On Love.

I had an idea once

That love was struggle

Consistency boring

Fire and passion short lived

Patience unimportant

You taught me that all I thought was misguided

And you loved in a way that I was unable

And most regrettably of all, incapable of learning.

But I know now.

You gave me so much.

But in the end you gave me everything.

A lesson I’d have never learned without you.

A parting gift of the greatest kind.

Packaged and shipped in an envelope across seas and across years.

(I am able)

 

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Resonance 

I always have a feeling about a place. Any place that I travel or I live in for any amount of time. Always an immediate gut reaction. What confuses me now is that I don’t feel anything about the particular place that I’m in. I don’t have an urge to leave and I don’t have an urge to stay. It’s just a blank nothing and I don’t know what to do about it or if I should do anything at all. This is a short post but it’s what I’m thinking about lately and so I suppose…. worth mentioning.

On Focus. 

I had a professor that used to say “what you focus on you amplify”. He said it so many times I think of it often even all these years later. 

I think of it when I force myself to take a step back from whatever it is I’m dwelling on at the time and to realize that the thing I am giving power to is a negative thought, unfortunate circumstance, or am upsetting memory or emotion. 

I have to ask myself if focusing on this thing or idea (whatever it might be) could ever change it or be productive, or if the amount of time/effort I’m giving it is simply feeding the flames of self doubt and relinquishing power to past events… Past events that have no bearing on the here and now, or have no business in doing so.

It is an active process; changing your thought pattern and your focus. It is mental hard work that takes an effort physically akin to lifting railroad tracks and switching them to another line. 

The past cannot be changed. That even goes for something as near as yesterday. Ugly things have happened. Ugly things will happen. But the most important thing, when you feel yourself fall into that hole that those ugly moments create, is to use the power you have to remember the beautiful. 

Because life truly is beautiful. It is a thing that we can experience only once. One extremely limited life in an extremely constricted time frame but it is our only one. No matter what happens you owe it to whatever greater power took the time to make life possible for you and for you to breathe and think and make decisions and love and be and exist. 

The last five years have been a trial for me. I have learned what losing family is. I’ve learned of illness and grief and solitude and guilt and self-doubt and self-destruction. I have questioned myself and my decisions and my worth and my purpose. At times I find myself dwelling on these events. This is where the railroad tracks come in.

When I am drowning I have learned to make myself focus on the good… That also in these last five years I have done so much living; That I have train hopped in Europe, gave away everything I owned and learned so much from it, graduated college and then graduated again, started a new and meaningful career, moved 2000 miles, deepened even already deep friendships with my amazing friends, galloped on horseback in the Italian countryside, slept in a beach cave and swam with sea turtles, overcome fears of incompetency, read outlook-changing books, heard life changing stories of people I made friends with in hostels and on trains. 

And even without these experiences, at a basic level, there is so much to be thankful for. I have a healthy body. A healthy mind. I have family. I have a car. I have clean drinking water, books, a roof over my head, food. I do not struggle to survive and I don’t fear for my safety. 

Everything that I have just mentioned, from safety to train hopping, all of these things could so easily be taken for granted or overlooked in moments of despair. Most often overlooked is that you have the ability and power to focus on the good rather than the bad. We can focus on good moments and realizations and memories when the negative begins to raise its ugly head. You have this choice. 

Viktor Frankl, in his book that has forever changed my life, says that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – your attitude in any given set of circumstances,  to choose ones own way.” 

Frankl wrote this as a result of his time in Auschwitz. If meaning and beauty in the form of his novel can come of an experience such as this then what business do you have dwelling on the trivialities and trials and sad times of life today?

Someone in this world, no matter what you are going through, has it much worse than you do. Someone would give anything for the life you are cursing. Someone who is no longer living would love to trade places with you and live the life they were denied. The life you have right now. 

All is a matter of perspective. A perspective that you set for yourself because that is another gift we have been given – the gift of self-awareness and power of mind. 

I think all of us could use a reminder of this from time to time. It is within your control to feel grateful and to focus on feeling grateful. Because, remember, what you focus on you amplify. Amplify the good.  

Life and what’s become of it

It’s 11 a.m. and I’m sitting on the hood of my car watching a bison scratch its head on a broken tree branch. He stares at me with dull eyes. Everything feels surreal. I’m in Denver Colorado of all random places to be in this world. This is where I was sent to. You know I don’t like smoking or the way it makes me feel but I gave it a try because anything is preferable to being sober on a day like this. Drinking alone sounds absolutely horrible. Today is the day of your funeral. And while I tried to be there, circumstances out of my control have kept me out. I’ve spoken with your mother and your brother and your friends. Your mother told me she talked to you yesterday  and told you I would be there soon, but she would let you know now that I tried. This comforts me and in return I’ve told her that I would give anything to be there but the words ring cheap. I really did try my best. I can’t say that there’s any more that I could have done in order to say goodbye to you in person. But you’re thousands of miles away and I’m here at this Wildlife Refuge because I couldn’t think of anywhere else to go.

Eventually I climb down off of my hood and I take a walk on a trail.  It is a perfect sunny day and it’s a 2-mile trail and it goes by some trees and a lake and I pretend that you’re there with me holding my hand and I talk to you. And I tell you the things that I have not said to you while you were in this life with me. And I hope and pray that you can hear them because I need you to hear them. But sometimes I’m too realistic for my own good and doubt gnaws at me from the darkest places. Doubt that tells me that since I didn’t take the chance to say these things to you while you breathe air now you’ll never know them because you can’t hear them and my talking is in vain. But I have to follow through with this anyway because the way that you left cuts a person to their core with guilt and questions and with sharp memories and even sharper scenarios that will never occur. Because they can’t occur. Because death is so very final and you can never go back and you can never try again.

On my walk I talk to you and I realize how stupid I have been and how selfish I am currently being in trying to tell you these things when I had all the chances in the world to tell you them before and this is what I’m thinking out on this walk instead of thinking of you and the Darkness that you were in and all the things that you will miss in life and never have. That you won’t ride your bike again, that you won’t be married , that you won’t have children, you’ll never get to see what new career path would have blossomed for you, you won’t watch your brother become the successful man he’s growing into, you can’t be there for your parents now when they are old and they need your care. But my selfish thoughts cycle back and I continue telling you what I have to tell you. That all these thoughts and feelings are sinking me and I miss you terribly.

In life you told me that I had motivated you. That you wouldn’t be where you were without me. You would say to me “it’s always been you Emily”. Your last message to me told me that the happiest moments in your life were with me and when I think of this it stabs me in the heart because I don’t deserve that from you. I don’t deserve that and I still don’t and I never will. Because it took this happening for me to realize what a beautiful gift I had in you.

And now that you are gone you have left me with an even greater gift. More than anything I could have ever done for you. You have shown me what love is. That it is choosing to see the positives in a person. There’s so much that we had been through but you made the choice to see only the good while I chose to see the negative. Your love was complete and it was selfless and all-encompassing. It was patient and calm and completely untainted by jealousy or insecurity. You have shown me what a man truly is and can be. You’ve shown me how very stupid I have been, mistaking less than this for real when real was what had been staring me in the face all these years.

Sometimes now in an instant, in the time it takes me to blink my eyes, I uncover a memory of you that I had previously forgotten. Laughing while we dip behind the trees in the night in Hyde Park and joke about vampires. Sitting in your car changing clothes so we could do more photos for your photography class. Painting your wall in your rented bedroom chocolate brown which I talked you into. Taking walks holding hands in our old neighborhood. That white and grey t-shirt you had on one time that I wrapped my arms around your waist. The way you smelled. Your voice. Your noises. Your laugh. They will forever haunt me and I welcome it. Because it will be a reminder to look at myself the way that you looked at me. And to love myself the way that you loved me. And to never accept less from anyone else.

You were a gift to me and until now I was too blind to know this. It’s always been you you used to say. Well love it will always be you now. And if I’m lucky I’ll meet you again in the next life. Keep my heart until then.

Today 

The snow falls

And it melts

And it falls again

And it’s summer

And it’s spring

Until they are all the same

And it’s always just what it is

Another day

Another night

Another morning

Lovers love,  they fight,  they forget 

People are walking down the street 

Staring at their phones 

Breathing another breath 

Another another 

Zombie walking into the day

And into the next day

And the snow falls and falls and it’s summer again

Standing with Women.

I went to Planned Parenthood for the first time when I was 16 years old. It was a couple months before my 17th birthday and I was as any other almost 17 year old is… working a part time minimum wage job and broke. Based on my income level I was able to receive an exam and birth control for next to nothing in cost. Times have changed since then. Last time I had an exam at Planned Parenthood I was 29 years old and paid 90 something for the exam alone, which I do not believe was based on my income. It was the price for an exam for any patient regardless of income level. I was fortunate enough to be able to afford the cost, but I was left wondering how in the world the new generation of 16 year olds (or under 21 year olds really)  would be able to come up with this amount.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana was subjected to a funding decrease from 3.3 million to 1.9 million between the years of 2005 to 2014. They were also hit by a bill in 2011 that geared towards defunding the provider from Medicaid reimbursements altogether (crucial for low-income patients). Planned Parenthood was not specifically named by the proposed legislation but it sought to include “any entity that performs abortions” in the state. However, federal medicaid prohibits discrimination of funding against any provider other than for a failure to provide quality care, and the GOP-lead legislation was ultimately blocked by a federal judge.

The damage caused by the funding decrease over the years did eventually hurt Indiana’s PP, causing many clinics to close their doors altogether; a great deal of these in small towns with limited or no other low-income family planning providers.

The planned parenthood I went to last was able to still provide the birth control pill at a discounted cost but other methods, such as NuvaRing cost up to 75 dollars monthly. This cost, combined with the cost for the initial exam is not cheap and especially not affordable for younger women. That may as well have been a thousand dollars for me back when I first went there, I wouldn’t have had it. Though I did have the luxury of having a parent that was willing to talk to me about contraception and was willing help financially if needed… but many girls do not.

The importance of availability of birth control to young girls cannot be understated. Your life is changed forever if you are faced with the challenges of becoming a young mother. Those who preach abstinence until marriage may preach all they like, but the fact of the matter is, teenagers will and do have sex (gasp!). Repression of human nature is never going to work out in the repressors favor. And for repression in this instance, when we are discussing control over the body and reproduction, the consequences are far too dire to just shut our eyes and pretend it won’t happen.

Misinformation can be catastrophic. This is why I believe in places like Planned Parenthood, that try so hard to be a safe space and one of information, informed choices, and financial assistance. I have been taken by surprise on many occasions when a young girl has reached out to me with questions and a general lack of knowledge on contraceptives, STD’s and where to go… where to even start… looking for answers and making appointments and starting the pill.

Which brings me to the core of this post. I am terrified in light of the recent election, for our young girls out there. The general attitude of the Republican party towards women’s reproductive rights, the outright war the have waged on places like Planned Parenthood for the better part of the century, the talk of overturning Roe vs. Wade by the president-elect… I fear that we could lose much of the progression we have made towards ensuring women’s health rights. Especially under the single party rule (house and senate) we will be living under for the next two years (at a minimum). A lot of damage can be inflicted in two years.

This is a cause that is near and dear to my heart and always has been. I want no girl to feel like she has nowhere to turn. I want no girl to be faced with making a potentially life-changing decision, to have sex without contraceptives, solely because of her financial situation. Instead of fearing what may occur I’m going to assume the worst and I have instead been in the process of writing up a business plan for a local non-profit (with hopes of becoming national at some point) that will cover the cost left over to any female patient under the age of 21 for an exam and contraceptive method.

The idea came to me while talking to a friend about her not being able to afford to go to her gynecologist to renew her birth control prescription. She was instead using a secondary method and we started discussing how in the world young girls afford this when still sometimes, over the age of 30 and working fill time jobs, we cannot. We talked about how we would love to be able to donate that, to pay for that, for an individual that needed help. Then the light bulb went off.  I would like to set this up as just that. What you donate goes straight to one individual in need. That is a charity that I can get behind. I still need to work the details out. Stay tuned.

 

You Don’t have to Live Life like People Say you Should.

Acceptable patterns. They reside in everything in life. In work. In travel. In dating.

Life should go a little something like this: Go to college, meet someone in college, date for 2-4 years, graduate, start a job, get married, buy a house, have kids, work, vacation for a week once a year.

Work. Use your degree to start a job immediately out of college. Find a career that you love and gives your life meaning.  Work 40 hours a week. Save for retirement.

Dating. Take your time. Find someone acceptable. Assess compatibility. Assess potential parenting skills and long term outlook. Ensure that this is heading towards marriage. Focus on the fact that it must end in marriage.

Travel. Pick a tourist friendly destination. Save up enough money for a hotel you will spend very little time in. Plan a daily itinerary. Make sure you have enough allotted for daily restaurant lunches and dinners.

Screw all of that. Travel cheap. Stay in a hostel, get out of your comfort zone. Sleep on a beach. Eat fruit the whole week, it’s cheap and healthy. Don’t buy BS you don’t need, take photographs and keep those. Date because you enjoy someones company, without expectations. Rent if you aren’t comfortable buying. Live in an igloo if that’s what feels right to you. Work part time if you want to. Work for a check and find meaning in other things.

I love the lifestyle shift I’ve been seeing lately in blogs and on social media. Couples quitting their 9 to 5’s and moving onto a boat or into an RV. People detailing how they live well working part-time, on less that 30,000 a year  with a spouse and children. Being able to spend time together rather than be away all the time. Tiny houses. Using free renewable energy. Unshackling themselves from electricity bills and mortgages. Communal living. Gardening. Redefining how we think of life and going against the grain of acceptability. Making it work for them on their own terms. Freeing time for doing what they love and experiencing more of those moments in life that define it. Not tying themselves to material things, not deciding that a new car, a big TV, and a ridiculous house are what is necessary to be happy or to follow the pattern.

It bothers me to think of the time I have spent trying to live life how I was told I should live life. Then subsequently feeling the pressure of not living freely weigh me down so much that I am unhappy and at odds with myself, tied to a life that society presented to me as the only option. At which point I usually burn my life down and restart. But as I get older I realize it doesn’t have to be that way. If live as I want to live I can avoid the pattern of feeling boxed and constrained.

If the patterns I described above fit you then by all means live that. My whole point in this is to say live what makes you feel fulfilled.

But I am speaking to those that that have always felt disconnected from the pattern. To those that fight their nature to fit it. Those that have attempted, as I have, to shut out that little voice in their head that says this isn’t you until you can hear nothing else because that voice has grown to an outright scream.

You don’t have to follow any pattern because at the end of this life you answer only to yourself. Live freely.