How did I miss this?!

I’ve just come out of my religious studies class with a weird epiphany about my life and artistic process. My brain has been sort of hinting at the absence of my academic classes and the sense of satisfaction I get when I write essays that prove arguments or explore grand concepts. I love conceptual thinking that’s built up with evidence. I even like conceptual thinking that’s based in supernatural evidence, what some scholars term “sketchy”. Ultimately, the overlap is there within the foundation.

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My favorite element across all artistic mediums is contrast. I love contrast. Maybe that establishes itself in the physical contrast of the work, or maybe the way the light hits a sculpture at a specific time of day or maybe there’s something else there in terms of color and that just hits me because that sensational pop against my mind makes me feel something deep. I’m not sure yet.

What I’m realizing is that i need to be in a field of work that allows me to explore conceptual contrasts and reaffirm different ideas through writing and research. I crave research like water. The problem solving I experience through writing and essays is akin to the feeling of figuring out which color to use within a painting or ceramic glaze. It’s equally as satisfying. Psychologists refer to this feeling as “flow”. My flow lives in conceptual problem solving.

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I loved writing my essay on Cindy Sherman and I’m so stoked to write my fifteen page research paper contrasting buddhist ideals. I’m sort of dying to figure out the rest of my painting. I have no idea how I’m going to do on my history midterm Tuesday but the immense satisfaction that just began flowing through me has put me over the moon. This is the first time since my disengagement with photography that I’ve felt similarly stimulated and profoundly grateful. This feeling. This feeling right now is what I live for.

Rumi always taught me to break things down

Do I pick male relationships and friendships because I know they will end? Is it some form of self destruction? Is it to punish myself, ensuring that eventually they either fade away or destroy me, so that I’m stuck in a constant cycle of grieving? Is it that I am obsessed with feeling pain or going totally numb?

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I have lately been trying to cultivate my female friendships. This sorority has opened up doors for me in a way I never knew or thought possible. Everyday that I talk to a sister, I realize I’m missing the guidebook that most girls learn throughout their lives. I think that scares me. I always keep everyone at arms length. I do my best to be authentic and genuine but sometimes its necessary to smile and nod with everyone else because their nuances I don’t understand yet.

I find that when I choose a male friend, I already know what kind of personality they have from the moment I decide to invest energy in that relationship. When I find a female friend, I stand guarded, as if preparing for battle. I can feel this rustle of dragon armor, alerted by any possible action out of place.

I think that’s why I’ve avoided them for so long.

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It only just dawned on me that it’s not that women aren’t good friends and I’m saving myself from inevitable pain. Female friendships are potentially lifelong in a way that scares me. I’ve only ever had lifelong friends in family members. Except for the occasional boyfriend, I’ve only ever left myself raw with my sister.

I had one best friend in high school that was a girl. We were so close it was like family. I never worried about judgement or anything like that because we were so open with each other, we had no fear. And then something changed, I think it was just a natural progression of growing up, and I never really got over the idea that every future girlfriend would be some sort of backstabber or painful enemy. Weirder still as that even that specific best friend and I never really stabbed each other in the back, we just went our separate ways.

I know how to deal with break ups on some level. I’ve never dealt with any intensely long term ones but the few men I’ve loved, I’ve loved more deeply than I think I’ve let myself feel for my friends. It’s like wild abandon when I fall in love, both freeing and unbelievably merciless. It may be cheesy but it’s totally like the buildup before a roller coaster. My heart unfolds like a lotus releasing water and slowly builds up to a strong exterior.

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It’s like I decide to let all the men I love be the ones with the power to heal me. In the end they’re the only ones I let in. And for the longest time I had always chalked it up to mommy issues and even though that may be true, is that the whole truth? Have I been slowly convincing myself that I should live alone quietly just to avoid peace and happiness? I definitely hesitate more when I think about going out with girlfriends one on one. My first thought is always, what will we have to talk about? What if they don’t like me? What if I say something stupid or there’s a lull in the conversation? What joke will I make then?

My last relationship was a doozy. But it also taught me a lot about dealing with manipulative people and so for that, I am grateful to have felt the pain. But what about with women? I’ve had girlfriends in most of my life and while we weren’t exactly sisters, we got pretty close. And then something would happen, so and so talked crap about this or blah blah hooked up with this guy and people would disappear and it felt petty but I’m realizing slowly, that stuff does matter. It’s important to know where your loyalties should lie and it’s important to also build up those kinds of skills in yourself. I thought they were petty because I’ve always been a fiercely loyal person, except I’ve made mistakes in the past too and people learn at different paces.

So then I realize that my role in most relationships has been “the mother”. Which is definitely something I’ve been working on. I do not wish to mother anymore. So if I can’t mother, what the hell do I do? What other role is there?

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I don’t even know what positions to apply for. I think back on qualities of friends I’ve observed and I get most of my information from books and movies. I observe as much as I can in real life situations but it doesn’t always apply because I haven’t memorized the moves yet.

I have a friend I want to let in. She’s the most terrifying adventure on the horizon. It’s so silly but I can feel it, we could be friends for a ridiculously long time. Like really, really good friends. So why does that scare me so much?

It’s taken me several months of dipping my feet in the pool to prepare myself to jump in. I’ve set it up next semester so that I’m hugely involved in all of the events and I’ve joined this suicide prevention organization that will be working on campus too to help remove the stigma associated with depression. This means lots of working one on one with feelings and listening and lots of sisterhood commitments. I’m taking Tai Chi right afterwards and I feel like that’s going to be my favorite class. I know that all of this will work its way out and I can feel time slowly peeling off layers on my exterior. I always thought you had to heal something from the inside out for it to feel better. I think I really needed to do that for a while. Now, I’m going to try something different.

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Fall, Metaphor, Fall

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I keep complaining that I’m too old for college. I keep seeing everyone else I know on Facebook with their new careers and various professions, and I think to myself, ‘god, why am I taking so long to get my life started?’ And then, just a minute ago I realized that college is really damned good for me. I don’t know how to be a friend to people, I don’t know how to have fun responsibly, I don’t know how to be an adult. I don’t know how to get my shit together. I picked a great fucking time in my life to really just get it all out. I think my mother failed because she had a kid so young. I mean I can’t imagine having an eight year old by my side right now and I know that I’m like that old kid in college but whatever. I’m learning so much about myself right now and I honestly can’t imagine having to do it differently.

I got that dating app, Bumble. I don’t know why exactly I decided to use it. Most of those things are usually catered towards booty calls and fuck buddies like Tinder but I think because it’s so fledgling, there are actually a couple people on there worth texting. It may sound naive, but honestly I can’t imagine being apart of some crazy circle jerk with frat guys and I swear, I’m no homie hopper.

There are definitely the creepers on there but for the most part, the guys seem pretty tame. I am constantly reminded that I am behind. Seeing as the format is such that the female starts the conversation, I have no idea what to say to someone who’s already in the midst of their career. Usually, it’s just random shit I think of that theoretically I would say to someone in a bar or in public. I try to be as authentic as I can. Sometimes, it works and sometimes it doesn’t. In a weird way, it’s totally liberating.

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What it has made me realize though is that I have a lot to learn. There is someone real. There is someone out there who totally fits with me. I may not find him on some online dating app, but he’s out there and I’ve discovered I’m on a quest for something real.

Sex sucks sometimes. Relationships suck sometimes. Everything, on some level, really sucks sometimes. But I think what determines whether it’s worth fighting for is the good stuff too. How high can I get when I’m happy? How much does it fill me up? How do I attempt this task without getting too invested too soon?

I have an attachment problem. I know this. My life coach and I talk about this. It stems from my unconscious abandonment anxiety. It lives, it breaths. I can feel it whenever I walk through campus. It perches on my shoulder and tells me everyone is leaving me. It lives in my mind as I try to sleep.

I see the ghosts of all the faces I miss and all the people I’ve lost and I constantly grieve for people that mean nothing. In the end, I know that I will find peace and so I live my waking moments grasping at straws trying to piece together a puzzle I seem to never fully understand. And that’s okay. Because I think I still have a crap ton of stuff to get out of my system that I didn’t know was alive.

My aunt told me that your mind can only process one emotion at a time. When dealing with trauma, it is largely incapable of deciphering things it doesn’t want to recognize as part of the problem. That’s why things move so slowly. One minute, I think I’ve processed enough to move past old problems, and the next I’m bludgeoned over the head with something I dealt with years ago. All the anger aside, I recognize that life is about struggle. I wholeheartedly embrace that part. It fuels my need to create, express, articulate. It is a part of me.

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As the air to cools and I remember last fall, I know why this is my favorite time of year. I send my blessings to the people who fill me up with frustration because it drives me to refocus. I feel the humidity change and I know it’s time to begin the next phase of evolution. I can’t wait to change I can’t wait to be different.

Balthasar helped me out

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I can’t tell if I crave the feeling of being right or being liked. I can’t tell if my need to argue stems from a desire to correct wrongs and communicate my feelings or if it’s all so that I can go on feeling like no one hates me. If indeed I fall below the latter, does that make me fearful? Afraid to let others be angry? Or is it fuel for distance? This is sometimes a question of pride and sometimes a question of anger but in this case I am seriously torn.

I’ve been examining my relationships with others lately and what I’ve found is a bunch of needy people. I am no longer going to let myself be a mother to so many needy children. They all want my approval and attention so constantly that it interferes directly with my own needs.

But now I wonder, where do I draw the line? How do I undo a set precedent? How do I relearn how to communicate when I’ve so long prided myself on being a compassionate communicator? I have always been a go getter, the driver of my life. Now that I’ve taken a step back I can see how I have let myself be taken advantage of over and over again. My friends and family say I’ve “been short” but in reality, I’ve been irritated. I’m noticing how many times a day I am not allowed to choose when I engage with the world. This morning I was woken up by my cousin. Later, I was stopped mid-project to look at an Instagram video. Immediately after, shown another video by my sister.

When confronted about my behavior changes, I am unsure if my reaction was in defense of the moment in question (the Instagram video) or in defense of my newly discovered persona. I can’t tell which torch I carry. Am I just being mean and therefore building walls instead of bridges? Have I begun swirling downward into a firestorm? Or is this how people feel when they prioritize?

I went to one of my favorite philosophers and let fate decide where my eyes fell:

ccvii Be Moderate.

One has to consider the chance of a mischance. The impulses of the passions causes prudence to slip, and there is the risk of ruin. A moment of wrath or of pleasure carries you on farther than many hours of calm, and often a short diversion may put a whole life to shame. The cunning of others uses such moments of temptation to search the recesses of the mind: they use such thumbscrews as are wont to test the best caution. Moderation serves as a counterplot, especially in sudden emergencies. Much thought is needed to prevent a passion taking the bit in the teeth, and he is doubly wise who is wise on horseback. He who knows the danger may with care pursue his journey. Light as a word may appear to him who throws it out, it may import much to him that hears it and ponders on it.

I don’t know anymore how I feel when I’m “normal” so for the moment I’m going to take my vitamins and embrace the project I finished today (it’s about a year overdue) and go buy a swimsuit so I can learn how to surf in the morning. There are just so many damned baby steps I’m not sure if I’m moving forward or sideways.

And as I think back now, I wonder if it’s not so much a fear of angering others or being disliked but I think I’m so damned sentimental that I’m afraid one day when we’re old and looking back at our lives, the memories will be tainted with arguments and disconnects. Is that my fear of abandonment and loss coming into play? Is that the forever question?

These women would make ice if you let them

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            Feelings for me get pretty tricky. I used to feel them so much and so often, I had to turn them off for a long time. Eventually that would erupt into some kind of giant crying scene complete with me writing poems for hours and smudging around the ink with my tears, feeling very sorry for myself wondering how the world could have wronged me so. But then again that was fourteen for most I believe. Then all those angry years took all the tears and turned themselves into screams and broken glass from all the bottles I smashed in my alley when I couldn’t figure out what to do with all those feelings.

            It’s taken some time but I don’t really do any of those things anymore. I know part of the mess was hormones but it was also that my mom and I were learning how to grow up together. She went through a lot of passive aggressive attitudes and dirty maneuvers before she became someone I wanted to talk to. She told me I was a druggy (because I’d smoked weed and drank alcohol at a friend’s house in high school). She told me I was neglecting her because I didn’t come to visit more than twice a year – even though it’s a four and half hour drive (one way) and I was only fifteen. She called me repeatedly throughout the day to talk to me even if my friends were around and I couldn’t hang up because of the guilt I felt if I didn’t stay on the phone – not to mention the manipulation I’d be unwittingly forced to endure for days (even weeks) on end.

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            And then I she wrote me her last horrible, seven page “intervention” letter for my 18th birthday and I didn’t talk to her for a year. She stopped. We’ve both grown up since then.

            It took me a long time to visit her after I started talking to her again. I’ve been back once or twice since my 21st birthday.

            But it doesn’t fail to amaze me each time she makes me feel better when I don’t even know I’m down. Since I’ve never had a conventional mother-daughter relationship, I’ve never had one to compare myself to. I’ve seen things from a window I’ve always looked in on but never experienced. And I still don’t really know what it is that I’m a part of. It’s like a horribly unhealthy relationship that finally blossomed. I feel like our bond is kindred to tales of those old, aging sisters that live off in some secluded house on the top of a hill somewhere who spend their days making jam and painting.

            Whenever there’s a separation from someone who’s supposed to be an instrumental part of your life and they come back, there’s this awkwardness. What do we do now? How do we act? Where do I put my hands? Is it okay to laugh at this? Am I holding on too long? Can we sit in comfortable silence? What now? And even at visiting, there’s still a little bit of that. But over the phone and via letter, it’s completely washed away. Ironically enough, I feel closer to her when I only hear her voice than when I hold her hand. Because in person, she’s still a stranger to me — but her voice, I know it by heart.

            She tells me I’m a good person, that she wants me to dream big, that I’m smart, tough, strong, loved, needed, beautiful. She tells me things I’ve never known I needed to hear. My dad has always said those things (albeit sparingly, he stresses the intelligence thing, that I’m the spitting image of him and therefore beautiful, all in good humor of course) but for whatever reason, hearing it from her makes it feel a little realer. And I feel bad that I didn’t know I was unsatisfied with my dad’s validation but to be honest, a mother’s love is different. Plus, considering she’s somewhat of a hardened OG nowadays it’s even more of a ego boost than it might’ve been before.

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She told me today that she makes 15 cents an hour. That she’s happy she got a new job and took the pay cut even though she was making significantly more before (enough to support herself). She said being able to work at night and see the moon and be surrounded by quiet is worth more than money. She said it was the first time she’d been outside at night in nearly ten years. That made me cherish the moonlight a little bit more.

 

My own serenity prayer

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I’m not sure if I’m an alcoholic but I’ve always been a part of AA. The thing is, alcoholism runs very strongly in my family. Actually, it’s more that addictive personalities do. My uncle was a gambler and a womanizer and just plain reckless at times, his brother too. My aunt was -for a period- addicted to crack and cocaine and she although doesn’t really do that so much anymore, she definitely maintains a steady beer buzz to this day. My grandma died of liver failure due to her alcohol habits. The doctor told her to stop and she never really did. Coupled with clinical depression, most of my family’s strongest addictive personality types have had some heavy issues, my mother included.

So definitely, yes, I worry about it. I find myself wanting to drink when I want to forget about some things, and so I don’t. I find myself wanting to drink when I have a stressful day, and so I don’t. I worry when I go out with my friends for the third time in four days and we’re drinking and laughing and not really caring if the tab runs itself through the roof or if my hangover really sucks the next day even when I have important things to do.

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But then I also remind myself that I just turned twenty-one not even six months ago and that most of these experiences are new and I can’t hide behind my anxiety for the rest of my life. I have to learn when I can and cannot have a glass of wine, or if that third drink is going to get me hammered, that water between is a marvelous idea. That I can’t mistake caution for cowardice.

When I was little, I spent most nights of my childhood at AA meetings, eating my happy meals and doing my homework, trying my hardest to stay awake as the adults passed around laminated pages and a big binder filled with codes and steps. I knew what it meant when someone got a gold chip and I played with my mom’s whenever she let me hold her keys.

I knew what all the extra birthday cakes meant.

I was never old enough to sit in and listen to their stories. My mom told me to go play with the other kids -if there were any but thank god for my sister because she would play with me anytime I asked, even if she was half asleep. I’ve been back to a few meetings ever since to listen and there’s still the same lemon cakes and coffee dispensers and the people are still telling their truths and even though I feel out of place, I can’t help but feel like it’s still a part of me.

And it only really occurred to me the other day as I was driving and thanking my higher power for making me so wise that I realized how much courage I’ve adopted and how peaceful that makes me feel and how grateful I am for every step I’ve ever had to take to get by, one day at a time.

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Questions of confidence

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I went through a long period of bitterness when I turned sixteen. It was probably around the same time I began to realize that it would be another ten years before I got to go get ice cream or go shopping or eat a meal with my mother. I think that’s about the time I stopped doing drugs and getting into trouble. There were phases after that where I still did a little e and went to raves or got too drunk at a party; I tried shrooms and dropped acid in the desert, dancing in the light of campfires.

But I stopped needing to feed that empty feeling in my stomach, that part of me that felt like it could never be made whole. That piece that made me angry all the time and made me want to cry or fight or pretty much anything to get the space filled. I know people talk about the emptiness, I know it’s there.

And then a couple years ago, I got over it. I really got over it in the past year or so but I don’t think I blame myself for taking that long. I used to feel guilty when I processed my emotions and I still do sometimes but it gets easier as I grow older, laying down new foundations, brick by brick.

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There have been a lot of shitty guys and friends and even family that have helped pave my existence. Those lessons are very important to me. But even now, I worry that I’ve gotten so obsessed with trying to find good people in the world that I’ve almost chosen to ignore the questionable qualities that crop up just to support my theory. It’s like I’ve collected evidence to support it and I’ve unwittingly botched the results.

Because I can’t figure out why I keep getting involved with the same kinds of people that leave me with the same conclusions in the end. My friends aren’t very compassionate people. They enjoy conflict and harsh words said behind closed doors. They come to me when they need things, never to share. There’s an exclusivity amongst our group that many people outside of it recognize and address. I detest selfish, needy, exclusive people. That’s why I was so grateful to move from Hollywood to Santa Monica, people weren’t as vapid and skin deep.

Am I so wrong to believe that there might be people out there without a constant hidden agenda? Am I so naïve?

I’ve been seeing someone for around two months and I really do enjoy his company. We’ve moved slowly and for that I am grateful. Because today, I see this clearer picture of what the future would look like if we actually dated. And in my gut I know it wouldn’t work out. We are fundamentally different people. I like work, he likes play. I like quiet, he likes to go out. I like sleep, he could care less. And although I can agree that opposites attract, I know that he’d get bored at some point. My gut usually doesn’t lie to me when it finally kicks back hard enough for me to feel it.

To be fair, the last four guys I spent time to get to know were not worthy of my affections. The first attacked my sister and used me for all I was worth and the later three all left me for girls they had been seeing longer than me. So my track record kind of sucks.

And this guy is great, he’s sweet and smart and funny and I genuinely like him but I know he wouldn’t be happy in the end. I can see him wishing I was somebody different, someone who had more friends and enjoyed being out all the time but really I couldn’t think of a better end to an evening than a good book or a favorite tv series marathon. I may be a free spirit but I’m not the wild kind that he craves. And the crazy part is, I fear we’re both stupid enough to see this through, as I watch all the walls I’ve built be burned down and ravaged by tears and disagreements, simple miscommunications that escalate into pointless fighting. And I see resentment and bitterness and hurt words and maybe this is fear talking but I really think it’s just simple common sense.

Do I stay and ride it out, or do I leave before all of these things come into fruition? Because I know they will.

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Blissfully awake

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I love feeling crazy. My first love, that horrible and bewitching first encounter with my heart strings that left me broken and scared made me fear ever enjoying my time by myself, told me I was crazy and psycho and a bitch and I was so afraid I’d be alone forever because I thought he could only speak the truth.

But as I drive along with the windows down, my power music blasting, the feeling of my hair whipping back and forth in the wind, my hands orchestrating the energy I feel in every sound, I can’t help but be captivated by the feeling.

I love laughing by myself because I feel happy or just plain grateful to be alive.

I love feeling dangerous and predatory as I glide across the street, be it walking, skipping, or driving.

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I love dancing to my iPod in the middle of campus as passersby state and wonder what I could be so happy about.

I love yelling in victory as I leave my astronomy final that kicked my ass. (I passed that by the way and it felt GREAT).

I love wearing whatever I want because I don’t care if my socks match or my hair looks a little bit like a rat’s nest.

I love that my roots have grown out so much that people think I’ve died my hair again.

I love that I bite my cuticles down to the nubs because it gives me something to do when I’m waiting and I kind of like the way red fingertips look as I drag them across my art.

I love writing about my feelings because it helps me understand myself and it helps me communicate them later.

I love pulling a book out in public as everyone else scrolls across their electronic screens because old things aren’t always bad things and reading is never a bad thing.

I love jabbering away with people in elevators and doctor’s offices because I’ll never see them again and what’s better than having a meaningful conversation with a stranger?

I love feeling free and alive and I love having a good time and if that makes me look crazy as I dance my ass off in my car in traffic I don’t care because I think it matters more to me that I smile every moment of everyday than if you think I’m crazy or not. Because I’d rather be crazy and happy than normal and complacent. Because complacency to me is the worst sin. Embracing it is a nightmare in daylight.

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Take a step back

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           Due to my unconventional upbringing, I’ve had to overcome a lot of emotions on my own. I’ve had to learn how to talk to my feelings to find out what I’m experiencing and how to handle them. I’ve had to make myself feel better by myself. When my sister or my dad tried to help me out when I was younger, I brushed them off. I couldn’t have them near me or help me. I had to be able to do it myself.

            Which I can’t say is a good or a bad thing because I know it worked for me. And over time, I’ve found it easier to reach out and embrace someone when I feel like I need a hug to feel better. But in the end, I know how to bring the peace out from within.

            So it’s hard for me to have patience with people sometimes. There are people in my life that I care for dearly because I have compassion for their oddities, the parts of their personalities that other people cross off as weird or unacceptable. I find those parts endearing. But there are times when those same people I’ve defended so much in the past just push me over the edge. They try and use the times that people have written them off as excuses to never have to change or adapt. They prey on my sympathies and compassion.

            I can’t handle when people don’t want to help themselves. There’s nothing wrong with feeling out of control. There’s nothing wrong with feeling like the walls are crushing you. There’s nothing wrong with the bad feelings because I’ve learned that those are the feelings that let me know when I’m about to come out on the other end a little bit stronger, a little more prepared to handle something worse in the future. And soon enough those little troubles are squashed against my stronger armor. They don’t bother me anymore and that’s the kind of feeling I can’t live without. Knowing I can control myself and my emotions is really important to me even when I feel like I’m spiraling out of control.

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            I had a friend today who was rude to me. When I called him out on it, he reacted defensively and immediately said I was overreacting. Apologies aren’t meant to be debates over the validity of emotion. I’m entitled to feel however I feel. I wasn’t rude, I wasn’t mean, I said nothing out of turn. But he went on to say he was going through an antidepressant withdrawal and he was now experiencing a full-blown panic attack and all that jazz, that he was crying in the parking lot because of me.

            I snapped a little. And I feel kind of bad about it but he quite literally said he had no control over what he’d said to me or how he’d reacted because of something I should have been more sympathetic about. And sure, that’s all fine and dandy and I acknowledge that but I also know he turned a very simple apology into a conversation about his feelings and his reactions to my words. Which ironically enough, was quite the overreaction. If someone offends me, I need to be able to say that without worrying if they’re going to go hurt themselves because of it. I shouldn’t have to apologize for being honest. I shouldn’t feel trapped by my words.

            When it’s time to own up to something, there’s no excuse or justification. It’s just time to be real and accepting of others. And as accepting as I am of him, I’m pretty upset that he keyed a car last time we hung out and was able to chalk it up to his own rationalizations. My sympathies can only be stretched so far before I look at you and want nothing more than to walk away from the anger and find my peace somewhere at the beach or in a great song I blast as I drive along the highway. Because that’s what I have to do when I get angry or sad or just feel out of control, I deal with it in the only ways I know how.

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