Embracing the Future

So a couple days ago, I found out that the I Love U Guys Foundation will no longer be doing Emily’s Parade. For my -very- few followers or anyone reading who might be interested, the parade was a very significant event for me, and the realization that it was coming to an end made me think about a few things, things which I’d like to get out here for…you know, thinking and shit. xD

To review: Last September was the 10th anniversary of the parade, and was on the 9th anniversary of the shooting at my high school. It couldn’t have been a better day for it; it was 85 degrees (there were MANY applications of sunscreen), and I got to go with my best friend. I’d never gone with her on any of the rides–and actually, I had been thinking of not going this year. I didn’t know of anyone who wanted to go with me, it was on a Sunday, which meant I had to take time off work, and also half the fun was being able to ride up there on a motorcycle. Since my ex and I had broken up, I didn’t know anyone who had a working motorcycle that might want to accompany me. However, as I was telling all this to said best friend, she said, “I’ll go with you!”

“Really?”

“Sure, it’ll be fun! I don’t think I’ve gone since the first one, and I bet the kids would enjoy going too.”

So we made a day of it and went back to our old stompin’ grounds: Platte Canyon High School. I’ll admit, it was pretty cool, as we stood on the bridge overlooking the highway, to remember crossing it over to the football field for the Homecoming game to watch her perform as a cheerleader, or to watch a couple of my other friends in the band do their routine.For half a second, I saw us as we were ten years ago, and then in the blink of an eye, it was gone, and in that same moment I looked at my friend’s kids and realize dhow far we’ve come and how awesome it is that we’re still best friends.

On the other hand…

Next year will be the 10th anniversary of the shooting…it seems weird to think about that because 10 years is such a long time! One of my good friends is having his 10 year high school reunion in a couple months! WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING. And yet, on that day in that month, and even just around early fall every year, it feels like it just happened. I wonder, is it going to feel like that for the rest of my life? Every year, the memory becomes more of just a solidified moment of my life, kind of like “Well, that did in fact happen.” It gets a little easier to talk about it to most people (though sometimes I still act super weird about it, which is a question in itself), but around that time of year, it’s still a nagging little feeling that tugs on me just a little, just to make sure that I know it’s there, and I’m sure that will last for quite some time. Maybe not forever, but maybe–who knows?

But the thing is…sometimes, I like remembering. I like to honor the event with my thoughts and my acknowledgement, and I also like the parade because of the solidarity that it brings to the community. I love seeing the people of my home town band together like one big family to honor an event that deeply touched everyone; it’s a really cool feeling. But now I won’t get to experience that anymore. In fact, I now have no reason to ever see or step foot into my high school again, and it’s unlikely that I ever will, honestly.

It feels like, knowing this, I’m leaving behind a part of my past and continuing forward. We’ve all got to let go sometime, right, to make way for what’s to come? I’m excited to do so, but I’m also afraid to. I’m afraid because moving forward means to accept that what once was will never be again.

I am not a teenage girl, with my seemingly very significant teenage girl problems. I’m not the girl who let people walk all over her because she was afraid of what they thought of her. I’m not living in my awesome, small town, in my awesome house that I grew up in, looking outside my bedroom window and watching the sun set behind the trees and the mountains as I talk for hours to my friends on the phone, waiting for my parents to call me into the living room for dinner. I’m not the teenage girl who writes depressing poetry directly related to her low self-esteem, who constantly second guesses herself and who doodles away during every class with no idea as to where the future will take her.

I am, in fact, so much better than that now. I’ve leveled up! I’ve achieved a state of confidence and happiness that exists because of my own perseverance, choices, and the people I have chosen to participate in my life. I am not that girl. Even so, that teenage girl, and the preteen girl, and the little girl I was before that, are still responsible for me being the person that I am today, and I don’t want to forget any of that or what brought me to this place.  I don’t want to forget what my house looks like on the inside, or how my school looked, or the experiences I had there, both good and bad. I like the direction that my life is going–in fact, most days I’m just ecstatic and I wonder how I ended up so lucky! But that doesn’t make it any less scary for me; I don’t want to lose myself as I continue along this path.

And yes. I realize that is dumb, because it’s been 26 years and I’m still me. xD I’ve gone through a shit ton of things, and they have only shaped me into a stronger person and not into a douchebag or a weenie, thankfully. And this is comforting, but I think that the fear of this will always exist for me, simply because change is the only thing we can consistently count on in this world, and who the fuck knows what life is going to throw our way? The fear does, however, motivate me to keep my values and morals regardless of circumstance, because I’m too stubborn to let the world take me by surprise.

The whole realization feels weird, to feel the moment where you understand that your life is moving forward and to actually be able to see evidence of it…to see the moment where you know that it’s time to embrace the future and to understand the scope of everything that brought you to this point in time to be the person that you now, and to know that you can only keep going from there. Is this what adulting is?

Collision (Poem)

(I wrote this back in December and decided I would post it!)
Astral bodies align in space…
Their pull is getting stronger,
And the space is growing smaller,
And the magnitude is frightening,
But even I have to admit
That it feels so right, and
My pushes are more persistent.
All I can do is sit and listen
To the vibrations and the feelings
As I lay here staring at my ceiling…
I think of lessons learned,
Who I am versus who I was,
And how I came to be,
And if things had turned out different,
Then how different would I be?
I never would have seen you,
Never would have seen the aspirations
Glowing inside gun-sharp and bulletproof eyes.
I never would have seen the smile in them,
Or the way they look at me…
The universe might not have even looked twice,
Taken an interest in this girl so strange,
But instead it did, and it told her she could change
To be anything she wanted, to be the sky and stars,
Or the wolf’s cries at night.
And so I sat and listened,
And then I made my own decisions,
Then I was met with this collision…
It seemed someone else was also listening,
And then I heard you.
I think about how the tables have turned.
Nobody else would have worked out, could have stayed…
I was too different, too strange.
But I like who I turned out to be,
And I don’t think I would change.
I think about love and if fate exists,
And I think about long walks at night,
Long talks and your face in the morning light…
You aren’t like them either, and I wonder,
Why is it that I’ve met you here?

Fear

Fear. Fear is such an interesting and horribly stupid asshole of a feeling. Originally set in place by nature as a way to keep up cautious enough to not die by stupidity in the wild, fear certainly has its uses. It makes us ask ourselves, “Is this a good idea? What kind of risk am I taking here?” Fear helped us to survive in a universe of chaos and uncertainty.

Today, we live in a culture where our basic needs–for food, water, and shelter–have essentially been taken care of, and our minds have been given freedom to wander into thought processes that are a bit more frivolous, more contemplative and self-aware. And now, fear, which is meant to keep us alive, exists instead as a survival tactic not for our physical forms, but for our ego, to keep it alive and well. Our self-awareness now takes precedence because it gives us a seemingly more meaningful purpose to exist, one that isn’t just good ol’-fashioned baby makin’. Without self-awareness, we are once again at the mercy of the universe to push us in a direction, instead of allowing us the critical thought necessary to decide for ourselves. Our egos are one of our most dynamic traits, and because of its great importance, fear serves to make sure we can do absolutely everything we can to preserve it.

Physical fears aren’t so bad to overcome–spiders (eeeeee….), deep and fast rivers, bottomless cliffs, harsh winters, famine–we can see these fears. We can fight the enemy that we can see, but the fears that prevail, those that threaten the ego, are doing an inside job. The worst fears are those that we can’t see, that we can’t quite put our fingers on. The ones that we can’t pinpoint as real, no matter how real they feel, and so they run rampantly through our minds and thoughts.

But at what cost do we preserve our precious egos from harm?

How many choices has the average person made in the interest of preserving their ego, only to be left with regrets and an empty feeling of “What could have been?” How many chances do we miss out on…job promotions, making friends, doing that new hobby…falling in love…out of fear of rejection, failure–fear that we were wrong? Is fear still helping us survive emotionally, or is it really not acting in our best interests after all?

Most importantly, this realization that I’ve been there, just like you probably have, begs the question…how do we conquer it?

I’ll be the first to say that, even as the highly anxious, worrisome, occasionally self-deprecating and insecure person that I am, I believe it’s possible to turn off the fear.

For instance, let’s look at my relationship track record as an example. I have an immense fear of failure because I was raised as an only child by parents with high expectations that I would achieve. I have a fear of rejection that’s left over from countless rejections by my peers (especially boys) while I was in grade school.

Now, I’ve been in only a handful of long-term relationships, but they all have the same characteristic of being totally wrong for me. They have all failed. In the past, I’ve been known to fall in love with a person’s potential instead of the real person that they are, and I idealize them, build them up in my mind, creating expectations that are completely unrealistic because they are meant for a relationship with the person I imagined in my head, and not the real thing. They have ended in different ways, but they have all ended.

Even so, I still try…I’ve always tried, even when I didn’t understand the problem. I still engage in trying to find that one relationship that’ll be different, that one person that I’ll fall in love with because of exactly who they are. Despite various rejections, despite enduring soul-crushing apathy, arguments, and being told I was wrong so many times that I really began to wonder if there was something fundamentally wrong with me, and despite having been told by someone that I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with (even though they were highly toxic) that they simply hadn’t been in love with me for half our relationship, I somehow remain optimistic. How is this possible?

In part, it’s because we’re far more resilient than our fear allows us to believe that we are. Fear amplifies our insecurities to make them seem insurmountable; it takes “I would be very hurt to know this person doesn’t love me” and turns it into “I don’t know what I’ll do if this person doesn’t love me.” It takes “I’ve seen this not ending well before, so I should be careful” and morphs it into “This will never, ever work.” In this, fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy…we tell ourselves we’ll never get that promotion, so that we can build ourselves a little emotional shield that prepares us for the “inevitable” rejection and disappointment that we will be met with by going for it, until it comes to the point that we don’t try at all. Even though we have overcome similar failures just fine in the past, fear amplifies our fear of failure to make it seem like, in the moment, we will never, ever recover if worse comes to worst. I mean come on, be real with yourself for a second: what is the worst thing that will actually happen if you fail?

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What will actually happen is that you’ll pick yourself up, take the experience as a learning lesson, and you’ll try again later with a new strategy. Because in addition to being resilient, we’re also highly adaptable! Fear is only one of many biological tactics that our minds employ in order to guarantee the survival of our species.

Perhaps we were wrong. Perhaps we didn’t have all the answers, and we messed up. And that’s okay, because we have the resilience to overcome the (at the time) devastating blow to our ego, and we have the adaptability to change both our strategy and our circumstances.

Perhaps the secret is to silence our ego. It does, after all, have a way of making itself seem more important than it really is. Put things into perspective for yourself: what is, logically, the worst real potential negative outcome of this? Does it outweigh the potential real positive outcome? Will it actually destroy you?

Is it possible that taking that emotional plunge will be absolutely worth it?

But sometimes, fear is so powerful that it completely takes over the rational part of us that’s capable of making that logical comparison, and it can destroy us. It goes on overdrive like an autoimmune disorder wreaking havoc on our minds, trying so desperately to protect us from perceived threats that it causes us to hurt in ways that we have only ourselves to thank for. Hello anxiety, old friend! Why don’t you go fuck yourself? ._.

Anxiety, driven by fear, tells us that no, you can’t overcome whatever this potential negative consequence is. You can’t be logical (or even better, you are SO being logical right now!). Your worst fears are already coming true right before your eyes, and there is absolutely nothing you can do to change it. You’ve already irreparably fucked up the opportunity in question–and no wonder, because you suck. You aren’t good enough for this job/person/opportunity–you can’t even remember to take the trash out on a somewhat regular basis or transform your kitchen sink from the giant ceramic pit of hell that it currently is into an actual functioning household utility. Why would you ever have even THOUGHT that you knew what you were doing enough to actually make this work? What were you thinking?

It’s important for people like me, and maybe like you, to remember that these thoughts aren’t based on any real things–but your fear of them is still real. One of my greatest fears is that I’ll never be enough as I am for someone to really love me (which might explain why I fall in love with people’s potential instead of for who they really are…huh). This fear is so real that it’s held me back more than I care to admit, keeping me from opening up to someone or telling someone how I feel…because rejection is scary as fuck. Because dedicating your time and effort into someone because you want nothing more than to do so, and then having it be a total waste of time, is scary as fuck. Because being told that someone needs you “just as a friend” and is afraid they “don’t love you as much as you love me” is the worst thing ever.

But this still only has as much power to make decisions in my life as I give it. This fear attacks my ego, but not my actual self. Quiet ego, quiet fear whose whisper can’t even be heard above the call of the universe to act outside of my self-awareness and tie myself to what’s happening around me.

This is something I’m still learning about, and something that I have been desperately trying to control in my life, because one thing is for certain: I don’t want to be afraid anymore. Also I haven’t died yet, so…I mean there’s that. xD

Hopeless, Pt 1 (Short Story)

(Today I thought I’d share the first part of a short story I’m writing! I haven’t decided how it’ll end yet, but I wanted to get some feedback on the concept so far. Hope you all enjoy!)

Jonathan woke up slowly, groaning as he rolled over to check the alarm clock to his right. 8:25am. He panicked for a moment; wasn’t he supposed to be getting to work? His boss would absolutely kill him if he showed up late for work. It wasn’t as though Jonathan routinely showed up late; in fact, he was, at least in his own opinion, one of the hardest-working and yet most underrated employees at the insurance office. He met deadlines with fervor, negotiated with clients skillfully, and was always on time—and yet, there was something about him that his boss, Mr. McIntyre, just didn’t like about him. Mr. McIntyre was always getting on his case about tasks that he let slide with other coworkers, such as where he placed his invoices, how many breaks he was taking, or whether or not he had attended the office Christmas party. Jonathan told himself that because he was such a hard worker and cared so much about his job, his boss expected more of him. His wife Maggie, however, disagreed wholeheartedly and believed that he was too soft, a pushover—easy to take advantage of. Sometimes he wondered if she was right, but he forced the thought out of his mind as much as possible. No one wants to think of themselves as a pushover.

What day was it? The man blinked his eyes and sighed with relief; it was Saturday. There was no work today, at least none in the office. The clatter in the kitchen downstairs, however, coupled with the intermittent yells and bumps and thuds of he and Maggie’s three children as they all “assisted” her with the Saturday morning breakfast, reminded him that being an insurance agent wasn’t the only job title that he carried.

Jonathan yawned and swung his feet laboriously over the edge of the bed, thinking as he slid on his slippers how grateful he was that his wife had let him sleep in this Saturday. The kids didn’t get to see him often, and so they were apt to bang, crawl, or tap on the door within minutes of their eyes opening, cajoling him to get up, get up, pleading with him for his attention, all at once. It was exhausting…why even bother sleeping when you have a house full of people eager to suck away your energy? He tried not to blame them for it; after all, they didn’t ask to be born, and they didn’t ask to have a dad that was always at work, one who always seemed shocked when he actually got to look at their faces and saw that they looked just a little bit older each day. He was filled with such resentment for the whole thing sometimes…not being able to watch them grow up, but also not being able to have time to do much else that wasn’t dedicated to filling his parental role as much as he could.

Maggie resented it too—resented him for it. She never said it, but Jonathan could tell. He could tell in the way that she pursed her lips after asking the obligatory “How was your day?” when he came home. It was as if what she really meant was “I know you’re exhausted, so there’s no point in asking, and there’s no point in me expecting that you’ll even have enough left in you to ask how my day is going.”

He could tell in the way her slim body brushed past him as though he were an inconvenient object in the realm of her household, which she alone commanded in the long hours that he spent away from it. Her kisses were no longer warm, like they used to be when they first started dating—hell, like they used to be even just a few years ago. They were perfunctory, lifeless kisses, like the kind you’d expect from your sister or your grandmother. Jonathan got shivers just thinking about it, but where would he find the time to connect with Maggie again? Didn’t she understand that the only reason he worked so hard was to make enough money to keep her and the children fed, housed, and clothed? Didn’t she realize how much he had sacrificed in order for them to start a family, how many of his own dreams were squashed by the foundation of their quaint two-story townhome in the suburbs where he and Maggie had grown up, so that they could stay close to their own families and stay comfortable in the community they’d known most of their lives? And yet, she never seemed satisfied.

Jonathan did his best to quell the resentment this morning, noting with some concern that it was something he’d been having to do more frequently these days. He stood up, his tall frame wobbling as he found his balance, and he began to walk downstairs.

Saturday morning breakfasts were something he and the family had done for ages, ever since their oldest, Lilly, had been about two years old, and normally it was something that Jonathan enjoyed. It was the most time he would usually spend with his family during a normal week, for better or for worse. As he descended the stairs, he saw his wife working at a skillet of bacon over the heat of the stovetop, with Lilly, Miranda, and the youngest, Gavin, gathered around the dining room table, the two youngest yelling and crashing toys and crayons into various surfaces. There was crap everywhere—on the floor, on the table, and even in the houseplant sitting in the corner by the patio door. He expected Maggie to reprimand them, but she seemed not to notice. She was caught in her own world, humming a tune, her jaw-length curly hair bobbing in rhythm with her head as she nodded it back and forth.

It was rare to catch a glimpse of her in this way, with the light still shining behind her eyes like that. She wasn’t thinking about parent teacher conferences, or what time the kids would need a bath, whether or not Lilly and Miranda had cleaned their rooms, or about grocery lists. She wasn’t thinking about her feelings towards her husband, and she wasn’t worrying about their future. She was just being herself, thinking the thoughts that made her unique, whatever they may be. Jonathan smiled; this was the woman he fell in love with, and sometimes, caught up in his own problems, he forgot how lucky he was to have found her.

Smiling, he descended the steps further and stepped into the kitchen. “Morning honey,” he offered, kissing her cheek. Immediately her expression changed. There’s nothing quite like it, Jonathan thought, like seeing exactly the kind of repelling effect you have on someone as it happens. There was no excuse that could explain away the reason that Maggie’s smile had wilted so suddenly. He winced and recoiled, refocusing his energy on the kids instead.

“Daddy!”

Gavin grinned widely, exposing where his two front teeth would be had they not gone missing. He flung himself onto his father’s legs, wrapping his arms around them at Jonathan’s knee.

“Hey kiddo!” The tall man swooped his son into his arms, cradling him back and forth in a wide arc that made the child giggle with delight. “What happened to your front teeth? Brawling with your sisters again, aren’t you?” He winked conspiratorially.

“They fell out almost a week ago,” Maggie supplied. “Good morning.”

“Dad, can we go to the museum today?” Miranda asked from the table. She looked up from a coloring book through large, square lenses that Jonathan found positively adorable.

“Hmmmm.” He paused. Alarm bells sounded in his head, and his muscles, loose with the rejuvenation of sleep, became tense. He wanted to say yes, they could. He wanted to be excited about the notion, but he couldn’t quite get past the blank wall of white that fogged his brain. He was certain there was something he had to do; it was a feeling he could never get past. He glanced towards his wife, who shrugged nonchalantly without taking her eyes away from the kitchen counter. She loaded several slices of bacon onto a plate beside her and turned off the stove.

“Well, I suppose we’d have to ask your mother,” Jonathan replied hesitantly.

Maggie flipped her hair out of her face and whisked the plate of bacon onto the dining room table. “Lilly, can you and your sister please clear this shit off the table? Seriously. You’ve known we were about to have breakfast almost a half hour ago.”

“But the museum,” Miranda insisted. She brushed a strand of auburn hair out of her face; it was just as curly as her mother’s, but longer and more haphazard. “If we clean off the table, can we go later?”

“We can’t go today. We have to go see Grandma and Grandpa today.”

“But the museum!” Gavin chimed in, jumping up and down. “Museum, museum!”

“Jon, could you please sit him down in his chair? I’m making plates.”

He nodded compliantly.

“Dad,” Miranda wailed, “Mom said we can’t go. Can’t we just go to Grandma and Grandpa’s some other time? It’s not like they’re going anywhere.”

“Well, that we know of,” he replied, catching a wistful stare from Maggie. “Your mother said we can’t go, so we’ll have to go some other day, okay?”

Maggie had begun setting out plates of pancakes as Jonathan finished settling Gavin into his high chair. “Nice,” she mumbled into his ear on her way up from setting down a plate. “You’re almost never here, and even so you still manage to turn me into the bad guy. Every single time.”

A while ago, this snappish behavior of his wife’s, which had replaced the love and attentiveness to him that she had once offered, would have made his heart sink into his chest like an anchor—but now, he was so accustomed to it that he numbed himself to it. The benefits of this were that he could focus his limited energy on the things that he needed to do in order to keep up in his hamster wheel of a life; the consequences, however, were that if he applied this novocaine of the senses, he was numb to all of it. The pain of his wife’s repulsion, the stress of his job, the love of his children, the appreciation of seeing the trees in full bloom in the summer, the nostalgia of watching a kid riding around the cul de sac on his bicycle. All of it.

And it was a sad way of doing things, he knew that. It was a cowardly way of doing it, really. Jonathan knew that he had a million excuses lined up that made this course of action seem reasonable…like working on his marriage, for instance. Not enough time! He could look for a new job, but that would also take time, as well as risk. Though things were maybe not ideal right now, they were stable, and that was just as important…right?

But what about the good things in life that he missed out on, due to his own fear of moving in any direction whatsoever? Even Jonathan himself had to admit that he had no excuses for this. He had no excuse for why he didn’t really feel connected to anyone in his family. He had no excuse for why the colors outside the window looked bleak on this perfect-looking sunny Saturday morning.

And so, because he had no excuses and no answers that didn’t require a serious look at his life, or a serious change, he pushed these thoughts out of his mind, as he so often did.

“Can’t we just have a nice breakfast this morning?” he mumbled to his wife. And then, a bit louder, “It looks delicious.”

Maggie said nothing, pursing her thin lips and flitting back to the kitchen to retrieve the maple syrup and a shallow bowl of powdered sugar. She set them on the table a bit more forcefully than was necessary and sat down in the chair furthest away from Jonathan, near their youngest son.

Lilly, who had already been seated nearly the entire time, finally glanced up at them through a curtain of bronze-colored hair that fell just past her shoulders.

“You guys aren’t going to fight again, are you?”

The way she said it sound nonplussed, not concerned. She’d seen it a million times, and it no longer phased her…which worried both of her parents. She was thirteen, just on the cusp of teenagedom, and she was old enough to have seen the deterioration of her parents’ marriage in a way that neither of the younger children could. Lilly was quiet, but when she spoke, she never went unnoticed. Jonathan was concerned that her passive nature bordered on depression, and occasionally, when he let his guard down, he wondered which of his many mistakes might have attributed to it. Perhaps if he had spent more time with her after she got into school…and she was going to enter high school next year. He could take no credit for her emotional preparedness for this stage in her life, and relied solely on his wife to make sure she could handle it. It was unfair of him, he knew, but what could he do?

The breakfast was a bustle of activity, with Gavin eating about half of his food and spitting out the rest of it onto his high chair tray with triumphant laughter, his hands sticky with sugar and with Maggie, whose plate was nearly untouched, attempting to keep the damage localized to only the chair. Miranda, still dead set on going to the museum, asked Lilly what her favorite thing was there to see. Lilly mumbled her answers, but a quiet smiled played on her lips as her younger sister chatted loudly, animatedly, oblivious to the tension that still hung over the room like an angry curtain.

Jonathan ate in silence, chewing his food mechanically without really tasting it. He watched his family interacting with each other, and he even smiled once or twice at their antics and outbursts, but it was as close to enjoying this precious family time as he came that morning. It was a strange feeling for him. He felt as though he was watching them all as a spectator, as if they were on a television show—he was very dissociated from it all. The sound even went in and out through static as he stared off into a chip in the paint on the wall across from him. It was unnerving, but it was also peaceful.

What Jonathan was feeling was that he didn’t belong there, at that table, with this family, and he didn’t know why.

Why Do We Fall in Love?

(I tried to write this excerpt from a purely observational standpoint…I don’t know if I pulled it off or not, but let me know what you guys think!)

What is is that makes people fall in love?

There are so many variables that can factor into if we even like someone, let alone love them. Perhaps that’s a better place to start…what makes us like someone enough to strike up a conversation with them—is it the way that they look, the way they smile or the way they walk, something in their eyes that makes you think there is something deeper there, something that intrigues you enough to want to know more? Is it the energy that a person puts off when they first shake your hand, or lean in for that awkward “nice to meet you” hug, that makes you feel like perhaps the two of you will have something in common?

And from there…how does a relationship with this person bloom? You ask each other questions about your separate lives, hobbies, work, and experiences. You ask when their birthday is, what their favorite color is, and whether or not they like sushi. How do you know what questions to ask? Some people will ask questions because it’s the polite thing to ask: “What do you do for work? Do you have any pets? Do you have any food allergies? Because I thought we’d go to a Thai place where everything is covered in peanuts, and I don’t want to be responsible for your untimely demise.”

Some people ask questions because they’re genuinely curious. “Do you enjoy what you do for a living? Are you more of a dog person or a cat person? If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be, and do you think you’d ever get so tired of eating one thing that you’d fast yourself to death?” And still some other people don’t even get to the question part of this social interaction that we call getting to know someone, either because they’re far too nervous or far too self-indulgent to really understand how it works. “I uh…I like your outfit.” “I hope you’re hungry…this Thai place down the street is amazing! Thai food is my absolute favorite, followed closely by Italian food. I know a lot more good Thai restaurants though than Italian ones, and this one has a dinner special going on until 9pm! There was this one time that I went there…”

During this initial interaction, when you quiz each other (or, talk endlessly about yourself or listen to someone else do it), the goal is to try to find mutual ground. You like sushi? Me too! One of your favorite bands is Rise Against? Me too, I’ve seen them in concert twice! You just saw them in concert recently? That’s awesome! The goal is to find mutual reactions…mutual facial expressions prompted by the same outside stimuli, mutual excitement or disgust for certain foods, places, people, and things, mutual ways of speaking to each other and to others. We seek to find someone who we feel understands us, and the best way to feel understood is to know that whoever you’re talking to has similar views on things as you do, no matter how trivial the things are to the bigger picture. And this makes us feel happy. We enjoy spending time with this person because we feel that this person understands and validates our perception of the enormous world around us, and it’s so much more fun to enjoy the world with someone else who sees it similarly.

We begin to associate this good feeling with this person, and we begin to crave time or interaction with them because we want to know more and continue feeling that good feeling. What else do we see that’s the same? I wonder what our differences are? We love the way that we feel validated in this person’s company, when they laugh at our jokes, or when we talk with them about our favorite things and they start to appreciate those things because we told them our perspective of it. We love learning about new things because someone who shares other traits with us has told us about them.

And then a friendship is formed. We want to learn more about this person, even if the things we learn from them are contradictory to how we see things; now we aren’t just curious so we can form an alliance with them, because we already have, but now we wish to strengthen that alliance with them. We can do this by accepting the other person’s differing views and taking interest in them regardless, showing them that even though they are not us, we still value them. We can do this by spending our time with this person, talking about ideas and coming to completely new conclusions. We can do this by enjoying activities with the person and creating new memories that make us feel content with ourselves, which makes both the memories and the person valuable. And we want to strengthen our alliance because we want to know that in this big world, with all its variables and craziness, that we aren’t alone, that we have people to share it with.

Romantic relationships take this a step further and add a physical, chemical attraction to the mix, along with a slew of other questions that are answered in one way or another as the relationship deepens and we learn about the person we are beginning to value. Does this person find me physically attractive also? Is he/she dependable and honest? If I decided to go long-term with this and I found myself relying on this person for emotional, financial, or other support, do their actions indicate that they could fill the role? Biologically, do they have traits desirable to pass on to offspring if it were to happen? Would they be good mother/father material? Do they have similar long-term goals as I do, and could we help each other fulfill those goals?

When we value a person, and we see that they value us as well, we become attached to them emotionally. The feeling we get from being around this person because of the effect they have on the chemicals in our brain, both consciously and subconsciously activated, is addicting! We don’t really fall in love with a person as much as we fall in love with the way that the person makes us feel about ourselves, and the way we feel because of their influence. They make us feel understood, validated, appreciated, important, secure, and safe. We feel at ease, like we can be ourselves without the fear of judgement or rejection. In a romantic situation, our physical needs of intimacy and bonding are also fulfilled. These feelings of emotional and physical satisfaction, accompanied by the flooding of chemicals in our heads, make us believe that we cannot live without this person because they help us satisfy so many of the needs that, when met, make us feel whole.

The relationship deepens. A physical connection has been maintained, as well as emotional, and we’re compatible with them on both levels. The feelings of security and safety deepen as we not only expose more of our personal thoughts that, if attacked, would threaten our ego the most, but we’ve also exposed our bodies in their most vulnerable state, and no one has tried to kill us (or tell us we’re unattractive!). As we reveal thought after thought, idea after idea, without being rejected, we begin to trust. This person’s thoughts and ideas have influenced us, and we begin to believe that the value we’ve gained from our experiences with this person are priceless. With their assurance and guidance, we’ve thought about and done things that we would never have thought about or done without the influence of this person. This person, who has consistently given us feelings of value and validation, has now gone overtime to actually invest their time and energy into enriching our lives, with the mutual benefit that your happiness makes them feel good. And you feel the same! Their happiness makes you feel good. If the person that makes you feel so great about yourself and who makes you feel so valued feels good, then so do you! You feed off of each other’s happiness, and you’re willing to make personal sacrifices now for the long-term goal of the continuation of this mutual happiness, because the way that they make you feel is irreplaceable in your mind. Many things, at this point, become worth compromising in order to preserve that feeling, a feeling whose biggest contributor is the happiness and well-being of a person whose effect on you can only be described as love.

But all the variables that go into making this chain of events possible…what if the right questions weren’t asked in the very, very beginning, and so you never found that small shred of common ground that was strong enough to link the two of you together for future interaction? What if the chemical flood in the brain didn’t happen, i.e. you weren’t attracted to them or vice versa, and so the physical bond was never created to deepen the relationship and satisfy a primary need? What if the timing in your lives was too crazy—he/she works too much, or works an opposite schedule, lives too far away, or loses reliable transportation—and so the two of you never spent enough quality time together to really create feelings of value and appreciation? What if this person was not in a good mood, from external stimuli, when you confessed one of your deepest secrets, and so they reacted in a way that made you feel rejected, threatening the strength of your existing bond and actually jeopardizing its future strength?

Humans are only human, after all—people make mistakes. They say the wrong things, do the wrong things, show their love in well-meaning but damaging ways, or are too afraid to show it at all. So many things can happen during the slow and gentle building stages of a relationship that can cause it to collapse at any moment that it’s a wonder any of us make it to that stage at all! Many people aren’t even sure how to try, and so they stay stuck in the shallow pools of the relationship-building stages, never moving on to something bigger and better that is truly enriching, either out of fear, inexperience, or poor judgement of how a person is affecting our feelings towards ourselves. Sometimes they get stuck on the chemical reaction a person has without examining the quality of the emotional reaction—and who could blame them? Chemicals are a very strong thing, and they often take over in romantic relationships for quite some time before we can examine the emotional value of a relationship! Infatuation, anyone? And sometimes, our mental states are not in healthy enough to correctly judge positive value, and so we choose relationships that are inherently negative, simply because we think that is the experience that will fulfill us best at the time.

There are so many things that go into the feeling that we call love that it’s no wonder humans have spent hours obsessing over it, writing about it, singing about it and becoming inspired to create beautiful art, music, and poetry because of it for thousands of years. The feeling we get when we are in a mutually loving relationship is so brilliant, so sought-after because of its effect on our brains, and so addicting that most people spend the vast majority of their lives seeking out a person who can create this feeling inside of them. But if we are lucky to find truly mutual love with another human being…no explanation can adequately describe it.

Adventures in Wheatland County Jail, Part 1

Today marks one month since my interesting experience being an inmate in a Wyoming county jail. xD Yeeeep…still ridiculous. Anyway, I thought I’d share some of the things I wrote during my 48 hour stay! Some names have been changed for privacy.

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What an interesting place…my visit here started with two hours of me sitting on the hardest wooden bench EVER as they processed me. “These hours count towards your time,” the Sheriff assured me (which would have been nice to know before I accidentally locked my keys and my cellphone in my car. ._.) He’s nice enough, and he laughs with me at the reason I’m staying. Apparently 48 hours is pretty common for high speeding tickets like mine, but it doesn’t make it any less ridiculous. The other girls I’m with laugh at it, too. There’s another woman in here with the same name as me, so they are calling me “Miss 48 Hours” jokingly because I have the shortest time in here, to tell us apart.

Right about now, I might try to make some romantic interpretation of the walls around me, but the truth of it is this: I get a cell all to myself, which is awesome, and so the fact that there’s a toilet less than 4 feet from the bed(s) is not such a big deal at all! So instead of romanticizing my situation, keeping an imaginary tally of the hours as they tick by and staring at the ceiling, awaiting sleep as the boredom overcomes me, I will say that it’s really not that bad here. No, seriously. I have my pen, paper, a book (ironically, Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse is what I’ve been reading…this is the 3rd time since it was mentioned to me that I’ve seen the title, so I take it as a sign. More on that as I continue to read it), and the other inmates are a decent crowd.

Speaking of them, they are the interesting part of all this. Here I am with my lame speeding ticket, hearing the stories of other girls and women that make me think that this life is normal for them. One girl named Beth* looks like she can’t be more than 20 years old (turns out she’s actually 26)., but she has children (who are currently with a violent and abusive ex husband, a divorce that she’ll finalize next month), and she’s in jail until Monday because she ran into her mom’s garage with her car, and her mom called the cops and told them that Beth tried to run her over. It immediately reminded me of my ex’s mom. Now her mom has a restraining order against her, and she’ll need court assistance to get her things from the house and presumably live with her boyfriend in Oklahoma.

Another woman, Judy*, seems to have taken on the mother role of the unit. To explain briefly, the jail is set up as such: there are individual pods, labeled with a letter, and each pod contains 6-8 cells and a common area. The common area is large and had a book cart, board games, a small TV, picnic tables, phones, and a shower area. We eat in the common room of our pod instead of with the whole jail, there are 11 of us in this pod. Anyway, Judy is older, grey hair streaking her loosely tied bun, and she’s either black or Hispanic or both. She’s very nice and has showed me a lot of how things work! She also knocks on my door at mealtime to make sure I don’t miss out–which is awesome because in my night of 2 1/2 hours of sleep, preceding a 2 1/2 hour drive, I’ve mostly just been sleeping. Judy is in here, I’m not sure for how long, because the car that she borrowed from a friend to drive down to Denver to see her son was actually a stolen vehicle. There might be more to it, but I try not to be too nose in case it’s too personal, or in case I find myself not actually wanting to know.

Judy hangs out a lot with another woman, whom I’ve learned a lot about, except for her name (I’ll have to ask after this dumb ass lockdown for the shift change is over). She’s a drug dealer…heroine or cocaine or both I’d guess by her stories, and I don’t think she’s very ashamed of it. The lifestyle comes with a price though–a price outside of just having to be carted around to various jails until her sentence in Federal prison has been determined. Her son, one of five kids, was murdered a while back because of drugs–he was stabbed over 40 times according to her, many while he was still alive, and then one final stab to the skull. How horrible! All in the name of money and getting the next fix. Sometimes I just don’t understand people.

This woman gets out of here on Thursday for 2 or 3 months until her sentencing–on a one MILLION dollar cash bond.. With tears in her eyes, this 37 year old explained to everyone how she’d spoken to her youngest daughter, 5 years old, and how happy she was to hear her daughter say “I love you.” She said she’d prayed for the ability to have a relationship with her mom, who would have passed by the time she’d finished her prison sentence. She said that with these 2-3 months, she’ll be able to do that. She also has a guy, who served 26 years (!!!) in prison, also for being a drug dealer. They’ll be getting married during this short freedom so they can have…you know, visits. This woman has clearly had a very tough life, but she’s still very nice. She made me some tea while she and Judy drank some coffee (made from hot water from the shower…yep), and she’s loaned me a white t-shirt to wear under my uniform, since I only brought a long-sleeve shirt. This came up while we all sat around showing off our tattoos, and while this nameless woman told me about every tattoo EVER that she wanted and what they would mean to her. I didn’t mind this time though like I normally would…I mean what else am I going to do, right?

Not all the women are quite so nice though…as the other Tracy pointed out, there is a bit of a segregation here in our pod. The other group is small and quiet, and they seem pretty angsty. I wonder why? One is named Cathy*, and the other Sarah*, names that were mumbled quietly to me when I first went down to introduce myself. I haven’t spoken to either of them since except to trade foods at lunch. All of our uniforms are this hideous marigold color, but Sarah’s uniform is orange. I was told this means she’s on work release, which means she gets to leave the pod and work outside for the jail (in fact, I remember seeing her while I was waiting on the bench, sweeping the front and taking out the trash).

So that’s Day 1 for you…now the majority of us are going to sit in the common area and watch Con Air. Ohhh Nicholas Cage. I’ll probably read a bit more of Steppenwolf…I can already tell I’m going to like it. And yes, I realize how ironic it is to watch Con Air in jail. xD

A Little Self-Reflection Time

I’m feeling a little bit uncomfortable today.

But why, you may ask? It’s a beautiful day–hell, it’s been a beautiful week. I got my speeding ticket and its accompanying punishments out of the way. I have some pretty great people in my life who have been very supportive of the whole ordeal, and who have all kept a smile on my face as I spent two days in a jail in Wyoming (yes, that happened, and yes, I plan to write all about it soon. xD), and made me feel very lucky. And, it’s my favorite season! I can feel the air cooling, and I can smell the leaves burning up in the late summer sun, preparing for their descent as autumn watches from the sidelines, ready to make a full swing into action. A few days ago, I was absolutely soaring! It’s a great feeling to drive on the highway, windows rolled down, singing as loud as you can to your favorite song and laughing as you do about how ridiculous you probably look, but how jubilant you are to be here, in this day, in this body, knowing the things you do and experiencing life in the way you are right at that moment!

I love days like that, and I cherish them. They don’t happen every day, but when they do, I feel alive! Days like that, I forget about my anxiety. I stop worrying about when I’m going to irreparably mess things up for myself, or about where I’ll be a month or six from now.  I place my negative thoughts on the backburner, tell them to shut the hell up, tell myself “WHO CARES? WOOOO,” and I go into the world with a fresh mind and a smile on my face.

Anxiety sucks. It feels like your mind is racing a hundred miles a minute, with dozens of different thoughts and tasks…and the best part is that half of them (or maybe more) are things that I’ve made up in my own head! My anxiety has gotten progressively more noticeable as I’ve gotten older, probably because of the mass amounts of adulting that I’ve had to do now that I’m–well, an adult. xD But around this time of year, my anxiety always gets a little bit worse.

My brain is on a timer, with everything. Even when I was in jail and couldn’t see the sun or the sky, I always knew what time it was. I can feel the seasons change, independent of what the calendar says. I can go back in time and remember this time last year, or a few years ago, and I can experience those emotions simply because the timing is the same, and that alone is enough to take me back. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

But I’m feeling uncomfortable because this is the time of year that changed my life nine years ago. It’s insane sometimes to think that it really happened nine years ago…and then I think to myself, “Wow, and this still affects me like this? Every year, same time?” Part of me gets mad at that, at my inability to dismiss the remnants of negativity that accompany this time of year. It’s irrational for me to expect that I can just make that go away, but it never stops me from being frustrated. “Other people have moved past this. Other people have moved past way worse things, and they don’t have anxiety or anything like that. You are weird, self. STOP DOING THAT.”

But then the other part of me understands and almost accepts that this particular life lesson that I’m referring to is a thing that happened, a thing that changed my perspective, and a thing that won’t be so easily forgotten. Maybe some people have persevered through much more, but some have been met with even less and still been reduced to crumbling ruins at their foundation. Should I feel lucky that I can feel so deeply and still stand, or even that I can feel so deeply at all? Should I realize that my reactions to the world around me have shaped me, and I wouldn’t be who I am without them? And do I understand that without this event, MAYBE I wouldn’t be so jubilant on my favorite days in my favorite season, feeling free and humble and lucky despite everything? Isn’t that a possibility to consider?

These are questions that I remind myself of whenever I start to feel that uncomfortable shadow of anxiety creeping over my shoulders, and it makes me feel a little less angry. It makes me feel a little bit more capable, and it reminds me that there are many things I can change, but that I am who I am, and I deal with things how I deal with things. My way may be different than other people’s, and that’s FINE. Other people might be in the same shoes as me with something that’s happened in their lives, and that’s FINE too!

Good job self, I feel a little bit better now. Now stop being a whiny little emo writer and go enjoy the beautiful day, because you can.