Photo Takers

2015-01-17 11.21.05

Photos capture memories. They isolate a moment in time, almost as future proof that those 5 seconds existed. Photos will own the heart of those who see them. That may mean the swell of your heart at the warmth of that passing piece of the greater collage of your life. It can cause your heart to strain against the scars of previous breaks; to be reminded of the pain of that day, or simply to be reminded of someone or something no longer appearing in your photos. Your heart can beat faster with anger and anxiety at the sight of a much deeper story gone untold, or simply seeing another person in pain.

But have you ever gone further? Looked at a photo and looked beyond it. Tried to find the reflection of the person taking the photo in someone’s glasses, and their part of that day. The mystery of who took the photo and what part they played. What happened to the subjects of the photo before and after that moment in time was captured. A photo of a couple; do you look beyond what you see at first glance. Do you look at their eyes, notice pain or love. Maybe the photo was taken by their child interrupting a fight with fear for their parents love fading and they pulled it together in that moment only to fall apart later. The pure, raw beauty of a family with a new child, oblivious to the snapshot of their joy being recorded. The pain in a man’s eyes who has lost his way, not noticeable to anyone else than those who knew him and could see beyond the smiles of himself and those he loved. A child laughing, the epitome of simplicity in finding happiness.

I take a lot of flak from time to for my number of selfies. And while I can agree that some selfies are overdone, to me they’re always more. The advent of the forward facing camera was my saving grace in capturing emotions. I’m not going to lie, there have been some shallow ones taken on my part. To see if I really am pretty. To see what other people see when they look at me. Or just because I’m having a good hair day. Emotionally though my selfies have projected a smirk in response to someone’s sense of humor; conveying desire for another person; shown my annoyance with a situation. My selfies have been a cry for help, only visible in my eyes which tend to say far more than I ever could. Some of the photos I’ve taken of myself have been gut wrenching to see again. Knowing what happened right before that; what’s gone and what’s left and how much pain I was in at that moment, that day.

My last 18 months have seen so many moments captured purely in photos of myself. A photo taken during a deep depression where I just needed to find my way. A photo taken when someone has made me happy; feel joy. A moment when I did feel pretty; felt like enough. As mentioned in previous writing, it’s not exactly been a delightful existence this past year and a half. I’ve experienced a divorce, wrought with emotion and involving two young children whose lives were briefly turned upside down. Which meant holding it together for them. Walking against the wind, smiling the entire time even if forced or completely and totally inaccurate for what I was feeling. I’ve seen debt so severe, there were days I wasn’t sure we’d keep a place to live and when, in order for my kids to eat, I had to limit what I did. Having your best friend buy you groceries is both an amazing and devastating feeling; a reminder that you’re a 33 year old mother of two, who can’t even properly provide for her children. The death of two loved ones; whom I loved in very different ways. The deaths also much different; one an end of an era and the other proof that while you can love a broken soul, you can’t save them and you can’t keep them here if their connection to this plane is non-existent. I felt grief that tore me apart inside. Pain so intense I sometimes could only sit and look at the wall and not move. But the whole while, I needed to function. I needed to be a parent, alone. The stress of the two hours of week nights at times would take me down to either complete numbness or monumental breakdown by the time I sat down for the night. No one could know except those I told. I needed to present a strong front. I faltered some times, embarrassingly. It makes me angry that I’m embarrassed because we’re human. Feelings are something taken for granted and emotions dismissed as weakness. While I stand strong on my opinion on that, I also know I can’t change societal stigmas, and even while fighting against them, I have to comply to fit in and not make others uncomfortable. These life experiences are merely just the tip of what this past year and a half has been like. I’m not sure I would have the time or dedication to pinpoint them all, at least right now. All of this while fighting the same depression, anxiety, panic attacks and multiple forms of self-destruction I’m prone to, simply because I’m so used to pain, it’s nothing to cause myself more.

And now, I face finding a new job. Another new start and a new beginning. In a job market that’s tough as nails and I come at having only had three jobs in my life (the first for 13+ years and only ended due to my decision to stay home with my children, which was job 2). I may fake some of my bravado and cockiness; but I know that my skill set is expansive and rich. I excel at my strong suits. But due to starting my career directly out of high school; that piece of paper, the degree they all require isn’t there. As always, I try to find the positives in this. This is another new start. A chance to begin a different version of my life. One that will hold new images in those photos taken. New emotions in my infamous selfies. So when my glasses break, as they did today, and I have to figure out how to get new ones, can I really complain? Have I earned the right to bitch about what are seemingly miniscule blips in a grander roller coaster of what has been my life? Maybe I’m just not comfortable complaining. Even with what I’ve been through, I still question whether I’m justified in wallowing or even making these situations a big deal. Things could always be worse. There are people fighting much larger and more painful battles than I am. I wonder if I overemphasized first world problems just simply because my emotions are as grand as my personality.

I bounce along, chipper and smiling even despite facing yet another hurdle. I can dedicate time to my writing, take on some volunteer positions and utilize my time the best way possible. I can find the entire silver cloud and not just the linings. Truth be told, though, I’m still facing the remnants of the past, additionally. There are still memories that can take me back to the pain, the bittersweet times, happiness and complete defeat I’ve felt which just accumulates on what’s ahead. Photos that remind me what happened that specific day which cause me to relive those moments, clear as day, in my head. Over and over again. There’s a last call I’ll never forget. The pain of seeing someone gone while still there and knowing my life was about to change drastically. Seeing a photo of an old house and remembering the days where I was able to find enough goldfish crackers that I could have some, too. Guilt in days where I simply have to turn on the tv so I can keep my kids entertained. Sadly, there are times I falter in keeping it together. Where I can’t help but fall apart in utter fear of what’s happening and what else could possibly happen. Paralyzed by the realization that I have no choice but to keep pushing against that wind I’m seemingly always walking against. At some point the weather has to change is all I can tell myself. I can find the positives in these difficult experiences, whether they’re simply lessons learned to apply to my future to knowing I served a purpose in someone’s life that will never be forgotten. I meant something. I was a mom, a friend, a girlfriend, a daughter, a professional and a bundle of energy and determination that has the raw force to drive me forward when I can’t.

There are going to be thousands of photos in my life, even metaphorically. They don’t necessarily have to be onscreen or saved anywhere to have their effect. If someone catches a moment of sadness, their reflection in those glasses will remind me that while I hurt, I had support. Pure joy can be seen in the selfies I’ve taken with my memory. Progress in that framed image of two happy children who have love and while some day will have to face every emotion possible and situations possibly even worse that what I’ve seen; have parents who try to ensure they don’t always know what goes on behind the scenes. What brings me the most happiness in life, though, are the photos of others and my place in their brief snapshot. A photo of a friend with happiness in their eyes, simply because they knew I was there, unfailingly and unconditionally. The picture memory of a hug that saves someone from crumpling. If I take anything away from all of this, it’s that in the end, you have to smile, put those rabbit ears up behind your life and say cheese.

Friends

I was going to write one of my long novel updates, which I know you all love… But then I had a point to make. Friends are the shit, you guys. If nothing else, having a support system of even one close friend can make you smile, save your life, and tell you that your shoes don’t match your outfit. Having a huge group rocks, too. Never take for granted how truly important and unconditionally caring friendships are. Sure, we all want love (for the most part). A companion with whom we’re in love. That person could be your best friend, but you still have to have those other ones.

Who you met in 3rd Grade, who you met last week at Starbucks or on an online dating site (weird, who does those anyway ) or at your best friend’s wedding three years ago. Friends are going to hold your hand after a death, smack you when you’re dumb (metaphorically, of course) and love that you said “that’s what she said” no less than 10 times in 20 minutes. Love your friends, you guys. And don’t forget, they’re there for you, but reciprocation is the greatest gift of friendship.

Listen as much as you talk. (Which means I listen A LOT.) Hug them randomly. If they’re cool with it. If they’re not, wait until they’re drunk. They’ll never know. If you can tell they’re feeling crappy, ask them why, or at the very least, do the “you got something on your shirt” trick. (Come on, who doesn’t laugh at that?) If they’re laughing, tell them you enjoy their laughter.

Romantic partner compliments are amazing, they’re loving, sassy, hopefully dirty and special. But friend compliments can be as simple as thanking your friend for replacing the toilet paper in your bathroom after dropping the kids off at the pool after a rough night of Taco Bell. Friend compliments mean that even though you know they’ll always be there, you have respect for that. You know you’d miss it if it was gone. Tell your friends you love them (genuinely). (A true master can do it sarcastically in way that almost seems insulting, but is actually amazing.)

Just saying. Love your friends. Because then they’ll love theirs. See where I’m going with this?

Peace. Rock out your Monday night. Tuesday could be a whole new bag of tricks.

2015

Resolutions, intentions, whatever. It’s merely a day to correct where you think you went wrong this past year and continue what you think went right. So 2015 can be a total jerk, but my plan is as folllows:

1. If I want to play karate in the garage, I’m going to.
(Can I borrow someone’s garage?)
2. I’m never going to lose my dinosaur.
3. Haters gonna hate. But they’re only gonna end up being the sad ones. So hate away, but I’d still hug you.
4. Speaking of, even more hugs! Because I love hugs! Free hugs all year!
5. Just keep being nice. Sometimes you get burned doing it. But sometimes you get hugs. And see above. I’ll take the burns for the hugs. Because at least I tried!

Unicorns And Kittens

New Year’s post! You knew it was coming. Probably could have been a blog, but does anyone even read that? Anyway, you can read this or skip it, but I do talk about kittens. Just saying.

I’ve been waiting since probably July for 2014 to end and to start a new year. It just seemed like the year had done me in. But so much more was ahead; filled with complexities and pain and new starts, and I had no idea. And now that we’re approaching a new year and it’s so close; this new door. The closed one. The next level we advance in the game. I realize how strange it is that we give the changing of what’s really just a date and the aging of the earth such significance. As though as humans we need something, a life scapegoat or landmark (depending on the year we had!) to assign our perspective on where we’ve been and where we’re going. If there is anything I’ve learned, there unfortunately is no literal changing of the page and starting a new chapter in a book. If we decide metaphorically there is, and pin too many hopes on that chapter already having been written and we’re intended to follow the words laid ahead of us; we’re not going to enjoy that part of the book. I’m not going to say that sometimes it’s not just a matter of shit happening, good, bad, painful, enlightening, etc. But overall, we really do have the choice to change the chapter at any time and write our own or at the very least, choose some adjectives and verbs.

I know I can’t sit and wait out a calendar year and hope the clock strikes midnight and fairies and kittens and unicorns dance around me and bring me nothing but joy and delight. For one thing, it’d technically already have been that day in Australia, so if I’m going literal, it doesn’t really work hoping for the tick of the second hand.

We ultimately don’t know what’s going to happen at any given time. We can have intuitions, gut feelings, premonitions; an idea we don’t know the base of but it just seems right. Obstacles, triumphs, difficulties, joy are all things that are going to enter our world, our personal bubble anytime. It’s how we’re living before, during and after those moments that define how we survive. How we live and what energy we exude to others. Life’s a damn jerk sometimes, I’d be lying if I said otherwise. The world can be terrifying, whether we choose to face the depth of complexities there are to what’s going on around us. But in the end, we have to live for us, hope for the best and handle the worst the best way that gets us through to the other side in one piece.

So, while I am actually still using that moment we technically start a new year as a marker, I’m not going to assume those unicorns are bringing me joy, because they could very well be taking a crap on my floor at 12:01.

But I can complain about it, and decide the whole year is ruined because of one pile of crap and just sit and let it stink up the room. Or I can realize I probably shouldn’t have had a unicorn in my living room in the first place, clean that shit up and make the logical change to put them outside.

So happy new year soon, but don’t wait until 2015 to realize you’re living your life every second of every day. Unicorns are cool, but keep them outside.

Sink or Swim

Divorce, break-ups, endings. They’re hard. They’re messy. Even in the most simple, mutual of ways, they’ve left their mark. Emotions are felt differently by each person involved. And even on the parts of those who aren’t, but are more than happy to share their viewpoint (requested or not). When you join your life with someone’s, whether it’s 2 months or 20 years, there’s a connection, a dent left behind in your armor that will leave you either respecting it as getting through or focusing on the damage incurred. There’s never a right or wrong way. Endings can come about in so many different ways; anger, changes, growth that doesn’t match, fear, hatred, realizations, death…..

At some point you have to move forward though, no matter what side you were on. You’re entitled to all of the emotions you encounter, but sometimes they’re overwhelming. Smothering, almost. You rise to the surface for air or you push it to that last minute where you’ve got to catch your breath to save yourself. Moving forward means new encounters, which can make some uncomfortable; can cause others immense fear and in others encourage curious excitement. But truth be told, moving forward involves something new. Finding a fit and a place. Understanding who we are on our own, as opposed to being someone associated directly with another. And depending on how much of yourself you’ve either held on to, or lost along the way, the path can be muddy and dirty and tiring or a cakewalk. Somewhere in between is where more probably go.

If you’re the introspective type, song lyrics suddenly mean more; if you’re the impulsive type, you indulge in momentarily soothing behaviors typically bordering on self-destructive. Those who can ignore their feelings simply land on the next day and don’t look back. Not to say they aren’t blindsided by the acceptance of the situation down the road, but some just see the constant rotation a way of life or what they deserve.

The addition of children to the equation is the hardest part. And that’s how this started. Becoming a single parent, whether you are solely single, as in permanent custody or a co-parenting situation, it’s really effing hard. I respect any single parent who maintains their sanity, even if that means pizza and two hours of Curious George to get stuff done for an hour, only to get those five minutes to sit down before someone needs water. Or food. Or can’t put their pants on. Life’s not fair, we all know that one. But this was a situation created by one or both parties and you can’t rest on the negatives of it. It’s life. It’s the present. You suck it up for the benefit of the kids. Especially because you have to explain to them that life isn’t fair when they use the phrase on you.

Everything is more complicated. Scheduling, dating, planning, identifying your new chapter; all while remembering it has to be as smooth as possible for the children who are involved. One parent brings someone new into their life and that new person goes, you have to address the idea of loss more than once with children. (Break-ups are losses, so that counts any situation). One parent brings more than one person into the children’s life through impulsivity and searching for air in a situation where they feel they’re drowning. Excitement can be that person’s air, and the balance between that, being a good parent and mental health is a potentially combustible moment. A parent decides to move; it creates more change. More upheaval. No matter your age, adult or child, those types of changes have effects. The parents fight and the children are in the middle and the kids absorb that regardless of age. That’s not to say all parenting situations are bad. Some of those aren’t necessarily bad, depending on how the parents handle it individually and with or without a united parenting understanding.

Having a bad day? Suck it up. Those kids need you. You might be lucky enough to have a co-parent who will change the schedule to allow you the time you need to decompress. Yet you also have to understand that you are the parent at that time and you can’t expect another person who has been removed to be that understanding or flexible, given that you now have separate lives, especially if they have brought someone else into their new path. (I hate using the word path. But it’s really the best description. Road? Trip? Go with it.)

You have to understand what you can do in your alone time and what can cross over. The mistakes you make, the losses you experience, those are all a part of their lives and if the children are young, explaining can be difficult and if they’re older, the ability to comprehend the situation without explanation will mold some part of that child’s future. You can have a bad day with the kids, but then you also may get the whole next day off (for lack of a better word) and know that while you’re dwelling on other life moments and feeling sorry for yourself, that parent may be having the same rough day. While having to solely monitor, watch, feed, give permission to, drive to events; etc.

Being alone is hard, no matter how strong you are. No matter how used to it you are. Being with kids alone can be incredibly trying and also incredibly rewarding. You manage to keep a roof over their heads, food in their stomach and clothes to wear and some days, that’s what you have to pat yourself on the back for and be okay. There are days where you have to leave the room and that’s okay. There are days when you don’t have the kids and be okay with that and not feel guilty. If you’re the sole caregiver, you don’t have to feel guilt for relying on a support system, or feeling burdened by the lack of one. We all just do our best, even if our best can suck, subjectively.

As usual, I’ve strayed from place to place. My end implication is always the same. Life is hard. Tricky. Either handed to us or earned. It’s what we do with it. Some choices will be right, some will hurt, some will leave marks and some will be in a gray area. If you want the less sunny description of life, you could compare it to a swimming instructor. Life is either going to teach you by keeping on the arm floaties or standing on the sidelines, yelling “Sink or swim, bitches!”

You can hate yourself for mistakes, feelings, emotions and reactions or you can face them and then make your next choices accordingly. I’ve contradicted myself in the last statement, and I acknowledge that. That’s kind of life, though, isn’t it.

Seasons

If we broke the seasons down into stages of humanity, as opposed to weather; I think there’d be a different perception. Spring is an awakening. A time when environmental and personal beauty are given new appreciation. New life starts and inspires us to make that move, that new perception of emjoyment. Summer is freedom. Fully embracing what and who is around us. Living in free wheeling ways whether simply in a freer thinking or monumental actions. Fall is nature giving us a beautiful, impactful temporary end while new beginnings are giving us the drive to move forward among the changes. Winter. That’s our test. That’s the moment when we evaluate. We try to collect our memories of the year into a little box we’ll view from time to time. Our emotions will still emanate from it. But the tenacity it takes to fight how intense winter can be, physically, mentally, etc. is what makes the rest of the stages the progression. We end winter sometimes bitter and weary, but suddenly know what’s ahead. Those easier parts exist. But strength is what makes the rest of it so much easier. Makes us view our memories with our purposes and not with that one moment but collectively.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate winter. I hate driving in it, the danger of it intrigues, yet worries me. It’s so much more complex right down to how the amount of clothing necessary increases.

But there us purpose everywhere. It’s not blatant. It’s not defined. It is what we make it and allow ourselves to feel.

Life is beautiful because of the pain sometimes. Because we know that something has hurt us enough that we have no idea how we’ll see another side. Yet it also means we’ve had a monumental, human and purposeful experience. And it shapes us. We never stop shaping ourselves if we allow it. It’s the shapes we go with that create what we experience.

Rabbit Trails

Every time I start thinking about writing, I start with one subject and hop to another, and merge to something off the wall, and so on. You’ve all read my rambling. This post was intended to start out as my proclamation to finally follow through with a lifelong dream of writing a book. Or two. Or more. Then I started thinking about why I was writing. Someone whom I’ve lost used to joke that my head was full of rabbit trails. I was constantly following different ones. And that’s precisely how I work.

Which led me to thinking of writing this post about this year. This cock monkey of a year. I’d apologize for offending there, but this year has done it’s fair share of disrespect. I’m allowed something. 2014. Seriously. I’m a free thinker, open to all possibilities and genuinely believe in energies, visions, etc. But this year has made me question everything I’ve ever done. Anything I’ll ever do going forward. Loss, pain, heartache, confusion, complete and utter depression. Along with happiness, friends who should have given up and didn’t, meeting new people who bring more to my life. It’s just all been mixed with emotions I’ve never experienced, in all my 30 or so years. Well, that’s a lie. Emotions I’ve previously avoided. They’ve been there from time to time. I’ve done all I can to avoid them. But they were in fact mixed with ones I’d like to avoid feeling again.

With a realization, that through one set of wise words; that no one is responsible for keeping me in check, but myself. My choices, my reactions and my coping are all innate to my ways of thinking. I do dumb things. I do smart things. I’m a genuinely nice person with an incredible lack of willpower at times who simply wants to enjoy life. Hedonism isn’t necessarily conducive to all aspects of adulthood, though. So you have to face that grown up bullshit that some people choose to embrace, and some choose to disregard, misunderstand or handle flippantly.

But how do yo find that balance between being who you are and who you think you should be. Not to mention that added pressure of realizing that regardless of what anyone wants to think, they’re going to base that decision heavily on the perspective of everyone but themselves.

There have been times this year where I’ve been so completely downtrodden, so tackled by life, and I should have just sat down and gave up. But I couldn’t. All I could do at that point was put on a smile, and as Winston Churchill proclaimed, if you’re going through hell, keep going. There’s got to be an end point somewhere, right? And if not, hey, maybe you run into the devil and he turns out to be a pretty cool guy who is just misunderstood.

What is my first book going to be about? Without an official outline, I can say it’ll be about a girl. A girl and her life. The choices she’s made, the situation she finds herself in. The seriously preposterous stuff she’s gotten herself into. And where reality, wishes and perspective’s lines start to blur.

I’ve had to learn a lot of lessons in order to stay in a good place. I have children who need a sane mother, who can maintain stability for their advancement and proper growth. All the while I’m trying to grow up as well. Life can kind of force that you on you, even if you think you’re there, sometimes reminders come from left field, that nope, not quite. And the question is, faced with forks in the road and detours on the trip, which path do you take.

The key is whether your gut, your heart or your head took you there. Because those three very rarely work together without ongoing disagreement.

Until next time…..

Give Thanks

You’ve either wondered what I could possibly come up with to say on Thanksgiving, or you’ve got more to do than read Facebook today, and I’m sure some of you have just hidden my feed given my lengthy musings I share.

I’m writing this grumpily, while trying to define positivity. I sometimes hate complaining about this year. It’s not even over yet. There are others dealing with far more pain and anguish and fear. I suppose as long as I recognize that, I can convince myself that it’s okay to acknowledge my own experiences.

I tried to come up with an accurate description of this year so far. Like walking on ice and not sure what spots would break through. Those devices on movies or video games, where a character has to run through swinging pendulums in hopes of not getting hit by them. But ultimately, this year has no accurate description.

And I’m wading through to identify what I’m going to appreciate not only today, but new understanding of the past and going forwards. Friends. I love my friends. I have best friends, meaningful friends, casual friends, spiritually connected friends, fair weather friends (hey, we all have them!). Some of those I consider part of my family. Family doesn’t have to be blood related or have some other definitive marker. It’s knowing that they have a special place in your life and your heart. And I’m appreciative for each one of those friends. Some will stay, some will go and that’s as it’s meant to be. And I’ll appreciate the emotions that accompany those changes.

My kids are a given. Even if they thrown five minute tantrums because they suddenly forgot how to put their pants on or say they’re not my friend because I won’t buy them a specific kind of juice. I have one who gives out compliments left and right because he wants people happy and another who has grown into a little boy who can actually help me more and hold his brother’s hand when he needs it. Both who already express care and concern about others emotions. And I love that I’m raising children who have already learned how important feelings are.

Even in loss this year, one I had a chance to handle slowly and say my proper goodbyes. And I’m appreciative of that. And the other, while there will never be a true peace there, I know that I made someone else’s life good. I brought happiness to a sad place. I gave someone peace when they most needed it. Doesn’t make it any easier, but if that soul had to go, it needed my presence. And I was gifted with the ability through this realization that my strength is far better than I thought. That my motivation to do good can shine through and is a good thing when handled correctly. I’ve felt new emotions that I didn’t know existed and while they suck sometimes, they’ve given me perspective. I appreciate that perspective.

And you. Everyone. Whether you like me or you don’t. Whether you know me well or barely at all. We all still exist together. Unfortunately I wouldn’t say co-exist in some situations. But you’re there. Trying to make the same sense of different things. My appreciation of life is tainted, but also increased.

Hope you all have at least one thing to appreciate today, and if you aren’t sure, you’re looking too hard. It should be right there.

My New Year’s post is going to be epic……

In the hearts of men.

I don’t know anyone in Newtown. I’d never heard the town name before Friday. But I know moms and dads and how our hearts feel about our children. I know that I’m struggling to understand the tragedy that has happened. Again. Too often. And while every shooting, every death is heartbreaking and senseless, there’s something about losing classrooms full of first graders that is making me not be able to think about this without completely crumbling inside. My son is only three years younger than some of the victims. I unfortunately imagine him, in a classroom, terrified and I fight the urge to build a panic room and live in it forever. I read the victim’s names and recounts of the day and the tears well up again and again.

I won’t talk gun control. I don’t feel I’m educated enough on either side to offer valid opinions. But I want to talk about something I feel will be mentioned but not addressed. Because as I think of those victims, I also think of the family of Adam Lanza. They’ll live forever knowing what he did and wondering why. Wondering if they, as his blood relatives, should have been able to see this coming and if they somehow failed him. Mental illness continues to remain a stigma, a parodied, misunderstood condition that affects so many and yet never seems a reality to those not suffering. When I see pictures of the shooter, I don’t even see a man, I see a boy. A haunted, possibly ill boy who looks emaciated and as the mother of boys, his face and his actions haunt me nearly as much as the suffering of his victims. I am in no way defending what he did. His decisions were heinous and deplorable. I know how (guns), but I want to know why. We’ll never get the answers, but if we continue to ignore mental illness, questionable behavior and the severity of emotions any one person can be experiencing, this can only be the worst of all trends we could ever see.

Some shooters have been bullied and I feel that schools, adults and parents have made steps (albeit, minimal in my opinion) to rectify the torture school children endure at the hands of their classmates. But mental illness, whether it’s depression or bipolar, autism or anxiety, are widely laughed off. They’re not tangible. You can’t see the suffering, so they’re not real. Maybe the person is making it up. But they’re very much fact.

Through my teen years and into adulthood, I’ve personally dealt with merciless bullying, severe depression, anxiety, anorexia, bulimia, self harm and most recently, postpartum depression following the birth of both of my sons. I’ve fought through; I’ve fallen down and gotten back up. Sometimes with my own strength and sometimes with the support of others.  While I could never imagine turning on anyone with any form of violence, I still to this day wince inside when I think about the bullying and hate that part of them that turned their insecurities and their cruelty on me. I know when I’m feeling emotions that may cause an eating disorder relapse and I stop them. I know my depression signs and can let others know it’s coming. While in the past, I would consider and did harm myself, I’m far too much of a bleeding heart to think of hurting another person. It’s unfathomable to me to consider the act of it. But I know the pain and the hurt and the confusion that you deal with when your brain just isn’t working the way society is telling you it should. It’s like being in a maze that has a dead end at every turn. You just turn in circles and go left and right and every time you run into a wall. It’s maddening. You scream silently for help, but in most cases you don’t feel you deserve the actual attention you’d receive if you spoke loudly enough for someone to take heed.

Our brains are so very confusing and there’s much we don’t know about them. There’s science upon science about our behaviors but there’s never any true way to know why one neuron may fire and another may not or who this might happen to. And there’s enough evil in the world to cause our fragile minds to process life in such different ways. PTSD from sexual abuse that may lead to eating disorders, mania and anxiety. Bipolar disorder purely from the genetic card dealt.  I recently read an article that detailed scientific evidence regarding our digestive system and its direct tie to our mental state. Our enteric nervous system, which is what lines our gut is so complex and influential that scientists refer to it as a second brain. The serotonin being produced there can directly affect our reactions and our stomachs. If our digestive system can be so complicated, I can’t even imagine what is going on in our brains.

My experience and knowledge of mental hurdles makes me afraid for my kids. Not only in sending them to school not knowing how safe they are, but also in what they may come up against emotionally. Will they be too ashamed to tell me if they’re feeling emotions that scare them or make them act irrationally? I tell myself I would notice if their behavior is amiss, but I fear in the fast-paced world, I might overlook a warning sign as just “being a kid thing” or that they’re just having a bad day. If they’re being bullied and don’t know how to tell me or their dad, I hope they reach out. I hope they tell someone, but I know fear of payback may scare them into painful complacency and mounting, confusing feelings. And if I’ve somehow failed them and they bully someone else, I hope someone tells me. When it comes to bullying and mental illness, we can educate our children, hang posters in schools and count on teachers, with their limited resources, to try and address any concerning behavior. But despite the video series, It Gets Better, I want to keep the secret from my kids that sometimes it doesn’t  Even as adults, we come up against bullies and confusion and mental anguish, it just happens. It hurts now, just as it did then. As parents we need to be the strong ones who power through and while we show weakness, also show our children how we deal with those weaknesses and come out on the other side. This means trying to understand each other, addressing the issues that are hitting our children, like mental illness. Not starting internet fights about gun control or whose fault this is. We owe it to our future to stop sweeping some issues under the rug because we’re not comfortable with them or we don’t understand them.

I want to stress again that my heart hurts for the families of the victims and I wish there was a way to step in and change time so that this never happened. The shooter’s mother may hold some responsibility in exposing an obviously fragile, potentially calculating (possibly even sociopathic, I’m not discounting that) to a stockpile of weapons. Weapons no person needs in their home. (Off that soapbox, quickly).  I question how so many of these people get to the point that we lose innocent lives at their hands. Are they shrinking violets, wallflowers who isolate as they calculate? It’s unfortunate I don’t know more details and am obviously making grand speculations, but I’m struggling to cope with this and the fear in my heart of this world.

There’s a story making the internet rounds about a popular high school boy who saw another boy struggling with a large pile of school books and instead of ignoring him, he helps him. This forms a strong friendship that grows over their years together in high school and the boy with the books goes from being alone and sometimes made fun of to having a wide circle of friends. As they graduate together, this boy, as the valedictorian talks in his speech about the day he was heading home to kill himself. Suffering from depression and feeling alone, he wanted to end it, and had chosen to clean out his locker and take everything home so his mom wouldn’t have to do it. And then a stranger had taken time out to go to him and see that he needed help and reached out. He saved his life.  I’m sure I could internet search or debunk this story with Snopes, but I’m not going to. Because this is how I hope and wish for society to be. Instead of laughing and pointing at the boy with the pile of books, help him.

Intentions

Thanks to Facebook timeline for reminding me of these, especially when I’m working on new ones.

My intentions (resolutions) from 2008…

by Jessica Rand McLean on Monday, December 21, 2009 at 8:24pm
Since I said I’d publish my resolutions for the coming year so I felt accountable, I thought I’d find the ones I wrote for the 2008 (Written December 31, 2007). Funny thing is, some of them are similar to the ones I was planning last year. My update that I wrote in August of 2008 is also included
I’m not going to make these resolutions as much as I’m going to make statements of intention. I think firm “I must do this or my year will be terrible” type resolutions only start the year on a negative note. Hopefully, ambition withstanding and still maintaining a MySpace relationship I’ll update everyone when we’re starting 2009 on how the intentions did. Maybe, if you’re lucky, I’ll do a six-month update.
I intend to continue working out on a daily basis. This is tough because sometimes I’m not certain it’s really doing a whole lot. After three months I expected more results than what I see. I’ll keep doing it knowing it’s a positive thing and it makes me feel a little better to know I’ve worked out.
I intend to maintain the “when it happens” mindset. I feel as though this is a healthy way to not only approach trying to get pregnant, but also a way to approach life in general. My impatience is something I bring up often, usually because it’s back-fired on me. Hopefully this year I can get a little more perspective on waiting.
I intend to stop letting behaviors and actions of others affect me or upset me. I can’t dictate other people’s lives and no matter how much I hope they’ll change, they probably won’t. I will continue to realize that each and every person in my life (or out of my life) is to be dealt with in his or her own unique way and simply because I feel a certain way doesn’t mean they do or will understand me when I wonder why they don’t.
This one isn’t an intention. It’s a statement. I will continue to wear my heart on my sleeve and be bold with my emotions. I spent a lot of time with emotional walls up and once I pushed past them, I was totally fine with letting people know how I feel as uncomfortable or blunt as it might be. Too many people hide their feelings, either because they’re afraid to face them or they’re afraid to create touchy situations with those around them. I’m not. And I’m okay with that. Honesty is best in the end and being truthful about how you feel is the best kind of honesty.
I intend to live like it’s always summer. For me, summer releases a kind of freedom; an openness that makes me carefree and relaxed. An attitude of sitting in the backyard watching Frisbees and having a tasty beverage, whether it be beer or iced tea. No coat, no shoes, just the crazy hippy skirt I only bust out when I can wear it with a tank top. I think I retreat into myself when winter hits, hiding in the cocoon that is blizzards and winter driving. I avoid leaving the house as often and I think that restricts living. I don’t think fall does the same, but it does cause me to let go of summer and wave longingly to the relaxation I felt in the sun. Spring is a tease. Half cold, half warm, always wet and muddy and I think I get too caught up in letting go of winter and anticipating summer that I forget to notice that the birds came back and flowers are coming out. I’m going to open myself to feeling the freedom summer breezes bring.
I intend to stop worrying about people liking me and compromising my integrity to be sure they do. I know who my friends are and I know why they are my friends. I have some pretty great friends at that. But as strong as I can appear, I sometimes have a fear that people don’t like me. I’m too strong a personality to mold myself in different ways for different people to like me, but every once in a while I find myself thinking of compromising my true opinions in order to match someone else’s. I know exactly where this weakness stems from, but my blog is not a couch in a therapist’s office, so I don’t think I need to go into that. But I need to realize that part of knowing who I am is acknowledging that I’m different and that people like me for who I am; not who they think I should be, and if they don’t, they’re not meant to be an integral part of my life. My ultimate goal with this intention is allow me to trust. Fear of not being accepted has given me an iron-clad resistance to trust completely. While I’ll never let that barrier down completely, I’ll hopefully reach a point where I’ll stop thinking the worst of each situation.
And the update: So, I said I’d update these about six months in and see how I was doing… well, more than six months later I’m determining the status of my intentions. Which ones worked, which ones might not have been well through out and which ones are still 50/50. I’m deleting the full explanations, just using the main point. If you want to re-read them, you can go a few blogs back to the original. That being said, here we go…
I intend to continue working out on a daily basis. I honestly thought this one would fizzle out. I’ve always hated working out, but I had also reached a point where I hated how I looked and knew I was unhealthy. Rather than resort to short-term or unhealthy solutions I decided it was time I resist my stubborn stance against sweating for extended periods of time. We bought an elliptical for a reason. So, I’ve started working out every day and have continued to the day I am writing this. I’m having some motivation problems in the morning lately, but I’ve been exhausted from work travel (okay, not a good excuse), but I’m still making the effort and making sure I complete a full work out every day.
The results are slow (especially for someone who is impatient and still working on that as you’ll see next…) and I’m of the body type that packs on muscle, so it’s tough knowing that while I’m getting healthy, I’ll never reach waifdom in my drive to modify my body in a healthy way. I tried to determine what body type I am and decided I’m somewhere between endomorph, mesomorph and construction worker. I’m sturdy, not willowy. Incredibly frustrating in dressing rooms. I’ve cycled through a lot of body ups and downs, but this habit of strengthening my body is one I hope hangs on and sticks around for while.
I intend to maintain the “when it happens” mindset. Uh, yeah, about that whole statement tying virtue to patience that I’ve attempted to remind myself many times? I’m still working on that. Someone made a statement recently, not about me, but in general  that implied that anyone who was an only child will tend to have less patience in life. They never had to wait on a sibling to use the bathroom, never had to wait for their parent’s attention. Maybe that’s the problem. I’m pretty sure there’s a short circuit among the lobes of my brain that prevents me from waiting longer than five minutes for whatever I decide I want. If I could pinpoint what drives me to have to have everything right now, I think it would help. I just know that I seem to skip a step in the process. There’s thinking about what I want, deciding what I want and having to have it RIGHT NOW. The step of understanding that some things take time, that some results are slow-going and I’m not owed whatever I desire is disjointed and lacking.  It’s one of those personality characteristics I can recognize, I know when I’m doing it, but I’m observing my behavior in a way that I’m somehow impeded from stepping in and re-adjusting my thinking. I just plow forward in my drive to get what I want without waiting, only to find myself angry, sad, frustrated, etc. when it’s not there immediately. I’m obsessive and addictive and will focus on something to a point of overtaking common sense. Which can have it’s positive connotations. This motivates me to achieve goals and be forward thinking in accomplishing tasks. But more often than not, it just works me up and makes me stress about things out of my control. And I’m still working on how to fix that. Or at least modify it.
I intend to stop letting behaviors and actions of others affect me or upset me. The road to everywhere is paved with good intentions. And this intention had whole-hearted enthusiasm behind it. I can be stone cold in many situations, but I can also be sensitive in a most volatile manner. I’ll either keep you at arm’s length or let you in too far. And when I cross the line of letting you in, I have expectations. Not always, but I forget that we all think in different ways and just because I think a situation or behavior is the best, I don’t run other people’s brains and they’re going to make choices I don’t agree with or understand. I’m easily hurt by others and my temper is easily triggered by insensitivity. I’m still trying to find that point where I realize that it’s my choices that make me who I am and those around me do the same with every choice they make. But their choices don’t necessarily mean that I can question them or wish I could help them. Easy to say, harder to remember. I know I’m still justified in crying if someone hurts my feelings or momentarily writing someone off when they piss me off. It’s how far I take it. It’s how long they freely rent space in my head that I need to amend. I’ve made progress with this one, but it takes reminding myself of the above. I’ll honestly admit I’ve had some tenants (squatters?) in my head since I made this intention, but it’s been somewhat easier for me to get them out sooner than I usually would have. I just have to acknowledge why they’ve bothered me and try to figure out if I even need to worry about it.  And actually, this intention is tied to my next one.
This one isn’t an intention. It’s a statement. I will continue to wear my heart on my sleeve and be bold with my emotions. You know why I prefer to be bold with my emotions? Because when someone pisses me off or hurts my feelings or anything else, as mentioned above, I’d much rather get it out in the open so they know where I’m coming from. I’m well aware that many people don’t want to hear it and many don’t want to talk about touchy situations. But I’m still going to put it out there. I had forgotten about this for a while and realized that I was suppressing my honesty and censoring myself too much. (Some censoring is necessary, especially when I’m mad). I do know that I realized that I need to work on being bold with my emotions in a diplomatic and calm way. Screaming anger and crying pain are a little over emotional to be taken seriously. So I know that to be bold with my emotions, I need to make sure I understand them before I share. I need to know if I was feeling betrayed or just annoyed. Hurt or confused.  If I can explain myself better, others will understand me better and conveying the message will go much better. So, I’ve done pretty well with this one (example, I’m writing a blog that bares a lot about myself and I’m comfortable with that), but I do have some interruptions and it comes in the form of the intention below…
I intend to stop worrying about people liking me and compromising my integrity to be sure they do. No need for psycho-babble about why acceptance is so important to me (or anyone, really), but I realize that my drive for it can still have a tendency to make me question my integrity. I find that I tend to hesitate in sharing my emotions (and compromising my drive to be blunt about how I feel), to avoid someone not liking me. It doesn’t stop me from doing so, but that thought is still there and I’ll be concerned about the after effects and worry about someone being angry with me. But as I write this, I realize that’s what keeps me human. It’s important to think of the feelings of others, just not crossing the line of letting them dictate your next step. I think people respect you more if you are who you are and you share how you feel. You don’t have to agree with everyone for them to like you. Your personality can show and it should because that’s how you mesh with others. If everyone agreed on all points, life would be pretty boring. My openness makes me sassy and sometimes I realize sassy can mean obnoxious, but it’s up to me to know how far to go and not be concerned so much with worrying how others perceive it. I’m pretty content with who I am and acknowledge that I’m always a work in progress, but I know progress should come from me, not what I think others want to see in me.
I intend to live like it’s always summer. You know what? Summer is hot. Easy to forget when it’s January and you’re writing a list of intentions while watching out your window at the snowplow racing down your street. Granted, this intention had more idea behind it than the actual weather  but I just want to acknowledge that summer is not my favorite season. But the carefree aspect of this intention is something I’ve tried to embrace. I’ve always been somewhat laidback, yet maintaining a tendency to get easily wound up in under five seconds. It’s the even keel feeling of summertime that was important to me to reflect. But it’s hard when you have no patience. In the end, I feel pretty positive about this one and I feel like I have done what I set out to do when I expressed this intention. No need to add detail, but this one I feel positive about. (Except that patience thing…)