see him in that hospital bed, and I will cry almost instantly at that memory. It stirs up at that pain that lays dormant.

 

My grandma had been a slightly different case. She had Alzheimer’s . Sometimes she had great days, and other times she had crap days. The last 10 years were mostly a black hole in her mind. That black hole was starting to slowly consume everything. She probably had no idea that my grandpa, whom she spent 73 years of her life with, was gone. No one will ever know for sure. The amazing thing was that if you prodded her enough, it would almost wake up dormant memories. She would tell me about living in Japan while my grandpa was stationed there during The Korean War, and how much she loved it. She could recall these details that most people would probably have forgotten in the decades since, but she remembered. Her face would light up, and she would become so animated, you just knew that it was probably the most exciting time in her life. She would talk about her kids, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, you knew she loved them. She loved her family, and took pride in it. She was a little woman, just over five foot, but what she lacked in height and size, she made up for in personality. She was fearless, spunky and honest. If you did something she didn’t like, she would have no qualms about telling you exactly how she felt. She was ballsy. I admire her for that. I admire both my grandparents for that. They were honest, and genuine. They were not perfect and wouldn’t even pretend to be. They never let their issues run their lives, they dealt with them most of the time. Their love was endless and completely unconditional. You didn’t have to do anything but exist and be blood to earn it. In my years of teenage angst, I wish I had realized those things. I like to think it would have helped to know that, but of course you never realize it until after the fact. My ghost got in the way of it.

 

These honest, and endlessly loving people are just memories and feelings now. They are ghosts that follow me around, and I’m perfectly okay with it. At their cores, these are people and values I want to emulate in my own life. The love they had not just for their family but for each other, truly tested the vows they took. For richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, for better and for worse. They took those vows and meant them until they day they died. That’s what I find myself secretly wanting. I can’t bring myself to tell people that’s what I want. You want someone who will have your back and you their’s, even when you fight and want to punch each other in the face, even when you’re both nervous and sad and over-thinking everything, even in those moments of pure happiness. To accept you for who you are, and to utterly, completely, unadulteratedly and unconditionally love you until you both take your last breath.

 

That’s another ghost I have lingering behind me. I seem to have grown quite a collection of these. There is one that is bigger than the others though. My father. I’m just really beginning to see how things really were with him. He was a ghost throughout my life. Looking back at moments in my life, he was just a figure in the background. He was never a major part of it. I think the part that hurts with that is not that he was pushed out of my life, but that he chose to never fully walk into it. He’s an alcoholic, always has been and will most likely always be one. That was his true love, the bottle. Not his family growing up, not the career he had chosen or the wife he took, or the children they had. It was alcohol. I can’t honestly say that I believe he’s just an addict, and that it’s all a disease. Maybe it is, and maybe I’m just too hurt, angry and sad to say that it is. But in my heart, I can’t give him that out. I want him to be held responsible for what he’s done, and how much he’s hurt others. I found myself just wishing for years for an apology, even a completely insincere one. I just wanted those words out of his mouth. I thought that if I heard those then I could delude myself into thinking he took responsibility for it. He never did, and he never will. I never could fully understand how his parents could be one way, and he could end up being so different. So withdrawn from us, and so detached in his own world. I still don’t understand how he would willingly have a family and not care. This past summer was the breaking point for me. For whatever reason, I had felt that I tried to reach him on his level, and compromised maybe we could have some semblance of a relationship. I told myself that it’s better to try with the one father I get than to just completely shut him out. Honestly for a while, it was good. But I never got a father, and I never got to know who he was. Who he truly was died long before I was ever born. It died when he took his first drink. I don’t even know if the alcoholism is his ghost. It’s too present for him to just be able to sweep it away. This summer he turned from a ghost to a demon, ever present in my face. We fought, I got in his face and didn’t back down. I saw things and sides of him that I never wanted to. He threatened me, and regardless of what the threat was, a father should never do that to his own child. I haven’t spoken to him since. Now I’m left with the ghost of him. Trying to figure out how I can reconcile those feelings I have, what I can learn from it, and how I can let go.

 

I started writing this the fall of 2013, and thought it was done. Today (the 15th) would have been my grandma’s 95th birthday and all I can think of is her and my grandpa. How they were, and what they became. What presence they held in my life, and what they still hold in my heart and in my mind. They never fully disappear. I have spent my day thinking about ghosts. How people can become ghosts. How depression became more than ghost for me, it became a demon. How it has dictated and controlled almost every choice and thought I’ve had since it came slithering into my life, grasping firmly onto to anything it could. That no matter how hard I try to make something fit. Nothing does. No career. No school. No relationship. I can’t figure out if I’m damning myself to a life of indecision of if the depression just wants to keep me all to it’s self. That if I make a choice outside of it then I would no longer constantly feed my demons. That maybe then they would wither away and fade to ghosts that I could ignore.

 

Ghosts are the underlying theme of my life. Things that I want to forget, but can’t. People who have left. Feelings that always linger just below the surface. Everything seems to be a ghost in the right light. All those things I’ve quit in my life because I thought they didn’t fit. Those are ghosts now too. I still can’t put my depression in the ghost category. It’s still too strong and too present to be a ghost. I call that my demon. This grotesque thing that would consume me whole if I let it. I’ve been close to letting it before. There have been times where that call to give in was very seductive, but I didn’t. I’m not really sure why I didn’t give in, I don’t have a real reason for it. It just didn’t happen. It just feels like I was yanked back by some unseen force, making sure that my feet remain on the ground, however shaky that soil is.

 

Here I remain, all these years later surrounded by my ghosts. They manifest themselves on those lonely nights. The ones when I can’t get my brain to stop yammering away. When my guard is down and my armor is off, they come and present themselves as a reminder that they are still ever present. Things I can not ever touch. God, can I feel them though. The fear and anger from 13, the sadness from 15, the hopelessness from 17, the indecisive insecurity of 26. They are strong with me some nights. Those are nights they morph from ghosts to demons. I don’t hide from them anymore. I face them down. I feel them, as wholly as I can. I do my best to tell them to go away, and sometimes they do. But not before leaving that reminder. I am here. I am always here. 

 

We all have ghosts. Whether you believe in their existence and they’re real ghosts, or it’s just a metaphor for our past, and these people who have done good for us, or those who have hurt us, or those we cling to even though we never knew them. I never liked the saying “Skeletons in the closet.” I think we have ghosts instead. A closet always made me think that we could leave these things behind, but we can’t. They follow us around. Our ghosts are a part of us whether we want it or not. At some point you have to make peace with them.

 

Face down those demons, and tell them who’s boss.

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Them Changes

My Facebook news feed is full of inspirational memes, quotes, articles, and what seems to be a never ending supply of “5 signs you’re this type of person” and “10 things you should look for in a soulmate.” We have so many external ways of seeking support for continuing to achieve our dreams and to become a better person. I follow a lot of yoga teachers, great writers, and inspirational websites on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. What I notice though is that I’ll read most of what they write, but I don’t really take it to heart. It’s not that I don’t love some of those things I see, and those articles I read. I really do, I love the ideas they present, and the challenges that you face because of them. But I rarely act on the tangible forces they present. 

Am I lazy? Probably. I spent most of my time living in leggings. (Yes, I do know they are not technically pants, but they cover me up.)

Am I scared? Yup! 

This is a recurring theme for my life lately. Changes of any kind are scary, letting something go to replace it with something new is not meant to be easy. Especially when you are a creature of comfort. I do have phases in my life where I am able to leave some of my overthinking crazy self talk at the door and just enjoy where I am. I stop overthinking, (sort of) and just stop feeding my beasts. Those are the best times. Could I do that all the time? Not right now.  I hope I can do that one day. I really do. That’s part of the ‘ideal life’ I’m aiming for. Don’t we all have an ideal we’re shooting for?

I’ve been talking about going back out to California for the last few months, and while I do have every intention of doing it. I do keep myself stuck in the pre-production phase. Some days it’s a great idea. To go and spend a few weeks in one of my favorite places in the world, and get some solid writing done. But then the thoughts come (don’t they always?) ‘It’s a waste of money. You should be saving your money, not wasting it on some wildly stupid trip.’ ‘You know you’re not going to get any writing done out there. You’re just gonna get sad and lonely and get nothing done. You can do that at home for free.’ 

And the big one ‘Why do you DESERVE it?’ I talk myself out of a lot of stuff with this argument. 

Why do I deserve it? You can come with a bevy of answers for that, and they’re all valid. 

Why do I deserve it? Because I’m alive. Because I’m going to do what I want. Because screw ‘DESERVE’ I’m doing it because I can. I don’t have to justify why I do something for the betterment of myself to anyone, especially that dark side of myself. The one with the legs still stuck in the quick sand, ready to start running in place and sink completely into the sand. I can feel the split starting to happen, and it’s been shaking for a long time, it feels like what an internal earthquake should feel like. You can feel the tectonic plates in yourself shift, and make way to something new. Even if it’s nothing major. But it is always major. Every change we go through is major because we are evolving. Change is a necessary thing for our survival. 

I don’t begin to pretend to know the first thing about religions and their philosophies. I lost my faith with organized religion when I was a young teenager, and through my angry phase, it helped me to have something bigger to be furious with. But I digress, I did go through a phase where I wanted to learn about other religions, and I got the basics of a few. Buddhism stood out to me, but that was mainly because their figurehead was a jolly round guy, who reminded me a bald, stoner Santa Claus. 

I stumbled across an article on my Facebook feed this morning that was titled “Everything the Buddha Taught in Two Words.(1)” Naturally, I’m curious. I love the teachings of bald, stoner Santa Claus. The only thing that really stood out for me as I’m still waking up and drinking my coffee is the beginning, and those two words. 

“Everything Changes.” 

I found that after I started to write this. I’m trying to find those little coincidences, that seem like they may be nothing, to be something.   I’m trying to find meaning in the minute details, because I find that after trying to focus on the big picture for so long, you forget about the small things. Those little things that years later can bring you joy. Spending an afternoon with a niece and nephew and giggling like insane people, taking a nap with a beloved dog, just sitting outside without your face jammed in a screen for a distraction. Those little moments are us actually living our lives. Not keeping our brain busy with things that may not even be important or relevant to our lives. Facebook is a great distraction. You see the engagements, weddings, babies, the overall great lives of these people you probably don’t even talk to anymore. While it’s great for them, does it really matter to YOU? I know that it probably doesn’t to me. Does it stop me from comparing my path and my life to other peoples? Nope. Cause they may have what I want, or what I think I can’t have. So then jealousy comes barreling down. 

“Comparison is the Thief of Joy”  That quote is attributed to Teddy Roosevelt, and maybe ironically, I see it pop up on Facebook from time to time. It’s so easy to sit and compare any aspect of yourself to other people. And then you can sit and say, “Well they deserve it, and I don’t.” But does anyone really? 

Deserve is a word I don’t like anymore. 

Do we actually deserve certain things? Sure. Do we always get them? Nope. 

But what is the deciding factor as to why one person gets a family and another person doesn’t? Is this is a case of a more physically attractive person or a more well rounded human being? I don’t I think that one person is truly more deserving of things in their life than another. But I think we have worked our society into thinking that we are. That some people are just better in general. I don’t know if I can go along with that sentiment. I don’t think that just by being alive, there are people who are any better or any worse than anyone else. At least not at our cores. Our cores come from the same place. It’s our words, choices, actions and everything else that we decide in our lives that help others, and ourselves, define how deserving we are. Which I still find funny, because we will often talk ourselves out of a choice, or a potential partner based on stupid things we did we before. That because of this choice I made, and I learned from, I am not deserving of living here, marrying that person, going back to school, having that car. I do this every day. I talk myself out of trying to live my life, by the argument of not being deserving. It’s done nothing but keep me stuck. I think it has done it’s best to keep me down, because in my head, “I don’t deserve anything.” 

Which is nothing more than a big old sack of lying shit. Whether or not we deserve things, we often get them. Some people receive more love than others. Some have more weight to carry. Some have what seems like an easy breezy life. But as we grow and mature, we see that it’s not always the case. Everyone has problems, issues, joy, sadness, loss, gains, everything. We all have everything. Some of us just don’t share it so openly with the world, or even with those closest to us. Maybe because we think that those closest to us don’t deserve to see the bad, wild sides of us. Those dirty little sections of our personality that even we have a hard time with. Those stupid thoughts that nag and nag us at stupid hours of the night, and odd times of the day. We think that maybe if we share that dark dirty side of us with people, both us and them will realize that we don’t deserve them in our lives. 

I don’t honestly know if I just over-exaggerate my stuff in my head, or if it really is that dark and dirty, but I know I do my best to hide it from people. I like to say that that I lay my crazy out on the table though. But that ‘crazy’ is nothing more than throwing out statement to push people, you test them with those statements. You dip your toe in and you see if they can handle that. But naturally I always do that with people I know I won’t know for long. I think by doing that it makes it easier for me to avoid some kind of superficial connection, because those are just draining for me. I know that most relationships have that in the beginning, but I definitely have been attracting some not so great people as of late, and I think doing that ‘crazy’ bit, has actually made it easier for me to push them out of the way. Which I’m telling myself is a good thing. You have to get rid of the old and the bad, to make way for the new and  the good. That has definitely changed for me. Before I would have clung to bad people and bad situations because I didn’t think I deserved any better then that. I’m working that out. You still have to try stuff on to see if it works before you can discard it. I used to never do that, even shopping for clothes. I would just grab stuff and hope for the best with a fit. Now I’m actually purging stuff I know doesn’t fit, getting rid of those holey clothes that may just be so comfortable but they don’t work for me anymore. Accepting the change, and actually being proactive instead of reactive. I don’t know when the hell that happened, but I’m trying to just go with it. 

After all everything changes, whether or not we deserve it. 

(1) “Everything the Buddha Taught in Two Words.” http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/05/everything-the-buddha-ever-taught-in-2-words/