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back to basics
Saturday. 6.15.13 2:33 am
The other night, some of us walked a group of students to the huge dock overlooking the bay between our peninsula and the area across the bridge. We were supposed to leave at 7:30 and return around 9:30, but we ended up staying until 11:30, instead, after feeling this great connection with everyone and giving a multitude of chances to leave. Near the end of the night, Rashad suggested we play the ABC game.

It's a cool night in May, and we all come into the library, tense, scratching at mosquito bites from the unsatisfying outdoor debrief about a "simulation" that left some downright hostile, and many others upset, to say the least. Jason asks us to go around in a circle and talk about how we felt, starting to his left and ending with me, directly to his right. These people I held so dear talked about how frustrated they still were, about the injustices of the simulation, about the secrecy behind the point of the whole exercise... All the while, I had time to think. None of this is what's bothering me. What's bothering me, really?

Once again, the psychology came in handy. I settled upon the answer quickly and tried to come up with its matching solution, because that's what orientation interns are trained to do, to the point where a problem without a solution is a major source of stress and frustration.

I knew what it was, and couldn't wait to have my turn to talk. We were all so tense and so low, emotionally, that it was searing through all of us like venom, and I didn't want to feel that way, any longer. I didn't want anyone to feel that way.


I paused, staring at my bare thighs under the soft light of the lamp beside me, collecting myself. My anxiety was rampant, and suddenly this was twenty times harder to get out.

"The point of a debrief," I said, my voice shaking, "is to get your participants back down to their original emotional state. They didn't do that. We haven't debriefed, really. So can we please get back to center and play the ABC game instead of thinking any more about things we might never know?"

I looked up to several surprised pairs of eyes, none more surprised than that of our fearless leader, Jason.

A minute later, we were standing in a circle, shoulders touching tensely against one another's, eyes closed. The energy in the room was palpable and thick, a rubber band stretching to its limits to encase our emotions.

There was a moment of nauseating silence.

"A," Ian started, so loudly that it sent a twisting sensation through my stomach.




Then, simultaneously: "...E."

We all groaned a little, but Jason had by then figured out what my point was in playing this right away, and with all his intensity demanded, "Again."

Ian, again: "A."


Together: "...C!"

And so on, every time ending in a more humored groan and Jason's ever-insistent "Again." Eyes closed, we felt the energy in the room return to its normal state, each of us too focused on one another to entertain any more silly thoughts about a stupid simulation that failed to matter either way. When we managed to finish the alphabet without two people saying the same letter at once, we cheered so loudly that it left an etching in my emotional memory bank. The relief that came from such a simple thing--I can still hear our joy, coming from such a small victory and such an enormous connection.

We were the only group to come out of our family session completely at ease.

I smile over at Rashad, and the group we're with makes it to Z much more easily, being three times the size of our tiny family. The four of us--all interns--are surrounded by the potential of these new students, sitting on a dock encased in darkness and swaddled in the sounds of the ocean. Everything is okay. Nothing hurts.

Heat lightning turns the distant sky a beautiful purple and I remember the way the stars looked especially beautiful, that night.

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on dating yourself
Tuesday. 6.4.13 12:42 am
"If you're not dating yourself," I told him, leaning against the opposite wall, "you're doing it wrong."

He looked at me like I was crazy. He, the person who just told me that going to the beach alone and relaxing was "weird." The person who told me he never considers enjoying a night filled with solo pampering.

This is not a woman thing. This is a human thing. Love yourself, date yourself.

I've been doing that. I spend time with my friends often, and really enjoy my day, but then I make sure to come home and check in with me. It's a growing thing. A lot of body positivity has come from it; just like falling for anyone else, I'm suddenly finding the peculiar, disproportional largeness of my hips to be endearing, rather than aggravating and disheartening. They've even started to become...my favorite body part on myself. I'm starting to love other people a lot more, too. Out of nowhere, the other day, I saw a photo of an old friend I'd lost touch with, on Facebook, and on a whim messaged him to tell him I was happy that he seemed so happy and in his element, in his new town. We're having coffee and catching up, this weekend. Sweetness is contagious and a reward in itself.

Funny how I embarked on this journey to loving myself, and how, after a while, it's entirely perpetual.

One week after a rather emotional loss of trust (the usual for me, someone who doesn't trust easily), I decided to lay it all down again and message someone who was giving me mixed signals, to tell him I was back in town. Today, I found out that he's quite glad, and we're getting together, later this month. Tonight, one of my very closest friends on this earth asked me to trust him not to do something that was really spooking me, and I just agreed to it. My mind was swirling with all the possibilities. "Make it worth my trust." "Should I trust you?" "Do you promise?"

Instead, I just agreed. Brain, shut up. Either he messes up or he doesn't. Whichever way this goes, just give him the dagum trust.

And hey, that's new. It's constantly new. These days, it feels like I'm constantly rediscovering myself.

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proper lane change
Saturday. 5.25.13 1:14 am

I think the big difference between now and before is that, before, I would have felt the flags going up and done nothing. Now, when someone doesn't seem right, when they hurt me, when they don't want what I want, I tell them and I make sure it's fixed and that I'm where I want to be...or entirely without them, in some cases. I lived with the same burden for two years, and it cast a freezing shadow over what could have, otherwise, been a passionately academic and exciting friendship. Now that whole world is dark.

I'm not going through that again.

There are people in my life that I'm unhappy with, and it isn't their fault. This is the cost of silence--disappointment. I let people push themselves into parts of my life, where I don't want them, and I let them get comfortable--or, conversely, I let them stay put, just wishing they would move forward. I let people say things that hurt me, rather than risking telling them who I am and why I don't want to hear those things. If you don't communicate and ask for what you want, it 100% won't be on your terms, when you receive what people are willing to give. There's a difference between neutral and passive.

The fact that I'm passive is new to me, but probably ancient news to everyone else. I never saw it, but it's this huge, malignant aspect of my personality, when it comes to relationships, and I don't want to live like that, anymore.

Initiate the conversation. Set the mood for the discourse. Be the first to express expectations, and express them honestly. Approach problems as they arise. Engage.

We made fun of the whole "sit in the front row of your life" thing, but now I'm starting to wonder whether I'm actually at the wheel in my life, or if I'm subject to a string of chauffeurs in my place.

Keep changing, says my brain.

You've still got a ways to go.

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Saturday. 5.11.13 9:55 pm

It's day five and they tell us to pair off with someone with whom we've connected on a deeper level, and to take a walk and talk about our goals. I mention aloud that I have no idea who to partner with, and the person beside me suggests we just go ahead and partner up. We've really just met for the first time, and it's great timing, because I've just seen a major change in myself.

We walk down the gravel road to a dock on the water, and he leads me through the tall grass to a bench that looks over the lake, and it's so incredible and peaceful that we lose time and end up nearly missing our next session. I pour my soul out about some things. It feels normal. It isn't.

That night, we spend a good amount of time together with everyone else, playing games, dancing, talking outside in the late summer chill...and, walking back to our cabins, we make a pact to get up before everyone else and go for a run, which turns out to be a long walk that I wish could take even longer. We end up leaving off around 7:20 to shower and get ready for breakfast, and then sit together while he sips at coffee--cream and sugar, by the looks--and I munch on fruit and some dry French toast.

This week changed me, and it was entirely not because of this person. We met on the fifth day, after I'd already become someone entirely different, so he doesn't even know old me. I feel like my body is twenty-one but my mind has just been born.

I cry at graduation, with about sixty people I met less than a week ago. We have five families, each of which have spent so much time together, really talking and being honest with one another, that it feels completely normal to say that we love each other. When our family leader has us up at the front with him, he tells us in front of everyone--voice cracking--that we filled an enormous void in his heart, and we circle around him right then and there, all eleven of us, arms around each other, and we just cry in front of everyone, and they're crying too, and it's all so euphoric and honest. I'm halfway between a laugh and a sob the entire time.

The ride home is quiet and introspective. Clif and I are in the front seat, across the row from someone with whom I originally thought I might end up forming something romantic. He lays down in my lap and rests his eyes, and it doesn't occur to me until later that, before this week, that wouldn't have been something I would offer--and that, before this week, my mind would have been on the other person, rather than the open soul resting in my lap.

I think I relearned humanity and vulnerability, this week. It's so hard--after living through years of rejection, half truths, complete lies--to put myself out there and just let people see me in my entirety, but I'm so glad I had the opportunity to do that, and that people just...were. They didn't place judgement on one another, they didn't express hate...it was just all peace and appreciation.

I told Andrew, who was sitting behind us, that he should just trust that people are being sincere. He was texting someone he just met and really found interest in, after having a hard night of serious doubt about reciprocation. Clif nodded emphatically, but he doesn't see things through my lens, so he can't possibly know how ridiculously new this all is to me. I've never before told anyone to trust that others are sincere. I've never trusted in that.

On top of all these amazing, new things, I scraped my knee for the first time since I was probably seven. I wrestled with people, and laughed until I was crying, and didn't feel any need to impress anyone. I have a bruise the size of my forearm on my leg from being boosted over a twelve foot high wall, and several people told me it was beautiful and that it looked like outer space.

So it goes.

I'm not releasing my grasp on this new trust in people, so I hope you're ready for my honesty.

And I'm so ready to get back into town after California and see him again.

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