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Dear Introvert

writer. creative soul. black sheep.

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happiness

full circle.

This started off as a Facebook post, but it is deserving of more. As a writer, I find some things shouldn’t be reduced to a Facebook status update, nor limited to 140 characters on Twitter, or become a caption typed beneath an Instagram photo. Some things are worth more than that. This is one of them.

full circle.

I knew of your family since we were kids. My sister’s best friend happened to be your next door neighbor. Your other next door neighbor, was my Uncle Mike. I ran through the woods behind your house, replicating scenes straight from Jurassic Park. I carried my plastic Velociraptor everywhere. His name was Tori.

Everyone was scared of the wolf that lived in your backyard. I only pretended to be. I would watch her from the woods sometimes wishing I had a wolf of my own. Though most of the woods has been cut down and developed since then, it’s still the same place from my memory, the place where we take Layla for walks now, together.

My entire childhood was spent riding my bike, creating chalk art, rollerblading, eating ice cream and ice pops, wreaking havoc as this wily tomboy with scabbed up knees and dirt under her fingernails on the street that still connects to yours. We took a different bus to school. I knew your sister had a big brother but I didn’t know you yet.

As teenagers, you became the best friend of my best friend’s brother. We were together but separate in the same house for countless summer days and weekend nights. One summer, you convinced me and Katie to get drunk with you and Rich from homemade Long Island Iced Tea. We stowed away in Rich’s room, a forbidden place I passed by hundreds of times on my way to Katie’s room. I never had the privilege of entering. Rich put up a fight, not wanting to hang out with his younger sister. But you didn’t seem to care. I felt so cool when you asked us but I pretended it was no big deal. I pretended a lot back then. I was just a kid sister’s friend. Older brothers and their friends never asked younger sisters and their friends to hang out, let alone hang out and get drunk. Funny, you said you always thought I was too cool for you. I wasn’t.

In our 20’s, we spent long nights in Throop dive bars getting shitfaced together. We’d laugh, we’d sing, we’d shout about this and that over music and shots and beers that flowed like water. We always somehow stayed past closing time, just to get kicked out gently by the bar staff, still laughing and singing our way out the door. We went back to your house one of those nights and sat on your parent’s porch, not wanting the party to end. I mentioned I was hungry so you drove to get me the fast food. You knew I wasn’t going to make it much longer on the verge of drunken sleep, but you went for me anyway.

When I started The NOMAD Project, you messaged me. You were one of the first people to show up with donations to support its mission. I met you in the Dunkin Donuts parking lot. Your trunk was packed with everything I put on the wish list. I thought it was so sweet of you. You asked me to hang out sometime just like you had a few times before this day. I said sure, but I never called, just like I never called the other times I said I would. We didn’t see each other again for awhile after that, but I never forgot that day. I never forgot your thoughtfulness, your kindness, you wanting to help me help other people.

2016 was supposed to be better for me, better than 2015 was. It didn’t start out that way. In fact, most things were pretty fucking awful. So I told myself, this was it. Choose something that you want to do, and don’t let you having to do it by yourself be the reason that stops you. You have to get out there and live your life. Determined to change everything, some way, somehow, I signed up for a trip. Volunteering for others is something that makes me feel whole, regardless of what’s happening in my life. It’s not just about the “wanting” to give back to others, I feel like I “need” to. I have to leave the world a better place than how I found it, I just have to.

I was a member of The Sierra Club for several years. I followed their volunteer service trips annually. The year before, in 2015, I looked into this trip called Working With Wolves. Unfortunately, it had filled up almost right away and there was no room left when I inquired. But this year, miraculously, they offered it again. This was it. This was the thing I needed to do for myself, by myself. I sent my deposit and secured my spot. I’d be spending a week in the wild working on a wolf conservation with complete strangers to help with their mission to protect this endangered species. I’d be surrounded by wolves. Wolves. My dream come true. And I didn’t need anyone but myself to make it happen.

A few months before, the trip leader sent out a list of everything we should bring and directions on how to make it there. I printed it out. For whatever reason, I inspected the list of names that was on the email copied with me. I couldn’t believe it. Your name was on it. I looked again. It can’t be. I looked several more times. It’s your name, right there, black and white. Well god damn, I thought.

I didn’t know you were a Sierra Club member or that you knew about Sierra Club Outings. I didn’t know you signed up for the same trip. We hadn’t seen each other in quite some time.. months, maybe a year.

I had to message to make sure it was really you.  It was. We talked up how strange it really was that we both signed up for the same random trip without knowing and then we decided to drive out together. We drove back together. And we’ve been together ever since. And this Friday, one year later, we’re leaving again for the same trip, only now we’ll be sharing a tent. Some days, I still have trouble wrapping my head around how all of this came together.

An hour after you dropped me off back at home when we returned from the trip, I messaged that I missed you already. I hit send and thought, “You fucking idiot, what is wrong with you? You’re going to look like a total weirdo.” I didn’t know what I was doing and I guess I didn’t care. It was the truth and I thought fuck it, you can’t go wrong with the truth. Just say it and whatever happens, happens.

You left to go on another trip the very next day. You were supposed to be gone for awhile, two or three weeks. You lasted a little over a week, messaging me to say you couldn’t stay any longer because you missed me. You came home on a Tuesday. It took all of my personal restraint not to tackle you in a bear hug when you walked through my front door. You didn’t know it yet, but I loved you then.

It felt as easy as breathing.

Life takes us here, there, and everywhere – all the while it teaches us what we are meant to learn about ourselves, about other people, about life, about love. Time and experience prepare us for what is yet to come and also for what we never saw coming.

I never saw this coming.

Funny, this life. It has a way of knowing exactly what you need before you do, and it knows when to save certain things for when you’re ready for them.

After 30 some years, we were finally ready.

I understand, now more than ever, why life plays out as it does, even when you feel like it has been working against you. Why some things you never thought would end, end. They must come to a close because something much greater is waiting for you, something you were meant for. It’s an alignment of stars. There’s nothing we can do about it but revel in the serendipitous nature of it all. And smile. And laugh. And love the shit out of each other and our life.

Because you are the best thing.

The something that was waiting for me.

And now, we both get to hold on to the one thing we kept on missing all these years…

each other.

 

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the cart before the horse.

horse

For years, I would try to tell my dad that our thoughts affect everything. This was only after I realized just how obvious the truth of that statement was. He held such a negative outlook on life for so long, that I could barely remember how he lived before the light died in his eyes. I can’t blame him. I lived life that same way for longer than I ever should have. That’s why I won’t sit here on a towering pedestal of optimism and pretend it’s easy to be happy, pretend I don’t know what it is to sink into the depths of a personal hell and burn in my own inferno. Because I do know. And I almost let it cost me everything.

His life wasn’t an easy one, and neither was mine. But not many people’s lives are, for one reason or another. For my dad, it was one tragic incident after another. It only ever seemed to get worse year after year instead of getting better. He played a part in some of his misery, and some of it was beyond his control. I think that’s how it goes for the lot of us.

I know those feelings. It’s hard to look on the bright side when the sun refuses to shine. You’re buried up to your eyeballs in misery. You’re lost in the grey. We wrap ourselves up in a blanket of despair and never poke our heads out from underneath it.

He thought he was cursed – that nothing would ever go right for him, that he had shitty luck, that it wasn’t worth trying for anymore… “What’s the point?” he would ask to no one at all. There was a time when I thought this too.

But not so much anymore.

I told him life has nothing to do with luck. Because to me, it doesn’t. People don’t just luck out on easy lives with an overwhelming abundance of wealth, love, and happiness. I guess you can be born into some of those things, but all three still take work to maintain. And things will come along that will fuck all of them up, sometimes all at once. That’s why life has to be what we make of it, even the shitty parts.

Our perspective and our attitude have a lot to do with how we see things, how we value things, and how we handle things, planned or unexpected. We also must keep in mind that to be human is to error. We will make good and poor choices and we will make mistakes. Things will go wrong. No one is ever happy all of the time. But still, we need to try.

“Do whatever it takes,” I would tell him, “even when it seems hopeless, even when you don’t want to.”

He would just scoff at me. I cant blame him for that either. It’s hard to believe anything I’m saying unless you yourself have made it to the other side. He’d have to take my word for it. And he wasn’t ready for that. None of us usually are.

When I was buried deep in my rabbit hole, there was nothing anyone could say or do to change my mind. In my eyes, my life was over. My life had beaten me down. And I was too weak to recover. I spent all my time drowning in a sea of victimization. The “why me?!” The “what did I do to deserve this?”

Then came the waves of self-loathing, guilt, shame, despair, anger, and the eventual “nothingness”. This is the part where we give up on trying to find happiness or meaning to our lives and we no longer care much about anything. I thought to myself at the time: “Just exist Steph, just survive, go through the motions and expect nothing extraordinary until it’s time to die. That’s all you have to do.” And the best case scenario, I would muster the ability to end it all on my own earlier than my life clock had planned. That feeling… of walking through life defeated, beaten down each time you try to get up, until you are reduced to nothing more than a shell of a person, it’s overwhelming. It takes your breath away, smothering your soul. Upside-down and twisted up in this rock bottom was where I existed for years. Until I forced myself to pull me out of it. What was left of me anyways.

My dad hit rock bottom too, way after me. He thought he had hit it many times before then and maybe he had, but it was nothing like this drop. And it was definitely the furthest down he had ever been. During this particular climb back up, he told me my words popped into his head and for the first time, he chose to make them stick. He kept them there, my voice always in the back of his mind, until he believed it for real.

I was thrilled the day he called and told me I was right all along. It had nothing to do with the satisfaction of being right but everything to do with the fact that he finally believed. It was the way his voice had changed, the confirmation in it. He knew he could find happiness for the first time in many years. And he had begun to seek it out. He sounded almost giddy about it. It was a new lease on his life and he was excited.

He said to me, “Bud, you were right. You never stopped trying to tell me, but I guess in order for me to understand, for me to work towards it, I had to see it myself. I had to believe on my own. Thank you for never giving up on trying to make me see it.” He’s been on the upswing ever since. It’s not easy. But his outlook is different now, and that changed everything.

He deserves this more than anyone I know. It’s been a long time coming. He tried so hard to be both my mom and my dad pretty much my entire life. He did the best he could. But it killed him when he thought he let me down, on a few occasions, for reasons I won’t get into here. There are things that happened to me that I kept from him until only recently. I didn’t want to burden him. I didn’t want to hurt him. He blamed himself for that too when he shouldn’t have. It wasn’t his fault. Hell, it wasn’t mine either, but the shit happened just the same.

Now he understands. Only we can pull ourselves out of the deep. He could have been there for me if I told him everything, but only there as much as I would have let him be. And he would have helped, as much as I would have let him. Which back then, might not have been at all. Loved ones can be there for us in our worst of times, holding out their hands for us to grab onto, but only we can choose to take hold and stop drowning. We have to make the choice to swim to dry land. I chose to drown myself back then.

There are so many things that can go wrong in our lives – through our own fault, through someone else, through circumstance, through things beyond our control. Things happen that we can’t understand, things happen that aren’t fair, and there can be overwhelming amounts of pain, tragedy, sadness, loss, anger, and grief. We find ourselves being swallowed in the white noise.

But amidst it all, there still exists love, beauty, and happiness. We have to force ourselves to shift focus even when we’re being blindsided by the bad. Until it becomes habit to do so. We are the curators of our own happiness only if we choose to believe. We must have faith in that. We hold our universe in the palm of our own hands.

A lot of us face insurmountable hardship. Some have it worse than others, but it’s not for us to think about. We carry the weight of our lives in different measure. Our pain is our own. It is not up to us to measure it against someone else. We cannot trivialize others’ pain because we feel ours is worse. Nor should others do that to us. It will always be worse to the one that lives with it. We have to understand that we’re not all built to just “get over it” immediately. But we are all built to fight, to rise up, and to come face to face with new hardships and tackle them head on, refusing to allow them to define or control our happiness.

We discover that we can hold on to the happiness we create and use it as a shield against the pain. When the pain consumes us, we can’t see the good. It’s like being caught in the eye of a tornado. Life is beyond the funnel but if we’re trapped in the middle of its storm, all we see is the darkness. We get swallowed whole. It’s hard to move beyond anything other than just trying to stay alive. Happiness is hard to find there.

I can’t tell you that storms don’t exist in my life anymore because I choose to be happy more days than not. That would be bullshit. They do. Storms are a constant, varying in size. Terrible things have happened since I started the fight many years ago. But I kept fighting anyways. And I find myself riding through the storms a bit easier. What was once an F-5, leveling my existence, may now be an F-2, with some minor cleanup and bounce back required. But my happiness remains intact, shaken maybe, but never leveled completely.

I may not have a lot, not in comparison to some people, but I am happy. I try to see the good in every day and I am grateful for all that I have and who I have. I try to give as much as I can, filling the world with more good, more kindness, more compassion.

I worked hard for this, all that I have built. I don’t care so much about the physical or the material, but more the emotional and the mental.

I control the storms now. I don’t let them control me.

I am aware of where I was and where I want to be. I am aware of who I was and who I want to be. I am firm in the belief that I will always be a work in progress but I live and love the best that I can. I will be hungry for happiness as long as I am alive.

We need to find what is important to us and fight for it, every single day. We define our happiness. It starts from within and radiates outward. It doesn’t matter if your happiness is different from others. What matters is that you want it, and you will do what it takes to find it. Our thoughts manifest. They do. Decide to stay on the positive wavelength.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. You have to do something different in order to grow. And in order to grow, you have to change. And to change, you have to believe. And when you believe, you will move forward.

The only person that can take you there, is you.

There is no such thing as instant happiness. And there is a HUGE difference between pretending that you’re happy versus feeling the real thing. You can’t fake happiness. All that does is actually mask the real work you need to do. Real happiness amidst the fucked up shit in our lives takes work. It’s a struggle, it’s a process, and it’s a fight. It could take weeks, months, or years. It could take losing everything, including your mind.

It makes you feel things you don’t want to feel, see things you don’t want to see, come to terms with things you’d rather avoid, removes you from the denial, and it provides a hell of a lot of clarity that you sometimes wish you can push back out of focus. You see yourself for who you truly are, and you learn to fall in love with you, flaws and all, as hard as that may seem. You forgive people you don’t want to, even when they’re not sorry. You also forgive yourself, sometimes that’s even harder to do. But you do it so you can let go and be free from it. You have to. You don’t think it’s possible but then you feel it for real and you’re like holy shit, it is possible.

So this is a case where I feel like I can tell you to put the cart before the horse. Because eventually, the horse will move into place.

You just have to trust that it knows what to do.

the silence.

enjoy_the_silence

Those deep ocean eyes tell me a story,
one that stalls behind gritted teeth.
I care not a fuck about spoken words,
let them crash amidst tangled feet.
I find comfort in the shared silence,
please tell me things without speaking.
We’ll become observant mother fuckers,
here’s to heart valves that start leaking.
Let’s prepare to get lost in the nothing,
we can find the light left in the dark.
It’s survival among the bitter and broken,
we’ll ignite to make this kindling spark.

let it settle.

www.climateoutcome.kiwi.nz
Photo from: climateoutcome

If you ask me what my biggest fear is, I would tell you without hesitation, that it would be to live an unfulfilled life. But my second biggest fear is living a lie. Some of us build and shape our lives and our relationships from a foundation of fiction. Forged selves. Distorted histories. Fabrications we tell other people, but mostly, ourselves. Lies are often times born from fear. The majority of people lie from the fear that truth brings. Funny though, I am more afraid of deception than I am of your truth.

What most people don’t realize, is that there is a freedom in truth if we choose to acknowledge it, if we choose to embrace it. They say wear your truth like a badge of honor, let it build a coat of arms around you so that no one can hurt you. But I see a problem with that. The armor, so carefully crafted, so meticulously designed, so custom fitted, it becomes an extension of ourselves and creates a barrier. It means no one can hurt us. But it also means no one can see what’s underneath.

So I have a proposition for you, an alternative let’s say, to what we’ve been taught. My method is to stir it up. Stir up your truth like a sand storm and walk straight towards the eye. Choke on it. Let your lungs fill with its grit. Be blind to everything else, other than the truth that surrounds you.

Let it strip you of your armor as it buries all the excuses, all the justifications, all the every-which-ways you want to believe other than what your truth really is. Let it tear the mask from your face. Let it exfoliate your soul. Allow it to be so abrasive that it wears away all of the rust that has built upon your heart from every year of the life you have lived up until this very day. You will walk out of this truth storm with a raw essence of self you have never known before.

And after your truth has done all these things…

let it settle.

Let it settle deep within you like sand at the bottom of the sea.

And there it will stay.

There will still be times in your life where the truth stirs up. Where someone will dive in and start mucking around looking for your shipwrecks, for your buried treasure, for your skeletons. Some seek your history because they value it, others come looking to pillage through it and leave if they don’t like what they find. You don’t want people exploring the depths of you. But you can handle this, all of this. I promise. If only because you have already stirred up your truth for yourself. You know every last single thing that lives down there and you’ve made peace with it.

It doesn’t matter how much lies there.

At surface level, your waters are still.

In the shallows, you float.

In the depths, you still rise to the surface.

All the weight that once drown you has been spread evenly across your ocean bed.

You now swim with grace.

With courage.

With strength.

With conviction.

Most of all,

acceptance.

So I’m asking you to go to war with yourself. To ride into battle against what might be your worst enemy: your own reflection. Take out every single weapon in your arsenal and get ready for the fight of your life. And do it all, barebacked, without armor, stripped down to the bare bones of yourself. You will be bruised, bloodied, and beaten. But it’s better than the death you live while you’re still breathing. Because that’s what you’re doing. Slowly killing yourself every day running from the truth and tripping on the lies you leave scattered around to keep it away from other people and from yourself.

You have to accept what you are, who you are, and what you were in order to become who you want to be. You have to accept what you’ve already done and what you might not have done in order to move on to what you will do.

Acceptance is the key.

You must love yourself.

All of you.

The good and the bad,

the dark and the light,

the downright beautiful and the fucking hideous.

Honesty and truth mean more than you can ever imagine. Giving yourself the gift of truth is freedom. Giving the gift of truth to others is freedom. Allowing others to care about your true self, is freedom. Maybe you can’t accept everything. But the beauty of it is.. you don’t have to. There are other people who will. People who see things differently and love things you never will. Or they might just show you how.

One of my favorite quotes is this:

Tell me all the things you don’t love about yourself so I know where to start.

You need to know all of the things you don’t love about yourself. It’s okay to recognize them. It’s okay that they are out there in the great wide open and it’s okay to allow yourself to be present with them and for others to be present with them. They shouldn’t be ignored. They are still a part of you. Big or small. But remember, let them settle. Because when the dust clears, you’ll know those people there in your life, the ones that are treading in your waters… chose your ocean on purpose. And they would love nothing more than to dive in the deep end.

And you,

you’ll float on,

with your truth settled softly…

below the surface.

the poison tree.

A Poison Tree by merm-ish
“A Poison Tree” by merm-ish

It is sick and twisted,

a gnarled tree that feeds from poisonous soil.

It blooms sweet flowers,

a magnificent deception that lures in the innocent.

The antithesis of a giver,

it sucks the oxygen straight from the lungs.

Thorns embellish its branches,

curved like snake fangs slicing into the flesh.

Colossal leaves conceal the eyes,

blinding the chosen ones to its cunningness.

A labyrinth of mangled roots,

trip the unsuspecting into perilous bliss.

The sinful sap it harvests,

entraps the soul and encases the heart.

Its bark impervious to sunlight,

life generates from darkness harbored within.

She sought refuge underneath its welcoming foliage,

heedless of danger, nestled amongst the blossomed façade.

She watered its thirsty soul, nourished its ravenous mind,

pulled the weeds that burrowed deep into the heart of it.

Truth gave way when the mendacious leaves withered in wintertime,

revealing the repugnant nature of the tree and its cruel intentions.

The tree stood defiant, ignorant to the power of the cloaked woman in red.

Fire blazed within the palm of her hands, bloody from harvesting the lies.

She set fire to the poisonwood and it burned mercilessly from within.

Its ashes scattering with the warm summer breeze and it was no more.

“Threefold the weight of deeds done shall it be returned unto thee,”

and carry with her she will, the ashes of the forgotten tree.

love too hard.

The-trouble-is-you-think-you (2)
photo credit unknown.

“I have time.”

We all think it.

I’ll start this tomorrow. I’ll be ready next month. I swear, this new year is the one where I will start that book, learn a new language, travel the world, move to a new place, chase my passion, fall in love, leave the job I hate, stop settling, work on myself, grab life by the balls.

You may be young, but that doesn’t guarantee an infinite amount of time to be alive. The truth is, your life can end at any moment. People don’t like to think about that.

Why?

Because it’s fucking scary.

But I think about it.

I think about it every god damn day.

When I think about time..

I think about dreams, about me, about love.

Love is really important to me. Not just the love of a person, but the love of places, things, passions, words, dreams, conversations, and most of all, life. I want the time to get lost in everything I love, including myself. And it all comes down to time. How much time do I have? I don’t really know. And I won’t find out until it’s too late. So, I want to live like I might not have a lot of time.

Just in case.

Dreams are what I want to follow. What are they? Where should they take me? Am I chasing them or running from them? Am I doing things that make me happy? If I am not, what the fuck am I doing then?

Wasting precious time?

Things happened. Okay, well, a lot of shit happened that halted, plateaued, and sometimes, outright crushed my plans. Some of these things were beyond my control, some things weren’t. But either way, I’m done using my time thinking about them. It’s time to let go. It’s time to move on. Things are going to keep happening that I can’t stop, but I can’t let that stop me.

I don’t want to die drowning, choking, sinking, suffocating.

When I go, I want to be full speed,

gunning it off a cliff face,

Thelma and Louise style.

Me, myself, and I. I want to use time to find the parts of me I don’t already know. I want time to bring light to the shady parts. I want time to fix the broken and time to spread my wings. I want time to love the dusty things on old, dark shelves. Am I letting go of the things that no longer serve me? Am I letting go of the people who damage me? Am I releasing the negative in order to grab a hold of the good things? Am I not feeling sorry for doing that? Am I changing what I can and accepting the things I can’t? Can I look in the mirror and tell myself…

you are everything you need,

you are whole all by yourself.

Most of all though, I think about time when it comes to love. This is the hardest one to face. You wonder how much was wasted, how much love was abused, how much love was taken for granted by someone who didn’t deserve it? I never intended to settle. And even though time waits for no one, I still don’t intend to settle. Because the kind of love I’m looking for, despite popular belief, I know, I fucking know, exists out there somewhere.

When I love, I tend to see all that you are, even when you don’t really see it yourself, and love each and every part of who and what makes you. The same goes for when I love a thing. I tend to immerse myself in it. I want to learn every angle, every piece of the story, the history, all there is to know so I can love it truly, completely.

It’s usually all in or all out with me. When I think about time, I never think about wasting it on the mediocre. There are so many things in this life that are mediocre. Love should never, not fucking ever, be one of them.

So I say what I feel, and then I say a little more. Most of the time I say too much. But I figure, will I regret telling someone I love them, someone I miss them, someone that I appreciate their existence, showing them how much I care?

Never.

I am never sorry for how much I love.

You shouldn’t be either.

And if some asshole takes it for granted or makes you feel bad for loving them too much or too hard, then they don’t deserve it.

Don’t ever water down the way you feel.

Love is an oil painting..

thick and messy,

taking time to dry into the masterpiece it’s meant to be.

Love is not a fucking watercolor.

I say, if you have a choice, always choose to love too much. Because when you let the right ones in, it’s worth every ounce of it.

Some might say I love too hard. But I hope someday I find someone who won’t be afraid of how much I love. They won’t want to stand on the shore with their toes in the sand; they’ll grab my hand and go diving into the deep with me.

There will be someone who can be honest, who can make me believe in trusting someone without a doubt. Someone who is consistent, someone who communicates, someone who follows through, someone who is faithful, someone who believes in keeping some things to ourselves, someone who appreciates the little things, someone who wants to talk about nothing at all, and then everything at once, staying kids at heart, staying up all night underneath a bedfort of sheets and pillows, someone who dances in the rain, someone who believes romance is something two people work at and work towards and work on every single day, to hold onto the love you find in stories.

But until then, there is one important lesson I’ve been learning this past year..

to fall in love with yourself while you wait patiently.

I want to love myself so that someone else can love the best and truest version of me. And in these moments of in-between, no matter how long they last, I will not be wasting any more time. That, I can assure you.

safe room.

josearias.deviantart.com
josearias.deviantart.com
Walls. They’re designed to separate, to shield, to protect. Every human being has their own set of walls they build for themselves. Some are flimsy like cardboard, others are middle-of-the-road like adobe mud and clay, and others are fortresses of steel and stone. I think I extend beyond fortress. Have you ever heard of safe rooms? It’s a room that can be built in a house that is invulnerable to attack or intrusion, and from which security operations can be directed. That more accurately describes what I have built for myself over the last 10 years. It wasn’t done by choice, but then again, I think most safe rooms are created out of necessity because of past, immediate or impending danger.

There was a time, where someone could knock and I would let them in. I had no fear that when they entered my life, they entered without any other motive than to know me, befriend me, and maybe love me, depending on who it was. I haven’t left my safe room in ten years. I have my reasons. I choose not to elaborate. But for the sake of this post, just believe it’s valid. If it’s severe enough to make a safe room, then it’s legit.

A major turning point in my life, about ten months ago, left the door swinging wide open. I had a choice. Close it again and remain trapped in this room alone, or step out. I stepped out. Letting go of things and people in my life that no longer served me, the things that kept me safe, kept me comfortable, kept me unwilling to make a move, made room for possibilities. Possibilities I hadn’t thought about in ages.

I was ready to feel something again.

Feel alive.

Feel my heart beat, my mind race, my hands shake – not out of fear but out of excitement.

I want to be alive.

Safety comes with its downfalls. One of them being what I call “the nothing”. When you’re trapped in the nothing, you don’t feel, or at least you don’t feel much. You just succumb to whatever it is you agreed to settle for in your current existence. There is no challenge, there is no pain, everything just is. You plateau. You don’t have to feel the lows but then you never get to reach the highs either. Everything has its consequences. We all have choices. I chose to stay safe.

This time, I chose to believe. I was ready to run from the nothing. I wanted to feel. So, I abandoned the safe room. It turned out to be everything I thought – fucking scary as hell. Right now, I teeter totter on the decision to make a wild break back to the safe room. This is sensory overload. It’s all in addition to the regular shit storm programming of my normal life channels – the baggage that stays with me within the safe room or out.

I haven’t felt some of these things in I don’t know how long. I’m scared shitless. Letting people into your life when you have no idea what they’re capable of doing to you is frightening. I’m not just talking about the bad. Even the amazing things horrify you. Because you want them to last. And you think, will they ever truly last? If I let go, will someone or something be there that I can hold on to? Or will I just keep falling.. falling back to the nothing, burning with the fire of a thousand suns along the way, regretting every second of the free fall?

You think this is the part where I tell you one of two things..

that something showed me why I should have left the safe room a long time ago

or,

something showed me why I never should have left the safe room in the first place.

In part, they’re both right. But neither of them are the first thing that comes to my mind. The first thing that comes to mind is FUCK, I spent the last ten years of my life practically alone, letting no one in, trusting no one, and leaving myself to all my own thoughts and ideals. I abandoned all other perspectives. The shell I lived inside was created from all the shitty cards people dealt my way and I used it as my defense to justify all I see, all I believe, all I do, all I say, everything I react to.

Well shit, I was wrong.

I put up this facade that I’m not penetrable.

Oh, I am.

Boy, am I.

When I left my safe room, I abandoned all defenses.

I walked out with arms wide open to accept whatever came my way.

That’s usually how it goes with me.

I’m all in or all out.

But scared or not, I wanted it.

All of it.

I was ready to let people in.

I was going to be my true self – throw this true self out there on a line and see what bit.

I wanted life more than anything.

I still want life more than anything.

Because what I had before was not a life at all.

All I did was merely exist – terrorized by the fact that all I knew my entire life before were false promises, bold-faced lies, excuses, words that fell short of the actions that were supposed to accompany them, one-sided love, the abuse of kindness, secret motives, and the list goes on. This includes immediate family, close friends, and lovers.

What you need to know about me is that I feel things like a hurricane. There’s no other way to explain it. I am passionate. My love, when I have it, for animals, people, places, and things – it has no bounds. In my own Stephanie way, I will care for you as deep as the deepest ocean depths, as hot as the center of this Earth, and as endless as the universe and all the universes beyond that.

I bet some of you are like that too.

But once you open those floodgates, it’s hard to close them. And what I have learned, is that this passion mixed with my blunt force honesty, and my hesitation to trust once it seems like you’ve broken that bond, can come off as something totally different. Crude, insensitive, crazy.

Not everyone is going to see life like I do or feel like I do. Or maybe you do, but it’s given out in different doses. And maybe the people I let in have been hurt too. Maybe they have their own safe rooms they’ve been living in. And we’re all just trying to figure out ways in which to leave our safe rooms and trust again – or trust more fully.

The point of all of this, I guess, is that I have a lot to learn out here. I don’t want to go back. I’ve made the decision to leave my safe room and I’m sticking to it. I’ve left behind all that served as a comfort zone. And I don’t plan on looking back. I have so many things to learn now that I’m free. I wanted to believe all those things were to be learned about other people not from myself. I thought I had it all figured out about me. But I don’t. Being locked up meant stinting the growth within myself as well. That’s hard to admit. But here I am. I’m admitting it.

I know who I am.

I know what I want.

And in knowing who I am, I know there are glitches in my programming.

Some can be fixed, others just need to be accepted.

I know there are many things to learn about others,

to still learn about me.

But I promise that I will be mindful – of you and of me.

I will take in just as much about myself as I do you.

I never want to stop growing and I want to love this life, my life, now more than ever.

I want someone to love the best version of me.

And to know, that this version comes with flaws..

some I cannot change.

And to know, that I know, that I am aware of these flaws.

And I know you have flaws too.

And I will love them just as much as I love you.

This – all of this – I can promise to all who encounter the hurricane of me.

What matters most, is making the most of what I have left in this life that could end at any moment. And I will try everyday to be a better, kinder, more compassionate me. To listen more than I speak, to quiet my rage, to trust enough to believe in the things that fuel my existence – what I believe to be the never ending pursuit of my happiness.

I have left the safe room.

My heart and my head have been tampered with.

And it’s okay.

Because my soul is finally free.

And I can tell you the freedom is worth the feelings..

all of them.

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