~S

DOY 18 Runnin'

RUNNIN’

The hole inside of me is me
Where I’m supposed to be

Not you, not he, not God
Can fill the gap where I should be

I’ve run, I’ve hid for all these years
Too afraid, too many fears
Of what I’d find if I should shine
The light on me

Guess I thought it was wasted
The inside spaces
Guess I thought she was useless
Who’d want to be her friend?

Guess I wasn’t sure what I would fine
In that inside space that’s mine
And what if she wasn’t worth it?
So I hid

Make it about other people
Don’t make it about yourself
Keep on runnin’, runnin’, runnin’
Just keep it spinnin’, spinnin’, spinnin’

If someone asks
Just turn around
Just shove it down, down, down
And never slow down

And you can keep yourself hidden
That’s how I did it
Move so fast you can’t see you

But don’t start running like I did
Cause it’s harder to unrun
It’s harder to unspin
It’s harder to see yourself
After all these years
And you don’t even know what you look like

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~S

DOY 17 Halo.jpg

HALO

My brother Dave sometimes takes me by surprise. Dave is a simple man, usually focused on having fun and probably having a drink. He doesn’t take life too seriously and thinks you should do the same. If Dave were only allowed a two-word vocabulary he might choose ‘beer’ and ‘Frisbee,’ or maybe ‘beer’ and ‘Margaret’ (his fiancée). ‘Beer’ would definitely be one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he’s a Neanderthal walking around grunting one-word sentences—he’s got the brains of an engineer (cause he is one) and like any good southern boy, knows how to break out the charm. But you won’t catch him waxing philosophical about life. He sells himself as a jokester and a tough guy, but what some people don’t know about Dave is that he’s actually a bit of a sage.

It goes like this. At odd moments, when there’s a lot of beer and Frisbee or something similar going on, Dave will casually make some comment. If you were paying attention you would realize it sounded a bit like Confucius, but then it’s right back to beer and Frisbee so most people don’t notice. Plus, he says it in the same tone he says, ‘pass me that Gatorade’ so it’s understandable that it gets missed. But if you were listening you would’ve noticed that a nugget of wisdom just got dropped in between the game strategy and the story of how so-and-so got a bloody nose. I’m looking around going, ‘did anyone notice that?’ But nope. No one. I don’t think he even realizes he’s doing it. The wisdom of the universe strikes him at random moments and he is a conduit—an unwitting sage.

We were all grown and back at my parents’ house for some holiday and my brothers had convinced me to play a video game with them, which I never do. Maybe it was Halo or something, but I don’t know anything about these things. (Now they’re going to be yelling at me, “Halo?! No, it wasn’t Halo!”) Look, it was one of those ones where everyone kills each other (isn’t that all of them?) that’s the important part. So the game starts and my youngest brother blows me up in the first two seconds.

“GAH!” Dave yells at him. “What are you doing?!?!” Daniel, looking confused and a little embarrassed at being scolded was surely thinking, Did I make a mistake?

“What? I killed her,” stating the obvious, still confused. “She’s not on my team, was she?”

“No she’s not on your team, but you can’t kill her right away. Then she won’t want to play anymore.” Awww, my big brother. Such compassion.

“You have to teach her and help her to get better. Then it’ll be a better game and more fun for all of us.” Such wise words.

“Just help her to get better.” See he cares about me.

Then you can kill her. Heh.” Yep, that’s my bro.

~S

doy-16-rosa

ROSA

Rosa is my little white doggie. She’s not that different from most humans since all she wants out of life is to be able to curl up in a comfy spot on the couch. Rosa had a little sister who she treated like the brat she could sometimes be. ‘Get this child away from me,’ was the silent scream in Rosa’s eyes. But when Perla died, Rosa cried and cried and wouldn’t eat. So I got her a new playmate. This one is even more playful than the first. Rosa spends most of her time trying to get away from her new sister Marigold, but when they are genuinely separated Rosa cries. See, she only takes social interaction when it is forced on her but when she doesn’t have it she cries. I feel you, Rosa. I’m the same way. If I had my way I would never interact with anyone, but I know if I don’t eventually I will cry.

At the dog park Rosa hides behind me. There are a few moments when she is curious enough about another dog that she forgets that she is afraid. She follows after them for a few paces before scampering back to home base.

Maybe after enough times at the dog park Rosa will gradually become like those well-socialized dogs that run around in packs and chase balls and play with everyone they meet, but not likely. In fact, if she did she would cease to be Rosa. It’s more likely that she’ll grow a little more comfortable but never love dog parks. Maybe ideal social interaction for her is a playmate who is just like her, who wants to cuddle up with her in relative silence while they lick their paws. Or maybe it’s some combination of the two—her becoming a little less afraid, and also finding some friends who are better suited to her. Until then, I keep her sister near but also a little ways off, I am there to swoop her up when she is feeling overwhelmed.

See, I’m like you Rosa. I force myself to socialize but I also need my cosmic handler to be ready to swoop in and rescue me when someone is not playing very nice. Knowing that there’s a force that is looking out for me helps me to keep getting out there. I’m sure I’ll grow gradually over time and learn to enjoy people more, but I won’t become a completely different person. So finding some companions who are easy to be with would also be nice. Maybe I’ll even find someone who wants to cuddle up and people watch and mostly not talk. Hopefully some combination of those things.

Until then we just have to keep at it and keep trying. It will get better, Rosa. Remember there is someone looking out for you and let that give you courage. And just keep trying to like people (and dogs) because staying at home alone and crying sure does suck.

~S

DOY 8 Hearts.jpeg

HEARTS

Lately I have been feeling like there is no place where my heart feels at home. Not with family. Not with my closest friends. There is always…a gap. Like all of us, I want to walk into a place and feel, ‘at last I belong! These are my people!’ A place where I will feel understood and that someone (anyone!) sees me. When I begin to despair that this will ever happen, this is what I remind myself.

That though we are earthlings, our hearts are not earthly hearts. They are made from some mysterious substance from beyond the universe, from ethereal wisps plucked from a distant land and placed in each of our hearts. These wisps are probably ordinary where they are from, but brought to earth they are magical, powerful, mysterious. Like superman. They do not belong here. There is a scripture that says that we are foreigners and strangers on earth, forever searching for a home, but never finding one in this life.

If we find a home it is when we encounter another remnant of our homeland—in another’s heart, in nature, in a higher power. It happens in magical moments. The laughter of a friend. A special first kiss. Digging fingers into earth. Helping a stranger. Doing something good. Loving someone. Being loved. Grass and mountain air. Being held when you are suffering. Sharing in someone’s joy.

We chase these moments—falling in love, physical enjoyment, entertainment, enlightenment, relationships, even service and doing good deeds. But sooner or later we end up disappointed. We are expecting that we will be able to find a place here on earth where our heart feels at home. But if we understand that fundamentally there is a mismatch—that we are living in a world, where our hearts do not belong—then we will not be surprised. Rather we will be grateful for every chance our heart gets to meet with that spectacular and warm substance that is the mist of our foreland. And we will know that it is not possible for our heart to be at home here—except in ourselves, except in the mysterious power we do not understand, except in the meeting of hearts with another. But these are gifts and not givens. If we understand we do not belong here, we will live better with the almost incurable longing in our hearts for a home.

 

 

~S

doy-7-bathtub-2

BATHTUB

A lot of days I feel small. On my bad days I feel sucker punched by the world. Queen of everything, dominator of the world, could do anything—yeah. In a small town. In high school. But the world has since chewed me up, spit me out and told me in no uncertain terms that I am quite small. Out in the real world, I feel humbled…to put it mildly. I am certainly not as awesome as I once thought I was, and yet oddly enough I am learning that I am more awesome still than I have ever dreamed.

In quiet moments (quiet because you’re hiding from the world because it is yelling at you about how crappy you are. And because maybe you have friends, but they’re not there because…humans fail) in those moments, you really have no choice but to just be alone with yourself. Scary. But in that quiet place, where no one sees but me, I am learning things.

It starts out kind of scary, but then… it gets really quiet. (After you stop screaming). And still. And shockingly calm. Even though you are all by yourself you don’t feel the least bit alone. I feel… held. In a friendly darkness I am wrapped in a warm peace-inducing blanket. It’s intoxicating, this blanket. You forget your Self and you’re just there with your small self. That little self is not imposing or burdensome at all.

It’s pretty relaxing—kickin’ it in the warm bath of your inner mind. In that space, where I am treated kindly, cradled like I am something precious, I begin to realize that I must in fact be…precious. Huh.

Unique.

Special. If I am being treated that way.

Go figure. Oh, I like being here. And no one else has to see. I could stay here, in this bathtub, all day. Here, I don’t need or want to be big or noticed. Here, I even savor being hidden. Here, I know that I am a good secret.

Just don’t spoil it by making me come out into the world.

I guess the trick is to always be in this bathtub, even as I am present to the real world. So many conflicting voices! The world shouting so many (often horrible) things at me, and the bathtub voice is so so small.

But the world (mostly) doesn’t have much to say, and most of what it says is crap, truly. So you can turn down the volume on that without any fear that you are missing anything. Trust that the bathtub voice is all you need to hear. Trust that your little self knows what she’s talking about and is telling you the truth. Trust what she says to you over what the world says to you; she will not lead you wrong. She is on your side. Trust her. Trust her. Trust her as if your life depends on it. It does. Cause if you’re going to survive, that little voice from the bathtub must be loudest of them all.

~S

DOY 10 Toothbrushes.jpg

TOOTHBRUSH

One time, to our horror, my brother and I discovered that we had been using the same toothbrush. Each thought the red toothbrush was his/hers and that the blue toothbrush belonged to the other, you get the idea.

Shouting ensued. Accusations were hurled. There was much crying and some violence over this toothbrush. It got ugly. Mom was dragged in to settle the dispute. Being the wise woman that she is Mom decided, “We’ll put the toothbrushes in boiling water to sanitize them and then redistribute in some anonymous way.” No one was happy with the ‘redistribution’ idea. What if the other person ends up with the toothbrush? Fortunately for her, that part never happened, as she did not pour boiling water over them but rather put them in a pot of boiling water. And then she walked away.

When she returned, the toothbrushes, being plastic, had melted until they resembled nothing so much as knobby tree branches sprawling out over the edge of the pot.

It was brilliant! Like Solomon and the baby. Only neither my brother nor I had selflessly said, “No, no! Don’t boil the toothbrushes! He/she can have it!” Instead we both said, “Yeah! Boil ‘em! Chop that baby to bits!” And the baby got cut in half and neither of us got it. Which worked, cause neither of us were angry that the other person ended up with it. And also, no actual babies were killed. It was even more perfect because my mom had plausible deniability for the whole thing, as she did not actually intend to melt the toothbrushes. (Or so she has always claimed…).

To be clear, we both got new toothbrushes. Because Mom cares about dental hygiene and not just about administering justice.

~S

doy-5-hoarder

HOARDER

I went on a job interview once. It was so embarrassing. I pretended I knew what I was talking about but I didn’t. They must have laughed at me.

You know when you’re so embarrassed that you just tuck it away inside of you and don’t want anyone to ever find out? Yeah. That.

I ran so far so fast and hoped that I would never see those people again. It kind of worked.

But how often can you do that? Tuck something away, try to hide it and run like the dickens? I picture myself running like Wallace and Grommit, hands waving overhead.

How often can you do that and survive? Keeping little pieces of yourself—memories, experiences—hidden because you are ashamed.

I complain about not feeling seen, but part of it is that I hide myself in all these little pockets inside. Like one of those guys selling watches out of his thousand-pocket coat.

A thousand little pockets. A memory, an experience in each one. A little pain, a little sadness, a little anger, holed up in each pouch. That can’t be good. Carrying it all around. And I’ve been doing it for a long time.

Don’t pretend like you don’t know. Don’t pretend like you don’t do it, too. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re a fortunate person who learned to process their emotions as they happen. I didn’t.

So now, I’m purging, trying to get all this stuff out. You have to milk it up. Ewww. Like squeezing stuffing up a sausage. Yeck. It comes out all black and tar. But then I feel better. That’s why I’m writing. To not feel ashamed.

I hope to not carry around buckets filled with gunk anymore. Who needs that?

I hope to be a happier person.

I hope to learn to do something different—instead of hiding emotions away like a hoarder with her rancid candy bars.

I hope I can get better.

I am getting better.

One day at a time.

No more stuffing. No more hoarding.

My name is Sarah and I’m an emotional hoarder.

I’ve been sober for….well, still working on it.

DOY 4 Monsters.jpg

MONSTERS

How do we deal with the things that terrify us? Cause either you find a way to wrestle them and over power them or they will eat you alive. Like monsters under the bed.

When I was little I was terrified of monsters. I used to imagine this force field over my bed, protecting me from all the evil swirling down around me. Of course there were different layers of the force field to protect against different kinds of creepy things. They’re not all the same, you know.

The second I would turn off the light, hundreds of thousands of monsters would torpedo down from the stratosphere—a race to see if they could get to me before my force field went up. I would sprint from the light switch, one, two steps and then a flying leap onto my bed. (You have to make sure not to step too close to the bed as there are monsters under the bed as well. You wouldn’t want to be the victim of an unfortunate ankle-grab).

The guys streaming down from on high would blast their way to earth, through the trees, the roof, almost to the my head!…when I would land safely in bed. The minute you touch your bed, the force field goes up, naturally. Lay flat on the bed to make sure all the layers are working–no knees up, press your hands and feet into the bed and make sure your head is flat on the pillow.

When I was scared I would look up at all those layers of the force field and all the monsters trapped at each level. Some were stuck way out in outer space, some hovered around the house, some could come all the way up to my face, but were taunted, unable to bite me because of that pesky force field. Each monster held captive in its ranks, each floating in its proper place, suspended in layer after layer of my force field.

They became my monster-mobile, dancing me to sleep.

So maybe I had to go to some creative lengths to conquer the monsters that were plaguing me. Maybe you’ll say it’s all a mind game, and I guess it is. But even the grown-up terrors that chase us are usually just mind games, not unlike my monsters. Often it is our fear of something that paralyzes us, rather than the thing itself. As an adult, I try to beat my fear by not playing the game—just don’t think those terrifying thoughts! But my child self teaches me that maybe it’s better to play the game—terrorize my terrorizing thoughts with anti-terror imaginations of my own—and win 😉

DOY 3 Outcast.jpg

OUTCAST

I remember the stoplight in the cafeteria. It was one of those giant ones that would go red if it got too loud. I remember Amy Lyons turning to me and telling me that Misty didn’t want me to come to her party anymore. Misty, the queen bee. Isn’t that such a queen bee name? I remember telling my mom that the party was cancelled. And being embarrassed. I remember crying.

I think it was because I won the election for class representative and queen bee wanted it. It was all very Mean Girls. Very, very mean girls. In fourth grade.

I remember sitting alone in the line outside Mrs. Breaux’s door. You sit in the line before class in the morning. With your friends. The second half of that year I sat alone. I didn’t talk to anyone. I remember feeling sad.

I felt worthless and I saw myself as they saw me—a smarty-pants, teacher’s pet, sell-out who was not worth being friends with. Lame. A loser.

I remember the backpack I had that year. It was pink, I think. I had these permed bangs. Yes, just the bangs. How can you not be a loser, with permed bangs? I blame the hairstyle.

Before fourth grade, I was a happy kid. I had friends and we played on the merry-go-round. It was the time before you had any thoughts of yourself or other people or what you all thought of each other.

But that year I learned that other people could not like you, and that what they said to your face was not necessarily how they really felt. It was scary. I lost my confidence. I didn’t want to succeed at anything because I was afraid people would hate me. I became suspicious. Even if people said they were my friend, pretended to be my friend, I didn’t really trust them.

That’s a hard way to live.

I’ve grown a lot since then. Learned to trust people and make friends. But somewhere in there is still that suspicious, untrusting girl who’s worried she’s lame and that other people are really just pretending to like her. Worried that when they find out who she really is they will shun her.

I’m trying to recover the girl who just plays on the merry-go-round and doesn’t think about these things, but it’s hard.

Maybe you can’t go back. Maybe you can only go forward. Forward to knowing that some people just won’t like you, and it doesn’t mean anything about you. It doesn’t mean that you are lame. Forward to knowing that people who dislike you for your success are not your friends. Forward to knowing that there are friends worth having. Who, when they do get to know the real you, will like you for you.

doy-2-hiding

HIDING

I’ve always felt like no one was listening. It started with one person. It’s not that he didn’t hear my words. I don’t know what it was really. He didn’t get them. There was something lost in translation. Something between what I needed to express and what he understood. And I blamed myself. I blamed myself for not getting my point across, for not making him understand, what I meant, what I felt. And so I stopped talking.

I stopped trying to tell people what I thought because I hated the feeling of being misunderstood. It was like being trapped in a glass box. Shouting and shouting and no one can hear you. Like I reached down inside, grabbed my voice, pulled it out, but as I extended my hand to give it, it was empty. Sneaky, elusive voice.

I hated myself for not being able to perform the trick of pulling my voice out of the hat and having other people see it. I reached inside to pull it out and pulled out…an invisible voice! Invisible voice, invisible rabbit. I wasn’t very good at this game. So I stopped playing.

I also felt like, if I couldn’t get someone else to see my voice, maybe it didn’t exist. If my voice didn’t exist, maybe I didn’t exist. Like the tree falling in the woods thing. If the other person didn’t hear you, do you exist? I didn’t like the feeling of not existing. So I hid.

When you are older you understand that just because someone doesn’t understand you, it doesn’t mean that you are not real. But when you are young, and the people around you who make your existence don’t hear you, you don’t understand that. But you learn. You learn to tuck these things away inside yourself and save them for a time when there will be someone who can understand them.

That’s why a friend is such a sweet thing. Because you share things and they say, ‘yes, you do exist.’ And you say, ‘thanks, I thought so, but until you said it just now I wasn’t 100% sure.’

Because we keep these things inside and we cherish them. But until we actually share them with someone, do we exist? We say, ‘yes.’ We believe, ‘yes.’ But humans are made to connect to other people, to be seen and heard. So until that happens, we are hiding things away and really just believing in faith that we are real.

So we pray, we pray and we hope for the miracle of these friends who can affirm our existence. Because we believe we are real but it is really, really nice to have some confirmation.