Your Own Reflection

It’s so easy for people to brush off the emotions of others. Why is that? It’s so easy to brush everything off onto the “bigger” piles of “patriarchy”, “cultural appropriation” and “differences” that we forget that everyone is just as much of a person as we are. Why is it that we are so willing to refuse the courtesy we desire to others who desire it too? I’ll tell you.

We never learned how to take others seriously, let alone take ourselves seriously.

Something you learn as a sufferer of depression is that you can never really know someone. That there is a metaphorical, semi-tangible wall that is built in between each and every person, so that eventually it’s like we’re all trapped in these impermeable bubbles of self. And the only things that can get through these bubbles are negatively charged thoughts and actions: judgment, violence, anger, shame, worthlessness. But soon enough, all those things push out whatever is left in your bubble, until you are filled with negativity yourself. You breathe it in, like the pollution it is and you become trapped. Imagine then, if you will, everyone being like that.

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If the eyes are the windows to the soul, I think the glass is reflective. If you look hard enough at someone, you will almost always see pain. And who’s to say that that isn’t an externalized projection into an internalized emotion?

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In my Facebook news this week, Jim Carrey gave a $200 tip to a waitress. And a state of emergency was issued by the leadership of the Attawapiskat after 11 members of their tribe committed suicide IN THE SAME DAY. An interracial couple was evicted in Mississippi simply for being an interracial couple. The water crisis in Flint, Michigan persists. And I know, you’re thinking, Michelle, what does Jim Carrey have to do with this type of news? Jim is one of millions who suffers from depression. His girlfriend died from it less than a year ago.

We may never know what goes on in the minds of others, unless we take the time to get to know them, their stories. I’ve been “preaching” for months about love, equality, human rights. We all believe some fundamental lie about ourselves-that there is something to be proud of by doing things alone. That we are inherently “less than” if we ask for help, if we reach out. I’m here to put an end to that line of thought.

unhappyYou are not flawed. You are you, and that is enough. Do you hear me? You are not some horrid, wretched creature pulled up from the depths. You are a fierce warrior, battle hardened and brave. You don’t have to do this alone. You never did. There are others there, just beyond, who understand, who have lived that same thing. And they are fighting to find others like them too. All you have to do is reach out.

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I wish there were more words, better ones, that allowed me to express these facts. But the thing is, as I have said on my Facebook page, it is quite easy to take Disney lyrics and make them more philosophical when applied to today’s climate. Just look:

 

I’ll take my leave with this one final picture.

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It Got To Me.

I’ve got a blog scheduled for tomorrow (first time I’ve scheduled one!) that goes into detail about what I will speak on tonight. Tonight I am blogging as a mental purge. As usual, you can ignore it, or you can read it for what it is-me stumbling around, searching for answers. Today, though, I’m going to try something a little different. I present to you:

A Seed

I passed by the garden of the no longer living, their flowers an ashen pillared stone. I hear their whispers call to me, the wind bringing the weepings of those passed on. Regret thickens the air around me, my breath turning to crystals in my chest. A hand reaches out for me, the keeper of the gate claims I have no right to pass through. “Please,” I whisper, “I have already died while I lived. The feelings claimed me, the bondage of my emotions pulled me through the depths and I ceased to be years ago.” He eyed me wearily and nodded, his expression relaxing.

“It is so for many.” He sighed, the sweet tobacco smoke caressing my cheek. My path opened and I could see a single plot of earth undisturbed. My feet glided, the pain in my heart weighing down my steps, until I could barely move them. I reached my reservation, the tension in my body forcing my gaze skyward. I lifted my hands higher, the heavens leaning into my touch. I felt the sorrows of the years form rivulets on my cheeks, washing away the body I had outgrown so many years ago.

“Why?” My heart roared. “Why was I alone for so long? Lost in the ocean, I perished amongst the apathetic and the unconcerned. My blood was spilled for far too long, the agony never being relieved.” The sky above my split, lifting my chin as high as it would go.

“You had to enter oblivion to be made new.”The rumblings of sadness reached my ears just before the cleansing rain. With the last of my awareness, I watched the scars on my wrist become barky ridges. I closed my eyes at last, the sweet peace overcoming me as I’d begged it to for years.

What I had hoped for in death was given to me in life. The world which sought to bury me alive didn’t know that it was that very thing required to bring about the greatest transformation.

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(Image Credit: Willow, at Wallpaper Up)

The story came before I found the photo.

Coffee Cups, Confusion and Compassion

Today’s title seems more like the one I would give my autobiography. (Which is actually a great idea-so if I ever write one, you’ll know what to look for!) Anyway, a little more seriously. Today was served by a healthy dose of the aforementioned things. I don’t necessarily know where today’s blog is headed, but I know I need to write it out. It’s gonna be an adventure for both of us, I guess.

I grabbed my coffee cup this morning, the sleep still clinging to me, unwilling to let go. It felt like a stay-in-bed-and-watch-movies-all-day kind of day. But I drank my coffee anyway and got to work. I’ve spent more or less the past two months being frustrated, confused, brokenhearted, angry, and a whole host of other things. I’ve spent a great long while in depression, I pulled into hypo, I’ve been swamped with homework, stress and just when I think it’s never going to change, I find myself at today. It’s a day filled with more necessary-to-do things.

I told myself when the school year started back in August that I was going to be a new person. I would be stronger, be better, be basically everything that I believed I wasn’t. And now, with a little less than a month to go until the end of the term, I have to take a moment to reflect. Am I any different?

On the one hand, I’ve only lost 14 pounds since August. But I no longer binge-eat. I am more educated buy a year. But I feel that I am nowhere near as educated as I need to be. I’m better at budgeting, and I haven’t paid bills late once. But I stress out more, and most of it is money related. I drink more water. But I still drink soda. I know myself more. But I’m still conflicted about who I am.

In just the past eight months, I have discovered my passion in life, my niche, my calling. I have felt more conflicted about it than I think I believed I could. I have found the worst emotions possible, so much so that they tasted like bile in my mouth at the mere thought. But I have also found great motivation to change those feelings into something that could make the world beautiful. I have faced adversity and smiled through it. I have faced my dragons and tamed them. I have made excellent coffee and shared it with friends.I have remembered things I would rather have left forgotten, struggled with my mind and come out the victor.

I set out in August with one goal: to get through the year. I had to learn how to adapt, to assimilate. I have never felt so alone in my life. But by December, my goals changed. I had to become stronger-a better version of me. And these past two weeks found me driving myself into (and back from) class THREE times a week. I went from being secluded in my own home to gaining great ground in just three months. But the journey is not ended. Because soon enough I shall be off to some distant land where everyone is a stranger and I know nothing.

It is that understanding that brings me to the last part of the title. You see, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in your own issues, your own pain that you forget there are other people suffering too. I have changed a fair amount over the past year, but there is one thing that I can quantifiably say has changed for the better: I care more.

Let me be clear here: I do not care haphazardly. I do not let myself take on the pain of others. But I am learning to walk the line between compassion and empathy. I used to make other people’s struggles my own. I would break for them as though I were them. And now, I feel for them, but I do so from my own standpoint. And that’s important.

My Own Version

When I was little(r), my dad told me that I shouldn’t dye my hair because it was bad for me. I told him that it was my hair, and that if he didn’t like it, he didn’t have to wear it everyday. I look back at that and laugh. I was so stubborn, so convinced that I knew what was right for myself that I resorted to a simplistic sort of logic.

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(I’m the one with her mouth wide flipping open haha.) I went to prom that year as Cinderella. Literally. But while we’re looking, quick shout out to my beautiful friend: Amber for putting up with me since we were chill’uns. This is literally one of my favorite pictures from high school.

Anyway, I don’t want to flood this post with nostalgic pictures of me, but darn it, my hair looked so great in high school. Look:

See? I really did go as Cinderella. And the bottom right is my favorite picture. The top right is what happened after I dyed it again.

I’ve always done things my own way. Even if that means that I gather some really negative feedback. My hair was literally the most rebellious thing I have ever done. I have never done drugs, I didn’t taste champagne until I was 17 (from my parents’s glass at a wedding) and I didn’t have my first glass of wine until a week after my 21st birthday. I didn’t drive illegally, I almost always made curfew and I basically stayed out of trouble and did homework. But I needed to express myself the only way I knew how: artistically.

I’ve been in college since January 2012. I will be done in May 2020 (with ALL my schooling) and I have to say, since I started school and had jobs, I’ve been pretty much plain.I go to class, I go to work, my clothes grow more “professional” each year and a little less “punk-grunge-emo”. I’ve added weight when I added classes and I grow more “adult” with each passing day. But I crave the way I used to feel. Indestructible, flawless, powerful. I had problems. I was a little caterpillar struggling to fit in my cocoon. But I knew I just had to emerge and be beautiful. And now I struggle for the fierce me that I used to be.

So the thing is, I put off taking “care’ of myself for the future, when I regain control of my life. I’ll buy new clothes when I lose weight. I’ll get that tattoo I’ve been talking about for years when I graduate. I’ll work out more right after this stomach flu/period cycle/bad day is over. And suddenly I’ve reached the point where the out-of-control feeling is starting to look like I controlled myself right out of the life I wanted. I talk about self-care a bit, and I mean every word. But I guess I always interpret it as physical or emotional care. But mental and material care are really important too.

I always tell myself that I can’t do what I want because it will cost me something in the future. I can’t get my tattoos because no employer will hire me. I can’t keep piercing my ears for the same reason. I can’t be unprofessional because I won’t be as valued by society.

And then I thought about how many stupid times a day I stand in my own way. I literally control myself to the point that I have become an abusive relationship WITH MYSELF.No wonder I wake up spiraling because I feel trapped!

Here’s the most recent picture of me. Notice the rounder face, the longer hair that is basically the most natural color I’ve had since I was in 8th grade. (Doing my civic duty, no less!)

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This story does have one perk though!

Although I feel oftentimes that life is pushing me into the mainstream adulting model, I know that it’s not the end of the world. And if more people take what I have to say seriously, then I will keep my straight-laced, no shenanigans me. Because I know that I will change the world, I just haven’t gotten there yet.

Maybe this summer will find me with carefree hair and hair chalk. Maybe I’ll keep the long hair and just work out or something. At the end of the day, it just matters that I love the person I am-regardless of the consequences. Maybe I’ve just been scared to not love myself enough. And that must change. I have to regain my ability to do things my own way or risk losing the fabulous person I’ve worked so hard to become.

Women’s Rights

I’ve been using my time during Spring Break to work on a scholarship opportunity. I was allowed a short video to talk about the power of women. And I wanted to share it all with you. It’s my take on slam poetry and it’s my first video ever, so I’m actually pretty proud!

Accomplishment, Action, Attack

Today. Goodness gracious today. You have some days when you really feel like you’re doing your best and then life craps out on you. That was my day today. And because I am in a sharing mood, would you like to hear a story?

Today started by me waking up, asking my husband if he was going in today. He said no. That means: I drive myself to and from school. If you’ve followed me since the “Here be Dragons” post, you’ll know that driving is a big stressor for me. But I knew I could do it. So I took the dog out and went to work. I made it!

Half way through my shift, I get a text from my husband telling me that he actually had to go in today, and that he had to be on campus before 5 to turn in a form. So I email my professor and tell him that I will not be in class today. He calls down to the office where I work and we have the following conversation:

Professor: Hi Michelle, is there any possible way you could walk with me to class today? I’m having some problems with my kidney stones and I want to make sure someone is there to keep me from falling.

Me: Yea, of course! I’ll be down a few minutes before class starts.

And so I arrive with ten minutes to spare and hear him. The man is obviously in pain. He has his cane, and I’m on the other side of him. We make it about half way down the hall and he goes down. Now, I’m not proud to admit this, but I was really no help. I made sure he didn’t hit his head, but that was about the extent of my capabilities. I called for one of my bosses, who came out and with him came another professor. I was instructed to cancel class and keep things to a minimum. I did my best there. (I knew he would be in capable hands-I would not have been able to pick him up anyway, and my boss knew how to contact his wife.) So I ensure that that happens and I prepare myself to drive home.

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I drive, and guess what? I make it! Without incident. And it was my first time ever driving home too:) I switch my husband seats when I get there though (because I hadn’t eaten and he brought me a snack) and we head back to campus. I recount my tale and we arrive. He bolts off to his building, having switched places again and I commence driving around in circles to wait for him. It takes about 6 go rounds, but he returns and we switch one final time, preparing to head home.

On our way to the line of cars, we chat about dinner, and how I don’t want to eat out because we have leftovers. Once we are in the line, it’s very much just stopped traffic. Then out of nowhere BAM! We’ve been rear ended. I really wish I was making this up, but I’m not. My husband gets out of the car and looks at the damage. As it would turn out, the guy who hit us (who is LAUGHING at us, btw) has more damage than we do, so we leave to come home. No, we’re not going to report it, because that would just raise our rates and that’s just no good. (i made sure he was okay, and I made sure I was okay, and that’s the important part!) I’m thinking we’re both gonna take it easy for the next few days regardless. So we get to the gas station that we frequent by our apartment and try to fill the tire with air only to find out (after the fact) that the pump is only letting air out of the tires, not putting air in. So we give up, grab some food and head home.

fender-bender

(This is NOT our accident, it’s just the best representation of what happened. They suffered a pretty obnoxious front end issue and we managed to not really have any damage, except a slight crack to the bumper.)

I literally don’t know how today could have been anymore adrenaline packed, but all I can say is that I am glad that today marks the first evening of spring break, because I really have had quite about enough. I will email my professor and see how he’s doing soon. Maybe we all need more chocolate today.

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I guess the deal with today is that sometimes you are the lucky one and sometimes you’re not. Sometimes the money comes, and sometimes the money goes. When you do everything right, something still might go wrong. And it’s okay. Life will throw curve balls at you when you least expect it-because you least expect it. But at the end of the day, you can either tame your dragons or be eaten by them. Because life isn’t going to just take it easy on you because you’re “disadvantaged”, it’s going to force you to rise above. And that’s exactly what I plan on doing.

International Women’s Day

Ah, today. My favorite interest group day during my favorite interest group month, as part of my favorite topic to discuss. I love being able to talk about women and their cultures, ideals and abilities. I’d thought about doing an interest piece about the Jenner/Kardashian news that’s been popping up, but then I thought-isn’t that kind of defeating the purpose of International Women’s Day? And I thought about doing a Hillary Clinton feature, and about women in power, but she’s already “equal” in many ways. So what do I want to talk about today? Mental Health? I could. Unnecessarily gendered goods? Possibly. But I think at the heart of today, there are two concepts which really embody what I want to focus on: respect and equality.

I had to read a book for one my classes (Women and Democracy) called “Companeras: Zapatista Women’s Stories”. A zapatista is a member or supporter of a Mexican revolutionary force working for social and agrarian reforms, which launched a popular uprising in the state of Chiapas in 1994. (Thanks, Google!)

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I know that seems kind of “old” news, but the story is actually really inspiring, and some of the quotes from the book are just phenomenal. The main point, from my understanding, is that the indigenous people of Chiapas wanted control over their own land, their own resources, and wanted the government and military powers to remove themselves. The women, although also heavily involved in this movement, went about things a little differently, collecting themselves for the ideas of equality, freedom and opportunity. Some of the quotes from the book are:

where indigenous communities have taken their destiny into their own hands, where villages find solutions to their economic problems by working collectively, where community members walk proudly…

The dignity with which these women carried themselves, set against a backdrop of centuries of racism and exploitation…

I know they seem a little disjointed, but the quotes themselves are part of the larger ideal of what I was explaining before. The next thing, is the outcome of this movement (specifically on the women’s side. This is the Women’s Revolutionary Law of 1994.

  1. Women, regardless of their race, creed, color or political affiliation, have the right to participate in the revolutionary struggle in any way that their desire and capacity determine.
  2. Women have the right to work and receive a fair salary.
  3. Women have the right to decide the number of children they have and care for.
  4. Women have the right to participate in the matters of the community and hold office if they are free and democratically elected.
  5. Women and their children have the right to Primary Attention in their health and nutrition.
  6. Women have the right to an education.
  7. Women have the right to choose their partner and are not obliged to enter into marriage.
  8. Women have the right to be free of violence from both relatives and strangers.
  9. Women will be able to occupy positions of leadership in the organization and hold military ranks in the revolutionary armed forces.
  10. Women will have all the rights and obligations elaborated in the Revolutionary Laws and regulations.

This next quote comes from a book called “Decolonizing Democracy” and I think it has the best potential to be a slogan which I will print on everything. It talks about when the (Indian) government should be doing for its people. I think it’s applicable to ALL governments.

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and at the same time provide safeguards for the fundamental rights of individuals and groups living in this country and for safeguarding the fundamental rights of minorities

So I was thinking, about all the women who have fought for their rights, their freedoms and their ability to live their lives as they see fit. I thought about all of the stories I had been told about female naval officers, pirates, warriors, samurais, wordsmiths, protesters, politicians, activists and leaders and realized that there is so much that has been done for women, by women.

But the fact remains that 1 in 3 girls (in developing nations) will be married as children.(girlsnotbrides.org)

One woman every hour in India will die a “dowry death” (death caused by a dispute in her dowry) (timesofindia.indiatimes.com)

The average life expectancy for a woman in Botswana is 33 years (America is 78). (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

68% of women in Bangladesh suffer (or have suffered in domestic abuse situations. The U.S. spends over $1 BILLION in domestic abuse related medical costs EACH YEAR. 28 cases are reported in Thailand each DAY. (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

2% of women in Sierra Leone die in childbirth. That number is .01% in Canada (That’s 1% of 1% or 200 times less than Sierra Leone). (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

40 MILLION girls are missing from the world’s population due to son preference (most of these girls have probably been abandoned for dead or murdered). China makes up 30 million of that total. (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

Ohio (where I am from) has the following statistics on sex trafficking:

-More than 1,000 children are trafficked around Ohio each year. This number does not include adults. (ohiobar.org)

-Only 289 cases were reported in 2015, most of whom were US citizens. (traffickingresourcecenter.org)

Up to 700,000 rapes occur in the United States each year. In Japan, only 5 of the 104 gang rapes reported had convictions in 2005. In Burma, marital rape is not a crime unless the victim is under 14. (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

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So, although today is a day for celebrating women globally, we also need to be severely reminded that we have to fight harder, fight faster, to protect those very same women. We are half of the sky and we must hold each other higher. The first step, is education. To be aware is the only way to help.