Please, let us take a moment.
With all the fighting, frustrations, wars, and disagreements going on, I figured this was a good time to put something together. There’s a great book by Jonathan Haidt called “The Happiness Hypothesis” that covers pretty much everything ever. It has become my new bible, which amuses me given that this is an atheist speaking about a book written by an atheist.
He covers what it means to be happy, and one of those topics is one we don’t always consider, which is the faults of others. We typically focus on our own happiness, and forget that sometimes that consists of blaming others for things they cannot, or we cannot control. I’m putting together a presentation for mentally ill offenders, and while some is focused on crime and mental illness, much of this is straight from the book and applicable to anyone. So take it or leave it:
-The Faults of Others (Chapter 4) Side note, this is one of the most important chapters for offenders.
"There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so" -Hamlet
Keeping up appearances: It benefits us to get along with others while still being aware of the fact that we may be manipulated. We do not react to what people DO, but rather, we react to what we THINK they did and how we interpret it. People who THINK they’re good people will often try to do the right thing, but when it comes down to it, will actually do what benefits them most, calling this ‘moral hypocrisy’. “Most people think they are good people and that their actions are motivated by good reasons”. We will always find a way to validate our choices.
Find your inner lawyer: When given difficult arguments, people will lean one way and THEN find arguments to support that. We take a position, look for evidence that supports it and makes us make sense, then we ‘stop thinking’. Issues with ‘motivated reasoning’, which is when we want to find a certain conclusion, we become even worse at reasoning, but we still try to find the one-sided example. The problem is that this leads to the illusion of subjectivity because we think we’ve found flaws in other peoples’ reasoning.
The Rose-Colored mirror: We present the best possible self to others, though our self-perceptions become distorted because we see the best parts as we want to display those (save for perhaps depression, which may be the opposite problem). We overestimate our own virtue, but we guess very accurately on other peoples’. But, when there’s little room for having the rose colored mirror (how tall are you) we become more modest. Example of roommates, we see what we do, but not what others contribute and think we do more, “subconscious overclaiming”.
I’m right, you’re biased! (No… really…): We are open to information that predicts behaviors of others, but not to what would readjust our self-assessment. People will truly believe, even when presented with this information, that they are right and others are biased, calling this “naïve realism”. We believe everyone else is influenced by their history and self-interest, except for ourselves. Good and evil do NOT EXIST outside of our beliefs about them.
Satan satisfies: When we identify things as evil, they are invisible, it spreads by contagion (meaning you have to protect others that are impressionable), and it can be defeated if people work as a team (example, how people view homosexuality). Good can only exist with this evil. “We are often correct about others’ motives, but as any conflict escalates we begin to exaggerate grossly, to weave a story in which pure virtue (our side) is in battle with pure vice (theirs).”
The myth of ‘pure evil’ (And why do we need it?):
The distortions as victims, in that even when there is real cruelty, there is still more to the story that we do not see. We have a deep need to understand violence and cruelty through the myth of pure evil. It is a self-serving bias and ultimately naïve realism in that there is no ‘pure evil’ as there are always other parts to the story and beliefs. People do what they do because they believe they are right, just as others butt heads or fight back for the same reasons. “The two biggest causes of evil are two that we think are good, and that we try to encourage in our children: high self-esteem and moral idealism.” (Haidt, 75) When self-esteem is threatened, that is when we fight back, especially problematic for criminals or sociopaths.
Finding the Great Way:
Being judgmental leads us down a dangerous path of anger, so how do we stop it? Meditation can seriously help, as it may calm down the thinking process and slow it down. Violations of the ‘should’ statements lead us to anger (and the dark side!). Empathy is also helpful in that we can see someone else’s point of view rather than lashing out to conclusions. Finding your own faults hurts briefly, but ultimately feels better as you take responsibility for your own behavior.
(For those who would like to purchase the book, and I recommend you DO, http://www.amazon.com/The-Happiness-Hypothesis-Finding-Ancient/dp/0465028020/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1405702759&sr=1-1 )
This is… the story of a girl.
It’s so weird to like yourself.
Check that, no. It’s not weird, but the sensation is so unusual when you’ve got years of self-doubt and self-pity backing that up. There’s this strange moment, walking around after getting sincere validation from a man who gets work from a fuckton of people, that your work is the *best*, not just good, where something hits you. I was talking to my dad, who has given me more wisdom than anyone in my life, and it sort of settled in. He called me his hero, and I was pretty glad I wasn’t on FaceTime because I started tearing up.
His point was that at 35, when I look back, I will kind of laugh in the face of whatever hits me because I’ve already been through the worst. I have experienced so much of the absolute bottom, and I have become a better person. Through adversity, I have triumphed, and I have done so while remaining true to my own morals and values.
I have done a lot in my life that some don’t even think of doing. I’ve traveled across the country on my own and started a new life, confronted my demons, worked on becoming a writer that I’ve been doing privately and on my own (don’t ask for my works… I’m very anxious about them). I have worked in a damn prison, stared rejection in the face, and fought to prove myself worthy of not only a job, but of then being so damn valuable I was hired directly from temp and had my six months waived. I was told that not only was I good, but I was great.
So to read the email stating, “Thank you for your incredible writing” and being told that my writing had helped make the entire incident and infraction *work*, that had helped everything be easy when it isn’t always, was amazing. He didn’t even stop there, but he went on to comment that it was so good, he wanted to use it as a presentation piece for those training to work in the prison as well as those going through in-services again. It was crazy. I’ve always known I write well, but writing well in prison means that your shit is so good, they’d present it in court and support that. That’s what it means.
I’ve been thoughtful, because we’re hitting my two-year mark in Seattle. In some ways, the wanderlust will always be with me, but I’m happy here. My dad calling me his hero, from a man who has done such incredible things himself, is one of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten. But I am, you know? I’ve tried for things I never would have gone for, I’ve been afraid and let that fear roll off my shoulders. I’ve worked to be a better person and I’ve improved myself on so many levels. I am healthy as hell, I am smart, I am courageous, I am amazing. I love reading, I love bettering myself, I love doing things that make me happy, and slowly, I am learning what those are.
I was even able to flirt with an incredibly gorgeous officer today, one that I’ve kind of had a little crush on for a while. That may not seem big, but with my head held high, my courage coursing through me, a devilish smile on my face, and a solid feeling of rockin’ it, he smiled back. In fact, we engaged in some banter, and while I of course made a sort of ass of myself, he smiled at me and he engaged. I’ve never in my life been able to do something like that without resorting to fifth-grade “NEENER NEENER YOU’RE DUMB” and freaked out. Sure, I got awkward and had to walk off, but I felt good.
There comes a point in life where you realize who you are and what you’re capable of. I don’t think I’m quite there, but I’m getting a general idea. I’m realizing how much talent I have and how capable I am. I’m realizing how truly smart I am, more than just books or educational, but a truly smart individual. I sometimes come off as cold or distant, but I’m learning to cope. I’m learning to let people in and learning to love. I am learning how amazing I am after years of hating myself, and dusting off that mirror, looking at the reflection, and smiling? I like what I see.
I like me.
To Love and Live
i just finished reading “The Fault In Our Stars” so forgive me if this comes across as horribly depressing.
I was talking to my therapist, as one is wont to do, and we talked about me feeling lonely. I talked about sort of ‘hiding away’. I talked about wanting to be able to be more connected, or to be with more people, and my therapist casually mentioned, “You know, I’ve got a few people, a small group, I’m very connected with. Sure, there are many others I talk with, but those select few are the ones I love.” And I kind of thought about that, because that’s sort of a big deal, and not something I considered.
So I’m sitting and reading “The Fault In Our Stars” and crying and shit, and it occurs to me that the book is pretty much sending that message, but in a sort of smaller container. The idea that we want to make a difference, but we forget what’s important about that. I think I forget that I have a choice in the world, that I can love whoever I want, and see if they love me back, and that I can look for people I’m close to.
I feel quite lucky, in many ways, to have a few people in this world I can trust. I hope to expand that, as it’s only one or two right now, but there are people I know I can call or that will be there for me. I think having people who love us is so much more important than having people who like us.
Joining the Enforcer community was done so I could meet people. I’ve contemplated a move back to Boston for a variety of reasons, one of which being that I thought I could be closer to people, to be back with “Boston folks” who I know well, but the end result will always be the same, I seem to conclude. I can want closeness all I want, but really, it’s up to me, and really… do I want to be close with people for the sake of it? I prattle on about hating people, but that’s not what it is. I distance myself to avoid being hurt, but in the process, I’ve managed to stay close to a few folks I love.
I suppose, in some world, I could go to a BBQ and surround myself with individuals who ‘like’ me and want to get to know me. I could be near people I find tolerable, but in the end, I am drained by these experiences and find myself pining for something else. I find myself looking for a human being to connect with, because really, that’s what matters to me. I want someone to talk to, that I love. I am not one of those people who can have a thousand close friends or even a dozen close friends. I am a person who needs a very small circle of those she trusts and loves, but a larger group of those I still like and talk to. I care about many, but I love a few.
In this world, we all want the same thing. We want to be seen, and loved, and understood. But that’s a heavy burden for anyone to carry. But we need it. Being understood by someone, being connected and close, even by a chosen few, that’s all any of us really want.
So falling in love hasn’t happened yet. I guess that’s ok, because I still love. Love is so different than what we imagine, and looks like all kinds of things. We can love and not be IN love, we can be IN LOVE and not romantically inclined or sexually attracted. We can just love. And love always looks different because it always is. It always feels different. That’s why when you say “This time, it feels different” is because it is. Doesn’t make the last time less legitimate or the next time more legitimate, it just means that we love.
In the immortal words of Audrey Niffenegger from “The Time Traveler’s Wife”
"I love. I have loved. I will love."
Crazy, insanely, normally… happy.
I don’t know what typically tempts me to write. Typically, it’s passion. I find myself in an episode of Scrubs where everything kind of tells me the same message by the end of the episode and I do an inner dialogue of what’s been happening. But lately, I guess that’s been going on at a more personal level.
I started this journal during a really, really bad spot in my life. It was at a time where even during PAX, a time that I find joyous and splendid, I had been contemplating suicide. This sort of started as a way to force me to confront the bullshit spewed and a way to make me look at what was going on in my life. It made me reevaluate those inside my life, and since then, I’ve made exponentially better choices and put a higher value on myself.
Sometimes, it feels awkward to say how hard it is to be me, because I’m stupidly aware how hard it is for anyone to just ‘be’. We flow through this world demanding a purpose, and while some are more fluid and can find themselves moving around without effort, others find ourselves trying to edge through the rocks or roll with the waves that come crashing down.
Everyone always does the “if you told me five years ago” thing about their lives now, or before, and usually it’s true. Five years ago, I was suffering. Five years ago, I was in such tremendous pain I can’t even begin to describe the mental anguish I felt without still crying when I remember it. Being 23, I remember what I was going through and the turmoil I felt. Grace was still new in my life, if I recall correctly, but I was in terrible pain. I still remember that day she ran off, and I was out, crying, thinking, “The one thing I finally love that loves me back and I can’t even hold onto it.” Shortly after, she came home (obviously), but it set a real tone for me. It made me think. Five years later, I still remember that feeling.
Knowing that people love you back is hard. Love is more than just romance or sex or friendship or family. Love is knowing you’d do anything for someone, want to be with them, hold them, or even just watch movies, eat shitty pizza, go see Days of Future Past, eat delicious sushi, go to Snoqualmie falls, stay up late on the phone talking about nothing or even just being visible. Love is whatever we want it to be.
Most of my family has someone. Many of my friends do as well. It’s difficult, being a single female, on your own, thinking you’ve done something wrong. But it’s occurred to me that I’m single by choice. I’ve made a decision to do this, and it is mine. I could settle, find someone I’m not super psyched with or work hard to find something that does, but at this point in my life, unless something clicks and fits, I don’t have that time or energy. I’m happy to spend time with people, but I’m focusing on me. For one of the first times in my entire life, I’m trying really, very hard to love myself.
At work, I sometimes laugh because people typically see me and think “Alix is always happy!” Many people who don’t know me on a personal level see a smile and think that. I suppose much of the Enforcer community sees a charmer and a smile and thinks that there’s not a thing wrong. It’s so easy for us to look outside of peoples’ lives and assume that because of what we glimpse, the rest must be so great. As you well know, dear reader, your own life is not perfect, and even when you’re happy, there are still things going on that are causing you pain. It’s life. It sucks, but it’s what we do. It’s how we roll, so to speak.
Thinking the other day, I had a bit of a tricky situation come up. Someone was griping that we don’t hang out more often, and I conceded that was true, but it also clicked that they don’t know why.
My job is taxing. Working at a prison is stressful. I go eight and a half hours at a high-stress level, working with convicted felons ranging from bank robberies, drug use and abuse to child rape and murder. I walk around these individuals daily, come home, and sort of crash. It’s hard to explain to someone how mentally exhausted I am at times because you cannot POSSIBLY know. For you, a long day at work might be hard, and maybe you’re tired, but you still find time to make food or order pizza and go to bed. Me? I can only lie there and be a zombie. I’ve gone to bed more than once without eating because I just couldn’t do it. And it’s not depression, but as an anxious woman, I’m sometimes just drained.
So when you tell me “It’s just getting in a car and driving over” or “just come on out” some days that translates to “leave the place you feel safe and secure and go surround yourself with people” or even “stop recovering and give your energy you don’t have to others’”.
I don’t know where I’m going with this. I guess I’m just… I’m at a weird point in my life. I’m happier than I’ve ever been, and there are many people to thank, not the least of which is myself. I struggle and I work, but I’m happy. I’m aware there will never be a ‘perfect time’ for anything, but I guess I’m hoping to just be ready for whatever life decides to toss (or not toss) at me. Being here, in Seattle, years later, I am happy. I am learning what it means to be a truly happy individual. I’m learning it means being sad but letting people hold you, it means being open and letting life drive you for a bit, and it means being the water flowing seamlessly through the river and being the water that presses through the rocks.
I’m learning what it means to be a happy, healthy, normal human being. And my god, does it feel wonderfully exhaustingly crazy.
To All The Online Dating Oxygen Thieves.
You want to know why women don’t join more dating websites? Why women don’t respond to men when they pester them on these sites? Why women in general are scarce on any real social website? Because of assholes. It doesn’t take a lot, and I’m by no means saying that they’re the rule, but they’re there.
I consider myself of average attractiveness. I’m overweight, which by societal norms knocks me down a few pegs. However, I’m funny, intelligent, and generally pretty awesome. Modesty aside, I get between 2-3 messages on OKCupid per day, sometimes getting more. Doesn’t mean I’m great, just what it is. However… because of this, I don’t necessarily reply to people. If I took the time out of my day to kindly respond even with a simple “No, thank you” to everyone (which is what people claim they want) I would still end up with angry “You dumb bitch, you just copy and paste that”. Case in point, I have attached a picture of a rather energetic young man’s attempt at showing me the error of my ways.
And that? That’s tame. I’ve been called a heinous bitch, told to go suck someone’s cock, told my tits are real nice, asked if I want to fuck, or even been messaged 6-10 times after not responding, begging me to respond (because that’s not a red flag or anything). If I had a dollar for every condescending, irrational, hateful, mean, rude, disgusting thing I was told, I’d just sit on dating sites all day and count the money rolling in, without even doing anything!
So I cannot imagine what other women go through. Women who are considered more attractive (we’re talking society standards here) because we *know* pictures are 90% of what people go for. I cannot FATHOM the shit they get on a regular basis. And the very idea that I ‘owe’ someone ANYTHING for taking time to message me? It’s ludicrous. The very idea is hilarious. I don’t owe you anything. You are an individual I’ve never met, and while I am flattered you’ve taken time to message me, don’t for a SECOND think I owe you any kind of response. You might be great, but if I make the choice to not talk to you, I’ve made that choice, and you are to respect it. If you hit on a woman in the street and she declined your advances, would you start screaming at her and calling her names? If the answer is yes, you should go get your privilege checked… it’s leaking.
No one is obligated to respond to you in any fashion of any medium. If you decide you don’t want to talk to me anymore, I might be disappointed, but you know what? Screaming isn’t going to work. What do parents do to flailing, screaming children in stores? Many ignore the child or leave, so why in GOD’S NAME do you think as an adult, anyone else is going to tolerate your childish ignorance? Your callous need to be cruel and unkind to a human is sad and pathetic, and truly… what do you hope to accomplish? That I’ll see the error of my ways? Take time out of my day to respond thoughtfully to every person I’ve never even met with a message I don’t even take time writing to my friends? No. It’s not going to happen.
I wish this was just an internet thing, too. For the sake of this rant, let’s just keep it confined there, because as many well know, ‘no means no’ does not seem to be an agreed upon phrase. There are plenty of individuals who think “No is just a ‘yes’ that needs coaxing”.
But you know what? Thank you for messaging me those things. Thank you for showing me, immediately, what kind of despicable human being you truly are. Thank you for ensuring I don’t waste my time getting to know someone not worth it. Thank you, truly, for making sure I don’t have to deal with all the stupid small-talk bullshit only to discover you’re a disrespectful, woman-hating assfuck.
So for those of you gentlemen out there who DON’T do this and get frustrated when women don’t respond… just remember, this is what we get, 9 times out of 10.
"Hey Alix, how’d your Friday night go?"
"Oh you know, great! I made a doctor appointment given I haven’t had a physical in like, five years!"
"That sounds scary."
"Oh it is! I’m petrified. I’m gonna be told my cholesterol is awful and I may die soon! YAY!"
You Could Be Happy
I’m trying here. I really am.
I had a chat with my therapist about a lot of things, not the least of which was the fact that when I said, “I fucking hate people” she asked if that was true. And initially, I was kind of caught off guard, because of course I fucking hate people. She validated me, as therapists are wont to do, and noted that of course I’d have reason to distrust a great many individuals. But did I really hate everyone?
Ok, well, that surprises me. Her point, and rightly so, was that I don’t hate people, but rather, I’m afraid of them. I don’t actually go out there hoping to dislike everyone, but I set myself up to already keep them at a distance because I assume humans will harm me. I always assume that individuals will cause me pain, and thus, I am afraid of them. Just as people see spiders and hate them all, even though a spider may never have even bitten them, I’m afraid of humans, though for more valid reasons. Well, I think they’re valid; you can eat a butt if you disagree.
I guess it’s what’s made me so vulnerable lately. I’m trying, sincerely, to open myself up to people and be a new sort of human, though in the process, I’m getting hurt. It’s kind of like taking off your coat after wearing it for so long, where yes, you’ll be cold at first, but you adjust to the temperature. So I know these bumps and bruises are natural, but they just hurt more than usual.
However, it’s also made me acutely aware of those I don’t like. It’s really weird, because I thought opening myself up to not being afraid of people would mean I’d like more people, and I do! But I also find myself running a yellow highlighter over those I dislike, and it’s incredibly freeing. I am less tolerant of bullshit because I know what makes a person good in my eyes, and I know what I want to be around. I’ve started reaching out to those I care about more, no matter how hard it is, and distancing from those who don’t.
Again though… bumps and bruises. I deactivated my Facebook account because of PAX, really. So much being posted, so many inside jokes I wanted to be a part of, so much happiness and joy I’m not a part of, and with people I care about. So I hurt. A lot. Rather than lash at people and feel sadness, I’ve isolated a bit. I finished the fourth book of the Dark Tower series and am well into Calla (so good) and I’ve been trying to relax myself. I’ve been writing more, getting some solid story progress going, and investing myself in things that make me smile.
It’s still hard. And it still sucks. I want to automatically just like people, and I’m trying, but I’m also aware of other things. Aware of how exposed I am right now, how vulnerable I feel, how much it hurts to tell people I hurt and how weird it is to try and trust others. Acknowledging that there are people there who love me, but still love PAX, is both unfathomable and understandable. I see security team talking to me and I love them, but then I was seeing pictures and talking and it made me sad again.
I’m also not sure why, but I’ve been worried more about Alex. It feels like a constant in my life that this fear and sadness will never actually escape me, but I want it to. He’s no longer the one I talk to on the beach, and that’s good, but he’s still the one I worry about. Maybe he doesn’t even remember what I look like, or think of me, and maybe he lives in some country in the middle of nowhere. But maybe he’s living in California, or Washington. Maybe he’s planning a little trek across the US to find me; maybe he’s still got my number and is staring at it in his phone. Not knowing is the scariest to me, and I have no idea what to do with that. I still have dreams. I still think. I still remember and have flashes of knowing.
I still cringe when someone breaks a glass or jokes about smashing dishes; I lose my shit if someone goes on my laptop or uses my phone (they’re all locked down tight anyway). I still skip over Snow Patrol songs and remember, with perfect clarity, all the terrible things that were said to me. I’ve lost the memory of his voice, but I remember it all, the times that made me smile and the times that made me sick. I remember crying so hard I almost threw up. I remember holding a syringe and a bottle of insulin and thinking how fucking easy it would be, how painless it would be to overdose on insulin. I remember the screams and begging for the neighbors to call the police, and I remember holding him while he cried in the aftermath.
And still, sometimes, I wonder if he’s reading this blog and knows. I wonder a lot about those things.
When people ask me why I don’t trust others, and I mention trauma, an immediate response is that people want to know how bad it was. What it was. Does it really compare? Does my trauma trump someone else’s? Is it valid? I work with law enforcement, and one might think that would make me feel safer, that living with Dan would comfort me, but it doesn’t. Not to the degree that I want it to. I wonder, a lot, what would make it better.
I don’t trust people because I have good reason, but I’m trying. I want to be friends with people and truly let them in. I want to accept hugs and not cringe and wince at physical contact. I want to love.
I was explaining depression to a friend, who is an artist, and realized this was a pretty good analogy.
Imagine waking up, and loving art. You love art, yes? You breathe it.
Suddenly you wake up, and you know that you love it, there’s a piece of your brain telling you that, but you can’t bring yourself to create anything. More than that, you don’t want to. You make excuses not to. You say, “Tomorrow, tomorrow I’ll draw that” and you know you want to, desperately. You know that it should make you happy.
But tomorrow comes, and you don’t do it, because the fact that it’ll make you smile goes further and further away.
And eventually it disappears, like everything else, into a pile of “This is what I like, but I make no effort towards it anymore”
I love Supernatural, but I can’t even sit down to watch it. I can only watch reruns of old shows I’ve seen already because I’ve got no emotional investment and it’s there to occupy my brain for a chunk of time.
Even reading has been a struggle, because despite wanting to, I feel so incredibly lethargic. And doing things you love exhausts you. So you finally draw, you draw your SOUL out, everything you’ve wanted onto paper. It’s all there. But it’s too much, and now you have to hide, recouperate, and put the rest of the world somewhere else for over a week because you did something you loved, and it exhausted you.
Now imagine just doing regular, inane tasks. Shopping for food. Taking care of a pet. Doing laundry. Doing dishes. When it does get done, it takes all that energy you had, so even if you’d wanted to do some art, you’ve wasted the precious energy you had doing the things you *have* to do, and whatever is leftover can only be just… there.
Depression hurts. It really is like starting the day with your health bar 3/4 down, and needing to prioritize what gets done and how.
Death-defying love and courage
“Did I ever tell you I’m pretty sure he’ll try and kill me some day?” I dig my toes into the cool sand, wriggling them around, adjusting to the grainy sensation. It tickles in a weird way, and a voice responds, “I think that’s a little dramatic.” I laugh and shake my head, staring up at the overcast sky, and then down to the rocky Atlantic, waves crashing in the distance while gulls call overhead.
I’m here again, which means that I need something, something old, but I need it from someone new. So it’s her, and I think that it’s helpful that it’s her, because she’s always been this kind of guiding force for me. Always the brave one.
I respond with a cocked eyebrow, “I don’t think so. I don’t ever see this ending.” She smiles over at me, long, light brown hair dancing with the wind as it picks up. He knees are to her chest, and she looks oddly content, being here on the beach, being where I always imagined her. Where I imagined myself, “You want finality. That’s finality at the core, right? Death is the end of everything, except you’re not afraid of that.” I feel my eyes drawn to the sand in a sense of shame, and she reaches out, soft hand taking mine that I’ve realized is digging into the grain.
She squeezes my hand, “You’re afraid. You’re vulnerable. You’re in a position you’ve never been in before, and you think of yourself as unsafe and unwanted because of it.” I feel her let go and she turns, facing me now with her legs in the sand, “The truth is that you have power, and that you’re doing something not many can. You’re not proving anything to anyone anymore. There’s nothing left to prove, and no one to prove it to. You’re afraid because it’s a thing to be afraid of.”
I look at her, watching a grin cross her lips, “You already know what I’m going to say. Remember that feeling? Hanging out with everyone back in Boston? That feeling of detachment and removal? That scared you and jarred you, I think, and made you realize that you don’t have that core… and honestly, maybe you never did. It’s OK to have a few people you love, to keep those close to you. You’ve done the same with me, haven’t you?”
My eyes drift to the water, the dark current rushing along the beige sand, darkening it before receding. It was true; I did do that with her. Those she kept close and loved were people I had based on my own life. Her own feelings of becoming solitary and alone were not isolated, but rather, based on my own experiences. I remembered each character, each person I created with an individual I loved in mind.
I realize I’m crying, and she’s smiling as realization washes over me, “You’re alone, and that’s ok. It’s ok because it’s something that you want, and if it’s not, you can change that. There are so many people who love you, and I see them, reaching out to hold your hand. So let them. Let those people in without question, because their motives are real. Your home may no longer be in Boston… hell, you may not even know where your home is, but you’re past that. Boston was a life vest because you were afraid to swim, but you’re on the other side now, and you don’t need that vest. What you had is a chapter that has closed, but rest assured, there’s a new one. Just like those pages I exist on, you have your own book, and I really want to see how it turns out.”
Again, she reaches out and squeezes my hand, and I feel purpose flood my veins, understanding for what I have gone through. I’m OK, as much as it may not feel that way, and while I miss what I had in Boston, I’ve been like this for a while now. But people have seen the strength, and seen something in me I haven’t, and I know it’s my turn to stand up, reach out, and tell people I love them too. Because I do.
I love you. And I know it’s OK to be loved, too.
Let’s do a little free-association time.
I don’t know why. I just am.
I got called ‘brave’ today by my father. That may not seem like much to you, but this is from a man who was threatened by the KKK for marching with MLK. This man has been to almost every continent and faced every fear he had. And he called me brave. I about dropped my phone when I heard it, let me tell you.
There are days where I question my ability to BE brave. I mumble and get frustrated if I like someone or find them attractive. But… I guess that’s where it ends. I’m trying to think of ways I’m *not* brave, and I can’t.
I stand up for myself and what I believe is right. I tell that asshole in the theater to shut up, because we’re all watching a movie. I force myself going even in the hardest of times. I get my work done even when it feels impossible. I speak out when I’m being wronged. I travelled across the country to be in a place I love without even second-guessing it while I did it, and I did it for ME.
Bravery is my thing. I have days where I’m scared, and I have trouble making friends, but moving to Seattle conquered my biggest fear, which was living alone. Sure, I had a house, but I was alone. I watched my parents, and my brother move places with spouses, being with those they’ve loved. I’ve not had a solid figure in my life who’s done things all on their own. Not a move like mine, certainly.
Everyone deals with bravery differently. I conquered an abusive ex, graduate school, moving across the country, working in a prison… all of it. And why? Because it’s in my nature. Because that’s part of who I am. That for all the shit I go through, the pain I experience and the trauma I endure, I am a powerful, strong human being.
Bravery is more than just taking a bullet. It’s staring down the barrel of the gun, aware of what it’s capable of, and jumping out anyways, because that’s what you have to do. That’s what you know.
I’ve marched for causes since I was sixteen. Opened my mouth and talked back when I shouldn’t, because I had to. I’ve spoken out when things are wrong because I learned through life that doing otherwise gets you nothing but pain. I’ve learned to become powerful, and I’ve learned to embrace it, in an odd way.
There are things I certainly avoid. Emotional vulnerability is something I actively avoid. We all do, of course, but I have a tendency to become more robotic when it comes to distress. I breakdown, and then I shut down. My bravery is then in pressing forward when all I want to do is stop, and often, I imagine myself on the edge of the cliff, grabbing on with one hand, dangling off, and courageously reaching up and grabbing with the other hand. From there, bleeding, battered, and in pain, I hoist myself upwards, looking worse for the wear, and stand, triumphant.
Often, I find the song “Soldier On” by the Temper Trap is appropriate for me.
I imagine myself as a superhero sometimes, because in some ways I like to think I am. I like to think we all are. Those days where you feel useless and horrible, remember all those people who rely on you. Who love you. Who call you for guidance. Remember those who you protect, even if they don’t know you would. Remember the road you’ve paved for yourself, alone and with others, and remember that those bumpy spots are rough and steep, but you managed it, and you came through fighting.
You are a superhero. Whether you can stand up and make a speech to a crowd of people, defend a country, or defend your own choices, you are a hero of your own right. Pursuing your dream. Being yourself. Loving yourself. Letting no one define what or who you may be, and telling those that try to kindly go fuck themselves. You’ve come this far, and you’ve got more to do, but remember how others see you. While you may not see yourself as a hero, think of the cape that others put on your shoulders. Think of the armor on your body. Think of the sword in your hand. Think of the power, emanating deep inside you.
That’s all you, sugar.
That’s all me.