Category Archives: being yourself

Anxiety is just the boy who never called you back.

floral-phonecase

Tonight, I feel like I can breathe again.

Years, it’s taken. Years have gone by with my blood racing through my veins, heart pumping fast, stomach muscles clenching.

Anxiety will do that to you. It suffocates all the good in the days – the warm slice of pizza, the smell of hot pavement in the rain, the cool breeze hitting your toes on a hot May afternoon – until all you can feel are the deadlines, the extra calories, the next item on your to-do list, the email you forgot to send.

It wrecks you. It strangles you. It demolishes the joy, and you resent things. People. Stories. Phone calls. Anything that keeps you from tackling your next task, pushing that anxiety down for a split second. Relaxing in the warm sun on a Sunday afternoon doesn’t happen. There is no time to relax. There is no time to feel the cool breeze on your toes.

There are only the minutes ticking away, the ones you’re wasting sitting here, and the ones you could have spent building a better life.

That’s what it comes down to, then. A better life could have been built if only you never settled for a second long enough to eat your dinner at the kitchen table, and lay beneath the covers a beat longer, and let the hot water soothe your neck in the shower. You could have saved more money, gotten a raise, purchased a house. In all the time it took you to read a chapter of your book, every week for months, you could have done so much more. Are you ashamed?

That’s what it feels like. That’s how I felt. For years.

Today, I stepped out of my shower, toweled off, and thought about my calm heart. I rubbed my toes into the bath rug, feeling the soft fabric on my feet, and breathed deeply. Because it’s taken me a month to wring all that negativity out of me, but it’s gone.

I hope you know that we cannot be everything to everyone at all times. We are human, fallible creatures, emotional beings with needs to love and care for others. There may never be time again in my day to tense up at all the bad things, the mistakes, the could-haves, the would-haves, the should-haves. There will be tomorrow, and you should get excited for it, because tomorrow is ripe with energy + possibility. Tomorrow is the day you start letting go. Tomorrow is the beginning of an unchained rhythm in your tightly woven mind. It is the unraveling of irrational thoughts. It is the start of something good, something that makes you want to rub your toes into the carpet just because it feels good.

Tomorrow, you will relearn all the simple pleasures your day surrounds you with, because they are waiting for you, and anxiety won’t ever care about you like that.

Anxiety is just the boy who never called you back. Until, of course, he needed you at three in the morning. It’s just that nobody tells you this: you don’t have to answer your phone. Let it ring.

All The Good Things In Life

large-fruitbowl

My weekend was drenched with the sound of feet on carpeted stairs. Footsteps pounding up and down the stairwell, an army of semi-strangers lugging couch cushions and dish detergent and kitchen knives. We tore open cardboard boxes and shuffled around the small apartment, putting everything in its place.

It was the perfect Saturday. When your limbs are tired and your heart is full, when you exchange stories with strangers you hope to someday call friends, it is a good day.

Because love is noisy, it’s messy, it’s scratched and frayed.

It is knocking on the front door to your sister’s new apartment and hearing the “we’re not here – you can’t come in” and fit of giggles on the other side before the door cranks open.

It’s unwrapping a handmade bowl from Italy, delicately encased in dishtowels and folded into a box for safe transport.

It’s settling in to hook up an X-box, though you’ve never played X-box before.

It’s discovering a whiteboard with a man’s scribbled love notes, kept intact after months while he’s away training for the military.

It is handing sandwiches to new friends across the table you only just leafed together, the one your sister’s boyfriend’s grandmother insisted your sister take.

It’s making sure you have enough fruit salad and potato chips, enough banana peppers and onions on your turkey sub. Like, love is making sure you have enough food in your stomach at all times – day or night.

It is brothers and cousins and sisters and parents and two families coming together for an afternoon, enjoying the company of each other, settling into the rhythm of unpacking.

I had forgotten what that felt like – to be loud in an apartment, rustling around and settling in. When I first moved to Maryland, I lived alone, miles and miles from anyone I knew. And one night, in July, I called my aunt – she wanted to know how I was doing – and sitting in the dark, because that’s what I do when I’m sad, afraid to succumb to the tough reality of my night – I told her how good it was, how hard it was, how lonely it was.

She told me it would get better. I prayed for months, a year, that she was right, never doing much to change that. Took me a year to realize I was wrong – you have to do something to change it. I met a boy, with a big Italian-Irish family and gaggles of cousins and babies and kids, running and screaming and soccer games and school plays and all the good things in life.

So now, finally, I find myself waist deep in someone else’s family. It’s not every weekend I get to hug my mother or nudge my father’s arm teasingly. Instead, I fill the gaps with loud Italians and Irish yelling in hospital waiting rooms, leaning in for kisses on cheeks, telling me to eat more food, crack open a can of soda, lay my coat on the stairs, sit and stay and have some cake.

It’s time to celebrate a life well lived. It’s time to celebrate all the good things in life.

Sit. Stay. Share Stories With Me.

twogirls-friends-boat

 

“You know me,” I said. “I don’t know how to make friends. We know this.”

I tell her that a lot, on the way home from work. Most of the time, I yell it to her through my speakerphone, slinking up the highway toward my apartment.

We’ve been friends for eleven years, so our conversations usually go that way. That “we know this” way.

We know this friendship thing is my biggest fear. We know I don’t do small talk. We know I want to be somebody’s confidante. I am good at listening. Can I write that on my forehead and tattoo it to my handshake palm? I. Am Good. At Listening.

And when you get me going, I am good at talking. Not about the last time it snowed so bad my fingers burned while I shoveled my car from the 3-foot drifts, but about how my once-upon-a-time boyfriend woke up one day, one month, and stopped loving me.

Or how my dream last night left we startled for hours. Or what love feels like – those moments when look at the other person and feel warmth, feel like laughing out loud, feel like Christmas morning came early.

That’s my goal for this year: to find people to laugh with, to find people to share moments with, to find a reason to sit in diner booths once more, the way I did when I was in high school, and cup mugs of decaf tea or hot chocolate.

We’re good at that. Goal setting. It’s like a mountain we like staring at, but not climbing. Our legs hurt, our arms ache, our fingers slip and our hearts race in response.  This was easier in my dreams. This was easier on paper. This was easier when I sat around a kitchen island at two a.m. and told you I was going to do it. This, this year, I was going to do it.

I don’t really want to wake up at 30 and realize I gave up on friendship at the age of 24 or 25. What an awful, lonely way to go through life, when you can’t hear the sound of your friend laughing next to you for the same reason, neither of you saying a word about the passersby. What an awful, lonely way to live, when the only arms that ever reach out for a hug are hundreds of miles away.

I don’t need an army of people in my life. Introverts know that. We just want a few, to sit, to stay, to share stories with. You know? Maybe, you do. Maybe you’ve been thinking that too. Sit. Stay. Share stories with me.

God, we need that from you.

jeeps

I lost a piece of my heart + soul in the back of that red Jeep Wrangler. It tumbled atop the stretch of I-95 along the central coast of Jersey. I don’t remember where we were headed that day, just that some cars hold hearts and some cars hold belongings and some cars hold precious precious cargo that feels like both.

That car felt like freedom for a little girl who often wore dresses on Sunday mornings and tripped up Sunday school stairs to find her mom chatting about Lent and the things we give & the things we give up.

That girl sat pretty and proper in the empty classroom while her mom chatted, and the other kids pushed through double glass doors, spilling into the sunbaked parking lot. They hoisted each other into caravan side doors. Cars revved and reversed and vroomed into the winding road away from God & his Lent, but she stayed. She stayed and they went, to find a chocolate frosted donut and greasy hash browns and steaming, milky coffee. Shoved God to the third row of seats, beneath collapsible dog crates and soccer cleats, while she patted her knees together and Mom kept chatting.

She was different, quiet. Other kids rubbed their faces with sticky sprinkled donuts and she held onto the taste of chocolate icing rimming her fingertips.

For her, God was a quiet man, a patient man, a man who looked at soccer cleats with grass & mud caked spikes, with dirtied Sunday school textbooks, and shook his head. A proper line, she thought. Walk a proper line and iron your skirts and never miss a Sunday school lesson and that is how you live. That is life.

That Jeep Wrangler felt free. It felt wild. It felt reckless.

Five years later, a red Jeep crashed on the side of a winding rural road, much like the ones she traced home after Sunday school. All infinities, she knew then, had endings. All rushes had to settle.

She curled back into that churchgoer self. She stayed quiet. She lost hope. She forgot that car crashes and Jeeps had everything to do with living a full live — not nothing, like she once thought. So instead, she quit things she loved. She set bravery aside. She apologized to herself, and others, for existing, for choosing silliness.

Ten years passed before she stopped walking with apologies. Ten years passed before she decided differently. Nobody, she said, nobody deserves to hold themselves quiet. We are rays of sun. We are stars at the end of someone’s life, especially if that someone dies too soon. We are bright and shiny and brave and important and God, we need that from you. God, we do.