Periodically, usually when I’m feeling very sad, I return to this list to reread it and, if I can, add new things to it. I’m not feeling very sad today–in fact, I feel so full of happiness just at this moment that my heart could burst with it–but I know some people who are, and I doubtless will be again soon, so I’m sharing it anyway. I think I’ve shared it on this blog before, but it can’t be shared too much.
You could also consider it a stand-in for the happy wagon posts I haven’t been writing, but I’m not labeling it as such because happy wagons are about my current daily life, and this list is about all times and all lives.
all kinds of kittens
chicken salad sandwiches
freshly washed sheets
picnics and picnic food
waterfalls and streams
trees and treehouses
fresh-baked everything else
blueberry and lemon poppyseed muffins
in general, their smell and pages and the weight of them in your hands
rag dolls and stories about them
waking up in the night and realizing there are hours left to sleep
the smell of plants and damp earth
soft heads and skin
funny little noises
writing during thunderstorms (see also: being a nice cliche)
tea sets and tea set jewelry
the change from summer to autumn, the world breathing a sigh of relief
the change from winter to spring, the world stretching and opening its eyes and starting to dance
Neil Gaiman’s lovely voice
musicians who are so good it physically hurts to hear them and try to comprehend their perfection
the moment of just waking up, before you remember that you’re a person with a name and a life and things to think about
bare feet on warm earth
brightly painted nails
sunshine and sun-warmed hair
trains and train whistles in the distance
laughing so hard that you forget what you were originally laughing at and end up laughing at yourself for laughing
people who encourage you to be and make you feel comfortable being wholly yourself, and who bring out the best of you without even trying
Don’t self-edit. Write down everything you can think of that you’re proud of knowing or creating or being.
These are the languages by which the world may not measure your worth, but by which your story is created.
Celebrate one of your favorite achivements today.
I’m a very compassionate an empathetic person. I care so much about other people and their lives, both the happinesses they experience and the sadnesses, and if I don’t have firsthand understanding of what they’re going through, I want to learn about it. I want very much to help people, especially at-risk youth and those who are marginalized, and I want everyone to have a space in the world where they feel safe and heard and validated. I do my best to make sure that my language and attitudes are not harmful to the oppressed, and, if they are, to change them because it costs me nothing and improves the lives of others who need it. I work daily at solidarity and allyship, and I also work daily at keeping myself open to correction when I get it wrong, even if it’s uncomfortable.
I’m wildly imaginative, sometimes to my detriment, but usually it’s something I love and value very highly about myself. As a small child, I imagined entire worlds into being, populated with people who each had full names, phone numbers, parents, and complete histories. I told stories to myself, to my dolls, to my tape recorder, to anyone who would listen to me. I was often alone, but never lonely, because I always had friends and adventures and alternate worlds living inside of me, ready to come out at any moment. As a teenager, I wrote constantly, every day, stories and novellas and poetry and letters and diaries, most of it absolute nonsense, but drenched in my wild, desperate heart. I told stories to Miranda whenever she would let me, which was often. Most of those were absolute nonsense, too, but she liked them and I liked creating them. As an adult, my imagination has turned against me more often than it’s done any good, but it’s still there. I just need to remember how to harness it. It’s gotten me into trouble and it’s made me cry and it’s made me laugh and it’s delighted me and it’s terrified me and it’s kept me company when nothing else could, and I’m endlessly grateful to have it, even when it makes me a little crazy.
I’m good with words. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable about saying so, because it feels like bragging, like taking credit for something that I shouldn’t own. If other people say it about me, that’s great and I’ll glow about it for days, but I shouldn’t say it about myself. Why? I don’t know. False modesty is so irritating. I love Kanye and Frank Ocean and Beyonce and everyone who loudly, unapologetically gives themselves credit for the traits they think are great, the things they’ve done that they feel are deserving of praise. Even if I can’t aspire to their level, I can at least say here in this quiet little space that I’m a good writer, and I’m glad about and proud of it. When I try to talk, I stutter and stammer and fidget and blush, but when I write, everything comes out just the way I want it to. Or, if it doesn’t, I can rework it until it does. It feels so much more natural to sit down and write a letter, or a blog post, or a poem, than it ever does to sit down for a face to face talk. Maybe that isn’t great, but since it’s the way it is, I’m happy to have this natural affinity with written words for all the times when verbal ones fail me.
I love enormously and fiercely. Someone who thought he knew me best of all once called me a cold, emotionless robot, and I’ve never stopped laughing about it because it’s so absurdly far from the truth. I’m all emotions. They burn me up. If I’ve ever loved you, a part of me will probably always belong to you, and even though sometimes I hate that and I feel like it means that eventually I won’t have any of myself left, I wouldn’t change it. With such high highs come equally low lows, but the highs are so high. It’s so good to love while the loving lasts and is reciprocated, to feel that intimacy with another person, to be so terrifyingly known. It’s so good to give something so deeply held, so integral, to someone else, to watch it take root between you and grow into something no one else could have created. It’s so good. My friendship is not easily gained, but it’s also not easily lost, and I will love and praise and defend my friends to the moon and back. Love is not all we need, but without it, none of the rest really seems to matter.
I laugh easily. I learn eagerly and quickly (excepting anything to do with numbers). I care passionately–sometimes too passionately–about the world outside of myself and what directly affects me. I believe in the goodness of people, regardless of all the reasons they give me not to. I’m easily exhausted, but I persist. I dream big. I’m always seeking the good, and seeking to share it with everyone else. I have great hair. I can sing a certain kind of song passably well. I’m flawed and messy and this was hard to write, but I think I’m okay.
I was too tired to do this post yesterday, and last week was a hard one, but there were a few nice things that I want to document, so.
waking up and immediately rolling over in bed to open the windows, and not having to close them until going back to bed at night
this perfect friendship song (“our blood rides in tandem, we’ve been wove on the same loom” // “to me you are like breathing, you’re like food”)
talking in therapy about my impatience with the initial stages of building friendships, wanting them to spring up fully formed with all the passion and intensity I crave from my relationships, and subsequently making an effort to notice and appreciate little moments of connection more
prolonging my birthday indefinitely as presents continue to trickle in from friends and from my sister
rereading a little bit of “Flipped” each night before bed
cold lemonade in little mason jar glasses
simple forms of domesticity done just for myself, cleaning things and putting them in their places, lighting candles
finding this amazing Claremore area full of antique and vintage shops, coffee shops, bookstores, and parks, spending a sunny day exploring, looking at old clocks and tea sets and vintage dresses to my heart’s content
my fantastic new deep burgundy velvet dressing gown, with puffed sleeves and ruffles at the neck, bought for $10
this park which had a pavilion, a gazebo, an old-fashioned lamp-post, a fountain, and lots of flowers
I want to talk about One Direction. I want to talk about them because they’re important and they matter so much to me and I want you to understand why, but I also want to talk about them because maybe if I can make my love for them seem like something deep and serious, you’ll respect it and won’t make a joke of it and I can keep talking about them without feeling like I need to apologize for it every time, and that’s a reason I hate. Things don’t always have to be deep and serious to matter. I’m not a teenager anymore and I no longer feel like I can only listen to sad, heavy songs because those are the only songs that are worthwhile and the only songs that will make people see me as a serious girl. I am a serious girl, most of the time, but I’m also a girl who desperately wants to be happy, who is so bone-deep exhausted by sadness and heaviness and dark emotions that if I never felt anything but bright, sweet, bubblegum-sugary pop happiness for the rest of my life, that would be great. As Witchsong says: there is nothing wrong with happiness, with things being easy.
One Direction’s music makes me happy. It’s music I can listen to without having to engage my brain unless I want to, music which sometimes actually requires me to disengage my brain in order to enjoy it, and while that maybe sounds like an insult, I promise you it’s not. I need to disengage my brain more often, to just. Stop. Overanalyzing everything to death. I need to just feel things, sometimes, without complicating them. I’m not very good at that, and loving One Direction is, for me, an exercise in turning off and tuning in.
On one level, they’re five boys with cute accents, doing cute things and performing cute friendship for us all to shriek about. They’re a manufactured boy band singing manufactured boy band songs about how beautiful we are even if we don’t know it, how much they love our endearing little imperfections, how devastated it makes them when we leave them. They know their audience and they cater to us flawlessly. They made a perfume for us, which, listen, actually smells pretty nice. They gave us “Girl Almighty”.
On another level, they’re stadiums full of girls who are overjoyed to be there, to be in the presence of these boys they love, but also to be in the presence of so many other girls enjoying a thing together with all their souls. Screaming teenage girls are what’s most often criticized about boy bands. Who would want to see them in concert and have their eardrums exploded by that shrieking noise? Me. I would. I’m genuinely heartbroken that I lost my chance to see One Direction in concert last September, the last chance I’d have gotten to see all five of them together. To be in the midst of that magnificence, that tidal wave of girl-energy, that sharp, bright happiness. I love girls, is the thing, and I love seeing people loving things, and I love spaces that exist just for that. I want people to get really, wildly, embarrassingly excited about the things they love, to make everyone take notice of their enthusiasm. Especially if that enthusiasm is for something that people mock and dismiss because it’s marketed toward teenage girls, because it isn’t a deep, serious, man-approved thing. I’m a serious girl, and I want permission not to be, just for a while, just in this one space. One Direction give me that permission. Harry Styles says, “You can get get anything that you want, baby just shout it out, shout it out.”
On a final level, One Direction are us. They give us a framework to talk about ourselves, to offer up and examine our emotions in a way that’s safe, away that’s easier sometimes than confronting them directly as parts of ourselves. We choose members we identify with more than the others and we project things onto them because they’re really only partially filled canvases to us. We love them and we worry about them and we talk about them as though we know them intimately, as though they’re our partners and our best friends and ourselves, because they are. They are.
For me, that special member is Zayn. It’s always been Zayn, from the first time I heard a One Direction song and thought, there could be something here, this could matter to me. It was his voice that made me listen more closely, he was the first one I Googled to find out his name, it was his awkward mumbling and his kindness toward pregnant women and his gentleness in interviews that hooked into my heart and dragged me in. It’s the little things, as they know well.
I’m embarrassed to say that it was that song that was my way into One Direction, but it was, and I can’t be sorry about it because, well, here I am. I vividly remember the first time I heard it and how much I hated it, how much I ranted about it, how scornful I was of the lyrics. To be honest, I’m still a little scornful of the lyrics, and I don’t love it anymore, but for a while it was something I played again and again. Just to solidify how much I really, really hated it. Just to make sure I had all the lyrics right, for when I wanted to complain about it. Just to hear Zayn. Just to hear Harry’s rasp. Just because … oh, because I loved it. I did.
This got away from me a little. What I meant to say was that Zayn is the most important to me, and that’s my bad luck, because earlier this week he left the group. My favorites always leave, or die, or break my heart in some other way. It’s tradition. But this time it’s so personal for me, because of what Zayn is to me. Because of what I project onto him. He seems like the least attainable, which makes him the most comfortable for me to swoon over. He seems the least accessible, the one who gives the least of himself to the public, and yet he’s also so gentle and kind and everyone loves him and wants more of him. It seems really obnoxious to relate to that, but I do. It often feels to me like people want to befriend me despite how little I give to them, and I often resent their intrusions into my life and my space because how could it be genuine? How could they care? They don’t even know me. My kindness and my desire to help people don’t mean they do. I don’t love this about myself, but it’s a thing, and I’m trying to be honest with you here.
Zayn has also been the most vocal about how anxiety-causing and overwhelming it is to be in such an enormously successful, famous band. How difficult it is sometimes, even though you’re grateful, of course, so grateful for the opportunities you’ve been given. As a very fragile anxiety baby, albeit not one who’s a member of a successful, famous band, I feel this a lot. And, similarly to how people reacted when Robin Williams died, there’s an element of, if Zayn, with all his privileges and resources, couldn’t hack it, if he was so overwhelmed by stress that he had to take a break and then ultimately decided to leave completely, what hope do I have of being okay? Of Handling my life? I’m not saying this is reasonable or rational, it’s just how I’ve felt this week, and it’s hard.
It’s also hard that this band, this collective of joy, this thing that has gotten me through so much sadness and heaviness and depression and fear, is changing. It’s not ending, maybe, but the way it used to be is ending. I don’t do well with change under the best circumstances, which these are not. Of course we all knew it wasn’t going to last forever. Boy bands are fleeting, ephemeral things. We hold on so tightly because we know that soon we won’t be able to hold on at all. I haven’t listened to “Through the Dark” since the news of Zayn’s leaving, because to me it represents everything that One Direction are and now won’t be. I wrote something about that song that I might share here soon, because it’s long and personal and means a lot and I don’t want to just shove it into this post at the end, but here. Listen, and try to understand what it means to have five beloved, important people telling you, yes, you, even though they don’t know you personally, that you deserve to be loved, that you can be loved even when you’re at your darkest, that it’s okay to cry and fall apart and that they’ll be there through it all and it will get better, somehow, someday, you’ll make it better together. Try to understand why I cried about Zayn just a little bit in therapy yesterday, and, even if you don’t care about One Direction, try to understand that I do, that a lot of people do, and maybe try to be kind to us right now. Maybe save your super funny jokes about 1D hysteria for another time.
Combining two weeks into one post, because they’ve been such good, good weeks and I was too busy trying to enjoy them with my whole soul to post about them separately.
hours of talking, feeling effortlessly understood, always wanting to say more but also knowing it’s okay if I don’t
chicken salad sandwiches and strawberries in the sunshiny backyard
hearing birds flapping their wings right above my head
meeting Jesus at the mall (this one isn’t going to be understood by most others, but I don’t want to type out the whole story, so I’m really just including it so I can remember)
Ben & Jerry’s fudge brownie ice cream
being in the same room as Neil Gaiman, hearing him say funny and wise things and read cute stories
turning 26, feeling not great about it because it seems like a terrible age to be, but embracing it as another year that I’m still alive and having a great, laughter-filled day to make up for last year’s bad birthday
easily fitting other people into my routines, creating shared new routines that make me feel happy in the way that my already established ones do
Hilary Duff and Lifetime movies, getting to indulge in the terrible things I enjoy with someone else who appreciates the value of cheerful mockery
the first park trip of the year, walking in the sunshine and the breeze, sitting on benches by running water, talking to funny, cute kids
egg sandwiches and mashed potatoes from the Amish cafe and strawberry shortcake sundaes
lavender lotion from the Amish store and how great it smells and how great it makes my skin feel
the sweetest birthday cards and birthday presents to eagerly wait for in the mail from the loveliest friends
finally creeping my sleeping pattern toward healthy and regular, waking up between 9:00 and 10:00 and actually feeling awake rather than run-down and achy
herbs and bird feeders and tomatoes and flower pots from my mom for my birthday
sun sun sun
barely having the house to myself and loving the company, feeling sad and a little bit lonely now that it’s all mine again, which is a good thing because usually I can’t stand to be around people for more than five minutes without needing to retreat into myself and be very still and quiet
breaking down several anxieties that have always felt like integral parts of who I am, believing that I can define myself however I want rather than just paying lip service to the idea, for the first time feeling like I really have the tools to live my best life
Please start out this post with this playlist if you have Spotify, and if you don’t, please get Spotify and then start out this post with this playlist.
This winter was hard. It was really, really hard. For everyone, I think. Even people who love winter seem to be ecstatic that it’s finally ending. But no one is more ecstatic than me. Yesterday I said to Miranda, “I’m going to say something I’ve never said before. Are you ready? I’m ready for summer.” That’s the best example I can give of how much I hated winter this year. Summer is my least favorite of all the seasons, a time when I usually retreat to my cold house with its closed blinds and lie around under fans doing nothing but complaining about how hot it is, but now I can’t wait for it. It’s barely spring, but already I’m grabbing for summer with all the strength in my greedy hands and I’m going to absorb all the sunshine in the world into myself until I set myself on fire, and then I’ll never have to be cold again. Right now, that’s the dream.
Which is to say, the last post I wrote here was on December 1, and I’ve thought about that constantly over the past three and a half months, but anything I might have written would not be something I’d want to look back on, and this blog is really for me and my archival obsession. There’s been little worth archiving, just sadness and tiredness and more sadness and more tiredness, and struggling and sadness and a little more tiredness. That’s not fair to me and all the work I’ve been doing, and it’s not really true, probably, but it feels that way, and that’s the way I would’ve written about it. No one needed to read that.
My therapist tells me that my newfound hatred for winter is actually a good thing. It means that I’m getting better, that I want to be outside doing things more than I want to be cocooned in my bed thinking about how I’m too sad to do things. I’m not sure how true that is, but I’m going with it. I’ve seen enormous amounts of progress from therapy in the past months, and felt enormous amounts of progress from medication, and made enormous amounts of progress with the treadmill and drinking more water and trying, trying, trying to get more and better sleep. That last one is still a struggle, but I’m getting there. I’m giving myself the summer to continue working on physical, mental, and emotional health, making sure I’m really stable enough that introducing potential new stressers into my life won’t completely unbalance me again, and then I’m going to push my poor scared ghost self out into the wider world and try to … do something with my life. Right now the goal is support specialist at a mental health facility, but who knows what it will be by the end of the summer. I’m very fickle.
So, for the next few months at least, I’d like to dedicate myself to this blog again. There are so many things I want to post about: books and music to share, products to review, people to praise, happy wagons to fill, essays to write. Ideas have never been my problem, it’s always the follow-through. My hope is that with the sunshine returning, with the birds singing, with our new little old house and its sixteen windows and its huge backyard for swings and picnics and sun-drenched afternoon naps, my motivation will follow suit and burst back into bloom. Maybe don’t hold your breath, but cross your fingers and hope with me.
This is, at least in part, the reason for my current lack of blogging. November was an exceptionally difficult and stressful month, for me, but also, it seems, for almost everyone else. Personally, this has been a time of trying to love people better, trying to love some people less, trying to let some people go. It’s been a time of having to get really real with myself and my life and the ways I’ve let my mental health issues affect both, as well as other people. It’s been loss and regret and planning and packing and moving and meds and stress, and stress, and stress.
Politically, it’s been blow after blow, gut-punch after gut-punch. It’s been brutality and death and injustice, racism and ignorance and a shocking lack of empathy. It’s been don’t look at the news, don’t click the link, don’t read the comments. It’s been no emotional reserves left to deal with this world, but also the knowledge that that’s a luxury I don’t deserve to indulge, that to be an ally means opening my mouth, speaking up, engaging where others can’t and shouldn’t have to. And it’s been mourning that during a time meant for thanks, a mother has no son left to be thankful for, a woman is imprisoned for a crime she didn’t come close to committing, and a child’s life has been cruelly cut off before it even had a chance to begin.
These are the things I don’t like to blog about, because there’s already enough of them in the world, on the web. Everyone is sad, or sick, or stressed, or scared. Winter is coming and we’re all still sweet summer children. I want to write and share things that will make people feel a little warmer, a little lighter, a little happier. I want to focus on positivity so that when I’m in the depths of despair, as Anne would put it, I can look back at the good things and remind myself that they were, and are, and will be.
But sometimes, things are just hard, and heavy, and that’s all. Sometimes, you just have to sit with that heaviness and acknowledge it. Not bow to it, never that, but know that it’s there, that it’s real, and that, like all things, it’s temporary. Even if it’s recurring, it’s not forever. And then, even though it’s temporary, that it’s yours and it’s also many other people’s, and maybe it would help some of them to see it reflected back from someone else. To know that they’re not alone. Even though we know this, intellectually, we don’t always know it emotionally, and even though the news and social media never let us forget, sometimes we forget anyway.
So, you’re not alone. The world is heavy and I am heavy in the world, and if you are, too, I’m here with you. It will get better–even now, even in November, there were good, happy things–but that doesn’t make the ache less or the burden lighter, right here, right now. And that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be instantly better, you don’t have to sweep it away or hide it behind platitudes and positivity mantras. You can share it, and let people hold your hand and love you through it.
I always want things to be easy, especially emotional things. I want them to be only good, and, when they aren’t, I want to ignore and rush past them to a point when they will be again, or to a point where there’s enough distance that I don’t have to care anymore. But that isn’t the way anything works, least of all emotions, and so many of the hard things in my life have been caused by these avoidant tendencies. I know that, and I’m working on it. I’m fortunate enough to have some wonderful people in my life who never stop loving me and never stop holding out their hands, even if I don’t always take them, and I’m so glad and so grateful and I hope you have that, too.
If you don’t (or even if you do), here is me loving you, here is me holding out my hand. Here is me saying I know it’s hard, I know it’s heavy. It is for me, too. But we can help get each other to better. After winter comes spring, but winter is still to be endured, and what better form of warmth?
helped out with a mobility thing that required me to walk around a downtown business district, didn’t die
spent a much-needed evening in the grass at the park and another outside in the country with puppies and silence
went to the dentist and had a deep cleaning, didn’t die, now have slightly healthier teeth
drove around looking at lots of houses, actually found a couple that we might contentedly live in, didn’t get a call back from one we applied for
went to a fall festival, didn’t have funnel cake, did have delicious lemonade, saw vintage dresses and shawls I didn’t buy, saw organic bath and body products I did buy, got very sore from so much walking
ate good food, had good conversations, laughed a lot, slept too much, made supermoon wishes, practiced being kinder to myself
For the first time in months, I feel like there were finally enough good things in the past week to do one of these again, if only just.
seeing a couple of affordable and actually habitable houses during our househunting trips–even if we don’t end up living in them, it gives me hope that eventually we’ll find the one that’s meant for us, and the secret garden backyard we saw at one of them has increased my determination to get out of apartments and onto some land where I can grow things
My “Antidepressants” playlist on Spotify, a work in progress of songs with no unifying theme other than that they make me feel something good, the more offensive to music snobs everywhere the better (the bulk of it is currently made up of boy bands, Disney, musicals, 90s jams, and mainstream rap and R&B)
buying more healthy things than unhealthy for the first time in my grocery shopping history, and, consequently, eating lots of strawberries and dark chocolate granola and carrots and oatmeal and burritos that I have to assemble myself rather than frozen ones I just put in the microwave
the audiobook of One Direction’s autobiography, which is abridged but worth it for the fact that they each narrate a section and are all such hilariously earnest, awful babies that I thought my chest would explode with happiness while I listened
realizing that I’m starting to unconsciously do some of the work of therapy for myself in my daily life without needing to be guided to it just once each week, and having that realization validated by my therapist
Fin and Feather, a local fall festival and craft fair which is almost as good (and terrible for my bank account) as the Renaissance Festival, where this year I found an amazing wealth of organic bath and body products sold by people who make everything themselves and usually sell it out of their homes
using the products for the first time and ending up with skin and hair smelling of herbs and slightly minty flowering plants
the ever-present but somehow still unexpected kindness of strangers, both in welcoming me into their spaces and in treating me like a person, rather than like a disability that just happens to have a person attached
strawberry jam, on English muffins and on toast and licked from sticky fingers