New Chapter

Life is unpredictable.

I wish I could count the number of times I’ve reminded myself of this over the years, but I stopped counting when I was 16.

Life is complicated.

I learned long ago to not put too much stake into any one person because, at any moment, they could be removed from your life. I tried keeping a safe distance from most of the people in my life for fear that they would leave my life (read: die).

Love doesn’t care.

I kept people at an arm’s length most of the time. And then I fell in love. My walls broke down. I started planning a future.

I broke my own rules.

And I ended up crushed. I planned a future with a person who left me behind. Now don’t think I’m blaming him, because I’m not. I understand why he made the decisions he did. I’m okay now. But for a very long time, I wasn’t.

I swore off love and men and relationships. I promised I’d never marry and the only men left in my life were close friends and my dad. No one else was allowed in my life.

And then, again, I was reminded that life is unpredictable.

This post has been a long time coming. I’ve tried writing it before but failed until I read this article that my sister sent me and it really hit home.

My story is not her story. Luke and my story was never set in motion; we never really had the time. And I won’t refer to two of the greatest loves of my life as “before” and “after” because that doesn’t work for my story. But her article really resonated with me.

I’m in love and it’s okay. It’s actually more than okay.

After Luke died I read Eat, Pray, Love and it was perfect for that point in my life. One quote that really stood out to me was Elizabeth Gilbert’s explanation of soulmates.

“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.
A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.”

Luke was my soulmate for my younger self. He taught me to stick up for myself, be proud of my accomplishments, and speak up when I don’t agree with something. Those were the lessons I needed at that point in my life. I grew so much in the years we were together. But his story ended and mine needed to continue.

I have a new soulmate for this chapter of my life. He’s patient, sarcastic, witty, and cares unconditionally for people. He allows me to grieve when I need to – over friends I’ve lost, my mom, or even Luke – he’s sat with me on the floor of our apartment when I had a much-needed crying session. He’s great.

And he’s totally unexpected.

He came into my life the summer that Luke left and my mom was diagnosed. It was the perfect storm of a summer in my life. I was newly 21 and didn’t really know how to handle anything that life was throwing my way. But over that summer a friendship grew. We talked about traveling and dreams and what goals we wanted to accomplish in life. Over the years the friendship remained strong even when he was on the other side of the country. And then, to come full circle, on a summer night everything about our friendship changed. We crossed a barrier that couldn’t be uncrossed and my head was reeling.

I didn’t know what this meant.

I had some very torturous nights going back in forth in my head about my future self and my past self. I didn’t know what to do. And I didn’t want to leave Luke behind.

But as Michelle wrote, you don’t leave a love behind, “Once you love someone they stay with you forever as a piece of your soul.” Luke was, and always will be, a part of my soul. But Adam is a part of my future.

Adam and I have had many conversations about Luke and I’ve come to find that Adam has some fairly strong feelings about my past. He should. When Luke died I fell apart and, for someone who now loves me to have seen that, I’m sure it brings up some heated emotions. But Adam respects the role that Luke played in my life and, if these unexpected life events hadn’t played out the way they did, maybe there would never have been an “us.”

Years ago I sat with sweaty palms across the room from Luke’s mom to tell her about this new man in my life. I was so nervous. And she was so gracious. She was happy for me and I was a little taken aback. My mind went back to a conversation we had before I got my tattoo for Luke. During the period of my life when I had sworn off men and was sure I’d never love again. She warned me not to get it because I was young and I would fall in love again someday and maybe that person would be upset by my tattoo, but I explained to her that any man that was worthy of being in my life would understand the importance of Luke in my life and would understand the tattoo.

And he does.

I am moving forward in my life with fewer glances back as the days, months, and years pass. I’m more focused on my future now than I ever have been. I take time to reflect on the past every now and then and the people who have left my life cross my mind often but when that happens it’s in a positive way and I’m not pining to go back in time.

Life is unexpected. But so is love. My story is nothing like I thought it would be but I’m happy with where I’m at and how things have turned out. I fully believe that, without these life experiences, I wouldn’t be able to love as deeply as I can now.

And I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Winter

 

World Suicide Prevention Day

For a very long time, most of my teens at least, the word suicide made me nervous. I didn’t know how other people would react to the word, and I just hoped they couldn’t see my cheeks turn red, or ask me any questions. The thought of talking about it openly among others made my stomach churn and it was almost unimaginable. To do this day, I still find it easier to share my story with strangers than with close friends or family. The stigma of this topic is still so prevalent today.

But I’ve always liked a challenge.

I grew up as a pretty timid person, I was scared of dogs for the first ten years of my life and the thought of jumping out of a plane when I was in high school never crossed my mind. But eventually I grew up. I became slightly obsessed with any and all dogs, eventually having my own. And one of the best birthday presents I have ever received was a trip to go skydiving. I overcame my fears. So I figured, if I could make steps toward facing some of the things that scared me most, even if they were small, then I could talk about suicide. I could share my own story. Those things matter far more than an adrenaline rush or owning my own pet.

But even as I sit here now, my hands still shake a little as I think about opening up further. As I think about the people, mainly the ones I know, that will stumble across this post. I still have fears about how others will view me if they know my past. If they really get the chance to see the person that I am or the things that I’ve been through. And then I think about all of the stories I’ve heard about people who didn’t get a chance to share their story or who’s life could have been positively affected if they had known they weren’t alone in their battle; that people have been down these roads before them.

So here I am. Saying that I am a survivor. And that I’ve known many people who have struggled, and some who didn’t make it to overcome their struggle. It doesn’t make you a bad person, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of it. If you’ve struggled with suicide or depression, that is just part of the story that makes you unique. And stronger.

Today, and this week, notice the people who are wearing yellow in support of those who are struggling and notice those who are writing “love” on their arms. Share your story, or be willing to listen to someone tell you their story. Who knows, it could save a life.

Cory Monteith’s Death

I woke up with a heavy heart on Sunday morning. As I was going to silence the alarm on my phone I read an update from USA Today that “Glee” star, Cory Monteith, had died the previous day in his Vancouver hotel.

I’m not all that interested in celebrity news, I watch the occasional Entertainment Tonight episode, a few reality shows, and browse the headlines of gossip magazines while in line at the grocery store, but many times when I hear news like this I’m not that affected. This time was different.

I remember hearing back in March that the actor had voluntarily admitted himself into rehab. Given the history of people I care about, I was interested in this news. My own boyfriend had been through a bit of the same thing, so I thought it was a great step for Monteith to take and was even better that his girlfriend, co-star Lea Michele, was standing by his side as well.

So when I heard the news that he died, my mind immediately went to his girlfriend. Granted, I didn’t know the cause behind his death, but being as he had admitted to being a previous addict and his rehab history, I had my speculations.

The news of his death hit me like a ton of bricks. I don’t know these actors, nor what may go on behind the scenes in their own lives, but I do know what it’s like to love someone who is struggling and I know the heartache that follows losing someone you love so much.

It’s times like these that I wish we could talk openly about mental health, addiction, depression, and substance abuse in our society today. We tend to look down on people involved in any of these, we criticize them for the mistakes they make, comment on their trip(s) to rehab, and then just sit back and hear the news of their death. This isn’t something that we as a society should just accept.

Whether it’s a celebrity, co-worker, or your best friend, we need to open our eyes to the struggles that people we see every day are enduring. We can’t wait until it’s too late to speak up or ask someone if they’re okay.

Daily Reminder

“I’m here.  I love you.  I don’t care if you need to stay up crying all night long, I will stay with you.  There’s nothing you can ever do to lose my love.  I will protect you until you die, and after your death I will still protect you. I am stronger than Depression and I am braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me.” — Elizabeth Gilbert