On Vulnerability, Preachily and Openly

“And you can’t feel nothing small…”

I radiate my feelings outward, the intensity of my energy palpable and present. Of course, as things are prone to equal and opposite reactions, I also feel very deeply the external – the energy of a room, the weight of a situation, the heavy meaning of a storyline.

I wonder if it is that sensitivity – the continuous consciousness of emotions – that has enabled me to exercise vulnerability as a means of connection, or rather, if it was merely foisted upon me an ultimatum of existence: either you utilize the vulnerability as a means of connection, or you can masquerade through life, choosing isolation over engagement, which to me seems a wholly distasteful option.

I’ve chosen to live a vulnerable life – one of openness and honesty, partly because I can’t help but live any other way, and partly because I feel as though eschewing vulnerability as a way of being leads to nothing but superficiality, stunting relationships and intimacy. This was a choice made a long time ago, but that said, it isn’t easy to always live that way, especially in times of insecurity.

I’ve never felt comfortable pretending to be someone I’m not; finding and acting from a place of authenticity came about some time during later adolescence/early adulthood, and I’ve found that my greatest joys, successes, and bliss all stem from moments when I was nothing but myself. Granted, it’s not always popular, or prudent, to be so much yourself, but I find that if you’d like to find the depths of the human experience, you have to dig in a bit. Thankfully, I’m also incredibly stubborn.

So what is vulnerability, exactly? The dictionary defines it being open to injury, which is exactly what it is, but also, it’s not that at all. Yes, it’s about what can happen when you lower your defenses, bringing down your walls to let other people in. For me, it’s a willingness to share feelings or experiences in order to increase intimate connection, which of course could result in injury, mostly of the emotional kind. But that’s half the adventure, right?

I’ve been working on being a better listener since I learned how to talk. (Mostly because I never learned how to stop talking, and thus, learning how to listen will always be a project on which I should focus.) I am a verbal processer, which is beautiful but also really frustrating, because combined with the ADHD and my love of information, I’m a whole bunch of output, when I should be better about attempting to increase the input balance.

I even interrupt my own sleep to talk. Last night, I woke up boyfriend in the middle of the night (accidentally, I was talking in that half-awake, mostly unconscious but really urgent, I-have-a-point-to-make-but-I’m-also-half-asleep-so-I’m-probably-slurring-a-little way) to tell him that even though we’re trying to track our sleep using his FitBit, the experiment is already compromised because of his own awareness of it. Sleep me was very concerned about sharing the Hawthorne effect with him. I think sleep him was not as excited.

However…even with that basic communication shortcoming, people have always confided in me, which is amazing because I love knowing stuff and also because I love knowing that I’m a safe space for secrets or sharing. Having a safe space is important. If you want to know someone, you have to know their experiences and perspectives, and in order to find out that there might be commonalities, someone has to start the sharing.

It’s a basic tenet of communication: you throw down information; I match and expand; you respond; the conversation continues. In order for that to be effective, someone has to get beyond the weather and get real.  It doesn’t have to start with an onslaught of depth, it can be as minute as an interest, a hobby, a passion, whatever. And you can work from there.

Vulnerability as a means of connection is curious – why don’t we do it more? I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a fear of judgement, of being seen as “other,” of being rejected. When I open up, sharing an embarrassing story or an emotional memory, having someone judge me in a negative way is the very last thing I want. Who is that person to be critical of something that is mine? Who am I to be critical of something that is someone else’s? Often, to the observer, the vulnerability being communicated is basic, simple, easily addressed or managed. But that’s not the case, and we’re foolish if we think otherwise. Life is messy, sticky; things and events and experiences adhere themselves and change our course and perspective in often unknown and unseen ways.

I think that’s part of the problem with vulnerability – sometimes you don’t have to respond. People assume that there’s a necessary or basic etiquette-driven platitude, but there’s often not. That’s why vulnerability is so different than superficial communication. It changes the conversation. Sometimes the hearing is enough. The presence of another, a subtle acknowledgement of the veracity of one’s experiences.

I’m not advocating an all-out, no-holds barred onslaught of information as a means of connection. That would be far too overwhelming.

Vulnerability is hard. I know this, because even though I sit here and preach from my ivory tower of vulnerability-as-a-way-of-life immersion, I also struggle with it. It’s like I have two levels – the first, not superficial, but also not that deep, and then the level where I lock everyone out. Sometimes I’m not even vulnerable enough to acknowledge my own feelings to myself. I think we’re all like that, at least in some ways, defiant and resolute in our thinking and unwilling to share with others.

There are 800 TED talks (not an accurate figure) about vulnerability, and countless articles touting the benefits. It’s like the new emotional kale; it’s everywhere! It’s an awesome principle, but of course, there are risks. Opening up and then being let down can be absolutely devastating. However, opening up and being embraced and accepted can be the most healing feeling, and to me, it’s part of the root of the human experience. Trusting other people sucks, but we have to do it to really, actually thrive, because the marrow of life isn’t surface-level bullshit, it’s deep and it’s gritty and it’s real. And if you want to get at the marrow, (ha, popular food of the late aughts for a thousand, Alex), you have to sink your teeth in and get ready to get real.

I’m currently out of time, because apparently, I have a job, but my roommate and I are in the process of ruminating more about vulnerability, and so perhaps we shall return with additional ideas. But for now, have the above. J



On the Cyst-uation, Femininely

It was a long week that week. It ended up all being fine, of course, but not without some unnecessary panic (per usual):

A couple of weekends ago, after a most magical evening of sunsets and whiskey and champagne and a fantastically sexy dress and a general bubble of love radiating between boyfriend and myself (definitely because of the dress), I spent several hours in the emergency room, directed there urgently after a kidney ultrasound (we were originally on the hunt for kidney stones) turned up what the imaging department assumed was an ectopic pregnancy. I knew something was up when the ultrasound technician stopped joking with me and stood up and mumbled something about a phone call, and after a very pregnant pause (ha), I was ushered into a small office and told to speak to an emergency doctor on the phone.

I tried to take a deep breath, a futile attempt at remaining open to whatever was coming. She asked me if I was sitting down (that’s never good news); I said no; she told me to sit down (again, I thought, if I remain standing, will the news become less heavy? Can I keep it at bay by remaining vertical?), and then told me that it was an emergency situation due to the fact that it was an ectopic pregnancy (for the uninformed, that’s when an egg gets fertilized but doesn’t implant in the uterus as expected – instead, it finds another place, which is dangerous and problematic). They imagined I was 8 or 9 weeks along.

I was numb, not overwhelmed, but informed and unfeeling. I had the nurse go find boyfriend, and he came in and held me, not knowing why he was holding me, but holding me nonetheless as I stood, no longer feeling as though I could be confined to chair, not yet shaking, clutching a phone, saying, “Uh huh,” and “Mmmhmmm” over and over again, robotically.

I’d stopped listening to the doctor the minute she’d uttered the words “ectopic pregnancy,” and she was attempting to reassure me that it was all right and that she’d had one at some point and blah blah blah. I froze, then, my eyes no longer focusing, my brain no longer thinking, everything shutting off; the main reactor had shut down, and the rest of my processes were losing power.

I went into handling mode, the part where I make a plan. We were going to get a copy of the ultrasound to take with us to the emergency room. I offered to take an Uber so boyfriend didn’t have to go with me. (He told me I was being ridiculous, of course he’d take me.) I cried a bit, as it settled over me. I look like Voldemort when I cry – my eyes get red and squinty and I’m cursed with a genetic predilection towards swelling in the eye-region, so the redness and the swelling join forces for the ultimate in anti-attraction.

Some people cry daintily, or prettily. I am not one of those people. I cry like a banshee when I really let it go, hiccups and snorts and the whole shebang. But that was not a let-it-go moment, instead, I just turned red and swelled, wishing I hadn’t worn mascara, excusing myself to stare at my face in the fluorescent lights of the bathroom, not feeling like I was looking at myself at all, staring into the face that wasn’t mine, but had to be, in the mirror. Alone.

He took me to the emergency room at the hospital nearby; my doctor’s office had called ahead. I made jokes the whole way over. At one point, I looked down at my flat stomach (I’ve been doing so much acro yoga and biking lately, and I’ve been proudly declaring that I’m getting “an ab” – which I totally am), and murmured, “We made a thing.” A tiny thing that was not viable, and thus was not really a thing at all, but still…a thing. I’ve never made a thing before. He repeated it. “We made a thing.” And he held my hand, or put his on my thigh, squeezing gently, reassuring me.

I sat there, numb and businesslike, alternating between attempting to breathe and fighting back tears. The guy who checked me in at the emergency room knew sign language, and I told him my favorite story about the teacher whose personal sign in the ASL dialect is a K swung back and forth to mimic the way her arm skin swings when she writes on the board. He told me that his sign was an L held against his forehead. We laughed when he told he was quite young when he picked it and that at that time, he didn’t know that it also is a common sign among kids that denotes that one is a “loser.” (It’s generally directed at the loser, by means of silent insult.) (When we left the ER, I called a goodbye, putting my hand in an L on my forehead, making him laugh.)

They hooked me up the IV quickly, dating the thing. That’s a bad sign. They don’t date the thing if you’re not going to stay. I laid there, in my jeans, stabbed in the arm and hating it. They were sending off bloodwork to figure out how far along I was, how high the hormone levels were, and if we were going to have to do surgery or if it could be handled by a pill. I changed into one of those extremely odd gowns, all buttons and strings in strange places. I think there’s got to be a better way (a better way, yeah-ah) – I’m thinking plush fuzzy bathrobes with access slits for medical procedures?

The nicest woman I’ve ever met came in and patted me on the leg and called me Honey and asked me how I was doing. I respond so well to mothering. She commiserated and gave boyfriend the “take care of her” talk and then told me that I wasn’t already adopted, she’d adopt me. I loved her immensely and immediately.

Then there was the doctor, a wonderful woman who came in and introduced herself and then said, “We’re already at panic level 100, but let’s dial it back a notch and make sure you’re actually pregnant first.” I laughed, because you’re right, here we were at threat level orange when maybe this could have been a threat level blue situation. She sighed because they’d sent the long-form blood test out instead of the short-form quick result test, so we were in limbo for the foreseeable future.

We hung out, joking about stuff. A couple weeks before, I’d been grumpy with boyfriend about everything, and had told him that I wanted him to be nowhere near me but also to hold me. He’d been very confused. That was – and remains – a completely accurate description of how I felt in that moment. I was happy to be able to say, aha! The reason I felt that insane juxtaposition of feelings was because I was pregnant. It was a nice excuse.

Alas, it was not the case. The test results finally came back: not pregnant, no ectopic pregnancy. Relief flooded through me, then confusion. So now what? As it turns out, it’s a cyst, totally normal (well, mostly). It’ll either go away on its own, or it will burst and send me back to the ER with horrible, unbearable pain, or it will grow and then they will have to surger it out of me.

We missed the gala that we had been planning on going to that night. I was disappointed, because I’d been looking forward to going. We went home instead, me exhausted and over-wrought, emotionally turbulent. I needed fifteen minutes to cry, and so that’s what we did. He laid down on his bed and his nestled me into his shoulder nook and I sobbed (the pure sobs, gulping and pulsing and hot, my entire body shaking as I let it all pass through me, out in loud wails and snorts, hot tears streaking my face). When I felt the calm settle back over me, I pushed up and off of him and went to wash my face so we could still make it to the second of our planned evening events, a comedy show, which we did. Turns out a bit of foundation and some well-placed blush with a few flicks of a mascara wand can turn even the puffiest of people into mostly gorgeous members of society.

After that, there was a deep sleep. I faded into the nothingness of unconsciousness gratefully and smoothly that night, no time allotted for lying awake, a welcome respite from the flood of things and the day itself.

On the Weekend, Happily

This weekend was non-stop, action-packed, and all-around awesome.

Friday night: date night – we went out to dinner at a newly redone restaurant. My grandma actually found it, and I found out about it when we met there for Easter brunch – such a hip grandmother that I have. When we pulled into the parking lot, I remember thinking, hmmm…this was an interesting choice, but the interior was fantastic. I asked my uncle where he’d heard about the place, and he asked me who the hottest, hippest woman I know is, and then my grandma – all 4’9” of her – just shrugs and gives me that side look, like, yep, I got this. I had a chocolate Manhattan, which was…interesting. The glass was rimmed with Nutella. Now, I am pro-Nutella all of the time, but maybe not this time. The presentation was awkward and globby, and the Nutella overwhelmed the whiskey. Although, if that’s what you’re going for, seeking to create a diabetes dampened drink, then yes, they definitely nailed it.

After sharing two small pizzas, we went late-night bowling. I love bowling, and none of my friends will ever go with me, so I was really excited when boyfriend agreed to go on a bowling adventure. I lost 4/5 games, which was frustrating, but at least I proved to be sort of solid competition. The bowling alley was busy – there were intense bowlers to our right, and a lively group to our left. At one point, there was a random lingerer just lingering at our spot. I thought he was with the other group until they asked me if he belonged to us. He did not. After a bit of back and forth, the man was eventually escorted out of the bowling alley. You know you’re having a rough night when you get kicked out of a bowling alley for being a completely odd lingerer. The music was everything I love – all sorts of upbeat oldies and Motown, as well as some of those 80s pop classics. I was wiggling and dancing, which may have resulted in the loss of my ferocity as a competitor. The stakes were high, and I’m slightly disappointed that I didn’t just absolutely crush boyfriend. Ah, well. Next time.
Saturday: My brother’s girlfriend was in town this weekend, so we had brunch near my house. It was wonderful. After brunch, we spent 20 minutes playing with a boxer puppy (oh such a sweet baby) who was tied up in the grass outside. He was so little, and so soft, and we all just melted over him. He was just getting his puppy teeth in, and was happily chomping on everything, still uncoordinated with his big puppy paws, all soft and roly-poly, happy to be snuggled.

Then we went and test-drove bikes. I’m thinking I’m going to end up being a road biker with the guys, and if that’s the case, I’ll need something more suitable for that than my vintage Belgian road bike. Ugh, which will mean that I will end up being one of those people who owns spandex bike shorts and jerseys. I’ll just channel as much Lance Armstrong as I can, which may mean that I’ll eventually have to learn how to bike in a straight line. Goals, I guess.

It was lovely, actually. The woman who sized me for a bike (54cm, apparently) was so passionate about biking, and I loved listening to her. Somehow, seeing people who are really passionate about what they do in their element makes that subject so much more interesting. The bike I rode was beautiful. It was so smooth, but also $2000 and that was the low price point. Ha, not going to happen. We’ve got a bike guru scouring the internet for potential bike frames for me, so hopefully that will turn up a nice deal.

After that, I went and met boyfriend’s god-kids. They are so adorable. We went to Dave and Buster’s (they should have just called it “The Germ and Money Pit”), and we played some games. It was really funny – at one point, I was playing one of those motorcycle driving games, but could not figure out how to get the motorcycle to actually go. I had to turn to the 4 year old girl next to me and ask her how to start it. She gave me a look that read, “Wow, you’re old AND pathetic,” and then told me how to do it. Apparently, you just have to pull back on the throttle. It was a very humbling moment. I was pleased with myself for hitting 6 checkpoints in a row, until one of the 6 year olds told me he could do it better and got on the bike to complete my race. (Just for the record, he was not better than me. I told his sister that, and she agreed. She was so sweet, telling me that even though her little brother is really great at all the video games that he plays, he is really terrible at these driving games. We watched him run into some walls before he lost interest and we moved elsewhere.)

I took him back to my house….and let him inside for the first time. I’m quite surprised we haven’t had to have a “it’s not me, it’s actually you” talk – and we laughed about how long it would be until it was socially acceptable to break up with me. I’ve been avoiding letting him into my space (I do that…I’m better off on other’s people’s turf than my own when it comes to living spaces, and since I’m rarely home, my room is a disaster area of things – pulled out and neglected, or thrown here or there. I try, sometimes, and am successful in organization on occasion, but honestly, it’s a matter of both unwillingness to cull my possessions and also a completely overwhelming feeling of not having any idea how to organize. Also, time. I spend so little time at home because I’m always on the go, and so my time at home is not spent decluttering. Instead, it’s spent trying to maybe relax a little. Or do laundry.). And so, he’s seen it. He has not mentioned it since, but I do believe that he was entirely overwhelmed. A friend of his once told me that she found him to be very judgmental about her house, and I laughed and promised her I’d never bring him home. But it is my thing – I can scrub, happily, but I will most likely always need assistance with the clutter/organization. I’m honest about it – I’m terrible at it. I’m aware of that. I need someone to guide me, to keep me on track, and then, still love me.

From there, we stopped off to meet his friends at a nearby bar – twenty minutes exactly was the time limit, because we were parked in a spot that becomes valet parking at 5pm. The valet asked me if we were valeting when we parked, and I looked at him, raised an eyebrow, and told him it wasn’t five yet – he cautioned that they tow promptly. And so, mindful of the timing, we socialized for 19 minutes. Ha. It was nice, actually, you just get to go, say hello, mingle for a minute, and then leave, as quickly as you came. It’s the perfect way to meet new people.

Then, my friend Jared needed help with modeling some clothes that he made, so we got ready for dinner and then went down to play dress up. I was laughing, because we got there, and my friend Jacob goes, “We’re playing sweatshop!” It was true – there were bits of cloth everywhere and we were throwing the finishing touches on clothes as we put them on to model. It was amazing. I do love an excuse to get all sorts of undressed, so when Jared asked if I’d model just the meggings (man-leggings), I was super keen. Downtown Denver saw a lot of me that afternoon, but it was so much fun. Jared is an architect by day and a super-seamstress by night, and he makes the best clothes. They’re so fun and the patterns are always amazing. I’m going to ask him to make me some meggings to do acro yoga in.

We were running late to meet my family for dinner downtown, so when the cab got hung up at a red light, we looked at each other and decided to make a run for it. Getting out of the cab, taking off my shoes, and booking it down a busy street was the highlight of my weekend. It was beautiful – both of us in our fancy dinner clothes, me with heels in one hand and my purse in the other, sprinting through a very upscale area. We stopped half a block before the restaurant to collect ourselves, and then walked into the restaurant cool as cucumbers. As we walked in, me laughing at the absurdity of having just sprinted through all sorts of fancy people, I told boyfriend that on the plus side, he will never be bored.

Dinner was excellent. I really love my family. My mom is my favorite human being. I was showing her some of the pictures that boyfriend got on his phone from the photo shoot, and of course, most of them were of me wearing only meggings and heels, with hands covering the rest of the things that needed covered. I love that my mom doesn’t even bat an eye. I swore to her that there were other clothes and more coverage at some point, and she just nodded, certainly thinking, “Suuuure.” My mom and aunt took the light rail downtown – I was impressed – and so we walked them back to the light rail so that they could get back home. On the way, there was another puppy, this one a baby yellow lab. I jogged up ahead so that I could stop his owners and snuggle him, too.

We ended up at a vodka bar, drinking horseradish, pickle, pineapple, and beet vodkas. Horseradish is not my cup of tea, whether it’s in regular or alcoholic form, so that was…..an experience. The owner came by and we traded jokes for a while; it made for a very nice evening. I love my brother’s girlfriend and it’s nice to be able to gang up on him for a change. Usually, it’s the other way around, with me taking the brunt of the teasing. Since I never go out with my brother, it was really nice to have a night where we were all out together.

By this point, I realized that I had lost my wallet somewhere. I am notorious for losing everything, but never the important things. Keys, always lost only briefly, mislaid but not forgotten. Wallet, never. Phone, same as the keys. Close but concealed. But to open your purse to see nothing is a very disconcerting feeling. I decided not to stress about it, and we ended up finding the wallet in the Lyft that we had taken – boyfriend drove all the way to get it on Sunday for me. The sweet relief of having your possessions returned to you intact is really such a wonderful feeling – the driver was absolutely fantastic. He had apparently attempted to contact Lyft to tell us the night before (when I lost it), and we had attempted to contact Lyft, but had been met with resistance. Once we got in touch with the driver through the app, he called me back immediately. I was so grateful. It’s nice when people are kind and honest.

Sunday, we met my dad and his wife for sushi lunch. I am disappointed. I used to love our cheap sushi place, and now it’s lost its luster. Food has gone from okay to eh, and the service has fallen apart as well. All of the things were not in line, and the lunch was a little bit of a strange situation. My dad and his wife are wonderful people, but I felt very off-kilter in that setting. Maybe it was because dad and wife were meeting boyfriend? Or the lingering effects of all of the vodka? Or…I don’t know. Ah, well, it wasn’t too bad. He was asking boyfriend a hundred million questions, and I was awkwardly attempting to keep things level while looking completely at ease. Which I was not.

We got ice cream after, and stopped into the hipster plant store just to look. I walked out with four new plants, but have gifted two of them, so I feel as though my purchases were justified. There’s this amazing book/record/comic/coffee shop on Broadway that I’d never been into, so we wandered through there. I taught boyfriend the game of picking up random books and only reading the last sentence (or two). No context. It’s really fun, if you’re in the right mood. We found a book for my mom in the humor section. It’s a comic book for cat-haters. You’re welcome, mom. You’re going to love it. I just need to wrap it.

After that, we went to Cheeseman Park to do some afternoon acro yoga. I was spacey, maybe tired, maybe just a little bit over-stimulated from all of the weekend, but I had a bit of trouble. I took a few really solid falls that afternoon, but overall, enjoyed myself. I am working on getting better at star, with is upside down and involves a headstand into it. Once I get that down, I’ll be able to do a lot more. We were also working on side star, and some transitions, and after a bit of miscommunication and recalibration, we actually made some legitimate headway there. Also – I have a girl date! I’m really excited. Girl friends are so hard to find/make/keep, and there’s a woman in the acro yoga group that is amazing. We’re going to have drinks soon and bond, which I think will be lovely.

We went back to my friend Jared’s for more modeling/fashion fun after the park. Poor boyfriend – I forget how hard it is to just jump into an established group of people. He was a total trooper, and ended up modeling several pairs of meggings/man pants, tanks, and even a tiny retro swimsuit. (I was not complaining about the last one…) It was fun. He definitely loved the lines of the clothes, and told me that he’ll be using Jared as a fashion reference in the future. We had fun, modeling business wear, meggings, and some dresses.

Then the hunger set in – we found ourselves at Whole Foods (ugh) buying steaks. Oh man, that was the most amazing thing. I love a good steak, but have no idea how to cook meat, so I was content to be on veggie duty while the steaks were prepared. I made roasted potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, and beets and beet greens. I nailed those. I was really proud of myself, because I’ve never actually sautéed mushrooms before. I browned butter – because browned butter makes everything better – and then used that and a bit of olive oil for the mushrooms. The potatoes were just cubed up and hit with some rosemary, because that’s the best things, and then I boiled the beets and sautéed the greens with a lot of lemon. We had a nice bottle of wine, and we put on his favorite classical violinist while we ate.
At one point, as were sitting there in the low light of the candles, wearing sweatpants and nibbling on the last bites of dinner, I stared off at the screen where the orchestra was orchestrating and felt a few thick tears slide down my face. Sometimes the joy just overwhelms me, and it swells up inside me and leaks out in liquid form. It wasn’t a sob, no shaking, no moments of gasping for air, just the heady thrum of contentment, encapsulated in the moment, and feeling full – of gratitude, happiness, contentment, steak, promise, and joy.

Life is beautiful. It is wild and strange and so brief. I am happy to be here, now, exploring and adventuring and enjoying.

On 55 Hours of Freedom, Springily

My 55 hours of freedom began with a dinner party. To add to the slight stress of meeting new people, there was also the panic of the location – an upscale eatery. Confident in my knowledge of which silverware to choose (learned watching Titanic – just work your way in), I selected my favorite sweater dress. It’s navy and red, short and tight enough to be alluring, and high-necked enough to be modest. Plus, you don’t have to worry about a necklace, since you’re covered. That plus tights and boots and a little bit of eyeshadow turned me into a very compelling dinner companion. I remembered to grab my sense of humor on the way out the door, and had a lovely evening. Also, I ate everything. All of the meats. It was spectacular. If all I need to do to go have entertaining conversation and delicious food is put myself together, I will happily do that any day.

When we got home, we decided that we were going to sleep in the igloo we made last week during the epic spring blizzard. (I got sent home due to a power outage at work on Wednesday, and so we spent 6+ hours building this amazing 6’ tall snow fort – the man encapsulated it on Thursday, and thus, we are now in brief possession of an immense front yard igloo.) We hauled out blankets and pillows and snacks and fell asleep in our snow cave. It was not a night of great sleep. I was cold and sore, my hips protesting about the ice below them, my body protesting about the lack of heat and the cold everywhere. At one point, I decided I’d be generous and give the man my hat (bad decision for me), and I think we woke up at least 7 times that night. Lots of pulling and rearranging.

However, on the plus side, I now know that I do not want to pursue snow-camping as a hobby, and I’m glad I didn’t have to drive to the mountains to figure that out. But it was fun. Our friends stopped by very late in the night (after we’d gone to sleep), so it was fun to wake up to a yell of, “They’re in there!” and have a late night igloo meeting.

Saturday brought cat-snuggling. Carlos has been missing me, because I’ve been a terrible cat mother lately, and so I went home Saturday morning to snuggle him. And in theory, to finish cleaning (ha, guess how that turned out?). Then there was a yoga party – we built a two-story tall snowman and had the most delicious sangria before coming home and napping hard. After the nap, we broke for Easter preparations and then made dinner (the leftovers from the steakhouse were amazing).

Easter Sunday – as usual, it was too cold to wear my Easter dress, so I selected a pink lacy shirt and jeans. I’m trying to get into softer, more lady-like colors, but I’m still not convinced. If it’s not black, I don’t know about it. Adulting is proving to be harder than I thought, at least sartorially.

We had first breakfast. I was excited to meet new family, and there were jelly beans involved (which is never a bad thing). Then we had brunch with my dad’s family, and stopped off to see my grandpa at the nursing home before we headed back home to wait for AAA to pick up my brother’s car, which had stopped working. Ha, trying to push an SUV into our busy street was quite the adventure. It got stuck in the hole next to our driveway, and so it had to hang out half in the street and half in the driveway until the tow truck driver could get there.

I brought my 9-year old to my mom’s family’s Easter dinner. She’s my favorite person – a small blonde bundle of energy. She had flowers and a card for my grandma, as well as a chocolate bunny, and she made bunny cake! (Everyone knows how to make bunny cake and I feel like it’s something I’m going to have to learn how to do – I’m into the idea of being able to garnish a cake with all sorts of additional sources of sugar, and when we were at my grandma’s house, I ate all of the Easter-flavored twizzlers off the cake while we were cutting it.) She’s so talkative! (Maybe I was that talkative at that age?) She’s headed off for Spring Break, and she goes to the same elementary school that we all went to, so we had a lot to talk about.

I wanted to show her some acro yoga, because I imagined that she’d enjoy it since she does gymnastics. As it turns out, she loved. Poor boyfriend could not catch a break. She had him going through pose after pose after pose, determined to learn more. At one, she was demanding that we do something really cool. It made me laugh to see how excited she was about it, and how determined. He told her that once she learns how to do a handstand, she can do a lot more. She was super eager, and he was a really good sport about letting her leap all over him. When we dropped her back off at her house, she made him do it all over again to show her parents. It was really sweet.

I was exhausted. 55 hours isn’t quite long enough, is it? I feel like this week is going to bring a lot of necessary errand-completion and tasks to be checked off, so I’m feeling productive and excited to leap into it.

On the Weekend, Always Belatedly

Ah, the weekends. The 9-5 grind is exactly that, a grind, and by the end of the day, I’m generally exhausted. But the weekend provides me with roughly 55 hours of usable free time – 5pm Friday to midnight Sunday – and I try to make it a point to use as much of that time as possible.

Last weekend was no exception.

My mom had asked me if I’d like to bring the guy that I’m seeing to family dinner on Friday night – my favorite meal of the year, corned beef and cabbage – and I’d immediately declined the invitation. But then I thought about it, after telling him that I’d declined his invitation without even asking him. I realized that it probably wouldn’t be too bad if he met my people, so I re-invited him, nervously.

I’m known for bringing guys home to meet the family very early on – maybe it’s the sadist in me that likes to see them sweat, or maybe it’s that I want to see how they can manage themselves. My family is quite lovely, so it’s not like it’s difficult, but I’m a firm believer that you can tell a lot about a man by the way he interacts with your family in that sort of environment. Is he polite? Does he speak up? Is he patient? I’m impatient, usually polite, and always talking, so I need someone who can be patient, polite, and match my level of enthusiasm for the conversation. I love my family, and I want them to know the people I spend my time with, and for those people to know my family. Also, free food. Plus, my grandmothers are pretty fantastic people.

To my surprise, he said yes in the very best way. A long text message string of rap lyrics. I laughed out loud when I read it, and then immediately sent a few panicky emails to my grandmother, mom, and aunt, so that there’d be another place at the table and to make sure there was enough food. (I promised to eat less, if need be.)

And so that happened. I picked him up, ten minutes late (surprise, surprise), and we made our way the four blocks to my grandmother’s house (convenient). The evening was wonderful. He talked – he may have talked more than I did! (Ehhh, probably not.) He deftly handled the faux-argument we have over the men’s side of the table (they always mess up the passing order to make sure that their buddies get the best food first – and the women always tease them about it), falling in line with the “rules” of the passing and the back-passing. He definitely got in on the good end of the back-passing – he had meat, potatoes, and cabbage before I’d even gotten the bread.

We lingered for four hours. He got to see the reenactment of the guys and my mom dropping me off at college – my uncle’s impression of me sobbing and begging them to take me back to Denver includes, “I’ll go to DU, I swear!” and is fantastically hilarious – as well as my mom’s excellent impression of the “purse carrier,” which is exactly what I’m not allowed to marry. It was a really wonderful dinner, and I felt so happy to be surrounded by such lovely people, and to come from such a loving and kind family.

On Saturday, I went to see an old co-worker, who’s now my mentor/friend. She has the most adorable two-year old son, so I was happy to play with him while we caught up. It’s so easy to lose touch with people once you don’t see them every day, so I’ve been trying to make an effort to stay in contact and not lose people just because they’ve slid out of the periphery. Also, she’s very good about getting in touch with me, so that definitely helps. I always laugh and thank her for being a part of my village (village people, I think that’s what I’m going to call my wonderful network of humans), because I’ve been to her kid’s birthday parties, her family events, and I was the first person to ever babysit for her son.

Babies are the sweetest things. He’s talking up a storm now, and he has the biggest eyes and the happiest smile. I chased him and tickled him, and his peals of laughter brought me so much joy. I love how determined they get, or how frustrated, or how giggly. There is so much pure energy and pure emotion, and as I left, he stood by the door and waved to me, over-ready for his nap. My friend texted me after I left and told me that he was out 60 seconds after she put him down.

For some reason, I was in cleaning mode on Saturday. I have been struggling to get my house under control for a while now (again, no surprise here), and I wanted to go home and do some good work. And so I did. I got my room rearranged, opened up the box that contained my new mattress and got it unfurled, foam puffing up immediately. I got more things folded and hung up and stuffed into drawers (I mean, folded, definitely neatly). I threw away trash and cleaned out the fridge. I scrubbed the sink and unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher. It was nice progress, and it felt good. My friend Gina will help me with the rest of it tonight.

Saturday night, we went to my old favorite Thai place. I’ve only ever ordered one thing there (five years is a long time to not stray on a menu, and I intend to keep up the streak) – pineapple curry, medium. Sometimes with shrimp, sometimes just extra pineapple, sometimes veggies. Always delicious. That is the food I crave on Sundays (when they’re closed), when I’m sad, or sick, or happy, or ….any time.

After that, we stopped into the PS Lounge – if you haven’t done that, you need to. Your life will get so much better. We had a few drinks there, and sat talking, oblivious to the bar around us. (Not entirely, but it makes it sound so much more romantic if I put it that way, doesn’t it?) Regardless, the conversations are so fantastic. I really like that I’ve met someone who knows stuff about stuff I don’t know. And who’s willing to tolerate the things that I love. He told me the other night that he loves that I always have something to add – actually add, a different perspective or input – to conversations. I laughed, what else am I going to do? We haven’t really disagreed about anything yet, and I keep trying to find something where we have drastically differing viewpoints…thus far, no luck.

My friend Jacob was playing at a bar down the road, so tipsy adventure me decided that we needed to at least pop in. So we did, briefly. I danced a little less than I would have liked, nervous energy coursing through my body. Bringing someone into your comfort zone is so hard. I like people. But it’s funny, because as much as I am uneasy in new places or doing new things, I’m equally uncomfortable when I’m bringing someone into my spaces, my people, my things.

Sunday morning, we woke up and went for a bike ride. He was so sweet a few weeks ago and put my bike back together for me (to be fair, he’s the one who took it apart in the first place….but I had a tangled chain somehow?), so I’ve been able to ride around with him. I’m terrified of city biking – too many people in Chicago get smashed by buses on bikes – but I’m getting better! We did 20 miles on Sunday, looping through the park on our way downtown, made a pit stop for ice cream, and then to REI (obviously), and then back around to the water treatment plant, and then back. By the end, I’d lost all of my energy, and the last few miles were me playing the mental fortitude game in my head. But I made it! There’s an uphill part right at the end, which is miserable. It’s the last big push before relaxation, and when I made it, I was overjoyed and that feeling of accomplishment (or at least, not failure) washed over me.  And on the way I ran into a couple of friends who I hadn’t seen in over a year, which was wonderful!

Ha, to make things way sexier, I wore bike shorts. And since I left my car at the Thai restaurant the night before, I had no shoes to wear other than my cheap little black flats. So between the bright orange bike shirt and short combo and the completely not bike shoes, I made a very official-looking exerciser. You know, I make fun of the bike shorts/shirt people (and will continue to do so…), but, there’s something to it. My sit bones were not even sore as a result of the padding in the shorts.

Then I went to Verizon and got a new phone. I’ve had my mom’s old iPhone for over a year now, and she had it for two years before that, and the thing was just starting to lose everything. No battery life, no storage, the whole deal. It was time. Verizon can definitely thank Lil’ Wayne for pushing me over the edge; I’d been vacillating between the iPhone 6s (or trying to wait until the 7 came out?) and an Android, and Samsung came out with the Galaxy S7, which is water-resistant (seriously, you could put it in a fish tank and it would still work – I’m so curious but not $700 worth of curious, so I’ll leave that to the professionals and try to keep my phone on dry land), and that’s what did it. I’m a bath-taker and also incredibly accident-prone, so this seems like the right choice. Also, I had an S4 once, and I loved it. Apparently, the S6 was a miserable piece of equipment, and they’ve corrected that (righted their wrongs and put things back) in the newest version, so I’m in.

We shall see. It’s been a funny adjustment, because I had forgotten everything. But alas, it’s like riding a bike. Your fingers and brain relearn the moves, and it’s been not even 48 hours and I’m back in the groove.

Then I had dinner with my mom. First dinner, to be more accurate. We ate salad and caught up for an hour or so. It was so nice. I really love my mom. Then I had second dinner with my friend Emily. Man, I really love sushi and sake. I also love having friends that you’ve known forever. It’s so wonderful to love someone who really knows you. Emily has known me since high school, and I am really happy that we haven’t let our friendship slip. She’s beautiful, smart, funny, and all of the things I love. We had a nice time, except for the fact that my dark circles threatened to swallow me whole. I had that blank, empty stare of exhaustion by the time we were done.

Finally, finally, came the sleep. My exhausted body was so pleased to find bed and pillows and blankets, and I was gone, weekend concluded. Not too bad for 55 hours, right? Errands, accomplishments, exercise, family, friends, dancing, date night, alcohol, ice cream, adventure, new technology, and babies! All of the best things. Nailed it.

On Kids’ Movies, Tearfully

It’s no secret that I’m a cryer.

I have cried at Google commercials, movies, cute internet pictures, news articles….you name it. Sometimes it’s just a misty-eyed moment, and other times, it’s a full-on sob session. I can’t help it; I’m very empathetic and my weakness is adorable things.

A few weeks ago, I was babysitting my favorite 6-year old and we watched Brave. I had never seen it. It’s a lot of things, but it’s definitely a mother/daughter movie and I had reached near-Notebook levels of tears by the end. My 6-year old was very confused as to why I was sniffling on her couch watching the mom-turned-bear trying to become a human again but also survive and not lose herself to animal instincts while still being a mother.

“Why are you crying,” she asked.

Through my tears, I tried to summarize adolescence and especially parent stress, and how no matter what you do, even if you do something really stupid, they’ll still love you. I am pretty sure she thought I was completely crazy. She won’t remember that conversation, but she’ll grow up and be a teenager and it’ll all make sense.

Kids’ movies get to me. I cried at some ridiculous dolphin movie, and The Boxtrolls, and..I should just make a list, or better yet, maybe maybe a list of kids’ movies that I don’t cry while watching…that’d be so much easier.

Anyway – not the point – tonight we watched Despicable Me 2, which is such a fantastically wonderful movie. As we got to the end, and the main character (a lovely, reformed grump who adopted 3 adorable daughters and has a giant yellow entourage of incoherent helpers) is getting married to a woman with whom he’d worked on some spy work, I see my 6-year old’s head slide into my view from where she’d been behind me, brushing my hair.

She’d come to check to see if I was crying. “Not even a little bit!” I told her, slightly too proudly. She checked my face to make sure, and then giggled and went back to brushing my hair.

Wow. You know it’s bad when even the kids think that you’re probably crying.


On My First Democratic Caucus, Raucously

Last night was the Colorado Democratic Caucus – I hadn’t participated in a caucus before, and was excited to have the chance. (I guess I had either been in Chicago, and thus absentee voting or….no idea where I was in 2012…)

I went to the high school where my precinct was gathering, along with what seemed like every other precinct (the line wrapped around the school). I just walked past the line since I already knew which precinct I belong to, so I got a nametag and waded into the massive throng of people gathered in the high school cafeteria. I wiggled around a bit, found a chair, and sat down, thinking that I might as well sit since the chair was taking up valuable standing space.

I started talking to a woman sitting next to me about politics, of course. I liked her immediately. It wasn’t until 20 minutes after the whole thing was supposed to begin that it actually even limped toward beginning. People were standing on tables, attempting to do their best impressions of public speakers, with non-working microphones and the general mood turning from politically perky to restless and annoyed.

After they called out each location of the precincts, of which there were at least twenty crammed into a cafeteria (we had one lunch table for what would be 50 people), they herded us into another location (thankfully), and we spread out a bit. It was no longer coats in faces and millimeters of space between your face and the next person’s.

We divided ourselves into candidates, with a neutral zone in the middle for anyone who might be undecided. No one was.

We counted off. One, two, three…it was calming. I was standing next a whiteboard, and you know how much I love to write on any sort of chalk or whiteboard, so of course I was keeping track of the tally. And then of the upcoming events.

Soon enough, they were calling for a chairperson and a secretary. I’m a super volunteer, for reasons unknown, and am always willing to take on more things (…my mother is currently directly affected by me volunteering her to make a quilt for Adoption Camps, which I promptly forgot about, and then remembered only when we were given an entire bag of neatly folded t-shirts for quilting sacrifice). So of course, when they asked for the secretary, the room was still and silent, no one was trying to be caught even breathing for fear of having the attention cast upon them, so I raised my hand and piped up, “I’ll do it!”

Shakily, I spelled my name, blushing because that’s how I roll when I begin any sort of public speaking/attention focused endeavor. But after that, we began getting the necessary signatures and I found myself standing behind our chairwoman as we slowly progressed through the alphabet. A names….B names…

Finally, I just took the last half of the alphabet and started picking people out of the room to come up and sign. I was done before they’d hit G.

We also dealt with proposal for the party platform – one of which was return to the primary system rather than a caucus. 50 votes in favor of that one.

Our little precinct has 3 delegates, so we are sending 2 for Bernie Sanders and 1 for Hillary Clinton, the result of a late in the night coin toss after an issue with two people being in the wrong place and causing the preferences in our precinct to be split evenly down the middle. Since I already have to go to the thing as the secretary, I’m going to be a delegate as well.

It’ll be fun! Yay, next Saturday – I was going to be skiing, but now I’ll be performing a civic duty. Shame that I don’t get to miss any work to do it.

It was curious to me – the room was split evenly among the two candidate supporters, as I’ve mentioned, but I found that it was interesting that the division ran along age lines. All of the middle aged and upwards were in the Hillary camp and all of the younger ones, including an adorable toddler who immediately came up to me with her water bottle because I had mine too, were on the Sanders side.

A Hillary supporter spoke out about how he’s not in favor of any kind of socialism, and I began to wonder if that’s part of the age divide. Maybe it’s because I’ve never faced socialism as a word with a seriously negative connotation, but I’m not in the least bothered by the assertion of “democratic socialism.” (Also, I’m not opposed to socialism, but that’s another post entirely…)

I did find it inspiring to see how many people turned out last night. I ran into a few friends, and I went and caught up with one of them over dinner after the caucusing had concluded.

While caucusing may be a very annoying process, I was happy to meet some of my neighbors. That element was really cool. One of them recognized me from when we had the dog, another is a woman I know through work, and our chairperson is the woman that I was talking to before the caucus began.

I know that a lot of my peers are disillusioned with the political process and the state of our government as a whole, and I agree. But in making the choice not to vote, they’re eliminating the right to complain about any of it, because it is (frustrating as it may be) only through participation in the established processes that we will be able to enact any sort of lasting change. I vote because I can. And I will. Because my vote does count, even when you think about it being swallowed up as a whole. Had I not gone to my caucus last night, it would have been 25 Hillary to 24 Bernie, and she’d be getting 2 delegates instead of the other way around. We all have impacts on our environments and surroundings, and it’s important to remember that even though we are small, we are not insignificant.

On the Duality of Dreams and the Magic of Acro Yoga, Swimmingly

I did something wonderful last night. I went with a friend to try out acro yoga, which is partner yoga – think acrobatic controlled movement. It’s amazing. I was spellbound; I haven’t quite felt my eyes widen to try to take everything in the way they did last night in a long time.

I’d always wanted to do it, but never had actually really done it, and last night was quite the adventure. I had no idea what I was getting into, and today I am completely sore but so very happy. My body is quiet. It stretched and did things I wasn’t sure it could do – at one point, I was upside down with my shoulders resting on someone’s hands while I held onto their ankles and somehow managed to keep my body completely straight up and down. It was magical. The feeling of accomplishment at that was the most satisfied I’ve been in a while.

My friend remarked that I’m a quick learner, because by the end of the whole thing, I was just as eager as I had been at the beginning, but now somehow completely more comfortable and feeling very confident – not confident that I’m fantastic at it, but less hesitant and more able to give it all a go. He’s been doing it for ages, and of course is insanely strong and knowledgeable, which is nice to have because his calm ability to explain things while I was mid-air was very helpful. And also super attractive.

I think that the decade of dancing helped quite a bit, even though not everything felt natural, my body has retained some of its flexibility and is eager to bend and be. This is definitely something that I want to explore more.  Just sheer unbridled joy. It was wonderful.

After, we went and mingled over drinks with his yoga people, and I was delighted to find myself submerged in a completely unknown social environment in which I felt entirely comfortable. It was fun.


I’m a firm believer that as we age, we lose some of the connectivity we have with the energy on this earth; that the childlike wonder is infinitely more in tune with the environment than our older selves, due to the chaotic cluttering of the airwaves. Responsibility, society, work, experience – all of those things cloud our minds and work to limit our ability to be truly in tune.

It’s the reason teenagers are so lame – they’re suddenly aware of how people perceive them, and they don’t want to appear anything but cool about anything, so instead of allowing their excitement to show, they’ll just nod, and say, “cool,” with a shrug.

That’s why I actively practice childlike wonder. I want to be as enthralled as possible with new experiences, because there is such great joy in those moments. I want to be curious and learn everything about everything. I want to wonder, to wander, and to feel. I take time to lay in the grass (not directly, I’m allergic as all hell) and stare up at the clouds when they’re the most cumulus (digging that as a descriptor).

I write about the strength in intuition, and how I have relied on it for my biggest decisions. I have been actively working for years now to quiet the other external and internal thought processes and inputs and to listen to that voice. I’ve gotten so much better at it than I used to be, and I’ve stopped second-guessing myself so much. A huge part of the internal dialogue is self-critical (at least for me), and being able to disregard it has let me let the self-doubt fall away. It’s magical, that feeling of surety and confidence in my own being.

But I disgress…a bit.

When I was nine, the Broncos won the Super Bowl. I knew that they would, because I’d had a dream of hands touching the Lombardi trophy. I told a man that in a pager store, long before the big game. He didn’t believe me. I was tiny, and very firm in my assertion.

As a child, I had a pink dress my grandmother brought back from Spain. It was my “Spain dress,” and I wore it until it was dirty and ripped and tight in the armpits; I loved that dress immensely. I had a dream one night that I was twirling around in the backyard (because the best part of any dress or skirt is its flowy spinnability – when you twirl, how much area/separation do you get between the fabric and the legs? It’s an important consideration, to be sure), and my dad came out and told me that my aunt was getting married. And sure enough, one day, I was twirling around in the backyard and the announcement came: my aunt was getting married.

I’ve long dreamed very intense dreams; they come and go in different stages of presentation depending on my stress levels, life places, etc., but when the dreams are their purest, they are often telling and illuminating in ways I appreciate.

This fall, I had a dream – I don’t remember the specifics – but I woke up knowing that I needed to be on guard. That semi-conscious premonition alerted me to something I didn’t see coming, and that day, when the moment happened, I was prepared and able to handle it gracefully and smoothly, without the duress that I would have felt had I been blindsided by it. Katie (Un)Consciousness for the win.

My dreams the last two nights have been vivid. The other night, I dreamed two different dreams within the same dream (you know how they go – they wind and twist and change so abruptly, yet somehow comingle with the certainty of a single experience). Each dream involved rocks and water. In one, I was in a warm, light place, under water, with the perspective of two pairs of feet submerged to the shins. The water was clear and blue and I was content to observe these two pairs of feet just being, as the waves rolled around them.

In the other scenario, I was in my car, in the mountains. This day was far darker, a cold blackness of winter. I looked away, for a second, and my car slid along a rocky cliff edge that hadn’t been there before, furiously, and I could not control it. The dream flashed forward to me, half submerged in dark water, trying to pull myself out using the cold rocks around me. There were other people there, suddenly, doing whatever it is that they were doing, and a giant dangling spider and for some odd reason, a squirrel? The dangling spider was close to my hair, and I didn’t want to become entangled with spider and web and hair. But I couldn’t get out. And so I remained, half submerged, attempting to climb out, unable to do so.

And then the warm place was back again. The people and the beach and their waterfall, which is what they were standing under. I watched their feet, unable to “look” elsewhere, but I could hear their murmured conversation and their laughter.

I woke, curious about the odd duality of the matter displayed in my dreams. I think I know, but am not sure yet which dream location belongs to which of the things that relate to the things in my life. I think I know that too. I’ll sleep on it.

Last night, much the same, although with people I know. The general strangeness of setting and barely discernable plot lines plus the people – my family, a friend, other minor characters. Most of the dream has slipped back into my subconscious now, I’ve lost my own creation, but I remember starkly the presence of one person and then later the food on a plate – all of it green. I am curious about the clear warning of envy here, and what it will mean. Also, I’m suddenly craving pistaschio pudding.


On this week, penultimately

It’s Thursday. I thought yesterday was Thursday, and as a result, having to do this day all over again is miserable. I keep feeling like it should be Friday. It’s been a long week; one of those weeks that’s immense and intense and dragging on even as it’s speeding by.

The week has brought conversations I did not imagine I’d have; it has brought both clarity of situation and intention; it has brought unexpected complications. The theme of the week has been entirely human – emotions and choice. It’s been hard for everyone, us humans, merely bones and muscle and blood, love and pain and all the promise.

What is it to have the experiences that make us human? We have been given the greatest gift of emotions, the spectrum between suffering and unbridled joy, and the great swath that falls between. This week has been a gentle reminder of the fact that joy for one can bring grief for another.

I have stared into my past this week, as the present is swirling up around me, threatening to overwhelm. I have stared back, down into the dark things. I have found, unexpectedly, a bit of clarity of intention I didn’t imagine would be coming. I have cemented connections. I have thought mindfully and rationally; I have been physically shaken out of fear, and cried because the pain of watching someone else hurt is hard to bear; I have laughed, and been filled with admiration and gratitude. Now I sit watching the storm recede, and I am calm. I am filled with the radiant feeling of peace, a feeling of confident repose.

It is never easy to live. No actually, that’s incorrect. It’s never easy to be truly alive. There cannot be joy and happiness without the suffering and despair. In all of that, every single moment, we are given only choice – what will I do with the moment at hand?

I read an article today talking about life, not as a game of chess, but as a game of Tetris. The premise of the article was that there is no end game with life; we do not have the perfect move, the better move, the opponent. In life, our biggest opponent is ourselves, and in life, the pieces never stop falling. It is up to us to place them where we will and to continue, as the onslaught comes ever faster. There is not winning of life, not really.

Of course life is not a game, but in letting go of the approach of winning, I think we’re able to find the peace we so desperately seek. In the appreciation of the smaller moments, the shaking off of the heavy things, and the acceptance that we are all flawed in our own individual ways, we are given the opportunities to shape our own destiny, whatever is it that may be. We get the chance to choose happiness every day, to work on our relationships, our ways of communicating, our means of support, because we can. Otherwise, we are left to languish in the unknown, having decided that there is no bright future.

I’ve been there. The darkness almost swallowed me whole.

Now that I’m away, it seems so silly. Why can’t you just see that there’s light and joy in the world? When you’re in the darkness, you can’t see that there is even light, not within you, not anywhere. You are nothing. You are alone. You are forgotten, unforgiven, unrepentant, a sniveling excuse for a human, and you truly feel all of that to your core. It’s a hard experience to have. I almost lost myself to it. I withdrew from the world, apathy cloaking my spirit. I plodded onward, daily, misery incarnate. I couldn’t fathom the fact that I’d once been happy; couldn’t draw on those moments as a source of strength. Those, too, were no longer mine. People said it’d get better, but I didn’t believe them. How could I? To me, they possessed something I no longer had. I hated it. I hated that it wouldn’t end. I hated myself and everything around me, because everyone else was happier and better off, aware of some secret from which I had been singled out and excluded.

And then, it lifted.

I’m not sure if it was the fact that my hatred for being unhappy finally overwhelmed the unhappiness, that my sheer will not to let the bad thing be my only thing, or if some small moments of joy trickled in through the cracks and thawed my frostbitten soul, coaxing it back to life.

It’s not that I didn’t work at it. I did. I finally wrote about it. I finally opened it up and let it go, releasing my pain to the world. I talked about it. I fought about it. I cried about it. I scratched at the darkness until my fingers bled, and out of my frustration and desperation, I found the exit. Climbing out of hell is harder than you think. There’s no map, no how, nowhere to begin. That’s the trap.

Coming back into the sunshine is the greatest feeling in the world. The day that I was fully free, I was with my five year old in a park. The sky was immense and clear-blue, and the earth was around us. Just the two of us, we walked and ran and played. I felt unbearably light. I think I wrote about it that day. It was amazing.

This week, I was reminded what the dark places feel like. I saw the outburst of a friend struggling with the weight of being human – purpose, love, grief, sadness, anger – and I hurt because of that. The ripple effects of our own sadness carry far beyond ourselves, and in not being able to help those who are struggling, we each hurt in our own way. My part in his upset hurts too.

I am firm believer that love is the greatest gift we are given. Love is my highest goal. Love brings joy. Love is my motivation. Love moves me. I believe that we are each motivated by a single emotion – the thing that we seek, that drives us to keep seeking, that sates us when we’ve sought – and for me, that’s love. I am the happiest when I feel love, whether it’s friend love or romantic love or any of the other multitudes of love, those moments are my favorite.

To watch someone hurt so badly from the loss of love, or the unexpected unrequitedness of it all, is viscerally painful. To watch the pain that people keep welled up inside them erupt and spew out is difficult, because no one can make those things better. No one can change how you feel; it’s up to you.

My last big loss of love came after a brief entanglement in college. I fell hard and fast. I understand it all now – and appreciate the opportunity for connection, no matter how brief – but for a long while after, I was a mess. It destroyed me, until I was able to finally accept it, wrap my head around it, and move forward into the future. And then the peace came. We had our moment of closure, and in his quiet way, he acknowledged that it had meant a lot to him. Something in the knowing that it was important for him too, in a way that wasn’t mine but was his own, helped to finally close the wound that had begun to heal a long time before.

I remember the nights that I laid awake, desperate, panicked, unsure. I remember the feeling in the core of my palms when everything was falling away. I remember the tears, the dreams. Love is horrible, too.

Giving yourself, or parts of yourself, to someone else, only to be not wholly accepted, is the most terrifying thing you can do. To be rejected after that offering is a cold, steely slap to the soul. Sometimes, it’s not rejection of the person, but rather a difference in opinions, lifestyles, views, desire. Sometimes it is the rejection of that person, for qualities, characteristics, behavior patterns.

No matter what it is, the end of a relationship or the realization that things aren’t going your way hurts. The choice to pick up, reflect, dust off, recharge, and move forward is your own. The hardest part about living in the darkness is that there’s no roadmap out. There is only you. Only you and your ability to get yourself out of the whole darkness, because the darkness is also you. The darkness is your own. You helped create it, the world helped create it, and there’s nothing that can save you from yourself, except yourself. (I’m thinking Harold and the Purple Crayon here, and I’m into that aesthetic of the darkness and your choice. My crayon isn’t purple. It’d be mint green.)

I had to make hard choices this week. I also learned a few hard lessons, which require me to reflect back on my own actions, inactions, thoughts, intentions, and communications. I can learn from this. I can see how the things that I did led me to the place where I am. I can see how the things that I thought were incongruent with the things that someone else thought. I can see how my past shaped the way I reacted to a person in my life. I can see how I should have been better about instituting and maintaining boundaries. I will learn how to let the guilt go, and to stop internalizing things I shouldn’t. I have been learning that. I hadn’t realized that I hadn’t put them up when I should have. I see a bigger picture now. I see someone else’s picture, too. I see how my picture and their picture and the rest of the picture were in no way the same. I will grow from the things that this week brought. I will adapt. I will ruminate. I will be confident in my choices.

I am confident in my choices, because I am confident in my status as a tiny lion person (my inner strength is a tiny lion, think the cat but with a mane). My inner strength is my own. I’m on that weird human journey, hurtling through space like everyone else, even though my perception of this space is entirely my own. I am bones and blood and muscle, and I am a complex system of hopes and dreams and joy. And dammit, I’m Katie Barry.

This week hurt. – This week brought new challenges.  – This week brought answers to questions I hadn’t asked yet. – This week raised questions I hadn’t thought of. – This week was tough. – This week, I picked a lot. – This week I bought tickets to the skin picking conference.  – This week I sought answers. – This week I asked for help. – This week was joyful.  – This week was peaceful. – This week brought friendship. – This week I made fried rice terribly. – This week, I connected. – This week I lost a friend. – This week I felt empathy. – This week I felt frustrated. – This week I felt heard. – This week I felt threatened. – This week I felt stressed. – This week I took a miserable lukewarm bath. – This week I was strong. – This week I put up boundaries. – This week I realized I had been a part of the problem. – This week I tried to help. – This week made me smile. – This week I am tired. – This week I am excited for what’s to come.

That’s all we can really hope for, is to seek joy in the moment and to eagerly anticipate the rest of the things life will throw at us. And currently, I am. I’m really jazzed to be alive.