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. 💙


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.