Love and Spider-Webs

I’ve been trying to write an email to a friend who has been struggling with similar issues as me. Try as I might, it continues to come out wrong. Rather, it doesn’t come out at all. The words are stuck in my head and never make it down to my fingers.

I want to tell her that everything will be okay. Someday. Not now. Not tomorrow. But someday. We just need to keep plugging along and have hope. Because, really, hope’s all we’ve got. But hope is certainly something worth living for. And with our hope in hand, we know that there will be sunny afternoons and mornings; laughter in the evenings; and peace in our heads when we lie in bed late at night. Just not now. But in a little while. Someday. Maybe soon.

I want to tell her that there is such beauty in the world. No matter how dark our minds are. No matter scary the outside world may seem with all of those people who keep moving, moving, moving and talking, talking, talking until it’s just a cacophony of sound and color. No matter how much we want to put our hands over our ears, close our eyes, and rock back and forth. There is such beauty. There’s snow on the ground right now. And come spring, that air that’s the perfect temperature will envelop us, and we’ll flop onto the damp grass. And it will be lovely in that moment. It will. Because there is such beauty, and it’s worth sticking around to see.

I want to tell her that there is so much love, in spite of everything. That there are too many people to hold close. Too many cats to pet, too many dogs to run with. That just because we’re messed up doesn’t mean that we’re unlovable. That we aren’t loved despite our differences. We’re loved because of them. That our parents would cut off all of their limbs before loosing us, because they love us so much. We could lose everything, and there would still be that love. That love will never, never, never go away. No matter how much everything collapses. It’s worth slamming back against the darkness for all of those people. Hanging on so that we can love them back. And holding each other up with love. That love matters more than anything else.

I want her to know that our demons are only demons and not anything more. Sure, they are a part of us. And perhaps they always will be. But they don’t define us. We’re ourselves when we’ve pushed the demons into hiding. When we’re cheerful and rosy. The dark thoughts and electric jolts of anxiety don’t outshine our ability to read or write. Sometimes we can’t get out of bed. Sometimes we can’t move or speak or open our eyes. Sometimes we can’t do a whole slew of other things. But we can still give awesome hugs. And we can still get out of bed or move or speak or open our eyes. It just happens a little later. A little later on. They’re only demons after all and not our whole selves. We’re too good for that.

I want her to know that there is some sort of romance in the life that we lead. That the power to feel emotions more intensely than others can be a good thing. Such a good and wondrous thing. That the picture of the postcard that I saved from PostSecret many months ago is entirely true. We are a special breed. I firmly believe that if we can feel darkness as deeply as we do, then our happiness can also outshine “normalcy.” We have these moments when we feel a burst of joy, right where that ball of anxiety is normally lodged, and we just know that maybe a few of those scarier times when we thought that nothing could ever be better were worth it.

It is too easy to feel alone. But we never are. We’re standing at the center of a spider-web. That little dot at the center. And all the strands that stick out from that dot to form the first band is our family. And the next, our friends. And after that, our doctors. All the way out until we’ve covered every piece of grass from every place we’ve loved and every grain of sand from every beach upon which we’ve stood. Until it’s all there. Surrounding us and twinkling with dew. And it is lovely, and we aren’t alone any longer. But when the sun comes up and the dew dries, it’s harder to see, but it’s still there. We just have to learn to trust it.

I want her to know that she isn’t lost. We’re right where we’re supposed to be. We’re loved and supported, even when we can’t feel it. We have our spider-webs and our beauty and our gifts and ourselves and it’s never too late for things to start being right. We’re not lost if we’re doing everything we can to push our demons into hiding. Besides, it’s impossible to be lost when you’re loved.

I want her to know that she is understood. That there are so many people reaching out their hands to us, asking to help, asking us to let them in, asking to relieve some of the pain. We just have to learn to let them. We have to hold out our arms and ask for help, cry out for it, when the darkness threatens to swallow us whole. They know that we need help. Sometimes, we just have to learn to better ask for it.

Most of all, I want her to know that I care. That even if she doesn’t think that anyone else does (And they do, oh I promise her that they do.), I care. I am here. I am here with an open laptop and phone. I am here waiting to listen. To understand. To crack horrible, terrible, horrendous jokes. To listen when she cries. To try to offer some sort of advice. I am here. Ready. Waiting. Even at three a.m. I am here. And I care. Just like everyone else in her spider web. And I am holding out my arms, begging for her to let me in when she needs it.

[Insert name here], I am here. And I love you.

The Cheeriest Day Ever

Sometimes I just can’t get out of bed. Sometimes I feel so anxious that all I can do is curl up in a ball. Sometimes I feel so scared that I can’t talk. Sometimes I feel so impulsive that I have to will myself to stay put. Sometimes I feel so depressed that I can’t open my eyes. Sometimes I am so panicked that I can’t suck in air fast enough.

And sometimes all of those things happen at once. Welcome to Ella’s Saturday, ladies and gentlemen.

Two Facts and a Wish

Fact: Today, I had lunch by myself in a restaurant.

Explanation: It was the first day of midterm week, and I only had one test, which was great. I came in at eight, sat and listened to a string of presentations, and then had to leave. Of course, I had no way to get home, because it’s over two and a half miles, and I was an IDIOT and wore moccasins. (Clearly, I will never learn.) They were cute, thin, and black and looked so nice with my ballet sweater. What they did not do was protect my feet from the snow.

While I only had one test, all of my friends had two. So essentially, I was stranded with no where to go for two hours. After making plans with Cecelia to meet up later, I started my  lollygagging adventure. I stole Cecelia’s book and headed off towards the Plaza, which is a part of town with a bunch of stores and restaurants, mostly centered around a small park. I wandered my way over to the bookstore, which is independent and all blond wood floors and maple bookshelves. After picking up a million books and reading the blurbs on the back, I ordered a critical biography of Kate Chopin for my senior thesis. But I so wanted to buy out the whole store. Or at least the whole short story section.

Then, I faced a huge ethical dilemma. Do I go buy crêpes or go to the coffee/tea house? The coffee/tea house won out, and I took up residence at a table in the back. Much cozier and private. I had been so anxious an hour earlier that I had been scratching my arm ferociously (a fast way to an interestingly shaped scar), but when I was sitting in a black wooden chair, running my finger over the contours of my teacup, and admiring the tin ceiling, it all slipped away. Everything was lovely and peaceful again. No more racing thoughts, it was just me and a cup of peppermint tea, a book, and the impending arrival of a BLT on thick Texas toast and a raspberry banana milkshake.

It always surprises me just how lovely it is to go out for something entirely on my own. You would think that it would just exacerbate my problem of getting entirely lost in my head and unhappy thoughts, but every time it ends up calming me down. In so many ways it’s just as nice, or maybe even nicer, than going with other people. There’s less noise and fewer decisions to make. There’s an odd amount of solace and tranquility in sitting in restaurants alone, and after today’s success, I plan to do it more often.

Fact: Today, Cecelia and I made the last VERY minute decision to go see The Kings Speech, and it was amazing.

Explanation: Cecelia and I have been meaning to see The King’s Speech ever since it came out. But like so many things that my friends and I mean to do, the plan kept falling through. I wouldn’t get out of bed, she’d be babysitting, we’d both have homework, the list goes on. So today when Cecelia drove me back to my house in Jeff the Stationwagon (we were planning to study for AP Government and Politics midterm on Monday), we talked about trying again to see it this weekend. After I managed to somehow attach my glove to the newspaper bag, and Jeff managed to block a school bus, we looked up show times. And lo and behold, there was a showing at 4:10, and it was 3:51. We looked at each other, nodded, and ran out of the house.

I ran in to buy the tickets, and Cecelia found a spot downtown. I think that we were the only ones in there under the age of 60. But that never matters to me; I love old people. And the film was excellent. Absolutely excellent. Cecelia got her fill of the ever handsome Collin Firth, and I made a long mental list of things to Wikipedia when I got home.

I’m very rarely spontaneous, so it was exhilarating to rush downtown, willing the cars in front of us to actually drive at the speed limit and for there to be a perfect parking space on the street. It was wonderful to dash into the theatre, hurriedly buy tickets and pace back and forth, waiting for Cecelia to come running through the door, so that we could hurry down the thin red carpeted hallway to the theatre door and tiptoe down the aisle, whispering about what the best remaining seats were. (The run-on sentence award of the the week goes to Ella.) The excitement was invigorating, and I felt truly happy for the first time in weeks.

Wish: I wish every day could be as filled with as much happiness and peace as today.

The Other Kind of Feedback

Yesterday, I was sitting at the table, working on some school assignment and struggling to get through it without a panic attack, when I decided to check my inbox. (Productive procrastination is all the rage ’round these parts.) Besides the normal junk emails, like the ones telling me that it’s not too late to apply to some college that I have no interest in going to, there was one from my father with “feedback” as the subject line. I thought, Oh dear. I don’t think that I’ve done anything that would have caused feedback. I haven’t touched anything in his recording studio in a month. Maybe it was because I messed with the speaker system in the study.

But I was wrong! (And Dad, I’ll fix the speakers. Promise.) It turns out that he sent one of my short stories, the one I posted at the beginning of the month, to a writer that he’s friends with through work (he’s a publisher), and she liked it! Here’s what she said:

For this past semester, I’ve been sitting in on an undergraduate fiction class, observing before teaching my own next year.  It’s composed mostly of sophomores and juniors and I can honestly tell you that very few of them produce writing on the level of Ella’s piece. Its prose is poised and filled with thoughtfully chosen details–of both internal and external states. In other words, especially for something a seventeen-year-old produced of her own volition, it’s pretty damn good.

I’m feeling a little more confident about my writing capabilities. And confidence, for this girl, is hard to come by.

It’s Been One Snow-Filled Month

There has officially been snow on the ground for a month. One WHOLE month. And the weather has decided to celebrate this month-iversary? (weirdest term) 1/12 anniversary? by hitting us with yet another snow storm. I’m positively ecstatic.

Naturally, I’ve been thinking about snow a lot. I’ve actually been counting down to this day for the last two weeks. I mean, there were a few days where I thought, if these 37° F days keep happening, it’s all going to melt away! There was this one snow-free patch in the corner of the backyard for a few days and all the snow on one side of the garage roof melted twice, but it kept snowing and snowing and snowing all month long. A small part of me thinks the only reason it’s lasted so long is by my sheer force of will, and that same part of me feels more than a little bit smug.

And because this is all I have thought about it, it’s also been all I’ve talked about and all I’ve obsessively checked on the internet. Here is a list of today’s snow-related things:

Number of times I have looked out of the window at the snow: ∞

Number of times I have informed the public that there has been snow on the ground for a month: ~50

Number of times I stated the obvious and announced that it’s snowing: ~30

Number of times I have checked 17

Number of times I have told anyone in the general vicinity of the latest weather report and accumulation predictions: 17

Number of times I have checked the school district’s site: 14

Number of times I have seen the red banner and gotten tricked into thinking that they’ve cancelled school tomorrow rather than announcing that today’s after-school activities have been cancelled: 12

Number of times that I have announced to whomever is listening that that banner NEEDS to be in a different color: 12

Number of times I have refreshed the page to see if it’s changed: 12

Number of times it’s remained static: 12

Number of times I went through my text inbox and internet history to compile this highly scientific and useful data: 6

On Being the Only Girl

Whenever we have to break up into groups at school I usually end up working with the same group of girls. Tal, Lily, Cecelia, and I do make a great team and we have fun, but being in the same group for every project doesn’t really lend itself to creating new experiences. Besides, I spend loads of time with them outside of school.

So today, when my AP Lit teacher told us to break up into groups and construct a timeline of the history of literature based on our memory and whatever other resources we could find in the classroom, I didn’t scurry across the room to my friends. I stayed put. And sure enough, Noah and Micah turned to me and said, “Hey, wanna be in a group with the two of us? I think that Miles and Ethan are going to be joining our group, too.” And I said, “Okay!” Then, I turned to see Don and Milky/Champ pull up desks, too.

And it was great. Miles pulled out his iPhone to look up lists of important texts, a few of us nabbed some tenth-grade textbooks, we stole our teacher’s Abram’s Literary Terms, and I was the scribe, because I said that I had decent handwriting. Of course, the moment that I started trying to write everything that was coming out of people’s mouths, it turned into a disaster. (Well, not really, but it wasn’t especially pretty.) There was loads of laughter, some football talk, a few arguments over whether or not Marx deserved a space on the timeline or if “Greek Dramas” was too vague, and lots of funny stories being passed around. And when we got to the Anglo-Saxons, I proudly told everyone that dear Pippa can recite large sections of the Canterbury Tales in Middle English and was the very best in her class.

When our teacher walked around, she couldn’t help but laugh at our group. It looked like we were adhering to gender stereotypes (though of course no sexism was really at play). I, the only girl out of a group of seven, was sitting in a desk that was both shorter and older and scribbling away as fast I could as the boys shouted out authors, works, dates, and movements. If I knew shorthand, the picture would be complete, and my hand would have been much happier.

And when the bell rang and the screeching of metal desks against the linoleum floor  made me want to cover my ears, I though, I really need to do this more often.

So there you have it. Not only did Ella return to school after not going for over a week, but she also stepped out of her comfort zone and was the only girl in her group in AP Lit.

The Great Comma Confusion

I am an overzealous user of commas. I mean a really, really bad one. And most of the time the rest of my grammar isn’t all that fabulous either. This is probably because the only year that I had an official grammar class (40 minutes, every day) was fifth grade, and I spent most of that time trying to avoid being kicked under the table by a girl named Hannah.

I try, I really do. And I did do quite well on the Writing section of my SATs (Being in the 98 percentile isn’t too shabby), so I can’t be all that awful.

So this is my big, official apology to anyone reading this blog who finds themselves thinking, “Geez, this girl does not know how to use a comma, and sometimes her grammar gets really…uh…creative.”

The Truth and Hybrid-Powered Roller-Coasters

I started writing this post yesterday, but, for some inexplicable reason, stopped in the middle, forgot about it, and wrote this instead. Sometimes, I don’t understand myself.

Today was not a good day. In fact, it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. I had started a new medication last night, and it was throwing me for a loop. I was rather woozy and all of joints felt tingly and weak. So I spent all day lying in bed. Thankfully, there was snow on the ground and lots of flurries to watch. I also read “Twelve Angry Men”, which is my third favorite play, after “The Crucible” and “Inherit the Wind”, of course.

So as I’m lying there feeling oh so fabulous, my mind starts to wander as it’s wont to do, and I started to think about this Vlogbrothers video that I watched on Wednesday:

Because the truth really does “resist simplicity”, and there are no easy answers. Even in maths and science. Though sometimes I really wish that there were. Because I’m no good at maths. Except not really, because if the truth were simple, life would be boring. Incredibly boring, in fact. Because we would have nothing to question, nothing to continue to test. We continue running into apparent brick walls, because we are convinced, and in many cases rightly so, that someday, we’ll be able to smash through them because we aren’t entirely sure of their durability.

But back to my ineptitude at maths (Why do Americans drop the “s”? It’s “mathematics“.). I want a simple solution; I want it to be easy. I want an entire amusement park to run on hybrid drive. But nothing works like that. Because that would violate the First Law of Thermodynamics and, well, the nature of life. Even my go-to solution of duct-tape isn’t entirely simple. Sometimes it sticks to itself and sometimes it just doesn’t work.

So as I was laying there thinking about truth and simplicity, I realized that there wasn’t a panacea for the funk that I had fallen into, because it wasn’t that simple. It’s going to take a heck of a lot of different factors and a heck of a lot of hard work to come up with a difficult solution and the truth of where the problem lies.

And that is my convoluted philosophy for the day.

Glittery Flower Stickers and Marble Composition Notebooks

Last Saturday, I went to Cecelia’s to spend the night. And this was nice on three counts.

1) I escaped a house full of shrieking girls. (Pippa took the train home last Saturday for the weekend. And since she was going to be belatedly celebrating her birthday, she took two friends home with her, as well. Then, bright and early on Saturday, the house was invaded by even more screaming girls until Sunday morning. The chorus of “Oh my God! Wait, what? Yeah, and then I was like…” is still ringing in my ears.)

2) My friends and I are always too busy to spend much time together. Or so it feels.

3) Cecelia and I had some serious business to attend to.

Cecelia and I gathered up all of our old diaries and spent about two hours going through them. Most of them were filled with entries like this:

“Today, I went to rehearsal. I hung out with Sadie and Audrey there. We had fun. I had beets for dinner. Gross! Today I wore my Snoopy shirt. I looked really cool.”

Then, I found a journal from eighth grade, which was full of short stories and very odd missives. And while most of it was melodramatic, plain awful, or trite, there were a few great sentences and good entries. Here’s an excerpt, so you can see exactly what I mean:

I watch the stars grow stronger and the bonfire grow brighter. I can see the golden embers sparks swim like goldfish in the navy blue sky. For a moment, I am free. For a moment, I run through sun-filled, tree-lined meadows and dance in the pearly-white misty hollows. For a moment, I am only Ella, solely and wholly me, until I let myself drift back to Earth and listen to you sing those songs of lost love and smile.

We laughed at our old selves until close to one. And I thought to myself, once Cecelia had fallen asleep, Gosh, I am so glad that I am not 13 anymore.