Christmas Things

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As whichever two of you it is who read my blog have probably noticed, I haven’t really been writing this month. I always have this thought in my brain that on my vacation I will be particularly productive. I will get all the writing done that I don’t have time for during the rest of the year. I’ll read all the books, I’ll watch all the movies. None of it ever happens quite like I think. I do tend to read more and watch (somewhat) more but never in the way I initially plan.

I essentially never write more.

I suppose that when I am on break, I am looking for an actual break. I work pretty hard during my time in school and I guess it makes sense that when I have time off I don’t want to think as much. Still. It’s always disappointing.

That said, I felt like writing tonight so I figured I would grab the moment.

This has been a remarkably good month. I choose my words carefully there, because it in fact feels pretty remarkable to me.

Christmas 1

I feel like it was in another lifetime that I really loved Christmas. Like truly, truly loved Christmas. I was one of those people who waited every year until Thanksgiving night so that I could finally play Christmas music. I often started my shopping in July. I own — somewhere in a closet — one of those giant, inflatable lawn ornaments in the shape of a penguin, as well as a full set of light-up snowmen for a walkway. Tacky? Maybe a little. But there are things that are tacky and adorable in equal measure.

I know that for a lot of people who come from emotionally traumatizing and abusive backgrounds the holidays can be a major trigger point. I was unusual in this sense. My family was a mess and I struggled with a lot of things, but Christmas was different for us. My mother truly loved Christmas. She was happier at Christmas, and that meant we all were happier. Her lift in mood meant the whole house felt lighter. I didn’t really understand that was why Christmas felt so magical, but I knew that it did.

That really  had not been true for the last few years before I broke things off with my parents. There were several Christmases where things got worse and worse. I felt suffocated just being in the same house with them, I started making plans to spend most of Christmas Day at someone else’s house and one year I was so overwhelmed that I left for their house (an over two hour drive) at 1am just to be out of there. It was, for me, actually one of the more drastic pressures on me as things fell apart. I couldn’t imagine being so miserable on Christmas.

My first Christmas on my own, I was terrified. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I still thought of myself as Someone Who Loves Christmas. Again, maybe that sounds silly, but it was actually a huge part of my identity. It was something people knew about me. And now I was scrambling. I knew I could not spend it alone.

I’ll admit that first Christmas didn’t work out well. I spent it with someone who was not in an emotionally healthy place themselves and I don’t think we did particularly well by each other. I was depressed and anxious. I just wanted it to be over.

Last year I decided it would be different. I would spend it primarily alone and I would just not pay much attention to it. That would be okay. I wouldn’t be frightened of that, I would accept that was what was happening. For years that was one of the worst case scenarios I could imagine — to be alone on Christmas. So here I would do it and I would be okay.

It helped that David and the Superhero were not gone very long last year. They were in fact home until Christmas Day, as I recall. So I did see them some throughout the time. But I spent the day of Christmas watching action movies that had no Christmas theme whatsoever. I made myself spaghetti. I stayed in pajamas all day. I was nice to myself.

I was okay.

Twelve months ago I began to think that maybe this is what I would do for the rest of my life. Maybe I was not Someone Who Loved Christmas anymore. After all, I no longer believed in God so there was no religious element. I had effectively orphaned myself, and my Friend Family (who it should be mentioned, are some of the most wonderful people on this planet, and we have a yearly Christmas celebration of our own within a few days before the actual holiday) had blood family obligations of their own on the actual day. Even with presents, I was starting to feel a little worn on. The whole commercialism aspect, which was something I had never focused on at all before, suddenly seemed painfully apparent everywhere I looked.

When I imagined that as my life, I thought perhaps that wasn’t the worst thing. Perhaps it was okay to change my identity in that way, to change how I related to holidays and such. I thought I’d wait and see.

That was a really long build up for this year, but I felt the backstory was needed. The point is that this year something has definitely shifted. Not just in relation to Christmas but in myself. I haven’t had any emotional breakdowns, no panic attacks or even undue moments of melancholy. I have been remarkably happy and adjusted. I feel relieved, I feel strong, and I feel proud of myself.

David helped me get a tree this year. We were going to put up more lights, on the banisters, in my room. That didn’t happen this year but I am okay with that. I’ll save them, put them away in a Christmas box in the garage. Next year I’ll be living here and there will be less shopping to do. Next year I can plan more effectively, and I will. Right now there is a tree a few feet over from me and it is covered in ornaments, some of which I’ve had for a year, some of which I’ve had for 30. I am happy it is there. It soothes me.

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This is our tree, Ned!

I bought presents for almost everyone this year. I felt effective and on top of it. While they were not necessarily completely required presents, and I wrestled a little with commercialism thoughts, I mostly felt good about my ability to pick the right gifts. I didn’t spend too much. I’ll start earlier next year.

Finally, this Christmas I won’t be alone. I will be spending it with a new friend, L. We have plans to drink and talk, make Christmas ornaments (I am totally positive that this crafting thing will end in failure and I will post pictures of the results), eat delicious things and watch fun movies. It’s a really great plan. It’s going to be our Atheist Christmas.

I spent almost 30 years of my life connected to Christmas tradition. I loved what I had, and it was one of the things that consistently brought me joy. Probably there will always be a few traditions I will love (like buying presents and being able to have some Christmas lights around) but for the rest, I think it’s okay to be flexible. Maybe I won’t know year to year what will happen. Perhaps I am still Someone Who Loves Christmas, but I am just getting more willing to expand what that means.

Christmas is one of the few parts of my upbringing I’m genuinely grateful for. But my mom made the house lighter by being happier in that season. I think I’d rather be happy all year round.

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Independence Day Musings

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It was a surprising 4th of July.

I haven’t done anything for this holiday in like three years. It’s never been planned that way exactly, I am not one who tends to intentionally avoid any kind of holiday plans, but I also do not especially care about this holiday. The truth is that I’m not sure how much I care about any holidays anymore, but that is a topic for another time.

The point is that for the last several years I have been sitting inside watching movies while all the shenanigans happened, always alone. I have not been bothered by this, in fact it felt like the right move. And this is in no small part because for a number of years fireworks have tended to depress me. I realize that is a bit bizarre and I have always felt fairly ridiculous about it. I know quite a few people who feel a lot of anxiety or PTSD triggers about them, but I have yet to meet someone who feels a lot of despair about pretty explosions in the sky. But it was pretty reliable for a number of years. I would sit and watch the fireworks and feel myself spiraling into a sucking hole of sadness. Sometimes I could pull out of it after, sometimes not, but it was never particularly pleasant. So I figured it didn’t hurt to just avoid the whole thing.

This year I had an impulse to do something though. I’m housesitting for David and the Superhero, who have been gone on what seems like the longest trip ever to Scotland (they will be home soon) and their house is extremely close to where the town lights off the fireworks. I thought maybe I would see what my brothers were up to and we could have some food and head out to watch things blow up.

The day was not how I expected. When I told my brother how hot this house gets (seriously, it is like whoever designed it was hoping no air would ever flow) he suggested maybe we should just go to my parents’ house. After all, they were going to the bbq they go to every year, they certainly wouldn’t be around. This wasn’t just perfect – it was really weird timing. In the past week I had told two different people about how much I had been wishing I could get back into my parents’ house to look through the old family photo albums. But I had no idea how that would ever happen… and here an opportunity had literally just dropped into my lap.

So that’s exactly what we did. We bought food, we went home and I pulled out all of the pictures. I used my phone to take pictures of many of them. Mostly of myself, but also a number from my parents’ wedding and a couple of just other things. I took one of my parents’ wedding pictures. They’ll never miss it. I doubt my mom has gone through that album in… well, I doubt anyone has gone through it since whenever I last did. I was always the one who wanted to look back. This one wasn’t even in the album, it was a double print, and it was in an envelope in the back. They’re outside, holding hands. Mom in particular looks tired but they both look incredibly young (dad was 26 and mom was 29) and cute and happy. If I’m going to keep any image of my parents, I would prefer it not be what they turned into. I’d rather keep them like that, and try to remember that once upon a time they started out very differently from where they are now. Nothing really turned out like anyone planned.

The house itself seemed smaller, and I can’t really explain why. I’d like to believe I’ve grown up since I was last there two and a half years ago but you know. Not like… physically. Still, it seemed smaller. But nothing hurt. Nothing felt nostalgic. Nothing felt anything. It just was what it was.

I also went through all of their books that they have hidden away in cupboards. My parents rarely get rid of books. I know there are some they must have gotten rid of, but I think those would mostly be things particularly relating to like child-raising – things that someone else might have needed. But most of their books are still intact. They’re spreading out to shelves all over the house, creeping into the other rooms that used to be mine and my brother’s. Anything on the main shelves they would miss but those ones in cupboards and corners? They haven’t been touched in years. I dug through them all myself and came home with twelve terrible looking things. Did any of you know that Michael Farris, the monstrous man who heads up the Homeschool Defense League, wrote at least 2 novels in the late 90’s? Oh yeah, also he’s from Washington and so they’re set around my area. One is about the evil CPS system and one is about a good Christian group going up against an evil abortion clinic. Possibly coming soon to recaps near you. We shall see.

I think I got everything I wanted there. Someday, in what I hope is the pretty far future, I assume all the pictures will be mine anyway. I don’t think my brothers will want them. I’m the one who always wants to rifle through the past. But for now, I think I have what I need.

I was a little worried when we went to see the fireworks that night. After all, it had been a weird day. I felt okay about it right then but maybe I wouldn’t, maybe I would feel that same depression coming back over me. But you know what? I was fine. I laid in the grass and watched the fireworks. They were pretty. I am neither particularly in love with them or particularly against them but they were fine. I thought about how strangely solitary watching fireworks is. Even when you are in a large group of people, it’s not really a communal experience. Perhaps other people do feel that way, but to me it is one that always makes me feel very much on my own in a crowd. And I think that’s what used to make me so sad. I had a hard time being on my own, or being reminded that I was alone. I felt like deep down, that was the true thing, that maybe all the rest of it was just a cover-up.

Now I know that’s not the case at all. I know how to watch something beautiful and experience it by myself and with myself. While I have no doubt that I will always be an extremely social person, and will always process primarily by sharing things, I am no longer afraid of being with me for a while. I know I have amazing people and I am deeply connected to many of them. That is the true thing.

Happy 4th, everyone.

Happy New Year: Looking Forward

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It is 2015. I like it. Good, round year, a multiple of five. I am feeling good about it. As I pretty much laid out in last week’s post, 2014 was basically the best year I’ve ever had. I was, overall, probably the happiest I’ve ever been and I learned and grew and graduated and all kinds of good things happened. So I feel good about looking into 2015 and thinking about what I want to do with it. I definitely have some ideas!

The first thing I’m going to do that is really kind-of different for me this year is I’m going to try and take a picture every day. Not of myself or anything, although some of them may be of myself, I have no idea. But when I was using Facebook’s handy “see your year in pictures” feature, I mostly realized that I had had a great year but also that I did not take pictures. So a lot of the point of this is to see if I can build a habit. Essentially if I’m being mindful about pulling the camera out when something is happening or when I see something that strikes me, then it will become something I just normally do. I feel like that is not the worst habit to have.

As part of this attempt, I made another step into the present today and got myself Instagram, which is awesome. As… probably everyone already knows because I imagine I am the last person on this boat. But that’s okay. I don’t mind cheerfully joining trends late. I am not a hipster. I almost never liked it before it was cool.

Other things. I am going to get a FitBit. This is totally partly due to Julie (in case she reads this and is like WHY DOES MEG KEEP DOING THINGS I TALK ABOUT DOING??? It is mostly because you are awesome, Julie, I assumed that would be obvious) because she would mention it offhandedly in multiple conversations and at some point I realized I didn’t really know what those things did but maybe they were cool. So then I looked them up and they were so cool. And more importantly they really go along with the weird sort of shit that motivates me. Like here is the thing. I have definitely gained some weight back but I am not even super bothered by that, and have tried very hard to not pay much attention to the number on a scale at all because I feel like my life is way healthier when I don’t do that. However, I am woefully out of shape. I mean, seriously it is ridiculous. It is mostly because my life is primarily sedentary. I like to sit and watch movies and sit and be on the computer and sit and read books and sit and eat chocolate. And all of those things involve a lot of sitting and it turns out that then when you have to go walk up hills, you stop being able to breathe. And then, if you’re me, you think to yourself that everyone is laughing at you for being the fat girl who cannot walk up a hill, even though I don’t think of myself as fat and am not particularly bothered by my weight at all. SO. Basically it is weird social pressure that I have very much internalized in strange ways. Also I would love to be able to walk up a hill happily.

With that in mind, how does one get to that goal? Because I don’t know if you know this guys but exercise is so boring. Like seriously, it is the  most boring. I hate it. Not just because it is uncomfortable and makes me not be able to breathe and I feel self-conscious and I hurt during and afterward but also because it is boring and there are no instant results to see. I want cookies. But cookies do not actually help the process, as it turns out, which I think means the world has been designed in a way I fundamentally object to. Like if I say to myself “I should go for a walk” what does that actually mean to me? I mean, I can go for a walk and then come back and say well, that was a thing I did and probably it was a good thing because I am a bit winded but… who knows. But if I walk with a FitBit I will know how many steps I took. I can set GOALS of steps to make per day. I can get status updates. It can tell me how I slept. I think I can get graphs. I know this is weird but these are my cookies. I have realized I respond bizarrely well to pixels. So I think this will be very effective for me and I am excited.

I am going to try really hard to pay off my smaller credit card. Then I will still have a much bigger one to pay off but it’ll only be one and I like the idea of only having one to pay down. Interest or no interest, it just seems more manageable.

I am going to keep doing my words every day on http://www.750words.com and this is the year I will finally become a Space Bird (speaking of being motivated by pixels). 500 days in a row. This is it. I was almost there this last year and I screwed it up within like the last 50 days. But this year will be different and I will succeed.

I have normal, smaller things for me. I will try to finish 55 books this year (I did 53 for 2014 so… you know. Basically the same). I will maybe attempt for 300 movies, which I didn’t make it to this year (only 283). This year I’m tracking all the tv I watch as well as all the movies and I’m also tracking what platform I’m watching everything on. So whether I watched something on Netfix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. I’m somewhat just curious how much I use things. I will learn to cook at least a few more dishes in my crockpot. I haven’t set a particular goal on that yet, maybe I’ll think on it some more.

I like yearly plans but, in looking over some online planners, I’ve found some other things I like. The idea of making goals for specific parts of your life on a week to week basis appeals to me and I’m trying to figure out how I might incorporate that. I would like to become more involved in school stuff, although that is the sort of thing I say and have a hard time following through on. Perhaps when it is connected to more specific things I will be able to make more specific goals around that.

In looking at all of this, I think I feel I want to learn to focus more this year. I want to explore more, learn some things that work for me and some that don’t in areas of my life I haven’t paid a lot of attention to. And I’m not going to beat myself up much if these particular ideas don’t work. If they don’t, no big deal. There are always new ones to try.

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope your 2015 is as awesome as you are. ❤

A Year in Reflection

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Well, I know many people use New Year’s to reflect over their past year but I think I’ll save my New Year’s post for hopes for 2015 and spend a minute this Christmas looking back over 2014 and how I’m feeling about it, what I’ve accomplished and all that fun stuff.

So I feel like the biggest tangible thing I accomplished was graduating from my two year program. I’ve never actually… graduated anything before. Being homeschooled all my life, graduation was never really part of the cards. While there are a few programs who allow for that, my parents never expressed interest in any of them. Technically I could have graduated from Running Start as a youngster but I was in far over my head, with no one really helping me. More importantly, I did not feel like there was any value to graduating. No one had ever really expressed that to me. But this year, at 30 years old, I got to walk down an aisle and wear a ridiculous robe and hat and I looked beautiful and most of the people I love most were there and several people who I do not love most but who seemed relatively happy all the same.

Along the same vein, I moved into a four year program. I moved from the county I’ve lived in since I was 9 years old. It wasn’t like a crazy move (only about 30 minutes away) but it was still, it was definitely a change. I’m in an official university (granted, a super hippie section of one but all the same). I would say that at this point last year I wasn’t even totally certain that I wanted to be a therapist, there were still a lot of options I was turning over. This year I’ve been able to clarify a lot more of the direction I want to go and for the first time in my life I feel confident about getting there. It no longer seems so much like if I am able to accomplish the things I want, but how long it will take. So that’s pretty thrilling. Give it another few years and I should be a practicing therapist of some kind, most likely working towards various certifications. I can’t wait.

In personal relationships! This was the first entire year that I was out of contact with my parents, although it’s been closer to two since I really started breaking things off. But this year I have seen them twice at formal functions; a funeral and my graduation. I had an earnest conversation with my father at the first, which I do not feel that he exactly understood but that I ultimately felt was very constructive. It was good to feel that I had said what I wanted to say, whether he understood them or not. At this point in my life, my parents are peripheral figures who seem further and further away. I guess I feel like this year I grieved the loss of a lot of things, or maybe just the loss of a lot of possibilities I had always thought were there. I don’t think it’s a process that’s ever completely over but I know that it’s much calmer now. My life is so much better without them in it and I have pretty much accepted that this is almost certainly a permanent thing, probably for the sake of everyone.

David and the Superhero are still kind-of the best thing that has ever happened to me. And I have to say, looking at how I feel about the relationship now, I couldn’t imagine being happier. I lived with them over the summer, which was scary and I was extremely worried it wouldn’t go well. But instead it went fine and for the first time in my life I had space that was completely safe and an idea of what I wanted home to look like. It’s taken a lot of confused poking around in this situation, trying to figure out what it is and how I feel about it because there’s just no map. I don’t even have something to call them, really. But I’m incredibly happy and safe and secure and there is space to look around. Sometimes I am brought up short wondering if this can be my life, if this strange, amorphous thing we’re doing is actually happening, because it just doesn’t seem possible to me and because it’s hard to pinpoint or quantify. But none of that makes it less real and it is better than anything I could have mapped out.

I think (I hope) I have become a little calmer over the last year, a little better at communication, a bit better at transition. While I am still not exactly an expert in these things, I am working on it. Just knowing that transition causes me to freak out a bit has helped me a lot. I think that I’ve really been able to start accepting things about myself and be more open and communicative when I’m upset instead of just shutting down. I’m proud of that; it’s taken a lot of work.

Sadly, in 2014 I broke my streak on 750 words. If I had not missed that single day, I would be a space bird by now. But alas. I did not achieve that goal this year. Still, that said, I only missed one single day of writing this year. Every other day I wrote 750 words or more per day. With a couple of exceptions where maybe I pasted in blog entries because of other things happening. But that was extremely rare and, after all, they were still words that I wrote. So I think that’s fairly special and I feel good about it.

Let’s not forget that this is the 147th post on this blog. While they haven’t all been written this year, I would say that well over 100 of them have been. That is not too shabby. This is definitely the longest running blog I’ve ever done, as well as the most fun I’ve ever had with a blog. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about blogging this year and am excited to learn more.

So far I am at 264 movies for the year. While I am a little disappointed by my numbers (and am not quite sure I can watch 35 movies in the next 6 days to push me to 300…) it is still a pretty significant number by most people’s standards and I will grudgingly try to accept that.

As part of my new moving adventure, I have been learning to cook with a crockpot. I am not exactly an amazing chef or anything but I have tried like 5 new recipes in the past 3 months, which is quite a lot for me. After all my talk about figuring out cooking someday, I feel that perhaps a crockpot is my answer. So you know. Baby steps.

For the first time in my life, I bought a new car. I still don’t know if it was an amazing decision or not. I’ll be taking her in next month to have her looked over and make sure it’s all in good working order. But so far she’s been running great. This is one of those things that I have always had my father take care of in the past. I’ve had a decent amount of car trouble this year actually and I have managed to work it out, often with help from amazing and kind people. It is good to feel like I can handle things when I need to.

I have gone on five or six dates since moving and starting school, with different people. I’ve learned different things from all my experiences and I think it has all been valuable. I’ve learned that I am capable of saying no at this point in my life and that with the limited time I have available to me I am very particular about who I choose to spend it with. Someone just being nice isn’t enough, if the click isn’t there, it isn’t there. I have learned that I am very at ease with dating in general and usually have a good time with people, regardless of whether I’ll see them again. I’ve also learned this must make me a good first date, as I’ve had several awkward experiences that involve the other person being much more excited about me than I am about them. I’ve learned I’m not very good at coping with that kind of awkward, I usually just kind-of drop out. There are a number of other things but those are a few I’ve been thinking about a lot.

 

There are a lot of amazing people in my life, some of them I haven’t gotten to see or talk to as often as I’d like in these last few months in particular. I regret that I didn’t do better at keeping in touch sometimes but I am still so grateful to have the people I love in my life, whether they’re the next town over or across the country. I don’t know what I’d do without them.

Honestly there’s a lot I did this year. I think I could probably go on but I won’t. What it really comes down to is that this was a great year. Being 30 has been awesome (and I imagine it will be for the last few months of it). I am super excited about 2015.

Finding Home

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I do not know what I thought home would look like but it wasn’t like this.

If you had given me a million storyboard options, I would never have been able to draw this out. I had no tools, no vision, no concept of something like this. Long nights, tangled bodies, drinking, laughing, crying, talking, playing and so little guilt, so little shame. We bring what we bring on our backs but no one is putting it on me. I can look you in the eyes.

My brother asked me yesterday what grace was, what was this concept that I claimed had been so cruelly and abusively taught to me and I told him it was a light, not a shroud. I told him I did not believe that God had anything to do with it but that in the moment when I sit in front of you and I tell you that I am fucked up and manipulative and I did this thing to you and you tell me that you love me, that is grace. It is sharp and painful and stings like a whip and it heals and grows something new in me. I told him that grace is not about brushing something away, it is about seeing everything and loving it as fiercely and bravely as you can.

It turns out that home is also about this, about loving each other fiercely and bravely and calmly. I used to dream of feeling safe but I only dreamed of it in spaces. Here I might be able to feel safe emotionally, here physically, here sexually. Because I was taught boundaries and lines and laws you must not cross, blank spaces and emotional minefields. And yet here we are. Home is running around half naked mixing drinks and making My Little Pony jokes, running away screaming from tickling and crazy faces. Home is you kissing each other while cuddling me and you are very beautiful and I am very safe and very happy.

I am 7, I am 19, I am 30. I am all the ages I have ever been and I am growing up. For the first time I know what I want to build. Home was worth waiting for.

Things That Make Me Smile

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Well, I started back working at McDonald’s this week. I’m very tired and my knee and feet hurt. It’s always the standing on hard floors that get to me. However, I will say that one of the biggest things that has changed for me since I used to work there in my early 20’s is how much I genuinely like people now. So while occasionally people are mean or whatever, overall I tend to be more drawn to the stories that made me smile, the people I noticed that made me happy. I will just note a couple, because my last entry was fairly depressing and because, as I’ve mentioned before, I think it’s important to point out small things that are beautiful.

Today an old man came in wearing a hat covered in a pattern of bright pink and yellow daisies. It was seriously one of the best things I have ever seen. I immediately wanted to become best friends with him and follow him everywhere. When he ordered I realized that might be hard because he was deaf and I don’t know how to sign… but I’m not going to say that would necessarily stop me. I mean, seriously. What a freaking awesome person. I hope when I am old I wear whatever I feel like and that sometimes it is absolutely outrageous and awesome in every way imaginable. I think that is a goal I didn’t know I had until right now.

Our “girl” toys right now (and on a less cheerful note, I hate having to reinforce boy/girl stereotype bullshit by asking if customers want a little boy or a little girl toy. Sigh. But on a more amusing note, what exactly does it say about me that I automatically typed “boy” instead of “girl” toy for that? :P) are My Little Pony. We just started them today and when I found that out the first thought that flitted across my mind was, “Are we going to get bronies coming in?” And you guys, we did. Today I saw my very first bronies in the wild and it was every bit as delightful and exciting as I might have hoped. They skipped in, they seemed to have a video camera, one of them was wearing a sweater with a bow tie and a newsboy cap. Apparently they had been to several different stores and we were the first one to have the toy that they needed. I was doing a lobby check, tragically I did not get to interact or even hear the full conversation but I was absolutely in heaven all the same.

And last but not least, a dad came up to order with his kids today and his little girl (maybe 10 or 11?) ordered her meal with a large drink and her dad was like, wait what? No, you only need a medium. And she turned to him with incredibly wide eyes and was like “But DAD. It’s only a DOLLAR!” I feel that this story probably misses on the page because I cannot possibly capture the level of amazing attitude she had going on but she was perfect and possibly also my new hero. She still got the medium but it was amazing.

People are very nice and patient with me with the training, in spite of the fact that dammit, coffee is so confusing. Sigh. I wish I drank coffee because I feel like if this was a substance I drank sometimes than I would not have such a hard time remembering all of the frappes and lattes and whatever other tes there are. But you know. I’ll get there.

So, those are my stories. Happy weekend, people.

Money Stress and Realizations

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Life is funny. Last week my car broke down. I took it to the shop and they told me that it was something to do with bushers or bushings… look, cars aren’t my strong suit. It wouldn’t come out of park. And also my combination switch needed replacing. All told it was going to cost me $852. That was all of my money for February more or less, but what could I do? I have to have a car. I told them to go ahead and do it and proceeded to start on my panic attack. What on earth was I going to do? I knew I could email my aunt and ask her for the money but I was willing to do practically anything to avoid that. It is insane the things that flit across your mind when you’re desperate. I will not lie, there was half a second when I wondered if I could prostitute myself on Craigslist. But even with that, it seemed like that would take a while and I was not at all confident in my ability to go through with it. There was a moment of sheer desperation when the mail came and the thought jumped through my mind “If there is something in there telling me I owe more money, I’m actually going to kill myself.” I don’t believe I would have gone through with anything, but it’s astonishing how intense things can feel when you’re backed into a corner. Things go dark so quickly.

When I checked the mail however, there were no bills. In fact, there was a check. A medical bill I had paid a few weeks before, apparently they didn’t want the money from me after all for some reason. I don’t know why but who am I to question it? $60. “Well,” I thought to myself. “I guess now I’m down to $790.” It was such a small thing but I found myself feeling a moment of hope. I was exhausted, I took a nap. When I woke up, they were calling me to let me know it was ready. The guy on the phone, whose name was Linx (I don’t know if that’s how he spelled it, but I hope it was), told me that it had cost the full amount of the repairs but he knew I had said I was working on a tight budget so he had given me a 10% discount. It was going to be $772. Again, it was small but you know. I was down by over $100 from where I thought I would be earlier in the day and I started feeling strangely hopeful. When I picked up my car they told me they had fixed two other minor things on it as well for no extra charge and he gave me a free car wash. I must have looked fairly pitiful. But I walked out, smoked a cigarette and just stood there thinking how very kind people could be and how grateful I felt in that moment. Maybe things would somehow be okay. Obviously I still didn’t know how I would come up with $715 but you know. Who knows.

I have belonged to a message board for over 10 years now. I asked the moderator if I could put out a call for help, I wasn’t sure what else to do. People responded… amazingly. I also got my taxes filed and got a bit more than I was expecting (considering I made pretty much no money last year). I’m not quite back up to even yet but I’m astonishingly close considering where I started at. I just want to say that I’m so grateful. I had no idea how very kind and wonderful people were capable of being. I didn’t know that you could ask for help and sometimes people would give it, so generously, with absolutely no strings attached. There are times I wish that I had grown up being taught these things but to be honest, I’m almost glad I wasn’t because discovering them has been the most awe-inspiring experience of my life. I would hate to think I would take it for granted. I am consistently overwhelmed by how beautiful and amazing life can be, how wonderful people can make it even in the most stressful and difficult of times. So I guess I just want to send my general gratitude out to the universe and say that in spite of how stressful (for this and other reasons) the last few weeks have been, I would not trade my life for anything in the world. What an amazing thing life is.

People Are Superheroes

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This has been one of those weeks where I am really amazed by people.

Yesterday I got to go to court for the first time for my practicum. I watched several people who were applying for protection orders. Only one of them was our client but I stayed after to watch the others, just to see more of the process. There was this one girl, she was standing up there and I couldn’t stop looking at her hands. She was wringing them and squeezing her fingers so tightly. It was clear that she was terrified, so frightened to be in that courtroom, in front of the judge. I’m sure it was terrifying to be standing next to this guy who had been harassing her. The judge granted the order and I was just overwhelmed by how incredibly brave people are. To the point where I actually teared up in the courtroom, and again writing about it last night.

A couple days ago I was running around town dropping off posters for our upcoming training at various places around town. I ran into a woman who I’ve known for a number of years. She goes to my parent’s church and so I never really know what to say to her. But she has always been very nice and this day she was bright and cheerful and asked how I was doing so I responded in kind. With one of the happiest smiles I’ve ever seen, she told me she was getting married. This particular individual was part of one of the first really brutal divorces I ever came in contact with as a young teen. It involved two couples in our church and it was truly brutal and messy. She was very definitely one of the wronged parties. I was delighted for her, I asked her to tell me all about him, tell me all of the things. She did and we talked for a while. I told her how happy I was for her and she said, “Yeah. It makes life more interesting, more… sparkly.” I think she was actually glowing. And again, I was so overwhelmed by how brave people are, how resilient. Here is a woman who was absolutely wronged and betrayed in a truly harsh and cruel way. How brave is it to trust someone again, to fall head over heels in love again? That’s like superhero levels of strength right there. To dare to be so happy that you can’t even contain yourself. What a beautiful, foolish, and amazing thing to do.

I feel strange admitting it sometimes, because it is so much the opposite of how I was raised, so much the opposite of the intense cynicism that I held onto for such a long time. But the real truth is that at this point in my life I am almost never so overwhelmed by the evil and terrible things people are capable of as I am by the truly amazing and beautiful things people are capable of. They are both immense, they are both significant. But it’s the latter that gives meaning, that is truly amazing to me. I am almost never in awe of the brutality people are capable of, most of the time I can’t even bring myself to be surprised. But do you know how many people get up and walk away? How many people take terrible things that have been done to them and make something beautiful out of them? Or maybe it’s nothing that extreme. Maybe they just make small but incredibly brave steps. Maybe they never actually break the cycle completely, maybe they never really manage to shake free but they try so hard and they do something significant that does change the pattern, alters the steps. I think it’s the closest thing to magic that we get on this earth and I’m so grateful for the chance to witness it from time to time.

Gratitude and Stalking

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So I sort-of stalked my parents last night. This is a slight exaggeration. What actually happened was that yesterday I went to my friend’s house for Thanksgiving and I ate unbelievably delicious food (because she’s an amazing cook) and I spent the day being pretty okay that I was sans family and then, on the way home, there was my parent’s street and instead of driving straight home as I obviously should have, I turned off. Nothing happened. I drove past their house, I turned around, I went home. Then I called David and he very kindly informed me that he didn’t think I was crazy. Which was very comforting and either a true thing or the sort of thing you say to placate a crazy person. I guess I’ll trust it was the former.

I haven’t really made my way yet in this blog to why I walked away from my folks. I’m sure that’ll come in time. For now I’ll just stick with that it was necessary for my health. But there was that moment last night, as I was driving by, turning around, when I thought to myself “I could just park. I could just park and walk up to the door and maybe they would be happy to see me.” Because some part of my brain wants to imagine that my parents are people they are not, wants to believe that losing their only daughter might have been enough that they would be willing to change, to listen. I want to believe I’m not expendable from my family. I didn’t walk away as a move, I want to make that clear. I didn’t do it in the hopes that it would make them change or that they’d come running after me. I walked because I had no choice and I did not want them to follow. But you know, at the end of it all holidays are a bitch and no matter how difficult your family might be they are still your family. I don’t regret the decision I made and yet there I was, on a dark street skulking past the house I moved into at 9 years old like I was casing it. Grief is a funny thing.

And yet. I spent all day with friends. I woke up yesterday morning so excited to send off text messages to a few people letting them know I was thankful for them. I came home from my unexpected side trip last night almost in tears and called David and he spent about 20 minutes telling me that I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t melodramatic. This just sucks and it was going to. Then a giant spider tried to murder him so he had to flee for his life. Sometimes life happens. The point is that I have so many people I love. I never knew it was possible to have so many people that I loved or who loved me. I never expected that. I will be 30 in 3 months and I’ve never been happier. There is grief, it’s part of the process. But it turns out I’m not alone in it. So this Thanksgiving weekend, I am in fact incredibly thankful. Thankful that although I may have walked out on most of my own family, I have more support than I have ever had in my life. Thankful that I have people I love and who love me back. Thankful that I have people I feel safe with, thankful I get to be part of so many people’s lives. I really do have an amazing life and I’m so grateful for it.

This is What Happiness Feels Like

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This has been a remarkably good week. I’m just going to talk a little bit about what a lovely week I’ve had because I think it’s nice to talk about nice things and honestly I don’t spend enough time doing it.

1) I got to talk to my very first real live client yesterday. I guess that seems like an odd thing to be excited about, considering that I’m working with domestic violence and sexual assault survivors and obviously I’m not happy that people need our services but I am happy that I felt good about it. I could have done better with offering resources, I don’t know all of the things yet. But I knew enough to listen, I was empathetic, I asked the important questions I’ve been trained to ask and I felt like when she left she felt supported. That seems like a win to me. It’s easy for me to focus on everything I did wrong but in this case I actually am much more interested in what came easily to me, what I did right. I knew without a doubt that this was where I wanted to be, this was all I wanted to do. That was… a pretty amazing feeling.

2) I have spent practically the entire week when I am not in school with David and the Superhero and somehow they are not sick of me yet. There is practically nothing in the world I love more than feeling wanted or cared about, but it’s a hard feeling for me to trust most of the time. I have to admit that they’re so damn consistent and insistent about it that my ability to argue the point is sort-of fading. Maybe really amazing things can just be true and those things can happen to me. Novel.

3) I totally got the debate topic I wanted for my class. I particularly wanted it because it’s one of the topics that I honestly don’t know which side of the fence I’m on. I find this to be really exciting and delightful. I get to research and find an opinion, while coming up with a defense for both sides. I really, really enjoy that kind of thing and I think it’ll be a fun assignment. My topic is “Should faith based programs have access to public funds for drug and alcohol treatment?” I’m really looking forward to researching it over the next few weeks. I’m not super looking forward to writing the paper because I never exactly look forward to writing papers but we get to write one page pro and one page con and then one page with our conclusion. Then the day of, we are told which side we’re defending. It’s not really a debate – we’re just reading off our papers. But it is a project I’m mostly really looking forward to.

4) I got ice cream. I feel like there’s not a lot more that needs to be said on that point.

5) The epic and amazing sleepover that has been being planned in a theoretical sense with David and Julie and I has an actual date set for it now! Right after I finish this quarter, which is like the best reward I can possibly imagine. I get giddy just thinking about it.

6) I finished my book. Which is like the fastest I’ve finished a book in months. I even started a brand new one. This makes me feel insanely accomplished.

7) I passed the 200 mark on my movie list for the year. Granted, compared to last year when I was over 400, hitting 200 now is not that impressive but considering how busy I have been it is still pretty damn respectable. Movie number 200 was a gem called The Encounter: Paradise Lost, which if you like bad Christian films…. actually if you like bad Christian films, go watch Meant to Be on Netflix and have your entire brain exploded. I know that doesn’t sound like an experience to recommend and I don’t know if I recommend it exactly? But it’s one you probably won’t forget anyway.

8) I have a paper to write this weekend that I’m not thrilled about but it’s only 4 to 6 pages and it’s a topic I know pretty well and I have a whole empty house while David and Superhero take a trip for the weekend. So no fighting with my brother over music and I can just get homework done and chill out. Aren’t they wonderful? I may actually even get things done, what a strange concept. I don’t necessarily like doing things but I do like having them done. 😛

Well. I had wanted to get to ten because I really love multiples of five. And I’m sure that at least two other awesome things happened to me this week but I’m blanking so this will have to do. I’ll consider it a lesson in imperfection or something. So… yeah. What a great week.