yes to being alive

I came to a realization the other day. Not a fun one, either.

I am closed down.

I am joyless.

I am sleepwalking.

I have been saying no for a long time. As a method of self-preservation, which seemed like an honorable, even necessary, choice at the time. I was emotionally devastated after my miscarriages, and I needed to take care of myself. That is true. But I took it too far, curled too far into myself and shut out the light completely. And if I’m being honest, I have been saying yes (the wrong yes) to inaction and complaining for much longer than that. For years. For most of my life.

I wanted to travel. Instead of saving the money and going, I complained that I was too broke, then spent all my money on other things.

I wanted to be a writer. Instead of sitting down and writing, then sending those pieces to publications, I complained that I would never get noticed.

I wanted to find a purpose. Instead of pursuing what I was interested in, the things I already knew were my passions, I turned away and complained about not knowing what my path was.

It was all so much easier. Saying no, protecting myself, taking the safe route and never taking a chance. Those things are so easy.

But I can’t do it anymore.

I have this deep fear of wasting my life. Soul deep. It paralyzes me sometimes. Okay, it paralyzes me a lot of the time. It gets so huge and so overwhelming that I end up freezing, doing nothing, so overcome with the need to make it count. So, of course, I have ended up doing nothing most of the time. Which is such a waste.

Oh, the irony.

The other day, I finished reading Shonda Rhimes’s book, Year of Yes. I powered through it in a matter of days. Everything she said spoke right to my soul. Spoke right to the thing in me that was saying no to everything that came up in my life. And I realized that I was hurting myself. By saying no to living, I was attacking the core of who I am.

 

I want to live. I just want to live while I’m alive. I want to be here. I want to take up space. I want to say yes, I want to fail, I want to succeed, I want to try and try and try some more. I want to open up to life. It doesn’t have to be big. I don’t have to be Shonda Rhimes or JK Rowling for my life to be meaningful (but hey, if that’s in the cards, great). I just have to, you know, live.

So from now on, I am saying yes. I am saying yes to things that scare me. I am saying yes to stepping outside of my comfort zone, to taking steps, to doing. 

From now on, I am saying yes to being alive.

yes to being alive

January Book Discussion: Life in Outer Space

outerspace

This was such a sweet book, and a fun, quick read. Set in Australia (it actually took me a little while to realize this…anyone else?)! I love trying to hear accents in my head, haha.

A few quick thoughts:

  • 150 bonus points for mentioning the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, which I think I have seen about 100 times and can probably still quote beginning to end.
  • I love that Sam watches horror movies with his mom. I thought their relationship was very sweet and I would have liked to have seen more of it, though I recognize that that was not really what this book was about.
  • Camilla was an interesting character who could have been a cliche but felt very fleshed out and real. I think all of the main characters were, actually. At first, I thought Allison was going to be kind of a cardboard cut out character, but she ended up having some depth and layers, too. I liked that Mike was gay but that it wasn’t “a thing.” He wasn’t “the gay character.” He was just a character.
  • What are your thoughts on what the title means? I didn’t notice any specific references to life in outer space (though I will admit that I read quite quickly and have a tendency of skipping over paragraphs that don’t look like they contain pertinent information. Yes, this does occasionally/frequently bite me in the ass). I think perhaps it is referring to the idea of becoming untethered from our normal way of thinking about things and being catapulted into a different perspective, but I don’t know. I’d love to know your theories!
  • I like that Sam was a writer. His obsessions were a nice framework and provided a good through-line that helped guide the book. It wasn’t just “my character will be a writer and this will have no relevance whatsoever.” The ideas of creation and creativity and genuine love for something are a major theme (Sam’s writing, Camilla’s music, Mike’s karate). It was a nice touch to have his writing tie in with his eventual realization of Camilla’s reciprocal love for him.

Okay, guys. Your turn. Thoughts in the comments!

PS. Pick the book for next month here

January Book Discussion: Life in Outer Space

on vulnerability

My hands shook as I pushed the letter through the slot. My fingers didn’t want to let go. I stood in the snowy, white cold for a long moment as I tried to convince my muscles to release the letter. To release my vulnerability into the world. I heard it land in the mailbox. I scrambled back into my car and sat for a moment, trying to get my breathing under control and talking myself out of throwing up.

***

Emotional vulnerability is hard. No one is going to argue with that, right? Telling people how we really feel – I love you, I don’t love you, you hurt me, I’m scared – leaves our deepest and most sensitive selves open to the ridicule, cruelty, and rejection of others. Often the people we care about the most, who hold the most ability to devastate us.

So my reaction that day, as I sent a letter winging across the city to the man in my life I have loved the longest, detailing the ways in which I felt our relationship had gone off course and was causing both of us pain, doesn’t surprise me. The 36 hours it took for him to receive the letter were riddled with an unsurprising amount of anxiety. I was laying my soul bare before one of the most important people in my life and asking him to still love me. Of course I was terrified.

But the thing about emotional vulnerability is that it often leads to the biggest pay-off. People tend to respond to genuine honesty and heartfelt pleas to hear me and see me and love me. Sure, sometimes they don’t respond well at first. Sometimes your honesty requires them to look at themselves in a way that is painful or that they might not be ready for. But lots of the time, when you lay yourself on the line with someone, they will respond in kind.

My letter to my father resulted in an hours-long conversation that was the most raw exchange we’ve ever had. It helped us understand each other better, and the ways in which we’d been our own worst enemies when it came to relating to one another. I learned things about my father I never knew before, and I told him things that had been weighing on me for years.

Our entire relationship shifted, and we have begun to establish a new, more positive equilibrium. He came over for dinner for the first time. We are talking regularly. I feel like we know each other better, and love each other better, too.

None of that would have been possible if I hadn’t had the courage to be vulnerable. Equally important, it wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t had the courage to be as equally vulnerable with me.

I know vulnerability is scary. It is supposed to be. Lean into it, when it feels right. I’m sure you will be rewarded for it.

PS. Brene Brown knows what she is talking about.

on vulnerability

my own personal reading challenge

Every year, Goodreads has a reading challenge. It is pretty basic: “how many books do you want to read this year?” I have done it for the past three or four years, and while it is a good motivator to read more, reading more is not my issue. Last year, I read 153 books. My issue, reading so much, is that I find myself forgetting a lot of what I have read. Seeing a book he knows I have read, Bryan will ask me a question about it, but a lot of the time, I will only be able to shrug noncommittally rather than reply. I move on so quickly from one thing that I barely have time to digest what I have read before I am diving headlong into the next. That is one of the reasons I started the Young Adulters book club; I knew that it would force me to slow down, to really engage with what I was reading, in order to facilitate discussion. I also started a reading journal, where I write down quotes that grab me, thoughts on the characters and plot, questions I need addressed, etc. It has helped me, as well, but it is also easy to forget about it.

So this year, instead of choosing another high number of books to read, I chose a relatively low one, and I am focusing, instead, on going deeper. On choosing to read books that really resonate with me, or challenge me. I was going to do the PopSugar reading challenge, but I quickly realized that that was more of the same: forcing myself into a box not of my own choosing. Instead, I’m building my own box. Or rather, a map out of my box, where I have snuggled up with the things that make me comfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to read the things that I love, but I am also going to go out of my way to search out new reading experiences that are a little bit outside my realm of experience, outside my comfort zone. That is where life is supposed to start, right?

I have nine personal reading goals for 2016. They are as follows:

  1. Read 1 book per month by a non-white, non-Canadian/American/British writer. I used this resource to come up with a list of possibilities.
  2. Read 5 classic novels.
  3. Read 1 book from a political viewpoint that I disagree with. (Ann Coulter, maybe?)
  4. Read 1 biography.
  5. Read 3 books of poetry.
  6. Read 5 plays not written by Shakespeare.
  7. Read 1 history book.
  8. Read 1 book on finance or business.
  9. Read 1 book that is more than 800 pages.

If I think of any more, I will add them at a later date! I also plan on posting about my literary adventures, so be sure to follow along. For now, tell me: what do you plan on reading in 2016?

my own personal reading challenge

the December 26th blues

I seem to have the December 26th blues (yes, I know it’s January). The blur of Christmas is behind me and now… Well. It isn’t that I want more or I was disapppointed by the holidays. It is that I am so, so tired.

Christmas requires a lot of family time. There is a whole lot of together time and not a lot of me time. Disappearing into a quiet, empty room to be alone for a while is only tolerated to a certain extent. My family has a better understanding of my introverted needs now, but still, vanishing for more than an hour invites questions, and feeling the weight of that dread ‘should.’  I should be with my family right now. I should be playing a game with my sister. I should be talking to somebody. I shouldn’t be playing Candy Crush on my phone, alone in the dark, finding time and space to breathe.

I will admit that most of this pressure, these shoulds, are self-imposed. My youngest sister is even more introverted than I am and requires even more alone time in order to function socially. Through her, my family has come to understand a bit more about introvertedness, and no longer views our need to duck away as an abnormality, or a comment on the company. They recognize that it is simply something that we need to do in order to be our best selves later.

But there are some memories from my adolescence that have been imprinted in my brain, that make it hard for me to take those times, guilt-free. Times when I was castigated for removing myself from a party in order to read and replenish some of my energy because it was rude. Times when others were still struggling to understand this need I had and fumbled through it inexpertly. Times when I felt like there was something wrong with me because the rest of my family was living it up upstairs and all I wanted to do was curl up in my bed and read until I fell asleep.

So I have to force myself to take the time that I need. And in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it is easy to forget about it. It is easy to tell myself that now isn’t a good time, that I am needed, that I will do it later. But then…I don’t. The “right” time never arrives, and so I am left in the wake of the day, drained and frustrated and cranky.

My patience and tolerance have been at an all time low for the past few days. Everything Bryan does or says, no matter what it is, grates on my nerves. Our families are big; I have a blended family, and Bryan’s parents are split, too, which means that, inevitably, we end up having at least three Christmases. Sometimes four. This year, I found myself almost completely unable to muster any energy or enthusiasm for any of our subsequent Christmases. I was over it. So very done with Christmas and all of the socializing it requires. All I wanted to do, for days on end, was stay at home, read a book, and be by myself.

The slump is slowly lifting. I have had some time, now, to do those things that I was craving. To read, to write, to do art, to workout, to be alone. I feel somewhat recharged. As I head back to work and fall into a routine once more, I think it will get better. I will start to feel more like myself.

But this sharp dip into melancholia has shown me how important it is to anticipate when I am going to need to be alone, and to make sure that I take the time to be so, regardless of what else is going on and how guilty I might feel about it. No matter who is over, and how many games are being played, and what conversations are going on around me, I need to ensure that I take the time to slip away when I need it. Even just for a few minutes. Even just to pop outside and breathe some fresh air. I need to make my mental health more of a priority, and do so guilt-free. I think people understand more than I think they do.

Hopefully, this time next year, I will feel less like a zombie and more like a real person.

How was your Christmas? Do you experience the post-Christmas slump too?

the December 26th blues