reflections on 2015

I’m not quite sure where time has gone. 2015 slipped away from me before I had time to acknowledge its arrival. It was a year of many changes, good and bad, and was possibly one of the most difficult years of my adult life. Reflecting back is difficult as I tend to bury bad memories since they are too painful to hold onto, but I’ve recently been reminded that we can’t truly experience joy or happiness unless we also also allow ourselves to experience pain, grief, and sadness (Brené Brown is such a breath of fresh air).

Until now, having allowed myself to more fully absorb the past 12 months, I hadn’t realized how difficult a year it was. I stumbled into 2015 stressed, oppressed, and mentally, physically, and emotionally fatigued. I think I survived the first few months by never stopping, never slowing down, never allowing myself to breath, to dream, to live. If I just go, go, go, go, then I don’t have to sort through and process my hurt, my wounds, my pain, or even admit how unhealthy I am. I’m thankful for family who often seems to know me better than I know myself, as they supported me, encouraged me, and spoke truth to me, even when I was unwilling to see it.

2015 brought so much doubt, insecurity, and anxiety. Over and over again, I questioned everything. Who am I? Where am I going? What am I doing? Did I really just say that?! Why am I so stupid? What if I made a mistake? What if I get hurt? I have nothing, I am nothing, I have so little to offer… if I never try, then I can never fail, and if I never fail, I’ll never get hurt. So many times I just wanted to sit in a shell and protect myself from shame, embarrassment, and humiliation. It felt so much easier than to have to confess my failures and shortcomings to the world. I was reminded that my concerns and fears are so small and so futile. Every time I acted (in spite of my anxiety), I was shown how limited a perspective I have and how little I actually know or control. The pieces always fell into place exactly when they needed to, and always different (and better) than I’d hoped or dreamed.

I also experienced and saw so much loss and hurt in 2015. It was a painful year from the very beginning, starting off with the violent loss of a client, a tragic death of a friend’s dear husband (a man born just days before Jesse), the unfathomable death of a baby, an agonizing loss to suicide, another life stolen by overdose… my heart and eyes are swelling as I write this, and though more lives were lost, I’m stopping there so I can cherish and remember these precious souls, because they’re more than just a list. Losing these people and watching their families and loved ones mourn and try to pick up the pieces of their broken hearts has taken my breath away. These families are so resilient and so inspirational, and I am grateful for their transparency and willingness to continue loving and living fully. I’m not sure that I would have the strength.

Additionally, 2015 brought about losses of relationships. For the first time in my life, I was allowed to see the raw pain of individuals going through breakups/divorces. Never before have I been able to see how excruciating it is to end a relationship and process through the rubble and debris that is left behind, like completely redefining one’s identity, friendships, goals, purpose, and future while also having to reconcile one’s past. The life that was so carefully stitched together has to be painstakingly ripped apart and a mourning process must follow each time a thread is torn. There’s no rushing the process; let’s be real, we’re talking about the aftermath of the loss and betrayal of one’s most trusted and valued friend and ally. We have to learn how to trust, breath, think, and behave all over again while being in one our darkest states. It’s going to be messy and painful, and we’re going to lash out and hurt the people who are trying to love and support us, or vice versa. I learned so much about being a friend this year and am grateful for trust and forgiveness despite my shortcomings and failures.

Those experiences also led to the realization that there are two different types of families: the one I’m born into/married into, and the one I choose/adopt. Sometimes those two are the same, but I realized for the first time this year that family goes beyond just blood, and that blood doesn’t mean someone is family. This year I really grew to be aware of who my family is and I had my first taste of a new kind of love and support during what could have been an incredibly dark ending to the year. My family, the one I chose (some blood, some not), was willing to listen to me cry, process, grieve, question, accuse, begin to accept, and confess to some realizations. Being affirmed by and given their support, love, listening ears, seeds of wisdom, and voices of truth (over and over again, because I have a thick skull) was one of the best parts of 2015, despite the circumstances that led to it. I am grateful for all they have invested into me, as well as their seemingly endless patience with me, as I’m not always the quickest learner. I’m grateful that 2015 gave me a chance to redefine and begin to understand what family truly is. Here’s another 12 months (11 now) of learning and growing, and hopefully not repeating the same mistakes.

921471_1685181075029939_7154954108162753417_o

Las Ramblas

orwellplaca
Plaça de George Orwell, just a few feet from our apartment.

I woke up in a panic several hours later. What time was it?! Did we really just waste an entire precious afternoon? No, it was only about 4:30pm; we had time yet. Still groggy and less than fully operational, we forced ourselves out of the bed and made our way back down the stairs and into the bustling city below. We headed back over to Las Ramblas to continue the tour we had begun earlier, but in much greater comfort without the ~30lb backpacks in tow.

The famous street had completely columbusstatuetransformed since we walked it around 11am. We’d experienced a ghost-town when we’d first arrived but now found ourselves elbow to elbow with tourists. We headed down to the harbor and practically had to swim through schools of people to get there. At the end of Las Ramblas, we found ourselves greeted by a 200-foot Christopher Columbus monument. Thanks to our handy guidebook, we learned about the irony of this monument as it was upon discovery of the “New World” that Barcelona fell into a 300-year economic slump, since trade routes were shifted west and away from the Mediterranean. In fact, it only began making a recovery ~150 years ago. Sadly, the monument was at a far too busy intersection; with all the cars zipping by and tourists flocking around, it was difficult to get a close look at the details and symbolism of the monument.

lasramblas
Las Ramblas
knight
Human Statue on Las Ramblas

We crossed a busy highway and wandered over to a nearby park just off the harbor. It was so peaceful and nice to sit and rest in the midst of all the chaos and stimulation, especially near the end of such a long day. Apparently others had the same thoughts, as there weren’t many empty grass patches to be found; people were sprawled everywhere, picnicking, reading, napping, and lounging. Realizing we were hungry, we consulted our guidebook before ditching the park and once again headed back up Las Ramblas, this time to Taverna Basca Irati for our first experience with a tapas bar. On the way, we passed the famed human statues/street performers. They were incredible and had truly mastered their art. These weren’t like the amateur ones we had seen in San Francisco a few years back; these were beautiful and elaborate, the masters of their craft. Having been warned of the presence of pickpockets anywhere crowds were gathered, Jesse and I only lingered a few seconds before continuing to the tapas bar.

Taverna Basca Iratitapasbar was a welcome sight; we were famished. The bartender was incredibly helpful and pleasant. He spoke many languages at at least a conversational level: Español, Català, Français, Italiano, and English. It was ridiculous and made me slightly embarrassed. I was scraping by with what little Spanish I knew, but was nowhere near conversational and had a very difficult time keeping up with the string of words coming from the locals’ mouths. Anyway, we cotapas2nsumed a glass of white wine, red wine, and several tapas, all of which were delicious. The tapas were fun and full of flavor. I think I tried my first anchovy that day, as well as several mystery ingredients. Most were delicious and it was fun to let the flavors explode in my mouth. Even the house wine was stellar! Needless to say, we thoroughly enjoyed our tapas experience. At the end, we turned in our plate of toothpicks and he counted them to tally our cuenta (1.95€/tapas).

After settling up, we were off to explore more of this rich city!

Trust

It has been so long since I’ve written.

I used to find such joy in reading and writing. Now I must make a conscious effort to do either. It has become much harder to choose words that come to life and create imagery. I miss it. I crave the mental state in which my writing flourishes. For now, my head is slammed with technicalities, statistics, and research. School has caused me to read and write factually; the art of painting with words has been lost.

My ponderings today:

Why are those closest to me the ones who threaten me most? It is something about letting my emotional guard down and pouring into them… I know their secrets, they know mine. I’ve exposed myself to them. I can’t take it back. I subconsciously dive into a world of comparison, of devaluing the life and decisions of those around me. I destroy my own trust as I wander into a mental prison and compare myself to others’. I get offended by things I’ve only perceived committed, never by a definitive act. I spend my time judging the motives of others in order to escape confronting my heart. I excuse the futility of my life by focusing on the flaws of others. My own thoughts create distance in my relationships. I spend my time doubting the sincerity of my friends. Hours after we’ve hugged goodbye, my mind is replaying the day in attempts to see what I missed, searching for evidence of feigned affections. In doing so, I hurt everyone.

Do I battle alone, or does everyone flee vulnerability? Having been emotionally ambushed once, am I just running from pain? Is bitterness my self-defense? Do I need to know the root of my problem in order to change? All I know is I need to shed my emotionally bullet proof vest and take the bullets out of my gun. I can never be a friend while viewing everyone as an enemy.

mourning

in your moment of darkness….
as the tears pour down your cheeks…
as your heart is twisted and wrung…
as the memories flash before your eyes…

don’t allow yourself to be emptied.
look past your tears, into the present.
don’t forget those who are near.

we’re all here but a moment…
don’t waste your time wishing for more.
don’t stop creating new memories.
embrace those you still have.

there are others who need your love.
they are starving for a fraction of the time
you have spent crying and remembering.

monster

I don’t expect many of you to understand or relate to this, but those of you who do, I shudder with you. Hold on tight.

——

this monster beckons me closer.

its whispers thoughts into my head

and seduces me with pain.

surrender and i will find comfort.

my burden is too great to carry alone.

i’ve done wrong, but nobody knows.

nobody can know. but he knows.

this monster knows. he knows me.

it’s safe in his lair. i embrace his darkness.

the shadows cover me.

i stumble along, following his voice.

i’m getting closer now.

the air in here is cold, stale.

i can’t hear anything but his voice.

even my own thoughts are lost; they become his.

further and further i walk, seeking comfort in his arms.

–j.e.b.d. 6/12/12

Trash

It’s good to be faced with reality of who and what you are. I’m a very, very broken person. I realize and feel it more and more each day. I have a lot of trash in my past and present that I’ve locked away in a closet. I pretend it doesn’t exist. I don’t want to face it. I don’t want to go through the agony of trying to sort through it and clean myself up. There’s more than decade of junk locked away. If I open the door, it might vomit everywhere.

I want to be a small child. When I crash my bike and scrape up me knee and I’m crying, I want someone to tell me it’s okay, that I’ll get better, that the wound will heal. I want someone to pick me up, wash my wound, put a band-aid on, and kiss me on the cheek to cheer me.

I don’t want to clean and bandage my own wounds. I don’t want to tell myself things will get better, that the wounds will heal. I don’t want to acknowledge the wounds I’ve given my friends. I don’t want to see their scars.

I’m not so innocent, and it’s not such a pleasant feeling.