Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Reflections

On New Year's Eve of 2012, I received an email from a friend. I was feeling unsocial, uncomfortable in my own skin, and anxious. Her message ended up becoming a mantra of sorts for my year: Wishing you Poetry and Stars.
And, looking back on the year I had in 2013, it was filled with poetry and stars, just not in the way I expected.
One thing I tried to do in 2013 was to write. And I did, almost daily. I kept a running tab, wrote entries filled with whatever I was thinking about that day. Some months I wrote every day, and other months I wrote only a few times per week. But looking back on those entries, on the music I listened to in 2013, on the mementos I kept pinned to my wall and on shelves in containers, I get to see how far I've come in the last year, how I've changed, how I've grown.
This is my sentimental reflection on 2013, a goodbye echoing out as I ready myself for a new hello.

January began with hope, the desire to be better. It began with metaphors and stories and wishful thinking, the way January usually begins. I thought a lot about redemption, about the meaning of home, and struggled with finding peace within myself.
January was a month filled with hope and the promise of new beginnings. I was blissfully happy, learning to find myself in the world.

February began with thoughts of love and the transformation into a lion hearted girl. I was still wistful, happy in a way I couldn't quite understand. By the final day in February, my world began to crack. I didn't know then it was in preparation for the break that would upend my life.

March was grief, and brokenness. It was falling to the floor screaming and standing beside a grave with no explanation, only anguish. It was everything I didn't know how to understand, and everything I never wanted to have to learn. It was discovering the meaning of strength, daily. It was a time when my heart was broken, shattered into a million pieces I didn't know how to fix.

Looking back, I barely remember April. The days seem to run together, one moment fading into the next, none of them feeling real. I was still broken. I craved darkness, silence, solitude. I was restless, and angry. I tried to write through my pain, most of the words leaving my body bereft, inconsolable, and fierce. I watched too much television in an attempt to ignore the world that miraculously kept turning in despite of my brokenness.

May felt like another round of bad luck, like the blackness had swallowed me whole. The wound I had been trying to heal in April felt split open again, and I was bleeding all over the floor. I cried more in the first part of May then I remember doing before: in a parking lot, on the kitchen floor, in a doctor's office where suddenly the roles were reversed, and too often, in my own bed, crying myself to sleep. I held onto hope like if I curled my fingers around it tight enough, then it couldn't be broken. I went inward, taking stock of my life, bracing myself for the pieces of my world that kept falling in.

June was for rituals, for clinging to ceremonies. I was desperately searching for a way to be full again. I did a lot of yoga, ate well, and searched for people who were bravely walking through brokenness. Words weren't as easy to come by, and if I sat in the silence for too long I started to feel the voices in my head begin to take over. I chased sanity as if it was something I could grab, locking my fingers around it and holding it tight.

The discomfort I felt inside my own body grew heavier. I slept in hotel rooms and thought about death, and life, and living. My body felt broken, my mind felt broken, my heart felt broken. As many strings as I pulled, hoping to hold my life together, it kept unraveling. I felt like a stranger in my own skin. I had a restless mind and a restless heart, and I didn't know how to sit with myself and not run away from the pain, in some way or another.

August was for lusting after life, trying to swallow it whole. I tried stupid things and not so stupid things and did what made me happy. Maybe it was covering some deeper issue I still had, maybe it was well done denial, but I felt alive for the first time in months. I felt like the world was begging to be noticed and I vowed to take advantage of every moment.

September welcomed new things. It began with a desire to be brave, to experience life, and ended in quiet reflection. I was introduced to a world that challenged me, intrigued me and mystified me (and still does.) It was my first introduction to some amazing people. I wrestled with myself, asking a lot of questions, some that didn't have answers.

The broken heart was analyzed as more losses fell, reminding me of the grief that had draped itself over my life. It was death, and letting go. It was also welcoming new life, stretching to make room to accommodate it all. It was driving down back roads and listening to loud music and falling in and out of love daily.

November was for fiction, for distractions. It was poetry in dark closets and too many hours spent staring at the wall. It was the month when I turned another year older, which was both exciting and something I dreaded in the same moment. I was stuck in my head too much, as I always am. The world felt like it was moving too fast for me to keep up. I felt helpless to stop the spinning of my own mind. It was also a month of gathering stories, memorizing faces, collecting moments.

December was the apology I never knew how to write. It was days upon days lived in a perpetual state of fear, of panic, of grief. It was losing my mind slowly. I didn't try to understand it all. I went through the motions. I didn't write, didn't let my mind run away with the endless possibilities that were churning inside of my skull. I didn't let the brokenness of the month, and of all the months that have come before it, catch up with me.

2013 was a year of firsts, a year of being completely broken open. As a whole it was probably filled with more tears than any other year, more grief, more moments I didn't know how to comprehend. I told my secrets to the stars and wrote poetry on the side of coffee cups and crawled my way up out of the grief.
I'm coming out of 2013 not at all the same person who walked into it. I've been forever changed by the things that happened this year. I questioned my whole life, and am on a quest for answers. I cried, screamed, felt and wrote my way through this year. Because sometimes that's the only way you can do it.
I carry more anger now, am more jaded, more scarred. The world doesn't make sense to me anymore, not in the way it used to.
But, despite all the grief I carry with me from this past year, it was also full of good things. I felt the world inside of myself, and started (As I always am) making peace with it. While I lost people, I also met some amazing people, people who make me laugh and fill me with hope and encourage me to be a better person, to "write with blood" and to experience life. I had moments when I felt truly alive. I fell in love with people, with things, with the world despite it's brokenness.

"You'll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else. You will need other people and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living, breathing, screaming invitation to believe in better things"

"Sometimes its the smallest things that save us: the weather growing cold, a child's smile, and a cup of excellent coffee."

Thursday, December 26, 2013

'Sometimes Emotions Are Wrapped Up In Music'

This year I kept a playlist all year long, adding to it songs that meant a lot to me through out the year. Looking back, it's something I'm glad I did. There are so many emotions frozen in music and it's good for me to look back over that playlist, and to over some of the writing I did early on in the year, and reflect back on everything that happened.
Tonight is filled with nostalgia, as Christmas always is for me. I took the opportunity to go through my 2013 playlist, and I thought I'd share it. This was my year, in music.

Begin Again - Taylor Swift
The Call - Regina Spektor
Braille - Regina Spektor
Moments - One Direction
It's Time - Imagine Dragons
Would It Matter - Skillet
Goodnight Moon - Go Radio
Iris - GooGoo dolls
Fix You - Coldplay
Ghost - Ingrid Michaelson
A Bird's Song - Ingrid Michaelson
Wherever - Kim Haller
Who I Am - Jessica Andrews
Worn - Tenth Avenue North
When A Heart Breaks - Ben Rector
Wild Horses - Natasha Bedingfield
A Thousand Years - Christina Perri
We Both Know - Colbie Caillat and Gavin DeGraw
Say - John Mayer
Roots Before Branches - Room For Two
You Have More Friends Than You Know - Glee
Everybody Hurts - R.E.M
Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol
Paper Doll - John Mayer
Roar - Katy Perry
Young and Beautiful - Lana Del Rey
Reno - Alex Woodard
Breathe (2a.m.) - Anna Nalick
Comeback Kid (That's my dog) - Brett Dennen
Cold Coffee - Ed Sheeran
Here's To The Good Times - Florida Georgia Line
The Struggle - Grizfolk
Wanted - Hunter Hayes
Wildfire - John Mayer
I Still Miss You - Keith Anderson
Blown Away - Carrie Underwood
Taking Chances - Celine Dion
Stupid Boy - Keith Urban
Breakaway - Kelly Clarkson
Payphone - Maroon 5
More Like Her - Miranda Lambert
Far Away - Nickelback
She's 22 - Norah Jones
Story Of My Life - One Direction
Sober - Pink
Playing God - Paramore
Manhattan - Sara Bareilles
Gone To Soon - Simple Plan
Untitled - Simple Plan
Jetlag - Simple Plan
Lucy - Skillet
Purple Sun - Samuel Larsen
State of Grace - Taylor Swift
22 - Taylor Swift
Fast Car - Tracy Chapman
Colder Weather - Zac Brown Band
Love The Way You Lie - Rihanna
Jar Of Hearts - Christina Perri
Elastic Heart - Sia
We Remain - Christina Aguilera
Come Home - One Republic
Saving Amy - Brantley Gilbert
Underneath The Stars - Kate Rusby

Maybe you would learn more about me by getting a list of the books I've read in 2013, or a list of things and people I've written about. But I think there's something to be said for the music that I've related to most over this year. Music that's happy, and heartbreaking. Music that's full of emotion and music that is fun.
Goodnight Moon reminds me of my friend, who stayed up with me into the wee hours of the morning, and then sent me this song. Jessica Andrews reminds me of my childhood, and the people I spent it with, and the time we requested that song on the radio and then sat around the tape player waiting for it to come on so we could record it. Natasha Bedingfield is for those nights when I just wanted to cry, and John Mayer is passing my driving test and lazy Sunday afternoons. Brett Dennen and Grizfolk are the concert that I'll never forget, and Carrie Underwood and Celine Dion are for the concert tickets I got for my sixteenth birthday. Pink was how I felt in July, and Rihanna was how I felt in February. There are songs about heartbreak, about losing people I thought I'd love forever, and for the people who could have loved me better, and the people I could have loved better. There's playlists for loss, and death, because saying goodbye is never as easy as it sounds. There's songs about dreaming and songs about surviving and songs about the state of my heart on any given Tuesday.
I think a lot of emotions can get wrapped up in music. And for me, that happened a lot this year.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Peace, Be Still

This week I've been restless.
I ended up in a busy hospital, once again being reminded of this fight that I'm in.
For days I tossed and turned, in physical and emotional pain, repeating to myself over and over that this shouldn't be my life.
But it was and it is the life I was given and as thoughts raced through my mind of all the things I should get done and all the things I should be doing I realized something.
I've been lacking peace.
I read an article about something called guilt away. It's an article I keep coming back to because I tend to have this issue with guilt.
I also tend to be pretty hard on myself, somewhat of a perfectionist when it comes to having everything in a neat little row. I thrive on stress and chaos but I have to be able to manage the stress and chaos.
So last night I was lying in bed thinking about all the school work I'm missing and how I should have been back out there a few days ago pushing myself and how if I really tried I would be fine. (If you couldn't tell, the voices in my head are pretty critical. I'm working on that.)
And I realized that I, in no way, need to feel guilty, about anything. The world will keep turning without me being involved in every little part of it. Teachers will be gracious and friends will understand and the work will still be there when I return. What am I feeling guilty about?
I felt guilty for a really long time. I still feel guilty a lot of the time. And I'm tired of it.
So this morning I was going through that eternally long list of things in my head that I should be doing and I was nudged to check out this blog.
I was feeling pretty restless, pretty anxious, wound up, and the video I watched was on peace.
Peace, be still.
Everything sort of fell into place and I felt myself breathe.
This, life, isn't about anxiety or guilt. And yet I've been stuck in that place.
I've been stuck in a place of anxiety, of trying to micromanage the world and control things, and I forgot about the peace I am promised.
A peace that passes all understanding.
I am quick to forget. I am quick to get caught up in the hamster wheel in my head that spins madly.
I question and I struggle and I fight against that when I finally let peace wrap itself around me like a blanket it feels like an exhale.
This is where I belong. Not in a place of anxiety and control, but in one of rest, one where I can sink back into the provision, the comfort, the promise.
I am here for a reason. Here, in this place, in this situation, for such a time as this. And when I get wrapped up in where I think I should be, what I think is wrong, not feeling good enough, I am robbing myself of peace. I fall back into what I know: anxiety, fear, guilt.
How long will it take until peace becomes a habit? Until in every moment I can find that golden glimmer of peace that I am promised, the one that feels like an exhale and whispers to me Be still.
Be still, for when life feels hard and trying there is always hope
Be still, for when you do not understand there is a peace that passes all understanding that will cover you
Be still, for in the dark seasons of your heart there is this tiny green shoot called joy stemming from the barrenness, waiting to be noticed in every moment
Be still, for when you feel anxious and tied up in knots, lacking in understanding, there comes love to gently remind you of the truth.
Peace is what is promised to me. It is what transforms the slave into a free man. It is the whisper to my heart in this season.
Peace, Be still. Be still and Know.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

This is not a love story

I've never been good at writing love stories.
Mostly because I don't know how to be in love.
I've done it before. I've loved. Some may say I love too much. I love passionately and quickly and fiercely and with the awkward clumsiness of a newborn foal.
I love until it hurts too much and the feelings threaten to crack my heart wide open.
I love until I feel like a fish beneath frozen ice.
See, it's all poetry and stars and breathtaking moments. Until it isn't.
I love like a lightning storm.
So no, I've never been good at writing love stories because I never can finish them.
I have this folder on my desktop for unfinished love stories.
It's about how every time I'm lonely, or nostalgic, I send letters to poets I've never met because maybe their words feel like a supernova exploding in their veins too.
It's about how I fall in love with moments, bits and pieces of people. Her eyes, the way he looked when he held her hand, the way he smelled.
It's about the little bird who has built a nest inside of the cage composed of my ribs and sometimes I can feel him, fluttering. His wings beat against my bone and I know he wants to get out and taste sunshine as badly as I do.
Its about how I am not a girl who is easily loved.
I've been told that before.
I'm a mosaic of broken glass, jagged edges and rough sides. I feel too much and I love too much and I carry stories that don't belong to me inside of my body because I don't know how not to.
I collect moments. I drink my coffee black.
I tried it with cream once and it tasted too easy, too simple.
I am always pulling at my nails and I can never manage to keep my room clean and I write on sticky notes and find them in places I'd never expect and chances are if I know you I'll probably fall in love with you.
At least part of you.
I'll love you until the supernova explodes and its too much work to pick up the broken pieces and I have this fear of getting hurt that makes me tread carefully, treating relationships like land mines.
Maybe I wasn't made for staying.
Maybe there's always been this part of me that's meant for leaving.
Maybe there's always been this part of me that never knew how to write a love story.