Where to go...

Friday, July 31, 2015

Love Letter (to J.K. Rowling, and Harry Potter)

I shrugged my shoulders and finally picked up a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when I was 21.

I was on 'vacation' with my boyfriend-at-the-time's family. More accurately, he and I had driven down to Newport, Oregon to spend time with his father. This side of my ex's family was relatively estranged. The visit had multiple purposes... But, we'll get to that in a minute.

In hindsight, I can piece the puzzle together quite easily. My ex's parents split while he was very young. He then lived with his mother, who was a drug addict and blatantly neglectful. This side, the father's side, was so ridiculously stable, it was almost laughable. But that's how families work, right? Function and dysfunction. Yin and yang. The yo-yo leads to instability, which leads to a very broken human being.

I never knew the truth of what happened and why these people were so far away, both geographically and emotionally. However, they were wonderful people. Sweet, gentle and kind. Involved in their church and community, and clearly in love with each other. To put a finer point on my confusion, my ex was abusive, controlling and miserable. (I wrote about it here).

This visit was my attempt to patch together what was so very broken and lost in my ex. I naively thought that if he spent time with his estranged family, something inside of him might repair. And if it repaired, I would be safe. It was selfish and silly and wrong. But I was alone and I too, was in need of happiness, stability and a father figure.

Mostly, I wanted peace. And safety.

And that's what I remember. My ex's step-mom was reading Harry Potter to her two sons. She handed me the first book and told me to read it. This was 2001, and the Harry Potter notoriety was just beginning to crest. I began reading that night, before bed, and was hooked from the very start. I felt safe. And peaceful. For the first time in so. very. long.

The vacation, and my peace, lasted a very short time. As soon as we were back on the road, the abuse picked right back up. There was no wasted time in his verbal backlash... probably years of anger and confusion and neglect from a life so wonderfully paraded over the past week. And I was a very easy target.

I went home with the first three Harry Potter books. And reading them was my only respite in a tattered and shorn time. It was a world I could fall into easily, and in those days and hours and minutes reading, I would remember what joy felt like. Reading helped me remember that there was a life outside of abuse. And that words were magical and beautiful and melancholy and poetic and full of life. The life that I couldn't be a part of, but remembered.

These sacred moments with J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter brought me back from the brink. They brought me back from depression, fear and anger.

I left my ex in a fighting fury one night. But I never stopped reading Harry Potter. Those three books were lost in the wreckage of that relationship, but I have the hardbacks of the last four. And even though the last four books were read during a significantly lighter period in my life, they have been read and re-read during the most trying of times.

These reasons are why people read, passionately. This is why people like me (and you) love Harry Potter. Or whatever else happens to tickle their fancy. The memories are tied together...life and words. Seasons and stories. Packaged in worn bows, taped together with a little love and a lot of gumption.

I guess you could say this is a bit of a love letter to Ms. Rowling. Who saved me, many times over, and didn't even know it. She, and Harry, gave me life in a time where I could barely hold on long enough to breathe.

Happy Birthday, Harry Potter.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


There are plenty of secrets to be held. Plenty of elephants in countless rooms.

The thought of laying any vulnerabilities out makes my throat tighten and my heartbeat thud in my ears. Suddenly, breathing becomes a chore.

Sort of like anxiety.

Or exactly like anxiety.

But this is important and important things deserve time and care and space and kind words. Just like you. Just like me.

My freshman year of college was, at the very core, a blur of survival. I can clearly and acutely recall several moments where the weight of life was just a tick away from being unbearable. I was constantly dancing on the edge of clarity, my sanity a foggy mess that dangled itself in front of me, hovering just beyond the horizon. I clawed and grasped, desperately wanting to be ever closer, holding my breath and counting my tears. At my weakest, I just did not want to be anymore.

Let me be clear: I did not want to die, but I did not want to be in this life.  It had simply become too much.

And this is where the anxiety festered and took root.

That year came and went, but my anxiety stayed. I attempted to cope on my own by smothering any anxious thought that entered my brain. My concentration and life's focus aimed at overcoming it by achieving.

Success was my antidote.

Avoidance was my mantra.

Do you know what antidote means? A substance that counteracts a poison. A poison. Anxiety, when left to run amok, is a dramatic and systemic poison to your mind and body. And this is how I operated - by running - for a considerable amount of years. My value was measured in mental strength; a stiff upper lip and sharp tongue. I don't think that it is much of a surprise that my tightly wound galaxy eventually imploded, collapsing in on itself.

I think it's vital to point out that I have never been cured of anxiety. And since we're almost down the rabbit hole, I might as well pull you all in for a tumble:

Things that seem mundane to some people can trigger years of obsession in me. Counting repetitive behaviors, while soothing, can become mentally draining. I tangle myself in compulsive loops over certain things (the garage door and my hair straightener). Social settings can be downright over-stimulating to me. Some days, I barely have a hold on it all. Some weeks, the really bad ones, are peppered with intrusive thoughts (those are fun), considerable amounts of coping skills, and constant reminders that I am neither crazy nor weird.

And neither are you.

Just know that I get it. If this is you... if you're reading this and you're nodding along, take away this one point: I. get. it.

I get you.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Silver and Gold

I watched my dog root around the patio this evening. His nose was intently pressed into the aggregate concrete, wrinkling into rolling folds with each sniff, passing over and wading through scattered pieces of wood chips that he had chewed through earlier. Soon, he would take off like a terror, splash landing into a plastic pool full of icy hose water.

The moments are simple. Bare. Light. Like the breeze through the vegetable garden, unexpectedly easy.

This is a life that I didn't dream putting together.

Ease is so often under appreciated. Don't you think?

Death Cab for Cutie released a new album a few months back titled, Kintsugi. And while I'm not overly fanatic about their music, I do listen. But more importantly, I listened as they dove into the definition of kintsugi, a Japanese technique of repairing broken pottery by sealing the cracks with a lacquer infused with metallic dust. So the cracks aren't hidden, they're highlighted.


The repair becomes a part of the story of the item. It is equal to the history and just as important as the pottery as a whole. The reparation reaches to illuminate the vulnerability to breaking and the beauty of resilience.

I'll be 35 here, soon. And I cannot think of a better way to view my life. Age has never been a cause for concern for me. My vanity hasn't been tested and I don't know that it ever will. I've never been the person to put timelines on my life; I've never had a checklist of things to achieve. I haven't felt like I have failed at much, which is either ridiculously naive of me, or incredibly lucky.

The sharp edge of this is that I have had enough thrown at me to turn cracks into jagged shards. And I can unabashedly admit that some of those breaks took years to fix.

All I've ever wanted was to be at ease. And I am.

The cracks are healed, sealed with silver and gold, glimmering veins connecting all the solid pieces together.