Connection

Beggars can't be choosers
but when it comes to connection
I can't bear to settle for surface level
I want to be seen only by souls that can
understand my unique style of sin

Finding friends can be exhausting
when you feel the need to pretend
to put on a pleasing face for strangers
to push through the small talk
to taste the bittersweet fruit underneath

It used to be so effortless
falling into spaces where I belong
classrooms filled with all kinds of candidates
exceptional people swelling around me like the sea
transformation ignited by togetherness

That electric energy of engagement and laughter
has been slowly phased out of my life
leaving solitude and silence in it's wake
curiosity curtailed by fear of rejection
I shy away from all opportunities for connection

Patient Separation

This time apart
was meant for me
I'm not yet ready
to have you

There are so many things
this solitude is teaching me
preparing me for
our perfect reunion

I can wait
I can be patient in this pain
for as long as it takes
for you to return to me

Perhaps this is my punishment
for proving I couldn't appreciate you
or the way we were back then
to be fair, I deserve far worse

But if this is all that's left
if I linger on in loneliness
with only the memories
to keep me company

That's enough
your fading image
these pangs of pure feeling
are gifts that I will continue to cherish

Leftovers, mementos of better times
breathe life into me still
the ghostly gifts
of all that you've given me 

A Thousand Deaths

A morbid fixation on death overcomes me from time to time. Usually I don’t think much about it. Death hasn’t touched my life much at all in these 28 years. Somehow I haven’t really lost many close family members or friends. The death of beloved animals has been the majority of my encounters with this grim shadow that lingers on the edge of life. It’s been easy for me to live in denial of this unpleasant reality.

Last night as I was reading through the terrible ends of characters in books, I couldn’t escape the contemplation of my own inevitable departure from this world. I was petrified at the idea that I would die alone in some unimaginable form of physical, emotional, and psychological suffering. I don’t have any children, nor will I. I’m also the youngest person in my family. I only have a few close friends. It’s hard for me to picture how I would even avoid a horrific demise besides my near certain assumption that the earth with end before I have to worry about dying of old age or disease.

Then as I was falling asleep that night, a truth I have known for quite some time, but never fully felt in this way crashed over me. It is utterly pointless for me to spend my time and energy playing out this possible future in my head. If this is my fate, if my life ends in isolation and agony, so be it. Thinking about that will never be able to prevent it or change it. Yes, it’s hard to accept that death will find me one day. Even harder to accept that my final moments may be particularly sad and full of suffering. But making myself sick with fear from these thoughts will not spare me this death. Instead it will cause me to experience a thousand deaths rather than just one.

Learning From Loneliness, Loss, and Stagnation

Focusing on the past and trying to make sense of my previous mistakes and experiences used to be a much bigger part of my mental landscape. I think when I was younger it was easier to line things up in a neat and orderly manner in order to create a story that made sense and gave me a sense of direction. Eventually it seemed like I had created so many memories, lived through so many years, met and lost so many people that I started to lose the plot. There no longer seemed to be a way to make all these seemingly random pieces fit together.

One of the good things about shifting my focus away from the past is that I don’t ever dwell on regrets. Someone asked me the other day what one of my biggest regrets was, and it honestly took me a long time to even come up with any. I’ve certainly made a lot of egregious mistakes throughout my time on this earth, but do I really regret those mistakes? I don’t know. I do regret the way I’ve treated a lot of people in my life. But even then, that’s more because of the way it affected them, not how it’s affected me. Although I feel guilty for being so cruel and selfish when I was younger, I never would have learned what I know now or become the person I am today if I hadn’t behaved that way in the past.

For instance, one of my biggest regrets is probably the way I treated my mother during my late teens. Part of me does wonder how I might be different if I had been willing to accept her support and love during some of my darkest, loneliest times. Still I think I wouldn’t have the perspective to appreciate her the way I do now if I hadn’t rejected and hated her all those years ago. Despite my coldness, I was able to feel just how much she loved me. Even when I basically threw her love away each time, she continued to offer it to me at every opportunity. She never returned my disdain or cruelty. She never left or gave up on me. Because of that time in my life, I now cherish her more than I think I ever could have otherwise. One of my biggest regrets still led to the discovery of truly unconditional love and the unwavering support of a mother for her child. And understanding just how lucky I am to have that.

Lately I have been feeling completely stuck and without direction in life. I keep struggling to move past this uncomfortable stagnation. At the same time I just can’t seem to envision how or when this feeling will change. Looking back at the past, particularly our own mistakes, can be painful, but there is a value to exploring our own story every now and then. There is a lot that we can learn from piecing together the seemingly disconnected parts of our colorful pasts. One of those things is refilling our faith that things might not make sense right now, but one day they will.

No matter how badly we might feel we have failed, or how irredeemable our actions may seem in the moment, you can never be sure the future benefits, knowledge, and value we may gain from them in the future. Just because we can’t see it right now, can’t even conceive how that could be possible, we can at least acknowledge that it’s happened in the past. By reflecting back we can recognize how some of our darkest moments eventually, without our conscious awareness, transformed into some of our greatest strengths, our deepest insights, our most valuable lessons.

Even though things have been confusing, difficult, and unsettling for me for what seems like ages now, it won’t feel like this forever. One of the scariest things is the feeling that I’m wasting time, years of my life, of my youth. But our time can never truly be wasted. No matter what we are doing, whether we want to be, or believe we are, we are always growing, learning, and changing. This time is not being wasted, despite how it feels. Periods of stagnation can just as easily be viewed as periods of incubation. This perspective might not make it go any faster, but it does make it just a little bit easier to keep going, even when you don’t know where you’re going or when it feels like you’re actually going no where at all. One day it’ll all make sense again. You’ll be able to look back and see that it was all necessary, that it was all worth it. An egg just looks like an egg from the moment it’s laid to the moment it hatches. Just because we might not be able to see or understand what’s developing within, doesn’t mean that tomorrow won’t be the day it’s finally revealed.

Suffering in Silence

I learned early on that tears and tantrums are bad behavior. Showing these emotions causes displeasure and annoyance in those around us. Our first subconscious lesson to swallow those big emotions and keep them inside, those first seeds of unworthiness, are planted when we are very young. A lesson that others don’t have time for us, are not interested in our distress. Some of my most painful and poignant memories from childhood emphasize this lesson.

Looking backward in my memory I see a tiny child retreat to her bedroom when the world becomes too much. Perhaps an easily disregarded issue to the adults around, but a great source of pain to one so new and small. I see her shut herself away the first few times with a confidence that her mother will come to her, show compassion and concern for her suffering. It seems like hours as the child waits in the darkness for someone, anyone to show her that they care, that her presence is missed. Fits of crying come and go, some intentionally exaggerated to ensure they are heard. Still no one comes.

No one ever came. Many occasions like this ended in crying myself to sleep, feeling utterly alone and unloved. Even though I now understand this was so as not to encourage this behavior (i.e. crying and sulking in order to get attention) it doesn’t make the internalization of the initial message any less harmful. Nor has it helped to have this message reaffirmed throughout life.

I had bouts of extreme sadness in my high school years. I’ll never forget the week my first serious boyfriend broke up with me. I fell silent, kept my head down, hidden in my arms as I fought back tears for days on end. I wasn’t looking for attention. I wanted to disappear. But the realization that this would be so easy, that I would be utterly ignored was a sobering one. I quickly learned the meaning of the term “fair weather friend” and that most friends fit this definition. My best friend at the time did not try at all to console me or hold space for my sadness. She did not even seem to look in my direction that week. It felt as though I could drop off the face of the earth and no one would notice or mind my absence. Understandably this response served to compound my sadness ever further.

It’s not as though no one has ever extended a hand to me in my darkest hours. The best friend I have now is always there for me, through laughter as well as tears. I’ll never forget the day one childhood friend of mine made her boyfriend drive over to get me as I sat on the sidewalk in abject despair. She took me with them to Denny’s and did all that she could to make sure I was okay. These instances have pierced my soul in the most beautiful way. I’m so grateful for them even now.

Intellectually I understand that being present for another person’s suffering is hard. It’s not always that those around me don’t care, but they don’t know what to do. They are just trying to avoid their discomfort. They may even feel guilty and ashamed deep down. That being said, it doesn’t change the way it feels, especially when I am already so low.

As an adult, I really struggle with expressing myself due, in large part, to these experiences. When I’m struggling, I usually suppress the urge to reach out to anyone. I shrink away from the whole world. I choose to suffer in silence and put on a mask for everyone. It’s simply too painful to feel people pulling away from me when I need them most. It’s easier to pretend I don’t need them. My inner voice whispers, “No one cares what you’re going through. Don’t burden people with your problems. You’re only worth anything when you can make other people smile and laugh. If you show them how you really feel, they’ll all abandon you. Just keep it to yourself. Stay quiet.”

Not only does this perception greatly increase my pain and sense of isolation, it also pushes the people that do care away from me. I’m always in a weird spot when a negative event occurs in my life. I usually can’t muster the courage to tell anyone unless I absolutely have to or they directly ask me. I’m so afraid of their reaction, I’m so ashamed of making myself the focus of the conversation, that I just pretend everything is normal. But then when/if people discover what’s happened and realize that I didn’t share it with them, it makes them feel like I don’t consider them a friend. Which is understandable. I like to be kept up to date on the important events in my friends’ lives too. It does feel like a slight when they don’t confide in me.

I never want anyone else to experience the loneliness and pain I have gone through. I never want anyone to feel like no one cares for them when they are suffering. That is what I must believe all of these moments have been teaching me. I’m definitely someone that has the tendency to panic and avoid people that are crying or going through a tough time. I don’t know what to say or do. I feel awkward and uncomfortable. But this feeling I know so well, let it be my inspiration, my motivation to push through that fear and be there for others in their time of need. It doesn’t matter what I say or do. Just being there is the greatest comfort, just acknowledging that pain, sharing it, holding space, that is one of the few gifts I can offer. Let my own suffering give me the courage to do so.

Lukewarm Heart

Over the past few years of being single and living alone, I have developed a lot of strange, unhealthy habits. Last night as I was falling asleep, I tried to imagine what it would be like to allow someone to be close to me or to live with me again. It was bizarre to think about, honestly. For the majority of my life, finding a loving partner to spend my life with was my only desire. I really didn’t put much emphasis on anything else in life. Spending my life alone was my greatest fear and there were so many nights as a teenager that I cried myself to sleep at just the thought of it.

I never imagined I could feel so different. Not only do I not particularly care whether or not I fall in love again, I’m honestly skittish about the whole idea. It’s almost like I don’t even remember what it feels like to be in love. Well, apart from the lingering, dull ache it leaves behind years later. That doesn’t seem to fully explain this change in me either though. After all when I first became obsessed with the idea of finding love, I had never even experienced it before. Yet I was still so certain it was the one thing that would make me happy, that would make life worth living. I would have risked anything for it. There is always risk involved when you allow yourself to be vulnerable with someone you love. Now I’m not sure if I even believe it’s worth that risk.

You’d think this lack of interest would be a comfort to me, considering how much I use to agonize over my loneliness. Yet, even though this new state doesn’t necessarily cause me pain, it’s still a cause for concern. How can it be that in the span of just a few years I can feel so completely different about something that was once so vitally important to me? If I could be certain these were an accurate reflection of inner growth and independence, I might not mind. However, there is part of me that wonders if this isn’t somehow a result of so many years on anti-depressants. Paxil has helped me in a lot of ways, and I am grateful for that. But now I’m beginning to question if I’m even still the same person I was before. Which version of myself would I ultimately prefer? Can I even trust the way I think and feel now?

I used to put the concerns about my abnormal behaviors on the back burner. Telling myself that I would easily be able to stop them once I have someone new in my life. Now I’m starting to question that logic. Perhaps I’ll just end up choosing my behaviors over love in the end. And whether or not that is still important to me is irrelevant. Whatever my decision ends up being, I want to know that it was my decision, not something that I chose out of fear and mental illness. I don’t want to be alone just because I am too afraid to change or to get hurt again.

I guess I will try to just look at this new, unfamiliar perspective as somewhat of a super power. I don’t have to feel nervous or pressured on first dates, I can just relax and have fun. The value of my life no longer hinges on the love and approval of someone else. Rejection or abandonment don’t seem that scary when you know that you are perfectly capable and fine with being on your own. My only fear now is about whether or not I still even have the drive and motivation it takes to make a relationship work. Can love even blossom in such a lukewarm heart?

Photo by Katerina Holmes on Pexels.com

Missing Social Media

Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

It has been over a year now since I stopped using most of social media. I still have a Tumblr, but I don’t really know anyone on there or interact much. I just post my drawings for my handful of followers and scroll through pretty pictures mostly. I also somewhat consider my time of here “social media” because I do get that dopamine rush from seeing likes and comments on my posts. But I’ve completed cut myself off from Facebook and Instagram. I never had a Twitter or anything else.

It was a lot easier to stop using these sites than I thought it would be. I don’t have tons of friends or family that talk to me on there anyway. It was a wonderful relief to not have to think about what was going on in that virtual social landscape all the time. However, if I’m being honest, I miss having the opportunity for attention. Dying my hair really got me craving some virtual validation. It would have felt nice to post some pictures of my new hair online and get lots of likes. There is something so satisfying about that.

As a woman, I also miss always being able to get attention from guys online. There are certain days when I feel so lonely. It was nice to know I could always find someone new to talk to even if I ultimately decided not to. I do recall thought that most of those impulsive introductions led to nothing but frustration and disappointment. There was also a good bit of anxiety when I decided I wanted to disappear but felt guilty about ghosting.

I know that overall, my life is better without social media. It is unnecessary and mentally and emotionally unhealthy. It’s just a distraction that inflates my ego. I have to keep reminding myself why I left in the first place. I don’t want to go back to fishing for validation from strangers. Even my writing on here has become a little too much about what people will think of it. I want to write these posts every day for me, regardless of what anyone else thinks about what I have to say.

Social Media is a misdirection. It convinces us that the happiness we seek lies elsewhere, in the approval and attention of others. We become addicted to being constantly acknowledged. We become a pseudo celebrity in our own minds. We start to feel empty without the gaze of the masses constantly upon us. But we don’t need anyone else to see our lives for them to matter. We don’t need anyone else to have happiness.

When I am feeling this hollowness, this sense of emptiness within me, there is still that urge to look outside of myself for something to fill that space. But the answer isn’t to indulge that urge. The answer is to sit with this empty feeling, not to run from it. It is a part of me, a part of this experience we call life. And I am the only one who has the power to fill that void. I already have everything that I need.

Self-portrait

Her fingers smell like cigarettes
she's waiting for the day to end
she's waiting for the inky black of sleep

She's fortunate, yet full of fear
she's stacking up the wasted days
to make a wasted year

Somehow still hoping
with that numb and heavy heart 
hoping something good is almost here

She hides away inside her head
feeding demons who promise
they'll keep the world away

But that sense of safety never stays
instead she's given lonely days
and an ever-shrinking window for change
Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com