My thoughts on family.

Yesterday marked my first Thanksgiving away from home. I had anticipated that it would be a difficult day, but I have to say, I definitely underestimated the intensity of the emotions that surfaced as the day went on. Before the end of the evening, I found myself lost in a nearly inconsolable state of sadness. The loss I felt was tangible, so strong that I could feel it in the cold, foreign air that surrounded me; so strong that it crushed my lungs under its weight as I breathed it all in. I was surrounded by it, with nowhere to run, so I did the only thing I could do- I let myself feel it.

While immersed in my sorrow, the thought that took over my mind was simple: “I miss my family.” Now, when I say “family,” I don’t mean it in the conventional sense. I was of course desperately missing all of my relatives, but my family extends far beyond blood. As we go through life, we form bonds with others; bonds that- at times- end up being influenced and damaged due to the changing of circumstances. Our culture and societal norms dictate that when these bonds are damaged, they should be broken for good, left behind to fade into memories that maybe one day won’t hurt to think about anymore.

Well, I’m nothing if not stubborn, so I am fighting that expectation tooth and nail. I am holding on to and cherishing those bonds in whatever form they have taken now. Perhaps letting go is better for peace of mind, but to me it feels like a pointless and futile exercise. I will not surrender to circumstance, nor will I relinquish the love and adoration I have developed for all of the phenomenal individuals who have come into my life at one time or another. Society can dictate whatever it chooses, but I am here to defiantly ignore it.

I will admit that holding on to these feelings is painful, and at times, excruciating. Yesterday was one of those times. If it weren’t for the wise words of my loving other half, I would still be wallowing in grief; he told me that instead of focusing on the feelings of loss and emptiness, I should focus on the happiness that still lives in the memories I have and the bonds that have persisted. In the moment, all I could think about was how it is absolutely impossible to feel the happiness without also feeling the loss. While this may be true, I have meditated on his advice, and I’ve come to a conclusion; it is not about only feeling the happiness- both emotions have their place and purpose- but rather about empowering the happiness. I had given over the power to sadness wholly and completely until it took over my being. That was a choice. Perhaps even a necessary one. Now, however, I will choose to empower happiness, and the best way to do that (in my experience) is to throw myself into a state of overwhelming gratitude. And I want to share my gratitude with the world.

 

I am thankful for the family who raised me.

For the mother who has always put her children before anything and everything.

For the father who instilled in me the values that guide my actions.

For the parents who have loved and supported me beyond blood.

For the siblings who grew with me (or despite me).

For the cousins who have provided me with laughter beyond measure.

For the grandparents who have done far more for me than I could ever hope to repay, but of course never expect anything in return.

For the aunts and uncles who never forget my birthdays.

And, of course,

For all of my sweet pups who bring me limitless joy and resiliency.

 

I am thankful for the family who chose me. 

For the parents who embraced me, accepted me and loved me like their own.

For the mother who laughed with me, cried with me, counseled me, and cared for me far beyond the call of duty.

For the siblings and cousins who provided me with a friendship that I can never forget or replace.

For the aunts and uncles who have never cared about blood, who have taken me in, who have provided for me and guided me.

For the friends who have stayed with me despite distance, time, and hardship, who have gone above and beyond to support me and keep me going.

For the friends who have drifted away, but whom I will always love and cherish for the joy they brought to my life.

For the ones whom I have loved and will always love, the ones who have shared their families with me, the ones who have shared their lives with me, the ones who have shared their souls with me.

And, of course,

For the one who has chosen me above all else, the one who loves me in all of my entirety, the one who has filled my existence with wonder and meaning.

 

For all of you I am eternally and endlessly grateful. Without you, I would not be me. Please accept my sincerest gratitude for all you have done and continue to do for me. Your importance in my life is beyond description. It is not enough to simply say that I miss you, but you all know that I do.

 

I sincerely and humbly thank you for reading my words today. I wish you all the most amazing holiday weekend filled with joy and gratitude. Until next time, my friends. Or should I say, my family.

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A 25-year-old temper tantrum.

I suppose I should begin this post by saying that I had originally planned to write something completely different today. My original post will be making its debut in the near future, however, recent events and a serious dose of self reflection have guided me to choosing a new subject matter for today’s post.

Today I’d like to write about my greatest friend and my truest enemy, which happens to be the exact same beast: control.

I’ve been a grade-A control freak for as long as I can remember. Throughout my life, this need for absolute control has manifested in many ways. Some ways have been highly adaptive, such as my tendency to be extremely intrinsically motivated and disciplined. Other ways have been…not so pleasant…such as my tendency to be bossy or (obviously) controlling over everyone and everything. Still other ways have been both assets and deficits, depending on the context, such as my ability to manipulate words and situations as well as my tendency towards extreme perfectionism.

Although I have been both massively helped and hindered by this element of my personality, if I’m honest, I often find my compulsion to be utterly in control at all times completely and totally exhausting. Deep down I struggle and yearn for a break, but my behavioral and cognitive habits insist on clinging to the familiar, and, more often than I’d care to admit, I find myself rapidly spiraling into self-induced mental breakdowns. The thing is, the more control you crave, the less control you feel you have, and the less control you feel you have, the more control you crave. It’s a nasty, intoxicating cycle, and it’s a tricky one to pull yourself out of.

Within the last twenty-four hours, I have found myself yet again marching along that yellow-brick-road of torment, chased by some demonic version of the Lollipop Guild that taunts me as I descend into the control-craving hells of my psyche, singing merry little songs of anxiety and neuroticism. For the millionth time, I found myself rebelling and resisting against my circumstances, easily finding excuses to hate everything and everyone because, at the root of it all, I’m terrified that I have indeed lost all control over my life. Here’s a little PG rated snippet of my latest brush with madness:

“I hate it here. I’m stuck in this Godforsaken country where I can’t talk to anyone, I can’t go anywhere, and I can’t do anything. I have no access to the activities I enjoy, the foods I like to eat, my friends, my family, or my dog. Everything is inconvenient…shops close by 8:00 every single night and on Sundays they aren’t open at all. I can’t even receive my damn mail in this country because of their stupid import laws and refusal to work efficiently.”

I can assure you, it went on and on and my language was much more…graphic. My mother, the poor recipient of this outburst, responded by telling me hard truths, truths that I already knew to be true but didn’t want to admit. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is this: I am in the situation that I’m in because of choices that have made. I chose to move to this country (to be with my beloved, which I conveniently omitted from my ranting and raving). I have chosen to put learning the local language on the back burner, making communication with pretty much everyone more difficult. I have chosen to ignore the positives and the opportunities that living here in Germany has to offer, opting instead for harboring a festering sense of resentment, and justifying it by trying to convince myself and others that it’s all because I am a creature of habit, and because I have a serious health condition, and because anyone would be depressed without their dog/friends/family/favorite hobbies, and honestly, how dare Germany not have Target…

The harsh reality of my excuses is that, well, they’re excuses. And poor ones at that. They’re nothing but a big, steaming wad of woe-is-me-ism and BS. These nasty little lies are what I have been telling myself to help reconcile the cognitive dissonance I feel about living here. And, here’s the real kicker- It’s. Not. Working. Shocking, I know.

My mother, wise as ever, was quick to point out how much I embraced my lack of control during my many other stints in Europe. Of course, she was 100% right, but during our conversation all I could muster up as a response was “it’s different.” In a way, that is the truth…the situations are different. I am living here now, paying bills and living a relatively stationary existence, as opposed to gallivanting around the continent as fleeting and carefree as a feather in the wind. If I’m honest with myself, the amount things that I have control over have not decreased in the transition from being a traveler to being a resident of another country. Not by a long shot. However, the things I have control over have changed. And because- as I mentioned- I am a creature of habit, I am resisting this change with the kicking, screaming, vicious stubbornness of a cranky three-year-old.

After some serious checking-myself-before-wrecking-myself, I have come to the following conclusion: the amount of control one has at any given point in time or in any given situation all comes down to perception. If you perceive yourself as having no control, you will have none, whereas if you perceive yourself as the master of your own life, you will be. You know, that whole “cogito ergo sum” thing. I may not have the German language mastered, but I sure as hell have an excess of resources (not to mention real live Germans) to help me learn should I choose to do so. I may not have a car to drive, but I’ve got legs to walk and an apartment conveniently located mere blocks from the inner city should I feel restless. I may not have access to my favorite foods and activities and so on and so forth, but somewhere within me, I still possess the unrelenting sense of adventure that, if channeled, could guide me along the path to new and exciting alternatives, should I choose to open myself up to them.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the human tendency to feel entitled to express anger, resentment, and general bah-humbugness (fuel for a future post, you can be certain). In my case, at least, I have to face the cold hard truth: I have been playing the victim because I wanted to. I made conscious, real, adult decisions that have gotten me into my current situation, and I have no one to blame (or thank!) but myself. No one likes to hear it, but if we ever hope to grow, as individuals and as a species in general, sometimes we have to take a good hard look in the mirror and say “You’d better stop it RIGHT now. I mean it! I’m counting to three! One…two…..”

Most parents who use this trick don’t often get to “three,” because the fear of that “three” scares the pants off of most kids (myself included, even to this day. Seriously. You don’t want to see either of my parents if they get to “three.”). However, after my own stint in self-parenting last night, my “three” has finally come. It’s time to woman up and take control over my life again. No more excuses, no more pity parties, no more unfounded resentment. The reign of Queen Grump must come to an end (rejoice!).

I suppose this revelation will lead directly into another one relating to finding a healthy balance between self-control and adventurous freedom. But that, my dears, is a story for another day.

With the humblest and most sincere gratitude I thank you for reading my words, and I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts. Until next time, world!

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This is my first post; an introduction.

I’ve owned this website for a couple of months now. I have invested hours, dollars, and energy into its creation, determined to present the world with something both astounding and uniquely ME. I worked tirelessly on the aesthetic, on the brand, on the ideas that I want to bring to life…

for about a week.

After that one week of passion-fueled adrenaline and determination, the raging fire of my brainchild dimmed first to a faint flame, and over time to a low burning ember, threatening to extinguish eternally with each new gust of the winds of my self doubt. 

Some of you may ask why. Why would I let such passion dwindle like that? What got in the way? Well, to be quite plain, I got in the way. 

I have always been a person who dwells amongst extremes. If I do something, I do it all the way. I am either the best at what I do, or I don’t do it at all. As you might imagine, this mindset has prevented me from taking action on a great many thoughts and desires. Fear and self doubt have had such a crushing grip on my mind that, more often than not, I find myself in a state of paralysis; crippled in fear, frozen by the idea that what I will do or be or create will be inferior to someone, anyone, everyone. This aversion to being anything but the best has often held me back from being anything at all. 

So, what changed?

I’ve spent the last couple of months in a perpetual state of “preparing.” Much of my time is spent making lists- lists of things to study to project myself to the top of the proverbial blogging game; lists of resources for studying those things; lists of books and podcasts and websites and documentaries that will inspire self growth and call me to action; lists of necessary steps to take and when, of milestones to achieve and when, of goals to accomplish and when. My life has been an endless blur of lists and charts, diagrams and calendars, all written in colored pens in an attempt to trick myself into an optimistic and motivated mindset. And here is what I, the queen of over-planning, have learned from this experience:

Things do not ever go as planned. 

For me- the master of black and white living- making plans and failing to see them through to a “T” is a way of keeping myself from the really scary stuff- the “pouring-out-your-soul-for-the-world-and-hoping-someone-likes-it” stuff. I can plan day in and day out, but when all is said and done, I always end up telling myself that I need a few more days to plan, and that I’ll start Monday. 

Well, many Mondays have come and gone without action. So here I am, on a Thursday night at 12:54am, composing my very first blog post. This turn of events was precipitated by two things:

I have been growing impatient and anxious within myself. I have been quickly approaching that breaking point at which doing nothing hurts worse than doing something and failing at it. For the last few days I have been focusing on my negative thoughts, trying to restructure them and introduce some authentic optimism into my life. Today, in the holiest of temples for deep thought (the shower, obviously), I caught myself asking for some kind of sign. Who I was asking? I don’t know. God? The universe? Maybe I was just asking myself. Or maybe I was asking all three. It wasn’t a conscious thought at first, but as it manifested, I felt the emotional hold that it took within me. My fire wasn’t burning yet, but it so desperately wanted to, and it was anxiously awaiting something to ignite its dormant flames. 

My ignition came only a few hours later, in the form of a simple Facebook comment made by a friend whom I haven’t spoken with in quite some time. She told me that I should start a blog to chronicle the happenings of my life. “What a coincidence,” I thought, feeling a mixture of apprehension, anticipation, and excitement, “I already have a blog!” 

I guess a more accurate thought would have been, “I have a place where a blog should be.” I have a wordless blog.

Wait! I had a wordless blog!

So here they are. The first words of what may unfold to be the story of my life, my mind, my endeavors, my triumphs, and my failures. It may become something wonderful and powerful, something I’ll be proud to share with the world in my name. Or, it may not. What this blog will be, I do not know. All I know is that it is time to stop planning. It is time to start doing. I have so many words scratching behind my fingertips that my whole body trembles at night when I try to sleep. It is time those words found their home. 

For those of you who have read this far, I humbly thank and welcome you. I am so sincerely grateful for the time you have taken to witness this piece of my soul I’ve bared for you today. It isn’t much, but it is a start, and it is me. Authentically. 

Now, it is time. The adventure begins. 

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