Exorcism

I have spent half a decade writing ghost stories about the phantoms that live behind my eyelids.
Thinking that the pages could cage them… the truth is it does not matter how hot I make my showers.
His lingering stares, coupled with the agony of his strong, rough hands
Made sure that I would never be able to baptize his sins off of me.

And she.
She is still lying there, needle in her arm
Praying to the soap scum that it might finally set her free
The stench of her mental illness still paralyzes me with blood stained guilt,
The same way the memory of wooden church pews of my past scrapbook my periphery

Here I stand, fifteen years later.
No longer do my eyes glitter with the optimism of innocence,
My limbs have forgotten what it feels like to grow.
I have aged with no thought of the little girl that hangs from my vocal chords.
She claws at my larynx, desperate to break herself free,
The same way her nails dug violently into the earth in a futile attempt to escape the pressure of his knees on her thighs.

If only I had the courage to tell her that she is safer on the inside, that I am no savior.
I cannot shield her eyes from the sinkhole of her mother’s mental illness,
I cannot shield her body from the surreptitious crime scene she can never erase.
I am still convinced that I can outrun the ghosts that are handcuffed together and chained to my spine.

Honey, I cannot save you.

So while I am temporarily steadfast in the idea of fighting back, let’s call this my exorcism.
I think it is time I let my vocal chords vibrate at the same frequency that my shame does.
Maybe my vibrato will help shatter the magnifying glass I hang over my head like an umbrella.
And maybe the shards from that lens will thunderstorm from the sky to slash the sutures from my lips
So that all of the things I think but do not say can come cascading from my throat.

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On Deciding to Live in a Hotel Room in an Irish Village

The first decision that Tiff and I made as a married couple was for her to take a new job opportunity. We knew that through making this decision it would mean completely uprooting our lives from everything we have ever known, loved, or considered comfortable. We knew that it would take almost a year of floating in order for her to complete her training. The job offer also came at the perfect time because we had already decided that the house we were renting was slowly suffocating us, as if the walls were rigged with spikes of doom; ready to crush us at any moment. The money I had saved up before quitting my butchering job was also running low so moving out and into something more suited for us seemed a logical step. We gave our landlord a month’s notice before we knew whether Tiff would actually be offered this new opportunity. Once she got offered the job, we spent about a week thoroughly dissecting all of our choices, the allotted time given to her before she had to sign all of the necessary paperwork.

To most people, being sent to Ireland for five months for on-the-job training sounded like a dream come true, like a five month long vacation. I know this because we talked to literally everyone we came across – from our parents and friends to the corner gas station attendant – about this life changing decision we had to make. Everyone reacted in the same way – by congratulating us. They would exclaim, ‘what an opportunity!’ This would then give us the chance to test the resolve of their excitement by raising a few of our concerns, like how were we supposed to trust that anyone else could devote the eight to ten hours a day of cuddle time that our dogs required. But the response was unanimous. Our family, our friends, and the Old Navy pants folder all agreed, ‘but it’s Ireland!’ They would all then drift off into their own reverie about what they assumed living in Ireland would consist of; imagining themselves skipping through fields of four-leaf clovers, hand in hand with their new best friend the Lucky Charms leprechaun while hobbits danced jigs around pots of gold.

The only problem with all of this was that Tiff already loved the job she had. There was no guarantee that she would even remotely like this new job in a field she had no experience in. In the end, we came to the conclusion that the one thing we would 100% regret would be not taking a chance. We had both experienced the soul crushing fear that prevented us from doing something we had wanted to do. We both knew that we could not live with that kind of regret again. So the decision was made. If we wanted to keep stretching outside of ourselves and bust through our bullet proof comfort zones, we had to take this once in a lifetime opportunity. Getting rid of our house, moving away from the only area we had ever called home, and leaving all of our friends and family seemed to fit all of the criteria we needed. And what better way to truly challenge your commitment to your spouse than to willingly live in a hotel room in a village in a country that neither one of you had ever been to before for five months. I like to refer to it as The Great Experiment.

Once the decision was made, we could start hammering out all of the details. Our last month in our house was quickly approaching its end and we had about two weeks to figure everything out. First we had to apply for our passports since neither of us had ever left the country before. Luckily we had just gotten married so we both knew where our birth certificates were. Then we had to pack up our entire house while simultaneously agreeing on what would go into storage and what could go out to the curb. We learned fairly early on in the process that this is something Tiff and I tend to have different ideas about. I am not the sentimental type. I’m willing to throw away practically everything but my books, graphic novels, and action figures without a second thought, while Tiff needs to debate on whether or not to keep Fiona’s mangled dog toys because despite the fact that they are torn to shreds and missing all of their eyeballs, Tiff is certain that the lion and the ostrich and the snake are all Fiona’s favorites.

Before we could completely pack up our things for the 10×10 storage unit, we first had to participate in the planning and execution of a party celebrating our recent nuptials; a party neither one of us particularly wanted to have because we didn’t want to have to plan it, the very reason we refused to have a wedding ceremony. A few days later was Thanksgiving, an unusually important holiday we had to celebrate by having four of them in a row. By the time all of the festivities were over we had about six days to pack up the remaining ¾ of our belongings. The organized method of neatly packed and labeled boxes I had started with (because I was determined to finally have an efficient, low anxiety move), dissolved inevitably into a frantic frenzy of stuffing unrelated items into garbage bags and haphazardly taped boxes. My favorite combination has to be the mysterious volleyball we owned taking up residence in the same box that had our spices, spice rack, and a jigsaw puzzle. I only wish I had the foresight to label it appropriately with unrelated crap we probably don’t need. It was as if I was packing undecipherable time capsules for our future selves.

With two days left on our lease, we woke up early and acquired a U-Haul. We were perfectly confident that with the help of Tiff’s mom we could load up the entirety of our belongings and neatly unpack them into our storage unit within a couple of hours. We didn’t have that many things to load into the U-Haul, we thought. This was going to be a piece of cake, we arrogantly agreed. We always seem to forget that nothing can ever go according to plan, as if the universe is determined to remind us that we are just along for the ride. What we estimated to take three hours tops, took about ten. Because well, furniture is heavy and awkward to move. It began to rain on our way to the storage unit we had rented. And by rain, I mean an impromptu hurricane descended onto us. We trudged onward despite our physical and mental exhaustion not because we were determined to prove that we could, but because we had a very specific deadline to meet. Plus, we needed to get the truck back before they charged us a late fee.

Soaking wet and exhausted, I was struck, like a baseball bat to the skull, with the overwhelming fact that this was only step one. We successfully crammed our storage unit to the ceiling with things that we would not need for the next six to eight months. We still needed to drive six hours to Arlington, Va, where we would spend a month for Tiff’s first part of training. Then, if she got through phase one, we could make it to our final destination – Ireland. We still had no idea where in Ireland we would be or if I was going to be able to stay for the entire length of her training. We really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. The only pertinent things we had left were a couple of suitcases worth of clothes; clothes that might not even be relevant to the lives we would have in another country with a different climate. We couldn’t fully grasp the magnitude our decision would have until the events started to unfold themselves. The month we spent in Arlington was all the evidence we needed to realize that. It became a test of our ability to let go of any control we thought we had and to simply trust that everything would happen the way it was supposed to.

Being in Ireland feels like I’ve stepped back in time. I’m sure that not all of Ireland is like this because I see commercials for chain restaurants like McDonald’s and Burger King. These chain establishments do not exist here or anywhere within an hour drive of the town we’re in. The only reason I know they exist is because of the commercials I see on one of the various eleven channels we are able to view in the hotel. In between the ads for things that have no relevance in this part of the country, there are seemingly unnecessary public service announcements about being careful around electrical wires and making sure to always extinguish cigarettes entirely. Never smoke in bed because you do not want to be another victim of the rampant bed fire epidemic that is apparently spreading throughout Ireland. There are also warnings about driving too fast and making sure children know how to cross the street without getting hit by reckless speed racers. Most of the time there is nothing worth watching unless soap operas, game shows, or reality shows suit your fancy. I recently watched a show that was literally of people sitting on their couches watching reality shows. I got irrevocably sucked into the inception-like vortex of watching a reality show about people watching reality shows. There is usually a nightly movie that doesn’t start until 10pm at the earliest and even that could be hit or miss being that most of the movies are at least a decade old. Do not remind me about the depressing week that aired the detestable movie Shallow Hal. And in case anyone missed it the first time, an encore of it got shown a few nights later.

Everything except for the two competing grocery stores is closed on Sunday because in Ireland, Sunday is still the Lord’s day. On weekdays the entire town shuts down at 6pm unless the business serves alcohol. The pubs and hotels close around 11. Being that we are in a hotel that has a restaurant that is open past 6 and also open all day on Sunday, it is well patronized and most of those customers happen to be in the over sixties bracket. I’m not entirely sure whether it’s the hotel or the town itself that attracts such a vast number of elderly. Either way, it has proven difficult to utilize the lobby where the only wi-fi in the building exists. The older, harder of hearing visitors seem to continually gravitate toward me despite the obvious headphones I wear and the total absorbtion I have in my work. What happens next is an uninvited friendly screaming match while I try to explain that no, I’m not a local girl and that I’m here on a sort-of-but-not-really holiday. There is one progressive pub that simply closes its curtains in order to disguise itself as closed past 11. You have to exit into the alley – after you cautiously look both ways – so that the police won’t suspect that alcohol is still being illicitly served. It makes me feel like I’m living in the days of prohibition. Also at this pub, they have something called ‘warm acoustic’ nights. We showed up excited that we might finally get to experience some legitimate Irish music only to be deflated by the showtunes-esque covers of Pink Floyd and Garth Brooks.

Being here has made me realize everything I had been taking for granted at home like the importance of actually having a home. And having a sink with a single, customizable temperature regulating faucet instead of two separate faucets holding opposite temperatures that are placed disappointingly far enough away that the hope for ever receiving warm water is futile. I have burned my hands more times than I can count with farfetched dreams of washing my hands before the water turns into boiling lava. I didn’t realize how much I would miss doing everyday chores like doing the dishes or taking the trash out or vacuuming or doing the laundry. I miss running the usual errands – going to the bank and the grocery store. I miss eating my breakfast in my own kitchen with no pants on. Due to all of he rain Ireland receives, the outdoor public benches mock me as I pass with their constant puddles. I miss sitting outside with a good book and an even better cup of coffee.

For all of the things I’m lacking I have gained in the ample time I’ve been given to read and hone my craft of writing. I have no more excuses and in some ways that is exactly what I’ve needed. I would not trade this experience for anything. The food is better here. I have unabashedly fallen in love with the butter and the coffee and the meat and the chocolate. I have seen the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen and the clearest most magnificent blue water I have ever laid eyes on. The grass is so green and fluffy, the way I imagine The Lorax’s Truffula Trees. The cliffs are jagged with thousands of years of the ocean telling the earth who’s boss. Everything has so much depth to it that I’m positive my eyes are deceiving me. I’m often left speechless and frustrated that my vocabulary lacks the appropriate words to accurately describe the sheer majesty of my surroundings. It has been a dream come true.

Missteps in Dating that Lead Me to my Wife

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently got married. That is not a sentence I ever thought I would type, say, think, or even want for myself. I was not the kind of little girl who wore plaid jumpers and used my precious recess time picking flower like weeds for fake weddings. In no reality did I imagine myself as a princess destined to have prince charming. No, not me. With bruised needs, baggy flannel hand-me-downs from my older brother, and my favorite pair of tellingly rugged work boots I always volunteered to play the husband role in the childlike rendition of the game House. It was a fairly straightforward game consisting of mostly other little girls, like myself, trying to puzzle together what a happy family really looked like by quilting together scraps from our own personal dysfunctional experiences. It was not often that boys our age (or any age) wanted to reenact the frequent squabbles about bills or child rearing that we had all seen our parents have (especially when they could be out climbing trees, or playing freeze tag, or doing just about anything else that didn’t involve analyzing things completely out of our control). I reveled in the preconceived structure of gender norms because in this prepubescent world, I reigned king! Yes, I was better than my simple-minded playmates, who could not fathom what it would take to pretend that they were of the opposite sex. It was only I that knew that I was not really pretending to be a boy. This was just my means to an end; secretly playing out the only reality that I saw for myself.

Even during these rousing games of House, I never wanted to play the stereotypical husband role. I found it uncomfortably bland and well below my apt ability to delve into true character development and really pull a character out from where ever characters came from. My dedication for the part I played, as a boy, was often under appreciated. It was seen as more of filler role – a stand in – due to the absence of a player that came equipped with the right parts. I wanted more for myself than that. I was more than just a filler. In my mind’s eye I was a leather jacket wearing, crotch rocket riding, badass who would have made the coolest husband. My imagination, and in turn myself, felt consistently dejected. These girls did not want a girl, built from the same rib they were. They wanted the hard-lined jaw of the man I would never be. Eventually the other girls stopped inviting me to participate in these games. I took the rejection hard by bitterly hanging up my imaginary leather jacket and throwing away my fictitious Fonzie inspired pocket comb.

The fact that the only schools I ever attended were Catholic didn’t exactly make it easy to grow into a comfortably well-rounded queer. In fact, it made it quite frankly impossible. I figured out my orientation when I was in the sixth grade, not that it was really that hard to figure out. My dad would later say, astoundingly, “you could see it from space!”. It didn’t matter what I knew to be true, however. I knew that this epiphany had to be kept a secret, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Sealed Lips. Just in case the five days a week of forced prayer, chapel visits, and religion class weren’t enough, my parents deemed it necessary to attend church every Sunday as well. It was there, I think, that I picked up on the subtle clues about the stance the church had on sexual orientation. It was wrong, but not really too wrong, unless the perceived homosexual were to act on these sexual desires. If one were to act on such demonizing desires, they were destined for hell. Unless! This deviant repented for their sins. Living a secret seemed a much more plausible and easy answer to me than to be condemned to eternity roasting in the fire pits hell had to offer.

At 10 years old, the shame of the truth sutured my mouth closed for four more years. While other girls my age swooned over dumb boys, I sat in the rafters, envy scorching my insides. I wanted so badly to possess whatever masculinity these girls found so irritatingly attractive. I did not know that this small circle of girls, my focus group of sorts, was about as skewed as you could get. 98% of them were white, upper middle class, religious fanatics. Even if they did happen to share the sinful fantasies I had of experiencing a true human connection, they would never admit to it. The thought of such a miscreant existing in their presence utterly disgusted most of them. A prayer club existed in an attempt to fend off just this, praying for the lost homosexual that they might find their path back to god, their true destiny: the heterosexual lifestyle.

This was it. I was going to be alone for the rest of my life; my inevitable cats, library card, and me.

Getting into high school was, in some ways, a welcome sigh of relief. The horrors of middle school were over and I could invisibly exist in this vastly bigger school. Mandatory prayer and religion class were still a thing but the school itself seemed much more progressive than my middle school had. Uniforms could be subtly altered. I could now distinguish myself with rebellious buttons, etched with the disdain of adolescence, and filthy Chuck Taylors, that were more duct tape than fabric. Gradually, I began to relax and lean into all of the things that made me stand out. I started listening to volatile feminist punk bands like Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney. Angry feminist literature by feminist authors like Naomi Wolf and Inga Muscio started taking the place of textbooks in my backpack. These women quickly became my heroes; they were loud and articulate – seen and heard. I became emboldened enough to decorate my personal effects with buttons and quotes. This is what a feminist looks like. Finally, I had a voice for the years of pent-up frustration I had been storing in my heart! (albeit, I was angry for an entirely different reason than these ladies. They demanded for their femininity to be seen, recognized, and respected. I, on the other hand, desperately just wanted the potion – key or the cocktail that would turn me just boy enough to entice anyone tiptoeing the line of their sexuality.)

I came out of the closest during high school. I had done my research about what to expect upon dusting my shoulders off and entering the world with a brand new description to attach to my name. I was prepared for the unavoidable questions about how sex could possibly be achieved when both participants lacked a penis and if I had picked my career out of the two I could now choose from: lumberjack, or carpenter. I had entered the stage of teenage rebellion that dared the outside world to judge me. I dyed my cuticles black with sharpie to match the thick ring of eyeliner around my eyes. I wrote angst ridden poetry which was equal parts whiny and cringe worthy. I listened to wrist-slitting emo music and donned a black hoodie with the lyric from my then favorite band, ‘I’ve Hung Up My Guns’. Looking back, this was probably a subconscious ode to my recently silenced aggression. I had not gotten the recognition I had wanted through my adopted feminist agenda. I still did not have the awareness that it was going to take to name the mental illness that had been seeping into my bone marrow. I turned all of my frustration inward and it immediately solidified into shame. I felt constantly misunderstood and unrepresented in school textbooks and assigned reading. There was still no place for me.

Despite my obsessive self loathing, I managed to experiment with the disasters of dating. School gossip tends to spread like a zombie apocalypse, especially when that gossip left certain students sinfully curious. It became fairly normal for me to get berated with surreptitious instant messages on my computer screen from fellow classmates. This usually followed the same template which would start by them telling me their deep dark gay secrets and ended with them blatantly interviewing me from their self-made gay checklists, as if there was some secret gay publication I was unaware of. Suddenly, I became the clandestine gay tabernacle, holding all of the queer confessions from my peers. I was also duped a few times into being the local science experiment for girls exploring their unorthodox and unfounded attractions. It turned out all of the practice I had while playing childhood games made me the perfect candidate to make girls question their sexuality. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I was the recruiting pamphlet that all of my classmates parents were so afraid of.

My body was soft, the way girls bodies should be, but my demeanor seemed cold and detached. The disconnection I felt within myself turned out to be the perfect combination of gender – until I would inevitably screw it up by having sometimes uncontrollable emotion. I would then become instantly unattractive; the swollen tears on my cheeks irreparably tipping the scale in favor of my inescapable estrogen. This ended up being a humiliating discovery, that these secret romances were nothing more than an inane charade; nothing but a recreation of the archaic heterosexual model of gender normative roles in relationships. It was mortifying and constricting to think that this was all that my life would be, as if I was some kind of faux boy to date when all of the other options have already been investigated. They wanted me to be nothing other than a doll, to play with and use up until the next popular toy came out.

The convoluted way I learned to view myself was inherently damaging. I was not capable of seeing myself for who I was: a smart, quick-witted, independent individual who happened to also be queer. I saw myself instead through the preconceived ideas about who I was; through the distorted lens of a hundred different retinas. It became increasingly difficult to navigate the exact path to take. I jumped from dysfunctional relationship to even more dysfunctional relationship, from uncomfortable friendship to emotionally hazardous friendship. Although it is a seemingly honest explanation, it is usually not considered a favorable excuse, with shoulders shrugged, that growing up Catholic is the reason I have self-sabotaged every single relationship I have ever had. The booby traps I set for myself, whether in the reasons or the people I chose to get close to, were all exactly that. The choices that I made were the reason all of my relationships were sabotaged, by me, so that I would never truly have to get close to anyone.

That is, until I met her.
It is impossible to sum our relationship up into a few well-organized paragraphs. I know this because I have just spent the past couple of days trying to do just that. Our relationship is not something that needs to explained because we both know that we belong together. I do not need to lace our depth in romantically flowery imagery. Tiff is just my person and I am hers. It has always been that easy for us. We do not need to be defined by our gender because we both flow effortlessly through the various roles we need to fill. Tiff and I feel the same way about a lot of things – commitment, support, respect, and laughter. She makes being a good person look easy and in turn makes me strive to be the best person I can be.

We have a beautiful and magical life together. It doesn’t consist of a lot of the work I hear other married couples sourly talk about. Because it doesn’t have to. We’ve done, and continue to do, the work required on ourselves to grow, to become more. We allow each other the space and the freedom to do that without the unnecessary distractions of passive aggressive guilt that we have both experienced in other relationships. We realize that we are human and that we are allowed to be mortals, with attributes and flaws alike. We got married because we believe in the foundation we took the time to build with commitment, friendship and trust. I no longer feel the need to wear the macho masculine mask I once felt confined to. My spontaneous crying and unavoidable knowledge of my uterus is no longer something I have to be ashamed of. We not only accept but celebrate each other’s neuroses because we know that it only adds to our quirky relationship. I am free to pick my cuticles (as long as she cannot feel it happening), and she is free to feel both happy and sad at the same time (those are often the simplified versions of about a thousand different emotions she feels at the same time).

I know that things will not always be this easy but I am prepared to go through everything with her because I know that our journey will be filled with love, human decency, respect, and a copious amount of laughter.

Childhood Fears

I’ve always been a nervous soul. Anxiety is so ingrained in me that it seems to be sewn into my nerve endings, like the cobwebs of fascia holding my flesh onto to my muscles. I remember being very young – around five or six – and being very terrified of my ceiling fan, whether it was turned on or not. I was convinced that it would turn violent, an unhinged murderer. I imagined that in the middle of the night it would unfasten itself from the incompetent ceiling and the sheer velocity of its five foot decent would be enough to slice me into pieces. Every night while the rest of the world settled down into a peaceful slumber, my room was awash with panic. My heart pounding with such a brutal force it reverberated in my eardrums. I could almost feel my blood pumping, pendulum like, from one end of my body to the other. I would stay up for what felt like hours, stiff as a corpse on my bed, training myself to sleep with one eye open in order to keep an eye on this oscillating nightly nemesis.

For years during my childhood I refused to step on any cracks in the sidewalk due to the debilitating anxiety I had about breaking my mother’s back. I remember how uneasy I felt after hearing this unfortunate rhyme on the playground. What started out as a logical refusal to take any chances turned into many years fixated on this obsession. While my classmates skipped effortlessly along the sidewalk joyfully singsonging this morbid children’s chant, I kept my forehead parallel to the concrete with military precision, eyes trained on my feet in order to guarantee that they would not make any hasty decisions. To my utter dismay and confusion my mother still required back surgery despite my constant vigilance of the ground beneath me. The fact that she needed such a surgery did not deter my motives, however. I figured that I was on the right track considering that her back was not all the way broken. I just needed to reconstitute my definition of what a sidewalk crack really was. It was as if my obsession told me, ‘look! You’re doing great work! If it wasn’t for your total commitment to steer clear of cracks on walkways, your mom would be totally screwed right now!’ I continued my careful travelling for years after I should have grown out of such phases.

The first time I went to the mall with my dad, it was an overwhelming and frightening experience. First of all, I was terrified of the man throughout my childhood. He towered over me in both stature and demeanor. He owned a deep, husky voice which I associated with most of the cartoon villains I would see on television. He was also a very impatient man, always huffing and puffing, especially while shopping. He would often charge ahead several paces in front of me in shopping centers as if daring me to keep up. I spent most of our shopping adventures ducking and dodging strangers legs and shopping carts, desperate not to get left behind. The first time I went to the mall with my dad was not the first time I had been to the mall. I had gone plenty of times before this occasion, riding the escalators up and down from the ice skating rink. I never questioned my safety on those death traps until my dad yanked my arm towards him with frightening strength.

With his low growl of a voice he asked me if my shoe laces were tied. Wide eyed and petrified, with no clue as to why fearful tears were suddenly stinging my eyes, I nodded. He responded with an assertive grunt before saying, “good. You know these things can swallow you up and they start with your shoelaces. One loose string and that’ll be it. It will have its claws in you and I won’t be able to save you.”
My mouth fell open in horror as he went on to explain that the escalator could take ahold of anything – your shoelaces, a strap of a sandal, a piece of fabric from your pants or a long, flowing skirt – it would take hold of you so fiercely and quickly that before anyone could stop it your legs would be crushed inside the machine. By the time we made it to the top of the escalator, I was standing on his feet with my eyes squeezed shut awaiting the inevitable bone crunching sounds. I wanted to shout to everyone else on this spontaneous torture machine to turn around, get away while they still could. I was horrified by my previous behavior on these devices. I had been so flippant, so careless. How come no one had enlightened me about the obvious dangers of escalators?! My dad acted so nonchalant about this information, not mentioning anything until we were already on the vehicle of death itself. It was almost as if he assumed that I had already been educated on the subject matter, as if there was supposed to be a class about it in school. I was stunned that there weren’t more public safety announcements on the topic. Do not talk to strangers, look both ways before you cross the road, and please for the love of god do not ride an escalator without taking the proper safety precautions.

I spent the next several years avoiding escalators altogether. Taking the stairs or a nice quiet ride on an elevator was vastly preferable to the suspiciously moving staircase. I now had nightmares about escalators with glowing blood red eyes and sharp twisted metal fangs, raucously cackling while it gobbled up unobservant shoppers. I wondered why all of my visits to the mall were never more eventful considering there was clearly a lack escalator survival pamphlets out there. The times I could not escape a terrible ride on evil incarnate, I would leap onto the contraption like a long jumper trying to break the world record. I would grip onto the moving handrail while standing on panicked tiptoes, willing my life to continue normally after such a dangerous excursion. As soon as I was close enough to fling myself off of it, I would, flailing my arms around hysterically in order to propel my body as far from death as it would go. I would undoubtedly always have a few moments by myself to catch my breath before whatever confused companion I was with could casually step off of the escalator and catch up with me.

I know that all of these instances sound completely ludicrous. And even while I was living through them I knew how little sense they made outside of my own mind. That’s why I kept them to myself for the most part. I knew deep down that my ceiling fan was not in fact a monster waiting for the opportune time to maim me. I can’t recall ever hearing any news stations reporting on the abundance of victims from ceiling fan abuse. I knew that my little feet would never be responsible for my mom’s chronic pain. It didn’t matter how many jagged lines I stomped on on my school’s aging basketball court, my mom would have still have a bad back and bad knees and bad hips. I’m still not so sure about whether those escalators have a hidden agenda to go along with their hidden teeth.

I do, however, vividly remember just how real these fears were to me. I was legitimately terrified during my childhood years. It wasn’t that I was scared that all of these fears would come true (luckily, I hadn’t yet learned about self-fulfilling prophecies). In fact, I was sure that these tangible fears I had would never actually happen. It was really the intangible thoughts I had lurking in the corners of my brain that gave me true trepidation. I didn’t have words for all of the things that could actually come true like loneliness, grief, or failure. The uncertainty of all of these perceived imaginary demons that floated in the corners of my childhood periphery was something I could not prepare for. It was that underlying knowledge which truly caused crippling anxiety. I could strategize with ceiling fans and sidewalks with little consequence. The true monsters were the insurmountable things that I could not name.

Now that I am a grown up, anxiety still plagues me. I have a name for it now and coping mechanisms to help me with the worst of it. But the thing with anxiety and mental illness in general is that it’s not going anywhere. I will always be a nervous soul. And sometimes it still feels like anything could happen. Because in my life, and the lives of my loved ones, it has. Crazier things have happened than an escalator eating someone’s foot. Bigger disasters have occurred than one lifetime can handle, deeper heartache. I know all of the outlandish possibilities because my brain is wired to calculate that kind of magnitude buzzing around the atmosphere. I know how ridiculous most of these thoughts are but I am not so arrogant to assume that any of these unlikely occurrences won’t strike on my front lawn. I know that I am neurotic but that is still a very real part of me.

Decision Making

I am neurotic. This is something that has been apparent to me for quite some time but not something that I have really ever owned. The anxiety I have is not some outlandish clown or a separate personality that is creeping in the shadows. It is manifests itself quietly, remaining a raving lunatic in my own brain. I’m sure to the keen observer I’m an obvious candidate for mental illness with the way my cuticles stay raw and swollen due to the nervous picking I do at them, my inability to maintain eye contact, or my obsessive compulsion to organize and reorganize objects in my surrounding (this could be anything from condiments at a restaurant to the things my wife keeps on her bedside table to all of the furniture in the entire house). To most people I’m sure I seem like a fairly well-adjusted human being and most of the time I am. But that shouldn’t diminish the very real and legitimate part of me that is not. That is why I decided to start this blog – to share those silent parts of me that churn through my mind at night. Those parts of me deserve to be acknowledged and to have a space for themselves because I so rarely let them run free.

So as an introduction I would like to share the story about what really solidified my decision to start this blog.

 

I woke up today with my let boob aching, sharp and tender. Being the neurotic slightly hypochondriac, anxious individual that I am, I draw the worst conclusion possible. This is a similar scenario that happens when my wife gets caught up at work, coming home later than expected. Like a time bomb, my heart starts pounding and my mind starts racing 45 minutes after she has been scheduled to get off (this is a surprising improvement from a year ago, when my internal clock was tuned to about 15 minutes). My mind branches off to all of the various possibilities – she’s been robbed, raped, and murdered, she got in a tremendous car accident, or any combination of the before mentioned (sometimes all of them at once). The reason for her disappearance is never ever because she is simply working late. In reality this is always, always the case. My neurotic brain does not care about logic at this point. I know that this is slightly insane and cannot be good for my heart or adrenal glands so I practice the deep breathing the years of therapy has taught me. I also know that there is no actual evidence that any of those horrible things are likely to happen. My wife is more than capable of taking care of herself, usually harboring a knife in her pocket where ever she goes. She is currently working three minutes from where we are staying. The problem is that they could happen. The possibilities are absolutely endless once you begin spiraling down that rabbit hole!

This anxiety has been dripping into my spinal cord for years and it now believes that it is valid and legitimate. And I know that I am the one who has made space for it, I let it build its foundation, and I let it set up shop. It is not unfounded and I am sure I will get around to explaining all of the various reasons for my tragedy neuroses but right now I’m talking about my boob. It’s aching and that could be due to a number of things. I know this. It does not stop part of me from drawing the conclusion that I have grown a tumor overnight, as if the miracle grow fairies have sprinkled cancer dust all over me while I slept. I have even thought through all of the other contributing factors and all of them are not quite equally logical to me.

The fact that we are currently living in a hotel room that has deceptively turned two individual twin beds into a large king sized bed by simply pushing them together and covering them with an unassuming king sized sheet and being that I usually fall asleep face down, on my stomach, it is quite possible that during my typical relentless sleep thrashing at night has caused me to unintentionally self-inflicted this boob injury by jamming my ever so delicate chesticle into the concrete like divot between our beds. Also, sometimes boobs just hurt for absolutely no reason at all. You wake up one day with one or both of your boobs hurting and you shrug, chalk it up to some random hormone influx, and go on with your day more gingerly than you normally would. Or so I usually do.

Today however, given the ample amount of time I have now, I have become obsessed over this phantom pain, feeling around my chest flesh and nipple searching for a lump. An awkward self-examination that is making me wish that I paid better attention in my high school health class. I’m only 28 years old and as far as I know breast cancer has not inflicted its wrath upon any my extended family. Alcoholism, addiction, and mental illness is the main harvesting fruit on the branches of the good ol’ family tree. It is probable that other ailments have been responsible for picking off my relatives before breast cancer had a chance to.

I think one of the reasons my over-reactive mind is winning today is because everything in my life is going really well right now. That in itself is an unexpected turn of events. In July, I quit my butchering job which I despised, after saving up enough money to survive financially for a few months. At the end of August, I got married, an event I never dreamt would happen to me (more on that later, too). My wife, Tiff, applied for a job that would allow us the opportunity to travel, something we both desperately wanted after we traveled to Colorado to get eloped. She got offered the job in November. We moved out of our house in December to take up residence in corporate housing in Washington D.C for a month before travelling to Ireland. We’ve been here since January 4th. It’s been a wonderful/terrifying/stressful/beautiful/humbling whirlwind. We know how lucky we are but we are just now catching our breath. There have been tears and insecurities and panic attacks in abundance but this experience is ultimately making us stronger. We both understand that that is just how growth works. You have to shatter in order to rebuild.

Having this ample time on my hands (I do not have a work visa, so I cannot work while we are here) has been both good and bad at the same time. The past few months along with this boobache have left tons of room for self-reflection. And boy, have I ever. Some might say there has been too much self reflection. What was supposed to be an elongated vacation from the manual labor jobs I’ve been accustomed to for over a decade has now turned into almost a year of unemployment. It is something that has made me uncomfortable to say the least. I am not used to being a ‘kept woman,’ as some might consider it.

I have been given countless hours to wonder about where I want my life to go, what I want to do next, can I handle being yet again miserable at yet another job. The truth is I can’t. I want something more for myself. I deserve better than that. I want to write, a sentiment I share with thousands and thousands of other people! Yet I have no real way of reaching these thousands and thousands of people… yet. I find social media exhausting and repugnant most of the time. You will not find me on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. That has made my new endeavor quite a bit more difficult to reach out to find other writers and creatives with similar desires. Now that I am no longer in the metropolis I was in while in the states, connecting with others has felt strained. I have traded in potential resources and contacts with a tiny Irish town that consists of four butcher shops, five barber shops, two Chinese restaurants, three churches, two cemeteries, eight pubs, and one extremely tall river. Do no misinterpret that as a ‘woe is me, life is unfair,’ because I am happily along for this ride and I am entirely grateful to be in a place that has more livestock than people.

Starting a blog seems the next logical step for me. To write. To receive feedback and to process all of my various neuroses (spoiler alert: there are so many more ticks and anxiety fueled rants to come!). To share this once in a life time adventure that Tiff and I are on. To hopefully make some connections through this internet thing I have become vehemently against, as if I am an elderly lady shaking my fist at some new fangled printing press. Being an ocean away has probably prompted me to reach out in the only way I can think of, to complete strangers that I don’t have to see in real life. I mean, what do I have to lose?