Not so Little

Sheets and stools: our own cloth mansion.

Hide from the outside, our secret.

Mistakes. Dramatic reactions.

Push, scream, cry; no one will confess.

Just disappear! Now! Get your own

life! You enrage everybody.

For the last time, hang up the phone!

Antagonize repeatedly.

I yearned for a sister, and would

envisage parting when I’m grown.

I never presupposed I could

miss your insults and tetchy tone.

You no longer intrude; I find

myself hoping you’ll bother me.

Your pranks and guiles, I would not mind.

Time triggers change; we’ve changed vastly.

Two years quickly turned into ten,

and our memories I shall not omit.

How could I? Roommates can’t even

build forts with just chairs and blankets.

Sibling ties prove themselves ageless,

forever a best friend to me.

That spunky child, I may miss,

but can’t match the man I now see.

46.7 Miles

As I sit here, I marvel at how anyone could believe that what thrives in front of me was a mistake, something that just happened. 46.7 miles; nature’s natural road.
The way the water flows, so powerful yet so tranquil. This town that many call home becomes ephemeral for the rapids that pass through and then fleet; gracing Windsor, New Hartford, Otis, and Becket with its wonder. I am captivated by the explosion of foam as the water fiercely crashes into the smooth rocks that are jetting up through the surface. The single rock in my view seems like an imperfection, but all you need to do is take a step back and absorb the river in its entirety; you will notice that the one “flaw” is just one stepping stone completing a path of breathtaking formations. A wall of trees encircle the path, lacking their leaves but not their liveliness and vivacity. The perfection mirrors a picture someone has painted, retouched, and restored- all of the supposed defects covered with fresh paint that becomes its new identity. The architect of this river could be nothing short of faultless.

We are rivers.

A soggy green shirt flails as the water streams by a branch on which it is caught, red spray paint spells out “PROM” on four different tree trunks, broken pieces of what once were bottles are scattered around the area where the ground meets the body, joining some wrappers on a bed of leaves and kindling.

But that does not take away from its natural splendor, its ability to make me feel like there is not a lovelier place in the world that I could be in this moment.

I wonder if the river knows where it is going, where it will end up. Either way it rushes on, effortlessly going around the obstacles in its way. It goes as far as I can see and then beyond that, into the unknown, to a place of uncertainty.

If everything was an accident, a slipup, a coincidence, and we have no significance on this earth, then wouldn’t it seem silly to follow turns into territory that you cannot discern? To just trust that everything will work out? Why would it? We are nothing. Nothing in a distorted world of malevolence, selfishness, and hurt.
But the river has a reason to trust, has a purpose. It follows its course, brings life to its surroundings, completes its journey, becomes a part of something greater than itself, and then its end turns out to be its beginning; the water will soon make its way back to this very spot. The current will have the same foundation, is still the same river, but having encountered other sources it is also completely changed.

In how long that specific water will make its way through those forty seven miles, we do not know. After what happenstances, we cannot say. That information is not for us to know.
What we do know is this:

the ambiguity, the broken shards, the garbage and the blemishes, the rocks, the unforeseen turns, the remains and scars from others who have passed through and secured their place as a part of the story…

that is what completes us and makes us who we are.

This river is unlike any other one in the entire world because of those small flaws: the one bottle or that dash of red paint.

We will not ever know where we are going, how we will get there, what turns we will face, or when we will even reach our destination. But we trust, much like the river trusts, because the river and we were molded by the same hands. Not accidentally, not to do as we please, dwell, and go through life believing we have no purpose. We trust because we are the center of a masterpiece in which every single detail, step, and fragment was thought of.

I sit here and marvel at the gift given to me. I gaze at the beauty, knowing that I do not deserve this incredible home I have been temporarily placed in.

We are rivers.

You’re Too Young to Know What Love Is

On Friday night I went to a concert. The bands that were playing happened to attract people of all ages I guess…because there were twelve year olds screaming and jumping as well as what seemed to be thirty and forty year olds swaying to the music.

By the time the second band went on, I was about to lose it. There were these two kids standing in front of me; they seemed to be maybe sophomores, definitely not out of high school yet. They were so distracting, so inconsiderate of the people around them.

They were all. over. each other. *motions gagging*

I felt disgusted and annoyed. I looked at them kissing and hugging each other and doing some strange interlocking thing where they had their arms around one another but were still holding both hands of the other person… I don’t even know what that was.

I turned to Rita next to me and said “someone needs to tell them that they will most likely be broken up within the next few months, if not sooner”. I wanted to yell at them- you guys are just kids…stop. It will never last. Ever. It’s all fake, mine as well get over it now. Or at least have some decency and save the kissing for somewhere else.

As soon as I said that, my stomach turned.

I remembered that time- having someone to always talk to and claim as yours and walk around in school hand in hand with and love. Knowing that they thought they loved you, maybe because you are their first relationship or maybe because teenagers are prone to that infatuation-based “love”.

One song came on, and they sang every verse to each other. Turned towards each other, smiling the most genuine smiles I have ever seen, holding hands, and kissing after every verse- only to do the same thing thirty seconds later. He was running his fingers through her pony tail and she was scratching the back of his neck and rubbing his back. When she looked up at him, I saw sincere bliss in her eyes. I stared at them, but they saw no one besides each other. For the first time, I saw that cliché term in real life, and it was beyond authentic.

They held each other so close that nothing could break them apart.

I was disgusted again, but this time with myself.

Love is a beautiful thing. And whoever said “I would rather have loved and lost than have never loved at all” was really on to something. The passion, joy, and contentment that radiated off those two was incredible, and something that may be worth the possibility that it will end in a few months.

Right now, in this moment, they felt secure, loved, purposeful, wanted, protected, and cared for.

If only for a day or a week, those are emotions and a connection that we should encourage, not feel irritated by.

We can only hope that [healthy] relationships flourish instead of fade away. But if that is not the case; at least we know that we leave each relationship having learned something, having trusted ourselves with someone else, having made an impact on someone else’s life.

They sure made an impact on mine.

January 3, 2004

*So I have finished a rough draft of a Realistic Fiction YA novel written from the perspective of a young girl as she goes through middle and high school. It is meant to represent the way children and teens may view or react towards alcoholic and abusive parents. It is made up of journal entries, so the posts with a date as the title are from the draft.*

January 03, 2004 (10 years old)

Every time I want to make a CD, dad has to get a list of every song that I want and then listen to every. single. one. If they “pass his test”, I get the opportunity to listen to them. It is so stupid. I hear the songs on everyone’s game boys and iPod shuffles at school anyway.

That is why I could not believe it when I heard the Pussycat Dolls’ “Buttons” blaring from the mudroom computer. I walked in and saw bare legs and breasts on the screen. The music video was playing and mom was collapsed in the chair, dazedly watching. I knew this was not allowed, and as much as I wanted to see this forbidden video, I did not want Jayden to view such a thing. He was my responsibility, after all.

I ran over to mom, yelling at her to turn it off (and the yelling was necessary for her to hear me over the “bleeps” coming from the loud music). Every time I hit pause, she would swat my hand away and press play again. I tried to explain that Jayden could hear the song and that it was a bad influence but when mom was like this, usually on any given day after ten o’clock in the morning, there was nothing you could say to get her to listen. Drinking makes adults so stubborn.

Finally I lost my patience. I exited out of the repulsive video and snatched the computer mouse, running with it into the living room where Jayden was watching TV. I hid in underneath my dress- it was my favorite dress; light blue with green and yellow daisies on it.

Mom came in after me, holding onto the wall to guide herself and keep from falling flat on her distorted face. She could see the mouse under my dress because the red light signaling to change the batteries was blinking through the fabric. She wrestled with me gently for the mouse and I laughed- the whole thing feeling kind of like a game. The laughter stopped when mom pushed me off the side of the recliner and took back the pieces of the mouse as it broke apart beside me at the impact of the hardwood floor. She whispered “little bitch” under her breath and walked out.

I wanted to cry, but I also couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that she thought she needed the mouse to listen to the music. Dad was right, that “crap for music” really did rot your brain.

Just Pull it Out.

I have never been able to find the words to explain the pain I experience in my chest during times of fear, or anxiety, or anger, or hopelessness. It’s not like a paper cut, or falling on pavement. Those are a burning, stinging, throbbing kind of pain. A pain that I have experienced many times throughout my childhood, one that is familiar. That is something I can handle. It will go away soon, it will heal, it will disappear, and I will not even remember it a year later.

Mental pain is a completely different story. You cannot put a bandage over it, or have it X-rayed, or show it to people so that they comprehend why and how you are hurting. The pain I feel in my chest is a numbing soreness…a tenderness, an aching that eases in and out but never seems to fully go away. The kind of pain involved with a loose tooth….where it will hurt to pull it out, but in the meantime has that strange numbing pain that instinctively causes you to twist and turn it and hear it snap free from your gums little by little. You endure the hurt, because continuing to twist and pull is the only thing that will eventually bring relief. And no after-affect from yanking out the tooth could ever be as bad as keeping it in.

I wish I could do that with my chest. I feel this odd urge to stab at it, reach in and pull out the pain, push on it until my breathing is affected by the force on my chest. But you can’t. You can only wait. Try to keep your face straight, try to not think about it; because thinking about it only makes it ten times worse.

…Thinking about it only makes it ten times worse…So is this all in my head? Am I doing this to myself? Does that even matter? Does it make the situation any less real? The agony any less excruciating? My condition any less sympathetic?

“It’s all in your head”.

I hate those five words. So. Much.

My mind feels content, my mind thinks of joyful moments and scripture and peace. My mind repeats calming music over and over again, knowing that everything is going to be okay.

But my body does not care.

I feel happy, I really do. I had an amazing day (comparatively); everything is going well. Everything is beautiful. Why doesn’t my body understand that? I feel relaxed but I struggle to hold back tears in the middle of class. The tears are my biggest concern; the nausea, dry mouth, and pounding headaches are secrets. Only I know about them. But crying is outward. Crying let’s other people in on the secret. And my pitiful side convinces me that they can’t understand the secret.

For a minute, I forget about my chest. Until the sensation hits me like knife to the torso. Well, it was nice while it lasted.

I napped all day, but I am still exhausted. Does mental exhaustion begin to take the form of physical exhaustion when it is too overwhelming? That would make me feel better- to know that something I was experiencing was natural, something that was supposed to happen to people.

It does not matter how much I try to focus on the terms coming out of the professor’s mouth, or analyze the words and numbers and colors being projected onto the board. I cannot hear a word. He sounds muffled- but the whispering voices that surround me are impossible to ignore. So clear, so distressing. I wish those were muffled, too. Because I can feel my whole body tensing. I swear if I hear one more person talk…..

When I focus back in, I am greeted by yet another hammering headache. I try to pick up my pencil, to direct my attention to something else, maybe get some notes down, but my fingers tremble and the pencil viciously shakes back and forth. If that doesn’t give away that I’m ‘crazy’, I don’t know what will…I guess I will just try to listen.

But those murmurs. The whispers are now accompanied by soft giggles as one girl laughs because the other girl asks her if she has a Facebook. Who cares!? Is that seriously all that you have to worry about?

How can they be so at ease? Don’t they feel the anguish? How can anyone go through life and not feel the pain?

But that’s the worst thing about mental illness, mental pain, internal conflicts manipulated by your mind; they are on the inside, unseen, and unable to observe or verify. You can cover it and try to mend it as many times as you want, but you will not unwrap it a week later to see that it has healed. It will still be there, maybe not visible, but as deep as ever.

I cling to that thought…”maybe not visible”.

I’m wondering how others sit there, so happy and care-free, averting the dull ache.

But do they look at me and wonder the same thing?

Sex is Love

I grew up believing that sex was love. He likes you if he wants to make love to you. He thinks you are beautiful if he asks for those pictures from you. He loves you if he wants sex from you AND wants you to be his girlfriend. That fight is over if you mend it with physical interaction. If you do not expose yourself sexually, if you are not hot enough, if you are not skilled enough in that type of pleasuring; you will lose him. He will leave you- because there will always be someone that can make him feel better, that is hotter, thinner, or with a bigger cup size.

This belief destroys people.

I never thought I was that beautiful, so I never expected anyone to stick around. I felt close to people after having sex with them. I wanted them to ask for it, because I knew that meant I was wantedI loved being wanted.

But it was the wrong kind of wanted. It was the wrong kind of love. It was not love at all. It was lust. And it was driven by sexual desires- not a respect, or a genuine caring. That is why it was never enough. I thought I was being completed by someone, but instead I was slowly giving pieces of myself, of my heart, of my mind, to people that I probably would not speak to the next year. I was breaking myself. Those relationships would last for a year, maybe two, but I would still feel depressed, unloved, and afraid that I was not enough.

Then I met him.

He makes me feel intelligent, respected, listened to, and beautiful. I do not mean my body is beautiful. I mean he makes me feel beautiful. He notices things that no guy has ever noticed- he compliments my outfit every single day, and notices if I switch out the little stud earrings in one of the piercings on my ear. He notices when I wear a new ring, or if I do my makeup differently in even the slightest way.

He notices the little dimple on the side of my face near my eyebrow, the way my lip quivers when I am about to laugh or cry, and the way my face scrunches together when I put a blanket or sweatshirt over my mouth (because that is what makes me feel comfortable). Most importantly, he is the first one to see through the smile; to want to mend what is hiding behind it. He is focusing on who I am, not what I can offer.

I think I love myself more now when I look in the mirror- big pores, baggy eyes and all, because I love what is beneath that.

He is a virgin. He waited a year before he kissed his last girlfriend on the lips, and the first time I kissed him I was reminded of middle school and early high school- the innocent kissing between two people who have never done it before, who are experiencing this huge milestone and learning about it together. He makes me feel like we all did as children- before our eyes were opened to the deceit, pain, and cruelty of the world.

Sometimes his friends tell him he needs to “get laid”, that he needs to give up this whole waiting until marriage thing and just do it. He just laughs at them and moves on; that is the man I love.

His dedication to God and to waiting to share that special experience with his wife is one of the many reasons why I fell in love with him . I used to make fun of people like him, the losers who could not get a girl- but the truth is he has more than any of the “cool kids” will ever have.

I try to run from people who express a liking for me, who I begin to develop intense feelings for. I try to run before they can leave- if it is my decision it cannot take me by surprise and I can get over it knowing why it ended. I can end it before I fall even harder, fall even more in love, share even more of my life with this person. If I stick around, they will only leave a few years from now, and it will only hurt even more.

When I try to run, he does not let me. I tell him to dump me, like I always tell boyfriends because I am too afraid to do it myself. Everyone else says “fine”, followed by some derogatory term. He says “Why would I do that? You’re mine”.

I am starting to believe that not everyone leaves. It is the most terrifying thought I have ever had. I have worked so hard to build this wall. If I tear it down, then who knows the pain I will feel when someone forces me to build it back up again? Would I be strong enough?

I have never had an emotional relationship with a man that did not have the physical aspect.

I have never realized why I never felt happy, never felt secure with who I am, never felt like I was enough…until I realized I was basing love on the wrong thing- I did not have that connection with someone without sex, and therefore did not have a connection at all.

He helped me to see my beauty.

I am beautiful as a girlfriend who can be there for you emotionally, not physically.

My mind is beautiful, I am strong, and my body is perfect as it is.

When someone is not constantly exposing you for sexual reasons, becoming more confident in who you are comes naturally.

The problem was not that I was not enough for those other boys, the problem was that they were not enough for me. God had better in store. Above making me fall in love with him, my boyfriend’s kindness and faithfulness made me fall in love with myself, and be able to understand God’s love for me on a deeper, more genuine level.

I am not a “whore”, “prude”, “stupid”, or “fat”.

I am a daughter of God.

am enough.

You are enough.

It will always get better.

2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 states “’My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (NIV).

Keep praying, keep waiting, and keep loving yourself. Everything you go through makes you stronger, and God takes those trials and turns them into something beautiful- you just have to believe in God, and believe in yourself.

Beauty is so much more than what someone sees when they look at you.

Beautiful Eyes Look for the Good in People

Heart racing; I feel a cap that my fidgeting fingers have found. Life is continuing around me, but all I can hear are the clicks as I open and close it,

open and close it,

open and close it.

My chest aches where my heart is, crying a desperate plea of desire for the pain to cease.

I hear you talking, I feel the tension, I see warm breathe crafting clouds of smoke each time your mouth opens and closes, opens and closes, opens and closes…but I can only stare straight ahead.

How can I look you in the eyes? Those eyes perceive life through a lens of grace and gentleness. Those eyes remind me of everything beautiful in this world.

You stop talking, waiting for my response.

Silence.

I try to speak, but it feels as if something is caught in my throat. The dull pain in my chest makes me nauseous as I swallow and attempt to say something…anything– knowing it could be the difference between “see you later” or “goodbye”.  I try to talk, but my body surrenders control as the throbbing extends to my stomach. Breathing becomes a task as the snow covered tree branches out the window of your car blend together, forming a blur of wonderful white and brown lines.

Next to me, you stare. Waiting. Expecting. Hoping.

But my mind has gone blank. I can’t remember any particular thing, I can’t remember anything. I close my eyes, trying to shield myself from the faintness, from the migraines. I am out of my body, on the outside looking in; away from the hurt, the pressures, the disillusionments of this distorted world. Finally- stillness, tranquility, peace.

I feel a hand on my shoulder, and am violently dragged back into reality.

Fear, panic, terror. I want to leave again, to never come back.

But that hand belongs to you, and you are worth staying for.

I turn towards you. How can I avert those eyes? Those eyes perceive me through a lens of grace and gentleness. Those eyes remind me of everything beautiful in this world.

Forty Million and One

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) has gathered that around forty million adults- above the age of eighteen- suffer from anxiety disorders.

Those who experience anxiety usually do so because of certain genetics, brain chemistry, personalities, or life events (ADAA). Notice how I did not say “those who experience anxiety usually do so because they are dramatic, unstable, and want attention”.

In 2013, I suffered from a panic attack that sent me to the hospital for the first time. My chest tightened and I could not breathe well for a couple of hours before I decided to take that step. Everyone said “oh stop, it’s probably just an air bubble or something”.

Turns out I had pleurisy: a condition that causes inflammation of the tissue surrounding the lungs, leading to difficulty breathing and intense chest pains. I was almost wishing for a genuine diagnosis so that I did not look “crazy”. Once you experience pleurisy one time, it is likely to occur many more times in your life. The doctor said “just avoid stressful situations”. Uhm….okay….

Some days are better than others, and a few months back I had some pretty terrible nightmares and woke up knowing it was going to be a rough day. Around mid-afternoon I started to feel the tightness in my chest and slowly began to escalate into a panic attack. Because I did not feel safe driving forty minutes in this state, I found someone to cover at work and told my Shift I could not come in (and the specific reasons as to why not).

A few weeks later, I was talking to a co-worker who brought up anxiety, and we eventually began discussing how it has impacted our lives. She told me that she knew I had panic attacks at times because a co-worker had been “making fun of me” to the other workers, expressing how he thought I was exaggerating and “doing it to myself” and basically just ‘acting’.

Just because someone suffers from something that you have not come across or have difficulty understanding does NOT mean that you have a right to deem that issue “stupid” or “easy to deal with”. I was appalled, hurt, and offended by that “friend”‘s actions regarding my situation, but also felt bad that he had to go through life judging people in that way and remaining ignorant.

Forty. Million. People.

You are not alone, you are not overreacting, and we should not be ashamed of the struggles we deal with. I can already see how they have made me a more empathetic and kinder person than maybe some others…

In Psalm 10:1 we read the question, “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (NIV). Even our bible, the word of God, reveals disciples, followers, and non-believers alike who experience anxiety, depression, hopelessness, and grief.

But the chapter does not end there-

The Lord is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land. You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, so that mere earthly mortals will never strike terror again (Psalm 10, 17-18, NIV).

That is a promise.

I repeat, you are never alone, and you are should never be ashamed of your hardship. “For when I am weak, than I am strong” (2 Corin. 12:10, NIV).

Remember What Beauty There May be in Silence

Not an emotion, but an action.
Growing, living, making mistakes, finding yourselves in each other.
Constantly changing
but knowing all the while that when you look to your side
they’ll be there.
Not defined by your flaws,
because inner and outer beauty overwhelms the failures.

They all left, but you stayed.
I waited to watch you leave,

thinking your love was just a phase.

But love does not waver, does not judge,

does not run.
I would choose our fights everyday
over a perfect relationship with “the one”.
I now know what it feels like to be “made new”.
And that realization started with God,
but was strengthened by you.

They all ask, “how are you two doing”?
and assume things are bad because I have no reply.
But really our connection is too deep,
too dreamlike
to put into words.
Our love is just that;
a secret shared only between you and I.