27: or, the Wildest Ride Ever

bride’s bouquet, volume 1

Love and marriage

My 27th year continues to be the biggest and most significant yet. A little over seven months from meeting him, I married the love of my life. I can’t believe the whirlwind we’ve survived, and certainly never thought the friend’s boyfriend’s cousin I met at a hippie festival would end up becoming my husband when we started on this journey. 

I never thought I’d be one of Those People, the “when you know, you know” people, but I’ve certainly learned you can’t judge someone else’s relationship on time. The minister who performed the courthouse wedding asked how long we’d been together; when we replied, he said he and his husband married after eight months…and that was four years ago.

When you know, you know. 

Trials and hardships truly forged the relationship in fire, and we’ve learned volumes about each other in a matter of months – and in some cases, weeks. The official proposal was no photographed event by some professional photographer, was no on-one-knee occasion – but it was absolutely and 100% perfect. And now, I’m so proud to call this man my husband. 

So much seems it was “meant to be,” that the events of our respective lives were leading us to this crash into each other’s existence, unavoidable and scary – but welcome. 

I didn’t realize how much I’d given up on romance and love until all this happened and I was forced to reevaluate my beliefs. I’ve never been so glad to be proven wrong. 

Medical fun

March 30, I suffered the most serious seizure I’ve had to date. It opened my eyes enough to finally take seriously the Alabama law that forbids driving for six months after a seizure, and I’m now 3.5 months into that period, seizure-free. This has undoubtedly been one of the most challenging times of my life in a city as devoid of good, readily available public transit in Birmingham, but the help and support of friends, my mom, and my husband have all made it that much easier. 

Just two and a half more months to go…

More importantly, it forced me to reevaluate life. I still get depressed and anxious, still fight through the darker urges and desires to be out of this mind of mine, but overall I’ve come to appreciate everything I have and the fact that I’m still alive after such a terrifying experience. 

Lessons well learned

I’ll certainly never forget the significance of being 27 and all it brought to me. Most of it still feels surreal. Signing or writing my new last name is still so awesomely new and awesomely bizarre. I’ve grown so much, experienced so much, been through more than I ever imagined for myself at this age. 

I wouldn’t trade it for the world. 

Here’s to you, 28 (on July 27). Let’s see what you got. 

remember how vast the ocean’s boundaries are

I came across a Facebook post I wanted to share here.

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Artwork © Jolene Lai
“Some people survive and talk about it. Some people survive and go silent. Some people survive and create. Everyone deals with unimaginable pain in their own way, and everyone is entitled to that, without judgement. So the next time you look at someone’s life covetously, remember… you may not want to endure what they are enduring right now, at this moment, whilst they sit so quietly before you, looking like a calm ocean on a sunny day. Remember how vast the ocean’s boundaries are. Whilst somewhere the water is calm, in another place in the very same ocean, there is a colossal storm.” —Nikita Gill, People Survive in Different Ways

When you’re depressed, you feel like you’re the only one in the world who can possibly feel so bad at that moment in time.  I’ve lived with some form of depression as far back as I can remember, but it hit like a bolt of lightning when I turned 10.  Ever since then, I’ve been on pill after pill to try and control it — but some days, nothing works.

At all.

And it’s usually the days I actually feel like doing something.  Whether it’s hosting friends at our new place (or just seeing somebody, not necessarily playing hostess), or going somewhere I’m invited and loved and among people whom I love, or trying to play video games  — or trying to write, my unarguably number one passion…it’s impossible for me.  I’m already having a tough time trying to get back into writing — art, crochet, and painting seem to be more my things lately — but days like lately make it almost impossible.

Depression is like an eddy you can’t quite escape from, pulling and sucking you in until your lungs fill with water and you sink to the bottom.  Sometimes it takes a lot to pull me out from the depths, but sometimes it disappears, leaving me drained but revitalized.  Every time somebody bashes pharmaceuticals, it leaves me wondering: “would I still be alive if it weren’t for some form of them?”  I’ve been on my share of ineffective ones and ones that made me feel like a zombie, and ones that (so far) seem to be working (mostly).

But I’ve noticed a pattern of behavior with my depression: it always seems to set in around the time of my seizures.  And unfortunately that’s been a defining part of the last five months, so it isn’t a mystery as to why my depression has set in a little deeper this time.

I’ve met a lot of wonderful people over the last five months especially, and I only hope to meet more.  I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of Birmingham, and I’ve lived here my entire life.  That’s my challenge for the upcoming months: explore, expand my worldview, and enjoy the life I was given and am living.

Because it’s the only one I’ll get.

Settled (or settling in)

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I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I’ve written here.  February came and went, and I’m finally in our house.

Our house.  Not “our” as in my mother’s and mine, but “our” as in my boyfriend’s and mine.  The house I left never felt like mine, even after Dad passed.  It was always “Mom’s house” or “the house”; rarely did I use the term “my” house.  And now I’m in a place to say “our” house and it’s been incredible.  Things are turning out well, and I finally feel like I’m in a relatively stable place in my life.  Living with someone who cares about me and whom I care about immensely has definitely been fun so far – even when we have our small tiffs (as all couples do).

We were stressed to the max trying to get the money up for it in time, but caught a lucky break.  And soon taxes will be coming in, so that will help immensely.  But it’s been a journey complete with thieves, reports of crazy neighborhood folks, and struggling to leave even earlier for work in the morning (spoilers: it’s not going so well).  We didn’t have heat for the first 2-3 weeks of being in there, but finally got that turned on and it’s been even cozier since.

Since October, I’ve had six seizures.  Usually the cause is medication withdrawal because of missed doctor’s appointments and yadda yadda blah blah my fault, I know.  But seizures…man, lemme tell ya.  They suck.  Not just for me, but for everyone involved.  I’m pretty sure everyone at East Lake Library is well versed in seizure first aid by now.  Definitely not my intent, but honestly, seizure first aid should be something covered way more often.  According to epilepsy.org,

  • About 1 in 100 people in the U.S. has had a single unprovoked seizure or has been diagnosed with epilepsy.
  • 1 in 26 people will develop epilepsy (which is the tendency to recurring seizures) in their lifetime.

Time to get more educated.

Anyway, these increased seizures have put a lot into perspective.  It’s been a long journey of self-love and I still have a long way to go in that area.  It’s helped me realize what’s important, what I shouldn’t keep to myself when I feel something coming on, and who’s there for me in these times, who cares enough to stick around and make sure I’m okay.

It feels so strange to call somewhere aside from the place I lived in for almost 28 years “home.”  It’s definitely a process I’m still transitioning into, and probably will for a while.  But stepping inside fills me with a peace I haven’t felt in years, if ever.  It really has become home, and I have zero regrets about flapping my wings and leaving the nest.

My 27th year has been such a year of growth and change, which is unsurprising as one of my “numbers” is 27.  I’m so happy for this phase of my life; it really is what I make of it, and I’m determined to make it the best ever.  28 won’t disappoint either – I guarantee it.

the universe unfolding as it should

(Both. Both is good. But this is essential. You only get one life with yourself.)

Lemme be real: I’m probably gonna blog the same stuff a lot and that’s because I’m honestly too lazy to go back and check. Y’know, this ain’t an essay.

Good memories. I just wanna say that I’m glad the parts of the brain responsible for memory and smell are close together. The other day I needed something I thought might be in my dad’s top toolbox so I opened it, and out came rushing how he used to smell — sawdust, traces of old varnish…that sort of thing, being a patternmaker/woodworker. It was comforting, like he was there again after 9 years, just somewhere in the house. It made him feel tangible again.

Career (in)adequacy. I make a difference, sure, but I always feel like I could be doing more. There’s nothing more I love about my job than seeing genuine smiles on people’s faces when they leave satisfied, and I need to hang onto that when I’m stressed at work. 

We had a patron, a guy just a few years younger, ask me for help on his job application one day because the wording was really weird in one section of questions. I tried to help him reason it out, but felt bad because I had no idea either. About a week later he returned with a huge smile on his face, and told me he got the job. That was one of the moments that made me remember part of why I’m a librarian.

One thing I’ve learned over the last few weeks is how much I need to put myself into more training, to really throw myself on the librarian track instead of being so passive. I signed up for an online seminar available through work and am going to seek out some of those certificates you can receive online for learning different coding skills, etc. Anything to get myself serious about being the best version of me at work too.

Personal life. I’d quote The Big Lebowski and say “new shit has come to light,” but this isn’t new, it’s just been thrown into stark (yo who else can’t wait for GoT?) lighting lately. The way I communicate with people I care about can use a lot of work but as I said, this isn’t new. I just need to finally get my shit together about it. Keeping it real is fine, but a cooler head would be nice. A more diplomatic way of expressing things has been my goal. I’m strong and have inner patience I know I just have to tap into, and I try to give myself time before I answer something I might get volatile about real fast now.

Keeping my mental illnesses in check has been the ongoing struggle it’s been especially since I was 10. I’ve been making baby steps though, ever since Friday. So far, things have been okay. Learning how to adult is a frakkin’ rollercoaster.

Everyday, I try to tell myself: 

Whether or not it is clear to you, the universe is unfolding as it should.

And…

I will change the things I cannot accept.

learning to love myself

I know I’ve got more to write on my epilepsy, but I wanted to take a break from that.  It’s already exhausting to live with; even after years, you think I’d be able to handle it.

Anyway.  I wanted to talk about body image, and my journey with learning to love myself and love my body.  Because it has been a grueling journey with so many lessons along the way, and I want to document it somewhere.

I don’t remember when it started.  Probably as with most young people, I assume pre-puberty or puberty is when I started noticing my body.  As it changed, so did my self-esteem.  Where I once gave no real thought to how I looked other than insecurities about my glasses (had ’em since I was 7), I couldn’t stop noticing myself.

Ballet was somewhat of a nightmare after that moment that I started paying attention.  I compared myself to the other girls — ridiculous, given they were all the typical ballerina body standard and I was still more muscular and stronger than they were — and this process went on until I quit when I was 14.

Even then, my body was all I could think about.  I felt like I would never become as thin as I wanted, and my body dysmorphic disorder controlled my life.  Even when my then-boyfriend told me I was beautiful, I never believed it.  I felt like I didn’t deserve compliments, and that I would never be happy with myself.

After college, I gained a lot of weight.  I got comments on it, and even after I lost all the weight again thanks to my thyroid issues, I still have trouble with the comment “you look so good now!”  I don’t like the way it implies that I didn’t look good before, because now I know that’s bullshit.

It took me 25 years to love my thighs.  I don’t know what caused it (much like I don’t remember when my body dysphoria began) but I remember thinking “why the hell am I so worried?”  Body standards are ridiculous anyway, and I felt myself and my worldview change when I realized I am worth loving and that nobody who matters is gonna give any damn about my thigh size.

It took me 26 years to love myself.  I still have trouble, of course, but for the most part I’ve given myself due credit.  I think, think, my good characteristics outweigh the bad, and even if they don’t, life is about learning every day.

That’s a thought that’s helped me too.  You aren’t who you were even ten minutes ago, much less a week or years ago.  Everyday is an opportunity for change, for understanding yourself and how you can better the decisions you make or the way in which you live your life.

It’s certainly a process, but I’m on the right track.

hey, Purple Side, we love you so, we love you so

Because of deaths/illnesses in the family my freshman year, and taking 19 hours of classes in spring of my sophomore year, I wasn’t a full participant of Montevallo’s College Night tradition until a junior.  I wish now that I’d pushed through freshman and sophomore years to get the CN experience well before I did, but you can’t change the past and blah blah blah.  But every time I have gone or watched College Night since graduation, there’s the bittersweet feeling all College Night alumni feel.

It’s exciting because you know you’re about to see and experience and feel in the air something that predates you all: cooperation and innovation, student genius and dedicated blood/sweat/tears to produce The Coolest Show Ever.  The feeling of pride in the way your Side makes you cry, smile, and laugh is something you never forget, and something always buried in your heart.  You know you’ll see incredible things, and your ears might be a little deaf from all the screaming and cheers, but that’s where the soul of it all resides.

Looking back, it’s the little things I remember.  The frigid & bitter cold of walking to Davis Hall, Lady Gaga in my ears which were frozen solid and hands stuffed in my pockets as I trekked across the huge, sprawling (that part’s a joke) campus of UM.  Flute slung over my wrist, sheet music tucked under my arm as I braced the frozen tundra of central Alabama in February.  Being in Palmer rehearsing ’til we couldn’t keep our eyes open and instruments up any longer, hoping against hope they would let us go for the night, but still keeping in mind that the extra work is worth every second.

I remember the casual and serious modes of our Purple Orchestra conductors, and how every single person in that room poured their heart into bringing out fun, exciting, and beautiful music.  Coming back home to Brooke Hall at 2:30 or 3 in the morning.  Scurrying and shoving down the stairs to the orchestra pit on the nights of the show, adrenaline coursing through as you know your Side depends on YOU, but that everyone is there to support one another too.

You’re part of something that affects and drives so many–how can you not love that feeling?  Your friends are ones you share this love with for the rest of your life.  I can’t tell you how much I love people seeing my Montevallo sweatshirt and giving me a “PV!”  (I guess a “GV” is fine too but I’m only concerned w/ the Purples, heh (kidding–or am I?))  There’s not a feeling in the world like it.

This year I’m not able to make any of the shows, and that sucks (first because of classes Wed & Thurs, then work Fri & Sat).  Luckily this year, like last, UM is offering the livestream of it, for which I’ve already paid and will be watching.  Even though I can’t be there to feel the spirit all around me, I’ll be there from afar, joining my Purple family and circling up with you.

P-MF-V.  Do great work, like you ALWAYS do.

“my thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations.”

I have been writing some again lately (figures, just in time to get busy with school, which I start the 21st…) and it’s been difficult.  It always is, to get back in the groove, but once you do, it’s hard to get out of it.  It’s always a bummer coming down from a writing streak, and I just don’t train myself enough to make myself write if I don’t really feel it nagging at me.  I need to work on that, but I’ve seen a quote from Alan Dean Foster that helped me to not feel so alone: “The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing.”

What steel resolve, to be able to sit down and make oneself churn out words while their brain doesn’t want to cooperate!  But how many times did I do that in college?  Especially in high school?  I know I am capable of it, so what holds me back?  What makes this different from the other times?  Is it that nobody is there to hold me accountable but me, myself, and I?  Often, lately, it’s that I’m too tired to write when I have time at home, which makes for no conducive writing environment.

Everybody has a story to tell, but my hope is that I translate mine into something non-autobiographical enough to be still creative and have the desired reception, but with these real elements, events, feelings, traits still included… Natalie Goldberg says, “Writers end up writing about their obsessions.  Things that haunt them; things they can’t forget; stories they carry in their bodies waiting to be released.”

I guess I’ll try to do my best.  In any reality, the truth remains that there is always room for improvement and something to be said for going one’s own pace.