um…hi, 2018?

Lying flat on the floor in primal, adrenaline-laced horror and fear, holding each other’s trembling hands while telling each other “I love you” in hushed whispers – all while bullets raced through glass and drywall like paper and shells of both rifles and pistols clattered to the ground – is not a scene either my husband or I ever expected our lives to contain. Tuesday night, that all changed.

I left work for the day at lunch, taking sick time for crummy feelings that just got worse as morning turned to afternoon. We chilled out for a few hours, my mom came by to drop off a small care package, and we were by ourselves again after a time. We got back to sitting on the couch, watching whatever we decided on – then in an instant, everything switched from calm to chaos.

First, we heard the ‘pop! pop!’ of a pistol high above (later confirmed to be from the shooter who chose the top of the stairwell of OUR unit as his perch, so no wonder it sounded the way it did), and we shared a look that said everything. “That’s not fireworks – get down.” Instinct or being taught of gun safety in active shooter situations constantly ever since the 1999 Columbine school massacre, or a strange combination of both, kicked in and we hit the floor just before the spray of semi-automatic rifles punctured the air. It was so much louder than I could’ve imagined up close, rattling every last nerve in my body as adrenaline gripped me and kept my breathing shallow, bearing down on us like an unending explosion.

It went on for what felt like an eternity but was in reality about 20-30 seconds. That’s still horrifically impressive. My husband had gotten down and made it to the back room but I was stuck in front of the couch. As soon as I registered the slightest hesitation in the gunfire, I bolted to the back. As he yelled at me to get down, I practically slid in, grabbed his hand, we said we loved each other, and then – silence.

That was it.

We got up cautiously but survival mode kicked in for me, and I started going around the apartment taking note of what I saw. It wasn’t much: a bullethole in one of nine windowpanes in our unnecessarily huge window, a missing blind – fallen behind the couch from the force of the passing bullet – and a hole on the far wall. (I didn’t even notice the final exit and lodging place of the bullet, inside our hall closet, until a police officer came in to do a quick once-over of damage and possible evidence.)

After minutes of silence followed by people speaking quietly outside, we decided we could open the window blinds enough to look out. What we saw was unreal.

The police found over 100 shell casings, some lodged in the brick walls, some in residents’ apartments, and the rest littering the parking lot. Police weren’t yet on the scene so it looked like a war zone, or like someone had taken all the shells of spent ammo from the gun range and scattered them everywhere. Black-tinted glass glittered in giant chunks and shards, resting on the ground in a now-empty parking spot. Police arrived after what felt like hours but was probably only 10-15 minutes. We’ve gotten much more acquainted with our neighbors now, so at least that’s one good thing.

We were out there with officers for about two hours. It took them even longer to clean up, and it still isn’t done.

I want to continue this, but not tonight. I’m the weird combo of exhausted of talking about it, and compelled to talk about it. I’m trying to address and express my thoughts and feelings after this, because I know from experience that burying this or pushing it aside “to deal with later” never ends well. I have only cried a little, but I know more is on the horizon. I need to cut this short tonight because I’ve reached my limit for it for today – and okay, because it’s 1am too.

Ending part one… for more emotional fallout and juicy deets of the situation, stay tuned.

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obligatory 2017 review

When I’m driving, I always think of what I want to write and I feel compelled to write it.  Then I get home, or work, or wherever, and just…can’t.  I’ve already written about the changes 2017 brought.  I’ve reflected on some of them more than others, but a review can be nice.  I’m a researcher so of course I’m gonna bullet-outline that beast of a year.

In 2017, I…

  • signed my very first lease and moved out of my childhood/early adulthood home
    • with a boyfriend
    • not just any other person
    • boyfriend 
  • got hospitalized briefly for two seizures close together (at work!)
  • had a seizure while driving; not cool, but somehow not a single injury
  • got officially proposed to and married within a 24-hour period
    • followed in parents’ footsteps with courthouse wedding
    • ‘official’ family/close friends ceremony still to come but the most important part is done
    • that marriage certificate looks AWESOME hanging on the wall
  • moved into first apartment
  • learned to drive a manual transmission
  • new mayor, new councilman for my district, new U.S. senator
  • all city employees got a raise courtesy of this new mayor

The manual learning curve was steep, but stubbornness and the help of my very patient teacher of a husband prevailed and I got it.  It was nice to have an intellectual challenge when I feel my job doesn’t provide that anymore.  It gave me that sense of real, tangible accomplishment that I don’t get anymore at work.

That lack of accomplishment isn’t great when this is my intended career field and I feel this stagnant.  I’m making more than one move to change that in multiple ways, but I still get a feeling of hopelessness most days.  Sometimes it feels we’re shouting into the void, like all those talks in library school of helping patrons with reference questions or exploring cool subjects you might not learn about otherwise were just empty promises.

I felt energized in library school when writing my research interests.  The representation of marginalized groups’ – and/or the LGBTQ community’s – lifestyle, culture, material in library collections, archiving and coming up with metadata for special online collections, building websites from the bottom up – these are the things that I’m passionate about in the library.

Helping people is great when it goes well, and I’ve met astounding people who come in both regularly and only once in their lives.  But overall, my social anxiety keeps me from desiring conversation – and forget about not being drained at the end of the day, I don’t even know what it’s like to have energy after work most days.  I would rather be a behind-the-scenes librarian, or something else totally.  This job has been wonderful in that it gave me a window into something I now know I don’t want to do forever, both administratively and in the inner-workings of the system.

Working in 2018 to change my situation, atmosphere, and tardiness will help those opportunities open up even more.

2017 was a mess for most of the world, but in my little bubble of a universe it was pretty good once the major bumps were out of the way.  Up until May, things were way too chaotic, but when they settled down, everything felt good.

So, bye 2017.

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. 

blossom and bloom

bloom

A lot has been floating through my mind lately.  From seizures to medical procedures to just…a lot of weird stuff, it’s been a rough past year – but I’ve learned so much about myself already.  That I’m capable of becoming what I want, that I can chase and catch up to my dreams, and that putting positivity out in the universe means it will come back around to you.

My therapist said he can tell I’m so much more confident than I used to be.  I’m finally getting used to my body and loving that despite all my medical flaws, but I’m finally here.  Years of dysphoria from ballet have lessened, and I have a very healthy attitude of “This is me and I’m not apologizing for it anymore.”

The last 4-5 months have been a roller coaster.  Someone I never expected to come along did despite my strong desire to stay single/not even get into the dating scene.  Ever since, I’ve been on a roller coaster that seems like it never ends with him.  I’m about to rent a house, and getting utilities established in my name is a daunting task.  I’ve been through so much back-and-forth this week that I’m exhausted.  I need a nap daily.  But what gets me through is that the house is one I’ll be proud of, one I’m ready to come home to and to be happy, to be relaxed.  I’ll even have a craft room.

Speaking of crafts, I’m starting up my home crafting business again soon.  For a while back in 2009-2010, I created and sold crocheted goods at Kami-con (back then, held in Tuscaloosa).  I undercharged by a lot, according to the calculator websites I’ve been using, but it was a good learning experience.  When the festival up in Steele, AL – Cukorakko – starts, we’re hoping to rent out a booth or table to sell stuff.  Anything to help with rent and still being able to live life.  I love handcrafted goods.  Everything is unique, and everything has a piece of the maker’s heart in it.  (That’s why it’s so easy to want to keep things…)  I’m also getting back into painting.

So many times I’ve thought, “am I ready for this?” And the answer is: of course.  I’m 27.  I am grateful for my mother letting me stay in our house as long as I needed, but it’s time.  To walk into the living (ha) room and see the spot where my father died and his mother before him is painful.  In the back of my mind, I can never separate that from the way the room is now.  His final expression still haunts me.

He would be thrilled for me, for my future.  When I think about how he would have thought about my life path, I feel nothing but warmth.  His high school graduation card to me read something to the effect of, “keep being just the way you are and you’ll be able to accomplish anything in life.”

I’m not perfect by any means, but I have drive.  I have ambition and a tender heart and a pretty good sense of humor (unless I’m in a bad mood).

Every day I’m working on blooming from within.  I can only see myself blossoming more from here.  With every test life throws my way, I learn something new about myself.  And there’s nowhere to go but up.

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.

everywhere life is full of heroism

everywhere life is full of heroism

This will absolutely be a long, winding blog because I haven’t made enough time to get my thoughts together more, and also because it’s 2am and work in the A.M. is a thing unfortunately… 

But I have been through Some Things in 2016 that I needed to put down for later blogs.

This year has been very mentally challenging (and physically – stitches in my tongue! Story for another time, worth it). I’ve been on meds after meds as they adjust everything, but I’ve had close calls with my own mental darkness.

And I haven’t wanted to admit or even acknowledge this for a long time to anyone but my mom and therapist, but it’s time to continue the conversation when it’s finally being even somewhat discussed.

There were so many times this year when the only thing keeping me from attempting suicide was the thought, “but I’m worth too much money in tattoos.” Ridiculous, right? But it worked almost every time. What kind of weird mental illness response…?!

I know I’m worth more than ink. “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees & the stars; you have a right to be here.” (Max Ehrman)

It’s been a year of great things, too. I’m working every day on building up my self-esteem and self-worth. I’ve learned lessons about not being so reactive, to chill as best as I can, and don’t stress about things that might happen or that have in the past. 

“Do not stress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.” (Ehrman) This is most especially what I need to work on. Insecurity is getting a punch anytime I feel the slightest inkling.

Be the best you that you can be – that’s what I’m striving for. As a friend quoted to me from Oprah, “When you know better, you do better.”

The only thing I ask in companionship, whether platonic or not, is to be patient with me while I work through this and I will do the same with you for any of your changes.

I’m starting off 2017 early. Who needs an arbitrary revolution around the sun to start a new year anyway?

writing? what writing? definitely not here

It’s been a long time since I’ve written, both privately in my journal and here (but especially here).  I’ve only recently begun writing fiction again (hallelujah) after a months-long dry spell.  Said spell had been driven by the anxiety that constantly described my state of being–thank you, prescribed meds, for finally getting me to feel like a human again (which is why all the ~BIG PHARMA~ people are full of it).

I’m currently going through the routine of getting-medical-stuff-finally-checked-out-and-as-a-result-get-on-tons-of-meds, which is about as much fun as it sounds.  Going from three, at most, pills a day to at least six–unless I have a headache, and then it’s eight–sucks, but I guess it’s worth it for feeling better, for not dying sooner because of these disorders at least, and for Getting My Life Together.

2014 was an eye-opener of a year.  I did a lot of things I thought I’d either never get to do, and/or never be able to do, and I did some things that weren’t really all that great and looking back even less so, but I learned from all of them.  The best thing was absolutely Ireland back in March.  I thought it’d be decades before I got to travel out-of-country unless expenses were paid, but thanks, student loans.  I got an invaluable experience, met some awesome new pals, and had to adjust from jet lag for, like, two months after I got back.  I really should’ve read some of those ‘recover from jet lag’ books….

I learned my limits, as far as my own mental and psychological health, and feel like I’m only just now healing from things in the last few years.  I learned morality is often made gray, no matter how much you think you’ve decided on stance or a principle.  I learned that anyone who makes you feel anxious, worried, and constantly self-critical is probably not good for body or spirit.

I’m proud of the fact that I’ve learned how to dip out of situations that make me uncomfortable or no longer happy.  People’s feelings have become less of a concern of mine and nurturing of my own person has risen in priorities.  I don’t mean that in an “I don’t care about how you feel” way, but rather an, “I’m doing me and you do you and as long as you’re cool I’m cool” way.  The growing-up way.  I’m proud of being able to write again and that it doesn’t feel like a chore; I thought I’d permanently broken something inside and it was killing me.  I think it was just one of those recharging phases most writers and artists and creators go through–something about experiencing life in order to have something about which to write.

My “new” (since July) job downtown is so, so much busier and productive than the library I worked at before.  That was a great library to start at but I was ready to move on.  I usually have at least one project to work on, and get along well with everyone in my department.  This is definitely the biggest place I’ve worked as far as employees, patrons/customers, and building space goes, but I think I’ve done well with the adjustment.

Grad school is still grad school.  Ready for it to be over but also enjoying it.  I’ve changed ideas of what I want to do so much, but at this point in my life feel like a Ph.D. might be…uh, “fun” is one way to put it.  Masochistic, maybe, but I like writing.  And the niches I’ve burrowed myself into with library science have awakened my love for research all over again.  The topics I’ve enjoyed and could see myself writing extensively about are LGBTQ archives as well as the diversity not-so-inherent within the field.  I think either would be viable for a dissertation but I’ve got time to decide all that.

And I’ve really reached the limit of what I want to post about my life today.  It’s been a busy year personally, professionally, and academically.  I’m looking forward to what the next 10 months will bring.