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I drove through light flurries of snow. Keeping one eye on the road, I reached into my purse for my cell phone, quickly checking the display. No missed calls. Moments later I heard a beep. Then again, a more insistent beep. I flipped open the phone with a quick "hi," smiling at my best friendís voice on the other end. After hastily given directions, I say, "Iíll be there in two minutes."
Smiling, I think to myself that only your best friend can make you smile without doing anything, simply because she cares, you care, and you both know it.
So many thoughts running through my head. Plans, ideasÖ worries.
Term papers, new work schedule, job application, grades, tuition payments, departmental meetings, distant graduation plansÖ
Some worries are more personal: damaged relationships, distant family, demanding friendsÖ
Other worries are simply stupid and strange: what if I forget to do the laundry, or it snows tomorrow, or I make a fool of myself at that party next week. What if I crash my car or I get arrested for a traffic violation...
Itís nonsensical. Worrying doesnít help. But I create new problems just so my mind has something to fret over.
I didnít want to get up this morning. I knew I had a million things to do, but instead of being a productive individual, I curled up in the blankets and buried my face in a pillow.
Eventually, I got up. It was inevitable.
Hours later, and I find myself curled up on the couch, wrapped in a warm sweatshirt, with paper and pen balanced in my lap. Pages of work spread out before me. I wonder why itís so hard to get the words to form ideas, and the ideas to form meaning, and the meaning to make sense.
You know that insanely good feeling you get when you realize that months of hard work have transformed into an actual, bona fide, real life accomplishment? Maybe you havenít earned anything in the material sense, but you
something. Some project has been completed. Some challenge has been met. And it feels good.
Of course, there is always another challenge, another project, another seemingly impossible task. But right now, in this moment, I just want to relish the fact that I have accomplished something. It doesnít have to be a big
, just a something that is relevant to me.
I walked into work early this morning. The building was dark and empty. Instantly I began to imagine. What if someone had been locked in? What if I wasnít alone? I conjured monsters and dramatic scenarios fit for horror films or soap operas. I thought I felt someone watching me, ominously. I imagined footsteps creeping down the halls.
I know itís just my overactive imagination. It prevents me from focusing, or drives me insane, pestering my mind with ideas that are too quickly forgotten and too slowly executed. It keeps me up at night, thinking over possibilities and what ifs.
A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. I say pictures distort reality, as though theyíre painted with a rosy glow. I see faces looking back at me Ė smiling, happy, beautiful faces, like a perfect, shining dream.
I like to see my own happy pictures. But when I look at someone elseís picturesÖ I envy the happiness I see, the experiences theyíve had, the friends theyíve known.
But maybe itís a glittery fairy tale. A trick of the lights, and the lens, and distance created by glossy paper that blocks the troubling reality and only presents a flawless finish.
Sometimes I think that we are all
isolated bits of reality.
We are all wrapped up
in our own little world,
our tiny pinprick of existence.
No one can comprehend
that the man across the street and the grocery story clerk,
all have their own little pinprick,
which seems all consuming to them.
We walk through life with blinders on,
focused on the narrow path we construct before us.
Afraid of being left behind,
everyone looks out for themselves,
until we forget that there is anyone else.
We donít want to get lost in the crowd,
so we stand alone.
I peered through the wires of the cage to see dark eyes and a furry nose poking out. I had never thought that trapping a few cats would be so hard. Out of the five kittens, my favorite gray fluff ball stared out at me and gave a pathetic meow. I spoke to him, telling him everything would be fine. The pitiful meow turned to deep, contented purring. Incessant purring. I wondered at how he could so easily accept my reassurance. I stuck the tip of my finger through the wires. He just kept purring, his initial panic apparently gone.
While decorating the Christmas tree tonight, my parents laughed and enjoyed the festivities. I merrily joined in. Later, I couldnít help but think of Christmases past. There was the dreary year spent in a hospital room halfway across the country. There was the time I will always remember as the year I spent crying while my parents fought and my brother rebelled.
This year is easier. Better. Calmer. But in retrospect, the laughter still surprises me. It shouldnít, but I know it can be fleeting and I want to hold on to every good moment I can manage to remember.
Iím not anti-social. I donít hate people. Iím not socially inept, or at least, not any more inept than most people. Today I spent almost four hours with my mom and my best friend, just walking though the mall and talking. So itís not that Iím anti-social. But my roommate makes me anti-social. Often, I simply donít want to talk to her. Sometimes, I donít even want to be around her. And when she complains that we havenít ďhung outĒ lately, I want to snap at her and say that I donít exist just to keep her from feeling lonely.
When I first tried writing these little drabbles, I intended them to be an exercise in conciseness. Quickly they turned into a form of therapy, and an attempt to overcome writerís block. Canít think of what to write? Canít transfer ideas to paper? Write a drabble! One hundred short words to overcome that initial fear of connecting words and thoughts. Youíll be so focused on making sure you have written exactly one hundred words that youíll forget to care if youíve written pure crap. Sometimes it helps. Sometimes, I still feel like Iím just spinning my wheels and standing still.
I spent a busy, work-filled day fantasizing about a nap and trying to ignore a pounding headache. Of course when I came home, I decided a nap was unnecessary. But a few hours later, barely able to focus on whatever was in front of me, I decided to lay down for a little while. A ďlittle whileĒ turned into two hours. I awoke to darkness, and the realization that it was now too late in the day to get anything done. So maybe I should just go to bed and deal with reality, such as it is, in the morning.
Iím trying to write my
. I wonder how to express my life in bland summarization and bulleted lists. Are we merely lines on a rťsumť?
means ďcourse of life.Ē Is life an endless course of study, or a journey that must run its course?
What is my
course of life
Itís the months I spent living on a frozen lake. My whirlwind trip to Italy. The night I held my friend while she cried over her fatherís death. The times Iíve spent watching raindrops fall.
Perhaps, despite our best attempts, life cannot be quantified.
headlights glinting off the windows,
drops of water trailing down.
the cars move, carrying people,
but I just sit alone.
the lights glitter,
but itís not starlight.
the sky stretches above me,
but itís not endless.
my chest constricts, convulses, tightens.
harsh, hollow, gasping breaths
echo in my head.
a short space away,
fellow prisoners of this traffic jam
sit in their own metal encased cages.
beads of water trickle down the glass
like dew on roses,
or tears on porcelain.
the lights glint off the droplets,
reflecting in the water on the windows
and the drops upon my face.
Why do sibling rivalries refuse to die? I am an adult, and should no longer care if my parents show more affection to my older brother. We are in our twenties, for crying out loud! We should have outgrown this competition for attention and approval. I shouldnít still be comparing myself to him, shouldnít worry that people will think heís better than me. I shouldnít be this melodramatic, or this bitter. I shouldnít have such a chip on my shoulder.
But childhood insecurities refuse to die, and when I look at my brother, all I see is my perceived inferiority.
I donít know why people think that shopping in December is fun. Do people get dumber in large crowds? And yet, I went out and joined them. Voluntarily! Twice! Youíd think I would have learned after getting stuck in the mall parking lot yesterday. But I didnít learn. So today, I went out again. Out into the sea of stressed out shoppers moving like a mob, or else standing in the middle of the walkway. People swarming, fretting, honking. They become more like animals than humans. Itís absurd. Maybe I should spend Christmas with the reindeer. It might be safer.
I felt like I was developing a cold just before finals week. I was too busy to get sick, so I remained firmly in denial. For two weeks now, I have repeatedly convinced myself that I managed to fight off the irritating little virus, only to start coughing again. This morning I woke up feeling like Iíd swallowed a razor blade and been hit on the head with a hammer. Imagining that I had developed a fever, I rolled over and went back to sleep. I crawled out of bed around noon, chiding myself for believing that I was sick.
Why am I so terrified of not being perfect? Do I really believe that failing to find the perfect Christmas present will alienate my friends and family?
Iíve been told that Iím too hard on myself and itís true. Socially, academically, professionally, personallyÖ in every way you can think of. I have absurdly high standards and I beat myself up when I fail to achieve them. I pile all this unnecessary pressure on myself. Sometimes I need a reality check to remind myself itís okay that Iím not perfect. This pressure doesnít help. It just leads to fear and regret.
Some days seem surreal.
Work is mundane. Iím stuck in a fog of mild depression that seems to lack both cause and end. The hazy feeling separates me from reality, interposing a thin veil between my mind and the world around me.
I go to the store and, purely by chance, run into my best friend. We walk and chat, but for the life of me I couldnít tell you what was said. She comes and goes, but Iím still in a cloud, thinking that chance meetings donít have a place in reality. But whoís to say this is reality?
As I drove, my mood vacillating, listening to the radio, suddenly I stopped. Not literally, I continued driving, but my mind stopped, which is a miracle in and of itself. I stopped to think. The Ďexpertsí claim that loneliness increases at Christmas, when we should be reminded that we are never alone. Itís not popular or politically correct to say so, but Christmas celebrates the fact that the God of the universe became flesh to be with
, to save
, to meet us here in our darkness and loneliness, in spite of what weíve done or what weíve become.
Things Iíd like to do someday Ė
See the great pyramids.
Wake up in the morning with enthusiasm, instead of hiding under the covers.
Paint a lovely sunset.
Buy a really outlandish pair of high heals and wear them all over town.
See the beauty of a frozen landscape, without noticing the cold.
Laugh in the face of criticism, because I know Iíve done my best.
Listen to someone boasting without feeling smaller because of their words.
Dance in the rain when someone else is watching, instead of only dancing when Iím sure that Iím alone.
Fall in love.
Today was a more usual day than most. Or perhaps unusual. Itís hard to tell the difference.
After a restless night, I crawled out of bed and went to work. The parking lot was hell on earth, but thatís normal at the mall the weekend before Christmas.
Later, I learned that I owe ten cents on my credit card bill. And apparently, at age twenty-two, my part-time job is providing me retirement benefits. After a nap, I was groggy but giddy, and settled down to immerse myself in crazy sci-fi land.
So, it was a more ordinary day than usual.
I sit cross-legged on the floor, breathing in and out. The ground feels all too real beneath me, and I think of nothing as I sit, staring without seeing, my mind working, always turning without focus or reason. The world blurs before my eyes. I breathe slowly and feel the air disappear. Sitting all alone and singing to myself, snippets of a song I canít even remember. I hear the rain still beating on the pavement and dancing in my head. I know the pounding heartache wonít stop, but sometimes thereís nothing I wouldnít do for a moment of peace.
After a ďquickĒ trip to the store for bananas, I asked why mom put the bananas in the microwave, causing hysterical laughter due to my confusion. There was more laughter when mom realized I never learned to bake bread. Apparently I was kneading it too softly. Both of my parents accused me of playing with the pumpkin instead of baking the pie, although I was trying to get the bubbles out of the custard. There was still more laughter at my horrible foresight and unbelievable luck at cards.
Christmas Eve was quiet, but filled with laughter, and thatís what counts.
Iíd never had a white Christmas before. I wondered if the snow would somehow transform the landscape into a golden world of fairy tales and happy memories. It didnít, but the winter wonderland seemed just a bit more childlike. We watched large, fluffy white flakes drift to the ground. My older brother dashed outside, proclaiming ďIíve never made a snowman on Christmas before.Ē So we did. Just the two of us. It reminded me of childhood wonder. We laughed when the snowmanís head fell off, because that always seemed to happen, no matter how hard we tried to prevent it.
By forcing myself to write one hundred words a day (a pitifully small sum, if the truth be told), I have learned something about my writing habits. Despite my night owl tendencies, I am not at my most creative point late at night. Night provides time, quiet, solitude, and freedom from distractions, but that doesnít mean itís my most creative time. So while it seems like writing should be easy, I stare at my computer screen wondering what I could possibly write thatís worth saying. Itís only one hundred little words, for crying out loud! It shouldnít be this difficult.
We talk about freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from tyrannyÖ but freedom implies enslavement, constraint, repression, something to be freed
Freedom from selfishness and self interest. Freedom from anxiety, worry, and paralyzing fear.
Or perhaps it is freedom
Ė Freedom to dance, freedom to believe, freedom to act. Free to be real, instead of just a sham. Free to peel back the layers of illusion and expectation to reveal who you want to be, who you once were. Free to admit your mistakes, to own your failings without being crushed by the weight. Free to be genuine.
I have this friendÖ well, sheís kind of a friend. To be honest, our friendship has deteriorated over the last year to the point where Iím not sure what to call our relationship. I think sheís avoiding me. She said she would e-mail me, but after two weeksÖ nothing. Itís like sheís throwing a juvenile temper tantrum: ďI wonít e-mail until you e-mail me first, so there.Ē She plays the victim: ďYou never talk to me.Ē But Iím tired of initiating conversation. This whatever-it-is relationship would work a lot better if she was willing to put some effort into it.
I have too many ideas floating in my head. Hopes and fears. Plans, and the perils involved in completing them. Strategies for success, and the optimism to see me through. All swirling around so fast it feels like my cranium is about to explode. I am so hyped up, so energized, but Iím not in a fit state to actually work on any of these plans because I canít sit still for more than a minute. I keep pacing, as though my body could keep up with my mind. As though the physical action could somehow release the excess energy.
When I was a kid, a silly kid who watched too much TV, I always dreamed of going to some fabulous New Yearís Eve party. Iím not sure what I expected this infamous party to be likeÖ dancing, fancy alcoholic beverages, some guy who would kiss me at midnightÖ I had this fantasy life in my head. I would live in a big city, and have a glamorous jobÖ
People on TV are all the same. They live in Chicago, New York, or L.A. and have these fantasy lives. Thatís what I wanted. But none of itís real. Or worthwhile.
Tired and groggy is not a good way to end the year. But when I stop to think about it, Iíve come a long way. Not just today, as I drove up a mountain, skied through the snow, came home again, and departed for a friendly evening of laughter and fun. But Iíve also come a long way in the year behind me. I refocused on my writing, started graduate school, had an epiphany or two, and some smaller revelations along the way. Iím different than when I started out. Itís not monetary success, but itís growth, and itís enough.
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