Falling in love with solitude

I sat on a covered porch in a rocking chair with my knees to my chest and listened to the thunder tear through the silence and watched as lightning cut across the sky between the gaps of the trees.

I sat, and I contemplated life and love and the state of the world and everything in between. I had just hiked, and the woods always make me pensive. The trails were wet and overgrown from days of afternoon rains. I’d stripped off my muddy converse, and I sat in complete contentment feeling the fresh air and listening to nature.

tibetbutler

I’ve realized lately that the moments I feel most desperate and frantic to be surrounded by people are the times I most need to be by myself. They are the times I need to submerge myself in solitude, usually amongst the trees, in order to sort out my brain and calm my anxieties.

It’s one of those things that I always knew, but it took me a long time to realize, if that makes sense.

Like sometimes you know that certain people or things are good (or bad) for you, but you aren’t quite ready to do anything with that information. Then one day it kind of dawns on you, and you finally incorporate that knowledge into your life.

It’s the difference between knowing something and realizing something. I wish I had more words to explain that concept, but it just is.

Anyhow, this difference between knowing and realizing is why I’ve spent so much time in the woods the past week or so. I always knew it was good for me, but after my anxiety attack a couple of weeks ago, I realized I had to start prioritizing it.

I’ve done a great job of surrounding myself with the most incredible people, but I’m only going to push them away if I make them responsible for my issues.

I can hear him in my head, “I’m not going anywhere, but you can push me away.” I would hate that.

I’m grateful to have had someone to take care of me, but it wasn’t his problem to solve. I’m not his person to take care of, and I refuse to let my anxieties ruin yet another relationship.

So I go to the woods. When I’m desperate for a hand to hold, I hold my own, and I go to the woods and I walk and I take pictures and I braid ferns into my hair. Sometimes I sit on the side of the trail in a puddle of tears because I have to get my emotions out somehow. Sometimes I stop in my tracks to scribble down a thought that comes into my head, a story idea, a poem lead, something I need to tell someone –whatever it is. I just surrender and let it happen.

woodsprincess

I’ve submerged myself in self-care the past few weeks.I buy myself flowers because it’s a hell of a lot better than sitting around wishing I had someone to do it for me. I deep conditioned my hair. I had quite a few sessions of shower karaoke (sorry you have to listen to me terribly sing Whitney Houston, mom, but not that sorry). I’ve taken naps. I’ve buried myself in the things that make me feel whole and alive.

It’s made me less desperate for and dependent on other people. I’m still an extremely social person and crave human interaction, but I feel less like I’m going to fall to pieces every time the anxiety strikes and there’s no one there to hold my hand.

I used to long for someone to share my hikes with, and while company still would be nice, I’ve come to look at it as some sort of sacred alone time. I’m picky about who I’ll let be in those spaces with me, the vulnerable spaces.

It’s an incredible feeling, this contentment. I’m documenting it here so when life gets hectic, and I forget, I have it written here in black and white to remind me that I am enough for myself.

It’s really easy to get caught up in what everyone else needs from you. A lot of times I feel like I’m being pulled in 100 different directions, and everyone needs something. But I’ve realized that the people who love and care about me will want me to take care of myself first. This doesn’t change my undying loyalty to those I care about, but it does mean that I don’t feel compelled to do things for people who don’t appreciate it or who continuously take advantage of me.

swampland

So back to the story I started out with: sitting on the porch after my hike as the storm came in.

I was lost in my head. I had thousands of thoughts competing for attention. There are boxes in my notes of things I had to separate because I was trying to write down three different ideas at once. The woods (and swamps) are abundant with inspiration. It’s the best kind of overwhelming.

So I’m sitting there, and everything feels so loud. There are crickets and frogs and birds and my own thoughts and so many sounds I couldn’t name.

But at one point I looked up from my notebook, and the ringing in my ears went silent. It had felt like everything was screaming at me, and then they’d either thought I got the point or realized I wasn’t listening to them and gave up. I sat there and listened to the thunder rolling in and watched the sky grow darker even though it was hours from sunset. A mosquito pestered me lightly brushing my skin as it tried to find a place to latch on, but I didn’t want to leave my chair or the trees because I’d found silence amongst the craziness of life and this city. I didn’t want to let it go.

I’ve found that my attachments to things usually come because I want to live in my happiest moments forever because the ones in between often hurt too much to handle.

The storm came, and I had to leave. My moment of bliss interrupted by the earth’s temper tantrum, but I sat in my car and watched the rain and found bliss there, too.

When anxiety attacks

I had a full fledged anxiety attack the other night.

A drunken, crying on the floor of the shower level anxiety attack.

In the process, I made someone I care about feel like shit. I’ve apologized to this person several times, but I will again. I’m sorry sometimes I lose my shit (for no apparent reason), but thank you for dealing with me. Thank you for listening to me rant and letting me sleep it off and still wrapping me in a giant bear hug and staying up until 2 a.m. talking to me about everything under the sun.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

It used to be much worse. As much as I needed someone there for me the other night, I knew I would be okay. I used to cling to Christopher. I would scream and yell and beg him to fix me. I would tell him surely the anxiety would kill me, or I would end up doing it myself. We may have had our issues, but Christopher never deserved that, and neither does anyone. 

The other night was different. I knew I just had to keep my head above water long enough for the wave to wash over me and take the parts it needed and I would be alright. 

I didn’t need anyone to fix me. That’s a ridiculous amount of pressure to put on a single person. No one can really fix anyone, that’s absurd. I don’t want anyone to ever look at me, even in my most broken, and think I need fixing. I’m a little bent, a little bruised up, but I don’t need a first aid kit or a savior.

I’ve learned to take care of myself for the most part, but sometimes I do need someone to wipe the tears and remind me that I’m stronger than this.

My poor friend got the brunt of my insecurities.  He stood there asking me what to do, how to help, how to make it stop. He thought it was about him, and it wasn’t. He just happens to be a place where I feel safe and cared about so I broke down; even though as I did, I was sure I was destroying everything that felt so effortless about us. 

The thing about anxiety is that it can creep in at any time, even when things are okay, and it turns even the best of us into self saboteurs. This friendship is one of the things that makes me the happiest.

Sometimes, though, I don’t think I deserve it. I don’t think I deserve to be deliriously happy. I don’t think I deserve someone who is so undoubtedly there for me, not out of necessity or obligation, but because they legitimately care.  

I’m always looking for something to be wrong. I get it in my head that surely things will blow up in my face so I might as well light the match and do it now, that way I’m in control of it. That way I decide how deep below the surface the flames get to burn.

I’m aware of it so I can usually rectify the situation before I blow the whole thing to smithereens, but I have to stop doing the same things or I will lose the people I care about. 

So I went to walk in the woods. 

I forget sometimes, how much it helps. Mostly because it sounds so silly, but there’s a solace I find in nature that I can’t find anywhere else. Not in any person, not in any bottle, not in any substance, not in any book store or library.

Nowhere.

I even let my anxiety ruin that, too. I tossed and turned last night imagining I had an anxiety attack on the side of the trail and ended up surrounded by five hungry alligators.

That’s what anxiety does. It makes every single thing seem like a huge deal.

It makes you feel like the world is spinning and you are in a pool or a lake or an ocean or a gator swamp and you’re splashing around just trying to get your footing or even just a solid tread but waves keep coming and you think surely you might die because even the smallest things are so goddamn overwhelming.

I think that’s why I’m so drawn to water when I get anxious. Why I end up on shower floors or throwing myself into the ocean or the pool: if I feel some real water crashing down on my skin, I can focus on that instead of all the “what ifs.” It’s the way I take my power back.

wetlands1

I might lose everything, who the hell knows. All I do know is that if I keep obsessing over losing everything good in my life, I definitely will.

So I cleared my head. I realized that sometimes the anxiety creeps in, and I can’t explain it. There usually isn’t a reason –other than not trusting things to be good.

 

As I drove home, the sun was shining but it was raining. Pretty hard considering the sky was still so bright.

It was bizarre and beautiful and was the perfect metaphor for all the ridiculous anxiety I’d been feeling lately.

Everything is bright and beautiful, but sometimes I get so overwhelmed with emotion that I cry anyways. 

It happens. I break down. I lose it. I make people around me worry that they’re hurting me when they aren’t.

But it’s okay.

Today in the woods (swamp, really), I was reminded that everything doesn’t have to be such a big deal. That things are good. That I don’t need to push situations or people.

wetlands4

I spent so much of my life being defined by my anxiety and depression. To my parents. To my teachers. To my boyfriend. Everyone always had to watch out for me having a panic attack or falling into the pit of depression.

I get it, and I’m grateful for the countless people in my life who have helped me or saved me or been there for me, but I don’t need it to be my defining factor any more.

When it creeps in, I let it take over because it feels so familiar. I forget that I don’t have to do that anymore. I’m stronger than that.

I’ve said all year that “I believe in good things coming.” I’ve written it in almost every blog post. I write it down on pastry bags at work. I fill pages with that single phrase when I’m overwhelmed and need to write but can’t find more specific words.

I need to get that inked on my skin.

I believe in good things coming.

The good things are here. They’re here. No matter what the voice of anxiety says in the back of my mind: good things are here, and good things are coming.

sludge (poem)

Ernest Hemingway, one of my longtime literary heroes, once said “write drunk, edit sober.” It’s one of my favorites of his many quotable one-liners, and one I take to heart possibly too often. 

write drunk edit sober

The following is a poem I wrote drunk, edited sober. I’m not entirely certain it’s finished, but I wanted to share it. Is a poem really ever finished? That’s a question I may never be able to answer. 

Sludge

it’s like sludge
the way the words build up in my bloodstream.
i feel them in my body,
but i can’t get them out.

i sit down with a notebook
and another
a third for good measure, and a word document
a pen between my trembling fingers,
ready to bleed.

but little comes out.

i down a shot of whiskey
then another
and another
and another and another and another

and another
until i lose count.

when i stop,
the bottle is lighter,
and my body is warm,
my cheeks flushed.

i hope the alcohol will melt the thick, gooey substance
lodged in my veins
so i can be free.

but it doesn’t.

it loosens the words so they run frantically
around my mind
searching for the exit
suffocating each other when they can’t find it.

they’re fighting over
which gets to escape the prison of my mind first.
which do i speak?
which do i keep locked away in hopes of a perfect moment
to facilitate their escape?

it’s deafening silence:
a blank page and a busy mind.

i drink more.
in attempt to silence the screaming
and avoid telling the stories that long to get out
but i cannot yet articulate.

unfortunately, whiskey is their liquid courage, too,

so I drag on
heavy
filled with words I cannot speak
and a mind I cannot silence.

write drunk edit sober 2
A more accurate depiction of 98% of my writing time.

Music and me: a love story

I was always drawn to music.

First, it was my way to communicate with my parents. Mom and I would turn up the volume and dance in the car. It allowed us to bond without stumbling through awkward conversation, and it kept me from asking questions she didn’t have answers to. We would jam out to Santana or Matchbox 20, and those times were always when I felt closest to her.

With dad, it became a game. I’ll give you a bag of m&ms or $10 if you can name this song and who sings it.  I always lost, but I now have a vast knowledge of the classics.

I was always the girl with music on. I still am. I pause conversations and don’t leave parking lots until I find the perfect song. I cannot stand silence. I always have to have something playing.

Sometimes I have to write in public where I am not in control of the playlist or I spend all of my valuable writing time searching for the perfect song to match whatever mood I’m in.

It isn’t that I’m picky, I’ll listen to anything someone recommends. My playlists range from country to Johnny Cash to Taylor Swift to Godsmack to Jason Isbell to 90s rock to Usher to Ed Sheeran to Augustana to Elvis to country to whatever is on the radio and so much more. I love everything, I just enjoy when the music fits my mood. I don’t understand people who stick strictly to one genre. No judgement, but I’m so all over the place with my music I couldn’t imagine narrowing my taste down.

In middle school, I had song lyrics written on paper and tacked on my walls. I wanted to be like my mom. When she was in high school, she had Aerosmith lyrics written on her wall in sharpie. I thought it was the coolest thing ever, but it wasn’t worth the wrath of my step mom to copy her entirely. So instead I collaged my walls with other people’s words as I struggled to find my voice.

I would get in trouble at night because I’d sleep with the radio on just a touch too loud. My parents never wanted to hear Fall Out Boy at 2 a.m. as much as I did. I think that’s likely why they finally gave in and bought me an iPod. Then I could listen to whatever angsty shit I was into at the time, and they could sleep in peace.

I used to walk around the house with my headphones in singing along and jamming out. Happily in my own world. The same way I would read everywhere I went.

Music was an escape, a solace. In times when I was afraid to say how I felt, there was someone out there who had said it already. If I wasn’t ready to own my emotions, I could chalk it up to a song lyric I liked and deny my connection to it.

My dad had this big black CD case he kept underneath the TV full of things like Better than Ezra, Weezer and Dave Matthews. Much to his irritation (I was (am?) notoriously terrible for returning things I borrow), I borrowed it to add the music in my iTunes library.

“The Space Between” by Dave Matthews was the first song I really fell in love with. I heard it when I took the album from my dad’s CD case and played it on repeat for days. I got in a fight with my best friend and wrote the lyrics to that song on the back of a painting I did for her. I was trying to write out how I felt, but I couldn’t find it. Then there it was.

space between

That was the first song that hit me in that profound way. It was the first time I owned my connection to a song. It was the first time I realized the power of music. I’d loved it before, but that song made me realize just how much.

I eventually named my blog after it because I’m constantly feeling like I’m in spaces between things. Life, in a sense, is a series of spaces between. We just don’t realize it in the moment because it’s so easy to get caught up in how wildly important everything feels when it is staring you in the face.

That song changed my perspective on my relationship with music.

I use it to search for what I’m trying to say. Hence the constant playlist changing when I write. I realize that there are some things that others before me have said better. In most things, I’m a very visual person. I have to see things to understand them. Music takes me to a different place. Music opens the window to my mind so I can see what’s in there, what’s going on, what’s bothering me. Sometimes songs lead me to what I’m trying to say. Sometimes they say something so completely opposite of what I’m feeling that it clears up my confusion.

There have been times that I’ve tried to write about things or I’ve tried to explain things to people, and I almost want to piece together song lyrics and deliver it to them instead of working through the mud of trying to put my feelings into words. There are so many times that instead of having a conversation with someone, I just want to make them a playlist, and say “here. Listen. This is it.”

I usually have the music conversation with someone right when I first meet them. You can get to know a person pretty quickly based on what’s on their playlist.

I don’t know much about rhythm or melody. I don’t play any instruments. I can’t sing to save my life, as my daughter loves to point out. I was singing her to sleep the other night, and she said “mommy, stop it. You no sound good.” Once I was done comforting my bruised ego, I was just happy that she recognizes good music from bad music at two years old.

I may not be able to play it, but I love it. I don’t think you have to fully understand something (or someone for that matter) to love it. Or at least be entirely fascinated by it. Music moves through me. I can feel it pulsating through my body, and I can’t help but sway with it. I don’t need to see it for it to have an affect on me. It’s a force that I can’t deny. There have been countless times in my life where I’ve just blasted a favorite song and danced out all of my problems. It makes me feel something I can’t even explain.

I go see one of my best friends play every week, and it’s my favorite thing. He is wildly talented and captivates me and blows me away every time I watch him play. He has an ability to connect with people through his music, whether it’s covers or songs he’s written. I love when I can catch his eye, and he smiles, and I can see how complete he feels being up there and how much it means to him. That’s what I love about music. I love feeling connected to something or someone. I love the transparency that comes from people sharing their music with me.

I’m lucky to have such a talented friend and lucky that my always over-the-top enthusiasm hasn’t caused him to kick me out yet. (Go look him up on youtube, his name’s Zach Henderson. Or better yet: click here, I did the hard part for you.)

I love the way music  has the ability to take you to another place. I love how lost in my mind, in my daydreams, I get when I focus on the lyrics and the story of a song.

It’s the best escape and also roots me firmly to the earth. It doesn’t make sense, but if you love music or any art the way I do, you’ll understand.

Music makes me feel less alone in the world. It makes me feel close to people and close to something I cannot explain.

It’s gotten me through rough patches. It’s helped me find my own voice. It’s pulled me out of panic attacks and depressive episodes. It’s been loyal.

Music is like a time machine. I hear a song, and it takes me back to a specific moment. It takes me back to a way I felt. It takes me a while to actually write about situations I’ve gone through. Mostly because it takes time to process/let the stories unfold before I can tell them. However, as I work through things I’m always listening to songs and applying them to situations. Then when I go back and write about things, I listen to those playlists and am pulled back to that emotional place, and I can create my own words.

It’s a love I cannot deny, and that will never cease.

Hit me with your recommendations, I always need new stuff.

Mom, I forgive you

Dear Mama,

We’ve worked a tremendous amount on our relationship over the years, and I am so proud of how far we’ve come. I used to dread Mother’s Day because it was a reminder of how awful things were between us. I’m glad it isn’t that way anymore.

While we’ve talked a lot and had many a heart-to-heart over the past year or two, and especially in the past few months, but there’s one thing I don’t think I’ve said in such plain language.

Mom, I forgive you.

I forgive you for all of the times you weren’t there. I forgive you for the birthdays passed without a call. I forgive you for the visits you missed. I forgive you for the times your actions and decisions made me feel unimportant and disposable. I forgive you for the times I needed you, but you didn’t have the slightest clue how to be there for me.

I forgive you for the times you would change your phone number and forget to tell me. I forgive you for the letters and packages that got lost in the mail. I forgive you for the hurtful things you’ve said.

I forgive you for all of the things you are still so angry about.

I know you’re still mad at yourself for a lot of things, but I need you to know that I’m not mad at you anymore. There is no anger for the way my childhood went. Yes, there were parts that were shitty. There are parts that I wish never happened. No one wants to have grown up primarily without their mother around for what (at the time) felt like her choice. I understand now a lot of the reasons that I didn’t understand before.

I know you were operating from a place of love and doing the best you had with the cards you were dealt. Maybe looking back you can see places you could have improved, but that’s just the nature of life.

Don’t be so hard on yourself.

I forgive you so I need you to forgive yourself.

You are here now, and that is what is important.

Thank you for that. Thank you for turning things around. Thank you for forgiving me for my mistakes and letting me in.

Thank you for allowing me to watch the world break you. Not because I enjoyed seeing you hurt. Not in the slightest. Watching you struggle and be in pain has nearly destroyed me countless times. Thank you because watching you build yourself up into the strong, radiant, beautiful woman you are has had a profound impact on me. If you can come back from the things you have been through, then I know that I, too, will defeat the things that haunt me.

I’m proud of you.

You are an incredible example of strength. I hope to be even half as strong as you are, wonder woman.

Thank you for always being open and honest in showing me your flaws. Thank you for being quick to admit your wrong-doings –and even for occasionally admitting you’re terrible at admitting your faults because like me, you think you have to pretend you have it all figured out.

Thank you for calling me on my faults and for recognizing where they come from you.

Thank you for showing me that it is okay to screw up. The true test of character comes from how well you bring yourself back from your mistake.

Thank you for allowing me to learn from your mistakes but also understanding that I have to make my own, too.

I know all you ever wanted was for me to be better than you, and I’m sorry that in so many ways I am not. I know I’m reckless, overzealous, oversensitive and frequently very one-track-minded. You are quick to call me on that when it is getting in the way of what’s important, and I appreciate it.

But I never want to be a disappointment to you.

Thank you for knowing who I am and helping me to become the best version of myself rather than trying to make me into someone I’m not. Thank you for reading my writing and loving most of it, but also for not being afraid to tell me when it sucks. Thank you for encouraging all of my creative pursuits.

Thank you for all of the nurturing and mothering you’ve given the past few years. Thank you for being a steady presence in my life lately. It means more than any showy, over the top gesture ever could.

Thank you for being there when I took a sledgehammer to my life and sat lost among the wreckage of everything I thought I would be. Thank you for not being disappointed that I’d failed on such a grand scale. You were just there to help me see how to be rid of some pieces and fill in the gaps with new, better things.

Thank you for reminding me that I’m stronger than I think despite how broken and weak I feel.

Thank you for kicking me in the ass when I get too whiny and emotional and need to just get shit done. Even if I cry in a corner about it for a little while, I do appreciate you and your directness.

Most of all, thank you for loving Sophie. Thank you for being there for her. For doing her hair for school everyday, for making her lunches and doing crafts with her. Thank you for spending time with her in ways you didn’t, and couldn’t, with me.

I was worried it would hurt, but it has healed more than I ever thought possible.

I’m so grateful for the relationship and the love between the two of you. And for all of your help.

mama

I love you, mama. Our relationship hasn’t always been perfect, but I wouldn’t want anyone else as my mom.

Thank you for the laughs, for (sort of) dying my hair purple even when you had an allergic reaction. For car jam sessions, coffee dates and hugs. Thank you for passing down your love of music and writing. Thank you for being my best friend. Thank you for the qualities you’ve instilled in me: strength, creativity, enthusiasm for life and honesty. You’ve taught me to always stand on the side of the truth because the truth will set you free.

Thank you for teaching me to be self-reliant even if it has been the hardest lesson to learn.

Thank you for being a complete (adorable) dork, and for being just as cheesy and excitable as me. Thank you for giving me your smile and your big heart.

I love you much, mama. Happy mother’s day.

Love,

Sunshine

Run away, let go

My mom told me I need to hang some stuff on my walls so it looks like I’m staying put. She took my suit cases from my room, and every time we argue, she tells me she’s afraid I’ll run away.

I never realized I was so much of a flight risk.

I have deeply rooted attachment issues. Usually my friends pick on me (lovingly, mostly) because I get attached quickly. To jobs to things to people to boys who won’t give me the time of day.

I don’t know how to let go. I stayed in a marriage that was so obviously wrong for so many reasons for far too long.

I’ve spent months chasing a boy who doesn’t have the decency to call me back or own up to how he says he feels about me.

I’ve bent over backwards for friends who wouldn’t do the same for me.

I hold on until the bridge is torched. I was talking to Emma the other day about a particular situation and I told her “I either need this to go somewhere or completely blow up in my face.” I’ve been told I go to extremes, and while that’s probably true, there are few things I hate more than not knowing where I stand with someone.

Yet I keep poking the bear. I answer every sporadic text and allow people to come in and out of my life as they please. I hate it. It makes me feel weak, one way I promised myself not to feel again as much as I can help it.

The wound can’t heal because I keep slicing it open. Over. and over. and over. and over. and over. It’s bled dry, scabbed over, scared and reopened more times than I care to admit. I’m a little ashamed of it, but someone recently reminded me there’s nothing wrong with a little shame.

I don’t know how to let this go. I don’t do well without closure. I don’t do well not knowing what someone expects or wants from me. It makes me crazy(ier).

Why keep coming back if you’re just going to disappear without a trace again? Why can’t you just let me go? I have about a million questions that will remain unanswered.

I’ve come to that conclusion about 100 times, but somehow I keep having to circle back to convincing myself that’s okay.

I can’t let go. I keep trying to walk away, I ran for miles, but I keep getting pulled back. I’m given an inch of hope, and I take miles and miles.

But I can’t do it anymore. It’s unfair to me. It’s unfair to him.

Yet I’ve never been one to be able to squash my feelings. They won’t go away. I want to bury them in an underwater treasure chest guarded by mermaids and a sea witch, but that’s not how I operate.

Someone told me it’s beautiful, the way I feel everything so deeply. The way I feel pain and joy so intensely.

I told them it sucks, and it is an ability I would gladly give them.

I don’t think I can handle it. I don’t think I can handle all of this emotion because I don’t know what to do with it.

I’m not equipped to handle it.

My body is tired, my brain is a mess, my heart is sore. I’m trying to write it all out, but nothing makes any sense.

I’m sitting, spending another night waiting for a call that will never come. Evidently it’s too much to have a conversation about things. God forbid I ask you to take me out of the back pocket you’ve been keeping me in because I deserve to be so much more than your dirty little secret.

I wish I was as much of a flight risk as my mom thinks I am. I wish I could convince him that he could lose me. That instead of taking care of other people and trying to fulfill the roles that other people want me to fill, I could look out for my own feelings and my own heart first.

It should be so simple, really. But it isn’t.

I had a heart to heart with a good friend yesterday, and he said something that’s been stewing around in my brain since then. “Things are very black and white, but the reasons behind them are convoluted.”

He’s so right. Things are quite simple, but emotion and human nature make them far more complicated than they should be.

I shouldn’t let things get to me so much, but I can’t help it.

I want to be good at running away from things. In some ways, I am. I’m an expert. Once I do decide to let go, I burn bridges. I cut people off. I shut people out. Just look at how many times I’ve packed up and moved in the last few years.

Running.

As much as I obsess over things, I also avoid them. In a different heart to heart with the same friend, I told him I’m the queen of avoidance and an expert at running away from my problems.

I spend a lot of time trying to pretend I’m chill and that things don’t get to me, but I spend double the amount of time in my head internally panicking about everything.

It’s a difficult balance.

His response was probably perfect, that running away from anything will kill me eventually and not to be stupid about it. It’s nice having someone in my life who understands how my brain works, doesn’t judge and completely gets it. I feel incredibly fortunate to have a friend like that. People you connect with on another level don’t come around often.

In fact, I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by a fantastic group of people. I don’t know how I got so lucky to have such incredible friends, but man do I have some mad love for you guys.

You’d think with all these lovely people around, I’d care less about the ones who treat me like shit.

Hearts don’t work that way. As Emma said, hearts are a little slow sometimes.

I’m gonna need my heart to pick up the pace because I’m ready to run away from this situation for good.

Don’t worry mama, only metaphorically. I’m staying put, and I’ll hang some things on my walls soon.

The why behind my words

My notebooks read like an ode to all the boys (and girls) who’ve broken my heart. Not a single one of them deserve it, but neither do I deserve to live with all of this hurt eating away at my insides.

So I sum up whole relationships, quick love affairs and broken friendships in a series of lines that cut people to their core –that give them that heart-dropping, gut-wrenching feeling we all crave but never admit.

I write it out, cry it out and move on.

My words will break your heart.

I’m the girl who will write you a three page love letter. I’ll write you lines about how beautiful things could be, even if they never end up that way. I’ll show you how wonderful I think you are, because I think everyone deserves to feel good about themselves. I’ll mean every word because I don’t see much point in writing something if it isn’t the truth.

I’ll write it even if I’m certain you’ll never read it because it isn’t for you, it’s for me. There isn’t room in my body for all of the words that come through my brain in a single day. So I write it down.

I write because when he asked me how I felt, what I wanted and what he could do to make me happy, I couldn’t tell him. All that came out of my mouth were broken phrases, a series of I don’t know’s (even though I did) and some inaudible noises.

There he was, willing to listen to me word vomit and ramble as long as I needed, and I couldn’t get it out.

But it’s on paper. I wrote pages explaining what I wanted, what I needed, what I craved. I do know, I’m just afraid to say things out loud because then I can’t take them back. If it’s on paper, I can rip it to shreds, burn it or lock it away and pretend it never happened.

If it’s only on paper you never read, you can’t break my heart. That, I think, is what I’m most afraid of.

I write because on paper is the only place I’m not afraid to say how I feel. I feel invincible instead of fragile.

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I write because my heart is a strong and fragile as a wild flower. If I don’t get the feelings out, they’ll destroy me.

I write because I thought I’d said it all. I thought I’d told him everything on my mind, but my words and feelings still caught him by surprise.

Some people write to remember. They pen their stories so they are committed to paper and won’t leave them.

I write to forget.

I write because there are images planted in my mind that won’t go away. I write because I’ll replay the same story or line in my mind on a repeating reel for days until I write it down. I write because if not I get obsessive. I’m easily consumed by thoughts and words and feelings, and if I don’t get them out of me in some way I’m certain they’ll drown me one day.

An overabundance of words or my caffeine addiction will be the death of me, I swear.

I write because if I don’t my words are written across my face.

I write because I don’t want perfect strangers to read me like a book. Mostly because they’re usually right, and I’d like to think I can keep some air of mystery about me, even if it is the ever so slightest bit.

I occupy this strange space of not having anything to hide but also not wanting to be so easy to figure out.

I write because it hurts when I don’t.

Physically. My hands get fidgety, and my throat feels like it’s closing and there’s a pit at the bottom of my stomach and a fist clenching my heart.

I write because nothing beats that high. Not alcohol. Not drugs. Not anything. Nothing can compare to the way it feels when I get in the zone and the words come out, and I know I’m on to something.

If not on to something, at least releasing something that has gotten far to comfortable existing within my mind.

Beyond that, nothing beats when someone connects with my words. I love knowing when people read my work. The stats on wordpress let me know that my word vomit reaches a lot of people, but only a select few let me know they’ve read it. Nothing beats getting a comment or a message that something I wrote resonated with someone. I want people to realize they aren’t alone, and we all deal with the same shit day in and day out.

I write because it makes me feel like an unstoppable force.

I write because I don’t know how to cope with life without it. It’s the only thing that keeps me standing on my own two feet when the world feels like it’s collapsing in on me.

Because it’s the only way I’m ever able to figure out what I want.

Flannery O’Connor once said “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

I write it all down because I know I’m an intense person. I feel things deeply, which is both a blessing and a curse because the people around me rarely do.

I write because I know I’ll scare people away if it all comes out out loud. Worse than that, I’ll push them away if I leave it all inside.

I write because I think I’ll fall over and die if I ever stop.

On relationships, breakthroughs and happy times

Lately I’ve been working on putting smaller pieces of larger stories together. I’ve written about this weird block I’m working through, and that’s a big part of it.

I’ve spent a lot of time avoiding telling stories or processing things or dealing with things, and now that I am, I’m trying to figure out how it all fits together. First in a collection of poems, but on a larger scale, how these events have changed my life and shaped who I am in smaller ways.

The large ones are obvious, it’s the smaller shifts I like to explore.

There’s a saying I hear often (that I’m likely going to butcher) that says something along the lines of “you don’t know the important moments are important until later.” It’s rather obvious, but it’s interesting watching that idea manifest itself in really tangible ways in your own story.

I’ve been writing about Greece a lot. I always knew that going to Greece would change my life, but I never though it would have occurred this way.

That trip was really the moment (collection of moments rather) when I decided that my marriage was over. I didn’t look at it like that then because I was still trying to convince myself there was some semblance of hope that we could fix things, but there wasn’t.

My favorite moments of that trip were the ones where I was alone. Then there’s dirt house story I told here. Then there’s when I was at the most beautiful beach in the world, floating in the clearest, bluest water I’d ever seen, and I still felt empty. I knew at that moment it was as good as it was going to get. Going to Greece was always my life dream, and Chris made it happen, but I still couldn’t be happy.

I’m sure he felt as though he’d given me everything he could give, but it would be unfair to speak for him.

I knew then, though, that if I couldn’t be happy in that space, nothing about that life was for me. I left shortly after that, but the way it all unfolded just kind of came together for me recently.

Since then, though, I’ve been paying extra attention to small moments.

I went out with some friends last week, and we had a really good time. I’m really fortunate to have met some of the best people since I moved to Florida, and we had fun.

We took this picture (below) the other night, and I love it for a few reasons.

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First, that lip color, though. I’m obsessed. Second, do you see how amazing the people I’m with are? They’re freaking great.

Mostly it’s the fact that I look so genuinely happy in this photo. Because I am. It isn’t just the tequila/sangria, I promise.

Let’s rewind.

Earlier this evening, I’d had a really dumb situation happen with a not-so-dumb boy. Sort of a misunderstanding, sort of a moment where I had to check myself to make sure I’m not selling myself short like I frequently do. Boundaries and expectations in relationships are freaking hard to navigate, even if things are super casual.

Anyhow, he hurt my feelings, but instead of going home and crying about it, I went out with my friends and had a seriously good time dancing all of our troubles away.

For once I didn’t make other people more important, I just took care of myself.

Judging from the three texts I received from said boy while I was in the club, he knew he upset me fairly immediately. It didn’t matter.

Funny, though, how people only want to show you that they care when they think you’re halfway out the door. I wish more people would appreciate the people they have in their lives while they’re there.

Anyhow, said boy and I worked it out. I didn’t write this to bash on him, he’s a good guy. Anyone who let’s me ramble/overthink to them in a series of novella-length text messages usually ends up good in my book. But we’ll see how this story unfolds. Who the hell really knows.

I wrote this to point out, once again, how far things have come. Brenna spent a lot of time with me last fall when the actions of one particular jerk (who will remain unnamed because evidently I’m only good enough behind closed doors) would ruin our nights out.

I’d end up a wreck. Crying in a bathroom or on a bar stool because some idiot wouldn’t pay attention to me. Because he decided that he could pop in and out of my life as he so chose, and I let him. Always waiting there at his beck and call whenever he needed an ego boost.

Ew.

I won’t do that again. I won’t be that for someone ever again. Although sometimes it’s hard to tell when you fall into that role.

Hindsight is 20/20. My regular vision…well, I should probably wear my glasses more often.

Anyways, I did not end up in a puddle of tears in some gross bar bathroom. That, my friends, is progress.

That, my friends, is me taking care of me. And that is how you get a genuine smile.

It was a small moment, one night out with those fabulous people in (hopefully) a series of them. But it did not go down as “the night Michelle ended up crying over some dumb dude.” Instead it’s “the night Saqif showed us all up on the dance floor.”

It was a small moment, but those are the ones that make all the difference.

 

Writing, blocks and the woods

I went to the woods today, and I didn’t come out overwhelmed with inspiration.

Normally, I go in with a million thoughts swirling around in my grey matter, and come out with dirt stained pages of ideas, snippets, new directions for existing projects, lines that may fit places and just an overall clarity about life.

Today I went in without much of importance on my mind, and came out feeling kind of bleh.

It’s just been that kind of week, honestly.

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It’s still so beautiful, even if it didn’t clear my block.

I’m coming down off a crazy creative high. I rode the wave, got all of the things in my head out on paper, and now the wave has deposited me back on the shore with a lot of stuff to work through and not a lot of motivation to work through it.

I have pieces of poems stashed in random notebooks, some poems that right now are two, but are likely different drafts of the same piece. I have some I’ve literally cried over because I can’t get right. Some I’ve spilled beer on because I’m frustrated (and also clumsy).

This is the time when writing feels like work. When the words don’t come smoothly sailing out of my pen and on to paper. When I don’t feel like a creative genius. When I feel like everything that comes out sucks and is worthless.

I hate times like this.

It’s not even writer’s block, it’s…editor’s block? It’s a lack of motivation? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what it is. All I know is that it’s testing me.

Testing my resolve to make this work and make something of myself.

That’s why I went to the woods. It’s my happy place. The place I can usually find clarity and direction and all of the things I need to be successful.

Today I just discovered I’m really dehydrated, and that hiking three miles in direct sunlight with no shade was not my brightest idea. I miss my mountains terribly.

The trees in the woods I hiked in today valued their personal space too greatly. I didn’t feel enclosed in a comforting blanket of branches and leaves and Spanish moss. Today I felt exposed. I felt like anything I stopped on the trail to write down would be instantly out there in the universe not simply scrawled on a dirt-stained page of my notebook.

I have a strict no music rule when I go into the woods. I like to connect with myself, connect with nature, and let’s be honest….listen to know if any snakes/gators/bears/cougars might be trying to plan a sneak attack.

Anyways, today I didn’t even have thoughts swirling around in my head. I didn’t have anything I was overthinking about or anything to even get out. So I turned on the music to simply have something to occupy my brain other than when this steaming hot, seemingly never-ending hike would be over.

It was that kind of hike.

It sucked.

I’ve word vomited everything. I’ve said all that needs to be said so now it’s just working with it.

I don’t know how to do that. I’m good at the initial dump, and I love the catharsis that comes from that. Once it’s all out there? I’m not good at that. I’m not good at doing something about things, or in this context, polishing poems and other pieces.

It’s an interesting space to be in creatively. I’m overwhelmed with the amount of work it still takes after I have everything down on paper. The projects I’m working on still have so far to go. It’s terrifying and exhausting.

The woods didn’t work for me today, but maybe that isn’t their job. Maybe I need to stop looking to so many outside things for motivation and validation in writing and probably a lot of other parts of my life, too.

But that’s a different story for a different time.

If anyone has any motivating tips, playlists, suggestions, etc., send them my way. I’m always open to suggestions!

The dog days are over

Late summer.

I was a mess. I’d just lost my husband. I’d just lost my best friend. I’d just lost the person I’d (wrongly) expected would be thrilled to see me come home. The rug had been ripped out from under me. Rather, I’d ripped the rug out from underneath myself. In what feels like a never-ending blame game, it has been pointed out to me that am the one who did this to myself.

It’s true, I did. But it’s also the best decision I ever made.

Anyhow. On this particular day, I sat on my friend’s couch clutching a bottle of tequila because who needs to dirty a glass when you are trying to drown a pain that feels insurmountable?

We sat there together. Him playing video games, me guzzling tequila like my life depended on it and drowning out the thoughts in my head with music because I still couldn’t formulate words of my own.

“The Dog Days are Over” by Florence the Machine came on.

 

 

The two of us were coping with heart break, and the dog days were far from over, as he so kindly pointed out.

Cue my guzzling more tequila.

I remember sitting there in that moment listening to the lyrics. “Happiness hit her, like a train on a track.”

I felt like I’d been hit by a train, but a train of pain and tears and an endless hangover.

I immediately started ugly crying because how on earth were the dog days supposed to be over? How was I supposed to put back the pieces of my life that I shattered with a sledgehammer? I remember wondering why I even did this to myself –why couldn’t I have just continued to suffer in silence? I still hadn’t realized I deserved far better, we both did.

I didn’t think there was any way I would possibly get through it. My dog days were just my life. They would be over when I was dead.

“One day, the dog days will be over, and we will sit here listening to this song and think about how ridiculous we both were.”

Mostly I think he just wanted me to stop crying, because I sat in that spot with a bottle of something or a pint of ice cream at least three times a week for a while. I stared keeping ice cream and tequila in his freezer so I could listen to Adele and cry with someone next to me.

If you’re reading this, and I haven’t thanked you recently for holding onto all my shattered pieces so I could put them back together and for being my safe place and for all the things, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

That moment has stuck with me. I think about it often. Usually when I’m drunk and confused, but more recently in a better light.

The song came on our playlist at work, and I immediately started singing along and jamming out while I was doing my little barista thing.

Then all of the sudden it hit me, like a train on a track.

The dog days are over.

The dog days are fucking over.

I’m happier now than I think I’ve ever been. Life isn’t without it’s struggles or stresses, obviously, but I’m so happy.

This move to Florida was good for me. It was without a doubt exactly what I needed to do. I’m writing more than I ever have. I’ve met people who have inspired me and pushed me and who believe in me.

I’ve healed relationships that have needed healing for a while. Life has just been an incredible whirlwind of good things lately, and more good things are coming.

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Everything it must belong somewhere. I know that now, that’s why I’m staying here. 

The dog days are fucking over. I survived the worst thing I thought could ever happen. I lost everything I knew, everything I thought I wanted. I threw everything away because I knew I was miserable, and it wasn’t fair to anyone involved.

The dog days are fucking over, and I couldn’t be happier.