New Year New Adventures

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope 2018 treated you well and that 2019 will be even better. As I look back on 2018 and reflect how life has changed, it’s hard to believe so much can happen in just the span of 365 days.

2018, for me, started off a bit rough, and it was coming off a year in 2017 that wasn’t particularly great. My hopes weren’t high for 2018 but it ended up being an amazing year that I look back on with mostly happy thoughts.

It was a year of personal reflection and growth in which I reevaluated my life, my passions, and what was important to me. It was full of meditation, self discovery, rediscovery, and new experiences. I reconnected with old friends, met some amazing new people, and made great strides in my career.

2018 ended on a high note and I look forward to continued growth, exploration , new experiences and new paths. Cheers to the prospects of 2019. Blessings to you and yours.

When You Just Have to Write…

Sometimes as a writer, a story, or a poem, or a scene gets stuck in your head. It fades in and out of your thoughts, gently prodding you to put it down on paper. Eventually that gentle prodding turns into pulverizing fists and you can’t ignore the story anymore.

It begs to be put down on paper and the only relief you’ll find is when those fingers get to typing. So it was with the following poem which first came to me in a dream a week or so ago. I woke up and thought, “shit, I better write this down.” Alas, I did not and the poem faded with the light, as so many dreams are wont to do. It wouldn’t, however, stay dead and it kept creeping into that little space in the back of my head, you know the one, and it slowly started scratching on the door, in the vast hallway where so many of my stories have gone to rest.

Last night, the little fucker must have gotten a battering ram because he wouldn’t let me sleep with his constant slamming around in there. So, I decided to set it free to the world. Let it flourish or die, it matters not, only that it now has a home to call it’s own. Enjoy.

Breathe deep; earthy notes and ingrained grape

Mingled essence perfumes the air

Taste deep; sweet and slightly warm we meet

Drink deep; all of you, to the last drop

Gaze deep; another pour

Always wanting more

Not love at first sight

Love at first taste

Lips and tongue caress

Separate once, but now one

Love deep; intoxication of my soul

Divinity upon release

Your taste lingers; a memory

Earthy with a hint of grape

~R.M.

The Struggle is Real…

Earlier this month, my little sister wrote a wonderful blog post (all of her writing is amazing), that got me thinking about one of the defining moments in my life that changed the course of things. Check out her blog here, all her posts are worth a read. That same day, I received word that someone I went to high school with passed away unexpectedly. I wasn’t close with them, but I knew them and had fond memories of them from back in Rockford, MI.  I got to thinking that day about things that really shape our lives and push us to grow as individuals.

I’ve also been on a weird ass Country Music kick this month (sorry, not sorry) and one song in particular keeps sticking in my head, Life Changes by Thomas Rhett, the premise of which is, no matter what you plan in life, you can’t control everything and you need to roll with the punches. The thing about this song though, is everything that happens to the singer is all good things. He gets a record deal, marries his 2nd grade sweetheart, grows his family, and just generally succeeds at adulting. Rhett belts out “life changes but I wouldn’t change it for the world” like it’s some accomplishment that he has no regrets in his perfect little life. Good on you, Rhett. Easy to have no regrets when what’s changing in your life is for the positive.

Look at the fable in the Old Testament about Job. Whether you’re religious or not, you probably know the basics here. Job is a pious man, prays to God every day, and has wealth, riches, and a big ol’ family. Then God and Satan are sitting up in the clouds shooting the shit and God boasts about how righteous Job is. Satan scoffs in reply stating it’s easy to be righteous when you have an easy, blessed life with no struggle, but how will Job react if his life is turned upside down? Challenge accepted says God and allows Satan to wreak havoc on Job. Soon, the wealth and riches are gone, all his servants are dead, all his children are dead, and Satan serves up a nice side dish of boils for him. Astonishingly, Job doesn’t give up, doesn’t renounce his beliefs, and perseveres. In the end Job survives the many struggles and gets all his wealth back and he makes a new family. Through struggle Job becomes better.

This is true throughout life. Caterpillars struggle in the cocoon before transforming to a butterfly, diamonds form through pressure and high heat, mountains rise through violent collisions of tectonic plates. Some of the most beautiful and powerful aspects of life on earth came from struggle. Same is true of people. Einstein, Gates, Jobs, Edison, Ford all struggled and failed before finding their success. It was through the struggles and perseverance that they grew and learned. As Teddy Roosevelt said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” This is because out of struggle the greatest strength, growth, and understanding is found.

In looking back at your life, from what did you learn from the most? What pushed you to grow and change for the better?  For me there are some big defining moments that entirely shaped my life, ultimately for the better, but most of them are not easy happy memories. Some of my big defining moments: 1. my fatal car accident in high school where I lost a dear friend; 2. My struggle with depression, anger, and alcoholism in college; 3. nearly going to jail during a black out drunk night in D.C.; 4. the birth of my daughter; 5. the collapse of my marriage; 6. drunk fight on Christmas with my brother that resulted in us not speaking for two years; 7. Losing my job; 7. Starting my own private law practice; 8. the deterioration of my latest romantic relationship.

Of the above eight defining moments, only two are happy moments in my life, the birth of my daughter and starting my own law practice.  Even those, though, arose during tumultuous and stressful times in my life. As the song says, “life changes” but there are definitely things I would change “for the world.”  That’s not to say I have regrets, because I don’t believe you can live life regretting mistakes, but there are moments I would go back and change taking with me the knowledge and lessons that I learned, because I know I could live those moments better. Everything on that list pushed me to evaluate my life at the time and I learned valuable lessons from each event. I wouldn’t be the person I am today and I am proud of that person because I’ve learned from each struggle, each mistake (yes, I acknowledge my own failings that led to many of the worst struggles on that list) and I’m a better person, better brother, better son, better partner, and better father for it.

Of course I’ve also grown and learned from positive events, and healthy relationships too, but I personally, have learned the most through life’s struggles because that is when I contemplate, evaluate, and questions things in life more. Life’s baggage is what shapes us into the people we are. Without the struggle we can’t always appreciate what we have. Through heartache, pain, anger, loss, and tumult I’ve learned what I want and who I want to be.

I really strive to live a more positive, gratitude filled life and it was an accumulation of all the things I’ve learned through the hardest moments in my life that pushed me toward that healthy and positive outlook. This isn’t to say I think we should all struggle through life all the time. That’s just miserable. However, through struggle and adversity we learn and grow and we can then use that knowledge to be better people, to live better lives, to be better lovers, to be better friends, and we will then love what we have even more because through overcoming life’s struggles we truly earned it. Life changes so learn from it.

Monkey and Daddy

This is going to be a much shorter post than the past two but it’s still in the same general mind set of happiness and gratitude. Over the last year, there were a lot of things I wanted to do and for multiple reasons, they weren’t followed through on. A big one was getting outdoors with my daughter more. We didn’t get the hiking or camping in that I wanted to.

This summer we are rectifying that but we aren’t waiting for summer! I’ve had my daughter the past two weekends and for much of the past two weeks. We went outside every day! Of course it was beautiful weather and that made it easy (I even went out the days I didn’t have her with Bradford, our dog).

We explored local parks, hiked by the Nooksack river, swam in a lake and learned to ride a bike. We had a Fun Run at school and a Harry Potter girl scout event. All of this reminds me of how much I have in life, what a beautiful place I live, and how many possibilities there are in life.

The PNW is an incredible place to explore and even better when you can share it with someone you love. Check out my instagram to see some of the adventures!

https://www.instagram.com/ryanjmills/

Searching for Happiness

Happiness. What is it? How do we find it? Happiness is something that we are all searching for. We all want it and we all need it. We look for it in the the perfect job, the right home with the picket fence, and especially in a compatible partner. However, even when we attain these things, happiness still so often alludes us. The search for happiness causes us to overlook the simple fact that happiness cannot be found in any of the above but is found within. The perfect partner, the right career, and the white picket fence might enhance our happiness, but it is not the cause of it. Last week I reflected on living a life of gratitude, and how that can lead to happiness and fulfillment. This week I’m piggy backing off that.  When we are grateful and appreciative of what is in our lives it is easier to find our self worth and to let go of the endless search for happiness and to find happiness in what we already have. The first step in the journey to happiness is gratitude and if you want to read my thoughts on gratitude. Go ahead and read that first, I’ll wait.

You back? Excellent. Now, living a life of gratitude isn’t always easy, but the health and happiness benefits are worth the effort. Imagine if your default setting was wonder, appreciation, happiness, and gratitude instead of stress, fear, and uncertainty. If this is already your default setting them please email me your secret, because I, like many, struggle with finding happiness in the little things and it is a daily exercise that I must do, not to get bogged down by life and all the stuff it throws at me (which sometimes does feel like a lot).

Many of us gauge our happiness on the circumstances surrounding our life. We try to find happiness in our jobs, our relationships, and materialistic things. We want or wish for more. More money, more love, more security, more success, more talent, more more more. We keep striving to increase our station in lives thinking that we will be happier. This leads to more self criticism and leads to more unhappiness. True happiness comes from our self worth and self acceptance, not the outside factors of our lives. When we truly love ourselves, we find true happiness and then the circumstances of our lives enhance that happiness and do not define it. Accepting who we are, faults and all, is the foundation of our happiness. That’s not to say we don’t want to improve ourselves, but it should come from a place of self love and acceptance and not once of criticism and judgment.

One of the hardest things for me in achieving happiness is in letting go of the things I cannot control. I never thought I was a “control freak” but there are many things in my life that (especially over the past 3 years) that I wish I could control and I know I cannot.  You know that old saying, “Let go and Let  God?” Whether you believe in God or not, this rings true in the sense we need to focus on the things we can control and not let the things outside of our control dictate our lives or our happiness. In life, there are so many things beyond our control that we could go crazy trying to control things. This is also why many of us hone in on things, no matter how little, that we can control. We can however, choose how to respond to things when they are not going our way. Instead of holding onto to anger, resentment, regret, and opinions we may be happier just letting go. If holding on to these things affects our happiness then why should we not find freedom and happiness by letting these things go and focus on the present, not dwelling on the past and things we cannot control.

When we “lose” our happiness it is often due to not being able to let go of pain from our past. We should learn from the past but not let it define our happiness. Likewise, we shouldn’t depend on the future for our happiness (a future job, future purchase, future relationship). Happiness is found in the moment. We need to let go of the past, and not worry about the future. While it may be good to have plans for the future and learn from our mistakes of the past, focusing on what we have, where we are in the present, and having gratitude for who and what is in our lives in the here and now will bring happiness. No one can predict the future and we can go down a rabbit hole of worry running through future scenarios that may never happen.  Living with gratitude and living in the moment is when we experience happiness. The greatest moments in my life were the times I focused on the moment, what was happening, who it was happening with, and not thinking about the past or the future. Though it is of course easier said than done. Uncertainty is scary, but embracing it can bring a great sense of happiness.

Unknowns such as change, risk, heartbreak, fear of the future, fear of making wrong choices can hold us back from happiness.  So much of life is unknown, but rather than view it with fear we could embrace the unknown and accept it. If we can view life in this way, the unknown becomes an exciting opportunity. This state of mind would be liberating and allow you to be fearless and sure in all your life choices. Unfortunately, this is an ideal that most of us won’t achieve, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to live life more in the moment, less afraid of the future, and less tied to the past. We should enjoy, embrace, and appreciate everything and everyone in our lives now, in the present, because life is fleeting and enjoying the moment is a path to a life full of happiness.

Part of enjoying the moment is to try and get in touch with your inner child. Play and laughter are essential to happiness. They say children laugh around 300 times a day, while adults laugh around 17 times. That is a huge difference in happiness levels. Obviously children aren’t bogged down by the stress of life and don’t have the same “adult” concerns, but the other factor is that every day they have play time.  We lose this as we get older and other priorities take precedent over “play time.” We all need to take more time out of our days to do something that we really enjoy. For me, I really enjoy writing, exploring nature, reading, being with friends, and spending time with the people I love, but too often the stress of life, work, and other adult concerns take away from the time I need to spend on enjoying myself. I am sure this is true to many of us. In the past I’ve felt like I had a good work/play balance but the past year was hard, I lost my job, had some personal issues, and felt the stress of life crushing me and my relationships and i didn’t take the time to really enjoy life. I’ve renewed the priority to enjoy life, for myself, and I know I will be happy and healthier for it.

Practicing Gratitude

Gratitude is an important aspect for a healthy and fulfilling life. Too often we take for granted what is around us and don’t take the time to really pause and appreciate what we have. We tend to focus on tension and stress and those things that we lack. It’s easy for us to let things go by unnoticed in our daily lives. This can lead to unhappiness. Gratitude for the things we have and appreciation for what is in front of us can lead to a healthier immune system, enhance optimism, and foster our individual happiness.  We should all focus more on that for which we are grateful. We will feel better and more fulfilled in our lives. Gratitude can help us focus and appreciate what we have in our lives instead of focusing on “what is missing.”  And, when we are truly grateful, things don’t feel “missing” and we will feel fulfilled. Gratitude can transform a sour mood into one of joy.  While we cannot manufacture emotions, we can work to form a habit of focusing on all the good things in our lives and bettering ourselves. Forming this habit can strengthen your sense of self, your self-worth, increase your happiness and strengthen your relationships with loved ones.

Gratitude can also enhance our mental health and release natural endorphines to help better cope with pain, and stress, and help block out negative emotions and help us sleep. Healthy appreciation and gratitude habits can be a natural and FREE way to increase health. Daily gratitude habits will cause our brain nuerons to “rewire” and automatically fire into more positive automatic patterns. The more we practice gratitude in daily life, the more our mind will more readily find things to be grateful for and the easier it will be to appreciate things in our life.

It’s like the old saying “appreciate the little things in life,” and it truly rings true. I’ve been practicing daily gratitude techniques every morning for the past month. Every morning I reflect on 5 things or people that I am grateful for and I thank God for placing those things in my life. It has helped me reduce my anxiety and stress, and to find happiness even when things in my life have disrupted, changed, and caused sadness and loss.

So many of us find ourselves every day saying things like “I wish” or “I want,” and we find ourselves seeking out what we think is “missing” in our lives, wishing and wanting for more. When we focus on what we lack, whether it be materialistic, or otherwise, we find ourselves in states of unhappiness and  miss out on the amazing things that we do have in our lives.  These types of thoughts cause us to seek out that new shiny video game system we’ve been wanting, or to seek out that high paying job or that perfect relationship that will make us “whole.”

When we find the next new thing we want, we are happy for a while, but it doesn’t usually last because shiny new toys don’t hold our attention forever, no job is perfect, and no relationship is without challenge. We then find ourselves in this circular cycle of wanting what’s missing, thinking we’ve found it, only to find ourselves wanting something else.

This is a hard cycle to break, and one I know I’ve fallen into many times. Gratitude and appreciation for what is going well and what is good in our lives can help break the cycle, but it’s a state of mind that most of us, myself included, probably need to train ourselves to achieve. Focusing on what is good in our lives, and not what is bad will turn us back to a state of joy and happiness.

All of us have relationships, whether they be family, friends, or significant others. Too often we take these relationships for granted.  We think that the other people know how grateful we are for them, but we don’t always share our gratitude to others. We should though because this will strengthen the relationship. One area where we often fail in this is with romantic relationships. Once the honeymoon phase ends, we get caught up in life, and tend to forget about our partners positive traits and it takes a conscious effort to remind ourselves, and our partners why we are grateful for them. Doing this daily not only boosts our individual happiness, but will increase our partners mood, and make them feel loved and appreciated. This is true with our relationships with our parents, our siblings, our children, and our friends as well.  We should all strive to live a mindful life of appreciation for ourselves and others and show those we love that appreciation every day.

Life so often throws us curve balls, and doesn’t always want to follow whatever plan we had in our heads. It is easy to be appreciative and grateful when things are going well in life, but it is so much harder when things aren’t going well. In the face of challenges, losses, adversity, and hardships we become filled with stress, sadness, anxiety, and fear. There is seemingly no room for gratefulness. How can I be grateful when so many things are going wrong? I’ve fallen into this trap many times over the years. But even in times of hardship, we can be grateful and we can learn from each setback, Through mistakes we learn lessons, through pain we can learn patience, through loss we can learn resilience, and compassion. Even when life feels more negative than positive we can make the effort to find gratitude and focus on the good. I’ve found blessings in every major step back in my life (though sometimes it took a few years to see it) and I’ve grown stronger and better through each broken relationship. I’ve lost great friends and great loves, but I’ve learned and grown from each loss.

The greatest thing that I’ve learned through all of life’s hardships is self-acceptance. For most of us, we are our own worst critics. We judge ourselves for our emotions, we feel guilty for our failings and we berate our own humanity. But we are all imperfect works in progress. Rather than focusing on our negative emotions and aspects of our self that we don’t like, we need to focus on all the amazing qualities that we have and I guarantee that the positive qualities outweigh the negatives. By focusing on what we love about ourselves, we can better focus on improving the areas in our lives that we want to improve. Dwelling on our imperfections will just breed more unhappiness, but being grateful for our positive qualities will make us feel more fulfilled.

Every day I reflect on all the things and all the people that I am grateful for.  I try to focus on what is right in front of me and all around me and appreciate it all. Noticing the little things in life are truly words to live by. By living a life of appreciation and gratitude, we can strive to become the most perfect version of our imperfect self.

Little Things

 

IMG_4123

I recently had the amazing opportunity to fly back to Michigan with my 6-year-old daughter to spend time with family.  I hadn’t been in Michigan since December 2014.  It was long overdue. By the way, that image above is the view from the porch of my new apartment where I am currently typing out this post (have to appreciate the little things).

When I was back home it reminded me of all the good things in my life.  Honestly, as many of you know, I’ve had a rough couple years.  First I went through a rough divorce where what could have been a relatively simple split has ended up being a rather frustrating mess.  It’s hard to keep things simple when you can’t see eye to eye.  Second, I failed to pass the Washington State Bar exam three times in a row.  This hurt worse than the divorce and put my sanity to the test.  Finally, I was wrongfully terminated and denied unemployment benefits because my former supervisor decided to clean house on my entire department.  That was fun.  (I’ll have a post dedicated to this soon because the ridiculousness should be shared).

There were of course lots of good things that happened to me too, but it was sometimes hard to focus on them when I felt so beat down, especially about the bar exam and my job.  Thankfully, I passed the bar exam and am now licensed in Washington and I filed a grievance against my former boss to which I got a recommendation that I should be reinstated (the final decision comes out tonight, so maybe tune in for a rant this evening).  I also have built a life here with my daughter, my dog, and the love of my life.  Which brings me to my point, now that I’ve nearly gone off track, that I need to focus on the little things in my life that are good because they should overshadow the bad.

This mindset was reinforced for me while back in Michigan. Those of you who know me, will know that I am generally an upbeat optimist (though I haven’t been so lately) and I wanted to get back to that.  Being back home was truly a refresher for my mind and soul. I got to spend a few days on Mackinac Island with my family and witness my mom getting an award and being inducted into the Speech Coaches Hall of Fame. Go Mom! You’re truly are an inspiration! I love you!  I also got to meet my nephew for the first time and see my niece for the first time since she was 1 (she is now 3).  I even got to see my aunt and uncle whom I hardly speak too and hadn’t seen in years.

It was great to reconnect with my brother and sister-in-law as well as with my sister whom I hadn’t seen in years.  We fell into that old rhythm that only siblings can appreciate and it was like no time had passed.  I didn’t realize how much I missed my family until was back with them. I love my life in Washington, but there is just something about being close to family.  Unfortunatley, I didn’t get to see any of my grandparents on the trip and it was of course way too short. I cherished every moment though now matter how small or how short, because that’s what really matters.

When I am old and grey and pooping in my Depends, I’ll look back on my life and the moments that will matter will be the small things like family game night with Deanna and Mila, tug of war with my dog, love, friendship, and family.  It won’t matter that an unreasonable ex made life hard for a couple of years, it won’t matter that a short-sighted supervisor fired me, and it wont matter that we are living paycheck to paycheck.

What will matter is that I was happy, that I lived a good life, and that I was a positive force in this world.

As if to illustrate this point a humming-bird literally just flew up to me as I sit on the porch typing this.  Time to go out and buy a humming bird feeder! Damn, life is amazing, friends.

 

 

Microbes: A Short Story

Hello Friends,

Today I want to share with you a story I wrote in College when I was going through a crisis of faith. It’s a story about a man obsessed with germs, who is hoping for a miracle. It’s a little rough for sure, and someday I’ll clean it up more, but I wanted to leave it mostly in tact from the version I wrote over ten years ago.

The story is called Microbes and my brother actually made a short independent film based of off it. I’ll get a link to that film soon.  This is a work of fiction blending many elements of my own life, my own faith crisis, and the lives of people I met in Undergrad. It’s probably not scientifically accurate or anything, but I do hope you enjoy.

Please take a look. I’ll be posting more stories to the Short Story section soon, but for now, give Microbes a read and let me know what you think.  All criticism is welcome. This story is over ten years old, but it’s one I’ll always remember writing.

So sit back, enjoy the read and I’ll be back soon with more posts and more stories to share.

 

What’s that baggage? 

This weekend I got to thinking about emotional and psychological baggage that we accumulate over the course of life and how it affects us and our relationships. We hear the term “baggage” all the time. 

“Don’t date her,  she has too much baggage.”

“He just went through a nasty divorce, and has excess baggage.”

Baggage is bad. Right?  Or is it? The term certainly has a negative connotation in our society. It’s something we are meant to avoid or, if we have a lot of it, it is something we need to shed. 

Really though, how can someone go through life without picking up certain items and throwing them into the metaphorical suitcase (or three) that we all carry. We can’t. Everything that we do and everything that happens to us molds and shapes the person we are. It’s not bad to have baggage; it means you’re living your life. What defines you and impacts your relationships is not the amount of souvenirs you’ve stuffed into that suitcase, but more how you’ve handle them. 

Looking at my own life, I can name some pretty heavy trinkets I’ve gathered during my 31 years on this planet. Let’s make a list: 

  1. Friend was killed in a fatal car accident where I was the driver. 
  2. From age 18 to age 24 I dealt with life’s problems by searching for answers in the bottom of a whiskey bottle. 
  3. I’ve destroyed friendships and loves due to excessive drinking and a fiery temper. 
  4. I got black out drunk, got in a fight,  and woke up on a D.C. sidewalk in handcuffs. 
  5. I married who I thought was the love of my life, learned she wasn’t for a variety of reasons, and subsequently got divorced.
  6. I have massive Student Loan debt. 
  7. I didn’t speak to my brother for two years. 
  8. I don’t always finish what I start. 
  9. I failed the Bar Exam three times (I’ve since passed).
  10. I lost my job and am now unemployed. 

I’m sure the list could go on,  but those are the SportsCenter Top 10. These things don’t define me, but they are a part of me and are necessarily baggage that I carry around. I can’t dump the baggage because I would be dumping a part of myself. I can, however, own my past and understand how it has shaped my present to be the person I want to be.  My best self. 

Through therapy I came to terms with the guilt of my friend’s death. Through self control and determination, I stopped turning to alcohol has a bandage.  There are relationships that I’ve broken beyond repair, but I’ve learned from my mistakes. I still talk to my ex-wife, even though it can cause headaches for other relationships (we have a child together so we will always have to be able to communicate).

Point is, that I’ve not let my baggage weigh me down. I’ve allowed it to shape me and I’ve learned from every experience and tried to grow as a person.  I can’t have regrets because without the past I wouldn’t be who I am today. I wouldn’t have my beautiful 6 year old daughter. I wouldn’t have moved to the state of Washington. I wouldn’t have my law degree. I also wouldn’t have found the true love of my life. 

Truth is, I’ve never been happier with life than I am right now. I am so thankful for how my past has shaped me for the better. I feel like I have found who my best self is and I strive for that every day. I often fall short, but I am grateful to God for all the good in my life. 

I’ll end this post for now. It is 11:30pm here on the West coast and I am typing this on my phone while I clear my head walking around in the brisk night air. Plus my fingers are cold so I’m sure there are plenty of typos. 

Don’t be afraid of baggage. It is what helps define us; just don’t let it weigh you down. Own the good and the bad and learn from everything. 

Rough Draft

I am the frame of the Mercury Sable folding in on itself.
I am the crippled steel and broken glass.
I am the tires; skin burned onto warm pavement.
I screech with pain as I am pushed across the road.
Everything goes black.
I become the lacerated liver that screams from the crushing pain of the seat belt.
I am the incoherent babble on the lips of the blonde haired driver.
I am also the smile that plays across my dying friend’s face.
I am the bright light reflecting off the white coats of the emergency room angels.
The twenty questions the doctors ask are me, too.
I transform into the warm, salty tears streaming down my mother’s cheek; perfect wet orbs
reflecting the pain in her heart.
I am that pain, the sharp dagger ripping out her soul when she gets the dreadful call.
I become the crumpled heap of sorrow and grief that is my mom.
I am the dry, tear less eyes when I am told my friend has died.
I knew.
I felt it, down in my deepest core.
I am the nightmare that will not end.
The eyes that will never open.
The tears that will forever flow.
I am the hate filled eyes of my friend’s father questioning me, asking,
“Why not you? Why not you?”
Why not me?
Because, I am an unfinished book; the pages of life still being written.
I am the smile that invades the mind when eyes close,
and I am the bright blue eyes that captured my heart.
The soft sweet whispers and tender kisses are me, too.
I am the words dancing across the page,
a rough draft yet to be completed.

I wrote this poem in high school after I was involved in a fatal car accident that took the life of my good friend Phil. I was driving him home from lacrosse practice when we were t-boned by a truck at a blind intersection.  I vividly remember turning left and then I remember waking up in the hospital with my priest an my parents standing over me. The in between is a blur. I vaguely recall blurring figures in white shining lights in my eyes. There are voices, and questions, too but it is all a jumbled mess. Someone took my shoes. I think they had to cut my shirt off of me.

“They stole my shoes,” I said to my parents when I woke up.

“Who?” They asked.

“The doctors or someone,” I replied my eyes getting heavy. My dad laughed. In the midst of this tragedy his genuine laugh stands out in my mind. Funny how this was my first thought upon waking. I never did see those shoes again…

When my family and my priest finally told me that Phil was dead, I barely reacted. I already knew. I was having vivid dreams while drifting in and out of consciousness and I had seen it in a dream. My lack of reaction must have scared everyone, because they repeated that Phil was dead.

“I know,” was all I replied and I pretended to go to sleep. I didn’t want to deal with it. I didn’t want to face Phil’s family, or my friends. I dreaded the hate that I knew was coming from my classmates. 

When I finally returned to school, I was bracing for anger, and hate, but all my classmates showed me was kindness, understanding, and love. I was racked with guilt. I blamed myself for Phil’s death. I was certain his parents blamed me too.  I was so sure that the whole world should blame me, that I couldn’t except everyone’s kindness.  I smiled and pretended that things would be okay, but inside I felt hollow. I wanted to die.

Eventually all the pretending to be happy started to morph into what felt like real happiness. Part of me still wanted to die, but I was determined to make the best of my life, because I owed it to Phil. I needed to live life not only for myself,  but for my friend whose time was cut so short. 

So, I set my sights on the University of Michigan and was determined to get in.  When I was accepted into UofM, it was one of the best days of my life.   I got to attend the school of my dreams, I got to play lacrosse there, and I made life long friends.  However, I still hadn’t dealt with my feelings over Phil’s death.

It took me many years and many bottles of whiskey to finally come to terms with the guilt that racked me since Phil died.  That  story, however, is best saved for another day. Just know this, I found happiness, and the guilt finally melted away. I didn’t do it alone. I had great friends, a loving family, and a kick ass dog who all helped me along the way.

Point is, there is always light, even when life feels so dark that you aren’t sure what way you are facing.  I know first hand how hard it is to see the positive amid the sea of negativity, but persevere you shall, because life is too damn good.

Also, I miss those shoes.