June 30, 2013

Reflections on Life and Moving Foward

The days that followed the accident were heartbreaking, painful, and emotional. It was like it was occurring over a period of weeks or months, rather than just five or six days. It's still hard to wrap my head around it; I kept saying that it was like an episode of the Twilight Zone, or a bad dream that I'll soon wake up from. In my heart I understood the reality of the situation, yet it still doesn't feel real. 

Now I am back on campus, away from the sadness and the grief. But that doesn't mean that I've stopped grieving: since it happened, I haven't slept very well. I either fall asleep really late or wake up at odd hours of the night, a plethora of thoughts unwilling to take a break. I still cry when I miss him, and when I wish that I could desperately put my arms around those whose hearts and lives have been shattered to pieces because of this. I cry because I wasn't able to cry with them, many of whom have become like brothers and sisters. 

There's no denying that I'm incredibly happy to be back, but yet I wonder if my being happy is a betrayal of his memory, because there are moments when it seems that way. I will never forget him or what he did for me, but I'd like to believe he would want me to celebrate life, not get depressed over the unfairness of it. 

I've reflected. I've absorbed. And most importantly, I have learned the following: 

Own who you are

For some time I have tried to suppress the fact that I'm an emotional person. I've tried to deny that I care  about certain people, that specific situations don't hurt, and that I can go along with the popular notion of twenty-somethings in being able to hide and ignore your feelings. But I'm beginning to understand and be honest about the fact that doing so is not who I am. 

It started after a conversation in which I was told that my blog posts often come across as negative. I ruminated in that for a couple of days, reading and re-reading some of the popular ones as well as the more recent ones, because it really made me wonder if that was true and I didn't realize it. But as I read, the word "negative" did not come up in my thoughts. With that I came to the conclusion that each person has a different way of perceiving things, and what may appear in a certain light to someone may not be the same for others. So while my writing may come across as negative at times, I'd prefer to look at it as deep, honest, and raw. Not all are comfortable or can appreciate that kind of thing, which I accept and (sort of) understand. 

A lot of it has to do with the writer in me: in order to write and to write well, you have to be emotional. You can't create characters or a plot without putting some amount of feeling into it. You can't put words and phrases together without really thinking about it. On the other end of the spectrum, writing is the main way that I do express myself; for me personally, writing and emotions go hand in hand. 

The other part of it is that I'm dealing with a lot of areas of my life that are tangled up in knots, and it is taking time and effort to get those knots undone. Some of it is playing out right now, while the rest relates to reconciling what has happened in the past with how I envision my future.  This blog is only telling part of that story, at least for right now. I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable talking about all of it at this time, since there are other loved ones involved and there are a lot of unknowns. In other words, I don't want to speak too prematurely about a subject when there's no telling what exactly will happen. 

The little things DO become the big things

I have a tendency to not only remember the smallest of details, but details from something that happened a decade a go. I'd chalk it up to the fact that I'm very observant; I can recall the day where I met certain people for the first time, from the interaction in itself down to what we were wearing. I have no other explanation as to why this happens, other than having some inkling in the back of my mind that this will become special for me someday. 

When you lose someone, I'd like to think that it's common to replay either your last or your favorite memories that you have together. For my friend, it's the country songs that he sang when he and a couple of other guys were up visiting  last March (I'll include one of them at the end of this). It's when we finally made it home by the end of that Saturday night, and we were all laughing so hard at the one-liners that the guys kept coming up with. But it was also the mere fact that he looked out for me when the rest of the group would wander off at times. It wasn't a huge thing at the time, but looking back on other experiences, there aren't very many people who have done that or have been willing to do that. I wish I could have thanked him when I was able to, which is why I'm also making a point to let people know I care when I get the chance. And yes, I'll do my best to just keep it simple.

On the other side, when someone comes to you and says "thank you" for whatever reason, please don't tell them that it wasn't a big deal or that it doesn't matter. It does to that person, or they wouldn't be making a point to reach out to you and express that gratitude.Telling them that you're glad you could help and/or be there for them is a good enough response.

In order to make the small moments count, the best thing anyone can do is to be fully present in the situation. I want to make an effort not to be on my phone so much when my friends and I are together, regardless if we're just hanging out at someone's apartment or having a night on the town. There are a lot of instances where someone's mood or entire night gets ruined because of a texting fight or what they saw on a number of social media outlets.  I can understand the occasional check in for safety reasons, but when you're with other people,you should make the most of the time you have with them. As depressing as this sounds, it could very well be the last time that you see that person alive. 

The other thing has to do with alcohol consumption and taking care of myself in general. Due to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) I frequently do things either when I really don't want to or am just flat out exhausted. It is something that I've dealt with since freshman year, and a lesson that I've learned and re-learned a thousand times over. I can't and don't genuinely enjoy something if I'm either falling asleep the whole time or spacing out because of how much I had to drink. That being said, I want to limit my alcohol in-take as well; not just for the sake of paying attention, but also for my health and to save money.It's nice to come home with a full wallet and not spend thirty to forty bucks on a given night

You're not untouchable 

In our culture of anything goes, this is something that a lot of people (particularly people in my age group) forget. Some scream "YOLO" at the top of their lungs, attempting to justify their actions by the fact that you only get one life, one chance, sometimes only one moment to do something. Let me tell you, there's a difference between healthy risk-taking and flat out stupidity. You may think you can get away with stuff because there have never been consequences before,  but eventually shit does happen when you're not careful.  All you have to do is ask yourself "is this really worth it?" Is it worth putting your family and friends through hell for? Is it worth the pain and regret that may come afterward? Is this worth dying for?

I don't know all of what went on that fateful morning, and most of us will probably never know. But the best thing anyone can do at this point is to honor him and keep his memory alive. It was suggested that instead of flowers or an elaborate memorial site, that we will remember him by performing acts of kindness for others. I will do my best with this, because a lot of people usually don't let me. Regardless of how big or small, I hope that it will do some good. 

As this song says, life is crazy, tragic, and awful. But it is just as beautiful all at the same time. I will never listen to this song the same way again, but I mean that in a positive light. That's how I'll remember him.

Credit: YouTube
photo credit: JayVeeAre (JvR) via photopin cc

June 19, 2013

A Reflection on Loss

I'm not sure where to begin; I go back and forth from being heartbroken, to scared, to confused, to guilty, to angry, and then wishing I could just flip a switch in order not to feel anything for a while. I was on my way to see Luke Bryan and Florida-Georgia Line when I first found out over Facebook; not wanting to get emotional before the concert, I shut my phone off and just focused on what was going on around me, yet I knew in my heart that whatever I would find out after that was not going to be good. The four hours in between before and after were incredible, but I'll get to that shortly. 

It was confirmed on the drive home, and I stayed awake until four o'clock in the morning crying, listening to music, pacing, and reaching out to other people. In those moments, it was like I was floating in some kind of time warped space, transitioning to what I thought was a dream to the heart-wrenching reality. I admit that I do not deal with death very well, mostly because I'm not sure how to deal with it "appropriately", if there is such a thing. I've never lost a friend in this way before, but I realize that I'm not the only one. He and I were not the best of friends, but we were friends nonetheless. He called me "pal" and treated me like he would treat anyone else: with love, respect, and a damn good sense of humor. The best part about him was that he was completely comfortable with who he was and had no trouble owning it. This summary does not do the memories justice, but I'm experiencing so many thoughts and feelings that it's hard to articulate them.

I didn't want to break down right then and there, so I threw myself into the music and the experience.  I don't know if my friend was a fan of Luke Bryan or not, but he did love Country music. When Luke started to sing "Country Girl (Shake it for me)" I immediately just let go and danced like a crazy person. At one point, I got up on a chair and didn't give a crap that I was standing in front of another person (I'm petite, so I felt like I had a legitimate excuse, aside from having a little too much to drink). And then when the rain began to fall and soak most of us in the process, I thought "this is what truly living is, isn't it? Doing what you love, with the people you love, regardless of the circumstances. From what I know and have heard from others, that's exactly what he did.

I can only hope that he would have been either smiling or laughing at me in this situation. 

And is in these moments that I wish there was a manual for grief. My heart feels torn between wanting to cry ridiculously ugly, gut busing tears at the unfairness of it all and trying to be strong for those that might have known him better than I did. . I don't know what's wrong, and I don't know what's right. I wish I could do it freely, rather than staying up all night for multiple days on end because my brain won't quiet down. 

But this is not about comparisons or what is justified versus what's not. This is about coming together and celebrating an amazing person, whether you were close to him or not. That's the beauty of of going to a small, private Catholic high school: if you don't personally know someone, you know of them. Sooner or later, you want to know them.

This may be the first time that I've experienced a passing of someone I care for, but this is not the case for my high school community. About five years ago, a similar accident took place. In the midst of trying to come together, I remember somebody had written on a chalkboard in one of my classes: "Remember guys, we're a family." 

There is so much more I want to write about, enough where I think that I'll split this into multiple posts. What I have written here is only a small fraction of the words and emotions that I've scribbled down in my private journal. As I've said many times before, writing is my therapy, and I don't expect this to be the best thing that I have ever written.we're all hurting and angry and shell-shocked in some way. Each one of us has different ways of coping, and I'm just not sure what mine are yet. 

God Bless

June 14, 2013

Friday Finds

The blogging world can be such a double edged sword, but make no mistake that these following articles are powerful. Not only did they make me think, cry, and rejoice, but they also motivated me to take a stand and finally say that maybe I don't agree with certain things. Don't worry, that explanation will happen at some point down the road. But for now, grab a cup of coffee or tea and be willing to open your heart. On another note, be careful with the comment sections...those tend to get very heated.

I am Damaged Goods (via A Deeper Story) 

-A beautiful essay of a journey from sexual shame to Grace; the emotion, agony, and pain that this woman experienced from her church and the people around her is excruciating. Not only is it time to quit with the emotional stoning and unnecessary finger pointing, but it is also time for the "sex is bad" rhetoric to stop. No one should have to endure this kind of criticism, but unfortunately so many do. For now, I'll get off my soapbox and let this amazing writing speak for itself. 

The Distinctions of Lust and Attraction  (via Amy Martin)

-A great interpretation of how to tell the difference between lust and genuine attraction. Beauty is something to appreciate and be thankful for, not feared or ashamed of. 

Disabilities and The Power of Running (via Upworthy) 

-I first heard the story of Dick and Rick Hoyt on a segment of Katie; their beautiful relationship and teamwork moved me to tears and made me smile at the same time! I related to it a lot, because that is how I feel when I dance. 

Loving The Hard to Like (via Relevant) 

-This is a topic that I've struggled and wrestled with for months. While it does not give clear-cut answers, it does give some eye-opening observations. 

The Last Word (via The Week)

-This is the most interesting and unique response I have heard of in regards to handling a spouse's request for a divorce. Sometimes it's not always the other person that causes unhappiness, but our inability to deal with the pain we have caused ourselves.

And while this is not an article, it has definitely made my week. Recently I discovered the app "Happier" which I can only describe as a kind of techy gratitude journal. I can't exactly provide a link, but all you have to do is go into itunes and download it (it's free!) I've only had it for a couple of days and I already sense a change in my overall mood.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc

June 10, 2013

The Town That Pushed Me

Let me start off by saying that I did not write this with the intention to bash my hometown or anyone in it; since I've been home for the last couple of weeks, I'm having a hard time fathoming the idea of possibly having to move back in a year, along with some of the things that have happened over time. Regardless, this is my attempt at being honest about how I feel, and trying to sort all of my thoughts out. 

The Town That Pushed Me

The familiar sign comes into view
“Welcome to a life from long ago”
A small town disguised as a city
A place where I once believed that I could grow old in
Ideal for a child
But not anymore

There’s the church where I first fell in love
A boy so sweet and kind I thought it would be forever
Yet it wasn't meant to be
He left me without an explanation
I could only hold on for so long
Until it held me back

From the backyard lake to hill of the high school that I didn’t go to
We were so close for three years
Some of my  best memories as a teenager
He faded away into the background as high school graduation came and went
I wonder what he’s doing now

If the walls of the house could talk
They’d have a lot to say
They’d tell stories of bonfires, barbecues and sleepovers
Along with the times filled with so much pain

They say it’s your hometown roots that shape you and help you grow
Yet I didn’t start to discover who I truly was until I left
Now that I’m getting older I’ve realized
It’s like a pair of jeans that no longer fit

Once you’re a butterfly and you’ve flown away
You really can’t go back
Now that I know what’s beyond this place
I have such a hunger for adventure
An ache for a playground
Where here I feel so confined
Limited, but not locked in a cage

Is there such a thing as reconciling the past with the future?
A happy medium between love and I hate
There’s no way in hell I’ll let myself burn out
Or take what just gets handed to me

This isn’t the town that saved me
But the one that pushed me
I have to keep going on 

photo credit: Pandiyan via photopin cc

June 07, 2013

Friday Finds

I found some great reads this week, and while working on a post that is very near and dear to my heart, I thought I might share them with you all! Have a wonderful weekend! 

Why The Church can support "breadwinning" wives too (via Rachel Held Evans)
-This is so interesting and thought-provoking; so often Christian communities debate relentlessly about the roles of both genders, when in reality not everybody not everyone feels called to take on those roles, nor are they always able to do so. Instead of demeaning others for whatever choice they make (in terms of staying home or working) we should be celebrating and encouraging them.

Hearing God: Is he The One? (via Angie Schueller Wyatt) 

-Yes, having "God and Boobs" as a blog name might seem eye-brow raising at first, but I promise you that it's definitely something worth checking out, along with reading the book. This post in particular was especially relevant to me because there was a time where I thought I had met the man I was going to marry, although that was not the case. In a way, I'm still going through the grieving process of that, given that the guy I was a huge part of my life and my heart for a long time. But this wasn't the only piece that struck a chord with me: I would suggest reading the whole series as well. 

Do not stumble on account of me (via A Deeper Story)

-I honestly have no words to describe how beautiful this is. All I can say is read it; maybe you'll have to read it more than once to truly understand it, but it is nonetheless both beautiful and powerful.

A lot of it is incredibly deep and possibly difficult to sift through at once. Yet, it is also something to think about.

June 03, 2013

My Greatest Fear: One Year Later

What is your greatest fear? 

A little over a year ago, I would have said that it was something along the lines of not being able to find love. During that time, I was just coming off the heels of a somewhat traumatic incident  one that would take me ten months to process and begin to heal from. Part of me believed that men would only see me as either a target to be taken advantage of, or something to be avoided because I was no longer this "good girl." I was lost and scared to the point of it being ridiculous.

At the end of my sophomore year, I ventured into a season of dating. It's not something that I regret because I became more aware of what I don't want in a significant other, as well as how to tell the difference between genuine attraction versus liking the idea of someone. By the end of it, I was a little frustrated and emotionally exhausted. I was  torn between trying to give these guys a chance, while trying to navigate their forwardness and the matter of them wanting me versus just wanting a title or status. I eventually took a step back because I needed a break.

In the midst of all that, I was still holding on to an old relationship that realistically had come to an end a long time ago. I just needed to set myself free and to accept that was no reason to keep trying anymore. We weren't talking and he wasn't making an effort to be part of my life. Whatever dynamic existed between the two of us at that point was just flat out unhealthy. And so the week after my birthday, I cut him out completely. Looking back I can't say that it was a relief; when you spend eight years investing yourself in a particular relationship, perhaps that person alone, it's hard to not care anymore. Part of me will always love him, and the time we spent together has a special place in my heart.  But it was time to let go.

When the Boston bombings happened, I had no words to describe exactly how I felt; I just wept and prayed and wondered where do I go from here? It was not just that April morning that shook me, but the culmination of events that proceeded it: natural disasters, other tragedies, things from my personal life. I can't recall where I read it, but somebody make a remark along for the lines of "for ten years, we have lived in fear." That echoed my own sentiments: what was next, and I would I be personally affected by it?

And somewhere in those following days, I began to understand that my fear of not finding love was misplaced. Love is not something that is meant to be found, because it is everywhere. The hard part is being able to recognize it and embrace it. But from where I'm at now, I wouldn't say that I'm afraid of it. Rather, I am most afraid of missing out on the important things, and ultimately not making the most out of life.

The big question is, how does anybody do that? How do you completely lean into joy and live in the present moment without denying pain or struggle? How do you really show up? That's something we're all trying to figure out. I suppose it's a matter of paying attention; and when the moment comes, you just have to completely let yourself go, appreciate the moment,  and not over think a situation. Unfortunately it's not an attitude that you can automatically adopt; it's a practice, and it doesn't always come easy.

So many people harp on and spend their lives trying to "get it right." Reflecting on the past three and a half years, I have never been overly cautious about my choices or experiences, and I can honestly say that I don't regret it. I haven't always made the best decisions, but sometimes you have to make those mistakes in order to understand what's good for you and what isn't. That doesn't mean you should go out and get yourself into trouble all the time, but it's important to accept that it happened and be able to move on.

I don't have all of the answers. I would like to say that from this moment on that I'm just simply going to throw my hands up and really start living my life, yet I'm not exactly sure how to go about it. These last couple of months have definitely been a sign of progress: I reached out to people that I either took for granted or had a falling out with at some point. We're not exactly best friends, but we're at peace now

I've also been writing letters to loved ones, very similar to what I did for Lent last year. I try to make a point of telling someone that I care about them in whatever way I can, whether it be an unexpected act of kindness or a text saying that I'm thinking about them. We may not talk or see each other every day, but that doesn't make them any less important to me.There doesn't have to be a close friendship, whether it be physically emotionally, in order for me to care about someone.

Maybe the key is a balance of expectations: not having high ones, but not assuming the worst case scenario will always come into play. In other words, to be open to the possibilities, changes, and even curve balls that life often presents. I believe that God works everything out in the way that it's meant to be, even if it's not the way I hope or initially want.

If nothing else, living is about having a grateful heart. Giving thanks in all circumstances is probably one of the hardest things to do, but in the long run is often one of the most rewarding. Once you get in the hang of practicing gratitude, living and loving become more of a practice as well. They're all interconnected: you cannot live without loving at least one other person, and a way to enable love in action is to give thanks. They can certainly exist separately, but they're better together as one. 

Little by little, I feel my fear fading into memory; it still comes up every once in a while, especially when I realized how much time has gone by. I was very insecure during my first two years at college, and now that I'm on the cusp of being a senior, I see that I didn't have a whole lot to be insecure about. At the same time, I was young and inexperienced, as a lot of people can be at that age. It's as if I know better now, but still have a lot to learn.