Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The List.

I have a list of things I won't do for love. Like that one song, but in reverse. The list grows and changes along with me, fed a steady supply of superstitions by my tumultuous upbringing and still-emerging sense of independence. I've never been in love, not quite, but the closest I ever came to it was enough to teach me that it's indeed a slippery slope. One second, you're just giggling over a text, and the next, you are reshaping your entire life around someone who may or may not be worth it.

So my default setting is, and has been, that no one's worth it. No one is worth losing my sense of self, the cocoon of nurturing I have set around myself. I cannot stomach the idea of sacrificing even an inch of my hard-won ground to stand on, even if it's with someone else's arm around me. No one is worth the emotional upheaval, the danger of caring too much, the months it takes to recover from a blow to the heart. I can't bear the idea of giving up something I have worked so hard to gain — my independence — even if my independence cannot always keep me company on a long night. No one's worth putting on real pants for and going out with after a long day of work. (Okay, kidding on that one. I'm sure there's a few who are worth real pants.)

There's two parts of this that bother me; one being, kay, sure, but what happens when you do meet the person who seems like they're worth it (and how do you stifle the whispers of what if long enough to find out). The other is the idea that perhaps my view of love, true love, is somewhat fundamentally flawed and in need of reevaluation. I mean, duh. I don't need a degree in psychology to tell you that there's something a bit jarring about the fact that everything I think about love seems to involve the concept of losing. It can't be healthy to believe that love only takes away.

****

When I've talked about this to others (some of them board-certified therapists), they'll ask if I know anyone who's in love who doesn't seem to bear the huge burden I imagine it to give. Well, sure I do. It seems like not a week goes by without another of my friends getting engaged or married or cohabiting or becoming Facebook official even. And while I'll joke on twitter about the blow this news delivers, the truth is I'm happy for them, and I get to be included in some of their lives in ways that show me what good, healthy love can look like.

But that's not enough. I have a fear of the dark, see, and knowing that most of the people I love don't share it isn't enough to cure me. Once, I walked into a dark forest after midnight to see the stars, and even with flashlights and friends aplenty, I was too scared to go deeper into the woods. I made my friend wait with me by the well-lit train tracks for the others to come back. It didn't matter that none of them were afraid. I knew they knew that nothing was out there to hurt me, but I didn't feel the same certainty in the pit of my stomach. So I sat by the tracks and missed a night of star-gazing that I'm sure I would've remembered forever.

It's not enough for me to know that others have been lucky in love. It's not enough to know that the issues I have with the idea of romance stem from the twenty years I spent in a home that was, at best, dysfunctional, and at worst, abusive. I can know all that, and feel all that to be true, but the list still remains. And each time I'm presented with an opportunity that looks like it might lead to love, I run in the opposite direction, shedding truth all the way.

****

A long time ago, I decided that it would be better to live with arms wide open than with my heart closed off. I led with my heart, and trusting it has only brought me out of a dark place and into a better life. But I almost picked wrong, when it came to romance, and now I sometimes feel like I'll never be able to know if it's right, when it is. If it ever is. Perhaps the fear of falling in love is normal for us all, or for my generation at least. But I know that for me, it runs deeper than most. It is encapsulated in a lifetime of watching the most formative figures of love in my life make each other miserable. I can still remember when he made her so angry that she had an extremely rare outburst and threw a table fan at his head. I can still remember the way it crashed against the wall and how all he did was laugh. 

More than most, I am terrified of ending up in a relationship that is doomed before it even begins. But where is the balance between necessary caution, wariness, and my long list of nevers?

I have learned, I think, to live with my heart open in regards to most things. Friendships, dreams, empathy, hope. I know that the one thing I still keep myself locked up tight against is love, as if even the slightest waft of it on the breeze could infect me and ruin me forever. It doesn't help that I've been abused by men, that I've watched almost all of my friends be mistreated by men. But I think it goes beyond that — to me, love is the ultimate vulnerability. It makes you weak. It lets someone in where most don't go, and it gives them power over you. Power that can be used to make you feel good, or to hurt you, and sometimes it's on accident and sometimes it's not. In my experience, it's almost never on accident. 

So what's a girl to do when her view on love is that it is a warped and twisted thing, bound to suppress and tighten, leaving no room to breathe? All I've ever seen of love is that it lets someone else get tangled up inside you until you don't have the strength to make them leave, until it's turned into twenty-five years of your life spent in a controlling, abusive relationship, one so intertwined with who you think you are that you can't even see it. It's the frog in the pot, the heat turning up so slowly that you don't notice you're being killed slowly. I am too terrified of being hurt, being controlled, being made to feel small again, to chance it. And so I see one glimpse of love on the horizon, and I run. Fast.  

****

I used to think the primary problem was that I was unloveable. That no man would look at my body, my mind, my struggles and my strengths, and sign on to deal with it. I know now that this is not true. With age and experience and a rough tumble getting started on my own in life, I have a better grip on who I am and what I like about myself. This, in turn, has helped me to stand firm knowing that I'm a dang cutie with a sense of humor that's 90% more entertaining than most things in life and a fascinating brain and that any boy who drew my fancy would be primarily lucky to have me except for the weeks when I'm too depressed to shower. 

So that's not the problem. The problem isn't not knowing anyone who's got a healthy romantic life. It's not that I feel that men can't be trusted (although this is more often true than not), and it's not that I don't know where these fears stem from. I can know all of this, and still. Still I find myself with that choking feeling in my throat when I picture a life together, where I am part of an us, where we are Mr. and Mrs. or even just a couple. I think of love as suffocation, a potential smothering of everything I hold so dear. 

I want that to change. I don't know how. I hope, one day, I'll be able to come back here and tell you it did, and I do.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

In the Gravel.

I used to have a lot of anxiety about driving; always afraid of doing something wrong, getting in trouble, pissing another driver off. I used to have a lot of anxiety about everything in general and in great detail, but bearing the responsibility of manning a very heavy hunk of metal propelling at a great speed down the road was particularly harrowing for me.

It hasn't been til this last year or so that I've realized how much I genuinely enjoy driving. Last summer I was essentially given my first car, which was amazing - but it's a stick shift, which I had never had to learn how to drive before. Learning how to drive manual left me in tears every day for a week. I cried in parking lots, I cried when I stalled at stoplight, I cried when I rolled backwards down hills, I cried when I threw the car into the wrong gear and it felt like I had just killed it dead forever. I'm not actually a big cryer, even when stressed, but something about this foreign driving method wrung me dry for ten days.

I swore to myself that I wasn't going to be able to do it. Driving stick shift was for everyone else who knew how but not for me and I was terrible and a failure and I needed this car to get to my first job outta college, I needed this car like I needed nothing else in that time. I needed to know how to drive this car in order to do everything I needed to do in my life. If I didn't learn how to wrestle this creaky vehicle from first to second to third properly, if I couldn't coordinate my hands and legs and clutch foot right, I wasn't going to be able to do life after college and I would have failed myself.

Um, whoa, girl, learning to drive is not the end of the world and have you ever considered you may have a problem with stress? Okay, rationally, I knew this. I knew I would learn how to drive the car and that my life would not be aversely affected by this week of trauma (Also yes, thank you, I am medicated for the stress thing). But I couldn't feel it, the certainty that everything would be okay, and it sent me into a panic.

It took me a few months to figure it out, really. I was able to drive it within a week or two, but I stalled twice a day. And then once a day, and then once a week, and then barely at all, ever. This summer hit, and it'd been a year, and I was irrationally proud of myself for mastering this simple skill. A few weeks ago as I was driving home from running errands, I found myself on a back country road. The setting sun dappled through the trees, I had the windows rolled down and the radio up, and I just kept driving, because I wanted to. Because it was a perfect day for it, because I didn't have anywhere to be, because I could. But mostly, because it was fun.

****

A few days ago I was on my best friend's mother's couch, a place where I often find myself when I'm at wits end. After relaying some news and telling a few funny stories from my day, I circled around to the things that were bothering me, the problems I was having, the challenges I'm facing.

"I don't get it," I said. "It feels like it's easier for everyone else, like they know something I don't. Am I doing something wrong?"

She assured me I wasn't. "You know, honey, life is in the gravel," she said.

Life is in the gravel, and as much as I want it to get easier, quicker, better, now, it's not. I've felt a little stuck, a little beaten up, and it's affected different areas of my life. Rationally, I know I've made so much progress in a short time, and that at twenty-two I'm worlds - galaxies, really - away from where I was at nineteen. But sometimes, it just doesn't feel like it. It feels like I'm going to be stuck in the gravel forever, like I'm never going to learn the secret everyone else holds smugly behind their smiles.

When I'm in a depressed period, I tell myself "It won't be like this forever." It's a mantra that allows me to remember that there have been happier times before and there are happier times ahead. When I'm in the gravel, as I have been a lot this year, it's hard for me to remember that it really won't be like this forever. As much as I can tell myself that, it doesn't often permeate the layers of stress and late nights and overdrawn bank accounts to get to the spot where I feel it's really going to be better. Where I know it, without a doubt, where it's a certainty in the very core of me.

It's quite possible that nobody has that certainty I crave, or that I won't ever have it myself. All I know is that right now, I'm in the gravel. I know a lot more than I did when I was young, but I'm beginning to realize that I know so very little. I'm trying to make decisions that are healthy and balanced, that will set me on the right path, but so often I feel like an impostor at the adult's table.

 I wasn't prepared for this, and I don't know the way.


****

Tonight, I took another drive - this time, deliberately. I took my time, circling around town, relaxing into the shift and the clutch and the rumble. I rolled all the windows down, turned the music up, let my hand drift in the stiff wind. I did it because I wanted to, because a good drive at the end of a long week can fix a lot of things. The very first taste of fall nipped at my hands as the sun set, just a hint of coolness sneaking into the air. The moon rose, full and bright, reflecting off the trees on the rise.

I drove just a little bit, because I need to save the gas until Tuesday, whereupon I will hand over a thick wad of ones to the gas station cashier and apologize sheepishly for using tip money, and they'll say they understand, it's what you have to do to get by. As I crested over the last freeway overpass before home, torquing the engine just enough to make the shift into fourth without a struggle, I let the wind whip my hair around my eyes. I let it whisper promises to me, and I let it carry me toward home.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Burning Plains.

I tuck myself into the booth at a cafe that's a block from my house. I've become obsessed with their cold brew, and however ironic it is that on my days off from my job making coffee I go to sit and read in a different coffee shop, I still do. Today's book is Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint, by Nadia Bolz-Weber. I haven't delved into spiritual memoir in quite some time. In fact, I've been avoiding it, just like I avoid the Bible. I can't deal with someone telling me I'm doing it wrong, or that they've found the right way to do it, when I'm struggling in what feels like this never-ending wasteland of figuring out faith.

But Nadia has tattoos, she uses the f-word, and I follow her on Twitter, so I feel like if anyone has a shot of speaking things to my fragile spiritual life, this book would be it. Not that I've got my whole faith hinging on a book, but I'm in a place where I need to hear something. Anything at all, really. And I am entirely desperate for it to not be another condemning sermon on how depression is a sin.

Shortly into my reading, I come across this passage: The Bible is not God... Anything in the Bible that does not hold up to the gospel of Jesus Christ simply does not have the same authority.

My jaw drops, and I gasp out loud. "What. WHAT." I'm talking to myself in a crowded cafe. If the multiple times I've dropped a chip down my shirt and fished it out in full view of the baristas haven't convinced them I'm a little crazy, this will certainly do it.

I don't even care, because my god, this is the most revolutionary thing I've seen. Anything in the Bible that does not hold up to the gospel of Jesus Christ does not have the same authority. 

WHAT.

You mean all this time that I've been struggling, trying to figure out a way to reconcile all the horrible things the writers of the Bible had to say about me simply because I was born with the chromosome combination of a female with the quiet certainty of God's love for me that I've felt since I was a child, you mean that I can look at it all in this light, I can turn it on its head, I can say, "Sorry, Paul, but your words just don't matter as much to me as Jesus' do." I can be like, yo, I know you said in Timothy that you don't permit a woman to speak in church, but JESUS never made that rule, so fuck off?

I mean, WHAT.

This might just change how I see the Bible. I'm still not ready to read it again, but if I am, one day, it'll be with this in mind.

****

There was this woman in my parent's church when I was growing up who meant a lot to me. My family lived near hers in a rather remote area, so from a young age I would babysit for their kids. She and her husband were my pastors at one point. She took my senior photos, and functioned as a mentor for me. When things were rough at home, I could show up to their house and feel like I mattered, like someone cared about me. They were a safety for me, a place where I felt loved.

I don't know why I'm thinking of her today. Perhaps it's all the moms in the drive-thru where I hand out coffee, reminding me of how great she was with all of her kids. I left when the youngest was just a toddler, and I had a sudden pang when I thought about how those kids who I'd watched since they were babies were probably in elementary and junior high now. I wondered if, had I stayed, would I have been in their lives as they grew up like she was in mine.

When I walked away from my family, it also meant leaving church family. For those unfamiliar with church culture, it's a large extended community that knows your business, and you know theirs, and while there were so many issues in the one I grew up in, an undercurrent of love and community anchored it. I am able to see past the condemning theology, the sexism and tightly confined women's roles, and sometimes, the outright damage that community did to me - and I miss it. I miss knowing that the people I saw two and three times every week loved me and cared about me. I miss feeling like I mattered, like I was part of a big family that fought and bickered but also put food on my table when I had none, that gave me Christmas presents when we couldn't afford new shoes. They listened to my heavy heart and, at times, held me while I cried. I sang beside them, ate with them, put on community events and went to conferences and camp with them. I was part of a them, and we cared for one another.

So that's what I think of when I remember this woman. I remember driving her minivan with her three sleeping children in the backseat and feeling a little awed that she trusted me this much. I remember crying in her living room, awash in a fog of depression, at one of the lowest parts of my life. I remember the gift she brought to my high school graduation party and I remember picking up her kids from preschool.

I don't know what she heard about me, when I left. But I know that leaving my parents meant leaving their church, because my dad was a pastor there, and no one would believe me, and so I cut myself off and tried my best to forget. I didn't exactly go around asking for help, but after I was gone, she never reached out to ask why. Those ten years of my life in which she was a pivotal figure just...didn't matter, anymore. Not when there was a pastor's reputation on the line. And so she faded from my life, and I from hers, just like I did from every other family whose homes felt like an extension of my own. Multiple families who knew me, who I grew up with, and not a one asked me if the rumors were true, if I'd be home for Christmas. They receded into the back pews in whispers and dimming lights. I didn't lose just one family - I lost two.

This experience has left me, at times, bitter, saddened, heartbroken, angry. But more than anything, it has left me with this question: If Jesus left for the one lost sheep, and the Church is supposed to embody him, how come no one came for me?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Come Gently.

It's coming up on a year that I'll have been out of school. Less than that, since I officially graduated late last summer, but this month will mark the year anniversary of the end of my undergraduate career, and I get a little reflective around those kinds of milestones. Well, really, who am I kidding. I'm a writer - I get reflective about anything. But a year seems like a good marker. Progress made, shortcomings discovered, organs removed (I don't miss you at all, gallbladder).

When I moved, almost a year ago now, I didn't stop and look back. I felt like I couldn't catch my breath, like I hadn't been able to really fill my lungs for far too long. I forgot to tell my friends that I was leaving - they found out the day before, or sometime after. I packed up everything I could hold and dropped the rest; possessions in the trash can, obligations left on my front stoop.

I won't say I was unhinged, or close to losing it. But I was desperate, and had been for a while.
I blazed out of there like a fire was at my back. I didn't want to leave, but I knew I couldn't stay.

Once I moved, I slept for perhaps a month straight. Then I started working, and threw myself into the task of learning to live like a normal human being. Not one with demons in her closet, with monsters breathing down her neck. I needed to live in a place where not everyone knew my story, where the looks people gave me were once of nonchalance rather than pity. I needed, in so many ways, a fresh start.

In some ways, that's what I got. But the idea is kind of a fallacy. You cannot leave everything behind, much as you might want to. It will all follow you, slowly, obligations and monsters wending their way up the freeway behind you as you blast forward in an attempt to shake them off your back.

****

I lean against the counter of my best friend's kitchen, yellow walls refracting the setting sun around us as I'm chopping a shallot for the very first time. She's teaching me how to cook, at my humiliating request. Tonight is homemade pasta sauce from scratch. We settle around the dinner table, blue mason jars filled with water, dog scampering around our feet. It is simplicity and laughter and peaceful and all the things I left looking for.

We pause the movie we'd been half-heartedly watching to talk about death and grief and the kind of sadness that permeates every breath you take. I tell her that I am dreading mother's day, that I will wake up depressed and lifeless and avoid the greeting card aisles. I say she'll feel that sadness that encompasses all, come father's day.

We agree that people think death, or tragedy of any kind, ends when it happens. She lives with her father's absence every single day; there is never a moment in which I've forgotten the peculiar and strange story of my parents and me. But people stop asking, because they think it is over and done. It happened, it stopped happening, you look happy, you must have moved on.

It's never that simple.

****

I may have moved far, far away from my parents, in body and spirit, but I still see them in myself and hear their echoes in my ears daily. A friend's husband asks me to compliment her on something, and rather than seeing it as the sweet gesture of caring that it is, I immediately flash back to my father's control of my mother's appearance, and it takes me an entire evening to work through the fact that this is different and not something to fear. I wake up from nightmares, and when my youngest brother's birthday passes again, with me not there, I cannot sleep from the crushing guilt. I have my father's hands, which is why I keep my nails short to the quick - the longer they get, the more they seem to take on his shape. I see the hands that hit me echoed in my own hands. My laugh, when I'm really laughing, is the exact same as his. We throw our heads back in the air with a cackle and a toss. No one else in this place would know that, because I am an entity devoid of context, an organism independent, not the pastor's daughter - just Becca, the girl who laughs with abandon. 

No one else knows that I have my father's hands. And as glad as this makes me, because this is the thing I fought for, this fresh start - this independence - sometimes it still makes me sad. Because I loved my father's hands. 

It is a complicated and ever-present grief and it does not come with a guide to help you navigate it. You simply learn to live with it. 

****

Last week I went out with friends four nights in a row. This time a year ago, that would've been impossible. Not because I didn't have friends, because I did - and they never stopped inviting me. I just physically couldn't do it. I did not have the energy, the life, the willpower to keep up in everything. It was all I could do to move forward each day, forget drinks at the end of it. 

But here I am now. Conversing over kitchen tables; watching movies and making jokes throughout; drinks and dessert in a crowded bar with coworkers; traipsing across parking lots and sitting above the city with knees bumping, picking out constellations with sticky ice cream on our hands. I have friends, new ones and old ones both, but now I can muster the strength to step outside. It's an amazing feeling. 

I am easing into normal, have been this whole past year. Going on dates, flirting with boys, free dinners and failed expectations. Going to friend's houses and laughing for hours and hours on end. I go to work every day and most of the time I even like it. I have an appointment this week to take my (very first) car to (my very first) mechanic. My room is gradually and gradually getting cleaner. I brush my teeth and floss every single night. Some days, I even remember to pack a lunch. This time I only kept the library books past two overdue notices, not three. I have a stack of clean work aprons in my closet. I bought new sheets. If I don't have an appetite these days, it's due to recent surgery, not a fatigue of heart and spirit. I sometimes even go to the gym. 

I no longer wake up sobbing at three am. Tears still come, but these days, they come gently.

This is why I left, for the moment when I realize that I am waking up into a brand new life that I built. I waited so long and fought so hard, and now? 

And now, life.

****

I do not know what is next. More late nights and early mornings and laughing til drinks spill from noses. More awkward first dates and set-ups and weird boys from tinder. More friends to hug firmly and more people to love and miss and hope good for. More songs to be sung, more fiction to be dreamt, more things to write and share and give away. More disappointments, more victories. More times to be wrong, more things to learn, more birthdays and Christmases and Fourth of July cookouts. More cooking in the kitchen, more midnight adventures. More surprises, more things I never could've seen coming, good or bad or both. 

Here, in this last year, I have had my taste of living.

I only want more of it. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

This is the Part.

Dear Heart,

I know you've been at your wit's end as of late. Things have not gone where you expected them to, you've been frustrated, you've wondered why it is that every time you think you're getting somewhere, another obstacle pops up in the way. Two steps forward, ten back - that's been the theme for far too long now, or so it feels.

You think wasn't it supposed to all be better by now? You think you've tried hard for long enough and that it would be really nice for the universe to drop a life into your lap, neatly wrapped in brightly-colored paper, bow and all. Because you're tired, because it's been a long winding road, because your heart sometimes feels like a massive black hole in the center of your being and you think it might start to swallow you whole if you don't get a shot of happy straight to the beating middle of it all.

It is hard, I know. It's been hard for a while. But I think you've been forgetting something, or trying to forget it, because it's a rather inconvenient thing to remember all the time and honestly, it's easier to let these things recede to the back of your mind when things are making you tired and sad and you'd rather just sleep.

This is just the beginning of your story.

This is the time before it gets good.

This is the getting to the good, the part where you slowly began to stand up, stretch, look around you, and marvel at the world.

Isn't it big? Isn't it bright? Isn't it wonderful?

Do you think that sometimes, you maybe miss the point about what you're doing here? I think maybe you do. Getting out doesn't happen in one day, one phone call, as much as you thought that perhaps it did. It didn't happen in the years you spent toiling through school, multiple jobs, bills on your own, living situations that didn't work out, the insomnia, the night terrors, the sobbing into a pillow case behind two locked doors praying your roommates didn't hear. Life isn't neat and you don't get to phase quickly from one point to the other. It's a long, winding, messy journey, full of fits and starts and false endings. Life is full of shit sometimes, and it's all interconnected in one massive yarn ball of connections and turn-arounds and there's a time when you get rest and there's a time when you work your ass off and they can come six hours apart.

The point of you being here, right here, on the grass-colored floorboards of this house's back porch, here on the tiled floor of the back room of your work, here on the rug in front of the fire at your best friend's mother's house, hererighthere? The point is not that you're supposed to be okay, or happy all the time, or opening up a basket of life abundantly that's been neatly wrapped and presented to you.

This is the time when your character has been built, your walls have been scaled, and you have left into a new life and a new land. This is the time in the after but still the not yet, the in-between, the beginning of the rest of it all. This is the time when you're learning to live again, not just get through the day, not just slide by, but to truly live. 

This is the part where you open up and unfold your arms from around your middle and begin to dance again. Tentatively, one foot in the water and the other out, a bizarre version of the childhood ditty you once knew so well. This is the part where you let your hands fly out and encompass the sky just because that sunrise is so damn beautiful, and there will never be another one like it, and you made it to this point alive, and it's a good day to breathe the scents of spring.

And you don't care who sees, because they were not there to see you screaming silence into the dark. They cannot chart the lines between here, now, and there, then, and be proud like you are.

Those who do not know how far you have come can either learn, or stand aside. You are free to be in and of yourself, and it does not matter what they say. You cannot be brought down by it, and isn't that the best thing? Isn't it wonderful?

Isn't it bright, here in this part?

You will still spend some days in bed, swallowing the pills dutifully each day. It will still hurt to breathe sometimes, not all the time, though, and isn't that good? Isn't that wonderful, that in the times when it hurts and you feel like each inhale is a stab to the heart, you can remember that perhaps tomorrow, or the next day or the next, you will wake up again and feel less numb and more whole and this will have been a passing moment?

You will remember this one day, with a sentimentality that only distance can lend. I know it isn't fun in the thick of the bills you cannot pay, the screeching of your car engine that you cannot afford to fix, the almost daily questioning of your purpose and path, and the painful work of figuring out who you are and where you are headed and what you think and feel and what to do about it. It isn't anything you'd wish on anyone, that's for sure. But these days will not be like the ones that came before, the ones that distance cannot do anything but dull the pain of. And isn't that something? Isn't that something good?

I know it hurts still. I know there was that one night you drove home in tears, blurry streetlights telling you this wasn't the best idea. You sat in the driveway and sobs shook your car, and you begged God to please, please, please make this hurt stop and stop quick. You were honest, not for the first or last time, when you said that if it didn't stop you were afraid the sadness inside would become a black hole that would eat you alive. The glow from the lamp along the road touched your head, colored your hair orange, danced shadows across the windshield.

I think my point is this: now, here, this happens less and less. You breathe freely more and more. Every day that you woke up then was another chance to fight the battle to survive; every day that you wake up now is another chance to be happy.

You've been wondering where you're at, and I'm here to tell you: this is the part where you learn to live again.

Congratulations.

Don't waste it.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Music & Surgery.

Hi there. This is a story with three parts. 

Part 1: I'm raising money to cover the cost of a much-needed surgery. Luckily, I have insurance, but my out-of-pocket costs are still high and are required up front. 

Part 2: I recently released my first EP of original music out into the great wide internet. You can listen to it here. It's a project that took half a year and it carries so much of my heart in it. Generally, it gets sold for $7. 

Part 3 (here's where it all comes together): I hesistated to do another fundraising campaign becuase I didn't want to be that person who is always asking the internet for money. But a friend suggested involvement of my EP, and that sparked a little lightbulb for me. I would love to give you this music that I made. I would also love to be able to pay off the cost of getting an organ that has caused me pain for months removed. Maybe both of these things could work together. 

So here's what I'm asking. Donate $5, or however much you want, and get my EP entitled "I Found You." You can get some delicious tunes for your ears, and I can get some delicious surgery for my insides. Sound like a plan?

Please head over to this page to donate and receive your download link. You'll have to enter your email when you donate in order to receive said link. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Recap

I walk to my car, tired through and through after what feels like the longest work day of my life. I have to summon the energy required to shift the clutch in and make the five mile drive home. All I can think of is achieving food, bed, and unconsciousness, in that order.

And then I see the mountain ranges in my rearview mirror as I'm shifting lanes on this tiny freeway. 

I have to tear my eyes away, back to the road in front of me, and they're a little bit filled with liquid.

I get small flashes of wonder that I've actually made it through, sometimes. I get bright bursts of hope and gratitude and holy shit I did it and crying after birthday parties because this new life is so much better than all the lives I've ever hoped for. 

But if this is a fairy tale and I have left my high high tower, I have yet to make it to the golden fields I was promised so long ago. I am still in the journey, and there are unmarked roads, burned bridges. Here be monsters, still.

****

I start to notice that gradually, I've had less and less energy. Maybe since the start of the year, really. I find myself not getting much accomplished outside of going to work and going to bed. Before, that's all I could've wanted - successfully being able to go to and from work and be a functioning adult was my dream, because it eluded me so often. And because I used to not be able to do even that, it's perhaps taken me longer to notice that just doing that isn't good enough for me anymore. 

I want to have more energy, more life, more happy bursting from my throat. I want to have time in the day to clean my room and go to the gym and visit a friend. I want the idea of hanging out with someone to not be so draining that I have to cancel at the last minute. 

I begin to wonder if this is depression's middle ground, if I am not so bad I want to die but not so good that I am able to fully live free. I start to contemplate asking my doctor to up my meds, because maybe since I've been on the same dose for so long the effectiveness has worn down a bit. I wonder if the people who think it's okay that I'm on antidepressants would still think it's okay if I start taking a higher dosage. 

I wish there was a way to tell them that this isn't a new thing, this isn't a sort of post-leaving-trauma, this is something I have been feeling since I was five and eight and thirteen years old. I can remember seasons and swells of depression fogging up on the entire timeline of my life. I used to crawl into cupboards and sit in the dark, above the clamor of the busy house, and breathe slowly. I would stay there for hours (eight). I used to cry and not know how to stop crying, and be terrified because I knew that there wasn't a reason for me to spend an entire afternoon with hiccuping sobs. I was young but I knew by then that you didn't cry for that long unless you had a reason to, and I was scared because I didn't (five). I spent months in a fog, unable to tell anyone and unable to get my head above water. I slept too much and ate too little and couldn't stop myself from drowning every single day (thirteen). 

I am not as bad as I once was, thank god and medicine and therapy and people who care. 

But neither am I where I want to be. I have no illusions of depression being something that can be "cured." I know I will deal with it always and forever. I do maintain a hope, though, that despite this being an ever-present gray, I will find a time where I can do day-to-day a little bit better and live a little bit fuller, happier. 

****

The pain first started about six months ago, leaving me shaking on my bathroom floor, examining the grout between the yellowed tiles in futile efforts to maintain composure. I finally cave and call my best friend, who talks me down and instructs me to go find hot water and drink tea and stay still til the pain leaves. 

It happened in fits and spurts since then, but never as intense as that first time. I chalk it up to an extreme bout of lactose intolerance and cut down on my dairy intake, which seems to curb the worst of it. But I still spend quite a few nights canceling plans due to stomach pain that I can't explain. 

It finally starts to become almost constant, and always unbearable. I miss days of work, which never happens (I have worked sick before rather than call out, which causes me to think this really is severe), and end up in urgent care all day on a Friday. 

Weeks of tests and unpleasant liquids and scans and x-rays reveal that I've got a gallstone the size of a quarter, and the diagnosis is surgery. I am relieved to have an end in sight, and doubly relieved to have generous strangers from this network of care I've stumbled into on the internet send me money to help cover the costs of taking time off work for recovery. My best friend tells me she'll take the time off work and have me at her house while I get better, which makes me cry some more. 

It's still surgery, though, and it's still working through more weeks of pain and exhaustion to get there. 

It's still medical bills and things I wasn't planning on. It's just proof that this year really isn't turning out how I'd expected. 

****

In an effort to challenge myself and get outside of my "comfort zone" (read: bed and books and no pants and no people), I've joined one of the myriad of online dating sites. I'm trying to learn how to date and how to relate to men and all this other stuff I've never had the opportunity to try and figure out. I am thus far finding it to be a highly overrated and underrated experience simultaneously. Crushes are amazing and being weak at the knees is a rare and multi-faceted feeling, but there is also the awkwardness of conversations in hipster coffee locations with a boy who's literally too scared of your intimidating womanly presence to even try to maintain eye contact with you.

There's also that thing of where you realize dating isn't serious until BAM it is, and you're left trying to figure out how the hell you're expected to be ready to fall in love and live life that way. 

It is an ugly and unbearable truth that I am completely and totally afraid of commitment, of trust, of letting someone hold my hand or my heart. I am not scared of rejection or the weirdness of getting asked out on a date by a proud satanist (this is a real story), but I am scared of what might happen if I meet someone I like enough to open up to and then that is met with woe and pain. In a strange way, I'm fighting against all the things I think about relationships by continuing to make myself available for one. It'd be a lot easier to give up, and I think about it a lot. There's nothing wrong with listening to yourself and knowing it's not for you right now, but I think this is less that and more the big OTHER. 

The other being learning how to view myself like I am worthwhile, like spending time with me is a good choice, like someone doesn't have to be crazy deranged to want to hold my hand. It's me trying to smash all the things that told me I wasn't good enough and it's me putting on an awareness of GOOD ENOUGH as a banner and marching outside to meet boys who then cannot meet me in the eye. It's me despairing of forgetting about the boy I wanted to fall in love with and it's me declaring that I am worth pursuing. 

Or, like my friend Emily said, dating: it's like 90% awkward conversations and 10% making out. 

****

This has been a mishmash recap of my first few months of the year. I'm sure I'll see you on the other side of surgery, and oh yes also, if you're one of the ones who have donated towards that cost, thankyouthankyouthankyou. Stay tuned for more weird boy times, depression talks, and waiting room selfies.