The Monster That Hid Behind the Mask

***GRAPHIC CONTENT ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT. PLEASE DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE AT RISK FOR A TRIGGER. PLEASE MOVE FORWARD WITH CAUTION.***

I close my eyes and I can visualize you perfectly. The way that you would smirk. The way that your hair fell to the side. The way that you would grab your stomach while you laughed. The way that you smelled. The way that I could feel your energy whenever I was near you. 

You had this way of making every girl fall in love with you, which was remarkable because you were never that attractive. You weren’t physically or emotionally desirable, and yet, I wanted you. I wanted to know what it would feel like to hear you say “I love you.” I wanted to feel that static that one would feel when you held hands with someone you cared about. I wanted to feel the electricity that would build up between our lips as you kissed me. 

You used to make me feel so incredibly special. I met you before I was even a teenager, and I know that the moment you saw me was the moment that I became your next target. What I thought was love was manipulation, and what I thought was good intent ended up having ulterior motives. 

I was vulnerable with you. I cried in front of you. You comforted me when I needed comfort. What I thought was safety was actually me falling into the hands of a monster. 

You see, as I grew older, I realized that those moments of sincerity were moments of secrecy. You knew what you wanted and went for it under the disguise of someone who cared. The older I have become I have realized that what I thought was you being genuine was you training me and molding me to be your next victim. You always wanted something of mine that was never meant to be yours, and you were willing to do whatever it took it take it. 

So you used your best weapons against me. I was no match against your manipulation. I was not prepared to mentally handle what was about to happen. I was too naive to decipher your words that ended up being lies. 

I was never a person to you. I was always just a body. 

Someone hurt me before you did. And I went to you after it happened. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for you to find out that someone got to me before you did. Oh, how it must have angered you. You had been working on me for years, and you expected something for your efforts. 

So you decided to take your reward because you must have felt by this time it was now or never. You did things leading up to the event, testing me to see what I was willing to do. Seeing where my comfort was. I was emotionally driven by your lies, but I was nowhere near ready to take things where you wanted them to go. So you took that upon yourself. 

When I close my eyes I can feel you. I can feel your face less than an inch away from mine. I can feel your breath. I can feel my body go ice cold. I can feel my body wanting to run, but unable to move. I can feel that feeling that I felt in my stomach like I was about to be sick. I can feel the fear. The terror. I can feel your hand going up my leg in an effort to touch me. I can taste your finger going into my mouth, and I can hear you say “suck.” I can feel you grab me to touch you. I can feel and remember everything as if it were happening right now. I hate you for that. 

People assault people because they like the control. They like the game. He manipulated and trained me for years to be his puppet, and sadly, he won the game. 

I still dream of him. I still wake up with drenched in sweat. I still wake up filled to the brim with panic. 

Sometimes he slips into my mind and I just freeze. I can feel my body go ice cold. And there is nothing that I can do about it except just try to get through it. 

I am trying my best to release the grip that you have had on me for all of these years. Oh, how I have been trying. 

I hate you for what you did and who you are, but I take comfort in knowing that karma exists. Whether it is in this lifetime or the next, you will suffer as I have, and that brings a smile to my face.

The Truth About Marriage

*** I have permission from my husband to discuss our issues.

Do you ever just think back to your wedding day to the exact moment where you said your vows and wish that you could scream at yourself “Run bitch! RUN!” I would like to say that that thought has never crossed my mind, but that would be a bald-faced lie. The truth is that as much as I love my husband, I sometimes wish that we never got married. People always told me that marriage is hard, but I always brushed off their warnings. I always thought that my husband, Stephen, and I were solid. That our love was strong enough to fight against any hardships. I was naive and ignorant to ever have that mindset. 

This past month and a half have been difficult. I have been dealing with an internal crisis that has taken over my life. Before I left for Salem I felt myself shifting. I felt myself pull away from my marriage more and more, and I felt like that need for eternal love and partnership started to dwindle away. Before I go any further, let me just preface this by saying that my feelings about my marriage might seem sudden, but they aren’t. Unfortunately, there have been substantial issues in my marriage for quite some time and I think I finally just hit a breaking point. I think the biggest problem is that Stephen and I are fundamentally different in what we need to feel fulfilled in life and in a relationship. I grew up with a family that was troubled, but one thing that we excelled at was communication. No one ever had to wonder what each other was thinking, because we were never afraid to say what was on our mind. My family is VERY affectionate, to the point where it almost can feel smothering sometimes. But at the end of the day, at least you know that you are loved and cared for. Not only did my family teach me communicative skills and how to wear your heart on your sleeve, but my many years of therapy also reinforced the importance of speaking your truth, no matter what the content is. Stephen, on the other hand, grew up differently than I did. Or at least that is what he has told me. Apparently he didn’t grow up expressing emotions or thoughts or having a ton of affection, which is totally fine, but it is different than what I am used to. Due to our different backgrounds, it has made our relationship extremely difficult and challenging. 

Back to what I was saying before I needed to do a preface, I knew that I was already shifting away from my marriage before I left for my solo trip. For years I have begged Stephen to help me work on two things that I feel are significant to our marriage, and that is communication and intimacy. I have carried the weight of our relationship on my shoulders since the conception of our partnership, and I have grown tired. I have always been the one to make sure that he was happy. Happy with himself. Happy with me. Happy with us. Happy with life. If I could sense that something was off, I always try to be the person to help rectify whatever was wrong. I would tend to him and put his needs before my own because I thought it would be selfish to view my needs and desires even equally to his. I did everything that I could to make sure that he felt like his life was everything that he ever wanted it to be, all while I was drowning and gasping for air. When it comes to intimacy, I don’t just mean physically. Although our sex life was lacking, and not because of me, we were also lacking in all aspects of intimacy. In my eyes, we became glorified roommates. Not even best friends. Maybe just acquaintances. Stephen would never want to have meaningful conversations with me. Everything was just so surface level. We would laugh about memes on Facebook and talk about games, but we very rarely had conversations that were full of depth. We would sometimes talk about our dreams for our future, but those conversations were always short because I am much more of a visionary than he is. Even when something great would happen to me, I was always hesitant to tell him because his reaction to everything is “that’s cool Bebe.” When you are really thrilled about something, you want your partner to be just as excited as you are, and then when they aren’t it just kills some of your enthusiasm.  

So we were lacking in communication and intimacy, but we were also lacking in our sex life. (Quick side note to my parents and in-laws: Sorry for what you are about to read. You might just want to skip ahead.) I have a pretty standard libido. I would say having sex two or three times a week would be sufficient. And to be frank, I don’t even need to “make love” all of those times. Honestly, sometimes I just feel so wound up that I need to just have sex to release some of that tension. I think that having that connection with your partner during and after sex is such an incredible feeling and it kind of makes you feel more connected with them. Like both of your energies become intertwined and you feel absolute euphoria. That feeling, that connection, is essential for me to feel completely fulfilled in my relationship. Stephen doesn’t need sex as often as I do, so that has caused another issue in our marriage. And over time, when you are the one constantly initiating sex, you start to feel doubt that your partner is attracted to you. Or if they even love you. 

So with me being the one to try to have meaningful conversations, keeping the spark of our relationship lit, and initiating sex, I became overwhelmed and resentful. Keep in mind, we have been together for ten years and we have been married for three years, (ironically I am writing this the day before our four year anniversary,) so having done all of the heavy lifting I started to look at Stephen differently. I became tired of having the same conversations and fights with him about our issues. I hated that even if I had nothing to apologize for I would still do it so that the arguments could be over. I became sick of being in the same loop that I have been in for so long, and out of nowhere I had an epiphany: I could leave. 

I wanted to run. I dreamed of packing up all of my stuff and my furbabies and buying a plot of land with some tiny houses and just living my life the way that I wanted. I didn’t want to worry or think about Stephen and his feelings and our relationship. I just wanted to worry about me and what I needed. By the time I left for Salem, I was feeling so emotionally taken advantage of that I could barely look at Stephen without feeling some form of anger. You see, Stephen has this cycle that he puts me through and this is how it goes: I express that I wish that our communication, intimacy, and sex life was better, we fight, he deflects, I apologize so that the fight ends, he realizes that he needs to work on things, he tries for a week and then right when things start to feel good he stops trying and reverts back to how it was before. I feel taken advantage of because I think he knows that he can stop putting effort into our relationship and I will still be there. So in some ways, it is my fault because I have taught him that I will stick by his side even if he stops trying in our marriage. But at the same time, he makes a conscious choice to stop putting in the work, so he needs to own his part of the issue. 

I have been with Stephen for almost half of my life, and before being with Stephen I was with my parents. I have never been alone, and I have never learned how to be truly independent. So when I went to Salem, I got a taste of a life that I never knew I craved. I was completely alone and I did everything for myself. I was laughing again. I was smiling. And, to my utter shock and surprise, I was interacting with people. I was happy. Like blissfully happy. I missed my furbabies, but I didn’t miss anyone or anything else. I think the biggest thing that Salem taught me was that I am capable of living an amazing life on my own and having that knowledge gave me a thirst for independence that I have never felt before. I already felt detached from Stephen, and in my mind, I think I was prepping myself for what my future might end up looking like. Just me and my furbabies. Alone in our tiny houses. That was the life that I now wanted. 

When I came home from Salem Stephen knew something was different. I think that to some level he was scared. He even said that he could tell that I was “checked out” and had “one foot out of the door.” So one would think that if he could pick up on the shift of our relationship that that would motivate him to put some effort in, but of course it didn’t. The fact that he didn’t do anything at all just confirmed that I was starting to think properly. Leaving was going to be the next step for me and my furbabies, and I didn’t care if it hurt him. 

I was so serious about leaving that I was talking to my therapist about what to expect emotionally from the separation. I was researching divorce law and looking into lawyers. I was figuring what I could afford for an apartment. I was done. I didn’t hate Stephen, but the sight of him made me sick. After all of these years of begging him to help me fix our relationship and him always coming up short, I was filled to the brim with resentment. I feel like I was completely justified in my feelings. I felt like he completely sucked me dry of every ounce of energy that I had. And when I started to feel depleted, he would continue to siphon energy that I didn’t have. I expected that in our partnership that he would help keep us afloat, but that wasn’t the case. Here is the thing. The notion that a partnership is fifty: fifty is complete and utter bullshit. A partnership will never be equal when comes to both of you contributing equally. It could be sixty: forty, or even eighty: twenty. It all depends on what each individual needs at that moment. But here is the catch: those percentages are supposed to fluctuate. If you are feeling like you can’t give as much to your relationship for a while that is fine, but eventually, you are supposed to put forth the effort that you have been lacking. That hasn’t been the case with my relationship. Emotionally speaking, it has always been me putting in eighty-five percent of the effort and Stephen putting in fifteen percent. I was tired. 

While I carried the weight of our emotional relationship, Stephen has always been the sole provider financially, and for that, I will always be grateful. Stephen has a tremendous work ethic. He works hard and he is efficient. He gets promoted quite often, and I am never surprised. I have been told by a couple of people that he gets a pass on helping me with our relationship because he works full time and because of how hard he works, but to be blunt, that is fucking stupid. Yes, he does work hard. Yes, he does work forty hours a week. Yes, he does provide a great life financially for me and the furbabies. With that being said, most people work, and if everyone used that excuse for not putting effort into their relationship than there would not be any relationships. This is a partnership. Like I said previously, the effort will never be equal, but both parties need to responsible for keeping the relationship healthy.

After feeling this immense amount of toxicity for so long, something miraculous finally happened. Stephen finally understood that he was losing me, and something clicked for him. He finally agreed to go to individual therapy, and he has been putting effort into us. I never expected a full change from Stephen. All I have ever wanted was some sort of progress. Something that showed me that he cared enough to try to help us. So now that he is showing me that he is willing to try, I am willing to give him another chance.

Listen. Typically I am a pretty humble human being, but I just need to say that I know that I am smart. Really smart. So I am going forward with our relationship cautiously. I am still fully prepared to pull the plug because I know what I deserve and what I have been given in the past is unacceptable. I don’t fully trust Stephen when it comes to him changing. I am taking it one day at a time with him. But I do embrace every step forward that we take as a couple, and I remain hopeful that we will continue to grow and heal and build our strength as a unit. 

I think the one thing that I want to make known is that you should never feel like you owe your partner anything. There has been a couple of individuals who have stated that I should give Stephen a break because he works, but there is no excuse for someone to take emotional advantage of their partner. I don’t owe him anything. I am living my life, and if I feel like I am not getting what I deserve then I have every right to make it known. I am in charge of what I want my life to look like, and if I am unhappy with my partnership then I have every right to leave and rectify the situation. I felt stuck for so long, and it is refreshing to realize that I don’t need to feel that way anymore. I can change anything that brings me unhappiness. 

Stephen is a great human being. He makes me laugh harder than anyone in the world. He loves our furbabies more than anything. He is honest. He works hard. He doesn’t have a cruel bone in his body. He has faults that have made our relationship extremely challenging, but it is not like I am perfect. It must be difficult for him to be in love with someone who deals with clinical depression, severe anxiety, and PTSD. I also am lazy. Like really lazy. I am flawed too. 

I don’t know if we will be together forever. I have my doubts. But I am still going to try.

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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The Magic of Holidays

This holiday season was the first time in four years that I was able to spend it with all of my family members, and it truly was spectacular. When I was younger I would always correlate joy, happiness, love, and peace to the holiday season, and that was mostly because that meant that I was going to be able to spend quality time with my family. The number of laughs that we all share, the conversations about past stories that kept me completely enthralled, and just spending time with my loved ones always felt so special. The magic of Christmas was never about the gifts for me, it always stemmed from the love that I felt when I had my loved ones around me.

When Stephen and I made the decision that we were going to move down to Dallas we didn’t even think about what the holidays were going to be like. We had a dream to move and we were willing to sacrifice everything to make that happen, but little did we know that the cost of the dream of moving was exorbitant. We knew that leaving home and everyone else behind was going to be sad, but nothing prepared us for how truly soul-crushing and lonely that whole experience was.   

Being away from family was always difficult, but nothing made you realize how alone you truly were until the holidays would come around. I went from having an immense amount of excitement starting at the beginning of October to being filled with sorrow and dread. I am already a severely depressed person, so the thought of being alone during the time of the year that I used to crave just made me even more devastated. I had Stephen and my furchildren, with whom I cherish more than my own life, but sitting alone watching movies while everyone else was enjoying one another always made me sink into another low. Perhaps being alone made me realize as much as I always loved spending the holidays with my family maybe I also took it for granted. I missed the magic, I missed my family, and I missed that wholesome feeling that I felt whenever it was the holiday season. 

When Stephen and I made the decision to move back home to Chicago in March one of the first thoughts I had was “I can’t wait for the holidays!” The thought of being with all of my loved ones and feeling all of that love fueled me with eagerness and excitement. When the beginning of October came around, I started to feel that magic that I always used to feel growing up. When Thanksgiving finally arrived, it felt superb to actually get in the car and drive forty-five minutes to my grandparent’s house. Seeing my dad making mashed potatoes and having my Mema squeeze me the moment she saw me filled my heart with so much happiness. This is what I have been missing. This is what I have been wanting. This is what I have been desperate for. Then it was Christmas time. I have been filled to the brim with that magical feeling for a few months now, and this was the moment I have been waiting for. Christmas Eve and Christmas day was the happiest I have been for a very long time. I was with my parents, my grandparents, my husband, my in-laws, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Hell, people who I didn’t really know. But it was incredible being surrounded by all of these people just celebrating one another. When I was with everyone I found myself laughing again, telling stories about the past that kept me completely captivated and spending quality time with the people who I love so incredibly much. This year, the holidays felt exactly like I remember them feeling before we moved away, and for that, I will always be grateful and appreciate this time of year. 

The magic of the holidays doesn’t stem from the gifts you receive. No. It stems from the love that you feel when you are with the people you adore and cherish.

Short Story 1

I sat there, alone, watching as these people are living their lives in complete oblivion. Do they not see or understand what this world is? They all seem so happy even though their lives seem so mundane and redundant. I am sitting on this bench judging them, but the truth is I envy them. If given the choice, I would do anything to live that mundane and redundant life, but as luck would have it, that is a choice that I do have. 

I don’t have an exact name as to what I am. I just know that every person in my family are descendants from this being that isn’t human. I have been raised to hate humans. To despise everything that they are. Humans strive for happiness even though they live in a world of hatred, sadness, and despair. I often wonder why they just don’t succumb to the negativity. I see these people in the darkest of times still looking for that light at the end of the tunnel as they are grasping onto every ounce of hope that they find. This world is a nasty world, filled to the brim of terrible intents and horrors of fates, and yet these people are still walking around with smiles on their faces like all is well in the world. I don’t know know what it feels like to smile, since I never have been able to have one. 

I hear people say that to survive in this life you just need to be strong. That you just need to put positivity out into the universe and that positivity will be reflected back on to you. That having hope and faith will bring you comfort in the worst of times. I can’t fathom what any of that feels like since I can’t feel any form of positivity or happiness. I feel sorrow, anger, and hatred. I swim in a pool of negative thoughts, hostility, and jealousy. Everything that I am embodies everything that humans try not to be, and I can’t help but contemplate who has it worse. 

Luckily the spot where I tend to people watch is near my home, so the walk back is quick. As I approach my front door I see that my entire family is home, even my great aunt, and I just sigh. Our family is large, so that means a lot of noise is going to be made this evening. I hate my family. I have a mom, a dad, three brothers and a great aunt who all reside at the home with me, which forces us to all to be around each other even when I am seeking solitude. 

“Hello daughter. Human watching again I am sure.”

“Yes dad.”

“What a waste of time. Humans are a pathetic waste of energy if you were to ask me.”

“What do you want me to say, brother? I can’t be locked up in this house like the rest of you.”

“Those people out there are just a bunch of liars. Their smiles and laughter are masks for the pain that they are truly feeling. At least we are honest about who we are.”

“Well mother, I frankly don’t really care what any of you have to say. Your opinions mean next to nothing to me, so do me a favor and keep your words where they belong. To yourself.”

As I walk away towards my room, I realize that the irony behind my brother telling me that humans are a waste of energy when they just wasted a bunch of mine is blinding.

“Great niece, is that you?”

My great aunt resides in a room that is adjacent to mine, so she always hears me as I approach my room.

“Hello great aunt. How are you.”

“Bleak.”

“Per usual.”

“How are you.”

“Well I feel as if I want to isolate and ponder the idea of death but my family will not allow me to do that.”

“Would you like to carry on with that?”

“It is fine great aunt. Is there something that you wanted to speak to me about?”

“Actually yes. Why have you been watching the humans so much lately?”

“I don’t know. I guess I don’t understand why they fight so hard for happiness when this world is so dull and terrible.”

“So you watch them? That is ridiculous. What will watching them do? Are you studying them?”

“I am just observing.”

“Interesting.”

“Okay can I go now?”

“Did you know that you once had a grandfather many generations ago that found his humanity?”

“Yes mother had mentioned that in passing before.”

“Yes, yes. This world is so shameful that he no longer wanted to be apart of it the way that he was.”

“The way that he was? What are you talking about?”

“Great niece, I want you to listen and listen well. We are indeed descendants from a being that formed numerous generations ago. But haven’t you ever wondered what that being was?”

“No.”

“I said to listen! No interruptions please!”

I was confused as to if I should reply to her or not, so I opted to just sit there.

“Anyways, legend has it that the descendant that we come from was human. This particular human was consumed with everything that we are. Every negative emotion ran through this human until they couldn’t take it anymore, so the human made the decision to end their own life. They took a knife and did what they did, thinking that it would all be over, however, their plan did not go the way they had anticipated. They woke up to all of those emotions, however, they were all amplified. There was not a single ounce of positive emotion in them, and their humanity had vanished.”

“Wow.”

“Yes. Now fast forward to your grandfather from many generations past. He was just like us, being unable to see any positivity, to only see the negative in everything. Now I don’t know what possessed him to do this, but he took a knife that was a family heirloom and stuck his finger with it. He claims that the moment that he stabbed the knife into his finger is when his life began. He still had some of the negative emotions, however, they weren’t as strong as they once were. He said that the wound was draining the negativity out of his body, and positive emotions started making their way in. He said the first time he ever felt joy was when he saw a dog run past him. The first time he felt love and admiration was when he started courting some human woman. The first time he felt trust was when he made his first friend through his work. The man was even smiling! He said that his life had completely changed and that he could feel his humanity, and that there was no greater feeling in the world. Now of course the family found that everything that he had said was complete and utter rubbish, and he eventually stopped communicating with our ancestors, but I have always found that tale to be intriguing.”

“Whatever happened to that knife, great aunt?”

“Why, it just so happens that it has been passed down to me. It is in my closet in some box somewhere.”

I couldn’t help but think about that story. The intensity of it all had my mind swirling. Is there really a chance that my humanity could be restored? Or is the whole thing just rubbish, like my great aunt had said? After searching my great aunt’s closet for what seemed like forever, I finally came across the knife. It was about eight inches long and was plated in gold. It looked simple, and yet you could tell that it yielded so much power. 

“Don’t fool around with that now!”

“Okay great aunt.”

I then took the knife into my room, set it on a side table that was next to my bed, and just thought about the information that my aunt just told me. 

The next morning I went back to my bench. There were many humans there with their standard smiles communicating with one another and laughing. Even their tiny offspring seemed to find joy in the little things, like the grass for instance. I sat there for hours, just wondering what that would feel like. That is when something came over me, and I just started walking back home.

“Back home from people watching yet again. When are you going to give it a break?”

I didn’t have the energy to have this conversation again.

I walked upstairs and walked straight to my room, ignoring my great aunt’s call. I picked up the knife, and just pricked my finger with its sharp tip. The moment the first drop of blood started spilling out of my body I just collapsed on the bed. Every negative feeling that has consumed me for my entire life felt as if they were slowly leaving me. I still felt them, but they were much more manageable. My sadness and anger no longer felt overwhelming, and I no longer felt hatred or despair. 

Once I gathered myself I decided to go back outside. As soon as I opened the door and felt the same air that I had always felt caress my face I felt a strange spark within me. I walked to my bench and just sat down. What was that knife? Did it actually do something to me or am I imagining it? Moments later a dog ran up to me and gave me a kiss on my hand, and that was when I experienced something I never thought I would be able to experience. A smile.

I have found balance in my emotions. I have found my humanity.

Furchildren

Animals are the gift that we are given so that we can experience pure love and happiness. I have three animals, Luna, Gimli, and Arya, and every moment that is spent with them is more valuable than platinum to me. The bond that I have with my furchildren is unlike any other bond that I have ever had with another living soul. That may sound odd to some people out there, but truthfully I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Every human being has flaws, and I am definitely not excluded from that, but the way that my animals look at me makes feel me as though they can only see the good that I offer. Perhaps they are aware of my faults and they love me unconditionally anyway, and for that, I will always be grateful. 

Luna, my golden retriever mix, is the sunshine that has been missing from my life. She brings me warmth when I am feeling down. She soothes my fears and my worries when I feel absolutely consumed by them. She makes me laugh and smile even when I am in my darkest moments. It truly feels as if she knows me better than most people out there, and I know I can count on her to be there for me whenever I need her. Luna, or Luna Belle, has a personality that everyone can fall in love with almost immediately. She is so loveable and accepting, and I thank the universe every day for allowing me to be her mom.

Luna1

Gimli, one of two cats, is a sweet little daddy’s boy that has us both wrapped around his little paw. Gimli is one of the most easy-going cats I have ever known, and yet he is almost always ready to play. When it comes to playtime he really only goes crazy for a few things. Nail files, rubber bands, and lasers put him into a frenzy, and we can’t help but laugh hysterically while watching him play. (No need to worry, we watch and monitor him in a controlled area when he is playing with these items.) Gimli is the biggest snuggle bug that has ever existed and is the only cat that I know of that loves to have his belly rubbed while he is taking a snooze. He loves to give kisses, and when he wants a kiss he will put his nose on your lips. He is the most handsome little man that I have ever seen, and I love him so much. 

Gimli1

Arya, my second cat, is my crazy furbaby. One of my favorite qualities of Arya is her ability to entertain herself. One of her favorite past times is playing with wool balls. She loves to dig her nails into them and then toss them so she can run after them, and then she will put the ball in her mouth, run back to where she initially was, and do it all over again. Aside from her wool balls, she tends to get the zoomies. She loves to run around and basically parkour off of furniture, and she is so fast that I often end up asking myself “Was that Arya?” When she is not in play mode she usually is looking for affection. Arya only really likes to be touched when it is on her terms, so it always feels like an honor when she comes up to you. She loves when her head and butt are scratched, and her purr is so loud that you can feel the vibrations coming from her. She can be feisty at times, but her loving and spunky personality makes up for it.

Arya1

My animals are my world. I frequently question how I became deserving enough to have them in my life. I look at all of their little faces and I just melt every single time. The love that I have for them is so indescribable, and sometimes I just sob because I am so grateful that they are mine. Animals are amongst the greatest of gifts, and I will love mine until the end of my days.

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.

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.