The List of Buckets

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(Image from Google, Karen Boyes. I don’t own it-it was just cute.)

I have a hundred things on my mind right now, but that means that the best thing I could do is write down my bucket list. Not only had I mentioned I would earlier, but I most of the stuff on my mind has to do with that, so why not!

Now, I’m not sure any of you need the definition of a bucket list, but for sanity’s sake-A bucket list is a list of things that the individual would like to accomplish before they “kick the bucket” (die). And here’s mine.

  1. Whale watching
  2. Cliff Diving
  3. Learn to ice skate
  4. Learn to surf
  5. Swim in a waterfall
  6. Slow dance in the rain
  7. Witness a miracle
  8. Visit Canada
  9. Save a life
  10. Visit Ireland
  11. Visit England
  12. Visit Scotland
  13. Help turtles hatch and reach the ocean
  14. Be the starfish girl
  15. Eat pasta in Italy
  16. Eat bread in France
  17. See the Great Barrier Reef
  18. See Stonehenge
  19. Venetian gondola ride
  20. Get published
  21. Learn guitar
  22. Stand in the Sistine Chapel
  23. See the Mona Lisa in person
  24. Have lunch with a famous person
  25. See the Northern Lights
  26. Stand in a phone booth
  27. See Platform 9 ¾
  28. Visit Forks, WA
  29. Ride in Hot Air Balloon
  30. Zorbing
  31. Kiss under Mistletoe
  32. Live by the ocean
  33. Learn to scuba
  34. Make the perfect cup of coffee
  35. Learn how to make latte art
  36. Be fearless
  37. Own a 1967 Chevy Impala
  38. Make epic, award worthy cosplay
  39. Perfect cat eye
  40. Go fire walking
  41. Read a book in something other than English
  42. Visit every museum and zoo in the state I live in
  43. Visit Cueva de los Manos
  44. Leave a note in Juliet’s Wall
  45. Make someone smile more often than cry
  46. Be invited to a PowWow
  47. Stop worrying
  48. Stop micromanaging
  49. New Orleans Mardi Gras
  50. Swim with dolphins
  51. See Heaven’s Trail
  52. Give Christmas to a children’s hospital
  53. Replace my wardrobe with clothes I actually like
  54. Repay all the kindnesses
  55. Change the world

I know there are more-I’m just not entirely sure I could remember anything else. (Clearly haven’t mastered that perfect coffee haha!) But I think this is a pretty solid list-and I’m going to get started on it right away.

I’ll let you in on a secret.

I’m tired of people telling me what I do and do not know, what I need to do to know things, how much I’m allowed to know. I’ve spent the last two decades being told I can never know everything, but being held accountable for everything regardless, only to find that every year or so, what I know is obsolete information. I may never meet the standards of knowing. But I’m ready for something else. If after 20 years knowing things doesn’t make me happy, I’ve got to change things. So these next twenty years aren’t going to be “knowing” years-they’re going to be “experience” years. I’m gonna do things, see things, live things. So that when I get to the next fork in the road, the only thing I’ll know is myself.

These Days Are Ours

Hey all! I’m in the process of moving and as I’m sure you can all relate to-that means I’m busy, a bit frazzled and somewhat lost in time. Today’s thoughts aren’t a lecture per se, nor are they really anything more than just my thoughts. But they’re good’uns and it’s about one of my favorite topics: self-care!

I came across a note I’d saved in my phone and was blown away by my younger self. The date on it was 27 June 2015 and it reads like this:

I’m glad I’m heavier than who I was. It teaches me to be better: to redefine myself every day. I’m glad I threw out that damn dress, because it teaches me that I don’t need to be blonde to be beautiful. I’m glad I change my mind every time I change my mood. It teaches me to be flexible. I’m glad I’m not the girl I used to be. It teaches me that all things change and I must learn to adapt. I don’t have to have everything in the world. I just need to be me. I know some days I’m going to be so depressed I can barely move (and maybe a lot of those days) and some days I will stay awake for hours and be manic (and maybe I’ll be super productive). But I’ve been looking for reasons why I can’t improve my life. I stress about money, I stress about life. So now, I have some things that are going to happen.

I go on to list about a dozen things which I wanted to accomplish in the upcoming year. I managed to get about a third accomplished. But I’m not here to talk about the list.

I could not possibly have known all of the changes which were coming to me this past year. But it coincides with an event that happened yesterday and I thought that it was pretty nifty serendipity.

I send all my packages to my parents’ place because that is the only place that mail is reliable. And I hadn’t picked up my mail since about Christmas. I got my mail yesterday and opened it. I had a bunch of clothes I’d ordered, but hadn’t needed immediately.

I fall into the trap of thinking that I can wait for things. I delay so long that I usually talk myself out of the purchases with sentences like “Oh, well, now it’s not on sale.” or “I’ll buy it when I lose fifteen pounds.” And I neglect myself. I tell myself that I don’t need to buy clothes because the ones I have are still functional. I use my electronics until they can no longer function at all. And I’m proud of that. I feel that I am incredibly thrifty.

But I splurge on other people. I delight in being the one who looks completely together, completely giving. People from my first job can attest that if I had the ability, I would drive from my house to the nearest Starbucks (a 35 minute drive) at 6AM to pick everyone up a drink. And I love looking at people who receive my birthday presents. I love it all. I crave those moments.

But I deny them to myself.

Why would I do that? Why would I abuse myself and neglect myself when I put so much value in others?

The long and short answer? I’m still learning how to love myself.

I know that’s a story that a lot of people can relate to. It’s not something that our society values. The line between self-care and narcissism is muddled. Self-care is preached to people with medical conditions, to nursing students, to a variety of people. But it is often the people who are doing the preaching who lack the ability to fulfill their words in their own lives.

That’s so sad.

As I’m going through my stuff, in order to pack it up or recycle it in some way, I realized I was holding on to a lot of baggage with my possessions. I have a great giant pile of “If i lose X amount of weight, I can wear this.” I have a stack of “If these conditions are met, I’ll use this.” and the occasional “I don’t want to get rid of this because I got it from blah.” But all that translates to one basic thing: I’m holding on to this because I’m not happy enough to let it go. My husband can attest-since coming to that realization, I bagged up 6 bags of stuff and got rid of it. Clothes that were too small, too big, too old. Knick knacks that I’d held on to for the sake of holding on to are gone.

Sometimes loving yourself means giving yourself the same luxuries you give other people. Sometimes loving yourself means cutting yourself loose from unnecessary burdens.

Just a thought for today. See you all soon!

 

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.

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.

Angels on the Moon

I shared, a while ago, about how there were some quotes that really spoke for me, almost. As though those words embodied all the thoughts I had about a particular subject. And although I know that there is need elsewhere, I need to once more, complete a mental purge with some quotes. This time, though, there is only one song, and it’s been the “fight song” of my heart lately, guiding me even when I’d rather sit and “go dark”. I want to bring it up, because it’s more than just that though, it’s my lullaby, my mantra, my shield. And something that powerful has to be worth discussing. I’m copying the lyrics in and then in parentheses, I will add what I “hear” when I listen to them.

Do you dream that the world will know your name? (Do you need validation?)

So tell me your name (You can validate yourself)

Do you care about all the little things (Do you obsess about things?)

or anything at all? (Or drown in apathy?)

I wanna feel, all the chemicals inside (I want to live, without medication)

I wanna feel (I want to breathe freely)

I wanna sunburn, just to know that I’m alive (I want to live a life I’m proud of)

To know I’m alive (A life I can be sure has no regrets)
Don’t tell me if I’m dying (Don’t tell me if I made a mistake)

‘Cause I don’t wanna know (Because I can’t let that get me down)

If I can’t see the sun, maybe I should go (This depression isn’t the only way)

Don’t wake me ’cause I’m dreaming (But neither is mania)

Of angels on the moon (I have to be my own angel)

Where everyone you know (For myself, but also for those I love)

Never leaves too soon (To enjoy my time with them fully)
Do you believe, in the day that you were born (Do you have faith in yourself?)

Tell me do you believe? (In the you of the future)

Do you know, that every day’s the first (Each step you take)

Of the rest of your life? (Is just the beginning of a better adventure)
Don’t tell me if I’m dying (Don’t tell me I’m not worthy)

‘Cause I don’t wanna know (Because I’ll know you’re lying)

If I can’t see the sun (Even if I don’t always believe it)

Maybe I should go (I have to keep trying)

Don’t wake me ’cause I’m dreaming (And I won’t let you steal my sunshine)

Of angels on the moon (Because I’m finding hope in the darkness)

Where everyone you know (My light will shine brighter)

Never leaves too soon. (Each time the wind extinguishes it)
This is to one last day in the shadows (Just get up one more time)

And to know a brother’s love (Find happiness in the world)

This is to New York City angels (Find the path to where you want to be)

And the rivers of our blood (To make your sacrifices worth it)

This is to all of us (Because you’re worth it)

To all of us (I promise)
Don’t tell me if I’m dying (Let me find my own way)

‘Cause I don’t wanna know (Even if it may take me a while)

If I can’t see the sun (I know it can’t always be heartache)

Maybe I should go (But hold my hand when it is)

Don’t wake me ’cause I’m dreaming (I’ve got a heart worth fighting for)

Of angels on the moon (And dreams to be believed in)

Where everyone you know never leaves too soon (And I have to keep them alive, for my sake)
You can tell me all your thoughts (If I speak, someone will listen)

About the stars that fill polluted skies (Because I’m worthy of validation)

And show me where you run to (Embrace your biggest secrets)

When no one’s left to take your side (You are your biggest ally)

But don’t tell me where the road ends (Don’t wait for all the bad things)

‘Cause I just don’t wanna know (They will come, that’s true)

No I don’t wanna know (But you’ll make it through, each time)
Don’t tell me if I’m dying (Keep looking for the sunshine)

Don’t tell me if I’m dying (Keep finding reasons to love yourself first)

 

So a big huge thank you to Thriving Ivory, because this song is seeing me through so many dark paths and helping me reestablish the love I have for myself.

angel

(Source: Google)

The Signs Life Gives You

I had the absolute delight of speaking with a most beloved professor this week, and she helped (as always) put me back on track. I walked into her office, knowing full well that I really had no idea what I needed to talk about, but that I needed someone to hear me. I knew she was a source of great insight in the past, and that I hoped she would bring me the clarity that I so desperately needed. I feel like I need to get her something really nice when I graduate. Seriously. I literally walked into her office, cried for half our meeting and then ranted the other half. Anyway, she and I were discussing how the world I live in seems so different than the one I exist in everyday. I told her about the way in which my assignment turned into a fervent search for the truth, and my life’s destiny. She listened without hesitation, even when I had no words to use. She spoke to me with kindness about self-care and burning out of a career because you aren’t emotionally prepared for the repercussions, as well as dealing with the weight of other people’s stories. I came out of her office not only knowing myself a little better, but being thankful I didn’t decide to cancel on her today because I felt anxious that I didn’t know what to say.

I’d asked her about coming in to see her last week, when I was convinced that I knew what I needed to talk about. I told her that I needed some “life advice” and she told me she was free on Tuesday. I made an appointment, figured it was great and then the closer we got to Tuesday, the mroe I thought that perhaps I was making a mistake. I knew the week I’d been having, I knew that I was far too charged for my own good, and that perhaps I needed to just find a way to sort it out myself. That’s what being an adult is, right? Figuring out your answers by yourself? Turns out, that ideology is really stupid. Yes, you should try to make your own way in life. And yes, you should want to try to find the answers. But sometimes you are just too close to the problem. Sometimes you need to take a step back and ask someone who’s been there, and done that if you’re on the right track. The “Double Check” method. 

I find so often that I am surrounded by professors who have grown embittered by their jobs, their lack thereof or just the length of time that they have been doing the same thing day in and day out. And I understand. Anyone who has ever experienced “senioritis” understands. But she’s different. This professor isn’t bitter, isn’t malicious, and above all, she treats me as a real person with real problems and concerns. And I value that. I picked her, because well, to be honest, I didn’t. Life did. Do you ever feel that at some points in your life, you just stumble across a person who changes your outlook, like a gift from the universe as if to say:

I know you’re struggling, but if you let them, they will light your way.

And I love it when that happens. I don’t want to take advantage of her or anything, that is so not my intention. But I want to glean all I can from her, to make myself the best I can be. And the message was loud and clear.

Michelle, you need to focus on some self-care. You spend so much of your time worrying about the things in the world you want to change that you’ve saved so little love for yourself. It’s not good for you, or the people you want to help.

This year, the universe keeps reminding me of that. Over and over, subtly or straightforward. “Self-care”. I’ve discussed it with friends, I’ve seen it in passing on my Facebook feed, and now I’m hearing it more directly. So what am I not doing?

Well, more than just words, the universe has a way of getting my attention. This entire week I’ve had stomach problems. I feel so tired, so out of it and not myself. Okay, body, I’m listening. And I think maybe I’ve neglected myself a lot lately.

I met with my oldest, most wonderful friend yesterday and realized that the words which were ever so prevalent before could not be ignored any longer. And as I sat there, listening to her tell the story of her nursing program, her troubles during the semester and having her in turn listen to mine, I realized something further. Self-care doesn’t have to be alone-care. Human beings are social creatures and that means taking the time to gather those who mean the most to you and helping them to help you.

My point today isn’t to list all the ways I have let myself down. My point today is to tell others, through my struggle that they too need to look into their own lives and make sure the universe isn’t trying to tell you that you’re missing out on the best you that you can be. 

Is your health poor? Maybe you need to see a doctor.

Are your eating habits not good? Maybe you need to reexamine them. 

Need to take that mental health day? Do it.

Need to forgive yourself for a mistake? Do that ASAP.

Have you needed life advice? Spiritual guidance? Now’s the time.

Need to let someone in? That’s a great idea.

You are beautiful, you are worth it. And so am I.

The Science of You…and Me.

I’ve been trying to get acclimated to the new semester, and I think it’s okay to take a break from constantly ranting and raving. Today, I want to speak honestly about life. But the stuff that weighs on my heart is the issue of self-identification.

In one of my classes this semester, we’re discussing classifications of organisms (as a prequel to the rest of the material) and the question was asked: Why do we classify things? The answer was: to order a chaotic world. I think that for the most part, that’s pretty true. But I think we, as human beings, also want to belong. We have a sense of longing to be part of something greater than just our own individuality. And maybe that seems a little naive, but maybe it isn’t.

  

I think I’ve mentioned this a couple times throughout the life of my blog, about where do I as an individual fit in to life’s big puzzle. But I invite you all to also think about it. How do you identify yourself? Is it just through your name? Your preferences? Your associations? What about who you are as a single individual, without regard to someone or something else? How would your identification change? It’s no difficult task to put yourself in a category. It’s an entirely other matter to design the category that you alone fit in.

Allow me to demonstrate. I am a pretty much run-of-the-mill midwestern woman. I tie my hair up in ponytails, I drink coffee, I know how to shovel snow, care for sick animals and even how to field dress carcasses (I really don’t enjoy it though, but if the great earth mother gives unto us, it is disrespectful to waste that gift. And I try not to partake either.). I am a wife, a cat-loving-dog-owner (he’s my little cat-dog), a sister, a daughter, a student, an employee and a coworker, a friend, a dreamer, and I’d say most definitely an extroverted introvert (yea, I know. It gives me problems too.). But take away anything that has to do with someone else (so-daughter, wife, sister, worker, etc) and take away the references to religion, geography, capabilities and preferences. What is left?

I call that “left” stuff the essence of me. But I don’t really know what it is. Is it emotion? Because I have quite a bit of that. Is it personality? I think I have a decent amount of that too. Is it what I am made of? Atoms, cells, blood, skin, organs, memories? I mean, I suppose that would have to be included. So what am I that no one else is? I am me and you are you. And I couldn’t be you if I tried, but I wouldn’t want you to be me either.

I know, you were all expecting for the meaning of life. And I shan’t disappoint! Because each and everything that I have said is both true and false. And I hope you’ve stuck around long enough to see why.

In the very beginning of time, before history, before science, before everything we know, there were stars. And these stars grew until they could grow no more, exploding when they reached their peak. When these stars explode, they create a bunch of atoms, in the order of the periodic table. First Hydrogen, then Helium, then Lithium, Beryllium, and so on and so forth until at least Iron (which is the 26th element). Each atom mixes with the others, out in space, combining and pulling apart. Now why am I telling you this?

  

There is a law in science called the Conservation of Energy. Now, in science, a law means that hundreds, if not thousands of test have been done and for all intents and purposes, the law is a scientific fact. This is why no one disputes gravity-even though you can’t see it directly. Anyway, the Conservation of Energy can be simplified down to the following: no energy can be created or destroyed in a system. There is also the law of the Conservation of Mass. This also is simplified down to: no mass (the stuff everything is made of) can be created or destroyed in a system. So what does that have to do with anything?

Well, we know that a human is made up of a lot of water, but what else? If you look at the most common elements that a body is made up of you get: Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Calcium, Phosphorous, Potassium, Sulfur, Sodium, Chlorine and Magnesium. Now if you look at a Periodic Table of Elements, you’ll see that those elements are numbered: 8, 6, 1, 7, 20, 15, 19, 16, 11, 17 and 12. Iron, as I said is 26, which means that all of the elements that make up most of us come before Iron. That further means that the stars that exploded made the elements I have listed here.

  

If I haven’t lost you yet, I’m very glad! Because the laws I mentioned, they come into play here. Since absolutely nothing can be made or destroyed, the atoms (which make up the mass of everything) which make up you and I came from the explosions of the stars. So here’s the deal. We are all made up of the little tiny particles which first originated in stars. So when you hear people say “We are stardust”, believe them. Because although this information is all paraphrased from other sources, it remains true. And just incase you wanted to know more about the meaning of life, let me explain death.

Before I really go on, let me tell you a story (you know that’s my thing!). I once went to a funeral of a family member and sat in the back, just observing. I watched the widow sit in the front row, the handkerchief crumpled in her hands, her eyes puffy and red from crying. But what I had not expected to happen, was the moment I caught her eye. I looked away immediately, not out of shame, but out of the understanding that I could not bear the weight of her pain. It would have been far easier if her eyes had been dead, the windows to a soul lost to the oblivion. But they weren’t. They were the windows to summer basketball sessions between her late husband and her kids, the early mornings when snow would lightly fall and she would watch him sleep. They were the windows to a thousand more “I love you’s” which would fall on deaf ears and the echoes of petty fights that would haunt her recollection for years to come. And at the funeral of a childhood friend, I remember looking at his body, thinking about how many times that might have been me, how even in death, he didn’t seem so happy, but maybe that’s because his body was pumped full of gallons worth of chemicals and the makeup could not hide the way his neck curved ever so violently, the ghost of a rope ever so snug around the collar of his dress jacket.

  

If no matter and no energy can be lost or created, what happens at death? Quite obviously, there is still mass. You have a body almost always, a quiet shell of a person lying still. But a person while living maintains the energy of thought, of breath, of circulation. And once ceased, that energy cannot be destroyed. The body heat rises into the atmosphere, reuniting with the clouds, the rain and the air. The breath that once ran through them now runs though the atmosphere. The memories which gave fuel to their every move, their every sense of self, they belong now to the people who need them most, to those with whom they were shared before. And I think that is a lovely thing. We are both part of the universe and made up of it. We cannot be created from nothing and we cannot disappear to nothing. The life of each and every one of us was determined by the star explosion, the energy and life of others, the ability to continue on. And that’s why it’s entirely okay if you could not define yourself as just yourself before. Because in all honesty, you really can’t be you without others. But it’s okay. Because the others couldn’t be themselves without you either.

  

The Day I Was Honest

I’ve held onto this post, mostly becuase I couldn’t give it all it deserved. I had to be in the right frame of mind. I’m not entirely sure it’s today, but I think I’ve got a good grip on what I want to say and I think it’s a lovely way to open the new calendar year.
Last semester (and thusly last year) I had a lot going on, as we’ve discussed. I had just transferred to the big city, made new friends, was working on establishing myself in the ways of the world. And I began to blog seriously. I watched this video today of an interview with Jada Pinkett Smith, which I absolutely loved and the idea came bubbling up in the back of my head. That’s why I’ve decided to blog on it today.

In the interview, she was talking about how to balance your life. That’s something I really struggle with. I live too much in the future and not enough in the now. I think about how to fix the problems I may encounter and not so much on how to prevent them. So when she said “focus on yourself. Do what makes you happy.”I really felt like we were approaching a revalation. Her argument was that if you do not find a way to keep yourself in balance, to take care of yourself, you will look to others to do so. You will blame them for sacrificing your entire life for them and not getting happiness out of it. And it blew my mind (metaphorically, of course). 

Now that you’ve had some background info, on to the actual point.

Last semester is by far and away not the first time I’ve had to take sick days. I’ve had bronchitis, strep, the stomach flu and a host of colds throughout my life. But I don’t skip irresponsibly. I take pride in my ability to attend school and work with punctuality and integrity. But last semester was the first time I was honest with myself. As I was crafting my email to my professors for the day, I began to reason out what my excuse for missing class was. Was I suffering from a 24 hour bug? Had I awoken with a flat tire or a low battery? Had I merely slept in? And I realized that I needed to stop kidding myself and respect myself as much as I respected the professors.

 

 

Good morning!

I will not be in class today. I need to take a mental health day and will return to class tomorrow. Thank you for your understanding.

Best,

Michelle BB.

For the first time in my entire life, I used that excuse. I’ve always been ashamed to, like it was some sort of cop-out excuse for being lazy. But it isn’t. And in fact, when I returned the next day, my professors went out of their way to make sure I was alright. Two of them even stopped by the office where I work and made it a point to see if I needed anything. They didn’t see me as a lazy, incompetent student. They saw me as an individual who responsibly needed a day to regroup.

  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at their reactions. Mental health has been quite a large topic lately, and I was taking a bunch of anthropology classes, so they all understand the value of psychobiological health. And as I said, I do not skip irresponsibly. There is always a reason-a real reason. But it got me thinking. How can I stand here (or sit) and tell you all that we need to take steps to mental health help and then be ashamed of the fact that I have to use that reason myself? Why was I ashamed in the first place?

Because it still carries the connotations. I don’t want anyone to see me as weak, unbalanced, incapable. I fight hard for people to see the bright, driven, passionate individual that I am. But I guess I got caught up in being a super heroine, without flaw or needs. And I viewed my own mental health as something along the lines of an excuse to be used as a cover up for the fact that I didn’t have the motivation to do something. That isn’t even the case. But I’m glad I learned that. Because mental health isn’t separate from physical health. It’s a facet of the same diamond. I was scared that my professors would use that against me in the future. But all that happened was me finally letting go of the fear and replacing it with the statement “I have to take care of myself-holistically.” And once I did that, I think I managed to do just that.

  So thank you, Jada Pinkett Smith, for reminding me that I do indeed need to find my balance and stop sacrificing myself away. No one else is responsible for my happiness and health.

Hindsight

When I was in high school, there happened an event that has stuck with me ever since.

I was the field commander of the high school marching band. It was the best thing that could have happened to me, honestly. I took my job very seriously, regarding each of the band members and color guard as members of my own family, who I would defend to the death (I was very theatrical back then). Anyway, part of my duties was to ensure safe transport of persons and equipment post game. Our instruments were hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. So I would holler out “Band coming through!” And other things, like “Watch out!” And “Excuse us!”

 

(This is basically my podium/ladder-basically huge)

 The event happened one home game my first year commanding (I was commander for 2 years-the first in school history, I believe). I was VERY passionate about my job, but also very polite and I was trying to get all the band and guard members into the school without damaging anything or anyone. Carrying my “ladder” (it was a platform I conducted from which was more than twice my size and a workout all its own), I was announcing our departure when a group of our school’s football players came up from behind me and yelled “No one gives a shit about you band faggots.” And I do not think there has been a single moment in the history of who I am that I contemplated murder more seriously. I think I could have wafted my ladder at him (and yes, I know exactly who he was) and it would havebeen a blood bath. Thankfully my director saw and heard what had happened and talked me down. If I recall, I had to stay after the game because he was telling me about how some football player wasn’t worth my future. I fumed about it for days.  And when the football player came down to the band room to apologize to the director (but not the rest of us), I saw red once more. If it had been a band member, we would have been crucified! How dare he just get off with some shitty apology! Make him pay, dammit!

  

But this story doesn’t end there. Fast forward to the last day of the year 2015 (so today-6 years later), that same football player and one of his cohorts is playing Call of Duty with my husband. They know who he is, but none of them know who I am, other than his wife. So my husband (who was in the band as well) asked if they remembered that incident, as well as a couple others. And they did. I held no hopes that they might have changed, fully expecting them to make more slurs and laugh about it. My opinion was so low, even after over half a decade of separation that I expected them to be the same low-life people they had been before. And after six years of holding that grudge, I got my apology. 

  

So, there was enough time in 2015 to see to it that I learned one more lesson. I spent a good chunk of time today thinking about the implications of the entire event. How is it that I try so hard to hide the mistakes I made in high school from the me I am now, so that people judge me (and you know they will) based on the person they see before them and not the one from before-but would not extend the same courtesy to someone I barely knew? Why did I expect him and his friends to not change what-so-ever, but to have seen nothing short of a revolution in myself? What did that say about me?

And as I look at the clock, watching time pass by, I have a smile on my face. I cannot condone his actions, but my own are no different. I had originally started this post as a declaration of how we are all pressured into being unique but also conforming. And what I learned was that those are the struggles which have defined my past. I’m going into 2016 with a keen awareness that maybe I need to do more to be a kinder person, to keep less stereotypes, to open my heart to forgiveness and the pursuit of happiness. Because one of the only things that is more liberating than”I love” is “I forgive”.

  

Time may change me, but I can’t change time.