My heart is pounding out of my chest.
When I close my eyes, I can feel my heartbeat thumping through my entire body, my veins throbbing in a rhythmic pattern. The neurons in my brain are sending signals to the synapses at rapid-fire speed. Past decisions, today's conversations, my uncertain future all appearing just long enough to create the spike of cortisol only to disappear almost as quickly as they materialized. I beg for a distraction and reach for anything with potential. The relief is fleeting and never enough. Only until my body and brain are fatigued from the hyper-cognizance, can I finally let go into sleep, the one and true reprieve. However, sometimes that doesn't arrive until I have suffered through a few nights of depletion. Anxiety has never been of service for me. It might have its place in evolution; it helps protect the preyed upon. However, the only gift it has given me is destruction. Structural degeneration of the brain, read a scientific article I once stumbled upon. I try everything in my power to quiet it, to soothe it from the spasms. With all this work, maybe one day, I'll be able to say, "when I close my eyes, I feel peace."
Brought Back by the Pandemic
I lived away from my hometown for approximately 6 years and moved back about a year ago. I left my hometown due to trauma that was preventing my growth and healing from progressing. I moved to a much safer, quieter, and smaller town. It was lovely and an incredible place to live. During those 6 years, I faced many tumultuous times, but also found the healing and growth that was vital for my livelihood. When the pandemic hit, I became worried about my father. Him being elderly had me concerned since he was considered high-risk. My father and I didn't always have the most healthy, stable relationship as I was growing up, but in those 6 years that I was away, we grew closer than ever. Hearing news of people losing loved ones to Covid hit me hard. I became so frightened for my father and felt this pull to get closer to him. After many conversations with my significant other, we decided to make the move to my hometown to be closer to my dad.
It was difficult to leave the wonderful town and home we had to go back to my hometown where the violence and crime rate is one of the highest in the nation. I also didn't realize how hard it would be to move back to where all my trauma began. I assumed that the healing I found from being away would prepare me for being back, but I was wrong. Memories, anxiety, and depression came flooding in and the first few months were extremely difficult. However, I found an incredible therapist who has helped me work through my emotions. I'm finally starting to find my footing out here again. Now, I'm able to be centered and calm enough to enjoy the time I'm having with my father. The mindfulness and gratitude practice that my therapist has taught me has been impactful. I'm still not exactly where I want to be emotionally and mentally, but I feel like I'm heading in the right direction.
Even though my hometown is not perfect or ideal, it has character and charm. There is a lot of diversity here and delicious food, both which make me happy. The weather is more mild, as well, which makes for more time to enjoy the outdoors. My hometown will always have a special place in my heart and I'm happy I made this move to be closer to my dad. Do I want to stay here for the rest of my life? I'm not sure, but I imagine I will move away from here again sometime in my future. When we first moved, I was regretting it tremendously, but I'm happy to say that, now, I feel that I made the right decision. For many people, including myself, the pandemic has made us realize the importance of family and loved ones. As hard as the pandemic has been, I'm glad that it has brought me closer to my dad.
I know that this past year and a half have been tumultuous for thousands of people due to the pandemic. My life became complicated due to the pandemic, as well, but there have been other factors in my life that have made things difficult. The most trying thing right now is that my older sister is extremely sick. She has alcoholic cirrhosis, which means she has liver disease due to her drinking. For 15 years, my parents and I have tried to help her seek treatment to no avail. It has finally caught up with her to the point where she can no longer take care of herself on her own. Because her liver is so scarred, fluid builds up in her abdomen, which then needs to be drawn off because of extreme discomfort. She will look like she is 9 months pregnant before she gets the paracentesis, which is the procedure to draw off the fluid. The problem with that is when it's drawn off, so are proteins in the fluid. With the loss of those proteins and her hardly capable of keeping any food down, she has zero muscle mass.
My sister was a fit athlete in college and now she weighs 92lbs and has a distended belly. We had a difficult childhood with abusive stepfathers and alcoholism prevalent throughout the family lineage. Someone once told me that my the current state of my sister is the physical manifestation of our childhood. We grew apart due to her moving every year to a new state to try and run from her problems. In AA, they call that, "pulling a geographic." I saw her for the first time in 6 years just a few months ago and was in complete shock with how sick she looked. It broke my heart into pieces. My parents are split up and are trying to talk about how to help her, but, of course, there's drama with all of that. It has been many months of her in and out of the ICU due to vomiting, dehydration, needing a paracentesis, being in pain, and there was even a fall. The doctors are working with her to see if she can get on a liver transplant list, but her nutrition needs to improve first. She has a feeding tube now, which should help with that, but this is also the 4th one she's tried. The other ones, she threw up.
I'm scared. I'm exhausted. It has been emotional whiplash lately. One day it will seem like things are getting better and the next, another curveball. I'm trying to never get my hopes up, but I'm worried it's now turning to complete apathy and numbness. She also has been making it really hard for us to help her. She hasn't been completely open with what she needs or how we can help. My dad, mom, and I feel useless. She will have breakdowns where she says she needs us and the next day, she will tell us to not come with complete disrespect and unkindness. I don't know what to do or what is going to happen. I'm well aware that she might not survive long enough to get a liver transplant. I want to be able to go out and see her again, but I'm trying to work a job to support my father. Every morning I wake up and worry what messages will be on my phone. I don't want anything bad to happen to her and I love her tremendously. I'm just really fatigued by it all. Thanks for reading :)
I lived in Fort Collins for a good chunk of time and there was a popular hike nearby that I loved to do. It was short and strenuous, perfect for someone with a busy schedule. The views from the summit were incredible with the blue reservoir and the red sandstone rocks below. I have a vivid memory of going on this hike on a beautiful spring day. It was the perfect temperature with very few clouds in the sky. I found myself lucky that I decided to go on a weekday because there were very few people on the trail. Solo and isolated hikes have always been my absolute favorite. As I hiked on this particular day, I noticed that the vegetation was damp due to a recent rain and it brought out many refreshing smells. I could smell the pine needles and the butterscotch scent from the Ponderosa trees. I hadn't realized how much I needed the hike until I was already well on my way. The thing is, hiking is like my church. Anytime I hike, I'm able to go into a deep meditation and become acutely aware of my surroundings while being cognizant of all the outside blessings of my life. It is spiritual, moving, and healing and I always leave the mountain feeling grounded, stronger, and at peace. This particular hike brought that and then some.
When I reached the summit on Arthur's Rock, I was all alone as if it was my own private peak. I sat for awhile eating a snack and taking in the views. The rolling green hills that slowly turned into plains seemed to go on forever. As I was sitting there, I heard a peculiar sound of a light, almost inaudible rustling. I looked up to see a few turkey vultures soaring close to the peak I was sitting on. The rustling sound I heard was the feathers on the turkey vultures' wings cutting through the air. I became overwhelmed with awe and gratitude that it was silent enough for me to hear such a subtle sound. It was beautiful and one of the most peaceful moments I've ever experienced on a hike. I laid back and watched them soar around for awhile. The other beautiful part is that I had no obligations that day, no one was expecting anything from me and I was not on any time limit. So, I sat, watched, and took it all in. I felt as though I was breathing in the mountain and all of its life and breathing out love and peace. On the hike back down, I felt light and rejuvenated. I ate a delicious meal when I got home and slept so soundly. I don't think I'll ever forget it.
I have been renting a duplex for the past 10 months. The bedroom is where I spend most of my time and all it contains is a bed, a desk, and a chair. A calendar hangs on the wall with scotch tape because the walls are too hard to drill or nail anything into. Knowing that this place was going to be temporary, I didn't bother much with decorating. I've gotten used to the lack of color in the room. This room has been the first place I've been living since moving back to my hometown. With that, it contains many of my secrets, such as my sadness from leaving a great city behind to come here. It contains my fear as I hear distant gunshots out my window frequently. It holds my anxiety of the unknown future. I've shed those emotions and secrets in this space and I like to think it holds them close in reverance behind its four walls.
I've had many moments laying on the bed, studying the details of the room. On the ceiling, I found little planet and star stickers painted over by the dull alabaster that surrounds me. They blend in so well with the grooves of the ceiling that I almost missed them. Maybe this was a child's room at one point? I remember having the same glow-in-the-dark stickers as a kid and staring at them from my bed. I would pretend I was traveling through space, an escape from the chaos at home. Above the door, there is the dust outline of a cross that once hung there. The nail and hook remain, but the cross was taken down. Maybe an older person lived in the room prior to the child, a grandparent followed by the grandchild. Maybe they were the same person and these are markings of their aging left behind.
I wonder what marking I'll be leaving behind. No matter how well I scrub and clean to get my damage deposit back, I'm sure I'll be leaving some trace of myself here. Will it be a tiny fleck of nail polish that flew onto the wall that I didn't notice? Will it be some of my cat's fur in the corner near his favorite sun spots? Maybe it could be the love and hope that I have learned to feel while residing within this space. During my time here, I came to the decision that I would try to thrive being back in my hometown. That would mean having to let go of some fears and work on pushing myself forward. Now, instead of looking at this place with despondency, I see it as a launching pad to greater things. I wonder what the other people will be like who will pass through this very room. Surely, there will be struggles and there will be happiness. There may be breakups or families being made. There may be excitement or fear. Whatever the case, I hope that it is filled with love, the same love I felt while living here.
The first Chris
Our high school uniforms did not allow for much individuality being they consisted of white polos and khaki pants at all times. The more "alternative" kids, such as myself and Chris, would use hair dye, piercings, and funky glasses to break up the monotony of the dreaded Catholic school expectations. Chris wore yellow-tinted glasses, had long hair, and was short with a beard. He was a dream. When I would see him walking in the hallway with his goofy grin and hear that contagious laugh, I would melt inside. The romance between Chris and I started when I joined a band called, "Stuck in Puberty." Yes, you read that correctly. That was the name of our very serious band. A friend of mine introduced me to her older brother and his friends who were in need of a drummer, so I became their "drummer" (I use quotations here because I knew only one beat and played that same beat in every one of our songs). I was extremely quiet and reserved, so they thought it funny to nickname me "Rage." When our bassist was absent, Chris would fill in. He was really talented at the bass and would later tour with a band after high school. I started crushing hard and I think one of our friends helped us get together. I remember feeling like an imposter going to prom with him when I was only a sophomore. From there, we dated and had a lot of fun together. We went to many concerts, ate lots of delicious food, snuck in and out of each other's houses (since we both still lived with our parents). He was extremely sentimental and artistic. I still have some of the paintings he made me because they are too beautiful to get rid of. Even though it was young love, I do believe I felt real love with him. He was my first love and it was the first time I realized that I could feel safe around a man. It became difficult when he was in college and I was still in high school. We couldn't see each other as much and I felt like our lifestyles were really different. We ended up parting ways. Well, to be honest, I broke up with him and hurt his heart. It's something that I still feel awful about to this day, but I know that it was the right decision, even after all this time. I have recently moved back to my hometown and will occasionally, unintentionally drive by the park across the street from his house. I see his same car in the driveway and I will begin to reminisce fondly of the times we had together. I also feel a strong hope in my heart that he is doing well. Oddly enough, I am now engaged to a different Chris and it feels like a different kind of love, an adult love. I'm grateful for the love I shared with my first Chris. It all sounds a little strange, but I often ponder the reasons why people come in and out of our lives. Maybe his reason was to teach me how to love, which in turn, helped me love my second Chris. Even though the first Chris and I no longer speak, I do hope that he is doing alright and living a happy, healthy life and I hope I never forget that feeling of first love.
This is for the first woman I dated and the one who helped me become comfortable with my sexuality:
-Red for the flush of our cheeks when we began flirting and realizing our attraction for each other.
-Orange for the color of your adorable cat, named Tales.
-Yellow for the beautiful natural color of your hair.
-Green for the lush trees we sat under at the park.
-Blue for the color of the bright vibrant sky during the Pride Event we attended.
-Purple for the shirt I wore that you complimented me on. Something about the way you said it has stayed with me since.
Thank you, Mallory, for our time together and for still being a wonderful friend. You helped me embrace a piece of myself that I was scared to uncover and explore. I can't explain how much this has helped me.
Until I was 29 years old, I didn't put a whole lot of thought into whether the afterlife existed or not. When my grandparents passed away, I assumed they were in heaven, safe and happy, but that was the extent of my thoughts. I focused more on how much I missed them and the time we had together when they were here. It wasn't until one of my best friends passed away suddenly at 27. I don't think I'll ever forget the day and how surreal it seemed. My whole world shattered and fell apart that day and I've been trying to pick up the pieces ever since. Of course, it was terribly sad when my grandparents passed away, but being in their late 80's, it was somewhat expected. A friend passing away suddenly before they turned 30 is a whole different story. His name was Ben. He was the smartest, jolliest, funniest, wittiest, friendliest person I had ever met. He was brilliant in math and helped me through Calculus in college. He was musically inclined; he knew how to play several percussion instruments and sing! He had the best sense of humor and made everyone laugh because his jokes were intellectual and extremely creative. He lit up every room he walked into and was so well loved. When Ben passed away, the world grew darker because he was such a brilliant, shining light. Trying to grapple with his loss has been emotionally intense. It was hard for me to accept that he was gone. I couldn't understand how someone could be here one minute and gone the next. The only way I began to cope with his death was to believe that I would see him again. I couldn't understand how one could become bonded to someone through their souls only for it to disappear. Why would we be able to experience such a deep connection if it dies here with us? Why do I still feel extremely connected to Ben even though he has passed away? It's because of love. Love is transcendant. Because of this, I began to truly believe that there must be something after our lives here on Earth. There is no way that someone as brilliantly bright as him just disappears. He must still be somewhere; whether his energy was dispersed back into the universe or there is a place called Heaven, I'm not sure, but I believe he is not truly gone. There is nothing that can break the soul-bond of love that we had. My heart must believe that we will see each other again because otherwise, what would be the point of love? What would be the point of that bond in the first place? I'm a big believer in science and it will always explain the how, but it can never explain the why. That's because love is something that is too magical and ethereal for us to comprehend and I believe it is what carries with us to whatever lies await after this material world.