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In case you hadn’t heard, there was a mass shooting in Santa Barbara, California a few days ago. I saw a link to a video on Facebook and watched it. Six entire minutes of the creepiest thing I have ever seen. The shooter, sitting in his car, going into detail about the crimes he wanted to commit, and why. He is so monotone, any emotion appearing affected and manufactured as opposed to genuine, and has the creepiest look in his eyes and laugh. I immediately became morbidly obsessed with this story, and have been following it every day. It’s not very often that we get to see into the mind of a sociopath (as I like to think of him) prior to crimes being committed. Although YouTube has removed his video, some sites have picked it up. To watch the video yourself, click HERE.

As if that wasn’t enough, the next thing that surfaced was his approximately 150-page manifesto, titled “My Twisted World: The Story of Elliot Rodger”. In this, he details his entire life and the traumatic experiences that led him to the killing spree. I haven’t read it yet, but I have read snippets. To read this, click HERE.

Then, the #YesAllWomen campaign started. With this hashtag, women are openly discussing the harassment and dangerous that it is to be a woman in today’s world. Now now, before you cast me off as a raging feminist or click the X on your browser window, hear me out. I’m not looking to go into a rampage on how men suck. People suck, and this person was clearly disturbed. However, when the conversation becomes about mental illness and gun control, and NOT violence against women, it’s my turn to throw my hat in the proverbial ring of internet conversation. I want to give anyone who is curious a snapshot into what it really feels like to be a woman. I have discussed these points with men before, and they are shocked. They literally can’t wrap their brains around this kind of stuff, and they literally had no idea that women have this weight on them ALL THE TIME. I can’t speak for all women, but I think if you asked one, she might agree that these ideas are inherent parts of our life.


When we walk to our cars, especially at night, we’re looking under the car during the entire walk to see if someone is hiding.
This is something I actually do. I walk to my car, keys in hand, looking at the space between the body of the car and the pavement. I’m looking for a body. When I approach my car, I look in the backseat to make sure that no one is in there. When I get in the car, I promptly lock the doors. Can you imagine that? Whatever it is that a man does walking to his car late at night, I am sure it is not this. Why do women do this? Well…


We have a subconscious understanding that men are naturally larger and heavier than us.
Being ever-vigilant is safer because we are not caught off-guard. In the time it takes for us to react to being surprised, it’s already too late. We can’t rely on physical fitness or our natural body size to protect us in an attack, and we must always be aware. Always. It’s exhausting, never being able to relax, because that split second counts. This is also why we carry pepper spray – so we have an advantage.


We avoid confrontation with men.
This is also related to safety, I think. Women are trained to use the excuse “I’m sorry, I have a boyfriend” when we are hit on. Whether it’s true or not. For a little while, women pretended to be with their lesbian lovers, but men caught on to that trick. The boyfriend line works, but at what cost? What we are saying roughly translates to this: I cannot belong to you because I already belong to another. Why do we say this? Because we were never taught to simply say “Thank you, but I am not interested.”  We make this even worse by including an apology!!! As if we are already begging for forgiveness for not being into the guy. Maybe this is because we are classically nurturing souls, but maybe it’s because we don’t want a confrontation. Especially when we are young women, we know firsthand that young men can be aggressive, hostile, pushy, and rude. They are unpredictable, and we try to avoid attracting anger from them. I’m sorry or I have a boyfriend coddles the man – as if he can’t handle “I’m not interested” and only reinforces the power imbalance in something as simple as an encounter with a complete stranger. Which brings me to…


When we go down a sexual path and don’t go “all the way”, a part of us worries what might happen next.
I find this to be particularly difficult. I struggle with it. A lot. If I so much as feel an erection by accident, I feel bad. Growing up, I never had balls, so I don’t know what it feels like when they are blue. All I know is that it was made pretty clear to me how uncomfortable it would be, but no one ever finished that thought with “and he knows how to jack off if he’s THAT frustrated”. At what point do we teach young women that a man’s sexual needs are our responsibility? Sure, I know what it feels like to not get off. I’ve been there. I’ve been ten seconds away and the orgasm just floats away, right through my fingers. How did I want to react? Well, I wanted to throw a temper tantrum, but decided against it. After all, pleasure is important, but let’s not lose perspective. Not everyone gets what they want all the time, and I’ve had enough great sex to stomach a missed opportunity once in a while. So, that guy I’m hardcore kissing in the back seat of a car? Yeah, he wants to bang me. But what if I don’t want to? How do I even slow this thing down or stop altogether? I’m avoiding confrontation and dealing with the guilt of being so careless that I let him get that excited in the first place only to let him down. I mean COME ON. Am I wearing a t-shirt that says “Get your orgasms here”?


We know that when men want to sleep with us, it’s the biggest thing they see.
Now, I am sure there are plenty of men that have matured or tamed their inner sexual animal to the point where they can table that. And, I am equally sure that there are plenty of women that objectify men. But, I also know that most women crave emotional stimulation as much, if not more than, sex. We need the hand holding, and the romance, and to feel valued. We want security and emotional intelligence and intimacy. So while you’re mentally bending us over a chair, we are asking you questions about your hopes and dreams. What’s worse is that we know all of this, and yet we feel inexplicably “needy” or “clingy” because we know that men don’t operate that way (most of the time). Somehow we became the problem with building relationships, because we’re too “complicated” – all for just trying to seek what we need, just like the men do. It’s not a bad thing that men see sex and women see emotional bonds, because we all need what we need. But the overwhelming pressure to be sexually available makes us feel like we are undervalued in other areas, the same areas that we look for in a partner.


We have to hit the ground running in a professional world.
Growing up, my mother wasn’t the kind of mother that wore makeup. She didn’t have perfectly styled hair, and she wore a lot of masculine looking clothing. I didn’t notice any of this about her, it was my female role model, but then I started to notice how she was different from other moms. Once I got older, she told me why. She explained that in order to be taken seriously in the workforce, she had to seriously downplay her own femininity. She explained that she did not want to be seen as a woman for her curvy figure or her beautiful eyes, she wanted to be seen as a kick-ass corporate ninja. As it turns out, she is extremely successful, rubbing elbows with the VP and CFO of her company. I aspire to be like her, but damn I wish I could wear a skirt at the same time. How depressing that we have to make ourselves appear more masculine in order to be respected by our male peers and superiors? Not to mention the battle that women have with other women over appearance and the status related to that.


Our dress code is our dress code because… men get distracted by our bodies.
Think about it. No spaghetti strap tank tops in high school? No short skirts? No yoga pants? No tube tops? Whether or not this is how you dress, we learn very young that our bodies are interpreted in a sexual way and we should cover them up so we don’t distract the boys. I don’t hear teachers telling boys to be nicer to us and bring us chocolate when we cycle, or to stop writing us love poems because “girls will be girls” and we are just so damned emotional.


When we leave a party, we tell each other to send a text when we get home safe.
I am curious – do men tell their bros to let each other know they got some safe? Do you always make sure you walk in pairs or large groups to fend off rapists? Do you worry walking at night, by yourself? Hell, do you get nervous when you are alone EVER?


Sexual assault is, in our society, victim centered. Not perpetrator centered.
I don’t know this people acknowledge this or not, but it’s the truth. A woman gets raped and people want to know what she was doing out that late alone, why did she wear that outfit, why did she blow so much cocaine or get so drunk that she was that out of it in the first place? True – risky behavior does put you at risk, but no one ever asks the perpetrator why he decided it would be a good night to rape a pretty girl. What’s worse, people think that sometimes this is actually okay. Check out this photo:



When we get passionate about something, we are labeled “emotional”. When men get passionate, they are labeled as “strong”.
This one really bothers me. Even at the beginning of this post, I had to make a qualifying statement that you shouldn’t judge me as a raving feminist. Just because I feel strongly about a topic, that makes me emotional and crazy. I’ve been called crazy so many times, mostly by men that didn’t want to hear me assert myself. I get angry, just like everyone else. I get passionate, I cry, I pace back and forth, and I’m like a dog with a bone when it comes to things I care about, or people. Instead of being viewed as a strong woman, some men will dismiss me and say things like “That’s a woman for ya”. Brutal. I have to temper my own feelings to be taken seriously, without seeming apathetic or disinterested. Exhausting.



What I like about the #YesAllWomen campaign is that it brings awareness to the world about what it feels like to be born into this gender. Obviously, these statements are based on my experiences and the experience of those around me. Every woman I know has been afraid when she is alone, because men scare us. Every woman I know has been made to feel overly-emotional, dramatic, crazy, clingy, weird, a tease, a bitch, a slut, and you name it – because of what we need or how we feel or what we think about the world. There may be some exceptions – and I have no doubt that men have their own bullshit baggage they carry around – but this is ours. It’s not meant to challenge anyone or make them feel like crap, it’s just a snapshot – a view into our world.

Moving forward, how do we want to be treated? Well, we want to be treated with respect. We want to be seen as equals. We are very different from you, but that does not mean that we do not deserve the same freedoms; we are all human beings. So, the next time you speak to a woman, think about your tone of voice. Think about your words. Understand that you are at a slight disadvantage because we are raised to see men as a threat. Do not exploit this about us. You wouldn’t be the first one to do so, but just don’t do it. Instead, know who we are. Know we are emotional, know that we have autonomy, and know that we always have a choice. We can be careless, callous, mean-spirited, rude, angry, and any number of things. But, unless you are convinced that we aren’t getting you off out of some twisted desire to hurt you, or unless you believe that we are mentally unstable to the point where we insanely latch on to people, or unless you really know in your soul that the best thing we have to offer is our body – treat us with respect. Please. Encourage others to do the same.

Questions for a Lifetime

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Why do we deny ourselves earthly pleasures? Is it for the false sense of security, or for fear of the magnetism that earthly pleasures possess? Is it for the cold comfort of predictability, or for the uncertainty of passion and delicious expectation?


What moves us from one moment in time to another – habit or propulsion? Are we on a path which pulls us along, or do we carve our own path out of the putty that is The Human Existence?


When we hope, and dream, do we see in those hopes and dreams our own future before us, or do we see someone else’s memory – just beyond our reach – and at the edge of our consciousness?


If we have arms full of eggs, do we carefully and methodically select into which basket to place them, or is there just the one basket – our basket – to which all our eggs belong? In times of failure, or triumph, do we give credit to the eggs and supposed baskets, or do we collectively agree that nothing is certain, except that we (maybe) have eggs and a basket?


Without any answers to speak of, do we flail and flounder through our narratives, or do we stand united and unafraid of whatever happens next? Do we so quickly forget our own strength that pain is a foregone conclusion, or do we see the beauty in the things around us?


When we love, do we do so unapologetically, or do we love quietly and shamefully in a room in the dark? Do we give our whole hearts, or give only the parts of the heart that are well-guarded against the things we can’t control? Do we succumb to our passions and let it fill our souls, or do we temper that passion with logic and rigid self-control?


If there were ever to be a rule book – a survivor’s guide for The Human Existence, so to speak – would it advise us to tread lightly and carefully, as if a member of a delicate glass menagerie, or would it advise us to crash our way through, devouring every waking moment and bathing in the sublime experiences?


If we are to be the music-makers and the dreamers of dreams, then let us create the sweetest of lullabies for the world’s children and the most extravagant dreams to mirror the bravery in us all.

The Affair

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But, what is desire? Need unfulfilled?
It is but a tortuous, scalding flame;
a bold existence upon which to build
dangerous relationships. (None to blame

for my masochism.) But: to implode
would be nice, for a while. And then: see
with bright eyes, blind ecstasy, overload
my being, my senses, to simply be.

While the moon whispers – your presence so near –
I think my self-control is about to
disintegrate. Please – Oh, Please! Come here,
just so that I may be a part of you.\

With an abundance of heat and the swell
of emotion, madness will turn as well.

When shit gets real, I write.


When people ask me what I write – I tell them creative nonfiction. It sounds a lot fancier than “blog post” and it’s exactly what I write – the truth in a creative way. When they ask me why I write, I tell them that it creates a sense of community. People all over the world, and right in my hometown, can read what I write and perhaps gain something from my experiences. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I take pride in my honesty. I may not share every detail about everything, but I share enough to make a difference.

I have been sitting at my computer for about twenty minutes just staring at the screen, my heart racing and my palms sweating. I am anxious and nervous as I sit here, getting ready to tell you what I am about to tell you. I have absolutely no idea what reaction I will receive, but I am confident that it will help at least one person struggling out there. I am not the first person to go through this, nor will I be the last, and it’s just too painful to keep inside. Most of my friends and some of my family know what I am about to tell you, so that sort of makes it okay, but there is a part of me that is terrified of what will happen when I write the following words:

One month ago, I had an abortion.

Deep breath. Heart continuing to race. Look at the word. Abortion. It looks funny. Its feels weird bouncing around inside my head. It tastes strange when it comes out of my mouth. I’ve used different terms to describe the same concept – terminate the pregnancy, “it’s over – all of it”, etc. Finally I just started to use the word abortion because it’s no use to let it have power over me. I am going to feel awful whether I find a gentler way to say it or use the actual word. Women all over the world have to or choose to undergo this procedure, and it is brutal. I wish to share my story so that others may learn, heal, and understand. I don’t mean understand me, I mean understand what happens during the procedure, and afterward, and the valuable bits of advice I have received from trusted friends and family that have experienced the same thing. Many may balk, judge, tell me I am going to hell, that I am a murderer, and that they no longer want to speak with me. Which is why I will start with this:

There is no easy way to end a pregnancy, and it is going to hurt. A lot. It will hurt you physically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, socially, and beyond. I found out I was six weeks pregnant the day after Valentine’s Day. My immediate reaction was joy and elation. I have always wanted to be a mother. Always. I had been looking forward to this moment for a long time. It was an accidental pregnancy as a result of being irresponsible with my body. Not uncommon, but foolish all the same. At that moment though, it didn’t matter how or why I had gotten pregnant, I simply was. I laughed, jumped up and down, cried, and called my best friend immediately to share the news with SOMEONE. My partner was at work and I had to go to work as well.

His reaction was a lot different than mine, but I want to make it VERY clear that I am not angry nor do I judge him for anything he has said or done over the past few weeks. I will always hold a very special place in my heart for this man for many reasons, and it is not my intention to drag his name through the mud. I have the utmost respect for individuals who are true to who they are – and both of us were in this scenario – but on different sides of the fence.

We told a lot of people. Our parents, siblings, best friends, people we work with, complete strangers. We were just excited. And nervous. And scared. I felt very zen and calm – like I could handle this and he could, too, and we would be such a joyous little family unit. It didn’t matter that we were completely unprepared and had a million things to do, or that our relationship was not even a year old, I felt zen. He didn’t feel so zen, but he was trying to wrap his brain around it. I think, for men, there is a feeling of helplessness. A lot of men have told me they feel helpless when their partner is pregnant, even if it was planned.

We tried to be gentle with one another under the pressure, but it was just two weeks later when everything fell apart. We quickly realized that it would be hard enough to prepare for a child (being so unprepared ourselves) and also manage to want to be life partners. Everyone gets to decide – for themselves – the life they want to live. I firmly believe that. I also firmly believe that people should, at all costs, avoid hurting one another. I didn’t want to raise a child in an environment where the parents stayed together because “it was the right thing to do”. Nor did I want to rob myself, or my partner, the opportunity to find a truly loving and devoted relationship. This may sound selfish to you, but I was thinking of the baby. Even being opposed to abortion, because it ends a life, creating a life without the tools for raising a happy and emotionally-stable individual seemed worse than terminating the pregnancy. I chose the lesser of two evils.

There is a lot of pressure on pro-choice and pro-life and people get really heated when the subject comes up. I am pro-choice, which ONLY means that I do not believe it is appropriate to control someone else’s body. There is something called body autonomy – the human right that no one can use your body without your express permission – dead or alive. You can’t be forced to donate blood, tissue, and organs. You can’t be violated once you are deceased. A growing baby needs your express permission to use your body for life – without your permission, it cannot survive. By giving it more rights than the woman, you are saying that a fetus has more rights than any living or dead person. This argument sounds good on paper, but it was a cold comfort facing the choices I was facing. My options were: abort, carry to term and give my baby away, be a single parent, or co-parent with someone when we knew we weren’t right for one another. None of those options is pleasant in the slightest – not when I truly believe that families should start with loving, devoted parents.

So, from that point, my partner and I had a conversation about our options. In one conversation we agreed that to terminate would be the most responsible option. After all, we were irresponsible in the first place, and we both knew that we would not be the best thing for a child at this moment in our lives. It was a kind conversation, full of regret and tears, but also a firm belief in what our decision would be and why. I think, individually, we were both wishing things could be different – but you can’t build a relationship on wishful thinking.

From there, I contacted Planned Parenthood and scheduled the appointment. This is the part where it starts to get really hard. Up until you make a final decision, you want to believe that maybe you don’t have to accept your reality. At least, I think that’s how we both felt. Now that it’s said and done, we are just trying to mend the broken parts of our soul.

This is the part where I want to describe the experience I had, because I had a hard time finding a play-by-play online and it might help anyone who is wondering what happens next. First of all, there is an option to take an abortion pill, which stops the production of progesterone. When your body stops producing progesterone, the lining of your uterus sheds, and you miscarry. I chose not to do this, because sometimes the abortion can be incomplete and you have to go in to have an in-clinic abortion anyway. Plus, I read on the website that it can take several hours/all day for this process to happen, and I did not want to be alone while I had a miscarriage.

We went to the clinic and there were protesters standing outside. Thankfully, someone from Planned Parenthood came out to greet us so we wouldn’t have to listen to the shouting. Prepare yourself for that possibility, though. Also prepare yourself for not being able to sleep or eat for days leading up to it, feeling like you are about to ruin your life, and having no idea what will happen. As I said, I really believe this was the best option under the circumstances, but it took every ounce of strength I had to go through with it.

When I got inside, I filled out some forms. They were playing the radio in the waiting room. It was surreal and annoying to listen to Top 40 music while waiting to terminate. It just seemed out of place. I filled out a basic medical history form and they gave me a piece of paper outlining the procedure. I had already read the information on the website the day before, so I did not read it.

They called me back to meet with a nurse who took my blood pressure and checked my throat. She did a brief history and my ultrasound. They do the ultrasound to verify how far along you are, but you do not see the screen. She did ask me, however, if I wanted to know if there were multiples. I did not expect that question and I just started crying. She was very kind and patient as I blubbered away incoherently. She asked me if I wanted a picture of the ultrasound, which made me cry all over again. I couldn’t find the words, so she told me she would print it out, put it in an envelope, and I could look at it later if I wanted to.

After the ultrasound, I went back into the waiting room. I sat for maybe fifteen minutes and they called me back again. This time, I went into a different room with a different nurse for the “education” portion. We discussed the procedure in detail and all possible side effects. I signed consent forms. She pricked my finger (like getting your blood sugar tested) to see if I was Rh positive or negative. I can’t remember why this is important, but you can look it up. She explained the varying levels of pain medication that were available. I opted for conscious sedation because it’s the strongest stuff and someone told me I wouldn’t remember the procedure. More on that later.

We discussed birth control methods, so that I could leave that day with birth control in my hand. I told her I did not like hormones, and she suggested the IUD. An IUD in an intra-uterine device. The one I selected has no hormones, is 99% effective, and lasts ten years. She explained how it works and how to make sure it hadn’t fallen out. They have to insert it into the uterus, and since the physician would already be there, it would be a perfect opportunity to have it placed. I agreed.

After that, I went back into the waiting room for another fifteen minutes. I think they set it up that way to give you time to process your emotions and change your mind if you want to, as opposed to the whole thing happening all at once.

When they called me back again, I went into the recovery room to have my IV placed. If you’ve never had an IV before, it feels just like having your blood drawn. It’s a pinch with the needle and a little uncomfortable for a moment, but then it’s no big deal. It looks pretty strange coming out of your arm, but just be careful. They had me empty my bladder a final time before my procedure. Oh, that’s right, you are not allowed to eat or drink for six hours before the procedure. This is just in case you react to something, they don’t want you vomiting a double cheeseburger or tacos – you could choke. I was very hungry, and very thirsty, and my emotions were all over the place. One minute I was in tears, and the next felt detached and calm. A friend of  mine warned me about this, and she told me to let my feelings play out naturally and to not try to force them down. Any reaction is a normal reaction.

I went into the exam room and undressed from the waist down. It was chilly so they brought me a blanket. The table I sat on looked just like a regular PAP/Pelvic exam table. There was a noise machine playing the sound of crashing waves quietly. While I waited for the doctor and nurse to bring in my partner, I took deep breaths and tried to relax.

They all came in, and my partner sat in a chair facing away from the foot of the table. I lay back and he held my hand and looked directly into my eyes. The doctor explained to me that this was my choice, and asked if I wanted to do this. I started crying and told her it was the right choice for me but I was sick about the whole thing. The nurse then administered, into my IV, a pain medication. Then she administered the sedation. She told me it would work within moments, and I may feel funny, but not to fight it and try and relax and let it wash over me.

Being consciously sedated affects different people different ways. For some, they are so relaxed they almost fall asleep. For others, they go into their own minds. For me, I was aware of everything that happened. Every word that was said. Every feeling. It wasn’t exactly that I felt relaxed, but more like I felt drowsy. It sort of felt like I didn’t have the energy in my body to escape what was happening, but mentally and emotionally I felt every bit of it.

First, they do a few injections of a local anesthetic – like Novocaine – into the cervix. This hurts. It feels like any other shot, but in a pretty sensitive place. It’s a pinch, and then it’s over. I would say that all of it hurt, but also that it hurt more because I knew why it was happening and felt the weight of my reality.

After the injection, she inserted a series of rods into my cervix to dilate it. This is just like gauging an earlobe – first she put the smallest one in, and gradually increased until she had, in effect, gauged the entrance to my uterus. This was very painful. I could feel the rods going in and out, it felt a lot like when they do the swab at a PAP smear, except it hurt a lot more and for a lot longer. I remember that the nurse and doctor were talking, but I was in too much pain to hear what they were saying. I remember looking at my partner and tears streaming down my face while he dabbed them away with a tissue. I was whimpering and squirming but also trying to hold still, not wanting to injure myself or make the doctor’s job harder. I can’t really communicate how it felt, just that it hurt and I was immediately pissed off that I felt it when I didn’t think I was going to. I wasn’t mentally prepared for that kind of pain.

I did keep reminding myself that the entire abortion only takes five minutes from start to finish. Four hours of sitting in the waiting room and going in and out for a five-minute procedure. The doctor kept telling me I was doing great and she was moving quickly, but all I wanted was for it to be over. I just kept thinking: I can do anything for five minutes, no matter how hard it is. It’s just five minutes. You can do it.

After the dilation was complete, she used a vacuum to empty my uterus. It was a hand-vacuum, so it wasn’t like I heard a whirring noise, but I did feel it. The only way I can describe it is like vomiting from the bottom end. Because the uterus is an enclosed space, when something is sucking on it, it doesn’t have anywhere to go. Just like vomiting, you feel this horrible pull during the climax of throwing up, and that’s sort of what it felt like – but on the other end. At this point, I was so teary and miserable and in pain that I didn’t even register what was happening. I don’t remember it hurting, I just remember feeling like I had about sixty seconds left in me before I had a complete mental breakdown. All the stress and pressure from the breakup, moving into a new place, and associated emotions, coming to a head.

I know she placed the IUD, but I was so exhausted that I didn’t even notice or feel it. I just knew when she was done because she stood up and said she was done. The nurse squeezed my hand and rubbed it and my palms were all sweaty. I kept crying and taking deep breaths and felt sick about the whole thing. It was over and I was unprepared for how mentally and emotionally troubling it would be, despite my research and efforts to be prepared. Even worse, I was still starving (who can think of food at a time like that?) and thirsty and I just wanted to go home.

The nurse brought over my panties (complete with maxi-pad already on it) and my sweatpants and she dressed me. She took my hands and helped me sit up and told me not to stand for a few minutes. She instructed my partner to help me stand and to be very careful. As soon as she left the room, he and I embraced each other. We both cried so hard and apologized so many times. To each other, to our God, to our baby, to ourselves.

The nurse came to collect me and brought me to recovery, where I sat with a heating pad and a blanket while they monitored me. They gave me some ginger ale and teddy grahams, and I have to say that nibbling on those little bears was probably one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. I was so devastated, and hungry, and miserable, and somehow a teddy graham helped. The doctor told me I did great (gee thanks?) and wished me well. The nurse took my blood pressure and a few minutes later she let me leave.

I did look at the ultrasound picture, which is really just a blob in a black void, and I vowed to always keep it to serve a reminder of how grave the consequences can be when proper precautions are not taken. We left the clinic and headed home.

In the month, things have been very tough. Physically, I am in a considerable amount of pain. My body needs time to heal, and the uterus has to return to its original size. The side effects vary from woman to woman, but for me, it has been a lot of cramping (think menstrual cramps but worse) and bleeding. Also, there are clots that pass through (like in a menstrual cycle) and sometimes they can get stuck and that hurts a lot. Every little twinge and pain I feel is just a painful reminder of what happened. I got a heating pad the day of and it has been very helpful, and they also told me to get Advil, which I did. I spent the first five days mostly laying in bed, watching Netflix, unless I was going to work.

Because I told so many people I was expecting, I had the unpleasant reality of having to explain (at one point or another) what was going on. People would have started to notice eventually when I didn’t start showing, or pop out a baby in October. Because I can’t stand lies, I have been honest if someone asks. Sometimes I say “I decided to terminate… and had the procedure last week” or I will say “It’s over… and I mean all of it… it’s just all over” and people get the hint.

One of the hardest things has been some reactions, the pity look, and the fallout from my relationship ending. I lost a best friend, a lover, and a baby… all in under a week. I had to find a new place to live and still figure out how to get up in the morning and go to work to wait tables and pretend to like my life. Fortunately, I have had a lot of support. Many of my friends have listened to me talk, hugged me, and even set aside their own personal feelings to help me heal from this choice. I’ve heard a lot of people throw phrases around like how women can just have abortions willy-nilly – like it means nothing – and it’s just not true. It’s not true at all. The truth is that it is one of the most life-altering and devastating experiences I have ever had.

I never thought I would have to, or would, make that decision. In my darkest moments, I feel ashamed. Ashamed, guilty, depressed, heartbroken, angry, grief-stricken, confused, lost, and just empty. Hollow. For the first few days, I physically felt hollow, and jiggly. It feels kind of like when you drink a lot of water on an empty stomach (like several glasses of water) and you walk around and you can feel the water swishing around. Jiggly. Walking to work one day, I noticed that my abdomen felt jiggly on the inside, and it just made me miserable. I am exhausted and at a loss for words on most days.

Although I truly believe I made the best decision I could under the circumstances, I still have to deal with the fallout. There have been certain people that have judged me, or don’t want to talk to me, and it really hurts. Spiritually, I am struggling with justifying what I did. Most people don’t know what to say to me, they just have that lost look on their face like they wish they could say anything and they can’t think of a word, and the entire situation is very uncomfortable.

My advice to anyone facing such a scenario… give it some thought. You have time. In-clinic abortions can be done up to sixteen weeks. You have lots of options and community resources. But, at the end of the day, you have to make the best choice from within, and you have to be resolved that you are making the right decision. There is no guarantee that anyone will stand by you, although it is unlikely that everyone you know will shun you, and I will always be here to understand. One thing I have found – this is a lot more common than people realize. Every woman I know either A) has had an abortion herself or B) knows someone who has. It creates this web of networking where everyone understands that these things happen, and there’s just no handbook on how to deal with it.

Rest is very important. Whatever you feel you need is very important. For me, it has been a combination of spending time with friends trying to have a few laughs and laying in bed, miserable. Part of me feels like I should suffer for what I’ve done, and I am letting my emotions play out however they will. Grief and sadness are a process that cannot be tamed or controlled, so I just ride it out. Also, it is very scary sometimes to feel your body doing new things, because you don’t know what’s going on. Some mornings, I have cramping so sharp and intense that it wakes me up from a dead sleep.

Being isolated is something you should avoid – accept any support you are offered, no matter who it is from. Try to find balance and do what you need – but if a friend invites you out, try to go even if you don’t want to. It’s not healthy to sit in a room for days in isolation. As guilty or miserable as you may feel, take a break from that and recharge.

Don’t make any huge decisions about your life, wait until the dust clears. Handle yourself however you want to – but I chose honesty and dignity. Anyone who wants to can judge me as much as they want to, but I know what I did was right, and I’ll take that to the bank. I have plenty to support without needing it from every single person, and there is much love to balance out what I am lacking. You can’t control how others will feel about your body and your choices, but you can control how they make you feel. You’re going to feel awful enough as it is – don’t make it worse by taking someone else’s opinions personally.

As a closing statement, I suppose I should just say that this is tough real-life stuff. I feel like I aged ten years overnight. Bad breakups, divorce, abusive relationships, destructive friendships, crappy places to live, debt – I’ve experienced a slew of bad shit in my life. This is another thing, but it’s not another thing on top of all the others. There isn’t a limited number of times I can fall on my face, and this is a part of growth. Do I wish I had done things differently? Hell, yeah. But, you never really know what this kind of consequence feels like until you’re in the situation. That’s the most crucial thing about having an abortion – or any experience, really – the only ones that know are the ones that know. I sincerely hope you don’t have to ever know, I don’t want you to be a part of the club, it sucks here. Be careful with your body, take care of your body, and use precautions. But, if you do find yourself in a situation where you have abortion as your best option, it’s still one of the worst things that will ever happen to you, and you’ll be a part of the club. Everyone woman I’ve talked to about her abortion gets this look on her face… the look we all share… of some deep sorrow we wish we didn’t carry. I hope you never have to, but if you do, know that there are lots of us that have hugs to give and a kind word to share. These are mine.

No room for quitters on a river.

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“Got a pebble. Got a pebble in my hand and I toss it out into the middle of the Rio Grande. But the river keeps comin’. Don’t even know that I’m around. I could throw in a million more and not slow it down.”

Life is like a river. Sounds cliché, I know, but it’s the truth. Maybe that’s why it’s a cliché – because it’s so true that millions can identify with that statement. Rivers never stop moving. There is always a current. It bends this way and that and it carries things all over the world. It washes away banks and can demolish towns – homes – families. It can feed a family, provide valuable water, and the joy of a lazy canoe trip on a hot summer’s day. Just as quickly as it can devastate, or confuse, or rip around – it can be peaceful, serene, and breathtakingly beautiful. One thing is sure: it’s a river, and it’s gonna do what it wants to do.

Life is like a river in all those ways. Breathtakingly beautiful in one moment and devastating the next. It’s unpredictable, out of our control, and frustrating as hell. But – this is the life we get – and we would be smart to see it for what it is.

I know I haven’t written anything substantial for a month or so, and here I am finally writing and I am writing about a river. There have been many times over the past month that I wanted – desperately – to write. I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t even sit down and open my computer. I found any excuse to not write. Binge-watch TV (I watched six seasons of Private Practice in four weeks) or read or sleep… anything except write.

The few times that I did sit down to write, I stared at a blank Microsoft Word page with my hands clasped in my lap.

I eventually noticed this was what I was doing, and naturally went into denial. All the while slipping farther into a deep sadness.

And now, as I sit down to write, I don’t know where to go from that statement or what to say. I don’t come here to report that the deep sadness has, in fact, lifted and that things are peachy. Things are definitely not peachy. One thing has improved – though – I am actually trying to do something about it. That helps. My wonderfully supportive Dave gave me a proper talking to and kind of snapped me out of it.

That’s actually a great story. We had a “come to Jesus” talk. This is what I call talks like that. I suppose I grew up with the term, or perhaps heard my mother toss it around once or twice, but to me it is a phrase that could also be called an intervention or a wake-up call. It’s the kind of conversation wherein someone who loves you tells it like it is. They almost never go well. People are apt to get defensive in those kinds of situations. I was no different when Dave and I had that talk. Sure, he was restrained and quiet and kind. But his words were real words, and they were annoyingly true and I didn’t want to hear it. I found some way to turn it around in my head and find a way to be angry with him. We were still talking when he took out his phone and started writing something a few minutes later. I didn’t know what he was writing, only that it gave me more reason to be annoyed.

After a few minutes, he handed me the notebook without saying a word. To my great surprise, he had written the following quotes from my blog post Pride and Parents:

I am proud of ability to stay on task and dedicate myself to something, and pure talent.

“Honey, if you were going to come home, you would be here already.”

I can push myself harder than I ever thought possible. I am completely in control of my mind, body, and spirit.

I’m brave and compassionate and a good person – I can be damn proud of that.

I stood, tears filling my eyes, and whispered those are my words. He nodded and started to say something else – like how he believed every word of them – but I couldn’t hear him. I was too consumed by two conflicting emotions: extreme irritation at effectively losing my argument because he had used my positive words against me, and overwhelming love and affection for this man for finding a way to ground me in the sweetest way possible.

I guess the truth is that sometimes, when the deep sadness comes round, we fight it at first. We want to think we can accomplish greater things than the blues. One day bleeds into another and our will to fight weakens. We start to think that there’s no way we can do, and that makes us sadder. After that, we just kill time from the moment we wake to the next moment of rest. We withdrawal from our friends and families – and especially our loved ones. We don’t really think there’s a point to any of it anyway, but we are content to just settle for whatever is.

Apathy is a dangerous thing to live and an even more frustrating thing for a partner to see. In my case, there were a million solutions that felt just out of my reach. The only thing I could do – and can do – is do something. Anything. Anything for the sake of doing it, even if I don’t want to.

So, ever since our talk, I’ve tried to wake up and shake off the nightmares rather than succumb to how they make me feel. I found a support group for women, and I am attending this coming Wednesday. I’m rather nervous, but I think it will help me. I interviewed for a volunteer position at the local crisis center. Once my forty hours of training is complete, I will be trained to counsel abuse victims on their options, attend court with them as an advocate, respond to emergency calls from the hospital for rape victims, assist in education and outreach, and beyond. I am so excited – for something amazing to come from this horrible thing that happened to me.

And, you know, it did happen to me. That’s the tricky thing about abuse victims – they want to say that part of it was their fault. Here’s the truth about abuse: it’s NEVER your fault. Never. It doesn’t matter that there were warning signs in the years leading up to the “bad stuff”. Want to know why? Because it’s all bad. From day one moving onward – it’s bad and it just gets worse. Who can deserve that four months into a relationship? And how? Why? It wasn’t my fault.

I probably could have left, or maybe been more honest with myself, but who am I kidding? I was a lost and struggling nineteen year old girl, far away from her parents and lonely. Desperately lonely. In pain from whatever life had already served up. The idea of breaking up was ideal sometimes, but something as simple as the hassle of separating our cell phone bills would keep me in the relationship. How asinine is that? A cell phone contract. I would have been better off in a ditch, let alone with a cell phone.

So, then, knowing some of that then, isn’t it my fault? Well, I don’t think so. After all, is the punishment for loneliness a broken spirit?

I make the biggest mistake I have ever made in my entire life and marry the guy. Don’t know what I was thinking. If I could, I would take it all back. I used to be “reasonable” and say that I learned something from it. But, the reality is, I deeply regret it. The benefit simply does not outweigh the cost.

I had to sacrifice the only “first wedding” I will ever have for him. I spent four long years dealing with him. By choice, yes, but I didn’t deserve what he gave me. Even though I chose to stay, that doesn’t make it my fault. It makes it a terribly sad story. Truly heartbreaking. He snuffed the light out, and I’m in a dark room and I just want to find a match. Just a little light, that’s all I need.

What did I learn that is worth all of that? How to be a wife? Well, I have a feeling I would have been an even better one with a better man. Maybe not, but I’ll never know. He could have been a better man, if he tried. He didn’t even try. That makes the story even more tragic. A sociopath would have been better than a man who just couldn’t bring himself to love someone who loved him unconditionally.

So yeah, I didn’t deserve it. I may have been moody on my period, or lied once or twice, or a bitch when he just couldn’t leave well enough alone, but I’d really like to know what I did to him to deserve that. What can anyone really do that deserves that kind of response?

So, sure, I’ve got a deep sadness. I’ve got a broken spirit and a broken sense of self-worth. No light some days. This is how I feel on my worst days. About as negative as you can get. That moment when – sitting in a bar with an old friend – you start to cry. It’s been wave after wave of disturbing realizations and sadness. I tried, at first, to manage it. Then I just felt overwhelmed. Soon I felt that I was standing still and life was moving around me at warp speed. Dave noticed, and after about a week, told me to know it off (in much nicer words, naturally). I realized that he represents a great source of good in my life. I couldn’t let what happened to me to ruin something so beautiful. He got the wedding, the sham of a marriage, the wife, the sex, the patience, the kindness, and the everything else – but he couldn’t have Dave.

So, I’ve been taking it one day at a time. First I met with the crisis center, I applied for some more jobs, picked up some shifts at work, started classes, and decided to make a visit back home in June. I found the support group and have been trying to actively think more positively. Sure, I still binge-watch TV sometimes, but I try to find a reason to feel better every day. The sadness is waiting in the wings, but I am trying to keep it at bay. Hopefully, soon, it will get bored and wander off.

I tell all these things because I know I can’t be the only one feeling terribly stuck. Feeling lost and confused and frustrated about all of it because you know better. This is what I have done. This is how I have felt and I am trying to move away from it. Although I always realized that this was a temporary sadness, I was at the end of my rope. I felt I had no tools to make this work. I forgot the part where I had to just keep pushing. You have to just keep pushing until you break free.

I don’t care if it hurts or that you don’t think you’re strong enough. You are. You have to be. You have no other options at the end of the rope. Once you get to the end, you don’t just drop off the face of the earth. You go back the way you came. Or, you swing on the rope until you gain enough momentum to reach the platform. You call for help, you use magic to make more rope. You fashion a damn hammock out of the rope (mid-air, yes) to lay in and think for a while. But no matter what – you try. You always have to try.

I say you, but you must know that I am mostly talking to myself. Perhaps I just like to preach, because I always phrase messages for the reader, but this is my message to myself. To promise myself that I’ll just keep trying. I can be a lot of things in life, but I can’t stand a quitter. Besides, there’s no room for quitters on a river.

More Than a Word

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What’s in a word?
Letters, surely.
Following letters come syllables,
from syllables there is stress,
with stress there is sound,
and that makes a word.

Words are given meanings
as arbitrary as the letters.
But what about feeling?
The feeling of a word
rolling out of your mouth and
caressing your tongue.
Energy and light from the soul
entering space.

What’s in a phrase?
A few words strung together,
now given new meaning by
their order. Eliciting feelings
and constantly shifting,
mood and body language depending.

What about feeling with phrases –
more intense than merely words.
One word can slice while many can dice.
The words just keep coming
and they never stop once they are inside.

The words become our blood –
circulating and powering
the organs that make us live.
The words make us see stars.
We don’t know why, only that
they might hurt or might scar.
We may feel joy or confusion…
delight or delusion.
It’s too late once it’s our blood.

Words circulate our veins
and nothing’s the same
once the phrase comes alive.
The phrase is a maze
that we cannot escape.

Words and phrases – they may bite.
They may peel away our soul or
a piece may break off
brittle and crumbling
like our sense of self-worth.
These words increase our self-loathing
and phrases are foreboding.

Even now, as I say these words and phrases,
I say them deliberately and with rhythm.
Whether heard or read
or spoken or imagined –
You can feel them.
They are moving you
and you may not understand why or how.
You wonder: why won’t I just get to the point already?
With tears in my eyes, listen to me now:

You’re a fucking bitch.
Say that again and I’ll put your ass on the floor.
You’re a cunt.
I hate you.
You’re not leaving.
Don’t walk away from me.
You deserve it.
I didn’t hit you, so it wasn’t abuse.
You had it coming.
It’s your fault, not mine.
You’re overdramatizing what happened.
I can’t remember saying that.
You’re not normal.
I wish you were like other girls.

Many letters on a page, with spaces in-between,
making phrases and I don’t know what they mean.
The words haunt me. I’m a broken girl
forever and I can’t even see
where I’ve been or where I’m going.
I just know the words are blood
and they’ll never, ever leave.

I’ll never forget what it feels like to not want to breathe.
To be afraid: of the dark, of what might happen next,
of never knowing what to expect,
of having to run and deal with the shame,
the judgments, the questions, the blame.

No matter what happens, I’ll never be the same.

I implore you to consider what’s in a word.
Specifically, your words, before they are heard.

Pride and Parents

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As a personal exercise, I wrote a list of the things in my life that I am proud of. It was interesting to look into my own past and not know where to go or what to write. It took me a few minutes, but the first one I came up with was States.

When I was in high school, I took culinary arts my junior and senior years. As a senior, I had the opportunity to go to a state competition. Four students were chosen from every high school with a relevant program: two for baking and two for “hot foods”. I was chosen to compete my senior year, along with three others. I trained for months, taking apart whole chicken after whole chicken. I perfected my salad dressing recipe, my cream of mushroom soup recipe, and my knife skills. The day of Skills USA, I arrived nervous and jittery. We all stood at TINY (by comparison) stations and first we demonstrated our knife skills by dicing a potato. There were time limits and no speaking. Chefs walked around the room and observed us. Once that was finished, I had to “break down” a chicken, which involves separating the chicken into: two breasts, two thighs, two legs (with wings attached). Chefs continued to walk around while we worked. After that, I had to prepare a meal. The meal had to include a salad, soup, and entrée with a side. We had, I think, an hour and a half. Once we were finished, we had to hand-carry the salad, soup, and entrée plate into the judging room. We all shared about sixteen burners and four ovens. It was stressful. It was long. It was intense. A girl who stood behind me – her station was always organized, she never seemed frazzled, and she completed every task before her time was up. She, obviously, won. She out beat us all by miles. After that, it was a close race for second place. I didn’t get the results for quite a while. There was some kind of banquet or ceremony. Of course, the girl who stood behind me won. When they called the second place winner, I didn’t hear my name. My teacher nudged me and I walked, in a stupor, to the stage to get my award. I received scholarship money from some of the premiere culinary schools in America. I am proud of that moment because it revealed my ability to stay on-task and dedicate myself to something, and pure talent.

Next on the list would have to be Iowa. When I was eighteen, I had decided to defer enrollment to culinary school for six months. I worked full-time at a restaurant as a line cook, and part-time for a political campaign for a friend of mine. When the political campaign told us, in September, that they needed volunteers to relocate to Iowa, I volunteered immediately. I requested pay compensation for quitting my full-time job, a place to live, and travel expenses. They agreed to all. One week later my possessions were in my car, and my dad and I drove to Iowa. I am proud of that experience not because I chose to go, but because I didn’t run back home when I was alone and scared. I lived with a 90-year-old woman who had upwards of one hundred cats, I knew no one, and I had no professional or educational experience with political science. The other staff in my office had bachelor degrees (or were pursuing bachelor degrees) in poli-sci, and I was just a high school graduate that worked as a line cook. I didn’t even like to talk about politics. But, one day, when it got really hard – I called my dad. I told him I couldn’t do it and I wanted to come home. He said the wisest words I’ve ever heard – and tops one of the best five “dad” moments for him: “Honey, if you were going to come home, you would be here already.”

Also on my pride list is karate. I studied Shaolin Kempo for several years, and made it to brown belt. I had another six months until my black belt test, but was low on funds and stopped studying in order to work more. It is one of those decisions that I vehemently regret. I wish I could say I have a black belt as opposed to a brown one, but I cannot. I am proud, though, because I was able to prove to myself that my mind is stronger than my physical being. I can push myself harder than I ever thought possible. I am in complete control of my mind, body, and spirit… minus all the crazy mood swings and the short temper.

Also on my list? The way I handled my divorce, especially in the beginning. It was so important to me that I handle that with class and dignity intact. I wanted it to be clean and brief, not long and nasty. There are only two occasions I can think of that I did not handle that with class, and I think that’s pretty good. But, somehow, I knew exactly what to do. I didn’t have him arrested because I didn’t want that following him around for the rest of his life, on his record. I neatly arranged his things for easy pick-up for later. I washed and folded all of his laundry and arranged it neatly in a basket when he came to pick up his stuff. I didn’t “go after” him for anything, and I didn’t try to make him miserable. I did my best to avoid “talking shit” about him and I made all the right choices. Except for maybe trying to sleep with one of his friends (hey, I was lonely, and he did it first) and yelling and swearing at him on the phone in front of my extremely classy and “walks-with-Jesus” aunt. Also, I did just leave town without telling him and leave him straddled with twenty-thousand worth of debt due to a legal technicality, but hey, he was awful to me and probably should have been arrested. Anyway, it feels right to reveal the good and the bad, even when it comes to me. Other than that, I can’t think of anything else I did that wasn’t adult and appropriate. Plus, I instinctively knew what to do without my therapist telling me to. I moved furniture around to change the visual energy of the room, I took pictures off the walls, and I didn’t throw anything away that was sentimental. I held onto it for over a year, until about a month ago when I threw it all away because I was ready to let it go. I wrote, I attended therapy, I moved. I worked really hard on myself. I decided to try this again. I’m brave and compassionate and a good person. I can be damn proud of that.

Thinking on the things I am proud of, it is a pretty short list. It made me think about my own perception of my past and how I judge myself. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately – what pride and support mean to me, and how I learned to be this way.

As a child, I had a middle-of-the-road childhood. It wasn’t horrific or sad; I wasn’t beaten or bounced from foster home to foster home. But, it wasn’t ideal. I was born to two people madly in love, but people who were (in a way) still children themselves. Times were tough around the house, but they told me we had such inexpensive things to “build character”. Brilliant parenting – better than a five-year-old thinking there’s money trouble in the house. My parents worked opposite shifts and sometimes would fight. Reflecting, I think they fought rarely, but sometimes they would yell. They would yell at me, especially my dad. He would get angry about work and yell just to yell. When we moved to New Hampshire, my mom was the one that worked all the time, and when she came home she was often very tired and just spent. She wasn’t really engaged all the time, but as an adult I understand that she worked so hard to support our family. My dad was the “emotional” parent – the one I got the most affection from and a shoulder to cry on. All in all, I think for my whole life, there has been balance. My parents weren’t always what they needed to be, but they did the best they could. They didn’t half-ass it and they weren’t selfish. They were generous and loving and they were there for me every day.

I was a problem child. I had sensory issues, I was diagnosed with ADHD but my parents refused to drug me, and I was high-energy. I was sensitive and loud and just a wild child. I acted out in different ways as I got older, and I took much of the attention from my younger siblings. I was a tough kid. I’m sure I made them very tired. I know they wish or think that they could have done a better job.

When it comes to pride, though, I have to say that they screwed this up. Looking back, I don’t recall many scenarios where I felt like my parents were all that proud of me. Certainly I can remember them saying “good job, honey” or showing up to my plays or softball games or karate classes. I have hours and hours of home video, but I don’t have a lot of memories feeling like they were proud or that I felt supported. They are amazing people and, as such, have pretty high expectations. The bar was set high and failure just wasn’t an option. Everything from vacuuming and cleaning the house to grades and how I dealt with my emotions – I struggled and struggled to get it right. I did receive praise, but also a lot of criticism, complaint, and negative feedback. Part of me thinks that this was good, because it created balance. It created a high bar to set for myself so that I knew I could always reach it.

However, the other part of me feels like I can never get it right enough, that I will never be good enough, and that I will never be met with a beaming smile and tears in the eyes. Perhaps on my wedding day, when my parents cried and held my hand every step of the way. Also, when my dad drove to Ohio to pick me up when Kyle and I separated and they let me live with them. Other than that… I can’t think of much.

A lot of this could have to do with my own perceived sense of self-worth, or it could have to do with so many memories mixed up with negative ones that it’s hard for me to remember happy times. In general, I review the past twenty-four years with indifference. There’s not much I can think of that brings a genuine smile to my face, because almost everything that’s ever happened that’s good can be wrapped up in something sad or bad. Since the majority of this 24 years has been spent with my parents, they are a part of that. It would require further analysis to figure out if that is real or skewed. In a way, I feel ungrateful for even saying this out loud.

In any case, part of growing up and being an adult is letting go of the things that you don’t like about yourself. It doesn’t matter that I did not feel particularly supported or a sense of pride from my parents, what matters is that I can say to my partner “I don’t feel supported”. Recently, I discovered that Dave does not read my blog. I live with him, I talk about being a writer, I talk about my writing, and I tell him when I update my blog. He doesn’t read it. Others will make comments to him about the things I write, and I know he feels sort of embarrassed that he doesn’t know what they are talking about, because he hasn’t read it. He told me this a few days ago.

During that conversation, I told him that he needs to read it. I told him that he needs to read it because I am scared and don’t know what I’m doing and am afraid that I don’t have the chops for this. If he’s not reading it, why would anyone else? I need feedback and support – just to know that the person that loves me thinks its important enough to read. I realize these are lengthy and rather self-indulgent. I realize that they may not be that good. But, he needs to read it. So now he does.

It’s more important that we can have that conversation than whether or not I have hang-ups about it and am affected. There are lots of things about me that are wonderful and are directly tied to my parents. It’s a good-with-the-bad scenario. It’s coming to me a little late in life, but I am really starting to see them as people instead of these Godlike creatures whom I idolize.

So, I suppose the result of the exercise is that I realized two things: my memories are disturbing in that there are few positive ones and it makes me curious as to why; and my parents are actual people who make mistakes that affect others. All of that is okay, and knowing that makes it a lot easier.

I know my dad reads my blogs. I can’t tell you how awesome it is to know that he reads them every time I post them. He raves about how awesome a writer I am. So, papa, I know you are reading this. Sorry if I hurt your feelings, it’s just part of the message.

And, as Dave is reading over my shoulder and mentioning my word count, I’ll end with this: Show your pride. Own it. Decide what to be proud of and do not let others decide what to be proud or ashamed of. This is your journey and no one else’s. You get to create your own reality and create your own universe. Try to be positive and think about the positive in everything. It’ll feel better, I promise.

Also, fight the urge to cast away your family when they make a mistake. Or, better still, when they made mistakes twenty years ago because they didn’t know any better. We’re all just trying, and if we are going to see the best in ourselves and our reality, we need to see the best in others.

The Year of Non-Resolutions

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Here’s the thing about New Year’s Resolutions: they are crap.

At the end of every year, the masses make promises to themselves that they know they will not keep. They get gym memberships and vow to stop drunk-dialing their exes. They promise to be kinder, more patient, and make better choices. They vow to save money, make more time with their spouses, and to practice forgiveness. If there is, somewhere, some sort of beast that gains energy from the shame of unfulfilled New Year’s resolutions – this is it’s favorite time of year.

There may, perhaps, be such a beast in all of us. A beast that thrives on failure and self-loathing. Why else would we make such a ridiculous wager with ourselves? Why do we make these promises, knowing full-well that they won’t be kept? Maybe it’s the same reason that we all choose one day out of the year – the third Thursday in November – to feel especially grateful. Or maybe it’s the same reason that we attend church when God’s really paying attention… like Easter and Christmas Day.

This year, I found myself inexplicably drawn to the idea of making empty promises to myself. In the past I always knew it was bullshit, but I played along anyway. I have a list a mile long of broken promises and unfulfilled dreams, but I made the promises anyway. Because – why not?

I’ll tell you why not. I hate the way it feels to break a promise to myself. I hate knowing exactly why I do it. So, this year, I decided to make a list of New Year’s non-resolutions. I don’t resolve to do any of these things. They are things that I want for myself, but not things I will promise to fulfill. I have enough personal issues without adding more disappointment and self-loathing to the mix. So, instead, I started dreaming. I dreamed about who I wanted to be and what I thought I might be able to do. What I would most certainly do, if I only had the proper motivation and drive to do so. Things that I thought were completely possible but also completely unlikely.

This may sound like a cop-out. An excuse to not do any of the things on my list. A reason to blow it off and not have to feel bad about it. Well, that may be true. But, when I look in the mirror every day, I will know that at least I was smart enough to avoid making a promise I couldn’t keep. And, by telling you all of this, I know that I am being as honest as I can be. What can be more honest than admitting I make promises to myself that I know I can’t keep?

First on the list is to learn how to ski. This one makes me laugh. Dave and I did this exercise together, and his first on the list was to teach me how to ski. I do want to learn, but only if I will be good at it almost immediately and have a good time. Also, only if I can figure out a way to not be so cold that I can tell I am cold. Also, only if I don’t get frustrated with myself or angry. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I just hate being bad at something and looking silly. I can’t tell you how intimidating it is to have a boyfriend that has been skiing since I was born. Since he was four. I’m nearly 25 and I much prefer my comfort zone. However, I want to learn to ski because it’s so scary. Because it will be hard. Because I will feel proud. I want to step outside my comfort zone and just rip the band aid off. Yet, this morning, school was canceled due to a snow storm. Dave elected to go skiing and I did not accompany him. It might require him drugging me and dragging me there. Maybe once I come to, on the mountain on a pair of skis, I will be willing to try. This has to be one of the worst parts of my personality. An almost paralyzing fear of the unknown and a desire to stay in my comfort zone.

Next on the list is to smoke fewer cigarettes. Not my idea of a good time. I am a smoker. There may have been a time when I was a nonsmoker, but once I started smoking I became a smoker. I will always be a smoker, even if I stop smoking. I have an addictive personality and a relationship with nicotine. It’s the longest relationship I’ve had and it’s never let me down. No matter what fluctuations may occur, I can count on the way it feels to draw smoke in my lungs. It’s thicker, like drinking a glass of juice as opposed to water. It feels great to have a cigarette in my mouth and in my hands. It gives me a sense of control. And yet, it is a terrible habit. And, since my future involves (hopefully) having a baby, I have to stop this. So, I keep it vague. Smoke fewer cigarettes. Since I moved in with Dave, I smoke a lot less because I don’t smoke inside our apartment. It’s not worth it to go outside the building every time I crave nicotine. Yesterday I smoked only seven cigarettes. I make a tally on a piece of paper hanging on the refrigerator every time I smoke. There’s a column for “projected” cigarettes I will smoke the next day, and a column for tally’s. Today I wrote fewer than 20. 20 is a full pack. That will be my goal for a while until I get used to it. Then maybe I will write fewer than 15 or fewer than 10. But not on a timeline and not a specific number.

I also wrote: write more frequently, write better quality, and have deliberate writing. You don’t know how many times I’ve wanted to sit down and just write. For some reason, I am scared. I have been writing about a lot of negative experiences lately. I’ve written pages and pages of memories from failed relationships. It’s very painful. I have nightmares and almost every morning I wake up groggy and miserable. I feel angry half the time and confused the other half. It is sometimes an effort just to stay upright. When I talked to my friend Eden on the phone about this, she asked me when it started. It started when I wrote the narrative about my ex. About the night he abused me. After that, I started writing about other nightmarish experiences with him. It’s making me crazy and emotional. I find I appreciate the effects of tequila more now than I ever knew possible, and I am struggling to find balance. So, I don’t want to write. Sure, I have no problem thinking about the foreword to my might-happen memoir, but I don’t want to write about anything real. Sometimes, late at night, I feel this immediate compulsion to write about anything. Something. I still feel this block like I don’t want to sit down and just do it.

Learn the writing rules. This one makes me roll my eyes. Everyone I respect says that you have to understand the rules of writing before breaking them, in order to break them for specific reasons. I call this crap. I say – let the editor find the mess, whether it be me or my teacher or someone I hire. I don’t want to have to take pause to think about syntax or grammar. Let spell check catch my spelling errors. Just let me write. But, I am taking a writing class this semester, so I better get used to the idea if I want to be a better writer.

Buy a car. This one actually isn’t so bad. All I have to do is scrape enough money together to buy a passable vehicle. I have about six months. I can totally do this. It’s on the list as my fluff non-resolution.

Be a good partner. This one is ambiguous, but a serious goal that I refuse to let go. If I fail everything else on this non-list, I will be okay, as long as I don’t fail this one. Definitely possible, considering Dave is so in love with me that he can’t stand it. It’s overwhelming, actually. But in a good way. Sometimes I worry that he must love me more, because he is so intense with his affection. I am monotone compared to his level of intensity. I worry that he does not feel adequately nurtured, respected, and cared for. He assures me this is not the case, and we check in with each other obnoxiously frequently. But, still, I feel I have a lot of work to do before I can be good enough for Dave. He has a lot of work to do, too. We both do. But, we are honest. We are kind. I think that is the most important aspect of any relationship: kindness. When I think about the emotional scars I have, most of them are from a lack of kindness from someone I trusted. Everyone goes through this – with a parent, a friend, a lover. Over and over the lack of kindness can really weigh on a person. Dave and I are kind to each other. We are gentle with one another. We check in way more than most people probably do. At least every day I say to him: Are you happy? Do you feel fulfilled? Do you have everything that you need? Is there anything that you want? And, for the first time in my romantic history, I have someone who is as selfless as I am. Sure, we can be selfish, but we are each quick to call the other out on it. And, we are always kind.

Finish Super Brain. This is a deal I made with, of course, Dave. Dave doesn’t want to read the seven principles of marriage book I mentioned a few months ago. He said it freaks him out because it has the M word. So, now I call it the seven principles of the M word book. It makes him laugh. It’s not that I want to get married. Actually, the whole idea kind of freaks me out. That doesn’t stop me from mentally writing my maybe future wedding vows to Dave. I am, after all, a hopeless romantic that gets in deep with people. But, he’s freaked out a little about the M word. So he made a deal with me. He’d go chapter for chapter – if I read Super Brain, he’ll read the book about the M word. It’s actually kind of cute, and was very clever, because I am just about as uncomfortable reading Super Brain as he is reading that other book. It calls into question deeply rooted behaviors and possible personality traits that are damaging. It’s a slap in the face. It’s a brilliant book and it has helped me, but it’s hard to get through. Sometimes it makes me feel embarrassed and sometimes I feel sad. When I try a new pattern of behavior and it works, I feel happy. But I also feel weird about being wrong for so long on how my mind and body are connected. I really don’t want to finish the stupid book. But, I am halfway through and made a non-resolution to finish it in the next year. I think I can pull it off. Plus, it’ll make Dave read the book about the M word, and I can’t wait for that.

Exercise Regularly. Yes, capitalize both words, because it requires special attention for being so hilariously bullshit. Best case scenario: I go to yoga once in a while, mostly just to use that as a reason to go tanning afterward. No self-respecting person walks into a gym only to use the tanning bed. That’s why I’m pasty and gross. I am not willing to exercise in order to tan. I actually love exercise. I am still paying for a gym membership that I no longer use. I make a non-resolution (just like everyone else) to actually exercise more. At the very least, go tanning once a week or something.

Lastly: compartmentalize previous traumas. In my head and heart my emotions are all mixed up. There are no separate file cases for different feelings. It’s all jumbled and it feels quite unhealthy. Super Brain would probably help. So would more therapy. Alcohol definitely isn’t helping, but writing more might. Also, a regular sleep schedule and better eating habits. All non-resolutions that aren’t important enough to make the list, but do happen to fall into this category. I could write for days just about this. I can’t be excited about my new relationship if I am constantly dealing with the fall-out from my previous ones. I can’t put these issues in a box because I think that’s how I married the wrong guy in the first place. I always worry that I am not good enough, not deserving of love, that I can’t be woman enough for my partner. I worry that I can’t make new friends, that current friends really don’t like me, and that I’m arrogant for no good reason. I worry about the silliest things and it’s all jumbled together. Everything from every box just leaks around.

The other night, I was thinking to myself, I just need to compartmentalize. Because, the thing is, I’m never going to be better if I don’t try to separate my feelings about one thing from my feelings about another. Dave is spectacular and there is just simply no room for my ex-husband or ex-boyfriends in our relationship. There is no space in my heart for bitterness or anger, because it is so overwhelmingly full of love for Dave. Also, sometimes he makes me mad, so I need to save a little space just to be angry with him.

I’ll never be my old self. Too many things have happened and I will never un-feel what I have felt, nor un-know what I know. But, I can control how I let it make me feel. It’s been a struggle to move in with my boyfriend, because I feel like my messy leaky baggage is everywhere and it’s in his face and he will definitely figure it out one day and that’ll be it. I’ve got to do something before I screw this up. I’ve got to get it together. I hate waking up in the morning groggy and disoriented because I have nightmares. It makes me wonder how anyone ever survives writing and reflecting on the pain they have experienced. What are they doing that I am not doing? Why do I always feel on the verge of freaking out?

This is a little dark, I know. It’s a NEW YEAR. I’m supposed to be cherishing that and feeling optimistic, right? Well, that’s just a load of crap. I brought everything I had with me from 2013 (and prior) into 2014. That’s the real problem with New Year’s resolutions. It’s not more exercise that we need, or to eat less, or to be more patient. It’s not that we need to make time for our spouses or play with our kids more. What we crave – and what we wish we had – was a lifestyle change. A drastic change in our scenery. A drastic change within ourselves.

We don’t want more exercise. We want to be the kinds of people who enjoy exercise and don’t require massive amounts of motivation to do so. We don’t want to have less food, but we do want to not need food as much as we do. We don’t need to drink less, nor do we want to, but we wish we didn’t have to drink to feel numb to it all. We don’t wish we were more patient, we wish we weren’t impatient in the first place. Or selfish. Or cruel. Or mean, or confused, or any of it. We wish we were different kinds of people, the kinds of people we respect already, and every December 31st we make a vow to make ourselves more like those we idolize.

But, we don’t look at it that way. Instead, it’s maybe just have one glass of wine. Maybe a yogurt instead of a donut this morning. Maybe it’s just going to the gym. Three times a week. We know we never will, but we make this promises to ourselves anyway.

As for me? This year, I make no such promises. I see, in the future, the woman I want to be. It scares the hell out of me that I have no idea how to get there. And, the things I do know, I am sometimes too afraid to try. That’s who I was on December 31st, and that’s who I was the morning of January 1st. There’s no magical dust that floats around the word during the turn of the new year to make us different people. We have to try and we have to understand why.

So, here is my challenge for you. This may be a bad idea, because maybe it’s reinforcing negatives, but what the hell. Let’s give it a shot.

Rather than making a list of promises you know you won’t keep, make the list of things you don’t want to be. You don’t want to exercise; you just don’t want to be fat. You don’t want to have one fewer drink; you want to not feel ashamed of being such a weak addict. You don’t want to smoke fewer cigarettes; you don’t want to have to hide when you run outside the office to get your fix. It’s not that you want to try to be more patient; you just want to stop yelling at your kids already because it makes you feel like a bad parent.

Start there. At the root. As for me? I don’t want to be a coward. I don’t want to have swirling thoughts in my head about everything all the time. I don’t want to feel weak. I don’t want to feel undeserving of love, respect, and kindness. I don’t want to be insecure. I definitely don’t want to obsess over my failed marriage because it makes me feel safe. I don’t want to search for any reason to be unhappy because I am just too afraid of letting go of pain. I just want to be a more confident and balanced individual.

I don’t need the gym three times a week for that. I just need a little courage and forgiveness.

Creative Work in Progress

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I haven’t published anything in 23 days. I have been very busy.

I interviewed Dave’s mom because she runs an Adventure Challenge course at the local high school. It’s so cool and I wanted to do a piece on it, so I observed one of her classes, interviewed her, and gave the kids a list of questions to answer about the class. I can’t wait to pick it apart and write the piece.

Dave sent me an email about a literary magazine’s fall writing contest. The deadline was a November 30th, but he sent me the email just a few days beforehand. I didn’t have enough time to submit something. At school, I picked up a copy of the literary magazine, which holds poems and create pieces by students. I read something so apologetically honest and real that I decided it was time to write about the night my marriage ended. When we separated, in June 2012, I knew that I wanted to write about the dramatic events of the night. Including but not limited to: my ex-husband holding me hostage in our home, calling 911 for my first emergency, two hours of hopeless fighting, and watching two county sheriffs escorting my then-husband to a cruiser.

Needless to say, it’s pretty fucking crazy.

It was traumatic and the writing will help understand what happened and process the trauma. In some ways it feels like it’s been forever since it happened, but in other ways it feels like it happened yesterday. For the most part, I don’t feel like the girl in that story. She’s long gone. Something like that would never happen to present-day Kyrston. But, the memories haunt me. And, although it feels like remembering a story someone else told me, I still feel the pain and scars from it happening to me.

I set out to write the narrative, and it’s finished. I’ve edited it three times (twice with the help of teachers from school) and it’s still not done. My most recent editor told me that it needed “a bigger about-ness” and a point. It needs a greater message besides just telling a story about one particular experience. The solution? Write more. Write about any significant event in those four years. Change from present-tense to past tense and play with the timeline. Insert relevant memories in the middle of the event.

He did tell me, however, that I have a natural gift for storytelling. He also told me how brave it was to pick something so intense and personal to write about. I didn’t really understand how that was brave, but then he told me that I had to write more, and I groaned. I told him it hurts to write about it and that I don’t want to. He sort of shrugged his shoulders like this is what we do as writers.

So, I have been writing for the past hour or so and decided to take a break to let you in on the secret. I just worked my way through the first few months of our relationship, which had already contained more than three reasons to not stay in a relationship with him. It’s helping me revisit some painful and embarrassing memories and look at it in a new way. I am gaining perspective. It’s helping – a lot. It’s helping me by giving me confidence. I do feel brave. Most people, upon getting hurt, just try to push the memory away and put the pain away. Who dissects it piece by piece and then chooses to share it with others? I guess I do. I’m the moron that decided to reopen partially-healed wounds and put salt in them. But, at the end, it could transform a young woman’s perception of what LOVE is. Maybe someone will read my stories, one day, and it will inspire them to help someone they know. If anything I do is going to be read, let alone go viral, it needs to be real. I need to be here with you, in this moment, and we need to be in it together.

On another note – the move in has been successful. My new job is wonderful. Our apartment is slowly but surely getting cleaned and rearranged and things put in storage that we don’t need right now. There’s a Christmas tree because Dave knows how excited I was and he dragged the thing up here to surprise me. There are lights and stockings and cute place mats. It’s warm and inviting and I feel safe here. Dave just finished student teaching which makes me very happy, because I have really missed him these past few weeks. I’ve been home alone a lot. It’s nice to spend time with the person you love. Soon we will resume the Seven Principles project, things are just getting settled.

So, that’s three projects I am working on right now, in addition to the many other things I have to manage. I am disappointed that I couldn’t publish the story of that night. Perhaps after one more edit I will post it, just so that it can be in the universe. Even if there is no apparent bigger “about-ness”, it still makes for a great story.

Hope all is well and that you have joy this upcoming holiday.

We don’t know what we think we do.

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There has been a viral share-a-thon on Facebook for the past week or so. All of a sudden, there are status updates everywhere – “8 (or whatever number) things you didn’t know about me” and the like. I have been reading these, bemused, refusing to “like” any update for fear that I will get a number and invited to join in – and secretly I would love someone to want to know things about me.

As I read through the status updates, I find myself learning things about people who I didn’t already know. Until today, I have never been so completely startled and awed by what I wrote. That’s right – it was awe-inspiring. Not what she wrote exactly, although she sounds wicked cool. It was the fact that I didn’t know any one of the things on that list. Not a single thing. I had an idea of who she was, mostly from going to high school with her, and today I learned that I had no idea who she was.

This realization inspired me to write a piece on how connected we are. I have 346 friends on Facebook – and I can guarantee that for the vast majority of them – I don’t know what city they live in. I have never had a meal with them and don’t know their favorite color. Even some of my friends-friends – there are things that I learn about them every day. Especially with Dave, and I live with him for god’s sake!

Part of it has to do with how we spend time together. I suppose that you would never know someone’s favorite color if you never asked, unless you were paying close attention to what color they wore a lot or the color of their car or purse or bed set. It’s impossible to know someone’s favorite food unless you dine with them so many times that you notice a pattern of behavior. What are we really learning about people when we spend time with them gossiping or texting other people while we are with them? What use is a status update as opposed to a face-to-face conversation of substance?

It appears as though this influx of technology has a dual purpose: it plugs us in to the world – with endless limits. But – it also unplugs us from the present moment and opportunity. We drift through time and space, plugged in but not turned on.

Even with myself – I choose to sit at my laptop on my day off and Google things. I like to have my nose in a book, or watch a movie, or scroll through the same Facebook news feed ten million times. On the other end of all of that… a bounty of information and entertainment, but am I really living?

Probably the best thing I do, when I am plugged in, is write. Even as I sit here, pondering the irony that I am writing about being too plugged in while on a computer, it also occurs to me that I am connecting with you all in a very real way. I would just as soon stand in front of a group of people and read my words than have you read them to yourselves. I am reaching out a hand to hold your hand, and I am embracing you with a hug of thoughts and tight arms made of good intention. I am your shoulder to cry on, your pat on the back, and a reassuring smile.

I have no lists of funny animals nor do I have a cute video of my cat. Sure, I have a whole Facebook album dedicated to my dog, but let’s face it: Facebook is just a fancy version of any other chat room. An excuse to post anything you want because you know people aren’t really paying attention. They are too busy posting whatever they want or looking for a link to a list of cute animals or a video of a funny cat.

But here – on my own space on the internet… more personal than a Facebook page… and more me than an Instagram account – this is where I connect with you. It makes me wonder how else I connect with people and how many do I think I am connected to that I really am not? In the case of this girl on Facebook… being Facebook friends doesn’t mean I am connected. Accepting a Facebook friend request can sometimes be as simple as “you don’t annoy me to the point where I would hate to even see your name (let alone a status update about your life) and I want to avoid a confrontation so… ACCEPT.”

I didn’t know anything about her. I didn’t know that she smoked, had intense wanderlust, or read books to a grave. I had no idea that she even lived in Maine. If someone asked me who she was, what would I say to them? “Oh, she’s a friend of mine”? or “Oh, I went to high school with her.”? Could I say she is a nice person? Could I say whether she is liberal or conservative? Even with someone I worked with – and saw almost every day – and talked to – when I found out she is a republican, I was stunned. How could I not know something so crucial?!

But, was that really a crucial piece of information? What is? What am I listening for while someone else is talking? What am I missing because I am too busy thinking up a response to a point I won’t even remember in ten minutes? What am I putting out there about myself? What would someone else say about me? Who am I, to others? The opinion that is a crap shoot of an opinion because while I was talking, they were thinking of how to respond to my point. They will surely forget in ten minutes.

What do we know about the universe in which we live? Where are we plugged in when we’re not unplugged? These are all questions I ask myself, and I urge you to do the same. I urge you to be real with people. Show them who you are. Chances are they aren’t paying that much attention anyway, and the relationship may be fleeting anyway, so show who you are. Be who you are, to remind yourself who you are, every moment of the day. Don’t shortchange yourself, and others, by not only not being engaged, but by not being honest.

As we move into the future, it is becoming increasingly rare that we connect with one another the way human beings are capable of. We are slowly mutating into robots, needing the hardware to use the software. We are not computers, we are human beings. We are flesh and blood, not pixels and power cables. We are soft and sensitive, not hard and cold. One genuine human interaction – even if it is an argument over who gets the parking spot – is worth fifty hours plugged in to technology.