Love, love again

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I can’t hear you —
What’s that you said?
You’re feeling off today?
Come, on, rest your head.

My chest is your pillow,
My arms are an ark.
I’ll shelter you from cold rain
Guide you home in damp dark.

You’re scared, I don’t blame you —
Down is where you’ve been.
But you rose to the top,
Learned to love, love again.

You beat the odds,
Played on field uneven —
Love can take you down,
Or give you something to believe in.

I know it wasn’t easy.
Love is hard to trust.
It leaves you broken down,
Feeds you clouds of dust.

But dust settles, time passes;
You relinquish and restart.
Now let me be the one
To protect your wary heart.

Timer Done!

When I meet someone new I like to preface our acquaintanceship by telling them that my life is one long string of awkward events. The reason being that I feel the need to justify the next utterance I speak, the next step I take, or the next situation in which I find myself because I just know it will be, well…awkward.

It’s not that I can’t carry on normal conversation or that I am clumsy. Rather, I tend to over-analyze every word I speak, every move I make and every situation in which I partake to a point where I slap the awkard label on everything in order to conceal the social anxiety I’m feeling. And I really do mean everything. It seems I can’t ever seem to figure out the best thing – or most normal thing – to say or do in a given situation, the problem being that the majority of situations are not a given – they just happen. And they seem to just happen more and more to me.

Although I constantly receive comments about how mature and put together I appear, on the inside I feel like a rubber band ball overgrown so big that I can’t even determine which band to pull off first to relieve some of the stress. In college, while other students could casually stroll into class two minutes late or walk out of class mid-lecture to use the restroom, I would have rather died or peed my pants before disrupting class, which you know would have resulted in 50 pairs of eyes focused on me. Don’t even try to tell me no one notices.

Looking back on it now, peeing my pants would have caused a much more embarrassing scene and yet, the thought of it still wasn’t enough to will me out my chair. I’ve tried to blame it on 13 years of private Catholic school where we were punished for being tardy and forbidden from going to the bathroom during class, the only exception being that if there was absolutely no way to hold it in then only one and one person only could go at a time. You can imagine my shock on the first day of college at the absence of a bell ringing, the emptiness of the wall near the door where a bathroom pass should dangle, and the audacity of that student going to the bathroom while someone else had already left the classroom to do the same thing.


 

My older friends always told me that by the time they reached their mid-20s, they felt secure with who they were and that they didn’t feel as awkward in their skin as they did as a teenager or young adult; despite having 25 years of age, I realized today that I still bear the scars of structure that Catholic school imposed and that I still feel equally as anxious.

Today, what happened, was that a Deer Park Water service technician came out to exchange our office kitchen’s misbehaving water cooler. Of course, he arrived at noon on the dot with just under 4 minutes to go on the toaster oven timer counting down to my perfectly crispy frozen pizza lunch. I immediately became agonizingly aware of the gravity of the situation at hand: the timer would sound at exactly the moment the service guy was bent over, plumber’s crack exposed, in the middle of the exchange. If only kitchen timers were designed to stop alarming on their own; then, I would have sat at my desk, found comfort in knowing the timer would only annoy the service guy for 3 beeps, and let the pizza burn. But no, the Cuisinart engineers couldn’t provide me that luxury; thus, it happened that I pulled up my big girl panties, rose to the occasion, entered the kitchen head held high, owned up to cooking the pizza and excused myself. That was that.

After the incident I sat at my desk eating lunch trying to figure out why I had experienced anxiety over something so irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. The guy didn’t even flinch when I walked in but I was so worried about disturbing him. Why? Is it because I’m a people-pleaser afraid of upsetting someone’s flow? Do I not know how to voice my needs? I mean, a girl’s got to eat. Or, what if the situation were reversed? Would I have moved out of the way with a smile? Or would I have huffed and puffed and rolled my eyes at the person trying to retrieve lunch for the day? Maybe it’s not that  everyone else will judge me. Maybe it’s me who judges everyone else. And being familiar with the judgments that go through my mind, could I be living in fear that others will make those same judgments about me?

Or it could be that I know Psychology all too well, fated – no, cursed – to analyze every human thought, action and interaction that ever was.

One thing is certain: I am the common denominator. It’s me who is present in every awkward situation. I am the one that harbors anxious thoughts and it is only me who can turn that anxiety into something productive – the one with the power to stop over-thinking and start doing.

It’s kind of like writing a blog post…sometimes you have to stop editing yourself over and over and just click “Publish”.

 

Crow

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Sometimes the best way to come up with an idea to write about is to just start writing. When I saw the Weekly Challenge prompt to write a fifty-word story, that’s exactly what I did. Here’s a fifty-word story about doing yoga:


 

Let go I repeated to myself, facedown, hands rooted into the mat, arms at a ninety degree angle, both knees resting on triceps, one timid tippy toe still on the ground, the other hanging in the air, determined to settle into Crow if only for one breath before falling out.


 

(photo credits: http://www.YogaTrail.com, uploaded by Ella O.)

That One Time: Signs You’re Dealing with Abuse

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Three years ago my therapist told me I was in an abusive relationship.

I didn’t believe her.

I didn’t have bruises on my arms, my face or my legs and my boyfriend had never hit me. Yes, there was that one time he punched a hole in the shoddy wooden door in his dorm room, and that one time he pushed me up against the graffiti-covered metal door of a closed storefront in West Philly when we were in the middle of a fight, and that one time he slapped my hand for picking up his phone to check the time. But each of those things only happened that one time.

I did not, by any means, feel abused.

But I should have.

The signs aren’t always as obvious as a black and blue mark. The signs are subtle – so subtle that they often go unnoticed by even the smartest most insightful people.

The following list is an attempt to help others recognize signs of an abuser that I wish had realized sooner than three years into a relationship.

1. He will knock you down to pick you up: sometimes literally, other times not. He will find what pulls on your heart strings and take over as puppeteer in order to get under your skin. He will then use this power to bring you to your lowest point. The minute the tears begin to well in your eyes he will tell you not to cry. He will tell you that everything will be okay because you have him there to fix things or help you be who you want to be because…

2. He is always the hero: and without him? Well, you would be lost. There you would stay crying on the bathroom floor if it weren’t for him to pick you up, wipe your tears and bring you back to bed to finally get some sleep.

3. He will make you feel guilty: unnecessarily so. Did you go out with your friends for margaritas during the week? Did you friend another guy on Facebook? Because if so, he will ask you if you did even if he already knows that you did and he will ask you why you did it. Note, no answer will be reasonable. Did you order his burger medium-well because you couldn’t remember if he likes his meat bloody or burnt? Because if you tried to do something nice for him like have dinner waiting for him when he got home, well then he will yell at you because you should have ordered his burger rare. How did you not know that he NEVER eats his meat anywhere close to well-done? But when you try to play the questions game with him, you’ll never get anywhere because…

4. He will do whatever he wants, whenever he wants: he’s allowed to after all because he can do no wrong and he definitely doesn’t have to answer to you. He will go golfing all day Saturday and Sunday, show up late for dinner and expect you to be there waiting for him with open arms. He can go out with his fraternity brothers, text you incoherently, flirt with other girls and you best not say a peep about it lest you want to start a battle you will ultimately lose.

5. He will make you question your sanity: because you are the crazy one, not him. He will be so far inside your head that you’ll start to believe him when he tells you you’re the one to blame for his sudden outbursts or unexpected withdraw from the relationship. No, it has nothing to do with his general unhappiness with his own life but has everything to do with how crazy you are and thus how crazy you make him. You’re the reason things were never going to work out.

6. He doesn’t give second chances: because it’s always too late. He will tell you what you should have done differently but not until he’s already out the door – that if you had only turned left when he told you to turn left then he wouldn’t be leaving you. But you went and turned right instead so, now it’s over.

And the cycle will repeat that one time and that one time over again.

You Are Here

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I am here but I want to be there; I am there but I want to be here.

You are here, I have to constantly remind myself.

More than half of my short life has revolved around trying to figure out how to get where I’m not: Philly? Boring. On to New York City. New York City? Claustrophobic. Back to Philly. Philly Round 2? Proud to call it home. But what’s next? Anywhere in the United States won’t do. I need to go to Europe…but only after making a 2 month pit stop in Nashville.

You are here.

But here doesn’t feel like where I am. Sure, my body might be physically here but my mind has already hopped on board a flight to Three Months From Now. And let me tell you, Three Months From Now is starting to feel too real, especially since what started as an improbable dream 3 years ago has now turned into a reality better than what I created in my imagination.

You see, for the past 3 years I’ve been desperately trying to find a way to live and work in Europe. So desperate that after searching for opportunities abroad fell short, I convinced myself I’d be able to get Irish citizenship: Pop Pop’s father was born in Ireland, right? Check. So Pop Pop automatically gets citizenship? Ok, getting closer. Dad can apply for citizenship then I can apply for citizenship when dad gets it – yes! Done and done. Oh wait, what’s that? Dad would have had to have applied for citizenship BEFORE I was 18. UGH DAD! Why didn’t you foresee my desperate need to go abroad and plan ahead???  Depression ensued.

You are here.

That was the last straw. I put my quest on hold and spent some time focusing on more achievable goals. And guess what? That’s when I truly started to be comfortable with being here. I focused on things I love – songwriting, music, yoga – and started spending time with friends and family in a way that was more mindful (e.g. storing my phone in my purse for an entire meal). Bit by bit, here started to feel like home. Dare I say I started to feel happy in the space I was occupying.

But as any good Pisces knows, it’s all too easy to get lost in Dream World and so the itch to live abroad came back, this time with a vengeance because now, time was running short. At the age of 25 with 30 in the not-so-distant future, it seemed like the last and best chance to quit my almost-big-girl job with benefits and go to England to teach for a year.

And now that it’s all happening Three Months From Now, I’m freaking out. While I have a knack for dreaming, I also have a knack for over-thinking; I can’t help but be anxiously excited and wonder if I’m making the best move,

if I will be just as happy there

if I will miss here.

Speculating Damaged Goods

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If I could be a jar on any shelf, I’d like to be the jar of speculoos cookie spread that you keep in the cupboard next to the crunchy peanut butter. I know how much you love your peanut butter but I think you’d rather have speculoos despite your aversion to sweets.

Plus, peanut butter is a safe bet — everyone and their mother keeps it on hand. I’d rather be your special treat; your guilty pleasure; the one you can’t get enough of; your sugar high; that sweet taste left in your mouth; the creamy, sugary goodness that keeps you coming back for more.

Unfortunately, when taken off the shelf and consumed, I’m not all that good for you. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. The thing about sugar is that it causes highs and lows: I will bring you up only to bring you right back down with me — not on purpose, of course. It’s just the way I was made and packaged. Damaged goods, if you will.

When did damaged goods get such a bad rap anyway? I remember going to the Pepperidge Farm outlet as a kid to get a discount on goldfish because the boxes were dented or had expired. I’ll have you know that the goldfish always tasted the same. So what if a heart has some minor bruising, tears or dents? You’re getting a deal on what’s inside: an enormous amount and ability to love without which, that same heart would never have been in a position to get bruised and dented in the first place. Damaged goods might be the result of high passion but at least you can be sure you’re dealing with someone who loves all in.

I understand if the highs and lows that come with damaged goods don’t suit your taste buds. I don’t blame you for wanting to reach for the old tried and true peanut butter. There’s a reason why every mom’s go-to lunch is a PB & J sandwich oozing with gobs of peanut spread: it reliably satisfies hunger for long periods of time — much longer than speculoos cookie spread ever could.

But speculoos is just so damn good it’s hard to say no.

Is it Love or Is it Lust?

“If love is all you need, why do we want something more? If love is the answer, why are we so unsure?”

I wrote these lyrics months ago when I was single and questioning love. I’ve since fallen in love and I’m still questioning it. It seems like no matter who you are, whether single or taken or somewhere complicatedly in between, we are all questioning our love statuses. Or maybe it’s only those of us who have been strung along and dragged down the path of bruised and broken hearts who are insatiably curious.

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Is it love, or is it lust? Inquiring minds would like to know. In a recent musing with my best friend about love vs. lust, I came to the conclusion that those of us who have been through the relationship ringer are incapable of knowing the difference between love and lust. We will always question and we will always feel conflicted. The inner cycle of contradiction for those who have really had a time of it goes something like this: the gut instinct assure me it’s love, the fickle heart taunts me to go big or go home and the rational mind yells at me to slow down. So where exactly do my best interests lie when instincts can be wrong, hearts break and if it were up to rationality, I’d never take a risk?

It seems to me that after being repeatedly broken down by love, we’ve lost the ability to trust the most important person in a relationship: ourselves. We don’t trust that we will make sound decisions in love and  we don’t believe it when we tell ourselves that we are capable and deserving of being loved; thus, we are completely unsure if you are the perfect fit for us or if you really are a good guy. And we definitely don’t believe you when you tell us you love us.

How can you be so sure of love let alone be so sure you love me? You fell so swiftly and so hard that it couldn’t possibly be love. It must be lust. You couldn’t possibly have simply fallen in love with me just like that because I’m such a great catch. No way – it’s lust you’re mistaking for love. You didn’t ask me to be your girlfriend to make sure you locked it down; instead, you asked me to be your girlfriend because you wanted to ensure a steady shag. You couldn’t possibly be laughing at my jokes because you think they’re actually funny.

There’s just no way you love me.

Not only am I skeptical, but I’m also jealous. Jealous that you can love without inhibition – that when you fight for love you’re fighting because you are love’s champion, not because you could never put aside your pride. Jealous that you had good experiences in love – so good that you know how to be a friend to someone you’ve seen naked and that someone still wants to be friends with you. Most of all jealous that you don’t sit there tormented by this inner dialogue.

Sometimes I wish I had never been hurt so that I could feel how it feels to love, no questions asked.

Who Am I Today?

We all have multiple personalities. I can be as sweet as a gummy bear or as bitter as a cocoa bean,  depending on who I’m with, where I am or how I’m feeling at a particular moment in time. Our changing selves have nothing to do with who we are because who we are incessantly varies to adapt to our environment.

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In linguistics, a speech community serves as a model for understanding differences among language users. In other words, the idea of a speech community rests on the assumption that people are influenced by their surroundings and that they develop or use language as a way to meet their needs in a particular community. For instance, if you want a cheesesteak in Philadelphia you need to know the proper way to order one: Do you want cheese? You’ve got three options: American, Provolone or Whiz. Do you want onions? Two options: “wit” or “widdout.” We all know what you’re here for so your order is simple: Type of Cheese + Wit or Widdout. Every Philadelphian knows this; it’s what makes us Philadelphians.

This makes sense, right? Now, let’s think about it on a personal level. How do you act and what kinds of things do you say when you’re around your friends? Do you speak the same way in front of your grandparents as you do with your friends? I, for one, would never begin a sentence with Omg, I was so drunk last night while speaking to any of my family members. If you are someone who speaks freely no matter whom you are with be it your mom, dad, boss, Great Aunt Betty or best friends Larry, Curly and Moe, then good for you. Maybe you truly know yourself or maybe you just have no concept of couth.

For the rest of us, we are constantly and acutely aware of the situation we are in – tormentingly so. When I spend time with my college friends, I feel uneasily at home dressed in couture caught up-to-New York City-speed in the know about every event or newest best restaurant in the best city in the world! OMG I can’t believe you moved back to Philly when you could be here [going broke living in a shoebox] with us!!

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I’d like to think that that fancy version of myself is not who I am, but the truth is, it is. It’s as much a part of me as the me who wears yoga pants to the bar or the me who could frankly care less about what is going on in the world today. Just because I can’t pinpoint my true self doesn’t mean I’m not genuine because I am genuinely living in every moment, behaving in a style that is unique to me but simultaneously fits the situation at hand.

I’m probably the closest to who I am when I’m alone, but even then, who I am is never the same. There are days when I’m a master de-clutterer and days when I am utterly useless. The only consistency in my quest lies in the endless stream of thoughts that move with me. I wonder all the time – in the shower, on the couch watching TV, in bed before I fall asleep – about what kind of person I am, where I’ll be in 5 years, who I want to be, how I’m living my life. The thing is, I don’t have all of the answers and even when I happen to have some of the answers, they change like a hurricane that veers off its predicted path. Some would say that’s living without direction, but I say that’s living life to its fullest. It’s enough for me to do one thing every day that pushes the boundaries of my comfort zone in an effort to become the best version of me possible.

Who I am changes because I challenge myself, learn from my mistakes, and refuse to settle at complacency.

When It’s Cold

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The spiral into sadness happens rapidly without warning when it’s cold. With wintry air comes slippery sidewalks, layers on layers of clothing, and ice cold feet. All I want is to be able to walk down the street uninhibited by bulky boots, mounds of dirty slush, and the Winter Blues. I want to wear my favorite flow-y floral dress without worrying if I’m warm enough. I want to be free, not cooped up in a stuffy office breathing in moldy air while competing in a staring contest with a computer. 

A break sounds nice. Ah, yes, some fresh air always does some good. But it’s too cold to go outside; the sun is useless. So there I sit planted, reminded by the automatic shut off feature of my space heater that I’ve spent too much time at my desk – too much time procrastinating, shopping for the best deal to a place where the sun shines effectively but too afraid to place the order. And although I’m frozen in time, my mind still races:

Where am I going to find the energy to play this open mic tonight?… …Straight hair or curly? …Am I taking care of myself? …Should I do cardio or weights? Or yoga? No, spin …What the hell is her problem? …Where did I leave my keys? …Do I still have to get a gift for my ex-boyfriend’s sister-in-law whose baby shower I was un-invited to because my ex and his new girlfriend of 2 years are drama queens? …Should I move to Nashville for a few months before moving to England? …Will it all work out? …How and when should I promote my new album (who even makes the CDs?)?…  …Exactly how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? 

Je ne sais pas. idk. I dunno. Who knows. No. freaking. clue.

I’m too frozen to move, too cold to think, and too iced to deal. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be in bed hibernating, hoping that the answers to my questions come to me at the first sign of Spring when the sun warms worries and turns gray fuzzy thoughts into sharp insights.

Because when it’s cold I just can’t.

Troubleshooting

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There is no troubleshooting life. There is no Help Wizard. And unfortunately, I’m not savvy enough to make the error messages in my head disappear. I keep clicking the little x in the top left corner of the box but the same message reappears: Something is off. Yes, as a matter of fact, I would like more information. What is that something and where is the on/off switch?

This is my first attempt at really writing. I’ve been writing songs for over a year now but the thoughts circuiting my brain have grown too large to be limited to 3 minutes and 30 seconds. I need more space and time to figure out how to turn that something off on – that thing inside me that is off but has somehow had enough power to hold me back.

Writing seems to be the only thing that can move me forward when my system fails. I can ignore it all I want – read advice columns, play silly games, or click the minimize box – but the error message remains, blinking in my toolbar until I face it head on. The only Force Quit option is to write…to open the documents slowly, sift through the data, and spit out words that offer an explanation, even if they only make sense to me.

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Every model is different – I have to keep telling myself that. I’m an upgraded version from who I was two years ago and he is completely different than my old worn out hard drive. He doesn’t overheat when things get hard, freeze when he’s tired, or crash when he simply can’t take it anymore; he is a quality, reliable find. Still, I can’t help but remember what happened with the old machine every time I stroked a key too hard or raised my voice because it just.  wasn’t.  working. I will never forget how he gave up and threatened to leave me alone so many times.

The scars are stored, buried now under new layers of happiness, but filed forever nonetheless. All it takes is one simple search item followed by a strike of the return key to recover them and I can’t will my fingers to stop. I tell my mind to quit dwelling in past folders but it won’t obey my commands. Instead, it processes new input by comparing past and present data and uses it to predict the future. These faulty analyses will not hold up long term. They can’t. Of course the past can be helpful for learning, but it can also be destructive if we wallow in it.

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I refuse to wallow. I’d rather troubleshoot with words.

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