Where have you been?

growing

I am the type of person who hates explaining herself. I would much rather hide under the covers, look away, recede.

It was a muted summer, with a room with a view. It was getting drunk with friends for the very first time. It was relocating and standing up for myself. It was my head in his hands, listening to him tell me to be safe. Too bad I’m not so good at that.

People like my brother are troublemakers. People like me are trouble-seekers. Once I moved away from family for the final time I locked myself in crisis mode and now I can’t seem to get out. I pick fights and I push buttons. I kick up dirt and slam my palms against chain-link fences. When all you’ve ever known is the transience of stability, it’s hard to get comfortable.

It was a wringing of the hands and rapid thoughts, heart beating so fast at the danger I couldn’t see. I spent days on end blankly refreshing the browser again and again hoping I’d find connection. I sat very, very still in a city of commuters. Every morning I woke up to the sound of children playing and praying next door. Every night I begged for sleep so I wouldn’t be tempted to literally tear my skin off. I walked barefoot around the block asking the homeless where the hell I could buy some chocolate milk at 1am, glints from stray cats’ eyes and dusty neon signs lighting my way around the city. Keys failed. Pills failed. Dismissive comments from my therapist failed. Sex, anger, and intoxication were the only things that made me feel alive.

When I started to try to separate myself from the things that were making me feel detached and unreal, I started to become completely unhinged. I started to feel everything that I had numbed before. There was jealousy and loneliness and so much anger.

However, there was also effusive love and friendship and intimacy and everything else I had almost forgotten. There were soft amber lights and laughter. There were arms wrapped each other’s shoulders as we stumbled down the streets in a joyous haze. For the first time in months, everything I wanted to say started to pour out and, instead of repelling others, it drew my most treasured friends closer. I became an open wound: stinging, putrid, raw, exposed.

I am a walking healing scar. I have never felt ready, and I don’t know if I ever will. I can’t emphasize how scared I’ve been of change and of my ability to function. For a brief moment each day I come back to the apartment, however, I smell cooling pastries on the table and sunlight peeking through the blinds. I go into the room and smell skin on blankets and turn on the comforting fairy light draped over our bed and I remember that this home’s been worth it, he’s worth it, and I’m certainly worth everything that’s happened.

Tiny Stitches

 

 

weird copy

What it Feels Like #1

I treat writer’s block much like the way I treat depression: I don’t. I don’t discuss either very often because, I think, I have been conditioned throughout my life to believe that neither exists.

The past several weeks have been brutal. I took on too many ambitious obligations than I could handle in a summer and I became stuck. I couldn’t bring myself to perform the simplest tasks. I made elaborate to-do lists. I organized all the necessary tools I needed to do all my jobs efficiently. Somehow all my attempts to facilitate my own sudden lack of motivation proved futile. I outwitted my own preemptive measures to get myself on track. I felt I was letting the people who were depending on me down, and consequently I felt I was letting myself down.

I spent uncomfortably long moments staring blankly at my laptop screen, or laying still facedown on my bed, reading and rereading passages from my favorite books without comprehending the text. All food became unappetizing. I spent long walks aiming nowhere and ending up nowhere. Running on a treadmill didn’t feel any more productive or appealing than sitting on my bedroom floor trying to figure out what I even wanted.

I’ve written extensively about how significant writing is to me in order to recalibrate my system and find my center. This time, however, I couldn’t put anything down except mundane recordings of the day’s events or half-hearted, bland descriptions of how I was feeling. I was unable to make connections like I used to, and I showed no signs of feeling strongly about anything. I didn’t express astonishment or wonder. I didn’t express deep sorrow or spitting rage. It was as if everything I was feeling or experiencing was trapped within my shell of a body. They couldn’t come out.

I felt without a voice, and I felt scared.

I didn’t know how to manage the confusion and hurt and muted frustration I was feeling in a constructive manner. Any structure I had to my daily life fell apart and each day blended nauseatingly into the next. Without writing or any means of expression I started to lose track of what I even wanted out of life anymore. Waking up in the mornings became increasingly difficult because I couldn’t find reasons to get out of bed. Everything I did was based purely off my various whims and I became prone to binging as  well as long stretches of inactivity.  I knew that something needed to change or else I would succumb to complacency.

On one such whim I found myself at Michaels where I, without planning to, bought fabric, thread, and a few embroidery hoops to try something new. This was my first attempt:

lilycrop

Something about this clicked, and now I’m completely hooked.

I’ve always been one to gravitate toward detailed work with my hands. Embroidery requires a certain eye and a definite focus that I’ve been lacking these past several weeks. It takes its fair share of time and attention I haven’t been able to give anything else until now.

Lately I’ve been especially drawn to embroidering phrases and quotes, a new physical manifestation of my often repetitive thoughts. It reminds me a lot about what my 8th grade core teacher said about the significance of his requiring us to write in cursive. He said, cursive demands that you think in words and ideas rather than individual letters. You need to have the entire picture in mind before you can even think to out pen to paper. I haven’t stopped incorporating cursive into my writing ever since.

Embroidery is very similar. It takes a general plan and detailed structure before beginning or the final product will be messy and unpresentable. Spending upwards of 20 tiny stitches on a short word forces me to think long and hard about my work and what I’m trying to say or convey.

Thus, I’m beginning a joint writing-embroidery project of a series of themed embroideries with related pieces on what I got out of the process. The first series: What it Feels Like. 

Message

Last Wednesday evening I received a Facebook event invitation to an Audrie Potts’ Remembrance Day at Saratoga High. I glanced briefly at the description of the event and read the words “passed away.” No one ever really likes to use the word “suicide.”

I wore teal last Friday but said nothing about it to anyone. I didn’t even have class that day. I won’t pretend to have been touched by Audrie’s death or claim that she had potential or that she was a beautiful girl. I won’t use this post as a rant against bullying or to demand that people stop committing suicide already. I’m not going to claim that life is worth living and would you just look at that blue sky and that green grass, etc, etc.

This is for you, in particular.

Life sucks a lot. People tend to suck a lot, too. The universe is a bit kooky as well. You and I could sit on a park bench and list all the things that are wrong with all the world we live in and we would be sitting there for a long, long while.

Know, first, that you have choice. Life or death is a basic one; I know that it’s a decision that some people have to make at every moment of every day. Yes or no is another. There are so many things within your control. There is such a thing as free will. Do not put yourself in a situation that you do not want to be in. Do not dig yourself in a hole if you can use that same shovel to prop yourself out or hit someone else with.

Now, some things are truly out of our control. I know this well. The key, then, is not to worry about the things that are out of your control. Why would you do that? Your life can be spinning out of whack or someone might be making your life hell or you’ll find that the universe just feels like fucking around with you. If you can’t do anything about it, let go. Please. This can be one of the hardest things in the world to do ever. This wrestle with life’s natural course is what causes much grief. Don’t be stubborn about it. This, too, shall pass. Forward now. When you find that you’re headed toward a cliff and the gears are stuck and everything is moving too fast and you know you’re going to hit rock bottom anyways, don’t jump out. Keep your seat belt on and check the map to see what’s next.

Rid yourself of guilt. You do not have to please anyone. You do not have to be good. You don’t even have to be happy.  Dole out the appropriate forgiveness and/or apologies then be done with it. The person who you should be most concerned with gaining forgiveness from is yourself. That sounds cheesy, but some people spend their lives trying to extend their love to whoever will receive. They fight for all these causes without realizing that their own selves are the worthiest causes there are. They leave nothing for themselves. Don’t do that. You are your own top priority. If you are cast out of the community that you are a part of, if you are homeless and unemployed and sleeping in the gutter but you have a healthy sense of self-love, you have more riches than the grandest treasures. You have to make this confrontation with yourself.

Do not put yourself in a box. People talk a lot about YOLO and being infinite and existentialism, but these are the same people who tell me, “What if this is the best person I can be? What if I can’t be any better than this? What more can they expect of me?” The answers, respectively, are: “That’s bullshit. You can. A whole lot.” Stop with the excuses. You are you, but you can be more. If you really don’t want to contribute anything to this world, if you really don’t care for anyone on this planet, if you really don’t care for leaving anything behind, then at the very least seek something for yourself. You can keep this a secret if you want to.

Sadness is addictive and it is romanticized. Some people, myself included, will genuinely enjoy that comfortable rut, indulging in the self-importance. I am feeling so much sorrow. I am going to consume innumerable amounts of fat and sugar to make myself feel worse and better at the same time. No one understands me. Heck, I don’t understand me. I am going to read and write and post self-pitying things and cry myself to sleep. Don’t do this to yourself. Allot a few hours or a few days for moping then get on with it.

Do not judge pain. Oftentimes someone or something will hurt us in horrid ways. We think: I don’t deserve this. This person shouldn’t have done that or they shouldn’t have said that to me. They are hurting me. I cannot function properly thinking about this. Now I can’t do anything right. This is unfair. I hate this. Sometimes we will hurt someone and feel horrid afterward. They don’t deserve this. I don’t know what to do. They would be better off without me. I am only causing hurt.

No. Let the pain come and go. Recognize this pain for what it is, use it as fuel for the journey, watch the scar form and remember why it’s there, then let it pass on through.

This isn’t about self-confidence. It’s about humility and recognizing self-worth.

It’s not easy. It’s not necessarily worth it. I’m not good at this whole hope thing. I make no guarantees for anything, but I do believe that there’s no point living life half-asleep.

 

 

*note: I know that I’m not the cuddliest, most approachable person in the world (whether because you know me well, don’t know me at all, or you can just tell by my writing style. Do not waste your time by trying to contradict me with this point). BUT even if I have ever told you I hated your guts (or you can just tell), or if we haven’t talked in years, or if you don’t even know me please do not hesitate to call me, Facebook me, send me your anonymous messages, leave letters at my door if you just need someone to listen or to have knock some sense into you or even if you feel like letting me know that this blog is a load of crap. That is all. Take care.