A comment and a response.

Last evening an individual attempted to leave a comment on my previous post.  As moderator of the blog, I opted to trash the comment rather than address it.  That decision did not sit well with me, and for many reasons.  I shared my story to help open up dialogue about mental health; my case is specific to clinical depression and anxiety.  Part of my impetus was to enlighten individuals about these subjects, because it’s been proven that secrecy regarding these issues reinforces the negative motivation behind them, and therefore the act of doing them.  When we opt to remain silent about the struggles we live with we give them power, we induce a level of anxiety and fear regarding otherwise rational understandings that lead to irrational phobias and deep-seeded fears.  Those who have diagnosed mental illness have an additional hurdle: our bodies’ inability, on a genetic and chemical level, to hasten response and begin operating positively in reaction to stressors.  Where one person’s brain can produce the needed serotonin and dopamine to respond to an otherwise psychically painful day, my brain is less capable.  It produces the chemicals, but not in amounts that reduce anxiety or siphon off overwhelming sadness.  To quote one of my favorite lyricists and artists: “our brains are sick, but that’s okay” (Tyler Joseph).

But, the reason I am opting to respond now is that at the first sign of antagonism I ran with my tail between my legs.  The comment not only reminded me there is still much misunderstanding regarding mental health, but it also highlighted the importance of willing empathy.  This comment was a prime example in misunderstanding.  Every person’s experience is different, and even if there are shared history or genetics, there is no way to completely predict how those genes express themselves.  And forcing an understanding catered specifically to one person’s experience is where misunderstanding insidiously blooms.  It creates harmful, not just hurtful, consequences.

Below I will re-post the comment and then respond with more in-depth detail.  I have chosen to leave the poster anonymous, aside from gender specific pronouns, since I am singling out his comment.

“Nice opening for a discussion of depression. A description… quite articulate… of what depression can be like. How it feels.

But the discussion cannot end with this. It should not end with expressions of how it feels or just empathy.

There are many options for battling this demon. And in our world of narrowly focused experts it is not a good idea to rely on any one expert. Or conclude that popping the right pill is the solution. Or risking becoming an enabler by limiting the response to creating a protective environment for the depressed person.

Psychotherapy and self-awareness can help. But is it helping when 10 years later the problem persists? The war is not over until the demon can be consistently kept at bay through improved life style habits. This takes more work than sitting through therapy sessions or popping pills.

Here is a list of holistic strategies to consider and act on.

Nutrition. Some people have unique or rare or unusual nutritional needs to keep their systems functioning in balance. Much nutritional information is based on statistical studies. Many people do not fit into statistical norms. If you are struggling with depression have you explored your individual nutritional needs? Perhaps you do need mega doses of a certain B vitamin or some other nutrient?

Exercise. We live in this sedentary world. It is not what the human body was “designed” for. Abused systems break down and get gummed up. Can at least one hour of aerobic exercise a day cure depression? Try it for 2 months and find out.

Mindset. Learn about it. Read the book. It’s not about snapping out of depression. It’s about deciding to keep exploring options and taking actions until something makes a difference.

Yoga. Exercises to control and balance inner forces. This one I know little about but it would be on my list of options to explore.

Self Help books and programs. Consume them all. It’s part of the war on depression. You will learn more than any one therapist can teach.

Acupuncture. Centuries of oriental experience must have come up with some great ideas.

Buddhism or other spiritual ideas. The quest is inner peace.

The list is far from exhausted. The point is that a mere explanation of what depression is like is only the introduction. And arguing for patience while going through years of therapy is not good enough. Life is passing by. Winning the war on depression takes an aggressive multi front effort.

I will save my thoughts on enablers of depression for another day.”

I appreciate your comment, and I agree that the discussion cannot end here.  It has to continue to spread outward, and part of that comes from those of us that have mental illness being willing to share our experience, despite knowing there will be open hostility and reprisal, even from people closest to us.  It has been an unfortunate reality of my experience, and I know others have dealt with it, as well.

I commend you for doing research on the subject, and finding a path that works for you.  I, too, have put in a significant amount of effort figuring out my disease (I apologize if you do not suffer from mental illness; I made the assumption based on the detailed list you supplied) and the way it interacts in my life, which is why I feel it is necessary to address your assumption that individuals who derive a treatment plan with their chosen medical profession only “rely on any one expert”.  It is a grave fallacy to believe that those who suffer mental illness do so passively.  There is a difference between accepting the physiological reality that I need help to produce the same levels of dopamine an otherwise “healthy” brain would be able to produce and accepting that I am fundamentally altered and therefore should let this chemical quirk derail my life.

To continue, I have not relied on the advice of any one expert.  I have relied on the advice of many experts, including medical professionals trained in these fields.  I mentioned that at the age of sixteen I was diagnosed with these illnesses.  Since that age I have seen upwards of four psychiatrists, two psychotherapists, a family counselor, a group counselor, my primary care from youth, and my current primary care.  They all come at this medical issue with varying degrees of understanding, as well as individual and unique perspectives.  Each of these professionals, along my path, have aided in developing coping mechanisms that operate on a physical level (my heart rate, breathing, etc.) and a psychic level (visualization and mediation).  Your “holistic” approaches are the exact things being discussed inside the walls of my therapist’s office.  And in-fact, these approaches have been a long-standard in short-term and long-term treatment with accredited medical professionals.  They do not eradicate depression, seeing as depression and anxiety cannot be eradicated, but they do help sufferer’s reach remission and remain in remission.  Again, it is a gross misunderstanding to believe that depression can be “cured”.  My depression is as inherent as my eye color and skin color.  It is derived from genetics and body chemistry, therefore unless I somehow alter my very DNA, there is no way I will not suffer the side effects brought on by these genetic hiccups.  The choice every sufferer has to face is how they handle those side effects.

In order to ease your mind (because I assume part of the reason behind your comment was to alert me to choices outside what you interpreted as me “giving up”) I began a treatment plan with my primary care and psychotherapist in March 2015.  I opted to resume antidepressants and therapy, with special attention towards building mechanisms that act on my physiological self, as they are the stagnate aspects to my depression and anxiety.  Regardless of what brings on an episode, or where my mind inevitably gravitates, the physical side effects of my depression remain constant, and as such meditation and diaphragm breathing have become integral tools in my recovery.  And this is something that has been advocated for by each doctor I have seen through my journey.  (This is the same with nutrition and exercise; it is part of the reason I am conscientious about the food I put into my body, and why I began a consorted effort to prepare all my own meals to avoid any unknowns.)

Though I appreciate the options you provide, please be aware that a majority of the items listed are already being used by the narrow-minded experts you railed against.  Additionally, I find it somewhat disconcerting that you opted to leave a comment that ends with “[w]inning the war on depression” on a post that not only advocates for patience and understanding, but also details the detriment and harm statements like the above can actually cause to persons struggling with mental illness.  To believe, and promote, the idea that depression can somehow be “beat” is hugely disadvantageous and oftentimes helps generate a sense of impending doom when the effects of depression present again, after a believed victory over a hard-fought war.  It’s why the metaphor of a burning building is so apt.  We do not get to choose whether or not we are in the fire, our genetics have already caused our surroundings to erupt in flame; what we can, do, though, is find ways that allow us to remain in that fire and not be burned alive by it.

To further this metaphor, let me add, we can put the fire out.  As a sufferer, as someone standing in the midst of it, I can make choices that help me remain in the flames as I fight them.  Those coping mechanisms – the exercise, nutrition, medication, meditation, diaphragm breathing, etc. _ are all choices that provide a better chance of putting the flames out without suffering too many burns and scars.  I am not sure there is an individual alive that would opt to choke on the ash-filled air over having the ability to gulp fresh-air.  If anything, we appreciate the fresh-air more.  Even those who commit suicide are chasing after that fresh-air.  They just feel they ran out of options.

My final message for you, though, addresses the idea of an “enabler” of depression.  This mythical individual does not exist.  Since depression is experienced via the conduit of our genetic expression – in laymen’s terms it is experienced due to our DNA and how those genes uniquely and non-duplicitously exhibit and interact – no one can provide more “material” or “promote” depression.  Someone can enable the actions of a depressed person, and therefore enable destructive habits, but it is impossible to enable depression.  The reason I delve into this distinction is because there is a fine line between enabling destructive behavior and supporting a person dealing with a depressive episode.  And unfortunately, there are dire consequence if the two are confused.

The reason I called people to empathy was because there is a very simple, yet extremely difficult, truth to depression: it is never the same.  Since this is an illness that is derived in genetics, there is no possible way two people can have the same experience in depression and anxiety.  And because of this simple truth the only way someone should interact with sufferers of depression and anxiety is with willing empathy.  It has to be the bridge that connects everyone else to the person in the depths of the disease.  And to support someone with depression is as simple as acknowledging the necessity of that bridge and helping to build it.

I open this up to further discussion.  By all means, the intent of the original post was to shed light on a very real and very painful issue.  Many people suffer in silence due to fear of reprisal from friends, family, and co-workers.  It was part of the reason I remained in the dark for so long about an issue that has truly consumed my life.  I am twenty-nine, and thankfully I’ve had the opportunity to explore the impacts this disease has on me, and I’ve been given time and space to reflect and garner new understanding (not everyone is so lucky).

It has not been an easy process, nor has it been pain-free, but it is mine and because of that I wouldn’t change it.  And I am not naïve enough to believe that I will wake up and be “fixed” one day.  I am not broken.  Nothing of my biology needs changed.  I do not want to eradicate this disease, I simply want to live with it.  My depression is inherent, so to desire a “me” without depression is to set myself up for inevitable and soul-crushing disappointment.  I have accepted that I will live with this disease – I do not, have not, nor will I ever, let this disease overtake me, even if I can understand, and empathize with, the motivation behind those life-ending decisions.  And that, my friend, is a distinction you failed to see.  Your condescending tone to a stranger (imagine if I was your daughter or wife or sister!) has done nothing to move your agenda or view forward, rather it has very clearly shown your inability to relate-to, support, and empathize, even if you suffer from this “demon” too.  Friend, depression is different for everyone.  I am here if you ever need to discuss the trials of your struggle, and I will not judge you or push unwanted (and I dare say unneeded) advice at you.  I will be here to listen.  And if and when you want me to respond with aid, I will be more than willing to do so.  Until that day comes, though, I will trust you are dealing with your disease in a way that works for you.

Thoughts and provocation: March 1, 2013.

Writing is a very personal thing.  And because of that, it is ironic that most writer’s attempt to publish.  To sit down and pour your heart and soul into a piece and then risk the utter pain associated with being cast off, cast aside, told you are not good enough, is devastating some times.  Unless you learn to take criticism as a tool for improvement.  There are some people I know who, after countless writing classes, and many short stories, cannot take any negative criticism, even if laced expertly with constructive comments (i.e. constructive criticism).

Writing classes teach us to not take everything said about our written work as a personal attack, because the writing itself is a life form.  It holds the energy we poured into it.  It can speak for itself, come alive on the page and in our imagination.  Words are coy and shy, subtle and secretive, or blatant and boisterous.  When we critique it is to improve on the craft, to improve the work, to improve the process, to improve the outcome, not to bash the author.  Or even the subject.  There is a fine line between critiquing the process, the way we get from point A to point B, and then completely disregarding what a person wants to write about.  You can have opinions about whether they will have any success in translating subject to story form or memoir form or poetry form, but one should not critique the heart of the piece.  I must say, it has been rather humorous to see how some of my younger counter-parts address this particular fine line in class.  Which is to say that they are not kind.  Nor particularly helpful.

It is amazing (and yes, I realize that is a very abstract word) what energy can create inspiration in you.  Coming to a conclusion and feeling the relief associated with it, keeping you buzzing for days on end.  The spark of new versus the monotony of old.  The hope for the future versus the daunting depression associated with the past.  Or simply the decision that you will be happy, no matter what, because to let yourself completely fall into unhappiness and sadness and worry is the quickest way to ending any possibility for something else, something other, something bigger, and above all, something better.

Life is our best teacher.  Experience can bring something fresh, new, innovative, and something wholly unique to any piece of writing.  We all possess similar stories, with similar themes, but like a snowflake, no two experiences are the same (despite what déjà vu tells us).  How conflict arises, how our protagonist handles the situation, what climax brings about resolution, or if there is any resolution.  Life is the same way.  It is ironic and wonderful that we use writing (and movies, music, and games) to escape from the perils of life, because these things echo what we experience.  Though sometimes in hyperbole.  Even science fiction or fantasy novels discuss very common, though very genuine and complex ideas, like love, liberty, happiness, and progress.  Though I am writer, and I would love my work read (which is to say, to have someone remain motionless or indoors), I cannot advocate fully enough the need to go out and live.  Some of the most memorable and best times in my mere 26 years involve going and doing, not sitting and waiting.  At times it was exhausting, and I would drag myself home and literally crawl on hands and knees to a bed, but what I received from those experiences far outweigh the physical stress.  To look at it metaphorically, the scales between physical and emotional rewards, the emotional outweighed, and therefore justified, the physical.  (Now, please understand this is not an advocacy to do something wholly stupid like get yourself addicted to heroin or methamphetamine, but to encourage those people sitting on their couch to get up, open the door, and step into the world.)

It is easy to preach about these things.  It is easy to stand on a soapbox and wax on about the need to live.  It is also somewhat awkward coming from someone as young as I am.  Even though financial burdens do weigh heavy on possibilities (unless you are well accustomed to the gypsy lifestyle) do not let them control every decision.  I know I did for years.  Until I found myself in a place where I literally did not have a single cent to my name and it provoked me to take any job I could find.  Even though that job was not enough for the bills (even as an adult living temporarily at home), it was worth the months of experience.  Not everyone will have that luxury, I understand.  But I do have one important argument: where there is a will, there is a way.  I, of all people, know the difficulty of the job search.  I was without work for over a year.  And when I finally found something, it was an unpaid internship, but it opened doors, pushed my boundaries, and taught me valuable lessons.  And then when I finally did get a job that paid, it was well below the minimum needed to survive without the generosity from my parents.  But the lessons I learned from this experience are invaluable.  They have propelled me to put myself in different situations and come out with something.  Maybe not the highly coveted or desired outcome, but one that acts as a stepping stone, or a starting off point.  And maybe that is a lesson in itself.  When we aim for a goal, it is rare to reach it immediately.

Random Thoughts on February 23, 2013.

I dislike that when I have a job, my writing goes to shit.  Luckily I am taking a writing class, which forces me to practice, but if I did not have that constant push each week, I am not sure I would write nearly as much.  And, to me, that is unacceptable.  The problem still is, though, that I would not write if there was not a reason to write.  Not because I don’t have ideas, not because I don’t like it, but because at the end of the day I am typically so exhausted that my brain feels like a big, heaping pile of oatmeal.  There are some days with this class that when I attempt to write a scene (and believe me, it is reflected in my “grades”) and I sit and stare at the screen for what seems like hours without producing something.  Or I’ll start six or seven different possibilities and stall, miserably, in the middle of them.  Though I love fiction (to read), I am not sure fiction writing is for me.  Non-fiction, however, suits me well.  I like all non-fiction, ranging from memoir to (gasp, shock and awe!) textbooks.  That’s right people, I enjoy reading something as dry and non-imaginative as a textbook.  For example, I kept some of my academic books from undergrad and they sit on my bookshelf.  I was an English major, so of course there are fiction books (more Virginia Woolf than I would care to ever reread), but I also kept some of my general education class books.  Knowledge is sexy, people.  Big, beautiful brains outweigh brawn in my opinion.  Intelligent conversations with someone are far more stimulating than to sit and drool over someones six-pack or hair or whatever (I know, strong way to end that statement).

I am sitting on my couch, cat pajamas still on (yes, its middle morning, but I’ve been up since six this morning getting stuff done), massive mug of coffee (from my infamous Iowa Hawkeyes mug, which I think is actually a soup bowl), dog at my feet, and cat curled up on the sofa leaning her butt against my neck (she is a built-in headrest).  Music is coming out of my iHome (I know, fancy, right?), and I feel very content.  Though content implies a deeper serene with everything in your life.  I am not that content.  I wish I was in a bigger place (though I am on my way to procuring that), I wish I was in a different place (i.e. geographical location, like Portland, OR), and I wish I had… I don’t even know how to articulate what I wish I had.  The best I can think of is “calm” — not constantly wishing for something, not hoping to find something, I wish I had that settled feeling, not this restless, listless nagging in my gut about everything.  Should I stay in Iowa?  Should I move to Portland?  I have something good going with school, but does that outweigh what I could have in another part of the country?  Can I stand three to four more years here when every time I drive to class I go past the place Jonathan proposed and still feel this twinge of …hurt, pain, anger, sadness, guilt, self-flagellation.  It’s been almost two years since we broke up, and I can safely say that I know it was for the best and that I think we are both on positive paths for our own lives, and it’s sad that after five years together we realized that our lives are separate, but I cannot say that it wasn’t the right thing to do (which is to say that our break up was the right thing).  And I always feel guilty saying that, because I know if I was in Jonathan’s shoes, it would feel like a slap in the face.  Or at least that is how I would feel, not saying that’s how he does feel.  However, I look at my dog, my cat, and my apartment, and think, “I would have none of these things, my life would be so much different, I would not be pursuing my goals,” if we had remained together.  And even more, I am not sure I would have discovered those wants or fulfilled those desires.  I was living in a shell, and it fractured, and now I am learning how to walk, opening my eyes to the brilliant sun, and ready to try to fly.  (Wow, okay, over dramatic metaphor aside, I am just hoping to find my path.)

To jump from thought to thought, in my writing class we do these in-class writings with prompts and every time someone shares what they’ve written I always make notes and typically one of the notes I write in the margins of my own in-class writing is “clichéd,” or “over-dramatic,” or “too sappy,” and even one time I wrote, “you think that’s what love is?!?”  (Yes, even with the question mark, exclamation point, question mark punctuation.)  I feel like I am in the depths of lost love and I really don’t even want to claw myself out.  I was somewhat romantic, asking to find a Darcy to my Elizabeth, but as time passes I feel like it is bullshit idea.  There is romance in small things, like someone bringing you a coffee when you have to work early, or letting you have half of a carrot cake pastry, or giving you eighty-five cents to eat a bag of Doritos when you feel like your stomach might eat itself, and those gestures are wonderful, but when I see people get all worked up over things like Valentine’s Day it makes me gag.  I was never one to truly get into that holiday to begin with (even when I had a fiance and thought he was the end all, be all), but the idea of going all gooey eyed over a box of chocolates makes me question a lot of relationships.  A better present would be a sheet of paper that says, “Hey, I love you.  And to help you out, I will walk the dog, do the dishes, and make the bed for a week.  Boom.”  Partnership, camaraderie, and mutual respect means far more than a heart-shaped balloon and chocolate to me.  Though chocolate can go a long way when you are PMS-ing on that day.  Just saying.

I feel like life has jaded me.  There are certain things and beliefs and ideals that I had as recently as three years ago that are gone.  They disintegrated as my life kind of fell apart.  It’s grand to believe that you can find love, and absolutely an attainable idea, and emotion, but I think I have shut myself down so much that I am finding it more difficult to come out of that hole.  Every once in a while I will get that rush of emotion, but I have become so self-contained that I am not sure I can support it for any length of time.  Bottom line, truth of the matter, any other cliché associated with this subject: I am scared.  It’s such a typical response, but it’s the truth.  There is time the fear is paralyzing.  Everyone always comments that I am strong person, but all I feel like is a quivering lump of anxiety and fear.  Like negative reinforcement, it always seems that when I begin to get attached, when I begin to let the wall down, something happens that devastates me.  Even if I never let on.  Even if I don’t show it.  Even if I remain silent or say everything is okay.  And the sad part is that is becoming exhausting.  To hold that shield up takes some effort, but it is just as exhausting when you let the shield down and get volleyed by different emotional arrows.  (If you can’t tell, I’ve had a week of I don’t even know what.)

I’ll leave you with those thoughts.  Right now a pile of laundry the size of Mt. Kilimanjaro is requesting my attention.  Along with Chewbacca and Auri.  And more coffee.  And a myriad of other things that I haven’t gotten done (even though it feels like I have worked, and in fact have worked, for hours).

Be the change.

 

I think I am at a crossroads.  I need to make some decisions and I truly do not know if I can swallow my fear and take the leap I believe is right.  I want to go back to school.  I desperately wish it.  I want to study public policy or women’s rights, try to combine these interests with my writing.  It’s hard to imagine what I want to do in life because aside from living by my pen, nothing sounds appealing.  But, despite writing and trying to keep up sufficient practice in that art, there are some days where I drop like a dead weight from all the physical and emotional stresses of the day.  I have a paycheck, and it’s easy to succumb to comfort, giving in to the knowledge that I will have another paycheck, and another, and another… what will it take to break me from that pattern, and take a step towards creating something new and better for myself.

I have never been good at climbing out of the ditch, so to speak.  I get stuck in a rut and even though I know I have to move forward, anxiety, fear, and stress all consume me until they paralyze me and I stay repeating over and over the actions that made me unhappy.  It’s always inevitable that something happens to tear me from the cycle, and it is usually something life altering and scarring.  I just wish it wouldn’t get to that point.  And believe me, I know I have the power to change it or create the change that needs to happen.  But there is something inside me that gets tongue-tied and immobilized by fear.  And now, this instant, what stops me from moving forward is the lack of confidence in myself.  I worry that I don’t have what it takes to get a certain job, to apply and get into a graduate program, or to even pack up and move.  I have a life, though I can admit that there are parts I wish were drastically different, but it’s a life, it’s something, it’s independent.  I truly don’t believe that is enough to sustain me mentally, intellectually, and emotionally anymore, though.  I need a challenge, I need to grow, I need to continue towards certain goals.  I feel like I have stalled in my progress.

The ultimate goal for me still lies in Portland.  It’s one of the few places, like Chicago, that has called to me as a place to live, to settle, to start a life.  Everywhere else seems like passing glances.  I need to make sure, though, that once I am in Portland that I will have the money to plant those roots and the wherewithal to get a job or start a business to help water those roots and help them blossom into something truly wonderful.  Despite knowing that is what I want, the road feels like it is getting longer and longer until I reach my destination.  And without a doubt, it is the most frustrating thing in my life now.

They say, whoever they are, and I agree, that good habits are hard to come by, and bad ones are hard to break.  We are naturally inclined to do what is easy, and what is easy is not always right.  It is also said that the things in life worth having do not come easy, that we must work to achieve our goals, which will then make the outcome that much more satisfying when we finally accomplish what we set out to do.  These lessons are important.  The tutelage of time and life experience are priceless assets when growing as an individual.  Every time you fall, you should do everything in your power to stand back up, and keep trudging on.  There are so many things worth moving towards.  It is important to keep that at the heart of every action you do.  I know I sometimes forget, I sometimes let negative emotion carry too much weight, and I know I have let fear lead me on occasion, and it is usually those occasions that have cost me dearly emotionally.

I just have to remind myself to dig, take deep breaths, and to never stop moving forward, no matter how comfortable I might feel in the present, and no matter how scared I am to take a step into the unknown.  I think daily affirmations are a spectacular idea, and I wish I said mine with more conviction than what I feel.  I just need to remember that strength cannot come from anywhere but from within, and it is I who has to take the first step towards my future, not someone else.  I can make opportunities, I can embody the change I want to see, and I shouldn’t sit and wait for the few and far between moments.

The philosophy of life.

The past few days have left me pondering life.  What do we live for?  Who do we live for?  Why do we go through all of it?  That greatest clichéd question of: what is the meaning of life?  I think people always assume it is some profound unanswered question that the Almighty will tell us when we reach the pearly gates, but I think the truth is something far more simple, but still harder to understand.  What if the meaning of life is simply to live.  But then it spirals into “what is living?”  But even more truth comes from that: living is how we define it.  If you are unhappy with your life, is it not true that it means we are unhappy with what we are doing.  There are obligations, societal rules, certain responsibilities that we cannot put off, however, who says there is only one way to go about accomplishing those things?  How come there is such a precedent on making money, but 90% of the people you ask dislike how they come about getting their money.  But it still leads me to question how people can combine their greatest pleasures with the requirements of life.  Not everything is easy, even though they say that doing what you love means you never have to work a day in your life.  But what if you love photography, writing, drawing, or any other art where you have to work your way through the trials and errors of editors and agents?  While you enjoy making your art, you still have to provide for yourself and loved ones.  So you spend countless hours, days, months, and years working towards that big break where you can get paid for your passion by doing what?  Working menial jobs, hitting your head against the wall wondering why, why, why do I have to do this?  Will you feel more accomplished since you climbed the rungs of the ladder one tormented step at a time, or will you look back and loathe the experience?  The saying goes life is not about the destination, but the journey.  Do we take the straightest, quickest, most manageable route, or should we wind through the mountains, taking in all the scenes, the possibilities, the experiences?  And if we do, and it takes longer than expected, do we have the support from friends and family if we have to double back because we landed ourselves in a dead-end?

Metaphorically or not, life is about living, about finding what makes us smile and laugh and brings us joy and love and experience; trial and error help with these things, but knowing oneself, truly looking in the mirror and seeing not only all the beneficial, beautiful things, but also the not-so-pretty, the things we want to change, aid us in our travels.  Waxing intellectual but providing no advice, I guess maybe this post is more of a practice in writing out what I think.  Maybe looking for an answer from someone else.  Compare and contrast, like we did in grade school.

An avalanche.

Have you ever had moments in life that stick with you.  When you pull up the memory, you even have sensory recollection?  The smell, the taste, the temperature, even, how warm you felt, flushed and blushing versus the sun pouring down on you, even the beats per minute that your heart hammers out.  There are instances where you know something profound and life altering has happened, albeit small, but you aren’t sure how it will change you, why it is changing you, and when it will come to fruition, but you know, somewhere deep within, that moment was the moment, the tripwire, the beginning of an oftentimes difficult, but ultimately rewarding, journey.

The last couple months have left me contemplating such moments.  Discussions, glances, smiles; a vast array of fleeting images that I know stacked up to become the burgeoning life changes assaulting me now.  (Pardon my use of the term “assault,” as it implies some type of violent act, but it’s the best thing I can think of to say; life is bombarding me with choices and decisions and although they do not carry threat, the swiftness to which they come to my door is somewhat unnerving.)  I have goals, ones that I feel confident in for the first time in years.  They inspire me to keep going when the going gets tough (oh, sweet clichés).  I can picture my desired future and know that one more whispered insult is something I can take, because those end goals are more important than words bullies use.  And I feel, maybe for the first time since Jonathan and I broke up, the hope for a real future.  It makes me nervous to think about, genuine fear blossoming, but it’s that good kind of fear, like that good kind of burn after a work out, the ache that goes deep but you know it’s worth it.

I truly believe there are small blessings in difficult situations.  Recently my friend broke up from her fiancé, just as I had with Jonathan, but not for the same reasons.  In an effort to move forward and not become ensnared in the what if’s, the could be’s, and what were’s, she has taken to seeing the silver lining in situations,  great and small.  Whenever her situation challenges her, she picks the things that will make her happy and tries to focus on those and not sink in the tide of depression that ultimately comes with these situations.  I commend her for this, because I was definitely not as strong.  I tried to take my pain and deal with it one day at a time, but in the end found myself staring into the neck of a beer bottle or looking at my reflection in the pool of Grey Goose in a martini glass.  We all deal with defeat and hurt in different ways, but I can honestly say that had I not had these experiences, I wonder where, and who, I would be.  Is this an overarching silver lining?  Is this one of the plethora of lessons that come from these moments?

It hurts that we broke up, but at least we weren’t married yet, and there were no kids.  He seems so much happier in California than he ever was in Iowa, and that’s a blessing.  Just like I have opportunities in front of me that I would have otherwise lacked.  I can see friends again, be with family, enjoy those small moments of walking in Chicago with K, getting coffee with Mom, eating with my twin, and seeing my sister and joking about the most random things.  And then there are even more personal blessings.  Ones that I want to keep to myself.  That make me glow with happiness.  And those are the moments I have contemplated.  A small stone can create a large avalanche.  An image typically about impending doom, something crushing and destructive.  But I am spinning it positively.  A small thing that can change the tide, a small moment that can alter a life, a small instant that create something new and powerful.  And I can’t stop grinning thinking about it.  I am settling into something new, a life that is mine, with my own choices, my own moments, and most importantly, my happiness.

I know. Do you know? You know?

There are moments that seem sublimely perfect.  The music, the look, the smell, even, all come together to create this beautiful tapestry of life.  The colors of the sky, the warmth of the sun and the shimmering light cause the green leaves to glitter, illuminating hidden shades of lime, chartreuse, and Kelly green.  I cannot wait until the season changes and with it, the leaves.  Fall in the Midwest is a beautiful site.  The trees erupt in color; browns, purples, reds, oranges, and yellows.  These sites I once took for granted.  I plan to make the most of this season and capture the colors, the feel, as best I can.  Writing, photography, even baking and the smells associated with October and November.  They cause deep vibrations of pleasure in me, humming just under the surface, almost purring in contentment at the crisp air and slight chill, the taste of pumpkin and nutmeg, cinnamon and sweet potato, the smell of spice.  It is during this time that I come most alive.  To deprive me of this, of the change, of the beauty associated with it, is cruel.  I will gladly take the blistering heat, the frigid cold, the windy days, and the insistent rain, so I can have Fall days.

There is excitement in the unknown, but there is also peacefulness in what is familiar.  Especially if you still enjoy and relish in the familiar.  And what I mean is, if you still find new hidden treasures in the familiar, and it doesn’t drone on in a monotonous bore for minutes and hours on end.  As long as you can find unknown in the known, there will always be pleasure in coming back to what you know.  You know?  (Okay, I added that last little part because of the ridiculous amount of times I used “know” in the last paragraph.  Yes, I have the best humor.)