Stay. Stay. Stay.

As a child I was taught about unconditional love and forgiveness. I was taught to try and live with these values. But the truth is, the more I strived to live like this, the more I felt like a miserable failure. A failure at loving everyone. A failure at forgiving even myself.

If I took a snapshot of my days, it would start out waking up with an immense sense of remorse and regret for past “mistakes.” Then remorse and regret for not being able to forgive myself for these past mistakes…a vicious cycle. A cycle of crippling perfection. The pain of my past does ease with time, but it is always there. On top of my often times debilitating struggle with shame and guilt, my day is filled with numerous hurtful words and thoughts directed at people, some of which I claim to love dearly. Being unkind and ungrateful permeates my day more than I would like to admit. I struggle with self love. I struggle with forgiveness. I struggle with loving others regardless of their actions.

I am however human, and these are struggles that if everyone was honest with themselves, struggle with too. However, not everyone chooses to respond to struggles and hardships in the same way. With anything in life you can blame, make excuses, and wallow in self pity, or you can learn and grow from each experience, whether it be a good or bad one. I make a conscious decision every day to do the latter.

The most important and valuable lesson I have learned so far in this crazy journey we call life is that the more I strive for perfection, the more it is clear to me that I will never attain it. Coming to this realization has taught me empathy. It has taught me compassion. It has taught me that I have no reason to judge others when I, myself, am marred with imperfections. But above all, it has taught me that I need to put my faith in something much larger and much greater than myself, and I need to have faith that there are better days ahead.

So when the world seems like it’s crumbling around you. When everything seems dark, I pray that you hold onto hope.

Although you may not be able to see it now, your impact is unmeasurable and unfathomable. You are loved. you are worthy. And you are needed. On a hundred different days, in a thousand different ways, by a million different people.

So please stay,

stay,

stay.

You are needed.

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The Ride of a Lifetime

If I’ve learned one thing from life it’s that it is full of ups and downs. If there is one other thing I’ve learned, it’s that everybody wants the ups without the downs. That’s not how life works though, is it?

When I was around twelve, my mom was diagnosed with Lupus. Still to this day, I remember sitting in the waiting room, waiting for the results of her tests. I knew my mothers life would forever be changed if this was the diagnosis she received. I knew Lupus was not “fixable”. And as I sat in the waiting room, I prayed repeatedly, and with everything in me, that she would find out she did not have Lupus. . . God doesn’t always give us what we want though.

When my mother was diagnosed with Lupus, I was devastated. We were all devastated. We wanted my mom to be healthy. But, my mother being the stubborn woman that she was, and still is, never once complained about the cards she was dealt, and throughout my childhood, I often forgot she even had it. Looking back I know she was often in pain, yet she forced herself to get out of bed to care for my sister and I. A sacrifice I know she would do again and again without a second thought.

A couple of years ago my mom ended up in the hospital. For several weeks the doctors had no answers. No idea why her head hurt so bad. Why it felt like a vice was squeezing against her head. And no clue why the migraine medicine, the morphine drip, and cocktail of other drugs didn’t help her at all. Every doctor that came in had a new diagnosis. She had liver failure according to one doctor. She had heart failure according to another. I of course, didn’t know what was wrong, but I did know that her body was yellow, she could barely breathe, and the more I saw her, the more I worried sick about her. I watched her go to the bathroom, no further than two feet away, then come back to her bed and struggle with everything in her to catch her breathe. In that moment, I was sure I only had days left with her. But, by the grace of God, she got better. They found that she needed her gallbladder removed. Her lupus made it harder for her body to handle everything, as well as to recover. The headaches, her only symptom, was referred pain, and went away with the surgery and a low fat diet. The fluid on her heart was due to an IV drip that a nurse had left on her too long. Her heart was unable to pump out the fluid at the rate it was going in. They removed the IV and her heart had no lasting effects from it.

Very similarly, five years ago, I found myself sitting in a waiting room, praying over and over for my dad to come out of brain surgery, alive and without cancer. A week prior to this, my mother had found him on the floor, passed out. She called 911 and when he awoke it was obvious something was wrong. His speech was a mess, and he was not making any sense. She drove him to the hospital where they did a scan. They found a mass in his brain, and at the time they called it a tumor. He was taken to Sacred Heart, where they did surgery to remove it. The outcome was better than we could’ve hoped. It was not a tumor. And it was not cancerous. It was a mass of blood vessels that had burst. . . A congenital defect. They removed the mass, and the location of the bleed affected only his speech. With therapy he has made almost a full recovery.

These things among many other tragedies and misfortunes in my life are not things I would ever have hoped to have dealt with. They are things I wish my family did not have to deal with. But I have to ask myself. . . Would I be the person I am today without them? Would my family be the same family I know and cherish today? Would any of us truly know what joy is without feeling pain?

The answer I found was a resounding “no”.

Seeing my mother fight her Lupus every day taught me to never give up. Seeing my dad go through brain surgery taught me what courage really is. Coming so close to losing both of them taught me to cherish every second I am given with them. And with every struggle, every, misfortune, and every close call I have experienced, I am continuously amazed at the love that pours out of such horrible experiences. . . Love that comes from my community, my friends, family, loved ones, and even people I barely know.

So, be thankful for all of it. Without the lows, there would be no highs. Without the bad, we would never appreciate the good.

 

 

Love Without Boundaries, Forgive Without Reason

 

 

June was marked by the start of my official “no Facebook month.” I actually deactivated my account a few days prior to June and honestly could not have been happier with the decision. I was more connected with those around me. I felt less jealousy and depression trying to keep up with what everyone else had achieved. I was reading more, started planning several vacations and art projects, and started spending more time with my loved ones.

Things were going fabulously. I was loving life, the people in it, and the amazing opportunities I was given. I realized somewhere along the way, that I have been blessed beyond measure, and I began living every day to its fullest.

But, as is often the case with life’s journey, when things are going great there’s always something that has the potential to disrail this happiness. And of course, my life was not immune to this phenomenon.

I was told this time would come. I was warned he would contact me again, even though he dropped contact with me many months ago. One of my very close friends, and someone who knew both him and I very well, told me several months ago “He’s not done with you Andrea. He can’t let you go. I’m not convinced you’re not going to get a text from him in the future.”

She was correct.

Only a few days into the month of June I woke up to a text. A text from someone I have had absolutely zero contact with in almost 6 months. There was no name attached to the message, just a string of ten numbers. Ten numbers I have memorized all to well. I deleted his contact information a long time ago, but the numbers, just like the memories I cannot force my brain to forget, no matter how hard I try.

It took me two whole days to work up the courage to open the message. When I received it my heart was racing. My hands were physically shaking. He was obviously someone I was no longer excited to hear from.

When I finally worked up the courage to open the message it read, “I’m sorry I never responded to your email. I guess I was bitter from everything I suppose. I just want you to know that I am sorry for all the shitty ways I treated you. I apologize. You did nothing but care and I was an asshole. I hope you are doing well Andrea. :)”

The email he was referring to, I had sent him shortly before he left town six months ago. I honestly don’t remember what it even said, because I deleted it, along with almost every other bit of evidence that reminded me that he was ever a part of my life (for my own sanity). But I think the condensed version was along the lines of, “I’m sorry. We both have our faults. I wish you the best.” Something that today, I realize I shouldn’t have sent him, because continuing contact with him was a disservice to both him and I, regardless of what I had to say.

Without any context, or knowing the relationship I was in, the text may seem heartfelt and sincere to the people reading this. After all it was an apology. And while it is entirely possible that it was sincere, I will tell you, I had received countless apologies identical to this one in the past, and they were nothing but a way to manipulate me. Something that worked every time, because I allowed it every time, and I only have myself to blame for that.

For instance, one of these apologies in the past, came shortly after he had been in the bar drinking several states away. He had tried to hook up with the bartender who shut him down after he had drank too much and apparently made a fool of himself. Something I only found out because he told my friend the whole story a week or two later. If I remember correctly we weren’t technically together at that time, although honestly it was hard to keep track of (we were constantly on again, off again.) However, he knew that no matter what our status was, I would be waiting to accept whatever apology he gave me, and in a bizarre turn of events, beg him to come back to me. Something that helped him feel better about himself, and drug me further into my own self hatred.

Thankfully, I have changed immensely from the person he once knew. I am no longer an option. I am no longer a doormat. I no longer base my own self acceptance on someone else’s ability (or lack of ability) to love me. It’s been several months and he very well may have changed as well. Sadly, after the relationship I had with him all I will ever see from him is manipulation, no matter how sincere the apology may actually be, and no matter how much he may have actually changed. That’s the saddest part of it all for me. . . The fact that it is possible, although in my mind, almost completely unlikely, that he is apologizing for sincere reasons.

The thing is though, I don’t need a sincere apology to forgive him. In fact I don’t need an apology at all. I realized I had, and still do have, just as many faults as he does, and for that reason, among many others, my heart let go of the hate along time ago. Something, that if we’re being honest, probably helped me a lot more than it did him.

With that being said, today forgiveness for me does not look like pushing my needs aside and being a doormat. I realized that I had a very poor understanding of what forgiveness was, and today I wish him nothing but the best, however I do not desire any form of contact with him. It is an experience I could not, and will not, put myself through again. It is an experience that I do not deserve. And so, after reading the text, I deleted it, with no plans of communicating with him now, or in the future.

In the past, not responding to his apologies was difficult for me. Partially because, as a child I was told to never leave someone on bad terms or without them knowing that you love and care for them. After all, you never know when that person might be taken from you. I also struggled with the fact that when someone who was a major part of your life decides not to respond, that usually sends a pretty harsh message in regards to your feelings towards that person. A message I hope he does not assume I feel towards him when he receives no contact from me in the future.

But by now I hope he knows my heart and the person I am deep inside. And although there was a time when I truly hated him, something that to this day is hard for me to admit, it was something out of character for me, and something my heart could not hold onto. I hope he knows that I still truly care about him. . . I hope he knows that there is no room for hate in my heart, and that he is no exception. However, in order for me to heal the wounds I caused, I cannot go back to the one thing that I kept burning myself with. . . And that was him.

In the end, the experience that I had with him taught me how to love and forgive someone I didn’t even like, and somewhere between the turmoil I created in my life, and the settling of the dust and wreckage, I realized that I too, deserve the forgiveness, love, compassion, and healing I so freely believed he and everyone else deserved. I realized that although I fail miserably every day at being the person I strive to be, liking every aspect of who I am and what I do, should not be a requirement for loving and forgiving myself. I can truly say now that I want what’s best for everyone. However, today I can happily say that, “everyone” also includes myself. And if there is one thing that I learned above all others, it is that nobody has the ability to affect my happiness unless I allow them to, and that is a privilege he no longer has.

Love > Fear

Does clinginess automatically equate to low self esteem? Some people would say yes, but I tend to think clinginess has more to do with fear, than low self esteem.

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been entirely way to clingy in the past. Not just in romantic relationships either. I can remember at a very young age never wanting to leave my mom’s side. On the first day of kindergarten my mom got out of the car, went around to my side, and as she was walking around, I locked the doors from the inside so she couldn’t get me out. . . Okay, first of all, can we just take a moment to applaud the fact that I was such a brilliant little shit head of a child. Like, “Haha, jokes on you. You’re not getting to me, and you’re not driving home either, because you left the keys in the ignition” I think I deserve an award for that one. 😉 But in all honesty I did it because I was terrified of her leaving me. I would get stomach aches every day from worrying. One time my mom forgot to pick me up (she says she didn’t forget me, but I know the true story), and I clung to the door of my class sobbing because I was terrified she wasn’t ever coming back.

Just to clarify, my family life was good. Actually it was great. Nobody ever “left me,” and I had no reason to think my mom wouldn’t come back to get me. But, I’ve also always been considered an old soul, with a deeper understanding of things than most people my age. As my coworker said the other day, “Your body might be 27, but you’re like a thousand years old inside.” And I think, even at a very young age, I always knew that even though my loved ones would never purposely leave me, that the fear I had that I might not ever see them again was a very valid fear.

Years later, when it came to dating, I was that girl you hear about. The “clingy girl” all guys hate. I think it’s because any guy I’ve dated, I have dated with the intention of being in their life for the long haul, hoping the same in return, but knowing full well I may not get that same type of love back. I was probably the clingiest with the guy I trusted the least. Which makes sense, because the reasons I didn’t trust him were valid, and while I knew I would give it my all and never leave, I knew deep down, that wasn’t something that was going to be reciprocated.

I love fast. Always have, and always will. It’s surprising to even myself, that I’m so fast to love people, because love of any kind is probably the one thing that can and will bring you the most heartache, and is probably one of the scariest things I can think of doing. Speaking in regards to romance, my love is different than a lot of people my age though. I don’t believe in a love that is a feeling, I believe in a love that says, “I’m going to be faithful to you even if this feeling changes.” One that says, “I’m gonna stick this out through thick and thin, but I will do my best never to intentionally hurt you”.

I’m not stupid though. I am very aware that the divorce rate today is almost half of all marriages. I know that guys will say all the right things only to get into a girls pants. That the couples that seem happiest on the outside, are one argument away from calling it quits. And that every day, a shiny new “object” comes along that tempts someone into jeopardizing a relationship that they won’t find just anywhere else.

So, loving anyone, romantic or otherwise, is quite a terrifying thing, and I think that some people tend to become clingy because of that. Clinginess is a form of control, and when people feel they have control, they feel safer. However, it is a very false sense of security because as anyone with any sense knows, you can’t control anyone but yourself. The people that are going to leave you, are going to leave regardless.

Even if you could control people though, sometimes people leave us by no choice of their own. Sometimes people are taken from us in seemingly unfair ways. We never know when the last time we will talk to our loved ones will be. Honestly, it’s terrifying, but this world is, and always will be, a vortex of constant change.

Personally speaking, I think I will always deep down be a clingy person. I will always be attached to people deeply, and I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. I love people. I worry about them. I want them in my life, and they should feel flattered that they mean that much to me.

That being said, I don’t think people would consider me clingy that know me today, because it won’t show in constant texts, or having to be around the ones I love all the time, because I know that’s not healthy, and I work daily on controlling that.

Clinginess left unchecked will eat away at the people you love the most. Extreme clinginess conjures up images for me of a child hugging their puppy so tight they suffocate it. It’s like loving something so much you won’t let it breathe, grow, flourish, and live life on its own. And to be honest, that really isn’t love.

Love is terrifying. There is no getting around it. It opens your heart up to the possibility of immense pain. But if you fight through the fear, and love how you want to be loved, it is then you will realize love is far greater than fear.