May 21, 2017

look toward the light

Yesterday, Justin and I braved the crowds for an adventure known as "Saturday Morning Grocery Shopping."

The first thing Justin said when we walked inside was, "Ugh. Why are there so many people here? It's Saturday morning."

I looked at him and said, "Babe, not everyone sleeps till noon on Saturdays."

"Well, they should start," was his reply.

Then he grabbed my hand and smiled at me as we went toward the deli. Justin wanted taco dip. I took pictures of the tulips by the front stands.

* * * * * *

Flowers never fail to bring me comfort. I always think of the hillside garden in the backyard that my grandma meticulously tended to during my childhood. White and yellow daffodils, white daisies, pink and purple and white flocks, orange and yellow tulips... They colored everything from my first communion photos to family reunion group shots. There was the purple clematis that always grew up and up and up toward the sun, on the trellis where my sandbox used to be growing up. Someday maybe, I'll get a tattoo of all those flowers in a bouquet. A little something for my grandma, because I still think of her every day. I still miss her every day and it's been a year and a half since we lost her.

That is the thing that is so hard to accept about grief, about death, about the enormity of loving and losing someone in general: sometimes, the weight of missing that person that is no longer there feels like it's going to crush you. It's always there, heavy on your heart, and you know that it will never fully go away. It will simply lessen with time, as long as you allow joy into your heart to help with your path toward healing and acceptance. 

* * * * * *

Grief has been overwhelming my life lately.

The triggers, the flashbacks to forgotten memories, the moments when simply getting out of bed seems like a monumental task in and of itself—it's all a fuzzy reminder of being fifteen and lost and trying to cope with the weight of my world falling out from beneath me. Succumbing to the depression and my yet-undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder left me stringing together song lyrics and other people's words for inspiration. At first, it started with repetition of the same phrase in my Spanish III notes.

"I shouldn't feel this way, but I do." 

Over and over and over, trying to validate the words that I couldn't yet say out loud. Trying to identify the feelings I couldn't yet name. Trying to ignore the constant onslaught of flashbacks when my biggest trigger of them all was roaming the hallways of my high school, had English class by my locker, hung out in the radio station where my boyfriend DJ'ed the morning show. 

The only thing that ties these memories to my grief over my grandma and my dad is the overwhelming sense of loss that all of these events brought into my life. I have been thinking lately about all of the opportunities I chose to miss out on as a teenager because I was too lost in the darkness to function. Sophomore year, homecoming football game—my boyfriend called me from the radio station.

"Where are you?"

"At home."

"Why? I really wanted to see you."

And I remember my heart breaking because I couldn't find the courage to tell him how worthless and pathetic and alone I felt. The only person who got that fountain of information was my best friend.

And so the wall between me and the men I tried to let love me was built. Construction didn't stop until I was encased in cinder blocks, the total darkness that enveloped me dared me to try and break free. Tiny cracks appeared as I found my voice. Bravery creeped in as I learned how to art my feelings out—whether through a camera or through putting my pen to paper. With the help of my therapist, I learned that my feelings are valid. What happened to me was valid. My voice does matter, despite whatever my anxiety and depression tag team tell me at the time. 

* * * * * *

My roots were formed in the darkness of those cinder blocks. In those nights of me listening to nothing but Mayday Parade on repeat. In those days when it took all I had in me emotionally to just put one foot in front of the other. In those moments where the world stopped and it was just hazel eyes staring into brown from across the cafeteria. In those moments—when the fear and the flashbacks caused all of the systems in my brain to issue an SOS, when the simple act of breathing became too much for me, my roots began to flourish. As a starting point. To say, "Okay. It's only up from here, girly."

Those roots have grown, up and up like my grandma's clematis. They harnessed all of the darkness, all the suffering of the beginning, and they have bloomed into flowers of independence, strength, bravery, and vulnerability. They are constantly teaching me lessons, grounding me and reminding me that the suffering doesn't last forever. The weight of these huge losses in my life won't consume me forever. 

It's okay to get lost in the darkness sometimes. But you must always remember to look toward the light.

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