Unconventional Letter

Dear Michelle,

Thank you.

Thank you for never giving up. And I know there were times you thought you had to, that there was no other choice. I remember all those nights spent alone, crying in the bathroom, hoping to end your pain with a razor blade. I remember the long days spent not eating, drinking only a cup of coffee in the morning because you felt like you might fall asleep in the middle of calculus if not, then rushing home to see if you’d lost more weight. I remember all of this, but most of all I remember how even though there were times you wanted to, you didn’t choose to die and instead, you chose to live.

Thank you for learning to open up again. After you graduated from high school, you tried to close yourself off, masking your feelings with words like “exhausted”, “the flu” and “allergies”. You kept everyone at arm’s length until you couldn’t take it anymore and you decided to make friends. I know that was hard for you, but I promise it’s paid off.  You’re about to find out that you actually love coffee dates with friends and trying new things.

Thank you for going off meds-even at the disapproval of your then boyfriend. He didn’t know you, you didn’t stay with him, and you really had to choose your own life for your own reasons. I know at that point, you didn’t even understand fully your diagnosis. I’m so proud of you for making your own way. I know in the future you’ll contemplate going back on medicine, and it’ll be hard, but if you don’t want to do something, don’t let the fear of consequences force you to make a decision.

Thank you card

Thank you for walking away from the poisonous relationships you tried so hard to save. You thought that if you just tried harder, loved more deeply, that you could fix them. But they weren’t the ones who needed fixing, and abusive relationships aren’t worth your time. Or effort. I’m so sorry you had to learn that the hard way. But you got past it with some ice cream and art. That was the first time you thought that you might be okay with being alone instead of being with someone who told you that you were always to blame, and that everything he did was to show you that you deserved no one better. You may have been brokenhearted, and it felt like your whole world was dying, but you left. You’re so brave.

Speaking of bravery, there will come a time in your life that you’ll wake up and be paralyzed with the fear of driving. We’ll work through it, and it will be hard for a long time, but please don’t give up. Living in the past, living with the memories of what “could have” happened is only going to hurt us in the long run. Yeah, this is one of those corny “hello, younger me” letters that we swore we’d never write, but I have so many things to thank you for.

Thanks for taking a chance and going out with that boy from high school that you thought was “too short”. You’ll drive each other crazy, but you have a strong marriage, and a lot of really hilarious dating stories that will get you through any disagreements you might have. You even got a dog (he acts more like a cat, and you’ll learn to love him). That boy will learn how to understand your moods, and even help you get through them.

Thank you for working so hard during your mood swings. No one requests to have bipolar disorder, but you’ve done remarkable things with it. You laid the foundation for such great things to happen for your future. But don’t think for a minute that it’s shameful to change your major when you get to college. It’s gonna drive you mad and you’ll feel so completely used up, but you’ll see that the greatest thing is going to happen once you walk through all the open doors. You’ll continue to struggle with food, but honestly, you’re going to love yourself more at the heaviest weight than you ever did when you struggled with your eating disorders. Just don’t go too far in the other direction, okay? Eating too much is bad too. Food isn’t a drug, it’s not meant to protect you from life.

I know that you know life is hard. But thanks for going back into counseling. In hindsight, you probably didn’t have to hide it, because you’re about to become exceptionally vocal about mental health and women’s rights. You aren’t stuck, you aren’t defective, and you most definitely aren’t finished. We have so much work ahead of us, and it’s all thanks to you.

You stuck it out when the world grew dark, when our mind waged wars against us and our heart got so heavy it might burst. You fought each and every day for life to be better, waiting for the day it all meant something. You kept going, even when everything screamed at you to just stop. I know my battles, our battles, don’t end with this little note. We have a whole life to live yet! And I know I didn’t say it then, but I’m saying it now. Thank you, baby girl. Thank you with my whole heart.

You got this, Shells. You don’t need anybody else’s approval, just go for it. You’re about to take your first step in an amazing adventure and you’ll be so surprised where it leads you. I know I am.

The sun will rise again, and so will you.

All my love,

M.

Advertisements

Once Upon A Time

It was a slightly overcast day, but with enough sun to count as sunny. I woke up, smiled a bit, and headed to school and my then job as a tutor for the school. It was the end of April, and I was looking forward to the end of the semester. Ben, working in the same department, saw me as I walked in. I asked him what was on his mind, and we began to talk about the same topic that we’d been casually mentioning for ages: marriage. I thought we could just do a courthouse run when we went to get our marriage certificate, but the courthouse hadn’t offered them, and so we were still looking for a solution. I pulled the number up for the courthouse of the municipal we were in for classes (which was the next district over, and therefore a possibility). The judge DID perform marriages-by appointment only!

When would we like to be married?

I wanted May Day-a religious holiday about fertility and thusly good luck.

They only did Friday’s.

May second? Booked.

May ninth?

That was fine. We were scheduled for 9AM. Perfect.


The date was two weeks away, with plenty of time to break the news to our families that we were being completely serious (they’d known we would for about a year, but until we had something concrete it was always just up in the air.) We’d tried a December wedding, but it hadn’t panned out.

Fast forward to the Friday before our wedding-Friday, May 2 at 4:56PM. The Judge had been overbooked! And he wouldn’t even able to do our wedding!! No appointments available before our marriage certificate expired. Thank you.

It was the end of the business week before we were finished with our conversation. I could call no official until Monday, and that might be too late. So I began to try every minister, high priest, high priestess, pastor and anyone I had an email address for in the closest three counties. Most, as I had assumed, needed more notice. One had asked if we could drive forty miles to their Sabbat that same night, where they would love to do so, with less than an hour to get there-we passed, but I would have loved to!

Ben had been calling people with the same fervor, and emailing his professors (who are well known to be better connected than college students!) and lo and behold-one of his professors was ordained! Was he free on Friday the 9th? Yes! Would he be willing to do so? Yes! Perfect!

It wasa sunny Friday, the flowers were all blooming in the trees and it seemed like the perfect day for happiness. My parents and siblings, Ben’s dad, Ben’s best friend (and his parents) and a couple lost stragglers came to the classroom. My dad stopped off and bought pizza for everybody before we got there. In walked the professor, complete with a stole and robes, a brief case, and a guitar case. I’d never had Dr. Emens, but he seemed a nice enough fellow, and he was certainly doing us a kindness.

We had a traditional wedding, complete with prayers, vows that were based in a religion I had left, and the exchanging of rings. Then, at the very end, Dr. Evens sat down and asked if he could play a song for us. He chose “Good Riddance (Time of Our Lives)” by Green Day. We paid him, signed the things we needed to and then headed to our honeymoon-weekend (where we watched three seasons of Game of Thrones and the owner of the place we stayed picked wild flowers-which I dried (because they were my wedding bouquet).

It may not have been traditional, it may not have been the big and fancy wedding that everyone always thinks about, but it was unique, it was prophetic and it was the start of a wonderful marriage. And it was all completed at 4:30PM Friday, May 9, 2014.

Now, two years later, it is rainy (which I love!) and I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my huge cup of coffee, thinking about that day. I remember that I sat there thinking that I wasn’t nervous at all, that I knew I was making the decision that I’d made in my head a long time before.

There are some things you didn’t get with that version of the story.

I was 21 (and had been so for 5 months exactly). Ben was 20 (and had been so for a week under 5 months). I was asked within five minutes of getting married if I was going to have kids/when I was going to have kids/if I was already pregnant. 

Ben told my dad (and I later adopted the same reasoning for the people who asked why we got married so young:

I didn’t want to start our lives separately and have to make room for the other person. I want to start from absolutely nothing more than love and build a life together. I want to start out together poor and watch as our riches grow.

I’d always told people that when you know you love someone, you shouldn’t feel like age should stop you from spending your life together.

I chose to hyphenate my name because at the time I thought I wanted to go into academics and that way, if I published any papers, you’d know without a doubt it was me. I may not be directly going into academia, but I don’t regret splitting my name. Because it gives me an identity all my own. I use either name as I please, both for formal occasions and I am content.

So happy anniversary, my love. It’s been an interesting, epic, bizarrely perfect two years and I look forward to collecting more with you.

The Start to a Great Day

This past week was a brutal week for human beings. Earthquakes, bigotry, hatred, fear and on my own campus there was a display of some very xenophobic graffiti. But there were also some wonderful things which happened. The grafiti was covered over by messages of acceptance and love. The bigotry and hatred was combatted with hope and kindness. Aid was given to those who needed it.

Yesterday was one of those weird days when I missed something from my old life: routine. Not the kind that I’d expected, but I missed having songs to sing to my deity. I had seen a video of someone singing “It Is Well With My Soul” and vividly recalled all the times I spent in church singing that song (and playing it on the piano) and then all the times I didn’t believe it. I didn’t want to go to church, I didn’t even want to sing the song. I wanted to revisit a time when there was a routine in my life that made everything seem simple. That is the way it is because is is that way. You know?

It was a weird feeling, but I think the point of it wasn’t that I found a hole in my belief system, it was that in those days, everything was simple (for me at least). I lived in a small town of people I knew and who knew me. I could walk all over the county by myself without fear. I could stop by people’s houses if I needed to call my parents or get a drink or hang out with people roughly my age. I missed the simplicity.

And yet, there are things I would not change about today. I braided my hair for the first time successfully all by myself. I got up on time, I dressed up today (I’m channeling my inner Snow White-red lips, blue top, yellow skirt) and I even managed to get rid a bunch of homework done. I didn’t panic when my husband drove us in this morning, even though I’ve grown accustomed to driving by myself. I got in to work early and successfully set up for the day. I’m a stronger, more independent person than I was six months ago. And what’s more, I accept myself for who I am more so than I did when I moved here. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t love to be a little different, but it means that I am not ashamed of who I am now.

  We are all products of our pasts. For me, that past means walking barefoot through grassy fields on the way to a raspberry patch to get my fingers completely covered in red dye. It means traveling downs dirt roads covered in arching trees and watching baby rabbits run across your yard right before a huge buck comes sniffing for roots and tulips. It’s picking apples off the trees while waiting for the bus to take me to school and bonfires with burnt marshmallows (which my parents had to eat). It’s dressing up on Sunday’s because that’s what respectable people did and then going home to pick garden produce.

  And we choose what becomes our future. Coffee dates with friends, and making time for people. It’s proving to yourself over and over again that you’re not the mistake you thought you were. It means taking the time to capture life’s little moments, watching a sunrise even when you’d rather be sleeping, making the best sandwich you’ve ever eaten and then being surprised that it tasted that good.  

  It means choosing to feel good about yourself and “I’ll be damned if I let other people shame me out of my own life”. It means giving up every reason you have for not being happy and just taking chances anyway-because you’ve finally decided that it’s in your best interest to believe in yourself.

  At the end of the day, we’re not always going to listen to the naysayers. And doing so will only hold us back. We’ve got to start living with love and passion, or else we don’t stand a chance of living at all.

(All photos today were taken by me and as you can see, are on my Instagram. Ya’ll can hop on over and browse about if you feel so inclined, but this is basically what I take pictures of. Only now it’s my dog and campus, but hey.)