Why do we put ourselves through things like catharsis just so we can feel? We deliberately listen to songs that hurt us. Songs that remind us of pain from our past, songs that we listened to when we were with someone we no longer talk to. It isn’t just music either, we watch TV shows that make us cry even though we know it’s coming. But, why? (Looking at you Grey’s Anatomy!)
Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ll tell you why I do it. Currently, I’m listening to a
playlist I made. It’s not even supposed to be as deep as I made it, but somehow it came out that way. There are 30 songs, and eleven of them are indeed that deep. In fact, all day, I’ve felt myself on the verge of a breakdown and here I am. Listening to those ten songs, that now have more meaning to them than I originally planned.
I’m not sure if it’s a good thing that I made the playlist that deep, or maybe my brain is just in overdrive from recent events, but either way. While I’m writing this blog on catharsis, I’m putting myself through it and honestly it feels a little fucked up. My eyes hurt, my fingers are shaking, and my heart feels shattered. Plus, blowing your nose with a septum ring in is just a pain in the ass.
Also, I should’ve mentioned this earlier, but for those of you who don’t know by know, (or haven’t gotten from the context clues I’ve loosely provided), catharsis is the process of releasing emotion… on purpose. The fact that we even need to push ourselves to release emotions like that is just insane and this is coming from someone who builds up emotion like a pro. Wow, while I wrote that, even I knew it didn’t sound healthy yet here I am with almost twenty-two years of pent-up emotion.
Let me say this though… I’ve been working on it. While some of my nights still consist of crying on the bathroom floor after a day of difficult emotions and stressful moments, I have managed to fight the urge to do it alone. Even though it’s been a long journey to get to where I am now, I’ll forever be proud of the fact that I’ve shown at least a little progress… even if it did take quite a few years to get here.
The midsummer sun was pounding down on me while I dug my hands into the dirt. I could feel the wetness in the layers of mud as I kept sifting through the moist soil. My daughter’s voice ran through my head after every rinse in the water hose, just wear gloves, Gideon, but I never listened—why would I? I liked the feel of it. The grunginess of my hands after a long day outside, they made me feel like a mechanic. At first, I thought it was unusual that planting flowers and various herbs was my way of escape, but it felt right. So, I quickly got over the judgmental stares of passersby watching a six-foot-tall man with his knees in the dirt because I kind of had to.
Today though, it wasn’t about the flowers or the herbs. Today, I was tasked with tearing apart the dirt in front of my daughters’ home. Tasked to destroy what was once beautiful, but it had to be done. There were unwanted dandelions, chickweeds, purslane, and bluegrass interrupting the growth of the sunflowers and morning glories I planted a few months ago. These pesky weeds were relentless; they kept coming back, even over the summer. Although, I could never understand why she couldn’t do this herself. All it took was a good pair of gloves, and a little patience. The task was easy, but ever since we buried her husband a couple months ago, she wasn’t motivated to do any of the outdoor chores. Although, I was amazed that she even invited me over—my wife must’ve had something to do with it. We never got along, even before my grandson’s father died. Our relationship was fine, but it was always uncomfortable. The tension was inevitable though; she’d never forgive me for what happened.
My thoughts were quickly interrupted by a checkered ball hitting the window and landing in the array of weeds in front of me. Soccer. They were playing soccer. My grandson quickly rushed over, apologized, retrieved the ball, and ran back to continue playing with my daughter before I could respond. I looked over and she didn’t acknowledge me; she was still mad. She’s lucky my wife was persuasive enough to get me here.
Last time I saw my daughter was a week after the funeral when I let slip that I thought his son should return to his biological mother. I’ll never understand why she couldn’t let him move back. She always had this way about her where she just had to control everything; including him.
His son’s life was never just his, just like my daughter’s was never really hers. After my son-in-law was six-feet-under she had to start anew. Discover who she was, where she belonged, and what she needed to survive. She barely scraped by after his passing, it’s no wonder she never let his son leave her side. Don’t get me wrong, I love the kid; he just doesn’t love us. The word grandpanever came out of his mouth, but collectively we were a familyfor over a decade. It wasn’t his fault though, it was his fathers. He alienated them from us, and if I hadn’t have done what I did, I’m not sure how much longer it would’ve been before I lost my daughter completely.
It’s okay to let your guard down once in a while and to just wallow in your emotions.
It’s okay to express how you feel.
It’s all okay.
Because you’re human.
Hi, I’m not sure if you’ve read my resolution post for 2018 yet aptly named The Year(s) of Growth,but if you haven’t, then these were my top ten resolutions:
Break my bad habits
Leave the house more
Listen to more music
Produce more art, whether it’s paint on a canvas or a new blog post — writing is an art too
Make it on to the deans’ list
Stop letting people take advantage
Ignore the insults
It’s a long and hopeful list, right? I’ll dig into them in December, so for now, we’re only going to focus on number two; “break my bad habits.” I didn’t discuss this in that blog, and I’m not sure I’ve talked about it yet (maybe I should “clean house” and check all of my blogs), but my all-time worst habit is not letting people in. For some reason, there has just been a mental blockade around that portion of my brain, and I’ve just discovered how to cope with it.
Today, I had what I like to call a Twitter Episode, which is where I air my “dirty laundry” out publicly, with hopes that my tweets get lost in the abyss of memes and self-deprecating humor. Yet, today they didn’t. I was seen, heard, asked about, and apologized to. No one knew exactly how to fix my problem, but I was still seen. A few people reached out and they helped me realize that it’s not going to be the end of the world–at least, not yet anyway.
But see, that’s the thing. As I write this blog about opening up, I’m still extraordinarily closed off. I’ve closed myself off from those that care about me, and today I realized just how self destructive that can be. Not only for myself, but to everyone else around me.
It isn’t fun seeing those you care about be sad or upset, but you have to remember that if they’re hurting, don’t ignore their cries for help. Don’t let them do it alone because if you truly care about them, you’ll help them in any way you can.
Honestly, the hardest thing to do, is to ignore those posts that tell you how toxic you are when you are upset, because those are complete bullshit. It’s not okay to build a fortress around how you feel. If something’s bothering you, don’t just let it pass; TALK about it. TEXT about it. WRITE about it. Do anything you can to get those thoughts out of your head and into the world. It doesn’t matter if it’s going to be written in a note on your phone, in a Word.doc that you never open again, or even if it’s in a diary that’s closed off to the world… as long as it’s written down, it’ll help.
Also, I realize how this must sound coming from me of all people. Like I said before, (or did I?), I’m an expert at bottling things up. I have almost twenty-two years of it under my belt, so you might be wondering; “Who are you to give me advice on letting people in?” Well, my dear reader, I can only write how I personally feel, and you can take from it as you please. It’s entirely up to you and you alone. However, with as much experience as I have, I can say for sure that one thing helps when it comes to opening up, and it only takes a few steps:
Get. Out. Of. Your. Bed.
Don’t slow down.
Find a friend(s).
After you’ve established some sort of trust with said friend(s); open up. Let people in. Don’t let your anxiety, inability to trust because of your past, or your overthinking affect the fact that there is someone out there that will listen. They may be hard to find, but they are out there. Somewhere. You just have to go out and look. You honestly just have to trust me.
Once you find your person, or what us Grey’s Anatomy fans like to call “your Cristina,” never let them go. Your Cristina might not always be the same person as your Derek, but if they are then that’s great! It’s much harder to find two people who care about you as much as Cristina and Derek did for Meredith, but if you’re as lucky as I am; you’ll find them both.
Disclaimer: This is a revised version of chapter one! I workshopped the hell out of it in one of my classes this semester, so I thought I’d update it here too. Thanks for reading! I hope you guys like these characters just as much as I do and that this is the start of something worthwhile.
Chapter One: Commute Home (Revised)
Today, I decided to walk home a little lackadaisically. It wasn’t my usual speed, but I knew it would get me to where I was going — especially since I wasn’t in much of a rush. For some reason, this particular Friday just felt different. It was nicer outside than it had been this past week, so I decided to take it all in. The cool spring air was slowly caressing my bare legs with each step. It was chilly and almost unbearable, but I didn’t mind. After all, it’s my fault that I woke up with hope that the Texas weather would stay consistent throughout the day. The mornings were always deceiving compared to the afternoons.
With each step, I noticed the trees were coming back to life, the grass was slowly becoming greener after each watering, and the animals were thriving off it. It’s sort of ironic to see all of the animals coming out of hiding, as if Texas knew what the winter season was. Here we just get a handful of freezes and a bunch of cold wind. We barely get any snow. Most birds even come here from up north to avoid their states’ weather, as if the sunny beaches of Cancun were too far of a flight.
As I walked, I counted the steps between each sidewalk crack. “One-two-three, one-two, one-two-three-four,” it was almost like a dance, albeit an unusual one, but the counting came naturally. I started to imagine a polka band playing at each step. The casual “oom-pah-pah, oom-pah-pah,” that was filling my brain took me down my path. I took this course home every other day, so I was bound to get there eventually.
After quite a few “oom-pah-pah’s”, I turned the corner next to my family’s old diner and knew I was almost home. Or rather… I thought I was, until I bumped into something sturdy. I should’ve looked up, god damn it, I thought to myself as the man I bumped into started to turn red.
“Shit! Watch where you’re going!” he exclaimed, holding his cup away from the damage I just caused. He didn’t notice I was watching him until he started wiping off his laptop bag and flannel with his hands. With just a quick glance, this man really had a lumberjack thing going on. Beard and all.
“Oh my god, I’m so, so sorry. Please let me help you,” I said to him, while I opened up my backpack to find my pack of wet wipes.
“Thanks, but I’m fine. It’s fine,” he said kind of aggressively, but his expression softened when he finally looked up; his light brown eyes pierced my greens. “Ugh, I’m sorry. I’ve just had a long day,” while he held his hand out, “My name’s Alexander, I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
I didn’t expect him to take such a turnaround, but I closed my bag and shook his hand anyway, “Maddy, my name’s Maddy. I’m so sorry.”
“Please, just stop apologizing. It’s okay. I said it’s fine, and I meant it,” he said more calmly while he put his hand on my shoulder.
Almost immediately, I shrugged his hand off, “Okay, are you sure you’re okay? That coffee had to have been really hot. Please, let me buy you another one.”
“Alright, alright, you can buy me a new cup. Is the diner fine?”
“Actually, would it be okay if we went down the street to Starbucks instead? I don’t really want to set foot in there.” Immediately, I mentally crossed my fingers and hoped he wouldn’t ask why. Especially since Gordon and I haven’t had time to fully evaluate it.
“Umm, yeah. That’ll be alright. I’d actually prefer it if that’s what you’re more comfortable with. Just lead the way,” he said.
* * * *
On our way to Starbucks I realized that there was more to this guy than I thought. He wasn’t just a tall, rugged man, but he had quirks of his own. Not only was he avoiding the sidewalk cracks as he stepped, but he kept the same number of steps between them too.
“What on earth are you looking at?” he asked.
“Oh, nothing,” I laughed nervously. “I just noticed that you never step on any cracks. I do the same thing.”
“Were you counting? I try to keep at least two to four between each crack. I’m not superstitious or anything,” he chuckled while he rubbed the back of his neck, “I just kind of kept the habit from when I was a kid.”
“Oh, I suppose I was,” I blushed, “I do the same thing… except I imagine polka music playing.”
“Polka, huh? Care to elaborate?” he asked, and I reluctantly let him in on my little secret, because he let me in on his. And to my surprise, we ended up walking my weird, and quirky way all the way to the coffee shop.
* * * *
When we got to Starbucks, I ordered my usual iced green tea latte; the matcha was my favorite part. It made me feel as though I was actually taking a step towards something healthy. I didn’t even know Starbucks had this drink until a few weeks ago, but I fell in love at first sip.
“Your total is $5.75,” the barista said. So, I quickly went to search my backpack, but noticed my wallet was missing. I could’ve sworn I had it earlier, and it wasn’t long until I started shaking in panic.
“Um, Alex? Do you mind getting this?” I asked nervously, “I can pay you back later. I promise.”
“It’s Alexander, and are you asking me to pay for your coffee after you spilled mine all over me?”
I couldn’t read if he was serious. All I could get out of my mouth was, “Oh, yeah… I’m sorry. Um, I might have some kind of cash in this bag somewhere,” and I started to search again.
“Nooo, stop! I’m kidding,” he smiled and put his hand on mine. “It’s really no problem, I swear. You can get the next one.”
We went to a table in the back corner of the cafe to wait for our order, and I still couldn’t stop thanking him. He even pulled my chair out for me, and suddenly I couldn’t remember the last time I was ever out with a guy. Clearly, I wasn’t used to this kind of chivalry.
“Maddy, it’s fine. Stop thanking me,” he said. “But, if you don’t mind me asking, what was that back there?” he asked.
“What was what?”
“Why couldn’t we go into the diner? I mean, I prefer Starbucks, but you seemed a little reluctant to go in there.”
“Oh, it was nothing.” I could tell by the look on his face that he didn’t believe me, so I quickly added, “I just have a few bad memories there, that’s all.”
“Yeah? If you don’t mind me asking, what are they about?”
“That depends,” I said, “Why Alexander? Why not just Alex?”
“I just don’t like shortening my name. My mom gave me my whole name for a reason, ya know?” he said, while he messed with the straps to his bag. He was fidgeting, just like what I do when I’m talking to new people. This is insane. We really were so similar.
“Oh,” I said. “So, I suppose you’ll just call me Madeline then?”
“Madeline, huh?” he winked, “Would it be alright if I called you that? It’s so beautiful.” Suddenly, I could feel my cheeks turning red, this guy really had an effect on me. I couldn’t believe how easy it was for him to make me blush.
“No, I suppose that wouldn’t be a bad thing. So, now I guess I have to tell you my story then,” I started, right before my order was shouted out to the whole café. “Well, that’s me,” I moved to get up, but Alexander stopped me.
“I’ll get it, they just set mine on the bar as well.”
“Uh, alright. Thanks.” I shot him a smile and he went for our cups, but on his way back, I noticed that he was looking at my drink like it was a foreign object.
“How on Earth do you drink this stuff?” he asked, while holding up my drink and inspecting it. He looked like he was looking at an undiscovered object. Like matcha was the strangest thing ever.
I laughed and asked him, “What do you mean?”
“This dark green stuff… it looks like there’s dirt in your drink.”
“Uh, have you ever tried matcha before? It’s ah-maaaze-iiing,” I informed him.
“No, I haven’t. I don’t tend to drink or eat food that looks like dirt,” he said, and I immediately felt myself start to shut-down. We just met, and he was already criticizing my drink.
“Well, it doesn’t taste like dirt. I’d ask you to try it, but you probably don’t have fantastic taste buds considering you got a grande black coffee at Starbucks of all places,” I snapped.
“Woah, woah, woah… calm down. Madeline,” he grabbed my hand, “I was just kidding.”
I quickly pulled it away from him. “Well, it’s really hard to tell if you’re kidding Alex. I don’t read sarcasm very well with you apparently and I don’t know how to deal with it.” I slowly started to scoot my chair away from the table, “Maybe I’m overreacting, but you’re not great at being facetious.”
He threw his hands up in defeat and said, “Okay, okay, okay. I’m sorry. I’ve been told that my face isn’t very great at expressing itself.” I could see the remorse in his face, and I felt horrible. I really need to stop doing this to everyone. “So, what is it about the diner? I know we just met, but I wish you’d talk to me. There’s just something about your eyes that resonates with me. I want to know everything about the girl who spilled coffee on me,” he said, while rubbing his finger along the outside of his coffee cup lid.
I could feel a wave of warmth wash over me, I seriously needed to interact with more people, I thought to myself. It shouldn’t be this easy for him to make me feel this way. Reluctantly though, it was only fair I told him a little bit about myself, so I decided to tell him, “Okay, well since you told me your weird name thing, that diner actually used to be my parents. The place was originally named Maddy’s after my grandmother, who was also my namesake. At first, it was awesome. They bought it when I was around eleven-years-old. I spent all my summers there, my first job was there, and it was great… until they sold it. Now it’s just a run-of-the-mill restaurant. I’m just glad the new owners kept some of the nostalgia intact even though my parents’ menus aren’t there anymore.”
“I’m really sorry to hear that, it must’ve been hard having to adjust. Have you gone in there since?” he asked, and this time I let him grab my hand. First, this man is everything. He was complex, but I could still understand his quirks at the same time. Second, how did this all come out of a spilled coffee?
Before answering his question, I decided that it was time to leave before things got a little too personal. “Actually, I hate to cut this short, but I should probably get going. Swanson needs me. We can always dig into this later, if you want?” I scooted away from the table.
“Wait, who’s Swanson?”
“My cat. He’s very particular about when he gets his food,” I said while I stood and started to put my backpack on.
“Oh, you have a cat? That’s another interesting note on Madeliiiine… what was your last name? Mine’s Woods,” he said.
“Alexander Woods, huh? That sounds fitting,” I told him. I almost had to stifle a laugh to cover up the irony. This man looked like a lumberjack, and his last name was Woods. He was definitely going to hear about this later; if there is a later. “I’m a MacCarthy. Not like Melissa, more like the usual Scottish last name.”
“So, Madeline MacCarthy. That explains your hair and eyes. Are you Scottish?”
“You know what Alexander, seriously. Let’s save this for another time. I really need to get home to Swanson.”
“Alright, alright, alright. Let me give you my number and we can meet again? Maybe next time you won’t get my shirt dirty,” he joked.
I pulled out a scrap of paper from my backpack and a pen, “Sure, actually, here’s mine. Don’t lose this,” I grinned.
I’ve published 49 things over the span of four years. That’s it. 49. Well, now there will be 50. What started out as a basic journal, has turned into a plethora of things. Projects from school, NoWriSum (which I inevitably quit), and various other writings.
So, what about this deems me as a writer? On average, I’ve written 12-13 blogs each year… which sounds ridiculous. However, “writer” is still plastered on all of my social media platforms. I’m constantly talking about how I want to be a published author, yet I can’t sit down and write for the life of me. Does that mean I’m any less of what I claim to be? Well, I don’t think so…
The majority of my writing has been about things that have occurred in my life, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As Jake Gyllenhaal says in Nocturnal Animals,
“Writers don’t write about anything other than themselves.”
That isn’t direct, but it was something along those lines and it’s 100% true. I’m going to let you all in on a little secret… Madeline is a more extreme version of myself (read about her here in chapter one). She’s introverted, she has a long-haired cat, and she daydreams a lot. There’s more to her than just that, but ultimately the whole idea of Madeline has come from my main personality traits.
After I watched Gyllenhaal, (who, let’s face it, I’m madly obsessed with… especially in Nocturnal Animals), play a writer and use such relatable quotes, I’ve come across a few realizations:
(for anyone who creates, just replace your hobby with “write”)
You don’t have to write every single day in order to be a writer. As long as you put your all into things you do write, you can deem yourself a writer all you want.
Blogs are not just for the followers. Just because you think people aren’t reading it, doesn’t mean no one is.
If you ask your friends to read your blogs or even drafts you’re unsure of, they most likely will if they really want to support you and your craft. I’m not sure why it took me so long to figure this out… but it turns out that it’s true.
Writing isn’t meant to just give and give and give. Ultimately, you’re writing for yourself. So, if you love writing and just want to put all of your thoughts into a notebook/Word .doc, then do it! You don’t need to share your thoughts with the world if you don’t want to.
Support goes two ways when you first start out, it’s all about spreading your work as far as you can. If you have friends/family who want support from you, ask them to read something you wrote in return.
Don’t second guess! Writing is hard. Carving through mental blocks, rereading things in your own voice, or just opening up the laptop is hard. If anyone tells you otherwise, then they haven’t struggled to run a blog. It might come easy to some, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for everyone.
Writing comes in many forms. IT’S A FORM OF ART! Writing can be random poems, songs, cute paragraphs you write to your significant other or friends, vents you write in the notes section of your phone, or just random typography that you doodle in your notebook. Writing itself is subjective.
Learning how to market is a must if you’re going to continue to pursue a lifestyle as a blogger/author. While it’s just as important to write for you if you’re going to take on writing as a career… it’s also important to share your blog wherever you can.
Unofficial ninth tip: Try to pull inspiration from anywhere you can! Producing quality photos for a bookstagram is just as important as the actual content. Create eye-catching photos, use editing software (Lightroom and VSCO are my go-to), and just have fun!
Ironically, while I write this… my bookstagram has remained on standstill for a little over a week, and the last blog I wrote was published a few days ago. However! This blog is also going to work as an advice/motivational piece for a later Danielle–which is always nice. So, I hope that whoever reads this uses it in the same way. Keep these tips in mind. They’re valuable tidbits I’ve received from friends, fellow bookstagrammers, bloggers, and classmates. Some of them are things I’ve told myself since I started my English Writing degree last May (’17). However, no matter where they’ve come from, they’re always going to be useful and to all my fellow artists, writers, poets, liberal arts majors, songwriters, or whatever else you deem yourself…