Breathe

I died on August 27th,1862. My wife held me as I took my last breath, while still attempting to save my life by holding her hands over my stab wounds. The last thing I heard her say was: “John! No, God no give him back to me! John!” I closed my eyes, saw black, and then that was that. An unknown amount of time later, I woke up, remembered that I had died, and then broke myself out of a wooden casket that was laid to rest six feet under the ground. It was difficult breaking myself out of the box and digging myself out from under the earth, but not needing to breathe made things a bit easier. 

According to a newspaper that I later saw lying on the ground, I arose on the date August 27th, 1863. I walked towards things that were familiar. Everything looked the same. The sun was starting to set, and the moon was ready and willing to take its place. The crickets were having their nightly conversations, the rats were running around scavenging for sustenance, and the locals were gathered at the town pub for their daily ale and drunken shenanigans. It appears that life never halted when I died, but I never would have expected it to. 

I walked the uneven cobblestone road until I found my desired location. Home. It was nothing to be proud of, for it was a humble dwelling, but it was home nonetheless. I stood there just looking at it. It was exactly the same as it was the last time I saw it. Well, with one exception. If you peered through the front window a year ago you would have seen a married couple in complete bliss. We would have been dancing to the sound of nothing, just to our bliss. We would have been sitting in our chairs near the fireplace reading the daily paper while listening to the wood crackle and the flames turned it to ash. You would have seen me unexpectedly grab her and ever so gently kiss her forehead, cheeks, nose, and then her lips. We had love in that house. Now all I see is pain and agony. I see her sitting by the fireplace, but there is no fire. There is no daily paper. All she is doing is sitting in what used to be my chair with what used to be my blanket just staring at nothing. Watching a home that used to be so lively now feeling so desolate of any form of happiness was something that I could no longer bear to witness, so I started to walk up to the front door. 

I knocked. Although this used to be our home, this was her home now. The wait for her to open the door was the most anxiety I have felt in a long while. I haven’t felt this on edge since August 27th, 1862. I could hear her walking to the door, with each creak in the floorboards telling me she was one step closer. Then the door was suddenly open, and I saw her for the first time in a year. 

We just stared at one another. There was shock, grief, doubt, and confusion in her eyes. All I felt was the need to hold her. 

John?” She said with an immense amount of disbelief. 

“Yes, my love. Oh, how I have missed you…” I took a step forward to her, and with my arms reached outward ready for an embrace, she took three steps back. I don’t know what I was thinking. Of course, this would be her initial reaction. Her dead husband, alive a year after his fatal stabbing. 

“I don’t know what magicks you have used, but if you think I am going to fall for this trick you surely are mad. Get out of my house. NOW.”

At this point, I could see the fury in her eyes. She was sobbing, shivering from this overwhelming emotion. What am I supposed to say to her to convince her that it was truly me? 

“Hazel, my dear, I cannot imagine what the sight of me must have you feeling. Believe me when I say when I woke up in that wooden box beneath the earth I was struck with a profound sensation myself. What can I say to you to help you? What can I do? What do you need from me?” I was desperate at this point. I just wanted her to know, and believe, that it was truly me. Resurrected from the dead. I found myself on my knees, just pleading for her to listen. She just stood there. Looking at me in terror. 

“My John died one year ago today, right here, in this very room. A rabid woman came in and stabbed him in the chest more times than I count with a rusty old knife. His blood was everywhere, in fact, the stains are underneath this rug. I felt his last breath leave his lungs as I tried to hold his wounds shut with my bare hands. I laid there, on top of his corpse, for hours until the coroner forced me to back away so that they could take his body away from our home. I lived through his death. I have grieved his passing, and I have spent countless hours talking to him at his grave. And you have the audacity to come into my home with your magicks and pretend like you are my dead husband back from the grave? You disgust me.” She was hysterical at this point. She was full of rage and had tears rolling down her face. She spat at me and then walked into the kitchen and sat at the table. 

“I will not tell you again, GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!

And so I left, not saying a word, feeling lost. I don’t know what I expected, but surely that was not it. In the life before my ultimate death, I was never the most clever man, and it appears that that fact about me has remained. 

I walked to the pub, where I could still hear cackles of laughter. As a dead man, I had no money, but certainly, someone would take pity on me and help me out with a place to sleep. It was dark now, and the dimly lit streets were a pathway to hopefully some sort of comfort. I reached the pub, opened the door, and walked in. 

I saw familiar faces laughing, embracing, eating, and reading. Life truly has kept moving forward in my absence. As I kept striding my way through the pub to who I believe is the innkeeper, I started to hear whispers.

Is that… That can’t be. No that can’t be John, can it?”

Don’t be daft, John has been in the ground for a year now at this point.”

Who is that foul man?”

“Excuse me, stranger, who are you?”

I turned around and saw a face that I had forgotten about. Many years ago I worked with this man as a farm laborer.  We hadn’t worked together long, just long enough to put seeds in the ground for harvest. Back then he was a man of few words, and I hope that he was also a man of few memories. 

“Just passing through, thanks.” 

“What is your name, sir?” 

He just wouldn’t give up. Do I lie? Do I come up with a false identity? 

“My name is John.”

“And your surname?”

“Listen, sir, as I said I am just passing through. I have been traveling for some time now and would like to just a moment to myself if it isn’t too much to ask.” 

All I heard was a “hmph” come from him, and I knew that my wish of solitude had been granted. I finally made my way to the back of the pub to who I believed was the innkeeper. 

“Excuse me, hello are you the innkeeper?” 

“Yes, what do you want?”

“Yes, thank you, my name is John and I was wondering if you had an extra bed?”

She looked at me up and down with a look of disgust on her face. I had a gut-wrenching feeling that this was not going to go well. 

“Yes, I do. Have you got any money?”

“No, I am afraid that I used the rest of it at the last inn.” A little white lie wasn’t going to hurt anyone. 

“Ahhh I see. So that innkeeper got paid for their services, and I am expected to just give away handouts? No money, no bed.”

“Yes well, perhaps we can work something out. Do you need help with dishes? Cleaning up a bit? I can do labor in exchange for a bed.”

“Once again, no money, no bed. Get out of my pub.”

I left with disappointment. I had no idea why I was back again, and now I have nowhere to stay for the night. I decided to head back towards where I came from, the cemetery. As I was walking I contemplated why I was here on this earth again. Was it God? Was it a medical miracle? Was I never really dead, just asleep? I tried to think about what was going through my mind when I was in the ground, but there was nothing. It was black. So why was I here?

I was close to the cemetery when I started to hear footsteps behind me. I started to pick up my pace, but when I did that the person started to follow my pace. I stopped, hoping that maybe the innkeeper had a change of heart, but when I turned around I was surprised to see who was following me.

“Who do you think you are coming into my town and not answering my questions as to who you are?” He was livid. I could smell the ale radiating off of him, and I could sense that something terrible was about to happen. 

“I told you who I am.”

“Yeah, John. But what is your surname? Where are you traveling from? Why are you here?”

“I am afraid that I am going to have to excuse myself. Have a good night.” I started to turn around when all of a sudden I felt a sharp, familiar pain in my left shoulder. 

“No one walks away from me, stranger.” 

I felt something slice into me over and over again, and I could do nothing about it. After the initial stabbing of the shoulder, I tried to push him off, but he was much stronger than I was. He had flipped me onto my back and started stabbing me in the chest. My last thought before my eyes closed was: 

This feels like it did one year ago…” 

And then, blackness. 

I wonder if the world can guess what day I woke upon. If you guessed August 27th, 1864 then you would be correct. 

The pub was still deafening with laughter, the insects were chirping, the rats were scavenging, everything was still the same. It had been one year since I had last seen my beloved, and although our interaction was less than desirable I just knew that I had to try again. 

So I followed the uneven cobblestone to the home that was oh so familiar, yet so different. This hasn’t been my true home in two years now, but it is the only home that I have ever had or will ever have. Other than the cemetery of course. 

I approached the home and just stared at it for some time. There were candles that lit the rooms and doorways. There was a small fire blazing in the fireplace. And there she was, in her rocking chair with a book in her hand. She was beautiful. Then again, she always was so this was not a surprise. As I was watching her I noticed a hand grab her shoulder. My defenses immediately went up and I was prepared to barge into the home in order to protect my wife. But then I saw her grab the hand, and not in self-defense. It was in a gentle, loving way like she could have expected someone to touch her. She kissed the hand while it was still in her grasp, and then he leaned down and gave her a loving kiss on her forehead. I couldn’t help but notice that they both were wearing gold bands around their marriage fingers. Is my wife no longer my wife?

I thought about leaving for just a moment. If tonight is like the past two nights that I was alive I will surely perish at some point. Do I need to put her through that again? Especially with how blissful she seems to be now? The answer was easy for me to determine. She may belong to someone else, but I have no one else to go to. I need help. I simply cannot keep living and dying this way. 

This was going to be painful for me to see her living her life with another man, but at least she is happy. Maybe he can help her help me. I walked up to the front door and knocked three times. I heard footsteps approaching at a casual rate and then, the door opened.

“What is this? John? Who are you?” The man asked with confusion taking over his face. 

“May I ask who you are?” I sternly asked.

“My name is Stewart, and I am the man of the house. What business do you have here?” 

“Stewart, hello. My name is John. May I speak to Hazel please?”

Ahhhh. Hazel. I see. This is some sort of trick. Hazel told me about how last year some demon claiming to be her John entered this home. This is a nasty trick. How dare you continuously put that woman through this pain…”

“Hello, John.”

And there she was. Standing right in front of me. She patted Stewart’s shoulder to let him know that he can back off, and so he did. She was so close to me that I could smell her. She smelled of lavender, her favorite fragrance. Stewart stood right behind her, but it mattered not to me. There she was. 

“Hello, Hazel.”

“I know what day it is. August 27th. A day hasn’t gone by where I haven’t thought about the events that happened exactly one year ago today. Surely you could understand my reaction, although I wish I would have listened more. You see, I thought you were some demon or warlock using magicks to play a nasty trick on me. But I have had this little voice inside of my head that maybe there was more to the story and that I needed to look into it further. There were talks of some stranger being stabbed to death the night that you visited me last year. Interestingly enough, I found out by the women who like to gossip that the sheriff noticed that the placements of the stabbing were identical to a murder thas he has seen before. Your murder, John. So I traveled to a seer, someone who could help me understand what was happening. I described in great detail to her about that night. The original night. And then what happened a year ago. She looked unphased by everything that I was saying to her, to the point where I was questioning my very own sanity. But then she said something that changed my life.”

She paused. I just kept staring at her, with my eyebrows furrowed together. Did she already know what was happening to me?

My dear, how you have felt so much pain. I can feel the agony that you are feeling. My whole body feels like it is being torn to shreds. But I am afraid if you want the answers that you are looking for then the agony will just become more unbearable. Do you truly want your heart to suffer more than it already has?” 

“Please. Tell me what I need to know. Is it John’s ghost? A demon? A warlock? How do I make this slow torture end!”

“My sweets, you were not the only woman in John’s life.”

“How dare you! That is impossible! John and I were in love, he would never run into the arms of another woman…”

“There is a woman in the town right next to yours that loves your John. In fact, the love that she felt for him drove her mad. She knew that he could never truly love her the way that he loved you, and she tried convincing herself that what he gave her would be enough, but the more he started to detach from her the fonder she grew on him. The thing about love, and the reason why so many consider it to be deadly, is because love can easily morph into something complicated. It can morph into an obsession. A lot of times this happens when one has never experienced the feeling of love before, so they almost become addicted to it. They crave it. They must have it and if they don’t then they want to make sure that the person that they want it from suffers. My dear, she loved your husband, but she ultimately became consumed with him and the idea of them having a life together. It wasn’t until your John told her that he didn’t want her and that he only wanted you was when she decided to enact something so heinous, so vile, that she could herself expect to meet the Devil himself upon her death. You see, she worked with magicks, and she has worked with them her entire life. Hazel, you must listen to what I am about to tell you. There is no such thing as light or dark magick. There are people out there that can choose how they want to use their magicks, and although this woman usually chose to only use her magicks for the greater good, this time she was mad enough to cast a curse upon your John. That rabid woman who stabbed your John on that night was a random woman, oh no. She was his ex-mistress. A woman who knew how to use magicks and wreak havoc onto one’s life. I have seen the curse that she put onto your husband. The curse is that every year your John will die the same way he has died all the times before. In a fatal stabbing. And this will continue for all of eternity unless he himself is able to free himself from the curse…”

“How? How can he free himself?” 

“He must stab the woman the same way that he has been stabbed. She must die by his hand and his alone. If she dies and John wasn’t the one that killed her then his fate with this curse has been sealed and he will live this way for all of eternity.”

“So John needs to kill the woman the same way that he has died. We can make that happen.”

“Never underestimate someone who works with the magicks, my love.”

“What is her name?”

“Deary, before I tell you, are you sure you want to help him?”

“Of course! Why wouldn’t I? Someone should suffer for all of eternity like that.”

“Sweets you just found out that he strayed away from you and into the arms of a madwoman!”

“Be as it may, no one should have to go through this. Sometimes mercy is easier than hate.”

“I see. Well, her name is Elda. I wish you the best of luck, my dear. If you need me you know where to find me.”

“Thank you, Seer. What can I offer you to make up for your help?”

“My dear, just help your husband. Don’t worry about me.”

“So, John, despite your wandering eye and your infidelity I have decided to help you. I loved you, John. We had what I thought was heavenly matrimony, and although you found comfort in her, even if it was just for a short time, it made it easier for me to move on. I love my Stewart. Stewart loves me and although it is a different relationship and it took some time getting used to I feel so at peace. And now I want the same for you.” 

I just stood there, staring at her in awe. I never wanted my Hazel to know about Elda. I have no idea why I did what I did. I have never in my life felt a love like the love that I shared with my Hazel, so I never understood why I also wanted Elda. 

“Hazel…”

“It is okay, John. I have made my peace with what you did, and now it’s your turn. Now. Do you remember where that terrible woman lives?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Good. I have taken it upon myself to fetch a couple of blades that should do the trick. Remember what the seer said, only you can kill her and reverse this curse.” 

“Hazel…”

“Yes, John?”

“Did the seer happen to say what will happen to me once I kill Elda?”
“She did not. One has to assume that you will continue living out your days until you naturally perish.”

“Or I could die and stay dead…” 

“Yes, John. There is also that possibility.”

Stewart, Hazel, and I all jumped on horses and started making our way to the next town over. I, of course, lead the way. It brought up so many emotions while we were taking the path to Elda’s house. I always thought that the way to Elda’s was so mystical. Overhanging trees. The sounds of the wind. The crisp scent of the air. The greenery alone who have anyone stop dead in their tracks and marvel. With that being said, I could also feel the emotions that I used to feel. Guilt, self-hatred, confusion, just to name a few. It was a path that I never saw myself riding on again, and yet here I was. On my way back to Elda’s. 

I could see Elda’s cottage. It was covered in ivy, alone in the woods. If you weren’t looking for it you would never know that it was there.

“See that cottage up ahead? That is where she lives.”

Then, we all stopped. The horses started to make noises of terror, and all of the blood that used to sit at our cheeks vanishes. We heard this cackling. A type of cackling that screams danger. It was Elda.

“John. HA. I have been spending the past two years wondering how long it would take for you to figure out what has happened. I must admit, I thought it would take you much longer. I am impressed.”

“It wasn’t John that figured it out, you daft witch. I figured it out!” Hazel’s voice was already starting to tremble in rage.

“It wasn’t you, you tortured sow. It was the seer. You made little effort to help our poor, sweet John. No wonder why he came my way. You’re PATHETIC.”

Hazel stayed atop her horse, but the worry that I felt for her was starting to increase by the second.

“Elda, I know what I must do in order to reverse this curse.”

“Oh, do you now, John? You could never kill me, John. You might have been able to break my heart, but you would never be able to steal my life.” 

Elda was smirking. She was playing a game that she was certain she was going to win. 

“Do you remember those nights that we spent together, John? Our moonlight walks. Our dances in the sitting area. Our gentle kisses and our passionate lovemaking? We shined brighter than the brightest star on the clearest night. We were meant to be together. You loved me, I know that…”

And then Elda fell to the ground. I was stunned to see who had been standing behind her.

“Hazel! What have you done!” 

“I tried to stop her, John. I tried! But she got me.” Stewart was holding his shoulder, while blood was dripping down his hand. It appears that while Elda was speaking to me Hazel jumped off of her horse in order to attack Elda but then Stewart got in the way when he attempted to stop her.

Hazel then screamed and continued to stab Elda the same way that I had been stabbed. Blood was gushing out from the wounds that Elda received. Her lifeless eyes just stared at me, like she was trying to say “I love you” one last time. And that was when I felt it. The sharp pains that felt all so familiar. 

“This is what you get for coming back, John! This is what you get for driving my Hazel to murder madness!” 

Stewart took what I thought would be my final breath…

I woke up on August 27th, 1865. Everything was the same. The pub was filled with loud heckles. The insects were chirping and the rats were scavenging. The cobblestone leading up to my home was still uneven. 

There they were. Both Hazel and Stewart. Both looked absolutely dreadful as they sat in their chairs in front of the fireplace. There was one measly candle, leaving the house mostly pitch black. 

I knocked on the door and heard both Hazel and Stewart walking towards me. When the door opened, they looked unsurprised to see me standing there before them. 

“Welcome back, John.” 

Hazel’s welcome was less than enthusiastic. I couldn’t help but just stare at her. Usually, I stare at Hazel in admiration, but this time I couldn’t believe that it was actually her. Her hair was knotted and not kept, her teeth were yellow and rotting, you could see her bones underneath her grey skin and her eyes were sunken in with deep darks circles underneath. Stewart looked quite similar to Hazel. 

“Hazel, Stewart, what happened?”

Hazel started to open her mouth, but then she abruptly closed it. She then turned around and went back to her chair and just sat there looking at the fire. Then Stewart started talking. 

“When that woman, Elda, was speaking with you, her taunts drove our Hazel mad. When she jumped off of her horse I knew what she was going to do, so I tried to stop her, but her rage made her stronger than me. Then, the next thing I knew, she stabbed Elda until she died. Then something came over me. Like I was in some sort of trance. I just wanted you to die. So I stabbed you. And I killed you. We didn’t know what would happen to you. We didn’t know if you were going to come back or stay dead so we went back to that seer. We told her everything that had transpired, and to our dismay, she informed us of your fate. Since it was Hazel that killed that vile human being and not you, you will spend eternity dying. There is nothing to do be done. There is nothing to rectify. This is your fate.”

I just stood there, in disbelief. Eternity?

That is when we heard the scream.

“Just remember, I love you both.”

And that was when we watched Hazel take the blade that Stewart stabbed me with and slit her own throat. 

The End.

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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Salem: Part Two

After the plane touched down in Boston I was completely elated. I kept looking at the itinerary that I made for myself on the plane and was ready to embark on my new adventure. After gathering my luggage and walking for what seemed like fourteen miles to the rideshare pick up lot, I met with a lovely man who just so happened to be my Lyft driver. On the way to Salem from Boston, he showed me awesome looking buildings with such enthusiasm, and it gave me reassurance that I made the right choice with choosing Salem for my first solo trip.

I was staying in downtown Salem, and boy was it different than what I had been expecting. It was small. Like incredibly small. There was one section of the town where my hotel was that had older cobblestone, so the only vehicles that were allowed to drive on it were delivery vehicles. As a first impression, Salem left me in awe. The town seemed quaint and adorable, which was shocking to me due to the morbid history that took place on its very land. There was a cemetery that was a two-minute walk from my hotel, museums galore, and homes that were centuries old. There were shops and small restaurants everywhere, and they were incredibly enticing. I was so excited to start exploring and to learn as much as I could possibly learn about the place that I had always wanted to visit. 

My hotel, Hotel Salem, was hands down the best hotel that I have ever stayed at. I saw the same people basically every day and had pleasant conversations with one person in particular. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, and the hotel was GORGEOUS. I checked in early, and my room had just been cleaned and set up for my arrival, so the door was sitting open waiting for me to occupy what was inside. When I saw my room my jaw literally unhinged itself and involuntarily opened. I stood there, in shock and in amazement at how perfect the room was. I actually left my room just to make sure that I was in the correct spot, and to my excitement, I was. When I travel, which is rare might I add, I usually stay in Holiday Inns or places like that. So I was expecting the same old same old with my hotel, but what I got was so much better than anywhere I have ever stayed. The ceilings were tall. I am not great with measuring heights and whatnot, but I would estimate probably like twenty-five-foot ceilings. I had a king-sized bed with multiple pillows, (which I got extra excited about because I was going to have that all to myself) and I immediately wanted to curl up in it and take a happiness nap. My bathroom was probably the most beautiful bathroom that I have ever seen. There was this stunning dark blue tile on the walls and in the shower, which I immediately told my husband I wanted for our bathroom. The tub was huge and it looked like I could easily unwind in it, and the shower was pure magic. The shower was huge, and every day after exploring I would just hibernate in the shower for a bit to unwind. That hotel made me comfortable and relaxed, and I will stay there every time I go back to Salem. Oh! And I simply can’t forget to mention that my room had an interesting little bonus feature to it. I am pretty convinced that a spirit lingers there. One of my dresser drawers kept opening as if my little friend kept trying to prank me. One night it kept opening and every time I would turn my back after closing it would open right back up. I was (am) still so convinced that it was a spirit that I set up my phone on video to try to catch it in action, but I think my spirit was too smart to be caught. Sneaky little bastard. 

Anyways, after seeing my room I was exhausted from not sleeping the night before and from traveling, so I simply ordered some lunch and took a much needed two-hour nap in my ginormous comfy bed that I could actually sleep on diagonally. It was a spiritual experience having that kind of restful slumber. When I awoke from my nap I was so out of it that I had to remind myself where I was. I got up, splashed my face with some water to help wake me up more, and then I grabbed my jacket to go explore my temporary home. 

I feel like I started exploring at the perfect time. It was chilly, but not too chilly. And the sun was starting to go down. As I mentioned before, there was a cemetery that was about a two-minute walk from my hotel room. So I decided to make my way towards that spot. When I arrived at the cemetery I was shocked that it was actually one of the places that I wanted to explore. I was at Old Burying Point Cemetery, which is the oldest cemetery in Salem. It was beautiful. It was a lot smaller than I was expecting, but man it still took my breath away. The gravestones were incredibly old, and just seeing them was very humbling. You know I am not oblivious to the fact that one day I will die just like everyone else, but even with that knowledge there still is that sense of invincibility. I know that I will die, but it is still hard to process that. But seeing all of these graves, all of these people whose ages ranged from a year old to people well in their eighties, it reminds you of the fragility of life. The cemetery was the most peaceful spot in Salem in my opinion, and I could easily spend hours there. But the sun was almost completely set and everything was starting to shut down, so I headed back to my hotel for some rest. 

I actually went back to Old Burying Point multiple times during my time in Salem because of the peace that I felt almost became addictive. I loved looking at each gravestone and paying my respects to the people who are there. I felt such a magnetic energy pulling me to Old Burying Point, almost as if the spirits of the people that were residing there were trying to keep me there to tell me something. Call me crazy, but I do believe that spirits are a real thing. And I think that when we die, we learn everything that there is to learn about the universe and about life. Every single secret becomes common knowledge, and I think the people on the other side are screaming at us to listen to them. They want us to know these secrets, and maybe we just aren’t listening. Anyways, now that you guys know that I am crazy, (hi, I’m Brookana) Old Burying Point is as breathtaking and beautiful as they come. It is hands down my most favorite part of Salem. 

Luckily, adjacent to Old Burying Point was the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. This particular memorial was for the victims of the witch trials, and it was truly moving. The memorial had large stones with each of the victim’s names engraved onto them, and it seemed as if that was Salem’s way of trying to apologize to each of the people that they executed. Some of the stones even had flowers on them, which I found beautiful. It is important to remember that despite how fascinating the history of the trials is, there were still innocent lives that were taken and we should always remember who they were. I visited the memorial three times while I was in Salem, and each time I felt a tremendous amount of sorrow for the souls whose lives were stolen from them.

 

 

Another great memorial that I visited was Proctor’s Ledge, which was where the victims of the witch trials were hung. I found this memorial even more moving than the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. I felt as if I could feel this heaviness to me. I was grieving the loss of these innocent people, people who lived many centuries before me. I can’t imagine the fear and the agony that they felt, and the pain that their families felt when they were taken away from them. When I learned about the witch trials back in middle school they never really talked about the humanity behind the victims that were executed. They never talked about the repercussions that the families had to face or the torment that the victims had experienced. But seeing the place where the majority of the victims took their final breath is an indescribable feeling. It is a chilling feeling. A feeling of pure terror and disgust. And it makes you respect the trials even more because of the people who had their lives wrongfully stolen from them. 

I also paid a visit to the Salem Witch Museum. This was a cute little museum that consisted of two exhibits, and I feel like I definitely learned a lot about how the trials had begun and the hysteria behind it all. The first exhibit was basically the story of the trials told over a loudspeaker and the second exhibit talked about the history of witchcraft. It was a very interesting experience, and I am happy that I went. 

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Past six o’clock at night there isn’t really much to do in Salem since all of the shops pretty much close down, so I decided to embark on a walking tour through Salem Night Tour. The tour meeting spot was a shock to me. We met at a store that sold Harry Potter merchandise, and I knew that I was about to have a wonderful evening. I even purchased my very first wand. The tour was a lot of fun. I was in a smaller group, which I loved because it gave me an opportunity to ask the tour guide questions when one would arise. They were very knowledgeable about Salem’s past, and I found myself to be intrigued throughout the entire tour. We walked by where the prison used to be during the trials, we walked by Salems Town Hall where the movie “Hocus Pocus” had filmed a scene, we walked past Old Burying Point, and we walked by the house that the board game “Clue” was based on. The stories that the guide told us were equal parts scary, horrifying, and enthralling, and despite the chilly weather, I had such a great time gaining more knowledge on Salem’s past. 

The Witch House. There is not enough time to discuss how much I loved Witch House. The Witch House is a home that was owned by Jonathan Corwin, who just so happened to be a judge during the trials. I was told that eighty percent of that house is original, and I could feel that that was true. I did a self-guided tour throughout the home, where I was fortunate enough to see many pieces of furniture that are dated back centuries. Throughout the home were various papers that had intriguing facts about how people lived back in the 1600-1700s, and it was totally captivating. There was something about the house that had a similar magnetic energy to the energy that I felt at Old Burying Point. I felt oddly comfortable in that house. Like I never wanted to leave. It felt peaceful and welcoming, and like a place where I could learn so much. It was one of those places where you could feel the history, and it just made me feel like I went back in time and experienced what it was like living in that house back then. But it wasn’t just the history that made me feel like I never wanted to leave. There was the sweetest woman who worked there that was incredibly knowledgeable about not just Witch House, but Salem as a whole. I definitely monopolized her time for upwards of forty minutes, just asking her questions about the home and about Salem. She answered every question that I had and was eager to share the history of Salem with me. She even showed me markings around the house that left me in awe. There were builders marks and marks of protection etched into the walls and ceilings of the house, and it made me feel as if I found a time machine and when back to the 1600s when the house was built. I was fascinated, and the house still has me fascinated to this very day. I would say that Witch House is my second favorite place to visit in Salem. There is so much to learn about the trials and about that time period, and the house helps you understand the history so much more.

 

A fun little activity that I decided to do was get another tattoo. There was a tattoo shop that was about a minute walk from my hotel called Witch City Ink, so to commemorate my first solo trip, which happens to be my most favorite trip that I have ever been on, I got a witch hat with a couple of sprigs. The shop was incredible, and my artist was so talented, and I constantly catch myself staring in awe at my newest addition.

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There are a ton of really adorable shops in downtown Salem, but my favorite shop hands down has got to be Emporium 32. They have a fantastic collection of oddities and just cool items that range from books, art, alcohol cups, absinthe spoons, jewelry, and hats. Everything was so unique and breathtaking, and I spent more money than I would like to admit at that store. My wallet is going to be in trouble for when we buy our house because I found out that they ship artwork and I plan on utilizing that convenience

There is so much to see, do and learn in Salem. Everything about Salem is so special to me. I loved the feeling that I felt in Old Burying Point and Witch House where I felt like I could feel the history. I loved learning about everything that happened there and why everything happened. Even though downtown Salem was adorable and beautiful, the history of the land is unscathed, and that morbid feeling that you get from that pain and suffering also turns into appreciation and gratitude for the generations that have lived before you. It truly is a magical town filled with magical curiosities.

Salem: Part One

I always think about traveling. A lot of times, just for fun, I hop on Expedia and plan trips that I know I will never be able to take. I plan out the flights, the hotel, and the activities. I look at restaurants and I deep dive into the history of where “I am going.” There are so many places that I could only dream of going to when it comes to international travel, and there are places within my own country that I have always wanted to explore. So when the opportunity presented itself for my very first solo trip, I jumped on that quicker than a cheetah going after its prey.

The good news was this: I was finally going to be able to go on a trip! But the dilemma was this: I am literally the most indecisive person that has ever existed, so choosing a place to travel to put me in distress. (Wow, what a problem to have you spoiled brat.) I briefly thought about the pacific northwest, but ultimately decided to pass on that. If I were going to go on a domestic trip I wanted to make sure that I chose a place that I have always wanted to go. I then narrowed it down to three choices: Washington DC, New Orleans, and Salem. I decided that I wanted to save Washington DC so that one day I could go with my dad, so now it was between New Orleans and Salem. New Orleans has always intrigued me, and during my time in Texas, I always wanted to go on a road trip there. My husband had been there many years prior to our relationship and wasn’t a fan, so he never wanted to go with me. Salem is a place that I have often thought about. Its deep and morbid history always seemed to have some sort of calling to me, so I finally made the decision to make my way east.

I had been to Massachusetts once before, and it was probably the best trip that I have ever been on. A week after my twenty-first birthday my best friend and I went to Boston to visit her sister, and it was such a memorable trip. We saw the Freedom Trail, we went whale watching, and we drank like fish. It was incredible and I remember it fondly. I always talked about making my way back to Massachusetts, so when I made my final decision about traveling alone to Salem, I was beyond excited. Like, embarrassingly excited. The moment I booked my flight and my hotel, my body became mostly adrenaline and I couldn’t stop telling my family and friends about the plans that I had just made. After a couple of hours of nonstop talking, jumping, and screaming, “I’m going to Salem!” I finally wore myself out and needed to go to bed. It is safe to say that I made the right choice.

When I woke up I was still massively excited, but for another reason other than the vacation aspect of it. Of course, I was incredibly eager to visit a place that I have always wanted to visit; however, I was also excited because I saw this solo trip as an opportunity to explore self-love. You see, as independent as I like to think that I am, I still think that there is a part of me that relies on others for certain things. Take New Orleans for example. I never road tripped there because my husband never wanted to go with me, and I honestly don’t think I ever thought about going on my own. When it comes to big things such as travel, I have always had it in my head that if I can’t find someone to go with me then I just won’t go at all. But after thinking about that mindset, I started to become upset with myself. This is my life. This is the one chance that I have to learn and to explore and to do things that will bring me happiness. So why have I always thought that I couldn’t do something as incredible as traveling on my own? Why have I put aside the places that I wanted to experience just because I couldn’t find another person to experience it with me? So when I booked this trip to Salem, a place that I have always wanted to go to, but no one else that I was close to was interested in, I started a new chapter in my life. The chapter where I actively make an effort to do things for myself that will bring me joy.

I think that there is a difference between being selfish and making sure that you are being kind to yourself. So far in my life, I have never seen myself as a priority. My husband, my animals, my family, and my best friend have always been the most important to me. I became so used to being shut down when it came to experiencing things with the people that I care about, that whenever I asked someone to do something with me I became numb to the feeling of my desires being put to the side. But the funny thing is, I never had to do that. I have had the power all along to follow through with the things that I have wanted, but I guess I just never saw it that way. I suppose I thought that experiences such as traveling would be more meaningful or special if it was experienced with someone you care about, but then that made me think, “Wait a minute, I care about myself. I could do with some quality time alone.” And the moment I had that epiphany was the moment that I changed my life for the better.

I didn’t really have any fears about traveling alone. Although my family, my husband, and my best friend were worried about my safety, that was never a concern of mine. My two biggest concerns were being away from my animals and, as silly as this may sound, eating alone at restaurants. Yeah, the thought of possibly getting hurt in a freak accident or being sliced and diced by a stranger never crossed my mind, but eating alone… Frightening. I am proud to say that I conquered my fear of eating alone like the true champ that I am, but leaving my animals and not having control over their safety is still anxiety-inducing. But whenever I get too worried, I just have to remind myself that they are safe and are in good hands and that I am allowed to enjoy myself while I am away.

I booked my trip pretty last minute, so the seven days between booking the trip and leaving were filled to the brim with buzz and eagerness. I spent hours upon hours planning out the areas that I wanted to explore, looking into tours, browsing the shops, and researching nearby restaurants. I wrote out everything that I wanted to do and figured out how far it was from my hotel. I made an organized list of each place with the addresses, hours, prices, and what kind of activity each place was. (Everyone, meet Brookana. She is type a.) The more I planned, the more ready I was to start this new adventure.

I woke up at four in the morning the day that I left, and all of my excitement turned into anxiety and sadness. I couldn’t believe that I was going to go to another state all by myself. What if something happened to the animals? What if something happened to my husband? What would I do if someone got hurt and I was a thousand miles away? What about eating alone?! I looked down at my dog, Luna, as I was about to leave and just saw betrayal in her eyes, and I felt immediate guilt. All these fears and insecurities crept back in, and they kept intensifying the closer I got to the airport. While I was sitting at the gate, I spoke to my husband on the phone as he was driving to work and all I felt was longing for him. I missed him and the furbabies already. For a moment, just a brief moment, I thought about leaving the airport and going back home. But then I realized that I was allowing my fears and my doubt to control the amazing thing that I was about to experience, and I shut it down as fast as I could.

When I boarded the plane I was feeling pretty confident and I felt my excitement starting to creep back in, but I was still slightly worried. But with that being said, the moment the plane started to accelerate down the runway and I felt that we were off of the ground, I caught myself smiling.

Plane Picture 1

The Fear of Co-Dependency and Lack of Individuality

I have a fear, and it is something that I think about constantly. This particular fear of mine dictates how I navigate my marriage and how I live my life. This fear is so terrifying to me that I make an extra effort to make sure that it never comes to life. So what is this fear? I am afraid of losing my individuality and becoming co-dependent.

I was fifteen years old when Stephen and I first started dating. The aftermath of the sexual assault was still fresh and my relationship with my parents was lacking. I didn’t really have friends, and I felt alone. I was desperate to find love, to find someone who wanted to spend time with me, to just find someone who found me to be somewhat worthy of them. I always envisioned having a partner who I had that special connection with. I used to wonder what it would feel like to have someone hold me, to laugh with me, to tell me that they were in love with me. I was craving it so badly, that when I found it, I gave into it. 

Stephen was everything to me. He was my world, and I became so engulfed in love that I lost myself. I placed all of my happiness onto him, and I became the person that I thought he wanted me to be. I stopped hanging out with the few friends that I had because I wanted every free moment to be spent with him. If I couldn’t see him over the weekend or after school on weekdays I would be devastated. He brought so much light into my world of darkness that all I could see or focus on was him, resulting in me forgetting about me. 

The sad truth is that Stephen never made me feel like he should be my reason for living. That was all me. I think I just got so sucked up into a world where I could finally trust someone. I finally had found someone who was authentic and sincere, and he genuinely cared about me and my well-being. I felt safe with Stephen, and I saw a forever life with him. He was mine. My life was just revolving around Stephen. 

My co-dependency started to become scary when I couldn’t recognize myself anymore. I became increasingly jealous and territorial. When I found out that he held another girl’s hand in band practice, and he didn’t have a choice, I made him delete her from social media. When I found out that another girl had a crush on him and told him and he kept it from me, I wrote an article and printed it on the front page of the school paper. I was ruthless. I was even disgusted with myself, but I was not going to let anyone or anything take Stephen away from me. I had too much to lose. 

Around a year after we started dating, Stephen had reached his limit with me and my behavior and attempted to break up with me. He expressed that he couldn’t handle my jealously anymore, and he didn’t like that my whole world revolved around him. Which, to be honest, is completely understandable. I had a big dose of reality when we had that discussion, and that fog that I was in for the past year finally cleared up. 

I had realized that I willingly gave up everything that I was for this relationship, even though I never had to. Stephen loved me for me, and he never asked me to give up on myself for us. I couldn’t believe that I did that to myself. I put myself this incredibly unhealthy situation, and I promised myself that I would never do that again.

I am truly lucky to have the partner that I have. He never makes me feel like I have to give up any part of myself in order to please him. And if I were to be honest, if he did have that kind of expectation from me that would be a deal-breaker. I am unwilling to change any part of who I am for anyone, even him.

There was a situation that happened not too long ago that was kind of the inspiration behind this piece. As you know, I have a thing for tattoos and piercings, and for a while, I was fixated on getting my septum pierced. I wanted it so badly, but Stephen does not like them and told me no. First of all, no one, not even my husband, is going to tell me “no” about something that I want to do to MYSELF. I will gladly hear and appreciate any opinion that you may have on any matter, but anything that I want to do for myself or to myself will ultimately be MY decision. I didn’t end up getting the piercing because the jewelry that I wanted was going to be way too expensive, but had it been more affordable I would have gotten it done. 

I have this viewpoint about my marriage that I am not sure a lot of people agree with. I am so overprotective about maintaining my individuality that I almost look at my marriage like a separate partnership. I love Stephen so incredibly much, and he means the world to me, but he is not my world. I will never allow myself to do what I did back when we first started dating. The moment I place all of my happiness and everything that I am into his hands is the moment that I will lose myself. So when I say that we are in a “separate partnership,” I simply mean that I want us to make decisions together and live our lives together, but I also want us to be our own people. If I want to travel on my own without him, then I am going to do it. If I want to hang out with my friends without him, then I am going to do it. If I want to do something to my body then I am going to do it. Even if he hates it. He is not my daddy, he is my husband. And I am his wife. Just because you are in a committed relationship doesn’t mean that you need to forget about yourself. 

Like I have said, I am deeply, deeply in love with Stephen. He is an amazing human being and I am lucky to have him as my husband. I respect the hell out of him, and we really are a great match. However, in order for me to live the life that I want to live, I can’t put him and his desires before my own. I am not living our life, I am living my life, and I am trying to make the best of it. Stephen just so happens to be an incredible part of it all.

Conquer the Fear

I have always had a funny relationship with dreams. Not the kind of dreams where your mind tells you stories while you slumber, but the kind of dreams that you wish you could make happen. The goals that run through your mind constantly. The kind of dreams that make you think “it would be so cool if this could happen for me.” I have had a couple of those dreams, the kind where I constantly say “I wish” to, and I always wondered if I would be brave enough to try to make my dreams become a reality.

I have spoken about this before, but for as long as I can remember, my biggest dream was to become a writer. I don’t even need to be an extremely successful writer, but a writer nonetheless. I wanted to share stories, life lessons, and informative pieces. I wanted to be able to write something that someone out there could relate to. I wanted my words to start a dialogue between strangers, bringing all of us together in some sort of way. I wanted to come up with fictional stories that could captivate an audience and have them asking for more. I have longed for my imagination to take me to a place in my career that I could be proud of, but there was one thing standing in my way. Fear. 

I take that back. Fear wasn’t the only thing keeping me from trying to accomplish my dream, but it definitely was the biggest factor. I always told myself that if I were to ever try to make something out of myself through my writing that I would put every ounce of energy into it. Everything that I have would be dedicated to this one massive dream of mine. However, the circumstances that I was in both financially and mentally would prevent me from being able to do that, that is, until recently. 

Finances have been a strain for Stephen and me for many years. It seemed like every time we were able to save money and feel like we were finally getting to a place of financial stability something would happen that would wash that sense of security straight away. “It’s just a part of life.” “Welcome to being an adult.” “No one ever said that growing up would be easy.” That is what people would tell me about the unfortunate cost of being alive. Also, let’s not forget the worst day of the year for people who rely on medications to live: January 1st. Being a type one diabetic is incredibly expensive, and January 1st is the day that your deductible resets. It always feels like a slap in the face when you have to worry about paying for an insurance premium, a deductible, and the medication that you need in order to keep breathing. A major thanks to my pancreas for adding that stressor to my life. Anyways, I had to work at jobs that I absolutely loathed in order to get by, much like the majority of our society. While I would work, I would fantasize about one day being able to write and have my words be read by the world, but by the time that I would come home from work I had little to no energy to put into my dream. It was a vicious cycle. Work. Dream. Fantasize. Go home. Crash. Repeat.

When it comes to my mentality, I always wanted to have the energy to just make my dream happen. I knew that in order for my writing to flourish I had to put in the work. I knew from the beginning that if you want something in this world that it won’t be handed to you, and if you want it bad enough one day it could be yours. But you have to work for it. I never wanted anything to just be handed to me, but I was too emotionally drained to be able to work towards my goal. As I said, I HATED all of my previous jobs, and they made me feel worthless. I felt like such a disappointment, and it sunk my self-worth to basically nothing. I was already dealing with depression and anxiety, so feeling down on myself for my career left me with nothing. And when you already lack any sort of energy, when you feel like you are sucked dry of everything that you are, you just go into survival mode. I was a walking zombie, just living life on autopilot. When you are in that mode, you just don’t have the extra energy to put into “extra” luxuries, such as accomplishing a dream. You’re just trying to stay alive. 

Eventually, finances started to become better, and with a ton of work, so did my emotional stability. I entered the unexplored territory in my life where I had an option to quit my paying job in order to try to make my dream come true. I never, ever imagined in my entire twenty-six years on this planet that I would ever have this opportunity as an option, and now that it could be a possibility it scared the hell out of me. I started second-guessing if I could actually afford to quit my job, I wondered if it was the responsible thing to do, and I worried that my husband might end up resenting me for not going into an actual job every day as he does. I had developed all of this doubt to the point where one day I would talk myself up and say “I am just going to do it.” Then the next day I would say “I can’t do this. What was I thinking?” I was driving my husband insane with my doubt and fear, and finally, he just told me to quit my job and focus on my writing. It was kind of a “now or never” type situation. It is odd to me that after spending years imagining, hoping, and fantasizing about this moment that suddenly I was pumping the breaks. I think it is one of those things that you never think is in the cards for you, and when you finally have an opportunity to make it happen it puts you in a state of shock. And then that state of shock turns into doubt, and then that doubt turns into fear. But after talking to my therapist and doing some major introspective work, I made the decision to quit my job to attempt to make my dream come true.

It was scary. It still is scary to this day. As it stands, I am two months into what could be a life-altering choice that I made. But with that being said, I don’t think that I have ever been happier about myself. So here is the thing. I am not oblivious or naive to the fact that there is a high probability that nothing will come from this. I know that I am asking for a lot from the universe to give me the success that I desire from my writing, but I just want it so bad. I live for my writing. I live for my audience. It brings me so much satisfaction whenever I push the “Publish now” button on my website. It warms my heart whenever someone messages me about a piece that I wrote. I am thriving. I feel alive. My spark is growing larger and larger with each day that passes. Yes, as per usual, the unknown is terrifying. I do not know where this is going to take me in my life. But do you know what sounds even more terrifying to me? Not knowing if my dream could have been a reality. Always pondering the idea if I made the right choice by not running towards my lifelong dream. I will never regret the choice I made to try to improve my life by chasing my dream, and I will continue to thrive on it until the moment I draw my final breath. 

Fear was one of the strongest internal opponents that I have ever had to face, but man does it feel amazing to conquer that monster.

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.

Tattoo9

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.

Tattoo6

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. 

Tattoo7

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.

Dream, Oh Dream

****TRIGGER WARNING: PLEASE BE WARNED THAT THIS PIECE TALKS ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT.

Isn’t it amazing how one dream can ruin your entire day? Last night I had a dream about him, the guy that stole my security, amongst other things, and now he stole the opportunity for me to enjoy my day. I woke up feeling immediately anxious, and I woke up wanting to immediately break out into hysterics. I woke up wanting to die. 

The ironic thing is that it wasn’t even a bad dream. We were together, like in a committed relationship. I loved him and he loved me. We were laughing, having meaningful conversations, and even having consensual sex. The fact that I was so happy in this dream really fucked with my head, and the moment I woke up I felt sick to my stomach with disgust. How could someone who brought me so much pain be in a dream that could have been interpreted as something so beautiful? I felt so confused and overwhelmed, and it just added to the rest of the emotions that I felt. 

Usually, I take my time waking up in the morning. Since I loathe morning time and I consider it to be vile, it takes me some time to get adjusted. This morning, however, was not like my typical morning. Since I woke up feeling so awful from this dream, I already woke up fully awake. Plus, whenever I tried to close my eyes, all I could picture was him. Him and his grimy hands touching me, me smiling at him, me having feelings for him. Seeing those visions was too much for me to handle, so I decided to get up and distract myself. As luck would have it, I already had a therapy appointment scheduled for today, but I had a couple of hours to kill before that time. So I went to the store and walked around for a bit, picked up some medication, and then drove back home. 

My therapist has always told me when I am having bad thoughts to do whatever I can to distract myself. Whether that is writing, going out to the store, getting coffee, going for a walk or just hanging out with my animals, I need to just do something to distract myself. Since I woke up so anxious it was a goal of mine to try to calm down before my appointment, but I wasn’t able to help myself. After I left the store and pulled into my driveway, I just sat in my car. My anxiety was even worse than it was before I had left, and I felt as if it were physically impossible for me to move my body. Then my thoughts transitioned from thinking about my dream to what actually happened in real life. Thinking about what happened always does me in. My already horrible anxiety turned even worse, and for a moment, just a moment, I thought about how easy it would be for me to open my garage, pull in, and close the garage door behind me while leaving the car on. Obviously, I didn’t do that because I am writing this right here and now, but having those thoughts, as brief as they can be, still do some sort of damage.  

One of the biggest problems that I am having is truly moving on from that incident. I feel as if he has me in a chokehold, and after all of these years, my freedom is still at his mercy. I absolutely hate what happened, I hate him for doing what he did, and I hate myself for not being able to be strong enough to break free from his grip. In the past, I told you that I was fragile. Now, here is your proof. 

Luckily my therapy appointment helped me a lot. I told her everything that happened in the dream, how I woke up feeling, and how it affected my day thus far. One thing that was killing me that I needed help understanding was why I had that dream. Usually, when I dream of him I dream of what happened or scenarios that closely resemble what happened. But this was so different. You see, her answer was not as complicated as I thought it was going to be. She asked me there were any personality traits of his that could be considered “good.”  I had known him for a decent amount of time. I was eleven when we were first introduced, and the big incident didn’t happen until I was fifteen. So in that time frame, I saw things from him that I thought were great qualities, but at the end of the day, it was all a lie so that he could deceive me so that he could get what he wanted. He wanted me to trust him, and he was able to get that from me. So was he actually “good?” No. But the perception that I had of him was that he was. I told her about this memory that I have of him that I will never forget. My parents took a bunch of us to this fair that happens every summer, and I went off with him and his friend. I was wearing a skirt and a halter top, but I had to have been twelve at the time so it wasn’t too revealing. There was this one man that was running one of the game booths that just stared at me for the longest time. He and his friend didn’t like that, so they blocked his view of me in order to protect me. I just remember them both becoming visibly upset and rushing me away from that guy, and that is probably the one and only good memory that I have of him. That is the only time I remember him actually being genuine. 

So the answer ended up being pretty easy. I had a trauma and the body and mind hold on to that trauma. Supposedly, as an attempt to protect myself, my subconscious gave me that dream to try to push the negativity and the trauma away and to put him in a good light.  Dreaming of something that could be interpreted as “good” could help me move on from the bad. But I would like to give my subconscious a heads up about something. If given a choice, I really would rather not dream or think of him at all. So thanks for trying but next time just refrain from “helping” me. 

I don’t think that I will ever fully break free from him. That memory will always be there, however, I am learning that I have control over my life now. Whenever I think about him and what he did I can take comfort in knowing that he isn’t apart of my life now, so I don’t have to keep ripping open those wounds. Now is the time for healing, and although I will always have those scars, those scars will symbolize my strength.

You Don’t Know What Is Possible Until You Try

Growing up, my Mema would always tell me that I should publish a book when I was older. I was very fortunate when my parents divorced because I would spend a lot of time at my grandparent’s house, and every night Mema would read me story after story until my eyelids felt heavy and my busy mind was feeling at peace. Mema would also tell me stories that she would come up with herself, as well as stories about where our ancestors came from. I soaked up every story like a sponge, and I am convinced that Mema’s gift for storytelling was passed down to me. 

I have always been quite imaginative. When I was young I was obsessed with American Girl dolls and Barbies, and the elaborate backgrounds that I would give each doll would often leave the adults in my life in awe. Someone, although I can’t remember who at this exact moment, recently told me that they would listen in on my play sessions because they were fascinated with the stories that I would put my dolls through. I could come up with stories in an instant, and they would be full of depth. My favorite time of year was when we could participate in Young Authors, which was where we were given a blank book that we could write down stories in as well as illustrate them ourselves. That made me feel so alive. Coming up with a pretend world with pretend people and bringing it all to life brought me so much joy and elation, and it also made me feel really proud of myself.

As I became older I learned of different ways to write down stories. One of my fondest memories was in third grade when we started to learn how to write an essay, and I remember writing a nonfiction essay about my aunt’s wedding. Apparently, I did well because my teacher read it aloud for all of my classmates to hear, and you could imagine how elated I was during that moment. My teacher loved what I had to say so much that she wanted everyone else to hear it, and that is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Although I am typically a humble human being, I do love when others enjoy my pieces. I always have loved it, and I always will love it. When someone loves and enjoys one of my pieces, it is one of the biggest compliments that you could ever give me. It brings more value to my life than platinum. 

As I got older, I never strayed away from writing. I would always type out little stories here and there, I would make an attempt at poetry every now and again, or I would just journal. In high school, I participated in journalism for three years, and although it was different than what I was used to it gave me life during a time where I felt like I wasn’t living at all. It gave me purpose, it taught me about deadlines, and it still gave me that feeling of happiness whenever I would see one of my articles in the school paper. It was magic for me. It was an outlet, and it showed me what gave me passion. Journalism was the best part of high school for me, and I will always be grateful for that. 

Once I graduated high school I went on to college, where I changed my major more times than I can count. At first, I wanted to go into journalism, but I was told it was a dying career and that I should avoid doing that at all costs. Then I wanted to go into education, but after speaking with a middle school teacher during my observational hours, she told me to run for the hills. I realized that education wasn’t for me, so I moved on to the next thing. My parents really wanted me to have a career in something that would pay well, but more importantly, would provide excellent health care. Being a type one diabetic is not cheap, and I need the best insurance plan in order to afford my doctor’s visits and medications. So for years I took classes and went into programs for different healthcare fields, and I was unhappy with every single one. It got to the point where I was spending all of this money on school and books and I finally just stopped going to school. I didn’t want to continue with school until I figured out what it was that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. In the back of my mind, I always think about going into a field that will pay me well and offer good benefits, but at the end of the day, nothing was going to give me that happiness that I desired. That is until I realized that there was something that I could do that I could love and be proud of. 

I love writing. I always have loved it, and I always will. I love having thoughts and writing them down, and reading it back feeling totally captivated. I revel at that moment when my family and friends read my pieces and enjoy them. Every time I press publish on my blog, that spark that keeps me alive gets a little bit bigger. I love creating and sharing, and I love connecting with others when I write something that they might relate to. What I am doing now is what I should have been doing all along, and although I can’t get the time back that I wasted trying to figure out what I should do I can embrace the fact that I have finally figured it out and I am doing it now.

You see, a big life lesson that I have learned is that you can hear and accept what people have to say to you when you are given advice, but you are the only one who knows what is truly best for you. Had I stuck on the path that I had originally taken, I would have not wasted all of that time in between. I always had that gut feeling that I would find my way back to storytelling, and it brings me so much happiness that I have found my way back to my passion. To me, hating my job and my life is too steep of a price to pay for having loads of money in my bank account. I am not oblivious to the fact that money is essential to living, but if you are willing to work at it, then following your dream can be possible. You don’t know what is possible until you try. This whole story leads down to one thing: Follow your instinct. Follow your passion. Follow whatever keeps giving your spark life.