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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The ocean, love and holding back

The ocean and I will always be the best of friends.

I throw myself into its waiting arms with reckless abandon, like an overeager lover.

Overeager, overwhelming, over dramatic, over enthusiastic, too much. You name it, I’ve been called it. I love fast. I love hard. I know it, I try to calm it. But calming my desire, my need, to love others deeply, truly, wildly, is like trying to calm the ocean’s waves.

Impossible, and quite honestly, a stupid thing to attempt.

I spend a lot of time at the ocean now that it is 45 minutes from my house. (In case you missed it, I moved to Florida a month ago. Despite the numerous tearful goodbyes I said, it seems I sort of left without announcing it. Anyhow, now you know).

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The ocean and I have rekindled our love affair and man is it exhilarating.

The ocean may be the only thing I’ve ever loved that hasn’t let me down. The only thing I can throw myself into and know that it will always catch me.

The ocean may toss me around a little bit. I may tumble within a wave or have my legs scraped up by the sand on its floor, but it also supports me. It is also the only place I feel entirely free. It is the only place I don’t have to worry about my joints failing me. It is the only place I can let go of my need for control.

I can hand control over to the ocean and just relax.

My body is supported by the water, and I move easily over the gentle waves.

When the rough ones come, I throw myself into them, back arched moving along with the currents.

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I’m unafraid.

I’ve crashed and burned enough times. My heart has been bruised, beaten, taken for granted, drug through the mud and left washed up on the shore enough times that I know I can handle it.

I know that whatever happens, I’ll be okay. I can take care of myself just fine.

None of the bull shit I’ve been through has taught me to be guarded. None of it has hardened my heart the way people tell me it will.

I’m only 22, there’s still time, but I’m afraid to see what it would take for me to build walls the way others do.

I guess I’m just not afraid to risk it all for love. I’m not afraid to love all the pieces of someone. The thing about me is that whether friend or more than that, I want to see the dark places of people. I want to know what makes them tick. I want to know what they’re passionate about. I love watching someone light up when they talk about what they love. I love being able to assure people that their crazy is lovable. People are flawed, and I think we oftentimes forget that it’s okay to be that way.

I don’t want “perfect,” I’ve been there, tried that, didn’t bother to get the T-shirt, and we all saw where that got me.

The perfect life, the perfect relationship isn’t all its cracked up to be.

I don’t want that. Never have.

I think that for me, I would just eventually like to be with someone who gets that we all have baggage. We all have a past and things that hurt us and things that changed us. I guess I just want someone to accept that about me and understand that I’m willing to accept that about them.

I don’t know why I’m word vomiting all over the place right now. I don’t know what the point of writing all this is. There was just a little voice in my head telling me to word vomit.

I’ve been blocked because I’ve been avoiding my feelings. Well, sort of. I don’t know that I’m actually capable of avoiding my feelings.

I’ve been avoiding writing them down. I’ve been avoiding putting these stories to paper because I’m worried about hurting people.

How dumb is that? I’m worried about hurting people who had no regard for me. Who knew me, who knew how my heart works and shit on me anyways.

Seriously, I’m too sensitive for my own good. I care far too much.

I often wonder if there is even anyone else out there who gets it? Or am I just this crazy, oversensitive anomaly that is destined to end up with a broken heart over and over again?

Who the fuck knows.

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Anyways, there are a million things that I’ve wanted to write. A million words to put on paper. A thousand stories to tell. They’re trying to claw their way out of me. My hand itches every time I pick up a pen.

But I haven’t told them because I’m too worried about other people’s feelings. My tears have stained numerous pages as I try to protect people who usually never even gave me the time of day.

Fuck it.

I’m sensitive, but I’m strong. I’m loving, but I’m done with bull shit. I’m done with ghosting, pulling on heart strings and dishonesty.

So I return time and time again to my lover the ocean. I come back to the water to remember that life is hard. Life will knock you on your ass hundreds of times, but strength lies in your ability to get back up and keep fighting and keep loving.

And usually things are worth the risk.

I’ve been told that I need to get a thicker skin, that I need to stop being so willing to let people in.

That might be true, but I don’t think I’d be me anymore if I stopped feeling everything so intensely.

I’ve worked too hard to regain my sense of self in the last year to ever let that be taken from me again.

“Love can change the world in a moment, but what do I know?” –Ed Sheeran

You’re crazy, but you’re also sane

Here I am. Yet again, surrounded by boxes and half-packed suit cases, trying to sort through the piles of clothes, books and toys to pack them away.

Again.

I’ve moved five times in the last two years. Five. Not counting the three times we switched hotel rooms in the four months we lived in Virginia.

Five times.

I should be an expert at this by now. I should have a method to the madness of moving, but I don’t.

I don’t have a method to much of what I do in life. I have a restless spirit, almost to the point of recklessness. I’m a wanderer, physically and mentally. I day dream more than the average person, and I’m frequently wishing I were somewhere else. I can’t sit still to save my life so here I am, packing. Again.

My books and notebooks are off their precisely organized shelves and packed neatly into boxes. They are usually the only things I pack with any semblance of care. Seeing my journals filled with the stories, thoughts, mistakes, regrets and dreams of the past few months (or years) in a box always has an interesting affect on me.

Most of the time I feel like a complete mess. Once everything is packed though, and the physical parts of my life are put away, I can’t help but hope that maybe the less tangible parts of my life can be that organized. Doubtful, but a girl can dream.

I know it is time to have new experiences to fill more notebooks with.

It’s time for a new chapter. Again.

There is something exhilarating about starting over. New opportunities, new challenges. I know this next step will lead me to some great places. There are quite a number of good things coming my way, I can feel it.

Still, it is hard to leave other things behind. There are people I will miss more than I know how to handle. Some I know will still be around, their loyalty has been proven time and time again. I’m grateful to have friends who don’t care about my geographic location.

Others, well, I worry. I worry that not being here means those relationships will end. They likely will, and that means they weren’t meant for me anyways, but they aren’t things I’m ready to let go of.

I’m big on closure, and there are some things that will feel unfinished.

I’m still trying to convince myself that is okay.

My fear about this next step comes from my lack of a back up plan. In every scary step I’ve taken, I’ve had a clear “If plan A doesn’t work out, then I will…” So as much as I’ve felt like I’m diving into things head first, I’ve always known what I would do if it didn’t work out. My issues stem more from a lack of confidence or courage to act on those plans.

This time, I don’t have a back up plan. I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t get things to work out. On the one hand, I have every confidence that I will figure it out. On the other, trying to be okay with uncertainty is a constant process.

I feel very Rory Gilmore in the revival, except I know where (most of) my underwear is, and I (unfortunately) don’t have a super attractive international lover. Man, would I be less upset if I had Logan Huntzberger in my back pocket.

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Scratch that, I would be happier if I had Jess Mariano to remind me that I’m still a contender. 

I rambled about this to my lovely friend Eden earlier today. She told me that my uncertainty shows I’m a mature and sane adult.

“Mature and sane?” I questioned. “Those aren’t usually how people describe me.”

Her response?

“I mean girl, you cray. But you’re also sane.”

She’s right. I’m cray. I keep thinking I need to tame myself, to “get my shit together.” I don’t even know what that would look like. I keep thinking that maybe if I were less restless I would be happier. That if I didn’t let people in so easily I would be happier. That if I got a better job or a retirement fund or something that I would be happier.

Fuck that. 

The people in my life love me despite my crazy. I will forever be grateful to them and will constantly search for ways to show them just how much I love and appreciate them.

I have always had this need for outside approval. I can’t do anything without running it past a panel of people. I either do what they say, or I do something because they told me not to, and I felt like I needed to prove to them that I’m a grown ass woman who makes her own decisions.

Neither of those are good ways to make decisions. Doing anything based solely on anyone else hasn’t gotten me far in life. In fact, it made me completely lose my sense of self. I’m just starting to get it back, and I’ll be damned if I hand it over to anyone else again.

The past month I holed up. I didn’t drink. I didn’t go out. I hardly saw anyone, and I didn’t reach out much to talk or catch up.

It was just me and my notebooks (and Sophie, of course). I needed clarity. I had decisions to make and things to figure out.

Usually, I would feel terribly lonely and anxious. I actually enjoyed the alone time quite a bit.

For one of the first times, it is nice to feel like I am doing what I need and not what other people need from me. I suppose I’ve been doing that a lot over the past few months, but it is nice that it feels like a new normal and not just a whim I followed.

I’m so tired of taking better care of others than I do for myself. I always talk about how I love big, but sometimes that isn’t enough. Sometimes people aren’t deserving of it, and I have to realize that taking my love back doesn’t make me a bitch. It just means I’ve learned to love myself as much as I love others.

That’s another story for another time.

All I know right now is that it’s okay. It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay. It’s all gonna be okay.

Shine

For years I knew I wanted to be a writer. I took all the advanced English classes I could in high school. I was rarely seen without a book or journal in my bag, frequently both. I was the girl who would get called out for reading a book not for class in the middle of class because it was just that good.

I majored in English in college and took numerous creative writing classes with some really awesome professors. I was an editor for the school news paper. My class notes were half bits of poems or stories half notes.

Somewhere between junior year and graduation, I became disenchanted. I thought “I’m not cut out for this.” The stresses of Chris’s military career getting kicked off and all of the changes our family was facing got to me and rather than write through it all, I abandoned what I had once loved so much. I lost my dedication. Somewhere in there I lost my faith in myself to be able to do anything other than to play my role of wife and mom and figure myself out later.

Later, later, later.

The past six months have been about “later.” First it was “when we get to Virginia.” Then, “Once Sophie remembers how to nap again.” Then, “Once we get settled in Germany.”

Now became changing diapers, going for walks and dreaming about this “later” that seemed would never come. This “later” that just kept getting pushed, you guessed it, later and later. Now became sad. Now became feeling like everything I did was for everyone else. It felt like any time I was given to myself was wasted because I wasn’t working toward anything. I wasn’t concerned with a career or a financial contribution, just something. Something that would make me a better person, a better mom, a better wife and make my soul shine. Something that could make me feel like I accomplished something.

Motherhood is demanding and oh so rewarding, but it’s often impossible to see the effects of your love and nurturing when your child is refusing to nap, pulling your hair and eating the dog’s food AGAIN. I can’t see how Sophie is better because I built a block tower she got to knock over or that I submitted to another hour of being the “mama gym.”

I needed something for myself that wouldn’t interfere with my important job of full time mommy. It took me a while to be okay with that. It took me a while to be okay with the fact that I’m not the type of mother who can be all diapers and bottles and sensory play activities all the time. I’m not super mom. I’m not a picture perfect stay at home mom, no matter what my social media accounts will lead you to believe.

That was never anything that I thought I expected of myself. I always said I wouldn’t be that, that I wasn’t cut out for it the way some women are. I always said that I was OK with that, but deep down I don’t think I was. I think I wanted to be the kind of mom who only needs her kids, but there’s been this energy stirring inside of me that I’ve felt like I need to get out.

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So I started writing again.

By started writing again, I mean I started a new journal on the 2nd, it is now the 13th  and that journal is almost full.

By started writing again, I mean that I put some hard revising work into some old poems to the point that I felt like they were worthy of being submitted to the Asheville Poetry Review for their William Matthews Poetry Prize. The first contest I’ve ever entered, despite the fact that I have filled many a page of an old journal with contest deadlines and goals I wanted to meet. The pages yellowed and the journals got boxed up. The deadlines came and went.

I never saw myself as worthy. I was so petrified of failing that I didn’t even try. I didn’t think I could take the inevitable rejection letter.

It’s not that I somehow think I’m such a better writer than I was a year or two ago, although I’d like to think I’ve improved with time. It’s not that I’m so sure I’m going to win that failure it isn’t even a thought that occupies any space in my mind.

I probably won’t win. I’ll probably lose, but I’m not afraid of that anymore. If I get a rejection letter or an email, I’m gonna go out and buy a frame for it. Maybe I’ll hang it on the fridge with a gold star sticker. I’ll wear it like a badge of honor because it isn’t about the poems. It isn’t about being the best or winning a contest. I still don’t know if writing is what I want to do for a career, or if I’d ever be successful enough to call myself a writer or make a career out of it.

It isn’t about any of those things.

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For me, the image of that priority envelope I carefully placed my poems in means that I tried. That I took a chance on myself. That I beat self doubt and believed in myself. That I finally see myself as worthy.

Sure, it’s just one contest of surely many more to come (I hope). But for me, it’s bigger than that. You might think me silly, but this is my first step. This is my step toward healing, toward building something for myself. To believing in my words and my craft and believing that I have something to say that someone might want to hear. That might spark something in someone the way that so many other people’s words and art have sparked something in me.

After I sent my poems off, I headed to Books a Million to pick up the new copy of Poets and Writers. They always have a great list of upcoming contest deadlines, and I wanted more options. I was honestly on some sort of euphoria, halfway between tears and grinning so hard my face could’ve split open. Anyways, I was reading the editor’s letter and he said something that I loved.

Whether thousands, hundreds or dozens of people might read what we’ve written, or even if we reach just one single soul, we are being given an opportunity to create something bright in all this darkness. Shine.

So if you are reading this, thank you. If you’ve read anything I’ve written, thank you. If you’re my grandma, thank you. You may not get your novel, but you might get a book of poems, I hope that will suffice.

I’m choosing to shine. I’m choosing to do something for myself because I finally, finally think I’m worthy.

I hope you do the same. I hope you, beautiful reader, decide to shine.