Picking Dandelions

In preparation for Thanksgiving, I am cleaning around the house, making mashed potatoes, and watching shows on Hulu.

Just like every Thanksgiving-themed television show, things do not go the way we want them to. Timing is never impeccable, and still, somehow, we learn to have gratitude in our hearts for those who invade our personal space and burrow into our lives.

This might show itself as an ex-boyfriend who realizes what he lost too late, or perhaps the perfect man, showing up in the midst of heartache and friendship betrayal. It might mean having to drive over three hours to pick up your mother the night before Thanksgiving because she doesn’t like highway-driving, and it could very well mean messing up your very first, ever, batch of garlic and herb mashed potatoes. (Let’s hope not!)

Maybe the tangled strings don’t all get tied into pretty bows like they inevitably do in sitcoms, but we know we have to accept the chaos, because those people in our lives are here to stay throughout the good, the bad, and the absolutely heinous.

Just about nothing has gone the way I would have liked it to in the past year. Although, when does it ever? Even though there’s been a tremendous amount of pain, loss, and having to say good-bye, I’m not sure that I would change anything.

Yes, I lost my male cat, Zen, a year ago very tragically. However, I would not have the capacity to love and appreciate my female cat, Aum, as much as I do had his death not occurred.

I had a terrible argument with my ex right before my birthday this year, which resulted in months of him hiding away and not speaking to me. If I hadn’t lost my sanity that night, I wouldn’t have sought out and received the help I needed to regulate my PMDD.

Saying good-bye to the beautiful man from Brooklyn nearly decimated my heart, but if I had not made myself completely vulnerable to him in our last moments together, then I would never have known that all this time he truly did love me.

Having a massive falling-out this summer with a good friend, who found many ways to betray and hurt me, led me to learn how to have true forgiveness for someone and manage to find a way to have him in my life in a redefined space. I realized I didn’t have to let go of someone for good, I just had to reconfigure how our friendship now operates.

My failed attempts at dating this summer, the agonizing disappointment of rejection, the yearning to move forward and move on with seeming difficulty—these obstacles literally led me right into the arms of a well-deserving man, who with his gentleness for my heart, has shown me patience and selflessness in ways I didn’t think were possible.

The events in our lives that don’t go the way we want them to, developing into hurt feelings, lost relationships, betrayal, and heartache, do serve a purpose. Sometimes, they help us to understand what we really need to do. They bring us to a patch of our lives, which has been neglected and is overgrown with worry, dampening sorrow, and unacknowledged emotional baggage.

It is here that we begin to sort through the clutter, pulling out the weeds.

We don’t actually have to toss them away, because unbeknownst to us, they can be brought into our homes and flourish what has become dingy and distraught.

Life is a pretty painful existence. It’s necessary to pick out the good bits, which usually end up being pretty flowers disguised as the weeds.

The Rat Race vs. The Ride

I’m here doing these things I’m told to do everyday and I don’t even know why.

You ever think about why you’re taking out the trash or buying patio furniture at Ocean State Job Lot? Why are you doing that versus living in the woods, cut off from society completely? Why aren’t you in Uganda, volunteering your time to help those less fortunate than yourself?

Of course, some of us are.

The rest of us are following the paradigm set out for us since birth: go to school, get a job, furnish a home, find a partner, create new life, raise new life, vacation, retire.

I’m not trying to be pessimistic here, because I’m a generally content person who has meaningful connections with others and believes I have a purpose in being on this planet, but sometimes I get so caught up in the daily monotony that it makes it hard to see the big picture.

If my life is just going to be doing this every day, I don’t know that I want to sign that contract.

I think that’s why I’m kind of differently lately. I mean, really, I’ve been different for the past four years, since I started my new life after relationship death (aka my break from my fiancé).

How am I different…?

I like adventures. This could mean anything. Taking a spontaneous trip to Sedona, Arizona with a mystery man or jumping out of the car on the side of the road to pick wild flowers. Building blanket forts of epic proportions in my living room, or convincing the most gorgeous man I know to get in his car and drive three hours on a Sunday night just so we can hold each other and make-out for another three.

I love alone-time. Alone-time is not bored-time. It is relished, thirst-quenching me-time! I have found that a lot of people do not know how to be by themselves for a duration longer than a few hours. Think about it: whenever we’re out shopping, other people are nearby. We go to the movies, play mini-golf, drink at bars… We take public transportation, we work in offices, we go to Church. We are around people even when we don’t want to be!

I am fortunate to have a schedule quite opposite from that of my roommate, and I spend a lot of time alone, writing, watching movies, petting my cat, crying, lounging, eating, playing guitar, singing, or doing a random arts ‘n craft project. Doesn’t really matter much what I am doing as long as it’s mindful and appreciated.

I am grateful. I “pray” every day. I’m not religious, but I am very spiritual in the sense that I energetically feel connected to everything in the Universe. I believe in the Law of Attraction; I feel watched and cradled and listened to. I write in a gratitude journal most nights before bed. I see the good even when the walls are painted in cow shit and all the windows are stuck shut.

I am filled with hope. I was talking with a friend Saturday night about how my mentality is to refuse mediocrity. We both have been in abusive relationships of varying types, and he more recently than me. I told him people have asked me how I can keep opening my heart to others, and it’s quite simple, really: You have to continually have hope. The second you lose it, you might as well give up. Hand in your key-card for life and resign.

I don’t think too much. I’m a thinker–a philosopher, at heart. My brain never really ceases to have thoughts. That’s not exactly what I mean when I say I don’t think too much. I have stopped over-analyzing every little detail. I go with the flow more and let the powers that be dictate how things will progress. I tend not to get my hopes up over situations by investing so much mental energy in them. I’m more accepting of whatever is, is.

I am getting healthy. Maybe it’s a thirties thing. I’m past partying all the time. I got getting shit-faced all the time out of my system after the years of deprivation from social interaction I experienced being with my ex-fiancé. I think it’s “cool” to quit smoking cigarettes and eat salads. I adore and look forward to my yoga practice, and my idea of a good time lately is listening to music in my kitchen on a Monday night while figuring out how to make a homemade quiche crust.

I feel it all. I let myself cry a lot. If I’m angry, then, I’m angry. Sometimes, I’m elated, and when I’m elated, I dance in my living room and sing so loud that I’m hoping I hear my neighbors applaud when I’m finished.

Feeling blah or numb will happen occasionally, but I don’t want to live there. Living in complacency is like living in a home with no windows. No sunlight comes in. You can’t hear the rain beat against the glass during violent thunderstorms. A thick mat of dust covers all things due to lack of air circulation. The environment has no atmosphere. It is stagnant and un-evolving.

I might have to pay my absurd electric bill or rotate my tires, but I can do those while indulging in the things I love, like music, nerdy podcasts, sudoku puzzles, and avocados.

I love hard. This one’s probably the most important. I believe love is the single-most important thing in the Universe. I make sure my friends and family know they are cherished. I feel ardor for my hobbies and interests. I shriek and throw my phone when someone sends me a ridiculously adorable baby animal picture. I sing annoying songs at work to lovingly piss off my coworkers. I walk around naked in my apartment when my roommate isn’t home, because the air passing over my tanned skin feels amazing, and I take selfies when I look cute.

I compliment myself. I praise others. I love with a heart whose protective case has been smashed open like a poorly designed, knock-off Otterbox. Fully exposed and vulnerable.

If you had to purchase a one-way ticket and you had a choice between the warrantied, safe and amenable race to the finish line or the undisclosed, off-roading adventure, which would you pick?

Most of us have to be a part of the “rat race”, regardless. If we have to travel that well-known, dead-end path, we might as well take as many detours as possible to all the scenic routes to extend, brighten, and give purpose to our daily motions.

Sweet 16

I remember being sixteen years old, tightly stuffed into a friend’s basement in Worcester, MA, feeling higher and happier than a child chasing a trail of pearlescent bubbles.

It was New Year’s Eve, 1999.

I was there with my sister, mutual friends, and the boy with whom I was completely infatuated from the first moment I saw him that summer. I wore black vinyl pants and remember my crush saying to me on the ride to Worcester, “I can see myself in your pants. No, really. It’s not a pickup line. I can see myself in your pants.”

He braided me an aluminum foil bracelet as we stood by ourselves in the kitchen, tucked away in a corner, where we rubbed noses and giggled about how Eskimos and gnomes kiss.

I remember hanging out in one of my friend’s van outside listening to DMX and Dr Dre. I vaguely recall our friends’ band playing that evening in the tiny basement. I also remember eating peanuts while chewing gum, and realizing as my gum dissolved and slid down my throat, that that’s why people use peanut butter to get gum out of girls’ hair. Epiphany. I was hopped up on illegal substances and the world was my oyster.

As the ball was on its descent into the year Y-2-K, we all joked about how the internet would shut down, chaos would ensue, and the beginning of the end would follow thereafter.

None of that happened, of course, but when the countdown reached zero, I grabbed the boy and kissed him so sweetly. It was my first New Year’s kiss and I was on ecstasy.

Very early on the morning of New Year’s Day, I went back to the boy’s house and he laboriously peeled the black vinyl pants off my sweaty body. I lay in the boy’s bed, while he tried to do sexy things to me and I was coming down. I was tired, and it just wasn’t working. Frustrated and selfish, he broke up with me; I was mostly naked in his bed and trapped at his home without a ride.

Later that morning, forgetting what he had done only hours earlier, he in naive slumber, curled his arm tightly around my waist and pulled me in to snuggle. I just lay there and cried silently.

Happy New Year.

That boy became the man with whom I reunited seven years later and almost married.

Now, sixteen years after that emotional bumper car ride, I am sitting here in my favorite, thread-bare bathrobe in my cozy apartment. I am thinking about how many dull years have passed. How many of them I spent being a normal, young adult with a relatively stable existence. How many of them I spent with that same boy, and how many I have spent without him since we split. How so many of those years since we broke up were anything but stable or dull. How grateful I am to be where I am sitting today.

One thing that has always been consistent in all of my teen and adult years is my struggle with love. Oh, I find love, I just can’t keep love. The last three New Year’s Eves have been spent with friends, doling out hugs and cheek pecks at the ball drop.

Four years ago, I experienced something akin to my sixteenth year. I told the new guy I was dating since J and I broke up that I loved him for the first time. On New Year’s Day. It wasn’t planned. I wasn’t trying to be romantic by choosing a special day; it had just been six months together and fifteen years total since I had known him, and it came out of my mouth as we lay in my bed after drinking several mimosas and fondling each other. He reacted poorly. Understatement. His reaction was the worst reaction anyone could possibly have to being told they are loved by their girlfriend.

First, he laughed nervously. Really hard. Then, he pulled me in for a hug and swayed us back and forth for an extremely uncomfortable amount of time. It felt like three decades. We both silently shared a cigarette on my porch, and then, abruptly, he told me he had to go.

My New Year’s track record is excellent.

This year I feel good, though. I’ve been taking a lot of time to focus on organizing my life and my home. I have been writing a lot. I don’t really go out or drink very often at all and am in bed by 10 or 11 each night. I cherish my girl cat and lavish in all this extra time I have to be near her because I am not out getting messed up. I am yet again reconnecting with me, my favorite person to hang out with.

I cannot predict how the year will progress nor do I really want to. There are a couple of projects in the works that will keep me focused on my hobby and love for writing and editing, and I am finally loving my body and taking care of her needs.

Coming from the girl who always has put others before her, I am no longer content to be that person who lies there, quietly stifling her tears, while men abandon her right as a human to have her own fears, feelings, and thoughts.

And while I may be romancing someone currently who makes me swoon, blush, or feel dizzy, he is not the center of my world–he is just a very lovely and enticing piece of it. I like my life and I damn well should. It is mine after all. No one else’s. I live it for me and those who come into it, like my friends, family, or this romance, are all just enhancements and embellishments to the steadily polished bowl I’ve been working on for nearly thirty-three years.

I used to repeat the mantra, “I am happy; I am healthy; I am wealthy; I am wise.”

I think as I move into this new year of 2016, I am going to focus on the simple sweetness.

There’s a calm radiating throughout my being, because I’ve been chasing the metaphorical dragon for years and am finally ready to be me. To be the girl renewed from years of bad relationships and abuse; to be the girl strengthened against giving herself to men just to feel wanted; to be the woman who is comfortable in her new shape but still yearns to feel healthy in body, mind, and spirit. But mostly, to be Amanda, the person I know most intimately.

Amanda loves to read. She loves cleaning. Her home is an homage to the things she cherishes most: her cats, her friends, and music. She is nostalgic and loves to read her old journals (and then immediately shred them upon completion). She is sappy and enjoys eating popcorn by herself while watching comedy romances. She puts herself to sleep each night by petting her cat and listening to science documentaries. She writes in a gratitude journal. She requires time to herself every day to feel whole. She loves writing and making music more than she loves most things, and she gives her heart freely and generously to the people who mean the most to her. She does this not because she has to, not out of guilt, fear, or obligation, but because when Amanda feels like Amanda, she is a resonating channel of love.

From what I know of Amanda, she is sweet. She is kind, caring, and sweet. She’s snarky, sarcastic, whiny, and selfish, too, but no one likes a perfectly polished bowl, now, do they?

May I only hope that 2016 simply holds that presence of free love, if nothing else. It might just be the sweetest sixteen I’ve had yet.

It Is Ours

The thing that makes love so great is not that it’s beautiful. It’s not that it makes us a better person. It isn’t even that feeling love makes us seem less alone in this world.

It is that it is ours.

Of course, we all know that sharing a moment with another human, complete with passion and adoration is beautiful. It more often than not inspires us to achieve greater things within ourselves. Having the companionship of another soul that complements ours helps alleviate the mundanity and hardship of everything we encounter every day: tough and trying days at work, hours running errands or scrubbing our toilet bowls. Paying bills. Choosing 401ks. Moving into a new home. Grieving a loss. Giving birth. Long car rides. Sitting at home with a television show or playing a board game.

Here’s the thing–all of that might be a hundred percent true, but that’s not what makes love so great. What makes love so magnificent and shiny, so unparalleled and desirable, is that it belongs to us. We are experiencing it. Ourselves. Together.

There are few factors in our existence that are greater than the driving, motivating force of what love does to us.

Love is way more than romantic words spilled between two people. It exceeds the actions we display and perform for others to show our affection and dedication. Lyrics and melodies of songs might move us to tears, but even they fall short. Commitment to our friends, family, and loved ones shows love. The ability to forgive and see a person for who they truly are without fault shows love.

But love is also so very relative. That’s what makes it so appealing.

Suddenly, a person who is seen as ordinary to others is extraordinary to us. Other people might see them as exceptional or amazing, but never quite in the way that a person who is swayed by love does. Suddenly, everything about them is a novel waiting to be unraveled. It might be the way their hair falls on their face, the pitch of their voice as they say certain words to us and only us, or the events in their life we know have crucified them–those crippling memories that have often kept them fearful and closed off to us–we learn to love those, too. And why? Because that’s love. It’s not rational. Not logical. No true calculations for how it works, when, and why.

It happens in that moment when we realize that the way they touch our collarbone makes our skin crawl with anticipation. It occurs when we only melt when they tell us we are beautiful. We spend minutes physically dizzy, thoughts spinning, trying to make sense of reality again. We smile just because we know they exist, and we smile harder knowing they smile because we exist, too.

Despite the thoughts and opinions of others, no one can take this away from us.

The world is seen through rose-colored glasses because of love, but we notice that it is never the same each time it is experienced. That is what makes love so great. It is never a repeated episode of something we’ve felt before. Each time, we swear it is the greatest, most unique thing we’ve ever felt, and it’s not because we’re idiots, it’s because it’s true.

I have tried forever to understand why humans put themselves in the blinding, gambling “trust” of love, and it’s not because we just continue to have hope that the “right one” for us is out there; it isn’t because we forget what heartache feels like. Most of us are starkly aware of betrayal and pain. Of situations which we thought we couldn’t overcome. But then that person comes along at the perfect time, saying the most perfect thing, touching us in the most incredibly perfect way, and we’re rapt. That’s just the beginning.

Over time, they continue to bare themselves to us. We share things with each other that only two people who are intimate do; we giggle in heated moments of lust when bodies don’t accommodate our wants, and we heave in extreme passion at the pure excitement and enjoyment the other is having, because theirs is ours.

Most of what I’ve ever read about love is how to make it work, how it doesn’t work, or what real love is. I could write about that, because I think I know at least a few things about love, but it has dawned on me that the epitome of what we all want when it comes to love is that personal experience. That “us” feeling. Those moments, those memories, that can never be shared between two others. Only us.

It is the wave we ride on that spawns great poetry, body-shuddering love songs, and most importantly, it is the intoxicating dance that enables us to feel as though we are taking part in something special. There may be millions of people across the globe feeling this love thing, but amazingly, love doesn’t care–it only cares that we feel it.

In that way, love is so rare and beautiful.

I have written for years about what it really means to love, and how I feel love can be achieved unconditionally. None of that matters, because when it comes to actual romantic love, what matters is what two people feel. The true beauty of what we all crave with love is that it transforms us. It makes us softer, sweeter, more optimistic. It adds spice and meaning to the menial. It leaves a sedative melody humming through our body before bed, and it gives us sparks on our heels and thoughts as we move about our day. We feel this not because everyone can have it, but because we, ourselves, in this very moment, have it.

It is ours.

Baby of Mine

Losing you has been one of the worst things that’s ever happened to me.

I know you’re “just a cat”. But see, you were never just a cat.

The day that J brought you and your sister home, I didn’t know you were inside waiting for me, except that I did, because our loud-mouthed neighbor said, “Haaave fuuuuuun…” as J greeted me at the door after work.

When I walked in and saw your tiny little form perched on the back of my Nana’s old couch, I shrieked with excitement. Startling the shit out of you, you leapt a good six inches in the air and fell behind the couch. It was one of the cutest things I’ve ever witnessed.

You and your sister crouched under the papazan, weary of the two tall strangers who had taken you from your farm. But in no time at all, you were beginning to nuzzle up to our legs and play with the toys we had brought you.

We tossed around ideas for names, and before getting too far, I blurted out, “How about Zen and Aum?” I was studying to become a yoga instructor at the time, with many philosophical beliefs in Taoism and Buddhism. It just seemed fitting. J loved it immediately.

And so it was. Zen and Aum: Our “Buddhist” kitties.

Babies

I had written a tribute to you two when you were still babies. About the hell you would cause, the sleep we’d both lose, and the tumbling disorder of your fluffy bodies propelled by flurrying, cat-nipped feet. How amidst the chaos, your names seemed to perfectly fit as I would watch you curled into each other, sleeping, and see both my yin and my yang loves.

Aum–she is the butterfly princess of cats. So poised and sweet. She’s very quiet and dainty and brings with her a gentle presence of worship. She doesn’t ask for much, but she encompasses everything that is cat-like and dear to me. She represents a Universe of pure beauty.

You, Zen, were a dog wearing a cat suit. I’d pat my leg or call you and you’d come. You meowed for attention and wanted to be wherever everyone else was. You were on our laps incessantly and nudged Aum from her peaceful perch, wherever she may have been. You were kind of an asshole, but the most lovable one I’d ever known. Although you were clumsy and annoying, you had this wisdom about you. This ability to just relate to us in such a human-like way.

I can’t find that tribute now; it’s lost on an old blog site that has been “Under Construction” for the last year or so, but it doesn’t matter, because losing you has been far worse than losing any words or thoughts of you.

The day you became sick, I remember, started just like any other day. Six-thirty in the morning you began your loping around my pillows, stepping on my hair and meowing in my face. I’ve always joked that the only time I’ve ever hated you is at 6:30 in the morning, and on that morning, not unlike any other, I shoved you off the bed and rolled over to go back to sleep.

I got up, fed you both, and as I was leaving for work, I noticed you were hunched over a bit like you were going to upchuck your breakfast. This wasn’t uncommon, as you were a very impatient eater and often took in your food so fast that it would sometimes come back up. My roommate had the day off, so I figured if you threw up, he would be there to take care of it.

Later that day, I got a text from my roommate telling me that you threw up. I told him that sometimes happens. When I got home from work, I was with my friend, and as I walked in, you didn’t come running to your dish. That was peculiar. I went looking for you and peeked in my roommate’s room to find more piles of your puke. Then, you ate a little and began throwing up again. I contemplated bringing you to an emergency clinic, but this was the first sign of distress and I figured you probably had a stomach bug.

I monitored you all night. You drank some water. Good. You sat on the couch curled in to me. Good. You moaned when we pet your back. Not good. I was concerned but I didn’t think it was life-threatening.

I took a picture of you and your sister, both curled under my childhood blanket together on my bed–the very last picture I would take of the two of you.

Zen and Aum

That night, you slept right next to me, moaning out in pain every few minutes or so. I kept turning on the light to check on you. You just lay there calmly, nuzzling against my right thigh. I pet and kissed you. I told you I loved you like I did every day and night for the last six and a half years.

When I took you to the vet the next morning, it turned out that it was an emergency situation: your bladder had been blocked for days and could rupture at any moment, causing instant, extremely painful death. They operated on you; I went to work. I came to pick you up and brought you to a 24-hour clinic.

Zen at the Vet

It got way worse after that.

I don’t want to relive all the details of the procedures you had to go through or the money I spent–I just want to remember how you perked up when I came to visit you on Saturday after your second operation. You wouldn’t stop pushing your head against my hands and face. You curled up on my arm, resting your chin. You let me give you a hundred nose-kisses. You wouldn’t eat. Your breathing seemed abnormal.

Zen at Clinic

And on Sunday, the last day of your life, I sat on my bed with my ex boyfriend, crying hysterically, because I just received the phone call informing me that I should “probably come in and talk to the doctor in person as soon as possible.”

And on your last day, I did all of the things I always do: kissed your nose fervently, crunched and smashed your ears between my fingers, squeezed and massaged your tail and your perfect, pink paws. You were the only cat I’d ever met who loved paw massages. I told you I loved you and cherished you; that momma was here and it was okay. That I wouldn’t leave again.

When my friend left the room to use the bathroom, I whispered into your ear an earnestly sincere thank you for being the best cat and being there for me when I was falling apart and really needed you. I know you’re “just” a cat, but you and your sister were there for me when I didn’t have another living soul to understand me in my darkest moments of despair, and for that you will never ever be “just” a cat.

Zen Last Day

After four torturously painful hours at the vet, I left without you on the day I was originally supposed to bring you back home. My friend, who was so supportive to me all weekend, drove me home, while I cried on the phone to my mom. I drank that night and was surrounded by good friends. I had a really bad meltdown. I made a “too soon” joke that made everyone laugh, and my ex stayed the night to make sure I was okay. He passed out hours before I even went to sleep, but it was the thought that counted.

I spent time talking to my Brooklyn sweetheart on the phone, and he told me he was proud of me for how I selflessly and maturely handled the situation. That I made the best possible decision I could have for you, and that so many people would not have even been able to be in the room, let alone hold their pet as they took their last breath. I don’t feel like a heroine of any sort. I don’t feel proud. I feel like I did what any “mom” would do in that situation. I put aside any pain I was experiencing and made sure my baby felt none.

I spent a lot of time talking to J about you, as well. He’s the only one who knows you like I do–like a parent does. He said a lot of soothing things I needed to hear. He knows your uniqueness. How you literally loved everyone who walked in the door.

He had this to say about you:

It was clear that he was thinking stuff. He had ego or id. Or something that made him seem aware. And for what it’s worth, I feel incredibly lucky to have known him. It’s sad in life that so often the brightest stars burn so vibrantly and burn out quickly. But he was yours. And now he’s part of the universe. And our lives are more special being able to have had him. Even if for only a short time.

He loved you so.

I just don’t know how to move on. I’m fine most days, but as I write this, I have cried several times. I just miss your perfectly handsome face and your truly lovable soul. I miss my lap cat and my best buddy.

The only thing I can think to do with this pain and void of missing you is to channel all of it into loving Aum even more than she’s ever been loved before. She is the true princess of her domain now.

Every single day I take care of Aum as I always did, except now with a little more tenderness, a little more attention. I make sure I don’t slack on her favorite things, like certain toys, being brushed, cat-nip or wet food. I pet her, hug her, and kiss her several times before bed each night, and even in the middle of the night if I happen to wake, I make sure she’s okay and give her some kisses. Then, I cover her purring, warm body up with a blanket. She misses you, but she’s very loved, and I notice a strange sense of calm in her, despite the obvious fact that she misses her companion. My baby girl finally gets to have all of the attention her social butterfly brother hoarded for years. She gets to be my only gem.

She will never replace you or the memory of you, but giving her equal and perhaps more immense love and affection is my way of paying forward the kind of love you inspired in me by being in my life for the beautiful, short time that you were.

You will never be “just a cat”. There’s no way. Not with the forceful, silly personality you had. Not with the amount of sheer enthusiasm for loving things you naturally possessed.

As J so succinctly said to me:

Clear your mind and say “Aum”. The very names you gave them are what needs to be. Say “Aum”. Find “Zen”.

Photo on 2014-01-16 at 00.29 #4

Having Heart

I remember the first year after J and I split, I spent Thanksgiving afternoon on the Simsbury bike trail. It was completely vacant, which was a picture of absolute perfection to me. It was sunny, warmish, and I remember loving each and every second of being in solitude before I had to go be with family.

Last year I went straight to my boyfriend at the time’s house after Thanksgiving at my sister’s. It made me really happy to be there with people I consider family, too.

I don’t only think about what I’m thankful for on Thanksgiving, obviously, but it is a tradition of mine to write about it on this day.

This past year has been one filled with the extremes of complete bliss and total despair. I rang in New Year’s at a friend’s house, where I felt depressed and out of place. My boyfriend and I had just ended things, and I was once again broken-hearted.

Shortly after New Year’s, I received a text from a friend who never forgot about me. He would always check in with me when I was so awful at doing the same for him. Even if it was every few months or once a week, he’d text to ask how I was doing.

In late January, one of my good friends suddenly passed away from a heart attack. I missed some work. Had trouble sleeping. Began to fear that everyone I loved could disappear at any moment.

On the last day of February, I threw myself a birthday party. It was really fun and debaucherous, and although not everyone I wanted to be there was there, I was happy.

On the first day of March, the same friend who texted me in early January came to visit me. We hadn’t seen each other in about a year, since he lives in New York City.

And on March 2nd, I found myself slowly falling in love.

This year has been filled with so many changes, losses, and new friends.

Things at work have changed drastically in the span of one calendar year. I am now in charge of quality assurance, our team has organization, and I even have a standing desk.

My relationship with the beautiful man from Brooklyn flourished and kept me in a haze of complete bewilderment that someone could be so incredible, handsome, sweet, smart, and like me back at the same time. Long distance sucks–I don’t recommend it–but it was totally worth it, because now my life had this added dimension: love.

I completed a writing apprenticeship this summer with Elephant Journal, started my own website, and became a published writer. I got a roommate for the first time in three years.

I made new friends and formed stronger bonds with pre-existing friends. I have a whole community of friends who live in my apartment complex, now, and we get together every week to play dorky games or eat meals.

I mended old wounds with my ex, and we have been able to be friends again, which is something I never thought would happen.

I found a soul-mate friendship with a person who has seen me through some of my toughest moments in the short amount of time we’ve known each other. I have been able to be support for him as well.

I went to NYC to see a friend and reunite with the beautiful man. I swear nothing is better than that moment when you first connect bodies. The lingering opiate-effect that washes over your entire mind as you gaze at each other in between kissing and holding hands on what felt like the longest subway ride to Brooklyn. But nothing is worse than disappointment, having the weekend not go the way you had envisioned, and being told by the man you have fallen for that he’s too scared and too busy. Not wanting to hurt myself more, I removed myself emotionally from the situation.

I have cried way more than I’d like to admit over this. Crying in the bathroom stalls at work, crying when I first wake. Crying in the car, in the shower, into my cats’ soft fur. Crying myself to sleep.

Two weeks ago, my male cat suddenly became very sick. After the most emotionally tumultuous weekend of my life, I had to put my cat down. He was operated on twice. Had complications with both surgeries. Was having difficulty breathing. Needed another expensive surgery, of which his survival rate was fifty percent. I wanted him to be in his momma’s arms as he took his last breath.

Everyone was there for me on that day and the days to follow. I couldn’t believe how much support and love I felt from all angles, and even from people I rarely talk to on facebook. No one thought I was ridiculous for being so upset, and no one told me to get over it. J spent time with me on the phone to make sure I was okay (after all, it was his baby, too, at one point) and said some of the most soothing things I needed to hear after Zen passed. I am truly thankful for the genuine outpouring of kindness in the past week and a half.

This has been one of the most devastating things I’ve ever gone through. I’m not just a “pet person”, an “animal lover”, and hyper-emotional. No, my two cats are my existence. They’ve been with me for nearly seven years. They were my support and company when I went through my “divorce”, because after six years and and an engagement ring, it’s essentially a divorce. They have been admired, adored, and cherished every single day of their lives, and they have become my closest friends and my children.

Zen, my male cat, was my best friend. Nearly every night he slept tucked under my arm like a teddy bear. Now, I have his ashes resting in my bedroom, and my female cat, Aum, is more clingy than ever. But she will never be a “lap cat”; she will never snuggle under the folds of my arms as I sleep. I’ve lost something immense.

And the crying continues. It’s almost every day. Sporadic. Random. I am wracked with guilt that maybe I missed some sign that Zen was sick and all of this could have been prevented. I feel total desolation for my other cat, who cannot possibly understand where her brother went. Why all of her favorite beings keep disappearing with no return.

However, through all of the hardships and watching close friends suffer and experience sadness and loss as well, I have heart.

I don’t know where it comes from, but it’s there. It’s the only reason why I am still standing.

I am in my own microcosm of pain and suffering–I know the world has so much more suffering and trauma than I will ever personally experience, but my pain is still my pain. The last three years of my life, I have been pummeled by loss and heartache. I have had moments, weeks, and even months of true happiness, too.

No matter what has happened to me in the last year, I do know that I still have love; I still have heart. Loving is the thing that makes me happiest. I can’t stop myself from it. And with love, comes gratitude, appreciation, cherishing those I adore, and forgiving those who have hurt me.

I have had suicidal thoughts a lot. Nothing I’ve ever acted upon, but they are there. I have hated and shamed my own body. I have harmed myself physically. I have called myself a pathetic mess in the bathroom mirror hundreds of times. I have considered what the point of living is when life is filled with constant loss and disappointment, and the outside world is a magnified mirror-reflection of the same thing.

My answer is that I can always find love. And that love is what drives me. My cat needs me. She purrs and sleeps at the edge of my bed every night. She needs reassurance when she eats these days, so I stand there with her and coax her, because she’s confused about the change in the household. My friends need their hands held when they are experiencing hard times. And even though things are not the way I wish they were with the man I adore, I feel happiness in knowing him, in feeling the way he makes me feel, and in knowing I can still bring joy to his life. I’m not gone. He’s not gone.

I am thankful that I have always been the type to cherish and remember things. Every single day. I am grateful that my male cat had the very best life he could have had, with an absurd amount of love, cuddles, kisses, cat nip, and wet food.

Mostly, I am thankful that I always give and love with my whole heart. I may say harmful things to myself when I am feeling particularly low, but I do know that my heart is always the thing that saves me, probably the most sincere thing about me, and the thing that makes a difference to others.

Today, I am thankful for having heart.

Sometimes Things Just Suck a Little & That’s Okay

[Some adult language]

My life has been something out of a story book, lately, so of course, it was only due time before it partially came crashing down on me. Don’t worry, everything is fine; I’m a bit down and a little stressed. Things just suck a bit.

For about a month now, I’ve almost steadily been on cloud nine with perhaps a day or two where I’ve felt a little bit grumpy or hormonal. Why is that? Well, my life is becoming what I want it to be. I have a new roommate, and things are going really well. I got a raise at work. I even have a new standing desk and have been going for walks at lunch time with my girls, so I’m feeling healthier. I also have an amazing connection with a truly beautiful man. He says things almost on the daily that make me swoon like mad. I am doing my writing apprenticeship and loving it. All ducks are lining up in their pretty, little row. Well, until yesterday and today.

Sometimes, things just suck a little. I feel far away. I haven’t seen this swoon-worthy man in over two months. He’s facing some difficult things right now, and I can’t even help him. I’m powerless, in the dark, and alone. I worry for him, yet have zero ability to actually do anything about it.

My first writing assignment for my writing apprenticeship did not come out exactly how I would have liked. I wanted better than that for my first submission. I have a hard time keeping up with all of the social media postings I have to do each day, and I turn down plans to be with friends. I probably spend well over the prescribed 12-15 hours a week towards working on this class, and that’s on top of a full-time job.

Most of the time, I don’t even mind these things. In fact, I love the alone-time. I like the pressure and challenge of my writing apprenticeship. But some days, and today is one of them, I am just worn down emotionally, and I feel like sleeping until all challenges cease to exist.

I want to be in the arms of a caring man. I want to keep my past in my past, instead of where it’s been creeping in lately, and I want to be the best goddamn writer I can be. In dire need to purge my household of extraneous physical baggage, I am constantly in a state of anxiety until that task is finished. It’s all a process.

Everything will be okay. At least, I think it will. I just need to remember that sometimes I don’t feel my best, nor do I act it. This is a sometimes thing, not an indicator of who I am in perpetuity. I am not perfect; I am only human. I falter, I take things personally, I feel shitty, and I worry excessively.

And some days, I rain love and affection in inspirational waves onto those surrounding me. Just depends on the day. Each moment is a moment from which to learn, and sometimes, you realize that you just need to get through the moment.

I was driving not too long ago, and as I crested the hill at sunset, so, too, emerged the brilliant, red-neon sun. It was only there for a few seconds before I made my descent, but it caught me off-guard. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the sun look so delicious like a sucking candy mounted in the sky. And that’s when I remembered that this is just another day. Beautifully radiant in its own way. Some good, some bad, some cherished moments, and some I’d soon rather forget.

There’s always tomorrow to try again. Sleep does wonders for the soul, as it washes away today’s stains and renews faith and hope. I wish it for everyone: for my friends, family, strangers, acquaintances, enemies, and for the man with the handsome smile, when he actually allows it to grace his scruffy face.

I cannot make others happy, because that’s not how life works, but I can make sure that I am taken care of, and that, in turn, allows me to be the reminder to those who need it of those blaring red-orbed days when there’s too much beauty to feel completely lost.