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“All I have for the moment is a song to pass the time,
A melody to keep me from worrying
Yeah, some simple progression to keep my
Fingers busy
And words that are sure to come back to me…”

I’ve always been a really good sleeper. I’d read for a while and fall asleep… and I’d do my best to get seven or eight hours a night.

These days I don’t sleep well at all. Sometimes I wake up and feel like I didn’t sleep at all. A lot of times I just plain can’t sleep.

“So there still is hope,
Yes I can be healed
There is someone looking for what I’ve concealed
In my secret drawers, in my pockets deep,
You will find the reasons that I can’t sleep
And you will still want me…
Will you still want me?”

I’ve been doing a lot better since I wrote my last post. I still need to get my life in order and work to make more and more progress… but I’m going in the right direction.

It’s so important to look at your life, figure out what you can and can’t control, and try to make good decisions.

Good decisions…

I’ve been doing okay with that the last few months. I did make a lot of horrible decisions before I came back here though… with effects that I still feel every day.

I’m adjusting to this new way of life… learning to live again. Learning a lot about love.

It’s hard…

but still so worth it. Love.

The way you think… the way you feel… it controls so many things. I know that if I don’t BELIEVE I can get better, I won’t. I know that if I don’t fight the anxiety, the thoughts… they’ll beat me every time. Sometimes they’ll beat me even when I do fight… but I’ll keep fighting anyway.

“So hold up your fist
To the flame in the sky
To block out the light
That’s reaching for our eyes
Cause it would blind us…”

-Bright Eyes

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Two sides to every story… cliche right? Just the first title that came to mind, I guess.

I tend to see things in spectrum. I believe that black and white do exist, but most things fall in between.

I have made so much progress since the beginning of February. I can’t lose sight of that. Yet… the last couple weeks have been pretty rough.

I think a good part of it has to do with the added stress of having lost my job. Not only does that make the money situation ultra-stressful, but it was also just good for me to be working every day. Now it’s a mad rush to get another job.

Right after I lost my job, I went up to Michigan. I thought it would be really good for me, but I think that in a way it was the opposite. I used to sort of joke about having post traumatic stress disorder when I would try to explain how I feel sometimes (not that having PTSD is funny, but joke as in I didn’t think I actually had it.) My sister actually did have it and while I was talking to her about how I feel she said that it does sound a lot like it’s possible that I have it. My reason for saying that is that being up in Michigan was hard because everything there reminded me of those three horrible months when everything just slipped away from me. I kept having flashbacks and it really just offset me.

And since then I’ve just been feeling like I’ve been slightly regressing. It’s really hard because ever since I started being able to function (work, play music, leave the house at night,) it seems sort of like everyone thinks that I’m back to normal or that everything is better. Things will never be “back to normal” and everything is definitely not better yet. Things are a lot better than they were in February, but I have a long ways to go.

Yeah. Things have been harder the last couple of weeks. I’ve been crying a lot.

However… the other side of the story is that:

-I started writing music again.
-I have a lot of fun playing in the band.
-I played solo in a show tonight and it went really well. I had a lot of fun.
-Although I still don’t hang out with a lot of different people (which is really different for me,) I have met quite a few people and feel ready to start doing that a little more.
-I’m really looking forward to being back in school this fall.

It’s really hard to even compare now to when I first moved back here. At night I couldn’t even leave the house or be alone. I literally felt like a zombie. I still had no appetite or hunger and avoided everyone other than in my immediate family. I felt a lot of anxiety all day every day. Things were very, very bad.

So I have come a long way… a very long way. I really want to stay focused on that. I know that I simply won’t get better if I don’t believe that I will get better.

And.. I also realize that I’m very blessed with a lot of different things.

When I was in the hospital, my dad kept telling me about this metaphor of a bridge somewhere out east. Apparently the tunnel is a few miles long and has a curve somewhere in the middle. Until you go around the curve you literally can’t even see the light at the end of the tunnel… but it’s there.

I lost my job. I’ll save the details of that for another post, but let me say that it was no fault of my own nor was it a layoff. I spoke up for myself and got fired for it. At first I wasn’t really upset about it because I felt good that I had said what I wanted to say (and what others are too afraid to say.) Then I left to go to the U.P. for a week and sort of forgot about it. Now that I’m back at home I’m realizing that not only is it the expected stress of financial burden and whatnot,  but it’s also really not good for me that I have now lost the sense of routine that was really helping me make progress.

Feeling the way I did in the U.P… it really made me sort of second-guess how far I’ve come. I know that’s stupid… but it just made me feel really weak. One of the hardest things for me to face is the fact that during high school I had struggled a LOT, but I felt I had overcome and gotten through that “tunnel.” I feel like I just lost all of that.

Which isn’t true. I still draw on things that I learned through that ordeal when I’m trying to pull myself out of this “thing.” And honestly without the things I learned then I don’t know if I could have gotten through this.

So.. I guess my tunnel has more than one curve. Because right now it’s hard for me to see the light at the end of it again. I know it’s there.. but sometimes it’s hard to feel it.

OK, quick life update:

-Lost my job
-Been playing more and more music
-I still play music with those guys where we do a lot of folk.. we have a gig every Thursday before this music festival that happens every Thursday here in the summer. That’s been going really well.

I miss all of you from the WordPress world and really want to make an effort to post more. It’s helped me a lot throughout my time here and I really appreciate you all for your support and advice!!

As I try to rebuild my perspective, to “learn to live” again, I keep coming back to this image of building blocks, a foundation maybe, that will be at the core of who I want to be. If you’ve been reading my posts, you’ll know that love is definitely one of those blocks, the biggest maybe. But.. I’ve written a lot of posts about love already.

The past few days I’ve been thinking about compassion… I guess you could say that’s a close relative of love.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to dehumanize people? To see them only in the context of who they are to you and nothing more?

It’s crazy when you think about it. Every person you see is, well, a real person- a person with hopes and dreams, countless memories and experiences. Every person was once a baby, a child, an adolescent and so on.

Sometimes I look at older people and think about how I can’t even begin to fathom all the experiences they’ve had- the joy they’ve felt, the hurt they’ve encountered.

At the risk of sounding extremely cliche and cheesy, every person really is a miracle… a walking miracle.

Your boss.

Your annoying coworker(s)

The clerk at the gas station

The crossing guard you pass every day

The police officer who gave you a speeding ticket

The man eating by himself at McDonalds

The stranger on the street

The hobo

There are over six billion people on the planet.

So on so forth… they’re all real people.

And, I guess it would be my goal to work more towards keeping that in mind. It’s one of those big picture things that required you to step outside of your own world and realize how very small you are… and how very big at the same time.

Last night I went to an open mic night downtown. I stepped outside for a smoke and an older man with a white beard approached.

It was one of those conversations that you hope you’ll always remember.

We talked about music- Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. “Bring it back to the basics,” he told me.

I’ve talked to lots and lots of people outside of this cafe. My guard is always up against what I like to call “creepers.”

Something about this guy didn’t strike me that way though…

He told me, “I don’t know what it is lately… I’ve just been waking up every morning and loving everybody.”

“Yeah?

“Yeah.” He takes a drag of his cigarette. “I’m not going to try to understand everyone, but… my heart is just full of such… such love for them. You know?”

“Yeah, I do. The world could use more people like you.”

Silence.

“Where do you think that love comes from?” I ask, curious if I’m going to hear the pitch for Christianity next, if he’s going to pull out the conveniently placed religious tract and invite me to his church.

“Honestly? Between you and me?” He trails off for a moment. “I think it’s from God.”

He gauges my reaction.

“I just… I look around at all these people,” he gazes across the street where dozens of high schoolers are hanging out, “and I see a generation that is so lost. I have my bad habits too,” he says, glancing at his cigarette, “but… ” he trails off again with his head down. As he looks up, I see tears in his eyes. He looks at me and apologizes. “I just pray for them. I care about them; I really do.”

We talk about a few other things. He advises me to get more into nature. I smile and say I will. Little does he know how passionate I am about nature.

He was legit. He was passionate. Maybe he was lonely. I really don’t know.

But something about what he said… and how he said it… it gave me a lot of hope.

Dear WordPress, it’s been too long! Last time I was absent for a while it was because I was cycling through a more difficult time, but this time it’s honestly because I’ve been a little more busy (a good thing) and now I’m in South Dakota again.

I believe I was here about six weeks ago. My grandma, aunt, uncle, and cousins live here, so we come out to visit a couple times a year. Unfortunately, a couple weeks after we got back last time my grandma had a bit of a fall and although she was relatively uninjured, her doctor finally told her that it was time for her to not live alone anymore. Sad, but in all honestly a good thing.

So I’m out here again helping my mom sort through my grandma’s apartment. It isn’t too bad because about ten years ago my grandparents moved here from their house in Iowa, so we had sorted and got rid of a lot of stuff back then.

It’s been interesting going through all of this stuff. Listening to my mom, grandma and aunt talk about old memories and relatives that I’ve never met- it reminds me how I’m a part of something bigger that I never really even think about… and that I come from people and places I’ve never really known or seen. Even within one generation there is so much unknown. I often wonder how much about my mom’s life I don’t really know. As much as she’s told me about her memories of growing up, those are all from her point of view… and I’m sure things would seem different even just hearing those stories from my aunt’s point of view.

My grandparents were never super close to us. They just weren’t the type to show a lot of  affection. Birthday cards would come on time every year, and I saw them several times a year even though we lived in separate states, but they weren’t all that interested in really getting to know me. I’m not complaining; that’s just sort of how it was.

So they’ve always seemed sort of… rigid to me. My grandpa was a pastor too. I have enormous respect for who he was- he went through a lot as a pastor and as a man, and his faith never seemed to falter. He was a great man.

While my aunt was going through my grandpa’s desk, she came across some letters that my grandma wrote to my grandpa. Some were from before they were married, and others after, while he would be away at church conferences or other things. I haven’t read them yet, but I am really looking forward to it.

People always talk about how the divorce rate has gone up so much. Although the institution of marriage has probably really suffered in the last few decades, I doubt that it has honestly gotten that much worse. I think that a lot of people just stayed in very unhappy marriages their whole lives.

It gives me such joy and hope when I see an older couple strolling down the street with their fingers entwined. To hear about these love letters does the same…

I don’t think it’s about finding your one true love; I think it’s about finding a true love and keeping it true.

Working thousands of hours in the daycare field has granted me a pretty inside view into a lot of different types of marriages- marriages of the wealthy, the older, the younger, the poorer, those on state aid…. I’ve even spent time in a lot of their houses, babysitting their children. Many of them have turned to me for help on raising their kids.

In viewing these relationships/marriages, I’ve noticed a lot.

1. Having a lot of money doesn’t make you a better parent.
2. Having a lot of money doesn’t make your marriage better. (duh!)
3. Being on federal or state aid doesn’t make you a bad parent.
4. Although maybe if you’re on government aid, have five kids who never get baths and are pregnant with another… you should learn how to use birth control.

Okay, sorry to get political. Back to the relationship thing.

5. I’ve seen the couples who put their child before their own marriage. I am a product of this type of upbringing. Trust me, this will not benefit you, your spouse, or your child(ren.)
6. I’ve seen couples who “stay together for the kids.” Again, this benefits no one in the long run…
7. I’ve seen couples who are very good at functioning. They make a pretty good team in terms of who’s picking the kids up, who’s taking them to soccer/gymnastics etc., who’s picking up/making dinner, so on and so forth… but I sense that it’s more of a business arrangement than anything else. This type of couple is the most mysterious to me.
8. Finally, I’ve seen the couples that really do seem close. Not that they don’t fight.. or disagree… or do things as parents that I wouldn’t do as a parent, but… I can’t really put my finger on it.
9. Finally, I’ve seen couples who I’ve made observations about only to realize that I was way off. A sort of disclaimer I guess.

I don’t ever just want to have a functioning/business type of relationship/marriage. I know it’s easy for me to say that now. I’m working part time and I’m not even in school. I have so much time to spend with Cody. Whoever I end up marrying (if I do marry,) I’m not saying that I know how we’ll manage to get the time in, how to find the right ways to communicate and all of that, but I’m just saying I realize how important it is.

See, I want to be writing love letters like my grandmother, long after we’ve gotten married and had kids. Not necessarily “How do I love thee?” type love letters, but letters that may just say, “I got my haircut today and I really hope you like it. I miss you. I love you.”

I write a lot about love.

It’s just that… I think it really is the most important thing. It’s what makes us human… it’s what kept me going at my lowest point. It’s because of love that I am… learning to live again. There’s not a lot that I’m sure about anymore, and I think you could say that I’m somewhat jaded because of these last few months. Every day memories flash into my mind that fill my heart with such intense sadness and pain… and I feel I’ve lost a lot. But… Love is real. And it’s what makes this life so beautiful.

And yet…

Love isn’t perfect. Well, maybe in theory it is. Maybe by definition it is. Somehow though, no matter how much we love each other, we still mess up and treat those that we love in the wrong way.

The other morning I woke up to my sister’s yelling to my mom. I know that she was yelling so that I would hear her. My mom kept asking her to quiet down, that I was just in the other room, that I would wake up and hear her. And I did. And I know her frustrations were related to me, and the things she was saying were… well, they were mean. Her words were hurtful. I know that me being here isn’t ideal for any of them… yet all day I kept thinking to myself that I wanted to say so much to her.. to tell her how for so many years I acted like the older sister (although I’m younger.) I was there for her when I was really too young to deal with the things that faced her.. and us, our whole family. Yet I bore the things she was dealing with and never complained. I let the focus be on the rest of the family and bottled up my own hurt for years and somehow managed to get past it. And now that she’s in a better place, and I’m in the worst place I’ve ever been in, she wants to complain because of some inconveniences of me living here? I wanted to tell her that she has absolutely no idea what I’ve been going through.

Well, I talked to my mom about it that day, and before I even saw my sister she must have talked to her. I got a text from her saying that she doesn’t want me to think that she doesn’t like having me here. And later that night she talked to me and said the same thing.. told me how bad of a morning she was having. I wanted to still say all those things to her.. but once she said she was sorry  and saw that I wasn’t visibly angry (which I wasn’t angry by that point,) she changed the subject so we could move on. That’s sort of how things have always worked in my family… say the minimum of what you have to and stop talking about it.

I’ve based a lot of my “recovery” on the support of my family. The words she said that morning stung… yet they didn’t make me question how much she loves me.

The night I hit bottom… well, I couldn’t even drive back here. My sister made the two hour drive to pick me up, and then she listened to me cry the whole two hours back. And she let me sleep next to her that night.

I certainly know that the way I love isn’t perfect.

I caught my mom in a lie to me as well. That almost bothers me even more, because when I was in the hospital I told her how important it was to me that we would be honest with each other. I think I’m still going to talk to her about that.

But even her lie doesn’t make me question the fact that she loves me. Not at all.

Part of growing up is realizing that love isn’t perfect. We make mistakes… and those mistakes always hurt the most when they are from the people we love most.

But… that’s part of what makes love such a beautiful thing. On the right hand of love is joy, and the left hand is hurt. Love means being vulnerable… it’s this choice to empower someone else to have the possibility to hurt you, but also to give you so much joy.

And I believe that in order to have healthy relationships with those that you love, you must understand that love isn’t perfect. In a loving relationship.. forgiveness is always going to be there.

It’s amazing really… love is worth the hurt that can come with it. I really believe that. Love makes it all worth it.

Five AM

I’ll be up in two hours

I think… I think that in general I’m making progress. I hesitate to say that because I fear that it won’t last… and because although I’ve been feeling more like myself- and for longer periods of time- I still don’t feel quite… right. Like.. right now I should be asleep…. but I seem to have this endless energy and sort of.. restlessness.. while at other parts of the day I’m just plain exhausted. Right now I just feel wired. It’s like there’s no middle ground. I’m either low, fighting off low, super happy, or “wired.”

I’m not complaining though because when I think about where I was at even just a couple of weeks ago I know that I am in a much better place.

But even as my moods stabilize, I’m still left with memories- both good and bad- that haunt me.

Well, the good memories make me sad… and happy in a way, I guess. You have to understand that it’s not like this was a slow process that eventually led to me hitting bottom- like I was unhappy for several months and everyone knew it but me. It all happened quickly. It especially seems quickly to me because those few months that led me here all just seem sort of like a haze now. Prior to those, maybe, three months things were pretty good. Yes, I had stress, but it was mostly positive stress- wanting to work hard because I was passionate about what I was doing- my job, my major.. I had amazing friends and people in my life- most of whom are still very bewildered that I just sort of disappeared.

So when I think about my life in Milwaukee pre-November, I have to deal with the fact that things will never be like that again. It’s a very harsh truth to accept. Honestly,  I feel like a part of me has died.

Yet… with every death there is birth. But it’s all a painful, yet beautiful process.

Then there are the bad memories that haunt me. Sometimes they flood my mind. It’s like recalling a nightmare that you had but then realizing that it actually happened. It’s scary to even acknowledge that I was in the place I was. Yet at the same time, a month ago I couldn’t even really listen to a song from that time and I am definitely beyond that (well, there are still some songs I can’t listen to…)

I had to go to Milwaukee last weekend to take care of some business at my bank. It was a warm day.. sunny.. and when I first got there I remembered what I loved so much about Milwaukee. As I climbed the front steps of my old apartment, I saw reminders of the fact that I once lived there– my old bike, an empty cigarette box, some old mail… it already almost seemed like a lifetime ago.. it was almost as if my key just might not fit the lock…

But it did. And memories that I had repressed popped into my head.. things that happened that I would almost rather forget.

Yet.. the fact that those memories even surfaced reminded me that I have made progress. Yet as the moods continue to stabilize (knock on wood) I know that I still face a long journey of sorting through and processing everything that happened… of reevaluating the way I see the world around me.. of learning to live again.

There is this tree here in my hometown…

it’s just your average looking tree… I don’t even know what kind it is- not too big, not too small..

It’s next to some other trees on my favorite road in this town, on the curve where you can see the lake the best.

Every spring, white flowers bloom on all the branches of this tree.

It happens at a different time every year… and the flowers don’t last very long. They soon fall off and are replaces by green leaves, leaving this tree to be unnoticeable again.

A few days ago I was driving on that road and notices that some of the flowers had already bloomed. It made me smile… it gave me hope. It’s so early for the flowers to bloom… it’s a good year for an early spring. It really is.

In other news… lots of stuff has been happening the last couple of weeks. Sometimes I really feel like I’m making huge strides, and other times I feel that it’s worse. It’s so hard to say. Saw the doctor on Monday and he just increased the dose of the antidepressant I’m on (again.) We’ll see.

Love is real.

So.. my blog is called learning to live… I started it with the idea of writing about my experiences while going through this.. “thing.” I wanted to write about building my new “foundation.”

I’ve definitely alluded to it before, but I think the first block I want to lay as my foundation is love.

I know.. I know, it’s cliche. But it’s so true.

To love.. and be loved.

There’s this picture of my family- all seven of us. We are in the front of the church my dad was a pastor at in the UP. I’m only maybe a year old. I’m sitting on this folding chair, a serious look on my face. The best part is the story behind it. Apparently when they took the picture my dad was supposed to be holding my twin and my mom was supposed to be holding me, but I saw one of my older siblings sitting in a chair and I insisted that I needed to be in a chair too.

See, by nature, I’m so independent.. I always have been.

No one else can go through this thing for me. No one else can magically make things better.

But honestly, if I had to do it on my own, I don’t know if I could.

I’ve been missing my old roommates. Two of the best friends I’ve ever had. I’ve been crying because I miss how much fun we had together, and I know that things will never be exactly like they were before. But you know what? I think it’s part of the healing process. For months I pushed them away and didn’t let myself think about it. I’m just now starting to let myself feel the pain of that. And as much as it hurts, it’s real… it’s a sadness that I really should feel. It’s human… and it’s okay.

Last night I played at open mic night. It was.. amazing. Sometimes when I’m playing, I can just sense that there are others in the room who get it. They just get it. I don’t know how else to explain it.. and for a few brief moments you are connected. That’s love.

And the guy I wrote about a while back. That’s still good- it’s really good. I feel like he’s my best friend. The best part of my day is when we hang out. Tonight we just watched comedy and played chess. I can see myself in the future with him, spending lazy days watching shows on National Geographic or going on walks, playing board games.. simple things. Got to keep it simple. He’s one of the best parts about being back in this town. He’s one of the best people I know.

Love is real. It doesn’t always make sense, but that’s what makes it so amazing. Love makes us do things we otherwise wouldn’t. Unconditional love is a miracle- I really believe that. There is no logic behind it, no evolutionary reason. Love makes us better than what we are. Love is.. more real than anything else I know.