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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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.

Please Don’t Ask Me When I am Going To Have Kids

One of life’s biggest questions is “what are we doing here?” Some people think that they are here to help others, while others think that they are placed on this earth to follow through on a prestigious career path. Others might think that they are here just because their parents decided to fornicate one night and then BOOM. The evolution of cells that would eventually multiply and turn into you commenced. Correct me if I am wrong, but at some point in our mundane lives, we have questioned what we are meant to be doing. What is this big job that we were assigned to when we were given passage to life? You see, I indeed have asked that question myself, but I have known that answer for as long as I can remember. I was put on this earth to be a mom. 

I don’t know how to describe this feeling that I have had for all of these years. It has just been an overwhelming feeling of maternal love that flushes through my body and soul. I remember being incredibly young and playing with baby dolls just pretending to be their mom. I know a lot of young children do that, but I would get really into it. I would love those babies like they were really there. It might have been odd, but back then it gave me a taste of happiness. I was eleven when my youngest brother was born, and I cried the moment I saw him and held him in my arms. He was one of the greatest gifts that I have ever been given, and my love for him is strong. I used to love holding him, singing to him, taking care of him. And while at times he would drive me absolutely mad with his incessant and inconvenient crying, I still loved and continue to love him so incredibly much. I used to take him for walks around the block and imagine what it was going to feel like to be doing this with my own baby, and the thought would bring a smile to my face. 

When I was thirteen or fourteen I started losing a lot of my hair. I would be taking a shower and I would watch as clumps would wash down the drain. I thought it was odd, but at the same time I had really thick hair so I didn’t think too much of it. Then my periods started becoming incredibly painful. I remember crying in hysterics because I was paralyzed from the pain. It felt like someone took a metal rod and stuck it in a fire and then shoved it inside of me. The pain always traveled to my back, and the only thing that would give me temporary relief was the bathtub. My periods starting becoming irregular, and I just knew this was not a good sign. 

Every three to four months I have to go to an Endocrinologist for my type one diabetes, and at the beginning of each appointment they always ask me about my periods. So I informed the nurse about the irregularity of my periods and how incredibly debilitating they have been, and she informed the nurse practitioner of that information. When my NP came in to see me we dived into everything that was going on, including losing my hair. After talking for a bit she informed me that she thought that I had PCOS, and to go see a gynecologist to get an official diagnosis. So off I went to the gynecologist, and a couple of weeks later I got the call confirming the diagnosis. After the doctor told me that I had PCOS, my first question was “Will I be able to have children?” To which they said something along the lines of “The likelihood of you being able to conceive naturally with having PCOS, as well as type one diabetes, is unlikely. With medical assistance, you still might not be able to conceive, and if you did it would be considered high risk.”

That crushed me. I wasn’t even sixteen at that time, and finding out that I was most likely infertile stole every ounce of hope from me. The one thing that I have wanted, that one dream that I had held on to for years was ripped from me. I understood that they said that there was a chance that I could become pregnant naturally, but to a young girl, all I heard was that it was unlikely. I was immediately placed on birth control to help balance out my hormones, and I just continued living my life. It felt like such a slap in the face at the time having to go on birth control. Obviously, I wouldn’t want to be responsible for another life at such a young age, but the idea of my body not wanting to give me the one thing I had always wanted and then being placed on a pill that would also prevent it just felt cruel. But that one phone call, that one diagnosis, and every gynecologist appointment haunted me. 

I had, and continue to have, these reoccurring dreams of me being pregnant, or having children, or me being in labor. The older I became, the more these dreams would play out. In my dreams, I am happy. I am embracing my pregnant belly. I am holding, sniffing, and staring in awe at my baby. I excitedly scream “my water broke!” to my husband. It is such an incredible feeling, and then I wake up and realize it wasn’t real and I just break. Every single time. My heart is just broken. I hate my mind for putting me through that torture. 

Now that I am twenty-six and married, starting a family is at the forefront of our minds. I am prepared to start taking the medications to help me conceive, and if need be, I am willing to try IVF. But IVF doesn’t guarantee a child, so fostering and adoption might be my answer. At the end day, I really don’t care if the baby is related to me biologically. My dream and my desire to be a mother could still be a reality to a child who I didn’t grow inside of me, and I know that I will love any child with every ounce of my being. I want to help shape and mold another person into a wonderful human being, I want to help them explore and find their individuality, and I want to help figure out what their dream is so I can help them achieve it. I want to show them what it feels like to be loved and I want them to see how special they are and how much value they bring to this world. I know that one day I will be a mom regardless of how that child falls into my arms, and I have never been more ready for anything in my entire life.

There is one point that I want to make clear in this piece. The fact of the matter is, yes I am getting older and I am at the age where I could start having babies. But unfortunately, my reality is that it is going to be extremely difficult to conceive on my own. Like I stated before, I might not even conceive with medical assistance. For someone who wants children as badly as I do, imagine how it must feel when people ask me “when are you and Stephen going to start having babies?” In all fairness, it is not like I wear a badge that says “I have fertility issues,” but I also don’t think it is acceptable to ask me when we plan on expanding our family. If I had it my way, I would have two kids by now. Just because I am a woman and am happily married doesn’t give anyone the right to ask me something as personal as when I am having children. What if I didn’t want kids? What if I just had an abortion? What if Stephen was infertile? You never know what a person or a couple is going through, and having them feel the need to explain their situation is so damaging and hurtful. 

I want nothing more than to be a mom. I truly feel like that is why I am on this earth. The reality is I don’t know when or how that is going to happen, but I hold on to the hope that one day my dream will become true. But in the meantime, please don’t ask me when I am going to have kids.

The Magic of Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

Stress

The older I become the more that I learn about myself. It is an interesting experience having a revelation about yourself. I have always been confident that no one knew me more than myself, and that although I am aware that I am constantly evolving as a person I always knew what was changing about me as the changes were taking place. With that being said, there is some new information that I have realized about myself that I was not expecting and that I find truly troubling, and that is the fact that I handle stress in a very poor way. 

Don’t get me wrong, with the amount of anxiety that I deal with I have never been excellent at handling stressful events, however, I always thought that I had some tact with dealing with unfortunate issues. Perhaps that was how I used to be, and now as I am getting older and have experienced more things the way that I handle things have changed, but if I were to be perfectly honest I don’t remember how I dealt with intense issues in the past. From what I can remember, I used to internalize things a lot. I would think about what was stressing me out constantly until it was resolved or until I didn’t have a need to think about it further. It wasn’t until I started therapy that I realized that internalizing things that were a bother to me was unhealthy. I know that there are coping mechanisms when dealing with stress, and I loathe the fact that at twenty-six years old I am still having trouble with it.

I think the biggest stressor in my life would have to be my animals. My animals are my literal world. Most of my joy stems from them, and I love them more than anything in the universe. (Don’t worry, I love Stephen as much as them. He is not being neglected.) So when one of them becomes sick, even if it is something small, I fall apart. This is something that I feel an immense amount of shame for, and I know this flaw should be at the top of my priorities to try to fix. When one of my animals isn’t feeling well, I immediately think the worst. My anxiety starts to get worse and worse, to the point where I feel like I can’t breath. My heart beats so fast, and I turn ice cold. I cry uncontrollably, and sometimes I even throw up. 

A few months ago Gimli wasn’t feeling well for about six hours. I noticed something was off because he wasn’t eating his food, and that is so unlike Gimli. The moment he hears me reaching for a can of wet food he starts meowing and running towards his bowl, and then starts immediately chowing down the instant his food plops down. So for Gimli to be uninterested in his food had me worried right away, and then we he started becoming lethargic a full blown panic started to take over me. All of my symptoms that I mentioned before were at the forefront of my internal battle of attempting to handle this properly, and the worry that I felt was so strong. When I am having anxiety like that, I truly feel like I don’t have any control over myself. I know that what I am doing isn’t rational or right, but I can’t help it. I just lose control. That was when I did something that I am even embarrassed to say. Before I switched my medication I was taking one anxiety pill in the morning and then one anxiety pill at night. Those pills helped me stay leveled throughout the day, because the smallest thing, like driving for instance, would give me anxiety. Well anyways, with Gimli not feeling well and with me being as panicked as I was, I took an extra pill. Then a little while later when that didn’t help I took another. Taking those extra pills was something that I had never done before, and when Stephen saw my pill bottle next to me he immediately took them away from me and hid them. Luckily, Gimli felt better not too long after that happened, and I instantly felt better because I knew that he was going to be okay. Please believe me when I say that I know that this is shameful behavior and quite frankly immature, but I think I have a theory as to why I have these reactions to stress when it comes to my animals. 

Back in October 2018, my little lion, Lupin, passed away. Watching Lupin go through everything that he went through for a month was one of the most traumatizing and difficult things that I have ever seen. When you love someone or something as much I loved Lupin and you’re watching them die in front of your eyes and there is literally nothing that you can do can change a person. I know that I have never been the same since Lupin died. Every little thing that is not typical with my animals or even with Stephen gives me instant worry and anxiety. Even when I try to talk to myself through the situation with logic and try to convince myself that everything is okay, I still can’t convince myself of that. I think that when my Lupin died he took a huge part of me, and not just the part that loved him more than life itself. I think my security is gone, and now every time something happens I just instantly think back to Lupin. 

Thank god for Stephen. When something happens and I shut down he becomes the voice of reason. He takes control of the situation, and helps with everything. I am so lucky to have a partner who can handle a stressful situation with ease, even when I have gone crazy. 

The way that I handle stress is probably one of my worst flaws. It is definitely something that I am attempting to work on with my therapist, because no matter how hard I try to avoid stressful situations that is just not how life works. I need to develop better coping mechanisms, because how I handle things, or lack of handling things, is so unhealthy. It is going to be a long journey, but I look forward to the day where I have a stressor come to light and I am able to handle it in a mature way. 

Divorce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marriage- Part Two

When you are in a committed relationship, you are constantly learning how to compromise. Although Stephen and I have been together for a decent amount of time, we still have to work at our relationship every day. There are things that he does that bother me, and there are things that I do that bother him, so learning how to find that balance can be a little bit of work.

One of the things that we are constantly trying to work on is communication. I grew up in a family where we always spoke up about our feelings. My family is very touchy feely, and we really don’t have any boundaries. My family knows mostly everything about me, because I don’t really find it  necessary to keep anything from them. Stephen grew up a little differently than I did. It was actually pretty comical when he met my family because he was kind of taken aback by how talkative they all were. Stephen said that when he was growing up nobody really talked about feelings or opened up about much, so when it comes to communication we come from two different backgrounds. Because we grew up differently in that aspect, it has definitely made an impact on our relationship. Anytime I do something that annoys Stephen he is always reluctant to bring it up, but the thing that I am slowly trying to get him to realize is bottling up things like that is not healthy. Eventually he could start to resent me, and it will ruin our relationship. I want him to have open communication with me so that we can work on the tiny issues so that they don’t become big issues, and luckily he is starting to feel more comfortable with that. Expressing emotion doesn’t make you a weak person. A part of humanity is feeling things, and in my opinion, it is better to talk about what is on your mind rather than letting things stew.

Another thing that I want to talk about is sex. To me, sex is so important for a relationship because it brings that added connection. Sometimes in a relationship, one partner may have a higher sex drive than the other partner and that can cause an issue within the relationship. Other issues that come with life such as finances, family issues, and stress can also affect your sex life, but it is still important to try to make time for each other for that activity. Stephen and I have had talks about what we both need from our sex life, and when we have had those talks we not only worked on our sex life but also our communication. After we had those talks we understood each other better, and it allowed us to work on that aspect of our relationship.

Like I have talked about in the past, Stephen is a very calm and laid back person. He would be perfectly content with staying home and just chilling on off days, whereas I am always looking for an adventure. I don’t mind staying home for the most part, but there are times where we will be sitting on the couch and I am bored out of my mind. We usually end up doing something fun at least once a month, and I feel like that is a good compromise for the both of us. I still get to do something different with the person that I love, and Stephen can still have his free weekends to do whatever he pleases. We absolutely love going for walks. We have found one trail in particular that we tend to gravitate to, and it feels great to get out and just enjoy being outside. We also are always looking for activities to get us out of the apartment. We usually go to the Dallas Arboretum and the Dallas Zoo four or five times a year, but we recently found out that the Fort Worth Arboretum has a free admission, so we have taken advantage of that. We go to malls and walk around, and somehow we always end up browsing the aisles at Target. Just getting out and doing something together always boosts our mood.

Something that I have had to put a lot of effort in is talking to Stephen in a respectful manner when he does something to make me angry. I used to yell, I used to name call, and I would let my anger take over me. What used to upset me is how we both handle our anger. I am the type of person that pretty much knows what I am going to say and how I am going to say it immediately, but Stephen needs a little bit of time to process what he had just heard. I used to find that annoying because I would want a response right away from him, but I have learned to give him a minute or so to figure out how he wants to respond. I used to take the time that he needed to process as a gesture that he didn’t care about what I was feeling or what I had to say, but in reality he didn’t know how to respond. The longer you are with someone, the more you can learn about who they are as a person, and you can make adjustments that will be better for both of you. Now when Stephen and I have arguments, I can better control my anger to get my point across better, and it allows Stephen to have better responses so I know that I am being heard.

Marriage isn’t all fun and games. When you are combining two lives from different backgrounds, sacrifices are going to have to be made from both parties. Even though you may not always be happy with the compromises and adjustments that you have had to make with your significant other, it always ends up being worth it because you create your own beautiful life together. When I look back at my life with Stephen, we both have helped transform each other into better people, and I have come to love Stephen for all that he is, because he is pretty fucking incredible.

Marriage

Marriage, to me, has never been about a piece of paper. It has never been about legally connecting two souls together, it has never been about taxes, it has never been about anything other than love. Stephen and I didn’t have a formal proposal, it was more of a mutual decision. One night, as we laid in bed, we discussed our plans for the future, and we both knew that marriage was something that we both wanted. We never really wanted a wedding, we just wanted something small where the day would truly be about us and our love for each other, so on March 11th, 2016, we went to the courthouse and got married.

The day was perfect. Our appointment to get married was in the afternoon, so we had the whole morning to do whatever we wanted. We spent most of the morning doing laundry and other chores, and the rest of it relaxing. It only took me about a hour to get ready, and off we went. I wasn’t nervous heading to the courthouse, in fact, I was excited. Stephen and I had already been together for six and a half years, and we had lived together for about three, so it already felt like we were married. Along with being excited, I was also in disbelief that we were actually doing this. We had been talking about marriage for quite some time, and the fact that we were going to be married within the hour was a feeling that is indescribable. When we arrived at the courthouse, there was a staircase that lead to the area where we would say our vows. While we were walking up, another couple was walking down with their friends and family, and the bride asked if we were getting married. After I said yes, she grabbed my hand, and said congratulations. I, of course, said congratulations back, and as odd as this may sound, it was probably one of my favorite moments of that day. Even though she was a complete stranger, I found it to be an incredibly powerful moment between two people who didn’t know each other. Plus, you could see the genuine joy that was radiating off of her, and I felt so happy for her. Seeing her in that moment also was a reassurance for what Stephen and I were about to do. Once we made it to the top, we had to pay for ceremony and then we just waited for the Justice of the Peace to come and get us. We sat in a waiting room, talking and giggling and looking at Facebook, waiting patiently for the man who was about to change our lives.

When he finally came and got us, I was surprised  by his demeanor. I thought that he wouldn’t really care that much about Stephen and I because I am sure he does dozens of marriages a month, however, he was incredibly happy for us and was asking us a bunch of questions about our relationship. He always had an authentic smile on his face, and he really gave off a peaceful vibe. After a couple of minutes of pleasantries, it was time to get married. So there we stood, and while Stephen and I held hands, we said our vows. I thought that once we were pronounced husband and wife it wouldn’t feel different, but it was a lot more powerful than I had anticipated. I felt a rush of emotion rush through my body, and although I didn’t cry, I was just overwhelmed with happiness. This man, who I love with every ounce of my being, was my husband and I was his wife. We were partners in life, and it was a beautiful feeling. Our first kiss was magical, and it felt like the official seal of our marriage.

After the ceremony was over, we spoke to our parents to let them know that we were officially married. Our parents were happy for us that we were finally married, however, they were all disappointed that they weren’t there to see it. I think that Stephens parents were especially disappointed because they were actually coming down to Dallas the following day, but as much as we love our family, we wanted this day to be just for us. It was so special, and we really wanted to enjoy our first day as husband and wife with just each other.

The rest of the day was pretty laid back. We went back home after the ceremony and hung out for a little over a hour, then we went out to dinner. After dinner we went back home and spent time together. To others, how Stephen and I got married probably sounds boring, but to us, it was perfect. We were given the opportunity to really just appreciate each other, and there is not any part of me that wishes that we did things differently.

The next day, Stephens parents, my new in-laws, came down to visit. That was also the day that our marriage really hit me. We went to a mall to do some shopping, and I wanted to get an iced tea from Teavana. There was a coupon on my phone, which Stephen had, and that was the first time that I actually acknowledged Stephen as my husband. All is said was: “oh whoops, my boyfriend, I mean my husband, has my phone with the coupon.” Let me tell you something about that. It may not seem like that big of a deal, but it felt fucking crazy saying that. I don’t really know how to describe it, but at first it didn’t feel natural to call him my husband. I don’t know if that’s bad or not, but it was just something that I had to get used to.

After a couple of months, being married was our new norm. Saying that Stephen was my husband did become natural, and life kind of fell back to what it always was. Then, one day, my mom expressed to me that she really wanted to have a reception for Stephen and I. At first, Stephen and I were slightly reluctant. We loved our wedding day and we felt like we didn’t need anything more, but after thinking about it we thought that it would be special to celebrate our marriage with the people that we love. Also, I am my parents only daughter and Stephen is his parents only son, so we thought that we owed it to our parents to do something. After Stephen and I agreed to have a reception, my mom took off full blast on planning it. The reception was in northern Illinois, and I was in Dallas, so I didn’t see anything until the day of our reception. My mom would consult with me about the decisions that she was making, but even if she didn’t I knew what my mom was capable of and I knew that it was going to be gorgeous. And boy, I was not wrong.

We held the reception at a local winery in December, so it was breathtaking. The winery had decorated for Christmas, so along with the decorations that the winery provided as well as the decorations that my mom had purchased it was mind-blowing gorgeous. The night was perfect, with the exception of the major snow storm that prevented some relatives from being able to attend. That night we ate food, we conversed with everyone that we don’t get to see that often, and we had the time of our lives. By then end of the night, we were exhausted. Stephen and I decided that we were going to stay with our friends that night because that was the only night that we were going to be able to see them, so we had a long drive back to their place. Once we arrived, I realized that I was starving. I, unlike Stephen, hadn’t eaten much of anything that night. So as I ate left overs from the reception, Stephen and I went through the cards that we had received. After making our list of thank you cards that we were going to need to send out, we passed out. I slept so hard that night, but boy, it was the end of a perfect day.

I still do not regret getting married the way that we did. And even though our parents weren’t exactly thrilled with our choice to get married with just the two of us there, we were still able to celebrate with our friends and family. A wedding is not a marriage, so it won’t make a difference what kind of wedding you have as long as the love that you and your partner share is strong.