Salem: Part Three

As of recently, I have been experiencing an internal dilemma that I had never really felt before. The idea of being codependent and not being my own person has always been a fear of mine, but I started wondering why I stopped doing things that I have always wanted to do. I realized that if I didn’t have someone to experience certain things with then it wouldn’t be worth experiencing, and that is when I came to the conclusion that I was giving myself an injustice. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to go somewhere or do something but my husband or my best friend didn’t want to experience it with me, so I would just drop it and move on. Suddenly I realized that I have been unaware and oblivious to the fact that one of my biggest fears was coming true. I was allowing others to be in control of my happiness, and that left a pit in my stomach and soul. 

I need to come clean about something. For years I have been allowing my fear and my 

comfortability control what I do with my life. It started when I lived in Dallas. I was virtually alone the majority of the time, and I became used to that feeling. The only time I would ever leave my apartment was for work or doctor appointments, and it became so bad that the idea of going grocery shopping alone would give me an anxiety attack. Even if I needed something I would purposely try to hold off going to get it until the weekend so that my husband could go with me. I don’t think I was approaching agoraphobia or anything, I just think that I had severe social anxiety and it prevented me from doing anything alone. I still have issues with that, but it is not nearly as bad as it once had been. 

My mindset was preventing me from living the life that I so desperately desired. Doing things on my own was never really something that I accepted as a possibility. So for all this time when I could have been doing things to give my life purpose, I just have been easily dropping them when others didn’t want to do them with me. Thinking about that mindset now actually makes me kind of sick to my stomach. How could I have ever been so reliant on other people for experiences or happiness? How could I have ever thought that that was normal or okay? 

All it took was one moment for my mind to switch. It was just one teeny-tiny little moment where I thought: “What the fuck am I doing?” That singular moment in time is the moment that is responsible for changing my life. I realized that I was no longer going to accept that I can only follow through with my dreams and goals if I had someone by my side. I have said this before and I will continue to say it, I am now at a point in my life where I will no longer be placing my well-being in the hands of others. Just because I am in a marriage doesn’t mean that I am living our life. No. I am living my life and he just happens to be a great part of that. Even when it comes to my best friend. I love doing things with her, but there are things that I want to do that she doesn’t and vice versa. I will always want to experience and go through things with both my husband and my best friend, but there comes a time where you stop caring if others want to do things with you. And that time has come. I am open and ready to start living my life the way that I want to live it. I am going to do things even if others don’t want to do them or if they don’t understand them. Living your life with people can be great, but living your life for you is exhilarating. And that is one of the first lessons that Salem has taught me. 

When I had that moment of clarity I didn’t just want to think about it. I wanted to live it. I wanted to dive in and I wanted to dive deep. I wanted to push myself to test what I was capable of. Something that I always talk about is traveling, but I have never been in the financial position to be able to do it. Plus, all of the places that I wanted to experience my husband didn’t, so that put a damper on things. With that being said, things have changed. I have some money now, not a lot but enough for a small trip. And I no longer care if my husband wants to do something with me or not. If something is possible for me to do then I am going to do it. So I thought what better way to push myself than going on a trip, somewhat far away, alone, to a place that I have always wanted to go to that nobody else I knew would be interested in. That’s where Salem came into play. 

Although I wasn’t going to be in Salem for long, I still wanted to make sure that it would be okay with my husband. If I am going to be honest, I already knew that despite what he said that I was going to go, but I also wanted to have that respect for him and let him know what I was thinking. He was okay with me going, which made me happy, so I booked my ticket and hotel and planned my little heart away like the type a personality that I am. 

I am not going to lie to you guys. I was super excited all the way up to the morning of my departure. Then when my stepdad picked me up to take me to the airport I started feeling doubt. I was worried about leaving my furbabies and leaving my husband and all of that fun stuff. Luckily, that worry was short-lived. The moment I felt the plane take off all of my excitement and eagerness came rushing back, and I was so ready for this adventure. When I landed in Boston and made my way to Salem my mind was in a whirlwind. I just couldn’t believe that I actually did this. I couldn’t believe that I actually traveled to a place that I have never been to before by myself. Then that disbelief turned into something that I very rarely feel about myself. I became proud of myself and this step that I had taken. I don’t really feel like anyone should have to justify why they might be proud of something that they have accomplished whether it is a big or small thing. Accomplishing any sort of dream or goal is something one should feel pride in. So I feel like some people might think “You went on a trip by yourself. Big whoop.” But for me, this was huge. The only time that I have ever traveled alone was when I would go back and forth from Dallas to Chicago, and even then I still did stuff with people every day. With Salem, I was in charge of making all of my own decisions, getting to the places that I wanted to see, feeding myself, etc. Everything was all on me. At first, I thought that the notion of me being solely responsible for myself would be terrifying, but it was actually the complete opposite. 

I have never felt more liberated in my entire life. Being completely on my own gave me a sense of freedom and happiness that I never have experienced before. Every moment was intoxicating, and I craved it. I woke up each morning eager for the day to begin, and that is something that I don’t really ever feel. It is such a crazy feeling that not too long ago I couldn’t even go to Target alone without experiencing severe anxiety, and now here I was all alone on the other side of the country. I was talking with strangers and making new friends. I was appreciating the history and background of the beautiful city that I was in. I was self-reflecting and figuring out what self-love really meant. I truly was thriving. I was able to get to know someone a lot better. Someone who I have known for twenty-six years. Me. 

When you put yourself in a small bubble of what you think you are capable of you are doing the worst thing possible for yourself. Because of my assumptions about myself I have missed out on so much living. I have bypassed opportunities and possibilities that would have given me purpose and brought me joy. It is sad to me to know that the feeling that I felt in Salem could have been a feeling that I have felt all along, but I have decided that instead of dwelling on what could have been I am going to focus on what I am going to do about it.

I am going to make a list for myself, and I want to do everything possible to make these things happen. Salem was a dream of mine for so long and I was able to do that, so the way that I see it is that Salem was just the tip of the iceberg for me. I have realized that I am self-sufficient and capable of being the person that I want to be, and I am going to do everything in my power to continue this path of independence.

It is funny how when you have a significant other you think you have to live your life with them. I thought that for so long, and it couldn’t be farther away from the truth. I have figured out that I have dreams and goals for my marriage, but more importantly, I have them for myself. And to me, it is more important to accomplish your own individual goals and dreams rather than the ones that you share with your partner. I know that that might sound selfish, but if you think about it, is it really? If you are longing to do things for yourself that your partner doesn’t want to do then you most likely will expect to see good ole’ Uncle Resentment knocking on your door, and everyone knows we try to avoid him as much as possible. I don’t want to look at my husband one day with hatred because I never was able to live my life the way that I wanted to. What kind of partner can I be to him if I was unhappy with my life and my choices? I feel like in order to be a good enough partner to him I need to be good to myself. So I regret to inform my loved ones, including my husband, that they have all been pushed down on my priority list because I have finally placed myself at the top. 

I do have one bit of bad news that has resulted from my first ever solo trip. As much clarity as I have found, I have also found equal amounts of confusion. I am questioning if I made the right decision by getting married and being in a committed relationship so young. I went from living with my parents to living with my husband, and I never had that alone time to really learn about myself. I went from relying on my family to relying on my husband, and I never learned that I am capable of being on my own. I feel like I am needing more time for self-discovery. I am yearning for it. I miss Salem, but I miss my alone time more. This scares my husband. He thinks that I have one foot out the door. But this is not what this is. I am leaving. But I am not leaving him. I am leaving the old version of me. I am leaving that girl that was scared and dependant on others. I am leaving the girl who easily gave up on her goals and dreams. I am leaving the girl who put literally everyone else’s happiness before her own. I feel reinvented. I feel like for once in my life I am in charge of myself. I feel incredible. One of my biggest takeaways from Salem is that I can take care of myself both emotionally and physically. I can live a life alone and still feel tremendously happy and fulfilled. I don’t need my husband, my best friend or my family. If everyone was out of my life I would be fine. 

That statement is not a bad thing. I have learned that the people who are in your life shouldn’t be in your life because you need them. They should be there because you want them there. And believe me when I say, I want them all to still have a part in my life because they do bring me so much joy. But it is refreshing to know that I don’t need others to still have a beautiful and magical life. I am capable of providing that for myself. And I have never felt so empowered.

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Tattoos and Depression

I wouldn’t say that I have an addictive personality. I hardly ever drink, I don’t smoke, I take edibles, but not often, I don’t do hardcore drugs, I have sex, but just with my husband, and I guess you could say it is a “typical” amount of copulation for a couple who has been together for ten years, and I usually don’t overeat. I am not used to having that feeling of needing something so badly that it is all that you can think about, that is, until now.

I got my first tattoo when I was eighteen years old, and I regretted it immediately. It was a larger piece on the inner part of my left forearm, and when you are used to seeing a blank canvas to suddenly having something there that is permanent it can be a bit of a shock. I just remember waking up the next day in tears thinking “what have I done?” I promised myself that I would never get another tattoo for the remainder of my life, and I was going to try to save up enough money to get the one tattoo that I had removed. Then, six months later, I found myself in a tattoo shop getting another one.

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I love tattoos. I love piercings. I love the adrenaline rush that I get when I pull up to my favorite shop and see my favorite artists. I love the smell of the ink and the buzz of the tattoo gun. I love sitting in the chair and wondering what my next piece is going to be while I am getting something done. The music, the laughter, the swearing, the connections that you make with the person who is working on you, it all just makes my serotonin levels rise. I feel like I am in my own personal euphoria, and I soak up every moment of it. I don’t crave a lot of attention from others, but getting work done is such an intimate experience. You’re putting your trust into someone to alter the shell that holds you in it. They are changing not only your appearance but in a way, also your life. To me, that is beautiful.

Altogether, I have nine tattoos. I have gotten four tattoos in less than ten months, which is a lot for me. Two of those tattoos were done in the last twenty-four hours. I used to average one tattoo every year and a half to two years, so this is an interesting change of pace for me. I have been doing some thinking, and I think I have figured out why this flux of ink has been taking place. 

Although I am always thinking about tattoos, I tend to want them, even more, when I am either approaching or in a low. Interestingly enough, just a few days ago I had a therapy appointment with my therapist where we were talking about some newer feelings that were arising, and she expressed that she was worried that I was taking a step backward. I do feel like I am starting to revert to what my norm has been for all of these years, but I am desperately trying to nip it in the bud before it takes me down too much. Anyways, I think I have a correlation between my depression and my tattoos. You see, as stated in previous articles, my coping mechanism for a severe low or anxiety is cutting. I am proud to say that it has been a good stretch of time that I have gone without hurting myself, but that is where the tattoos come in.

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The moment the needle touches my skin I get giddy. Even when I am not in a great place mentally, I feel better. Whenever I would cut, it felt like a release. A break from feeling the way that I have felt for so long. I can breathe, and all my worries escape my mind, even if it’s just for a moment. Sometimes a moment break is better than no break at all. I have learned that tattoos give me that same relief, but it is even better. Instead of marking my body with scars, I am marking my body with images that bring me joy. There is only one tattoo that I feel “eh” about, but it will be an easy cover-up. 

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So here is my justification for my tattoos: They help me feel better. Mentally it is an escape, physically it helps me relax and my pieces have helped build my self-esteem. I would rather have my body marked with art rather than scars, so as long as I have the means to continue with my pieces, then you can expect to see me sitting in my favorite shop with my favorite artists.

Me

One of the things that I have always appreciated about myself is that I have always been self aware. I have, for the most part, always been in tune with the person that I am, and knowing who I am as a person has always been really helpful. I love reflecting back on my life, looking to see how I have evolved as a person, and revisiting all of the life lessons that I have had to learn. Being aware of who you are, the good traits and flaws included, can only be beneficial to you, and it can help mold you into the person that you want to be.

One of my flaws that I absolutely loath is my tendency to compare myself to others. For example, when I see people with their new houses I think about how I am less of a person because I am renting an apartment. Or I hear news that someone is pregnant, and I wonder if I am less of an adult because my husband and I are not there yet. I see other people and how they are living their lives and I wonder if I am living my life incorrectly. Stephen hates that I do this, especially because it almost always kills my mood, but on some sick level I feel like I can’t control it. Listen, I am highly aware that everyone has their own path and journey in life, and I know that the universe has something incredible in store for me, but I still can’t help but sometimes wish that I was in a different position in my life right now.

The fact of the matter is, there is no such thing as “normal” for me. I feel like society puts pressure on all of us to reach certain milestones by certain ages, and if we haven’t accomplished those milestones then we have failed as humans. People my age have already graduated from college, but I am still in school. People my age are already homeowners, but I am renting. People my age are starting a family, but Stephen and I aren’t there yet because we are waiting for me to graduate. I am comparing what my life journey has been through the eyes of a society that tells us what our lives should look like, and it is such a shame because I sometimes forget to appreciate my life and what I have done. Comparing myself to others is one of my worst flaws, and it is something I am constantly having to work on.

Something that I love about myself is my heart. I don’t really have a lot of people that I am close to, but the people that I am close with have a part of me. If Caille called me right now and needed me, I would find a way to get to Chicago. If one of my family members needed to stay at my place last minute, I would have blankets and pillows waiting for them before we got off of the phone. When I love, I love hard, to the point where I put myself on the back burner to ensure that my loved ones are healthy and safe. I know that can be an unhealthy mindset, but I don’t care. My loved ones are so important to me, and I would do anything in my power to help them if they ever needed me.

The thing about humanity is that we are not black or white. We all make huge mistakes and do really shitty things, but that does not make us horrible. We all do things that are beautiful gestures, but that does not mean that we are purely great. We all have good traits and bad traits and that is what makes us human. Being aware of who you are involves analyzing your traits, and if there is something that you don’t like about yourself you can always work to adjust that. That is why we are constantly evolving. We are always learning and adjusting and figuring out who we want to be and what we want our lives to look like, and that is why, in my opinion, we should throw away the term “normal.” We all have our own lessons to learn and our own lives to live, and who we are should be based on who we want to be, not who others want us to be.

I think we all know who we are, but sometimes, we just need to be reminded.

Social Media

Back before social media became a big thing, I primarily only used the internet for my school work. I didn’t care what other people were doing, and other people didn’t care about me. Those were the days that were a lot simpler, and those are the days that I sometimes wish still existed.

Back when I was young, the platform that was primarily used was Myspace. Myspace was so much fun, but it basically sucked your soul in. I used to spend hours changing my background, finding the perfect picture to put on my wall, and deciding what song would play on the background of my page. I used to look at other peoples pages, look at their pictures, and look at what people had to say. I would choose my top friends list meticulously, and if you were on the list that meant that you were in my good graces. Myspace was kind of my social media gateway drug, and if I could turn back time, I would have stayed far away.

In high school, I kind of graduated from Myspace and went on to Facebook. Facebook was a lot more sophisticated than Myspace. You couldn’t personalize your home page, and it was just a lot less work to maintain. With that being said, Facebook ultimately became my mind. I know that sounds weird, but allow me to explain. As many of you know, Facebook allows you to post statuses, and in the status box it says “What’s on your mind, Brookana?” And boy, I let everyone know what was one my mind. I would share anything and everything, from going to out dinner, hanging out with my friends, and going to see the gynecologist. (Telling the world that I was going to the gynecologist was one of my more regrettable statuses.) Looking back, I hate the person that social media turned me into. I constantly wanted to show off my pictures so people thought that I was living a thrilling life, I posted statuses about my life so that people would know about it, and I was just completely consumed in the world of the internet.

I kind of figured out why I became obsessed with sharing my life, and I think it was because I wanted attention. Every like, every comment, and every view was just another notch on my self-esteem belt, but little did I know, it was starting to have the reverse effect. Every time I posted a status or a picture and I didn’t get attention from it I would start to question myself. Was I not funny? Was I not wise? Was the selfie that I posted not as pretty as I thought it was? I would refresh my page to see if someone finally paid attention to what I had to say, but every time I would not have a notification it would sting my heart just a little bit more. My self worth became wrapped up in social media, and it wasn’t until recently where I finally realized how unhealthy my relationship with the internet had become.

Listen, I am going to be honest about something. I have 390 “friends” on Facebook, and I maybe have an active relationship with about twenty of them. Most of the people that are on my list are people who I haven’t seen or spoken with in well over five years, and I don’t even know who they are anymore. There are some people who are complete strangers to me and who I have never met, some people that I don’t give two shits about, and some people who I lack the desire to have any kind of relationship with. I know for a fact that I am in those categories with other people as well, so why did I always find it necessary to allow these people into my life? I think it is because I just wanted that attention, and I just wanted people to see me. I never really made an effort to have a plethora of friends, especially since Stephen and Caille had always been more than enough for me, but I still wanted people to like me. I still wanted people to think that I was funny, that I was pretty, and that I was a good person. I just wanted people to care. Looking back at it now, I think it was extremely silly how much I wanted others to care about me, because you can’t force people to like you.

I think the beginning of the end of my obsession with social media was after the last presidential election. I’m not going to get super heavy on the topic, but I’m not a Trump person. I disagree with a lot of his viewpoints, and I was unhappy that he was elected. But the thing is, he was elected, he is our president, and now it is just something that we have to deal with. For about a year after he was sworn into office, everything online was about Trump and Clinton and the election. People were fighting about politics non stop, and people would cut deep with their insults. I sat there and saw people tear each other apart without any mercy because of their opinion, and honestly, I couldn’t take it anymore. I am happy that there are people who are passionate enough to fight for what they believe in, but there is a difference between being passionate and being violent, and people no longer saw that line. Political debates happened within my own family, hell Stephen and I just had one yesterday, but when you are constantly seeing it and watching people go at each others throats every second of every day, you kind of start saying enough is enough. So I slowly backed off of social media because of that, and I am grateful for that because it isn’t that important to me anymore.

I care about what people think about me, but it is the people who matter to me the most whose positive opinion is what I strive for. My family and my friends, those are the people that I want to be proud of me. I sincerely hope that everyone who is on my friends list is living an amazing life and that they are flooded with bliss, but at the end of the day, how much do we all actually mean to each other? I don’t really post much on Facebook anymore, but when I do, I do it for me. Whether people like what I have to say or show them no longer will define my self worth, because my self worth will come from how I perceive myself.

Social media can be a wonderful thing, but before you allow yourself to get completely sucked into it, just be warned.

Regrets

I hate when people say that they live a life without any regrets, but only because I can’t possibly fathom how that could be true. There are times, especially when I am in my “lows,” where all I think about are my regrets, and I wish I could change things in my past. I try to look at everything that I do as a life lesson, but damn, some things that have happened really haven’t taught me anything other than I can be an imbecile sometimes.

Most of the regrets that I think about are from when I was in high school. Back then, I didn’t have a filter, I thought that my opinion was the right opinion, and I acted before I considered the repercussions of my actions. I have hurt people with my words, and I have been punishing myself for those instances ever since the moment the words left my mouth. I graduated high school seven years ago, and I still can’t seem to forgive myself and let go of the mistakes that I made back then. Perhaps this will be an issue that I will have to deal with forever, and to a certain extent, I definitely deserve it. I used to act on my anger and frustration, and when I would do that, I wouldn’t care about what harm my words and actions would cause. When someone hurt or upset me, all I would see was blood, and I wanted to hurt people like they hurt me. It was not wise, I was not being logical, and I was just being mean. Grown-up Brookana definitely wishes that I could go have a major talk with teenager Brookana, because teenager Brookana used to be really superb at turning on the “bitch switch.”

I briefly spoke about this before, but one my biggest regrets was how I treated my mom and step-dad. I punished them for years, and as I got older, I knew how to push their buttons better. I was incredibly vindictive, and I wanted to hurt my mom by withholding a relationship from her. I knew my mom loved me, and I loved her, but I was mad at her and I wanted her to know that I was angry. I would ignore her, I would blow her off, and I would leave her out of things that was happening in my life. For example, junior year of high school the journalism team threw the talent show, and I was going to be one of the emcees. It was a big event for me because I was never into sports and I wasn’t apart of any clubs, so my parents never got to see me involved with any school functions. Well anyways, I didn’t tell my mom about it, and she only found out about it after someone else had mentioned it to her after it had happened. That was deeply hurtful for her, but at the time, I didn’t care. I was so cruel to my mom and my step-dad, and I regret that because I hate that I caused them so much pain for so many years. As I have gotten older and as I have matured, I have been able to see them for the people that they are, and my parents are incredible. My mom will have hour long conversations with me when she is exhausted or has a migraine. Last year, I had to have two major surgeries on my hand and my mom flew down to Dallas both times to take care of me. If my brothers and I were on a railroad track with a train heading our way my mom wouldn’t hesitate to push us out of the way. My mom has a beautiful soul, and I can’t believe that I hurt her so badly in the past. My mom is literally an angel in my life, and I love her so much.

With my regrets, I know that I am basically mind-fucking myself every time I think about them. When I think about them I become borderline obsessive, and it eats me alive. I think about all of the scenarios that those situations could have turned into and how I could have saved myself from hurting others. I think about why I lashed out, and why in some cases I completely overreacted. I wonder if my words haunt the other person as much as they haunt me. I wonder if I should reach out to the other person, or if I should pretend like nothing ever happened. I have confided in Stephen about my regrets, and I truly envy his mindset. Stephen has never really done anything to be sorry for, so he doesn’t quite understand why I have all of these ghosts. His advice is to “stop thinking about it” or “get over it” or “that was so long ago, it doesn’t even matter anymore.” Is it bad that I find those statements to be maddening? Like yeah, that’s great and all, and I really fucking wish that I could get over it that easily, but obviously I’m struggling here. Thanks Stephen for your awesome advice, but my obsessive mind won’t let me forget what I have done.

Please don’t judge me, but there have been times where I was driving myself so completely crazy with my regrets that I once looked into hypnotherapy to see if it could help me forget. It is so odd, I can cope with my bi-polar disorder and depression and I can cope with my diabetes, but these regrets are something that I just can’t shake. I don’t think hypnotherapy would do anything to help me, but in a way I am glad that I wouldn’t be able to do it because that would be the easy way out. I made my mistakes, now I need to learn how to forgive myself and to cope with the past.

The truth is, I don’t think that I have ever said or done something that was truly horrible and devastating. The worst thing that I have ever done was to my mom by blocking her out of my life, but we are in such an amazing place right now and we will only continue to grow our relationship. At the end of the day, I actually have learned somethings from what I have done. I have learned how to control my emotions so that if I do need to say something to someone, I can have a clear head space to avoid hurting them. I have learned that not everything that upsets me needs to turn into a battle, because usually when that happens it goes from bad to worse. I have learned that I don’t need to be friends with everyone, because sometimes toxicity will leak into your life that could cause a lot of harm. I have also learned how to reflect on a situation that turned out poorly, and learn what I could do differently the next time.

Honestly, I doubt that people who say that they don’t have any regrets actually feel that way. I mean, if that were true, that is amazing and I would be jealous, but if I were to guess I bet those people just know how to cope with their regrets better than me. I am hopeful that one day I can breath in and then exhale out my regrets, and finally be able to forgive myself, but for now, it is a work in progress.

Divorce

My parents separated when I was in second grade, and their divorce was one of the best things that could have happened. I don’t remember much from when they were married, but the memories that I do have are not that great. I just remember constant fighting, and a feeling of unhappiness that filled the home.

I still remember the day that my parents officially separated vividly. I don’t really think about it that much anymore, because it was a day that I try not to recall. It was the day that my family was no longer a family, and it was the day that I watched my dad leave. Although he was not too far away from me, he no longer lived with us, and it tore me apart. It was a really intense day, and it will be one that I know I will always remember.

The divorce made a huge impact on my childhood. As in most divorces, my parents kept a lot of things from my brother and I in order to protect us. I don’t really remember my parents ever talking bad about each other, but there were a couple of slip ups made by both of them. A lot of the information that I have about their divorce and the causes behind it actually came from family members on both sides, which looking back at now, was wildly inappropriate. Something that still really bothers me is that a family member told me something that completely changed my view of my parents when I was in second grade, and if they would have done the adult thing and kept that information to themselves it would have saved me from a lot of emotional torment. I have come to notice that people are selfish in divorces, and sometimes they don’t care what the aftermath looks like as long as they can hurt the other person. I am sure that the family member who told me that information thought they were helping my parent that they are related to, but they ended up doing more damage to my brother and I than anyone else.

The divorce made me feel like I was living in a world of pure toxicity. I felt loyalty to my dad and I felt guilty that I still loved my mom. My dad never made me feel like I couldn’t have a relationship with my mom, so feeling guilty about wanting that was my own issue. However, as I got older, and as other people felt it necessary to tell me more things about my parents and what their relationship was like, I started to separate myself from my mom. When you’re a teenager, your hormones and emotions are all over the place, and the stuff that was said to me caused so many issues for me. I started to hate my mom, and that hatred was like drinking poison. I felt so disgusting inside, like my soul was rotting away from years and years of toxic waste that has just been piling up. I was an emotional wreck, and every thought I had was about my mom and my dad and the past. Those years where I couldn’t forget about the divorce were eating me alive, and no matter how much therapy I had I just couldn’t let go. It was as if the divorced handcuffed me to a life a resentment and hostility, and no matter who tried to help me they couldn’t break the cuffs. It was awful, but the worst part of it all was that I was the one that allowed that hatred to consume me.

I think it was in junior year of high school where I kind of had an epiphany. I just remember thinking about my parents divorce and how it had affected me, and I realized that by me holding on to this anger that I was torturing myself. I also thought about what my life would have been liked if my parents stayed together. It would have not been a good life, it would have not been a stable life, and it wouldn’t have been a life that would have resulted in my brother and I having success. My mom remarried and had another son, and I absolutely adore and love my step dad, Jeff, and my brother, Logan. My dad never remarried, but he has been with his partner, Tina, ever since I was in seventh grade. Tina has always been incredible to my brother Nicholas and I, and I will always be appreciative for that. If my parents had stayed together, all of these people that I love so much wouldn’t be apart of my world, and a world that they aren’t apart of is a world that I don’t even want to think about. After thinking about all of this, my world and attitude completely changed. It was like I inhaled in my last breath of toxic air, and when I exhaled, every negative thought about the divorce left my soul. I forgave the events that I hung on to, I became appreciative for the life that I was living, and most importantly, I invited my mom back into my life.

I know that my parents did everything that they could to prevent my brother and I from feeling the pain from the divorce, and as much that they tried, that pain was invited in by other people who couldn’t obtain self control. A lot of pain could have been avoided if people were respectful and kept what they wanted to say to themselves, but hopefully this was as much of a learning experience for them as it was for me.

My advice to parents who are going through a divorce is this:

  1. Don’t talk bad about the other parent in front of your kids.
  2. Don’t allow others talk bad about the other parents in front of your kids.
  3. Your kids can and will pick up on what you are feeling, so try to keep as much negativity away from them as you can.
  4. No matter what your kid tells you about how they feel about the divorce, put them in therapy. It will only be beneficial in later years.
  5. When you decide to separate, have a respectful sit down conversation with your kids to explain what is about to happen.

This list is just a couple of things that could help your kids during the process of divorce. As a child that went through this, I know that this could have helped me cope with my parents divorce a lot faster.

Now that I am twenty four, I have an amazing relationship with both my mom and my dad, as well as my step-parents. I am able to see my mom for who she is, and I am able to appreciate everything that she has ever done for me. It does make me feel upset that a relationship with her was robbed from me in the past, but that is why I cherish every conversation and hangout session now. My dad is still the dad that I have always known and loved, and I still treasure him as much as I did back then. At the end of the day, I am grateful for my parents divorce. I hate the way it happened and I hate the person that it temporarily turned me into, but all of our lives are better now because of it.

Mema

Grandmas are the gift that we are given at birth for whenever we want to feel true love and happiness. Some of my fondest and most treasured memories are the ones that involve my grandma, Mema, and those memories are the ones that I turn to the most.

Mema is a one of a kind woman. Her heart holds no darkness, her smile is contagious, and if you feel like your soul is riddled sadness, her hug will make that feeling disappear within seconds. I don’t recall much negativity ever leaving her mouth, and she always knew how to turn a negative situation into a positive one. She is the one that you go to for guidance, because she is one of the wisest human beings that I have ever known.

Mema has been a huge part of my life since the very beginning. I remember constantly being with her and my grandpa, Pepa, when I was younger, and every moment that I was with them became my new favorite moment. I have a few cousins and a brother who are around that same age as me, and the nights that we would spend with Mema and Pepa were always so much fun. We ran around the house having the time of our lives, we painted gourds and made birdhouses out of them, we played dress-up, and we played in the kiddy pool. Memas house was a house of joy, but joy doesn’t come from the things that are there or the activities that you are partaking in. It comes from the people who are around you.

As I have stated in the past, I grew up in northern Illinois, about a hour and a half outside of Chicago. My most favorite season has always been fall, and in northern Illinois, our falls are breathtaking. The colors of the leaves, the crisp fresh air, and the smells always sent my senses straight up into cloud nine. Fall was also a season where a lot of work had to be done to maintain the yard. My grandparents old home was on an acre or so of land, and when the leaves would fall from the trees we would have to gather them all. My Pepa would drag an old kiddy pool around, and we would rake all of the fallen leaves into the pool. After we collected the leaves, we would pile them high next to a fire pit. The pile of leaves was always so much fun. Mema and I would jump and play in the leaves for what seemed like hours, all before the leaves met their fate in the fire pit. Some of the leaves would be lucky enough to survive the harsh fires of the pit, and they would be chosen to go into the pumpkin bags. Now the pumpkin bags were only used before Halloween, and they were so cute. The bags were these large, orange bags with pumpkin faces on them, and when you filled them with leaves they looked like giant pumpkins. When Mema would get those bags out, it truly felt like fall had arrived. Playing in the leaves was always so much fun, and I can’t wait to have kids so I can recreate that memory for them.

Mema and I

Mema and I have always had a really close bond. When my parents divorced, my brother and I stayed with my grandparents and dad every Friday and every other weekend. When my parents first separated, I was in second grade, and my Mema was such a comfort to me. Every night that I was with them I would sleep next to Mema, and every night she would comfort me to sleep. She would rub my back, rub my tummy, read me story after story, make up stories for me, and teach me all about my genealogy. The stories that Mema would tell me about who we are and where our ancestors came from always fascinated me, and no matter how many times I asked about it, she would tell me with a smile on her face. That is the thing about Mema. She is willing to do anything and everything for anyone, and you never feel like a burden. I always knew I was going to have a good nights rest when I was with Mema.

Mema always knew how to keep us busy. Whenever we asked to go walk around a store she would take us, she taught us how to garden, she helped us learn how to read, she taught me how to wrap gifts, and she taught me how to cook and bake. Mema and I would often take long walks around our neighbor, and during those walks we would talk non-stop. I remember some days she would let me do her make-up, which I would even take seriously sometimes. In the summertime, she would take us swimming at either the pool or the quarry, or we would go to a nature preserve to try to catch frogs. Sometimes, she would set up a tent in the backyard, and we would all sleep outside. Those nights were always such a treat. Mema and Pepas house was always a house filled with fun, adventure, laughter, and love.

After a while of living with Mema and Pepa, my dad bought a house and we moved out. I was excited about this new adventure, but I also didn’t want to leave my Mema and Pepa. After a while it felt normal to not live in their home anymore, but I still missed living in their house. As I got older I became busier, and I saw them less and less. As a teenager, I wasn’t too focused on spending copious amounts of time with my family. I was focused on hanging out with friends and with Stephen, and it is something that I regret. It is something that I especially regret now that I live one thousand miles away from them. I wish I saw them more when I still lived at home, because there are days now where all I want is a hug from my grandma.

I am grateful for many things, but one of the things that I am mostly grateful for is my relationship with my Mema. Even now when we talk on the phone it brings me back to when I was a child and when we would talk for hours. If I could be a woman like her I would consider myself to be lucky. I admire her, I love her, and she is one hell of a woman.

Thank you for my childhood, Mema. I hope you understand the impact that you made on me. I love you.