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.

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