Seasonal Depression in Spring/Summer

                The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, the days are longer, and I couldn’t be more miserable if I tried. Clearly, I’m not a doctor and I dislike doing research which means everything you’re about to read is from my personal experience and shouldn’t be taken as gospel on any subject.

                For those of you who are asking yourselves, “How can you possibly be depressed in such beautiful weather?” Be patient, I’m about to tell you. Yes, the weather is beautiful TO YOU. To me? Beautiful weather is gloomy skies, a chill in the air, and the threat of precipitation in any form. Unfortunately, for the next four months I must deal with ungodly high temperatures, sunburn, and sweating my ass off. Not my idea of a good time.

                There’s more to it than the general annoyances we all endure in the Spring and Summer. As I said, the days are longer and I don’t handle this well. To me, longer days means more time alone in my apartment. More alone time is NOT what I need right now. I’ve been taking naps almost every single day when I come home from work. I feel exhausted for no reason and taking naps makes the day go faster so I can go back to bed. I measure time by how much longer until I can crawl into my bed. Three more hours, two more hours, FINALLY!

                Depression runs deep on both sides of my family. However, I’m 50% Italian and 50% Irish so no one talks about anything. I’m the chatterbox in my family, the one who refuses to keep their mouth shut, the one who says what everyone else is too afraid to say. I have to talk about this because if I don’t then it only becomes worse and I sink deeper.

                Let me explain how I feel in the Spring/Summer. For one thing, I have a very difficult time sleeping at night. If I’m even the least bit hot I wake up and can’t fall back to sleep. If I wake up in the middle of the night and the birds are already chirping, I can’t get back to sleep unless I put ear plugs in and even then, it’s iffy. My apartment has central air but it doesn’t circulate well (especially in 90 degree weather) and I spent most of last summer sleeping on the floor of my living room. Not fun.

                Then there’s the whole clothing aspect of the warmer months. If you know me at all, you know I struggle with my weight and have for much of my life. Now it’s shorts, tank tops, and bathing suit weather. I would rather burrow into a hoodie, jeans, and under six blankets than wear those things. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made unbelievable progress over the past two-three years and I don’t just mean on the scale. Yes, I’ve lost almost 40lbs. But I’ve also reached a place where I can look in a mirror and not immediately cringe or cry because even though I’m still big, I’m happier and that’s more important than the number on the scale.

                Honestly, I am doing much better, but I hit my biggest setbacks in the Spring and Summer. I’ve gained some weight back and it’s completely derailed me. It’s not a lot of weight but that never seems to matter, does it? All we see is a bigger number and it sets us off. Hell, I even managed to keep my weight steady during the holidays but as soon as Spring hits, it’s up again.

                Sometimes I genuinely sabotage myself. When I see a higher number, my first thoughts are, “Oh fuck it then, I’m going to eat whatever I want. Screw this. It’s not worth it. It’s never going to be worth it. You’re always going to be fat, come to terms with it and do whatever you want.” Logically, I’m aware this is a TERRIBLE overreaction but it’s the easy reaction. Giving up is so easy and it feels SO good. For about a week before the self-loathing kicks in again. I’ve tried incredibly hard over the years to turn those thoughts around and not let myself ruin everything I’ve done. It’s tough to be kind to ourselves.

                Obviously, with all these thoughts running through my head the last thing I want to do is put on a pair of shorts or sit by the pool. There are very few people in my life (mostly my best friends) who have seen me in shorts, even fewer people have seen me in sleeveless shirts. Sleeveless shirts…I mean WHY?! Why is this a thing? I HATE them. Well, that’s not true, I hate my arms. I hate my arms more than any other part of my body and I’d be perfectly content to never let another human being see them. It’s bad enough I have to see them.

                Are you starting to get it? Are you starting to understand why someone with these types of thoughts wouldn’t exactly thrive in the warmer weather?

                You might be saying to yourself, “Shouldn’t this warmer weather motivate you to work harder to achieve the results you desire?” Here’s my answer: NOPE. In fact, I have the exact opposite reaction. I want to hide. I want to hide away until the leaves start to fall. You know why? Because every time I try to set a goal for myself like “Oh I want to lose five pounds before July”, if that doesn’t happen, the disappoint sets me back MONTHS and then I’m miserable again.

                I’m already hard on myself. I beat myself up harder than anyone else. For instance, my Dad took a picture of me when I wasn’t paying attention and I was making a funny face in it. He sent me the picture, with absolutely no harm intended in any way, and I started crying. Because I had no neck, I had 18 chins and that’s ALL I could see. I told him, “Oh my god, delete that immediately and never show it to me again. That’s disgusting.” I called a picture of my own face “disgusting” and I meant it. Can you imagine what runs through my mind when I see a picture of myself in shorts and a sleeveless top?

                I wish I had solutions for any of this. I wish the first thoughts in my head weren’t always negative. I wish I didn’t care what other people think. I wish I thought better of myself. Don’t we all wish to think better of ourselves?

                These upcoming months are my worst. These are the months where every insecurity I have is amplified to the highest degree. I still have good days. I have days where I laugh and smile and have a great time.

                The reason I wrote this is because I want people to be mindful that not everyone loves Spring and Summer. Not everyone wants to sit on a beach all day. Not everyone wants to dress weather appropriate. Try to keep that in mind before you say something like, “Oh my god, aren’t you dying in those jeans?” Yeah, I am sweating in them but they’re also the only reason I’m standing outside right now and not lying in bed so give me a break.

                It’s rough for me right now. It’s rough for a lot of people.

                Be kind to yourselves and I promise I’ll try to do the same.

Writing Prompt #3: If you could go back in time exactly 10 years and give yourself some advice, what would you tell yourself?

                Exactly 10 years ago, I was 19, quickly approaching 20 which means I was a sophomore at Holy Family University. I’m trying to think about what my state of mind was like back then. I could probably pull out my old journals to cheat and see what was going on with me but I won’t. I remember thinking twenty was a dumb age to reach because you’re no longer a teenager but you’re not 21 so who cares?

                Knowing myself though, I can tell you I was still overweight at 19. Most definitely in the 190-200lb range, if not more. I was probably wearing old shirts from my brother and my Dad because shopping was a nightmare and I’d rather look man-ish instead of braving the mirrors of a dressing room.

                My friends ten years ago are almost identical to who they are now. My core group of friends which consists of mostly men and my best female friend. Then there were the people I saw occasionally but still cared about, also the same people as now. Not to mention, my school friends. By sophomore year, I was in the same classes with the same six to eight people and we all became close (only talk to a couple of them now).

                I did get rid of one completely toxic human being from my life. Almost exactly a year before, around Spring Break when I was 18, I had to cut this person out. I had known him since I was kid and he became my best friend the last few years of high school. In college, we had a huge blowout where he said awful, horrific things to me so I said we’re done. Once and for all. It was the first time I ever did this to someone and to this day, I believe it to be one of the best decisions of my life.

                Advice. I’m supposed to be giving advice to almost 20-year-old Veronica. Well, my first piece of advice would be to have a more fun in college. I think because I was so traumatized from high school being the worst four years of my life, I was expecting college to be more of the same. It wasn’t, thank god. Once I was in my core classes for my English major, I found my fellow nerds and it felt so much easier to relax around them. However, I was still tense from the pressure of having maintain my scholarship. My skin was at its absolute worst in college from stress acne.

                My second piece of advice would be to not care so much about what other people think. I spent a lot of time in college trying to be smarter, wittier, cooler than I actually am. I don’t know if it’s because I was around new people and wanted to be a new person or if I was massively insecure about who I was. No wait, I know exactly which one of those it was. I was massively insecure- 100%. When you’re insecure and self-conscious about who you are, you try to adapt to the people around you because they seem more confident. They’re not. Everyone’s insecure. It’ll help you a lot if you keep repeating that to yourself whenever you’re starting to sink.

                Here’s my last piece of advice and this isn’t actually coming from me. One of my oldest and best friends once said this to me when I was having an incredibly low day. Be kind to yourself. Now, this isn’t just for 19-year-old Veronica. This is something I still have to say to myself constantly.  My whole life I have held myself to this higher expectation. It’s not pressure my parents ever put on me or my teachers or anyone except myself. There are certain aspects of my life where I’m always telling myself: you can do better than that. I’m the queen of beating myself up. It’s why when someone does put me down or says something horrible to me, I internalize it so deeply because I’ve already said the same horrible thing to myself a thousand times. You don’t need to judge me when I judge myself harsher than anyone else ever could.

                Be kind to yourself. I get so angry, back then and now, whenever I can’t do something. Whenever I can’t figure something out. Whenever I see other people having an easier time doing something that I find difficult. I berate myself as if it’s the end of the world and it’s NOT. It is not the end of the world if you screw up. It’s so important to remember that. The world will not come to a crashing halt if you don’t do something the way you were supposed to or if you did something incorrectly, or if it’s taking you longer to do something than others. In the words of mother, “Relax. It’ll get done.”

                In conclusion, 19 almost 20-year-old Veronica, here is my advice:

                Be kind to yourself.

                Relax.

                It’ll get done.

Writing Prompt #2: Does religion play an important role in your life? Why or why not?

                Religion. I have such a love/hate relationship with religion. It played a very important role in my childhood and adolescence. I went through 8 years of Catholic grade school and 4 years of Catholic high school. I also did 4 years at a Catholic college but that’s because they gave me the most money for a scholarship.

                Catholicism at its core is ridiculous to me. You’re telling a bunch of CHILDREN to be good and they’ll go to heaven. But if they’re bad, they’ll go to hell. NO PRESSURE, KIDS! Get out of here with that crap. Catholicism is all about putting the fear of God into people. You want me to fear God but also to obey him in every way? No thanks, I’m good.

                Let’s separate God from religion and talk about whether or not I believe in God instead. It’s taken me years to decide what I do and do not believe, and the truth is, I’m still not entirely sure. I used to say I toed the line between Agnostic and Atheist. I dangled between believing in something and not believing in anything.

                I’d say it started after my Grandpop died. He was my favorite person and he died the summer before I turned 14. The summer before high school, the four years where I think I could’ve used him the most. My Grandpop was religious. I mean, he went to Church and he prayed and he believed in God. He truly believed which always astounds me when I meet someone who wholeheartedly believes in God. When he died, I was so damn angry. Angry the God he trusted and believed in so much would take him from his family.

                After his death, Church became useless to me and God was nothing more than a pain in my ass. Especially because my Mom believes in God. Even after her father died, even after her best friend died, even after her cousin who was like a sister to her died. She still believes. How? Why? In what?!

                In my late teens, my Mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. That’s when I basically threw my hands up in the air and said, ‘screw it’. There’s nothing and no one looking out for us. If there was, they wouldn’t do this to my mother. Not to mention the fact that the world is terrifying. The gun violence, the rapists, the murderers, etc. It makes it impossible for me to believe there’s a God watching over us.

                Now wait, I know some of you believers are probably getting sick of me talking about how much I don’t believe but stay with me here. As I’ve aged, my views on this have altered slightly. I’ll be thirty this year (I’m not handling it well) and if you met most of my friends, they’re all atheists and they would love to talk to you about it. They’ll tell you when you die, you die, that’s it. You cease to exist, you are nothing but a dead body in the ground. The end.

                Um… does that not freak anyone else out?! I can barely think about it for too long because it gives me insane anxiety. That’s it? When we die, we’re just gone? Life is over and it won’t have ever mattered whether you lived or died because now you’re gone. You cease to exist. But about souls? Do we have souls? If we do, do they move on somewhere else? Where is this place? Is it a nice place or it is a place Dante himself could only write about?

                I think about death way too much. I mean WAY too much. It crosses my mind at least once or twice a day. Not only my death but other people I know and their death. If I don’t believe in anything, then the assumption is when I die, there’s nothingness. I don’t know how you feel, but I do NOT like the sound of that.

                Here’s what I’ve come up with: I don’t believe in anything, but I desperately wish I did. I think I would be able to sleep better if I had something to believe in. But I can’t believe in the Christian God, I can’t. It’s too farfetched, it’s too out there for me.

                When someone asks me if I’m religious, I always say “I’m spiritual, not religious”. I do believe in spirits because I’m not naïve to think human beings and animals are the only things on this earth and in our vast cosmos. In times of crisis, when other people pray to their gods, I pray to my Grandpop. I believe no matter where he is, heaven, hell, or another spiritual plane, he can hear me no matter what. I have to believe in that, at the very least, to get through the day.

                I don’t know what to believe in. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to believe in anything having to do with gods or religions.

                All I know is, I struggle with my beliefs and my faith because I’m not sure I have either one anymore.  

Writing Prompt #1- What would you like to put in storage?

Hello there.

It’s been a while since we last spoke. My fault, of course, for my lack of commitment and the general insanity and unpredictability of life.

Anyway, we’re going to try something different this year. A while ago (June 24th, 2016 to be precise), I bought a book called 300 Writing Prompts (published by Piccadilly). I’ve barely made a dent in those 300 and I thought now might be the perfect time to start. However, instead of only writing them in the book, I’ve decided to also write them here.

Starting with today. New year…well, new year, same me but we’re going to give this a try and hope for the best. Here goes nothing:

Writing Prompt #1: What would you like to put in storage?

All of my old childhood toys. My Grandmom would buy me a new collectible Barbie doll every year either for my birthday or for Christmas. I still have all of them, some in worse condition than others. I didn’t understand the whole concept of “collectible” as a child and I would try to pry quite a few of them out of the box. This is something that’s carried into my adulthood as well since those Pop Vinyl things are also collectibles and yet the entire Breakfast Club cast is out of the box and gathered on my cubicle at work.

I have other favorite toys. My stuffed Winnie the Pooh. The very first teddy bear someone ever bought me when I was born. A stuffed Pluto my brother brought me back from his first trip to Disney. My stuffed hush puppy who I dragged around with me everywhere. I loved all of these and I hate how they’re piled on top of each other in a storage container right now. It makes me think of Toy Story and they’re all waiting for me or someone new to come and free them.

I don’t plan on ever having children. *insert gasp of most women my age here* But that’s something I’m 99% sure of in my life. Even so, I don’t want to throw any of these away. The real hope is my brother and sister-in-law will have children. Then slowly, over the years, I’ll introduce those children to my first and oldest best friends and hope they find as much joy in them as I always did.

Until then, occasionally I’ll open the storage container and hug my old friends. Let them know I’m never too far away from them or my childhood self.

Spring

      You probably think, judging by the title, this is going to be a nice upbeat post. Silly ol' bear, don't forget who it is you're dealing with here. 

      I’ve been overly emotional lately (I know, I didn't even ease you into this). It happens occasionally and I usually don’t think about it too much. This time it’s a little out of hand. I’m angry and cursing within seconds of a single frustration. Or something I perceive as an attack (no matter how small) causes a deluge of tears.

      I cry in the car a lot. The car is where my brain tends to run away from me so it makes sense most of my breakdowns would take place there. Not to mention, my car recently broke down and that caused two full hours of non-stop crying in my car at midnight in the freezing cold waiting for a tow truck. That night was preceded by a particular awful day so yeah: EMOTIONAL.

      I was trying to figure out why I was being like this. At first, and this is the god’s honest truth, I thought it might be because I started rewatching Dawson’s Creek. Have you ever watched the Creek? It’s dramatic as hell and there’s a lot of sad episodes. I’ve always felt things too deeply, even when they’re not happening to me. When other people cry or are upset, it’s as if I can feel their pain as deeply as if it was my own. So I figured maybe this show is just hitting me weird, it’s been a while since I’ve watched. It’s a bad reaction or something.

      Then I woke up the other morning at 4:30 to the sounds of birds chirping outside my window. Now if I were a Disney princess and woodland creatures helped me dress in the morning, this might be seen as a plus. I hate it. I HATE the sound of birds chirping. It wakes me up almost instantly and, as I said, I’m instantaneously pissed off. It’s hard to go about your day when you wake up in a furious mood.

                I went to my journal and started writing. Started writing down every little thing that was frustrating me or making me upset. My family, my friends, my job, myself. Myself. Myself. Myself. Then as I was writing, it hit me what was going on. It’s Spring. Again, if I were in a Disney movie, Spring would be a wonderful thing to behold. But jesus Christ, I hate Spring and Summer. They are the worst seasons for me.

                Spring and Summer are usually when terrible things happen in my family. People die a lot in the Spring and Summer. People’s diseases get worse. It’s never good. It’s reached the point where when I look at my phone in the morning, I’m expecting to see a message from someone telling me something awful has happened. My dog will be eleven years old this yearand my worst nightmare is waking up and finding out she died. Which brings me to my other issue: my imagination.

      I do this thing where I can imagine perfectly how something is going to happen. A death, a situation, a fight, whatever. I can see it all as clearly as if it was being projected onto a movie screen. Which means I can live out horrific conversations and situations over and over again BEFORE they even happen. I wish I didn’t do this, I wish I could make it go away. For a long time, I used to consider it a blessing because I could be “prepared” for whatever was going to happen to me. But the truth is, you’re never prepared. I could play the situation three thousand times with different results and I’ll never actually be prepared. It’s as if I have to live through these things repeatedly and it doesn’t help anything. It sure as hell doesn’t help my sanity. There’s nothing I can do to stop the thoughts besides try and find the fastest distraction possible.

      I’ve been watching a lot of stand-up comedy to try and keep my mind occupied. Reading helps too. I’ve been reading more, whether it’s books or fanfiction, they help. Dawson Leery said it best, “I reject reality”. If I can reject it for a few hours then I feel better. Until the next thing sends me spiraling. And I hate it. I hate it so much. I wish I wasn’t like this. As much as I love my imagination, I wish I couldn’t see the worst moments of my life before they happen (some might never happen and I can still see them). I can’t stop them but I can hold them off for a while.

      Writing helps. It usually does. My journal’s been pulled out a lot lately. It helps to have it out of my mind and on paper. This time though, I don’t know, it’s more difficult for some reason. It’s like my default setting is on “Annoyed” and I don’t know how to turn it off.

      For now, I’m going to keep doing what I have been, watching stand-up and sitcoms and trying to do fun things. Starting with the Pink concert on Friday with my Mom. Then going to the movies with my friend on Sunday.

      If there’s one place in the entire world where my brain will actually SHUT UP it’s the inside of a movie theater. My version of church. Everything’s quiet and someone else’s life becomes the main focus for a few hours.

      Perfect.

That's a wrap on 2017...FINALLY

                2017 was a rough year. I’m not going to sit here and list all the reasons why because we all know why. Even if you only pay a little attention to the news, you know this country and other countries took major hits this year. There’s no need to rehash them all. There’s only one I want to comment on and it’s in a positive light.

                To the women of the #MeToo movement: Thank you. Thank you to the women who started it, the women bringing awareness to it, and the women taking part in it. To the women who are still speaking up every single day, you are braver than you realize. To the women who are still suffering in silence, we support you, we love you, and whenever you’re ready, we’ll be there for you. Being a woman in this world is not easy. Speaking up about a time when you felt violated, terrified, and useless is one of the hardest things you can do. I commend every single woman who has gone through it and I stand with you no matter what.

                I’m terrible at transitions so I’m going to keep going without one. Personally, 2017 wasn’t too bad. For the first time in 2-3 years, my family didn’t lose a loved one. I didn’t have to put on black clothes and say goodbye to someone and for that, I’m eternally grateful.

                This year I saw a decent amount of movies. Dunkirk, Beauty and the Beast, and Titanic (released in theaters again for the 20th anniversary) were my favorites.  I also went to three concerts this year. Ed Sheeran- Holy shit. The way this guy can command a stage with only a guitar is astonishing to watch. I’ve never seen anything like it and I can’t wait to see him again next September at the Linc.

                Harry Styles- Such an interesting concert going experience, I’ve already written about it if you want to check it out. His music is beautiful and interesting and his fans are also beautiful and interesting. He pushes people to act with kindness and love. Maybe I’ve softened in my old age but a part of me really thinks this world needs more of this and less hate and bitterness. What? But Veronica, you love bitterness, it fuels you! Yes, I know. I’m growing up. How weird.

                Niall Horan- Or as I call him “My Irish Love”. The lyrics on Niall’s first solo album made me feel connected to music more than I have in years. A few songs I highly recommend: Fire Away, Since We’re Alone, and Mirrors. Actually, no, listen to the whole album. It’s worth it, I swear. I saw Niall at The Fillmore and his opening act was another Irish fella, Gavin James. Both were lovely and a lot of fun to watch. I’m so glad I was able to take part in all three of these concerts because they were different in their music and in the experience itself.

                Twitter highlights (no one is going to care besides me about these but oh well): Rainbow Rowell, one of my favorite authors, favorited a tweet of mine (this is the second time, by the way). Noel Fielding, a hilarious and completely odd British comedian, replied to a tweet of mine. Jonathan Tucker, an actor I adore so much, favorited a tweet of mine. I’m twitter famous! No, not really. These people only liked and replied to my tweets because I mentioned them. I’ve had the same 88 followers on twitter (ahem, @valtimari, hint hint) for two years and I don’t even know 80 of them. Still, it makes me smile.

                I was promoted this year too. The reason this is a big deal is because I can begin my search for a house. Some place I can finally feel settled. One final thing happened this year, it actually took place in the car on my way to work this morning. I had a new book idea. I haven’t had one of those in I don’t know how long. Who knows if it’ll stick or if it’ll be any good but for the first time in a very long time, I was excited about the prospect of writing.

                I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions. I think if you’re someone like me, who puts way too much pressure on themselves, resolutions are set up to make you feel like a failure if you don’t accomplish them. I never set anything in stone. However… I compiled a list of things that look an awful lot like resolutions. Oh well. They’re more like wishes. Yes, let’s go with that. They’re wishes for 2018.

1.       Buy a house

2.       Cut people more slack

3.       Don’t be so hard on myself

4.       Go to more concerts

5.       Go to more movies

6.       Go on vacation

7.       Write more

8.       Try not to lock myself away as much

9.       Let go of dumb shit

10.   Do everything I can do to make sure 2018 isn’t as much as a disaster as 2017

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Happy New Year!

Love,
Veronica

My Harry Styles Concert Experience

                I never used to be much of a concert person. I’ve seen less than ten in my twenty eight years. I’ve always enjoyed myself but it takes a lot for me to want to shell out the money to see an artist. Which I think makes them more special to me because they’re people I truly love and enjoy and connect to through their lyrics.

                It’s always about lyrics for me. It’s the reader and writer in me. I have to relate, I have to feel something when I hear the song. I usually come across artists through different ways. The same way I go through stages with actors. I’ll watch one movie and then I’ll want to watch everything they’ve ever done and through that, I’ll find more and more actors and so on and so forth.

                Actually, a movie is what brought me to Harry Styles. Christopher Nolan is one of my all-time favorite directors. Over a year ago, he announced his new movie Dunkirk with Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy (two of my favorites). But Harry Styles’ name popped up in the cast list and I had no clue who the hell he was…because I’m 28 and when he was getting popular from One Direction I was already in college and not listening to any new music. I still very rarely listen to new music.

                But oh YouTube brought me into the world of One Direction and what a world it is. The music is fun and their last two albums were a lot more grown up and easier to relate to. I’m a fan of all of their solo music now.

                Harry released his solo album and two songs stood out to me. Sweet Creature and From the Dining Table. I love them, I love how they feel like classic rock. They’re both ballads but they’re beautiful and you can feel the emotion behind each of them.

                Last night, Harry played Tower Theater in Philly. I was apparently one of the first 1,000 people in line which seems insane to me because it felt like I was behind at least 2,000. But because of this I was given a wristband for the pit area. Never in my life have I been in a pit. It was great at first but then they slowly let in more and more people.

                Right before they lifted his curtain, they all surged forward and I instantly felt like I was being suffocated. I fought my way to stand at the back of the pit and it was amazing. I had room to dance and breathe and I was still less than fifty feet from him.

                I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed in myself for not staying in the pit because I could have been even closer to him but honestly, I’m too old and my anxiety level is too high for that kind of thing. However, the magic of the concert was not lost. I took some pictures and only a couple videos because I looked forward and saw a couple of girls with their phones raised the whole time and I couldn’t believe it. I put mine away and just watched, sang, and danced my heart out. I experienced the concert as fully as I possibly could.

                I’ve never been that close at a concert before and being that close was unbelievable. The best part of the whole show was Harry’s stage presence. He was running around, dancing, and jumping. It was infectious and everyone could feel it. Harry was kind and gracious and so appreciative of everything in front of him.

                The love and camaraderie in the room was palpable and you could especially see it in the sea of pride flags at the concert. I’ve never seen anything like it but it was beautiful and I’m so proud to be part of a generation where inclusion is such a big part of our lives.

                Love is love.

                Harry’s whole slogan is: Treat People With Kindness. You can see how he puts that into the world and how his fans try to do the same thing.

                I could not be happier about my concert going experience last night. So much so that I could barely sleep last night until I could write all this down.

                Thanks, Harry Styles and his entire band, for such an unforgettable night. I can’t wait to see what else he has in store for the music industry.

My 2016

      It’s interesting how many things can change in three hundred and sixty five days.

In 2016:

      I lost my dog, Daphne. Losing an animal is one of the worst pains in the world. And having to watch my other dog, Darla, live without her sister is devastating.

      My grandmother passed away this year forcing me to deal with emotions I’ve spent years burying deep down in my core. Feelings of bitterness, anger, and even hate. Coming to terms with the fact that I grew up with a very different grandmom than my brother did. That’s something I’ve always known but to see his grief, and my parent’s grief…it all became very clear just how different our relationships were with her.

      I lost weight. I gained some of it back. This lifelong battle continues.

      I did gain something else though. I gained a sense of confidence deeper than I’ve ever had in the past. Slowly over the years, my confidence has grown but this year in particular was empowering. I can’t point to one or two events specifically but as a whole, I feel better, happier about who I am and the way I look.

      Unfortunately, everyone has set backs. This year, I took my very first solo vacation. The vacation itself was one of the best experiences of my life and I don’t regret a second of it. Leading up to the vacation though, I constantly had to face this question: “You’re really going by yourself?” The tone of people’s voices, the expression on their faces. It set something off in me. It started off as a joke. I would say, “Well yeah, why not? I do everything else on my own, might as well do this too.”

      My own joke started to hurt. It stirred something inside me I’ve repressed. The horrible fear I’ll end up spending my whole life alone. That this is one of many other instances where I have to be alone because there’s no one else around. Having to go to two weddings by myself this year didn’t exactly help quell this fear.

      You know, 95% of the time I’m perfectly content being on my own. I love living alone with my cat. I love having my privacy and my own space. But then there’s that 5%. The 5% of pitying looks on other people’s faces. The 5% of slow dances at weddings where I hide in the bathroom to avoid having to see everyone being so in love. The 5% of not having someone waiting for me when I get home from saying goodbye to my dog or seeing my grandmom in the hospital. Sometimes the 5% gets the best of me.

      Then I went on my vacation. I traveled to the West Coast and I went all around San Francisco. I did everything on my own timetable. I saw everything I wanted to see and I was able to be a complete geek at a Supernatural convention without feeling judged. I met Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, and Misha Collins. I sat in on Q&A panels for a bunch of the stars. I stayed in one of the nicest hotels and enjoyed every second of it. Like I said, not one regret and I would travel alone again in a heartbeat because I now have the confidence to sit in a restaurant and eat by myself. Because I can talk to anyone about anything. Because I no longer care what other people think of me. Only took me 27 years but better late than never.

      One other big thing happened this year. My big brother asked his girlfriend to marry him on Christmas Day. She said yes and now I’m going to have a sister. I’ve watched my brother go through a lot of girlfriends over the years but I knew the day he brought this one home, she was different. He smiles brighter and laughs harder when she’s around. I couldn’t be happier for the both of them and for my family as a whole.

      I’m specifically avoiding talking about the state of the world at this point because I’d probably never stop talking if I start. The only thing we can do is be decent human beings, raise the future generation to be kind and open-minded, continue to strive towards equal rights for every single person, and teach non-believers about climate change and how it’s a scientific fact.

      If you lost someone in 2016, whether it was a family member or a beloved celebrity, it matters and I am truly sorry for you loss. I hope the next year is one with fewer funerals and less tragedy.

      I’m only asking one thing from 2017. I’m asking to continue to grow as a person. It’s what we should all ask for every day of our lives. Hang on to the things you love. Treat people with respect. Go through life with less judgement of others. Be happy.

      Happy New Year, everyone!

Love,

Veronica

I win

    It’s a bad thoughts day. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? One of those days when all you can think about is every negative aspect of your life. One thing triggers another and so on and so forth. I’ve been suppressing the bad thoughts for a couple months now, too much going on to stop and think, assess, and move on.

    This morning all the thoughts came flooding through. It was as if a dam broke in my brain and I couldn’t build the wall up fast enough to keep them back. Life has been a lot to deal with lately.

    My Grandmom passed away in the beginning of September. I didn’t think it was appropriate to write about it before because of the heartbreak my parents and my brother are feeling. Whereas I was completely numb to the entire thing. She and I didn’t have anything resembling a close relationship. Our relationship was filled with snide remarks and general disdain. I used to be bitter about it but I’ve spent the past year doing everything I could for her. It wasn’t for her though, it was for my Dad and Mom. Trying to make their lives a little easier. It was one of the only times in my life, where I was actually the strong one in the family. I was the one who wasn’t falling apart so I could help get things done.

    It was difficult though. Very, very difficult to try and dissect my feelings and figure out why I was okay while everyone else was falling apart. The truth is we all have individual and unique relationships with other people. No one will understand how I felt about my Grandmother and I’ll never know how she felt about me. That’s the way it is. My relationship with my Grandmom was so indescribably different from the one she had with my brother. And that’s okay because he deserves those good memories. It’s better this way. 

    This past week, my Mom had a bit of a health scare. She’s fine but every time something like this happens, my mind throws itself forward and all I can see is future hospital visits, doctor’s appointments, and overwhelming sadness. My over active imagination was fun as a child but I have to admit, it’s a bit of a curse as an adult. I can picture such horrible things so clearly in my mind and it causes me to breakdown. Images and flashes of things that haven’t happened but could one day, completely rip my heart to shreds and cause such a morose feeling. 

    Like I said, one thing triggers another and so on. Today, I woke up and realized I haven’t written anything of substance in months, maybe even a year. Then I thought to myself, “Maybe I should just accept the fact that I’m never going to be an author.” Instantly, I felt tears welling up even thinking about it because it would be like giving up on the one thing I’ve always wanted in life. 

    It would be giving up on my dream. 

    Giving up on my talent. 

    Giving up. 

    I made myself write this today. I didn’t want to, I really didn’t because writing it would mean dealing with it. The longer we shove down our feelings, our sadness, our doubt, the deeper it digs into us. It digs until you’re in this enormous hole swallowed up by the negativity. I’ve been in that kind of hole off and on over the years and it’s hell trying to dig myself out. This time, I tried to get a jump on it before it could take me. 

    Painful is one way to describe how my life has been lately. It’s painful to watch someone die regardless of how you feel towards them. It’s painful to see your Mom suffering and know you can’t do anything to stop it. It’s painful to think your dreams are slipping away from you with each passing day. 

     The pain will eventually fade. It always does. I deal with each death differently and there’s nothing wrong with that. My Mom is my best friend and I’ll always do everything in my power to help her. I’ll always come back to writing because it’s my only outlet besides cursing like a sailor. 

    Will I ever be an author? I don’t know. The thought of not becoming one devastates me so I think I have to keep trying. Keep writing. Keep submitting to literary magazines. Keep pushing myself even when every fiber of my being is telling me to give up. 

    We always worry about disappointing our parents. Honestly, I don’t think I could disappoint mine. They’ve always been supportive of anything my brother and I have done. 

    I don’t want to disappoint myself. 

    That’s the reason I wrote this today…if I hadn’t, I would have let myself down. I would have let the bad thoughts win. Today, I win. By writing, by pulling thoughts from my mind and putting them down and letting other people read and identify with them…

    I win.

Don't Compare

I haven’t written in a while. At least not on this site. I write in my journals a couple times a week, but usually only if something of note happens. I don’t know why I go through writing spurts. I used to think if my life was going well then I wouldn’t write for a while because I wanted to live in the moment. Then as I grew up, it was more the opposite. When my life felt like it was going off the rails, I wouldn’t write about it because I was too busy trying to fix it.

How much time do we spend trying to fix our lives? Maybe not even fix them, but change them. New jobs, new homes, new men/women, new friends, new everything. I’ll be twenty-seven this year and most of my friends are in a transitional phase. It’s interesting to observe, to be a part of their lives during this time. Some are changing jobs, some are getting married, some are having babies, some are buying houses etc.

I have a question. Why do the decisions of other people make us question our own lives? Is that a good or a bad thing? When you see countless people on your Facebook timeline posting engagement pictures, wedding pictures, new born pictures, it can have a weird effect on your thinking. You might start questioning your own life. Should I be doing those things? Am I falling behind in life because I’m not walking down an aisle or having children? I’ve had these same thoughts off and on over the years.

I’ve always known who I am. I may have struggled through my teen years to come to terms with who I am but I’ve always known. I’m sarcastic and I watch too much TV and too many movies and I could talk about them for hours. I finish 400-paged books in a day, sometimes reading two a day. I’m bigger and my looks are a little plain but when I put on my big goofy smile, it forces one from other people and I love that. I write fanfiction for TV shows and movies when I think they’re missing something. I’m ridiculous and dip in and out of other accents or dialects because I think it’s funny. I’m overly emotional, overly empathetic, and I fall in love too easily without really knowing the meaning of the word. I’m quick to anger when I feel myself or others are being attacked. I over think, over analyze, and yes, I’m judgmental sometimes. I don’t want to have children and marriage is a huge commitment to another person that I’m not sure I ever want to take part in. And there’s nothing wrong with feeling this way.

I’ve known all this for years and years and years. But our personalities blend and change with the people we’re in contact with for long periods of time. If you watch closely, if you pay attention, you can see the same mannerisms in all your friends. Therefore, it’s only natural for you to question your life when you see the people closest to you changing their own. When I see my friends becoming engaged and married and having kids, I have to step back, I have to take a minute and remember that’s not what I want. That’s not necessarily going to make me happy in the end. That’s their happily ever after- not mine.

It’s easy to become caught up in the lives of others. It’s easy to lose sight of yourself and what you want. It’s easy to fall victim to the “shoulds”. I’m twenty-six years old. I should be in a long term relationship. I should be getting engaged. I should be getting married. I should be thinking about having my first child. I should be buying a house. I should have my career by now. I should be okay.

It took a little while for me to figure out it’s completely and totally normal to not be okay. It’s okay to not be in a long term relationship. It’s okay to not want to get married and have children. It’s okay to not have your whole life figured out by your mid-twenties. For Christ sake, it’s our MID-TWENTIES. It’s practically a prerequisite to be fucked up about everything. And no one has the right to make anyone else feel bad about their life choices.

You want to get married and have kids? Or get married and not have kids? Good for you!

You want to travel the world and never settle down? Go for it!

You want to be a stay at home mom? Congrats! Because that’s the toughest job in the world.

You want to have kids and still keep your career? God bless ya! That sounds really friggin hard too and I know I couldn’t do it.

You want to play music every weekend because it helps you escape from your mundane weekday job? I’ll come to your gigs and cheer for you!

You want to be single the rest of your life? Do it! Live your life the way you want!

Whatever you want to do with your life, try to keep it clear in your head. Try not to let the decisions of other people influence what you know in your heart you want for yourself. Don’t compare your life to other people. I know it’s hard, it’s really hard.

Guess what?

You are not less of a person because you want different things.

Sometimes we forget who we are and what we want but we can always find our way back. 

Back at it again...

                This morning was weird. First, I woke up around two and then again at three because I made the mistake of leaving my bedroom window open and the shade up. River, my cat, decided she wanted to play with, hit, and bang the shade every five minutes. When it became intolerable, I closed the window and the shade and she finally settled down. Then I woke up again at six (twenty minutes before my alarm!) to the sounds of birds chirping. Most people love this. “Oh it’s Spring! Birds are chirping! How wonderful! It’s like being in a Disney movie.”

                I have enough trouble sleeping; I don’t need the entire animal cast of Cinderella outside my window at 6 am. I hate the sounds of birds. Maybe it’s because we had two birds growing up and they were the most annoying animals on earth. Maybe it’s because I have enough of a hard time sleeping and having birds chirping starting at 3am doesn’t help. All I know is I hate the sounds of birds. They’re probably my least favorite thing about the Spring and Summer. However, thinking about Spring and Summer gave me an idea for my writing.

                A year ago, I wrote a collection of YA short stories and I thought I was finished with it. But thanks to the wonderful constructive criticism of some of my old teachers, I know now that I have to add more to them. Today, for the first time in about six months (probably more), I had a new idea on how to expand on them, how to make them better, and how to actually finish them off right.

                Then, as if Fate knew it was the right time for me to start writing again, the Simple Minds song, Don’t You Forget About Me came on my Pandora. Nothing in the world makes me happier than listening to that song at the highest possible volume and rocking out to it. It was my sign from teenage Veronica, telling me it’s time to get back to work.

                One of my biggest issues with my writing is finding the time to do it. The only writing I’ve done lately is in my journal and that’s just so I can get through the day without snapping on someone because my head is too full with all the family stuff going on. I stare at Word documents all day long at my job. I edit and write for eight and a half hours a day. The last thing I want to do when I come home is open up another Word document and start writing.

                I used to have a writing contract with a friend of mine to make sure I wrote something at least once a day and it worked for almost a full year, I believe. I think I need to start something along those lines again. I always work better with deadlines so if I give myself a timeline, I’ll be more likely to stick to it then if I try to just go with the flow.

                All of this is just a long-winded way of saying I’m going to start working on my stories again. Hopefully up the word count and take all the notes people have given me and make them better than before.

As much as I hate to say it, I think I have to thank the birds and the changing weather for waking me up from my Fall/Winter coma.

                In the words of Dean and Sam Winchester, “We’ve got work to do.”

My Goodbye to Harper Lee

                We now have to live in a world without Harper Lee. I’m not okay with it. Her words were so poignant, their impact so grand which is in such deep contrast to the small elderly woman with the wide smile we see in all the photographs being posted of her.

                I first read To Kill A Mockingbird (TKAM) in the 8th grade. I was 13 and it was the year I found TKAM and The Outsiders. My two greatest loves in this world. Before then, I always dabbled with the idea of writing but after reading those books, the notion of being a writer was solidified in my mind. I wanted to do what Harper Lee did. I wanted to make a difference. I still do.

                “You just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don’t you let ‘em get your goat. Try fightin’ with your head for a change.” These words were spoken to tomboy Scout. One of the first literary characters I ever saw myself in. My whole life, I’ve been gearing up for a fight. Always defensive. The quote above makes me stop and think. Think about whether or not I want to be in a fight. Whether or not someone is even starting a fight with me or if I’m being too sensitive. It’s usually the latter.

                I have yet to find another literary father figure I love and admire more than Atticus Finch. Despite, a lot of people’s opinions on Go Set A Watchman (GSAW), I loved it. People seemed upset about the way Atticus is portrayed in a different light. But the truth is, in TKAM, we all saw Atticus through the eyes of a little girl. We saw her father, her hero, the conscious of Maycomb County.

                In GSAW, Harper Lee makes us grow up. She forces us to see our parents for who they really are, the good and the bad. I didn’t feel betrayed by this portrayal. In fact, I felt as if Scout had come full circle. She loved her father, she admired her father, she hated her father, she forgave her father. We all have to do it and I, for one, was glad to have my friend Scout back to help me through it.

                I have loved a lot of books in my life. But TKAM has stuck with me through it all. It’s been there for me during periods of my adolescence and adulthood.

                It’s there when I need a friend. It’s there when I need to feel the sweltering heat of Maycomb instead of the cold winds of Philadelphia. It’s there when I need to feel like a child again. Or when I need Boo to look out for me.

                Harper Lee is gone but she accomplished what this writer wants to accomplish. She left us her characters. I still have the ability to go home tonight, pick up one of the three copies of TKAM that I own, and dive back into that world. To run around with Jem, Scout and Dill. To stand up in the balcony of the court house because my literary father is passing.

                I will never forget her or her words or the impact she’s had on my life. I’ll leave all of you writers with this Harper Lee quote.

                “Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself…It’s a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent.”

                Stand up writers, Harper Lee is passing. 

No One Told Us

           When you’re young, you always talk to your friends about all the things you’re going to do together when you grow up. Unfortunately, no one told us we don’t always grow up at the same time.

           My best friends and I are on completely different playing fields. Some are back in school, not working or working but not being paid enough to do anything but pay their bills. Also, a lot of my friends like to drink whereas, I’m completely fine not drinking for long periods of time. To me, drinking has never heightened my happiness or improved my night, that’s done by the people I’m with and the activity we’re taking part in.

           How unfair for us all to be the same age, or within a couple years of the same age, and yet be on completely different levels from one another? I wanted to experience things together. I wanted us all to be able to go out and do things. Go to the zoo, go to dinner, go to plays, travel, go on vacations together etc. But because of everyone’s different financial situations and let’s face it, everyone’s varying interests in what constitutes a “good time”, almost none of these things are possible for us.

           So what do you do?

           Do you wait? Wait for your friends to not want to drink so much? Or wait for your friends to finish school and try to find jobs so their financial situations change? Take it from me, you’re going to be waiting a long time. The sad fact is, the people you grew up with, your best friends, may never be on the same page as you. I’ve come to this realization a lot in the past year. The things I once found fun just aren’t anymore. I want to branch out to do things I’ve never done before but I want to do those things with my friends. I can’t and I don’t know if I ever will. No one told us we wouldn’t grow up at the same time.

           So what do you do?

           Now the obvious thing to do would be to go out and make new friends. Find people who share your interests and can take part in activities you deem fun. However, if you’re anything like me, this is one of the most difficult things to achieve. I’m terrible with meeting new people. I want to meet people and usually after someone introduces me to new people, I’m totally fine with talking to them and having a good time. But my crippling fear of not being liked stops me from approaching anyone new. Not to mention, I’m not very funny. I mean, I can get a couple of pretty good one liners in here and there, but I’m not someone anyone would classify as “the funny one”. And it takes a while for me to be comfortable with someone to even start showing my true self. All in all, meeting new people is really hard for me.

           I’m invited to this open book club thing every month and I want to go, every single month, but because none of my friends will be there, I stop myself. I need back up in case I can’t speak to anyone and then I’m just standing there awkwardly and alone. Being awkward and alone is my worst nightmare and you want to know why? Because awkward and alone is embarrassing.  Anyone who knows me or follows this blog knows, to me, feeling embarrassment is the worst thing in the world.

           So what do I do?

           I would love to be able to walk into a room full of strangers and start talking to them. Several of my friends would have no problem with this. I’m not that girl. I need a friendly face with me, at least the first time, for me to become comfortable and to start branching out a little bit.  

           So what do I do?

           Unfortunately, I can’t offer up any solutions to people in a similar situation. I know from talking to my best friend, she feels this on a completely different but equally depressing level. She doesn’t have any money to do anything she would love to do because she’s back in school and has to pay her bills. She has no time for fun because she has massive amounts of homework and when she finally doesn’t, she’s exhausted. Also, like me, she doesn’t find the same things as fun as she used to, we want more culture, more excitement in our lives.

           So what do we do?

           I could say I’m going to go out by myself. I could say I’ll go to the book group on my own and talk to people. But the truth is, I can’t even fathom that at this point. For now, I write about it because writing always makes me feel a little better.

           I hope one day I can go to the book group. I hope one day to take a vacation with my best friends. In the meantime, I work on my fears of insecurity around new people, and I work on trying not to feel embarrassed at the drop of a hat.

           I wish someone told us though.

           I wish someone mentioned we don’t always grow up at the same time.

@Valtimari

Therapy for Free

            Somewhere over the years I became everyone’s therapist. I think it started with my best friend, Iggy. No, that’s not her real name but it’s an inside joke between her and I so I’m sticking with it. Seasonal depression is most definitely a real thing and every year like clockwork when I was in high school, Spring would come around and it seemed as if every terrible thing was happening to Iggy. She would call me almost every day with another issue, another problem. The thing you should know about Iggy is, she’s not one for sharing her problems with anyone which made her outpouring even more troubling.

            I listened to her and I would offer some advice or I would offer to just go for a walk with her to give her a nice ear to rant into. Along the way, she started calling me her “Oprah”. I love Oprah so I took this as a huge compliment. For a long time, I relished in being the one my friends come to with their problems. The person they trust enough to confide in, it felt great. For a while.

            My friends mean the world to me. I would do anything for any of them and they all know it. Of course I would be there to listen to them when they needed me. Any time, day or night, I was ready to listen and do my best to offer any advice I could (I didn’t take those psychology classes and watch Dr. Phil all the time for nothing). For me, the problem with being everyone’s therapist is I felt as if I took on their problems and troubles and issues.

            Empathy is something I have always struggled with in my life. Not because I’m lacking it but because it pours out of me all the time. I’m too empathetic and yes, I believe this to be a thing. When a friend would confide in me about how depressed they are about the way they look or about their home life or about their relationship problems, I felt as if I was experiencing all of those things as well. Their depression fed into my own depression.

            I faced all the normal issues of being a teenager but my self-confidence is the one that held me back the most. I hid in hoodies and hand me down t-shirts from my Dad and brother because I knew they would fit. I hated changing in gym class and I despised wearing anything that clung to my stomach. My self-confidence issues lasted well into my early twenties before I ended up changing the voices in my head to be positive instead of constantly being negative. I say that as if it was a switch I just flipped, it wasn’t. It took years of cathartic writing and surrounding myself with the right people to finally do it.

            The point is, I already had pretty horrendous thoughts about myself swimming around in my head as a teenager. Then my friends would confide in me about their eating disorders or their verbally abusive parents or their constant struggle to even get up in the morning and it all felt like a weight was being added onto my shoulders. As if every piece of information they divulged, I would pick it up and carry it for them so they wouldn’t have to anymore. I would take it on hoping their day might be a little easier. My days were becoming unbearable. I absorbed their depression like a sponge and it began taking a toll on my everyday life.

            But how do I stop?  I couldn’t tell them all to stop talking to me. I didn’t want them to stop talking, I still wanted to be there for them and listen and help the best I could but it was hurting me. Eventually, I had to start taking breaks. Breaks from being around the same people constantly. I mixed it up more, I would space out my time with different friends and left ample amount of time for myself. I didn’t realize it then but I needed to fix my own baggage before I could help anyone else carry theirs.

            And I did. I fixed my life one piece at a time. School became easier in college because once I picked a major, I found so many people like me and they became such good friends. My self-confidence rose when I started hanging out with people who accepted me, nerdy tendencies and all. I started dressing my body better which helped my confidence when I would go out because I would start the night feeling good and not thinking, “Ugh, this looks horrible, I look horrible. This night is going to blow.” Eventually, I found jobs I loved and I moved out and my life came together.

            Slowly, through all of my changes I was able to go back and be the therapist. I was able to listen to their problems and not let them upset me to the point of crippling me. Every now and again though, my overpowering empathy rears its head again.

            Recently, one of my best friends told me he felt so embarrassed and ashamed of his life before he even get out of bed in the morning. I immediately teared up thinking someone I’m close to felt this way every single day. My immediate reaction was to fix it. Fix his life, fix him, fix everything he sees wrong. I talked to him for hours about what was making him feel this way and what he could do to change the way he’s feeling. But that’s just it; I had to offer him ways for HIM to fix his life. I can’t do it for him. I can’t fix anyone’s life expect my own. It took me years to realize this and it is still a hard realization when all I want to do is make someone else’s life easier.

            The truth is, being their therapist, being the person they can always talk to, might be exactly how I make their life a little easier.

@Valtimari

2015- A Year in Review

Yes, there's a gif of Tom Hardy saying Happy New Year. The internet is great.

Yes, there's a gif of Tom Hardy saying Happy New Year. The internet is great.

            2015 was a roller coaster of emotions for me. Let’s break it down into categories: family, friends, myself, and writing.

Family:

            My family is large on my mother’s side. I’ve watched my Mom lose a lot of family members but this year was an especially difficult one. My mom lost her cousin, Mary Catherine but Mary wasn’t JUST my mom’s cousin. She was my mom’s best friend and second sister. I’m in awe of my mother the majority of the time. I went with her to the hospital to see Mary several times, I watched this woman who I’ve known my entire life, deteriorate in front of me. The last time I watched something like this I was 13 going on 14 and it was my Grandpop. I hope I don’t have to see it again for a very long time. Mom stayed strong, as she always does. If I have one ounce of her strength, I’ll be eternally grateful.

            My padre gave me a great gift this year. He paid the adoption fee for my kitten, River, after I found out I had to shell out $600 for a security deposit to my apartment complex just to have her. I’m so appreciative for what he did because coming home to River every day is the highlight of my life.

            My big brother. Four and a half years apart and it shows most of the time. I don’t think he really knows how much I admire his life. Although, we don’t’ talk often, I know he’s always there if I need him and vice versa. He proved that this year when I called him out of the blue, hysterically crying and begging him to promise me something. He did promise me. He’s a great big brother.

Friends:

            Oh my friends. They’re the best. I always loved the saying “friends are the family you create for yourself” or however it goes. My friends are all super different from one another but equally odd and I think that’s why we fit together. One of my best friends moved home this year and we’re all so happy to have him back in Philly. My friends have spent a lot of time trying to figure their lives out and I think they all made significant progress this year. While none of us are completely put together (far from it), and we’re not all on the same path or going the same speed, we’re all heading in the right direction.

Myself:

            Hmmm, what to say here…well 2015, I can’t say I’m sorry to see you go. I dealt with death this year which always hits me hard. I think about death more than I think the average person does. I think about it at the most random times and for long periods of time. I try to move past it with humor and sarcasm and I do a pretty good job most of the time.

            Love life. Oh my love life, or lack thereof. Actually that’s not true. I fell in and out of love this year. Slowly, quietly and without anyone really knowing. ß My favorite way of doing anything and everything.

            I moved into my new apartment this year which I love. I bought my very first set of living room furniture and I’m slowly getting rid of all my hand-me-downs. Next, I’ll be purchasing my own kitchen set then possibly a new bedroom set until my entire apartment finally feels like me.

           My River came into my life. When I adopted River, so many people said to me, “I didn’t know you were a cat person” but it wasn’t about being a cat or dog or bird or turtle person. It was about a feeling I had when River was placed into my arms. I wanted her to stay there forever. It’s been two months (tomorrow) of living with her and I love her more and more every day.

            I lost almost 20 pounds this year and gained severe happiness. Partly because of the weight loss and partly because I’m becoming older and more comfortable in my life as a whole. I’m okay with the fact that when I talk about Doctor Who most people don’t care or understand. I’m okay with the fact that I’m never going to be super thin; my body just isn’t built for it. I’m okay with the fact that I’m always going to hate my arms. I’m still going to work on losing weight because it makes me happy to see a smaller number on the scale but I’m not going to let myself become obsessed with it or consumed by it. I’m going to enjoy my life while slowly (and it is a slow process) trying to regain control of my body.

            Being in an embarrassing situation is one of my least favorite aspects of life. I try to avoid being embarrassed at all costs. Even in school, I wouldn’t answer a question unless I was 100% sure of the answer because I didn’t want to be wrong and look stupid. To this day, I avoid guessing at anything because I don’t want to be wrong then be ridiculed. Whether people ridicule me or not, I always feel like they are (whole other issue). In 2015, I was embarrassed a LOT. Sometimes I couldn’t take it. Sometimes I tried to laugh it off and calm down the redness I knew was covering my already rosy cheeks. I tried really hard to not let the embarrassing situations ruin my night. In 2016, I’ll try a little harder.

            My writing. I made major progress this year with my writing. This website is one huge step forward. I don’t update it as much as I should which I’ll try to do more of in the future. I sent my writing to two of my previous teachers who are published authors (Eric Smith and Liz Moore- check out their books). They both gave me helpful and positive feedback on my work which is greatly appreciated and made me keep going instead of losing all hope in this difficult part of my life. I’m only making one new year’s resolution this year. Just one. Any others I think of will just be things to keep in mind as I go through the year.

            This year, my new year’s resolution is to finish a piece of writing. I tend to start things, get halfway through or more than halfway through then I get distracted or I have another idea and I start on something else. I’m the worst with finishing something I write. However, I’m always better when I have a deadline. 2016 is my deadline to finish something I’ve been working on sporadically for a while now.

            All in all, 2015 wasn’t half bad. I’m happy with who and where I am in my life. Here’s to 2016 being even more exciting and productive J

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

Love,

Veronica

Remember

            Inevitably, we all reach an age when the holiday season isn’t always the happiest occasion. Hearing this from me might be especially shocking because Christmas and the holiday season are my favorite parts of the year.

            Eventually, we start to lose people and Christmas songs bring tears to our eyes for different reasons. The first Christmas without someone you love is always the hardest. Sometimes it doesn’t get easier but sometimes enough time passes where the music reminds of you the good times again.

            I’ve experienced a fair amount of death in my life starting from the age of 13. Then I look at my parents and the amount of family and friends they’ve lost over the years. One after another, over and over again. Holidays are hard because it feels as if the sadness will consume you. You think to yourself, will I ever feel the kind of holiday cheer everyone else seems obsessed with?

            Here’s what I know from watching my family and my friends over the years having to deal with death and the holidays:

            Look to the children. Never in my life would I say children are the answer to any problem except this one. If you’re feeling sad, if you’re feeling lonely, if you’re depressed: go outside, go to a mall or to a Christmas Village and look at the smiles on all the kids’ faces. Look how incredibly thrilled they are with what’s happening. How excited, how unafraid, how free they are surrounded by holiday decorations and toys and Santa and snow. Their faces, their happiness, it’s contagious and you will be affected. Kids don’t know bitterness; kids don’t know the type of loneliness the rest of us can become accustomed to in life. All they know is how wonderful this time of year is to them. Trust me, they can remind you of what it feels like to be filled to the brink with joy.

            I’m twenty six years old and I still act as if I’m 7 when it comes to this time of year. I love snow. I love driving around the neighborhoods and looking at all the decorations. It’s my dream to one day go see the big Christmas tree in New York. I love shopping, wrapping, and giving gifts. Baking cookies with my mom is one of my favorite past times. Yes, I sometimes feel sad because I remember all the people I’ve lost, but luckily I still feel very childlike around this time of year and I can tap into those feelings and help pull myself out of any darkness.

            Never, ever forget all those we’ve lost around this time of year. Remember them fully, with love, and if you need to cry about it then by all means, let it out. All I’m suggesting is when you’re done, remind yourself as to why you used to love this time of year. Look at your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, friends’ kids, whoever and reconnect with the holiday spirit. When you’re pissed off you have to clean snow off your car, remember how happy you used to be when you were a kid and you had a snow day. When someone is rude to you in a store, remind yourself that maybe this time of year is especially hard for them and forgive them.

            This time of year is short, though it may not seem it sometimes, it is. And you never know if you and everyone you love will see this time of year again. So why not try to make it the best time of year for yourself and everyone around you?

            Be kind. Be childlike. Enjoy every second of the holiday season. And most importantly…

            If you’re having a hard time just do one thing: Remember.

            Remember those you’ve lost. Remember your past holidays with them. Remember how much you used to love it. Remember, you are not alone.

            Remember, this time of year is special, magical.

            Let the magic of it overwhelm you.

Have a great holiday season, everyone.

Love,

Veronica

River and Stress (not connected)

    Sorry, I haven’t written in a while. I’ve been swamped at work and I have a new kitten at home so things have been a bit hectic. Let’s talk about the kitten first. Her name is River Winchester (part Doctor Who/part Supernatural) and she’s a calico with a little bit of tabby on one side of her face. Never in my life did I see myself as a cat person. I love all animals and I’ve cat sit for people over the years and they’ve never bothered me. I just always assumed when I was on my own, I would buy a pug puppy and live happily ever after. However, when you realistically think about it, I’m not home nearly enough to train a puppy and it’s not fair to keep a puppy locked up in an apartment or in a cage for 8 hours a day. 

    Adopting a kitten wasn’t something I was planning. There’s a shelter called Lucky You Animal Rescue in Bensalem run by my friend Jackie’s Mom. (Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/luckyyouanimalrescue/?fref=ts ) Jackie and I went to one of their events on Sunday to show support and see all the animals. It was towards the end of the event when we showed up. We walked over to the Lucky You booth and Debbie (Jackie’s Mom) plopped a black kitten in Jackie’s arms and a calico in mine. These kittens were barely 2 lbs and the calico (named Petunia then) was lying in my arms so cute and I don’t know what came over me but I fell in love with her. I gave her back and tried not to think about her but that was impossible. By Monday afternoon, I talked to my Mom and Dad and my friends about what they thought about me adopting a kitten and everyone seemed on board. I texted Jackie and told her I was in, I wanted Petunia. 

                                                                         Me and River

                                                                         Me and River

    It wasn’t until a week after having her that I realized there might have been a psychological thing behind my adopting River. I used to have one stuffed cat. My Grandmom gave her to me and I carried her around everywhere. I used to even put my dog’s collar and leash around the toy and drag her around with me. I lost her in nursery school and never saw her again. She was probably stolen by some grubby handed four year old who wasn’t taught about STEALING….moving on. My stuffed cat looked almost exactly like River. Coincidence? Yeah, probably but I like to think it was fate. 

   River Winchester is awesome. She’s such a good kitten and I love coming home at the end of the day and having her waiting at the door for me. She’s probably the best decision I’ve made in a really long time. 

    Switching gears now.

    There’s been a lot of drama surrounding my life lately. And if there’s one thing in this life I prefer to avoid, it’s drama. Drama with work, friends and people who are supposed to be my friends. I’ve mentioned before how most of my friends come to me when they’re having problems and I tend to take those problems on as my own. But this is drama I’ve been forced to participate in because it directly affects me. It mostly has to do with women in my life. Women equal drama and that’s a fact of life. That’s why the show, Facts of Life, only starred women (totally made that up but it fits). Now, I’ll stick up for other people any day of the week. I’d go to war for the people I love. But when it comes to ME having a confrontation I like to keep my head down to avoid it. I just want everyone to be okay. I don’t like seeing other people cry. I don’t like seeing people about to rip each other’s faces off. This type of drama sends me catapulting back into the hellish halls of my all girl high school. I can’t deal with it. I couldn’t deal with it then and I can’t deal now.

   My only reprieve has been coming home to River and just trying to leave all the other bullshit outside of my apartment. And yet, it creeps in. The hurt from my friends, the stress from different situations and the sadness all penetrate my brain. I would like to blame the kitten trying to eat my hair for my lack of sleep lately but the truth is, my mind won’t turn off. I have problems and conversations and fights running through my head over and over again.

    People are annoyed about my counting down to Christmas but I couldn’t care less. It’s the only thing pushing me through the crappy days. Thanksgiving (10 days away) and Christmas (38 days) and all the days in between are my favorite. I see my family more and people in general are just happier, friendlier and I try not to let anything spoil this time of year for me. 

    The world is in a state of disarray lately. My only hope is the holiday season will have a lot less turmoil and a lot more kindness.

Prayers for Paris.

Peace.

Life Manual

                Unfortunately, no one gives us a manual on how to handle life. Sure, we have countless psychiatrists and Dr. Phil writing them left and right but no one wants to read those. You know why life manuals never work out? Because everyone handles things differently. There is no clear right or wrong way to handle our feelings and our situations. We do what we need to do to survive, to wake up every morning and continue on with our lives. The only way to deal with life is to keep living it. And god damn it, it’s really hard sometimes.

                People handle love differently. Some people respond to it with open arms. Others push it away or fight back against it for various reasons.

                People handle compliments differently. Some people say thank you and appreciate the compliment. Others say thanks but they won’t look at you and will immediately change the subject because compliments feel weird to them. And others will just reject whatever you say to either gain more compliments or because they really feel that low about themselves and they can’t accept any compliments in their life.

                People handle marriage differently. Some people love the idea of spending the rest of their lives with another human being. Others find it to be the most terrifying, off putting, and/or daunting task in life. And others don’t even factor it into their life plan because it’s never been a goal or priority for them.

                People handle children differently. Some people are born to be mothers/fathers. Some people are born to be aunts/uncles. And some people are born to be none of the above.

                People handle conflict differently. Some people address conflict head on until it’s completely resolved. Others run from it. Or ignore it. And others just let it go (these people are my idols).

                People handle bad news differently. Some people keep it to themselves and deal with it internally. Others need to lean on their friends or family members because the weight of the bad news is too heavy and they can’t carry it by themselves.

                People handle death differently. Some people cry for hours on end when the death first happens. Some don’t process it till days, weeks, months afterwards- not until something hits them out of nowhere and then it’s a debilitating feeling. Some stay strong for the other people around them but break down in private. Some just stay strong no matter what. Some find comfort in the deceased person’s clothing or personal items. Others can’t even stand be in the same room with those items. Some find comfort in going to cemeteries. Others think there’s nothing left in a cemetery for them. Some people can only think about the things they regret, the things they didn’t do or say. Others think about all the good times, the conversations they did have, the laughs, the love they shared.

                I could go on forever about the different ways people handle situations in life. There are a million ways which is why there can’t be a definitive Life Manual. Life is too complex. And although we all face the same things- love, death, illness, heartbreak, sorrow, and joy- they feel completely unique to each and every one of us.

                So here’s my solution: Write your own Life Manual. Personalize it to you and your needs. Make lists of the things you need when your significant other is bugging the crap out of you. A list of things you need when you receive bad news. Maybe a list of songs you like to listen to when you’re in a good mood. Or a shitty mood. Or when someone passes, listen to their favorite songs or watch their favorite movies. Make a list of your emergency people- the people you know will listen to you, the people who will give advice, or the people you call when you don’t want advice, you just need to vent.

                Write you own Life Manual. I think the best time to write it is when your life is calm, that way when the storm comes, you grab your manual, you pick the tab with your current situation on it (love, death, illness, heartbreak, sorrow, or joy) and you get to work. You pull your resources and you do what you want to do.

                Life is cruel bitch sometimes which is why we have to enjoy the calm when it’s here. Enjoy the small things: movies, books, your friends, a huge plate of nachos, a bag of Oreos, going for a run, your pets, your kids, your family.

                And when the storm comes…grab your manual.

                You’re going to need it. 

"There's going to be a lot of changes in your life, Cory. It's not the changes that matter, it's how you react to the changes. That's what makes you who you are." -Eric Matthews

"There's going to be a lot of changes in your life, Cory. It's not the changes that matter, it's how you react to the changes. That's what makes you who you are." -Eric Matthews

Patiently Waiting*

            I think about death a lot. Probably way more than I should or way more than a normal person. I may have mentioned this briefly before but it happened again today so I figured I’d write about it. At night, maybe twice a month, I have these pretty horrific nightmares. Mostly they’re about people I love dying and then I’ll wake up and not be able to move because of petrifying fear about five to ten minutes. I hate them and I don’t know what triggers them. You would think that’s bad enough but it’s not. My brain during the day can manage to come up with much, much worse.

            My imagination has always been on steroids. As a child, I would sit in the bathtub forever and play with my toys. Have full on conversations with them and make them talk to each other. I loved my dollhouses and could spend hours playing with them and coming up with scenarios for my dolls. Sometimes life is very difficult for me. People don’t follow a script and it bothers me. I’ll imagine saying something to a person and then I’ll imagine every single thing that person could possibly say but the bottom line is, other people don’t follow my script. I think the only surprises in life should come in the form of Christmas presents. I like to know what’s coming. I like to control what is going to happen in my life. I could control my toys and my dolls, I could control their lives and circumstances with my imagination. As an adult, I control the characters I write because at least they follow my script…most of the time.

            My imagination can give me incredibly vivid scenarios and play them out in my head over and over again. It chooses to center around death a lot of the time. I don’t know when I started thinking about death so much. I think when I was a junior in high school, all of our summer reading had books with dead mothers: The Secret Lift of Bees, Out of the Dust, and The Elephant Man. Dead mothers galore. Then I started reading more and more young adult books with dead parental characters or suicidal characters. I think because not only did I love to read but I was also fascinated by psychology and I wanted to know why people feel the way they feel, why they do the things they do.

            Then a year later my mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and the whole possibility of a dead parent thing became a lot more real.

            This morning on my way to work, I started crying. I honestly don’t know what set me off. One second I’m just driving down the street passing by a big building I like to pretend is Wayne Manor and the next second, I’m picturing calling my best friend Chrissy and telling her my Mother is dead. And I’m screaming and crying and I can’t leave her bedside and Chrissy has to come and pry me away from her. Why did I think that? Why? Where did it come from? And why, oh jesus Christ, WHY can I see it so fucking clearly in my head? I can see everything about the hospital room, I can smell it, I can taste the tears on my lips. And all of a sudden, I’m crying softly and slowly in my car on the way to work. I have to tell myself over and over again, it’s okay, she’s alive. She’s at work. My Dad’s at work. David is at work. Everyone is fine, they’re fine. But it doesn’t feel fine; my imagination makes it feel very, very real. As if it’s already happened and I’m remembering a situation from the past. It’s not my past, I don’t even know if it’s my future and yet it’s my present in the car at that very moment and I can’t control it. I try, I try to stop the thoughts as they come hurdling to the fore front of my brain but it’s too difficult. They come and they burry themselves until I can’t do anything but play out the scene in my mind and wait for it to end. Wait for the script to run out. But this isn’t my script. This is an involuntary script being forced upon me by my own brain.

            There’s been a lot of death in my life, directly and indirectly. I’ve lost two Grandpops, one step Grandpop, I watched one of my best friends lose both his step-parents, I’ve watched people lose their grandparents, parents, friends. I’ve watched my Mom lose person after person, family member after family member, friend after friend. My Dad lost almost all of his friends and his father, shrinking his family to a very small size. I’ve been to a lot of funerals. Too many funerals. And there’s so many more to come. Maybe that’s why I think of these things so much? Because I know death is coming eventually and maybe if I know it’s coming, maybe if I can see it all in my head first it won’t be as horrifying when it actually happens. Wouldn’t that be nice? Of course, it’s not like that. I can think of 800 different ways I could lose someone I love and chances are not one of my predictions will be how it actually goes down.

            I love my imagination for so many reasons. It’s how I create characters, it’s how I enjoy movies and books and life in general. I rely heavily on it to get through a boring day. Then there are days like today, days when I wouldn’t wish this imagination on my worst enemy.

            Days when I picture my loved ones dying.

            Days when I picture their funerals in perfect detail.

            Days when I can picture the burial, the casket, the crying, the heart wrenching loneliness of losing them all.

            It’s hard to talk about these things with people. I’ve tried and I’ve been called “negative” or they look at me with this face, this face that says “What a weird morbid person you are”. No one wants to talk to me about the death of people who aren’t sick or dying. No one wants to see me cry over something that hasn’t happened and isn’t even close to happening.

            What people don’t understand, what I WANT people to understand is, I can’t control these thoughts. No more so than I can control the weather. I hate not being able to talk about this with people. I hate that I bury it away because it makes me feel like I’m in the wrong when I know I’m not. So here I am, talking about it. Even if I’m just talking about it to a website that maybe 3 people read. These are my thoughts and sometimes they’re scary and sad and involuntary and I hate them.

            There’s a bright side though (for all of you who think I’m so negative).

            The good thoughts always come back. It might take a day; it usually takes me writing out the horrible thoughts first. But they do always come back.

            The good thoughts always come back. I just have to wait.

*I'm horrible with coming up with titles so this one is courtesy of my friend Bonnie, also a writer. We were torn between Patiently Waiting and Patiently Morbid so I wanted to mention both. Thanks, Bonnie!

Why I Love the Fall/Winter Seasons

            Oh there are so many reasons to love the Fall/Winter seasons. Here are mine:

            MOVIES- People, let me stress the importance of film between the months of September to December. Studios specifically save their cream of the crop movies for this time of year because they want the Oscar nod. They want the nominations for Golden Globes, SAGs, Critic’s Choice, and the elusive Academy Award. The best of film comes out during these months. This year, I’m looking forward to the following movies (if you’re not a movie watcher, please leave. NO, I’m kidding, just scroll down to my other reasons…and also reevaluate your life):

            Legend- Tom Hardy (two actually, he plays twins!), Christopher Eccleston (the 9th Doctor!), Emily Browning and Chazz Palminteri.

            Release Date: October 2nd

            Plot: Identical twin gangsters Ronald and Reginald Kray terrorize London during the 1950s and 1960s.

            Secret in Their Eyes- Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Joe Cole (John from Netflix’s Peaky Blinders (which I also suggest everyone watch)).

            Release Date: November 20th

            Plot: Rising FBI investigators Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Jess (Julia Roberts), along with their district-attorney supervisor, Claire (Nicole Kidman), are suddenly torn apart following the brutal murder of Jess' teenage daughter. Now, 13 years later, after obsessively searching for the elusive killer, Ray uncovers a new lead that he is certain can permanently resolve the case and bring long-desired closure to the team. But no one is prepared for the shocking and unspeakable secret that follows.

            Black Mass- Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton (Warrior, SUCH a good movie, watch it), Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon (!), Adam Scott, Cory Stoll and a whole mess of other awesome people.

            Release Date: September 18th

            Plot: While his brother Bill (Benedict Cumberbatch) remains a powerful leader in the Massachusetts Senate, Irish hoodlum James "Whitey" Bulger (Johnny Depp) continues to pursue a life of crime in 1970s Boston. Approached by FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), the lawman convinces Whitey to help the agency fight the Italian mob. As their unholy alliance spirals out of control, Bulger increases his power and evades capture to become one of the most dangerous gangsters in U.S. history.

            The Intern- Robert DeNiro, Anne Hathaway, Adam DeVine, and Rene Russo.

            Release Date: September 25th

            This one isn’t winning any Oscars but it’s going to be funny, I can feel it.

            Plot: Dissatisfied with retirement, a 70-year-old widower (Robert De Niro) takes an internship at an online fashion site and develops a special bond with his young and attractive boss (Anne Hathaway).

             The Martian- Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain (love this woman, look into her movies and watch them ALL), Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels (one of my favorites), Michael Pena, Sean Bean, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

            Release Date: October 2nd (sorry Matt Damon, I have to see Legend first)

            Plot: When astronauts blast off from the planet Mars, they leave behind Mark Watney (Matt Damon), presumed dead after a fierce storm. With only a meager amount of supplies, the stranded visitor must utilize his wits and spirit to find a way to survive on the hostile planet. Meanwhile, back on Earth, members of NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring him home, while his crew mates hatch their own plan for a daring rescue mission.

           The Martian is based off a book which I plan on reading before I see the movie. Now, even though I’m not a HUGE Matt Damon fan, I think this movie looks brilliant and it has a bunch of other incredible actors in it.

            But LOOK at the lineup, folks! And this is only FIVE out of all the movies coming out this Fall. There’s going to more awesome ones to follow and I can’t wait. So yes, the number one reason I love Fall/Winter is for the movies.

            Second reason I love Fall/Winter: Hoodies! Hoodies, sweaters, hats, gloves, and scarfs. Bundle up in the comfiest clothes ever made. I get to bring out all my thousand hoodies and wear a new one every day. Hoodies have always brought me comfort. Usually oversized ones too.

            Next up: Hot chocolate and pumpkin muffins. Now, I don’t get all obsessed with the pumpkin extravaganza in the Fall like most people. I like my pumpkin muffin and my pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving and that’s about it. But the combination of a Dunkin Donuts hot chocolate and pumpkin muffin is my FAVORITE Fall/Winter breakfast.

            Fourth reason: HOLIDAYS!!! Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, OH MY! Get pumped, ladies and gentleman because I am like a 12 year old on happiness steroids during this time of year. I love the fact that Christmas music starts playing four seconds after Thanksgiving ends. I love that Hallmark already has Christmas ornaments out. I love helping my Mom make Thanksgiving dinner. I love going to Halloween parties and eating ridiculous amount of Kit Kats (the BEST candy). I love the holidays and I think it’s sad and depressing when people my age or older have lost their love of the holidays and think of them as nothing but an annoyance or inconvenience. Holidays are for seeing your family members several times in a short span of time. Holidays are for smiling and happiness and being cheerful, and playing in the snow regardless of your age and taking walks around the neighborhood with your friends in the cold air. Holidays are amazing and everyone should try to find the joy in them, it’s worth it, I promise.

            Fifth reason: SNOW! I love it, I crave it, I wait for it all year. I know a lot of people who hate the snow. Hate everything about it. Despise it, in fact. They act as if it’s this HUGE inconvenience like it doesn’t come around every single year on the East Coast. I get it, sometimes it only snows one or two inches making it just annoying enough to commute to work. But we live in Philadelphia with about a million different ways of transportation: figure it out. And after you figure it out, stop. Stand there in the snow, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. Then open your eyes and look. It’s quiet and clean and pure and lovely. It’s magic. Snow is magic. Take your time this year and appreciate it, please.

            I’m sure I have a dozen more reasons but they’re all really just subsets of the reasons I’ve already stated. I love Fall/Winter and I hope you do too. Or at least, I hope we can all take the time out of our very busy lives and feel grateful and lucky for even experiencing another Fall/Winter season with our families.