Battle: A story of butchery

“She thought she could, so she did.”

This is on the header of a blog I followed for a long time, and I’ve always loved it. It’s similar in feeling to my own header, and it’s resonated with me for a long time.

Back when I was still in new girl training, right before I got into the league, I had a moment where I realized that derby had shown me I am able, able to do the things I thought were impossible before. If only I am willing to work hard & put the effort in over the long haul, I can accomplish pretty much anything. Things aren’t unavailable to me just because of who I am–they are free for the taking, if you can climb high enough.

This recognition usually reappears in moments where I build something that works, when I master a recipe, when I learn to like someone I had not previously. Generally smaller things; emotionally, anyway.

And then they are times when my mettle is tested, when battle is upon me. Times when I don’t feel like I CAN do something, but I MUST. There is no one else to do the thing that must be done.

Monday night was one of those times.

I came home, exhausted from an emotionally draining day, only to be happily greeted by…

dogs….on the other side of the (closed) garden fence.

behind them, a rabbit caravan…dog-sized holes ripped out of the fencing.

And a rabbit, stretched out & motionless, underneath his hutch.

I felt myself shut down. The last time Hero killed my livestock, it was my fault, I had been neglectful of their safety. This time? It was 100% on him and his monster instincts. How could he do this to me again? Doesn’t he love me? Doesn’t he know how stressed I am already, and that he just compounded it by 400%?! I was SO frustrated by the animal kingdom in that moment–it is never FAIR, it just IS. It cannot be controlled, regulated, or predicted. It is violence without malice, instinct without consideration. And I forget that about my dogs sometimes.

After I calmed down, I put the living rabbit in a dog kennel, and grabbed gloves & an empty feed sack. I prepared myself to handle a body (the stiffness always freaks me out). But then I touched it, and it moved. I almost pissed myself.

Moving slowly, I stroked his back, looked for signs of injury. None, but he wasn’t moving, he was definitely in shock. I wrapped him in a towel & heating pad, brought him inside, and held him for about half an hour in the sewing room, getting for the first time a chance to really look at him up close. And he was just as cute as you’d expect a bun to be. I could feel the wall I’d built between food & pet begin to crack a bit–I wanted him to pull through for his sake.

However, when I went to check on him an hour later, his breathing had gone from rapid & heavy to nonexistent–the shock had done him in. Rabbits are pretty fragile that way. And he was still limp–newly dead. Reminding myself I had touched him only a short while ago, I picked him up and debated what to do.

I didn’t want to put him in the compost–my pile is not hot enough to decompose an entire body. The trash can wasn’t an option–I had an entire week before the next pickup. And I couldn’t put him in the greenbelt outside my property–I don’t want predators to start associating this place with a free meal.

Then the thought flashed into my mind–i was going to raise him to be the father of meat rabbits…why couldn’t I try butchering him? He wasn’t ill or broken. Hero never broke the skin. Providence had given me the chance to try butchering before needing to kill another living thing (which I’ve never done). I could see if I wanted to even bother rebuilding my meat rabbitry.

But it felt impossible, so I placed him in the box Jon built me for my back patio–outside it was colder than any fridge. I went to bed, so ready for the day to be over. But I couldn’t sleep. I laid there, wondering how long you could wait after they’re dead to clean them, wondering if there was a shop in town that would take care of it for me in morning. So I started googling. And then started watching slaughter videos on youtube. And as I watched them, I knew I had to do it. It wasn’t anyone else’s responsibility. It had fallen to me, at this time, with no one to call to beg for help. Alone on an island of time and circumstance. Either I did it now, or it couldn’t be done.

As I got dressed, I started to think through the process–what would the reality look like? What did I need to do? Was I actually going to be able to go through with it? Could I do that to another creature?

I sharpened the knives & kitchen shears, grabbing the meat cutting board. It had been about forty minutes since death, and I knew rigor mortis would start to set in. I searched for the best way to hang him–no rope was available. I ended up using curtain ties, tied to a bar on the side of my porch.

When I retrieved the rabbit from the box, I could tell it was already stiffening. I grabbed him by the back legs, like the guys in the video did, which helped with the whole “stiff-body” thing. My heart had already started to pound a little, and as I positioned his head over the side of the board, over the bucket, I felt more than a twinge of doubt & nausea. Was this right? Was this who I wanted to be?

Definitely stiff now, I rewatched the same bit of video a few times, but it took a bit to figure out where to put my super sharp knife. And even then, I couldn’t bring myself to push down. I set down the knife, and walked to the back fence, breathing hard, pulse racing. I begged the stars to do it for me. I willed my neighbor to walk out his back door, but it was 3am at this point–no one would rescue me. It was me or nobody, and i would lose my chance to learn if I should continue with this endeavor or not. I fervently wished there was someone to guide me. How on earth was I supposed to get this right, with no one to coach me!? I was sure to mess it up.

And then I thought about all the women before me, in all times & places, to whom butchering a rabbit was a necessity of life. All the people who had made-do with a rough situation, who had done what they needed to for survival. This was nowhere near that level of commitment. This wasn’t impossible! This wasn’t establishing peace in a war-torn country, or standing up for civil rights! I wasn’t making a life-or-death decision, I had no money to lose or gain by this. It was only a rabbit, not even a pet. I could do this, and it didn’t have to be so agonizing. I couldn’t think of the rabbit as a victim of Hero’s crime. He wasn’t an innocent bystander–animals are, by their very nature, free of both innocence AND evil–they have no intentions, only instincts. I had bought this rabbit to help feed me, and so he would.

WARNING: THINGS ARE ABOUT TO GET GRAPHIC FOR A BIT.

I picked up the knife, and instead of pushing down, started to “saw” a bit. When I felt give, and saw the blood & fur on the knife, that’s when I knew it was real. There was no pretending it wasn’t dead. That wasn’t jelly. It was blood, and I drew it.

I could not get through the vertebrae, until I remembered Jon had just repaired my hatchet this very weekend. Sharp and shiny, it hung off the firewood rack. I cried aloud as I used it to chop through his neck bones–that was the very hardest, the very worst part of the whole bit. I had to use the knife to get through the other side, and then! It was done. The head was off.

I used the ties to hang it up, and slowly started the process of turning the rabbit into meat. I had watched many videos, but ended up using one as a reference, going back again and again, for each step. Until about halfway through (literally), when I figured out how much of the goal was to get his insides on the outside. And once the skin came off, once the rabbit was recognizable as meat, things got a lot easier–it wasn’t a bunny, it was a project in sustainability. In being part of the cycle.

As I started cutting the skin, and opening the body, I felt more doubt creep in–this was not who I am! I am the most squeamish of all my siblings, the non-hunter, the one who will not touch a toad or stomp on a roach. But I sternly told myself that if I was not willing to do this, I was not allowed to eat meat ever again. I will not allow myself to be removed from the process anymore–it’s not fair, it denies the animal the recognition of their sacrifice to feed me, if I just pretend death is not a part of the gift. It is the ultimate superiority complex. So if I wanted to continue as an omnivore, I had to participate, at least once. I could become this woman, who took things in stride as they came, who could thank the rabbit for his gift & accept her place in the cycle.

The skin wasn’t very easy to pull off (too cold at this point), and I had some squeamishness at sliding my fingers between the skin and his strong muscles, but that was nothing compared to slitting open the belly. I was extremely careful–you don’t want to open up intestines or the whole thing is ruined. And then I thought “Ok no, THIS is the worst part” when the innards began to slide outward over the slit, when they hung there over the bucket while I searched for the attachment point. And the smell! Warm shit, encased in blood. I started to wonder if I could eat something that smelled like that, if perhaps it would be better to feed the hawks & coyotes. But once it was out and bucketed, the potency started to fade and I pressed on, ready to be done, ready for a shower & bed.

The rest of it went fairly easily, if slowly. Pulling the skin down, cutting off paws. Taking it down, cleaning all the random bits off. Tying up the bag of innards & fur for freezing (until trash day). Washing all the knives & cutting board. Rinsing it off, washing my bloody hands. Spraying down the patio & bucket. Then, unsure what do with a whole animal, I started to cut it up. And figured, hey! It’s 5 am. I might as well start cooking this in stew, low & slow. Ready for lunch when I wake up again. So I chopped potatoes, carrots, onions…and made rabbit stew.

It was delicious, but difficult to eat. It’s not that I was attached to that rabbit particularly. There’s just a disconnect, a “desynch” really, between the knowledge that I had held that rabbit in my arms, had seen his life force slowly drain, and then eventually had pulled the cooked meat from the backbone. It was a long road but a short hop, and I’m still staggering a bit from the reality that animals really do transform into  hamburgers, chicken fried steak, pork chops, BBQ, steak….there is no escaping it. It has always been more abstract, but the bloody concrete truth is there now, cemented in my mind.

I have not really been hungry for meat since then. I only ate one bowl of stew–I’m sure I’ll eat more, later. Just, not right now. I’ll get used to the idea, I’ll absorb the power of it, and I’ll probably continue trying to keep rabbits for meat. I know I can do it. That’s the important thing.

It was not easy, but it was possible.

 

 

One Thing After Another

Hard days. Hard, hard days.

“This period of transition in my life has been far more challenging than I thought it would be.”

I have written that same sentence THREE TIMES in the last week in my phone notes. Pulling together all my disjointed thoughts for this post, I kept coming across this phrase, almost word-for-word each time. But it feels the most appropriate thing to say right now. Working from home, while a very privileged position, is also quite unromantic: the guilt if I’m at home but not in front of my computer, how I forget to shower for three days, how I wear the same thing two days in a row. There is the expected struggle for time management, the surprisingly difficult call for discipline, the absolute need for balance between working and living at home, and the loneliness I thought I would relish, but it is all harder and scarier than I expected.

But instead of being able to work through this stress, to dealing with it one bite at a time, scarier and more frustrating problems simply pile on. The dog gets attacked on a walk. The truck breaks down. A coyote breaks into the rabbit circus. The dog run fence gets knocked down and babysat dogs run wild. Hero squirms his way into the rabbit circus and actually kills one of the buns.

I try to remind myself that this is only a brief moment, that I won’t be here in this frustration & disappointment forever. But this has happened and been happening for more than a week straight–a week of high alert & stressful make-do’s that fall apart at the most inconvenient moment possible. Last week, I had a day where I woke up, and felt that the tidal wave had passed, that all the bad was behind me and I had regained control, had wrestled with something mighty and been victorious. Yesterday, I learned how illusory control is, but it’s a laundry list of “and then THIS happened” so I’ll spare you the details.

I am trying my very hardest to remember that every mistake is a lesson–this didn’t work, so try that. Each time something fails, you must find a way to make it stronger, to bounce back more resilient. But I have had so many failures, so many mistakes in such a short amount of time. It’s discouraging, it makes me question my ability to accomplish, which is something i have learned to prize. Maybe that’s the problem?

Should I focus on letting go of the idea of control? Do I search for structure & order here, or do I let things happen organically, in their course? There are two sides to it–on the one hand, I feel like order & discipline are necessary to succeed in self-employment….but on the other hand, I have to question what the definition of “success” SHOULD be. Certainly, the opportunity to keep doing this, but I want to make sure the cost of time & stress working for companies I don’t support doesn’t cut into or outweigh the things I enjoy about my home.

I have no answer for this. No tidy summary, no elegant conclusion. It just is. Right now, in this moment, it’s a stressful, tear-inducing situation. Each day, I am terrified of what is going to go wrong THAT day. I am skittish at every bark, every noise, certain it’s the other shoe dropping (whoever owns those shoes has A LOT of feet). At night, I stay up until I’m so tired I can’t work, then pass out in bed so I don’t worry. I cannot see how it will end, but I’m praying it does.

Send ice cream, please.

A Necessary Good

About six weeks ago, I was in the middle of marketing for two or three really large projects. Working late, forgetting to eat lunch, still not enough hours in the day to finish everything. Nearing the end of the craziness, I had a moment where everything crystallized and I thought “I really hate this.” Not the stress, or the busy-ness. The work itself.

I’ve had moments in my life of such clarity–an insistent prompting from my heart that was impossible to ignore. A few times in college (one that led to a degree change mid-way through junior year), and twice in my adult life. Each time, it has been the truest desire surfacing: the thing I actually, really wanted–the hidden part of my heart begging for recognition. Each time that I’ve listened to it, I’ve been led to a place of deeper fulfillment.

So when I heard this Voice, i was a little taken aback. Sure, I don’t have a degree in Marketing, and I absolutely hate salesman and feeling even a tiny bit like one. I’ve known for a while I wasn’t very good at marketing and that I didn’t really want to do it, but I really enjoy the people I work with and the company I work for. I knew that if I didn’t buck up and try harder to like it AND be successful at it, I wouldn’t have a job for much longer. So to hear it so startlingly clear, so unapologetically forward, I cringed a bit. I HAD to like it. There wasn’t much of a choice.

I’ve been doing a lot of re-evaluating of my life and the choices I make lately, thanks in large part to several of the more severe blogs I read. One of them, Whole Larder Love, is written by a man who is passionate about the change Real Food can make in your life. He was a total consumer: overweight, seriously unhealthy, and dependent on medications, alcohol, and food products. Deciding he wanted to live a better life, he’s been raising, hunting, or foraging the food for his family, writing a cookbook, teaching workshops, and building a hefty blog following, all the while improving his health and finding peace.

One of the ways he changed his life was by walking away from his IT job to focus more on growing his own food, and doing odd jobs to support him and his family. He learned to garden, hunt, fish, and forage. He is insistent that his removal from the cycle of consumerism and insertion into the natural rhythms of the world is one of the ways he’s begun to heal, and that it’s also one of the most important ways we’ll be able to heal our planet. His message is unapologetic & clear: we should not be constantly taking but giving back as well, nurturing the cycle of life & death and acknowledging the impact we have on our communal home.

After my body-love breakthrough a few months ago, I’ve been steadily working at changing some basic things–rejecting grains & sugars in my diet, drinking enough water during the day, incorporating basic workouts into my week, using natural-based soaps & shampoos, and turning to essential oils & herbs for my medicine. It has been a slow, steady, and fruitful exercise in discipline.

I’ve long believed in eating organically & locally, using less and recycling more, making my own hygiene products, rejecting chemicals in my food/water/shampoo, etc. I just haven’t been as active about it as I can be, because convenience & laziness won out more and more. But I’ve been on a journey of recognition & renewal these last six months, working to align my actions with my beliefs. The realization that this body is TRULY the only one i get and that there is no “next time” has revitalized my efforts to be as kind to my body and world as I can be. If I want to be healthy and energetic and truly experience what is out there while I am here, then I am the only one who can make these things happen. No one else cares about my body the way I can. No one else will fight for my well-being the way I will. I am the sole decision-maker for my health.

I’ve read Rohan for a few years now, and it may be a cumulative effect, but after I heard my heart’s Pronouncement, I started to somewhat seriously mull over what it would look like in my own life if I started to live it the way I believed it should be lived in every facet, if I took the same brave steps he did. While I have been working on personal choices that affect my internal world, I started to wonder what it would look like if I started applying it externally, if I stopped doing things I hated and started doing things I loved.

And then the Boss’s niece started working as our “marketing intern” a few weeks ago, and she is 100% better at it than I was, even on my best day. It helps she has a business degree and that she actually enjoys a lot of what’s required here. When I realized that within two days of starting that she’d effectively taken over the marketing part of my job, I started to wonder if I could still do all our transcription (about 25 hours of work a week)….and quit the security of my full-time job.

A large part of this was motivated by the very real stress of commuting through Austin traffic five days a week, the aches & knots in my shoulders and neck from sitting in front of a computer for 40 hours a week, and feeling like my only contribution to the world was imaginary. I longed to use my body, to contribute in a real, healthy way to the world. I wished to do something that would have an impact, that wouldn’t be part of a mindset that says you should work towards your own personal solvency first & foremost. But the thought of no insurance and losing half my income weighed just as heavily as the burdens of stress and physical aches.

So I ignored that Voice. I tried to ignore the dreams planting themselves in my mind, pushing through the cracks into every moment of my life, demanding my attention even during sleep.

Until.

My Boss and my boss told me that they were giving me a few weeks, but that I would be moving into a part-time position, with the benefit of being able to work at home–a long-coveted dream come true. And instead of fright, instead of pain & bewilderment, I felt relief; immense relief. My heart lifted and wept with tears of gratitude. It seems dramatic to say so; let me tell you: it is nothing short of the truth. I felt like bowing down in gratitude. Not to them, but to the Creator of dreams & opportunities. This had been birthed regardless of my hesitation. My dreams were so powerful they pushed past my hesitancy to make them reality.

Of course, once I had moved past the initial joy, fear came creeping in, pad-footed like a cat. It stole up next to me, reminded me of a mortgage, utilities, student loan payments. I felt the zing of rejection from my company, started to question what my place had ever been in the fold. I had a few tears of self-pity, but soon enough I shook myself and reminded myself this would only be negative if I allowed it to be. I’m choosing to see the opportunity, the overwhelming gift that it truly is.

Boss told me, at the end of our conversation, that the best piece of advice he’d ever received was “Leap, and the net will appear”. Which is easy to say when you’ve got health insurance, but I’ve been trying to keep the mindset that what brought me to this precipice will see me over it. So here’s to a new adventure. I raise a steaming cup of tea on this cold soggy Sunday to the future, and all of its wonderful, terrifying possibilities.

Kitchen Updating

A month ago, I spent a few hours in my kitchen deep-cleaning. It hadn’t been that clean since before I moved in, and it felt so amazing to know how much cleaner the place was. BUT, in cleaning it, I realized how very out-dated and poorly-built some parts of it was. The cabinets, which had been (hastily) painted in order to sell the house, were painted an ugly shade of yellow-beige, with a strange matte paint that showed every single grease splatter or drop of liquid. The hardware was small & a horrible fake finish. The choice of wall color was uninspiring to the palate, to say the least–a cross between vomit & pea green. And of course, the infernal popcorn ceiling that permeated the house (i’m about 80% clear of it now though! Two more rooms to go!) was still darkening the kitchen & dining nook. I knew I wanted to update very soon, but if there is one word to describe my life right now, it’s “BUSY”. I didn’t think I had the time to fit in a kitchen remodel.

And then three weeks ago, Jon left for an extended motorcycle road trip. One night, in the few hours before practice, I decided that instead of playing my xbox, I would do something productive to my house. For some reason, I thought that I should probably pull all the contact paper off the shelves in the cabinet, you know, just because. And then somehow the putty knife was in my hand and I was scraping the popcorn from the soffits. And making a mess. So I emptied the counters, along with the cabinets. So then I figured while I was scraping the soffits and the kitchen was empty, the ceiling needed to go too. And that’s what started it. Because if I was going to scrape & repaint the ceiling, I might as well repaint the walls…and those cabinets too, right? So in the past few weeks, I’ve:

  • scraped, sanded, repaired, and painted the ceiling
  • updated the ceiling vent
  • replaced the kick boards under the sink & cabinets (a desperate need–that’s where the bugs were coming from!)
  • replaced the basic baseboards with more architecturally interesting baseboards
  • painted the walls a lovely lavender grey
  • primed & painted the cabinets Bistro White
  • replaced all the hardware on said cabinets (lowers & drawers–on the uppers I kept the doors off to keep it feeling light & airy)
  • Tiled a backslash of white subway tile (!!!)
  • Replaced the tiny light fixture above the sink
  • Replaced the stainless steel sink with a white cast-iron (with a ORBed faucet) [ok actually this is still on my to-do list but it’s getting done this week]

It’s as light and airy as galley kitchen can be, and now i want to be in there all the time! The tile backsplash made the biggest difference–it bounces all the light around and is so glossy and beautiful, and is super easy to clean besides. Of course there are a few more things to be done–little touchups to the ceiling paint, the garage door cleaned & painted to match, a new round dining table to acquire. I need to strip the crappy contact paper from the bottom cabinets & replace it with white contact paper. I’m not going to paint the insides of these cabinets because they’re so dark & the doors are staying on them, so no one will really see the insides. Plus the pots & pans need to be organized better to reflect how I actually use this kitchen. I’d like to redo the pantry while I’m at it–there’s still this hideous 1975 brown shag carpet (that I’m positive is original to the house), as well as metal shelving covered in a brown plaid contact paper.

This wasn’t meant to be an itemized description–a “look at what i can do!” The whole point was to say this–this weekend I spent a LOT of time in my kitchen. I made bread & butter pickles, pickled onions, made some indonesian quick pickles (“quickles” if you’re Jon) and then the next day, made an indonesian fried rice dish to go with them that was awesome. I feel inspired, ready to bake & can & experiment to my heart’s content. I WANT to be in my kitchen, I actually don’t mind doing the dishes. I want to have friends over and make good food for them and stay up late drinking Dark & Stormy’s & playing Halo in teams.

It’s a nice change, to feel like I am inhabiting my house, to feel like I can utilize the best way. I am feeling like this cheap 1970’s cottage is turning into an outward expression of it’s owner, I am beginning to be proud of my home when people walk into it. I still have plenty of things i want to do (acquiring more furniture is on the list for sure!) but at this point–come on over. We’ll have tea and maybe make something fabulous. Or we’ll battle in Halo and you’ll probably win. Or we’ll light the fire pit and eat smores and drink beer and play the ukelele and swing in the hammock. It’ll be fabulous.

Fearfully, Wonderfully.

Thank you for my body. Thank you for my body. Thank you for my body. 

The other night, after a physically demanding weekend with not enough sleep and too much activity, I laid submerged in a steamy hot epsom salt bath, all but my nose and mouth underwater. I stilled my movements, quieted my breathing, and listened to the strong and regular thump-thump of my heartbeat. It seemed the song of an old friend. I felt such affection for it in that moment, and soon a sweeping wonder at my whole entire being. How many things that could go wrong, and yet did not. How many chemical reactions and balances and conversions must happen every moment of every day to keep me upright, mobile, sentient, and sane. I marveled that my blood stays its course, that my muscles move when i ask them to, that I eat food and it nourishes me and rebuilds me, that the timing on all of this is so perfect–the craftsmanship of a grandfather clock multiplied by infinity. Gratitude overwhelmed me–I wanted to say, ‘Thank you that I am alive when others are not, that I am healthy when others are not, that I am free, that it all works and is held together, when others are not” but all I could get out were those words. My body is a wholly wonderful, marvelous, beautiful thing.

It made me really reevaluate a lot of the things I think & say about it, put into it, put on top of it, and do to it. Viewing my body as a marvelous machine, even briefly, really made me stop wanting to call it ugly, fat, depressing. I may have more round than I’d like. I may not be as slim, a bit more pooch-bellied than I’d like, but I am still capable of everything i need to do (ok, unless you ask me for pull-ups). I have a new tenderness towards my body–I have not treated it as well as it deserves at all times, and I’m pledging to cut down on the wear & tear. I feel renewed, full of zeal–ready to rededicate myself to clean living & a healthy outlook on life. I have a lot of goals, some of them quite lofty, but just because it seems daunting is no reason to stop before I start! I’d like to go into more detail, but rather than get super wordy today, I’ll save those for another day. But here are the basic parameters i want to renew in my life. They feel a bit like resolutions, but perhaps that is because I am so resolute this time:

1. A fully committed Primal/Paleo diet supplemented with homegrown or farmer-grown vegetables
2. Daily movement/exercise
3. Daily gratitude/love/meditation
4. Essential Oils incorporated into my bathing routines, homemade cleaning products, pet care, and aromatherapy
5. Learning about & incorporating herbalism into my daily routines and for preventative care
6. Abstaining from as many unnatural or unpronounceable chemicals as possible, even when it means getting rid of a lot of makeup.

In the end, it is the only body I am going to get–it’s this or nothing. We’re on a journey together, and if I hate my companion then what a miserable trip it will be.

 

Vulnerability

when i was in college, i had a crush on this one guy (one of many through the years). he wasn’t super popular, super cute, or super brainy. he was just a nice guy, a man girls felt at ease around, a man I suspect had had very few girls crush on him in his life. but still, a man i was comfortable admitting a crush on to my close friends.

on some random weekend trip to the nearest mall (an hour away) this guy told a mutual friend he suspected I liked him. That was it–he only told her he suspected it, without judgement or disgust. But I immediately stopped making eye contact, stopped smiling at him or making any sort of conversation. I was embarrassed that he knew, that he could pick up on it, that i had been so obvious. (which really, isn’t that what we want? to have someone know we’re interested and be interested back?) i don’t think i ever said another word to him, ever again.

it’s an all-too-familiar scene, albeit one more routinely conducted in middle or high schools. I just never really outgrew it. I suspect that even today, were something like this to happen, I would still blush and clam up. (it’s honestly a miracle Jon and I ever got together).

you know there is no happy ending here for K and me: he started dating the woman who would become his wife just a few short weeks later. of course i think everything turned out the way it was supposed to, but there’s still a part of me that questions what that alternate reality would have looked like, if i had been brave enough to admit my attraction and own my feelings. It doesn’t matter who you are, really–whenever a person encounters a fork in the road, there is always going to be the question of what lay down the other path (you can, I’m sure, insert the appropriate Frost reference here). i know there are billions of stories like this throughout history–fear of rejection has shaped more lives than the bravery of love.

the reason I bring this somewhat painful memory up is to pose this question: what kind of difference would have been made in my life if I wasn’t so afraid of vulnerability? Because that’s what I was REALLY what I was afraid of–a sharp dart to a soft heart. but in stopping short i was defeated already. where would I, could I, have gone, if only I hadn’t determined early on to quit? Not only with this guy, but maybe with a few of the others? Or with jobs, schools, homes? What shaping would have taken place, if I had been unafraid to try, at the price of a little pride? Would i be more fully rounded? Or would parts of me have been broken off, to leave me jagged and sharp?

i have been told ‘no’ enough times in my life to be used to it by now. Not to say it isn’t painful every time, but rather–you learn that the pain doesn’t last, that you’ll live through it and it’s not as bad as you think it’ll be. the build-up is worse than the actuality. (though admittedly, my pride took quite a beating in college).

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the human experience–about how happiness is only one small component to our lives. We shouldn’t strive for happiness, but for completion. Not for consistent comfort, but for accomplishment and triumph (which will always necessitate getting a bit dirty). Discomfort not the enemy, sorrow only a darker friend. As i wrestle with the choices in my life, as I second-guess and reconsider, I have to remind myself that I am being grown and pruned and made ever more lovely by both the rain and the sun. Vulnerability cannot be shirked, it cannot be avoided simply because it is distasteful or uncomfortable. It must be confronted, endured, and triumphed over–an enemy made a friend. It’s only very difficult, I am finding.

it seems to be a theme in my life as of late, as i reach the age where you’re supposed to have more of an idea of what you want your life to look like. my problem is, i think i know what that is, but i’m not sure i’m on the right road to getting it. i’m old enough to realize everything my mother said is true: I will never be that young again. I don’t get a second chance at this life thing. all of the moments NOW are what count because I don’t get them back again. I “believed” her but not in the way that counted. it hits me all of a sudden–my precious early twenties, those golden moments in the sun, carefree of student loans and broken AC units, all the lost years of opportunity to have children young: they are gone and I will never have the chance at them again.

then i remind myself: i am living my precious late twenties, i have sunlit moments still, and I may look back on this time of freedom and selfish fulfillment with longing, that Right Now is the only time i will not mourn ever. i cannot trade these moments I DO have for the moments I CAN’T have, because then I am robbed of my whole life.

everything is awesome?

I always feel a little hesitation when I come back to this space. Questions bubble to the surface: Who am I writing for? Is anyone reading this? Is there a purpose to my ramblings, or should I write for the practice of writing? And then I hit “Add New Post” and things begin to flow, and I know within a few hours, I’ll have something I’m proud to share. Every time I read someone else’s blog and think “how can they possibly think writing a blog is a full-time job?” I remember how stressed I get about writing once a month or so, how it can consume time and thoughts and projects, and I know without a doubt anyone relying on this for a full-time income is putting in the full-time effort. I can’t imagine the pressure of writing two to three times a week, let alone once a day. So I content myself with what I can manage. After all, this space doesn’t seem to be much more than an occasional drop-off zone: unloading only. I drop off the things rolling around up top, clean out the attic, so to speak, then head out for more clutter.

I used to use this space as a way to track my derby journey. I documented every step, it was so exhilarating, so thrilling! Everything was new and intense and it was the mushy lovey-dovey honeymoon stage of a new relationship. When I finally got through New Girl and made it into the league, I thought “I should write about how this feels. This is important–the culmination of year of hard work”. But then I didn’t. And then when the season started, I thought “I should talk about how much hard work this is, because I want to remind myself of how much I’m putting into this and use it as a way to look back”. But then I was working so hard and there are so many internal politics that I have NO IDEA how to navigate so I decided sleeping was much more important. And now, almost halfway through my first season with TXRD and fresh off my first time actually skating in a bout, I tell myself it would be wise to write about all the things i am learning–the skills, the techniques, the personal breakthroughs and how to implement them, how my heart & mind are changed repeatedly and how the friendships I am forging are so fulfilling and SO instructive–but I am at practice ALL THE TIME. And when I’m not at practice, I’m trying very hard to live out my other dreams–many of which require almost as much effort as roller derby. So writing about it takes a backseat.

I also wanted to use this space to document my first year through home ownership. I want to show you before-and-after photos of all my projects, of the several coats of paints I’ve painted and the TWO new front doors I’ve been through and the popcorn ceilings I’ve scraped and the builtin bookshelves I added. But my photos aren’t nearly the quality of other home-improvement blogs, and besides, that’s not really my forte. I don’t WANT to be yet another “look at my DIY home” blog. I’m not really the “add pretty photos here” type, though I’ve occasionally tried my hand at it. Perhaps if I had a different layout, or more time to practice photography with Jon’s camera, i would try more often. But the reality of the situation is: it’s not a priority for me. My priorities are more along the lines of: go to practice a decent amount, not eat so much take-out, get enough sleep, see my boyfriend more than twice a week, buy groceries on a regular schedule, and get some reading in at the end of the day. So in my everyday life I try to make little adjustments, little improvements to my abode so that it truly is a sanctuary and not a stressor. I need the calm refuge from the rest of my whirlwind, not another box on the to-do list.

And also–something I’m sure thousands of bloggers wrestle with: I’m not sure how much of myself, of my heart, I want to put out there. i know I talk a lot in my real life (and I’m really sorry if you’re on the receiving end and I just won’t shut up–I know it’s a problem and I try to be mindful of it and I’m sorry if you’ve ever, EVER felt run over or unheard) but it’s different when you put a signpost out there that ANYONE can read, and not just the SOMEONE you’re talking to. It’s always been a fond dream of mine that I would be mysterious and intriguing and respectful of my own privacy, but I am an open book, constantly edited. Much like Anne of Green Gables, I just cannot help myself–I feel things so deeply and experience things in such an exhausting way that to try to contain it is nigh impossible. So with this space, I envisioned I would be able to show only the edited portion of my life–I don’t want you all to know about my personal disappointments, the bitter taste of things, the questions I ask myself regarding personal relationships. But then, I value authenticity above pretty much anything else–isn’t it deceiving to pretend these things don’t exist?

So I guess the whole point of this post was to say: I’m very busy in my life, which is true of nearly everyone the world over, and the thought of writing here hasn’t been a comfort to me, because if I were to say the things I was really thinking, if I laid open my heart, I’m afraid of what I might find. I am at a precarious place in my life where I’m unsure of most of the decisions I’ve made. I don’t see a clear path ahead of me, and I’m not sure if the path I’m on is the one I wanted to be on in the first place. There are so many inspirational Wilde & Emerson quotes floating through the internet that urge you to follow your dreams, to be unafraid to live the life you want, to just reach out and grab it, etc. My dilemma though, is that I’m just not sure what else it is I want. And besides, just because I WANT something, doesn’t mean it would be available. It would require more work, another start-over, and that, while possible, is highly unappealing. I also think I’m in the middle of the hard stuff right now–and I think what I want isn’t real–because snapshots of MY life are just as pretty and just as dreamy as the instagram lives I follow that make me ache a bit inside.

But I think I’ll start writing again. This was nice.