If you’re about to set some goals… why?

Meditate, read books, write books, eat burritos, return to college, and go on adventures…

 

I’m recalling from memory, but I believe that’s everything I put on my 2017 personal development plan. I wouldn’t call these things “goals”, because “goals” is a funny and muddied word (for me)… I’d prefer referring to them as ideals, visions, intentions, aims, aspirations, or initiatives. Or possibly endeavors. They were basically things that I felt it would be good to do. I imagined that they would help me grow further into myself, make me happier (somehow), and render me more useful to my community and the world than before. Because that’s just the kind of difference that burritos make.

 

And you know what? I hit every single one of them — initiatives, intentions, goals; whatever you wanna call ’em, I DID them. I’m back in school (learning a new language and how to be a better writer), I wrote (and published!) a book back in August, I went on a solo adventure in Denver this spring and took a work trip to Seattle this fall, AND I’ve eaten more burritos than I could ever possibly calculate. And I am not a particularly strong or “disciplined” person… so how? How did I “realize” or “actualize” these big and little dreams, and with the calendar year just a few fleeting hours from over, what is continuing to sustain me in this ongoing pursuit?

 

I believe that the better question is why; as in, why did I set and commit to these “goals” in the first place?

 

Here’s my why: I wanted to become a better person (meditate), a more educated person (college), a happier person (burritos), and a more fulfilled person (the creative endeavors and travel adventures). I think it’s also important to mention that I didn’t set arbitrary, numeric-based “goals” for myself, like:

  • Write four books, one per quarter
  • Register for five college classes a semester
  • Meditate for one hour a day (minimum)
  • Travel to X number of states/countries annually
  • Hate yourself and start eating junk food if any or all of this goes to shit

 

Instead, I kept them – the goals (since that’s a happenin’ kind of word this time of year) – simple. Open-ended. Easy to navigate.

My goals:

Just go to school, whether that means taking one class or a full load. Just write something — be it a whole book or just a few starting chapters for one. Just meditate sometimes… follow your breath at a red light instead of checking your phone, and take a minute to think compassionate thoughts when you’re standing in line at Whole Foods instead of eyeing the tasty POS temptations (like Jason’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups). And eat burritos… however many you like. Just budget them in somewhere, because you really love them, and the universe gets that.

 

I think new year resolutions can be great, depending on the quality of and the motive behind each individual resolution. Are you weighing yourself down and stressing yourself out with numbers? (Not the best idea.) Or are you gently but resolutely routing yourself in a clear and heart-driven direction, lovingly following your passionate, innate, deep-seated and soulful why? (Better idea.)

 

Think: I want to be healthy — NOT “I want to lose X number of pounds.” Try: I want to spend more time outdoors… NOT “I can only watch X hours of television a day.” And if you want to be healthier, in what ways? Diet, exercise, mental health? A mix of those things? Why? And if you want to spend more time outside, why? Are you craving some fresh air and sunshine — cool winds and cold rain? Is there a particular time of the year that you just LOVE, that especially inspires and nurtures you? Could you plan fun outings for then? What outdoor hobbies/activities might you enjoy? Is there a club or enthusiast group of sorts that you could join? Would doing something like that help you stay on track? What about starting a blog?  

 

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I kept this vision board pinned up at work ALL YEAR LONG and glanced over at it DAILY, which is probably another factor that helped contribute to my “success.”

 

 

A parting quote from some guy named Jack Dixon:

If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results.

 

 

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”!)

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The key to happiness (or at least neutrality)

I was standing in line at Publix on Thursday with one person in front of me and two behind me. The two were a grandmother-granddaughter pair, and the grandmother was resting her arms on a cart as she supervised her granddaughter, who was hurriedly tossing items onto the conveyor belt: barbecue chips, beef jerky, a yellow carton of Blue Bell ice cream, a yellow box of Eggos…

 

“OOOOOOOOOH,” the granddaughter (who looked to be about 12) cooed, reaching up for a comic or magazine.

 

“Not until you’ve read your current one,” Grandmother declared in a tone of finality.

 

“Ohhhhhkay,” Granddaughter sighed.

 

A few seconds later…

 

“Your phone,” Grandmother grumbled, fumbling with it. “Someone’s trying to TEXT you,” she stated, presenting the granddaughter’s phone to her.

 

The granddaughter leaned over the cart and peeked at the name or just number displaying on her screen without accepting the phone. “Eh, it’s not an important person,” she decided, continuing to transfer items from cart to belt, using both hands.

 

Not an important person. I repeated the phrase in my head. Why do we all bother filling our lives with anyone but important persons? It’s such a waste of time and energy… 

 

***

 

The day before – Wednesday – I was at work, shuffling through paperwork and planning my agenda for the following week. I knew that my boss was going to be out on vacation, and I wanted to have enough projects stored up and events slash branch visits scheduled that I wouldn’t grow bored or restless.

 

I turned toward my weekly planner — a cool, outer space-themed calendar that I keep out on my desk, lying flat — and accidentally flipped two pages instead of one. My heart sank.

 

“Oh noooooooo! It’s OVER,” I mourned. “The calendar — the year — is over…”

 

And just like that, my beloved calendar became obsolete. I brought it home with me that evening — I plan on salvaging the pictures and creating a space collage of sorts.

Time slips away from us so easily, so mysteriously… like snow. I watched the wind blow it right out of the trees a week and a half ago, following an uncharacteristic snowfall. It’s there for a day — covering the ground, painting our cars, and coating the trees — and then it simply vanishes. Vaporizes.

Most of us took pictures of it and all of us have memories of it, but otherwise, it’s gone. And when it leaves, it looks spectacular — glittering in the air, tumbling down over itself, and then just magically disappearing. Its impossibly strange exit makes you pause and wonder, where did it actually go? 

 

***

 

The morning before THAT and THAT – on Tuesday – I was getting ready for work when Charlie walked into my room.

“Hey — you got your final grades yesterday, right? As?”

“Yep!” I smiled.

“Well congratulations, GRADUATION BUN!” he cheered.

“HA! I wish,” I murmured. Then, my heart sank again, sort of like it would the next day, when I would realize that my time had run out, and like it had a week before, when I had watched something truly beautiful appear to meet its end.

“No, actually… I don’t…” 

 

***

 

Why un-wish graduation on myself? If I’m a kayak, depression is the undercurrent tugging at me from beneath the waters I travel on. Always there, and always almost about to pull me under. Calm waters will sometimes weave themselves into this undercurrent, causing me to feel the restlessness and/or turbulence of my depression to varying degrees at different times. But the current has yet to totally take over.

But here’s the thing: When I’m busy... traveling, potting plants, cooking meals, and enjoying my work-work, my school work, and my ceaseless self-exploration-and-development work… the waters don’t mix together quite as much. And that’s a good thing. Busyness seems to keep us all straight, nicely moving from left-to-right in our side-scrolling life games.

 

“Aren’t you glad the semester’s over?” my mother asked me earlier this week.

 

“No. It’s terrible!” I replied, laughing into the phone. I knew she’d think I was joking, so I explained that I wasn’t.

 

And today, during the winter break, I’ve brought my Spanish curriculum to the cafe with me. I plan on working a few chapters ahead so that when the spring semester ACTUALLY starts, I’m really just giving myself a ‘refresher’ on what I’ve already learned.

 

“I guess if you just always stay busy, you’ll always be okay,” my mom concluded at the end of our conversation.

 

And it’s true. She’s right. Busyness is the key, the secret, to controlling it (plus or minus a shot of St. John’s Wort in my orange juice). And isn’t that terrible; depression demanding restlessness from the person it inhabits. Or, instead of inhabiting, is it more of an external force that simply pokes and prods and torments its victim? I, personally, believe that it exists inside of us. An unwelcome but sometimes sleepy companion who we can both hate and learn from.

 

***

 

I’ve tried googling “how to relax”, “ways to enjoy your free time”, “how to do nothing” and other, similar search queries, but none of the results have either interested or resonated with me. I don’t know how to simply sit and be.

In order to be happy (or at least neutral), I have to be producing, or creating, or learning, or discovering, or going, going, gone… all of the time. When I was assisting at a branch on Monday and finished breezing through all of the “busy work” the manager had saved up for me, he looked just as stressed as I did, trying to answer my question of: What now? What next? Please, give me something to do so that I can enjoy being alive. Alright, it wasn’t THAT dramatic, but almost. Almost.

 

“I’m going to write ANOTHER book,” I professed to a good friend of mine, on an afternoon when I was feeling particularly exasperated with myself. “And here’s what I’ll call it: HOW TO DO NOTHING. Or perhaps, HOW TO DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.”

 

IMG_20171201_193444_370
= me presenting another key to happiness (burritos) in Asheville, NC

 

Still here (sitting on the couch at Urban Standard and appearing to do nothing although I’m actually doing quite a bit — exploring myself and writing and thinking about the clearance rack at Nordstrom and where to find a good spice rack for Charlie and I’s booming spice department and also planning my and three friends’ itinerary for an upcoming trip to Ecuador where I will stay supremely busy, spying on active volcano Cotapaxi, adventuring through the Amazon rain forest, and popping into a cave or two — but what about later in 2018… like, in October; where will I go and what will I do THEN, assuming I’m still alive? Go hiking up in Colorado Springs? Go find a cafe and a waterfall somewhere in Canada? Aren’t the people there supposedly extra-nice? Will I make As in those 2018 fall classes, and before those fall classes, these upcoming spring classes? Will I find a guy, the right guy, a genuinely NICE guy, someday? Soon or not very soon? Never? That would be okay, wouldn’t it? But if I do, will he have a British accent, like David Tenant? Will he hail from Ecuador? If I go to Canada, will I find him there? Will I meet him in Ecuador? Am I supposed to find him or is he going to find ME? Will we have a little girl together and name her Josie Elliott and will I know how to hold her properly? Will it take me four years to graduate or possibly just 3.5? Will I ever write a book that sells? Despite all of my holistic endeavors, will I eventually develop one of the cancers my family has had — brain, breast, skin, colon? Should I NOT have a little girl to spare her from possible health issues and the soul-draining sadness of a depraved world that is spinning into a state of complete insanity? Will I stay busy enough today, tomorrow, next week? OH YEAH, I still need to buy some organic red potatoes for Christmas… and Charlie mentioned having a sore throat, so I should also pick up some lemons!),

Aun Aqui

The Chunky Knit Sweater Blog Post

Ever seen a sweater like this?

chunky knit sweater
PC: WearingMeOutVtg on Etsy

 

 

Now, it’s impossible to say “no”, because even if you hadn’t seen it before, there it is! Ha! It’s called a chunky knit sweater, and I ❤ it.

Earlier this semester, a girl in my creative writing class wrote a story that had nothing to do with a chunky knit sweater, really, but in passing, she described one of her characters as wearing a “chunky, knit sweater”… and RIGHT when I read the phrase, I thought to myself: Yes. THAT’S what I want to wear. 

 

So the next day, I tugged one of the only two chunky knit sweaters I own off of a hanger in the closet and then shrugged it on; deep ocean blue and handed down to me by my best friend, Charlie. Wearing it felt magical.

Fun Chunky Knit Sweater Fact: Jace wears size small… and she can send you her address… 🙂

The things I love most about that sweater and all chunky knit sweaters are:

  1. they’re comfy,
  2. they’re loose-fitting (I generally abhor form-fitting clothing),
  3. they look reaaaaaaaally cool, and
  4. wearing them, you can pull off the CRAZIEST-looking patterns… like, you might have seven different shapes and eighteen colors (there are that many colors) all splattered onto the same sweater, and it’s not even a big deal. It’s absolutely perfect.

 

And that’s kind of how this blog post is gonna go. It has nothing to do with chunky knit sweaters, really… but now don’t YOU want to wear one?

***

I have four short (nonfiction) stories to tell, each one of them unrelated to the rest.

  1. What the Brooch?
  2. My Pizza Plate Hero
  3. Peace DOESN’T = Friendship
  4. Relationships SOMETIMES = Objects

 

First up… 

 

WTBrooch?

I was checking out at Nordstrom a few weeks ago — with a dress, a work blouse, or something similar… and whatever it was, it was definitely from the clearance rack, because that is how I roll.

And at the register, my cashier scanned the whatever and then said something I couldn’t quite make out, but it sounded a whole lot like “roach.”

“Roaches?” I repeated, a little stunned. Why were we suddenly talking about roaches?

“Yeah,” she repeated. “It’s beautiful.”

What. the. fuck. is. happening. I searched my mind, my memories, and the depths of my soul as quickly as possible, struggling for a precedent or rule that would help me comprehend this universe where you’re simply checking out with an article of clothing and then someone starts complimenting your least favorite “thing” on the planet.

 

And then suddenly, it dawned on me. Brooch. NOT roach.

 

I tipped my head down, taking a quick inventory of myself — Vans, black denim jeans, a worn leather jacket and, pinned just above its left breast pocket, a purplish-red autumn leaf. Aka, a brooch. 

 

“OHHH — A BROOCH!” I exclaimed. Now, she was looking at ME oddly.

 

“Yes, yes — I also think broaches are beautiful. I got this one at What’s on Second!”

 

“Oh yeah? Where’s that?”

 

And then, the universe made sense to both of us again.

***

My Pizza Plate Hero

For the past week, it’s been exactly as Foreigner said it would be: cold as ice.

And until a week and a half ago, I didn’t know that, to clear up one’s frozen windshield, hot air should be employed. I’d always just assumed cold (because I’ve always enjoyed math and literature — NOT science). And how have I survived this long? Who knows.

Anyways, even with this new knowledge, I found myself in a real dill pickle on Monday morning.

On the very verge of being late to work, I had hurried out of the house, dashed down the driveway, and hopped into my car to discover that the windshield was, once again, TOTALLY clouded with fog and ice.

Sighing, I started the car, turned the heat on (duh), and then waited thirty seconds. Nothing happened.

So I waited another thirty seconds, tapping my foot nervously on the floorboard. But still, there was no change… no improvement in visibility.

 

Sighing even more deeply, I rolled my window down, stuck my head out the window, and began navigating down the street. I safely made it to the stop sign but realized, once there, that I couldn’t continue on this way.

 

So I did the only thing I knew to do.

 

I turned on the windshield wiper fluid, full blast, and let it spritz, spritz, spray for a solid fifteen seconds while my windshield wipers worked furiously, waving left and right, left and right, as frantic as I’ve ever seen them.

 

Suddenly, to my genuine surprise, a car moving in the opposite direction (with a young man inside of it) pulled up right next to mine. He rolled down his window and I watched his thick eyebrows shoot up.

 

“Heya, ma’am — you need some help?”

 

“Oh, noooooo… you’re so kind! I just… this windshield, it’s all cloudy, and I’m trying to see through it,” I explained, nodding my head toward the increasingly slushy windshield and chaotic wipers working overtime. My expert operations. I was so proud of them.

 

He nodded. “Okay,” he said, unbuckling, getting out of his car, and then fishing around in the backseat of his vehicle.

 

He reappeared at my window seconds later, a paper plate in his right hand. I caught a brief glimpse of the front of it — soiled orangey-red, like a slice of pizza had once been there.

“Let’s see if this will help get some of that ice off,” he murmured, and then I watched as my pizza plate hero demystified my foggy, icy, fluid-y windshield.

 

“Ahhhhhhh, I can see!” I celebrated. He laughed.

 

“Thank you SOOOOOOO much,” I exclaimed. “I’m Jace, by the way,” I offered, sticking my hand out the window.

 

“Bryan,” he replied, shaking my hand with his.

***

Peace DOESN’T = Friendship

There’s a person in this universe who is persistently rude to me, despite the fact that, just a few months ago, I confronted them about it, the two of us cleared the air, and we decidedly made peace.

So after this “coming to Jesus” event, every time they’ve made another snide, sarcastic, or cutting remark, I’ve thought to myself… what the hell?! We’re supposed to be past this! How juvenile of them! I am unfailingly kind toward and patient with them, as well as supportive of all of their endeavors — so what the heck gives? WHAT ELSE can I do to make them like me?

 

And then suddenly, on an ordinary Wednesday afternoon, the answer struck me like a football to the nose (happened in middle school, unpleasant): Nothing. There is nothing that I can do to make them like me.

 

Why? There are so many reasons! For one thing, certain personalities, vocal pitches, and even faces just irritate other people… so maybe s/he just dislikes my face, voice, or essence. It’s quite possible. People are also impossibly complex — carrying past experiences with them for reference, struggling with known and unrealized insecurities, and often holding their imaginative fiction closer to themselves than they do the plain truth. So their reason for disliking me, or you, could have nothing to do with you at all — it could simply be rooted in their biology, their assumptions, or their fears.

 

How I apply this knowledge: When you’ve got a meanie in your life and you’ve done all you can to be compassionate toward them, the only thing left to do is to let them go. Stay compassionate, of course — when you have to interact with them, always be kind — but redirect the rest of your time, energy, and attention elsewhere. Because, as likable as you might be, everyone won’t like you, and the wisest course of action in light of this fact is to accept the dislike and move on. And by moving on, I mean quit trying to hold up or patch up a one-sided relationship — spend your time and give your affection to those who do like you instead. WAY better use of resources.

Relevant Quote:

Our time, energy, and resources are all limited, and impacting those around us — either positively or negatively — appears to be the most lasting impression we leave behind. Are the activities I do and the things I think about most days how I want to use and expend my time and energy? –can’t remember the guy’s name

 

Another tip you didn’t ask for: When someone is mean, I try to remind myself that hurt people hurt people, and that the other person is probably just being a jackass because they’re sad, mad, insecure, or otherwise lacking in peace. So, instead of retaliating, I practice patience. I employ empathy. I strive to show compassion.

And it’s important to remain teachable and objective by asking yourself, DID I do something that was unkind? Is their behavior or speech warranted?, but if – after reflection – the answer ends up being no, DON’T take the blame for their poor behavior or crabby dialogue. Their rudeness or unkindness is just a poorly-wrapped gift that you don’t have to accept.

Relevant Quote:

Don’t carry baggage that someone else packed. –who knows

When you’re forced to interact with the meanie, set healthy boundaries for yourself — don’t pressure yourself to babysit that person’s emotions or blame yourself for their unhappiness — and don’t present yourself as an unmoving punching bag, either. Kindly excuse yourself when needed. Relocate, muster a smile, and practice silence (Charlie taught me this, actually — that silence can be a powerful, but soft, reproof; when you’re silent, you’re letting their cruel words hang there in the air so that they’re forced to replay them). Or you can stop wearing deodorant so that they’ll stay the hell away from you forever. <–my idea.  🙂

The point is, if you’re being your best you and it still isn’t enough, then the problem does not lie with you. Get up and go.

***

Relationships SOMETIMES = Objects

On Tuesday, I had a productive and pleasant day at work. At home, I immediately slipped into my pajamas while Charlie set to work on dinner. When I was all comfy and cozy, I trekked downstairs and plopped down onto the couch, wrapping a falsa blanket around me, petting Silo’s head and shoulders (he had instantly curled up beside me), and gazing down at Tycho (who, as is her custom, was mourning quietly from a bed on the floor). I smiled.

 

“You know what, Charlie?” I called out suddenly, looking over at the lovely, potted Cypress tree in the corner of the room. Charlie had strung lights around it the day before and placed it atop a green stool — our “no-kill Christmas tree.”

 

“What?”

 

“I’m so glad that I’m not in a romantic relationship with anyone right now.”

 

He joined me in the living room. “Oh?”

 

“Yes,” I breathed. “It was a preoccupying thought for so long! I believed that a relationship would be some kind of magic fix… like, finding the right pair of earrings, buying the coolest coat rack, or collecting the correct number of pots for house plants…” I shook my head. “I’m always searching for that next thing or person, thinking that it or they will complete me, or heal me, or make me happy… and it’s so futile. THIS,” I paused, my arm sweeping the room. “This is happiness. I’ve got warm clothes on, both of my pups within petting distance, my best friend living in the same house as me, and delicious food on the way. I don’t want or need anything else right now.” And I’ve grown so very tired of looking so desperately for something when I don’t know what it is, where it is, what it looks like, and why it even matters.

 

And even as I said the words, it felt like I was shrugging off a heavy, iced jacket — one that I’d been trudging around in all day.

 

20171212_172726

 

I’ve often said that, when I DO date someone, that someone must want and not need me. There’s a big difference between the two. I’ve been in co-dependent relationships before, and they didn’t work for me.

 

“I want to find someone who’s got their shit together and won’t LATCH ON to me,” I’ve said. And I still want this — someday. 

 

But with the mindset I’ve been operating in (pre-profound-realization), I was going to BE that person — latching onto the right guy with the belief that he would supply some crucial, missing something and that this would magically take all of my pain and burdens away… that he would then easily and heroically carry all of my emotional baggage through the life airport FOR me.

But the truth is that I don’t want a hero like that (other than the occasional pizza plate hero). I don’t want to depend on someone else so heavily. I’ve done it before, and it’s a dangerous thing to do. From the present day through forever, I want to always be my own hero. My closest and most trusted companion. 

Because the company of another person should make a great day even better — it shouldn’t make the day. And if it’s a bad day… well, when I feel like I’m stuck in a PRISON of some kind (like a sad prison, a pain prison, or a lonely prison), I just have to remember that I am the prison itself, the door to the prison, the lock, the guard, and the key. I can always save myself. 

 

And right now, I don’t need saving at all. I just need another warm sip of this DELICIOUS caramel latte. And maybe a new wallet. Or I could just put less shit in this current wallet.

 

 

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

Me, Myself, and My OBGYN

​The FIRST challenge was knowing where to park and how to get there. I sure as heck didn’t know, but I was sure that Google would.
Despite my initial confidence, at a point, Google Maps became rather clueless (as it persistently insisted on routing me over toward the emergency deck — unnecessary), so I tossed my phone aside and used my human brain to figure things out instead.
Moments later, I victoriously emerged from my car on the second floor of the physician’s plaza. At this juncture, I was presented with challenge number two: discovering where exactly my new OBGYN was. I located a posted directory a little ways inside of the building and it proved useful. I inhaled deeply, held the breath, and then took an elevator straight up to the third floor, exhaling with relief when the door finally reopened.
Inside of the “OBGYN hub”, I checked in at a desk, handed my ID over, presented my health insurance card, and filled out a bunch of forms. The forms reminded me of my name, old age, strange-to-read “divorced” status, and various family member’s health ailments.
“Check each box that applies” is how section after section read, and the pesky and invasive questionnaires existing within these sections nudged me to cough up intimate details about myself — things like whether or not I:
  • was sexually active (um no, and excuse YOU!),
  • had suicidal thoughts (that is none of your business), and
  • wanted a colonoscopy today (why the FUCK did I agree to do this?!). In addition to not checking this ridiculous box, I wrote “I do not want this” right alongside it.
And why did I agree to do this? 
***
For years (not just weeks or months), coworkers and friends had been badgering to me to “go get my annual.” They spoke of lumps in the breasts and cancers lurking inside of vaginas and told me horror stories about people they knew or had read about who had died from such terrible things.
Eventually, I grew sick of the attention. I scheduled the damn appointment and then emailed these female friends and coworkers, announcing the big event. “Are you HAPPY now?!” I wanted to yell through caps lock. But I didn’t. Because I understood their badgering was coming from a very good and kind place.

And why was I so averse to the idea of “getting my annual”, anyways?

Because of the first annual I ever got. I was 18. Chris and I had just gotten married, and everyone on the planet was urging me to get on birth control.
So I visited an OBGYN (which, btw, is simply pronounced ob-gyn —why do people bother SPELLING IT OUT aloud when they can just say “obgyn”?) and, after explaining to the nurse that my (now ex)husband Christopher and I would soon be traveling to Ukraine to teach English, the nurse urgently stuffed handfuls of birth control samples into my bag. So many handfuls that I wouldn’t need a refill for at least a year. I felt dirty… and nauseous. I was, at this time, a virgin, and the idea of having sex (or lots of it, as her many handfuls seemed to imply) was immensely uncomfortable to me. So, understandably, I hated having a bulk amount of these scandalous pills in my bag (and very much hated taking them for a solid three years before I decided to reclaim my personality, emotional stability, and physical health).
Moving on…
Our Ukraine plans never panned out (because life is fantastically mysterious), and a year later, I needed a refill. I was now 19, just about to turn 20.
And no one in my life had ever told me, WARNED ME, about what happened next, AFTER the free year’s supply of BCPs fall into your purse… about the complete and utter shittiness of taking all of your clothes off and then getting jabbed in your you-know-what with a COLD metal DEVICE by a stranger in white. W.T.H.
And when that happened, right out of the blue on a stupid Wednesday morning, I felt totally victimized. So I promised myself, I will never, ever subject you to this again.
***
But six years later (aka this morning), there I was, sitting in another doctor’s office and waiting for that terrible, dreaded jab. And I’ve gotta say — KNOWING about it was almost worse than “going in blind” six years ago, because now, in addition to the horror of experiencing it, I also got to anticipate it. Yay.
I had begrudgingly provided a urine sample and then carefully stepped over a blue fruit loop on the floor (probably belonging to another woman’s screaming toddler) moments before being called into the back.
And there in the back, I had fully expected to be shuffled into one of those basic examination rooms, but instead, I was led into the doctor’s office. Like, the one with plants and pictures of family members and graduation plaques and tiny, monogrammed things.
And because being seated in an office office seemed far too serious and intimate for the routine “thing” that I forecasted should be happening, I was more than a little alarmed.
 
What the heck did they find in that urine sample? I wondered, imagining the vagina cancer monster stewing gleefully in some secret place within me. “Or are they going to interrogate me for skipping some of the questions I REALLY didn’t like? Dang it, I should have just answered them!” 
“Hi hi hiiiiiiiiiiiiii,” a voice sang out suddenly. The sound of the doctor had entered the room before she did; I turned to face the doorway, which she had already, magically, passed through.
“I hope being in here isn’t freaking you out,” she continued quickly, her long, red hair swaying in an attempt to keep up with her swift strides. “Most patients are like, ‘UH OH! What did I do to end up in here?!'” And here, she laughed easily, comfortably seating herself on the other side of the desk and then looking directly across it at me.
“I was a little worried,” I admitted, laughing nervously.
“Ahhhh, I just like to get to know ya before you’re undressed!” she explained, grinning.
Her spirit was completely disarming, and I immediately trusted her.
We discussed me for a while — my occupation, artistic pursuits, and holistic healing methods (as well as the incident from six years before). She solemnly swore that today’s experience would be totally different.
And again, I trusted her — her goodness of heart and her good intentions — but I still didn’t believe that it wouldn’t totally suck.
***
Soon afterwards, she escorted me over to the basic examination room I had been hoping for and complimented my leather jacket along the way. I thanked her and then realized that she’d also said something right afterwards about undressing and me putting on a thin, blue gown, but I’d somehow missed the gist of it, strangely caught up in the mental history of my jacket.
“Sorry — what all am I taking off again?” I asked quietly.
“Everything but your socks!” she answered, smiling and exiting the room.
I sighed, disrobing quickly and then tossing my garments onto a nearby armchair. I fiddled with the blue paper gown and couldn’t quite figure it out. It was far too roomy — and blue, like the ocean! I looked up from the patient’s table I was now sitting on and saw a Coastal Whatever magazine lying on a nearby table. It featured a lovely beach scene on the front.
At least they try to make you feel relaxed, I thought glumly, keeping my hands folded neatly in my lap.
I stared down at my peach-colored turtle socks. It feels strange — removing everything BUT the socks, I realized. Should I take them off, too? I hesitated, trying to imagine it. No… THAT would be even WEIRDER, I firmly decided.
I bounced my legs back and forth, suddenly remembering that, unlike most women, I didn’t shave them. She’ll think what she thinks — I don’t even care, I sighed. I just want to do this so it’s done. Besides — my legs LOVE not being shaved, I added, smiling to myself encouragingly. I was happy to realize that unshaven legs were no longer an anxiety trigger of mine. Score!
When my doc re-entered the room, she brought an assistant with her. Great, I mused. An audience of two instead of one. This helps things. 
obgyn meme
pc: Google Images
I won’t go into detail on what happened next, because it wasn’t at all pleasant, but the doctor’s incessant, buoyant small talk was a wonderful distraction. Among other things, we discussed tattoos, the Spanish language, and Ecuador together.
“I actually had to bribe myself to come here,” I admitted. “Right after arranging this appointment, I scheduled an upcoming tattoo session as an ‘incentive’, or reward, for getting through this ordeal.” She and her assistant were both tickled.
At the end of the process, procedure, whatever, she started talking about next time. 
How cute, I thought to myself. She thinks there will be a next time!
“You did so good today — you should get a sticker!” she raved. “No, wait — not a sticker… a TATTOO!” she corrected herself, laughing heartily.
***
I called Charlie immediately following the event.
“How did it go?” he asked.
“I’m soooooooooo glad it’s over,” I breathed. “The doctor was really nice, though, and she definitely helped make things less weird. I liked her so much, in fact, that I might go back again in three years!” I smiled.
I texted a friend as well: “I finally went! Will find out within a week or so if I’m dying.”
And then, fully clothed and gratefully returning to my normal abnormal car and life, I shook off my lingering anxiety with every step forward and thought to myself, isn’t the sky so blue and beautiful today? 
Still here,
Aun Aqui

Trying to Remember

Yesterday, I overheard a co-worker utter the word snow and immediately perked up in my cube.

“Hey — snow — are we supposed to get it?” I asked, already teeming with excitement.

“Yep!” she replied. “Tomorrow!”

 

I allowed myself to feel thrilled, but not overly so — it is, after all, early December in Birmingham, Alabama, and the last time we got a mentionable amount of snow was in mid-January THREE years ago. Nevertheless, I sent my hopeful intention out into the universe and then went about my business.

 

When I woke up at 6:25 this AM, I was absolutely amazed and delighted to see a light amount of snow spiraling delicately to the ground. My best friend Charlie scrambled some celebratory eggs and fried some festive hash browns, and then I sadly bid him and the pups goodbye. 

 

When I began driving to work, I was startled to realize how quickly the snowfall was gaining momentum. My entire windshield became so thoroughly clouded that I had to pull over, roll my window down, and then get back on the road with my head precariously sticking out of the window in order to navigate at all.

 

Seconds later, I felt my phone vibrate three times and dared to hope that I knew what it was. I paused at a light, checked my messages, and sure enough, I was right: work had been cancelled!

 

“Thank GOODNESS,” I texted my boss. “I was about to DIE out on these roads.”

 

So instead of working, I have spent the whole day relaxing — playing outside with my German Shepherds, re-potting a few plants indoors, and remotely completing two college finals: one for my Spanish class, and another for my creative writing class (my third short story).

 

IMG_20171208_085909_366
me and mama (aka Tycho/Taco/Rough)

 

I’m sharing the story I just submitted to my professor below, but I would like to preface the story with this disclaimer: I grew up with a sick brother and took the backseat because of it. I’m not at all bitter. In the fictionalized recollection below, I’m simply attempting to navigate, process, and imagine what life might have looked and felt like back then for an almost-four year old.

 

So here it is… my third short story this year.

 

Trying to Remember 

by Jace Yarbrough

 

The time will pass so quickly, Rosie,” she whispers in my ear. I’m not yet four years old, so I may or may not understand or believe her, but she is mother; she smells wonderful, looks beautiful, and around this time, I call her a beauty dance, which doesn’t make sense.  

“Lucy, we’ve gotta go,” he says; tall, broad-shouldered, and with a thin and dark mustache hovering above his upper lip. He locks eyes with me and our hazy blues swirl together. Dad.  

“Love you, kid,” he says gruffly. I don’t understand it then, but he’s sad, not angry.  

Then the two of them exit through the same front door we all passed through together not even an hour ago. I turn around; my Aunt Debbie is smiling at me – she’s got shoulder-length brown hair, kind eyes, and a mischievous crinkle in her smile. “Come here, sweet Amber Rose! Time to have some FUN!”  

*** 

Way back then, my brother was sickly. Not cough or throw up sickly – more like tubes and surgeries and bone marrow transplants sickly.  

He had something wrong with his head, they said.  

“It’s not strong, like yours,” Grammy had explained months before, caressing his bald head fondly. I looked at the clear tube coming out of his nose and the other one sticking out from his bare chest. He certainly didn’t look strong. 

“You’re the well kitty, and he’s the sick kitty,” is how she explained it another time when we were visiting her quaint little shack in Clearwater, Florida. I had been a swimming mermaid in her backyard kiddie pool while Bob had been sitting still on a lawn chair, watching.  

But what usually made me the maddest was going to Miami Subs. Grammy couldn’t drive, so we’d walk up to the stop sign down the street and then catch a bus the rest of the way there. Once inside, Bobby would order a steaming basket of divine-looking and salty-smelling mozzarella sticks, but I could only get French fries.  

“He’s got pickier taste buds than you, girly whirlie,” Grammy would remind me gently. 

As an adult, I realize now that the price difference was probably a dollar or less.  

*** 

Back in South Carolina, I’d run up and down the hallways of the hospital… always trying to sneak peeks into other children’s rooms. Most of them looked like Bob: skinny, scared, and sad. I just wanted someone to have fun with. 

When we moved into the Ronald McDonald house down in Georgia, things were a little more fun. There was a big bathtub near our bedroom, and Grammy, who had suddenly become a long-term visitor from Florida, would fill it up with tons of soapy, hot water and then sit on the tile floor outside of the bath tub while I splashed merrily inside of it. She’d even bring out a couple of teacups and we’d have tea parties together. I don’t remember there being cookies, but I hope there were. So I’ll choose to remember there being cookies. And mozzarella sticks.  

The tea parties continued to occur for a few good weeks until Bobby took a turn for the worse.  

*** 

One bad day, the doctor said some things that mom and dad really didn’t like. Mom started crying and dad looked mad. The mean doctor said something about weakened immune systems and six months left and give him a good Christmas

I liked Christmas. sniffled loudly and rubbed my nose against the back of my hand. My mom looked over at me. Stared. Sighed.  

Soon, mom, dad and I were piled up in the family’s yellow station wagon and driving up from North Augusta, South Carolina to Toledo, Ohio, where I was FINALLY going to have some fun. 

When I try to remember what it looked like outside of the car’s window, I can see Spanish moss hanging off of the trees like the skeletons of old scarvesI can feel us flying up roads where even Taco Bell signs were plated in gold, and I can also recall strange leaves – – gold, copper and gray, like jewelry mixed with ash — littering the ground everywhere. 

There were pieces of tire by the treesand bags caught up high in the trees. There were fallen trees, standing trees, leaves on the ground, and leaves on the trees…  

And they made me remember something pastor said at church once, back when I used to go; that the leaves that fall to the ground return to the soil to nourish the tree so that it can create the next batch of leaves, like cookies. And at the age of four, I already liked cookies.  

And then he went on to say that the tree will repeat this cycle over and over and over again. Until it falls.  

But for the majority of our car ride, I mostly remember an endless blur of trees and powerlines, as well as the oddly distinct smell of cold water. 

*** 

Debbie was fun. Lots of fun. 

For starters, she didn’t make me go to church, and she let me eat food my mother wouldn’t (like chicken nuggets at McDonald’s and tuna straight out of a can). She had a grandson named Kyle who was only a few years older than me, and he was equal parts tormentor and best friend. I can’t remember the exact kinds of games we played together – could have been video games, pool parties, or rounds of hide-and-seek — but I have a good feeling when I think about him… like, I know that we had fun. Looking back on it, he didn’t appear to have tubes or stitches, which probably made having fun a lot easier. 

Debbie claims that I was easy to take care of. “Except for when you had you’d have one of your famous sit downs in a store,” she clarified. Back in South Carolina, I would cry until I couldn’t breathe if someone crossed me… but in Ohio, the apparent equivalent of doing that was collapsing onto the floor of a store and staking out for as long as a person would let me.  

I remember feeling a sense of belonging with Debbie and Kyle and the others… I was learning a new side of the family, and falling very deeply in love with them. 

But then I was at the pool one summer afternoon – tip-toeing across hot pavement and dipping my toes into chilly water — when I looked up and saw mom and dad.  

They looked so happy. I was so confused.  

“Oh Rose…” My mother sobbed, bending over and scooping me up.  

Looking back over her shoulder, I watched the bouncing pool disappear with each step she took, and I felt very, very sad, just like a cancer patient.  

*** 

“You sure this is a good time for her to return?” Debbie asked quietly. 

“Oh yes, Bobby has stabilized so much,” my mother breathed, smiling.  

Debbie drummed her fingers on the sides of her glass, nodded four times. I had seated myself right beside Debbie and found myself staring up at her. She looked down at me, smiled… but the smile was strained. 

“And you haven’t given any more thought to what I mentioned a few weeks ago?” Debbie continued. “In that letter I sent you?” 

My dad cleared his throat. “We want to take her home now, Deb,” he said. 

*** 

And that was that. Cold arms hoisted me back into the station wagon. Nearly a year had passed, and it hadn’t changed at all.  

I sat in the backseat alone. Mom and dad’s murmurs reached me sometimes, but mostly, I played with my Etch-a-Sketch (a gift from Debbie). I missed her eyes, the sweet drawl in her voice, and the way she’d hold me in her lap while we watched Disney movies together.  

Outside of the window, steam was rising off of hot, stained asphalt. 

After many hours had passed and old signs came into view, I began to remember life here… life before Debbie. 

The memory of giant pickles in red and white cardboard boxes and orange-dusted French fries that never lasted long, disappearing from our fingertips while the middle schoolers played ball. 

A fair had come through town once. In my mind, the air still smelled like sugar as someone deep fried funnel cakes for the church school kids.

I remembered that there had been a stream by our house, deep out in the woods. Tadpoles lived in it. I used to check in on them whenever I could, and whenever I saw them, I wondered if they’d really turn into something completely different someday, like Grammy said they would. They looked fine and happy the way they were. Why change? I thought.  

And I recalled, with great joy, that the gas station just outside of our suburb had green alien lollipops. I reallliked those. I’m not sure what kind of candy Bob usually got. Was Bob still in the hospital? Wasn’t he my brother?  

*** 

The car stopped suddenly in a strange driveway.  

My parents exited the car first, and then dad tugged my door open.  

“Welcome home, baby girl!” he sang out.  

“Home?” I asked.  

Grammy and Bobby were standing out on the front porch of a house I didn’t recognize. Bobby was still bald and just as skinny-looking, but from the corner of his lips, a smile had begun to spread. 

In a slow, monotone voice that I also didn’t recognize, he struggled to say: “Hiiiiiisiiiister.” 

Still here,

Aun Aqui

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