Page-iversary

I suppose I should have written and posted this yesterday (on the 21st) but for some reason, I had it in my mind that I started this blog on November 22nd. Call me Derpina (but don’t call me Maybe). Any-who, I have nothing profound to say other than that I think I’m going to give myself a gold star for keeping up with something for a year. It doesn’t happen often. Yes, I’ve been slacking on posting of late but there have been some extenuating circumstances, life events, and brain farts that have pushed and shoved their way to the front of the line in my brain/life and have demanded more of my attention over the last few months.

If you have been following me from the beginning, thank you. If you started following me halfway through, thank you. If you follow me at all, thank you. If you’ve laughed with me, thank you. If you’ve cried with me, thank you. If you holla’d out to tha heavens saying, “Yo! Dis bitch needs Jesus!”…thank you? If you’ve ever read a single word I’ve written, thank you. If you’ve shared my page, thank you. If you read this, thank you.

40 Questions Everyone is Afraid to Ask

Judge-a-man-by-his

I came across this article (http://www.marcandangel.com/2012/04/13/40-questions-everyone-is-afraid-to-ask/) quite some time ago and filed it away in my “Blog Ideas” file. I need to write right now and I don’t want to write about what I NEED to write about…my feelings. But I need to write. So I’m going to answer some questions that, apparently, people are afraid to ask/answer. I’m not afraid of much (unless I see a spider), so I’m all:

Challenge_accepted

[cracks knuckles] Let’s get this show on the road…

1: If today were the last day of your life, would you want to do what you are about to do today? Probably. Because I don’t really feel like I have any regrets or unfinished business…nothing that I’d be sad I didn’t finish or say before I left.

2: What worries you most about the future? If I’ll ever make it out okay like everyone keeps promising me. “It will get better.” “It won’t last forever.” And if I do get “better”, would I have to worry about falling down again?

3: Are you holding onto something that you need to let go of? Who isn’t? That’s probably a whole blog post in and of itself. I think I have a lot of things I just need closure on rather than letting things go I’m holding onto because of bitterness or resentment.

4: If you had a friend who spoke to you the same way that you sometimes speak to yourself, how long would you allow that person to be your friend? 0.01 seconds.

5: What is the difference between living and existing? Existing is just breathing and not taking chances or doing anything with your life. Living is taking chances, trying, failing, succeeding. Living is embracing life, loving it, taking advantage of any and all opportunities available to you…doing/trying things without regrets.

6: If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake? Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? For me personally, I’m not all that afraid to make mistakes. It frustrates me, of course. But I make them again and again hoping that maybe I was wrong or the situation was wrong the first time around and I prefer to give people and things the benefit of the doubt…every time. Insanity? Perhaps. Am I scared to do it/repeat it? No, I don’t think so…because I keep doing it.

7: What impact do you want to leave on the world? What I want to leave versus what I have the capability to leave are two completely different things. At the present moment, I would like to leave the people who know me with the memory of someone who fought a good fight, could light up a room with her smile, and could dish it as good as she could take it, even if she lost the fight in the end.

8: Is it out of reach? Or have you just not stretched yourself far enough? I think it’s out of reach, but if I were honest with myself (and you), I would admit that I probably just haven’t stretched myself far enough; I already feel like I’m stretched thin.

9: In the haste of our daily lives, what are we not seeing? The little things. Small acts of kindness. The lyrics of a good song. The beauty of some people you wouldn’t think to look twice at.

10: If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t? It’s all about the experience isn’t it? You can’t have a rainbow without rain. It takes a night to make it dawn. What would life be like if we only liked and experienced joy and pleasant things? We wouldn’t have stories and experiences to share with others. I think a purely joyful and happy life would be rather boring. Can you go through your own list of the things you don’t like and tell me why you continue to do/like them? I didn’t think so. The heart has reasons that reason does not understand. 

11: If you looked into the heart of your enemy, what do you think you would find that is different from what is in your own heart? Empathy. I feel I have it and they don’t.

12: Life is too short to tolerate ___________ ? Bullshit.

13: If you haven’t achieved it yet, what do you have to lose? Good question. I think I have more to go through before I can achieve what I ultimately what to achieve…and I don’t even know what it is that I want to achieve.

14: How do you know whether it’s time to continue holding on or time to let go? I’ve had experiences with both. And I knew every time when I needed to be patient and hold on a bit longer and I knew when it was time to let go. It may have taken me some time, but I eventually held on to what I felt was important and I let go (or tried to) of what wasn’t, including my own life. I’ve let that go three times so far. I’ve also held on more times than I’ve tried to let go.

15: Why do you matter? I have no idea and/or I haven’t figured that out yet. Using Einstein’s theory: You are living. You occupy space. You have a mass. You matter.

16: How many of your friends would you trust with your life? Seven.

17: Are you happy with yourself? No.

18: What is one fear that you know is holding you back? The fear of getting better knowing there is a possibility it may not be permanent and I could find myself back here.

19: What do you do with the majority of your money? After paying bills, I use it to buy/make/send warm fuzzies to people…friends and strangers.

20: Based on your current daily actions and routines, where would you expect to be in five years? If I continue the path I am on? I will be in the same place, if not someplace worse, in five years.

21: Would you rather your child be less attractive and extremely intelligent or extremely attractive and less intelligent? Less attractive and extremely intelligent.

22: What have you done that you are not proud of? Many things. Most of them involve opening my mouth when I shouldn’t have.

23: Other than money, what else have you gained from your current job? I am not currently working, so I have gained very little. Well…I take that back…I’ve gained more of an understanding of myself, how I think, why I think and feel the way I do. A lot of self-exploration…because I’ve had the time to explore.

24: What do you sometimes pretend you understand that you really don’t? Myself.

25: What’s the number one change you need to make in your life in the next twelve months? To just try. Get a job. Get back on track with my life, even if I’m ten years late.

26: When did you not speak when you should have? Now. And many times before.

27: What are you procrastinating on right at this moment? Living.

28: In what way are you your own worst enemy? I listen to myself (and believe myself) more than Jiminy Cricket.

29: What do you wish you didn’t know? How cruel the world and people can really be.

30: What have you given up on? Myself.

31: What big lesson could people learn from your life? Wow. Umm…I’m going to say (on a very small scale) that people could learn from me that music is a better drug than any other street drug or alcoholic beverage available. It can save you. It can kill you. It can give you hope. It can help you grieve. It can do all those things (and more) if you let it.

32: What mistakes do you make over and over again? Trusting people.

33: What do you do when you love someone who doesn’t love you back? Try my best to accept it for what it is and try to distance myself in a way that doesn’t break me.

34: What has been draining your happiness? My frustration with myself.

35: What’s the #1 thing you intend to accomplish before you die? To experience real unconditional love without strings attached or judgments…from anybody, not necessarily romantically.

36: What has the little voice inside your head been saying lately? “Just give up and let go.”

37: What is worse than death? A life of unhappiness and pain.

38: How short would your life have to be before you would start living differently today? After thirty years, I still haven’t started to live differently…so while I’m not afraid to answer this question, I just honestly don’t know the answer. I’m not discontent with how I’m living, only frustrated. Yes, I know I can change it, but while I would love to get better, I have no desire or driving force that makes me want to just jump out of bed and live my life differently right now…if that makes any sense at all.

39: What do you do when other people don’t like you? Flip them off and walk away.

40: What’s one easy way to waste a life? To not care about anything or anyone.

[youtube http://youtu.be/1TffpkE2GU4]

An eye for an eye…just not TEN eyes for an eye.

an-eye-for-an-eye

As always, I never know where to start, especially with “deep” topics. How I act (and react to others) has been brought to my attention recently (not in a bad/mean/accusatory way) and it led me to a thought-provoking discussion with me, myself, and I. I try to act and live my life, for the most part, by the Golden Rule: treat others how you would like to be treated. I wasn’t always this way and I’m not this way all the time but my general rule of thumb is that if you are nice and respectful to me, I will be nice and respectful to you. BUT…what happens when you/I stop being nice and respectful? Will you/I retaliate and cease being kind? Or will you/I continue to be kind, no matter how you/I treat me/you? That’s what this post will be about.

I was given a link to a broadcast from talk radio called The Good Show and that is what sparked this particular blog post and the preceding discussion with myself. The specific broadcast I listened to is called “One Good Deed Deserves Another” and you can listen to it here: http://www.radiolab.org/2010/dec/14/one-good-deed-deserves-another/ (and even though I’m going to summarize it for you, I encourage you to listen to it at least once).

There is a computer programming geek named Robert Axelrod. He first started exploring altruism during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 wherein he wondered if Cuba would stop building bombs, we would stop building bombs and thus, everything turns out fine. But what if Cuba didn’t stop building bombs and we did? That’s a problem, isn’t it? Next, insert the theory behind the Prisoner’s Dilemma: “The prisoner’s dilemma is a canonical example of a game analyzed in game theory that shows why two individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so.” The example used in the particular broadcast I listened to went something like this: Two robbers, Joe and Lucky, are standing outside the First National Bank and are picked up by the police because they had received a tip that Joe and Lucky were about to rob the bank. The officers put Joe and Lucky in two separate interrogation rooms and made Lucky an offer: “We have enough on you to lock you up for 6 months. If you rat out Joe and Joe says nothing, you will go free and Joe gets 10 years in prison. If the reverse happens, you say nothing and Joe rats you out, he goes free and you get 10 years in prison. If you both rat each other out, you will both receive 5 years in prison. If neither of you says anything, you both get 6 months in jail.” What would you do? I, along with the broadcasters of the show, would throw the other person under the bus…IF I didn’t know them. If I knew them…as in they are a friend or in my social circle…I’d be more inclined to “compromise”, as in not say anything and hope my friend wouldn’t either. Then we do our time and get out, on good terms (hopefully), because no one threw someone under the bus.

Based on this idea, Robert Axelrod created a computer programming “tournament” and to enter, you had to submit a computer program that essentially plays out the Prisoner’s Dilemma. It would be a round robin tournament and each program would play every other program 200 times to see which strategy would work…to “be nice” or to “defect” (which, from here on out in this post, means to throw someone under the bus/screw another person over). Only one program could “win”/prosper/survive.

One program was called Massive Retaliatory Strike: On the first move made, it cooperates (is “nice”) but as soon as the other program it’s playing stops cooperating, the Massive Retaliatory Strike program would retaliate from there on out, no exceptions, even if the first program went back to being “nice”. In other words, once MRS’s trust was broken, it would never trust you again…game over.

Another program was called Tester: This program would see what the other program was like first, starting out by being mean and when the other program retaliated, Tester would back off and “change its tune” and cooperate for a while…”How much can I get away with?”…essentially testing the other program’s limits.

When Tester played Massive Retaliatory Strike 200 times, Tester always defected (screwed the other person over) and MRS would never cooperate again and both programs failed.

The assumption was made that the winning program would contain thousands of lines of code. But the program that actually “won”/survived/prospered only contained two lines of code. TWO. That program was called Tit For Tat. The first line of code was “be nice”…as in the program will never be nasty FIRST. The second line of code does what the program’s opponent did in its previous move. So, for example, if Program 1 cooperates, Tit For Tat cooperates. If Program 1 defects, Tit For Tat defects…but JUST that one time unless Tit For Tat is further provoked. Unlike MRS, where it will continue to retaliate no matter how “nice” the first program is, Tit For Tat will always go back to being nice on its next move, no matter if its last move was a retaliatory move or not. Are you still with me? Most people fall somewhere in the middle of being “always good” (the “Jesus Program”) and “always bad” (the “Lucifer Program”). Tit For Tat starts by cooperating, as does Jesus (this is just an example, y’all…don’t get your religion panties in a knot) and then keeps cooperating because the Jesus Program is always good, therefore Tit For Tat is always good. If Tit For Tat plays the Lucifer Program, there’s no chance of ever cooperating, thus Tit For Tat will never be nice/cooperate, even if it makes the first move (remember, Tit For Tat’s first line of code was “be nice”) because the Lucifer Program will never be good/cooperate. Everyone stays “even”. I hope you’re still with me.

(There is another great example in the radio broadcast I linked earlier involving the British and German armed forces during World War I. In order to keep your attention, I will refrain from summarizing it here.)

Tit For Tat is upright and forgiving, but not retaliatory. Not 100% turn the other cheek but an eye for an eye…just not TEN eyes for an eye. Tit For Tat echoes…it echoes good and bad. If you were to modify the second line of code for Tit For Tat, the retaliation line, to not always retaliate…maybe only to retaliate 10% of the time…you would get a “generous” Tit For Tat. So sometimes you/the program reacts with an eye for an eye approach…and sometimes you turn the other cheek. For example: When someone punches you, you are naturally inclined to punch them back. But in some situations, is it not best to just turn and walk away? What it comes down to is choice. You have a choice to retaliate and you have a choice to walk away. Choosing what to do in each situation is the hard part.

So that was all a summary of what was said in the radio broadcast. Now we’ll get to why this means anything to me and why I was asked to listen to it. It is not a news flash that my mom and I feed off of each other’s emotions and I tend to adopt a “Tit For Tat” attitude in that if my mom is nice, I’m more inclined to be nice in return. However, if she is invalidating and disrespectful, while I won’t necessarily be that way in return (“retaliate”), I’m no longer inclined to be outwardly nice or make the extra effort to do so. I don’t go out of my way to be rude or disrespectful, but I won’t go out of my way to be nice either. However, when it’s time to “play” again, I will start off by being nice until she again gives me a reason not to be. Just like in the Tit For Tat program, my first “line of code” is to be nice and I will usually go back to being nice until I am “provoked” again. Does that make sense? It gets tricky and nothing is absolute. I sometimes find myself bending over backwards to be nice and courteous in an effort to just get her to be nice and loving in return. (And if you must know, that method doesn’t usually work out too well for me; it often leaves me spent and makes me question why I continue to do it/continue to try, already knowing what the end result will be.) This goes further than my mother of course. It can be as simple as driving on the freeway. If you’re nice and let me merge properly without being a jackass or tailing me because you’re mad that I “cut in line”, I’m more inclined to let you merge when your lane ends due to construction. However, if you cut me off because you don’t have the patience to be in the lane you’re in, and your new lane is ending due to construction or merging, FUCK YOU if you think I’m going to let you merge in front of me. Then I will go back to my first line of code…being nice…so if I see you on the freeway tomorrow, I will again let you merge in front of me unless you give me a reason not to. Okay maybe using my driving examples wasn’t a good idea…

I love hard and with all that I have. But once bitten, twice shy. I sometimes worry about “smothering” my friends with affection and warm fuzzies because I don’t want them to think I’m clingy and while I’m by no means trying to buy their love and affection or even get them to reciprocate warm fuzzies, I would wager that that is subconsciously part of my motivation…to love them so that they will love me in return. But in all honesty, I love to love and you don’t have to be my BFF in order for me to mail you a warm fuzzy just to make you smile. I enjoy knowing that I simply made someone’s day/moment, no matter how I know them or how close they are to me and my heart. Remember: my first line of code is “be nice”.

I feel like I’m rambling now and not making sense. Fuck it…half of my blog is me rambling…

In my “Vulnerability” blog post, I said that usually, if I get burned in a friendship, I won’t write off that friendship and discard it immediately just because I got upset…I would just tweak it to avoid getting hurt again…which may lead you to “retaliate” or punish me because you got hurt as well or you’re just that mad at whatever transpired. In such a case, the door is usually open for you to return, but I will not stand here and hold it open. I have made the effort, said my peace, and the ball is now in your court. The decision is now yours as to whether or not you want to continue the relationship, continue to retaliate, or do some of your own tweaking. I will not sit here and retaliate against you nor will I throw you under the bus…BUT…I may no longer go out of my way to be nice either. That doesn’t mean I will be rude or go out of my way to be mean, but I will probably no longer extend my hand willingly to you…unless you ask for it. I will no longer actively seek you out once the ball is in your court. If I have said my peace (reverting back to my first line of code…”being nice”) and you want to continue our relationship, you will have to come to me. I have “stated my case” and I am at peace with whatever you choose to do…to stay or walk away. I will not hold grudges or continue to be hurt over a hiccup in our relationship once the hiccup is done and over with. In other words, I will not retaliate against you or hurt you just because you hurt me. I feel like I’m making no sense because none of this is absolute. If you hurt me (and for the purposes of this post, I mean emotionally hurt me versus physically hurt me), I may very well end the relationship because I’m not very good at forgiving, depending on the severity of the hurt and what happened. (For example, a small miscommunication or misunderstanding is easily forgivable…breaking my trust or hurting me severely in some form is not.) But just because I (or you) end our relationship does not make me want to go and divulge everything you’ve ever confided in me nor does it make me want to go and defame your character. That is not how I like to roll. I may vent about the situation/relationship to my therapist and I may perhaps write about it here but in either case, you are “protected” because everything I say to my therapist is confidential and I write this anonymously. With the exception of really only one past relationship, I cannot think of an instance where I would want to waste my time and my reader’s time bashing someone. It’s not worth it and it’s not the purpose of this blog. It’s over and done with. Hopefully I can resolve what I need to resolve using my coping skills and talking with my therapist and be fine. I don’t need to waste more time on someone who apparently wasn’t worth my time and effort to begin with. I will again go back to my first line of code…being nice.

I believe all things happen for a reason and everyone that comes into your life is either a lesson or a blessing. And you know what? Some lessons are hard to learn…but we have to learn them. You are responsible for and can actively choose how you behave, who you let in and out of your life, how you treat them, and what you say and don’t say. If someone defects and retaliates against you, you have a choice to retaliate in return, with an eye for an eye attitude…and you have a choice to turn the other cheek and walk away. For me personally, each situation and relationship is different, so what I would do will never be absolute (as in I will not always retaliate nor will I always walk away). Every person, situation, and relationship is unique and should be treated as such…and I do my best to do so objectively.

When all is said and done, I think what this all comes down to is choice. You have a choice…control…over what you say and how you behave. You have a choice in how to REact. You do NOT, however, have a choice…control…over what someone else says or how someone else behaves.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9F5xcpjDMU]

Vulnerability

vulnerabilityPut on your galoshes, kids because we’re going in deep today. Vulnerability. Before you continue reading, think on that word for a moment and think about what it means to you and what it looks like to you. It means a lot of different things and looks so many different ways, doesn’t it? And naturally, it’s going to mean and look different for everyone.

I got started on this vulnerability thought process because, again, my therapist possesses voodoo magic and just has the most epic timing of anyone I know. She assigned me a TED talk video about vulnerability (given by Brené Brown) to watch for homework this week (and, as always, this blog post was not assigned as homework but so many fucking epiphanies and light bulbs went off that it HAD to be a blog post) and she assigned it not knowing I had already seen it (for once, I had a one-up on her) but I was told that I could watch it again if I wanted to (but I didn’t have to) but come back next session ready to discuss the subject.

Brené Brown is an amazing speaker and has some abso-fucking-lutely amazing ideas and thoughts and theories. Her book, “Daring Greatly”, has been in my “To Read” pile of books for…probably a year? (I’ve been having a hard time with concentration don’t read as much as I once did/as much as I would like to). I don’t know when I first came across her but when I did, her words hit me like a sack of potatoes. So true and so real…right in the gut.

Before I talk about Brené’s version of vulnerability and why it strikes a chord with me…I want to talk about MY version of vulnerability, how my therapist’s timing couldn’t be any better and why all this matters to me.

First, the actual definition of vulnerable:

vul·ner·a·ble

adjective \ˈvəl-n(ə-)rə-bəl, ˈvəl-nər-bəl\

1: capable of being physically or emotionally wounded
2: open to attack or damage : assailable <vulnerable to criticism>
3: liable to increased penalties but entitled to increased bonuses after winning a game in contract bridge

For me personally, vulnerability means shedding my protective outer shell (which is like titanium) and…like a turtle in the same position, I suppose…stand there naked as a jay bird and deal with whatever comes my way. I don’t like to be vulnerable. At. All. Because it sucks and it leaves me open to so many wounds and punches to the gut and if I just keep my titanium shell on, no one can penetrate that and thus, I don’t have to deal with all the hurt and emotions that come from allowing myself to be vulnerable. I’ve come to use and rely on my protective outer coating more in the last two years than I ever have before. You aren’t born with a shell…you build it with experience…or at least I did. You get burned once or twice, so you start out with maybe like a paper bag shell…then you get burned/taken advantage of a again and you upgrade to maybe aluminum foil and so on and so on. Not everyone is like this, of course…and I envy those people…those who can be vulnerable and take whatever comes their way. Personally, I’m tired of picking up the pieces each time being vulnerable backfires on me and I find it easier to just completely shutdown and guard myself (and my heart) rather than even chance a good or bad outcome (because really, that’s a lot of what vulnerability is…taking chances).

As I thought about this topic and the ways in which I myself am (or choose to be) vulnerable…I noticed marked contrasts in my life. I have NO problem whatsoever in being completely vulnerable with my therapist, M (and even her cohort, K…who worked very hard to break through that titanium shell). But I have a HUGE problem being vulnerable with my friends, family and other people I encounter in my everyday life. Why? With M, I have complete trust in her as well as complete confidentiality…by law, no less. By law, she is required to keep my shit to herself and not divulge it to anyone unless she feels I am a danger to myself or those around me. That means, for example, that if my mom isn’t getting her way at home and she thinks I’m the problem, she can call up M all she wants but M cannot (and would not) tell her anything I said, even if our last session was all about that very issue: mom. I think there are a lot of different components that allow me to be vulnerable with M…I’ve been seeing her for a long time, I’ve had time to build up the trust I have in her (I didn’t just waltz into her office and spill my guts during our first session), and the laws just happen to work in my favor in this situation/relationship. I know M talks to K about me and I get brought up in meetings and with other therapists too and when I first found out about that, I didn’t like it…but once I realized that me and my case are still confidential, that it never leaves their offices, I was like, “Aiight, cool…whatevs.” I think it’s great that I can be vulnerable in the very place where I should be vulnerable…in my therapist’s office. If I didn’t let it all out there, nothing would ever get accomplished and our time together would be completely futile.

I cannot, however, be vulnerable with a lot of my friends. Well…I should say that I choose not to be vulnerable with others. Why? I’ll tell you why. I have tried to be vulnerable on several occasions and with several different friends over the course of my twenty-nine years of existence. Sometimes it’s paid off but more often than not, I end up hurt. (Don’t take that to mean I’ve dumped a friendship down the drain once I got hurt, I may just “tweak” the relationship and be more selective about what I share with a particular person.) When it comes to friendships, I hate to toot my own horn but I feel as if I am the exception rather than the rule when it comes to being a good friend. I am honest (sometimes to a fault) and I always mean what I say and say what I mean. So, for example, if you tell me something in confidence and say, “Please don’t share this with anyone.” I won’t. And even if you don’t tell me to keep my mouth shut, I probably will keep my mouth shut anyway, guessing that what you say is not anything you want all over the 5 o’clock news whether you said so or not. (I like to think I’m rather good when it comes to using discretion.) What you say to me is between us, whether or not it’s a “secret”. I don’t need to go tell someone everything you tell me. I am not the National Enquirer. To further illustrate this concept (and further explain why my therapist’s timing is so eerily pertinent), I’m going to tell you a real story about something that just happened in my life. Well actually…I’m going to tell you two:

1: A few months ago, I had a friend that I’ve known forever but am not very close to message me one day and confide in me a secret. She told me to keep it quiet and just wanted someone to talk to…so I just listened and didn’t say a word to anyone, despite our many mutual friends. It was a pretty big secret but I felt no need to go and spill the beans. A month or so after that conversation, one of our mutual friends came to me and said, “I can’t keep this a secret; I have to tell someone! And if anyone asks, you know NOTHING!” And then she proceeded to divulge the very same secret that the first friend told me. I didn’t let this second friend know that I already knew what she was telling me, I just played along and acted surprised, interjecting “ooohs” and “awwws” and “OHMYGODs” where appropriate. I didn’t even go skipping back to the first friend that confided in me saying that second friend spilled the beans or anything like that. Consider me a vault…the Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts. I can take secrets to the grave. (Don’t take this to mean I wouldn’t “tattle” if I felt someone was in trouble or anything…just know that I can keep my mouth shut.) Unfortunately, just because I can do this doesn’t mean that everyone/all my friends can…which leads me to vulnerability story two…

2: I hit rock bottom again a little over a month ago. I don’t want to type out all the drama here because really, I still don’t even know all that happened and who said what to who…I don’t really even care. Ain’t nobody got time for that. One night, I was desperate…and I made the mistake of letting myself become completely vulnerable during a conversation with one person…a person, a “friend”, that I thought I could trust. I clearly stated that anything I said stayed there in our messages. She gave me her word. The next morning, it had made the morning news (not literally but a lot of people knew things I never told them and I knew it was the aforementioned friend I was vulnerable with the night before that broke my confidence because she is the only one I talked to about the things that everyone else was now talking about). So it was then that I made a mental note to myself to never confide in her again. I still have (and will keep) the friendship, but I will never again allow myself to be vulnerable in front of her.

When people engage in conversation with me and ask that certain things be kept between the two of us, I always do just that. I don’t go to the next friend down on my list and go, “OHMYGOD can you believe what Sally just said/did/told me?!” No no no no no NO. Again, I seem to be the exception rather than the rule. A close friend I’ve mentioned on here before, C, is an exception right along with me. She is one of the few people I am completely vulnerable with no matter the subject matter and she is the same with me in return. We often say that we know too much about each other to NOT be friends. There’s a lot of shit each of us will be taking to our graves and I am A-okay with that…even grateful. I’ve known her for a long time and I have yet to ever hear/see my confidence broken in regards to things I’ve shared with her…and it goes both ways. I just don’t understand why it’s so hard to keep your mouth shut. I find it relatively easy and I don’t understand why I can’t receive the same respect in return. But it is what it is (thank you radical acceptance) and that is why I am so guarded and not vulnerable with a majority of people. Being vulnerable runs the risk of being kicked when you’re down and for punches to the gut that just really really hurt when you’re already hurting. Don’t get me wrong, there is a good side to vulnerability too. If you decide to be vulnerable and tell your crush your real feelings, you may marry and live happily ever after…and if you decide to not be vulnerable and never tell that person how you feel, how will you know? Again, I can see both sides of the coin…both sides of the story. Just like when you gamble, you risk winning or losing…and it’s just that, a gamble…a risk…a chance you take. Are you prepared/can you handle the outcome, whatever it may be…even if it’s not what you want? I’m more apt to say no, I can’t handle it…which is why I don’t engage in vulnerability often. I seem to prefer this shitty safety net of emotions and stay stuck feeling this way rather than risk the chance of maybe getting better and maybe not, or even maybe feeling worse than I had before I opened myself up. It’s easier and I feel that it’s a lot less taxing on my mind and heart to stay in one place rather than bounce up and down all the time.

Remember when I said earlier that I can be completely vulnerable with M? If you’re not a regular follower of mine, M is my primary therapist and K is her cohort and also facilitates a DBT therapy group with M that I “graduated” from in February. M didn’t always facilitate with K so in the beginning of my group journey, it was K facilitating with one of two other therapists (and K did not succeed in tearing down my wall until about 10 months later). So here I was, able to be completely me and completely vulnerable one-on-one with M in individual sessions but I could not (or rather, chose not to) do it in group…because I didn’t say a word (literally) for about 10 months. (If you are interested, please refer to my “I’ma let you finish, but…” post for more.) About…oh I don’t know…3-5 months into group therapy, M started facilitating with K. That meant the one person I felt safe around was now facilitating the group I was completely shut down in. You would think that having that “safety net” in the same room with me would give me the comfort, safety and confidence to open up in group. Nope. That didn’t happen for another 6 or 7 months…and it really had nothing at all to do with M being in the group with me. It just happened for reasons I still don’t know. It was what it was. It was a risk I unknowingly took and I was greatly rewarded for it in the end. I just find it…amusing, if you will…that you can bring someone I trust implicitly and someone I can be completely me around into a group setting where I’ve made myself invulnerable and I will still hardheadedly refuse to let myself be vulnerable (never mind the fact that it happened in the end anyway). And just so it’s noted, I never completely let my guard down in group, even after I started talking and participating. I got better at letting it down and I got better at letting my true colors show, but I never fully stepped out of my shell and that was done on purpose and that was a conscious choice I made once I realized what was happening…that I was opening up in group.

Now let’s go back to Brené Brown. I’m going to paraphrase her TED talk here and just take out some of the things that resonated with me. In beginning her research, Brené hit a roadblock when she started to dissect vulnerability. She made two groups…those who allowed themselves to be vulnerable (yes, it is a choice) and those who didn’t and what made them different. In the first group, she noticed that those who chose to be vulnerable had courage, compassion, connection…courage to be imperfect, compassion for themselves first which allowed them to in turn be compassionate towards others, and they had a connection with people based on authenticity…they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to just be who they are. This group of people also believed that what makes them vulnerable is also what makes them beautiful. I could probably save myself (and others) a lot of headaches if I could just embrace this concept because I feel that what makes me vulnerable is what makes me bait, leaves me open to being hurt, and makes me appear weak…and I try my hardest to deflect that on a daily basis. My Facebook page, while not fake, is full of “I got dis shit by the nuts!”…”I am woman, hear me roar!”…in essence, it projects a strong taking-the-world-by-the-horns facade. Again, it’s not fake…but I won’t let myself appear vulnerable, even on social media. So what you see is really me, but it’s all the funny, good and positive stuff…you’re not seeing all the behind-the-scenes things that I’m feeling and thinking because I vehemently refuse to post those things…so you’re only seeing one side of me…the side I want you to see and, oddly enough, the side I find hardest to let show when I’m one-on-one with you in real life and not online. (I’m often very shy at first, feeling you out, deciding if I can trust you or not…but once I get to know you, get ready for some craaaaazy shit.)



One key word I picked up on in watching this TED talk is “willingness”. I always pick up on this word because I tend to be more willFUL than willING. But I’ve gotten better (although I’d like to think I’ve surrendered more than I’ve chosen to be willing). Willingness is a big topic in DBT therapy and is one I am still working on and will probably be working on for the rest of my life because I am SO stubborn. I’ve had to be willing to let therapy (and M) work for me, I’ve had to be willing to give M the benefit of the doubt and let her test out any new “experiments” she comes up with in her laboratory (and she comes up with A LOT!)…I’ve had to be willing just to continue going to therapy at all. It’s not easy and it’s a battle I fight daily. (Small tangent: K hijacked a phone call M made to me a few weeks ago just because she wanted to say hi and during the conversation, she said the DBT group was covering the distress tolerance module and she asked me, in the opinion of a “graduate”, what skill I think they should spend some extra time on. Without hesitating, I said, “Willingness.” K said, “WHAT?! Can you repeat that?” I just laughed and said, “You heard me.” Insert some inside jokes and a mutual understanding of what I said, why I said it and what I meant…which is part of why I love M and K…I don’t have to explain myself 90% of the time. K also knows I’m stubborn as hell and so for the jackass to tell the therapist that the group should focus on the topic of willingness was rather amusing to the both of us. But it was an honest answer and I meant it, even if I said it through gritted teeth, knowing K was going to go, “Say whaaaat?”)

Brené Brown also says that vulnerability is the core of shame, fear and our struggle to feel worthy (of love, etc.)…but vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, creativity, longing and love. Being a DBT black-belt, I can see both sides of the coin here…my problem is finding the balance. I agree with all that she says and can find examples of all of the above in my own life…what I’ve missed out on by not being vulnerable and what I’ve gained by being vulnerable (sometimes it “pays off” but more often than not in my life, I’ve “gained” shame, fear and a deep-seeded belief that I’m not worthy). One of things Brené says that resonates with me more than anything is that we cannot selectively numb our emotions. Meaning that we can’t choose what emotions to numb and what emotions we don’t want to numb. When you numb the hard things, you, by default, also numb the great things. Once you start to numb yourself to pain, sadness, fear, etc., you also start to numb joy, peace and happiness…even if you don’t mean to. It’s a vicious circle and one I will admit that I am in the midst of. I’m trying so hard to numb all the bad/hard things that I’m not allowing myself the opportunity to experience the good things. Just because I feel like I’m in a bottomless pit doesn’t mean I don’t experience joy or happiness or that I never smile…it’s just that it’s so dark here, I don’t give myself a chance to experience those “good” emotions to the fullest extent when they do happen…almost as if the good is dampened due to the bad I feel…tainted is a better word, I think. I fully admit and own that I do that to myself. I’m working on it…but it’s still a struggle. It’s very hard to overcome 29 years worth of vulnerability backfire in just a few sessions with a skilled therapist. At this point, I’m just grateful that I can be me and be completely vulnerable with at least one person in my life, even if it’s only my therapist. The rest will come in time if it is meant to be.

One example of vulnerability that Brené has used in past lectures that I absolutely love is the example from the movie “Say Anything”. We love seeing vulnerability in other people and see it as courage and bravery, but when we ourselves engage in it, we see it as weakness. In the movie “Say Anything”, John Cusack goes completely vulnerable when he decides to express his true feelings to the girl he loves. No holds bar, all or nothing, this is how I feel, I am showing you and thus, am completely vulnerable as I hold up this boombox and play this song as loud as I can for you. He opened himself to rejection and any of the numerous “repercussions” that could have come from that simple act of vulnerability.



Vulnerability is so hard for me on so many different levels, especially because I see and engage in the two extremes in my own life…completely vulnerable with my therapist…completely shut down with most everyone else. Kudos to M because I never noticed/observed the two extremes before. I have watched many of my friends confide in me and others, only to watch what is said behind their back and watch as the people they have confided in break their confidence. That makes me hurt for my friends and inadvertently, makes me shut down more. If you are like this with that friend and that “simple” secret said to you in confidence, what will you do and say about me when I tell you things in confidence? Not everyone is like this and not all my friends gossip and break confidences, but enough of them do that I choose to stay closed down with everyone rather than taking that boombox-I-love-you risk with everyone or even a select handful of people. There are benefits to reap from taking that risk…but there is also the risk of feeling hurt and other things. Some people are okay with that gamble and I was too…once. But I’m not okay with it anymore and prefer to stay “safe” rather than take that risk. I realize that I lose out on a lot of things by doing that, but it is a choice I consciously make to guard my heart. I hope there comes a time where I feel safe being vulnerable, accepting whatever comes my way as a result, be it good or bad, and just not be scared to be who I am. Because really, that’s all it is…being scared. Being scared of being hurt, scared of broken trusts, etc. If I stay shut down and remain as invulnerable as possible, I am safe…you cannot touch me…you cannot kick me when I’m down. I may remain in this “place” but this “place” is so normal and comfortable to me now that it is better to stay here, a place I know well, than risk the chance of doing or saying something that may help me get out of it…because it’s a risk…which means it may or may not happen. It’s certainty versus uncertainty. I’d rather know than wonder…I would rather know than go, “What if…?” I, along with many others, could do that all day long…”What if…?” Kudos to those of you who can be vulnerable and take those risks and are able to embrace whatever comes your way as a result of taking that risk. Gold stars to those of you who are at least willing to be vulnerable in certain situations and with certain people. Cheerleader pom-poms and a swift kick in the ass to those of you who think you can’t do it and are unwilling to even try.

Lastly, no post is ever complete without a song. Naturally, I stumbled upon this song only recently and I think it speaks volumes (no pun intended) about where and how I choose to be the most vulnerable…here in my blog.

Lyrics: “Brave” by Sara Bareilles

August 14, 2013 – 9:23 AM
PS: Six types of people you shouldn’t be vulnerable with… http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/3392414

I don’t know why.

IDK

I feel like I’ve been saying, “I don’t know.”, “I don’t know why.” or any and all variations of, “I don’t know…” a lot lately. And I really honestly don’t know. People constantly ask me what it is I want and what it is I need and why I feel X, why does Y bother me, why does Z hurt? I don’t know why. I wish I knew I why. Often, when I don’t know the answer to something, I can Google that shit and I’m content I’ve found the answer I’m looking for. But unfortunately, you can’t just Google the answers to some of your most difficult questions. This isn’t Jeopardy.

My therapy is going through some very significant changes right now and while I see the potential/goal, change is still scary. It’s making me even more scared, nervous and upset when I’m trying to talk to my therapist M and tell her as succinctly as possible what it is I want and need from her right now. And I just…don’t…know. There are, of course, some very easy and obvious things to rattle off but in my heart and mind, I know there’s something more and for the life of me, I cannot verbalize it; I cannot find the words I need to communicate. What happens when words fail? Music speaks. This song especially speaks to me because of my personal conviction that everything happens for a reason, even if we don’t always know why. I don’t know how, when, why or even if I will come out of this on top. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be on top…I’d be content just coming out of it. M cannot promise me and guarantee that there will be a better place for me…that this won’t last forever…but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. So it’s sort of like being at an impasse. M: “J…I don’t know how, but I know you will come out of this swinging. This will not last forever. I don’t know why I know these things, but I do.” Me: “M, I don’t know why I’ve hung on for so long. I don’t know why I need you…I don’t know why I don’t know anything at all.” Thank God for music because if there were no music, then I would not get through.

“I Don’t Know Why”
by Shawn Colvin

I don’t know why
The sky is so blue
And I don’t know why
I’m so in love with you
But if there were no music
Then I would not get through
And I don’t know why
I know these things, but I do

And I don’t know why
But somewhere dreams come true, yeah
And I don’t know where
But there will be a place for you
And every time you look that way
I would lay down my life for you
I don’t know why
I know these things, but I do

I don’t know why
But some are going to make you cry
And I don’t know how
But I will get you by, I will try
‘Cause they’re not trying to cause you pain
They’re just afraid of loving you
And I don’t know why
I know these things, but I do

I don’t know why
The trees grow so tall
And I don’t know why
I don’t know anything at all
But if there were no music
Then I would not get through
And I don’t know why
I know these things, but I do
I don’t know why
I know these things, but I do

[youtube http://youtu.be/fPL_VW9LD-k]

Things My Father Taught Me

d-is-for-dad

I sigh heavily as I sit down to write this. I miss my dad…a lot. I’m sure, in this chaotic mess that is my blog, I have mentioned that my dad is no longer with me. I don’t know that I’ve ever said how or when…he died from stage four lymphoma in 2005…I was 21. He was never diagnosed as terminal (or if he was, he never told anyone) so his death was sudden and unexpected. That story (his death and what happened before and after) is a different story for a different day and it being Father’s Day, I don’t want to focus on all the bad feelings and the bitterness I have about that time in my life; it’s not pleasant. But suffice it to say that death does indeed bring out the worst in people.

Unlike the post Things My Mother Taught Me…daddy was a better teacher and taught me better life lessons. My dad was an introvert (like yours truly) and wasn’t overly affectionate or verbose as a general rule. He may not have said, “I love you” out loud or very often, but when he did say it, I knew he meant it and even if he didn’t say it, he showed it…or, at the very least, he tried to. My family is/was a “yours, mine and ours” kind of family. My dad was married once before he married my mom and he had two daughters from that marriage (that I did not grow up with or see often). My mom had my brother out of wedlock and then my mom and dad married and I came along three years later. There’s a huge age gap between me and my siblings…so much so that I grew up as pretty much an only child and I was treated as such. I grew up with my brother but he moved out the minute he turned eighteen and from then on, it was just me, mom and dad. It wasn’t a bad thing at all. Every birth order “type” (oldest, youngest, middle, only, etc.) has its own set of pro’s and con’s. I like to think I grew up pretty well rounded. I got a lot of attention, I never wanted for anything and I occasionally reaped the benefits of having siblings while also reaping the benefits of solitude. Best of all worlds, I think.

I could probably write forever about my dad. I try not to talk about him around my mom because she likes to focus on all the bad things he did or all of the reasons why she didn’t like him and ended up divorcing him just shy of their 25th wedding anniversary. I’m not here to bash anyone and I want this to be a “good” post…maybe not a “happy” one by definition as my mood is somewhat somber…but what I’m about to share means more to me than my Mother’s Day post did. My mom thinks I idolize my dad now that he’s gone…that I’ve put him on a pedestal and see him for someone he wasn’t. What actually happened is that I am actively choosing to remember the good parts about him and not the bad. My dad wasn’t perfect and I will never say he was…but he tried…and he was my dad…I am his little girl…and I always will be. Everyone that sees my mom and I together always says we look alike…that I am definitely her daughter. I personally don’t see that. I may have gotten my nose or my general body shape from her but color-wise and everything else, I look and act nothing like my mom. And that’s one thing we actually both agree on (shocking, huh?). We look at each other after someone comments on how much we look alike and we’re all, “WTF?” Neither of us sees it. What I see when I look at me is my dad. I have his hair color, his eye color, his skin color. I don’t mind looking like my mom but I think sometimes people forget about my dad (or they never met him) and don’t take him into consideration when trying to figure out which parent I resemble the most. It probably doesn’t help that I want to put as much space as possible between my mom and me and when people say we look alike, that’s not helping me do that. “I look like my dad!” I want to shout. But no one sees that…or they don’t remember. Now if people were to compare whose personality and habits I most emulate, I guarantee that most people would say I take after my dad. Dad and I share a lot of the same personality traits and here’s where you can insert the nature versus nurture debate. Obviously, my mom was the primary caregiver and probably the one I spent most of my time with…yet somehow I take after my dad more than her. In exasperation and frustration, my mom often, to this day, blurts out, “You are so much your father’s child!” She may have meant it in a negative way but I actually take it as a compliment and further push her grumpy button by saying, “Thank you.” If I had had any choice in the matter, I’d much rather take after my dad than my mom any day…even knowing what I know now…probably more so knowing what I know now. Being stubborn is probably one of the more obvious traits that my dad and I share. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the situation. It can be a good thing, for example, in trying to accomplish something and being so stubborn, you refuse to give up until you get it right or get the desired result. And it can be a bad thing, for example, when it comes to being stuck in your ways/habits and refusing to change them and/or refusing to try. Sometimes I wonder if I am being overly sentimental when it comes to my dad because it seems as if no one else remembers or talks about him anymore. And I know that just because they don’t say anything doesn’t mean they don’t remember…it’s just that no one talks about him anymore (unless it’s bad stuff, like my mom will point out/talk about…”Your father used to do that and I hated it.”). For me, I don’t want to forget. Do I like being reminded that he’s not here? No. But I like remembering that he used to be.

1. Cars: I’m a girl. I don’t know much about cars nor do I have an interest in learning more. But my dad pretty much taught me all I needed to know. He taught me how to check the oil level and told me that it was safe to touch anything under my hood that had a yellow cap on it. He taught me when and where to go to get my oil changed and stressed its importance to the life of my car. He taught me how to check the air pressure in my tires and also taught me how to correctly apply a license plate registration tab (it’s not as simple as just sticking it on there, people!). But one of the most valuable car lessons I learned was the lesson on gas. I was definitely not one of those ditsy teenagers that didn’t know how to put gas in my car when I started driving. One of the first rules my dad taught me about driving/my car was to always have at least 1/4 of a tank of gas in your car, especially during winter. To this day, when I get down to about 1/4 of a tank, that’s when I go fill up. And in 15+ years of driving, I have never once run out of gas. (Thanks, dad.)

2. Money: My dad was the one who helped me open my first checking and savings account. He taught me how to write checks and balance a checkbook and the importance of saving money and paying bills on time. I was always amazed that I could do this in high school and my friends could not (there are some people that still don’t know how to do this, especially in today’s electronic world). My dad was a tad on the anal side (like yours truly) and every single transaction was written down and accounted for in the checkbook and savings register…down to the penny. I followed suit. This was even before debit cards became popular…and once I was comfortable using a debit card, I accounted for every single debit card transaction as well. Naturally, I have an app for that now but it’s still something I do with every deposit and withdrawal I make. (Thanks, dad.)

3. Math: Given the age difference between myself and my parents and siblings, I didn’t get a lot of help with my homework because everything my parents knew was “old school” and was the long way to do things, especially math problems. Granted, I didn’t need much homework help but I wasn’t perfect and there were still some things I needed help with at times. I don’t know why this sticks out for me so much, but I remember learning my times tables in elementary school. For the life of me, I could not remember what 8 x 7 was. My dad taught me a mnemonic: eight times seven is fifty-six, my dog Fido can do tricks. I shit you not people, when I have to figure out what 8 x 7 is now, I say that little rhyme in my head every single time despite knowing the answer immediately. (Thanks, dad.)

4. The importance of being neat: I definitely got my OCD/anal gene from my dad…hands down, no doubt about it. Everything had a place in my house (at least everything my dad had control/say over). I will never forget going through the house after he passed and going through his desk and pulling out operating/owner’s manuals for shit we didn’t even own anymore…an old 80’s boombox (a Christmas gift for my brother), the original GameBoy (both mine and my brother’s), miscellaneous electronics manuals, and even the manual for my Cabbage Patch baby doll carrier/car seat that had been donated to Goodwill over a decade prior to his passing. My dad would often be accused of being a neat freak but I personally don’t (and never did) see anything wrong with it as it didn’t get in the way/hinder anything. He just always knew where everything was, everything had a place and there was literally a method to his madness. I double-dog dare my Teddy Ruxpin to go berserk on me now (yes, I still have him) because I still have the owner’s manual. (Thanks, dad.)

5. Reading: My daddy loved to read. Even if I had only gotten one dollar for every book I had to sell/give away after he passed, I probably would have gotten close to a thousand dollars. And no, I’m not exaggerating. I haven’t read as much in the last two years as I would like and I don’t know if that’s from me just having so much shit going on inside my head that I can’t concentrate or if I seriously did some legit damage to myself in the process of trying to end my life on multiple occasions. I miss reading and Lord knows I try. I’ve always loved to read…from my first Berenstain Bears book to the latest James Patterson novel. My dad stuck to mystery/crime novels and I sometimes wonder now if that’s where my fascination with crime came from. I love to read true crime (fiction too) and you can almost always find my TV on the Investigation Discovery channel. I don’t have any memories of anyone reading to me, but I have lots of memories of the three of us (or just me and dad) sitting in the same room with our noses all in a book. If we traveled or went on vacation, you could be sure that there was always extra room made for books. As an only child, I often had to find ways to entertain myself and this was never a problem for me because there was always a book for me to read, be it one of my own or one of my dad’s. (Thanks, dad.)

6. Pool: My daddy loved to play pool. Loved loved loved. He didn’t have many passions in life or things that brought him great joy…but playing pool was one of them. And imagine the delight on his face when his daughter asked him to teach her how to play. After I moved out, I would meet dad about once a week at Wendy’s for dinner (he would always have a baked potato, chili and milk) and then we’d go to a bar or pool hall of our choice depending on the night. I don’t watch many sports on TV and neither did my dad, but you could find us watching pool together (especially the trick shot tournaments). Sometimes now, for pure sentimental reasons, I will watch a pool tournament just for fun. The only thing that makes me sad here (well, there’s two things) is that he never finished teaching me how to play. I’m not sure he would have ever been done teaching me but I was only just beginning to get good at it before he died. The second thing that makes me sad is…remember when I said earlier that death brings out the worst in people? My dad’s oldest daughter stole his and my pool cue’s and cases out of his truck the day after he died and I never got them back. I haven’t touched a pool cue in almost eight years but if I ever do, I hope that he would help me line up my shot and kick ass. (Thanks, dad.)

7. Being on time: My dad did not like to be late for anything and you could set your watch based on his morning routine. I’m the same way. I hate being late. I am always early or on time for any appointment/meeting/what have you. I don’t even like being late to movies. I’m flexible if it’s not a crowded movie and I’ve only missed the previews but if I miss just one minute of the actual movie, I won’t watch it because I want to watch it from beginning to end…literally. This can be debilitating (or at the very least, frustrating) at times (for me and/or the people that deal with/put up with me) because if I’m late, I’d rather ax the whole appointment or whatever it is I’m late for than show up late. This doesn’t go for everything…like if I agree to meet you 5 PM for a casual dinner and I get there at 5:05…okay whatever…I can deal with that, it’s dinner. But it goes both ways. People make appointments to see me/schedule time to be with me/carve out time to see me at specific times and I make the effort to be there on time (early, more often than not) and I feel that others should make the same effort. I understand things happen but don’t ever use the traffic excuse on me. I’m rarely, if ever, late because of traffic. Why? Because I allow for it. This isn’t absolute of course and there are always exceptions. But I feel that it’s a sign of respect to be on time (especially to appointments), knowing someone has carved out time specifically for me…be you a doctor, friend, potential employer…and I expect the same respect in return. It’s a courtesy thing. And contrary to popular belief, I like being courteous. A little respect and courtesy goes a long way. (Thanks, dad.)

8. Penmanship: Oh daddy…you were one of those rare men that had legible, albeit, beautiful handwriting. People always made comments on my dad’s penmanship. It’s rare to see nice handwriting and it’s even more rare to see it coming from a man. I have a few things left that have my dad’s handwriting on them and one of them is a cassette tape. Do you remember those, kids? It was one you could record on…side A and side B. And in my dad’s very identifiable script, the tape reads “The Jazz Singer soundtrack – Neil Diamond”. I remember working on my handwriting a lot growing up but it wasn’t ever something I had to force myself to do…writing neatly came naturally to me and is, quite possibly, something I picked up from my father. (To be fair, my mother has nice handwriting also.) I get many comments/compliments on my handwriting. (Thanks, dad.)

9. Work ethic: My dad was the type of person who never missed a day of work, even if he was legitimately sick. He took work so seriously that he rarely even took vacation time and ended up losing a lot of it. I understood his reasons (nothing got done if he was gone; he was a one-man show) but it was still hard to see your dad go into work with a chemo port in his chest. He worked as much and as best he could right up until the day he died. He taught me the importance of doing a good job and doing it right the first time. He also taught me about customer service. When he died, he had customers that didn’t know what to do with themselves or their companies because they had been loyal customers of my dad’s for over 20 years. I definitely don’t let my vacation time go to waste, but you will find yourself telling me to go home after I’ve already come to work sick more often than you will find yourself on the other end of the phone listening to me call in sick. I may not like customer service, but I know how to do it and I know how to do it well. (Thanks, dad.)

10. Humor: One of the things I miss most about my dad is his silly sense of humor and his laugh. You knew you were getting a genuine smile and laugh when you got one from my dad. He was definitely not a faker. He had a silly sense of humor too…the type that makes you roll your eyes as a teenager…the type that you laugh at when you become an adult…the type you miss when you can no longer hear it. He was sometimes corny and could also sometimes hit you with a real zinger that you would laugh at for days. He knew how to laugh…and he taught me. (Thanks, dad.)

11. SpaghettiO’s: My mom and dad separated for a brief period of time when I was about seven years old. My mom continued to live in the family home with me and my brother while my dad moved into an apartment a couple cities away. I saw him every weekend and I thought it was the greatest thing EVER…because my dad made me SpaghettiO’s for dinner and his apartment complex had a pool (have I mentioned that I’m an Aquarius?). I still love me some SpaghettiO’s and you will always find a can of it in the pantry. (Thanks, dad.)

12. Music: My daddy LOVED his music. Queen, BeeGee’s, Pink Floyd, Neil Diamond…those are just some of his favorites. And because he loved it and played it all the time, I learned to love it too. For anyone that follows me on any sort of regular basis, you know I’m a music whore but what a lot of people don’t know is that my collection and likes are vast and varying. I’ve had people say, “Dafuq do you know about The Gap Band?” “Were you even cooking in your momma’s belly when Saturday Night Fever Came out?” I love it all with some exceptions and if I can get into it, it goes in my library…I don’t care who sang it or what “genre” it’s in. One song that always makes me smile is “Another One Bites The Dust” by Queen because that was my dad’s favorite song, hands down. (I later learned that he requested this to be played at his and my mom’s wedding reception…and played it was…insert appropriate giggles here.) I cannot hear that song without thinking about my dad and his bad ass Saturday Night Fever dance moves. I had an appointment to get my hair done two days after my dad died. I made it months before he passed and when I wanted to cancel, I was encouraged to keep it. So I did. The gal that does my hair has done my hair for over 20 years and she also used to cut my dad’s hair. Two days after my dad passed, I was sitting in her salon getting my hair done and that song came on. I smiled and lost it. (Thanks, dad.)

13. Sighing: My dad was the king of the heavy “imirritatedohmygodgoawaywillyoujustshutthehellupalready” sigh. My mom hated it then and God help us if I or her boyfriend does it now. My dad didn’t even have to say a single word…that sigh said it all whether or not you wanted to hear it. And I’m daddy’s little girl, right? I have that sigh DOWN. (Thanks, dad.)

14. Solitude: I said earlier that my dad was an introvert and I am too. My dad taught me that being quiet and alone was not a bad thing. He taught me to embrace it, to enjoy it (especially when it was rare), and what to do during that time…like reading. I grew up being chastised for being an introvert and having no problem whatsoever with having to entertain myself and find things to do and it’s only been recently that I’ve been told (and have accepted) that it’s not a bad thing and the world would do well to learn and appreciate that. Without introverts, there are many books, ideas, theories, math and science formulas, etc. that we would not know today because a lot of those came from people who were introverts and/or their ideas were the result of periods of solitude, reflection and time to think. I embrace and enjoy solitude and quiet. (Thanks, dad.)

15. You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone: The last thing my dad taught me is something he taught me after he died. He taught me that you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone. I don’t want to think I ever took my dad for granted, even knowing that he was sick. But had I known he was going to leave this world and leave me, there are things I think I would have done differently, more time I would have spent with him, and definitely more things I would have said. Nowadays, I don’t like leaving things unsaid. Even if I leave my therapist’s office and I forgot to say something or thank her for something, I will call her on my way home and tell her, even if I have to leave a voicemail…at least I said it. I have a million things to say to my dad and a million questions to ask that I never got the chance to…or never took the opportunity to. To be fair, some of these came after he passed…but I think often…hope often…that he knew/knows I loved him and that I said and showed it enough. I don’t follow a religion and I have no clear idea or belief in what, if anything, happens when we die. I don’t know if my dad still pokes his head in on me. There are “weird” things that happen that naturally make me think twice and say, “Is that you, Daddy?” Moments where I’m sure that no one is with me but him or moments where he makes his presence known. But with no beliefs, it’s only speculation on my part…and probably a lot of wishful thinking. Even though I didn’t get to say everything I wanted, I at least know now to never take someone for granted and to never leave anything unsaid.

Thanks, dad. For everything.

Love Always,
Your Brown Eyed Girl

This has always been my song for as long as I can remember. It’s the one my dad always played and dedicated to me and the one that makes me stop, listen and think of my dad every time I hear it.

It matters.

20130610-020956.jpg I think I’ve mentioned starfish at least once or twice in this chaotic mess that is my blog…but I don’t think I’ve ever said why. As for why I chose this particular moment in time to share why, it’s been on my mind. A lot. I’ve done a lot of talking to a particular friend lately and the subject of “little things matter” has come up. A lot.

The Starfish Story has been told and retold, but the original story (“The Star Thrower”) was written by a man named Loren Eisley. I adopted this story/message about eight-ish years ago. I don’t even remember how it came to cross my path, how I found it, or where/when I heard it. But when I did, it took root within my soul and still continues to do so to this day. I consider the Starfish Story to be…my mantra?…my “rule book”?…the driving force behind all that I do? Regardless of what you want to call it, the story has great meaning to me and its message is one I not only want to exude, it’s one I want to share/spread. I often use the story to illustrate/explain why the little things matter and/or how one simple action/decision can make a difference. Yes, sometimes it’s a bad/hurtful difference, but the way I share/talk/use it focuses on a good/positive difference. I also use the story to thank people who have “thrown me back into the ocean”…explaining to them how/why whatever they did or said mattered…if only to this one…if only to me.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring…all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~ Leo F. Bascalgia

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou

I’ve written many times about the impact of words and how a simple act of caring could mean the world to someone, even if you never knew it…even if you didn’t think what you did/said mattered. If you take anything away from this, take with you the knowledge that you not only have the ability to make a difference, big or small…you have probably already made a difference for someone whether you know it or not.

So…without further ado…the Starfish Story:

A young girl was walking along a beach after the tide had gone out, leaving thousands of starfish strewn up and down the shoreline. When she came to each starfish, she picked it up and threw it back into the ocean.

She had been doing this for some time when an old man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this?” The girl answered, “If I don’t throw them back into the water, they’ll die.” “Look at this beach!” the man said. “There are miles and miles of beach. You can’t possibly save all these starfish!”

The girl smiled politely at the man, then bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “I made a difference for that one.”

 

No post of mine is ever complete without a song: “Starfish” by Sara Groves

June 7, 2011

hospitalbracelet

Where do I even begin? I guess the best place to start would be to explain the significance of the date: June 7, 2011 was the day I tried to take my life for the first time. I’m not going to rehash all the not-so-pleasant details or any of what led up to this day two years ago…I talk about most of that in my “Pensieve Dump” post (about three quarters of the way down, the paragraph where I start talking about February 2011).

I brought this day up during my last session with M and it wasn’t because I wanted to talk about it, but because I couldn’t remember the actual date…I got confused somewhere. In talking to some people lately, helping them try to understand their friends who are going through some of the same things I have/am, I was telling them that attempt one was June 6th. And then I re-read something I wrote some time ago and I had written there that it was June 7th. So I was like fuck…you would think this would be a date I would never forget. I think I got confused while filling out forms asking about the date I had last worked, THAT was June 6th, the day before the attempt…and I’ve spent so much time writing down June 6th that my stupid brain got confused. I brought it up to M because I knew she could access my medical record and tell me the actual date of my admission to the ER. She was rather excited that I had gotten confused and had technically forgotten the date. “Isn’t that a good thing?” she asked. And I said, “NO!” And she asked me why, bewildered. And I said that, at least to me, that date is just as significant as a birthday or the date of the passing of a loved one. No, it’s not pleasant and something one would normally “celebrate” and as much as I would like to forget it, you don’t often forget such traumatic events. If we could, I’m sure we would put therapists out of business. Another part of why I wanted to make sure I had the right date was my OCD. For my own peace of mind, I wanted to know/remember what the actual date was even if I wasn’t going to write about it. People ask me all the time, if we talk about this subject, when I did it. I would like to give them the real answer and be sure of myself. I don’t even know if this is making sense…the OCD and just wanting to have my shit in order and know for sure rather than second guess myself/wonder if that really is the right date. But…the picture above is my actual hospital bracelet so June 7th is the “winner”…the actual date.

Why I even wanted to blog about this is lost on me now. Maybe I just wanted to pay homage to the date, acknowledge it and reflect on the two years since it happened. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…” That pretty much sums it up. End post. Adios.

 

 

 

But seriously though…that’s what it feels like. I don’t feel any different than I did two years ago. I don’t feel healthier, “better”, stronger. I still feel like I’m in the same place. But when I pick myself and my brain apart, I can see some notable changes. I wonder what this blog would be like…what you and I would be able to see had I started this the day after I got discharged from the hospital… Since the last six-ish years have been preserved on my personal Facebook page, I can definitely see MAJOR changes there. (Word to the wise: don’t Facebook-stalk yourself at 2 AM.)

I suppose we can start with my “progress” in therapy. I’ve been with M for a majority of the last two years. She wasn’t the first therapist I saw when I was discharged but she was THE ONE when I met her a month or so later. (I had a different therapist at the time but it really wasn’t working out and I had no interest in continuing to see her.) Naturally, it took me some time to get to know M and trust her. Once I did, it was no holds bar. Anything and everything came out…tears, snot, laughter and all. I think M knows the real me more than anyone else, even better than my mom (though my mom would beg to differ and would scoff if I dared to suggest anyone knew me better than the woman who gave birth to me). M has seen it all…the good, the bad, the ugly and the REALLY ugly. We’ve had fights…not knock-down drag-out fights…but fights where I stopped seeing her for a period of time or refused to make a follow-up appointment. But we are (now) so honest with each other that we can talk about whatever upset me or her, dissect it if we have to and move on…and do it in such a way that it’s not something either of us has to bring up again or throw back in the other person’s face when upset in the future. That’s pretty awesome because I don’t know anyone in my life that can do that…not bring the past up when disagreeing/fighting. M, much to my chagrin, gets EXCITED when I’m pissed off at her. Her grin and the twinkle in her eyes pisses me off when I’m already pissed off! “Feelings are good!” “Let me have it!” And I’m like, “For the love…” I’ve probably been the most real and the most open and honest with M in terms of showing genuine laughter and genuine pain…genuine emotions period. Not many people can make me cry (not many people have even seen me cry). She can. Not many people can make me laugh without saying a single word. She can. And not many people can make me laugh and cry at the same time. She can. (And sometimes I hate that she can do that! I’m trying to be serious and she’s not helping!) And knowing myself and how I let people “get to me” and my heart, I think the fact that she can do all those things is a testament to the depth of our relationship and the trust and respect I have for her. I know of no one else in my life that can do the above things to me or bring out the above things in me…and I don’t care that only my therapist can…I’m just grateful someone can. With M’s prodding, she has gotten me to do things I would have never done if left to my own devices. The first major thing she got me to do was go to group therapy. THAT was a fight and I have to give M props for being persistent. I fought her for over two months about going and finally, I was just like, “If I go, will you stop nagging me?!” M said yes and off I went, dragging my feet, feeling defeated. M even said I only had to go once or twice and if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to continue. And so there I sat in group, stubborn as hell, arms crossed, not saying a single word for about a good ten months (don’t ask my why I stayed because I still don’t know the answer). Mix K in there somewhere and refer to the “Boots of Awesome” post for how that adorable slice of heaven got to me. As stubborn as I was during my time in group, I still soaked up what I was being taught like a sponge…so much so that I actually had to be kicked out of group. M and K called it “graduating” but it didn’t feel so pomp and circumstance to me. M told me (and the group) on my last day (and continues to tell her fellow DBT cohorts) that if she ever calls in sick, call me because I can teach the group. (Knowing the material and being able to execute it are two totally different things but that’s a different post for a different day.) I learned a lot in that group and I continue to learn and practice the skills I was taught even though I’m no longer in the group. Graduation or not, using DBT skills will always be a work in progress and something I don’t feel anyone can master, without effort, all the time. That was huge…the group journey. Even other therapists, who facilitated with K before M even became a part of the group, who knew me in my early days of group and later filled in when M or K was sick or out of the office, have made comments to M that essentially said, “Holy shit…that girl is on fiyah!” I won’t poo-poo the change or “compliment”…I own it. My group journey was significant, especially when you compare the beginning me to the end me. I don’t give myself kudos often but I think I will when it comes to group.

M has recently started referring to me as her therapy baby because she’s learning right along with me, like a new mom. (For clarification purposes, M is only a couple years older than I am and is still a relatively new therapist. Lucky for her, she got the one patient early in her career that will test her patience, skills and everything she knows/thought she knew.) I have severely tested M and her fellow therapists and I’m not exaggerating. They have never had anyone that has been in such intensive therapy for as long as I have (and who was committed/persistent enough to never miss or cancel a single appointment), been in a therapy group so long I had to be kicked out, and stuck around long enough after “graduating” from said group. So now everyone is all, “Well now what the fuck do we do with/teach her?” I’m an experiment y’all. M has told me on countless occasions that I have taught her a lot…how to be a better therapist, what cues to pay attention to and how to get people to continue to see/talk to their therapist after said therapist pissed them off. I am, apparently, the exception rather than the rule when it comes to being a patient. I have never missed or canceled an appointment or group session and I have never been late. Most people give up and do not finish group therapy which is through no fault of the therapists…it’s the patient who said fuck it, gave up and stopped coming. It is not a therapist’s job to chase you if you run out the door and don’t come back. Also, I had no idea that such a big chunk of therapy patients only go to therapy and group when it fits into their schedule and/or when they feel like it. To me, therapy is (and always will be) a commitment…and if I don’t make the effort, how can I expect my therapist to make the effort? You get out what you put in. M has told me, and I’ve witnessed first hand, that a lot of people who start group end up quitting (often within the first month or two) before giving it (and themselves) a chance. It’s not instant gratification and it takes some effort if you want to get something beneficial out of it. I may have fought M about going to group and I may have wanted to give up and stop going more than once…but I didn’t. I kept going. It wasn’t a cure all and it didn’t fix anything, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t get anything out of it…and that goes for more than just better coping skills. If I hadn’t gone to group, I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to meet K and let her join me in my journey and some days, just going to group and having it take up a good chunk of my afternoon was my therapy and was what got me through the day despite what was taught or said that day. I stuck it out and I followed through with it until I was told I had to be done. So to have someone so stubborn refuse to go to group, then cave and go, and then stay to the point where she had to be kicked out really threw M and the DBT team for a loop. They are now in the process of devising an “after treatment” treatment: what do you do/where do you go in therapy after a patient graduates? It’s never happened/gotten this far before. I’m a lab rat. They’re still trying to figure out what to do with me because by some fucking miracle, I haven’t given up yet and they’re apparently not about to give up on me, even if they’re not entirely sure what to do. We’re making it up as we go. I’m breaking new ground y’all! To future patients: you’re welcome.

Another big change I see, that maybe a lot of people don’t see or can’t see, is my attitude and my thinking. I’m sure someone reading this will call me out and say that of course people are going to be able to notice your attitude, especially if it’s changed. And for clarification purposes, I guess it’s more my attitude towards/about certain things and not necessarily my attitude as it relates to my outward behavior (though I’m sure to the people who are looking for it will see some change in that area too). I’ve always been a thinker. I prefer to think before I act or speak (though I don’t always do it) and I will over-analyze a situation/conversation/problem/person until there is nothing left to analyze. That hasn’t changed, much to my dismay. While I’ve always thought of myself as a thoughtful person (no pun intended), I think I’ve become even more so over the past two years and probably over the past year especially. I LOVE giving…and I don’t have much to give but people severely underestimate the power of a kind word or a simple, “Hi. I’m thinking about you.” in the form of a text message or card in the mail. (For more on this, please read my “Warm Fuzzies” post.) No matter what mood I’m in, you can be sure that I’ve tried to do something nice for someone at least once a day. I often do it anonymously, but not always…and I think it’s pretty huge that I can pull my head out of my ass long enough to shoot some love over to someone every now and then. It makes their day, makes them smile and in return, gives me warm fuzzies…and I like that…a lot. Win/win. I’ve also become much more careful with my words. I’m not perfect, so I do fuck up here and there but for the most part, I ask myself, before I speak, “How would this sound/feel if it were said to me?” Words are SO powerful…that sticks and stones ditty is a load of crap. I’m the type of person who can forget an entire conversation we had, yet hang on to one single thing you said and repeat it to myself over and over in my head. This goes for good things and bad things. For example, K called me one week when M was out and I was a sobbing hot mess and I remember bits and pieces of the conversation but what I took from it and repeated over and over in my head (and still do, to this day) is what she said to me at the end of that phone call: “You rock my world, J.” And I’m going to take a wild guess and say that K doesn’t even remember saying that. She might remember it if I brought it up, but without prompting, she may not ever give it a second thought. K isn’t nearly as forthcoming with her feelings as M is and that’s just how therapists are (K is also not my personal therapist and now that I’m out of group, I don’t see or interact with her very often)…they choose how much they want to share and say regarding their personal lives and feelings for their patients. So knowing that about K and knowing that she doesn’t say things like that often meant the world to me (obviously, if I still remember it like it was yesterday). And on the flip side, during a conversation (a rather one-sided conversation as M was doing all the talking and I was crying) M and I had, she said, “I don’t know what more I can teach you. I don’t know what more to do with you.” Forget the rest of the 49 fucking minutes I was with her and what she said, that is what stuck with me and that is what kept replaying over and over in my head. (For clarification purposes, M was not saying this in exasperation and giving up on me though that’s what I thought, heard and felt at the time.) I have a new appreciation for the little things people say and do and I’ve realized that people usually don’t give a second thought about them, but the person you did said action to or said whatever you did to may remember and think about it for a lifetime. That person you flipped off while on the interstate this morning? You probably didn’t give a second thought about it all day and won’t ever think about it again, but perhaps the person you did that to…maybe your action ruined their entire day and/or made them start their day off on the wrong foot. Don’t get all philosophical on me and say that that person you flipped off had a choice to let your behavior affect them or not (and even had the choice of not engaging in the behavior that led you to flip them off in the first place)…my point is that sometimes it’s not always easy to brush something so “innocent” off your shoulders and forget it happened or forget it was said…and the things you don’t give a second thought about are some of the same things others can’t STOP thinking about. In summation: if you can’t say/do something nice, don’t say/do nothin’ at all. (Thank you Bambi, Thumper and Walt Disney for teaching me that lesson, even if I learned it a little late in life.)

One of the questions I get asked most when talking about suicide with other people is, “Are you glad you were found/saved?” My answer two years ago and my answer now has not changed: “No.” A friend recently countered my answer with, “But J, you said you believe all things happen for a reason. You were found/saved not once, but three times…don’t you think there’s a reason for that?” Here is where I’m probably going to totally contradict myself and not make sense…forgive me in advance. Yes, I believe all things happen for a reason. I think I can say that yes, being saved three times means that someone thinks this bitch ain’t done here yet as much as she wants to be done. Do I know the reason I’m still alive? No…’cause Lord knows I shouldn’t be here right now. None of my attempts were half-assed. I should seriously NOT be alive right now. And then, of course, I sound like an ass when I say that no, I’m not grateful I was saved. I do think there’s a reason for it, but it’s never been revealed to me and to be honest, I’m kind of tired of waiting to be shown and whatever the reason may be, I really don’t want to go through all this shit just to find out what it is. Everyone can make the argument that you never know what you will do in life or the impact you may have. I could win a Nobel Peace Prize, I could find a cure for cancer…there are a million and one things I could be or do. I don’t have a degree in statistics, but they don’t look too favorable considering I’m nearly at the halfway point in life and have accomplished jack shit. And if you’re going to ask me what would make my life worth living, save yourself the e-mail and breath because I don’t know nor can I think of something that would make life worth living right now. I made a choice two years ago, an informed decision. Some people think you have to be off your fucking rocker to make such an insane decision like ending your life and do it while knowing all the pro’s and con’s…I’m here to tell you that it’s possible. It doesn’t happen with everyone nor does it happen all the time or with all suicide attempts but in a nutshell, I’m telling you that I did my research and I weighed the pro’s and con’s and made a rational informed decision. Whether or not I’m here for a reason, I’m mad that a decision was taken away from me (e.g. my life was saved). I was gone in attempt one…literally. I was found blue and unconscious and I was even told that had I been found a minute later, I would not be here writing this right now. That choice was taken away from me and I can’t tell you if that’s what upsets me about the whole thing or if it’s because, two years later, I’m still miserable and wish I had just succeeded (or been left to succeed because technically I DID succeed, I was just…not left to finish succeeding). Perhaps a bit of both? I am not pro-anything. I am pro-choice when it comes to pretty much everything. I may not like or agree with your choice, but I support your right to choose what you think is best for you, however wrong, sinful, immoral or bad others view your choice. I will not condemn you for the choices you make whether or not I agree with them. It’s not me that has to live with your choice; it’s you. No one but me has to live with three failed suicide attempts and no one but me has to live with all the other bad choices I’ve made over the last two years (and over the course of my whole life, if you want to go that far)…I have to live with it. I own everything I do, be it good or bad. I don’t blame my feelings, my problems or anything else on anyone but myself whether or not the blame should be rightly placed on someone else (this leads to many long nitty-gritty therapy sessions because I will own shit that isn’t even mine to own…but again, different post for different day). My mom thinks I am on some hell-bent mission to make her life miserable and everything I do and have done over the past two years has been some life mission on my part to make her life a living a hell. This boggles my mind when, in the next breath, she will call me selfish. Soooo…I’m being SELFISH by doing all this to get back at YOU for wronging me somehow? I don’t have a math degree either but 1 + 1 is not adding up to 2 here. She refuses to understand/validate that I keep trying to end my life to actually SPARE her the heartache and headache of dealing me with me for the rest of my/her life. Think of all the money you will no longer have to give me to pay my bills, think of all the worry that will be lifted from your shoulders when you won’t have to wonder why I’m awake at 3 AM or why I won’t talk to you or how the hell I landed in a psych ward AGAIN. I could go on but that mess is also a different post for a different day. I’m not here to convince you that suicide is right or wrong. I’m just saying that it’s a choice and it will always be a choice. Per M and K, it doesn’t have to be a choice…I know that but I choose to let it be a choice for me…that card is always on the table and has been for two years. I’ve been accused of not letting the choice of suicide go as if it were a security blanket and if you want to psychoanalyze me, that’s probably right…it is a security blanket…I always have an out if I keep the suicide card in my hand. And while that may be true, that’s not how I see it. The suicide card is one I want to play, but no one will let me…letting their choices and morals get in the way of and prevent any choices I want to make. Perhaps a better metaphor is that I want to play the suicide card, but per the “rules of the game”, I cannot. It’s not a joker card or a “draw 4” wild card in UNO that I can lay down and play whenever I want to…I have to wait to play it and/or it’s not a playable card at all (in terms of the “rules of the game/life”). Maybe it’s like the Old Maid card…it’s not a playable card and it’s not a card anyone wants to end up with. Am I making any sense at all? God I hope so… In summation, I don’t keep suicide floating around in my brain or in my hand of cards “just in case”. I want to play that card but things and people and “rules” prevent me from doing so. It’s never a last-ditch thing for me…it never has been. It’s never been a “fuckitallimdone” decision. I don’t hold on to it for when things get bad just so I have somewhere to run…so I have an “easy” out. In my opinion, things are already bad and I want out but y’all won’t let me. Yes, I know I can discard it and choose to not let it be a choice for me but I am actively choosing to let it be a choice for me because I want it to be a choice…no one is forcing me to keep that card in my hand. I’m sure we could throw this around and dissect it all day but ain’t nobody got time for that and I don’t feel like I’m making any sense…so let’s move on, shall we?

Something I roll my eyes at and blame voodoo magic on is the timing of this “anniversary” and how I feel right now. I don’t want to get into details, but suffice it to say that June 7th almost became an anniversary twice over…2011 and 2013. For clarification purposes, I have never actively chosen the dates I’ve attempted to take my life…the dates have no significance to me whatsoever unless I survive and they become a date like June 7, 2011. And also, don’t assume that just because I am still here and able to write this post commemorating the first June 7th to mean I’m no longer feeling that way. It just didn’t happen like it almost happened. Capisce?

I never put myself in a pessimist or optimist category and one of my major faults is that I tend to look at how much further I have to go instead of looking at how far I’ve come. If you ask me if I’ve changed, gotten better or healthier over the last two years, I will tell you no. If you ask M, K or a select few friends, they will tell you yes, I have changed/made progress. I concede that things are different…as in how I think and my attitude towards certain things (i.e. I’ve become VERY uncensored, especially over the past six to eight months, not caring much about what other people think about me and just being me and adopting a “like it or leave it” attitude)…but I don’t think things are better nor do I think that I am healthier. When I look at just the surface:

– Me two years ago: suicidal and done.
– Me now: suicidal and done.*

I see no difference. Do you? I will cave and give myself some gold stars in some areas but NO ONE can look at the last two years of my life and say I didn’t try. Some people think (and tell me) I didn’t/I’m not trying hard enough. I’m just at a point where a lot of people are saying, “I don’t know what more I can do with/for you.” And I am wholeheartedly agreeing with them…I don’t know either. I have exhausted the entire pharmacy, being on every kind of medication combination possible. I have been in intensive one-on-one and group therapy for two years. I have done (almost) everything M has ever asked me to do, even if I fought her before surrendering. I’ve never been one to do things half-assed. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to go above and beyond…that’s just how I do. My suicide attempts are no exception. Sometimes I think, “I can do this! I can win and live and be happy!” and other times I’m like, “You are so stupid for thinking you can win.” I feel like I am trying to win a win-less fight.

And it’s funny how I imagined
That I could win this win-less fight
But maybe it isn’t all that funny
That I’ve been fighting all my life
But maybe I have to think it’s funny
If I wanna live before I die
And maybe it’s funniest of all
To think I’ll die before I actually see
That I am exactly the person that I want to be

Oh this roller-coaster of life…it’s what drives us to keep going and it’s what drives us to give up. Some people can handle it and some people can’t. Some people can endure and some people can’t. I probably can endure…if I chose to…but do I want to? Is it worth it? What makes it worth it? Only time will tell, I suppose. I’ve been through a lot…others have been through more. There’s a difference between giving up and knowing when you’ve had enough. I can handle, tolerate and put up with a lot of shit…and not only can I, but I do…on a daily basis. But just because I am strong enough to handle the pain doesn’t mean I deserve it. Granted, I probably create a lot of it myself….but remember: I own all my shit. I don’t feel that the world is out to get me nor do I think that my hell hole is any worse or more miserable than someone else’s. I’m not here writing this to make you feel sorry for me. PLEASE, for the love of God, do not feel sorry for me. I just know my limits. If I’ve learned anything over the last two years, I’ve learned more about myself, who I am, why I do what I do and why I think what I think. I don’t necessarily believe that “that which does not kill you only makes you stronger” but I concede that I am stronger than I ever gave myself credit for…stronger than I thought I was, even if I’ve whimped out a few times and tried to end my life. I’ve told people my story time and again and I’ve gotten a lot of “holy shit”‘s and “I would have never been able to live through that.” and “Oh my god, that’s a lot for someone your age.” I’ve gained more insight into what makes me tick, what I can and cannot handle, what I can and cannot do, what I want and do not want. The last two years have not been all bad. Just like a heart monitor in the hospital…each blip on the screen represents a heartbeat and each blip in my life is a moment of happiness or joy. I’ve had to let some people go and I’ve welcomed new people into my life. I’ve even welcomed some people back who left or that I lost touch with. I’ve experienced some amazing things…amazing good, amazing bad and amazing I-can’t-believe-I-lived-through-that. I don’t have any regrets. I love the people who are in my life and I love them even more when I turn around after falling and they’re still standing there. What hurts and what makes me push them away is that I don’t want to cause chaos for them. I don’t want to hurt anyone or affect anyone’s life while I ride my roller-coaster of ups and downs. I say shit I don’t mean, I shut people out, I get angry and I get hurt…and in doing that, I inadvertently hurt others…and I don’t want to do that…it crushes me. I realize that had I left this world two years ago, and even if I choose to leave it now, I will hurt people. But pro’s and con’s: do I hurt you now by leaving, knowing that that pain will lessen over time…or do I let you hurt/cause chaos for you as long as you choose to have me in your life? I don’t want to hurt you…I don’t want to hurt anyone…yet I know that I affect everyone who comes into contact with me…be you the person I flipped off on the interstate this morning or be you my therapist or best friend, who knows everything…knows my heart…and will do anything and everything to help me keep going.

I thought I had a point in writing this and as I get ready to wrap it up, I realize that I have no point. It’s been two years. A lot of shit has gone down and I don’t expect anything less in the next two years to come…and the two years after that…and so on and so on and scooby-dooby-doo-yeah.

6_7_2011

A MILLION

A million different realities
A million different me’s
A million different “A”s
A million different “Z”s

A million steps forward
A million steps back
A million steps up
A million steps down

A million miles away
A million miles to go
A million miles walked
A million miles flown

A million things I want
A million things I yearn
A million things I know
A million things I learn

A million loves lost
A million loves gained
A million loves healed
A million loves pained

A million ways to live
A million ways to die
A million ways to laugh
A million ways to cry

A million ways to hop
A million ways to prance
A million ways to sing
A million ways to dance

A million things written
A million things read
A million things forgotten
A million things unsaid

* This is not a suicide note or me saying, “Goodbye cruel world.” I’m done leaving notes and even if I did leave a note, I wouldn’t post it publicly for a bunch of strangers to read. This is just a lot of nonsensical rambling, trying to put words to my thoughts/feelings and failing. This post didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to and I blame that on my current emotional state, which is probably very obvious if you read in between the lines. But I chose to post this anyway. It is what it is. This is water.

Boots of Awesome

This situation/event happened back in October of 2012 and I’ve never published it (I hadn’t even started this blog at that point). I can’t sleep tonight for whatever reason and there’s a lot of things happening in my head and maybe if I just write for a bit, I can chill out and then, as Samuel L. Jackson so affectionately puts it, go the fuck to sleep.

M first told me, many moons ago, that she would be leaving on vacation for a week in October…and when she told me this, I naturally had a mini panic attack…but I quickly recovered because I was offered a chance to see K in her absence…because by this time, I had finally let her tear down my wall and trusted her enough to make more than just eye contact with her. (For those of you who do not follow me on a regular basis and/or are new to my blog, M is my primary therapist. She facilitates a DBT therapy group along with K, who is also a therapist, just not my personal therapist…but once I agreed to go to group, K became part of my care team. Group is over now [I “graduated”] but K still remains my “backup” therapist, as you will read, when M is gone/not available. The two bitches are double-teaming me…and I don’t mind at all. But don’t tell them I said that…) This appointment was scheduled many months before it happened and while I knew it was going to happen, I hadn’t given it much thought…until it was time to start thinking about it because it was here. M asked me if I was anxious about seeing K and I said anxious wasn’t the right word…I was more intrigued…curious. I could see our appointment going in many different directions and my awesome mind was running rampant thinking about all of the possibilities of what 50 minutes one-on-one with K might look like (I hoped she had a fire extinguisher handy).

My one-on-one session with K got a whole chapter to itself in my journal. I really wish I could have recorded that session (along with other eye-opening sessions) so I could play it again and again. I wanted to remember every word that was said…the kind words (I don’t hear them often), the validation and the encouragement…I want to hear that “Yes, you can!” and that “You are awesome.” over and over. Like taking a picture of a great/memorable moment…a memory you want to remember and have forever. I want an audio recording so I don’t forget and so I can “look back” and remember meaningful moments…my warm fuzzies. This appointment was bound for something from the get go…I don’t know what but for one, it was my first individual appointment with K and two, when you have an appointment with me at a time that required me to get up before the sun, shit’s gonna be kinda…something. I do not like mornings and I like them even less when I have to be up before the sun is (still being awake as the sun is rising is something TOTALLY different). The night before this appointment, I made the very stupid mistake of setting my alarm tone on my phone to the song “Good Morning!” from “Singing In The Rain.” It sounded (no pun intended) like a really good idea when I downloaded the tone at 2 AM…it didn’t sound so awesome at 7 AM. I heard that first “Good morning! Good morning!” and I was like FUCK NO and hit the snooze button with a bit more gusto than I should have. I’m glad they build phones to withstand beatings like that. It took me a minute to get going but I got up and out the door and managed to make it to the clinic on time without receiving a speeding ticket (which is not as easy as it sounds if you know me at all). I checked in and told the lady to not even give me a clipboard and I just filled out my P90X right there on the counter. (I know that P90X is a workout program…but the form I have to fill out every time I see M, K or go to group has a form number that has a P and a 9 in it and because I’m a smart-ass, I just started referring to the form as the P90X. If nothing else, it makes M and K smile and laugh.) THEN (if an early appointment and it being with K weren’t clear indications, this next moment should have been one of my first solid clues that the day was going to be anything but “normal”) I ran into a former co-worker from the clinic I used to work at as a pharmacy technician. Homicide was preempted because she is an LPN and I actually happen to love her to bits and had ironically just been thinking about her/missing her the previous day and then to see her there in the lobby threw me off for a minute. You usually don’t sit in the lobby of a mental health clinic expecting to run into people you know…and my guess is that we usually hope we DON’T run into anyone we know for fear that our “secret” will get out or be turned into gossip. We were able to catch up for a few minutes before she was called back to her appointment. I sat there, waiting for K, when I realized that I had written my medical record number on my P90X mixed in with my bank account number…323/393…toe-may-tow/toe-mott-oh (clue #2 that that day was going to be off….but also remember that it was morning and I still wasn’t totally coherent)…so I cursed and fumbled for a pen to change the # before K came to get me. I finished just as she swung the door open and asked me if I was ready. This should have been my third indication that today would not be normal because K seemed to be armed and ready for me….hell, even seeing K one-on-one was not “normal” so…screw anything and everything that made me think that day would have been just another beautiful day in the neighborhood (a beautiful day for a neighbor…would you be mine? could you be mine? won’t you be my neighbor? I’m done…sorry…). As we were walking down the hall, I explained my number goof to K in case she couldn’t read it and told her that her only saving grace that day was going to be that she was seeing me in the morning and I wasn’t quite functioning yet, despite being up for about 2 hours at that point…therefore, she would not be forced to endure the full impact that is me after 11 AM. (I, as stated many times, am not a morning person and I think I kind of tend to be a little more incoherent, “prickly” and less talkative when I have early morning appointments. Note to self: ask M if I am a bitch when I come to early morning appointments). I also told K that my own mother had walked out the door as I was finishing getting ready that morning and as she did so, told me to, and I quote, “Cut K some slack today.” (My mom was joking of course…well…in how she said it…she was probably quite serious in telling me to behave/be nice to K).

I tried not to go into this appointment with an agenda or plan of any sort…I wanted to see what would “naturally” happen if you were to put K and me in a room together and close the door. Nit-picking through the diary card was all fine and dandy and took up the first 20 minutes. (And this is probably irrelevant and stupid, but I laughed to myself when I was led into her office and she told me to cop a squat in the black chair because I was GOING to remind her that she said I could have the white chair [which is K’s chair/position when in session…but it looked SO comfy] if I did an awesome job on my diary card and that I could play with the dollhouse if I did an even awesomer job…but I didn’t argue with her and took the black chair…only to watch her sit in her computer chair the whole time…so I’m like…wasted white chair usage! I also noticed the toys in her office. I was all over her office like the rover on Mars because it was all new turf to me. She told me that M has toys in her office, too…but M hides them better than K does. Note to self: seek out M’s toy collection. Like I said…completely irrelevant and dumb….but not unnoticed!) I stated in my “Diary Card Decoder” instruction manual that I knew I would find myself explaining things to K and giving her more details about me and my life and my journey than I would if I were with M because K doesn’t know all that M does and I didn’t know what K knew…so I spent quite a few minutes here and there filling in some blanks. I would also like to note that K said I wasn’t just M’s patient…I was everyone’s…as in the entire DBT team’s patient…which is true if you want to get technical…but I never thought of it like that. It was many many months before I learned that all the DBT therapists had weekly meetings to discuss the group and the people in it. I still don’t know how I feel about that…people that I’ve never met knowing my business…especially since I was clearly a hot topic at one point because of my refusal to speak…and was or am a hot topic now because of my refusal to shut up. K started out by talking about my journey, namely my DBT/group journey because that’s pretty much all she has seen/been a part of. And so we rehashed the “early days” of my DBT journey…when the group was conducted in the head honcho’s office. I don’t remember if K said anything to me that day about what she initially thought of me when she started facilitating that group. She knew I wasn’t talking or making eye-contact or doing much of anything in group besides just sitting there, but I don’t remember if she mentioned any judgments she had made before getting to know me better. She saw that I had a solid wall up and I was making it quite clear, without words, that ain’t nobody gonna tear it down. And so she watched me continue that behavior for a few more weeks…until I walked into group one day after Christmas. I have a “conviction” that we, as group members, don’t know what others take away from a session/group and we, as patients, don’t know what the therapists take away. This is one of those moments. I hadn’t EVER given this a second thought…yet it is K’s defining “J Moment”…the moment she knew that there was more to me and inside of me than what I was showing people. Do you know how she knew that? For Christmas 2011, I asked for (and surprisingly received) a pair of bright pinkish-purple (‘cactus flower’ is the name of the color on the box) Ugg boots. I LOVE these boots…obviously, if they made it on my wish list for Santa. The simple act of me walking into group, wearing those bright colored boots one day (with a closely matching backpack that I had no intention of pairing with the boots…it just happened) is what made K look past my wall…and it was then that K knew there was someone awesome behind my wall.

bootsofawesome

She asked me during our session who, in their depressed emotional mind, goes out of their way to wear something so…bright and joyful and…awesome? After she asked me this, I was like…what was I supposed to be doing, walking around wearing all black? And she said no J, that’s not the point…the point is that you didn’t care what others thought…you loved those boots SO much and they were/are SO you that you wore them until it got too hot to wear them (and then we noted that it was time to get the boots out again because the weather had changed). I was literally rendered speechless after hearing this. Something I chose to wear…something I didn’t think twice about wearing regardless of how I was feeling…was the defining moment for K and is what led her to believe that there was some awesome somewhere inside of me. And it was that day that K set her sights on me and decided that she was going to fight for me and not give up on me. A whole year had passed…ten months without words…two plus months flooded with words…and many more days passed where I asked myself how in the hell K got to me. How did she break down my wall? Why didn’t she give up when I pushed her away? Why was she so persistent but not obvious about it? Because I chose to wear a pair of bright pink boots. And those boots told K that there was more to me than just tears, than willfulness, than a wall…there was/is some awesomeness in here just waiting to be let out. (Cue appropriate song here: “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper) I don’t think it’s all out or that I am all better…but I concede that I am a bit better than I was two years ago. I’ve told M before (maybe K, too…I don’t remember) that she will never look at a starfish the same way ever again. I will never look at and wear those boots the same way ever again. They are no longer just made for walking. As I sit here on my bed, looking into my closet and seeing my shoe rack…I can easily spot those boots because of their color. And I see them now very differently than I saw them before my one-on-one session with K. I see ruby red slippers now. I see indirect opportunities to let some of my awesomeness out just by wearing those boots. I now call those boots my “Boots of Awesome”. And I now also get a warm fuzzy feeling whenever I see them or wear them, knowing that it was those boots that led me to K, however directly or indirectly. If I had never wanted and received those boots…would K have seen what she saw in me that day a year and a half ago? Everything happens for a reason. (Anecdote: I wore those boots to an appointment and group the day after my appointment with K and yes, I purposely chose to wear them because of their new-found meaning…but unlike before, I walked with my head held a little bit higher and I also now paid more attention to people’s reaction to them. In the few short hours I had the boots on, I received no less than three direct comments about my shoes, said in some variation of, “I like your boots.” [This included one from K…but I think her comment had a double meaning. “I like your boots, J.” translated into, “I like your boots and I know you’re wearing them because of our conversation yesterday and I am glad that you were listening and I know your are choosing to wear them to flaunt your awesomeness, if only indirectly, and I think that’s awesome.”] But I also observed other people commenting on my shoes indirectly. One incident involved two girls in the lobby of the clinic…one pointing out my shoes to her friend and a few similar incidents at the mall later [peripheral vision is an amazing thing..so don’t think I don’t see you when you point at me {or my feet} and whisper]. In my head, as I noticed this, I was all, “You better be talking about the awesomeness of these shoes and not talking smack about the chick wearing them…but thanks for noticing anyway.”)

I told M (and K indirectly via a dissertation) to NOT ever make assumptions about my progress or about how I’m feeling based on my behavior because yes, I can walk into group and take it on like it’s open mic night…but I still rehearse my death every single day. This is the point during the session where K turned out to be absolutely right, offered me a new perspective and touched on a subject M and I had only briefly touched on before: fear.

Therapists and their metaphors…I swear to God…first I got a boat, then I got a cliff, now I have a ladder and a door. The door is my own door that is currently “open” to suicide…as in I choose to let that still be an option for me. The ladder is my…how do I put this…my getting better/healing scale? A mountain to be climbed and conquered? With rung one being not really okay sorta kinda working on things…and the highest rung being all out better and awesome and no longer requiring therapy. K again brought up another group moment that I never thought twice about. This was many months before my incessant talking began, when our group was down to about five people. I don’t remember everyone who was there that day but K noting that I had even talked that day tells me that they were people I had been around for some time and I was comfortable enough to talk in front of them. And K reminded me that, on that day, I had brought up a recent epiphany of mine wherein I acknowledged/admitted I was a little scared to get better because I didn’t want to get better and then be constantly looking over my shoulder, waiting for the next heartbreaking moment to happen. Why bother to get better when you know there are going to be more things in the future that will knock you back down? Is it not easier to just stay down and endure that pain while you are already on the floor than it is to get up and better and fall back down to the floor? I don’t want to be on that top rung of the ladder and fall through the open door of suicide. I would rather stay “unhealthy” and “comfortable” by staying close to the choice of suicide like it’s a security blanket and wavering between rung one and two or not even holding on to the ladder at all instead of giving myself even a CHANCE to get better and climb higher…because if I fall off the ladder from rung one, it won’t hurt nearly as much as it would if I fall from rung ten. And K was/is absolutely 100% right. She knows it. I know it. And she knows I know it. Her final question to me that day was this: What would it take for me to close my suicide door (maybe even lock it and throw away the key) and climb up to rung ten on the ladder? And I honestly told her that I didn’t know. She then said something that implied I WANTED a better a life and to move forward and continue life. And I interrupted her and said no, that’s not what I want. If you ask me right now what I want…I will tell you I want to die. I don’t want to get married anymore…I don’t want to have children…I don’t want to explore the rest of this life. And K again rendered me speechless by telling me I don’t want those things because I have my suicide door wide open and I’m barely hanging on to the ladder. Getting better scares me and I want a clear, unobstructed escape route in case things get bad. Goddammit…she’s right. JOHNNY! TELL HER WHAT SHE’S WON!

I later wrote a letter to K and firstly, thanked her for the headache I got from thinking about that session all day (literally…because I had been up all day) and I wanted to thank her for not giving up on me and for seeing past my wall of “dark colors” and seeing instead, my bright awesome colors…my “true colors”. I had absolutely no idea that anyone could see that in me at that point in my journey. And yet I am still floored that K saw it at all, much less at a time when I was trying my HARDEST to not let my “true colors” show. When I thought I was really good at hiding is actually when I slipped and let someone see that there was more to me than doom and gloom. Who knew?

Here is a reminder of J’s philosophy on life: all things happen for a reason…there is no such thing as luck or accidents or coincidences. Yes, I initially freaked when M announced her vacation, but I was offered a chance to sit down with K, one-on-one, for the first (and probably the last) time…and I took it. I took it not having a single fucking clue what I was getting myself into or what I would take home with me that day. My mind was running rampant about what a one-on-one session with K might be like…and through ALL of the scenarios I envisioned…what actually happened was not EVER one of those scenarios or even close to anything I imagined or came up with. Is it not true that the things we worry and think about most are often the things that never happen; the things that actually happen are the things that never cross our worried mind and blind-side us? I feel speechless yet I’m filling up this blank white space with words. I go to type or open my mouth to say something about that session…and I pause at the beginning of every sentence and at every attempt to find the right words. Neither K nor myself liked the idea of M going on vacation…but in what other instance would it have been possible for the two of us to have had that time together? The appointment was made to keep my sanity in check and allow me to have my verbal/physical Xanax in the form of another person I trusted…but what I walked away with (aside from a headache) is a moment where I’m like…fuck. I don’t have any other words, I’m sorry. And it’s not a bad fuck…just like a…fuck…a stunned “fuck”…I’m floored, I’m speechless, I’m grateful. K knew more than I gave her credit for…and she knew it long before I knew it and before I ever even said a word to her. And if we hadn’t been given that time together, would I have ever known about her J Moment? Would it have made a difference before now if I had known? Would it make a difference if I never knew? Would I have been touched the way I have been? While I knew I was scared of getting better before, would I have been able to discuss it like I did today? So honestly? K hit the nail on the head and I give her full credit for swinging the hammer. I had been aware of being scared…even bringing it up to M…but no one had ever talked to me about it the way K did that day. (Don’t take that sentence to mean that M and I didn’t do this theory justice, that we didn’t talk about it…because we did…just not in depth. And sometimes, hearing it and talking about it with someone else/someone “new” gives you a new perspective.) Not only did I believe K and I were given that time for a reason…the no accidents/coincidences conviction continues when I tell you that that day only got better (or more eerie, depending on how you want to look at it). Guess what song I heard after I got in the car and turned the music on. Are you ready for this? “Reach” by Gloria Estefan. No big deal, awesome song…so what? Read:

Some dreams live on in time forever
Those dreams, you want with all your heart
And I’ll do whatever it takes
Follow through with the promise I made
Put it all on the line
For what I hoped for at last would be mine

If I could reach, higher
Just for one moment touch the sky
For that one moment in my life
I’m gonna be, stronger
Know that I’ve tried my very best
I’d put my spirit to the test
If I could reach

Some days are meant to be remembered
And those days, we rise above the stars
So I’ll go the distance this time
Seeing more the higher I climb
That the more I believe
All the more that this dream will be mine

(Remember here that I have a very “special talent” for finding the most appropriate songs for the most appropriate situations…and/or they find me…this was one of those moments…I was like, “Really?!”) This song may have been written and sung for Olympic athletes many moons ago…but who’s to say I’m not competing in my own version of the Olympics…competing against my heart and the world to win a gold medal? When people ask me what it is I want, what my goals are, I answer, “Death.” And even though I give you that answer, I hope you know me well enough to know that deep down…maybe wayyyyyy deep down…I really do want an awesome life…marriage and children and all the perks of growing up and growing old. That’s the American dream, is it not? When I say I don’t want those things anymore…it’s because I don’t think I can have/deserve them. It’s not that I can’t have them…but in order to get them, I have to climb up a ladder that scares me and it’s a ladder I don’t think I can climb. I guess I just realized I have to “reach” for that dream and climb the ladder K spoke of to get what it is I want. The part that stops me from doing that is fear, yes…but I’m not sure I know how to climb that ladder either…much less get to the top of it without looking back and shutting the door marked “Suicide”. I try to picture what my future might be like if I could even just get to that next rung on the ladder…never mind getting all the way to the top. (It’s too overwhelming to think of how to get all the way to the top…I have to just focus on the next rung, the more attainable/possible thing at the moment. One foot in front of the other…I have to get to rung one to get to rung ten…I can’t skip a step/rung.) But I can’t see anything….I can’t envision a life without chaos and sadness and pain. I can’t see a happy me. I know that life isn’t all butterflies and rainbows for even the most “normal” of people and even if I can make it to the top of that ladder, no one can promise me that something won’t come along and knock me down again…but can I find a spot…achieve that dream…where I’m at the top of that ladder and when something does go wrong, I only get knocked down a rung or two instead of knocked all the way down? Your guess is as good as mine. For now, I suppose I will hang on to the first rung or just hang on to the ladder in general. I’ve gotten this far (hell, I never even had a ladder to climb before)…and I need to try to just keep on keepin’ on and hopefully, I will be able to answer those questions and achieve that dream…preferably sooner rather than later.

I have told this story to many people over the years and as simple and humorous as it is, it is a total J-ism…the way I have lived from the time I spoke my first words: “Do it self.”…(or it’s at least what I used to be and that part of me has gotten lost somewhere among the chaos). There are about eight and a half years that separate my half-brother and I in age, so when he was 18 and graduating high school, I was only about 10. I remember, distinctly, sitting in the stands of a high school football field. I had never been to a graduation before and I sat there in the stands with my mom and dad and watched in awe as the senior class filed into the stadium. For most school graduations, all the students match so it can be very difficult to spot your brother among the estimated 400+ other students. As they filed by, not only did I see their matching green caps and gowns and their yellow/gold tassels…I saw something else…something that made some students stand out among their peers. I nudged my mom and asked, “Mom, what do those ropes mean and why do some people have them and others don’t?” My mom told me that those were called honors cords and the students wearing them had earned them because they did very well in school and got very good grades. I pondered this for a moment…as much as a 10-year-old can ponder such things (back in my day and at this age, I was still in elementary school and grades came in the from of + signs and – signs, simple “pass” or “fail” and annotations about what needed to be improved). After thinking about those cords and what they meant, I turned to my mom and said, “Mom…I want those cords some day when I graduate.” Without any further mention about this moment or the “goal” I had unknowingly set for myself at such a young age, I proceeded to earn those honors cords…three…separate…times. I remember my high school graduation (my first of three graduations) and receiving my honors cords. I had forgotten about what had transpired at my brother’s graduation by then. But as my mom proudly took pictures and glowed with that glowing proud mama look…she reminded me of what I had said 8 years prior at my brother’s graduation…about seeing the honors cords and wanting them. In June of 2002, I earned them. I had a goal (even though I had forgotten about it)…a dream…and I wanted it bad enough to make it happen. This is usually how I operated until about two years ago. I had a dream, set a goal, wanted something bad enough that I did everything in my power to obtain it. I set the bar high for myself in many situations involving school and life in general…and not only did I clear the bar several times…I usually cleared it by several feet…above and beyond the minimum effort needed to reach that goal or dream. By high school and then even more so in college, people were learning that if I was told I couldn’t have something or wouldn’t be able to do something…I set out in my stubborn ways to prove them wrong…and I did it every single time, never faltering. (I have experienced failures of course, but I cannot ever recall failing to achieve a goal I set for myself, even if it meant I had to try more than once to do it.) After I graduated high school and continued my education at a local community college, I sat down with an adviser at one point and outlined my goals…the major I wanted to focus on, how I wanted an AA degree first and then transfer to a four-year university. I also told the adviser that I planned on being a full-time student and take as many classes as I could while ALSO working full-time. Obtaining an AA degree in two years (the normal time it takes to complete it) usually requires full-time enrollment which leaves little time to devote to much else. That adviser told me that I would not be able to get my degree in two years with a full course load made up of mostly night classes while balancing a full-time job. She told me it was impossible…I said, “Watch me.” Not only did I graduate in two years (I actually finished the quarter before the graduation ceremony was to take place), I did so with about 20 more credits than I needed to meet the requirements of my degree. I also did it with honors cords around my neck…again. There was also an incident in high school where I was in a class that was teaching Microsoft certified training for their Office programs (it was sort of a self-guided hour where we were allowed to go through the material at our own pace). The time it typically took to go through the training for all five programs and take their accompanying tests (and pass them, which wasn’t easy) took about a year or more. I hold the record, to this day, for not only being the first student to obtain certifications in all five (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Outlook) programs (including core and expert level) but for doing it all in less than six months. (Expert level completion of all five programs earned me the title of “Master MOUS”: Microsoft Office User Specialist.) In the ten years since I graduated, no one else has ever done that. I used to love proving people wrong…not so I could rub it in their face and say I told you so…but to prove not only to them, but to myself, that I could do anything I put my mind to. Telling me no was the ultimate challenge to me. “Oh yeah? Watch this.” I don’t know what went wrong or why I can’t do that anymore. Back my “healthier” days, if I had been given a task such as taking care of myself and getting better and then had a lot of people telling me I wouldn’t ever be able to get better…I would have gone to the ends of the earth to prove people otherwise. If I had thought about suicide during “healthier” times yet was told I had exactly one year to fix myself and make that choice disappear…the old me would have gone out and done it in six months or less, just because she could. A year? HA! I don’t need a year…”Look, Ma! No hands!” And while me getting better was not assigned a specific date or deadline…it’s been communicated to me that I’m taking too long. I don’t know where or when I stopped caring about proving people wrong and doing so with flying colors. I lost that part of me somewhere over the last seven years. There is a goal I have, maybe more, that I want to achieve, meet, and exceed people’s expectations. There is a part of me that wants to prove everyone wrong. Yeah, I fucked up…yeah, I made some poor choices…but watch me as I come out on top…like a firework…showing you what I’m worth…letting my colors burst. I wanna go boom, boom, boom and be even brighter than the moon, moon, moon. I very much want to do that…but I lost that drive/desire somewhere and I don’t know where to find it. I don’t know how to get that part of me back. I am fiercely independent and stubborn as hell, especially if you tell me I can’t do something. There was a time where I would have run your ass over in order to achieve a goal or dream…even if it was stupid or futile, even if I didn’t care about it or wasn’t passionate about it. I would do it anyway just to prove to you that I could. I wish I still had that kind of passion…that drive…that tenacity…that incentive…be it the result of achieving a goal (e.g. good grades) or just for the opportunity to prove you wrong…to prove to you that yes, I can do it…and don’t you ever tell me that I can’t. Secretly, I want nothing more than to come out of this as one BAMF and be able to contact M and K and say, “Look guys! No hands!” When people tell me I can’t do something or am incapable of obtaining something I desire, I see as it a challenge…a dare. Or at least…I used to. (As a side note: M now knows this about me and she often “challenges” me, using my own “powers” against me for the greater good. Even if I don’t want to do something she asks of me, she knows that more often than not, I’ll cave and do it anyway [with flying colors and a dash of awesome] just because I was inadvertently “dared” to.)

I know the answers to all of this, as in I have the information and can tell you what I should be doing and thinking. What stops that information from being executed? As I see a long and emotional day winding down, I wonder what is keeping me from climbing a little further up the ladder right now…right this very minute. I didn’t know when I finished processing my appointment with K and I don’t know now, seven months later. And chances are, after a restless night, I won’t know the answer tomorrow either. But I suppose, as long as I keep on keepin’ on and stop trying to push K and M away, I will be given more days and more opportunities to try to find the answer…to find the “Real J” people keep talking about and remembering. This J is lost right now and doesn’t know if it’s safer to just stay on the bottom rung and cower “just in case.” I want to meet (or see again) the J who wants so very much to be on the top of that ladder, not afraid to fall. If (or when) I find the answer, M and K will be the second to know…right after me.

Now excuse me while I go put on my Boots of Awesome…

 

Post thought after original post: After my first attempt to take my life, I made I guess what you could call a vision board. I clipped a shitton of quotes, words and pictures out of a bunch of different magazines and made a huge collage out of them. Everything I clipped out and glued to the board pertained to things I want to be, things I want/want to achieve (i.e. being debt free, being happy, etc.), things that make me smile, things/people I love and am passionate about, things/people that inspire me and things that represent my personality and who I am/want to be as a person. After I finished making the vision board, I hung it up on my wall. Later on that year, I had to kill some time before an appointment with M and her office is close to a mall, so I went window shopping. It was that day that I first saw those cactus flower colored Ugg boots in person and I wanted them enough to ask for them for Christmas. I see my vision board everyday, mostly just in passing or in my peripheral vision…but every now and then, I take the time to really look at it. One such time was a week or so after the aforementioned session with K. As I was reading all my quotes and words, taking time to really look at each thing and remember why it was put on the board, something caught my eye: a picture of a pair of pinkish-purple Ugg boots. As for why I clipped out that picture in the first place: 1) I wanted a pair [not necessarily that color] and 2) I loved the color…I love color period and I love having/wearing things you don’t see everyday and things that not everybody has. There are a lot of people who have the beige and black Ugg boots…but I had never seen anybody wear the ones I put on my board. And to this day, I have yet to see anyone else with the same boots. The expression on my face, had it been captured, upon seeing that picture on my board after my session with K would have been a priceless Instagram moment. Eerie? A bit. Coincidence? I doubt it. Goosebumps? Me too.

Is anybody out there?

“Is Anybody Out There?”
by K’naan feat. Nelly Furtado

I don’t wanna be left
In this war tonight
Am I alone in this fight?
Is anybody out there?

Don’t wanna be left left in this world behind
Say you’ll run to my side

Something ’bout Mary
Never won a pageant
Never felt pretty
Never looked like Cameron
Diaz was her last name
Always been abandoned
Keep your head up

Baby girl this is your anthem
There goes Hannah
Showin’ off her banner
Rocking that crown
Make them boys go bananas
When you’re insecure about yourself
It’s a fact
You can point a finger
But there’s three pointing back
I can see her crying out, yeah
Is there anybody out there?

She’s really counting on your love
Still struggling uphill
But you act like you don’t care
Right now she could really use a shoulder
Hanging onto the edge til it’s over
She’s crying for your love tonight
Lonely is hard to survive, she said

I don’t wanna be left
In this war tonight
Am I alone in this fight?
Is anybody out there?

Don’t wanna be left left in this world behind
Say you’ll run to my side
Is anybody out there?

Is anybody out there?
(somebody, anybody)

His name was Adam
When his mom had him
Dad was a phantom
Never took a look at him
Grew up mad and antisocial
Hated outdoors
Always in playing Madden
Adam was lonely
Drugs were the only
Way out of his own life
Now he’s slowly losing his fire
Close to retire
With one last hope he puts his arms up higher
I can see him crying out, yeah
Is anybody out there?

He’s really counting on your love
Still struggling uphill
But you act like you don’t care
Right now he could really use a shoulder
Hanging onto the edge til it’s over
He’s crying for your love tonight
Lonely is hard to survive, he said

I don’t wanna be left
In this war tonight
Am I alone in this fight?
Is anybody out there?

Don’t wanna be left left in this world behind
Say you’ll run to my side
Is anybody out there?

If you feel the way I feel
Like you’ve been talking to yourself
Well this one’s for everyone who’s felt invisible
Lonely in a crowded room
Searching for someone like you
Can’t do it all alone (no one can baby)
Can’t do it all alone (no one should baby)
Is anybody out there?
(somebody, anybody)
Is anybody out there?
I’m right here for you
Is anybody out there?

I don’t wanna be left
In this war tonight
Am I alone in this fight?
Is anybody out there?

Don’t wanna be left left in this world behind
Say you’ll run to my side
Is anybody out there?
I don’t wanna do it all alone
I need your love to take me home
No one said you should be all alone
I’m right here
Is anybody out there?