9 Months

A little over a year ago, something happened under the November-cold silver stars to change everything in my life. I stood on the crooked sidewalk in front of a large house that glowed yellow from the windows. On the front porch was this boy who was on the phone with his mom. The first thing I heard was his laugh. It was freezing outside, I was nervous, and when he realized I was coming up to his front door, he said into the phone, "I'll call you back, I think the girl who's interviewing is here."

He smiled at me, offered me his hand as a hello, and when he noticed I kept tucking my nose under my scarf to stay warm, opened the door and told me to come on in. I don't know when exactly I knew I was in for it, but I think it happened right around the time that smile of his hit me.

It's funny what happens when you try to fight back against the inevitable. Three months of living together, working really hard to permanently categorize one another as "friend" fell in on itself on a Sunday night in the middle of March. The collapse began with a knock on a bedroom door, a rushed confession mutually met, and a kiss goodnight that tipped us over a precipice we couldn't come back from. Once we started, we couldn't stop the fall.

But, god, what a fall.

Nine months, and I'm still crazy over this one. Every day I am hit with how fortunate I am that life pushed me to where I am now. The coincidences that got me to that front porch with that boy standing on it, waiting for me, are almost difficult to believe. We were both worried about the risk we took of beginning this thing together, but it's worked out. It's more than worked out. He is the best bad idea I've ever had.

Every day I love him more. It's ridiculous how happy he makes me, how simple it is for him to fold me into laughter. It doesn't matter how hard a day I've had, or how stressful my week has been, he can always get me to smile. He makes me feel not invincible, but capable--like I can take on any problem without worry (though I usually have many, he helps me brush them aside like old, annoying cobwebs I forgot to clean up). No matter how big or scary or impossible-seeming a task, he has this way about him that lifts everything up and asks, "Why not?" in the most charming and goofy way.

If I think I can't do it, he grins and dares why not? There is nothing that cannot be done with him at my side as my partner. It is incredible and nearly impossible to describe. It is a miracle to witness the things his hands can touch and make better, and I am lucky to be counted among that list. Plus, he tells the best fart jokes.

He is so good, and he is so strong. He is something like home, but god, so so much more. Thank you for nine incredible months. I'm ready for all the rest that will follow, and whatever they may bring.

Comfortable being uncomfortable

So here's the thing about living with anxiety: the condition is chronic. It's not going anywhere anytime soon; in fact, it's not going anywhere ever. There will be times that I would consider my anxiety is in remission, where the nervousness I live with has pulled back like low tide on a beach. But like the ocean, it will never disappear. It floods, it recedes, it comes in waves.

When I first started seeking help for my anxiety, I entered into treatment with this mindset of, "If I will do this, I will be better." And by better, I meant fixed or cured or healed or whatever word you'd want to use to imply I would no longer have to deal with this ugly thing that kept rearing its head in my life.

Presto, change-o, psychologist-o, cured-o.

"Better," though, while I was using it to supplement all those other meanings, was actually the perfect word for what I was going to experience. Over time, with a lot of work, I would be better. Better at handling the anxiety, better at calming myself down at the onset of panic, better with dealing with the aftermath of an attack. Better, as in I would experience it with less frequency, or less severity. The graph of recovery would trend upward, but it wouldn't be a straight line from A to B, Anxious to Cured. No, not cured... Healthy is a more accurate way to look at it.

I have been dealing with my anxiety in much healthier ways. I'm making huge improvements in my internal dialogue, and how I express myself in times of stress or nerves. In the past, if something were to occur to provoke my depression or my anxiety, I used to just swallow it. I would let it eat away at me until it became this big unbearable thing. And now, I say something. I speak up when I need help, I know how and when to ask for it. That's a big improvement for me.

A lot of this change has come from working with my therapist on TalkSpace (which I plan on doing an entirely separate, detailed post about to answer any questions and share my thoughts about the process and how it all works). And of course it helps that I am surrounding myself with people who make me feel safe and who are aware of the things I am working on. But I think a major contribution to my recovery to a more healthy place is that I have stopped setting unrealistic expectations for myself. I have stopped being afraid of my anxiety when it bubbles up.

I have learned to get comfortable being uncomfortable. It's a weird thing to think about, but when I notice the prickling sensation of oncoming panic, instead of getting afraid of what's about to happen (my mind pre-spiraling for the panic attack, thus making it more severe), I prepare myself to sit with it. I let it happen to me, breathe, and accept that what I am thinking and feeling is neither good nor bad, it is temporary. It's a passing storm.

I'm reading this book by Timber Hawkeye called The Buddhist Boot Camp. Now, I'm not particularly religious but I've always been drawn to the lessons of Buddhism, especially when it comes to things like dealing with difficult or intense emotions. There's this one quote from the book that I keep referring back to:
You can't calm the storm, so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass.
The storm will pass--it may be a long one, but eventually, everything will end. In the mean time, get comfortable being uncomfortable. It's only going to make the storm that much easier to weather. And once it's passed, it's amazing how bright and easy life is, and makes it that much more lovely to appreciate.

Acorns (To Laughter)

For our friend, Mason. x

Learning you left was a helpless kind of pain -- 
a fresh-out-of-the-shower in December,
hair-dripping-down-my-back, I 
forgot my towel in the other room, so
I guess I’ll just stand here in a puddle
on the icy tiles as goosebumps itch across
my skin, painful. It immobilized.

But it was warm; it was September.
The leaves were barely gold. You lived
so much too quick, you left October crooked.
What could we do with all the you 
we still carried?

In a treehouse those two meticulous
hands of yours helped build, on the torn
edge of a river you once swam, a 
Sunday sunset shivered orange across
the sky, and the horizon 
rained acorns.

The first, kicked from the floorboards.
The second, flicked off a railing, and
grief found its playful side. Between
the rafters of branches arced acorns, right beside
sworn dares and regrets and promises
no one thought we’d have to make for decades still--

We swore. We held. Acorns dropped.
All of us, there and not.
You, there and not.
And somehow -- impossibly -- we remembered
that even the worst returns to laughter.

Practicing gratitude

Every year around Thanksgiving, I am always more mindful of the things I have to be grateful for. This year, the list is the longest it's ever been. And though I've said it many times before, it bears repeating: I never thought I even had the right to ask for a life this good, and I will make damn sure I cherish the time I have, with the people I have, now.

I'm grateful for my family, and that they are working on taking the time to care for themselves. I'm grateful to have a job that is fulfilling and helps me pay my bills and put food on the table. I'm grateful to have a car to take me places, and gas to fill up that car -- and I'm grateful that I have places to go to in that car for adventures. I'm grateful I had the opportunity to see the Pacific Ocean, to fly above the Grand Canyon, to swim and boat (and jet ski!) in lakes and oceans and rivers this summer.

Friends. I'm most grateful to those who have given me room in their hearts. I'm grateful for my adopted families, my "work moms" who look after me and friends who are so close I feel like I've known them for years.

I am grateful that I am able to take the time and energy to work on my anxiety. I am grateful that I found someone to talk to that has been helping me work through the tough times.

Peter -- I'm grateful to have his time, patience, support, and love every single day.

I'm grateful for the bed I sleep in, the books I read, the strangers who smile back. I'm grateful for the dogs I see walking down the street outside the window of the wonderful house I live in. I am grateful to have people around me who challenge me and make me want to be a better person.

A skill I'm working on currently is practicing gratitude. I think I do a pretty good job of showing that I am thankful for the way my life has unfolded, but I can always do better -- I can always be more consistent in recognizing the luck I've been given and the hard work I've done that is paying off in a number of ways. I can be more vocal in my recognition. On days I let my frustration or anxiety win, I try to sit and quiet the noise of my head and remember all that I have and let that fill me up, instead. Because, like I said, my list is the longest it's ever been, and it's still growing.

The probelm with Icarus

As a young girl growing up I learned a story of 
a boy drowned from heavy, melting wax wings. 
His father gathered feathers and tacked them together
with a warning (or a lesson) for his son:
 don't stray too high, don't fall too low. 
The ocean has as much power to sink you as the sun.

But the trouble with flying is that warnings
made on the ground shrink and are forgotten when
surrounded by clouds and wind and birds
and other impossibilities.

Icarus flew. He skimmed the water and 
kissed the edge of dawn with his waxy feathers.
On the wings his father gave him, 
he touched the corners of our atmosphere.
He nearly held the sun.

Inevitably came the fall. 
The weeping wax, downing an almost angel;
the icy ocean, dragging him home.
Hubris is often accused as the siren who
called Icarus to Heaven, but his father warned
him twice: don't stray high, don't fall low.
The ocean has as much power to sink you--

The problem with Icarus wasn't that he flew too close to the sun,
but that his wings were constructed of wax and feathers.
The problem with Icarus wasn't that he flew too close to the sun,
but that he flew too near to the ground and dampened those feathers.
The problem with Icarus 
was that his wet wings needed the warm closeness of the sun to dry.
The problem with Icarus 
was that he never questioned if the wings his father gave him were the wings he needed.
The problem with Icarus
is that we remember the lesson he died for wrong.
The problem with Icarus
is our own fear of flying.

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