You know what’s exhausting? The sigh filled replies I receive after divulging, “I don’t think I’m interested in seeing him again”. It’s always the same: “Give it more time”, “Give him a break”, or “You’re just too picky”. I know they’re sentiments that mean well, but haven’t I earned the respect to trust my own gut? After all, it is my heart and my future experiences that are on the line in this circumstance; there’s no better judge of whose worthy of those things than myself.
Some may label me as a “serial dater”, however I simply strive to put my best foot forward in finding my other half. Going on weekly dates has been my path of choice to do so; with tools like Bumble at our fingertips it’s fairly easy to connect and test out the waters with potential suitors. I have been single for the past six years. Except for the short lived relationship I explored last summer. A relationship which honestly was driven by the unspoken pressure of those aforementioned sigh filled responses. (Sorry 2.0, if you’re reading this, although the allure was present, you and I both know we were on two opposite ends of a teeter totter without hope of finding level ground). Over those several years I would assume I’ve tallied up around 100 first dates, along with a hand full of seconds and thirds. I’ve done the research, I’ve analyzed the data and sometimes, most of the time, the chemistry just isn’t there. There’s something to be said about trusting your gut. That little voice in your head, the tiny tinge in your stomach that keeps whispering, “this isn’t it”. Once it starts, it only grows louder accumulating evidence.
Could I occasionally use a nudge to overcome a subpar first date? Sure. But contradicting my analysis after every single date is tiresome. It’s more of a judgement on my character than that of the man in question. It’s as if being single for an extended period of time correlates to a flaw in my character. So much so that I’m blamed for my lack of interest. Suggesting Ineed to give it more time, I need to give him a break, or I’m too picky. I don’t want to give him a break, and I shouldn’t have to. I’m not going to click with every person I date, and every person I date isn’t worthy of my time; it’s just not how it works.
So please, for me, and all the other single and searching girls out there, stop reacting to our disinterest in ways that discredit our worth. Maybe I’m just not that into him and that’s completely okay.
A few months ago I was forced to look for a new roommate as mine was moving to the city for a new job. With skyrocket rent prices there’s no way in hell a teacher like myself could afford a two bedroom townhouse within walking distance of downtown on my own. Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t ideal as the holidays were approaching so potential roommate choices were slim.
I hadn’t had much interest in the room – who in their right mind looks for a new place to live so close to the winter holidays. Finally, I got a very promising inquiry from a female who was about my age. She had a stable job, a typical social media presence, and we even had a few common connections on Facebook. She was currently living with her cousin and wanted a place that was closer to town. Things were looking up!
We quickly messaged back and forth trading pleasantries and important financial details of the living arrangement. No red flags! We set a date to meet up to ensure we were a compatible fit and hash out the other details. She could be the one.
…Then I get a text message from a mutual friend of ours. “She’s the cousin of your ex-boyfriends wife”.
Uggh … Are you kidding me? I desperately needed a roommate so I trudged forward, annoyed and baffled by the chances of this common connection. I followed up with a few questions: “Are they close?” “Do they see each other often?” “It wouldn’t be weird, right?”. He replied in his typical humorous fashion, “Nooo, they aren’t close at all. They are all just living together right now”.
(Excuse my language but….) What are the fucking odds?! As I giggled though my frustration I couldn’t stop shaking my head. Seriously, you can’t make these things up. Curse this small town (that I love so much)!
I contemplated the reality of a slightly awkward living situation for the rest of the morning. I weighed the financial benefits with the emotional ones, the stability against the uncertainty, and the relief to the continued stress. My ex and I left things on great terms and we share mutual friends … but did I want our circles so closely intertwined?
Ultimately I decided that it was probably better for all parties involved if we we kept a few more degrees of separation between us. Through frustrated giggles I sent her a cordial text explaining the funny, yet deal breaking situation we had on our hands.
Hey again. Thanks for your time and for considering renting the room in my apartment. As small town fate would have it, I put two and two together that you have a close relationship to my ex-boyfriend and his wife. We’re all on good terms but I can understand how this could potentially be an awkward situation haha. It’s probably best for everyone if we consider other options. Best of luck on your search!
Turns out she had also connected the dots. She was apologetic that she hand’t noticed it sooner. We both laughed at the unlikely hood of our encounter. We wished each other well and continued on our quest to find a suitable roommate.
Week 1. The fear of social isolation: Contracting COVID19 doesn’t necessarily scare me. I’ve had a strong immune system my entire life; I grew up with my mom working as a nurse, and now I am a special education teacher. I have faith that my body has what it needs to fight it. (I know that others aren’t so fortunate). The social distancing and quarantining, on the other hand, terrifies me. I am completely in support of it and am hopeful that following the guidelines will slow the spread of the virus. However, the logic in it doesn’t make it any easier emotionally.
As someone who gets anxiety the minute work lets out on Friday if I don’t have social plans for the weekend, this COVID19 situation is literally bringing some of my worst nightmares to fruition. As much as I adore summer break, being out of a routine that gives me regular human interaction, is when I hit some of my lowest points. I struggle, on a regular basis, with too much alone time; it sends me into a dizzy tailspin of negative catastrophic emotions.
Over this past weekend I celebrated my birthday. I was surrounded by a group of my closest friends that I would consider my family. Over the three days at our family cabin in Tahoe we snowboarded behind 4Runners, we partied (careful to not spread germs), we laughed, we sleeping bag slid down the stairs, and we genuinely had the time of our lives (while washing our hands every few minutes). Even on that high, I went to bed crying twice, woke up teary once, and had episodes of deep fear, that my friends so kindly talked me out of, throughout each day.
Day 1 of being home and I’m hit by a reality that is eerie. My friends went home to roommates who have become good friends, significant others, and family members. I’m currently living alone and the indefinite timeline of being by myself is hitting hard. My parents live close, but I’d rather steer clear as they are over the age of 60. In this time of uncertainty it’s healing to band together, but with COVID19 it’s socially responsible to be apart.
For this extrovert who so deeply depends on social interaction for happiness, the fear of being isolated is paralyzing. The spiraling thoughts of those I love avoiding me in fear that I am carrying the virus is enough to kick start an anxiety attack (causing shortness of breath which in turn convinces me I may have COVID19). Excessive worrying that I will unknowingly pass it to my parents, or other people I love, who it may be fatal for is excruciating. That kind of alone is unfathomably hard to contemplate.
I’m already missing hugs, I’m already missing high fives, I’m already missing bad 1st dates. I miss crowds and shared experiences. I’ve had the tv on all day “watching” various shows, but I’ve barely tuned in. I have been so in my head about what to do next? Where will our world be in the near future?
I’m more grateful than ever for technology and the ability to spend my upcoming birthday playing virtual kings cup with my friends. It will be a much needed distraction to the worries of COVID19. Hoping to find more peace in the upcoming weeks.
3.18.20. Fear of COVID19 itself: Fear got the best of me last night. I typically go to bed around 9 and am up by 8:00am (when I’m not working). I love my sleep. However, last night my mind was reeling with fear of losing those I love. My grandpa is in his 90’s and felt isolated before COVID19 broke; without the proper skills to navigate technology he’s even more isolated than we are. He’s stubborn and social; I’m terrified that he’ll expose himself to this virus and we’ll lose him.
My mind went to really dark places with my parents. My mom is a nurse, the fear of her being exposed, and then also exposing my dad is a thought that makes my skin crawl, my heart sink, and my eyes immediately tear. I couldn’t shake the fear of possibly losing multiple people that I am so attached to. Life would be so incredibly different, empty, and hard.
3.19.2020Clinging to a virtual social life for dear life:Craving social input with the depths of my soul. Doing my best to stay social through Zoom get togethers; scheduling virtual happy hours every chance I get. The Zooms are wonderful, they fill my world with so much comfort and happiness. The endings however, are jarring. They are abrupt; suddenly I’m all alone again in the quiet of my bedroom.
3.20.2020The envy of “quaranteams“: It’s hard to not be envious of other peoples “quaranteams” with the ever present platform of social media. I’ve been living alone in this “shelter in place” order for the past five days. It’s awful and isolating. The only thing keeping my head above water is walks with my coworker (10 feet apart). It was uplifting to realize the outdoors weren’t closed.
My new roommate moved in yesterday. I can’t tell you what a mood lifter she has been. Just to have another body in the house completely changes the energy. Although I’m so grateful she’s here, I’m still envious of those stuck at home with some of their favorite humans: husbands, family members, and friends. Quarantine would be a completely different experience if I was alongside a good friend. I’ve been fighting this feeling with zoom calls filled with drinking games and close friends, but it’s never the same as having them here in person.
3.22.2020 Isolation birthday celebration: Today was my birthday. I’ve been dreading this day all week. Turns out I have a pretty amazing support system of friends. The zoom call that lasted 7 hours was really more than I could have asked for in these circumstances. We had a blast catching up, playing kings cup, sharing quarantine stories, and changing our backgrounds. It was definitely a birthday I’ll never forget and I’m so grateful for the happiness they brought to me. I love you guys, so much, thank you.
It didn’t completely pass without its lows. Towards the end of the day, after a fair amount of beverages, sadness set in. Tears bubbled up. I wasn’t going to get hugs from my family. We weren’t going to spend a night out at my favorite restaurant. I was craving closeness, and in these times it just wasn’t possible to have. Last minute plans were made; I did see my family, we did eat dinner together (6ft apart in the garage), my mom made me a delicious cake, and it did lift my spirits, but it was so hard to not physically be close.
3.27.2020 A much needed distraction : I stopped documenting for a while for two reasons. One, this has been a complete emotional roller coaster and documenting my thoughts became chaotic. Two, tracking my thoughts made me painfully aware of them and what I really needed to emotionally survive this uncertain time was distraction. I’ve found that in finally getting back to work. …Holy moly. I’ll never forget what it was like to be a teacher during this instant switch to virtual learning. Talk about a roller coaster ride. I work for a title 1 school and our first step was to make sure all of our students had equal access to the curriculum. This meant lending out Chromebooks, securing wifi hot spots for families, serving daily lunches, sending home pencils, markers etc. It’s been incredible to watch how school staffs immediately found ways to support all their students from a distance. This past week has been one of the most overwhelming weeks I’ve ever experienced as a teacher – yes that includes my first year when I was still in school full time while teaching as an intern and head coaching a competitive tournament softball team, giving private lessons, mental game coaching, and managing a social life. Nothing can compare to the mental chaos that ensued as I desperately tried to figure out how I was going to virtually meet my students needs and IEP minutes. Let’s just say that at one point I calculated it; if I did it by myself and individually met every one of my students mandated minutes I would only have to work 34 hours a day… Yes, you read that correctly, 34 hours a day. Thank dog for the support of my coworkers. Flying the plane as you build it isn’t the most effective way to travel, but it was our only choice.
3.29.2020 The waves of social distancing:Yesterday I hit a hard low. Throughout this social distancing period I’ve recognized that riding the emotional waves of quarantine is really challenging. The pit of the wave I tussled under yesterday was my lowest yet. I couldn’t shake it. The more fun I tried to have the more sadness crept over me. It finally sank in that this isn’t over, and it isn’t almost over either. I haven’t hugged or had any physical contact with another human being in over two weeks. I really miss physical closeness, especially hugs.
I waded through that sadness. I sat with it, I cried with it, I slept with it, I stared blankly at my walls with it, I drank with it, I puzzled with it, I watched my favorite shows with it, I zoomed with friends as it loomed over me. It was everywhere and I couldn’t escape it. I was heavy, everywhere, with no end in sight.
Today I forced myself into turning over a new leaf. I had to. I wasn’t going to make it through this quarantine without a different mindset. I got up early and went for a good long hike with my aunt in the rain. It wasn’t hard, but hard enough to make me tired and sore. Beautiful enough to make me appreciate my surroundings. Rainy enough to match my mood and wash away the endless heaviness. Long enough to change the pattern in my breathing and force soulful inhales. Challenging enough to send endorphins swirling through my veins. Endorphins. There you are. I needed you.
I took the long way home. I drove through the rain in the redwoods. I came across peaks and took in breathtaking views. I cruised alongside the ocean in awe of the vastness. I ignored the notifications. I breathed. I drove. I listened. I was present. I was still.
Upon arriving home, I took a shower. Made a cup of warm coffee. I continued to ignore my phone, and watched a favorite show while listening to the rain. Staying present. Staying still.
As dinner rolled around I FaceTimed with a best friend. She supported my need for an extravagant dinner. A curbside delivered beautiful Italian spread accompanied by a favorite bottle of red wine was the perfect ending to my day. A Sunday that reset me. A day that taught me in times of overwhelming emotional stress I have to be selfish. I have to take care of my mind, my body, and my soul before I can do anything for others. I was almost on a high as the day ended. I felt hopeful. I had faith that I was in control of how I felt despite what happened in the world around me. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I knew I could find the peaks if I worked for it.
3.30.2020 Fighting for peaks: I did it. I found a flow in quarantine. I set a schedule and stuck to it. I’ve implemented things I never thought would be apart of my daily life. I woke up early and walked as the sun cast itself onto the city. There’s something about mornings that just breathes life into me; there’s a quiet that can’t be heard at any other time. There’s a sense of endless potential to chase. I came home and sat in meditation, watching my thoughts without judgement. I never thought I would be one to mediate, but it allowed me to accept and cherish being still. I worked my normal day and then rewarded myself with some downtime once I finished. I even did a second workout with my best friend via Zoom. I cooked dinner and then spent some social time with my roommate. I kept the high, I stayed within my flow. I felt in control. I felt like I could do this.
3.31.2020 The power of “and”: Doing both, seeing both, and embracing both has always been a personal challenge. I tend to see the world through a lens of “or”; I’m weak or strong, I’m confident or self-conscious, I’m high or low, this is miserable or fantastic. I’ve deemed the facets of my personality mutually exclusive adding to this perception of consistently being all in or all out. Facing the challenges of quarantine with a mindset of “and” has given me the emotional strength I needed to take care of my needs. I was reminded that I can feel both grateful for this extra time and disappointed that I’m missing out on the things being canceled. I can be hopeful for the coming days and scared that everything feels like it’s falling apart. I can be thankful for the distraction of work and overwhelmed by its demands. I can be angry at the circumstances, but also appreciative of how they are making me grow.
4/1/2020 It’s not social distancing, its physical distancing: The words we use to speak to ourselves in the private of our own conscious are important. We’ve been inundated with the term “Social distancing” by the media. However, it’s not social distancing that keeps us safe, its physical distancing. Social distance sounds lonely, emotional, and isolating. Physical distancing on the other hand, rolls off the tongue in a more logical manner that seems doable. In these times, the mindset of social distancing can keep us from turning to the people we so desperately need to make it through these uncertain times. There are no limits to how emotionally close we can be to those we love; we just can’t physically be that close. I’ve even found that some of my friendships have soared to deeper levels. We’ve shared fears, tears, peaks, laughs, and secrets through virtual platforms that we may not have been prompted to otherwise.
I have a friend that I’ve always adored, but wouldn’t necessarily categorize her to fit into the best friend, ride or die, do anything for you category. Through COVID, we’ve found connection, we found safety in our similarities, and we’ve found comfort in being vulnerable to one another. Now, she would be on my list of first calls if I ever reached a dark place. The growth in our friendship is stunning, it’s gorgeous, it’s priceless. Our connection is something I will hold onto for years to come, long after all of this has ended. She will be the reminder to always look for the silver lining, even if it feels like the world may be ending.
4/8/2020 The night I became a howler: At first I didn’t understand the howls. I thought they were odd and random. However, when I was finally prompted to tune into their sounds one evening, my heart grew towards them. In a peculiar way they reminded me we aren’t alone in this. I felt so connected to my city, my community, and everyone out there keeping this world running while the rest of us are doing our part by staying home. Its a feeling I almost can’t describe in words.
My house is located about a mile from downtown. When the clock strikes 8:00pm theres an undeniable undertone of howls in the air. They aren’t distinct, but they are there. You can almost feel the gratitude in the air as the soft wave of howls blankets the atmosphere. As the minutes pass my neighborhood chimes in, adding howls from each corner. A coworker shared videos of her neighborhood during the howl; what a joyous occasion. The entire neighborhood lights up with howls. Her adjacent neighbors adorn their porches with cowbells; some bang pots and pans as they walk down the streets. They cheer thanks and praise into the air for all of our front line workers. It’s the most beautiful and unique reminder that we are all in this together.
4/9/20The safety of Isolation: I have yet to enter a store or any public place of business since March 13th. No grocery stores, nothing. Everything that comes through my front door is doused in disinfectant and fixtures that are touched regularly throughout the house are consistently being wiped down by my roommate and I. Staying home, being vigilant about washing my hands, and physically distancing myself from others on my walks has given me peace. The peace of mind that it would be highly unlikely for me to be carrying the virus. A peace of mind that I couldn’t find when all this started. That first week of being stuck in the house, I continually convinced myself I had it. A cough here, the occasional shortness of breath there; I was sure it was coming. Shelter in place has given me an extra safety net and a sigh of relief. For that, I am grateful.
4/10/2020 COVID19 hits home: It was a Thursday evening. My friends and I had just finished virtual trivia and were enjoying a post game drink via Zoom. One of the squares went noticeably quiet as a dear friend of ours took a moment to read a text message. It only took a few seconds for the rest of us to realize her absence wasn’t typical. The text message was from her mom. They were at the hospital with her grandma who is 93; she was experiencing a fever with a cough, and had just tested positive for COVID19. Our hearts collectively sank. Grandma lives in the house next door; she has dementia and is easily confused by new circumstances. She would have to be left alone at the hospital to be treated. Our hearts shattered. We couldn’t even fathom what she could be feeling, but we were heartbroken for her. Tears welled in our eyes as the reality of COVID19 vividly made its presence.
That night I prayed my heart out. I spoke, I begged, I cried and I pleaded to a god I’m not sure I believe in. My mind spiraled with what ifs through my deepest efforts to stay hopeful. I clutched my phone, ensuring that I could immediately respond should she need comfort. Sleep wasn’t an option; I had to keep hoping, I had to keep sending strength. I had to feel the fear and the pain, like somehow if I did she wouldn’t have to.
4/12/2020 The comfort of a shared experience: As this all unfolded in early March, the term “new normal” didn’t resonate with me. I wasn’t ready to accept what my days in quarantine would look like: I didn’t want that kind of life, even temporarily. To my surprise, I’ve found a sense of comfort in knowing that we are all having a shared experience. Yes, I’m not able to go out and live the social life that I typically have, however, I’m not missing out on that social life either. FOMO, Fear OF Missing Out, is a large driving force of my anxiety. However, 30 days into quarantine, I’m finding comfort in knowing there’s nothing to miss out on. We are all in this together. It’s the epitome of a shared experience.
4/15/20 A Tiger King Low: I hit a new double feature quarantine low today. I taught myself my first TikTok dance. Not only did I stoop to the levels of a TikTok dance challenge, but it was none other than the Carol Baskin TikTok dance. “Killed her husband, whacked him…”
4/16/2020 Quarantine Silver Linings:
Finding comfort in being still
Deeper and more genuine connections with friends/family
Wednesday lunches with grandpa and family
Appreciation for the simple things
Gratitude for the outdoors
Time to be lazy without guilt
4/17/2020 Holding onto hope: Nobody was quite sure what it meant, but we were all grateful it was happening. My friends grandma was responding to antibiotics and had almost no symptoms. She was coming home. This was incredible news, our hearts fluttered with relief.
Unfortunately, it was followed by an update that her mom had also tested positive, yet she wasn’t experiencing any symptoms. Mom and grandma would quarantine together next door and fight this battle together. An unexplainable blanket of certainty consumed our group as we received the updates. Grandma has survived cancer three times; she’s a warrior and has undoubtedly passed on her strength to the rest of the family. They are going to beat this.
4/18/2020 Exponential Productivity and The Most Epic Ice: It hit me all of a sudden, an urge I couldn’t ignore. I needed to accomplish; I needed to cross things off my list and check boxes on my checklist. It started in the garage; I cleared everything out into the driveway. I purged, I organized, I reminisced, I re-arranged, and I cleaned. About half way through the organization extravaganza an Instacart delivery came to my door. I hadn’t ordered anything, and neither had my roommate so I was surprised to hear it was for me. Confused, I asked where it was from – BevMo. I immediately knew this delivery may not be in my favor. I laughed as I asked if he could tell who had ordered it. He informed me that a note on the order read “From Madison”. We both laughed as he handed me the grocery bag; inside was a 6 pack of Smirnoff Ice and a handle of Fireball. I had been Iced in the most epic way during a pandemic while being quarantined. I bowed to the ingenious idea, got on one knee and shook my head as I tanked the first bottle. Our group chat erupted with laughter.
I finished the garage, half of the backyard, the downstairs closet, and the entire 6 pack of Smirnoff Ice by the end of the evening. (Documenting each chug for my group of friends along the way). I had finally caught the productivity bug that everyone else seemed to be experiencing during quarantine. The sense of accomplishment at the end of the day sent me off to bed at ease yet eager to check off more tasks in the morning.
She walks in, the life of the party. She can drink with the best of them like fun is her only life’s desire. She’s impressive, slightly intimidating – keeping guests at arms length – but genuine. She’s all smiles like her heart depended on this social gathering. What they don’t realize is her heart actually did depend on this gathering. Her invitation was a reminder that she mattered. She promised herself that she’d prove her worth the moment she walked through the door. She needed to prove her worth, as they had to her so many instances before; this was her love language. At first they fawn over her ability to be all fun all the time; nobody can match her enthusiasm for moments like this. The pictures are epic, the games are innovative; this is her calling, she is home. As time wanes on she tries her best to match the nights natural regression… but as everyone mentions turning in, its an all too familiar reminder. She is alone. Her heart races as the doubts cloud her logical mind. She’ll do anything to avoid that familiar silence. So she pressures on… One more game, one more drink, a few more laughs…but she only drives them further away. They can never fulfill her needs; they’ll never live up to her standards, and she can’t to theirs. The night ends in the most genuine of fake hugs…the love is real but vastly misinterpreted on both ends.
What I wish people could understand is that my anxiety isn’t me. Just like when you fall ill and you’re a little less energetic, a little less full of life, a little more sensitive and a lot more subdued. Anxiety is the same; it’s a facade that clouds my true intentions. It takes over like the plague and forces me to succumb to its doubts. It’s not me. It creates an uncertainty in how I am perceived. My actions with and without anxiety are almost identical, but the motives are entirely different.
She walks in, the life of the party. She can drink with the best of them like fun is her only life’s desire. She’s impressive, slightly intimidating – keeping guests at arms length – but genuine. She’s all smiles like her heart depended on this social gathering. Her soul soars at gatherings like this. They are an authentic reminder of how thankful she is to have these humans to do life with. She knows they love all facets at her, but lets be honest, they all know she has a love language of outrageous laughter, ridiculous games and unpost-worthy pictures. The interactions are the catalyst for her enthusiasm, they give her a high that is unmatched. The pictures are epic, the games are innovative; these are her people, she is home. As time wanes on she tries her best to cherish each moment before the night begins its natural regression. She offers one more game, one more drink, one more laugh, just in case there’s one more memory to be made. Eventually the night concludes, as it always does, and the loves her life all exchange the most genuine of hugs. With a sloppy smile she turns in and reminisces on the events of the evening as she fades into a sweet slumber.
Writing connnects us. It bridges diversity, it’s a means of coping and sharing our peices is a catalyst for healing. A brave friend of mine wrote the heart wrenching composition below. When I read it for the first time my heart froze in my chest, suspended in the moment, captivated by her words. I’m in awe of her powerful words and her ability to be so authenticaly vulnerable. I’m deeply honored to be trusted with posting this one for her anonymously. This ones for you:
It’s Friday night and I finally decide it’s time to enjoy a long night out with my friends. I powder my face, I charge my phone, I change into those jeans that fit just right. I take a long look in the mirror and begin to head out, heart racing, palms sweaty, shallow breath. I stop, I turn back to my mirror and give myself a pep talk. “You’re fine. You’re safe in your own skin. Your friends will protect you at all costs.” My ritual, and now I’m ready to go.I drive around for a solid 8 minutes looking for parking. Right as I decide to go home, something halfway down the street opens up. I park, I take one last look in the mirror and I walk down the street to the bar, heart racing, palms sweaty, shallow breath. Thank god I know the bouncer. I make small talk, take a deep breath, and head inside. Thank god my friends are right on the other side of the door. I smile a smile of relief and I begin the normal human function of socializing. I am actually happy to be here. The night rolls on, I’m two drinks in, and in my zone. Out of nowhere someone bumps into me, hard, purposely, cracking my comfort zone like an egg. I freeze instantly and he puts his arm around me to apologize. I can’t say anything but manage to pat him on the back. I watch him leave. When I’m sure he’s gone I pat myself down and laugh it off with my friends. I pat myself down again, they all agree it was weird. We carry on in normal conversation and I’m shook, hoping my friends havent seen me pat myself down 7 times. I’m half looking for something that’s out of place, half trying to push my shattered pieces back together. I fight the urge to want to go home even though every fiber of my being says otherwise. I repeat half of my mantra “even if you want to leave, stay.” I try to make casual conversation but I’m broken, shattered. Someone offers me a drink. I’ve hit my limit but I take it. I hold myself together and make it a couple more hours. I walk back to my car, keys between my knuckles, scared as hell. I look back every ten steps to make sure I’m still alone. I start my drive home. I can’t get the incident out of my head…why the fuck did he touch me? I think of last night when that strange man kissed me on the cheek… why the fuck did he touch me? I think of last month when that man put his hand on the small of my back as he scooted by me… why the fuck did he touch me? I think of 3 years ago when I said stop and he laughed in my face… why. the. fuck. did. he. touch. me.
The days are getting shorter; the cool breeze is making its seasonal return. The clouds are growing heavier shadowing our days with their ominous grey. The leaves are taking their last sips of chlorophyl preparing for their fall finale. The darkness is settling in, beginning to suffocate our light. The anxiety of seasonal depression is on the horizon, and those of us who struggle are grasping for every last ounce of summer comfort.
I have always loved every season as they come. As they run their cycle I fall in love with its quicks and characteristics. Every season is my favorite as I’m experiencing it. However through that love I’ve always noticed that my soul has peaks and valleys; periods when I’m full of love and drive, then others where I’m depleted and looking for reassurance of purpose at every turn.
I became curious about my valleys. I yearned to know the trigger so I could find a resolution. I found myself identifying with those who dread the holidays like some sort of scrooge. I contemplated how they affected me as a single twenty something year old. Were they a reminder of how alone I was? It didn’t quite fit but it’s the only answer I could conjure up, so I adopted it. I hated the holidays.
That perspective changed a few years ago when a brave friends of mine confided in me about her struggles with seasonal depression. She shared her overwhelming desire to hibernate when the world turns cold and the daylight is fleeting. Her experiences resonated so deeply with me. It immediately explained why I could love snowboard season so much but dread it full heartedly at the same time. The moments between those serotonin releases were like trudging through molasses. It was a heaviness I couldn’t shake in the winter months.
Through those winter months I find myself coasting; wading through my duties until I can be back on my couch curled up with my spiraling thoughts. I contemplate my life choices and goals; I spiral into wondering what I’m even striving for, what my purpose is. My energy is ever fleeting like theres no hope in catching up, or even the desire to.
It’s a comforting gust of wind to recognize that it’s just the season. It’s the clouds and the chill in the air. It’s the hibernating atmosphere and the cultural drive to relax that throws my equilibrium off. There’s hope in knowing it will pass, but there’s unparalleled dread in knowing it will return.
In the past, I’ve cringed when posting pictures like these. In my perspective they’re from the worst angle and the amount of chins I have is infinite..but then I took a step back. These pictures capture true happiness. That’s me, being undeniably happy. This is what I strive for my winters to look like all season long, however, for now those moments are short lived. So instead of hiding the unflattering picture, I’ve decided to post it, proudly. It’s moments like these that I’m exceptionally grateful for, and they should be celebrated. These are the moments that keep me fighting through the darkness of winter.
I recently read the book titled “You Can’t Text a Tough Conversation” by Mike Bechtle. Exploring through the pages and connecting the information to my experiences and perspectives reminded me of being in graduate school. As I read its almost as if I could physically feel my brain expanding, like I was watching my soul grow from 3rd person perspective. The information is simple, but it elicits such profound understanding. It’s one of my favorite feelings; a full body epiphany.
Communication is riveting to me. A relationship I was in several years back awakened my realization of how two people who seem extremely similar can have vastly different interpretations of the same conversation. Our struggles to effectively communicate ignited a desire to deeply understand the ins and out of communication. This relationship caused me to retrospectively wonder how I was being interpreted to those in my circles and how they were wanting me to interpret them. As I devoured the pages of this book I found so many pieces of information that resonated with my experiences and allowed me to comprehend them on a more intimate level.
“In the absence of data we believe our own made up perspectives”
Mike Bechtle Pg. 58
This one made me giggle to myself. When it comes to relationships, intimate or platonic, I am a catastrophic thinker. If I am left in silence to create my own narrative of what is going on, I immediately resort to the worst, most hurtful, options: “There is somebody else”, “They are faking being my friend simply because they think it makes me feel better”, “They are dead on the side of the road somewhere”, “They just don’t care”. Even though those situations usually get “rectified” when the communication finally does occur, those hurtful thoughts have already done their damage. This is something I am aware of and work on daily both in my interpretation of things and in how I communicate to others. I have to consciously force myself to come up with healthier alternatives to my catastrophic thoughts and I am careful not to leave people to creating their own narratives.
“People will soften if you communicate via phone or face to face then on paper or text”
Mike Bechtle Pg
The work place anyone? I can be ready to write a scathing e-mail, and then I will happen to run into the intended recipient face to face before I can compose it. Immediately my entire demeanor changes. I am suddenly polite, understanding, and patient. It’s not fake; it’s simply realizing the humanity of the person on the receiving end. This is such a crucial lesson in this time of social media and our heavy reliance on technology to communicate. There’s a human on the other end; someone who makes mistakes, has feelings, and is dealing with things we may know nothing about. Face to face Human interaction keeps us kind.
“Communicating is like dancing…value motivates us to continue the dance”
Mike Bechtle Pg. 65
In those casual encounters with someone from past, value is low, so the dance is awkward usually short and void of meaningful interactions. With the people we value we are willing to have the tough conversations and communicate through our differences; the dance is smooth and full of meaning and growth. That moment when the music stops, the value recedes, and the effort dissipates can be heart wrenching. I have vivid memories of the moments when I realized the value had been lost (Adult Growing Pains). It can be heartbreaking, lonely, and it can feel hopeless. It can also be a freeing relief. The music stops and the dance ends.
“If two people see things exactly the same way, one of them is unnecessary”
Mike Bechtle Pg. 67
Sometimes diversity is frustrating. There are moments when you just want someone to instantly understand your perspective without having to tediously explain yourself. Quotes like this remind me of the beauty in our differences. It gives me an ounce more of patience when our views aren’t on the same horizon. It also reminds me that focusing on our similarities can pull us together, always focusing on our differences will drive us apart.
When communicating use/get as many senses as possible”
Mike Bechtle Pg. 77
As a person who identifies with the love language of physical affection, both in receiving and giving, this point felt so important to me. I love communication, even when it’s difficult, it builds trust and safety in my relationships (when its followed through with actions). The more communication there is the safer I feel and the more vulnerable I’m willing to be. I find that effective communication forces me to grow individually and grow closer to those around me.
I was never a big fan of FaceTime or video chatting. However I’ve been using it more frequently and it made the authors point come to life. The author explained that when people are separated they should communicate in ways that use the most senses. So if you can video chat start there, if you can’t video chat then use phone calls, if you can’t use phone calls use texting or writing but increase the frequency so it feels intentional. Technology is wonderful for enhancing communication but it should not replace it (Mike Bechtle Pg. 77). Video chatting with my friends who live far away immensely altered the atmosphere of the communication. It was so much more authentic and vibrant.
It also sparked thoughts of gratitude for those people I have in my circle. Our communication feels so intentional. We don’t live close to one another but we are almost always in communication with each other. Not only with memes or a simple “hey”, but thoughtful love filled conversations and of course the ever prevalent, I love you. It makes me wonder how any guy I date will ever live up to the love I feel from my closest friends *giggles*.
“Being late says what I’m dong is more important than what you’re doing”
Mike Bechtle Pg. 79
I have lost, and will continue to lose friends over this one. Late happens to all of us occasionally, but make it a habit and I can’t help but feel like our friendship isn’t a priority. It doesn’t feel good to be apart of relationships where equal effort isn’t being given on both sides. It’s not worth it to me to keep them around; it doesn’t make me feel valued.
“Independence is valuable but interdependence strengthens both people”
Mike Bechtle Pg. 79
Growing up independence was a highly coveted trait in our household. I idolized women and peers who “didn’t need a man” and I judged those who clung to or outwardly longed for theirs. My outlook as an adult is vastly different. I admire those who are interdependent. Those who are their own person but have also become vulnerable enough to need their partner in the life they’ve created. Partnerships that have committed to facing the tough issues together as a team. As relationships grow and become more serious, there should be a sense of need behind the connection. In marriage you experience so much together: love, loss, children, disasters, financial struggles and successes, depression, failure. Enduring all those things as a unit should elicit a healthy need to lean on your partner and use your strength as a couple to get through it. Without that sense of need the connection doesn’t have purpose.
“Emotions aren’t good or bad they’re just fuel”
Mike Bechtle Pg. 94
I hid my emotions a lot in my early twenties and late teens. I was proud to be seen as someone who never cried and held a strong demeanor. As I grew into myself I realized that tough exterior was keeping me from making the authentic connections that I so strongly desired. It’s defeating to have a vulnerable conversation with someone who presents as a tin man. We often look for validation in those bare moments; when that need is met with a lack of outward empathy the motivation to share dissipates. It’s far more comforting to give those moments to someone who is willing to share those emotions with you. Hiding from my emotions only kept my closest friends at arms length; letting them into my soul and owning my fears and insecurities out loud has only made us grow closer, and has only made me grow stronger.
“Logic becomes valuable after we’ve processed the emotion (positive or negative)”
Mike Bechtle Pg. 96
I lead with emotion. Its the lens in which I process information through and it’s the fuel that drives my decisions. I struggle immensely to put myself in the shoes of those who process logically. Their ways feel cold and isolating to me. Remembering that a logical lens can be beneficial after I have processed the emotion is a helpful reminder to be more balanced in how I analyze things.
“When we are unhurried conversational nuggets of gold can be found…Spend longer relaxed unhurried amounts of time with people… the conversation becomes more than just simply catching up”
Mike Bechtle Pg. 106
This served as the inspiration for my 2nd celebration of my 30th birthday on the shores of lake Tahoe with six of my closest girl friends. I intentionally picked a place where the days were slow so we would spend most of our time simply connecting. The difficulty we have getting us all in the same place is baffling; You turn 30 and suddenly you’re planning get togethers months in advance because its the first available weekend you all have. With crammed schedules, our sporadic gatherings are spent simply catching up; there isn’t much time left to truly connect and talk about thoughts that randomly meandering through our conscious.
Five days on the shores of Lake Tahoe with no itinerary gave us the opportunity to do just that. We had incredible conversations about our perspectives and how we navigate the world. We analyzed our similarities, our differences, and of course shared how grateful we are to know each other. This trip forever changed a few of my relationships. We had epiphanies about how we connect and why we interact the way we do. I adore the growth that it has given us.
“Fear is an emotion people like to feel when they know they are safe”
I love haunted houses; they are without question my favorite part of Halloween. I recognize they are thrilling because I know I’m safe so it’s fun to feel scared. In relationships feeling fear isn’t fun because their is no security of safety behind it. Its of the utmost importance to keep the relationship an emotionally safe place. Both people don’t necessarily enjoy having those tough conversations but they are willing to have them in order to preserve the happiness of the relationship. When terror hits these kind of relationships it tends to bring two people closer together, in unsafe relationships it drives them apart.
These quotes are simple; their lessons almost seem obvious. However, the growth they elicit is invaluable. These are just a few, there are so many more to be had, in this book, and elsewhere in the world. I genuinely believe that the key to happiness starts with a foundational understanding of who you are and what you need. Discovering ways to ask for those things, and strategies to understand others is a key piece in finding them. I don’t want to walk through this life like a zombie, doing things and feelings things without understanding why. I want to authentically understand what drives me, I’m dedicated to being continually curious about who I am; this book is a powerful component of that journey.
Interested in reading the book yourself? Here’s a link to purchase it via Amazon: “You Can’t Text a Tough Conversation“. This would be a great book club book; it would serve as an phenomenal catalyst for more meaningful conversations.
Spring 2018: I remember coming to the beach when you got sick. I remember looking out over her vast horizon and being so angry that it had to be you. It was almost like she was at fault. Out of all the billions of people she touches and dazzles with her beauty, she chose to take you.
Summer 2019: I came back today. You’ve been gone for 9 months, but with every crashing wave it feels like you’re here. The lullaby of her curls surrounds me with your soul. It’s overcast and cold matching the atmosphere in my heart, but the breeze wraps me in an unexplainable warm comfort, like I’m not sitting here alone. It’s deep and it’s consuming, and its undeniably you.
9.21.2019: I sat down to create a touching video that would honor your memory. I was eager to create something memorable that would not only commemorate your life, but a piece that would evoke memories for guests and remind them of their significance to you. I overlooked how hard this task would be. Scouring the pictures was bittersweet; the memories made me smile, but then the fog would clear and reality elicited tears. Sorting through the videos was almost cruel; they encapsulate all of you as if you are still here. The final touches of laying in the music was emotionally harrowing. Music can stir such powerful and passionate emotions. In Loving Memory of Joe
9.27.2019: Dread. It may sound harsh but I’m dreading the very celebration you asked for. Celebrating simply doesn’t suit the way my heart feels. I know logically the closure will be healthy and we all need to experience it to aid in the healing. Emotionally, I’m not ready for closure. This celebration has been looming over us for almost a year now, without it happening it almost feels like you aren’t all the way gone just yet. Once it’s over, it feels like the loss of you will be more vivid.
9.29.2019 “Celebration of Life”: There were tears, there were laughs, there were memories shared, and drinks raised to you. In a way it felt like losing you all over again, however being surrounded by all the lives you touched was heart warming. You deserved that. When my dad creatively honored you by writing his speech from your perspective it was as if the world had stopped turning and everyone stood still together in a moment of time. It was exactly what Joey would have done. “To you All – my family and friends: To all of my friends living in Cazadero or in and around the Russian River: I consider you all, my friends and my family. There so many awesome memories of sharing hospitality and coming together as a community in good and in bad. I will always love you! To My CYO Friends: You all gave me some of the best times of my life. We are life long friends forever. My favorite memories are as a life guard and of course the between session breaks were epic, especially at Crows Nest. Oh, also, It was not me who stole the Coors Beer from the Vatican, you know who it was, his name either starts with a J or a C (although I think both were involved). To my Dad: I know that you are here and that you have some kind of cocktail in your hand (Grandpa had a fresh martini in his hand, how fitting)and to my mom, who I am with at this very moment: You molded me into the man I am and I will be forever grateful. You taught me right from wrong and how to be strong, regardless of what life throws at you. I want you both to know that I made it and it’s because of you two. To my brother Michael: I do not believe that I have ever met someone more genuine than you. You stayed true to yourself and I admire you greatly. I especially absolutely love your laugh; straight from the heart and so contagious. I love you my big brother. To my brother Ronnie: There is no question that you are my most favorite (please do not tell Jeff – he will whine like a little baby.) I had my most favorite times when Fiona and I would pick you up for the Holiday’s, so, so fun. You always inspired me to become a better person, always. Thank you Ronnie, I love you. OH! One more thing Ronnie; It was Jeff’s idea, not mine, to shave half of your mustache off. I know that he always blamed me. To my brother Rob: I am so proud to be your big brother – always there, always around. I had so much fun having you, Vince and Donna around to mess with. Hey, was it you that lost our contest (picking a number 1 to 100) for going to the movies with John and me? I feel so bad about that haha. I love you bro. To my brother Vince: Do not let anyone tell you that YOU DO NOT look and sound just like Harry Potter. I’m pretty sure you’re the same height as well. Seriously though, I am so happy that you met Chris; I’m thinking these may be the happiest times of your life. Love every moment. You’re the best my little brother, I love you To my sister Donna: No one can tell me that you are not my favorite sister :). Without question, you are special and I mean that in the most sincere way. You are without a doubt one of the most stubborn and hard-headed people on earth. You are also one of the most determined and creative people I have ever met. I can see that you have put all that wood you STOLE from me to good use. I could not be more proud of you, I will love you forever. To my cousin John Lang: Easily, you are and will always be one of the most special people in my life We had so many great memories and I thank you so much for visiting me at the end. To all of my Cousins, Aunts and Uncles: Thank you all for being here, some of you drove a very long way. I want you to know that I think of you all often and even though long periods of time sometimes separated us, it never once eroded the closeness and love that we have for each other. To Bill and Sheryl: Perhaps what I am most grateful for is how you supported Fiona all the way to end and beyond. I am so blessed to have friends like you. To Sarah and Andrew: Whether you know or not, I look upon you as if you were my own – so different, yet so the same – I have loved and cherished every moment we have spent together. To my brother Jeff: I need to apologize. I always told you that I loved your Bloody Mary’s; to be honest, they were terrible……okay, maybe not absolutely terrible, but you could definitely use some lessons. Seriously though, we had so much fun growing up together, not many brothers can say they became and remained best friends forever. I wish nothing but happiness for you and Sherri. To my wife Fiona: Believe it or not, you taught me some really cool swear words. I actually learned words from you and Sarah that I had never even heard before. With my whole heart and soul, I thank God that you entered my world. You easily gave me the best 10 years of my life and nobody could ask for more than that. I’m so glad that you accepted me and my crazy family. If I never told you, you were my Rock, my foundation, my whole world. I ask that you keep our memories close, but please do not be afraid of the future. I love you.
9.30.2019 Trying to find the silver lining of your death seems impossible. I’m so beyond grateful for the time I did get to spend with you. What I wouldn’t give for just a little bit more, a few more memories to deepen the connection. In my heart, you and Fiona were my safety net. If anything were to ever happen to my parents, I found security in knowing I’d have you both. I wish I would have expressed that comfort to you. In the wake of your death I guess I can say I’m closer to family, especially my aunts. I’ve cried in front of them far more times than I’m comfortable with, I’ve also used all my might to hold back tears in their presence more times than I’m proud of. We’ve been more authentic and more connected in recent months. I know the authenticity of our relationship honors your soul. I have consciously let that permeate through all of my relationships; your influence will always guide me.
10.14.2019 I so desperately want to honor your wishes and truly celebrate you surrounded by those who love and miss you dearly. Hopefully, in time, our hearts will be able to cheers you with laughter and celebrate the goodness of your soul in a manner thats in the spirit of celebration.
Ive never been one to have the most friends. I’ve always been drawn to quality over quantity, so when I lost one of my closest friends when I was 28, it cut me deep. It was a quality friendship of almost 10 years that included living together, being teammates and countless weekend excursions. It took me a while to realize what was happening, but she was gone. She didn’t die or move far away; She simply decided that our friendship was keeping her from “living her best life”.
It’s been two years, and writing that previous sentence out loud still makes my heart race with anxiety and my stomach drop with embarrassment. Admitting that truth to the world feels like standing naked in front of a crowd of people and listening to them point out my imperfections. It feels like the most genuine form of failure; like you’re losing in a game you weren’t aware that you were playing while everyone watches.
It happened slowly, but also all at once. I remember our last time together. We had gotten lunch one afternoon and when I left I remember thinking something was off. The vibe was different and it just didn’t feel like us. She was one of those friends that felt like a lazy Sunday afternoon; comfortable and enjoyable with hope that the day will last forever. She was someone who got to see my soul more often then most. We had a good balance of vulnerable heart to hearts and wild weekend outings, or so I thought. When I left lunch that day, it felt stiff; it wasn’t the sunny dreamy Sunday afternoon vibe, it was more like a damp Monday morning. The hard part was it looked like a Sunday afternoon. We hugged, we talked, we ate. It was our normal, but also so far from it. I felt crazy. Was I imagining the difference in atmosphere? I convinced myself I must be and moved forward.
A week or two went by and I hadn’t heard from her. We were both extremely busy with too many things on our plates, so this wasn’t atypical, but for me there was still something eerie in the air. So I reached out, asking for confirmation that our friendship was all good. I got the thumbs up. It reinforced my self deprecating dialogue – yup I’m just a needy friend, someone who needs a ridiculous amount of reassurance that I am loved. I brushed it off and kept pushing forward.
….Then weeks went by, still radio silence from the other end. Those weeks turned to months, and those months became a year. As time passed it became obvious to me that this wasn’t simply us drifting apart, it felt deliberate. In our ten years of friendship we had never gone this long without speaking, even when we were living in separate cities.
Eventually I became exhausted of living through the consequences without an explanation, so I reached out and requested that we get together to talk. I was ready to be vulnerable. I was willing to hear her side of the story, take responsibility for my own, and grow together to hopefully repair the friendship that had fallen through the cracks over time. After all, we had been best friends for ten years, I felt it was important to give our relationship the effort it deserved.
We met. Perspectives were shared. Kind words were exchanged. Words that cut like knives were said. Tears were shed. Love was expressed. At the root of everything was a miscommunication that had happened the day we had lunch almost two years back. At the time I was going through one of the lowest points of my life, and I wasn’t ready to open up about it just yet. I needed time to accept it and find my peace with it; at that stage I had never said the words out loud to anyone. The only people who knew what was going on were the ones who were there when it happened. That day I had said, “I’m sorry, I’ve only told people that are close to it”. What she heard was, “I’m only telling people that I’ m close to”.
Finally reaching an understanding of the others perspective agreements were made to be better in the future. There was a glimmer of hope as we left that day, but her hug and words felt distant as we parted ways to our cars. I didn’t know it then, but our friendship would never recover. We may have reached a common understanding, but the damage had already been done. That one sentence was the straw that obliterated 10 years of one of my favorite relationships.
The days, weeks, and months that followed were heart wrenching. Having family and friends innocently ask about her dropped me to my knees while my body was still physically standing. Scrolling through social media evoked paralyzing fear that everyone else was moving forward as if nothing had changed. I was slowly fading into the darkness letting mutual friendships fall to the wayside. It is the worst heartbreak I’ve ever experienced. It’s a wound that will forever influence my current and future relationships.
It’s hard not to wonder why I wasn’t enough. Why our friendship wasn’t important enough for her to communicate through our struggles and differences. I can’t keep wondering. I can’t keep asking. I can decide to be broken or to be broken open. I can get smaller and angrier and lash out to hide my vulnerability. Or I can be broken open. I can let this wound cut through the floor of my soul to reveal a new cavity of who I am. A moment that will remind myself of who I am, not who I momentarily thought I was.