Staging Lies

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. The stages of grief: a method to gauge and measure grief. It is the belief of observation and theory that when a person is grieving (specifically the loss of a person in their life) then he or she is expected to move through this series of clearly defined stages and eventually come to a completion of acceptance. It is the belief of professionals that there is a right way and a wrong way to grieve. The right way is to process grief in an orderly pattern, the wrong way is to never actually heal.

If I were a professional psychologist, I would definitely say I am failing at grief. Being a writer, however, I feel fully comfortable saying I am winning at grief. That is because I have come up with my own stages of grief, and let me tell you, I like mine a whole lot more than the majority of psychological science’s stages of grief lies.

The stages of grief were not meant to tell you what to feel, how you should feel, or when exactly to feel it. The stages are simply five common experiences and not five requirements; they are meant to normalize and validate the emotions someone might go through in the chaos that is loss.

I believe I’ve discovered some stages that seem a bit more normal for society as a whole. And these, my friends, don’t come in any designated pattern. No, these jump around, bump into each, overlap, and span for days/weeks/months at a time. It’s a wonderful loss of inhibition and longing. So here are my eight stages of grief (put in chronological order for myself):

  • Sleepvation: The highly anticipated stage of starving myself and never sleeping, Sleepvation is the best diet to date. With that pit in my stomach, who in their right mind could even think about holding down any food? Oh right, I’m not in my right mind because the one hour of sleep my body finally obtained after dire exhaustion is enough to recharge my thoughts on grief for another day of pity.
  • Ben & Jerry: I’ve come to know and cherish this stage from popular rom-coms and chick flicks. This is when I faint from not eating and realize my only solace during heartbreak is found in the cardboard confines of Phish Food. Don’t worry, Ashley, at least I’m finally eating something!
  • Bar Hopping: Usually induced by my best friends, the third stage of grief is one where things can go one of two ways: bad or worse. Dancing and drinking to forget my sorrow is one thing, as is accepting those free drinks from the cute guy at the bar. However, jumping on his boat to adventures unknown, or else falling into the fetal position and ruining my reputation as “cool” are both options I really shouldn’t accept.
  • Raging Exercise: Ah, the “It’s time to make him jealous by becoming the epitome of hotness!” stage. It is probably a good idea to relieve some stress, especially after the last two stages I went through. However, becoming a gym hermit is a whole other issue. Remember, there’s a lot of people still left in my life and isolating myself is not healthy!
  • Hopeless Bliss: I’m better off without him. It never would have worked out anyways. Better now than later. Freedom! I’ve reached the point where I realize it’s his loss and not mine. There’s nothing I need to do to change, and I’m comfortable enough to at least begin looking at moving on. And that’ll only piss him off more, right?
  • Couple Despising: Right now, I’m not sure if I hate love, him, or the couple holding hands on the sidewalk. I think I’ll go with all three. This is also the stage where I contemplate deleting my Pinterest with all it’s cutesy Pins but then… nah…
  • Movie Marathon(s): My legs are tired, I have a hangover, and all I really want to do is just sit and watch all eight movies of Harry Potter. Why shouldn’t I? Harry has always been there for me. And so have Legolas, Katniss, the Avengers, and Hugh Jackman. I have a ton of friends.
  • Concession and Compromise: I understand that I no longer am in a relationship. I understand that I am single and free to do as I wish. I make promises to myself, I set goals for the future, all while understanding that at any moment someone new or an unforeseen circumstance may change the entire direction of my life. Again.

The truth is, you can’t force order on pain. Grief is the natural response of losing someone you love and having your life torn apart. It is when reality shifts and you’re hurled into an unknown place in life. Grief cares nothing about order or stages or how you should be feeling at a certain point.

To do grief “well” means you listen solely to your own reality. It means acknowledging the love you once felt, the pain of its loss, and the promise of a brighter future. There is no time frame on allowing the truth of these things to exist; each grief is unique just like every love is unique.

I have bounced back and forth between some of my own “stages”. Though the pain may hurt sometimes, there are also many highs. Grief is like a roller coaster and no one will ever experience it the same way twice.  The concept of grief pushes people to want to believe there is a right method, or order, to grieve. But remember there is no right or wrong way to grieve; just do right by yourself. There are only a few steadfast truths to losing someone in your life, and they are these:

  • Grief has no finish line or lifespan. You might move on a day, week, month, or decade later. Every loss is unique to the individual experiencing it.
  • Pain and grief never fully extinguish. You grieve because you once loved, and upon seeing a face, hearing a song, or having a flashback to that love might bring back the hurt. Love might change, but it never ends. And this is not something to fear.
  • The “stages of grief” will happen. You will feel anger, guilt, depression, confusion, joy, and a range of other things. You will get tired of grieving and you will turn away from it only to turn back. Grief can be absolutely crazy-making, but this does not mean you are crazy.
  • There is no way to do grief wrong. Make your own stages, feel the pain and the peace, and ultimately remember that grief never has closure. Even acceptance is not final; you will rethink yourself with rapid aggression just to falter and sink back into questions. And so is the way of grief, love, and life.

I am by far more than five stages, and so are you.

There Is No “Lost Cause”

I toured my first house today. The first house I have ever considered purchasing. On my own. Just me, alone. The thought of this huge step in my life is one that both terrifies and intrigues me; I am ready to move forward, to take on a new piece of life, but I am also hesitant as the fears of debt, moving out, and being on my own circle through my vision.

Nonetheless, I swatted the fears away and positioned myself to ponder the thought of becoming a homeowner. All in all, the property appeared very agreeable. The lot was adorable, the barn was magnificent, and the location was unbeatable. And even though the house had a Walking-Dead-feel to it, there was a prospect of renovation when looking from the outside.

Unfortunately, yet thankfully, the home was decidedly more uninhabitable than first perceived. It was not until I ventured through the front door that I knew the prospect on living there was futile. The floor literally sank as I stepped into the kitchen. An inch of dead flies hung by webs in the windows, the house reeked of mildew coming from the flooded basement, and the upstairs bedrooms sloped in a Funhouse sort of fashion. The outside held promise, but the inside held despair; some things are just not meant to be fixed.

It has become a common belief in society that no matter how smart, kind, and caring as you or I may be, we can’t fix everything or everyone. Broken trust, broken hearts, life-altering decisions, split second tragedies, all are unfortunate circumstances in life that happen on a day-to-day basis. Some can happen in an instant while others build slowly over years of hard effort. But one thing is certain: sometimes the best we give is just not enough.

And so we are taught to think, “There are things that simply cannot be fixed.” Consider a broken mirror. No matter how much effort is put into gluing the pieces back together, the mirror will continue to be distorted. It is the same with life. When someone is hurt or loses trust, there will always be an edge of doubt in their mind. When a couple breaks up, they usually go their separate ways. When someone dies they remain dead. History cannot be changed. However, a person’s future outlook, behaviors, and environment can change.

But what do we do when we believe we’ve found a lost cause?

To some, giving up may seem the likely option. Why try when everything seems to be pushing against you? There is almost a sense of relief when you accept what you believe is inevitable. Just feel the pain that is meant to be experienced. Don’t fix it. Don’t avoid it. Just suffer until the pain is over. Leave the broken pieces behind and move on.

I do not believe in a lost cause, though. I believe everything and everyone has the power to become better, no matter how broken it or they appear to be. I believe everything has the potential of changing. Whether you must bend, twist, or start from scratch; anything that is broken has the potential of being better.

And how do you push for this better when all else seems lost?

Do the best you can! Accept that some things are not meant to be completely and wholly fixed, and do what you can to piece the problem back together. The result might be completely altered from the original form, but that doesn’t mean its worthless.

Offer love and friendship to a friend or family member who is hurting. Show them that there is positivity in every situation, even if they can only see the darkness right now. Be understanding of the pain they are experiencing, and stay persistent as that hurt will probably hang around for a bit.

There is no need to be perfect. Even the broken mirror can still be used to see yourself smile. Even the falling down farmhouse can be leveled and built into a beautiful structure. Nothing is lost, only waiting for some creativity to piece it into something better.

Is there something you’re struggling with that seemingly can’t be fixed? Is there any relief in the idea that you cannot fix it, or do you push forward and do the best you can?

Permanent Inklings

I recently witnessed an exchange on social media on a person’s choice of tattooing himself. The conversation turned rather hostile, with the tattooer being verbally abused over this choice on his own body. His responses, though, made me think about how entitled our world seems to be in their opinions and beliefs.

Society has an issue with entitlement. There are so many people in the world nowadays who believe they are entitled to many things, the most popular being their opinions. How many times have you browsed Facebook and witnessed an outrageous post of a person “only giving their honest opinion” and thought to yourself, “This is hinging on cyber bullying.”

In today’s world, many people tend to be very opinionated on those with tattoos. Wearers of tattoos are misjudged, thought negatively upon, and lumped together in a very poorly-conceived stereotype. The fact is though that those with tattoos are the same as everyone else; they have a story to tell and they have found a way of expressing themselves.

I do not personally have a tattoo, but I plan to get one before the year is over. I have said this for nearly four years; I am dead-set that 2015 is the time though. To me, body art represents something deeper than just needle-to-skin. To me, a tattoo generates conversation and contemplation for both the wearer and observer. Tattoos mark the venture into a person’s past, present, and future.

For me, I have a few concepts which I like in regards to a tattoo, and they all have some sort of meaning behind them. But I cannot decide which one I should get! At least, which one should be my first… So I’m going to leave my ideas here and hope to get some bites on what you all might think.

(Also, I was pretty impressed by my little drawing here.. I haven’t drawn in forever so this wasn’t half bad for a 30 second sketch.)

Scan0012

  1. Always – A reference to the series that sparked my love for words, Harry Potter, and also for the greatest force on earth: love. I like the idea of having this one simple word tattooed along the underside of my wrist to give evidence to the true passions in my life.
    always
  2. Swan – The swan is a symbol of perfection, something I strive for in my life. Being a perfectionist has its dark and light moments, just like a swan. I have been thoroughly disappointed in myself in the past, always acting as my worst critic. However, just like the swan also symbolizes transformation, I take pride in what I have done to get to this point in my life. I am morally-sound, intelligent, and beautiful woman who trusts that her future will be vibrant and bright. I would want this small tattoo placed behind my ear.
    swan
  3. Faith – My faith is the most important aspect of my life. Without God and his saving grace, I would be a wretched and wicked person with no hope of happiness. But with the faith He has granted me, I am capable to become and do everything. I’ve heard the rib cages are the most painful for tattooing, but this clean design would be worth it.
    faith
  4. Dragon – I have always been fascinated with the worlds in literature that cannot exist. In a way, these fantasy worlds break barriers in my mind and allow my imagination to soar. That is why I would include the words, “Never set limitations.” — my personal mantra. I am not one who wants to set any sort of limits on my life; I want to experience everything to the fullest, to try my hardest, and to gain the most knowledge in every situation. (I plan to draw my own dragon for this idea, which would be located on my hip… a location only those closest to me would ever see it.)
    dragon
  5. Compass – As if I need to say it again, traveling the world is something I desire. I want to step forth on each continent, learn about different cultures, experience the diversity of the world. I want to discover how people, so different from me, can also be so similar. We’re all here for the same purpose, but we all go about “it” in different ways. This intrigues me. Placing this on my ankle shows this desire.
    compass

No matter which tattoo I choose, I will also be getting the Michigan Heart, which is a delicate little thing placed on a Michigander’s hand in the place they call(ed) home. As someone who returned to her home after college, I love my little section of the world and would never give up my memories of this beautiful state for anything.

MIheart

So, what do you guys’ think? This is seriously a difficult decision — and a permanent one! Any words of advice or snippets of suggestions?

A tattoo is an art form of telling a story; a tattoo is the symbol of a story waiting to be told.

The Fault in Our Stars: A Review

This book may not have been the best choice as a first read following a time of grief and loss of love. Throughout the entirety of my reading, I was reminded of Army in some shape or fashion. And upon completion I was depleted to my bed, crying big crocodile tears until I finally fell asleep. No, I probably should have chosen another novel to begin my ease back into fun, leisure reading…

The Fault in Our Stars, as whole, is a marvelous book. For those who have not read its pages or seen the cinematic option, the novel follows the life of a girl named Hazel who is dying of cancer. She meets Augustus Waters in a support group and the two are virtually inseparable the rest of the story. They bond over a fictional An Imperial Affliction and even head off to Sweden to meet the author. As I am not here to summarize the story for you, but rather to give my reaction, that is all I will say. I highly recommend it though!

(SPOILERS TO FOLLOW SO STOP READING NOW IF YOU WANT TO FIND OUT HOW THE STORY ENDS ON YOUR OWN TERMS.)

There is a lot of discussion on the topics of death, loss, and grieving in this book. And though my own life is not as perilous as the protagonists, the feelings did strike a cord.

Hazel and Augustus are two very opposite people. However, their love is genuine and strong. In lives that others pity, they are happy with one another. Even in their brief time together, they feel something that some people never find: true, unprecedented love.

At least Hazel was allowed to love Augustus after they were parted. Me, not so much. With a break up, you’re asked to stop loving the other person. Society requests you to stop, friends and family beg, and happiness requires. Right then. Right there. When the relationship ends, so does the love. But with Hazel, she could continue loving Gus because in all the book’s discussions on infinity, no one actually knows if Gus is “still around” or has ceased to exist altogether. And there’s the real possibility that Hazel will be rejoining Gus soon in the afterlife and their love will continue. For break ups, this isn’t how love works.

I’m not sure if I have ever loved someone to that level; of wanting to love someone even past life. I mean, I have loved a person completely in the past, and I love many people now. But to have found true love, at only 16 years old as in Hazel’s case, seems unimaginable. I believe I could feel that way about someone in the past, given years of knowing them and being with them, but at such a young age? No.

Hazel and Gus were wise beyond their years though. The circumstance of their illnesses demanded this. They were mini-adults stuck in unhealthy, too-young bodies. So perhaps this isn’t unimaginable. I am a firm believer that true love is real; I just haven’t felt it first-hand.

Yet there were so many other interesting concepts these two teens discussed that were well beyond their years.

One which intrigued me was the talk of what comes after death. To me, I’ve never questioned my faith in God and heaven. And in all my schooling, I always figured people who were on their deathbeds, i.e. Hazel and Gus, would want to cling to that hope as well. However, neither did! And I’m left wondering if this is a question on many fighter’s minds.

To not know what comes after death must be a lonely and scary thing. Though she had many things to sympathize, this is what I pitied the most for Hazel; she thought that once she died, that was it, there wasn’t anymore. On the other hand, Gus didn’t know. He figured there had to be something after death, but that could have been heaven, a ghost-like existence, or even a new life.

Neither of the two main characters, who were facing unquestionable death, knew where they would be come death. To me, this was the most saddening aspect of the entire novel.

Another interesting concept explored in the book is why you love the people you do. In my case, it is why I loved certain people in the past. Specifically, when Hazel’s friend Kaitlyn asks her what it is like to be in love. And Hazel replies:

“Oh. It was… it was nice to spend time with someone so interesting. We were very different, and we disagreed about a lot of things, but he was always so interesting, you know?… He wasn’t perfect or anything. He wasn’t your fairy-tale Prince Charming or whatever. He tried to be like that sometimes, but I liked him best when that stuff fell away.”

I have been thinking of this a lot lately. Trying to come up with why I loved Army and X. X is more tricky as his and my life seem like forever ago — our own little infinity gone to the stars. But with Army… it’s hard to come up with an answer. I’m not sure why I felt the way I did about Army. Him and I are vastly different people.

But I think Hazel says it best: he was interesting. He intrigued me to no end. Every day I spent with Army, I learned something new. An idea I had never thought, a concept I’d never realized, a fact never taught. He is such an interesting person and comes from such an opposing background to my own — I could have listened to him talk for years and never been bored.

That is what I miss. That is what I loved about him.

So, as I get all emotional writing this post, I’m going to bid adieu by saying this: overall, The Fault in Our Stars is compelling and wonderful. There is so much more that could be discussed among its pages and I welcome anyone to share with me their own discoveries.

I am a fan, Mr. Green, and you have won yourself a new reader of your literature — next up, Paper Towns.

My favorite passages and quotes within the book’s pages:

“A nonhot boy stares at you relentlessly and it is, at best, awkward and, at worst, a form of assault. But a hot boy… well.”

“It portrays death truthfully. You die in the middle of your life, in the middle of a sentence.”

“I almost felt like he was there in my room with me, but in a way it was better, like I was not in my room and he was not in his, but instead we were together in some invisible and tenuous third space that could only be visited on the phone.”

“You do not immortalize the lost by writing about them. Language buries, but does not resurrect.”

“I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”

“The weird thing about houses is that they almost always look like nothing is happening inside them, even though they contain most of our lives. I wondered if that was sort of the point of architecture.”

“There are seven billion living people, and about ninety-eight billion dead people.”

“I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”

“It seemed like forever ago, like we’d had this brief but still infinite forever. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”

“You are going to live a good and long life filled with great and terrible moments that you cannot even imagine yet!”

“I want to leave a mark.”

“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.”

A Newcomer’s Guide to Registering for runDisney

“I’m going to Disney World!” I screamed as the registration confirmation popped up on my laptop screen. It may not seem quite as intense as winning Super Bowl, but surviving the annual Princess Half Marathon Weekend registration through runDisney definitely is something of which to be proud.

Registration, from the guidance of friends who have run in the past, is absolute insanity. I’m not sure I have ever been so stressed out about signing up for anything in the past. It’s a race just to the starting line! So if you’re new to runDisney and considering about registering for a race, here are some things to expect and help prepare yourself!

  1. Most runDisney races begin registration months in advance. The Princess Half, which takes place around February 20th every year, opens registration in mid-July. However, what is not clearly told to hopeful-registrants is that the opening time is at 9am PT/12pm ET. I was checking the runDisney site hourly beginning at 6am wondering when registration was going to open. Luckily I didn’t miss the opportunity during my lunch hour!
  2. runDisney allows for some early registration for annual passholders and Disney Vacation Club members. Don’t worry about the races selling out during early registration, though, because these early-birds are limited. (The dates and links on how to register early can be found through your Disney membership accounts.)
  3. Make sure to be on the computer at the time of registration opening! And instead of going to the runDisney website, go to Active.com. runDisney usually crashes due to the high traffic rate the day of opening registration. The actual registration is processed by Active.com so you’ll have an easier time getting through to the page.It’s a smart idea to create an account with Active prior to registration opening. You can easily link your Facebook account to the site. Also it is a great idea to have all your personal information ready prior to entering the registration form. You’ll need to know the following: name, address, birthday, shirt size, any assistance (for disabilities) required of Disney, the time you plan to run the race, any additional merchandise, and payment information.For a direct link to the 2016 Princess Half Weekend, following this link: https://endurancecui.active.com/event-reg/select-race?e=20668854
  4. Okay, so 9am or noon has rolled around and its time to sign up. You’re on the Active.com page. You’re staring at a screen which read, “Make a Selection.” Are you excited?! Choose the race you want to run; there will be plenty of options so make sure you tick the right box. Also, remember that if you’re wanting to run the biggest option, such as the Glass Slipper Challenge, you actually have to choose it! You cannot sign up for the 10k and the half marathon and expect to get that extra medal.If the category you are hoping to sign up for shows “ON HOLD”, take a deep breath. There’s still a chance the selection could become available again. Sometimes registrations get cancelled mid-way and people change their minds. So breathe, click refresh, and try again.sold outThis is the screen I saw directly after finishing my registration. See that “SOLD OUT” message behind the Glass Slipper Challenge? Can you guess which selection I registered for? Talk about a nail-biting experience!
  5. On the hopes your selection is open, then you will move forward to fill our the registration form and enter your payment information. During this time, you will need to choose a time which you think you’ll finish the race under. For the half marathon, any time under 3:15 hours requires proof of time from a certified race. Certified races must be within a certain time period and be of 10k+ for the half marathon. This proof of time will provide you with a corral placement.I’ve heard the closer to the starting line, the better. Some corrals can take over two hours just to get started! That means two hours of standing, with no bathroom break, in questionable weather conditions. So consider choosing to proof a time simply to get started quicker.
  6. If everything works, then you’ll see the confirmation page congratulating you for registering! And then you’ll receive this awesome little email reconfirming you’re not dreaming:Capture

Phew! All of this may same a bit neurotic, but most runDisney races’ registrations close within hours! My Glass Slipper Challenge was SOLD OUT within 23 minutes! The Enchanted 10k followed soon afterwards, and the half marathon is resting at 85% full after three hours.

I am so excited at the prospect of spending another vacation at Disney World! Next on the list is coming up with two costume ideas: one for the 10k and one for the half. Any suggestions are welcome!

Are you or have you ever run a runDisney race, be it the Princess Half or any other? If so, what sort of advice do you have for potential participants on making registration a bit simpler?