Issue Four: "Working My Way Back To You, Babe"

This, the fourth installment of "Share yOUR Inspiration", comes from one of my dearest and oldest friends, who has constantly inspired and empowered me to follow my heart through the unknown.

It has become trite and unoriginal for people to say they have no idea who they are; they have not yet "identified" the person they are supposed to be.

My problem is different: I know the person I am...I just don't know how to be that person anymore.

I can identify the moment in my life when I lost this knowledge.  First, some back story: I grew up in a small town which, from my perspective, had a multitude of people who were encouraging.  Between my own family, friends, family of friends, instructors and teachers, I felt I was always surrounded by people who truly believed I could do whatever I wanted to do; no goal, regardless of difficulty, was impossible.  Similarly, I felt the kids in my hometown weren't judgmental.  I recognize friends I grew up with may think this is utter bullshit, but again, from my perspective, I don't recall any cases of bullying or openly making fun of others.  Perhaps I lived with rose glasses or was just super naive, but I recall being able to feel comfort around anyone I went to school or engaged with, regardless of "clique."  So, with these beliefs under my belt from an extremely young age, I went about the first 18 years of my life without holding back.  Without any sort of fear of judgement or thoughts I might fail, I was part of SO MUCH as a kid: dance classes, theater, music classes and band, sports teams, political clubs, volunteering.  In high school, I remember waking up early one Saturday morning and deciding to go for a run; I never ran before (outside of gym class), and while I remember it sucking balls the entire time (because Connecticut humidity makes you feel like you're breathing soup), I never once thought, "I can't do this."  Instead, I distinctly remember thinking positive thoughts such as, "You're almost to the high school, you've got this!  Then just turn around and make it home!"  My sophomore year, I studied French and Russian at the same time (because I thought I could be successful with both, not because I'm a masochist.)  I wrote a three-act play because I thought I could.  I'd see friends do tap dance moves I never learned at my studio, so I'd ask for them to teach me so I could be a better, more experienced dancer.  I struggled with my overhand serve on my volleyball team, but I never gave up and would spend hours each week in the backyard, practicing.  People would see me in a play and tell me after the show, "We can't wait to see your name in lights someday" or "It'll be so exciting to see you on SNL!"  And I believed this was totally plausible. 

You get the idea.     

This whole scenario can be seen positively or negatively.  On one hand, this mindset allowed me to achieve and learn SO MUCH, without fear or reservations.  On the other hand, this mindset of being able to achieve anything could be seen as unrealistic and dooming me for a life a disappointment once I inevitably fail. Either way, freshman year of college came and bit me in the ass. I specifically remember having a deep regret the day I arrived at my college.  The days leading up to the start of freshman year, the college hosted a Freshman Retreat.  Now, the brochure they mailed out about it the month prior made it seem WAY churchy...like, we'd be in the woods for four days, learning about God.  That's not my style, so I opted not to go on the retreat.  Turns out, I was one of three, maybe four students who did not attend.  In those days before I arrived at the school, friendships were forming.  And I missed the boat.  The first couple weeks of school, I did make friends, but I struggled to form connections with people I saw regularly in classes and my outside activities.

Eventually, I found myself molding to other people's idea of what made a "quality" person: I would agree to liking music I honestly hated (for someone who studied theater, I actually LOATHE musicals.)  I would laugh at jokes that weren't remotely funny.  I agreed with things I actually thought differently on or, worse, had no knowledge of (making an uneducated statement is more detrimental than disagreeing with someone.)  But the most disappointing part was I realized a lot of people I was around were really negative; while they would boast and brag at times, they would also put down others behind their backs.  They would make statements about knowing they were going to fail a test but didn't want to make the effort to study.  They would vocalize their own flaws and disappointments with themselves.  Yadda yadda yadda.

One night, I played a song by Against Me! for one of my friends.  It was a song which was basically the anthem for my group of friends in high school, and it meant the world to me; it was (and still is) a song that brings back a flood of memories and makes me ache to see my old friends.  Maybe 30 seconds into the song, my friend stopped the track: 

"How can you listen to this?" he asked.  "This isn't music; this is crap."

It was as if these couple of weeks of college erased the past 18 years with this one statement.

The downward spiral of losing myself began, all the while knowing EXACTLY who I was; the years before college taught me everything I needed to know about who I was, because that was genuinely me.  I'm now approaching my 28th birthday...it's been 10 years of fighting to get myself back.

The problem is, I don't really know HOW to do this.  It's not like flipping a switch; while the habits of 18 years broke so easily, it seems these past 10 years of adulthood have bred some horrible patterns I can't seem to shake.  I find myself using negative phrases ("I can't," "I won't," "I hate," etc.), I have begun fearing I'll fail before even contemplating trying something new, I huddle in my comfort zone more than ever and seek affirmation and approval from others.

I'm not in college anymore.  Who am I hiding myself from?  Why haven't I fully returned?

About once every couple of months, I'll have an "epiphany:" I'm going to wake up the next day and go running again, and I'm going to celebrate the small things (like running a mile) rather than dwelling on the negatives (not being able to breathe comfortably, the heat, the mile time, etc.), and then I'm going to come home and knock out all my housework so I have time to read.  Then, I'll use the DuoLingo app to freshen up my French, and start dreaming of a DIY project for the house.

The next morning comes, and my alarm goes off, and I immediately think, "Running is stupid.  I'm sleeping for another hour."

I've been told the best way to get out of this 10 year slump is...to just get out of it.  IF I KNEW HOW THE FUCK TO DO THAT, I WOULD HAVE DONE IT ALREADY.  This is literally the worst advice ever, for ANY scenario.  In some ways, though...I HAVE been able to just snap out of it.  For example, last year I started a new job, and I've allowed the no-fear-of-failure part of me to come front-and-center.  It has been AMAZING, and this attitude has helped my achieve two promotions and three raises within 7 months.  I literally adore going to work, not just because I love my job, but because I feel more like myself; I've made friends there who basically know the same person my childhood friends know.  On the flip side, though, that negativity still creeps up from time-to-time, and a lot of people outside of work have pretty much only engaged with the quiet person who comfort-zoned for the past several years.

It feels like a daily battle between the woman I really am, and the girl who is stuck in her shitty ways.  It would be ideal to not think negatively, to not portray someone I'm not, to take on a new challenge just to accomplish something.  While I think the "Just snap out of it" logic is flawed and piss-poor advice, I do believe the only way I'll ever get back to being me is to put one foot in front of the other each day and make a conscious effort to find the positives, seize the opportunities, crack the jokes, carpe the diems.  I need to make up for all this lost time.  My marriage and work success aside, I can't recall anything from the past 10 years that I'm proud of; all my other highlights are from the first 18 years.  It's time to even out that scoreboard and then rack up a win.  

I did go running this morning, and I only had one negative thought (truly), so maybe that first point isn't too far away from being scored.

Issue Three: "My Journey & My Happy Ending"

Below is the third installment of "Share yOUR Inspiration" from a friend and colleague, originally shared on September 15, 2015. She has been an avid follower of Inspired Wit and a blogger herself for a while so, of course, I wanted to feature her as a member of the Inspired Wit community. With love and joy, it is an honor to share Carol's story!

When Marge asked me to write for her, other than excited, I felt honored. I didn't know who Marge was until she participated at the same talent show I did and everyone was like "wow, who is this girl?" Shy Marge was this radiant, sweet girl that caught everyone's attention and had won first prize.

And who am I? 

Those who know me will tell you I'm crazy, sociable and funny.

Those who don't will tell you I'm cold, snobby, and have RBF "resting bitch face".

But let's take a look behind the scenes.

I grew up in Greece in an upper middle class family, the youngest of three girls and had everything my little heart desired.

Parent's favorite? check

Popular among friends? check

Boys? check

What more can a girl ask for?

Because that reality for me came effortlessly, I assumed that things would always be that way. The summer graduating high school and prior to college, my father died unexpectedly. My mother fell into a depression and my sister was trying to hold it together and parent me so I didn't fly completely off the handle. So I was shipped to America to pursue an education and become a human being.

Great! I thought! I can keep doing whatever I want and with everyone being far away, no one gets to tell me crap. Through my whole five and a half years of college, my mother was depressed and my relationship with my sister, who was playing mom, was almost destroyed.

In the mean time, I was living in a dream world thinking, "this is awesome, fuck you world!"

Reality hadn't hit me yet...

Upon the end of my college year, my older sister asked me to move to NY and work for her. "Even better," I thought, still far away from home and making my own money.

Within 2 months of being in NY, I met a hot, Greek man. He was hard working, kind and ambitious, and we fell in love. I started to like the idea of not being alone and placing parenthood from my sister's hands to someone else and sure enough, within 9 months, we got married. I had found a lover, a friend, a father and someone to rely on, so I wouldn't have to deal.

Of course, after 8 years (since my father's death) of keeping it all in, depression came and swept everything. The norm is that you 're the happiest when you 're newlywed, yet I was a mess. Panic attacks and constant fear of everything. My husband would come home from work and I'd be on the floor crying.

I was feeling completely out of control. All these years, I had no real control and everything was a reaction. My marriage was a crutch and I wasn't strong enough to take control of my own life.  I was 24 years old, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, newlywed to a man that adored me and just fucking miserable.

I had no job, no money, no friends, and my husband's love wasn't enough to not make me feel like a fucking loser. I did not love myself. I had lost weight and wouldn't look at myself in the mirror because I didn't feel beautiful.

I had to get help. The thing that I've learned... and am still learning is that whatever happens, I am ok-we all are ok- no matter what. We are the only ones that control our fate, our happiness. Everything is a matter of the choices we make and we have to believe that everything will work out. It's called adulthood.

What I didn't know, which made this even scarier, was that I thought that I was the only one in the world dealing with this. I felt there was something seriously wrong with me and that other "normal" people didn't experience the same feelings. I felt shame and guilt and I felt that I always needed to feel ok all the time or else that meant something was wrong with my brain... but a lot of people, this may come as a shock, feel this way every day.

So, what is Carol doing now? I managed through my depression and anxiety to only keep a job, but excel at it. I am now living alone and learning to be ok with it (it's better everyday!) I have wonderful friends I can count on and the biggest thing is I'm really getting to know Carol and what she likes.

It's scary, there is no guidebook, and most times I'm playing it by ear, but life is beautiful and limitless and I always say thank you for being blessed, every single day.

Conclusion: If you're in a dark forest, it doesn't matter where you go, you just need to keep moving until you find your way out.


Issue Two: "WTF Larry?!?!"

Below is the second installment of "Share yOUR Inspiration", shared on August 12, 2015, from a very dear, family friend I've known my entire life. She has always been an inspiration in my life with her confidence, strength, humor and magnetic personality, I wanted to feature her as a member of the Inspired Wit community. With love and joy, it is an honor to share Liz's story!

I recently lost the love of my life – my sweet Larry.  

Yes, I am sad, and there is this huge physical hole that I wasn’t expecting…not just the empty bed, or his place at the table, or that poor dry toothbrush that I haven’t been able to toss out yet…that hole that surfaces when I have to figure out how to do some task that was typically Larry’s to perform. Locking the door before heading up to bed – yep, that was Larry’s responsibility. I laugh in the morning when I come down by myself to turn on the lights and make coffee and discover that once again, I slept soundly with the door unlocked.  And no burglar took advantage of my oversight – yet!!  

So I smile, and promise – out loud – to do a better job of this "Larry chore".

Yes, I do talk to Larry regularly. Hell, sometimes he answers and then I really laugh out loud.  It’s too quiet here in the house, and sometimes the TV or music just isn’t enough. 

Can we talk about trash day?  Thursday nights, everyone puts out their big green wheelie can, hoping the lid will stay down on its own.  Every other week is recycling – you have to drag out the big blue wheelie can too.  How do I know this?  The same way Larry did – check the neighbors LOL – it’s the only way to stay on track.  I’ve been hauling out those damn cans for two months now, muttering “WTF Larry” all the way down the driveway.   Some weeks it doesn’t seem right to take the green can to the curb – just one person doesn’t make much trash.  Last week it was just two kitchen bags, and they weren’t even full.  But I took it out anyway, just so I could say “WTF Larry” and smile.

Last summer, we decided to purchase a new snow blower from the local hardware store. While we were there, I spotted these really cool gas-powered string trimmers.  They were on sale, and I insisted that we NEEDED one. If we had one, then Larry could regularly neaten up all the edges around the driveway and the sidewalks...and the curb...and that vile space just under the deck that seems to harbor places for critters to hide.  Of course, I agreed that we would BOTH learn how to use this.  HA.  Me, not so much but Larry figured it out and at the end of the fall, Larry carefully ran all the gas out of it last fall, and stored it in the basement.  He was meticulous about tools like that.

Fade out to the snow, and then back to this summer.  The grass is now getting cut weekly by our step-grandson Aiden, who's just thirteen and inevitably, it looks like a teen-aged boy is taking care of the lawn. Over the long July 4th weekend, I decided that enough was enough and I really MUST dig out that string trimmer and do some yard work.  I headed out into the heat, dressed in cut-off sweats and my favorite paint stained t-shirt and hailed both of my neighbors, Rob and Bob, and announced that I intended to crank up the weed whacker!!! Bless them, for they both smiled, and stopped what they were doing to run String Trimmer 101 (the remedial course).

Bob provided pre-mixed gas & oil, rather than have me run around looking for the special gas can. I learned how to choke the little engine and yank that black rubber handle until the damn thing sputtered to life.  There’s a trick to keeping the engine running – you have to pull some little trigger at the same time you hold down a bigger handle.  And then there’s keeping enough line banged out so it cuts.  When you forget to thump the thing on the ground, the string disappears. "WTF Larry!"  That’s when you have to turn it off, stomp into the house, and down to the cellar, and hunt for a stupid straight screw driver, stomp back outside for the rest of the lesson on prying the cover off, hook that blasted line into the slots and putting the cover back on.  Four. More. Times. "WTF Larry??"

Before I decided that the yard looked much worse than when I started, (Oh, did you know that flying bits of grass on bare legs HURTS?!?!) Rob kindly suggested that I might want long pants before I got started.  It was HOT that day and I was already sweating buckets, so I just grinned and said I was gonna get started in my shorts.  BAD idea!!  I should have known to listen to the man who wears Carhart overalls when he does yard work.  That was another trip inside, all the way upstairs to change and back down again.  I don’t have Carhart overalls, and won’t be getting any either – no worries about having that image burned into your retinas (you’re welcome J).  

Bottom line is that I now know how to use the string trimmer any time I want to, I don’t have to take turns or wait for Larry to get it done. I will, however, choose NOT to exercise this privilege and will be writing a slightly bigger check to Aiden for taking care of the yard or calling my buddy Jimmy if it’s more than Aiden can handle on his own. 

I'm sure I'll be saying "WTF Larry" on a regular basis as I know there will be many more learning experiences in the future, as I navigate the days, weeks, and months ahead with him watching above.  Oh, and I promise to be better about the locks, I will take the garbage to the curb every week and smile when Aiden uses the string trimmer.

Issue One: "The Curious Nature of Regret or How a Poly-Amorous Woman Taught Me to Let Go"

This, the first issue of Share yOUR Inspiration, was originally shared on July 26, 2015. The author of this essay has requested to remain anonymous.

All people involved in this tale of love and loss have had their names changed to protect their privacy and identities. Other than that, the story is 100% honest. Promise. 

hen I was 18 I fell in love with my best friend. It was a hot summer night in July and we were hanging out in our high school parking lot post-graduation waxing philosophic and being incredibly afraid of the future. We were both leaving. We were both growing up a lot faster than we wanted to. 

When I think back on Anna I remember her smile. She always had this endearing quality of being completely honest with her smiles. Nothing was ever forced; nothing ever had to be tense. She laughed loud and she laughed often, usually drowning out the room when something really tickled her humor. She was one of those girls you couldn’t see a funny movie with because she’d be laughing so hard that you’d start laughing too and couldn’t hear the movie. Everything we did that summer, we did together. We went for hikes, we went out to nice restaurants, we saw two dozen movies. We never had to say how we felt about each other. She would just smile and I would nod and there would be that understanding that something special was there and no word, phrase or otherwise could explain it better. 

regretted never telling her. 

he moved away. So did I. She dated other guys and I dated other women. We would call; we would text. Sooner or later every long distance relationship becomes artificial. It’s just the nature of being physically away from someone you were once close to. We would talk about our lives and struggles but even those conversations became fewer and farther between. For all intents and purposes we were just acquaintances now. The only thing that lingered, 6 years on, was my regret that I never confessed to her how I felt that summer. I never told her about all the wonderful things that made me happy when she was around me. I never told her about beautiful her smile was. 

carried that regret with me for a very long time. I started to pile a lot of regrets up, each one from people I had known or lost. Things that I never said to people that died, things I said too loud and too angry to people that were right in the room with me. I started to live with regrets the way people live in apartment buildings. I didn’t always have to look at them, but every once in awhile one of them would throw a mean rager down the hall and I would have to go and check on them. 

round springtime 2012 I met Morgan. Our first date was, for lack of a better term, absolutely f*cking fantastic. She originally had plans for the evening, but was so excited to go on a date with me that we decided to hang out at this great hipster-level-max coffee shop in an Ivy-league college town. What was was going to be two hours sipping coffee and learning more about each other turned into a 12 hour date, crashing a frat party, going to a disco-bowl across the state border and then laying in a field, counting stars while my car screamed out My Morning Jacket. I got home at around 4am when I was due at 4pm and found my roommate sleeping on the couch, patiently waiting for my return. 

y relationship with Morgan started hard and was furious. In an age where people announce relationships via social network, we were “facebook official” within two weeks and after six months she had moved in with me. We had taken road trips by this point, spent entire weekends watching Dr. Who re-runs and even got to writing a couple of songs together on a cheap pair of ukuleles we got for each other on coincidence for a move-in gift. Life for me was good.

t was only a month after she moved in that she came out as polyamorous, something that I had only heard about on Reddit and thought to be totally made up. As a guy who had been cheated on in the past, I thought that this was like the last time it had happened: she would come up with some lame excuse to try and vindicate her cheating. Here’s the thing - Morgan hadn’t cheated on me. She hadn’t sought out anyone and wasn’t currently interested in anyone but me. The reason she brought it up was because she wanted to be honest with me about who she was and what she was about. More so than that, she wanted to engage with other people. She wanted relationships outside of ours. My jaw hit the floor so hard that folks in L.A. thought the the big one was coming. 

had a tough time understanding what it was she was looking for. I had no concept for what polyamory was and it all just smelt incredibly of the vicious stink of infidelity. Suffice to say I chose the couch for a mattress for about a week while we fought it out. She did eventually find the way to explain to me what was going on. She asked me this question: “Do you love me the way you love your ex?” My ex referring to the girl I dated last before her, the one who cheated on me. I replied with a resounding no. How could I? 

hat was what caught me off guard. It was something I had never thought about. Every girl I ever dated, every girl I ever loved was different. They might have had similar hairstyles, one or two of them may have liked the same kind of music and two were even amateur models but each one was incredibly unique in the way that I approached them romantically. They all had their special little things that got me to laugh, got me to smile, got me to fall in love with them. 

organ was different in that she didn’t see the point in isolating those different people to different times in life. She wanted to experience each one of them simultaneously, as often as she could. Each person can give you a unique experience and why would you turn one down just because you say you’re devoted to someone? She believed that you can devote yourself to more than one love. They all deserved you and you deserved all of them. 

understood. I got it. It took a week of beating it into my sore noggin, but I got the message. The only thing I was still uncomfortable with was her with other men. The compromise became that she would see women and women alone. In hindsight I should have been more specific, but Morgan had more life lessons to teach me before we were done. 

o be quite honest, once Morgan opened herself out to other relationships, ours grew that much stronger. She brought a lot of energy home and was smiling and laughing even more than when we were in the throws of the beginning of our love. We did the odd double date, where she would sit in the middle of me and one of her girlfriends and the three of us would have an honest-to-god good time together. I became really good friends with the boyfriends and husbands of these other women, even so far that we would take camping trips together up North while the “women had some free time”. It was a surreal experience. 

t was starting to get serious; more serious than even I had originally wanted. The idea of marriage, which always sounded scary, was suddenly creeping ever closer. Buying the ring was perhaps the most nerve-racking event I’ve ever gone through. It wasn’t just purchasing an expensive item, it was investing a future I was suddenly ready for. 

hen, about two years after we met, I came home and she was gone. Her stuff was gone; her phone charger, her jewelry, her perfumes, her shampoo. Those everyday items that I become so accustomed to were now just empty cupboards and open spaces. I wouldn’t hear from her for a week and when she finally got in touch with me I had to drive down across the state line to come see her. 

ou see, she had found “someones” new. She had met a lesbian couple and they were going to start a three-way relationship with one another, and Morgan was planning on moving in with them. It was, in her words, the perfect relationship for her. It offered her the fulfillment she sought. It offered her, essentially, everything that I had come to get from her. 

eturning that ring was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. 

was lost for a long time after she left. Morgan and I tried to retain some form of friendship, but I was angry - at her, at myself and at the whole world. I came to loathe every second of the relationship, including all the parts that I loved. Everything that had happened between us became bitter to remember. I was alone in that grief. Morgan was too busy moving the rest of her stuff. 

e stopped talking shortly before her wedding to her wives. It just became too painful for me and I’ve never been known as a masochist. Our last time seeing each other, we sat down at an Olive Garden and did a fair amount of reminiscing. We talked about that first date a lot and how beautiful it was. She still remembered exactly how many stars we counted, and that she identified the Big Dipper before I could. 

asked her how she could look so fondly on us, when things couldn’t work out. 

he told me that she loved me, and that she would always have a piece of her heart dedicated to the memory of that night and all the nights we spent together. She regretted the way things ended; that maybe she could have let me down easier or been more open about what she was seeking. Ultimately, she looked at what we used to have as something altogether amazing and singular and unique, just as she viewed all her relationships with anyone she had been involved with. Being poly meant for her that each relationship was special and that no one was greater than the others, because they all made a sum more incredible than just the individual parts. 

got home that night and thought about Anna and that summer. I thought about all the summers without her, and the ones that I regretted. I thought about her smile for the first time in years and suddenly there was no pain there. I no longer regretted not telling her how I felt. I called her up and we shot the shit for two hours, laughing and joking about the bright days of our youth and how excited we were at the bold new days coming up. 

egret is a funny thing. It only exists in your own mind. No one can share it. The things you say, you regret, belong only to you and you can’t expect any sympathy for what you carry along for the ride. People who say say they live without regrets are fools who just ignore their problems. People who live with them take it too far the other way. There is a simpler path, a middle path. A path where memories don’t have to have pain or joy attached to them. You can just observe them as they were and revel in what you were feeling in that moment. They are autonomous. They are conscious expressions of your own soul. You can enjoy them or leave them at your own leisure, without any ties constraining you to some obscured past. 

will always love Morgan, just the same as I will always love Anna. But, in reality, I’m in love with a memory. That scorching night in July trying not to crack too much when given a smile, or that Ivy-League frat not realizing I wasn’t rushing (or even enrolled). They can exist alongside the pain of letting each person go. They don’t have to be tainted because ultimately it’s all on you. Each person is unique. Each person is amazing. Each person you meet is going to offer you something- good or bad, and it’s your job to make the most of that experience. 

’m not polyamorous. It’s just not who I am. I like dating a single person and growing with them and focusing on them. But I won’t deny that deep down there’s an 18 year old version of me that’s sitting on the hood of my car waiting for Anna to pull into the lot and give me a big peck on the cheek. That’s okay, because ultimately the real me will hold a job and date a pretty girl and get married and raise a couple of kids and live out the rest of his days making new memories. Somewhere out there will be an older version of me who will have a whole lot of stories like this one to tell other people. Maybe they’ll laugh, maybe they’ll cry. Maybe they’ll learn something too; about themselves or about someone they know. That’s the real benefit of keeping a memory: everyone can share in the story.