You wouldn’t come; that’s all I needed to know.

When you see or hear my name (Jace or Rose, if you couldn’t get used to the new one), what adjectives immediately come to mind?

I’ll go ahead and answer the question. If I wasn’t me, I would think:

  • happy,
  • friendly,
  • sad,
  • depressed,
  • creative,
  • animal-lover (which is more title-like), and
  • possibly suicidal (which is, granted, more of a phrase than it is an adjective — but regardless; I would think it!).

I’ve been existing in a blue-grey world for a while now, learning how to manage this wild and constantly changing interior landscape while simultaneously struggling to maintain a positive and stable exterior. Knowing how much it sucks to feel sad and worthless, I strive to bolster others with my words and actions as much and as often as possible so that they (hopefully) won’t feel as lowly and bummed out as I often do.

And after a lot of introspection and self-administered therapy, I was crazily able to crack the code to my depression; a good bit of it is – unsurprisingly – biological, and there’s little that can be done about it (bc no, I will not self-medicate), but a fairly large chunk of what I found sitting there in the vault was situational and – therefore – removable!

By talking with patient, loving friends and blogging without reserve, I’ve been able to uncover and process through the things that a less mature and less brave version of myself had buried:

  • Melissa’s stupid absence
  • Bobby’s sudden death
  • Chris and I’s divorce
  • Bruster’s horrific murder
  • My gender identity (spoiler: female and emerging feminist)
  • My sexual orientation (spoiler: bisexual with the likelihood of straight)

And as a MAJOR plus, I’ve recently figured out how to reign in my feelings of inferiority… and doing so was surprisingly simple. What helped? A friend who relayed a powerful message that had positively changed their own mindset: “You aren’t nearly as important in the eyes of others as you think you are.”

This was one of the most liberating statements I’d ever heard in my life. In the past, when I tried to imagine how other people perceived me, I would always choose for them to view me through a negative filter. Well, I’m changing the lens now.

And while you might THINK that they’re thinking about you, most of the time, people are actually NOT thinking about (or judging or criticizing or hating) you AT ALL! Isn’t that wonderful? What a relief…

The current state of affairs: I’m single and learning to rely on myself for happiness and a sense of purpose; I wrote and self-published a book this summer, which is pretty fucking cool; I’m returning to college this fall as a Spanish major (so that I can help bridge the gap in our horrifyingly divided country)… and all of these statuses and accomplishments and activities are giving me a new sense of confidence and a renewed sense of self-worth. It’s great. And that’s a HUGE understatement.

So what’s your deal, then?

Ahhhhh, there’s ALWAYS SOMETHING, isn’t there? The lingering sadness that has been weighing on my heart recently has — unsurprisingly — been Christopher-related, and I’ll try to explain it for the last time here (wouldn’t that be lovely?).

***

When we decided to separate romantically two falls ago, I had this idealistic notion that very little would actually change between us — that our best friendship would persevere through the awkward and grief-fraught transition. I imagined us getting coffee together a few months down the road — writing songs again, playing gigs again, and picking out new TV series to watch together… I sincerely believed that, outside of physical stuff, our relationship really wouldn’t change that much. It would just take a little bit of time for us to adjust to this new norm, and I was happy to wait out the hard part; re-purposing our vacant room and enduring his strange silence.

 

But I was severely mistaken.

A miserable year and a half passed where Christopher and I would only run into each other incidentally; in the produce section at the grocery store, where I’d offer a hurried hello (so I could retreat to my car and cry), or back at the house, where he’d return to quickly pick up an overlooked possession or two and then roll away, his familiar black SUV speeding out of my neighborhood to go park itself elsewhere. Even the car didn’t like me anymore.

And about four months ago, I decided that I’d had it, and that I was going to make myself entirely vulnerable by being perfectly frank with him about how I was feeling.

In a nutshell, I said (via text message, because I’m not THAT brave): I AM SO MAD AT YOU, CHRISTOPHER. We were together for FIVE YEARS, and now, you act like I mean nothing to you. Why can’t we be friends? Isn’t that how the song goes? Why won’t you make time for me once, twice, maybe four times a year? I love you more than anyone in this world, you JERK.

To be fair, when he replied, he tried to be kind, and I can’t rightly blame him for being truthful, but his response was condescendingly brief; he simply didn’t have time for anybody other than his new girlfriend.

[Who, sidebar, ***I*** set him up with.]

Well gee… what kind of “thanks” is THAT, I muttered inwardly.

I hate taking vitamins, which is why Charlie has to barter with me in the mornings, promising a cup of orange juice or a bottle of my favorite Kombucha in exchange for me choking down some zinc, d3, and b12. 

 

But Chris’s open admission that I was no longer a priority of ANY kind in his life was the toughest pill I’ve ever had to swallow.

 

And last night, as I was reading this article on anger, I asked myself… why him? You love hard, Jace; you always have… and you’ve loved and lost quite a few souls by now. So why is this one so hard to get past?

 

Well, I think I’m finally ready to operate on the very heart of the matter. Ready to go under?

 ***

Unsurprisingly, Chris knew me better than anyone else ever had (or, to date, has). He and I’s relationship was the closest bond I’ve ever experienced with another human being, and I cared about him so much that I would have died to protect him. I still would… isn’t that annoying?!

 

So — I bared my soul to the guy, right? No reserves. I trusted him, not with everything (because things are just things), but with all of me. He was my confidant, best friend, partner, and companion — you name it, Chris was it. I memorized facts about him more committedly than I had memorized material for tests in school; I observed his behavior and patterns like he was padding through tall grass on National Geographic; I enjoyed discovering new things about him, surprising him, and seeing his face light up with a smile. I took pride in his accomplishments and planned my whole future around the perimeter of our relationship (sidebar: don’t do that with anyone… EVER). 

And then, when he turned around and walked away from us — and from me — so easily and painlessly, it implied to me that he felt that he was leaving nothing of value behind him.

His smooth departure made me feel:

  • worthless
  • dispensable
  • ugly
  • boring
  • uninteresting
  • stupid
  • naive
  • used

And yet it surprises me that I’ve experienced a heightened sense of depression and a record breaking level of low self-esteem during the past two years… hmmmmmm… #correlatemuch?  

 

And feeling so sub-human made me angry at him — why angry? Because while I cared for him more than words could possibly express, I was absolutely powerless to make him care about me again or to remember our wonderful friendship (which I thought had been tucked safely inside of our romantic union… spoiler: IT WASN’T!). 

I felt like an ugly, old thing from his past that he had just swept under the rug — an unsightly photograph tucked into a dusty cardboard box of his that he never, ever thinks about, and CERTAINLY never opens; it seemed like, romanticism aside, I held nothing else for him. And thinking that he thought this made me feel like a body without a soul.

And for the last two years, I’ve been telling myself — deep down, he has to care. Surely he must! I mean, how could you love somebody THAT MUCH and then not care for them at all? Impossible!

I would imagine scenarios (and don’t judge me for this; I’m sure you have done something similar!) where I became seriously hurt — critically injured — and was withering away inside of a gloomy and sterile hospital room, spending my last few days or hours on life support systems.

In these scenarios, mom and dad would drive into town from Tennessee to say goodbye; my bestest friend in the world, Charlie, wouldn’t leave my side until the machine pronouncing me gone beeped him out of the room; and my manager, Shelby, would come by to check on me a few times, because she’s a wonderful human being…

And long at last, Christopher would show up, just as I’d known he would.

And it plays out something like this: he sits down onto the chair beside my hospital bed. He takes my left hand, smiles at me, and – with tears in his eyes – says that he’s sorry for abandoning me; that he HAS missed our friendship… he just didn’t know how to express it… and that he’s going to miss me, and miss playing music together, and that will finally take that EP of ours somewhere and have it pressed onto vinyl — that maybe someone at Seasick Records can help him with the process…

“But you know that he wouldn’t come, Jace,” I whispered to myself last night, interrupting the scene. I was absentmindedly stroking my German Shepherd, Silo’s, coarse fur; he was sitting on the couch at home, curled up beside me in a similar fashion to how I imagined Chris would be there, beside me, in the end.

“He would not come. You want so badly to believe that he still cares about you that you imagine this scene to comfort yourself, but you have to imagine it this way instead; you’re in the hospital, dying. Your parents are there, Charlie is, perhaps, there also, and Shelby possibly visits, too… but Christopher never comes. Do you understand? He does not come.”

I cried and cried and cried, and then I dried my tears and watched a movie on Netflix; it was a film about a girl named Jessica – – a struggling playwright living in New York who just wanted to make her mark on the world and find somebody to love who would also love her back.

***

Am I whole now? Healed? Fixed? 100% sane and stable? Can I be happy forever now?

Ha! I’m optimistic, but I’m not unreasonable. I know that this is just one dip in the road that I’ve navigated myself past and that I have a thousand more potholes ahead. But I am learning better ways of handling my disappointment, sadness, and despair.

What I appreciated most about the article (mentioned above) was what it said about forgiveness. I can’t state it any better than it was originally worded, so here it is:

Stranger still, it is that wounded, branded, un-forgetting part of us that eventually makes forgiveness an act of compassion rather than one of simple forgetting. To forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt, to mature and bring to fruition an identity that can put its arm, not only around the afflicted one within but also around the memories seared within us by the original blow and through a kind of psychological virtuosity, extend our understanding to (the) one who first delivered it.

Oh yes — this struck a chord with me; to forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt…

I was so hurt when another trusted friend abandoned me; knowing that they must have pictured me in their mind, weighed me on some kind of mental scale, and then ultimately judged that I wasn’t worth their time pierced me right through my fucking heart.

But I’ve grown and changed a lot since the wound was inflicted. I’ve learned how to cope and adapt in new, healthy ways, and I’ve even got a bit of leftover hope bottled up somewhere. It’s currently keeping cool in the freezer, actually; it’ll last longer that way.

Friends — I write about my feelings and experiences to soothe my own soul, but I also always hope that something I share might resonate with you somehow, or help alleviate some of your own pain in some small way. If you’re currently fostering sadness and anger (they’re closely related), know this: forgiveness isn’t a matter of forgetting… it’s an act of compassion towards yourself as well as the person who injured you.

For me, this means that Christopher has a right to choose his friends. I wouldn’t want him to be my friend purely out of sympathy — that would be terrible; even worse than his absence. And if I’m being completely honest, if a world without me in it really makes him happier, then I don’t want to be in his world. I really do love him that much. The jerk! 🙂

And for me, forgiving him for hurting me AND reassuring myself that I’m not a worthless human being because one human being on this planet doesn’t seem to like me has taken that tiny, sick ball in my stomach away. You know what I’m talking about, right? It’s that cloudy, turbulent, nauseous sensation that comes over you when you’re very sad or very worried about something.

Yeah… I’ve got a ways to go, but I can remember Christopher now — his smile, his laugh, and other little things about him — without feeling like I’m going to throw up. It doesn’t feel like he’s dying anymore and I’m being held in a suspended state of grief because of it; it (sadly) feels like he’s already died and as if I’ve already mourned his passing.

It’s as if letting him let go of me has freed me from it all. It’s like this — I’ve felt myself dying in a hospital bed without you. I’m going to be okay. I know that I hurt, and I can imagine how you feel; I’ve experienced the entire spectrum of emotions regarding us and now here I am and there you are. Why relive that shit over and over again?

I know how to comfort myself. I know what to do and where to go when I’m feeling down. I take a walk or ride my bike and then sip on a coffee that makes my heart race or buy a tub of spicy guacamole that makes the insides of my mouth burn. I pet my dogs and take a bath that smells like lavender because Charlie is SO THOUGHTFUL and he always keeps bath salts on hand for me. We watch an episode of That 70s Show together where I fawn over how cool Hyde is and rave about how cute Kitty is. We write stories and draw pictures together, creating and animating new worlds like demi gods, and then sometimes, I write a song to tell an old friend things they don’t care to hear me say… but I still get to say them. I can spit the poison out now; I won’t swallow it, or keep it safe in a vial, anymore.

I recognize both my inherit value and the right of others to choose their company… and if I’m not someone whose company they enjoy, I have to accept that fact while remembering that their exclusion of me isn’t necessarily the soul-crushing rejection I’ve always taken it to be. It’s often a mere matter of preference, or of chemistry. Now, I thought we had it, but let us remember that I’m notoriously naive when it comes to these things.

Aun Aqui

The Surprising “Life Highlights” Game

At work, I try to keep things “interesting” by researching various topics and subjects during my short pockets of free time… performing search queries on Google that read something like:

“quality leadership skills”; “developing yourself”; “compassion in the workplace”; “prime rate explained”; “why CDs are better than savings accounts”; “autonomy and accountability”; “how to not burn out”; “how to be a better coworker”; and etc.

annnnnnnnd then writing short articles or posts that summarize them to share with others.

Well two weeks ago, I was perusing an article that offered tips on helping students (who converge in classes) break the ice with each other, and one tip – or idea – detailed the nature of a trust-inducing activity that the author referred to as the “life highlights” game.

Intrigued, I read on, and the game goes something like this:

Close your eyes and imagine the best moments of your life so far.  Personal experiences, professional achievements, remarkably grand or modestly quiet adventures… anything. Now — with a few ideas in mind, ask yourself which of these moments you would wish to relive if only thirty seconds in your life remained.

Holy shit, I thought silently. That’s deep. A little TOO deep for the opening moments of a class, I decided. The concept, I understood; share something meaningful about yourself with others and you’ll forge a bond of some kind with them… but still. Considering the environment that the sharing would take place in, this would be just a little too much.

But I couldn’t shake the question off for myself, unanswered. It poked at my shoulder; nudged me in the side; breathed right against my ear.

So I grabbed a pen, drew an itty bitty circle (aka a bullet point), and began my list:

  • the day I got married
  • the day I got divorced
  • my last morning cuddling with Bruster
  • holding Bruster’s dead body in a stranger’s driveway later that afternoon
  • happily leaving a college class on a Friday night with Chris; laughing in the car, pulling out my phone and realizing that I had ten missed calls from my mother, who never, ever calls me because she’s afraid she’s going to interrupt my very busy life; I called her back and she shared with me that my brother Bobby was irrevocably dead
  • exiting a Cracker Barrel with Chris one morning and pulling out my phone to discover a terrible email from my mother — one that announced the premature death of my favorite Siberian Husky, Zoie
  • flying over Colorado earlier this spring and realizing that the clouds off in the distance were actually mountains
  • overdosing on marijuana in said state (where marijuana is, as you likely know, legal, and where the economy is positively thriving because of it) and then blindly ambling “home” (to an Airbnb stranger’s couch) in a delirious and frightened state-of-mind
  • dancing under strobe lights with my best friend Charlie one winter evening (for the first time in my LIFE)
  • falling asleep with Chris (for the first time) on his parents’ couch; my eyes closed and my heart racing because of the simple fact that he was holding me closer and more sweetly than any other human being ever had
  • shaking as I wrote the last heart-wrenching paragraph of my first self-published novel, Jinx the Rabbit
  • the realization, at 16, that my devotion to learning notes and chords had enabled me to play an actual song on the guitar
  • watching Bobby have a seizure outside of the Greyhound bus station during a 4 AM layover — coaxing my confused brother onto the next bus and then traveling with him and a band of convicts across Florida’s state line
  • watching Melissa walk into the room when I was 12 and already knowing that I loved her
  • my German Shepherd, Tycho, sitting on the ground in front of me and leaning her head onto my shoulder (in what could only be called an embrace) earlier this month
  • the countless weeks, days, and hours spent on the couch at Urban Standard, or Saturn, or Red Cat… demystifying my soul and literally writing my blues away
  • salsa dancing with a seventy-year old gentleman in Denver
  • skinny dipping in the ocean in the early afternoon
  • foolishly riding my skateboard down a steep hill in North Carolina — my bearings shaking so badly that they threatened to throw me off the deck throughout the entire mentally excruciating descent
  • riding up Legion Field’s parking deck with my bike group last Thursday evening — music blaring, lights flashing, my heart beating faster than my bike’s wheels could roll and my lungs aching with each and every inhale
  • skeptically eating Indian food for the first time with Charlie nearly two years ago and thereby discovering my new favorite food

***

Two weeks ago, a close friend and I visited that same Indian restaurant together for a week day lunch. We talked about work, relationships, and television shows (I expressed my complete disgust over the fact that the graphic televised version of Handmaid’s Tale — a story rooted in the gross mistreatment of women — is trending everywhere), and then I casually mentioned the life highlights game to her.

I named a few of the moment “candidates” that had crossed my mind, and then shook my head at her from across the table. “What’s weird, and what’s been BOTHERING ME A LOT, is that I can’t pick one! I just can’t. None of them stand out enough, as powerful and impactful as they were, and that’s shocking to me.”

 

“What’s actually weird,” she replied, “is the kind of moments you cited… they weren’t exactly happy ones.”

 

I thought back over everything I’d just shared with her; Chris and I’s divorce, Bruster’s death, Bobby’s passing, getting hurt playing a sport, cringing as I completed drafting the book (with an ending I didn’t necessarily like…)

 

“Yeah… huh. I hadn’t considered that. Well, I’ve got some happy moments mixed in there; yummy food, fun dancing, therapeutic writing, awe-inspiring mountains, sweet cuddle sessions with my animals… I guess, though, that I wouldn’t necessarily want to relive one of the happiest moments of my life. I’d actually want to relive the one that had made me feel the most alive.”

 

“Wow.”

 

I replayed the last sentence I’d spoken to her over and over and over in my mind. Yeah — more than being happy, I’d really just want to feel alive.

***

So — YOU’VE got 30 seconds left. Where are you? What are you doing? Who are you with? Do you love or hate the person? Is the person you? Is your skin ablaze with passion or pain? Do you have gravel embedded in your knees and blood oozing out of your elbows? Is the water engulfing you now; is the pop music drowning you out? Are there mountains off in the distance — majestic, white-capped, gorgeous? Do you kind of wish you could just crash right into them and fall asleep for a good, long while? 

 

17310123_10210171950549090_6286293826129395192_o

 

Still here,

Aun Aqui

 

Like my blog? Read my book!

I self-published my first novel in August 2017 — a delightful tale called “Jinx the Rabbit.” Whether you’re 5 years old or 500 years young, I feel sure you’ll enjoy it. Purchase the book by clicking below and then I’ll ship your signed copy to you within two business days! (Or, if you’d prefer to order the book on Amazon, you can easily do so by visiting the website and searching “Jinx the Rabbit”!)

$9.99

“Hi — I’d like to withdraw a dead dog and endless world travel, please… can you help me?”

Last week, I didn’t have any classes scheduled and was pretty much caught up on all of my projects at work, so I visited a branch downtown to work as a loan officer.

I keyed in a credit card application, opened a few new checking accounts, and answered a steady stream of questions regarding EMV cards — like how they work and why they’re safer than the old ones.

It was a pleasant and productive morning, and after returning from a late lunch, I settled back down into the office and began skimming through emails when a tiny figure poked its head into the room.

 

“Hi there!” I called out, smiling.

 

Encouraged, the 36-inches-tall character threw the rest of himself into the room. “HI! I need to make a withdrawal, please.”

 

“Certainly,” I replied, taking his transaction ticket and flipping it over (onto its blank side). “And how much are we withdrawing today, sir?”

 

He glanced up at the ceiling, his interesting straw hat throwing a shadow over his face (had he been an adult, I would have asked him to remove it). “Ummmm… two things.”

 

“Two things? Alrighty then.” I scribbled some numbers onto the paper and then cleared my throat.

 

“Please circle the two that is listed on this form, sir,” I asked, motioning for him to join me and handing him the pen. He walked around, stood alongside me (behind the desk), and saw that, on the sheet, I had written: 1 2 3. He circled the 2.

 

“Thank you! NOW… what two things are we withdrawing today?”

 

He stared at me, looking unsure as he squirmed a little. “Uh… a SPIDERMAN!”

 

I considered his Spiderman pajamas. “Excellent choice. Will you please draw a Spiderman for me?”

 

He shook his head bashfully. “No… I can’t…”

 

I sighed deeply. “Okay… then I’ll TRY to draw him, but I’m NOT an artist,” I stressed. I attempted a Spiderman and, realizing that his own attempt couldn’t possibly be worse than mine, the little member took the pen from my left hand and drew a much better portrayal beside the version I’d doodled.

 

“Wowwwww… now that’s a good Spiderman!” I praised him. Satisfied with his work, he dropped the pen onto the table.

 

“So… there’s your Spiderman. What’s the second thing you’d like to withdraw today?”

 

He looked up at me. “A… Ironman?”

 

I grimaced. “An Ironman? Ahhhhh… I LIKE Ironman, but I most DEFINITELY can’t draw him…” I pursed my lips. “What about Batman? Do you like him?”

 

“YEAH!!!!!”

 

And then we repeated our first activity; I drew a terrible Batman, and he followed up with a fantastic Batman.

 

Finished with our drawings (aka transaction), I turned to face the member and stuck my hand out. “Well sir, those are the two things you requested.  I hope you have a wonderful rest of the day.”

 

He shook my hand and then flew out of the room, waving his currency in the air as he rejoined his parents.

 

***

 

I thought about this junior member and his interesting request on and off throughout the remainder of the afternoon.

When he entered the credit union with his parents, he had obviously gathered that you come here to get the things you want, right? He understood the concept of arriving with nothing, requesting something, and then leaving with it, and by observing his parents, he must have determined that you simply withdrew whatever you really wanted that day — whatever made you happy. How simple. 

So when I asked him what HE wanted to withdraw, he wanted his favorite superheroes… or drawings of them, at least.

And then I asked myself, if I could go somewhere and magically withdraw anything I wanted — animate or inanimate, living or dead, feasible or not — what would it be?

 

My answer: I would withdraw my late German Shepherd, Bruce (who would then become magically immortal; healthy, happy, and unharmable — is a word!), and a lifetime of travel with him. We’d go to Ecuador, and India, and Ireland, and Scotland, and Germany (his home country!) and Australia and Israel and ohhhhhh, just EVERYWHERE! We would hike and swim and ride trains through mountains and camp out in the woods and he could finally be my very best friend forever, better than any human companion, ridiculous mansion, fancy car or famous legacy. I would just want to be with him and go places. That’s honestly it. And that’s love, isn’t it?

 

 

And now I’d like to ask (and would love to hear)… if you could withdraw two things, what would you choose? Deposit your response in the comments below.

 

 

Still here,

Aun Aqui