Building Walls

I’ve been battling with mild depression for a while. Mild, because I’m still functional and able to hide it. I find one of the toughest parts is making sure I keep a balanced life. Little things like getting up early, vitamin supplements, exercise and staying on top of work & hobbies become paramount to my ability to keep it together. A declaration that if I am able to manage the little things in my life that add up to big things, then I can certainly handle the huge demons lurking in the back (and sometimes the front) of my psyche, that in the end really add up to little things.

Depression, or at least my experience with it (after all, everyone’s mental health journey is as different as our fingerprints), can blow things massively out of proportion. There are many times I’m left grappling with this giant weight that becomes so suffocating I feel I might be better off offed. It becomes such a burden to even deal with the mental/emotional/spiritual turmoil that often stems from nowhere in particular, that I’d rather not deal with myself.

But of course,

I have to deal with myself.

I’m the only one who can take up the task to do so.

I can not escape myself.

Or at least not without going to some very dark places.

And this is the part where I start to feel guilty because it’s against my code of ethics to travel to such dark places. I hold the belief that I do not fully belong to myself. That the only life worth living is one where you live your life in service of others. (Which is completely different, mind you, than living your life for others, as in trying to be a people-pleaser.) You will never find true happiness wrapped up in the pursuit of yourself. Loving others, even those you don’t know, by showing that you care, is the root of fulfillment. Of course, if I’m all stuck in my head traveling to dark places or entertaining the thought of really going to even darker ones, then I can’t live the life I was meant to live.

When you feel like I have lately, you get in the habit of building walls to block out the noise of your chaotic brain. The static can get to be too much so it’s important to hone this coping mechanism in order to keep from losing it completely. The ability to quiet the unproductive negative hum that threatens to drown out all desire to accomplish anything in life is vital, but I find that the most damaging thing I end up doing is blocking out the important along with the static. Things like family, friends, hobbies, and passionate pursuits. This of course only digs you into a deeper hole. You have to be careful, otherwise if you ever even crawl out of The Pits, there will be no one left to come back to and you’ll end up having to do a lot of damage control.

Honestly, the most difficult part of dealing with depression is trying to keep myself from the counterproductive construction of walls that separate me from the people around me. The actual temptation of silencing all static once and for all is not painful. It can actually bring forth a sort of catharsis that is very dangerous when fully fleshed. The static has a way of turning into seductive melodies that enchant and cajole when left unchecked. While it’s difficult to climb out of that hole, there’s a sick part of me that enjoys the darkness, and maybe that’s why it’s so hard to fully remove myself from the slump I’m in . Some selfish part of me doesn’t really want to succeed and have to continue fighting my way through life. It wants to let myself be taken down this road of destruction. The key to not actually hitting the self destruct button is keeping an eye on all the walls I’m building, and that’s the difficult part.

It’s easy to alienate people when you don’t even want to keep yourself company, never mind other people. It can start to feel like it’s some big production to be around people since if you acted how you truly felt, they’d either be concerned or walk away because it’s not fun to have you around anymore. Sulking and simmering in solitude starts to wax real attractive.

“Why deal with people anyway? I hate people,” is a common excuse I mumble to myself.

But the truth is I don’t really hate people. I hate the shady, shallow things they often do which make me want to give up on the human race sometimes. But I don’t really hate people, at least not when I’m examining and interacting with them on an individual basis. I can see the sad and stupid reasons for why they do the things they do and empathize with them most days.

The trouble is when you have no empathy left for yourself and the unreasonably gloomy way you’re feeling, that means no empathy left for anyone else either. The thing is, if you surround yourself with the right people, none of this should matter. You shouldn’t feel like you have to hide your dark side from people who truly care about you. They will understand that you are not at your best and give you the support you need in the meantime. It’s important not to weed everyone out as an unsympathetic other. The walls we build must be to deflect static and toxic people only.

Otherwise, when the coast is finally clear to knock most of those walls down, and your face muscles remember how to execute an upward turn at long last, there will be no one left standing on the other side of them to smile at.

~LDA

If you or someone you love is dealing with thoughts of suicide please don’t hesitate to reach out to resources such as:

U.S. National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

United Kingdom Hotline: 08457909090

Canada: 5147234000

Australia: 131114

South Africa: 0514445691

International Online Help: http://www.suicidestop.com/suicide_prevention_chat_online.html

Even if you feel like you already pushed away all the close people in your life (or that they’ve pushed you away), there is always someone willing to help pull you out of that pit you might be in. There’s always hope of reconnection with people, as long as you give yourself a chance to have a future.

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Silliness with Children

I used to look at people who became their goofiest when they played with children with an embarrassed side-glance.   I’d feel the need to feel uncomfortable for them, that they were doing such silly things in front of a bunch of adults.

Like, “You realize we can see you too, right?”

But in reality, it’s not like I thought any less of them. I understood that they were just doing things like making silly faces and pretending to trip on imaginary banana peels to entertain the kids. It didn’t make them any less of an adult in my eyes, so I don’t really know why I found it so embarrassing to watch them do their thing.

I think maybe I was insecure in my own adulthood at the time and so I felt like I had to overcompensate by not acting silly at any time, even if it was just for kids; in order to prove the sternness of my adult status.  Now, I’ve embraced the truth that all adults are just really big kids anyway, so what’s the use in stifling your inner child?  It’s just that now we’re big kids who pay taxes, and feel obligated to pretend we know what we’re doing.  But the huge secret is, we still don’t know what we’re doing.  Each stage of life brings new challenges that make us feel as awkward as a kindergartner, fumbling to scratch led marks between the lines we’re told to adhere to.

I find myself doing all sorts of crazy stuff these days to make my students laugh or keep them engaged. I’m not embarrassed in the least. Not even in front of other adults.

I don’t understand why we keep this lack of know-how a secret for children to find out when they’re adults.  It’s not like they’d look down on us or feel less safe in our hands.  I find they usually appreciate the honesty, to whatever extent you give it to them.  Why don’t we do them a favor and save them some insecurity & uncertainty later by fessing up?

I feel like a shadow of this truth is shown when we do things like make silly faces at small children, but I think the adolescents could use our help too.

Tell a young adult “I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I’m still breathing so I guess I’m doing something right,” today.

~LDA

 

That Familiar Crack

I don’t know why I even hesitate to pick up a pen or set my fingers upon a keyboard.

I never regret it when I’m finished.  Even if what I’ve written is total crap, there’s satisfaction in having put words on a page.  A certain kind of alignment of the spirit in having successfully transformed the firing of neurons in my brain into something someone else can read.  There’s a thrill in the possibility of setting off fireworks in someone else’s brain.  Even if in the end what I’ve written is so terrible and unworthy of reading that I want to burn it, bury it and have a cow poop on it just so no one ever gets their hands on it, I’m still happy to have sat down and written.

And still.

There is always this arresting hesitation born of angst that takes hold when I’m about to sit down and write.  Like if I pick up this pen the world might be set on fire, but not in a good way.  Or if I click that first letter on the keyboard I might never be able to stop.  Which in my opinion is not a bad way to die.  In fact, it would be sort of awesome to be able to say I died whilst on a literary tirade, but also kind of a stumbling block to the other goals in my life if I died so prematurely.  So there’s this hesitation to begin writing.

Of course,

I do it anyway.

On good days.

On you’re going to sit your butt in this chair and write even if it is literally the last thing you do, days.  On the world is a mystical place and you have to hurry up and get it down on paper, days.  On the you’ve set this deadline for yourself and you’re going to meet it or you basically deserve to be dead, days.  Notice how those days that smell like death came twice.  They come a lot more often than the mystical ones.

But still, I write.

Once, I thought I could let the angst win out and watch my writing life evaporate on the pavement in front of me, like so much catapulted saliva.  Slowly it swirled into the sky.  I watched it with both eager anticipation and terror.  Was this really happening?  Was it working?  Is all it takes some patient laziness?  My small pond became a puddle, and it soon was small enough to fit in the palm of one hand.

Then,

it was gone.

Or so I thought.

I turned around and began walking away, ready to throw a party or surrender myself to the nearest volcano.  To this day I don’t know which.  Maybe both.  In any case, something made me stop, turn around, and stoop real close to the ground.  There on the pavement was a crack.  And from that crack trembled a solitary drop of moisture, stubborn and hopeful.  I crouched there squinting at it for a long time.  Days, weeks, months.  I was watching to see if it too would eventually join it’s brothers in the unforgiving sky, but it didn’t.

Or it wouldn’t.

I’m not sure which of these either.

All I know is that no matter how long I stared at it, that droplet did not fade away.  And it was then that I knew in my gut that no matter how I long I watched, it would never go away.  There was something deep beneath the ground ensuring its existence.  Something annoying, and sure ,and as stubborn as me.  It let me know that there was no amount of running or hiding or overwhelming ray of angst that would burn that droplet away.

Ever since then, I pick up the pen and set my fingers on the keyboard because I have to.  Or at least I might as well.  Anytime I get too anxious about what I’m doing with this writing thing or why, I just squint down at that familiar crack.  Even if it’s too deep down at the bottom of the spring for me to see.

~LDA

Drama Llama

I’m such a drama llama.

I hate actual drama with people, but I can be so incongruously melodramatic with myself in my head. Even when my logic is pounding at my heart’s door and telling it to shut up, “I’ve heard this bit about five thousand times! Give it a rest already!”

I am finding my problems are so much less than I build them up to be and am continually ashamed of myself. I’m speaking mostly of my social troubles, of which you would barely be able to tell I have, because it’s easy to camouflage.  My anxiety is an invisible burden which I have no need to shove behind my back for fear of being found out.  Its nature is quite undetectable given enough nods, smiles, and echoing of whomever I’m speaking to.

Most people only want to hear themselves repeated and affirmed anyway, so this is easy.  A fact I’ve expressed distaste of before.

It’s quite a self-centered way of being, wanting to be heard all the time and refusing to return the favor, but I’ve admitted I have my own brand of selfishness as well.  I seek depth of connection without wading into the waters of relationship.  You can’t begin to understand a person, or people in general for that matter, until you first know them.  There’s a level of necessity for this surface level contact.

I have this conceited fear that if I talk to a lot of people I’ll attract too many people I don’t particularly like, and won’t know how to shake them off.  Because despite being a pro at offending people unintentionally with my blunt manner, I actually don’t like causing others pain or discomfort.  I do contain a base level of empathy that brings me an aversion to being the cause of pain.  I just mostly see things so differently than other people that I can’t predict a lot of the ways they will feel pain, so I cause it anyway.

But this is a really selfish fear.  One I thought I had disengaged myself with.  It all comes back to me being afraid I will have to give too much.  Which is not completely unreasonable since there are a lot of leeches out there who bring nothing to the table but a suction cup mouth, however it is selfish nonetheless.  So what?  I’ll end up giving more than I receive.  It’s not exactly a fun way to live, but it’s a way of life I’ve claimed to support, all the while not putting into practice socially.  

It’s so essential to my growth as a person and is stunting my current relationships, and still I have yet to deal with it. I’ve been staring my interpersonal issues in the face for so long that I have at least finally identified them. The problem is, that it’s been so long that I’ve also forgotten how to act on resolving them, even when I know how. Or at least know how to start.  I’ve been on pause discussing strategy for such an extended length of time that I’ve forgotten it takes an action to put that strategy into effect.  

It’s things like these that I justly beat myself up about not putting into play.  Life is the sort of game where you have to put yourself at risk to level up.  The trick is to beat each level without using any cheat codes, (like manipulating people), because it’s lame to beat it unethically.  If you do, you will level up, but the win won’t be worth much in the end.

Growing as a person is such a continuous battle of getting yourself to face your fears, irrational and otherwise. And not only face them, but to get up and fight them. 

~LDA

Congrats! You Qualify to Become a Slave!

How is it credit card companies act like they’re doing us such a big favor in letting us become enslaved to them?  I mean, of course loans can be useful so it’s nice to know if your credit is good enough to get one, but you’re basically signing up to be a slave if you don’t have the means to pay it back.

Society is so warped in that most people are used to living above their means. It’s normal to buy what you don’t have the money for. It’s like we never outgrow the childish mentality that if I want it I should get it now.

“It’s okay if my bank account says otherwise. I have this shiny plastic thing that tells me I can buy my every heart’s desire. Weeee~!”

It’s so not worth it because eventually, it will catch up to you.  Then you’re wondering why you have enough money to own a flat screen television, the latest iphone, unnecessarily upscale furniture, and a sleek car, but are declaring bankruptcy because whoops, you forgot to pay your overpriced mortgage.

I don’t understand why anyone would willingly invite that sort of stress into their lives.

Of course, like I said, there’s a time and a place for credit cards such as if you’re making an investment into jump-starting a business or buying a house you know you’ll actually be able to afford the payments of.  But most times people get into credit card debt for the wrong reasons.  For appearances, or for their own opinion of what their quality of life should be at all times.  Sometimes you gotta slum it for a while in the present to live breezily for a long time in the future my friends.  This is the best piece of advice my father ever passed onto me.

Never forget that those pretty little letters of congratulations that invade your mailbox unsolicited and ask for personal information, are not declarations of a bank’s love and general admiration for you so “Ta-da!  Here’s some free money!”

They are little invitations into financial slavery.

Spurn them.  Hiss at them like a feral cat every time you see them if that helps you remember that NOTHING in life is free, especially not your financial future.  

~LDA

When Problem-Solving Solves Nothing

I am very much like a man when it comes to giving and receiving affection.

Giving me food goes a long way.  Seriously, if you feed me, that’s automatic bonus points and I will begin to love you on some level, even if you’re my arch-nemesis or something.  The saying should be, “The way to Lady’s heart is through her stomach.”  Truer words would have never been spoken.  Ask any of my friends.

On the other hand, when it comes to giving affection I am primarily a task-oriented organism.  If something is wrong in the life of someone I love my immediate thought is, “How can I fix this?”

This gets me into a lot of trouble in life, particularly when it comes to my female loved ones.  I’m a pretty good listening ear, so that gets me about halfway when it comes to humans of the female variety.  But then when it gets to the point where they’re finished talking I’m like, “Okay, go team.  Huddle up.  How can we find a solution to this problem?”

Sometimes that’s super helpful and people will credit me for being such a good problem-solver they can run to.  But other times that response just isn’t appropriate.  The issues of life are not always immediately fixable.  In fact, sometimes they are immediately fixable, but it’s a problem only the person in trouble can solve for themselves.  So I’m left sitting there with my lasso of truth dangling uselessly at my side because it has no villain to latch onto.  I’ll feel helpless, as though I can’t help them and that my role is complete because I can do no more.

The problem with that type of thinking is, even though you can’t always solve your loved ones problems, they don’t always need you to.  Many times they just want you to sit with them while they solve it themselves.

This has been a hard lesson for me to learn.

I’ve failed at it time and time again.  Backing away from a loved one’s situation and leaving them to wrestle with it on their own because, “Well, I’m not doing anything anyway.”

That’s not to say I don’t wave encouragingly on the sidelines cheering them on, checking in every once in a while to see if I can be of assistance at a different point in time, but that isn’t enough.  I’m too far away.  Sometimes people need you to sit right up close to them while they tackle their demons, simply for moral support.

I don’t know why that’s been such a difficult lesson for me to learn.  It’s probably a breed of selfishness.  I feel uncomfortable not being able to do what I do best, (problem solving), so I choose to give them space so I don’t feel like so much of a failure.  It’s hard to watch a loved one in pain and know there’s nothing you can do about it.  But I keep forgetting that being by someone’s side, right up close, is not nothing.  Sometimes it’s the most heroic thing you can do.

 

~LDA

Accidental Dubs

Guys, I swear I’m not even a real person.

How does one accidentally dub someone?

I feel like I’m the only person on the planet who consistently offends people without even meaning to.  I mean, everybody has their ditsy moments where they hurt someone’s feelings without noticing, but I’m pretty sure I’ve reduced it to a science.  Which is pretty hard, considering these things are done unintentionally.

Maybe I spend so much time wandering in my brain that I forgot how to even be in the moment, and so I constantly appear to be disinterested in the people right in front of me.

The ridiculous truth is, I’m actually so interested in the species homo sapiens that I’m too busy over-analyzing their behavior to actually engage with them when necessary.

I was out intentionally socializing the other day—or at least trying to—when a networking opportunity appeared.  Someone went out of their way to speak to me and ask me to coffee before I left the scene of my crime.  These social outings tend to leave me exhausted, introvert that I am, so all I was thinking about was hopping into my car and not talking to another soul for days.

He raised his hand to get my attention.

“Hey, I was hoping I’d get the chance to talk to you, but it looks like you’re about ready to leave.”

Of course, since he had stopped me mid-getaway I looked like a deer in headlights, or like a child with their hand stuck in the cookie jar.

“Oh, hi,” I replied.  Ah, you’re blocking my exit! is what I screamed internally.

If you have to go that’s fine, but I’d love to get coffee sometime if you don’t mind, he continued.

“Oh, um…” Wow, that’s weird.  He actually wants to extend this experience, I mused.

He began staring at me.  Oh, right.  I’m supposed to respond.  

“Uh,” I began.  So…If I accept I’m going to be stuck in a situation where I have to put on my best human disguise.  Can I handle that kind of one on one at the moment?  

He continued to stare, cocking his head to the side, confusion beginning to register on his face.  Crap.  Say something, woman.  The pause has become unnatural.  Quick, make a decision.  That sort of thing was kind of the point of this outing, forcing yourself into uncomfortable situations.  Okay.  Say yes.  Wait, but then I have to actually dooo it…I whined to myself.

He began to open his mouth, signaling he was going to fill the silence himself.  Stop being lazy! Say something!  

“Yeah,” I blurted, fake smile affixed to the max.

Relief spread across his face that he wouldn’t have to reiterate.  “Great, so I live over by…How far are you from there?”

Give him only approximate coordinates.  He could be intending to murder your family in the dead of night.  “I live around…” I said.  That was stupid vague. Don’t be an idiot.  The probability of him being a murderer is very slim.  Besides you don’t have to narrow it down very much.

“I live in…” I clarified.  Much better.  

“Okay, so …. seems like about a halfway point,” he smiled.

He’s pausing for confirmation.  Smile and nod like you know geography.  “Mmhm, just about,” I guessed.

“Here’s my card,” he said handing me a quaint little piece of cardstock.  He said other impressively human stuff for a while.  “Do you have a card?”

Haha.  That’s cute.  He thinks I’m a real person.  Maybe I should start carrying some around though.  Tighten this whole disguise…

“No, unfortunately I don’t,” I replied.

He nodded understandingly and said nothing.  Oh, wait.  He was digging for information.  

“I’m a teacher,” I said, hoping to satisfy the implied question.

No, dummy.  Wrong piece of information.  

I was very close to bringing a palm to my face at this point, but he kindly continued talking and provided his job description too; As if I had responded appropriately.

Another lull in conversation.  This isn’t going very well.  Abort conversation mission.  I think you’ve satisfied the speech quota.  

“So…uh, we’ll be in touch,” I said, quite literally backing away slowly.  I even made use of the whole finger guns move and everything.

“Uh, okay,” he replied a little bewildered.

Yeahhh…I don’t really understand what I’m doing either, buddy,  

“I’ll see you,” I said, slinking my way to the exit.

“Okay, thanks for coming!” he shouted over the noise of other conversations to my turning back.

When I finally got to the refuge that is my car I realized I hadn’t actually set a time to meet him over coffee.  Which I totally didn’t mean to do.  Sure, I was trying to shut the conversation down as soon as possible, but I hadn’t meant to actually reject the offer.  I wanted to force myself into further uncomfortable situations and effectively get a little better at my act of pretending to be human.

Crap.  You totally just dubbed that guy.  You didn’t even set a time for coffee and he was genuinely being friendly.  I’m pretty sure he wasn’t even just coming onto you either.  You’re a terrible person,  I scolded myself.

I tend to think I’m observing people too much to respond appropriately in normal social situations, but maybe I have it the other way around.  I’m too busy talking to myself to talk to other people. 

One day I’ll master the art of humanity, guys.

One day.  I promise.

~LDA

Radio Silence? Try Phone Silence

I never thought I’d become one of those people who get itchy when their phone doesn’t plonk with a message notification often enough. I’m largely a loner, both in person and online so I’ve never really cared whether I was talking to enough people, whether that meant I was part of a chat thread or keeping a texting conversation going.

But in the last year I think I’ve become way more aware of the silence of my phone than I would like.

Part of that is just because I’ve been really taking the time to analyze my relationships or lack thereof in the last year. Part of it is because I’ve increased my online presence and have gotten used to a certain amount of pings and dings coming from my phone. (That probably says something about my generation, but that’s another topic entirely.)

A sort of static has formed in my brain. A creeping, hovering sort of white noise that throws a pall over all my interactions. I haven’t exactly been the most mental/emotionally healthy these past several months. This constant hum, nagging in the background of all my thoughts, taunts me on the regular basis, and when phone silence ensues it sometimes can reach a fever pitch.

It’s not an actual audible sound.  

I’ll just notice “Huh, I haven’t gotten a reply on a thread or received a message from so and so in a while,” and the static rises from its subconscious slumber.

“Huh, there’s this sort of hollow feeling in my chest I can’t find the name for.”

I’ve been working out my relationships with people and trying to decide how much is too much interaction, and more importantly in my case, how little is not enough. For most of my life this hasn’t been much of a concern, but I guess I’ve reached quarter life crisis and am re-evaluating my path in life.  Hardly anybody ever talks about the dissonance that comes in your early to mid-twenties where you’re no longer a goofy college kid so you can’t act out in irresponsible ways, but you don’t quite feel like an adult either, so you feel like a fraud donning your shiny suit to work.

Like,

“Hahaha, everyone.  Not to worry.  I have my adult name-tag on, therefore I must know what I’m doing…mustn’t I?  I mean, that’s how it works, right?  Guys?…”

Everyone is obsessed with adolescence and how hard the poor teenagers have it because they suddenly want to nail everything that moves.  That sounds like a pretty good deal to me.  How about us poor saps, who maybe have our degrees, and if we’re lucky a job to match, but we’ve been stuck in our books or between someone’s bosoms so long we forgot to learn how to actually connect with people?   You know, like on an actual meaningful level.

Not just high-fiving about the killer time we had at the bar last night, or feigning pleasant small talk whilst casting lusty glances at each other’s resumes.

If you’re lucky you come out of college with a few lifelong friends and maybe even a significant other.  But even then, things happen, people move away.  And if you’re not lucky, well, good luck with that one buddy.  Now you have to go about the sticky business of creating a new inner circle of friends from scratch.  It’s like you’re neither here nor there.  You’re not really so connected to your family anymore because you’re supposed to be your own person by now.  But you don’t really have time and/or energy to go socialize after work so you get that pack animal quality time in either.

Externally, I’m quite successful. I’ve hit all the major milestones when it comes to education and career. But internally, it’s a bit of a wasteland. Well, I guess that’s not entirely true. I’m very spiritually grounded and I have a great relationship with my family so those are solid things. However, life in your twenties makes you come face to face with your interpersonal skills like nothing else. Don’t get me wrong, I’m functional.  My work relationships are cordial, my volunteer connections friendly, but a depth of connection is lacking that suddenly feels very pressing.

Some people choose to worry about finding a significant other right away.  They immediately start to preen and paint their feathers to try and snag the first sucker that comes along.  The goal is to convince them to spend inordinate amounts of time with them, if not the rest of their lives.  Me, I’m just trying to figure out humans in general.  

It seems there are few people worth really connecting with, or at least that they’re really hard to find.  I’d like my intimate circle of friends to do some expanding, but people can be really shallow and there’s not a large pool to pick and choose from.  I have a feeling a lot of the worthwhile people are busy nursing their own static, so we keep missing each other.  

You have to be so intentional at this point in life if you want to forge new relationships, because if you don’t get lucky at work, you have to plan excursions where you’ll run into new people.  Most times I’d rather stay at home and read, firmly glued to a cup of hot cocoa.  I guess I’m being an idiot because I want to have my cake and eat it too (while sipping hot cocoa).

I need people in order to feel fulfilled in life, but I’d really rather do without them if I could help it.  They come along with so many disappointments and unnecessary detours.

So much effort is required, so much re-positioning, so much pain.

I’m told it’s worth it.

Nah, actually, I’m bluffing.  I know from experience it’s worth it too.  It’s just hard to work up the courage to get on the confounded phone.

But my phone won’t start pinging on it’s own, now will it?

~LDA

Slippery Slopes

There’s something daunting when writing about yourself.  Not that it is hard to crack open your chest cavity and expose your gross pulsating parts to the world.  As a writer, I do that all the time.  That’s what creating story is, taking what you’ve learned about the world through your experiences and wrapping it in the skins of fictional characters.  But there’s this pressure when you’re not hiding behind the darling faces of the characters that you have the power to save or destroy.

When you’re writing plainly about yourself, the pressure to make the story good rises to a whole new level.  You set yourself on the operating table and begin to dismember.  How can I make this part look better?  Would this look better here?  Perhaps a little bit of the skin of my thigh would look better on my cheek?  You feel compelled to make yourself look shinier or more tragic or more charming than you really are.  Because this is you, so if someone hates it or thinks it’s boring, it’s like they’re saying they hate you or think you are boring.  You have no characters to hide behind.  But that’s just ego speaking.  The truth is if you just quit striking poses that make you look more awkward than a newborn giraffe, your story would probably play out just fine.  Assuming you’ve picked the correct story for the correct time.

Is this a now story?
A story that’s been traveling its way to your fingertips your entire life and is finally ready to be told right…

now?

Let’s find out.

When I was eleven years old my father took my brother and I to a water park.  Actually my entire family went, but my little brother and sister were off with my mom in some different part of the park, enjoying the more tame kiddie sections.  They were cute and little like that then.  Actually, they’re still cute and little like that to me, even though one is a foot taller than me and the other is a legal adult.  But I digress.

Towards the middle of the day my father, brother and I approached a water slide with some name along the lines of “The Wet Wicked Wedgify-er!”  It was yellow and had a steep decline that ended in a long runway, presumably because the momentum from the slide was so great it needed to give the rider extra space to slow down.  A belly churn shook the frame of my preteen body.  I looked over at my brother who was still wet from the last ride.  He looked up at the slide in glee and then looked down at me.  “Come on, let’s go,” he sneered, knowing I was probably afraid to board.  I glared at his tan back as he trotted up to the long line.  Instinctively, I reached up to touch my father’s forearm, in protest or for support, I didn’t know.  “Come on, Lady,” he said with no malice in his voice.  I let go of his arm and quite literally hitched up my britches, except they were swimming bottoms.  I was Amazon warrior of the Florida Scrub.  No banana looking thing was gonna scare me.  I power-walked ahead of my father to catch up with my brother.

Thankfully, the line moved pretty quickly which gave little time for my Amazonian courage to wear off.  When the long line finally snaked its way to the top I shivered at the top of the slide.  There was a cool breeze chilling our wet bodies, but also I was still a little scared.  My brother turned his ugly face around to grin at me before he pushed off and made his way down the steep slope.  The person monitoring the slide made us stand so far behind the line that I wasn’t able to watch him go down.  Of course, I’d been watching riders scream with glee as they fell the whole time we made our way up the steps anyway, but watching one more guinea pig plummet down would have been helpful.

Luckily it wasn’t a single rider so I would be able to ride with my father.  The teenager at the slide handed us the mat we would be riding down on.  Suddenly I was questioning the physics of it all.  That flimsy thing is supposed to protect us?  Was this slide really mechanically sound?  What if the weight of my heavy father combined with the stick thin weight of myself created an aerodynamic anomaly and flipped us right off the slide into the soggy pavement below?

I felt my father nudge me forward.  I almost glared at him as I thought, “Don’t rush me!” but I complied.  Jets of water tickled my ankles as I stood at the top of the slide, taking in one more deep breath.  We positioned ourselves on the mat, heavier person in back, lighter person in the front, which meant of course that I had no one to cling to.  I promised myself to keep my eyes open as we inched our way to the edge of the precipice.

“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” I whispered.  Maybe this was what people standing on the ledge of a building felt like.  Before I had time to explore that thought further, my father pushed off.

I felt like the character Wiley Coyote when he realizes he’s been so preoccupied with chasing Roadrunner that he’s sprinted over a cliff.  Maybe if I pump my legs fast enough I’ll get back on land, he thinks.   Maybe if I hold my breath tight enough I’ll float back to the top of the slide, I thought.

It was over so much faster than the time it had taken to begin.  The initial drop made me feel my stomach in my throat, but once we reached terminal velocity it was coasting all the way down.  The way our feet scooped the water in front of us and jettisoned it into the air made it look like we were a fountain.  The ride held true to its name.  My bathing suit had been pushed all the way up my butt like someone had given me the wickedest wedgie.  I practically felt it in my brain.

Aside from this poignant discomfort, my body was thrilled with the experience it had just been through.  Adrenaline pumped through my body and trilled with bells of excitement.

“Let’s do it again!” I shouted.  I jumped up from the foam mat and attempted to pull my father to a standing position.  Of course, I wasn’t strong enough.  “Come on, Daddy!”

I greeted my brother with a full-toothed smile as we approached where he stood in the waiting area.  My eyes must have disappeared into the creases of my smile lines, the way they do when I am especially happy.  To my surprise he was not wearing his usual sneer.  He grinned back at me and, could it be?…He almost seemed proud.

“That was awesome!” I shouted.

“Let’s do it again,” he replied.

We must have ridden it at least three more times after that.  Each time I had the same result.  A rush of excitement in my stomach and an unwelcome sensation between my cheeks.  When it came about maybe the fourth time, I decided to voice this information aloud.

“I have a humungous wedgie!” I chortled loud enough for everyone in the waiting area to hear.  I looked back at my father expecting him to be chuckling along with me.  Instead, he sported a peculiar look and avoided my eyes.  This confused me.

“It’s like all the way up my butt hole!” I exclaimed, turning to my brother for confirmation that this was hilarious.  He avoided my eyes too.

“Lady, shh.  That’s not something you say out loud,” my father informed me.

I rolled that around in my head for a few seconds.  I guessed it sort of made sense, but I didn’t see what the big deal was, considering the slide had the word wedgie in the title.  A funny thing happened then.  I noticed all the people close enough to have heard my exclamation.  They were giving us furtive glances.  Some were looking at me with eyebrows raised and some of them were giggling, but not in a friendly way.

“What?” I thought to myself.  “What are they looking at?”

I was a bit perplexed.

Were people really that touchy about such a naturally silly phenomenon?  I became self conscious.  Even my father seemed embarrassed.  He seemed to keep a measured distance from me for a while.  My cheeks flushed with heat.  In my head, it was just me and my family in our own little world.  I hadn’t given much thought to what other people around me might think.  It didn’t seem especially pertinent.  It was strange to see that reaction from family.  I said stuff like that around them all the time, but suddenly now that we were in public it was a big deal.  I felt a little betrayed.

My brother kept shaking his head like he thought I was an idiot.  I wanted to sock him in the mouth for looking so condescending.  Instead I opted for a pointed question, having measured the fact that my fists had proven ineffectual on him before.  Plus, I needed intel on this frustrating situation.

“What?” I glared at him, hopping in front of him so he had to stop in his tracks.  “What’s the big deal?”

He maneuvered around me and mumbled something along the lines of “Seriously?”

I watched him and my father walk on ahead of me without having answered my question.  I think what struck me the most was that my father actually seemed ashamed of me.  I watched him as he looked surreptitiously around to see if anyone was still staring in our direction.  I understood that what I had said had been a little uncouth, but I didn’t think it would have such a negative affect on the way my family felt about me.  I think that was one of the first times I realized how differently I viewed the world from others.  People seemed to get touchy and embarrassed about things I deemed inconsequential.  And when I felt like it was a time they really should be embarrassed, like if they hadn’t tried their best at something or bothered to think about the obvious consequence of an action, they seemed to get around it with social maneuvering.  This really annoyed me.  Actually, it still does.

My brother and father didn’t ignore me the rest of the time we were at the park or anything dramatically harsh.  But I had taken a step back inside myself, and was hyperaware of my interactions with people the rest of the day.  Even if what they considered important I didn’t consider consequential myself, I still acutely felt the affects of their opinion.  Opinions didn’t matter to me until it started to affect the opinions of people close to me, people I valued.  Even if I still thought what they were thinking was stupid.  I think I began to view the world a bit differently that day.

~LDA

You Hate the People You Love, Just Admit It

People assume that hate is the opposite of love because they are both such extreme emotions, but that is so not the case.

Think of emotions as a spectrum of human experience. On one extreme there is love, conqueror of differences, healer of souls. In the middle there is hate, a twisted form of love. Love gone wrong and dark, if you will.

So then what is on the other extreme?

Well, let’s think about it. The reason why we assume love is on one end of the spectrum is because its affects are so explosive and passionate. “Surely this must be an extreme,”we posit, and correctly so, thus placing it on one end. But then we look at hate and think “Hm, similar affects. Volatile, fiery.” And while that is true, we misunderstand.

An extreme should not be measured by how extreme it is, but by how oppositional it is to its antithesis. If one extreme is the peak of feeling and compulsion, shouldn’t the other be opposite of that? Lack of feeling, disinterest, genuine indifference? This is the reason why in reality it is not hate which is on the other extreme of human experience, but apathy.

The worst thing someone whom you love can say to you is, “I don’t care.”

Not “I hate you.”

At least with hate there is a sense of involvement and clear emotional attachment, even if negatively so. With “I couldn’t care less,” there is an acute sense of loss, a severing of a deep connection. It’s a way of saying, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

The worst kind of feeling is no feeling, numbness. Whether you’re giving or receiving it.

That’s why depressed people feel they have to do something as drastic as committing suicide. At least then they will finally feel something, even if it is a final something.

Sometimes, people feel worried when they find themselves thinking negative things like, “I really hate you,” when confronted with problems in a relationship. They’ve been told that because they love this person they should never feel anything as extreme as hate towards them. Or maybe they’ve just convinced themselves that this is the case.

Well, take heart! That’s natural.

Sometimes, as human beings we fluctuate towards the middle of our handy dandy spectrum. Conflict has that sort of effect on us. By nature we are weak when we don’t get what we want. Our intense feelings have turned dark and dour. “Wah wah, things aren’t going so well.” But most times the meter floats back to the love zone.  If we’re lucky.

It is only when you start to feel nothing that you should get worried. That means you no longer have any investment in the other individual, or at the very best, you’re on your way to apathy. In which case, your relationship is in great danger. Turn back! Unless you’re involved with an abusive person who you shouldn’t be associating with anyhow. In that case, full speed ahead.

The next time you catch yourself thinking, “Gosh, I really hate you,” about your significant other, sigh and go, “What a relief!”

Because if we’re honest, we all hate those we love just a little bit. At least some of the times. It’s because they hold so much sway over us. That extreme emotion called love has the effect of causing us to relinquish some of our self control to another person. We find ourselves doing things that are not in the least in our favor, except for the fact that it makes the other person happy, which in turn makes us happy. This power over us, though given willingly, has the tendency to make us a little bitter. We humans are really touchy about our autonomy, so we sometimes forget who made the decision to hand some of it over in the first place, once we feel things are not going quite as planned.

We all hate those we love if we’re doing it right. This means we are still invested.

~LDA