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Feeling Pride is Okay

A few days ago, I reached out to a professor to tell her that I’ve been struggling to keep up in her class due to some personal reasons. I had decided to reach out to her a week prior to sending the email, but I found excuse after excuse to put it off.
During my last therapy session, I told my therapist that I’d rather quietly drown than admit to needing help. I told her how hard it was to write the message and how much shame I was harboring about doing so. I told her about the class I failed during my sophomore year because it was more comfortable to fail in silence than step forward and say something.
This post isn’t about classes or even therapy, but they were what lead to my purpose in writing this.
In discussing my feelings about reaching out for help, she asked me to list things at which I have succeeded, because I feel like requesting help makes me a failure. I couldn’t list many, the main one being that I am still in school, and she asked me if she could be blunt with me and say something she thought was an obvious success.
I consented, and in a tone of almost amused exasperation that I hadn’t mentioned it myself, she said, “You’re blind! You have learned to and succeeded at navigating a world where you can’t see anything. You haven’t allowed yourself to be held back.”
I immediately had two very conflicting emotions: panic that someone had just complimented me and I needed to figure out how to respond positively, and slight indignance that she pointed out something that, for me, isn’t exactly optional.
I gave this a lot of thought later on, and it’s what this post is really about.
I have this vivid memory of being a senior in high school, and I had just finished lunch and my friends had gone to their classes. I was waiting for my sister to come meet me and guide me to my own class which I didn’t share with my friends. She was nowhere to be found and seemingly unreachable by text. Another student in my class approached and asked if I needed help, and I accepted. I took his arm, and a moment later saw my life flash before my eyes as I nearly went sprawling down a flight of stairs. If it weren’t for the quick reflexes of my guide, I’d likely have met an untimely demise on the tile of the school cafeteria. Or at least my dignity would have.
There’s a lot that you, dear reader, probably see wrong with the above scenario. I made no mention of using a cane, because I didn’t. Didn’t I know my own way to my classes? Narrator: “She did not”. Why was I relying on my own sister to come help me get around? Why didn’t my guide mention the stairs? Okay, I don’t really know the answer to the last one.
My own friends didn’t realize I was totally blind for a whole semester because I didn’t ever use a cane. Hmm, maybe the guide didn’t mention the stairs because he also thought I had some vision due to the lack of a cane. I used it in my orientation and mobility lessons, and I had excellent travel skills. It was a constant point of bewildered contention that I could travel well but refused to use my skills.
I had so much shame and embarrassment over being blind, and for some reason I still do not comprehend, I felt like it was better to ditch all the physical signs of my blindness and instead embarrass myself by my reliance on others and general incapability to do much on my own.
Though my travel skills were good in concept, my lack of real-world practice resulted in me having a considerable lack of confidence and a great deal of anxiety. Another memory that I feel is relevant to the point that I will get to in a moment came a few years later, just before I went away for university.
I was on an o&m lesson with an instructor who was fairly new to his job. He was teaching me how to navigate my new campus, and at some point, a few weeks into our lessons, he randomly stopped me and told me, “Ok, now I want you to guide me back to your apartment.”
Aaaaaand queue the panic attack. I wasn’t quite sure where I was, though in hindsight I could have figured it out. He didn’t leave me somewhere completely unfamiliar. I tried, but I was shaking so badly I could hardly hold onto my cane. I was in tears and hyperventilating, and the only solution I could come up with was to ask a nearby student where I was.
I’m pretty sure the instructor felt awful about the experience, which made me feel all sorts of guilty, and I eventually found my way, but I was so traumatized by the whole ordeal that I was terrified of having any more lessons with him.
It’s now been seven years since the first memory and four since the second, but I had reason to look back on them because of what my therapist said to me and my resultant feeling of indignance.
Before I got heavily involved in the blind community, I reveled in the sense of accomplishment when a sighted person complimented me. I was also quite young, so that certainly was a contributing variable. As I’ve gotten older and more entrenched in the world of people like me, I’ve seen countless examples of people being angry about, scornful of, or dismissive when a sighted person remarks on their ability to do something. Please note here that I am not at all intending to devalue or invalidate those feelings; everyone feels them for different reasons, and it is absolutely not my place to say that someone’s feelings aren’t justified. Please do not walk away from this thinking that I think that someone is somehow lesser or wrong for reacting in a way they feel is necessary.
What this ingrained within me was the sense that what I do is what is expected of me, and that is true. I either have to learn to live in the world or simply exist within a bubble of dependence, and I’m grateful that I have always had people pushing me toward the former. Being around other blind people who were competent, independent, and confident inspired me to spire to be the same.
I did, however, feel as though I needed to take with me the irritation and dislike many people exhibit upon being praised or complimented. Any time a stranger told me it is awesome how I get around, told me that they were so impressed by the things I’m doing, mentioned the dreaded word inspiration, I felt a twang of guilt over being slightly proud. What I do and how I get around are things I have no choice but to do. It’s the life I have to live, it’s not something I decided to live with, right?
And yet, in some ways, it is. I look back on the girl who never took her cane out of her backpack, the girl who stood on the sidewalk crying in terror and frustration at being lost, the girl who feigned sickness in order to avoid learning to use public transportation because she was so scared of everything. I look back at her, and then I see myself now. I still deal with travel anxiety. There are still things I won’t do that many of my friends would do without a second thought. But I am a thousand times more independent than I was at seventeen or twenty. I am proud of what I have learned to do. When I walked to my choir class on the first day of this term, I was so proud of myself for not getting lost. I felt elated that, after nearly two years of remote learning, I could still travel well. I got lost last week and only felt a vague sense of embarrassment that if anyone was watching me, they’d see me turn around and walk back the way I had come. There was no panic. I found my way. It might take me entirely too much effort to talk myself into trying something, but I do try it, and I often succeed.
I’m not saying that everything for which someone chooses to praise me are acceptable or okay with me. There are still lines separating the positive from the infantilizing, and I’m just like anyone else in that I don’t like those lines being crossed.
My therapist being impressed by what I can do and encouraging me to be proud of myself could have been taken in a negative light. I could have chosen to be offended and switch the subject onto an aspect unrelated to my blindness. Maybe it would have been okay for me to do so. The thing that I realized, though, is that I am proud of myself. I have come so far and overcome so much that I never imagined I’d get through, and I don’t think it’s wrong to feel that pride.
Yes, these things are things I have to do if I want to get anywhere in life. They are things that everyone else does. But guess what? So is living. So is waking up in the morning and choosing to keep going. And I’m proud of myself for that, too, and I’m proud of everyone else who does. It’s not a bad thing to be proud of that; it’s actively encouraged.
I’m telling you and myself that it’s also okay to be proud of the accomplishments which seem commonplace. It’s ok to be proud that I, and you, navigate a world without being able to see it. And If I’m going to be proud of myself, I think it’s okay for me to be content when others are, too.

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On Significance and the Unexpected

Note for readers:
I usually try to write something deliberately relatable and with a positive conclusion. I don’t know if I’ve successfully done either of those here; I don’t know if this is too personal for that. I hope that there’s something you can take away from this regardless. Thank you for reading. It means the world and more.

Yesterday marks eight years since my father died.
I didn’t find out until Christmas Eve, when a cousin called to give the news. At sixteen years old, I lay curled in my bed, buried beneath the weight of the knowledge, absolutely lost as to how I was going to tell my little sister and older brother. Their laughter carried to me from where they were playing video games together in the living room. They had no idea. I wanted so badly to go back in time to when I didn’t know, either.
It should not have been my responsibility to bare his death on my own, and it most definitely shouldn’t have been my job to be the one to tell my siblings. Knowing that doesn’t change the fact that it was left up to me.
I hadn’t seen or spoken to him in years by then. I thought that that would mean his death would be less impactful. I was wrong.
What we tell ourselves often does not reflect what we truly feel. We can repeat words over and over, we can drill them into our own minds until they block out all else, we can shove emotions into the farthest reaches of ourselves and refuse to look their way. Sometimes, though, something happens and every barrier we so carefully constructed, every box we packed, labeled, and shoved into the darkness all come spilling into the light of reality. They shatter into a thousand scattered pieces that we have no choice but to clean up or to continue treading on for years. And even when we think we’ve collected each fragment, we sometimes stumble over a remaining one in the darkness.
The fact that it has taken me eight years to write this might tell you that I’m the kind of person who swept as many pieces as I could out of my immediate surroundings and am still, today, facing the consequences of not properly coping.
The finality of death did not truly hit me until I received that phone call. A thousand questions that I had hidden away from myself resurfaced, and in a frantic, chaotic maelstrom of them, I realized that there was no longer a chance at getting answers. A hundred hopes I didn’t know I carried with me collapsed with the understanding that they would never be realized.
Many questions began with “why?”. Why did I have to be the first in my household to know? Why did it have to happen? Why was he driving that night? Why was this the first news I’d heard of him in years? Why was he the way that he was when I was a child? Why did he do the things he did? Why was I not enough for him? Why wasn’t I enough to convince him to change? Why did he make the choices he made if he loved me? Why? Why? Why? I drowned in the questions, too afraid to voice a single one of them, allowing nobody the opportunity to explain to me that none of it ever had anything to do with me.
I was able to dismiss or answer many of the questions as I got older, but one remains with me to this day. Regardless of the logic behind it, despite what I know on a rational level to be true, I continue to battle with the idea of being enough.
I am not alone in my quest for significance. I’m not the only person in this world who feels like my worth is defined solely by people wanting or needing me. I’m not alone in struggling to redefine this part of me to be healthier and more self-sufficient.
My father battled more demons than I will ever know, and while I can accept and empathize with those battles, I have never come to terms with the knowledge that neither I nor any of my siblings were enough to save him. None of us were enough to change him. And on Christmas Eve at sixteen years old, I finally was forced to face the understanding that I would never, ever know why we weren’t enough. Why I wasn’t enough. It didn’t help that his parents swore to me that he had changed, gotten sober, patched up his life. He patched it up without me. He’d figured out how to do it, which meant that he was capable. So why couldn’t he do it for me? Why was I not enough?
Later would come a fight between two people I love. I couldn’t tell you the words which were exchanged. I don’t know if I knew even then. What mattered most was the yelling, screaming, absolute refusal to stand down. The fight was a petty one which escalated like a wildfire. I threw myself into the flames, desperate to extinguish them in any way I could, including with my own body.
My hands had once been too small to make a difference. My shoulders were too narrow and delicate to pull burdens atop them. My voice was far too quiet. I hoped that older meant more capable, that growing up meant power. I was so certain that this time, I could help. This time I could do more, do something that mattered.
It all ended abruptly and with no resolution. I stood, reeling and desperately confused, as one of them walked away, leaving behind nothing but the echo of his words to me: “Well, you tried. It just wasn’t enough.”
Later still, I found myself in a bedroom, surrounded by four children under the age of ten. Just beyond the door, which adults so often forget hides nearly nothing, came the screaming, the throwing, the holes punched into walls.
I held one child on my lap, my arm wrapped around another, trying in vain to surface from the fog of memory when it had been me who was the six-year-old, my parents the ones outside the room. I had to be strong enough to be available for the four small bodies in my care, each of them begging to know what was going on and if everyone was going to be okay. They didn’t know that I was holding onto them just as fiercely and for the same reasons as they were holding onto me.
I could hardly breathe, let alone be the responsible adult that they needed in that moment.
All of these incidences are difficult to write, but not as much as they once were. My goal isn’t to elicit sympathy or comfort; I’m so, so very far from the only one who has stories such as these, and too many people have experienced vastly worse.
The last few months have seen me struggle in some familiar ways and many unfamiliar ones. I don’t know if it’s the time of year or something else, but my grasp on the present and on contentment has been tenuous at best, nearly nonexistent at worst.
What do you do when being needed is what sustains you and you’ve convinced yourself that nobody does? What is my purpose in this world if not to be what people around me need? And who am I, where do I go, what do I do when that purpose is broken down?
I tend to lock myself into vicious, never-ending cycles. I will be given a reason for why I am not needed as much as I hoped I was, and I will allow that to attack myself worth. I will let it hurt me, because that is easy. It is less easy to fight it and defy its attempts to tear me down.
I will never be enough for everyone. I may not be enough for the people for whom I so desperately want to be. I know it is a fools arrand to seek to make everyone happy. The person for whom I need to be enough and who I should be trying to make happy is myself, but there is no greater sense of satisfaction and peace as when I have helped someone else. It’s easy to let that mean that I can and will only be happy when I am enough for someone.
I simultaneously crave closeness and friendship and avoid it at all costs. I withdraw when I should reach out, I reach out when I know I won’t maintain it, I let phone calls and texts go unanswered, I cling to every meaningful interaction like it is a life raft. I set myself up for failure and then allow that failure to define me. I convince myself that I am meaningless and that nothing would change were I not here, and then I look for reasons why it’s true.
I do it because it is easier to set myself up to be hurt than to be hurt unexpectedly. I do it because, when I get hurt, I can look back and know exactly what I did to cause it. I do it because I am so afraid of not knowing when, where, and how it is going to happen.
I can’t prepare myself for everything. I can’t look in every direction at all times. I’m going to get hurt, and sometimes it is going to be no different than Christmas Eve eight years ago. Sometimes I will not expect it. Sometimes it will come out of nowhere, punch me in the stomach, and leave me careening off a ledge I didn’t even know existed. Nothing is more terrifying to me.
The other day, I received two messages from different people, entirely independent of one another, expressing such kindness, thoughtfulness, and caring for me that it was breathtaking. I felt myself shatter all over again, pieces of me I’d foolishly put together to protect myself coming apart as though my attempts had been meaningless. I felt my tether to the world solidify a little bit. Nowhere in their messages did they express a need for me or a way in which I could help them, and yet they care. They care despite my desperation to remain uncared for. They care for… who knows what reasons. I was, in a way, almost angry with them for still caring. I don’t deserve it; I’ve done so little to deserve it.
I rarely mean anything as much as when I say I don’t know why they do or anyone else does. My sense of self-worth is so warped and twisted that I genuinely cannot fathom the reasons behind why someone could, let alone would. And the trouble with this is that, if I don’t think I am worthy of being valued, I will never truly believe that I am. And if I never believe that I have worth in this world, I will not survive it.
Every part of me ached at the knowledge that, regardless of my avoidance, despite my failings, there were people in the world who cared. I am holding so tightly to that moment of understanding, that ever-so rare moment of clarity, and I am afraid I will lose it. I’m afraid I will let go of it. I have it now, though. I have it, and I am trying not to descend into the cycles which will tear it from me.
I know logically that I’m not alone. It’s been a long time since I allowed myself to believe it on a deeper level. I want to change. I want to get off this roller coaster to which I’ve tied myself. Maybe it’s okay that I don’t do it alone for once. I hope I figure out how.

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Holding On

I’ve been reading back over old pieces of writing the last few days. My writing folder is a jumbled mess of titles like “weird thing”, “stuff”, “don’t ever read this it is terrible”, “meow” (it had nothing to do with cats), etc. In one of these, thoughtfully titled ‘thing”, I found this. It is a piece I wrote in July of 2017. I don’t remember who it was about. I don’t remember if it was about anyone specific at all.
All I know is I am now sitting in my room, so wracked with tears that I can hardly write this introduction. I needed to read this. I’ve needed to read this for a long time. Maybe you will, too.
I hope to God my younger self is right.

“Remember all the sadness and frustration, and let it go.”

– Linkin Park

You did let go, in the most final sense of the word. The shield you held up for so long to block out the bullets life sent at you tumbled to the ground one last time. You turned your back on the waves that you’d been holding back for who knows how long; you let them swamp you, and I wonder if within their depths you have found peace. I wonder if the happiness that evaded you now rests on your shoulders where once your burdens did. I wonder if your thoughts are full of love and joy, now, rather than the impenetrable fog that nobody pushed hard enough to explore. I wonder if you feel the warmth of the sun and not just the overbearing heat of a new day, and if you smile at the stars instead of wondering what another night will bring.
I hope the happiness you have found is worth the sadness you left behind. I hope the happiness you have found will one day fill the hole that your absence so abruptly tore into reality.
I hope you, wherever you may be, see the sorrow and pain of those who wonder why. I hope you see the confusion of those who wonder when it all became too heavy. I hope that you see this not out of a yearning for you to suffer, but because you didn’t see the willingness to care in the hearts of the people that walked beside you.
I hope that you see this and know that life is cruel, harsh, and unyielding, but those who lived beside you also love, and you were worth that love. You were worth what you may not have sought. You were worth the attention of a listening ear. You were worth the words and a gentle touch. You were worth someone holding your hands and sharing your burdens.
You were worth it.

You are worth it.
There are always those who will help. There are always those who will count the stars with you while you can’t sleep for fear of a nightmare. There are always those who will share your silence or fill it with the words you need to hear. There is someone who will listen not just to the stories you tell, but the words you speak, and there’s someone who will simply hold you when those words get caught in your throat.
Telling the story of your scars is daunting and terrifying. Your strength is resilient and beautiful, but admitting to having been hurt—admitting to having broken pieces that aren’t quite fitting back together is the only way that others will know that you are losing your way.
Life is cruel, harsh, and unyielding, but your reaching hands can find contact. Your tears can have somewhere to fall that isn’t your pillow.
Keep reaching.
Please, keep reaching, because there is always someone reaching back. You may not find them in the places you expect to, but you can find someone. You will find someone.

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It’s Raining Silverware

Spoon theory, fork theory, and now knife theory?

I’m all for metaphors and analogies, probably a little too much, so it makes complete sense to me that I am drawn to these. Explaining mental illness is a herculean task with very little payout; it is something so many of us experience, but we all feel it in different ways, and that creates a seemingly endless difficulty in fully understanding what someone is feeling.

I’m at a point where I don’t need someone to understand what I’m dealing with. I know how hard it is, and while being understood feels wonderful, I don’t require it in order to be comforted. The aspect of most importance in terms of being understood by those closest to me is simply that I’m struggling. These theories help with that.

If you’re unaware, spoon theory is the idea that we are each granted a certain number of spoons every day. These represent the energy we have to get through our waking hours. Sometimes we have just enough to get out of bed. Some days we might have enough to accomplish most of our to-do list. It’s a theory commonly used for those experiencing chronic illnesses, but it translates well to mental health.

Fork theory comes from the saying “stick a fork in me, and I’m done”, wherein we are stuck with forks both big and small throughout our day, and sometimes we get stuck with one more than we can handle. It can be something as small as coming home to find a dirty dish in the sink, or it can be something much larger and, to the outside world, more understandably upsetting. Regardless, we don’t usually know what our limit is, but when it is reached, we retreat and/or break down.

Knife theory is something I thought would be much more negative than it is in actuality, and I only discovered it today while looking up information about the previous two theories. It is the idea that knives are often used to spread nice things like jam, butter, Nutella, etc. It suggests that we are offered knives in the form of gestures, both big and small, done by people around us which make us feel even just a little bit better about life. Gestures can be as simple as someone letting you go first in a line or a friend sending a care package. They smooth over the marks left by the forks, as it were.

I prefer my metaphors to be a little less utensil based, but I’ll give these a pass considering the origin of the spoon theory and that it makes sense for the others to follow.

Today is a no spoons and all forks kind of day.

Most days have been lately, and I don’t know why.

I’ve started three pieces of writing which never got posted here, because the further I get into what I want to say, the more confused and overwhelmed I become; re: mental illness being hard to explain.

Have you had those moments while reading or watching something (especially something already familiar) where you hope that the character will realize something earlier this time? You know that it’s already written and isn’t going to change, but you can’t help hoping that something might turn out differently. I’m sure I’m not alone in experiencing this.

I often feel that way about myself and my life. I can appreciate on a logical level all of the things for which I should be grateful. I observe the gestures made by those who care for me. I see all of the reasons why I should be happy, contented, and fulfilled.

I wish I could reach through that metaphorical screen and shake myself and tell myself to look around, to recognize what I have, to appreciate it enough for it all to matter.

I get so frustrated with myself for forgetting the good feelings that came with a gift, a conversation, a hug, an attempt to reach out. I wish I could erase parts of myself as easily as I delete words on a page. I wish I could write my way out of the canyons into which I have dug myself.

I feel like an awful friend when a gesture is made, and it doesn’t make everything better. The happiness I feel when someone does try to help seldom lingers, and I am left feeling guilty and disappointed in myself for its fleetingness. I live in perpetual fear of letting people down, and to me, this feels like another example of me doing exactly that.

Were a friend to come to me and tell me this, I would offer endless reasons why so very little of it is true. I would tell them that people aren’t trying to “cure” them, and that brief moments of joy should be cherished for what they are rather than disregarded and covered over by shame because they didn’t last.

“What would you say to a friend in your position?” It is such a common question posed to those of us who are struggling, and I constantly remind myself of it, hoping that one day it will stick.

I am incessantly weighed down by exhaustion and despondency, made worse by shame and guilt stemming from a belief that I should not feel this way. It’s exhausting endlessly fighting a mind that  wants you not to exist.

I try to think of at least five things for which I am grateful each day, because I know that it is all-too easy for me to allow myself to sink deeper into the abyss.

Today I am grateful for my family, my partner, my cats, a hot cup of tea, and a bit of sunshine that has finally broken through the clouds.

Each word I’ve written here had to be pulled out of me. I was determined to finish, upset with myself for not having done so with any of my earlier attempts. I know I am not the only one hurting. I know that many of you reading this are struggling. I want you to know that I see you. I’m here with you. I know it is hard, but I encourage you to find gratitude alongside me. It is not a cure, but depression is a vicious, hateful thing that will never stop lying to us and telling us we have and deserve nothing.

I wish you a day of many spoons, very few forks, and plenty of knives, but hopefully not literally. If that isn’t the case for you, as it is not for me, tomorrow is a new day. We can and will try again.

I will leave you with this, because cute cat stories are always nice:

I was sitting on my bedroom floor earlier, and I cannot express to you how impossible getting up felt. The weight of entirely too many emotions pressing down upon me was such that I began panicking at my inability to push it away. Just as I felt myself on the verge of breaking down, Ivy came speeding into my room and jumped onto my lap. Purring as always, she rubbed her face against mine and sat with me until I was able to take a few deep breaths. It feels bizarre thanking anyone for offering me knives (seriously, that just sounds weird), but I was certainly grateful for her in that moment.

`I wish you the best rest of your day that you can manage. We’re in this together. 💙

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On Lines and When to Cross Them.

One of my favorite parts of reading is, strangely enough, my ability to forget even the most important events of a book. It’s especially true for the minor details; I forget names, descriptions, and small interactions with sometimes concerning ease. It means that, given a year or so, I can re-read a book I deemed to be one of my absolute favorites and experience it almost as though for the first time again. My faulty memory aside, there are benefits to this that I’ve come to value particularly much.

I love quotes. I have a whole file of them, and I can waste away hours scrolling through other collections simply enjoying the way that words can fit so neatly together to create something beautiful, relatable, or funny. I enjoy the lack of context to them because it means that I can assign my own. There still exists the original intent, but like with most things in life, I can apply it to myself in ways that make sense to me and help me. I’ve lost much of the context for even my most favorite quotes, except for those whose books I’ve re-read multiple times, and I can both appreciate the beauty of the hole in which they must fit already and also add them into the puzzle that is me.

One such quote, taken from Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, is as follows:

“You have these lines you won’t cross. But then you cross them. And suddenly you possess the very dangerous information that you can break the rule and the world won’t instantly come to an end. You’ve taken a big, black, bold line and you’ve made it a little bit gray. And now every time you cross it again, it just gets grayer and grayer until one day you look around and you think: there was a line here once, I think.”

In case you haven’t read the book, I will withhold the context for this quote except to say that it certainly is not positive, unlike my interpretation. You definitely should read it if you haven’t, though.

I’ve read the quote a few times since reading the book, but it wasn’t until today that it slid neatly into an empty space within my head, and I think it only fit there because of my ability to forget its original position so easily. It is what sparked my writing this.

Lines are borders. They separate something from something else. They often contain a more negative connotation: these are the lines we cannot or should not cross. To cross a line is to do something that probably was better off left undone. But what about those that we allow to trap us?

The thing about anxiety is that I’ve surrounded myself with lines. There are the softer lines that I’ve drawn which tell me that to that direction lies potential discomfort. There are the darker ones which represent the borders to places of historical pain. There are those identifying boundaries of embarrassment and shame. There are the ones that I’ve drawn over and over and over again, reiterating, as fiercely as I can, that they must not ever be crossed because I very well may not survive the aftermath.

When I was younger, the world was full of the softest lines. I was often self-conscious, embarrassed, hurting, confused, and afraid. Many of these came from typical childhood and adolescent experiences, but many were drawn after surviving or witnessing something harsher and less forgiving.

I step, often out of necessity rather than choice, beyond one of these boundaries that I have drawn myself, and I survive it. My footstep smudges the marks I scrawled with such care and determination, erasing what I thought so critical to my own safety, and I survive it.

As I read the above quote, I reflected for a moment upon how I have lived the last several years of my life. I’m not going to pretend that I’ve done well, or right, or great. I have felt myself over the past few months descending back into places that I thought I had long-since escaped. I had scars reopened and felt the terrible, frightening, and sometimes comforting familiarity of the accompanying hurt.

I have, however, in spite of or despite or alongside or whatever else someone might say, accomplished things that I once imagined I never would. To many people, these accomplishments would be small: I spoke up for myself to a stranger; I spoke my truth to a loved one; I asserted boundaries that I felt protected me; I trusted a friend enough to be honest and open with them. I started a book club and, while most of the members have been long time friends or have become such, have struggled and often succeeded at working past the fear of abandonment, the concern over disappointing them, and the absolute terror of leading them in even a small way.

I am not bragging by sharing my successes, and I sincerely hope it does not come across as though I am. All I know is that all of these were once lines drawn in the sand. No doubt out of fear, I etched these marks and contained myself within them with the thought that I could not possibly move beyond.

And yet, I did.

There are lines that I know must have once existed, based on what I know about myself and my personality. I can no longer figure out where they were, though. Would I have been ok with X as much as I am now? Could I have done Y with as much ease as I do now? I don’t know. I don’t think I could have. It’s easy to alter the color of our memories to fit what we want to think in the present, and I could be doing that to make myself feel better. I’d like to think not, though; I’d like to think that I have made strides to be different. Maybe I have not managed to be better, but provided that I am changing, I think someday I can get there.

An aspect of both particular interest and interminable frustration to me is that crossing the delicate lines appears to strengthen the darker ones. I suspect it is yet another attempt to keep myself safe from the potential of getting hurt: surviving the fading of a boundary I once thought so important is far from easy and comfortable. It comes with its aches, pains, and scares, and it is difficult to consider braving an undoubtedly more hurtful process. I settle into complacence at my small success, and it is tragically easy to remain there, safe in the knowledge that I took one stride toward betterment.

I’m turning 24 in a few weeks, and I am a vastly different person than I was this time six years ago. Though it may not yet be as spacious and open as I’d like it to be, the area in which I occupy is nonetheless far more expansive than it once was. It only got to that point because I was forced to smudge the lines around me. It only happened because I allowed, regardless of the reasoning, those lines to go gray and dull.

I am hopeful that in time, I will have a more thorough understanding of which lines truly keep me safe without stifling my potential and how they differ from those which I have drawn in a misguided but desperate hope that they will protect me from the world. I never could have imagined I would be where I am now. There isn’t much about my present that I can say I am proud of, but there are aspects of it that I am content having acquired. I think back on the younger version of me who thought she never would have the bravery to let pieces of the world into herself, and I am glad that she was wrong. It is an ongoing, difficult, and often terrifying process, but I hope that the momentum of erasing my lighter lines can push me into battling the others.

Fear is entwined within the etchings, but once a line is crossed, you can never truly go back to where you once were. You will always have the knowledge that you did it once and survived it. I encourage you to assess where your lines were and where ones might once have existed but have since faded. See many of these lines as something to overcome rather than barriers to places better avoided. Some do genuinely keep you safe from harm that you should not push yourself to experience. Others are there out of fear of possibilities and the unknown. You’re the only one who can decide which is which in your own life, and it is a little bit comforting to me to know that everyone else is on the same journey as me. We may not be headed to the same destinations or walk the same paths, but we all are going somewhere new.

Much love and thank you for reading my ramblings. 💙

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A Tail of Two Kitties

I couldn’t figure out what to call this, and after thinking for a second, I came up with the current title, except at first it was “tale” and not “tail”. And then I was like, ha ha, I’m hilarious and punny, lets make it “tail”. I thought I was so completely clever, until I Googled it and realized I am… definitely not. Oh well; I still like it.

 

I grew up with cats. I don’t think there was ever a point in my life when I didn’t have at least one. They were so much a part of my history that during a six-week period where for the first time ever I didn’t have one, my friend found a random cat and when I picked her up (the cat, not my friend) I legitimately almost cried. I don’t know, guys, I just really love cats!

 

Anyway, when I later went away for college, I knew that I wanted a cat. I mean, how else could I sleep at night if I didn’t have a pet on whom to blame mysterious noises at night? After a year of living far from my family and old friends, I knew I didn’t just want a pet, I needed one. That’s how I came to adopt Felix.

 

I asked my local shelter if they had any cats who were, in a phrase, good emotional support pets and they directed me immediately to a cat they had called Shack. He let Simon (who was accompanying me on my quest) and me hold him without a single sign of struggle or discomfort. He did exactly as he does still and collapsed into my arms like there were very few places he’d rather be. He was a little bit shy for a few days after I brought him home (and renamed him). Despite his hesitance to come out of his hiding spot during the day and engage with us, he still slept with us at night and didn’t shy away from being pet. I laid down on the floor one afternoon for a nap, because apparently floors are where I do that, and when I woke up, he was curled up against my side. From that point onward, all signs of reticence vanished, and he transformed into the crazy loving furball he is now.

 

Very few things have felt as rewarding as earning his trust and affection. People talk about how cats are independent creatures who don’t need no human, but there is a clear attachment my cats have to me that I’m just going to pretend is not related to my opposable thumbs and their subsequent ability to open food containers. That feeling of happiness and pride I felt upon Felix claiming me as his human was echoed a hundredfold after adopting my second cat, Ivy. I think most cats are better off when they have another feline companion, and I figured Felix and I were ready for another.

 

Felix, who was about three when I adopted him, had plainly come from a loving household. I don’t know how he came to be at the shelter, but his personality was highly suggestive of good care and affection. Ivy, who was about a year old, came from a lady who fostered dozens of cats. While she was well taken care of and loved by her foster mom, I’m sure there’s only so much attention a single cat can get when her owner has so many others for whom she needs to care.

 

I took Ivy (previously named Silex) home and set her up in her own private space. While she let me pet her, she was extremely hesitant to ever leave her cozy cat bed. I spent hours sitting quietly near her and offering her occasional treats and toys, but she was too fearful to come out. I had kept Felix separate from her for a while, allowing him only to peer through the crack at the bottom of the door and sniff some of her toys and bedding. After a week of him seeming only curious about her presence rather than aggressive or possessive of his territory, I decided to take a risk.

 

I carried him into the room where I was keeping her and sat down on the floor. I gaged his attitude before I got comfortable, but he displayed no signs of aggression or irritation. As soon as I sat down, he collapsed onto my legs and lay there completely at ease. Then, to my surprise and complete joy, Ivy emerged from her hidey hole with the first meow I’d ever heard her emit. She came straight up to Felix and began sniffing his face and rubbing her head against his. He was not very certain how to take this behavior, but he tolerated it and didn’t react. As soon as he shoed any signs of overstimulation I’d let him leave the room and Ivy would go back into hiding.

 

After a week of introducing them to one another at longer and longer intervals, I let her roam the apartment at her leisure. Felix was mostly indifferent to her presence for a while until I woke one night to them chirruping and playfully chasing each other around the living room.

 

Her comfort with me came much more slowly than her surprising comfort with Felix. I could play with her with a wire toy, but any sudden movement or loud sound would send her fleeing to a hiding spot. Over time she’d let me begin petting her, or rather let herself begin petting me by rubbing her face against my fingers. Still, if I moved too quickly, she’d startle and jump away. When after a few months she seemed comfortable with being pet on my terms and not just on her own, I began trying to pick her up and hold her. At first, she would only let me pick her up a few inches from the floor and would panic if I tried to hold her close to me. At the first sign of any discomfort, I would let her go and only try again a while later if she seemed ready.

 

Though I had grown up with cats, I had siblings (one quite a bit older than me) and my mom to be part of the socialization process. I had so little faith in my ability to successfully care for a pet on my own. For the first few months I had Felix, I’d take him into the vet at any sign of something being wrong. This occurred so many times with nothing being problematic that the person we regularly saw gave me her personal number and told me to call her if I was worried rather than keep spending money on rideshares and visits. Thankfully I’m much less paranoid now and have learned to trust myself, but that didn’t mean I didn’t feel like I was failing Ivy.

 

Her contentment grew ever so slowly, and I was terrified every day that I was pushing her too far and that she’d never come to feel safe and comfortable around me. I wondered if she’d be better off with a different human or if someone else would take better, more thoughtful care of her. I did not want to adopt her only for her to lose out on the opportunity to thrive with someone else. The main thing that made me feel better was her evident devotion to Felix. Though he remained mostly indifferent to her except during playtime, she took to and stuck with him religiously.

 

It’s been about ten months since I adopted her, and I still see signs of her growing more comfortable. Some days I see her take a baby step, and I’m reminded of who she was and who she now has become. The timid, terrified little cat that once fled if I held my hand out too quickly can still be seen, especially around loud strangers, but most days she is unrecognizable.

 

Today she followed me around for twenty minutes practically demanding to be pet. She meows angrily at me if I walk by her without giving her a scritch and bats at my ankles if I leave her petting session before she’s good and ready to be done. I picked her up and held her against me to let her look out the window, and she purred so loudly that the neighbor probably heard her. Where I used to be incapable of picking her up for more than three seconds, she now is completely content to be held for several minutes, but only if I let her sniff and rub her face against my own during the process. If I don’t get out of bed after my alarm goes off, she will run up and down the length of my body, shoving her shockingly cold nose into my ear or face unless I pet her. She still is startled by loud noises, but she only flinches and scurries a few feet away before immediately returning for pets. She has only lain down on me to sleep two or three times, but she will stand on my lap and put her front paws onto my shoulder to sniff at my face or sit behind me on the chair to bat at my hair.

 

All this to say, sometimes she is so demanding of attention and affection that I worry I forgot to feed her or something. And when I check her food bowl to find it still full and she continues to beg for pets, I am so proud of both her and myself for cultivating such a wonderful relationship.

 

My cats are so much more than pets. Felix has acted as a lifeline for me when I felt as though I had nothing else onto which to hold. I have never known a cat to be more receptive of attention than Felix. I can’t exaggerate how absolutely content with any form of affection this cat is. I can pet every part of him for as long as I possibly want, hold him in the weirdest positions, scratch between his little toes, or maneuver him around while I try to get comfortable, and he won’t even twitch his tail let alone get irritated. It’s honestly a little bit ridiculous how on the nose those ladies at the shelter were when they told me he’d be a good ESA. I feel so proud of and lucky to have him that I’m kind of sad that more people don’t get to experience his brand of love. I want to show him off to the whole world because he’s that fantastic.

 

Ivy has been a light for me even on the brightest, let alone darkest, of days. I will stop pretty much anything I am ever doing to give her attention when she wants it, because there was a time when she was too scared to seek it out. I feel genuinely honored every time she shows trust in me. I still question myself quite often, but I’ve come to accept at least most of the time that I am a good cat-mom and provide a good home to them.

 

I have no idea what my purpose was in writing this except that I like to remember little details like what I’ve written here. I hope that if you take anything away from this it’s that pets, if and when you are ready to have any, can be the most worthwhile companions imaginable. It’s not always easy to have the responsibility of caring for them, but it is, every day, worth it. While they will be around for only a fraction of my life, I am here for hopefully the vast majority of theirs. My gratitude and appreciation for them is something I try to never forget, and while pictures and videos will not immortalize them for me the way they might for someone else, I hope that my words can and will do so.

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On Physical Affection and Small Kindnesses

My ability to sleep over the past few months has been just about nonexistent, and I’ve been spending a lot more time browsing Reddit lately than I used to. I ran across two posts that stuck with me for separate yet intertwined reasons.

 

The first was a post on r/AskReddit where someone asked sex workers to tell the stories of their saddest encounters. I read many of the provided stories and their replies, and the most consistent theme was people calling on the worker to provide basic, nonsexual comfort. There were stories of people just needing someone with whom they could cry, widowed people going on dates with workers to remember what it was like with their deceased love, people spilling secrets about themselves they couldn’t tell anyone in their life, and receiving physical (and again often nonsexual) comfort in response. In many ways, the workers provide the same safe space as a therapist would, with the addition of being able to provide perhaps what most of us truly need: physical affection.

 

The answers I read were predominantly in regard to male clientele, as were the comments which were below them. Countless people lamenting their lack of access to affection, their inability to feel safe expressing their feelings, the life changing moments when a partner or friend gave them a hug and they realized the importance of it. There were plenty of other genders represented, but I mention men because of the rarity with which they can be affectionate with one another in the same way that other gender identities can. I think and hope the stigma against it is changing for the better, but with many things in our world, change is slow, and people suffer in the meantime.

 

My social psychology professor several years ago told us a story of a man who traveled to another country (I cannot recall which), where it was common and entirely acceptable for people of any gender to walk down the street holding hands, where affection was not restricted by social convention and stigma. On returning to the US, the habit of bestowing affection upon his friends was so great that he had to reteach himself that it was no longer appropriate to hug or hold hands with his male friends. As someone who loves physicality but is extremely uncomfortable asking for or initiating it, this place sounds amazing, and I’m sure many others would agree.

 

This is a very nuanced situation, and please forgive me if I am not writing eloquently or if I’m neglecting information. These are simply my thoughts as they have flowed over the last while.

 

This issue does extend beyond men, of course. I and probably many of you who read this feel the same need and loss for the lack of it. It’s incredible to me that so much of this society craves and enjoys physical affection but also fears to or cannot find it. Not everyone is in a position to offer touch to someone else, but even those who are, there is so much holding us back. We are dehydrated and desperate for water, but we are too worried about drinking it when it’s available.

 

What is my overall point with this? Well, isn’t that just a question I ask myself ten times a day!

 

Ultimately, this thread both made me feel lonely but also recognized. Remembering that my feelings are never unique to me and that there are an unbelievable number of people out there with the exact same thoughts can sometimes be helpful. It mostly made me wish I could go hug every person in the thread, but I am certain that that feeling was also not unique. I hope that it inspired even a single person to offer someone a hug, a hand, or even just a safe space to talk. After all, there are plenty of people who do not want or need physicality for any number of reasons, but that does not mean they may not need verbal or other kinds of support and appreciation. Always seek some kind of consent and be respectful that other’s needs can be very different from your own.

 

This leads me into the second thread I read, which I won’t link here. A teenage girl posted about how she was feeling lost and meaningless, like she had no purpose in her life or in the world. It was on a subreddit intended for people to seek parental support and kindness from strangers. An Internet-dad replied ever so thoughtfully to this girl, telling her that even the tiniest of acts can make big differences. He encouraged her to keep a positivity journal where she could write down every time she made someone laugh, smiled at a stranger and received one in return, helped someone pick up a dropped object, etc. He told her it’d be a way for her to see how many small impacts she has on the world around her and how they add up without her noticing.

 

It caused me to reflect upon the times, of which there are so, so many, in which someone performed what to them was probably a small act but which to me made all the difference. I sometimes feel like small acts mean too much to me, as if their importance to me would not equate to that same act being important to someone else. That’s quite selfish and arrogant in some ways, though, and it’s mostly a justification to degrade my self worth and lessen my own perceived value.

 

Kind acts matter. They can take any form or any size, but never should they be viewed as meaningless. It is perhaps hard in the moment to think of offering a compliment as important—it’s something some people just do naturally—but if you question if you should do or say something, if you should offer a kindness and if it will be appreciated, know that it often will. There are times when it won’t, of course; everyone has different things they appreciate or times when they appreciate them. I encourage the rejection of a single kindness to not dampen your willingness to offer them in future. Easier said than done; I know.

 

Check on the people in your life. Nobody is immune to hard days, weeks, months, or even years. The quiet ones can be struggling just as hard as the vocal ones. The ones who check on you might need someone to also check on them. The ones who seem the happiest can still be hurting. Offer a small kindness, no matter what form it might take. Read up on love languages to see ways that appreciation can differ from person to person (they can be used for more than just romantic relationships). You may not have the energy to do any of this now; I know I sometimes feel like I don’t, either. But just like with the first thread causing me and undoubtedly many others to reflect and perhaps reach out to someone, I hope that this post can inspire even just a single person to do the same.

 

I offer virtual hugs to any that want them and thank you for reading. 💙

 

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Here There be a Slave to the Cats

Occasionally, I have to sit on my kitchen floor and methodically open every cabinet and drawer for Felix’s perusal. He cautiously approaches the opening as if expecting a monster to leap out at him, then proceeds to vigorously sniff around at its contents. When he is satisfied, he backs away and waits for me to close it and open the next one. He notifies me of it being time for our routine by sitting in front of a cabinet and using a paw to open it and let it go again repeatedly so that it makes an incessant thumping sound.

 

I would like to say that this is what my life has been like during quarantine, but honestly, this is just my life in general. Maybe he’s checking to see if I’ve attempted any type of organization since the last time. Sorry to let you down, buddy.

 

In other news, I tried to take a nap the other day. The keyword there is tried, because it was completely thwarted by Ivy, who loves Felix so much she might murder him one day.

 

Felix was sleeping peacefully on the blankets beside me, as he does, when Ivy decided that where he was positioned was precisely where she absolutely needed to be. She collapsed in a purring heap, not respectfully beside him or even atop his body, but directly over his head. Felix evidently was fine with this form of casual assassination, because he didn’t even twitch his tail. I had to squish my hand in between them to give him a pocket of air from which to breathe while she continued to purr her pleasure and refuse to even consider moving.

 

I really do not know what it says about any of us that Felix didn’t bother extracting himself, I didn’t bother moving one of them or ignoring it, and Ivy didn’t see anything questionable about the situation, but there you have it. My cat is murderously in love.

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Fleeing From My Problems Is Not A Form Of Exercise

I was going to start this off with some generic apology for not having written in a while, but then I realized I wasn’t really sorry to anyone except myself. So, I’m sorry to myself for not writing much for the last… really long time.

 

While I’ve faced various mental and emotional struggles for the majority of my life, it wasn’t until I was 19 that everything seemed to slide out of place.

 

I was sitting in my psych101 class, my backpack filled with necessities for my upcoming first solo trip out of town, when I realized I couldn’t breathe. My chest felt like a steel band had been wrapped around it. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get enough air into my lungs. My body began shaking, convinced I was not getting enough oxygen, and of course, the more I focused on it, the worse it seemed to be. The sensation worsened progressively as I neared my destination, until I was in bed that night wondering if I might actually die from this.

 

It’s been just over four years since the onset of this symptom of anxiety, and while I’ve obviously survived the near constant presence of it, my mind and body still like to feed off of one another until I’m convinced that I’m dying. I’ve tried just about all the tips and tricks out there to calm down. All they tend to do is not work, therefore increasing the anxiety, because maybe the fact that nothing works means I really am about to perish! It’s really a quite spectacular cycle. A solid 5 out of 5 stars, I must say.

 

The most common theme within my dreams is of running away. Well, usually flying rather than running, but I am almost always fleeing. Sometimes I know what’s chasing me, sometimes I have no idea from what I am trying to escape. Always, though, am I struggling to make any headway. Like many people, I mostly swim through the air when I’m flying. It’s rare that I fly without great effort and exertion. Some part of my sleeping mind knows that air is not like water and therefore is not likely to be swimmable, but I try so, so hard. My arms and legs frantically try to keep me afloat. I try with such desperation to gain height and distance between myself and the grasping fingers of whatever is below me.

 

I’m not really one to analyze dreams and find hidden meanings, but I know myself well enough to know why I continuously have this issue during sleep. I am the type of person who avoids facing my problems. As a teenager, I pushed them back behind those of my loved ones. It’s easier to solve a problem that isn’t yours, after all, and I clung to this “duty” until I couldn’t anymore. In its absence, I’ve filled my time with distractions and my mind with what ultimately amounts to white noise. When I allow myself to consider my problems, I feel like I am standing in the path of an oncoming tsunami wave. It’s easier to turn around, close my eyes, and pretend its not there.

 

The issue here is that I know that that wave is still coming. I know that the water will find me, and I will be swept up in its icy hold. I remain constantly at attention, then, bracing myself for the impact I know is coming, mentally and physically preparing myself for the onslaught. Sometimes I allow myself just enough time to wonder if it was really a massive wave I saw, or if maybe I had overestimated the power of it. Could I have been mistaken? I could turn around and take another look, but what if! What if it is the enormous wave that I suspect it is? And what if it’s right there? What if the moment I turn and look is the moment that it hits me?

 

Oh, the what ifs. They are viciously sharp fragments of glass I’ve scattered around my bare feet, leaving me terrified to take a single step. I stand, paralyzed by fear, terrified of moving, afraid to even open my eyes and check if there’s any danger at all. Because what if there is?

 

The most recent symptom of my anxiety is overwhelming nausea. I so often sit with my head on my knees, taking in those breaths that never feel deep enough, hoping that I won’t throw up yet again. On the bright side, my bathroom has remained remarkably clean because of how much time I spend there wondering if I’m going to be sick. I’ll take what positives I can get.

 

I’m tired. I’m tired of being afraid of everything. I’m afraid of failure, of success, of being hurt, of the unknown and the familiar. I’m afraid of who I am and who I can become. I am afraid of the girl I used to be, whose hopes and dreams and expectations I feel like I am failing each day. I am afraid of my future self, whose success and potential I am impacting with every choice I make.

 

I sat here tonight on the ridiculously overpriced couch I bought from a girl who failed to mention how uncomfortable it is, and I was swept up in the too-familiar sensation of all-consuming anxiety. I was angry with myself because I know, logically, there is nothing there. The wave I think I hear at my back is nothing more than the wind in the trees. I take five deep breaths, then five more. I focus on five things I can hear, four things I can feel, etc. I go hug my wonderful, life saving cats. I feel angry tears filling my eyes because I can’t make it stop.

 

I tried to envision my anxiety as a person the other day. I named it Grey, and I gave it a series of attributes and began building it a backstory. Then I realized I was distracting myself from the actual exercise by crafting a new novel character. So, I retracted all my attributes, but I kept its name. Grey and I had a rather one-sided chat, where I told it that I was sick of it driving my car. It was time for it to hop in the back seat and let me drive. I gave it permission to tap me on the shoulder and offer guidance if it thought I might be going the wrong way, but I needed to take over.

 

It was a pretty good conversation. I felt a little ridiculous and considered at least sitting next to one of my cats so that I didn’t feel like I was talking to thin air, but then I felt bad talking to my cats about anything less than the perfection that they are.

 

Tonight I want nothing more than to scream at Grey, to cause it as much pain, disappointment, and misery  as it has caused me.

 

I abruptly realized that separating myself from my anxiety in such a way may feel rather therapeutic, but ultimately it is part of me. To be angry with my anxiety is to be angry at myself. To want to hurt my anxiety is to want to hurt myself. I have done these things too often for too long, and what good has it done? I’m still sitting on this awful couch writing about it. Hating this part of me has not helped me or encouraged me to move forward. Hating myself is not making me into a stronger person. It’s making me a weaker one.

 

My anxiety is the product of the experiences my younger self went through. I feel that I am failing her and like I am straying so far away from who she wanted to be, but by hating myself, by hating the anxiety I have, I am committing the biggest disservice to her I possibly could. I am invalidating her experiences.

 

I faced a lot as I grew up, even within the last few years. The keyword there, I think, is faced. The person I disparage, the girl for whom I harbor so much anger for being trusting and open… She was brave. She… I, didn’t turn my back and close my eyes.

 

I was hurt in many ways and from many angles, and my solution was always to put up a wall. I promised I wouldn’t let myself get hurt again. I wouldn’t be put into the position of trusting too much, of having too much hope, of getting too close, of speaking too much or too loudly, of saying the wrong thing again. Of course, to avoid all of these things is just about impossible, but that sure didn’t prevent me trying. I threw up wall after wall, trying to turn in every direction often enough to catch danger before it happened upon me unexpectedly, until I realized it was futile. Then I started scattering the glass. I took reality and likely possibility and threw it at the ground, thinking that if it broke into enough pieces, I could see what it was hiding from me.

 

So, here I am, surrounded by the scattered, shattered remnants of potential from which I have been so determined and so desperate to find truth. If I can just look beyond it, maybe I can prepare myself for what it is trying to obscure from me. Unfortunately, all I can see are a thousand reflections of my own self.

 

I feel like I am doing something wrong by not including some kind of moral to the story or happy ending to this post, which is perhaps why I have not written in so long. This is intended to be helpful, not to be a venting session. The best that I can come up with is that with recognition can come acceptance, and with acceptance can come growth. Fear is a comfortable companion, and it has infiltrated me enough that I am afraid of both its presence and its absence. I don’t know if I have quite found hope yet, but I feel that I have at least found the will to peek between my fingers at what is truly around me. It’s a start.

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A Wordy Introduction

Hi, I’m Mia, and I love words. Like, really love words.

People talk about that high from being at concerts or the adrenaline of motorcycle rides, and that is akin to what I feel when I find a beautifully worded sentence. Language is incredible! We make these random sounds in various orders and they mean stuff, and beyond that, that very specific arrangement of sounds can mean something entirely different depending on where you are, what your body language is saying, or how your tone is being projected. Words are fickle, flighty creatures which can make or break just about anything. I love words. You can read a little more aboutme here, where I’ve explained my hopeful intent with these writings.

I can’t quite say where my love for language began. I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing, but my appreciation for words didn’t become quite as voracious as it is now until several years ago.

My best guess is that it’s because I allowed the spaces where I could and should have spoken up fill with silences. I spent many, many years sharing my words with nobody but a hidden journal. Fearful of burdening anyone I cared for more than they already were, it was extraordinarily rare for me to present anything beyond the topmost levelheaded, secure, and content layer of myself to the world around me. I was considered quite put together and easygoing, when inside me was a turmoil of pent up emotion and words I fought to suppress most days of my adolescence and early adulthood.

Now that I am older and, hopefully, a bit wiser, I’ve learned how to channel those emotions into growth, and how and when to share those words. It took practice, pain, and many, many failures, but I have become a person who recognizes how debilitating and damaging the absence of words can be, and who now cherishes and sees beauty and infinite potential in them. I do not consider myself healed, and perhaps I never will. I do, however, recognize how far I have come and am proud of the journey I have chosen to walk. I fail, a lot, and I sometimes get so turned around that I end up walking back the way I’ve come, but every day I strive to find my direction once more.

The Starless Sea is a book by Erin Morgenstern which I do not, despite my love and respect for them, have the words to describe. It is filled with twisting metaphors that are filled with literalisms that are filled with metaphors that are …

You get the point, and probably already feel exhausted. It is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read in my life. The prose is, to me, that feeling of showering and getting underneath freshly cleaned sheets with shaved legs. It’s that rare time when you wake up from a nap and actually feel better. It’s the type of hug a mother gives even when she isn’t your mother, but you know she is someone’s because of the way she hugs you. Okay, maybe I like the book so much because I seem to enjoy metaphors nearly as much as Morgenstern does. It was a book that I felt like I was sinking further and further into with every page, where I felt myself getting so irrecoverably lost within the letters and simultaneously found amongst the words. I cannot sing its praise highly enough, and yet I know it is a rarity to find someone who will find the same adoration for it as I found. That is okay.

My entire purpose for bringing it up is because one of the quotes from it says, “We’re here to wander through other people’s stories, searching for our own.” As you can see, this theme is echoed in the tagline of my blog. I consider myself a wanderer: I struggle with settling in places or with people. I find refreshment and joy in exploration, dipping my toes into these places and those lives, experiencing just enough of a story to see the beauty and complexity of it without getting lost within its depths.

The title of this blog, Hiraeth, is a Welsh word which struggles to find a place within the English language. Roughly translated, it means the yearning and search for a home which does not exist.

I wander through the stories around me, perpetually intrigued by the bits and pieces I witness and collect along the way. Sometimes these stories are bound within ink and paper, and other times they are in the hands I hold, the laughter I share, the words I hear or those which are given to me. They are the stories that swirl around the exhalations of the individuals who pass me by, perhaps not even knowing I exist.

“I think the best stories feel like they’re still going, somewhere, out in story space.”

I am a piece of so many stories, most of which I may never know about. I do not get to decide what role I play in many of the stories in which I have a part, and I do not get to know what imprint I leave behind. The air is filled with the constantly changing and shattering and building of tales being told, and I truly do not have the words to describe the way this affects me.

Part of my enjoyment is born in intrigue, but part is fueled by this idea of “hiraetth”. My story is wide open, and yet it is on a trajectory which I cannot understand beyond knowing each of my choices push it forward. “A boy at the beginning of a story has no way of knowing that the story has begun”, or where it is going. I often feel so vastly different from the people around me on fundamental levels, which does not detract from my love for them and of those disparities. I wander through stories in search of this home, all the while knowing within myself that it almost certainly does not exist. The journey of seeking, of learning, of discovering, and of ending does not diminish the yearning, but it contributes to the joy and peace of searching.

Hiraeth was the first word I discovered which had no good English translation, and it all went downhill from there. I have a wide collection of words of that category or which are uncommon/not well known within English, and I add to them whenever I find a new one that speaks to me. I would love to share some of my favorites if there is an interest from my readers, but for now I will leave you with just one which echoes what, I think, many of us struggle with and which I have made reference to in this post. I’m not even going to write my own definition for it because the one which I found for it is beautiful:

Monachopsis: (n.) the subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place, as maladapted to your surroundings as a seal on a beach – lumbering, clumsy, easily distracted, huddled in the company of other misfits, unable to recognize the ambient roar of your intended habitat, in which you’d be fluidly, brilliantly, effortlessly at home. (English)

Thank you for reading, and I will try to make future posts shorter than this first one.