Finding Meaning

I will not deny that it was only roughly three months ago that I googled my ex. Two of them, actually. I was curious. I’m not sure why, but one of them popped into my head and I figured, while I was at it, why not Google this other one who I was curious about.

I didn’t find much. One of them, with a generic name, seems to have been wiped from the face of this internetted earth (rightfully). The other seems to have moved on to grad school in New York. I don’t know what I was looking for in this Google search but lemme tell you….I got nothing. I ended my search with a sigh and a shrug and continued on with life, nothing having changed.

I’m not obsessing over either of these exes. Or any of the other ones, for that matter. I publicly write about my exes frequently and reminisce over good times. I’ve been accused of not being able to move on and of pining for them. Trust me: it’s exasperating trying to convince the world that having a healthy understanding of your past relationships doesn’t mean that you’re stuck in the past.

I have a handful of friends that are still upset over failed marriages and lost relationships. More often than not, it comes out when we are drinking – the time when all the truths of this universe unfold. It comes out in anger, expressed in feelings of defeat. I’ve been seeing my friends tearing their lives apart over these people. They sit in their unhappiness, cheating themselves out of moving on, letting anger bubble up, allowing themselves to withdraw from life. We make poor decisions for ourselves when we’re angry, and when we feel unworthy and broken. I’ve seen this in my own life plenty of times.

So, why do we give our failed relationships so much power over our lives? Isn’t that exactly what our exes want?

The fallacy of time

I was recently listening to Esther Perel’s podcast. The first episode opens with a couple who have both cheated on each other. The wife feels more hurt about her husband’s betrayal and insists that, with time, everything will be okay.

Except…time doesn’t heal everything. In fact, it heals nothing.

Perel agrees. “Time never exists in its own. It’s what happens in it. You have to give it meaning. You have to shape it.”

The end of a relationship is a loss. It is grief. As with all loss, it may seem easier over time. We move on. We get used to not having a date on national holidays. We become accustomed to not getting texts asking us how our day is going. We adjust to coming home to an empty house, or falling asleep with no one beside us, or eating dinner alone.

This isn’t healing. It’s adjusting – adjusting our happiness, and our sense of what is okay in life, what we will tolerate in life.

I think the most radical thing that we can do with our lives post-breakup is to reclaim our time. To remember what we liked to do before that person, something that had to take the back-burner. Did you write? Did you paint? Did you golf? Did you go on solo-vacations? Did you go to metal concerts or music festivals?

And it’s not just about what we did beforehand. It’s about what we want to do now.

After my breakup with the guy who I was convinced I’d spent the rest of my life with, I re-focused my energy into my career. I dreamed bigger about what I wanted and put a lot of happy energy into networking. I went on three solo vacations in a matter of months. I wrote. A lot.

And, I also allowed myself to have moments where I felt unhappy. Moments where I felt alone, or desperate.

But I recognized that the passing of time doesn’t heal shit. It only makes life seem a bit more bearable.

Finding meaning

I’ve been reading Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. (10/10 recommend.) The book is about how often his career touches on end-of-life care, and it is an exploration lives that end in nursing homes and elder care centers, as well as lives that end young in hospice or in ICUs. At the center of this all is this: a more satisfactory end of life is one that still has meaning.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what gives my life meaning, lately. For me, it is always: my family, my friends, and my romantic relationships. For me, these are the hardest things to lose. At other times in my life, meaning has been found in my work, or my schooling, or travelling. Most often this meaning has been fleeting and temporary. A successful semester brings this meaning to an end. The finale of a large work project finds me on a plateau. A volunteer opportunity becomes stagnant, or a vacation ends.

A romantic relationship that had thrust great meaning and excitement into my life ended more than a month ago now. I’ve spent the last month feeling like so much of my joy and expectation and love had been pulled out from under my feet, and I’ve been flailing as I figure out where my meaning comes from now. I am giving it time, and being thankful for my friends, even though they mostly do not have the right things to say. And I am working to once again find meaning, and to fill my time with it.

Where are you finding meaning today?

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Missing someone.

I’ve been thinking a lot about friends who I’ve lost over the past few years. Not friends who I’ve lost to death, but rather, people who no longer wanted to be my friend. Or, for whatever reason, I had to cut the friendship out of my life.

I was recently reminded of two people who I was best friends with in middle & high school. After high school, both unexpectedly and somewhat cruelly cut me out of their lives for reasons that have been left unexplained. I remember that a few years ago, a mutual friend questioned one of the girls and she wouldn’t give in to what her reason was. Although it’s been 6 years now, I still have sadness about this.

No explanation.

The hardest departures are those which have no explanation. Although it’s not a day-to-day thought, I often wonder what I did, what their reasoning was. I don’t agonize over it, but it’s there. I don’t sit there wondering if I’m a bad person, or if I’m not worthy, but I sit surrounded by confusion.

Several years ago, I lost a friend of mine because she felt that I was a slut and immoral. It was no use arguing with her because she can believe whatever she wanted. But, I was hurt (and disagreed with her allegations, I had a steady boyfriend). A few years passed and then one day, I got a call from her inviting me to a party she was having. She apologized for her judgement and told me that she had been wrong, asking for forgiveness if she had hurt me. I still think back on this and cry tears of joy, tears of forgiveness….the type of tears that you cry when you meet an old friend after a long time away. I reconciled with this friend briefly and saw her only a few times until she tragically passed away just weeks after our reconciliation. But, instead of focusing on the what ifs, instead of wishing I had more time with her post-reconciliation, I gave thanks that we had reconciled. I gave thanks for the forgiveness, the apologies, the friendship. She lit a spark in me. I wish that these other friends would reconcile in the same way….or at the very least explain what happened.

And what do you do when you miss someone but you can’t tell them so?

Sometimes I do miss these two friends from middle & high school. Sometimes something will remind me of them, or Facebook Memories will show me a photo of us together and happy, and I want to tell them that I am thinking about them. That I miss them. That I want to hear their voice again. That I want to laugh with them again.

This type of missing someone is the worst, because you know they’re out there. You know that they are out there and someone is hearing their laugh and talking with them and being able to cherish that friendship that you’re not able to.

Is there ever a bad time to tell someone that you miss them for all the right reasons? Not that you want to see them again, not that you want them back….just that you miss something about them that you once cherished.

Writing as a balm

Ever since I was small, I’ve loved to write. My family had at least two typewriters, and I have fond memories of sitting in the big blue chair in the corner of the living room, clanging away on the keys. I wrote nonsensical little stories. One year before I had even hit grade school, I wrote a story about a mouse and a big ball of cheese. I illustrated it myself, packaged it up, and mailed it to Reading Rainbow in hopes of winning a Mac computer. (Those were the days when they were orange and aqua and pink.) (I did not win the contest on any level, and my story was mailed back to me; the first memorable defeat of my young life.)

Writing has, for me, always been a healing balm. When I blogged for years and years, it healed. When I journal, still, it is always when I need healing. Writing takes care of my anxiety. It holds me tight when I am feeling unsure, or weak, or wandering hopeless. It is fun, and creative, and it makes my body feel like it’s shed half of its weight.

I don’t read too many personal blogs anymore, but I read plenty of collectives, such as Man Repeller and Into the Gloss and The Strategist. And I am a Modern Love Junkie.

The other day as I read a blog on one of these websites, I was overwhelmed with a thought: This could have been me. What if I had never quit blogging. What if I hadn’t lost interest, or decided it wasn’t a priority. What if I hadn’t forgotten that writing is a balm necessary to my happy & sane existence. I could be writing professionally. I could be blogging on a collective, and having my voice heard and being a part of that community still. I could have a larger outlet and more meaning and direction in my life. What if that could be me.

Early into my twenties I decided that I had priorities. My relationship (of course). My internships (unpaid). My schoolwork (almost graduated). My job (overworked and loved it). I moved away from writing and never came back to it with a full heart and full mind because life continued to come at me from all directions and there was so much that tantalized me, so many things that seemed appealing. There still are. None of this has changed. But I am realizing that, maybe I should move writing back as a priority. I no longer have schoolwork, or internships, or even a relationship. There is room for more, and better.

So here I am. Rubbing this balm back over my wounds. Over my cracks and claws and the places where I am peeling and exhausted and overwhelmed and frantic.

I could write about writing forever. I am going to try to quit and just write.

Goals for 2018

At a yoga mini-retreat that I attended last week, we “checked in” with each other about how we were feeling and what we wanted to achieve from being at the class.

When it was my turn, I said that I was at the class because I’ve been feeling a bit out of touch with myself this past year and was hoping to move a bit, focus a bit, and be more creative. I paused for a moment before divulging that I’ve let myself grow anxious and distracted this past year.

While 2016 was a year of relaxation and reward, and 2015 was one of achieving many goals, and 2014 was about constantly reaching that next step, 2017 was a plateau of anxiety, confusion, distraction, and losing myself. I wasn’t relaxed, I was bored and restless. I wasn’t rewarding myself, as I had achieved nothing. I wasn’t reaching next steps or achieving goals, as I was on a flat plane moving nowhere.

A lot of this anxiety had to do with the election & our current political climate. The constant hate, misogyny, racism, and stupidity has been exhausting and distracting. I’ve felt emotionally flat. I’ve had a big career goal in mind for more than a year now and I’ve moved nowhere on it. I’ve quit exercising or doing yoga as much as I used to. I get outside less and have less variety in the things that I do.

I do not want to enter 2018 the same.

2018: Moving Forward

As I loosely defined the themes of the past few years, I’d like to already claim a theme for 2018: Moving Forward.

I want to move forward with my idea of starting my own business. I need to take steps to manifest that into a reality. I need to put myself through that intense, rigorous, creative process of figuring out what is viable, what would sell, what would be sustainable.

I want to move forward with creative goals for myself. I want to finish the painting that I’ve had wedged behind my couch. I want to finish the quilt that I bought the back panel and fats and pattern for. I want to sew my own clothes again like I used to do.

I want to move forward with my relationships. I need to re-focus myself on sustaining what I have with my closest friends. I want to grow closer bonds to my sister and my cousins. I want to have a love life that makes me proud and happy. I spent the last year happily casual in dating and not thinking about anything long-term. I need to be asking myself the hard questions about what I really want in all of these relationships, but especially in my casual dating. Am I really happy here or am I scared? I’m not sure at the moment.

Next steps

Now that I have my yearly theme in mind, I’m going to concentrate onto breaking it down into 5 digestible goals for the year – and then 3 even smaller goals per month. When I was in college, I did this every year and every month, and I achieved so much. It kept me moving forward. Here’s hoping it works again. More to come, ya lucky ducks.

The Rules.

My original blogging style was always writing as though if I was writing to an old friend. Or a best friend.

I am sure that it was this habit that collected friends for me over the internet. People who pored over my words and carefully responded with their own thoughtfulness and care. People who still follow me on Instagram and encourage it when I care to write long sentences full of feelings.

Over the past few years since I left blogging, one reason for my doing so was because I always had friends who I could talk to (deeply). I no longer needed to foster connections over the internet. I no longer needed to keep my personal journal live for the public to view. I keep little journals around my apartment where I will write occasionally…usually my absolutely darkest feelings. These pages are crinkled from being waterlogged with tears, ink runs and blots. But these are words that I wouldn’t put out on the internet anyways. No, the words that I’d keep for the internet I now volcalise to my friends.

Rather than spending hours every week taking photos and writing long blog posts about my life lately, full of both the hardships and the funny things that have happened to me and the people who I love most dearly…. Rather than doing that, I spend my free time with my friends. Talking with them. Creating memories with them. Letting my friends be my personal journal if I need to, where I can talk animatedly and freely about whatever I so choose, in the same way that I treated my blog.

Last month as I spent several days with Tori & Lily & Jess – old blog friends from many years ago – I was reminded that I didn’t only blog for myself. I didn’t blog as catharsis or because my thoughts had no where else to go but to be contained within. I blogged because sometimes what I wrote were words that other people very dearly needed to hear.

As I’ve grown older, I like to believe that I am still the same naive person I have always been. That the world has not made me hard, I have not become rooted to conceptions and beliefs and fears. But I don’t think that this is true.

My world has, as of late, become smaller than I’ve realised. The way that I express emotion has become rigid and fearful. I quit writing because I was tired of people seeing my intense vulnerability – a vulnerability which I used to wear like a badge of honour. I was worried that people would use my own feelings against me. That people would find out too much about me. I lost my naivete that I treasured and became hard. I felt silly because of how much I put out in this world. Silly that people could read my thoughts and hear some of my darkest secrets and know my faults and the things I love and the things I hate. I grew dispirited.

So here I am again trying. Because people have been coming out of the cracks in the past few months to tell me that they miss my writing. To tell me that they so appreciated reading my blog for nearly a decade. Complimenting me on my intricate thoughts and the way I am able to express myself. Asking for more, asking for me to write again.

And I have grown discontented with myself. My life has become small and boring as I have found comfort in hardness and in predicting how I will be before I let myself just find out.

A few years ago, a friend said to me, “Guys don’t like to date women who have a bunch of rules.” Maybe I’ve grown discontent, too, with the rules I’ve given myself.

First falls.

October 27 was the first snowfall of the season. As I walked to work with watery bits of snow pelting down on my eyelids, I couldn’t help but think of how lonely this first snowfall was.

I began thinking of the first snowfalls of the past few years. I don’t remember last year’s. It wasn’t a significant day. But I can remember the year before, and the one before that, and definitely the one before that – 2012.

The first snowfall of 2012 – the first significant one – came a week before I finished my exams at university. It came around the time that J and I began dating. For our first date, I had looked up the weather forecast and warned him, “If it is snowing like crazy, like they say it will, don’t bother coming over. We can reschedule – I don’t want you to get in a car accident!”

But, the snow didn’t hit like they said it would. So J came over to decorate the Christmas tree. I was so excited when I heard the knock on the door. My pup was still alive and I apologized to J for his poor health before we put on the Peanuts Christmas Special (J had never seen it!) and trimmed the tree.

This was a boy who I had met a couple of years prior, when I was 17. The very moment I saw him, I felt something in my gut. I connected with him before I ever spoke to him. Even 3 years after our first date, J and I liked to talk about the first time we saw each other. We both knew.

That first snowfall of 2012, we decorated the Christmas tree. And then became inseparable.

It’s funny how my mind works sometimes. I can remember photos so well, and when I look at photos of myself, I am rushed by images and memories and people and all of the things surrounding me when that photo was taken.

16 january 01

As I walked to work yesterday, a photo popped into my head – right around Christmas of 2012….just a few weeks after that first date – we were already in love, we had already declared ourselves boyfriend and girlfriend…. It was snowing a dreamy, soft, swirling snow. J was coming over for a date night in. I popped outside to capture a few photos for my fashion blog before he came over.

To me, thinking back, those photos are the excitement of the first snow, a fresh start, a new love, new adventure, opening up my heart again.

For the next three years, J and I spent every first snowfall together. When it came, we would both drop whatever we were doing and meet. For our last first snow together, we sat underneath a streetlight by my apartment, sipping the hot tea that I had made, and talking about our hopes for the season. That’s what we always talked about during these first snows – our hopes for this exhilarating fresh start.