True Life: Homebody

After reading Quiet by Susan Cain, I’ve been thinking a lot about how social media has slowly been demolishing real life social skills while simultaneously making extroversion a competitive sport.

Many introverts suffer from social phobia, or what I like to call – human nature.

Social Phobia (Or Social Anxiety Disorder): the fear of judgement. The fear of making a mistake, being embarrassed, or feeling criticized by others.

 

Everyone should take peak at this article about one woman’s week long challenge to quit social media entirely. I myself have attempted to do this as well.  I completely quit Facebook almost 2 years ago.  While I would love to say it was to reconnect with the real world, it was more to run away, to avoid my social phobias.

Living my life on Facebook (and Instagram, too – though I haven’t been able to give up those perfect little squares yet) only aggravated these fears in me.  I was constantly comparing my life profile to those around me and I would find myself embarrassed of things I had no control over.  I was embarrassed of the fact that I never left this town while so many of my peers were posting pictures and videos of their adventures abroad and beyond.  I was ashamed by the lack of passion I felt. I did not have an exciting career or desirable location. Why? Well, partly because I still have no idea what the fuck I want to do with my life, but also because I have family here that needs me. So I would get discouraged, feel inadequate, and shut down.

My fear of entering a new social situation prevented me from putting myself in situations where I would make new friends or networking connections. I had a picture of what my life was supposed to look like and what I saw on the screen in front of me didn’t even come close.  The problem was that I felt lost how to make it a reality.

So I found it was so much easier to not exist – on Facebook at least. I felt more peaceful not having to count the likes or follow the threads or admit that my life was not what I wanted it to be.  It wasn’t so much about being popular as it was about being interesting.  It was about being someone that people looked at and thought, “Wow, that’s awesome! She’s really going places.” Because the truth is that I’m not going places.  I am staying here where I feel safe.  And although I would love to be in the mountains, or be able to drive to the beach, or experience big city pride – I would quite honestly rather stay home.  I would rather be snuggled with my love, hiding from the world. I am fulfilled by the love that I feel in real life, but only when I stop paying attention to what I may or may not be missing, while the “love” from social media always made me feel desperate for more.

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The Sanctuary.

I can’t help but scowl as I approach the building.

Same structure – subtle differences.

Those same three trees, all pine,

Sprouted between the rocks we used to climb as kids.

Waiting for our mothers to end their conversations.

But that was years ago; we’ve all grown old now.

 

Walking inside, I remember every corner.

My mental map folds itself away.

There is no comfort in this familiarity.

 

I am here for a reason:

A gathering of mourners to my left.

But instead, I turn right.

Walking past new paintings, the same scent of stale coffee fills the air.

 

I pause at the wall of windows.

Looking in, I know I will be alone.

 

As I pull the door open, an all-too-familiar rush of air

fills my lungs with an intimacy I cannot explain.

Yet the sound of its emptiness completely takes my breath away.

The vacant seats feel as hallow as my heart was the last time I was here.

 

This was where we said goodbye.

This is where I exhaled, released.

 

But now I am gasping.

I cannot make my legs walk down the aisle.

I stand with my back against the door.

This room always felt as though someone left a window open:

Airy and unfilled and eerily brisk.

 

I feel the panic rising.

My heart races with the lack of yours here.

I whisper your name.

I want to cry out but I don’t,

For fear of an echo I’m not quite sure I’m ready to hear.

 

I whisper your name with each breath that I catch.

Collecting pieces of myself that I dropped on this floor six years ago.

Gathered, I turn and leave.

 

The wounds will heal with time

but right now, they need to open up and breathe.

Even though it hurts like hell.

 

To Be Alone.

Quite honestly, I suck at being alone. Ironically, I also hate being around a lot of people. It is truly exhausting for me to be in social situations. My ideal group of people is no more than six. Because of this, I have a chronic history of long term relationships. I enjoy settling in with someone and staying with them for a long, long time. I enjoy the feeling of comfortable. I am not alone, but often, I am only with the other person. When one relationship ends, I always find myself itching to fill the space that is left behind. While some of my itchiness is due to scar tissue I’d rather not discuss, it’s mostly there simply because the idea of being alone completely terrifies me. It’s a sad fact, but I’m pretty sure the longest I have gone without a warm body next to me is only about 2 months. Granted, I have always cared about these warm bodies; I’ve even loved most of them, but what I valued the most was the comfort and safety they provided me.

You see, to be alone you have to be honest. To be honest, you cannot lie about what you want or what you need.

And all that I want is to have someone who I can come home and vent about my day to. I want someone who will hold me when I’m sad and take care of me when I’m sick. I want someone who will let me do the same. I want someone who will go on adventures with me, but also chill out and be completely okay with relaxing in silence together. But I need someone who is patient. I need someone who understands the balance of pushing me outside of my comfort zone in necessary moments but also retreating into my comfort zone with me as needed.

When I really take a step back to fully evaluate what it is I’m searching for, it feels impossible to separate out my desires to be a mother from my desires to fall in love. I have such a strong urge to start a family, but I still believe that a family starts with the base of a trusting, faithful partner. But how the hell do I make that happen in the age of Tinder?

I do not want a one night stand. I do not want a fuck buddy. I do not want a friends with benefits. I want a relationship that is meaningful. I want a relationship that is actually fucking going somewhere. But in this day and age, that is too much pressure to place on someone. That is too stressful for most twenty-somethings to consider at this point in time.

So I’ve decided to stop waiting for something to happen. I’ve decided to stop trying to fill the void with a warm body and instead replace the emptiness with the little things that bring me joy. As cliche as it sounds, I am fully committed to this new journey of self love. I am living my life for me and no one else. As this page is designed to benefit me, and not necessarily other people, I have made a list of the moments in my day when I often feel lonely or alone. From that list, I have provided myself with ways to fill those lulls instead of moping around in my loneliness.

  1. Driving home from work – Call one of my people across the country and focus on their day instead of my own.
  2. After gym&dinner, but before bed – (Netflix helps to an extent during this time because I mostly just want to relax, but I’m also trying not to indulge too often.) Instead – Read a book, write a letter, organize.
  3. Saturday Afternoons – (The gym also helps but that only takes up so much time.) Instead – Work on my upholstery project, work on clearing out the house, visit Treasure Mart, and hopefully once it gets warm, go on hikes!
  4. Falling Asleep – This is the hardest part of my day. In college, my school work and job were exhausting enough to never need aid in falling asleep. I have found that reading a damn good book (Like “The Girl on the Train”) helps a fuckton. But unfortunately, I became reliant on nightly phone calls or texts from a significant other to help calm me before falling asleep. You see, I have this complex where I need someone to know that I am going to sleep before I can sleep soundly. Even when I was living at my old apartment, I always said goodnight to my roommate.  I’m not sure if it will help, and in a way it makes me sound a little insane, but I am going to say goodnight to my dad. I used to talk to him a lot before I fell asleep, especially in high school.

So there is it. I am filling my time with productivity. I am spending my time at work, at the gym, or cooking new dishes. I am focusing on me. Although that feels unnatural, I know that it is exactly what I need to be doing at this point in my life.

My Gravity.

During my freshmen year at Eastern, a creative writing professor suggested that I write out every detail I could remember from the night, and even the week surrounding my father’s death. As I did, I remembered the fear, the confusion, the terrible sadness that comes with the realization that someone you love is gone. Not for a day, not for a week, but forever, for always. You love them and they are gone and nothing you can do can fix or change that. For years after my dad died and years after I took that class, the only way that I knew how to cope or calm myself down was to relive the days surrounding his death. When I felt myself spinning away, I would read the words over and over again until I finally accepted them to be true again. It was a purge of all of the grief that I push aside daily in order to go on with my life. It was my coping mechanism. It was source of reality. It was my gravity.

Sunday September 20, 2009.

I went to the powder puff game.

But the game was long over.

I stayed out later than I should have.

I shouldn’t have been out with him at all.

I’m never out this late.

My parents didn’t call me to come home.

I got worried.

Something wasn’t right.

Ben drove me home.

There’s an ambulance in the front yard.

I ran inside.

Monica pulls me aside.

Mom is in my parent’s room.

EMTs came in.

Dad is lying on the bed.

Monica’s arm is still around me.

We’ve never touched before.

They move him to a stretcher.

He has a breathing mask on.

It reminds me of his snoring mask.

The one that helps him sleep.

The one that helps him breathe.

He is not moving.

Mom is crying.

Monica keeps saying, “Oh My God.”

They take him away.

I go to my room.

Mom and Monica drive to the hospital.

I wait for my brother.

I try to text Ben:

“I think my dad had a stroke.”

I call Brian.

I can’t breathe.

I call John.

He is at work.

He does not answer.

I call Bob. I call Tom.

Tom and Lindsay go straight to the hospital.

Bob comes running through the door.

He hugs me.

My brother never hugs me.

He looks like he’s about to cry.

I realize it’s bad.

We wait.

I sit on the stairs.

Like I always did, waiting for daddy.

Finally John comes home.

Tom calls.

But I don’t want to go to the hospital.

He puts mom on the phone.

She says

“Maggie, it’s not good. You need to come.”

We get in the car.

I don’t remember the drive.

We walk to the ER.

John tells us not to cry.

“Mom will lose it.”

We ask the nurse.

She leads us to a room.

Where is daddy?

Surgery.

We enter the room.

A wall of sadness hits me.

Everyone is crying.

Tom is holding mom.

Uncle Jerry is a wreck.

Uncle Jerry never cries.

I rush to my mom.

She is safe.

Mom is always safe.

We sit. We wait.

The doctor comes in.

Where is daddy?

Intensive Care.

Coma.

Brain Dead.

“There is nothing we can do.”

We go upstairs.

We wait.

Brian comes. His mom too.

She takes a cab home.

He stays.

We go home.

Mom stays.

We sleep.  Brian too.

Brian never stays the night.

Back at the hospital.

It’s still dark.

Extended family is there.

Another family too.

They brought pulled pork

We brought donuts.

Daddy loves donuts.

Daddy loved donuts.

We wait. We try to eat.

We never ate.

The doctors let us visit him.

We walk down a hospital hallway.

There are open rooms.

Crying families.

He’s at the end of the hallway.

He’s at the end.

My mom is sitting in the room with him.

There’s a window behind her.

I realize it’s daytime.

And she’s been here the whole time.

I sit down with her.

I don’t remember what John said.

I don’t cry.

Daddy looks like he’s sleeping.

He’s just sleeping right?

His arm twitches.

His chest rises.

My mom leaves the room.

The doctor is talking outside.

Brain Aneurysm. Organ Donor.

“But he’s ALIVE”

I want to scream.

I hear him breathing.

I can see him move.

He has tears falling down his face.

He’s alive!

And I am silent.

But mom speaks.

“Yes, I’ll sign the papers.”

The room is empty.

Mom comes to me.

“Do you want a moment with daddy?”

I nod.

And we’re suddenly so formal.

We are never formal.

They close the door.

It is just me and you, daddy.

I climb up on your hospital bed.

I lay my head on your chest.

Like I always do when we sit in the Lazy Boy.

When we watch CSI.

When you watch baseball.

And I watch you.

I remember the first trip to the hospital.

It was just a heart valve.

Easily replaceable, they said.

Blood thinners to help your heart pump blood.

Everything will be just fine.

Blood thinners to thin your blood.

So when you bleed, it doesn’t stop.

So your heart doesn’t stop.

Blood thinners to kill your brain.

To thin your blood so when it bleeds, it doesn’t stop.

I curl into him.

I don’t know what to say.

I am not sad, I am not mad. But I am sorry.

“Daddy?”

The door is cracked, so I whisper.

“I love you daddy, I know you can hear me.

There’s still a chance right?

I could just be dreaming.”

He suddenly felt too warm.

I felt uneasy.

I left the room.

I left my father.

There was a cart sitting outside the door.

With pre-made sandwiches, coffee, creamer.

Everything is pale.

Everything is dull.

I am numb.

Abi had arrived.

My forever friend.

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking.

Uncle Rich takes us to get food.

I am not hungry.

I sit. They eat. I do not feel.

Blank. Dull. Pale.

Someone made a Facebook event.

Memorial Service.

My friends are texting me.

Suddenly the world cares because it’s the thing to do.

It makes me sick.

We go back to his room.

Just us 6 now.

Me, Bob, Tom, John, Mom, and Dad.

We say goodbye.

Like we knew what it meant.

 

 

It’s Monday September 21, 2009.

And my mother is a widow.

I don’t remember.

Everything is jumbled.

I’ve been asleep for days.

It’s Friday now.

Memorial Service.

No one could call it a funeral.

The night before

We made poster boards

With pictures of him that we loved.

While looking through the boxes

We realized

Daddy always took the pictures.

He was never in them.

But we remember the memories.

And he’s in every single one.

The church is empty.

We are early.

Friends arrive.

Family lingers.

Suddenly its full.

Too full.

The choir arrives.

My whole school’s choir.

Here for me. My brothers. My parents.

No. My mom.

People talk. Pastors pray.

Memories are shared.

The entire time, my mom is silent.

My mom is never silent.

My brothers and I stand up.

Tom reads his memory.

I couldn’t call it a eulogy.

He was just telling a story.

About a broken dryer and the perfect amount of change.

About horses and Star Trek

And baseball.

Daddy loved baseball.

Detroit Tigers.

His home team, my tattoo.

I read my poem.

Watch me fly daddy.

I had written it years ago.

The choir sings.

The Irish Blessing.

“And until we meet again,

may God hold you

in the palm of his hand.”

Those words haunt me now.

And then I wake up.

Where is daddy?

Then I remember

And I miss him.

I will always miss him.

But that’s okay.

When Everything is Grey.

True Life: My favorite color is grey.

When asked to pick a “real” color as my favorite, I’ll throw maroon in the mix to humor you. But it is grey that truly gives me more peace and sense of mind than any other shockingly bright or vibrant color. I find simplicity in the deepness of charcoal and calmness in the dusty lightness of grey granite. The hues of black mixed with white, light mixed with dark, are balanced and bare. They are honest. Yet, grey and I have not always gotten along this way.

If you know me well, then you know that A Lack of Color by Death Cab for Cutie is one of my favorite songs (and the inspiration for every internet handle I’ve ever had). Not only do I love the symbolism of it being track #11 on the album, but I have always been fascinated with the lyrics of the song. Over the course of this song’s existence in my life, I have continued to find new meanings behind the lyrics depending on their relevance to my life’s current events. However, the core message that these words have offered to me have always been the same:

If you feel discouraged
That there’s a lack of color here
Please don’t worry lover
It’s really bursting at the seams
For absorbing everything
The spectrum’s a to z

From the time I hit puberty and depression hit me, I have known what it feels like to live with this lack of color. I have known what it feels like to walk around under those never-ending, asshole clouds as I watch everyone around me bask in the sunshine. I have known what it feels like to make that awful, ugly wish for a catastrophe, an accident, anything that would lead to an end to what I was feeling. It’s harsh to admit, but the truth is that there were so many days where the last thing I wanted to be was alive. Every night before bed, I would pray the Lord my soul to take.

Depression is no fucking joke, my friends. It sucks all of the energy out of you and hits you at moments when logically, you know that you should be happy. For those who have had the lucky, rare opportunity to have never felt depressed, I like to show them the diagram below, which I found from this NPR Article.

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Image courtesy of Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, and Jari Hietanen.

 

As you can see, depression literally makes you feel cold and empty inside. (Just like that awful Kid Rock song.) But in all seriousness, it is a dangerous mental illness that far too many overlook or write off as being commonplace. In fact, its so fucking commonplace that the US Preventative Services Task Force just put out a recommendation for all adults to be screened for depression at least once after they turn 18!

Yet, learning how to cope with all of that depression bullshit on top of being an angsty teenager wasn’t exactly easy. I ran away often – to jasmine tea and dim lights, to the solitude of my room and my music, to that song by Death Cab. The song gave me peace in knowing that there was someone, somewhere who understood how sometimes it is impossible to see anything but grey. (And they were writing a song about it!)

Regardless of how blank, muted, and numb my world felt, Ben Gibbard and this song were trying to tell me that the color isn’t lost, the color isn’t gone; I just can’t see it right now. I fell in love with those words from the start. They gave me hope that even though this moment of my life might suck complete ass, it isn’t forever. I know now that the color was all around me and it is truly breathtaking. I know now that I am blessed to have people in my life who were trying to see the color for me. They were trying to show me that it really is bursting at the seams.

I am proud to be able to say that I am okay.

That the moments have passed and I have survived. There days that are still grey, but there are many more that are filled with color. I know it feels impossible to listen to those who tell you that the pain and sadness will go away with time, but its true. And even though I’ve been depressed throughout my life for a fuck ton of different reasons – the hormone changes of puberty, the death of my father, being heart broken and alone, L’s suicide, etc. – with time each of these moments have grown smaller and more conquerable. It has taken years of introspection to get to the point where I am today. The point of admitting that there are going to be days that are just awful, but I can stay ahead of them as long as I am cognizant of the cause of my emotions. That is the point of being able to see all of the colors, but still call your favorite color grey.

I am proud to be able to say that I am happy.

I am proud to say that –

This is fact not fiction
For the first time in years

album-transatlanticism


 

If you are feeling depressed, or cold and empty, or everything is grey, please don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Whether its to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255, or a friend or family member, or your doctor, just talking about what you are feeling can be a huge relief and a giant step towards being able to see the colors.

 

The Little Things.

You hear it all the time – Stop and smell the roses! Appreciate the little things! The little things that make you smile. The little things that bring a moment of peace to your life. The little things that are sprinkled in between the enormous, overwhelmingly big things we face every day. The little things that are so goddamn easy to overlook, drive by, brush off as insignificant in comparison to the much more pressing matters I know we all encounter.

And it may seem cliche and over-said, but the truth is that the little things can save you. It’s all about learning how to press pause, appreciate life for a moment, and actually breathe. Because too often I find myself holding my breath, bracing for the next big thing to happen.

So I decided to make a list of all of the little things that made me smile this week, even when I felt depressed, lonely, incompetent, or stressed out. Each time I encountered a little thing, I took the time to not only notice it, but treasure it by taking three deep Yoga breaths and actively smiling. You’d be surprised by how something so simple can change your mood so easily.

The Little Things – December 14-18, 2015 

  1. Monday – A conversation with my nephew that made me laugh after a long day at work:
    “Ho, ho, ho!” -O
    “And who are you pretending to be?” -Me
    “A pirate!” -O
    “A pirate?? Wait a second. What does Santa say?” -Me
    “Ho, ho, ho!!…….. IS SANTA A PIRATE??” – O
    After further consideration he decided that Santa was indeed not a pirate.
  2. Monday – The rewarding feeling of giving a compliment to a stranger when I told my new yoga instructor that I loved her music choices for class today.
  3. Tuesday – (This was a hard day considering it was Lexi’s birthday) When my favorite bottle of red wine (label below) was on sale for only $8.99! (And I may or may not have drank almost all of it. lolz.)
  4. Wednesday – When the UPS delivery man who I see on a daily basis said, “You have a wonderful day, Sweetie” in an entirely non-creep way!
  5. Thursday – When I found this cover of  The Weeknd’s “The Hills”
  6.  Friday – When I arrived at work 10 minutes early, so I sat in my car and watched the sunrise. I closed my eyes and felt the warm sun on my face and everything felt at peace.
  7. Friday – Experiencing female bonding time at work during our Holiday Sock Exchange. For those of you who have never heard of this WASP-y tradition, it is where the ladies of the office find adorable, fuzzy, holiday socks and stuff them with various ladies things such as nail polish, lip chap, lotion, etc. A clever poem is read aloud about the “Right” family that directs which direction you pass said socks. At the end everyone opens up the socks, gushes over the goodies inside, and then puts on the socks to take an awkward “feet in!” picture. It’s very cheesy but surprisingly a lot of fun! Plus you get free shit.

 

And now I’ve made it to the weekend! I have survived mishaps at work, family arguments, bouts of low self-esteem, and everything else that felt too big to handle this week.

WE MADE IT!!!

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