What is love? (How many of you just answered with “Baby don’t hurt me”?)
In all honestly, though, love seems to take on many different forms. We love our favorite movies. We love our favorite TV shows, which include a selected “love so hard” episodes. We love our hobbies; be they reading fan fiction or running marathons or cooking or writing a blog for yourself and your tens of followers. You don’t love your mother the same way that you might love deep dish pizza…at least I hope not. I believe, however, that it is safe to say that love is equivalent to passion.
As human beings, we crave understanding; to add structure to our personal world. After all, if we did not do so, would education, and all the subjects that act as its pillars even exist? Mathematics explores our world in a “perfect” setting (and please stop saying that there is no point to it), which in turn creates the opportunity for the different branches of science to analyze and experiment in our “imperfect” reality. History and Anthropology record and seek to understand the lives led by those before us, perhaps so we are not doomed to repeat the past. We have Psychology and Literature to examine the individual, emotional charges, perceived worlds. (Apologies to anyone in these fields, should my definitions be off.)
We seek understanding and tangible definition with every detail of our existence; love being one of them. There are several definitions out there already. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 did a great job by telling us what love is:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
If you’ve been to a wedding, odds are this has popped up in a toast to those crazy kids. Or, perhaps, it was included in at least five cards attached to the wedding gifts.
We also know, thanks to Chaucer, that love is blind. I do not believe in the legal sense; more along the lines of who you fall in love with*.
[*Note that you can fall in love with anyone regardless of age, race, ethnic background, gender, religion, education background, socioeconomic status, height, dietary preferences, whether they are a righty or a lefty, or whether or not they agreed with the ending of How I Met Your Mother. Ironically enough, these are the same grounds that must be omitted when one is being considered for a full time position anywhere. Yes, even the last point. It’s there. I promise. They just added it. Moving on…]
Moreover, apparently love is never having to say you’re sorry, according to Erich Segal. I wrinkle my nose at this, though. I’m not so sure that it’s truly love that means one doesn’t have to apologize for past transgressions; no matter the degree of insult or injury incurred. Isn’t that pride?
Which brings me to defining love further. Love is either acquired, lost, or unrequited. Walk into any Hallmark or down any greeting card aisle, and you will find a multitude of definitions for love. If memory serves me well, they all, more or less, are addressing the same type of love: the kind of love between people. We see these themes repeated in fairy tales. Seriously, put on a Disney movie or watch some Once Upon a Time.
That’s not all love is though. Go on Tumblr and you will see all kinds of love and passions that people have. There are posts showing love for food porn, love for beautiful places and nature, love of self-image, love of fitness, love of cat and dog gifs, love of butts, even. Needless to say, Bibles and greeting cards aside, I believe this opens the floor for me to step in and provide my own musings on what love is. Like the notions of perfection and beauty, love also harbors a unique perspective by everyone out there.
Love Isn’t Getting Into Someone’s Pants
Let’s get this one out of the way, shall we? This one should be self-explanatory, but just in case…
Love and sex are NOT the same thing. In this particular instance, love is caring for someone else on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level. Sex is just what writers throw into a story because they don’t have anything with substance to write about. Are we clear?
Love of the Things
This subtitle is a little misleading, but ties in with what I was alluding to earlier. I was listening to Fall Out Boy’s “Save Rock and Roll.” There is one line in particular that both Patrick Stump and Sir Elton John sing. It goes: “You are what you love, not who loves you.” I recollect having to take a moment after hearing this line. Ultimately, we are at our happiest when we are doing what we love. For me, that would be teaching and writing. On a broader spectrum, I love being creative. I love and crave interaction and the intellectual challenges that come along with it all.
When placed in this light, the non-person, “what you love” thing seems a tad less shallow. Why wouldn’t we love the things that help to the different facets that comprise the unique beings that we are? When there is love of self, there is a willingness to embrace these different aspects of ourselves and share them with the outside world…instead of locking them in that proverbial basement like a surrogate mother in every single Lifetime Original Movie. I dare you to find anything to the contrary.
Well, that most certainly took a turn…
Moral of the story?
Do what you love, and don’t give a flying (insert expletive of choice here) what anyone thinks. You are unique. That uniqueness is what qualifies you to be loved…not how many “followers” or “likes” you might have.
Love Is Not Having to Read Between the Lines
In my experience of
dating observing other people date, there is a lot of game play. Some (me) have likened it to job interviewing. While it is important to see if someone is the right fit for you, I think we take it to the level of extreme sporting. We begin to pick apart what love interests and dates say and text to us. They said, “Yeah, sure,” but did they really mean, “No, that’s a terrible idea, and you should be smart enough to figure that one out on your own.” When she said, “I don’t care,” does that really mean she wants pepperoni over sausage on the pizza, and what will she think of me if I choose the wrong one? This little head game will continue to devolve until you’ve convinced yourself that the relationship will go nowhere, damning your unborn children to a broken home.
Sometimes what a loved one says to you is, verbatim, what they really mean. You don’t have to analyze voice tones or word choices. Why do we make life so difficult? Are we not entertained enough as it is, that we have to concoct a poltergeist of drama?
In reference to a romantic love, Bea explained it to me as two partners being a unit. “That is your person,” she stated firmly. If you are fortunate to have a “person,” someone who shares in the many intricacies of your life, a lot more goes into it than hand holding and butterfly kisses. It is only when you both expose all your vulnerabilities, and cast aside your inclinations to judge, that the foundation of the relationship gains strength. You don’t complete each other. As my English teacher, during my senior year of high school, stated, “That’s bull crap.” (It was a Catholic school.) I think your person helps you to continually explore who you are; ever expanding the definition of you. They offer a fresh perspective. You do the same for them. The protective walls are down. I think it’s okay to go poking around in there and see what you find. If you do it right, you’ll be able to communicate telekinetically. (Refer to Marshall and Lily from How I Met Your Mother.)
Of course, what do I know…I’m single. Not that this should invalidate anything I’ve said. Remember…it’s just a different perspective.
Love Is Not Always a Two Way Street
Love is tricky, mostly because if you start to get the feels for someone, you automatically assume that they reciprocate this like/interest/care/love. Yyyyyyyyeeeeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhh….
I truly believe that you can love someone more than they love you. Well…or you can outwardly display your love for someone more than others. Situations vary.
The worst case scenario is that love only resides in your heart. How many of you have continuously been there to lift a loved one up when they are down, only to have to drag yourself out of the muck when you fall…alone? I hate to tell you this, but take a minute to think while you’re in that gutter and pose the question if the love is gone or if it even existed. You may not like the honest truth of it all.
Love Is Honest
Love cannot flourish without honesty. When you’re in a relationship and you begin to shroud certain aspects of yourself because you’re afraid they’ll be turnoffs, well, then you’re not being you…all of you, to be more specific. I guess there is something to be said about displaying your own, special brand of weirdness in doses, but that also sounds like you’re playing games. If someone needs to gradually brace themselves because you would be deemed to “off the wall” otherwise, then maybe he/she is not for you.
Ah, but this goes deeper, doesn’t it? We can turn this back on you because you’re not really concealing your devotion to cosplay, nor your Betty Ford level addiction to ice cream to spare the person you are smitten with. Nope, you’re afraid you’ll be judged. You hide these characteristics to spare your feelings, when you should be proud of them because, after all, they make you you.
Suddenly, we have moved away from relationship love to love of self again. So, go ahead and proudly display that replica of Smile Time Angel! You know, the episode where Angel gets turned into a Muppet? No? Season 5. The episode is called “Smile Time.” You’re welcome.
Love Is a Molotov Cocktail of Fear and Courage
Love is honest and forthright, but love is not always so kind. Sometimes you put yourself out there, and sometimes the best case scenario does not play out. To actually express feelings of like and love to someone takes an immense amount of courage…and some deep breaths…and a little bit of stupidity. We allow that emotional front to come down; we strip ourselves of that emotional armor. We are rockin’ our emotional birthday suit. That takes courage. And that courage sticks with us for about three and a half seconds, until reason creeps back into the forefront of our minds and we realize, “Holy shit! They can see the real me! And…what if they don’t like what they see? What if I’m no longer accepted?? What if they leave forevers???”
These, among a plethora of others, make up the fear. We wait as the seconds sluggishly sloth on by for friends and lover’s reactions. We begin to project what we think they think of us. (A rather dangerous and difficult game of mental tennis…only that heavy, sexual grunting as these anxious thoughts are lobbed back and forth is replaced by our inner voice shrieking at the top of its lungs.) Yet, we cast aside this modified, socially acceptable version of ourselves, and let a few people in to see the real us. Why?
Maybe it’s because it’s too hard to maintain this shiny somewhat perfect version of ourselves. We seek a comfort within our own skin, and are doing some market testing to see what those close to us think. We seek to be honest (oop, there’s that word again) with ourselves and the people we want to hold an important place in our hearts.
When we get to that point, it’s quite liberating; especially when that other person reaches it with us. It’s expressing feelings for someone, and not feeling devastated when it’s not reciprocated. After all, is it the worst thing in the world for someone to hear they are loved…in a non-creepy way that is. It’s being able to say to your friend of the same sex that you love them, without feeling compelled to end this declaration with “No homo.” Seriously, be a person and grow some fucking balls…or ovaries. It’s being able to look at yourself and note all points of awesome and not all self-perceived shortcomings.
It’s a cycle, really. Without courage, we cannot get past the fear. Without the fear of losing someone, we would not have the courage to express that love. I’ll admit that I am not the best at this; showing love or emoting period. I will say I am seeing the value in being open and honest; it’s just a muscle that needs to be stretched.
Love Is Not Easy
Sometimes love hurts. It can cut deep and stop us dead in our tracks. Whether you really are in love, or just think that you are, when the truth of things comes through loud and clear, and you find the fantasy is just that, that you are alone, you just shut down. This seems to be the glaring roadblock of love. It’s usually a neon yellow wall that crops up on the notorious road of life, complete with flashing lights, that tape that reads DO NOT CROSS, and a couple of traffic cones with reflective tape for good measure.
We wallow in this pain. It hits us above in our hearts, and below, with a direct hit to the gut. We forget to love as well. You no longer concerning the person who broke your heart. I’m talking about those around us who already love us. They see a friend, sibling, or child hurting, and they immediately comfort us. They come to give us hugs. They come to make us laugh. They come to give us sage words. They come to dull the pain. Yet, we are so wrapped up in this heartache that we, like those who slighted us, forget how to love…if only momentarily. We fixate on the love that we lost, or never actually existed, and blind ourselves to the love that radiates from those who were always closest to us. It seems that we hold romantic love in a higher regard than any other love out there. I wonder why that is. Is it because romantic love is supposed to be deeper than any other kind of love out there?
I’d argue that point is fallible. My thoughts on this are simply that we inexplicably move romantic love to a higher pedestal. It begs the question: How do we quantify these different types of love? Not to go all hippie on your asses, but love is love when it comes to human relationships. They are all important and all necessary. If you can give me a counterargument, I’m more than willing to listen. I do, however, require visual aids in the form of charts and graphs clearly quantifying and ordering the different types of love ranging from least to greatest. The use of color is a bonus.
Love Is Magical and Exhausting
You may argue that love is only giving; none of this taking business. “That’s true love,” you say with confidence to me, and a firm nod of your head.
Love and relationships take work on the part of both parties. You can fire your heart on all cylinders, but I guarantee that it will only lead to burnout; a broken heart followed by a frustrated mind. This kind of “love” is mere child’s play. True love is open and honest communication, compromise, and effort. This, I think, describes mature love. Which sounds better? A love that rolls over and believes deep down that all things will work themselves out, a love that relishes in the good and cowers when things get “real”, or a kind of love that gets up and fights for what is important? One of these things is not like the other. One of these things is passionate. This may not be the passion that everyone claims to crave in a relationship, but it’s a passion that is vital.
Love is too vast to truly nail down and describe. After all the time it took to compose this entry, I’m probably more confused about the lot of it. I started this post so sure of what I was going to say. What you are reading is actually a hodgepodge of fragmented thoughts that cropped up on the pages over about a week and a half’s time.
There is not a doubt in my mind that love is a strong emotion that permeates into our actions. Love can make you do stupid things, and sometimes generates a mess; a mess that only honesty will clean up. (Seriously, are you all sensing a theme here?) Love is more than romantic relationships. Love connects to friends and family and strangers and things and even a sense of self. Love is belonging and acceptance and support. True love, hence, harbors true strength.
Love is magic. Hear me out on this one. Love can break spells, or restrictions, as we refer to them in the real world. Where there is love, there is acceptance. Where there is acceptance, belonging must be found. If we believe that we belong, we find comfort in others and courage to be our weird, slightly less than perfect selves. That’s powerful; no doubt in my mind. Of course, this magic isn’t instantaneous. Sometimes it will hurt before we come out the other side for the better…if we let it.
Love cannot be destroyed; only displaced. Where we believe love is lost, I believe that love never existed. Rather, what we felt was only an illusion of love. Actually, this poses a good question: Where does love come from? Does it come from anywhere, really? I don’t have the answer.
So, what is love? (Shrug.) Your guess is as good as mine. Hopefully there’s some good stuff in this post though…
I was out for dinner with Ken and Cooke one night. The pizza place that we were at was packed to the gills. As a result two pretty, young women came by and asked if they could sit with us because we still had room at our table. One woman, Tara, was tall with shoulder length, brown hair and round features. She was very sweet and was genuinely interested to get to know the three of us. The second, Erica, was this short, bespeckled, wisp of a thing that was more interested in the raucous bunch of Canadians seated next to us. (They’re another story for later.)
So, while Erica was most likely learning about hockey teams, loonies, and poutine, Tara engaged us in conversation. Now, being an introvert, Q & A sessions can be brief moments of torture, especially with a brand spankin’ new person. For Ken and Cooke, it was different. Cooke has a big personality, and has this uncanny ability to bring out the good times in any situation. Ken is just so freakin’ nice…but in a good way. That kind of genuine nice that radiates positive energy all around; none of that faux nicey-nice bull.
“Do you speak any languages other than English?” she asked.
Ken answered that he speaks Spanish, mentioning that he actually resided in Spain for a year. Cooke explained that Vietnamese is his first language.
Then it came time for me to answer. I took three years of Spanish back in high school, but can barely recollect what I had learned oh so long ago. Still, I can think pretty quick on my feet, and will always go for the punchline, if I can find one.
“I’m fluent in sarcasm.”
Nailed it, I thought…
I had a little 3x5 card that hung up on my closet door at my apartment ever since I started grad school. It contained a wish list of sorts of who I want to work towards becoming. These six items were:
- I will become an excellent, passionate teacher
- I will write frequently and be published
- I will move out and grow
- I will believe in myself and find confidence
- I will heal and think positive
- I will live in the now, try new things, and put myself out there
It’s been about two years since I hung that card up. I would only glance at it every now and then as I would reach into my closet for a shirt, jeans, or a pair of boots. The day I was cleaning out my room, I took a moment and read through these six points. I guess I surprised myself. While I did not completely accomplish all of these goals, I had changed for the better. I got closer to this new self. That’s what makes it worthwhile. This led me to ponder the question:
Where do I see myself in five years?
This is a pretty loaded question, I suppose. You’ve probably asked yourself this same question, or, at least, been asked about it in a job interview.
It’s also a pretty dangerous one in my opinion. I mean, it seems harmless enough. What’s so wrong about the future? The future is not being called to the carpet. This ideal self is. We obviously want to see ourselves fitting snuggly into our definition of perfect. We see our future selves as being good people, sidestepping anything and everything ranging from a glazed donut to a toxic relationship. Our five-year-plan-selves have it together and glide through life…unlike now where our psyches have fumbled and stumbled over clumsy limbs, and remind us of this every damn day. We’re black and blue and scarred. But, hey, we still have 30% of our teeth, so, yeah, there’s that.
Still, it’s good to have goals; to strive to improve; to be better than we once were; to slay our inner demons…and maybe mount their heads on iron pikes as a warning to any other gremlin or gnome who gets a little too ballsy. (I’m talking to you low self-esteem. Don’t think I don’t see you over there…hugging the wall looking all awkward.)
This five-year-plan-self crops up during big changes. I see these big changes as stepping through an open door; the light emanating from the other side is blinding. The catch is, the light does not represent something shiny and new and perfect. Sometimes the light is a harsh fluorescent light to let us know every flawed nook and cranny of our soul. We see how asymmetrical we are. We see all the blemishes, saggy bits, and creases. (Ew.) We realize that maybe we don’t like ourselves all that much. Maybe we never truly will. (Again…ew.)
These white light doors open up more and more frequently than you think. Sure, they come up during those big moments: graduations, engagements, weddings, kids, funerals, first jobs, second jobs, and that job you just know you were meant for, until you realize it’s not. My doors usually open up around birthdays, Christmas, New Year’s…and sometimes Sundays. See what I mean? I think I’ve desensitized myself to fresh starts. There’s sometimes only a week’s wait to start over and really get it right from here on out. Straight and narrow after I get through this crap week. How many times have you told yourself” “This year is gonna be my year!” or “I’m going to make today my bitch!” Now, how often were you right?
I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ll say it again (because it’s my blog), but I’m just starting a big change, and we are still waiting to get into the eye of the storm. I’m transitioning from grad school to real, adult job again. (I chose my words carefully here. As Ken pointed out, we’ve been living in the real world ever since we started college back in undergrad.) This means I will have work obligations to balance with the other hats I wear. Admittedly, I grimace because transitions are messy. They’re like toddlers, if you think about it. They run about your ankles trying to trip you, all the while putting sticky and dirty handprints about the white walls of your soul. (Deep right?) “Tsk. I just washed the smudges off not fifteen minutes ago…and stop jumping on the sofa! How many time do I have to tell you!? (Groooooan) This is why we can’t have nice things.” (Proceed to weep openly.)
I don’t know about you, but I sometimes dwell on the future because it’s an escape from the harsher aspects of reality. It’s much easier to look ahead than to deal with the thing that’s squared up with you, nose to nose. You just have to take everything you foresee with a grain of salt when you hop into that imagination of yours and take it for a spin. (It’s good to exercise that mind’s eye of yours. Would be a terrible thing if it seized up on you.) These goals that you see for yourself should act more like fluid guidelines…really, really fluid. You cannot control every detail of your future, and you wouldn’t want to. You’d go crazy and bald and alone and to the point where you barely have control over your own bowel movements. Frankly, the world has enough hairless nut jobs living life by the seat of their Depends.
Remember that transitions change you, so what you think you need now will not necessarily hold true in the eyes of future you. This is not to say you wait, twiddling your thumbs, for life to come find you with a handout. No. If this is your view on life, here’s a razor and a coupon for adult diapers. A copy of How to Speak in Tongues will arrive at your address in two to three business days.
There’s that saying that idle hands do the Devil’s work. Idle minds just go dumb. So while I can’t predict my future, I still make plans so that life can happen. As I gaze into that murky crystal ball, I’m careful to keep that saltlick close by, because I know five-years-from-now me, while hopefully improved, will still be flawed. I realize now that this is not a bad thing.
In five years, I wish to be still passionate about my profession as an educator, and not be jaded. I want to never forget why I do what I do, which falls under the category of helping others fulfill their dreams. I don’t want it to be just a job, which is synonymous with obligatory soul-suck. Perhaps I’ll further my education. (This detail is still shoved in the way back…I think. It’s shorter than the other guidelines crammed in there. Standing room only.)
A second career would be nice. In five years, I’d like to have one of my novels published. I’m not asking for a New York Times Bestseller (those are earned); a cult following will satisfy me just fine. Of course, this means I have to focus and write more frequently than I have in the past. (Note to self: Stay off of Facebook. An intervention is not too far around the corner. These are the things that keep me up at night…while I’m updating my status.)
I’d actually like to try this whole dating thing. For an introvert like me, to accomplish this is right up there with discovering the key to world peace. It is feasible (both my dating and world peace). I’m an introvert, but I’m a witty introvert…and fucking adorable to boot. If I’m feeling really ambitious, maybe I’ll even be married in five years. My mom would also want kids in the picture. I tell ya, once her friends started getting grandkids, she just had to have one too. (She’s gonna call and yell at me now.) If this all actually happens, that would increase pressure on the older cousins. They currently field questions of marriage and family expansion plans at every family function…including funerals. You may be thinking right now, “Jeeze, is nothing sacred? A funeral?” If you think about it, though, this is prime real estate to discuss family additions. After all, a spot just opened up. (Don’t look at me like that.)
In five years, even though I will be flawed, I want to basically be better than the man sitting here writing this blog post for you. I want to be a better friend. Sometimes I don’t think I listen as well as I could. I want to be more invested, especially since I sense that life is going to add a few hurtles. We aren’t in high school anymore. Plus, I want to make sure that the people in my life know how appreciated they are. My goal is to go full Leslie Knope on them. They will feel the love.
I’d like to be more charitable. Plain and simple, I’ve been focusing on figuring me out. I think I have enough info to be a person now, and really do want to do something good for others.
There is a lot of work to be done to become the five-years-from-now me. Casting off my self-imposed rules of what I can or what I should do is the first step. It is very apparent to me that these rules I have made for myself, while a way of seeking personal control, are simply fear disguised as something more acceptable. These rules/fears were assembled so that I maintained good standing in the eyes of others, not to really help me grow. It’s sad to think, I have stifled myself. This has probably made my journey thus far much harder. Still, maybe I wouldn’t have learned all that I have. Instead of restricting ourselves, I now think it is better to believe we are limitless. Instead of asking ourselves, “Why,” we need to posit, “Why not?” It’s a much more exciting question to ponder. Let the hilarious hijinks ensue!
I want to stay strong; physically and mentally. I have, it seems, only just discovered that I am in charge of my own life. (Not an easy lesson to learn, even though it should be.) I create my opportunities. If I fail, it is most likely because I stood in my own way. For all the rules I made for myself, one of the worst was allowing others to make the decisions because it was easier to disappoint myself than those close to me. I sometimes falter, but I try not to think that way anymore; that my happiness must be tied to the happiness of others. As hokey as it sounds, I can be my own force of nature…if I continue to believe in myself, like so many around me have told me till they were blue in the face.
Five-years-from-now me should be more comfortable in his own skin. Hopefully, five-years-from-now me will be more flexible and roll with the punches; enjoy the journey and the impromptu adventures. He will love fully, be self-assured, and never lose faith in his dreams, whether they come to fruition or not.
All these guidelines are wonderful to have because they provide a blueprint. Things change. We make additions and reductions and structural modifications, and that’s okay. That’s what life is. Life is going down the wrong path sometimes and making the best of a crap-tastic, shit show of a situation. Never look at five-years-from-now you and become despondent because you resemble nothing like him or her. You are the better version. No other argument holds water. If you are better than past you, then you’re doing just fine. Clap if you believe in yourself. I can’t hear you! Louder!!
Does all this make sense? Have a five year plan, but don’t put it up on a pedestal. Avoid the self-hatred when the prophecy shifts and morphs. It just means that future was never meant to exist; something better will come along, so long as you are holding true to yourself and your beliefs. Understand that five-years-from-now you never truly exists, but present you does. Admire what you can become, and believe that you have the strength and power to embody these yet to be obtained virtues. Even with a concrete mindset of who you can and will become, your book still harbors blank pages to be filled that only present you can record.
Another thing, idolize the crap out of this future you, but don’t ignore the amazing and fantastic person that stares back at you in the mirror every day. Yes, they do have flaws, and maybe a deep, dark secret or two or fifty. Even with these burdens, they still get through the day successfully. That’s the definition of true strength. This is the strength that will help take you from point A to point B; your five-year-from-now self.
So, where do you want to be in five years? Who do you want to be in five years? But, also, who are you now, and how is present you going to get yourself to that five year goal? Will you chose to sweat your ass off working to get there, or will you swaddle it in self-pity and entitlement? How’s that for a mental image? I think I can do better…
These journeys that we take, they are a lot like making confections. In order to experience the sweetest of lives, we have to add a bit of salt to the batter in the form of struggle, trial and error, and loss. These make a resilient heart; a heart that can stand against sadness and pain, but fully embrace the joy and happiness…and truly know love in its purest form.
That being said, I hope you get crackin’ on creating a stellar life that only your flawed, present self can take you. Best of luck.
Ken had mentioned to me that he really liked this quote from one of my posts: “It’s Not Permanent, But You Can Take It With You.”
I’ve seen others on Tumblr post similar sayings and thought I would take a crack at it. All of this was done with a tablet and a piece of art software. I think it came out pretty good, if I do say so myself.
Things change. More specifically, things end and things begin. Things happen in-between. It’s cyclic, really.
I’m graduating soon, and with it comes change. There’s a job, a move back to Illinois, and apartment hunting, just to name a few. There are going to be goodbyes (none of them being forever) and hello agains. Change is scary…but change is inevitable. Change can also be good…mostly, change is confusing.
This post is more for those who have shared in this two year journey with me. This is a thank you to all of them, and it is important enough to be stated publicly. You all played a role in helping me grow; helping me change for the better. I hope you like it. (If you don’t, just pretend you didn’t read it. I’ll never ask.)
As things come to an end, we should not focus on the finality of things, or so I’ve heard. As I said, things change. Really, though, isn’t it more important to look at how we got here, and not solely on the end result? So, let’s take a glance back to make sure the memories we have made are securely packed with us…
There are a multitude of things I will miss from my time here in grad school. They come in flashes, memories do, almost like sparks off of a dying firework. We see them in fleeting seconds as time steadfastly ticks on, to comfort us; to remind us who we were and are; to remind us why we do what we do.
So, sit back and enjoy, friends. This is my little gift of words to you. This post is not meant to be award winning. It is, however, from the heart; like one of those art projects you make out of macaroni and glitter. (Warning: Most of these memories are comprised of inside jokes and may not make sense to the outside reader. For those of you not privy to the punchlines, just let your imaginations run wild!)
- My first roommate abandoning me, then getting a new one…and the “hilarious” hijinks that ensued. (I can still see the ants. **Shudder**)
- Ken saying “hi” to me every day at the office.
- Brady, the best roommate ever, cooking dinner whilst watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. (The characters on that show really are terrible people…but in such a funny way.)
- Yoga with Ken and Morgan. (I will do that headstand someday. COME HELL OR HIGH WATER!)
- Meeting Audrey. (We’ve only hung out for a couple of weeks, but I hope we stay in touch.)
- Learning not to put restrictions on myself. (Thanks for that, Aggressive Bea.)
- Discussions with Sheila about the tangled web of family over some really good ice cream.
- Discussions over chicken and cucumber sandwiches from Subway, with Rosemary, about Abstract Algebra and Learning Theories. (Of course, the best chat we had concerned her explaining an interesting conversation she had about natural family planning at a Knights of Columbus dinner, while we watched some tenants steal all the furniture from the apartment across the way.)
- That time I realized everything will be okay. (Aw, that was a good day.)
- The never-ending inspiration my students gave me.
- Anna’s and Jon’s help on Stats homework. (I owe you both forever.)
- Morgan’s malicious hugs.
- Rosemary’s steadfast perseverance.
- FISH TACOS! (I will never find any better than the ones here.)
- Ken having a good day when the Mariners are winning.
- The birth of a new persona and novel idea that I would not have cooked up on my own. (Coming to a bookstore or e-reader near you, thanks to my co-writer, Ken.)
- Playing in Seattle, and vowing to be back. (I would consider this to be my first real, Spring Break.)
- The honky-tonk bar. (Us math people got rhythm, y’all.)
- Actually setting out and attaining what I wanted to do…and I’m not done yet. (Determined face.)
- My car talking in tongues. (I should have never told Ken and Morgan it could read text messages. Then again, driving wouldn’t nearly be as fun.)
- Taking the best final exam ever with Rosemary. (I have never laughed so hard as when she pretended her swiveling desktop was a turn table. Squeaky –squeak—squeak—squeaky.)
- Anna’s wit against Cooke. (Honestly, he doesn’t deserve it sometimes…sometimes. He’s a really good guy. Anna is a wonderful protégé, and shall carry on my reign of sarcasm after I am gone. This, I have no concern over. For serious, everyone.)
- Late night talks with Brady about the future, love, girls, and friendships. (He has one of the most genuine hearts I have ever encountered.)
- Grad school stress sessions with Lucy. (“Sometimes it’s hard to be a person…caring is hard.”)
- To anyone and everyone who shared in my weirdness.
- How I Met Your Mother mini-marathons and talks of bad Ted Mosby, dad jokes.
- My inability to not fall for “That’s What She Said” jokes. (Damn it, every time!)
- Being honest with myself, and somehow coming out stronger as a result. (Who’da thunk.)
Like anyone at the Oscars, I know I’m missing something, but the music is starting to play. So, I should probably wrap things up.
Thank you to everyone who made this experience amazing and beautiful and weird and awesome. You are all important to me.
That being said, if you need a reminder of all your best qualities, I am a phone call away. I have a way with words, I think; a way to clearly show someone that they are not alone, and a way to quell those pesky inner-demons. It’s my superpower. It’s my own special brand of magic.
Here’s to this ending. Here’s to the fact that it happened.
Taking a moment to reflect on the aforementioned, all these things must have been good because…because I am sad to see them end, but honored to have been a part of them.
Post completed. Life to commence once again…
So, here’s the thing…we go through this life, I’ve noticed, and there are all these changes. If you’re a writer, you predictably refer to them as “chapters.” When you’re little, you anxiously anticipate these changes. What am I going to be when I grow up? Who am I going to marry? How big will my house be? How many kids am I going to have? I can’t wait to grow up, so I can buy and do whatever I want because adults have complete and total freedom. Life seems to be this immense, blank book, just waiting for you to fill it up with adventures and documented proof as to how cool you are.
What changes then when you grow up? Do we realize that life is fleeting, and that big ass book is starting to look like a pamphlet? Do we convince ourselves that we are not actually that cool; that we wasted too many of our pages filling it with mundane stuff? Do we focus too much on why the reality does not mirror the fiction?
As with past posts, this one comes to you because current life situations have been banging about in my head. I am on the cusp of finishing up a master’s degree, job hunting, and, as a result…wondering what the fuck is around the corner.
I think, as human beings, we talk a big game. It is so easy to live in this fiction of having a job that we love, living in a spacious, rent controlled apartment that we pay WAY too little for, while experiencing a social life so storied that, well, your next book tour is coming this fall! Question is, how do we make it from point A to point B? We work and struggle. While we are working and struggling we make new friends, make new routines, and seek comfort…because working and struggling is real hard, y’all. Just sayin’.
I suppose this is where the crux of this article comes in. I am about to take another step towards point B. I’m leaving grad school and the comfort that I, somehow inexplicably, was able to create for myself. Now, I am wondering where I am going to get a job? Do I really interview well, or is it more the case that I think that I interview well? What if I’m not deliriously happy after this? What if this was the best that it will ever get? Do I really have any control over this at all?
“You’re being way too overdramatic,” you tell me.
“I know,” I reply, “but, if I wasn’t sensationalizing these little life moments, I would have nothing to write about. So, shut up…but tell your friends to stop by my blog. Thanks.”
Admit it, though, even if you are not where you want to be in life, you have points of comfort: Shooting the shit with officemates or co-workers, sharing fat kid food with the bestie, just simply not feeling like you are on the bottom rung. And then, it ends…
It’s hard to let go of that comfort. More specifically, it’s hard to leave behind the friends that you’ve made. In the back of your mind you wonder, “Will it ever be the same?” We definitely won’t talk everyday…because we’ll have actual jobs that may or may not be in other states. Will we relegate each other to that dreaded Facebook friend status? Will all those meaningful and beautiful in-depth conversations and moments of shared vulnerability be boiled down to “Liking” something on a monthly basis?
“If it’s a friendship that is meant to sustain itself, then it will do just that. Stop worrying about things you can’t control,” you whine.
“Okay. You clearly don’t know me,” I’ll retort. “Plus cut the Hallmark crap…”
With these immense changes, people do lose touch with each other. You just do. It’s reality at its most cruel. You’re right, and it sucks the big pickle. I have two friends from my first stint at graduate school. I stayed in the Midwest and they moved to the Pacific Northwest. It has been about four to five years, and we just met up in person again. Before that, I could count on one hand how many times we either texted, emailed, or Facebooked one another. They did call me once. Well, they actually dropped their phone and it somehow dialed my number. Point is, these are good friends and beautiful people, and it was hard to stay in contact with them. I wish I could say that I was doing much better things with my life, and we simply lost touch. It’s true, I eventually started to pursue something that I wanted, but, for the most part, it was blah…plus, if anyone tells you they lost touch with friends because they were simply “too busy,” that’s a lie…they’re just a douche bag.
So, what do you do then? Do you really just be happy that it happened, and let it go? Do you just say, “Mm, some people are reachers and others just aren’t.” Are you really just too busy, and you’ll catch up with everyone later…until it feels too late? Do you say, “We’re going to make a pact to have actual conversations every other week,” until it suddenly starts to feel like a job? (Never let a friendship get to that point, because then…it just isn’t one anymore.) Of course, we can’t forget that life will happen. There is always the chance things can and will end. Maybe you and/or your friends will move on. You’ll meet new people, fall in love, and create a family of your own. (We can only hope. It would be unkind to not want that for yourself and your friends. Think about it.) Family obligations and time and distance, they all work to stretch a friendship to their limits. Of course, so does stagnation.
Again, I wonder, “What do we do then?”
I don’t have the answer. (Gasp! Shocker!) And if I think about it too hard, then it just gets all depressing up in here.
Perhaps I can conjecture. I think that time will tell. We are so quick to thumb to the back of the book and get to the ending sometimes. We don’t want to put in the effort and work to create these fantastic events and adventures because we are afraid it will all fall apart before we can get to the good stuff. Because it’s hard. We just want to know, “Is all my effort going to pay off? Should it make it into the ‘Book of Life’?”
We don’t want to think about it too hard…or at all.
I know we’re not supposed to, because every self-help book says not to, but take a look back at all those times with your friends. Would you go back? Would you want to just keep it the way it was forever? I have to say “no” because the really, truly meant to be friendships get so much better, if you try. Would I opt to just be classmate acquaintances with one of my new friends, Rosemary? Nope. If that were the case, I would not have had the privilege of knowing about the poor use of Venn Diagrams and coon kitties. Would I just want to continue to exchange pleasantries with Ken? No, because then I would not have had these deep, reflective conversations with him about life, and the fact that life contains so much good in it, if you don’t let yourself get in the way of it. Would I just have wanted to have lunch with Lucy in the high school lunch room and call it a day? Hell no. She instilled in me to have a sense of adventure and bravery and how these two things make for a fierce friend. Who would want to pass that up? What about Bea? Come on. Bea made it okay to rock the weird. Bea is a soul mate. You don’t get to have soul mate friendships by keeping things the same. What I’m trying to say is some people not only mean the world to you, but they eventually become a permanent part of that personal world in some capacity.
It’s understandable that it’s hard to let them go out, and do their thing, and not be a constant. But you have to. You have a life to live, and, frankly, it’s not fair to live in the past. You have such big dreams in order to get to point B; in order to have an epic conclusion to you book. Don’t you owe it to yourself and loved ones to figure out how to get there? (Stop counting the pages till the next chapter. You’ll get there.)
Here is what you do: Do not pour your self-worth into these friends. You gravitated toward each other because you all had something interesting about yourselves. Maybe it was a quirk, an inner fire, an undying, positive outlook, just a different way of looking at the world, or the fact that you are fluent in sarcasm. Let them be who they are. Let them be interesting. You do the same. Otherwise, you’ll resent them. It’s like them moving on with their life is a slap in your face. They’re doing it without you, and, clearly, they are much too busy to expend any more time on you. (It was fun while it lasted.)
For me, and I’m not proud of it, but these thoughts come in. I am a human, and I am an introvert. These little demons get the best of me sometimes. And sometimes it is easier to embrace these lonely, empty feelings that are shrouded in hypotheticals, such as, “They don’t need me anymore,” or, “I’d just be bothering them.” Instead of just picking up the phone, I wallow.
Maybe it’s all in perspective. Isn’t that what inspires the greatest debates on a really good book? “You either love it or hate it,” some people say because not everyone agrees or gets the message in the same way. Yes, I think it’s all in how you look at it. Life does change, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worst. We can’t predict these things. People move away. People move on. Friendship is a two-way street, and our guts clench when we see these changes as a test. We may not see it (there’s that perspective again), but we subconsciously create a rather depressing self-fulfilling prophecy. We victimize ourselves, and the friendship takes the beating. We’re no longer in the loop with these friends, who are now in different states and time zones. We listen to a lot, and I mean a lot, of Civil Wars, whilst silently crying into our laptops…as we stalk our friends on Facebook. “I will never forget you,” you whisper to no one in particular. We feel shabby…because you no longer see what your friends saw in you. All the interesting parts of you were written out, when you no longer can see these strengths reflected in their eyes.
I hate to break it to you, but that is not friendship. It is a security blanket. FUCK. THAT. Your friends are not your self-esteem drug of choice. They are your friends. Change your perspective.
I love my friends fiercely. Seriously, I use the phrase, “they would never find the body,” as a term of endearment when I talk about how I care for their well-being. I admit, I have clung to my friends for constant validation, when I should have just appreciated the awe-inspiring individual who counted me among all others to share moments with them. That’s the wonderful thing about friendships, and why you should never want it to be the same forever, they are comfortable, yet always new, if done right.
The wonderful thing about friendships is that you can take some things with you…all the good times. Friendships have histories, there are road trips and way too much wine, all the food, and points where you are laughing so hard that you cry. There is love. No one can take that away from you. And like wine, I’d like to think these memories get better with time. For when life does get complicated, these are a source of joy; when things seemed simpler, even if they really weren’t.
For anyone who is my friend, I want you to know this: I want what’s best for you. I want you to be happy, even if I don’t get to be there all the time. (This sounds a tad selfish, but you know what I mean. All good things. All good things…) I still want to share in your weirdness and awesomeness. I still want to have those deep belly laughs with you. I still want to share stories, both actual and fictitious. I still want to have those good for the soul chats. Because each of you offers a different perspective that is unlike any other. You all inspire and motivate me in your own way. On a basic, human level, this is vital. As a writer, this is just good to fend off those nasty blocks. These, among infinite reasons, are why I like you.
At the same time, I am afraid to lose touch with you, and there will be days that I will miss your physical presence to the point my heart hurts. Maybe that particular pain means I’m doing something right, though. I promise to not wall myself off, like I have in the past. I will call, Skype, and visit. Please do the same. You are in my life because you are important. That importance does not go away or diminish when major changes and plot twists come sweeping through. You’re too loved for this friendship to lose its value.
This post started very bleak. Let’s end it on a high note. To all my friends, I’m giving you a hug. The kind of hug that sticks with you; the one that makes your ribs momentarily closer together. I’m holding on tight, but only for a second, because I know you have to get back to being awesome. I have a little phrase to leave you with, until we see each other again. I borrowed this one phrase from Parks and Rec because I think it’s beautiful, and I use it when I sign off of a texting match with Bea: “Like you. Love you. Miss you.”
Introverted people are a complex people. No, we are not shut-ins or just anti-social. (Although we do scare easily when a surprise photo op rears its hideous, red-eyed head.) What I mean to say is that introverts, while very much so a friendly neighborhood wall flower, also have some darker stuff brewing beneath the surface.
I’m pulling from a sample size of one here, meaning myself. But from my thirty years of experience living with myself, I’m going to add some more adjectives behind the definition of introvert. They include the following: type-A, over-analytical, guilt/shame ridden, fretter, and guarded. All these qualities lend introverts to be excellent actors, unless we’re tired. (In that case, once you recognize your introvert is tired, you simply smile, ask them if they want something to drink, and allow them to play on their phone. Do not engage. I repeat: DO NOT ENGAGE!)
Okay. The funny is out of the way. Now to get down to the real reason why this post has come to fruition. I had a lackluster Friday night that turned into a quagmire of a hellish Saturday. What chain of events brought this about you may wonder? (You’re reading this after all. Unless you have lost interest. In that case, sorry for having taken up your time.) Was it because it was Valentine’s Day? Can it be attributed to seasonal affective disorder? Was I tired? Had I properly fed and hydrated myself? Did I make a bowel movement that day? Was my head now screwed on just right? Shoes too tight? Heart three sized too small? Maybe it was a culmination of all these things. Still, this post is about my introversion…not pooping.
I was out with friends at a bar. Whilst there, I confirmed some things about myself. One, I do not care for alcohol. I’m like that eighty year old man riddled with liver spots, bifocals, and a bad case of psoriasis, who is taking a break from telling his long winded, unnecessary tale about how he had walked to school uphill both ways in the snow and dodging rabid bands of woolly mammoths, to comment that the seven dollars he has squandered on the swill in his glass could have been put to better use. The second thing I learned, the bar is not my scene. Plain and simple.
Admittedly, I had wanted to go out. I was open for fun; to meet new and interesting people. Aside from the crowd I was with, all the interesting people must have gone to the bar on the other side of the city. It dawned on me, through my sober goggles, or glasses as normal people refer to them, that there were way too many people jammed into this little hall. It was so noisy, which created that great scenario where you simply smile and nod as major details of a story being told by the person next to you get lost in the din the fifty other drunken chatters and tirades that were freely flowing.
These two points, made something else clear to me. Well, two things very clear. First, Bea, I’m sorry but that challenge of a drunken make out session with someone in a bar is going to have to go untouched. (Will it smooth things over, if I tell you that you have pretty eyes?) Second, I had a sinking realization that I did not belong.
I could feel myself instinctually pulling myself inward. Ken would look over every now and then, and ask if I was alright. And I felt worse because my little bubble of awkward had expanded and become noticeable enough to pull him out of his revelry.
When it finally came time to leave, another friend had stopped me. Granted the words they uttered to me were well intentioned…and drunk, but I was in no mood to hear them. “I’m so glad you finally came out with us,” they said with a broad grin stretched across their face. Fatigue and anxiety translated these words to, “Way to chew through the bars of your cage and be a person. Please accept this pat on your head as a sign of my approval.”
You could imagine my relief when I finally slipped under the covers that night. The day was over, and the next day was bound to be better. Sleep cures all.
Saturday sucked something awful. Fuck.
How do I explain it? How I felt that day had nothing to do with Friday night. I was overwhelmed with what was going on in my life, yet underwhelmed in motivating myself to do anything. I was emotional, but empty. I can describe it like this: Either the day or I did not need to exist. The sheer fact that we both were present generated an enormous contradiction. I’m actually surprised there were no documented cases of black holes opening up that day.
Let me explain. I have these moments where I am convinced that I should not be alive. Specifically, my life was meant to naturally run out years ago. As a result, I’m present, but I’m invisible. I’m expendable and a superfluous detail, or at times an annoyance, in the goings-on in the lives of others. So, if you need me, I’ll be over here in this corner…in the dark…unless you just want me to go outside…across the street…behind the dumpster…in that alley over there. Needless to say, there’s a lot of self-hatred on those days. Not the shouting kind. The kind where you do that slow, disgusted headshake. The kind where even you are too sick of yourself to say anything about it.
Do all introverts feel this way at some point in time? I don’t know. But through my ramblings and reflections, maybe, MAYBE, I’m beginning to uncover the answer, but I won’t be doing it alone…
It was an accident really. It just all kind of started to unfurl itself. Not just my annoyance with Friday night, and not the depression I felt on Saturday. It went deeper. And Ken was there to listen. I mean, really listen; to the point where it didn’t matter what came out of your mouth. He just cared. You remember Ken. Right? Ken is a good listener. Ken doesn’t judge, and for that, I love him for it. On certain levels, we are actually quite similar…which makes sense, since we’re friends.
He too feels the pressure to maintain this edifice of perfection for the sake of those around him. He too worries if he is truly being the best version of himself, and is disheartened when the surveys say he’s not. There is a mutual understanding of self-hate, guilt, shaming, and chasing after perfection because a version of us that is “good enough for now” is not, well, good enough…ever.
After talking with Ken, my mind began to wander down the halls of what has played a role in creating my introversion; those feelings, those characteristics, those somewhat irrational fears. Will seeking them out and setting them free really make me happy? Do I just leave well enough alone?
Introverts are viewed as hiding from something. Some say they are hiding from people and the social interaction that comes with them. For an introvert to engage in social activities is to drain our energy stores.
I say, introverts actually are hiding from themselves. Their full selves. The energy we expend is actually us trying to maintain this “perfect” version of ourselves to the outside world. There are an immense amount of factors that are constantly being monitored and maintained. Are we choosing our words carefully? Are we funny enough? Are we too annoying? Too quiet? Oh, God, give me some feedback here so I can be who you want!
We all have certain things from our pasts or certain flaws that we wish we didn’t have. The difference is, I think introverts believe to shed light on these details could destroy us, or, at the very least, bar us from that happily ever after. It is like the idea of Mr. Hyde, or inner demons (See Here Be Demons for more details), or the idea of the Dark Heart from Once Upon a Time. If you commit a heinous act, whatever your definition of “heinous” may be, your heart is poisoned, and it is only a matter of time before it consumes you. You become the villain, and there is no coming back from it. So, we fake it till we make it.
As I said, these fears make introverts excellent actors. Almost unwittingly, we craft these masks or don some rather spectacular armor. It perpetuates this image that we having everything completely together. We can do no wrong. Really, though, is this armor protecting us, or is it keeping the things we dread the most in, and away from public consumption?
We can’t divest ourselves from these things. Like it or not, they have played a role in how we have lived, where we are now, and how we perceive the world. It is ever present. Truthfully, in my opinion, as much as I hate these aspects of myself, I cannot say I ultimately hate the final product. Good news! I don’t hate me…all the time. Still…
As much as you would like to lock yourself behind your bedroom door, and hunker down into a fort of down comforters and pillows with your favorite Disney characters on them, that shrouded demon will be right behind you in that pitch black hallway, huddled up on the other side of the door, a crumpled mess, slowly picking at the splinters of your door with its needle-like finger nails, all the while, saying, “Nevermore.” Nevermore will you know true happiness, because you are imperfect. Nevermore, will you have good days, because you are not entirely a good person.
Did J.K. Rowling have the right idea about casting a patronus? If we cast a spell to call forth our spirit animal protector (mine would be a German shepherd), would its light be enough to make our flaws shrink back further into the darkness? What would happen if these shameful details were touched by the light? Would shedding light on our weaknesses actually illuminate the beautiful parts too? Would the negatives that bind us finally relinquish?
Not all secrets are fun. To pull this analogy into reality, we hide this demon from the light of friends, family, and even ourselves, because we truly don’t know what it will do to us. We withhold these details because we are afraid that those who love us, and, to a lesser extent, like us are only in love with the aspects they can readily see or what we share. We kick the ugly parts under the rug or stuff them in the closet, and pray no one pries any further. We do not share these things because a loved one can become a foe. And these unflattering truths can be ammunition that will undo us. This is an exercise in trust that we are not too keen to attempt, even if we warm up first with some light stretching.
Still, we crave to let people in; all the way in. For someone to truly know you, they need to see all of you; the proud parts and the ashamed parts. We are presented with these opportunities to disclose these parts, but we chicken out and quickly clamber for the mask. Usually, it seems that we push people away. It begs the question: Can we truly be happy then? Or do we get some sort of pseudo-happy because we always wonder, “What if they really knew this? What if they really knew that?” What if, indeed…
These troubles do not go away. In fact, they almost seem cyclic. In a quest for that unattainable perfection, we whip ourselves with our failings, our guilt, our shame. Every good day that we have brings us closer to the part of the loop where we must face our shortcomings; our inadequacies. And it sucks, that we cannot leave well enough alone. At times, we even anticipate it, and maybe even prepare for the storm.
We dredge up these bad moments because, I think, it humbles us, and that makes us a good person, right? We focus on all the things that we have done wrong which is used to define what we are capable of destroying in the future. We almost look for a new low, so we can then pour all our effort to not do that. We convince ourselves, in that moment, that we would never sink so low. We are stronger now. Still…what if…?
Wouldn’t it be better if we were honest with who we are? Embrace ourselves entirely, and to willingly let go of those who don’t understand us? Correction, who is unwilling to understand us? Doesn’t each and every one of us deserve that? Don’t we need that? Think of it in terms of hugs. Someone who truly loves you, flaws and shame and beauty and awesome, pulls you in close. You can feel the pressure of their arms tighten and gently crush you. It makes your heart jump in your throat and your eyes go all misty. It’s euphoric. You deserve euphoric.
I hope you are able to be honest with yourself. Eventually, I hope you can be completely honest with others when you need to. No one says that everyone need know your life story. Start with the people that matter the most to you. On the contrary, you are in control of who knows your business. So, tell that nosey neighbor, specifically the one you caught rummaging through your trash the other day, to step off.
Don’t be afraid of yourself. Please.
Perhaps it would be fair for me to take my own advice. So, here goes. You don’t get the deep dark fears. (That’s reserved for those closest to me. See the previous paragraphs.)
I’ve never had a serious, romantic relationship. I have been incapable of being loved or letting someone love me. I do want it though. I want to find that soul mate. I don’t want to be alone. I want to know that something so fabled as true love really is more than a myth.
I look around and see friends who have been in relationships. It makes me feel like I’m behind on love. It makes me feel broken. I haven’t shared this before because I think it sounds selfish on my part. Now that I have, maybe I should go duck behind that dumpster again, or barricade myself in my comforter fort.
This confession doesn’t fix the problem. It doesn’t fix my fear of social interaction. It doesn’t make me feel better now that I have these words staring back at me in black and white. It makes me honest. It makes me think. And I think that it will help me. Aaaannnddd on that note…
To close this post, I encourage you to listen to Jessie J’s song, “Who You Are.” Just give it a listen and you’ll understand why. I liken it to getting that rib crushing hug from a parent or a best friend. Embrace the tingly feels. Best of luck.
As I got into the passenger’s seat of the car, my mom glanced over at me. “You know, I was talking to you grandmother the other day,” she began, as she slipped the key into the ignition and brought the car to life.
“Oh? What about,” I half wondered, gazing out the window at the gray, Illinois day.
“Nothing much.” She began to laugh nervously to herself. “Your grandmother. During our conversation, she looks over at me and says, ‘You know your father and I still have oral sex.’”
“MOM!!” I screamed. I lurched forward, only to catapult back into the seat, leaving a deep impression of the safety belt across my chest. Dozens of mental alarms buzzed, clanged, and clamored, in any effort to drown out any ensuing words that would escape my mother’s mouth. They sounded something like, “Ew, ew, ew, eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwww! Stop, stop, stop, stap, sta-ha-ha-ha-aaap! No, no, no, nononononono!”
The chills and shakes were beginning to settle in as I futilely began to scratch at the window in an attempt to get out. “Why would you say that!?” I screamed, believing my mother just wanted someone else to share in the trauma.
“No, no. It’s not that bad,” she said through laughter.
“Not that bad?” She was too far gone.
“Listen. Listen. So, you’re grandmother goes, ‘Yeah. Sometimes, I’m on the bed. Your father passes by the door—’”
“Mom, I am begging you to stop,” I said through sobs. I contemplate wrapping the seat belt around my neck in order to deprive myself of oxygen; not in a permanent sense. I was hyperventilating. It really wouldn’t have taken much.
She continued her tale, unrelenting. “’He looks at me. I look at him. And then I go, “Fuck, you.” And he goes, “Fuck, you too.” And then he goes into his room and I go back to watching TV.’ Hahahaha!”
As much as I hated to do it, I stopped to think and let the story settle. It wasn’t easy, mostly because things were starting to go black and the stars twinkling at the corners of my eyes were kind of distracting. I did not laugh. I took an immense sigh of relief. I uncoiled the seatbelt from my neck, laid back into the seat, and said, “That’s not funny.” This did not quell the downpour of laughter from the driver’s side.
I have since shared this story with friends, and, admittedly, relished in the looks of horror and dread that begin to dilate their pupils and cause that little bit of foam to form at the corner of the mouth, only for them to collapse on the floor in convulsive, relieved laughter.
Mom was right. Sharing IS fun!
Deep within the recesses of my mind lies a dark, dense forest. The bark on the trees is a rotted gray, collecting in moldy, black knots; the hollows of which echo the screams and wails of crushed dreams and the cries of broken hearts. Thick, intertwined leaves from weeping willows create mottled curtains. The merest wink of sunlight can be seen through the canopy of jagged branches; the smallest of boney and bare branches appearing to be reaching down, clamoring to pluck you from the dusty, barren ground. The air is stale and dry. With each breath you can feel your throat crack and plead for a drink. There is no beauty here. There is no happiness. You are certain that nothing can sustain itself here. If only you were right.
This place is loneliness. These are bad lands. Here is the place where my demons reside. Every fear and insecurity that I have thrives here, amidst the shadows and the darkness. If I am unable to see them, I cannot fight them. If I cannot fight them, then I am at their mercy.
As the New Year begins, we all have these fleeting glimpses of that ideal self. “This year I will learn a new skill. This year I will get rid of all my unnecessary crap. This year is the year that I get buff. This year I won’t fly off the handle when things get challenging. I am ready to put myself out there. I am ready to be loved. This is the year I attain perfection.”
How many of you have had at least one of these thoughts traipse through your mind as the ball drops and the clock strikes midnight on January 1st?
In that moment, in those fleeting, glimmering seconds, we see our “perfection” and potential for great things. We stand ready to collect our $200 dollars and pass GO because this time, this time, we are going to do it right; we are going to do it perfectly. Nothing will put itself in our way. We are deluded.
I’m sorry if this sounds defeatist and pessimistic. To quote my dad, “I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist.” In this instance, I have to agree with him.
Failure is inevitable, at least in my case, because of the horde of demons that tag team each other to make sure that a well-intentioned thought, which will eventually pass through the forest, will make it out crippled, battered, and beaten…if it makes it out at all. My point, I am not being my best. The kicker is that these demons are a part of me. It is easier said than done to try and disassociate from them. Yet, I do not know, or am unwilling, to deal with them. I allow them to exist, which, in turn, allows me to simply exist, and not live. (There is a difference between “existing” and “living”.)
During this wild ride we affectionately refer to as life, I came to the realization that I have been rather NRFB (Never Removed from Box). I have existed quite comfortably behind walls of my own creation, content to observe those around me, yet still pining to be them and to lead more of a storied life…just not my life.
I don’t see this post at being one of personal success. I have not saved myself. I have merely identified the problem, or problems, I should say. This idea of inner demons has been crawling around the ole’ cranium for a few months; leaving deep scratch marks along the ceilings and floors. Particularly today, and I am not sure exactly why, so please do not press me, I decided to go deeper within myself than I had ever before…only this time I brought a flashlight. How could I ever hope to fight these things, if I did not know what they looked like or how they behaved? Know thine enemy, as they say.
I was dismayed at what I discovered. Lurking amongst the hissing tall grasses and behind the wailing trees with the talon branches and serpentine vines, were wicked and terrifying things. Things that I allowed to grow over time and gain power over me. Things that not only know how to exploit my weaknesses and flaws, but embody them. They shroud themselves in inky blackness and whisper just behind my ear cunning and calculated thoughts that convince me to lodge one more brick into my walls further shutting out the light and sounds of success and potential happiness.
While these evil things are of my own doing, so must their undoing lie within me as well. From my journey into the bad lands, I divest the demons that reside in its inner sanctum.
If you’ve read “NO,” then you are aware of this little so-and-so. He decides to pick my most unattractive, physical characteristics to showcase himself in. He’s covered in blemishes and little ingrown hairs; one of which has formed over his right eye…giving him that quaint Quasimodo look. It looks rather nasty, but he wears it like a badge of honor. His posture is hunched, allowing him to carry an uncanny load of back fat that rustles along with the tall grasses that he crouches in, whenever a slight breeze passes through. He’s hard to get a hold of mostly because of his overly oily skin; like a little greased up pig he is.
He makes me feel ugly. I blame him for my moments of junk food weakness. Jumping here and there, this gnome points a stubby, cracked finger nailed digit at me…laughing. I guess one could say that he keeps me humble. I would be lying, though, if I said I wouldn’t enjoying hearing him crunch underneath my boot.
The Wrath is an interesting looking kind of monster. This is mostly attributed to the fact that she shrouds herself in mystery. I would describe her as banshee-esk. She’s a specter of sorts; her hair is comprised of wispy, tightly woven cobwebs. She is swathed in pale gray and blue robes; the fabric swirling about in the air, as she swims around my head. Her face…her face is concealed behind a blank looking mask similar to that of a mannequin. The eyes are an oval and painted an opaque frost blue. The nose is a sharp triangular prism. The mouth is a hard, horizontal line. I’m afraid to pull the mask off. Will it reveal a horrible truth? Nothing at all?
She screams at me…at a frequency that only I can hear. She shrieks of potential failures and pain, and tells me of all the things that I cannot do and of things that I should have done. She tells me of the beautiful things and experiences that I will never have; of the things that I am not worthy of. I am chastised for every decision that I make. “Is that really the best choice?” she inquires. “Did you really think this through? Are you doing this right? What will they think of you?” She is doubt and paranoia incarnate. She brings herself close to my ear and tells me of these potential woes and tales of utter and inevitable drama. I cannot tune her out. I cannot escape her. She draws me close and holds me, like a lover, till she is done with me; keeping her scythe-like, emerald talons precariously wrapped around my throat and heart. To try opens the opportunity for failure. To not try to live is to embrace failure out of the gate and experience a slow and dull existence…or is it more so considered a death?
I have big ideas and grand goals of being an epic teacher and a great writer with an unending supply of stories and the occasional little yarn. I see myself pushing myself, maybe even getting a tad ahead of schedule now and then. I see success…and it looks good on me. It’s good to have goals, so long as they don’t turn you into a soulless craven.
To attain these goals, to gain a firm grip on that brass ring, requires work. “But it’s hard to care all the time,” the Soul Suck will moan and wail. Fuckin’ Soul Suck. I am convinced he has stock in every social media outlet out there…and the E! Network. He manages to rope me into whiling away hours of valuable time…usually allowing my ass to take root to a couch cushion. I escape from being an adult, but, if I’m going to be honest, I end up regretting it all…that…and it actually makes me feel a little sick. No one made a name for themselves by watching a box set of a television show, even if it is critically acclaimed. It’s a tradeoff. You are putting off your own acclaim.
The Soul Suck resembles a sloth, sort of. It camouflages itself, draping itself in Spanish moss. It’s a slow moving creature, save for its whip-like tentacles that lash out and bind you. They are a mildew-y midnight blue with bruised purple splotches. The underside of the tentacles are riddled with small, sticky needles that inject a sort of anesthetic, rendering your motivation paralyzed for at least a solid three hours of flipping through way too many cable stations telling yourself that there is never anything good on TV anymore. Meanwhile your motivations shouts, “Then just turn it off and go do something useful,” which only falls on deaf ears.
The Gemini is a serpentine creature comprised of two heads. One is blind…by choice. The other holds eyes that are wide and hypnotic. It is a being of choice, too many to possibly know, but unwilling to yield a definitive answer until all options have been considered.
I am incapable of making a decision…or calculating who should pay what on the dinner bill whenever I eat out with friends and we forget to request separate checks. There is a sudden sense of too many voices in my ear, and yet no answer at all. The blind one, with the head of male that slowly morphs from warm skin and auburn hair to bright blue and turquoise scales starting about the cheeks utters incantations that wipe my mind blank. The other, with her hypnotic, prophetic eyes, framed in deep purples and black leathery skin, punctuated by amethyst horns and spikes all over her body and face, looks deep into my own eyes, planting fragmented options and solutions. I am left a drooling mess as I quickly, and usually unsuccessfully, try to piece the puzzle together as to what to do with my life. They stall me, and this makes me feel inferior and weak, incapable of managing my own life. If I lost you, I am no longer talking about the bill and tip. Needless to say, but I’m going to say it anyway, the Gemini lick their lips with their forked tongues when they hear the question, “What am I doing with my life?”
The Wrath tells me that I will never be capable of making myself happy. The Shame tells me that I cannot make others happy. Every step I make, much like those cracks that cause lumbar pain to maternal figures, will cause excruciating suffering to my loved ones. I want to go away for school, translates to me shaving half my head, dying the other half neon blue and joining a circus as the bearded lady’s personal aerobics instructor. Wanting to
go out with friends in Chicago means that I will don a sign that says, “Mug me. Feel free to get a little bit stabby too.” To not have dessert means that I am tearing this family apart!
The Shame is a deceptive witch. She looks like an angel, bathed in a blinding, white light that emanates from within. The Shame is like an angler fish. That light distracts you from its haggard appearance of sallow, putty like skin, dead, bloodshot fish eyes, and retractable, thin fangs. It draws you in with expectations of warmth and unconditional love. It’s cold in her embrace.
To fight back, to question, douses the light. The Shame will slash and strike out, hurling insults in guttural tones. The words connect with you, leaving huge welts about your person. She will accuse you of being selfish. She will cast spells that change you into the small child she wants you to be. If not careful, she will chain you into an ill-fitting mold that will awkwardly press up against your shoulder blades, and cut off the circulation at your feet. Even though the Shame is a witch, her incantations only hold for so long. To break them means to force yourself to grow up again, and start the vicious, cyclic fight yet again.
The last demon I encountered would be best described as the Boss, for you avid gamers out there. I turned in the direction of the rustling grass to my right, shining my light. The tall grasses actually melted away like wax in IT’s presence. The ground smoldered and blacked with each step that it took. I only backed away ever so slightly, and IT took note.
Each of these aforementioned beings knows my weaknesses. They whisper what they know to IT. Whoever IT truly is, IT has a power over them. I believe IT promises them things. Promises of never having to do without a play thing. Promises of many failures and doubts.
IT looks like me…a better version of me…a perfect version of me. I can never become IT because IT is an embodiment of who I would be had I never made a mistake. The skin is unblemished. The clothes are black and tailored showing off the physique that I hope to have on any given day; not a crease out of place. IT does not know pain. IT commands respect. IT is untouchable.
IT looks me up and down with cold, solid obsidian eyes, and a grin stretches across the face, revealing a glimpse of pristine white, straight teeth. IT has power over me because IT knows every weakness, every flaw. To go toe-to-toe with IT will leave me without a voice or my trademark, sarcastic comeback.
Unbeknownst to me, IT has had me leashed for years now. It has gotten tighter and tighter over time, suffocating me, pushing dreams and good intentions into a chest of only make believe things. Not sure how, but I’ve become aware. I’ve woken up. Do or die.
IT had to wake me up. IT needs me to fight. IT craves new ideas, hopes, and desires. They need to be cultivated and quashed, so the demons in this barren land can feed, and so that I can be scarred and destroyed, edging me further away from the perfection that is IT.
This post is not going to tell you how I beat back the demons…possibly entombing some in a state of suspended animation, others falling by my sword. I can’t tell you that part because I’m not sure if this is how the story ends. This is only the beginning of the battle. I can still fail, but more importantly I can still win.
I believe there is magic within me. This magic is the form of potential, the belief that I am strong, and the desire to take myself towards something better. Of course, this battle is taking place in the forest in the recesses of my mind…so…I’m gonna be conjuring up some awesome fire balls of blues, purples, and white, elemental attacks, like crackling earthquakes and walls of roaring seas, and mythological beasts to aide me in this quest of “not taking shit lying down.” And when that doesn’t work, good thing I still have my flashlight to give them a dent or three…
Okay, then, let’s get started.
Yet another character from my novel. I really liked how he turned out; pretty dapper, if I do say so myself.
He offered me a fantastic opportunity to work on my shading. I also wanted to make his lines a little more angular. Aside from the shading, there are not too many curves on him.
If this novel ever sees the light of day, I would absolutely love to incorporate some illustrations and some of my raw notes from its development…kinda like a special features section…