Where I’ve Been: A Life Update

Hey guys!  I can’t believe it’s been MONTHS since I’ve last posted something.  (Ok…maybe I can, if you knew what I’ve been doing.)

First of all, I just want to say that I think I’ve lost my spark for blogging.  It used to be so much fun for me, but my taste in books has changed over the past year or so.  While I still enjoy YA, I’ve become a major historical nonfiction buff.  Stories of real life for me have suddenly become more fascinating than fiction.

If you want me to review the nonfiction I’ve been reading, I’ll gladly do that.  But since this has been primarily a YA blog, I didn’t want to just switch on everyone.

But another reason why I haven’t been blogging is quite simple: I fell in love again.

If you’ve stuck with me over the past seven (!!!) years, you may be rolling your eyes because I tend to fall in love a lot, right?  I’m a hopeless romantic and I know it.  But I’m also quite picky when it comes to guys, so it takes me a while to find the right guy but them I’m a goner.

ANYWAY, this one is different.  It feels different, not just to me.  He’s told me on multiple occasions that he’s never felt anything like this, and both of us have been in (failed) relationships that almost brought about engagements.  So I think we have at least some idea of what we’re talking about.

I really want to tell you about this guy because I just like to gush about him.  And I think this story is awesome.  ❤

I met him when I was a freshman in high school.  (Oh yeah, we’re going back in time.  2006, baby.)  We were in show choir together, which meant we spent quite a bit of time in the same place.  Rehearsals, competitions, etc.  I was an uber dork and he was tall and handsome.  He made me laugh and he was one of the few people I felt really listened to me when I spoke.  So naturally, I developed a pretty big crush on him.

(You see why I like this story so much?)

He was two years older than me, so when he graduated in 2008, I saw him 1-2 more times after graduation and then he was gone.  He served 8 years in the Air Force and traveled all over the US and was stationed abroad for a time.  He returned to our hometown about a year and a half ago and got a job at a local restaurant with my cousin.

In all of that time, we never reconnected.

Part of it was because I was afraid he wouldn’t be the person I remembered.  I’ve reconnected with old high school friends before and they were completely different.  It just ruined my memories of them and cast a different light on what I thought of them.  He was my one unsullied high school crush that I could look back on with fondness, and I didn’t want that ruined.

In November after a date cut me off cold turkey, I reluctantly headed back to the dating apps try to find someone new.  That’s when I found him.  (I’d found him before on the app, but I’d been avoiding him for reasons stated above.)  With a little bit of reluctance, I accepted his attempt to contact me.  We talked over text for almost two weeks.

At first, I wasn’t sure he remembered me.  Everything was vague, getting-to-know-you style questions.  But he let slip the name of our show choir director, and I said, “Oh, you do remember me.”  His sweet reply was, “Of course.  Why wouldn’t I?”

(You have to remember, I was so quiet in school that people didn’t really notice me then and they certainly don’t remember me 10 years later with that kind of ease.)

Because of his work schedule at a nearby gym, it was hard for us to find a time to meet up again for the first time.  To keep things casual, I went to visit him at work one night, just to see if we were compatible.  I was so nervous I put on extra deodorant before I left the house so I wouldn’t sweat through my clothes and stink.

The sparks, you guys.  Oh my God.  I was there for about 3 hours while he told me all kinds of stories from the service, about what he’d been up to, and telling me jokes.  He’s a bit of a talker, so I was content to just be listening and sharing a few of my stories here and there.  When I left, my face legitimately hurt from all the smiling I had done.  When I got home, I had a text waiting from him where he told me he hadn’t smiled that much in a long time.

The funniest thing is that he’s not my type.  Since college, I’ve fallen into a (terrible) routine when it comes to picking guys.  I like them to be taller than me, well-educated and dorky, funny, not a trouble-maker, and settled when it comes to what they’re doing with their life.

He is 6’4″ (tall: check!), but he only has a high school diploma at this point.  (He wants to go to culinary school, which is fantastic for me.  I don’t cook.)  He’s funny (check!), but he’s been caught by the law on more than one occasion in his past and mixed up in some pretty bad situations.  However, since his last brush with the law, he’s cleaned up his act.  He wants to be a different person and even in such a short time with him, I’ve seen evidence of that.  And he’s definitely not settled in his life yet.  Before I walked back into his life, he was planning to move halfway across the country to Denver.  He told me one week into dating that he wasn’t leaving unless I was coming with him.

Ironically enough, it’s these imperfections that make him perfect for me.  What I was finding with a lot of my well-educated boys was that they were very analytical and left-brained.  There was no room for emotion, so when I would get upset they would shut down.  I struggled so hard to get them to give me the emotional support I needed.  I struggled to talk to them, knowing that I could say the wrong thing and they would get offended.  I was a master at bottling up emotions until I exploded.

This one is different.  He picks up on the smallest changes in my demeanor.  If I need to cry, he holds me while I do.  When my anxiety spikes, he knows how to help because he has anxiety himself.  He’s not afraid to tell me what he’s feeling.  (I hear every day how beautiful I am, how smart and amazing I am, how much he loves me…I could really get used to this.)  It’s so different from what I’m used to that it’s become something of a whirlwind.  I certainly didn’t believe him at first that I was beautiful, amazing, etc.  He told me he was going to keep telling me until I believed him because it was the truth.

Like many of us, I always wanted to be like a Disney princess when it comes to finding her Prince Charming all the while laughing at how they fell in love in only a few days.  Now, I get it.  Maybe because I knew and trusted him so long ago, we just click.  Since we’ve been together, my anxiety has only gotten the better of me twice rather than at least once a week.  I feel more calm and more confident.  I can make my corny jokes and he thinks they’re funny even as he rolls his eyes.  We’re both just as happy to spend the day in our pajamas watching Netflix as we are dressing up and going out on a date.  And he pushes me to try new foods and he loves planning surprise dates where I don’t find out what we’re doing until we’re on the way there.  (I hate surprises, but so far he’s done a fabulous job of knowing what I’d like to do.  So…I trust him.)

And he feels comfortable around me.  He tells me things he’s never told anyone else, in halting stories that aren’t practiced and polished from constant retellings.  He fits in with my family far better than any of my past boyfriends.  But the biggest selling point for him was the fact that his notoriously stranger-hating cat let me pet him the first time I met him.  That was apparently a sign that I was perfect for him.

I know I’ve said this before, but for anyone looking for love out there, don’t settle.  If something’s not right, get out.  In many of my previous relationships, I start having anxiety about the future, if I can love this person, what being married to them will be like, etc. in the first month of dating that person.  It’s disturbingly detailed, the thoughts that run through my mind.  But with this one, I haven’t worried about those things.  He has made loving him so easy that I don’t have to worry about what the future will bring because if he’s next to me, it’ll be ok.

…That was a terrible cliche.  My apologies.


A Reaction to Las Vegas

I’m just going to put this bluntly: I’ve snapped.  I’m tired and I’ve lost it.  I don’t normally use profanity on this site because my mama raised me better than that (and because I know that some of you are younger readers), so I try not to.  But today…I may make an exception.

Because I am so bloody tired.

I am tired of waking up in the morning and learning about mass shootings that took place the night before.  My radio station even teased the news, saying something vague about 50 dying and, “We’ll tell you the rest after this song!”  My first reaction was that it was some kind of accident, like a plane crash or a train derailment.  It wasn’t until they came back that I learned the truth.

I am tired of going through the day waiting for answers.  Being a teacher and at work all day, I didn’t have any time to follow the news to even figure out what was going on.  (I didn’t even know it was an outdoor concert until lunch.)

I am tired of waiting for answers that will never come, like why this person picked this place.  Or why he decided to do it.  Or why he believed this was a good path to take.  Or why he continued for so long.  So many questions that will never be satisfactorily answered.

I am tired of the absolute bullshit happening in the media about mental illness because this guy was white and nothing about terrorism because he was white.  Apparently there’s some kind of guideline involved in calling it terrorism vs. mass murder, but I’m finding that line seems to only exist when religion and race are involved.  If you’re firing a weapon into crowds of people intent on killing as many people as possible, it’s fucking terrorism.  Done.  Look how easy that was to call it terrorism!

I am tired of nonetheless spending hours in front of the TV to figure out what happened.

I am tired of hearing the sentiment that even though it’s a tragic time, it’s so uplifting to see people come together to help each other.  It bothers me so much.  Like, you think you’re being comforting, but you’re really not because this shouldn’t have happened.  Sure, say it after a hurricane or something where people are reaching out to help neighbors.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t recognize the heroes who stepped up in these situations.  Last I heard, there was at least one Las Vegas cop who was killed at the concert and he deserves recognition.  But in a situation like this, it’s panic and pandemonium.  There was no forewarning.  So I don’t blame the people who fled for their lives and maybe didn’t stop to help someone else.

I am tired of anticipating the gun control “debate” that will surely rise, which will include one side insisting that all guns should be banned and the other side going out and buying even more guns to thwart the other side.  This is idiotic.  I’m all for regulations.  There have been too many shootings, too many mass murders, too many acts of terrorism in the US involving guns to continue on this current path.  Do you realize how stupid we look to the rest of the world, especially the ones that have outlawed or restricted guns?  (Yes, I’m aware that we have a second amendment, but guns in the 1780s were one shot, front loading rifles with little to no accuracy.  A fully automatic rifle or even a fucking revolver would have been unthinkable to the Founding Fathers.)

I am tired of having little to no hope that our laws will change any time soon.  Especially not with this president.

I am tired of wondering when this will eventually impact my life.  Because how can it not?  The statistics are startling and as a teacher, it seems all the more likely that some day, there may be an attack on my school and I may be in the crossfire.  I have never, not once since Sandy Hook, felt 100% safe in my job (and I wasn’t even a college graduate at the time!).  As teachers, we are more or less taught to protect the kids at all costs, even if we have to give our lives.  And that is fucking terrifying.  On days like this, I have a hard time juggling my daily job with what could one day be my responsibility.  (And don’t tell me I’m overreacting; we had a bomb threat a couple of years ago that was thankfully a fake, but could have been devastatingly real.)

I am fucking tired of feeling helpless in these situations.

I am tired of everyone offering prayers but not solutions.

I am tired of the rhetoric.

I am tired of the speculation of where it could happen next.

I am tired of fearing going to large venues with friends.

I am tired of fear.

But I am also emboldened.  I am fired up and ready to make a change, because this cannot continue.  Many of my friends are struggling to come up with the words to explain to their children how and why things like this keep happening.  And why should we when regulations, when policy changes can protect our children in the same way that children in the UK, in Australia are protected?  In both of those countries, they had wake-up calls after a mass shooting and they took steps to fix the problem.  So why do we keep making excuses about this one?

Why do we keep allowing it to happen?

Much like the violence itself, continuing on this path is senseless and destructive.

The Friend-Zone: A Word War

Hey guys!  I’m still alive, though my reading has dramatically slowed with the beginning of the school year (as it always does).  Don’t fret; I’ll be reviewing books again…eventually!  But until then, I thought I would talk about a topic that truly bothers me.  And since we’re just getting back into school (for many of you, high school and college), I thought this topic would be appropriate.

“The Friend-Zone”

Image result for friendzone

I’m an English teacher, so let’s start with a definition, shall we?  Oxford Dictionary defines the “friend zone” as “a situation in which a friendship exists between two people, one of whom has an unreciprocated romantic or sexual interest in the other.”  (It also gives the helpful example sentence of “I always wind up in the friend zone, watching them pursue other guys.”  We’ll come back to this.)

Some backstory.  Growing up, I was always friends with guys far more than I was girls.  I couldn’t relate to girls as easily as I could boys, so my best friends most of the time happened to be guys.  Usually nerdy and awkward guys because that was the group I fit into.  I even had one teacher who gave me the nickname “the flirt” because she only ever saw me with boys.

Now, from time to time, this did lead to instances of either me or one of those friends having feelings for each other.  Especially in high school.  And look, that happens.  Sometimes sparks just fly.  And the more you get to know a person, the more you start to think…maybe…something could happen between you two.  Totally normal.

What’s not normal is the sexism that ends up in the mix.  I’ll give you two scenarios to prove my point.

Scenario 1: Sophomore/Junior year of high school, I developed a massive crush on a guy in show choir with me (let’s call him Trevor).  Trevor and I had a lot in common, we had fun together, and he even took me to prom (as friends).  His parents were pushing for us to be a couple, and so was I.  He was one of the first boys I was actually attracted to and seemed to be attracted back.  But I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  I hung the moon on Trevor for 2 years.  I poured my heart out once to him, finally asking why we weren’t a couple.  He replied that he “wasn’t in the right mindset” at the moment for a relationship, but he thought he would be soon.  So I hung on.  Right up to his graduation at the end of my junior year, when I realized nothing was going to happen.

Scenario 2: Senior year of high school.  In my calculus class, there was a boy (we’ll call him Richie) who had been a friend of mine early in high school but who I hadn’t really seen since freshman year.  I looked forward to Richie coming into class every day because he always asked me about what I was reading that day.  (It changed every other day.)  Come prom season, I told him about my dress and that I was excited to go; I love formal dances.  He told me he had to work that night, so he wasn’t sure if he could make it.  I told him he really should come because it was a lot of fun.  He ended up showing up by the end of the night and we danced the final slow dance together…which is also when he kissed me.  I was absolutely, completely, horrifically blindsided.  Never had it crossed my mind that he liked me.  I tried to distance myself from him at school the following week.

Guess which of these two scenarios got labeled as the “friend zone”?

You guessed it, scenario 2.

Why, you may ask?  Because in scenario 2, a female (me) was denying a male (in this case, Richie) a relationship.  It didn’t matter that I was completely uncomfortable with the situation.  It didn’t matter that I had been kissed against my wishes.  It didn’t matter I wasn’t attracted to him in the same way.  What mattered was that I had rejected him, a guy who had given me special attention.

And look, let’s be honest, I was not high enough on the social ladder for rumors to really circulate about me.  And I was happy with that.  There was talk, but not nearly what it was when one of the popular boys was caught dirty dancing with a girl who wasn’t his girlfriend at the same prom.  It also helped that I never took that talk too seriously.  I knew who I was and was comfortable in my own skin.  I knew I didn’t want to be in a relationship with Richie and I let him know that.

But even now, I can’t describe to you how afraid I was after prom, when we ended up at his place for a “party”.  (It ended up only being us and one of my friends with her date.  No one else showed.  We watched She’s Out of My League, which was 100% true and prophetic in this guy’s case.  More on that later.)  I was alone with him for a long time before my friend showed up.  (Not totally alone.  His mom was upstairs, but you get my point.)  When he sat on the couch next to me, I tucked my feet up between us to keep some distance.  I think he even tried to give me a foot rub at one point and that definitely freaked me out.  I didn’t even want him to walk me to my car later that night.  And I definitely didn’t want to see him in calculus the next school day.

So imagine my already confused state getting even more confused when people at school seemed to be blaming me for not liking him.  Because that’s essentially what “friend zoning” someone is–blaming you for not returning the same feelings.

And that’s where I have a problem with the term “friend zone”.  It’s even present in that example sentence from Oxford Dictionary where it says, “I always wind up in the friend zone, watching them pursue other guys.”  Granted, this is 2017 and gender is fluid, but be honest and tell me you didn’t immediately read that sentence and picture a man talking about a woman.

Not once, ever, while I pined over a guy for two years did someone accuse him of friend zoning me.  I rarely ever saw anyone give him grief about leading me on for that long.  (Honestly, I only remember his mother doing that…)  If anything, I felt the blame.  Like I couldn’t hold his attention long enough.  Or I wasn’t exactly who he wanted me to be and I needed to change.  Or even that I was being clingy for wanting a relationship.

I can tell you, wholeheartedly, that this is not true.  And if you ever feel like you’re being blamed for not feeling returning someone’s interest, don’t.  You deserve better than someone trying to guilt you into a relationship with them.

The whole connotation of the term “friend zone” is that someone (typically male) is showing someone else (typically female) affection and they are being denied/rejected, thus making that affectionate person a victim and the denier the villain.  This is absolutely not true.  If you don’t feel it, then you don’t feel it.  There is nothing wrong with that.  I cannot stress that enough.  You shouldn’t be forced into a relationship you don’t want to be in because someone is upset you aren’t returning their feelings.  And if they truly loved you, they’d understand.  Life is about timing and sometimes timing sucks.  You just have to put on your grown-up pants and deal with it.  No one is entitled to a relationship with you.

With distance comes wisdom, and I can tell you that I’ve learned a lot in these past few years about perspective.  And I’ll share with you the aftermath of both of these stories:

Aftermath of Scenario 1: After Trevor graduated, I never saw him again.  Seriously.  It’s been a little over 8 years and even in my small town, I’ve never run into him once.  I’m not even Facebook friends with him because it hurt too much in the beginning.  After that, I didn’t care as much.  But his life went in a very different direction than mine, including a DUI charge when he was 20.  So…frankly, I’m glad I got out of that before things got out of control.  He thrived on drama, and I like peace.  Eventually, if we’d gone out, we would have broken up anyway, I’m sure.

Aftermath of Scenario 2: I felt terrible about the way I treated Richie.  (This goes back to blame game…I’m speaking from experience.)  We stayed in contact for a couple of years sporadically on Facebook, finally dating our sophomore year of college.  We went to different colleges, but we tried to make it work.  It was awkward; too much time had passed since we were truly friends.  And eventually he broke up with me because I was, and I quote, “too smart”.  The guy who said I friend zoned him in high school–and who was studying to be a doctor of all things–dumped me because he was intimidated by my brain.  Let’s just say that the feelings I harbor toward Richie can be contained in one finger.  Maybe two.  It was with a certain amount of glee that I swiped left on his picture when I saw it on Tinder about a year ago.

And to be honest, this whole “friend zone” thing didn’t stop after I graduated high school.  At least one other guy accused me of doing the same thing in college.  Girls, it will happen. You’ll meet a boy who wants to be you friend (whether that’s his only initial goal or not) and will get mad when you don’t want more.  It’s ok to say no.  You have that right, and no one can take that away from you.  And if you get into a situation where he doesn’t want to take no for an answer, seek help.  From teachers, friends, adults, councilors, police, complete strangers, anyone.  You are a human being with hopes, dreams, values, and an identity all your own.  They are not entitled to you.  They don’t get a say in what you do with your life.  It’s your life.  Be who you want to be and make the hard decisions.  Because if you aren’t doing what’s right for you, you’ll eventually regret compromising yourself for someone who doesn’t actually care about you.  Been there, done that.

If you’ve taken anything away from this, I hope it’s that you know that you’re worth it.  Wait for the right person to come along.  Because when he/she does, you’ll easily see how those other guys weren’t treating you right at all.


We Will Rise: A Reaction to Charlottesville and Barcelona

Believe it or not, I’m something of an optimist.  I like to see the silver lining in everything.  But I’m also a bit of a realist as well, keeping my expectations in check.  (For example, I’m optimistic that this school year will go well and I’ll have great students, but I’m realistic in knowing that there will be a few who will test my patience to the extreme.  It happens every year and I don’t see why this year will be different.)

But this latest blast of bad news is awful and so demoralizing that there is no silver lining.  We think that because we are civilized nations, nations of great technology, that we are somehow superior to our ancestors.  And then things like this happen.  Charlottesville.  Barcelona.

I’m having some trouble putting my thoughts into words eloquently, so please bear with me as I attempt to explain myself.

Barcelona is, unequivocally, a tragedy of international importance.  As of this writing, there is still little news making its way to the States, only the death tolls and that the van driver has not been caught.  The fact that this person could drive through the streets/sidewalks and just mow people down is horrifying and my heart goes out to everyone affected.  No one should have to deal with this.  And it’s so terrifying because it could literally happen anywhere.  And that’s the point of terrorism.  It can happen anywhere, at any time, to anyone.  They’re trying to instill fear because it gives them power.

And Charlottesville.  I spent most of Saturday unaware of what was happening as I was stuck in a car for a long road trip.  But what I’ve learned since then has sickened me greatly.  Because, like Barcelona, this is terrorism.

I’m not denying that people have the right to free speech.  Both sides had permits to march that day.  And because we have that free speech, we also have the right to disagree with each other.  But free speech ends where that speech threatens another person.  And I’m not necessarily talking about death threats or threats of violence (though they absolutely apply); I’m talking about any time another person legitimately feels threatened by what you’re saying.  By saying their race needs to go; that their religion makes them monsters; that their gender makes them a sinner bound for hell.  When you hear these things enough times from enough different people, you start to hear the threats behind them.

While I 100%, absolutely, whole-heartedly disagree with President Trump’s “many sides” comment about Charlottesville, I understand where he’s coming from, in that at some point both sides likely tried to start fights.  I’ve seen videos that imply one side or another started a fight.  I don’t know; I wasn’t there.  Maybe both sides played a role; maybe they didn’t.  This article on mob mentality shows how quickly things can spiral out of control in large group settings, so I can’t say for sure that either side is completely blameless.  But I absolutely do not think you can put both sides on the same playing field.  One ideology preaches hatred and exclusion, the other acceptance.  While I don’t think violence is the answer, I think sometimes there is a need to show an amount of force.  I just prefer it to be in the form of legal documents and numbers rather than fists and clubs.

I cannot stand by silently while someone will not condemn neo-Nazis and white supremacists.  That’s not how I was raised.  I was raised that people are to be treated equally.  I was raised to put myself in the shoes of someone else I had a disagreement with to first see their side before I responded.  I was raised to believe that everyone has value.

That is not the rhetoric of those who marched at Charlottesville.  I’ve seen the videos where they march and scream about how the Jews will not replace them.  I’ve seen the Nazi swastikas they carry and the salutes.  It’s frightening, and I can’t even imagine what it would be like to see it in real life.  And the fact that is such a blatant repetition of German Nazi rhetoric and actions is all the more threatening and horrifying.

What kind of things have to happen to a person so that they believe the things they do?  What happens to make them think Jews are trying to replace them or that an African American woman is more of a threat than a man in camo pants and carrying a rifle across his back?  What kind of life does that person have?

I am in no way trying to trivialize the situation as I make the following comparison; I am merely trying to find a context to make everything make sense.  But to me, I see a startling number of similarities between what is happening now and the plots of the later Harry Potter books.  (Again, in no way am I trying to trivialize what’s happened in real life.)  This rise of hatred reminds me of the resurrection of Voldemort and his Death Eaters.  The resistance to them reminds me of Dumbledore’s Army and the original Order.  And, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Cornelius Fudge (maybe Rufus Scrimgeour?) refuse to do anything about Voldemort’s return?  (It’s been a while since I’ve read the later books.)

And it’s from those books that I have learned what happens in these situations: fear will triumph for a time.  For now, we have politicians who fear coming forward and being vocal in their condemnation.  For now, we have average citizens who fear the consequences of standing against them and attending rallies for fear of being attacked.  For now, there are a number of people thriving on the thrill they’re feeling from being in that power position and creating that fear.  For once in their lives, they feel powerful and it’s addicting.

But if Harry and Dumbeldore’s Army have taught me anything, it’s that evil cannot and will not reign forever, not when there are enough people ready to fight for what they believe in.  The roots of evil may not fully disappear for a time (like Voldemort and his Horcruxes), but it can be extinguished.  The Phoenix will rise from the ashes.  We will persevere.  But it will not be a simple journey.  It wasn’t easy for Harry, Ron, or Hermione in Deathly Hallows, and it won’t be easy for us.

I have much faith in humanity, that right will eventually overcome wrongs.  It has in the past.  Slavery was eventually abolished (though after much horrific history that should never be forgotten) and the Nazis were defeated (ditto about the history).  The Civil Rights Movement finally brought about much-needed equality in terms of the law, even if certain lawmakers still try to claw their way back to Jim Crow.  We have risen above it before and I believe we will again.

It’s just so heartbreaking that the cost of bringing change to the world are the deaths of so many innocents.

Anxiety: A Response to Eliza and Her Monsters

Hey everyone!  If you’ve been following my blog for long, you’ll maybe have noticed that I rarely post about my personal life.  I don’t normally have a lot of time for that, but I also think there’s some right to privacy, you know?  But the topic of the last book I read was one that I felt compelled to write about.


I feel like anxiety gets trivialized in the media, like how we’re the Prozac nation or the Xanax generation, but anxiety can’t be trivialized when you have it.  This is my story.

For most of my life, I’ve been what people have referred to as a worrier or a worry-wart.  I stressed out about things I had no control over and mothered people as a way to retain that control when I could.  Since I was 7 or 8 years old, I’ve picked at my nails, and around 18 or 19 it started to include picking at the skin around my nails.  (Both of these are symptoms of anxiety, I’ve read.)  I worried about everything.  I worked hard on all my homework so I wouldn’t worry about grades, Google-mapped every route 12 times to make sure I wouldn’t worry about going new places, and listened to all the health experts about what I should and shouldn’t do with my body so I wouldn’t worry about my health.

I’m not going to sit here and proclaim that I have full-blown anxiety syndrome.  I don’t. (Or at least I don’t think I do.  You may not agree by the time you read all this.)  But like many people, I suffer from somewhat frequent (and random) bouts of anxiety over many things.  Making phone calls.  Driving.  Confrontations.  Hospitals.  Churches.  (Those are all real anxieties I have, by the way.)

And of course, anxiety takes many forms.  Many of us feel anxious going into a job interview or working on homework or going somewhere new.  That’s normal.  I get that too, but sometimes I think it goes beyond what most people feel.  I sometimes let that anxiety win.  If I’m too afraid of what parking is going to be like downtown or if I don’t know if I’ll like a restaurant, I just won’t go.  If I’m afraid of what people will think of me eating at a restaurant by myself, I won’t do it.  While I’m better now than I used to be in some ways, it’s still a problem at times.

Let me tell you about my latest (and worst) anxiety attack.  A couple of weekends ago, I went to a wedding with my boyfriend for one of his college friends.  I’d met the groom before, but he and my boyfriend were the only two people I knew.  And, being an introvert, I was worried about constantly being surrounded by people I didn’t know and how I’d have to make small talk or risk looking like a loser sitting by herself.

Ironically, this wasn’t what set off my anxiety attack.  The church was.  Or, more specifically, the mass.

See, I grew up Catholic.  And for a number of my formative years, I enjoyed parts of it.  As a kid, I liked the songs and my Sunday school teachers and the Bible stories.  But I never liked communion.  And as I got older, the constant Catholic message of needing to be perfect, of being worthy, absolutely terrified me that I wasn’t enough.

I have always been a perfectionist.  My anxiety stems from perfectionism, whether it’s grades or sports or crafts.  I have to keep working at it until I perfect it.  And if I can’t master it, then I’m not good enough.  Sometimes that challenges me enough to keep trying, sometimes I shut down and panic.

And Catholicism, in my experience, feeds on that doubt and panic.

What my boyfriend neglected to tell me (because he knew I’d freak out) was that this was going to be a Catholic wedding.  So when we arrived for the rehearsal the night before the wedding, I got quite a shock.  But the rehearsal went well and I started to meet a lot of new people.  Everything was going ok.  I was having fun.

Until the wedding.  If you’ve never experienced a Catholic wedding, they tend to combine the wedding with an actual mass service, communion and several readings included.  And one of the things they say in that service is that you should feel worthy before accepting communion, like by making peace with yourself before you come up to the priest or something.  I’m actually not entirely sure what they intend when they say “feel worthy.”  But I know how I interpret it.

As a perfectionist, I never feel worthy.  So over the years, I’ve become conditioned to freak out as soon as I see the communion part of mass start.  Is this logical? Maybe not.  But, I argue, when has anxiety every been logical and rational?  All I know is that part of every church service I’ve ever sat through has a section where I feel like I’m not good enough and everyone around me feels like they are.  (It doesn’t help that those who don’t receive communion sit in the pews by themselves, further ostracizing them from the herd.  Like an injured gazelle in the savannah, everyone notices you and does nothing about it.)

So when the priest started going through the communion rituals at the wedding, I started panicking.  Like, legitimate panic.  Normally, I have someone near me (family, etc) that I try to stay calm around because, you know, I’m a perfectionist and I don’t want anyone to see me freak out over something like this.  But I was alone.  My boyfriend was a groomsman and up front.  Everyone else I’d met the night before was in the wedding party and also up front.  I was in a pew by myself, with no one around me.  One guy was across the aisle from me, but that was it.  No one in front of or behind me.

And I panicked.  My breathing sped up, my heart pounded against my ribs, and I started to feel light headed.  It felt like I’d just got done jogging a half-mile, the way I was breathing.  I wasn’t quite gasping for breath, but it was close.  I was sweating and my fingers were trembling.  I could barely get my fingers to wrap around the pew in front of me to hold on (we were standing at the time).  I was losing strength in my hands and legs.  I even intentionally bent my knees to keep from locking them and passing out.  I stared at the pew in front of me with wide eyes and tried to take deep breaths, all the while attempting to drown out the priest’s words so something he said wouldn’t make it worse.

It was terrifying.  I’ve never been that far gone in an anxiety attack before in my life, and here I am, doing it in the middle of someone’s wedding ceremony.  I was terrified, on top of that, that I was going to either A) hyperventilate and pass out, thereby creating a scene or B) have to leave the church during the service, also probably creating a scene.  I did not want to be remembered by all these people as The Girl Who Fainted in Church.  I had to keep mentally telling myself that everything was ok, I was going to be ok, the service would be over soon.  Because the minute I stopped saying those things, a mental chant of “I’m not ok, this isn’t working” started to run through my head and it got worse.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I remember little of the end of the ceremony.

It felt like eons before we exited the church, though it was probably only another ten minutes.  I was still shaking even after that as we welcomed the happy couple into the world, though I think I did a good job hiding it.  I didn’t entirely feel better until well after we’d left the church.  And even then, I was still freaked out that it had been that strong.

So when I read Eliza and Her Monsters, which is about anxiety, I connected with Eliza on a number of levels.  I understood her anxiety about people and wanting to stay home and watch TV reruns rather than go out.  I understood her need to hold onto her anonymity in the world.  I understood her fear and worry and (obviously) anxiety when everything started to fall apart.  I had gone through something that felt similar to that only recently.

And it was because of Eliza’s story that I wanted to share my own.  I think that’s part of why stories about mental health are so important and why I gravitate so much toward Francesca Zappia’s writing.  I think that’s exactly why she keeps writing books like this.  It not only makes us more aware of what other people are going through, but it makes us also want to speak up about our own experiences.

I’m not going to say there’s a happy ending to this.  Sorry.  Anxiety is something I deal with in moderation basically every day.  It could be a little thing like posting a personal story online or it could be bigger like wondering if I made the right career choice.

All I can say is that talking seems to help me.  And I have to teach those around me how to listen.  I have a few people that I trust to talk to about these worries.  Sometimes I only talk to one of them, sometimes I talk to multiple for different perspectives.  But the best listeners are the ones who just let me get it out and ask questions about how I feel or what happened next when I don’t know what to say.  (Word of warning: watch out for the ones who say, “You’re fine, there’s nothing to worry about.”  For me, that only makes things worse because clearly, I’m not fine and telling me not to worry doesn’t magically make the panic go away.)

So, from one person to another, be kind.  If you see someone struggling with anxiety, even if it doesn’t make sense to you, try to be understanding.  There may be a story behind it that you don’t understand yet, like me panicking in a wedding ceremony.  Just listen and be there.  Or, if you’re the one with anxiety, talk about it.  Truly, sometimes mentally working through your worries and discussing them out loud decreases the fear they hold over you.  And, by talking, you’re increasing your support system rather than isolating yourself.  And that support system is key to feeling better.

If you’d like to leave a comment with your own stories, feel free.  You aren’t alone in this.


Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wish Were Movies

Hey guys!  I had some free time this week (some of my last before school starts back up again…ugh), so I thought I’d do a couple of specialty posts before summer ends.  And while there aren’t any official Top Ten Tuesdays until August, I thought it would be fun to go back and look at a couple that I haven’t done but look interesting.

And I love movies (who doesn’t?), so I thought this might be cool.  We spend a lot of time complaining about how Hollywood ruins movies as they adapt them (though they are getting better), so this is my Best-Case-Scenario adaptations.  Also, if you have news that any of these are going to be movies/already are and flew beneath the radar, please leave that in a comment!  There are so many adaptations being done right now that I’ve lost track.

Top Ten Books I Wish Would Be Movies

(Or a TV series…I’d be good with that too.)

  1. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

    Let’s be realistic.  Is there ever going to be a time when this doesn’t show up on my Top Ten lists?  No.  But that’s because this story is complex, well-written, surprising, and has a whole cast of great characters that you love, love to hate, and want to impale on a pike.  (…Too much?)  I think this would be an awesome fantasy series, if it could be done well.  And by that I mean no changes from the source material whatsoever.

  2. Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

    Everyone’s super into Beauty and the Beast right now, so why not adapt a brilliant sci-fi version?  I mean, how many variations of Cinderella are out on video?  Let’s get BatB on that bandwagon.  Because this story is also brilliant and complex, with an interesting and unexpected twist on the tale as old as time.

  3. Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

    The reason I want this to be a movie may be surprising.  It’s not because it’s a great teenage love story (though it is), but because of Jordan herself.  She’s fiesty and athletic and totally one of the guys.  She’s a fantastic atypical role model for girls and I would absolutely love to see girls have someone like her to look up to.  Growing up a tomboy myself, I constantly felt like people and the media were judging me because I wasn’t wearing makeup and doing my hair, etc., and I don’t want other girls to be judged the way I was.

  4. Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

    I love a good Robin Hood retelling, as do many people judging by how there’s a new movie every 5-10 years.  This one is less action based than some of the others, but it makes up for it with the intricacies of the plot and the scheming of the baddies.  There are impossible predicaments these characters are put in with no easy answers.  And I’d love to see a movie that does that.

  5. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

    I feel like this go looked over in the rush of turning YA novels into movies.  I know angels are kind of on the outs right now and not nearly as popular as tragic teen love stories, but I think if done well, this could be spectacular.  The special effects in this alone would probably get me to the theatre.

  6. Graceling by Kristin Cashore

    Like seriously, how is this not a thing?  I mean, Hunger Games, Divergent, The 5th Wave all got made into movies.  This was just as big as any of those.  Yes, it’s more fantasy than dystopia, but still.  This was one of the first fantasy novels where I fell in love with a fantasy world.  And you’ve got to admit there’s a lot of action.

  7. Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

    This could be really interesting as a movie, especially when you take into account that the main character is an unreliable narrator since she can’t tell reality from fiction.  So while highlighting mental illness and making it relatable, I think this could also be an interesting experiment in movie making.  Probably an indie movie, though, since big companies would think it’s too risky.

  8. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

    Like seriously, how has this not been turned into a movie either?  It’s a creepy ghost story in line with other horror stories and ghost thrillers, but with a dash of humor and romance.  It’s so interesting and good.

  9. A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier

    I’ve noticed lately that movie makers are starting to delve into little-known historical moments and people to make into make really interesting movies (see: Dunkirk, The Imitation Game, Hamilton [it’s a musical but so what?]).  So I think this extremely well-written book about the 1918 outbreak of the Spanish Influenza that devastated cities across the country would be really fascinating.  Because this was the era of World War I, still-growing medical knowledge, and new technology.  And, like many of the dystopians that are famous, you get to see neighbors turning on each other for survival.  Only this is scarier because it’s real.

  10. The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

    When I first wrote this one down, I was all for it.  And I still am, but I think this is probably another indie movie-style book.  The main character doesn’t talk.  She can’t.  And it’s a great look at what it means to be silenced in the many ways that someone can be silenced.  There’s drama and some action, but it’s mostly about the themes.  And I think an Indie movie would do it justice.


I just wanted to inform everyone that I have now crossed the halfway point of my 20s.  Carry on with your regularly scheduled Friday.  I’ll just be over here, partying it up…and by “partying,” I mean “reading.”