Writing probably saved my life.

They say suicidal ideation is more common than attempting for women. I can attest to that, but only from the standpoint of my personal experience.

The number of times I’ve had compulsory thoughts of dying over the years would buckle my mother’s knees. Would horrify my friends. Should horrify me. And now, at this stage in my life, it does—but only a little. I never felt driven past the thought. Past weighing a knife in my hand for longer than I normally would have. Past wondering if it would be worth it to keep going. I don’t think I ever wanted to die though. I just didn’t want to exist.

There still exists the part of me that’s fed up with the world the way it is. That feels like I don’t belong here in a weirdly metaphysical sense. I feel like I see more—that maybe I think more, too—and it’s a strangely painful thing to be so aware in a world that is so majorly on auto-pilot. That exists in pseudo-fulfillment with apps and shallow, trivial concerns and relationships that validate what you are (maybe), but don’t serve to grow you or fulfill you at all. The ruts are worn and no one takes responsibility for what we’re doing to this world, to each other, to ourselves every day.

The fact is that I’ve been aware of this for—apparently—what is longer than normal. It seems like so many people (maybe just the people I come into contact with) go full lives without becoming self-aware. To say it’s disconcerting isn’t accurate. In fact, it really just makes me sad. And while being so aware in an otherwise ambivalent world made me feel alone and misunderstood, that wasn’t my reason for all the times I glanced into opposing traffic and saw the steering wheel jerk. It just added to it until I came to terms with everything else you already know about me.

I don’t remember when I started writing. More than that, I don’t remember when I started storytelling. The first time I ever identified as a writer, however, I do remember. I was in sixth grade. There was a school-wide poetry slam and I decided that I wanted to enter. I couldn’t tell you why. I just remember that all the advanced class kids I used to have classes with in elementary school were in it, too, and were as condescending as their parents.

So, as you can imagine, it felt splendid to hand their asses to them on stage.

The point is that I started thinking of myself as a writer when I was eleven. Before that, I had written fun songs or poems or whatever with my friends, but I had never thought of that as writing. I wasn’t aware of creative writing and its magnitude until around that time in middle school. Books were a love of course—I was certainly raised a reader. Yet it didn’t occur to me that someone actually made a living writing the books that I inhaled. It didn’t occur to me that this could be someone’s job. That was just too much.

The more I think back, the more I realize that I’ve had anxiety my entire life. It runs in my family and smart kids often experience at least bouts of this. I really didn’t stand a chance. I only started to realize that this wasn’t the “normal” way to feel maybe a few years ago. It was so natural for me that it took a damn long time to notice. I had my first tango with depression when I was fourteen and it lasted for eight months. Then it leveled off. And then it came back.

I spent three years in an abusive relationship—my first relationship—and was gaslighted and verbally abused on the daily. If this isn’t the first time you’re reading my blog, you know the rest. That’s not why I’m here. My friends up to that point were not my friends and the few people who should have been my close friends didn’t become my friends until much later—but I’m very glad they did. I was twelve when I realized that I could be like the authors who wrote the books I loved and it would also take my mind off what was happening away from that desk.

I wrote my first book that fall on an older than old version of Microsoft Word Processor. It was called Rivers of the Heart and it was based on a roleplay I’d started and never finished with someone on a forum. That may have been why I started it in the first place—being frustrated first that it wasn’t as good as I thought it should be and also being frustrated that it ended. I did something similar the following with my second attempt at a novel-length project. Even though I titled it pretty lamely, this one had potential and I fully intend to pick it back up someday.

How does this tie together? Because after I was able to identify as something—specifically after I was able to identify as a writer—things became easier to digest. Some people find their meaning in their relationships, their religion, in charity, or in some variant of “this is larger than me.” I’ve long been aware that this universe doesn’t work according to me. However, I hadn’t yet found that “thing” that allowed me to cope with the ways that I was wronged.

It was a separate thing for me to understand that I didn’t deserve the things that happened to me. In some of the smaller disasters, I made mistakes leading up to said small disasters, but I didn’t necessarily deserve the result. After I discovered my identity as a writer, it infiltrated every aspect of my life. I couldn’t expel it now if I tried. Regardless of what happened—the tiny evils or the big bads—I could bring my anxiety back down, my anger back down, and rationalize it into a packaged, digestible form that I could work with.

This is when “Everything is material” basically became my anthem.

Through writing and the mentality that goes with it, the everyday and the catastrophic aren’t just passing events. There’s something about writing that produces more for every person I meet, every mistake I make, every experience I have.

I can’t say for sure that the way my mind works and the fact that I inevitably took writing as one of my crafts kept me going or made things easier than they could have been were I someone else. I have never been without these parts of myself—there was never an epiphany, a turning point, an eclipse of who I was into who I became, that part has always been developing from the same base.

More often than not, thinking of things in metaphors or with symbolism lets me separate from the immediacy of whatever is happening. Call it dissociation or creativity, I can’t define it for anyone but myself. I think that’s the mark of people like me. People like us, possibly, if you’ve read this far and you’re on the same page. There’s no sameness in our breed, but there’s some universal truth. Reasons for being and for making that are all different, but align in a unifying way.

And I think that, in and of itself, is something spectacular to live for.

 

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I want to talk about this comic. 

  
I hate to make my comeback on here with a rant. Particularly one on gun rights, shootings, and the misuse of religion, three of the world’s greatest failings. For this, however, I’m spotlighting the U.S. My home-country. Because we seem to be especially terrible about all three of these. “Freedom of speech and religious freedom for all!” Sure. When you agree with the masses. 

We’ve established that I’m agnostic and I’ll restate that I have exactly zero issue with religion itself or people of religion. Only those who seek to use their beliefs as a weapon or push those beliefs upon others. Because seriously, come on. I was in a campus bathroom a few weeks ago and there was a notecard sitting on the tissue dispenser telling me that today was the day for my salvation and if I didn’t get on that shit pronto, I was going to spend an eternity in Hell. 

If you think I’m kidding, I’m not. 

  

I went in there to do what people normally do in a public restroom. Not be verbally assaulted by a notecard detailing my penalty would be for not believing in the same god as the writer does. Were I of weaker mind, I may have been upset by the attack because sorry, ye who claim its out of caring and concern, that is a threat. And things like this are everywhere.  

Back to the comic though because that’s what I have an actual problem with. The notecard prophet can only spread so many handwritten death notes. I tore it up and threw it away after finding it. Get a hobby. Or a better argument. The comic, unfortunately, has a broader audience than one Midwestern (ah, now you get it) college campus. A stupider one. The masses who go to Facebook for gospel. 

This comic–just on the page where I found it–has over 210k likes. 

That is to say that approximately 216,000 individuals saw this, read it, and agreed with it enough to go through the strenuous motions of clicking the “like” button to show their support. 

That is to say that approximately 216,000 people are willing to blame a school shooting–the United States’ 45th school shooting in 2015 so far–on the fact that a god who does not pertain to every individual on this planet has a lessening presence in public schools where religion has no right to be enforced. Accepted in terms of some general unbiased knowledge or a moment for silent, private prayer? Of course. But never enforced. 

There was recently an incident in my city where a first grade girl asked a first grade boy where he went to church. He reportedly told her that he didn’t believe in God, but it was okay that she did (clearly he had already had a discussion with his parents over this and it’s easy to assume that this was not the first time he was asked about this). According to the report, the girl then started crying and when the teacher asked what had happened and the boy explained, he was sent to the office until his parents could come to get him. 

Once the incident was exposed for what it was, the teacher was penalized, but the point is that things like this happen all the time. I remember the friend group I’d accumulated in first grade, believe it or not, alienating me when I first said I didn’t go to church. My teacher didn’t punish me, but she didn’t stand up for me either. I had numerous adults throughout my childhood who shamed me for thinking differently from them. After the first grade incident, I learned not to talk about it if I could help it.
Regardless of my personal experiences, this comic’s commentary wounds me on multiple levels, some of which you may not expect given what I’ve said so far. 
My biggest issue is obvious. How dare you, people who think this content is acceptable.

This isn’t funny, it’s not thought-provoking, it’s wrong and it’s smug in the face of tragedy. By accepting this, you accept that these people deserved to die. Because of what, your attitude that your religion should reign supreme? The vast majority of the victims in this latest shooting (Umpqua Community College) were Christians. You’re telling me that God didn’t save the believers because the non-believers deny Him? Are you serious? What kind of backasswards thought process is that? That is so petty!

My other equally large issue is that this takes the blame completely off the gunman and places it on the non-Christians. We’re removing the blame from the person who went in and shot up the place and placing it on the victims and potential victims. On people who had nothing to do with the shooting at all. Now that should anger everyone and, if it doesn’t, I just don’t know what else to say. 

The point is that it should anger the non-believers because it’s a misplacement of blame, it’s an insult to those who lost their lives, and the blame is kind of getting tossed on us with statements like this. And it should anger the believers for all these reasons, too, along with the fact that this is also blame placed on God, which from what I hear, isn’t how things are supposed to work. It’s an insult to your religion and Christians to tolerate this kind of content. Purely for the fact that it is just wrong at the most basic level. 

And anyone who finds it acceptable to utilize a shooting for their own agenda–be it religious, political, or otherwise–is sick and lacks basic empathy. 

More than that, I find it terribly interesting that the comic implies that shootings, the wrath of an angry god, and gun-related deaths are more acceptable concepts than a difference or lack of religious belief.

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The way you recalled the day we met was sunshine in my head because even in the most desperate times, that was what you remembered. You remembered the pain and the nerves and the ache you felt when you saw me, your awful memory snagged in that scene and pulled it in close, grappled with it to stay because you thought it was beautiful and miraculous.

Well, I hope it haunts you now.

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Because I could not imagine God.

I met a boy. I met a boy in October and I fell in love with that boy. He was the first romance I’d had in three years after avoiding any such thing for an extended period of time, namely because I was afraid. I didn’t want a repeat of what had happened with James and I was firm in my belief that I was incapable of romantic love. I’d had four crushes in my lifetime, but I had never been in relationships with any of those boys. All of them had predated high school. And all of them had turned out to be jerks. Every single one.

But I met this boy in a different way. Not at school, where I had met all the others. My mom and his aunt, Jean, had been friends for ages and there came a day that Jean looked at me and said I should meet her nephew. There was no pressure to do so, I even took a day to think about it, what it could mean. What it could become. I was afraid. But I called her and agreed to lunch and we all went, not just him and me.

I had never seen him before, but I had the strange sensation of knowing him the moment he walked in. All the way across the restaurant, I focused on him and knew who he was. I got butterflies. I hadn’t gotten butterflies since I was twelve. And then that was it.

A date came after the initial meeting and a relationship formed a month after that and then I fell in love with that bastard. I wasn’t the first to say it, he said it first, but not without nearly giving himself a heart attack while I sat there, waiting. I can still feel the ghost of how I held down my smile, happy, but wanting to be sure that he didn’t think I was laughing at him. I can’t remember if that was before or after Christmas, but that came, too, and then the New Year with a glass of wine and a kiss. My parents loved him, my dad offered him extra work at his business to help with the ever-increasing pressure of student loan debt, and he stayed over often because he lived about forty-five minutes away and usually stayed past the point of tiredness.

January passed and, with it, the looming concern of his departure for the Navy. That had been the deal from the beginning and I’d known that going in, but he withdrew. His aunt and dad concurred it had ultimately been because of me, but I’m still not quite sure. In a blur, he renewed my faith in the commercial holiday of Valentine’s Day with creme brûlée, the beginnings of a Pandora charm bracelet, and flowers, all in a cozy night of pizza and hoodies, and then we unthinkingly whirled into March, where everything just began to stop, one piece at a time.

The first sign, I suppose, was a weekend within which he texted me maybe once and only after I’d finally caved and texted him to be sure he was okay. He was. He just “needed time to think.” The real sign in that span of time was that he knew I was extremely upset the night the silence started (my neighbor suffering from Alzheimer’s had gone missing and it was stirring up every ounce of mortality awareness I had), but he didn’t seem to care. The silence stretched.

We talked less. I initiated more conversations than ever until I finally just stopped trying, to see if he’d take a hint. Either he didn’t or it didn’t matter to him. Then went the tiny thoughtful gifts (which I loved the thought behind more than any material object), the attempt to see me whenever he could, the reassurances that he was looking forward to being with me again, and then the “I love you” stopped, too. He’d only say it if I said it first. And even after some time with that, not even then.

I don’t remember how I’ve referred to him before, as all the names mentioned in my posts are fakes for anonymity’s sake, but that doesn’t matter now. The point was that this boy was firmly, firmly Christian. I am agnostic. I am open-minded. I am untethered in a religion-based way and I am so okay with that, even after everything that’s happened, I can’t even imagine being any other way. I respect all beliefs, I have very good friends who are Christian or Catholic or simply rooted in whatever religion they love and it’s beautiful when it’s used in the right way. When it’s expressed in a loving way. Some people need religion as a staple in their lives. And that. is. okay. It is also okay that some people don’t.

We had a conversation shortly before that weekend he stopped talking to me. He knew for a long time about my free-thinking mindset–had always said how much he loved my intellect, at least until it clashed with his belief system–and he came to me and told me that he wanted to raise his kids Christian. Be-all-end-all. I hesitated. But I said it could be discussed. This somehow got turned into his sister talking about me being an “evil atheist” and that I had told him no way in hell was I okay with that. I heard all this from Jean, who was on my side from the beginning and still is, now. I’m half-afraid she might kill him the next time she sees him. And she doesn’t know the half of it.

When I managed to work this into a conversation without revealing my source, we talked. And we talked. And he finally heard what I’d been trying to say all along. That I was concerned and it wasn’t what I’d planned, but I liked him enough that I wanted to figure out a compromise. This soothed him for a while. And then everything began to unravel again.

It totals out to around six weeks between the time he stopped talking to me for the weekend to when he finally dumped me. In that span of time, he still accompanied me on family functions, he still hung out with me and allowed my parents to pay for his dinners, and made me feel safe enough for a short period of time enough to sleep with him. Me. I, who was terrified and hated the prospect of sex for years after being forced into it and manipulated into it thereafter by my first boyfriend, got brave enough to try again. And it was good. I felt safe. I felt loved. Now I just feel disappointed that none of that was real.

He didn’t initiate the meeting. I did. Because I was tired of asking at least once a week what was wrong and trying to fix something I couldn’t see. He didn’t tell me anything about what was changing him, what was changing us. His communication level was zero. When we were apart, it was all I could do to get him to talk to me, and when we were together, all he wanted to do was the physical. He’d hold my hand. He’d still laugh at my jokes, still talk to me about light topics. But it was different. I hate that he didn’t just grow a pair and cut the line sooner. I initiated the meeting because I wanted to actually talk. And I know, after all is said and done, I know he was waiting for me to break up with him. I realized it a few days before it ended. And I thought, Dammit, no. I can last a few more days. This is going to be on you.

We met in a Starbucks. One table over from where we’d sat during out first date. It had been raining then, too. I sat down, he asked me what I wanted to talk about, I told him I’d been getting mixed signals recently and I wanted to know why, and he recited the words, “I guess I’ve been thinking lately that we should just end it.” That fast. I was there for two minutes. And fifteen minutes before walking through that door, I’d talked myself into it. We were going to be okay. I was going to try, I loved him enough to try. We were going to make it. I’d even toted an umbrella along because I had a feeling we’d be spending some more time together afterward. Stupid.

“I guess there’s nothing else to talk about then. While you’re out this way, do you want to come get your stuff?”
“I didn’t know I had anything at your house.”
“You do. Some books and your sweatshirt.”
“You can just keep them. If you want.”
“I’d rather not.”

He followed me back to the house and I left him in the garage while I went inside, still holding it together surprisingly well. I located his sweatshirt, his books, and the last of a bottle of cologne he’d left me once because I liked the way he smelled and bundled it all up, took it outside to him. I remember telling him to be careful not to drop the bottle. Then he gave me the spiel about how he wished me every happiness and all that, I did the courteous and said, “You, too,” while starting to lose my nerve. He noticed. It was obvious he felt badly, even then. An awkward, loose hug and apology later, I finally just extracted myself from the situation and went into the house. Then I proceeded to cry–it was not the hardest I’ve ever cried, but one of the hardest cries I’d had–and it was a hard enough cry that I caused myself to throw up, which was new. Over two weeks later and I still don’t feel quite right.

My parents had to go out of town just two days later and I made the mistake of having my grandmother come stay with me. Certainly kept my mind off things, but I also could’ve used that time to just heal. I’m a solitary soul and a strong one. I was functional, but sad, for three days and then I had solidified my belief in the fact that I would be okay and this was just a chapter. A nice one that turned ugly, but a chapter.

His reason was that we were more incompatible than he’d originally thought. I’d asked him while we were still in the coffee shop and that was his answer. I perhaps hadn’t met two criteria items on his checklist. But he was a very my-way-or-the-highway kind of guy, I realized that at the end. And, to me, that’s a really sad way to live.

But, I digress. The story here isn’t of how a boy-meets-girl cliche falls apart or of how love isn’t real, love doesn’t last, yada-yada. It’s about growth. I’ve been through shit and I knew I good thing when I saw it, when I felt it. I was willing to change, for perhaps one of the first times in my life, for another person. I wasn’t willing to become anything but true to myself though and that would have been what was required of me, had I fought to stay. However, I didn’t fight. I didn’t do anything but leave his life as silently as I’d entered it. Because I’ve met a closed mind before. I’ve never accidentally fallen in love with one. Hell, I’ve never fallen in love with anyone like I did with him.

I had grown over the years to love myself and to love others and to treat people with fairness and respect because a) I knew it was right and proper and b) I’d had people treat me with the opposite and I knew how it felt. And, in the end of this, I think I dodged a bullet. Because the boy who had brought me treats, who had watched Disney moves and belly-laughed with me, the one who had danced me around the kitchen and sung Winter Wonderland in my ear, the one I fell in love with, was only part of this person. It was one facet of him. I loved that facet. I was willing to try to love the rest. In turn, my freedom of thought in how this universe turns and my wish for my kids to have the same open eyes and respect for themselves and others is a facet of me. I don’t really know what was so unkind about that facet, but that was the facet of me he didn’t love. But instead of looking to the rest, to the multiple facets he had professed to love again and again, he let the glare beam off that one facet and blind him to the rest.

I loved him enough to accept his differences and the parts of him I didn’t like. I loved him enough to, instead of rejecting his beliefs and him with them, ask about them. I wanted to understand. And he didn’t even love me enough to try. Instead, he cried religion (which was in large what made him recoil, even though he didn’t say it in our last conversation, I know this to be true–it was all we’d ever disagreed on) and embarked on six solid weeks of dealing with me in a very un-Christian way.

I never once judged him on his beliefs and all he did was judge me on mine. I’d like him to explain that to me in the words of his god.

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Have you ever noticed

the way the limbs of trees reach
and build
like the veins inside us,
how the atmosphere breathes and
coughs with storms
that light up its system
and send shocks to its core?
Have you ever noticed
at all?

And have you ever thought
perhaps we are the cells,
the selection is us,
we are not a virus, not a disease,
but cells that keep replicating,
crashing the health of our body,
the one that nourished us,
the one we were supposed to protect?
That we have taken of the planet,
that we are a cancer, not killing it,
but inviting in the end?

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Crossing lines, self-respect, and why I hate retail.

From the time I could understand the concept of owning myself and my actions, my mom told me, “You can’t control anyone but yourself.” She still tells me this and I understood half of that phrase’s meaning from the get-go. I understood the part that said I couldn’t control anyone else. What took me years and years to understand was that no one got to control me either. Not unless I let them. The problem with this was that I unwittingly allowed that level of control until I understood both halves of the lesson.

Sometimes it comes over time. Over the course of years, months, sometimes weeks. Sometimes in comes in an instant. I think, on some level, it comes when you need it to. It builds over the years, the months, the weeks into what could be a resonating epiphany, but we don’t always see it until we want to or need to.

I remember the walls I’d assumed were erected long before my time, but I’d actually built myself. I remember thinking they were permanent, that I was enclosed, that there were simply things that I didn’t get to say or do or speak out against. I think I’d known that I could do something about this limitation for a long time before I actually did something about it. By the time I realized I could do something, it was a point at which I needed to. And once I hit that wall and obliterated it to dust, I hit the other side running.

And I am so glad that I did.

It’s not necessarily about putting people in their places, though at times it’s necessary that you do in order to protect yourself. It doesn’t always have to be in a forceful, volatile way, in fact it rarely needs to be this way with common occurrences. But there’s a delicacy to holding your ground and maintaining your calm. I can’t tell you how to find that because it’s different for everyone and it’s also something I’ve not entirely achieved yet. I’m closer than I’ve ever been though. You need to love yourself and know that you are the one who will live your life and you get just the one chance, so telling someone to worry about their own life is not only fair, but imperative.

My biggest problem with my job is how everything I am told there challenges what I am trying to teach myself. I’m told to keep my mouth shut, that the customers are always right or at least hold extreme precedence over us employees, that every time we get a complaint we have to have an entire store meeting to be told how shitty we are as workers and human beings and that it’s unacceptable, even if the complaint was that something that wasn’t on sale or that we didn’t use the coupon in the exact fashion the customer wanted, despite the discount still being given (both real examples).

I had a SodaStream canister backhanded hard across the counter at me because it wasn’t free and the customer didn’t like that. And my manager stood there and watched. I didn’t even know what to say, I was shocked. And the guy just kept yelling at me until I called the manager on duty up to tell him exactly what I’d said, but the man was much more civil to the other man of more authority and completely understood when it was coming from his mouth. In order to avoid repercussions, I had to hold my tongue.

It’s not the first nasty word thrown my way, it’s not even the first object I’ve had come at me, just the hardest one. That isn’t the point, or maybe it is. It’s a different point. This is about being a decent, respectful human being rather than a multi-levelly abusive asshole. The other point I’m making is that I’m paid to go against everything I’m trying to teach myself in order to live a good, sturdy life in which I can love myself. We are a society driven on a demand for dehumanization of each other because we don’t want to deal with the concept of another entire collection of experiences, heartaches, personality traits, and beliefs being inside every human being on the face of this earth. It’s much easier to get pissed off at a face behind a register when a pack of pillowcases is $2.00 more than what you thought it was. There is no respect for the complexity of life in other bodies, in other minds. Perspective has become one-sided in so many people and it’s ignorant and harmful.

I had a dream last night that I was at work, ringing at the register, and an angry man slammed a wine glass into my face. The force of impact shattered my right cheekbone and a sliver of bone split and pierced my right eye. Blood was pouring out of my face, my nose, my eye, I couldn’t see, and I was sobbing, and he was still yelling at me, and my manager started yelling and the other customers in line were getting angry because they had to wait and one woman demanded to know why I wasn’t doing my job. That’s the level of dehumanization that can come with service jobs, particularly when you’re walking in with depression or another mental illness or handicap of any kind from the start.

The world demands that you’re stripped down to a background detail by others while demanding you do the same to everyone else. And still the same people who scream at me at my job will walk into church every Sunday and talk about being kind to others or lament to their friends over $7 salads about how people are so cruel to each other after seeing some Buzzfeed article about the latest celebrity fat-shaming scandal.

We’re a world full of dueling perspectives, taught to have only one from a long-time practice of selfishness because that’s the only way to get by when that’s how everyone else thinks. How else are we supposed to protect ourselves when we are the only ones we can control and everyone else still tries to control us? Everyone is an individual maelstrom of experience and emotion. Imagining all that contained in one injured planet is impossible to fathom, but looking at one person at a time, the one across the sales counter, the one across the street, the one you have the opportunity to hold a door open for, is a good place to start.

Someday I might get less preachy when it comes to this stuff. Today’s not that day.

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Stumbled upon this virtual loveliness.

I’m fascinated by this game. That’s really all I’ve got so far. I’ve seen a few videos done of it, but this one’s mine and it’s the most in-depth I’ve seen so far (though I’ve viewed perhaps two others).

I need to start posting on here more again.

Hope all is well with all of you. A lot has changed on my end, but possibly for the better. More to follow. Stay warm as winter waltzes out (hopefully).

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