May 30, 2017

little anxiety things

Lately I have been fighting off old demons. Thinking about gazes across high school cafeteria lines, hazel eyes staring into brown that shared a secret only the two of us knew. A single night that there were only two sides to—his and mine. My first foray into a real kind of deception that breaks people to their very core.

I learned what it means to be broken by someone. I learned how empty you feel when you give every single piece of yourself away. The good parts you freely gave—your happiness and your laughter and your smiles (the ones that weren't forced and felt like they were permanently plastered on your face, anyway), you saw the way they made the people around you light up. The other parts—your loneliness and your sad eyes and the heart wrenching sobs you only let escape from your chest when you were cradled in your mother's arms—you were conditioned into hiding them away where no one could see them. Not even you.

Those lonely broken parts have creeped out over the years, more often than not leaving an ugly disaster zone in their parting. Twenty-five years worth of emotional baggage that feels like it's being seen by everyone. Sometimes it's too much to deal with. Pull the blanket over your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and you're two steps closer to pretending it's not happening. All you need to do now is either scream at the top of your lungs to keep the feeling at bay, which is going to draw all the attention you do not want, or keep quiet and try not to sniffle as silent tears roll down your face, feeling ashamed as all of your years of tightly balled up emotional baggage roll out into the open for everyone to see.

All of losses over the years have been playing on repeat in my head.

Fear is tucking me into bed every night with a new montage of my own memories. Losing my dad and my grandma is at the absolute forefront. Sometimes it's just the days I lost them, on repeat and I can't stop it until my mind finally succumbs to sleep. Other times my mother is telling me to "stop hanging on [her]" whenever we would go to her friend's houses and I just wanted more than anything to go home... My father is complaining about having to help me spray paint some styrofoam balls for an eighth grade science project... My close group of friends in high school had a sleepover with our out of town friends and didn't invite me "because it's not like you would have come anyway" they told me.

The ones that get me the most are the moments when I am trapped in memories of former loves. One second I am in the production room at my high school radio station, having my heart handed back to me by my first love. I cried to my friend Shannon after calling my mom in tears. Then I am thrown into nineteen, driving to Kenosha to see a boy I met on the Internet. I can still feel his fingers tracing down my spine, singing promises of sweet release and my own submission with every touch. I can still see the shadows of the bruises he left behind in my head, a reminder of those nights we spent together confusing force for some form of love. The physical scars have long since faded, but sometimes it feels like I am still recovering from the emotional ones.

I am trying to keep my head above the water. I am trying to look fear in the face and laugh. I have learned that we are not our shortcomings. Our faults and our bad habits do not define us. What really matters is how we get through the suffering. If you can look back on something that you screwed up and realize what you did wrong, or recognize a certain pattern you find yourself in, you're doing exactly what you're meant to be doing. All that's left to be done is to take the action steps that you need to take to change your actions or behaviors.

I've started making my bed every night before I get in it. That way if I forget it in the morning, it doesn't bum me out all day that I can't check it off the proverbial to-do list in my head. I learned an easy 8 minute in-bed yoga routine that helps me to lull my anxious mind to sleep every night, and according to my sleep tracker app, the nights where I don't do yoga before bed, my sleep quality suffers poorly. I have started meditating when I am stressed (aka this helps me a lot when I am chain smoking in my car during a busy day at work). I have rediscovered my love for podcasts to help me wind down from work at night. (My current fav's are Coffee with Chrachel, and The One You Feed!) I have learned that through routine, I have an easier time keeping my anxiety at bay. Keeping my anxiety at bay is just step one of a million of living with mental illness every day, but it feel so reassuring to know that I am working my best to take care of myself.

May 28, 2017

morning light



The light this morning reminded me of being inside of a Death Cab song. Soft, warm sunshine mixed with a hazy feeling of contentment somewhere deep within you. Sunday morning sunshine feels like the opening notes to "Summer Skin" with hints of "Soul Meets Body." Summer is almost here and everything feels so damn good. 

May 27, 2017

i owe a lot to frank warren.


I got text my best friend tonight and tell her, "Frank's not a douche!" A long standing inside joke from when we were in high school and used to obsessively refresh our browsers once the clock struck midnight in Germantown, MD. Post Secret, the art and the community have made me a better person for the last ten years that I've been reading. I've even sent in a few way back in the day, but they've never been posted. Frank Warren is the best.

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.


May 19, 2017

currently, may edition



enjoying quiet mornings before work

savoring my morning cup of coffee

snuggling with the Mew cat

setting up my new laptop

loving not having to watch my TV shows on my phone anymore

watching Parenthood solo (#still... 9 episodes to go!), and Naruto & To Catch A Predator with Justin

journaling in my 25 book

wondering how we are halfway through May already

trying guided meditation to help my anxiety

working on doing yoga or at least stretching before bed every night

feeling inspired for the future

May 18, 2017

rose gold dreams

I am coming to you live from a brand spanking new laptop, Blogland!

A belated 25th birthday gift to myself. I also see it as an investment in my future. A realization of dreams. A recognizance of passions formerly forgotten. This is the first major electronic device that I have bought for myself ever, if you discount the fact that I got my first iPhone for a PENNY, and my current one is on a payment plan. My dad bought my Canon DSLR as a Christmas present during my first 365 when I was in high school. He also bought me my first laptop that I took to college with me in 2010.

Yesterday was nine months since he passed. I miss my dad every single day. There's no getting around the hole that he has left in my heart. Some days it's just a puddle, but yesterday was not one of those days. Yesterday the hole was the Bering Sea in the middle of an icy hurricane. I felt like I was on deck of one of the Deadliest Catch boats getting tossed back and forth by the waves, trying not to get swallowed up and thrown over the side. My computer coming in the mail today felt like a gift from my dad. Like I could almost feel his arms around me and feel him whispering, "You did good, Anna. I'm proud of you. Now keep going."

I have been solely documenting with my phone since 2015, after my laptop suffered a horrible death due the screen being stepped on. The feeling of actual keys clicking beneath my fingers feels foreign. The lack of autocorrect truly makes me question my once sharp as a tack spelling abilities. It almost feels as though I'm relearning how to type all over again. There is definitely a major learning curve at play too—I've been a Windows girl all my life, except in college when it was all Mac, all the time... (except for the computers in the Dyson lab where Lightroom crashed every single time I tried to edit photos for Dixon's class).

Basically the hope here is that this tiny little rose gold machine will inspire to break out my big camera again. To start taking it everywhere with me again because the photos are always SO MUCH BETTER than anything my phone could ever hope to capture. I want to capture memories to hang in our future house, so someday I can show my kids, "Hey, this is what your dad and I looked like when we were younger! And these are the adventures we took!"

I want to document, but I also hope that down the line I can start actually taking pictures for other people again. That's the pipe dream that all starts here, with this expensive laptop I am currently typing on. You gotta spend money to make money, and here I am investing in my future.

May 16, 2017

a tale of two mornings


The first time I woke up this morning, it was 7:30 and I had the "soothing but just annoying enough to make me not want to listen to it forever" Sleep Cycle alarm telling me to wake up. My nose was stuffy and it was cloudy and dark in the living room. I really just wanted like an hour more of sleep. I turned off the alarm and went back to bed. 

I woke up again at 9. The sun was out. The Mew cat was stretched out on my legs. I got up in search of coffee and danced my way into the front yard to take my #annalovesmornings photo. Settled in front of Tammy's pretty tulips in the front yard. Flowers make me happy. Sunshine makes me happy. 

I bought a computer today! (Thank you Amazon.) My hope is that maybe this will give me the push I need to start using my big camera again. I have to go to the bank and go pay my phone bill, then work 4-7 tonight so I'm home in time for Deadliest Catch at 8. 

Happy Tuesday!

May 15, 2017

random

The Avril Lavigne Conspiracy Theory floating around Twitter yesterday blew. my. mind. (Yes, I know it's fake, but the possibility does answer SO MANY QUESTONS I've had about post 2004 Avril.) And now I'm listening to her first two albums on repeat like I'm 12 years old all over again. (And I still remember every single word to every single song.)

May 14, 2017

mom is just another word for love.

 
Momma,

Happy Mother's Day. You've been having Mother's Days for a quarter of a century. (Sorry, did that make you feel old? :P) Thank you for everything you have done for me, ma. You have shaped me into the woman I am today and I would be absolutely nowhere without the strength and bravery and truly unconditional LOVE you have shown me throughout the years. 

Do you remember your first Mother's Day, 26 days after I was born? I was still in the hospital fighting for my life and you drove almost an hour every day to visit me. To make sure I was okay. To make sure I wasn't alone. Even in my infancy when I'm sure your world was rocked upside down and everything felt more backwards than ever, you showed me what it means to be strong. To have a purpose. To fight for something bigger than yourself. 

Do you remember when I was in high school, and we were fighting our demons side by side? I think we taught each other the lessons we needed to learn on bravery. Me speaking up about mine may have influenced you to do the same about yours (I'll never know for sure), but then your actions after—the fighting back, the take charge war cry of happiness vs. fear—they inspired me to speak up even louder. 

Do you remember the day I came home crying after newspaper, part paralyzed by fear and anxiety and part furious because Cody was still participating in a high school club after he graduated? Do you remember going into Mama Bear mode? You turned to me and said, "I need you to go look up the number to the high school. I'm making a few phone calls." 

I cannot thank you enough for those phone calls, mom. Even though we were ultimately let down (and I'M STILL BITTER about it 8 years later), you showed me the importance of having passion and standing up for the things you believe in. 

I have taken all of these lessons, the big ones as well as the little ones, and created a life that I am proud of living. I hope one day I will be able to express how much I love you and just how much you mean to me. I hope one day I will be able to give you the world. But until that day comes, I will write you letters on Mother's Day. You done good, momma. 

I love you. xo

(PS—MOM, what the hell are these glasses?!)
 

May 13, 2017

l e t i t g o


Washing your hair for the first time after you take a lot of it off is always the most surreal thing. I knew my hair wasn't going to be all there, long and tangly anymore once I was ready to rinse my shampoo out and yet I still expected it to be there anyway. 

Cutting my hair never fails to be an important life lesson on letting go. 

I have done so much letting go in the past nine months (since the last time I got my hair cut... an hour before my dad's funeral). Most importantly, I have been grieving and trying to accept the loss of my dad. I still have my days where missing him lays a huge weight on my heart. Those days I am extra gentle with myself—or I try to be, anyway. Grace is never turned away by those who welcome it into their lives. 

I have learned the importance of Asking for Help. I have slowly relearned how to rely on other people after ten years of tearing down and constantly reconstructing emotional walls to keep my insecurities and vulnerabilities tightly bottled inside. 

I lost a parent, but I have really gained an authentic version of myself. I have taught myself how to deal with the hard stuff—the moments we don't post to Instagram. The arguments we start with the people we love over nothing because we're too scared to identify and say out loud what we actually want. The nights you toss and turn in bed, trapped by an anxious brain playing leap frog from one thought to the next. The times you lock yourself in the bathroom just so you can cry for 5 freakin' minutes alone–and then get back out there and keep giving your grace back into the world because your people and your community need you too. 

The vulnerability you are terrified to let go of could mean the difference between you fighting your demons all day long because you refuse to let them go, or fighting off fits of laughter because your friends are hilarious and they will be there for you when you open up. Your fears will become someone else's grace. Your dark parts will be someone else's moment of clarity. The "Oh, you too? I thought I was the only one." that everyone needs in their lives when everything feels like it's falling apart is the best thing you can offer to somebody else. 

Take care of your community. They will help you to take care of yourself when you are stuck in the trenches of your suffering. And then step up to the plate and offer a hand when your community needs help too. 

May 12, 2017

impulse much?

 

I GOT A HAIRCUT TODAY. 

Last night before I got ready for bed, I decided that I would #treatmyself because a) I never got myself anything for my birthday, and b) last Friday, I got a rejection email from the company I interviewed with and mama needed a pick me up. So at 8:30 pm on a Thursday night, I was looking for anything with an online appointment book (because I'm a ~millennial~ and I hate talking on the phone). 

This morning I was scrolling through Pinterest looking for haircuts and finally decided on this one (and Ashley Benson is freaking gorgeous). When I asked snapchat and Instagram, the general consensus was YAS GIRL, DO IT. When I showed my stylist the picture she grinned and said, "Let's do it!" So awesome when other people trust your creative vision. 

And the last time I got my haircut was my dad's funeral. Double before & after then?

 
 

Totally love it. (And the 5 minute scalp massage was totally the most relaxing part of my day.)

May 11, 2017

dear justin,

 

I said, "Let's go outside. I wanna go for a walk."
You said, "Let me finish what I'm doing and we'll go check on Booky's tree."

You inspected your deer proof fence while I took pictures of the sky and the neighbor's pretty trees. 

 
 
 

I cherish the moments that I capture you unaware. I have so many candids of you stored in my archives, maybe eventually I will make a book of them all. Just for you and me. So then maybe you can see how I see you: lovely, brilliant, and magnificent as you are. 

 
 

Your mouth was dry so we headed back inside after like 15 minutes. I love you so much. 

xo, Anna
 

May 07, 2017

dear spring (a love letter)


 
 

Oh, Spring, every year I wait so longingly for you and each year you never fail to make me blissfully happy. The pink trees are enough to instantly make my day better. 

 

 

 

Yesterday, after the "first Saturday of coupons" breakfast from hell, you were my solace found in pink petals and 2pm sunlight. My happy place, familiar like my morning cup of coffee, or kissing Justin on the forehead every night before bed. 

 
 

Today you were my quiet time. Taking half an hour to run around beneath a spanse of four different blooming trees with my phone attached to my hand taking picture after picture after picture. To illustrate just how much I love you. 

I cherish these first weeks of May, because I know soon all of the magic will be replaced by healthy green leaves as summer swings in. But, Spring, please let me be selfish and ask you to stay. Keep your pink petals around for as long as you can. 

 

May 05, 2017

what a day.



I woke up this morning to a rejection email from the company I interviewed with last week. I literally took two sips of my coffee and then felt that anxious knot start to tighten around my heart. Not today, I thought, and from there I was on a mission of self care. 

I showered because I was too tired after work to do it last night before I went to bed. I listened to my friday playlist and danced it out to "Where Does the Good Go?" while washing my hair. The hot water relaxed my muscles and coaxed them into waking up so I could start my day. I pulled back the shower curtain to grab a towel when I was done and was greeted with an enthusiastic "MEW-row" from my shower audience of one, no doubt asking me for an encore. 

I read milk & honey by rupi kaur cover to cover this morning in a little under an hour. Two hundred pages of pure emotion. It made my heart feel better. "These things happen," I reminded myself. "Discovering your passion takes time."

 

Justin had a date with the dentist at 2:45 today. We had to drive an hour there and an hour home for a 35 minute appointment. (And a stop at Subway because we were starving.) Unlike last time, I was prepared and had back up directions just in case. ;) The good news though is that in 4-6 weeks, depending on how long it takes his insurance to process all the information, we will be finally scheduling a date for his surgery. 

Once we got back to Waupaca, I dropped Justin off at home and went to run errands: pick up paycheck, bank, gas station, and then a little bit of fun. I went to Riverside Park in search of the pink tree that usually blooms this time of year. Close, but no cigar. So I'll be going back every couple of days to check on it. 

All in all, today was a pretty good Friday. 

May 03, 2017

a quiet morning

  

I woke up at 5:30 all on my own this morning. I laid there for a few minutes and thought, "Welp... I might as well get up and have a cup of coffee before work." After I got back into bed with my coffee, my manager texted me and told me not to come in until 8. 

Fine by me! I made out all my May birthday cards and my Mother's Day cards for my mom & Tammy. Slapped addresses on the ones that needed them and got them ready to give to Howard when he stopped up at work. 

I appreciated getting up with the sun this morning. All that golden hour goodness made me happy. Light really is one of my favorite things to photograph. I think (knock on wood) we've finally moved forward into Spring for real, and I'm so excited for warm weather and summer on its way. 

May 02, 2017

may 2


Today was one of the good ones. 

It was a selfies BEFORE coffee kinda morning. Decided I need a haircut. Played with the cats with their favorite dangly toys—Mew's is the squeaky mouse that only squeaks when it wants to; The Kitten's is the feather contraption. 

We took a walk out in the backyard because Justin wanted to show me the deer fence he built around Booky's tree. I took pictures while he moved branches here and there.

The tree inspired me though—when we came back inside, I started doodling trees on the back of an old envelope. Broke out my markers and colored pencils and drew something from scratch since I think art school... 6 years ago. Glued it in my 25 book

Dealt with the IRS in the unending saga that is my father's taxes when a letter came that I had to sign for. After me wanting to tear my hair out from being on hold for 45 minutes, but getting things documented and taken care of, Justin suggested we watch Naruto

(I'm always thankful for when he knows I need to take a break better than myself.)

At 7, I made my way to DG for necessities. (Snacks, cat food, Benadryl—y'know.) Tuesday's are Deadliest Catch night and we were low on supplies. I picked up birthday cards for my May friends and Mother's Day cards for my mom and Tammy. Stopped at work on my way home for a mint chocolate chip shake because my sweet tooth is out of control. 

Made it home in time for Deadliest Catch. Snuggled with Justin on the couch while the cats snuggled with each other in the chair. Realized I have to work at 7 tomorrow and inwardly groaned. Showered at 9:30. Danced to "Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl" in the bathroom.

Trying to decompress and trick myself into being tired enough to go to bed. Snuggles from the Mew cat help. So do the ones from Justin.

Little victories. I didn't even change out of my pj's today—only threw a bra on to go to the store and THAT'S OKAY. Sometimes you just need a lazy, chill day to not worry about anything for a little bit. (And because I got my dad's tax stuff sort of figured out, I still feel like I was productive today!) All in all, it really is the little things that count.